Sunday, June 29, 2008


Yesterday, Saturday, June 28, 2008, at the Convention Center in Dallas, Texas, the five-time Emmy Award nominated and PBS’ highest rated series ANTIQUES ROADSHOW engaged the taping of the second show of their 13th season which airs in 2009. Since 1997 Boston’s PBS station WGBH has been touring the country with their well oiled ROADSHOW machine offering free, expert, on-air appraisal services for those of us with antiques and collectibles that might not otherwise get any attention. Appraisers from all the big auction houses to include Christies, Sotheby’s and the local Heritage Galleries, among others, and from independent dealers from across the nation form the unequalled intellectual trust that provides these much sought services. Some six thousand showed up in Dallas for the chance to get their item(s) appraised and maybe even get on television at the same time!

ROADSHOW Guests bring in everything from family heirlooms that may be proudly displayed or many times hidden in attics and basements or those “found” items from the local garage sale or from many of our Texas First Monday celebrations to include the famous Canton, Texas market. This is our chance to have experts tell us the truth of our “treasures” – what we have or don’t have and what the item might bring at auction. More often than not the news can be disappointing.

I recall Brother John of Shango Galleries and Buxton Appraisal, Authentication and Consulting Service (BAACS) fame bemoaning that in the first two years of the ROADSHOW he had only seen fakes and reproductions resulting in some disappointed treasure seekers. Since then John has touched many authentic items to include that now famous Navajo Chief’s Blanket that was appraised for between $350,000 to $500,000 on the 2002 Tucson ROADSHOW. Yes, there have been many great success stories.

With Brother John’s encouragement I have been able to Volunteer to assist with the ROADSHOW and guess that after stints in Atlanta, Charlotte, Charleston and Dallas I am now an official ROADSHOW groupie.

My first ANTIQUES ROADSHOW was the 1998 Atlanta show that, I believe, followed their Pittsburgh show where for the first time they were hammered with thousands more guests than they anticipated. The ROADSHOW had turned the popularity corner and the producers were wondering what the participation level would be in Atlanta. They weren’t disappointed though overwhelmed when from eight to nine thousand guests showed up. In those days the ROADSHOW didn’t have the current ticket system with staggered admission hours. In Atlanta it was literally first come, first served. To their credit the ROADSHOW saw everybody requiring a herculean effort from all Staffers, Appraisers and Volunteers.

As was the privilege of the ROADSHOW Volunteers I brought in a large metal “punch bowl” that I had inherited years earlier for appraisal. Crafted of brass, pewter, copper, nickel and silver and with an ornate bas relief steeplechase scene that circumnavigated the bowl, it is an impressive piece that has served our Family well for many years. It came from Idlewild, one of the great antebellum plantation homes and ancestral home of great-grandfather John Allen Armstrong near Bardstown, Kentucky. As I brought the 25+ pound bowl into the waiting area and then onto the appraisal set there were appreciative Ohs and Ahs and then applause that both embarrassed and made me proud. Two gentlemen from Christie’s and Sotheby’s evaluated the piece which they both described as a wine chiller that dated from the early to mid 1800’s. They could not agree on its origins which is apparently either German or English.

That pot has since continued its use as a punch bowl and wine chiller and is generally seen at the annual Charlotte Steeplechase where it continues to draw admiring looks.

Another interesting sidebar was the fact that I had not been back to the Dallas Convention Center since October of 2005 where I spent a month and a half assisting in the American Red Cross disaster relief effort where we sheltered many thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. It was a little eerie going back into that environment.

So, back to the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

At the Dallas show I was asked to be a Stage Manger Guard. There were two of us who literally monitored and guarded access to the live sets when they were taping segments of the show. It continues to amaze me how many people were oblivious to those activities or just wanted their five seconds of fame. You learned to quickly recognize those with the “deer in the headlights” or the “out the other side” looks that their eyes betrayed. I am sure that I am at the top of somebody’s short list for preventing their perceived immortality.

While it was fun it was a fourteen hour tedium that reminded me after the ten hour mark that I was once again wearing the wrong shoes. Should have worn my boots.

The greatest part of the experience was getting the chance to see some Friends that I hadn’t seen for many years. That included Sean Quinn, soon to retire New York City Homicide Detective, 911 Hero and Director of Security for the ROADSHOW and Ron Milton the ever gregarious and multitalented Cheerleader and Stage Manager of the ROADSHOW. The experience was complete just seeing Sean and Ron.

I also saw Noel Barrett, Leigh and Leslie Keno, fellow Ole Miss alum Beth Szescila from Houston and new found Friend and rare book expert, Ken Sanders of Salt Lake City. I couldn’t have been more pleased when Brother John had the opportunity to tape an appraisal for what looked like an 1890’s Lakota beaded vest which he eventually appraised for a substantial sum. The gentleman looked very happy and we know that you will want to see the Dallas show for that appraisal alone.

Like living life, it’s mostly all about people and with the ROADSHOW, that’s the bottom line in spades. Their popularity and continued success (they don’t necessarily go hand in hand) is due to the incredible talent and decision making by WGBH in the persons of Executive Producer Marsha Bemko and Consulting Producer Dan Farrell. They have put together one hell of a team and continue to tweak it to ultimate efficiency. It’s turned out to be great theater, hence its great popularity.

Even after experiencing long waits just to get on set and then additional long lines for the ever popular Decorative Arts, Collectibles and Prints tables (among others), ROADSHOW guests remained primed, mostly patient and with great attitudes. Though the lines remained long they were manageable and assumed part of the ROADSHOW experience. There was an atmosphere of anticipation and adventure that permeated the set and the entire area.

So, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW remains a great voyage and I thank Brother John and all my Friends at the ROADSHOW for another great experience and opportunity to pay back and be part of something larger than life. Please watch the show whenever you can. You won’t be disappointed. Collecting is cool!


Ned Buxton

Saturday, June 21, 2008


On Thursday May 29 the 2008 Glasgow Kentucky Highland Games ushered in four days of cultural celebration and the visit of many dignitaries from across the United States, Canada and Scotland. Members of The Kingdome of Räknar celebrated their thirtieth anniversary and the legacy of one Robert Alexander “Hägar” Swanson all weekend with the finale being the Räknar Sunday Night Raid and extravaganza under the big top adjacent to the Louie B. Nunn Lodge at the Barren River Lake State Park.

One hundred and sixty-five Räknarians and guests were entertained by the likes of Colin Grant-Adams, Father, Son & Friends and other great exhibitions of talent. All this was mentored and facilitated by one Jeff Fleming, outstanding humorist, attorney and CPA from Olney, Illinois who was elevated in rank by Gude King Brodir of Räknar aka Jim Kilpatrick to Le Duc des Ecureuils Blancs (the Duke of the White Squirrels), Olney’s favorite and quite prolific varmint.

Many awards (mostly tongue in cheek) were presented to include the highly coveted Räknar AHOY Half Ass Award that was won last year by Kent Hay Atkins aka Erland the Duke of Jayhawke and the Royal Keeper of Words & Letters, that distinguished American Scot, member of the Clan Hay and new Viceroy of The Kingdome of Räknar. Kent was absolutely honored and proud of his selection. Wife Alison who was recognized most recently by being named one of the “One Hundred Most Incredible” graduates of East Carolina University was not pleased. A beaming Kent was nonplussed as Alison removed the three foot tall trophy from her mantle and deposited it in their basement where it reposed for the better part of a year.

Sunday night arrives and the Räknar Raid is in full bloom. King Brodir calls Kent to the stage to make the presentation of the AHOY award. I, unfortunately, was sitting immediately beneath that portion of the stage in the first row looking up at Kent. Whilst pondering his choice Kent looked down at me once, then a second time and yours truly knew that his goose was cooked. Where can the Eldest Bastard Son of Räknar hide? Though there were many others who were well qualified, Kent called my name out loud and with a bravado that resounded throughout the Barren River Lake State Park. I accepted the award to surprising great applause and reminded all in attendance that I would be back in 2009 and like Santa, would be watching in the interim.

The Half-Ass part of that award is but part of the title that includes that not so subtle AHOY acronym that refers most appropriately to The Ass Hole of The Year.

Given all that I have unwittingly done (to include some undeserved credit) most recently to screw up my life and all those around me, I figure that this was and remains a most appropriate choice.

I will try and do better from this point on. The trophy sits on my mantle…


Ned Buxton

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Yesterday, Friday the Thirteenth, I heard several people in the office commenting with great certainty and enthusiasm about the origins of this least explicable though most feared day of the year. Of course, their offerings were far off course, but amusing. I kept my head down. Then, another employee offered that it was on Friday, Oct. 13, 1307, that France's King Philip IV had the Knights Templar jailed, tortured and many eventually executed. Eureka, finally someone with some credible historical context!

We remember that the Knights Templar were an order of warriors and administrators within the Roman Catholic Church who banded together to protect Christian travelers visiting Jerusalem in the centuries during the Crusades. The Knights eventually evolved into bankers and large property owners and a wealthy and powerful entity. After Jerusalem fell to Saladin Phillip the Fair (complexion not demeanor), King of France (who just happened to owe the Templars a Hell of a lot of money), prosecuted the Templars for alleged heresies in order to plunder their resources. Most of the Templar properties were confiscated though the greater mass of their wealth was never recovered including the now iconic, controversial and elusive Holy Grail. Many Templars were believed to have escaped to Scotland where the unbroken Templar line still exists in the Grand Bailiwick of The Scots. At any rate, while this employee made a good offering to the pot, this probably isn’t the origin of Friday the 13th legends and cautions. It was probably a combination of many different events and some meddling by the early Christian Church.

We see references to Friday the 13th in the historical record that go as far back as the 12th century though other references have stigmatized the number thirteen as far back as several thousand years BCE. For example, the Code of Hammurabi, a collection of laws created ca. 1760 BCE, that number to 282 does not contain a thirteenth law (or laws from 66-99). We can go from the Norse Gods to the Last Supper to find these allusions that probably stem from folks having too much time on their hands.

The name Friday is believed to have evolved from the Old English frigedæg, meaning the day of Frige the Anglo-Saxon form of Frigg, a major Norse goddess and Odin’s wife. However, in most Germanic languages the day is named after Freyja or Freya the Norse goddess of beauty, love and war. Freya and Frigg are frequently identified one with the other. We are told that the seven day week was established by imperial Rome as prompted by the Christian Church.

Friday eventually caught up with the number thirteen where in many cultures they were a reference to good not bad and in some quarters the Christian Church is rightfully blamed for turning perceived pagan practices into negative scenarios. Muslims use Friday as their day of rest and worship. The Qur'an calls Friday a holy day, the "king of days." Those of the Jewish faith start their worship day at sunset on Friday. You get the point.

Whatever happened back then, Friday and the number thirteen became an anathema and something to be avoided at all costs. Our superstitions concerning the number thirteen have been so intellectualized that some folks have developed a phobia called Triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13. Symptoms include panic attacks that literally cause people to become dysfunctional in society and even manifest physical symptoms including shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and overall feelings of dread, among others.

So firm is the grip of this phobia that even in our contemporary society (and for many years) you can’t find a thirteenth floor in modern skyscrapers which seemingly flow from floor 12 to 14 without a blink. Of course, there still is a thirteenth floor. It’s just mislabeled! In Scotland where the much abused 13 is known as the "Devil's Dozen", there isn’t a gate 13 in any of their airports. Most hospitals in the world don’t have the number 13 anywhere to be found including operating or patient rooms except Grady Hospital in Atlanta where the 13th floor is most appropriately the Psych Ward.

So you put Friday and the number 13 together and you have our modern day curse that according to the Tampa Bay Times in 2006 prompted Americans to stay home rather than chancing peril, costing American industry an estimated $750 million US in lost business on that day. I saw that figure inflated to some $800 million US in several news reports this year (2008).

My response to this is RIDICULOUS! I intend to take the opportunity of every weekend following Friday the 13th (that’s from one to three weekends every year) to create my Friday the 13th Snippets and diary which will document the events that were significant to me on that day. We will debunk this phobia together!
My day started as usual though I slept over by thirty minutes when for some unknown reason my biological clock kicked in and I woke up running with sufficient time to take my shower, shave, brush my teeth, dress and run to work. I was late by a few minutes only because I encountered a wreck on Central Expressway.

We got slammed at work with many requests for our services – both good and bad news though it certainly represents job security galore so long as you produce.

Notification that Tim Russert, Host and Moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press fame had died of a heart attack flashed through corporate headquarters in minutes. The incredibly talented Russert who trained as a lawyer but chose news casting as his vocation was gone in an instant. His bright light shone only for fifty-eight years. Tim brought balance and objectivity to a medium that is mostly suspect at this juncture.

When asked about his opinions on politics he stated emphatically that they just didn’t matter. His goal was to represent the People and ferret out the truth. He studied his guest’s performance and opinions and then took the other side. He was the perennial Devil’s Advocate always pushing the envelope. The irreplacable Russert, favorite son of Buffalo, New York made Sunday mornings bearable and informative.

I believe that few people knew about his heart problems with Vice President Cheney even commenting that with his own extensive medical history Russert never discussed his personal health issues. Russert always focused on Family and the pursuit of Truth in every way and may have been the most honest among us.

This piece cannot sufficiently memorialize this Man who is being properly recognized not only by NBC but throughout all the media.

In a previous post I identified those few journalists that I felt were worthy of note. I did not include Russet but assure you that this was a terrible oversight. He may have been the best of them all…

A good Friend in the Scottish Community called to relate that she is going to have a mastectomy next Wednesday and wanted to let me know that everything was going to be OK. She sounded great, full of optimism and appears to have plenty of support from her significant other - the Curmudgeon Permanent Sergeant Major, the one who knows and sees all… They will both be just fine.

I picked up Skip Yowell’s 2006 offering, The Hippie Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder & Other Mountains. Skip, ever the affable co-founder of JanSport, popcorn purveyor extraordinaire and one time host and climbing partner to this writer tells the story of his ascent into business and mountaineering. This is going to be a good read.

I had dinner (supper to you Midwesterners) at Mia’s, a damned fine Mexican restaurant on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas though I endured a long wait which only became more tolerable by the consumption of a Margarita. Thank God it’s Friday (TGIF). The beef enchiladas were great though well known, Family owned Mia’s has now opted for fancy valet parking which is nothing more that an economic opportunity and hardship on the guests. I noted several muttering and not too happy with the situation. I looked the parking lot over and even with their reconfiguration of parking spots, maybe they could get an additional two cars onto the lot. Don’t know if it’s going to be worth the heartache… Again, the food was good.

Received an e-mail from good Friend Beth Gay of Beth’s NewFangled Family Tree, the online publication offered in Adobe format that is the successor to the Family Tree. Beth’s NewFangled Family Tree can be found at and contains all the news that’s fit to be read along with some genealogical fun thrown in for good measure. Beth is a font of knowledge who has been invited to all the major Scottish games around the country *and elsewhere) to present her genealogy seminars and to provide living history perspectives especially as they apply to the American Scottish Community.

Beth’s Significant Other, Tom Freeman, the incredibly talented graphic artist and all around nice guy that drives Caberdancer Graphic Design of Walhalla, South Carolina is always close by. We are all active in the Kingdome of Räknar and I always look forward to hearing from both these special folks who grace me with their Friendship. Tom has created the cover of my new book, Himself & Friends, The History of The Kingdome of Räknar which will be released in late 2008 (more in another post).

All in all it was a day unlike most others, but the jury is still out. We will just have to see. God bless Tim Russert and Flora. Happy Father's Day, Tim.


Ned Buxton

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Last weekend I attended the Glasgow, Kentucky Scottish Festival and Highland Games and had a ball. The only real challenge was the "763.48 miles" to Lucas, Kentucky from Richardson, Texas. The joke was the above quoted MapQuest mileage and their estimate of the driving time at eleven hours and forty-two minutes. Note that their driving time (if my math is correct) will reflect an average speed of 64.97 miles per hour.

I didn’t do any math at the start of the trip though wondered when I arrived back in Richardson how I/they could have erred so badly. They obviously didn’t factor in the many construction sites and what the realistic average miles per hour that a traveler would experience.

So what was the reality of the trip? It was just under 785 miles on my odometer from Richardson to Lucas and took around fourteen hours for an average speed of just under 57 miles per hour. That figure was pure drive time and doesn’t include break/meal times and gas fill ups so that I could be apples to apples with MapQuest and the other providers which follow. I did leave from work in Plano, Texas accounting for an additional 18 miles (from Richardson) and a little over 30 minutes to traverse that distance on a good day. Even factoring in that difference, something didn’t seem right. I wondered then what the other big map/direction hosts were offering up to the poor traveler.

Yahoo estimated the mileage at 757.21 miles and the time to travel 11 hrs 29 minutes for an average speed of 65.82 miles per hour.

Expedia had the mileage estimated at 760 mi and travel time at 11 hrs and 9 minutes for an average miles per hour of 69. You will note that this is just under the maximum speed limits in part of east Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Google estimated the mileage at 737 and a drive time of 11 hours and 32 minutes for an estimated average miles per hour at 64.1.

Rand McNally gauged the mileage at 735 and the drive time at twelve hours for an average speed of 61.25 mph

MSN and MapPoint (long my personal favorite) reflected the mileage from Richardson to Lucas at 752.3 and a drive time of 11 hours 5 minutes for an average miles per hour of 68.39.

As a finale I went to and their NavPro protocols where they didn’t even recognize Lucas, Kentucky. I had to enter Glasgow, KY as the nearest city where they estimated the driving time at 12 hours 53 minutes and the mileage at 754.43. I then added the 12 miles and 17 minutes from Glasgow to Lucas for a total mileage of 766.43 and a total estimated time of 13 hours, 10 minutes for an average miles per hour of 57.84. Eureka! I had found at least a closer home in the somewhat convoluted gyrations of NavPro and That I had to do a second search to conjure up Glasgow, KY to Lucas, KY seems a small inconvenience.

I found it amazing that all these products had different results and assuming that their technology platforms are nearly all the same, found that less than comforting. I do hope that our military has access to more reliable technology. In a world where conflicts and best results are gauged in inches and feet and not miles, accuracy is critical. Can you say collateral damage?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) currently in use by the US military and thanks to President Reagan in 1983 is now marketed to the general public by many companies to include Garmin, TomTom, Magellan, Lowrance, Pioneer and others. When I last volunteered with Red Cross disaster services it was on the occasion of 2007’s Hurricane Humberto which struck the Texas southeast coast communities of Port Arthur, Beaumont and Orange. We would have had great difficulty getting to some of the affected areas were it not for our GPSs with TomTom seemingly the better choice.

I think that I’m going out and buying a TomTom XL in advance of my next cross country trip. I also think that with the price of gas now approaching and exceeding $4.00 a gallon that many folks are going to be deliberately driving slower or maybe not at all in the near future until supply and demand kicks in and the almighty US dollar rebounds. Methinks that our good Friends with MapQuest, Google, Yahoo, Expedia, et al are going to have to get their collective acts together unless I am the only one driving at or below the speed limit.

More on the Glasgow, KY Scottish Festival and Highland Games later.


Ned Buxton