Thursday. 30/1/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Keep the conversation going

How do you broach a topic that everyone is so completely and utterly tired of talking about? As a recent transplant to London (I moved here from Berlin in October), this has been one of my biggest conundrums. There’s a mix of bitterness, passion and resignation that comes from discussing Brexit with people here; conversation rarely feels productive. And yet for those of us who believe in the importance of civil dialogue, it still feels so important to find ways of keeping the conversation going because, as has been mercilessly drummed into our heads over this past week, Friday’s exit is just the start of a new and equally important chapter in the UK’s relationship with the EU.

So how to keep the conversation fresh and productive? My own take is to focus on the personal stories that sit behind our fraught politics – the “why” behind the opinions that have bubbled to the surface from all corners over the past few years. How has the EU impacted your own life up to this point? How will the UK’s departure impact your life now? There’s so much misinformation in politics now but the one thing that can’t be easily distorted is personal experience.

I’ll start: as a dual Austrian-US citizen, I’ve had the rare privilege of being able to work and live in the US and Europe without constraint. So when the UK leaves the EU tomorrow it will mark the first time I’ve ever lived in a country where my own passport doesn’t automatically grant me the right to stay. I expect to get “pre-settled” status, sure, but it means that I won’t be able to move away and return over the next five years. That’s hardly the biggest problem to have in the world but, for a serial mover such as myself, it’s certainly an unsettling feeling.

Economy / Global

Glimmer of hope

An economist for the Chinese government yesterday warned that the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak could be more serious than that of the Sars epidemic in 2003 which, estimates suggest, sliced a full percentage point off China’s quarterly growth. But how, in real terms, might the economies of the other countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus – in Asia, Europe, the US and Canada – be affected? Restrictions on the movement of goods and people will dent economic output in the short term but a less-measurable sense of uncertainty could impact economies too. “You have a lot of people, thanks to the spread of information on social media, who are panicking,” says Hershell Ezrin, senior counsel at the Global Public Affairs consultancy in Toronto. The good news? “After the Sars outbreak, the economy bounced back within three years. Hopefully there will be that kind of bounce-back this time around as well.” Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.

Media / Italy

News gathering

Italian newsagents – or edicole – do much more for their cities than just sell papers. Traditionally, they’ve been meeting points for their neighbourhoods where citizens exchange opinions and often engage in political debates. But their number has plummeted over the past 15 years: almost half have shut and now only 26,000 remain across the country. That’s why Sinagi – the trade union for newspaper retailers – organised a nationwide event that saw edicole stay open until late last night. Across 40 cities, from Turin to Trieste, newsagents greeted their customers with a toast at 21.00; a petition was also organised to lobby for public funding of newsagents. A rare piece of good news.

Cinema / Japan

Big-screen surge

The popularity of streaming services should be bad news for cinemas. But Japan’s Motion Picture Producers Association reported this week that cinema attendance in 2019 topped 194 million, lifting box-office revenues to an all-time high of ¥261bn (€2.2bn). It was a record year for film releases in the world’s fourth-biggest market too: 689 films from Japanese studios – Toho, Shochiku, Toei, Kadokawa and others – accounted for more than half of the total. The surge is partly due to the rising number of multiplexes in Japan; there are now more movie screens in the country than there have been at any time in the past half century. It also helped that Japanese films drew big crowds, with Makoto Shinkai’s hit anime Weathering with You raking in a market-leading ¥14bn (€116m) in ticket sales.

Urbanism / California

Stopping the fun

The city of Malibu is proposing a ban on overnight parking along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) that hugs its shoreline. As Los Angeles City Council – of which Malibu is a part – continues to discuss the limiting of overnight parking near residential areas, parks, schools and daycare facilities, Malibu’s plan has prompted a debate over whether a city should limit access to its shoreline too. The PCH, or Highway 1, is one of the most popular roadtrip destinations in the US, drawing an estimated 5.8 million motorists every year. It is a trail that has long been treasured by wealthy travellers and backpacking surfers alike, who are able to park their cars at remote locations along the shoreline and spend the night – a major factor in what makes the trip so stunning. A ban in Malibu would seem to benefit no one: those living in campervans along the shore would have to park them elsewhere and travellers would surely just choose to rock up in another California beach town instead.

M24 / Foreign Desk Explainer

Will Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan work?

No. No, it won’t. But that’s only if one assumes that the point of the plan is to actually provide a workable solution that suits both Israel and Palestine. Andrew Mueller looks at what could really be behind the so-called deal of the century.

Monocle Films / Global

New-generation animators

Mike Mills explains how he spun recollections from his childhood into his new film, ‘20th Century Women’, starring Annette Bening. Plus: ‘Thumbsucker’ author Walter Kirn and we write a letter of appreciation to Ferris Bueller’s sidelined sister.

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