January 8th, 2006.

shall we play a game?

Just a few days away from my birthday I thought I'd watch a movie from my youth. It's always interesting watching stuff again you enjoyed as a kid. Sometimes doing so spoils a rosy memory because you can now see just how awful the acting was, or the many flaws in the story that had previously gone undetected. But occasionally you can get passed all that and still enjoy it, like when I watch an old episode of "CHiPs".

Oh, how I wanted to be one of those motorbike cops riding the open freeways of California on my great big Kawasaki Highway Patrol Bike with my short-sleeved shirt, those great big boots, and the cool cop glasses. Of course, the reality is far less glamorous, for a start these days there are no open freeways in California, I mean have you ever tried getting anywhere fast on the 405! But who cares about reality at twelve years of age! I had my bike, and an imagination that had me in high-speed chases and many a dramatic rescue I can tell you.

So tonight I watched the classic teen flick 'War Games'. I say classic, but the truth is you probably only saw (and enjoyed) that movie if you were born sometime around the '70s. It starred a fresh-faced Matthew Broderick as a computer geek who manages to hack his way into the U.S. nuclear missile defense computer and start a game that has near-catastrophic consequences.

I still enjoyed the film, despite it being more than twenty years old! But from a distance, the movie seemed interesting in its theme, which was essentially fear. In this case, it was fear of the Soviets and their many nuclear missiles that were able to wipe America out within just a few minutes, or so we were told.

As a kid, I remember being afraid of such a terrifying war. I recall the songs in the charts about such things. 'The Final Countdown' by Europe, 'Dancing with tears in my eyes' by Ultravox, 'Two tribes' by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Stings 'Russians' in which he sang that he hoped "the Russians love their children too." Though we played, as children do, the fear often had me examining objects making their way across the sky, wondering is that a nuclear missile, or just a plane?

Today, of course, we don't fear the Russians. We trade with them and treat them much as we would any global neighbor. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disappearance of the threat, it carried we should have been able to rest easy for a while. But it seems that we needed a new enemy to fear, and so we have one.

A modern version of 'War Games' wouldn't feature the Russians, but instead Islamic extremists, or as we like to call them, Al-Qaeda. It would perhaps show some cool skateboarding kid infiltrate and expose a group of strangely bearded 'middle eastern looking' men plotting to bring "terror" to the United States. Terror that would, of course, not come to pass because after all, this is Hollywood we're talking about so the 'good guy' would have to win.

The reality of such threats from the Soviets or 'Al-Qaeda' may well be real, but I can't help but wonder if such films allow us to live in fear of an enemy that has far less power and potential than Hollywood, our news, our governments and, perhaps most of all, our imaginations might have us believe.

While it certainly seems inconceivable to us now that 'Al-Qaeda' might once again become an ally, it surely can't be put beyond the realms of possibility. After all, when 'War Games' was showing in theatres across the globe, who would have bet on the Russians and Americans working together in space on an orbital space station?