Monday. 8/4/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

No joke

Comedians make cracking campaigners (see story, below). So much so that, as the rise of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy proves, they often have a very good chance of winning. In the formulaic, repetitive and seemingly endless run-up to elections, satire is a powerful political tool to keep voters’ interest piqued. It’s also an excellent way to hold power to account, disrupt the status quo and inspire change.

The problem begins when the joke lands a bit too well. We want our politicians to be personable, engaging and, yes, sometimes even funny. But the job of leading a country (diplomatic negotiations, budget proposals and trade deals) is no laughing matter. Grillo’s story teaches us that the two professions are mutually exclusive: not because comedians can’t be good politicians, but because politicians can’t be comedians.

Grillo’s most recent theatre tour just wrapped up in Genoa; the script included criticism of the party he founded (and from which he now takes a back seat). It’s an odd contradiction that whiffs of hypocrisy. Comedians-turned-politicians might find they enjoy their new vocation – but perhaps it’s best if they forget about their old one.

Design / Milan

Go to town

Tomorrow the biggest event in the design calendar officially begins in Milan. But for many designers, curators and nosey Milanese, the Salone del Mobile festivities begin today in the inner-city, as furniture showrooms swing open their doors to preview their new releases. It’s a sign that some major design companies would rather show their products with the city itself as the backdrop, rather than the busy halls of the traditional tradeshow floor. And why not? Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala (pictured) thinks that the city’s relationship with design, innovation and manufacturing continues to be good for business. “People are coming in search of new stimuli,” he says, citing a boom in tourism in recent years. After all, showrooms in town are a more cultivated venue than the airless homogeneity of a tradeshow hall – and they seem to be drawing the crowds.

Business / Japan

End of the road?

It’s judgement day for Nissan shareholders: they’re scheduled to vote on the removal of Carlos Ghosn as a director. The vote follows the rearrest of Ghosn in Tokyo last week, marking the fourth time the disgraced executive has been arrested on various charges of financial misconduct. Nissan’s board removed him as representative director and chairman in November, shortly after his first arrest; he resigned as CEO and chairman of Renault by his own volition earlier this year. Now shareholders are expected to fully remove Ghosn by stripping him of his role as ordinary director of the company. Assuming Ghosn goes, the company will be hoping to turn a swift corner on the affair.

Election / Ukraine

Now who’s laughing?

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko is in the midst of a crisis. In the run-up to the country’s election on 21 April he is being outplayed by comedian-turned-politician Vladimir Zelenskiy, trailing woefully in the polls. Poroshenko isn’t helping his cause either: last week he agreed to a political debate in Kiev’s Olympic Stadium rather than the usual venue of a TV studio, which will inevitably detract from actual political discussion by playing to Zelenskiy’s strengths of showmanship and pageantry. Bizarrely, Poroshenko also succumbed to his opponent’s unfounded request to prove that he’s not an alcoholic or drug addict by taking a blood test, a grainy video of which he posted on his Facebook page with the caption “Bringing in new traditions”. But there’s a fine line between picking up the gauntlet and sinking into farce. And with the outsider’s landslide victory in the first round in March, it’s unlikely that Poroshenko’s strategy will pay off.

Society / Japan

Gluttons for punishment

Eating while walking sounds simple enough but it’s a skill that still eludes many people. This fact is evident on warm weekends along Komachi-Dori, a pedestrianised street in the Japanese coastal city of Kamakura. The road is lined with all manner of street sellers hawking crêpes, ice cream and the usual holiday fare. They do a roaring trade but their businesses result in a lot of ruined clothes as people, concentrating on their food, bump into each other, or at least that’s the gripe of city officials. Luckily they’ve found the solution: a new ordinance that warns against moving and masticating at the same time on the busy thoroughfare. What’s not clear is how such a law will be policed – ordering tourists to stand still or sit as they eat could turn things sour.

M24 / The Menu

Diego Muñoz

Peruvian chef Diego Muñoz’s ambitious plans, a Sydney café helping refugees get back on their feet and Nancy Silverton’s recipe for a poke bowl.

Film / Kenya

Nairobi: building better cities

Kenya’s Karura Forest offers not only respite from the bustling capital but also a sense of pride for its citizens.

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