Archive for December/2011

13
Dec

Los árbitros

Written on December 13, 2011 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Por Rafael Puyol, Profesor de IE School of Arts & Humanities

Hace tiempo que deseo escribir sobre los árbitros de fútbol y además hacerlos de forma positiva. Son tan vituperados que de vez en cuando merecen una alegría. Empezaré diciendo que son gente admirable, sacrificada, abnegada y honesta. Aquello de que los árbitros trapicheaban  ha pasado a la historia. Ya no puede repetirse la historia que me contó mi amigo Teo que una vez compró a un árbitro en beneficio  de un conjunto asturiano; pero era tan malo el equipo que acabó metiendo el gol de la victoria decisiva un defensa contrario, lo que el árbitro recibió un alborozo corriendo hacia el centro del campo y gritando: gool…… gooool.

Ahora los árbitros son como el cariño verdadero: ni se compran, ni se venden. Pero eso no les impide ser el blanco de todas las iras del respetable cuyos excesos verbales le lleva a manejar epítetos contra ellos de lo más variado. Unas veces extraídos del mundo vegetal o animal como melón, burro, besugo, acémila o cabrón; otras derivadas de la vida política como aquella de “ árbitro Zapatero”; y algunas más directamente procedentes de las relaciones materno-filiales como el escueto “hijo puta”.

Y a veces no nos damos cuenta de que estos juegos de artificio constituyen una vía de escape de los sinsabores en los que vive la gente. Casi dría que es mejor que los árbitros lo hagan mal ya que así el paisanaje se va a casa tranquilo, come las croquetas de la parienta si rechistar y se va a la cama desfogado.

Una vez propuse un monumento a las mujeres “sándwich”. Ahora las insinúo un monumento al trencilla cuyo boceto ya tengo en la cabeza. En él, el árbitro aparece sobre una peana de hinchas airados. Su cuerpo se cimbrea ligeramente hacia el área, con la mirada atenta, el gesto firme, los ademanes claros, las tarjetas insinuadas y el pito en ristre. ¿A qué les gusta?

12
Dec

The face of freedom

Written on December 12, 2011 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Yemeni activist and Nobel Peace laureate Tawakul Karman talks about the women of the Arab spring.

When, in October, Tawakul Karman heard she had become the first Arab woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, she was sitting in her tent in a miles-wide protest encampment in Sana’a, the Yemeni capital. She had been prevented from leaving it for the previous eight months by death threats.

“I learnt about it through the media,” she recalls over mobile phone en route to a meeting in New York. Since the award, which she shared with two other women, catapulted her to international fame, she has put down the microphone – through which she exhorted Yemen’s ragtag revolutionaries to bring an end to the 33-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh (at the time of going to press, he had promised to step down at elections early next year) – and started lobbying international policymakers instead.

The United Nations in New York is a long way from the whirr of tribal headdresses, vegetable sellers, army uniforms and, increasingly, shrapnel in the Sana’a protest encampment, but Karman’s incandescent rhetoric appears to have survived the transition intact. “The international community cannot just stay and watch,” she says. “They will be partners with Saleh and the crimes if they continue.”

At 32, Karman is still young, and there have been many who interpreted the Nobel committee’s decision as a partly symbolic recognition of the hundreds of thousands of women who have marched, fallen, shouted, sewed and bandaged for freedom during the Arab spring, staking their claim to the public sphere in societies which have often sought to keep them out of it.

The laureate herself dedicates the award to “the youth of the Arab spring, women and the Arab spring, and the women of the Arab revolutions.” Political theatre may be of limited value to those seeking gender equality in the Middle East, complicated as their struggle is by a backdrop of violent instability and thorny questions about power, imperialism and the role of Islam in society. But it has its uses, and few are better equipped to occupy centre stage than the dauntless Karman.

Continue reading in The Financial Times

9
Dec

Take your seats people… Why the Euro will be just fine

Written on December 9, 2011 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies

By Rolf Strom-Olsen, Academic Director of  Humanities Studies at IE School of Arts & Humanities.

 Articles and media reports predicting the imminent demise of the Euro have become so commonplace over the last months that I suspect the next release of Microsoft Word will include it as a new document template: blank page, letter, CV, “Euro is doomed” article. A quick search on Google for the exact phrase “the euro is doomed” produces so many results (over 65,000), that I cannot even be bothered to look for variants. Pundits and politicians, bloggers and journalists, have all climbed aboard the euro-is-doomed train and cannot wait to tell us all about the destination which is envisioned, variously, as end-of-Euro land, end-of-Europe-itself land, global-financial-Armageddon land (for the real enthusiasts), etc….

Muh. Send us a postcard when you arrive.

That is a postcard I don’t expect to receive. Why not? Simply put because the so-called euro crisis is the product of a narrative gone wild. It has swept up otherwise sober-minded people and produced a wave of incessant hysterical shrieking, fulfilling that deep lizard-brain desire to really enjoy a catastrophe.

Except that catastrophe is largely an artefact of a market-, media- and punditry-driven narrative, increasingly divorced from the underlying reality of what is going on.

What we are really looking at is a sovereign debt crisis rephrased into a “euro-is-doomed” narrative. How sustainable is that? About as sustainable as Greek borrowing patterns.

Let’s review briefly. For the countries that have succumbed so far to the europanic – Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Italy, and now Belgium (with France waiting on the sidelines as an injury substitution) -the story has been drearily familiar. Irresponsible government borrowing over the last decade has put these countries’ creditworthiness at risk, meaning they can no longer access or else are at imminent risk of not being able to access the bond markets to borrow more dosh. I use the word irresponsible because, in almost every single case (Ireland is an exception, given the rapid meltdown of its epic real estate bubble), government borrowing was based on two false premises. First, growth projections that were hopelessly optimistic. Second, debt-servicing projections that left little room for manoeuvre. In other words, for Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Belgium and even France, if projected growth faltered or interest rates increased, the burden of servicing each country’s sovereign debt would create serious budget shortfalls and, in turn, plunge them into fiscal chaos. This is what has happened already to Greece and Portugal; Spain and Italy might be next. And France should be nervous.

 

Now, that is certainly a grave prospect, and undeniably makes for a strong premise for the “euro is doomed” narrative. But I don’t buy it. Let’s consider the analysis of no less than Dr. Doom, the distinguished economist Nouriel Roubini. In his walkthrough of the impending catastrophe, Dr. Roubini observes:

Symmetrical reflation is the best option for restoring growth and competitiveness on the eurozone’s periphery while undertaking necessary austerity measures and structural reforms. This implies significant easing of monetary policy by the European Central Bank; provision of unlimited lender-of-last-resort support to illiquid but potentially solvent economies; a sharp depreciation of the euro, which would turn current-account deficits into surpluses; and fiscal stimulus in the core if the periphery is forced into austerity.

Unfortunately, Germany and the ECB oppose this option, owing to the prospect of a temporary dose of modestly higher inflation in the core relative to the periphery.

Symmetrical reflation… Oh economists, never change. Actually, I think Dr. Roubini’s analysis is highly acute. He is right when he says that there is a solution at hand, which is to give the ECB (or whatever acronymised monster that starts with an E it wishes to establish as its agent) the license to intervene “as the lender of last resort,” which means giving it the license to pay its printers overtime to get them in on weekends to pump out euros.

However, where I am querulous with Dr. Roubini’s analysis, where I challenge the logic upon which his (and many others) scenario of doom is based is this bit: “Unfortunately, Germany and the ECB oppose this option….” It is true that they oppose this option. But I would add a crucial qualifier: for now.

Here’s a joke for you. A group representing the eurozone countries walks into a bar and each orders a beer. When it comes to the German’s turn, instead of ordering a beer, she turns to the others in the bar and starts hectoring them about fiscal responsibility. Ok, not a funny joke, but it’s true. The German government has been lecturing other member states about fiscal responsibility and following the rules like forever; before the euro even came into existence. And the response of the others? Order a beer and chill out already. Now that the German is the only one in the room that can pay the bar tab, are we really surprised that she doesn’t indulge in some well-earned “I told you so-s” and gladden her heart with a dose of Schadenfreude?

In other words, the so-called euro-crisis is achieving through the mechanisms of market panic what ineffectual German hectoring was never able to do: impose fiscal restraint, scale back government deficit-spending, restructure government finances. If you’re Greek or Spanish, Italian or Portuguese that’s not much fun. But if your German? Well… maybe you will have that beer now after all.

In other words, why should the Germans agree to open the euro-spigot to rescue these countries when there is more work to be done? Heck, the current crisis even managed to give Belgians something resembling (in the dusk with the light behind it) a working government, something they have not been able to achieve for themselves for almost two years. What’s not to like? From a German (Austrian/Dutch, etc…) perspective, the dark storm clouds over their European neighbours are bringing welcome rain. Just look at what the German government tried to pull last week: in the midst of all this chaos, they tried to borrow money at interest rates below inflation (and note the highly misleading headline)! They did not succeed, but, oh, the hubris! Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Instead of casting the current mess in terms of Germans (and others in the league of responsible Eurozone nations) sitting back and letting markets do their work for them, we get instead curious and sometimes fantastical analyses that root German intransigence in the nation’s history. The Weimar Crisis (early 1920s), the post-war turmoil (1945-47), the pain of reunification (1989), etc…. This is both lazy and shallow. If you are lucky enough to be invited for Wurst at your German friend’s house, do you really imagine that your host will tell you Italy cannot be bailed out because of the bitter memories of 1922 and 1946? That German citizens are willing to let the euro collapse because they are concerned that the price of a bicycle or a coffee maker might go up 3%? That as ‘a German,’ they are born with an innate attitude towards monetary policy and the intricacies of fiscal management that prevents them from supporting a program of quantitative easing?

Nonsense. This current market turmoil is producing the kind of restructuring that the German government and their central banking minions have been demanding, ineffectually, for years. So sip that beer!

I think a salutary lesson comes from the Swiss. As currency markets gyrated wildly this past summer, the Swiss franc became the potage-du-jour for nervous money. The franc started to become dangerously overvalued, to the point where it threatened the vitality of the country’s economy. Gruyère producers and clockmakers, chocolatiers and Alpine horn craftsmen (…sorry) suddenly faced the prospect of a disappearing export market, all because international currency traders had decided (narrative anyone?) that the Swiss franc would provide safe haven in a climate of uncertainty.

So what did the central bank do? It promised to print however much money it took to stop the trend. As the Guardian headline put it “Swiss bid to peg ‘safe haven’ franc to the euro stuns currency traders.” Note the use of the word “stunned.” Within minutes of the bank’s announcement the franc fell to the peg announced by the bank (SFr.1.20 to €1 for anyone taking notes) and presumably lots of traders had to sell their car the next day.

The point is that from a rational perspective, how could this action have “stunned” anyone? Did traders really think that the Swiss Central Bank would allow the Swiss economy to collapse in order to provide nervous hedge funds an alpine paradise to park their cash? And yet prior to the Swiss bankers’ actions, the backstory being bandied around was stuff about Swiss conservatism and the repulsion to print money, etc…. In other words, people were locating the logic of their currency trades in the Swiss national character. Oh the folly.

This is the same tale. If the Swiss can print money, so, too, can the Germans. Whether German/ECB policy to promote (Roubini again) “recessionary deflation” is a good idea or not is certainly up to debate, and the risks of severe recession and faltering consumer confidence across the eurozone are very real. But the point is that eventually the Germans will finish their beer and settle up the tab. The ECB will agree to one of the various solutions being put forward to help out flailing member states (I think good money is on an ECB pledge to buy up any debt above a certain interest rate). Whatever the eventual solution, one thing seems clear: the Euro is not doomed.

7
Dec

¿Qué tienen en común el grupo bancario suizo UBS, Unilever, y Hugo Boss? A simple vista, las tres son multinacionales reconocidas en todo el planeta, con facturaciones anuales que combinadas podrían bien superar el PIB de cualquier pequeño país africano. Y es cierto, pero también comparten otro punto: invierten en cultura. ¿Y qué sucede en América Latina? 

Por Jennifer P. Roig

Proyecto Lluvia de arañas sobre Riachuelo (Fotografía: Télam)

UBS es el principal sponsor de Art Basel, una de las ferias de arte más reconocidas en Europa. El sustancioso patrocinio de Unilever permite al museo británico Tate Modern la implementación anual de una de sus exposiciones más importantes en el Turbine Hall. Finalmente, el grupo Hugo Boss concede todos los años un premio de US$ 100.000 a un artista no principiante, quien puede además exhibir sus piezas en el Guggenheim de Nueva York.

Efectivamente, algo que las tres transnacionales tienen en común es su participación en patrocinios culturales.

De este lado del mundo, en América Latina es cada vez más frecuente encontrar compañías que actúan como donantes a la cultura. Entre otras, en Brasil se destacan Petrobrás y el Banco Itaú, en Argentina el grupo de comunicación Telefe y en Chile la empresa estatal Codelco, dedicada a la minería del cobre.

La razón fundamental por la que tantas compañías de tantas latitudes comparten su afán de apoyar actividades culturales es que “el cultural sponsorship es un poderoso mecanismo alternativo de comunicación corporativa que le permite a las empresas posicionarse en la mente del público”, indica Cristian Antoine, académico de la Universidad de Santiago de Chile, quien ha investigado a profundidad el tema. ¿Pero cómo funciona el patrocinio cultural en América Latina y qué diferencias existen entre este y las donaciones corporativas? ¿Cuáles son los actores fundamentales que toman parte en el mismo?

Donación o patrocinio: según el presupuesto

Según Lydia Arbaiza, profesora del área de administración de la peruana ESAN, “el patrocinio cultural es, como otras formas de sponsoring, una inversión que hace una empresa en un rubro con la finalidad de potenciar su negocio, sea porque esta inversión es deducible de impuestos o porque genera publicidad del más alto nivel”.

Pero el patrocinio cultural no es práctica nueva. Los donantes privados han apoyado a los artistas desde épocas tan remotas como en la Grecia Antigua, o en el Imperio Romano cuando las tendencias filantrópicas de Mecenas dieron pie a otro término, el de “mecenazgo”. Sin embargo, más allá del concepto que se use, lo importante es que la mayor parte de la literatura y los expertos reconocen al menos dos tipos de finalidad tras las donaciones a acciones culturales que realizan las empresas. Seguir leyendo…

Artículo publicado por América Economía el 6 de diciembre de 2011.

7
Dec

A ONE-MAN MARKET

Written on December 7, 2011 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Andy Warhol is an art-world colossus whose work accounts for one-sixth of contemporary-art sales. How did that happen, and is he really worth it? Bryan Appleyard canvasses the experts …

Sara Friedlander, the 27-year-old head of First Open Sale at Christie’s in New York, has a startling view of American art history. “Nothing good was made in the 19th century, nothing really good was made in the 18th century and American art in the 20th century for the first three, four or five decades was very elitist.”

There was, in this view, no American Titian or Picasso, Raphael or Matisse. And then, suddenly, on July 9th 1962, there was. That was the date of the first solo show by Andy Warhol, the 33-year-old son of Slovakian immigrants. It was at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles and it consisted of a series of 32 paintings of Campbell’s Soup Cans, one for each flavour—beef, clam chowder, cheddar cheese, etc. The response was underwhelming. Five sold for $100 each, but the gallery owner bought them back to keep the series intact.

Nevertheless, by the end of that year, Warhol had conquered New York, the capital of the art world, and America had the artist for which she had been waiting. “He reached a public”, says Friedlander, “that no artist was able to do before him. Because he was able to accomplish what nobody else had done and in the way he was able to influence what came after him, I think that makes him, I would guess, the greatest artist of the 20th century.”

There is nothing unorthodox about this claim. Almost unanimously, today’s young art fans adore Andy as earlier generations adored Pablo Picasso or Jackson Pollock. “To the under-45s”, says Georgina Adam of the Art Newspaper, “Warhol is what Picasso used to be to an older generation…and, like Picasso, he has become a man for all seasons.”

Continue reading in The Economist intelligent life

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