Saturday 21 September 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 21/9/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

No sleep till Brooklyn

Ten things I learned in New York this week.

  1. That cities, like food, have a perfect serving temperature. I came to New York four weeks ago and it was steamy hot, a kind of gloopy heat that slowed your movements. We are back in town on a Monocle mission this week and it’s been 28C and cloudless. New York has beamed its beauty, enticed you to walk. And a soft light has bounced off the skyscrapers making people in the street look radiant. New York is definitely best served in autumn.

  2. That it may be a hipster cliché but I like going to Blue Bottle Coffee. The company may now be mostly owned by Nestlé but its commitment to clean-look design still makes it stand out as a treat.

  3. That user experience and technology are not good partners. Example one: Duolingo, which definitely has it in for me. The language-learning app is part of my daily routine – I have done it for 326 days without a break. But it has a glitch. When you cross a time zone (welcome to New York) it has a strop and sends you a message claiming you have missed a day and it’s going to wipe away your credits. Can’t someone fix that? Por favor.

  4. That learning Spanish (see above) is going to be a painstaking affair, a bit like putting together a smashed vase with gloves on in the dark. So I have to work up elaborate ways of recalling words. I discovered while here that “owl” is el búho. That’s simple: I can imagine an owl in a tree calling out búho-búho (give me a break, it works for me). “Smile” is la sonrisa; fine, I can think of a cheerful sunrise. But the body parts have been a struggle. I will be fine telling the doctor about a pain in my head, back or knee but attempting to direct them elsewhere may result in embarrassment for all: “Take the thermometer out of there now!”

  5. That in New York you get alerts suddenly sent to your phone – amber for, say, the abduction of a child, silver for, perhaps, a person with dementia going missing. The alerts are loud; my first one struck about three minutes into the taxi ride from JFK to the city. Was I supposed to start scanning the traffic for the suspect’s car (a black Honda sedan)? There seemed to be a lot of cars matching that description. Perhaps the alerts work but, to me, they seem as likely to create general unease as to enlist a city of would-be detectives.

  6. That the people will decide. New York’s Hudson Yards project has been lambasted for its dull towers and failure to deliver an enticing public realm. At its heart is The Vessel, a structure devised by UK designer Thomas Heatherwick. It’s made from a series of open-to-the-elements staircases that take you up 16 storeys. Architectural and design critics have been brutal – it’s silly, it’s tacky, it’s too much of a show-off. Perhaps. But the public seem to love it. It may be design for the Instagram age but it’s a tourist lure. Does it matter that clever people hate it?

  7. That my friend Colin Nagy is also an entrant to this newsletter game and co-authors one called Why is this Interesting? that’s a bit addictive. I am happy to share the stage (this once).

  8. That co-working spaces can be beautiful but chilly. I visited a colleague in his amazing set-up: mid-century modern furniture and a properly good restaurant. However, the main co-working space was packed but utterly silent. Good for concentration but not a place to crack a sonrisa.

  9. That the Iconic Magazines shop downtown on Mulberry Street makes me happy; walls covered in titles from around the world and on every topic. Oh, and piles on the floor too. This is what magazine shops used to do: entice you to buy something new and learn something (you can get lots of Spanish titles if you want to practise your new language skills). I want one in London.

  10. I’m glad that I will be here all weekend.


Use your loaf

Japan has belatedly become a nation of bread lovers and, in the process, taken the humble loaf to a whole new level (writes Fiona Wilson). Long gone are the days when pan was a spongy white block from the convenience store. These days there are first-rate bakeries all over, with skilled bakers making everything from the perfect sourdough to pain rustique.

This coming long weekend Yokohama is hosting the fourth annual bread festival, Pan no Fes, with up to 90 bakeries and an anticipated crowd of 120,000. Committed loaf lovers will already have secured their tickets for limited-edition creations such as the pain au thé from Sawamura, a bakery in the hill town of Karuizawa. Described as a “masterpiece”, this loaf is made with tea powder, Earl Grey tea leaves and figs steeped in black tea, as well as golden berries, white chocolate and nuts.

Reservations are also required for a loaf of raisin et citron from Tokyo’s Signifiant Signifié. The bread’s a moist mix of sour cream, honey and cream cheese, with Japanese raisins and lemon peel – and is a hot ticket in spite of its ¥3,800 (€32) price tag. If you can’t find the event you can always follow the breadcrumbs.


Through the keyhole

Have you ever wanted to take a peek inside those imposing London buildings that are usually off limits? Or perhaps (writes Lewis Huxley) you’ve wondered what the living space is like inside that plush new residence on the river. If so this weekend’s Open House London event, a two-day celebration of the UK capital’s architecture, is for you.

There is a programme of more than 800 building openings, walks, talks and tours exploring the theme of social infrastructure. Those in awe of the city’s typically grand historic architecture will have the opportunity to see inside landmarks such as Sir Robert Smirke’s Custom House and James Cubitt’s Union Chapel, which dates back to 1877.

Forward-thinking design enthusiasts, meanwhile, will be queuing up for an architect-led tour of 13 Alwyne Place, a contemporary open-plan home that scooped this year’s Riba London award. Londoners have a peculiar obsession with houses but, with prices high and space limited, beautiful homes like this are beyond the reach of most residents. Still, it doesn’t hurt to look.


Dear diary

Today we’re going to start a new little exercise regime to help sharpen the senses but worry not: it doesn’t require Lycra, a yoga mat or even the need to break a sweat. What you will need is a notebook (a sheet of paper will also do) and a writing instrument that’s not too scratchy, allowing the ink to flow gently across the page. As this might take a while you should go and fix – or order – yourself another coffee. But then you need to settle into a comfy place as we need to get started. Ready? Here we go.

We start with a very simple question: where were you last Friday morning? What did you do? Who did you meet? Do you remember what the weather was like when you first stepped outdoors? What were you wearing? You need to write all of these things down and keep going across the week. Last Sunday: were you still in the same place? Did you have breakfast? What papers did you read? At this point it’s important to stress that you’re not allowed to look at the calendar on your phone or consult your diary. I want you to go through the entire week, right up until last night, and make sure you include the high points. How’s it going – are you almost done? Any conclusions?

First, you probably noticed that it’s not that easy to recall where you’ve been and what you did over the past seven days. Second, did you find a pattern that goes beyond the basics of your daily routine? Can you pinpoint the things that stood out and, if so, what are you going to do with them? Will they get archived deep in your brain or will you file the best bits in a folder on your laptop? Or maybe this little exercise is the start of a new weekly journal you’re going to keep that not only captures the best bits of your life but also keeps your brain nimble and demands you give it a solid workout at least once a week. To give you an idea of what the routine should look like, here’s one I made earlier – though the original was jotted down with a Caran d’Ache pen in a Treuleben notebook.

And finally, why is this little exercise important? Because Switzerland’s leading brain surgeon told me so. He said we need to use our recall, to not rely on external sources to remember names and places and also to put pen to paper to make a proper, lasting connection.

Friday: Early start in Hamburg at the Vier Jahreszeiten; super-grumpy woman at the coffee stand at the airport and sharply dressed guy sitting across the aisle. What does he do? Never figured it out. Stunning sunny morning once above the murk of Hamburg. Easy flight to Vienna on Austrian. When will the crew get a new uniform? Poor dears. Vienna in the mid-September sunshine is rather perfect. Coffee and juice at Café Prückel a good start to the weekend – but a late lunch with a wise, tennis-obsessed Austrian and a friend from Graz even better. Bought too many hats at Mühlbauer. Swift flight back to Zürich, solo dinner at the counter at Bimi and collapsed on the sofa. Conclusion: need more Vienna in my life.

Saturday: Early-morning dip in the lake, met some architects for a project in the neighbourhood, tidied up my desk and went back to the lake to lie in the sun. Drinks at Rimini bar, the drinks with Yas and Christian at Kleine Freiheit before trying restaurant Kreis 6 for the first time – superb.

Sunday: Met Yves for a morning swim, packed for LA and Mats drove me to the airport. Two super-chatty girls behind me on the plane who talked the whole way. No queues at LAX. Super-humid Sunday eve. Early solo dinner at Din Tai Fung in Century City. Early to bed.

Monday: Conference calls and yet more conference calls. Mid-morning run through Beverly Hills. More conference calls. Outdoor lunch at Gjusta. Good shopping at Stag. Drinks with my friend Rich at the San Vicente Bungalows. James Franco wandered by looking a bit bewildered. Back to the hotel, made the “I’ll just put my head down for a minute” mistake and woke up at midnight.

Tuesday: Conference calls, run and Mexican lunch with colleague Carlota. Party at The Monocle Shop in Culver City. Got a tour of soon-to-open men’s shop The Optimist. Went to visit Rich’s stunning bungalow high in the hills above Beverly Hills. Could I live in LA? Should I live in LA?

Wednesday: An 04.30 pick-up for Denver flight. Why do they allow the window blinds to be kept down in the US? I want to watch the take-off. I asked the man beside me to open the blind and he got super grumpy. Hadn’t been to Denver in nearly 40 years. Met by a super-perky driver and decided I wanted to see Boulder. Teslas are not comfortable cars – it’s a big touch screen with wheels. Cedar & Hyde Mercantile, Alpine Modern coffee bar and Cured all excellent finds. Everyone is so super happy in Boulder. Is there a link between thinner air and sunshine? Checked in to the Ramble Hotel. Really well done and again – crazy-happy people.

Thursday: Another 04.30 pick-up for flight to New York. Lots of emotional-support animals flying on a Thursday morning. They have their own lane in Denver. What’s that city on Lake Erie below? Sandusky. Will I ever go? Beautiful, crisp autumn day in NY. Solo lunch at Crosby Street Hotel. Everyone working at Knoll looks like they’ve been cast to sit in various office environments; best marketing idea ever if that’s the case. Met the world’s happiest Frenchman for drinks overlooking the Hudson. Hudson Yards is lacking greenery. Super-tasty dinner at Via Carota with 11 other friends and colleagues. Walked back to the hotel. So many empty shopfronts. Should have gone easier on the kerner.


Mario García

Editorial consultant Mario García has advised the most important newsrooms in the world on design – and how best adapt to a digital transition. More than 700 publications, from The Wall Street Journal to the South China Morning Post, have received his strategic steer. Other than being an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of Journalism, he also runs his own consultancy firm: García Media. Nowadays his speciality is how digital devices influence narrative structure and consumption; his latest book, The Story, was written specifically to be read on a phone. Here, though, he confesses to a few analogue pleasures.

What news source do you wake up to?The New York Times’s Morning Briefing, the one from El País because I’m also Spanish speaking, and then CNN’s. I get three push notifications and read the newsletters as a ritual.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? Black coffee, first thing.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? I’m a fan of both Pandora and SiriusXM – I like its Frank Sinatra channel, while I go to Pandora for the jazz.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? Usually a Broadway tune! One of my favourite shows is Gypsy so it’d be something from that. If I’m in a Latin mood it’ll be “Cuban Pete”: it’s an old 1960s song and my trademark number.

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk? I subscribe to The New York Times. I get the print edition only on Sundays – it gets delivered to my doorstep in New York.

Magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack? I always read The New Yorker, New York Magazine and The Atlantic. I may take a look at Monocle and if I’m in Europe in the summer, I’ll read the The Monocle Summer Weekly. I read El País’ Sunday magazine and, if I’m in France, Paris Match. It has a traditional magazine format but also adds insightful photo essays, which is what print can do best.

Are you a subscriber or more of a newsstand browser? Both. Every time I’m on the subway in New York I love to browse at the kiosk; usually I don’t buy there but I will look at the covers. I subscribe to The Atlantic, New York Magazine and The New Yorker.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? Usually in New York I go to McNally Jackson in Soho. Sometimes I go to Argosy in the Upper East Side – it has mid-century books on decorating and design that I find interesting.

Sofa or cinema for the evening? Sofa. I am a Netflix kind of guy.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched of late and why? Two things: I love Grace & Frankie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, but then there is also a take on Spanish telenovelas which I love: it’s called The House of Flowers, or La Casa de Las Flores. It’s over the top and I love it.

Sunday brunch routine? I’m not a brunch person. I am a runner so I wake up early in the morning and cook my breakfast at home on Sundays, which is usually oatmeal and blueberries. Then I go for a run in Central Park. Then I will walk to the Metropolitan Museum and then usually go to a jazz club in the evening. I love Birdland. If I’m not going to Broadway I’ll go to a jazz club.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? I do. My favourite is Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN. I never miss that.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?The Daily podcast from The New York Times.


Last laugh

‘The Farewell’, Lulu Wang. It’s a wonderful thing when films manage to strike the right balance between emotion and humour. Here the premise is from the textbook of tragicomedy: when a family finds out their Chinese grandma has stage-four cancer, they decide not to tell her and put on an extravagant wedding instead so that everyone can gather around her to say their goodbyes without spoiling the fun. Awkwafina stars in a role that does her more justice than the caricature she played in Crazy Rich Asians and the film explores cultural differences between East and West in a much more poignant way.

‘Sunshine Kitty’, Tove Lo. Spending time in LA definitely does wonders for one’s mood: the singer who was once nicknamed “the saddest girl in Sweden” has moved to the West Coast and ended up making an album that’s a sunny energy injection. As ever, Lo’s lyrics are outspoken, rowdy and bawdy – and all the better for it. Try resisting catchy “Glad he’s Gone”, a hard-to-match ode to friendship and carefree rebounds.

Toronto Biennial of Art. The inaugural Toronto Biennial of Art opens today, showcasing Canadian and international contemporary artists – including Maria Thereza Alves, AA Bronson and Althea Thauberger – at venues (some more unconventional than others) across the city. Adding another art biennial to an already crowded international calendar may seem like a tough sell but the organisers are betting on the recent uptick in attention for contemporary art in Canada as an ideal time to launch a newcomer. That bet, to us at least, is a wise one.


Straight from the horse’s mouth

In 1874, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, better known as the Mounties, marched west into what would become the province of Alberta in 1905. The illegal whiskey trade was stirring up trouble and the Mounties came to impose law and order, building their first fortification in Fort Macleod. Eight years later, two Mounties turned in their uniforms to found The Fort Macleod Gazette. Today the paper – which won a special Pulitzer prize in 1938 for defending press freedoms – is the province’s oldest. With a weekly circulation of 1,000 copies, the Gazette is headed by editor Frank McTighe who, along with his wife Emily, bought it in 2001.

What’s the big story this week? One of our next big stories is about a recent meeting the town had with Alberta’s justice minister and solicitor-general. He’s touring the province, holding “town halls” regarding the increase in rural crime. He listened to people’s concerns. They want to see more frontline police officers.

Best headline? “Fort Macleod goes to pot”. It’s an upcoming headline about the town getting its first retail cannabis outlet following legalisation. I recently attended the town-planning commission’s meeting, where they approved a Lethbridge-based company’s application to set up shop in Fort Macleod. There were some residents there too. They were asking questions and expressing concern over having this type of business in our historic downtown.

What’s your down-page treat? It’s a story about a local organisation called the Kids First Family Centre. It began with a volunteer programme that provided breakfast to children who were arriving at school hungry. Hungry kids struggle to learn and have behavioural issues but a group of people came together to help those in need and the organisation has grown significantly. Today it has a full-time staff and a CA$1.5m (€1m) facility. The story speaks to the town’s strong social fabric.

What’s the next big event? We have the oldest operating opera house west of Winnipeg – it’s called the Empress Theatre and was built in 1912. Coming up is a fundraising concert put on by a Juno-nominated singer-songwriter. It’s a strong community event to raise money for the ALS [Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis] Society of Alberta.

Report / LA

Hire power

The Microsoft Theatre in downtown Los Angeles will roll out the red carpet to host the 71st Primetime Emmy awards tomorrow and, even though you won’t see me on the other side of the lens (writes Carlota Rebelo), the occasion meant that I too had to dust off my glad rags. Attending a black-tie event is never a simple task – even less so if you’ve relocated to a city with a single suitcase.

The solution presented itself in the form of a small rent-a-dress boutique in West Culver City. “Oh, you’re going to the Emmys?” said one of the staff members. “Don’t take this one: another lady is already wearing that.” Great. While I changed from a billowy gown into a designer jumpsuit, a young woman picked several outfits for a bachelorette party (“The bride-to-be gave us a detailed dress code”). On the other side of the curtain, two friends chose something “cute” (their words, not mine) to wear for brunch.

Even though we’re all attending very different affairs, there was something gratifying in overhearing these anonymous interactions. Yes, I might be stuck in a dress I can’t unzip with a trail of sequins following my every step but, for that brief moment, we were all in it together. In a city where so many “fake it until they make it”, there’s probably no place more LA than the changing room of a dress-rental shop.


Can I talk about my pay rise?

Firstly, congratulations: you’ve earned it (or haven’t – that bit doesn’t really matter). But just before you blab about that fat dividend, swanky new office or sports car, just remember that no matter how elated, popular or hardworking you think you are, not everyone will be happy for you. Worse – and Mr Etiquette hates to be the one to tell you – plenty of folks probably feel they deserved it more. If you want to avoid the awkwardness then keep it to yourself and do the right thing by getting the first round in at the bar afterwards. Be genial – people will probably twig that you’re happy about something or other. Mr Tiddly’s fetching new collar might be a giveaway too.

Image: Luke Evans

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