by John Walters

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Starting Five

The Man With The Golden Arms

Though his mind was not for rent/To any god or government/Neil Peart was so joyfully content/banging skins for our entertainment

Rush drummer Neil Peart passed away last Tuesday due to complications from glioblastoma (brain cancer). He was 67.

Read this brief tribute from The New Yorker. Two things for me stand out. First of all, a “Dude, check this out” regarding the band’s breakthrough concept album, “2112”, is exactly how I was introduced to Rush back in 1976. I was too young to “get” the trio, but I did recognize an originality and a fierceness of will. Also, was this band from another planet (or just Canada)? This suite of songs remains seared in my memory:

Second, this closing line from author Amanda Petrusich: “If you can’t have a good time blasting “Tom Sawyer,” then some awesome part of you has withered. I say, raise a joint to Neil Peart tonight, and go get it back.”

Peart was more than the band’s drummer, though that was more than enough as most musicians considered him the greatest living practitioner of the kit. Peart was also the band’s lyricist, and those lyrics spoke to earnest, idealistic and free-thinking contrarian youths for generations. Here’s Peart’s words from “Free Will”:

You can choose a ready guide 
In some celestial voice 
If you choose not to decide 
You still have made a choice You can choose from phantom fears 
And kindness that can kill 
I will choose a path that’s clear 
I will choose free will

And here’s Peart/Rush from our favorite Rush tune, “Spirit of Radio”:

Invisible airwaves 
Crackle with life 
Bright antennae bristle 
With the energy 
Emotional feedback 
On a timeless wavelength 
Bearing a gift beyond price 
Almost free

All this machinery
Making modern music
Can still be open-hearted
Not so coldly charted
It’s really just a question
Of your honesty, yeah your honesty 

One likes to believe
In the freedom of music
But glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion
Of integrity,…

In other words, just play good music that listeners can jam to and forget all the market-share and payola crap. Our guess is that Peart wasn’t a fan of ClearChannel or IHeartRadio.

First, Rush is playing the world’s largest laundromat? Second, stick around for the very end: Rush was opening in Toronto on this summer day in 2003 for AC/DC. Can I go back in time, please?

Here’s Peart, an avowed agnostic, discussing morality and faith and the existence of God, of a god, in a 2015 interview. We couldn’t agree with him more:

 And people will say to me “Why are you a faith-basher?” And I say well, I don’t feel like a faith-basher, and it’s not something I’ve thought about all day. It’s something that my life has been full without any of that aspect, I don’t really understand it or understand why it’s needed, and it’s a kind of brainwashing in almost all cases where poor children have been brought up and formed into these molds, that you are suddenly this ‘ism’ that is after your name from the time you’re born. They don’t choose it, and for whatever reasons they never do question it, where I did from the beginning. I went to Sunday school as a little kid and when they’d tell us to sing the song about god watches each sparrow fall and all of that, and I said well no, I don’t really think so. When you look at the world now, I saw the comic and the great writer Stephen Fry the other day talking about that, he said people would say “what if you went to heaven and met God?” And he said oh, that wouldn’t be a pleasant meeting. I’d say why did you create those parasites that grow behind babies’ eyes and destroy their vision on the way out and all of that. That’s not any kind of a god to be worshiping, is it?

And I always say too, if I’m going to go up to heaven and meet St. Peter and Jesus and God and Allah and Buddah, whichever one you wanna pick, I’m gonna be okay, because I have lived a life based on that and I believe in generosity and charity and kindness and courtesy, those are things that just seem good to me anyway, I don’t need a threat to make me behave that way and I don’t need a reward.

Neil has his answer on this one now. Either way, what does it matter? He lived an exemplary life and gave far, far more than any of us can ever repay.

To Shell And Back

This is Diego the tortoise, the last of the red-hot lovers. In the 1970s only a dozen or so Espanola giant tortoises remained on the Galapagos Islands, most of them female. Then Diego was flown in from the San Diego Zoo, a assumedly a disco ball was hung somewhere, and Diego went on to sire hundreds upon hundreds of tortoises. He single-handedly—though no hands were involved—went on to save his species from the brink of extinction, as there are now more than 2,000 of his kind.

Diego, estimated to be more than 100 years old, will be released from his sexual enslavement back into the wild by the Galapagos National Park. Now he’s really going to crush it.

Regarding Henry

On Christmas Day the Tennessee Titans were 8-7 and heading to Houston for a game they absolutely had to win to make the playoffs. The Titans beat the AFC South champs that Sunday in Houston (35-14), then they beat the AFC East champs, New England, in the wild card round (20-13) and this Saturday beat the AFC North champions, Baltimore (28-12). Never mind that Baltimore is south of New England–whatevs.

Now the Titans, behind primary weapon and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, visit AFC West champion Kansas City. We doubt any team has defeated four consecutive division champs, on the road all, to advance to the Super Bowl.

Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner with Alabama, has had a HoF-worthy three-game run of runs: 211 yards rushing at Houston, 182 yards at New England and 195 yards at Baltimore. He’s been the MVP of the postseason so far.

Meanwhile in Kansas City, the Chiefs, losers of 7 of their previous 8 home playoff games (preposterous!), fell behind 24-0 in the second quarter at Arrowhead Stadium yesterday. And somehow, led by QB Pat Mahomes and a dubious decisions by Texans coach Bill O’Brien to run a fake punt from his own 31 on 4th-and-7 with a 24-7 lead, the Chiefs were in the lead at halftime . They’d go on to score 51 of the next 58 points after that 24-0 hole to win 51-31.

And up in Green Bay, after his Seahawks bowed out, Marshawn Lynch, who was tailgating before a game in Oakland and passing out tequila shots just one month earlier, offered sage advice: “Take care y’all chicken.”

Joker’s Wild

The Oscar nominations were just announced and Joker leads with 11, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix). Appears that Commodus is finally going to get a thumbs up from the crowd. We’ve seen five of the nine BP nominees and will have to put Joker on our list.

Of the ones we’ve seen, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood and Ford V Ferrari are our two favorites. The latter won’t win because it’s not daring enough, I’m certain, but it’s Matt Damon and Christian Bale doing their thing and for us that’s usually more than enough.

Brad Pitt will win Best Supporting Actor and Laura Dern and her insane gams will win Best Supporting Actress.

By the way, thanks in part to the Marvel Comic Universe (and also to the sniff sniff Academy), the last time a year’s highest-grossing film was even nominated for Best Picture was in 2010, Toy Story 3. The last time such a film won? 2003, with The Lord Of The Rings: The Return of the King, which wasn’t even the best LOTR film but the Academy had to thank Peter Jackson for all of the revenue. The last time a film was a year’s highest-grossing, won Best Picture, and had no influence from sci-fi or comic books? 1988, Rain Man.

Correction: 1997, Titanic. Sorry to the Leo fans out there.

Five Films: 1992 (and then five more)

The year lacked a definitively stand-alone classic such as Goodfellas or The Silence of the Lambs had been the previous two years. And yet 1992 had quite the deep bench, deeper than in most years. Thus we’re adding a full second unit.

Hanks for the memories
  1. A Few Good Men: Rob Reiner, yet again. Get past the cheesy 80s soundtrack and the trapped-by-its-era attempt to fashion sexual tension between Demi Moore and Tom Cruise. Go to the actual story and the script as well as arguably the greatest courtroom scene in film history. You think there’s a better film than this from 1992? You can’t HANDLE the truth. 2. A League Of Their Own: At the time this was marketed as a Madonna film, but what it really was was the beginning of Tom Hanks’ massive career comeback. I’ll stake this as the best performance of his career and in some ways he was Jimmy Duggan at this point in his career. He’d win two Best Actor Oscars in the next two years, primarily, I think, out of respect for what he did here—where he was not even nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Incredible. Geena Davis wasn’t too shabby herself. 3. Unforgiven: If this isn’t Clint Eastwood’s best Western, it may be his most professionally done. And Gene Hackman makes a great villain. 4. Wayne’s World: Schwing! The most creatively silly and joyful comedy since Airplane! Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey not only turned their SNL sketch characters into celluloid heroes but also mocked countless tropes of cinematic storytelling. Just a wonderful goof, not to mention the resurrection of Robe Lowe’s career. 5. A River Runs Through It: Brad Pitt at his golden boy zenith with the breathtaking Montana wilderness in a supporting role. A film that in every reel knows what it is and what it’s trying to say.

2nd Five: 1) Reservoir Dogs 2) My Cousin Vinny 3) Scent Of A Woman 4) The Last Of The Mohicans 5) Glengarry GlenRoss

3 thoughts on “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

  1. Also – in regard to the quote from Neil regarding religion and being agnostic, specifically, “They don’t choose it, and for whatever reasons they never do question it, where I did from the beginning.” –

    As someone who grew up Catholic and in college lost faith and picked up a new one (all within 4 years), it’s curious to me that’s the way it’s thought of – meaning, that children have no choice in the matter of faith. To me, it cuts both ways. Kids raised with no faith at all don’t have a choice in that either. Kids don’t really have many choices in the way they’re raised at all. So, why make an observation that’s pointed toward religious or faith-based upbringing that, in reality, is applicable to all kids’ upbringing?

    My point is that whereas he says about religious/faith-based child rearing, “it’s a kind of brainwashing in almost all cases where poor children have been brought up and formed into these molds,” could it not also be said about any kid. They are all a product of their upbringing – for better or worse. Atheistic or agnostic parents are going to raise their kids with a worldview that which they (the parents) have. It’s less brainwashing and just plain old nurture (rather than nature).

    • Micah, I agree with your point to a point.

      Where I’m with you as to the fact that kids don’t have a choice in how they’re brought up, I’d argue that as kids we believe what our parents tell us (e.g., Santa Claus). And parents are loathe to answer, “I don’t know.” The existence of God, or even the legitimacy of one religion over another, is “I don’t know” territory. When parents use a religion as factual truth, they’re planting seeds of thoughts in a child’s head that will take years to be undone, if ever. Meanwhile, religious devotion instills a tribal sensibility in people. Again, it may never be undone.

      A few years ago I was in the laundromat in my predominantly Jewish neighborhood. For reasons I’ll never understand, an older Jewish man decided to have a conversation with me. He asked if I was Jewish. No, I said. Are you religious? I’m Catholic, I told him. Well, you’ll never get to heaven if you’re not Jewish, he told me. I laughed. So you really believe that this God who created this planet and the entire universe decided to focus all of His love and energy on a small group of people who, at the time the Torah was written, did not even know the Atlantic Ocean existed? All the rest of humanity and the earth and moon and stars are just props in your grand play? Nah, I don’t think so.

      Whether or not he’s right or I’m right is besides the point. Neither of us KNOW. We just believe what we believe. You know why news stations don’t use faith-based weathermen? Because science is more accurate. So, you can say that even agnosticism is brain-washing. But I’d argue that agnosticism doesn’t conflate truth with faith. And while it’s fine to have all the faith you want, I’m better with truth. I believe in gravity. Everything else, I’m not so sure about.

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