Friday. 21/8/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Crime and punishment

Summer is a strange time for news. Some like to call it “silly season” for the lack of major political events. This year, much has been said about the power of the pandemic to change our habits of news consumption but the general consensus is that, months in, the appetite for coronavirus-related stories has definitely decreased. A recent Reuters report on the subject says that the drop in interest in the UK has been “slow and steady” since the pandemic’s onset – even more so among younger readers and women.

So if people no longer want to read about coronavirus, what do they want to focus on instead? The easy assumption to make is that they’re after escapism – or are tempted to switch off the news altogether. But surveying the headlines in my home country of Italy over the past couple of weeks, it appears that another altogether grimmer alternative is once again gripping readers this August: many papers have decided to dissect gruesome crime news.

A fascination with the macabre has always been something of a hallmark of the hot months but it’s still confusing as to why people would want to move so quickly from tracking coronavirus numbers to reading detailed murder reports. If the rush to watch Contagion on Netflix back in March proves anything, it’s that sometimes the thirst for doom is mysteriously unquenchable. But fighting those urges is also important: neglecting to indulge in some of the silliness of the season seems like a crime in its own right to me.

Politics / Mali

Power trip

As global protests call for change – from Belarus to Hong Kong and the US – this week’s developments in the West African state of Mali provide a cautionary tale. Long struggling with an Islamist insurgency, Malians have been on the streets since June demanding the resignation of their (democratically elected) president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. This week, the military responded by forcing Keïta out of office and promising new elections to restore civilian rule. We’ve seen this playbook many times before; the African Union, which suspended Mali on Wednesday, made a point of noting that military coups should be condemned to the past. And while some in Mali’s opposition welcomed the move (a rally is planned for today), one leader in the opposition movement announced his resignation from politics after meeting with the coup’s leaders. Hardly a promising sign that the military will be an impartial player in how this crisis plays out.

Business / Singapore

Leader of the pack

Yesterday Singapore announced enhancements to its Startup SG Founder programme, which is intended to encourage entrepreneurialism and innovation in the city. The new package includes a S$50,000 (€31,000) support grant for new businesses (up from S$30,000) and a three-month venture-building course for budding founders. It follows deputy prime minister Heng Swee Keat’s announcement earlier in the week that the start-up scheme – which doled out S$2.2m (€1.3m) to 74 start-ups last year – would be receiving up to S$150m (€90m) more in funding.

It’s a canny move from the Southeast Asian trading hub, which has managed to bounce back stronger from various crises since its founding in 1965. Innovative young companies will be needed for an agile business ecosystem as the world economy settles into its new shape. By supporting fresh thinking, the government is trying to ensure that the city-state is once again on the front foot.

Society / Germany

Paw and order

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of dogs here at Monocle so the news that Germany wants to make owners walk their pooches more often definitely got our tails wagging. Under a new draft law unveiled by agricultural minister Julia Klöckner, dog owners will be required to walk their canine companions twice a day for at least one hour in total. The law also forbids them from tying up dogs for long periods or leaving them alone all day. A one-hour leg stretch should be a welcome addition to the pooches’ routine, though it's unclear how the law will be enforced and whether this will prompt owner-pooch reconciliation or simply a proliferation of professional dog walkers. But with an estimated 9 million dogs in Germany (one per five households), Klöckner might just be barking up the right tree.

Design / Japan & Italy

Like minds

If ever there was a fusion of furniture-making cultures to capture the imagination of a global audience, Japan’s and Italy’s would be the likely candidates. Although far apart geographically, there’s a definite link in the artisanal elegance that characterises the products of these two creative nations. These were the thoughts of Roberto Gavazzi, CEO of Italian furniture-making powerhouse Boffi De Padova, when he made the decision to partner with Tokyo’s Time & Style, led by Ryutaro Yoshida (pictured, on left, with Gavazzi), to develop a joint furniture collection. Read more about the fruits of this collaboration in the September issue of Monocle magazine, as we preview the designs that the crowds will flock towards at Milano Design City – this year’s Salone del Mobile substitute – which begins in late September.

M24 / On Design

Biennale special – part 1

In the first of a two-part special we explore the brilliance of biennales by talking to Hashim Sarkis, curator of the Venice Architecture Biennale, about the importance of the event. We take inspiration from the format to imagine what an inaugural Monocle biennale could look like and ask two innovative global practices to take their turn in the curator’s chair.

Monocle Films / Global

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