Monday 25 July 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 25/7/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Crash for cash

I can’t really call it schadenfreude because I don’t wish anyone to lose any actual money here. But watching the precipitous decline in the value of many non-fungible tokens (NFTs), I can’t help but feel that the world is returning to its senses after the sugar rush of the past two years.

The crash is closely linked with similarly moribund cryptocurrencies but an early alarm bell came when an NFT of the first tweet, by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, went from selling for €2.83m last year to just €273 in April in a stark reminder that digital investments don’t hold any value in the physical world and their price can vary wildly from one day to the next. The industry always had the whiff of a big murky bubble just waiting to pop. But for a while you couldn’t question that orthodoxy. Even the most amateur NFT peddler would give you a mournful look as if to say, “You poor, misguided fool.”

More than anything, it’ll be a relief to no longer be told that I should care – or worse, write – about NFTs. For a while, my inbox was clogged up with “stories” about undrinkable NFTs of cocktails or undriveable NFTs of cars. It was like being permanently seated at dinner next to an NFT-bore. I remember one straight-faced young wheeler-dealer telling me, “If you live, like, 80 per cent of your life online, then you want these things as trophies.” That sounds bloody awful, I thought.

The meteoric rise of NFTs was fuelled by hype – hype for hype’s sake at that – and the withered attention spans of the permanently online. NFTs will no doubt be around for a while but when the world is in such a flux – war and economic strife have reminded us of the value of homes, food and fuel – I think we’re all in the market for something more tangible and less non-fungible.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / The Black Sea

Back in business

Turkey and the UN have inked deals with Russia and Ukraine on Friday to resume Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea. Russian and Ukrainian wheat and corn feed people in scores of countries around the world but Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s exports since its invasion has sparked a historic rise in the price of agricultural commodities and a global food crisis, with millions of tonnes of grain stuck at ports. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured, on right, with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres), has hardly been Ukraine’s saviour so far: for weeks he was the lone holdout as Sweden and Finland waited to join Nato and bolster the West’s response to Russia. But Friday’s news is a lesson that salvation can sometimes come from unlikely places. “The fact that the grain deal is happening is a glimmer of hope,” Russia analyst Stephen Dalziel told The Globalist on Monocle 24. “But until the grain starts arriving where it should be, we need to watch Russia’s behaviour very carefully.”

For more reporting and analysis on the war in Ukraine, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Benjamin Quinton

Design / UK

Firm foundations

The Design Council, the UK’s independent advisory body for design, has released a report examining the importance of architecture and design to the country’s economy. Called “Design Economy: People, Places and Economic Value”, it says that the industry is growing at double the pace of the broader economy, contributing £97.4bn in 2019.

Despite this positive news, the report warns that the government needs to do more to support design-minded schools and universities – funding for art and design degrees was slashed by half last year – stating that without diverse career pathways, the sector is under threat. If the UK design economy and its leading universities, such as the Royal College of Art, want to keep up with European counterparts including Design Academy Eindhoven and Politecnico Milano, the UK would be wise to heed that warning and invest in design education to nurture emerging talent as well as the country’s broader economic health.

Fashion / Brazil

Holiday ready

For São Paulo residents looking to refresh their holiday wardrobes, Diária is a multi-brand shop in the city’s leafy Pinheiros neighbourhood that is dedicated to “vacation lifestyle”. Founders Raphael Dias and Paulistano Raffaele Asselta designed their shop for anyone with travel in mind. From beautiful artwork to the perfect pair of shorts, Diária prides itself on selling independent Brazilian brands. “We are always trying to find new names among local makers,” says Dias. The shop stocks surfwear labels such as By the Sea and Lyria, alongside its own brand, Nøgen, which is Danish for “naked” and features simple pieces in earthy and pastel tones. Brazil is living through turbulent political and economic times but Dias says that São Paulo’s creative scene is on the up, particularly “in our neighbourhood of Pinheiros but also in places such as Barra Funda and Santa Cecília. Those places are becoming vital for the independent fashion, art and gastronomy scenes in Brazil.”

For more on the styles catching our eye this summer, pick up a copy of Monocle’s July/August edition, which is on newsstands now.

Image: Getty Images

Military / Japan

On the offensive

On Friday, Japan’s government approved its annual defence white paper. This year’s report includes a detailed section on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has rung alarm bells in Tokyo, given the possibility of a similar development on Japan’s doorstep: Taiwan sits just 110km away from Japan’s Yonaguni Island.

While the annual paper always dedicates space to China and North Korea, this year it doubled the amount of coverage of Taiwan and the potential for invasion by China. Japan’s media is focusing on the country’s counter-strike capabilities (including attacking the missile-launch bases of potential adversaries), which are mentioned in the paper for the first time. Recent months have seen an intensifying domestic debate over what Japan’s Self-Defence Forces can legally call self-defence, as Japan’s government has announced plans to revise its pacifist constitution. Tokyo’s lawmakers will need to tread carefully, though, if remilitarisation is to avoid raising regional temperatures and instead be a force for diplomacy.

Monocle 24 / Global Countdown

Côte d’Ivoire

For this week’s Global Countdown, Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco looks at the songs hitting the charts in Côte d’Ivoire.

Monocle Films / France

Escape to la campagne: Normandy

Pierre-Edouard Robine traded city life to rediscover his farming roots in 2016. Since then, he has built a sparkling wine business and forages for Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, alongside tending to his small herd of cattle. We travelled to his farm in La Courbe, Normandy, to lend a hand with tending the land and hear about the benefits of rural living.


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