Particularly upsetting (at least for his readers, amongst which I include myself) is how this news comes barely two days after he announced a temporary “leave of presence” as a new recurrence of cancer was forcing him to scale back his workload. He was even excited at the prospect of finally being able to indulge in a dream of his by reviewing only the movies he wanted to review. The man was forever an optimist.
Quoth PZ Myers: Goddamn motherfucking cancer.
And so departs the world’s most famous film critic, an uncommonly talented writer, an accomplished blogger (I’d never demean him with the label of “pundit”) and a profound and evocative thinker. He was also active in the social sphere, being a vocal supporter of equality and a proud liberal through and through (often to the vapid ire of wingnuts, so you know he was doing something right).
Of particular relevance to me, he was a noted defender of the Theory of Evolution and a large part of the process that introduced me to skepticism and atheism in the first place when I came across his timeless deconstruction of Ben Stein’s Creationist/ID propaganda flick, Expelled. (You can even see my [embarrassingly naive and amateurish] comment from way back when I still believed Evolutionary Theory and Intelligent Design were compatible. Though, in my defense, I was young(er), I was only a quasi-IDist out of ignorance – but of course, who isn’t? – and it didn’t last long).
But above all, Roger Ebert was a staunch humanist (even though he dodged the label of “atheist” as many agnostics do) who always strove to find the best in our fickle little world, and to ameliorate the grittier parts of it. But in simpler terms, he was just a fundamentally good and compassionate man whose ethos can be summarized by this timeless quote of his (which may as well be the motto of liberalism, itself): “I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.”
Farewell, ol’ chap. We were lucky to have you for as long as we did.