Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cactus musing


It is not often that I get a call to post about cactus. It really is a niche market of horticulture. A person either REALLY likes cactus or they do not. There is no ambivalence concerning this plant. It is either an evil plant foisted upon unsuspecting ranchers and farmers or it is a gleaming jewel shining in the sun. I tend to think it is a gift of God. Cabeza de Vaca certainly was glad for the tunas he had to eat on his long journey across Texas. I have concerns with the cactus other than its beautiful flowers and other remarkable features, but they seldom enter the conversation. This is a sample of the cactus I have gathered over the years. I really do need a better close-up lens. I detest the lack of focus at close range.

I wonder what to write when I put fingers to keyboard when it comes to cactus. They have become such an integral part of me that things I do not even consider anymore are still questions that are being pursued by others. How to fix a characteristic in a species, how to manipulate the genes and the limitations of the plant concerning the harshness of winter are what I am preoccupied with at the moment. It is immaterial to me if I ever pursue a Masters of Science with the cactus as a focal point. I will continue to study it as a part of my interests.

There are so many kinds of cactus. It would be very easy for me to gather as many species as I could grasp. I have avoided this as much as possible. I have tried to limit myself to ones that will withstand the rigors of the weather outside without any assistance from me. If I ever move to a more tropical climate, one even more so than the southern clime I know inhabit, I will be hard pressed to continue this limitation. I will most likely continue to grow roses, herbs and other plants, but the cactus will have a place in my gardens.

Some people maintain that they should not be watered at all during the winter months. I say that is silliness. If I have a cactus in a sunny window that keeps it active then why would I not water it? If the greenhouse is hotter than blue blazes in January I am likely to water the plants, cactus included. The bottom line? If it is still heavy or damp with water, then do not water it. Wow! that is so hard to grasp! This is probably heresy to some cactophiles, but I do not like seeing a plant dry up and wither.

I doubt this will be of any benefit to other gardeners. Damn near everything I have said is the basic logic of plants in general. Make it use its water, but if it is dry water it. It sounds so simple, but it never ceases to amaze me how many plants die from too much water or not enough. No wonder that the cactus sites I have visited almost to a man recommend that they not be watered in the winter. I can't help but think that there are scores of cactus that have withered away in their tiny containers cut off from the rain and denied the sprinkle from a water can. It should not be that way. I have rescued a few of these poor victims of misinformation. A new container, a little H20 and food do wonders for a starving and thirsty plant.

Even down here hard by the coast I still water the cactus. Even this month I will water them. Even a week after a rain of 4.5 inches or ~12cm. All the roots they have are in a pot no bigger than a coffee cup. Where is it supposed to retain the moisture? Where will the roots grow other than to continue their encircling of the container and become even more rootbound?


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Art Ramble



It just doesn’t do it justice. It is called “Ashchenblume”. A fella named Anselm Keifer assembled/painted, smeared it together. It is a little hard to tell but there is a massive sunflower turned upside down directly in the middle of it. It was finished in 1997. Flower out of ashes. The work is pretty damn massive. I don’t think I could even get it in the loading dock of most buildings much less the front door of my place. It takes up nearly an entire wall. The bottom part of it is pieces of concrete and busted, rusted wire. It is a picture of the Reichstag, think Congress. Out of the ashes of life this flower grew and was uprooted and yet it grew and flourished. I see some hope and perseverance in it. Fifty years after the ashes of WWII were buried and swept away this artist of Germany was still thinking about the resurrection from the fire.

I wonder why I post a lot more about this stuff we call modern art than I do what is called western art. I know Charlie Russell and Frederick Remington quite well. I grew up with their pictures of the American West and I know them by heart. They are approachable and graspable, far easier to digest and understand. Perhaps it is a change in taste, but I have not lost my eye for a good western either. Maybe it is that I think modern art gets sort of slammed by people on occasion. What the hell is it? We paid money for this? It is worth how much?

Let us drift back a few years to Jesse Helms, Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano and whether or not we were going to fund art that offended people. There were plenty of works that through the years had offended the sensibilities of the public at large. Michelangelo’s “David” had to wear a breech clout for a few years like he was Tonto. But, “Piss Christ” just shook’em all up. It wasn’t like Marcel duChamp painting a mustache on the “Mona Lisa” and putting some graffiti on the bottom saying she was hot in the pants, no this was offending religion and not other artists or artistic conventions. The only problem was nobody stopped to ask the artist, Andres, what exactly he was trying to say to the rest of us. Nobody took the time to even ask, the Archbishop of Melbourne condemned it as blasphemous and Jesse Helms and Al D’Amato got all fired up too. Damned hippie artists, well we will see how they like it when we jerk the purse strings back. We’ll just gut the National Endowment of Arts and see how they like that. It wasn’t too much longer after that and Mapplethorpe and his collection of photographs came out. Literally. I don’t think anybody in the art world was unaware that Robert was a four-alarm flamer, but it was shocking, shocking, that anyone could call that art. I still have yet to look at any of the photos in question, but I have seen enough of his other works to realize that the man was an artist. Personally, I don’t care what the artist has to say, I think they should be allowed to say it. I still haven’t said why Serrano, A put a plastic Jesus in urine and sealed it up in more plastic, but I think we, the collective should either go look and find the artist’s words for himself or at the very least read some discussion of it.

http://www.artsandopinion.com/2004_v3_n3/pisschrist.htm

some really heavy plowing, only for the brave

I think some of us are here to defend artists and musicians. Every once in a while someone REALLY pisses off somebody else about their art or music. Hell, even Ozzy had to go to court about some messed up kid who ended his own life. We get to step in as a lawyer, an opinionator or blogistinian and say leave them alone, quit picking on art or the guitar picker.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

video games

At the risk of sounding too much like an old geezer, but I do remember a day when there were no video games. There was no room dedicated to the Xbox, Wii or Playstation. There were only pinball machines and skee ball. There were a few arcade games at the fair, like the one in "Jaws", I think it was called "Shark Attack". It was sort of a video game, but pale by comparison to games today. I remember when one of my buddies got an Atari. I remember "pong".
Those days are gone. I can't get through the salad at the pizza joint before my daughter is running to the game room. Even if I have laid down the law and said there is not going to be a single quarter spent on a game. I said earlier this week that we would go to the pizza place and she could play the games. She managed to wolf down two pieces of pizza before she went to the games. By the time I said that it was time to go I was ready to pull out a shotgun and start blasting away at these overgrown noisemakers.
I heard about an old boy who grew up before there were juke boxes. It was his habit to put out enough money on the machine to buy silence until he was ready to leave the cafe. I thought it was a little ornery of him when I first read it, but I can identify with him now.
I think I should not go into an arcade with fewer than two beers under my belt. I might do better with a set of earplugs too.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fox guarding hen house

What? protect consumers? No, I am here to protect business from consumers and Congress.
Members of the Chamber of Commerce do not belong on commissions designed to protect consumers. The business of America is not business. I do not begrudge anyone the ability to make a buck, but when you break the rules you are going to be punished. We can accept this on the road, we recognize the fact that there are rules to keep us all safe, but when we expect corporations to do the same they cry that it is unduly harsh and squelches their ability to work.
Yeah and I want to drive 90 mph and give the finger to the anybody who gets in my way too.
Nord Says No to more toy inspectors, even if she only has one.

This is clearly a case of the fox guarding the hen house. The same sort of mentality that gave us a man in charge of mines who had to get his job while Congress was on recess because even the Republicans on the committee recognized that he was unfit for the job. W gave it to him anyway, I expect at the recommendations of Cheney. I am so tired of business' interests being the only concern of this administration. The number of inspectors is half what it was in the 80's. 1.8 million dollars is paltry for a fine. The proposed 100 million is nearing the ballpark of what they might actually feel. This administration reminds me of a spoiled child who screams that it is unfair that they have to follow the same rules as everyone else. That somehow they are not subject to the same rules as everyone else. If they do it, it is ok, but no one else can because they, the spoiled child, are special. What a crock.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

science and spiders

Spiny Crab-like Orb Weaver

common name: spinybacked orbweaver scientific name: Gasteracantha cancriformis (Linnaeus) (Arachnida: Araneae: Araneidae)
Introduction - Systematics - Identification - Biology - Survey and Detection - Selected References
Introduction One of the more colorful spiders in Florida is the spinybacked orbweaver, Gasteracantha cancriformis (Linnaeus) 1767. Although not as large as some of the other common orb weavers (e.g.; Argiope, Levi 1968; Neoscona, Edwards 1984), the combination of color, shape, and web characteristics make G. cancriformis one of the most conspicuous of spiders. The colloquial name for this spider in parts of Florida is "crab spider," although it is not related to any of the families of spiders commonly called crab spiders, e.g., Thomisidoe. This species belongs to a pantropical genus which contains many species in the Old World. With the possible exception of the West Indian G. tetracantha (L.) (which may be only a geographic race), G. cancriformis is the only species of its genus to occur in the New World, ranging from the southern United States to northern Argentina (Levi 1978). The bite of this common species is not known to cause serious effects to humans.
SystematicsBecause of the variations in color and shape of the abdominal "spines" throughout its range, G. cancriformis has been described by numerous early scientists under a plethora of names (Levi 1978). Although Kaston (1978) continued the use of the name G. elipsoides (Walckenaer) 1841, resurrected by Chamberlin and Ivie (1944), Levi (1978) examined this species and found it to be a synonym of G. cancriformis.
IdentificationThis species can be easily distinguished from all other spiders in Florida. Females may be 5 to nearly 9 mm in length, but 10 to 13 mm wide. They have six pointed abdominal projections frequently referred to as "spines." The carapace, legs, and venter are black, with some white spots on the underside of the abdomen. The dorsum of the abdomen is, typically for Florida specimens, white with black spots and red spines. Specimens from other areas may have the abdominal dorsum yellow instead of white, may have black spines instead of red, or may be almost entirely black dorsally and ventrally. Males are much smaller than females, 2 to 3 mm long, and slightly longer than wide. Color is similar to the female, except the abdomen is gray with white spots. The large abdominal spines are lacking, although there are four or five posterior small humps (Levi 1978, Muma 1971).
female
BiologyMuma (1971) discussed the life cycle and web construction of G. cancriformis in Florida. Although males have been found in every month except December and January (Levi 1978), they are most common in October and November. Females, which are found as adults throughout the year, are most common from October through January. Mixed-mesophytic woodlands and citrus groves are where they are most frequently found. Males hang by single threads from the females' webs prior to mating, described by Muma (1971).
Ovate egg sacs, 20 to 25 mm long by 10 to 15 mm wide, are deposited on the undersides of leaves adjacent to the female's web from October through January. The egg mass consists of 101 to 256 eggs, with a mean of 169 (based on 15 egg masses). After the eggs are laid on a white silken sheet, they are first covered with a loose, tangled mass of fine white or yellowish silk, then several strands of dark green silk are laid along the longitudinal axis of the egg mass, followed by a net-like canopy of coarse green and yellow threads. Eggs are frequently attacked by specialized predators, primarily Phalacrotophora epeirae (Brues) (Diptera: Phoridae), and occasionally Arachnophago ferruginea Gahan (Hymenoptera: Eupelmidae) (Muma and Stone 1971). Eggs take 11 to 13 days to hatch, then spend two to three days in a pink and white deutova stage before molting to the first instar.
egg sac
After another five to seven days, the spiderlings acquire dark coloration. Spiderlings dispersed within a week later in disturbed laboratory colonies, but remained in the eggsacs an additional two to five weeks in the field. Spiderlings make tiny, inconspicious orb webs or hang from single strands. In the late summer and early fall, significant increases occur in both body and web size. The larger webs have 10 to 30 radii. The central disk where the spider rests is separated from the sticky (viscid) spirals by an open area 4 to 8 cm wide. There may be as many as 30 loops of the viscid spiral, spaced at 2 to 4 mm intervals. The catching area of the web may be 30 to 60 cm in diameter. Conspicuous tufts of silk occur on the web, primarily on the foundation lines. The function of these tufts is unknown, but one hypothesis suggests that the tufts make the webs more conspicuous to birds (Eisner and Nowicki 1983), preventing the birds from flying into and destroying the webs. The webs may be less than 1 m to more than 6 m above ground. The spiders prey on whiteflies, flies, moths, and beetles that are caught in the webs.
Survey and DetectionCitrus workers frequently encounter this species, and it may occur on trees and shrubs around houses and nurseries. Specimens may be easily collected in small vials, and are best preserved, as are all spiders, in 70 to 80% ethyl or isopropyl alcohol.
Selected References
Chamberlin RV, Ivie W. 1944. Spiders of the Georgia region of North America. Bulletin of the University of Utah 35: 1-267.
Edwards GB. 1984. Large Florida orb weavers of the genus Neoscona (Araneae: Araneidae). Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry Entomology Circular 266: 1-2.
Eisner T, Nowicki S. 1983. Spider web protection through visual advertisement: Role of the stabilimentum. Science 219: 185-187.
Kaston BJ. 1978. How to Know the Spiders. 3rd ed. Wm. C. Brown Co., Dubuque, Iowa. 272 pp.
Levi HW. 1968. The spider genera Gea and Argiope in America (Araneae: Araneidae). Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 136: 319-352.
Levi HW. 1978. The American orb-weaver genera Colphepeira, Microtheno and Gasteracantha North of Mexico. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 148: 417-442.
Muma MH. 1971. Biological and behavioral notes on Gasteracantha cancriformis (Arachnida: Araneidae). Florida Entomologist 54: 345-351.
Muma MH, Stone KJ. 1971. Predation of Gasteracantha cancriformis (Arachnida: Araneidae) eggs in Florida citrus groves by Phalacrotophora epeirae (Insecta: Phoridae) and Arachnophaga ferruginea (Insecta: Eupelmidae). Florida Entomologist 54: 305-310.
Author: G.B. Edwards, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry. Originally published as DPI Entomology Circular 308. Photographs: Lyle J. Buss and others, University of Florida Project Coordinator: Thomas R. Fasulo, University of Florida Publication Number: EENY-167 Publication Date: October 2000. Latest revision: December 2005. Copyright 2000-2005, University of Florida
end of source
This is one of my buddies at the farm. I have mentioned them in some earlier blogs, but this one is strictly about this rather small creature. The orb weavers generally make a rather beautiful web. They still argue about why they put the extra tufts of silk in certain locations on their webs. Let no one tell you that scientists agree about much of anything. There will always be a few contrarians even on the most settled of subjects and the ones which have no clear answers are full of rancor and disdain for the opposition. If there was ever a clear case of hypocrisy it is when scientists point fingers at religion and laugh at their disagreements. They are no better at agreeing on something as simple as the extra adornments of a web, much less the origin of life or its meaning. The author of the source admits that the early authors had a "plethora" of names for this arachnid, but only alludes to the idea that the West Indies version of this critter may only be a geographic species. Meaning, it is only a distinct species because of geography. Sorry, but the very concept of a geographic species flies in the face of the definition of a species. It is splitting hairs. The hard and fast definition that has been clung to is that species cannot interbreed. If my girlfriend is in NYC and I am in Texas that means that we cannot have sex. Duh. It does not mean we are not capable of reproduction, it means that there is no opportunity to do so. I have grown weary of scientists basing the idea of species on a few minute and insignificant traits that may be more pronounced in a particular location. The fact that this species has become isolated, for whatever reason, does not mean that it is a separate species. Perhaps I am willing to venture them as a variety, botanical or horticultural, but their ability to be interfertile with other species means that they are not by the lowest common denominator of the definition that they are a unique, separate species. Genus has a lot more to do with the inability to be fertile than species. Species has become specious and suspect. Oaks. I can give you oaks immediately. In any mixed hardwood forest there is a range of oak hybridization, a mingling of species. So much so that even consultants on judicial cases must testify that there may be in this individual or collection of trees the parentage of a few to several species of trees represented. If you ever write a contract for millions of dollars of trees, reserve the right of refusal for shipments and hire someone who knows what they are doing when they pick out adaptable trees.
Olive trees do not belong in North Texas. Whoever signed off on the contract to plant them should have had his ass kicked. What a waste of money.
Have I finished ranting yet? not sure. I meant to talk about the glob of eggs that one of these peculiar looking spiders had deposited on my farm truck windshield. It is a shade greener than the picture, but it has the same network of strands to hold it fast and the same general layout, size and form as the picture. I am determined not to cut it off if I can avoid it. I may have to if I am going to save it from the elements, particularly wind. I have been surprised that going down the highway at 60mph seems to have no deleterious effect. I can't say what a pounding rain is going to do. I might have to scrape it off and put it somewhere safe. I thought about sending an egg casing to someone as a prank. Hide it in a plant or some other form of Trojan horse and when the moment was ripe they would hatch out and be a parade of tiny spiders. But the thought of some idiot friend of mine stomping on them or potentially killing their dog/cat/bird/child/spouse in a fog of insecticide was not appealing. I think I will just stash them on the shelf with the other egg casing I had to rescue. I will find a home for them somewhere. Maybe I can turn them loose in a greenhouse somewhere or a good barn. They are hellacious fly and gnat catchers.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Bronk


Football in America: Game of the Century

Excerpts from Chapter 5:
CHAMPIONS: All Pros of All Kinds

By Bob Oates

2. Bronko Nagurski, Football’s First Big Winner

In the days when football was played largely on the ground, everyone was in awe of another Chicago ballcarrier.

Of the All-Pro football players who stirred America in the twentieth century, Bronko Nagurski joined Red Grange and Sammy Baugh in the first wave. And to sports fans, each symbolized something different.

Baugh was a precision passer, Grange a matchless open-field runner, Nagurski the ultimate power symbol.

As a physical specimen, Nagurski, of the three, was the most masterful. In a time when the game wasn’t as intellectually demanding as it was to become, Nagurski took charge as a famously feared power runner who seemed to be the essence of what football was all about. Even so, ironically, in his two biggest games, this embodiment of football’s brute force helped demonstrate the tactical superiority of the forward pass. In championships won as a passer, Nagurski equaled Baugh: two each.

A 225-pound fullback standing six-two, Nagurski, who in 1933 led the Chicago Bears to victory in the National Football League’s first championship game, is identified in his hometown as the greatest football player of all time. The town is International Falls, which is in the far north of Minnesota.

There the leading hotel, a new Holiday Inn, opened a Bronko Nagurski Room one July in the big fullback’s final years. A tinted, life-size Nagurski photo was unveiled when the room, a banquet hall, was dedicated, and everybody was there – almost everybody in Kouchiching County, that is – except Nagurski, who refused to come. "That’s Bronko," a friend said that summer. "He’s a shy one. Always has been."

In his seventies, Nagurski was then residing on the U.S.-Canada border at Rainy Lake, just four miles up the Rainy River from International Falls (population 6,940). With his wife, the former Eileen Kane, with whom Nagurski raised six children, he had moved into the lakeside cottage during the years when he was playing three positions – tackle and linebacker as well as fullback – for the 1930s Bears.

Numerous Kanes and Nagurskis lived in the neighborhood in those years and still do. It’s a neighborhood that is alternately a winter wonderland and a domain of brief, joyous summers. And the summer Bronko was seventy-five, his relatives and in-laws held a family reunion, with Bronko and Eileen as guests of honor.

Eileen enjoyed herself as usual, but Bronko, of course, wouldn’t come. "He’s reclusive," Dave Siegel, a reporter for the International Falls Daily Journal, said. "We’ve been trying to get an updated file picture of Nagurski for ten years, and we hung around the reunion all day, but no luck."

He was easier to shoot in the 1930s, when, at one time or another, almost every Chicago cameraman caught Nagurski ferrying an opponent or two across the goal line on his back. For decades, his name summoned the raw energy of football. And to this day, they point out the brick wall in Chicago that Nagurski cracked when he ran into it carrying a football one fall afternoon in Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs and, then, the Bears. Scoring the winning touchdown in that game – at the south end of a cramped field where the end zone was only nine yards deep – Nagurski stomped on two opponents, leaving one unconscious and the other with a broken shoulder. Next he collided with a goal post and spun into the wall, which stopped him at last. Picking himself up, he told a teammate, "That last guy hit pretty hard."

At an NFL game years later, when former quarterback Fran Tarkenton asked him about that day, Nagurski remembered everything but fracturing the wall.

"But I’ve seen the crack myself," Tarkenton said.

"Oh, c’mon now," Nagurski said. "No human could crack a brick wall."

No human, maybe. But Nagurski had super-human strength. Everybody who played in that era said so. He was the NFL’s first big winner, and he was the one they talked about the most whenever old-timers got together, as they did one summer in Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "I saw Nagurski for the first time when I was an NFL rookie," remembered Don Hutson, who has ranked as one of football’s top two or three receivers, all-time, since his All-Pro days at Green Bay. "At Alabama, I’d been known as a good defensive end, so I played Nagurski the way I’d play a Georgia fullback. On first down they gave him the ball, and he ran straight over me. I mean he ran me down and kept going without breaking stride."

Arch-rival Green Bay fullback-linebacker Clark Hinkle recalled: "He was the most bruising runner ever. The first time I tackled Nagurski, I had to have five stitches in my face. My biggest thrill in football was the day he announced his retirement."

At their Canton reunion that summer, Hutson and Hinkle were joined eventually by no fewer than four other all-timers: center Mel Hein, halfback Johnny Blood (McNally), guard Danny Fortmann, and, of all people, Bronko Nagurski himself. Hutson and Blood lured Bronko out of International Falls, Hein said, by putting pressure on Eileen Nagurski, somehow persuading her to fly in with the Recluse of Rainy Lake.

It isn’t true that he hadn’t left his lakeside cottage for twenty years, but he hadn’t left it often, and his appearance at Canton made the show for old-time fans.

Hein, the old New York Giants’ Hall of Fame center, was asked how the Hutson-Blood connection could get Nagurski all the way to Canton when the International Falls people couldn’t get him downtown. "In the last few years, Hutson and the rest of us have called on Bronko at the lake," Hein said. "He knows what we look like, and we know what he looks like now. So he doesn’t mind being around us. But I think he’s embarrassed to show himself in public at International Falls. He’d rather they remember him as he used to be, as he used to look, when he had his strength – when he was tough and trim, and awesomely vigorous." ...

Bronko Nagurski, human battering ram

Chicago Sun-Times, Nov 30, 2003 by Allen Barra

Monster of the Midway

The Life and Legend of Bronko Nagurski

by Jim Dent

Thomas Dunne. $24.95.

There's a memorable scene in the film "Hearts of Atlantis" in which Anthony Hopkins enthralls a young boy by recalling a memorable run by Bronko Nagurski. Hearing Hopkins stirred memories of my grandmother's awed recollections of Nagurski's near mythical power. That's how much he impressed her -- and my grandmother knew less about football than Anthony Hopkins.

For decades, football fans intrigued by Nagurski's story have had little to go on but oral tradition. Now comes Monster of the Midway: The Life and Legend of Bronko Nagurski, by Jim Dent, an instant classic that plugs an enormous gap in our knowledge of the early days of pro football. Dent, author of the best-selling The Junction Boys, about Bear Bryant's brutal first season at Texas A&M, is a master at seeking out great but as yet untold stories. There was no untold story larger than Nagurski's, and none that better deserved telling.

To the reader's delight, much of the folklore that has built up around Nagurski over the years proves to be true. A farm boy of Ukrainian and Polish stock, Bronislaw Nagurski was born in Ontario and raised near International Falls, Minn. He developed his body by pulling a plow. Like many immigrant boys born before World War I, Nagurski saw football as a means to a better life, but unlike today's pampered college stars, early college football players received no scholarships. Young Bronko worked two jobs at the University of Minnesota. The first provided room, board and tuition; the second was the reason he was given the first: he played on both offense and defense, often with padding and helmets that required stitching together before games.

And college football was the glamour game. Pro football in 1930, writes Dent, "was a redheaded stepchild compared to baseball. Players were regarded as hoodlums, owners and coaches as mere hustlers. Most pro teams struggled day to day just to survive." Few people considered pro football as a way to make a living. George Halas, Chicago Bears coach, National Football League founder and notorious tightwad, paid Nagurski the then ridiculous sum of $5,000 a year, the highest salary in the game. Amos Alonzo Stagg, the famed college football coach, thought any salary was too much: "Football is not a game you should get paid for ... He [Nagurski] shouldn't be taking money to play football."

Considering the legitimacy that Nagurski brought to the game as the rock of pro football's first legendary team, it's doubtful any amount would have been fair. With the era of Spandex and steroids still nearly half a century away, there were no specialists in the NFL in those days; you weren't a quarterback or tight end or outside linebacker, you were a football player. The rules and the soft, egg- shaped ball made passing difficult, and coaching from the sidelines was illegal.

It was a player's game, and the greatest player of all, by consensus, was Nagurski. Grantland Rice, the most famous sportswriter of his time, picked only 10 players for his 1929 All-America team; it was understood that Nagurski was the best player on both offense and defense and was thus All-America at both fullback and defensive tackle. The names of the positions in Nagurski's case were irrelevant; when asked what position he played, the Bronk replied, "Well, when the other team had the ball, I played where I thought I had the best chance to stop them. When our side had it, they generally gave me the ball."

"Who would you pick," Rice wrote, "to win a football game -- eleven Jim Thorpes -- eleven Glen Davises -- eleven Red Granges -- or eleven Bronko Nagurskis? The eleven Nagurskis would be a mop-up. It would be something close to murder and massacre." Nagurski's two- way talent extended beyond college and into the NFL. For eight straight seasons he played 60 minutes of every game.

The Bronk "played football like a man boiling over with rage," says Dent, and he played against men as reckless and desperate as himself, men with nicknames like Hunk, Blood, Shipwreck, Buckets, Wildcat, Moose, and Stinky. "Block or get out of my way," he growled at one of his linemen who failed to open a hole for him, "or I will break your spine." "The Bronk waits for nobody," said another teammate, "you block and get the hell out of the way. Or he'll break your back."

He was rough on teammates, hell on opponents, and an absolute terror to cops. On one game at Wrigley Field, he ran into a policeman's horse and knocked the officer sprawling; the horse got off easy. On another occasion, he rammed into a police car parked on the sideline and tore off a fender. Once he was heard to apologize. To three bystanders he plowed into during a game against the Philadelphia Eagles; he said "I am sorry; you fellas really should get out of my way while I'm running."

In the end, he did more damage to himself than any opponent. He played with two cracked vertebrae, was nearly crippled by a degenerative hip condition, and carried the load on both offense and defense with knee damage that would have sent a player in today's game to surgery. His injuries were so severe that during World War II an Army doctor told him, "Mr. Nagurski, I have already found six reasons to flunk you for military duty. I think it's time to stop counting."

Late in life, he was forced to travel to the Mayo Clinic to have the degenerating bones in his ankles fused. When a doctor asked him for an autograph for his son, Nagurski wrote, "To Jeremy -- Do not play football. Bronko Nagurski."

Happy is the man, though, whose biggest dream was to open a gas station in his hometown. Bronko spent the last 30 years of his life, dying in 1990, pumping gas and rebutting wild tales such as the one about the brick wall he cracked at Wrigley Field: "Oh, they say I cracked it. I don't know, I never went back and looked." He did, however, admit, "I hit that wall pretty doggone hard."

Allen Barra is a veteran sportswriter and author. His most recent book is Clearing the Bases: The Greatest Baseball Debates of the Last Century, written with Bob Costas.

Copyright The Chicago Sun-Times, Inc.

Football's Unbroken, Unequaled Bronko

By Shirley Povich
Washington Post Columnist
Wednesday, January 10, 1990; Page F02

There is a memory, undimmed by the passage of 52 years, of the worst mismatch these eyes ever beheld. This was in Chicago's Wrigley Field, Dec. 12, 1937. Bears vs. the Redskins in the NFL title game. First quarter, the Bears behind by 7-0 and lusting for the tying touchdown.

The Bears were deep in Redskin territory and in these circumstances, with the Redskins' defense running out of yardage, Sammy Baugh moved up from his usual safety position to middle linebacker. The Bears of course would give the ball to Bronko Nagurski. The rail-thin, 6-foot-2, 175-pound Baugh in the Redskins' last line of defense against a Nagurski charge? What a joke.

Nagurski, 230 pounds of shoulders and high knee-action, did not trample Baugh. He lowered his head and gored him. Flung him high in the air and out of the vicinity, getting the Bears the big first down they needed, unimpeded by the Redskins' middle linebacker.

On Sunday, Bronko Nagurski died at 81, his place in both college and professional football firmly fixed. Probably no football player ever commanded so many superlatives, and in this appreciation of the Bronk, may I ask to be indulged to digress for a moment to relive that Redskins glory day in 1937 when the rookie Sammy Baugh beat the Bears for the title, 28-21, flicking touchdown passes of 55, 78 and 35 yards. For all his fame as a quarterback, Baugh wasn't a quarterback then. He was throwing the passes and doing the punting as the team's tailback in the double wing system. Riley Smith, on the flank, called the signals. But Baugh often operated on his own. So with the Redskins huddled in their end zone early in the game, they heard him say, "We're a-goin' in punt formation but we're really gonna pass." He took the snap and threw 55 yards to Cliff Battles to launch the first touchdown.

But this week belongs to Bronko Nagurski. There are many remembered examples of his fame, as once were listed in the book "Sports Immortals." "When you tackle the Bronk, it's like an electric shock. If you hit him above the ankles, you could get killed," Red Grange said.

It was put another way by fellow Hall-of-Famer Ernie Nevers: "Tackling Bronko is like tackling a freight train going downhill." In the pros, Steve Owen, whose New York Giants were often wrecked by Nagurski's charges, suggested his formula for dealing with the Bronk. "The only way to stop Nagurski is shoot him before he leaves the dressing room."

The version of Nagurski's power that I liked best was the comment of his college coach, Bernie Bierman of Minnesota, whose team was en route to a road game by railroad. When that train suddenly braked hard and came to a jolting stop, Bierman exclaimed, "My God, Nagurski has tackled the train."

Nagurski's fame led to fantasy. It was a college football scout who first told how he was recruited: "Driving by, I saw this powerful young man plowing a field. Then I noticed he had a plow, but no horse. I asked him directions to a certain town, and he pointed in the opposite direction — with the plow in his left hand."

Nagurski came out of Rainy River, Ontario, moving to International Falls, Minn., with his Polish-Ukrainian family at an early age. He lost his given name of Bronislaus when a teacher, perplexed by his mother's broken accent, simplified his name by entering it as Bronko.

For the Bears, Nagurski was the symbol of the Monsters of the Midway, the team that dominated the NFL for nearly a decade, with one winning streak of 18 games. He alternated at fullback and tackle, often playing both positions in the same game, as he had in college.

In his last two years in college, he was a near-unanimous all-American, and in 1929 received the ultimate reward from the New York Sun, which allotted him two places on its all-American team that year as fullback and tackle. Eventually he was named to the college and the professional Halls of Fame.

For all his size and power, Nagurski was a gentle, sensitive soul off the field, and in 1937 he quit the Bears, offended by George Halas's failure to raise his $5,000 salary, the same figure he was paid in 1930. He was persuaded to try pro wrestling, for which he was unsuited, but was quickly made a world champion by the wrestling folks in the manner that they do such things. Fact is, some of the old pro wrestlers worked hard to keep from pinning down this novice. He returned to the Bears for one more season, in 1943.

In his later years, Nagurski returned to Minnesota, serving as a fishing guide and later owning a service station. It was long after 872 carries of the football in the toughest company in the world, and after leading the blocking for Beattie Feathers when that chap set the NFL rushing record of 1,004 yards, that Bronko, at 70, announced he was retiring. "My legs started bothering me," he said.

Bronko and Me: John Carl Theilman

(The 1980s hadn't dawned, and I was already sick of the National Football League's end zone celebrations. And that was a 67-yard punt before these antics became the performance art they are today. Back in '82, Bronko Nagurski was alive, and probably equally unimpressed. I figured he was even in the phone book. I looked, and there he was...)

After his final retirement from football, Bronko Nagurski opened a gas station in International Falls, Minn. The local joke was if you bought gas from Bronko, you never bought it anywhere else. Once Bronko screwed on the gas cap, he was the only person in town who could get it off again.

Sure, it's disillusioning to know the favored form of off-field recreation for NFL players might involve drugs. But, to some, it's the smack on the field that's troubling.

What's shattering the moral fiber of professional football is all this high-fiving. Once little Bobby sees this perversion, he's out in the back yard smacking fingers with the neighbor kids.

We made it through Kool and the Gang's 'Celebrate' -- that overture which rang down upon the culmination of virtually every 1980 athletic event. We endured the posterior-whacking '60s and '70s. Can we survive the high-five?

Bronko Nagurski

It will be difficult to eradicate. This particular celebration occurs overhead everyone on the field, attracting both the television camera and the binoculars of the guy in the cheap seats.

This ceaseless digit-smacking leads a guy to wonder how a real football player reacts to this theatre. Bronko Nagurski was a real football player -- a guy with grass stains on his pants and coagulated blood on the bridge of his nose.

And the 73-year-old lives only a push-button call away, in International Falls.

Ring.

"I think that's comedy to me," the Bronk says into his telephone. "I don't care for it. I don't care for it whether it's in football or basketball or any sport.

"I imagine some of that started years back in hockey," he continues. "when they'd jump all over each other when a goal was scored. I don't know whether fans enjoy it or not, but I wouldn't go for it myself. If someone started slapping me, I would resent it."

A member of the Pro Football Hall of fame, the 6-foot-3, 238-pound Nagurski was a tackle and fullback for the University of Minnesota from 1927-29. The Gophers lost only four times -- by a total of five points -- in his 24-game career. The Chicago Bears won National Football League titles in 1932, '33 and '43 with Nagurski.

Those were the less glamorous days under a pair of shoulder pads. "One thing we didn't have in my day," Nagurski once said, "was all this knee surgery. When you got hurt, you went ahead and played."

When they went ahead and played, Nagurski says, celebrations to the Scoreboard God were more subdued.

"Well, we'd give the guy who scored a nice pat on the back and congratulate him and we'd go on without a lot of fanfare or hysterics."

When Nagurski performed there weren't 60,000 pairs of screaming lungs in the stands and a few million beer-filled tummies in front of the television. The fact we can no longer, virtually, escape pro football, might have fomented the high-five. These guys understand TV.

"They want to know the camera's on them," Nagurski reasons, "and naturally each one wants to bring on a lot of attention to let everyone know what his number is and that he's in the ballgame."

But be warned, high-fivers: Bronko Nagurski's experience speaks.

"You know, sometimes a fella goes in there and you beat him all over the back and the next thing you know he looks like a bum on a play. You find out the glory doesn't last long."

Maybe the cure for these celebrations is to let today's boys high-five it with Bronko. The guy's ring size is 19 1/2.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007



There is one thing about having college kids working for me, I get to hear some really wild ass stories that remind me of my own sordid past. One of my workers ,who will from this moment on be called Tarzan, has the same birthday as my daughter. His birthday wish was not at all like my daughter's. Thank God. He turned 21 and so in celebration of this, it was his goal to see 21 pairs of titties. He nearly succeeded. He related that performance was not possible due to copious amounts of newly legal substances being imbibed, but that notwithstanding he still managed to view 14.
I can only imagine. These were the regular, sweater wearing, bouncy ones that I see walking around campus and not the pay for show kind that have resigned themselves to being some sort of commodity. It did not instill in me a sense of confidence in our academic system that my daughter would be shielded from such activity ten or fifteen years from now. Tarzan had a good weekend. One of the members of the house did not. He had a tragically bad weekend and it could grow exponentially worse. Despite every precaution laid down by the institute and their own mandates he managed to slip out a side door and get behind the wheel where he subsequently got into a very bad wreck. The other, far more injured driver is now in critical condition. While I do not sympathize with the young man whose life is now a pile of poop, I do feel bad that the entire group is painted with the same brush of guilt by association. Again, this was done despite every known or mandated stricture of behavior being followed closely.
This woman in critical condition and her family don't care if they did the right thing. All they know is that momma is damn near dead in the hospital and they are pissed. I would be too.
Life is too tragic and too funny simultaneously. It is too fleeting to waste on being wasted all the time. It is far, far too risky to roll the bones and roll your vehicle. Get a cab, sleep it off, call a ride, only do not get behind the wheel of your large automobile after giving Johnny Walker and Jack Black a ride. The possible consequences, the eventual dismal outcome exceeds any possible gain.

I barely remember my 21st b-day. I had a good time, but I never left the co-op. I remember a lot of fuzz in my head. I certainly didn't see 14 pairs of titties. But, I didn't plow into anyone either that weekend. I had meant to go to the pay for show place, but I never made it. I told you it was pretty fuzzy and I am sticking to that story.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Art is cool


Modern Museum of Art: Fort Worth, Texas

I still marvel that the architect made the workers jackhammer down a wall that didn't suit his specifications of texture and feel. I am allowed to touch the building while I am there if not the other works of art. I think some art should be tactile. I think we should be able to reach out and feel art sometimes. They have this great big installation made out of one inch plate steel out front. Some one I went with one time said it was rather phallic.
maybe she was just horny
it looks like a massive drill bit to me. rising up from the pavement.
here is art. it was a lot of work. i sweated my ass off welding this huge spiral chamber of steel
you can stand inside and holler and it echoes. so cool!
you can whack a side of the steel and it rings.
public art is cool, there ought to be more of it
there used to be a Calder in downtown FTW, we, the collective citizens of Texas and DFW
were not aware that it was not officially a part of the Bank One building or its grounds
when the tornado blasted every damn window in the place
it disappeared. it either ended up in Chicago or Philly. I can't remember. it was not damaged.
we could have come up with the money. it is sort of like they snuck it out.
it is good to have art for all of us. even if it is sort of controversial at first
we spent a million or more on that?
yes. you needed some art, you plebian. you need art and probably a lot of it.
hell, if I had my way, I would hire somebody to paint big murals on brick walls
make my city colorful, make it happy and tell the people their history
murals are a good. sculpture is a good. I like to see it in cities.
or really random crazy art like the Cadillac ranch or the all-frog band on Carl's Corner
Dallas was idiotic to have ever let the frog band leave the city
art is cool

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Only the second bloggy blog.

If you have happened to wander in here looking for me. Well, you found me. This makes post number two. I have entirely too many accounts to keep track of all of them. I am over in Yahooland. If you want to see me there, same name, always the same name until someone steals it from me or I am given the deletion. I do blog, just not here. I might come here and rant into the air periodically, but if I am going to spend the time writing out something, I am not likely to do it here.