Sunday, December 02, 2007

Oh what fun it is to ride

There was a dislocated thumb, an inaccurate news report, a hastily called press conference, a Mizzou meltdown, a Hokie revenge, a Sooner stunner, a Pitt uprising, a Les Miles redemption, a Mountaineer gag job and overwrought fan bases in all directions.

In the strangest college football season in years, the last day went according to the chaotic script.

Now it is anyone's guess what is next – which two flawed teams emerge from this flawed system to meet in the BCS title game Jan. 7 in New Orleans.

A two-loss team (LSU) is likely to play a team that hasn't played in two weeks(Ohio State). An unbeaten team (Hawaii) and a one-loss team (Kansas) apparently have no chance. A team that, according to ESPN, was about to lose its coach (LSU again) might leap from No. 7 into the big game. At least unless the No. 9 team (Oklahoma) doesn't leap them and everyone else. And the team that might be playing the best of them all right now (Virginia Tech) can't seem to get any consideration.

Confused? Try crunching numbers, predicting votes and calculating the absurd and it gets even worse.

This is the funnest college football season ever. Of course that also means that more people are tearing their hair out over it than ever.

And there will be much more screaming -- and whining -- in the month ahead, as the bowl decisions shake out.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Doing Dickens

The best street festival of the year going on this weekend in Galveston. It always puts me in the Christmas spirit (although slightly less so when the temperature is 80 degrees).

Back with the Funnies manana.

Immigration reality check

Only one-third of illegal immigrants are from Mexico; the majority are from Europe or Asia. Most did not enter the United States illegally; they are employees or students who overstayed their visas. They have the same income profile as the general population. They have better health and lower incarceration rates. They pay the same taxes you do and more. They do not receive "free" public education or any form of welfare. Overall, annual taxes paid by workers without documentation to all levels of government more than offset the cost of services received, generating a net annual surplus of $25 to $30 billion. Oh yes, one more thing: the Robert Rector/Heritage Foundation "study" is nearly thoroughly bogus.

Almost nothing you have read, heard, or been told by frothing conservatives about illegal immigration is accurate.


It's a large document and requires some reading and thoughtful understanding, something conservatives are mostly incapable of or naturally loathe to do. That's the only "Immigration Problem" we have in this country: ignorance, xenophobia, and bigotry.

Update (12/2): Welcome Topix forum readers! Yes, you are conservative idiots. Yes, you.

Viva Evel

There are thousands of men in their forties mourning the original X-Gamer, who as boys spent many an afternoon building a ramp out of old plywood and jumping over a few boxes or other kids or clutter from the garage, some still holding somewhere in their personal archives an old metal lunchbox with him in that Captain-America jumpsuit:

Most people will remember Knievel for his storied jumps: crashing at the Caesars Palace fountain in 1968, the disastrous attempt to fly across the Snake River in a Skycycle in 1974, or nearly killing himself at London’s Wembley Stadium after clearing 13 buses in 1975. He’d show up drunk for many jumps — and ride like a champion.

I think many of us watched him jump -- particularly after that slow-motion rag-doll tumble he took in Vegas -- to see if this time he might kill himself. I vividly recall the hype leading up to that Snake River rocket ride, and when it fizzled out I thought to myself, this guy is nothing but a huckster. Before that I had considered him only an idiot.

He was seemingly fearless, driven to try stunts that were — admit it — astonishingly stupid and pointless. But as a P.T. Barnum-caliber showman, he made the outcome seem somehow relevant and made millions care about what happened to him. He had an amazing, unfathomable need to be a real-life superhero.

But what a price he paid, only to be proven a mere mortal, time and time again. Perhaps his mortality is what made his fans adore him so. He failed so many times, so spectacularly and so publicly, that he ended up instead the ultimate antihero.

He jumped 13 cars in the Astrodome in 1971, setting an attendance record for the time. Here's a video of it. I can still feel the anticipation: the wheelies past the line of cars, the way he would ride to the top of the ramp and rev the bike's engine before backing down and making the jump.

He was quite obviously the inspiration for the satirical Super Dave Osborne in the '80's and '90's. By that time Knievel had retired and withdrawn from public life, although he had recently sued, and then settled with -- two days before his death -- rapper Kanye West over his image in a video.

Even watching his son Robby duplicate his jumps in recent years was nostalgic. There was really no one like Evel Knievel. He wasn't one of my generation's heroes, but he certainly was one of its icons. And for the first time in many decades he's not feeling any pain, so that's got to be a comfort.