The lonely boys of Shoreham…

February 28, 2016

It occurred to me the other day, that my childhood – the part before age 13 when we moved to Greenwich when I became surrounded by large numbers of kids my own age – was largely spent alone, or in my ‘one friend’ relationship with Robby Knox. He was the only boy in town who was my age. My friend. The only member of my peer group the whole time we lived in the tiny town of Shoreham.  We (he and me) along with Winny Allen, who I recall was both a girl and was just in a different orbit than we were – comprised our entire class in Shoreham’s one room school house. 

In the summers there were more kids certainly, as Shoreham became the summer beachfront community by the Long Island Sound that it was for the summer months.  But still, no particular age group had enough kids to field baseball team. Not even half a baseball team. So we kids (under 13 anyway) split into three fluidly defined groups essentially. Little kids…older more physically able kids (8 to 12ish)…and some prepubescent kids/slow developers (12 to 13) who jumped in on certain sports and activities, but who were mostly involved doing work around their homes or were in intense study of the opposite sex. Some things never change.

All these informal sub-groupings were small in size by default…but would combine fluidly in various aggregations, for spontaneous and unsupervised games of all sorts and inventions that peppered our simple lives back then before Shoreham became a city.

The most magical of these would occur when for no particular reason the kids of Shoreham would decided to play “war” on a town wide scale – and would form two quite complex and detailed warring units involving kids of all ages (including little kids as scouts, and spies and logistics mules).

These were unimaginably disciplined armies, utilizing all forms of weapons and tactical war strategies and large scale logistics and field encampments including the building of forts in the woods, battle hospitals and medics, mess halls, latrines and foxholes.

Opposing armies posted sentries complete with pass words, and carried all manner of pretend stick guns, toy pistols, bows and arrows, grenades (rotten apples) – all complete with appropriate sound effects – which could kill a 5 year old deader than dead with the always lethal combination of a pointed finger and the utterance of a screamed POW (followed by immediate confirmation “you’re dead…you can’t play anymore”).

Shoreham may not have been great for age and gender defined peer groups…but we knew basic warfare – and how to move troops and how to fight to the death. Jane Goodall would have been proud of the kids of Shoreham. We were as good as any teenage band of Chimps in spontaneous formation of waring units – in precursor attempts to learn ‘how to defend your tribe against other tribes who might invade your range’.

And yes I recall two exciting instances in my childhood when we found ourselves in “territorial wars” with Rocky Point (the adjoining town to our west. How these coalesced I could not possibly tell you – but they happened suddenly and with rules of war clearly understood and defined on both sides.

Non-peer group groups  (even bonded non-peer group groups) crossed age and sex and summer people/townie home boy lines in Shoreham. Pick up baseball games lured in anyone with motor skills developed to the point where they could play without getting hurt.

Capture the flag could cover large portions of real estate and included all the kids that could play without getting hurt or lost. We even played pickup touch football that way. Teams comprised of age and ability…with elected captains who selected team participants from the best and the oldest, down to the youngest and weakest. Everyone was included…and encouraged. Your team depended on the best you could do. Even if you were just little.

Summer activities in Shoreham were structured on inclusive age and sex clustered groupings because there just weren’t enough kids in anyone group to have a race where someone could come in 4th (or 3rd in Robbie and my case).

The town in summer did a great job attempting to be fair and inclusive for kids and they mixed age groups where they could – to where it made sense.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts allowed kids of different ages to get mixed up. So did the community dance classes and town holiday swimming and running and whatnot races – and costume parties where everyone was expected to create a costume which were then judged – complete with 1st through honorable mention award recognition.

The greatest of these functions was the  epic camp outs that Shoreham did each year, where all the kids and – adult advisors – would pile all their camp-out gear into a hand full of boats  (four or five – all outboards) and travel maybe 2 miles down the beach where all the town’s kids who were old enough to participate…camped out, cooked out, swam, played volley ball, toasted mash mellows on sticks – and slept in sleeping bags under the stars – or in tents and tarp covered lean twos – and sang and told ghost stories and talked deep into the night – waking up on the beach at sunlight. Dirty Moore Stew. And eggs fried in bacon fat over a campfire…and biscuits made from Bisquick dough wrapped in tin foil and cooked in the cooking fire embers.

Out side of the two or three or four member peer groups that Shoreham’s demographics were capable of forming – most of my socialization took place in groups with kids too young to bond with – or a year or two older. Stuck in-between (as most kids who lived in Shoreham all year long were) kids who thought you were to old to be friends with – or too young. We knew each other certainly. We played with each other…and sometime later may have even played doctor with each other…but these youngers and oldsters were not peers. Robby was my peer.

I had never considered if having a limited peer group from first grade too six grade ever made any difference in my development Into the adult I later became, until just recently when my older brother Terry and I discussed, in yet another in a long and continuing  “growing up Shoreham” conversation – how it all impacted our lives. It did I’m quite sure, but less certain how.

One thing a two person peer group certainly does impact is in ‘keeping the friendship clutter down’. Robby was not only my best friend, he was my only friend – which means that all the competition inherent in larger multi person peer groups – which creates attendant feelings of being in and out, accepted or rejected, or part of a constantly ebbing and flowing group dynamic…and involved in, or influenced by, leadership and structural role and relative favoritism changes in larger groups – were never present in our lives at that age. It just never occurred to me that these things were important.

As a consequence – as a teenager and later as an emerging adult – and indeed throughout my adult life – I never worried much about how, or if, I fit into the group structures I found myself in. I never felt very connected to them either. I felt more apart from, than included in…or accepted by. Like an independent entity within the groups I functioned within. I never have been lonely or felt excluded either – but I have always had best friends, like Rob, where I felt most comfortable in relationship and most free to be myself. But this weak insight is about as deep as I can get with the thought.

And of course, this all could be just total bullshit babbling on my part – and who gives a shit anyway. But the ‘thread’ did produce a few Shoreham gems (at least for me) that might trigger a few thoughts of ‘war’ against the big kids…and of ‘apple knockers’…and of “Hollow heads Chain Gang” – and returning soft drink bottles found along side of the road to the store for 5 cents a bottle – and of pathetic childhood loneliness because there was nobody your age in the whole town.

WTF. Over.


J.McD.Burke  – Feb 27, 2016



How the media created Bernie and The Donald…

February 13, 2016

Almost a little ashamed of this, but like what I’m pretty sure is a hefty legion of folks out here in the world – I have been “reading” the NYT and WAPO daily by accepting their free daily news and commentary downloads (and breaking news releases) since they both made their “really free” appearances “on line” back a zillion years ago – which allowed unlimited “drill downs” on posted headline article summaries – which later was limited to 10 free drill downs per month a couple of years ago which has remain their practice to the present day. That’s a pretty long time when you get right down to it.

All of this “free” news largess came from newspaper’s (NYT and the Washington Post – and most other major newspapers across the country) inability to figure out what they needed to do to survive in a world rapidly evolving into electronic and social media distributed news as opposed to the classic home delivered subscription and newsstand distribution.

They also were trying to delay moribund obsolescence – and abject rejection by readers who no longer believed anything they said anymore…after feeling that they’d been lied to by media corporate owners who had consolidated the industry and who were clearly pandering to flagrant right wing politics and corporate causes with misinformation and cover-ups.

And throughout, and increasingly during recent times, these gray ladies kept searching for the magic formulae to regain their audiences and subscription billings and advertising revenues. Most papers launched into the incessant, never ending and tragically and transparently manipulative depressing promotion types and cycles to get people to do what they no longer wanted to do. To buy their newspapers in total. And to pay a lot to get them.

Which, to most of us who stayed outside their efforts and attempts to reel us back into womb, was just not going to happen – given the massive and unforgivable breech of trust during the industry roll up/right wing toady/Bush Administration lying for access years. Which, while being a good deal trickier in the more recent Bezos years has continued – and has made people even more suspicious over adoption of implicit algorithm data based content dissemination to readership classes…which only compounded media’s credibility and trustworthiness problems keeping perspective readers fearfully at bay.

So here we are…a good 20 years since this all began. And the game everybody knows and nobody talks about continues without resolve. It’s too embarrassing.

It appears that the Times and The Post are finally getting close to recognizing their real present day value (which is a whole lot less than it once was) to their long and jaded prospective readers – and are reducing prices for subscriptions (“get 12 weeks for X, etc.) and seem willing on desperate occasions to do almost anything to sweeten the incentive for people to convert from headlines with 10 free drill downs – to buying/paying for the whole thing.

The sad part of all this for the gray ladies – and their “too tricky by half” owners – is that the people they are trying to hustle back into the fold – have long since figured out how to ‘work around’ the “what do you do after you’ve burned up your 10 drill down hits” problem – and have discovered in the process of finding and reading alternative news sources for missing information – that the version of truth the Times and the Post are selling, frequently is seen as being biased and wrong – and on occasion, deliberately and manipulatively untruthful. Not a good thing for news sources looking to establish credibility and trust.

The net effect of all of this over time is that playing the “free headline/10 drill down game” really is hardly worth it – and mostly for the headlines.

We have learned the old fashioned way – by comparison gained in the search for other sources of news and information after the 10 drill downs have been used up – that the drill downs on Op-Ed and feature articles and political news in the Times and Post and WSJ are frequently politically biased to the degree that they simply aren’t worth it. Or even worth the risk of accepting one of these incessant promotional 12-week deal (or whatever) offerings thereby potentially resulting in the cancelation the free daily headline downloads.

One other thing that I’ve noticed over these past transition years is the degree to which the majority of my news is garnered through Facebook these days.

The posting/reposting and ‘sharing’ of news bits and articles that are put on the Facebook – frequently by people I know personally and trust – that are then endorsed (‘liked’) by people who I know or have heard of – and who are known and trusted – who all share similar perspectives and points-of-view – reduces my concern for “can I trust this” as a credible article to almost zero.

My friend Bezos just doesn’t engender that level of trust. Nor do any of the major media owners.

So where am I in all this? Not sure actually -beyond the belief that media’s role in information dissemination is evolving at the speed of light – precisely when everything else that can possibly move is doing the same. And all this is occurring at the same time those invested in keeping things ‘in the question’ and murky and contrary – keep putting up false messages about what’s going on and why. Noise and clutter and yanking and pulling and pushing – and confusion.

In response, we find ourselves placed in the position where if we want to know and understand something, that we have to ‘fill in our own blanks’ about what we are seeing and are hearing…and about how we are feeling in response to it all.

We have been forced to search for our own understanding of what’s happening – and why – and for who and what is responsible for it – and how we feel about that – and what we feel compelled to do about it (if anything).

We are, believe it or not, becoming smarter – and more aware and more thoughtful as a result of being limited to 10 drill downs a month.

We also are becoming more personally involved and committed to the insights we form and the conclusions we reach. And more emboldened to act when the issues we are thinking about are important to us and others – and when we see our thoughts and conclusion and frustrations being echoed by people who we know, who see and acknowledge and “like” and offer supportive comments to each other on social media. People we trust…and who we believe are like us.

I see what is happening in this county’s political arena as being a reflection of this massive shift from passively being spoon fed facts and opinions about them – to being forced to figure out things on our own.

And so we have Bernie and The Donald standing against the long corrupted entrenched media establishment – who created their own demise when they decided they’d make the people they had disenfranchised by lying to them – pay to get drill down lies or be cut off at ten.

What about the NYT and WAPO you ask – and what should they be doing to regain trust and credibility and business viability? Who gives a shit really? They’re good for lists of headlines mostly – so we all know what going on. And drill downs are good so people can get a little more info than a headline worth of understanding.

And since limiting drill downs to 10 a month really pisses people off they need to fix the business model quickly before they make themselves extinct. And since trying to trick people into buying more than they want (like access to the whole paper when all they want is the headline and op Ed titles with drill downs) they need to adopt a strategy that might actually work.

So if I owned the place I’d give the holdout headline/10 drill down people what they want. The headlines with drill down access on everything listed as a headline for a fair flat fee. $20? And if people want more than that, sell them what they want at a fair price.

You know? Until news media becomes useful to us again – they just aren’t worth anymore than that. And it’s been a long long time since they were useful to us – and did their job of keeping people and governments and legislators and those who attempt to play out side the rules for personal game – accountable. Including themselves.

They’ve been a disgrace really.

America, too big to fail…?

February 10, 2016

Ultimately – after the revolution is over – pragmatism and right reason and common sense and sanity will force the crazy fucker sociopaths and the ‘corrupted beyond redemption’ out to the extreme edges of the body politic where they belong – and a reasonable center will re-emerge.

Or the America, as we know it, will break up into 4 or 5 separate free standing countries – with Texas being one of them, where all the right (and left) extremists will be forced to live – where they will eat each other…and “right reason” will return to the land.

I think that if we continue to skate on fixing this hijacked bought up piece of shit government of ours with out assuming a dead serious “Sander’s like” tsunami of reform – the country is doomed.

If we don’t fix it now (and frankly a large part of me believes we’ve already waited too long) – about the only way to wrest control from the entrenched oligarchs will be to break the country up by regional secession of states – who are strong enough to survive economically – and that are big enough and strong enough and have the resource base to pull it off – and to sustain themselves independently.

That should pretty much geld the current batch of assholes who are controlling the “too big to fail” Federal Government game – by obviating the legal and economic mechanisms that currently allows the massive overreach of the military…the insidiously intrusive surveillance and data collection industry…the obscene obstructionist ‘robber baron’ oil an gas industries…big health care/big pharma…big agriculture… and big banks and huge corporate monopolies…and collusion and duplicity and corruption everywhere.

Then, once all the oligarchs are flushed out of the snake pit formerly known as America – all these autonomous newly formed countries can think about if they might want to join up together again. And if they want to…they can get about re-writing a new constitution for the all new and freshly rolled up “American Common Market” that makes sense and fits the financial, ecological. Geo-political reality of the times and circumstances we live in…and insures a political and financial system that is filled with reasonable and appropriate controls and oversight – that is free from institutionalized corruption.

There. Life after oligarchs…next?


J.McD.Burke – Feb 9, 2016

3 Months in Juneau and it’s Christmas for Christ’s sake.

December 19, 2015

It’s different here in Juneau. And after 3 months, I’m pretty sure I’ve changed a little to accommodate it. I’m equilibrating, fitting in. I’m more inside my head than I been for a while. I’m more aware of my apartness from people than I thought I would be. Not alone so much.  Apart from. As in not ‘hooked up’ with close pals like I’ve been for years. I’m pretty much free standing – maybe a little wobbly. 

To be expected.  I’ve met a lot of people, many who I think will become good friends. We’re just not there yet. It will come I’m sure.  I’m being absorbed – people are nice and generous and are making space for me and I’m working on filling my own space. These things take time.

Nothing to be worried about certainly…and in all honesty I haven’t worked too hard at it.  I know I’m out there somewhere.  Some more depths and a lot of shallows to plumb. Figuring out me in Alaska. More specifically perhaps, me in Juneau – which is its own world I’ve come to understand. I’m adding and subtracting and absorbing things to think about at least. New questions about old answers.

Juneau’s footprint is very visual…but the place comes into you through your feet. Earth and shear bio-mass – and dampness, and water from everywhere – and temperature shifts – and darkness…and up and down grades…all of which slowly work there way up into your consciousness. And then overload your sense of equilibrium – and makes you wonder about your relationship with it all. There’s so much that is visually and experientially and tactilely new. I don’t quite don’t know what to do with myself.

It takes time. Especially in winter when rain and mist and clouds and dark form the filters you see things through. It can be a tad overwhelming. And it also tends to hide the things that drew you in in the first place, that made your heart soar. All sitting just out of sight behind this flat gray scrim.  You know they are there, you just can’t see them. Every once in a while the clouds and drizzle lift and the sun bursts out and you get a remainder peak.

While all this sounds (and sometimes can actually be) pretty bleak…the space created makes a impact on the way you look at things. Juneau’s grayness, and it’s “just out of reach” time delay behind the rest of the world – and its “fiord-like” topography has the net effect of closing down the urgency in caring about things that don’t really concern you.

Outside world things become irrelevant after a while. And that was a surprise for me. I’m not so sure I like it yet.  In all honesty, I miss the ‘diversion’ of worrying about things that don’t concern me – and the illusion of ‘being involved’ in the larger world. I keep wondering what I will do with all that time. I think I know. But letting go of diversion and “noise” is hard but seems almost a requirement for living here.

I think that worrying about stuff has been a bit of an addiction for me all these years – keeping me away from thinking about more important work. Like letting go and expanding a stronger sense humanity – and achieving proper size.

Not a very Christmas-y message, I agree.  But that’s what I’m thinking about heading into this New Year.

Life here is better (certainly different) than I thought it would be (I really tried not to build expectations)…and the daily involvement in my grandson’s growth from babyhood into little boy-ness, forces me to think about those same years that were so much a blur at the time we had and were raising our children. Spending serious time watching the miracle of it all is a really important piece in understand how the rhythm between beginning and the end go together. At least for me it is right now.

While I’m not at all sure where this is all going, I at least feel a sense of personal and perhaps spiritual evolution. And that feels right to me. I do miss my old and dear and easy comfortable friends (and if you’re reading this you undoubtably are one of those) – and my dear daughter Heather who stayed in St Paul.

Love to you each and all.  I miss you.

And Merry Christmas.




J.McD.Burke – Dec 2015


I’d like to buy the world a coke…

December 14, 2015

We became a nation of “good intentions” somewhere along the line in 1971. We stopped fighting for right reason and just cause — and to preserve rights hard won…and indeed for  justice…and became a nation of well-intentioned folks who genuinely believe that if we ‘dream’ hard enough, and ‘intend’ purely enough — that bad things will get fixed — that bad people will come around…and that good times will come, automatically — and will match our hopes and beliefs and dreams and intentions…and, that we can sing unfairness and misfortune and evil of all stripes into submission.

I think perhaps we just got tired of fighting sometime around then.  Vietnam broke our will to fight for what we believed in. We were slow to accept that we needed to fight to stop a senseless war…but quick to stop fighting when the war was all but over.  Counting body bags helped…but mostly, it appears in retrospect, that we did indeed, sing that one into submission.  We sang of injustice…and loss…and the futility of war.  We sang at rallies and protest marches and outside political convention halls.  All very sweet and peaceful.

In the end we sang what Martin Luther King sang:  “That we shall overcome…” and later, buoyed by our success in forcing Nixon to acquiesce, and to give up the grand terror that was Vietnam, at last…we collectively decided that it wasn’t the marches and violent and non-violent protests that turned the trick…but the purity of aggregated intention. That it was “Peace and Brotherhood” and karma that changed the tide.

And when Coke Cola first aired it’s magic :60 spot “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” (Coke on a Hilltop, 1971) — we found it fit perfectly into the space in our souls that the war had hollowed out. And then we wrote it up a little larger — up to anthem size actually, with “I’d like to teach the world to sing…in perfect harmony” (1972).

And subtly but inexorably the will to fight for what we believed in and hold most cherished — leached out of the American soul. To the point where the whole idea of our dear sweet country slipped through our grasp without us even noticing it, or doing much of anything about trying to stop what we knew way down in our heart of hearts, was going on.  We allowed the immoral and the unconscionable to occur.  We allowed leaders to commit our country to war again – this time through false witness and pretense…though most of us knew we were being lied to.  And even though we knew they lied, and even through the results of their deceit was calamitous to the stability of the country — we let them escape justice for what they had done.

We allowed truth to be subsumed, by allowing our once mostly heroic independant media to be rolled up and owned by just a few — who turned responsible reporting and truth telling into a sideshow of right wing excess…and never once contested the wholesale destruction of laws governing media ownership and public responsibilities that allowed the impossible to occur.

We sat silently and in disbelief as insidiously destructive legislation was passed right before our very eyes…that suspended Habeas Corpus, eclipsed search and seizure legislation, wiped out personal privacy rules, allowed government agencies to listen to personal conversations, and to access and archive our most private and personal information…that seriously curtailed our most basic civil rights including: voting rights privilege…rights to assembly and protest…rights to collectively bargain…rights to govern and control decisions regarding our own bodies…and the rights to speak one’s mind openly and freely.

We allowed ourselves to be bamboozled by a totally rigged “war on terror” panic — that allowed the hijacking of America to occur in broad daylight – under the banners of Homeland Security – and obeisance to the political right and its silent manipulators — who held the chips and controlled the game.

We allowed our dear and precious country to become corrupted to the core…because we had no will to challenge – and no heart to contest those who were dividing our country.  We refused to believe that we had committed enemies – mostly on the extreme right wing — who were seeking to take over our country and our lives — who were  working with complete and focused commitment to undermine our entire political process — who bold facedly were buying up legislators and their votes at every level of government – and to subverting our candidate selection campaign process — and our electoral process…by allowing the very rich and corporations to funnel in unimagined amounts of dollars to buy candidates and to influence political discourse as they intended.

Super elites that thought nothing of paying in speaker’s fees and trips to stack the deck of the Supreme Court — towards their purpose — creating the world where human and civil rights – and the American dreams of equality and freedom and for opportunity — were only for them, and were denied from all others.  We allowed the greatest tragedy of our generation…perhaps the greatest in the history of our nation to occur.  We turned our vigorous and righteous protest over to a couple of comedic fake news programs — and a small handful of people who refused to be silenced, and stepped aside to watch who won.  They did – and they did it without a meaningful protest from the vast majority and increasingly oppressed.  And while doing so…they power right quietly structured and implemented a system wide architecture of civilian espionage and absolute individual and mass population control systems — that makes one feel like maybe 1984 had actually happened on the designated calendar year and we just missed it.

We live today in a dream world.  In a world where the strong words and promises are pit against each other — constantly and on every subject – but sound promising and hopeful to the sides aligned behind each side’s speakers.  But no matter who says or promises what – nothing ever makes things better for either side — or for anyone…except for those designated to win…who have already won.

But we keep hoping and wishing that things will be made right again – because we collectively really want things to get better…and we know by experience that when politicians hear what we want, and understand what we are saying – that they will do as the always have and will do the right thing and give it to us.

And yes we have devolved that far.  We now completely accept the lies and believe what we want to believe…because we don’t want to accept that we’ve been had.  Well, we have been. And we ain’t going to be singing our way out of this one folks.

I’d like to teach the world to sing…in perfect harmony!

You got to be shitting…


J.McD.B. – May 3, 2012  (my mother’s birthday coincidentally)

Is there a way to suspend the 2016 election process?

December 4, 2015

I’m dead serious on this. I have reached the point where I am completely convinced that democracy in America has become so entirely corrupted that holding an election in this moment of disintegration of political process, insidious manipulation by powerful and self-serving finance and corporate elites outside of the government – and the abject insane defiance by GOP candidates of right reason on issues threatening survival of the species…is inconceivable right now.

I think that risking the future of our dear country by handing over the reins of leadership to a soft-spoken know nothing babbling incompetent, or a felon, or a megalomaniac, or a bought up right-wing pawn, or a bigoted racist, or a professional malcontent, or a blood filled necked militarist, or a NRA toady, or a dynastic loser with really bad family history on dealing with big issues – is too great a risk to be allowed to happen right now.

There’s way too many secret influencers in this game right now. Way too much dark money and murky donors who scare the hell out of me. Too much divisive trickery. Too much hijacking of governmental decision-making. Too much bribery. Too much beholding. Too much extortion. Too much gerrymandering. Too much election machine and voting rights tampering. Too much deceitful politicking. Too much bold-faced lying. Too much fear-mongering. Too much diverting focus from massively important issues. Too much spin. Too much angry invective. Too much media involvement and partisan dishonesty.

And there are too many hugely important and critical decisions to be made across the entire spectrum of our lives – each and all requiring the best and smartest decisions we are capable of making.

I’m thinking that the best thing we can do right now, given the clear presence and stench of corruption seen at every level of the process – is to to shut it all down and suspend national elections until we clean up this snake pit that has become our money and influence besotted election process…and indeed our legislative process. Our congress and our political process has become an obscene joke.

Getting it right the first time is absolutely critical in these precarious times. We are rapidly reaching a point where it will be impossible to fix this country. And given what we are looking at in the field right now, only Bernie seems to be virgin enough – and only he seems to have a grasp of the magnitude of the problems we need to be dealing with.

If we could be assured of a Bernie outcome, and could accept that Bernie’s the horse to ride – we will need to make damn sure he’s surrounded by a solid bullet proof people’s mandate – and an A Team cabinet…and is allowed to install legal protections to act with impunity for the length of his terms in office.

If elected, his mandate needs to be cleaning up the place. Period. That means we need to figure out how to deal with, and over-ride, a do nothing/obstructive congress (which Paul Ryan is only going to try to make more dysfunctional if a conservative right-wing zealot isn’t elected president).

If we can’t be assured of a Bernie or a Bernie clone who the majority of the population is will to support – then I think we need to shut the whole thing down – and maintain status quo and let the people’s voice ‘not to proceed’ settle into political consciousness – and then resume the political process when we can be assured that the process is safe enough to use again.  It is not safe to use currently.


J.McD.B – Dec 5, 2015

the power of two…

August 2, 2015

I love Bernie Sanders to pieces – I agree with damn near everything he’s ever said. And he’s said a lot. All of it important. Critically so.  But it’s time to stop screwing around. Bernie’s one man band needs to show an “A” team of rough and tumble, like-minded big league pros to pull this thing off.

I’m thinking that Joe Biden may just be exactly what Bernie Sanders needs to get elected. Two of the cleanest politicians in the business. Both men of highest integrity – of largely common vision and common purpose – who are dedicated to rebuilding the core ethics and values of the country – and are completely committed to serving the American people. And, who most importantly, aren’t bought up toadies of the corporations and scum bag wheeler-dealer bankers, hyper rich oligarchs, dark money donors, NRA and energy and pharma lobbyists, the dirty dog military industrialists – and the blackmailer goons of the far right (Christian and otherwise). Together these guys are smart, philosophically dead on, and are the absolute anthesis of the diabolical creeps who have destroyed our country. And between the two of them have the chops and the high-powered national and international experience – and knowledge of the political process – and have the political networks – to get shit done, right now. Mostly what they have is that they actually care about the country and the people who comprise it. And they are completely trusted. Back to back they are precisely what this country needs. Add in a touch of Elizabeth Warren and I’m thinking this piece of shit government we’ve been with since the blatantly evil neocon assholes and openly insane tea partiers took the country over and despoiled it – stands a chance of staging a serious comeback.


J McD Burke – August 1, 2015

Staying in play…

July 29, 2015

I woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago – in the middle of an ever intensifying nightmare where I was pretty certain I was dying – if not right then, at least pretty soon…and that I would never see my son Chris and his son Eamon again after today (they had been visiting for a week and were leaving today). I felt tears welling until I got hold of myself and thought what a stupid thought to be having at 6:43 in the morning. But, I got to tell you, it was pretty real (I’ve actually been pretty close to the cross over point, so I know these things). I straightened up and pulled myself together. I’ve never had a dream quite like this one before.

I had a flash back on it when I dropped them off at the airport to go to back to Maryland a little later in the day. I nearly lost it as I hugged my son goodbye. I think he felt it too. It wouldn’t be unusual. I’m 72 with a crappy heart. These things happen after a certain age.

You would think, with the omnipresence of death/end-of-life thoughts that fill our minds towards the end – or as we become conscious about time left of those we care about (parents) who are walking the great divide – that there would be at least some direct conversation about death and life and what it all means…or perhaps more correctly ‘meant’. But we don’t do it for some reason.

Visits like this one, where my son and grandson spent more than a week visiting me here in my Minnesota isolation, always prompts attempts to put a good face and a good spin on “how we’re doing”. We try to present, quite automatically, ourselves as perhaps a tad less wizened than we really are…and that we still are at least somewhat “immortal” and as “sharp as ever”. In the grand charade of ‘forever viability’ we pretend that end-of-the-trail goodbyes are “unnecessary” and premature – right now…even though the actuarials and boots-on-the-ground reality suggest otherwise.

While we were together, we made sure we did a lot of “vital signs” activities to prove the point to each other that everything was just fine…and would be, for the foreseeable future. We walked a number of miles daily, and played golf a couple of times (walked), went to the MN zoo and to a Saint’s baseball game – and out to Prior Lake to revisit where we once lived when Chris was a boy – which couldn’t have been more different than where Eamon, his son, grew up (he’s a NY city kid).

We ate out at favorite places – and watched the failed St Paul fireworks display from the high end of the high bridge.  And we talked incessantly. Never about the obvious subject of the near death proximity for the wizened leader of the pack.

I don’t know why we didn’t. God knows we each think about the  inevitability of an encroaching date with the reaper when within each other’s presence. Can’t help it. We certainly talk to others about it enough when we are outside of each other’s earshot. “So what do you think? How’d you think he’s doing?”  “I dunno, he eats well enough, maybe a little paunchy. He’s got another 10 years in him.” “Wish he’d clear up his DNR though.”

Should be an easy subject. “Hey Dad, you’re 72 with a low probability of making 80. Maybe 77 or so is about the length of your run, I figure. That’s 5 years. How you feeling about that? Anything important you want to do, or get done, before then?  Anything we can help you accomplish in making any of that happen?”

So. Since no one seems to want to ask, I guess it’s up to me to get the ball rolling.

First, on how do I feel about reaching the end of my string?

I’m surprisingly OK with the thought of “crossing over” it seems. I’m basically a ‘reality and truth’ kind of guy. My great reality is that I have a stent in my heart, which I got after a big time “widow maker” heart attack that has been collection sludge for 17 years now. And I don’t have one of those fancy defribulators that promise to keep you going long after you die…that I can place false hope on to carry me safely into my dotage. And to tell the truth, I frankly don’t have any great interest in chugging through decrepitude in my eighties and nineties. Particularly, if I’m seriously incapacitated…or gorked. Then I want to be out of here. And a nice clean, minimally disruptive, big time heart attack sometime before then would be considered a godsend. At least that’s where I am now on the subject.

And while it’s possible I may be reduced to a whining pathetic “tired of living/scared of dying” old man, who curses god for forgetting to snatch him up along the years – I’m hoping my read on “time” is right enough to where I never become a resented burden, or a grizzled and delusional old man whose family wished God would mercifully remove from the screen.

I’d like to think if god is a little pokey in getting the job done that I’d have the grace and presence of mind to force his hand a bit. A lot of people I know are opting out on their own schedule these days. We’ll see. I’ve been known to restructure reality in my mind before – so you never can tell how it all is going to turn out in the last act. Hopefully I’ll be clear as a bell when the balloon goes up.

I do need to set up DNR guidelines right away.

I’m leaving burial up to my kids. I really want to keep it simple and as cheap as possible. Cremation. Burial or no burial. Kids decide. Ashes tossed off the bluff in Shoreham (which I’d love to watch – the wind generally blows in from the water) or retired to one of the family plots with extra openings. Or with Mari somewhere (Really? Yes actually, I did spend the better part of 40 years with her after all). I have no firm “last wishes” on this. I’ll already be out in the great flow of the universe by them – patiently awaiting new arrivals.

So, the big question.  How do I want to spend my remaining time?

Doing important things he shot back. Important to me at least. I want to spend time around my kids – and theirs. To be more of a part of them than I currently am and have been, before leaving. To know them better. To have them know me better. To share thoughts and feelings and perspectives and personal missions…and to laugh about shit. And to dream a bit. And to be around the family people who are part of my life who have always been there, but maybe not acknowledged and embraced enough. And a few I’ve missed entirely for one reason or another. Some time with Mari and brothers and sisters and cousins and long time family friends – all whom hold important pieces to lifetime puzzles, and who hopefully hold answers to questions not yet asked…

I also, for some reason, want to go and re-touch important places I’ve touched before – to reassign values lost or forgotten…or that were not fully appreciated or understood before.

I want to see if I can put it all together in my mind before I die. Like maybe I want to take it all with me. All wrapped up and tucked under my arm. I want to see how my past formed me throughout my life – and how it influences and forms my life hence forth…to the degree that I can. I want to clean up some stuff that needs cleaning. I want to let some stuff go that doesn’t belong there or need to be there – because it never really did. I want to review a few past decisions made, to make sure I didn’t hurt people too badly, or that left scars that need some acknowledgement and attention.

Certainly not a victory lap. Just another lap…to end the race with a little better understanding of what was at stake here. And to get a better understanding about how it all turned out. It’s mostly all already ‘turned out’ I understand…just not all understood. Stuff lost in running too fast – and when there was just too much going on – or when things got to too cluttered or chaotic – or were surrounded with too much emotional drama and external interference.

I’m looking for slow laps to reflect on, more carefully…to see if I’m able to discern importance and meaning and understanding and implications from what happened in my life and in the lives of others – that maybe I missed or misinterpreted first time around. What’s it was all about, what it meant, how it changed things…how it influenced what is now – and will influence what will be tomorrow. Things I need time to think about, to develop into notions and considerations and conclusions.

It ends up being all about people and time. ‘Then’ people and time – and ‘now’ people and time (frequently the same people). And what we did with and about both – and what value it brought into my and others lives. Not much else really. Nothing else is really very important. Or very important at all. No medals. No applause. Just gratitude, appreciation and understanding. Just friends and people who I love, and love me…who provide the measurement standards of life’s value.

One other thing is important. At least to me. I want to gain a better understanding of how all this contributed to forming me along the way…to where I am now – as a connected piece of the divine flow I understand that I am part of. Closing the space between consciousness and meditation…and between meditation and absorption into the flow itself. I feel very comfortable with this thought. It’s exhilarating actually. Immersed in life at the end. Hope it’s real. It feels like it is.

Mostly and beyond the above, I really don’t want to collapse into an endless diminishing/ ‘vanishing point’ kind of glide path.

For the past couple of years feeling various blends of lethargy, inevitable physical depletion, boredom – and low grade depression I guess – combined with incremental subtraction from the world of ‘present tense’ and from full contact involvement that getting older brings with it…frankly diminishes interest in living. At least beyond a certain intolerance point. I hated – and now fear as much as hate – living in that passive state which has ‘glide path’ stamped all over it.

I am in ‘stasis’ this precise minute. And if I don’t do something immediately, I fear I will lose the time, opportunity and will – and physical ability, to act.

My life is surrounded by a decreasing number of pieces that increasingly don’t move…very much, or at all any more. I know precisely where my life is right now. I know exactly what to expect – and even expect the “unexpected” events once considered wildcard interruptions that we all know about…but didn’t allow ourselves to think about because they framed endpoints and diminished capacity and decreased involvement.

Right this very minute I can fill in my calendar for the entire coming year. I know where I will be, and who I will be with (if they can hang in for another year)…and what I will be eating and who I will be eating with…and the meetings I will be attending – and the role I will decreasing playing as the seasons evolve and as people move along their personal trajectories. I know the people I once loved to be with, who increasingly I see out of obligation and service – and out of honoring old friendships…who are still worth the gas costs to get there and back. I know I will lose a number of people to death and worse (and I know that indeed it may well be me who picks the short straw). I know what my weeks will look like – and my weekends – and what my holidays will look like…and where I’ll be, and where I’ll no longer will be invited because, because…because life intervenes. But, I still have things to do it seems. And for the time being, the capacity and the freedom to do things I choose to do.

And, unless I get out of here right now, I know for dead certain, will begin the slide into the mouth of the glide path…and I’ll never get to do what I want to do with the rest of my years. Because if I don’t act now – I’ll be letting the time and the critical decision point to act – pass, as though they were unimportant. No, no, no. I’ve done that before…when I had time to get things right again. There’s no time this time.

So. It looks like I’m off to Alaska. The first leg. Joseph Campbell would be proud.

Hear it’s cold as hell up there.

JMB – July 17, 2015

New racists are just like the old racists. In fact they are the old racists!

July 12, 2015

So obvious I missed it completely. Across the whole spectrum of people I know (which is a lot broader than your average bear old white guy)…the most blatant racists and bigots and religious extremists I know – are pretty much the exact same racists, bigots and extremist I knew 50 years ago – who went underground way back when, when it was hard to get away with being publicly aberrant and mean-to-the- bone, assholes. Millennials are pretty evolved actually. So are most working folks who work side by side with each other.

So maybe MLK had a positive impact on America after all. But for the old white herd filling the ranks of the extreme right today – who should have learned the lessons of equality and fairness and fair play – well, they’re right back out in the open – where they were before they were forced to shut up…liberated by the practice of institutionalized bigotry and racism we have allowed to be re-created – and by the blatantly sociopathic disrespect for the President and the institutions we have allowed to become criminally corrupted.

Everyone’s treating this years “white privilege” and “Black Lives Matter” rallying cries like they’re some big surprise “reveal” that a whole lot of whites have it made, while black folks ain’t got shit…especially in things that translate into opportunity like education, worthy and decent paying jobs that provide for financial sustainability, fairness to access – decent schools to be true to, and simple community safety and a stable environmental and personal living spaces that allows hope to be possible enough to keep on trying.

Well, given who the racists and the bigots and the haters are (mostly and primarily old white racists and bigots from yesterday, plus their downstream)…you can rest completely assured that they are very much aware of the difference between whites that have and blacks who have not.

These people don’t need their awareness of what white privilege means to be raised…or to be taught about the ethical and moral inequities involved in subjugating whole races for eternity. They know precisely what the deal is.

They always have known. They built the damn system and keep it alive. They were just laying low until it was safe to be an “out loud racist” again. Well we got a whole heard of these crazy bastards out there now, busy scheming what stupid (vicious) shit they can do to dissemble this country this time.


JMB – July 2015 (modified from a March 22, 2015 Facebook post)

It’s what we do…

July 4, 2015

Sorry. The mind is filled with the unraveling of Greece and Puerto Rico this 4th of July morning.

It didn’t start that way. It actually started with thoughts of childhood Shoreham – many years ago – where patriotism and being a happy little boy – and part of a community’s simple and joyful and completely inclusive annual celebration of itself was all red white and blue, and marching bands composed of neighborhood members you had no idea played anything, let alone snare drums and fifes and trombones and could march in cadence. And trikes and bikes with paper mâché streamers woven in the wheel spokes – with all “dressed up for the occasion” proud and determined children feeling the first heart pumping surges of patriotism and community specialness – confirmed a hundred different ways that day…that weekend – in running races and swimming and sailing races, and community base-ball games…and endless picnics and in glorious fireworks that Frank Ghias produced year after year . Especially the final “bombs bursting in air” climax, after which you and your exhausted and happy family would walk home in the dark – taking turns holding hands with Mom and Dad. Filled with the belief that your life was blessed indeed – and that the grand celebration of the happiest day of the year would go on forever.

And it did for a while longer. And when it stopped being a holiday and started becoming an “event” – as things do over time – the suspicion that maybe all was not entirely right in Mudville after all, started seeping into the wonderfulness of it all.

Suspicions that are hard to suppress these days filled with race conflicts that keep getting worse not better…and Presidential assassination lists and drone strikes that lack any pretense of honor – along with the adoption of a “war mindset” that seems more committed to starting and dragging out wars – than ending them so they can be properly celebrated.

It’s hard to look at Greece and Puerto Rico financial defaults this morning without acknowledging the economic frailty of our universe, and our own country’s role in creating the environment where economics – from world level to personal levels – and knowing how quickly things seem to change for the worse, and how close to the edge we have allowed ourselves to get by not stopping the rulers of the universe from destroying our nest…by allowing them to take risk upon risk where now most every aspect of our lives…seems threatening,  precarious, and maybe too late to fix or do anything about.

And its hard to be proud of our adult performance as children of Shoreham in insuring the childhood certainties that it would all go on forever, because we were good and righteous and confident – and that no matter what happened we could prevail and make things right. Because that’s who we were. And because that’s what we expected of each other. And because that’s what you just did as children growing up in a country filled with the Shorehams we were raised in.

“It’s what we do…” my mother would say when she did something to help someone who needed help…or embraced a cause to make things better…or stood up and was counted when she believed that an issue of social justice – or one of simple fairness – or one of human kindness, needed her support.

“It’s what we do…” she said

We really need to come through on this people.



JMBurke – July 4th 2015