Saturday 27 April 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 27/4/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opener / Andrew Tuck

On the record

A few weeks ago, for our April issue, I wrote a story about The Last Column: a project, website and book that brings together the final dispatches and photographs of 24 journalists killed in the line of duty in recent years. It’s an amazing project that includes names that made headlines around the world – and some that didn’t but who we should remember.

When we came to fact-check that story, we had to reconfirm a detail supplied to the authors some months earlier by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ): the number of reporters and news photographers killed doing their jobs since 1992. The statistic, it turned out, was incorrect because more had been killed in those few months. It now stood at 1,337.

On 18 April, as the UK prepared for a long sunny weekend, a 29-year old journalist called Lyra McKee was shot in Derry while covering rioting in the Northern Irish city. Dissident Republicans have now claimed responsibility and say that they made a mistake and are sorry. But for her family, her girlfriend and the city, “sorry” is of little value. And that terrible total has to be updated again.

That’s not to say that journalists’ lives are more valuable – the heartbreak of Sri Lanka brings that home. But there is something extraordinary about people like Lyra McKee, who do everything they can to stay safe but, in the end, have to tell the story (and that’s even in an age when politicians fire at journalists with “fake news” chants).

Some of the frontline reporters who made The Last Column possible are joining us in Madrid for the Monocle Quality of Life Conference – because a robust fourth estate is vital to any progressive nation’s quality of life. Those voices include Ron Haviv, an extraordinary conflict photographer, and Clarissa Ward, chief international correspondent at CNN. We will also be joined by Nicolas Hénin, a celebrated war correspondent who was held hostage by Isis for 10 months. We rely on people like these to shine a light on the places where others try to commit crimes and atrocities out of sight.

Perhaps you can join us in Madrid to be part of this conversation. Maybe you’ll have the chance to visit or send a donation to the CPJ. Or perhaps you can find time to reflect on the life of a 29-year old woman who should be hanging out with her partner today. But one thing we can all do is hope that terrifying number stops ticking ever upwards.

Report / Playing cards

Upper hand

Wordsearch, a creative agency specialising in property, posted a pack of playing cards – or, rather, “place cards” – to Monocle that aim to provoke debate about how to design better spaces in our cities. “This is not a game”, the first card announces, while those that follow are designed to prompt deeper thinking with questions such as, “What will make people stay in this place?” and “Does public art matter?”

The humble pack of cards is coming up trumps for a number of young companies that are trying to get their ideas into play. Paris creative agency Spintank created its own deck of AFK (away from keyboard) cards as a piece of digital insight – and PR. Each one gives a synopsis of a digital concept that can be applied to an entrepreneurial concern.

These companies aren’t dealing a fresh hand: cards as creative prompts have a rich history. Musician Brian Eno’s 1975 Oblique Strategies offers a variety of abstract solutions on cards to dispel creative block (“Honour thy error as a hidden intention”, for example) and were famously used by David Bowie when working on his album Heroes. Still, the strategy remains a good way to shuffle things up, especially now so many people are glued to their screens. Let’s hope more follow suit.

How we live / Face masks

On the face of it

Masks. We all wear one – some more literally than others. Frequent travellers to China, Japan and South Korea will know that surgical face masks are not just for doctors and dentists. It’s common practice to see people covering their noses and mouths with these pleated blue paper squares. This show of consideration is to prevent the spread of sneezy germs but, to the untrained eye, it can make its wearer look like a Howard Hughes-style hygiene freak.

At this time of year – when the weather is wet and highly changeable – Hong Kong is also a sea of blue faces (though mask styles do evolve with each flu season). Branded masks have come and gone. Hello Kitty did at least offer a substitute smile but now it’s more common to see a block-coloured, all-in-one fabric style designed to be washed and worn again. This is good news for the environment but a worrying sign that what was once a temporary barrier to everyday interaction is becoming a fixed part of the city’s daily wardrobe.

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Rock around the clock

“What’s that you’re listening to?” asked my colleague, peering around the edge of my office door in Zürich. “A little something I picked up in Tokyo. Late at night at Tsutaya in Roppongi Hills,” I replied. “Umm, on CD? Do the Japanese still buy CDs?” he asked. “It seems so,” I said, reaching for the cover. “Whatever it is, it’s really lovely,” he remarked.

Before turning back to my work I paused and looked out into the garden, considering what we should do with our little patch of grass, weeds, yuzu trees and shrubs behind the bureau. As my mind wandered off and I thought about what furniture we should be ordering (solid and Swiss-made, for sure), I drifted back to my 02.00 music-shopping session.

As this has been part of my routine for nearly a decade, I wondered whether my colleague thought this exercise exotic or a waste of time. Was he thinking, “Why spend time in a shop with headphones on when you could buy music from the comfort of your bed at that hour?” Or did it all seem romantic and something he missed out on?

Returning to the aisles of CDs in the shop I noted how, in less than five years, the shelf space devoted to them had shrunk and more floor space was being set aside for accessories and lifestyle items. Would I soon venture in to find the CDs gone? Or would Tsutaya recognise that it’s not so much the need for consumers to own their music on a physical format as there being a human need for people to find places to mingle and consume in the wee hours (that don’t necessarily involve drinking or dancefloors).

While some of Japan’s most high-profile retailers in the convenience-store space look at abandoning their “open 24 hours” formats, Tsutaya and its parent CCC (Culture Convenience Club – and no, it’s not part-owned by Boy George) seem fixed on developing environments that bring people together around the clock. What started with CD and DVD rental shops has now blossomed into a network of stores and shopping precincts that bring together all the essentials you might want in your very own, highly personalised village square. Along the way they’ve experimented with taking over libraries and hybrid public/private spaces – and now there’s talk of moving into large-scale community projects, targeting everyone from young professionals wanting a weekend escape to retirees keen to check into a richer life (rather than check out).

As CCC is truly a club and boasts one of Japan’s most compelling databases, the opportunity for it to talk to the country’s booming “silver set” (not to mention the next generation) make it one of the most interesting companies to keep tabs on when it comes to creating products and environments for affluent consumers north of 70. A seaside town in Kyushu designed by the best architects with an amazing bookshop/CD shop/café/bar at its heart? A little alpine village designed to offer all kinds of cultural conveniences for the elegant and elderly? Where do I sign up? And will Boy George be performing for those who were swaying with him back in ’83?

The interrogator / Edition 09

Mario García

Mario García is the CEO and founder of García Media. He has worked as a design and editorial consultant in 120 countries, with projects for newspapers ranging from The Wall Street Journal to the South China Morning Post. In the latest instalment of our series dedicated to the media diet of people involved in the industry, he tells us about his favourite jazz station and picks out the best vintage bookshop in New York.

What news source do you wake up to?
The New York Times Morning Briefing, the briefing from The Washington Post, the Brian Stelter Reliable Sources Newsletter and Spain’s El País alerts.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
A cup of Nespresso Americano.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
Sometimes SiriusXM jazz.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
A Broadway tune: these days something from The Prom.

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk?
No papers delivered, except on Sunday when I feast on The New York Times. It is a delicious ritual for me when I am home in New York.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
Monocle (always there), The Atlantic, The Economist, T: The New York Times Style Magazine and Runner’s World.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon?
Westsider Rare & Used Books on Broadway.

Sofa or cinema for the evening?
I’m addicted to Netflix. I rarely go to the cinema.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched of late and why?
House of Flowers [Casa de las Flores], a well-done spoof of the typical Mexican telenovela. There’s great acting, fabulous direction and an over-the-top plot.

Sunday brunch routine?
I am not a brunch person as I wake up early each day, including Sundays, to run in Central Park (or wherever). I get up, make my Nespresso Americano and cook my oatmeal, which I sprinkle with cinnamon and top with honey and blueberries.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news?
Not at all. The news finds me without making an appointment.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
No TV for me. Instead, I take my iPad Pro to bed and read The Times and/or The Washington Post news updates. I don’t get far before my eyes begin to close.

Culture / See / Read / Listen

Books, beverages and bossa nova

‘Tea Ceremony’, Tom Sachs. New York-based contemporary artist Tom Sachs is known for his odd DIY-looking sculptural recreations of modern pop icons, such as Hasselblad cameras, Hello Kitty figurines and Nasa gear. This exhibition at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery is his first in Japan. It showcases his witty take on a traditional tea ceremony.

‘A Devil Comes to Town’, Paolo Maurensig. Everyone in the fictional Swiss town of Dichtersruhe dreams of being a writer. So what better form for the visiting devil to take than a publisher from Lucerne who announces that he wants to open a publishing house and start a literary prize? The residents whip themselves into a frenzy in a bid to prove that they are the most talented mind – and this tale takes a brilliantly surreal turn.

‘Claude Fontaine’, Claude Fontaine. She might have a French name but Claude Fontaine is, in fact, a US singer who found inspiration for her sunny brand of bossa nova in rainy London. It was there that she walked into record shop Honest Jon’s and established a love of Brazilian music. Eventually she headed back to LA and recruited some industry veterans – including Ziggy Marley’s drummer Rock Deadrick – to help record this infectious debut.

Eurovision / Song of the week

‘Say Na Na Na’ (San Marino)

Every week in the run-up to Eurovision, which will be held in May in Tel Aviv, Monocle 24’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco will put the spotlight on one entry. This week it’s San Marino’s Serhat with his track “Say Na Na Na”.

San Marino is fairly new to Eurovision: it first competed in 2008 but has only qualified for the final once, in 2014, with Valentina Monetta’s dramatic “Maybe”. This year they’ve called upon the services of Turkish singer Serhat for a second time: he also provided San Marino’s 2016 entry. The singer, 54, has had a colourful career ranging from hosting Turkey’s version of Jeopardy! to singing dance songs with a voice that reminds us of Leonard Cohen. “Say Na Na Na” is not a favourite to win – but it does make us smile.

Outpost news / Falkland Islands

Pick up the ‘Penguin’

Launched by Graham Bound in 1979, Penguin News was, and remains, the Falkland Islands’ only newspaper. It has provided news for the British overseas territory every Friday for nearly 40 years, apart from a brief interim during the Anglo-Argentine conflict in 1982. The publication is headed by acting editor Roddy Cordeiro, with a team of four servicing a population of just under 3,000.

What’s the big story this week?
The legislative assembly for the Falklands. It’s a political meeting a little like prime minister’s question time in the UK. Development and Commercial Services will be sharing their portfolio with the assembly, running through the developments in the sector and answering questions that the other members pose. We go to print the same afternoon so it will be interesting to hear what they have to say – island infrastructure usually gets a lot of attention.

Best headline?
“We fired at each other and, thankfully, missed.” It’s self-explanatory but it was a moving story about two former soldiers – one British, another Argentine – who became friends and ran the local marathon together. After talking about their experiences in the war they realised they would have unknowingly fired at each other. We don’t normally have quotations as full headlines but it was a pretty powerful line.

Best picture?
Recently we ran a piece on an accountant who found a 1970s guide on “Living in the Falklands”, which is now comically out of date, so she thought she would write one herself. We featured a funny image of her and her family stood outside their home with their pet sheep.

What’s your down-page treat?
On consecutive days last week I found myself first interviewing a parliamentary secretary and then covering the winning entry in the “name the calf” competition in the local agricultural show. That probably gives you a good idea of the range of news we cover. Crusty was the winning entry, incidentally.

Next big event?
In July the Falklands is competing in the Island Games in Gibraltar. It’s a sporting event held every two years between islands around the world, a lot from the Caribbean. The standards are quite high so it’s probably not unfair that the Falklands perform a little lower than the average. Last time we won a medal in archery; we’re hoping to take home a medal in the half marathon this year.

Weekend plans? / Mexico City

Petal power

The streets of Mexico City are awash with purple rain. No, not some freak meteorological event but rather the annual bloom of the city’s jacarandas. Every spring the Mexican capital turns a brighter shade of lilac as corridors of the vibrant tree burst into flower along its avenidas and litter the pavements with petals. Blossom-chasers will encounter a slew of smart options when it comes to finding somewhere to hang their sombreros but we favour the pocket-sized Nima Local House Hotel in leafy Roma Norte. There’s no purple in sight here – an earthy palette of greens and greys runs throughout the pristine four-room property that was once the home of one of Mexico’s greatest art collectors. Take your breakfast – the chilaquiles are superb – in the interior courtyard, with its mighty cascading monstera deliciosa, before taking to the streets. No umbrella required.

Wardrobe update 04 / Escuyer T-shirts

Well worn

Gregory de Harlez, founder of Belgian menswear label Escuyer, does a tidy trade selling socks, wallets and T-shirts made near Porto. One of the best things about this Brussels brand is that it’s fun: socks come with stripes and T-shirts in sherbet shades. De Harlez has started doing capsule collections of T-shirts themed around newsy events: last year, to tie in with the World Cup, his wares were embroidered with playful icons of footballers; now, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, he’s unveiled a trio of T-shirts decorated with space-related insignia. Our pick is this navy crew neck emblazoned with a tiny rocket.

Modern Etiquette / Edition 03

Can I sit where I like on a plane?

You’ve been on SeatGuru, you’ve scanned the seating plan on the airline’s website and you’ve found the perfect spot: a nice window seat where you’ll be able to get some work done (and have a nap). But as you walk down the aisle there’s a cuckoo in the nest – and he’s taken your place. When you point out that it’s your seat he says, “Sorry but I get travel sick if I sit in the aisle”. Or perhaps you are all buckled up and content when Mr Flappy arrives with a complicated plan to reseat several aisles so that him, his wife and his mother can sit next to each other. It’s a 90-minute flight – surely separation anxiety isn’t an issue. So, dear reader, you cannot sit where you like on a plane and if you ask us to give up our spot, don’t expect a helpful reply. Now, where are my nuts?

M24 / Monocle on Design

Meeting Elizabeth Diller

We meet the New York-based architect whose projects, including the perennially popular High Line in Manhattan and Los Angeles’ Broad museum, have inspired urban-planners around the world.

Monocle Films / Spain

The Monocle Quality of Life Conference: Madrid

Join us to discover all the Spanish capital has to teach us, be it inviting hospitality, nocturnal delights or the recipe for a long and happy life. Prepare to be challenged and inspired by a host of thinkers unpacking architecture, entrepreneurship, media, retail, entertainment and more.


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