The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 22 December 2015

Image: Getty Images

Branching out

The holidays could look a little different next year in the US. Christmas tree farmers on the East Coast say a recent spell of dry weather will yield fewer fir trees next season as well as in the years to come. According to farmers it usually takes about a year to see the impact and some are expecting a 30 to 50 per cent mortality rate of what’s been planted this year. On top of the dry spell, long-running winters are leading to later planting dates in the spring – and worse conditions for young firs. It may soon be time to find new uses for those tree ornaments.

Image: Alamy

Not so smart

Is nothing sacred? Americans already feel like they can’t trust their institutions, from banks to Congress; at least that’s the consensus according to a 2015 Gallup poll. And now the most hallowed of institutions – Christmas – is under threat from computer hackers intent on taking advantage of everyone’s favourite part of the holidays: presents. Data experts warn that smart toys are particularly vulnerable because they can connect to Wi-Fi, use a microphone and often include voice-recognition software. This gives criminals an easy way into your home network – and your personal information. Our quick fix on the present hacking front is to go old-fashioned; books, for example, can’t be hacked. (We’ve got nothing when it comes to fixing Congress though. Sorry.)

Image: Getty Images

’Tis the season to be shopping

If any Americans out there are feeling guilty about maxing out their credit cards during the holidays, they can take some solace in their timing. Economists speculate that this is the last season that over-the-top spending habits will be justified by low interest rates. After the Bureau of Labour Statistics’ November report revealed an addition of 211,000 jobs to the US economy last month, the Federal Reserve raised key interest rates. That means this Christmas may be the last chance for shoppers to shamelessly splurge before credit card and short-term loan rates are hiked. The timing also works out for the retail sector. “I don’t think we’ll see a big impact on holiday shopping figures or those for early 2016,” says Bloomberg’s chief US economist Carl Riccadonna.

Image: Tom Sibley

Festive dioramas

Christmas window displays in New York’s department stores date back to the 1870s and the 2015 season may see the most lavish designs yet. Decadent dressings have become an attraction in their own right in and around shops on Fifth Avenue. This year, mega-department store Bergdorf Goodman has teamed up with Swarovski to present a window display featuring seven million crystals, while over at Barneys New York two windows are maintained at sub-zero temperatures, one featuring an ice carver wearing Moncler. Yet the pressure to top previous efforts – not to mention other shops – can be fierce. “I think that anyone coming to Barneys is expecting, and almost waiting, to see how creative we can be,” says director Dennis Freedman. We’re sure they won’t be disappointed.

From Monocle 24

Culture: Best of 2015

Tune in for a melting pot of Culture goodies such as our interviews with film-maker Gary Hustwit and Nicolas Godin, one half of French electro group Air. We discover an unknown exotica artist and an intriguing Turkish acoustic instrument, go hunting for messages in bottles, investigate Toronto’s music scene, discuss the enduring appeal of hospital dramas as well as the golden age of advertising.

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