Saturday 14 September 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 14/9/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

It’s a two-speed life

Analogue or digital? Old or new media? For years we would end up at events or in conversation with other businesses (especially media ones) where supposedly clever people would sweepingly divide the world into two camps. Monocle loves print so they would try and shove us into the analogue group – but then we would point out that Monocle 24 is a digital radio station and works with podcast platforms such as iTunes. Next they would quiz us about why we don’t do Snapchat and wonder if we were trying to be some new version of old media. It all got a bit maddening and confusing.

And don’t think that you escaped being ushered into one team or the other. They were equally binary when it came to you: the reader, the consumer. Media owners would tell us how the future would be “digital first” and serve the sort of folk who needed everything super fast. If you were not part of this group then they would shove you into in the smaller, diehard analogue gang, along with lots of other losers who wanted to return to the technology of the 1980s and wear dadcore shoes.

But when I get to talk to people about Monocle and who you – our readers, listeners and viewers – are, one of the things I always come back to is that you are interesting and complex. Indeed you deserve a book about your fascinating traits. Perhaps I’ll write it; I think it could be a bestseller. It can have one of those over-explanatory business-book titles: “Go Fast, Go Slow – And Find Success”; “It’s a Two-Speed World: Understanding the New Economy”; or “Why the Hare and the Tortoise are Good Friends”. OK, perhaps we’ll come back to the title.

My epiphany came while waiting in line for coffee. In the long queue in front of me, most people were young and dressed coolly. Let’s use a simple piece of shorthand: they were a bit hipster. While they waited they were scrolling through Instagram, reading the news and checking emails on their phones. All could be categorised as impatient digital natives. So how come they were waiting in line for 10 minutes to get a drink that can be made in an instant? Why were they asking for drip-filter coffee, a drink whose very name invokes slowness? My moment of clarity (they do still happen) was that interesting consumers cannot be pushed into simple tribes; that people know how to go from fast to slow, from digital to analogue, and back again; and that the only labels we should be comfortable with are the ones in our knickers.

Just look at the collapse of bricks-and-mortar retail in many European and US cities. We are told that it’s because young people only shop online and don’t have the time or patience for anything else. Really? So how come when I walk past the likes of skate-brand shops Palace and Supreme, those web-obsessed kids are waiting in line for hours to get inside? Or how about the people who listen to music on their phones but also buy records and go to concerts? Or those who listen to books on, say, Audible but then buy other books in print? Then there are the ones who use a food app to get dinner on a Friday night, then wait in line for an hour on Saturday morning to get into their favourite breakfast joint. All of these people are skilled at being both hare and tortoise.

This week we had a reader event in Geneva at a very nice new restaurant called Bombar. Tyler and I gave a speech about our journey and how we try to keep you informed and engaged – and on our side. And, yes, we explained our belief that you can champion print but also send an email to people on a Saturday that stays true to everything you believe in. And also how it all kind of works. We even got a round of applause.

So, this morning as you go about your two-speed lives, I want to say thank you. You may be complicated, you may be hard to define but we love you for it. Although we will fall out if you steal my book idea.

Report / Surfing

Catching the wave

Surfing in Wales is a war of attrition; a battle between freezing seas and wetsuits (writes James Chambers). After spending my teenage years surfing the Gower Peninsula I sold my boards and headed to London, never to dip another rubber-tipped toe in the water – or so I thought. Eighteen years later, now in Asia, I am suddenly surrounded by surfing again.

Everyone is at it and it’s not just expats or European sun-chasers. Be it the Philippines, South Korea or Taiwan, people are growing their hair long and hanging 10, making for a warmer experience all around. The broader beach economy is also hotting up as a generation of wellness junkies and experience addicts embrace swimming, suntanning and being snapped on a surfboard. The sport’s profile is set to rise even higher next year when it makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo. The surf’s definitely up in Asia; pack some boardshorts on your next trip.

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Chargrill after reading

Earlier this week I caught up with a young Swiss chef who recently put in a guest appearance on Monocle 24 to discuss a magazine venture he’d launched. The ambitious project is part travel journal, part culinary magazine, in a compact format. I was keen to hear what his plans were for his title and what he was up to in general. We sat down in front of Monocle’s office on Zürich’s Dufourstrasse and enjoyed the warm afternoon discussing summer highlights (holidays, not hair tints), new projects and future travel plans.

“I’m off to Japan in a couple of weeks and I’m so excited,” said the chef. “When I used to work in Tokyo I had so little time away from the kitchen that I’m just looking forward to exploring and checking out new things.”

“When were you there last?” I asked.

He paused for a moment and took a sip of his beer. “I think it was two or three years ago.”

I was about to offer a few choice Tokyo restaurant and bar tips but decided to hold off. Was he more into three-star Michelin kaiseki establishments versus a simple Italian joint in Hiroo? Hard to tell. Also, I recalled he was quite busy on Instagram. Could he be trusted to keep my tips a secret and not document every dish and drink for the benefit of his adoring fanbase? It required further investigation.

At this point he pulled out a small, white paper bag and placed it on the table. “This is a little something for you,” he said and unrolled the top. Inside was some bright green, small-ish fruit; he tilted the bag in my direction.

“Smell,” he said. “Aren’t they great? Do you know what they are?”

“They’re a type of plum, or…” I offered.

“No, they’re quinces. They’re everywhere in Switzerland at the moment. Here, I made you some jam,” he said, pulling a little jar from another neatly folded white bag.

Now I was feeling guilty about holding back on restaurants. What harm could come from offering a couple of choice tips? I started compiling a little mental list to share but was startled when a voice thundered in my head. “Have you completely lost the plot?” It was our Tokyo bureau chief Fiona Wilson reminding me that there are some establishments that we do not share with readers, friends or even some family members. When we recently thought about handing out a restaurant award to one of the little Italians we love, she intervened and pulled it from the ranking, scolding both me and editor Josh Fehnert.

The backstory to this is that we’re now more than a little cautious about promoting some restaurants as we’ve seen what too much attention can do in this era of over-tourism in Japan. In the case of one lovely izakaya in Aoyama, we think that all our generous promotion over the years saw all the regulars depart and all the Instagrammers pile in. Now it’s shuttered.

I returned to admiring the little jar of freshly made jam while deciding what to do. Then I buckled. Damn! “I’ll send you a little list of places to check out for your Tokyo tour,” I said.

“Really? That would be amazing, thank you!”

“But this comes with a condition and you must agree to it,” I said, a hint of threat in my voice. “No sharing, no photos, no nothing. The places I’m going to tell you about must remain a secret. Deal?”

He considered this for a brief moment and then nodded. “Deal. I’ll be silent like a grave.”

We said our goodbyes. For the past few days I’ve been questioning whether he’s trustworthy and if some homemade quince confiture is worth trading for some tiny establishments that are best left hidden. Should he be introduced to the eight-seat bar where Monocle editors go after work? Do I dare tell him about the Italian in Daikanyama with the funky chefs and their exceptional uni pasta? Do I dare disobey Fiona?

While my finger hovers over the “send” button, a business idea has also come to mind. What would people pay to have access to our privée list of top places to perch, drink and dine?

The Interrogator / Edition 29

Lisa Davies

Australia’s oldest continuously published newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, hits newsstands Monday to Saturday. Its editor, Lisa Davies, joined the paper in 2012 after working as a court and crime reporter. In that time she’s helped the SMH maintain its status as the nation’s most widely read newspaper. She tells us how she tunes in to her favourite music and where you’ll find her working out on a weekend morning.

What news source do you wake up to? The first thing I do is pick up my phone, where I’m greeted with the international media alerts from overnight; I get the latest news on Donald Trump before I’ve barely opened my eyes. I always check our websites too and am a huge listener to radio in the morning; it’s often the best way to get across a lot of information at one time.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines? Actually I’m pretty boring and don’t have a coffee until I get to work. I have so many meetings and coffee dates throughout my week that if I drank coffee before I’d even started, it wouldn’t be good.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? I usually flick over to Spotify when I can’t find anything to listen to. But when I’m in my car I am often on the FM dial getting my fix of rock and pop music to drown out the noise of the day.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? I don’t sing or hum in the shower. I usually have the radio with me so I’ll be listening to various news bulletins or interviews.

Magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack? I always read Good Weekend [The Sydney Morning Herald’s Saturday magazine supplement]. I've usually read the main cover story before our readers get to, because I get a copy of it earlier in the week. But I like to flick through all the other fun, lighter stuff on the weekend. I’m also a big fan of Vanity Fair, Vogue and long-form writing such as The New Yorker.

Are you a subscriber or a newsstand browser? Oh, a subscriber, goodness! I can’t be in this job and say anything other than that. You’ve got to pay for quality journalism.

Sofa or cinema for the evening? Netflix every day of the week or [Australian streaming service] Stan. I can’t actually tell you the last time I went to a cinema, which is really bad.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched of late and why? I just finished watching The Loudest Voice, the film about Roger Ailes from Fox News. It’s a seven-part series and I found the acting and the way it’s put together incredible, albeit somewhat terrifying.

Sunday brunch routine? On Sunday mornings I always go to my favourite gym class: a high-intensity spin-and-circuit session. Then, if I’m not working, I love meeting friends or even going solo for a leisurely brunch. I do have to work quite a lot on Sundays, so Saturday brunch and café time is very important.

What papers and periodicals will be spread around the viennoiserie? The weekend newspapers of course – all the Australian ones. My lounge generally looks like it should be a recycling facility. I also read The Monthly and I try to catch up on international publications such as The Times Magazine, and some of the British papers, whenever I can.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? I’m usually in the office for the nightly news and it’s always on.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? I’m pretty obsessed with my Insight Timer meditation app. Someone who’s also in a high-powered job told me about it and it was great advice. But I don’t have a huge amount of trouble falling asleep – I’m usually pretty tired. Ten minutes and I’m out.

Culture / Watch, Read, Visit

Creating a buzz

‘Honeyland’, Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov. The beauty of making documentaries is that sometimes a real-life event can alter a neatly laid out plan for a feature – and change the film as a result. Macedonian directors Kotevska and Stefanov decided to follow the activities of beekeeper Hatidze Muratova when an itinerant cow herder (with a family of eight) moved in next door. Their presence turned this lyrical, warmly shot documentary into a poignant parable on the dangers of exploiting our environment.

‘Shelf Life’, Livia Franchini. The London-based Tuscan translator tackles the ever-fertile ground of the break-up narrative for her fiction debut. It’s a plot device that opens up the real heart of the novel: how people must learn to stand alone – and how the apparently meek are often the most resilient.

Contemporary Istanbul, Turkey. This weekend’s might be Contemporary Istanbul’s 14th edition but there’s a new-found energy to Turkey’s main art fair. With a renewed influx of visitors (and a new airport to boot), the city seems to have opened up beyond its borders again. Seventy-four galleries from 23 countries will be displaying at the fair; the Recent Acquisition section features too. In the latter, 42 collectors will show their own purchases to reveal what’s dictating the art market from a buyer’s point of view.

Report / Culture

Lights, camera, traction

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the announcement that Selfridges will be opening an in-house cinema is that this is an unprecedented move for a department store. The three-screen effort will launch this November inside the company’s Oxford Street flagship, marking a rather poetic union of two old-school forms of entertainment that peaked in the second half of the 20th century but lately have had to battle rising rents, fierce competition from digital platforms and endless chatter about their impending doom.

Selfridges, however, has been one of the rare high-street success stories: where its counterparts (in the US, especially) have stuttered, the UK department-store chain has registered record profits every year for the past five years. It has also invested £300m (€337m) in a step-by-step overhaul of its London shop, including the world's biggest handbag department and interesting offerings such as a pop-up theatre. Cinemas in the UK have also proven plucky: in 2018 they recorded their best year of sales since 1970, thanks to blockbusters such as Black Panther and the rise of boutique companies such as Everyman.

Selfridges’ venture will capitalise on these promising results. As the ultimate antidote to e-commerce and Netflix, it's a smart move to get customers off laptops.

Outpost News / Nuuk, Greenland

Island inquirer

Printed in both Danish and Kalaallisut (the native Greenlandic language), Greenland’s daily Atuagagdliutit/Grønlandsposten (otherwise known, thankfully, as AG) has been published for more than 150 years. Based out of the capital, Nuuk, and serving an 8,000-strong readership among the island’s 56,000 residents, the paper’s five journalists cover the full spectrum of news: Greenland’s schooling, fish prices and new Chinese investment, for example. “Greenland is like a village in a global world,” says Christian Schultz-Lorentzen, the paper’s editor of seven years. We’ve had a word with him about what’s making news on the world’s biggest island.

What’s the big story this week? Beside Trump offering to buy Greenland from Denmark recently, security on fishing boats has been a big concern. Around half of our economy comes from Denmark’s contributions and the other half [mostly] comes from fishing. But according to our reporters, the owners of these fishing boats don’t follow any rules out there. There’s going to be more focus from the authorities to do a better job going forward.

What’s your favourite headline? “Museum under insect attack”. In the west of Greenland, one of our museums has been having some trouble with a blight of insects. Some of the exhibits with ancient artefacts have sustained damage from the bugs getting in.

Favourite picture? We recently ran an image of a scientific institution that’s in construction in Ilulissat, in the north of Greenland. That far north is the first place that climate change hits, so it’s going to be a very important place for scientists to come and study. They’re also planning on opening it to tourists and locals.

What’s your down-the-page treat? One of our most famous musicians, Frederik K Elsner, is touring Denmark and the rest of Europe with his child. Rather than singing in Danish or English, he’s singing in Greenlandic so he can share our culture.

What’s the next big event? The new parliamentary session is getting started and the prime minister is facing big problems: he’s under a lot of pressure from MPs who want to get rid of him. But he’s been prime minister for over five years now and he’s been in difficult situations before. He’s like a cat with nine lives – he will survive.

Weekend Plans? / Armenia

Home away from home

Armenia has seen a steady rise in tourism in the past decade but much of the effort from hoteliers and restaurateurs has been focused on the capital, Yerevan. But entrepreneur James Tufenkian – better known for his eponymous carpet label – has made a point of building boutique hotels that marry luxury and tradition in Armenia’s most remote and beautiful areas.

You’ll find one such venture in Dilijan, a greener-than-green mountain region a 90-minute drive north of Yerevan. Tufenkian’s team have transformed a complex of 19th-century flagstone houses into an 18-room affair that is quintessentially Armenian, from the textiles in the rooms to the yoghurt and flatbread served for breakfast. As a result, Dilijan is seeing the visitors it deserves – not just tourists but also Armenians keen to rediscover their own country.

Modern Etiquette / Edition 23

How friendly should I be with the neighbours?

Cities are more densely packed than ever so it’s strange that those of us who live in them are not as close to our neighbours as our outdoorsy countryside cousins. But cultivating the perfect relationship with those next door can be tricky. Too remote and you’re stuffed if you need someone to take a delivery, water the ficus or feed Mr Tiddly; too close and you’ll find yourself opening the good wine when you don’t want to. Keep it cordial. No, literally: don’t offer them any alcohol. Failing that, strict (and, if necessary, fictional) deadlines are your friend.

Image: ALAMY

M24 / The Urbanist

History repeating

This week the team looks at heritage in our cities, from the dangers of mass tourism at historical sites to a storied capital celebrating its 500th anniversary. Plus: how to properly maintain a Unesco World Heritage site.


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