Thursday. 2/4/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Singing a different tune

Some of my best childhood memories are of my father starting a barbecue and then pulling the television set onto our porch for the family to watch (drum roll, please)... Eurovision! Yes, I’m not ashamed to say that the cheesy but loveable European song contest has long been a part of my life – whether joining a viewing party at the Goethe-Institut in Washington or attending the festivities live in Vienna in 2015 – and has often served as a reminder of what Europe has in common. So I was delighted to hear this week that a version of the spectacle, which had been scheduled to take place in Rotterdam, will go ahead on 16 May, albeit in a non-competitive digital format called Europe Shine a Light.

The timing of the announcement was awkward as it’s been a rough week for European unity. Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, called out the Netherlands for a “repugnant” lack of solidarity after the Dutch finance minister proposed an investigation into why Spain’s finances were not prepared to handle the coronavirus outbreak. “Anyone who wants to be in an EU with 27 members has to understand that being in a union is not to live in isolation,” Costa told reporters. “The EU is about sharing both difficulties and advantages with others.”

Although Costa’s comments prompted a retreat from the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte (who apologised for his finance minister and pledged greater “solidarity”), it also served as a warning sign: Europe is in danger of fracturing along old fault lines during this pandemic. Southern nations are pushing for a common form of debt (“corona bonds”) to manage the crisis, while northern European nations are hesitant to foot too much of the bill. And so it’s ironic that a Dutch broadcaster will be hosting Eurovision’s online show. Perhaps those running the Netherlands can glean a little light from it themselves.

Energy / Canada

Digging in

Work on one of Canada’s most debated energy-infrastructure projects began yesterday, despite the ongoing economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak and tumult in world oil prices. The Keystone XL pipeline, an extension to the existing Keystone pipeline (pictured), will transport oil from the province of Alberta to the US. The project received a boost on Tuesday when Alberta’s premier Jason Kenney, who has often suggested that the nearly 2,000km pipeline is essential to bolster the province’s economy, announced a US$1.1bn (€1bn) investment to ensure its financial stability. The development has long placed Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau in a tricky political position. By supporting the pipeline, he has tried to quell the restive political mood towards his government in Alberta but it has cost him support among those who say that it contradicts his environmental pledges. For better or worse, this latest investment means that the pipeline is now scheduled to begin operating in 2023.

Health / Global

It pays to be kind

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working tirelessly to identify the exact source of coronavirus – information that will surely prove invaluable in the long run. But finding its origins is no simple task and the work in Wuhan is leaving no stone unturned. “It’s the medical version of investigative journalism,” said Dr Margaret Harris of the WHO on Monocle 24’s The Briefing.

“It takes very sensitive interviews and it does take that human factor to really find out where it came from.” That human factor and the role of empathy in confronting this epidemic is something that Harris was keen to highlight. “What has really stood out during these horrendous times is how powerfully people have stood up to help each other,” she said. “I’m so overwhelmed by the humanity, kindness and positivity that people are exhibiting in the darkest and most difficult times.”

Fashion / Belgium

Dream team

Although Raf Simons is probably holed up at home in Antwerp, rather than in Milan, the fêted Belgian designer officially starts his new role as co-creative director of Prada today. In a non-pandemic era this bold arrangement, in which Simons (pictured) will share equal design responsibilities with Miuccia Prada, would dominate fashion headlines. The notion of two high-profile names leading one of the world’s biggest houses is remarkable in an industry where, for a long time, most brands have been steered by a single creative force. This duo, whose first collection will be unveiled in September, could usher in a return to more cerebral, artistic fashion. Both Simons and Prada are designer’s designers, focused on creating pieces that push the aesthetic forward and challenge viewers’ perceptions rather than on churning out hyped, marketing-driven drops that pop on social media. Prada is currently focused on a more important project: it is manufacturing 110,000 masks and 80,000 pairs of medical overalls to donate to Italian hospitals battling coronavirus. But once the pandemic is over, the Prada-Simons partnership will represent a new arrangement for a new world.

Culture / Italy

Screen sharing

Cinemas might be shut across much of the world but cinephiles aren’t giving up on the joy of watching films on the big screen. In Italy, the directors of film festival Alice nella Città have launched Cinema da Casa (Cinema from Home). The idea is for people who have a projector to screen scenes from their favourite films using the exterior wall of a building opposite their own as a backdrop. Born in Rome, the initiative has now spread around the country, from Turin to Palermo, and has also been picked up in nations including the Philippines, Vietnam, Belgium, Switzerland and Brazil. Screenings so far have included Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, Raging Bull (pictured) and Cinema Paradiso, Giuseppe Tornatore’s homage to the importance of movie houses, which itself features a scene where a film is projected onto a building. Screenings are at 22.00; don’t forget the popcorn.

M24 / The Menu

Recipe edition, Tom Booton

In the coming weeks we will focus on cooking from home, bringing you recipes from some of the world’s best chefs. This week we hear from Tom Booton, a young talent from London.

Monocle Films / Netherlands

All around the table: hideaway in the Netherlands

Nestled in a national park near Dalfsen, Lemelerberg Lodge is the place to slow down from a busy lifestyle. Co-founders Marianne Maat and Lucienne Dunnewijk show us how to create a sense of welcome with soft lighting, natural materials and their handmade wares.

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