Monday. 26/8/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Robert Bound

Magic numbers

There are few things more exciting than the International Conference on Very Large Databases, starting today in Los Angeles. If you’re reading this in the wrong time zone then tough luck – that giga-boat is already sailing. (The conference does run until Thursday though if you fancy hopping on a plane.)

Since long before Monocle started its own annual Quality of Life Conference we have taken an interest in how other companies package their brands, talk to their customers and remain not just relevant but sold out soon after tickets are issued. You can smirk but the data guys are looking at a full house (inspecting, among other things, data management and information-systems research) for the conference today. They may well be looking at the potential user saturation of this very news bulletin or the performance of your Instagram feed and having a good old giggle.

One thing’s for sure, we might well be reporting from next year’s instalment – and with a straight face. A file? Oh, they’ll have one on all of us. See you there, taking notes, next year.

Energy / Canada

Greasing the wheels

Construction has resumed on the expansion of Canada’s controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline, the government announced last week, after much turmoil. The project, which will triple the existing pipeline’s crude-oil capacity, was halted in 2018 when an appeals court determined that the government did not properly consult Indigenous groups that would be affected by construction. Combined with nationwide environmental protests, the delays led the pipeline’s owner, Kinder Morgan Canada, to threaten axing the project altogether. In response, Justin Trudeau’s government bought the pipeline before reapproving construction in June. Its goal is to have the pipeline active by 2022 but last week’s announcement was more of a strategic one: with an October election looming, the government clearly hopes that kick-starting the depressed oil industry will calm nerves regarding the country’s uncertain economic future.

Politics / China

Reflective mood

China’s plans to deal with the ongoing protests in Hong Kong may be decided this month in the little known and unfashionable resort of Beidaihe. The seaside city, just a few hundred kilometres east of Beijing, is a summer retreat where Chinese leaders have plotted the country’s future since the age of Mao Zedong; in these turbulent times, president Xi Jinping is rumoured to have already visited this month. But rather than using the remote hideaway for a rest, China’s elite tend to seize the occasion to discuss “big-think things”, Rana Mitter, director of the Oxford China Centre, told The Briefing on Monocle 24. “I would be staggered if there was not a conversation going on about Hong Kong.”

Debt / Argentina

Money matters

Representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are touching down in Argentina this week amid the country’s deepening financial crisis. President Mauricio Macri borrowed $57bn (€51bn) from the IMF last year on the agreement that he would implement austerity measures to trim the country’s huge debt as well as make the repayments. Argentina’s economy went into shock, however, after centre-left opposition presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez won the primary vote earlier this month. The peso dropped to a record low following the results, showing a lack of confidence, which will only be compounded if Fernandez makes it into office following elections in October – something that IMF officials will be keen to dig into when they arrive in the country later this week.

Infrastructure / California

Home improvements

Google has given San Jose residents a first look at plans for its proposed campus development near the city’s central passenger rail depot. The technology giant could be the biggest developer in the Diridon Station precinct adjacent to the city’s downtown, which is set to be transformed from an industrial area into a bustling mixed-use neighbourhood. With a promise to build 20,000 houses in the Bay Area within the next 10 years, the plans are a first step in that direction with 3,000 to 5,000 homes proposed. Despite opposition from local resident groups concerned about being priced out, the city looks set to embrace Google’s proposal, swayed by hopes that it will ease demand for housing in the South Bay.

M24 / The Monocle Weekly

Matthew Yokobosky, Ash Koosha and Liz Gilmore

Matthew Yokobosky, fashion and material culture curator at the Brooklyn Museum, discusses a new exhibition on retro-futurist icon Pierre Cardin. Plus: we meet Ash Koosha, an electronic composer and futurist, to learn more about his latest creation – an artificial intelligence called Yona, and we take a trip to the seaside to learn more about the recently rebranded Hastings Contemporary from its director Liz Gilmore.

Gunsan: building on the past

Natives and newcomers to Gunsan in South Korea are creating quirky bars, art spaces and a bright future for this charming outpost.

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