• Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty

    LAUGHTER AND MEMORY

    When I Met Robin Williams in Afghanistan

    Robin Williams had his demons but it never stopped him from making troops laugh on the numerous standup tours he did in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    At the prefab dorms on the American base in Kandahar, I ran into my neighbor from the bunk next door. The military makes few concessions to visiting VIPs. Robin Williams was on his way to the showers down the hall, wearing a white t-shirt and a towel over his shoulder. It was the week before Christmas, in 2010.

    He was happy to talk. He said he did regular gigs on the USO holiday circuit. This wasn't his first time in Afghanistan, and he'd also played Iraq. On this trip, he brought along his friend, Lance Armstrong. The cyclist had turned the heads of the women in the dorm on his way back from the showers, wearing just a towel. He struck many people there, at the time, not in retrospect, as arrogant and cold. Robin Williams was something else.

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  • Kurt Cobain, Jason Everman, Chad Channing and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana photographed in Hoboken, New Jersey in June 1989. (Ian Tilton/Camera Press, via Redux, Ian Tilton)

    Son of a Gun

    He Left Nirvana for Iraq

    On a night when his former Nirvana band mates were being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jason Everman just wanted to drink in a quiet bar.

    It’s a little past 1 am on Friday morning and the weekend warriors are trying to hail cabs on the streets in Brooklyn. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just held a big concert and I’m on my way to meet a member of Nirvana, one of the bands in the hall’s newest class.

    Jason Everman played with Nirvana in their early days but hasn’t had much time to look over his shoulder and reminisce about his punk rock youth before the ceremony tonight. He spent much of the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, serving as a special operations solider.

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  • Actor Ben Kingsley as 'Mazer Rackham' in "Ender's Game." (Richard Foreman)

    War of the Future


    The Military’s Sci-Fi Manual

    Ender’s Game isn’t just routine Hollywood fare. It’s based on a book with a cult following among America’s military brass and is now required reading for new Marines.

    The trailers for Ender’s Game, a new movie hitting theaters Friday, make it seem like standard Hollywood fare—another big-budget epic featuring spaceships, evil aliens, Harrison Ford’s drowsy monotone, and planets exploding. But alongside the sci-fi fans and action-movie buffs that turn out for this sort of film, don’t be surprised if there’s a noticeable contingent from the military in the ticket line.

    The book Ender’s Game, on which the movie is based, is smarter and more interesting than the film’s promos suggest and has developed a large military following over the years. Copies of the paperback have been passed among troops eager for a good adventure read and who admire the fearlessness and ingenuity of the story’s child hero. The brass has also picked it up and formally assigned the book for educational purposes.

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  • Russia's Pussy Riot preform in their first music video since three members went to prison last year for a prank denouncing Vladimir Putin, July 16, 2013. Three members were sentenced to two years for an anti-Putin "punk prayer" in Moscow's main cathedral. One was later released on probation. (Pussy Riot/AP)

    Antiheroes

    Pussy Riot, Punk and War

    There’s nothing more punk rock than joining the U.S. Army, writes Colby Buzzell.

    Early last year members of the female Russian punk group Pussy Riot stormed into Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior to protest the church’s support of President Vladimir Putin, donning masks, picking up instruments, and dancing and singing from the pulpit, all of it recorded on a low-budget video they shot and put on YouTube, “Punk Prayer: Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” Three members of the group were arrested, charged with “hooliganism,” and imprisoned; two of them have 5-year-old children. The world was inflamed by this rough treatment.

    But a year after the verdicts came down, a day of solidarity in New York, Washington, Oslo, Paris, and Manchester passed with hardly a whimper, judging from the sparse turnout and lack of press coverage. What happened?

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  • Rebuttal

    My Movie Isn’t Propaganda!

    John Stockwell fights back against criticism that President Obama was given a ‘starring role’ in his new film.

    For the last few weeks or so, the cast of the film I directed—Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden which will play on the National Geographic Channel on Nov. 4—has been subject to a barrage of media questions that go far beyond the usual queries.

    "Why are you trying to sway the election?” “Why is the movie playing two days before the election?" “Why is there footage of Barack Obama in the movie?" "Did Harvey Weinstein force you to be in this movie?"  

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  • Dancers perform Roman Baca's "Habibi Hhaloua" at Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, Connecticut in 2009. (C.T. Dorman)

    Healing

    A Marine’s Path From War to Ballet

    After Fallujah, Marine gunner Roman Baca writes about how he found his way back to the world of dance.

    Sitting in the orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, waiting for the curtain to open on American Ballet Theater’s production of Onegin, I was talking with a ballerina who’s also a budding photographer working on a project showing military families.

    The two of us were passing time talking about ballet technique and combat patrols, an unlikely pairing, when she said: “I just realized that you are probably the only person with whom I can have an in-depth, professional discussion about both ballet and the military.” Before I could respond, the lights dimmed and the curtain opened. As the opening bars of Tchaikovsky's vivid score resonated through the beautiful theater, my thoughts turned to my beginnings in ballet, my transition into the Marine Corps, and my eventual melding of the two.   

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