Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries from October 30th, 2009

The White Rose City Awaits

October 30th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Not much Microkhan’ing today, alas, as we’re heading out of town once again—our last trip for the foreseeable future. The destination this time? York, Pennsylvania, for a costume ball honoring the nuptials of a Dirty Doll. We know nothing about York, save for the fact that it’s got a thorny racial history. We’d be much […]

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The Shisheh Problem

October 29th, 2009 · 7 Comments

Given Iran’s reputation for dispensing harsh justice, it surprised us to learn that the country is home to a thriving crystal-meth industry—one so big, in fact, that it’s now exporting to Southeast Asia. As the United Nations graph at right makes clear, use of the drug (locally known as shisheh, or glass) has exploded since […]

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The Universality of Whaam!

October 29th, 2009 · 6 Comments

We’ll confess, we often scoff at university courses that focus exclusively on contemporary pop culture—as much as we would have liked to have taken “The Simpsons as Satirical Authors,” for example, we’re not entirely convinced those classroom hours couldn’t be better spent slogging through Ulysses. But we’d make an exception for a comparative literature course […]

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First Contact: Hawaiians and the Written Word

October 28th, 2009 · 9 Comments

With your kind permission, we’d like to try something a little different with today’s installment of our occasional First Contact series: an account of a civilization’s initial experience with written language, rather than its introduction to an alien people. We initially planned on posting something about the development of the Hawaiian alphabet—we’ve long been fascinated […]

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Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

October 28th, 2009 · No Comments

We recently argued that symbols do, indeed, matter. Is it possible that someone in the administration of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki read our screed? Because the Nairobi regime has suddenly decided to make a rather brilliant token gesture, obviously designed to indicate a willingness to tackle government excess: it’s forcing officials to give up their […]

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“Under My Heart, Three Clouds of Pain”

October 27th, 2009 · No Comments

Seriously, basketball gods? We finally have an inkling of hope that our beloved Los Angeles Clippers won’t totally self-immolate this season, and then you see fit to break Blake Griffin’s kneecap? Ah, cruel deities—can you do nothing to reward our years of steadfast devotion? Or are you so incensed with owner Donald Sterling’s botched facelift […]

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Drought and Drugs

October 27th, 2009 · No Comments

Australia’s epic drought could end up being something of a boon to neighboring New Zealand, at least in terms of aboveboard narcotic production. Half the world’s legal opium crop is grown on tiny Tasmania, largely under the auspices of Tasmania Alkaloids—a company that operates under the all-time most intentionally innocuous slogan of “Value Adding in […]

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Farewell, Sonny Jim

October 27th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Sad news out of New Mexico this morning: Sonny Jim, a true legend of the Indian rodeo scene, was gunned down during a property dispute. A man of Modoc descent who’d long lived in Navajo country, Sonny Jim was the nation’s top Indian cowboy during the early 1970s, renowned for his long, luxuriant hippie hair […]

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Permission Slips…for Failure?

October 26th, 2009 · No Comments

Pity the poor children of Jinja, who have lost one of the great privileges of the grade-school years: the right to periodically spend a day at the zoo, museum, or box factory in the name of education. The field trip is no longer welcome in Uganda’s second city, having been blamed for declining grades and […]

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The Steakification of Blitzen

October 26th, 2009 · 5 Comments

The rapid warming of the Arctic may delight those keen on easier shipping, but it’s been nothing but terrible news for reindeer and their human overseers. On the Yamal Peninsula, the indigenous Nenet people are watching in horror as their precous herds break legs upon the gravel now popping up from the melted permafrost. And […]

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The Last 3,000 Miles

October 23rd, 2009 · 4 Comments

After a tremendous week of work, contemplation, and gorging on fish tacos out here in Palo Alto, we’re heading back to Microkhan headquarters this evening. Not much time for blogging today, alas, as we try to suck a last few moments of enjoyment out of this trip. So we’re skipping right ahead to Bad Movie […]

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Grease for Strength

October 22nd, 2009 · No Comments

Yesterday morning, while tearing through the Stanford Faculty Club’s equivalent of a Denny’s Grand Slam (sans flapjacks, alas), we recalled how Americans were asked to collect their bacon drippings during World War II. We always assumed that this grease was then converted into fuel. But, boy, were we wrong—as the friendly Disney characters explain in […]

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A Shortcut for a Shortcut

October 22nd, 2009 · No Comments

In response to yesterday’s post on the onetime vogue for mining-by-nuke, a treasured commenter asked: I remember a rumor that someone proposed building an alternative to the Panama Canal (perhaps even at sea level) using nuclear explosives. Did you find any evidence of that in your research? Indeed we did! This was actually the pet […]

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Wrestling in Rumbek

October 21st, 2009 · 1 Comment

Some hopeful news out of southern Sudan: stability has returned to the town of Rumbek, and with it one of the region’s favorite sports: Rumbek youth have resumed their favorable game of wrestling for the first time since four years after bloody confrontations in cattle raids and inter-tribal fighting. The wrestling begun between two rival […]

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Nukes for Shale

October 21st, 2009 · 13 Comments

The controversy over Iran’s nuclear ambitions has sent plenty of folks scurrying back to the history books, to examine what made South Africa give up its bomb-building program. In joining the throng, though, we stumbled upon a curious factoid from the annals—an assertion, in an old (and offline) Foreign Affairs article, that South Africa initially […]

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Sunsets in Outer Space?

October 20th, 2009 · No Comments

We’re off taking advantage of our Stanford library privileges, in order to flesh out a few big-picture ideas. The wannabe emperor in the clip above, by contrast, could certainly do a better job of paying attention to the small picture—say, for example, by noticing that there are no sunsets in space. (Unless he has a […]

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Intelligence as Curse

October 20th, 2009 · 6 Comments

We’re headquartered on the Stanford campus this week, which has brought to mind one of our favorite football scouting reports ever: John Clayton’s strangely damning take on Kwame Harris, an All-Pac-10 offensive lineman for the Cardinal in the early part of the millennium. Clayton loved Harris’s arms, technique, and strength, but didn’t likehis head—and not […]

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“It’s Time to Slip the Border”

October 19th, 2009 · 2 Comments

We’re enjoying all that Northern California has to offer. You’re enjoying vintage ZZ Top. Who’s getting the better deal this afternoon?

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The Nom de Politique Rule

October 19th, 2009 · No Comments

Following up on last week’s post regarding the general dreadfulness of rulers who get their mugs put on coins, we had to add another rogue to the gallery: the late Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. One of his personalized coins can be glimpsed here, and some of his paper money above. Mobutu certainly proves our […]

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A State That’s Untouchable, Like Eliot Ness

October 16th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Instead of hitting you with our weekly Bad Movie Friday entry, we’ve decided to round out our cough-syrup trilogy with a classic ad: Oddjob shilling for Vicks Formula 44. Good thing there’s no narcotic in there to slow him down. And the phenylpropanolamine should make him a much more energetic opponent for Mr. Bond. We’re […]

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Tippin’ on 44

October 16th, 2009 · 1 Comment

In response to yesterday’s post on Houston’s botching of syrup possession cases, one of our loyal correspondents offered a nostalgic comment: When I was a kid, over the counter codeine was legal. On Sunday visits, I used to slip into my grandmother’s medicine chest and for periodic sips out of her Vicks Formula 44 cough […]

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Leaning on Assumptions

October 15th, 2009 · 4 Comments

In doing a little research on the lethality of sipping syrup, we came across this concise account of Johnny Jolly‘s legal woes. It seems the Green Bay Packers defensive end got caught with some liquid codeine in his native Houston. But he’s apparently in the clear for the moment, due to some rather strange circumstances: […]

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Casting With Disaster

October 15th, 2009 · 5 Comments

As we went digging into our pocket for some change this morning, we came up with a piece of currency sure to give the vending machine a case of indigestion: a 20 shilling coin from Kenya, a souvenir of our recent East African jaunt. Before tossing back the useless money in frustration, however, we noticed […]

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Eye Deep in Kenya

October 14th, 2009 · No Comments

Deadline approaches on the piece that sent us out to East Africa. You know the drill—enjoy the Otis Redding as we commit our remaining mental bandwidth to the art of storytelling. More soon.

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The Doings of the Grand Empress

October 14th, 2009 · 5 Comments

Shameless plug for the Microkhan clan: Check out what our own personal Börte Ujin has been up to, via the current issue of Inked Magazine. Photo possibly NSFW, though only if you labor in the most Puritanical of environments.

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Why Bookkeepers Don’t Rule the World

October 14th, 2009 · 4 Comments

In reading about the recent discovery of an undated film featuring Babe Ruth, we took notice of one of the clues that could yield the clip’s day or origin: Two college professors separately proposed using the shadows of the flag poles (seen on the field) to determine the position of the sun and, with some […]

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The Herminator Bids Auf Wiedersehen

October 13th, 2009 · 6 Comments

Our first-ever overseas assignment was covering the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. We thus have incredibly vivid memories of Hermann Maier, the celebrated Austrian skiier who just decided to call it a career. We were at the downhill slopes the day of the crash shown above, and remember instantly thinking “He must be dead” […]

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A Ninja’s Flighty Ideas

October 13th, 2009 · 2 Comments

In response to our recent placeholder extolling the virtues of Stan Bush’s work on Bloodsport, one of our faithful Virginia correspondents turned us on to this 1988 exposé, which argues that the film’s biographical subject is a huckster. The piece is behind a subscription wall, so those without a ProQuest account will have to make […]

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The Waga Toso Loophole

October 13th, 2009 · 5 Comments

We’re in the midst of watching The Nazis: A Warning from History, which really should be required viewing for anyone who casually throws around Hitler analogies when discussing contemporary politicians. It’s chilling stuff through-and-through, loaded with interviews with unrepentant party members and victims of persecution alike. The series essentially argues that the Third Reich was […]

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Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Airlines?

October 12th, 2009 · No Comments

We’re extremely curious to learn the backstory on why Louis Armando Peña Soltren decided to return to the U.S. from Cuba yesterday. He’d been hiding in Fidel Castro’s alleged proletarian paradise for over four decades, and now seems likely to spend the rest of his days in a federal penitentiary for orchestrating a 1968 skyjacking. […]

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