Thursday 12 May 2016 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 12/5/2016

The Monocle Minute

Big spender

The governor of Tokyo, Yoichi Masuzoe, is in hot water for his extravagant spending habits. Ever since the Japanese Communist party revealed last month that Masuzoe had spent more than ¥213m (€1.7m) on overseas trips since taking office in 2014, the Japanese media has been digging up examples of the governor’s profligacy. Among the revelations are the exorbitant costs of his hotel rooms – way beyond the limit fixed by city regulations – on his nine overseas trips. One suite in London cost about ¥200,000 (€1,614) per night. The weekly tabloids have been reporting that Masuzoe always flies First Class and even uses an official car to drive him to and from his holiday home on the Izu Peninsula. Masuzoe, who has yet to give a full explanation, has simply said that he will accept his criticism “humbly”.

Splash the hash

With unemployment above the California average and income below it, the small outpost of Desert Hot Springs has been licking its wounds for a while. In fact, things got so bad that the southern California town declared an fiscal emergency back in 2014. More than 25 per cent of the population live below the poverty line. In a bid to revive the dusty community’s fortunes, the government will allow marijuana farms to move in to feed the region’s hungry medical market. So far 11 businesses have been approved, with hopes that the move will bring a cash injection and a much-needed boost to the property market. Though some city officials might prefer to see the plan go up in smoke, mayor Scott Matas says he’s simply hoping it will fund “more police officers, city repairs and infrastructure”.

New build

Competitions are a linchpin of the architecture world and now there’s a glittering new trophy up for grabs. This year the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) is staging its inaugural International Prize: a celebration of the most remarkable buildings erected around the world in the last three years. The prize will be awarded in December and this week saw the unveiling of its 30-strong longlist. Europe and Asia are particularly well represented, with Norway, Ireland, Germany and China each featuring twice. The architecture community remains fascinated with Brutalism. Yet Portugal’s handsome grey Arquipélago Contemporary Arts Centre and France’s low-slung concrete First World War memorial appear alongside green projects such as Vo Trong Nghia’s agricultural kindergarten (pictured) in Vietnam. While spaceship-like structures from global starchitects are represented, there are equal numbers of tucked-away residences, including Canada’s cantilevered Tula House. The longlist proves that architecture in 2016 is a broad church indeed.

Filmic feud

Thailand’s film heritage will soon be cast under the global spotlight with Cannes Film Festival screening the 1954 masterpiece Santi-Vina as part of its Cannes Classics section. Yet while the classic romantic tragedy is enjoyed in France, Bangkok citizens are fighting for the preservation of a cinema icon of a different kind. An online petition is gathering steam against the potential demolition of the Scala Theater. This tropical art deco cinema, wedged between the modern malls and towers of downtown Siam, was built in 1969 but has its heart very much in the roaring 1920s. Visitors have adored its vintage screening room, yellow-blazer-sporting ushers and opulent lobby chandelier for decades. With film a mainstay in Thai culture and the nation striving to bring more foreign productions onshore, we reckon the cultural value of the Scala is worth more than the prized parcel of land it sits on.


Why is the modern food supply chain so broken – and how can we fix it? Ben Pugh from London-based start-up FarmDrop has a solution.

High-risk hotels

In a war zone even the hotels are targets. Monocle Films visits three high-risk hotels, including the Corinthia in Tripoli, where nine people were killed in an attack last year.


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