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Life without eathing
January 7, 2010 4:04 PM   Subscribe

Nil by Mouth is Roger Ebert's article about what life is like now that he doesn't eat or drink anymore, but is nourished by tube. And interesting reflection on what life can be like after thyroid cancer, and not as sad as you might think.
posted by kaszeta (50 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's only "not as sad as you think" if you think you'll start crying right away, I guess, because I started crying halfway through. Roger's writing definitely makes me think he's signaling to us that he doesn't have much more time here.

But then again, who does?
posted by ErikaB at 4:17 PM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I found it heartbreaking -- not just as a thyroid cancer survivor, but also as someone who loves food and loves Chicago, and loves the way "food" and "Chicago" intersect in particular in such an amazing way. I have a hard time imagining that I could accept the same losses with the grace Ebert has consistently shown.
posted by scody at 4:23 PM on January 7, 2010


Roger's writing definitely makes me think he's signaling to us that he doesn't have much more time here.

But then again, who does?


I wish he had as good a chance to live 20 more years as I do. Or 30 more years.

He does not. Yes, I could get hit by the proverbial bus, but he's looking down the barrel in a way that those of us who are fortunate enough not to be in the last stages of a terminal illness are not.

This observation brought to you by my 81-year-old father, who hates it when young healthy people say stuff to him like "We could go any minute, any of us." The last time I said that to him, he said, "Well, you could live another 50 years. I'm not going to live another 50 weeks, no matter what."
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:24 PM on January 7, 2010 [18 favorites]


You think? I get the complete opposite impression: he's taking the hand he's dealt and running with it. The reason his output has increased so dramatically is, as he says, it's his only real means of communication these days.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 4:25 PM on January 7, 2010


I can only say I really dig that guy.
posted by tkchrist at 4:35 PM on January 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Isn't it sad to be unable eat or drink? Not as sad as you might imagine. I save an enormous amount of time.

Someone who once participated in a week-long fast to raise awareness of world hunger or something like that said that the biggest lesson they learned was that food structures time and that without meals time just goes on and on.

I'm not sure how sad I thought the link was going to be. But it was sad enough.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:38 PM on January 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I had absolutely no idea that it was specifically thyroid cancer that Ebert had. That shocks me.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:39 PM on January 7, 2010


There are some people in the world who possess an inner compulsion to share with you their every thought and opinion, however trivial or inconsequential. It's their drive and their outlet; if they can't communicate with you, they aren't really living. The vast majority of these people are terrible bores and nobody you want to spend time with. Once in a great while, however, a person with this compulsion turns out to be thoughtful, devastatingly intelligent and incomparably cultured, and you want to hear every word they have to say.

Roger Ebert, I believe, is one of these latter people. That's why it was such a tragedy when he lost his power of speech, and why the Internet--especially Twitter--has been such a savior for him in recent years. And we all benefit, because now the stories he would have told to his nearest and dearest get told to everybody in the world instead.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:43 PM on January 7, 2010 [29 favorites]


I didn't get the impression that he's going to go any minute. He's had cancer, he fought, and he won. Unfortunately, he's unable to speak. He'll probably be around for a while longer.

I like Roger Ebert.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:58 PM on January 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think I'll stop bitching about my diet.

out loud, anyway.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:19 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


He'll probably be around for a while longer.

man, I hope so, because I like him an awful lot, too. He's a gem.
posted by scody at 5:21 PM on January 7, 2010


Metafilter: you don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:33 PM on January 7, 2010 [15 favorites]


"It's too bad she won't live. But then again, who does?" ... Sorry

I'm glad that Vincent Gallo and Mr. Ebert finally reconciled, but unfortunately it didn't happen before Gallo's cancer hex on Ebert took hold. In his defense, Ebert's movie of his colonoscopy was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny.
posted by autopilot at 5:49 PM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I just had a hot cup of tea while I read that.

I cried into the cup. May I get to be so well spoken.
posted by bilabial at 5:49 PM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Eathing?
posted by autopilot at 5:50 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Roger Ebert's my favorite person outside my circle of friends and family and people I actually know. I recall a story after his surgery, when they had to remove his mandible, that where he insisted on being photographed, saying that it was shameful that we hid our sick from sight. He's an amazing creature - an international treasure. His words are buoyant. I think a lot of people feel like he's speaking directly to them and for them, no matter what he's talking about.

I hadn't thought about twitter being his saviour, but yes what a great point. I follow him and he's so prolific - and always so funny! I love how he interacts directly with so many comments. This one cracked me up:

Wow. Such a beautiful and honest essay it has me crying. Thanks, Roger. But I see one typo in the first paragraph: "public speaking" you have "pubic speaking." (At least I _hope_ that's a typo!)

Ebert: Thank God I still retain my pubic speaking ability.
posted by scunning at 5:58 PM on January 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


This really moved me; Thank you for posting.
posted by mrdaneri at 6:07 PM on January 7, 2010


Thanks for posting this. I have a lot of respect for Ebert even though I occasionally disagree with him. This is so horrible. Kudos to him for bearing it with such grace.
posted by Lobster Garden at 6:20 PM on January 7, 2010


I'm sorry, but he's always had shit taste in film, and in everything if the meals he's mourning are any indication. It's ill to speak ill of the dead, and by extension the nearly dead, but it's a taboo I'm happy to break. His laudatory love of the mediocre will not be missed by me.

Corny alteration is the most I can manage for the schmuck.
posted by clarknova at 6:24 PM on January 7, 2010


Pfft, clarknova, I always agreed more with Siskel, but Ebert's done some wonderfully devastating reviews of shit films, even if not as many as you'd like.
posted by emjaybee at 6:31 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but he's always had shit taste in film, and in everything if the meals he's mourning are any indication. It's ill to speak ill of the dead, and by extension the nearly dead, but it's a taboo I'm happy to break. His laudatory love of the mediocre will not be missed by me.

Who else is psyched that Armond White has a MeFi account?
posted by escabeche at 6:38 PM on January 7, 2010 [17 favorites]


His laudatory love of the mediocre will not be missed by me.

If this were one of his movie reviews, and you disagreed, this would be a fair comment.

He isn't saying that cheap candy and coke are the most divine foods on the planet. He's mourning the loss of moments that were rich to him and that he wont be able to experience again, and in mourning them he is finding a reason to celebrate them, and to re-live with with greater clarity that he could have before. This piece of writing has nothing to do with his taste in movies, and everything to do with his ability to take a boring, mediocre part of being human and turn it into something moving.

Don't miss him for his reviews. Miss him because he is able to make strangers all over the planet take a moment out of their day to pause and consider their mortality, and cherish their lives while they last.
posted by twirlypen at 7:04 PM on January 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


His laudatory love of the mediocre will not be missed by me.

His laudatory love of the mediocre, the excellent, the terrible, the forgettable, the timeless, etc. etc. will definitely be missed by me. But he's not gone yet clarknova, so we'll lament the loss later.
posted by Think_Long at 7:05 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who else is psyched that Armond White has a MeFi account?

Not to derail too much but this post just caused me to look up Armond White. Then I found out about Ebert calling White a contrarian troll which led me to this image. Just to see for myself I had to take a look at this Rotten Tomatoes page.

Look at how often he disagrees completely with critical consensus. That's just WAY too often to be on accident. Is he regularly called out on this?

Ok - derail over.
posted by Sandor Clegane at 7:12 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always thought Armond White's schtick was that he was intentionally contrarian about everything, thus making the "Who else is psyched that Armond White has a MeFi account?" joke funny; Only a deliberate contrarian like Armond White would comment on that beautiful little reflection by bitching about what a terrible reviewer he thought Ebert was.
posted by Ndwright at 7:26 PM on January 7, 2010


I've always liked Ebert more as a tv personality than a writer, but that was really moving. Thanks.

And Joe, I fasted for 3 days once when I was a teen -- I really don't remember why, part of being young I guess, I was also a vegetarian for a year in college -- and that is the one thing I remember about it too. Not having meals opens up time in all these incredible ways and you get a glimpse of how structured around food your life is.
posted by vronsky at 7:30 PM on January 7, 2010


By the way, I love Roger Ebert and I love Armond White and the world of movie writing will be poorer when they're not both in it.
posted by escabeche at 7:33 PM on January 7, 2010


The contrarian views above are not such a bad thing. It's like shaking up the rug... underneath, some interesting (and quite favorable) insights and perspectives about Roger and his writings emerge.
posted by crapmatic at 7:35 PM on January 7, 2010



Not to derail too much but this post just caused me to look up Armond White. Then I found out about Ebert calling White a contrarian troll which led me to this image. Just to see for myself I had to take a look at this Rotten Tomatoes page.

His annoying contrarian game is typical of the sub par shit that the NY Press dishes out.

But more importantly.... good luck to Ebert. We need personalities like his in this cultural wasteland.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:39 PM on January 7, 2010


That was quite poignant. Thanks for making this post. I like his attitude, and his frankness. Though as someone whose greatest passions include food and cooking, I'm not sure it isn't so sad to lose that, but he is right about the social aspect.

And now I am craving a nice, cold root beer.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:53 PM on January 7, 2010


The second worst part of this post is that I'm reminded Ebert will be gone soon.

The worst part was learning who Armond White is.
posted by Cyrano at 8:23 PM on January 7, 2010


First off, Ebert is a badass.

Second off, I tried constructing an Armond White FPP after I saw his review of Avatar next to his review of GI Joe. I couldn't come up with anything better than essentially saying that this guy is the a huge douche bag.

I think it might generate some conversation, but it's not really the best of the web. If anyone can find a good hook, more power to you.
posted by Telf at 8:38 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


First off, Ebert is a badass.

Agreed.

This passage stood out to me: But the last thing I want to start here is a discussion of such age old-old practices of pouring Kool-Aid into a bottle of RC Cola to turn it into a weapon.

What?
posted by joedan at 8:50 PM on January 7, 2010


Ebert needs a MeFi account.
posted by Mikey-San at 9:16 PM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


MeFi needs an Ebert account.
posted by Soliloquy at 9:20 PM on January 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


I haven't always agreed with his opinions, but, then, I dig Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens, and I have long appreciated his sense of humor.

But since his cancer, he has been on a tear, and has become fascinating and hugely entertaining. It's like something has become unleashed in him.

We should all live like we have survived cancer, but might yet die of it sometime soon.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:34 PM on January 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Ebert has always written eloquently about the movies, whether you like what he likes or not. But his personal blog has been a gift to all of us. He has written thoughtfully and unblinkingly about a number of topics, and done so really well.
posted by maxwelton at 11:55 PM on January 7, 2010


First off, Ebert is a badass.

Agreed.

This passage stood out to me: But the last thing I want to start here is a discussion of such age old-old practices of pouring Kool-Aid into a bottle of RC Cola to turn it into a weapon.

What?
posted by joedan at 1:50 PM on 1/8
[+] [!]


well, YOU try pouring Kool-aid powder into a bottle of soda.
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:39 AM on January 8, 2010


One might think has gone overboard. I don't. To paraphrase Rodney Welch, he is perhaps the only movie critic that people love. To understand this, you just have to read him, read him, read him. I haven't seen 99% of the movies he reviewed, but I read them anyway. Whatever the topic, his writing talent shines through and makes you want more. He's hilariously funny. His humanity shines through. Read him. Read his wikiquote page.
posted by mreleganza at 4:04 AM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ebert's been writing recollection pieces for quite some time now. He's gone into Ray Bradbury "Dandelion Wine" territory and come back without sounding too maudlin or out-of-touch. I think he's doing an admirable job of facing mortality and making sure to share pieces of his life with someone, anyone, before the pieces fade away.

The last time he wrote about Steak & Shake, it was clear he was still missing all the physical aspects of the dining experience. A reviewer is a good recommender, and even though I already adore Steak & Shake and wouldn't need a reason or prompting to go, god damn if Ebert didn't Recommend the hell out of the restaurant in his column. By the end of it I too was lamenting the fact that I can't go get a double steakburger (the closest restaurant is a 10-hour drive away) whenever I feel like one.

I'm glad to see he's overcome those urges with the power of memory. That's so fascinating. Would that we all had willpower like that.
posted by Spatch at 4:37 AM on January 8, 2010


Maybe 15 years ago, I visited a friend who lived in Chicago. We had decided to spend the evening downtown, so when I parked the car late afternoon at a lot, I told the parking attendant it would be several hours before we would need it again.

But an hour or so later, checking a local paper, we discovered someone was playing at a club clear across town (if i remember correctly, it was Gavin Friday). This I do not want to miss!

So we go back to the parking lot and ask if we can get our car out. The attendant gives us his sympathies, and says sorry, but, our car is currently blocked in by another. I'll have to come back later. As a matter of fact, it's Roger Ebert's car. He's just gone to eat dinner.

What! No way! I look over to the car that's blocking ours. The license plate reads: ROSEBUD.

Goddamn. I guess it really is Roger Ebert's car.

Well, I ask the guy, how long do you think it'll be before Mr. Ebert gets back?

The attendant gets a pained look on his face and says, "well, when Ebert goes in for dinner, he's usually gone for a loooong time".








Anyway, the last sentence of this column brought a tear to my eye. And a memory.
posted by the bricabrac man at 4:47 AM on January 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


My friends who are quite religious have assured me that the afterlife is exactly like Sweatman's Barbecue down the smallest detail. I can only hope Mr Ebert will hold me a place at his table until I arrive (fashionably late, of course).
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:47 AM on January 8, 2010


This passage stood out to me: But the last thing I want to start here is a discussion of such age old-old practices of pouring Kool-Aid into a bottle of RC Cola to turn it into a weapon.

What?
posted by joedan at 1:50 PM on 1/8


This confused me too. Google-fu mostly turns up this thread and Eberts blog - but that may be google reading my web history too closely.
posted by Think_Long at 9:01 AM on January 8, 2010


Regarding Armond White: I picked up a copy of the Press and saw his review of "Sherlock Holmes"- a movie I had seen the night before and found a pretty quick and tasty film. White disagreed, and complained that unlike Ritchies "RockAndRolla", a movie that apparently he saw as a commentary on "British 'laddism'" and everyone else saw as a piece of shit, "Sherlock Holmes" says absolutely nothing new about homosocial relationships.
How in the SHIT does someone miss a point that badly? It's like shooting an arrow in the opposite direction of the target.
posted by 235w103 at 11:26 AM on January 8, 2010


I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again in every Roger Ebert thread, but we are very lucky to be getting these blog posts from such a kind, humble and intelligent human being. The tenderness and humour with which he approaches life and all its bit should be ingested and cherished.

They should all be put into a book and published.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 4:50 PM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Plus he recently has multiple jabs at Rush Limbaugh. And then humbly apologised after. Which he didn't need to do, but did. Whatta human!
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 5:06 PM on January 8, 2010


He's right about Steak 'n Shake. There aren't any where I live now and I miss them.

this part was funny -- "I have never ordered an item that was not on the original menu. It is a rule with me. From earliest days, my order was unchanging, and often included a Tru-Flavor Shake. In Sight It Must Be Right, and you can see the soda jerk combining real ice cream and real milk in a stainless container, blending them in a mixer, and pouring it all into a big tall glass. Many of today's children think milk shakes are extruded from a spigot.

My Steak 'n Shake fetish is not unique. On an early visit to the Letterman Show, during a commercial break, I said to David:

"I hear you're from Indianapolis, home of the head office of Steak 'n Shake."

"In Sight, It Must be Right," he said. Our eyes locked in unspoken communion.

"Four Ways to Enjoy," I said.

"Car, table, counter, or TakHomaSak," he replied.

"Specializing in Selected Foods..."

"...with a Desire to Please the Most Discriminating."

"Thanks for Your Liberal Patronage..."

David didn't blink an eye or miss a beat. We had both obviously memorized the original menu. "...signed, A. H. (Gus) Belt, founder," he said, and we shared a nod of great satisfaction."
posted by vronsky at 8:20 PM on January 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm still trying to figure out what "eathing" is.
posted by hippybear at 10:36 PM on January 8, 2010


Oh, and the Kool Aid/RC Cola thing is pretty much the same kind of chemical reaction you get from the Mentos/Diet Coke trick (or if you simply pour cane sugar into a can of Sprite, say, but the resulting mess is not as dramatic as the Mentos or Kool-Aid.)

Dumping the sugary Kool Aid powder into a two-liter bottle of soda, or any other bottle with a small narrow mouth, is gonna give you a nifty soda super soaker for a few seconds. All you have to do is load it up, cover most of the bottle's opening with your thumb to let Bernoulli's Principle do its thing, and aim at your little brother.

Then run like hell.
posted by Spatch at 3:35 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks spatch. For some reason I assumed it was something more sinister than that, but I guess the source should have clued me in otherwise.
posted by Think_Long at 5:38 AM on January 9, 2010


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