Archive for February, 2016

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