Friday. 18/2/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Tomos Lewis

Bubbling resentment

An inflatable hot tub might seem an unlikely cause of a turning point in a national demonstration. But for many residents of Ottawa, the image earlier this week of two members of the truckers’ blockade sitting merrily in the steamy bubbling waters of a blow-up Jacuzzi just a stone’s throw from Canada’s parliament building was the final straw.

The festive, flag-waving free-for-all that the blockade of Parliament Hill has become brings home a rather jarring discrepancy: many residents say that they feel afraid to leave their homes, while scores of downtown businesses remain closed. One general manager at a hospitality business told me last week that they had been advised by an industry association to try to de-escalate any confrontations with protesters themselves – because if police back-up was requested, it wouldn’t come.

Following the resignation of Ottawa’s embattled police chief Peter Sloly, officers began handing out flyers to demonstrators on Wednesday, warning them to go home immediately or face arrest. But that seemingly toughened approach was undermined by footage of police cheerfully hugging and shaking hands with protesters who ended a separate blockade at a border crossing with the US; this despite 11 men being arrested at that Alberta crossing for an alleged plot to gun down members of the force.

Justin Trudeau described his government’s historic invocation of Canada’s Emergencies Act this week as a means of increasing the number of “tools” available to end the blockades. But many wonder what the point is if authorities aren’t willing to open up the toolbox, as they have against other, less pernicious protest groups in the recent past. The erosion of trust towards some of the country’s institutions risks outlasting the convoys and the indelible image of their hot-tub celebrations.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Mali & France

On the retreat

France and its allies announced their military withdrawal from Mali yesterday following nine years of fighting Islamist militants in the west African nation. Emmanuel Macron said that he “completely rejects” characterising the mission as a failure but deteriorating relations between the two countries tell a different story. Mali’s ruling military junta not only abandoned a promise to hold elections this month but also now say they will hold on to power until 2025. Militants have regrouped of late and the French withdrawal has raised concerns as to whether there will be enough resources to quell the insurgency. “It’s deeply embarrassing to Macron that this military coup happened,” Phil Clark, professor of international politics at Soas, told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “The French military involvement in the Sahel has been disastrous for Macron, particularly with the electorate at home.” Macron remains the frontrunner in the polls ahead of April’s election but this is one decision that might yet come back to haunt him.

Image: Matthew Barney/Galerie Max Hetzle

Art / Los Angeles

Creative thinking

Los Angeles has caught Frieze fever: exhibitions have been opening all week, inboxes are stuffed with invites and the afterparties are lingering into the small hours – even though, in Frieze tradition, everyone wonders whether they’re at the right one. That the art fair itself only opened yesterday hasn’t held anyone back so far and the frenetic energy feels as though it has been pent up for some time. After all, the past two editions of Frieze were canned and, when Sundance Film Festival went virtual in January, many feared that Frieze would go the same way again. Thankfully, the fair’s new director, Christine Messineo, held her nerve.

For the fair-goer who is short on time, here are our tips: see haunting graphites (pictured) by Matthew Barney at Galerie Max Hetzler; discover some reliably interesting finds by New York’s Alexander Grey Associates in the main section; and take a moment to admire the new pavilion built to host the fair by museum-making architect Kulapat Yantrasast.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Hong Kong

Lost control

The nomination period for Hong Kong’s chief executive election opens on Sunday and so far only one person plans to challenge incumbent Carrie Lam (pictured): kung-fu master and film producer Checkley Sin. The vote will take place on 27 March but there are suggestions that it could be delayed, as the city suffers its worst coronavirus outbreak to date. With daily case counts surging and elderly patients waiting for hours in the cold for beds in overwhelmed hospitals, many are wondering how Hong Kong could have been quite so unprepared for Omicron more than two years after coronavirus surfaced. Xi Jinping ordered the territory to take “all necessary measures” and Hong Kong lawmakers have floated ideas such as quarantining people on cruise ships, while telling citizens to “complain less” and “tolerate more”. Don’t expect Lam’s unpopularity and handling of the outbreak to dissuade her from seeking re-election, though: a 2021 electoral overhaul ensured that only government-deemed “patriots” will have a say in who advances on the ballot.

Image: Disney

Urbanism / USA

Whole new world

Building the perfect neighbourhood is no longer the stuff of dreams and fairy tales – at least that’s what Disney is hoping. The entertainment giant is launching its own residential division: Storyliving by Disney. The first such neighbourhood will break ground in California's Coachella Valley and take inspiration from the modernist desert architecture of the region, even boasting an artificial oasis. The plan includes the construction of about 2,000 units, from estates to small homes and apartments. Of course, the development will also provide the full theme-park-style experience, ranging from retail and restaurants to water sports, a private members’ club and even a hotel for visitors. But while the vision and its delivery carries Disney’s signature, the actual development, building and sale of the units will be outsourced to external companies. Forced communities need to be carefully planned in order to work and provide a real neighbourhood feeling; time will tell whether this is a ride worth queuing up for.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Hodinkee

Ben Clymer is the founder of Hodinkee, which began life as an online watch magazine but is now the leading platform for enthusiasts, collectors, novice buyers and anyone passionate about watch-making. Clymer explains why he still lives and breathes the brand, even after stepping back from the day-to-day running of what’s become a multi-million-dollar business.

Monocle Films / Greece

Athens: urban inspiration

Athenians have a knack for injecting pockets of greenery and a sense of innovation into their ancient city. Their urban interventions are aimed at cooling down this dense metropolis and safeguarding its sacred sights as much as the neighbourhood life. We climb its seven hills to get a fresh perspective on the city’s charms.

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