Monthly Archives: March 2012

Val Kilmer: An Appreciation

It is hard to deny the fact that from 1983-1995 Val Kilmer had a pretty good run. Here’s the rundown: Top Secret!, Real Genius, Top Gun, Willow, The Doors, Thunderheart, True Romance, Tombstone, Batman Forever, and Heat. I threw out a couple of films that I think everyone has forgotten about, but those 10 films are pretty impressive for any actor. Kilmer was Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley (officially credited as Mentor), Doc Holliday, and Batman during that stretch. 

And then The Island of Dr. Moreau happened. 

This adapatation of the H.G. Wells classic was disastrous. Kilmer feuded with the original director Richard Stanley, and eventually Stanley was replaced by John Frankenheimer. He asked for a reduced role as Edward Prendick (changed to Edward Douglas), and when they first brought on Rob Morrow and then David Thewlis, Kilmer became Dr. Montgomery. Frankenheimer and Kilmer feuded as well, and he even had arguments with Marlon Brando. All in all a terrible experience for everyone, and a terrible film which “earned” six Razzie nominations, and barely made back its $40 million budget. 

The next 15 years have not been so kind to Kilmer. Whether dealing with the label of “hard to work with,” or just wanting to get away from Hollywood, Kilmer has kind of faded away. He has appeared in some critically well-received films like Pollock, The Salton Sea, Spartan, and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, but he has appeared in more straight-to-video films than box office successes. 

He bought a ranch in New Mexico, and then proceeded to buy the ranches surrounding him. At one point he was nearing 6,000 acres of land, but due to financial troubles he has had to sell most of this property. Chuck Klosterman wrote a pretty amazing article for Esquire about Kilmer that shows the state of Kilmer during this time. He was distant, and weird. 

But Kilmer has always seemed distant, and weird. This is what I like about Val Kilmer. This is why I like watching him perform. He is frenetic, odd, and always seems to be in a different place. He appears to be continually lurking on the fringes, and there’s this possibility that he is going to fall off that ledge and never come back. 

The truth is Kilmer has never really gone away, he has always been acting. He has never tried to be anything other than an actor. He did not leave acting to become a boxer, or a governor (though he did think about running for governor of New Mexico in 2010). Sure the list of bad straight-to-video dreck is starting to outweigh that early success rate, but if Mickey Rourke can make a comeback so can Val Kilmer. 

The problem is that Kilmer might not want to make a comeback. He is perfectly happy doing what he wants, or at least he seems to be. During his almost 30 year film career Kilmer has worked with Tony Scott, Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, Oliver Stone, Michael Mann, and David Mamet. He continues to make films, and continues to act well in them. 

Currently he is appearing in a one-man show in Hollywood about the relationship between Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy. He wrote, and is directing this play, and has intentions of making it into a film. Not really the path back to stardom, but it somehow makes sense. 

I will leave you with one of my favorite Kilmer scenes: 

Whatever happened to Michael Biehn?!

 

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I Was In a Twitter Argument Today

“So this is Twitter? OK.”

That was my first tweet a little over two years ago. I joined Twitter without really knowing what I was doing. The first person I followed was local anchorman Devin Scillian. He tweeted about the death of former Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson, and for some reason it was enough for me to follow him. Since then I have followed 333 other people with the majority being sports related both local and national.

A little over a year ago I discovered the true power of Twitter when local afternoon sports talk host Terry Foster mentioned the basketball coach at Eastern Michigan getting fired. As an alum I thought I would send him a message, and he replied. We sent a few more tweets back and forth after Rob Murphy was hired, and I felt super cool. Twitter connects you with people you are interested in. It is kind of weird, but neat when Eugene Mirman retweets something you tweeted, or Ranae Holland, of Finding Bigfoot, sends you a message saying she enjoyed your post about bigfoot.

Today I entered a different realm of Twitter when I had an argument through tweets.

First, I should set this up. The baseball season is closing in, and the Detroit Tigers are finalizing their roster. One of the most polarizing players for this team is Brandon Inge. Last season, he batted .197 and was demoted to Toledo. All in all a bad year for Inge. During the off season the Tigers signed Prince Fielder to play first base, moving star slugger Miguel Cabrera to third, or the position Inge used to play. He whined about it, and was given a chance to make the team as a second basemen (a position he has never played). This spring training he is hitting terribly, and really does not deserve a shot with the team.

This has been a regular issue with the local sports guys, and one of Inge’s biggest supporters is Pat Caputo of The Oakland Press and 97.1FM. He has been building a case for the inclusion of Inge on the opening day roster, and today he sent out this tweet:

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Essentially Caputo was saying that spring training is not an indicator of regular season production. He’s right, but the problem is that Inge has not been productive for a few seasons. So the following argument between myself and Caputo ensued:

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I was expecting any response, and I do agree with him on two points. Inge will make the team, and spring training essentially does not mean anything. My problem is that Caputo has been on the Inge bandwagon for years, and in the past few weeks he has been throwing out statistics in an attempt to build a case for keeping Inge.

Caputo also tweeted later that those of us wanting Inge out of Detroit probably voted him into the All-Star Game in 2009, and he’s right. I did vote for him, but since that game Inge has been more of a liability than an asset.

I like Pat Caputo. He’s opinionated which is probably why he decided to get into arguments about the Inge tweets with several other people. He knows more about baseball than I do, but I feel like he is wrong on this issue. I know he probably has some loyalty to Inge. Inge is the longest tenured member of the Tigers, and was here during some absolutely terrible seasons, but letting him go might be the best thing for the team, and for Inge.

 

Who Will Present Guns N’ Roses? How About Me!

I read today that Guns n’ Roses have not decided on who will be presenting them at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on April 14th in Cleveland. More specifically W. Axl Rose has not decided who will presenting him at the ceremony because you know the other guys have zero say in the goings on of GnR.

So here is a rundown of some suitable presenters:

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Riki Rachtman
Actually this one is a possibility. Rachtman hosted MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball back when the station showed music videos, was the host of the VH1 Rock of Love reunion shows, and has been a radio DJ for years. He appears in the video for “November Rain,” and was friends with Axl. I say “was” because is anyone friends with Axl for more than a couple years? I think if Riki gets the job he should definitely present with the parrot on his shoulder.

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Alice Cooper
Another possibility because of his work with GnR in the past. He provided some vocals to the track, “The Garden” from Use Your Illusion I, and said on his radio show that the group would be getting back to together for the ceremony. Maybe he has some inside information because he will be presenting? Or will he be singing with the remaining band sans Axl? That would be…horrible. Sorry Alice fans, but that would be wrong.

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Heather DeLoach a.k.a. The Bee Girl
OK. This one is a stretch, but hear me out. Axl was friends with Blind Melon lead singer Shannon Hoon, and Hoon appears on a couple tracks from the Use Your Illusion albums, and in the video for “Don’t Cry.” It could be a great tribute to Blind Melon, and his friend, but again Axl has no friends. Sorry Heather.

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Sebastian Bach
I forgot about Axl’s one friend, former Skid Row lead singer Sebastian Bach. These guys have been friends for years, and Bach even opened for GnR on the Chinese Democracy Tour. He recorded some backing vocals for Chinese Democracy, and he performed with Metallica and GnR  as The Gak at a RIP Magazine party. Oh man I remember RIP magazine! Always next to Hit Parader on the magazine rack at Meijer.

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Jeremy Klumpp
Clearly I know where Cleveland is, and the Hall of Fame even! I first saw the music video for “Welcome to the Jungle” at a laundromat, and I was jealous of my cousin who saw the Metallica/GnR/Faith No More concert at the Pontiac Silverdome. I could write a pretty awesome speech with references to Slash, or without. I will not bring up Stephanie Seymour, or Izzy Stradlin. Hell, I will even wear a headband on stage. I think this is a win/win situation. So Axl if Sebastian, Riki, or Alice are unavailable give me a call. Ypsilanti is only a couple hours from Cleveland. I will hop in the Accord, and be there before you can say, “The Spaghetti Incident?”

Thanks Prometheus

I think I have finally reached the moment that begins the separation of pre-dad Jeremy, and post-dad Jeremy. It happened over the weekend, and was not even something of consequence. It had nothing to do with my wife or son, and really the only person who noticed anything different was me. I turned on my computer, and saw a post featuring this video:

This is the trailer for the new Ridley Scott movie, Prometheus, and I believe its release means the beginning of the end for my former self because I had no idea this movie was even being made. On top of that it is a prequel to Alien. Well, Scott is not saying much about that, but it seems like a prequel to Alien. 

Most of you are probably wondering why this is a big deal. It is a big deal because two years ago I would have been all over this movie. First, it is directed by Ridley Scott who not only directed Alien, but also one of my all-time favorite movies, Blade Runner. I love that movie so much that I wrote a paper about the insane amount of detail Scott put into the film, and was given a C+ for writing too detailed of a paper. I actually think it was a joke, but it kind of pissed me off. Second, the film stars some actors that I think are pretty great at what they do, and some that are pretty great at being…pretty. 

I should have seen photos from the set, rumors about casting, and had a frigging clue the thing was even being made. But I didn’t. I had no idea until Saturday evening that a cast and crew had spent the past year making Prometheus. 

This probably sounds like me getting all upset over something ridiculous, and it is. Lately, I have been trying to figure out a way to balance what I used to do, and what I do now, but I am slowly coming to the realization that the way I used to be is gone. It is never coming back, even after my son has moved out, and I can finally see Thor and Captain America it will not be the same. And I am totally cool with that.

I would rather spend my day watching ants crawl on the sidewalk with my son, and reading books to him, and throwing pine cones than know mundane facts about a film’s production. I am happier as a father, and while having a kid may be chipping away at my previous life I am still essentially the same person. I just have a miniature version of myself standing next to me who thinks that a tiger, bear, dragon, and bigfoot all make the same sounds. 

 

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Your Guide to Sports Talk Radio Callers

When I returned to college in 2006 it was to pursue a degree in broadcasting. I have always been a huge sports fan, and I thought that my knowledge along with my radio voice (notice I did not say radio face) could help me land a job somewhere talking about sports. Life sometimes gets in the way of dreams, and with a son on the way in 2010 I decided to finish my degree, but put the sports talk career on hold before it started.

During that final semester in early 2010 I interned at a local sports talk station in Ann Arbor. I manned the phones from 7am-10am three days a week, and earned the nickname “Silent Bob” because the host thought I looked liked Kevin Smith. Having a nickname that starts with “Silent” is probably not the best thing in radio, and may have led to my limited amount of time on the air.

I was there for four months, and I picked up a pretty good rapport with the regular callers. Even knowing when they would call. After I left the station the way I listened to sports talk changed, and I noticed some pretty distinct characteristics of sports talk radio callers.

Here is a breakdown of five different sports talk radio callers. For this breakdown I thought we could use a sports scenario to help some of you understand: The Detroit Tigers are currently in first place, but have lost four of their last five games. Last night they lost to the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1. The team committed two errors and only produced two hits against the Blue Jays best pitcher, Ricky Romero. Manager Jim Leyland pulled starter Rick Porcello in the sixth with two men on, one out and the score 2-1. Reliever Octavio Dotel gave up a three-run home run, and Phil Coke finished the game giving up only one more hit.

Ex-athlete or current coach (sometimes these are one in the same): The first thing this caller lets you know is that they played or coach organized sports. Usually at the high school level, but occasionally the college level. The second thing they say is that when they were playing the coaches would not have allowed the errors to go without benching the player. The coaches say that they would have benched the players committing the errors, or that they always make their players work on “fundamentals.” Fundamentals is a word that gets thrown around a lot on sports talk, but when you reach pro levels in sports fundamentals get tossed to the side somewhat. The speed, size and ability is at such a high level that an athlete needs to think and react quickly.
Example Call: “Hey guys. I used to play ball at Brother Rice, and currently coach little leaguers. Leyland needs to sit these guys down and teach them some fundamentals. There is no excuse for that error Raburn made. Get in front of the ball!”
Typical host response: “That ball was hit so hard I don’t think Raburn would have got him anyway. And do you think Leyland isn’t talking to these guys?”

Game breakdown: When I was in Ann Arbor we had a caller who would call after every Michigan basketball game, and break it down. He must have been taking notes during the game. These callers will find the tiniest detail of the game, and focus on it. Usually because they believe it is the reason for the loss or win, and everyone else is missing it. In reality that tiniest detail is forgotten because most fans realized it was of little importance. That caller drove me crazy, and they drive me crazy when I listen today. 
Example call: “Guys it’s Michael. Did you notice in the top of the second when that ball got past Jackson in center? He was playing too shallow. And then in the third why did Leyland not call the hit and run? Perfect time to do that. Tigers hitters are batting over .400 with runners on first and one out before the fifth inning.”  
Typical host response: “There was no one on base, and Bautista didn’t score, so no harm there. Do you really want a hit and run with Peralta?”

Fire everyone: This caller is a favorite of mine. In Detroit we have playoff teams (Lions, Tigers and Red Wings), and a rebuilding team (Pistons), but someone calls weekly wanting a coach or general manager to be fired. They never have an answer for who to replace these people with, and sometimes even want players demoted or sent packing.
Example Call: “First time, long time. Fire Leyland. This guy pulls Porcello with only 80 pitches thrown, and puts in Dotel? C’mon. They should send Raburn back to Toledo to learn how to field, and fire Dombrowski as well for having a $200 million payroll, and nothing to show for it.”
Typical host response: “Who are you going to replace Leyland with? Or Dombrowski? Raburn is batting .275 with 15 homers, and you want to send him to Toledo for flubbing a missle? We should be happy it didn’t kill him. Porcello looked tired, and couldn’t get a pitch over the plate, and Dotel made one bad pitch to Jose Bautista, arguably one of the best sluggers in the game.”

Mimic: There are two kinds of mimics. Jim Rome is known for his callers that give their “take” on the day’s events. These callers sound like Rome, have the same cadence as Rome, and they are annoying. That is the first kind, the caller who wants to be the host. The second basically takes what has been said and rehashes it. I do not know if this is because of nerves, or the fact that they have no original ideas and just want to be heard on the radio. These guys are the worst because they do not add anything to the conversation.
Example Call: “Guys. Love the show. This team is still in first place. Who would replace Leyland? Seriously? Raburn and Dotel made one mistake each. This team will be fine.”
Typical host response: “Right. Next caller.”

Subject Changer: The station I worked at in Ann Arbor was pretty set in their format, and rarely veered away from University of Michigan sports. The station I currently listen to has open lines, which means anyone can call about any subject. Sometimes these subjects have nothing to do with what is currently being talked about, and sometimes they have nothing to do with sports. These callers are fine if the subject is dull or nearing the end of discussion, but there are times when these callers are coming out of left field. Usually this has to do with someone listening, but not being able to get on air for a length of time.
Example Call: “Guys. You were talking about what Rush Limbaugh said. Last time I checked there was freedom of speech in this country, so he can say whatever he wants.”
Typical host response: “You’re right, but if he wants to keep advertisers he might want to watch what he says. That’s what I was saying. Look Rush has been doing this for years, and he’ll probably be OK, but all I was saying is that he might want to watch it. This is a different time. Max in Utica is next.”

These five callers make up a majority of the callers to the station I currently listen to, and I could probably have written a post about each of them. But that would be overkill. There are other callers out there, and depending on which show you listen to you may hear another favorite of mine, the Arguer. This caller just wants to argue, and I did not feel like writing about them. They are boring, and like the mimic usually bring nothing new to the discussion.

After reading this you may wonder why I would even want to subject myself to these regular callers, and I have times when I wonder the same thing. It is probably a factor in my not wanting to sit in front of a microphone anymore, and for the change in career choices for me. There will always be a part of me that will want to get on the air, and rant with these crazy callers, but I am happy and content, and do not see a reason to change that.

 

Pictures From My Past: A Night With Ragman

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In March of 2003 my friend Chris and I went to Minneapolis to see the Detroit Red Wings take on the Minnesota Wild. It was just days after the start of the Iraq War, and my 25th birthday. Along the way we made a detour to Iowa to spend the night with a friend of Chris’s, Ragman. 

Ragman had lived a pretty interesting life to that point. He served in the Navy where he picked up some Apollo astronauts after a moon mission. As a hobo he rode the rails across the country. When Chris and I visited Ragman was living in a trailer in Boone, Iowa (the birthplace of Mamie Eisenhower), and needed to make it to “drink-driving” class in the morning. 

He greeted us with a case of Busch Light and a chicken dinner. After spending over 10 hours on the road, a beer and a meal was just what we needed. While eating dinner Ragman said he wanted to take us to see the highest double track railroad bridge in America. Boone is the perfect place for a former hobo, the Union Pacific runs through town and a railyard is near the downtown area. At one point in its past the town hosted two other railways, but the Union Pacific is all that remains. 

Ragman was not kidding. The Kate Shelley High Bridge (built in 1902, named in 1912) was indeed one of the highest double track railroad bridges in the country, and it definitely towered over the dirt road we had stopped on to view it. Because we were just days into the Iraq War we were greeted by a local sheriff with a shotgun. It is probably pretty unusual for three scruffy looking guys to stop and look at a bridge, especially one that carries the Union Pacific railroad. Ragman let the sheriff know that we just wanted to look at the bridge, and we soon left. I wanted to take a picture, especially when a train passed by, but I figured that might be asking for trouble.

The original Kate Shelley High Bridge was the first bridge (and only bridge until 1976) named after a woman. Shelley was 16 years old in 1881 when she heard a train crash during a flood near Boone, and knowing a passenger train would soon be arriving, risked her life to sound an alarm to stop the incoming train. She saved 200 passengers, and continued to live in the area until her death in 1912. 

When we returned to Ragman’s trailer, we continued to drink and Ragman decided to introduce us to the world of Hawkwind. The house next door to Ragman could not have been more than 10 feet away, but Ragman cranked his record player and we listened to Hawkwind at full volume for an entire album. Which album I have no idea, but it was loud. So loud that I felt like I was either going to go deaf, or the police we going to arrive and arrest us for plotting to blow-up a bridge and noise violations. After Hawkwind we listened to the latest from the Dropkick Murphys and watched a Jimi Hendrix video (you can see it on the table in the photo). 

At some point Chris and I decided we needed to get some sleep. We had been in a car for 10 hours, been at Ragman’s for at least five more, and had a four hour drive to Minneapolis still ahead of us. We also knew that Ragman needed to get to his class in a few hours, and probably should get some sleep, but Ragman decided to get his guitar. 

Ragman is a folk musician, and a pretty decent one as well. I have only hung-out with Ragman on a couple of occasions, but he appears happiest when he has a guitar in hand. So essentially Ragman serended us while we pretended to sleep because we could not actually fall asleep with him playing. We must not have been drunk enough. Ragman on the other hand must have drunk at least half of the case, and was still going. 

During the early morning hours Ragman did two things that still seem unbelievable to me. First, he managed to dropped a beer straight down, so it landed without spilling. Unfortunately it did land open side down, so when he reached down to grab it he spilled it all over his carpet. Second, after we thought he had finally fallen asleep in his chair we noticed he was still holding a beer. Chris decided to take the beer out of his hand, but as soon as he touched the can Ragman put a vice grip on it. He soon woke up and made his way into his bedroom. 

I do not remember if I got any sleep that night. I think Ragman snuck in a few hours before leaving for his “drink-driving” class, and if Chris got anymore than a couple hours I would be surprised. He left us some coffee to drink and we started our journey to the Twin Cities where we caught Jay Farrar at First Avenue, and watched the Red Wings lose 4-0. 

It is rare to meet genuine people anymore, but I can honestly say that Ragman is one of the most genuine people I will ever meet. If this had been anyone else I could easily have been annoyed with everything that was happening, but it just all seemed to make sense that we would see a tall railroad bridge, drink Busch Light, play loud English 70’s rock, and listen to Ragman sing during a visit to his house. I kind of expected it to happen that way, and looking back after nine years I am glad that it did. 

Here’s a video of Ragman at the Crow Union Music Festival in 2010:

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