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Journalists! Roger Ebert has other interests (and so should you).

My editor (for another site) and I both agree we’re not the best videogame journalists around (that spot is reserved for Zero Punctuation’s Yahtzee), but we know we’re not the worst (go and read an editorial at a small console-specific site for the delectable proof). We could never (seriously) turn out copy with such a pungent stank…right? We lack the main ingredient(!): gamer tunnel-vision.

We don’t just keep up with gaming news as it breaks. We dine at the information buffet, whether entertainment is on the menu or not. Sitting right next to videogame sites in my bookmarks folder lie links to The Huffington Post, CNN, Ain’t it Cool News, Comic Book Resources, and my favorite celebrity gossip site The Superficial. I have dozens more in there as well – some typical, some not, and some I can’t describe here.

My friend’s a cool cat who shares a lot of my interests. His folder’s probably just as, if not more, ┬ádiverse. Hopefully he can clarify the contents in the comments section below…

But Roger Ebert’s folder…oh that’s one I’d love to access.

Most know the man as “that guy who’s sometimes mentioned in movie commercials” or “the dude with a quote on the front of my DVD box.” Others might see him as the critic of critics who only likes “art films” (totally untrue). He’s really just a person with a job writing about, and sometimes discussing, films. He has other interests too (surprise!).

Own a “blog” and you’re writing with years of built-up baggage (try lifestreaming as an alternative). Ebert doesn’t own one. He maintains an online journal two or three times a week. On average, 200 to 300 people comment on posts ranging from Transformers 2’s factual suckage and Ebert’s own theory on why quantum physics makes reincarnation possible. It’s inciteful stuff, and always a fantastic read, but the follow-ups reveal his humble personability and an admirable acceptance of everything he doesn’t know. Every comment may be moderated (presumptuously by a faceless villain), but the frequency of the follow-ups at least imply the notion of the renowned critic pulling both writing and moderation duties.

Here’s a small excerpt from the aforementioned science-related entry entitled “The quantum theory of reincarnation.”

“Is reincarnation possible from a scientific, rationalist point of view? For my purposes today I’m going to argue that it is. We will never, however, be aware of it, and indeed “we,” as we like to think of ourselves, will be completely out of the picture. I’m going to approach the problem from the point of view of quantum mechanics–a field about which I understand almost nothing, although discussing it permits others to assume I have gone mad.”

“Dan H” commented with:

“You have inspired me to commit poetry.

Copenhagen may be correct
In explaining cause and effect
Now Roger says we
Could anywhere be
But for organized intellect

I didn’t say it was GOOD poetry. And remember it’s your fault.”

And Ebert replied:

“Ebert: A Haitian who went on vacation

Experienced a certain elation
When he saw a plantation
As a reincarnation
In a never-before-visited location.”

In “Raising free-range kids,” he laments how society’s volatile evolution over the last 50 or so years no longer allows for kids to roam free, cause trouble, subsequently learn from it, but most of all, live life unchained, or at least connected to a loose one.

Finally, in a personal favorite entry called “I’m a proud brainiac,” Ebert defends his criticism of Transformers 2 while blasting anyone who likes the big budget pig slop, Hollywood executives, and director Michael Bay.

“What I believe is that all clear-minded people should remain two things throughout their lifetimes: Curious and teachable. If someone I respect tells me I must take a closer look at the films of Abbas Kiarostami, I will take that seriously. If someone says the kung-fu movies of the 1970s, which I used for our old Dog of the Week segments, deserve serious consideration, I will listen. I will try to do what Pauline Kael said she did: Take everything you are, and all the films you’ve seen, into the theater. See the film, and decide if anything has changed. The older you are and the more films you’ve seen, the more you take into the theater. When I had been a film critic for ten minutes, I treated Doris Day as a target for cheap shots. I have learned enough to say today that the woman was remarkably gifted.

Those who think “Transformers” is a great or even a good film are, may I tactfully suggest, not sufficiently evolved. Film by film, I hope they climb a personal ladder into the realm of better films, until their standards improve. Those people contain multitudes. They deserve films that refresh the parts others do not reach. They don’t need to spend a lifetime with the water only up to their toes.”

And just because it’s one of my favorite ‘graphs in the piece…

“A reader named Jared Diamond, a senior at Syracuse, sports editor of The Daily Orange, put my disturbance eloquently in a post asking: “Why in this society are the intelligent vilified? Why is education so undervalued and those who preach it considered arrogant or pretentious?” Why, indeed? If sports fans were like certain movie fans, they would hate sports writers, commentators and sports talk hosts for always discussing fine points, quoting statistics and bringing up games and players of the past. If all you want to do is drink beer in the sunshine and watch a ball game, why should some elitist play-by-play announcer bore you with his knowledge? Yet sports fans are proud of their baseball knowledge, and respect commentators who know their stuff.”

And gamers and non-gamers respect games journalism. But that’s deserved, and remains a subject I’ll dive into soonish.

Ebert wouldn’t have attained such highly regarded opinions on film without his diverse, and ever-expanding, interests. That’s a fact. Please, please, please keep this in mind my fellow gaming journos. If not for your own potentially disastrous career, do it for Ebert and the precedent he’s built for people like us, or rather, the people we hope to one day become.

it stinks



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