Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: November 2011

In the Indie

Wow, at long, long last, Korean Indie — the new Korean music website that is being started by Chris Park, Anna Lindgren, and myself — is beginning to take shape. There is still a lot of work to do, but you can get an idea of what we are aiming for. We still need to start building the wiki/database, and put together a more reader-friendly blog/news section … And maybe even think of a name that is a little more creative and less obvious. But for now, it is a start. Hopefully people will like it.

If you are a fan of the Korea Gig Guide, don’t worry, it is not going anywhere. Especially not when Shawn Despres is putting so much work into it. But it just seemed to me, since I am not living in Korea these days, it would be a better use of my energies to talk more about the bands and music I like. And there is so much good stuff to talk about…

For my latest post (not my first, but close), I have a short review of the new release, Secret Stories Heard From a Girl in an Opium Den.

They’ve Paved Over the Spanish Economy and Put Up a Parking Lot

As usual, Edward Hugh has some of the most interesting and useful things to say about the current state of the euro crisis, in a long interview at his Spanish Economy blog. It’s long, but a pretty thorough overview of the problems facing Europe — perhaps most significantly, how and why there is such a contagion risk, even in healthier economies like France and Austria.

He ends the interview with some really interesting thoughts about the economic situation in Spain and Cataluña. Not only is the Catalan economic engine paying for much of the debt around Spain (Hugh says Cataluña has a fiscal surplus with the rest of Spain equal to about 8 percent of its GDP), but apparently if Cataluña were to declare independence, it would legally be free from all Spanish national debt. Basically, if it were independent, Cataluña’s economic situation would instantly be pretty strong and the rest of Spain would be instantly bankrupt. So far, this fact has not done much for Catalan independence, but one wonders if it will be a factor in the future.

Two Europes — Divide Deepening

So, even as half of Europe is tanking economically — record unemployment, huge debt problems, interest rates spiraling — German is suffering from the lowest unemployment rate in 20 years. At a certain point, I think it is becoming increasingly apparent that the problems in Europe are not about “bad”, lazy, overspending countries threatening to bring down the EU and euro. Rather, the euro is fundamentally out of balance, and Germany has spent the last decade gaining from the inflated “currencies” of the PIIGS. As Paul Krugman recently graphed:


I quite like the spirit of Edward Hugh’s post here, saying one possible solution to the euro problem would be to divide Europe basically in half, with one euro (call it Euro1) for Germany, Finland, Holland and Austria, and another euro (Euro2) for the rest — and France could go either way. That way, the countries that need devaluation would devalue all together, then get move on the rebuilding their economies, rather than try to endure the long, horrid process of internal devaluing.

Of course, that would be a very problematic and only temporary measure — but at least it would give Europe time to come to grips with the fact that if you want a monetary union, you also have to have a stronger fiscal union. It might also give the Germans time to get off their high horse and realize how much they have been benefiting for the past decade from the sweat of their neighbors.

Simply Unreal

A fun reminder in the New York Times today that long before television was blurring the lines between real life and fantasy with “Reality” TV, the art world was doing it, too.

Okay, the article I linked to is actually an overview of a performance art biennale. But that is the takeaway I got from reading it. In performance art, installations, live births, etc., artists have long taken the creation shortcut, trying to say their lives, actions, and more (and less) are actually worth the label “art”. Of course, sometimes this is totally legitimate, but all too often it is just vulgar — just like Reality TV.

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