Eyelids open; flowers blossom; tiny beaks tap cracks in eggshells; crops sprout; creatures stalk, slide, and wriggle from their burrows; teenage elk scrape hooves in the dust, lower antlers, and charge their competition. So: Did you—yes, you, clutching your fourth Keurig of the day and still feeling sluggish—really think you were immune to the effects of circadian rhythm, aka the clock cycle of practically all living things? Please.
The Explorer’s Club headquarters fill a five-story Jacobean townhouse on East 70th Street in Manhattan. The inside looks lifted from the opening scenes of an Indiana Jones movie: Wood panels, stuffed leopards snarling, mounted expedition flags, and photographs of triumphant explorers line the walls. Founded in 1904, the Club has twenty-six chapters all over the world. To become a full-fledged member, you must “carry out or assist in field science expeditions to study unknown or little known destinations or phenomena in order to gain knowledge for humankind.”
I live surrounded by retirees in rural Oklahoma. They are spry. They own arsenals of gardening equipment: lawnmower-tractor hybrids that grind through the fibrous local flora with cruel efficiency; they wield wicked contraptions, whirling motorized blades that allow withered men to sculpt hedges into forms of sublime and delectable complexity.
After writing a spate of reasonably successful—and very autobiographical—novels, James Ellroy and Martin Amis took the cities surrounding them and used them as test beds, experimenting with new voices and forms and populating this familiar terrain with doppelgangers and villains and foils and sexual obsessions.
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.