Saturday 30 March 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 30/3/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Happy place

Happiness rankings are all the rage. We just had the results, for example, of the UN’s 2019 World Happiness Report, which declared Finland the jolliest nation for the second year in a row. It’s based on all sorts of things, from life expectancy to quality of healthcare, but the only trouble is that even Finns seem surprised: “What, slightly dour us?” That’s because, while you can try and measure happiness with a series of metrics, in reality it’s a complicated thing to plot on a chart. It’s much easier – even if it’s less scientific – to discern when you suddenly find yourself surrounded by very happy folk.

And for anyone compiling a list of happy cities, and willing to ditch the science, I have a hot contender. This week I took part in a day of talks about innovation and design called – wait for it – Inovdesign. It was at the Serralves Foundation in Porto. And I don’t think I have ever spent a day where, without fail, everyone was so upbeat and such passionate advocates for their city. A few more hours in their company and I would have been contacting a relocation agent.

There was organiser Ana Leal, who entrusted me with a crucial key and laughed when I thought I had lost it; Eduardo Aires, who designed the city’s identity and whizzed me around the city in his electric car while declaring, “This place will blow your mind”; and André Costa, a clever creative who told me how he fits in a surfing session after factory visits. There was something about the city’s size, access to the river (and ocean), food and affordability that just seemed to infect people with a sunny disposition. So Porto is my nominee for the We’re Really Kind of Cool with the World City 2019 – and I have a feeling it’s going to win.

Trade fair / Passenger Terminal Expo

Only human

It’s probably no surprise that this year’s snappily named Passenger Terminal Expo, one of the biggest airport trade fairs in the world, was all about automation (writes Business editor Venetia Rainey). Airports have long been headed in this direction and biometric data is the next frontier. The UAE is moving aggressively on this front, aiming to turn your face into your ticket for a totally frictionless travel experience. There are also experiments underway in Germany, the UK, Egypt and the US. Companies making the hardware and software sense a bonanza in the offing.

Yet take-up is still slow for now and with good reason. As I struggled to check in my luggage using a prototype that couldn’t read my features due to “network issues” (the tech guy had to be called over to assist), the limitations became clear. There are also concerns about data privacy, with rules varying from airport to airport. But most of all it sounds dystopian. Some automation – passport scanners are rapidly improving – is welcome but not all interactions should be seen as a source of friction: sometimes it’s just nice to have a person there to answer your question or wish you a pleasant journey.

How we live / Global

Is coffee-to-go… to go?

A big part of the appeal of getting a coffee is the ceremony: chatting with the barista; reading the paper as you wait; hearing snippets of conversations from passers-by (writes Fashion editor Jamie Waters). Which only serves to make the growing trend for at-home (or at-office) coffee deliveries all the more perplexing.

Starbucks has been ramping up its delivery service in the US, teaming up with Uber Eats to enable a latte-to-door service in Miami, LA and Chicago. In the UK earlier this year, Starbucks and Costa joined London’s Uber Eats and Deliveroo line-ups respectively. Yet perhaps the most valuable place for this burgeoning phenomenon is China, where Starbucks and Luckin (a Chinese start-up), are duking it out in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

The global food-delivery industry is valued at €83bn. These chains are forking out big dollars in a bid to get a piece of that, investing in special lids designed to keep the coffee hot and tricked-up foams that hold their shape. But sipping a couriered latte at home will never be the same as enjoying a hot coffee that a barista has steamed in front of you. Let’s just hope that smaller cafés don’t want to get in on the action.

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Birds of a feather

Several months ago a little snowbird landed in my office and perched on the edge of my sofa. While I could say that he fluttered in through the open window, he in fact pulled up in a UK government bullet-proof Jag, fresh from a meeting at Downing Street. Before getting down to business and catching up on the ways of the world, we decided to open an earthy bottle of Sicilian red and spent a bit of time on leisure pursuits, sports injuries and summer holidays. The topic turned to Brexit (my cue to refill the glasses) and I leaned a bit closer to hear what this wise little bird had to say.

“I’ll start by saying it’s good you’ve been preparing for this,” he said. “Because it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. What I do know is there’s no way we’re leaving the EU on 29 March. It’s simply not possible. There is no capacity within the bureaucracy to deal with the simple mechanics of an exit, never mind all the moving parts of logistics, security and everything else that will go with it.” With another Sicilian red waiting to be opened we carried on for another hour or so, covering the shocking state of affairs in Whitehall and beyond, and finally went back to summer vacations.

The following morning a couple of colleagues asked what the little bird had to say and, like animals gathered in a woodland clearing, we had a small huddle and I brought everyone up to speed. The wise old owl among us (OK, he’s not so old) shook his head and went back to his perch. Another in the group asked whether such stunning incompetence in the private sector would see similar executives put on trial for all kinds of gross misdemeanours. A cloud settled over the office but, as Monocle is a generally sunny place, it soon lifted and we got back into our groove.

It’s 29 March as I write this and the UK is still in the EU and the sun is shining on London. In fact, it’s positively dazzling in the editor in chief’s corner office. I’m glancing over at the spot where the little bird perched only weeks ago and I’m happy that he was right. We’re happy to still be part of something bigger called Europe even if we’re dismayed that we’re watching the wheels spin off at such close range. We’ll see where we end up in the coming hours, days and weeks but I do hope the voting public gets another shot at having their say, with the luxury of knowing how poor a plan they were sold. Until then, I’ll be the one on the bouncy Swedish lounger in the courtyard.

The Interrogator / Edition 05

Nader Mousavizadeh

The co-founder of London and New York-based Macro Advisory Partners, Mousavizadeh provides precious insight on anything from geopolitical risk to investment strategy. The former CEO of Oxford Analytica is also a prolific foreign-affairs columnist: in the latest instalment of our series that uncovers our interviewees’ media habits, he reveals what he does at Heathrow Airport – and where you’ll find him on a Sunday morning.

What news source do you wake up to?The New York Times and the FT – online. The only print paper I read is the FT Weekend.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? A double-shot cappuccino while I cook a steak breakfast for my dog Nellie.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? My own Apple Music playlists: some for reading or working, some for exercising on my rowing machine.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? Mumford & Sons. It’s the kind of thing that I probably shouldn’t confess to...

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk? Both: the FT Weekend is delivered. But I love to go to the kiosk to pick up half a dozen magazines, probably once a week.

Magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack? One of them goes without saying – Monocle. Then the New Yorker, Wallpaper and Wired. I used to look at Vanity Fair but not anymore. Then there are the magazines I pick up at airport lounges: Bloomberg Businessweek, Condé Nast Traveler and Porter.

Are you a subscriber or more of a newsstand browser? More of the latter – I do browse at airport lounges. It’s basically my ritual at Heathrow: I get a coffee and I browse.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? In London, Daunt on Holland Park Avenue. In Copenhagen, Books & Co – the only English-language bookshop in Denmark.

Sofa or cinema for the evening? The Electric [Notting Hill, pictured] in London: I love that cinema.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched of late and why? Season one of True Detective, which was dark, phenomenal and brilliantly written. As for the movies, something I saw recently is Wind River. It’s beautifully shot and has a strong social message about the plight of Native American women in the US.

Sunday brunch routine? Starts with a queue for early scrambled eggs on sourdough toast at Granger & Co. I live around the corner so sometimes I manage to dodge the queue with my sons – they know us...

What papers and periodicals will be spread out on the breakfast table? The FT Weekend is one – online I’ll then read The New York Times, then probably Wired. I don’t really read the UK Sunday papers: I’ll read the Danish newspaper Politiken online instead. I should probably confess to checking Twitter – although I recently took it off my phone so now only check it on my iPad.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? I’ve not watched it in 10 years, at least.

A favourite newsreader perhaps? When I do see a clip from the news, I think Emily Maitlis at the BBC is very good.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? It’d be music like Christine and the Queens or Lauryn Hill – and the only podcast I listen to regularly, The Daily [from The New York Times].

Culture / Visit / Read / Listen

Spring in your step

‘Enlightening Times’ at Duddell’s, Hong Kong. If the kaleidoscope of stands at Art Basel Hong Kong gets a little overwhelming this weekend, find refuge at Duddell’s. Inside its salon and library you’ll find works by Wang Guangle and Li Shurui, contemporary Chinese artists whose practice takes a considered approach to exploring the ideas of light and time. The mesmerising result is both insightful and soothing.

‘Spring’, Ali Smith. Today’s Britain may not feel like the most hopeful of places but the third instalment of Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet (dedicated to chronicling life in the UK) is moving into sunnier territory. The Scottish writer’s approach is as experimental as ever but out of Smith’s political musings emerge a host of illuminating characters that are ready and willing to change things.

‘Cosmic Wind’ by Lion Babe. It’s easy to get swept away by the funk grooves of Lion Babe’s new record – and that’s just what the New York duo hope their music will do. Pet Shop Boys-inspired single “Western World” is a hymn to coming together on the dancefloor, even when things get tough. Considering the number of effervescent guitar loops, tambourine and handclaps scattered across the tracks, it’s pretty hard to resist the invitation.

Eurovision / Song of the week

‘She Got Me’ (Switzerland)

Every week in the run-up to Eurovision, which will be held in May in Tel Aviv, Monocle 24’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco will put the spotlight on one entry. This week it’s Switzerland’s Luca Hänni with his track “She Got Me”.

Switzerland is not exactly a powerhouse Eurovision contestant these days – it’s failed to qualify for the final for the past four years. But former trainee bricklayer Luca Hänni is up for the fight with the catchy “She Got Me”. The betting odds are short and the song is currently ranked third favourite to win the contest. The singer is a household name in Switzerland and well known in Germany, where he shot to fame after winning Germany's music talent show Deutschland sucht den Superstar; he also happened to be the first non-German citizen to win it.

Outpost news / Okinawa, Japan

Island confidential

Monocle has always made it a mission to shine a light on far-flung corners of the world. This week we see what’s making the news on the islands of Okinawa prefecture in southern Japan.

Kazue Yonamine is the editor in chief of The Okinawa Times, one of the two big dailies in Japan’s sub-tropical island prefecture. The newspaper, which was founded in 1948 during the US occupation of Japan, has a daily circulation of about 157,000 and is based in the city of Naha.

What’s the big story this week? The big news this week was the Japanese government announcing the start of landfill work off the coast of Henoko Bay in Nago City for a new US Marine Corps runway. Only a month ago the Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki asked prime minister Shinzo Abe to cancel the landfill project after 70 per cent of the population voted against it in a prefectural referendum. The area is a natural monument and the habitat of the dugong, an endangered marine animal. One week before they started dumping sediment, a dead dugong was found.

Best picture? I like the picture of the opening of the bathing season at Yona Beach on Yonaguni Island, the westernmost island in Japan. The weather was a little disappointing but I think the children’s smiles on the back of the Yonaguni uma [a Japanese breed of small horse] blew away the rain.

What’s your down-page treat? Nago city hall and Nissan Motors have put four electric cars and a charging station in the city hall carpark. On weekdays the cars can be used by staff; on holidays, citizens and tourists can use them for car sharing. Chronic congestion is an issue in Okinawa so it’s refreshing to see news about finding solutions to the issue of increasing tourism.

Next big event? There will be a Lower House election for the Okinawa third district on 21 April. It will be a contest between a male photojournalist, who is against the construction of the Henoko base and a woman – a former Okinawa minister – who supports it. Nago City is in this electoral district and it is the first time that two candidates with opposing positions on Henoko will face each other. It has attracted a lot of attention.

Weekend plans? / Itoshima

Time away

If you’re visiting Japan and would like to skip the crowds, we recommend an escape to BBB Haus in Itoshima. An hour’s drive from Fukuoka, this simple five-room hotel has been open since last summer and is still an off-the-radar destination, offering a sense of wellbeing. Local company Weeks, which also owns Koishiwara Pottery, runs the hotel and sensibly leaves guests to their own devices. You’ll have the luxury of not doing much except reading books in lounge chairs by Charles Eames and Hans J Wegner, walking on the beach, napping in the hammock or, on a warm day, taking a dip in the sea. Itoshima is famous for its organic farms and their produce is what’s served in the hotel, along with fresh seafood and delicious Itoshima beef.

Wardrobe update 02 / Lebanon x Italy

Best foot forward

Nada Debs is a woman of many talents. Born in Lebanon, raised in Japan and educated in New York, she started out in interior design but today her studio in Beirut’s Gemmayze turns out everything from furniture to art installations. The threads joining her work are a liberal use of colour and patterns, engagement with local craftspeople and a certain Middle Eastern flair. Her latest product we’re coveting is a chunky women’s sandal dreamt up in collaboration with Italian shoemaker Fratelli Rossetti. With slinky straps and a zig-zag-patterned heel, the shoes will be launched early next month.

M24 / The Menu

Eat up

Markus Hippi raises a glass with Maximilian Riedel, the 11th generation CEO of the 260-year-old family glassware business. Food for thought comes courtesy of Michelin-star chef and champion athlete Alan Murchison, who has published a recipe book for cyclists. Plus: a visit to the Pitti Taste food fair in Florence.

Film / Culture

The art of restoration

Rome boasts an ancient specialisation in restoring the masterpieces of the past. But thanks to innovative technology, the work of Rome’s art restorers is also very current. Monocle Films meets an all-female team that has saved pieces by artists as diverse as Caravaggio and John Kirby.


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