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Writing Stream Recap: Dreaming about pregnant Harry Potter

Last writing stream certainly brought out some, uh, creative stories!

We started off with a writing exercise where we got a random word, and used it as our topic (our word was “contact”). Then we get five more random words and had to use them at some point in the story. Because nothing quite gets the creative juices flowing like having to connect seemingly-unrelated ideas.

After writing three different opening sentences and the chat picking the one they liked best, this is what I wrote (bolded words are the random words).

Writing Stream Recap: The worst date you’ve ever been on

I recently read the short story “Cat Person” in the New Yorker that has been getting a lot of attention online. It’s rare for a short short to go viral; anything that’s not a Twitter post, YouTube video, or Facebook image usually has no chance, so it’s great to see an interest in the medium spark up.

Since the story is more or less about a really bad date/relationship, it inspired the theme for our recent writing stream: what’s the worst date you’ve ever been on?

We started off with a fun exercise: get a sentence from a random sentence generator (yes they exist and they’re awesome), and then write a story about a date starting with that random sentence. We wrote for 10 minutes or so, and then we got another random sentence, which would become our ending sentence, forcing us to somehow complete the story toward it.

It was tough, but thanks to some suggestions from the chat, I liked where we ended up. You can read the story below:

Students in Finland, the world’s best-educated country, react to Japan’s harsh school rules

My pick for the SoraNews24 article this week is one for the kids: Students in Finland, the world’s best-educated country, react to Japan’s harsh school rules.

Youth education is a topic I’ve always been interested in. It’s a complex issue, but it can be usually boiled down into one question: what is the goal of school?

Let’s take a look at how the U.S. answers that question. If the goal of school is to “prepare kids for the real world,” then the schools fail; very few school teach classes that are applicable to daily life (cooking, nutrition, relationships, bills, taxes, etc). If the goal of school is to “help kids get a job,” then they also fail; what happens in classes usually resembles nothing like what happens at an office. If the goal of school is to “ensure an educated populace for the democratic process,” then they also fail; most of us have no idea how our government works beyond the extreme basics, and critical reading/discussion about current events is rarely encouraged.

So then what is the goal of the U.S. school system? It might seem cynical, but with the way classes are set up, it feels like the only answer can be “to prepare kids to work a mindless job in the future.” With a school system that praises memorizing and regurgitating useless facts, prohibits collaboration, and requires everyone to take the same classes sitting at a desk for eight hours every day, it doesn’t seem like it’s useful for much else.

Of course, I don’t think the teachers are at fault. Or the schools themselves. There are plenty of amazing teachers and schools in the U.S. who work hard to inspire their students, but unfortunately even they have a hard time escaping what is considered “normal school stuff.”

All of this then comes back to the topic of the article at hand: Finland schools. There, kids are given more freedom, less tests, less homework, and they excel far more than their counterparts in other countries.

Clearly, Finland answers the question of “what is the goal of school?” with the answer of “to educate students.” Who cares if they wear weird clothes? Who cares if they sit in bean bag chairs? Who cares if they take a nap? As long as they’re learning, everything else is just superficial.

And then there’s Japan’s schools. How do they answer the question of “what is the goal of school?” While I can’t say for sure, it feels like something close to: “to ensure a uniform, and uniformly educated, populace.” There’s good and bad there, encouraging group ideals is great but forcing students with natural non-black hair to dye it is kind of horrifying.

Anyway, check out the article if you want to see how Japan reacted to Finland’s lax schools. Personally I find the topic of education fascinating, since the way school systems are set up in a country can say a lot about their ideals and goals as a nation.

Featured image: PAKUTASO

Writing Stream Recap: Random-word tyrants, time-swapping bodies, and Nicholas Cage

Good times were had during our latest writing stream. We started off with a fun exercise: we used a random word generator to get 10 random words, and then we wrote a story using them as the first word in each sentence. Because that’s how great writing gets done.

The words were: construct, announcement, arrange, suffer, ladder, constitution, audience, sweat, like.

I somehow ended up writing what seems like a speech made by a crazed dictator. Funny how… that happens? Read it here in all its glory:

Writing Livestream! Starting tomorrow at 7:30pm (EST)

Ever since I moved to Japan, one thing that I’ve missed the most about living in the U.S. is not having a writing group.

I used to run a weekly writing workshop in Boston before I moved, and it was a great experience. Not only did I get to meet lots of local passionate writers, but we did some great collaborative exercises, and got valuable feedback from each other.

Unfortunately there aren’t many such groups in Japan, especially rural Japan where I live, and that’s something that I just kind of accepted.

Until now! It recently dawned on me that the Internet and livestreaming are both things that exist (I know, right?), so why not use them to have a live writing meetup online?

So I started by own Twitch channel, which you can access here: (Twitch is normally for streaming games, but they have a large Creative section as well where people stream art, cosplay, etc.)

I’ll be streaming a live writing workshop every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 7:30pm-9:30pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time). We’ll do basically the same stuff that we did when I was the organizer of the Boston workshop: a fun warmup, a collaborative exercise, write to a prompt, and a free share so people can get feedback on anything they’ve written (novel excerpt, short story, query, etc.).

If that sounds like something you’d enjoy, then we hope you can join us! It should be a lot of fun, and a great way to finally get some of that writing done that we’ve been procrastinating.

Hope to see you there!

2018 Russian calendar features Vladimir Putin just hanging around with some dogs

My pick for the SoraNews24 article this week is fully of puppy propaganda: 2018 Russian calendar features Vladimir Putin just hanging around with some dogs.

You know what lots of people don’t like? Putin.

You know what lots of people do like? Dogs.

Maybe if you cram a bunch of things people like around something they don’t like, they’ll end up liking it?

…is probably what the creators of this calendar were thinking. Well, they tried!

Top image: Twitter/@ydtmg_yoi

Easter egg tribute to late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata found in Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon

My pick for the SoraNews24 article this week is the heartwarming: Easter egg tribute to late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata found in Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon.

Like I talk about in the article, when Nintendo president Satoru Iwata passed away two years ago, for me it was like a close friend had died. The man had personally coded three of my favorite games (EarthBound, Pokémon Silver, and Super Smash Bros Melee), and without him the games would’ve never been the same, if they’d been released at all.

So seeing Iwata’s memory enshrined in the latest Pokémon game release brought a smile to my face. It’s exactly as he would’ve wanted to be remembered, not as a businessman or leader, but as a man who simply loved bringing games to life so that others could enjoy them as much as he did.

Top image: Twitter/@JoeMerrick

Happy Thanksgiving!

We might not have much turkey in Japan, but we’ve still got plenty of awkward get-togethers, naps, and smelly leftovers that you eat anyway.

Enjoy the stuffing, everyone!

Japanese company tries to create motivational poster, accidentally creates demotivational poster

My pick for the SoraNews24 article this week is the depressing: Japanese company tries to create motivational poster, accidentally creates demotivational poster.

Sometimes the way Japan comes up with solutions to problems is hilariously sad. Nobody having children? Let’s have meetings until all hours of the night and discuss ways to fix it. Want students to all have “natural” hair color? Force the ones with naturally not-black hair to dye it black.

And here we have another example. When upper management is displeased with how their subordinates handle the last-minute changes that they demand, how do they fix it? By looking into themselves and seeing what they can do to create a better environment for the workers who look up to them?

Nah, just blame the young people!

Take a look for yourself by reading the article here, and at least take solace that most Japanese people found it as sad as we did.

Top image: Twitter/@katokato 

Documentary on North Korean schools in Tokyo sheds light on bizarre, hidden part of Japan【Video】

My pick for the SoraNews24 article this week is the unusually enlightening: Documentary on North Korean schools in Tokyo sheds light on bizarre, hidden part of Japan【Video】.

Over the years, I’ve always heard about the North Korean schools in Japan. But I always assumed they were small, isolated, and put into Japan by North Korea themselves as a sort of spy unit.

But this documentary completely changed my view. The North Korean community is huge, and they’ve been part of Japan ever since they were forcibly annexed by the Japanese empire.

Their history is long and complex, as is their current situation. Funding for North Korean schools is obviously a divisive issue, but at the same time these are actual children who just want to go to school.

Check out this crazy, mostly-hidden part of Japan yourself by reading the article.

Top image: YouTube/Vox