The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 14 March 2016

Image: Getty Images

Light lunch

Three years ago the Japanese government drew up a plan to create a swift-moving defence force that could counter China’s growing military might. But there was something slowing them down: Japan’s infantry – the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) – were mostly lugging around cans of food and heavy equipment to heat their meals. Japan’s military introduced ready-to-eat meals in pouches in 1990 but cans still dominate. Nearly 80 per cent of the 1.3 million field rations marked annually for GSDF troops – for disaster relief and military exercises – come in cans. That’s about to change now that the GSDF’s top brass have decided to switch entirely to pouches; Japan’s navy and airforce are considering similar moves. (The US military began resorting to pouch food in the early 1980s.) Feeding troops “mili-meshi” – a combination of “military” and meshi, the Japanese word for meal – in pouches could also be a boon for the companies that make them, given how civilian Japanese have been stocking up on emergency rations since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Free country

What does it take to establish a nation? It’s a pressing question for Vit Jedlicka, a Czech libertarian politician who last year declared a 7 sq km chunk of land nestled between Croatia and Serbia a sovereign state, which he dubbed Liberland. Though it has no international recognition as a state, Liberland – previously unclaimed due to a border dispute between its two neighbouring countries – has attracted more than 85,000 would-be citizens who have all applied online. Jedlicka can’t yet offer official citizenship due to the area’s territorial fragility but at least he can now raise a glass of beer bearing Liberland’s name: Liberal Ale is the new national brew of the so-called country (though it’s made in a Czech-based brewery).

Enduring appeal

It’s hard to know if the designers and architects plying their trade between the 1940s and 1960s knew what an incredible impact their work would have. Yet here we are, decades later, mulling over mid-century modernism’s simplicity and style, it’s comeliness and character. But for those of us who have trouble telling an Eames chair from an Aalto, there’s a new set of notebooks, postcards and foldout books from Thames & Hudson that might help. Charting the work of feted designers such as Arne Jacobsen and Sori Yanagi, the Mid-Century Modern series is a handsome, bright-hued gift for furniture aficionados. Fair warning: the colourful stationery makes for an addictive flashcard-style game among design-minded friends.

Artists’ impressions

Hong Kong’s annual Arts Month is well underway but the real festival atmosphere is reserved for Easter weekend, when the Art Basel caravan rolls into the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and Art Central pitches its tent on the harbourfront. As inboxes bulge with invites, Art Central’s fair director Maree Di Pasquale has let Monocle in on her pick of the action away from the two main sites. “I’m looking forward to making my way to southside Hong Kong,” she says, highlighting the South Island Art Brunch on 24 March. She also recommends heading to the Asia Society to see renowned dancer and choreographer Shen Wei’s performance art – but not before dropping in on the annual Intelligence Squared Cultural Debate. This year’s topic: Art Today has Sold Out to the Market. A fitting conversation for Asia’s leading financial centre.

From Monocle 24

A new leaf

David Bez set out to make himself a different salad every day for four years – now he’s heading into the restaurant business in London.

From Monocle Films

La Candelaria, Bogotá

The oldest part of Colombia’s capital is unique. It’s home to a mix of social classes and more and more people are moving here – Colombians as well as foreigners. We meet the architects, artists, landscapers and hairdressers who are making La Candelaria a centre of creativity and enterprise.

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