Doing a double-take on Monocle magazine

Dear all,

A couple of weeks ago I bought a copy of Monocle, a new magazine created by Tyler Brûlé. He’s that Canadian publisher I suppose is best known for launching the highly successful style and fashion magazine Wallpaper a few years back. monoclecover2.jpg

The magazine caught my eye not only because I’d recently read a short write-up about his new venture, but that the May edition has two articles on things near and dear to my heart: one on bicycles and cycling, another on the city of Hamburg. Always on the lookout for English-language reading material that is neither too British nor too American, I thought the 12-euro gouge price was worth it, so I bought it without even flipping much through the pages.

I don’t think I’ll pick up another copy though. It has the look and feel of a magazine whose publisher couldn’t decide whether to come out with another glossy fashion, gadget, design and superficial urban lifestyle work, or something similar but printed on weightier matte paper to convey a sense of gravitas to the social and political angles given to some of the articles. The result is a mish-mash of disconnected stuff, and although you’ve enjoyed reading what they’d bothered to print, you’re left wishing the subjects had been given a little more time and research. monocledoggie2.jpg Sprinkled throughout are what amounts to printable soundbites, cutesy headlines for various bits of this and that, a few half-hearted fashion pages that don’t set well on the greyish paper, an astoundingly incongruous pull-out manga cartoon that just screams, “see – we’re cutting edge!” and you have to ask yourself: just where are they hoping to find people to read this? Think in-flight mag with a dash of shit or hell thrown in now and then in an effort to chase the blandness away.

The section on Hamburg was particularly disappointing. I’ll admit it was fun comparing the writer’s idea of a wild night on the town or a cool place to live with my own, but I already knew that we don’t live in the trendiest neighbourhood around, and that going out more often is going to depend a lot on when the new bar-and-restaurant smoking laws kick in. By that time the places listed will have either closed or I’ll be 97 and long since swapped verbal incontinence for physical. monoclemanga2.jpgThere haven’t been any street riots or mass arrests outside our front door over the past four weeks either, so we must be doing something right. Pity those who jumped at the chance to take his cool-places-to-live recommendations at face value.

The absolute killer is the Hamburg section’s main article.   If you are prone to seizures or cringe uncontrollably, I advise you to read no further.

Indeed, the politicians want to reposition Hamburg as a benchmark for all modern cities. And if that’s not enough to convince you of the city’s investment potential, just imagine how you could tell people “I’m a Hamburger” with relish.

Half-blind and shaking, I nearly sliced off a fingertip on a loose razor blade scrambling to find the Visine bottle at the bottom of the drugs drawer, desperate for a good squirt or two to wash away the aftermath of coming across such an awful, AWFUL pair of sentences in a publication I actually plunked down good money for. Meaningless, biz-speaking wanker’s twaddle followed by the oldest, hoariest, groan-and-gag-me joke about Hamburg in the book?


Just in case nobody believes it…

OK, I admit to coming out with a few cornball one-liners, some tired and reworked word turds myself, but hey, this is a blog fer crissakes. I’m not counting on it to pay the rent, and you sure as hell don’t have to throw away 12 euros for it.

All for now,


PS: Now that the initial shock has long subsided and I’ve forced myself to take a second look at the offending article, I must give the writer the benefit of the doubt. After all, who would dare submit a closing like that and expect to be asked to write anything for them ever again? This is what happens when you let Homer Simpson some editor/desk jockey have final say over your copy.

19 Responses to “Doing a double-take on Monocle magazine”

  1. May 23, 2007 at 8:34 am

    I’ve just noticed the searches that coughed up this blog….

    total shaved in German saunas? camel dung hash?

    and I thought it was all about grammar and grandmothers

  2. May 23, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Speaking of ” English-language reading material that is neither too British nor too American” I read a book some time in the early 90’s written by a Canadian journalist, but I’ve loaned out the book, and forgotten the title and author. Maybe you can help me recover at least the knowledge of what I read! It was two books in one. The first book was read from front to back, and contained crtical accounts/essays on corporate/committe America. The other book was read by turning the book upside down and reading in the other direction – a documentation of the genocide in Cambodia. It underlined contrast between the complacent West and the horrors going on in the rest of the world. Could be rewritten today for Somalia, perhaps.

  3. May 23, 2007 at 10:10 am

    P.S. The author should be shot for that relish line. Just to be safe, shoot the editor too.

  4. May 23, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    I’ll have to check on that book and get back to you. Meantime, let’s not resort to violence, mkay?

    nurse: that camel dung hash reference goes back to my very first post, but why german saunas should cough up this blog is beyond me. btw, have i bitched about grammar? bad usage maybe. as for spelling… don’t get me started! spellcheck only goes so far, but it won’t catch the difference between lose and loose, it’s and its and such. damn, there i go anyway.

  5. May 23, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    Yeah you’re right. One shouldn’t say things like that on the Internet, even in sarcasm. They shouldn’t be shot, but they should be made to sort the garbage into the three containers at the Hamburg McDonalds.

  6. May 23, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    that would be a most appropriate punishment to fit the crime.

  7. 7 David
    June 26, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Couldn’t agree more with you on your analysis of Monocle…. Superficial, image driven, pretentious nonsense…

  8. August 21, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    Nice blog piece indeed. And I certainly wont being buying Monocle anytime soon, and come on lets face it Wallpaper could only have been dreamt up by a person with a name like Tyler Brule. I just hope his parents were playing a practical joke… but you will probably inform me he changed his name to it – proving my point even further!

    So I’m thinking about going to Hamburg for a trip (It has to be a bit more happening than Malmo, Sweden)… I was keen to see what YOU would suggest are must do’s… and if theres anyplace you know where the camels and the dung are selling the shiiit?😉

    luv ya work

  9. August 22, 2007 at 5:56 am

    hello anderson – believe it or not, Tyler Brule changed his last name to Brûlé to more reflect his French heritage. do you ever catch his columns in the IHT or Financial Times? In the FT he had this unintentionally hilarious one called Fast Lane which most every time had a line something like this: on the way to Stockholm to see my lover Sven after taking care of business in Tokyo, Sydney and Rio last week, I was thinking about…

    mind you: nothing against him personally, never met the man and never read Wallpaper.

    About Hamburg – it does have a lot to offer, so tell me a bit about what you’re into! You can always drop me an email: kismac at freenet dot de
    cheers – ian

  10. 10 Daniel
    December 3, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    I bought the last issue and just started reading articles. it’s total shit. articles about how queen rania of jordan is bringing fashion to jordan.. almost glorifying al-moudi(the richest man in africa) because he brought black eyed peas to play in ethiopia and also because he creates so many jobs.. by biulding luxury hotels in Ethiopia. etc etc.
    this magazine is for people who live far far far from reality. the one-sided articles lack so much information, so much reality.. it’s scary how magazines like this can exist and receive so many good reviews.

  11. 11 Daniel
    December 3, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    oh and brule became brûlé to show his french heritage? mmmyeah.
    the accents just make him look more jetset.

  12. 12 ian
    February 14, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    i dont know why everyone is hating this magazine sooooooo much i reckon its awesome. you think thats its not well researched but i assume that you’ve been living in some americanized bubble of if its in africa then everyone must be poor under some crazy dictatorship and so on and so on and add blood diamonds and a cinematic adapation with a well known white actor and unkown black actor and thats it. i’m 22 australian student and i’ve visited alot of the places in the magazine and lets say they’ve captured the atmosphere exactly. even snippets where they mentioned growing racism in switzerland and everyone would think thats a lie (OMG not switzerland they’re neutral). but its not, i’ve been there and have friends there its all true. i’m sick of people thinking that things are not true becasue it doesnt meet their expectations. and whats wrong with the manga? they try to introduce a form of literature which millions of people read every day and respect, and you throw it out as “try hard” cause you don’t know how to read it.

  13. February 14, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Hello Ian,

    Where do I begin? Africa? Please check out my posts on travels to South Africa or the page “A Month in South Africa and Lesotho.” Perhaps after a wade through, you’ll not be so quick to draw conclusions about my point of view. You might also be surprised to learn that I do keep up on the news and yes, I am aware of the growing intolerance toward immigrants, not just in Switzerland but elsewhere in Europe. The right wing slobbers forth from time to time, and it’s our duty to wipe the spittle off their chins and set them straight.

    Manga: No problem with it as a form of expression, it just seems out of place in the mazazine. Doesn’t fit in. Trying to please everybody, they please nobody. Or a few, it seems.

    I don’t hate the magazine, I just think it’s not worth reading. How can you hate something you have chosen to ignore? I find it about as pretentious as its editor. Have you ever read his columns?

  14. 14 ian
    May 26, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Just came across this again and i got to say that was a really nice reply to my comment looking back on it i think i was a little bit harsh. but yeah i do agree that few months on, i do see that the editor is a bit pretentious. ( and i do choose to ignore his columns). but saying that i still read the magazine and enjoy it. i do apologise for the quick judgments i made of you and i will read “A month in South Africa” (i feel kind of guilty from the comment i left) . thanks for the reply.
    Have a good one!

    cheers from australia

  15. May 26, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Oh hey, I’m happy you came back for another look! Your apologies accepted, Ian.
    I almost picked up the magazine again the other day… then balked at the 12 euro cover price.

  16. June 15, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Was googling Monocole and couldn’t agree more about the Fastlane column. Always,always,always “the sleek lines of Reykjavik airport’

  17. 17 Paul Varjak
    August 29, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Tyler is a complete meglomaniac, apparently he’s gone back to his Wallpaper days when spending is going through the roof, (which meant he had to sell to Time as he couldn’t afford to pay the wages and was then ousted by Time because of his need to take private jets everywhere.) and the magazine just isn’t selling, despite the fact he needs to see and sign off everything, and no-one can made any suggestions. Pretentious is an understatement, and the latest rumour is he’s trying to sell the magazine already, hope who ever buys it knows the real numbers on the books, both on his spend and the magazines being sold across the counter.

  18. August 29, 2008 at 11:33 am

    How very interesting! Thanks, Paul, for posting that update. I’ve been ignoring the rag and his Fast Lane column in the Financial Times as best I can for the longest time. Maybe now that the fun’s starting again I’ll take another look.🙂

  19. February 11, 2013 at 10:14 am

    My goodness. I bought this and it’s truely rubbish. The articles are just filler, with a liberal sprinking of wikipedia facts.

    The wikipedia page for monocle explains it – the magazine is aimed at ‘jetsetters’ who recieve free subscriptions – nobody who takes an interest in what they read would actually buy this twoddle.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

My email

britbeach / at / yahoo dot ca

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 591 other followers

SUBSCRIBE! Or I’ll post again.

This blog is best consumed with a glass of wine and often a grain of salt. Take a random look:


This blog has been visited

  • 561,467 times.

A few reasons why I sometimes get homesick





More Photos

1oo% Blogthings-free since January, 2007

and one last factoid about me: according to these people, i can type per minute

OK, that wasn’t the last thing on the sidebar, but this is:

%d bloggers like this: