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?

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?