Thursday. 5/12/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Line in the sand

You would imagine space to be pretty scant on Miami Beach, the self-governing city island that plays host to Art Basel in Miami Beach and Design Miami every December. But as the latter – the world’s most important fair for collectable design – swung open its doors to VIPs and journalists this week, city mayor Dan Gelber was on hand to showcase its plans for a lush green space honouring the LGBTQ community; it’s become known to residents as ‘Pride Park’. The space, which was previously a concrete carpark, is a welcome addition to the Billion Dollar Sandbar and a gesture of confidence in the fair, which will erect its tents on the grass every year.

While more greenery is welcome, Design Miami is also addressing a threat that could wipe out the island in its entirety: climate change. Curatorial director Aric Chen has woven a narrative about rising sea levels into the programming of the event: between stands highlighting classic furniture and conceptual work from artists such as Daniel Arsham will be exhibitions pointing out the irreversible damage we’re doing to our planet. Miami is emerging as a global art and design capital but it is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels. We hope that this year’s event marks the start of the city using its creative nous to become a positive force in the climate-change debate.

Defence / Baltics

League of their own

Nato leaders might have spent much of this week’s 70th anniversary summit squabbling over the future of the Cold War-era defence organisation but there’s one issue that should unite them all: protecting the Baltic states from Russia’s territorial ambitions. Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are on the hunt for allies and a report in the third edition of our Winter Weekly newspaper (on newsstands today) finds them increasingly looking to the Nordics for support. The Baltic and Nordic nations have been teaming up of late to improve their economic, diplomatic and defence ties – not to mention new transport connections. “We carry out common military exercises and practise crisis management together,” says Estonia’s former prime minister Taavi Rõivas. “There is also Nordic-Baltic cooperation in military procurement and police matters.” It’s an alliance that could reap rewards well beyond keeping the Russian bear at bay.

Hospitality / Sri Lanka

Room for optimism

There are strong signs that Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, which was hit hard after the Easter bombings in April, is back on the rise. The opening of Palm, a contemporary hotel among paddy fields on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, is one of several new developments bringing about this tourism revival. The hotel was co-founded by Miriam Haniffa, a former Londoner in search of her Sri Lankan roots. Although political stability is not assured just yet – the country’s newly elected president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has just suspended parliament for a month until 3 January – Palm is betting that its tranquil retreat will show the potential of this paradise island.

Media / USA

Welcome reprieve

Alternative media in North America has a new champion: earlier this week Toronto-based start-up Media Central announced plans to buy Now Magazine, Toronto’s longest-running independent – and free – alternative news weekly, for CA$2m (€1.4m). It’s part of a five-year plan to position Media Central as the leading voice in alternative news by acquiring similar publications in Canada and the US, bringing them under one corporate banner and making them profitable through data-driven advertising. It’s a risky move: independent publications such as Now, which report news outside the mainstream to a localised audience, are struggling amid falling advertising revenue. The most notable victim of the change in fortunes was New York’s The Village Voice, the US’s first alternative weekly, which folded last year. Media Central hopes that its own ambitious plans will fare better as it tries to keep Now’s print edition alive, while maintaining the editorial independence that makes alternative weeklies special.

Culture / The US

Comic strip

When Showgirls was released in 1995 it was a monumental flop: critics hated the film and the public was shocked by its raunchy scenes. With a budget of US$45m, the camp extravaganza had to wait a few years to become a cult classic. Now a new documentary by Jeffrey McHale is exploring its cultural legacy. You Don’t Nomi – a reference to the film’s protagonist – is a delightful academic piece about why this erotic 1990s flick is far more interesting than viewers initially gave it credit for. Cinema would be boring without the occasional “good bad movie”. Among the favourites of our own culture correspondent, Fernando Augusto Pacheco, are Mommie Dearest, Swept Away and Jaws 3-D. The secret? A film can’t be intentionally bad or too aware of its own awfulness; even lousy films should be works of love. For more, listen to our interview with McHale on The Globalist.

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Explainer 194: Who killed Daphne Caruana Galizia?

The murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017 has influenced Malta’s politics for the past two years. Andrew Mueller asks whether we’re getting closer to finding out who is responsible.

Monocle Films / Italy

Christmas shopping: Bassano del Grappa

Monocle Films indulges in a spot of festive retail in an idyllic Italian city. Join us for the best in fashion, books, sweets and more.

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