Friday, July 13, 2007

Monocle Magazine And The Best Cities To Live In

Travel deadtime is for junk-fooding on magazines: Time, GQ, Esquire, Foreign Affairs, Economist, Monocle...
So I was telling someone about Monocle: several months old, founded by Tyler Wallpaper* Brûlé, "original coverage in global affairs, business, culture and design", cross-processed photos, monochrome prints, graphic design, product design, urban design, some parts glossy, some parts good rough paper...

At one point I said, When I grow up, perhaps I will write for Monocle. But only if they ask nicely.

Well, stuff Monocle, he said transcontinentally, when you come over, we can use the private jet. And all the splendour of Europe (and the east coast of America) will be but an inflight movie away.

What are you, I laughed, a dinosaur from the power-suited conspicuous-consumptive 80s?

Monocle, he continued sniffily, is for people who can't get any. Porn for plebs who can only stare longingly through shopwindows at the goodies inside. Come inside the shop. Smell and taste. Live the life. No friend of mine is going to stand outside whining like some miserable mongrel.

Transcontinental obnoxiousness aside, Monocle does actually remind me of Playboy. (The Playboy story is that thanks to my housemate in uni who, when he wasn't condemning me to hell for not being Christian, was giving me Playboy for Christmas.) Playboy isn't just any old lurid topshelf girlie. Hugh Hefner was selling the Playboy lifestyle very much like Tyler is selling the Monocle lifestyle: a intelligent, finely-written magazine for the well-heeled, informing the already well-informed about wine, politics, cigars, cars and air-brushed ladies (ok, none of that last bit in Monocle. Tyler's sexual preference means there're gratuitous photos of well-built boys in swim trunks). Oh wait. That's, like, all the men's glossies nowadays. It was the bunny, Hugh, that did you in.

And Playboy digressions aside, it is significant that the July/August 2007 issue of Monocle is all about "the best places to call home". It is even more significant that one of those places is actually home, Singapore. No, really. There it is, clear as day, in slot 17 of the Top 20 Liveable Cities. All together now: dun pray pray ah. Criteria for choices here.

While, maybe, 100% of complainy Singapore-residents are still wah lau-ing the notion over kopi and teh (and 95% of them are really working out how this new information translates into winning 4D numbers), Monocle goes on to interview a bunch of people about the characteristics of a perfect city:
Imperfect cities, says Bernard Khoury the architect from Beirut, that have contradictions and a dynamic nature keep me interested.

Cleanliness and safety, says John So the Lord Mayor of Melbourne.

A city like Dicken's London, "that marvellous labyrinth of dark alleys, secrets, surprises, extreme economic inequalities, coincidences, possibilities, where every kind of human imperfection and eccentricity finds it's in gross imperfection that perfection lies", says Jonathan Raban.

Harmony between individuals and their lifestyle, says Edward Tuttle the architect and designer from Paris.

A city with chaos, noise, its own distinctive smell, says Teresa Sapey the architect from Madrid.


Convenience, safety, peace, diversity, music, art, design, technology, parks, green spaces, efficient transportation, yummy food, good coffee, sprawling bookstores, funky music shops, spiffy urban planning, space for organic urban growth, countryside within easy reach, energised creative residents, clean government, healthy employment rate, competent medical care: all good to have. But an ideal city, in this passing-away world, must allow us to offer free citizenship in the Best-Ever-City-To-Come without fetter or harrassment.

And of that Best-Ever-City-To-Come, what is there to say? Who can tell us? What words can describe it?

(Postscript: So I was telling someone about Time magazine's summer special on food: how food does more to unite the nations than the United Nations, the pictorial contrast of different folks with their week's supply of nosh, how Nestlé caters to local taste so that there are 200 different types of Nescafé and so their French vanilla ice-cream is yellow and tastes like a frozen crème anglaise while their German vanilla ice-cream is much whiter and more buttery, and about Mark Brownstein - Food Hunter; scouring the world for exotic ingredients and matchmaking them with daring chefs for mind-blowing culinary experiments (or not).

And at one point I said, When I grow up...

And I heard eyes rolling in their sockets, transcontinentally.)

(Post-postscript: The first flyer shoved into my hand upon return to Singapore was for Tan Pin Pin's Invisible City.
Invisible City
Urban introspection is in.)

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At July 13, 2007 5:50 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i vote helsinki!
oi maamme!

At July 16, 2007 11:11 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

want to watch invisible cities with me next week? i e-mail u later.

- D


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