Tuesday. 16/4/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Culture vulture quandary

Is it offensive if a Japanese tourist dons a kilt while in Scotland, a white woman wears a sari to an Indian friend’s wedding, a white man has dreadlocks or anyone dresses up as a cowboy who doesn’t own a horse, 1,000 head of cattle and live in Texas? Charges of cultural appropriation fly thick and fast these days, leaving numerous people and organisations determined to stay in their own cultural comfort zones for fear of being called out.

The finger-pointers are just as offended when music crosses cultures or when a chef dares to cook the food of another nation. Gordon Ramsay got into a spat recently with a restaurant critic, Angela Hui, who took offence at the lack of Asian people who will be involved in his new restaurant Lucky Cat. Both seem more than able to look after themselves.

But does, say, an Italian restaurant need someone from Naples or Rome in the kitchen? Probably not. Some of the best – and most authentic – Italian restaurants in Tokyo are run solely by passionate locals (they even make their own mozzarella). Similarly, there are Aussie chefs who cook great Thai food and plenty of French cooks who make perfect sushi.

One person’s cultural appropriation is another’s desire to experience and celebrate a culture that’s not theirs. And in the world of food, there are numerous examples more outlandish than Mr Ramsay’s. In the coming days he will face the real test: diners will either come back for more or put the cat out on the street. That’s authentic.

Diplomacy / Japan & China

Neighbourly relations

Yesterday Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono met with Chinese premier Li Keqiang in Beijing to discuss ways that their respective countries might become better neighbours. The meeting came following several rocky years as political spats and territorial disputes have embittered bilateral relations. But now such enmity is being swept aside in pursuit of commercial gains. “The economic pressure on both the Chinese and Japanese governments has been very strong to bring relations back to something approaching normal,” says Sir David Warren, former British ambassador to Japan. “There is a strong commercial interest for finding a route back to regular high-level contact.”

Media / Venezuela

Breaking the news

Press freedom in Venezuela suffered a further knock over the weekend as it emerged that German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle’s Spanish-language channel DW (Español) had been pulled from the airwaves. On Sunday, DW director general Peter Limbourg urged Venezuela’s broadcast authority Conatel (controlled by the country’s Ministry of Information) to resume “distributing the signal of DW”. Conatel has yet to issue a response. The German broadcaster had introduced a 15-minute daily special called Noticias Extra Venezuela to cover the deepening crisis as president Nicolás Maduro clings to power. While Maduro has placed a stranglehold on his own people by closing borders and restricting access to foreign aid, his campaign to restrict information is equally base.

Politics / Indonesia

Country crossroads

Polls open in Indonesia tomorrow as the country of nearly 200 million stages its general election. The extraordinarily complicated one-day election will choose both the president and parliament. It comes amid a growing debate on national identity and the role of Islam in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country. The leadership race is essentially a rematch from 2014, with incumbent Joko Widodo again pitted against Prabowo Subianto, the ex-military leader and former son-in-law of long-time dictator General Suharto. To fend off criticism from Muslims, Widodo has paired up with Ma’ruf Amin, a 76-year-old conservative Islamic cleric known for issuing fatwas against LGBTQ citizens (he’s also decried the practicing of yoga). Whether a hard-line strategy will enable Widodo to clinch a second – and final – term remains to be seen.

Media / Global

Shoot for the stars

As the battle between streaming services heats up, big names are becoming the weapons of choice. Tomorrow, Netflix will unleash its latest bid for success: Homecoming, a behind-the-scenes documentary about Beyoncé’s iconic headline performance at last year’s Coachella festival, billed as an intimate glimpse into the superstar’s life. It’s a high-profile acquisition but it isn’t without competition in that regard. Shows on the recently announced Apple TV+ boast talent including Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams. Unfortunately, on the evidence of Amazon Prime’s much-hyped release last weekend of Guava Island (a middling film featuring Rihanna and Donald Glover), celebrities don’t always equal good films and TV programmes. Let’s hope the streaming giants keep that in mind.

M24 / The Urbanist: Tall Stories

Portland’s Koin Center

Built in 1984, this art deco-style tower by the Hawthorne bridge is one of the most recognisable buildings in the city’s skyline.

Film / Global

The secret to finding a spring jacket

Bruce Pask, the menswear director at Bergdorf Goodman, is fêted for his unfussy personal style, so much so that the New York department store has given him his own space – B. – in one corner of its shop floor. As the mercury rises we asked Pask to give us the lowdown on picking a quintessential menswear staple: the spring jacket.

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