Friday 22 March 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 22/3/2019

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Leading by example

It’s impossible to look at New Zealand’s recent terrorist attack and not compare it to similar stories from the US's recent past. In the former, a tiny nation that rarely generates international column inches, last week’s gun massacre in Christchurch has prompted soul searching but swift action too. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has been exemplary: refusing to publicly say the killer’s name and on Thursday pushing through legislation that immediately bans all military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. In addition, a buyback scheme for weaponry could cost the state as much as NZ$200m (€120m).

It’s a reaction that has led to some questions in the US – and rightly so. How can it be that one nation reacts so decisively after one massacre when the US remains so intransigent in the face of scores of mass killings every year? The US system is, of course, different: the gun lobby is richer and more powerful, and the Senate disproportionately gives power to rural states that tend to be more pro-gun. And then there’s President Trump, who’s not about to change his stripes on this issue. That said, New Zealand offers a glimpse of success to discouraged gun-control advocates in the US.

Image: Getty Images

Society / New York

Slim odds

New York is in need of money but governor Andrew Cuomo doesn’t seem keen to roll the dice on allowing casinos within the city’s five boroughs. In recent weeks, lobbyists have called for authorities to put an end to a moratorium that bans casinos from the city until 2023. They argue that, with 65 million annual tourists, new casinos could generate billions in revenue and create thousands of jobs. But the evidence suggests that casinos are a drain on cities too: they lower nearby property values and disproportionately drain low-income earners of their hard-earned cash. In neighbouring New Jersey, taxpayer dollars have even been used to prop up floundering casinos. Governor Cuomo will do well to resist the lure of the bright lights and seek out cannier revenue streams – ones that don’t gamble with the city’s wellbeing.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Thailand

Making a comeback?

Thailand heads to the polls on Sunday in an election that will determine if the military will hold onto power. After decades of fractious politics marred by military coups, two pro-democracy parties, Pheu Thai and Future Forward, are vying to swing votes in their favour. Experts say the former, founded by exiled billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, could pose a threat to the incumbent military leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha. Shinawatra’s popularity has remained strong among farmers and the working class despite his self-imposed exile following corruption charges. If Pheu Thai does well, it could open the door for Shinawatra to return.

Image: Jan Søndergaard

Urbanism / Global

City calculations

If you’re eyeing up a new city to call home, plumping for Singapore, Paris or Hong Kong could cost you. So says the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Worldwide Cost of Living survey, released this week, which looked at the cost of 160 products and services across 93 countries. So do you get what you pay for? Not always. The only city among the 10 most expensive that also featured in the top 10 of the EIU’s most recent Global Liveability Ranking (which assesses quality of life in 140 cities) is Copenhagen (pictured). As we argue in Monocle's annual Quality of Life Survey (the next one will be in issue 125), metrics can help paint a picture but the nuances of city life are usually in the living.

Image: Aflo

Design / Japan

Changing track

Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima is known for designing museums and other large-scale projects. But the Pritzker laureate has veered off into new territory: her latest creation is an express train for railway operator Seibu. The Laview, which launched this week, has a rounded front and oval windshield and its matte-silver aluminium body is designed to blend in with the landscape by reflecting its surroundings as it shuttles between Tokyo and the mountainous Chichibu region. For the train’s interior, Sejima drew on contacts: textile designer Yoko Ando worked on the seat covers and curtains, Shozo Toyohisa contributed lighting and fellow Sanaa architect Yoshitaka Tanase helped with the graphic design. It’s not often that architects in Japan get to dabble in transport. In recent years, though, Japan’s railway operators have seen how fresh design can have a broad appeal – and restore the romance of old-fashioned train travel.

M24 / Monocle On Design: Extra

Future bridge-builders

Bridges have long bound our societies together. But in recent years their role in our cities has changed and they’re reinvigorating urban life. We examine how a simple feat of engineering becomes an engaging public space.

Monocle Films / Norway

Celebrating fashion in Oslo

After lagging behind its design-minded neighbours, the Norwegian fashion industry has finally moved out of its comfort zone and stepped up its game. We meet Oslo’s most promising designers and see how they are being taken seriously on the international stage.


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