December 12th, 2007

The Zombie

The Face of Evel

December 10 -  So, Evel Knievel has taken his final jump.  He was a complicated, larger than life man who knew firsthand the extreme highs and lows of life.  I wonder if anyone under the age of thirty-five has any real idea of what Mr. Knievel meant to the world.  Yes, he is often cited as the godfather of the X-games and other extreme sports, but that's like summing up Jack Kirby by saying that he influenced the work of today's comics artists.  At the risk of over-reaching, I think it's safe to say that, at least for the mid-1970's, Evel Knievel was one of the most famous people on, or jumping over part of, Earth.  His face was on the back of every comic book, toys bearing his likeness were in every home, and his name was on the tips of every tongue.  In an era desperate for heroes, especially American heroes, Mr. Knievel roared into the spotlight, a mixture of traditional patriotism, old school toughness, and crazy, rebellious recklessness.  Remember, even though there have been daredevil entertainers walking tightropes or plunging over Niagara Falls for centuries, no-one else was doing anything like this at the time.  In fact, no-one else was doing much of anything at the time.  Part of Mr. Knievel's success was due to such uniqueness, and part due to his positive, yet matter-of-fact, attitude.  He knew just what to say, just how to act, to appeal to everyone from children to the elderly.  He was a great showman, a worthy successor to Buffalo Bill Cody and Harry Houdini.  Like them, he utterly invented his profession, defining it for succeeding generations even as he lived it.  Also like them, he has now become enshrined in the Pantheon of American Legends.  And for what?  Riding motorcycles?  No.  What he meant went far beyond what he did.  When he sat at the end of a runway, revving his engine and staring at a stories-high ramp, he confidently accepted our collective fears onto his shoulders.  With the weight of the world literally against him, he would then speed off toward certain doom.  Whenever I watched him, I always thought to myself "He's going too slow!  He's not going to make it!"  Then, he'd take flight, sailing over school buses or water fountains.  For that moment - and it was never much more than a moment - he was free, and so were we.  Then came the landing.  Sometimes he'd make it, perhaps flawlessly, or maybe with a little help from some hay bales.  Often, though, he wouldn't land safely.  He'd drop awkwardly onto the wrong part of the down-ramp, wrestling with his bike to try to survive.  Slow motion replays would show him being tossed and crumpled like a sack of noodles, over and over again.  Not surprisingly, he broke over four-hundred bones during his career (which means that he was also nearly always in pain or recovery when he performed his next jump).  But, far from being considered a failure, Evel Knievel's fame and hero status soared every time he crashed.  When he famously made his attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon, and then failed so dramatically, he transformed from entertainer to living symbol.  Anyone can dream small and accomplish mundane goals, but to dream that big, fall that far, and still get back up to try something else, is a trait that we Americans admire...and believe we exemplify.  Now the man may be gone, but Evel Knievel, the symbol of daring, of resilience, of grit, will live on.  In fact, the next time you find yourself worried about a failure or fear, imagine yourself clad in a white leather jumpsuit bespangled with stars and stripes, on the seat of a rumbling motorcycle, and about to fly over a row of cars.  It may not help, but it sure can be fun to just think of it!  Now, in honor of Robert Craig Knievel, I leave you with your Just One Evel-Knievel-Inspired Stuntman-Superhero Comic Book Character of The Day - The Human Fly!

The Zombie

Late Lately

December 11 -  I think I'm running a day behind.  Not only have I been posting WOMP-Blog entries two days late, but I was actually late to work once this last week...because I thought it was another day!  In nearly six years, I'd never been late, not even a little.  It must have something to do with my birthday last weekend.  It shouldn't fluster me so to be reminded of Death's creeping advance, but I think that it might have.  Whatever the reason, I just haven't been myself lately.  It's like I'm out of sync or something.  Maybe I need to sleep more.  I'm down to a disturbing maximum of just four hours a day...but not for lack of want to sleep.  I just have so much to do that I can't sleep or it won't get done.  And I'm still falling behind.  It may feel counterproductive, but a long, restful slumber may be just the ticket to get me back on track.  Not today, though, I guess.  It's now almost 4:00AM, and I must drive The WOMP Staff to work (long story) just before 6:00AM.  Ugh!  Well, off I go, I suppose.  Before I leave for the night/day, please take a moment to read the "December 10" entry below if you haven't yet.  I finished it just a short while before writing this.  See?  I told you I'm running behind!  Here's your Just One Lump-of-Clay-Animated-By-The-Gods Comic Book Character of The Day - Wonder Woman!