Tuesday. 11/10/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Bloomberg CityLab

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Urban legends

This year Amsterdam is hosting Bloomberg Citylab, the annual event for civic leaders, planners and urban-minded academics run by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute. Some 40 mayors are in town this week for the three-day gathering and, given the links to Michael Bloomberg – the founder of the US financial and media giant, as well as a garlanded former mayor of New York – there’s a strong showing of American players, including Washington’s mayor, Muriel Bowser (pictured, on right), who will be on this Thursday’s episode of The Urbanist. Bloomberg has created the impressive Cities Network, which allows these mayors to share information and grow as urban-minded CEOs. This collaboration also explains why there is a clear consensus in the room about the challenges that we face today and even the potential solutions. You don’t come here to see people locking horns.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t some fire in the speakers. This year one of the best strands has been the various attempts to illuminate how climate stresses, from heatwaves to floods, don’t hit everyone in a metropolis in the same way. Eleni Myrivili, chief heat officer of Athens (see issue 155 of Monocle), explained that her city’s wealthiest neighbourhoods had the highest numbers of shading trees, while Marta Segura, her counterpart in Los Angeles, said that her own city suffered from a “shade equity” issue, which was compounded by the fact that the poorest districts were often the most polluted. On a panel about “waterproofing cities”, Randall Woodfin, mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, said that in the past his city developed segregated communities for black residents on floodplains and between highways. These places are now vulnerable to the increasingly frequent floods caused by water running down the valley that the city sits in.

The panellists agreed that while creating fairer places for all will take time, there are simple measures that should be adopted now: for example, plant more trees, get rid of asphalt car parks and create more green spaces for nature. These are steps that can easily get everyone’s buy-in and make us all feel invested in building a more sustainable future. In short, it’s time we all got a bit more shady.

Andrew Tuck is Monocle’s editor in chief.

Image: Reuters

Geopolitics / Belarus

Double threat

Belarus’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, announced yesterday that he and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, will deploy a joint military group amid signs that the war in Ukraine is entering a new phase. The news comes as Putin scrambles to get a grip on events following the bombing of a strategic bridge in the Kerch Strait on Saturday, which the Kremlin described as an “act of terror”. A few hours after the bombing, Moscow announced the appointment of notorious general Sergei Surovikin as its first overall commander of forces in Ukraine. On Monday morning, Russia rained down missiles on civilian targets in Kyiv (pictured), Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia. “Lukashenko’s expression of support is largely symbolic,” James Rodgers, author of Assignment Moscow: Reporting on Russia from Lenin to Putin, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “But it’s a reminder that this war is still a very long way from over, despite Ukraine’s successes on the battlefield.”

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Malaysia

Hitting refresh

After months of pressure and infighting in the governing coalition, Malaysia’s prime minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob (pictured, on screen), announced that he would dissolve parliament yesterday, triggering a general election within 60 days. “This dissolution was carried out in order to put a stop to the voices that have been questioning the legitimacy of the government,” said Ismail, who assumed office in August 2021. His party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), had been in power for more than 60 years before it was ousted in 2018. Two years later it returned to government after the ruling coalition collapsed. UMNO has since been struggling to shake off allegations of graft and corruption.

Nonetheless, recent local elections have been favourable to the party, bolstering Ismail’s hopes of strengthening his mandate. Some have raised concerns that the monsoon season could reduce voter turnout but the prime minister’s choice is a tactical move that he hopes will clear the clouds that have gathered around his administration.

Tourism / Japan

Access all areas

After yesterday’s public holiday, Sports Day, Japan is fully limbered up for the opening of its borders. Business travellers and tour groups were already allowed into the country but it will now also welcome those travelling independently, with proof of three vaccinations or a negative coronavirus test the only requirement for entry. So, what differences might you notice since the last time you visited? For a start, the recent historic drop in the yen will make your trip remarkably good value.

Shops and restaurants are open for business but expect to see hand sanitisers, masks and a certain amount of protective plastic. Japan is no longer wedded to paper money; cashless payments are accepted in most establishments and have become standard for taxis and corner shops. Hotels and other developments that were intended for the 2020 Olympics are now ready to admire. The country’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, is hopeful that visitor numbers will quickly return to pre-pandemic levels – nearly 32 million people visited in 2019. He will also be eyeing their expenditure, which reached nearly ¥5trn (€35bn) that year.

Image: Paramount Pictures

Culture / USA

Screaming for more

As Parker Finn’s horror film Smile (pictured) enters its second week at the top of the US box office, it’s clear that, no matter how troubling the news agenda, audiences remain hungry for cinematic chills. Smile’s performance was buoyed by positive reviews, with receipts over the past weekend rising 19 per cent on the previous week. Distributors increasingly consider horror to be a safe bet. Damien Leone’s killer-clown slasher Terrifier 2 has also been performing well this week.

As we approach Halloween, several other gory pictures are lurking in the shadows. Chief among them is director David Gordon Green’s Halloween Ends, the final instalment of the long-running franchise, and The Menu, Mark Mylod’s smart and bloody satire of the culinary world (no relation to Monocle 24’s beloved podcast). With Hollywood heartthrob Timothée Chalamet cast in Luca Guadagnino’s teen-cannibal love story Bones and All, it seems that horror films are on the hunt for new audiences – the kind who still enjoy their thrills delivered in the darkness of the cinema.

Image: Paolo Properzi / Archivio Slow Food

Monocle 24 / The Menu

Salone del Gusto

The return of one of the world’s pre-eminent food fairs, controversy in France over increasing baguette prices and a new app connecting customers and local food producers.

Monocle Films / Global

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