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.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Heath Ledger dies by overdose

His epitaph should be the following poem from Omar Khayyam:

At dawn came a call from the tavern
"Oh drunken mad man of the cavern
Arise; let us fill with wine one more turn
Before destiny fills our cup, our urn"

I would say there are far worse ways to go.


Beautiful. great glasses, scarf, sweater. She is a great example casual elegance - very chic. The appreciation of beauty is one of the most popular themes in Persian poetry. Though this one is not about that, it is one of the most stylistically interesting poems I have ever encountered. The question and answer technique creates the impression of two friends talking about one of their encounters with a lover the night before. That this photo was taken in Paris, put in me in a romantic mood as well.

Amad bar-i man. Ki? Yar. Kay? Vaqt-i sahar
Tarsanda. Zi ki? Zi khasm. Khasm-ash ki? Padar.
Dadam-ash. Chi? Busa. Bar kuja? Bar lab-i tar.
Lab bud? Na! Chi bud? 'Aqiq. Chun bud? Chu shakar.

She came. Who? My beloved. When? At dawn.
She was frightened. By whom? By her enemy. Who was her enemy? Her father.
I gave her...What? A kiss. Where? Her sweet lips.
Were they lips? No! What were they? Carnelian. Like what? Like sugar.

By Rudaki, regarded as the first great Persian poet. There are two reasons why I have started reading Persian poetry: first, getting the chance to work with my fabulous tutor Firuza, and second, poems like these.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Sartorialist in my neighborhood

The sartorialist likes to photograph around my neighborhood a lot these days. Unfortunately, since I've let myself go and dress like a bum/lumberjack, I've not been asked. :( The only thing wrong with this picture is that she's wearing a coat like that when it was like 60 degrees out. Nonetheless, I think she's gorgeous, and her style is really creative - notice the play with proportion. Though the flannel pseudo-poncho is the highlight, little things like the gold accents on her gloves or the vintage boots are also cool. I also feel that she has an air of intellectual nonconformism about her, which I really like.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Thoughts about the world

Before I resume writing about China's economy, or get started on Hafez's Divan for my Persian poetry class, I decided to ramble a little about some of the philosophical ideas that I have been thinking about lately.

As I was sitting beside my window, reading and watching the boats pass by with infinite sluggishness, I began thinking about the world in new ways. Looking out of my window, with a birds-eye view of manhattan, I felt that everything was planned; orchestrated in a perfectly ordered fashion. The people, the cars, the airplanes, and reality itself, appeared as though it were being pulled by some invisible thread. I like to call this thread "destiny". Where destiny is dragging all of us, I am not sure; but that this thread exists, I am certain. In Shantaram, it is said that the universe is tending towards some ultimate complexity, called "God". I don't know if this is true, but, here is what I think about God and the universe:

I see the universe as an elaborately constructed illusion. In Hindu philosophy, what is observable is termed "maya", or magic. I believe that there are only two possible origins of the observable universe: it is either a construction of our own mind, or the work of some external power. Which of these is correct, I cannot determine. Still, I think that what we don't observe is what truly exists. At this point, with my limited knowledge and experience, I feel that my concept of what really exists only includes destiny. I think that the origin of the observable universe, and the reality that cannot be observed, are intertwined and inseparable. In some religious philosophies, these two ideas are collectively termed, "God".

I believe that the enlightened one is the person who understands what truly exists and its origins. Therefore, some may say that he or she is the one who understands God. If we look to the example of the enlightened Buddha, we find that he never revealed his enlightenment in his teachings. Instead, what he put forth were guidelines that, if followed, would keep people happy. I believe that he is the originator of the concept of "ignorance is bliss". I think that there are only two potential motivations for his doing this: either profound truth, even if revealed, could never be comprehended by the average person, or that enlightenment would lead to complete disillusionment with the world, making the person worse off than they initially were. It would take a person with immense mental fortitude to both comprehend the truth and survive the disillusionment.

My outlook towards life is also based on these ideas. The past has already happened; though it often has a bearing on the present, it is unchangeable, and so is it is useless to dwell on it. The future is predetermined, therefore, I don't worry about it. Enjoying the present is essentially all I care about. I have been reading the Bhagavad Gita and have become acquainted with the concept of "dharma" - or duty. I find it my duty to do whatever I have to in the present to unravel the mystery that is my future.

Just some thoughts.

Monday, 7 January 2008

La Moustache

I recently watched Shoja Azari's K, a film comprised of three stories based on Franz Kafka's work. It was very weird, over-the-top, abstract, and film noir-esque (only in style). I wasn't a huge fan. I followed it up by watching another Kafka-inspired ridiculous feature, La Moustache.

It is about a man who shaves his moustache after many years. However, when no one notices, he starts losing his grip on reality. His wife then tells him that he never actually had a moustache in the first place. At this point, it appears as though he has a very feeble grip on sanity. After a string of events, he runs off to a village in China and regrows his moustache. After spending many months there and getting acquainted with the locals, his wife appears in his room. She talks to him as if, for all this time, they had been on vacation together. Even stranger, her comments about his moustache allude to him never having shaven it at all. After her quip about shaving for a change, he gets rid of his moustache. She finally notices.

Apparently, the movie isn't supposed to be taken literally. Rather, it appears to be a schizophrenic metaphor for a mid-life crisis. Weird. Very french.

I really liked it, watch it. It took home an award at Cannes.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Bringing in the new year with my main man Masaharu Morimoto

I got back to New York just in time to get funky with Masaharu for new year's. I was really excited if you can't tell. He's like the nicest guy and my friend had a long conversation with him about the red and yellow beet iron chef episode. People I noticed that were also in attendance: Dutch international soccer star Edgar Davids and his not so hot wife/gf, and supermodel X with fugly photographer guy Y.