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

Constitutionally Impaired

I know she got her degree in Sports Journalism, and not Political Science, but Sarah Palin continues to display a grasp of the Constitution that absolutely perplexes me. Today's quote from her (which I saw at Andrew Sullivan's blog) just makes my head hurt.

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told host Chris Plante, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."

The First Amendment, as well as all other Amendments, protect you from the GOVERNMENT, not from the media, not from corporations, and not from me, Seth the Blogger. In fact, the First Amendment guarantees me the right to call you, Sarah Palin, a fourth-class intellect that makes Dan Quayle look like William F. Buckley by comparison. Now I'm no great constitutional scholar, but I did pretty well in Political Science 320, aka Constitutional Law.

Personally, I gave her a pass on her "gaffe" that she said the Vice President is in charge of the U.S. Senate. While not, erm, true, you can legitimately argue that "presiding" over something rather sounds like you are in charge of it, and I don't see any reason to latch on to that as evidence of Constitutional ignorance.

However, this is a different matter. Even if she was, tragically, elected to office, how could she swear to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution when she seems to not even understand the very principles she'd be taking an oath to uphold? She seems to think that the First Amendment means you can say whatever crazy shit you want, and if (a non-governmental) someone points out that reality (which has a well-known liberal bias) differs with your batshit-crazy-conspiracy-theory-of-the-day regarding your opponent, then they are not, in fact, exercising their rights to free speech, but somehow infringing upon your own.

King Corn

I went to a screening of King Corn last night in Waterloo, and it's being shown elsewhere in Iowa in the coming days. Admission was free (popcorn wasn't) and the three guys who made the movie were there for question and answer following the screening. It was an interesting film, about two easterners who move to Greene, Iowa to raise an acre of corn. They then attempt to figure out where their corn is going in the food supply, and try to examine the implications of our massive grain production. I was expecting this to be a more radical movie trying to convince people to give up meat, go Vegan, and only eat organic bean sprouts, but I was happily surprised to be wrong, as it's far more even-handed, and Aaron Woolf made it clear after the showing that they didn't claim to have all the answers, they just wanted to start the discussion.

View the trailer here, and here are upcoming screenings in Iowa:

* Cedar Rapids, Iowa — December 12: CSPS, 7pm

* Eldora, Iowa — December 13: Grand Theater, 7pm

* Cedar Falls, Iowa — December 14: College Square Theater, 7pm

* Clear Lake, Iowa — December 15: The Lake Theater, 4pm

* Fairfield, Iowa — December 16: The Co-Ed Theater, 11 am

Problems with Samsung BD-P1200 and Weeds Blu-ray discs

We tried to watch Weeds Season 2 last night on my Samsung BD-P1200 Blu-ray player, but the disc wouldn't work the second time we tried to play it, though it had worked fine the first time (though the menus were really slow).  After much cussing, cleaning of the immaculate disc, and scratching my head, and rebooting of my player, I found this thread at AVSForum that indicates I'm not alone.  Hopefully Samsung will fix this with a firmware update soon to fix this issue.  In the mean time, I'll just be thankful that I rented the disc from Netflix, and I'm not stuck owning this turkey.

Serenity (No Spoilers)

Holly and I saw Serenity on Tuesday night, and it was great. While I'm a moderate Joss Whedon fan, having watched Buffy and Angel, and most of Firefox, I'm not hard core, but I loved the movie. Holly didn't want to go at first, but after I promised to take her out for a steak dinner, she relented. She never saw any of the series that spawned the movie, but she was forced to admit she "really liked it" afterwards. I like science fiction books, but despise the majority of science fiction movies, mostly because they're bad. They tend to focus on the visual while neglecting the story, and are almost universally dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. For every Gattaca (which I loved) there are ten Red Planets (which I loathed).

In any case, go see this film. It's good, very good. Certainly the best Sci-Fi movie this year, as it focuses more on stories, and not on technobabble or dressing people in shiny pants.

As usual, here's Ebert's review.


I saw Batman Begins today. It's a good movie, better than all previous Batman films, though I really only liked the first one. Michael Keaton was a great Batman, because he really made you believe that Bruce Wayne was more than a little nuts, as the character should be, unlike the smarmy George Clooney Batman or the be-nippled Batman of Val Kilmer. Well, Christian Bale is even better than Keaton, and once he dons the BatSuit, he'll creep you out. You know how in the average superhero movie you get a two-minute montage that shows them coming to grips with their superpowers/new identity? In this case, you get a whole movie of it, and it's great. This is a movie not dominated by special effects, but by storytelling, and good storytelling at that.

I have a few nitpicks though. I've got some physics problems with the "microwave generator" in the film, (which doesn't make sense to me for about 15 different reasons) and after watching some of the recent Chinese action films, the action scenes are hard to follow, because they cut so much you can't get any sense of the geography of the fight. I can understand this if you don't want to risk your star being injured, but since Batman is in a BatSuit, you'd think you could put some stunt guys in the suit and do some longer shots, no?

The supporting cast is outstanding, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Tom Wilkinson, Liam Neeson and Michael Caine, add a lot to the film, though the recently-brainswashed Katie Holmes was forgettable.

This is the Batman movie that makes you understand why Batman is Batman, why criminals fear him, why Alfred helps him, where the BatToys come from, why Commissioner Gordon trusts him, and even why he has a BatSignal.

This is the third excellent film I've seen by director Chris Nolan (the other two being Memento and Insomnia), and I can't wait for more. Please let him (and the cast) return for one or two more Batman movies, and bar Joel Schumacher, Michael Bay, or Paul Verhoeven from even coming on the lot. Want a second opinion? Roger Ebert's review is here.

Sin City

I saw Sin City on Friday, and it's a work of art. Visually, the movie is simply stunning. It's worth seeing in the theatre just for the visuals. Be forewarned, the movie is pretty violent, with enough violent acts done to people's genitals to keep your legs crossed throughout the film. In any case, Mickey Rourke is outstanding in the film, though Clive Owen and Bruce Willis aren't bad either. Check out Roger Ebert's review, and if you're still interested, go watch it, you won't be disappointed.