Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Russia Saves the Galaxy?

It wasn't too long ago that we were sure that Russia -- the USSR, CCCP -- would blow up the world. They beat us to space, we beat them at hockey. We raced to build arms with the foolish thought that if we had one more than them, they'd back down. In the end, they gave us their wall and we gave them denim.

Hearing that Russians stood in line for hours for toilet paper sorta whipped back the curtain and all at once, the big bad wizard behind the screen was just a little man with great manipulative powers. Russia became to the superpowers what Mork was to aliens.

So what does a nation do that's been all but exiled from Earth? Become the superpower in space. It's a lawless, unexplored front with no borders and little political history. Their space station is the Eagle's Nest of the galaxy.

Now with a crippled U.S. and our own status as a world superpower being questioned, it seems that Russia is once again making headlines with their influence on the world. The Earth, to be exact.

Russia's space agency just announced plans to attack a rogue asteroid, ala Armageddon. Is this more smoke and mirrors in Oz, or have they somehow managed to bring the nations of Earth to their mercy once again? When they're done playing Galactic Sheriff, will we let them back into our playground, thankful they saved the day? Will they even want back in? Russia may be quite content to rule us from a throne made of stars. While we continue to chase our tails here on the third rock from the sun, our one-time nemesis is becoming king of a new hill.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Their version of Princess Leia doesn't look nearly as good in a gold bikini.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Biggest Brothers

Band of Brothers is not meant to be watched in the dark, alone. It is soul marking and its enlightenment should be realized in the shadow of tree limbs splattered with tiny lights as the snow falls outside.

Every Christmas I dust off my boxed set and pop it in. From its brilliant beginning, where David Schwimmer has his Glengarry Glen Ross moment, to the freeing of the camps, Band of Brothers delivers life lessons. It redefines friendship and family and reminds us the cost of freedom before bombs and internet warfare.

A great performance by Damien Lewis made me one of the two dozen people who faithfully watched his series Life before it got canned. Other great sightings: An unrecognizable Matthew Settle (before Gossip Girl fame) as the crazy Lt. Spiers, a premier performance by Hollywood royalty Colin Hanks as a rich West Point graduate trying to make good on the front line, ghost appearances by producer Tom Hanks as a British officer, and a very young James McAvoy as an unappreciated Replacement.

Somewhere around Christmas Eve as I wrap the last present and warm my feet by the fire, the 101st is spending their holiday dug into a trench in below-zero Bastogne, shaving with shards of ice and eating frozen bread to survive. I think how opposite those conditions are to the current warriors in the 120 degree deserts of Iraq, yet their fight is the same. The only thing that changes is the face of the enemy.

Our freedom is never really won. Like the Stanley Cup, we get to keep it for a short time until someone bigger and stronger comes along and takes it away. We will always need 19-year old boys who believe they are invincible. I think of this as I watch my nothing-scares-him baby boy sleep fitfully in his crib. Having no siblings of his own, I wonder if he will someday bond with his brothers-in-arms in a faraway land, believing that Freedom is worth it and equally convinced he will come home someday.

As I watch history unfold on my screen for the eighth year in a row, knowing most of them will be dead by the seventh hour of this miniseries, I find myself cheering, screaming, and crying anyway. I like these guys. Elizabeth Edwards said the only way a dead person lives on is through those who knew them and remember. Millions of people know these young men now.

They will truly live in infamy. And well they should.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

We Text You A Merry Christmas

Whatever happened to the Christmas card? The tree trunk's worth of glittery paper adorned with Coca-Cola Santas and too many rugrats that used to line my hallway at the holidays has dieted its way to a couple of generic "Season's Greetings" and the occasional form letter from a cousin. It's not that life has become too busy for my friends and family. If anything, their full lives give them more reason to send an annual "howdy" along with an updated photo we can all hold onto in case one is abducted.

Much like its cousin the Pen Pal Letter, the Christmas Card has been made extinct by Facebook, email, and digital cameras. My faraway cousins with whom I kept up only through my parents' monthly update and once-a-decade photo now inundate my Facebook page. I not only know their kids' grades and friends, I also know their latest Sudoko score and Virtual Mayoral duties. What I don't know is their address, phone number, or what their voices sound like.

Technology has brought us closer, shrinking our globe to M&M proportions. I'll probably never see the handwriting of my nephew although I'll "see" and "hear" him through some silicone medium. But then modern penmanship is a topic best debated another time.