Monday. 14/10/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Note to a nation

In an increasingly tap-and-go era, the presence of cash – in its hoary, paper-thin form – is still a good way to send a soft-power message. That’s the idea behind the design of the UK’s new £20 note, to be issued in February, which bears a portrait of Romantic painter JMW Turner.

Also on the note is a blue-and-gold foil silhouette of the Margate Lighthouse and David Chipperfield-designed Turner Contemporary museum, both on the Kent coastline. The inclusion of architecture is a solid choice: buildings can become endearing emblems of a nation’s ingenuity (the Eiffel Tower), ambition (the soaring Burj Khalifa) or ethos (Lady Liberty). In this vein the seaside art hub is a fair choice: it plays up the UKs cultural clout and the often forgotten fact that there is life beyond London.

This is important at a time when the UK’s politics and parliament, and the nation’s primacy on the world stage, are wobbling in all the wrong places – like a portly daytripper on the Margate strand. However, had the Bank of England picked, say, The Shard (semi-occupied), Big Ben (under repair) or the Houses of Parliament (scaffolding-clad), it would have sent a rather less flattering – but equally apt – message about the fractious state of the nation today.

Politics / Asia

Business as usual

While the Sino-American trade war continues to unsettle the global economy, Chinese premier Xi Jinping is looking to consolidate relations closer to home. On Saturday he emerged from a two-day informal summit with India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, shoring up a relationship and the Asian nations’ considerable bilateral trade. China supports Pakistan in the ongoing dispute over Kashmir but, while Xi is happy to tout a “unique, all-weather” partnership with Pakistan, he was reluctant to explicitly engage with the tense territorial issue. Steve Tsang, director of the Soas China Institute, says, “Xi Jinping raising the issue of Kashmir with Modi would be like Angela Merkel raising the issue of human rights with China.” Which is to say unlikely, unhelpful to its long-term goals and doomed to fall on deaf ears.

Society / Washington

Name and shame

A name can carry a lot of weight. Take Christopher Columbus: there’s a federal holiday in his name that’s being celebrated in the US today. Yet not everyone has such a positive opinion of the Italian explorer – who landed in the Americas in 1492 – on the basis that his colonial mission repressed the native inhabitants.

Last week Washington joined some 130 cities in renaming Columbus Day, its council passing temporary legislation to rebrand it as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. However, there are no plans as yet to address the controversial moniker of the city’s American football team, the Redskins.

Transport / Taipei

Every dog has its day pass

People in Taipei are potty for pets, to the point that the number of domestic animals in Taiwan will overtake the number of children by 2020. As such, seven new pet-friendly bus lines have been added to Taipei’s transport roster to cater to the needs of these increasingly numerous furry friends. The orange-and-white buses, on routes that pass through three of the city’s main animal-friendly parks, have special LED panels reading “pet bus”, alerting those keen to steer clear of the mucky pups on board. And new transport measures aren’t the only initiatives in place to turn Taipei into Asia’s leading city for animal companions. There are also 123 pet-friendly hotels and restaurants in town, 78 of which serve meals for health-conscious owners and their pets.

Fashion / Asia

Wardrobe update required

The dust may have settled on the European fashion circuit but the sartorial season isn't over yet: this week Seoul, Tokyo and Shanghai fashion weeks are playing out concurrently. Although they represent Asia’s leading fashion galas, they have struggled to gain the international clout of their counterparts in Paris or Milan. These troubles can partly be attributed to timing: because they take place after the European circuit, overseas buyers have already been on the road for a month and are out of time (and money). So how to attract a more international clientele? Kelly Wetherille, Japan-based correspondent for fashion publication WWD, says that where Tokyo is concerned, the best bet would be to gather designers from across the region in a single pan-Asian event where “the young, edgy, upcoming Asian brands come to show”. That way, rather than splitting up talents from Japan, South Korea and China, they could all be seen in one hit. And there’s a precedent: Copenhagen fashion week has done it with Scandinavian brands.

M24 / Monocle on Culture

How lawless are the oceans?

In an ever more monitored world, escaping to the high seas might seem like a romantic idea. For some, however, being that far off the grid means being exploited, often while undertaking illicit activities. Who should be controlling what happens on the world’s oceans, and what’s being done to help those suffering at the hands of modern-day buccaneers, mercenaries and smugglers? Andrew Mueller is joined by journalist Ian Urbina, David Hammond from Human Rights at Sea and Alessio Patalano from King's College London.

Monocle Films / Sweden

Stockholm: The Monocle Travel Guide Series

Set in a glittering archipelago, Stockholm is one of our favourite summer getaways. Monocle's travel guide will help you locate Stockholm’s best hotels and most delectable restaurants, and show you what else to discover tucked away from the Swedish capital’s charming waterfront. Published by Gestalten, The Monocle Travel Guide to Stockholm is available now at The Monocle Shop.

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