Saturday, December 3, 2016

MOvember 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016


'"I used to be really into nostalgia." --Demetri Martin'

"I used to be really into nostalgia."--Demitri Martin

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Behold: The Elvis Costello Song of the Week® from Trunkworthy, Rebooted!

The famous red shoes are passed to a new pair of Costellophiles determined to shine a light on the Elvis songs you need to hear. Meet Kevin Davis and Jorge Farah--new hosts of Trunkworthy's weekly feature:

The Elvis Costello Song of the Week®, Rebooted! 

Who is Elvis Costello?
"Declan Patrick MacManus began having the time of his life on Wednesday, the 25th of August, 1954. Declan was born at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington in London, England. He was the son and only child of trumpeter, vocalist and erstwhile bandleader Ronald (“Ross”) MacManus (born in Birkenhead, October 20, 1927) and record store manager Lillian MacManus.", the pre-Wiki fan page

Why should Elvis Costello matter to you?
"Steeped in wordplay, the vocabulary of Costello's lyrics is broad. His music has drawn on many diverse genres; one critic described him as a "pop encyclopaedia," able to "reinvent the past in his own image." He has won multiple awards in his career, including a Grammy Award, and has twice been nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male Singer. In 2003, Costello and the Attractions were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Costello number 80 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time." --Wikipedia/Elvis_Costello

Why does Elvis Costello matter to me?
As a high-schooler in the late 1970s, I steeped myself in Kansas, Styx, Boston, and Aerosmith. My hometown friend and artistic muse, Jhymn, used to make mix tapes for me to expose me to alternative music like REM, U2, and Elvis Costello. From the moment I heard "Pump it Up!" I was hooked. I bought "Get Happy!!" as a college freshman and, smitten, became a life-long collector and fan.   

Why am I excited about the reboot of Trunkworthy's The Elvis Costello Song of the Week?
Fandom is limitless. 
Just as I did with the original series, I'll be adding a tiny bit of value by collecting and compiling links to every weekly episode, and posting them all in one place--right here--for your convenience. I'm also maintaining a spreadsheet version of the selected tracks because I am geeky like that. I'll be adding to my compilation post. 
Bookmark Trunkworthy and sign up for their email alerts. Support the work of the artist and the original work of the authors. But check it out--no one puts it all together for you like I do!


Enjoy this continued and ongoing recapitulation of Elvis Costello Songs of the Week by Trunkworthy! 
November 2016

54. "It's Time"... to reboot the Elvis Costello Song of the Week. And I for one couldn't be happier!

55. "Fallen" is a torch song for hearts on the mend.

56. The quiet, contemplative, “Favourite Hour” almost got lost on an album that was anything but! Here are three shades of brutal beauty:
  • “Favourite Hour” Church Studios demo version (1992)
  • “Favourite Hour” Brutal Youth (1994)
  • “Favourite Hour” My Flame Burns Blue live version (2004)
57. A collaborative cry for unity from Costello and Toussaint: "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?"

58. "Lipstick Vogue" is an explosive introduction to the Attractions.


59. For fathers, sons, and everyone else: "My Three Sons."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Eclipse, Carhenge, Chimney Rock, and the Cowboy Trail: A Plan Takes Shape

Above is an interactive map showing my proposed 3200-mile route from Alexandria, Springfield, St Joseph, Lincoln, Grand Island, Ansley, and Broken Bow to Alliance, and then from Alliance to Chadron, Norfolk, Omaha, and South Bend to Alexandria.

In and around Alliance will include day-trips to:

    • Carhenge, County Road 59, Alliance, NE for the eclipse (we'll dress like Druids and act like we're at Burning Man or Lollapalooza)
    • Chimney Rock National Historic Site, Chimney Rock Trail, Bayard, NE 69334 
    • Chadron State Park and campgrounds, 9 miles south of the town of Chadron on Hwy 385
    Optional day-trips:
    • Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
    • Fort Robinson
    • Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed
    • Toadstool Geo Park

    Links to maps and travel guides:

    • The Pioneers were moving west, and the name of the Bridges to Buttes Byway describes that westerly progress. But I'll be heading east, from the buttes to the bridges. Here is the story of another travelor who took the trail "backwards." 
    • The Bridges to Buttes Byway is rich with history and travelers can visit the sites of famous archaeological discoveries, pioneer and early trade museums, military outposts, and other treasures of the Old West
    • There is so much to see and experience in this stretch of US Route 20. Here are two short videos that highlight some of the beauty of the Nebraska’s Bridges to Buttes Byway.
    • This article stub on Less Beaten Paths appears to be waiting for someone to fill in the story...

    Additional reference:

    MLB 2016: Peerless Postseason Prognostications

    Near the end of the MLB regular season, after the Nats had locked up the NL East, I boldly predicted an I-495 "Beltway" World Series between the Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles. One of my W.I.S.H.* List items is to see my home team play in a World Series. So my prediction was mostly wishful thinking. But I did chart out a path by which the two teams playing for the MLB crown were close enough that I could drive (or even take a train) to every game.

    That prognostication is shown below--updated now that the Cubbies have won the National League pennant.

    There is still a chance that my once totally biased and unscientific prediction could still earn a 33% accuracy rating. If the Cubs win, it won't be the Nats but it'll at least be the NL Champ, so with follow-on credit (50%), I could see a third of my predictions borne out. I'll get a minimum score of 28% but let me just put this out there for the Universe and everyone:

    Go, Cubs!
    Go, Theo!
    Go, Joe!

    Bring the hardware to Chi-town!

    2016 Great American Beer Festival

    The annual Great American Beer Festival has concluded and here at PhilosFX, we celebrate 14 medalists from the DMV (that's the District, Maryland, and Virginia). 

    Here's the tally:

    Gold:      4
    Silver:     6
    Bronze:  4
    And here are the details:

    Great job, brewers! We offer a special shout out to Alexandria's own Port City Brewing Co., for their phenomenal COLOSSAL FIVE.

    Sunday, October 16, 2016

    Biking the Cowboy Trail across Nebraska

    flickr/Ken Ratcliff

    The above photo hit my Facebook newsfeed and I was entranced. Memories of summers on the farm in central Nebraska flooded back into my awareness. I followed the supplied link to a story about a wonderful rails-to-trails project, which converted an abandoned rail line into a biking and hiking trail. As of this writing, the so-called Cowboy Trail is the longest rails-to-trails conversion in the country, covering 321 miles between Chadron and Norfolk.

    My initial Facebook reaction:

    "This would be a great 5 or 6 day ride, culminating in my hometown of Norfolk, NE. I think I'll check out the tent and hostel accommodations along the route, and see if an end-to-end ride feasible."

    As it happens, I already have plans to be near Chadron State Park in August, 2017, to observe the great solar eclipse. So naturally, I am thinking about taking a slightly longer route home, eastbound via the Cowboy Trail, with a stop in my hometown of Norfolk.

    First thing I did was search for detailed maps of the trail. I found this helpful website called Bike Cowboy Trail which covers the paved portion of the trail between Valentine and Norfolk. The section between Chadron and Valentine is gravel and has fewer services and amenities at this point. The western half of the trail is suitable for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, but not for touring bikes.

    The next thing I did was put the Cowboy Trail into context. The 321-mile trail cuts through the Sand Hills region of Nebraska, generally tracking Highway 20 between Chadron and Inman. Just south of Inman, Highway 20 splits off to Sioux City. At that juncture, the Cowboy Trail then follows along Highway 275 to Norfolk.
    Map showing the locations of Chadron and Norfolk in context of Nebraska and surrounding states

    Next I discovered an interesting tidbit about Highway 20--in particular, the portion from just east of Valentine and west past Chadron all the way to the Wyoming border. That stretch of road is known as the Buttes to Bridges Byway

    Extending from east of Valentine (junction of Highways 83 & 20) to the Wyoming border, the Bridges to Buttes Byway journeys through diverse topography and distinctive landscapes. From rolling Sandhills through the Pine Ridge and the Nebraska National Forest onto plateaus from which you can see the Black Hills and into neighboring states, you will experience the sites, solitude and vastness that early travelers and settlers felt as they first saw this region.
    That description and the photos accompanying it are compelling! So now I am looking forward to some more detailed planning, focusing on the logistics of this proposed adventure. And as I always do when I start a new project, I opened MS Excel. I copied table data from into Excel. I added rows for the towns west of Valentine. Then I used Google Maps to plot the distances between those towns. I noticed that if I selected the bicycle mode of travel in Google Maps, the elevation was provided--so I recorded elevations at all 31 towns on the trail between and including Chadron and Norfolk. The results are in the table below.

    Table of Mileage and Elevation for Eastbound

    There is still much more to do! I'd like to get locations and descriptions of the 221 bridges along the Cowboy Trail. I'd also like to catalog the other points of interest along the way. For example, I know that there are archaeological sites, Army outposts, pioneer homesteads, Native American sites, and of course old towns that dotted the prairie in the railroad's heyday.

    This will be a grand adventure! More to follow!