Don't Weaken

A blog by Director Terry Todd

More Visitors

By Terry Todd
October 23, 2009

Apologies for returning to the same subject as the one used in the previous blog, but our 10-16-09 visitors were so unexpected, so diverse, so prominent, and so interesting that I ask for your forbearance as I briefly (for me, anyway) recount who came, why they came, and what happened.  It all got started when I received a call on Wednesday from Joe Hood, a local doctor I’ve known for over 30 years now.  Joe is a genuinely unusual man with one of the most remarkable memories I’ve ever seen in action.  He was also a very gifted strength athlete and he held the national record in the deadlift for quite a few years with 788 pounds in the 220 pound class of the American Drug-Free Powerlifting Association.  Hood says, and I believe, that he’s lifetime drug-free, and his best-ever lift at that weight was 793 pounds, exactly the same weight as the famous lift attributed for many decades to Germany’s Herman Goerner.  Goerner, like Hood, also weighed 220 pounds and stood 6’1”.  Eerie.  In any case, I was always pleased by the physical symmetry of these two men and by the symmetry of their records—one made in 1920 and the other made 65 years later.  Both men at their best were unusually broad-shouldered and relatively narrow-hipped, both had thighs which were a bit on the short side for their height and arms which were a bit on the long side, both were not particularly thick from front to back, both were drug-free.

For all these reasons, I was somewhat dismayed to learn—thanks to the research of Gherardo Bonini, Mark Kodya, and Joe Roark, which was published in 2006 in Iron Game History, the journal we produce under the auspices of  the Stark Center—that the historical record doesn’t support the claims made by Edgar Mueller and other authorities about Goerner’s 793 pound deadlift.  In the case of Joe Hood’s lift, of course, it was made in public, in a sanctioned powerlifting contest, and on a bar used by many other lifters.



By Terry Todd
October 12, 2009

Now that we’re at least partly open and thus able to show people around, we’ve been having visitors to the Stark Center.  Sometimes the visitors are expected; sometimes they’re either not or at least not expected in the particular way they come.  For example, just over a week ago I was very surprised as I walked past the elevator lobby where our full-size copy of the Farnese Hercules is displayed.  What surprised me was that approximately 40 UT students were either sitting on benches or the floor or just standing in front of the immense, slowly-turning statue.  They were not talking and they were not moving around.  They were, in fact, quite still—as if they were at a religious service or a funeral.

That there were students looking at the Hercules was not what surprised me, however, since we’d been visited a few weeks earlier by a Professor of Art History who expressed his delight that the Stark Center—which is directly across the street from the Art Department—had on display a half dozen copies of classical statuary (discussed in an earlier blog) as well as the rotating giant standing hard by our outermost window.  “I’m going to assign my students to come here and look at these wonderful statues,” the professor said, and in a week or so I began to see a student or two or three sitting quietly in our lobby and taking an occasional note.  When I sat down by one of these first visitors, who was there alone, I asked him what his assignment had been and he said that the professor had instructed the class to spend at least 30 minutes contemplating the statues and to write down what they thought about what they were seeing.  The student said that the professor explained that he wanted their hand-written first impressions and not something they typed after the fact.



By Terry Todd
October 2, 2009

Today, as I was showing a rent-house of mine to a potential tenant I noticed and then pointed out the built-in mission-style, glass-fronted bookcases on either side of the fireplace. I mentioned that those bookcases—built by my paternal grandparents and used by them as well as by my father and my Uncle Walter—were the birthplace of my lifelong fascination with books, with reading. Not only the information in the books but the books themselves—their feel, their look, their smell, and their heft. Once I realized that books were the keys to many kingdoms, they soon held me in their sway and became, over time, as real to me as my schoolmates and, usually, were much better company.

In my mind’s eye I can still see as in a well-loved photo in a family album the dramatic illustrations in a huge, well-worn volume on “natural history” that drew my attention well before I was ten. In particular, I was enthralled by the illustrations of a fearsome, thick-bodied sea creature that looked, except for its lack of a smile, a lot like the friendly monsters drawn much later by Maurice Sendak for his justifiably famous children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are. I also loved the Kraken, a colossal squid that was said to rise from the deep during storms to grasp in its python-like tentacles the top-masts of sailing ships and drag them and their crew to a watery grave. But my favorite was the Gorilla, which–to give you an idea of the age of the book, and of me–was the star of a chapter entitled, “The Gorilla: Does He Exist?”