In Defense of Being Plugged-In (Even on Vacation)

Posted on March 22nd, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. 1 Comment

Even by the standards of our hyper-digital world, I consider myself to be very “plugged-in”. I wake up each morning to the sound of NPR’s “Morning Edition” and reach for my iPad to read the day’s news bulletins in my in-box. I subscribe to a newspaper, a few magazines, and a dozen-odd news briefs; and I am of course constantly on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

So when I announced that I’d be going to Costa Rica for vacation, a couple of friends gently suggested that I step away from the Internet. Well, perhaps not so gently. After I posted a photo of the view from our vacation house, a friend told me to “get off f-ing Facebook”. Happily, I chose not to comply.

For a lot of people, Facebook represents a quotidian distraction and something of a necessary evil- they hate using it, but they’re afraid of what they would miss if they didn’t have it. People often worry about being overexposed in our digital age, afraid that constant use of digital stimuli might rob them of their humanity in some small way. One of my favorite new expressions in recent years is “going off the grid”, meaning to unplug, tune out, and drop out of sight. Given the persistent ubiquity of electronic devices in our daily lives, I’d bet that the phrase will stick with us for some time.

As a junkie, I confess that I find the idea of going off-grid to be deeply unappetizing. This doesn’t mean that I use the Internet at the exclusion of other activities; to the contrary, I spent many happy hours of my vacation on the beach or traipsing through town. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate being able to read the news from the comfort of my ocean-view bedroom, or checking up on Facebook while lying blissfully by the pool.

Some might accuse me of being unable to let go of my daily life. To that, I’d counter that I did no schoolwork whatsoever through the duration of my trip, successfully taking a detour of my daily responsibilities. Reading the news, checking Facebook, and scanning articles don’t count as work. They’re things I do for pleasure, and would be a key part of any vacation that I undertake.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: we’re living in a golden age of information. To be able to enjoy it unmolested by work, school, and other responsibilities- in a beautiful setting, no less- is this blogger’s idea of a fine vacation.




Posted on March 18th, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. 4 comments

Last week I escaped the last throes of the (admittedly very mild) New York winter and flew to Costa Rica for a much-needed beach-side vacation. I did follow the news just enough to track the Bo Xilai affair, about which I’ll have more to say later.

In the meantime, let me state that Costa Rica is a very nice country and one that struck me, perhaps unjustifably, as a Yunnan on the sea. I now have half a mind to fly back with a bitchin’ mountain bike and do a tour of all of Central America. But first- two more months of grad school to do. Onward!…

Mitt’s Wealth Gaffes

Posted on March 1st, by matt_schiavenza in Uncategorized. 4 comments

E.J Dionne thinks that Mitt Romney’s frequent foot-in-mouth statements about wealth, when combined with his highly regressive economic policies, paint the portrait of a man who only wants to serve the rich. Not to defend the repugnant Romney, but I’m not willing to concede that this is true.

Romney’s economic policy is designed to serve the rich for the sole reason that he is a national politician in the Republican Party. It isn’t like Santorum- whose roots are more working class- is any more progressive. He isn’t. To a man, each of the GOP candidates has designed his economic platform to appeal to the party’s base.

Romney’s gaffes, on the other hand, are due to him being rich his whole life and to being a lousy politician. He lacks George W. Bush’s gift for coming across as an ordinary Joe and looks like a blue-blooded aristocrat from central casting. While Bush had his story of overcoming a drinking problem and several failed business ventures, Romney’s life has been smooth sailing from birth. As a result he’s had trouble connecting with ordinary Republicans.