Wednesday. 1/9/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Tomos Lewis

Coastal voting

As I made my way to dinner at Ask For Luigi, a tiny Italian restaurant near Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood, the area was busy with queues for bars and nightclubs, and life felt as though it had returned to Vancouver: few people were wearing masks, restaurants were full, hotels well booked and spirits high. But the situation is changing. In the week since my visit, mask mandates have been restored as a fourth wave of coronavirus infections continues to grow, despite a high vaccination rate.

This is a volatile and unpredictable time to hold an election. While voters in Ontario and Quebec will rarely admit that they have anything in common with British Columbians, many of the issues that have crept to the top of the national campaign agenda are most explicitly at play in BC. The conversation around climate change, for example, is playing out in real time: Canada’s highest temperature ever was recorded – and broken – over three successive days a few months ago in the town of Lytton in BC’s interior, which was then burnt to the ground in a wildfire. The current reckoning over Canada’s relationship with its indigenous populations was also prompted here in the late spring at the site of a former residential school in the city of Kamloops, where the remains of 215 indigenous children were discovered in unmarked graves.

In BC’s provincial capital, Victoria, Justin Trudeau was met by protests on the same day that I visited. The prime minister has been the candidate most targeted by protestors so far but then his conservative opponent Erin O’Toole, whose party has just taken the lead in the polls for the first time, is running a largely virtual campaign, cloistered from voters. Although the western province’s population is too small to have a significant effect on who will be Canada’s next prime minister, the rest of Canada would do well to watch how the key issues play out in BC between now and 20 September.

Listen to Tomos Lewis’s full report from Vancouver on ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Reuters

Media / Taiwan

Speak for yourself

Taiwan is seeking to boost its global engagement with the launch of an English-language video-streaming platform, Taiwan Plus. The goal of the state-funded initiative is to give the nation a louder voice on the world stage at a time when China is increasingly trying to silence and isolate it. Speaking at the high-profile launch event on Monday, one Taiwanese official noted that the establishment of the multimedia platform could counter China’s intimidation and political oppression against Taiwan. Joanne Tsai, a veteran international journalist, has been appointed CEO and handed a modest budget of NT$775m (€23.7m). Going against the mainland Chinese narrative will be a tough assignment for Tsai – not least because Beijing has already invested heavily in English-language news. Taiwan Plus has also been tasked with producing and licensing original content. First up is Seqalu: Formosa 1867, a big-budget period drama about the Taiwanese indigenous people’s first interactions with westerners. China might be watching closely.

Listen to our Hong Kong bureau chief James Chambers discuss Taiwan’s move into the English-language market on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Health / South Africa

Under suspicion

Scientists in South Africa are keeping a watchful eye on the new C.1.2 variant of coronavirus, which was first discovered in May in the provinces of Mpumalanga and Gauteng. It has since been identified in seven other countries, including Switzerland, New Zealand, Botswana and Portugal.

The World Health Organization announced yesterday that C.1.2 is currently not classified as a “variant of concern” but is being closely monitored as it evolves. “The reason that it has been highlighted as a potential threat is that it has some of the same genetic changes as other variants of concern that we’re watching around the world,” virologist Chris Smith told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “At the moment this is more a warning shot, based on analysis of what the genetic code might predict about its behaviour, rather than actually marrying up the biology of the virus and clinically what it does to people.”

Image: Juho Kuva

Society / Finland

Other tongue

The new mayor of Helsinki Juhana Vartiainen has suggested declaring the capital an English-speaking city in a bid to attract – and keep – international talent. Almost two in five foreign students in Finland leave the country within a year of finishing their studies and one common reason is a struggle with language requirements. Many employers expect candidates to speak Finnish and, occasionally, also Swedish, the country’s other official language. Mayor Vartiainen wants English to be made an official city language in the hopes that businesses will ease their language requirements. It’s a bold but sorely needed suggestion. While some decisions affecting Finland’s attractiveness for international talent can only be made on a national level, such as taxation and employment laws, the signal that Helsinki could send as Finland’s biggest and most international city is a significant one.

Image: Neon

Cinema / Italy

Parallel lives

The 78th Venice International Film Festival kicks off today with a screening of Pedro Almodóvar’s Madres Paralelas. Part of the city’s summer biennale, this year’s edition is scheduled to run until 11 September and ranges from family sagas to historical dramas. Here are three highlights:

‘Spencer’. Pablo Larraín’s biopic (pictured) tells the story of the Christmas holiday during which Princess Diana decided to end her marriage.

‘The Lost Daughter’. Adapted from Elena Ferrante’s 2006 bestseller, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut follows the story of a woman who starts to confront her dark past while on a summer holiday.

‘The Hand of God’. Paolo Sorrentino’s coming-of-age drama follows an awkward teenager whose life suddenly changes with the arrival of Diego Maradona in Naples. The film is expected to be the director’s most personal project yet – it is the first time Sorrentino has filmed in his hometown in the past 20 years.

M24 / Food Neighbourhoods

Recipe edition, Emanuel de Sousa

We are off to Porto to hear a recipe for a simple starter from Emanuel de Sousa, owner of restaurant Early and hotel Rosa et Al in the city’s Bombarda arts district.

Monocle Films / Global

Konfekt – the inside story

Launched in December 2020, Konfekt is a smart, sumptuous magazine from the creators of Monocle. Edited between Zürich and London, this rich quarterly publication covers fashion, travel, drinking, dining, travel and design. We go behind the scenes to showcase the making of the magazine and to shine a spotlight on Konfekt’s chic understated glamour, convivial hospitality and sense of discovery.

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