Saturday 4 May 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 4/5/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Collection correction

Last Sunday the sky was Mediterranean blue, the air Arctic cold. It was Toronto, after all, a city that’s reluctant to relinquish winter. So I darted into the Gardiner Museum to warm the hands – and, it turns out, the heart.

The museum first opened in 1984 to house the collection of artefacts, pottery and porcelain gathered by George and Helen Gardiner. It closed for a couple of years between 2004 and 2006 to be expanded (architecture firm KPMB doing a great job) and today is beautifully lit and home to a nice restaurant.

But let’s go back to the Gardiners, now both dead. George was a wealthy man, made rich by his stockbroking skills. His wife Helen was from a working-class background and would become one of Ontario’s most valued philanthropists. Perhaps at the start they saw their collecting as a good investment but it became a passion: they bought thousands of museum-quality works. Hence their decision to secure a permanent home for it all.

Other wealthy Canadians were doing the same at the same time. Throughout the museum are pieces donated from other collections, often accompanied by pictures of the former owners sitting smiling among their trophies. As we walked around my colleague, Tom, commented that he didn’t know anyone who collected anything. When I thought about it, neither do I. Sure, we could think of people who have lots of very nice things – but an actual organised, growing collection?

As a kid there wasn’t much that came near me that didn’t get squirrelled away in a tin or an album. There was a stamp collection, coins, postcards. A holiday to the coast would end with the car being stunk out by a bag of seaweed-y seashells (for the nature collection). But as an adult? The urge has vanished. And in a world of Marie Kondo obsessives, any fledgling collecting impulse is going to get trampled. People want less stuff – and as homes shrink and lives become more mobile, it makes sense.

Yet in the Gardiner Museum you see not just objects in cabinets but the delight and determination needed to be a collector. It’s entrancing. And while it’s unlikely that my inner pottery hunter will be unleashed following my visit, you do thank God that they never heard of Ms Kondo.

How we live / Communal tables

Breaking bread

Communal dining has been a mainstay of cool restaurants across Europe, the Antipodes and the US for years (writes Jamie Waters). But last weekend was the first time I actually dined “communally”.

I asked for a spot for one at Gjelina – a lively joint in LA’s Venice – and was whisked to a table to be plonked down in the middle of a conversation. How odd, I thought, for them to break up a bunch of friends. Then I realised that they weren’t friends: they were strangers who’d got talking. And I was soon part of the gang.

Is this not what communal dining should be? In London and Sydney I’ve sat at countless shared tables but never once have I even exchanged a “hello” with my neighbour. I’m not saying that I want to chat to strangers every time I eat out but perhaps the Californians are on to something. Let’s see how I feel when I get back to London.

Report / Hong Kong

Show of interest

Bank HQs dominate Hong Kong’s skyline and the most famous belongs to HSBC. The building’s designer, Sir Norman Foster, is well known but the work of Henry Steiner, the Austrian graphic designer behind the red-and-white hexagonal logo that sits atop the 587ft tower, less so.

Steiner’s 1980s designs for HSBC’s corporate identity form part of Graphic Communicator, a retrospective of his work at the Design Society in Shenzhen. He first moved to the city in the 1960s and this solo exhibition, featuring designs for a swathe of iconic Hong Kong institutions from Lane Crawford to the Jockey Club, covers his six-decade career.

Any visitors to Hong Kong who lack the time to visit the exhibition can see his work simply by opening their wallets: Steiner has also designed the territory’s banknotes.

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Life on the edge

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening and greetings. For this weekend’s edition of “The Faster Lane” we’re going to reinstate our Saturday-morning quiz. If you remember the rules when this column appeared in another journal, not much has changed: I’ll throw out a couple of clues and you bark out your guesses in as civilised a manner as possible. Ready? Here we go.

I just passed a massive billboard on the highway featuring a very bronzed woman in a bikini and the advert promises that I too could be just as dark if I buy some of the oil in the bottle. In most countries this type of advertisement would have all kinds of ministries, authorities, pressure groups and social-media users in a twist – but not here. Any guesses? OK, here’s another clue.

We’ve just pulled up at a seaside restaurant that looks like it might have recently been inundated by a winter storm. But in the sunshine, everyone is relaxed; there are fish on the barbecue, dogs lying beside the bathrooms and we’re wandering through the kitchen saying hello to the chef, kissing the owner (three times) and asking where we can pull on our swim trunks. On the terrace people are smoking and enjoying beers and, if you squint and look south, you can make out the contours of a large city. Are you getting the picture? Would it help if I told you I’m somewhere on the Med?

Last clue. Lunch is done so now we’re heading up to the mountains and our host (Kamal) is driving 140km/h in a 40km/h zone. There is no danger of speed traps and even less concern about passing police officers because they’ve got better things to do than concern themselves with speeding on a Friday afternoon when people have places to go and the sun is shining. Where am I?

If you know your geography and social codes then you’ll recognise that we’re not in the western Mediterranean or a strange Swiss or Flemish enclave in Greece. Head a bit further east however and you’ll be getting warmer and, if you jump over Cyprus, give Turkey the swerve and line-up for a landing at Rafic Hariri International Airport, then you can claim top prize. Yes, gentle reader, if it’s the start of May then it must be a long weekender in Lebanon.

It’s exactly a year ago since I was last here and the country now has a government, Beirut’s hospitality folk are scrambling around on terraces and rooftops, preparing bars and lounges for the summer season, and there’s a sense that the current positive atmosphere is holding. This being Lebanon, one should remember that it only takes one or two wobbles for the whole place to kick off. One should also keep in mind that it’s this permanent state of teetering on the edge of becoming totally unhinged that makes the place so appealing.

At an elegant dinner on Thursday evening the CEO of one of the country’s biggest banks told me that there’s a certain buzz that comes with living on the edge. She told me about her bank’s commitment to opening branches rather than closing them and that she felt her Swiss colleagues had forgotten how to manage relationships in a human way rather than via apps and data. Another guest asked me about my impressions of Lebanon: “You’ve been coming here for a while now, what’s changed?”

I explained that I am happy that many parts of Beirut’s Hamra district are still frozen in time and you can still whiff the 1960s and 1970s if you take a deep enough breath. But I am also worried about the unchecked pace of ugly property development and how it is making much of the city look like parts of the Gulf. She contemplated this observation for a moment, took a sip of red from a dainty glass and nodded in agreement. “We need to get back to how we were in our heyday,” she said. “I miss this part of our city. I miss how free and relaxed it used to be. Then again, I feel we’re much more relaxed and have fewer crazy rules than people in Sydney or New York. Hallas!”

The interrogator / Edition 10

Igor Ramírez

This is this latest instalment of our series dedicated to finding out publishing types’ media habits. Igor Ramírez García-Peralta’s biannual lifestyle glossy Solar is a sunny affair aimed at Spanish speakers around the world; the Mexico City-born editor in chief now lives in Ibiza, where he enjoys phone-free, caffeine-filled mornings.

What news source do you wake up to? I don’t. I don’t even wake up to my phone: it sleeps in the kitchen. I have an hour’s hike with my dogs and eventually venture into the cyberworld. Then it depends on the subject matter; with Brexit I tend to follow CNN and the BBC, as they have hilariously different takes on the subject. When I want something substantial, the FT or New York Times; of course, El País for what’s happening in Spain.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? Coffee. I always do single, never double, as soon as I wake up – I have an espresso machine next to my bed. But my favourite is two single espressos.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? Both. I live in Ibiza so you get to drive around a lot. Since living here I’ve started listening to radio again, especially for new music.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? Diana Ross, “Love Will Make it Right”. It’s been stuck in my head lately.

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk? I don’t even have a postal address so the kiosk. Everything I have delivered goes to the post office and they call me. Amazon can’t deliver to my house.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack? Definitely not for the weekend: magazines are work and they stress me out. But for research: Monocle, obviously, then Apartamento, Luncheon and Arles. They all make me a bit anxious: who has more advertising? Also, The Printed Dog is a great magazine made by a friend.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? I just came back from Buenos Aires and El Ateneo is, right now, my favourite bookshop in the world. In Mexico City there’s Libreria Rosario Castellanos.

Sofa or cinema for the evening? I love to stop a movie when I’m watching, rewind and watch a scene again. So I’ll say sofa with a big screen and sound system.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched of late? TV series are much more daring than film. Un Extraño Enemigo, an Amazon Prime production about the 1968 student revolution in Mexico, is one of the best things I’ve ever watched.

Sunday brunch routine? That one’s established. Wake up at 6am, do a 25km hike with my dogs and, around noon, have brunch: club sandwich and fresh juice.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? I live in the forest so I hear the sounds of nature.

Culture / Read / Watch / Listen

Criminals, campaigns and cigarettes

‘The Mongolian Conspiracy’, Rafael Bernal. Mexican diplomat Rafael Bernal’s 1969 masterpiece is getting an overdue re-release. In this textbook noir novel, the Mexican police hire gumshoe Filiberto Garcia to stop a plot to assassinate the US and Mexican presidents in Mexico City. With a few days to spare, Garcia tackles the investigation with little pity for the criminals he dispatches. The intriguing crescendo unfolds one plot twist after another.

‘Knock Down the House’. When director Rachel Lears started chronicling the 2018 race between four underdog female candidates for the US Congress, she couldn’t have imagined that one of her subjects, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, would become a global sensation. This Netflix documentary tells the story of her campaign alongside that of Amy Vilela, Cory Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin. A rousing tale.

‘Morabeza Tobacco’, Morabeza Tobacco. This Swedish duo are named after a small cigarette shop in Stockholm; the hazy inspiration is appropriate for their brand of lo-fi atmospheric pop. Vintage-tinged track “Ally McBeal” evokes the sun-bleached lull of a long summer; “Defenders of the Glam” delivers on the band’s promise to give old-school smooth synths their due.

Image: Shutterstock

Eurovision / Song of the Week

‘Arcade’ (Netherlands)

Every week in the run-up to Eurovision, which will be held this month in Tel Aviv, Monocle 24’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco is putting the spotlight on one entry. This week it’s the Netherlands’s Duncan Laurence with his track “Arcade”.

It’s been a while since the Netherlands won Eurovision: a band called Teach In took home the 1975 prize with the sweet “Ding-a-dong”. However, the trophy might be on its way back to Amsterdam because “Arcade” is the tipsters’ favourite. “Ding-a-dong” it ain’t: this is a ballad about loss. “A broken heart is all that’s left / I’m still fixing all the cracks,” begins Laurence. The singer is also a songwriter: he penned “Closer” for popular K-Pop duo TVXQ.

Get out / Asbury Park

Best of both worlds

The Jersey shore hasn’t always had the best reputation thanks to the trashy reality TV series of the same name (writes Ed Stocker). But to dismiss the whole coastline would be an error, especially given the boom being experienced by the town of Asbury Park, spearheaded by a $300m (€265m) investment by property developer iStar. Alongside recent projects with designer Anda Andrei – such as The Asbury Hotel and the renovated Asbury Lanes music and bowling venue – a new mega-complex called Asbury Ocean Club (also designed by Andrei) is due early this summer.

But this isn’t a story of rampant gentrification: for now the appeal of Asbury Park lies in the mix that runs the gamut from luxe to louche. You can, in theory, be dining at high-end Mexican spot Barrio Costero one moment and chugging a beer (while getting inked) the next.

Outpost news / Eastport, Maine

Have I got moose for you

Tucked away in a seaside office in Eastport, Maine, The Quoddy Tides is the most easterly newspaper in the US. Despite the region’s population dwindling in recent years, the Tides, launched in 1968 by Winnifred B French, soldiers on with a circulation of about 4,000, thanks to coverage spanning both sides of the US border, from eastern Maine into the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Today the newspaper’s team of six is led by French’s son Edward, who tells us about prisons and Canada Day.

What’s the big story this week? It’s a bit ironic but there’s a court battle trying to retain a prison down here. It’s served the area well in terms of providing employment and also helped people transition back into society through work programmes. But Maine’s previous governor abruptly shut it down so now there’s an effort to try and secure funding to reopen it. Best headline? “Waltzing across the frozen bay was not uncommon in years past.” Passamaquoddy Bay hasn’t frozen over for as long as most people can remember. The story is about Deer Islanders being able to walk about five miles [8km] across the frozen bay to the mainland in the early 1900s. In particular it relates the memories of two schoolgirls who, after jumping from ice cake to ice cake, visited their uncle, the lighthouse keeper, who was shocked to see them.

Best picture? There’s a group of kids charging off with pails in their hands for their Easter egg hunt. They’re running into spring after a long winter here, so it shows enthusiasm for the coming warmth and sun.

What’s your down-page treat? A photo and extended caption about a moose that wandered onto the island where Eastport is situated. It was enticed by the signs pointing to Moose Island and the mournful sound of the foghorn but was disappointed at not finding any other moose. It stayed for several days on Little Dog Island but couldn’t go any further without swimming across the Old Sow whirlpool to Deer Island, then crossing the border into Canada.

Next big event? Independence Day is always big here and, of course, just before that is Canada Day. Here the Canadians and Americans like to take part in each other’s events.

Wardrobe update 05 / Dashiel Brahmann

Cool off

For men, warmer months call for fabrics such as seersucker, towelling and linen. Plenty of brands do fabrics well: we like the seersucker suits at LA brand Smock, the breezy cotton-Ventile golf jacket at De Bonne Facture and the super-fine corduroy blazers at Massimo Alba (yes, you can wear cord in summer). For linen we’re looking at young New Yorker Dashiel Brahmann: his spring/summer collection is filled with a mix of whimsical no-fuss designs in natural materials, including cuffed trousers in red-brick-coloured linen. All are made in New York’s Garment District and can be picked up at Brooklyn shops Pilgrim Surf + Supply and Swords-Smith.

Modern etiquette / Edition 04

Can I ask where you’re from?

Hold on, there! Are you really ready to ask that question? Enquiring where someone is from apparently implies that you don’t think they are from here – they don’t belong – and as such, many fear going anywhere near the topic. But some of the best conversations you can have feature a version of this query. Taxi drivers suddenly reveal stories of migration and ambition that astound; waiters pause to tell you about cities and countries you have never seen; coincidences and connections emerge. Go on, ask. You might learn something.

M24 / The Golden Age of Aviation

Leading the way

With the help of Laudomia Pucci, we learn about the space-age cabin-crew uniforms that Emilio Pucci, her father, designed for Braniff in the 1960s. We also meet Hawaiian Airlines’ first female pilot, who also led the first all-female commercial flight in the US, and hear from former flight attendants about what it was like to be on board during aviation’s heyday.

Monocle Films / Georgia

Tbilisi’s architectural revival

Rather than erase all evidence of Georgia’s Soviet past, the country’s architectural community is keen to preserve its history and give its once-foreboding buildings another lease of life.


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