7 Unsung Events That Deserve Your Attention

Getty Images
Getty Images

Football season is cranking up, and playoff baseball is on the horizon. With all this major-sports excitement, it's easy to miss some of the more obscure competitions taking place in the coming weeks. Don't make that mistake, though, as you might miss out on one of these unheralded events.

1. Red Bull Flugtag

Since 1991, Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has brought his unique vision for an aviation competition to the world each year. Flugtag isn't like any normal air show, though. Competitors launch themselves off a pier or dock in an attempt to fly their homemade human-powered conveyances as far as they can. (As you might have guessed, homemade flying machines tend to crash rather quickly, which is half the fun.) Once the teams take off, their flight is judged on the basis of distance, creativity, and showmanship. Some devices do actually manage to fly, though; one team made it 195 feet at an event in Austria. More often, though, the homemade machines splash down into the water, so each one must be unsinkable as an environmentally friendly precaution.

The final Red Bull Flugtag USA of the summer takes place at Chicago's North Avenue Beach on Saturday, so there's still time to see this spectacle if you hurry. Here are some highlights from a previous Flugtag:

2. California State Yo-Yo Championships

A yo-yo doesn't just have to be a semi-fun toy you found in your stocking every year at Christmas; it can also be a serious competitive tool. Freestyle competitors in this event get two minutes to do a yo-yo routine choreographed to music, and the tricks go far beyond the old sleeper and walk-the-dog tricks you did as a kid. Judges award points based on stage presence, choreography, amplitude, elegance of control and line, maturity of yo-yo maneuvers, and originality. If you're near San Francisco and not particularly busy, the competition takes place today at The Exploratorium, and admission is free. If you're not convinced that yo-yo tricks can be pretty impressive, check out this video of Augie Fash winning last year's competition:

3. World Series of Mahjong

The World Series of Poker may get all the publicity, but the Wynn is hosting the World Series of Mahjong from September 19-21 at the Wynn Macau in China. Top competitors will square off in matches according to simplified standardized rules in order to stake their claims to the title of world's top Mahjong player. You may not associate the classic Chinese tile game with high stakes, but this tournament isn't for skittish amateurs. It costs $5,000 to enter, and the winner takes home $500,000. The event will be broadcast around the world, so tune in for some hot tiled action.

4. Midland Game Fair

On the off chance you find yourself in Shropshire, England on September 20-21, you really owe it to yourself to check out the Midland Game Fair. It looks just like an American fair, except if you replaced the carnies with falconers. The fair seeks to celebrate the unique aspects of English country life and educate patrons on its many splendors. Events include shooting, falconry, gundog exhibitions, and, of course, ferreting.

5. European Rubik's Cube Championship

If you're in Bilbao, Spain, on the weekend of September 19th, you've got more to do than just see the Guggenheim; you also need to check in on this speedcubing championship. Solving a plain old Rubik's Cube in any amount of time may be tough enough for most of us, but an elite cadre of cubers do them so quickly that even Fresh Prince-era Will Smith would be impressed. Competitors are handed a jumbled cube and given fifteen seconds to inspect its sides before solving it in a smooth, lightning-quick motion. This tournament has 17 divisions, including one-handed Rubik's Cube solving, blindfolded Rubik's Cube solving, and competitions for cubes that are as large as 5x5x5 blocks rather than a traditional Rubik's Cube's 3x3x3 dimensions. Here's a video example of speedcubing to whet your interest:

6. National Championship Chuck Wagon Cook-Off

Are you sick of going to cooking competitions that just end up being snooty and barely even involve rustic wagons? Then this is the event for you. Chuck wagon teams from around the country meet up in Lubbock, Texas, as part of the National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration to revive "the skills that were used to keep the cowboys fed and fit." The four-man teams each use a wood fire to make a meal that consists of chicken-fried steak, pinto beans, potatoes, a cobbler, and either biscuits or rolls. Better yet, this isn't just some ivory tower competition where only the judges get to taste the food; the same chow is served to attendees as dinner. The rules seek to make each chuck wagon's equipment as authentic as possible, including regulations on the metals used in cookware and the suggestion that each wagon carry a two-man crosscut saw. This event looks both interesting and delicious, so it's worth checking out if you're in the Lubbock area this weekend.

7. Dunrobin Castle Piping Championships

If you're going to have a championship for pipe playing, there's no better place to hold it than a Scottish castle. This seems to be the underlying logic of the Dunrobin Castle Piping Championships, which will take place on September 13th in Sutherland, Scotland. The annual affair seeks to give young pipers a chance to win a competition if they haven't yet won one of Scotland's major piping showcases, and spectators can be treated to an afternoon of sweet pipe music. Photos of last year's competition show the pipers clad in traditional Scottish plaids and kilts, so the fashion alone might warrant a visit.

Ethan Trex co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys.
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10 of the Most Popular Portable Bluetooth Speakers on Amazon

Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon
Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon

As convenient as smartphones and tablets are, they don’t necessarily offer the best sound quality. But a well-built portable speaker can fill that need. And whether you’re looking for a speaker to use in the shower or a device to take on a long camping trip, these bestselling models from Amazon have you covered.

1. OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Portable Speaker; $26-$30 (4.4 stars)

Oontz portable bluetooth speaker
Cambridge Soundworks/Amazon

Of the 57,000-plus reviews that users have left for this speaker on Amazon, 72 percent of them are five stars. So it should come as no surprise that this is currently the best-selling portable Bluetooth speaker on the site. It comes in eight different colors and can play for up to 14 hours straight after a full charge. Plus, it’s splash proof, making it a perfect speaker for the shower, beach, or pool.

Buy it: Amazon

2. JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $110 (4.6 stars)

JBL portable bluetooth speaker
JBL/Amazon

This nifty speaker can connect with up to three devices at one time, so you and your friends can take turns sharing your favorite music. Its built-in battery can play music for up to 20 hours, and it can even charge smartphones and tablets via USB.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker; $25-$28 (4.6 stars)

Anker portable bluetooth speaker
Anker/Amazon

This speaker boasts 24-hour battery life and a strong Bluetooth connection within a 66-foot radius. It also comes with a built-in microphone so you can easily take calls over speakerphone.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker; $129 (4.4 stars)

Bose portable bluetooth speaker
Bose/Amazon

Bose is well-known for building user-friendly products that offer excellent sound quality. This portable speaker lets you connect to the Bose app, which makes it easier to switch between devices and personalize your settings. It’s also water-resistant, making it durable enough to handle a day at the pool or beach.

Buy it: Amazon

5. DOSS Soundbox Touch Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $28-$33 (4.4 stars)

DOSS portable bluetooth speaker
DOSS/Amazon

This portable speaker features an elegant system of touch controls that lets you easily switch between three methods of playing audio—Bluetooth, Micro SD, or auxiliary input. It can play for up to 20 hours after a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Altec Lansing Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $15-$20 (4.3 stars)

Altec Lansing portable bluetooth speaker
Altec Lansing/Amazon

This lightweight speaker is built for the outdoors. With its certified IP67 rating—meaning that it’s fully waterproof, shockproof, and dust proof—it’s durable enough to withstand harsh environments. Plus, it comes with a carabiner that can attach to a backpack or belt loop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker; $33-$38 (4.6 stars)

Tribit portable bluetooth speaker
Tribit/Amazon

Tribit’s portable Bluetooth speaker weighs less than a pound and is fully waterproof and resistant to scratches and drops. It also comes with a tear-resistant strap for easy transportation, and the rechargeable battery can handle up to 24 hours of continuous use after a full charge. In 2020, it was Wirecutter's pick as the best budget portable Bluetooth speaker on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

8. VicTsing SoundHot C6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $18 (4.3 stars)

VicTsing portable bluetooth speaker
VicTsing/Amazon

The SoundHot portable Bluetooth speaker is designed for convenience wherever you go. It comes with a detachable suction cup and a carabiner so you can keep it secure while you’re showering, kayaking, or hiking, to name just a few.

Buy it: Amazon

9. AOMAIS Sport II Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $30 (4.4 stars)

AOMAIS portable bluetooth speaker
AOMAIS/Amazon

This portable speaker is certified to handle deep waters and harsh weather, making it perfect for your next big adventure. It can play for up to 15 hours on a full charge and offers a stable Bluetooth connection within a 100-foot radius.

Buy it: Amazon

10. XLEADER SoundAngel Touch Bluetooth Speaker; $19-$23 (4.4 stars)

XLeader portable bluetooth speaker
XLEADER/Amazon

This stylish device is available in black, silver, gold, and rose gold. Plus, it’s equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, a more powerful technology that can pair with devices up to 800 feet away. The SoundAngel speaker itself isn’t water-resistant, but it comes with a waterproof case for protection in less-than-ideal conditions.

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

8 Surprising Facts About Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris.
Chuck Norris.
Jason Merritt, Getty Images

For decades, martial artist and actor Carlos Ray Norris Jr. has been kicking his way into the hearts of action film fans. In addition to his competitive karate career, Norris has starred in a string of successful movies as well as the long-running CBS drama Walker, Texas Ranger. With Norris having reached the milestone age of 80 years old back in March 2020, we’re taking a look at some of the more interesting facts about his life and career.

1. Chuck Norris is a military veteran.

Chuck Norris in Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)
Chuck Norris stars in Lone Wolf McQuade (1983).
MGM Home Entertainment

Born on March 10, 1940 in Ryan, Oklahoma, Norris was the oldest of three boys and a self-described “shy” child. After a move to California, Norris attended North Torrance High School. After graduating, he joined the U.S. Air Force, where he became a member of the military police in the hopes of pursuing a career in law enforcement. It was in the service, while being stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea, that Norris first discovered the martial arts. When he once found himself unable to control a rowdy drunk in a bar while on patrol duty, Norris realized he needed combat skills. He studied Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do before returning to California. When he was discharged from the Air Force in 1962, Norris began teaching the skills he had acquired to students.

2. Steve McQueen got Chuck Norris into acting.

Norris became a world champion in karate contests, which lent credence to his abilities as a martial arts instructor. He taught several celebrities the finer points of self-defense, including the Osmonds, Priscilla Presley, and Steve McQueen. Norris even trained Price Is Right host Bob Barker. But not all his schools were doing well, and after retiring from competition in 1974, Norris was looking for other opportunities. McQueen suggested that Norris try his hand at acting. McQueen was right—eventually. It took several years and nine films, but Norris had a breakthrough with 1982’s Lone Wolf McQuade.

3. Chuck Norris needed to obey a producer’s request in order to face off against Bruce Lee.

While Norris didn’t become a household name until the 1980s, his turn as a villain in 1972’s Return of the Dragon (also known as Way of the Dragon) opposite Bruce Lee wound up being a seminal meeting of two onscreen martial arts legends. When Lee was looking for an adversary for the climactic fight, he called Norris, whom he knew and was friends with. But the film’s producer insisted that Norris gain 20 pounds so that he would appear to be much larger than Lee on camera. “That’s why I don’t do jump kicks [in the movie],” Norris told Empire in 2007. “I couldn’t get off the ground!”

4. Chuck Norris founded his own martial arts system.

Taking the knowledge he had acquired over many years of training in Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do, Norris developed his own unique martial arts system and philosophy that he eventually dubbed Chun Kuk Do. In addition to combat techniques, the system encourages students to develop themselves to their maximum potential and look for the good in other people. It was renamed the Chuck Norris System in 2015.

5. Chuck Norris once marketed Chuck Norris Action Jeans.

Thanks to his fame in the martial arts world, Norris was sought after to endorse athletic products. In 1982, martial arts equipment company Century recruited Norris to be a spokesperson for their Karate Jeans, which featured flexible fabric sewn into the crotch that would presumably allow the wearer to deliver a bone-crunching kick while looking fashionable. Eventually renamed Action Jeans, Norris promoted them for years.

6. Chuck Norris had his own cartoon series.

At the height of his popularity in the 1980s, Norris teamed with animation company Ruby-Spears for an animated series, Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos. The show featured Norris and a team of martial artists fighting villains like Superninja and The Claw. Although 65 shows were planned, just a few aired. “We only did six of them, and then a woman at CBS said, ‘Those are too violent,’” Norris told MTV News in 2009.

7. Chuck Norris is a real Texas Ranger.

For eight seasons, Norris pummeled bad guys as the star of the 1990s CBS television series Walker, Texas Ranger, which became the first primetime show shot on location in Texas at Norris’s insistence. In 2010, Norris was named an honorary member of the Texas Rangers by state governor Rick Perry in acknowledgment of Norris’s work in raising awareness for the elite unit and for his work helping underprivileged youths via martial arts programs. Norris’s brother, Aaron Norris, who was an executive producer on the show, also received the designation.

8. Chuck Norris’s role in Dodgeball was a surprise to Chuck Norris.

Norris is generally good-humored about his persona and is often willing to poke fun at himself. But when he was asked to do a cameo in the 2004 comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, he passed because he didn’t feel like driving three hours to the movie’s set in Long Beach, California. When star Ben Stiller called to ask personally, Norris agreed, but didn’t read the script. He simply shot his scene where he offers a thumbs-up to the dodgeball competitors.

When Norris saw the movie in theaters, he was surprised at the context. “But in the end, when Ben’s a big fatty and watching TV, the last line of the whole movie is, ‘F***in’ Chuck Norris!,'” Norris told Empire in 2007. “My mouth fell open to here… I said, ‘Holy mackerel!’ That was a shock, Ben didn’t tell me about that!”