A Little Skittle-butt – WIF I Candy

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Tasty Facts

About Skittles

Unless, like us, you always have a bag of them ready to rock in your freezer (seriously, try Skittles straight from the freezer, they taste amazing), you probably don’t spare much thought for the rainbow colored candy snack unless you’re eating them. Well, we do. So we compiled this list of stories and facts about the candy. Partly because it’s interesting, but mostly because we really want them to sponsor us so we can live our dream of Scrooge McDuck-ing our way into a giant pile of these delicious treats.

 10. They once drained all of the color from their packaging and product during Pride Week

One of the most visually distinctive aspects of Skittles is that each bag contains more colors than a blender full of Marvel comics. Mars (Skittles’ parent company) has played up to the smattering of color each bag of their product contains by coining the tagline “taste the rainbow” and it’s hard to imagine the company would ever abandon their distinctly fabulous design and color scheme.

In fact, the company has only ever dropped the rainbow colored profile of their brand once, in 2016, in celebration of London Pride Week.

As Skittles detailed in a PR letter, they wanted the only rainbow that week to be the Pride flag and to that end released an unsettlingly boring special edition bag of Skittles totally devoid of any color. In addition, the Skittles inside the bag were similarly Spartan, being entirely white (though they were still flavored). The company then handed out thousands of these nega-Skittles from a giant, colorless float in the Pride parade. Speaking of being pelted with Skittles…

9. There’s a band who love them so much they get showered with them every time they play

Relient K is a Christian rock band that has enjoyed moderate mainstream success and has toured extensively since the late ’90s. The author of this piece is actually a big fan of the band and highly recommends their cover of Africa, his favorite song. Moving on, the band, along with loving them some Jesus, adores Skittles, going so far as to release a hidden song on one of their albums (a thing people owned before MP3s became a thing) talking about how great they are. Prior to this the band would often eat entire bags of Skittles between songs while performing, and made sure to mention on their rider for each performance that they needed their green room to contain a near infinite amount of the candy.

This love of Skittles saw it become a tradition of sorts for fans to pelt the band with bags of Skittles while playing. Amusingly, years later, the lead singer of the band admitted that he wasn’t a big a fan of the candy as his bandmates and was getting kind of annoyed with being beaned on the head 3 times per show by a large bag of flavorful delights. Information that just encouraged fans to throw even more, because of course it did.

8. They have one of the few non-embarrassing corporate Facebook pages

Skittles are a brand noted as being one of the earliest to recognize the marketing potential of social media, and have been consistently praised for their genuine understanding of the platform strengths and limitations and humor while interacting with fans. In particular, the Skittles Facebook page has often been singled out as one of the best corporate fan pages out there because it’s actually kind of entertaining.

Along with doing boring corporate stuff like responding to complaints and sharing fan photos, the brand seemed to have hired whoever runs Ryan Reynolds’ social media accounts, sharing irreverent observations that have both bemused and entertained fans for years. Gems dropped by the Skittles Facebook page (which, remember, is an official arm of the brand) include:

“If chinchillas ever lost their cool they’d have to change their name.”

“Everytime you like this a turtle learns kung-fu”

“Marshmallows don’t dissolve, they just use hot cocoa to teleport to their homeworld”

All of which we think we can all agree are infinitely better to read than the sterile corporate doublespeak touted on other, lesser official Facebook pages. Then again, it’s not like Skittles didn’t have some early missteps while using social media. For example, consider the time they…

7. Brought down Twitter, with fisting

Early in 2009, when Twitter wasn’t yet the massive, globally recognized force it is today, Skittles tried to dip their toes into the world of tweeting by changing the front page of their official website to display the feeds from their various official social media platforms. In specific regard to the Twitter bit, the brand decided it would be a good idea to display any tweets people sent to the company. You can probably guess what happened next.

Fisting happened. Or rather, thousands of people tweeted the brand with a deluge of profanity that was then proudly displayed on their official website. So many thousands of people tried flooding Skittles’ homepage with profane content that, for a brief moment, they actually brought down Twitter. In other words, Skittles once actually broke (a small part of) the internet, by inviting people to have the most offensive things they could squeeze into a 140 character long tweet displayed for millions of people (and Mars’ shareholders) to see. Take that, Kim Kardashian. And while we’re on the subject of viral tweets…

6. Their response to a Donald Trump Jr. tweet is considered a textbook example of how to respond to controversy

In 2016, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted an image comparing refugees fleeing ISIS with a bowl of poisoned Skittles. You probably heard about it. It was pretty big news and for a moment, everyone was looking kind of awkwardly at Skittles, wondering how in the hell they were supposed to respond to something like that. Think about it: not commenting on the statement would look like tacit endorsement of the sentiment of the comment, whereas addressing it could be misconstrued as trying to capitalize on the controversy. Skittles were, in most people’s eyes, kind of screwed no matter what they did.

With all eyes turned to them and a public waiting for the brand to slip up, a few hours after the tweet going viral, Skittles issued a frank statement through an official from Mars to a newspaper simply saying that Skittles are candy and refugees are people and that they didn’t wish to comment further. This astonishingly classy way of handling what could have been a minefield of controversy for the brand has been cited by experts on PR as a sterling example of how a company should operate online. In other words, the same company that talks online about chinchillas losing their cool also somehow managed to smoothly shut down controversy about their brand being used to dehumanize people fleeing an active warzone. Say what you want about the controversy, this just shows that Skittles has some amazing people working for its PR department.

5. A pack of Skittles somehow contains a decent percentage of your daily recommended amount of Vitamin C

Moving away from politics and Donald Trump, which we’re sure has already got some people arguing in the comments, let’s discuss the fact that Skittles are one of the only a handful of candies that could technically be part of a balanced diet.

This is because unlike most every other kind of candy that have less health benefits than the wrapper they’re packaged in, a small bag of Skittles supposedly contains about 50% of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin C for an 8 year old (which is about 49% more than we assumed when we started researching this), and 25% for an adult. This means that unlike, well, any other candy, there’s a quantifiable benefit to eating Skittles rather than, say, M&M’S or Jolly Ranchers, which have no real nutritional value. While we’re not saying that you should shovel these things into your mouth by the handful, it’s quite nice to know that at the very least, you’re getting something from them to make you feel ever so slightly less guilty.

4. If you leave them in water the trademark S will mysteriously float off

One of the last things Mars does before they send off Skittles to be bought and consumed by the public is add the little S you can find on every candy. This little S is written using a non-water soluble ink that is attached using an apparently delicious kind of edible glue we’re annoyed you can’t buy in stores.

When you submerge Skittles inside any kind of liquid, this S will magically float off and rise to the surface and sit there, waiting for you to either drink it or try to pull it out using your fingers, only to watch it do that annoying thing where it moves just out of the way every single time you pinch your digits together. There’s no real reason to do this, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re ever at a party, have a few on hand, and want to make someone think their drink is being haunted by an angry snake. And you always know it’s going to work because…

3. They destroy any Skittle that doesn’t have an S on it

Like any brand, Skittles are subjected to strict quality control measures that see them being checked against perfect examples of the candy we assume are kept in a comically well guarded vault. Since so many millions of Skittles are produced every single day, people in charge of quality control simply check one Skittle out of every so many thousand produced, and if it doesn’t look right, all of them will be destroyed.  

Since there’s not exactly many things that can really go wrong with producing a small, spherical candy with an S on it, that’s really the only thing they check for. In other words, Mars will happily destroy thousands of perfectly edible Skittles just because they don’t have that thing on it nobody really cares about. For anyone curious about what happens to these imperfect Skittles, the company crushes them and sells them as animal feed, meaning somewhere out there is a cow that eats nothing but Skittles all day. And now, we’re jealous of that cow, even if it does have to eat those awful yellow ones. Speaking of which…

2. There are always more yellow Skittles in a bag, for some reason

Millions of Skittles are made every day in roughly equal amounts, which are then sorted into the bags you can buy in stores. However, if you’ve ever actually opened up a bag and counted how many of each color are in there, you may notice that there are way more yellow ones.

Nobody is really quite sure why this is the case and Skittles won’t answer our emails, but if you take a look at videos of the candy being made you’ll notice that for some reason, yellow Skittles seem to end up in the same vats as other colors. Exactly why this happens isn’t clear but a theory is that since yellow is the cheapest color to produce, it’s the one made in the highest quantities. The theory continues that the plentiful yellow Skittles are then accidentally sorted along with other colors, explaining why you always seem to find more of them. Again, we have no idea if this is true but it’s for sure a better explanation than Skittles just like messing with us.

1. There’s a terrible film where they tried to be the next Reese’s Pieces

There’s a scene in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial where the eponymous E.T. is lured out of a closet by a trail of Reese’s Pieces. This scene is noted as being one of the singular most successful cases of product placement ever, resulting in a sales increase of nearly 300% for Reese’s Pieces. As it turns out, Mars were originally offered that lucrative deal for M&M’S, but turned it down.

Not wanting to pass up this kind of chance twice, Mars jumped at the chance to have Skittles appear in an almost identical movie called Mac and Me. If you’ve never seen it, Mac and Me is often referred to as one of the worst movies ever made, mostly because it’s an unapologetic cash grab full of shameless product placement for Skittles, Coke, and McDonald’s. As an example of how utterly flagrant this film is in promoting the brands, it features: a break-dancing scene set entirely inside a McDonald’s; Coke as the only thing the aliens in the film will drink; and a character who wears a McDonald’s uniform in every scene they appear in. Unsurprisingly, Skittles didn’t suddenly notice a 300% boost in sales after the movie was released because nobody went and saw this movie. In fact, we’ll bet more people have seen that clip where a kid in a wheelchair falls off a cliff. Particularly since Paul Rudd shows it literally every time he ever appears on Conan O’Brien’s show.


A Little Skittle-butt

– WIF I Candy

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 157

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 157

…“And please keep my Father and Mother alive in time to be rescued, Amen.” Deke McKinney speaks to God from his heart…

A sleeping giant has awoken. The righteous of the world have spoken.

Global missile defenses all over the world are at the highest possible alert. Every fleet, every army, all radars are at the ready. There are mandatory commercial air travel ground stops. The planet is taking a deep breath, in hopes that the SALT IV Nuclear Treaty will hold, especially for arsenals not in the control of responsible leaders–

–Such is the risk that was taken by the leader of the free world:

“My fellow Americans: Today I come before you to announce a global response to certain aggressions perpetrated without our knowledge and against our long-term interests…Image result for my fellow americans

“To this end, the Congress of these United States and the greater Space Colony Global Coalition has supported the necessary actions to seek out and destroy facilities of known enemies of mischief. The United Korean Peninsula is currently enduring the wrath of our Coalition, as is Talibanistan, who has conspired to attempt to deny the greater world from conquering space…

“The destruction of Space Colony 1 has been positively linked to both nations and their propensity to independently cause trouble, whether here on Earth or in space, has been cut away from them in a swift and humane manner.”

— Watching President Sanchez’ address to the world is Aldona Afridi Fletcher Fitch and his family, “Praise to the God of Israel, He has used His mighty hand to defeat His enemies, Amen.” —

— Huddled close in front of the fireplace, watching the Presidential announcement on the mantle television {and ten quick steps from the King Ranch bomb shelter}, are five people who know the meaning of holding those close to you near. The preceding events that cement their resolve are overshadowed by those which directly affect the security of the entire planet.

Braden King, the ranch patriarch speaks, “Dear Lord, we thank you for your bountiful Image result for god cartoongoodness, we praise you for the wonders of the Universe you created, and we pray for your blanket of protection, for us and your faithful around the world.” The mood is solemn, heads are bowed.

“And please keep my Father and Mother alive in time to be rescued, Amen.” Deke speaks to God from his heart.

Amen indeed.


THE RETURN TRIP

GOD By Marian Avramescu

Episode 157


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 156

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 156

…Mustering any more international mischief will be hard for this evil alliance to do…

–So in the midst of their puffy-chested revelry, when all their focus is on the gloryRelated image of recent triumphs, three supersonic bombers streak across the Arctic Ice Cap, under, around, and through Korean blind defenses. The government complex housing the conspiring power-brokers is leveled in an instant. Two other {space-connected} facilities are also destroyed, as well as seaports Wonsan, and Hamhung. No embargoes will be necessary.

Three more stealth bearers-of-bombs come up from the Indian Ocean on their way to Baikonur Cosmodrome and some sweet strategic points in Talibanistan. Before the sun can clear the horizon to the east, Talibanistani military installations go up in smoke and the Cosmodrome will not be hoisting any rockets for a very, very long time.

Mustering any more international mischief will be hard for this evil alliance to do.

The combined percentage loss to the two countries, when the military and governance vacuum is factored in, is near 85%. Assassinations of world leaders have been tried before, with varying results, attempted by people with different motives and ethnic derivations. Emperors have been betrayed, Kings have fallen, Presidents shot, but never before has a worldwide attack taken out the core leadership of world powers.

In United Korea, the Kim Jung-un lineage is stagnant and questionable, his offspring both being female. Succession to the throne will be chaotic for such an ordered {by sequestration} society.

And you thought they were upset about losing Sang-Ashi…

Talibanistan, on the other hand, has always been chaotic. When you bundle 6 countries together to make one big one, there is bound to be provincial squabbles. And with somebody always ready to take anybody’s place at any time, the melee free-for-all that ensues will prevent a unified response.

And they were so proud about their terrorist expertise…


THE RETURN TRIP

Lord of the Rings the LAST ALLIANCE – Artists: Jason Potratz & Jack Hai

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 155

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 155

…you have the ingredients for the second biggest international incident, “a quarter of a million miles this side of the moon”…

Pink Floyd

As things wind down is the Gulf region of North/Central America, just the
opposite is happening on the other side of the world, specifically the United Korean Peninsula and Talibanistan. For far too long the so-called Dove of the Americas, President Pete Sanchez has allowed free reign to certain, uncommon pockets of American/West hatred.

North Korea swallowed up the South when during his first term, he unilaterally withdrew United States forces, which had guarded the 38th Parallel for 3/4 of a century and the North pounced. The United Korean Peninsula was formed.

He was re-elected anyway.

At the beginning of his second term, he urged the United Nations to ease restrictions on what had only been a tribal movement in the areas north and west of India. During the vacuum of power, the Taliban seized control of all the “-stans” and formed the nation called Talibanistan. Never a friend to the
west, it was allowed to fester like a regional infection, never to be challenged about its belligerent policies.

And still Sanchez sat on his hands, with the support of the festering Hispanic majority that dare not allow him to lose power.

Picasso

But the Presidency of the United States of America has not descended into dictatorship and when a Congressional majority decides to act in spite of the “Commander-in Chief”, the sleeping dove that has been the USA, can magically take-wing and soar like the proud hawk of days gone by.

Among the Joint Chiefs’ of Staff, who have been bound by loyalty and not apt to spout their verbal opposition to national policy, are privately ramping up efforts to build a case for surgical strikes against both Korea and Talibanistan. A downsized military, just like the budget-challenged space program, has to skillfully choose their skirmishes and missions.

So when CIA briefings included information about that bodacious bash in the Korean capital, with all the prominent players involved in Space Colony’s destruction in one city block, the temptation to strike is obvious, even to the most casual observer.

Add in the fact that permission from Congress is nothing but a presidential rubberstamp and you have the ingredients for the second biggest international incident, “a quarter of a million miles this side of the moon”. As the Army Chief put it, “What happens in Korea stays in Korea.” —


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 154

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 154

…On the other side of the world and on the bad side of public opinion, Kim Jong-un is pondering the meaning of life

On the other side of the world, and on the bad side of public opinion, Kim Jong-un is pondering the meaning of life. (2 Koreans + 1 Talinaistani)

Where has all this outer space mischief got us Nae Tan-Dan?”

“We have put a stop to America’s imperialist expansionism, Supreme Leader!”

The barely 50 year old leader of the United Korean Peninsula {formerly North Korea & South Korea} is about the only Korean citizen capable of tracking “real” world sentiment toward his country.

“And what about the fates of Comrade Afridi and Comrade Gaad, my Talibanistan brother,” he asks of Shaikh Kamran Khan Nutkani who is also among the living.
Samiq Gaad was killed while bravely escaping American custody!”

And that is good Comrade Nutkani?

Comrade/traitor Afridi was assassinated while attempting to flee to the United States!”

“Did anyone find and identify his dead body?”

“No, but how can one man be a threat to “the powerful and prosperous Kim Jung-Un”?”

“That one man may have given over his secrets about our satellite program to the West. I hear that they are blaming us for the destruction of their little space station around Mars,” his voice has an indignant tone.

Cheondoist flag.PNG

Cheondoism

“Should we not take the credit…?”

“Silence you fool! Cheiondo, our god of protection, has struck them blind and dumb. We will defend Cheiondo to the death, but we are vilified by the other world powers, those not clear about our altruistic intentions.”

“What manner of threat does a weak leader like the United States’ president present to us? We have defeated him before.” Nae Tan-Dan is full of confidence.

“Perhaps none, but we have failed to bite off the head of the snake, though it writhes in our hand; a snake with its fangs is a dangerous snake.”

Kim Jung-un Immortalized

“But did you not summon us to Pyongyang for a grand celebration? Talibanistan has sent its military leaders here for tribute and all Korean provincial leaders are gathered to show their support.”

“Yes I did Comrade Tan-Dan and so we shall have the biggest military parade led by the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces and Korean People’s Army.” The raw feeling of power is sucking any consternation from his awareness, with lustful thoughts of world domination to guide him. “As did I include our friends from the sovereign state of Talibanistan, who themselves fought off the tyrannical nations in the fight for their territories; a special treat for the foot soldiers, bomb makers, and assassins.”

“We are happy to be here Supreme Leader and may our alliance last forever.”

The clanging of wine glasses and boastful toasts echo outside the high walls of Pyongyang City


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 153

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 153

…What is taking four months to accomplish {the New Mayflower rescue mission}, a SOL equipped spaceship would take 10 minutes, akin to a trip to  a corner store in New Orleans

French Quarter Corner Store by John Boles

— After he had escaped from a treacherous country, had his family risk their lives fleeing to Turkey, managed to  contact the Space Colony Director with scandalous information, only to be shot by an assassin’s bullets while being flown into the United States, poor Aldona Afridi is not an yard closer to applying his trade.

SOL-logo

But now the renegade turned research scientist has been assigned to the SOL Project: the independent foundation, with significant ties to NASA that is dedicated to achieving space travel at the speed-of-light threshold and not a mph less. With the recent stranding of personnel, some 3+ months distant and without a lifeline, efforts have been redoubled in the quest of 670 million miles per hour.

Do the math. What is taking four months to accomplish {the New Mayflower rescue mission}, a SOL equipped spaceship would take 10 minutes. What is presently classified as a time-sensitive mission would be akin to a trip to a corner store in New Orleans.

Another comparison may apply to the situation on Mars. Unknown to anyone on Earth, the NEWFOUNDLANDER would have taken over four years to reach this solar system, assuming that they came from the nearest star.

Such are the daunting numbers that face a small grouping of scientists that does now include Aldona Afridi; and he feels well-favored to have the opportunity. He is making a good wage, not a fortune but sure beats the United Korean blood money by light-years.

His family is safe, though the Afridi family name has been changed. Meet the Fitch’s:

  • Father: Fletcher Fitch
  • Wife: Madonna Fitch
  • Daughters: The Fitch girls

How easy are things when you are under the protection of a benevolent Federal Government such as this? You get an undercover makeover, govt. housing and a new outlook on life, just like that.

Fletcher and Madonna Fitch have that new look, new wardrobes and names that they had no choice in getting.

And still, life is good… so far.


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Double Takes – WIF Photography

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Photographs

That’ll Make

You Look Twice

You know the famous idiom, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” For the most part, it’s true. But those thousand words we make up for ourselves can be completely off if we don’t have the right backstory or any context in which that photo was taken. So, with that in mind, we’re going to show you some photos here that are pieces of history in their own right, and we’ll also give you the circumstances in which they were taken. The rest you’ll have to fill in for yourselves… but only within a thousand words, right?

 10. Arnold Schwarzenegger Walking Down a Munich Street – 1967

This particular photo was taken back in 1967 in downtown Munich, Germany. Nothing out of the ordinary in this particular description so far, but as we can all see here, Arnold was wearing only a Speedo, and nothing else. And by the look of those people in the background and the ladies wearing scarves around him, this wasn’t a common sight in Munich back 1967. Heck, it probably isn’t one today, either. He was 20 years old when this photo was taken, and given his physique, nobody was really complaining even back then.

By this time, he already won several bodybuilding contests and titles, including the Mr. Universe. He was the youngest participant ever to do so. During his time in Munich in 1967, he was training six hours per day, attending business school, and promoting his own gym he acquired that same year. In fact, this was exactly what he was doing here in this photo – promoting his gym and the benefits of bodybuilding.

9. Marilyn Monroe’s White Dress – 1954

This photo will definitely make you look twice, regardless of whether you know the whole story behind it or not. But even if that’s the case, let’s, nevertheless, talk a bit about it. This iconic moment in cinematic history was captured back in 1954, during the filming of the Seven Year Itch, a movie that came out one year later. The scene was filmed and photographed at 1:00 a.m. in New York City at the corner of Lexington Ave and 52nd Street and took 14 takes and about three hours to finish. But because of the 100 photographers and roughly 4,000 onlookers who were, let’s say, reacting every time her dress was lifted by the soft, upward breeze, they had to re-shoot it in California. But to be fair, she prepared herself accordingly by wearing two pairs of white underwear.

Nevertheless, this scene almost certainly cost Monroe her marriage to baseball star Joe DiMaggio, who viewed it as an “exhibitionist” scene. Two weeks later, and following a fight at their hotel room after the filming, Marilyn filed for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty. The late Debbie Reynolds, a fellow actress, singer, and businesswoman (not to mention Carrie Fisher’s mother), bought the dress for $200back in 1971. In 2011, she sold it for a whopping $4.6 million.

8. The Guatemala City Sinkhole – 2010

The sudden appearance of this gaping hole in the middle of a street in Guatemala City is still largely a mystery. Its almost perfect cylindrical shape does make it seem to be man-made, and done intentionally no less, but it isn’t, even though human causes may have contributed here. Sam Bonis, a geologist at Dartmouth College who is living in Guatemala City, does have a theory about what happened. The 60 feet (18 meters) wide and 300 feet (100 meters) deep hole was caused, it seems, by leaking pipes. Yes, this is true. This is what happens if you leave the water running, apparently. Bonis believes that the city’s poor infrastructure and leaking pipelines have eroded the soil underneath over an extended period of time and in 2010, with the arrival of the severe tropical storm Agatha, the ground finally gave in and collapsed, forming that huge chasm.

But before you start calling a plumber to come and investigate your pipes, you should also know that the ground’s composition also had something to do with what happened here. As it turns out, Guatemala City is located in a somewhat volcanic region and the soil underneath is made out of pumice – a very porous and light volcanic material. Normally, over long periods of time, this pumice is turned into hard stone. But this time, however, the city was built before this was allowed to happen and the soil beneath is quite brittle. Combined with seeping water, over time one such sinkhole can happen. What’s funny about this is that this exact phenomenon doesn’t really have a name of its own. Since it’s partly man-made, Bonis says it should actually be called a piping feature and not a sinkhole, per se. This is because a sinkhole is entirely natural, and this one is not.

7. China’s Rainbow Mountains

The Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park is China’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon. And even though it isn’t as huge, it definitely has its charm – as can be seen in this photo. It’s a geologic marvel, to say the least, and a jewel given to us by Mother Nature. The layer upon layer of color tells the history of Planet Earth in the most amazing way possible. The story behind this colorful mountain range goes back for many millions of years. Over time, layer upon layer of stone and minerals were deposited, but then, some 50 million years ago, India slammed into Asia. Pushing ever further at a speed of 27 feet per century, it was able to form the mighty Himalayas, as well as these mountains. Each differently-colored layer speaks to another period in Earth’s history.

Interestingly enough, these rainbow mountains weren’t always as popular as they are now. They were first mapped back in the 1930s, and only after the area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site did more people began to learn about its existence. There are some other somewhat similar places in other parts of the world, like the United States or Peru. But none of those are so striking as these rainbow mountains in China.

6. Picture, or Painting? – 2011

It’s not so easy to tell whether this is a photograph or a painting, right? Now, it does resemble a somewhat alien and surreal painting, with the trees looking almost like silhouettes and the color contrasts faintly resembling something by Edvard Munch. But no, it’s a real picture taken by photographer Frans Lanting while on an assignment by National Geographic to Namibia. The photo was taken in the early morning, just as the sun was rising over the horizon and flooding the orange sand dune in the backdrop. The barren ground in front is still under the partial cover of darkness, having a slightly bluish tint, reflecting the sky above.

Back in 2011, Lanting was in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, in a region called Sossusvlei. This is the largest conservation area in Africa and Namibia’s most sensational landmark. The sand dune in the background is known as Big Daddy, so yes, and it’s the largest in the area, measuring 1,066 feet (325 meters) in height. Though not the largest in the Namib Desert, it nevertheless dominates the surrounding area.

5. Two (or More) Heads are Better Than One – 1895

Severed human heads always have the capacity of drawing people’s attention, right? Here we have a huge collection of mokomokai, or tattooed Maori heads, and the man sitting with them is Major-General Horatio Gordon Robley. He was a British officer who was stationed in New Zealand during the New Zealand Wars, during the second half of the 19th century. As an artist and as an antiques collector, he became fascinated with Maori tattoos and these mokomokai. After the wars, the art and tradition of these tattooed heads disappeared among the Maori people of the islands, but before the arrival of the Europeans, these denoted a high social status. Now, even though predominantly males wore these tattoos on their entire faces,women of prominence had them on their lips and chin. These symbolized the wearer’s connection with the ancestors.

General Robley was also an illustrator and wrote a book called Maori Tattooing, published one year after this photo was taken. During his stay in New Zealand, he collected these mokomokai. Later, he decided to sell them back to New Zealand for £1,000, but he was refused. He later sold them to the Natural History Museum in New York for 250 pounds more. The heads themselves went through an entire process of boiling, steaming, smoking, drying, and embalming before they were preserved. They were usually kept by the families and brought out during sacred ceremonies. The mokomokai belonging to enemy chiefs were also taken as spoils of war. After a peace was brokered between two tribes, these heads were exchanged as a sign of good will.

4. The Kiss – 1979

We could’ve gone with the kiss scene from Gone with the Wind, the sailor and nurse in Times Square, or even the kiss between Britney Spears and Madonna, but no –we chose this one. It’s not every day you see two old ‘geezers’ kissing, let alone two Soviet-era leaders from the Cold War period. The man on the left is Leonid Brezhnev, the leader of the Soviet Union, while the man on the right is President Erich Honecker of East Germany. The photo was taken in 1979, during the 30th anniversary of the Soviet German Republic. Now, in its proper context, the kiss itself is not so out of the ordinary. Known as the socialist fraternal kiss this was a customary greeting between socialist leaders from the former soviet bloc. It stemmed from the old East European tradition of cheek kissing between family and friends, which itself can be associated with the East Orthodox Easter Kiss.

So, the kiss wasn’t so shocking in and of itself. What was shocking, however, was the enthusiasm shown between the two the moment they locked lips. The photo was taken by Regis Bossu and when it was published it quickly made it around the world. In 1989, when the Berlin Wall went down, former Soviet artist, Dmitri Vrubel, decided to paint it. The painting still exists in Berlin as part of the East Side Gallery. The caption running underneath it says: “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love.”

3. The Eyes of Madness – 1916

Whoever says that war is cool or glorious obviously has no idea what they’re talking about. This photograph was taken back in 1916, during WWI, and this man’s look is the living embodiment of war and what it actually stands for. That is the look of one’s reality made nightmare. This British soldier was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or shell shock, as it was called back then. Massive artillery fire was introduced during this time – weapons so powerful and devastating that they denied any chance of courage, heroism, or skill in battle, bringing only constant pummeling and misery. This was no longer an adversary one could see or even face head on – it was perpetual death raining from the sky, and there was absolutely nothing one could do about it. As writer and lecturer Adam Hochschild describes it:“Simply put, after even the most obedient soldier had enough shells rain down on him, without any means of fighting back, he often lost all self-control.”

Shell shock presented itself with a wide variety of symptoms like crippling fatigue, confusion, uncontrollable tremors, constant nightmares, impaired vision and hearing, hysterical paralysis, as well as the inability to reason, among others. But for the better part of the war, this horrific mental disorder went unrecognized and countless shell shock sufferers were convicted of cowardice or desertion and then executed. Only after officially recognizing it as an actual disease did the British government pardon those who were put to death.

2. The Guardian Angels of NYC – 1980

The New York subway scene was not pretty during the late ’70s and early ’80s. Acts of vandalism, robberies, and even shootings became widespread, and taking the underground became a serious risk for daily commuters. This came at a time when the NYPD was completely overwhelmed and some citizens took it upon themselves to make their lives and the lives of their fellow New Yorkers a little bit safer. This is civic duty in action, and it’s never more beautiful or powerful than in periods of hardship. Led by Curtis Sliwa, the Guardian Angels, as they came to be known, were a group of young men who had to deal with the crime-related problems in their own neighborhoods, and who were now looking to make the city a safer place to live.

Over 500 members joined, all wearing their emblematic red berets, leather jackets, or white t-shirts with the Guardian Angels logo on them. Though their numbers weren’t nearly enough to successfully tackle the rampant crimes happening in New York at the time, they were, nevertheless, a comforting presence for any late night subway commuter. Bruce Davidson, the man who took this photo, describes his feelings and general atmosphere of taking the city’s subway in the early ’80s:

“As I went down the subway stairs, through the turnstile, and on to the darkened station platform, a sense of fear gripped me. I grew alert, and looked around to see who might be standing by, waiting to attack. The subway was dangerous at any time of the day or night … Passengers on the platform looked at me, with my expensive camera around my neck, in a way that made me feel like a tourist – or a deranged person.”

1. The Rockefeller Salute – 1976

This is Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, flipping off a group of protesters back in 1976. When this photo was taken, Rockefeller was on a campaign tour through upstate New York, alongside Senator Bob Dole, President Gerald Ford’s running mate for that election. So, after a group of SUNY students from Binghamton showed him the finger, he responded in kind. That’s Dole in the background there, smiling at the exchange. As you can imagine, this gesture of “political maturity” was not received kindly by the media and the country’s citizens, who then started referring to it as The Rockefeller Salute. When confronted about his outburst, Rockefeller refused to apologize by cleverly avoiding the point that his apology was actually meant for the general public, and not just the students themselves.

As governor of New York, Rockefeller was constantly attacked throughout his political career. His fellow Republicans saw him as too liberal, while the Democrats viewed him simply as a Republican. In fact, during this time, all liberal Republicans were called “Rockefeller Republicans.”


Double Takes

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– WIF Photography