Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Venn: Notre Dame, Architecture, Manhattan, and 9/11

Who stands at the center of a Venn diagram including the University of Notre Dame, the profession of architecture, a student newspaper called The Observer, the humor of a cartoonist, sketchbooks of a globe-trotter, Manhattan, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, CodeX, and 9/11? 

I know of only one man who fills the bill: architect, cartoonist, and lecturer Michael Molinelli.


"As you know, Michael Molinelli is a talented artist who worked for Notre Dame's OBSERVER daily student newspaper and received his degree in Architecture. He was the creator of probably the most beloved comic strip on campus, a daily must view for all of us Domers when the paper came out just before lunch. The strip was called "Molarity" (morality with the "l" and the "r" switched). He presents an interesting perspective about the Twin Towers from an architect's point of view. CAUTION: while one particular scene has been seen millions of times since that tragic day in 2001, it is still shocking and disturbing." --Eduardo Magallenez, ND '83

This 15th edition of Michael's CodeX project describes the design and construction of the Twin Towers and the force that brought them down on 9/11.

Before reading Eddielalo's post, I was not familiar with Michael's CodeX Series. After watching this one, I was inspired to watch more and wound up subscribing to his channel. The videos (currently about 24) are fantastic explorations of interesting and influential architects and the buildings they have given us. You need not be an architect to love these videos. 

Michael Molinelli, AIA, NCARB, LEED Accredited Professional holds a 1982 Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Notre Dame. Michael was best known to his fellow Domers as the creator of Molarity, a comic featuring the antics and exploits of fictional student Jim Mole and his friends. 

Since graduating from Notre Dame, Michael has built a successful architecture practice. He is an award-winning licensed architect, an award-winning cartoonist, humorist, lecturer, author, inventor, volunteer firefighter, husband, and father.

Visit Michael's websites:
His architecture practice 
The official website of Molinelli's cartoon strips including Molarity and Molarity Redux.
A site about the book he co-authored with his wife, Gina 
The YouTube channel for his ongoing CodeX series 

These websites about Michael are also worth a look:
His Amazon author biography featuring a nice pic with an ND hat
The Wikipedia entry describing his Molarity comic strip

Friday, September 18, 2020

Happy Friday!


A little math game...

Today 9/18/2020 is Friday, the 6th day of the week. But it’s also the beginning of the 6th “day” of the year, if 2020 were divided into 7 equal parts. And, coincidentally, it’s also the beginning of the 6th “day” of my life, if my actuarial lifespan is divided by 7.


Happy Friday! In more ways than one...

I like to play with time scales for a perspective shift. Imagine the whole year as a week of 7 long days. The Sunday of 2020 began on January 1st and lasted 366 / 7= 52 days. The Tuesday of 2020 began Feb 22nd. Today, Friday, Sept 18, 2020, is the Friday of this week, but it is also the beginning of the “Friday” of 2020 (261/366 = 71%).


Metaphorically speaking, we're down to the last two days of the year. Are we also 71% (5/7) complete with our goals for the year? Will our motivation on Friday and Saturday be as high as it was on, say, Tuesday or Wednesday?


Another game I play with time scales relies upon the macabre wisdom of actuarial tables. Are you familiar with these? Actuarial tables are used to calculate the expected remaining life for a man or woman who has already attained a given age. Soon I will hit a major milestone birthday, the Big 6-0. I like to cling to my 50s and joke that I am 59.999 years old. But on average, a man who has attained the age of 59 in America can expect 24 more years on this planet. My actuarial lifespan is 83 years. Now, I aspire to live into triple digits, but the odds are what they are. Using the average, I figure I have already lived 71% (59/83) of my days.


Did you notice something interesting? Today is the Friday of this week. If the year were a week, today is the Friday of the year. If my lifespan were a week, today is also the Friday of my life!   


The point of this time-shifting exercise is to realize that time marches on, and Mondays can be kind of rough, and by Friday, most people are looking forward to the weekend. We may not have the same stamina and motivation for the Friday and Saturday of life as we did for the Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Plan accordingly!

Happy 73rd Birthday to the US Air Force!


Happy 73rd birthday to the US Air Force, created on this day in 1947 out of the former Army Air Corps. 

Aim High! 


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Recap of EC's 50 Songs for 50 Days

Here on PhilosFX we will bring you an ongoing recapitulation of Elvis Costello's newly announced project, 50 songs for 50 Days.

Sir Declan Patrick MacManus, OBE announced today (Sept 15, 2020) that he'd be launching a song daily for the next 50 days. These songs will comprise a curated playlist for this time of cultural, political, and environmental upheaval. The announcement was made on his official website and came to my attention via his Facebook page

"I hope these songs will amuse, console or even infuriate, because passive indifference is hardly the way forward."--Elvis Costello
It's probably no surprise that the next 50 days takes us up to early November and an important election in the United States of America. 

If you are a fan of Elvis Costello, you will likely already be connected to his website. You will be able to see each new song as it gets added to the playlist. You will also already have a streaming service lined up to play these tunes (Playlist added to Spotify on 9/17). And, if you are interested in the music or the lyrics, you will have access to repositories of those resources such as the comprehensive Wiki.

But what you will not have, and what I, therefore, seek to provide, is a list of all 50 songs in one place. I want this resource for myself and I am more than happy to build it day by day and share it with others as it develops and afterward, for posterity.  Patronize the creator for the original content, and let me know whether this recap adds value by leaving a comment. 

Here goes! 

No. 1 - “(You’re Nobody 'Til Everybody In) This Town (Thinks You’re A Bastard)” from Spike (1989).  
It was a song with a topical verse which I'm afraid he then proceeded to sing
Something about the moody doomed love of the Fish-Finger King

No. 2 - "Waiting For The End Of The World" from My Aim Is True (1977).
Hiding from a scandal in the national press
They had been trying to get married since they stole the wedding dress
You may see them drowning as you stroll along the beach
But don't throw out the lifeline till they're clean out of reach

No. 3 - "Why Can’t A Man Stand Alone?" from All This Useless Beauty (1996). 

Must he be burdened by all that he's taught to consider his own?
His skin and his station, his kin and his crown, his flag and his nation
They just weigh him down

No. 4 - "Jimmie Standing In The Rain" from National Ransom (2010).
Eyes going in and out of focus
Mild and bitter from tuberculosis
Forgotten man
Indifferent nation

No. 5 - "Night Rally" from This Year’s Model (1978).

They're putting all your names
In the forbidden book
I know what they're doing
But I don't want to look

No. 6 - "Hurry Down Doomsday (The Bugs Are Taking Over)" from Mighty Like A Rose (1991).
In time you can turn these obsessions into careers
While the parents of those kidnapped children
Start the bidding for their tears

No. 7 - "All This Useless Beauty" from All This Useless Beauty (1996). 

Nonsense prevails, modesty fails
Grace and virtue turn into stupidity
While the calendar fades almost all barricades to a pale compromise
While our leaders have feasts on the backsides of beasts
They still think they're the gods of antiquity

No. 8 - "Brilliant Mistake" from King Of America (1986).
He thought he was the King of America
Where they pour Coca Cola just like vintage wine
Now I try hard not to become hysterical
But I'm not sure if I am laughing or crying

No. 9 - "Less Than Zero" from My Aim Is True (1977).

He said he heard about a couple living in the USA
He said they traded in their baby for a Chevrolet
Let's talk about the future now we've put the past away

More to come! 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Herman Melville Likes Your Beard

Beards: They're not for everyone. But those who get it, get it.

 Herman Melville gets it! 

Tolstoy, Whitman, Dostoyevsky, Hugo—none of them said anything of note before they grew their beards. Still, we all know what happens to a man’s facial hair when he’s aboard a boat for too long. 

Here are 25 unique words or phrases that Melville used to describe beards in two chapters (84 and 85) of White-Jacket or The World in a Man-of-War, his 1850 novel based on experience crewing a U.S. frigate, the USS Neversink, in the South Seas for 14 months.

Melville’s Alternative Names for Beards:

1. the crop
2. suburbs of the chin
3. homeward-bounders
4. fly-brushes
5. long, trailing moss hanging from the bough of some aged oak
6. love-curls
7. Winnebago locks
8. carroty bunches
9. rebellious bristles
10. redundant mops
11. yellow bamboos
12. long whiskers
13. thrice-noble beards
14. plantations of hair
15. whiskerandoes
16. nodding harvests
17. viny locks
18. the fleece
19. fine tassels
20. goatees
21. imperials
22. sacred things
23. admiral’s pennant
24. manhood
25. muzzle-lashings

I selected just 10 of Melville’s 25 evocative words or phrases for my beard meme. I might pick a different set of 10 on another day. Which 10 would you choose?

Our Muse

Herman Melville


The Bard of Beards

Here is a little context for Melville's whiskery vocabulary. The Captain of the USS Neversink issued an unpopular decree. All sailors with long hair must cut it short, and all those with long whiskers must trim them down to Navy regulations. This decree was met with various levels of consternation from the crew, ranging from reluctant obedience to out and out mutiny.

In Chapter 85, The Great Massacre of the Beards, Melville recounts the story of Jack Chase as he took his turn with the barber. About to be shorn, Jack gave a soliloquy to his beard:

“My friend, I trust your scissors are consecrated. Let them not touch this beard if they have yet to be dipped in holy water; beards are sacred things barber. Have you no feeling for beards, my friend?

"This beard has been caressed by the snow-white hand of the lovely Tomasita of Tombez—the Castilian belle of all lower Peru. Think of that, barber! I have worn it as an officer on the quarter-deck of a Peruvian man-of-war. I have sported it at brilliant fandangoes in Lima. I have been alow and aloft with it at sea. Yea, barber! it has streamed like an Admiral's pennant at the mast-head of this same gallant frigate, the Neversink! Oh! barber, barber! it stabs me to the heart.—Talk not of hauling down your ensigns and standards when vanquished—what is that, barber! to striking the flag that Nature herself has nailed to the mast!"

Melville, the Bard of Beards! At one point he complains that the hair and beard regulation is "directly opposed to the theocratical law laid down in the nineteenth chapter and twenty-seventh verse of Leviticus, where it is expressly ordained, "Thou shalt not mar the corners of thy beard." But legislators do not always square their statutes by those of the Bible."

As Melville aged, he cited that Bible verse to justify a rather distinctive squared-off beard style.

“Ye shall not shave the corners of your head round, 
neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.”

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Trunkworthy's Finale: Elvis Costello's Best, Least Remembered Songs, 81-86

Trunkworthy's series on undiscovered gems in Elvis Costello's vast catalog pulled me like a sled dog. I grabbed ahold early and held on for the lo-o-o-o-o-o-ng haul: 229 weeks in all! 

Recently Jorge Farah, one of the authors of the re-boot series, found this blog and dropped a nice comment. The exchange caused me to realize that I still owe the Universe one final post. You see, I had published recaps of the songs in groups of twenty. After song #80, I was geared up, anticipating the Fifth Twenty... 

But after two years on the beat, Jorge and his co-author Kevin Davis announced that they had achieved what they set out to do. They closed out the column after Song #86, "Suspect My Tears" from EC's latest album at the time, 2018's Look Now

So here is the chart of the last 6 songs of the series to complete the set:

Here are links to the 

The Song of the Week grand finale includes this Author's note (emphasis added):

"After two years of (sometimes very) intermittently writing the Elvis Costello Song of the Week column, we feel that we’ve reached a point where we’ve managed to cover a pretty thorough cross-section of Costello’s work, having now written (we think!) about at least one song from each album which, by extension, has given us the opportunity to talk about each of the albums themselves."

How well did Trunkworthy do at covering the oeuvre? I combined Shows 1 to 53 and 54 to 86 into one big group, and here are the stats:

At the time the Trunkworthy series ended, Elvis had produced 32 studio albums from MAIT through Look Now. The EP, Purse and Hey Clockface (due out in October 2020) were produced after Jorge and Kevin tossed in the towel. The authors of Parts 1 and 2 covered an impressive 28 of 32 albums, all but these four:

There were a total of 86 "weekly" episodes stretched out over a period of 229 weeks. 
  • Part 1 by Gary and David covered 54 songs in 52 weeks
  • Part 2 by Jorge and Kevin added 35 more songs over 115 weeks
  • The gap between parts 1 & 2 was 62 weeks and we are so grateful to Jorge and Kevin for picking up the reigns and running the reboot!  
There were actually 89 songs in the series. Two versions of  "Blue Chair" were compared in Show 31. Three versions of "Favourite Hour" were presented in Show 56. Additionally, two songs in Part 1 were repeated in Part 2.

  •  "How Much I’ve Lied" from Almost Blue (1981) was played in shows 22 & 58
  • "Stella Hurt" from Momofuku (2008) was played in shows 39 & 83
So, 89 songs, less 2 repeats and 3 additional versions yields 84 unique titles. All of them are hidden gems among the 600-song (and growing) catalog. 

The authors set out to highlight some of Elvis' best, least-known songs from his 600-song discography. They did not announce an explicit goal to distribute the highlighted songs across the decades. I took a glance at that and invite you to have a look at the results below. Over the 44-year span, there were slightly more songs from 1986 (6) than from any other year. The real story is the wide distribution. You'll see some songs from five decades: 70s, 80s, 90s, aughts, and teens.

I am grateful to Trunkworthy co-founders Gary Stewart and David Gorman, who started this project. Beginning on Elvis' 60th birthday (Aug 25, 2014) and continuing weekly for a year, these two set out to shine a little light on some of the underplayed gems in Costello's repertoire. Sustained by passion and fan support, they took the project as far as they could. But the crowd wanted more! Thankfully, fellow Costellophiles Jorge Farah and Kevin Davis picked up the gauntlet and ran with it. 

Perhaps there will yet be more stories in this book. Elvis is still creating compelling music, so who knows? Maybe we'll soon need a third pair of writers to continue the Trunkworthy quest with a mix of songs including material from the 20s and beyond. One can only hope. And if they do, PhilosFX will be right there with them, providing a hub from which summaries of all of the separate posts can be easily viewed. 

I am also grateful that Jorge took the time to write a nice comment on PhilosFX. You can read that and my reply under this post. By way of thanks, I thought of linking to Jorge's blog, "Every -ist and Every -ism." The blog is on a temporary hiatus. Please check back later...


Instead of that link, I offer a link to Jorge's two and a half hour EC birthday show. This program is full of great music and interesting conversation from fantastic guests, such as Trunkworthy collaborator Kevin Davis, and Graeme Thomson, author of Complicated Shadows: The Life and Music of Elvis Costello

Enjoy! Support the creative!  

Friday, August 28, 2020

Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance


Today's Meme of the Day is inspired by a conversation between comedian Russell Brand and psychologist Jordan Peterson. Billed as a "debate," this conversation is no battle or fight. It seems to me to be more of a spirited conversation between two intelligent people with slightly different views. I enjoyed this excerpt from Russell Brand's Under The Skin Podcast #46 With Jordan Peterson

At 3:10 in the excerpt, Brand raises the issue of how people in the media can misinterpret a speaker's words or intentions. Brand posited that both he and Peterson had been misunderstood at times, and he wanted to attribute this controversy to a lack of nuance in reporting. In turn, the lack of nuance in reporting can be attributed to either editorial direction or the short attention span of the audience, or both. The resulting tendency is for people to force other people into ideological categories (left, right) too quickly. 

Brand had worked with the Maysles brothers on a documentary film. (Interestingly enough, the subject was reportedly Donald Trump.) Brand recalled Maysles' quote during this portion of the conversation. Peterson was not familiar with the quote but took an immediate interest. Peterson remarked, "there's no nuance in ignorance but it's excusable because you just don't know any better. But when it's deliberate, that's a whole different story."

Ignorance, simply being unaware of the facts, is forgivable. Willful ignorance, choosing to remain ignorant in spite of facts, is certainly an offense against the pursuit of truth. deliberately obscuring facts from others keeping them ignorant would be worse still. Tyranny is even more nefarious for its subtlety, leaving facts but removing nuance. 

The lesson is to search for the truth, to ask questions, to trust only what is verified, and to be suspicious of motives until they are plainly exposed. Not coincidentally, these were the principles of the Maysles brothers' pioneering style of documentary filmmaking known as cinema veritas.  

For more information about Albert Maysles and his brother David, feel free to read this New York Times appreciation of their award-winning approach to documentary filmmaking. Albert died in 2015 at the age of 88. His brother and collaborator, David, died in 1987 at the age of 54. PBS published a list of their seven most important films. How many have you seen?

  • “Psychiatry in Russia” (1955)
  • “Salesman” (1968)
  • “Gimme Shelter” (1970)
  • “Christo’s Valley Curtain” (1974)
  • “Grey Gardens” (1975)
  • “When We Were Kings” (1996)
  • “Iris” (2014)