Tuesday 2 August 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 2/8/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Alexis Self

Let there be light

Silly season, as readers of this newsletter well know, is the name of the Anglophone media’s traditional late-summer descent into frivolity. Forgive me for sounding wistful but it doesn’t quite feel the same as it used to. This time of year is supposed to bring news of Jesus’s appearance on a slice of toast or a miraculous cat singing Bellini arias. But in recent years the deluge of bad news has been interminable and summer headline writers have stuck to dread.

This year is no different. The war in Ukraine continues, while in the UK the Tory leadership contest between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss (pictured), though far less tragic, feels similarly attritional. Then there’s the new summer perennial: wildfire season, which seems to grow ever longer and more devastating, banishing any hint of levity from the news agenda.

Even before the internet and social media, it was widely felt that a pause in the delivery and consumption of hard news – while it might lead to silly stories making the front pages – was necessary as a sort of cleaning-out of the Augean stables before the whole muck-raking business could recommence in September. Today the 24-hour news cycle endows terrible events, even if they’re happening continents away, with a distorting immediacy.

While it’s important to be informed and sympathetic to the suffering of others, a constant immersion in hard (bad) news can inure us to its tragedy and blind us to its significance. I’m not advocating a Pollyannaish view of the world – just a more considered and digested one. So if you can do one thing this August, try to take a pause from hard news, even if just for a day. Read something silly instead.

Alexis Self is an associate editor of Monocle in London.

Image: Shutterstock

Conflict / Ukraine

Grain of doubt

Leaders of developing countries that rely on Ukrainian grain will have breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as large shipments left Odesa’s port for the first time since the start of Russia’s invasion in February. But for Ukrainians the development offers little consolation. While the shipment was preparing for departure over the weekend, the southern port city of Mykolaiv, a place that Ukraine’s infrastructure minister indicated should be allowed to resume grain shipments too, endured one of its most severe shellings of the war. Neither does the grain deal stop Russia from burning agricultural fields or free Ukraine to export any other essential goods, such as metals, that might help its economy get back on track. The disconnect should serve as a reminder to the international community: Russia hopes that its goodwill on grain exports will give it some reprieve from condemnation, even as it continues its brutal military campaign against Ukraine’s cities. World leaders shouldn’t fall for it.

Hear more on the grain deal and its consequences from Monocle’s Ukraine correspondent Olga Tokariuk on the latest edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24.

Design / USA

Pretty Poly

Tiki design began as a mid-20th-century US craze for all things Polynesian. From putting Easter Island heads on the lawn and tropical tiki bars to decking out the living room in bamboo, the aesthetic seems to have a revival whenever the world needs a bit of escapism. Tomorrow thousands of aloha-shirt-wearing devotees will descend on San Diego for Tiki Oasis (pictured), a five-day celebration that’s known as the Davos of Tiki, featuring trade talks, mixologist meet-ups and plenty of mai tais.

Tiki design hasn’t escaped accusations of cultural appropriation but Sven Kirsten, the author of Taschen’s definitive Book of Tiki who will deliver a talk on calypso music at this year’s event, suggests that this misses the point. “Tiki is based on fiction, a fantasy that doesn’t claim to be representative of the real culture,” he tells The Monocle Minute. “It is a playful re-enactment of the naiveté of a prior generation.”

Image: Getty Images

Society / South Korea

Quick studies

Declining birth rates in developed nations have inspired all manner of measures to prevent workforces from shrinking. South Korea’s latest proposal is to shift the start of elementary school to five years old so that children can graduate a year earlier. The country’s fertility rate was 0.81 births a woman last year, among the lowest in the world, and the education ministry hopes to start reducing the enrolment age in 2025. However, a coalition of 36 teacher-and-parent associations staged a rally against the policy yesterday. “Parents oppose it because schools finish earlier in the day than daycare so they would have to find alternative childcare,” Steven Borowiec, a journalist based in Seoul, tells The Monocle Minute. “Meanwhile, teachers argue that five-year-olds are too young to benefit from school and should be in playgroups instead.” South Korea should heed these concerns. After all, discouraging would-be parents would render any initiative to boost birth rates moot.

Hear more on South Korea’s demographic problems on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Brazil & Argentina

Good altitude

Air traffic in the northern hemisphere might be in disarray this summer but Brazil and Argentina are going against the grain. The total number of weekly flights between these two countries is expected to increase from 162 to 214 by the end of the year. Aerolíneas Argentinas leads the way with 72 flights but Brazilian airlines Gol and Latam also plan to boost their weekly offerings.

Gol is even launching connections to Buenos Aires from cities outside the Rio-São Paulo circuit, such as Salvador, Natal and Recife. Brazil and Argentina have always shared a close travel relationship – Argentineans enjoy visiting Brazil’s beaches, while Brazilians love their neighbour’s wine and winter tourism – but the devaluation of the peso has made Argentina an extra-attractive destination. Latam reported a 50 per cent increase in ticket sales to Argentina between the first and second quarters of the year. It seems that the two countries are closer than ever, at least when it comes to flying.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Legacies series: Zaha Hadid

In the final part of our summer series uncovering the legacies of the biggest names in architecture, city planning and design, we focus on the late British-Iraqi architect, artist and designer Zaha Hadid.

Monocle Films / Spain

Creative Mallorca

Palma has kept its charm for young creatives despite its tourist-trodden streets. We meet the people keeping this city alive.


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