In theory I should leave it to Kristy, who actually took Russian, to offer commentary on the Ukraine but A) she’s busy dissertat-ing and B) This commentary is going to be far from scholarly and well informed.

Mostly this is just me wanting to express the fact that someone needs to make me a Yulia Tymoshenko action figure.

 I believe that, in the market for world leader action-figures, this would be a must-have for anyone’s collection.  Her Heidi Braids of Doom intrigued the hell outta me even before she was tossed into the hoosegow for alleged misuse of power.  It absolutely did my heart good to see that hair-do emerge again from what I am sure had to be a prison exactly like that used to hold Magneto in the X-Men films (those braids are not to be underestimated).  I will grant you, that even with the braids she is still a semi-rouge, minor side-kick in the pantheon of world-leader super-heroes and heroines.  I mean, she couldn’t take on like, Angela Merkel and the Mom Look of Great Disdain (really, this is the action figure I want most of all–even more than Yulia and her Heidi Braids) or Steven Harper and the Eternally Un-Muss-able Molded Ken Hair of Unshakeability or Mario Monti, the Not So Secretly Argentinian (yes, being an Argentinian is a super power. Just ask one).  Still, that doesn’t mean she couldn’t get a great story arc in the comic.

Of course, then you have to have your counter-part “bad-guy” action figures.  Putin being, clearly, the Cobra to our G-7*  Joes comes without a shirt, but with minions, including several disgruntled Georgians (yeah, remember the part where this has happened before?  I keep picturing Georgia trying to float messages across the  Black Sea to Ukraine that read “Welcome to the club, Bitches.”–except the Russian Navy keeps intercepting them and re-placing them message with “We don’t Miss South Ossetia at all!”).  Oh, and the completely rogue element of a Kim Jong-un who comes with tacky outfits and his mini basketball signed by Dennis Rodman.

Seriously, I did have an minor crisis as I’ve watched this unfold because I saw a few parallels to the Texas Revolution and I was suddenly left wondering if I was supposed to be siting with Putin in this game.  Thankfully, I walked through the details and realized that it was possible for me to continue to Remember the Alamo without having to support Russian Imperialism.  I briefly thought about sharing that entire comparison and contrast here, but then I realized that for the most part, only Texans would care and to the best of my knowledge, none of the five of you reading this are Texans….

So, in the event that we are about to get our Cold War back again, I’m gonna go watch The Hunt for Red October and maybe some of those  old episodes of MacGyver where he had to build a blow-torch out of a bicycle to save the environment and escape the Eastern Bloc at the same time….



Coffee With a Side of Fear and Intimidation

Would we have coffee with Vladimir Putin?

Cammy:  Since Kristy and I were actually discussing Putin this evening (oddly enough NOT in relation to his re-election at all), it seemed appropriate to face this choice.  On the one hand, I would say no, because Putin scares the crap outta me.  He is on my Top Ten list of “People I Never, Ever Want to Encounter in a Dark Alley”.  Between the KGB and the Judo, this guy strikes me as one of the most crafty and sinister world leaders you could meet today.  On the other hand, for all the reasons mentioned above, I’d be just as scared NOT to have coffee with him.  If East Germany could manage to tear down the wall while he was stationed there, I suppose I could suck it up for coffee.  After all, he did study law, with an emphasis on international law, so there would be ample topic for law geek conversation.  It would be all the more geeky for me to get to have that kind of discussion with someone trained under the Soviet system–if that doesn’t give a person a unique view of international law, nothing will.  For my part, I’ll stick to law.  I’m pretty sure that even if he would tell stories about his KGB past, I’m not sure I’d want to hear them.

Kristy: Yeah, my thought process is much like Cammy’s. If I say yes, he might kill me over coffee. But if I say no, that might give him reason to kill me. And I am more than sure that he could poison my coffee from far, far away. In fact, The Spacial Anomaly Coffee Bar and Refueling Station might be the best place to have coffee with him. I trust Mary’s security. And yes, he’s probably fascinating to talk to. He seems to fancy himself something of a Renaissance man, so I’m sure we could find some cultural topic to discuss. I speak really bad Russian. I’ve read bits of the Russian chronicle. I’ve studied the Russian circus and ballet. Ooohh we could probably talk about the old Soviet gymnastics system! Yeah… I’m reaching. But I guess the basic answer is: if he invited me, I wouldn’t say no.

Coffee With…A Side of Glasnost

Would we have coffee….with Mikhail Gorbachev?

Cammy:  Once upon a time, when I was very small, I never would have thought to have coffee with Mikhail Gorbachev.  For one thing, back when I was 6, he was the face of what we were still being told was the Soviet “threat.”  For another, my mother told me coffee would stunt my growth.

But my fear of the man with the Kool-Aid® stain on his head collapsed right along with the Soviet regime and my belief that Mom was telling the truth about coffee.  He became an innocuous figure in the collection of “World Leaders Of My Elementary Years,” kind of like Reagan.  In fact, I kind of feel like there ought to be novelty salt and pepper shakers featuring Gorby and Reagan.  Oh, and Margaret Thatcher (maybe as a cream jug?).

Today this old fellow seems to have popped onto my Google feed out of the total obscurity in which he’s been dwelling since sometime in the 90s to talk smack about Putin.  I’m thinking coffee is a fabulous idea.  First of all, anyone who’s willing to call a man as f’ing scary as Putin on his shit is worth buying a cup of coffee (after all, it could be his last).  Second….what does he think of Russia now?

We’re more than 20 years since the wall came down in Germany, and it won’t be long before we’re whipping out the retrospective footage of that incredibly awkward Olympics where the Soviet Union was gone, but there was really nothing certain in its place.  And where’s the former world power now?  The situation is scarier than it was in 1985– in a totally different way–and every bit as shaky as in the 90s–but in a totally different way.

And what does Gorby think of all this?  He was the first of the USSR’s leaders to have been born post-revolution.  In an effort to try and revive the Soviet economy (which was circling the drain at a vastly accelerated rate), he began introducing radical reforms, additional freedoms, and moved to De-Stalinize the country.  In the end, it didn’t prevent the end of the Soviet Union.  Does that bother him?  He’s still very much a socialist, so the rampant capitalism in Russia has to grate.

I think this could be a multi-pot-of-coffee type of conversation.

Kristy:  Definitely.  Like Cammy, I’d like to get his take on Russia now.  Not just what he thinks of it, but what he thinks can be done, if anything.

I’ve got another reason for wanting to have coffee with him, though.  The one factoid that always sticks out in my brain about Gorbachev is one my Russian prof told me years ago.  Evidently he had a strong southern accent, and for that reason people made cracks about him being stupid.  It seems that the stereotype of southerners being slow in more ways that one reaches beyond US borders.  However, my prof swore he was one of, if not the most intelligent leaders the USSR ever had.  So yeah… I’d like to discuss the impact of stereotypes and see his take on it.

Happy St. Cyril and Methodius Day

Happy St. Cyril and Methodius Day, gentle and not-so-gentle readers.  Yes, St. Valentine was officially taken off the Catholic Calendar of Saints for Universal Liturgical Commemoration in 1969.  Someone should notify Hallmark.  February 14th, however, is the feast day for St. Cyril and St. Methodius.  If you’re Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or Anglican.  If you’re Eastern Orthodox it isn’t until May 11th.  If you’re Methodist your world is too warm and fuzzy to celebrate Slavic saints.  If you’re Unitarian/Universalist you can celebrate whenever you want.  Isn’t that kind of the point of being Unitarian/Universalist?  If you’re non-Christian, atheist or agnostic my advice is to just eat some chocolate and make fun of the Christians for not knowing anything about their own religion.

St. Cyril and Methodius brought Christianity to the Slavs in the Ninth Century, translated portions of the Bible into Old Church Slavonic and created the predecessor of the Cyrillic alphabet (hence the name).  There’s no set way for commemorating these saints in the United States, at least to my knowledge.  So I say we create one!

Cammy suggests that it include eating sour cream.  They did minister to the Slavs after all, and Slavs love their sour cream.  Much like Cammy does.  I would suggest writing in Cyrillic in public places, but I’m concerned that you’ll call me when you get arrested for defacing public property you’ll call me.  Perhaps to be timely we could all dress up like Russian figure skating coaches in blond wigs and big fur coats.  Could be fun.

Oh, and don’t forget tomorrow is “That’s what she said” Day.  Follow everything anyone says with the phrase, “That’s what she said.”  Say it suggestively while wiggling your eyebrows.

“Good morning.”
“That’s what she said.”

“Hey, did you get that memo typed?”
“That’s what she said.”

“Seriously, cut that out.  It’s annoying.”
“That’s what she said.”

See how long it takes for someone to kick you hard in the shins.