Saturday. 22/6/2019

Monocle
Weekend Edition

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Plastic frowns

Now I am definitely a man of the tote – much nicer than a plastic bag – and I have an extensive collection of Monocle ones that go with me from beach to grocery store. And, yes, I am happy to forego plastic cutlery and sip without a straw pressed to my lips. But there’s something about the rallying cry against plastic that sometimes seems all too easy.

In the past year the takeaway lunch spots near Monocle have started removing their plastic cutlery from display – not getting rid of it mind, just hiding knives and forks away like dirty magazines under the counter. They still discreetly drop it into your brown paper bag if you are not swift enough to point out you have some back at base. So what’s the point? Well the alternative is that they will be harangued for their plastic display. I have heard the sanctimonious lectures delivered in cocktail joints, cafés and salad bars to waiters and check-out staff with no control over the purchasing process.

It’s funny that the lecturers who have such strong views on the devil in the straw don’t seem that interested in all the other stuff – or the staff. Does that sandwich chain offer opportunities to people in need of help? Does it pay them well? Is it helping to hold the neighbourhood together? These questions take a bit longer to ask and answer so we dodge them and focus on the straw, the plastic bag. Surely once they are removed the world will be a better place?

A couple of emails have come my way in recent weeks – nice, friendly – that have latched onto the bag debate. In essence, they’ve suggested that we should be wary of featuring businesses that use plastic bags. It’s a big ask. How would we even police that?

Since launch Monocle has tried to avoid using words such as “green” and “sustainable” because too often they are just badges added to sell. Instead we have quietly tried to focus on things made to last, whether that’s a jacket or a house. Indeed when you look at the residences we have shot across the years, most are houses gently moved on, where life can unfold for generations and furniture is with people for the long haul. And we have also tried to focus on makers and brands that haven’t outsourced production to the cheapest nation of the moment.

Which brings me to the banana. I like bananas – a lot. But there are lots of restaurants where Mr Yellow Jacket is shunned. He’s not a local, you see. He grew beyond some made-up exclusion zone. Again, the debate about food miles is an excellent one but banning the banana – or, say, the ingredients needed for Indian food because they come from too far away – is to deny us access to tastes, cultures and sensations that open minds and mouths.

The move against plastic and to using our resources more effectively is great but let’s have a bigger and better conversation about this world of food and restaurants. Although, if you need the perfect built-to-last tote, I’d recommend a Monocle subscription. We’ll send you one strong enough to hold a whole canteen of cutlery – and some nice bananas.

Report / Culture

Art imitating life?

On a winter night, a militant group takes over a small island on the southern edge of the Japanese archipelago. When a Japanese naval fleet – led by an aircraft carrier with F-35 fighter jets – is sent to investigate, it comes under heavy fire. This scenario isn’t real: it’s the fictional plot of Japanese blockbuster Kubo Ibuki (Aircraft Carrier Ibuki). The film, based on a hit manga series of comics and set in the near future, has drawn big crowds and topped ¥1bn (€8m) in box-office sales in the four weeks since its nationwide release. Its subject matter is timely: just last December, prime minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet revised military guidelines to allow the Self-Defense Forces’ Izumo-class vessels to transport and launch fighter jets for the first time. Director Setsuro Wakamatsu’s cautionary tale could reignite debate over whether aircraft carriers violate Japan’s pacifist constitution and the SDF’s defensive mandate.

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Ask the experts

Last week The Faster Lane launched a new strand designed to answer some of society’s more nagging questions while also incentivising our sharpest readers with some treats. In classic answers-on-a-postcard style, our brightest and snappiest readers responded to the five questions with lightning speed. More on the winners and what we’re sending their way in a moment but first a small recap. As The Weekend Edition is released at 08.00 Central European Time, it seemed that those on the US West Coast were most alert and poised to strike as they were the first wave to tap out their answers and hit send. At 08.07 the first set of answers hit my inbox (actually Andrew Tuck received the bulk of them) and a steady flow continued throughout the weekend and carried on well into Monday. Below are the questions in abridged form and the best answers for each. For privacy reasons we’ve only listed the first names of our respondents.

  1. Where did all the Nikes go – especially on the campus of ECAL in Lausanne? How has Adidas managed such a turnaround to become the trainer of choice?

Kevin from Southern California summed it up best. “Adidas found favour among the young creative class through its clever partnerships with the likes of Pharrell Williams. With Nike long out-engineering many competing brands in the field of athletics, Adidas’s strategic pivot with its ‘calling all creators’ campaigns seems to have paid dividends by genuinely connecting to a burgeoning sense of new identity. Adi Dassler himself would be impressed.”

  1. What would you do if you overheard someone sharing unflattering views about a business during a conference call in a public space – in this case a discussion about a Swiss multinational on a packed train at rush hour?

Maggie got fired up on a number of topics and had a two-point plan. First she suggested keeping it civil and sharp. “Remind the employee that loose lips actually sank ships back in the day and continue to do so.” And if that fails? “You could always throw her from the train.”

  1. In many cities you’re slapped with a ticket if you drive your car over 30km/h. Why is it acceptable to go above that if you’re on two wheels – self-powered or otherwise?

Sean from London couldn’t quite answer the four versus two-wheel question but raised another important point that will need to be addressed in another column. “I’m embarrassed by some of my fellow riders – both in their attitude and unfortunate garb. Why do the English (predominantly men) immediately go full motorcycle/Lycra/speed demon on any mode of ridden transport? Why can’t you dress normally, chaps, with a smart sweater or jacket rather than ballistic nylon and a fluorescent backpack?”

  1. We’re told that everyone is going organic, everyone wants to support farmers and fair trade and there’s a general backlash against big businesses. If this is truly the case then why isn’t there a single person under 60 out shopping for their greens, flowers, fish, meat and dairy?

Olivier from Québec had this smart take. “As the trend for organic, fairtrade and small-scale farming grows (and hopefully will become the standard, not just a trend) we have yet to find a way to make going to the market a habit – as it was for an older generation. As many online platforms try to connect younger generations to quality organic food, they have not succeeded in bringing the consumers and producers together in a genuine relationship. Quite frankly, to complete your order on these platforms is not that quick. That time would be better spent going to the market and actually engaging in a genuine encounter with growers and artisans. Not only will it be good for the body and the mind, these relationships will grow a sense of community and global wellness among your family and neighbours – and these friendships will have grown at the market!”

  1. Why is it acceptable to celebrate gay pride by using the f-word, billboard size, in a public setting? What’s the point? What message is it sending?

Brian in the US nailed it. “Part of the reason that ‘conservatives’ like me find some of the social-justice movements so irritating is because they are so in your face; they seem to have a narcissism that now requires everyone to adhere to their world view. And that’s the point: they want to dominate, civility be damned. Either accept their behaviour or risk being labelled a racist, homophobe etc.”

Congratulations to our winners and thank you to everyone for sending in comments. Perfectly wrapped sets of German notebooks and Swiss-made pens are en route to Kevin, Maggie, Sean, Olivier and Brian.

The interrogator / Edition 17

Rocio Muñoz

A year-long journey through her home country inspired interior designer-turned-entrepreneur Rocio Muñoz to start Real Fábrica. Her colourful shop in Madrid’s Las Letras district stocks a selection of “Made in Spain” wares, which she sells to support the craftsmen who make them. At our Quality of Life Conference next week she will tell us why it matters that these traditions are not lost. Here she talks about how Spanish folk music follows her around (even in the shower).

What news source do you wake up to? I’m always on my phone so I follow several news accounts on Facebook and Instagram.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? Iced tea, even in winter.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? I normally listen to Spanish National Radio, RNE. I’m also really into crime podcast Negra y Criminal.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? Probably some copla [old Spanish folk] song.

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk? It’s always better to go down to the kiosk and say hi.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?Tapas Magazine, Traveller, Fuera de Serie, Vogue and Monocle.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? I really enjoy Panta Rhei in Malasaña.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched of late? The last film I watched was Dolor y Gloria by Almodóvar. I’m a real fan of his work.

Sunday brunch routine? I’m more of an early bird and I normally prefer a light breakfast. If it’s later and I’m out I’ll go with the classical Spanish brunch: a caña [small beer] and a pincho de tortilla.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? No, I’m more of a book person at night.

A favourite newsreader perhaps? I’ll have to go with Matías Prats [one of the best known Spanish newsreaders].

Culture / Listen / Read / See

Flying high

‘Bird Songs of a Killjoy’, Bedouine. In her youth, Syrian-born Azniv Korkeijan moved with her Armenian parents to Saudi Arabia – and, later, to the US. This experience fed into not only her moniker but also the fuzzy, nostalgic atmosphere that her music evokes. On this second album, warm vocals are accompanied by soft pizzicato guitar and often make space for rousing orchestral moments. Soothing stuff for a Sunday morning.

‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’, Ocean Vuong. This first foray into fiction by the poet is beautifully evocative. A story of immigration and the tricky process of reckoning with one’s identity, it's written as a letter from a son to his single mother who cannot read. Charting a plot that fleets between a Vietnam of the past and the US of now, this is a stunning debut.

**‘Just So’, Robert Littleford.* Littleford’s new exhibition at the Fishing Quarter Gallery in Brighton features his new narrative works, made up of ingenuous brushstrokes. The paintings depict uneasy scenes in nature, taking cues from modern folklore that blurs the line between fact and fiction: a monkey trained to start fires, flocks of starlings dropping dead from the sky – that sort of thing. Prepare to be unnerved.

Outpost Q&A / North Carolina

What’s the hook?

The Ocracoke Observer was founded in 1999 to serve Ocracoke Island, only reachable by ferry as it’s in the far reaches of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Connie Leinbach and Peter Vankevich bought the newspaper in 2014; it’s published monthly, except during January and February, when the tourism-dependent island’s population shrinks. Circulation peaks at around 6,000 during the summer months and there are eager readers from as far afield as Alaska, Hawaii and the UK. Leinbach, a former Pennsylvania-based reporter, is the editor, but she sells ads and delivers the paper to readers too. We spoke to her.

What’s the big story making the news? The North Carolina marine fisheries division is trying to further regulate flounder fishing. It says stock is down so it’s trying to institute a 52 per cent reduction of catch. This is going to impact our commercial fishermen.

Best headline? “Most fish ever!” This is about the Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament. They get about 72 teams from all over and they go out on the surf to try to catch as many fish as they can. The past couple of years have had disappointing catches but this year’s was much better.

Best picture? On page 14 there are three photos stitched together into a big panorama. It’s called “Hands Across the Sand”, which is an annual thing where everybody on the beach clasps hands in solidarity to protest offshore drilling.

What’s your down-page treat? We have a new product on the island called Ocrasalt. The industry here is tourism – hotels, motels, restaurants and shops. And there’s fishing. But last September, before Hurricane Florence hit, the people behind Oscar’s Ocrasalt went out and got a bunch of buckets of ocean water and made salt out of it. We have a lot of smart, innovative people that come here.

What’s the next big event you’ll be covering? The next big thing for us, being a tourist destination, is Independence Day. The celebrations have fireworks, a sand-sculpture contest, an old-fashioned parade, a dance party and a beach bonfire.

Weekend plans? / Antwerp

Come, stay a while

For all its sophisticated charm, Antwerp belies a less than elegant historic centre: tourists in safari hats devouring frites are the primary inhabitants. Still, this hasn’t deterred Olivier Reyniers, a born and bred Antwerper, from making a foray downtown to attract a more discerning (and local) crowd. First he opened bar Backyard on Grote Markt, then fine dining venue In De Balans across the road. Now on the same block he’s unveiled Hotel Riga.

Though the 19th-century structure had to be gutted to make the hotel, vestiges of history are on show throughout: flagstone floors here, a timber beam there. All 12 rooms are unabashedly spacious and with ample sunlight, plus meticulous touches that demonstrate a dedication to detail: good pillows, brass lamps by DCW Lighting and even a font. Meanwhile three of the finest chambers occupy a separate 17th-century building that was once a paint shop where Vincent van Gogh would buy his pigments.

Even if you’re not kipping here for the night, pop in for a drink at the downstairs bar-restaurant and give the historic centre a chance. The selfie-stick crowds aren’t so bad through the lens of a good negroni.

Report / Retail

For your delectation

Nordiska Kompaniet (NK), the venerable Stockholm department store, has undergone a tasty overhaul. A few days ago we hot-footed it past the perfume hall to find ourselves immersed in the marble-clad, brass-timmed finery of the new food hall wrought by Strategisk Arkitektur. Aside from butcher AG Kötthandel, fishmonger Melanders, fromagerie Androuet Ost and gelateria Lejonet & Björnen, there’s still a lively crowd lingering long past lunch. Most interesting, perhaps, is the inclusion of an outlet of Paradiset, a long-loved Södermalm supermarket that’s been brought in and challenges Cajsa Warg in Vasastan as the city’s best food shop. If you’re interested in such things you might also enjoy our second annual Drinking & Dining Directory, on newsstands from Thursday.

Get out / Paris

Fashionable haunts

Paris men’s fashion week runs until tomorrow evening; what will editors and buyers get up to when they aren’t attending shows by Loewe, Hermès and Celine? They’ll be checking out the new Champs-Élysées branch of Galeries Lafayette, grabbing a slice from the Eataly outpost that has opened in Le Marais (also owned by the Galeries Lafayette group) and getting a coffee to go from Yorgaki, the new Greek café by famed art director Yorgo Tloupas. For low-key neighbourhood shopping they might duck to the 16th arrondissement to visit menswear specialist Beige Habilleur, with its selection from brands including Ring Jacket, Drake’s and Arpenteur, and cool vintage retailer Le Vif.

Sunday, meanwhile, is for the Left Bank. In the morning, agriculture magazine Regain (founded by Monocle’s fashion director) is launching its new issue at the organic market on Boulevard Raspail, just around the corner from Le Bon Marché and menswear shop PHM Saint Peres, filled with independent brands including Schnayderman's and Spalwart. Throughout the weekend, Cassius’s new album Dreems will play in our headphones as a tribute to Philippe Zdar; the Cassius co-founder and pioneer of the French Touch music style passed away this week.

Modern etiquette / Edition 11

Can I watch Fleabag, sex scenes and all, on a plane?

Sex, in films and in life, can happen when least expected. You may be well into the latest episode of a gripping, gory thriller series when the protagonists suddenly tumble into bed together – or enjoying the joys and anguish of Fleabag when some full-on fun begins. Now this is all fine when you are watching on your sofa but what happens when these scenes play out on your laptop and you are on a plane? Essentially, exercise a loose version of parental guidance: turn it off only if the person next to you isn’t old enough to have outgrown Peppa Pig. But otherwise you are fine; fumbling to hit pause while frantically opening emails is only going to attract more attention. If you’d watch it at the cinema or on TV, you can watch it mid-air.

Monocle Films / Global

Quality of Life Survey: top 25 cities, 2019

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