Informed Comment Tip

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

There are some excellent posts over at Juan Cole’s site.  Just keep scrolling.…

Anger Outbursts and Teaching

Posted on November 29th, by matt_schiavenza in China. 1 Comment

One of the most difficult aspects of teaching for me is keeping a very, very tight lid on my temper.  I’ve been prone to temper outburts in the past but have been getting better at controlling it recently.

In China, this is particularly important because the Chinese are remarkably even-tempered and do not appreciate loud public displays of anger.  Part of this has to do with Confucian stoicism, but to me the concept of "face" best explains the taciturn Chinese nature.

Losing "face" basically means being made to look bad in public.  Humans fear losing "face" in all societies, but in Asia maintaining "face" is absolutely critical.  As a result, you rarely see gradiose public displays by the Chinese- a stark contrast from my previous overseas experience in Italy.

Today, my students were rowdier than usual and I wasn’t very long on patience.  Plus, I was explaining a difficult lesson and needed their attention.  By and large, the students sit with their friends and chit-chat at every opportunity.  I can tolerate it to a certain degree but sometimes I seperate them for the rest of a lesson to reduce the noise.

Four boys in the back left were laughing and talking as I was going through the lesson.  I glared at them and gently shhhhhhhed with my finger at my lips.  They were silent so long as I was looking but the moment I turned to write on the board I could hear them jabbering again.

Quickly, I paced down the aisle and asked Peter to occupy an empty seat in the next column.  No problem.  Then, I asked David to sit next to a girl named LinFei.

Immediately, both started protesting, "Noooooo".  I figured that they were just being a little stubborn so I said, "come on, get up" to David.  He looked at me and said, "No, this is my seat"

I angrily stood back and addressed the whole class, my voice rising yet not breaking with any emotion: "I am in control of this class, and therefore I tell you where you want to sit.  When you are here, I am your parent!"

The class sat in stunned silence.  Usually, I don’t say such things, but I felt it was necessary today.  One of the more difficult balances inherent to my job is to not patronize and condescend them, yet remain firmly in control.

They know that I’m young and only a few years older than them.  In some ways, this makes my job easier because I can relate to them well (my basketball knowledge is a good example).  On the other hand, my students don’t have the same reverence for me as they might with an older teacher.

They behaved well for the rest of the day, but yelling is never pleasant.  So after class I told David (usually one of the nicest kids I teach) not to be upset.  He assured me he wasn’t and later in the day he smiled and waved.  All is well.…


Posted on November 28th, by matt_schiavenza in Photography. No Comments

Here are some excellent black and white shots of New York City from the invaluable PBase.…

Late Night Rambling

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

I’m becoming more of a minimalist.  The idea of gathering all of my belongings together in twenty minutes or less appeals to me greatly.  Jacky, for awhile, only spent money on things she could consume.  A noble, if difficult, idea.

I was doing pretty well for awhile with keeping my possessions to a minimum.  In the first two months, I restricted my spending to (a few) kitchen supplies.  Aside from food, taxis, and Roberts, those few items constituted nearly sixty days’ worth of spending.

But then I noticed that I was complaining more and more about my apartment.  It’s too impersonal, too spartan, utterly devoid of any style.  Coupled with the ridiculous curfew, I disliked this place enough to entertain thoughts of moving.

Then I finally figured out why I wasn’t deriving any particular affection from my place.  I wasn’t giving it the affection it deserved.  Sort of a "love you take is equal to the love you make" scenario (you never miss an opportunity to quote the Beatles, do you?-ed.)

Yesterday, I bought my phone- a beautiful little Nokia.  Then, I kept Jane company as she walked around the flea markets looking for a large picture frame.  In the meantime, I bought a small clay pot to hold incense sticks and….drumroll please….gloves! 

Since I have large hands and live in a small-hand nation, I had resigned myself to never finding them.  And unlike California, it’s impossible to get through the winter here without proper cold-weather gear.  I was going to have to have my parents ship over a pair, or maybe order them off the Internet. 

But as Jane and I were walking in Times Extra, I spotted an aisle of nice gloves.  One pair looked bigger than the rest, so I tried it on and it fit….voila!  There would be no OJ moment.  These babies are now mine!

Anyway, to wrap up this tedious, long post, I’ll get to the point. 

I felt so good about getting these things that I made plans with Jane to go shopping again next weekend, this time for items such as furniture and household knick-knacks.  For the first time in my life, I am excited about going shopping for something other than music or books.

Slowly but surely, buying things for my flat is personalizing it…..and has improved my overall disposition.

God I’m starting to sound like a Republican……

Some Blog Changes

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

Regulars readers will note that I’ve made some changes to the site- most notably, the blogroll has changed completely as I have discovered some new sites I feel are worthy of attention.  I’m just beginning to discover the vast world of China blogging, so the blogroll will regularly evolve.…

The Increasingly Lame Volokh Conspiracy

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

The Volokh Conspiracy is my favorite right-of-center blog, period.  In fact, you can’t really compare it to most political blogs because it focuses primarily on legal issues and doesn’t engage in the trolling and name-calling that most demagogic blogs do.

That being said, I have to take issue with two recent posts.  First, David Bernstein tried to equate use of the term "Likudnik" with anti-Semitism.  Brad DeLong retorted here:

I use the word "Likudnik" routinely to refer to those in American
who support Likud, and who believe that the national security of the
United States is advanced by feeding Likud’s annexationist fantasies.
I’m not an anti-semite. And I don’t like being called one:

The Volokh Conspiracy – :
…the phrase "Likudnik" is gradually becoming a general anti-Semitic
term for Jews whose opinions one doesn’t like…. "Likudnik" has become
a term of disapprobium analogous to the term "Uncle Tom" for
non-left-wing blacks. Just like it’s assumed that moderate,
conservative, and libertarian blacks must not be thinking for
themselves, but instead serving "the Man," so moderate, conservative,
and libertarian Jews must be serving the interests of right-wing
Israelis (the obvious difference is that left-wing culture values
African American self-interest and nationalism, while left-wing culture
values Jews and Judaism only to the extent they are put in the service
of internationalism and humanist causes.)… Well, the Left (along with
the Washington Post, which used the term in a major article attacking
Bush Admnistration neonconservatives) has let this particular
anti-Semitic genie out of the bottle…

Suggestions for what should replace the Volokh Conspiracy on my regular reading list?

I’m not willing to go as far as Brad and stop reading VC, but if they post shit like this, I probably will have no choice:

Second, Rolling Stone’s list
of the 500 best songs. Lileks attacks both the first and third choices:
(1) Like a Rolling Stone (Dylan), and (3) Imagine (Lennon):

Anyway – "Like A Rolling Stone" is a rock song in the same sense
that "Tommy" is an opera. A rock song rocks, and this is one instance
where a tautology comes in handy. To name that tune a rock song, let
alone the best, shows how much people have invested in the era, and
why: because the music meant something, man. It was heavy, it was deep.
Whatever. I remember when it came on the jukebox at the Valli, the air
just left the room: oh great, six minutes of ORGAN music and nasally
accusations. How did it feel? It felt boring, Bob.

"Satisfaction" is a good number two, and might even be a good number
one; it has the simplest hook possible, and it rocks. Number three,
"Imagine," is somnambulant tripe, and it does not rock. It nods off
like a junkie and burns a hole on that nice white piano.

"Imagine" is an embarrassing song and a ridiculous choice. I
remember my roommate in college being choked up by "Imagine" and I
thought it was at best sappy, like bubble gum music ("Yummy, yummy,
yummy, I have love in my tummy"). At worst, the world it imagined was
depressingly totalitarian:


Imagine there’s no heaven,
It’s easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries,
It isnt hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace…

Imagine no possesions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say Im a dreamer,
but Im not the only one,
I hope some day you’ll join us,
And the world will live as one.

Even in my George McGovern days, I knew that abolishing
"possessions" was a recipe for totalitarianism, tyranny, poverty, and
death. Just the collectivization of agriculture alone is modestly
estimated to have killed 50 million people in the 20th century.

And abolishing countries sounded like a nice idea until you thought
about what that one world society was likely to be in practice. Imagine
a world with the morals of the United Nations and the economics of
Africa and the Middle East, run by the all-powerful Kofi. After all, in
the early 1970s a large portion of the world’s population already lived
in one world/country–China–and they weren’t faring too well, despite
having taken extreme steps to "Imagine [that there were] no

This sort of thing really pisses me off.  Of course, it’s fun to debate the merits of songs on these Rolling Stone lists, but to criticize "Imagine" for the political content of its lyrics strikes me as absolutely asinine.

I also wouldn’t rate "Imagine" so high, but it does possess a simple, elegaic beauty.  I doubt very many of Lennon’s admirers believed fully in the song’s message (as it is doubtful that Lennon himself did) but as a paean to idealism it is a very arresting song.

You don’t have to be a radical anarchist to like "Imagine", just as you don’t have to be a Nazi to appreciate the artistic value of Triumph of the Will.

And as for Lileks’ trashing of "Like a Rolling Stone", I disagree entirely.  However, he expresses the opinion that the song bores him, and frankly that’s a legitimate opinion.  To each his own, I guess.

But nothing’s lamer than disliking "Imagine" because the lyrics would result in a real-life catastrophe.  Give me a fucking break.


General Sports Punditry

Posted on November 27th, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. 1 Comment

The Omar Vizquel signing may turn out to be a disaster, but in the short term it’s a good move that will improve the Giants’ defense by leaps and bounds.  Vizquel can still hit, but counting on him to be a solid everyday SS at age 40 in 2007 is a little optimistic.  The last SS to be a regular at 40 was Hall of Famer Luke Appling- and this was in the 1940s.

I do hope they sign Steve Finley and please, please, not rely on Dustin Hermanson as closer.  Remember, with even a second-rate closer, the Giants would have won between 95 and 100 games last year and thus the division.  Ugueth Urbina would be perfect, but the fact that his mother has been kidnapped in his native Venezuela might blur his focus on baseball (naturally).  Armando Benitez had a brilliant season for the Marlins and so might be too expensive.  Otherwise, he’d be very good. 

Every move Brian Sabean makes must be considered in light of the two years that Barry Bonds will still be playing.  2007 might be a big, big hangover season and the first losing one for the Giants since 1996.

- The 49ers are atrocious, but with a loss to Miami this weekend (and subsequent suckiness for the rest of the year) they should wrap up the No. 1 pick in the draft.  I don’t know enough about the current crop of college football players but it seems like the 49ers should benefit from getting out of salary cap hell.

Unfortunately, San Francisco has ceased to be an attractive destination for football players.  Even a decade ago, in the twilight of the DeBartolo era, players wanted to play for the red and gold because of a chance to win but also because of the organization’s fine reputation for generosity.

Now, former offensive lineman Derrick Deese has publicly criticized the Niners for putting their fans and players through the wringer this year and says that their relative perfidy hasn’t escaped notice around the league, also.

Furthermore, I’m not confident that Terry Donahue is a good enough GM to rebuild the team.

–Oh, and the Warriors are bad still.  Poor Mike Montgomery.  Left his cushy job at Stanford for this.  What’s the problem?  A collection of mediocre players.  Bruce Jenkins wrote that Jason Richardson is the only player on the roster that would start for a good team, and even on a loaded team he’d be nothing more than a electric sub.  Dunleavy looks like a big mistake.  The Euros they’ve drafted the last few years haven’t panned out yet, either.

– So for Bay Area sports fans, the one bright spot is Cal football.  There are 5 million or so people in the area.  If we all pitched in 50 bucks, we could build better facilities in Berkeley and keep Jeff Tedford in town.  Anyone?  Eh, the Stanford fans would fuck it up.…

Insane in the Ukraine

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

It appears that the good vibes between President Bush and Vladimir Putin are turning sour in regards to Ukraine (the the is apparently passe).  Remember how Bush said he peered into Putin’s soul and saw a good man?  I wonder what, in private, he’s saying now when Vlad the impaler is the only world leader supporting the Ukrainian PM against his challenger.

I’ve read several analyses- yet curiously enough, nobody has done a Huntingtonian style look into the major cultural difference within Ukraine itself.

Huntington predicted in The Clash of Civilizations that Ukraine would eventually split into basically two different countries: its Ukrainian speaking west and its Russian speaking east.

One side yearns for rapproachment with Europe, modeling itself after its Central European Slavic cousins.  The other wants closer relations with Russia.

In any case, the current situation is messy.  I can’t imagine Putin backing off, since ultimately Ukraine is in his sphere of influence more so than Bush’s.

My guess?  The PM will become President but the die is cast- Ukrainians are sick of tyranny.

Hoop Dreams

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

Jacky has one class she calls "the naughty class", although she admits that in reality, there are only two  "naughty boys".  Her problems with the two of them have escalated this term, and on a few occasions Jacky has begged our supervisors to throw them out of the program.  Cindy, the Chinese teacher responsible for Jacky’s students, has scolded these two boys repeatedly but they remain openly defiant in class.

Unfortunately, defiant and uncooperative students have a cancerous effect on a class.  Other boys who would ordinarily cooperate try to impress the "cool kids" by copying their antics, and so on.

I have one uncooperative boy, Harry Potter, who sneers at me and generally refuses to do any work.  He consistently gets the worst grades on every kind of test.   He sat next to another boy, named Jem, who began doing equally poor.  When I moved Jem elsewhere, he began doing much better.

Anyway, while Jacky was in the other room giving small groups students the speaking test, I was responsible for minding her "naughty class".  Mostly, this means sitting in a chair reading the newspaper and making sure they don’t kill each other.

Two of the boys were reading a magazine and they motioned for me to come and see.  On the cover, I recognized Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett but not too many others. 

I haven’t been a serious NBA fan since I was in middle school, not coincidentally the last time the Warriors were any good.  So I sat and watched as one of the boys, in halting English, identify the others:  Tracy McGrady.  Steve Francis. 

I was playing along.  We started flipping through the magazine and they started telling me all of the other names.  I recognized Jason Kidd but not Amare Stoudamire.  I recognized Carmelo Anthony but not LeBron James.  They knew every one of them.

Suddenly, a few more of the boys came and huddled over us.  Including the naughty boys!  Their sneers had disappeared- they were now volunteering comments about the ballplayers.

We happened upon a page showing the Indiana Pacers.  One of the boys imitated a punch, asking me if I had heard of the massive brawl between the Pacers and the Detroit Pistons.  I had, and remarked that the players had received major suspensions.  One of the naughty boys said: "Ron Artest, Jermaine O’Neal, Stephen Jackson, Ben Wallace", naming the four players who were hit the hardest by the league.

We finished going through the magazine and I went back to the newspaper.  Jacky still battles her "naughty boys", but when they pass me in the hall they always smile politely and say hello.

Sometimes, you have to use everything in your arsenal to communicate with people…and in this instance, knowing a little bit about the NBA paid dividends.…

Cell Phone!

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

Buying a new cell phone today- (re) joining the ole "League of Satan"

I’m excited.…