Saturday 15 February 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 15/2/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


People we meet

01 Masks
A day trip to Geneva. On the flight over there is one person sporting a face mask (is there a mask that isn’t a face mask?). She’s a chic woman in a tricksy multicoloured fur coat that she wears throughout the flight. I watch as she tries to insert pieces of cheese and then salami under the mask and into her mouth. And then there’s another elaborate manoeuvre to get some red wine in without fully removing the mask. It’s not a great look and soon her mantle is flecked in food debris. But is she the only wise one among us? On the flight back, the plane is full of epidemiologists and medical wonks returning from a meeting at the World Health Organisation about coronavirus. I know this because they are all talking about it in rather excited tones. “I predict this will have a very long tail; it could last until November,” says one. “The modelling is being done by statisticians but I want to hear from the people in the labs,” says another. Perhaps an outbreak like this comes with a certain macabre excitement if it’s your focus of study? But none of them is wearing a mask and there are lots of handshakes as they say goodbye. Are they the wise ones?

02 Manoeuvres One of the best things about yoga is that you can pretty much ignore everyone else in the class apart from the teacher (oh, and the guy whose deep-breathing technique sends a sound reverberating around the room that, with your eyes closed, makes you wonder if a horny seal has just flopped up on a mat). But lately there’s been a bit of “and, now, for the next exercise, find a partner”. Any kind of audience participation triggers in me an urge to take flight. But it’s hard to discreetly exit a yoga class when the teacher shouts out, “Let me know next time if you’re going to leave early.” This week I got paired with someone super friendly and annoyingly attractive. You had to sit on the floor, push the other person’s legs apart with your feet, then grasp their hands and gently pull them towards you. And, within seconds, we were in positions that you’d normally reserve for Valentine’s Day. Anyway, between my yoga-buddy’s encouragement to “pull harder” but “be gentle”, I found myself spouting all sorts of old-school cocktail-party chatter to keep things running smoothly: “And what line of work are you in?”, “What a nice name”, “Really, as much as that!” I think we are going to be new best friends.

03 Misinterpretation Two women walk past me and one says, “Wow, so handsome.” A good definition of getting older is not imagining, even for a second, that this comment is meant for you. It goes without saying that it’s your dog that’s turning heads. But, for some reason, this woman must have felt there was actually room for me to misinterpret her and so, after a few more steps, she turned around to shout, “I mean the dog – not you!” I am sure I saw a smirk on Macy’s (the dog’s) face. My smug hound might even have sniggered.

04 Meanies Two weeks ago I was on a flight that was delayed because there was a child on board with an extreme nut allergy and, before an announcement could be made asking people to resist their cashew urges, someone had been seen dipping into a nutty treat. There was a process: the pilot had to get clearance to continue, the staff had to re-check the on-board medical kit (even though the mother came forward to say that she thought all was OK). Then a gentleman in the row in front of me called over a stewardess and said, “I have a meeting to get to. Can’t you just get him off the plane?” There’s something about flight that makes some people feel overly entitled. I had hoped that someone would spill coffee on his very Euro suit. But alas, he left the plane oblivious to the glares of all around him.

05 Meals Nice hotel. Cold night. Might as well eat in the restaurant. “Sorry sir, it’s fully booked.” Space at the bar? “Sorry, it’s too busy at the moment.” It’s great that hotels have welcomed in the residents of their cities but how do you also look after your guests? “There’s a very good Thai nearby,” was the hotel’s response.


All-day breakfast

When we write and edit the Monocle Weekend Edition, we always think of it as forming part of your morning routine. But as it is dispatched at the same time to everyone, everywhere, some people get it in time to read with their egg and soldiers (of the bread variety – although, who knows?), others with an end-of-day negroni. So from next weekend we are doing something different that should ensure it arrives with the toast for more of you. We’ve adapted our clever mail-out system so that it will deliver the bulletins to your inbox by 07.00 on Saturdays and Sundays, whatever your time zone. We hope you will like the change – but do let us know.

Image: Shutterstock


Sound on the underground

For many visitors to Japan, a ride on the Tokyo Metro is a revelation (writes Fiona Wilson). Passengers queue up in an orderly line on the platform before the train pulls in; once in their seats they don’t yak on their phones, munch on pungent burgers or blast tinny music from headphones. Trains are never rowdy, even at their most crowded. Of course, good behaviour runs deep in Japan and crime is negligible (the most recent figures hit a postwar low). But since 1974 the Tokyo Metro has also been doing its bit to promote good subway etiquette, with monthly “manners” posters reminding people to not apply makeup, cough over fellow travellers or obstruct them with large bags.

While subway posters in other cities are more likely to be concerned with thefts and assaults, the Tokyo Metro campaign encourages people to not shake their wet umbrellas or take up too much space. The latest series, in Japanese and English, calls for “good manners, please” in the gentlest way. As a recent poster stated: “It might be good to be a little quieter if you’re speaking loudly.” The Metro supervisors say that the purpose of the posters is to make everyone’s journey more pleasant. Three cheers (or make that whispers) for considerate behaviour.


Cardi breezers

Elizabeth Warren, the senator for Massachusetts, was valiant in the face of a disappointing showing in New Hampshire on Tuesday. She took to the stage of her primary-night party in Manchester dressed in what has become her de facto uniform during her campaign for the US presidency. Black trousers, black top with a scoop neckline, and a long jacket in a solid colour: on this occasion, a rich teal-blue. On nights that require a greater sense of formality – election-night speeches, appearances in televised debates – Warren has opted for blazer-like versions. But in her stump appearances and rallies on the road, she’s opted for a look that is similar in silhouette delivered with a garment that is gentler and more fluid: the cardigan.

Warren’s cardigans are long and flowing, often stopping anywhere from just above the knee. The lines are straight and clean, sometimes accentuated by a curved lapel. It's an effective way of blurring the formal and the casual. And the fabric is light, meaning that it sways and flows as she moves through a town hall, pumps her fists to accentuate a point in a speech, waves to supporters or hugs them.

Warren’s cardigans evoke a sense of comfort – both with herself and her message. And they signal a political candidate not willing to be boxed in by the clothes that they wear, nor, by extension, by the perceived political wisdom that has gone before her, which, Warren admits, will be upended if she’s elected to the White House. If a suit is meant to evoke formality, to keep people at a respectful distance, Elizabeth Warren’s long, bright cardigans say the opposite. They say, “Come on in, I’m here for you.”


Gary Liu

When the CEO of Hong Kong’s oldest and most prominent English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post, isn’t flipping through news alerts, he might be enjoying his downtime at home on his Nintendo Switch. Here he tells us his why favourite weekend tradition is to wake up in a new city – and proudly reveals a penchant for musical-theatre singalongs in the shower.

What news source do you wake up to? Always the South China Morning Post app when I first wake up. Then I scan my alerts and newsletters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. After that I’ll check my RSS feeds for technology and sports news. Also, the daily email from Alan Murray [CEO of Fortune] is a must-read.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? Copious amounts of coffee. Usually a latte with whole milk, although that’s starting to show on the scales.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? Spotify, of course. Usually from a deep catalogue of playlists curated over the past eight years. But sometimes I’ll just let the algorithm surprise me.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? Show tunes – and I’m not embarrassed to admit it.

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk? Delivered. When I get to the office, I will read the South China Morning Post print edition and then flip through the print copies of The New York Times, the FT and China Daily. And once a week I’ll tuck The Economist into my back pocket and pretend to be in the know.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack? South China Morning Post’s Post Magazine and This Week in Asia are my Sunday reads. Otherwise I’m not a consistent magazine reader... except for Monocle, of course, which is a regular travel companion on long flights.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? In New York I would visit the Strand Bookstore and then run across Union Square to Barnes & Noble for its reading nooks. But my favourite bookshop in the world is Eslite’s 24-hour Dunnan store in Taipei. Sadly this shop will be closing this year but I hear that Eslite plans to move the 24-hour operation to another one of its flagship locations in the city.

Sofa or cinema for the evening? Always the sofa: cheaper snacks, control over the air-conditioning and guilt-free film-hopping.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched lately and why? The Farewell. It’s beautifully written, wonderfully acted and brilliantly shot. But above all that it’s a film that captures both the depth and subtleties of immigrant struggle. It’s a story that is painfully familiar to me, and yet optimistic in its reflection of a generation’s sacrifices for their children.

Sunday brunch routine? The best Sunday is waking up in a new city and experiencing a different routine for the first time. The second-best Sunday involves soybean milk, beef rolls and fried dough in Taipei. Both options are readily available because of Hong Kong’s excellent airport.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? My TV is now connected only to a Google Chromecast and a Nintendo Switch.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? “Hey Google, wake me up in six hours.” “Got it. Your alarm is set for…”


Long-haul hits

‘Swimmer’, Tennis. Husband-and-wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley (aka pop band Tennis) recorded their fifth album in their home studio in Denver but, as usual, these songs were born at sea during one of the couple’s frequent sailing trips. Under the surface of the easy-listening synth pop are tales of pain and loss but you’d be forgiven for just swaying mindlessly along. There’s a pitch-perfect retro vibe to the single “How To Forgive” with Moore’s sugar-sweet voice matching the minimal but captivating production.

‘High Fidelity’, Hulu. In this most recent, gender-flipped remake of Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel, record-shop owner Rob might be a woman – played with swagger by Zoë Kravitz – but the protagonist’s character traits and struggles remain the same: heartbroken and hilarious, she spends much of her time taking us through her romantic history and her peculiar passion for making playlists. The 10-episode series has more space to explore the book’s charming moments – and Rob’s friends’ backstories – than the 2000 film could, and is all the better for it.

‘Strange Hotel’, Eimear McBride. Hotels can be wonderful but they can also be strange places where loneliness feels sharper and memories are quick to surface. In this new novel by the author of the experimental and much-lauded A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, an unnamed protagonist moves in and out of rooms around the world, sweeping the reader along with her in an extended interior monologue that’s erratic and evocative.


Mirror to society

Tucked between Seattle and Tacoma is Federal Way, a small Washington city with a population just shy of 100,000 (writes Will Kitchens). Despite its size and location, the city was nearly left without a newspaper back in 1998, when the Seattle Times Co ceased publication of the Federal Way News. Thankfully the city was saved from becoming a news desert just 10 days later, when the Federal Way Mirror launched.

Today the free weekly newspaper is delivered to some 25,000 homes across the city. The newspaper’s staff, which includes two reporters and an editor, is led by editorial director Andy Hobbs. Having previously worked as the newspaper’s editor in chief and publisher, Hobbs knows Federal Way about as well as anyone could. He tells Monocle what’s inside the latest edition.

What’s the big story this week? Federal Way is home to the Pacific Bonsai Museum, which is a world-renowned bonsai-tree collection. Two of the trees, which are worth thousands of dollars, were stolen from the collection last weekend. It’s a big deal [both trees date back to the 1940s]. They have since been returned.

What’s your favourite headline? It was about a girls’ wrestling team: “Pin it to win it”. We have a reporter who is good with puns and she tends to write good headlines. They’re an art and a science.

Your down page treat? A recurring feature we have is “citizen of the month”, so people can make nominations for that. We also run a “humanising the homeless” series that busts stereotypes and puts a face on those people who, often with just one stroke of bad luck or one bad decision, found themselves on the streets. In our last issue we also had a story about an Irish dance company that has opened a studio in Federal Way.

What’s the next big event that you’ll be covering?
 The mayor’s state-of-the-city address is at the end of the month. It’s usually a big dog and pony show, which we like to cover and critique. We’ll report the speech and then our political columnist will do a good job of breaking it down. We take our watchdog role very seriously. Then in March we will hold our Best of Federal Way contest. It’s a badge of honour for local businesses and community leaders, and it’s where we will announce our citizen of the year. I think the reason that a local newspaper such as ours does so well is because we actively try to be part of the community fabric.


Home from home

Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz is a throwback to the days when the fashion industry was more romantic and less incessantly commercial (writes Jamie Waters). His womenswear brand, Maison Rabih Kayrouz, creates delicate pieces whose understated aesthetic belies the intricacy of the construction. Indeed, the techniques employed to make his ready-to-wear collections are so elevated that he is allowed to show them during Paris Haute Couture Week.

Kayrouz splits his time between the French capital, where his label is headquartered, and his native Beirut, and has shop-cum-studios in both cities. Now it’s London’s turn. To coincide with London Fashion Week, the brand is opening a two-storey shop on Mount Street, a particularly glossy stretch of Mayfair, on Monday. Its interlocking high-ceilinged parquet-floored rooms will be dedicated to ready-to-wear, couture and bridal collections, while the basement will feature “spontaneous” displays that change regularly; the first will be an exhibition by Lebanese photographer Nadim Asfar. “It’s not the type of retail where you buy and go,” says Kayrouz, who furnished the space himself. “You have to come here, spend time, have tea, sit on the couch. Maison Rabih Kayrouz is not only about one or two dresses or an ‘it’ item; it’s about a whole universe that is loving and hugging a woman.”


How do I end a dull conversation at a party?

It’s nice to meet people. But, like absinthe, some are best taken in moderation if you don’t want to get a headache. The party bore comes in many varieties: the person who loves being asked questions but never thinks to ask your name; the person who has worked in some complex financial role for 20 years but still cannot explain it in less than an hour; and the dullard who insists on sharing their petty grievances about Pam in accounts or the neighbour with the noisy love life.

For a simple sidestep, try something along the lines of, “I mustn’t hog you; I know that everyone wants to hear your views on derivatives.” Or something more immediate at dispensing with their presence: “Did I tell you about my disease?” But if you want to really get the hell out of there, get a pet. There’s no arguing with, “It’s been a thrill but Mr Tiddly is awaiting his sardines. I must dash.” Oh, dear Tiddly, you have been such a social lifesaver. Thank you my purr-y pal.


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