There’s a really interesting profile of Roger Ebert in Esquire.
It has been nearly four years since Roger Ebert lost his lower jaw and his ability to speak. Now television’s most famous movie critic is rarely seen and never heard, but his words have never stopped.
* * *
Roger Ebert can’t remember the last thing he ate. He can’t remember the last thing he drank, either, or the last thing he said. Of course, those things existed; those lasts happened. They just didn’t happen with enough warning for him to have bothered committing them to memory — it wasn’t as though he sat down, knowingly, to his last supper or last cup of coffee or to whisper a last word into Chaz’s ear. The doctors told him they were going to give him back his ability to eat, drink, and talk. But the doctors were wrong, weren’t they? On some morning or afternoon or evening, sometime in 2006, Ebert took his last bite and sip, and he spoke his last word.
Ebert’s lasts almost certainly took place in a hospital. That much he can guess. His last food was probably nothing special, except that it was: hot soup in a brown plastic bowl; maybe some oatmeal; perhaps a saltine or some canned peaches. His last drink? Water, most likely, but maybe juice, again slurped out of plastic with the tinfoil lid peeled back. The last thing he said? Ebert thinks about it for a few moments, and then his eyes go wide behind his glasses, and he looks out into space in case the answer is floating in the air somewhere. It isn’t. He looks surprised that he can’t remember. He knows the last words Studs Terkel’s wife, Ida, muttered when she was wheeled into the operating room (“Louis, what have you gotten me into now?”), but Ebert doesn’t know what his own last words were. He thinks he probably said goodbye to Chaz before one of his own trips into the operating room, perhaps when he had parts of his salivary glands taken out — but that can’t be right. He was back on TV after that operation. Whenever it was, the moment wasn’t cinematic. His last words weren’t recorded. There was just his voice, and then there wasn’t.
Like many of my generation, I grew up watching Ebert argue with Gene Siskel over whether a movie deserved a thumbs up or down on At the Movies. After Siskel passed away, I didn’t watch the show much anymore. I wasn’t a huge fan of his replacement.
I would hear about Ebert here and there, but it wasn’t until I heard a story on All Things Considered about this company from Scotland that was reproducing his voice from old recordings so he could speak that I heard anything about his health issues.
I find what has happened to him both sad and uplifting. I wish him all the best. Clearly he’s getting along just fine despite what must be an almost intolerable situation. It’s certainly nightmarish to contemplate it happening.
My new favorite cooking show is Eric Ripert’s Avec Eric. Ripert is the chef at Le Bernadin in NYC. His show is a combination travel log and cooking show. Typically, in the first half of the show, he travels to the culinary centers of the world, Tuscany, Provence and Northern California, for example. Then he returns to his kitchen filled with inspiration from his journey to create exquisitely simple dishes.
There are samples on You Tube, of course, but if you want to watch whole episodes they are available on the Avec Eric website.
Here he yukking it up with Jimmy Fallon:
It’s really beyond the pale how bad NBC is at covering Alpine Skiing at the Vancouver Olympics. The latest joke the Men’s Giant Slalom. NBC only bothered to show 4 of the runs in the first round (each skier gets two runs): Carlo Janko, who finished in first, Aksel Lund Svindal, third, American Ted Ligety, in eigth place, and Bode Miller, who caught a tip and didn’t finish. They failed to show Romeo Baumann, second, Massimiliano Blardone, fourth, Marcel Hirsher, fifth, Benjamin Raish, sixth, Cyprien Richard, seveth or any other skiers.
They showed all of three skiers on the second run. Three? Three is all we get? Bode crashed out so they didn’t have to show him again, but why not show Ligety? Why not show the first run of the eventual silver medalist, Kjetil Jansrud of Norway? Other Americans? Anyone? Bueller? It’s on tape delay, so they can program it anyway they want. They show qualifying for freestyle skiing, yet they won’t show the meat and potatoes Alpine events. What gives?
They must really, really suck or not care.
Every two years, I get psyched for the Olympics and every two years, I come away severely bothered by the television coverage. The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver is no exception.
I’ve written about this before, and in some ways it gets tired to complain about the coverage, but what else can I do?
First off, not much of anything is live on NBC. There is some programming on CNBC like hockey that will be carried in real time, but all the major events will be tape delay, at least on the west coast. In the days of the DVR, this doesn’t matter as much as it used to. However, watching on delay not only takes away much of the drama inherent in sports competition where you will never know what will happen and replaces it with a paradigm where one has to avoid any possible coverage that is in real time from online services to the ESPN crawl lest the results are revealed before the event is broadcast.
For both the Men’s and Women’s Downhill, I was unable to keep from seeing the results before I saw the event on TV, which is just fucking horrible. The Alpine events are the centerpiece of the Olympics and downhill skiing is the crown jewel of the event. Yet the coverage on NBC is simply a joke. And knowing the results beforehand just makes it a sad joke.
For the men’s event, NBC deigned to show 6 runs. America’s Steven Nyman and Bode Miller, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, Switzerland’s Diider Cuche and Didier Defago and Canada’s Rob Dixon. Count ‘em. That’s six runs. They probably wouldn’t even have shown Defago except that he happened to win the event. And Dixon probably only made an appearance because of a spectacular crash. That’s six competitors out of a field of 64. It’s just unacceptable.
The women’s event was only slightly better. NBC showed the runs of America’s Lindsay Vonn, Julia Mancuso and Stacey Cook, Austria’s Elisabeth Goergl, Germany’s Maria Reisch, Sweden’s Ana Paerson, Switerzland’s Dominique Gisen, Italy’s Daniela Merighetti, and France’s Marion Rolland. The final four on that list all crashed out including Rolland who somehow caught an edge out of the starter’s house and keeled over before she even got started.
The men’s and women’s course were totally different but equally exciting. The men skied the famous Dave Murray Downhill while the women were on a special course created on Franz’s Run (I’ve skied both and they are incredibly fun). The women’s run on Franz, a whippy labyrinth of a piste, subjects the skiers to several massive jumps including the infamous “Hot Air” at the bottom where many competitors, including Paerson, Gisen and Merighetti, crashed spectacularly.
The entire competition is available online sans commentary, which makes it quite boring. And you can see the full results for the men’s and women’s downhill on nbcolympics.com.
There’s no good reason why more of this incredible competition should not be shown on TV. It’s just inexcusable, especially when you consider the wall-to-wall coverage of curling on CNBC. Curling? It’s like watching the ice melt. (Any event where the inclusion of pizza and beer does not dramatically impact the results is not a sport and certainly should not be in the Olympics.)
Started watching Burn Notice last night. The show is on the USA Network, so you know it’s not going to win any awards for writing or photography. It’s not really sophisticated or even intelligent TV, but it is fun. Really fun.
The main character, Michael Weston, is an ex-CIA officer trying find out who issued his ‘burn notice” and why he was blacklisted so that he can put his life back together. Weston’s voiceover narration explaining the minutiae of spycraft is easily the most interesting part of the show.
And it’s hard not to want to watch anything that features the legendary Bruce Campbell. The show is set in Miami and it wouldn’t be hard to believe that the Chamber of Commerce is flipping the bill for production with all the bump shots of the glass skyscapers, palm tree lined beaches and art deco hotels, but that’s part of the pleasure of Burn Notice.
Since Mad Men finished its third season, our Sunday nights have felt barren. Until the AMC advertising drama returns, we’ll be meditating on Don Draper’s philosophical lessons, such as: “Change is neither good or bad. It simply is.”
This Frontline documentary on the credit card and banking industries is disturbing on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to start.
I know I’m not my credit company’s best customer, and that’s fine with me. Not only do I never carry a balance, I make several payments a month, because I want to hold their credit for as little time as possible to limit whatever penalties from fees and interest might accrue in case something happens and I don’t make my payment.
But for people who have balances, either from circumstance or conspicuous consumption, the system is really stacked against them. The penalties are harshest for those least able to pay, which makes sense in terms of bank profits, but not in terms of anything else.
What they don’t want is customers like me who pay in full or people who don’t pay at all. So people get wrapped up in a debt straightjacket and can’t get out, which is exactly what banks want. Those are their best customers, namely people who can’t pay off their balances but continue to pay.
Meanwhile, even though the economy is crashing around us, banks couldn’t care less as long as profits continue to rise. The regulators won’t or can’t do anything to change the system because, as Dick Durbin said earlier this year, the banks own Congress.
Until our system of legalized bribery that is the campaign finance mess gets fixed, we will never solve this problem. When elected officials worry more about where their next fundraising dollar is coming from rather than doing the right thing for the American people, we’re all screwed.
You can watch the entire program online at the PBS website.
…are really boring. Can’t believe I have to listen to these jokers for the entire Giro. Where are Phil. Paul and Bob when you need them? Give me Al Trautwig. Give me Al Michaels. Give me anybody but these guys. I’d even take Craig Hummer.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to have the Giro on US television, but we’ve got to be able to do better than Schlanger and Gogulski.
Hold your hats, but the Giro D’Italia is coming to American TVs for first time in it’s 100 years. It’s going to be on Universal Sports.
So what’s the occasion? One word: Lance. Lance Armstrong is back and riding the Giro for the first time. Can he win? I wouldn’t put it past him. He has an iron will and you have to know that his training has been insanely intense. However, he’s coming off a broken collarbone, he hasn’t raced a grand tour in a couple of years and doesn’t have that many race miles under his belt. More likely, he’ll be helping his teammate Levi Leipheimer win the race. Only one American, Andy Hampsten in 1988, has won the Giro, so it’ll be good to get another yank in the winners circle.The competition is going to be fierce. This is the 100th version of the race, so the Italians will be extra-motivated to keep the title at home. Should be an incredibly exciting race. Defending champ Alberto Contador, Armstrong’s teammate on Team Astana, will not be riding. Instead his preparing for his return to the Tour de France in July.
The Universal Sports announcers are rather dull. I’ll take Phil, Paul or Bob any day, but it will be a pleasant change to have commentary in English. Last year, in order to watch the event live, I signed up for the Italian Sports Channel RAI. For three weeks I watched the cyclists suffer through the Italian peninsula while commentators babeled in Italian I couldn’t understand. I was happy to watch it, and the animation of the Italian announcers was impressive. It would have been nice to understand what they were saying.
The three week Giro kicks off with a team time trial on Saturday on Lido di Venezia. Coverage starts at 5:30am PST, so set your DVRs.
If you don’t have a TV (or don’t have cable) or just want to follow the event online, the best place to track news of the Giro, as always, is Steephilll.tv
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