Saturday 6 April 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 6/4/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opener / Andrew Tuck

A (foreign) word to the wise

Homework. Decades after leaving school I still get that moment of panic if I haven’t done mine come Sunday night. I try to get up early on Saturday to get it out of the way but sometimes my pillow appointment goes on way too long. However, after 18 months of lessons and an unbending routine of Duolingo I think I might, just might, be able to locate the bank, order a meal and tell random people how intelligent and beautiful they are – in Spanish.

At school I mustered some passable German – which still seems to be easier to recall than words learnt 24 hours ago in Spanish – but I was, to be blunt, pretty rubbish. It’s a failure that has bugged me more and more and is repeatedly highlighted in an office where many of our team seem to have been gifted multiple languages by having lives that have shifted across borders, or parents from different nations. (That’s sort of unfair in my book: they basically just had to talk to their mums and dads. Pah!) Meanwhile I grew up in a house where the most exotic life got was having spaghetti Bolognese on a Thursday.

So while my progress may be snail-paced, whenever I am in Spain I get a ridiculous kick from making myself understood in even the most basic of moments. And on a trip around Argentina last year I was almost giddy with triumph as I managed to variously buy fuel and secure directions that delivered us to the right hotel and not off the edge of a mountain.

This lack of languages is not just a failure of mine or my generation. In the UK the number of students studying languages is falling sharply – too expensive and time-consuming to keep on the curriculum – even as businesses call for more people with French, German and Spanish (and let’s not even start on how this lack of interest in other cultures is shaping political debate in the UK).

I detect, however, an interesting change: it feels like lots of people now set out after school to acquire the skills they really want. And so while the world of language apps may be flawed and simplistic, I like spying the Duolingo owl logo on people’s phone screens. It hints at a desire to connect and discover new cultures – or at least locate the nearest loo.

Trade fair / Hamburg

Inside information

Held annually in Hamburg, the Aircraft Interiors Expo is the place to find out what the planes of tomorrow will look like. Usually it’s the new-seat reveals that attract the most attention but this week there was something else on people’s minds: that much-parlayed notion of “wellness”. New lighting to combat jet lag, noise-cancelling seat shells, odour neutralisers, recorded birdsong that gently wakes you up: this year was all about making passengers feel better. And while some of it was excessive, it’s nice to know that companies are thinking about more than just how to cram in as many seats as possible or entice passengers to spend more money on board (though there were plenty of clever plans for that as well). That said, some things we’re less sure about, like the creepy humanoid robot designed to deliver safety demonstrations. Let’s hope that one never takes off.

How we live / London

Uneasy pickings

If you’ve been out for a meal in London at any point over the past five years (writes Culture editor Chiara Rimella), you’ll know what follows the question, “Have you eaten here before?” You strap in for a monologue that feels as familiar as a flight-safety briefing. To be fair I take no issue with this; it is in some way comforting and a benign part of the ritual.

So after the waiter at a Covent Garden restaurant rattled through a slightly amended version of the above, we were left with the thing itself: the menu. Yet a rapid glance revealed that what had been explained remained, in fact, very much unexplained. I’ve had my fair share of baba ganoush but I’m not a Middle Eastern food connoisseur – and as such, my knowledge didn’t get me very far down the list.

I understand the value of shrouding some dishes in mystery: it piques curiosity and lends a sense of authenticity to operations. But assuming that the clientele knows its way around berguez merguez, ikra and muhammara, without any indication of what food family they belong to, shouldn’t be a given. It may alienate diners unwilling to admit their ignorance; fortunately, I’m not one of the latter. “Excuse me,” I said. “Would you mind explaining the menu to me?”

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Industrial strength

There’s a fair to very high chance that 73.6 per cent of Monocle Weekend Edition readers are perusing this bulletin while en route to furniture fair Salone del Mobile in Milan. As the most celebrated design show on earth kicks off on Tuesday (indeed many events will start on Sunday) architects from Melbourne are currently connecting to Malpensa via Doha (poor dears), design-shop retailers from Lyon are enjoying a leisurely drive over the Alps and owners of sprawling villas in questionable countries have already checked in to the Bulgari to rest up for il Salone. Many of Monocle’s crew are already in position and you’ll be able to catch up daily with the latest from the fair with our weekday edition The Monocle Minute and also via our coverage on Monocle 24. Should you want to get extra close or just join us for a drink, we’ll be broadcasting daily from our position at Opificio 31 in Tortona.

Having already absorbed a month’s worth of press releases from design companies large and small, visitors to the fair can expect a heavy jolt of sustainability spin from company PRs looking to explain the merits of eco-foam, upcycled synthetics and ecologically sourced petroleum products. It’s not surprising that most of it comes across as tinny at best. While the intention to do better might be there, it’s less than effective to attempt to back a sofa the size of an aircraft carrier into a tidy little press release that talks up its eco credentials. Let’s face it, that sofa was in development long before the marketing team saw the urgency in talking up sustainability and is probably produced in a manner that will take some time to be deemed even reasonably “clean”.

Like many other sectors, the furniture industry is trying to find its position in the sustainability story and is getting its message muddled. There’s too much emphasis on how things are made and what they’re composed of. This is part of the story but, I would argue, a bit downstream. Anyone close to the industry knows that tooling and factories can’t be transformed overnight, so much of the narrative comes across as a bit of a fudge. What the industry should be spending more time on is building products that are designed and engineered to last and educating consumers along the way. Governments could join in by encouraging (incentivising) developers to fit kitchens and bathrooms that will stand the test of time rather than end up in a dumpster the next time the property is flipped.

Likewise, companies that make products that can be repaired rather than binned deserve a break for extending the life of a side-table, lamp or ottoman. Earlier in the week a wise gentleman from Zürich’s hospitality industry was showing me around his freshly completed summer garden and approached one of several hundred chairs that had been purchased as part of the overhaul. He lifted it from the back and said it did everything he wanted it to. “It’s heavy, it’s made locally, it’s a classic and you can repair it. You can’t fix a plastic chair in quite the same way you can one of these,” he explained, while demonstrating the chair’s heft. “More importantly, these develop a certain patina and start to look better with age. They become collectors’ items.” And there it was (along with some sausages and a glass of good red), a challenge for the design industry: clear, succinct and sturdy like the chair. Make it solid, make it last and make it mendable.

Image: Jonah Hill

The interrogator / Edition 06

Nick Haramis

Nick Haramis is editor in chief of Interview magazine, which celebrates its 50th birthday this year. In the latest instalment of our series dedicated to media habits, we discover that he enjoys reading anything with New York in the title and why he’s not a big fan of the Sunday brunch routine.

What news source do you wake up to? Twitter.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines? Coffee so diluted that it’s more like milky sugar water.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? Spotify. And only recently did I realise that people can see when I’ve listened to Carly Rae Jepsen on loop for hours.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? It’s so perverted. It’s, like, this sultry version of “Santa Baby” with the word “hogybaby”, which is the Instagram handle of a popular pet hedgehog.

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk? I get The New York Times on my phone.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?The New Yorker, New York, T: The New York Times Style Magazine and The New York Times Magazine. Anything with New York in the name, really. And, of course, Monocle.

Are you a subscriber or a newsstand browser? Newsstand. I feel like I’m failing this questionnaire.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? If I’m in the city, McNally Jackson’s Soho shop. If I’m in Brooklyn, Books are Magic in Cobble Hill.

Sofa or cinema for the evening? Don’t make me choose.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched of late? I’m really into this show called The Other Two. It’s about a pair of siblings who are trying to make their way in the shadow of their younger brother, a famous pop singer who was discovered on YouTube. Nothing has made me laugh that hard in a while.

Sunday brunch routine? As much as I love a portmanteau, I don’t love brunch. The whole thing – waiting for a table, drinking booze at breakfast – puts me off. I prefer a diner counter, some crispy bacon and my five weekend magazines.

What papers and periodicals will be spread around the dining table? It’s usually pages of whatever issue I’m working on – layouts that I bring home with me.

Do you still watch the nightly news? No because I don’t have cable. Ugh, I’m not coming off well in this thing at all.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? Last night it was that show I was telling you about, except I was giggling too much to fall asleep.

Culture / Read / Watch / Listen

All shapes and sizes

‘Paradise’, Edna O’Brien. The novel may have shrunk since its Victorian-era heyday but publisher Faber makes a merit of being minute with its svelte new Faber 90 series. The pebble-and-pink palette of its comely covers is ogle-worthy in its own right and the stories, from the likes of Sally Rooney and Kazuo Ishiguro, are sprightly and spare. If you only end up reading one then Edna O’Brien’s dreamy seaside snapshot of a relationship going sour is a hit that’s conquerable on a shortish flight.

‘The Sisters Brothers’. The Coen Brothers had convinced us that the Western genre is perfect material for modern dark comedy – and now here comes French director Jacques Audiard with further proof. In his first English-language film (adapted from a novel by Patrick DeWitt), Joaquin Phoenix and John C Reilly play two hitmen on the hunt for a gold prospector. But a canny and self-important investigator (played by a brilliant Jake Gyllenhaal) has also been put on the trail; when their ambitions clash, absurd chaos ensues.

‘Titanic Rising’, Weyes Blood. As a child, Natalie Mering (who goes by the stage name Weyes Blood) moved from LA County to Pennsylvania and spent a lot of time in her bedroom; it probably wasn’t great for her social life but it did wonders for her experiments in music. Echoes of that time have matured into the wonderful ballads of her fourth release, the atmospheric “Titanic Rising”. There are silken vocals and a touch of the best kind of 1970s folk. “True love is making a comeback,” she announces in “Everyday”. We believe her.

Image: Getty Images

Eurovision / Song of the Week

‘Zero Gravity’ (Australia)

Every week in the run-up to Eurovision, which will be held on 14 to 18 May in Tel Aviv, Monocle 24’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco will put the spotlight on one entry. This week it’s Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke with her track “Zero Gravity”.

It’s no surprise that Aussies love Eurovision: its national broadcaster SBS has shown the event since 1983. But it was only in 2015 that Australia was allowed to compete in the show – and in 2016 they almost won with Dami Im’s excellent “Sound of Silence”. This year they are going big with classically trained Kate Miller-Heidke and her synth-pop operatic number “Zero Gravity”. She’s being bold with her dress sense too: she’ll sing wearing an unfathomably tall silver dress.

Outpost news / Keflavík, Iceland

Icelandic lowdown

For the past 36 years Pall Ketilson has been editing Víkurfrettir, the weekly newspaper for Iceland’s southern peninsula of Reykjanesi. Established in 1980, the publication is produced and distributed from the small town of Keflavík and has a circulation just north of 9,000.

What’s the big story this week? The fall of Wow Air, a low-cost airline that was used by lots of Icelanders and tourists coming to Iceland. The company went bankrupt after failing to secure emergency funding. The airline provided work for more than 1,000 people in Iceland and people are concerned about how this will affect jobs and our economy.

Best picture? One of our readers sent in an image that looks through the window of the airport shuttle bus. On each of the seats there’s a flight attendant’s hat but no person. It captured the concerns about job losses from Wow Air’s collapse perfectly.

What’s your down-page treat? For April Fools’ Day we published an image of a huge whale photoshopped into one of Keflavik’s smallest harbours. It was one of the largest ever discovered, we reported, and was trapping a number of residents. Crowds even travelled there – only to find it was a hoax.

Next big event? We are still looking at how the region will handle the redundancies now that one of the main employers has gone under. About 700 to 1,000 of the southern peninsula’s 25,000 residents have lost their jobs. But the government is optimistic: our tourism industry and our economy are still strong.

Get out / Monterrey

Downtown revival

In Barrio Antiguo in Monterrey, the tattered pavement of Calle Ignacio Allende transforms into a pristine mosaic of earthy red and sand-coloured tiles for a few strides. While the mosaics were commonplace in the 1920s and 1930s, they’re rarely found underfoot today. Here they signal that you’ve arrived at Belmonte, a sleek café, bar and restaurant inside a century-old, formerly derelict home. “Monterrey’s downtown has been forgotten for many years and our vision for the area starts with something as simple as the sidewalk,” says Artemio Bernardo Salinas Cantu, a lawyer who, after becoming enthralled by Rome’s restaurants while studying there, opened Belmonte in October.

Monterrey is Mexico’s industrial heartland. Two hours south of Texas, it’s also the country’s most Americanised city. But in the early 2010s, it was racked with violence during Mexico’s drug war. An exodus of businesses followed, especially in Barrio Antiguo where extortion pushed restaurants from their Spanish colonial dwellings.

“Belmonte is an effort to end the downtown’s deterioration,” says Salinas Cantu. The interior, designed by Monterrey firm North Office, marries the building’s old brick bones with modern light fixtures. Belmonte’s hearty menu looks to both Mexican and international influences: spaghetti aglio e olio replaces the traditional peperoncino with pequin peppers from Higueras, just north of the city.

On bright Sunday mornings, Belmonte is teeming with life, from young families to elderly couples. “What’s most important is the fact that people are returning downtown,” says Salinas Cantu. “We’re focused on an urban renaissance.”

Image: Kentaro Ito

Wardrobe update / Slovakia & Japan

Step out in style

One of the best ways to spring into spring is with a pair of lightweight canvas trainers on your feet. And, when choosing your plimsolls, there are two “Made in…” tags to look out for: Slovakia and Japan. Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia) became a centre for the production of said footwear in the 1930s thanks to entrepreneur Jan Antonin Bata – and it’s still an industrial hub for brands across Europe looking for high-quality retro-style trainers. The most well-known brand is Novesta, known for its unfussy kicks with chunky patterned soles.

In Japan, meanwhile, the centre for production is Kurume (a city on Kyushu Island). The most covetable options include deck shoes from Asahi and Doek, or the collaboration between Japanese maestro MoonStar and UK designer Studio Nicholson (pictured). Go for the white upper with a grey base from Asahi or the olive model with tan sole from Novesta.

Image: Delfino Sisto Legnani e Marco Cappelletti

M24 / Monocle on Design

Why craft matters

A report from an exhibition near Leeds on the intriguing intersection of beauty, craft and utility, and French department store Galeries Lafayette opens a new space on the Champs-Élysées.

Monocle Films / USA

Dallas street style

Texas is about big money, big cars and big characters; we meet the new generation adding some welcome cool to the cowboy chic.


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