Monday. 26/4/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Growing pains

The role of a city government is much like that of a parent with teenagers – but with the municipality itself as its offspring. For a city to thrive, it needs permission to explore, play and push limits but firm boundaries still need to be set. With this in mind, New York City Hall (a well-respected parent) has finally caved in to its children’s demands by trialling dockless scooters in parts of the city this summer. No doubt peer pressure played a part (we can hear the cries of “all my friends are doing it”) given that NYC is the last major US metropolis to permit the likes of Lime, Bird and VeoRide to operate on its streets.

I know that it’s taboo to be critical of someone else’s parenting, especially when you don’t have children of your own, but this particular indulgence is unwise. It’s not that dockless e-scooters themselves are bad – anything that might potentially get people out of their cars is a good thing – but rather the way that they are ridden on pavements at high speed and also how they are parked: without docking stations they’re often strewn across footpaths, making it impossible for anyone with a pram or wheelchair to move comfortably. The net result then, for any city that permits them, is often to the detriment of pedestrians and streetlife.

At the very least, the city should demand that e-scooter companies introduce docking stations so that the new toys can be put away properly after use and our pavements are cleared. But perhaps I’m not giving New York’s parenting enough credit. If its citizens don’t behave properly on the scooters this summer, the government might yet invoke the age-old parental motto: if you don’t use it properly, you’re not allowed to have it.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Global

Words and deeds

The UK parliament on Thursday voted to formally recognise the Chinese government’s actions against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as a genocide. Two days later, Joe Biden became the first US president to use the term to mark Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day on Saturday, an annual memorial to recognise the events of 1915, when at least 1.5 million Armenians were murdered by Ottoman paramilitaries. Some might argue these are merely symbolic acts – the latter made easier through the US’s froideur with Turkey – but that stance ignores not just the importance of such classification to the victims but also the possibility of any future legal action. All genocides are different but they often follow the same trajectory. A few years ago, the Argentinian scholar Daniel Feierstein drew up six stages of genocide, the first of which was “stigmatisation and dehumanisation.” Those aware of what’s going on in Xinjiang will be hard-pressed to argue that these words are inappropriate.

F&B / Global

Let us pay

With restaurants hoping for bustling dining rooms and terraces this summer, it’s time to solve that age-old problem of how to split the bill. A group of 30 European restaurateurs and tech experts have created Sunday, an app through which customers can download menus and pay tabs in seconds. Due to be launched in the US and Europe, it’s led by Victor Lugger and Tigrane Seydoux, founders of French restaurant group Big Mamma and its 12 restaurants in France, Spain and the UK, including London’s Gloria and Circolo Popolare.

“Paying the bill can be quite a frustrating process and staff are forced to run around instead of actually taking care of the customers,” Lugger tells The Monocle Minute. “We developed Sunday so that restaurant owners can prevent their customers waiting 15 minutes for their bill – and then a card machine.” Early returns from Big Mamma, where it’s been test-run since last year, show cuts in waiting times and a 40 per cent bump in gratuities. No doubt there’s also less eye-rolling from waiters when guests ask to pay separately.

Health / Canada

Passing shot

Canada’s vaccine rollout has been sporadic in several parts of the country; now the neighbouring US state of North Dakota is offering to help. As many as 4,000 truck drivers, many transporting essential goods into the state from the adjacent Canadian province of Manitoba, are being offered free coronavirus jabs when they enter the US. Another Canadian province, Saskatchewan, is in talks with North Dakota’s Republican governor, Doug Burgum, to offer its truck drivers the vaccine too. The move marks the latest round of vaccine diplomacy between Canada and the US, whose shared land border has been closed to all but essential traffic since March last year. New infections have been rising steadily in Canada, compounded by slow vaccination rates, and Joe Biden has reportedly offered Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau a second shipment of surplus doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. For Canada, its neighbour’s help offers good news and a shot in the arm for cross-border relations.

Image: Courtesy Cross Steele Collection

Arts / Tokyo

Act your age

Change doesn’t have to be a young person’s game. Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum has opened an exhibition called Another Energy, which takes us through the world of art through the lens of 16 female artists who are in their 70s or older. Hailing from 14 countries around the world, the artists not only provide a wide range of artistic styles and expressions, but also diverse perspectives and cultures from between the 1950s and 1970s when many were at the height of their fame. On display are 130 pieces, including early works and some created for the exhibition, in the forms of paintings, sculptures, videos, large-scale installations and performances by the likes of Etel Adnan, Kim Soun-Gui, Nunung WS, Phyllida Barlow (pictured) and Miriam Cahn. As the exhibition’s subtitle “Power to Continue Challenging” suggests, these artists have kept their creative force going through interesting and tough times. The show opened on Thursday and runs until 26 September.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Eureka 241: Kids O’Clock

Laura Roso Vidrequin is the founder of Kids O’Clock, a London-based platform for recycling and reselling children’s clothing. Laura is a former buyer for Net-a-Porter, Moda Operandi and Harvey Nichols, who has created a circular-economy solution for parents looking to buy or pass along clothing that their kids have outgrown.

Monocle Films / Turin

The new urban rowers

We wake up bright and early to meet creative director Luca Ballarini at the Circolo Canottieri Caprera, a rowing club on the banks of the river Po in Turin. We follow his slender boat and glide along the river beside charming palazzi, castles and bridges, while the rest of the city comes to life.

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