Monday. 4/11/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / James Chambers

Leader of the pack

The final whistle in Japan’s Rugby World Cup was blown this weekend. By all accounts the tournament has been a big win for the nation, even if lifting the trophy was beyond the home team. It has been five years since I last visited Tokyo so, while cheering on my country (Wales), I was keen to see how much the Japanese capital has changed as it prepares to host next year’s Olympics.

Some things haven’t: cash is still king and technology still adds unnecessary layers of tedium to simple tasks, such as buying a concert ticket. Elsewhere changes are afoot. Levels of written English – and openness to speaking it – have improved; restaurants with signs saying, “We welcome foreigners” are a case in point. Awareness of the blight of plastic waste has also arrived but there is a long way to go. Before a rugby match in Yokohama, I saw volunteers were handing out plastic bags with “Try” written on them. Try harder.

But the biggest difference is the number of cyclists: pedestrians now have to sidestep these zippy two-wheelers constantly. Tokyo’s narrow streets make it difficult to retrofit cycle lanes but the city’s governor Yuriko Koike should get behind this uptake of pedal power. If any country can be a world leader for safe cycling, it’s Japan. Roll on the Olympics.

Politics / UK

Keeping the speaker quiet

The UK’s House of Commons will be electing a new speaker to replace MP-cum-cultural phenomenon John Bercow today. Bercow’s cries of “Order!” secured him admirers around the world, particularly among Europeans who, for whatever reason, find great satisfaction in watching UK politicians being chastised and belittled like naughty little schoolchildren. While he brought charisma to the dusty old role, Bercow had his critics: many thought he failed to uphold the impartiality required of the Commons’ arbitrator. His replacement will be chosen by the House later today in a secret ballot. The odds-on favourite is Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who has been the speaker’s deputy for the past nine years. Hoyle’s Lancashire constituency voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum but Hoyle has, miraculously, kept his own views under wraps. If that doesn’t bolster his impartiality credentials, it’s hard to imagine what will.

Society / Russia

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Late last week the Kremlin introduced some worrying new legislation to control internet access within Russia. The official line is that the so-called Sovereign Internet is a cybersecurity measure and – rather missing the point – that users won’t recognise the difference. In truth the new regulations will give authorities considerable power to control what people see online. “Russians shouldn’t be reassured at all,” Russia analyst Stephen Dalziel told The Briefing.

“If the Kremlin had teeth it would be gnashing them over the fact that Russians can get information about what’s going on in the world via the internet and that it’s not the official view that the Kremlin approves of. The smokescreen they’re putting up is that it’s in case of an attack via the internet on Russia; it’s a good example of a Russian half-truth. The whole story is that if authorities want to cut Russia off from the rest of the world, they now have the potential to do it.”

Elections / The US

Rallying cry

Donald Trump is well known for inserting himself into political races – often not even in his own country, if his recent call for Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage to join forces is anything to go by. In the US, the president has been particularly vocal in Mississippi of late, including holding a rally there at the end of last week. The reason? The surprisingly hotly contested gubernatorial race, which heads to a vote tomorrow. The state may be deep red but the Democrats’ candidate is popular attorney-general Jim Hood, who will take on Republican lieutenant governor Tate Reeves, making the race the most competitive in years. For Trump it may well be a matter of pride: Republicans lost seven governorships in last year’s midterms.

Fashion / UK

A good fit

This week one of the most successful US clothing start-ups to emerge in recent years is coming to the UK. Untuckit, launched in New York in 2011, has made a small fortune by selling men’s shirts. Its sales are predicted to exceed $200m (€179m) in 2019 and it has some 75 shops across North America; it will now open two branches in London. Don’t expect to be bowled over by its fashion-forward wares though. Its shirts are designed to be worn – you guessed it – untucked, so are slightly shorter than regular models. The cuts are slim, the colours and patterns simple, the prices affordable. The fashion industry loves to talk about the next agenda-setting trend, yet Untuckit has not concerned itself with the pursuit of cool. It's a reminder of the success to be had by appealing not to fashion folk but to regular guys who just want a straightforward shirt.

M24 / The Big Interview

Nicholas Britell

The Academy Award-nominated composer and pianist is the musical brain behind the scores of Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winning film ‘Moonlight’ and ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’, as well as Adam McKay’s ‘Vice’ and ‘The Big Short’. Most recently he scored the Netflix film ‘The King’ and won an Emmy for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme for the HBO series ‘Succession’. He talks to Monocle’s Ben Rylan about the art of the opening sequence and composing music for moving images.

Monocle Films / Austria

Urban provocations

Monocle’s second Quality of Life Conference kicked off in Vienna with a set of urban provocations. Here are our top 10 city fixes.

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