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Dorothy's Slippers Turn Sydney Green
Down Under's Emerald City celebrates New Year with a bang
Eric Shackle (shack)     Print Article 
Published 2007-01-01 18:42 (KST)   
Sydney, Australia, the down under Emerald City, cherishes its links with the Wizard of Oz. As a million revellers lined the Harbor foreshores to watch a spectacular fireworks show on New Year's Eve, a huge image of Dorothy's magical red slippers was projected on to the Harbor Bridge pylons.

Children were invited to click their heels three times. The magic still worked: the moment a chorus of excited clicks rang out, the Emerald City was bathed in green light.

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The illuminated outline of a 100-meter-wide coat hanger symbolized the Bridge's popular nickname.

It's easy to see why both Seattle, in the northwest corner of the U.S., and Sydney are called Emerald Cities -- just compare their towering skylines with pictures of the Wizard of Oz's hometown.

Most of us have either read the children's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or recall having enjoyed the 1939 film starring Judy Garland, which TV stations around the world still screen just before the new year.

A cyclone whisked Dorothy from her home farm in Kansas to the imaginary land of Oz. She and her friends followed the Yellow Brick Road to meet the Wizard, who lived in the Emerald City -- "a mass of towers and steeples behind green walls, and high up above everything, the spires and dome of the Palace of Oz."

In an article about Seattle, headed "Liquid Sunshine in Emerald City," Sylvia Barnard wrote,
"The Cascade Mountains rise to the east, dominated by snowcapped volcanoes: Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, and greatest of all, the 14,410-foot-high Mt. Rainier.

"To the west lie the rugged Olympic Mountains. Other fascinating features of Seattle are the 300 and more parks. Trees, parks, and gardens are all around you, and when they are at their best, you can imagine why Seattle is called Emerald City."
Author L. Frank Baum, who invented the original Emerald City, was born in Chittenango, near Syracuse, New York, in 1856. He was living in Chicago, Illinois when his children's classic was published in 1900, and later moved to southern California.

It seems unlikely that he ever visited Seattle, and even less likely, Sydney.

"He [Baum] wrote out the story longhand and attached the pencil he used to the draft itself that was titled The Emerald City," said Linda McGovern, writing in The Literary Traveler.
"It was only because of the negative reaction he received from his publisher, the Hill Company, that the title was eventually changed, for they had some superstitious notion against a book with a jewel in its title and they would not publish it.

"So after some reworking, after several titles lacking the vitality that Baum wanted to capture, he finally came up with 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.'"
In the real country of Oz, David Williamson, Australia's best-known and most widely performed playwright, wrote a play called Emerald City in 1987. Described as "a sort of modern Tale of Two Cities set between Sydney and Melbourne," it's a satire about power, corruption and the film industry.

"People in Sydney never waste time discussing the meaning of life -- it's about getting yourself a water frontage," Williamson wrote in his play, which, like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was later made into a film.

Since then, Sydney has enthusiastically adopted the name Emerald City. Dozens of businesses have registered names such as Emerald City Books, Emerald Surf City, Emerald Function Centre, Emerald Meat Supplies, Emerald Music, Emerald Plumbing Services, and the Emerald Press.

Australia has a town called Emerald. It's in the central west of Queensland, 565 miles (909km) from Brisbane by road.

By a happy coincidence, "A Word A Day's" illustrious wordsmith Anu Garg and his humble copy editor live in the only two places called Emerald City. Anu, with his wife and young daughter, live in Woodinville, near Seattle ("America's brainiest city.")

Anu says, "I heard that author L. Frank Baum thought of the name of the imaginary Oz after looking at his file cabinet, which had three shelves, the bottom one named O-Z."

And here's another coincidence: the Australian airline Qantas, based in Sydney, flies a fleet of jumbo jets built by Boeing in Seattle.

Anu notes that BOEING is an anagram of BIG ONE.
Updated version of a story posted in my e-book in 2002.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Eric Shackle

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