Tuesday. 8/10/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Round two

Hands up if you remember the Greek euro referendum in 2015. Back then it was Angela Merkel facing off with Alexis Tsipras, a brash, newly elected prime minister who believed that the threat of a euro exit could change the conditions of Greece’s EU bailout deal. After going a few late-night negotiating rounds with the German chancellor, he wound up accepting the terms of the bailout rather than risking a disastrous no-deal exit.

As we potentially enter the final throes of the UK’s Brexit campaign, only the characters have changed: this time Boris Johnson, the brash PM demanding new terms, is facing off with Emmanuel Macron. The French president says that the EU will be making a decision on the UK’s fate by the end of the week.

So why isn’t Merkel taking the lead? It’s a sign of shifting powers in Europe, sure, but the reality is that Macron is the bad cop on Brexit, taking up the mantle that Merkel held on Greece. France is the country most determined – or stubborn, depending on your point of view – to resist bending the EU’s founding principles to give Johnson what he wants, just as Germany was with Greece when the EU’s budget rules were the point of discussion.

One difference: Macron is unlikely to receive the same backlash from his European colleagues that Merkel got for her tough approach to Greece. But why is that? Is there more solidarity with Greece than with the UK? Or is there more trust in France’s EU vision than Germany’s? Diplomats, discuss.

Society / Global

Podium potential

The year’s Nobel prize winners are being revealed this week. Yesterday it was announced that the 2019 gong in medicine will be jointly awarded to William G Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J Ratcliffe and Gregg L Semenza, a trio recognised for their work on how cells adapt to the availability of oxygen. The winner in the physics category will be unveiled later this morning and there is speculation that it will go to teams working on detecting new exoplanets, or to those experimenting in “quantum entanglement” (we won’t get tied up explaining that one). Predictions for the Nobel Peace prize, which will be announced on Friday, are particularly confident: to Donald Trump’s undoubted dismay, Greta Thunberg is the favourite.

Aviation / Taiwan

Taiwan bends the throttle

Taiwan is set to get its first new airline in decades as Starlux prepares for its maiden flight. The Taipei firm has confirmed that it will take to the skies in January, mainly flying to Southeast Asian cities with an initial fleet of Airbus planes, including A321neos. Routes to Japan and, potentially, the US are in the pipeline following the acquisition of 17 A350s at Farnborough Airshow last year.

It is the brainchild of KW Chang, (pictured, on right), scion of Taiwan’s Evergreen conglomerate and former chairman of EVA Air (before he was ousted during a family feud). As a qualified pilot he intends to take delivery of the airline’s first Airbus A321neo himself so that he can fly it home from Germany later this month. Regional competitors will be keeping an eye on the plucky aviation start-up.

Architecture / The US

Building blocks

Architecture enthusiasts are gaining a handy new resource this week as the definitive online encyclopedia of US architecture opens to the public. The Society of Architectural Historians Archipedia is an online repository of histories, images, maps and essays about more than 20,000 buildings in the US. Until last week the digital archive, which launched in 2012, was only accessible to the society’s members and subscribers. The treasure trove of free-to-access information charts the history of the US through its architecture. Best of all it can be trusted: whether the subject is modernism in Delaware, 19th-century dance halls in Texas or Hawaii’s State Capitol building (pictured), all entries are written by the organisation’s scholars.

Design / Canada

Cheap thrill

Meandering down the aisles of most Canadian supermarkets often rewards shoppers with the opportunity to bag a design classic – and at no great expense. The No Name brand (a no-frills range of goods, including washing detergent, canned vegetables and beer) debuted at the Loblaws supermarket group in 1978 and became famous thanks to its recognisable look: bright yellow background and bold, black Helvetica typeface. No Name branded advertising has graced everything from the sides of buildings to video games – and now it’s appearing in one of Toronto's busiest subway stations. The company’s quirky new campaign has transformed the signage of Union Station via the use of its black-and-yellow aesthetic (and sarcastic messages such as, “Northbound trains – for trains that go north”). Plenty of commuters might not admit to buying No Name goods but they’ll no doubt appreciate the enduring design credentials of a staple of Canadian branding.

M24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories 177: Khlongs, Bangkok

We take to the water in Bangkok to explore the khlongs, a vast network of canals that crisscross the Southeast Asian city. Home to bustling commuters, tottering tourists and floating markets, these still-thriving waterways are the city’s ancient lifeblood.

Monocle Films / Switzerland

Zürich, Geneva + Basel: The Monocle Travel Guide

This book celebrates the richness of these three Swiss cities and dives beneath the surface to bring an unexpected mix of creativity, entrepreneurialism and design. All aboard for a tour of the most impeccable hotels, world-class galleries and best spots to take a dip.

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