The Opener - Issue 150 - Magazine | Monocle

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how to live: back to business

The list

It’s time to fill your calendar with the coming year’s Monocle events, writes Tyler Brûlé.

The original plan was that this issue would make its debut at a cocktail party in Davos – but the World Economic Forum lost its nerve and it’s now expected to return in the summer. Meanwhile, we have been planning our own gatherings, so block out a few rough dates for the year ahead.

At press time, Salone del Mobile in Milan was still scheduled to go ahead in April. Hopefully the organisers will stick to the dates; it seems that Omicron will have infected much of the world by then and we’ll be able to get back to business. We’re planning a number of events with various partners across the week.

We haven’t held a large-scale event in North America in some time, so we have our eyes on a city in the US southeast for April. This will likely take place over a weekend with authors, entrepreneurs, chefs and intelligence officers. Look out for updates in our newsletters, which you can sign up to on our website. 

Our Quality of Life Conference will head to Paris in June, taking on a new structure. The venue is secured; we’re just finalising the dates and line-up.

The Chiefs Conference will return to St Moritz in September. We aim to keep it as cosy and contained as edition one. Yes, we’ll be chartering train carriages for the journey up the mountains.

Finally, our media conference will move from London to an Asian capital, with an expanded format to make it worth the journey for those travelling in from across the region and around the world. See you in 2022.


the interrogator

Jimmy O Yang

Despite holding a degree in economics, Jimmy O Yang has emerged as a leading light in comedy on both small and silver screens. The Hong Kong-born actor began performing stand-up in Los Angeles in 2008, before going on to star in hbo’s Silicon Valley and Jon M Chu’s blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians. This year is likely to be his busiest yet, with a second season of Space Force and Netflix film Me Time on the cards.

What can we expect from the second season of ‘Space Force ?
It has an incredible cast, including Steve Carell, John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz and Lisa Kudrow. I could go on and on about them. After we wrapped on Silicon Valley, the show I did before this, I thought that I’d never find a project as good as that – and then along came Space Force.

What makes you say yes to a project?
The script, first and foremost. It has to be entertaining, something interesting that I want to see and take my friends to. But it also needs to be meaningful and have people in it whom you want to work with, learn from and collaborate with. The film business is a team sport.

“Ultimately it comes down to storytelling, truth and honesty. One discipline helps to inform and improve the others”

You’re known as a stand-up comedian but now you’re also acting and writing. How have you found juggling it all?
Stand-up is my first love but I’m very fortunate to be able to get paid to do all these different “sports”. I find enjoyment in all of them. Ultimately it comes down to storytelling, truth and honesty. One discipline helps to inform and improve the others. 

Your current projects encourage us to think but also to have a laugh in the process. Is that how you’ve approached your stand-up too?
A comedian’s job is to say stuff that everybody is thinking but nobody can talk about. Having a laugh about it is part of that. Comedy, especially stand-up, is quite personal for me. When I moved to the US, I first had to master the language as I didn’t speak English very well. So I watched a lot of television and when I found stand-up comedy, I became obsessed. Not only was I learning about the language but I was learning about the most up-to-date trends, cultural references, how one sees the other and how nuances work in a country like America.

How did you get involved in stand-up comedy as a practitioner?
I started aged 21. I was about to graduate from college with an economics degree and I just didn’t want to go into that. So I started doing stand-up, trying to find myself.

Our man in...

We take the pulse of Monocle’s HQ and bureaux across the world to find out what’s new this month, from grassroots urbanism in Zürich to feline-inspired fashion in Hong Kong.



Zürchers with a dream to make their city better could see it become reality thanks to the City Ideas campaign. In the coming months, 61 citizen-led projects, such as a library for everyday items, will be installed by the city. Now that’s hands-on urbanism. 


Creature comforts

A big draw for many urbanites is quick and easy access to nature, and London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has plans to bring flora and fauna closer to Londoners. His £600,000 (€718,000) “rewilding” fund could see long-lost species, including beavers, return to the city’s parks.


Spaced out

Toronto is making an effort to ensure that its condominium boom doesn’t also become a parking nightmare, by ditching minimum parking requirements for new residential developments. In a walkable city, it should mean streets filled with residents not cars.

los angeles

Safe haven

Beverly Hills residents are beefing up their home security; orders for armoured cars, safe rooms and private patrols to accompany pet walkers are on the rise. Are they a barometer for wider Los Angeles? Perhaps, but the mayor says that crime has been down for 10 years. 

hong kong

Roar materials

As we enter the year of the tiger, orange-and-black outfits are in vogue and Chinese New Year collections are big business for European luxury houses. Designers will no doubt enjoy the fact that such looks fit the catwalk much better than those referencing the mouse, cow or pig. 


Getting on board

Though Japan dominated skateboarding at the Olympic Games, the sport remains banned in most parks in the country. However, the Tokyo government might be about to change that after a group of skaters, including gold medalist Yuto Horigome, called for progress. 


Taking a lead

Cats have long been a menace to Australian fauna, none of which has evolved toevade imported felines. The Western Australian city of Fremantle is considering taking action by banning cats from roads and parks unless they are on leads. While it wouldn’t be the first place in Australia to pass such a law, Fremantle has a reputation for foppish eccentricity. Soon, at least, when you see a resident walking a cat, you’ll know it’s because they have to, not because they want to. 


Hot air rises

Doing away with official aircraft is an easy way for politicians to bolster their popularity. Take Peruvian president Pedro Castillo, who has announced plans to sell the country’s presidential aircraft, an ageing Boeing 737 that’s yours for €16.4m. This follows hairshirtery by Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has been flying economy for three years while seeking a reasonable offer for a sumptuously appointed Boeing 787. Any voter seduced by such gestures of solidarity should think of how they feel when they step off a long-haul flight in a middle seat in row 47 and ask themselves, “Would I want someone in that state conducting negotiations?”

Joking aside

There’s a saying in comedy circles: if you can’t joke about one thing, you can’t joke about anything. In some places, however, laws force comedians to watch what they say. Here are three countries where certain topics are considered no laughing matter

Want to be gonged off the stage (read: arrested)? Then crack a joke at the expense of the king.

Tread lightly around religion. Poking fun at Hindu gods has landed comics in prison.

If you’re a foreign comedian touring Russia, skewering your host country will likely result in your tour coming to an abrupt end.


Air-force jollity

At the end of 2021, Polish generals tried to lift troop morale by hosting a concert at an air-force base. But one wonders how high they hoped spirits would rise: looking at the line-up, it would not require much snobbery to conclude that the engagement appealed largely to artists who have recently spent much of their time gazing at a silent phone. On the bill were German singer Lou Bega, for whom every mambo from No 6 onwards has been a disappointment, and Jenny Berggren, of whom mercifully little has been heard since the mid-1990s. This dismal line-up could have been worse. Spanish novelty act Las Ketchup, approaching the 20th anniversary of their only hit, were set to appear but were quarantined – on public-health rather than aesthetic grounds.

correspondent’s view:

New York

Outside chance

When pop-up structures for alfresco eating first appeared on New York’s footpaths to facilitate pandemic dining, many assumed that they would be temporary. Or, at least, some hoped so. The huts and tents that line the streets have offered New Yorkers solace from the cold but they’re also a source of tension, blocking bike lanes, creating noise and attracting rodents. Whether the residents like it or not, however, they’ve become dining staples and many establishments have made spaces that are more creative than the restaurants themselves.

In Stuyvesant Heights, Peaches Kitchen & Bar has created “friendship cabins” made from recycled plastic bottles. On the rooftop of Arlo Soho, heated wooden cabins with antler chandeliers and cushions make diners feel almost like they’re atop a ski slope in Verbier. Some, like Burmese restaurant Rangoon in Prospect Place, are working with established designers; it engaged Saw Earth studio and Outpost Architecture to create a white outdoor hut with nifty panels that work like Venetian blinds and regulate ventilation. grt Architects has also created slick black booths for Cote restaurant in the Flatiron and red huts with curtains and dangling lights for Michelin-starred restaurant Don Angie in the West Village.

While there’s no denying that some of these can be hazardous, especially ahead of snowplough season, one can’t help but admire their ingenuity.

ILLUSTRATOR: Dirk Schmidt.

Images: Sela Shiloni, Shutterstock

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