Thursday 16 November 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 16/11/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

House news / Alexis Self

Road ahead

Today we tend to dismiss the ancients’ devotion to soothsayers or mystics as atavistic but there are plenty of people in the modern world whose job it is to predict the future. They are mostly economic forecasters. You only need to search for a definitive answer to when interest rates will fall again to realise that most of what they do is pure guesswork.

The latest issue of The Forecast, Monocle’s annual magazine that looks forward to the year ahead, doesn’t tell you where to put your money. But it does abound with thought-provoking journalism that presents an inspiring view of the next 12 or so months. Pick up a copy to transport yourself to the tropical island of Ishigaki to meet the Japan Coast Guard as it prepares to patrol an increasingly tense Western Pacific. Then, step aboard the vintage sailing ships signalling a change of direction for the carbon-intensive shipping industry. Or, chart a course for the 25 places around the world offering the best of urban living in a more compact setting, in our fifth Small Cities Index. And then, enjoy an authoritative and entertaining appraisal of what the movers and shakers will be wearing as they stroll the piazzas, plazas and promenades of those cities – and all the bigger ones too – in the coming year.

Image: Masanori Akao, Felix Odell

Commanding officer Captain Yoshitaka Morimoto on the lookout

Image: Masanori Akao, Felix Odell

Bosun Eilish Turnbull and deckhand Markus Rapponen furl the headsails

Image: Masanori Akao, Felix Odell

The Forecast is not full of prophecy or prediction but optimistic stories and solutions. While it’s important to confront the challenges that we face head-on, it’s also important to pay attention to the good things coming down the line. There might be a few showers and squalls but there’s also sunshine on the road ahead.

Alexis Self is Monocle’s foreign editor. Pick up a copy of ‘The Forecast’ or subscribe to Monocle today.


Snow patrol: guard at the Vaalimaa border crossing between Finland and Russia

Image: Getty Images

Affairs / Finland & Russia

Border patrol

Finland’s prime minister, Petteri Orpo, has accused Russia of intentionally directing undocumented migrants to its border this week. Since Monday, 60 asylum-seekers have crossed into the country; a stark contrast to the 91 people who have arrived from Russia over the past three months. The Nordic nation is in the process of building a fence across a section of its 1,340km-long border with Russia – due to be completed by 2026 – to prevent a further increase in migrants without travel documents.

“Russia’s goal is to destabilise its neighbours,” Charly Salonius-Pasternak, senior research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in Helsinki, tells The Monocle Minute. “But, unlike in 2016, when a few thousand individuals came across the border from Russia, Finnish officials are clearly more prepared,” he adds. “They expect the current flow to be but a harbinger of things to come.”

Mobility / USA

All at sea

“Infrastructure in the US has to be brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century,” says John Rossant, founder and CEO of Comotion, the country’s leading mobility conference, which wraps up today in Los Angeles. A talking shop for movers and shakers in transportation, this year’s event has focused on how the US can bring its creaking hardware up to speed, whether in the air, on rails or at sea. There have also been fireside chats on the next generation of cycle lanes and the vertical take-off machines that might someday offer a way around – and over – rush-hour traffic. But it’s not all about the US. A panel on the future of coastal transportation brought together the brains behind the sea-glider firm Regent (read our report in the September issue of Monocle) and the people building Saudi Arabia’s new megacity, Neom, on the Red Sea. “In that context, an electric sea-glider makes a lot of sense,” says Rossant.

Image: Getty Images

Tourism / Japan

Many happy returns

The streets of Tokyo and Osaka are in full bloom as recently released figures show that Japan’s tourism industry has risen back to its 2019 level. On Wednesday the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) said that the number of foreign visitors for business and leisure rose to 2.52 million people last month, which was up from 2.18 million in September.

The increase can be partly attributed to the travel policy implemented in October last year, which removed the obligatory pre-departure coronavirus test and the daily entry cap of 50,000 people. It also waived the visa requirement for short-term travellers coming from the US, Australia, Argentina and most European countries. Despite fears that the lower numbers of visitors from mainland China would slow the industry’s revival, the influx of European and North American tourists has proven that opening the borders was a smart economic move.

Beyond the Headlines

John le Carré in ‘The Pigeon Tunnel’

Image: Errol Morris

Q&A / Errol Morris

Man of mystery

Filmmaker Errol Morris first rose to prominence in the late 1980s with his documentary The Thin Blue Line. Now he has released The Pigeon Tunnel, based on John le Carré’s autobiography of the same name, which features interviews, archival footage and fresh dramatisations of the author. Here, he tells The Monocle Minute about the difficulties posed in capturing the mind of the enigmatic writer.

Was John le Carré a difficult person to interview?
Truth be told, he was one of the few people that I have ever interviewed. He would constantly tell you that everything he said might be a lie – and not always by design. As he pointed out, memory is a fickle and strange kind of thing. He spoke about how we withhold the truth even from ourselves; how we forget things and change narratives in our minds.

How does the film tie in to the visual identity of Le Carré’s body of work?
One of the most interesting aspects of The Pigeon Tunnel is how chaotic it is. It’s not a linear narrative; it’s a strange mosaic of different stories. Parables and themes are sometimes stitched together and, at other times, thrown apart. The film tries to capture the quality of his original work through graphic art and live filming.

How do you feel about the outcome of the documentary?
People often ask me, “Do you feel you’ve got everything?” There’s a simple answer to that: no, of course not. But I got something that I’m grateful for. If you ask John le Carré to reflect on his own work, you’re left with a man who endlessly questions himself, his own motives, his own memories and his own perception of reality. I guess you could label the film as meta in that way.

For our full interview with Errol Morris, tune in to ‘Monocle on Culture’ on Monocle Radio.

Monocle Films / Design

Made in Bavaria

Bavaria’s rich manufacturing heritage shows that there is more to the region than the Alps, sausages and beer. Monocle Films takes a tour behind the scenes of renowned art-materials manufacturers Faber-Castell, Gmund Papier and Theresienthal glassmakers to explore how traditional ways of making have endured thanks to a legacy of familial entrepreneurship.


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