Slummin’ Sammy

Posted on October 31st, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. No Comments

Sammy Sosa isn’t happy with his supposed insulting treatment by Dusty Baker and the Cubs.
I must say I’m very disappointed in him. For several years, Sosa was my absolute favorite ballplayer. I’ll never forget his wonderful embrace of Mark McGwire when the latter was the first to break Roger Maris’ HR record. That was one of the more moving moments in my sixteen-odd years of being a devoted baseball fan.
That being said, Sosa really, really tanked this year, especially in the second half. It quite clearly cost the Cubs the division. They were absolutely superior to the Astros, absolutely loaded with talent (as soon as they added Nomar) and they just sputtered down the stretch. Sosa really has to shoulder a lot of the blame, as he was basically an out in the lineup and a rally killer. I remember watching him in a game at SBC against the Giants (and Noah Lowry, I believe) and Sosa just looked terrible at the plate. Mike Schmidt, who pays close attention to these things, had me watch his footwork and he was just muddled up there. I think he may have struck out three times and he certainly killed a lot of Cub rallies, a game the Giants were fortunate to win. It was the Dustan Mohr diving catch game if you remember that.
Cub fans are pretty unforgiving, and Sosa has had a marvelous career with them so he has a right to feel hurt by their boos. But really, you can’t coast on your career stats if you’re not hitting.
Sosa’s prognostication of playing at the current level for five or six more years seems wildly optimistic to me. He’s declining- fast.
And his name isn’t Bonds.…


Posted on October 31st, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. No Comments

We spiced things up at Robert’s last night with an old college drink: jello shots! Yes, Jane, Matt, Polly, and I slaved over the production and about a dozen of us sucked them dry.
It was such a pleasure to drink something other than the shit Prince beer that Robert overcharges us, even if it was marginal vodka. Polly and Annie (I can’t help saying their names in order) were delighted because they normally choose sobriety over beer. Normally I consider that an untenable compromise but considering the poor quality of beer I can’t really blame them.
It was nice to hang out with Annie, since she so rarely comes to Robert’s. She told me that she’s assiduously avoided the expat scene due to a desire to assimilate into the Chinese life. Admirable, but ultimately futile.
I told her that no matter how hard you try, you stick out like a sore thumb here and you’re still a foreigner. And really, you have to try to not assimilate. A couple of people in Padova did their best to cloister themselves from Italian life but I’m sure if I asked them, they’d say they got a lot out of their experience.
I find the best way to go about living in a foreign country is to just approach things naturally. Forcing yourself to be as Chinese as possible will just frustrate you.
I’m naturally a laid back guy so it comes easily for me. But I do think just about anyone could benefit from such advice.
Other observations: one of the best reasons to live in a foreign country is to see the transformative effect it has on people. We’re trapped in our routines at home- jobs, relationships, money, entertainment, friends, etc. Here, the rules are different. There’s a sense of urgency.
All of us expats were perfect strangers to one another at first. We’re thrown together by our foreign-ness. So it changes the rules a little bit. The human tendency to form committed relationships just doesn’t really exist when you live so far away from home. You want to…get to know everyone a lot better.
It’s amazing, sometimes, what you’ll say to people you don’t know well.
The expat scene to me is everything here. Frankly, Lianyungang isn’t much of a town. It’s unattractive and dull. My Chinese is rudimentary in the extreme so I can’t really make much headway with the locals. While I love interacting with them and I love taking in the China-ness of it all, it just isn’t really a viable social option at this point.
Gradually, it’ll change. But this period is always the best. We’ve all been thrown here together, we’re all getting to know each other, there’s a certain joie de vivre that fades away when people settle down.…

Election Thoughts

Posted on October 31st, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. No Comments

Just a note to my readers- in the next few days this space will be filled almost entirely with political content, in light of the coming elections. As you might imagine, my thoughts are focused on Tuesday.
That disclaimer aside, here goes a few thoughts-
I’m a little bit worried about the Osama tape. It shouldn’t be read as a Bush advantage, but I can tell all the way from here that the US “liberal” press is spinning it as such. I’m a bit disheartened because I had thought that the Democrats had finally learned the media game, but it looks like some are panicking a little bit and letting the news disrupt the normal flow of events.
The central power of Rove and Bush is their impervious manner to news. Whatever happens, just act like you’re in control and you know what you’re doing. So many intelligent people are going for Bush because they feel he gets it with the War on Terror. Smoke and mirrors!
Whether or not Kerry wins the election, the Democrats have to get rid of Terry McCauliffe. I cringe whenever I see him on television. One of the few unfortunate side-effects of a Kerry victory will be vindication for the Democratic idiot-brigade: Terry McCauliffe and Kerry’s campaign man, Bob Shrum.
My take? Democrats have to de-emphasize kitchen table issues and become the party of reason on foreign policy. Bush’s bumbling has left a lot of wiggle room for Democrats to craft a coherent foreign policy vision. Kerry was headed to a landslide, humiliating loss until he began hammering Bush on Iraq.
Plus, Democrats don’t have the clear advantage on kitchen table issues, either. Many people are coming around to a more conservative perspective.…

OBL October Surprise Update

Posted on October 30th, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. No Comments

Well….it looks like my previous prognostication that Osama Bin Laden had died is a little off the mark. Barring some sort of uber-sophisticated video wizardry- unlikely, considering the low-tech setting of the Afghan/Pakistani cave network- bin Laden has indeed survived enough to comment rather bizarrely on the US Presidential election, among other things.
As both candidates try to spin the tape as good news to their side, count me among the crowd that believes Bush will ultimately benefit from Osama’s good news. I agree with Andrew Sullivan’s analysis on the subject- though I don’t necessarily know the extent to which this will help him.
Let me say this though: if you’re someone who’ll change his mind over the content of this tape, you’re an idiot. Period.
Unfortunately, our country is full of idiots. Kerry must take the opportunity to use the tape as proof of Bush’s incompetent managing of the WoT. Bush will probably link bin Laden to reminders of 9/11, his greatest electoral strength.
Slate’s Election Scorecard indicates Bush may need all the help he can get. Check out this poll analysis:
Tonight’s Zogby polls are out. We’ll have them in the tables shortly, but we can tell you from a glance that they indicate an alarming pattern for the president. He’s at 51 percent in Nevada and New Mexico. He’s at 48 in Michigan and 47 in Colorado. (Zogby has Bush ahead in Michigan and Kerry ahead in Colorado. We suspect that’s backward.) But in Ohio, Bush is at 46. In Florida, Iowa, and Wisconsin, he’s at 45. In Pennsylvania, he’s at 44. In Minnesota, he’s at 43. Even if you take into account the margin of error, these are frighteningly low numbers for an incumbent four days before an election. Bush would have to win every state in which he’s at 46 or above in these polls, including Ohio and Michigan, just to tie.

Arafat in Winter?

Posted on October 29th, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. No Comments

It appears that Yasir Arafat’s health is declining. Frankly, given how eventful his life has been, it’s amazing he’s lasted this long. That aside, what comes next for the Palestinians.
Despite Ariel Sharon’s best efforts to marginalize Arafat, he remains the dominant figure in Palestinian politics. Efforts to shift power to prime ministers such as Mahmoud Abbas proved to be minimally effective.
Darkly, I believe that in the Arafat post-mortem, the Palestinians will have the opportunity to select a leader from a younger generation that will press their interests more firmly. Simply put, any ostensible leader will not have Arafat’s baggage- nor his long history with the septuagenarian Sharon.
Since the latter has repudiated the far right of Likud and pressed forward in his plans to withdraw from Gaza, an Arafat death would mark a very interesting fork in the road in Israeli/Palestinian relations.
Israel/Paletine must be a key issue for the putative President Kerry, and even if Bush were to be re-elected, I would hope he’d devote far more energy to this problem than he has during his first term. Arafat’s death, should it occur (he’s made miraculous recoveries before, remember) would represent a tremendous opportunity to change the situation in the world’s most volatile region.…

Student Writing Selections

Posted on October 28th, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. 1 Comment

Grading isn’t one of the better parts of being a teacher. Despite your best efforts, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that you’re being unfair, unless strict grading guidelines exist. Grading multiple choice tests especially ranks high on the tedium scale.
I do, however, enjoy reading their writing work. In addition to amusing me with their cute mistakes, these selections give me a all-too-rare glimpse into their thoughts.
I concocted a fake letter to my students by a fifteen year old British girl, simply introducing herself and briefly discussing her life as a swimmer and a piano player. I expected more of the same from my students, as they tend to write in a minamalist style that would make Hemingway envious.
But a few of them, rather to my surprise, wrote very candid things about their lives. What struck me was their different perspectives on life.
They’re extraordinarily modest. Often, they write that “I enjoy playing basketball, but I’m no good”, or “I like guitar, but I don’t know how to play”. Brutal honesty abounds: “I don’t like to exercise, but I have to, because I’m fat”. That one nearly broke my heart.
School is life. In the letter, the fictitious Jane Smith asks my students what they do after school, implying sports or other extracurricular activities. Most of my students replied that there isn’t time to do much due to “studying”.
Whenever I’m told about their oppressive schedules, it saddens me. They’re teenagers but aren’t really given much of a chance to express themselves as individuals, nor to have a life. I hardly think they’re given the opportunity to exhibit signs of teenaged rebellion. Adulthood seems foisted upon them rather than gradually reached.
Far from being monolithic, my students all have distinct, and often charming personalities. Some are goofy, others are serious, some are sweet, others are snarly, some are giggly, others more taciturn. In their letters, their individuality shined through: some loved to walk in nature, others loved classical music, others liked computer games. I could tell through their style how vivacious they were, the strength of their imagination, and their often (painfully) innocent gestures of friendship toward the fictitious Jane Smith.
The untapped potential of these students is startling. I think in their lifetimes they’ll see China move gradually toward a freer society, where students are encouraged to be individuals and find their own way, as they are in the West.
I, for one, can hardly wait.…

Allegiance Switching

Posted on October 28th, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. No Comments

Conservative sites gleefully print missives from disaffected liberals that are (gasp) voting for a Republican for President for the very first time. Obviously, these sites crow, President Bush will be re-elected because so many Democrats are voting for him.
Likewise, liberal sites love identifying any conservative, however obscure, that refuses to endorse Bush. The New Republic devoted an entire cover story to one. Obviously, the logic goes, President Bush will lose because so many Republicans are abandoning him.
There do seem to be a number of prominent public figures that have switched sides during the Bush years. But thinking that these switches augur some sort of perfect storm for one or the other candidates doesn’t fly.
It’s important to remember how often political loyalties shift. For ages, the Northeastern states were Republican strongholds. Now, President Bush will likely fail to win any electoral votes north of the nation’s capital.
Democrats could count on a solid South for decades, a residue of Reconstruction times. Three decades ago, Republican observer Kevin Phillips believed that the culturally conservative south would eventually move into the Republican fold. He was right. Phillips, ironically, has turned against President Bush.
Ronald Reagan managed to attract socially conservative, blue collar voters in both the 1980 and 1984 elections to the extent that pollster Stanley Greenberg called them “Reagan Democrats”.
Does Bush’s popularity among disaffected Democrats rival Reagan’s? It may, but it may also be offset by a similar move of traditional conservatives to the Kerry column. Why?
Bush’s support amongst former liberals attests to the rather Wilsonian direction of his foreign policy. These liberals believe in the transformative effect of liberty, a central justification for the war promoted by journalists such as the New York Times‘ Thomas Friedman. Therefore, as the case for weapons of mass destruction and an al Qaeda link fell apart, these voters weren’t particularly concerned, viewing those tactics as ruses intended to attract wider support from the international community. The 9/11 Democrats, as they like to be called, continue to believe in the war and support President Bush based on murky “he gets it” rationales.
The Kerry Republicans (a misnomer, since so few of them are actually enthusiastic about the Senator) are motivated by different reasons: the gross abandonment of conservative governing principles in the current Bush administration. President Bush may have cut taxes, but he has increased spending, greenlighted pork-ridden pieces of legislation, led the country into a difficult war without an exit strategy, and grossly mismanaged the conflict, leading to bloated economic and human costs. Furthermore, legislation such as the Patriot Act that restrict individual liberty rankle conservatives for whom the first amendment is God. Isolationist conservatives such as Pat Buchanan seethe at Bush’s Wilsonian bent and his rather lackadaisical attitude toward illegal immigration.
Simply put, Bush’s governing style mixes both conservative and liberal principles, to disastrous effect in my opinion. He’s taken the worst insticts of the right- anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-gun, pro-military buildup and added the worst instincts of the left- big bloated government programs, uber-Wilsonian foreign policy, and ceaseless spending.
President Bush’s detractors claim that he was elected as a moderate and has since governered as a radical. They’re right- but not in the way that they think. Bush has governed as a radical- but because he has abandoned traditional conservative positions and has adopted certain liberal ones (or so his liberal supporters, like actor Ron Silver, believe). That, to me, accounts for the uncharacteristically high switching going on this year.…

And Pigs Fly

Posted on October 28th, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. No Comments

Well typepad smote my recent post about Red Sox so here goes again-
First of all, congratulations to the true Red Sox fans- not the West Coasters who jumped on the bandwagon out of Yankee hatred. After eighty-six years of heartbreak, the curse has been lifted. Now, what are the Red Sox fans going to do? Talking about the curse became their identity. Now, they’re just like the Marlins.
So back, now, to other teams richly deserving a title. The Cubs have a dedicated and passionate following, and they haven’t even been to the Series in a half-century, much less won one. Their cross-town rivals, the White Sox, had an even larger title deficit than the Red Sox, with only a fraction of the fan-fare. Like the Cubs, the Sox haven’t even won a pennant since before all of their players (and both of their managers) were even born.
The Chicago teams, therefore, are in the first tier. Who’s next? The second tier of baseball heartbreak, therefore, go to the Indians and Giants. The former endured the shock of losing the 1954 Series to the latter (immortalized by the Willie Mays catch), then a crushing 7th game loss to the Marlins in 1997. The latter, meanwhile, has endured two difficult series': the ’62 Willie McCovey line-drive and the ’02 Game 6 collapse.
Then, you’ve got franchises that have never won a series, but have been around long enough to feel sorry for themselves. These include the Astros, Padres, Rangers, Brewers, and Expos. The Astros have won many division titles but never a pennant, coming closest this year.
No other team should have any reason to complain.…

And Pigs Fly

Posted on October 28th, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. No Comments

The Red Sox are world champions. Now what do their fans have to complain about? I wonder whether or not this will shatter the entire mystique of the franchise. Well- strike them off the deficit list. Here’s what we have left:
Cubs- 96 years (sub. losses in ’10, ’18, ’29, ’32, ’35, ’38, ’45)
White Sox- 87 years (sub. losses in ’19, ’59)
Indians- 56 years (sub. losses in ’54, ’95, ’97)
Giants- 50 years (sub. losses in ’62, ’89, ’02)
Senators/Rangers- 43 years (no wins)
Astros- 42 years (no wins)
Padres- 35 years (no wins- loss in ’84, ’98)
Pilots/Brewers- 35 years (no wins- loss in ’82)
Expos- 35 years (no wins)
Mariners- 27 years (no wins)
Pirates- 25 years (no sub. losses)
Phillies- 24 years (sub. losses in ’83, ’93)
Cardinals- 22 years (sub. losses in ’85, ’87, ’04)
Browns/Orioles- 21 years (no sub. losses)
Tigers- 20 years (no sub. losses)
Royals- 19 years (no sub. losses)
Mets- 18 years (sub. loss in ’00)
Dodgers- 16 years (no sub. losses)
A’s- 15 years (sub. loss in ’90)
Reds- 14 years (no sub. losses)
Twins- 13 years (no sub. losses)
Blue Jays- 11 years (no sub. losses)
Rockies- 11 years (no wins)
Braves- 9 years (sub. losses in ’96, ’99)
Devil Rays- 6 years (no wins)
Yankees- 4 years (sub. losses in ’01, ’03)
Diamondbacks- 3 years (no sub. losses)
Angels- 2 years (no sub. losses)
Marlins- 1 year (no sub. losses)
Red Sox- current champions…

October Birthdays

Posted on October 27th, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. No Comments

Well…..October is a particularly popular month to be born for people that know me, so I’ll go ahead and wish them all a happy birthday. I’d name names, but ya know….doing that just gets me into trouble.…