Saturday 3 April 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 3/4/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


Use your loaf

If you started a restaurant, what would the concept be? A few of the team were pitching amusing – if bound-to-fail – ideas to each other when our managing editor Tom Reynolds offered up The Toast Office. Not only is it a good name, not only does almost everyone like toast but also, as he pointed out, his raw ingredient costs would be very low (you can see why he’s the managing editor) and you wouldn’t need to hire expensive chefs (as I said, you can see why he’s the managing editor).

He even suggested giving the slices of bread serrated edges to make them look like stamps. And with that name there’s also the scope to move into offering co-working services. Don’t give him too much encouragement, however. I need him staying put please.

This week, Volkswagen managed to sow confusion by declaring that it was changing its name to Voltswagen in the US to reflect its move into electric vehicles. Then it had to hurriedly declare that it had all been a joke – an April fool’s prank somehow released in March as part of a marketing bid to drum up interest in the brand. Trouble was, people liked it, so the share price rose on the news and the joke ran away from them. It also failed as a spoof because many organisations go through rebranding exercises that cost millions and end up with far less tolerable outcomes. For example, in the UK in 2001, the venerable Post Office changed its name to Consignia – before swiftly switching back again after everyone wondered what the hell it meant. Was it an unsightly rash? Was there a cream for it? Just imagine where proposals for The Toast Office would be today if that had actually stuck.

This week a race commission in the UK suggested that the term BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) be ditched as many of the people covered by the term didn’t like it or use it. The work of the commission has been highly contentious (it denies the existence of institutional racism) but actually on this issue it found agreement. People feel uncomfortable having their identities stripped of nuance. It’s the same with LGBTQIA. These trains of letters are used by institutions desperately trying to sound inclusive but who end up sounding lazy and even people supposedly represented by this ever-extending chain rarely know what it even stands for.

One offensive name for gay people is “batty boy” but in the UK the name for a bread roll filled with, say, bacon is a “butty”. Even so, when someone opened a sandwich shop near my house called Butty Boys, I was never quite sure if it was an act of defiance, a disarming joke, or just a good place to get a sandwich. It closed down.

Let’s get rid of parking bays on streets and turn them into mini gardens! They had a spree of doing this a couple of years ago around Monocle’s London HQ, along the rather smart Marylebone High Street. Now the soil has blown away and the plants are dead or clinging on for dear life. But some good news: it turns out that they make excellent places to throw rubbish. London is destined to get many more of these cool parklets in the coming months but without adding a gardener to the budget, they are eyesores. The streets looked nicer without them.

The iPad is a boon for seniors with failing eyesight; it’s easy to make text look huge, for example. And the same with Alexa and Siri when you need to know the time. But having just spent a weekend helping a partially sighted senior get used to this technology, I wonder if there’s an opportunity for adapting some old-school bits of kit to make it less daunting. Instead of a sleek Homepod, for example, how about hiding the technology in something more familiar – say a cuckoo clock? You’d say, “Hey cuckoo, what’s the time?” and it would pop out and chirp the answer. Its eyes could be mini-cameras that spotted when you had forgotten to take your medication (“Cuckoo darling, time for the linctus”) and it would happily whistle any tune from the 1950s on request. Well, it’s as good as Voltswagen.


Ace of shades

It took all of two days of being back in Australia to decide that I absolutely had to have a sunglasses strap, after I spotted some Bondi surfers wearing them (writes Jamie Waters). These cords that attach to the arms of your glasses recall cricketers, college bros, pensioners and even David Hasselhoff in Baywatch (pictured) – your school librarian almost certainly had one for their spectacles.

The most famous maker is Croakies, which started supplying thick neoprene versions to skiers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in the 1970s. They are extremely dorky, often called “eyewear retainers” (I challenge you to find a more unsexy name for a product) and scream practicality. Like Teva Velcro sandals, socks with Birkenstocks and bumbags, there’s a mix of irony and functionality that makes them irresistible. And over the years they have dipped in and out of favour with the fashion crowd (a 2015 GQ article asked, “Wait, are Croakies back?”).

Turns out, though, that finding a good sunglasses strap is tricky. Surf shops sell neoprene designs chunky enough to keep you afloat in the waves, while supermarkets peddle flimsy shoelace-like strings. Some luxury brands make them but they tend to be beaded or blingy, whereas I was after something more quiet. I found an attractive rope cord from jewellery brand Miansai and a natty woven design by sunglasses brand Bailey Nelson – yet it was while stocking up on suncream at my favourite pharmacy on Sydney’s Oxford Street that I found my hero: a simple, black, woven-leather style. I now look forward to being indoors so that my strap can flex its muscles and enable my sunnies to dangle freely from my neck – but shopping for fashion accessories at chemists? Australia, you’ve changed me.

Editor’s note: The man in the picture looks like our writer Jamie Waters but is actually David Hasselhoff in ‘Baywatch’.


Haranguing on the telephone

I’m a bit afraid of my phone these days (writes Megan Gibson). In recent weeks it seems that the number of scam phone calls I get – from either respectable-sounding gents or stilted robot voices, telling me that my bank account is about to be drained or that I’m minutes away from being arrested for tax fraud – has skyrocketed. Although my first instinct was to just, well, stop answering my phone, that’s not really practical. So I’ve developed a little roadmap on how I should deal with unexpected, unwelcome calls.

  1. Take a deep breath and think for a moment. Have I done anything that warrants being arrested? Is it likely that a Nigerian prince would be getting in touch? The answer to both is no.

  2. Don’t play Poirot. If I suspect something’s amiss, there’s no point in trying to trap the person on the other end of the line into revealing that they are a fraudster – these guys are pros. If it’s really someone from my bank, they won’t mind if I hang up and call back on the official line (using another phone, of course).

  3. Take it slow. Even if it’s true that my bank account is being drained or that some long-lost great aunt has left me a fortune, nothing needs to be done in the next two minutes. If the person on the other end of the line says otherwise, it’s suspect. Deadlines are for journalists, not call centres.


Brogues gallery

Now one of fashion’s leading historians and curators, Olivier Saillard first studied archaeology and contemporary art at university, steeling himself for a career in the arts. His plans were waylaid when he was drafted for France’s mandatory military service. But instead of taking up arms, he carried out his public service at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, where he secured an assistant position following his release from duty. He became fashion curator at the Parisian Musée de la Mode in 2010, before taking over as artistic image and culture director at luxury men’s shoe brand JM Weston in 2018. Saillard tells us about wandering the halls of the world’s most famous gallery as a child and shares his top picks for French film.

What news source do you wake up to?
In the mornings I tune the radio to some classical music. It’s a nicer way to wake up.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
Coffee, the old-fashioned way: filtered, with plenty of water. I hate capsules.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
M: le magazine du Monde, Madame Figaro, The World of Interiors, Monocle, and books, books, books.

Newspaper that you turn to?
Le Parisien. I really like its interviews, its investigations and the journalistic soul of the newspaper which approaches social facts with dignity. And I enjoy looking at the miscellaneous Île-de-France news items.

Favourite bookshop?
In Paris, the bookseller Michèle Ignazi on rue de Jouy or Delamain at Palais Royal. In Arles on weekends, Archa des Carmes run by Sandrine Pot is the most beautiful bookshop, which specialises in poetry.

Is that a podcast in your ear?
The podcasts of the France Culture radio station: Compagnie des oeuvres, L’art et la matière, Concordance des temps. There is a soft sound to radio podcasts that TV will never have. France Culture podcasts are bringing artists and authors back to life with discretion and without reconstitution.

What’s your cultural obsession?
Museums and their permanent collections. I am an unconditional lover of the Louvre, which I discovered at the age of 12 on a holiday with my brother, who lived in Paris. He used to drop me there in the morning and pick me up at the end of the day. I remember wandering alone among rooms that were still empty because mass tourism was not yet rife.

And what’s your movie genre of choice?
Melancholy, slow and preferably in black and white. Interiors by Woody Allen, La peau douce by François Truffaut (anything by Truffaut) and Cléo 5 to 7 by Agnes Varda.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
Claude Debussy.


First impressions

‘Kids’, Noga Erez. Erez was born outside of Tel Aviv to music-loving parents and now lives in the city creating her own loud, sublimely off-kilter tracks with creative partner Ori Rousso. The music delves into activism and defiance. Following the success of her 2017 debut Off the Radar, Erez’s latest offering feels like a battle cry, championing the potential of youth.

‘A Lonely Man’, Chris Power. Power’s first novel tells the story of Robert, a struggling writer who finds himself drawn to Patrick, a man he meets in a bookshop. Patrick is a ghostwriter whose previous client, a Russian oligarch, was recently found hanged. All too soon fact and fiction begin to converge. Power combines the chills of a thriller with some probing questions about who should tell whose stories.

‘Undine’, Christian Petzold. Surprisingly for a mythic water spirit, this film’s title character spends much of her time discussing architectural theory. She inhabits the human persona of a guide at a model-city museum in Berlin who knows very well that “form follows function”. In this strange and beautiful film, that diktat is reversed: the dreamlike cinematography largely supersedes the plot. Undine is a modern fairytale about the elusive, all-consuming nature of love.


King of kings

Dutch native Wade Roskam retired to King Island after 20 years of reporting in Australia, working for European national broadcasters and newssheets. It was a strange sort of place for a foreign correspondent to end up: a grassy 64km by 24km patch of land, King Island sits on the Bass Strait between mainland Australia and Tasmania. Its 1,600 residents get by on exporting beef, crayfish, cheese and tungsten. The island has an ageing population and, generally speaking, they don’t cause much bother. “You don’t need to worry about locking your front door,” says Roskam.

It has been 10 years since Roskam first arrived and he’s earned his name among the islanders now as manager of the King Island Community Radio, a service he launched in 2015 with a group of volunteers which now numbers 15. The station broadcasts around the clock with music and 10 hours of talk shows every week. “When it comes to listeners, we are known as the smallest radio station in Australia,” says Roskam, proudly. Here, he fills us in on the island’s concerns.

What’s the big news this week?
The vaccination rollout has started in Australia but we have had no news from the state of Tasmania [of which King Island is a part] about when we will be receiving ours. We provide a lot of exports and business for Tasmania but we don’t get much attention from politicians because we only have 900 eligible voters. In other news, shipping is a constant issue: it’s not running so smoothly at the moment and 80 per cent of our supplies come by ship. There’s also no passenger boat; the only way to get here is by plane. That’s a common talking point.

What sort of music do you play?
As station manager it’s my job to select the music but, of course, as it is a community station, I have to listen to the people. That means we get a big mix of music from the early 1960s to today. We also have an hour-long hard rock and heavy metal programme on Wednesday nights, for folks who like that. Plus, once a week, we make sure to play a few hours of country music.

Any funny bloopers?
It can be mayhem if you announce the wrong date for an event in a small community – news travels fast. I once said a music gig was happening on a Friday instead of a Saturday and it wasn’t long before I had the venue on the line. They had received lots of confused calls and wanted to set the record straight.

What’s the next big event?
On 25 April it’s Anzac Day, the army corps day celebrating the troops of Australia and New Zealand. It’s a big thing here: per capita, King Island sent the most soldiers of any Australian council district to fight in the First and Second World Wars. So we will be having quite the celebration.


Aperture store

There aren’t many mediums that allow first-time buyers to acquire works by world-famous practitioners – but photography is one (writes Chiara Rimella). So if you fancy a shot by William Klein or Wolfgang Tillmans on your wall, Phillips’s spring appointment in New York on 8 April could be your shot. And the 256 lots on offer couldn’t be more varied. While blockbuster images such as Robert Frank’s iconic street shot Trolley – New Orleans (Lot 27) and André Kertész’s sombre Nature Morte, Chez Mondrian (Lot 212) are expected to fetch up to $250,000 (€213,000), there are pieces on the catalogue such as Sid Grossman’s sun-bleached shot of beached sunbathers Coney Island (Lot 8) that start at a reasonable $2,000 (€1,700).

“The photography market has always been a wonderful, steady place,” says Phillips’s senior specialist Caroline Deck. “Thanks to accessible price points it appeals to new collectors and those who might already collect paintings but want to deepen their knowledge of an era they’re interested in.”

The headline lot, however, remains quite the special purchase: a series of pictures by William Eggleston of Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland (Lot 67, pictured), estimated to go for $180,000-$280,000 (€153,000-€238,000). “They capture the essence of what Eggleston was doing,” says Deck. “He elevated colour photography to the level of museum art, and redefined the medium.”

When she talks about her highlights from the sale, Deck refers to images that have “great wall presence”. So despite the recent kerfuffle around NFTs, there is still value in old-fashioned prints? “Something that you can actually hang on your wall is still appealing to a lot of people,” she says. “You should buy things you love, which can be really different from what the news is telling you to buy.”


Landscape designs

The wild deserts of the US southwest and the manicured gardens of Japan might be worlds apart but that hasn’t stopped fashion label Maison Kitsuné from merging the two in its new Los Angeles flagship. The Paris-meets-Tokyo brand has combined a golden amber colour palette, inspired by the desert, with a minimalist Japanese aesthetic to transform its space on Sunset Boulevard.

Passers-by will notice window displays featuring rocks and flowers from southern California arranged in the style of a traditional Japanese garden. It’s a beautiful space to not only browse the brand’s latest offerings (such as its new line with Fenty’s design director, Marcus Clayton) but to enjoy events, including live music as part of the Kitsuné Musique programme. Visitors can also expect collaborations with other Los Angeles shops and designers. All of this makes Maison Kitsuné a welcome addition to the wardrobe – and the neighbourhood.


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