Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Birthday wishes go out to Ellen DeGeneres, seen here in a 1989 episode of HBO's One Night Stand; watch as the Queen of Nice riffs on first impressions in her inimitable meandering, hilarious way.
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Although the first Sydney-siders arrived in the region as long as 30,000 years ago - drawn by the area's abundant natural charms - it was in 1770 that Lieutenant James Cook landed in Botany Bay on the Kurnell Peninsula and made first contact with an Aboriginal tribe known as the Gweagal. There he found an enormous archipelago-like natural harbour, balmy weather, and all the resources necessary to start a fledgling colony off right, albeit unnecessarily cluttered up by a whole lot of brown people who didn't speak any English.
Still, it took nearly a generation for Arthur Phillip to get the British government to allow him to establish a convict settlement there... Arriving at the helm of the First Fleet in January 1788 - which had left Portsmouth in May 1787 - 1373 British were left to deal with 4-8,000 natives whom they called Eora (despite the fact that they were actually the Cadigal people) - none of which boded well for the aboriginals.
On this day in 1788 Philip and his crew landed at Sydney Cove on Port Jackson and founded a town they named for their patron - Home Secretary Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney; it didn't take long for those twin British advances - infrastructure and smallpox - to make themselves known. Most of the aboriginal resistance to colonization would be blunted by the latter, even as the colonials' decimation of the aboriginals would be aided by the former.
On its way to becoming the largest city in Australia, Sydney has exerted an enormous influence - cultural, political, economic - on the life of the country. As a repository of landmarks, it's home to the iconic Opera House and the Taronga Zoo among many others, world class night-life at Kings Cross, and the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. For nature lovers the beaches (such as Manly, Botany Bay, and Bondi) to the East*, the Blue Mountains to the West, the Hawkesbury River to the North and the Royal National Park to the South can't be beat.
In fact, after a life spent traveling the world on behalf of the Pop Culture Institute I can easily see settling down there myself, and enjoying my dotage turning as brown and wrinkly as an old scrotum amongst its palm tree-lined streets; I may even thrash about in the water a bit and see if I can catch me a lifesaver - although given my luck I'll probably only get a shark!
*As much as the bodies on them.
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Try as I might to entice Australian readers to this blog, statistically they are currently holding steady in eighth place, down from sixth place in 2009; although intellectually I can understand that most of my traffic would come from the the US, Canada, and the UK there are still more readers here from Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Brazil than Australia, which my Commonwealth heart finds irksome.
May I suggest this Australia Day that in the interests of national pride any Australians who happen upon this blog post tell all their friends about it and encourage them to visit here often; when they do, they shouldn't hesitate to leave comments suggesting what topics of interest I might include so as to keep them coming back. Strictly in the interests of Australian nationalism, mind you, and not selfishly motivated to give me more traffic...
Celebrating the arrival of the First Fleet at Port Jackson in Sydney Harbour in 1788, Australians today mark the occasion of Australia Day with barbecues, drunkenness, and gunpowder... So pretty much the same as every other day. Unique features of the day include the investment of new members into the Order of Australia as well as the Australian of the Year awards, and a televised address from the Prime Minister.
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[The disappearance of Jane (9), Arnna (7), and Grant (4) - collectively known as the Beaumont Children - marked a major loss of innocence in Australian culture, as previously that country's parents had considered their children safe from human predators; prompting the largest and most prolonged investigation in Australian history, and despite the identification of four plausible suspects - including Bevan Spencer von Einem, Arthur Stanley Brown, James O'Neill, and Derek Percy - no trace of any of the children has ever been found.]
1531 - An estimated 30,000 people died when Lisbon was hit by an earthquake.
1700 - The magnitude 9 Cascadia Earthquake took place off the west coast of the North America, as evidenced by Japanese records of a tsunami which struck the east coast of that country and the carbon dating of tree rings in the affected area.
1736 - Poland's King Stanislaus I abdicated his throne.
1788 - The British First Fleet, led by Arthur Phillip, sailed into Sydney Harbour to establish Sydney, the first permanent European settlement on the continent; today the event is commemorated as Australia Day.
1808 - The Rum Rebellion - the only successful (albeit short-lived) armed takeover of the government in Australian history - occurred twenty years to the day after the colony was founded, when Governor William Bligh was deposed by forces loyal to John Macarthur.
1837 - Michigan became the 26th US state.
1856 - The first Battle of Seattle occurred when US Marines from the USS Decatur - commanded by Guert Gansevoort and anchored in Elliott Bay - fired upon Suquamish and Duwamish attackers after an all day battle with settlers; the Native Americans reported 28 dead and 80 wounded. Part of the Puget Sound War, the battle occurred one year to the day after Washington Territory governor Isaac Stevens imposed the Point No Point Treaty on the S'Klallam, the Chimacum and the Skokomish tribes at Point No Point, on the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula. Stevens had only recently declared a 'war of extermination' against all the indigenous peoples of the region.
1861 - Louisiana seceded from the United States to join the Confederate States of America.
1905 - The Cullinan Diamond was discovered; it was later presented to King Edward VII and has been incorporated into the British Crown Jewels.
1911 - Richard Strauss' opera Der Rosenkavalier received its debut performance at the Dresden State Opera.
1934 - Harlem's Apollo Theater was reopened.
1950 - The Constitution of India was adopted, and India became a republic; the date is now celebrated in that country as Republic Day.
1966 - The Beaumont Children went missing from Glenelg Beach near Adelaide, South Australia, during a family picnic on that year's Australia Day.
1988 - Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera debuted on Broadway at the Majestic Theatre; it is currently the longest-running show in the history of the Great White Way, with more than 9,500 performances in that location alone, surpassing Lloyd Webber's other monster hit Cats in January 2006.
1993 - Vaclav Havel was elected President of the newly created Czech Republic.
1998 - During a televised press conference from the White House, US President Bill Clinton insisted he 'did not have sexual relations' with Monica Lewinsky; it was later revealed, however, that she'd had sexual relations with him, which is (regardless of what your definition of 'is' is) still none of our damn business - and hardly on a par with forcing the President to resign over the discovery that he'd authorized the burglary of the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate hotel, for which it was retaliation.
2001 - On India's Republic Day, an earthquake centered at Gujarat killed 30,000 and injured 55,000 more.
2004 - President Hamid Karzai signed the new constitution of Afghanistan.
2005 - Condoleezza Rice was sworn in as US Secretary of State.
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