Tuesday 21 March 2017 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 21/3/2017

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images


Something left

Not since the Second World War has a German Social Democratic party (SPD) candidate for chancellor been given such a thumping mandate by his party. At a conference over the weekend, Martin Schulz was confirmed as the SPD’s nominee with 100 per cent of the valid votes – 605 out of 605. He described the result as a “mandate to take over the chancellor’s office”. And he’s right. Suddenly the SPD looks like a contender to topple Angela Merkel in September’s election. The more important story, though, is what this means for centrist politics across Europe. Dutch voters rejected Geert Wilders’ vicious strain of populism last week, the centrist Emmanuel Macron is gaining ground in France and Germany’s election will likely be fought between the nation’s two centrist mainstream parties on the left and right. Might we get to the end of the year and wonder what all the fuss was about?

Image: Getty Images


Chief concern

This time next week Hong Kong will have its new chief executive: on Sunday the autonomous territory’s 1,194-member election committee will decide on its new leader. Carrie Lam may be Beijing’s pick but it’s her main rival, former financial secretary John Tsang, who’s winning the hearts of Hong Kong’s public. “While the election committee is expressing support for Lam, certain government and business sections doubt whether she’s president Xi Jinping’s personal preference, so they are still hedging their bets,” says Ngok Ma, professor of government and public administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. And while many haven’t committed to a side yet – including Li Ka-shing, a member of the election committee and Hong Kong's richest man, who traditionally always publicly backs a candidate – Lam is still likely to win the committee’s majority this weekend.

Image: Novosibirsk


Martial arts

In nations that enforce conscription, dodging the draft can require some deft manoeuvres; many young conscripts opt for long stints in academia. In Russia there’s a new way out: ballet. The Kremlin has added the Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, one of the country’s most reputable dance schools, to a list of approved alternatives to military service. The policy, a throwback to the Soviet Union when dancers at the Bolshoi were exempt from military service, has also been extended to members of the orchestra and technicians. After years of scandal having surrounded Russian ballet the change is, perhaps, a sign that Moscow realises how important the art form is for its limited soft-power arsenal – be it flats or fatigues, it’s all service to Mother Russia.

Image: Flickr


Hear, hear!

One of the world’s largest storytelling festivals gets underway in Toronto this week. Raconteurs from across Canada and further afield will spin their yarns at 25 venues around the city from Friday until Sunday 2 April, covering why blue whales sing, reclaiming Canada’s Inuit languages, how to create music based on birdsong and much more besides. Founded by the Canadian writer Dan Yashinsky in 1979, the Toronto Storytelling Festival’s theme this year is a welcome one: listening. “[How to listen] has become a complicated question,” says Yashinsky. “There are lots of forces at play that make it hard to listen well: the digital realm, the tone of today’s political discourse, the world of alternative facts. The role of the storyteller is to remind the tribe just how important it is to keep listening.”

Song Exploder: Hrishikesh Hirway

The idea of “Song Exploder” is that each week a band or artist talks you through how they wrote a particular song; it was dreamt up by LA-based music-lover Hrishikesh Hirway and is about to celebrate its 100th episode. Hirway speaks to Robert Bound about how it came to be.


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