Friday. 19/7/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Robert Bound

We’ll drink to that

In Vevey, that real-life lid of the Swiss chocolate box between Lausanne and Montreux on the eastern bank of Lake Geneva, preparations are at a peak for today’s grand opening of the Fête des Vignerons. The festival – a once-in-a-generation event to celebrate, commemorate and crown master grape-growers and wine-makers – is a month-long vinous party in the hale and hearty Swiss tradition of, well, tradition. And why not? The thing’s been running since the 17th century and celebrates a viticulture established by the sort of Romans who liked to retire to the vomitorium halfway through a session.

The centrepiece of the festival in Vevey’s huge amphitheatre is a three-hour stage show, which teases traditions while celebrating them too. After reporting from the dress rehearsal yesterday (I was disappointed that they required no more satyrs) I was struck by the Wagnerian sweep of time and story, and the playful pageantry of a show celebrating the canton of Vaud and its rich (and boozy) history. Cantonal pride and patriotism can easily be separated from sour nationalism when it is performed in the way of Fête director Daniele Finzi Pasca (of Olympic and operatic fame). There’s a lesson here on the lakeside in pride and patriotism unattended by prejudice. The wine helps but the spirit’s the thing.

Defence / The US & Turkey

Losing altitude

Turkey has long been a valuable link between the East and West but a spat over jets is straining relations between Ankara and Washington. The US has expelled Turkey from the F-35 fighter-jet programme – and banned it from buying the jets – after it bought an air-defence system from Russia; the first parts were delivered to a Turkish airbase last week. The US says that the system’s intelligence-collection platform will be used to study the F-35 and that the purchase undermines Ankara’s Nato commitments. In response, Turkey’s foreign ministry said that the expulsion could open “irreparable wounds in strategic relations”. It could hurt domestically too: Turkey makes more than 900 parts for F-35s, which will now be made in mainly US factories, costing Ankara up to $9bn (€7.9bn).

Society / Japan

Whodunnit? Only a few

Even for a country known for its safety, Japan’s latest crime statistics are startling. In the first half of 2019, the overall number of crimes nationwide declined by 8.7 per cent to 363,846. According to the National Police Agency, the figures are expected to hit a post-Second World War low for the fifth straight year. Some details aren’t surprising: seniors are often victims of fraud and the highest number of offences are reported in big cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka. What is remarkable is that crimes decreased in all main categories, from murder and theft to fraud and white-collar cases. Police officials took credit but also cited the country’s shrinking and ageing population as a factor. They might have talked about civility too: almost 400,000 lost wallets were reported last year – and more than 90 per cent of them were returned.

Transport / North America

Full speed ahead

Momentum is gathering for a new ultra high-speed rail line in the Pacific Northwest that could slice travel times between Vancouver, Seattle and Portland to about one hour each. Washington state, which has led the charge on the proposal, launched a business case for the line this week, claiming that the link, costing up to $42bn (€37bn), would be self-funding (based on projected ticket sales) by 2040. It’s a bold plan and particularly for Canada, given that a landmark high-speed rail link between Toronto, Kitchener and London was controversially scrapped by Ontario’s populist premier Doug Ford in April. North America has traditionally been wary of high-speed rail but this new route through Cascadia is a gamble worth taking.

Fashion / Global

Jeans genie

Given that everyone owns at least one pair of jeans, it’s little surprise that the denim sector is a serious offender when it comes to pollution; it can take more than 3,600 litres of water to grow enough cotton to produce a single pair of jeans, for example. This week saw the launch of The Jeans Redesign, an initiative aimed at minimising denim’s environmental impact. It’s helmed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation which has consulted more than 40 experts to create a set of industry guidelines. Already 40 headlining participants, including the H&M Group and Tommy Hilfiger, have signed on. In the “sustainable fashion” conversation there is often plenty of talk and not enough action, so this is a welcome leg-up.

M24 / Monocle On Design: Extra

Jan Gehl

We hear from Danish architect and urban-design pioneer Jan Gehl. He was our guest at the recent Monocle Quality of Life Conference in Madrid and joined editor Andrew Tuck on stage.

Monocle Films / Italy

Venice biennale: best in show

We sit down with Ralph Rugoff, the artistic director of 2019’s Venice Biennale, to round up the highlights of this year’s event.

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