Monday. 30/5/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Controlling the narrative

Like many Angelenos, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the race to determine who will be our next mayor. The vote takes place on 7 June. If a candidate tops 50 per cent, they win outright; otherwise the top two will battle it out in November. As campaigning for the primaries enters its final week, I have come to think that this tussle for city hall has implications beyond Los Angeles.

There are only two mayoral contenders cutting through, both of them registered Democrats. Congresswoman Karen Bass (pictured) promises to house 15,000 homeless people in her first year in office (some 42,000 currently live on LA’s streets) and deliver judicial reform – although she has pushed back on pressure to campaign on a “defund the police” ticket. Shopping-centre mogul Rick Caruso has run a well-funded ad campaign saying that he’ll declare a state of emergency on homelessness from day one to bring in federal resources and sidestep the city council’s notoriously sluggish processes.

In recent years, the more partisan wings of the US media have used LA – as well as San Francisco and Portland – to frame Democrat-governed states and cities as badly run. “Apocalyptic hellscapes” was a memorable phrase that recently flashed up on TV news tickers. Though hilariously over the top, few would deny that LA is amid a homelessness and violent-crime crisis.

Democrats in Washington might be more focused on congressional races ahead of the midterms but they should care about LA’s fate and the effectiveness of who ends up in charge. The party is expected to get hammered at the ballot box in November; to turn the tide – not to mention keep the White House in 2024 – it needs to do a better job of confronting negative narratives about the governance of cities. Mayoral races can sometimes feel stuck in the weeds of local politics, especially if you don’t live there, but LA is a vast, influential metropolis. And most locals agree that a decisive change is long overdue.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / EU

Inner divisions

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) did everything that she could to present a unified front when speaking at Davos last week. “This war and this behaviour... have only strengthened Europe’s resolve to get rid of Russian fossil fuels dependency,” she said. Yet it isn’t quite so simple. At the European Council gathering of leaders in Brussels today and tomorrow, the focus will ostensibly be on security and defence but the elephant in the room will most certainly be energy. The EU is trying to agree on a sixth round of sanctions against Russia but this apparently won’t even be a topic of discussion; Hungary has declared that it doesn’t support an embargo on Russian oil imports and Slovakia has also been decidedly lukewarm on the idea. Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has made clear in recent days that he is losing patience with EU infighting. The bloc can only kick this decision down the road for so long.

For more on the EU summit, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ and other programmes throughout the day on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Music / US & South Korea

Power pop

US president Joe Biden appears to have picked up a bit of K-pop fever during his visit to South Korea last week. Global sensation BTS (pictured) will head to the White House tomorrow; the Grammy-nominated group will join Biden to discuss Asian inclusion and representation. The group’s leader, RM, has welcomed the meeting, saying that it is for a “good cause”. Anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination have been on the rise in the US in the aftermath of the pandemic, so much so that in May last year Biden signed into law the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act in a show of his commitment to combating the surge.

Also on the agenda is a discussion of BTS’s platform as youth ambassadors who spread messages of positivity through their work. The success of K-pop as a South Korean export has proved a valuable source of soft power for the country; perhaps the 79-year-old Biden hopes that some of the band’s youthful energy will rub off on him too.

Image: Piotr Niepsuj

Art / Milan

Art meets science

Swirling bacteria, unusual fragrances, suspended orbs of light: Anicka Yi’s exhibition Metaspore at the Pirelli Hangar Bicocca gallery in Milan features more than 20 installations from 10 years of innovative work that pushes the boundaries between art and science, materiality and immateriality. Yi (pictured) has sought the help of scientists to make her works as part of what she calls the “interdisciplinary conversation” of her creative process. Around her biological and visually stimulating pieces, the South Korean-American artist uses scent to ground the viewer in the present: “With smell, you can’t be disinterested because it forces you to engage on a corporeal level,” she tells Monocle’s June issue. The volatility of Yi’s creations contrasts starkly with the common desire to make art a lasting monument. “Many people want art to withstand the ages but that’s not my goal,” she says. “It’s a rallying call to be awake and alert with art.” The exhibition runs until 24 July.

Read more about Anicka Yi and her new exhibition in the June issue of Monocle magazine. Pick up a copy on newsstands or subscribe today.

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / Hong Kong

Local flavour

Across the globe, new developments are squeezing out retailers in a number of cultural districts, from Vancouver’s Chinatown to Melbourne’s Little India. It’s a predicament that Hong Kong’s Little Thailand (pictured) now faces after the city’s Urban Renewal Authority (URA) announced plans to replace older existing housing stock with 4,300 new apartments in the area, which is home to many high-quality and authentic Thai restaurants and shops.

Residents are concerned that the development might put pressure on such establishments, a notion that the URA is keen to address. “We intend to invite shops with local characteristics to come and operate in the new streets,” says Wilfred Au, the URA’s planning and design director. While this sounds promising, residents are right to be sceptical; an invitation from a developer is far from a guarantee. Here’s hoping that the URA follows through. Such distinctive neighbourhoods lend a special quality to all of our cities.

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

Moldova

For this week’s Global Countdown, Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco explores the pop charts in Moldova.

Monocle Films / Global

The future of Japanese craftsmanship

For the release of our book about Japan, we produced a film series that dives into the intriguing ecosystem that has preserved Japanese traditional skills over centuries. Meet the people who are future-proofing the age-old know-how.

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