Thursday. 12/3/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Open book

Italians will be spending a lot of time at home in the coming weeks, with their movement restricted to trips for work or for shopping for essentials such as food. But a number of companies are determined to ensure that people don’t run out of another thing that’s fundamental to their wellbeing: culture.

La Scatola Lilla, a bookshop in Milan, might be closed but the bookseller, Cristina di Canio, isn’t on holiday. Instead she is recommending a book a day and taking orders for free home deliveries. The same goes for bookshops up and down the peninsula. Radio stations are also opening up their archives to make hours of children’s stories available to listen to online, while museums are organising virtual tours and web-based lectures by authors, intellectuals and artists.

These steps are partly in response to advice from the minister of culture, Dario Franceschini, who has invited cultural institutions around the country to keep providing some degree of programming that can be viewed remotely. And reminding people of the joy of clutching a new book – as Di Canio is doing – is an important lesson that, hopefully, will stick once everyone has returned to their routines.

Diplomacy / Libya

Agenda gap

This week’s whirlwind diplomatic tour of Europe by Khalifa Haftar, the renegade commander of the Libyan National Army, has included meetings with French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel. For European leaders – motivated in part by the desire to avoid a second refugee crisis off their shores – the goal is to convince Haftar (pictured, on right, with Macron) to agree a ceasefire with the national government in Tripoli and stick to the terms of a peace agreement reached in Berlin in January. But the writer, researcher and longtime Libya watcher Mary Fitzgerald warns that this might be counterproductive. “Haftar likes to visit European and other capitals,” she told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “He likes to feel important because it sends a message to his support base in Libya and his external actors – the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia – that he is important.” It’s a reminder that rolling out the diplomatic carpet doesn’t always send the message intended.

Society / Japan

Picture of health

Coronavirus might be causing changes to our lives but many of the things we can and should do to protect ourselves are actually quite simple. They are explained in an illustration (pictured) commissioned by professor Kenji Shibuya of King’s College London and Yoshiro Hayashi of Kameda Medical Center in Chiba near Tokyo (where patients from the Diamond Princess cruise ship were sent to recuperate). Believing in the power of design, they entrusted Japanese designer Takashi Tokuma with communicating straightforward, accurate guidelines to prevent a further spread of the virus.

Within a day the bilingual poster was complete and is now being used widely by municipal governments, schools and clinics. “We didn’t want to scare parents and children with dark illustrations,” says Tokuma. “We made it bright and relaxed to engage with people and help them understand the simple dos and don’ts.”

Design / Australia

Business as usual

Melbourne’s Design Week kicks off today with the theme of “how design can shape life”. Running until 22 March, the festival shines the spotlight more on Melbourne-based designers than international gallerists (part of the reason why it is going ahead while other international design events have been scaled back or cancelled). There are talks from the likes of government adviser and artificial-intelligence specialist Ellen Broad and Bas Van Abel, founder of the world’s first sustainably produced smartphone company (pictured). The event also coincides with a book fair and film festival. And outside the National Gallery of Victoria there are boat tours, walks and bike rides that champion the cultural, ecological and recreational value of Victoria’s rivers, bays and oceans.

Culture / Denmark

Exhibit yay

Denmark has announced that it will open the nation’s first Happiness Museum in Copenhagen’s old town in May. Funded and organised by Institut for Lykkeforskning (Happiness Research Institute), a think-tank, the space will serve to educate Denmark’s residents and tourists on why the Nordic country is consistently ranked, by the UN and others, as being among the world’s happiest. Unlike the first such institution, in London’s Shoreditch, which hosts events and workshops intended to boost the dreary city-dweller’s mood, Copenhagen’s museum will try something different. It will offer insights into the history and science behind happiness through experiments and exhibitions, from the science of smiling to the politics of a cheery disposition. “It’s a small place,” says Meik Wiking, head of Institut for Lykkeforskning. “But we want it to be somewhere we can reflect on the good things in life.”

M24 / The Menu

Food Neighbourhoods 175: Lyon, the Presqu’île

A culinary tour in the heart of Lyon, an area that offers a wealth of cafés, restaurants, luxury shops and cultural venues. Our guide is Monocle’s Madeleine Pollard.

Monocle Films / Spain

Campus of creativity

“Foster independent thinking” is a key phrase in modern education but few places get it right. We visit Madrid’s Colegio Estudio to meet the enlightened teachers and alumni.

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