- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
February 06, 2004

Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home


Sometimes this place is just certifiably goofy. Which is why guys like me can find a home here. Let me bring your attention to a story on this week's site about the latest addition to Republic Square. ("From Vladimir to Video")

My attention has been brought to the issue for about six weeks now, for, living near the square, I am never more than a decibel or two away from a reminder that a jumbo-sized television occupies turf that formerly belonged to Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, aka, Lenin.

In case anyone wonders, this is, certainly, a country "in transition". Where the father of all things non-western once stoically (some say "erectly") stood, there is now a monitor as big as an Armenian traffic cop's belly, blasting music and movie clips and inviting viewers to dial a phone number and buy an ad.

Transition, my butt, this is a full circle turn of extremes. (I just wish the owners would have gone completely Americana and broadcast last week's American football Superbowl. Or at least the halftime show. Janet Jackson's nipple brooch on that screen would have looked like a weapon of mass destruction.)

Following the Lincy Fund's multi-million dollar remake of Republic Square, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Post Office, Government Building No. 1, got all gussied up with gentle under-lighting that bathed the square in something close to candlelight. It was soft, elegant, sophisticated and encouraged contemplative strolls even in chilling temperatures.

Then, just when Yerevan was starting to look like a place where dignity might find expression, some boneheads in a government office somewhere figured out a way to make cash off public property, so . . .

I'm walking to the post office earlier this week and the hilarity of the whole thing froze me. There, where V.I. and his pointy head and his finger pointing the way to Sevan stood until 1991, the image I saw this evening was a Jennifer Lopez music clip. And to give you an idea of the size of the screen, her backside took up only half of it. She could have duet-ed with Beyonce Knowles and the new center piece of the cultural calling card in the capital of Armenia would still have had room for more.

In addition to ads for advertising and music videos, according to our story, the man in charge of programming says he likes to show movie clips that are "interesting to spectators". Among his examples is "Terminator". So let's get really weird with this . . .

At any given time on the former "Lenin Square", the current governor of California can be seen portraying a cyborg, promising to "be back" -- a claim that surely can't be boasted by the former dictator. Though, summing up the unlikelihoods expressed in the previous 458 words, what isn't possible?

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