Saturday 27 November 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 27/11/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Shake a tail feather

From balaclavas on the catwalk to questionable tastes in banknote imagery, we have plenty to get the conversation going this week. Plus: NPR host Audie Cornish shares her 1980s-tinged festive playlist and we head to Aruba to soak up some calypso rhythms. Starting us off, Andrew Tuck in praise of the party.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Life and soul

In the run up to Christmas, Monocle hosts parties and receptions to say thank you to at least some of the people who have supported us across the year, from advertisers to photographers, correspondents to stylists. And, on Thursday, we were in Paris for this very reason. What can I tell you, life is tough some days.

The couturier Rabih Kayrouz loaned us his atelier, which is housed in what used to be an experimental theatre; it’s where Waiting for Godot was first performed. And Kamal Mouzawak organised the food – Lebanese, of course – and generally set the chic tone (helped in no small part by his Afghan hound stretched out on an orange Florence Knoll sofa). Why am I telling you all this when you somehow missed your invite?

Look, it comes back to the debate about what’s gained by coming together in the real world and what’s lost if you try to pass off video calls and Google hangouts as elegant replacements for real interactions. Just as there are people who believe that going to an office to see colleagues robs them of an extra hour in bed, so there are also those who see parties as frivolous and potentially litigious if Carl from accounts chugs too much eggnog again and says something lewd instead of sticking to spreadsheet chattery. Well, despite all these concerns, they are wrong.

Here’s what happened in Paris. Across the arc of the evening I met a French journalist who ended up with a hefty commission and spoke with an American writer who agreed to make a space in his schedule to contribute to Monocle too (on email it had been far too easy for him to give me the slip in recent months). I also talked with photographers and stylists who I know only by name and heard stories about their lives and careers that brought them to life in ways I will remember. I updated friendships (I have known Kayrouz for 15 years). I heard about Paris and discussed design, food and the Bataclan trial that’s gripping France. None of this would have happened if I was at home on a video call.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

Parties, hospitality, people gathered in a house or restaurant – it all has the power to be transformative, to edge the frazzled and jaded into a shared mood. To mark moments, to show appreciation without fuss, to make day-to-day frustrations evaporate. There was a moment when the DJ had hit his stride and conversations were eddying around the room, when I sensed a collective spirit afoot – it was enjoying the enduring power of a good party.

Of course, I understand why even in our increasingly vaccinated world, some people remain wary of the party. That’s fine but let’s not pretend that something isn’t lost when the Christmas shindig is cancelled.

Now seeing as I feel bad about your Paris invite, how about this to cheer you up? This weekend it’s The Monocle Christmas Market at Midori House in London – and you are invited. All you have to do is rock up. It’s free (well, until you start buying gorgeous things) and there will be reindeer and a guest appearance by Santa Claus. Come on, what’s not to like?

What’s more, that other giver of cheer from the north (well, from Canada at least), Mr Tyler Brûlé will be in attendance on both days, as will I. We will be signing books (Monocle books, that is, and only after you have paid up) and generally spreading cheer. You’ll easily spot me as Tyler has asked if I wouldn’t mind dressing as an elf. He assures me that it’s an honour and while I find the green leggings a little tight in places, I have agreed. So come on down.

The Look / Balaclavas

Saving face

My childhood in Switzerland was spent being bundled up by an Australian mother in various woolly accessories, as soon as the thermostat dropped below 15C (writes Grace Charlton). There seemed to be no shortage of horrendous headgear on hand, which I would don when shipped away to ski camp every winter. Still scarred from this experience, I was surprised when similar woolly toppers started to pop up on catwalks in recent months.

Indeed, balaclavas seem to have taken a warm (and probably itchy) hold on many high-end fashion brands. Miu Miu recently showcased capuches in an alpine-inspired collection, Spanish brand Paloma Wool has sold out in almost every colour and Jacquemus and Eckhaus Latta are all peddling their own iterations. Not to be left out, fast-fashion brands have jumped on the bandwagon (or Ski-Doo) and produced more budget-friendly versions, although what you save on the price tag you pay for in electrically charged hair, which is a direct result of cheaper synthetic fibres.

Image: Getty Images

The balaclava’s appeal, from a functional standpoint, is obvious. It combines the benefits of scarves, earmuffs and beanies into a singular and cohesive item, keeping necks, ears, and scalps warm – plus the option of anonymity if bank heists are your bag.

And while it seems my mother might have been ahead of her time, pulling off the look from an aesthetic standpoint can still be difficult. Our tip to avoid looking like a robber on the run or teenager reluctantly shipped away to a Swiss ski camp? Avoid black and go with a block colour or subtle wintery pattern. Great cheekbones will go a long way here too.

How We Live / Polish banknotes

Grosz misconduct

It is far from unusual for nations to commemorate heroic moments from their history on their postage stamps and currency (writes Andrew Mueller). Poland is a prolific practitioner of such self-celebration: burdened with ample material, it has issued many stamps and banknotes honouring patriotic acts of defence and resistance, and the people who carried them out – and fair enough.

It is difficult to be quite so understanding of Poland’s latest endeavour of this type. Poland’s National Bank has announced that it intends to produce a commemorative coin and banknote dedicated to what it grandly called the “defence of the Polish eastern border”. That is, to render the very recent events in question in less lustrous but more accurate terms, “Deploying razor wire, water cannons and tear gas against bewildered and freezing Iraqis and Syrians flown in by Belarus to be used as a stick to poke Europe with.”

Poland might well believe that it is entitled to police its border. It might also believe that it is doing the EU’s dirty work for it. It might even be right about both those things – but this is surely not an occasion for bellicose nationalistic gloating. Regrettably, however, Poland’s present government is yet to discover an occasion it thinks is not.

The Interrogator / Audie Cornish

Dawn chorus

Every day, more than 10 million Americans tune in to hear Audie Cornish’s voice (writes Carolina Abbott Galvão). As a co-host on NPR’s most popular programme, All Things Considered, which is known for its mix of breaking news, analysis and in-depth reporting, she’s covered a string of major historic events and interviewed the likes of Michelle Obama, actor Richard Gere and author Ta-Nehisi Coates. Here she tells us about her favourite Nashville bookshop, romantic comedies and why people should give Love Actually a chance.

What news sources do you wake up to?
I listen to NPR’s Morning Edition; I know that’s a given. And, because I have a four-year old, I also listen to a children’s news podcast called Wow in the World.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
A cup of ginger tea that never makes it to my mouth hot.

Which newspapers do you turn to?
The Washington Post and The New York Times, and I also do the digital Wall Street Journal. To my detriment, I’m also a big Twitter scroller.

A favourite bookshop?
Loyalty Bookstore in Washington. It’s always nice to go to a place that has children’s books with racially diverse authors. Politics and Prose is another great one. And if you’re ever in Tennessee, you have to go to Ann Patchett’s shop in Nashville, Parnassus Books.

Is that a podcast in your ear?
A wild mix. Esther Perel’s podcast Where Should We Begin, because I’m obsessed with relationships: it’s the ultimate drama. In terms of fiction, I was also listening to the Orphan Black podcast. It reminds me how good of an actress Tatiana Maslany is.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched on TV recently?
Hot Zone, a story about the anthrax scare in 2001. And season two of Love Life on HBO Max, which stars Jessica Williams and William Jackson Harper, was great. Also, Rose Matafeo’s Starstruck; I’m a big fat romantic comedy person.

Any go-to holiday films?
I’m going to plant a flag for a movie everyone hates: Love Actually. It’s Hugh Grant on the edge of understanding the irony of being Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson being amazing, Bill Nighy doing weird stuff, Liam Neeson without a gun. I don’t know why I watch it; none of it makes sense. But it’s great.

What about a favourite Christmas song?
A 1980s Christmas. I want to hear “Christmas Wrapping”, I want to hear Run DMC, I want to hear Bruce Springsteen singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.

What’s on the airways before drifting off?
“Weightless” by Marconi Union. Someone said it was scientifically proven to put people to sleep, so I listen to it every night. It has totally messed up my streaming service algorithm though.

Culture / Watch / Listen / Read

First instinct

‘Petite Maman’, Celine Sciamma. Not a single shot nor line is wasted in writer-director Celine Sciamma’s beguiling new film. Despite its pithy 72-minute running time, it is suffused with more originality, joy and sadness than most films twice its length. Petite Maman reflects on the unbridgeable divide that separates parents from their children by imagining a world in which a lonely young girl is able to befriend her own mother as an eight-year-old. The film’s enchanting quality stems from the tender way it portrays every child’s wary curiosity and beautifully indulges the fantasy of being able to understand one’s parent – or child.

‘Smothered’, Oberhofer. Los Angeles-based Brad Oberhofer’s first album in almost six years is full of wistful 1950s-style harmonies. He coos about professional struggles and romantic woes in this masterclass in dream pop. On standout track, “Sunshine”, The Strokes’ guitarist Nick Valensi and singer-songwriter Shamir lend a surf-rock feel to proceedings.

‘Harsh Times’, Mario Vargas Llosa. Nobel prize-winner Vargas Llosa’s new novel traces the story of the CIA-backed coup in Guatemala that toppled Jacobo Árbenz’s left-wing government in 1954. Conspiracies and conflict take centre stage but there’s also a focus on the human element. As characters get caught in webs of their own weaving, Vargas Llosa explores how the lies we tell, however small, have larger consequences.

Outpost News / Massive Aruba

To the beat

In the south of the Caribbean, just north of Venezuela, sits the tiny island of Aruba (population: 110,000). Together with the nearby islands of Curaçao and Sint Maarten, it makes up the Dutch Caribbean, which falls within the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. But despite its links to Europe, Aruba still has a distinct Caribbean culture and nowhere is this more evident than the town of San Nicolas. “It’s the most Caribbean part of the island,” says Clyde Burke, co-founder of radio station Massive Aruba, who explains that the community is the home of Aruba’s soul of calypso (or “soca”) music scene. The genre draws influences from African and East Indian beats and has been broadcast on the station since it was launched in 2017. Burke tells us more.

Image: Getty Images

How did the station start?
Aruba celebrates Caribbean music with one of the region’s biggest carnivals: Caiso & Soca Monarch. San Nicolas didn’t have its own radio station for a good 30 years and there wasn’t one dedicated to soca music. Unless you went to a party, the only time you would hear it was at a carnival – so we put in a permit.

What is your roster like?
Most radio stations here are in Spanish or Papiamento [a Portuguese and Spanish-based creole] but we thought it best to broadcast in English. We start off with gospel in the early hours and then some R&B until 08.00. After that, we’ll play soca, a news update will follow and then we’ll take a break. It picks up again in the afternoon, with the “Tropical Storm” segment from our top DJ.

Any big broadcast events coming up?
The last day that all the construction companies on the island will work until the new year will be 11 December. So, we are going to do a big bash with all the DJs on the island at Carnival Village, where Caiso & Soca Monarch is held.

A favourite broadcasting moment?
One memorable occasion was when we organised a Halloween street party and filled up the main street of San Nicolas with people. Many tour buses went by, so we gave them shoutouts.

Fashion update / Highsnobiety

Just landed

It’s not just aircraft but new retail experiences that have been cleared for take-off at Zürich airport (writes Lexi Fadina). A new multi-brand pop-up space, Gatezero, has launched in partnership with Berlin-based media company Highsnobiety. With initial plans to operate for six months, the shop caters to a new generation of luxury consumers, with Acne Studios scarves and Balenciaga T-shirts being sold alongside Fujifilm polaroid cameras and Byredo candles. Shoppers will also be able to purchase limited-edition releases and items from Highsnobiety’s Private Label Collection.

But far from being a straightforward retail destination, the new shop is also an appealing space to spend time. Mimicking the interior of a spaceship, Gatezero’s sleek and futuristic interiors, designed by London studio Brinkworth, allow for a moment of quiet in one of the country’s busiest airports – the perfect place to indulge in some eleventh-hour shopping before boarding.

What Am I Bid? / Max Ernst

Made for each other

The dreamlike and occasionally nightmarish oeuvre of German surrealist painter Max Ernst has long been revered by avant garde and experimental thinkers (writes Hester Underhill). Ernst himself said that, “Like my behaviour, my work is not classically harmonious – but it enchants my accomplices.” And one such accomplice who appears to have been particularly enchanted was late German film-maker Peter Schamoni.

The creative duo first met in the 1960s, when Schamoni travelled to Touraine in France to make a short documentary on Ernst. The trip kicked off what would prove to be a remarkable, decades-long friendship, involving numerous artistic collaborations that helped to grow Schamoni’s collection of works by the artist to an impressive 80 pieces.

It’s no surprise then that the sale of part of Schamoni’s estate, which will go under the hammer at Phillips in an online auction from 1 December, has drawn the interest of both the art and film communities. “The present collection comprehensively tells the story of Peter Schamoni’s deep affinity with and appreciation for Ernst’s works,” says Charlotte Gibbs, associate specialist at Phillips. Up for grabs are works such as Brief an Peter Schamoni, a work by Ernst dedicated to the film-maker that is expected to sell from £2,500 (€2,950), the timber-inspired print Forêt et soleil – Der Bretterwald (pictured), expected to fetch £600 (€710) and a host of other ephemera including sketches, prints and even a portrait of the artist shot by Lee Miller. Any would make a smart addition to the home of cinephiles and art aficionados – or any of Ernst’s accomplices.


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