Monday. 26/10/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Alexei Korolyov

Letter from… Vienna

There’s a hackneyed old phrase that everything happens 50 years later in Vienna but that’s not quite true when it comes to the pandemic. Having been spared the worst of it thanks to a robust response back in March and April, Austria is quickly catching up with the rest of the world as its infection rate hits a new record every day.

Still, Austrians have it relatively easy compared with other EU countries. A new “rule of six” was introduced on Friday, banning private indoor gatherings of more than six people. But beyond that, restaurants, bars, schools and theatres remain open. This has created a kind of twisted reality where the steady diet of pandemic warnings on the news hardly corresponds to what people see on the streets, especially in the countryside beyond Vienna where life continues largely as normal.

Although economic uncertainty persists, the government is determined to keep businesses running. This includes the now infamous Alpine ski resorts that were the centre of one of the country’s first major outbreaks – they are a major lifeline for the country’s tourist industry as winter gets underway. And while Austrian bureaucracy doesn’t always make it easy for businesses to get support, help is there for those who can find it: a friend recently received several thousand euros in start-up funding for her podcast company – no easy task even in normal times.

Significantly, coronavirus was only a minor topic in this month’s municipal elections in Vienna, which were won by the incumbent mayor Michael Ludwig. Voters were much more worried about slow-burning issues such as street space, migration and the environment. Perhaps that’s the kind of long-term thinking that has – so far at least – helped Austria to overcome the worst ravages of this pandemic.

Elections / USA

Addressing the court

It is a testament to Amy Coney Barrett that although most Americans opposed her nomination to the Supreme Court by Donald Trump last month, a majority now believe that she deserves to be confirmed by the US Senate in a vote expected later today. Her confirmation will give conservatives a 6-3 majority in the country’s highest court and marks an affront to Democrats who believe that they were wrongly denied their own judicial nomination in 2016 – also an election year. Attention now turns to Joe Biden: the Democratic candidate had said that he would clarify his view on the court’s future once Barrett (pictured) was confirmed. The key question is whether Biden will seek to expand the court to, say, 11 justices in a bid to redress the balance. His promise last week to create a bipartisan commission to study the matter was widely viewed by his liberal base as a way of dodging the issue. With just over one week to go until election day, how Biden navigates this minefield remains one of the most consequential challenges of his entire campaign.

Business / UK

You’ve got mail

Adaptation is key to survival. And perhaps that is precisely what’s behind the latest news from the Royal Mail, the UK’s postal service. In one of the biggest changes to its services since the introduction of postboxes in 1852, Royal Mail’s workers will now be able to collect parcels directly from the doorstep during their daily delivery runs. Customers will be able to make bookings to use the service and get up to five items collected per day (some size and weight restrictions apply).

The bold move comes amid the declining use of many postal services; even the pandemic and rising parcel deliveries due to online shopping haven’t managed to offset the downturn in regular post as correspondence has become increasingly digital. By better competing with the offerings of DHL and UPS, the Royal Mail and other national delivery services might just ensure that they remain a relevant part of our daily lives.

Cinema / South Korea

Back in the picture

Much to the delight of South Korean cinephiles, the 25th Busan International Film Festival launched last week – albeit without international attendees. Smaller audiences can still enjoy the films at one of the Busan Cinema Centre’s five screens until Friday, with physical-distancing measures offering a more intimate experience for those who can attend. A total of 192 films from 68 countries are being shown in single screenings throughout the 10-day event, with online Q&As taking place for those involved in the non-Korean films. Highlights include an animated adaptation of Inudo Isshin’s Josee, the Tiger and the Fish, as well as City Hall, directed by Frederick Wiseman, and a restored version of In the Mood for Love (pictured), celebrating the 20th anniversary of the film’s release. More than 20 movies from the 2020 Cannes Film Festival official selection will also be screened.

Farming / Global

Grow your own

Urban farming is gaining new relevance this year as the pandemic shines a light on our food sources and vulnerable supply chains. That’s why, for Monocle’s November issue, we profiled four of the most promising such projects around the world, ranging from Asia’s largest urban rooftop farm in Bangkok to a sprawling Parisian space (pictured) that aims to become the European equivalent. Although these options won’t be able to replace bulk food production, urban farms could help to ease the potential shortage of fresher products such as fruit and vegetables, which proved hard to come by during lockdowns. London-based author Carolyn Steel explains that it’s a little bit like going back in time to an age when railways and easy cargo-transport options didn’t exist. “Vertical farming is a modern version of what ancient Romans called ‘villa farming’,” she says. “You get your grain from a long way away and grow the expensive stuff locally.”

M24 / Meet the Writers

Bill Granger

Bill Granger is credited with inventing avocado toast. He is an Australian restaurateur and food writer, loved by family cooks and sophisticated foodies alike. His sunny, relaxed approach is an essential to his enduring popularity. His books have sold more than a million copies and his latest publication, Australian Food, is also set to be a bestseller.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: November issue, 2020

As a landmark US election approaches, Jane Fonda, Theaster Gates and Chris Wallace offer their thoughts on where the country should go next. Change elsewhere comes in the form of city farms, the latest design finds and an art fair redux. Plus: we survey North Rhine-Westphalia, a region on the up. Available now at The Monocle Shop

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