Saturday, May 28, 2011


When I first heard that The Rapture and the start of the end of the earth was going to happen on May 21, 2011 I chastised myself for making that last mortgage payment to Wells Fargo. I almost immediately recanted, proud that the historical record would validate my honesty despite knowing my end was near. Well, OK, I didn’t take seriously (nor did I monitor) what is yet another prediction of The Rapture and the end of the earth seemingly intended to scare the crap out of most gullible folks though placate many who sit on the right fringe of the Christian fundamentalist / evangelical movement who eagerly anticipated their ultimate deliverance – to the exception of all others. Imagine their disappointment

The most recent (and repeat) prognosticator was one Harold Camping a preacher from Oakland, California who is also the founder, owner and operator of the Family Radio Network which caters to that Christian Fundamentalist Right. Camping now solidly occupies an ignoble spot in that pantheon of failed Doomsday prophets including Saint Clement, Saint Martin of Tours, Sextus Julius Africanus, Otto III, John of Toledo, Pope Innocent III, Melchior Hoffman, Benjamin Keach, Charles Wesley, Margaret McDonald, Joseph Smith, William Miller, Ellen White, Mother Shipton, Watchtower Society, The Jehovah Witnesses, Herbert W. Armstrong, Albert Porta, Hal Lindsey and, yes, Pat Robertson among others. This end of the world stuff is tricky business…

Camping like his doomsday predecessors believed, predicted and guaranteed (“without any shadow of a doubt”) with complete assurance and certainty (all based on numerology) that the end of the world was nigh (May 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm local time anywhere) and that a large, rolling earthquake will commence (wherever you are) and that all those saved Christians (2% of the world’s population - estimated at some 220 million souls) would forever leave terra firma, ascending presumably Logan’s Run style into the sky (aka the Firmament/Heaven) where they will meet Jesus and share an eternity of “Rapture.” The rest of us poor unsaved slobs (despite my baptism and confirmation) will endure and suffer through fire and brimstone on earth until October 21, when God pulls the plug on the planet once and for all and we descend permanently into the fiery abyss of Hell. Finis… I guess that means I will not be attending Homecoming at Ole Miss vs. Louisiana Tech on November 12?

Camping gathered Family and Friends on May 21st and conducted a prayer vigil where he was monitoring CNN coverage of the Rapture as it would presumably (and conveniently) sweep through all the earth’s time zones. Of course, we do wonder how Camping, ostensibly anticipating being whisked away in the rapture, could monitor that on an earthly plane? Inquiring minds want to know.

Imagine his disappointment when reports from Christmas Island, Tonga then New Zealand and all around the world revealed no earthquakes of consequence or rapture - anywhere. Well, there were some earthquakes including one in New Zealand and a minor quake that rolled across the San Francisco Bay Area with some folks lamenting that the epicenter wasn’t closer to the headquarters of the Family Radio Network in Oakland. The quakes were inconsequential and not unexpected in these very active zones. Grimsvotn, Iceland’s most active volcano for many years began an eruption that had been predicted for some time with the only complication being ash that could again disrupt airline traffic. Elsewhere around the world there was little or no seismic activity.

We’ve been chomping at the bit, anxious to release this post but have been waiting for Camping’s response which will apparently continue for some time as he and his Family Radio Network continue to spin their failed prophesy. There are reports that the Family Radio Network continued the salaries of all their staff (why?) though did not generate any new business activities around “Rapture Time.” We note reports that many of the Family Radio Network staff, “don’t believe.” Camping’s first public reaction was predictable, that he was, “totally bewildered” and for him it had been, "a really tough weekend." Really… Then he put his spin by backpedaling on his failed prediction by merely extending the date (more later).

Harold Camping had previously erroneously predicted that the Tribulation, Rapture and End of World would occur on May 21, 1988 (beginning of the Tribulation) and on September 7, 1994 (end of the world). In 1994 hundreds of his followers gathered at an Alameda, California auditorium looking forward to Christ's return and their own ascendency. Sore necks and a greater appreciation for the ceiling of the auditorium were their only rewards. Camping later recanted explaining that he had miscalculated the date offering that, "At that time there was a lot of the Bible I had not really researched very carefully. But now, we've had the chance to do just an enormous amount of additional study and God has given us outstanding proofs that it really is going to happen." Ah scholarship, ah academia…drum roll and then came his 2011 prediction.

After his 1994 fiasco Camping’s prophecies were met with derision and even allegations of “false prophet.” Threads on the Internet have highlighted individuals who in 1994 and again in 2011 believed Camping and his Family Radio Network prophecies and gave them all their money or spent monies for Camping anticipating the end of days. Despite calls that Camping return these monies to his ever more-needy, some destitute and still deluded followers, we have seen no evidence of that. In fact, we have seen just the opposite.

Camping instead responded that he and Family Radio would never tell anyone what they should do with their belongings, that “…those who had fewer would cope.” and “We're not in the business of financial advice." Camping stated outright to Oakland, CA photographer Brandon Tauszik who then shared the remarks with National Public Radio (NPR) that he will not return the money that believers gave to the cause, noting, "We're not at the end. Why would we return it?"

We think it interesting that Camping wouldn’t part with any of his possessions and that, "I still have to live in a house, I still have to drive a car," he said. "What would be the value of that? If it is Judgment Day why would I give it away?" He does make a point though he doesn’t seem sensitive to any of the pain and suffering he has caused among his obedient, very pliant followers who gave up everything.

We now hear credible reports of a suicide and attempted murder and suicide surely committed by seemingly impressionable and unstable individuals, though the tipping points have been attributed to Camping’s irresponsible words.

Then we have some of Camping’s misled faithful who actually euthanized their pets so they wouldn’t be, “left behind and suffer.” Luckily for the cockatiel, parrot and cat belonging to Camping follower Bill Tinker of Boyes Hot Springs, California, Sonoma County Animal Care and Control seized the animals before Tinker could carry out his announced plan to put down his pets.

So, Camping’s pathetic spin on his failed and “guaranteed” end of world prophecy was not to wholly admit he was wrong and try and make amends with his followers. Rather, he now ignores “the rapture” and is sticking to his guns that the end of the world will, indeed, take place on October 21, 2011. Camping has now come to “the realization” that his judgment day on May 21 was actually “spiritual, rather than physical.” Camping offered, “The fact is, when we look at it spiritually, we find that he did come.” Of course, the rest of us on this planet wonder where that rationalization came from save the continuing realization that Camping is delusional and living on another not so divine plane called senility.

In July 2003 Katy St. Clair of the East Bay Express interviewed former, long-time Camping confidante and colleague, Pastor Jesse Gistand of Grace Bible Church in San Leandro, CA who now goes so far as to call his old colleague a cult leader. "I hesitated to call him one all the way up to the point that he started preaching the Dead Church Doctrine," he says, "because at that point he had entered another stage of the typical heretical prophecies that take place under eschatology. You set your date; your date doesn't come; you reinterpret what has happened -- spiritualize it, mythologize it -- and then finally just condemn everyone else as being lost."

If we are to believe the unordained Camping, "The church age has come to an end." Camping believes that The Church has renounced its mission and has been taken over by Satan. And, according to Camping - God loosed Satan upon us? Camping continues, “Churches are irrelevant and that instead of using Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and other "corporate" denominations to evangelize the world, God has turned instead to... radio.” Yikes, I would have thought that an omnipotent deity would probably turn to the Internet and social networking or to a yet to be invented super-efficient technology to spread his word in the new millennium - but radio? We correctly surmise the self-serving Camping is referring to his Family Radio Network radio stations.

I was recently reminded of an adage which appears in the Book of Proverbs in the King James Bible - Proverbs 26:11. “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.” Camping is now insisting that he's not going to discuss judgment day anymore. We, however, don’t feel that he will be able to keep peace with his failed predictions which will plague him or at least dance in his mind until the end of his tormented days. Folks that know Camping reflect they think him sincere ("He's sincere," concurs the Rev. Dean Harner. "Sincerely wrong, but sincere").

Perhaps Camping is doing us all a favor by keeping in one place those followers who are out spouting his gibberish and, “depriving villages of their nonsense.” Camping follower Adam Larsen from Kansas has admitted that since he has been spreading the word of the apocalypse he hasn’t been able to pursue his favorite pastime – raccoon hunting. Notch one up for the raccoons.

We salute New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Jewish and, if we believe Camping will not be part of his rapture) who immediately prior to the predicted start of the end of days assured New Yorkers with tongue firmly in cheek that in the event of an Apocalyptic scenario, New York’s alternate side of the street parking rules will be suspended and gave permissions to keep any library books or rip up any parking tickets they might have. Bravo!

When I first became aware of Harold Camping and his end of the world campaign – more nonsense from a long line of failed doomsday prophets - I was amused. No longer. Upon reviewing our remarks on Camping we wonder if we are being too sarcastic, perhaps even un-Christian – but then again, maybe not. Our goal is to further expose an egocentric, self-absorbed, obsessed individual, however sincere, blinded by his eccentric end-times theology. On the other hand we want to show compassion, charity and mercy to someone who is obviously deluded and according to some, possibly ill.

I have prayed for Camping and his followers acknowledging that their skewed perceptions have prompted the rest of us to contemplate what is right in our world. Camping has drawn a contrast - a line in the sand. We are on one side and he on the other.

Having said that I certainly appreciate the sentiment expressed by a Lakota Sioux Friend who noting Camping’s latest prediction commented that they were finally going to get their land back….


Ned Buxton

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I just watched north Texas’ public TV station KERA (50 years young) air yet one more time the 25th Anniversary performance and celebration of Les Misérables. To say that I am passionate about and seduced by Les Misérables is a gross understatement of the first order. I consider it the best music and lyrics ever put to paper (Aye, the best musical) and then interpreted by a myriad of talented artists around the world thanks to the genius of Cameron Mackintosh. While I’m not qualified to comment on those Les Mis performers interpreting in other than English, they all sound great and appear to be enthusiastic and dedicated. Les Mis attracts performers of the uncommon variety. We can thank the producer and directors for their wise choices…

We of the Les Mis ilk (We many, we band of Brothers and Sisters…) have our favorite artists and perhaps especially with the central character of Les Misérables, Jean Valjean. All the dedicated performers who play this character bring a unique dimension with their singular interpretation and the passion of their performances - the differentiating element. The point? Among these great performers there is no bad, just different – and all impressive. I am amazed at the countless threads I see on the Internet many arguing that, “My Valjean is better than your Valjean” and diminishing the performances of all save their favorite with some punctuating their obsessive rants with sordid vulgarities.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are all on the same side…

So, with all these great voices - and many being equal - it’s all about interpretation and performance/acting – dedication to the character. The standard by which all those Jean Valjeans will be judged will be in his anguished prayerful plea, Bring Him Home (BHH). To execute that role and that song, performance after performance, all to the intent and expectation of the ever present authors, producer, directors and every knowledgeable audience (55+ million to date and growing) is the most challenging element of the character.

So, how do we compare anybody to Colm Wilkinson and his Jean Valjean? As the original Jean Valjean the role was his to invent and interpret. Wilkinson became a student of Victor Hugo and understands Hugo’s work and intent. Wilkinson’s trademark will always be his total immersion into the character of Jean Valjean and his now iconic Bring Him Home written specifically for him by composer Claude-Michel Schonberg (music) with English lyrics written by the often overlooked Herbert Kretzmer who captured, created and or reinterpreted much of the soul of Les Mis. Kretzmer as co-writer is more than, “an equal among equals” and deserves far more recognition than the Tony and Grammy awards he has garnered. Kretzmer’s contributions allow us to grasp and begin to comprehend and reflect on our own humanity and we feel are largely responsible for the popularity of Les Mis. We salute Mackintosh for his brilliant decision to bring Kretzmer on board.

Schonberg relates that one month before Les Mis started in London in 1985, Director Trevor Nunn offered that they needed a song for the barricades – with director John Caird later remarking that the Jean Valjean character should sing a prayer? Given the genius and tenor of Colm Wilkinson's voice (the role of Jean Valjean was initially written for a baritone) Schoenberg continued, "If I write for Colm, I should write something very high." Schonberg wrote the BHH musical score during a week-end. The following Monday morning, Schonberg brought the song to Herbert Kretzmer who put his now famous words to BHH literally overnight. Schoenberg, Boublil and Kretzmer brought BHH to a rehearsal where Schonberg revealed the song, their intent and taught Colm the song. After tutelage of some fifteen minutes Colm sang the song in such an inspirational manner it prompted one cast member to state, "We have been told that this show was dealing with God but we've never been told that God would get to sing in the show." From that point there was Colm Wilkinson and everybody else… Co-Les Mis conspirator and lyricist Alain Boublil later translated BHH into French for the second Paris production at the Mogador Theatre in 1991.

Like the carefully crafted Les Misérables itself, though, the world and technology continues to evolve witness the slimmed down but technologically enhanced 25th anniversary show at the O₂ in London which uses expansive projections of Victor Hugo’s paintings. It is the work of a younger generation and while the message is the same (and intact with most of the incredible contributions of the previous collaborators – Trevor Nunn, John Caird, John Napier, et al) change always seems to involve conflict and Cameron Mitchell and Trevor Nunn are now apparently in different corners. Too bad

The conflict also continues with who was and is the best Jean Valjean. As I reflected before, that role belongs to Colm Wilkinson though there are many great performances to appreciate. I have some favorites and they include Jeff Leyton (aka James Urquhart) the Scot from Edinburgh who was given credit in the 10th Anniversary show of Les Mis for representing Ireland? True, he did perform in Ireland, but… Jeff’s performances as Jean Valjean were extraordinary and we need to recognize and preserve them. Many feel that despite Wilkinson’s hold on the role, Leyton may be the best Jean Valjean, ever.

I also recognize what is undoubtedly one of the great Les Mis stories in the person of Native Texan Gary Morris who is just as comfortable singing Puccini's La Boheme as he is on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Many feel that Morris’ Bring Him Home sets the standard for this challenging song and, indeed, the role of Jean Valjean. We would like to know more how Gary came to be chosen for Les Mis.

If you have not heard/seen Robert Marien sing his English/French – French/English Bring Him Home then your life is incomplete. And, no, Robert Marien is not French. He is Québécois and a proud Canadian who has performed in Les Mis around the world including Montreal, Paris, New York and London.

Other great Jean Valjeans include Randal Keith, Craig Schulman, John Owen-Jones, Anthony Warlow, Simon Bowman, Drew Sarich, Michael Maguire, Michael Burgess, Rob Guest, Phil Cavill, J. Mark McVey, Peter Karrie, Ivan Rutherford, Robert Evan, Fred Inkley, the extraordinary Alfie Boe (who will only get better with age) among many others.

So, we are motivated and inspired by the music, the words, the passion, aye, even the idea of Les Mis. It should speak to all of us from start to finish as Hugo offers, “… the advance from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsity to truth, from darkness to daylight, from blind appetite to conscience, from decay to life, from bestiality to duty, from Heaven to Hell, from Limbo to God. Matter itself is the starting point, and the point of arrival is the soul.” The musical is the continuation of Hugo’s work of life and as Scot Stuart Fernie states, “the perfect union of material and medium” which inspires, “people to think on their own lives.”

Ah, the soul - and especially that of the English-born New Zealander Robert John (Rob) Guest who passed to his great reward in 2008. Rob was known as the "Australian Jean Valjean" though he performed in New Zealand as well. It is to Rob we dedicate this post with our earnest appreciation and thanks for his contributions to our lives. You live…


Ned Buxton

Friday, May 13, 2011


My Best Friend proclaims eureka moments with an enthusiastic, “Well, there you have it!” One of those moments for me was Tavis Smiley’s recent assessment of Donald Trump. While I take exception with just about everything that Smiley’s says (I defend his right to express his opinions), I do agree that we allowed a “publicity-starved reality TV purveyor to lead us down this slippery slope” and that Trump’s allegations that Obama was not born in the US were motivated by nothing more than, “political gain, ignorance, or something more sinister…” I do wonder about Smiley’s “or something more sinister” remark, which validates that Smiley’s intent and my acceptance of his remarks are on two different planes and we would probably agree that Hitler wasn’t a nice person either - another eureka moment.

What his statements did accomplish was to bring us together (ingloriously) on one issue though Smiley sees the world only and deliberately through the filter of the Black Perspective many times to the exclusion of the bigger picture. His Achilles heel is that he honestly doesn’t understand the view from 40,000 feet and that will keep him always looking up. Smiley seemingly wants Obama to be the unilateral Black President and is discomforted when he addresses issues for the good of the many. Smiley is in the estimation of many one of the more divisive elements in our country today – espousing racist attitudes and perspectives from the far left rather than collaborating and building consensus. I could go on about Smiley (and will in another post) though this offering was originally intended to be all about Donald Trump.

Trump’s a smart guy who likes the camera, knows how to stir the pot, push buttons though one who has earned and, conversely, lost a hell of a lot of money. Trump filed corporate bankruptcies in 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009. While Trump seemingly lives on the edge of corporate financial disaster and though he has had to relinquish some controls here and there - he has, admittedly, mostly come out smelling like a rose. By his own admission, he knows how to work the system.

The Donald is an ego maniac who has the potential to turn our whole political landscape into soap opera and theatre. For example, his recent estimation of GOP rival Mitt Romney was not to comment on his political perspectives save that he didn’t know him though he (Trump) was much wealthier than Romney therefore a better businessman? For Trump it all seems to come down to money and the ratings. Indeed, many believe that Trump’s ultimate goal is to build his celebrity and the ratings for his TV show.

Though many have applauded Trump’s resurrection of the so-called Obama birthing controversy, we feel that it will have the ultimate effect of revealing him as a threat to the legitimate political process in our country (Sarah Palin, enter right). For many of us that “birthing” issue was dead years ago, but for Trump it was the chance to stir the pot again and a vehicle to open yet another door, perhaps a run for the GOP 2012 nomination for President. Those who respond positively to his drivel and foolishness deserve him…

The whole issue is suspect at best and idiocy at its height. Obama as a former US Senator let alone presidential candidate was vetted by his own party, his opponents and we assume various agencies of the US Government. GOP candidate Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich (who pathetically cites Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial” behavior) have seemingly also succumbed to the “birthers.”

Embarrassingly, while Trump and others were playing their “birther” cards Obama was busy with the work of the Country including the planning of the operation that brought down arch villain Osama bin Laden. Ooops! Coincidentally, we note that the Donald has been pretty quiet for the last week. One Friend opined that, “It’s difficult to talk with your foot in your mouth.”

In retrospect the timing of Trump’s reality show approach to politics should be fodder for a Saturday Night Live, but then again Trump gives us so much to work with… Maybe he’s the lead man for the Republican circus headed to town. What was surprising to me was how long it took for many Republicans to attack Trump for what he is though most appeared more concerned that the news media's fascination with Trump was distracting and diverting attention from them. That will soon change as Trump starts attacking the other Republican candidates.

Conservative newspaper columnist George Will of the Washington Post told ABC News' "This Week" in their online "Green Room" segment that Trump is a "blatherskite." Will then proudly clarified, “That is a word my grandmother was fond of as someone who blathers promiscuously." We looked it up and to our great pleasure found it to be of Scots origin dating from around CE 1650. It refers to a person who talks foolishly and at great length without making much sense. We agree.

George Will says it all for me, “So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.”

How can we trust any candidate who deliberately and with forethought chooses to address divisive, trifling matters – straying so far off course from the substantive issues of the day? The Donald has the means and the influence to accomplish so much good in his own domain yet he chooses to be a comic book character. What a waste… As Chris Matthews has suggested, The Donald has given new hope to conspiracists, everywhere. Reality where art thou?


Ned Buxton

PS – On May 15, 2011 NBC announced that it would be renewing The Celebrity Apprentice for 2012 with or without Donald Trump. On May 16, 2011 Donald Trump after flying like an eagle or perhaps more like Icarus given his falling poll numbers fell to earth as an announced non-candidate. The Donald in an eloquent and well stated press release expressed his regrets declaring that, “…business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector.” We have not seen the last of The Donald. NB

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Once again the controversial reaction of a public figure has generated almost as much attention as the original, much larger story. This one has a lot of legs that will keep running for some time perhaps unlike this great running back.

Pittsburgh Steeler running back Rashard Mendenhall's contentious remarks on Twitter regarding the death of Osama bin-Laden and 9/11 points out again that idiots can also offer their opinions on the Internet and especially so in our new, rarified, dynamic, aye, spontaneous social media. Many reasonably expect that our celebrities have the responsibility, aye, obligation to be positive role models, especially for the younger generation. That said, celebrities have most recently offered renewed proof that they are not only fallible but can lead the charge to absurdity (Vick, Lohan, Sheen, et al). We can now add Mendenhall to that list. While Mendenhall has a right to express his opinions – he has proved that he doesn’t deserve our respect. His remarks included this tidbit:

"What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side."

As for those largely spontaneous celebrations - they appeared to be celebrations of victory and were understandable and in line with the death of one who has caused so much pain and upset throughout the world. Yea, we finally got him. Didn’t you just love the spontaneous celebration at the Phillies and Mets baseball game in Philadelphia when the news hit the cell phones of those in attendance. Even though no formal announcement was ever made, chants of "USA" started around the top of the ninth inning and continued throughout the remainder of the game. Mendenhall is going to be a big hit in Philly if and when the Steelers and Eagles ever play another game…and if Mendenhall is still a Steeler. Didn’t you just love Michael Vick’s take on bin Laden’s passing?

Around the country thousands of our citizenry gathered in public places to cheer and celebrate the news. They were celebrations of the victory of good over evil… Mendenhall just didn’t get that.

Mendenhall’s, “We've only heard one side” remark and conjecture whether the World Trade Center towers were only brought down on 9/11 by crashing two hijacked airliners into the buildings cast great doubt on which planet he resides (proud Illini take note). Bin Laden on many occasions gleefully admitted his actions and accepted full responsibility for the 9/11 and other terrorist attacks. His many videotaped harangues, threats and general orders are well documented and were broadcast around the world. Bin Laden, the self-styled leader of terrorism in the world (he was no scholar) issued three very public fatwahs calling upon Muslims to take up arms against the United States. When terrorists joined al Qaeda they pledged a personal oath of allegiance to bin Laden. I could go on but what’s the point.

Mendenhall is now starting to pay for his unfathomable, irresponsible comments. As one blogger of note put it, Mendenhall’s remarks represent a, “fatal rectal/cranial inversion.” We agree and note that the Champion Company (owned by Sara Lee who also owns Hanes, Playtex, Bali, L’eggs, etc) abruptly ended its endorsement deal with Mendenhall over his Twitter remarks. Mendenhall’s boss, Steeler Owner Art Rooney II (Rooney has close ties with President Obama) has addressed his remarks and distanced the Steelers from Mendenhall, “… it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments.” Aside from embarrassing the Steelers, worst of all, Mendenhall has earned the enmity of most of our citizenry. That would appear to be the worst of it all though if I was one of his offensive lineman, I sure wouldn’t block for him…

Mendenhall has tried to “clarify his remarks” and really didn’t offer an apology. His recent statement follows.

“First, I want people to understand that I am not in support of Bin Laden, or against the USA. I understand how devastating 9/11 was to this country and to the people whose families were affected. Not just in the US, but families all over the world who had relatives in the World Trade Centers. My heart goes out to the troops who fight for our freedoms everyday.

This controversial statement was something I said in response to the amount of joy I saw in the event of a murder. I don’t believe that this is an issue of politics or American pride; but one of religion, morality, and human ethics.”

Later in his statement he offered. “I apologize for the timing as such a sensitive matter, but it was not meant to do harm," Mendenhall continued. "I apologize to anyone I unintentionally harmed with anything that I said, or any hurtful interpretation that was made and put in my name. It was only meant to encourage anyone reading it to think."

Well, Rashard, you sure made me think, especially about your original Tweet and now your characterization of bin Laden’s richly deserved, abrupt departure from this earthly plane as “murder” rather than ultimate justice. Rashard, your backhanded apology was meant more to salvage what little positive reputation you have left. You should have known the effect your words would have had - especially on the 9/11 Victim’s Families and Friends.

I have always encouraged a productive debate of all issues but you are coming from Pluto and beyond and demonstrate an incredible ignorance of basic facts. You come across as yet another uneducated conspiracy theorist with little or no grasp on reality. You should have realized that as a successful professional athlete (you say slave?) your preposterous words would receive an increased scrutiny.

I tried to be fair and read your Tweets noting that at least one of your more controversial statements has been deleted. I read your “Clarification” and found it to be self-serving pulp. It was poorly crafted and no doubt written by you. Recommend that you get a good PR firm or let your agent work through this one.

I did like your retweet invoking or at least insinuating some ancient Islamic wisdom, “It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument.” You then added, “Solution, DON'T ARGUE. #islam #wisdom #think.” That statement is especially poignant for this post.

But, I recognized its origins - far from some Muslim sage. Rather, that phrase was first uttered by William Gibbs McAdoo (1863-1941), American politician, Georgian by birth who attended the University of Tennessee who studied and practiced law and was later vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1912; Secretary of the Treasury in the Cabinet of President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1918); Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Farm Loan Board, and the War Finance Corporation; practiced law in New York City in 1919 and Los Angeles, California in 1922 where he later distinguished himself as a Senator from California (D) and later an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 1920 and 1924. McAdoo is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Whoops! Perhaps from this point on you should think before you Tweet or make any statement about anything though folks are going to remember this one for a long time. Heck, it’s already in your Internet profile. Thankfully, though, you ultimately won’t even be a footnote in history. Heck, you weren’t even mentioned in today’s Sports section of the Dallas Morning News.

Have you heard the talk on the Internet about your impending free agency? Some folks have you in Canada already though one Canadian already told me they don’t want you. Maybe you can sing backup for the Dixie Chicks? In the meantime some folks have offered that your “re-education” might be a good start on the path to recovery though duct taping your thumbs to your fingers and distancing yourself from folks who think your remarks are right on would also be in order.

But, who gives a damn what you think, anyway?


Ned Buxton

Sunday, May 1, 2011


I was watching my favorite program Sunday Morning this last Easter Sunday – getting caught up on the world and readying myself for services at St. Matthew’s. Sunday Morning did their usual jamming job including a story on the longest professional baseball game ever played – 33 innings between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings, two teams from the Triple-A International League. The game lasted eight hours and 25 minutes with those 33 innings played on both April 18 and 19, 1981 at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Fittingly, the Red Sox won.

Two future Hall of Famers played in this barn burner including Cal Ripken, Jr. playing third base for Rochester and Wade Boggs who played third base for Pawtucket. While the game was worthy of this mention, the story featured yet again another so called professional reporter/broadcaster this time in the person of CBS Correspondent Steve Hartman who didn’t know how to pronounce, “PAWTUCKET.” After years of enduring the slings and arrows of this verbal ignorance/harassment this for me was the last straw and fodder for yet another ranting post. Gees people, can’t you get the name straight?

I lived in Pawtucket, RI for several years off and on with my Mom’s parents during my early years and then when Mom decided to split with Dad, lived there with my two Brothers from 1953 until 1962 when I went off to university. I had been away at school for those last four years and while the 1958 to 1961 Lenox School yearbooks gave a Dallas, Texas address, Pawtucket was still home.

When I went to school at Moses Brown and then on to St. Dunstan’s in nearby Providence never did I hear anyone - Family member, fellow student, faculty or any Rhode Islander mispronounce (OK, let’s be objective now) – pronounce the name of this august little town – ancient fishing grounds and the birthplace of the industrial revolution in the United States of America via the Old Slater Mill – any other way than the correct way.

Seems that Steve Hartman and admittedly many other broadcasters, sportscasters, commentators want to accentuate the "Paw" in Pawtucket so it comes out like, "PAAAAW-tucket" when the name is correctly pronounced Puh-TUCK-et as in "Bucket" with a soft “P” and the stress on "tucket". Maybe it’s their way of amusing themselves and having fun like a carnival barker accentuating what they think is an affectation of the name. No more, you masses of ignorant jesters… it’s time to fess up and get it right.

So what is the origin of the name, Pawtucket?

As is the case all across North America folks were already here when the Europeans came and decided to “civilize” this land that included present day southern Massachusetts and all of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Those First Nations included the Nanhigganeuck - Nanhiggonsicks aka the Narragansett, the Pokanoket – Poncakanet aka Wamponaog and the Niantic though there was great influence from many other local and remote native cultures. The English, French and the Spanish managed to upset the applecart, but that’s another story.

At the height of their influence the Wampanoag controlled all the country extending east from Narragansett Bay (including Rhode Island aka Aquidneck Island) and Pawtucket River to the Atlantic, including the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. They were surrounded by both friendly though many aggressive groups who coveted their land. The Blackstone River long served as the boundary between the Wampanoag and Narragansett.

The Blackstone River [originally known as the Kittacuck (the great tidal river)] runs from Worcester, Massachusetts through Pawtucket where it is known locally as the Pawtucket River to The Pawtucket Falls under what is now the Main Street Bridge. Below The Falls it becomes the Seekonk River and is influenced by the ever present salt water tides from Narragansett Bay. The Seekonk meets the Providence River in Providence and then onto Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic. These were all important rivers in ancient and colonial times. The Dutch called the Providence River the Nassau River significant as the northeastern boundary between the Dutch colony of New Netherlands and the English New England.

Pawtucket and specifically the locale of The Falls meant “Great Falls” in Algonquin, literally the place of a larger waterfall. This area was the confluence of several major overland trails and already important as the natural, convenient and shallow crossing point above The Falls. We also need note that the Wampanoag gathered to fish for salmon, alewives (herring) and shad which abundantly proliferated well into the 19th century. Not so in what is now a much improved though still polluted river where it is no longer safe to swim or fish. Yes, the Native Americans were right… So the name came from The Falls and the area which was later known as the Pawtucket Fields.

So, how to pronounce Pawtucket? It is highly unlikely that we will ever be able to pronounce native names like Pawtucket as the original speakers did. On that supposition all historians and linguists agree. When the New England colonists arrived they pronounced the names as they heard them, through the filter of Old English. When they heard the Algonquin and all its dialects they really couldn’t tell where one word ended and another began. Nor could they tell what sounds were being spoken. As esteemed linguist Dr. Elaine Chaika of Providence College states, “If foreign speakers make a sound you don't have in your language, your ear automatically converts it to the nearest sound you do have. That's why people have foreign accents.”

We are also importantly dealing with concepts where a foreigner might attribute a meaning consistent with their culture and not remotely close to the intention of the speaker. Yes, Roger Williams’, A Key Into the Language of America in 1643 provided great insight into the Narragansett and other nearby Algonquin cultures, but was just a start.

What we do know is that no contemporary residents with a serious eye on culture and the English language (with or without a sense of humor) do not pronounce Pawtucket as Steve Hartman did in his Sunday Morning piece.

So, please, Mr. Hartman and you other guilty parties, we implore you to get it right. Though we know that you’re not from around here - as a professional you should know how to pronounce the principal name of your story line. Maybe if you ever get “Pawtucket” mastered you can try your luck with other Rhode Island place names including Scituate, Misquamicut, Pascoag, Quonochontaug, Cowesett and Usquepaugh - for a start. Where’s Pawtucket Native David Hartman when you need him?


Ned Buxton