Tuesday. 10/3/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Building bridges

Students at Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture at Taliesin (pictured) should know that they are fortunate. They study inside the architect’s Unesco-listed former residences in Wisconsin and Arizona, while learning to build their own structures informed by his work. As a former design student, Taliesin always represented the ideal education: a hands-on application of theory.

Which is why I read with relief over the weekend that the school, which was due to shut up shop in June due to a funding shortage, has been saved. Since the closure was announced in January, a host of new financial supporters have come forward, including Ma Qingyun, a Chinese architect and former dean of the University of Southern California’s architecture department.

In an agreement that Ma has brokered with two Chinese universities, up to 12 tuition-paying students from these institutions will study at Taliesin every year from 2021, a move that should provide the necessary financial backing to keep the school operational. Ma’s support – along with that of thousands of people from across the world who have rallied behind Taliesin since January – shows an understanding of the significance of the school and its model.

In a time of increasing international discord it has also highlighted that art, culture and architecture can transcend national boundaries and economic tit-for-tat between governments. Taliesin’s rescue should remind people in the US, China and elsewhere to protect and celebrate the things that we have in common rather than focus on what sets us apart.

Energy / Saudi Arabia

Fuel to the flames

Markets were sent into a tailspin yesterday by a high-stakes fight over the appropriate production level (and price) of oil, with Saudi Arabia at the centre. Unwilling to tolerate challenges to their dominance of the global oil landscape, the Saudis have chosen to flood the market with oil to drive down prices and, most importantly, teach a lesson to Russia, which last week refused the Saudis’ demand to cut production. The Russians, meanwhile, are motivated by a desire to put the squeeze on the US and its shale-gas producers, which have made America less dependent on foreign energy and emboldened Washington’s attempts to sanction Moscow. But Mark Katz, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, believes that the Russians underestimate Saudi determination. “They cannot afford to let Russia take leadership of this,” he says. “American shale oil is bad enough but for the Russians to somehow take the lead away from Saudi Arabia? That’s something they can’t abide.”

Elections / USA

Blank canvass

Six US states hold primaries and caucuses today in a smaller but no less consequential iteration of last week’s dramatic Super Tuesday votes. They include the key swing state of Michigan, which narrowly voted for Donald Trump in 2016. For Democrats it will be a further test of whether voters believe that a moderate or progressive agenda is most likely to defeat Trump later this year. Indeed, perceived electability is emerging as the priority for large numbers of Democratic voters. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, frontrunners for the Democratic nomination, have radically different visions for how to appeal to working-class voters living in these states who were wooed by Trump four years ago. Many Democrats believe that the key to ensuring victory in November is to build the most diverse coalition at the ballot box. Which of the two is more likely to achieve that? The answer should become a little clearer after today’s primaries.

Film / Brazil

Show of respect

The assassination of councilwoman Marielle Franco in Rio de Janeiro two years ago was a crime that gripped Brazil and sparked national debate. The name of the young black human-rights activist and LGBT icon also appeared on posters wielded on protest marches around the world. Now Franco’s life will be turned into a television series created and written by Antonia Pellegrino, one of the strongest feminist voices in Brazil today. Set to air on the Globoplay streaming service next year, the programme’s main director will be José Padilha, who is known for Elite Squad, one of the most popular films ever made in Brazil – and also one of the most controversial due to its gritty depiction of police brutality. Expect the new series to shine a light on urban violence and serve as a dark, uncomfortable reminder of the power of the country’s militias. It should also ensure that Franco’s life and career retains its impact on Brazilian society for years to come.

Publishing / Japan

Free for all

Manga publishers are temporarily making hundreds of titles free to read online in Japan, where many people are currently working or studying from home as a result of coronavirus. Weekly Shonen Jump, a manga anthology published by Shueisha that usually shifts more than 1.8 million issues a week, is allowing access to the first 13 volumes of 2020 until the end of March. The publisher is also making volumes one to 60 of One Piece (pictured), one of the best-selling manga of all time, available until 5 April. Recent editions of Weekly Shonen Champion, one of Japan’s oldest manga weeklies, can be read online too. “We would love children whose schools are closed, and people who aren’t able to get out, to enjoy Weekly Shonen Champion online and bring a smile to their faces,” reads its website. Nurturing a fresh audience of manga fans is good for future business too.

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Has the US learnt anything from its longest war?

Nearly 19 years after invading Afghanistan, the US has agreed a peace deal with the Taliban. But is that really going to be an end to it? And will the US ever try anything similar again? Andrew Mueller is joined by Belquis Ahmadi and David Kilcullen.

Monocle Films / Global

Seamless moves

When it comes to moving people effortlessly through and between cities, who is getting it right? And how do we make cities where mobility works for young and old alike?

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