It has been a horrible two weeks! What has been dominating the news?
Leader fixation! So problematic! How many of us vote for Trudeau or against Trudeau? For Biden or against Trump! For Macron or against Marie LePen? Do we even care about policy? That is why I liked this opinion piece in The Monocle Daily last week:
If German citizens voted for people rather than parties, Angela Merkel probably would never have become chancellor. In the 2005 election, which first brought her to office as the leader of the Christian Democrats, she was hardly the most popular candidate. Polls showed that if Germans could have voted directly for a chancellor they would have picked her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder. Even the leader of the Greens at the time – the veteran foreign minister Joschka Fischer – was more popular.
… and Merkel is by far the country’s most trusted politician. Her approval rating last week stood at 66 per cent; three quarters of Germans say that she has been a successful chancellor. What about her successor as CDU leader, Armin Laschet? Let’s just say that the German public hasn’t warmed to him yet – while his politics aren’t very different to Merkel’s, his approval rating has sunk to 24 per cent. If Germans voted for people over parties today, they would vote for Olaf Scholz (pictured, on left, with Merkel), leader of the Social Democrats.
So do personalities….
….matter in German politics? Not necessarily. The Social Democrats are languishing in third place in the polls despite their leader’s popularity, while Laschet’s CDU is in first place. Scholz will be trotted out on the campaign trail this week in an attempt to close that gap – and he has recently had some success in this respect. But policies matter too. It’s arguably why the Greens, despite an unproven leader in Annalena Baerbock, are currently ahead of the SPD. That suggests the benefits of a parliamentary system are twofold: voters are forced to think more about policy and unproven leaders (such as Merkel in 2005) have time to prove that they’re up to the task.
Now for something a little lighter! Just ask Raheem Sterling! Did you watch any of FIFA’s Euro? The commentators spent an inordinate amount of time discussing hairdos. This article introduces Sheldon Edwards, a first generation Jamaican immigrant to the UK as the hairdresser to Team England and other international stars. These include Paul Pogba and Olivier Giroud of France plus Radja Nainggolan of Belgium.
A haircut is a quick way to stand out: footballers sometimes attract as much attention now for their tonsorial statements as for their on-pitch accomplishments. Some Premier League players get a cut every week to make their trim “fresh” for each game. And the person wielding the clippers is often Sheldon Edwards, better known by his trade moniker, HD.
Edwards is a first-generation immigrant from Jamaica who is largely self-taught as a hairdresser. Over the years he has made up with charisma and flair what he lacked in technical training (when he was first asked to dye hair by Radja Nainggolan, an Inter Milan midfielder, he had to look up how to do it on YouTube). And he has surfed the wave of changing masculinity in Britain, helped along by Instagram.
Who does Kim Jong-Un fear most! Turns out it is BTS! Oh! You are not a Koreaboo ( A non-Korean obsessed with K-Pop!) I wonder if he wrote a “beautiful letter” to Trump about the poorly attended Oklahoma Election Rally! K-Pop fans launched a Chongkong, an all-out attack! They scooped up rally tickets and ensured an empty stadium. Hilarious! C’mon – pretty funny even if you are a Trumpster!
Kim Jong-Un reckons it’s a “vicious cancer”. This scourge, said the leader of North Korea in June, is corrupting his people, influencing everything from their hairstyles to the way they speak. It is smuggled into the country on flash drives; those found with it can be sent to a labour camp for 15 years.
What troubled Kim so much? K-pop, South Korea’s most influential cultural export. This blend of flawless dance routines and catchy melodies sung by coiffed, clear-skinned youths in co-ordinating outfits has found an enthusiastic audience across the globe, even managing to penetrate the North’s closely guarded borders.
If the foot ball hairdresser and K-Pop have not lightened the mood, try an Affogato. This is the simplest dessert! Use your favourite vanilla ice cream and a quarter cup of good, strong coffee! Better still – crema gelato with a shot of espresso! All will be right with the world!
Lactose intolerant! Get lactose free ice cream! Worried about sleeping? Use decaf!
Affogato al caffè, or gelato drowned in coffee, is “one of Italy’s most delectable modern dishes,” Anna Del Conte writes in her authoritative book “Gastronomy of Italy.” Though the affogato’sorigins are largely unknown, the fashion of drinking wine with snow or ice took off in 16th-century Italy. We can find evidence of modern gelato, made with milk, a century later. Single-shot espresso didn’t come into the picture until the turn of the 20th century, when the Milanese inventor Luigi Bezzera patented a machine that forced, or expressed, hot steam through ground coffee beans. How the ice cream and coffee coalesced into the affogato remains a mystery.
Indeed it has been a horrible two weeks. Indeed, I have read pages on climate change, floods, wild fires, Haiti, ugly politics, and the futility of the Afghan war! I thought we all deserved something different.
And some inspiration to deal with the events of the past two weeks:
This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.Winston Churchill
Before I fall completely into the trap of opposition politics, I have decided to take a break from never-ending criticism and to start suggesting solutions to the affordable housing conundrum. Do I have a plan? No, more a collection of ideas To start with, I think there are three key issues: Home ownership is not […]
I know! I am going to sound like a grumpy old man. Maybe that is because I am. I have been scratching my head in wonderment at the Taylor Swift phenomena. Is she an Incredible song writer, composer, and performer? I really don’t know! A discussion for another time? But probably not. At my age […]
Don’t build it! At least, Not In My Back Yard ! I acted as an advisor in the sale of a beautifully natural, 14-acre urban waterfront estate. Existing zoning allowed for the development of 30 to 35 single-family homes, which after road dedication would leave very little green space. I did not think that was […]
We were visiting Glasgow (literally that Dear Green Place in Gaelic) to see where my father was born, grew up, and went to University. Fortunately for me, my cousin John from Australia had just visited and had met with historians, Bruce Downie and Norry Wilson. So, we too arranged to meet them in the Govanhill […]
Vienna on top again. This week both Monocle Magazine and The Economist unveiled their quality of life / most liveable city indexes. There are differences in the way each publication sets its index. So it is even more impressive that once again, Vienna tops both lists. I am a bit lazy today so rather than […]
Many Viennese went from hot bedding to superblocks overnight. Could they even imagine an apartment complex 1000 metres long built along two streets with even more massive landscaped courtyards? Could they conceive of 1400 apartment units built to house 5000 people on 56,000 square metres or 38 acres of land. Or a vertical build-out that […]