Friday, April 5, 2013

A Letter To Some Heroes

Sometimes when you read of someone's passing on the internet, you take a brief moment to sigh and say that "well, that was sad" and then your life goes on, your day ends or begins, and you don't think about it again until it comes up briefly in conversation. But once in a while, you have to take a moment to remark on the passing of the important people that fundamentally shaped parts of your life and what you think overall. One of those people passed on April 3rd 2013.

To put this into some perspective for some of you: I know a lot of the time on this blog I talk about things that are cute, make me have a fan girl like moment, or something that is just a small fraction of my life as a whole. But sometimes there are things that are not brought up on this blog all the time that can be considered personal. So incase you couldn't tell, this is not going to be one of those tumblr picture filled posts that involve sparkle text and little graphics on the sides, instead I wanna paint a picture of something in my life that I want the whole world to know today and I hope someone will care to read a part of it at least.

Back in the 90's, I grew up in a town and even era that was just beginning to get the grasp of what Learning Disabilities were for kids. Sure, I was never the first kid in my school district to come in with some sort of "wrong wire" in my brain, and I of course was not the worst one in the bunch, but I wasn't an easy case by any means either. I was born with a mixture of dyslexia, dsycalculia, dyspraxia, dysphasia and Auditory processing disorder, along with a sprinkle of A.D.D. To put in a simple description: My childhood wasn't easy. Basically until I was about 7 years old, I couldn't speak for the most part or even learn proper words except for an occasional few. Even past that age, the majority of my life has never been a gentle walk down the yellow brick road, but instead it was a bumpy sharp turn on every corner.

While in my public school district years, the faculty and staff had no possible idea of how to deal with my "condition". Several doctors told my parents that I was never going to amount to much, only maybe a simple vegetable of a child, speaking a strange alien language and would have to have my mother tie my shoes and dress me everyday for the rest of my life. All these conditions together meant I would have no friends, no social connections, no boyfriends, no laughs, no political discussions, no life in general outside of the bizarre twisted mind that I would live in because I wouldn't know how to communicate.

Even though I was apparently cursed into a world in which I would never know its language, I seemed to actually all ready understand a different language perfectly well: Film. I was raised on movies from the moment I first sat in front of a coach. I constantly would react to parts in a movie, characters, dialog, scenes, music, I knew what I was watching and knew what they were saying - I just didn't know how to say it myself. The Little Mermaid taught me about the ocean, Gone With The Wind taught me about the South, and preview for Silence of the Lambs made me scared. But I understood it, I knew what I was seeing in front of me and this comfortable world I saw taught me everything I needed to know, or so I thought of course.

As I went on with my days at school, I continued to have difficulty processing what was going on around me. I interacted with kids, but it was no more then a simple laugh at my expense towards my issues or my physical appearance (rocking a kid mullet and vampire like teeth was not cool in '95) and thus I felt isolated and alone much of the time, with only having toys and picture books to entertain me in a mild manor. But then I would get home, and there is where my real friends would be. There would be Ariel going on a swim, Scarlet and Rhett having a lovers spat, and the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park screaming in my face. The world of movies were my real and true only friends, and they kept me company on the darkest of days. Suddenly, I met two new friends on the TV screen. One was a slim mild aged man slowly losing his hair, and another was a cuddly plump man with big glasses but yet very stone cold eyes. These two would be my favorite teachers, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.

Everyday when I would come home from school or wake up Saturday morning, I would hear the familiar 70's jingle that would give me feel this warm fuzzy feeling, that I was about to hang out with the two coolest guys in the entire world for the next hour. Gene would offer the first usual punches, where his taste had a bit more of a modern flare and he embraced a lot of the new elements within films of the 90's. Ebert however was of a more classic period, and though he appreciated modern day films, he never saw many of them as classics and much of the time was always wishing and hoping they could be better than they actually were. At the end of the day, they would teach me how to properly express my feelings through my thumbs.

My favorite moments of watching these two were always seeing them spat at one another in disagreement, which was also probably my first lesson in arguing with someone. It taught me that even though these two men could bicker on and off about each other within their disagreements, they always would remain friends at the end of the day even if it wasn't perfect. This also, and was for many people in a general sense, the first introduction to real film criticism. While other critics would pop up on television giving reviews of movies, Siskel and Ebert were the first to truly give actual criticism, and not just be endorsed to give a positive review of a movie because that studio owned the TV station they worked for. Ebert was never always kind, and Siskel would rip movies to shreds. They both had their worsts and their bests, and most of the time they were different, which defined their unique taste overall and their legacy.

But then a dark and gloomy day came in 1999, and I lost one of my friends. Gene Siskel died of complications from a surgery he was getting after battling a brain tumor. From then on my heart felt a little empty, and even though other critics would come to fill in to review with Ebert, it never felt the same. Finally, a few years later, Ebert would battle his own form of cancer (this time thyroid) and have to depart from the show and review movies only in print form. Ebert then had his jaw removed, and was given the most badass honor of all: A permanent smile on his face. Ebert would continue to review films via Twitter and through other sites, connecting with the world to other film fanatics and making himself seem like the coolest 70 year old in the world.

Roger Ebert, with his piercing eyes.

But yesterday marked the end of an era. Roger Ebert died, and ironically only a day short of when Siskel passed (April 4th). It's clear that both of these heros of mine have left marks on the world and popular culture forever. But more importantly, they have left a mark on my life, and with that I want to take a moment to say some things I need to get off my chest:

Roger and Gene, thank you. Thank you for teaching me that I can have an opinion regardless of what anyone else thinks of me or that attitude I form, that regardless of who I am as a person that I am allowed to form a thought or feeling on something and its something that should be respected even if its not what someone else agrees. Thank you for proving to me that I am an important individual in society, that I matter, along with my mind mattering. Thank you for showing me the proper and hilarious way to have an argument. Thank you for everyday giving me insight into the art I was seeing in a detailed and yet understandable format. Thank you for the time and effort you gave into film criticism and giving it some credit within the world at large. And finally, thank you for inspiring me everyday to push forward towards my goal of being you one day. If it wasn't for you guys I doubt I would feel the encouragement and inner push to reach for my goals, regardless of my past or the way my brain works, and that I can do what I want to do.

I hope that many years from now, people will recount and think about these two as legends in their own right, and respect the changes that made in the world of forming opinions at large. If they gave a kid like me the incentive to eventually graduate high school and get a college degree, then I think they could do that for many other kids as well and eventually maybe people will listen to children of all kids and respect what they think at their young age, cause really children know a lot more then we give them credit for.

So to those teachers that in the past told me that they taught me how to speak, I have to retract their comment. They might have taught me how to properly form words with my mouth and give me the tools to eventually get where I am today. But no one ever taught me as much as Mr. Ebert and Mr. Siskel, who taught me the real language that I first truly spoke and will speak until the end of my days: My love of the movies and the love of speaking my mind. And to that I once more say thank you, and thumbs up I give to you for all time. 

If you are curious to know if Mr. Ebert's life affected anyone else, I recommend you check out Chris Stuckmann's video here and the countless other tributes you will see online for him, as you will know that I am not the only one that thinks these things, even if everyones story is different, its all a universal thank you at the end of the day. 




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