The Moranbong Band is best imagined as a North Korean version of Celtic Woman: an all-female ensemble band swaddled in fetching formalwear, blasting highly produced, energetic nationalist kitsch. Of course, no matter how much vigorous fiddling Chloe, Lisa, Susan and Mairead can manage, Celtic Woman is unlikely to attract as much scrutiny from intelligence agencies as the Moranbong Band’s cover of Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now”, which is perhaps better known as the theme from Rocky, and was performed – complete with a video backdrop featuring cuts of Sylvester Stallone working out – for none other than Kim Jong-un, the number one of the sinister and secretive Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Assuming my issue of EYE SPY, a British glossy devoted to “The Covert World of Espionage,” can be trusted, between 1973 and 1995 the United States government (and its Chinese and Soviet rivals) spent millions hiring teams of personnel to scry photographs of enemy installations and describe their heretofore unknowable innards.
In 1998, James McGirk spent five weeks living and working in Arcosanti, a desert community built in the 1970s that attempts to use ornate architectural planning to help create a harmonious society. Its designer, Frank Lloyd Wright disciple Paolo Soleri, passed away this week at age 93; McGirk remembers his experiences at the location and his interactions with Soleri.
There is no better analogy for contemporary art than Conway’s Game of Life. This is not the same thing as The Game of Life, which is played on a board and simulates the education and subsequent useful employment of a human being. Conway’s Game of Life is a math game, an evolution simulator simple enough to be played on a checkerboard, but most often encountered on a computer. In the game, three rules govern whether or not an individual “cell” lives, dies or reproduces.
Going West is an adventure. Maybe not as much as was when you had to take a covered wagon and float across the Mississippi and shoot bison along the way for food, but still, it’s a thrill. My wife and I decided we’d had enough of New York City. She’d been there almost fifteen years, I’d been there ten, and as ostensible creatives it seemed foolish to work 90 hours a week before we even began our “real work.”
Tahlequah, Oklahoma is a bucolic swatch of storefronts and brick bungalows nestled among rolling hills and lazy rivers. Situated in northeast Oklahoma, it is the capital of Cherokee Nation, which, with nearly 300,000 members (189,000 of whom live in the state), is the second-largest Indian tribe in the country, and a domestic dependent nation with its own court system and government.
Strangers calling on a Friday night don’t often bring good news. My wife begged me not to pick up. A tiny voice asked if he was speaking to James Brandon McGirk. I told him he was. “A James Brandon McGirk who was born in London in 1979?” Yes, I replied. Yes, I am. Who’s calling? “A Concerned Citizen was his reply…