5 True Stories Behind the Most Badass Photographs Ever Taken
Photography is the art of capturing the one picture that best defines a moment. It is used to distill the pure beauty of nature into a single serene image. It is used to portray humanity's deepest sufferings and greatest triumphs. And occasionally, it is used to capture the exact second that mankind reached into its giant bag of fucks to give and found it completely empty.
You may have already seen this photo circulating somewhere. It's usually titled something funny, like "Cool Guys Don't Look at Explosions," or something succinct, such as "Motorcyclist Flees Fire." It doesn't really matter, does it? Words are an afterthought here. That man is fleeing what is obviously a gargantuan disaster, and he is doing so with the kind of resolute jaw and steely-eyed gaze that can only be measured in magnitudes of Bruce Willis.
But while the image alone certainly tells a compelling story of determination (and possibly revenge? Dude sure looks like he's on his way to dropkick some terrorists), there are two important facts to note: First, that is a scooter, not a motorcycle. There's a big difference between fleeing certain doom on an agile, ground-based missile and doing so on one half of a clown car. Scooter Man up there saw the physical manifestation of the end times approaching him -- a giant, roiling, molten smoke cloud straight out of The Lord of the Rings -- and he looked at his 30 mph moped and thought, "Eh, I'm in no hurry." The second thing to note: That is not a factory explosion or even a forest fire behind him. That is an erupting volcano. And a friggin' huge one at that. This photo was taken during the 2010 eruption of Mount Merapi in Central Java, which looked like this:
Jesus Pogo-Dancing Christ. Both of those pictures look like they'd be shot down as overkill for the cover of a Slayer album, not like actual events that unfolded in reality. If that shit was happening behind me, I wouldn't be calmly motoring away on a moped. I'd plane-jack a fighter jet and get about 20 feet down the runway before dying of dehydration from the incessant crying and fear urination. And yet here is Scooter Man, mounting up a glorified lawnmower and gently commuting out of the way of volcanic destruction with an expression valued at 11^Bruce Willii.
That is the forceful urinary stream of Thor. It is the accusing finger of Zeus. That photograph up there is exactly what old-timey Christians pictured when somebody said "May God strike me down if I'm lying!" You may have seen similar images billed as lightning rods in action, but that is not at all what's happening here. What's happening here is way more awesome. What's happening here is perhaps the most hilariously reckless abuse of science in mankind's short intellectual history. What's happening here ... is the launch of a lightning rocket.
Of all the possible meanings that the phrase "lightning rocket" can imply -- a lightning rod attached to a rocket, lightning that just happens to be hitting a rocket, a rocket that you fire at lightning in a desperate bid to finally kick-start a war with Valhalla -- the reality of an actual lightning rocket shames them all. A lightning rocket is a rocket fired into the tumultuous sky with the intent of triggering and controlling lightning strikes. There are a variety of methods a lightning rocket can employ, from a simple copper wire to a smokescreen of super-conductive liquid, but the end result is always the same: Mankind can now control storms by kicking their goddamn asses.
Too often, science boils down to subtle effects, microscopic results, and careful balances of forces and chemicals. But every once in a while, science boils down to "Fuck that thing, hit it with a missile." And every once in a while, the Fuck-It Missile works. The Fuck-It Missile works like goddamn crazy.
Standing Ground Against a Tsunami
This photo is from the 2004 Indonesian Tsunami. How does this exist? Did the photographer have time to text this image to his loved ones, with the caption "I'm sorry for everything I've ever done," before the water reached him? Did the camera wash up on a beach in Nova Scotia two years later? Look at that: All of those people are either dead or the spoiled secret identity of Aquaman. Right? They have to be. The Indonesian Tsunami was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history, and all of those folks are standing close enough to ground zero that, if this was a party, it would be considered rude not to introduce themselves to it. And it looks like they were caught completely off guard, too. They're all just turning to flee the monster wave ...
Well, all except this guy.
He looks like he's about to bust out the popcorn and enjoy the show, not realizing that his doughy torso is the set piece for the climactic action sequence. Or maybe he's just confident that his giant balls are going to act as ballast and float him away to safety when the water comes in. Or maybe we're all just focusing on the wrong man here. It's true: Everybody else in the photo appears to be running, except for the balding buoy of badass up there, and this guy ...
... who, upon discovering that he was standing on the breaking point of a biblical apocalypse, apparently ripped off his shirt and adopted a surfing stance.
Where is his board, you ask? Where he's going, he won't need boards.
Wait, he's not dead now? How can that possibly be? Well, this photo was taken in Ao Nang, Thailand, and somewhere behind that explosion of water, there is a wall serving as a breakwater. The pictured wave is actually the second one to hit Ao Nang -- the first was so destructive and dramatic, that after it was over, all of these people wandered down to the shore to gawk at the aftermath. That's when the second, bigger wave hit them right in their rubbernecking faces...and killed precisely none of them. Suck it, Darwin.
Come at Me, Bear
This is not Steampunk Pinhead. This is not the formal tux of Ron Maiden, lead singer of Iron Maiden. This is a Russian Bear-Hunting Suit. Or at least that's what it says whenever this picture pops up: "Russian Bear-Hunting Armor," "Siberian Bear-Hunting Suit," "18th Century Bear Armor." Whatever, it's generally agreed that this is insane and Eastern European, and has something to do with bears. Which, to be fair, is true of pretty much all of Russian history. Dig a little deeper into the comments, though, and you'll usually find some controversy: This isn't real, they say. It's actually part of an exhibit in the Menil Collection called Wunderkammer.
Wunderkammer is a surrealist "room of wonders" where objects that have inspired various surrealist artists are displayed. Buzzkill Internet assholes (like myself) love to point out that this suit is just an art piece and not likely to have been used to wade through an ocean of furious, impotent ursine opponents. However, those buzzkilling bastards are missing some vital information: The plaque beneath this suit reads "'Wildman' costume, 18th or 19th century, Germany or Switzerland. Two-piece leather hunting suit with wood spikes and iron chain." See, Subsonic the Hedgehog up there is not a surrealist art piece at all -- it's just a piece that inspired a surrealist artist. This bear suit was, at some point, earnestly built for use by hunters. So back in the 18th century, a bunch of Swiss got together and pondered the question of what could be done about the gargantuan slavering predators that kept hugging them to death.
The answer, obviously, was "hug those bitches back."
The Crying Guardsman
Wait, what is a sobbing man in goofy headgear doing on a list of badass images? He looks like a preteen girl watching The Notebook -- or any man on Earth watching a dog die in an action movie. What's his deal?
This is an Evzone, an elite Greek presidential guard, and this photograph was taken during a riot. So, what, he's crying to see what's become of his country? Nope! The Evzones are, in part, responsible for maintaining vigil over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Their duties are largely ceremonial, much like the famous Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace. In short, they are not to react to external stimuli unless it threatens the tomb, and they are not to be moved from their post under any circumstance. Even under penalty of chemical attack. That's important, see, because this particular Evzone is standing, absolutely immobile, inside a giant cloud of tear gas.
The photo of the crying guardsman was taken during a protest for the Parnitha forest held in Syntagma Square, which also just happens to house the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Riot police deployed tear gas on the protesters when they got out of hand (or more likely, just because they were bored), and the Evzone, caught in the crossfire, just stood there and took it without so much as a twitch. This feat is especially impressive when you consider two things: The Evzones dress like somebody making fun of a Keebler elf, and they are proud members of the Ministry of Silly Walks.
Also, this isn't any old riot: It's a Greek riot. And nobody riots like the Greeks. Look up "the Greek riots" in a Google Image search and it not only shows you a page of photos that looks like somebody made a scrapbook out of Michael Bay's soul, but also asks you to be more specific.
And up there is an Evzone hanging out in the middle of a Greek riot, looking like a racist Christmas ornament and moving like a Monty Python sketch, just baaarely misting up after being blinded by tear gas. Man, if you didn't already feel like a pussy for crying at the end of The Iron Giant, you sure as hell do now.
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