I just finished doing The Paypal Shuffle, as I sent $4.99 to The Ebert Club. For that sum I'll receive a bunch of benefits that I'll almost certainly never use. I must be crazy.

Maybe. Or maybe not. I often tip incompetent waiters and pizza delivery drivers two or three dollars, when I'd really rather hit them over the head with a hammer. This is for a few minutes of crappy service.

I've followed Roger Ebert for decades now. He's certainly America's premier movie critic, yet it doesn't seem to have gone to his head. While certainly well-written, his reviews feel down-to-earth. Comfortable. It often feels like I'm chatting with a friend. One of my smarter friends.

Of course, I like most people, first knew about Roger Ebert from Sneak Previews, a TV show that featured him and his late partner, Gene Siskel. They made a great pair. Sometimes they'd be genuinely laughing together. Other times you could feel the tension between them. These were real people, not creations manufactured for television.

One show I remember most is the one where they decried slasher films. I was, of course, a big fan of them. I wasn't upset. Not at all. I thought it was hysterical.

For years I watched the show. I liked them both, but Roger was the one I most agreed with.

Of course I sometimes disagreed with him. Almost violently at times. Just as I'm sure that he would disagree with me a lot. Not that I consider myself in or even near his league. But I do believe that I share the passion for the movies that Roger obviously has.

And there were times that Roger Ebert made me rethink my position of a particular film. Maybe it wasn't as good as I thought it was. Or perhaps as bad. Ebert did this by making intelligent, persuasive observations about the movies he reviewed.

Gene Siskel is no longer with us. And for a time it seemed like Roger wouldn't be with us much longer. His health was poor and there were disquieting stories about it floating about. He left the TV show.

I could paste some shots of Roger now. The way he looks since he had surgery in his jaw. I'm sure you've seen them, and if you haven't they aren't hard to find. The photos of him are startling, but above all they are inspirational. Here's a guy that faced his mortality and has persevered. His body is damaged, but his mind is as sharp as ever. You only have to go to his site and read his reviews to see that.

Not least, Roger Ebert penned a certified drive-in classic. I'm speaking, of course, about Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Best of all, he's proud of it to this day.

So, $4.99 to show the man some appreciation? Who knows how much it could help if enough people join in? We all know that a positive attitude can affect our health. Maybe the success of The Ebert Club can help keep Roger enthusiastic and motivated.

If you can afford to join the club, it would be cool. If you can't, well than you surely can afford to give the man a round of applause. Ladies and Gentlemen, a man of distinction. A scholar and a man of honor. Roger Ebert.

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