Saturday 8 June 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 8/6/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Taking flight

If you were walking through a London park would you spot a tiger dozing in a tree? Well I saw one this week and I stopped – as did another dog walker – to watch for a moment. Others were oblivious.

Oh, you’d like to see the tiger? Well all you have to do is head for the northern edge of London’s Regent’s Park where it butts up against London Zoo and you can look over the fence to see the tiger, a couple of camels and some penguins.

I stopped but that’s because doing so is part of my city filter. Whether it’s a fox slinking down the street at night or a ring-necked parakeet perched on my aerial of a morning, I try to catch these moments where nature peeps into the city.

This world of personal filters has made the task of compiling our annual Quality of Life Index, which ranks the top 25 cities in the world (and runs in our forthcoming July/August issue – sign up now), contentious. While one person wants great playgrounds for their kids (hello, Berlin), the next just wants a fun night-time economy (hello, Tokyo). None is better than the next and they flex and change across ages and interests, culture and moods.

But back to the wildlife. I receive some gentle teasing at Monocle for my nature filter. This is because our office overlooks a park and a variety of birds come to perch outside our window; the fact that I can name these visitors is the cause of amazement. It’s an easy audience to impress: one of my desk neighbours would struggle to deduce the difference between a duck and a parrot.

When it comes to how we see things, there was some bonding in print this week though. Our director of photography showed me a book that sums up the power of watching – and waiting. The Pillar is a collection of photography by Stephen Gill with words by Karl Ove Knausgård. Gill set up a camera next to a wooden pillar on a Swedish farm and as birds came in to land, they triggered a snap. It was shot over several years and the incoming flights include everything from eagles to sparrows. It’s Gill’s filter on the world – and it’s remarkable.

How we live / Life drawing

Naked ambition

“Don’t assume you know what the body looks like,” says Alexandria Coe, the calm teacher of our life-drawing class. “What are your thoughts on drinking while we sketch?” asks one student, holding aloft a glass of bubbly. “It helps, it loosens you up,” says Coe, as my friend and I down our flutes (writes Jamie Waters, pictured, on right).

Drinking-and-drawing is my new favourite thing. Fifteen of us are stationed at easels, encircling a female model with fiery red hair, in the Sézane shop in Notting Hill; the French womenswear brand is hosting this public event. Creative evenings such as life drawing, ceramics and floristry appeal to stressed urbanites and the fashion industry is tapping into this movement. Despite having no connection with fashion – our model doesn’t require clothing, after all – these events are getting industry folk into shops.

Coe is the London instructor of choice; she has also led classes for underwear brand Les Boys Les Girls and Daisy London jewellery, as well as at yoga studios and boutique hotels. Alas, I’m beyond help: no human looks like my bulbous creation. Nonetheless, I’ve pencilled in my next class.

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

What’s the story?

Who do you think has the trickier gig? The CEO of a large German automotive company who has inherited a brand that’s built its reputation on performance, speed and driving pleasure? Or the CEO of a large European airline confronted with flight shaming and corporate travel policies calling for rail travel for all journeys under four hours?

On a trip to southern Germany earlier this week I contemplated this question while driving along the Autobahn and decided the auto CEO has the tougher assignment. Having just wrapped a meeting with the comms team of a muscular German automotive brand, I was left thoroughly confused about their mission and what industry they saw themselves in. Mobility? Entertainment? AI? Eco-innovation? Allow me to give you some background.

The last time I met this team (about two years ago) they were caught in the headlights of Tesla and seemed incapable of considering their next move. Were they still relevant? What could they offer drivers? Should they open a bigger office in Silicon Valley? Was their digital transformation stalling? I told them that they needed to get a grip and remember that they virtually invented the concept of driving. They needed to regain their confidence, make good-looking cars that people wanted to drive, embrace their Teutonic roots and think about their sustainability pitch.

In my recent session with the team, the conversation started more smoothly as they’d (thankfully) moved on from Elon Musk and seemed confident about their new models and some reorganisation in the business. But I was suddenly broadsided by a remark from someone across the table. Did she really just say, “This assumes that we’re still in the business of making cars”?

At this point the discussion entered a series of jarring hairpins and we started veering all over the place: a Hollywood-style launch here, a focus on a driverless future over there, a thought-leadership summit about the four-wheel living room and then lots of events around muscle vehicles to appeal to Instagrammers. I could feel the weight of environmental activism pressing down upon them. Were they saying enough about their eco-initiatives? Had anyone mentioned the Swedish girl with the braids yet? E-mobility? Did they see themselves working in this sector in the coming 36 months?

As I walked towards the exit I tried to process what the consumer might be thinking about this company. Did the driver in LA see it as desirable or apologist? What about the prospective buyer in Beijing: did they see it as an innovator or a potential acquisition target for one of China’s hungry automakers? With a hugely diverse portfolio of vehicles serving a range of mobility solutions, it’s missing a trick by not reminding the consumer that, while it might be part of the problem, it could also be part of a series of solutions to help us get from A to B in a swift, sustainable and even chic manner. Instead of talking about lots of small-scale projects serving disparate groups, wouldn’t the firm be better served talking up the whole company and its commitment to innovation, reducing emissions and forcing a rethink about navigating the urban environment?

As I pulled away from the building and made my way back into town I passed some of the firm’s vehicles performing various tasks: ambulance, waste-disposal vehicle, police car and staff shuttle. Wasn’t this the story? The essential nature of the company’s vehicles and not a focus on models that are lightning rods for activists? Perhaps the CEO’s task isn’t so tricky after all: they just need a more coherent narrative and to stop worrying about aping the style of a tech CEO at the next new-model reveal.

The Interrogator / Edition 15

Rahaf Harfoush

Author Rahaf Harfoush’s observations on how emerging technologies are changing our behaviour feed into her latest book, Hustle and Float. She believes there are ways of making digital tools contribute to a healthy workplace and will be discussing that at our Quality of Life Conference in Madrid. Here she explains her popcorn machine.

What news source do you wake up to? Reddit. I need to keep up with digital culture so I’m all about the latest Twitter controversy or internet meme. I ease into more serious news later in the day.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? My husband and I usually share a Chemex in the morning while watching YouTube. Our latest rabbit hole was Korean pavement karaoke.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? Spotify. I love searching for random but specific playlists like “cooking pasta and drinking wine”.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? Lately I’ve had “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo on repeat.

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk? Delivered to my devices. I’m mainly digital since I’m on the road so much.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?The Gentlewoman, Pacific Standard, Monocle (obviously), Offscreen and Magazine B. If it’s visually focused with good design, I like to hold it in my hands.

Are you a subscriber or more of a newsstand browser? Both. I have my subscription favourites but I’m always on the lookout for something new.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? I always visit T-site when I’m in Tokyo, Housing Works Bookstore Café in New York and Treadwell’s Books in London.

Sofa or cinema for the evening? I’ve realised that going to the cinema in Paris is like voluntarily sitting on an Economy Class flight. I now stick to watching movies at home – though I did get a badass popcorn maker.

What’s the best thing you've watched of late and why? I’m a big fan of Korean and Chinese dramas. I’ve just finished Misty and When A Snail Falls in Love, two great crime series with fantastic characters and pacing.

Sunday brunch routine? Homemade pancakes, coffee, walk the dog, chill out in a coffee shop (Café Loustic or Partisan). When it’s nice out we always end up sitting at Café Kitsune in the Jardin du Palais Royale.

What papers and periodicals will be spread out around among the viennoiserie?The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair and Harper’s (via its mobile app). I love Wired, The Atlantic and Foreign Affairs but that’s more on an issue-by-issue basis.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? No but I obsessively watch Jon Oliver.

A favourite newsreader perhaps? See above. I need a little bit of humour to manage the dumpster fire that is 2019.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? Ambient relaxing music or a guided sleep hypnosis. My current favourite is magical but I’ve never heard the whole thing to the end, so who knows what I’m being hypnotised to do.

Report / Hauser & Wirth

New chapter

Zürich’s Art Weekend is the city’s time to shine before Art Basel grabs the spotlight – and Hauser & Wirth has chosen this moment to inaugurate its new publishing HQ. Its collection of art titles has evolved into a vigorous imprint led by Dr Michaela Unterdörfer. The new office-cum-bookshop – designed in collaboration with Swiss design firm Dioma – is in an historic building in the city centre that was formerly home to a bookseller, as well as Emil and Emmie Oprecht’s renowned Europa Verlag.

A manual booklift dating from 1925 delivered the first new publication to the shop floor: Louise Bourgeois & Pablo Picasso, which accompanies the eponymous exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Zürich until 14 September. “Opening in Switzerland signifies a return to the roots of Hauser & Wirth,” says Unterdörfer. “And artists love to come to Zürich.” That’s true, if only a quick visit on the way to Basel.

Outpost news / Port Aransas, Texas

Treasure island

In 1971, Steve Frishman and Suzanna Reeder launched the Port Aransas South Jetty with a mission: to fight the development of a port in Corpus Christi, Texas, that would require the widening of shipping channels. They won that battle and now editor and co-publisher Mary Judson is in charge, along with her husband; they bought the newspaper in 1981. The weekly broadsheet has a readership of 4,000, which includes both Texans and “winter Texans”: northerners who arrive seasonally to escape the cold.

What’s the big story this week? We got a $4m [€3.5m] appropriation from our state legislature to help fund workforce housing. We are a tourist destination on an island so our land is expensive, which means many people in the service industry cannot afford to live here.

Best headline? “Cha-ching! Memorial weekend profitable”. We’ve just had our Memorial Day holiday and we live by that tourist dollar, so it’s important that our tourist economy is alive and well – especially after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Best picture? A gull picking at driftwood covered by goose-neck barnacles.

What’s your down-page treat? A criminal-justice doctoral student started K9s 4 Conservation last year. These are dogs trained to sniff out where endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles nest on the beach. Scientists unearth the eggs and put them into incubators to make sure they hatch; the turtles are then released into the sea.

Next big event? Next month is the 84th Deep Sea Roundup. It’s the oldest saltwater fishing tournament on the Texas Gulf Coast. It’s a big deal.


Walk on the wild side

‘Basquiat x Warhol’, The School. If you need an excuse to skip New York and head upstate, this is it. The School, a former federal school building in the town of Kinderhook, is now an exhibition space belonging to the Big Apple’s Jack Shainman Gallery – and it will be showing its Basquiat x Warhol exhibition until 7 September. It explores the pair’s complex relationship through rare individual and collaborative works.

‘A Different Kind of Human (Step 2)’, Aurora. Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora’s third record might not sound like a particularly angry effort but this elfish 22-year-old is trying to teach us that it’s good to get wound up by the world. During powerful tune “The Seed” she talks about climate change and the environment, while “The River” and “Animal” are about teasing out one’s wilder side.

‘Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream’, Carson Vaughan. On a warm September day in 2005, chaos reigned upon the tiny town of Royal, Nebraska (population: 81). Its zoo’s star attractions – three chimpanzees – escaped. All three were shot in an encounter with panicked police and later died. In the midst of the carnage, a shining example of the American dream withered away. Journalist Carson Vaughan elegantly retells this bizarre and poignant tale.


Is it OK to tour Tokyo (or any other Japanese city) in activewear?

If you’re out for a proper run or power walk and want to incorporate some key landmarks along the way then yes, by all means, wear your Tracksmith/Lululemon/Descente/Outdoor Voices get-up. If, however, you’re planning on visiting galleries, grabbing lunch and doing some shopping then no, activewear is absolutely not acceptable. Why do we say this with such authority? Look around: you don’t see the Japanese out and about in leggings and running shorts. Up your sartorial game and ditch the Lycra, pal.


Off-the-grid fashion retail

We walk the extra mile to meet shopkeepers who’ve gone off the beaten track to give their customers a different experience.


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