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From my new piece in the October issue of Wallpaper*, on a recent trip to Ashgabat, the political and cultural hub (as it were) of Turkmenistan. The article is not yet available online but Wallpaper* is on sale at fine newsstands everywhere:
Like most places, Ashgabat has its pluses and minuses. On the upside, expenses are minimal. Even the top-end, five-star President Hotel, located near the cigarette lighter-shaped Ministry of Oil and Gas, will set you back only about $100 per night (or $150 for a suite). On the downside, most everyone staying with you at the President will be a dreary foreign businessman or member of one of the many low-level foreign delegations passing though town, possibly a group from Outer Mongolia’s Ministry of Agriculture, sub-department of water…
One of the city’s most impressive attractions is the Walk of Health, a 37km concrete path cut atop the slopes of the Kopet Dag mountain. At the base is the Garden of the Great Turkmenbashi, a park
and playground featuring a fountain with a huge, perpetually spinning marble ball. Across the road is another monument to the Turkmenbashi in which he is chiseled in marble wearing a jogging suit and running shoes while holding a cup of tea. Curiously, the Turkmenbashi himself was not much of a health nut. He urged all citizens to make the walk at least once a year and ordered his ministers to do so. He o?ered encouraging words to his minions as they embarked on their ceremonial annual hike, before he himself was whisked away by helicopter to the presidential palace. Then he would reappear at the end of the Walk of Health to greet those crossing the ?nish line and to berate laggards.
Also, published next week: Turkmeniscam: How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship (a “marvelous, rollicking exposé of K Street culture” – Booklist).
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Chance that an American would give up at least one week of life to avoid taking a pill every day:
Iowa urologists reported that only a minor portion of locker-room teasing arises from “the presence of excess foreskin”; most teasing targets small penises.
A pair of Russian film directors asked President Vladimir Putin to invest $18 million in a new restaurant chain intended to drive McDonald’s out of the Russian market. “Every project these days,” a Russian television personality said of the proposal, “must be smothered in patriotic sauce.”
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”