Outside The Wire

Your quick, incomplete military viewing guide to ‘The Simpsons’ marathon

ARM Hellfish

Abe Simpson leads the “Flying Hellfish” into action during a Season 7 episode of “The Simpsons.”

Service members who joined up when the first full-length episode of “The Simpsons” hit the air have been eligible to retire for about five years.

And while the long-running animated series rarely dabbles in military-themed humor, it’s tough for any scripted television to go a quarter-century without somebody stealing a tank, somebody else entering into a blood pact over World War II plunder, and somebody else becoming a red-team leader in an Army war game through a series of inexplicable circumstances. It’s simple math.

FXX recently secured the rights to the show’s massive back catalog, and it’s celebrating by airing the whole thing — 552 episodes and a movie, in order, starting earlier today.

Not planning on spending the rest of your August watching cartoons drink beer and jump gorges? Here’s five episodes with a military twist and their expected air times, courtesy of a massive piece of web posting from Uproxx’s Ashley Burns. (All times Eastern)

Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in ‘The Curse of the Flying Hellfish’ (Aug. 24, 12:30 p.m.)

What: Bart’s grandfather, Abe, and evil nuclear plant owner C. Montgomery Burns are the last surviving members of a World War II unit that discovered precious pieces of art during the war’s final days and pledged to keep the treasure hidden until the final Flying Hellfish could reap the rewards. Burns, ever the pragmatist, hires a hit man to speed up the process. Hilarity ensues.

When: The episode aired in 1996. In the first show of that seventh season, viewers left in breathless anticipation by a dramatic Season 6 cliffhanger had learned that Burns was shot by — spoiler alert — baby Maggie.

Why watch: Ever want to see an animated slow-witted private named Ox explain the centuries-old concept of “tontine“? You’re in luck.

The Principal and the Pauper (Aug. 25, 3 a.m.)

What: Springfield Elementary’s principal, Seymour Skinner, is revealed to be an impostor, having taken the place of a war buddy he believed had been killed in action in Vietnam. The real Sgt. Skinner, voiced by Martin Sheen, and the entire plot of this episode have been all but erased from series history.

When: The episode was the second of the show’s ninth season and quickly earned its place on nearly every critic’s worst-episode list.

Why watch: It’s a tough sell — even the voice of the (fake) Skinner, “Saturday Night Live” alum and “Spinal Tap” icon Harry Shearer, has blasted the episode in several interviews.

Simpson Tide (Aug. 25, noon)

What: In one of many familiar story arcs, Homer loses his job at the nuclear plant and needs something else to do. Why not join the Navy and stumble into command of a nuclear submarine? Why not add an officer named Capt. Tennille, a montage set to the Village People’s “In the Navy” and a cameo by “Gilligan’s Island” star Bob Denver? It’s almost like the writing staff played a word-association game with “Navy,” then animated it.

When: Later in the ninth season, which means it predates the Navy working uniform, sparing standard-definition TVs everywhere at the time from processing Homer in blue camo.

Why watch: The one-liners are rapid-fire, including Homer’s supremely optimistic take on the end of his military service — “You can’t spell ‘dishonorable’ without ‘honorable.’” (this quote, and other valuable reference points, provided by the super-inclusive Simpsons Archive.)

New Kids on the Blecch (Aug. 26, 8:30 p.m.)

What: Bart and his friends form a singing group that turns out to be a front for an ambitious Navy recruiter. Somehow, it makes more sense in German:

When: Originally aired in 2001, meaning some members of the current fleet may have been brainwashed into joining by the seductive sounds of “Yvan eht Nioj.”

Why watch: A cameo by pre-mogul Justin Timberlake adds to a fairly well-known episode that takes jabs at both the military and boy bands.

It's conceivable that "G.I. D'oh" -- also referred to as "G.I. (Annoyed Grunt) in the show's catalog -- did not provide a 100 percent accurate depiction of Army boot camp.

It’s conceivable that “G.I. D’oh” — also referred to as “G.I. (Annoyed Grunt)” in the show’s catalog — did not provide a 100 percent accurate depiction of Army boot camp.

G.I. D’oh (Aug. 29, 9 a.m.)

What: More hi-jinks at recruiters’ expense, as the Army targets elementary-school kids to fill its ranks. Bart, impressed by a short film of destruction, signs up, but when his parents want to get him out of the contract, one of the Simpsons has to enlist. Hint: He will not meet current body composition standards, no matter how hard somebody tries to help.

When: Aired in 2006, when recruiting duty was decidedly not funny.

Why watch: One critic at IGN.com said the episode “crossed the line of good taste” in lampooning the armed forces. On the other hand, Homer does force a crazed officer, voiced by Kiefer Sutherland, to surrender during a war game by spiking the Springfield water supply with alcohol, delivering the mother of all hangovers.

Honorable mentions include:

  • “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming” (Aug. 24, 6 a.m.), during which the show’s recurring, Kelsey Grammer-voiced villain steals a nuclear device from Springfield Air Force Base. R. Lee Ermey lends his voice to a colonel who, naturally, ask Bob about his “major malfunction.”
  • “Bart vs. Australia” (Aug. 23, 9 p.m.), when the crew goes Down Under and Homer has a run-in with a Marine embassy guard — he believes the sentry will remain stoic during his antics, like Britain’s famed Queen’s Guard, and is proven wrong in painful fashion.
  • “Brother’s Little Helper” (Aug. 26, 3:30 a.m.), when Bart, overmedicated on a Ritalin-esque focus-enhancer, steals a tank from nearby Fort Fragg and uses it to shoot down a satellite launched by Major League Baseball that’s capable of monitoring people’s thoughts. St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire, playing himself, has a cameo in which he hits home runs to distract people from MLB’s ethically questionable actions. This was less ironic in 1999.

Have a favorite, or have one we left out? Join the discussion in the comments below or on Army Times’ Facebook page.

Soldier, UFC fighter Tim Kennedy challenges Jesse Ventura … for charity

You’ve probably heard about the distinguished member of the Kennedy family who challenged a prominent politician, one who’s been frequently targeted by the military social media community, to dump ice water over his head as a way to support a worthy cause.

If not, click here to read up, because this is something completely different:

That’s UFC fighter, Texas Army National Guardsman and noted Internet thespian Tim Kennedy, taking what appears to be a cold shower and issuing a challenge to Jesse Ventura to “donate some money to the Heroes Project.” Ventura, whose logic-defying career arc already includes Navy underwater demolition team member, American Wrestling Association tag team champion, fourth male lead in “Predator” and one-term Minnesota governor, added another unusual distinction recently, when he won a $1.8 million defamation lawsuit against the estate of author/special operator Chris Kyle.

Kyle, a former Navy SEAL, wrote in his best-selling memoir “American Sniper” about punching out an individual he identified as “Scruff Face” during a bar fight. The author, considered to be the U.S. military’s deadliest sniper, said in interviews after the book’s publication that Scruff Face was Ventura, triggering the legal action.

Kyle died while the suit was in progress. Ventura didn’t drop his case, resulting in the ex-wrestler suing the widow of a legendary special operator in an effort to protect his reputation. The fact that he won didn’t save him from online outrage.

It’s no accident that Kennedy, a former Special Forces member, brought up the Heroes Project, a charity founded by Kyle to benefit service members suffering from combat stress.

The UFC fighter borrowed the cold-water routine from a different charity: The “ice-bucket challenge” has made its way around social media, raising awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease — not to mention raising money. Participants undergo the deep freeze, then challenge others to either a cold bath or a donation to ALS research.

Challenge-takers have included NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the aforementioned Ethel Kennedy, who called out President Obama. He’ll skip the cold water and donate cash instead.

TRAILER: ‘Twilight’ star Kristen Stewart heads to Guantanamo for ‘Camp X-Ray’

First the video, then some backstory. Key quote: “It’s not as black-and-white as they said it was going to be.”

“Camp X-Ray” will hit theaters Oct. 17, and despite multiple stories in the entertainment media praising star Kristen Stewart for this departure from the vampire-vs.-werewolf genre, the buzz hasn’t been particularly kind. The film is batting just above .500 with critics on Rotten Tomatoes, with one asking whether stellar efforts from Stewart and co-star Peyman Maadi “outweigh a scenario that feels written by a politically outraged 12-year-old.”

The above trailer, however, has drawn some interest — more than 3.5 million YouTube hits since going online four days ago.

We want to know what you think: Will you be heading to the multiplex to see Stewart don camo and deal with detainees? Or will you pass on Hollywood’s version of Army life at Guantanamo Bay? Let us know in the comments below.

Miami Dolphins’ new team credo looks familiar, no word yet on ‘Dolphin Strong’

A T-shirt is displayed at the Miami Dolphins NFL football training camp in Davie, Fla., Wednesday, July 30, 2014. The Dolphins, rocked by a bullying scandal last season, are now wearing T-shirts bearing a credo of togetherness that was coined by the players. (AP Photo/The Miami Herald, Walter Michot)

The Miami Dolphins’ new team credo, on the back of  a T-shirt at the team’s Davie, Florida, training camp last week. (Miami Herald photo by Walter Michot via AP)

To say that the Miami Dolphins’ new team credo borrows slightly from a familiar Army ethos would be like saying the team had a bit of a locker room communication issue last year.

But as part of the organization’s recovery from bullying accusations, suspensions and an 8-8 season, players have penned what The Associated Press called “a credo of togetherness,” which was emblazoned on some of the T-shirts being worn by Dolphins after a recent practice.

As other websites have already pointed out, the credo clearly patterns itself after the Soldier’s Creed, including some passages lifted either directly (“I will never accept defeat”; “I will never quit”) or almost directly (The Army’s “I am a warrior and a member of a team” becomes an “unbeatable team,” which was, one can only assume, the motto of the 1972 Dolphins). It even starts and ends with “I am a Miami Dolphin” — derivative, sure, but a lot less controversial than the the time a player at a nearby college declared himself “a soldier.”

The team has reportedly eliminated rookie hazing this season, and has a host of other new rules instituted by head coach Joe Philbin, who is entering his third season with the Dolphins. (Philbin’s son is an Army officer who was put under the media microscope earlier this year regarding his arrest after a traffic accident.)

“I thought they did a good job,” Philbin told AP regarding the credo. “I thought they gave some consideration and some thought to it and I think it’s good. Probably ‘I’m a professional’ is one of them I like. But I think I like them all.”

Some in the Army may prefer “trusted professional,” but that’s a separate ethic.

What’s your take on the creed-inspired credo: Petty slogan theft, or the sincerest form of flattery? Let us know in the comments below.

Need help with PT, finance, leadership or public speaking? Former Capt. Lee Kind offers up some ‘kind’ advice

Kind-torso 1Former Capt. Lee Kind has worn many hats —  he’s a former Army officer, master jumpmaster, real estate agent, PT guru  and author with an MBA from George Mason University — and he wants to use them all to help service members.

His passion for it has yielded five books, which address physical fitness, finance, public speaking, leadership and a how-to guide to becoming a jumpmaster, respectively. He spent six years in the 82nd Airborne Division.

“It doesn’t matter what branch they’re in,” Kind said, taking a break from a recent book signing at the Pentagon. “Unfortunately most folks don’t know the tools that are out there for them to become successful. That’s why I created all my books.”

We asked Kind to give us five of his best tips, and he gave us a bonus tip because he saw that I was fighting a cold: Drink 16 ounces of water when you first wake up. It’s hydrating, which is good for physical training.

1 – Get with a program. That is, a whole body program for PT. Folks who focus on a single exercise or body part, say push-ups, may find they’ve hurt their back because they didn’t balance by strengthening their abdominals and hip flexors. “Never just focus on one muscle,” Kind said. “A couple of core exercise will get you in the shape that you need to be in.”

2 – Don’t spend it all in one place. Rather than spending the $25,000 accumulated on a deployment on a brand new car, Kind suggests investing that money as part of his deployment checklist. Ask your finance officer or S-1 about the Defense Department’s investment programs, which can yield up to a 10 percent guaranteed return. And if you have to buy a car, consider a certified newer car and save as much as $15,000.

“If you leave those investments alone, in the long term, you could have from that one deployment hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Kind said.

3 – Use your VA loan. Though most lenders will steer you away from it because it requires a tougher appraisal than a regular mortgage and a little extra work from them, it can save the soldier thousands in interest fees. If you are an active-duty service member with an injury that would qualify you as disabled, there is no requirement to pay a VA funding fee. “That’s thousands of dollars right in your pocket, right up front,” Kind said.

4 – Adjust your leadership style. Most of the time, the best way to lead is as an encourager and a motivator, and the time to yell is only when someone is about to hurt themselves severely or get themselves killed. If you raise the volume all the time, people will tune you out. There is a time to micromanage, but do it all the time, and you will destroy your people’s motivation.

5 – Plan your public speaking. Most people are terrible at it, and worse, they wing it. Better to plan and answer the five Q’s in your talk: Who, what, when, where and why. And consider who is in your audience.


Man United provides discounted tickets to upcoming U.S. matches

Manchester United the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl on July 23, 2014 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Manchester United the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl on July 23, 2014, in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The wait for the next World Cup may be another four years, but international soccer continues, including two upcoming games here in the United States. And for current and retired members of the military, attending these matches can be affordable.

Manchester United, the British Premiere League team, will play AS Roma in Denver on Saturday and Inter Milan in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday as a part of the pre-season International Champions Cup tournament. The club announced Wednesday that they are teaming up with govx.com to provide free and discounted tickets to members of the armed services for both games.

Govx.com provides discounted clothing, tickets and a host of other goods and services to military and other government personnel.

The ticket offer is a part of Manchester United’s new “United for Heroes” program, an initiative to “give something back to the local communities that we visit” by recognizing “those people who dedicate their lives to serving their country,” the club’s Managing Director Richard Arnold said in a press release.

Some tickets for each match will be available for free, with the remaining tickets available at a 25 percent discount. They are available through govx.com or at stadiums on matchday with appropriate identification, according to Manchester United.


Watch: Medal of Honor recipient Ryan Pitts breaks gavel at New York Stock Exchange

Two days after being awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House, Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts had the honor of ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. Pitts made the most of it.

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Tearful pfc. stays in hunt for $1 million ‘America’s Got Talent’ prize


Pfc. Paul Ieti was the first contestant to clear “Judgment Week” during Wednesday night’s “America’s Got Talent” broadcast. (NBC screen shot)

Earlier this year, while visiting family in Florida and pretty much killing time, Pfc. Paul Ieti won $150 at a Florida fair’s karaoke contest by belting out “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts.

His latest rendition of that hit came with a bit more pressure. And earned him a chance at bit more cash.

The 21-year-old petroleum supply specialist from American Samoa was the last of six male singers featured during Wednesday night’s two-hour episode of “America’s Got Talent,” part of the NBC show’s “Judgment Week” festivities that determined which 48 acts will move on to perform live at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. The top act earns a $1 million grand prize.

Ieti teared up when discussing his parents in American Samoa during a pre-performance video package (“Just to see my mom’s smile … the best I can do now is just to do this for them”), performed for an audience consisting of four celebrity judges (his audition benefited from the crowd’s standing ovation), then was summoned back to the stage shortly thereafter (“Am I in trouble?”).

He wiped away tears after judge and former Spice Girl Mel B. delivered the good news, then called his mother — listed under “Mommy” on his cellphone, a fact revealed by a surprisingly well-placed camera — and kept it simple.

“I made it through to the live shows,” Ieti said.

“I’m so proud of you, son,” came the reply.

He was the first of the night’s selections; nearly all the rest came at the end of the show. They did not include another singer, Sal Gonzalez, a former Marine who lost part of his left leg to an improvised explosive device in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004.

The rest of the show contained the requisite amounts of children crying; a band made up of 12 siblings whose names all start with the letter “J”; a trio of folk artists who covered OutKast’s “Hey Ya!”; a pig that went 2-for-3 solving math problems by picking up cups with numbers on them (drawing negative remarks from the judges, but … it’s a pig); and a foursome of stunt-pogo-stick jumpers.

The live shows begin next week. Missed the show? See an earlier version of Ieti’s “Bless the Broken Road” here.


More than ‘Maverick’: James Garner and the forgotten Purple Heart

James Garner

Actor James Garner smiles as he holds up a Purple Heart presented to him in a ceremony in 1983. Garner was wounded in April 1951 in Korea, but his medal was never presented to him. (Lennox McLendon/AP)

A recent USA Today appreciation for James Garner, the iconic actor who died Saturday at age 86, called him “the epitome of the reluctant hero.”

The examples cited involve Garner’s on-screen choices and characters as well as his off-screen battles with studios. But before all that — before a career that spanned from Maverick to The Rockford Files to … well, to Maverick, and plenty of stops in between — Garner was in Korea, quite literally trying to avoid getting his ass shot to pieces.

Then-Pvt. James Bumgarner received his second wound during his time in Korea (multiple obituaries say he was the first Oklahoman drafted during that war) on April 23, 1951, while serving with the 24th Division, according to 30-plus-year-old Associated Press article.

He described the injury to the AP thusly: “As a matter of fact, I got it in the backside. I went into a foxhole headfirst and I was a little late. There’s a lot of room for error with a wound in the rear. It’s a wide target.”

The posterior puncture was the second wound Garner suffered during service; his obituaries list him as earning two Purple Hearts. The medal for the foxhole incident came three decades after the war, with the Army reportedly making the presentation after Garner mentioned never receiving it during a TV interview.

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 31:  Actor James Garner portrait session at the Walt Disney Studios January 31, 2005 in Burbank, California. James Garner has been named the 41st Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award honoree.  (Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images)

James Garner poses for a portrait in 2005, before receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild. (Getty Images photo by Mark Mainz)

He was, at the time, promoting one of many military-themed projects of his long career — the early-80s comedy “Tank.” A New York Times film reviewer wrote that the movie’s “screenplay wobbles uncertainly between sadistic melodrama and populist farce,” showing that, if nothing else, NYT writers probably got paid by the syllable in the 1980s.

A better-known military role for Garner was alongside Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape.” He also played an aging bomber pilot-turned-preacher-turned-astronaut in 2000′s “Space Cowboys” and played the leader of the 1st Ranger Battalion during World War II — an early big-screen starring role — in 1958′s “Darby’s Rangers.”

His view on real-life military service came through fairly clearly in the AP report: “Do I have fond memories? I guess if you get together with some buddies it’s fond. But it really wasn’t. It was cold and hard. I was one of the lucky ones.”

VIDEO: Army head coach’s Afghanistan diary


Army football coach Jeff Monken, reporting from Afghanistan (YouTube)

The superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy wanted the school’s new head football coach to get a first-person understanding of the jobs his players — current Black Knights and future recruits — will be doing after they hang up the pads.

So Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, himself a starting offensive lineman while at West Point in the 1970s, brought Jeff Monken along on a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan last month, with the three-star speaking with recent academy grads as well as more senior leaders to find out how to improve the school in ways that will help future students succeed as Army officers.

Monken called it “the trip of a lifetime,” and he documented some of it in the video below — everything from travel updates at airports to boarding helicopters to a grand tour of war-zone VIP quarters (long on technology, short on space).

Both the coach and the superintendent spoke with Army Times to discuss the journey, their takeaways from talking to West Point alumni in the field, and a bit about the football program’s future; read more in the issue that hit newsstands Monday.