Programming note: Tomorrow, Sunday, I'll be hosting another audio edition of Steyn's Song of the Week on Serenade Radio in the UK at 5.30pm British Summer Time (that's 12.30pm North American Eastern/9.30am Pacific). You can listen from anywhere on the planet by clicking the button in the top right-hand corner here.
~Meanwhile, welcome to Part Twenty-Three of our weekly serialization of a favorite book among Steyn readers, Mark Steyn's Passing Parade. In this week's episode, we start with the guy who turned an obscure Soviet republic into the One-Man Stan:
What with the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of Islam, there's been a huge proliferation of Stans in the news. There's Tajiks and Uzbeks, a Nuristan and a Nurestan, there's a Baluchistan and a Balochistan and probably a Biloxistan, there are Kremlin-pressured Stans (Bashkortistan) and vowel-challenged Stans (Kyrgyzstan) and Stans that sound vaguely like some big Corporate-Mergerstan (Karakalpakstan). There's Waziristan, where Osama bin Laden is said to be holed up like a Muslim Pimpernel: they seek him in Waziristan, they seek him in Overtheristan.
So, in a world of Stans, with every Nickelandimistan clamoring for attention, how do you make yours Stan out from the crowd? This was the challenge faced by an obscure Communist apparatchik called Saparmurat Niyazov in 1991 when his Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic suddenly found itself pushed out onto the world stage as the newly independent nation of Turkmenistan. In Soviet Central Asia, Turkmenistan was pretty much the end of the line Stan-wise. You flew in from Baku across the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan, the Stan that thinks it's a Jan. And you pretty much had to fly back, there being nothing to fly on to apart from remote northern Iran and its crazy mullahs and rubble-strewn Afghanistan and its even crazier ones. So President Niyazov had a problem: How to put Turkmenistan on the map?
Melons figured in the answer, but not lip-synchers. Afterwards, we turn, in a land of legal mediocrities, to a rare genius, the paladin of palimony Marvin Mitchelson, the divorce lawyer who figured out that in California a killer divorce settlement no longer requires marriage.
If you've only joined our club in recent days and missed our cavalcade of audio adventures (Conan Doyle's The Tragedy of the Korosko, H G Wells' The Time Machine, Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, plus Kipling, Dickens, Gogol, Kafka, Baroness Orczy, Louisa May Alcott, John Buchan, L M Montgomery, Scott Fitzgerald, Victor Hugo and more) or our current tale (Jack London's Burning Daylight), you can find them all here in an easily accessible Netflix-style tile format.
If you have friends who might appreciate Tales for Our Time, we have a special Steyn Club Gift Membership that lets them in on that and all the other fun in The Mark Steyn Club. To become a member of the Steyn Club, please click here - and please join me later today for Part Twenty-One of Burning Daylight, and next weekend for Part Twenty-Four of Mark Steyn's Passing Parade.