Thursday. 24/10/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Light reading

Bad lighting takes a heavy toll on the health of living things according to a new report in online journal Aging and Mechanisms of Disease. The peer-reviewed paper’s findings suggest that exposure to LED light disrupts sleep patterns, speeds up ageing and increases stress in organisms – at least, it does among the obliging fruit flies that were tested.

Are you surprised? Aren’t we all at least dimly aware of the negative feelings brought on by strip-lit supermarkets? No one feels good in the over-lit bluish pall cast by energy-saving bulbs or backlit screens, either. And obviously this isn’t purely an aesthetic issue but there is such a thing as flattering light.

More importantly, better lighting should be discussed when we create homes, offices, shops and airports; they should all be places that feel cosy and healthy. Architects and industrial designers have long had a knack for getting the light right even though LED bulbs cast a less appealing glow than their incandescent cousins.

Some people still have supposedly bright ideas about design but miss the glaringly obvious merits of sidelights and shade. To them I offer some counsel, first uttered long before this peer-reviewed fly paper demonstrated the dark side of overdone lighting: “Were it not for shadows there would be no beauty,” wrote Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki in 1933. No need to turn to an insect for proof; you already know that it’s time for a switch. Might we suggest a dimmer?

Politics / Russia

Putin’s play for power

Russia is making a not-so-subtle attempt to extend its influence in Africa. Vladimir Putin yesterday welcomed more than 40 African leaders – including those from Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria – for a soft-diplomacy bash in the Russian seaside town of Sochi. Similar strategies are being implemented by China and, more recently, Japan, both of which have held their own Africa summits and launched economic campaigns across much of the continent. For Moscow, greater influence could yield big benefits, including improved access to mineral resources and potential new export markets. African leaders also stand to gain by playing the US and Russia off each other says Judd Devermont, director of the Africa programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “If Washington presses too hard on democracy and human rights, African nations can threaten to move closer to Moscow – and Beijing,” he says. Which leader doesn’t want leverage like that?

Transport / Japan

No place for petrolheads

This year’s Tokyo Motor Show, which starts today and runs until 4 November, offers a look at what many of Japan’s seven largest automakers see as the next generation of eco-friendly city-transport options: pint-sized electric vehicles. Toyota will unveil its two-seat BEV, which can travel 100km on a single charge and can reach a maximum speed of 60km/h. Nissan is showing off its IMK minicar, an electric-powered version of the low-cost, ultra-compact passenger cars that account for a third of Japan’s market and have almost no traction anywhere else.

By far the most eye-catching model is Honda’s E: a quick-accelerating four-seater that’s slated to go on sale next year. As countries tighten emissions rules and global automakers roll out new battery-powered models, Japanese carmakers are betting that small EVs will soon be the mainstream choice for city dwellers.

Transport / Los Angeles

Sign of the lines

How much do you love your city’s transit system? The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is preparing to auction off hundreds of signs from its retired Blue Line today. Following a $350m (€310m) investment and nearly 10 months of closures, the city’s oldest light-rail line is reopening with a new name: the A line. The name change means that completely new signage is required for the line that connects Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles. For those seeking a piece of transport history, the bidding for the estimated 340 items going under the hammer – including exit signs, street names and destination posters – starts at $5 (€4.50). Any Angelinos left empty handed need not fret: the MTA is replacing its entire colour-based naming system as part of an expansion ahead of the 2028 Olympic Games. If the auction goes well, more items could be offered further down the line.

Art / Toronto

Drawing attention

One of Canada’s fastest-growing art expos, Art Toronto, opens tonight amid an increasing wave of international interest in the country’s fine roster of contemporary artists and galleries. Newer art fairs such as this one, which launched in 2000, can often find it difficult to assert their clout on an already jam-packed global calendar. However, Art Toronto has succeeded in luring an increasingly interesting mix of galleries from Canada, Mexico, Argentina and, importantly, the US to its annual showcase in downtown Toronto. And this year’s fair comes at an interesting time as a growing number of arts events and cultural bodies are vying to boost Canada’s standing in international contemporary art – not least the first-ever Toronto Biennial of Art, which launched in September and runs until the beginning of December.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Folk

Folk’s creative director Cathal McAteer founded the streetwear label in 2002 after moving to London from Glasgow. Known for their lush materials, wearable feel and smart details, Folk’s clothes have cult status worldwide. The brand recently launched a low-impact partnership with retail giant John Lewis called It’s All Good Folk.

Monocle Films / Germany

Berlin: The Monocle Travel Guide

For a long time Berlin lacked the wealth and stability of other capital cities so ingenuity had to prevail. The city is now known as a place where creativity is fostered, resourcefulness encouraged and originality embraced. Published by Gestalten, The Monocle Travel Guide to Berlin is available now at The Monocle Shop.

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