Wednesday, October 27, 2010


As I write this post Juan Williams’s (JW) firing from National Public Radio (NPR) is fast becoming stale news though I would prefer that Jon Stewart and his The Daily Show on Comedy Central continue their always refreshing vigil. Their take on JW’s firing while being funny as Hell was absolutely spot-on and has been by far the brightest consequence and best perspective on this issue. Please catch it on You Tube. Kind of makes ya want to see more incredible gaffs consistent with NPR’s, “never say anything interesting policy.” Fodder, fodder everywhere.

That said, we do need to keep this issue alive and give it legs, at least a while longer. While I am really torn on Juan William’s termination by NPR there is no doubt that it was so poorly handled that it rises to a textbook example of, “How Not to Terminate an Employee.” When you see the entire interview on FOX it’s apparent that Williams’ remarks were taken and interpreted out of context - as it suited NPR’s purpose. It was equally naive and ill-advised for Williams no matter how he couched his language to go down that path.

While NPR tends to lean left, listeners could always have confidence that Williams even with a mostly liberal perspective would try to honestly and objectively report the news. For many NPR listeners (whatever their political persuasion), a sincere and eloquent Juan Williams was one of the more critical and popular elements of NPR’s news coverage. Williams, then, was a most valuable and critical part of NPR’s attempt at rational, responsible and, yes, balanced reporting. Maybe some folks don’t like Williams, but the so called “378 listener e-mails in 2008 listing complaints and frustrations about Mr. Williams” out of the millions of listeners in that same year seems totally insignificant and, frankly, well below predictable, yea, normal levels. Bottom line is that there is always a segment of our population that’s going to take offense, no matter the intent, or how benign the subject matter.

With William’s firing NPR has finally dropped the charade and publicly admitted that they can be almost as subjective and biased a news organization as FOX - dedicated only to their perspectives and viewpoints. This action begs the question: Why are other unnamed NPR analysts allowed to appear on other networks and offer their mostly liberal and sometimes outrageous perspectives and opinions without any discipline, sanctions or even termination? Methinks there is a double standard?

NPR appears to be the pot calling the kettle black in what is a case of incredible hypocrisy. Were I an analyst, correspondent or commentator on NPR I would question the integrity of an organization that does not value discourse all the while trying to figure out what I could or could not say in any public venue. NPR lost a valuable opportunity here – to sit down with JW and discuss what they considered legitimate concerns. Maybe, just maybe, they might have been able to resolve their difficulties or at least part as Friends.

Ill-advised ultra conservative Republicans have long been trying to cut any federal funding of NPR and PBS and this may just be another convenient trigger to resurrect those efforts. By the reaction of the Republican Right, now itching for a bare knuckled fight, that appears to be a given. I say, so what? If NPR is doing such a bad job I would want to preserve them and hold them up as an example of how not to do business!

John Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, told National Review Online that “I think it’s reasonable to ask why Congress is spending taxpayers’ money to support a left-wing radio network — and in the wake of Juan Williams’s firing, it’s clearer than ever that’s what NPR is.” While our federal monies do not appear to support the overall news operations of PBS to pull any funding would be as dramatic and negative as NPR’s clumsy and illogical firing of Williams.

Almost as funny as NPR’s knee jerk reaction is the idea that the far right Republicans would rally to the cause of a liberal that some of that ilk are now even calling a ”closet conservative”. Nor do I think that being open minded and receptive to open debate on any issue is the exclusive bastion/domain of Conservatives or Liberals. It gets more ridiculous every day though I guess that I could adopt a more conservative posture for a two million dollar, three year deal.

Now, I consider myself a progressive with sometimes conservative, moderate and liberal perspectives on all issues. I am not a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green or a “Yellow Dog” anything and choose to judge each issue/candidate on merit alone. I listen to NPR every day and appreciate much of what they report and the programming they produce. I also watch and listen to the mostly conservative and most times less than objective Fox News Network with the same mindset in order to entertain and educate myself and to cultivate an open personal dialogue with all viewpoints and perspectives. Seems simple

Williams’ firing – while handled very badly – would appear to be within the legitimate rights of any US employer with a strict at will mentality. NPR or at least the upper echelon of NPR management made a decision (and I suspect without the input of their HR gurus) that seems perfectly in line with the mostly divisive and adversarial perspectives that dominate our society today and keeps folks of good faith from openly sharing and debating legitimate opposing viewpoints. Armed with their concerns NPR had the opportunity to forge a positive dialogue with JW though instead took the low road and chose to dwell in the shadows of arrogance and indifference – to their ultimate and continuing detriment. The scary part is that they couldn’t see that coming? NPR and FOX News are diametrically opposed to each other and despite their ideological differences, they are now the same.


Ned Buxton

Saturday, October 23, 2010


All night we heard the meows (actually mews) outside our east facing bedroom window indicating a cat in distress or maybe just the nocturnal prowlings of our domesticata cavorting with their feral cousins. We knew that by morning we had to address the issue or continue to lose sleep. The plaintive calls were echoing and seemingly coming from several parts of the back yard. As it turned out, they were.

That Sunday morning when light broke and when We would be usually anticipating and preparing for another church service down at St. Matthews, I was prowling the back yard sleuthing the origin of our kitty calls. Well, lo and behold, there was a big black female cat, immediately recognized as one of the dominant neighborhood feral cats that until recently had been hanging out at a home near the end of the street. She was sitting in the gravel about midpoint of the east side of house and looking up. She saw me and as I approached her, disdainfully looked back at me as she effortlessly scooted over the eight foot wooden fence.

I walked down to where she had maintained her vigilance and was greeted by silence. I looked up and around the area for the two kittens (one black with brown spots and another totally black) she had been moving around the backyard during the week trying to escape the wrath of the resident Cairn Terrier who was bent on removing that vermin from her domain. The kittens had been spared an uncertain future only by the several intercessions of the Lady of the House and this writer.

I looked through the thick display of ferns and hostas which despite some predictable fall insect damage could still provide great cover but little protection for our kittens and still nothing. Just as I was ready to turn around and resume my preparations for church I heard several mews, again seemingly coming from the side area but never from a specific spot? The cat had been inexplicably looking up so maybe the gutters were hiding some secrets. Not possible. The plaintive calls resumed. I was standing right at one of the grates for the drains around the house… Then it hit me - Oh my God, the kitten was in the drainage system!

The side of the house has four, four inch grates, part of the drainage system that runs the perimeter of the property including the location of the earlier kitten sanctuary. I checked the back grates and voila, one of the grate covers had been removed – one of the mischievous pastimes of our aforementioned Cairn Terrier. I then replaced the grate cover. A kitten was definitely in the drainage system. Faced with the prospect of digging the kitten out or flushing it to the street, I took a deep breath and popped three of the four grate covers on the side of the house and started crying like a Mama cat. I started tapping on the sides of the openings and continued my meowing hoping to find the exact location of the kitten. She (yes, she) was initially quiet but soon started to cry. Her meows reverberated and echoed up and down the side of house hiding her exact location.

I decided to set up camp at the middle opening and try and lure the kitten to freedom. So there I was sitting cross legged in the gravel softly tapping and scratching on the side of the middle grate opening trying to meow like her Mom. After about fifteen minutes, just when I was about to move to a different opening, the kitten starting calIing out again and then voila, there was the top of her head. She was totally black and at about three weeks was just the right size to easily maneuver the drain pipe. She looked up at me, hissed loudly and popped back down into her prison.

I immediately left the area and set up surveillance at the corner of the house about twenty feet away where the kitten couldn’t see me. By this time the Lady of the House joined the circus and with her always sage and common sense advice we sought to lure her from her lair with some peanut butter and milk.

I continued my meowing and though the kitten kept sticking her head out of the opening she never fully extricated herself from her prison/refuge and never showed any interest in the food. Then all of a sudden – lo and behold - she climbed out though stayed right at the opening. She was soaking wet, scrawny and needed some attention. I started to figure out my timing to rush to the area so I could pop the grates back on to prevent her return to the drain. She made it difficult by staying right next to the hole and even climbed back in the one time I got too close.

Then Mama Cat interceded and from the other side of the fence, called to the kitten which popped out of the drain and right to the nearby fence. She moved a lot of the gravel from the bottom of the fence and scooted under to freedom. I madly rushed down the side of the house and over the gravel as fast as I could capping the three openings lest she try and climb back in. I saw her later that morning in front of the neighbor’s house - dry, apparently fed and content. All was at peace in the neighborhood.
That didn’t last…

The next morning the aforementioned Cairn Terrier pulled a 5:30 am wakeup call with an anxious, whining request to visit the front lawn. I complied - first disarming the security system, leashing her up and then exiting the house with the dog dramatically (and seemingly without effort) pulling me along. She got about ten feet out into the middle of the lawn and froze like a statue. Standing in the middle of the street about forty feet away was a very, very large male coyote (probably 50+ lbs.) who immediately took an interest in the dog (breakfast?) and started to walk towards us. I looked down the street and saw another coyote looking our way and then another that scooted around the corner.

I was getting ready to beat a hasty retreat back into the house just when the dog in an exercise of incredibly poor judgement (probably brought on by stress) assumed the position (head and body stretched forward and tail up) and started relieving herself. The opportunistic coyote continued his cautious but deliberate advance while I was figuring on a dramatic voidus interruptus when the neighbor across the street came out of his house, retrieved his newspaper, waved, said “Good morning” and went back into his home. He never saw the coyote who now startled, retreated back down the street while the dog finished her business.

We made it back into the house without incident though the dog was jittery for several days. I called City of Dallas Animal Control (DAC) who acknowledged they were aware of a coyote pack in the area and were going to be setting traps later that day. The DAC employee also advised that there was a bobcat living in the area and to take precautions with any pets.
Ahhhh Mother Nature…

I shared my early morning experience with my co-workers who immediately started swapping stories about the wildlife in their neighborhoods including the recent verified sighting of a mountain lion that decided to make nearby Plano and Collin County home. I got home that evening and the coyotes were long gone with the only vestige of their visit - a couple of piles of fur in the back alleyway that closely resembled the aforementioned kittens. So, where is our gun-toting, coyote shooting Governor Rick Perry when you need him? Sad, but as we have long stated the coyote and bobcat are now part of our urban/suburban landscape. Hey, let’s be careful out there and strive to better understand and safely interact with our wild neighbors.


Ned Buxton

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Now folks seem to either hate or love Phil Collins. I’m in that latter group and really don’t care what his detractors or the NY Times say. I like his style (liked Genesis too) and think that this new album is really fun! For all you war babies and boomers this is a nostalgic trip back to Motown soul with a Phil Collins twist. Collin’s recent interview with Scott Simon on NPR underscored the love and care that went into this album (the Funk Brothers) and that alone got my attention.

Phil Collins pulled this one off with the same spirit that Michael McDonald did with his Motowns & Soulspeak contributions and to a lesser degree the raspy throated Rod Stewart did with his very popular nostalgic offerings. Whether this is true R&B/Soul is up for legitimate debate. I think it a 21st century interpretation by Collins and a sincere expression of his love for and tribute to Motown.

Initiated R&B and Soul aficionados are in for a real treat if you keep an open mind and want to get a new look back to when music had understandable lyrics in a classic Motown musical style. Maybe, just maybe this will prompt the continued resurgence and renewed appreciation for the songs and style that made today’s music possible – in a whole new generation. With the current state of today’s musical offerings, I wonder out loud if that’s all good. We would offer that some of what is classified as music today is something else and that includes Rap and Hip Hop. I would opt to return to the music that makes sense to me.

Now, this post isn’t intended to bash or define any style or genre, just up Collins for this splendid and sincere effort and just when he has met his humanity – as he said, “stuff happens “. Where Collins only dabbled before, he now plunges in head first and maybe that’s the point.

Now no doubt all you have to do is pull up any one of a number of the original hits on this album including Papa Was a Rolling Stone -the Temptations version, Stevie Wonder’s Blame It On The Sun & Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions’ Talking About My Baby, In My Lonely Room by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, or the Four Tops and their super iconic Standing in the Shadows of Love (and many more) and listen to them in their original pristine form. If you are so motivated then Collins would also have accomplished his goal to up the Motown flag.

What I think Collins has done, though, is spice the music further with his style, soul and versatile voice. Though he never intended to reinvent or redo – he did it his way – with an old approach and new perspectives becoming part of the history of this great genre. Collins continues the resurrection of the spirit of Motown and all that was right and good with that sound for a new generation and those of us in our maturity – and then some.

Those of you with long memories may recall Going Back, the bittersweet and melancholy song by Carole King & Gerry Goffin, sung by Dusty Springfield in 1966 and then by The Byrds on their now iconic 1968 album The Notorious Byrd Brothers. It was and is a great song squarely in the 60’s tradition. Let there be no doubt that Collins sang this song in tribute to Springfield. Listening to Collins singing Going Back was a poignant experience for this writer.

Not only was this a superb version but Collins vocals are an improvement over the original Springfield version. In this labor of love Collins has probably performed the most herculean task in the public interest by reminding us that going back to where it all began -maybe just maybe - is the perfect prescription to help us understand who we are and the space we now occupy. Loss of innocence aside, it doesn’t hurt to occasionally stay a while (don’t dwell too long) and ponder what were surely kinder and gentler times…


I think I’m going back
To the things I learned so well in my youth
I think I’m returning to
All those the days when I was young enough to know the truth

Now there are no games to only pass the time
No more electric trains, no more trees to climb
Thinking young and growing older is no sin
And I can play the game of life to win

I can recall a time
When I wasn’t ashamed to reach out to a friend
Now I think I’ve got
A lot more than just my toys to lend

Now there’s much to do than watch my sailboat glide
And every day can be my magic carpet ride
A little bit of freedom is all we lack

So catch me if you can, I’m going back
A little bit of courage is all we lack

So catch me if you can, I‘m going back
Going back


Ned Buxton

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Dean Kevin Martin of the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Dallas, Texas made an interesting point in his sermon last Sunday. The Dean’s message was simple and clear. When we see or experience something that is beyond the pale of public acceptance and perhaps even the law of the land, then we are obligated to run it up the flagpole for all to see and judge. Righteously motivated The Might of Right will occasionally highlight issues that fall under the banner of what Dean Kevin refers to as, it just ain’t right.

We have the right, yea, the obligation in our democratic society (within the limits imposed by law and common decency) to protest behaviors that push the boundaries of common sense and legality. Dean Kevin invoked the example of the irresponsible actions of the Wall Street barons who took home millions in 2008 while under their watch their employers lost billions bringing the United States and the world near total bankruptcy – and then received golden parachutes for doing just that. It just ain’t right.

Along the same lines and as citizen journalist Paul Wallis in Canada’s Digital Journal commented in 2009, “If you steal a pair of shoes, you’re legally understood to have committed a crime. If you misrepresent every asset, decimate the nation’s capital investment, and wipe out trillions of dollars worth of people’s money, the net legal reaction is ‘Um….’” It just ain’t right.

The new millions of Americans who worked hard all their lives and then through no fault of their own have descended to or below the poverty level because of the loss of jobs and the decimation of their retirement plans remain testament to the profiteering efforts of those motivated by greed. It just ain’t right.

We all know that the current economic conditions and the dwindling prospects of a timely recovery have affected the beliefs and attitudes of most folks enhancing and encouraging even further volatility. It is an understatement to offer that the collective consciousness of our country has dramatically changed. We are not in a good mood and that spells a ripple effect and foreboding of further challenges (reap what we sow, self-fulfilling prophecies, etc.). While we are best served by taking an optimistic view we will be dramatically hurt if we continue our negative ways and the overall lack of civility which seems to now characterize our society.
It just ain’t right.

Speaking of civility or the lack thereof: Eighty year old pastor Fred Phelps and his anti-gay fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church (mostly his relatives) have apparently decided that God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality by the deaths of our soldiers in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Huh? Therefore the parishioners of the Westboro Church have been picketing soldier’s funerals across the country and carrying signs like "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" along with other equally hideous and disrespectful messages including, “God Hates You”. In my practice of the Christian Faith God doesn’t hate anybody

We note that the Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Church is monitored as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center. In May 2009, Phelps and his daughter Shirley were placed on the United Kingdom Home Office's "name and shame" list of people barred from entering the UK for "fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence".

In the case of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder - killed in Iraq in 2006 - Westboro Baptist Church members picketed Snyder’s funeral with the aforementioned signs and were alleged to have posted online messages saying that the Snyder family had “raised him for the devil.” This matter is still being decided in the courts, presently in the Supreme Court. First Amendment and free speech rights or not, It just ain’t right.

And what about 97 year old convicted war criminal - Nazi Waffen SS Captain Erich Priebke who was sentenced to life imprisonment in his Rome apartment? Further rubbing everybody’s nose in it, the Italian Court has allowed Priebke to leave house arrest for such everyday activities as shopping or going to church so that he may take care of the “indispensable needs for his life."? We think that this looks and sounds like someone living a “normal” life. The ruling has sparked outrage and protests throughout Italy and the rest of Europe. The Might of Right didn’t realize that there was a statute of limitations for, “crimes against humanity.” It just ain’t right.”

The behaviors of BP Oil and their attempts to cover up the full impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill coupled with the incredible insensitivities of then BP CEO Tony Hayward are seemingly trumped by yet another revelation – the extent of the use of prison labor.

BP is now engaging a huge and well-orchestrated PR blitz to repair its tattered image by proudly declaring that it has hired the, then and now, local populations of the Gulf Coast to handle the clean-up. While we know that’s partially true, we learned recently that part of their local, out of work employees included local – mostly African American prison inmates. How do we know this to be true? The inmates were wearing scarlet pants and white t-shirts with the words "Inmate Labor" printed in large red block letters on their backs. This was a poorly kept secret especially after local residents protested followed by many media revelations and finally the July 21, 2010 article in The Nation by Abe Louise Young.

Now, I don’t have a problem with BP using this readily available, cheap work force along with local residents so long as all workers know the risks, volunteer and are properly trained and equipped. It’s also a redemptive opportunity for these inmates to contribute positively to society in contrast to at least some of their past behaviors. However, instead of running their program up the flagpole for all to see and appreciate, BP’s reaction was to literally change the inmates’ uniforms from prison garb to BP Shirts, jeans and rubber boots and then withhold public comment causing folks to wonder about the deception (or at least deflection). We now know the reasons for the stonewall and all the law enforcement at some of these work sites. Gang, it just ain’t right.

The always bizarre Lady Gaga wore a controversial meat dress (and hat, shoes and purse) made from an estimated 40 pounds of flank steak to the September 12th MTV Video Music Awards. In a show of incredible stupidity and insensitivity in an era of deprivation and want Lady Gaga and designer Franc Fernandez have managed to offend just about everybody except a few fashion flames and the anything goes crowd.

Then comes along Bruce Willis on the October 4 David Letterman Show wearing a bright red hair piece that he billed as 100 percent pure organic sirloin beef. Obviously inspired by Lady Gaga, Willis, though he later tried to convince the media that the apparent steak tartare piece was faux meat (looked real to me), should receive the Meathead of The Year Award for that stunt and for all the aforementioned reasons. If Willis’ intent was to mock and ridicule Lady Gaga, he didn’t succeed. PETA’s understandable reaction (they deserve each other) and the attendant waste by Gaga and Willis (no, I’m not vegetarian) points to a lack of understanding and connection to the real world. It just ain’t right.

And what about that driver sitting at Preston Road in Plano, Texas and apparently contemplating a right hand, southerly turn as I approached from the north. Some 200 feet away I noticed the driver and just had one of those intuitive moments that said, “Watch out for that one.” I approached though slowing down to about 40 miles an hour (below the speed limit) and at 100 feet, fifty and then thirty feet – yes, he turned out right in front of me. I had to slam on my brakes and swerve into the center lane. Without missing a beat and at a slow rate of speed – maybe five to ten miles an hour – he takes absolutely no notice. But how could he? He was on his cell phone and chatting and gesturing and posturing with great vigor.
It just ain’t right.

And finally, we have Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler who recently proclaimed that Yoga and all that stretching and meditative discipline derived from Eastern religions is, “not a Christian pathway to God.” Now I know a lot of Christian folks who participate in Yoga-based exercise classes without all the chanting and references to Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism and they appear to be comfortable with their pathway and ultimate salvation.

Mohler said he objects to, "the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine." Well, that statement conflicts with my Christian taught principle that cultivation of the mind, soul and body can lead to a more fulfilling life and the attainment of Christian ideals.

Methinks that we are talking about two entities here: Yoga the exercise and meditation activities and Yoga the religion in all its myriad forms. Now if I am a practicing Yogi I could care less about Mohler or his perspectives – just another ugly, eccentric American. If I use the elements of Yoga (all that stretching and meditation) then I am trying to figure out where this guy’s coming from. Mohler appears to be just another ethnocentric individual uncomfortable with the reality and perceived threat of any alternate, competing philosophy/theology (my way or the highway). Where do these people come from and why do we give them so much control over our lives? It just ain’t right.

More later, I am sure. Lots of material - all I have to do is watch the news every day.


Ned Buxton

Sunday, October 3, 2010


We were all intrigued by Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto and then the controversy that it stirred. Many agree that while the movie seemed a hodge-podge of several different Maya eras, it did make its point. First, it was theater and second, while entertaining us it prompted a reemphasis on one of the great cultures of the world. In keeping with Hollywood tradition it catered and played to our 21st century sensitivities and perspectives by highlighting and exaggerating some of the more visceral and violent aspects of Maya culture – human sacrifice. Now while the Maya weren’t nearly as prolific in their sacrifices as the Aztecs (The Tenochcas) they weren’t the “noble savages” that some purists insist. The Maya from their mind’s eye were engaging sacred ritual to appease their gods and guarantee that the sun would rise yet one more time – the only way they knew how. Indeed, they believed that the ultimate fate of their world and its inhabitants and the natural order of all things depended in part on bloodletting and human sacrifice.

The previously held ideal that the Maya were a contemplative and peaceful religious society is a bunch of hogwash and all the PC in the world won’t change that reality. We know now that the Maya practiced human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism and we have much evidence to include the murals of Bonampak and countless other artifacts that document these behaviors. We neither condemn nor praise these practices – the ancient Maya were who they were like the Olmecs before them and all the other great Mesoamerican cultures.

Indeed, Mesoamerica spawned many great cultures and that time line starts as early as 30,000 BP (maybe earlier) and we are still in process of putting all the pieces together. In reality, we have only just begun this quest.

When I was in college in the sixties we were told that while the Maya demonstrated a sophisticated written language via their glyph system, no one had yet deciphered any significant part of it. In short, we were totally in the dark. We studied the magnificent Maya culture (as best we could) and the trappings and architecture in Copan, Tikal, Uxmal, Tulum and Chichen Itza among many other city states and I sometimes felt blind - incapable of truly understanding and embracing the totality of their universe. That was an accurate statement then though we know now that Mayan was, “a written language much more complete and complex than any other practiced in the ancient Americas.” Now, it is the most understood of all the Mesoamerican languages and that didn’t come easy.

It took an army of linguists, anthropologists, archeologists, mathematicians, an architect, a few brilliant hobbyists, and one twelve-year-old child prodigy glyphs expert, to solve the riddle of the Mayan written language. Those folks included Constantine Rafinesque, Ernst Förstemann, Alfred Maudsley, Eric Thompson, Yuri Knorosov, Linda Schele and David Stuart in the 1980’s (among many others) to unravel the Mayan language puzzle.

Couple that with the incredible archeological discoveries of the last few decades and we see other substantial pieces of the Maya puzzle revealed. We need to put the Maya civilization in perspective with some of the other great cultures on our planet. The Maya had one of the most densely populated and culturally dynamic societies in the world and if we combine the Maya Pre and post classic with their Classic period we have a timeline roughly from 2000 BCE to 1521 CE. That puts the Maya squarely contemporary with Greece, Rome, Egypt, China, Ancient Ghana, Axum, Phoenicia, Persia and India among many others.

Now comes along Daniel Finamore, the Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Art and History at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA and Stephen D. Houston, the Dupee Family Professor of Social Science and Professor of Archaeology at Brown University in Providence, RI who put together a Maya exhibition (Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea) that is more of a cultural celebration touching on the water elements of Maya society without exaggerating the aforementioned “dark side” of the Maya. That exhibition started at the host Peabody Essex Museum, is now at the Kimbell Arts Museum in Fort Worth, Texas (August 29, 2010 through January 2,2011) and will ultimately travel to the Saint Louis Art Museum( February 13, 2011 - May 8, 2011).

Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea delves into the Maya’s physical realm (they were surrounded by water) and their spiritual relationship with that element. “Fiery Pool” is the phrase the Maya used to describe the sea and when the glyph for water was deciphered (yea only about 20 years ago) it opened up a whole new train of thought and new and now accurate meanings of artifacts that previously misinterpreted - led us down the primrose path. This new scholarship has lent new meaning to, “I once was blind but now I see” and, indeed, we now do.

We expect nothing but a first class experience from The Kimbell and they have not disappointed us. The visual aids in this exhibition are superb with plenty of stimulus and opportunity for every age and scholastic level. From the casting of the Maya temple at the start of the tour to detailed drawings, audio visual explanations highlighted by superb graphics and dialogue to a large table top and circular interactive screen of the sea/ocean where guests can touch the screen and select an animal from the water such as a shark, frog or turtle, associate it with its glyph and then discover the significance of that creature in Maya culture.

We now know that the ancient Maya viewed their world as inseparable from water as the element not only necessary to sustain life, but the vital medium from which the world emerged, the sun rose and set, their gods arose and through which their ancestors spoke. Water in all its myriad forms from fog/clouds to rivers and streams to cenotes to sea shaped their whole existence – they were all connected.

My favorite piece in Fiery Pool is an elaborate ceramic incense burner from Palenque, Mexico (700–750 CE) which portrays a deity central to the Maya creation myth. Not surprisingly, he is of the water world. A shark serves as his headdress which is topped by a toothy crocodile. It is magnificent…

I suspect that perhaps tonight a Maya elder in Yucatan will gather young children around a fire and relate the Maya creation myth just as it has been told for thousands of years. Another generation of Maya will be educated and motivated to celebrate and preserve their culture. No, the Maya didn’t go away. Not unlike the Italians after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Maya did not disappear. They stayed and now number over six million in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. They are alive and well

So, whatever you’re doing or wherever you’re from, make plans to go to the Kimbell Arts Museum in Fort Worth and treat yourself to a once in a lifetime chance to see and experience this great culture – revealed for the first time. While you’re in Fort Worth saunter on over to the Stockyards and take in Billy Bob’s, the world’s largest honkey tonk and Joe T. Garcia's Mexican Restaurant - since 1935 the worst kept secret and one of the greatest Family celebrations in Tarrant County. Be forewarned - like the ancient Maya they don’t accept plastic.


Ned Buxton