Friday. 8/11/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Robert Bound

The inflight-safety takeoff

“Your life vest is located in a pouch under your seat or armrest.” So goes the rap by K-pop boyband sensation Super M, while a choir of small children in life preservers harmonise behind them. “Put the life vest over your head and adjust the straps around your waist.” Woo! Yeah! And yes, you guessed it: the crown for the cutest, quirkiest, most amusing inflight-safety video has just been stolen by Super M’s new effort – a perfectly choreographed, high-production gem recently uploaded to Korean Air’s onboard systems. The video mixes neat takes on the essential safety instructions with pure pop-promo fodder shot aboard a sci-fi aeroplane that looks as if it should be flying way beyond the galaxy, not just shuttling in and out of Incheon. It is excellent.

Inflight-safety videos have been getting funnier and funkier since Virgin America upped the irony with its “for the 0.0001 of you who’ve never operated a seat belt before, it works like this” video in 2007. Air New Zealand has become known for its quirky mini-films and leapt fully onto the Lord of the Rings bandwagon with “the most epic safety video ever made” starring Elijah Wood; while the charter company Thomson did a simple and charming switch, casting children as crew and passengers; and El Al made a confusing mash-up of pop-video clichés.

Whether or not you can remember any of the safety information is another thing entirely (although it shouldn’t be) but the branding and viral potential of these videos is obvious to the airlines. The only question remains – how do you rap to the unchanging words of the inflight-safety video, set down since aeronautical time immemorial? Just practise, like Super M.

Elections / Spain

Polls apart

Spaniards will head to the polls on Sunday for their fourth general election in as many years and even the most ardent of democrats must be exhausted by the process at this point. This election could be as inconclusive as the last – the latest opinion polls suggest that about a third of voters still don’t know who is deserving of their support. As ever, a good chunk of the focus will be on how to handle Catalonia. Prime minister Pedro Sánchez has taken a tougher line on Catalan independence this time around and the recent imprisonment of several secessionist leaders has dominated the proceedings. Sánchez’s ploy may help to woo supporters of both Ciudadanos and the People’s Party – both of which reject Catalonia’s push for self-determination – but it is unlikely to heal Spain’s divisions. That will only come with dialogue and that, it seems, is in short supply.

Transport / South Korea

Platfarm number one

Seoul’s city government has an ambitious plan to turn parts of its subway stations into smart – and sterile – farms. The first of these vertical green spaces has been set up in Seoul’s Sangdo station, where eight types of vegetables are currently growing in floor-to-ceiling trays under pink neon lights in a 394 sq m glass facility. The space also features a children’s education zone and shop selling the vegetables. Two more farms are in the works and there is the potential for more resident-friendly collaborations in the future.

The government is also welcoming workers with disabilities to manage the locations as these largely self-sufficient facilities won’t be nearly as labour-intensive as traditional farms. As younger Koreans are less willing than their forebears to carry the torch for traditional agriculture, this novel approach is a good alternative. Passers-by can at least look forward to a fresh start to their morning commute.

Urbanism / The US

Going down the wrong road

Earlier this week the US National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all 50 states make it mandatory for cyclists to don a helmet. Although helmets do protect from head injuries, cycling advocates aren’t pleased with the recommendation – they fear such laws are a disincentive to cycle by making it, seemingly, less convenient than just jumping in a car. If the number of cyclists does drop then the new law could backfire as studies have suggested that cyclists’ safety is found in numbers – the more riders on the road, the safer they tend to be. In truth, better cycling infrastructure in US cities, such as the protected bike lanes found in Amsterdam or Copenhagen (which have low cycling-fatality rates, despite many riders going helmet free), would be a more meaningful solution. The cities that acknowledge cycling as a key part of urban infrastructure rather than an afterthought requiring the band-aid of a helmet law, for example, are the cities in which cyclists are safest.

Society / China

A tight leash

How close are you to your dog? In many cities in China you’re encouraged to keep them very close indeed. Shenzhen recently announced plans to force dog owners to keep larger pooches on leads a maximum of 50cm long. Paranoia about dog aggression has also led to more draconian measures in Hangzhou. Following two incidents in which disagreements involving dogs that were not on leads, the walking of dogs has been prohibited from 07.00 to 19.00, while law states that some breeds are not allowed in public areas. Careless owners who don’t look after their pets when out and about need reprimanding but punishing the dogs for their owners’ negligence? That seems barking mad.

M24 / On Design Extra

Show stoppers

How do you redesign the familiar and the everyday? We visit London’s Ace Hotel, which recently invited Diego Faivre, Boaz Cohen and Shay Alkalay to refresh objects such as doorstops and rugs as part of the ‘Custom Exercise’ design project.

Monocle Films / UK

How to fix your high street: Frome

We visit a monthly market in the unassuming Somerset town that’s proving easy sell to locals, buoying local businesses and luring in punters from miles around.

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