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Editorial: The balcony is closed

Posted: Wednesday, Apr 10th, 2013

As I write this, it’s mid-afternoon on Thursday.

I was keeping an eye on Twitter as usual when a host of an online show (I don’t have TV proper) I regularly watch wrote the following: “RIP Roger Ebert. One of the finest writers I ever read; a continuing inspiration to me as a critic.”

I didn’t think much of it at first as Twitter’s been known to wrongly report celebrity deaths on a regular basis, including but not limited to Morgan Freeman, Justin Bieber, Bill Nye the Science Guy and a fluffy Pomeranian named Boo. They’re all still alive and well.

Sadly, this wasn’t the case with Mr. Ebert. One after another, news sites started posting of the 70-year-old critic and writer’s demise. He really was gone.

I never watched much of “Siskel and Ebert” or the following offshoots of the show after Gene Siskel’s unfortunate passing. I remember seeing the duo parodied on 90s cartoons back when I was too young to understand what the joke was. I checked out his book “I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie” years ago and loved it.

I had what amounts to a passing understanding of who Roger was, yet his death hit me harder than I expected.

His movie reviews are brilliant, witty and hilariously blunt. He saw “The Last Airbender” (fantastic TV show, turned into a crap movie) and said it was agonizing in every category he could think of and “others still waiting to be invented.” This comes from a man who had his jaw removed after contracting thyroid cancer.

Roger didn’t watch movies. He experienced them. He nitpicked them. He lived and loved them. I can see a lot of him in the entertainment I watch and listen to today, be it a movie podcast, Internet review or reruns of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

Even outside of movies, Roger was a great writer. I adore the way he wrote in a conversational, eloquent-in-its-simplicity tone. I can only hope to get on that level one day.

Roger’s longtime partner Gene Siskel had the custom of ending interviews with the question “What do you know for sure?” Well, here’s what I know for sure. Though he was never a very direct influence on me, Roger Ebert affected my life as well as many others in a big way.

Roger once wrote, “We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try.”

You tried and you succeeded, Roger. See you at the movies.

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