Saturday 12 February 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 12/2/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Come again?

A report from the thick of the Ottawa blockade reveals hidden depths (and warm pierogis) and our sartorial edit considers a questionable look for law enforcement. Plus: Zona Maco director Zélika García on the artist that changed her life and our photo of the week by Gerhard Richter. First, Andrew Tuck has to double-take.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Screen peace

A friend, working for a major financial institution, is telling me about how they have lost much of their company culture over the past two years because of homeworking. He wants to be back in the office full-time and misses the bonhomie of being surrounded by colleagues. But now he’s been sent an email that’s set to make even his endless schedule of video calls less humane. The email reminds staff that having their cameras on during calls uses more energy than if they are switched off. This, the email underlines, is bad for the environment and the company’s eco mission. So now he faces video conferences where he just speaks into the darkness.

I had to Google this information and it turns out that it’s probably true. But if the organisation really wanted to trim its digital energy consumption, why not shut down its own Facebook page and Instagram account? (Everything stored in the cloud uses energy.) Or encourage staff to delete all their social media? But, of course, that’s not what’s going on here. No doubt half a dozen people who can’t be arsed to put on a shirt for a video call, or don’t want to reveal that they are living in a mansion, have cooked up this excuse. In the end, all these announcements underline a disrespect for the wellbeing of staff.

On the same topic, another contact tells me that his agency is finally getting staff back to the office but that they are struggling to get anyone into work on Mondays and Fridays. And, he admits, he’s also fallen into the same routine. “We’re all just a bunch of Twats,” he jokes. Now I have heard this acronym before but only ever used in a mocking way. So I like hearing how it’s now being “owned”, that the Twats – people who only work in the office Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays – now sport the title with pride.

While we are in rude-word territory… I want to buy some loafers but can’t decide which ones to get. I have done some online research and clicked on a few links for potentially desirable footwear purchases. A nice Italian brand called Velasca has some good black ones – turns out they even have a lovely shop near the Monocle office. For some reason, all their shoes have names: a black oxford is called Trombee; there are some very nice derbies that go by Barabba. But did something get lost when naming the penny loafers? They are sold as “Cuntaballs”. I asked Chiara, our culture editor, who is a born and bred Italian, if this meant anything but she was at a loss to explain. Tom, our head of radio, wondered whether someone misheard the company’s boss saying they were “comfortable” shoes. Meanwhile, they appear in my social media feed every day – it’s clearly the kind of guy I am.

We were walking home from dinner and I noticed a pigeon jump off a wall and land by my feet. As we progressed down the pavement, he tried to walk in step with us, every now and then cocking his pretty grey head as though he wanted to join in our conversation. If we got too far ahead of him, he might flap his wings and glide a few feet to catch up but clearly he was more flâneur than flyer. I thought perhaps he was injured, so we stopped to look at him but he appeared to be in rude health. In the end, we got to a corner and he turned off in a different direction to us; he may even have waved a wing-y goodbye. Have city pigeons become so lazy that they just like to walk to their destinations these days? Will they be demanding miniature Segways soon? Have I discovered a new species of bird?

Returning to the world of work, in March Apple TV is releasing WeCrashed, a drama series starring Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway as Adam and Rebekah Neumann, the founders of WeWork. It’s funny reading all the knowing commentaries already being written about the series: how the Neumanns sold us an overblown property company as a cultural revolution and how we were duped by their showmanship. But the truth is that people worshipped them – lapped up their “disruptor” status. They may have proved to be daft in the end but so were a lot of unwise investors.

But there is a positive cultural moment here. Writers and movie-makers are beginning to pick apart the pumped-up tech tales and narratives that have been peddled to us for so long. For example, also coming our way is Bad Blood, a film that will focus on the scandal of Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes; it’s being directed by Adam McKay and will star Jennifer Lawrence.

I have decided to get in on the act and am currently writing a script for I’ve Been Bitten!, a comedy cartoon about a family who sell their children to buy bitcoin, and am trying to get backers for Token for a Ride, in which Adam Driver plays a Svengali who persuades people that NFTs are really art (all based on genuine people). But I seem to be getting the most traction for Spin Cycle, which I am billing as a tale of “firm butts and sagging revenue” at Peloton. Wish me luck.

House News / Events

Say hello

We are hosting events in Los Angeles, Zürich and London in the coming weeks to celebrate the launch of The Monocle Book of the Nordics (and, yes, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Oslo dates will also be announced in the coming days). Come along to meet our team, have a drink or two, snack on some Nordic treats and, of course, collect your book. It would be great to see you. We’re in Los Angeles on 24 February, Zürich on 1 March and London on 3 March.

For full details, head to

The Look / Gardaí uniforms

Arresting sight

Uniforms used to be sexy (writes Alexis Self). Say what you like about those Victorian harbingers of rough justice the Metropolitan Police but in their woollen capes and pith helmets they didn’t half cut a dash through the interminable fog. Today, sartorial standards among this same organisation, which claims to be the world’s first professional police force, are as slack as the average officer’s waistband.

And across the Irish Sea this week, there has been an even graver instance of police brutality. As part of celebrations commemorating the centenary of Ireland’s An Garda Síochána police force, its commissioner unveiled new uniforms. Consisting of soft-shell and waterproof jackets, pale-blue polo shirts, operational trousers and “practical” base layers, it falls foul of even the most basic sartorial laws.

Who do we have to blame for this crime against decency? The aforementioned commissioner described the collection as a “bottom-up collaboration” (which doesn’t bode well for the trousers) designed “by Garda members, for Garda members” that focuses on “comfort, durability, protection and functionality”. Some might argue that it is churlish of me to deride professionals who seek these qualities in their work garments. But in the age of gorpcore, when A-listers dress as though they’re going on a school field trip, it can’t be difficult to design something both functional and fashion-forward.

Indeed, in places such as the UK and Republic of Ireland, where the police are largely unarmed, their uniform is arguably more important. It is, after all, one of the only things separating them from ordinary citizens, thereby endowing them with that strange metaphysical right to enforce the law.

With the thin blue line coming to resemble nothing but a hi-vis splodge, one must look to southern Europe for redress. Sure, the French gendarmerie and Italian carabinieri might regularly face allegations of brutality and corruption – but they do look chic. On street corners and in squares, as they pout and pose in aviator sunglasses, 12-eyelet boots and starched fatigues, it almost seems a shame to call on their services. Which is good, because it’s unlikely that they’ll be too keen to get those nice shiny boots of theirs scuffed up…

How We Live / Ottawa truckers

In it for the long haul

Living in a truck has its hardships (writes Tomos Lewis). “Oh, man! It’s not good,” Lloyd Crowe, a Canadian soya-bean farmer, tells me cheerily, as he clambers into the royal-blue cab of his vehicle.

The truck is festooned with placards and handwritten notes of support and is parked near Parliament Hill. It’s part of the blockade of downtown Ottawa protesting Canada’s vaccine mandates, which enters its third week today. “I never slept in my truck before I got here,” says Crowe. “And I’ve slept in it enough now to know that I don’t like it.”

Awkward sleeping conditions aside, the blockade has become self-sufficient in the supply of most necessities. Tubes of toothpaste and toilet roll are available for whoever needs them; a trailer of portable toilets is stationed near the grand Fairmont hotel; children’s play areas have been set up in the street for the young people in the convoy; and fresh, hot meals are coming in from across the region several times a day.

“We’ve delivered pizzas, doner kebabs, chicken wraps, whatever supplies they need,” a woman with a Canadian flag wrapped around her shoulders told me one dinnertime, as she served piping hot pierogi to protesters. “We’re real, true Canadians who just love Canada and want to live again. It’s just all love, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s just so beautiful.”

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

It’s these friendlier aspects of the blockade that the protesters complain isn’t being covered in the media. “It’s such a positive, energetic experience, you won’t believe it,” says Cindy Jordan, who lost her job for refusing a vaccine, and who has painted little Canadian flags on her cheeks. She’s driven three hours to be here. “It’s nothing but peace and love.”

But darker elements are still at play. On Wednesday evening, one member of the blockade leaned in to say quietly in my ear that I would be hanged if I told people that I was a journalist.

“It’s hurt us,” says Lloyd, the farmer, of the uglier aspects of the blockade. And despite the camaraderie among the truckers, the solitude inside the truck’s cab has taken its toll. “I’ve been alone,” he says, as his voice breaks and he starts to cry.

“I’m sorry,” he adds. “I’m getting emotional. There’s a lot of emotions, a lot of pent-up frustration. We thought we were all alone. My wife and I said, ‘Are we the only ones that yell at the TV every night?’ We see what’s happening in the world. And that’s why we’re all here. If we stop now, we’re done as a free nation.”

If those in the blockade have their way – despite the sentiments of the majority of Ottawa’s permanent residents, who want the protesters to go – they won’t be trucking off any time soon.

It’s a Joke / Iced gem

Touch of frost

This month’s issue of Monocle visits the countries that are dedicated to staying funny against the odds – and we heard a good few jokes along the way. To coincide with our humour special, we asked you to submit your own gags and this week’s had Monocle staffers wincing by the coffee machine. It’s Winter Olympics-themed and it goes like this:

Q: What do skiers get from sitting on cold snow too long?

A: A polaroid

Yikes. If you think you can do better, please send a joke to Alexis Self at Keep ‘em coming!

The Interrogator / Zélika García

Matters of art

Latin America’s largest art fair, Zona Maco, kicked off in Mexico City this week, the first event of its kind to take place in the past two years (writes Louis Harnett O’Meara). With more than 200 exhibitors and a footfall in the tens of thousands, it has been hotly anticipated throughout the region.

Zélika García, the fair’s founder and director, has been overseeing its growth for the best part of 20 years. She fills us in on her current work schedule (non-stop), her caffeine intake (a lot) and what’s worth seeing at Zona Maco 2022.

Tell us about your work on this year’s edition of Zona Maco.
I’m supervising every area in the fair. That means working with the creative director, the operations team, the press, our accountants – and I work a lot with the VIP section, as many are my personal friends. We’ve also just launched the Zona Maco app. It’s a 24/7 schedule.

Are there any exhibitions in particular that you’re excited to see?
I’m excited about the new project by OMR Gallery, called Lago. It’s opening a large new cultural space and gallery in Chapultepec Forest, Mexico City, as part of Art Week. It’s going to be amazing.

What news source do you wake up to?
Normally Artnet, for news in that world, and CNBC – I like trading as well.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
Nespresso, Nespresso, Nespresso. A lot!

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
I play whatever classical channel is on Spotify, to let my mind work.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
Not humming; thinking. I can run through the entire floorplan of the fair in my head, from where every one of the chairs are located down to the corners where you’ll find the bins.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
Monocle, always. I also like Gallery. And I like fashion, so Vogue. New Beauty too – it’s all about surgeries, creams, wrinkles, all of that.

Newspaper that you turn to?
Probably The New York Times. In Mexico it’s usually Reforma, though I don’t like Mexican newspapers in general – there’s always some form of spin.

Favourite bookshop?
Libros Libros Libros just opened in Mexico City – it’s really nice. La Increíble Librería is also amazing. It’s the oldest bookshop in Mexico City.

Is that a podcast in your ear?
The Art Angle [an Artnet podcast] is good for staying informed.

Who’s your cultural obsession?
Georgia O’Keeffe. She’s the reason I like art. I went to her exhibition when I was young and found her work fascinating. I admire how advanced she was for her time as well; I’m not a feminist but the things she fought for were incredibly important.

And what’s your movie genre of choice?
I like documentaries. Baraka is one of my favourites; it’s a compilation of beautiful silent footage from all over the world.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? A favourite newsreader perhaps?
I don’t – and I hate newsreaders.

Hear more from García on Tuesday’s edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’.

Culture / Watch, Read, Listen

Through the motions

‘Last Resort’, Andrew Lipstein. The line between fact and fiction is paper-thin in Andrew Lipstein’s debut novel, as its protagonist knows well. When plucky young writer Caleb Horowitz’s manuscript gets picked up by a hot-shot literary agent and the best-seller list beckons, there’s just one thing – or person – standing in his way. Avi Dietsch, an old college friend, works in publishing and in his opinion, this story isn’t Horowitz’s to tell. This is a moral drama about ambition and authorship that’s as funny and fast-paced as it is sharp and cutting.

‘Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy’, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi. The title of this film by the fêted Japanese director may sound like a mid-afternoon TV game show but this is a mature drama that offers considered meditations on fate, the choices we make and the delusions of everyday life. Hamaguchi opts to present his two-hour feature as three separate vignettes, each linked only by the centrality of chance to the narrative and their focus on female protagonists – meaning that we’re treated to three expertly crafted films in one.

‘Asha’s Awakening’, Raveena. Having grown up in the US with parents from northern India, singer Raveena Aurora maintained a connection to the Bollywood sounds that soundtracked her childhood. Certain refrains surface in her music (see the rambunctious drums in single “Rush”) and the hazy, colourful aesthetics definitely extend to her videos and on-stage persona. In this third album, her sound gets more confident: there are healthy helpings of 1990s R&B and contemporary hip-hop – all smoothed out by her crystal-clear voice.

Outpost News / KPTZ FM, Port Townsend, Washington

Golden sands

KPTZ 91.9 FM proudly serves the 10,000-strong community of Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula, the most northwestern point of the US. Largely a holiday destination for Seattleites, there was an absence of local media until a community radio station was established in 2011. It has been on air ever since, describing itself as a radio station “by the people for the people”.

Self-styled as an eclectic station, there are weekly programmes on Brazilian music, African music and even guest hosts from the local high school. Programme director Larry Stein tells us about Port Townsend’s thriving music scene and how integral broadcasting is to his life.

Image: Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

How did you get involved with the radio station?
I had been in public radio since 1985 in Seattle and Los Angeles, and had recently retired out here. I was at the farmer’s market one day in 2009 and saw a stand fundraising to build a radio station. They didn’t know anything about public radio but I did, so I joined the board of directors and became programme director. We built it from the ground up. We now have 35,000 people in our listening area and we have people streaming online from all over the world.

What does your broadcasting schedule look like?
We have 120 volunteers who play the music they like and people love it. We play everything. At the latest schedule, there are about 57 different voices you will hear in a week. We broadcast from 08.00 until 22.00 and 80 per cent of that is local-originated broadcast. We had a programme about shell fishing at midnight and we also feature a show called Paleo Nerds, hosted by Ray Troll, who is a satirical artist from Alaska. He’s famous here; most people have some of his fish artwork in their homes. We have a lot of old folk music and a lot of music festivals. But we want the station to survive, so we have to include the younger people as well.

What are some memorable broadcasting moments?
Every summer there are music festivals and bands come through and visit the station to play for us. There is an active group here that plays choro, which is upbeat Brazilian music. We have a host who specialises in Brazilian music and a whole cult of people who love it. They squeeze six musicians and their instruments, some clarinets and guitars, into our tiny studio and play fabulous music. That’s a highlight every year. We also have Port Townsend Film Festival in September – our crew do remote broadcasts covering that. And we are proud to be able to broadcast when there is a power outage due to a storm. With our battery-powered radio, we can be a lifeline for the community.

What events coming up will you be covering?
We are looking forward to the Wooden Boat Festival later in the year. Our community has been deprived of live music, so we can’t wait for those to start again in the summer.

Photo of the Week / ‘Selbstportrait (836-1)’

Face value

Acclaimed visual artist Gerhard Richter, who celebrated his 90th birthday on Wednesday, is the subject of four exhibitions in three different cities across Germany this month (writes Georgia Bisbas). These four retrospectives will commemorate a lifetime of work, showcasing Richter’s myriad skills across different mediums.

Sies and Höke in Düsseldorf is displaying Richter’s drawings from 1963 to 2020, while the Kunstbibliothek at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin is showing a collection of his books. And it is in Dresden, Richter’s hometown, where a series of intimate family portraits will be displayed at The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen.

Image: Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

‘Selbstportrait (836-1)’ is on loan from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The mixed-media portrait, taken in 1996, is based on a photograph of Richter from the sprawling Atlas collection of images and newspaper cuttings he has amassed since the 1960s. Painted with oils onto linen canvas, it represents the dialogue between photography and painting, abstract and figurative, present and distant, that characterises so much of his work.

‘Gerhard Richter at the Albertinum’, The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden runs until 5 May 2022.


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