The Monocle Minute

In association with Brand Hong Kong

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 4 January 2016

Image: Corbis

Tense times ahead

Warnings about terrorism have become an everyday part of city life. From Sydney to Singapore, Los Angeles to London, cities are cluttered with signs or public-address systems imploring citizens to report anything suspicious. The latest reminder comes from Pauline Neville-Jones, the former chair of the British Joint Intelligence Committee. She is “alarmed” by the number of people she sees walking around looking at their phones or listening to music. Instead, she says, we should be “aware” of our surroundings. Such warnings, particularly after the Paris attacks, are perhaps understandable. But do they really work? There is little evidence that an eagle-eyed commuter has ever stopped a terrorist attack. Instead, these warnings tend to put us on edge. Given how 2015 ended there seems little chance of the terror threat receding this year but that doesn’t mean we all have to commute to work or school in a constant state of worry.

Image: James Matthew Daniel

New voices

The terms “cutting-edge” and “musical theatre” don’t often appear in the same sentence. However, New York’s Prototype: Opera/Theatre/Now festival, which kicks off its fourth edition this week, has been impressively shaking off any dusty connotations that opera and musical theatre may still carry. Intense and innovative productions have made the festival a must see. Case in point: this year’s line-up includes Angel’s Bone, an opera by Chinese composer Du Yun about angels – and human trafficking. Another opera, Dog Days, explores how one family survives in the aftermath of an apocalyptic catastrophe, while a musical theatre piece called The Good Swimmer takes place during the Vietnam War. Not the most cheerful of subjects but each should provide the necessary melodrama required for unexpected and powerful performances.

Image: Getty Images

Pedal power

Madrid is upping its game when it comes to reducing pollution from cars; the city has announced it will invest €44m by the end of the year in a new cycle network, which will introduce 33 new bike paths. (Pollution levels in the city have become so high that Madrid has also experimented with free public transit and restricting drivers’ car use to every other day.) The new cycle network was included in Mayor Manuela Carmena’s first budget and though previous administrations have made attempts to get more people cycling, the new initiative will see a substantial amount of money invested to section off bike lanes and create a more robust infrastructure. Is Madrid on the way to becoming the next Amsterdam? Not quite – but the new lanes should go a long way in terms of getting people to switch from four wheels to two.

Image: Getty Images

Parasites lost

Researchers at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur have developed LED street lights that are not only energy efficient but that also attract and capture mosquitoes. The wind- and sun-powered lamps produce low levels of carbon dioxide, which lures mosquitoes; the bugs are then sucked in by a fan that prevents them from flying off. Don’t feel too bad for the insects though; their loss is the wider population’s gain. The new lights are meant to reduce the spread of dengue fever, which has increased dramatically in the past several decades and is a particular concern in Asia-Pacific countries. It’s yet another example of innovative design going above and beyond to solve practical and, in this case, potentially deadly problems.

From Monocle 24

Image: Rob Lawson

Seedlip: the world’s first non-alcoholic distilled drink

Tune in to The Menu to hear British entrepreneur Ben Branson on how he came up with Seedlip – what he calls the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic drink. It’s perfect if you want to feel like you are drinking something a bit more proper than lemonade or ice tea.

From Monocle Films

Wine special: South Tyrol

A new generation of wine producers in South Tyrol has shifted the focus from quantity to quality, now successfully concentrating on what makes the tipple from this region so special. We visit Merano Wine Festival to meet the people behind this change in the Italian Alps.

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