Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book Update

Durrell and I received a contract from Open Court approving the manuscript for "Rush and Philosophy". The tentative date for final manuscript revisions is late October, so our hope is for the book to be on the shelves by late 2010!

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Farewell to a King

Over the weekend, I lost a good friend to pancreatic cancer. Diagnosed in September, Peter was told he was at stage four and that the disease was spreading. Despite his pain and unbearable suffering, Peter kept a positive outlook on life, his will to live was an inspiration to all those in his circle. I have now lost three close family/friends to cancer, the death sentence that does not discriminate. Seeing someone as strong as Peter, slowly wither away was difficult, and I spent many nights angry, cursing the sky above, and questioning the reason for such a good person to die in such a horrible manner. Peter, however, would not allow me to feel sorry for him or for his illness, rather, he and I and our friends celebrated each day he was with us, toasting each day with a pint of his favorite Stongbow Cider. I will miss Peter, but at least I was fortunate to have spent three years as his friend, learning so much from his wisdom. Tonight, I think of the lyrics from Afterimage: "Suddenly, you were gone
From all the lives you left your mark upon
I remember how we talked and drank into the misty dawn
I hear the voices"

Lakeside Park, though we did not spend any nights by the pier, there were plenty of drinking at Mahar's and smoking on the porch, listening to the rebel music.

Memories will last forever.

Good night, wherever you are.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Writing 101: Professor Neil Peart

The following is a quest post from Phil Simon, his web site is located in the Finding Your Way listings.

My favorite band is Rush. Always has been. As a kid, it was the music that attracted me, but as I grew older and presumably wiser, I was able to move beyond. I could understand lyricist Neil Peart’s visceral and profound lyrics.

They began to speak volumes to me.

Nicknamed “The Professor”, Neil has written books, penning four incredible texts about traveling, loss, and music. As I began writing books and blogging myself, I developed an entirely new appreciation for Peart’s genius that affects my writing to this very day.

In this post, I share some of Neil’s writing tips that can help scribes of all levels.

1) Get it down before it gets away.

This is perhaps my most important rule of thumb, whether writing books, blog posts, or emails. Too often in my early “career”, I found myself striving for perfection from the minute that I typed a word on a screen or page. (Yes, I am old enough to have actually used a typewriter back in the day.)

2) Forget writing well. Just write, before it gets away.

Centuries ago, Voltaire expressed the same sentiment: “The better is the enemy of the good.” While different people have different writing styles, I find it best to build now and polish later. Often I force myself to finish a page, paragraph, or even a thought when I am sure that I can do better. Much better.

Why do I force myself to accept mediocrity temporarily? Because the value of seeing it on the screen exceeds the value of having it in my head – where it could easily be lost and never again be found.

3) Listen to Picasso

After the release of his fourth book Roadshow: Landscape With Drums, I listened to an interview with Neil by original MTV VJ Mark Goodman. (Yes, I’m dating myself again.)

Neil was speaking about his writing style and quoted Pablo Picasso:

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.”

This is a very powerful sentiment and one worth remembering. Expecting the material to just magically flow once we sit down to write is typically an exercise in futility. I can think of many moments while writing my first book when I had a great idea while I was at the gym—i.e., nowhere near a computer.

Rather than continue my running and hope to remember it later, I would do the following:

• Stop
• Take pen to paper
• Jot down the note
• Diligently go to work upon returning home.

Jerry Seinfeld does the same thing when writing his standup material. Some may remember an episode of the eponymous show in which he thinks of a hysterical joke in the middle of the night and then writes it down. Upon waking up, he can’t remember what he wrote and promptly enlists George, Elaine, and Kramer to decipher his text.

Hopefully, you write notes neater than Jerry does. Whether it’s a notebook, BlackBerry, or some other mechanism, make sure to capture your thoughts as soon as they happen. Remember that you don’t know when they will hit you, so be prepared.

4) Don’t be afraid of the fifty-cent word.

Listen to Rush songs and you’ll find words or phrases not frequently used in everyday conversation. Hey, it’s a cerebral band. Some of my favorite Rush songs include words such as “stratospheric”, “parallax”, and “subdivided”.

Is this showing off or using big words just for the sake of doing so? Hardly. An avid reader, Neil writes each word with a distinct purpose.

Trust me. You don’t write a song about the dawn of the nuclear age without brevity, clarity, and a sense of mission.

I’ve read different opinions on the matter that run the gamut, especially with respect to blogging. On one hand, some believe that you should never talk down to your audience. Of course, if you only write with a grade school vocabulary, then what does that say about your audience? On the other hand, why rely exclusively on polysyllabic words when simplicity will suffice?

I try to strike a middle ground when I write. Clearly, using words like “desiderate” rather than “want” seems to be a bit excessive and unnecessary. But I’m a big believer in nailing a sentence with a true gem of a word, much like Dennis Miller does (or George Carlin did) during their standup routines.

5) The Take-Away Message

I’ll be the first to admit that what works for one doesn’t work for all. If you don’t heed the advice in this post, I’ll get over it. Really. I work as a consultant, so I’m used to being ignored, blamed, crucified, and worse.

But if you do listen, if you do take a few minutes out of your day and think about what Picasso, Neil Peart, Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, and Dennis Miller have said and done, your writing should improve. And isn’t that part of why you read this in the first place?

Am I off base? What do you think?

When he’s not listening to Rush absorbing intelligence or networking like an S.O.B and blinding people with his great writing, Phil Simon goes around sticking technology right where it belongs – in the workplace.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Soundtrack For the Week

Here is a thought, if you had to create a soundtrack of Rush songs exemplifying your week, what would they be? Share a summary of your week, and the Rush songs playing out your soundtrack.

It was one of "those" weeks, sense perpetual gloom and misfortune. Feeling like I was trapped by a dark cloud, encompassing on my every movement. No need for extensive detail, other than, by Friday night, my psyche was frayed, I felt as if I had been through a dizzying array of emotions, an exhausting fluctuation of ecstasy and self-awareness, to sadness and isolation. As my brother told me, "when it rains, it pours", and that best sums up my week. We all have problems of our own, so what good does complaining do? Here is my Rush soundtrack for the week:

"Workin Them Angels"
"Prime Mover"
"How It Is" (New found love for this song)
"Face Up"
"Ceiling Unlimited"

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why Rush and Philosophy?

Less than a year ago, I bought my first "philosophy" book in years, "The Grateful Dead and Philosophy", edited by Steven Gimbel. While being a fan of the music of The Dead, my experience with philosophy had not gone beyond the graduate educational philosophy courses. "The Grateful Dead and Philosophy" sparked an interest in philosophy, soon I was devouring the works of Sartre, and Nietzsche, Rand, and others. I began to realize that musicians and philosophers share the capability of awakening a deeper awareness for thinking. In the back of "The Grateful Dead and Philosophy" book, I wrote myself a note, "why not Rush and Philosophy?, after all, the band has been called the "thinking man's band". Within two weeks I made contact with Chris Matthew Sciabarra whose e-mails and correspondence gave me the confidence to pursue this project. The next Rush-ian scholar I contacted was co-editor Durrell Bowman, whose Doctorate dissertation was developed around Rush! The connection of Rush fans, inside and outside academia continued to grow, and before long, dozens of abstracts and papers, from professors with doctoral and published research, to teachers whose contributions to this project will be their first major work of publication. The "Web of Rush-Ians" as I have come to call the network, has proven to be an interesting and eclectic group, each bringing various perspectives and stories about their Rush experiences. In the up coming days, I will be posting some tid bits of information about the contributors and their research, offering a sampling of what is to come.

What is it that you enjoy about Rush? Are there any particular themes or topics that have been "tweaked" by your interest in Rush? Do you find yourself brining Rush into your profession, intentially or unintentionally? Share your stories.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Anything Can Happen, Finding Comfort in Rush

As I was preparing for work this morning, my subconscious soundtrack was playing "Prime Mover", as I came to the lyric "anything can happen" I thought back to the countless times I would play this song when feeling lost and confused. For over fifteen years, "Prime Mover" has offered me hope and inspiration through break-ups, job denials, and frequent bouts with stress and anxiety. Currently, I find myself at a professional crossroads, with many questions still to be examined, even after all these years, it is still comforting to listen to "Prime Mover" and experiencing the sense of hope for what the future may bring. Do you have a Rush song, or specific lyric that helps you through difficult times, or helps you to feel that you too are not alone, even when you feel no one else out there understands you?

"From the point of ignition,
to the final drive
The Point of a journey
is not to arrive
Anything can happen"

- Neil Peart, Prime Mover

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Standing on the Razor's Edge: Teenage Suicide

Emerging from the shadows, the "noble warrior" begins his final approach. Beyond the occasional glance and sneer, his peers are oblivious to his existence. He takes a final look back, remembering every face that ever said or did anything to hurt him. From the rooftop, he throws off his book bag and head phones, and takes a final look down. There is still time to turn back, but he is the only one who can make that decision, the final fate, is left to him. This is the story of the teenager in Rush's video for "The Pass", one of the many teenagers who stand on the brink of becoming another suicide statistic.

Suicide rate among the 10-24 age group, rose 8% between 2003-2004. This, following a 28% decline from 1990-2003. A survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of students in grades 9-12, identified 17% of those surveyed as "seriously considered" suicide, 13% having created a plan, and 8% having attempted suicide in the twelve months preceding the survey. If you are an educator, a teenager, or a parent of a teenager, there is a good chance you have been recently affected by teenage suicide. While many factors can lead one to choose suicide, isolation and depression continue to be the most common. As discussed in the "Subdivisions" blog, isolation and depression is not something new to teenagers. While many are able to overcome feelings of depression and isolation, what factors are affecting more teenagers to choose suicide than in previous years? What are some effective strategies to better identify and help those who may be on the brink of becoming another statistic? Maybe some of us have done time in the gutter, perhaps our experiences, when shared with someone in a similar place, can help them to see that they are not alone.

Video for "The Pass" can be found here:

For more information on teen suicide:

Rush-ians and Yoga?

Liz Swan, a life long Rushian and soon to be "blurber" for Rush and Philosophy, is preparing a project of her own, "Yoga and Philosophy", for those interested in contributing the information is below:

Call for Abstracts
Yoga & Philosophy: Stretch Your Mind
Liz Stillwaggon Swan (ed.)

Abstracts are sought for a prospective title in the Wiley-Blackwell series Philosophy for Everyone, under the general editorship of Fritz Allhoff. As with other titles in this Series—Climbing & Philosophy, Wine & Philosophy, Running & Philosophy—Yoga & Philosophy will unite the insights of philosophers, interdisciplinary academics (psychologists, religious studies scholars), and practicing yoginis and yogis. The abstracts and resulting selected papers should be written for an educated but non-specialized audience. The scope of this volume includes all aspects of yoga: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Thus, essays may address, for example: analyses of the 8 Limbs of Yoga, stories of personal insight and personal transformation from the practice of yoga, accounts of the mind-body relationship in yoga (versus outside of yoga), explication of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, comparative explorations of Eastern and Western approaches to yoga, yoga’s ancient history in India, and/or yoga’s recent history in the US, etc.

· Abstract of paper (250-300 words) due by: February 15, 2010
· Accepted authors will receive notification by: March 15, 2010
· The submission deadline for accepted papers will be June 1, 2010

Final papers must be between 4000-5000 words and be aimed at a general, educated audience.
Abstracts should be submitted electronically to Liz Stillwaggon Swan at

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Suburban Isolation

Rush's song "Subdivisions", from 1982's Signals, explores the feelings of teenage isolation stemming from life in the suburbs. Although the video was made almost thirty years ago, many of the themes are still prevalent in today's suburban schools. As a junior high teacher in a suburban school district, I see students, cast out be their peer groups, being made fun of for their perceived differences. Many of these students hide their pain through isolated activities, therefore, they fly under the radar of a school day, going unnoticed by teachers, administrators and peer groups. But what do these isolated students have to say? What are the issues affected students in today's schools? What are the different social groups that one must "conform" to at the risk of being ridiculed and bullied? Has education legislation made it more difficult for staff to identify high risk students?

Monday, February 8, 2010


Welcome to the Rush and Philosophy site. The purpose of this site is for Rush fans to discuss a wide range of topics in regard to the music of Rush. Durrell Bowman and myself, along with the contributors listed below, have completed a manuscript for the Popular Culture Series of Open Court titled Rush and Philosophy. Although we have no timetable set for the release, it is our hope that sometime in the late summer (Rush tour) the book will be available. Until then, we will be posting various topics, guest posts, and samples of the chapters for all Rush fans to comment on. Please check back to this site regularly, to see any new updates and postings.

Chicago: Open Court, 2010 - edited by Jim Berti and Durrell Bowman

Introduction - Jim Berti and Durrell Bowman

Part I: "The Blacksmith and the Artist"

1. Rush's Libertarianism Never "Fit the Plan" - Steven Horwitz, Ph.D.; St. Lawrence U.
2. Hardly Rand-y Peart - Deena Weinstein, Ph.D.; DePaul U. and Michael A. Weinstein, Ph.D.; Purdue U.
3. "What Can This Strange Device Be?": Man and Machine in Rush - Timothy Smolko, M.L.S.; U. of Georgia
4. Barenaked Death Metal Trip-Hopping on Industrial Strings - Durrell Bowman, Ph.D.; Kitchener, Ontario

Part II: "I Want to Look Around Me Now"

1. Myth, Mystery, and Mist?: Secular Humanism and Mystical Language in Rush - Chris McDonald, Ph.D.; Cape Breton U.
2. The Inner and Outer Worlds of Minds and Selves - Todd Suomelo, MLIS; Minnetonka, Minnesota
3. Contre Nous: Musical Otherness in Rush - Nicole Biamonte, Ph.D.; U. of Iowa
4. How is Rush Canadian? - Durrell Bowman, Ph.D.; Kitchener, Ontario

Part III: "To the Margin of Error"

1. "Cruising in Prime Time": The Drumming of Neil Peart as Distraction - Nicholas P. Greco, Ph.D.; Providence College and Seminary
2. The Groove of Rush's Complex Rhythms - John J. Sheinbaum, Ph.D.; U. of Denver
3. 'Nailed It!': Virtuosity, YouTube Performance, and Rush's Aesthetics of Replicability - John T. Reuland, Princeton U.
4. From Plato's Cave to Benjamin's Language Forest: On Imitating Rush - Andrew Cole, Ph.D.; U. of Georgia

Part IV: "The Ebb and Flow of Tidal Fortune"

1. Training Listeners to Think, Feel, and Act - Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D.; U. at Albany
2. Ghost Riding on the Razor's Edge: Neil Peart's Search for Meaning through Tragedy - Jim Berti, North Colonie Schools, U. at Albany
3. Honey on the Rim of "The Larger Bowl" - Melissa L. Beck, Woodstock Academy
4. "Bearing a Gift Beyond Price": Valuing the Music of Rush - Kayla Kreuger, M.A.; West Virginia U.