Thursday. 21/7/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Felix Brüggemann

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Good news

A few members of the Monocle team and I recently hosted a morning meeting for some German newspaper executives at Midori House in London. Amid the pleasant industry chatter, coffee and cardamom buns, an odd question cropped up. “How do you stay positive?” an editor from the paper’s Sunday supplement asked, part pleadingly.

She meant, I think, “Why is Monocle committed to telling optimistic stories and seeking opportunity?” Perhaps she was puzzled by our stance against a backdrop of uncertainty, doom-mongering and dour outlooks (for energy, the economy, the environment – take your pick). I sense she was also expressing a fatigue that I’ve clocked among many journalists caught between the differing demands of print and digital.

It’s easy to see why some publishers are glum. They are under pressure to break (often upsetting) news while paradoxically keeping readers “happy”. Budgets in some quarters are being slashed and there’s pressure to woo new customers and charm advertisers. All while journalists are vying for people’s attention with whatever else is on their minds, phones and coffee tables. Can news compete with listicles, clickbait and cat videos?

In answer to the German journalist, I think there’s plenty to be upbeat about, both in the news we report and the industry we represent. Believe it or not, some people really do care as much about what’s happening in Lviv as on Love Island (a reality TV programme, in case you don’t know).

That faith in our readers’ better instincts is one reason why we are launching The Monocle Companion, which is on newsstands and available online today. It’s a pretty, peachy-hued paperback packed with 50 essays. The authors hold forth on everything from entrepreneurship and anticipation to urbanism and free speech.

So how do we stay upbeat? The same way you can. By looking beyond the headlines to find fresh ideas and solutions that nudge the world towards nicer and more nuanced conclusions. Could curiosity yet kill the cat video? Here’s hoping.

Josh Fehnert is Monocle’s editor and editor of ‘The Monocle Companion: Fifty Ideas to Improve Your Life’. Buy your copy today.

Image: Alamy

Diplomacy / Global

Ticket to ride

There are few better measurements of a nation’s soft power than the welcome afforded its citizens when abroad. The latest rankings from London residence and citizenship investment firm Henley & Partners show that, for the fifth consecutive year, Japanese passport holders have greater travel freedoms than those of any other country, with visa-free entry to 193 countries. Singaporean and South Korean passports are in joint second place. Ongoing coronavirus restrictions mean that those countries’ citizens are currently less likely to be able to enjoy their travel benefits – the International Air Transport Association expects the global travel industry to only return to previous highs by 2024 – but at least those restrictions are self-imposed. The rankings don’t account for temporary restrictions, so Russia’s war with Ukraine isn’t reflected: Russians are technically able to enter 119 countries but airspace closures make travelling to some parts of the world almost impossible. If ever there were a reward for diplomacy, surely it’s freeing your citizens from mindless airport bureaucracy.

Image: Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy / Ryan White

Urbanism / USA

Urban oasis

After 30 years of planning and delays, San Francisco’s Presidio Tunnel Tops – a new park designed by New York-based practice James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) – opened to the public on Sunday. Built on the site of an unloved highway, the 6-hectare land bridge was loosely inspired by New York’s Highline, another JCFO design that also replaced obsolete urban infrastructure with green space. As cities look to adapt to increasing urban density, these initiatives might be the first of many.

“Inevitably we’re going to start building more parks like this one,” Michael Boland, chief park officer of the Presidio Trust, told Monocle. It won’t be easy: the Presidio Tunnel Tops (pictured) has been an age in the making. But despite the wait, the positive response to the park’s inauguration proves that such projects are often worth the effort. Even when planning and construction feels laborious, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

Read more about Tunnel Tops and other urbanism projects in the July/August edition of Monocle, which is on newsstands now, or subscribe so that you never miss an issue.

Image: Getty Images

Energy / France

Power to the people

The French government is set to pay nearly €10bn to fully nationalise the country’s main energy company, EDF, by buying the remaining 16 per cent of the heavily indebted firm. Bringing EDF and its nuclear power plants under state control will help the government get a grip on power prices that are soaring because of the war in Ukraine. But there’s another reason behind the move.

“If France wants to achieve its targets to reduce carbon emissions, nuclear energy is part of the solution,” AFP’s Florence Biedermann told The Briefing on Monocle 24. Renationalising EDF frees up Emmanuel Macron to spend billions on nuclear infrastructure, the expense of which is often unappealing. Nuclear power is not perfect – historical accidents mean that many nations have thought twice in pursuing it – but the move will help to limit energy bills, aid the country’s emissions-slashing plans and provide an alternative to financially cheap but morally costly Russian gas.

For more on global energy politics and the war in Ukraine, tune in to The Briefing on Monocle 24.

Image: Ouaziz Anass

Culture / Morocco

Calling the tune

After Jubantouja released their debut album Izda Mimoun in 2019, word quickly spread about their blend of bluesy rock and vocals in Tamazight, a language that includes dialects of the Amazigh tribes of northern Africa. Born into a nomadic family in the Atlas Mountains, musician Ayoub Nabil’s heritage influences the music he creates with Jubantouja, often in the face of discrimination. “I want to prove that Amazigh music doesn’t have to be very traditional and that folk traditions have a place in contemporary Morocco,” Nabil tells Monocle.

After crowdfunding their first album, Jubantouja were selected to represent Morocco at the 2020 Dubai Expo and Nabil (pictured) has spent the past two years writing new songs, which are being recorded this summer. “Music is an important part of our culture,” he says. “My grandfather used to host musicians who travelled from village to village.” And with fans in France, the US and Turkey, Jubantouja’s appeal is anything but local.

For more on the culture catching our eye this summer, pick up a copy of the Monocle Mediterraneo newspaper, which is on sale now.

Monocle 24 / The Menu

Recipe edition, Laura Santosuosso

A Tuscan dish from the kitchen of Milan’s Remulass restaurant.

Monocle Films / Global

The Monocle Companion

The Monocle Companion has 50 inspiring essays to improve everything from your vacation to your vocation. Our first-ever paperback is packed with long-reads, inspiration and cheery ideas to make you happy. Get your copy today from The Monocle Shop.

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