Sunday, January 31, 2010


Last week My Best Friend treated us to a night with the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League (NHL) who have been struggling of late. Their opponent was the Calgary Flames who have special significance for me given their birth in Atlanta in 1971. They were sold and moved to Calgary in 1982. The Atlanta Flames played their home games in the iconic Omni Arena which like Tara has gone the way of the wind replaced by the Phillips Arena now home to the Atlanta Thrashers of the NHL and Atlanta Hawks of the NBA.

The Omni was an innovative, catty cornered, architectural wonder with its rusty waffle iron exterior appearance and one of the most perfect venues for athletic events and concerts. While intimate and perfect for spectators, it was too small to make big money (without a huge TV or radio package), and the advent of newer, bigger more luxurious arenas and an unfortunate design flaw – it never stopped rusting - guaranteed its demise. It was also home to the Atlanta Hawks though it was the Flames who represented most of my interaction with that venue. I even had the opportunity to play on Omni ice in an exhibition intended to increase awareness of amateur hockey in Atlanta.

I shared season tickets in one of those catty “home” corners that afforded a great view of the home goal and really the development of the game. As a goaltender I liked watching two Atlanta goalers, Danny Bouchard and Phil Myre ply their trade with diametrically opposed styles – Bouchard with his mostly edgy butterfly and Myre a classic stand up goaltender. Other players that stand out for me include Guy Chouinard, Bill Clement, Curt Bennett, Eric Vail, Brad Marsh, Rey Comeau, Tim Ecclestone, Tom Lysiak, Willi Plett, Pat Quinn, Larry Romanchych and, of course legendary coach and inventor of the slap shot, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion and the equally iconic Voice of the Flames, Jiggs McDonald.

Bouchard was great to watch as he was one of the early goaltenders that skated well out of the crease and remember him venturing regularly to the blue line and even to center ice a few times. He almost scored a goal in one game and that would have been most appropriate for this wandering goaler to light the lamp. I don’t think he ever did but he sure scared the hell out of us a few times scrambling to get back to the net when the opposing team regained the puck. He dove into his crease just a few times… I never wandered far from my crease…

Back to the Stars game and the point of this post. Our seats were in the home corner of the American Airlines Center in section 122 which allowed great views of the game not unlike those Omni catty corners. Up close and personal…

Most of the protypical NHL stars of my era were very big, fast and strong while the new NHL game is supposed to favor the smaller more durable and quicker player – more the soldier than officer. You wouldn’t know it that night as both Calgary and Dallas offered rosters with big players including the 6’3” and 212+ lbs future Hall of Famer Mike Modano. But, I still didn’t see across the board explosive accelerations, big powerful strides with long leg extensions and recovery except from Modano who despite being in the twilight of his career on the ice still seems to be in a league of his own. I reveled at Modano’s performance as only a few players seemed to be skating their lanes in contrast to that earlier era. It might have been that game and/or the subjective perspective of this writer, but…

I immediately noted the changes in the goal crease but was soon distracted by the Dallas Stars’ Ice Girls who clean the ice in front and around the goals during commercial breaks. Seems like it might get cold out there with their two piece outfits, but they do work hard… There are new rules on goaltenders which limits their ability to handle the puck except in and around the goal and that area immediately behind the goal so no more Danny Bouchard sojourns.

Highlights of that game include Modano’s goal which further increased his all-time goal-scoring and points lead amongst American-born players (Livonia, MI) in the NHL. Stars' defenseman Mark Fistric was fined $2,500 (he got off light) for beating the crap out of Flames' forward Eric Nystrom with the assist of Nystrom’s helmet. Nystrom actually started the fight following stoppage of play and after a clean hit by Fistric in the neutral zone. Reaped the whirlwind, Nystrom did…

The Stars won the game in a shoot out, four goals to three with Loui Eriksson soon of the Swedish Olympic Hockey Team scoring the only goal of the shootout. As if to assure us of his humanity, Modano had the first try of the shootout and wiffed his shot. I groaned…

Modano followed up the Flames game by scoring two goals in the Stars' next tilt a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche including the tie breaker and ultimate game winner. Modano appears on the way back. The Stars will need him to be productive to have any chance at the playoffs.

Thanks for a great evening and kudos to Mike Modano for truly playing the game.


Ned Buxton

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I got a call today at work. It was Her Royal Majesty, Queen Helga of the Kingdome of Räknar aka Jeanette Swanson of Birmingham, Alabama. Jeanette forwarded the sad news that Nathan Ellis “Mad Max” McDougald had passed in his sleep yesterday (1/20/2010) in Gainesville, Florida. No details, just that Max was gone and the world now a little bit lighter and worse off… The energy that was Max in his fifty years (11/30/59) had now passed to another realm though surely some remained in the memory and essence of his Friends. His zest for and pursuit of life and celebration of Friends, Family and Scottish Heritage is a remarkable story and legacy. He adopted us all though generally on his own terms and even that loyalty sometimes scared the hell out of us. He was bigger than life (like his heart) and while just being himself would have been good enough to allow him free passage anywhere he chose to go, he sometimes chose another more difficult path. He pressed the flesh with Generals, CEOs and bottle washers and they all loved him.

Max’s passing isn’t going to allow him the courtesy of a celebratory (wink & nod) whitewash where we won’t speak ill of the dead. The great example that Max McDougald’s life provides is a lesson and legacy that Max would want told. Max was human and earlier cluttered his and our landscape with the excess baggage of his fantasies and sore angst in his attempt to belong to and be something he was not. Several of us have known his real story and first and foremost, that included the iconic Robert “Hägar” Swanson who first gave him a second life and mentored him in the Scottish American Community.

Max finally admitted to several folks that certain aspects of his past were embellished, exaggerated and just not true and pledged that he would cease and desist and clarify when he could. Though I have been out of the southeast for the last six years I understand that he never broke that pledge.

Max always seemed to choose that path less traveled and his persona preceded him – usually as the gravelly voiced, topless, kilted bear of a Man with a Viking horned helmet carrying a big two handed Scottish Claymore and battleaxe while marching with his MacDougall Clan, his adopted Family-The Kingdome of Räknar, the Gunns and several other Clans where he was called Friend and always welcomed. He cut quite a swath at many a Highland Games and Parade of Tartans and for many represented that edgy faux Barbarian who yearned and dreamed of a less civilized time (don’t we all?).

You never really knew what Max was going to do or what other great implement he was going to carry as in his always incredibly generous mode, he gifted many of his possessions away… including the handcrafted, hand forged, huge, very heavy and now legendary double bladed battle axe that he often carried and ultimately gifted to me. If sharpened it could easily cleave a man in two. It remains dull though still very impressive and one of my prized possessions.

Scottish Highland Wrestling aka Cumberland or Cumbrian Wrestling was among his many talents and I don’t know anyone who ever mastered him. He was big and very, very strong with a natural and intuitive inclination towards the sport. With the proper handling and instruction he probably could have excelled at Greco-Roman wrestling even on the Olympic level. He did participate and win championships at many a Scottish Highland Games. While some thought Max might bask in his sometimes almost super human accomplishments and championships, he downplayed and eschewed the olive wreath. What medals and trophies he won (they were legion) he usually gifted to the children he met along the way.

Max eventually gravitated towards the Highland Games Children’s activities especially the wrestling events. He was active at several Scottish Highland Games in this capacity including the Grandfather Mountain and Glasgow Highland Games. That may be how he will be remembered by most in the American Scottish Community.

In the Scottish Community if you as a child, amateur or professional athlete intend to participate in a Scottish Athletic event you are encouraged to wear the kilt. Indeed, now at most Scottish Highland Games and especially those where I was Director of Scottish Athletics all Athletes, Judges and Gilles were required to wear the kilt. No kilt, no play. On at least one occasion, that kept legendary strongman Bill Kazmaier off the Stone Mountain Highland Games field. If former World’s Strongest Man competitor Bill Dunn could wear the kilt, then so should Kaz. Well, Max thought that everybody should have the opportunity to participate in this culturally unique set of events and sought to enrich those experiences and rectify this sometimes obstacle. He was an excellent teacher and his Highland Wrestling classes were always filled with enthusiastic, attentive and beaming students. They were being taught by the master…

Max set up a program with organizations and individuals so that they could donate kilts for use by his kids and later young or aspiring amateur Scottish Athletes at Highland Games competitions. I remember his own clan MacDougall Society donated a child’s kilt in their tartan and with the embroidered motto, “To Conquer or Die." We are assured that young competitors wearing this kilt have made quite an impression on the field of honor. In this way Max encouraged many a youngster while reminding them of their Scottish Heritage. Max loved children and they loved him. In all of his competitions he always saw that each and every child was recognized for their labors. Max’s efforts did not go unnoticed and he was laudably commissioned a Kentucky Colonel.

In light of his contributions The Kingdome of Räknar where he had served for many years as the Keeper of Order and High Sheriff at their now famous “Raids” felt that Max should be raised to higher Honour by way of a more dignified and illustrious title by creating him the Earl of Karolina, “with all the pre-eminences, privileges, precedencies, honours, and all other things belonging or appertaining to the state of Earl of Karolina.” The Räknar proclamation continued thusly, “Max's heritage and his roots from the Gael and the Norse is shown in his personality and demonstrated on the Field of Honour where he has engaged countless hours of toil for the education and enjoyment of our bairns and the future leaders of Our Kingdome. Max has controlled and directed his great strength by teaching the cunning and tradition of Highland Wrestling and now organizes and judges those events at many Highland Gatherings."

Max no doubt was one of those “Most Unforgettable Characters” endearing himself to many in and out of the Scottish American Community. Author Romilly Squire of Rubislaw of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs and probably the top heraldic artist in the world designed a personal Coat of arms for Max. Mark John Harden of Cowdenknowes. Baron of Cowdenknowes created Max as his Sergeant at Arms. It goes on….

Max became one of the iconic figures of the always eclectic and fun loving Norse/Scots Kingdome of Räknar. As the Keeper of Order he was by extension the High Protector of the Royal Family of Räknar which includes this writer. Max always took his job seriously with Bob Swanson scared for some time to say anything derogatory about anyone in Max’s presence for fear he might intercede… I always paid Max a Scottish Shilling for his efforts in my behalf and he always gloried in showing me his ever accumulating stash from his efforts over the years. He never spent or gave away one of those coins…

While Max in an earlier life was guilty of procrastinating and embellishing on the truth - that same truth be told, it wouldn’t have mattered. He would have been accepted as an equal in every corner and I think he understood that in the end. At his worst and best, Max was our good Friend and he truly loved and protected us and we reciprocated. Sometimes it was as if he was assuming the mantle of protector in order to shield us from harm. Max surely paid a terrible and embarrassing price for his indiscretions but he did it with humility, dignity and a rededicated positive service to his Family, Friends and all the members of his community. It took great courage, strength, and determination for Max to rise above his past.

The following prayer is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi and was used in this Sunday’s service at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas, Texas. We have just learned that Max in his final months was even with his meager funds buying and then distributing clothing and blankets to the poor and homeless in Gainesville, Florida. It seemed to me that Max was revisiting and living these words and in doing so setting a credible example for us all.

Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there is hatred let me bring your love,
Where there is injury your pardon Lord,
And where there's doubt true faith in you.
Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there's despair in life, let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness, only light,
And where there's sadness, ever joy.
O Master grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of your peace,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving to all men that we receive
And in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Max is and will remain my Friend till the end of time. He found forgiveness and absolution from most while he was alive and my counsel for those others is to let it all go for fear that they may forever remain in a quagmire of anger and pain. And that’s what Max taught us – that if you do screw up there is always a chance of pardon and redemption and that despite our faults and humanity we should always strive to understand our fellow Man and find peace by demonstrating compassion and granting forgiveness.

Those that were able to find the strength to do so were rewarded with a Friendship, loyalty and an allegiance they will probably never, ever experience (again?)… The mold is broken… Max is now in Valhalla with Bob Swanson, Fat Duncan, Ed Manson, John Morrison, John MacLeod of MacLeod, Ralph Payne, Tom Raisbeck, Jamie MacKenzie-Frye, George MakGill, Danny Potter, Bill Matthews, Kenn Maxwell, Tom Dowd, Richard Gammon, Bob Southerland, My Friend Carl and all the other Heroes of Räknar, perhaps being offered some mead by a Valkyrie - or two…


Ned Buxton

Sunday, January 17, 2010


The magnitude of the enormous tragedy and chaos unfolding in Haiti (already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere) is frustrating and overwhelming many around the world including this writer. Were it not for the massive, yea heroic, efforts of the United States Military, what relief now pouring in Haiti wouldn’t/couldn’t be happening. Marines, members of the 82nd Airborne’s 2nd Brigade from Fort Bragg, NC and the United States Air Force's (USAF) elite 23rd Special Tactics Squadron from Florida are trying to put an already badly cracked Haitian Humpty Dumpty back together again. Critical to that effort was the US Air Force’s aforementioned 720th Special Tactics Group which reopened and are now overseeing and conducting 24-hour operations and air traffic control at the critical link for humanitarian relief - Port-au-Prince airport.

The earthquake, not surprisingly, destroyed the control tower at the airport along with most of the rest of the infrastructure in Haiti including the local seaports, vital cogs in the logistics wheel. The US Military in the person of Navy Seabee divers from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story-based Underwater Construction Team 1 (Norfolk, VA) and Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 (Gulfport, MS) along with other Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 (Little Creek) and Naval Sea Systems Command (Wash DC) are in place. Along with engineers from Naval Facilities Engineering Command they are now trying to repair and open many of those vital ports.

But no airport access, no immediate relief. Early on activity was only a trickle because of little fuel and only two fuel trucks for all the planes flying in and out of Port-au-Prince airport. Indeed, after the USAF arrived it took six hours to remove a large plane from the tarmac at Port-au-Prince that was in need of fuel and blocking flight operations. Within minutes of their arrival USAF personnel were talking to inbound aircraft carrying humanitarian aid.

Many of the planes that were able to land had difficulty off loading their much needed cargoes. Again in the forefront was the U.S. Military. While they brought in fork lifts and other equipment, airport capacity wasn’t enough to meet the dozens if not hundreds of flights lined up by relief agencies and governments from around the world. Then the flights turned into a massive log jam though with a lot of TLC transitioned to a now a fairly smooth process with maximum optimum capacity now estimated to be 180 flights per day.

Once material is unloaded the major concern has been how to transport the materials throughout the compromised country. Much of the material remains sitting and waiting to be distributed. With the predictable looting now notching up there is also a real concern that any food convoys will be attacked by desperate citizens or criminals intent on profiting from the chaos. Part of that criminal element includes some 4,000 prisoners which escaped from the destroyed main prison complex in Port-au-Prince and are now freely roaming the streets. Again it would appear that United Nations peacekeeping troops and the US Military will continue to provide security for these convoys and the ultimate distribution of the food and supplies.

The military effort has been critical to the overall humanitarian effort and the arrival of one of the US Navy’s Nimitz class aircraft super carriers, the USS Carl Vinson, with its newly acquired additional 19 helicopters and relief supplies is already having a major impact on the effort. Along with other US Navy vessels, the Baltimore, Maryland-based hospital ship USNS Comfort, with personnel from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va. left today for Haiti. A total of nine ships will constitute the US Navy presence. Interestingly, in toto these ships will be able to produce more than 900,000 gallons of water daily with a substantial portion to be used to help meet the needs of the local populations.

The Associated Press today reflected on the World Food Program (WFP) that yesterday distributed six truckloads of high energy biscuits at the densely populated, usually violent, ravaged shanty city, Cite Soleil (Sun City) in Port-au-Prince. At the end of the day with a few cases left there were still 10,000 people waiting in line… God bless them. Yes, you have to start somewhere.

Some of the positives include the heroic United States Agency for International Development (USAID) which has delivered tons of materials and supplies to Haiti and already installed three water purification systems capable of producing 300,000 liters of safe drinking water daily. More are on the way. They have already distributed hundreds of thousands of packaged meals. Objective daily time line reports on the activities of USAID and the other relief agencies in the area are available at

Now the United States is not alone in its effort. The international response has been unprecedented with Canada, Britain, Russia, Israel, France, Jordan, China, Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Georgia, Qatar and scores more responding with materials and personnel as never before in the history of Man. The big problem has been - who’s running the show? Some say the Red Cross while others identify the UN or the US Military. One thing for sure it’s not the government of Haiti. They are broken and overwhelmed, yea, just about impotent. Many ministers, bureaucrats and government workers are also part of the statistics and have been injured or isolated or looking after Family and relatives. An articulate grief stricken Haitian woman surveying the city looked into the camera and in a profound angst proclaimed, “Haiti is no more…”

While there is apparently no formal coordinating lead on this effort supplies have been pouring in and predictably there have been too many of this - not enough of that and a government that doesn’t know the difference or can’t do anything about it. While there are formal designated distribution points there doesn’t appear to be an overall orderly or predictable distribution of supplies - just a tidal wave of well intended people who are doing their best. Now if that’s the best that we can do now – that’s better than nothing. But, aside from all this we need a leader; someone who can step in and take the point even if by the right of assumption.

Now one of the most frustrating aspects of the whole Haitian tragedy is that just a hop, skip and jump from Haiti on the American mainland, there are literally thousands of trained and experienced American Red Cross disaster relief volunteers (DSHR) who are available but will not be called upon to serve. Why? Because this is an International Effort. I have talked with other Red Cross disaster workers that remain equally frustrated. One American Red Cross official wrote to me, “Since Haiti is not associated with the United States like Puerto Rico, American Samoa or Guam, the relief operation for Haiti will be conducted by the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Society. Therefore, DSHR members will not be recruited to respond.”

I have been mulling this one over for the last couple of days and while I understand territorial imperatives, I can share the tremendous frustration of those who could serve and make a difference but will not be called. The US Military and governmental agencies like USAID are logically in the forefront because of their resources, humanitarian spirit and proximity to Haiti. With mostly European, Asian and Middle Eastern countries in the forefront of the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Society effort, it has taken them longer to deploy – generally days and hours that we didn’t have. Red Cross Volunteers from the US could have made a difference in the effectiveness of the overall response effort.

If the very capable and available American Red Cross DSHR personnel had been activated several major and very basic concerns would have been addressed.

Where would they stay?
Who would feed them?
Who would provide security and guarantee their protection?
Who would provide their transportation?

Common sense dictates that none of those questions could be adequately answered. The American Red Cross will never deploy Volunteers or paid staff in circumstances that would put them in harms way. USAID put their policy on deployment in perspective, “Volunteer opportunities in disaster settings are extremely rare, and are usually limited to people with prior disaster experience and technical skills (such as health, engineering, etc).”

While we thought that Katrina was a tragedy of unrivaled proportions, it doesn’t begin to approach the monumental tragedy of Haiti. In fact, the dying has only started. This will be Katrina all over again to an exponential magnitude. The 72 hour window of opportunity has all but expired though we hope for more miracles and the chance to rescue more people buried in Haiti’s collapsed buildings. We are in the process of transitioning from “Search & Rescue” to a “Recovery” operation though rescues continue every day. The whole country will have to be literally torn down and rebuilt. Perhaps the Haitians can get it right this time for a better quality of life and retain their beautiful culture.

They are going to need a lot of help, not only to restore infrastructure but to restore their self-confidence and encourage their journey to total self-determination. They need to be enjoined in the spirit of humanitarian cooperation. Then along in the middle of all this mayhem comes Jerk of the Decade (maybe century), aka a deluded and totally unchristian and apparently senile Pat Robertson who once again outrageously explains that the Haitians are inheriting the whirlwind because of their pact with the Devil? Incredible, yes, though I do recall his equally comtemptible comments following 911 and Hurricane Katrina.

Robertson’s exact quote was. “They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said, we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the Devil said, okay it's a deal [...] ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."

Then comes along Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN-yes, it’s his) which later released a statement on its web site offering that Robertson was speaking objectively (?) about Haiti's history that has led "countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed.” What is certain is that Robertson has absolutely no objectivity in this matter and knows nothing about Haitian history and culture.

I certainly agree with UCLA Anthropologist Andrew Apter, well known expert on the African Diaspora including Haiti, Dominican Republic and Cuba that this was a vague and absurdly inaccurate reference to the French colonial response to the successes of the 1790’s Haitian revolution when the slaves were ultimately freed by French legislative decree in 1792.

History Lesson–Haiti 101: The later slave revolt led by the on again/off again Toussaint Louverture was in fact successfully engaged and ultimately won in 1804 by Toussaint’s main lieutenant Jean-Jacques Dessalines when Napoleon Bonaparte ruled France, 44 years before his nephew Napoleon III came to power. Napoleon Bonaparte precipitated the revolt when he tried to reinstitute slavery in 1802. So much for Robertson’s history lesson. Whatever.

Now to those “scholars and religious figures” Robertson referred to. I sure don’t see that count though if they do exist they must reside under the same damned rock currently occupied by the Rev. Dr. Pat Robertson. I watched and listened to his remarks and count CBN‘s (Robertson’s) explanation as pure CYA spin. Absurd! If you believe that I have some pristine land in Haiti for sale… If you want more Haitian history don’t hesitate to go over to Wikipedia. I’ve also been advised that a good treatise on Haitian history is Robert Debs Heinl’s Written in Blood, newly revised edition: The Story of the Haitian People 1492-1995 (2005).

So, jerks aside, we are at the tip of the iceberg in a hurry up scenario that while slow as molasses would be far slower were it not for all those who have engaged the heroic humanitarian effort to help the courageous people of Haiti. Wish I was with you… Well done.


Ned Buxton

Note: The Haitian painting displayed above is by Roger Francois and is entitled, Three Faces

Sunday, January 10, 2010


As of the writing of this post there’s a guy on the National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles staff (since 1997) who in a fit of runaway primordial hormones, incredible stupidity and disrespect purposefully videotaped himself twice spitting on the Dallas Cowboys Star logo located midfield at the new $1.5B Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. This exercise in incredible bad judgment will prompt Dave “Spuds” Spadaro, longtime editor of, to be forever vilified by decent sports fans with a genuine love of the game and revered by the Neanderthals who inhabit this sport and are always looking to the dark side. Spadaro soon with a new nickname of “Loogie” got away with his expectoration by using his Eagles credentials to enter Cowboy Stadium and may prompt now suspicious Cowboy security personnel to ask representatives of rival teams if they intend to spit, pee or poop on The Cowboys Team Logo? Can a full body scan be far behind? Whatever happens, Spadaro’s spittle (his second was a gem) will surely qualify him for Loogie of the Year for 2010 and even perhaps Loogie of the Decade (so far).

Spadaro in a transparently insincere apology seemingly motivated and orchestrated by the Philadelphia Eagles organization refused to accept responsibility for his actions deflecting the blame thusly, “It's something I've been asked to do by Eagles fans.” An embarrassed Eagles fan then sincerely offered that he wanted Spadaro to jump off the 135 foot Ben Franklin Bridge. We are assured there are pedestrian walkways…

I’ve looked at myriad comments around the country many from Eagles fans and it would appear that Spadaro was correct in the assessment that at least some Eagles fans wanted him to do it. There were two fans especially (among others), one who bellowed that he would have, “Taken a dump on it (the Cowboy’s Star)” and the other who wanted to “Pee on it.” Many more Philadelphia fans, however, seemed embarrassed and disgusted with Spadaro’s antics.

The real Cretins here are Spadaro and those who support his effort. They are joined by those whatever their allegiance who accept his vulgar act as just another integral part of the game and any intense rivalry such as exists between the Cowboys and Eagles. A newscaster at a major Dallas TV station lowered himself to Spadaro’s level when he poked his finger in the eye of the Eagles’ logo at the end of his newscast yesterday. Class begets class and this will continue to motivate some to continue to crawl out from underneath their rocks like Philadelphia Inquirer columnist John Gonzalez who “loves to loathe” and is seemingly always sunning on his rock. Having said that I tend to agree with many of his observations including his take on Jerry Jones. Yea, I could learn to like the guy and could stand some reptilian sunning myself…

While a naïve dream, someday, just maybe, we can all enjoy the game for its innate beauty and not get caught up in the barbaric faux wrestlemania version we now call football. What ever happened to the pride and dignity of respectfully supporting something you believe in?

In the interim we will have to be satisfied with the results of the Dallas Cowboys performance against the Philadelphia Eagles this 2009-2010 season.

January 9, 2010 Dallas Cowboys - 34 Philadelphia Eagles - 14
January 2, 2010 Dallas Cowboys - 24 Philadelphia Eagles = 0
November 8, 2009 Dallas Cowboys - 20 Philadelphia Eagles - 16

Some have reflected that they wonder if all this wasn’t choreographed by Jerry Jones in an attempt to slyly motivate his sometimes lethargic Cowboys who until the recent New Orleans Saints game appeared to be just going through the motions. Having said that it would appear that the Cowboys like many of the Eagles players think this act and all the surrounding rhetoric absolute absurdity. This game ebbs and flows from year to year and the Cowboys motivation has more to do with money and pride given last years 44-6 final game drubbing by the Eagles after defeating them earlier in the season 41-37.

Let’s all try and stay above the horizon from this point on. Beavis and Butthead's Hockaloogie aside, maybe Jerry can outfit his new palace with spittoons or visit Mr. Sprardo’s digs with a couple of llamas?


Ned Buxton

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


This last Christmas season brought to the forefront an issue that we have been dealing with for many years. In this age of political correctness (PC) it all appears to be coming to a head though it will likely be debated for many more years, ad nauseum. The issue is what do we call those bedecked, festooned and ornamented trees heretofore called Christmas Trees?

The tradition of raising and decorating evergreen coniferous trees (pine, spruce, fir) to celebrate the Christmas (Yule) holiday is a fairly recent event tracing from present day northern Germany and the 15th century though ancient (yes, Pagan) civilizations have been decorating evergreens for thousands of years to celebrate the Winter Solstice. It appears that the celebration of Christ’s birth is now characterized by the raising and decoration of these same trees.

All you need do is look to the great Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center in New York (fluffed and choreographed by Dallas, Texas’ Design Solutions), the National Christmas Tree on the south lawn of The White House or thousands (yea, millions) of other publicly displayed Christmas Trees to understand the heroic proportions of this Christian holiday. Yes, let me repeat, they are known as Christmas Trees.

For many years my Christmas celebrations in Georgia started on Thanksgiving Night and were centered on Atlanta and the lighting of the Great Tree at Rich’s Department Store. I remember attending many a lighting, watching many more on television and marveling at that wonderful specimen of a tree (generally 75 feet or more) perched atop the glassed four-story Crystal Bridge at Rich’s that spanned Forsyth Street in downtown Atlanta. Iconic Bob Van Camp (1917–1990) of WSB Radio/TV (The Voice of The South) and the Fox Theater’s incomparable organist and handler of Mighty Mo the world’s largest theater organ was the host and storyteller, narrating The Christmas Story. The music program was provided by eight choirs (later there were more) and a lighting display that alternated and then wholly illuminated the participating choirs.

The history and tradition continues in Atlanta with the Macy’s Great Tree though the tree has since been moved to Lenox Square in uptown, upscale Buckhead. It’s not the same and considerably diminished, though, especially considering that the old Crystal Bridge location was like the ancient Pharos Lighthouse at Alexandria as the Rich’s Great Tree could be seen for thirty miles or more – a Christmas beacon for the entire southeast. Since Federated and now Macy’s have taken over, it hasn’t been the same. Another great tradition bites the dust… The old Rich’s downtown store which covered the better part of two city blocks has been torn down and the Sam Nunn Federal Building now stands in its place. Progress?

In an ironic twist in 1974, the year before Rich’s was sold to Federated, The Great Tree snapped in two during installation – a harbinger of things to come. No, I never rode the Pink Pig. I was too big… The one significant observation even as this tradition evolves is that for me The Great Christmas Tree will always be the one on Rich’s Crystal Bridge, way back when...

It seems, however, that other business entities around the country as well as the Federal and state and local governments have been bending over backwards so as not to potentially offend those in our population who are not Christian – all to the exclusion of the rights and privileges of the greater majority who reside in those same towns and cities.

All we need do is note the stupidity of Kentucky’s Democrat Governor Steve Beshear who while arguing that Christmas shouldn't be politicized inexplicably tried to rename the state Christmas Tree the Holiday Tree. Beshear stepped into a monumental pile of political poop as the donated tree (a 30 foot Norway Spruce) was given by parents of a son who prematurely passed in 2008 and was well known for his generosity and love of Christmas. Beshear’s decision to rename the State Capitol Christmas Tree was greeted with a cacophony of pissed off voting citizenry who facilitated a change of heart in the good governor. Beshear dodged a major bullet by sort of recanting through aides by inviting all those who had protested to attend the lighting of their Christmas Tree. So, the Commonwealth of Kentucky once again has a Christmas Tree on the lawn of the state capitol in Frankfort while Beshear has several fried eggs (sunny side up) permanently stitched/stapled onto his face. This scenario has been playing out in other US cities and states.

The Cary, NC Town Council will soon be deliberating whether to formally call their two decorated trees Christmas Trees as they have been heretofore referring to at least one as the Community Tree. Let’s hope that they come to a sane and honest decision. We of Might of Right applaud the likes of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California First Lady Maria Shriver (What a Team!) who in 2004 turned off the “Holiday Tree” and turned back on the Christmas Tree.

While growing up in Providence, RI we knew some Jewish families who decorated trees during the holiday season and jokingly called them Chanukkah Bushes. No their menorahs weren’t Christmas Candelabras… I know of practicing Muslims in Texas who decorate their houses during the Christmas season though I know that Islam prohibits that kind of celebration. I have no problem with other religions piggy-backing on Christmas and embracing those seemingly ever more elusive “Goodwill towards Men” behaviors.

While this issue has been brewing for some time it would appear that with Obama now in the White House Conservative Christians will insure that this issue remains in resurgence.

Look at all the furor over the Obama’s now infamous and highly politicized White House Blue Room Christmas Tree ornamentation which appears to us more an exercise in incredible bad taste and poor political judgment than an indictment against the holiday. I think it appropriate to ask the question, “Why would folks create these ornaments?” They do appear to be more agenda driven and a sad commentary on our desire for inclusion, whatever the cost. We did note that other ornaments on this the official White House Christmas Tree rejoice states and locales to include California’s Ronald Reagan Foundation & Library. By the way, though the official Christmas Tree, it’s but one of 27 trees in the White House…

These decorated evergreen trees signify and celebrate only one event – The birth of Christ - and are significant only to Christians though many more of other faiths embrace and celebrate this happy holiday season. If you are a practicing Druid and want to celebrate the winter solstice, please go ahead. Those that desire to celebrate other religious holidays should be supported in those efforts and allowed to do so. It’s their right. But, both sides of this debate need to take care.

Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online (NRO) said it for me in 2004, “Tolerance must be a two-way street. If minorities want the majority to be tolerant of them, minorities in turn need to tolerate at least some of the norms of the majority. Simply because there are more Christians than Jews or Muslims or atheists, doesn't mean that Christians should always get the shaft. That said, Christians — or at least the politically organized ones — don't do themselves any favors when they start talking like just another identity-politics group. Christians seem to be complaining more this year than usual about the war on Christmas, even as they are finding more success. Arnold Schwarzenegger renamed the governor's "holiday tree" a Christmas tree. George Bush is the first president ever to include a quote from scripture on his Christmas card. Besides, once "Merry Christmas" becomes a political statement, everyone loses.”

The repeated always ludicrous attempts to be PC and secularize Christmas ostensibly to make it appealing for folks of all faiths appears to have come full circle. Since the tree only has real significance to Christians or retro Druids (and not to the exclusion of other religious holidays) it seems a poor attempt at appeasement and really nothing more than politicians burning their candles at both ends. A tree by any other name just won’t get it done… just ask the aforementioned Kentucky Governor Beshear. Perhaps we can follow the counsel of Thomas Lindaman of and rename the tree the “Tap Dancing Monkey Drunk on Eggnog Tree.” OK, probably not, but point made. Maybe we should focus on how the tree is ultimately used?

In 2007 the City of Glasgow, Scotland converted their 60 foot George Square Christmas Tree into what they call the Bullwood Caber [24’10’- 280lbs (not 600lbs)] which was presented to New York State and appropriately marched up 6th Ave (The Avenue of The Americas) during the 2008 and 2009 New York City Parade of Tartans by the spirited Tartan Army (fans of the Scottish National Football Team). It sure is pretty though has been relegated to ceremonial status as no mortal could ever turn it. The Bullwood Caber was given into the care of the great and legendary Clan McDuff and is appropriately housed at The Roslyn Presbyterian Church in Roslyn, NY. We are assured that the Keith Clan’s Alexander Marshall and Milady Susan were nearby.

Well maybe the Scots hit on something! All those good folks with Christmas Trees small or large but especially those in excess of 25 feet can convert them to Scottish Cabers suitable for the myriad Scottish Highland Games competitions around the world. Besides being thrown in landfills, becoming mulch or habitat for fish, these trees can now facilitate a cultural exchange for children of all ages. Whatever these trees may be called today they would then inherit a much nobler end. All that from the humble Christmas Tree

Welcome Tannenbaum, Nowell!


Ned Buxton

P.S. Did I tell you about the Black Watch and Danish troops who engaged a Christmas Eve Caber Toss competition at Camp Danevang in Basra, Iraq in 2006? NB

Friday, January 1, 2010


They’re baaaaaaaaaack…. proving once again that Americans and most of the rest of the world who on one hand claim to embrace the Gregorian Calendar can’t perform basic math on the other. Just about all the media including TV and radio stations and newspapers and magazines have been offering not just year-end reviews but calendar-based end-of-the-decade stories about significant happenings and personalities. You’d figure after the new millennium debacle of 2000 and the after the fact sheepish admissions that 2000 wasn’t really the start of the new millennium, that all newspapers including the Dallas Morning News (DMN) would understand the concept of ten (10). They’re in good company to include and Andy Serwer's article, The '00s: Goodbye (at Last) to the Decade from Hell and’s business section which on December 27, 2009 featured a financial post by William Hanley, Good riddance To a Debacle of a Decade.

It certainly appears that they still don’t get it or just feel it financially expedient to ignore reality, fess up later (wink & nod) and then repeat/update the story a year later (CaChing!). I guess you can sell more fireworks with that faulty rationale. With that in mind and with tensed jaw – and compassion for all, trying to work through this season of joy and goodwill, we thought that a math primer was in order – again for these yahoos who are invoking a calendar-based decade. Now for you folks that are just arbitrarily referring to the last ten years without regard to which calendar years are encompassed, our apologies.

This post is for all you folks who think you understand the concept of ten and the Gregorian calendar but erroneously and arbitrarily assume that the last calendar decade was, in fact, from 2000 to 2009. In fact, it wasn’t, just like the year 2000 wasn’t the start of the new millennium, rather the end of the last.

Even the iconic and courageous Dick Clark in his 2009 New Year’s Eve Times Square countdown talked about the “end of the decade.” The usually right on Jacquielynn Floyd of the DMN today offers palaver about the last calendar decade.

Valley 101’s Clay Thompson, columnist for the Arizona Republic, tried to offer an explanation of this faulty math and only succeeded in mucking the whole thing up and proving that he is more than just “slightly skewed”. A comment from one of his readers, however, nails this issue once and for all time.

“First of all there was no year "zero".....thus the last year of the first decade was 10 and the first year of the second decade was 11. The first year of every decade, century and millennium ends in the digit 1. Therefore, 2011 will be the first year of the new decade; just as 2001 was the first year of the current decade, century and millennium.” So, the first decade of this century started with the new millennium on 1/1/2001, and will end on 12/31/2010.

So 2001 to 2010 equals 10 years. You HAVE TO HAVE ten years before you can call it a decade and that includes all the time through that tenth year.

I like the example that a baby is not ONE year old until he/she has lived it. Their first decade of life ends on their 10th birthday. Then and only then can we say that the child has lived a decade.

So going from baby to the calendar which likewise starts from the year one (1), its first full decade contained the years from 1 to 10, the second decade from 11 to 20, and so on. As Wikipedia points out, “The interval from the year 2001 to 2010 could thus be called the 201st decade…” Another dictionary defines decade, “Officially a ten-year period beginning with the year 1, as 1921-1930, 1931-1940, etc.”

Lastly for you folks that haven’t quite mastered math, First finger 2001, 2nd finger 2002, 3rd finger 2003, 4th finger 2004, 5th finger 2005, 6th finger 2006, 7th finger 2007, 8th finger 2008, 9th finger 2009 and (sigh) 10th finger 2010. Decades have 10 years in them (that’s what the word means). 2010 is, thusly, the end of the first decade in the new millennium.

If we let our guard down and get creative with the calendar we tend to develop the same capacity to settle for less than the best in the rest of our lives or at the least try and define any entity based on convenience or ignorance. Ultimately the truth will lose and we will soon be winking and nodding all the time. Gang, this is not debatable. This is a simple (yes) mathematical fact.

Think I’ll go out and buy zero tomatoes for my salad tonight. Now, was that nine or ten lords a-leaping?


Ned Buxton