Earlier, for some reason I don't recall, Kevin and I started talking about the World's Fair. Do they still have them? Are they like the Olympics, where a corrupt governing body is bribed by cities around the globe for the privilege of attracting millions of gawking tourists for a few months? Or can any city declare a World's Fair and hope enough countries show up to justify the name?
Kevin recounted his experiences at the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville. That was the last one either of us could remember ever having heard of, and almost all the websites we could find talked about one particular World's Fair or another. But Wikipedia to the rescue! (Motto: "Centralizing the untrustworthiness of Internet content.") They've got a great World's Fair entry which explains all.
The World's Fair system has the look of a comic book universe where the rules for contributors got too lax, and bizarre rules and alternate universes had to be created to mantain canonicity. The whole thing is run by the Bureau International des Expositions, under the watchful eye of Captain Planet. (The Wikipedia notes the benevolent nature of BIE oversight: "countries can hold their own 'fair', 'exposition', [or] 'exhibition', without BIE endorsement.")
There have been three confusingly similar expo classifications in use over the years (this is all explained in mind-numbing detail in the Wikipedia entry), but after a spate of expos in the 80s and 90s it looks like they've finally got things under control and have settled down to a relatively sedate rate of five years between World's Fair-class "registered" events, with smaller "recognized" events interspersed. You wouldn't think it would be that complicated to manage the damn World's Fair, but apparently there's some flap with the host country always wanting to use preexisting buildings for the Fair, I mean, geez! You gotta watch those host countries every minute of the day.
Anyway, the most recent big exposition was the Sprockets-ish EXPO2000 in Hanover. The next one is the Exposition of Global Harmony, or EXPO 2005, in Japan. As with everything these days, EXPO 2005 has mascots and a theme song. (Kevin on the mascots: "That's what I was afraid of: a resurgence of orthodox Shinto.") Its theme is a nature/technology conjunction which could have a Fullerene/Viridian hipness about it but which seems stuck in "we'll build the pavillion out of recycled plastic bottles" mode.
Looking toward 2010, we see a number of possible contenders (at last, the bribery!). South Korea is a strong contender, as are China and Russia ("Russia not only wants to host EXPO-2010, we have all the necessary economic, political and organizational resources to do so."). Experts say that future geopolitical Sino-Russian cooperation is unlikely if one country snatches the hotly contested EXPO-2010 site away from the other.
Mexico and Poland are also angling for the EXPO-2010 prize, but Mexico's site is currently down, and Poland's requires Flash, so I preemptively disqualify them from hosting EXPO-2010.
Looking even further into the future, San Francisco and Istanbul are the current candidates for EXPO 2015. Of course by then we'll all be spacefaring robots.