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

When police attack

This story in the Washington Post made me sick. In it, you'll hear the story of how the police delivered a box of marijuana to the doorstep of a town mayor, waited for it to be taken inside, and then smashed in his doors, shot his dogs, and held his mother-in-law on the floor with a gun against her head. A sting operation against a suspected drug dealer? No. A drug-sniffing dog found a package at Fed Ex that was addressed to the mayor's wife containing pot. Was she a pot dealer? No. Her Fed Ex driver was. If this can happen to a town mayor, and he doesn't even receive an apology for it, what can happen to you and me?

New CPR Guidelines

For those of us who know CPR, there are new guidelines out from the American Heart Association that change the number of chest compressions from 15 to 30 between the two breaths that you give. My certification has long since lapsed, but I imagine it's time to take a class again, once they are teaching the updated curriculum. Thankfully, I've never had to use CPR on anyone but the teaching dummies.

Studies show that the chest compressions create more blood flow through the heart to the rest of the body, buying time until a defibrillator can be used or the heart can pump blood on its own. Studies have also shown that blood circulation increases with each chest compression and must be built back up after an interruption, the association says in its online journal Circulation.

Multiple buildings set ablaze at UNI

In a spectacular case of "ruining it for everyone", some jackass(es) decided to set fire to three University of Northern Iowa buildings last night during the annual Homecoming celebration. Fortunately, no one was hurt, property damage wasn't as bad as it could have been, and my tape backups had already run for the weekend, so all the servers in those buildings have good copies on tape. Doesn't sound like we lost any servers to the fires, but I'm guessing some may need a good cleaning to get the smoke from their innards.

Iowans in Iraq

The Washington Post has a story about many Iowans serving in Iraq:

Under the glare of a midmorning sun, Staff Sgt. Jody Hayes stands sweating in the hatch of his M-113 armored vehicle, scanning for insurgents. Hayes and his Iowa National Guard crew have been stalled for nearly 30 minutes on a risky, slow-moving mission to clear road bombs, and he's getting nervous.

Suddenly he hears the snap of a sniper's bullet flying past his head. The round pierces the neck of the soldier next to him, Spec. John Miller, entering the two-inch gap between his Kevlar vest collar and helmet.

"Get down!" Hayes yells. Miller falls heavily against Hayes's leg, and at first Hayes believes his friend is taking cover. "Man, he got down pretty quick," he recalls thinking. Then he glances down and sees Miller bleeding at his feet.

Sgt. Ty Dermer, who is manning a .50-caliber machine gun within arm's reach of Miller, radios for help: "We got a man down! We need a medic, ASAP!"

Hayes drops down and cradles Miller's head in his lap, while Dermer rips open a pressure dressing and places it on the neck wound. Each man grabs one of Miller's hands and feels for a pulse. They still haven't found one when medic Spec. Jaymie Holschlag pulls open the back door of the M-113 and rushes, breathless, to Miller's side.

"Doc," Hayes says, looking up at her. "He's gone."

Holschlag begins checking Miller's pulse herself, as if she hasn't heard.

"Doc," Hayes repeats, louder. "He's gone!"

It is 10:18 a.m. on April 12, and John Wayne Miller is no more.

In the frenzy to save Miller, no one was thinking about why the war had snatched away the gangly 21-year-old Wal-Mart stocker from West Burlington, Iowa. Only later, as darkness falls and details of the day's horrors ricochet through their camp, do that question and others begin to haunt Hayes and his tightknit Iowa platoon. With a fifth of its soldiers killed or wounded, the platoon is reeling from the trauma of repeated loss, facing a constant threat from bombs and gunfire on Ramadi's streets, or mortar strikes on their base. They are angry, anxious, wracked by guilt -- one soldier suffers from combat stress so acute that he is unable to go on missions, and stays behind camp walls.

Michael Jackson - Not Guilty

For purely selfish reasons, I'm glad Michael Jackson was not found to be guilty, simply because this means I won't have to sit through endless appeals and even more media hoopla, other than the obligatory civil trial(s). I wish my TV/TiVo had keyword blacklisting, I want to be able to program it to not display any show containing the words "Michael Jackson" in its closed captioning data.

I'd also use that capability for Puff Daddy/P.Diddy/Sean Combs, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and anyone who is a Scientologist. Oh wait, crap, that means I couldn't watch The Simpsons, since Nancy Cartwright belongs to that cult. Damn... Uh, okay, it needs to be a filter that's only applied to non-fiction shows...

Can I patent this?