America Needs Lunar Cocktails, and Other News


On the Shelf

An artist’s rendering of the Lunar Hilton lounge. Image via the Outline.


  • The future looks so shitty now. Sure, maybe in fifteen, twenty years we’ll be able to get through airport security without taking our shoes off, or we could watch streaming high-definition video while we get an MRI. But we’ve lost sight of the one advance that would really help us: building a luxury hotel on the moon. In 1967, Barron Hilton, of those Hiltons, had his eye on the prize: at a conference for the American Astronautical Society, he shared his vision. Daniel Oberhaus explains, “The crown jewel of the Lunar Hilton would, of course, be its Galaxy Lounge. ‘If you think we are not going to have a cocktail lounge, you don’t know Hilton—or travelers,’ Hilton quipped. In the Galaxy Lounge, lunar tourists would be able to ‘enjoy a martini and see the stars!’ Although the lounge would be underground, the guests would enjoy a view of Earth and outer space through ‘thermopane windows.’ All cocktails would be prepared by a robotic wait staff, which would only need to drop a tablet into a glass of pure ethyl alcohol and water and voila: an instant martini, Manhattan, or gin … He was, by all accounts, very serious about trying to make them a reality. ‘I firmly believe that we are going to have Hiltons in outer space.’ ”

  • Sara Wheeler, bemoaning the increasing rarity of women travel writers, lists a few of her favorites from centuries past: “Mary Kingsley belonged to that tribe of tweed-skirted Victorians who battled through malarial swamps, parasols aloft, or scaled unnamed Pamirs, trailed by a retinue of exhausted factotums … Our heroine waded through swamps for two hours at a time, up to her neck in fetid water with leeches round her neck like a frill. After falling fifteen feet into a game pit laid with twelve-inch ebony spikes, she noted, ‘It is at these times you realize the blessing of a good thick skirt’ … Another Victorian favorite of mine, Gertrude Bell, is as relevant today as she was when she reshaped the political map of the Middle East … Bell was the first female military intelligence officer … Sitting in her tent during a hailstorm, she read Hamlet, then composed a letter to Dick Doughty-Wylie, the love of her life. ‘Princes and powers of Arabia,’ Bell wrote, ‘stepped down into their true place, and there rose up above them the human soul, conscious and answerable to itself.’ ”
  • In his letters, John Steinbeck had to admit that it was lonely at the top—and that fame offered no solace: “The loneliness and discouragement are by no means a thing that has passed,” he wrote. “In fact they seem to crowd in more than ever. Only now I can’t talk to anyone much about them or even admit having them because I now possess the things that the great majority of people think are the death of loneliness and discouragement. Only they aren’t. The last time I saw Chaplin (this don’t repeat please but it is a part of the same thing) it was the night when the little lady [Paulette Goddard] was leaving him for good. And he said, ‘When I get this picture opened and all the formal things done, can I please go up to your ranch and kick all the servants out and just talk a little bit quietly about how lonely and sad I am? It will be self indulgence but I’d like to do it.’ ”
  • In Karuizawa, a tony mountain town an hour outside of Tokyo, Hanya Yanagihara admires a swath of unconventional homes: “The real curiosity of Karuizawa … is not its landscape nor its residents, but rather, its collection of spectacular avant-garde houses, most of them designed by prominent Japanese architects. There is Makoto Yamaguchi’s Polygon House, a quasi-Brutalist geode of distressed steel and glass that perches on a hill in a forest like an abandoned space pod; the concrete, glass and larch wood Omizubata N House by Iida Archiship Studio, whose dramatically steepled roof recalls an ancient Norse ship; TNA’s Passage House, where a horizontally oriented front entryway functions as a trap door, giving visitors the sensation that the forest floor beneath—over which the ring-shaped house hovers—is the ground floor of the structure, and the house itself its attic. Perhaps most splendid of all is TNA’s Ring House, a miniature tower deep in the forest constructed of alternating layers of wood and glass: In the evening, when the sky is dark blue and the house is lit from within, it appears as stacked slices of pure light, its bands of wood receding into the ink of the night.”