The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 7 December 2018

Politics

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Convenient conflab

The emperor, the president and the prime minister: a powerful powwow is looming in Japan.

Soon after Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito is crowned emperor on 1 May 2019, he is expected to have his first meeting with a foreign head of state. The top candidate: Donald Trump. Japan has asked the US president to visit some time before late June. That would see Trump visiting Japan twice in quick succession, since he is scheduled to be in Osaka for the G20 summit in June. It’s a symbolic gesture that prime minister Shinzo Abe hopes will demonstrate the strength of the bilateral alliance. That said, Abe probably also sees it as a chance to corner Trump over Japan’s G20 agenda. Japan’s constitution prohibits the emperor from getting involved in politics but nowhere does it say that politicians can’t enlist him for their own ends.

Urbanism

Image: ALAMY

More the merrier?

City-planners in Seattle could increase housing density – but homeowners might not be pleased.

Rapid population growth and skyrocketing rents have priced many Seattle residents out of the city’s treasured single-family-home neighbourhoods. But things could change if authorities listen to a recent report aimed at increasing density across the city. The proposals advocate changing Seattle’s residential zoning regimen, which currently prioritises single-family dwellings in certain areas. The change would mean building more duplexes and shrinking lot sizes to accommodate a greater number of homes in a single street. Some residents will surely resist the proposals: they are understandably protective about the unique characters of their neighbourhoods. But Seattle, with its particular set of pressures, needs to increase density if it wants to remain a good place to live. Watch this space.

Design

Image: VA

Fine line

With eminent architects designing its metro stations, the Norwegian capital is on track for a first-rate public-transport system.

Zaha Hadid Architects and Norwegian firm A-Lab will design two metro stations for Oslo’s new Fornebubanen line, it was announced yesterday. The proposed structures’ undulating design is inspired by Norway’s glacial landscape and will feature lighting that reacts to the changing time of day. The 8km-long line will feature six stops in total and connect Oslo city centre to the Fornebu peninsula, where 6,000 new homes are being built on the site of a former airport. The line is being hailed as a vital transport link that will tie the new development to the heart of the city; it is scheduled to open in 2025. Oslovians may already enjoy a breezy commute on their highly efficient public-transport system but this announcement proves the city’s dedication to becoming a centre for world-class public architecture.

Music

Image: Shutterstock

Cold shoulder

A Christmas classic has been taken off air in Canada thanks to some racy lyrics – but not everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.

Canada’s largest radio stations are intent, it seems, on deflating the country’s collective Christmas spirit this year. Earlier this week it was announced that the festive 1944 classic Baby it's Cold Outside has been banned from several radio networks, including national broadcaster CBC Radio, in the wake of movements such as #MeToo. The move has prompted acute debate in Canada: some claim it is political correctness gone mad, while others have stated that the song’s allegedly risqué lyrics are, in fact, a work of feminist thought. It’s not the first Christmas song to cause a stir: in 2007 the BBC cut some off-colour lyrics from The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, a move it reversed following a public outcry. Let’s hope Canadian radio listeners also raise their festive voices to get Baby it's Cold Outside in from the cold.

From Monocle 24

Image: Weekend Wayfarers

Athens special

The Urbanist

To coincide with the release of our new Athens travel guide, Monocle’s Venetia Rainey takes the temperature of the city she calls home.

From Monocle Films

Hospitality lessons

Be it an airport lounge or a cinema, feeling at ease is hugely dependent on your surroundings. Monocle films meet with the design experts crafting the warmest welcomes.

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