Friday, October 15, 2010

Dr Love & Genocide

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

The weekend is upon us once again. Do I have plans? Not really. Is there football to be had? Yes, and baseball if I have trouble sleeping. So… I guess what I’m saying is… it’ll be a surprise. SURPRISE!!! No? Okay, well… maybe I will have a surprise waiting for you on Monday. You know that I’m full of them. In the meantime, no surprise, here’s the news…

Swiss Cheese Alps - Swiss engineers smashed through the last stretch of rock Friday to create the world's longest tunnel, sparking a national groundswell of elation over a costly, technically difficult project that has been 60 years in the making. Trumpets sounded, cheers reverberated and even burly workers wiped away tears as foreman Hubert Baer lifted a statue of Saint Barbara (the patron saint of miners) through a small hole in the enormous drilling machine thousands of feet (meters) underground in central Switzerland. At that moment, a 35.4-mile (57-kilometer) tunnel was born, and the Alpine nation reclaimed the record from Japan's Seikan Tunnel. Television stations across Europe showed the event live. "This is the most wonderful moment in my 36 years of tunnel building," Baer said as he paused for breath, surrounded by joyous colleagues in hardhats and bright orange work gear, VIPs and news cameras. The new Gotthard Base Tunnel is seen as an important milestone in the creation of a high-speed transportation network connecting all corners of Europe. First conceived in 1947 by engineer Eduard Gruner, it will allow millions of tons of goods that are currently transported through the Alps on heavy trucks to be shifted onto the rails, particularly on the economically important link between the Dutch port of Rotterdam and Italy's Mediterranean port of Genoa. The tunnel also aims to reduce the damage that heavy trucks are inflicting on Switzerland's pristine Alpine landscape. Peter Fueglistaler, director of the Swiss Federal Office of Transport, called Friday "a day of joy for Switzerland." "We are not a very emotional people but if we have the longest tunnel in the world, this also for us is very, very emotional" he told The Associated Press. Some 2,500 workers have spent nearly 20 years smashing through the rock beneath the towering Gotthard massif, including the 8,200-foot (2,500-meter) Piz Vatgira (Vatgira Peak). When the $10 billion tunnel opens for rail traffic in 2017, it will replace Japan's 33.5-mile (53.6-kilometer) Seikan Tunnel as the world's longest — excluding aqueducts — and let passenger and cargo trains pass under the Alps at speeds of up to 155 mph (250 kph) on their way from Germany to Italy. Swiss voters, who are paying over $1,300 each to fund the project, approved its construction in a series of referendums almost 20 years ago. European transport ministers watched the breakthrough ceremony live from a meeting in Luxembourg, conscious that Switzerland has set the bar very high for future cross-Alpine rail projects. Two further tunnels — one connecting Lyon, France, to Turin in Italy, and the other replacing the Brenner road tunnel between Austria and Italy — are still a long way from completion. Swiss engineers are hoping to complete the rail tunnel even sooner than planned (possibly by the end of 2016) but its first high-speed trains could be delayed by protests in Germany and Italy, where local opposition to new tracks and budget constraints have become an issue in recent months. "Our neighbors in Germany and Italy will have to fulfill their promise and provide high-speed rail links," Fueglistaler said. Asked whether he thought the large, ongoing protests in the German city of Stuttgart could derail the high-speed dream, he said: "Overall I'm confident that these connections will be built in time." The protesters in Stuttgart oppose plans to move the city's station underground, viewing the euro4.1 billion ($5.7 billion) project as a waste of money. Supporters say it will free up the city's packed center and help shorten journeys across Europe. The best part is… they’re both right. All sarcasm aside, I’m REALLY excited to hear this. Being an engineering nerd at heart (have I told you about my bridge thing?), I love to hear about these massive feats in engineering prowess… and when I go back to Europe, it’s another way for me to see more in less time. I rode a bus through the Alps before (including driving the bus onto a train to save a few hours) so saving more time would be even better. I really like the idea of the high speed trains but… yeah, congratulations to the generations of people involved in this project. Now get back to work…

BS in BS – As you well know, I have a BS degree in BS (Marketing Management) so this particular story (also involving Stuttgart, Germany) tickled me a bit… and I’m sure that the Wingmans would agree. Spend a couple of hours overdubbing a scene from Star Wars for a laugh, post it online, and you may end up with so many work offers that you'll wish you were in outer space. Just ask Dominik Kuhn. Since Kuhn spent "two hours, at most" one morning redubbing a tiny part of the popular science fiction film and uploaded it onto video sharing website Youtube, marketing executives have flocked to hire him -- even though he was making fun of them. What started out in 1977 as Darth Vader and the commanders of the Death Star discussing the threat from Luke Skywalker's rebel alliance had 30 years later become a boardroom dispute over an unnamed Stuttgart firm's new advertising strategy. The two-minute clip "Virales Marketing im Todesstern Stuttgart" (Viral Marketing in Stuttgart Death Star) went on to rack up millions of hits online, turning Kuhn's life upside down, he told Reuters in the southern German city. "People always said that stuff I did on the side was just bullshit. Now that bullshit is what I make a living from," said Kuhn, 41, whose previous career spanned everything from advertising to translating science fiction books. Kuhn, a fan of English comic Ricky Gervais, describes "viral marketing" as "word of mouth marketing for the internet age" which also helps explain much of the video's success. Within weeks of it appearing, Kuhn heard children quoting it in Stuttgart, where a major row over the city's train station is afoot (see last story). In a further echo, the opposition has accused the state government of using "the dark side of the force" in the dispute. Job offers came flooding in, and the internet rags-to-riches tale was complete when Kuhn got his own television show (yeah… he got a TV show). At length, he found he needed -- and could afford -- a year off. "I spent ages doing talks at universities about viral marketing," he said. "I got jobs as a director because of the film. Which is absurd. I only dubbed it, I didn't direct it." See? He’s just an average guy with a regular sense of perspective. Yet in this day and age, crazier stuff has happened. On a similar note, did you hear Jackass 3D is coming out this weekend? Anyway, in Kuhn's version, the actors playing planet-hopping villain Vader and Death Star commander Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) bicker in Swabian, the local dialect which Kuhn said was for years associated with "country bumpkins" in Germany. As "Herr Vader" starts choking a boardroom rival with a gesture of his hand, chief executive Cushing orders him to stop, calling the black-helmeted Jedi knight a "Grassdackl," a local term of abuse that literally translates as "grass dachshund." The combination of evil Empire and pastiche of German corporate culture made some friends think the clip could land him in court -- assuming that it was a dig at industrial giant and Stuttgart-based Daimler AG, the maker of Mercedes cars. Instead, it turned into another job offer. "Daimler called me up and said, 'Well done, Mr Kuhn. We're laughing at ourselves too,'" said Kuhn, who also hails from the area. "Two or three days after it went online it was on the company's intranet server. They picked up on it that quickly." Daimler then asked him to do some work for them -- though Kuhn is contractually bound not to reveal any details (so I assume it’s an assassination of some sort). "All I can say is they showed they had a sense of humor." Local advertising agencies could not wait to invite him around to celebrate the success of the video -- despite the fact it was intended as a parody of "all the redundant stuff" and faux-English jargon that pepper their talks, said Kuhn. "Then the meeting started and they were talking just like in the film," he added. "'This can't be real,' I thought." Since first posting a Swabian overdub of U.S. TV series 24 -- set in a flat in which special agent Jack Bauer interrogates a roommate for leaving the toilet seat up -- Kuhn has voiced over countless figures from Germany and the rest of the world. See? Sometimes being a smart ass can get you a job. By the way, I wonder if I should send in my commercial idea to Sleep Number beds yet… Some of their current ones are pretty ridiculous. Anyway, congratulations on your success, Herr Kuhn!!!

Captain Hammer for Drake - "Castle" and "Firefly" star Nathan Fillion has tweeted fans to help him get cast as Nathan Drake in the upcoming video game adaptation "Drake's Fortune" for Sony Pictures. On the surface the 39-year-old Canadian actor seems a perfect fit - he's got charisma to burn, an established fan base (650,000 followers on Twitter alone), he can convincingly pull off the action stunts required, he has a physical resemblance to the character, and his onscreen sense of humor is very similar to Drake. Heck, he even shares his first name with the character Nathan Drake. It would hardly be considered acting. The only catch, aside from Fillion's hectic "Castle" production schedule, could be age. The film is seen as the first of a franchise and so the studio will usually go for someone younger (late 20's/early 30's) which also seems to be the game character's age. That approach can backfire though, look at the derision "Superman Returns" received for casting 22-year-old Kate Bosworth as a Pulitzer Prize-winning veteran journalist complete with a pre-teen kid. Fillion is also much closer to the real age of any person in Drake's profession. The critically acclaimed PS3 game series follows fortune hunter Nathan Drake and his quest for famed archaeological treasures. Though the concept sounds familiar (i.e. "Tomb Raider," "Indiana Jones"), the smart execution, clever scripting and witty voice performances often raised it above the level of many other titles of its kind. Besides, Indiana Jones is like 80 now, right? Sorry President Ford… David O. Russell ("Three Kings") directs the project which will likely be a Summer 2012 tentpole for the studio. I have to agree with Captain Hammer… er, Nathan. I think he would be a GREAT fit for the movie. Then again, with it being a tentpole for the studio… there are other fine big money actors in his age demographic that might consider the role. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Marky Mark, Jason Statham (who even has an accent), even Nicolas Cage (who desperately needs the money) are all possibilities. That being said… I have to go with Nathan Fillion. Why? He has IT. What is IT? Charisma, presence, a sense of humor, basically all the usual stuff you think of when you think of me. I mean… come on. Who was Captain Hammer last Halloween? It takes one to know one… with IT.

So how can we help Nathan get the gig of a lifetime (until his buddy Joss Whedon finds him a gig on “The Avengers” as bad guy #3, the victim of a one-liner from Iron Man in a charisma showdown)? Well… that’s a great question. I’ve done my part. I’ve posted my approval on a blog viewed by dozens, baker’s dozens of people across the globe. I don’t know. Write your congressman. Obviously they don’t have anything better to do this time of year besides b**ch about other people who want a dream job. “Senator Reid’s stance on education reform is absolutely appalling.” “Yeah, well Miss Angle here was not only part of the conspiracy behind the separate DVD, 3D-DVD, extended cut re-releases and whatever else with Avatar… but she was ALSO involved in the plot to bring you Jar Jar in 3D with her friend George Lucas.” GASP from the crowd… then the mediator asks, “Miss Angle, your response?” “I… it is the choice of the artist to present their vision in any manner that they see fit… and I just happen to agree with…” the boos from the crowd drown out her response, “Damn you Reid!!!” Then she uses the Force to choke him from across the stage. Am I the only person that wishes more political debates were about this stuff (or maybe even the issues) than a bunch of old people with lukewarm charisma talking about things that were said over a decade ago? “Mister Love…” “DOCTOR Love!” “Excuse me… wait, do you have a degree in medicine?” “No, but I do play one on TV.” “Very well, Doctor Love, in 1997, you were quoted as saying that, and I quote, ‘If abortion is murder, then masturbation is genocide because I would be sending millions of little men & women directly into a warm protein-rich mass grave located on what would later be discovered as my mother’s favorite towel… and later be forced to wash it by hand in what quite possibly may be the definition of ethnic cleansing’ Do you still have those views on abortion and/or masturbation?” “Seriously? Look dude, I was 16 years old when I wrote that social studies report. On that note, let the record show that despite a flawless argument and the structure of a collegiate thesis, I was given a C+ by my prick teacher because I used the term ‘crack whore’ in a perfectly legitimate context. Has a lot changed since I was a teenager? You betcha. I’ll bet a lot has changed since my opponent was 16… like gas being more than a quarter a gallon and coffee being a nickel down at the local haberdashery. However, to get back to the question at hand, pun certainly intended, after all the experiences of my life, I still believe in a woman’s right to choose. Oh… and yes, I’m all for masturbation. I still do. Gladly, I’ve been blessed with a few lovely ladies over the years to assist me… but hey, sometimes you can’t rely on other people to get the job done, so you’ve gotta just fix the problem yourself. Maybe if my opponent felt the same way, we’d be able to get some great things done in government.” Yes, I just likened squeezing out knuckle children to education reform. Deal with it.

Anyway, on that note, I’ll let you all get off to your fantastic weekends. Have a great time!!! Vote Nathan Fillion for Drake!!!

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