You can’t stop it, but you don’t have to hate it.

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#BlackOutTuesday filled a previously useful source for spotting racist aggression with useless black squares. Image by Tellerreport

It was a Tuesday when I went on Instagram as usual and instead of corgi videos, I was greeted with a squall of black squares. My still half-asleep head wondered if for some reason all the cameras in the world had shut down during the night. Everyone ranging from celebrities to my closest friends was posting black, utter nothingnesses to show supposed solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The #BlackOutTuesday meme was a disaster. Indiscriminate use of hashtags resulted in a flooding of meaningless black in the place where actual information used to exist. George Floyd’s death might not have turned into the world-wide movement it had become if it weren’t for the police brutality being posted on Facebook — so much of today’s social advocacy relies on the usefulness of social media. …

It’s not impossible.

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Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

*A version of this was first published in The Minerva Quest.

As an international student going to a US university, the world demands that I float in limbo for the foreseeable future. I never liked uncertainty. This time around, it’s the worst.

Since I’ve been back in my home country, I have been through both ups and downs — the ups being the times where I felt content despite my situation, the downs being when I wished that things were different, perhaps more stable. During the past four months, I have kept myself busy with Zoom calls, online workshops, Coursera, waiting tables, and spending time with family. For each activity, there was something that made me happy and something that made me feel like my insides were gradually rotting. Sure, I was gaining some experience through my restaurant job, and frankly, it was a superb position from which to people-watch, but it was nothing compared to my imaginary internship in New York City. …

Francophilia: What we really fetishize when we fetishize France

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Photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash

Recently, I was looking for a new wallpaper for my iPhone. I wanted something artsy, something I wouldn’t tire of looking at, and without thinking, I image-searched ‘Paris.’

Later, I wondered. I had already settled onto a particularly satisfying photograph of a Parisian street, flanked by French Classicist structures on both sides, beautiful underneath a dark, antique tint. I wondered why I wanted specifically Paris to please my eyes every time I looked at my phone. I had never been to Paris, nor was I planning to.

Paris, it seems, is synonymous to everything American culture deems desirable. Enough money to enjoy morning croissants and coffee on cafe seats that spill out onto the cobblestones. A true love’s kiss in front of the Eiffel Tower, with accordionists in the background. …

The ethics of feeding, training, and leaving your pet for work

One of my favorite dogs in the world is owned by the YouTube channel, Milkyboki. I come back to this channel often, when I want to take a break. The dog is called Milky. He is the fluffiest, most adorable Samoyed dog who also somehow managed to get a cat to follow him around. He’s a gem.

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A birthday dog. Photo by Jasmin Chew on Unsplash

I don’t intend to persuade anyone to get rid of their pets. No, please keep my YouTube feed alive. Rather, I wish to present a more general moral question — how do we, in the first place, decide what is moral for animals?

Most of us are familiar with the term, “dehumanization.” We all know dehumanization is bad. Nazis dehumanizing Jews. …

Why no one in Japan swears and why it matters

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Photo by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash

A lot of my international friends have asked me, “teach me a Japanese swear word!”

It hurts to see my friends’ faces fall, so repeatedly and so predictably. There are no swear words in Japanese.

Here’s my breakdown on why this is, and my speculation on how the very aspects that make the Japanese language unique and complex are contributing to the Coronavirus epidemic in Japan that isn’t showing any signs of settling down.

The closest analogy, perhaps, is hearing “Wherefort art thou Romeo?” Instead of: “Why are you Romeo?”

It isn’t just a stereotype that Japanese people are polite — in fact, the Japanese language is defined by politeness. To illustrate this, I created a scale that represents ‘fanciness’: The Fanciness Scale. …

American cafes do this weird thing where they shout your name when your drink is ready.

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Photo by Brent Gorwin on Unsplash

American cafes do this weird thing where they shout your name when your drink is ready. Isn’t this especially awkward in a country as diverse as this one, where there exists a variation of tongue-twisting, exotic sounds put together in combinations unheard of? Living here, I’ve been having a fun time imagining the sheer discomfort and silent, cringey apologies spilling about in the life of a barista.

If you have as odd a name as I do, you’ll understand why one day I had had enough. By this, I mean that I changed my name. No, I didn’t change it permanently or go through a legal process or anything — I simply decided to turn into a Chloe upon my coffee shop visits in future. I really didn’t believe a name could get any more plain and inconspicuous than a Chloe. …

In Japan, there’s this simmering tension between rice people and bread people.

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Photo by Luigi Pozzoli on Unsplash

It’s just how it is: City people smirk at country people and dog people shake their heads at cat people. In Japan, there’s this simmering tension between rice people and bread people. Bread people would look down on rice people — being attached to rice was indicative of a petty struggle against the inevitable trend of Westernization. Then again, rice people would sneer at bread people in contempt; how they completely ignored their true cultural origin, the very DNA that have been passed down by our rice-growing ancestors sweating underneath the shade of straw hats.

I used to be a bread person. I guess it was mainly because of my family’s breakfast rules. Rice was for schooldays, toast was for weekends. Well, it was less concrete rules than they were tradition. No one questioned it. …

With seclusion comes bliss, I suppose.

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Photo by Zach Taiji on Unsplash

Drive six hours north of Tokyo, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find a city sitting in a little dip of the mountains.

Yamagata is, simply put, cozy: small enough that you can’t feel overwhelmed, but big enough that it’s easy to forget there is a bigger world beyond the mountains.

Yamagata can be beautiful. On the sunny days, the sun hits the side of the mountains, making them look healthier than ever, and on the cloudy days, balls of cotton fall over the mountain tops, producing a pallet of dark green and light gray that’s nothing short of mystical. Every day, the city is in a specific mood, and I suppose this is what keeps it interesting. …

We’ve come to treat it like it’ s money.

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Photo by Daniil Kuželev on Unsplash

The other day, I fell half in love with a waiter. I was just a random girl going out for lunch with friends, and he was just a random waiter. And yet, he looked at me when he was taking my orders, and not in the flirty, creepy way, either — he was just looking at me. He was just looking at me. …

Stop telling me I look cute without it.

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Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

Mr. Y was a major jokester at the table. He was a little above my father’s age, which put him around his late fifties. He was the source of the most ridiculous, albeit somewhat poignant stories from his past, featuring two failed marriages and a current wife who now refused to let him into the house.

“You know what’s the most important thing to do while you’re in college?” He pointed a fork at me one night, wriggling his eye-brows in faux-seriousness.

“What?” I asked him, all innocent and bright-eyed. It was how my dad would have expected me to appear in front of respectable businessmen he worked with. …


Lyon N.

On Twitter @LyonN_musings

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