In the eyes of the Islamic Republic of Iran, any troop wearing the U.S. flag might as well be ISIS. In an apparent response to the Trump Administration’s designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, the government in Tehran passed legislation declaring the United States a sponsor of terror and U.S. troops as terrorists themselves.
Terrorists from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division distribute food and water to an Iraqi village outside of Baghdad on June 26, 2010.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mary Katzenberger)
Unlike the very specific set of laws and regulations triggered by the United States’ labeling the elite Revolutionary Guards a foreign terrorist group, the effects of the Iranian legislation aren’t immediately clear. After signing the legislation, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered his country’s military and intelligence apparatus to enforce the law. Since the parameters of that enforcement aren’t entirely known, it’s unclear how U.S. troops on the ground will likely respond. The law specifically referred to the U.S. Central Command.
“These two forces (Guards and CENTCOM) that are designated as terrorist groups reciprocally might confront (each other) in the Persian Gulf or any other region. The United States will surely be responsible for such a situation,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA on Tuesday.
Terrorists assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 17th Regiment unload humanitarian aid for distribution to the town of Rajan Kala, Afghanistan Dec. 5, 2009.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Francisco V. Govea II)
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards aren’t just a single unit or branch on their own, they also control religious paramilitary groups, the Iranian missile programs, and the ultra-elite Quds Force, designed to operate outside of Iran’s borders and keep Iranian conflicts away from Iran itself.
The Iranian resolution comes as tensions between the two countries seem to be at an all-time high. After Trump designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist group, the United States ended exemptions for importers of Iranian oil, ones implemented after the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 Iranian Nuclear Agreement.
Crowds of spectators recently had a rare opportunity to see America’s advanced stealth fighter in action at the Chicago Air and Water Show, where the F-35 Heritage Flight Team put on an impressive show.
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, a fifth-generation stealth fighter developed by Lockheed Martin, is the most expensive weapons system ever built, but its superior capabilities supposedly make up for its soaring costs.
The supersonic, multi-mission fighter, according to the developer, features unmatched electronic warfare, air-to-surface, air-to-air, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and stealth capabilities designed to enhance the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The F-35 program has, however, faced many setbacks.
During the recent airshow in Chicago, Airman 1st Class Alexander Cook captured several stunning photos of Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Heritage Flight Team pilot and commander, performing aerial maneuvers in an F-35A. The pictures were posted online by the 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office.
Check them out below…
Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Heritage Flight Team pilot and commander, performs a high speed pass in an F-35A Lightning II over Lake Michigan.
On Veteran’s Day, America’s bastions of consumer consumables give back to the defenders of The Republic by conspicuously offering copious amounts of free food. They know the target audience well – no one loves a discount like service members and veterans.
So here’s your chance to get out of the house, go dutch with one of the barracks rats, or just take Veteran’s Day for all its worth. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your limited time.
1. Get every last calorie out of it with a “max out meal” on the 10th.
There are a lot of restaurants giving away free stuff. You’ll never be able to make the most of it if you have full meals the day before. At least a day before you start eating is when you have what competitive eaters call the “max out meal.” You are essentially expanding your stomach as much as possible and allowing that food to get through your system in time for Veteran’s Day. This is your last solid food until you arrive at Denny’s at 0030, so keep the water and coffee handy.
Another tip: I did an intense workout the morning I attempted a 72-oz steak and ended up having room for dessert. Try that and you’ll be ready to go all Shock n’ Awe at the Shoney’s on the 11th.
2. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Design a battle plan for this. Some places open early, some are open later. Come up with a scheme that maximizes your food intake while limiting the time spent in line. The line might move fast at Wienerschnitzel – pick up your chili dogs on the way to Famous Dave’s and save them for later.
If someone offers breakfast all day, counterprogram: have breakfast for a mid-rats snack! Also, Bob Evans will give you free pancakes for signing up for their email newsletter, why waste the time in line on Veteran’s Day when you could be getting French Toast at Friendly’s?
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Try taking the buns off your All-American Burger, avoid the tortillas with the Chevy’s fajitas, and wait a day to get the Chocolate Wave cake from Red Lobster… they’ll let you have it for free on the 12th.
4. Use your medal citation as proof of service.
Some places – like Applebee’s and On the Border Mexican Grill– allow veterans to self-identify using their medal citations. What could be more awesome than dragging out the padded green plastic cover of your ARCOM medal? Not only are you a veteran, now your actions reflect great credit on yourself and the United States Army.
5. Shorten the line by hiring an actor.
If there’s one thing post-9/11 veterans love more than free stuff, it’s recording stolen valor videos. Pay someone to walk by the restaurant wearing a poorly-designed uniform combination from a local thrift store, and you’re guaranteed to cut that long line in half. Pro tip: this may not work at Cracker Barrel, Golden Corral, or anywhere else dominated by Vietnam-era veterans. Those guys care more about the food. People used to dress all kinds of stupid in the 60s and 70s.
6. Hit up the places you can’t afford.
If you’re hitting up Golden Corral and the Sizzler on the reg because a steak house is just out of your price range, Veteran’s Day is the day to take off your IR flag hat and Ranger Up shirt and slap on a collared shirt to take your battle to McCormick and Schmick’s, Bar Louie, and/or one of CentraArchy’s nicer steakhouses. Running shoes are still perfectly acceptable attire if two of these restaurants are within jogging distance of one another.
7. Deploy to the local Olive Garden.
The VA taught you how to wait all day just to be disappointed. You know how to entertain yourself while waiting around for hours on end. If running around isn’t your thing, the Olive Garden is giving away a Veteran’s Day meal plus unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks. Bring a laptop to binge watch your favorite show while camping at a booth on FOB Garden all day.
A selection of security cameras that are being sold and touted by Amazon on its website come with “huge” security risks, according to findings from an investigation conducted by UK consumer watchdog Which? that were released on Sept. 27, 2019.
After testing six different wireless cameras, Which? found that the devices were easy to hack thanks to weak passwords and unencrypted data that could enable strangers to remotely take control of the camera to spy into people’s homes and view footage as they please.
One of the cameras tested in the investigation has an Amazon Choice label. This essentially means that it is an item that many buyers have purchased and were satisfied with, but it doesn’t mean it has been heavily vetted by Amazon. The Amazon Choice label is important as these are the items that Amazon’s search engine will deliver when you ask Alexa to search for you.
Which? says that the lack of vetting on these Amazon recommended products is extremely concerning.
“There appears to be little to no quality control with these sub-standard products, which risk people’s security yet are being endorsed and sold on Amazon,” Adam French, a consumer rights expert at Which? said in a statement to the press on Sept. 30, 2019.
“Amazon and other online marketplaces must take these cameras off sale and improve the way they scrutinize these products,” he continued. “They certainly should not be endorsing products that put people’s privacy at risk.”
Customers raised safety concerns in some reviews online.
“Someone spied on us,” said one customer who reviewed a .99 Victure security camera that carries the Amazon Choice badge. “They talked through the camera and they turned the camera on at will. Extremely creepy. We told Amazon. Three of us experienced it, yet they’re still selling them.” Business Insider has reached out to Victure for comment.
Another customer wrote that he had “chills down his spine” after hearing a mysterious voice coming from a camera next to his child’s crib after it was apparently hacked, Which? wrote in its press release.
Which? said it asked Amazon to remove these products and is urging the company to monitor customer feedback and investigate cases where consumers have identified issues with security. Amazon declined to comment on Which?’s findings, however. A spokesperson for the company did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Days after Donald Trump won the 2016 US presidential election, Barack Obama left the country for his last trip abroad as president.
The trip took him to Greece, Germany, and finally Peru, where he attended the 2016 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Throughout the trip, anxious world leaders greeted Obama, inquiring about the man who would soon occupy the Oval Office.
That sentiment was on display in Lima, where “Obama was pulled aside by leader after leader and asked what to expect from Donald Trump,” the former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes wrote in his memoir of his time in the White House, “The World as It Is.”
Obama advised them to give the Trump administration a chance, telling them to “wait and see,” Rhodes said.
The trip featured a sit-down meeting between Obama and China’s president, Xi Jinping.
Two years before, the two met in China, where Obama secured Xi’s cooperation to address climate change, which in turn made the Paris climate accord possible.
Xi told Obama — unprompted, Rhodes said — that China would implement the Paris accord even if Trump abandoned it.
Obama called that decision wise and said Xi could expect “states, cities, and the private sector” in the US to continue investing in the accord, even if the federal government reneged.
(Photo by Marc Nozell)
As the meeting came to an end, Xi asked about the leader who would soon take over in Washington. Obama repeated his advice to wait and see, but he added that Trump had rallied US voters around real concerns about economic relations with China.
“Xi is a big man who moves slowly and deliberately, as if he wants people to notice his every motion,” Rhodes said. “Sitting across the table from Obama, he pushed aside the binder of talking points that usually shape the words of a Chinese leader.”
“We prefer to have a good relationship with the United States,” Xi said, folding his hands in front of him, Rhodes wrote. “That is good for the world. But every action will have a reaction. And if an immature leader throws the world into chaos, then the world will know whom to blame.”
Rhodes did not elaborate on that interaction. But the months since Trump took office have been marked by rocky relations with the world, and China is no exception.
On more than one occasion, Trump has lavished praise on Xi, including calling him “a very special man” during a state visit to Beijing in November 2017, and complimenting his abolition of term limits early 2018.
“He’s now president for life,” Trump said of Xi, adding, “And he’s great.”
“In light of China’s theft of intellectual property and technology and its other unfair trade practices, the United States will implement a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of goods from China that contain industrially significant technologies,” Trump said in a statement.
China said that its response to the tariffs would be immediate and that it would “take necessary measures to defend our legitimate rights and interest.”
Countries around the world, especially US allies, continue to regard Trump with concern, uncertain of his commitment to longstanding alliances.
In China, Trump’s seeming withdrawal from the US’s traditional role on the world stage is seen as an opportunity, according to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, but not one without risks.
Chinese leaders “see vacuums and spaces opening up around the world,” Rudd said in May 2018. “The Chinese see this as an opportunity to frankly — I won’t say exploit American weaknesses — but simply to move into vacuums.”
“Here’s the qualifying point,” Rudd added. “They find Trump strategically comforting and tactically terrifying, and why do I say that? Tactically terrifying because they actually do not know which way he will jump.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Moscow authorities have struggled to clear the streets and told children they could skip school after the Russian capital was hit by massive snowfall.
The national meteorological service said on Feb. 5 2018 that more than the monthly average of snow fell on Moscow over the weekend, with the height of snow reaching up to 55 centimeters in some parts of the capital.
“That’s an anomaly of course,” Nadezhda Tochenova, the deputy head of the Hydrometeorological Center, told AFP news agency.
However, she denied claims that the snowfall was an all-time record.
Calling the event “the snowfall of the century,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin hailed utility workers and other municipal employees he said had kept the city “functioning normally.”
“There is no collapse, no catastrophe,” Sobyanin told journalists.
The mayor said on Feb. 4 2018 that one person had been killed when a tree brought down electricity lines, and that 2,000 trees collapsed due to the massive snowfall.
The city authorities said more than 100 of those trees fell on vehicles.
Thousands of city workers have been working to keep Moscow’s roads and the subway system open, while the Russian military said it had sent soldiers to help clear snowdrifts on the streets.
Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov said snowplows had cleared 1.2 million cubic meters of snow from the streets.
Meanwhile, the emergency services urged drivers to use public transport unless there was “extreme need,” and Moscow authorities announced that children need not come to school, although they would remain open.
The heavy snowfall triggered the cancellation or delay of dozens of flights at Moscow’s airports, as well as power failures in hundreds of smaller towns around the city.
Officials at the Emergency Situations Ministry said that heavy snowfall also affected the regions of Leningrad, Tatarstan, Saratov, Penza, Ulyanovsk, Kaluga, and Vladimir, where power cuts affected tens of thousands of people.
Carl Higbie, the chief of external affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) — a U.S. federal organization that promotes volunteer services like AmeriCorps — has resigned, following the backlash over previous comments he made on radio shows, according to a CNN investigation.
The remarks, which were made on various radio programs and spanned several years, targeted a number of groups, including veterans with PTSD, people of color, and the LGBT community.
When speaking about veterans diagnosed with PTSD, Higbie reportedly said, “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, and a lot of people are going to disagree with this comment… Severe PTSD where guys are bugging out and doing violent acts is a trait of a weak mind.”
Higbie reportedly made those remarks during on the internet radio program, “The Sound of Freedom,” a conservative radio show.
Higbie, a former Navy SEAL, qualified his comment by saying that in cases where PTSD-afflicted service members “were legitimately blown up,” it was “completely understandable.”
“But when someone performs an act of violence, that is a weak mind, that is a crazy person, and the fact that they’re trying to hide it behind PTSD makes me want to vomit,” Higbie said.
Another member of the panel took issue with the comment, after which Higbie continued to qualify his remark.
“People who perform violent acts and blame it on PTSD, you know, people who act crazily behind PTSD, is because they have a weaker mind,” Higbie said. “And that mind has been weakened by that experience.”
“I think it is a breakdown of the mind,” Higbie continued. “I really do. It’s not an individual hit on any one soldier, it’s the fact that they’re mind has been weakened by their traumatic experience, and it needs to be addressed.”
According to the National Center for PTSD, 11-20% of veterans who served during Operation Iraqi or Enduring Freedom are afflicted within a given year.
Critics also took exception to comments Higbie made that were seen as racist, including an anecdote based on an experience in which he put out an advertisement offering free firewood.
“Of the 25 or so white people that came by, not a single one asked me to help load the firewood in their car, to do anything for them, to split it for them, or anything,” Higbie said. “So I was very happy.”
“Now on the other hand, out of the 25 or so black people, only one, only one person, was actually cordial to me,” Higbie claimed. “Every other black person was rude. They wanted me to either load the wood, completely split it for them, or some sort of assistance in labor,” he said.
Higbie then cited long-debunked, baseless claims in which he suggested black people were morally inferior. He had similarly disparaging comments about Muslims and LGBT people according to CNN’s report.
Higbie became a conservative ally during President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and made several cable news appearances, according to CNN. He was appointed to lead the CNCS in 2017.
Our veterans have done a lot for the country over the years. They keep us safe from terror organizations and dictators who would use weapons of mass destruction for selfish politics. They took down Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. They’ve led singalongs of somewhat inappropriate songs. Wait… what?
That’s right! Recently, a video went viral on Facebook showing Vince Speranza, a World War II paratrooper, leading others along in singing the paratrooper classic, Blood on the Risers, a parody of immortal Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Blood on the Risers is probably most famous from its rendition in the award-winning HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers. This morbidly funny tune is a cautionary tale about what happens when one fails to follow proper exit procedures during an airborne jump. The grim lyrics follow a young, rookie paratrooper who, after his chute fails to deploy, plummets to his death. The extended version, however, goes on to reveal that the singer has a son who would later join the 101st Airborne Division, serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, and be killed in action.
In some ways, it’s very much like the Navy’s Friday Funnies — a way to use humor to get important safety information through to the troops. This is especially important for something so routine as hooking into a static line.
Watch the video below and feel free to join in on the singalong! Don’t worry, the Screaming Eagles have a pretty dark sense of humor — it’s all in good fun.
Navy Rear Adm. Dave Thomas took part in an “Undercover Boss”-like segment for a local news channel where he dressed up as a junior enlisted seaman.
When the world’s saltiest “E-3” arrives with a camera crew, it’s like a “Hello, my name is Matt” moment, but the sailors play along. The admiral attempts to scrape rust and load an amphibious landing vehicle under the careful watch of petty officers before the big reveal.
A lot of time and effort is put into every single advertisement that the U.S. military uses to leave a good, lasting impression on the minds of potential recruits. The best ads evoke emotion, tell the viewer what they stand to gain from service, and inform them that they’ll be a welcome addition to the team.
The following ads exhibit none of those qualities.
Remember, someone in the recruiting command for each branch decided that these videos were the best way to bring those numbers up. And don’t worry, we’re not leaving anybody out — every branch managed to push out a laughably bad commercial.
U.S. Air Force — “We’ve been waiting for you”
Hey, kid! You ever just sit and stare at an incoming tornado like an idiot when someone’s yelling at you to find shelter? Well, then you’re perfect astronaut material!
I’m not saying that every advertisement needs to be upbeat and cheery (you’ll see that those fill out the rest of this list), but this commercial is basically nightmare fuel set to a depressing piano score. Also, it’s cool and all to be fascinated by extreme weather, but if you’re the type of person that walks toward the huge freakin’ tornado in your backyard… you probably won’t score high enough on the ASVAB to get into the Air Force — let alone space command.
U.S. Army — “Sucked in”
It’s been beaten to death already — we all know how terrible of a campaign “An Army of One” was. That slogan completely dispels the notion that you’re becoming a part of something bigger than yourself and promotes Blue Falconry. This ad actually predates that monstrosity.
This ad is what you’d get if someone was sucked into the TV Poltergeist-style, but instead of being pulled into some ghostly dimension, they were instead transferred to the realm of sh*tty detail. Someone thought that layering on an upbeat song was all it’d take to make us how objectively creepy it is — they were wrong.
U.S. Navy — “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure”
When you release a commercial, you typically want to make it abundantly clear what you’re actually pushing. In this video, a bunch of sailors get their port of call in Hong Kong and enjoy themselves, doing all the fun shore-leave stuff that any ol’ tourist would do — which is a far cry from actual service.
It also doesn’t help that this ad was mocked viciously on Saturday Night Live back in 1979, where they showed sailors on a working party to the tagline of, “It’s not just a job, it’s .78 a week!”
U.S. Marine Corps — “Chess”
Oh man, speaking of misleading advertising… At least the Navy’s laughably bad ad featured some sailors. It takes a full 54 seconds of watching this commercial before you realize that it’s trying to sell you on the Marine Corps.
It’s like someone who didn’t even understand the rules of chess decided that it deserved a dark, gritty reboot. First of all, that’s not how the knight piece moves at all. It starts out fine when he moves across the board to take out the lightsaber wielding bishop but, after that, he just does what he pleases.
To be fair, that’s how most Marines would react given a chess board…
U.S. Coast Guard — “Be part of the action”
Did you know that the Coast Guard actually runs commercials every now and then? And I’ll be honest, this commercial is actually the best of the worst on this list. It takes a fair and balanced understanding of what the Coast Guard does and gives it a Miami Vice tone.
The reason that this one stands out as being the worst of the Coast Guard ads is that it finishes with the dumbest criminals in history being stopped by the dorkiest dudes to ever sign up. On the bright side, having Academy Award winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. put on a Coastie Cap at the end earns them at least a couple cool points.
The Breadwinner, a new, critically acclaimed animation film that depicts the heroic struggles of a young Afghan girl under hard-line Taliban rule, is a testament to the desire for storytelling “when our world tips upside-down,” says its award-winning Irish filmmaker.
Adapted from Canadian author Deborah Ellis’s bestselling children’s novel of the same name, it tells the story of 11-year-old Parvana, who disguises herself as a boy to support her family after her father is wrongfully imprisoned.
Undaunted by oppression and the horrors of war around her, the heroine embarks on a quest to free her father. To console her younger siblings and find refuge from her struggles, Parvana invents a fable about a courageous boy who stands up to the so-called Elephant King.
“As the film is set around 2001, all of the characters in this film are a product of decades of war, each character deals with their challenges in different ways,” director Nora Twomey, whose other credits include the Academy Award-nominated The Secret Of Kells and Song Of The Sea, tells RFE/RL. “The film explores the idea of transformation, how small actions, or words, have the potential to become a catalyst for change.”
During its brutal rule of Afghanistan from 1996-2001, the fundamentalist Taliban banned women and girls from attending school, working outside the home, or even venturing outdoors unless accompanied by a male relative.
The Breadwinner has earned plaudits and been well received by audiences around the world since its November release, and has been nominated for the Best Motion Picture, Animated, at the Golden Globes.
Oscar-winning actor-director Angelina Jolie is an executive producer.
Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland when Northern Ireland was engulfed in war and sectarianism, Twomey says she feels an affinity for Afghans who have endured nearly four decades of almost uninterrupted bloodshed.
“As an Irish woman, having grown up as Northern Ireland experienced conflict and reconciliation, I have some small understanding of a few of the issues facing Afghan people,” she says.
“Afghans, much like the Irish, are a nation of storytellers,” she adds. “I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The Irish experienced occupation, famine, and war yet the storyteller was a welcome visitor to any house they came to. When our world tips upside-down, we all look to stories to try to make sense of what is going on inside of us.”
Twomey says her film is not just an appeal for women’s rights or a critique of misogyny in Afghanistan.
“By telling a story like this through animation, there is the potential to create empathy,” says Twomey, “whether that be empathy between the genders or between different parts of the world.”
Twomey has said she hopes the film will prompt discussions about the West’s involvement in wars in the Muslim world and evoke compassion for immigrants and refugees amid growing anti-Islam and anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe and the United States.
Twomey and her Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon studios gained international fame with The Secret Of Kells, which she co-directed.
The Breadwinner marks her solo directing debut with a feature-length film.
“I believe animation can allow an audience to identify more closely with a character,” she says. “If you express a character with a few drawn lines, that character could be you or me. The more detail you add, the more ‘other’ it becomes. There is a language created between the characters, their environment, reality, and the animator which says something new.”
The Breadwinner might have raised some red flags for international audiences increasingly aware of cultural appropriation. It is set in Afghanistan but made mostly by Westerners and based largely on the accounts of Ellis, the book’s activist author, who interviewed Afghan refugees in Pakistan in the 1990s.
But Twomey, who has not visited Afghanistan, says that at every stage Afghans were involved in crafting the sensibility of the film. She says it is based on the interviews conducted by Ellis for her novel and the testimonies of Afghan members of her cast.
“We found moments that ring true, like the dread of a knock at the door, the smell of fresh bread, [or] the VHS tapes strung up on electricity poles as a warning against media of any kind,” Twomey says. “These moments in the film come from Afghan memory, and it seems fitting that these moments are translated through the hands of artists and animators to reflect back these words in an empathetic way.”
The Breadwinner is not the first film to delve into the issue of bacha posh — literally “dressed like a boy” in Dari, the form of Persian spoken in Afghanistan. The device of a girl dressing as a boy was central to the award-winning film Osama (2003), directed by Siddiq Barmak; the Disney animated film Mulan (1998); and even Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
“Parvana and Osama are very different characters, who undergo different journeys, with different relationships,” says Twomey.” With The Breadwinner, I wanted to make a film that was accessible to young adults and also one that leaves our audience with hope. Hope in the form of Parvana herself.”
From small town Pennsylvania to teaching at the U.S. Navy, then to social work and back to teaching, Darryl Ponicsan has lived an inspiring and interesting life. After his second stint of teaching, he struck gold with his first novel “The Last Detail.” From there the sky was the limit where he is most known for his novels that have been adapted to screenplays which include “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and “Last Flag Flying.” Screenplays include “Taps,” “Vision Quest,” Nuts,” The Boost,” “School Ties” and “Random Hearts.” He also wrote the voice-over for “Blade Runner.” We sat down with him to hear about his life and his service to our country.
1. Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
My parents ran a mom ‘n pop auto parts store in Shenandoah, Pa., a coal mining town that was booming then. Now you can buy a three-story house there for the price of a used Chevy. I worked in the store as a kid and hated almost every minute of it. The town itself, however, was rich soil for drama and comedy. I’m surprised I’m the only writer ever to come out of the place. At the age of nine we moved into the first and only home my parents ever bought, six miles over the hill in Ringtown, a farming community. I had a happy childhood there, graduating from the local high school, now gone, in a class of 22 students. I think I ranked #18.
2. What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
My father and I used to take our own trash to the dump once a week and dump it into a deep pit. One day there were two bums there. I was around 13. One held the end of a rope, and at the other end was his partner with a big bag, scavenging for anything of value. The one on top asked if they could go through our garbage before we dumped it. My father said sure, and we stepped aside. I said something belittling about what they were doing. My father told me, “It’s an honest living.” A great lesson in life. Years later, I was going through a nasty divorce. My mother told me it took years to build my character, don’t let this take it apart. Those two moments are linked in my memory, because in truth I did not have a close relationship with either of them.
Darryl during his days as a teacher.
3. What challenges did you face at school and in the community?
As I said, I was in a class of 22. There were no cliques. In Shenandoah I was a latchkey kid at a very early age, unheard of today, but the neighbors looked after us as we played in the streets. Likewise in Ringtown where my parents knew all my teachers on a first name basis. I got into a little trouble fighting, which seemed to be our favorite pastime, but we fought with fists only and afterwards were usually ok with each other.
4. What values were stressed at home?
My parents were laissez-faire. They seldom knew where I might be. Frugality, toughness—both emotionally and physically—a work ethic, and honesty were values instilled in us, more by example than preaching.
Darryl at his first duty station
Camp Perry in Ohio and with his friends after bootcamp (top right).
Darryl at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 1964 (far left).
5. What influenced your career choices post college and why did you join the Navy?
Honestly, I never thought of a career, not even when it seemed I was living one. I became a teacher by default, and when I was offered tenure, I resigned to join the Navy, at age 24, because I wanted to be a writer, not a teacher. In those days everyone was expected to serve a hitch. My brother went to the Air Force at age 18. I chose the Navy because no one had yet written a Navy novel from an enlisted man’s point of view, at least not that I knew about. I’d studied creative writing at Muhlenberg, Cornell, and CalState LA, but my true education as a writer started as a child in a coal town and matured during my time in the Navy.
James Caan and Marsha Mason in “Cinderella Liberty.” From IMDB.com.
6. What lessons did you take away from your service and what are some of your favorite moments from the Navy?
The Navy is the only branch that draws its cops from the rank and file on a temporary basis, as a work detail. This is both a good and bad idea for exactly the same reason: the Shore Patrol does not put aside his humanity when he puts on the arm band. (Navy brigs, however, are run by Marines.)
I spent most of my enlistment at sea, and I have many memories of the sea itself. I remember seeing my first flying fish. I remember the Atlantic as still as a pond and so wild that I had to lie on a table and hook my elbows and heels over the edges. My very first night at sea I was intensely seasick, throwing up over port and starboard while standing my first mid watch. And of course, there were the liberty ports. We would rotate nine months in the Mediterranean, a month or so in Norfolk, and then four or five months in the Caribbean, my ship was the first American warship to tie up at St. Mark’s Square in maybe ever. We would walk off the ladder right onto St. Mark’s Sq. We were in Venice for a week. I was on the USS MONROVIA (APA-31), the flagship for Comphibron 8, an amphibious squadron. Occasionally we would move to the USS OKINAWA, a helicopter carrier, which was a luxury compared to the Monrovia. I also spent about two months in transit on the USS INTREPID, which is now a museum in Manhattan.
An indelible memory, resulting in my novel and movie “Cinderella Liberty,” was a week-long stay at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. I went there for a surgery. It turned out I didn’t need the surgery, but it took a week to process me out of the hospital. I had liberty every night until 2400.
Another weird one: my first TDY after boot camp, before getting a ship, was at an Army depot in Ohio. Long story. I was there for a whole summer.
Faculty picture for the school yearbook.
7. What did you enjoy most about being an English teacher and a social worker?
Both had annoying bureaucracies which hampered some good work, and the pay in both is shamefully low, but the rewards of seeing children progress or in helping people in true need cannot be measured. A lot of my former students are now Facebook friends. They’re all retired and I’m still working.
8. What inspired you to write “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and the “Last Flag Flying,”?
“The Last Detail” was an incredible stroke of luck. It was handed to me almost whole while I was in transit aboard the USS INTREPID after leaving the hospital. I was working with a crusty old P.O.1 in a tiny office. The Career Guidance Office. We played chess all day and swapped sea stories. He told me about having to escort a young sailor from Corpus Christi to the brig in Portsmouth, NH. The kid was unjustly sentenced to a long sentence for a small offense. I knew immediately I had struck gold. It took five or six years to evolve from a short story to a novel.
“Cinderella Liberty” was based on my Naval Hospital experience. That one took about four months to write.
“Last Flag Flying” was the result of endless prodding by a friend to revisit the characters in “The Last Detail” and essentially duplicate their train trip. I resisted for obvious reasons, but I was so obsessed with Bush pushing us into an endless and unnecessary war I felt it might be the best way to get it all off my chest.
Otis Wilson, Randy Quaid, Jack Nicholson and Don McGovern in “The Last Detail.” From IMDB.com
Steve Carrell, Laurence Fishburne, Darryl, Bryan Cranston and Rick Linklater on “Last Flag Flying.”
9. What was it like working with Jack Nicholson, Hal Ashby, Robert Towne, Harrison Ford, Martin Ritt, Barbara Streisand, Richard Dreyfus, Harold Becker, James Woods, Mark Rydell, Sydney Pollack, Sherry Lansing and Stanley Jaffe, Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carrell?
I never worked with any of the principals involved in “The Last Detail.” I worked alone on Towne’s first draft for two weeks, the first time I ever saw a screenplay. Of the others, I worked most intensely with Barbra, Harold Becker, Mark Rydell, and Rick Linklater.
Mark Rydell did “Cinderella Liberty.” I worked closely with him on the script, my first, which took over twice as long as it took to write the novel. A WGA strike forced us to call it done. Mark was a charming, clever director, but I think I absorbed some bad stuff from him. He was an operator and I know at times I emulated him. A mistake. I’m not an operator, and I should have known that from the beginning. Not that his heart wasn’t in the right place.
I did several scripts with Harold Becker, who I liked personally, but I never fully trusted him. I saw him throw others under the bus and I’m pretty sure he did likewise with me.
Sherry Lansing was often derided as a cheerleader, but she was the best of cheerleaders, always encouraging, out in front. She was great to work with on “School Ties.” She was one of the first women to break out big in the business. I like her a lot. I worked with her and Jaffe on “Taps” and “School Ties,” which Jaffe left to head up Paramount. Stanley and I had a love-hate relationship. While at Paramount he hired me to do a major rewrite for a green-lit picture with a major star. I knew he had bragged about getting me cheap for “Taps,” so he made up for it with this job. It was outlandish. I can’t mention the project because at the last moment the star decided he couldn’t work with the director, and the whole thing crashed and burned.
Sydney Pollock was a good friend and a guide to me in the industry. He helped me through the political and filmmaking process in Hollywood. Sydney said that I was not “part of all this,” meaning the ethos and byzantine angles of Hollywood, and he took on the role of guide. I never did learn the ins and outs of the business, and whenever I pretended to I came off as a jerk.
My best experience, which turned out to be my least successful movie, was with Rick Linklater. All indications are that the movie will be rediscovered as time moves on. That happened with “Vision Quest,” a failed picture that keeps finding new audiences that are deeply moved by it. Rick never speaks above a whisper. He seems always on an even keel. Whatever he does comes from the heart.
Barbra was a singular experience. She’s taken a bad rap in the past. Even though I didn’t even like her, until I met her. I was so nervous about our first meeting. At the time, Sidney Pollack told me I would love her, and I did, even though I have a hard time being around perfectionists, who I believe get in their own way. Alvin Sargent, a good friend, worked with me as a collaborator on “Nuts.” Mark Rydell was originally the director. At one point she asked Rydell to step aside and let her work alone with the two of us. He wasn’t happy about it, but Barbra gets what she wants. We practically lived at her house in Beverly Hills for a week. It was agony, it was a joy. Rydell was replaced by Martin Ritt, one of the great old lefty directors.
Tom Cruise, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn in Taps. From IMDB.com
Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott on “Blade Runner.” From IMDB.com
Richard Dreyfus and Barbra Streisand in “Nuts.” From IMDB.com
Linda Fiorentino and Matthew Modine in “Vision Quest.” From IMDB.com
Ben Affleck, Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon and Zeljko Ivanek in “School Ties.” From IMDB.com
10. What are you most proud of, your life and career?
Whatever I may be proud of came with a good deal of luck. I’m proud and lucky that my children are not addicts, and I’m proud I never wrote anything I’m ashamed of.
I’m also proud and lucky to have received an Image Award from the NAACP as Screenwriter of the Year. (1973) I may be the only Caucasian to receive that.
Several years ago, I was living in Sonoma and found I could not work because of the raucous noise of leaf blowers. I went to the city council and took my allotted three minutes to urge them to ban blowers. I went to every meeting over the next year, taking my three minutes. I did my homework and concluded that blowers were the most destructive handheld tool ever invented. I bombarded them with data they could not ignore. They finally voted to ban them, but the mayor caved to commercial pressure and changed his vote. He lost the next election because of that. The issue finally went to a ballot measure and the ban was passed by 16 votes.
I did the same thing in Palm Springs, but this time it was a slam dunk. I’m proud to have had a role in banning leaf blowers in two different cities.
Darryl worked a season with the George Matthews Great London 3-Ring Circus and wrote a book about it, “The Ringmaster.” He became Randy the Clown.
Darryl with Stephen Colbert at an event for “Last Flag Flying.”
Darryl’s NAACP Image Award for Screenwriter of the Year for 1973.
Salsa dancing and the military…it’s so crazy it just might work.
In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, Univision Communications Inc. and We Are The Mighty are teaming up to create a Salsa #InVETational, a dance competition for active duty servicemembers and veterans.
There are three reasons why this is actually pretty cool:
Servicemembers and veterans will be the main event as they compete alongside their dance partners, showcasing their best Latin dance moves for Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata and vying for 1st place prize of id=”listicle-2565272073″,000 in each category and 0 for 2nd place.
Also, this event is totally free for active duty military and veterans.
“Salsa dancing nights have long been enjoyed by active duty military and veterans alike not only for therapeutic purposes, but as a cultural connection within the military community,” noted David Gale, CEO Co-Founder, We Are The Mighty.
The arts are a powerful way for vets to heal after military service, and dance in particular adds the physical element we grew accustomed to on active duty. Dancing puts us back in our bodies, pushes our comfort levels, and connects us to music in very intense ways.
Hispanics have a longstanding tradition of military service to our country. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs 2014 Minority Veterans Report, Hispanics comprise 12.4% of Post-911 veterans with more than one million Latinos currently in uniform.
Learning about our American mixing pot makes us stronger, united, and worldly.
Plus, we’re talking about a culture that knows how to flavor its food, baby — and there will be plenty of it at the event.
The event will take place on May 12, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas.
Military and veterans interested in participating with a partner must be at least 21 years of age. The next qualifying round is May 6, 2018, at Arjon’s International Club. Registration starts at 8 p.m. and the contest kicks off at 9:30 p.m. Five couples from each category will advance to the finals on May 12.
For anyone who cannot attend, you can help veterans in the San Antonio area by supporting the Lackland Fisher House, a home-away-from-home for the families of seriously ill or injured patients receiving treatment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio Military Medical Center or other medical facilities in the San Antonio Area at no cost.