Happy 4th of July! Fireworks are stupid! That's been my stance on the issue since around the age of 12 or so, when I realized that every fireworks display has looked exactly the same for decades now. We wouldn't put up with such a state of stagnation from any other entertainment source, but year after year, we give fireworks a pass. We talk about the various drawbacks and shortcomings of annual fireworks displays and other "fun" summer activities on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Maria Shehata and my Cracked co-worker Tom Reimann.
I'm talking about fireworks in this column as well, albeit in a slightly different way. While I stand by my assertion that a fireworks display is nothing more than a screensaver in the sky set to movie sound effects, there are certain occasions when watching them can be incredibly enjoyable. That, of course, is when they malfunction. Here are some of the most visually stunning fireworks failures of all-time.
#5. Fireworks Truck Explodes In 193-Vehicle Pileup In Michigan
There are a lot of sources that have covered this incident, and almost all of them quote a different number of vehicles that were ultimately involved in the chaos. I'm using the largest one I've seen so far simply for dramatic effect. Drama is also what makes this video so special. Unlike the other disasters I've covered, all of which were captured on video from a seemingly safe distance, this one is happening way up close. A TV news reporter captured the footage, hopefully by setting the camera on a nearby tripod before fleeing for his life. The best part is how he was apparently there almost as soon as the fire started, judging from this shot.
Conspiracy theory: He set the fire.
Even when it's mostly just smoke and pretty lights, it looks fairly intense.
Honestly, I bet a lot of Michigan looks like this in the winter.
But then this happens ...
... and all of the sudden, it looks like you're in the eye of a tornado made of fire.
This is one shark away from being a shitty Netflix movie.
That could very well be the case, actually. According to reports about the crash, the area where it happened was in the midst of a wind tunnel that made driving conditions nearly impossible for everyone, which should be obvious, seeing as how hundreds of cars and trucks just plowed into each other at once.
Where do this many people have to go in Michigan at one time, anyway?
Of course, like so many other disasters, the unsafe conditions weren't the only culprit. The final analysis was that the main cause of the accident was asshole drivers following too close and driving too fast on ice-covered roads. The report didn't actually call those people assholes, but they definitely are.
#4. The Kolding Fireworks Factory Explosion
Before it exploded and turned Seest -- a tiny suburb of Kolding, Denmark -- into what some authorities referred to as a "moon landscape" of burned-out rubble, most residents probably paid no mind to the fact that there was a massive fireworks factory hiding in plain sight in their town. This is what it looked like on the night it became a town attraction that mattered:
The whole thing started when two employees dropped a box of fireworks while working inside a container that was filled with even more fireworks. The impact with the ground somehow caused the box to ignite, forcing the employees to flee. No one is ever brave enough to just pick up a burning box of fireworks and toss it out a window to safety, you know? The ensuing explosion set off the fireworks inside that container. By the time firefighters arrived, the blaze was too intense to contain. This started a chain reaction of some of the most impressive and powerful explosions you'll see this side of a nuclear blast. That will sound like a lot less of an exaggeration when you note that this beauty ...
Don't stare at that too long.
... produced the kind of mushroom cloud you normally only see in movies about Russia destroying the '80s.
Help us, Patrick Swayze!
For an even better perspective, check out this video that was shot from four kilometers (whatever those are) away.
For the first half of the video, while the initial fire is burning, the sky is almost black, with the flames just barely visible. When that second explosion happens, the sky looks like this ...
... and the cloud it eventually produces looks like the goddamn apocalypse.
It's just like some religious text probably sort of said.
Sadly, one firefighter lost his life battling the fire, and 12 emergency workers were injured. But thanks to an effective evacuation effort, losses for residents of the town were mostly limited to houses and buildings. Granted, that means pretty much all of the houses and buildings, but it certainly could have been worse.
#3. San Diego Puts On The Best Show Ever!
The Big Bay Boom is a fireworks display that happens every year in San Diego. It's said to be one of the largest and most logistically complex fireworks displays in the world. Man, just imagine what it would look like if, instead of the slow, calculated detonation of several fireworks over an extended period of time, all of that shit just went up at once. That's precisely what happened in 2012, when the entire display detonated in less than 40 seconds.
As impressive as that may be to look at, you're doing yourself a disservice if you watch the video with the sound off. If nothing else, take the time to plug in your headphones so you can hear various spectators, completely unaware that things have gone off the rails in the most exciting way possible, marveling at how "insane" this year's display looks. Just as the sky returns to black ...
Sketchy time to be on that boat.
... a woman can be heard saying, "This is the best fireworks show ever!" It's as if the fireworks resented all the hard work they were doing and stopped solely out of spite for her joy and enthusiasm.
The fiasco was apparently caused by a computer glitch, and it actually took just 15 seconds for the entire cache to be set off. It took twice as many scintillating seconds for it all to disappear from the night sky. Immediately after, people were told to go the fuck home because the party was over.
More like #BigBayBooooooo!
Needless to say, people weren't happy. Probably even less so if their rage ever compelled them to look into exactly how much it costs to put on a fireworks display of that magnitude, which is sometimes in the $6 million range. That's a lot of taxpayer money squandered on a large-scale recreation of the brief pyrotechnic bursts you'd see behind any metal band at any concert.