Archive for March, 2010

“Russians are dank. Russians are crazy.” And Russians are marketing it.

03/31/2010

“Russians are dank. Russians are crazy,” says David Treybich, 21, a personal trainer, martial artist and aspiring reality TV star. “We drink vodka. We go nuts. Come on, what’s better than that?” Treybich was interviewed by the New York Times about “Brighton Beach”, a reality show that is the Russian-American answer to MTV’s “Jersey Shore”, poised to bring low-brow Russian chic to a television near you.

The casting call reads:

“Are you the Russian Snooki or The Situation? Are you a super outgoing and fun-loving Russian-American that sometimes sneaks kalbaska, pel’meni and vodka from the fridge? Can people hear the Euro/Techno/Russian music blasting from your car before they see you pull up? Do you attend birthday parties at Russian restaurants every weekend? If so, we may want to cast you for a new reality TV show that centers around a group of Russian-American strangers living together in a house on the shores of Brighton Beach for a summer. The cameras will roll as you do what you do best — eat, drink and PARTY.”

Clearly “Brighton Beach” will introduce the best of Russian-American culture to the world (or at least MTV-watching North America). The show is looking for “Outgoing guys and girls between the ages of 21 and 30 who would be willing to spend one summer living in an all-expense paid digs in the New York City area and consider themselves to be Russian-American (or from the former U.S.S.R., including the Caucasus).” I’m glad they include the Caucuses in the casting call — how better to ensure the same kind of fireworks as the summer of 2008?

Since when did Russia become synonymous with vodka bars and partying? What happened to the avant garde? To Russian literature? And when did the best gig around for a post-Soviet immigrant become partying in a wired beach house, re-enacting every soap opera drama known to man? I miss the good old days of television when Russians played chain smoking gold-toothed bad-guys or double crossing double-D devotchka spies.

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Cold War technology so retro it’s modern.

03/24/2010

Four years ago the U-2 bomber was slated to be retired. Originally designed to find Soviet missiles (it was photographs of taken by U-2’s that sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis), this piece of Cold War technology has found new life as a reconnaissance aircraft that can outperform drones used by the US missions in Afghanistan. According to this article in the New York Times the updated sensors in the U-2 bomber can detect slight disturbances in soil, indicating the possible presence of mines or improvised explosive devices (IEDs), take panoramic photos that often reveal footpaths used by insurgents and can even intercept cell phone signals that would ordinarily be blocked by the mountainous terrain.

Pretty remarkable for a piece of Cold War technology. One major downside, though, is that the pilots have to wear space suits and eat their meals through tubes because of the crazy altitudes they fly at.

I wonder when they’ll find a re-use for the poison-tip umbrella.

Lenin lives (and lives… and lives…) in the Antarctic

03/15/2010

I’ve seen a lot of Lenin’s over the course of my travels through the former USSR, from the Lenin my mom remembers standing in downtown Vilnius (now residing in Grutas Park open-air monument and sculpture museum) to the gigantic striding Lenin behind the National Museum in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan. He was moved from in front of the museum to make room for Independence Square. Now he stands overlooking the American University, making his usual grand gesture of benevolence.

However, by far the strangest place he’s turned up is in Antarctica where a plastic bust of the man himself was discovered by explorers in 2007. He stands proudly at the site of an old Soviet base at the South Pole of Inaccessibility. Made from plastic, the Lenin has stood there since 1958 and is, by all reports, in pretty good shape. The man is simply eternal.

Anyways, as soon as the South Pole of Inaccessibility Tourism Association and BIA get their act together I’m positive he’ll be fenced in and farmed out as a prime tourist attraction.

The Holy Land Experience

03/09/2010

Over the past few years I’ve visited a lot of weird tourist sites in the former Soviet Union in the name of research. Lately, I’ve been researching wacky tourism in North America and came across this: The Holy Land Amusement Park in Orlando, Florida.

I quote: “Experience love. Experience peace. Experience joy. Experience Jesus.”

According to their official website, the visitors to the park can go back in time and experience life as it was in Biblical times. A re-creationist’s wet-dream, the park features the most important parts of the bible acted by professionals: A rather caucasian looking Jesus re-enacts the life of the son of God, including daily crucifixion and resurrection; visitors can experience what life was like for Moses and his children to wander the desert at the Wilderness Tabernacle; and if the kids get antsy, drop them off at the “Smile of a Child” kids play-land. Fun for the whole family, indeed.

I suppose with the actual Holy Land a war zone and the deep distrust in the US of “middle eastern” terrorists, this safe and entertaining option is the way to go. Founded by a Baptist minister Marvin Rosenthal (yup, he converted from Judaism) the park has been protested by the Jewish Defence League as promoting the conversion of Jews to Christianity. Kind of the point of the the life of Jesus, but I digress. What I want to know is when religion became defined as “a thrilling swirl of characters, costumes and colour” and how I missed that memo…