Wednesday. 11/3/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / James Chambers

Slowly shaping up

Bali makes for a blissful break from Hong Kong at the best of times, so right now the Indonesian island feels like a tropical paradise. Or at least it did until Monday’s early morning beach workout. My aching muscles are still recovering from the strenuous, army-style drills that included lifting logs above my head and lugging sandbags on my back in a two-person tag-team race against several other pairings. Before we started, the Aussie trainer, Danny, asked me how fit I was. Pretty fit, I replied confidently, with one caveat: I haven’t been able to kick a ball or swim a lap for a while because all of the sports pitches and pools in Hong Kong have been closed to limit the spread of coronavirus.

It’s been a sedentary six weeks for the many ball-kickers, bouncers and hitters in Hong Kong. But that still doesn’t excuse the sight of me, halfway through what was supposedly a 20-minute workout, sitting on the sand with my feet in the air, desperately trying to get the blood back into my dizzy head. My bronzed German teammate had clearly mistook tall and slender for big and strong when he graciously picked me as his workout partner – and ended up having to pick up most of my slack.

Life in Hong Kong, fortunately for me, is slowly getting back to normal. And I can look forward to competing on more familiar terrain when I return there. Today the government is starting to reopen indoor venues for cycling, badminton, squash and tennis; the first round of the Hong Kong FA Cup was played on the weekend, albeit behind closed doors. Most outdoor football pitches are still off limits for amateur teams such as mine but, clearly, I’m not ready to report back for duty just yet anyway. As I trudge along the sand for a second time this morning, Danny’s look of pity will hurt far more than the squat thrusts do.

Geopolitics / Afghanistan

Breach of the peace

The US might have begun to withdraw a small number of its 12,000 troops from Afghanistan but the Trump administration is keeping a watchful eye on a bitter power struggle between Kabul’s two most powerful politicians. Incumbent Afghan president Ashraf Ghani (pictured, on right, with Trump) narrowly won September’s presidential election and has Washington’s support. His rival, Abdullah Abdullah, believes that the contest was rigged and that he is the rightful leader. “These sorts of squabbles aren’t uncommon in Afghan politics – but it won’t help Donald Trump,” says Paul Rogers, professor of peace studies at Bradford University. “Ghani and the US are desperately trying to end the 18-year-long conflict with the Taliban and disunity makes that much more difficult.” Indeed, a failure to broker a meaningful peace settlement might not only force the US to keep a significant number of troops in Afghanistan but could also dent Trump’s hopes of re-election in November.

Aviation / Global

Guiding flights

Canada is to lead a multilateral effort, known as the Safer Skies Strategy, to better protect civilian planes flying over conflict zones. Canadian transport minister Marc Garneau was promoting the plan at an aviation summit in the US last week; it’s a response to an incident in January when a Ukraine International Airlines flight was mistakenly shot down by Iran. The aim is to establish shared practices that will improve communication and information-sharing between airlines and aviation agencies. This will help such parties to assess the risks of flying over conflict zones and, if necessary, work out how to avoid them. Canada’s efforts are sure to save lives, says Mary Schiavo, aviation analyst and former inspector general of the US Department of Transportation. But, she adds, safety should still rest largely with the aviation sector itself. “Airlines are ultimately responsible for their passengers,” she says. “The bottom line is that you can always avoid conflict zones. [It’s] only a matter of time and money.”

Fashion / Global

Prevailing trends

Do the names Nicholas Daley, Chopova Lowena or Tomo Koizumi ring any bells? If not, the chances are that they soon will. The shortlist for the LVMH prize, one of the biggest awards in fashion, has been announced and these young talents are among the eight finalists. The prize, the brainchild of LVMH executive vice-president Delphine Arnault, is open to designers under the age of 40 who have completed two or more collections. The winner, to be announced in June, receives €300,000 plus a year of mentorship from the French luxury conglomerate and its network – a major boost to any young brand. Although this year’s finalists vary greatly in their design aesthetic – from Koizumi’s bold confections (pictured) to Daley’s workwear-influenced pieces – five of them are based in London. This represents a heartening win for the UK capital, whose status as a hub of youthful creativity is under threat in a post-Brexit era.

Urbanism / New York

Improving the outlook

Bigger, bolder, brasher, taller, larger. Take your pick from these superlatives and you’ll be able to apply it to somewhere in New York. The latest example? The Edge, which opens to the public today. At 345 metres above the asphalt, it is billed as the highest viewing deck in the western hemisphere. The triangular platform juts out of a Hudson Yards skyscraper and has views of the Hudson River and a flank of Manhattan. It’s hoped that giving visitors the chance to sip champagne and take in the Big Apple from on high will generate more positive reactions to Hudson Yards than the shopping and retail district provoked when it opened a year ago. Jason Horkin, vice-president of Hudson Yards Experiences, tells Monocle that he hopes the Edge “will create lasting memories that [people] want to share”. Translation: it will be coming to an Instagram account near you soon.

M24 / Monocle on Culture

‘Among the Trees’

Robert Bound, Francesca Gavin and Ossian Ward get to the root of the Hayward Gallery’s new exhibition.

Monocle Films / Norway

Celebrating fashion in Oslo

After lagging behind its design-minded neighbours, the Norwegian fashion industry has finally moved out of its comfort zone and stepped up its game. We meet Oslo’s most promising designers and see how they are being taken seriously on the international stage.

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