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Roger Ebert: The Balcony is Closed

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Today Roger Ebert posted a column discussing the end of his (and Richard Roeper's) involvement with the Ebert and Roeper movie review program. Ebert and Roeper was formerly known as Siskel and Ebert, until Gene Siskel's untimely death in 1999. Furthermore, Ebert himself hasn't been on the program at all since 2006 (due to complications from cancer surgery that affected his voice), so the original franchise has been completely Siskel- and Ebert-free for two years now. Anyway, Ebert's print columns have remained excellent during his time away from the show (his film criticism column is syndicated in 200 newspapers around the world, as well as online). Ebert's most recent column, entitled The Balcony is Closed, discusses his feelings about ending his involvement with the show that made him a household name for the past 33 years. Here's a sample:

...On Sunday afternoons before a taping, we would separately sit across [Thea Flaum's] dining room table from her and rehearse our scripts. We had "discussion points" we tried to memorize.

We were bad at that. If one guy dropped a discussion point, the other guy got mad. "We can't remember these points," Gene said, "but we can talk to each other." During that first season (the show was called "Opening Soon at a Theater Near You"), the final format took shape. In the pub that day, Thea told us, "You boys have no idea how far this show is going to go. One day you'll be in national syndication. You'll be making real money. You wait and see."

Her prophecy came true. The day we fully realized it in our guts, I think, was the first time we were invited to appear with Johnny Carson. We were scared out of our minds. We'd been briefed on likely questions by one of the show's writers, but moments before airtime he popped his head into the dressing room and said, "Johnny may ask you for some of your favorite movies this year."

Gene and I stared at each other in horror. "What was one of your favorite movies this year?" he asked me. "Gone With the Wind," I said. The Doc Severinsen orchestra had started playing the famous "Tonight Show" theme. Neither one of us could think of a single movie. Gene called our office in Chicago. "Tell me some movies we liked this year," he said. This is a true story.

Read the rest for Ebert's heartfelt reminiscence on his long career in film criticism.

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Animals
Watch a Rogue Pet Dog Interrupt a Russian News Anchor on Air
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Last week, a Russian news broadcast briefly went to the dogs after its host was startled by a surprise co-anchor: a friendly black canine that wandered on set, announced its presence with a loud bark, and climbed onto her desk.

 

As TODAY reports, Mir24 TV anchor Ilona Linarte went off script for a few minutes, telling viewers "I've got a dog here. What is this dog doing in the studio?" After the initial shock wore off, she gave her furry guest a tepid welcome, patting its head as she gently pushed it off the desk. ("I actually prefer cats,'' Linarte remarked. "I'm a cat lady.")

Linarte’s query was answered when the TV station announced that the dog had accompanied another show’s guest on set, and somehow got loose. That said, rogue animals have a proud tradition of crashing live news broadcasts around the world, so we’re assuming this won’t be the last time a news anchor is upstaged by an adorable guest star (some of which have better hair than them).

[h/t TODAY]

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Falcon Heavy and Dragon. Image credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0
SpaceX Is Sending Two Private Citizens Around the Moon
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Falcon Heavy and Dragon. Image credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0

Two members of the public are set to take an historic trip around the Moon, according to an announcement from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. As The Verge reports, the anonymous private citizens have already placed substantial deposits on the commercial space flight.

The private spacecraft company SpaceX revealed on Monday that the Falcon Heavy rocket will be launching with its Crew Dragon spacecraft in late 2018. The mission will consist of a circumnavigation of the Moon, passing over the body’s surface before traveling farther into space and returning to Earth. In total, the trip will cover 300,000 to 400,000 miles and take a week to complete.

A noteworthy part of the plan is the human cargo that will be on board. Instead of professional astronauts, the craft will carry two paying customers into space. The passengers, who’ve yet to be named, will both need to pass several fitness tests before they're permitted to make the journey. According to The Verge, Musk said the customers are “very serious” and that the cost of the trip is “comparable” to that of a crewed mission to the International Space Station. The goal for SpaceX is to eventually send one or two commercial flights into space each year, which could account for 10 to 20 percent of the company’s earnings.

[h/t The Verge]

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