You Call That A City Guide, Monocle?

I have extremely conflicted feelings when it comes to Monocle, a magazine that covers everything from world issues to what the next hottest bag designer will be. On one hand I think they’re slightly brilliant. The design of the magazine is pretty flawless, using a tight and concise grid system and only photos taken on film, they have high standards and they’re stories delve into areas of the world not covered by by pretty much anyone else. On the other hand though, I can find the magazine and it’s editor in chief Tyler Brûlé extremely pretentious. I have no idea what type of person enjoys all the things featured in the magazine, but it’s certainly not me, as I make much less than 100k a year, nor do I travel around the world going to day spas. Nonetheless, I applaud the magazine for the niche it fills.

But I visited the website last week (a beautifully seamless extension of the magazine) and came upon a city guide showcasing the top 25 business and resort cities in the world. Curious, I took a gander at the Los Angeles guide, curious to see what made the cut. Reading it through it, my jaw dropped and I couldn’t help but laugh at the most ludicrous list I’ve ever read. Read under the cut for a long winded rant about how Monocle totally screwed up this list.

The list starts off with essentials, the ‘what you need to know’ about Los Angeles. The first item is, “Nobody walks anywhere. For trips of more than two blocks expect to buckle up.” Well, that first sentence is partially true, the people of Los Angeles are forced to drive a lot because of our lack of decent public transportation. But the way it’s phrased makes it sound like pretentious fucks who don’t walk anywhere. The funny thing is, Los Angeles is the 9the best cit of walking as calculated by, my particular neighborhood scoring a 95 out of 100.

Their 5th essential item is a really deep one: “Never ask for a second basket of bread at dinner, you may provoke an intervention. Carbohydrates are to be consumed in private.” I’m guessing this is the writer’s attempt at being funny, but as the point sits in a list titled Essentials, I was expecting something a bit more poignant I suppose. Their 9th point made me laugh though: “An hour to spare? Head for Ralph’s to do a bit of A-list celebrity spotting.” Now, imagine the biggest supermarket chain store in your town… that’s all Ralph’s is, and though you might spot a celebrity, this extremely laughable, especially depending upon the Ralph’s you happen to be visiting. But their 10th and final point is the icing on the cake: “Expect to get the brush-off at parties unless you’re incredibly well-connected.” Right. We as Angelenos are all pretentious pricks, refusing to talk to anyone.

Moving on to the meat of the list, the ‘where to visits’, the list sounds like a list written by a tourist written for tourists. Living in Los Angeles I don’t stay in hotels, so that part is slightly moot to me, but then they get to dining, things get silly. They’re idea for “Mid-morning coffee?” Any Peet’s Coffee in LA. Right, that’s a side step from saying Starbucks, instead of eschewing for the ultra-hipster, yet delicious and always friendly Intellgentsia in Silverlake. What if you need “Dinner on your own?” They choose Fatburger, one of the dive-iest, fattest, probably grossest chain o hamburger joints in Los Angeles. Instead they could have chosen one of the best places to get a hamburger in all of the Los Angeles area, Father’s Office, which also serves about a hundred beers on tap as well as some of the tastiest shoe string fries I’ve ever had. The kicker when it comes to food though, is in the Shopping section under “Something you can’t get anywhere else.” It’s a place called Pink’s, a hot dog stand that has become a landmark here in Los Angeles, but it’s also one of the largest tourist attractions and features the most over-hyped hot dog ever. IT’S JUST A FRIGGING HOT DOG. The line can get up to 100 people long, and you can expect to wait over an hour for something no so thrilling.

Under they’re reading section they give you one suggestion, Book Soup, which is a nice store, but overly crammed with stuff and parking isn’t always the easiest. Instead there are two that stick out in my mind, Hennessy + Ingalls in Santa Monica which features a huge selection of art related books and magazines, and then Skylight Books in Los Feliz, which has expanded to two stores, one for traditional literature and one for art books and magazines. They never fail to impress and they both have incredibly large collections.

Shopping is continued with bland choices like Barney’s and Fred Segal, which honestly aren’t that great and are ridiculously overpriced. Instead they could have named a hand full of interesting boutique shops like Opening Ceremony, the spanking new CConfederacy (which I wrote about here), or American Rag. These are the kind of stores that make Los Angeles worth shopping in, and there are probably another 30 or so that I could mention in addition.

Their suggestion for “Two hour Tour” seemed a bit laughable, The Griffith Observatory and The Getty, both of which would take much more than two hours to enjoy. The Getty is a HUGE museum, like epic, with several buildings filled with tons of art, as well as an outdoor garden where you can stroll and lay in the grass. The other funny thing is that these are also on the opposite ends of town from each other, and would take you at least 30 minutes to get from one to another, and that’s not taking into consideration parking.

This last point was pretty much the last fuck you in the guide, the Transport section: “Taxis or limousines everywhere, or hire yourself an Escalade and ride around like a true Angeleno.” Really, Monocle? REALLY?! You mean the .001% of people here who can afford one? This was the final nail in the coffin for me, the list is utter shit.

I guess I had higher hopes, or expected more from Monocle, simply because they seem to take such pride in everything they do, but like I said, this list was written by a tourist for tourists. I’ve only lived in Los Angeles for about 5 years now, but I take my city seriously, and reading things like this just pisses me off and honestly makes the people here sound like the stereotypes that are portrayed on cheesy TV shows. Maybe I should writer “The Mid-20’s/Gay/Hipster/Blogger/Angeleno Transplant’s Guide to Los Angeles?” The rest of the cities featured are listed at the bottom of the page, so take a look and see if your city made the cut, and whether it was featured in the light you think it deserves.


18 Comments You Call That A City Guide, Monocle?

  1. StefinMTL November 2, 2008 at 3:53 PM


    Half of the time i’m like “For real, Tyler”? Your post made me recall a particular in which one of his writers had a bunch of suggestions to make concerning the commercial development of some obscuuuuuure port in Iceland (maybe?) and how it could be a major hub of ray ray ray..pure filler, i got to the end of it and was like “huh?”. I find myself not relating or even aspiring to relate more often than i’m inspired/brought to action. They had an article about Montreal (where i live) a few months back and aside from the strange sense of pride that i had reading about the city that i now call home, i was like “huh?”.

    Check out his column in the Life section of the Financial Post (UK) – Hoooooly shit. You’ll die.

    That said, i still think that he’s “genius” and the stacks of early edition wallpapers (and admittedly, a few issues of monocle) in my (childhood) bedroom can attest to that.

    Wallpaper was good cause it had focus. Spruce (3 issues, each brilliant) was my favourite. The one in between about cars may still be around but it kinda sucked..There was supposed to be one about sports that I may actually own a copy of…More vapour.

    Oh wait, its not supposed to be about form or the content is it? Its just an ad selling device…okay, well in that case he’s doing a phenomenal job.


  2. StefinMTL November 2, 2008 at 3:56 PM

    C’mon dawg, you know why libraries are closed on Sundays…

  3. Bobby November 2, 2008 at 3:56 PM

    Glad to see I’m not alone on this, and yes, Monocle is an incredible vehicle for advertising partners, so he does get points on that one.

    Maybe I’m just jealous? haha…

  4. StefinMTL November 2, 2008 at 4:48 PM

    One day, Bobby.
    Your blog is still winning…keep it up.

  5. Marc November 2, 2008 at 6:41 PM

    I am with you Bobby. This is just hopeless… For half a second, I was tempted to say this was a generation thing. Thinking about it, Tyler must have displayed the same condescending arrogance and self-loving superficiality for most of his life.

  6. S November 2, 2008 at 7:06 PM

    I’m an Aussie, I just read the entry for Sydney. It’s not too bad. I don’t know alot of restaurants, but the Essentials are spot-on.

    What struck me though, reading it, is that it seems so sponsored. The same bar came up two or three times for instance.

    I think the recommendations were picked based on who was paying to be recommended mostly.

    In Australia this still leads to an accurate article because we don’t have alot of stuff here. The places that can afford to pay to be recommended pretty much are the best (for this mag’s target audience anyway). Other good stuff in Australia is couterculture or non-existant. And anyone who can’t pay for an ad is pretty much not worth mentioning. Our independant stores and boutiques are suffering alot lately, being run out of town by chain stores.

    I guess this is a problem for LA, cos you have so much stuff there, but our sorry state of affairs here is pretty accurately reflected by this sorry magazine.

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  8. Falco November 3, 2008 at 12:07 PM

    The magazine is featuring less and less news on world affairs. It seems it has become a vehicle for rich Europeans’ opinions on how to facilitate their business millings inside their own continent while maintaining an “informed” perspective on the world. The first six issues were great but their purchase and style guides are getting out of hand. I still buy it for the 20 pages of international reportage, I liked the article on Turkmenistan. Around the same time that they published the city guide they also published a four page spread on “What makes a good community?” and advertisd a 70 GBP poster of the article for purchase! I remember “good gourmet food stores” making the list of requirements. Then they vote Sarkozy.

  9. Stuart November 3, 2008 at 12:33 PM

    (Lets try again, this failed to submit last time round.)

    Having read both the city guide, and this article – and having never been to LA – I have to say that I found your response here far more pretentious than anything I’ve ever read in Monocle.

    You have to appreciate that you are not the intended target for this article. Most people visiting LA will be more interested in doing the tourist stuff than visiting the most authentic hamburger dive, or this weeks in-fashion-amongst-the-LA-uber-cool coffee shop.

    My idea of a perfect week in Liverpool will be vastly different to a travel correspondent’s, but I live here, I buy my groceries, go to work, catch the bus to uni and pay my bills. I’m not a tourist here. I don’t go to the Cavern Club, Penny Lane or Anfield, but I’d still recommend them over the shitholes I choose to frequent.

  10. Bobby November 3, 2008 at 12:37 PM

    Stuart: It’s not pretension, it’s being genuine and wanting people to see what this town is truly like. It’s not seeing the stars on Hollywood Blvd., or going to Disneyland, that’s not what this city is truly about, or at least not in my mind.

  11. Mark November 4, 2008 at 8:49 AM

    Hey Bobby..I love Monocle..but more for the design than anything else – kinda like how I was so enamoured by Wallpaper when it first came out..those were brilliant: good mix of design, architecture and the random “rich person” article.

    I’ve read the Singapore(that’s where I’m from). It’s pretty accurate..eps the part about not going to Orchard Towers after’s teeming with prostitutes in all varieties(men, women and the in-betweens)

    In terms of food and the like it’s okay. Some good picks but I can’t say it’s very inspired. That said…Singapore is super there’s not too much to choose from.

  12. Annie November 6, 2008 at 5:56 PM

    My monocle subscription had its best use when its pages were torn out, folded and used as the backdrop for my wedding invitations.

    I have a love-hate relationship with the content, as like Bobby, I can’t imagine who on earth could care so much about the increased socioeconomic markers in Rwanda and also have a dilemma choosing between a prada or gucci scarf.

    The opening editions were really on the ball with interesting, relevant feature articles, and a good selection of innovative designers. But I must admit the last 6 months have seen it slide into little more than an expensive catalogue.

    My wedding invitations however, were beautiful.

  13. Kristoffer November 9, 2008 at 7:34 AM

    I’m from Copenhagen, and the guide to my city was pretty good. But I also think Tyler is madly in love with Copenhagen, so he must know where’s good to go.

  14. Drew Taylor November 23, 2008 at 12:29 AM

    I just read Shanghai, I live there part-time and know the city pretty well. I would say they got some things right. Boona Cafe is a nice little place, as well as Face.

    They could definitely use some help with their night club selection. The recommendation of Glamour Bar made me cringe.

  15. Rainer Beihofer November 26, 2008 at 1:57 AM

    i totally agree with you, the city guide is not as good as it could and should be. i have read the guide for rio de janeiro, where i used to live, and it is lame. the restaurants are not bad, but e.g. sushi leblon is not longer as good as it was some years ago. most of the spots are okay, but nothing really special. i guess the writer never made it out of ipanema/leblon except one favela tour in a big fat jeep! this city has so much more to offer. make your homework monocle!

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  17. Erin June 3, 2010 at 11:57 AM


    As a 20 yr old who has lived in LA all my life I could not agree with you more.
    The absurdity of the article continues to escalate until the end as does my frustration. I particularly enjoyed reading your take on it, because as you voice your disbelief your language becomes increasingly face paced and error prone – and at every mistake I smiled and realized that is exactly how annoying the Monocle article really was. It’s hard to remain calm when your city and self are being so viciously stereotyped.

  18. I June 4, 2010 at 1:59 AM

    Love it. Can’t help thinking that Tyler is taking out a hit on you now… but rest assured, it’ll be exquisitely planned, efficient, and well informed by a little-known execution style from outer Tajikistan. And the whole thing will be written up with ten tips for changing your identity afterwards…

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