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Roger Ebert can’t eat, drink or speak, but he can still write

February 16, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m a recent — not longtime — fan of movie critic Roger Ebert. I would watch “Siskel and Ebert and the Movies” from time to time when I was younger, and I think I only caught “Ebert and Roeper at the Movies” one time. But I did become a regular reader of his blog last year, when he wrote so passionately and eloquently about the health care debate, first with an entry called “Death Panels. A most excellent term.” and followed it up with “I’m safe on board. Pull up the life rope.” Both are must-reads. Here’s an excerpt from the second blog entry. For me, this about sums it up:

It is a moral imperative. I cannot enjoy health coverage and turn to my neighbor and tell him he doesn’t deserve it. A nation is a mutual undertaking.

Now comes a beautifully done profile of Ebert, whose thyroid cancer led to many operations and his present condition: He has no jaw. He cannot speak. He cannot eat or drink and is fed through a tube in his stomach. It’s fascinating, not only because Ebert is famous, but also because the profile so perfectly captures the tenacity of the human spirit. He still travels with his wife, still dines in restaurants — although only she orders food, of course. But what really prompted me to blog about this was the fact that if you only read his movie reviews and blog entries, you wouldn’t know Ebert was “dying in increments,” as Chris Jones writes in Esquire. Ebert can still watch movies, and write (and does he). Therefore he lives. And that’s beautiful.

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Categories: Life, Reading, Writing Tags: ,

Happy new year, freelancers. Here’s $5.

January 8, 2010 Leave a comment

As a freelancer, this headline grabbed me by the throat: “Freelance writing’s unfortunate new model.” Los Angeles Times columnist James Rainey explores what I’ve been dismayed about for some time now: the steadily declining pay being offered to freelance writers. Sixteen cents a word, or worse yet, free? It’s an outrage. Does (good) information really yearn to be free, or are companies taking advantage of poor, out-of-work writers?

I’ve been paid to edit, and I’ve been paid to write. It’s not that writing is that much harder. But it’s more time-consuming, especially if you’re reporting. Yes, times are tough. But writers should boycott getting paid peanuts, or nothing at all. Build your brand? Showcase your work? That’s bull. It devalues what you do. You know all that talk about newspapers needing a new business model? If you’re a freelancer, you need a business model. Free isn’t it.