3 Hells on Earth

What do San Jose, Applebee's, Wyoming, Chuck E. Cheese, and the Apple Store have in common? They all appear on the first page of a Google search for "Hell on Earth is" "“ along with war, alcohol withdrawal and Long Island. Having lived in Wyoming for two years, I'll respectfully disagree with the Cowboy State being compared to Hell, despite the fact that it's home to Devils Tower National Monument. But if you'd like to take a trip to a Hell on Earth, forget Cheyenne and book a ticket to one of these three destinations instead.

1. Hell, Grand Cayman

Located just north of Seven Mile Beach, the main attraction in Grand Cayman's tiny Hell community is a jagged black rock formation called phytokarst "“ formed by the biological erosion of limestone and dolomite by algae "“ surrounded by tropical flora. According to legend, an Englishman visiting Grand Cayman in the 1930s attempted to shoot a bird over the rock formation, missed, and cried, "Oh, hell!" The name stuck.

Around the same time that the misfiring Englishman christened Hell, Ivan Farrington was born there. Farrington was raised in Hell, joined the Merchant Marine and traveled the world for 19 years, and then returned to his native Cayman. After working construction for a few years on the island, the enterprising Farrington opened a gift shop in the old Hell post office and named it Paradise. Business was slow "“ "it went straight to Hell" is how Farrington described it to me when I visited Hell last week "“ so he dropped the Paradise name in favor of Devil's Hangout. Farrington's shop and the new post office next door has been a hot spot for Cayman tourists ever since.

hell-cayman.jpgToday, Farrington is the face of Hell. He wears a devil costume and greets visitors in his shop with an endless arsenal of devilish phrases. "How the hell are you?" "Hell of a nice day, isn't it?" When I asked if I could take a photo of Farrington, he replied, "What the hell are you waiting for?" All sorts of Hell-themed souvenirs fill the room and the walls are adorned with photos of former visitors, including Kenny Rogers "“ the musician, not the baseball player "“ and a former Miss Universe. Farrington has been featured on Inside Edition and an episode of Blind Date, and the septuagenarian is happily married to a woman from West Virginia. The couple met in the Devil's Hangout, though Farrington ditched the devil garb for the wedding ceremony.

2. Hell, Michigan

Need directions to Hell? University of Michigan football fans could probably provide them, and not only because they just suffered through the worst season in school history. Hell, Mich., is located about 15 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, in Putnam Township. There are a couple of stories as to how the town got its name, but the most widely accepted version goes like this: Before his death in 1877, George Reeves, an early settler of the area who operated a flour mill and a whiskey distillery, was asked what he thought the town should be called. He responded, "Name it Hell for all I care." Done and done.

screams-hell.jpgThrough the years, Hell has attracted thousands of tourists with events and businesses that play off of the town's sinful name. On June 6, 2006 (6-6-06), about 100,000 people flocked to the community of less than 300 for a party that was promoted by the owner of the Screams Ice Cream and Halloween Store in town. The celebration drew the ire of Hell residents, some of whom complained to the police. Rick Beaudin, a local real estate agent, put it best: "If you live next to the University of Michigan stadium, you have to know you're going to have crowds on football weekends," he told a wire news service. "If you live in or near a town named Hell, you have to expect that things are going to happen once in awhile." Annual events in Hell include a road race (Run Thru Hell), a motorcycle rally (Blessing of the Bikes), and a classic car gathering (Helluva Cruise).

3. Hell, Norway

hell-norway.jpgIt's actually quite common for Hell to freeze over in this small village in central Norway, about 200 miles north of Oslo. Temperatures in the Stjordal municipality occasionally dip below zero during the winter. The name Hell comes from the old Norwegian word hellir, which means a cave hidden by an overhanging cliff. In modern Norwegian, hellir means good luck. A post office is one of this Hell's main attractions, with tourists stopping in to mail postcards and letters bearing the unusual four-letter postmark. The sign on a wooden building next to the Hell railroad station, where passengers have been known to purchase tickets to Hell and back, presents another photo opportunity. "Hell "“ Gods Expedition," the sign reads, which translates to freight office.

If you think nothing good has ever come out of Hell, think again. Nineteen-year-old Mona Grudt entered the 1990 Miss Universe pageant and referred to herself as the "beauty queen from Hell." Grudt, who was born in Hell, became the first Norwegian to win the competition by edging out first runner-up Carole Gist, the first African-American woman to win the Miss USA title. While it would've been one hell of a story, Grudt was not the Miss Universe winner who visited Ivan Farrington and the Devil's Hangout in Cayman.

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Emojipedia
9 Smiley Facts About Emoji
Emojipedia
Emojipedia

For many people, speaking in emoji is almost as natural as speaking in, well, words. However, less than two decades ago, the collection of symbols was just a blip on the digital horizon. You may be adept at planning dinner with friends using only smileys and food characters, but how much do you really know about emoji?

1. SHIGETAKA KURITA IS CONSIDERED THE FATHER OF EMOJI.

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In 1999, the Japanese designer Shigetaka Kurita created the first collection of cell phone emoji for the debut of "the world’s first major mobile internet system," called NTT Docomo's i-mode. The program they were working with "limited users to up to 250 characters in an email," according to Kurita, "so we thought emoji would be a quick and easy way for them to communicate. Plus using only words in such a short message could lead to misunderstandings … It’s difficult to express yourself properly in so few characters." He used a variety of everyday symbols, Chinese characters, street signs, and manga imagery for inspiration, and eventually came up with 176 12-pixel by 12-pixel characters—a much-simplified version of the images we now text on a regular basis.

"At first we were just designing for the Japanese market," Kurita said in 2016. "I didn’t assume that emoji would spread and become so popular internationally. I’m surprised at how widespread they have become. Then again, they are universal, so they are useful communication tools that transcend language."

2. THERE WAS A LOT OF DEBATE ABOUT THE ADDITION OF A HOT DOG.

Seriously. Digital Trends reported on the dispute in 2014, when some users were so incensed over the lack of a hot dog emoji that they even petitioned the White House to make it happen. As it turns out, there is a very good reason that the character wasn’t initially created.

"The problem with the hot dog emoji," Mark Davis, co-founder of the Unicode Consortium, told The Wall Street Journal, "is, what do you then want with the hot dog? Would we do one with ketchup or without?" He makes a valid point—toppings are important. But Kurita wasn’t opposed to adding in the traditional stateside cuisine: "In Japan, we have onigiri [rice ball] emoji, so why not hot dogs? Hot dogs are onigiri for Americans, right?"

(Not to worry—the hot dog won out in 2015, and Apple now has a mustard-covered emoji.)

3. EVEN KURITA IS MYSTIFIED BY THE AMBIGUITY OF THE HEART EMOJI.

"People of all ages understand that a single emoji can say more about their emotions than text," Kurita recently said of his creation. "Emoji have grown because they meet a need among mobile phone users. I accept that it’s difficult to use emoji to express complicated or nuanced feelings, but they are great for getting the general message across." However, even he acknowledges that messages can get mixed when it comes to emoji like the heart, even though he initially designed the heart to mean "love."

"I wouldn’t know if she liked me or not," Kurita told the Verge, when asked what he thinks receiving a heart emoji means, "but I’d think it was a good thing. I wouldn’t think it was a negative."

4. THE ENTIRETY OF MOBY-DICK WAS TRANSLATED INTO EMOJI.

In 2009, Fred Benenson—Kickstarter’s second full-time employee—used his company's platform to fund an emoji-translation project, which he titled Emoji Dick. Benenson was an avid fan of emoji and wanted to find a way to push the characters' creativity. He raised more than $3500 to pay a team to help him translate Herman Melville’s saga of man and whale into emoji. While it doesn’t quite translate in each case, Benenson told Smithsonian magazine, "As a conceptual piece, it’s successful."

But why Moby-Dick, besides the translation’s fantastic title? "I needed a public domain book that I could get the plain-text version of easily," Benenson told The New Yorker. "The Bible seemed too obvious."

These days, Emoji Dick has a place in the Library of Congress, who acquired the work in 2014 and notes that it captures the culture in this particular moment in time. "It’s up to the readers of Emoji Dick to decide whether to take it seriously as content," Michael Neubert, a digital projects specialist at the Library of Congress, said.

If you’re looking for some light reading, you can purchase a copy of the 736-page translation here.

5. EARLY ON, BUSINESSES USED EMOJI TO CONNECT WITH CUSTOMERS.

Keeping in mind that emoji launched in 1999, long before cell phones developed into the tech-savvy devices we have today, emoji originally had much different purposes. For example, The New York Times explains that Docomo, the company that developed emoji, used them to deliver weather reports to pager users.

While this explains many of the weather-related emoji, such as the lightning bolt, sun, umbrella, and snowman, Docomo also used the characters to guide users to local businesses. A hamburger represented fast food, while the martini glass stood for a bar.

"Everything was shown by text. Even the weather forecast was displayed as 'fine,'" Kurita told Storify. "When I saw it, I found it difficult to understand. Japanese TV weather forecasts have always included pictures or symbols to describe the weather—for example, a picture of sun meant 'sunny' … I'd rather see a picture of the sun, instead of a text saying 'fine.'"

6. THE MOST POPULAR EMOJI ISN'T THE SLICE OF PIZZA—OR THE THUMBS UP.

The most popular emoji vary from country to country. In July 2016, Metro reported that Twitter ran some analytics and says the "despairing crying face" is the most-used in the United States, Canada, and the U.K. Another popular choice is the musical notes, which is a top pick in Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina.

Additionally, Twitter users tend to favor the beer emoji over the steaming cup of coffee, and that the full heart is tweeted more frequently than the broken heart. When it comes to food, the birthday cake is most-used, followed by the classic slice of pizza, and the strawberry rounds out the top three.

The popularity of emoji is constantly in flux, so Twitter even did a month-by-month breakdown. Unsurprisingly, the skull was most-used in October, while the Christmas tree owned December. Another classic, the "100" symbol, was the most popular in November.

7. THERE'S A REASON THE IOS POOP EMOJI LOOKS SO SIMILAR TO THE ICE CREAM CONE.

In 2012, New York magazine interviewed Willem Van Lancker, who helped create 400 of the original 500 Apple characters. (The conversation took place over text, naturally.) When asked about the similarity between the poop and ice cream emoji, Van Lancker replied, "Some design elements may have been reused between them …"

8. THE FATHER OF EMOTICONS ISN'T A FAN OF EMOJI.

Long before emoji, people communicated with emoticons—representations of facial expressions created with punctuation marks. While emoji are undoubtedly the more detailed, colorful set of characters, Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Scott Fahlman tends to prefer his original form, which he traces to a 1982 message board conversation.

"I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-) Read it sideways," Fahlman had told the group, and before long, the expression spread and was soon used at other universities before making its way into casual digital conversations worldwide.

But when it comes to emoji, Fahlman told the Independent, "I think they are ugly, and they ruin the challenge of trying to come up with a clever way to express emotions using standard keyboard characters. But perhaps that's just because I invented the other kind."

9. THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART OWNS THE ORIGINAL EMOJI COLLECTION.

Getty

Yep, the set of emoji Kurita created back in 1999 is now part of MoMA’s permanent display, starting in December 2016. And they aren't the only digital objects on display: The museum previously acquired the "@" symbol in 2012.

The collection resides in the museum’s lobby and represents a balance between modernity and hieroglyphics, one of the oldest forms of written communication. However, as ancient as the roots of emoji may be, the original collection's influence in modern culture remains strong. "It is hard to overstate it. I mean if you think about it, we cannot live without emojis today," Paola Antonelli, the senior curator in the department of architecture and design, told NPR. "We've become used into condensing our thoughts and our kind of emotions in them."

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