You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

On This Day...

Glancing through the morning online news and e-mail I stumbled across one of those "On This Day..." Web sites.* The historical tidbit for today is that (read in Paul Harveyish voice) "On This Day in 1540, King Henry VIII wed Anne of Cleves, the fourth of his six wives." That they were divorced just six months later is probably the reason there's no associated bank holiday in Britain.

That's the thing with these "On This Day..." tidbits. There's not enough context and detail to properly establish the full significance of the events. So, for the sake of historical fabrication... erm, I mean historical elucidation, allow me to fill in some of the gaps from the most recent "On This Day..." posts.

  • On This Day, January 6, in 1540, King Henry VIII married his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. Six months later they were divorced on the grounds that Henry "thought she looked like a dude." Some historians argue that the reason the marriage survived as long as it did was that it took Henry that long to sober up from the wedding reception.
  • On This Day, January 5, 1968, Alexander Dubcek became the head of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, initiating the period of liberalization called the “Prague Spring,” which was soon violently suppressed by the Soviets. Some historians feel that the Prague Spring failed because Dubcek didn't actually take office in spring. they feel the period should have been called the "Prague Mid-Winter." Most other historians feel that these seasonally-obsessed naysayers are obtuse dorks.
  • On This Day, January 4, 1948, Burma officially declared independence from Britain, ending 60 years of colonial rule. This is the reason that, to this day (as opposed to "On This Day...") the word "Burma" is considered an expletive in Britain.**
  • On This Day, January 3, 1870, construction began on the Brooklyn Bridge, at which time it the largest suspension bridge in the world. Five minutes after construction began on this day, January 3, 1870, the bridge was sold for the first time to a farmer from Duluth, Minnesota.
  • On This Day, January 2, 1929, Canada and the United States signed a pact, agreeing to divert the Niagara River to protect the famous Niagra Falls. Not many people are aware that the Niagra River routinely beat up the falls for its lunch money. This pact forced the river to treat the falls with respect and general dignity. However, a key omission in the pact failed to address "Melvins," which is why every fortnight or so you can see the falls' underpants in the evening light.
  • On This Day, January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro’s guerrilla forces seized control of Cuba and former Cuban President Fulgencio Batista fled the country. While Cuban misery has only continued, sales of military fatigues, cigars, beard trimmers, and one-way tickets off the island have skyrocketed.

*Yes, I have been totally infected by Microsoft style guiding into capitalizing the word Web wherever it appears. Charlotte's Web, for instance.
**At the 3:31 mark of the linked sketch, if you don't believe me.

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