Monday. 6/1/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Feeling the heat

When Australian prime minister Scott Morrison (pictured) unexpectedly won last year’s general election, many a startled pundit was forced to concede that, perhaps, he had a tighter grip on the national pulse than most had been willing to give him credit for. Less than eight months later, among the acts performing during a nationally televised New Year’s Eve concert on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour was Australian singer Tex Perkins. With a flourishing of a middle finger towards prime ministerial residence Kirribilli House, he dedicated a song originally recorded by his band The Cruel Sea to Morrison. Its name: “The Honeymoon Is Over”.

Morrison’s response to the bushfire crisis currently besetting Australia has appeared both baffled and baffling. First there was his grumpy early return from an ill-advised holiday to Hawaii. Then, as the fires deepened their grip, he offered crotchety explanations for his conduct. Last week his penitent attempts at direct outreach to communities affected by the fires saw his handshakes refused and ears reddened by insults.

Australians do not blame their prime ministers for natural disasters – and all of the country’s leaders are tested by them. But they do remember that this prime minister has been, at best, equivocal on the issue of climate change and has repeatedly suggested that these fires are just another of the trials to which this country regularly subjects its citizens – almost as if it does them good. Morrison has shrugged that expressions of anger in his direction are “not something for me to take personally”. He should give some thought to doing so – and change tack if he hopes to survive the new year.

Defence / Iran

Poking the bear

Anyone expecting 2020 to be a quieter year than the last will have had their illusions shattered on day three. According to Scott Lucas, professor of international relations at Birmingham University, the US crossed a line on Friday when its forces killed Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top general and leader of its Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Never before has Washington dared to target such a senior Iranian official. With one strike, the US has put its cards on the table: the military option is real. The question, then, is exactly how Iran will respond. “Do you take the risk of stepping up attacks on the Americans?” said Lucas on The Briefing. “This is now a high-stakes game and I think it’s something that is beyond Donald Trump – but it is not beyond [Iran’s] supreme leader.” This week all eyes will be on Tehran.

Technology / USA

Pole position

CES, Las Vegas’s annual consumer electronics show, will welcome some 170,000 delegates from 160 countries when it kicks off tomorrow. Expect plenty of talk about the 5G rollout, a glut of new gadgets and an appearance from Ivanka Trump. The increased presence of car-makers is also evident: Daimler chairman Ola Källenius will hold one of two keynote speeches and is set to unveil a new “futuristic concept vehicle”. It’s a sign of just how much technology has come to matter for global auto manufacturers. Previously, such displays might have been reserved for the Detroit Auto Show, which normally takes place later in January; this year’s event has been moved to June to avoid clashing with CES. If you can’t make it to Vegas, keep your eyes peeled for our reports from CES later this week.

Transport / London

Good vibrations?

London’s transit authority has a new addition to the city’s soundscape: some of its electric buses will now emit “relaxing” noises while in motion. The noises are intended to serve as a warning sound, alerting pedestrians to the presence of the vehicles that are otherwise nearly silent. The tone has been described as calm and steady but advocacy groups have called for the buses to sound more like, well, buses. They might have a case: people find comfort – and safety – in the familiarity of recognisable noises. At Hyundai, for example, the audible warnings on its electric cars are similar to sounds made by standard combustion engines. Perhaps this technique would be more effective in keeping pedestrians in London safe too.

Fashion / Global

Boys are back in town

Design darlings such as Nicholas Daley and Grace Wales Bonner unveiled their 2020 autumn/winter collections over the weekend at the 15th iteration of London Men’s Fashion Week. Today’s show by Chinese-born Feng Chan Wang is set to be a highlight as the three-day event wraps up. The fashion-week season kicks off in earnest next month with the events focusing on womenswear taking place in Paris, New York and London. But the fact that the UK capital’s menswear showcase has also become an essential date in the calendar demonstrates the increasing interest in men’s fashion. It’s useful for brands too: for the first time, London Men’s Fashion Week will have a presence at this weekend’s Milan Fashion Week Men’s as part of a project seeking to connect young UK creatives with Italian manufacturers – a smart idea.

M24 / THE STACK

The First Stack

This week on The Stack we speak to the CEO of ‘The Texas Tribune’. Plus: Austrian title ‘Salt & Wonder’ and celebrating 25 years of ‘Saveur’.

Monocle films / Porto

Making it in Porto

Portugal’s second city is close to the country’s manufacturing heart and that’s why so many designers have made it their home. We meet some of the bright minds in town.

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