Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Le Freak
Here's this weekend's Standard column in which I've recycled some Minsk World material with a fresh online discovery of what Pravda has become. The reference in the first paragraph to "blockbuster news" and "what's-his-face" concerns the big news here that Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong's govt. appointed leader(read: massively unpopular Beijing puppet) will resign. Unfortunately, he will undoubtedly be replaced by someone who is even more of a sychophantic stooge. I'd like to thank Dave G., a friend of my son's, for the inspiration after he posted the Pravda link to the cyclops baby on his site.
While I can't say I was particularly crushed or surprised by this week's blockbuster news, I think I see a future for an otherwise beleaguered institution. I refer, of course, not to the impending resignation of what's-his-face, a minor affair that somehow inexplicably overshadowed the announcement that Minsk World has sunk into bankruptcy.
Shenzhen's Minsk World centers around a decommissioned 1970s-era Soviet aircraft carrier, part of the former USSR's going-out-of-business sale, that was turned into perhaps the planet's strangest theme park.
As the promotional material declares: ``It perfectly combines the Southland beach life and the military atmosphere. It suits to be a fallow or a casino. Minsk Aircraft Carrier Park specializes from other Parks for its brilliance military theme.''
Indeed, where else can Mom, Dad and the kids bond by firing mock AK-47s, tossing fake hand grenades, or relax with a soft drink while sitting on 250 or 500 defuzed kilogram bombs and then catch a floor show on the flight deck featuring sinuous bandolier-wrapped, pistol-packing female contortionists dressed in skin-tight imitation Russian special forces uniforms?
While the spokespeople for the 120-yuan a pop, 10,000 meter tourist trap continue to insist that business at the former ``Peril of the Seas'' is brisk, my one visit and several other people I know who have risked their sanity and bank accounts to check it out revealed a lackluster and rather grim state of affairs. There are some rides: shaking and clanking spaceflight simulators that are oddly and creepily stenciled with ``Challenger'' on their sides, not ``Shenzhou-5'' or even ``Soyuz''.
But mostly it was dark, dank cavernous expanses of cold steel occasionally punctuated by lonely souvenir counters, flickering ancient videos playing endless loops of Chinese military propaganda and faded photographs of long forgotten Soviet naval personnel. Even the dancers and ersatz troops doing military drills for the sparse, restless tourists looked somewhat dispirited.
Yes, Minsk World needs a makeover. And it should look to another former-Soviet institution: Pravda. I only recently discovered that the once proud, strident, humorless USSR uber-propaganda organ -- English translation: ``Truth''-- has apparently taken a cue from a former employer of mine, a US publication, Weekly World News -- translation: ``Elvis and JFK are Alive''-- and has broadened its coverage to include Pulitzer-deserving material such as: ``Russian Woman Gives Birth to Cyclops Child.''
Though it pays occasional lip service to the 4-and-a-half hour long orations by former socialist comrade Fidel Castro, Pravda has pretty much discarded groundbreaking news of tractor factory quota busters in favor of lurid photos and gruesome text detailing ``the weird baby that looked at the world with its only eye, took a breath of air from the trunk that was growing on its forehead and died.''
That's not all. A perusal of a recent online Pravda edition revealed ``Jesus Christ Born in Ukraine,'' (at Weekly World News we'd merely discovered Adam and Eve's skeletons and Christ's sandals), a ``Russian Time Machine,'' a Polish anti-gravity machine and a mysterious, beguiling being discovered in the ``Vogograd region'' known as ``Boriska, Boy from Mars'' to be among the startling discoveries that the rest of the world has ignored to its collective shame.
What Minsk World needs to do, of course, is to downsize its dancers, cashier its troops and replace them with the likes of a risen Ukraine baby Jesus and an authentic Vogograd Martian.
It must take a tip from the legendary American huckster/showman PT Barnum and jettison the boring old bombs, photos, videos, wax dummies of geriatric naval officers in favor of several ``formulin'' filled glass cylinders stuffed with pitiful cyclops babies that were cursed to breathe only once through their brow-attached trunks before passing on. Maybe also throw in another unfortunate freak of nature that Pravda recently revealed: an oddly jointed child known as ``Spiderboy.''
Ditto for those phony space buggies. Out with them and in with time and flying machines -- perhaps combine them.
Face it. Would you rather be shaken around with 11 strangers inside a rusty metal cylinder watching grainy pirated NASA space footage or soar unassisted back to 1975 and help bankroll a fledgeling company called Microsoft? Or maybe save millions of future lives by lofting to 1889 and Braunau, Austria to mercifully snuff out an infant named Adolf Hitler? Or perhaps pay a similar visit to someone named Celine Dion in Charlemagne, Quebec, circa 1968?
I thought so. Your move, Minsk World. Sink or swim.
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