The Greatest Column By Roger Ebert Had Nothing to do With Movies


It was about the late movie critic's memory of eating, written after he could no longer eat or even talk.

It's filled with elegies for crap food that are by turns haunting and hilarious:

Another surprising area for sharp memory is the taste and texture of cheap candy. Not imported chocolates, but Red Hots, Good and Plenty, Milk Duds, Paydays, Chuckles. I dreamed I got a box of Chuckles with five licorice squares, and in my dream I exalted: "Finally!" With Necco wafers, there again, the licorice were the best. The peculiar off-purple wafers were space-wasters. As a general rule in candy, if anything is black, red or green, in that order, I like it.

This got carried so far one day I found myself googling White Hen-style candy with the mad idea of writing an entire blog entry on the subject. During visits to a Cracker Barrel I would buy paper bags filled with licorice, root beer, horehound and cinnamon drops. Searching for Black Jack gum, I found whole web sites devoted licorice in its many forms. I even discovered and downloaded a photo of a basket that seemed assembled from my memory, and it is below.

And then there's slow-burning, power-chord finish:

I came across this sentence in its web review, and it perfectly describes the kind of place I like: " A Greek-style chow joint replete with '70s wood paneling, periwinkle padded booths, a chatty wait staff and the warble of regulars at the bar. Basically, if you've ever had it at any place that starts with Grandma's, Uncle's or any sort of Greek place name, you can find it here." Yes. If a restaurant doesn't serve tuna melts, right away you have to make allowances.

So that's what's sad about not eating. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. It may be personal, but for, unless I'm alone, it doesn't involve dinner if it doesn't involve talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss. Sentences beginning with the words, "Remember that time?" I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to break out in a poetry recitation at any time. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it's sad. Maybe that's why I enjoy this blog. You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now.

Read the whole thing.

Ebert also wrote memorably—and movingly—about depression, boozing, and his AA connections.

NEXT: Senator: NASA Wants to Snag an Asteroid

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  1. The Real reason Epi hated Ebert

    1. How does one hate on Willow?

    2. “Calm down, Hitler. Do you think Ron Howard just wished Willow was great? No…and yet it was.”

    3. I never saw that movie. But I did read the trilogy of books that were written by Lucas and Chris Clarement, set after the movie: Chronicles of the Shadow War. I never even knew the movie existed when I read the books, which I recall as being crazy good.

      1. Dude, I don’t want to be insulting here, but I tried reading those books and was aghast at how terrible the writing was. Like, a 12 year old could write better. It just drove home to me how utterly awful Lucas’ writing is and how much Star Wars was a fluke (I mean it’s not like he didn’t abjectly rip off every cool genre in existence to write it anyway).

        1. You’re probably a big fan of thin crust, aren’t you Epi?

          1. Absolutely. That and your mom.

            1. Can’t be, unless…. wait. Are you that stalker she crippled a few years back?

              1. If that stalker was your dad…then yes.

                1. Well no then. Stalker-guy didn’t get that far. You must be thinking of some OTHER middle-aged woman. Are you perhaps your own father, Epi?

                  1. Well, obviously.

                    1. Unpossible! each iteration would be more inbred until some iteration was not viable or completely sterile.

                      Although the sterility option would explain your affinity for rawdogging skanks.

                    2. Well, duh. Do you really want me to reproduce?

                    3. Possibly. But I also react to most catastrophes with “whee, this is going to be awesome!” So I doubt my response is representative.

        2. Star Wars only ended not being complete shit because one of the producers overruled a lot of Lucas’s decisions. I forget his name, but Plinkett talked about it in his review of the Phantom Menace. He talks about how terrible the original script was. I remember Han was supposed to be some sort of alien bugman.

          1. I remember Han was supposed to be some sort of alien bugman.

            You mean, like this?

            1. What is this I don’t even…

              1. The Star Wars movies, from the premise that they make more sense as the product of an improvised D&D campaign.

                1. Lol now it makes sense. Not bad.

                  1. I’m surprised it wasn’t your first guess.

                    1. Wow, that is awesome. I am already loving stuff like this.

  2. Nick,
    Is this the ‘All Ebert, All the Time’ channel?
    The guy watched movies and had opinions. And he died. Oh, and he was full-time twit.

    1. Jesus Christ, dude. It’s only been one day of this. Obviously, a lot of the current generation of Reason writers were influenced by Ebert and they want to get in there thoughts. Now, if this persists through Saturday, maybe then we can start trolling the comments.

      1. Caleb Turberville| 4.5.13 @ 9:14PM |#
        …”Obviously, a lot of the current generation of Reason writers were influenced by Ebert”…

        I’m afraid you might be right.

        1. Well, I mean everyone from Gillespie to Suderman came of age when Siskel and Ebert where the cultural gate-keepers for good moviegoing.

          1. Caleb,
            I just can’t find any reason to get seriously interested in flicks, let alone those who spend their lives commenting on them.
            It’s sort of like that beetle-browed whacko who announces college hoops *BABEEEE!*; the guy’s spent his entire life slavering over kids tossing balls around.
            Guess I’m built too low to the ground; pop culture goes right over my head.

            1. I’m think I’m personally closer to your opinion when it comes to cultural critics. There are a few of Ebert’s reviews which leave me scratching my head (But not as bad a Siskel’s idiotic review of Unforgiven.) But Ebert and Roeper (the show I grew up with) was an excellent way for me to catch a brief and free synopsis of movies that it would take me years to eventually see.

              1. And now you have rotten tomatoes!

                1. jesse, go ahead and toss! Dodge-ball was one of my faves!

                  1. Dodgeball

                    Proudly profane and splendidly silly, Dodgeball is a worthy spiritual successor to the goofball comedies of the 1980s.

                    75% user rating, 70% overall score.

      2. Idiots like Sevo and John hate anyone that ever had a liberal cell in their body.

        1. Fuck off, cockpuppet.

        2. Palin’s Buttplug| 4.5.13 @ 9:38PM |#
          “Idiots like Sevo and John hate anyone that ever had a liberal cell in their body.”
          And dipshits like you have them.

        3. I’m pretty sure you do the exact same thing with conservatives, Shrike. You just say ‘ratfucker’ more often.

      3. OK, it’s Saturday, and he was STILL a self-important twit with totally predictable tastes, sympathies to the slavers, and a 100% dick to anyone who ever worked for him or with him.

        We livestreamed the Penn and Teller star ceremony yesterday. They are indeed the Anti-Ebert. They are adored by their staff (kept insisting that their guys get the spotlight, not them) and use their celebrity for the promotion of All That’s Right in this world. And Teller is 100 times a better writer than Ebert.

    2. He was kind of a big deal among journalists.

      Yeah, he had obnoxious political opinions but that column is an example of excellent writing.

      1. Especially among columnists, which is basically the entire staff of Reason. And for good reason – he was one of the best at the form, and ridiculously accessible to boot.

      2. He was kind of a big deal among journalists.

        Which tells you pretty much everything about journolists that you need to know.

    3. Wait until they start talking about the Ebert Foundation.

    4. Like I explained yesterday, these are Beltway Cosmotarians. They have to slavishly fawn over these cultural Marxist icons like Robert Ebert so that their liberal friends will keep on inviting them to all the cool cocktail parties.

  3. Ebert died?! No shit?!

    1. Yeah, didn’t you hear about it? I mean the UN held a special session…

  4. The best thing Ebert ever talked about with regards to his cancer was his venomous hatred for The Bucket List.

    1. Haha, I remember that. I think he said the movie depicted cancer as a “laugh-riot that leads to a dime store epiphany.”

      1. My favorite line.

    2. Everyone should have a venomous hatred of The Bucket List.

      1. What if I simply have a contemptuous disregard for it?

        1. INSUFFICIENT. I saw that shit in the theater because my girlfriend at the time really wanted to see it. Bad mistake.

          1. Ah, well, I’ve never been forced to sit through it, so it’s much easier for me to simply ignore it. It’s hard to get worked up over movies you haven’t seen, even if it’s obvious they’re fucking stupid.

          2. Is that why she’s no longer your girlfriend?

            1. Dude, you should know. It was your mom.

              1. Warty’s my mom?

              2. Epi just called your mom a skank, Irish! Them’s fightin’ words.

                Although, to be fair to Epi, I’ve heard some things ’round the water cooler, but I didn’t have the heart to tell you…

  5. BTW, if there’s a hero (heroine?), it’s his wife.
    I had a relative lose a larynx, and to be shut out of conversations was maddening.
    I saw an interview with Ebert long after he’d lost the ability to talk. He’d scribble a response to a question, hand it to her, and she would invariably say: “Roger says…..”
    One of the most sensitive responses to an illness I’d ever seen.

  6. Here’s a good review of why Siskel and Ebert was such a good program.

    1. Unlike The Angry Video Game Nerd, who can still do a hilarious riff on a video game every now and again along with his non-comedic nostalgia pieces, the Nostalgia Critic’s movie riffing has grown stale. The best he can do is the occasional nostalgia review.

    2. “What is is that always kept us watching?”
      Uh, “we”? I never watched them in my life; they spent their lives watching movies.

    3. Dude, that dude is annoying as hell. I had to shut it off before it even got to the good stuff.

      1. It’s mostly just clips from the show.

        1. I went back and toughed it out, because I used to love watching their show. When all that’s on is soap operas, getting those guys was a godsend, even if you didn’t care about what they were reviewing, because they’d argue and it was a blast.

          1. “because they’d argue and it was a blast.”

      2. He dates a fatty.

  7. RE: The top photo. That Sun Drop dead center is the apex of soft drinks. Those of you who live in areas where it’s unavailable are cursed.

    1. I did enjoy sodas when I drank them, but I havent had one in fifteen years or more. I dont eat sugar at all anymore.

      It is a curse that I do not notice at all.

      1. It must be quite the burden, being better than everyone else. How do you manage?

        1. He gives out lots of free advise through his newsletter. You should subscribe!

        2. He takes much solace in the fact that he’s better than you. Not that that’s exactly hard.

        3. OK, this *is* a sock, unlike shithead and shreek,
          Fess up; who is it?

            1. Guy LaGuy| 4.5.13 @ 11:01PM |#

              Nope, but pretty coy ploy!

          1. Guy’s clearly a sockpuppet. The ridiculous name, the fact that he posts bizarre, left-wing conspiracy websites…he’s a fairly obvious sock.

            1. is it you?

              1. What if Guy was me? Did I just blow everyone’s minds?

                1. no, it’s pretty obvious.

          2. Puppet

            A young man fabricates a simple sock puppet, not knowing the abuse the entity will inflict. Through an escalating series of torture, the possessed puppet takes on the embodiment of fear, chaos, and willful self-destruction.

          3. OK, this *is* a sock, unlike shithead and shreek,

            Dude, Shrieking Idiot is Dave Weigel’s sockpuppet.

        4. I dont eat sugar. I am not sure why there is a value judgement based on that. It makes me no better or worse than anyone else.

          I dont eat fried dogshit, so in a way, I guess that makes me better than you Guy. But sugar?

          1. Who’s this “sugar” y’all are talkin’ about?

          2. Speaking of no sugar, I’ve been going low carb for about 3 weeks now and have lost 10 real lbs (not water weight), and am at 185, which is 1/3 of the way to my goal of 165 by mid-summer.

            I really miss some things, but all in all, I feel better and look better. So I guess that makes me better than Guy anyway. And Epi, of course.

            1. What does your diet consist of, kelp and self-satisfaction?

              1. C’mon guy, everybody knows that smug goes right to your hips…

                congrats sloop, keep it up.

              2. Yesterday it consisted of three eggs and a half-pound of bacon for breakfast. A Cobb salad with ranch for lunch and about 1/2 lb of shrimp, a 16 oz ribeye with grilled asparagus for dinner.

            2. I’ll have a baked potato in your honour tomorrow

            3. The craving should be fading soon now. You should notice yourself wanting food to be less sweet.

              1. For the most part, but I did find myself literally salivating in the sweets aisle at the grocery store yesterday. And I never really ate a lot of sweets, but it just really hit me hard. I went to the pharmacy and bought a couple boxes if the Atkins “meal bar”s and had one for a snack. It was peanut butter and chocolate and it may have been the best tasting thing I’ve eaten in months. I’m sure it would taste like cardboard if I hadn’t have been on this diet for a while, but I really didn’t care.

      2. I dont eat sugar at all anymore.

        Im pretty sure this is physically impossible.

    2. Sun Drop and Whitt’s Barbecue always remind me of the Quad Cities.

      1. If you’re going for BBQ in the Quad Cities, Jim’s Rib Haven is the one and only.

  8. I saw a John Prine show late last year for the first time. One of Roger Ebert’s first reviews was of early Prine shows in Chicago. Ebert was more than just movies.

  9. Ebert was an asshole of the highest order. Having said that, his style was brilliant, his opinions were clearly stated and his life lived the way he wanted it to be. The man made no compromises to Hollywood that I can think of and feared the wrath of nobody. I can understand why he is so revered by Reason writers, as they tend to be much more principled and vocal than the wishy-washy columnists at places like WaPoo, the NYT or the LAT. He will be missed for all of the right reasons.

    1. what’s the name bidding at? I’ll +$10 for “Dierdorf”

      1. The bidding just opened…at $10 for Dierdorf.

        You do realize this is in American dollars, right?

    2. If I forced you to name him ‘Deep Dish Pizza’ would you renege on the deal?

    3. That is about right. The problem with a fearless smart person arises when they stumble into an area in which they hold stupid positions. Ebert was fine as long as he talked about movies. When he went into politics, his stupidity caused all of the things that made him into a great movie critic to make him insufferable as a political commentator.

  10. My shoemaker died this week. What should I send his widow?

    1. Depends on if she was attractive or not. Possibly a grief lay?

      If she’s not attractive give her chocolate cake.

      1. She’s 92. I think the cake and/or lay would kill her.

        1. Well, you could send her out with a bang.

          I’ll be here all week.

        2. Sure her nether regions will be parched like the Sahara after a particularly hot summer, but that’s what silicone lubricant is for.

          Or some kind of high fiber, lean meat casserole that’ll keep in the fridge so she doesn’t have to make food while she mourns.

  11. I’m changing my name.

  12. The often interesting Ace of Spades on MSNBC and how blogging is now TV

    There simply is no professionalism at MSNBC, no aspiration to any kind of standards at all. It’s Dumb By Design (TM), because Dumb is Easy and Easy is Holy.

    It’s a televised blog. It’s a vlog (a term that never really caught on). It’s a tlog, I suppose.

    It’s not a professional news organization in any way — it’s not professional, and it’s not about news. It’s also apparently overseen by callow morons so it’s really not all that organized. It’s sloppy, stupid liberal agitation 24/7.

    1. Back in the day, the blogosphere was full of blog triumphalism. We actually thought Blogs Could Change the World (or at least we pretended to, sometimes).

      It turns out we were right… in a way. What we failed to understand is that You Really Haven’t Made It Until You’re On TV. And we failed to understand that television was a ravenous, indiscriminately-consuming organism, always needing “content” (of a kind) to fill the time between commercials, and it was furthermore a highly adaptable, very fecund, very insidious sort of colonizing/cannibalizing pullulating growth.* Like the Thing, it imitates and consumes.

      What we failed to understand, in short, was that the Triumph of the Blogs would come when a television channel adopted an all-blog format, with all the Hot Sloppy Stupid that is characteristic of blogs on their bad days.

      And we failed to understand the Iron Law of American Dumb that is responsible for the rise of TV in the first place: It’s just easier to watch people talking rather to read people writing. Pictures are fun and words are work.

      Dumb is Easy and Easy is Holy.

  13. Wow, was that dude cool or what? Amazing.

  14. If John Carpenter doesn’t get at least this much H&R coverage when he pegs out, there’s no justice.

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