Monday. 7/2/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Caught between

In late 2013, it was Ukraine’s desire one day to join the EU that sparked the extraordinary Euromaidan demonstrations (pictured), which would eventually depose a pro-Russian government and put the country on a seemingly irrevocable path towards integration. But while that decision remains a key reason behind the current tensions here, most people in Kyiv believe that Ukraine’s place in Europe was never really in any doubt. Rather, they ask, what has happened to Russia?

Ukraine has always seen itself as an independent, European nation. And while there have been historical ties with Russia, Ukrainians point out that this was always viewed in a European context. And so as Putin cosies up to China’s Xi Jinping, there’s a sense of sadness in Kyiv that ordinary Russians aren’t revolting against the Kremlin’s increasingly eastern focus and retro-authoritarianism – as Ukrainians did in the period from 2013 to 2014.

As for Brussels? Matti Maasikas, EU ambassador to Ukraine, told ‘The Globalist’ last week that there has been a “tectonic” reorientation from Russia towards Ukraine over the past eight years, “and it’s not going to change”. But there is nevertheless a feeling in Kyiv of being left in the lurch by Europe. Anastacia Galoushka, a Belgian-Ukrainian human-rights lawyer, points to Germany’s determination to complete the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline despite the conflict in the Donbass, and to the slowness of EU accession talks. Galoushka argues that while Ukraine has its problems, it is in many ways more developed and progressive than some other EU members, such as Poland or Hungary; that leaves the impression of a double standard.

Image: Shutterstock

Economics / Japan

Bite rise

While the country’s inflation remains low by global standards, in Japan, a ¥2 (€0.01) increase in consumer prices is a huge deal. And they are forecast to climb higher. Economists estimate that food and energy prices will rise by 3.3 and 9.1 per cent respectively in 2022. For households with an annual income of less than ¥3m (€22,700), this means that basic staples will soon account for 40.5 per cent of their income. Last week it was announced that the price of Umaibo, a hugely popular snack, had risen from ¥10 to ¥12, the first increase in price since it was launched in 1979. This is a telling date, as people born then would have come of age during the 1990s, a time in Japan known as the “lost decade” due to sustained economic decline. Things have improved since then, though growth has remained low, but the country hasn’t seen such a potentially disruptive combination of inflation and wage stagnation as it does now.

Image: Getty Images

Health / Philippines

Dose at hand

The Philippines will begin administering coronavirus vaccinations to children aged between five and 11 today. The south-east Asian country has been giving doses from nearly every available manufacturer to its adult population – including AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer, Sinovac, Sputnik and Sinopharm – but Pfizer is currently the only one it has authorised for use on children. Only a small batch of schools in Manila have resumed in-person classes in 2022 but more are expected to follow suit.

The country has been ambitious in its bid to get people jabbed and while vaccination isn’t mandatory, the unvaccinated are barred from public transportation and offices. As in other parts of the region, the Philippines’ crucial tourism sector has been wrecked by the pandemic and the government is hoping that tourists will stream back when it begins allowing vaccinated foreigners into the country from 10 February.

Image: Canadian Olympic

Sport / China

Perks programme

As with any elite sporting competition, success at the Winter Olympics is a matter of marginal gains. Some countries have been very open about their use of performance-enhancing substances. Australia has flown in its own barista to make perfect flat whites for its athletes, while South Korea is providing its team with a crew of 14 chefs and a makeshift kitchen just a short drive away from the athlete’s village. Team Canada has brought a 225kg fibreglass moose (pictured) across the Pacific Ocean. The lucky charm, which has been let moose at every Olympics since Sydney 2000, is frequently stolen by opposition teams. Not to be outdone, the Games’ hosts have gone to great lengths to ensure that the athletes have a comfortable stay in Beijing. Reports from the Olympic village show smart beds, a plethora of fast-food outlets (including KFC and Pizza Hut) and a free hair and nail salon. Perhaps most unusual is the fleet of cocktail-serving robots that also dispense hand sanitiser. Hopefully they don’t get the liquids mixed up, otherwise athletes will end up with sticky hands and an almighty hangover.

Image: Göteborg Film Festival

Film / Sweden

Care for a trance?

Gothenburg’s film festival, the largest of its kind in the Nordics, wrapped up yesterday after 11 days of talks, screenings, live music and awards ceremonies. While the festival is mostly aimed at celebrating Scandinavian talent, high-profile international guests such as Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino, who received the festival’s honorary Dragon award, and French director Lucile Hadžihalilović , were among 425,000 attendees who turned out to celebrate its physical return after a fully digital edition in 2021. The festival is known for its unusual stunts – last year’s featured screenings for a single audience member on a remote island – and this year was no different. For three of the gala screenings, festival directors put audiences in a trance by hiring a hypnotist to “transform the audience’s state of mind in accordance with the mood and theme of the film”. Offered at showings of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria and Shirin Neshat’s Land of Dreams, hypnotism is certainly a novel way of keeping punters’ eyes glued to the screen.

Image: Mac Collins

M24 / Monocle On Design

Mac Collins

We meet the Nottingham-born designer and artist, who is making narrative-driven furniture and has his first solo showcase at London’s Design Museum.

Monocle Films / Japan

Japanese food trucks

These design-forward restaurants on wheels are more than just lunch-hour catering for Tokyo’s hardworking crowds. We visit the talented chefs, as well as a technology start-up kicking the “kitchen car” scene into gear.

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