Thursday 4 August 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 4/8/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Clarissa Wei

Cause for concern

I’m the daughter of a very anxious woman. After my fully vaccinated mother recovered from coronavirus earlier this year, she tested herself every week, fearing reinfection. When she visited my six-floor apartment in Taipei for the first time, she lectured me about the building’s fire hazards. Most recently she called from a hotel room in panic: she had run out of hand sanitiser. Yet when US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taipei on Tuesday – an act that could have resulted in armed conflict between Taiwan, China and the US – there was radio silence. I texted my mother to ask whether she was worried. She responded with a curt “no”.

When photos of Pelosi in Taiwan began to circulate on social media, there was more excitement than fear on the island. As crowds gathered, the government prepared chocolate ice cream, one of her favourite desserts. China might have stepped up its rhetoric and announced six days of live-fire drills but the Taiwanese remain generally unfazed. This is mostly because they have lived with China’s threats for more than 70 years. Chinese warplanes have been flying over Taiwanese air-defence zones in record numbers over the past couple of years and there have been ongoing bans on Taiwanese agriculture products and endless cybersecurity attacks.

Curious about my mother’s calm in the face of a potential war, I texted, “Why do you worry about everything but this?” “We can’t do anything,” she replied. This blasé attitude gets to the heart of the issue. Taiwan has done all it can to prevent war by upholding the status quo. If China does attack, Pelosi’s visit would merely serve as an excuse, not the cause. It’s a grim reality that Taiwanese people, including my very anxious mother, have dealt with their entire lives.

Image: Maria Klenner

Politics / Lebanon

Aftershocks of the blast

Protests and memorial marches are expected today in Beirut, ultimately descending on the port area where a blast killed more than 200 people and injured thousands two years ago. Many are calling for justice after a probe into the blast has repeatedly stalled, accusing the Lebanese authorities of obstructing it in order to shield politicians and officials. Some are now demanding that the UN Human Rights Council dispatch an independent fact-finding mission to investigate. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Legal Action Worldwide, Legal Agenda and the International Commission of Jurists joined calls for a UN-led mission yesterday. In a joint statement, the organisations said that the domestic investigation had been marred by “flagrant political interference, immunity for high-level political officials, lack of respect for the fair trial standards and due-process violations”. Two years on from the blast, there remains little hope of justice.

For more from Beirut-based journalist Bel Trew on the legacy of the port explosion, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: SF/Monika Rittershaus

Culture / Austria

Learning from history

One of the world’s most influential music and drama festivals, the Salzburger Festspiele was founded as a peace project in 1920, when Europe was recovering from the First World War. This year’s edition, which opened last week and runs until 31 August, once again comes at a time of great uncertainty, with the ongoing war in Ukraine, a global pandemic and a looming climate crisis.

Fittingly, the programme takes the festival back to its roots. It includes three operas that were composed during the First World War: Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, Leoš Janáček’s Katya Kabanova and Giacomo Puccini’s Il trittico. Salzburg will host 174 performances across 17 venues. This year’s festival will serve as “a platform to reflect on what these historic works can mean to us today,” Lukas Crepaz, executive director of the festival, tells Monocle. “It’s a way to open our minds and our hearts in this terrible situation.”

Hear more from Crepaz on the latest edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Fashion / Italy

Back in the family

Italy’s Tod’s fashion group is going private. Diego and Andrea Della Valle (pictured, Diego on left) – members of the founding family and already its largest shareholders – plan to spend as much as €338m to buy out the current investors at €40 per share, valuing the company at €1.32bn. The group’s four brands, which include Tod’s, Roger Vivier, Hogan and Fay, were quick to bounce back post-lockdown, with Tod’s leading the way.

Under creative director Walter Chiapponi, the brand has been broadening its range beyond its signature loafers and gaining ground in the handbag and ready-to-wear sectors. “We intend to strengthen the positioning of our brands at the top of the luxury market,” the Della Valle brothers announced in a statement. Their bid to buy back the company is a vote of confidence in its potential for continued growth. The move would allow them to take back almost full control and invest in the group’s long-term revival plan without having to answer to the financial markets every quarter.

Image: DC Films

Cinema / USA

To the bat grave

Turn off the bat signal: Warner Bros Discovery will cancel Batgirl after all. Despite spending about $90m (€89m) on the film, which was already in post-production, it won’t be released in cinemas nor, as planned, on streaming service HBO Max. The decision is a consequence of the company’s shift in strategy since CEO David Zaslav joined in April. Last year the studio threw its efforts into making films specifically to suit its streaming platform; now, under Zaslav, it’s reversing course and aiming for box-office blockbusters.

Despite a cast that includes Leslie Grace (pictured), JK Simmons and Michael Keaton, Batgirl didn’t feel big enough for the big screen (and shelving it outright might help the studio get a tax write-down). As the number of streaming platforms continues to rise, a return to the cinema might be the profitable plot twist that studios need for a fairy-tale ending.

Image: Christophe Dellière

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

Maison Schiaparelli and Rana Salam

We look at the legacy of avant garde fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli through a new show at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and learn about Rana Salam’s use of colour. Plus: Nic Monisse on the ideal summer house.

Monocle Films / Global

Welcome to the Auberge Monocle

Monocle has so far resisted the temptation to open a hotel – but that doesn’t mean that we don’t spend time thinking about who we’d hire to oversee a renovation, run the bar or design the uniforms. With this in mind, here are the six house rules we’d strictly enforce to keep things civil and serene around the pool, in the lobby and on the balcony.


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