Saturday, April 26, 2008


So, why did I climb mountains? There are many reasons from the 1920’s classic quote from iconic English climber George Leigh Mallory, "Because it is there" (speaking of Everest) to the basic, more inane motivation of peak baggers who are merely filling their dance cards. However a climber chooses to respond to that question, most folks (Family and Friends included) usually fail to understand that or any reasoning, putting climbers into a select, exclusive and sometimes suspect fraternity. The bottom line: I enjoyed it and liked the feeling of being one with the environment (yea, yea).

We Buxton boys were lucky to have a grandmother in Aline Armstrong Buxton who wanted to give us quality summer experiences (and give Mom a break) that for me included a several years tenure at Cragged Mountain Farm (CMF) in Freedom, NH and even more exciting summers at Camp Tohkomeupog in East Madison, NH. Tohkomeupog was owned and operated by the legendary Milt Hoyt who had connections to Providence, RI, Moses Brown School and Brown University so the association was an obvious one with our Family. Milt also operated the Purity Springs Resort on pristine Purity Lake in New Hampshire (since 1932) until his untimely death in a snowmobiling accident some years ago. Milt was sincerely dedicated to the development of each and every boy in his care and for that I owe him a debt that can’t be repaid.

After several years at Tohkomeupog and climbs on virtually every 4,000 footer in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine and whitewater trips that included the Saco and Allagash and every other major and minor river in those same states, he created a true appreciation and love of the outdoors in me and a drive to recreate those experiences throughout my life.

When we were kids we didn’t really try and bag all those peaks as we were merely pointed in the direction of every significant crag in the White Mountains including the entire Presidential Range, the Sandwich Range including my favorites Mt. Chocura to Mt. Moosilauke. On one early visit to the Presidentials I was enthralled with the ingenuity of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) hut boys at Lakes of the Clouds Hut (located between Mount Monroe and Mount Washington) who packed up a VW beetle (sans engine) and reassembled it adjacent to the 5,032 ft hut. Everybody was delighted and happy except AMC management.

The Green Mountains of Vermont offered up several major peaks to include Mt. Mansfield. Maine contributed many more to include the 5,267 feet magma-based Mt. Katahdin, highest point in Maine and for Friend Jim Kilpatrick the elusive northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail

At Tohkomeupog Milt Hoyt ended up with a couple of cabins of increasingly enthusiastic senior adolescent adventurers who would otherwise been retired because of age. Milt either out of economics or more than likely in a sincere effort to round out our experiences in the great outdoors, extended our stay for one more year; a year of great adventure where we engaged activities that no Tohkomeupog campers ever dared before or since. We had a ball, I made Grand Sachem and thusly, the stage was set.

This group of intrepid adolescent adventurers were led by Registered Maine Guide Jim James who taught at the Kingswood School in Hartford during the school year. It was James who taught us how to paddle, pole and climb and to be able to ultimately handle ourselves in any situation whether it be on the water or on a mountain. By the way, for our efforts we all earned Junior Maine Guide status!

Fast forward to the 1970’s and a John Denver crazed faux adult aka Ned Buxton trained hard and went west like a moth to flame to experience his elusive Rocky Mountain High. I sought out the 13,865 foot Mount Meeker and the spectacular 14,259 foot Long’s Peak (through the keyhole) at the Rocky Mountain National Park long perceived as the twin jewels of the northern Rockies. While the routes I took weren’t dog routes or walk-ups they were a strenuous challenge to this neophyte.

Enter National Park Service (NPS) Ranger Norm Bishop who was moved from his position as Chief Interpreter at Mount Rainier National Park to NPS’s Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta where he engaged some not so mundane administrative issues to include the disposition of the Mount Le Conte Lodge above Gatlinburg, Tennessee and reconciling critical land and treaty issues with our First Nations in the state of Maine. Just before Norm came to Atlanta Denny Mays, Gerald Marshall, Bubba Sloan and I started High Country Outfitters in Atlanta in 1975. Soon thereafter Norm became a welcome visitor at our store at Powers Ferry Landing. Besides being a good guy, Norm was and is a font of knowledge and while at Rainier as a world class climber had more first ascents on that mountain than anyone else.

Norm would become a good Friend to High Country and a mentor to this new revolution going on in my mind. After a few years in Atlanta Norm was promoted to Yellowstone National Park where from 1980-1997, he worked as a park ranger in Resource Management, Interpretation, Research and in the Yellowstone Center for Resources. He was the leader and supporter of wolf restoration interpretation in Yellowstone. After 36 illustrious years Norm retired from the NPS in 1997 though he remains active as the Greater Yellowstone Region Field Representative for the International Wolf Center, Board member of Wild Things Unlimited and Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF) and Nordic committee rep. to the BSF board.

In that interim I decided that Mount Rainier, originally known as Talol or Tahoma (mother of waters), was in my future. Well, that decision was not so deliberate as Friend John Bair then owner of Bair’s Ski Shop in Atlanta’s Buckhead facilitated that fantasy. Aware of my yearning for “the big one” John invited me to represent Bair’s at the annual JanSport dealer and supplier “Mount Rainier Climb” in August of 1975. Started by JanSport founder Skip Yowell and famed Mountaineer and Rainier Mountaineering founder Lou Whittaker, the climb was intended to familiarize JanSport dealers and suppliers with their products and allow them to experience the joys of mountain climbing firsthand.

So here I was, new partner of High Country Outfitters representing competitor Bair’s at the JanSport Rainier Climb? By the way High Country couldn’t get the JanSport line because of Bair’s. I think that Skip Yowell figured the relationship out much later but, thankfully, without prejudice. The Rainier climb is still one of the great annual traditions at JanSport and I am happy to be part of that history. My preparation for that climb included strenuous daily workouts and mandatory daily runs of three sub six minute miles. Friend and High Country Partner Denny Mays, a climber of great note, put me through accelerated bouldering and rock climbing instruction for many a weekend on Mt. Yonah in north Georgia. I was in bomb proof shape!

I arrived in Seattle and found that our first day was spent touring the JanSport factory which was at an abandoned military base near Seattle. It was an all American show then. We also attended an avalanche workshop at Seattle Manufacturing Corporation (SMC), and listened to various lectures on climbing technique and mountain safety. It was well done.

When I arrived at Mt. Rainier National Park there was a frenetic buzz all over the Paradise Inn about two climbers who were trapped in the caves beneath Rainier’s summit for several days because of a deadly storm. We could see the dynamic and ominous lenticular cloud that engulfed the entire summit in a text book white out that would later have significance for me and my new climbing buddies.

About an hour later the word was passed that the climbers had been able to descend the summit via the appropriately named Cadaver Gap and down the Cowlitz Glacier to Camp Muir. We saw them later that day and marveled in hushed reverent tones at their grizzled appearance. The same route they took off the mountain was made even more infamous when four years later in 1979 Willie Unsoeld the great mountaineer and mythical conqueror of Mt. Everest via the West Ridge in 1963 died along with a fellow climber in an avalanche while descending from their high camp at Cadaver Gap.

About fifteen JanSport dealers participated in the climb which was then more of an advanced Ice and Snow seminar. It was coordinated by Whitaker’s Rainier Mountaineering, Inc (RMI). The climbers ranged from experienced and in shape to somewhat inexperienced and out of shape folks from all over the country. Our adventure started at the Paradise Inn south of the mountain. We started our long four and a half mile trek to our home for several days, Camp Muir at 10,080 feet. Our elevation gain of around 4,500 feet took us through the Muir Snowfield part of which by late summer had developed sun cups and nieve penitentes (spikes of ice and snow caused by differential melting and evaporation) between the cups. While they weren’t right on our route I don’t believe it would have been advisable to fall on them.

While on our way to the rustic (OK primitive) Camp Muir I was kicking myself for not bringing my ski poles which all the Rainier Guides used. They afforded great stability and support especially if you were carrying a load. I always over packed so I endured the consequences of my actions. None of the seminar participants carried poles. We arrived at Camp Muir after a little over six hours (lots of breaks) and marveled at the beautiful vistas and especially our acclimation (or lack thereof) to the altitude. Some folks were already whipped and we hadn’t even started.

Over the next couple of days we were put through training that would include crevasse rescue, Z-pulley systems, self arrest, the finer points of ice climbing, various belaying systems and much more to include some glissading. That training would prove valuable later in the trip. Amusingly, both Richmoor and Mountain House had hoped to use the workshop attendees to test some of their new freeze dried food offerings. Mind you, these foods were nothing like the fancy freeze dried offerings of today (Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Teriyaki, Pasta Primavera. Sweet & Sour Pork with Rice, etc) though they were leading edge for their day. Of course, we had to melt snow for the all too necessary water to rehydrate them. It seems that old Rainier a long way from being dormant was and is still known to vent and blow a little sulfur dioxide now and then and had apparently done so in recent days. The snow had somewhat of a yellowish cast upon close examination but we didn’t think anything of it. Well, some of the water tasted like it came from some forbidden and mysterious orifice and imparted its flavor to the food. While we didn’t have a good outcome for Richmoor and Mountain House, it did test our sense of humor.

We had really wanted to meet the Whitakers but were told that they were off on some great adventure on the other side of the world. Jim and Lou had long been heroes of mine and that was a disappointment. We were told that there was a Sherpa in residence with RMI who was short, muscular and had a huge barrel chest. The joke on the mountain was that his lungs were so well developed that he could suck pebbles from the trail. After you’ve climbed around 10,000 feet for a while you do notice that the oxygen is somewhere else, down below, and you are drawing extra deep breaths in order to oxygenate yourself. You soon learn to force air into your lungs and expel it under pressure so you can extract the last bit of oxygen from the atmosphere. I remember when at 14,000 feet when the climb was literally one slow step in front of another with the climbers on your rope sounding like mini steam locomotives taking one or more breaths for every step (rest-stepping and pressure breathing).

In residence and in good spirits was accomplished mountaineer and co founder of JanSport, Skip Yowell. He turned out to be a great guy and no doubt one of the reasons for JanSport’s great success. He remains Vice President of Global Public Relations at JanSport and consults with JanSport International businesses in Europe, Asia and South America. Recent communication with Skip reflects that he remains vibrant as ever and the author and archetype for his, The Hippie Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder & Other Mountains.

The next day we engaged all that we had learned in our lectures and I had a ball. We had practiced a lot of self arrest and crevasse rescue techniques and not ironically when we were traversing adjacent to some crevasses on five man rope teams on the Ingraham Glacier a ice/snow bridge gave way and in I went. I was running sweep on the rope and everybody else made it across except me. I managed to stop my fall and landed on a ledge only a few feet from the top of the crevasse. As I fell I yelled out as taught, “Falling!” I easily front pointed out of the crevasse only to find my climbing mates still in self arrest, butts up, front pointed and ice axes in. I suspect they stayed in that position for at least five minutes. It was a good laugh, but showed that the team was almost ready.

I really enjoyed climbing the ice walls and towers (seracs). We were top belayed and the route (60-70 feet) which contained no more than two pitches, was fairly easy. The interesting thing about this exercise was that the two performance standouts appeared to be a gentleman from Arkansas and yours truly, well above some prima donnas who had to that point talked a good talk…

It was a beautiful day with incredible views to what we are told was about 147 miles. You see the curvature of the earth and along with a variable called atmospheric refraction one can see that distance to a degree. Again, with the curvature of the earth, we could see nearby mountains while those farther away only presented their summits. Interesting phenomenon…

The next morning (very, very early in the am) we got up headlamps at the ready and started our ascent to the summits of Rainier. We were told that there was a chance of nasty weather so we had to get up and down as quick as possible. The Chief Guide even insinuated that there may be a chance that we might have to turn back.

At that time I was employed by the Retail Credit Company of Atlanta, Georgia as one of their training managers. Retail Credit was in process of changing their name to Equifax so I asked for an Equifax flag and after some deliberation one was provided by Corporate Communications. I felt privileged as most folks in the company weren’t aware of the name change, yet here I am with THE FIRST FLAG! I was hoping to have the chance to plant the flag on one of Rainier’s three summits. At that point our chances looked pretty slim.

We took the well traveled route from Camp Muir across the Cowlitz Glacier through Cathedral Gap where we ran the ridge to the Ingraham Flats across to Disappointment Cleaver. Well, we started having problems even before we got through Cathedral Gap. One of the ladies in the group persevered as long as she could and that took her as far as Disappointment Cleaver. She could go no farther and there was no one to take her back to Camp Muir. The decision was made to bag and pin her into the cleaver with the intention to pick her up on the way back. Best laid plans o mice and men… Shortly after the group left Disappointment Cleaver the weather started to close in.

Step, step, inhale, step, step, exhale, step, step, inhale, step, step, exhale, step, step inhale, step, exhale, step, inhale, step, exhale, step inhale, step exhale, etc.

The RMI guides and their rope teams moved on and by the time we made it across the top of Emmons Glacier, negotiating some crevasses along the way, and then to High Break at roughly 13,500 feet, the wind had picked up and was at gale force. Had we not been so close I suspect that we probably would have turned back. We made it on to the crater rim, across the crater and on to Rainier’s highest of three summits, Columbia Crest at 14,411 feet. I quickly whipped out the Equifax flag with the vision of doing a Jim Whittaker flag on the ice axe photo op. Well, it took three of us to hold that two by three foot flag in the shelter of an ice formation just off the summit. Our RMI guide took the shot. All Hell was breaking loose now as the word came to start the journey back, NOW.

We came to realize that we had just finished the second leg of the climb, the easiest part. The only way that I knew I was on a rope team was the tug on the rope. For some time I could hardly see my hand in front of my face. Going back down to Disappointment Cleaver was a steep and treacherous exercise in this white out. The RMI guides were great and I remember a gentle admonishment from one when I got just a little rattled on a particularly steep switchback. My ice axe was way too long for the steep pitches and heavy snow and I could gain little purchase when I was descending. My Galibier Superguides and Chouinard rigid crampons with drooped picks ultimately served me well in those tight spots. Yes, for a relative novice my equipment was always first class. Luckily everybody was cautious though we later found out that at least part of our descent required National Park Service assistance to talk us through the storm. You had to give the calm, cool and collected RMI guides a lot of credit for getting us safely off the mountain that day.

We retrieved our still very ill female from Disappointment Cleaver and headed back down to Camp Muir. There was little time for a break though we were going so slow, we really didn’t require one. We were concerned about the quality of the rock on Disappointment Cleaver and potential rockfalls and avalanche though we were helped by the very cold weather and storm.

The weather continued to get worse even as we went through Cathedral Gap and started back across the Cowlitz. We stayed roped up and after a short break at Camp Muir, started back to Paradise. We were a fine sight as we came back to Paradise no doubt reminding some of the touristas of those two most recent climbers that heroically descended Rainier through Cadaver Gap. Now, we were the grizzled veterans.

Well, I got through the adventure and have almost had a lifetime to relive the great times and the great hospitality of JanSport and RMI. By the way when we arrived at Paradise we all hit the bar and I remember having at least three Rainier Beers before I felt properly hydrated. I could have consumed many more! Some of my fellow climbers ended up with frostbite though I seemed to have sustained no physical damage. I bought a boggan which one of our lady RMI guides, Tori, had knitted in the Andean style with ear flaps. I wear that knitted cap to this day.

Plato wrote in his magnificent Republic that youth should learn the cardinal virtues of wisdom, bravery, temperance and justice through adversity and adventure. The Scottish born Outward Bound program and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) of Lander, Wyoming were the 20th century manifestations of that philosophy. That philosophy and those organizations seem almost foreign when one ponders the remote wielding, game playing youth of today. Well, both Outbound Bound and NOLS remain healthy and significant numbers of today’s youth literally embrace that philosophy.

UK Adventurer and outdoorsman Colin Mortlock has suggested that “Risk is as basic to adventure as competition is to sport, but the stakes are normally higher.” Mortlock would have you believe that unpredictability should be a key element of any adventure. He would recommend that a person experience challenges that are strategically near or close to their limits. I suspect that he would apply that metaphorically to business risk management practices and the development of solid succession planning exercises. I can say that I have been to that mountaintop.

So what were my emotions when I arrived at Paradise? When you summit, successfully finish your climb and arrive back at your car, the epitome of human emotion and the celebration of life and the joy of living literally overwhelms you. I have always been gratified with the experience. As I’ve heard it said before, “You have been given an astonishing gift.”

Indeed, that for me sums up why I continued to climb: that rush of positive emotion is almost as good as… well, you know. Mallory got it right when he said, “What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money.” Native Scot John Muir who helped formulate the ethics of responsible mountaineering admirably capped the sentiment off with, “…you blend with the landscape, and become part and parcel of nature.”

So, why did I evolve my trekking to climbing and mountaineering? Well, aside from my love of the great outdoors, I have a very real fear of heights and though it falls well short of acrophobia, I knew that I had to address that fear or let it haunt me the rest of my life. To this day I will never forget that angst in the pit of my stomach when I went through the Keyhole on Longs Peak in Colorado and at the ledge, then the trough and on to the narrows (Yikes!) where there is a sheer drop off that appeared to be around a thousand feet. I was alone on the mountain, the trail was very icy and here there was no room for error. I was literally chased off the summit back to the tree line by a lightning snow storm. I wondered if I was worthy of this climb…

So time to again appropriately reference the great British climber George Mallory who wrote in his 1917 article about an alpine ascent in which he posed the question: "Have we vanquished an enemy?" and immediately answered: "None but ourselves."


Ned Buxton

Friday, April 18, 2008


African-American Christian churches embracing the James Hal Cone inspired Black Theology, extreme Afrocentrists and many more members of that Community looking for any way to elevate the “Black Race” in the Pantheon of Man, are making increasingly absurd claims that when they are not laughable, prompt anger and sometimes even elicit pity. The frustrating thing is that there are so many laudable pinnacles of achievement in the annals of Black history that no one needs to invent or embrace some of the many ridiculous statements I have recently seen and heard.

Frustratingly, for many Friends and students of Black History and the African Diaspora, many of their claims are contrived, fashioned out of ignorance or a deliberate attempt to up the Black Man, no matter the cost. The fee in this case is the perpetuation of a faux history and the sacrifice of ultimate credibility especially in those communities which have long embraced diversity and sought to reward honest accomplishment in any quarter. It remains tragic that these radical Afrocentrists are trying to desperately rewrite, spin and interpret ancient African history, “through the anger of the modern Black experience” in order to impart upon themselves a genealogy and history and by extension the excuse for a new “Black Pride”. This unfortunately has diminished the real accomplishments and significance of Black Culture.

The distinguished African American scholar and author Eugene Stovall is a light in the darkness of ignorance that should allow all to see the truth of the matter. This writer feels that Stovall has helped put to rest the absurd claims that Cleopatra was a Black Woman by offering evidence in his 2006 essay, Why Cleopatra Definitely Is Not Black as follows. He further commented as follows.

"Watching a local television program recently, I heard Spike Lee express his belief that Queen Cleopatra of Egypt was Black. The African American hostess of the TV show agreed with Mr. Lee saying “Cleopatra certainly looked nothing like Elizabeth Taylor”. But the historical facts contradict Spike Lee’s belief. Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt [for indeed that was who Spike Lee was referring to] was definitely not Black. And since I have dared to follow in the footsteps of that literary genius, Frank Yerby who was known as ‘debunker of historical myth’, I realized that I had to marshal the proofs of Queen Cleopatra’s ancestry that would satisfy any reasonable person that she was a white European".

The proof that Cleopatra VII was not Black prompted this embarrassing response from a woefully ignorant Afrocentric. “Egypt is in Africa, the "dark" continent. They didn't call it "dark" for no reason. Its inhabitants were all dark-skinned people, mostly dark and black. Included in those black-colored inhabitants of Africa was also Egypt, where its original inhabitants at one time were ALL black. Egypt was later conquered by some European countries, as were nearly all the nations in the continent of Africa, but it's ancestral inhabitants back in Cleo's time were most definitely and without a doubt all dark-skinned people.”

Those opinions are rampant despite the scholarship of Edwyn Bevan, the distinguished historian of the Hellenistic world, Professor at King’s College, London and Fellow of the British Academy who was fairly straight forward with his research and analysis of Cleopatra’s genealogy.

“That Cleopatra had any native Egyptian blood is exceedingly improbable. The Seleucid blood in her veins was Macedonian, with a slight Persian admixture, not Syrian.”

There is little doubt that Cleopatra had no African (Black) blood in her veins. We know that her father was Ptolemy XII aka Auletes ("flute player" aka "Nothos" the Bastard). Most scholars agree that Cleopatra's mother was Auletes's sister, Cleopatra V aka Tryphaena. We need note that it was commonplace for members of the Ptolemaic dynasty (or any other Egyptian royal family) to marry their siblings creating all sorts of Machiavellian intrigue even to embracing Oedipal protocols. We have coins and statuary that depict Cleopatra with straight hair and a hooked nose though they give no hint as to her color.

The only question arises from the identity of her Father’s Mother (her grandmother) who was mistress to Ptolemy IX. Afrocentrists claim without a shred of proof that she was Black. In fact, the Ptolemys were highly suspicious of foreigners even to the degree of their well documented incestuous behaviors. Had Cleopatra been of a mixed race, that would have been well documented (as was everything else) by Roman writers and historians who were strongly allied with Cleopatra’s bitter rival, Octavian.

As for Hannibal, he was the son of Hamilcar Barca (Barcid) who according to scholars was of Phoenician origin. Hannibal’s Mother was from Iberia (Spain/Portugal). His Father may have been from Canaan or present day Lebanon. So, despite the best efforts of historians, researchers and archeologists, we really can’t conclusively state whether Hannibal was “Black” or “White”. We can speculate that because of environment he would probably look to be of Middle Eastern descent.

Hannibal’s likeness is still available on Carthaginian silver double shekels (c. 230 BCE) which now reside in the British Museum. The Romans who met with Hannibal and knew him well built many statues of Hannibal following his defeat in order to advertise their victory over such a worthy adversary. His likeness in all these offerings does not reflect that he was Black. The reality is that we just don’t know.

So, we have members of the Black (mostly American) Community who are trying desperately to spin history to make it fit their agenda. One frustrated Black historian recently speculated that this movement stems from attempts to characterize Africans as, “backwards” and not making valuable contributions to society prompting, “a yearning to claim the rights to parts of history that may not directly apply to us.”

So, that brings us to Jesus. Different societies have depicted Jesus on the basis of their own ethnicity with Europeans opting for a White Jesus, Latin-American cultures describing him as Mestizo, Japanese and Chinese depicting him as Asian and sub-Saharan cultures representing Jesus as Black. The honest truth is that none of these representations have any basis in history or reality. At the height of absurdity the incredibly gifted blond and blue eyed Swedish actor Max von Sydow portrayed Jesus in the 1965 George Stevens directed film, The Greatest Story Ever Told with a thick northern European accent.

Aside from those who would confuse the issue by exhorting a divine birth vs. biology of the day most everybody appears far from the mark. Where is the Naked Archeologist when you need him?

Comic relief: In 2004 the weekly British newspaper New Nation which is Britain’s number one selling Black newspaper voted Jesus as the "greatest black icon of all time." The journal rationalized (we hope jokingly) that, “he must have been Black because "he called everybody 'brother', liked Gospel, and couldn't get a fair trial". Come on down Johnnie Cochran!

There is no doubt that Jesus was born a Jew from parents from Judea/Judah and grew up in Galilee. He probably looked like a local resident of that area though there could have been both Persian and Greek influences. For over a half-millennium, the spoken language for Palestinian Jews was Judeo-Aramaic though Jesus probably knew Greek as it was the common language of the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Accordingly, Jesus is believed to have addressed primarily Aramaic-speaking audiences and Mel Gibson accurately addressed that issue in his movie The Passion of the Christ.

Jesus probably had an olive complexion, brown eyes with brown to black hair though the style of his beard (customary in his society) remains a matter of speculation.

In the true spirit of CSI and the best of forensic anthropology Richard Neave a medical artist and forensic reconstruction expert retired from the University of Manchester in England, and a team of researchers wanted to determine once and for all what Jesus looked like. They started their deliberations and research with the skull of an Israeli man that dated to the 1st century. The research was funded by BBC1 for their television special, Son of God.

The team engaged the project assuming that Jesus may have resembled a typical peasant from 1st century Palestine. They had the benefit of modern forensic medicine, sophisticated computer software, scholarship of the region and then crafted the image of what a citizen of that era would have looked like. Max Von Sydow is no where to be found.

The result was a person with a broad face, dark olive skin, short curly hair and a prominent nose. Alison Galloway, professor of anthropology at the University of California in Santa Cruz, remarked after perusing the portrait that, "This (portrait) is probably a lot closer to the truth than the work of many great masters." Though this is pure speculation, I am willing to bet that Jesus had some "Negroid" blood running through his veins. Does that make him Black? No, but it doesn’t make him White either.

So, now we return to Cleo. It’s sad that recent portrayals of Cleopatra are often clouded by issues of race and show how artists have used Cleopatra as a political propaganda tool on both sides of the issue. When Afrocentrists make these absurd claims they fail to note the scholarship that went into those conclusions choosing rather to invoke their mantra of racial bias and political correctness.

The reality is that many of the Egyptian Pharaohs were of African “Negroid” stock though they varied substantially in their color and physical features. There also is no doubt that modern humans populated the entire globe, after leaving Africa around 100,000 to 60,000 years ago. While there may have been two or more immigrant waves, there is no doubt that the migrations emanated from Africa. Yes, indirectly we are all Africans!

There do not appear to be any more of the ilk of Cheikh Anta Diop, the controversial Senegalese historian and anthropologist who studied the human race's origins and pre-colonial African culture. Diop with an extensive range of knowledge - including linguistics, history, anthropology, mathematics, chemistry, and physics – offered fresh (mostly scientifically based) theories about the ancient origins and common principles of classical African civilization. While many of his assertions remain controversial (even contentious) and many question his motives, his legacy has been to promote an honest and open debate and reconcile African civilizations with real history.

In the meantime many Afrocentrists still pursue bad/wrong choices about who they want to label as “Black” ignoring the magnificent high cultures of Kush (ancient Nubia), Dahomey (Benin), Ashanti (Asante), the Dogon, Oyo, Empire of Ghana (Wagadou Empire), Gedi and many, many more. These cultures should be uplifted as part of the advance of the high civilizations of Man. The fact that modern man emanated from Africa should elicit great pride.

The worst of the Afrocentrists continue to try and convince the world that a failure to recognize Cleopatra, Jesus or Hannibal as Black is “just another form of oppression, a kind of mental slavery that breeds self hate into young minds.” They would have you believe that Socrates, Plato and just about every important figure in antiquity was Black.

But is this really ignorance that’s driving the extreme Afrocentric? I assert that it is a conscientious attempt to revise the historical record in order to embrace a pseudo history just to cater to the cultural sensibilities of African Americans. Any attempt to engage in an academic discourse on the issue is generally met with silence or accusations that these are further examples and proof of a white racism. The Afrocentrists refuse to engage in the traditional standards of evidence and debate, choosing to interpret and distort history at will to the degree that it serves their politics.

Aside from the Cleopatra, et al assertions a further example is the Afrocentric claim that Greek scientist and philosopher Aristotle “raided” and stole materials and intellectual property from the Library at Alexandria. The historical record reflects it unlikely that Aristotle ever went to Alexandria. Since Alexandria did not start fully functioning as a city until around 323 BCE it would seem even more improbable as Aristotle died in 322 BCE. The library wasn’t assembled until around 297 BCE, twenty-five years after Aristotle’s death. As a further insult to the Afrocentric claim, most of the books in the library were written in Greek. Hmmmmm…

As stated by Mary R. Lefkowitz the courageous, distinguished Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies at Wellesley College and author of Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History, “what matters is whether what one says is supported by facts and evidence, texts or formulae.” The goal of the Afrocentrist is to manufacture a pride building myth, nothing more. The scary thing is that this fiction is currently being taught as fact (not opinion) in some American universities.

The reality is that the ancient Egyptians didn’t think in these terms. As the late distinguished anthropologist Frank Yurco states in his 1989 Biblical Archeology Review article Were the Ancient Egyptians Black or White? “The whole matter of black or white Egyptians is a chimera, cultural baggage from our own society that can only be imposed artificially on ancient Egyptian society. The ancient Egyptians, like their modem descendants, were of varying complexions of color, from the light Mediterranean type (like Nefertiti), to the light brown of Middle Egypt, to the darker brown of Upper Egypt, to the darkest shade around Aswan and the First Cataract region, where even today, the population shifts to Nubian.

Ancient and modern Egyptian hair ranges from straight to wavy to woolly; in color, it varies from reddish brown to dark brown to black. Lips range thin to full. Many Egyptians possess a protrusive jaw. Noses vary from high-bridged—straight to arched or even hooked—to flat-bridged, with bulbous to broad nostrils. In short, ancient Egypt, like modern Egypt, consisted of a very heterogeneous population.”

The great Pharaoh Ramses II had long wavy red hair. Was he a Scotsman? Did he get a dye and perm? Probably not, but this displays the wide variety of diversity in ancient Egypt.

So what is Black? I sure don’t buy into the “one drop rule” as the Afrocentrists in a colossal fit of irony apparently claim (one drop and they’re ours) putting them into the questionable company of the formerly segregationist policies of the State of Louisiana. African Americans didn’t make the rule with the greatest irony being that they merely appropriated that which was forced upon them.

The distinguished Professor of the Humanities Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr. Chair of the Afro-American Studies Department and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University has long been a voice of reason in this debate. In his recent PBS series African American Lives 2 in which the lineage of notable African Americans to include Morgan Freeman, Maya Angelou, Chris Rock and others is traced using genealogical resources and DNA testing. Much to the shock and dismay of some they found that they had a substantial percentage of “White DNA” prompting one to comment on the, “White man in the woodpile.” I believe that Thomas Jefferson’s name was invoked a time or two.

Some Whites featured on the show proved to have as much as 33% or more “Black Blood” while Gates himself had a fifty percent rating putting him into the company of Illinois Senator and Presidential candidate Barack Obama.

The bottom line is that race while determined by genetics is greatly influenced by personal choice and by the depth of involvement in a specific cultural experience. As Human Resource professionals have long known, that’s the United States government’s long accepted policy re. Affirmative Action and Census initiatives where surveyors are encouraged to allow respondent self-reporting or self-identification of their racial and ethnic affiliation, “the preferred method for collecting data on race and ethnicity.” So, in fact, you are who you say you are. I propose, however, that 21st century African Americans do not have the prerogative to pigeon hole and adopt Cleopatra and other ancient luminaries.

Timothy Kendall, White Guy and Fellow at Harvard University's aforementioned W.E.B. Du Bois Institute and probably the world’s foremost expert in Nubian Studies has managed to put the whole issue of race in proper perspective, “The blackness of Kushite art and culture, which once generally negated its interest for Americans, is now precisely what makes it so interesting for them. It is to be hoped that in the new millennium all Americans will come to grasp -- what neither Reisner and his contemporaries, on the one hand, understood nor the modern Afrocentrists, on the other, understand -- that proper study of the past is not attainable unless we can identify and transcend our own biases. At some point we will all need to recognize that "the race to which we belong" -- to use Bayard Taylor's phrase -- is neither black nor white, but simply human, with all its extraordinary creative abilities and all its eternal failings.”

In the interests of full disclosure as represented in my blog photo, I am of a mostly Northern European stock (Norman-Scots) and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from the University of Mississippi. One of my hobbies is the study of masking traditions of mostly West African cultures. I remain proudly Human and like the recent Dow Chemical ads believe in the power of the Human Element to change the world.

We all need to move ahead and put this silliness behind us.


Ned Buxton

Saturday, April 12, 2008


For me and millions of folks across the globe Charlton Heston was more than just the incredibly talented actor who revived larger than life iconic figures such as, Moses, El Cid, Andrew Jackson, Michelangelo, General Charles Gordon, Buffalo Bill Cody and then literally brought to life Judah Ben Hur, Will Penny, Cardinal Richelieu and Major Dundee among many others. For many, especially in my generation, Heston was our alter ego, the man who inspired several generations to leave our couches, reach out and be part of the solution. He provided the great American example by actively living that role and probably at great personal expense.

Once a liberal Democrat Heston embraced conservative issues later in life literally holding all people accountable for their behaviors no matter their persuasion. Heston was an incessant and vigorous champion of civil liberties and was active in the civil rights movement, “long before it was fashionable in Hollywood.” When a segregated movie theatre in Oklahoma refused to allow
African-Americans into the 1961 premiere of El Cid, Heston reportedly joined the picket line outside the theater. He also traveled to Oklahoma City where he picketed segregated restaurants, much to the chagrin of Allied Artists.

Heston liked to quote Martin Gross who in his book, "The End of Sanity," wrote, "Blatantly irrational behavior is rapidly being established as the norm in almost every area of human endeavor. There seem to be new customs, new rules, new anti-intellectual theories regularly foisted on us from every direction.” The new political correctness confounded him.

In that spirit Heston took on the decision makers of Time Warner when as a stockholder he attended in their 1992 annual shareholder meeting in Beverly Hills. Heston rose during the meeting and objected to the lyrics of a song by rapper, Ice-T, entitled, Cop Killer on the now infamous album Body Count. In the song Ice-T glorifies the killing of police officers who had vehemently protested the song. Time Warner as producer of the record ignored the protests as the song was their current cash cow (profit no matter the cost).

Heston read the lyrics of the offensive song, in its entirety to Time Warner stockholders and then went on to read the lyrics of another Ice-T Body Count song, KKK Bitch where the rapper among many obscenities fantasizes about sodomizing the two twelve year old nieces of Tipper Gore. Heston then read the songs to the media waiting outside. Cop Killer was eventually pulled from the album and Ice-T’s contract was terminated. That wouldn’t have happened if Heston hadn’t taken a stand.

Heston believed that we are, “engaged in a great civil war, a cultural war that's about to hijack your birthright to think and say what lives in your heart. I'm sure you no longer trust the pulsing lifeblood of liberty inside you, the stuff that made this country rise from wilderness into the miracle that it is." He further believed that everybody needs to be willing to act, not just talk, via non-violent civil disobedience in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Not content to ride the bench Heston served as President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1965 until 1971. He was the president and spokesman of the National Rifle Association (NRA) from 1998 to 2003. At the 2000 NRA convention in a response to the prospects of an Al Gore led government eroding second amendment rights, Heston gave his now famous statement while raising a musket over his head stating that they would only take away his rights, "from my cold, dead hands." Where he saw injustice, he always stood up and spoke his piece.

Heston sincerely believed that, “Government is the problem. The armies of bureaucrats proliferating like gerbils, scurrying like lemmings in pursuit of the ever-expanding federal agenda testify to that amply. Tom Jefferson, the only genius we ever had, said that government is best which governs least.”

Charlton Heston was intensely proud of his Scottish heritage. While some think that he had Native-American roots (he was initiated a blood brother of the Miniconjou (Lakota) Sioux, he used that term only to reclaim it from Native Peoples and to punctuate his own American patriotism. Heston could trace his Scots ancestry back through the Fraser Clan on his mother's side. He characterized himself as a Scot on many occasions and identified with what he saw as "traditional Scottish values such as loyalty, honour - and stubbornness". He was a member of the Clan Fraser and the re-raised 78th Fraser Highlanders (along with this writer). While an American-Scot Heston admitted that hyphenated identities were awkward for him though he always put, “a capital letter on American."

Heston named his only son Fraser to perpetuate his Scots Family tradition. When Fraser became the screenwriter and producer of the movie Mother Lode in 1982 he penned the leading roles as Scottish twin brothers Silas and Ian McGee and put Father Charlton Heston into those dual roles.

Heston was an ardent student of Scottish history and would often reference Scottish Leadership. In one speech Heston quoted the great 18th century Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian David Hume, “It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.” Heston continued, “I am a Scot myself. He was bloody right. For more than half a century, the shining Republic created by the blood of the Continental Army and a few great men has been nearly nibbled to death by the Democratic ducks in the Congress and a warmly cooperative Supreme Court.” Heston was no milquetoast.

Heston played the role of at least three US Presidents and while contemplating political service was known to have quipped that had he done so he would have done it with, "a dour Scot's sense of duty".

Commenting on his continuing battle with Alzheimer's Disease in a seemingly John Paul Jones inspired statement Heston vowed he was "neither giving up nor giving in".

When he announced his illness in August 2002 Heston reiterated, “I’m confident about the future of America. I believe in you; I know that the future of our country, our culture, and our children is in good hands. I know you will continue to meet adversity with strength and resilience, as our ancestors did . . .”

That will mean finding another responsible champion. In the meantime we will all contnue to be inspired by the life of this uncommon man. We can do that by always standing up for our own rights and for those that can’t defend themselves. Thanks Chuck


Ned Buxton

Saturday, April 5, 2008


With two major snowfalls within the first full week of March, 2008 the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (DFW) and north Texas looked for a very short time more like the Midwest or the Northeast in deep midwinter.

In that first March snowfall DFW received up to five inches of snow while the following storm dumped up to nine inches of sleet and snow during the afternoon and overnight hours of March 6 & 7, 2008. The upper level storm formed in the Texas Panhandle and roared ferociously into north central Texas two days later. This storm system was typical of late winter and early spring systems that can have dramatic impacts on those communities in its path to include the F-1 tornado that hit Corpus Christi. Though well forecast, the last storm moved much faster than predicted with near horizontal gale winds and snowflakes larger than silver dollars emptying schools and companies with anxious employees bent on the health and welfare of other family members. Got to get milk and bread!

Though the roads in Collin and Dallas Counties from Plano south never really got that bad except for some elevated roadways, Texans could apparently move no faster than five miles per hour (or less) on roads that could have easily accommodated the speed limit. Caution is good, but an overbearing overreaction to the weather caused a gridlock throughout the metro area. Admittedly, the folks in Denton, Flower Mound and over in Cooke County and points north and east were not so lucky.

The frustration with the storms was felt early in the week where drivers who could or would not garage their vehicles were seen in great numbers on the expressways of north Texas apparently on their way to work their cars still shrouded in several inches of snow. Many drivers didn’t even bother to clear the snow from their side or rear view windows even failing to clear all the snow from their front windshields? It was either an attempt to cling to the last remaining vestige and memory of the big event, something they can tell their grandkids or just plain stupidity.

While the snow remained on their cars the roadways were all generally clear. Once they achieved velocities near the speed limit, chunks of snow and ice were hurled into the air causing other vehicles to swerve dangerously to avoid the projectiles or just endure the buffeting of frozen debris. It was a dangerous situation, but these folks didn’t appear to care because they were just plain stupid or intent to perpetuate their memories one minute longer. Of course, until all the snow came off their windows, they probably didn’t even see what was happening. Gees…

My personal experiences reminded me of the 2005 Pennsylvania Bill (now law) that cites the driver of any moving vehicle that has not been cleared of snow. The penalty for drivers who fail to clear snow or ice from their vehicles is a whopping $75-1500 per infraction. It appears that many folks have been injured and even killed not to mention the extensive property damage caused by flying snow or ice caused by ignorant or lazy drivers. Now hear this – If the vehicle is commercial, say an eighteen wheeler, the fine jumps to $1,000.00 to $1,500.00 per offense! Now we’re talking!

The heretofore referenced Texas March snow and ice storm was bad enough for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to cancel almost 600 departing flights — about half of its scheduled departures on Thursday night and Friday morning. American Airlines as the anal retentive local carrier eager to emulate Jet Blue’s 2007 strategic scheduling blunders and flight delays and their own previous foul-ups last December 30, did it again at DFW. Some flights of both American and American Eagle spent as much as six hours on the tarmac, not quite as bad as their previous eight hour faux pas. The news in DFW that week was fraught with passengers swearing never to fly American Airlines, ever again. Again another raison d’etre for the pending Airline Passenger Bill of Rights to be reinforced though with the Democrats less than stellar legislative record, passage isn’t likely.

While we can attribute American Airlines repeated failure to watch out for the comfort and best interests of their passengers as an incredibly pathetic business breakdown, how do we explain the behaviors of those aforementioned drivers?

The failure to follow even basic common sense rules when preparing cars for travel or driving in inclement weather conditions is part of a Southern phenomenon called Snow in Texas Equals Stupid.

Millions of folks have immigrated to Texas in the last thirty years. That includes the transfer of hundreds of thousands of workers as corporate America finds comfort and solace in the friendly, warm sunny climes of the former Republic. Many more have immigrated emovere getting to Texas, “as quick as they could.” Then we have the millions of (let’s be PC here) undocumented aliens that live in The Metroplex. We might mention that we have many, many documented aliens and US Citizens here in DFW representing cultures from around the world, many of whom have never seen snow before. The stage is always set.

Many see snow as the blanket which covers up the dirt and grime of our society insulating the weary earthbound traveler from reality. The world takes on a transient beauty becoming a comforter that gives them a quiet peace and brief respite. To some snow becomes a metaphor for holiday and good times. Others see it as the welcome break from a recent two and one half year Texas drought not yet forgotten. Expatriate Michiganders, Ohioans, Nebraskans and others of that snow-belt ilk are not so pleasantly reminded of at least one reason why they moved South. To many Christians the “whiteness of snowflakes is the metaphor for God’s cleansing of our sin.” God knows we have a lot of sinners in The Metroplex.

For all these reasons (and many more) some want to hold onto that experience as long as they can knowing full well that the phenomenon will soon be gone.

So when all those sheaths, bullets, cups, columns, pyramids, hexagonal prisms, six-pointed stars, dendrites, et al start to fall in the Lone Star State, watch out for those winter Texas rednecks and anticipate a less than congenial reception and behaviors from these poor stupid souls. There oughta be a law…


Ned Buxton