Ryan Gosling Is This Generation’s “Bada** on Wheels” Star

gosling4Every generation has one star that represents “the bad ass on wheels” archetype. It all started with Marlon Brando in The Wild One. Then, there was Steve McQueen in Bullitt, Peter Fonda in Easy Rider, and Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit. Of course, there are a million more that I haven’t mentioned, but my point is that everybody and every generation has that image.

For the current generation, there is probably no one more emblematic of this needed icon than Ryan Gosling. Despite Gosling’s legion of teeny bopper fans (mostly coming from The Notebook), he also has a raw, nasty image that he has developed over the past few years. And coincidentally, this image has developed in two seminal films that both fall into the “bad ass on wheels” category. The two films, of course, are Drive and The Place Beyond the Pines.

Drive

The first film that cements Gosling as the “badass on wheels” of this generation is Drive. In this 2011 film, Gosling stars as a movie stunt driver that works for a down on his luck garage owner played by Bryan Cranston (all hail Walter White!!!!). But as dusk falls, Gosling moonlights for crooks that need his superior driving skills to pull robberies and other crimes off.

gosling2Starring as a character that is only known as “the driver,” Gosling and director Nicolas Refn tear down the boundaries of this age old genre. Gosling creates a modern day version of the classic Eastwood character, “the man with no name.” Like Eastwood, Gosling’s character leaves us disoriented, wondering if we as an audience should invest our feelings in a character that is equally capable of rage and heroism. Critic Tom Glasson writes, “Whether Gosling’s character is also a ‘hero’ or not, though depends on your understanding of the term…[He goes though] a somewhat emotionally ambiguous transformation from sympathetic nice guy to violent avenger that might seem out of place were it not just so impossibly, impossibly cool.”

On top of Gosling’s great performance, director Refn blends styles that are reminiscent of Top Gun and True Romance (both classic Tony Scott films). In the end, the audience is left with a film that will not soon be forgotten (and if possible a soundtrack that is even better). In recognition of the film’s classic appeal, Christopher Orr of The Atlantic says, “Suffice is to say that the movie is an homage to old car-cult B-movies such as Bullitt and The Driver, and that it starts slowly before accelerating to harrowing velocity.”

The Place Beyond the Pines

The second of Gosling’s paradigm performances comes in the 2012 film, The Place Beyond the Pines. In this film, Gosling is the perfect example of Tolstoy’s “a stranger coming to town” character, playing a stunt motorcycle rider that is traveling with the carnival. This powerful film opens with Gosling learning that he has fathered the child of a small town woman- played beautifully by Eva Mendes. In an attempt to reconcile their relationship and develop a bond with his son, Gosling resorts to robbing banks so he can put food on the table for his family.

Unlike Drive, in this film, Gosling creates an out and out criminal (only enhanced by face tattoos!), while still managing to make the audience fall in love with him. It’s an electric and magnetic display of talent that is usually reserved for all-time greats like Marlon Brando.

gosling3Critic Blake Howard writes, “Gosling is flying in Pines. Watching him as the hyper cool, tattoo covered Luke gives you a feeling like you’re caught beneath a brewing electrical storm; at times he literally made my hairs stand up. However, it’s not just Luke’s steely calm that makes the performance, it’s the frenzy with which his desperation manifests to give his son a better life that takes the character to another gear.”

With these two films, audiences have witnessed the emergence of a new cultural icon wrapped in an age old archetype. At just 33 years old, Gosling’s future is bright, and we can expect that he will only become even bigger.

Bottom line: If you haven’t seen Drive or The Place Beyond the Pines, I recommend that you go out and find those films…ASAP

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Obama Rolls Out New Fuel Efficiency Plan

obamaA few weeks ago, during his State of the Union address, President Obama promised that he would soon lay out more of the details on his plan to help facilitate higher fuel efficiency for big trucks. On Tuesday, he delivered. In a speech that was given in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, Obama said, “The goal we are setting is ambitious. But these are areas where ambition has worked out really well for us so far. [We want to] keep driving down oil and imports and what we pay at the pump.”

Of course, all of this goes with the recent push to go green here in the United States. It was just back in 2011 that the Obama administration released their first set of fuel efficiency standards. Based on studies done by the White House, it has been projected that the 2011 fuel efficiency plan will save about 530 million barrels of oil (which is more than we annually import from Saudi Arabia) and cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 270 million metric tons.

obamatruckObviously, the current plan to improve fuel efficiency standards in big trucks is a worthwhile goal. Currently, semi-trucks make up just 4% of the vehicles on the road. However, they also use up an astounding 25% of all road-fuel use and greenhouse gas coming from transportation!

To help promote this change, the administration is offering tax credits to all companies that are developing heavy duty alternative fuel vehicles, as well as companies that are working to provide these vehicles with resources to fill up their tanks on alternative fuels. So, don’t be surprised if you see more gas stations- especially near interstates- with special accommodations in the near future.

Further adding to the wave of change, Obama has asked Congress to end subsidies for oil and gas companies and help build an Energy Security Trust Fund to fund research and development for advanced vehicle technologies. Many skeptics don’t believe that Obama will ever get Congress to agree with all of this. As we all know, over the course of Obama’s presidency, his lack of leadership and/or inability to communicate with his peers has been the subject of much criticism.

obamaoilAlready, there is dissent amongst conservative minds, concerning Obama’s fuel efficiency plans. Author Erika Johnsen writes, “If pushing automakers, as President Obama promises, will really create jobs and wealth and other miraculous benefits, then why aren’t they already getting to work on these more fuel-efficient trucks themselves?”

The only thing left now is for Obama to turn the country and his peers into believers of this new plan (or as many Conservatives claim, a waste of time). In what has been called his “year of action,” Obama is still confident saying, “Every time someone says you can’t grow the economy while bringing down pollution, it turns out they’ve been wrong. Anybody who says we can’t compete when it comes to clean energy technologies- like solar and wind- they’ve had to eat those words.”

A Psychedelic Trip with the World’s Most Iconic Bus

kesey

Author Ken Kesey

In 1964, just a few years before the widespread eruption of the hippie culture, Ken Kesey purchased a yellow 1939 International Harvester school bus. At 29 years old, Kesey was fresh off the success of his debut novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and he decided this bus would be the perfect tool for his newest adventure. Little did he know that the bus would go down as the most iconic vehicle of the 60s, inspiring a handful of novels and films, as well as helping to build the hippie culture.

Reverse 1 Year

In 1963, Kesey was living in La Honda, California, and he had a deep seeded urge to take an enlightening road trip to go see the New York’s World Fair. However, he didn’t want to make the trip alone. So, he recruited 13 other members- which would later be referred to as the “Merry Brand of Pranksters”- to go with him. However, going to see the World Fair was not the only reason for the trip.

Writer Tom Wolfe says, “The trip had a dual purpose. One was to turn America on to this particular form of enlightenment, the other was to publicize [Kesey’s] new book, Sometimes A Great Notion. Kesey was a great writer. It was too bad he abandoned writing but I think he meant it when he said, ‘I’m tired of waiting for an echo, I want to be a lightning rod.’” Kesey wanted an adventure; he wanted to get people talking; and he wanted to stir up the American consciousness through his actions, not his words. This trip was the perfect solution.

electrickoolOriginally, Kesey and the Pranksters planned on cramming into a station wagon to make the trip happen. Something didn’t sit right with that plan, though. The car would be too small, and it wasn’t the appropriate symbol. So, Kesey went out hunting, and that’s when he came across the ’39 Harvester.

As soon as Kesey saw the bus, he knew it was perfect because the previous owner had gutted it and turned it into a camper. Inside of the bus, there were amenities such as a stove, refrigerator, and bunks. All Kesey had to do was make a couple of simple, electric alterations. First, he added a sound system to the inside of the bus that also blared out externally into the streets. The next thing that he needed to do was make the bus magnetic, capable of burning a memory into onlookers’ minds. The best way to do this was with the paint job.

In his book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe describes the bus, “[It was] glowing orange, green, magenta, lavender, chlorine blue, every fluorescent pastel imaginable in thousands of designs, large and small, like a cross between Fernand Leger and Dr. Strange, roaring together and vibrating off each other as if somebody had given Hieronymous Bosch 50 buckets of Day-Glo paint and a 1939 International Harvester school bus and told him to go to it.”

koolAfter all the renovations were done, the group hit the road with one of their main accessories: a jar of orange juice laced with LSD. This trip was about turning on and seeing the world from a new perspective, and there was no better tool than the acid. “Being psychedelic characters, we were taking LSD, and LSD opens your mind to other things,” said road member Ken Babbs. “LSD goes into areas where you’ve never been before, and you’re using all that newfound consciousness with all those psychedelic colors.”

This was going to be the ultimate hippie experience. Adding to the hippie legacy was the group of iconic figures taking the trip, one of which was driver, Neal Cassidy. Just a decade earlier, Cassidy had served as the inspiration for the Jack Kerouac’s On the Road character, Dean Moriarty. Now, he was reliving wild times and cementing the hippy’s place in culture inside of a bus that also featured Grateful Dead band members and leader Ken Kesey. It was pure madness.

In each town that the bus entered, people stood and watched to see what was happening; nobody had ever seen anything like it. Prankster George Walker said, “For the little kids, it was like the circus was coming to town. When we hit New York, we drove around the city, and the traffic was slow. We looked like the pied piper, with maybe 100 kids running along behind us. Adults were perplexed by it. Kids got it.”

koolaidAlong the trip, there were run-ins with presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, guru Timothy Leary, and writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg to name a few. The bus was chronicled by newspapers and local news stations, growing a mythic quality along the way, inspiring kids to turn on, tune in, and drop out. The bus and the trip also inspired Tom Wolfe’s legendary best seller, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. To many, it was more than a book; it was a manifesto of an entire culture. New York Times writer, Eliot Fremont-Smith, said, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is not simply the best book on the hippies, it is the book . . . the pushing, ballooning heart of the matter . . . Vibrating dazzle!”

The trip also inspired this film:

Today, 50 years after its initial run and a decade after Kesey’s passing, the bus still stands firm in history. Not only does it have a legacy as one of the most iconic automobiles of all-time, it also serves as one of the main catalysts for an entire movement and culture.

’57 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Sells for $39.8 million

57 ferrariIn the past few months, there has been a lot of news swirling around classic cars being sold at record prices. Two weeks ago, this headline popped up again when a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa sold for $39.8 million dollars!! It set a United Kingdom price record and its story quickly made its way around the internet. Of course, this price is a big difference compared to the $4,000 they were going for back in 1965, a time in which cars from this era were undervalued.

The $39.8 million Testa Rossa (when translated means red headed) was sold in a private sale, so the exact details have not been disclosed to the public. One thing that is for sure is that the car was sold by English car dealer, Tom Hartley Jr. No one, however, is quite sure who the new owner is. Hartley said, “I can confirm that the car has sold, although due to client confidentiality we will not disclose the buyer…This Ferrari is without question one of the most important cars on the planet if not the most important because of its originality. While I won’t go into the terms of the sales, I am sure it will prove to be a great investment for the new owner.”

57ferrariNo one may know the new owner, but the history behind the sold automobile has been widely documented. The car was the chassis number- 0704- and was the Ferrari that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1958, 1960, and 1961. It also won races at historic venues like Sebring and Buenos Aires. Since its run as a racing dominant car, the classic Ferrari has been bought and sold by a number of wealthy Englishman. Also, it spent the better part of 30 years in the Henry Ford Museum just outside of Detroit.

Adding to the value of this vehicle is the fact that the vehicle has not been altered in any way. Ferrari historian Marcel Massini says, “It is so valuable because it is totally unmolested and not restored, genuine and very original.” Of course, the car has been kept in pristine condition, looking as alluring as the day it raced the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kentucky Sink Hole Swallows Up 8 Classic Corvettes

Image courtesy of USA Today

Image courtesy of USA Today

Yesterday, a gaping sinkhole swallowed up a number of classic cars at the National Corvette museum in Kentucky. In the past, this type of event may have been saved for a science fiction novel or some tall tale passed along through campfire conversations. But now, sink holes seem to be more and more prevalent, a new story popping up every few weeks.

According to museum officials, the Kentucky Corvette sink hole was detected yesterday at 5:45 a.m. when the museum’s motion sensors were alarmed. The sinkhole, which was 40 feet wide and 20 feet deep, devoured eight classic corvettes from the museum. According to museum spokeswoman Katie Frassinelli, “When you go in there, it’s unreal. The hole is so big, it makes the Corvettes look like little Matchbox cars.”

After hours of media speculation and coverage, onlookers and people close to the museum are still in shock that this actually happened. The museum’s sky dome structure and 100 foot vaulted ceilings always gave a sense of invincibility. Adding to the strength and power of the museum was the greatness that it contained, having winning cars from the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500 amongst the vast collection. Bharucha, a Long Island Corvette Owners Association director, says of the museum, “There’s a sense of awe and you get a lump in your throat when you walk inside.”

corvette2

A picture of the 1 millionth corvette

Even though the dome structure and the above mentioned racing cars are still intact, there was a disorienting amount of damage. The showroom floor was chewed and eaten up, along with eight mangled classic cars. Among those victimized vehicles were a 1993 ZR-1 Spyder and a 2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil” that were on loan from General Motors. Other cars included a 1963 Corvette, a 1984 PPG Pace Car and the 1 millionth Corvette ever produced; these were all owned by the museum.

Unfortunately, all of this damage does not bode well for the museum. Sam Murtaugh, a marketing director at Mecum Auctions in Wisconsin, says, “How do you even begin to place a value on the 1 millionth Corvette built? It’s irreplaceable.” Making things worse is the fact that the museum was preparing for their 20th anniversary in August. They had plans to open a 184-acre Motorsports park and already had 5,000 people pre-registered to attend the park’s grand opening. After this tragedy though, these plans have been moved to the back burner.

Today, there is a team of geologists and engineers from Western Kentucky University exploring the sinkhole. For their research, they have adopted the help of remote controlled drones. Of course, all of this only adds further to the madness and science fiction appeal.

Bronx Couple Survives Incredible 50 Foot Fall

bronxThe Bronx is known for being tough. It’s the city where boxing legend Jake LaMotta threw his mitts around. It’s where Al Pacino grew up and drew from to create so many memorable cinematic monsters (long live Tony Montana! And Frank Serpico! And Michael Corleone!!!).

Last week, the Bronx got a little tougher with the report of a married couple free falling from 50 feet up in their car and walking out as if nothing happened. The accident happened when Carlos Broadbelt and Luz Cruz (both 54 years old) were driving on the Bruckner Expressway. Reportedly, they swerved to avoid a pothole and lost traction because of the ice buildup. From there, they glided over the top of the side railing and somehow landed directly on the wheels of their Toyota Matrix.

When recounting the event, Broadbelt said, “You don’t have time to think. All you do is hold on to the steering wheel and hope for the best. When I landed, I said, ‘Thank you God.’ There is a God. Those who don’t believe that there is a God; they are mistaken. Because I know there is a God. You saw the car.”

Broadbelt suffered two broken ribs and a sprained ankle, while his wife was kept in the ICU. Fortunately, both are doing well and are unphased by the incident. When asked about his injuries, “Broadbelt said, “Two broken ribs and a sprained ankle. That’s it. No big deal.”

The car, on the other hand, is shattered, looking as though it was blown up with a bomb.

Tenn. Lawmakers Will Cut Tax Incentives if Volkswagen Unionizes

chat3Tomorrow at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1,570 Volkswagen employees will gather to vote on whether or not to unionize and join the United Auto Workers. However, Tennessee’s Republican representatives are already getting their guns ready, stating that the move will be detrimental to Tennessee’s economy. Senator Bo Watson, along with a slew of other Republican figure heads, believe that if a union is established than other companies may be hesitant to set up shop inside of the state.

Republican senators have been so opposed to the move that there have even been threats of cutting off future tax incentives to Volkswagen. In a released statement sent to the Free Press, Senator Bo Watson said, “Should the workers choose to be represented by the United Auto Workers, then I believe additional incentives for expansion will have a very rough time passing the Tennessee Senate.”

However, there is another twist in this story: Volkswagen has no problem with their employees unionizing. This, of course, is quite unusual.

Detroit Free Press writer, Brent Snavely, says, “After an organizing campaign that began about two years ago, this week’s vote is the UAW’s best opportunity to win support at a foreign-owned assembly plant since Honda began building cars in Ohio more than 30 years ago. More than a half dozen organizing efforts at Japanese factories in the U.S. have failed.” Unlike other foreign automakers, Volkswagen actually has a positive outlook towards unions. Volkswagen would be more than happy to oblige the Tennessee workers so they would be able to establish a “works council,” which is currently outlawed by U.S. labor laws unless a union is present.

chatPresently, all of the Volkswagen factories in Europe use a “works council” to iron out all management-employee affairs. These works councils consist of elected white collar and blue collar workers that work in collaboration with the company’s management to create a harmonious labor environment. These elected officials are also granted access to the Global Volkswagen Works Council, which would help to facilitate business into the state while also keeping workers happy.

Chattanooga Volkswagen CEO Frank Fischer says, “Our works councils are key to our success and productivity. It is a business model that helped to make Volkswagen the second-largest car company in the world.”

Overall, works councils have been proven to be extremely successful, too. Harvard labor law expert Paul C. Weiler explains, “There are three major advantages of councils. You’re forced to consider in your decision making process the effect on the employees in advance…this avoids costly mistakes. Second, works councils will in the final run support the company. They will take into account the pressing needs of the company more than a trade union can, on the outside. And third, works councils explain and defend certain decisions of the company towards the employees. Once decisions are made, they are easier to implement.”

Representative Bo Watson

Representative Bo Watson

However, Republican Senator Bo Watson thinks differently of the situation; he says, “It has been widely reported that Volkswagen has promoted a campaign that has been unfair, unbalanced and, quite frankly, un-American in the traditions of American labor campaigns.” Of course, Republican representatives have always been fearful of unions because the potential for workers to stand up for their rights could be detrimental to business and the economy. Allowing Volkswagen to unionize would only add to this potential problem because more people would expect similar representation.

Ironically, their decision falls right in line with what they hate most about Democratic policies: a big government putting their hands into the business world.