Why The Darvaza Gas Crater Is Beyond Badass

The world is a dynamic environment home to a trillion species. Full of beautiful landscapes pre-dating humans, impressive engineering feats that wouldn’t exist without us, and of course, the in-between. This is VK Nagranis Badass Places.

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Close your eyes and imagine what the door to Hell would actually look like.

Do you see a vast barren desert, in the middle of it all a large crater raging with fire and boiling mud?

If not, you may need to work on your imagination, because that’s precisely what the Darvaza Gas Crater in Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert — also known as the “Door to Hell” — looks like.

It’s one of a three-crater man-made cluster, but it’s the only one on fire. In fact, it’s still burning as I write this, after 40-plus years.

How did this happen, and why is this place so damn awesome?

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1. Nobody really knows how it was created

The narrative most often pedaled is that the crater was the result of a Soviet gas exploration gone wrong in the 70s. The Soviets thought they had found a rich oil reserve and began drilling, only to instead discover a substantial natural gas pocket. This quickly took their pride and equipment in one fell swoop, causing the crater.

They then set it ablaze, hoping the exposed methane would burn off over a couple weeks and the problem would be solved. Simple, right? Only one issue proved that decision wrong: Turkmenistan has the 6th largest natural gas reserves in the world.

But was it really the Soviets?

According to a National Geographic piece from 2014, explorer George Kourounis said Turkmen geologists he spoke to say the collapse could have taken place in the ‘60s, and gone as long as the ‘80s before being set on fire. With no records to verify what the hell happened, the mystery continues, but as far as I’m concerned, the Soviet story is more plausible, so let’s keep blaming them.

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2. Its provided some interesting scientific insights

Speaking of that NatGeo piece, George Kourounis is quite the badass himself. Such a badass that he’s the first person to actually jump into the crater, albeit, with a fireproof suit and Kevlar harness.

Kourounis’ expedition wasn’t all balls and glory, though—it was also to collect soil samples inside the crater to determine whether life could survive in similar environments across the universe. Some microbial life forms were found in the crater, but more importantly, these same life forms were not found outside the crater, meaning any methane-rich environment in space could host life.

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3. Its Not a Commercial Tourism Nightmare

It’s a sad but accepted reality that anything collectively agreed upon as interesting on this planet will soon enough become a nightmare tourist attraction filled with overpriced souvenirs, shitty food, concrete, minimal parking, and an overall cattle-herding experience.

The Darvaza Gas Crater, while certainly a tourist attraction, doesn’t have an overpriced souvenir shop, over-zealous parking attendants, or cookie-cutter restaurant. It doesn’t even have a parking lot. To get there you need a devoted set of legs or a 4×4 vehicle to get through the sand. However, guided tours are the bulk mode of visitation for many tourists.

In case you can’t immediately make the trek to Darvaza Gas Crater, you can vicariously live through this quick clip below of the crater at night.

Read about more badass men, women, places, and moments in time, all a part of VK Nagrani’s Badass series.

VKN Badass Gals: Marilyn Monroe

Throughout history there have been exceptional women who’ve inspired us by the way they lead their lives and accomplish success. This is VK Nagrani’s Badass Gals.

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Born Norma Jean Mortenson, baptized Norma Jean Baker, one of Hollywood’s most beloved icons ever considered Mona Monroe and Jean Adair as potential stage names before deciding on a winner in 1946: Marilyn Monroe.

As synonymous with sex as black lace, Monroe appeared in 30 films in her 15-year career, which grossed 200 million, but most in the public eye never saw her as more than a blonde bombshell stumbling her way through fame and fortune.

How wrong they were. Here’s why Marilyn was a badass.

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1. She overcame a bleak upbringing

USC Professor Lois Banner wrote in her book “Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox,” that Monroe was a national institution as well-known as hot dogs, apple pie, or baseball.

Another major reason she was the perfect American icon is that she represented the classic rags-to-riches story that brought so many people to America in the first place.

Marilyn’s mother was institutionalized with paranoid schizophrenia when Marilyn was a child, and with no father in the picture, became an orphan. Like many orphans, she bounced around the system on and off for much of her childhood. She experienced instances of sexual assault and was raped at age 11. This tumultuous early life needed an escape, so she married her neighbor at the age of 16.

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2. She was anything but a dumb blonde

Monroe’s film roles rarely strayed from the dumb blonde persona, and her audience loved it. They loved it so much in fact, that they never realized Marilyn Monroe the actress—the hourglass figure and platinum curls, was different than Marilyn Monroe the person—full of wit and a keen sense of humor.

Consider her line as Lorelei Lee in 1953’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes:”

I can be smart when its important, but most men dont like it.

A lot of men still don’t like it, so you can imagine how 1950’s L.A. felt about it. But Monroe wasn’t content being Hollywood’s bubbly bimbo. She was always interested in improving her craft, and ultimately, wanted to be taken seriously as a dramatic actress. She did the former in 1955 when she joined Lee Strasberg’s Actor’s Studio and took classes on method acting. The investment in her craft later materialized with a Golden Globe win for Best Actress in 1956’s “Bus Stop.”

Monroe was also an avid reader, with a 430-book library when she died. She even took a literature extension at UCLA. If you thought she was an idiot prior to reading this piece, do the honorable thing and check how much of her book collection you’ve read.

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3. One of first women to start own production company

Monroe battled the Hollywood image that made her a star her entire career, which finally culminated in 1954 when she co-founded Marilyn Monroe Productions (MMP) with photographer Milton Greene. On its own, the move demands respect, but it was actually influenced by some contractual issues she was having with Fox not agreeing to change her contract. Way to stick it to the man, Marilyn.

Unfortunately, MMP independently produced only one film, 1957’s “The Prince and the Showgirl,” while also sponsoring “Bus Stop,” which was produced by Fox. Monroe’s decision did pay off though; her and Fox came to a new seven-year contract, which allowed her to choose her own projects, directors, and cinematographers.

Marilyn never fulfilled that contract though, as a barbiturate overdose in 1962 ended her life at age 36.

To this day her legacy remains as firm as ever. So firm that a dress she wore in “The Seven Year Itch” sold for 4.6 million in 2011. Then that price was topped by the famous limestone encrusted dress she serenaded JFK in, which sold for 4.8 million in 2016.

Let’s revisit that moment, shall we?

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Read about other inspiring men, women, places, and moments in time, all a part of VK Nagrani’s Badass series.

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In memory of Marilyn Monroe:

The Women’s March may be over but the fight for equality isn’t. This coming Women’s Day, let us keep supporting women who inspire us to be better. At VK Nagrani, we are proudly supporting a small local woman-owned business called Tatas & Vag NYC.

Feel free to visit our store at 87H or at tatasnvagnyc.com to check out their tote bags!

Bruce Lee: The Artistry of a Badass

 

Throughout history there have been exceptional people who’ve inspired us by the way they lead their lives and accomplish success, chief among them, Bruce Lee.

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Anyone that’s made it on the silver screen has the potential to integrate into popular culture. If they’re “lucky” enough to do so, the rest of us usually end up glamorizing their life, regardless how admirable their actual life is or was. In Bruce Lee’s case, we probably don’t glamorize him enough. The guy accomplished more in his 32 years than most do in a lifetime.

Yet his image is tied to his sculpted figure and insane kung-fu moves. Many of us think of him as no more than a film star, like Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Steve McQueen, or John Wayne. The reality is that those adored actors can only compete at the lowest-common-denominator criteria for which Bruce Lee’s badass-ness can be evaluated.

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1. His rigorous physical conditioning didnt come close to his mental discipline

While standing at just 5’-7” hovering somewhere between 140–150, Lee’s physical appearance was statue-like, and he couldn’t have done it without a rigid physical discipline.

Here’s one of Lee’s 1965 gym cards, from the book, “The Art of Expressing the Human Body.”

Bruce Lee’s 1965 exercise list from Hak Keung Gymnasium.

We can see that Lee was all about building tightly wound endurance muscles, with each exercise consisting of 3-5 sets. If you’re interested in bodybuilding but still want to look like you can wipe your own ass, learn about the exercises in closer detail here.

As regimented as this sheet looks it’s a mere complement to Lee’s reading, meditating, and writing focus. He left behind 7 volumes of writing — everything from quantum physics to philosophy. He even wrote poetry. Is there anything more badass than a lethal man who writes poetry? On top of this, he also kept daily journals and workout regimens like the one above throughout his adult life.

In fact, if it wasn’t for Lee’s intense mental fortitude, he might have never recovered from a serious back injury in 1970. Instead, Lee spent the time writing and feeding his mind, setting new goals mentally, spiritually, and physically until he was healed. Without such mental focus and discipline, Lee likely would’ve floundered in bed feeling sorry for himself, letting his mind stymie his physical recovery. Lee focused, his mind accomplished. It’s a lesson all of us could learn from time to time.

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2. Wong Jack Man Fight

Bruce Lee demonstrating two finger pushup.

When Lee moved to Oakland and opened a gym to teach martial arts, he wasn’t so popular on the other side of the Bay Bridge. Popular accounts claim it’s because Lee taught martial arts to white people, something frowned upon by the martial arts community, but according to those familiar with the ‘60’s Bay Area martial arts scene, like Leo Fong, the Chinese-only martial arts sentiment started to deteriorate around that time, and even respected Chinatown teachers were willing to teach any student. “It was never about that. It all really had to do with Bruce’s personality,” said Fong in a Viceland piece about the fight.

Bruce wasn’t afraid to speak his mind on other kung-fu disciplines being taught, and things really boiled over when he gave a lecture and demonstration at Chinatowns’ Sun Sing theater. During the demonstration Lee criticized two of the most revered local teachers in TY Wong and Lau Bun. Conflict was eminent.

Oddly enough, a recent martial arts transplant named Wong Jack Man was the man to call Lee on his claim, having a mutual acquaintance deliver a note to Lee’s Oakland gym. Lee accepted without hesitation, and later when Wong requested fight guidelines on kicking the head and groin, as well as on eye jabs, Lee refused. The fight became an “anything-goes” affair.

The details of the fight are a little hazy with no video footage and only nine witnesses, but it apparently started with Lee delivering an opening blow to Wong’s temple. However, unlike in past fights, Lee was unable to quickly put Wong away, only being able to do so after a flurry of advances caused Wong to lose his footing. Wong had to yield giving Lee the win. The whole thing lasted between three and seven minutes.

Many say the fight was a seminal moment for Lee’s development. After all, he hadn’t destroyed Wong quickly like past foes and the fight had exposed serious flaws in his technique and conditioning. It was a fight like this that paved the way for the ultimate development of his non-traditionalist Jeet Kune Do martial arts style.

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3. He Changed Martial Arts Acting

 

There probably would not have been a Jackie Chan or Jet Li had there not been Bruce Lee. Even though Lee appeared in several films as a child actor in Hong Kong (his first role was at 3 months old!), he faced resistance in Hollywood, partly due to stereotyping (shit that still goes on today) and partly due to his disinterest in meathead roles.

So Lee took things into his own hands. Refusing to play Hollywood’s game, he stopped auditioning for martial arts films and started doing gung-fu demonstrations. Eventually a producer noticed him and cast him as the sidekick in the 1966 TV series, “The Green Hornet.”

Prior to Lee, martial arts films were a joke; actors couldn’t even do proper kicks let alone their own stunts. Lee took it a step further by writing scripts and choreographing fight scenes.

But the resistance wasn’t over, particularly when it came to Lee’s vision for his films. When Warner Bros decided to remove the philosophical elements from “Enter the Dragon,” Lee stopped showing up on set. After two weeks the studio caved and the film would become known for its unique fusion of philosophy and kung-fu.

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4. An Artist of Life

Lee was an actor, a martial artist, a teacher, a philosopher, a husband, a father, but he was an artist of life at his core. Here are a few nuggets of Lee’s wisdom.

“Defeat is a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.”

• “Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.”

• “Keep your mind on the things you want and off the things you don’t.”

• “Pessimism blunts the tools you need to succeed.”

• “By martial art I mean, like any art, an unrestricted expression of our individual soul… The human soul is what interests me. I live to express myself freely in creation.”

• “The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the beginning.”

 

Also see Lee’s views on self-actualization and the difference between pride and self-esteem.

 All the above being said, Bruce Lee was also badass in the traditional sense, as we can see in this recently surfaced video that appears to be Lee sparring with (read: absolutely schooling) one of his top pupils, Ted Wong, in a rare recorded session that’s since been restored for ultimate goose bump effect. Enjoy.

Read about other inspiring men, women, places, and moments in time, all a part of VK Nagrani’s Badass series.

 

Badass Guys: Mad Jack Churchill

Jack-Churchill-Training-Exercise

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The mouthful of a name that Jack Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill carried with him was shortened by history to just “Mad Jack.” The main reason for the change is that he was a borderline psychotic crazy person who didn’t fear death the way most normal people should. Mad Jack spent his time after graduating military college riding his motorcycle around India and learning to play the bagpipes, pretty much because “fuck you” – that’s why.

Many war heroes are afforded mere moments of history’s spotlight. But, Mad Jack Churchill did an insane amount of badass stuff, that we at VK Nagrani are lucky enough to talk about all the cool shit he did over the course of World War II.

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1. Entering the War

After he got tired of all that nonsense, he joined up with the famous Manchester Regiment of the British Army so he could get in some quality Nazi killin’ time while the gettin’ was still good. When he got to France, the Blitzkrieg was effectively fucking all kinds of everything up, and the Brits were getting pushed with their backs toward the sea, doing what they could to slow the ever-advancing Kraut army.

Mad Jack had a few ideas up his finely pressed sleeves. He led some guerilla missions and small raids on German supply depots, leading the assault on his motorcycle and armed with only a BOW AND ARROW and his trusty Scottish broadsword, to presumably fuck their shit up Braveheart-style. When a fellow conscript asked him why he didn’t get with the times and put the broadsword away when he went to battle, Mad Jack replied:

In my opinion, sir, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.

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'Mad Jack' Churchill with his War Bow; 6' tall, with an 80-lb pull. The only documented archer to inflict casualties in WW2. See SWNS story SWMADMAN; A dashing WW2 hero who captured 42 German troops armed only with his trusty Scottish sword has been ranked as one of the world's greatest adventurers. Lt Colonel John Malcolm 'Mad Jack' Churchill is featured in a new book compiled by the Norwegian Royal Explorers Club which honours the finest explorers and adventurers of all time. Churchill is known for his daring exploits, including making the last recorded bow and arrow kill in wartime, saving 500 people in Jerusalem from certain death and capturing German soldiers with the use of his Claybeg (corr) sword.

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2. War Hero

Word of Mad Jack’s raids spread throughout the ranks and morale was as at an all-time high. During one such raid, he was shot in the neck, but the Devil wouldn’t take someone so crazy so he sent him back to the only place he loved more than the battlefield – England. He was awarded the Military Cross for Bravery after rescuing a wounded British soldier from German ambush. There weren’t many Nazis around to kill back in civilian life, so Mad Jack got back into the war game again – this time joining an elite unit called the Commandos. He was reportedly unaware of what exactly a Commando was at first, but was all about it – probably because it sounded super intimidating, and that was totally his jam at the time.

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3. The Capture of Maaloy Island

Jack was the leader of Number 2 Commando, his own regiment inside the group, and was responsible for taking out artillery batteries on Maaloy Island. After landing an insane amphibious assault on their beaches, he did what most insane people would do, and busted out his bagpipes and played “The March of the Cameron Men,” to get his men all pumped on patriotism and bloodlust. As he neared the front of the line of war, he unslung his sword from its sheath, while wading in knee-deep water and began shouting at the top of his lungs:

 

COMMMANDOOOO!”

 

Two hours later the island was captured, and the folks back at British High Command received a telegram from the frontlines that read:

Maaloy battery and island captured.  Casualties slight.  Demolitions in progress.  Churchill.

That day he, and 50 of his Number 2 Commandos, took 136 prisoners and caused an unknown amount of casualties. But, knowing how badass this dude was, it was probably a lot.

Stay tuned to the VK Nagrani Blog for more of our Badass Guys Series!

 

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VKN Badass Gals: Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher, or the “Iron Lady”, as the Soviets of her time labelled her, was a very powerful woman during a time when women had very little power. She was Britain’s first and only woman prime minister. Her nickname stems from her uncompromising politics and overall leadership style. Regardless of how you feel about her politics, Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power is a notable story, worthy of retelling.

Keep reading to learn more about the “Iron Lady” herself, Margaret Thatcher, in this week’s edition of VK Nagrani’s Badass Gals!

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1. Humble Beginning

She was born Margaret Hilda Roberts, the daughter of a grocer and local alderman who later became the mayor of their countryside home in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Her mother gave birth to her and her older sister in the flat above the grocery their family owned and operated. The cramped apartment above the corner store lacked running water, central heating and didn’t even have any indoor plumbing.

Even though she came from a modest upbringing, she applied herself and wouldn’t let anything, even her gender, stop her from attaining her goals. She was accepted to Oxford University where she studied chemistry and Somerville College.

2. Soft-Serve Science

Thatcher always had plans to enter the political realm and try to make her mark, but her degree was in chemistry and wanted to do that for a little bit while gaining life experiences. After a short stint at a plastics research facility, she worked as a food scientist for J. Lyons and Co. where she worked on a team that found a way to maximize the amount of air injected into ice cream so that it could be manufactured with less ingredients for a lower cost. This breakthrough led to the mass production of soft-serve ice cream that was shipped all across Great Britain, under the supremely British title “Mr. Whippy”.

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3. First Woman Prime Minister

Finally, ready to enter a career in politics, she was elected to the House of Commons in 1959, representing Finchley. She worked in the House for a few years, slowly climbing the ranks of the parliamentary elite. At the time of her election, only 4 percent of the total political body of the House of Commons were women. It was very frustrating for her to be one of only several women in the political system, there were many roadblocks along the way. She was even quoted saying:

There will not be a woman prime minister in my time. The male population is too prejudiced.

Just five years later, she supplanted former Prime Minister Edward Heath as the leader of the Conservative Party, and became the first woman to head a major British political party. A few years after that, she proved herself wrong and won the keys to 10 Downing Street.

thatcher-quote

Margaret Thatcher had a long and illustrious career and was a major player on the world stage. She was the longest running British Prime Minister of the 20th century, elected for three consecutive terms.

For more stories of real Badass Gals, keep the VK Nagrani Blog book marked.

 

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VKN Badass Guys: Caravaggio

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In every human, and especially ancient masculine types, there exists a duality – moon and sun, tragedy and comedy, all that. But, you’d be hard pressed to find a person in history with as much of a duality in personality since Jekyll and Hyde, as you would in the master painter, Michelangelo Merisi di Caravaggio. During this time, the other Michelangelo was super famous, so he shortened it to just Caravaggio. You may only know of Caravaggio through his artistic contributions, but he was also a pretty crazy dude and even led a Renaissance-era gang of thieves and criminals.

Keep reading to see why we at VK Nagrani think this Renaissance-era master painter was also a total Badass.

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1. Moderate Upbringing

Since we live in the future, it’s hard to imagine Renaissance-era life, at any level or caste, to be anything more than squalor. But Caravaggio came from a moderately well-to-do family of middling wealth. Although his family was okay, there was suffering and pain all around the young man. He was born in the midst of a deep famine that caused quite a bit of poverty for the families around him. It is suspected that it was here where he learned to shift around with the wrong crowd.

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2. Life in Rome

At the ripe-old age of 21, Caravaggio grew tired of the commonplace setting he grew up in and peaced out to the capital city of Rome. He worked tirelessly trying to get by in post-Reformation society, but he simply could not paint fast enough to make a livable wage.

Caravaggio was never able to capitalize on his success, for his character and personal life were even darker and more controversial than his paintings. With his unruly black curls and unkempt black beard, the artist was known to wander the streets of Rome dressed in black, accompanied by his black dog, Crow (the bird-harbinger of death), and brandishing swords and daggers at the slightest provocation.

So, he did what any normal person who was just trying to get by did: turned to a life of crime.

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3. Without Hope, Without Fear

Caravaggio had a police record many pages long filled with stories of assault, illegal weapons, harassing the police and complex affairs with prostitutes and courtesans. Caravaggio’s numerous legal problems often meant that the artist would suddenly have to flee Rome or be otherwise unable to complete a commission.

He became leader of a group of no-named ruffians, who lived by the motto “nec spec, nec meto” or “Without Hope, Without Fear”.

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4. Exile

Caravaggio’s brawling, trouble-making tendencies reached a whole new level on the 28th of May, 1606. On this date, following a disputed tennis match, Caravaggio and his friends were involved in a street brawl with Caravaggio’s young foe Ranuccio Tomassoni and his gang. Caravaggio ended up dealing the young Tomassoni a fatal stab wound in the groin. With a price on his head, Caravaggio was forced to flee Rome for the last time.

He was granted a pardon by Pope Paul V, but mysteriously vanished on the ship home, and his body was never recovered.

Keep it tuned to VK Nagrani Blog for more of our Badass Guys series.

 

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Badass Gals: Princess Diana

Coming up on 17 years since her tragic early death, Princess Diana is remembered as a brave and tender, yet badass woman. Her compassionate work with AIDS patients in the ‘80s, and underprivileged the world over, has inspired and astounded an entire generation of people. Diana had many titles, Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, Countess of Chester, Baroness of Renfrew, yet the most important title to her was Mother. She gave birth to the Princes William and Harry, who are now respectively third and fourth in line for the throne.

Keep reading to learn why VK Nagrani thinks Princess Diana is a badass gal.

1. Aristocratic Upbringing

She was born into British nobility and was one of the most adored members of the royal family. She became Lady Diana Spencer in 1975, after her father was given the title of Earl Spencer. She was a shy child as she grew yet always showed an interest in the arts and developed a strong bond with children – a feature of her personality that would come to be one of the most recognizable.

2. Marriage & Divorce

Diana married one of her childhood playmates, Prince Charles. Since he was the heir to the British throne, their entire courtship was publicized – similar to the way that Prince William and Kate Middleton’s was a few years back. But, Diana thrived in the limelight, even though she seemed pensive and shy in her personal life. Their televised wedding ceremony reached a total of 750 million global viewers.

Although, over the course of their marriage, they grew estranged and rumors of infidelity (on both sides) surfaced. They were officially divorced in 1992, spending only ten years together and raising two sons.

3. Charity Work

Even with her quiet demeanor, Princess Diana was something of a rebel. During the peak AIDS scare in the ‘80s, she never shied away from them, and comforted them as though they had any other disease. This was seen as a very courageous act at the time, because people were dumb and didn’t realize that that isn’t how AIDS works. All the same though, she was the first person to address the stigma that came along with contracting HIV and AIDS. As she so eloquently put it:

“HIV doesn’t not make people dangerous to know. You can shake their hands and give them a hug, heaven knows they need it.”

4. Death

After her divorce, she was still immensely popular, due to her work with the poor and disenfranchised. She would know the highs and lows of fame, and the lows would ultimately cost her her life, as she ended up in a fatal car accident with her then-lover Dodi Al-Fayed.

Her work towards getting rid of the use of landmines worldwide won her the Nobel Peace Prize, unfortunately it was a few short months after her death.

Princess Diana is remembered across the globe for her charity work, warm personality, and elegance that embodied what it truly meant to be a princess. Keep it bookmarked to the VK Nagrani Blog for more editions in our Badass Gals series.

 

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Badass Myths: The Hound of Ulster

Throughout the course of human history our cultures have grown, cultivated and shared experiences through the telling of stories. Before science, we used mythology to explain the unexplainable in our world. Through mythology, we get a closer glimpse into what daily life was like during a time when recording things wasn’t as simple as it is now. Everyone knows the Greek and Roman pantheon – Hercules, Zeus, Hades, all those guys. But, were you aware that Ireland had its own set of gods and goddesses, demons and heroes that is as rich with lore as it is hard to pronounce?

(Read: there is a pronunciation guide below to assist.)

The Hound of Ulster, or Cú Chulainn, was a young berserker that lived the hard and fast life of a demi-god in ancient Ireland. He was the most feared warrior in the land because of his ability to get really pissed off and turn into a hideous, unstoppable killing machine.

His life story is indicative of ancient Irish values: drinking, fighting, and impregnating pretty ladies. Keep reading to see why VK Nagrani thinks that the Hound of Ulster is a pretty Badass Myth!

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Irish Pronunciation Cheat Sheet
(You’re going to need it.)

Cú Chulainn
Pronunciation – Koo Kuhl-en

Conchobhar
Pronunciation – Kah-ner

Lugh
Pronunciation – Loo

Sètanta
Pronunciation – Say-tawn-tuh

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1. The Boy Sètanta

The King of Ulster, Conchobhar, was hunting in the forest for magical birds with his sister. The hunt takes them far south into a snowy and unfamiliar region. When night fell, they found a cabin where they are welcomed with food, drink and lodging for the evening. The host of the cabin turns out to be the God-king Lugh and, in ancient godly tradition, impregnates the King’s sister and tells her to name him Sètanta.

At a young age, Sètanta leaves his mother’s care in search of adventure and glory in his uncle’s kingdom. When he arrives, he sees a group of thirty boys throwing sticks and stones around the yard. He asks to join, but gets turned away – Sètanta is smaller, younger and weaker looking than the other boys. But, he isn’t afraid of these kids and joins in the game anyways, which naturally makes the other kids mad and they try to force him out of their game (the operative word here being “try”). Little Sètanta kicks all thirty of their asses without even breaking a sweat, which gets the attention of King Conchobhar.

The ability to kick a whole bunch of asses at the same time was something that was revered back then, and Sètanta, being Conchobhar’s nephew, was given high regard by the entire community and nobody tried to fuck with him anymore.

2. The Hound of Culann

King Conchobhar was invited by his friend, the blacksmith, Culann, and asked Sètanta if he wanted to join him. The boy said yes, but he was busy doing whatever the hell he wanted to do and told his uncle that he’d meet up with them in a little bit. When the King arrived at Culann’s, everybody got super hammered and forgot that Sètanta was on his way over.

On Culann’s property was the huge and vicious dog that protected the grounds. It took three large chains, with five men on each chain, to keep the dog contained. With warm blood and a forgetful mind, Conchobhar told Culann that all of his party had arrived and that it was safe to unleash the unnaturally large beast back onto the ground.

3. Receiving His Legendary Name

Sètanta was walking onto the grounds when he sees the great hound bounding toward with a foaming mouth and murderous eyes. But, the kid had the ass-whooping power of a god and made short work of the animal. The men inside heard the scuffle and suddenly Conchobhar remembered his nephew was on his way, and feared as he walked outside he would see the young boy in shreds, yet found the opposite. The young boy was standing over the now pulp-faced beast.

“But who is going to protect these lands now?” Culann asked. He was distraught to see his fearsome and hellish protector all mushed up into the ground. Sètanta stood up and said that he would take the hound’s place and guard the land with as fierce and fiery vigor as ten of the now-dead dogs.

From that day forward, little Sètanta was known as “Cú Chulain” or “The Hound of Ulster” and lived and fought for those lands until the day he died.

For more Badass Myths, stay posted on the VK Nagrani Blog!

 

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VKN Badass Guys: Ernest Hemingway

Throughout history there have been exceptional men who’ve inspired us by the way they lead their lives and accomplish success. This is VK Nagrani’s Badass Guys Series.

Ernest Hemingway was a novelist, short story writer, journalist, American war hero, and certified all-around badass. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1954 and took home the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature the very next year. And though he was a troubled man with many character flaws, his involvement with the spread of intellectual masculinity along with his overall influence on American literature cannot be understated.

Here’s why VK Nagrani thinks Ernest Hemingway is badass.

1. WWI Ambulance Driver

When the world went to war, Hemingway answered the call to action and was trained to be an ambulance driver on the Italian Front. One month after arriving in Italy, he was returning from a canteen with sweets for the men on the front line, when he was struck by mortar fire and seriously wounded. But, because Hemingway was a special kind of badass, he assisted in bringing Italian soldiers to safety despite his wounds, for which he was awarded the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery at the age of 18. After spending six months in the infirmary, he said of the incident, “When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you … Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you.”

He reported a fictionalized account of his time as an ambulance driver in the heart wrenching classic, “A Farewell to Arms,” which became Hemingway’s first best-seller.

2. War Correspondent

Apparently, Hemingway hadn’t enough combat time when the world erupted back into chaos in the late ‘30s. His first job was covering the Spanish Civil War where he was present at the Battle of Ebro, and was among the last to leave the battleground at the end of the bloodbath. Hemingway was also present at the Storming of Normandy Beach on D-Day, where he could see “the first, second, third, fourth and fifth waves of [landing troops] lay where they had fallen, looking like so many heavily laden bundles on the flat pebbly stretch between the sea and first cover.”

If writing about from the battlefield wasn’t badass enough, he also corralled a group of French resistance members into a militia in 1944, which helped in the liberation of Paris.

3. Damn Near Indestructible

While sightseeing in Africa, Hemingway’s plane crash-landed after striking a utility pole, leaving him with a significant head wound and his wife with two broken ribs. Being a badass doesn’t guarantee you the best luck in the world as the next day they were boarding a plane to get into a metro area to receive medical care, when the plane exploded, causing serious burns and yet another concussion. News traveled quickly of Hemingway’s death, it was a few weeks before he rejoined the world of the living, after having spent his recovery time going over the many obituaries about him.

Hemingway developed a sickness, suspected to be hemochromatosis, for which he was treated by electroconvulsive therapy. When he checked out of the hospital he was “released in ruins” and shortly afterwards committed suicide. Hemingway was so tough that the only thing that could kill him, was himself.

 Keep checking the VK Nagrani blog for more editions of our Badass Guys Series.

 

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