Friday, 5 December 2008

The Impossible Cool


The Impossible Cool is a well-curated blog showcasing male beauty, dandyisme, and retro fashion in spectacularly decadent black and white. Other dudes featured include OSCAR WILDE. Someone put Alain Delon on there right away.
It's pretty awesome:

Sunday, 30 November 2008

KAWS x Kanye West

After Takashi Murakami (Graduation), Kanye enlisted another fantastical artist, KAWS, to do the cover art for 808's and Heartbreak. KAWS' most recent collaboration was with Comme des Garcons. The art is very KAWS, but at the same time, the cover is very Kanye. This is sort of akin to Kanye's style: he wears every designer from Lanvin to BAPE, but he always looks like 'Kanye'. I even think the same extends to his musical composition. Even though I'm not a huge hip-hop fan, I like how he experiments beyond the mainstream. I particularly like love lockdown, and the quasi-hipsterish lmfao remix (which he didn't actually do, but still):

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The Resource Curse in Middle Eastern Oil Producing States

To most, the discovery of oil would appear to be the basis of great prosperity. However, the economies of most countries, in the Middle East and beyond, that have been endowed with resource wealth have historically underperformed in comparison to countries that were not as well endowed. Empirical evidence shows that countries in East Asia, such as Korea and Taiwan, have grown and developed at much faster rates than Middle Eastern oil-producing countries, in spite of having started with approximately the same development levels in the 1950s. Such examples have led to the advent of the ‘resource curse’ theory, an economic explanation for why resource abundance leads to underdevelopment. The ‘resource curse’ is a collective term for individual theories that demonstrate overdependence on a single resource to be the result of revenue volatility, destabilizing exchange rate effects known as the ‘Dutch disease’, crowding out effects, corruption and rent-seeking, and authoritarian rule. These consequences result from both exogenous and endogenous factors.

This essay will present the theoretical and empirical argument for the resource curse in Middle Eastern OPEC member states (excluding North African members). It puts forth that a wide range of literature identifies two factors associated with resource exploitation that contribute to underdevelopment: economic overdependence on a single sector, and state ownership of the resource. This paper will first present the negative consequences of overdependence, and then discuss state regimes’ inability to implement policies to distribute resource wealth in a socially optimal manner.

Evidence shows that economic development tends to be less successful in primary resource-based economies than in manufacture-oriented economies (Murshed 2004). Perala (2000) presents evidence that all but 6 of 42 developing countries suffering from growth failure – having a per capita income level in 1998 previously achieved between the 1960s and 1980s, can be described as having primary-resource based economies. Due to rising oil prices in recent years, the per capita incomes of the oil producing Middle Eastern economies have grown, however, development still lags far behind. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE rank 9, 46, and 16 in GDP per capita in purchasing power parity terms (IMF 2006). But, the same countries rank 46, 76, and 49 in the World Bank’s 2006 human development index. These statistics beg the question, why, contrary to common sense, would resource wealth result in economic underdevelopment?

Part of the problem of underdevelopment in these Middle Eastern states, stems from dependence on oil exports for an excessive portion of national income. The oil industry contributes about 45% of Saudi Arabia’s and Iran’s GDP, 50% of Kuwait’s GDP and to similar extents in all the Middle Eastern OPEC states (World Bank 2003). Such dependence on a single sector leaves national income vulnerable to volatility in resource prices. Oil and gas revenues, particularly due to the securitization of the energy market, can be subject to extreme price swings in short periods of time, caused by external factors. In fact, yesterday geopolitical concerns and worries about a weak dollar led crude oil to a new record high, past $97 per barrel, only to see prices slump today on a U.S. government report that oil inventories fell less than expected. Such price fluctuations make pursuing prudent government policy a daunting task. Increased oil prices can lead to a direct injection of large amounts of funds into exporting economies, leading to inflationary pressure and market distortion. Falling oil prices can slow growth, cause a withdrawal of investor confidence, and a potential recession. For instance, in 1986, when the price of oil fell from $28 to $10 a barrel over the course of several months, export revenues fell dramatically in the oil producing Middle East, unemployment soared, and economic growth slowed.

Price fluctuations can also have seriously destabilizing exchange rate effects when resource revenues make up a substantial portion of GDP. Known as the ‘Dutch disease’, a gain in windfall revenues from the export of a resource can result in a contraction in the output of non-resource sectors. A dramatic increase in the price of oil, as was brought about by OPEC countries in the 1970s, resulted in a massive current account surplus in exporting states. In a floating exchange rate system, incurring a current account surplus leads to currency appreciation, making the nation’s other exports less competitive. In OPEC countries, the result was a contraction in the non-oil and gas traded sectors (Stevens 2003). Inder Sud, director of the Middle East Department of the World Bank stated at the Middle East Forum in 2000, “Oil-producing countries have experienced the "Dutch disease": oil revenues have raised the prices of non-traded goods such as land and labor. At the same time, prices of traded goods - commodities that can be exported - are not very profitable. This vicious cycle has hampered some of the export-led efforts.” The specific contraction of the manufacturing sector in these countries, caused by Dutch disease, can be a source of “chronic slow growth.”

Dependence on a primary resource can also lead to the de-prioritization of investment in non-resource-orientated sectors, compounding the diminished competitiveness brought about by the Dutch disease. Unlike traditional crowding out, where government spending crowds out private investment, over allocation of saved private and government funds towards a single economic sector crowds out the funds available for others. Investment in the extraction of oil in OPEC Middle Eastern states has reduced the capital available for industrial and service-based sectors to develop. Moreover, the finite nature of oil, for example Saudi Arabia can only extract the resource for another 70 years (Mouawad 2005), would make continued lack of economic diversification crippling. Abdullah Alireza, Saudi minister without portfolio and member of the state’s Supreme Economic Council, has recognized the need to correct this issue: “The diversification of our national income and our economy away from oil is key to our well-being. It’s absolutely key,” (Herald Tribune 2005).

State ownership of oil resources in Middle Eastern OPEC states is another underlying cause behind economic underperformance. The reality of most oil producing states is one where revenue from exports accrues directly into the state treasuries. In Saudi Arabia, oil sales account for 90 percent of government revenue (Mouawad 2005). This inevitably results in a great degree of government intervention in the market. Stevens (2003) argues that resource and revenue control leads to these interventions being ill conceived.

Revenue gains from resources allow the government to have an abundance of funds at their disposal. Given that, with the exception of Iran and Iraq, none of the Middle Eastern OPEC countries are democracies, pressure to appease the public with direct injections of funds into the economy has been a popular policy. However, spending revenues too quickly leads to higher prices and increasing inflationary pressure, overheating, and exacerbation of the Dutch disease through currency appreciation.

Corruption and rent seeking have also characterized government involvement. The theoretical argument, simply stated, is that the availability of a large quantity of funds is likely to increase temptation for corruption and rent seeking on the part of the decision makers (Stevens 2003). Empirical evidence appears to support this, as all the Middle Eastern OPEC states rank very poorly on the Corruption Perceptions Index (Transparency International 2007). Corruption itself is known to result in negative income distribution effects in the economic sphere and undermine regime legitimacy in the political sphere. Iran, which ranks 131st on the Corruption Perceptions Index list, suffers from a particularly high degree of corruption, nepotism and income inequality – the richest 10 percent of Iranians account for a third of the national income and have a vested interest in the oil industry (Sherman 2004).

‘Rent seeking’ is another issue of concern that stems from states having access to windfall resource revenues. The term itself refers to the behavior of special interest groups attempting to acquire wealth from government transfers of funds. Rent seeking results in market distortions leading to income inequality. Auty (1998), as cited by Stevens (2003), argues that rent seeking distracts goals of long-term development toward maximizing rent creation and capture. Therefore, such behavior leads to lower income and growth along the steady state. Also, special interest groups benefiting from rent acquisition can form powerful lobbies, able to exert pressure on the. Examples include rent-seeking religious charities, advocacy groups, and other civic associations in the Arab world. Okruhlik (1999) goes one step further by stating that the Saudi Arabian state is itself a “functional extension of the ruling family.”

Finally, Wantchekon (1999) presents empirical evidence that forms a connection between natural resource dependence, authoritarian governments and socio-political instability. Wantchekon’s study finds that a one percent increase in resource dependence as measured by the ratio of exports to GDP approximately leads to an 8 percent increase in the probability of authoritarianism. Indeed, Freedomhouse’s 2006 Freedom in the World survey assigns “Not Free” (the lowest) ratings to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Qatar and UAE and a “Partly Free” rating to Kuwait.

The wealth of literature on the subject points to the resource curse, stemming from overdependence on oil revenues and state ownership of oil resources, as a source for the economic underdevelopment in Middle Eastern OPEC states. Kuran (2004) argues that this is compounded by religious and historical mechanisms, resulting in institutional stagnation.

The fact that oil-producing developing states have universally been plagued by the resource curse points to a deeper connection between resource abundance and underdevelopment. Luong and Weinthal find a “direct relationship between the discovery of oil, its development for export, and the emergence of a rentier state, which “procures revenue from external sources and then redistributes it to the population as a form of social and political control.” All African petrostates or resource dependent countries have authoritarian governments or have experienced a very slow process of political reforms (Wantchekon 1999). Similarly, oil-producing states in central Asia have been associated with the problems of the resource curse.

Norway is the single outlying example of an oil producing state that has avoided the resource curse. Norway effectively locked away its oil wealth in an‘oil fund’, a permanent offshore investment vehicle that cannot be accessed by citizens. In this way, the volatility of oil price fluctuation cannot impact the domestic market, while resource wealth accrues for future generations. Moreover, political groups cannot manipulate or distribute the oil revenues. While Norwegian policies have been effective in controlling the resource curse, voters’ desire to access oil wealth has led to substantial political pressure (Listhaug 2004). Similarly, Canada, after the recent discovery of its oil sands, has attempted to implement measures akin to the Norwegian system. However, the locking away of oil wealth remains an unpopular policy. To mitigate the resource curse, Middle Eastern OPEC countries should take up such policies in a gradual manner to stabilize oil revenue injections. Wealth from the oil sector should be progressively used to fuel investment in the secondary and tertiary sectors – manufacturing, capital-intensive industry and service provision. This will lead to lessened economic dependence on oil and develop an economy that will continue to function after oil depletion. The example of growth in Asia also points to the necessary prioritization of human capital development and technological progress, factors that tend to go hand in hand.


Carapico, Sheila. "NGOs, INGOs, GO-NGOs and DO-NGOs: Making Sense of Non-Governmental Organizations." Middle East Report. MERIP. .
Corruption Perceptions Index 2007. Transparency International.
"Country Profile: Iran." New Internationalist. Aug. 2004. .
Curran, Jeanne, and Susan Takata. "An Economic Perspective: Economics – as Much as Religion – May Explain the Middle East Crisis." 2002. California State University. .
Gruen, George E. The Oil Resources of Iraq: Their Role in the Policies of the Great Powers. Columbia UP.
Kuran, Timur. "Why the Middle East is Economically Underdeveloped: Historical Mechanisms of Institutional Stagnation." The Journal of Economic Perspectives 18 (2004): 71-90.
Listhaug, Ola. A Mild Resource Curse: the Impact of Oil Wealth Dissatisfactions on Political Trust in Norway. Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim and Centre for the Study of Civil War, PRIO. 2004.
Listhaug, Ola. A Mild Resource Curse: the Impact of Oil Wealth Dissatisfactions on Political Trust in Norway. Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim and Centre for the Study of Civil War, PRIO. 2004.
Luong, Pauline J., and Erika Weinthal. Prelude to the Resource Curse:OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES IN CENTRAL ASIA AND BEYOND. Yale University and Tel Aviv University.
"Middle East: Economic Growth and Decline." Global Perspectives. .
Mouawad, Jad. "Saudi Arabia Works to End Its Dependence on Oil Revenue." International Herald Tribune 13 Dec. 2005.
Murshed, S M. On Natural Resource Abundance and Underdevelopment. World Development Report 2003: Dynamic Development in a Sustainbable World. World Bank, 2003.
Murshed, S M. When Does Natural Resource Abundance Lead to a Resource Curse? Environmental Economic Programme. 2004.
Okruhlik, Gwenn. "Rentier Wealth, Unruly Law, and the Rise of Opposition: the Political Economy of Oil States." Comparative Politics 31 (1999): 295-315.
Richards, Alan. The Political Economy of Economic Reform in the Middle East: the Challenge to Governance. RAND Project: "the Future of Middle East Security". 2001.
"Statistics of the Human Development Report." Human Development Reports. 2006. UNDP. .
Stevens, Paul. "Resource Impact - Curse or Blessing? a Literature Survey." Journal of Energy Literature 9 (2003): 3-42.
Sud, Inder. "Spurring Economic Growth in the Middle East: What Needs to Be Done?" Middle East Department At the World Bank. Middle East Forum, New York. 6 Sept. 2000.
Wantchekon, Leonard. Why Do Resource Dependent Countries Have Authoritarian Governments. Yale University. 1999.
World Economic Outlook Database. International Monetary Fund. Washington, DC: IMF, 2007.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Avery pummeling guys—interspersed with shots of Marc Jacobs' S/S 2009

"I certainly admire a nice purse", I also like to "make the opposing team's life miserable"

"I guess I'm bored, I like to see emotion out of people...I do it probably more for my own humour than anything" - I'm glad I'm not the only one

Interviewer: You're dating someone and at the very beginning they show up with a bag that's maybe a little off or something, how much is that a tick off in your mind?
Avery: "I'm not really that superficial. Or maybe I am that superficial, I'm still trying to figure it out."

According to Material Interest:

The Freudian heart of the matter: "It's probably my desire for dress-up that brings me back to the whole women's clothing thing." After watching the clip's footage of Avery pummeling guys twice his size—interspersed with shots of him at Marc Jacobs' S/S 2009 show—we're inclined to agree with whatever the guy says.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Blondie: Heart of Glass

Once I had a love and it was divine
Soon found out I was losing my mind
It seemed like the real thing but I was so blind
Mucho mistrust, love's gone behind

Monday, 27 October 2008

Drunk on the Wine of the Beloved

"Wash the tarnished copper of your life from your hands;
To be Love's alchemist, you should be working with gold."

"Even though, to pious, drinking wine is a sin,
Don't judge me; I use it as a bleach to wash the color of hypocrisy away."

Two excerpts of two poems by Hafez from "Drunk on the Wine of the Beloved", translated by Thomas Rain Crowe. The first is from "School of Truth", and the second is from "I've Said It Before and I'll Say It Again."

I was reading through my diary and found these two fragments, which I thought pair well together.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Fontainebleu Hotel Corp. v. 45 25 (spelled out), Inc.

Judges are hilarious:
In this case Eden Roc hotel in Miami sued Fontainebleu hotel for building additional floors which (supposedly) blocked air and light from its beach, thereby cannibalizing business (in malice). The ensuing decision, which overruled a temporary injunction on further construction is one of the funniest I've ever read. Among the materials presented included...wait for it..."studies on the simple mathematics of the sun."
Enjoy this excerpt:

We see no reason for departing from this universal rule. If, as contended on behalf of plaintiff, public policy demands that a landowner in the Miami Beach area refrain from constructing buildings on his premises that will cast a shadow on the adjoining premises, an amendment of its comprehensive planning and zoning ordinance, applicable to [**7] the public as a whole, is the means by which such purpose should be achieved. (No opinion is expressed here as to the validity of such an ordinance, if one should be enacted pursuant to the requirements of law. Cf. City of Miami Beach v. State ex rel. Fontainebleau Hotel Corp., Fla.App.1959, 108 So.2d 614, 619; certiorari denied, Fla.1959, 111 So.2d 437.) But to change the universal rule - and the custom followed in this state since its inception - that adjoining landowners have an equal right under the law to build to the line of their respective tracts and to such a height as is desired by them (in in absence, of course, of building restrictions or regulations) amounts, in our opinion, to judicial legislation. As stated in Musumeci v. Leonardo, supra [77 R.I. 255, 75 A.2d 177], "So use your own as not to injure another's property is, indeed, a sound and salutary principle for the promotion of justice, but it may not and should not be applied so as gratuitously to confer upon an adjacent property owner incorporeal rights incidental to his ownership of land which the law does not sanction."

Friday, 10 October 2008

The Next Economist Cover

Wall Street is still having fun #2 - I got an email from a friend in private equity with this attachment. Looking at the email thread, looks like a lot of bankers and other finance nerds are forwarding this around. Good fun, bad market! I myself am looking into a career as a philosophy professor, who would have thought. 

Blue Balls

I'm glad someone is still having a good time at Wall Street. Or maybe he or she means that the bull's balls have turned blue because the market is squeezing them so tight - I'll be corny and call that a "bear hug." 

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


I have a new idea, and I came up with it while sauntering across a rather deserted patch of grass in the cold, also thinking about the intellectual busy-ness with which I mounted my cycle with little sleep and little food, rode at full speed for 15 minutes, then dismounted and ran for 10 minutes to make sure that I got to tutorial on time. Mostly it was because I didn't want to upset my tutor, but partly also because I wanted to learn. It was a great time. 

Rationality - My opinion is that rationality is a social construction. Reason is simply one of many methods by which to analyze the world around us and to undertake decisions. Because rationality is constructed, I believe that in its use as a method of analysis, it is fundamentally subordinate to emotion, which is innate (to human beings and perhaps to all living things). The philosophical greats, from Socrates to Locke and their drinking buddies, overemphasized the use of reason. Locke even went so far as to say that human beings are born with some concept of rationality. That is simply not true. We are born with emotion, raw and unbridled. It is this emotion, this gut instinct, this intuition, by which we should analyze and come to decisions. I think that society ought to stop wondering what the most 'reasonable' action is, but should rather do what feels 'right'. 

There may be some questions to what I have said:
-How do you define reason / rationality, and what are their differences?
-Why do you seem to be using reason to make a rational argument against the supremacy of rationality?
-By 'right' do you imply that human beings have fully inherent and fully developed emotional mechanisms for analyzing the world and coming to decisions?

To these questions, I respond: read that paragraph, understand the idea, and think about how you feel about that idea. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The Plight of Mediocrity

I was sitting in political theory class listening to idealistic, conformist-liberal brats speaking, when I thought of a new approach to analyzing the way society rewards individuals. I believe society rewards unusualness. That is, people who don't conform to the norm, both in positive and negative ways, receive some sort of overcompensation (beyond their relative contribution to society). For example, the exceptionally intelligent, beautiful, strong, captivating, etc. will have better chances of success. They have attributes which generate "awe". Then, there are those who are unusually poorly-endowed mentally, physically, emotionally etc. who fall into society's safety net. For instance, those with disabilities qualify for various forms of assistance, and the poor and unemployed can claim forms of state support. They have attributes which generate (crudely) "sympathy".

What becomes of the individual who is unexceptional in either way? They face society's great burden - to support the others. Their lives becomes vehicles by which the privileges of the have-alls and the have-nothings are sustained. For instance, it is the middle class upon which the tax burden falls in the contemporary United States. Unusually wealthy individuals and corporate entities pay very little, while enjoying similar benefits. The unusually poor cannot afford to contribute much, yet benefit from the state's welfare programs, largely funded by middle class tax-payers. Yet another example set is formed by athletics and by the exhibition of human rarities. The multi-million dollar salaries of basketball players are in a large part sponsored by the average individual watching the sport (live or otherwise). The flip-side of this coin is the fact that so-called "freakshows", popular in the early-mid part of the previous century, provided a livelihood for individuals who would have otherwise remained unemployed. There are numerous other such examples that I do not want to spend time delving into.

The more important question is why does society reward unusualness? I believe that this is the result of two fundamental human reactions: the desire to be what one is not, if 'what one is not' is seen by society as positive, and the desire to change what one is not, if 'what one is not' is perceived as negative. The assumption that a young child intently observing birds wishes that he could fly, is the simplified underlying premise behind the first part of this argument. Adult humans (unfortunately disillusioned) realize that they cannot be what they are not, hence vicariously satisfy this desire through observing exceptional members of their own species. Adults try to support especially disadvantaged individuals because altruism is socially observed as just. Do all 'average people' give to the mendicant? No, but society as a whole tends to. As described in the previous paragraph, the emergent result of both actions is similar.

Then, is systematic overcompensation morally right? This is a mere observation, and I prefer not to normatively analyze the world. Certain philosophers would argue that justice and morals are not absolute in their definition, but are determined by the way society behaves. Therefore, society's collective act of unequal compensation would be deemed morally right. A Rawlsian distribution paradigm approach would argue that only equality is just.

Just some thoughts and a poorly constructed argument, but I find this interesting nonetheless.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008


This is a recent photo that I took in New York. I used a composite technique, and some very basic editing. I wanted to capture the rawness of the U.S.'s current economic woes. We hear quite a lot about turmoil in the financial markets, yet the urban reality which tends to be overlooked is that more people are sleeping on the street than in the past, shops are closing, buildings are poorly maintained, cars aren't as common, and jobs are harder to come by. But I think there is beauty in the optimism of the woman's gait.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Tomoko Sawada

She took a series of photographs of herself in booths with different costumes. I feel that the real impact lies in how each photo seems to convey an individual story, yet on a closer examination each face seems similarly (and somewhat frighteningly) plastic. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Naoya Hatekayama - from the mid 90s

River - Beauty in something so disgusting? I find the series very visually stimulating, and in particular like the contrast of the murky water and pale cherry blossom tree (from 1993-1994):

Blast: Powerful and almost otherworldly - I think this series is truly a testament to man's power over nature, which isn't necessarily good (from 1995):

These series, and quite a lot of Hatekayama's work can be seen at:
L.A.Galerie Lothar Albrecht

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Miwa Yanagi

Miwa Yanagi's work (requiring quite elaborate set ups) depicts morbid, disturbing, and sexual takes on children's fairy tales.

Gelatin silver prints:



Little Red Riding Hood


For the full collection see:

Recent Japanese Photography

Yesterday I went to the International Center of Photography, where I saw the 'Heavy Light' exhibit of recent photography and video from Japan. I had never had any exposure to the genre and was really taken aback by how awesome of the artists were. In particular, I liked Hiroh Kikai, Miwa Yanagi, Tomoko Sawada, and Naoya Hatakeyama. I the next few posts I will put up their photos here

Hiroh Kikai: Very cool monochrome shots of people in the asakusa area of Tokyo. His work really exhibits emotion

Tatoo artist with his son

Performer of the Butoh Dance

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Blind Envy and Faith - Major Philosopher

Movin’ on
Hand me a falling star
And I’ll dowse it out
With all I know so far
And I’m calling all
Major Philosopher’s
To take a poll that what
I want is not absurd

It’s a mountain hybrid
Major Philosopher look
What I did
It’s a crazy island state
Look what I did

Walking out
On my sensibilities
And I’m cutting down
My sense of security
Now you can see
This existing deformity
And I don’t care
What you think it’s what
I need

It’s a mountain hybrid
Major Philosopher look
What I did
It’s a crazy island state
Look what I did

Maybe it’s a little big
In my mind and
Maybe you just can’t
See it yeah
Maybe it’s a little big
In my heart and
Maybe you just can’t
Be there no

It’s a mountain hybrid
Major Philosopher look
What I did
It’s a crazy island state
Look what I did

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Corruption and the Black Economy in India

The Indian black economy is immense, lucrative, widespread, and has grown significantly since independence. According to Kumar (2001, 2), the black economy has grown from about 3% in the mid-50s to 20% by 1980, to 35% by 1990, and 40% by 1995. As a percentage of GDP and at almost $1 trillion in absolute terms, the black economy is larger than both the industrial and agricultural sectors. Corruption is pervasive from the lowest to the highest levels of public administration, public enterprise, bureaucracy, judiciary, law enforcement, and elected leadership. According to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer 2007 report, 25% of survey respondents had to pay a bribe to obtain government services, over four-out-of-five believe that political parties are corrupt, and more than 70% expect the level of corruption to increase in the coming three years.

The documented history of corruption in India can be traced to late 18th century British East India company rule. The first governor-general of India, Warren Hastings was notably impeached on accounts of corruption in 1787. Though he was acquitted in 1795, his lengthy trial brought various aspects of illegitimate company activity to light. Brian Smith of Georgetown University (2008) writes, "too much ill-gotten wealth had made its way home from India; too many of Hastings' compatriots and defenders were in the House of Commons". The East India Company laid the foundations of both a corrupt bureaucracy and a parallel economy. During World War II, this black economy experienced a surge (Financial Express, 2007). When large quantities of products and resources were allocated to the war effort, the general public experienced acute shortages of daily necessities. Scarcity, government controls, and private hoarding stimulated the growth of the parallel economy. Even though in both periods the black economy made up only a small fraction of its present size, the institutional and social practices that would facilitate its rise were developed then.

The most significant growth in the black economy occurred during and after the 1960s. Until this time, Gandhian and Nehruvian politicians who had been part of the independence struggle had largely administered the government. As their careers ended, officials who lacked their idealism, and were more likely to engage in corruption and rent-seeking practices, entered the government. According to Sondhi (2000), the keynote of this "great divide in the history of public administration in India" was amorality.

Today, corruption pervades the political leadership, the bureaucracy, law enforcement and the judiciary. Some of the most prominent causes have been patron-client relationships and communalism in the democracy, excessive bureaucratic administration and low wages at the bottom rung of public sector employment, ineffective punitive and combative measures, and a social environment conducive to corrupt practices.

Since the sixties, a new brand of electoral politics has seen leaders succeed who cater to specific regional, caste, religious, or linguistic communities as well as distinct private lobbies. In order to be reelected in a divisive environment, officials hand out benefits to private supporters and client communities. Nepotism in the allocation of government contracts and the siphoning-off of public sector funds occur on a large scale. For example, public sector real estate plots are taken over by individual politicians who then sell them at preferential rates to family members, campaign contributors, and other supporters in a process that is called "writing down". Democratic corruption is further compounded by rampant electoral malpractice, which undermines the legitimacy of the participatory process. Vote buying and voter coercion, political thuggery and warlordism are commonplace. Corruption exists throughout the political realm from the local district level, to the state level, to the national level, to the Prime minister's office - as Sondhi (2000) writes, "the scams and scandals of the nineties revealed that among the persons accused of corruption were former Prime Ministers, former Chief ministers, and even former Governors."

During the sixties the development of a second factor also impacted corruption. Private sector wages and relative social prestige, particularly at the lower levels, grew faster than those of the public sector, generating incentive for corruption. According to The Times of India, the monthly payscale for police constables in 2006 was between Rs. 3,050 and 4,590 (aprox. between U.S. $72 and $108) in the state of Maharashtra. Even in India such wages are too low to guarantee a dignified life, forcing constables to turn to bribes. Therefore, it is common for well-off individuals to buy their way out of arrest. Additionally, the colonial legacy of an extensive administrative network facilitates the spread of corrupt activity in the bureaucracy, judiciary, and law enforcement. According to Sondhi, "the British had designed this legal system to strengthen a regulatory colonial administration...It has built in provisions for delays, prolonged litigation, and evasion. Its provisions are ideally suited to the promotion of corruption at all levels."

Insufficient wages are generally characteristic of the lower levels of bureaucracy, and hence most simple government services require bribing to be obtained. Many bureaucrats see their salaries as pocket money, while their actual incomes are determined by illegitimate means. Even in prestigious civil services like the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Revenue Service (IRS) that require entrance examinations, salaries are significantly lower than private sector alternatives. Corruption income is often taken into account when bright individuals choose the civil services over the private sector.

Observing this problem from a broader perspective: widespread corruption has generated social attitudes that no longer view it as morally wrong, but as normal. High degrees of corruption in the police and judicial system, and among elected officials have contributed to a collective disregard for the rule of law. "People often approach someone known to them for favors which they know are not legally due to them. Jumping the traffic lights or a queue or getting the benefits not due to one has become part of social ethos" (Sondhi 2000). A vicious cycle has been created where corruption has found social acceptance, and this attitude leads to an even greater number of officials becoming corrupt. Thus, rising corruption is a consequence of its own universality.

The consequences of corrpution, and particularly its economic impact, are powerful. In theory, countries where talented people are allocated to rent-seeking activities tend to grow more slowly (Mauro 1995). Mauro finds that if the integrity and efficiency of bureaucracy in developing countries were to be improved, their investment and GDP growth rates would rise significantly. Controlling for GDP per capita, he concludes that corrupt governments spend less on education, and therefore achieve lower levels of human capital formation. According to Mauro, if corruption in India was reduced to Scandanavian levels, investment would rise by 12% annually and GDP would grow at an additional 1.5%.

The Indian black economy has resulted in an immense loss of tax revenue. If it accounted for 40% of GDP in 1998-99, the loss of direct tax revenue at the prevailing rate would amount to at least Rs. 200,000 crore, or 47.5 billion U.S. Dollars (Kumar 1999, 5). According to the BBC (2004), only 2 million of India's billion people pay taxes, just 2% of the population. The government therefore suffers a perennial shortage of funds and public services languish. To make matters worse, public services and public enterprises are themselves extremely corrupt - the Public Works Department and the State Electricity Boards that are responsible for the provision, maintenance, and distribution of infrastructure and energy respectively, are among the most corrupt departments in India. "In the capital city of Delhi itself the transmission and distribution losses in the power sector are estimated to be over 50%, out which almost 30% is attributed to theft which is done with the connivance of the electricity board employees" (Sondhi 2000). Due to corruption, public sector enterprises appear to be inefficient and making large losses. In 1991, they lost over Rs. 30,000 crore, or $7.1 billion due to corruption; if not for illegal activity, profit margins would have been 30% as opposed to the reported 5% (Kumar 1999, 4)

Black incomes also form a major tax on investment. Rather than being spent and injected into the economy, they tend to be mostly saved. Furthermore, these savings tend to be concentrated in areas that do not further investment. Black money tends to be laundered in destabilizing speculative bubbles such as real estate and gold, or deposited outside the country. Income from corruption constitutes a significant leakage from the economy, amounting to a tax on investment of almost 20 percentage points (Sondhi, 2000).

Given the magnitude of corruption and its consequences, it is imperative that the problem is dealt with immediately. The government has already developed a number of agencies to deal with the problem such as the Prevention of Corruption Act (1947), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Administrative Vigilance Division (AVD), and Central Vigilance Comission (CVC). However, a number of these agencies are corrupt themselves, while others lack the expertise to function effectively. I believe that a carrot and stick approach must be used to combat corruption. That is, the monetary incentive for corruption must be removed, while adequate punitive measures are simultaneously implemented. Corruption has lead to a vicious cycle where it keeps tax revenue low, thus keeps public sector wages low, and therefore perpetuates itself. The government must bear the initial cost and incur a deficit to raise public sector wages and make them more comparable to the private sector, while strengthening anti-corruption bodies. Theoretically, a higher salary should make an employee content and the increased probability of prosecution should deter their corrupt practices.

Electoral reform is also necessary to restore faith in a free democratic process. Instituting stricter poll monitoring policies and replacing the inkblot voting technique with newer technology would better safeguard against malpractice. Allocating a fixed election budget for each party a-la the European Union would set somewhat of a barrier against rent seeking and patron-client politics.

The media and civil society are important entities that should also be urged to expose corrupt practices. In the past, the media has exposed numerous profile cases, such as the Tehelka scandal, however less sensational corruption is left unreported. According to Kumar (1995), media entrepreneurs have interests that require favorable policy decisions and journalists have to be careful not to hurt these interests. Independent organizations however, have been more vigilant in their watch over corruption. Guhan and Paul (1997) state that the Public Affairs Center in Bangalore has developed innovative instruments, such as the report card methodology, to track down and expose corruption in the public services.

The primary obstacle to implementing stricter controls over corruption is the general social climate. If society continues to accept the normality of corruption, politicians will not be pressed to implement counter-measures. The costs of corruption can be fundamentally raised through the democratic process. Voting against corrupt politicians will ensure that those in power will reduce their own illegal practices and take steps against corruption to garner votes. But until social attitudes change, necessary legislation will not be implemented to deal with the problem.

Works Cited
Aidt, T. S. "Economic Analysis of Corruption." The Economic Journal 113 (2003): f632-f652.
Biswas, Soutik. "Reforming India's Maddening Tax System." BBC News 5 July 2004. .
Guhan, S., and S. Paul. Corruption in India. New Delhi: Sage, 1997.
Guhan, S., and S. Paul. Corruption in India. New Delhi: Sage, 1997.
Khan, Mushtaq H., and Jomo K.S. Rents, Rent-Seeking and Economic Development. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000.
Kumar, Arun. The Black Economy in India. New Delhi: Penguin Books Ltd., 1999.
Mauro, Paolo. "Corruption and Growth." The Quarterly Journal of Economics 110 (1999): 681-712.
"Pay Hike for Maharashtra Police." The Times of India 17 Oct. 2006. .
Smith, Brian. "Edmund Burke, the Warren Hastings Trial, and the Moral Dimension of Corruption." Polity 40 (2008): 70-94.
Sondhi, Sunil. Combatting Corruption in India. University of Delhi. Prepared for the XVIII World Congress of International PoliticalScience Association, August 1-5, 2000, Quebec City, Canada, 2000.
"The Parallel Economy in India." Financial Express 2 May 2007. .

Monday, 23 June 2008

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Recent shots

Shoot for a German photographer, one is a bit messed up here though.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Saturday, 7 June 2008

This is so cool!

Feeling good - Nana Simone 
Set off to some sweet animation - just typographic and black and white but well done with really funky design elements 

Song info

Thursday, 5 June 2008


Under whose spell shall he fall
Before he agonizes over her inevitable farewell tonight?

Unlock these rusty chains--
A languishing prisoner longs to lie in slender arms tonight.

The orange light dwindles,
Love's passionate flame mind's fantasy ignites,

Tear down the thick moldy wall--
Freedom brightly dawns inside a vessel tonight.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Tom Ford in London - "I'm insane about lighting" and Damien Hirst

This video is pretty cool because you get a tour of a part of Tom Ford's London house. I think at times that he is pretty tacky, and you can see that in the video. However, I like how articulate he is, and I do share some of his taste in art. I really like the painting he had commissioned for his entrance and am also a big fan of Damien Hirst and the White Cube.   Unfortunately, the only pieces of art I currently have in my room are Velvet Underground and Jimi Hendrix posters. 

Self Portrait as Surgeon, Oil on Canvas, 2006
(Coincidentally, was at the White Cube)

This is my favorite Hirst piece. I have never seen an oil on canvas work quite so photographic. The portrayal of the intricacies in the tubing and hospital equipment is absolutely phenomenal. I love how Hirst plays with morbid realism. In my opinion this painting is exactly as morbid as it is real. Would you want to be operated on by that guy? Probably not, because he looks like he'd eventually want to preserve you in formaldehyde. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

10 crazy things I want

5 days away from my birthday, I thought I would make my list of 10 tastefully over-the-top things that I want my parents and friends to buy for me. I will add two things to the list each day. 

Watch: Patek Philippe grand complications 5970 R
I have a very similar watch, but this is probably the most beautiful thing that has ever kept time. Does anyone really care about its chronograph with 30min counter, perpetual calendar with day and month in aperture and date and leap year by hands, moon phases and am/pm indicator, and seconds subdial? No, I didn't think so. 

Car: 1964 Aston Martin DB5  

Famously used in Goldfinger, Thunderball, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Casino Royale (remember that car that Daniel Craig wins in poker and drives away with the guy's wife in? yeah.) 
Originally sold under 5,000 pounds - I wonder why I was not born in the 40s, so I could actually drive one of these in my 20s. 

Est. $1,500,000 - $2,500,000

Right, so I started this a while ago and couldn't come up with 8 more ridiculously over the top objects that I wanted. How about concepts that you can't put a price on, which are infinitely more difficult to attain:

Love - I really wish I could buy this, then I'd totally go through with the whole business tycoon thing

Barack Obama for president - To be honest, I've become quite disillusioned with the political process, and also fairly apathetic and therefore don't know a great deal about his policies. However, I like that he represents a change of precedent (no pun intended). 

Spiritual union with something higher - I'm fairly agnostic so I don't know if anything higher exists. But, when I used to meditate (a lot seriously), I felt like I was in touch with a collective consciousness. I felt that each time I was reaching deeper into this understanding, but something always pulled me back. I no longer meditate or pray these days. I think I needed a break, and I'll resume my spiritual journey at some point in the (probably near) future. 

People that understand me - No one seems to understand me, and it really upsets me. I always get the feeling that my friends are only scratching the surface, and that makes me feel like all my friendships are temporary. 

Getting over all my insecurities - Impossible? I hope not. 

A closer relationship with my parents - I always feel strangely uncomfortable around them. I hope that changes. 

Something superficial - Double Breasted Suit: Tom Ford

Come on, this is so me. I really want a classic double breasted suit that is modern enough to deal with my skinniness. 

Upwards of $10,000

10) Happiness: I think the premise behind all the desires listed above is the search for happiness. The objects, no matter how cool, probably won't keep me happy for very long. The other things will definitely keep me happy for a longer period of time. But, I'd like to be happy, and happy forever. I think I've covered my discontent with a veil of superficial happiness. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Love and Spirituality in Ecstatic Sufism

During the 12th and 13th centuries, Islam witnessed continued intellectualization. Ahmad Ghazali (d. 1126) established some of the central doctrines of the ecstatic school of Sufism. His treatise on love exalts complete devotion to the beloved linked with the ideas of the qalandar – the wandering libertine mystic, and ’ayyar – the rogue or brigand[1]. In a three-way relationship, he views love, the lover, and the beloved to all be the same divine essence. The true lover loses himself in the love of his beloved, and begins to think of himself as his beloved, while his base self and human attributes pass away in fana’, or annihilation. Ghazali’s conceptualization of the relationship between love and spirituality from a liberal perspective influenced a great deal of subsequent Persian literature. A potential example is Rumi’s Divan-i Shams-i Tabrizi, the title of which itself means "the work of Shams of Tabriz”, Rumi’s beloved. As legend goes, Rumi no longer thought of his own self as being distinct from that of Shams, and therefore viewed his own work as also that of his lover. Poems from The Divan by Hafiz of Shiraz, written in the 14th century, further articulate some of Ghazali's ideas:

“But thou that knowest God by heart, away!
Wine-drunk, love-drunk, we inherit Paradise,
His mercy is for sinners; hence and pray”[2]

“All my pleasure is to sip
Wine from my beloved’s lip;
I have gained the utmost bliss –
God alone be praised for this”[3]

In both poems Hafiz emphasizes the connection between love, sin, and spirituality. In each instance, Hafiz attains a higher state of being through love and wine drinking, acts that are treated as the same in the second poem. Hafiz's references to sin have been seen as reactions to the orthodoxy of the religious establishment in his time (by E. Herzig). The interrelatedness of sin and love, though libertine in essence, could have also served to make the statement that one can achieve a spiritual connection without having to dogmatically follow institutionalized faith.

I had lunch with a very special person today. She seeks to help others understand themselves better, and in doing so performs a great service to society. 

I said to her,"if I had just one moment of selfless love, I would be able to transcend my petty current state and achieve lasting happiness. Just for a minute, I want to completely lose myself in someone else". 

She replied, "the connection you're looking for with someone exists all the time, between every individual. We're unable to access it mostly because of our own spiritual inadequacies. You should seek to love everyone and if you're love is genuine and you realize that connection, you will be happy. This could take a lot of time, but I see that you're looking inside, and trying to identify your internal difficulties, and that is the first step."

(Wine drinking?)

[1] Julian Baldick, Mystical Islam (London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 1989) 66.

[2] Gertrude Bell, The Hafez Poems of Gertrude Bell. (Ibex, Inc, 1995) 18.

[3] A.J. Arberry, Fifty Poems of Hafiz. (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1947) 50.

Saturday, 10 May 2008


Louboutin - personal favorite

I was re-reading the Azzedine Alaiia article in the last issue of Paradis magazine, which is my favorite periodical ever. The man is remarkable, and the shoot of some of his very interesting couture(ey) designs really caught my eye. I scanned my three favorite shots. I wonder who the model is, because I have a conception of an ideal woman in my mind who looks very similar. This ideal woman also speaks five languages, and can tell how many years aged a given piece of parmigianno-reggiano is without reading the label. 

Monday, 5 May 2008

Two poems by Omar Khayyam

Two poems that I really enjoyed:

Du ruzeh kuzeh-gari raftam dush
Didam do hazar kuzeh, guya va khamush
Nagam Yaki kugeh baravard khamush
"Ku kuzegar va kuzekar va kuzefarush?"

Two days ago I went to the potter's workshop
There I saw two thousand clay jugs, speaking and silent
One jug that had been silent began speaking-
"Where is the potter and the jug-buyer and the jug-seller?"

Essentially, this poem is alluding to an existential quandary that many of us experience. The clay jugs ("kuzeh") are an oft-employed motif for people - clay comes from the Earth, to which we will eventually return. The speaking jug's question may be interpreted as: Where have I come from? (the potter) Where will I go? (the jug-buyer) How will I reach my ultimate end? (the jug-seller)

Iin yek do seh ruzeh nobat-i omr guzasht 
Chun aab bajuyabar va chun baad bedasht
Har giz qam do ruz mara yaad nigasht
Ruzi ke niamedast va ruzi ke guzasht

In these one, two, three days an entire lifetime has passed 
Like running water in a stream, like wind through the air
Never will I remember two days:
The day that is yet to come and the day that has already passed

Here, I think Khayyam is simply telling the reader to live in the present, not dwelling on the past, which has already happened, or the future, which is yet to happen. The imagery of the second line as well as the general melody of the words are beautiful. 

Sunday, 4 May 2008


I've been going through a bit of a weird phase lately. I felt great for several weeks, fantastic top of the world really. But, I feel a bit depressed now, primarily because I'm never satisfied with what I have, what I am, and with the present. No matter how much I achieve, I can never live up to the expectations that I have of myself. I am brutally self-critical. To compound matters, I've been reading lots of Persian poems by Khayyam and Hafiz, who were probably intellectually frustrated in a similar way. Being talented at (too) many things appears to lead to a periodic sense of extreme cockiness and vain narcissism, followed by or combined with self-dissatisfaction and dissatisfaction with the world. 

The final two lines of one of Khyyam's famous rubai's have the following jist:

All his life Bahram the brave ("gur" in Persian) chased the gazelle (also "gur")
But, in the end, the grave (also "gur") finally caught Bahram-Gur

(side note: amazing wordplay.)

Like the hero Bahram, I feel like I'm chasing something that I am unable attain, and finally death will catch up to me without my having attained anything. I think I am chasing lasting inner bliss. 

Compounding matters further, I've been listening to Hotel Costes' latest album (no. 10). The song "Adios" by Zimpala, is beautifully depressing jazz/electro/trip-hop. Here are the lyrics as I heard them, followed by an English translation:

rompio mi corazon  He broke my heart 
cuando dijo adios     when he said goodbye
sin razon                    without a reason
una triste manana    a sad tomorrow
queria quedarme      I wanted to stay

muere mi corazon que diria    My dying heart that would say
oh, queria quedarme                oh, I wanted to stay

le quiero, le odio     I love him, I hate him
me ha dejado           He left me

adios mi amor...           Goodbye my love

Basically, I want to take a vacation from being myself for a little while and become someone else, so that I can truly appreciate being myself. 

Thursday, 24 April 2008


Before coming to back to England, I unfortunately ventured out to North-Eastern Pennsylvania. I'm sure some of you will ask, "What were you thinking?" When I studied there, I always thought the grass was greener on the other side; now I actually know that it is. Well, that's besides the point. Back in India, my grandfather gave me his old Soviet-made Zorki 4 camera. With it I photographed the saving grace of PA: beautiful cherry blossoms. Unfortunately, the reel got overexposed after a bit of an accident and I salvaged as much of it as I could. The two pictures I got (I believe) have some very cool effects. Enjoy...

Also, try this drink, it's amazing:

1 measure vodka
3 measures tonic water
4 to 6 1 cm chopped green chili rounds
Squeeze of lime
(you can also add a slice of cucumber if you like)

I call it liberation.

"I hate to complement you because you don't deflect compliments like normal people do; but, I was at Nobu last night, and I could totally see this being served there. Also, I tried their chocolate fondant and yours is better."
-My friend

Thanks i guess...

If you want something non-alcoholic, put slices of cucumber in your water. It's so yuppie, but so good.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Aao Huzoor

The first song is the original song by Asha Bhonsale and O.P. Nayyar. The second is a remix by spiritual lounge artist Karunesh titled "Punjab". I really like the soothing nature of the remix, and it always puts me in a calm, sensual mood.

Wikipedia, and the Global Spirit album insert: "Karunesh was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. His brush with death prompted him to rethink his life and embark on a spiritual journey of sorts, and in 1979 he traveled to India. His accident also prompted him to choose music as a career instead of graphic design."

Lyrics (So beautiful):

Aao huzoor tumko, sitaron me le chaluun ...
Dil jhoom jaye aisi, bahaaron me le chaluun
Aao huzoor aao ...


Come sir, let me take you into the stars
My heart spins, let me take you into the gardens of spring
Come sir, come

(Yeah, it probably sounds better if you know the language)

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Thoughts from India

Some of you may know that I am in India these days. Much is said about India becoming a superpower in the not-so-distant future. However, the situation on the ground, in my opinion, doesn't lend itself to such a degree of optimism. The majority of the people here do not have access to clean running water, basic healthcare, electricity, and proper education among other necessities. Even in my grandparents' relatively decent neighborhood, power has been cut three times TODAY!! Imagine what life must be like for the common person. The country needs to cover the basics before it can be expected to move into higher levels of development.

Rant over.

One of the most interesting books I've read in the last two weeks has been The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Never have I found the moral degradation of an individual quite so fascinating. I think each of us has a bit of Basil Hallward, Dorian Gray, and Lord Henry in our personalities (well at least I do).

I found this exchange between Lord Henry, a corrupting influence who himeself will never be harmed, and a Lady particularly striking:

L: 'It has development.'
LH: 'Decay fasninates me more.'
'What of art?' she asked.
'It is a malady.'
'An illusion.'
'The fashionable substitute for belief.'
'You are a sceptic.'
'Never! Scepticism is the beginning of faith.'
'What are you?'
'To define is to limit.'
'Give us a clue.'
'Threads snap. You would lose your way in the labyrinth.'

You may hate him, but I can't help but want to be him.

Speaking of pictures, I recently made a drawing I call Prisoner of the Self; it's most accurately described as surrealist and cubist. It's essentially a man in a tuxedo, sitting on a chair, trapped in crystal boxes. I'm planning on turning it into a full painting when I have some proper time on my hands. It would take me hours to explain where the inspiration comes from.

My spiritual guru here says that it would be best to do something creative with my life. You may laugh in my face, but when he looks into my eyes I feel that he can see what is called "The Self" in the Bhagvad Gita, and knows my future to some extent. Maybe art, fashion, writing, something abstract is my true calling. Speaking of the future, a soothsayer met with my mother here (apparently his predictions have a good track record) and said that I would be with a woman with beautiful hair and eyes. What does that mean? Haha

Photos to come soon. I'm having loads of fun playing cricket on the street.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

The Lamentation and Death of Farhad

Leaf from a dispersed manuscript of the Khamsa at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Nizami, arguably the greatest romantic Persian poet, wrote Khusraw and Shirin in the 12th century. It is a masnavi, or long epic, of 7,000 couplets written in the hazaj hexameter. Khusraw and Shirin is part of Nizami's Khamsa, or quintet, which also includes the more famous Layla and Majnun.

Unlike other poets of the time, Nizami was well-off enough not to have to follow a panegyric style of composition. Rather he explored a diverse range of philosophical themes. Khusraw and Shirin in particular contains several sufi mystic ideas, such as the manifestation of love for God in love for a person. F.I. Abdullaeva (incidentally my tutor) believes that Shirin, the queen whom the poor sculptor Farhad falls in love with, is simply a vessel for his love of God. She argues that it is not Shirin that he is actually in love with, rather he is in love with God, and his love is simply manifested in this particular form. Similar to sufi songs, which may superficially be interpreted as romantic ballads, Khusraw and Shirin represents a devotion to God that pervades an individual's (or mystic's) entire existence. When Farhad is cruelly told that Shirin has died, his purpose in life also ends. One may interpret Nizami's idea as, "without God, what is man?".

(A small fragment of Khusraw and Shirin)
The Lamentation and Death of Farhad:

"O'er my sad heart the fowls and fishes weep;
For my life's steam doth into darkness creep.
Why am I parted from my mistress dear?
Now Shirin's gone, why should I tarry here?
Without her face should I desire to thrive
It would serve me right if I were boned alive!
Felled to the dust, my cypress quick lies dead:
Shall I remain to cast dust on my head?
My smiling rose is fallen from the tree:
The garden is a prison now to me.
My bird of spring is from the meadow flown,
I, like the thundercloud, will weep and groan.
My world-enkindling lamp is quenched for aye:
Shall not any day be turned to night today?
My lamp is out, and chilly strikes the gale:
My moon is darkened and my sun is pale.
Beyond Death's portals Shirin shall I greet,
So with one leap I hasten Death to meet!'
Thus to the world his mournful tale he cried,
For Shirin kissed the ground, and kissing died"

E.G., Browne, A Literary History of Persia Vol. 2: From Firdawsi to Sa'di, (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1906) 406
(One of my favorite books)

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

I had a dream, I think it means something

One morning I took a pill. Like the matrix, this pill was supposed to reveal reality and destroy the world's illusions.
Nothing happened.

That night, I was slightly drunk and I was walking back home with my roommates. We were part of a larger group. We were chatting. I like walking back with friends that I live with. I'm always slightly insecure about walking home alone inebriated. This is probably because when I was 6, I was the weakest kid on the block. I used to get picked on by the bullies. But that's where I learned diplomacy. I started sharing all my toys, giving away the chocolate that my dad got me from abroad, and I turned my enemies into my friends. But, that insecurity never left. Even though I'm 6'2 and athletic, I always watch my back. I haven't been in a fight since the fifth grade when I broke a kid's arm. I cried about it, I shouldn't have hurt someone so badly. I still feel remorseful about that, but that's another story...

So we were walking, and I'm talking to two friends that I live with. We fall behind the rest of the pack. We're chatting about life, and I get kind of insecure and want to join up with the larger group. I run ahead to see where they're going for a second. I turn around to find my friends, they're gone. I think it's really weird, why would they leave? I was kind of scared.

A beautiful girl walks up alongside me from nowhere. We were surrounded by trees. The sky was starry. The night was dark and beautiful. Our eyes meet and she gives me an inviting smile. I want to talk to her. But part of me pulls me back. Why? I'm scared; not that we wouldn't get on, but that I would like her. Why was I scared? I smile back politely, and run off to join the rest of the group, I regret my decision, and I look back to find her. She's disappeared. Damn.

I ask my friends who I don't live with about what happened to the friends that I live with. They're say "whatever, they probably stopped for a minute somewhere". The part of that watches my back kicks in again. I space out for a minute looking at the moon. I shake myself out of the weird trance. I turn around and a couple of kids from our group have disappeared. Guys where did you go? The rest of us are still among trees and grass. We keep walking, I don't want to sound scared, so I don't ask anyone where my friends went. I'm silent. It's silent.

I space out again. I space out a lot. The trees are beautiful. Why hasn't the pill affected me. This sucks. I will never know what enlightenment is. I'm so pretentious. Fuck! I shake myself out again. There's no one around me. When I'm alone and it's night and I live in a shitty neighborhood, I go into hyper-alert mode. This is my defense mechanism. When this happens, I become totally badass, completely unlike myself normally. No one can touch me.

Something pulls me from behind. I feel like it's taking my shirt off. I shiver. I'm suddenly flying. I'm in the trees, not above them. I grab on to a branch. The thing stops. It lets go of me. I'm no longer flying. What a relief. The branch starts cracking. Shit. I fall.

Buaaaahhhh. I spit the pill out and the water I took it with. A voice says, "YOU COULDN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH, THIS IS YOUR FATE." I'm in a comfortable chair. I feel depressed. I don't like rejection. I've learned to deal with it, but I hate rejection. I space out for a brief second. I snap back into it. I turn to my left. The beautiful girl from the night before is sitting in another comfortable chair beside me. Our eyes meet. I smile invitingly. I bring my hand close to hers. We kiss slowly; tentatively; sweetly.

Then I realize: this is reality, the illusion is gone. We are so caught up in our own fears and insecurities that sometimes we don't let ourselves go spontaneously. We're so caught up with controlling our lives and giving them structure that we forget that we need to let ourselves drift. Don't be afraid. Let whatever happen happen. I guess in the dream I was exposed to some of my fears, and might have been able to get over them as a result. If we shy away from our fears, we will never be able to overcome them. Let fate carry us through life. Collectively, as human beings, we are far too risk averse. We're naive if we think we have full control over our lives. There are too many things that you just can't control, so let yourself go. That just might be what the reality the pill was supposed to do in the first place.

Weird dream...

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Michael Kors stole my look and put it on the runway

The man knows where to find inspiration. Obviously, he must have been at the same holiday party as I was.
Positives: I definitely like the tailoring for the show. The suits and formal wear are definitely the highlight. Traditionalist-rake is what best describes the theme.
Negatives: Kors should stay away from shades of brown, including camel etc., because it doesn't seem like he can use these colors without coming off tacky.
The modern dandy dressed-up cool bohemian look is definitely in.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

The Face of Love by Sanne Sannes

I've been looking at The Face of Love by Dutch photographer/late 60s cult-figure Sanne Sannes.

Sannes described his approach like this: "There are many men who'll never see a woman in ecstasy. They change from one thing to something else completely different. Human emotions are my subject matter. I photograph people. They're what interest me, obsess me. I want to know what pushes them to do what they do. I don't look for them in the street; I don't do random photography. I direct them and record the moment they open up and become naked. I chose the most emotionally charged moments, the point of no return. I'm fanatically zealous!"

Photographer Anna Beeke posed for Sannes and describes him as a "voyeur and provocateur, adding that he was like a boy who'd got old too soon and was never free of the obsessions that preoccupied him"

Indeed, for many older men, there's a fine line between being sensual and becoming a pervert. Photographers, I believe, most often make this transgression. (And, may I add, it's not just with women.)

If those quotes don't make you want to read the book, you might want to get your hormone levels checked. Sannes' innovative techniques make for some really amazing images.

Read more about it in Paradis Magazine Issue #3 (page 277)

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Desire - Deepak Chopra and Demi Moore

I was listening to Buddha Bar II, and stumbled upon Desire. It's a melodious recitation by Deepak Chopra and Demi Moore to tabla, drums and ambient synth. The lyrics are rather profound and spiritual, and brought me to ask myself: "is this what being in love is?" If so, I don't think I've ever been in love.
Listen, read and judge for yourself.

The essence: love is selfless, spiritual, uncontrollable, and destined

A lover knows only humility, he has no choice.
He steals into your alley at night, he has no choice.
He longs to kiss every lock of your hair, don't fret, he has no choice.
In his frenzied love for you, he longs to break the chains of his imprisonment, he has choice.

A lover asked his beloved,
Do you love yourself more than you love me?
Beloved replied, I have died to myself and I live for you.
I've disappeared from myself and my attributes,
I am present only for you.
I've forgotten all my learnings,
but from knowing you I've become a scholar.
I've lost all my strength, but from your power I am able.
I love myself...I love you.
I love you...I love myself.

I am your lover, come to my side, I will open the gate to your love.
Come settle with me, let us be neighbors to the stars.
You have been hiding so long, endlessly drifting in the sea of my love.
Even so, you have always been connected to me.
Concealed, revealed, in the unknown, in the un-manifest.
I am life itself. You have been a prisoner of a little pond,
I am the ocean and its turbulent flood. Come merge with me,
leave this world of ignorance. Be with me, I will open the gate to your love.

Trade Liberalization and Economic Growth: China's Example

I thought I would finally write an essay again. This one includes a bibliography because readers pointed out that I should include sources to back up what I say.

In light of the rapid development of economies in Asia, the relationship between trade liberalization and growth has received a great deal of attention. Studies have analyzed the effect of international trade on economic development; however, none have established a causal relationship between liberalization policies, trade and growth that is free of criticism. This essay seeks to discuss the benefits for economic growth from liberalization and international trade in the context of Chinese reform. First, it will first address the theoretical benefits of unrestricted trade, as presented by the neo-classical comparative advantage model. Second, it will discuss China’s liberalization policies and the effect of international trade on its economic growth. Finally, it will present what can be learned from the collective case of developing countries pursuing liberalization strategies during the 1980s and 1990s.


That openness to international trade can lead to increased economic growth is a popular belief in contemporary economic thought. The theoretical conceptualization of the benefits of unrestricted trade may be traced to David Ricardo’s 19th-century principle of comparative advantage. The principle states that each country should specialize in the production of those goods and services with the lowest opportunity costs. Countries should trade surpluses of these products in the international market for others that would be relatively more expensive to produce domestically. In doing so, trading economies benefit from being able to consume beyond what they could in the absence of imports. In the neo-classical conception, this leads to a system whereby societal welfare and global GNP are maximized through international trade.

This principle has some important theoretical implications for economic growth. First, increased trade volume can itself yield a positive impact on national income. Second, given relative opportunity costs, developing countries will concentrate on the production of labor-intensive goods, while importing capital-intensive products. The importing of advanced products leads to the diffusion of new technologies into the domestic market. This factor, harnessed through reverse engineering and the import of foreign equipment, can exert a significant positive effect on economic growth.

Independent of the comparative advantage principle, foreign trade, in theory, can yield other important benefits for economic growth. Lardy (1995) states that outwardly oriented economies are more likely to achieve higher rates of savings and investment, and greater efficiency in the use of investment resources in comparison to their inward-looking counterparts. That is, import substitution policies will result in an allocation of resources that is inherently inefficient. Second, international competition may stimulate technical development and efficiencies. In the case of the East Asian ‘tiger’ economies, the World Bank argues that the promotion of exports led to rapid productivity growth, driving high levels of national income growth.

China's as an example:

Since the commencement of economic reforms towards the end of the 1970s, China has enjoyed accelerated levels of trade and economic growth. Over these years, China has experienced an average annual GNP growth rate of over 9 per cent. In terms of purchasing power parity, the nation’s economy has become the second largest in the world. In particular, China’s open-door policy has facilitated a dramatic 128% average annual increase in total trade between 1978 and 1993 (Lardy 1995).

This rise in China’s foreign trade, and the benefits it has had for economic growth, are the results of successful reform policy implementation. The overall thrust of the strategy was a drive away from import substitution and toward export promotion. Prior to reform, two characteristics marked China’s international trade policy: trade restriction and exchange rate control. Reforms decentralizing foreign trade, rationalizing the foreign exchange system, and creating special economic zones were undertaken to address these issues.

In the decade between 1979 and 1990, the number of firms permitted to engage in foreign trade was raised from only a dozen to over 8,000 (Lu 1995). After the passing of the foreign investment law in 1979 and the establishment of special economic zones the following year, the number of foreign-invested firms engaging in export activities expanded dramatically. By 1990, over 174,000 foreign-invested enterprises enjoyed international trade rights.

Foreign exchange reforms, allowing exporting enterprises to retain an amount of their foreign currency earnings, were first debuted in 1979 under the retention scheme. In 1986, a swap, or secondary market for foreign exchange was introduced. By 1993, 80% of foreign exchange earnings were priced at the swap rate. Finally, in 1994, the official and swap exchange rate markets were unified and a managed float system was created. These reforms, among others, facilitated the free availability of foreign exchange for use in trading activities.

The effects of China’s reform policies had a great impact on the growth of the nation’s economy. Immediately after currency market integration in 1994, exports grew over 30% and in the first eight months of 1995, by 37% (Lu 1995). China realized a distinct comparative advantage in the production of labor-intensive manufactured goods. Imports primarily came from capital-intensive or relatively advanced service sectors. Kou and Lou (1999) state that advanced technology imports and management skill acquisition from developed countries have greatly improved productivity in agricultural and industrial sectors and China’s competitiveness in international markets. China’s export growth pattern is also very similar to those of the high-performing economies of East Asia identified by the World Bank. Though it is very methodologically difficult to isolate these effects, China is likely to be experiencing similar total factor productivity improvement.

Discussion and Extrapolation:

The theoretical benefits of international trade, coupled with China’s liberalization success together pose the question: does trade liberalization policy generally have a positive effect on economic growth?

Empirically, evidence points to a positive relationship between the pursuit of open-door policies, trade growth and economic growth. After 1980, developing countries that have pursued tariff cuts and other trade liberalizing measures have enjoyed trade growth and economic growth greater in magnitude than developed and non-liberalizing counterparts. Dollar and Kraay’s seminal 2004 study presents evidence that, over the 20 years leading up to 2004, trade among such economies doubled from 16% to 33% of GDP. Aggregate annual economic growth rates for the group grew from 3.5% in the 1980s to 5.0% in the 1990s. The growth rates of rich countries slowed over this period, while the annual growth rates of non-globalizing poor economies were lower in the 1990s than they were in the 1970s.

While the conclusion that trade liberalization can lead to increased trade and economic growth appears to be clear, it must be looked upon with caution. China and all the liberalizing economies of the 1980s and 1990s also pursued fiscal adjustment, stabilization policies, capital market reform, and the strengthening of property rights. Isolating the effect of trade liberalization and exchange rate reform, as was performed by China, is very methodologically difficult. Though studies such as Sachs and Warner (1995) state that trade policy openness exerts a positive effect on growth, Rodriguez and Rodrik (2000) criticize their econometric methodology. Therefore, we may conclude that trade liberalization can have positive effects on economic growth; however, it must occur in tandem with other reforms as well.

Works Cited

Dollar, D, and A Kraay. "Trade, Growth, and Poverty." The Economic Journal 114 (2004).
Frankel, J, and D Romer. "Does Trade Cause Growth?" The American Economic Review 89 (1999): 379-399.
Koo, W W., and J Lou. "Role of International Trade in Chinese Economic Development." Review of Development Economics 3 (1999): 98-106.
Koo, W W., and J Lou. "Role of International Trade in Chinese Economic Development." Review of Development Economics 3 (1999): 98-106.
Lardy, N. "The Role of Foreign Trade and Investment in China's Economic Transformation." The China Quarterly 144 (1995): 1065-1082.
Lu, W. Reform of China's Foreign Trade Policy. Department of the (Australian) Parliamentary Library. Parliamentary Research Service, 1995.
Rodriguez, F. and Rodrik, D. (2000). ‘Trade policy and economic growth: a skeptic’s guide to the cross-national evidence’, in (B. Bernanke and K. Rogoff, eds.), Macroeconomics Annual 2000, Cambridge
MA: MIT Press for NBER.
Sachs, J.D. and Warner, A. (1995). ‘Economic reform and the process of global integration’, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, no. 1, pp. 1–118.
Winters, L A. "Trade Liberalization and Economic Performance: an Overview." The Economic Journal 114 (2004): f4-f21.