What Have I Been Reading? August 16, 2021

It has been a horrible two weeks! What has been dominating the news?

  • Wild fires just in western North America, Greece, and Italy!
  • Floods in Turkey!
  • Climate change – the IPCC update
  • Covid-19 continues to cause havoc!
  • The 20th anniversary of 9-11 looms large as the Taliban retake Afghanistan. To recite Bruce Springsteen “Same sad story, its a fact, one step up, two steps back.”
  • Haiti – poor Haiti! Another earthquake, what can remain of a country already reduced to rubble a few short years ago?
  • And, just what we need in Canada – a federal election! It is time for required coalitions to establish a majority before forming a government! I think Canadians might like that!

Opinion, Christopher Cermak, The Monocle Daily

Poll positions

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.

WAJXG5 Berlin, Germany. 21st Aug, 2019. Olaf Scholz (SPD), Federal Minister of Finance, and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) are talking before a cabinet meeting in the Federal Chancellery. In today’s cabinet meeting, the members of the federal government are discussing, among other things, the bill to largely abolish the solidarity surcharge. Credit: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa/Alamy Live News
Fast Forward 16 years….

… 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.

Rachel Lloyd and Josh Spencer, 1843 Magazine, June 24, 2021

On me head, son: the secret economics of footballers’ hair

Paul Pogba, France

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.

Raphael Rashid, 1843 Magazine, June 24, 2021

Dungeons and dimples: how to speak K-pop

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!

K-Pop – Kim Jong-Un’s biggest fear

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.

Eric Kim, New York Times Magazine, August 12, 2021

The Best Coffee Break Is an Affogato

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!

Even a bad one can be very good, but a very good one can change your life.


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.

A Horrible Two Weeks?

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

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