Friday, June 26, 2009


The Scottish Community has long celebrated its folk heroes, real and imagined. The TV character that seems to have best personified that idol worship is Lt. Montgomery Scott, Scotty to the minions. And that’s one of the purposes of this post - to recognize Scotty as one of the seminal characters of Scottish folklore.

Never taking a back seat to Robert the Bruce, Rob Roy MacGregor, William Wallace, Robinson Crusoe, Peter Pan or even Fionn of Nifty Comics fame, James Doohan gave soul and spirit to the Star Trek Scotty character and brought a great sense of pride in self and country to Scots the world over.

James Montgomery Doohan (March 3, 1920 - July 20, 2005) was Irish-conceived and born in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was the youngest of four children of Catholics William and Sarah Doohan who, courtesy of the Irish War of Independence, immigrated (while his mother was pregnant with him) from Northern Ireland and the predominantly Protestant town of Bangor
[1] located immediately south of Belfast.

Doohan’s family later moved to Sarnia, Ontario where he attended high school at the Sarnia Collegiate Institute and Technical School where he excelled in mathematics and science. In addition to his school work, Doohan enrolled in the Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in Sarnia.

Scotty left home at age 19 to join the Canadian Forces at the outbreak of World War II. Posted in England, he served through the duration of the war, eventually commissioned as a lieutenant and rose through the ranks, but without seeing actual combat until June 6, 1944 — D-Day — where he led a unit of 33 men onto Juno Beach at Normandy, France.

Shooting two snipers along the way, Doohan led his unit to higher ground through a field of anti-tank mines and took defensive positions for the night. Crossing between Allied command posts at 11:30 that night, Doohan took six rounds from a Bren
[2] light machine gun apparently fired by a nervous Canadian sentry (several accounts conflict): four rounds in his leg, one in the chest, and one through his right middle finger. The bullet to his chest was halted by the silver cigarette case he carried, and his wounded finger was amputated. He kept that cigarette case for the rest of his life and even continued using it (with the dent slightly taken out) until he quit smoking in the 1970's.

Doohan trained as a pilot and flew an artillery observation plane for the remainder of the war and though never actually a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, received the dubious distinction of being called the "craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Forces." One of the many legendary (true?) stories of his flying years tells of Doohan slaloming a plane — variously cited as a Hurricane or a jet trainer — between mountainside telegraph poles to prove it could be done, earning him a serious reprimand.

Doohan enjoyed a career in radio and television and demonstrated his versatility in a variety of roles. Interestingly Doohan played the role of forest ranger Timber Tom (the northern counterpart of Buffalo Bob) in the Canadian version of Howdy Doody. Coincidentally, fellow Canadian and Star Trek cast member William Shatner, with whom Scotty felt no real rapport, appeared simultaneously as Ranger Bill in the American version.

In 1965 Star Trek casting director James Goldstone suggested that the burly, booming-voiced Doohan audition for the supporting role of chief engineer of the U.S.S. Enterprise. That character was not yet fully developed and Doohan, after trying out a variety of accents during the audition, offered the character with a Scottish burr impressing Trek producer Gene Roddenberry. Queried about his choice Doohan responded, "If this character is going to be an engineer, you'd better make him a Scotsman." Insinuating that all the world's best engineers have been Scottish (we agree), Doohan picked the Aberdonian (Aberdeen) accent he learned from his bunkmates in WWII.

Thusly, Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott’s plaintive Scots declaration, "I dinna ken if she can tak any more, Captain!" - rang through the outer edges of the cosmos as Captain James T. Kirk urged even more power out of the craft. Despite his protestations Scotty always managed to give those warp engines the extra boost required to desperately maneuver the Starship Enterprise out of life-threatening situations. The sound bite “Beam me up, Scotty!" will certainly continue to resonate until the great Yellowstone caldera once again erupts or the sun goes super nova.

The actor remained in the role until Star Trek's cancellation in 1969, subsequently reviving the character for the 1974 cartoon series and the many theatrical films. Scotty, one of the few characters in the annals of TV pop culture to rise to lofty iconic heights, was able to parlay his Star Trek character into a continuing career that saw him making personal appearances and speeches all around the world.

Though born a Canadian of Irish descent we look suspiciously at his Montgomery middle name and suspect an underlying Scottish pedigree. There are others, however, that have taken their quest to imprint a Scottish identity on Montgomery Scott to almost absurd lengths.

In a head-long rush to recognize and validate Scotty’s pedigree Linlithgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Elgin, Scotland have all proclaimed that they are the real (future) birthplace of Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott. Plaques abound in all these cities though we honestly have to admit that pursuit of the almighty Pound, Euro and Dollar may have more to do with this genealogical epiphany.

It certainly appears that Linlithgow has satisfied itself that it has the inside track especially given the support of the Doohan Family who unveiled a plaque memorializing Scotty’s 2222 CE future birth in Linlithgow in 2007. The new "James Doohan Memorial Exhibition" which opened its doors in the Annet House Museum on August 3rd tells the story of Doohan and his critical role in the cult sci-fi series. The Doohan Family has cooperated righteously in this endeavor by providing photographs, his original Star Trek costume, Star Trek models and other personal memorabilia.

Of course, Scotty had been heard many times proudly proclaiming his status as an Aberdonian pub crawler and we of Might of Right concede that he can be both.

As a partial if not tongue-in-cheek validation of this presumed Scottish Heritage good Friend George Takei (Star Trek helmsman Hikaru Sulu) has confessed that Doohan loved his Scotch. That aside, after having totally immersed himself in his Scottish persona, Doohan said that he had, “Imbibed enough of the libation of Scotland to qualify him as a Scotsman.” Doohan, however, was eventually told by his doctor to quit drinking Scotch. He dutifully complied and demonstrating his craftiness, switched to vodka invoking memories of Humphrey Bogart who having survived the same regimen complained and bemoaned, “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”

An aside: Scotty was no amateur to the wonders of alcohol and was also a major fan of the southern Rhone Chateauneuf du Pape considered by many (including this writer) to be the pricey epitome (and, yes, the royalty) of the great French Reds.

Doohan tragically suffered from the quadruple whammy of Parkinson's disease, diabetes, lung fibrosis and in later life - Alzheimer's disease. Doohan sought his final refuge in 2005 and joined fellow Trekkies, Gene Roddenberry, DeForest Kelley, Ray Walston, John Colicos, Persis Khambatta, Mark Lenard, Bibi Besch, Merrit Butrick, Jeffry Hunter and Lee Bergbere in the Cosmos.

Reminiscent of Gene Roddenberry’s final journey, on April 28, 2007 a symbolic portion of James Doohan’s remains were shot into space via Houston-based Space Services’ Celestis along with remnants of astronaut Gordon Cooper and 201 other participants including some 911 ashes from New York City. The intent was to achieve a suborbital altitude and then parachute the payload of ashes and experiments back to Earth and then return the remains to Family members for final burial.

Well, it seems that the SpaceLoft XL rocket and its payload did blast into suborbital space with chutes deploying as programmed, though like the proverbial arrow, it fell to Earth, they knew not where? The booster was successfully located quickly on the side of a mountain some 30 miles away from Spaceport America and within the White Sands Missile Range. Rough, dense terrain and windy conditions, however, slowed the overall recovery effort. It took twenty days and the concerted efforts of both land and helicopter crews to finally locate the ashes of their distinguished passengers much to the relief of the recently chagrined and formerly-elated, almost euphoric Family members.

We are reminded of the attempt of the famous Scots/Norse Kingdome of Räknar to deliver the ashes of one Gude King Hägar the Horrible (aka the iconic Robert A. Swanson) of that same Kingdome of Räknar via a burning Viking longship into the depths of the Barren River Lake in Kentucky on one terribly cold winter day in 1994, so we are throwing no stones. Like the tormented though well-intended and motivated choreographers of that ceremony, we suspect that the Space Services folks did not pay proper homage to the Norse god Freyr. Goes around, comes around.

Despite the almost comedic denouement of the Space Services flight our fond memories of Scotty, Gordon Cooper and all 911 victims continue to reverberate throughout the universe. We give special thanks to James Montgomery Doohan – a Scotsman at heart - for making us a little more appreciative of our origins and our sure future. Yes, they should have beamed Scotty up.


Ned Buxton

[1] Bangor was the new home of many loyalists, mostly Protestant Scottish planters during the Plantation of Ulster in the early 1600’s. Even today, 83% of Bangor is Protestant and heavily identified with the Ulster-Scot community. We have noted that the Montgomeries have been integral to the history of Northern Ireland. While Doohan’s Catholic upbringing might initially confound us, the chances are greater than not that he has Scottish connections.

[2] The Bren was a light machine gun manufactured by the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield, UK used by UK forces from 1938 until 1991 (Regulars) and until 2006 by Irish Reserve Defense Forces. This surely once and for all time eliminates any of the reports that Doohan’s wounds came from German sources. Wikipedia and Graves, Donald E. (2005). Century of Service. New York: Midpoint Trade Books Inc., p.244. ISBN 1896941435.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


A good Friend at work who also happens to be a damned proud military Mom and an ardent reader of this Blog asked that I view the HBO film, Taking Chance and then offer some commentary. She handed me the just released DVD and seeing Kevin Bacon on the cover (major airbrush) I was reminded immediately of his 1992 role in A Few Good Men where Bacon played prosecuting attorney Colonel Jack Ross in that now iconic military courtroom drama. We all remember Jack Nicholson’s now famous lines spoken by his more or less dark character Colonel Nathan R. Jessep and so I immediately anticipated a spit and polish drama of the first magnitude. It was all that and more.

Taking Chance was a Sundance Film Festival selection and debuted in February of 2009 to rave reviews. It’s an honor and privilege to offer my opinion on this critically acclaimed film if just to counter the few naively subjective cynics and misdirected movie critics like
Ray Greene who just don’t get it. More later.

Taking Chance relates the last somber journey of KIA Marine PFC Chance Russell Phelps from the battlefield of Iraq back to his home and final resting place in Dubois, Wyoming. Until recently the public hasn’t not been allowed to view the protocol surrounding the return of our veterans killed in action in the Middle East. The now lifted Pentagon ban on media coverage of the return of flag-draped coffins of our fallen soldiers from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while respectful to the families, kept us somewhat anesthetized and out of sight and mind until President Obama interceded in early 2009. We thank for their freedom of information action that allowed us to visibly experience this ritual. While Taking Chance was already, mostly, in the can I am amazed that the producers of the movie were able to proceed so openly under this ban. Well, they did and with the full support and cooperation of the US Military, covered themselves in glory.

This movie is no myopic Michael Moore vomit-inspiring propagandist venture, rather is a message of service and sacrifice that has touched all that have viewed it. The vast majority have embraced this non-political film and the accurate portrayal of the military ritual for honoring our war dead. The film discreetly records the spontaneous gestures of kindness, respect and remorse by citizens from all walks of life and by doing so makes its greatest contribution by allowing us even as viewers of the film to participate in this exercise with a real sense of community. We can now more fully embrace and appreciate the significance of returning in respectful circumstance all who have fallen in service to our country to their place of origin.

Yes, “When one falls, another brings him home” and Kevin Bacon does great service to his country in his role as Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, the volunteer military escort officer, who accompanied the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps from the military mortuary at Dover Air Force Base back to his home in Wyoming. While this is Chance’s story, it’s also about Strobl and every member of our armed forces who has made the ultimate sacrifice.

Strobl’s journal entries were the basis of this movie and recount his emotional experiences (mostly controlled) while escorting Phelps cross country. In doing so Strobl experienced his epiphany that assuaged his angst over not being with his comrades in Iraq allowing him to address his demons and reconcile his level of service. It may very well be that Strobl’s greatest service to his country is this story. He brings it home for all of us.

We see the moment of Chance’s death, the transport to Germany then to stateside at Dover Air Force Base and the respectful, pious even reverential preparation of the remains by dedicated volunteers. The movie accurately reflects the cross country trek from Dover to Philadelphia to Minneapolis and then on to Billings then Riverton and the final hearse ride to Dubois, Wyoming and the solemn respect paid by ordinary citizens to one of their own. I could relate more of the carefully recreated, intimate details of this saga, but I don’t want to spoil the experience for the uninitiated.

Like so many subjects we have engaged of late, the story always seems to ultimately be the people and their reactions to Taking Chance. The extraordinary outpouring of appreciation and gratitude for this film has been in stark contrast to the mindless rhetoric of a few to include the aforementioned movie critic Ray Greene who has chosen to disgrace himself by taking the opportunity to offer a personal political statement about a movie devoid of political content. It certainly wasn’t the intent of this writer to provide Greene with a further forum, rather to once again shine the light of day on Greene and his patently disrespectful words.

Ray Greene is so jaded that he perceives the movie as exploitive propaganda and from his academic perch nothing more than formulaic sentimentality. Even if he understood the movie he could only look for a hook for his personal and very subjective opinions. Greene can’t see the forest for the trees and characterized those who paid their respect to Chance as a, “Greek chorus of uncompromised woe.” Greene even castigates and vilifies actor Kevin Bacon and certain aspects his personal life. And what the hell does that have to do with this film? Absolutely nothing. That gives Greene away for what he is and he becomes like this writer, just another citizen offering an opinion. Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s his right and why the Chance Phelps of our world made the ultimate sacrifice. Life is not a Hollywood writer's kum by ya script. We all embrace a perfect world without war – the ultimate goal of any soldier.

Bottom line: As one critic opined, “This is a film about respect and dignity, both in death and in life. And we hope that we may be treated with the same level of careful attention.” Our undying gratitude goes out to Lt. Col. Stroble for allowing us to be part of the process. And that what this movie is all about - the collective WE.

So what happened to that Taking Chance DVD loaned to me? This last Friday it was viewed by a local VFW post in Dallas, Texas. Colonel Buxton would be proud. Embrace the message, spread the word and bring plenty of tissues.


Ned Buxton

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Odinists, pagans, historians and other celebrators of the aulde Norse & Danes recognize the just passed June 8 as Lindisfarne Day and the start of what we now know as The Viking Age. On June 8, 793 CE (1043 Runic Era) just about midyear in anybody’s calendar, three Viking ships raided the even then iconic holy monastery (once home to the illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels) on the Isle of Lindisfarne, that famous island off the coast of Northumberland. In what appeared to some as a demonstration of religious intolerance, the Vikings were reputed to have cruelly slaughtered the defenseless monks and staff of Lindisfarne. Those that they didn’t outright hack to death, they ostensibly dragged into the sea and drowned. Probably a lot of that is true.

They looted and desecrated the chapels and monastery at Lindisfarne (established in 635 CE) of her riches of gold, silver, jewelry, and much, much more which had been primarily derived from the payment for indulgences – monetary payments to safeguard the believers from the torments of Hell. No, this raid and alleged slaughter wasn’t motivated by religion, rather the Vikings engaged this well organized, purely economic enterprise because they could (the Viking longship) and because they needed those resources. For the eighth century and incredibly vulnerable residents of Lindisfarne and the rest of Anglo Saxon Britain, this criminal enterprise was their 911. That prompted history which was then recorded by the only ones who could write – the monks and members of the religious orders so looted and desecrated – to weigh in so heavily against the Vikings with what is now recognized as subjective, mostly one-sided versions of that reality.

Alcuin, the distinguished Northumbrian theologian of that period, noted:

Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race. . . .The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.

The Lindisfarne event coupled with another, earlier incident in 789 CE near the present site of Portland, near Weymouth, England fully marked the beginning of The Viking Age. It seems that this violent encounter between Vikings and a party of local men led by Beaduheard, the shire reeve (from which title we derive the word ‘sheriff’) of the King of Wessex. This ill advised confrontation by Beaduheard (fully engaged in the height of arrogance) was ostensibly for the purposes of, believe it or not, taxation. Our gude and pompous shire reeve apparently mistook the Viking party for an honorable Scandinavian commercial trading venture. When he “demanded” that the Viking party accompany him to Dorchester, some nine miles away, our Viking brethren dispatched Councilor Beauduhear and his party in short order. Tax officials need take heed to this most understandable reaction. To the Vikings who were routinely going about their business, this was not a raid, rather their reaction to a nonsensical, conceited (and to them probably illegal) stunt by Beauduhear that was easily solved by the mighty Viking sword.

This incident was recorded by no fewer than four medieval scribes who saw the 789 Portland incident as sufficiently significant to record it in their chronicles. Interestingly, one source and contributor to the important
Anglo-Saxon chronicle, in recording the affair, reveals the uncertainty about whence the raiders came, calling them both Norwegians and Danes:

In this year Beorhtric took to wife Eadburh, daughter of king Offa. And in his days came first three ships of Norwegians from Höthaland and then the reeve rode thither and tride [sic] to compel them to go to the royal manor, for he did not know what they were: and then they slew him. These were the first ships of the Danes to come to England.

So much for scholarship and geography in the 8th century which prompts our review of these and other incidents involving the Northmen. Who knows, maybe in death Beaduheard gained immortality, mostly for being an incredibly naïve, adrenalin pumped clerk with a tin badge and an overbearing, big mouth.

By the way, the term Viking is no longer in vogue, especially by academics and, no; the Vikings didn’t have horns on their helmets. While no doubt lives were lost in these two incidents, the pursuit of a more accurate history reflects that there was a lot more going on than the mindless slaughter of civilians and, no, we aren’t going to try and forgive Viking indiscretions or rewrite/whitewash this particularly heinous part of the historical record. We will attempt, however, to dispel some of the misconceptions about the Northmen by offering the motivations and raison d’êtres for their actions in future posts where we will also provide some of the history of this great culture, which from, by the way, many folks feel that our branch of the Buxtons sprang.

A furore Normanorum, libera nos Domine (From the fury of the northmen, God deliver us.)


Ned Buxton

We thank the very talented Pip Wilson, of Australia and for some of his words and perspectives that motivated this little Viking snippet. Don’t think that he’s a Gunn do you?

Friday, June 5, 2009


With another Father’s Day (celebrated off and on since 1908) almost upon us (Sunday, June 21, 2009), I thought once again thank my Father, Coburn Allen Buxton, on his birthday, for his paternity, love and mentoring even as this date closely follows the passing of my beloved step mother. Done, thanks, Dad.

I also want to thank and recognize son Geb Buxton for his participation in and outstanding contributions to the health and well being of sons Quinton and Cameron. Well done, Son.

This is going to be a stream of consciousness post today and just maybe a vent. I thought it somewhat perplexing and at cross purposes to see the History Channel’s piece on Father’s day accompanied by a mid sixties shot of John Lennon, Yoko Ono with John’s eldest son by his first marriage, Julian, whose relationship always appeared to be “strained” with his father. At one point Julian did not see his father for several years. Lennon is reputed to have verbally abused his children and when it came down to the ultimate bottom line, didn’t even mention Julian in his will.

The photo is in a History Channel gallery of shots that includes JFK, Muhammad Ali, Paul McCartney, MLK, Jackie Robinson, Prince Charles, Elvis, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy and George Herbert Walker Bush (the Father). While these folks proved themselves famous human beings it seems they are in the gallery for no other reason than they produced progeny (easier to become one than be one).

Philip Norman's John Lennon: The Life rats Lennon out and even in a controversial Oedipal slight reflects that Lennon regretted that he didn’t sleep with his Mother?

John was known mostly for his arrogant/egotistical, eccentric, always rebellious nature, biting and many times inappropriate profane remarks and acerbic wit and his now and always infamous quote, "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I do not know what will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity...We're more popular than Jesus now" and for his use of expletives in some of his songs. That quote despite a patently insincere back door apology, ended the Beatles touring career. He ultimately sarcastically thanked Jesus for what he perceived as a positive development in his career. Along with McCartney he founded the Beatles and then singlehandedly brought them down. No, I don’t buy into the genius with quirks syndrome… Not everybody shares hyperbole about Lennon’s “Genius.”

Lennon was an admitted male chauvinist of the first order and even acknowledged striking first wife Cynthia in the face. Two of his legacies (aside from his superb music) were his many infidelities and excessive drug and alcohol use. He, though not all of his demons, were ultimately “tamed” by a not so subservient Yoko Ono who later in their relationship even suggested that John take on a companion. He obliged though later reconciled with Yoko who took charge of his life from that point. He may have made some of us ponder the important issues of the day but he was no hero or Renaissance Man, rather just a man with his own demons.

William Faulkner once commented viscerally about his motivation as a writer, “An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn't know why they choose him and he's usually too busy to wonder why."

My good Friend and Emmy Award winner Sandy Marshall in his critically acclaimed Lennon biography, And In The End -The Death and Life of John Lennon, stirs up a lot of the same dirt and some of the good in his mostly one man play which starred the talented Irish actor Valentine Pelka. This was no rose tinted wash of Lennon’s life (rather the good, the bad and the ugly) which was well received at the Edinburgh Festival and later in Australia. The public would be well served if Broadway or even a world class movie was the next step. Sandy was insightful and right on and surely didn’t paint a portrait of The Father of the Year.

Seems that so many of the post mortem platitudes (history rewrites) about Lennon are from those who would profit from an economic opportunity that includes memorabilia that preserves the legacy of this “Utopian Renaissance Man” or those who choose to remember the idealistic Lennon myth obscured by an emotional 60’s Haight-Ashbury cloud (yea, that one). For me Lennon’s flaws tragically and irrevocably diminish his legacy (Father or not) –
you have to walk the walk.

So, while the brilliant, iconic talent and personality that garnered for Lennon #8 on the BBC’s One Hundred Most Admired Britons list, it does little to enhance his standing as a credible, responsible parent. Yet, besides all this he is featured and offered by the History Channel as a Father figure for those interested in this tradition?

Got to be a joke… Just ImagineYes, I was and remain a big Beatles Fan

For those of you that well deserve the title pater, Happy Father’s Day.


Ned Buxton

Monday, June 1, 2009


If it has anything to do with Scotland, you have my unashamed attention and to the great chagrin and angst of many Family, Friends and Associates, I’m probably going to tell you about it. This time, it’s Scotland and the Lowlands with a twist…

Its just been announced that Susan Boyle took second place in the Britain’s Got Talent (BGT) show that seems to have as many ups and downs as American Idol. While I would have preferred a well deserved win for Susan, perhaps this better punctuates what’s been happening around this story for the last month. Her recent expletive deleted confrontation with a tabloid reporter who according to some sources seemed bent on provoking and harassing Susan may have contributed to her defeat and revealed that she may have some difficulty dealing with what will surely be an ever increasing and intense media attention. She will need help here. I am sure that some folks would like to “help” that reporter who was removed from the Wembley Plaza Hotel in London by police. Susan’s world is changing at supersonic speed…

Once again the story is us – we the people – and how we have reacted to the musical offerings of a seemingly unsophisticated (even mildly retarded) middle aged, plain spoken Scottish Lady who had the stones to get up on a major world stage and innocently strut her stuff. We have forever and a day indelibly indicted ourselves and our superficial perspectives and world with our post performance observations and understandably emotional glorification of this Lady. This whole scenario has turned into the epiphany of the century where red-faced and embarrassed generations have self flagellated themselves into a mass confessional.

For most of her forty eight years Boyle has been comfortable in her own skin, content or at least anesthetized in her little village (no Brigadoon) taking care of herself and until recently her Mom. She has been singing long before her Britain’s Got Talent performance and, yes, she has had voice lessons. Her performance was no surprise to her fellow Blackburn, West Lothians who have listened and appreciated her vocal gifts at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and the karaoke bar in the Happy Valley Hotel.

Blackburn in the region of West Lothian in the Lowlands of Scotland was known heretofore as the home of the now closed British Leyland plant though it is now the home of Susan Boyle who has gleefully turned the world on its head. Scotland Lives, though she probably cares little about those of us that sprang from that auld sod… West Lothian was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and home to Star Trek character USS Enterprise engineer Montgomery Scott (played by Canadian James Doohan) and known to some as The land of the English in the Kingdom of the Scots.

And what of the issue of her “mild retardation” brought up by some - the result of oxygen deprivation during her birth? No doubt some of her “filters” may seem a little compromised as she exuberantly and without seeming restraint expresses herself though all with a refreshing and healthy dose of innocence and humility. She would no doubt join and best Tom Cruise jumping on any couch on any TV set, anywhere. So what? While there are tricks of the trade, Susan appears well capable of memorizing and delivering heroic songs, no small feat for any Mensa.

While Susan inexplicably placed second in the competition – runner up to an exuberant, mostly very young 11 member dance troupe called ''Diversity” that previously won the U.K. Street Dance Championships (what a pedigree) - that says it all. It seemed to me that their participation in this competition was apples and oranges with Boyle and the other singers and that the dance troupe should have been in a different genre. While Diversity is an incredibly talented group they are on a different planet… Like American Idol, and despite very gracious concessions and compliments by Ms. Boyle, there is no doubt that the lesser of the competitors officially won. A grateful, very surprised and ultimately forgettable Diversity said as much themselves. That happens when you put ravenous texting teenagers without boundaries in charge of the voting for their ilk. It becomes a popularity not a talent contest (witness Idol Sanjaya Malakar). I suspect that most of the voters don’t have an appreciation or understanding for Susan’s musical offerings though they did vote Paul Potts the BGT winner in 2007. Bottom line: Paraphrasing W. C. Fields - don’t compete with children and animals.

While most everybody appears fascinated by Susan it seems that many of those same folks aren’t comfortable with her persona and seem to want to make her over. Her frizzy hair, chubby physique, jowly face, caterpillar eyebrows, unkempt cat-lady and dowdy-homely-frumpy-matronly-ordinary appearance (these are all quotes) seems to motivate folks to try and reinvent Susan based on their individual perceptions. Why can’t they just leave her alone to pursue her dreams and inspire those of us that require nothing more than her wonderful voice and sincere personality?

Well, Susan got a makeover of sorts – trimmed her eyebrows and dyed her hair brown. Given her mustache trim she may have disenfranchised a bar owner from New Zealand who contrived the Susan Boyle Cocktail which has a layer of Frangelico on top which leaves drinkers a tantalizing creamy moustache, not unlike milk commercials of old.

Restating the obvious - I’m cynical enough at this point to reflect that it’s all about money even as Simon Cowell will probably sign Susan to a record deal (and that’s OK) and is getting set to personally introduce Susan to America. She will, no doubt, be a big success here and finally realize her ultimate dreams though we wonder who will really be in charge.

Some folks including this writer feel that the producers and directors of Britain’s Got Talent no doubt anticipated the reaction that Boyle’s performance would elicit. They knew that the shock value of her personality and appearance v. her performance would knock everybody’s socks off and they probably cared little for the Human potential of Boyle. The fact that they apparently kept their little secret from the judges is absolutely amazing. Look at the camera placements and the pre and post performance shots. They were milking this phenomenon for all it was worth.

While you can’t always predict levels of performance (witness Susan’s less than stellar start in the second round) they anticipated the reaction that Boyle would probably get notwithstanding her eccentric personality. No, they didn’t manufacture or manipulate, but they did create and exploit the environment that allowed the Susan Boyle phenomenon to take place. That did not diminish the very sincere and visceral reactions and realization of the audience and the viewing public. And all that is probably good for in the best of Ugly Betty times we need to be ultimately reminded that our mostly shallow and superficial values really don’t matter.

I also believe that we can wax philosophic – ad nauseum - about the reaction and its significance on racism, gender politics, hell, even global warming and we will probably put everybody to sleep and lose the real value of this experience.

Lisa Schwarzbaum a founding editor of Entertainment Weekly eloquently opined on Susan, “In our pop-minded culture so lavishly obsessed with packaging — the right face, the right clothes, the right attitudes, the right Facebook posts — the unpackaged artistic power of the unstyled, un-hip, un-kissed Ms. Boyle let me feel, for the duration of one blazing showstopping ballad, the meaning of human grace. She pierced my defenses. She reordered the measure of beauty. And I had no idea until tears sprang how desperately I need that corrective from time to time.” Yes, I cried as well.

Far from the campfire kumbyyas who cry acknowledging the victory of the human spirit over adversity (me too), the reality is that this is not where a gobsmacked Susan Boyle is coming from. She innocently approached us, offered and gave us her gift which we accepted with open arms and probably unpredictably, a guilty conscience.

As we mentioned earlier we are now trying to make her over into something she isn’t and probably doesn’t want to be. Decisions about her and her future from this point are probably going to be made by someone other than Susan. Have we picked the flower only to see it wither and die when we should have left it in the field? Are we doing this for Susan Boyle or to assuage our collective guilt? Hopefully they will recognize her value just as she is and leave her be.

Maybe, just maybe, Susan is here to save us from ourselves and help right a foundering ship… The least we can do is accept and enjoy her gift in the spirit it was offered. And, no, she’s not, “Piers Morgan's ex-nanny's third cousin twice removed.” Funny.


Ned Buxton