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Month: September 2016

Photo & Haiku Friday: Chair Socks

There’s a lot of crazy stuff in Japan. Crazy cool, crazy beautiful, and just plain old crazy.

So every Friday I’d like to show off a small sampling of that craziness with a photo I’ve taken while living here and adorn it with a lovingly crafted haiku poem. I’ll bribe my wife to add her own inspired poem as well, and if inspiration hits me in the balls then I may include a Japanese one as well.

Here’s this week’s photo, taken at a 100-yen store nearby our apartment:

01-chair-socks

My English haiku:
Hey man have you heard?
Chair socks – they’re like socks for chairs
Chairs get cold feet too

Abbey’s English haiku:
Oh so elegant
The chair socks, fuzzy and warm
Now let’s try them on

My Japanese haiku:
子のないおば
いすにソックスを
成長しない

(An old woman with no children)
(Puts socks on a chair)
(It will never grow up)

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 ridiculous details of Japanese office tea 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about the top five most ridiculous details of Japanese office tea. Office tea may not be the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Japanese businesses – formal meetings, bowing and business cards probably come before that – but it’s just as important.

Tea is basically lubrication for Japanese business like oil is lubrication for a car – it just doesn’t run without it. When I worked in a Japanese office, every meeting no matter how big or small had tea served to the guests. Whenever me or my coworkers went as guests to somewhere else, we were always served tea as well.

It may sound strange to the uninitiated, but it was kind of nice. Not only were you guaranteed a refreshing drink (cold in the summer hot in the winter) whenever you were going someplace, but it made you feel more welcome than if you just sat down and got right to business.

I don’t want to spoil too much more of the details of Japanese business tea, so go ahead and read the article before I accidentally spoil everything. Enjoy!

Read the article here.

Writing Prompt Wednesday: Late for Work on the End of the World

To increase the number of horrible stories in the world, every Wednesday I write a story based on a writing prompt from the awesome subreddit /r/WritingPrompts.

Last week’s story was a fun twist on the prompt, and this week I chose this prompt submitted by SpandexTerry:

“You wake up at 10:15 AM. Already late for work you rush to get dressed. It’s then you notice that the Sun hasn’t risen.”

Usually I pick prompts based on how interesting they sound or if I’m hit with inspiration, but this one I purposefully chose because I had no idea what I was going to write.

It was a fun challenge, and I like how the story turned out much more humorous than I’d imagined, but feel free to decide for yourself. You can read the story here.

(Featured image via GAHAG, edited by me)

Tips-y Tuesday: Cracking Open Scenes

Last week on Tips-y Tuesday we looked at how illogic can make your writing feel more real and exciting than something perfectly logical. This week we’ll look at another way to make your writing come alive: cracking open scenes.

As a writer, one of my greatest weaknesses is writing too generically. I forget that the reader isn’t inside my brain and can’t see everything I’m seeing. So what I like to do when I go back and edit is making sure I’ve “cracked open” any generic scenes.

What I mean by that is taking a bland scene then opening it up to reveal hidden, juicy details. Here’s an example of a scene in desperate need of some cracking:

“He woke up and made breakfast, then got ready for work. He kissed his wife on the way out the door then started his drive to the office.”

Yikes, that’s about as generic as it gets. The writer may have a clear image of who this guy in their own mind, but it’s not coming through clearly at all. It’s too airy and makes the reader feel detached from the scene. So here’s what we need to do:

Masterpiece Monday: Harry Potter Show and Tell

Last week on Masterpiece Monday we looked at the magic of one really well-written line, but this week we’re back to the actual magic with Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.

Showing vs. telling. Ah, the term we all love to use. As writers we’re supposed to show show show and never tell. Just like a good documentary, we’re supposed to give the reader all of the information visually and let them decide for themselves what it all means.

Except that’s not entirely true. Unlike a video documentary, writing relies on the reader following along with the writer pulling words out of their imagination. If there’s a confusing sentence or section, then we have to go back and reread – or even worse just stay confused – taking us out of the story.

That’s why “telling” can be a powerful tool. Sometimes the reader just needs a little push in the right direction to ensure they don’t get lost or confused. Showing vs. telling shouldn’t be thought of as “always show and never tell,” rather it should be more like “showing is fries and telling is ketchup.” A little bit goes a long way and can make the final product even better.

Here’s an example from Harry Potter of how “telling” can help make a scene even better:

Weekend Review: “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang

As a fan of linguistic-fiction (and you should totally read my story Devilese plug plug plug), I get excited every time I see a new entry into the genre. So when I heard about the upcoming movie Arrival where a linguist cracks an alien species’ language, I was sold from the get-go.

Here’s the teaser trailer for the film if you haven’t seen it yet:

And best of all, Arrival is based on a short story – “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. Once I found that out I immediately read the whole thing, and I have to say it was one of the best short stories I’ve read… ever.

Kana Kinyobi: Hiragana う (“u”)

Hooray, it’s kinyobi (Friday)! That means it’s time to look at another kana from the Japanese alphabets. Today we’re looking at う (pronounced “u” as in “uber”).

little-hiragana-u

This one’s easy. There’s a “u” right there, just chillin’ on its side. Here, I’ll show you!

hiragana-u

Now you’ll know う whenever you see it. Awesome! Come back for next week’s Kana Kinyobi when we’ll take a look at the next hiragana: え (“e”).

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 most offensive Japanese swear words 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about the top five most offensive Japanese swear words. As an armchair linguist, I find swear words fascinating for two reasons: (1) they’re the first words in a foreign language that any student wants to learn, and (2) I can’t believe that so many languages have words that are “forbidden” or “unclean.” I mean, they’re just words!

As far as (1) goes, I think a big reason students clamor to learn swear words is for two reasons: one, it gives them some “bad” vocabulary words to use that other people won’t understand, and two, it gives the language a grittier, more authentic feel. Rather than learning how to say “I’d like three apples please,” you’re actually learning some “real” words that people use when you learn swears.

I remember in high school one Spanish teacher told her class that the best way to pick out a dictionary (before the days of internet dictionaries and smartphones) was to look up the worst swear words you could possibly think of. If it had them, great! If it didn’t, move on to another. I can’t vouch for how effective that method really is, but it did make shopping for new dictionaries a lot more fun.

So if you’re a swear-lover like I am, maybe you’ll enjoy the article. And if not, well, maybe you can learn to love them after seeing how silly it is that certain sounds in another language are considered “taboo.” Enjoy!

Read the article here.

Writing Prompt Wednesday: Boys Drool, Immortality Rules

To keep my fingers in shape, every Wednesday I write a story based on a writing prompt from the awesome subreddit /r/WritingPrompts.

Last week’s story was fun to write, and this week I chose this prompt submitted by PlasmaScythe:

“You pray to God, wishing that you will get a boyfriend/girlfriend before you die. He gives you immortality.”

I always enjoy taking a bit of a different route than the obvious one provided by the prompt. After a bit of thinking, inspiration hit, and I decided to see where it went.

I kind of like where it ended up, but feel free to decide for yourself. You can read the story here.

(Featured image via GAHAG, edited by me)