Wednesday 8 June 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 8/6/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Felix Brüggemann

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Homing signals

Putting together a quality of life index like the one that Monocle will release next week in our July/August issue always raises a lot of questions, starting with what criteria to consider and how to weigh them against each other. Researchers for rankings of this kind often focus on what life is like for middle-aged professionals looking for good job prospects and affordable living.

Finance broadsheet Il Sole 24 Ore has run Italy’s most highly esteemed quality of life index for years and the business powerhouses of the northeast have long dominated. But since last year the paper has divided its findings by age group and the results have been more mixed. Different parameters have been used to ascertain the best Italian city to call home if you’re a child, an adult between the ages of 18 and 35, or elderly. For children, the number of playgrounds and access to good schools might be what matter most, so the northern city of Aosta comes first place. A young professional, by contrast, might care more about how many businesses have owners under 35 or how many nightclubs are open in the vicinity; in which case, central Italy’s Piacenza takes the top spot. The longer lived might be more interested in the number of urban vegetable patches, the quality of geriatric healthcare and the level of noise complaints; for them, Cagliari (pictured) in Sardinia is the winner.

What’s perhaps most interesting is that none of these cities works for all age groups. Piacenza is best for young adults but comes 75th for children, while Cagliari is great for the elderly but takes the 80th spot for younger people. But isn’t this to be expected? What we want from life changes with time. In due course, perhaps our address should too.

Chiara Rimella is Monocle’s culture editor and deputy editor of our sister publication ‘Konfekt’. To reserve your copy of Monocle’s July/August Quality of Life issue, subscribe today.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Americas

Gathering storm

Joe Biden hosts the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles this week but the crowd of leaders expected to greet him looks a little thin. On Monday the Biden administration confirmed that it would exclude Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, citing their authoritarian tendencies. In retaliation, Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has announced that he will boycott the gathering; the country’s foreign minister will attend in his place. López Obrador’s move is particularly embarrassing as Biden wants to use the summit to roll out a regional migration initiative. The decision to block leftist authoritarians from attending is backed by Republicans – by contrast, Brazil’s right-wing populist president Jair Bolsonaro will attend – yet the US is missing a diplomatic opportunity. There’s a time and a place to focus on how we want governments to behave – Biden’s Summit for Democracy last December comes to mind – but a continental summit? Inviting leaders with whom the US disagrees might have helped Washington to hold sway over the Americas in the years ahead – even if that simply means being part of the conversation.

For more on the Summit of the Americas, listen to Oscar Guardiola-Rivera’s take on this morning’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: MBC/Shahid

Culture / Saudi Arabia

Breaking the mould

Though Saudi Arabia’s authorities remain largely intolerant of dissent, there are signs that they’re loosening up when it comes to certain social mores. A case in point is the popularity of Jameel Jeddan, a TV series about a woman who wakes up after five years in a coma to a transformed kingdom where the power of ultra-conservative clerics has waned. The taboo-breaking comedy is the country’s first TV show to be written by and star a Saudi woman; significantly, it airs on Shahid, a streaming service owned by state broadcaster MBC.

“I wanted to break stereotypes because I became sick of how women are portrayed on television,” Sarah Taibah, who plays Jameel, tells Monocle. So far, there has been no backlash from conservatives. “It’s a nice reminder that there is hope,” says Taibah (pictured). The question now is whether Jameel Jeddan will return for another season – and how many more taboos it can prod.

Read more about ‘Jameel Jeddan’ by grabbing a copy of Monocle’s June issue on newsstands or subscribe today.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Seoul

What’s in a name?

Seoul’s metro operator is auctioning the secondary naming rights of 50 stations across its extensive network this month as the loss-making public-transport system attempts to get its budget back on track. Companies and institutions within a 1km radius of each station, including stops such as Gangnam and City Hall, are eligible to enter and winning bidders will have their names added in parentheses to the existing signage. Seoul Metro first trialled the idea in 2016; it was revived during the pandemic when daily passenger numbers plummeted. Though traffic has rebounded this year, the system’s long-term financial woes extend beyond cheap tickets and fare dodgers. Seoul’s population is shrinking as many residents relocate from South Korea’s capital to the surrounding province. With this decline expected to continue for the next few decades, valid concerns about the commercialisation of public space could become a secondary concern for city hall – whatever the subway station is called.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Design / Milan

Building blocks

Throughout Salone del Mobile in Milan this week, Monocle is hosting a series of discussions, curated with V-Zug, on the future of design and architecture. British interior and furniture designer Ilse Crawford (pictured, centre) spoke to us about the importance of quality.

Why should we furnish our homes and workplaces with materials that can withstand wear and tear? When we’re designing spaces, we need to start out with materials that have tactility and materiality, rather than a fake patina; doing so ensures that it will age well and improve with wear.

Do designers have a responsibility to ensure that their work can be maintained? Something can be really well considered and built but if there’s no support or access to spare parts to repair it, it’s not worthwhile. Items should be able to be maintained easily, so that people don’t have to resort to the cowboy plumber or carpenter down the road.

How important is investing in quality design? My mother-in-law always said that she couldn’t afford to buy cheap. If you buy something that’s good quality, it lasts for years; if it’s cheap, you end up spending more money in the long run.

Listen to Monocle 24 throughout this week for more from Salone del Mobile or pick up a copy of our newspaper dedicated to Milan Design Week on select newsstands now.

Image: Scott Garfield

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Culture

‘Top Gun: Maverick’

Tom Cruise is back as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell for another sky-high adventure in Top Gun: Maverick. Robert Bound is joined by critics Clarisse Loughrey and Simran Hans to ask whether this legacy sequel takes off.

Monocle Films / Global

Tailoring’s youthful refit

They might not fit the archetype of the high-end tailor but a new generation of smart young outfitters are now at the cutting edge of bespoke menswear. We get the measure of four such craftsmen in London, Berlin, Hong Kong and Perugia.


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