Saturday 2 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 2/3/2024

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

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While much of the northern hemisphere feels on the cusp of spring, at times it feels as though it’s still winter – so you might find yourself asking, what to wear? This week, two British designers provide us with transitional style tips, while a few politicians weigh in on the accessory of the season. Meanwhile, The Concierge explores the ancient charms of Montenegro and we sing the praises of the latest Latin music releases. But first, Andrew Tuck flicks through the channels…

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

The opener / Andrew Tuck

Reel life

Reading the Oscar nominations, I realised that our household’s film-watching has been very off-pace in recent months. So, in quick succession, evenings this week have been spent watching Anatomy of a Fall, The Holdovers and The Zone of Interest. It’s the latter, Jonathan Glazer’s film about the Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his family, who live next to the concentration camp, that settles on you. It leaves you wondering how up close any of us could be to evil and still try to carry on as normal.

I left my phone at home by mistake this week and it was OK. The other half was working from home so, every hour or two, I would phone him from my desk to have my text and WhatsApp messages read aloud. He makes for a pretty good PA but he could, perhaps, be a bit chirpier when I interrupt his day for the 10th time.

The main problem with my enforced digital detox was when I had to dash to an appointment at the dental hygienist in the rain. The practice has just moved to a new clinic and, though I checked Google Maps before I departed, I realised on arrival (on my bicycle, in the rain) that I couldn’t remember where the surgery was situated precisely. It was only when I saw someone dressed in a dentist-y outfit that I was able to ascertain the exact location of my destination (thankfully she wasn’t just someone en route to an afternoon fancy-dress party). Mental mapping needs attention. I’ll get my new PA on that straight away.

After watching The Zone of Interest, I spent the next few hours reading about Höss, his capture and trial, and his wife Hedwig, played by Sandra Hüller. In real life, she remarried after the execution of her husband, who she ultimately betrayed, and moved to the US, where she lived out the rest of her years. How did people slip back into the shadows as if nothing had happened?

I am a good flosser (as in dental, not the dance move) but as dentists chip away bits of plaque, the sensation makes you feel as though an entire archaeological dig is occurring in your mouth. I was very disappointed when the hygienist failed to find a Roman coin or two by the end of the proceedings.

Macy the fox terrier has spent a few days in the office with me this week. Many years ago, when she first started coming to work, she would follow me all day, making sure that I wasn’t going to leave her behind. But, over time, her confidence has grown and she has found her preferred spot, far away from me, on a sofa in the editorial meeting room. Now I often find myself asking colleagues whether they know her whereabouts, only to be told that she’s joined a budget meeting or is attending someone’s job interview. Confidence born of repetition.

And if all else fails this week, there’s always The Holdovers. It might be a preppy-boy angst spectacular, a new Dead Poets Society, but that’s often just fine. And it’s got the moving performance of Da’Vine Joy Randolph to top things off.

Image: Alamy

The Look / Pinned statements

Stick it to ‘em

How did lapel pins become such a large part of sartorial political persuasion (writes Robert Bound)? The recent super-proliferation of lapel pins is troubling. Recently, certain Second Amendment-fetishising Republican members of Congress have been seen sporting badges in the shape of semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifles to exhibit their belief in the right to bear arms. After all, what says, “Let’s talk about this like grown-ups” in the wake of another US massacre better than wearing a gun on your jacket?

Poland’s Donald Tusk has been doing the rounds sporting a “Million Hearts” lapel pin. It has become his party’s de facto logo and it’s surely a handy way for Tusk to remind himself to have a little heart when dealing with intransigence back home. Aesthetically, it’s a shocker though; it seems to say, “Use my organs for research if I get hit by a bus”.

The most baffling pins are also the most newsworthy: Benjamin Netanyahu wearing the Israeli flag on his jacket? Really, Ben? You’re on that side? We would never have known! And woe betide any US presidential hopeful that staggers to the lectern sans Stars and Stripes. It seems to be the only thing that both Joe Biden and Donald Trump can remember. Barack Obama stopped wearing flag pins during his 2007 campaign, believing that they “had become a substitute for true patriotism” – and a right ruckus ensued.

We would recommend raising the standard of discourse by swapping the pin for a pocket square and allowing a little elegance to do the talking. Beware: in North Korea government-mandated badges of the Kims are still ubiquitous – and we don’t want to be like them.

Culture cuts / Best in Latin pop

Fresh beat

People are turning to Latin music in unprecedented numbers – and the genre is continuing to grow in markets around the world. Here, we’ve compiled a list of new tracks that you shouldn’t miss.

‘Young Miko: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol.58’, Young Miko and Bzrp. Bzrp – the Argentinian producer best known for his viral freestyle music sessions – joins forces with Puerto Rican rapper Young Miko on this breezy track, which follows her on a journey from Puerto Rico to Mallorca.

‘Qlona’, Karol G and Peso Pluma. The Grammy award-winning Colombian pop star and Mexico’s Peso Pluma sing over a soft dembow beat in their new single.

‘Perro Negro’, Bad Bunny and Feid. Bad Bunny and the Medellín-born Feid’s song was released in October 2023 but it’s still charting in Colombia and Ecuador.

‘La Diabla’, Xavi. Xavi, a 19-year-old Mexican-American singer from Phoenix, Arizona, became the first artist of Mexican descent to reach number one with a solo song on Spotify’s global chart with this hit single.

‘Te Mata’, Kali Uchis. Kali Uchis puts a fresh spin on the bolero genre in “Te Mata”, a breakup song that sees the Colombian-American singer grapple with heartbreak and overcome the loss of a previous relationship.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

How we live / Vegan language

Mincing words

There might come a point – and it might not be that far off – when vegetarian alternatives to meat become indistinguishable from the real thing, in terms of taste, texture, smell, nutritional value and, most crucially, price (writes Andrew Mueller). At which point – and this is an unregenerate carnivore writing – the continuing consumption of meat, and the pollution generated by its production, will become extremely difficult to justify.

In that context, a new decree issued by the government of France could almost be seen as a modern equivalent of King Canute’s famous demonstration of his powerlessness before the remorselessly incoming tide. Henceforth, meat-free products sold in France will no longer be able to call themselves by meat-related names.

The law is a response to whining by French livestock farmers who apparently fear that the passing consumer might believe that something clearly labelled as a vegetarian sausage or vegan steak will contain the juicy, bloody flesh of some hapless mammal. The livestock farmers might also fear that one of their customers samples such an inadvertent purchase and decides that it isn’t bad. Other terms now off-limits to French Quorn-mongers include “escalope”, “filet” and “prime ham”, though “burger” has, for some reason, evaded censure.

All of this is no sillier – at the risk of tempting fate – than forbidding electric vehicles from calling themselves “cars”. It is difficult to avoid the dank whiff of a culture war: elsewhere in the world, melodramatic conservatives have affected fury at fast food retailers offering meat-free options. As is usually the case, the theatrical anger is displacement by people who can see the future coming and suspect that they won’t enjoy it.

Image: Zed Nelson

The Monocle Concierge / Kotor, Montenegro

Stepping to it

The Monocle Concierge is our purveyor of top tips and delectable recommendations for your next trip. If you’re planning to go somewhere nice and would like some advice, click here. We will answer one question a week.

Dear Concierge,

I’m travelling to Kotor, Montenegro, with a group of friends. We’re seasoned travellers and regularly travel in a group. Any tips on cultural or historical highlights to visit and indulgent culinary treats would be most welcome.

Thank you in advance,

Darren Smith

Dear Darren,

Timing your visit is crucial. During the summer season the views across Kotor’s bay are blocked by large cruise ships, whose thousands of passengers choke the narrow lanes of Stari Grad. Either avoid high season altogether or keep clear of the Old Town during the middle of the day, when crowds potter about its plazas and passages. Make your way to the city walls, which went under construction in the 9th century, and climb the 1,350 steps to St John’s Fortress. It’s a physical test but one that’s rewarded with spectacular views. You can also reach the city’s old defence structures by boat from the harbour. Previously hidden – and top secret – Tito-era submarine tunnels are now open to visitors. After gawping at graffiti written by Yugoslav conscripts, carry on to the Blue Grotto. In this cave the light is an iridescent aquamarine but the waters are crystal clear. Be sure not to miss the morning market for food, where you can gather a variety of locally-produced prsut and sir (cured ham and cheese) for your hike up the hill. There’s also Galion, a restaurant by the water that offers well-presented seafood.

Image: Hurst


Game changer

Armen Sarkissian was the president of Armenia between 2018 and 2022. Before entering politics, he was a diplomat serving as Armenia’s ambassador to the UK, EU and Nato, as well as a physics professor. He also co-created the popular 1990s Tetris spin-off Wordtris. His latest book, published by Hurst, is The Small States Club: How Small Smart States Can Save The World.

You grew up a citizen of a large state [the USSR] and became a citizen of a small state. What was the difference?
In the USSR, your life was designed for you. The rhetoric was that you would become a professor, a member of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union, get a three-bedroom flat, a luxury car called a Volga and maybe a medal – and, then, you’d die.

Was science in the Soviet Union subject to official ideology?
It was very difficult to impose communist ideology on science, except on the question of whether there was a God or not. I had these discussions with colleagues at Cambridge University, including Stephen Hawking. He concluded that because we are on the way to understanding how the universe works, there is no need for God. My conclusion, however, is that there is God – and it is the absolute beauty of nature.

Is there much overlap between science and politics?
When Armenia became independent in 1991, the first president asked me to establish an embassy in the UK. I was a scientist; I could teach anyone at the Foreign Office mathematics and physics but I knew nothing about diplomacy. So I learned from them. But there is a difference between being the first ambassador of a new, small republic and a diplomat from an established state – they have data. In my case it was all creative work – and being a scientist, I really enjoyed that.

What have you been reading lately?
When you’re working on a book, the amount that you read always decreases. But there are a lot of things I want to read in the future. I want to go back to Hemingway. I read his books when I was very young. I have found that whatever I read that impressed me when I was younger often leaves a different impression on me as an adult.

Any movies or TV programmes?
The obvious answer is Oppenheimer. I really enjoyed Cillian Murphy’s performance and the story was fascinating. But it’s difficult to know how much of the plot is fabricated. My team at the computer centre at the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union created Wordtris in 1991, a game that was sold together with Tetris. When the film Tetris was released in 2023, I knew that half of it was not real.

How do you like to spend Saturday?
I have learned that I didn’t spend enough time with my children when they were growing up, so I love to spend time with my three grandchildren and learn from them. This is one of the most fascinating things that happens in life. A person is born with zero knowledge and in a year or two, it’s a full human being.

Image: Tung Walsh

Shopping / Tiptoe x Monocle

Chairs and graces

Created in collaboration with Monocle, this exclusive edition of the Lou stool comes from French furniture brand Tiptoe. Tiptoe was founded in 2015 by duo Matthieu Bourgeaux and Vincent Quesada in Paris, with the aim of reimagining iconic home pieces.

With its sustainable, European oak body and powder-coated steel legs, the Lou stool is a perfect illustration of what makes Tiptoe tick. And the design is as sharp as always: the stool can double up as a bedside table, plant ledge or as an extra seat at a dinner party, making it a useful addition to any home.
Shop here.

Image: Sunspel

Wardrobe update / Sunspel X Nigel Cabourn

Joint forces

The latest collaboration between Sunspel and fashion designer Nigel Cabourn is a British match made in heaven. The collection, which debuted at Pitti Immagine Uomo in January, fuses Sunspel’s 1860s heritage with Cabourn’s military-inspired style. “The collaboration draws from vintage British Army and Navy influences and incorporates sportswear elements,” says Cabourn. “This capsule reflects themes that I have embraced throughout my career.”

Sunspel’s classic T-shirts, manufactured in the label’s factory in the Derbyshire town of Long Eaton since 1937, have been reimagined by Cabourn with a pocket detail and navy- or olive-and-white stripes. A pair of gym-ready trainers has also been included in the collection with the help of British shoemaker Goral, while knit mesh vests and smock tops add a touch of vintage athleticism. For our spring workouts, we have our eye on the ripstop shorts inspired by Sunspel’s 1947 boxer shorts.;

For more sunny styles and inspired looks, pick up a copy of Monocle’s latest issue. Or subscribe to join the club.


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