Tug-of-war was an Olympic event in the early 20th century. Gold medalists:

  • 1900: Denmark
  • 1904: United States
  • 1906: Germany
  • 1908: Great Britain
  • 1912: Sweden
  • 1920: Great Britain

(The 1906 “intercalated” games were held to erase the embarrassment of 1904.)

Play It Again

“America the Beautiful” and “Auld Lang Syne” share the same meter — the songs can be sung perfectly with the lyrics interchanged:

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

Bone Damage

John McCain can’t comb his own hair. He can’t lift his arms above shoulder level because of torture he suffered as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Starting Small

The first KISS concert drew an audience of three (at the Popcorn Club in Queens, January 1973).

The Bathtub Hoax

H.L. Mencken seemed to have a gift for cynicism — even the gold he touched turned to lead. In December 1917, as a joke, he composed a fictional history of the bathtub for the New York Evening Mail. The article, “A Neglected Anniversary,” was preposterous, saying that the bathtub had been introduced to England in 1828 and to the United States 14 years later, and that Millard Fillmore encouraged its acceptance by installing one in the White House in 1850.

To Mencken’s horror, the story was widely accepted as fact, and it’s still quoted today as an authoritative source. Mencken said:

“The success of this idle hoax, done in time of war, when more serious writing was impossible, vastly astonished me. It was taken gravely by a great many other newspapers, and presently made its way into medical literature and into standard reference books. It had, of course, no truth in it whatsoever, and I more than once confessed publicly that it was only a jocosity. … Scarcely a month goes by that I do not find the substance of it reprinted, not as foolishness but as fact, and not only in newspapers but in official documents and other works of the highest pretensions.”

Music to the Eyes

Most expensive music videos, as of July 2006:

  1. Michael and Janet Jackson, “Scream,” $7 million
  2. Puff Daddy, “Victory,” $2.7 million
  3. Mariah Carey, “Heartbreaker,” $2.5 million
  4. Busta Rhymes, “What’s It Gonna Be?!” $2.4 million
  5. Backstreet Boys, “Larger Than Life,” $2.1 million
  6. Ayumi Hamasaki, “Fairyland,” $2 million
  7. Madonna, “Bedtime Story,” $2 million
  8. Madonna, “Express Yourself,” $2 million
  9. Will Smith, “Miami,” $2 million
  10. Missy Elliot, “She’s a Bitch,” $2 million

The Dunmore Pineapple

My homeowners’ association would never allow this. Pineapples were big in 18th-century Europe, a rare delicacy and a symbol of wealth, so they got sculpted into everything: gateposts, railings, weather vanes, and door lintels. This stone cupola, 14 meters high, adorns Dunmore Park in Scotland, where they actually managed to grow live pineapples with a furnace-driven heating system. No mean feat.

In a Word

n. beard-growing contest


“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” — Albert Einstein

Bunny Hop

Don’t laugh, they’re good at it. Rabbit show jumping began in Sweden in the late 1970s, and today there are more than 50 clubs throughout Scandinavia.

In case you’re wondering, the official world records are 99.5 cm (39.17 inches) for the high jump, 300 cm (118.11 inches) for the long jump.