The Monocle Minute

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The week ahead, opportunities and observations
Saturday 20 May 2017

Lifestyle

Image: Alamy

Southern comfort

The best place to go in search of the American dream probably isn’t where you think it is.

The American dream: to some it’s a white fence, a Labrador wearing a bandana and the Star-Spangled Banner flying high. To others, it’s working your way up from the mailroom or running your own business. Many will argue that it’s dead but that hasn’t stopped financial research firm SmartAsset from looking into the best US cities for living the American dream. The survey, which assessed the concept across 261 cities by looking at everything from home values to unemployment rates and ethnic diversity, awarded Aurora, Illinois, and West Valley City, Utah, the joint-top spot. The former is located in Illinois’ prosperous Technology and Research Corridor – the state’s Silicon Valley – and jumped 44 spots from last year’s rankings, thanks to improved infrastructure and increased job opportunities. Additionally, with states such as Texas claiming 12 of the top 25 positions, and not a single east coast town winning a spot, it seems the American dream has migrated south.

Music

Image: Ebru Yildiz

Praise you

This debut album shows the singer’s got soul – and we like it.

Nick Hakim isn’t your average, cool as-a-cucumber Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter gazing at his navel in a beanie and a scuffed pair of Converse. How so? There’s a heady whiff of the real-deal about Hakim, whose hotly anticipated debut album Green Twins (out yesterday on ATO Records) weaves a smoky spell of love, loss, longing and – praise be! – other people’s navels. It’s a sexy LP, you see. The eagle-eared will hear traces of the soul of Marvin Gaye and D’Angelo and the satin-sheet merchant himself, Barry White, refracted through the jazzy off-kilter prism of Robert Wyatt and Soft Machine. There are saxes; there is gauziness; it’s a sleepy thing of beauty. Thank you, Nick, for a record of classic songwriting wrought with a cool, contemporary toolkit.

Books

Second opinion

Finding it difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff in east London? You’re not alone.

Perhaps it’s the creative crowd that dwells here but London’s eastern reaches (and the area’s transformation from literal bomb site to home of the best-in-city cafés, bookshops and grub) are a source of constant fascination for the hungry-for-novelty residents of the UK capital. But parsing the fly-by-night concepts from the good stuff can be a fraught affair for first-timers. It’s good then, that the talented souls behind the Hoxton Mini Press have teamed up with London-based writer Sonya Barber to offer their advice in East London: An Opinionated Guide. The 57 picks (plus a weekend itinerary and simple map) are a pleasing mix of the time-tested, honest, independent and the interesting – plus a greasy spoon and rowdy pub or two to round things off. German photographer Charlotte Schreiber’s snaps are alluring and the book as a whole is an apt portrait of the charms that continue to lure people to the ’hood.

Architecture

Open house

For one day only, Italians will get to go through the keyhole at some of their country’s grandest estates.

What would Italy be without its stuccoed palazzi and stately castles? This weekend the 40-year-old association dedicated to looking after the nation’s historic homes will shine a light on the importance of conservation through its annual National Day of Historic Italian Homes. On Sunday more than 300 castles, courtyards, country estates and mansions that are usually closed to the public will throw open their grandiose gates for one whole day. Among them will be the Castle of Montemagno, located in Italy’s winemaking region of Piedmont, and the Tower of San Prospero in northern Reggio Emilia. As the fifth most visited country in the world, a day like this is not so much about attracting foreign visitors as it is about raising awareness about the value of Italy’s historic homes: there will be tours, exhibitions, concerts and, of course, plenty of good food and wine.

From Monocle 24

Cannes Film Festival

The Cinema Show

The 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival got off to tense start as participants and audiences clashed over whether streaming giants ought to be allowed to compete. We assess the arguments. Plus: how Warner Bros got ‘King Arthur’ so terribly wrong and why the world’s most famous giant ape is taking on the Broadway musical.

From Monocle Films

Speciality retail: Amsterdam

The colourful collection of jars with pickles and fermented food pulls customers through the front door of shop-cum-bistro Thull’s.

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