Evel Knievel (not dead yet)

It must be a slow news day at the Associated Press. There’s an article on Evel Knievel, who’s apparently racked with pain, not to mention short-term memory loss. Not sure if this story really is newsworthy, but at least it’s written with a sense of irony:

Evel Knievel has trouble now just walking from his condo to the pool. The ’70s cultural icon and poster boy for fast living and derring-do is 67, his body broken by years of spectacular crashes and ravaged by a multitude of serious ailments. The king of the daredevils can hardly get out of bed most days, let alone straddle a Harley.

Reminds me of a conversation I overheard in May 2002. I was in the National Air & Space Museum at the Smithsonian, oogling one of Knievel’s star-spangled jumpsuits, which was–and still is–on display there (pictured here). And I overheard a couple of kids talking about how cool Knievel was–even though he was 20 years before their time. And one of the kids says, yeah, too bad he died.

You have to ask yourself, which is worse: smashing a flaming motorcycle into a cliff wall and falling to your death, or little kids thinking that’s how you died?

Guernica, through a child’s eye

The Museo Reina Sofia is Spain’s modern art museum, and my son and I went there yesterday to see one thing and one thing only: Picasso’s Guernica, depicting the brutal aerial bombardment of the Basque city Guernica by the Fascists during the Spanish Civil War.

Showing the painting to my son was an antidote to our trip to the National Air and Space Museum in D.C in October.

Of course, an eighteen-month-old can’t be expected to have a sophisticated reaction to a powerful work of art about the monstrosities of the twentieth century.

But he comes close.

My son pointed at the mutilated bodies lying fallen on the ground and he said, “Uh-oh.” And then he made the hand sign for fall down.

Uh-oh is right.

I wonder if right now, somewhere in Falluja or Najaf, an aspiring artist is painting a successor to Guernica, honoring the 30,000 Iraqi civilians killed so far in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

If so, I hope my son sees that painting and is just as aware of suffering then as he is now.

Two Old Women Eating from a Bowl, Goya (1821-1823)

Two Old Women Eating from a Bowl, Goya
(Larger Image)
Posted to Flickr by samplereality.

Yesterday, while my wife was digging through national archives in Spain, my son and I went to the Prado, one of the great art museums of the world.

This was my third trip to the Prado, and every time, I make sure I visit a few key paintings. The Prado has, fittingly, the greatest collection of Goya work, and I am always haunted by his “black paintings.” His Saturn is enormously evocative, and I’ve referred to it before on SampleReality to talk about The Sopranos, of all things.

As long as you don’t use a flash, you may photograph the works in the Prado. I learned this the hard way, when I was almost thrown out a few years ago for accidentally using a flash on Velazquez’s Las Meninas.

So, with my son patiently watching from the stroller, I snapped a few shots, and you can see my Prado stream on Flickr.

Jets! Bombs! War! A Visit to the National Air and Space Museum!

We went to the National Air and Space Museum today, thinking it’d be a lark for our 16-month old son, who loves planes and anything else that makes a lot of noise and moves through the sky.

I’d forgotten, though, exactly what the Air and Space Museum memorializes: jets, bombs, and war.

Truly, the history of flight is the history of war in the 20th century.

Political aggression and state-sanctioned bloodshed were the twin engines that powered the technological advances which made dying, death, and destruction, all wrought by aircraft, both quicker and cheaper, and ultimately, easier in the modern age. Obliteration from on high, cities reduced to blips on radar.

Even space, the final frontier, is now essentially a battlezone, a militarized nebula of satellites and payloads. This, at least, is what we learned at the museum.

Next week, no kidding, we’re seeking an antidote to all this flag-waving glorification of war, something not so exuberant and triumphant. Something a little more, uh, aware of the follies of greed and rapacity.

Maybe some Bosch at the National Gallery of Art?