Roger Ebert

First, let me say, if you haven't read the piece on Roger Ebert in the new issue of Esquire, go here and do that first. Second, if you have an RSS reader, subscribe to his blog here. His recent entries on London are fantastic, and I was happily surprised we share an affinity for England, and they are a great example of his writing.

Now, I've probably lost everyone who came here to read this, as both of those will be more interesting than anything I write, but I had to say. But I wanted to add my thoughts:

I absolutely love reading Roger's reviews of movies, and was thrilled when he "got back to work" writing them after his surgeries. Other than the comedy genre, I'll find myself in agreement with him on films so often that my wife half-jokes that we can't go to see a movie unless we get Ebert's approval first.

I always liked movies, anyone who has looked at the number of titles I've rated on my Netflix account (2,686 as of today) could probably guess that, but reading Ebert's reviews really taught me how to love movies. His writing turned me from someone who would go see a movie because of the actors into someone who would go see a movie because of the director. I've also come to agree with him that the subject matter of a film isn't nearly as important as the way in which the subject is handled. In short, he's been a great teacher, and often now when I finish watching a film, the first place I go (after rating it on Netflix) is to read his review, to see what he thought of it.

While cancer has robbed Roger Ebert of his voice and his ability to eat and drink, it has rewarded the rest of us by forcing him to join the the Internet with his blog. As the Esquire piece mentions, the writing there is fantastic, and I can't help but assume that he'd never have had the time or, indeed, the necessity to start his blog if he hadn't suffered such a loss.

As the Esquire piece makes clear, he certainly doesn't waste a great deal of time on self-pity. In fact, I think he is very lucky. He's fortunate enough to be able to write exceptionally well in an age, and in a medium (the Internet) in which even writing coherently is a rarity. I found myself wondering the other day how many people could give up their (audible) voices as easily as he did, and survive on only what they could write? I don't mean to make it sound like it was no big thing, as it obviously was, but his writing makes it so clear that he is still here, and is still himself, despite whatever the cancer may have taken from him physically. I think that the majority of people would seem to be "gone" in the same condition, because their primary method of communication would have left, and they wouldn't have such a powerful substitute.

In this case, the cancer didn't attack someone who was defenseless, and rob them of an integral part of their humanity. Instead, it forced his writing talent to compensate for the loss of his voice, with the end result being some of the most personal, touching, and humorous writing I've ever seen anywhere. So much so, in fact, that I almost feel guilty for enjoying the fruits of the obvious suffering he has gone through. Not guilty enough to stop reading them, though! :)

So, in the event he notices this trackback to his blog, let me just say: Thank You, Mr. Ebert, and keep up the good work!

For the rest of you, here are some links to some great entries he's written:

Siskel & Ebert at the Jugular

A slow boat to anywhere

My name is Roger, and I'm an alcoholic

Do they realize they're being recorded?

Last night's episode of the Daily Show featured a great segment of video-taped hypocrisy. Don't these guys realize that when they're talking on TV, they might want to consider the possibility that their words don't instantly evaporate? That they might be used later to point out, shall we say, glaring inconsistencies in their arguments? Welcome to the age of DVRs, voice recognition, Google, and YouTube:

R.I.P. Ed Bradley

One of my favorite 60 Minutes correspondents, Ed Bradley, died of leukemia today at the age of 65.  He was always great at keeping such a cool exterior while asking hard, probing questions.  Rarely combative, he'd get people to own up to things, and say more than they probably would have liked to, just because they were having an intimate conversation with such a likable guy.  Thanks for all your hard work, Ed.

Important TiVo News

TiVo announced yesterday that they're going to be eliminating Lifetimeservice as an option next week, so if you've been meaning to buy a TiVo for someone you know, or a second one for yourself, now is the time to do so, as after that, you'll have to pay a monthly fee as long as you use the service. This has always been the best way to buy a TiVo, as $299/12.95= 23+, so you break even vs. the monthly fee after 24 months.

Amazon has the 80 hour units for $69.99 after rebate.

Or you can pick one up at Best Buy, and TiVo just added Radio Shack as a partner too, so they may have them in their stores soon.

Remember, the Lifetime goes away on March 15, so act quickly, and don't forget to list my e-mail ( as referring you if you do buy another one, I need a few more referrals for those nifty Bose headphones... :)

If for some reason you find the new pricing methods preferable, they're now including the box in the service plans, but the price varies depending on how long you want to be contracted for:

* The price for a TiVo box and a one-year service commitment is $19.95 a month or $224 prepaid * The price for a TiVo box and a two-year service commitment is $18.95 a month or $369 prepaid * The price for a TiVo box and a three-year service commitment is $16.95 a month or $469 prepaid

I'm not really a fan of this pricing model, but since I'm not planning on replacing my box anytime soon, it doesn't really affect me too much...

R.I.P. John Spencer

I was shocked to see this morning that John Spencer, of the West Wing (and LA Law) has died. He's probably the best actor in the entire cast of the West Wing, in my opinion. It's sort of bizarre that he died of a heart attack, as his character on the show had one a couple seasons ago. I wonder how they'll handle this on the show, though honestly, I'd rather see Alan Alda win the "election" going on right now than Jimmy Smits...

State of the TV Union

Despite the fact that The West Wing has gone waaay downhill since Aaron Sorkin stopped writing it, I still watch it, but it's sort of like seeing that hot girl you had a crush on in high school is now 60 pounds heavier and a chain smoker... Anyway, I actually like Janeane Garafolo's character, which was introduced last night, but I still can't see Jimmy Smits as the next President...

Anyone watching that "other" President show? Yeah, me neither.

So far, this TV season hasn't brought me anything new or great but here's what I found that I like, and what I didn't from the few new shows I've tried:

Rome (HBO's new show) is pretty good, and I love the Titus Pullo and Vorenus characters, and Attia is pretty good too.

Extras (also on HBO) about made me piss my pants laughing during the first episode. Ricky Gervais absolutely slays me.

My Name is Earl (NBC) is sort of funny, I'm kind of on the fence. I'm a Jason Lee fan, despite him being a wretched Scientologist, but the show goes for the low-brow easy joke a little too readily. I'd like to see them work on the irony more, and dwell less on the white trashiness.

Ghost Whisperer (CBS) I couldn't even make it through the first ten minutes of this, no matter how many low-cut dresses Jennifer Love Hewitt wears. It also doesn't help that my local CBS station (KGAN) can't get their audio in sync on their HD channel, so it's really distracting to watch anything on it.

How I Met Your Mother (CBS) This one got me by having a Freaks and Geeks actor, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer actor, plus Doogie Howser all in the cast. It's not fantastic, but it's not quite the drivel that most sitcoms are, so I'll probably keep watching it, despite the bad lip sync.

Returning favorites:

Curb Your Enthusiasm Survivor: Guatemala (Now with heatstroke!) The Amazing Race: Family Edition (Now with even more bickering!) The Office (I laugh as hard at this one as I did at the UK version, surprisingly.) ER (My guilty pleasure) The West Wing The Simpsons The Family Guy (another show that can make you roll off the couch laughing)

But, after all that, there really isn't a drama that I'm drawn into this year. The amazing finish to Six Feet Under left a big void, and nothing has stepped forward to fill it. I'm looking forward to the next season of The Sopranos later this winter, and Rome has been interesting, but I'm never dying to see the next episode.

And, before someone suggests Lost, this is why I don't watch it. I watched the first few episodes last year before I gave up. I didn't give up because the quality was bad, as it's really a pretty good show, but I just know that it's screwing with me, which I don't like. I first fell for that when I watched The X-Files. I tried to piece together the "Mythology" of the show, figuring that there was a master storyline that was being carefully revealed, so that eventually the truth about Mulder's sister, his father, the Cigarette Smoking Man, etc. would all be revealed. But, it eventually became completely obvious that there was no story, there was just a collection of screwy episodes that had no connection with each other, other than that they sold another hour of advertising.

Next came Alias. I watched about two seasons of it before I saw the same things start to emerge, and at the start of last year's season it became laughably obvious. The show actually gave a terrorist his own secret branch of the CIA, and then jumped through about 20 other ridiculous hoops just to make it feel like the first season all over again. No thanks.

So, with Lost, which is from the same guy as Alias, I don't think there's any story there. They're just coming up with 22 ways a year to sell another week's worth of ads. There's no story, no mythology, nothing to discover. The emperor has no clothes.

I could be proven wrong by Lost, but I doubt I will be.

Oh, and the same goes for 24. I watched the first episode, which was pretty interesting, until the point where they kidnapped Jack's daughter, then I completely lost interest, as the plot went from plausible, to improbable, to ridiculous over the course of one episode. I don't need the drama hyped up that much.

There are a few shows I'd like to try, but haven't yet. Desperate Housewives and Rescue Me are two of them. I also watched the first couple seasons of The Shield before I lost track of it.

As for crime shows, after you've watched Homicide: Life on The Streets and The Wire, everything else pales in comparison.