The Unsinkable brian cork™

Brian Patrick Cork is living the Authentic Life

you’ll never change your life until you change your choices


I ask people, and daily: “what do you want to do?”

In part, mind you because you’ll never change your life until you change your choices.

The context is my role as a cultural architect or coach, in one form or another. Having Arrived on this planet in the same year as La Dolce Vida, Spartacus, Elmer Gantry and The Magnificent Seven, my days are spent contemplating the world and its inhabitants – usually from a philosophical interest that lies in formal logic and formal approaches to philosophy; foundational questions in the philosophy of mathematics; and, the philosophy of mind and perception.

Living an authentic life, if you will, with logic and the classics, as a lens.

But, the objective is to make them, not necessarily that collective, “they”, start thinking – deeper than might be typical, for most people.

NOTE: I decidedly don’t maintain an interest in Taoist thought.

However, most conversations will evolve towards: “what we want”. And, what we should do.

Many times this is contrary to instincts. That is fascinating, to me, anyway.

Along the way, I think I’ve decided, for now, that before you can sort out what you want, you might first, need to figure out what you don’t want.

Can making such decisions be akin to eating a banana?

For example, what I don’t want is to ever, be described, relative to my own work, as: “Ballardian”.

That’s not a race out of Star Trek, mind you. It’s a reference to an actual person – and, one of reasonable merit, I should add.

The literary distinctiveness of J. G. Ballard’s work has given rise to the adjective “Ballardian,” defined by the Collins English Dictionary as: “resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard’s novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.”

Let’s keep moving, shall we.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork


mount rainier won't rate "hors categorie", it may be a Kobayashi Maru, certainly a Raison d'etre


I begin training, and this very week, for our planned, certainly hoped for, summit of Mount Rainier in June.

As consistent readers of this Blog are fully aware, I like to use three distinct phrases to describe dramatic events in my life…

And, they include:

Hors Catégorie

Hors Catégorie is a French term used in cycle races (most notably, the Tour de France) to designate a climb that is “beyond categorization”, an incredibly tough climb. Most climbs in cycling are designated from Category 1 (hardest) to Category 4 (easiest), based on both steepness and length. A climb that is harder than Category 1 is designated as hors catégorie. The term was originally used for those mountain roads where cars were not expected to be able to pass.

As an extreme athlete, I specialize in attacking (running and riding) these types of grades.

Mount Rainier does not rate Hors Catégorie. But, we know this is going to be tough. And, an enormous milestone in our lives. I’ll admit apprehension. I don’t know if it might be fear. With transparency I submit this is a dimension of the effort that is new to me and warrants exploration. Could that be the truest test through this adventure?

Is this why Kobayashi Maru keeps creeping into my thoughts?

Kobayashi Maru

The Kobayashi Maru is a test in the fictional Star Trek universe. It is a Starfleet training exercise designed to test the character of cadets in the command track at Starfleet Academy. The Kobayashi Maru test was first depicted in the opening scene of the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and also appears in the 2009 film Star Trek. Depictions of the Kobayashi Maru test are a fairly popular subject in Star Trek literature. Non-canonical examples of Kobayashi Maru tests have been described in many Star Trek novels. The test’s name is occasionally used among Star Trek fans or those familiar with the series to describe a no-win scenario. As a cadet, Kirk beat the test by, essentially, cheating (he reprogrammed the game to fear him). However, he was awarded a citation for “original thinking”. Much like how Kirk cheated to win, characters are frequently depicted as coming up with very innovative or surprising ways of handling the situation.

Although I don’t consider myself a cheater. And, certainly the men around me must agree. I strive daily to be innovative, a thought leader, and tend to come up with solutions for problems that consistently stump others. I’ll attribute this to my career-path as an entrepreneur in naught but the truest sense.

Is my mind reeling with these thoughts because my subconscious is preparing me, some how, and in doing so, forcing my body to training limits I’ve not recently attempted? I know that I must be ready. There is danger, certainly. Yes, I must be prepared for many eventualities, including, as my family attorney advises me – demise.

This must needs lead me, and you’re coming with me, to…

Raison d’etre

Raison d’être is a phrase borrowed from French where it means “reason for being”; in English use, it also comes to suggest a degree of rationalization, as “The claimed reason for the existence of something or someone”.

The French concept is more elaborate than a simple statement. Once the reason an object exists is defined, criteria to measure the object’s degree of success can be enumerated. For example, a phone has the purpose of enabling communication between two people. Some phones meet that goal better than others. When measurable criteria are known, gaps can be identified that show where the particular object fails to meet the prototypical object’s reason for being. When gaps have been fully identified, strategies can be implemented to close the gaps and bring the object closer to the true fulfillment of its raison d’être.

In the truest sense of raison d’être, French philosophers lay an elaborate road map of descriptive text that contrasts the current status of an implementation of a prototypical object with the purist view of perfection that the object should achieve without the hindrance of imperfections. The philosophical road map brings to a crescendo the imperative urgency that motivates participants to immediately take the steps necessary to achieve all the intended qualities that an object was designed to exemplify.

There is no point to this post. It’s just me telling you like it is.

…well… That is unless you’re interested in knowing more about me. And, now you just might.

Perhaps this is another opportunity to kill the bear.

My Grandad said many things. All of them were terrific. One of them was: “Face your fears, lad, and do it anyway”.

Is fear, and the attempt to defeat it, representative of Hors Catégori?

Is simply facing it that Kobayashi Maru?

Is ever seeking ways to remember the face of my father that Raison d’etre, for me (we dare not blow it).

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork


that would be Degevolution


Rusty, who, as it turns out is my new Mormon Brother (I’m not a Mormon, but Rusty is nonetheless, my Brother), and I have concluded that texting, for example, is one of those innovations that fall under a new term “degevolution”.

I’ll pause, here, and grimly advise you that Rusty is the author of the aptly named: Mormon Conversations. I’ll warn you in advance, though, in reading this Blog, you will find yourself amidst unsettling information that includes the debunking of certain myths that include: “Magical Underwear”. You may well, also, find you like this fellow with a big family, and a heart and life story, to match. He’s a pretty fair writer. Certainly better than me (but, that’s easy). And, perhaps more notably, there is transparency, rather like Drew Tilghman, and some useful observations in-and-around a life well-lived.

In any event, but, also in truth, we were using the word devolution. However, I looked it up, and it’s already being used for an entirely separate purpose. So, for the moment, and, certainly relevant to this post, it’s utterly useless to me, and my self-important desire to create a new word that is meaningful and useful (and, a potential blunt-edged weapon worthy of making one of my inarticulate points).

Let’s see if we can work degevolution into our working lexicon. I’ll need your collective help and support with that.

By the way… I use so many comma’s that I have this sudden concern I might read like James T. Kirk. Obviously, you’ll need to be a fan of Star Trek to truly appreciate this (I am, but, call me not a Trekkie).

Meanwhile, Rusty and I found ourselves discussing his life ambitions this afternoon. Our dialogue, however, has it’s genesis with me commenting on his Blog – which in turn had him visiting my Blog, and stumbling upon one of my posts: Texting and Driving To Death.

We (collectively the father of eight children), decided that texting is one of those technologies (or, is it a derivative of technology?) that is degevolutionary because it facilitates educational and social awkwardness while also adding a barrier, to, what some of us, might deem as good or meaningful communication. …and, well, if you do it while driving, you might kill our children.

I suspect Rusty is reading this post, and possibly scratching his head. We, in truth, only had bits and pieces of this discussion. I’m taking enormous liberty, here, and expounding on a tangental thought. So, hopefully, Rusty is also grinning, and content with the spirit of this posting effort.

Thanks Rusty (but, let’s hope we are much more famous; at least highly regarded, for other contributions).

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork


brian cork remembering David Herbert Donald


NEW YORK (AP) – David Herbert Donald, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the Civil War and American South whose expertise on Abraham Lincoln brought him a wide general audience and reverence from his peers, has died.

I saw that heading this morning and was immediately struck by mixed feelings of nostalgia and sadness.

I first heard Lincoln historian David Herbert Donald lecture while an undergraduate at Radford University.

A ferocious and passionate writer, Donald passed away at eighty eight. And, he packed a lot into those years. A professor emeritus at Harvard University, Donald won Pulitzers for biographies of abolitionist Charles Sumner and novelist Thomas Wolfe. But his books on Lincoln became his legacy. Presidents from John F. Kennedy to the first George Bush summoned him for lectures and fellow scholars acknowledged his prominence.

An award was even named after him – the David Herbert Donald Prize for “excellence in Lincoln studies.” The first honoree in 2005 was, of course, Donald himself.

My guy has always been Thomas Jefferson. However, Dr. Donald was brilliant at drawing comparisons and contrasts amongst our country’s Presidents (with an obvious emphasis on Abraham Lincoln) that ran parallel to current events. He was apparently working on a character study of John Quincy Adams at his death. As we all know, (that particular) President Adams might be considered one of those ‘other’ or footnote-only caliber White House denizens. Yet Donald would have found a unique and likely thought provoking way to draw a correlation between something President Adams did that was relevant to Lincoln, or something they both had accomplished, or wanted. If you care about that type of nuance or “Jeffersonian” (parallel) thinking, it’s endlessly fascinating.

For more along this line of thinking, please consider my prior post: Barack Obama and the Jeffersonian Model.

Donald published his first Lincoln book in 1948, and kept at it for more than 50 years, going back on repeated vows to move on to another subject. His books included “Lincoln at Home,” a study of his family life, and “We Are Lincoln Men, (a personal favorite of mine) – both worthy essays about Lincoln’s friends and associates.

“Lincoln,” a single-volume biography of the president, came out in 1996 and became so popular that presidential candidates Bill Clinton and Bob Dole both claimed they were reading it (it’s certainly in my own library even I am not as yet a presidential candidate). NOTE: Clinton I can see actually drawing some form of inspiration from it. I am, however, skeptical about that poor little Mr. Dole. In any event, years later, when customers at the Lincoln Memorial bookstore would ask for a good biography, Donald’s book was recommended.

Donald, the grandson of a Union cavalry officer, was not a Lincoln man in his early years. Born into a farming family in Goodman, Mississippi, he fancied himself a musician before some odd twists landed him elsewhere. He majored in history and sociology at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduation, Donald hitchhiked to Indianola, Mississippi, where he was interviewed for a job as a high school band teacher, a position funded by sales from a Coca-Cola machine.

This is my favorite passage from an interview he tolerated with the Associated Press in 2005:

“The man who interviewed me told me I could have the job and I went to gather whatever I had and started to follow him out of his office,” Donald recalled. “He said, ‘You forget your hat.’ And I said ‘I don’t wear a hat.’ And he said, ‘You teach in my school, you’ll wear a hat.’ So I didn’t take the job.”

So… Donald looked instead at graduate schools. His academic adviser at Millsaps was too busy to help, so Donald wrote his own recommendations and was accepted into the University of Illinois. Years later, he visited the school and had a chance to see his records.

“I looked into my admissions file and it said, ‘Admit this man. He has excellent letters of recommendation.”

If you know me, you understand why I am drawn to professional people that see the world in their own terms. The latter quote always made me think of Captain James T. Kirk and his Kobayashi Maru.

Just roll with me on that.

I will leave the best insights into Donald’s brilliant work to other historians and writers of greater merit than my own. However, he had a great impact on me and my views in terms of how two people can look at the same subject and yet understand it in completely separate ways, while drawing strong direction from the exercise. That is both Jeffersonian (my view), and important in critical decision-making.

For example:

Some reviewers faulted Donald for insisting on “the essential passivity” of Lincoln, while an interpretation that The Washington Post’s Jonathan Yardley found contradiction positing the president’s “determination and vigor” in carrying out his decisions.

For decades after Lincoln’s death, writing on the president was dominated by nonhistorians, such as poet Carl Sandburg, who wrote a best-selling, lyrical and famously unreliable biography. Donald helped literally transform Lincoln studies into a professional discipline.

A mentor of Donald’s encouraged him to write about Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon. “Lincoln’s Herndon” began as a dissertation and became Donald’s first book, published in 1948, with an introduction, ironically, from Sandburg.

During his aforementioned AP interview, Donald outright dismissed recent theories that Lincoln was gay or chronically depressed. Donald also acknowledged that he, too, had, over time, changed his feelings about Lincoln.

“When I started out, I wasn’t interested in Lincoln, and frankly found him a tiresome old fellow who was rather long-winded, told too many stories, was kind of a rough, frontier sort,”

“As I grew older, I realized the jokes and stories he told were really very funny and they always had a point to them. And I watched the way he worked with people and what an extraordinarily adept politician he was. … He was much more sensitive and human than I had thought before.”


Donald’s reputation grew throughout the next few decades as he carefully picked apart the Lincoln myths dear to poets, dreamers and politicians. In such classic essays as “Getting Right With Lincoln’‘ and “The Folklore Lincoln,” he noted Lincoln’s transformation from laughing stock to saint upon his assassination – and, the efforts of both Democrats and Republicans to claim him for their parties.

Thank you for helping us all to think, argue and change our minds Professor Donald.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

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What’s All This About?

"What am I looking at?", you might wonder.

Lots of stuff.

Meanwhile, here, I discuss events, people and things in our world - and, my (hardly simplistic, albeit inarticulate) views around them.

You'll also learn things about, well, things, like people you need to know about, and information about companies you can't find anywhere else.

So, while I harangue the public in my not so gentle way, you will discover that I am fascinated by all things arcane, curious about those whom appear religious, love music, dabble in politics, loathe the media, value education, still think I am an athlete, and might offer a recipe.

All the while, striving mightily, and daily, to remain a prudent and optimistic gentleman - and, authentic.

brian cork by John Campbell

photos by John Campbell


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