Wednesday. 18/11/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Eject disc

On my first visit to Tokyo’s Tower Records last year, the store was celebrating the latest release by Japanese band Perfume – and the place was buzzing. One of the group’s biggest hits, “Chocolate Disco”, was pumping out of the speakers. I bought the album, which came with a poster and special notepad. It was inspiring to see the passion that Japanese consumers still have for CDs – the country is one of the few markets that still values the format. It’s why artists often release unique editions of their albums in Japan, usually with a bonus track or different artwork.

In the UK, where I now live, things are different: every time I tell colleagues that I still buy CDs they give me a quizzical look. Just last week a copy of a rare bossa nova compilation arrived on my desk along with a greatest-hits compilation by Ladytron. I have eclectic taste: the week before I purchased an Enya album – it made sense during lockdown. Although vinyl is incredibly beautiful and I understand the appeal, I grew up with CDs. There’s a certain nostalgic tingle that hits me every time I buy one. Streaming or buying a digital version just isn’t the same thing.

And so it was with sadness that I learned that Japan is also changing. The Japan Times reported last week that because of the pandemic and record-shop closures, the Japanese are increasingly moving to streaming services like the rest of us. The nostalgist in me remains confident: surely the Japanese won’t give up on this beautiful tradition so easily, especially once the pandemic is behind us? I mean, who would want to miss out on the time-tested charm of an album cover?

Politics / Peru

By the book

Peru’s congress has taken the unprecedented step of electing the nation’s second interim president in a week. The nation is hoping to halt a political crisis that has deepened since the impeachment of former president Martín Vízcarra over corruption allegations. The first interim president, Manuel Merino, resigned following the killing of two protestors during a crackdown on weekend demonstrations against Vízcarra’s removal and Merino’s assumption of power. Monday’s appointment of Francisco Sagasti (pictured), in a 97-26 vote, is more of an olive branch. A former academic and engineer, he’s a member of the Purple Party, the only party that voted against Vízcarra’s removal. Sagasti “is someone who comes with a very strong anti-corruption agenda, to work for a better Peru,” says Natalia Sobrevilla Perea, professor of Latin American history at the University of Kent. “It’s a real change. We have not had a president like him in 20 years.” The 76-year-old leader will hope to usher in some relative stability – at least until elections in April.

Space / USA

Launch language

SpaceX has become the first private company to provide a capsule to transport crew members to the International Space Station as four astronauts docked on the satellite. The crew (pictured), who will stay on board for six months, chose the name Resilience, a nod to the project’s tenacity through trying times. Providing crews with the naming rights for their craft is common enough in US space projects and has borne good results in the past: Apollo 10’s Snoopy lunar module was named to reference its “snooping” around the lunar surface in low orbit, while command module Charlie Brown served as its guardian. Other naming methods have prevailed on occasion (a student competition named Nasa’s Mars rover Curiosity), while spacecraft contractors have also provided their own less-than-inspiring callsigns, such as Apollo 12’s Yankee Clipper. A simple serial number is chosen where all else fails – but that’s not nearly as much fun.

Transport / Pakistan

All aboard

Public transport in Karachi, as in many south Asian cities, is unreliable and slow. Bus use in Pakistan’s largest city is hamstrung by an unappealing and weakly regulated network as well as near-constant gridlock. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is trying to reverse these conditions by funding the city’s first rapid-transit bus line. Reports last week outlined ADB’s plans to loan $235m (€198m) towards dedicated lanes and stations capable of docking up to eight buses at the same time. The result? “It will relieve congestion, minimise road accidents, and reduce pollution,” says ADB vice-president for knowledge management and sustainable development Bambang Susantono. This will also ensure ease of movement across the city. In a region where many metropolises are racing to build metro systems with significant price tags – a metro line in Manila will cost $7bn (€5.9bn) – it’s a reminder that affordable alternatives could be just the ticket.

Tourism / New Zealand

Guest edit

Summer in New Zealand is a lot quieter this year without the annual migration of European backpackers – and some Kiwis would like to keep it that way. New tourism minister Stuart Nash wants to use the current coronavirus-related border closures to “reset” the country’s policy towards visitors. It is his belief that the New Zealand tourism sector should target high-spending holiday-makers in the future – and charge them more so that regional communities are not footing the bills for the infrastructure and environmental impacts of mass travel. Making visitors “pay for the privilege of participating in the New Zealand experience” is likely to be popular at home: Kiwi taxpayers often bridle at the costs of cleaning up after roadside campers, for example. However, this attempt at sustainability could end up doing more harm in the long-term: plenty of budget travellers return to the far-flung islands later in life, with bigger families, bulging wallets and a desire for softer bedding.

M24 / The Menu

Food Neighbourhoods 211: Recipe edition, Masaki Sugisaki

A traditional vegan recipe from one of London’s best-loved Japanese chefs.

Film / Sweden

The secret to running a restaurant

In the latest edition of our ‘Secret to...’ series, Niklas Ekstedt opens up his acclaimed eatery – Ekstedt – and divulges some insightful tips on how to run a successful restaurant.

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