Friday, March 28, 2008


On Wednesday, March 19, 2008 Jeff Jacoby, the conservative op-ed columnist since 1994 for the very liberal Boston Globe wrote a column entitled, It’s Still A Question of Wright and Wrong. This commentary delved into Barack Obama’s recent speech on Race and his controversial relationship with friend and self-declared Mentor Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., the recently retired, now pastor emeritus of Chicago’s controversial Trinity United Church of Christ.

Like many in my generation I was impressed with Obama but concerned, even scared, about the undercurrent that appears to be running through this man’s history and politics especially when you consider the intimate relationships that he has formed over the years. One in particular has the Republicans foaming at the mouth anticipating an ultimate battle for the White House against Obama. Yes, that person is Pastor Wright who will, no doubt, be at one of many epicenters of any Obama candidacy.

Jacoby’s commentary was so telling that I choose to present it in its entirety for your review. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“I have known my rabbi for more than 20 years. The synagogue he serves as spiritual leader is one I have attended for a quarter-century. He officiated at my wedding and was present for the circumcision of each of my sons. Over the years, I have sought his advice on matters private and public, religious and secular. I have heard him speak from the pulpit more times than I can remember.

My relationship with my rabbi, in other words, is similar in many respects to Barack Obama's relationship with his longtime pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. But if my rabbi began delivering sermons as toxic, hate-filled, and anti-American as the diatribes Wright has preached at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, I wouldn't hesitate to demand that he be dismissed.
Were my rabbi to gloat that America got its just desserts on 9/11, or to claim that the US government invented AIDS as an instrument of genocide, or to urge his congregants to sing "God Damn America " instead of "God Bless America," I would know about it straightaway, even if I hadn't actually been in the sanctuary when he spoke. The news would spread rapidly through the congregation, and in short order one of two things would happen: Either the rabbi would be gone, or I and scores of others would walk out, unwilling to remain in a house of worship that tolerated such poisonous teachings. I have no doubt that the samewould be true for millions of worshipers in countless houses of worship nationwide.

But it wasn't true for Obama, whose long and admiring relationship with Wright, a man he describes as his "mentor," remained intact for more than 20 years, notwithstanding the incendiary and bigoted messages the minister used his pulpit to promote.

In Philadelphia yesterday, Obama gave a graceful speech on the theme of race and unity in American life. Much of what he said was eloquent and stirring, not least his opening paean to the Founders and the Constitution -- a document "stained by the nation's original sin of slavery," as he said, yet also one "that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time." There was an echo there of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who in his great "I Have a Dream" speech extolled "the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence " as "a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir."

The problem for Obama is that Wright, the spiritual leader he has so long embraced, is a devotee not of King -- who in that same speech warned against "drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred" -- but of the poisonous hatemonger Louis Farrakhan, whom the church's magazine honored with a lifetime achievement award. The problem for Obama, who campaigns on a message of racial reconciliation, is that the "mentor" whose church he joined and has generously supported with tens of thousands of dollars in donations is a disciple not of King but of James Cone, the expounder of a "black liberation" theology that teaches its adherents to "accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy."

Above all, the problem for Obama is that for two decades his spiritual home has been a church in which the minister damns America to the enthusiastic approval of the congregation, and not until it threatened to scuttle his political ambitions did Obama finally find the mettle to condemn the minister's odium.

When Don Imus uttered his infamous slur on the radio last year, Obama cut him no slack. Imus should be fired, he said, "There's nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody of any ethnic group." When it came to Wright, however, he wasn't nearly so categorical. Oh, he's "like an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with," Obama indulgently explained to one interviewer. He's just"trying to be provocative," he told another. "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial," he said. Far from severing his ties to Wright, Obama made him a member of his Religious Leadership Committee only four days ago.

Such a clanging double standard raises doubts about Obama's character and judgment, and about his fitness for the role of race-transcending healer. Yesterday's speech was finely crafted, but it leaves some serious and troubling questions unanswered.”

Following that honest, transparent and well received piece some would have you believe that Jacoby is himself embracing the double standard and is less sensitive to these issues because he attends a synagogue with an “overwhelmingly white congregation” in the mostly White Boston suburb of Brookline since after all Brookline, “has made very little progress in integrating itself.” Maybe Jacoby should move to Chicago, renounce Judaism, embrace Christianity and join Trinity United Church of Christ before some folks give him any credibility.

Some say that it’s about time we started to talk about the issues of race in our country. I absolutely agree, but not to the point of indulging Wright’s seemingly treasonous tirades (God Damn America) because we need to be sensitive to cultural differences in America. We can and should continue to engage these issues without Wright’s divisive vitriol. Let us not forget that Wright’s greatest influence comes from James Hal Cone the African-American Christian theologian and the best known architect of Black Theology which states emphatically that, “If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him.” Hmm?

A fully satiated Obama has now disingenuously severed any formal ties with Wright and his campaign while still embracing him as his Mentor, Friend and “Uncle”. We remain assured of Wright’s endorsement of Obama though that shouldn’t scare us any more than John Hagee endorsing John McCain.

Just two weeks ago Obama would have you believe that for the twenty-plus years that he has been attending Trinity that he hadn’t really listened and then characterized Wright’s remarks as thought provoking. Later he chastised the public for, “paying too much attention to a small number of "stupid" comments.” Now this week Obama stated on national television that he would have left Trinity United Church of Christ had his longtime pastor, whose very predictable anti-American comments about U.S. foreign policy and race relations were well known, not stepped down. This writer suspects that Obama’s new found perception of Pastor Wright only developed when national polls revealed that Wright was only viewed favorably by 8% of voters. I suspect those particular voters also believe that Jesus, Cleopatra and Hannibal were Black.

Further revelations about Wright will continue to surface to include his now famous quote from the Trumpet Newsmagazine about the enemies of Jesus, "The Italians for the most part looked down their garlic noses at the Galileans." Not only does this statement document Wright’s blatant racism but also highlight his ignorance that Italy didn’t exist as a country until 1861.

We should note that Trumpet Newsmagazine which started publication at Trinity United Church of Christ in 1982 has none other than Pastor Wright as CEO and daughter Jeri Wright as its publisher. We also should note that the last Trumpet issue was the November/December 2007 edition, which among other subjects, profiled Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan that bastion of racial harmony who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement "Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter" Award at the magazine's 25th anniversary gala late last year. The magazine and Pastor Wright extolled Farrakhan as one who, “truly epitomized greatness.”

I guess that we all remember Farrakhan’s remarks as reported in media where he called Whites “blue-eyed devils” and “potential Humans”, described Judaism as a "gutter religion" and said “Jews are "bloodsuckers." Most feel that the only thing that Farrakhan epitomizes is bigotry, hatred and intolerance. Oh, did I mention that Obama contributed over $22,000 to Trinity in 2007? Did I mention that Trinity United Church of Christ recently sanitized their web site in light of the recent controversy?

We have also recently learned that Pastor Emeritus Wright will be literally enjoying the fruits of his labors in a country he has damned in a home currently under construction in suburban Chicago. The home in a private, gated, mostly White community is valued at $1.6 million dollars US. This would appear to be the height of hypocrisy from the man who preached and ranted against those who would approach the alter of materialism. By the way, Wright bought the land and sold it to his church who then gifted the land and home to Wright while also attaching a $10 million line of credit, all according to Does something smell in here?

Ironically, Wright came to Chicago and the Trinity United Church of Christ when no other church would have him. In thirty-six years he built the church from 87 members to over 10,000 by preaching his militant Black Theology. That growth alone and the influence of James Hal Cone on this rage-filled congregation should send a loud and resounding message though they preach Reconciliation.

I certainly agree that we don’t live in a single culture, indeed, the macro cultures of the South, the North and the West are visibly different. As many of you know I am a student of African Cultures and hold them and their people high. I don’t believe in the homogenization of America which destroys the individual identity. Rather, we are a patchwork quilt of many diverse cultures and values where the ultimate mantra, from many - one, has an even greater meaning.

While it would appear that some of Wright’s inflammatory remarks have been taken out of context, it would appear that Wright continues to embrace those messages and is far from contrite. When does one cross the line from a “straight-talking pragmatist” to an anarchist? At the least we need to delve even further into incendiaries like Wright and his ilk who would foment dissent and hold them accountable for their behaviors.

And, yes, we need to find out where Obama’s heart really is before we all sit in a circle around a campfire, hold hands and sing Kumbyya while Al Qaeda slips up behind us. Will the real Barack Obama please stand up.


Ned Buxton

Friday, March 21, 2008


As many of you know, I am firmly and inextricably involved with the Scottish Community and have been an active participant in Scottish Festivals and Highland Games around the country for many, many years. Something caught my eye a couple of months back that begs comment.

The centerpiece of the modern septathalon Scottish Highland Games held around the world is the Caber Toss. The Caber is a tapered log (tree trunk) that is generally from 19 feet long usually weighing anywhere from 100-130 pounds or more depending on the level of competition. Cabers are not all the same, after all, they’re trees.

The caber competition is ancient and like the rest of the Scottish athletic events, requires strength, balance and timing. The athlete folds and links his hands under the small, tapered end and while cradling it against his shoulder and neck, hoists the caber generally to near or at waist height. Gaining the balance of the upright caber, the competitor runs briefly with the caber to gather momentum for the toss. Followed by the back judge and side judge, the competitor plants his feet, stops suddenly and heaves (pulls) the caber up and over to ground its heavy end and lets the caber fall forward.

If the caber is "turned," the back judge ascribes a "score" to the toss based on the caber's final position relative to the face of a giant clock. For example, if the grounded caber falls straight forward away from the moving athlete, it will land in the twelve-o'clock position and the judge will award a perfect score of 12:00. If it falls slightly to the right or left, it may receive a score of 2:00 or 11:30, etc. A caber that is not "turned" (fails to fall forward between 9:00 and 3:00) and falls back is ascribed a score by the side judge for the degree angle it rose from the ground i.e. 40 degrees.

The caber competition as an integral part of Scottish Highland Heavy athletics is legendary and iconic among the Scottish Community. Enter now some native Scots with good intentions.

The Bullwood Project, a Glasgow, Scotland charity, came up with a novel use for the Christmas tree which stood in the city's George Square over the 2007 Christmas season. The charity, which helps the disadvantaged transition into the workplace by learning woodworking skills and then selling their offerings, has with the blessings of the Glasgow City Council taken the 60 foot high tree and turned it into a caber for the most spectacular of the Scottish Heavy athletic events.

The caber which measures nearly 25 feet is probably the longest in the world, if not the most prodigious caber ever, weighing in at a whopping 280 pounds! They were bragging that it would be the largest caber in the world by three inches? I say, so what!

The Bullwood Project intended to present this big stick to the State of New York for use in Highland Games there. That idea was not especially well thought out as New York State really has no purview over such events and there are few, if any Highland Games in New York state of any consequence. The nearby states of New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and others have Highland Games of note that might want such a novelty. The original idea had been to donate it to New York City - but they haven’t held such an event in the Big Apple for many years.

This whole scenario will, no doubt, go down in the annals of history as yet another example of a Burnsian “best laid plans o’ mice and men” and good intentions as the big question remains that if and when they can transport it to any Highland event, who will turn it?

You see, I judged both amateur and professional athletes (the Heavies) at Scottish Highland Games events around the country for twenty-five years and can verify that I never saw a 25 foot caber in my travels. This whole deal appears to be totally out of sync with accepted competitive norms and, frankly, the reality of Highland Scottish Athletics.

I telephoned good Friend and Mentor, Ross Morrison, President of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in North Carolina for his perspective on this caber. Ross is the highly regarded and probably best caber back judge ever. Ross immediately questioned the integrity of such a stick and its appropriateness in any Scottish Highland Games.

Let it be known that the Championship caber at Grandfather Mountain was a cedar log of around 22 feet long and 160+ pounds depending on the weather. Like the legendary weather rock, when it rained, it got wet! No athlete ever successfully turned that caber and that included some of the best Scottish athletes in the world in select annual competitions. In fact, that caber, undaunted, was eventually retired many years ago.

The North American Scottish Games Association (NASGA) rates cabers on the basis of their weight, length and taper. The most competent of the Heavies (the pros) might be expected to compete at the very highest level with a caber that would be a maximum 22 feet long and 155 pounds. NSAGA has a great rating system that catalogues cabers and their ultimate suitability for various levels of competition.

The critical factor here appears to be the length of the Glasgow Christmas Caber, notwithstanding its incredible 280 pounds. Everything being equal, turnability of a caber really revolves around the overall length of the caber. My knowledge of physics reflects that this will be a wonderful specimen to look at, but doubtful that it will ever be turned. That would appear to be contrary to the reality of selecting a caber that would be within the competency of the field. As a former Scottish Games Athletic Director I always chose a caber that would motivate and push the realistic limits of the Scottish Athletes present.

I'm sure that it's going to be pretty to look at but probably not good for much more save a novelty from the auld sod. While we appreciate the sentiment, in this case, bigger is not necessarily better.

Perhaps our Glasgow Christmas Caber will be remembered much like the Big Chicken in Marietta, Georgia or occupy the dizzying heights with the likes of the Big Lobster in Kingston, South Australia or Babe the Blue Ox at Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd, Minnesota. Maybe our caber will share the spotlight with the World's Largest Peanut Monument in Ashburn, Georgia or perhaps just end up as a toothpick for the iconic Big Tex - the mascot for the Texas State Fair in Dallas since 1952. Yea…


Ned Buxton

Saturday, March 15, 2008


When I was studying Literature at Lenox School and later at the University of Mississippi, I questioned my professors why the works of Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Boswell, John Buchan, James Barrie and Sir Walter Scott among many others were classified under English Literature? They hemmed and hawed and stammered out something about the common language. But, how about the obvious cultural differences and, for example, the unique Burnsian lowland Scots dialect? There was never a definitive answer which didn’t help the inquisitive nature of a young confused and later disgusted student.

Fast forward. I now have the works of many of these Scottish authors in my library and indeed one of my most precious possessions is the complete of works of Robert Burns gifted to me by my Mother several years before her passing.

Then, most recently the US Library of Congress moved to reclassify ‘Scottish Literature’ as a subsection of ‘English Literature’ in what appeared to be an attempted, unashamed coup of English imperialists to further subjugate and dominate their remaining possessions that include Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. With their announcement, all Hell broke loose!

Holyrood, the seat of Scottish Government and Scottish literati in the person of Glasgow's Poet Laureate and playwright Liz Lochhead called the decision a ‘huge piece of cultural imperialism’ and an attempt to further neutralize the cultural identity of Scotland. Scottish author Ian Rankin, one of the best-selling crime writers in the United Kingdom (such as it is) noted that the decision of the Library of Congress failed, “to take into account the cultural differences between the countries that comprise the United Kingdom.”

Many English sided with the US Library of Congress on the other side of this issue by throwing further fuel on the fire questioning why the “study of Scottish literature” is an issue in our globalized world? In Why Scottish Literature Matters in 2006 Carla Sassi of the Edinburgh Saltire Society and Associate Professor of English at the University of Verona notes that the question is certainly relevant to Scots, and especially to those expatriates that comprise the Scottish Diaspora.

Sassi even speculated that many Scottish writers, consciously or unwittingly, may have challenged their cultural models by marginalizing their native culture and language(s) within Great Britain. Indeed, some Scottish intellectuals (suck ups to many) were eager to erase traces of Scots from their written works in order to achieve parity and harmony with their new English overlords. I will forever maintain, however, that especially with the works of 18th century luminaries such as the Ploughman Poet, that concession was never made.

So why did so many British/English Nationalists revel at the intellectually bereft and absurd decision of the US Library of Congress to catalogue all Scots writers as English? In an age where a not too benevolent England has already lost Pakistan, India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, and with the continuing devolution in Wales and especially Scotland, they realize that they are nearing the end of their United Kingdom. While it also may be politically incorrect to draw attention to the fact that the English also lost the United States of America, I do so enthusiastically.

The by now mostly desperate Unionists (their numbers are dwindling) are willing to gleefully concede that the solution would be to catalogue all such works of literature as, “British.” They would have you believe that since, “We’re living in a globalized mass-media age, with most of our popular culture being dictated to us anyway from across the Atlantic and with all of us now part a truly multi-ethnic and cultural United Kingdom - is it really still that important which part of our nation an author or poet has been born in? Is it even possible any longer to differentiate most of British contemporary writing between "Scottish" or "English" literature, "Northern Irish" or "Welsh" poetry?”

The answer to this incredibly arrogant, ethnocentric question is a resounding, “Aye.”

As one Edinburgh blogger recently wrote, “The difficulty, then, is that books written in English by Scottish writers are still Scottish books. The books and their authors (regrettably) are British books and authors. The one thing they are not is English books and authors: in English, but not English, especially when they register cultural particularity (if not even cultural difference or resistance). The situation emphasises, I think, the cultural pen into which Scottish nationalism was corralled when its political outlet was plugged. Cultural distinctiveness was the most available conduit for the exploration and performance of Scottish identity. Quantifying and classifying it, however, is quite a thorny issue.” Here, here! Well stated.

While all the above is a pretty right on synthesis of the whole conundrum, I am sure that some Scots, Welsh and Irish would not even take kindly to being called “British” which initially was just a geographical reference to the island of Great Britain that devolved to a political reference to the union of England, Scotland and Wales. To continue the use of this term would mean a continuation of the English heel and imposition of a foreign culture and a concession to cultural homogenization even as the clock of devolution and sure emancipation edges even closer.

So, now comes the US Library of Congress with hat in hand realizing that the controversy they created is more than a tempest in a teapot and reversed their decision to reclassify Scots authors and their works as English.

Scottish Culture Minister Linda Fabiani welcomed the reversal. "I am delighted that the Library of Congress has listened to our concerns and recognized the distinctive nature of Scottish literature," she said. "I am sure this will help those exploring the wealth and wonders of Scottish literature while properly acknowledging our nation's great contribution over the years and the success of modern day writers."

The British Library’s Director of Scholarship and Collections, Ronald Milne said that the move reflected "Scotland's long literary tradition and the significance of its literary canon" and strongly supported the decision to return to classifying Scottish literature as a separate category.

I just scratch my head and wonder why something like this was formulated by our ain folk at the Library of Congress. Remember, we pay their salaries.

I could not sum up my perspective on this issue any better than, “The sheer variety of Scotland itself, with its contrasting landscapes, racial mix, and its three distinct languages have always underpinned this creative vigour. By any standards the literary heritage of Scotland is amazingly rich and diverse.”

And I might add the culture of Scotland is demonstrably different from her neighbors and with her magnanimous hospitality remains to this day, unique. Let us continue to recognize and celebrate that rich culture and her peoples from a separate and distinct perspective.


Ned Buxton

Saturday, March 8, 2008


John Chaffee was elected governor of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in 1962 serving with great distinction to 1969. Chaffee later went on to serve as Secretary of the Navy and as a United States Senator. The great benefit to the Buxton Family was threefold. First, my Mother, Betty Buxton, as she had served under Republican governor Christopher Del Sesto, became Chaffee’s private secretary and literally created and administered his agenda during his entire term as Governor. Secondly, Mother got the opportunity to serve the interests of a great Family Friend. Thirdly, she reaped the reward of all those benefits that Chaffee didn’t care about, namely tickets to the Governor’s box at the annual Newport, RI Folk Festival. And, that leads to the topic of this commentary – Bob Dylan – a man with whom I share little save some political sentiments, a May 24 natal day, a love of the Highlands of Scotland and who I saw live in concert on two occasions. Gees, I guess we have a lot in common.

In 2007 with the help of PBS, some over the top nostalgic music buffs and some absolutely absurd, farcical academics, Dylan’s legacy is now being laid down in concrete for posterity’s sake. I feel, the way it’s been contrived, beneath a concrete headstone would have been far more appropriate. Let’s go back to the 1960’s.

In the early 1960’s folk music was being revived on the American scene by the likes of Peter, Paul & Mary, Judy Collins, Odetta, Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Theodore Bikel, Joan Baez and later by the Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell and many others. The Vietnam War and issues of social injustice served to fill their agendas, and their pocketbooks.

Bob Dylan arrived on the New York folk scene in early 1961 and became known for his off center style and lyrics that would better qualify him as a poet rather than singer. He made his reputation as a pure acoustic folk singer and his fans seized on what they thought was the purity of his message though not necessarily his musical talent (more later).

Dylan was admirably committed to his causes though many of his songs were ultimately appropriated (hijacked) by the civil rights and anti-war movements. Dylan did participate in a voter registration rally in Greenwood Mississippi in July of 1963 with Pete Seeger and Theodore Bikel and later that year performed on the occasion of the great Civil Rights March on Washington.

Dylan’s first appearance at Newport in 1963 is regarded as his best national performance. He was accompanied by close Friend Joan Baez in 1963 and 1964 and became associated with the festival from that point. I was there for both those performances and wondered even then about his style and demeanor.

I wasn’t there in 1965 when Dylan was booed for what most folks thought was his traitorous venture into the world of Rock and Roll and the abandonment of the folk genre via his use of the electric guitar. That observation was validated in the recent PBS program on Dylan.

Frankly, I still think that observation absurd. Dylan was and is what he is, nothing more. I still loved his lyrics and was at that time held mesmerized with the folk music scene probably due to frequenting too many coffee houses on Thayer Street in Providence which catered to the students at Brown University. The reality is that Dylan’s voice, then and now, really sucks. It was and remains a surly nasal whine often delivered with a sarcastic tone of voice that offended critics in Dylan’s folk, rock and country venues. One critic in 2006 described Dylan’s voice as, “a catarrhal death rattle.” Where has that critic been for the last forty years? The pace of Dylan’s music has often been fast, anxious, and chaotic. He rarely sang a song the same way twice and I attribute that either to a lack of discipline or an ever recurring bout of total creativity.

We hear that Steven Stills, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney and The Beatles, David Bowie, U2 singer Bono and other luminaries have all been influenced by our less than talented musician. Maybe they figured that if Dylan could do it, then they sure as hell could!

In 1973 Dylan at the insistence of long time fan Kris Kristofferson was tapped by legendary filmmaker and director “Bloody Sam” Peckinpah to write the score for and act in “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid”, a moody western that showcased Rock & Roll’s iconic “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Dylan played the role of the enigmatic, knife wielding “Alias” a quiet and fittingly nonconformist member of Billy the Kid's gang. I liked his character and liked Dylan in that role.

As a sidebar, Peckinpah engaged a star studded company for the film by casting legendary Western character actors such as Chill Wills, Jack Elam, Slim Pickens, Barry Sullivan, Dub Taylor, R.G. Armstrong, Katy Jurado, Elisha Cook, Jr. and Paul Fix to compliment stars James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson and Jason Robards. It was a good though disjointed flick. See it if you can.

In the 1970’s Dylan seemed to get his cinematic juices and confidence flowing again (ill advised) making his directorial and writing debut as well as acting in “Renaldo and Clara” (1978), a surrealistic disastrous counterculture film that flopped and Dylan eventually pulled from circulation. One major film critic opined, “The single biggest waste of celluloid in the entire history of motion pictures” and “The very, very, very worst thing ever made.”

Later in 1978 Dylan was featured with other guest singers in “The Last Waltz”, a concert documentary directed by Martin Scorsese that showcased The Band’s (previously The Hawks) final performance at San Francisco’s legendary Winterland Ballroom. The only real energy that Dylan brought to the film were his conniptions about which of his songs could be filmed and then tried to dictate the release date of the film afraid that it would detract from his Renaldo and Clara. No such luck…

Having apparently forgotten about his previous film disasters the often reclusive Dylan returned to acting in 2003 in the lead role of a wandering troubadour in the musical satire, "Masked & Anonymous." Well, three down, one to go.

No, Dylan did not have an active acting role in the 2007 Todd Haynes film, “I’m Not There” save provide inspiration and some of his songs for the film. Despite winning a Golden Globe and being nominated for an Academy Award, in the estimation of this writer this film did nothing except add insult to injury to his already vulnerable persona.

Interestingly, the film represents the different aspects or better yet, incarnations of Dylan's life as portrayed by six different actors including a 13-year-old African-American boy, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and even actress Cate Blanchett? Topping it all off, director Todd Haynes in a fit of faux hedonism morphs all his Dylan characters into Dylan who in turn morphs into Haynes. Wishful thinking…

As one astute reviewer stated, the reality is that “to expect any film about Dylan to make sense would make no sense.” Indeed Dylan once said, “If I told you what our music is really about, we’d probably all get arrested.” I suspect that he would incur the wrath of a lot of folks who took his lyrics as gospel in the pursuit of a higher cause…

Then we have the academics who have dissected poor Bob ascribing flowering ethereal qualities probably to the degree that these analyses surely earned a Masters or PhD or two pushing Dylan into a netherworld where he is now beyond all hope of comprehension by future generations.

Once such academic offers this observation about Dylan. “With these juxtapositions Dylan thus creates an “open structure” that conveys in the song a powerful textual dynamism that is reinforced by the quick succession of characters.

Even though the manifold pleasures conveyed by Dylan’s songs can certainly not be boiled down to literary pleasure alone, Dylan––alongside many of the other folksong revival musicians and poets of the ’50s and ’60s – redefines lyricism as a mode that explores all forms of tension: his lyricism is thrust towards the listener with the sheer power of Dylan’s voice and interpellation; it is strained in the inner workings of a problematic subjectivity; and it provides an infinitely enjoyable tonal tension, caught as it is between irony and pathos.”

Or how about, “Indeed, the semantic openness and sophisticated imagery in most Dylan songs, as well as the constant blending of poetic idioms of various origins, requires a great deal of hermeneutic activity on the part of any listener even remotely interested in the lyrics. This active engagement with meaning and with the poetic fabric of the words is what Barthes sees as a writerly activity that draws on the reader’s - or, in this case, the listener’s - creative faculties and imagination, thus empowering him and replacing the reassuring reading pleasure provided by closed forms with a more unsettling, though rewarding, literary bliss.”

All that may be true, and while this particular author seems to key on Dylan’s words, this is a load of hooey! Some folks say they can’t figure him out while pseudo intellectuals pontificate on and complicate something that’s as plain as the nose on our collective faces. Dylan was and is a poet, a simple country boy from Minnesota who had a message. Words and ideas are the essence of this man and his work. Even though he was many times scared to death, he got up in front of his fans and screeched out his poetry and changed the consciousness of a nation. He sang with little emotion and a sophomoric dead pan expression that lent little to his work save to turn him into a caricature and “counterculture valedictorian of the '60s”.

Dylan’s music remains the stuff of legends with Rolling Stone magazine in 2004 ranking Dylan as #2 on their list of "Greatest Artists of All Time", second only to The Beatles. Some of my personal Dylan favorites, among many others, includes Blowing in the Wind; The Times They Are a-Changing; Mr. Tambourine Man; Like a Rolling Stone; It Ain't Me Babe; A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall; Knocking on Heaven’s Door; Don't Think Twice, Its All Right and Lay Lady Lay. I especially liked Dylan’s contribution to the often parodied 1985 Belafonte-inspired project We are the World, written by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson.

The bottom line is that Dylan is far from contradictory. There is no attempt at evasion or great mystery as speculated by some. We are witnessing nothing more than the evolution of a man grappling with his past, present and future on his own terms. Dylan both enjoys and detests the fame that he has earned and appropriately holds many of his more fanatical fans and those outrageous academics in contempt. I believe that Dylan is happiest just being one of the gang and jamming with his Friends on a Saturday night.

Those who didn’t have the opportunity to kick back in the Governor’s Box in the front row at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963 and 1964 all the while quaffing down a Heineken and just enjoying someone singing from his heart and soul and mostly for himself, will just never get it. Yea, I really like the guy…


Ned Buxton

Saturday, March 1, 2008


The New York Giants recent Super Bowl victory is not without significant international implications. No, they didn’t insult some over the top sensitive minority or special interest group. Rather, much of their victory came not only due to the outstanding performance of quarterback Eli Manning (eh, eh Ole Miss, class of 2004) but also by the foot of one Lawrence Tynes, the Greenock, Scotland-born field goal kicker for the Giants. Tynes was the first Scottish-born player to participate in the Super Bowl earlier this month. He had earlier kicked the Giants past the Green Bay Packers and on to the heavily favored New England Patriots and the Super Bowl title. In a great show of sportsmanship the Green Bay Packers retrieved the ball Tynes used to make that winning field goal and presented it to Tynes. That’s class!

Tynes, LT to his Friends, attended Troy University in Alabama where he had a distinguished college career. Troy coach Larry Blakeney laughingly commented about Tynes’s two misses and then ultimate success in the glacial Green Bay game, "Lawrence Tynes is tougher than a nickel steak." Tynes had, indeed, already proved his toughness when he played with the Kansas City Chiefs on two occasions. Sandwiched between that was a stint with the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe in 2002, a team that Tynes still considers home.

Tynes then joined the Ottawa Renegades of the Canadian Football League (CFL) in 2003 where he made fifty-one field goals in that season including six field goals in a single game, both current records in the CFL.

LT went back to the Chiefs where he beat out and replaced legendary kicker Morten Anderson (now back with the Atlanta Falcons) for the 2006 season. The Chiefs in one of their more strategic blunders (there have been many) traded Tynes to the Giants in 2007 and the rest is history.

Tynes is the fifth Scottish-born player in NFL history and the first Scot to win the Super Bowl. Not surprisingly, the Big Blue have decided to retain the kicker who took them to the Super Bowl signing him to a five-year $7 million deal just a few weeks before he would have become an unrestricted free agent.

Interestingly, LT is the son of a former Navy SEAL Larry Tynes, who was stationed in Scotland in the early 1970s, and a Scottish lass, Margaret. This writer remembers how many of the male locals remain territorially upset with Americans who always seem to make off with their most beautiful Ladies. LT spent his first 10 years in Scotland before he moved with his parents to the United States and Florida. Amusingly, the local rednecks in Florida mistook LT and his two brothers Jason and Mark for Irish and nicknamed them, the Lucky Charms.

Even though Tynes no longer speaks with even a hint of a Scottish accent, he is fiercely proud of his roots. LT is going to get his chance to prove and reinforce his Scottish roots in the near future. He is going to swap his trews for a kilt as the Grand Marshall for New York City’s Tenth Annual Tartan Day Parade. He will be leading more than 2,000 bagpipers, Clans and Scottish enthusiasts up Sixth Avenue through Rockefeller Center on April 5, 2008. The Parade, sponsored by the National Tartan Day Committee, is the largest Scottish Parade in North America and features the highest concentration of bagpipers in any New York parade. If you know of a gathering of Scots with more pipers, please advise this writer.

The Scottish influence on America to now has been most profound. The Scots have contributed positively to virtually every sector of the American way of life, more so than any other cultural group. With the newly earned prospect of independence, a most hospitable Scotland appears to find delight in continuing what has been a most symbiotic relationship with the former American colonies.

Well, time to put on my kilt, hose, gillies, balmoral et al and go to the North Texas Irish Festival at Fair Park in Dallas (I won’t forget my sgian dubh) and again confront all those ignorant Texans who emotionally insist that Texan icon and founder Sam “the Raven” Houston was an Irishman! We’ll discuss that later. Ah, the beacon of truth beams bright!


Ned Buxton