Saturday, March 27, 2010


I was proud even before the movie The Blind Side to embrace my alma mater, the University of Mississippi, as one of my most significant, meaningful life experiences and, yes, still probably my spiritual home. Had I attended Brown, Syracuse or Hobart my feelings would not have been the same as they are now about Ole Miss.

I didn’t have that quintessential experience as a university neophyte as there were ups and downs and not everybody embraced this Southern Born though New England raised kid with open arms. I rocked the boat and pressed a few too many buttons my freshman year though the worst of it was infuriating my Father. I soon got over that as it was apparent that I was right and he was wrong. My reality related to an incredible naïveté and a somewhat idealized perception of life that continues to this day. I was a well intended accident looking for a place to happen. Thank God a few good men saw the real person and invited me into their lives via of the Mississippi Alpha chapter of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity.

This post references a special Lady, a Daughter of the South, who has become the epitome of why Ole Miss is Ole Miss. Some people just can’t fathom that someone (especially a Southerner) can reach out across class and race and sincerely and honestly embrace someone different - as their own. Leigh Anne Tuohy did and that’s why she and husband Sean are the story of The Blind Side, notwithstanding the incredible courage and determination of Michael Oher who reinforced the true spirit of Ole Miss and brought new meaning for the number 74. He will continue to be an inspiration for generations. We need not forget his story and I wish that we had seen more of Michael in the movie.

One of my favorite childhood stories was Ferdinand the Bull. The Tuohys and Michael shared that affection for Ferdinand, the pacifist bull who didn’t want to fight rather just smell the flowers in his pasture. Michael Oher was (and is) Ferdinand but a well intended Leigh Ann Tuohy provided some righteous motivation and he was soon active in the trenches of his own volition. While Ferdinand was eventually returned from the bull ring to the pasture not so Michael who found his center and went on to NFL fame.

At some point in our time line we wonder if our lives have purpose and will be meaningful. We all want to know if we are we going to make a difference. It’s normal to want to leave a positive legacy and somehow validate our time on this planet – to have value and maybe even be remembered. There are myriad books, films and blogs all testifying how we can accomplish that goal. Some are inspirational while many are nothing more than trite commercial pulp. Many more seem to be embarrassingly selfish focused on doing good deeds so as to guarantee one’s salvation – that old Heaven deal

I guess that good works are going to happen whether you are on a salvation gig or one who with openness and malice towards none is motivated to help their fellow Man like the Gentleman at Crossmark who donates 35 to 40 weekends a year to Habitat for Humanity for no other reason than he honestly wants to make a difference without any promise of reward. Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy have already made a difference in their community and by extension - the world. We suspect they will continue doing so. Leigh Anne has never looked for any reward and per her comments, “doesn’t give a rat’s a--” what anybody else thinks of her. Sean to this day continues to support several needy students at Briarcrest Christian via the sale of his business saving quesadillas - always walking the walk.

Not so the few cynics and critics - those habitually negative folks - some of which have suggested that this whole exercise was “social engineering pap” or just a misplaced altruism. Some African Americans have even suggested that this is just a ploy to down the “Black Woman” who can’t take care of her own or even the ludicrous sexual innuendo about a White Woman lusting after a BIG Black Man. Like any story one can read and interpret as they see fit according to their agenda. Folks who infer that this story is anything other than the unselfish concern for another Human Being just doesn’t get it and will forever condemn themselves as part of the problem.

Recently I’ve had discussions with a good Friend at work about how inspired people of good faith who transcend race, gender and religion can and do make the difference. In the case of Michael Oher it was Leigh Ann Tuohy who saw someone in need and filled that void. As is the case with folks of good faith, she admitted that she and her Family probably got more out of the relationship than Michael, “He had a much greater impact on our lives than we did on his life.”

The circumstances that brought Michael Oher and the Tuohy family together are well documented by book and film and need not be repeated here. What we need to always remember is that Oher’s heroics in reaching his potential are inspirational, phenomenal and proof, yet again, that it’s all about Opportunity. Thank God that Michael didn’t become another negative statistic or just forgotten, fall through the cracks. Michael through his actions has opened the portal that should allow us the opportunity to take a serious look at a system whose flaws are now in plain sight.

Questions about whether Oher had really academically qualified for admission to Ole Miss was a fleeting thought for many who wondered if this was just another “wink and nod” gesture to acknowledge the Tuohys and to gain Oher’s prowess on the football field? Nothing could have been further from the truth. Michael took advantage of the academic opportunities offered by Briarcrest Christian in Memphis, his tutors and the now famous “Mormon Grade Grab.” This is one smart guy who was able to reach his potential though there was no doubt that questions remained even as he entered The University. Michael dismissed any doubts by earning Dean’s List and Honor Roll recognition several times during his tenure at Ole Miss.

The secret to all this and one of the reasons why Ole Miss is such a great university and good fit for the Tuohys, Michael Oher, this writer and the thousands of students and alumni is the special attention paid to each and every student. One student at Ole Miss said it for me when he related that he chose Ole Miss over Harvard and the University of California because of its nurturing environment. ''Looking at pure academics,'' he said, ''I don't think I could justifiably compare Ole Miss to the other two. But when I compared the personal atmosphere as well as the intellectual rigor, there was no comparison. I was determined to go to a university where I wasn't a number. There's a genuine interest in the administration and the professors to see a student excel.''

I honestly wonder if Michael would have had the same degree of personal attention and success at some of the other NCAA schools (they are legion) that exploitively expressed interest (“I want that kid.”) for no other reason than his prowess on the football field. We certainly acknowledge Sue Mitchell, Michael’s tutor who guided Michael academically.

While I give Ole Miss a lot of the credit for this success story there is no denying that many opportunities remain to forge stronger and more robust learning experiences – a mission always at the forefront of any great learning institution. The yahoos that criticize The University academically frankly don’t know what the Hell they’re talking about including the idiot that suggested that Ole Miss should be teaching English... My liberal Arts core curriculum included a year of basic English and a year of English Literature. So did Michael’s degree in Criminal Justice.

The University of Mississippi has been a lightning rod for positive and much needed change, not only regionally but nationally. They saw themselves in the mirror, confronted their past and did what they had to do. Former University of Mississippi Chancellor, Dr. Robert C. Khayat bravely facilitated much of that transformation. A new empowered and enlightened generation of students are now validating and improving on those changes and looking to the future. As much as I respect them, Colonel Rebel and the Confederate Battle Flag have no place at Ole Miss.

The University of Mississippi is a fine academic institution that has a whole lot more going for it. There is a mystique, a subliminal spirit, that pervades all that is the University of Mississippi and you have to be one of us to understand. It is not a selfish identity driven by elitism, rather a congenial exercise that can profoundly move and inspire those who choose to sincerely immerse themselves in our culture. You can create and expand on that opportunity and make it yours for the rest of your life.

Ole Miss graduate, the late Frank E. Everett, Jr., B.A.’32, LLB ’34, put it best when he wrote:

“There is a valid distinction between The University and Ole Miss even though the separate threads are closely interwoven. The University is buildings, trees and people. Ole Miss is mood, emotion and personality. One is physical, and the other is spiritual. One is tangible, and the other intangible. The University is respected, but Ole Miss Is loved. The University gives a diploma and regretfully terminates tenure, but one never graduates from Ole Miss.”

The University will continue to work through their issues (Ackbar?) and successfully so. Great institutions are subject to introspection, change and an ultimate evolution if they are to remain relevant. The Ole Miss spirit is alive and well and continues to set us apart from other academic institutions. Hopefully, the examples set by The Tuohys and Michael Oher will inspire us all to be better Human Beings. We need to instinctively reach out to those in need whatever their race, creed, color or sex.

One Step Further: If we listen to what Skip Gates has been telling us with his impressive body of work including Faces of America, we soon realize that aside from cultural differences, underneath it all, the big picture is that we really are all the same. And, we have choices.

And what about that University of Mississippi student who so eloquently offered why he chose Ole Miss over other seemingly more prestigious schools? Though it should ultimately not matter, he happens to be African American. The spirit is spreading

Hotty Toddy Y’all, Aye

Ned Buxton
Ole Miss ‘66

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I saw Julie & Julia last week and it brought back a flood of memories that washed over me like the tsunami in 2012. Aye, that kind of emotion is usually the harbinger for another Might of Right post. Like most of my posts this started out as an innocent tribute – this one for Julia Child hoping to punctuate that by highlighting the aspirations of one wide-eyed Julie Powell and her seeming high regard for Child. It turned out quite differently and wanders a bit - my apologies.

I had always been a fan of Julia Child (Julia McWilliams) as she reminded me of my somewhat eccentric, very tall and doting Great Aunt Nelchen. Child inspired my Mother, Elisabeth Alden Littlefield Buxton who was a great cook in her own right. As a single parent and Mother of three sons she was forced to improvise but more often than not, cooked up fancy casseroles and other like sophisticated dishes fit for royalty, her glorious open-faced SPAM sandwiches, notwithstanding.

Mother loved food, good food, and had an impressive collection of cookbooks including Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and most of Betty Crocker’s mainstay offerings. Significantly, Mother presented me with a copy of the original 1961 English translation of Larousse Gastronomique (LG), the iconic French encyclopedia of gastronomy as a rite of passage gift in 1962. I still use it to this day and Food, then as now, remains an important part of my life - not just as sustenance but as inspiration. Maybe not so ironically LG’s English translation was printed and released in the same year as the offering of Child’s iconic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Seems a lot of folks were going after the American market…

Child was also an inspiration of another kind for us Buxton kids though as the eldest son and Colonel Ned Buxton namesake - much of it fell to me. Dad shared in a mostly matter of fact fashion his comments about some of the famous folks that worked with Grandfather Buxton in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in WWII including Julia Child. Many were the iconic New England/New York Friends and associates of the Rhode Island Buxtons including business partner William Casey. But, this post is all about Julia Child and one of her affected admirers (sort of).

I do want to note that Julia has been characterized as a spy for the OSS and nothing could be farther from the truth. It could be true that a lot of the OSS projects in the SE Asian theater would not have been as successful were it not for Child’s contributions. She always described herself as a “file clerk” and downplayed her OSS service as “government work” though she did bring a dedication and organizational abilities sorely needed by the agency. Their reality and the bottom line truth of their efforts is that like the British they were fighting for our very existence.

Of special interest is that early on in her career she worked in the Research Unit of the Office of War Information (OWI) in the State Department in Washington, DC where she engaged mundane clerical tasks including typing thousands of names on index cards as part of a rudimentary manual indexing system - a business necessity many years before the advent of the computer. The OWI had been spun off from the ambiguously named and FDR-established Coordinator of Information (COI) which not so ironically also spawned the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). William Donovan, the first COI, who went on to be the Director of the OSS was Friend to my Grandfather, Ned Buxton.

The OWI proved to be Julia’s segway to the OSS where she worked directly for OSS Director Donovan and Assistant Director, Ned Buxton. I have seen the OSS Headquarters office floor plan at 2430 E. Street in NW DC (the E Street Complex) of that period and noted Child’s desk located squarely between Donovan and Buxton’s offices. Wouldn’t you like to have been a fly on the wall? The work for Donovan and Buxton was mostly typing and clerical (same type of OWI tasks) though she performed it well and rose through the ranks. It also should be noted that Buxton was involved in the selection and hiring of many key positions within the OSS.

Julia worked in the OSS’ Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section where she among other tasks helped develop a shark repellant and then onto overseas assignments in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and China. As the Head of Registry of the OSS’ China office she had top secret access to communications detailing all manner of covert military matters. She organized files in the OSS registry and created systems that helped facilitate the OSS’ intelligence activities in Southeast Asia or what they then called the CBI (China-Burma-India) Theater.

Julia contributed positively to the war effort and as one Air Force Intelligence colleague put it Julia, “was privy to every top secret which required a person of unquestioned loyalty, of rock-solid integrity, of unblemished lifestyle, of keen intelligence." At one point Julia was considered for a more traditional intelligence gathering role but the bomb and the end of the war abruptly terminated thoughts of any such adventure. It is hard to imagine in a covert world dominated by the average looking “Janes and Joes” how a large framed, 6’ 2” American lioness who spoke in an endearing, warbling falsetto voice could blend into the wallpaper. I don’t think so

Tom Brokaw noted in his book, The Greatest Generation, “As it did for so many women, the war liberated Julia Child…” Indeed, it was in this environment that Child started to find herself - a process that was further facilitated by her collaborating, supportive husband Paul and her absolute, unashamed, indomitable love of France and French cuisine. Indeed, the OSS is considered by many historians as one of the great opportunities for women to showcase their skills and make the case for equality. While after the war many women returned to their traditional trenches, not so, Julia Child who entered the fray, eyes wide open.

I was disappointed that none of her OSS activities were covered in Julie & Julia save a dinner scene where the OSS was mentioned in passing though this biopic movie was admittedly more about the evolution of two personalities in two different times and worlds connected by the culinary arts.

As for Julia, when she and Paul moved to Paris in 1948 she became almost immediately disenchanted with housewifery. She then tried the now lost art of millinery (hat making) in the haute couture capital of the world – Paris, and rejecting that ran passionately into a French culinary school after husband Paul turned her on to French cooking via of her epiphany - that now memorable first French meal in Rouen. That school was the internationally famous Le Cordon Bleu where despite the resentment of being non French, a woman in a chauvinistic society and the obstacles erected by the schools "short, thin, rather disagreeable“ Director, Madame Brassart, Child became the school’s first female graduate in 1951. They are now exceedingly happy to claim her as one of their own… In 1980, Julia became the first woman member of La Commanderie des Cordons Bleus de France.

During this period Julia met the equally iconic Simone “Simca” Beck, who invited Julia to join the French women's gastronomical society, "Le Cercle des Gourmettes," and ultimately introduced Julia to Louisette Bertholle. Simca and Julia ultimately became extraordinarily close Friends. In 1951 the triumvirate opened a twice-weekly cooking school, "L'Ecole des Trois Gourmands" (The School of the Three Food Lovers) in Julia’s Paris kitchen for American women. Their ultimate collaboration, however, was the iconic Mastering the Art of French Cooking which accomplished its goal of demystifying French cooking for Americans.

Julia was special because of her generosity of spirit, honesty, absolute charm, lack of pretension, visceral passion and because you knew that she was always talking – just to you. It was always a personal experience when you visited Julia. She was the teacher who wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. To my absolute delight I remember Julia on the PBS’s The French Chef (1962-1973) repairing broken pie crusts or the one time where she flipped a potato pancake right out of the skillet and onto the stovetop. Julia invoked the two second rule, put it back in the pan and while piecing it back together counseled her live TV viewers, “But you can always pick it up, and if you’re alone in the kitchen, who is going to see?” Her ultimate assurance was that we can always, “eat our mistakes.”

By the way, all those so called dropped chickens, ducks, fish, meats and cakes of all varieties? They never happened except in the collective imaginations of a generation of Americans along with the perceptions of the “tipsy” Julia who always quaffed red wine while doing her show. That “glass of red wine” was actually Gravy Master mixed with water. And, yes, she liked bourbon and gin…

Child went on to invent and then reinvent the TV food show on PBS and helped spawn an entire industry. She was able to write many more iconic cookbooks that continue to inspire us all. I think it appropriate that the PBS TV station (WGBH Boston) that gave her the opportunity and recognition she deserved has also been the font for so much quality programming including the now most popular Antiques Roadshow. Quality begets quality and Julia was on a very high plane. The rest including all her accomplishments and awards is a part of history.

So, what about Julie Powell? First of all, she’s a Texan, born and raised, from eclectic Austin and a graduate of Amherst College where she earned a degree in Theater and Creative Writing - pretty good credentials. What’s not to like? What we can say is that to compare the two as cooks, writers and human beings is oil and vinegar. Julie Powell might be able to carry Julia’s bags on a very good day, but that’s probably the extent of her capacity. To equate the two is to rip the fabric of the space-time continuum.

I guess Julie’s creative writing and theater degree should have been a giveaway as that’s what her effort was for me – theater. Now, please know that I like Julie and appreciated her edginess though her emulation of Julia Child seemed more campy than sincere, more an exercise in achievement not unlike my own mechanical peak bagging in New England as an adolescent trekker. It was like Julie was looking for a hook or gimmick, something to hang her hat on and develop. Now I don’t think that was what she initially intended, though it surely turned out that way. There was no Joy of Cooking here. It appeared to be a joyless though intriguing labor, chores and a doctor’s prescription for what she perceived as an empty, purposeless life. In one of her earlier posts Julie admits, “I really must conjure up a way to make money and influence people which isn’t directly dependent upon my being miserable. I’ll give it a think.” Hmmmm

Admittedly, I didn’t read her blog until after I saw the movie and found it, like many of the other food blogs that I have encountered, lacking real depth. I have also found some great food blogs though Julie doesn’t appear to be a part of that community.

Powell is very wordy (worse than me?) and her sometimes vulgar stream of consciousness blog reveals her true personality. I think that she has incredible potential as a writer but her potty mouth of the first order demonstrates a mind numbing lack of maturity. Good writers don’t have to resort to vulgarities to make their point. Mind you, sometimes it’s appropriate, but she comfortably and serenely occupies what for her is an everyday realm.

There is no doubt that my current take on Julie & Julia and Ms. Powell has been tainted by her most recent life experiences and the lack of character she displayed and self-flagellated in her newest book, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession. She uses Cleaving as a not so clever vehicle to chronicle her kinky two year affair with an old college flame she identifies only as “D” (her Obsession) and all within the subplot of butchery and a potential reconciliation? It reminded me of a recent north Texas business sign that highlighted its services as Tax, Uniforms, Beauty Shop, Insurance and Guns – something for everybody. Sometimes her metaphors look like they come from a real estate brochure for an upscale Frisco, Texas neighborhood…

I initially looked at husband Eric in the same light that Julia saw Paul Child - as a mentor and partner, albeit one with certainly less sophistication and life experiences. We now occupy a different time and place and the reality that Eric had been the one that came up with the idea to write the blog appears to have been too much for a superficial Julie to bear. She really doesn’t know about the soul of food (or committed relationships) save what she may have gleaned from recreating the recipes in Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Let her go to Johnson & Wales, CIA or even Le Cordon Bleu and feel the magic and earn a diploma.

Julie was portrayed in Julie & Julia as a somewhat saccharine, innocent personality though with a less than optimistic perspective on her future. Last year when Julie visited at the Dallas Museum of Art (Texas) she pragmatically offered that her portrayal in the movie while flattering was not a fair depiction of her true personality. Indeed. Powell offered that, “The reality is a little down and dirty." Powell had already disarmed her critics by her own less flattering self evaluation as a, “skanky, adulterous self-involved twit.” Her current blog is entitled, What Could Happen? Musings From A ‘Soiled And Narcissistic Whore’. It is what it is. In brief, she has a short fuse and the movie touches on this with her meltdowns over an aspic that fails to jell and later her inability to truss a chicken. This for me is the real Julie Powell (and that’s OK).

So what about Eric, the “long-suffering designated butter-eater” and mentoring husband to Julie? Well, he’s probably gone and why shouldn’t he? When people are young they make stupid mistakes (I did) and to her credit Julie freely and honestly admits them all for the world to see and judge. She does it without apology or contriteness and sometimes, alarmingly so, even as a badge of courage. Maybe that’s what bothering me. What is she taking out of all these experiences - salvation, redemption, forgiveness or just counting coup? She hasn’t asked for any slack or consideration.

I certainly have no idea if Julia and Eric are still together but I would certainly understand the pain and embarrassment he must feel from the very public revelations of Julie’s afternoon trysts, her fondness for Sadomasochism, drunken one-night stands, unabashed flirting and much, much more.

Julia Child passed to her great reward before Powell’s Cleaving was published, so that wasn’t part of any perceptions that Child may have had. If Powell really knew Child she would have understood why Child dissed her and her blog. We need to understand the hesitation of celebrities to embrace obsessive fans especially in this era of stalking. But, the truth is far more simple and obvious.

Julia Child protégée and soon to be culinary icon Sara Moulton, Food Editor at ABC’s Good Morning America, host of PBS’s Sara’s Weeknight Meals, former Executive Chef for Gourmet Magazine until its demise, a behind the scenes chef for PBS’ Julia Child & More Company and for six years Chef of the Food Network’s Cooking Live offered some insight.

First, Julia didn’t like Powell’s blog and though she never read it, thought it “opportunistic and gimmicky” according to Moulton with that seconded by another Child confidante and partner in the culinary arts, Chef Jacques Pepin. Her rejection wasn’t personal as Child was opposed to any commercialization or use of her name and even refused to endorse any products to include her unsuccessful attempt to stop Santa Barbara, California rose fanciers from naming a buttery yellow rose, Julia Child.

While the worldly Child knew and sometimes used some of the same “naughty” words, she did so appropriately and did not appreciate or celebrate Powell’s casual use of vulgarities.

Moulton and others including this writer are glad Powell embarked on her project for her blog, book and movie have done much to promote Julia Child, her legacy and the contributions she made to the culinary arts and, frankly, our overall quality of life.

It does appear that while Powell may assert that she was rescued by Child, she was not saved by her, rather thrown a temporary literary flotation device so that she could better fend on her own by example. We wish her the best and do hope she can mend her fences, do better the next time and more than just contemplate her navel from a selfish hedonistic, feminist viewpoint. And contrary to her disclaimer, yes, humans were harmed during the writing and release of Cleaving. Julia with her rock-solid integrity would never have let that happen.

Julia, lang may your soufflé rise…


Ned Buxton

Monday, March 8, 2010


This writer started out this post as an innocent attempt to draw attention to the logo of the very successful 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and walked right into a pile of something and some of the sinister undercurrents that seem to have challenged these and I suspect other Olympics. It makes the successful passage of these games even more meaningful and heroic.

Everybody wants a piece of the pie and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver are yet another validation of that statement. Having said that - internal politics and territorial / language bickering have no place in any Olympic venue, period. Not so, in Vancouver. The real story here is that the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) was able to ultimately pull off these games despite the tragic death of Georgian Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili and some internal squabbles that seem to characterize democratic multi cultural nations. Many such incidents showed to all the world that the entitled and agenda-driven are alive and well in Canada. The old saying that you can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all the time seems very appropriate. In Vancouver they pleased some of the Canadian People, part of the time, maybe and the rest of the world, most likely.

The controversies started with the tragic death of Kumaritashvili and continued with the Vancouver Olympic symbol, use of stolen (?) First Nation Lands, whether enough Quebecois French was used in the games (?), was it Francophone enough, Green enough, impartial judging and so on.

There was a lot going on and in that British Columbia boiling pot a couple of seemingly technical, unintended cultural speed breakers have brought criticism down on those same sincere and well intended organizers. It seems appropriate to address a few of those issues.

First of all, what the heck is an Inukshuk? Well, it’s what the Vancouver folks initially adopted as the symbol for the 2010 Winter Olympics. It is purely and simply an Inuit stone cairn, a point of reference or navigational device intended to mark a trail, a food cache or even hunting or fishing location. They are also used as memorials or to signify an especial religious or spiritual site. They don’t have many trees in the Arctic (with global warming there are more now) so the most rational permanent material to utilize was (tada) unworked stone (snow melts and now exceedingly so). We need note that the Inuit are part of the native peoples which inhabit the Arctic regions of Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Russia (far from BC and the Pacific Northwest). Yep, some folks call them Eskimos.

According to some Inuit the symbol chosen is not an Inukshuk, rather an, Inunguaq (Inunnguaq – plural Inunnguat), a stone cairn that represents a human figure and with a head and arms and legs literally means, ”Imitation of man.” They state that Inuksuits (plural of Inukshuk) are never built with anatomy and are often confused with Inunguat. While nobody has made the observation, it would appear that the Inunguaq is a type of stylized Inukshuk and not so ancient. My Best Friend who happens to be Canadian has had an Inunguaq on her kitchen counter since 2004.

Turns out that the Vancouver logo (named Ilanaaq “Friend”) is based on what they initially thought to be an Inukshuk that was created for the Northwest Territories Pavilion at Expo 86 by Inuit artist Alvin Kanak of Rankin Inlet, Northwest Territories (now part of Nunavut) and ultimately donated to the City of Vancouver where it now reposes as a landmark of some note on Vancouver’s English Bay Beach. So, that’s the source of the controversy and we wonder why all this wasn’t addressed and resolved to everybody’s satisfaction back in 1986 or in 2005 when the logo was unveiled. The world was their stage then as now. While we agree with our Inuit Brothers and Sisters their point has been well made and over and over and over… Might of Right wonders why so much of the credit for the creation of the 2010 Olympic Symbol went to a Vancouver designer with little mention or credit given to Kanak who provided the inspiration.

Enter now the First Nations - those native peoples that reside in the Pacific Northwest to include British Columbia. Now, this can get confusing. In order to assert their cultural identity and likewise, negotiate treaties and address their grievances against the local and Canadian governments the great Pacific Northwest cultures (the non Inuit First Nations of British Columbia) have seemingly, successfully broken themselves down into local political, geographic and economic fomented “bands” though most represent and remain part of greater high cultures like the Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl), Coast Salish/Squamish, Lil'wat (Lillooet/ St'at'imc), Nuxalk (Bella Coola), Haida, Musqueam, Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth), among others.

These First Nations of British Columbia which are a far piece from the Arctic never, ever built Inuksuit and some (not all) in this group remain upset with the choice as this Olympic logo since it is not even remotely a part of their cultures.

Those concerns which were mostly expressed at Ilanaaq’s unveiling in 2005 appear to have been reconciled and did not appear to damper the incredible spirit of the First Nations and their magnificent marathon performance at the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Perhaps it was because a Native artist helped design the logo, that the games were hosted in part by four First Nations including the Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh, that the unique Olympic medals feature Pacific Northwest Coast First Nations artwork depicting the Orca and Raven or finally that the spirit of Friendship and the Olympic Spirit has been all pervasive?

It would appear that the Vancouver Olympic organizers have heaped glory on themselves as they have appropriately upped and celebrated all the Canadian First Nations and their Arctic indigenous Peoples - not just the local flora and fauna of British Columbia. It was a sincere attempt to recognize the cultural heritage of their whole country and this writer says Hoorah and Well done! Bottom line: We of Might of Right feel that the Inunguaq was a great choice though we would have given Inuit Alvin Kanak the credit.

Not so the sentiments of many French speakers in Canada who feel snubbed that there wasn’t more representation and participation of French Speaking Canadians during the Games. We did note that one of my favorites, Celine Dion, was invited to perform but chose to address more personal issues. To this non-Francophile it certainly appears that the effort was there.

British Columbia obviously does not have the demographics of eastern Canada witness that among the 25,000 volunteers only 15% spoke French. We also noted that Renée Smith-Valade the Vice-President of Communications of VANOC and spokesperson for the Vancouver Olympics defended what was, "a very deliberate focus and effort to ensure a strong celebration of Quebec culture and language."

Smith-Valade continued by reflecting that three of the eight Olympic flag bearers were from Quebec, that the stunning acrobatics during the opening ceremonies were performed by École National de Cirque from Montreal, two of the show's chief producers were Québécois, and the final much honored spotlight before the arrival of the Olympic torch went to Quebec singer Garou. We also note that the Olympic Anthem was performed in English and French (when the requirement is either English or Greek) and that all of the English dialogue and quotes were translated into French on large screens around the stadium, a fact conveniently overlooked by Francophone detractors and the media.

Might of Right certainly wonders in a what’s good for the goose is good for the gander perspective why the official signs of Quebec (French is their official language) are not also in English? Seems we have a double standard as the French to Anglo percentage is roughly the reverse of British Columbia. Some say that the French will, “be happy with nothing less than 100% capitulation by the Anglo populations.”

Many Francophone Quebecers appear to engage great insecurity when it comes to multiculturalism. Understandably feeling that their culture and language may be in danger, they reject in Quebec what they demand throughout the rest of Canada. In short, multiculturalism is not wholly embraced in Quebec. Je me Souviens the official motto of the Province of Quebec and on their license plates since 1978, literally means I remember though for many Quebecois it means Ne obliviscaris ("Do Not Forget") what the English did to the French. Indeed, many feel that these Olympic rantings were intended to promote resentment among the Quebecois and fuel the fires of a reemerging Nationalist movement in Quebec.

All this cultural posturing reminded this writer of an example of French bias many years ago whilst visiting Montreal and the Black Watch, the Royal Highland Regiment of Canada. Several American members of the Montreal based 78th Fraser Highlanders stopped and asked for directions to Bleury Street and the Black Watch Armory at the headquarters of a local French Regiment in Montreal. Several officers balked indicating that they could not speak English though their capacity was belied by their smiles. We saw these same gentlemen at a 78th Fraser Highlander Dining Out that same evening where they demonstrated perfect facility in English and to our amusement literally paled when they saw us (we saw them first). We understand they were later reprimanded for their indiscretion. Their Commanding Officer probably brought them a round of drinks and if we had the opportunity we surely would have done the same.

It would appear that despite the British victory in the Seven Year’s War and Confederation the French may ultimately claim the victory in present day Quebec. We sincerely hope that they are able to find some balance in this mess though it will all surely come down to economics.

And then you had a small but very vocal militant Native splinter group in Vancouver that touted the Olympics as the model for exclusion and oppression and the flashpoint for the, “working class and anti-colonial struggle on the West Coast” and called for cancellation of the Olympic Games. They still maintain that all the traditional native lands in BC remain unceeded and therefore still in the domain of the indigenous First Nations.

We will make the fair observation that vanquished or not, treaties or not, the First Nation/Native American concept of land ownership just never existed. They were stewards of the land for all human beings and all life as they knew it. They were a commune of probably the last responsible attitudes and practices regarding the maintenance of all our natural resources and environment. It’s been all downhill since… We wish these folks well and hope that someday they can reconcile themselves with their reality.

Then you have the inevitable charges of bias on the part of the judges. If your athlete didn’t win, well, it had to be because of the judging. This proves again that everyone has an agenda witness the Russians, who continue to protest Evan Lysacek’s victory in Men’s Figure Skating over the Russian champion Evgeni Plushenko. It’s amusing to see such palaver about judging when the Russians (and in their previous life - Soviets) are proven masters at manipulating the judging process witness Munich basketball-1972 and Salt Lake City Pairs Skating-2002, among others. These examples are part of history and just the tip of the iceberg. Part of the old Cold War persists and that’s mostly in the world of sport.

The Soviet, er Russian, protestations, “do not descend from The Mount” and smack of unbalanced petty sniping and a blatant attempt to deflect criticism and mollify those home boys disappointed with the Russian performance in these 2010 Olympic Winter Games. While their athletes participated righteously and did just fine, the spewing vitriol from the Russian hierarchy reflects their frustration with a program in disarray and status as an also ran on the world stage, sports and otherwise (coulda, shoulda, woulda). Reflecting their own Machiavellian past they cannot be gracious in defeat contrary to the Olympic Spirit.

Now, I didn’t have a dog in this fight and was just looking to see the sport elevated and “the best athlete win.” I think Lysacek - already the 2009 World champion - was better in this competition and the post contest carping by Plushenko and whining, bickering and political maneuverings by the Russians validated that conclusion and really turned me off.

While Plushenko is a brilliant jumper, it appeared to me that Lysacek (in this competition) was much more fluid, had better transitions and landed his jumps cleaner elevating the athleticism and artistry that personifies this event. While he didn’t land a quad he engaged a superior overall performance – and that’s the name of the game. A quad may be a quad, but if I kick a record breaking seventy yard field goal to my opponent’s touchdown in American football, I am still going to lose. I frankly don’t care if the winner is Canadian, Russian, American, Japanese, Korean or Chinese, it’s all about sport. And then you have the continuing, ultimate juvenile behavior of Russian President Medvedev, who canceled his trip to the closing ceremony because of the perceived failures of Russian athletes.

That behavior is an ominous foreboding for the next 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. While some praised their presentation in the Vancouver closing ceremonies, it appeared out of place in time, extremely cumbersome and propagandizing to me.

Was it just me or was the Russian Anthem as sung by the Moscow State Chamber Choir presented and accentuated in more of an official Soviet format? I still remember (as many Russians do) that this song with different lyrics praised one Josef Stalin, one of the most reviled and murderous dictators in the history of Man. To many this song is stigmatized like the Swastika and to retain even one note is unacceptable.

In stark contrast to the rest of the Olympic ceremonies there was pomposity and formality in this the haunting almost nostalgic long version of the Russian Anthem that seemed more like a well choreographed concert and as one writer put it, “about a month long.” Indeed, the version they sang was over 3½ minutes vs. the shorter ceremonial version of 1½ minutes.

Principal dancers of the Kirov, Bolshoi and Mariinsky Ballets followed with their interpretive performance of Russian history and culture while Olympic gold medal ice dancers Navka and Kostomarov skated by the shore of the Black Sea. While all this was going on Valery Gergiev, the General and Artistic Director of the Mariinsky Theatre and, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, while on Canadian soil conducted by satellite a full live orchestra playing in Red Square in Moscow. So, what happened to Sochi - that nice little gem of a resort town that sprawls along the shores of the Black Sea, all against the background of the snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia? The whole Sochi presentation looked more like bombastic Bolshevik propaganda than a thumbnail of Russian culture.

The Russian “tribute” also included appearance by Russian/Soviet athletes unfortunately inciuding the aforementioned infantile Plushenko though to my delight iconic Red Army/Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak probably the greatest goaltender in the history of the sport. He is the current president of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia and was general manager of the Russian 2010 Winter Olympic team. We wish him good luck in what may be a difficult future if Russian President Medvedev has his way.

Aside from the Sochi acceptance one of the more challenging moments of the Closing Ceremony was listening to Vancouver Games CEO John Furlong butcher the French language. Maybe he could have gotten more tutoring or learned to speech synch? Hey, he did try valiantly and any attempt to further politicize this issue is really, really lame. And by the way no comment on the self-effacing Canadian humor that seemed centered on the Canadian crucial skills of “peeing in the snow” and “making love in a canoe.” This writer can claim at least mastering one of those skills at a very early age and it wasn’t on water.

Post Partum: What I will take with me from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics are the myriad individual heroic moments that included the emotional and magnificent performance by Quebecer figure skater Joannie Rochette following her Mother’s sudden passing, the brillant play-by-play hockey announcing of Mike “Doc” Emrick, the ultimate Canadian gold medal victory in hockey, USA hockey goaler Ryan Miller on his MVP performance, South Korea’s beautiful Kim Yu-Na and her awe-inspiring record breaking Olympic coronation in women’s figure skating, Bode Miller’s (USA) stupendous recovery on the slopes, Shani Davis’ (USA) gold medal in 1,000 meter speed skating and Shaun White’s (USA) ever spiraling magnificent performances in the Half-Pipe, among many, many others.

I embraced consistent with the ancient Olympic ideals the celebration of participation, sportsmanship, equality and tolerance and the opportunity for the world to come together in peace to celebrate those ideals. It may just catch on someday.

Consistent with April Fools 2009 and a wonderful Canadian sense of humor (we hope and pray) we learned that some folks want to tear down Kanak’s Inunguaq on English Bay in Vancouver because some dog ate a dead crab and got sick. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans was alleged to have engaged an environmental study which showed that the English Bay “Inukshuk” due to natural weathering was leaching chemicals/acids into English Bay turning it into a toxic cesspool. The scientist who performed the study recommended that the “Inukshuk” be dismantled and disposed in a lime pit while the soil around the present site is remediated. The reality is that in our society a dead crab and a sick dog and a scientist in search of a lobotomy could try and save nature from herself. Might of Right suggests an umbrella or a Hudson’s Bay slicker. Can the Washington Monument, Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument be far behind?

As for the Inukshuk, I would have called it an Inunguaq and that’s what some, but not all, the Olympic organizers are now calling their creation. Need to get their act together or maybe they just have too many Inukshuk t shirts and ball caps still in their inventory (I have the T-shirt). And how about those folks now marketing Inukshuk in a Sack? Create your own Inukshuk from the Canadian Shield, the oldest rocks on the planet? Think I’ll buy one to keep my Pet Rock company. And what ever happened to that noblest of Canadian icons, Sasquatch? Didn’t hear a peep about or from him?

Praise for the exemplary job done by VANOC seems universal but most aptly communicated by Chris Erskine of the LA Times and paraphrased by this writer. Well done, Canada, “Every Canadian pond glowed gold Sunday night -- from Nova Scotia to the Yukon.” Yes, and that includes Quebec.


Ned Buxton