CLOSE
Original image
Getty Images

18 Bizarre Self-Proclaimed Capitals of the World

Original image
Getty Images

Lots of places claim to be the world capital of something -- animals, fruits, vegetables, consumer goods, other odds and ends. But sometimes, that something is really, really strange.

1. Pearsonville, California: Hubcap Capital of the World

Image credit: Center for Land Use Interpretation

While Pearsonville, California, only has a population of 17, it’s still the Hubcap Capital of the World due to one woman’s efforts. Lucy Pearson, “The Hubcap Queen,” has collected thousands of hubcaps spread across three separate wrecking yards. The strange collection has led to television appearances for Pearson and made Pearsonville a filming location for several films, television shows, and commercials.

2. Anthony, New Mexico/Texas: Leap Year Capital of the World


Image credit:

Anthony, a city straddling the border between Texas and New Mexico, started its Worldwide Leap Year Festival for a very simple reason: no one else was doing one. They established the Worldwide Leap Year Birthday Club in 1988 and now, every four years, the little city with a dual-identity holds a mass birthday party for anyone and everyone born on February 29th.

3. Scottsboro, Alabama: Lost Luggage Capital of the World


Image credit: Unclaimed Baggage Center

Ever wondered what airlines do with all their unclaimed luggage? They don’t just stuff it all in a huge warehouse. After making every reasonable attempt to find the owner of a piece of cargo, the airlines will typically sell it to Scottsboro’s Unclaimed Baggage Center: a huge store filled with the stuff other people have left behind. The weirdest thing ever found there? Hoggle, David Bowie's dwarf-goblin minion from the 1986 movie Labyrinth.

4. Willow Creek, California: Bigfoot Capital of the World


Image credit: Bigfoot's Blog

A small, mountainous town in Northern California with fewer than 2,000 residents typically wouldn’t be a big draw, but Willow Creek is different. It’s a huge tourist destination for people interested in Bigfoot, with an annual festival, a museum, dozens of statues and murals, and even foot-shaped burgers dedicated to the elusive creature.

5. La Crosse, Kansas: Barbed Wire Capital of the World


Image credit: KansasTravel.org

If you're big into devil's rope, head over to the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum, located in La Crosse, Kansas. They claim over 2,000 varieties of vintage barbed wire, dioramas, educational films, and antique fencing equipment. The Antique Barbed Wire Society, the group associated with the museum, even has its own magazine if you want to keep up with barbed wire year-round.

6. Bardstown, Kentucky: Bourbon Capital of the World


Image credit: user vtabora at CityProfile.com

If bourbon is your drink, you should make plans to visit Bardstown, Kentucky, where an incredible 97% of all bourbon is made. Their Bourbon Festival, held annually, is six whole days of celebrating the drink and the culture surrounding it. Bardstown is so associated with bourbon that the city has even trademarked its “Bourbon Capital of the World” moniker.

7. Rayne, Louisiana: Frog Capital of the World


Image credit: Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration, 1938

Frogs may not be welcome in your backyard, but they are in Rayne, Louisiana. Formerly a frog exportation center for restaurants worldwide, the town remembers its history with frog murals, statues, and even a yearly Frog Festival, which includes rides and events like the Frog Derby, where frogs dressed in elaborate costumes race against one another.

8. Colon, Michigan: Magic Capital of the World


Image credit: Vintage postcard via MichiganBackRoads.com

When you think of illusions, you probably think of Vegas, but Colon, Michigan, is the real home of magic. Legendary magician Harry Blackstone came to Colon in 1925 and, together with Percy Abbott, started Blackstone Magic Company, later Abbott’s Magic Company. Today, it’s one of the most popular manufacturers of illusions in the world and holds the yearly Abbott’s Get Together magic convention.

9. Dalton, Georgia: Carpet Capital of the World


Image credit: Deej at The World of Deej

You probably have no idea where your carpet comes from, but after reading this you’ll be able to make a pretty good guess: approximately 90% of the world’s carpet comes from the city of Dalton, Georgia. More than 30,000 people are employed by Dalton’s huge carpet industry, which is especially impressive when you consider that the city itself only has a population of just under 35,000.

10. Anoka, Minnesota: Halloween Capital of the World


Image credit: Roxie O. at The Halloween Honey

Today, we take big Halloween celebrations for granted, but back in 1920, it wasn’t really a thing yet. Sick of kids vandalizing everything on Halloween night, the city of Anoka, Minnesota, decided to throw a huge party to keep the youngsters distracted. It worked so well that it became an annual celebration and spread to other cities. By 1937, Congress had officially named Anoka “The Halloween Capital of the World.”

11. Auburn, California: Endurance Capital of the World

It seems like it would be difficult to consider yourself the capital of an abstract concept like “endurance,” but Auburn, California, pulls it off handily. Their Auburn State Park hosts dozens of the toughest endurance-based sporting events in the world every year. From running to biking to horseback riding, Auburn covers the whole spectrum.

12. Binghamton, New York: Carousel Capital of the World


Image credit: seller louloupostcards61 on eBay

The carefree antique carousel is endangered. Fewer than 200 still exist throughout the U.S. and Canada. So, if you want to hit up as many as possible in one trip, head to Binghamton, New York. The city currently holds six of them, each listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One even has Rod Serling’s name carved into it, an event recreated in the “Walking Distance” episode of The Twilight Zone.

13. Beaver, Oklahoma: Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World


Image credit: Beaver Cow Chip News

If you didn’t grow up on a farm, you may not be aware of the phenomenon of cow chip throwing. Simply put, a cow chip is a large, flat, dried piece of cow poop. You take this and throw it as far as you can, like a Frisbee. If that sounds like your idea of a great time, Beaver, Oklahoma, has the world’s largest cow chip throwing competition every April. Knock yourself out!

14. Huntsville, Texas: Execution Capital of the World


Image credit: Getty Images

While you may know that Texas executes the most prisoners of any U.S. state, you may not be aware that they all go to the same place to die: the Huntsville Unit, located in Huntsville, Texas. Naturally, their title of “Execution Capital of the World” is unofficial and typically only used by critics of the death penalty, but it is still a fact that more criminals are put to death within those walls than anywhere else in the country.

15. Belleville, Dundee, and Elmwood, Wisconsin: UFO Capitals of the World


Image credit: Flickr user Kables

Traditionally, Roswell, New Mexico, is the place to go for UFOs, but no one told Wisconsin. There are not one, but three UFO Capitals of the World in the Badger State. Belleville, Dundee, and Elmwood, Wisconsin, all lay claim to the title, each at a different end of the state. It’s not just some oversight, either. The three towns have been arguing with each other that they are the true UFO capital for decades.

16. Dyersville, Iowa: Farm Toy Capital of the World


Image credit: Getty Images

Dyersville, Iowa, is known for being the location of the movie Field of Dreams. But Dyersville has another feather in its cap. It’s the location of the National Farm Toy Museum, the largest collection of its kind. The museum attracts approximately 30,000 visitors each year.

17. Bloomer, Wisconsin: Jump Rope Capital of the World

Jump rope isn’t an unusual thing in elementary school gym classes, but in 1960, Bloomer Elementary P.E. teacher Wally Mohrman took it to the next level. He began a speed jump roping contest with his students that continues to this day. Whoever jumps his or her rope the most in the time allotted is the winner. If that sounds interesting to you, be aware that even non-students are eligible to compete these days.

18. Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin: Snowshoe Baseball Capital of the World


Image credit: Lake Tomahawk website

Most towns have their beloved local football teams. Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin, has its beloved Snowshoe Baseball teams. It’s exactly what it sounds like. The players strap snowshoes onto their feet and play a game of baseball. That’s not the weirdest part, though -- they play it in the middle of summer with six to eight inches of sawdust spread over the diamond.

Original image
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
arrow
Lists
10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Original image
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 


PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios

"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.

THE AD

If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).

SKINHEADS, A DISCUS THROWER, AND A SCI-FI DIRECTOR

Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.

WHAT EXECUTIVES AT APPLE THOUGHT

Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother

WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE THOUGHT

When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."

THE AWFUL 1985 FOLLOW-UP

A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:

20-YEAR ANNIVERSARY

In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:

FURTHER READING

Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios