Tag Archives: Roger Ebert

The shame of Indiana’s new law, and how the 21st century outrage over it is a great thing. A man’s heroics on a first date put the rest of us to shame. And Muhammad Ali and Roger Ebert watch “Rocky II” in 1979.


It didn’t used to be this way, and for that, I’m glad.

I’m not talking about the bigotry and homophobia and outright, well, meanness of the new Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Disgusting, prejudiced, homphobic laws have been passed by states and cities for as long as ‘Merica has been around, for hundreds of years.

What I’m talking about is the incredible firestorm of outrage that’s sprung up this week about Gov. Mike Pence’s law. The immediate denunciations on Twitter, Facebook, the local news, by so many, from all corners of the U.S. (that front page of the Indianapolis Star, above, is fantastic.)

I’m talking about governors banning travel from their state to Indiana. Professional sports organizations denouncing Indiana (hey, when NASCAR says your politics are too conservative, you know you’re pretty far afield of reality.) Legitimate columns and commentary being published saying the NCAA should move this weekend’s Final Four out of the state (a nice thought, but seriously, how in the world can you do that on a week’s notice? Would be totally unfair to the thousands of people attending)

Social media and the Internet have all made sure these despicable laws and this blatant bigotry aren’t just quietly passed and ignored; they are forced to endure blinding sunlight, and that sunlight is what brings change.

That sunlight has the ability to shame a state and its legislators, and force change. Because once corporations and sporting events threaten to leave a state and take their $$$ with them, that’s what forces change.

Religious “freedom” to discriminate very rarely trumps a huge economic hit in the eyes of politicians.

Again, I am not at all surprised Indiana’s right-wing legislators passed a bill like this. The Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case gave them an opening, legally, and now they’re jumping through it.

But the outrage is beautiful, and real, and it’s dead center of this debate. And that wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago.


**Next up, this has no major news value today, but the great Richard Deitsch sent it out on Twitter and I thought it was sensational. Roger Ebert, in 1979, sat down with Muhammad Ali and watched the Champ watch “Rocky II” for the first time.
Ali’s running commentary, how he talks about what the movie got right and wat it got wrong, the way Ebert weaves in the movie action … just sensational.

Ali’s the best.

**And finally today, we’ve all had good first dates, we’ve all had terrible first dates. But I don’t think too many of us could ever top the heroics of Tristan Gareau, a Canadian DJ who saved a man from a burning car on a recent first date.

Apparently Mr. Gareau and his date were driving home from their rendezvous when he spotted a car that had smashed into a condo.

Gareauopened the door and, after being blasted in the face with black smoke and hot air, found 65-year-old driver Steve Guy passed out at the wheel. As his foot was still on the gas, the vehicle’s wheels were continuing to spin.

Gareau, who weighs just 135 pounds, grabbed the older and 90-pound heavier man to haul him outside.

What a hero. Only problem is, what the hell is he going to do on the second date to impress the girl? Jump off a skyscraper?

New Roger Ebert movie is fantastic. Germany wins the World Cup (thankfully not in PKs). And a dog gives a baby a bath


Roger Ebert did not get cheated by life. Not at all.
Sure, you could say he died too young, and that he suffered greatly in the last several years, enduring surgery after surgery to try to remove the cancer from his mouth and jaw, surgeries that eventually left him unable to speak, eat or drink except through a tube.

But Ebert packed so much living into the years he was on Earth, that when he died in 2013, he had a tremendous legacy to leave. He was, of course, one of the best and most-loved film critics of all time; he was a tremendous author, and lived live to the fullest, for better or for worse. He packed so much living into his years that he truly was content when he died.

The new documentary opening across the country this week about his life, directed by Steve James (of “Hoop Dreams” fame) and called “Life Itself,” shows Ebert in all his glory, warts and all.

I saw the film last week and loved it. James was given permission by Ebert to film the last few months of his life, and while some of the hospital care scenes are hard to watch, they’re necessary to show Ebert’s fighting spirit.

The interviews with Ebert’s friends, Bill Nack and Gene Siskel’s widow Melanie were especially terrific), are wonderful in showing what a garrulous personality he was, and how marrying his wife Chaz in 1991 changed his life for the better.

It’s really a well-done, poignant movie. Highly recommend it.


**Next up today, this is such a cute little video, sent to me by
loyal blog reader Sanford. It’s a girl and her dog named Bixby, hanging out, and Mom capturing one of the sweet little moments that make up life: Bixby giving his best buddy a “bath” one night last week.


**And so the World Cup is finally over, as Germany, who pretty much dominated the game possession-wise, scored late in overtime (sorry, “extra time”) to beat Argentina, 1-0 and win the title for the first time since 1990.

The result is apparently at least a little bit of good news for Brazil fans, who hate Argentina passionately (apparently it’s like Yankees-Red Sox times 10), but the real story now is, and should be, the incredibly wasteful spending on World Cup and Olympic venues by Brazil, while the sanitation, schools and hospitals in the country go criminally neglected.

I’m currently reading a terrific book “Brazil’s Dance with the Devil,” by sportswriter Dave Zirin, about the awful state of Brazil’s economy and infrastructure and the protests surrounding these two world events, and it’s truly disgraceful the way these two world events were “won” by the Brazilian government.

For a fantastic story about life for “regular people” in Brazil during the Cup, and why we didn’t see massive protests on TV, check out this fantastic Wright Thompson piece from ESPN.com.

The Reds make a Down’s Syndrome kid’s dream come true. Joe Poz with a unique Ebert tribute. And pro athletes living in a retirement community? Sure


And a happy Friday to all of you out Internet-land. I’m extremely happy today because my heart attack-inducing Rangers finally clinched a playoff spot. Onward with today’s good news…

The Cincinnati Reds became acquainted last season with a young man named Teddy Kramer, a huge fan of the team who was born with Down’s Syndrome.

Teddy’s parents won an auction last year for Teddy to be an honorary batboy for a game, and he quickly bonded with the team.
That’s normally where these stories end. But Kramer was back with the Reds this week, and, well, some amazing stuff happened, including him predicting the final score and asking player Todd Frazier to hit him a home run before one at-bat.

And then Frazier went and did it, sending the crowd into delirium and later chanting Teddy’s name.

It’s a beautiful story and one that I promise will put a smile on your face.


**I thought this story was really cute. The Washington Spirit are a new women’s pro soccer team, as for about the 11th time women’s soccer tries to get a real league going in the U.S.

Looking to save money, the team was trying to find low-cost housing for some of the players.
And it what may be a first in pro sports, they found it in a retirement community.
Yep, in between canasta games and folks bragging about the grandchildren, several Spirit players are loving life at Ingleside of King’s Farm, a D.C. senior citizens complex.

Average age of players: 28. Average age of residents: 82.

It’s a really cute story, with the senior citizens baking cookies and stuff for the players. Check out the really nice story here.

My favorite quote? “I can’t wait to learn how to play bridge,” said Spirit player Diana Matheson, 29, an economics major at Princeton.

**Finally, it’s been a few weeks since the greatest film critic of all time, Roger Ebert, died, but the tributes are still rolling in.

I thought this was really creative by the great Joe Posnanski: He took 75 first lines of Ebert’s movie reviews and combined them into one story.

There’s great thoughts about life, movies, and plenty else in this cobbled-together story.
What a fabulous mind we lost in Roger Ebert.

R.I.P. Roger Ebert, the greatest film critic who ever lived. And the Internet in 1995; remember this?


**I know Fridays are always repositories of Good News in this space, but it’s been a rough week; apologies for there being no post Thursday, but I was sitting shiva at my fiance’s parents house; my soon-to-be bride lost her grandfather at age 93.
While checking the Internet Thursday night I saw that Roger Ebert had died, and I got sad all over again.  I can’t write anything about him as well as anything he wrote, but I tried a little here.

There were a ton of Roger Ebert tributes all over the Internet Thursday night. None of them will match Chris Jones’ sensational profile in Esquire from two years ago, which I’ve written about on here before. But Will Leitch’s memories are terrific, and so was this piece from The Onion.

I think what so many people are feeling about the loss of Ebert is not just that he was a terrific writer; which he was, and not that he was just such a funny and entertaining man on TV and in interviews, which he was for so many years with the late, great Gene Siskel.

But it was Ebert’s humanity that really struck home. He was, by all accounts, a genuinely decent human being, who was much kinder than necessary on so many occasions.

Having never been lucky enough to meet him, it’s his writing that will stick with me the most. There may be nothing more delightful in the English language than Roger Ebert obliterating a bad movie with his prose.
Here’s a little sample:

On “The Brown Bunny,” 2003: “I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny.”
On “Armageddon, 1998:” “No matter what they’re charging to get in, it’s worth more to get out.”

On “Mad Dog Time,” 1996: “Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. Oh, I’ve seen bad movies before. But they usually made me care about how bad they were. Watching Mad Dog Time is like waiting for the bus in a city where you’re not sure they have a bus line.”

But if all you remember about Ebert are his movie reviews, that’s a shame. In recent years, as cancer ravaged his body and made his face unrecognizable, he took to writing lengthy, beautiful posts on his blog at rogerebert.com.   

He faced his illness with courage, humanity and humor, and never once pitied himself at all. I leave you with what he wrote about his own mortality; it’s beautiful and simple and better than anyone else could’ve said.

“I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.”

R.I.P., Roger Ebert. The world has lost a wonderful soul.

**Finally today, I leave you with something a little lighter. I’m a sucker for these “time capsule” type videos about the Internet. Check out the first few minutes of this report about this new-fangled fad from 1995:

Cenk Uygur’s plea to the left on Obama. Carl Lewis runs (literally) for office. And the 2012 dream ticket

For you Twitter peeps like me, follow me on Twitter here.

So there’s this guy named Cenk Uygur who has become sort of a new liberal media darling.
He writes for a lot of websites and hosts an Internet show called “The Young Turks,” and quite frankly I have no idea how to pronounce his name.
But he’s a talented writer and a smart guy, and he wrote an outstanding essay this week summing up what me and lots of other liberals are feeling right now: Frustration that Barack Obama doesn’t give a damn about us, the people who worked so hard to help him get elected. Uygur asks that liberals put pressure on Obama and force him to move left, but I really don’t see that happening. He knows there’s no way he’s going to lose us, so he’d rather move as far center as possible.
I’m pretty sure this is the last day I’m going to waste time being angry about the budget thing, by the way. But I’m still kinda angry.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

**Here’s a story that made me happy. Olympic track legend Carl Lewis, who I think would be a fantastic subject for a good biography some day (maybe by me? “Lewis on Lewis” we could call it!), is running for office. He wants to be a state senator representing Willingboro, New Jersey.
I have no idea what Lewis’ political views are, I just love that he’s in the news so I can drag out this old clip again (above). It never stops being funny.

**Finally, it’s starting. Oh sweet heavens to Betsy, it’s starting. A reputable news outlet, the Christian Science Monitor, has begun the speculation. About what could be the Republican ticket in 2012.
You may as well start praying for it now.
Trump-Palin 2012! Seriously, the idea is being floated.
There aren’t enough words in the language of English to describe my joy if those two nut-jobs are the GOP ticket. As Roger Ebert pointed out on Twitter, how would two people with such massive egos decide who got to be the Prez nominee? And could their egos and wardrobes fit in the same room together?
Oh please let this happen. Please, please, please!

A setback on stem cells. Ebert nails it again. And a hilarious ESPN graphic

I’m a huge proponent of stem-cell research, as it’s one of those issues I just can’t understand why people are against. After eight years of the Bush administration severely curtailing the ability of scientists and doctors to find cures for devastating diseases, I thought scientists would be able to get back to work on these potentially life-saving stem cells once President Obama approved funding for more stem cells in 2009.

So it was with anger and sadness that I read this story in the Times Tuesday, saying that a federal judge has stopped Obama’s expansion of stem-cell research, on what appears to be flimsy grounds.

This is such important work, and so vitally crucial to the health and welfare of millions. Every available opportunity needs to be there for researchers and scientists, and here’s a federal judge basically ordering them to stop working.

My beloved grandmother, the best person I’ve ever met in my life, currently suffers from Alzheimer’s. Stem cell research may be unable to help her, but it could help some of the millions in the future who’ll be afflicted.

I hope this decision gets appealed and overturned, but quick. There is no time to waste. None.

The Times also had an eloquent editorial about the issue here.

**Roger Ebert, one of my favorite writers of any genre, wrote an excellent blog today about the ridiculous Ground Zero mosque issue. Ebert cuts through the b.s. and really nails it, with 10 cogent points. Check it out here.

**Gotta love the Little League World Series, for so many reasons. Tuesday I loved it because I happened to turn on ESPN while I was eating breakfast and saw this scoreline graphic on screen:

New Jersey 0
Saudi Arabia 0

I love that. How often do you ever get to see New Jersey and Saudi Arabia square off in an athletic event? I love the possible promos for the game: “One’s got sheiks and Arabs, the other one has a guy who shakes his abs!” Tune in for New Jersey vs. Saudi Arabia!”

Why 2010 is the best time in history to be lonely. And Ebert’s incredible new voice

Hear me out on this one.

So while I was talking to Pearlman the other day, we got to discussing chatroulette.com, that bizarre new site where, with a webcam and a computer, you can have hundreds, nay, thousands of encounters with random strangers, all with in a few hours.

And this thought suddenly occurred to me: There is no better time in the history of the world to be a lonely person than right now. Think about this: Let’s say you’re sitting at home, bored, with no friends or family around, no significant other, and feeling extremely depressed.

Think about how many ways you can now experience human companionship. Skype. Chatroulette.com. Internet chat rooms. Message boards. Email. Instant messaging.

I could go on and on, but you’ve got things to do today once you’re done reading this blog post.

There are literally dozens of ways a lonely person can experience human contact, or feel a little less strange, or isolated. Technology has basically ensured that you are never truly alone; there is always someone, somewhere, who shares your interests, your beliefs, or just wants to be a little less lonesome themselves.

When I was a high school kid or recent college graduate (I don’t ever recall being lonely in college; that was four years of bliss), I didn’t have any of these options. I’d read, or play my video games, but I’d stay depressed when I got in one of those “no one loves me, I’ll always be alone” moods we all go through at one time or another.

But now? The entire world is at your fingertips.

It’s a great time to be alive.  And the best time ever to feel the pangs of loneliness.

**I’ve been writing a lot about Roger Ebert lately, partly because I find him so inspiring. Here’s a man who can no longer eat, drink or talk, but is still writing brilliantly and living courageously.

If you read that Esquire article I linked above, you may remember that there was a company in Scotland called Cereproc working on a computerized voice that would sound almost identical to Ebert’s former voice, and that soon the legendary film critic would be able to type words and have them come out sounding like his old self.

Tuesday on Oprah, the new voice was unveiled. Pretty damn amazing, if you ask me. Fast forward to :35 on this clip to hear the new, computerized Ebert.

What a world we live in.

A fantastic piece on Ebert, Boner Stabone missing? And 30th anniversary of “Miracle on Ice.”

I don’t link to enough great writing on this blog. I’m going to try do it more often, because in my non-blog life, I’m constantly telling the people I know and love, “You have to read this newspaper article/magazine feature/book.” I’m quite the nag, constantly emailing great stories.

My first step toward highlighting amazing journalism and writing is this Chris Jones feature in this month’s Esquire, on the brilliant, but cancer-ravaged Roger Ebert. I’ve written about Ebert before; the man is truly a brilliant wordsmith, and his genuine goodness and upbeat spirit shines through this piece. Ebert hasn’t been able to eat, drink or speak for years, but his brain and his way with words still carry him through.

Jones is a brilliant writer, and this is a wonderful article. Take 10 minutes and read it if you can. (I posted an old photo of Ebert above here, just so you can see how jarring it is, looking at him now in the photo with Jones’ story.)

**I know this isn’t a funny story, but I’m sorry, part of me had to laugh. If you haven’t heard, a classic sitcom character from my youth, “Boner” Stubone of “Growing Pains” fame, is missing. His parents are looking for him, and say they haven’t heard from him in weeks, and that he’s been depressed for a long time.

That’s not the funny part, of course. This is the funny part; Kirk Cameron, aka Mike Seaver, tried to reach out to Andrew Koenig through Access Hollywood Monday night. And Cameron’s final quote just slayed me: “Andrew, if you’re reading this, please call me. Mike and Boner could always work things out when they put their heads together.”

First of all, as one who watched nearly every episode of the show, NO, that last statement is patently false, Mike and Boner never could work things out.

Mike and Boner were constantly screwing up, getting in trouble or doing bad things to Carol, and it never worked out for them. Mike, Boner and Eddie (the Fredo Corleone of that group, quite frankly) were a bunch of bumbling fools.

And second, please, please, PLEASE tell me Kirk Cameron didn’t really say that. Please tell me he wasn’t trying to liken his old friend’s serious depression with CHARACTERS FROM A TV SHOW that the two were on together 25 years ago! In the tone of Chandler Bing, could you BE more patronizing there, Kirk? Ugh.

I hope Koenig is found safely, and that he gets the help he needs. And that he stays far, far away from Mike Seaver. And Ben, too; I never liked that punk.

One final “Growing Pains” thought: I’m going to say that between characters named “Boner” and Ben’s friend “Stinky Sullivan,” that show had the greatest nicknames of any sitcom, ever. Seriously, tell me what show beats that combo?

**With the hockey buzz in America hopefully growing after Sunday’s remarkable U.S. win over Canada Sunday (and I watched the highlight of that Ryan Kesler diving, clinching goal a few more times Monday, and still don’t know how he did it), I thought this might be nice:

Monday was the 30th anniversary of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” game. Here’s some original game footage from the ABC telecast. Gave me chills. Good stuff starts at about 1:55 mark:

And you can bet all the tea in China that the fantastic HBO “Do You Believe in Miracles?” documentary on that 1980 will be viewed by your blogger this week.

The brilliant, now tragic writing of Roger Ebert, and the last decade in 2 minutes

**So, have you heard the New York Jets are playing this Sunday? Hmm, slipped my mind.

So if you only know Roger Ebert from his old television show with Gene Siskel, then you don’t know Ebert at all.

The man has been a fantastic critic for the Chicago Sun-Times for more than three decades. His reviews are incisive,

often hilarious, and sometimes poignant. His best reviews are, of course, of the movies that are truly wretched. Check out his review here of “Transformers 2.” The opening paragraph says it all:

“If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.”

Anyway, Ebert’s a true giant of film criticism, and of newspaper writing in general. Tragically, he’s had some major health problems over the past few years, including a major stroke. His health has detoriated now to the point where not only can he not talk, he can’t drink, or eat food.

Still, his mind is working perfectly, and on his blog recently he wrote this beautiful elegy of what he’s missing, and how happy he is to still have his memories. He paints such vivid word pictures in his prose. It’s really a wonderful piece; check it out here.

**So as I’ve said before I’m a sucker for all of those “end of year” and “end of decade” things, and I thought I was all done with that now that we’re in mid-January.

But this, well, this was so damn cool. The American Society of Magazine Editors and the Magazine Publishers of America created this ad, showing the last 10 years through 92 magazine covers. It’s bloody brilliant. Enjoy.