• Photos of the humans of the Amazon rainforest

    What do you think of when you think of the Amazon rainforest? Do you think of the colorful birds and slinky leopards and anacondas? (Like from the 1997 classic, Anaconda, of course.) Do you think about Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gunning to burn it down? What about its people? 

    Mainstream media dictated the image I had of the Amazon and the communities it houses. These images tend to promote an exoticized, colonial perception of Indigenous groups in the Amazon. It also gives the impression that the people are disappearing. Yes, consistent threats are encroaching on their environment and their communities. But in no way are the people of the Amazon simply vanishing. 

    Defensores de la Selva is a project by young Uruguayan photojournalist, Pablo Albarenga. It portrays the "concerns, projects, dreams, and emotions of young people on the ground with a message that is close, with a human face; a message of struggle, emotion, and hope."

    And that it does. This independent journalism allows us in the West to understand those from the Southern hemisphere through their choice of expression. A form of journalism we are not often exposed to.

    Explore Albarenga's compelling photos and poignant stories here:

    Series "Defenders of the Jungle" | openDemocracy

  • The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is an anime about a psychedelic night in Kyoto

    For your next movie night, let Masaaki Yuasa take you through a psychedelic night in Kyoto with his 2018 anime, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl.

    At its core, the film is a romantic comedy, following a young girl looking for an adult night out on the town. Not far behind her is a schoolmate, secret admirer attempting to keep up.

    It's easy to feel lost in a fever dream with Yuasa's unique animation and seemingly random plot. But don't let that stop you from plunging down the whimsical rabbit hole that highlights the beauty of human connection with its batty characters and charming adventures with just one night in Kyoto. 

    Available to rent or buy on Amazon, Youtube, and Google Play.

  • Why is Squid Game such a huge international hit?

    Squid Game is the blood-splattered South Korean drama series that has held the number one spot on Netflix in 90 countries since its September 17th release.

    Its "play to survive" theme is nothing new to popular culture. So what about Squid Game holds the key to international success? 

    Conspiracy theories, memes, and real-life (safe) recreations of the innocent but deadly games are flooding social media. The game "Red Light, Green Light" is the most popular meme. Usually soundtracked to the Korean playground song from the episode, it keeps the creepy, catchy children's song looping in my head. 

    We enter the games through the lens of player 456: Seong Gi-Hun. All players, including Gi-Hun, are cash-strapped, debt-ridden outcasts who accepted an invitation to play the mysterious games hoping for financial redemption. The underdog alliance Gi-Hun forms include his childhood friend, an elderly man, a North Korean defector, a Pakistani immigrant, and a quirky hustler. Their dynamic sweetly evokes the innocence of making new friends in the schoolyard. Through every episode, I laughed and cried. My heart smiled and shattered. 

    The nostalgic aesthetic of the adult-sized playgrounds made me want to jump in with the characters I grew so attached to. (Carnage excluded) 

    The sentimental storytelling, the carefully designed sets, and the relatable critique of capitalism could be the formula that garnered the shows' high international interest. Whatever it may be, Squid Game has uniquely managed to turn traditional schoolyard games into an expression of Korean culture. 

    As explained in the opening credits, Ojingeo Geim (Squid Game) is a kid's game in Korea. Right away, we're given a window into an aspect of culture that wouldn't always be considered an expression of culture. Western audiences see familiar bits of their childhood in games like tug-of-war or marbles. 

    But even the familiar game of marbles leaves a distinct cultural mark in the beautifully heart-wrenching episode, Gganbu. When Seong Gi-Hun and the old man pair up to play a fatal game of marbles, the old man calls him his gganbu. As his gganbu, his neighborhood best friend, his ally, and playmate, the old man will always share all his marbles with Gi-Hun. It's a feeling English speakers know, but if you substituted gganbu for "best friend" the episode couldn't carry the same poignancy. 

    Another episode has resurrected interest in a nostalgic Korean street candy called dalgona. In episode 2, players must carefully carve out a shape that is imprinted into the honeycomb without breaking it. A trend in recipe searches for the sweet, cheap treat has prompted articles from American-based websites like Delish to even The New York Times. Amazon and eBay are selling Squid Game kits to make the candy at home. Internationally, restaurants like Brown Butter Cafe in Singapore to KCal Kitchen in Scotland are offering for customers to take part in their versions of the Dalgona game. 

    In the past year, 97% of Netflix's US members have chosen to watch at least one non-English-language title. Squid Game appears to be the biggest beneficiary of this trend so far. It may be hard to one-up the show's popularity anytime soon. However, a comparable "play-to-survive" themed Japanese series, Alice in Borderland, is already benefiting from Squid Game's popularity as it is now also trending on Netflix. So, if anything, perhaps Squid Game has left the door open wide for the introduction of more unique forms of cultural expression to become a regular part of our media diets.

    Image: YOUNGKYU PARK / Netflix, handout

  • The Silent Suffering of the Asian-American

    Growing up mixed race, a comment on my ethnicity would often be one of the first things people said to me. It didn't matter where I was – school, the grocery store, sports practice, a restaurant – people would casually bring up my race. From a young age, it started to feel like that is what defined me to others. For those of us who don't fit into the "All-American" mold, it often does.

    Identity crises are a part of growing up, but I was sure mine would go away if I could just look like everybody else. I'd always emphasize that I was half white as if to say, "I'm not like other Asians so please don't treat me like one!" I ended up resenting my Korean-American father as being the reason for my pain. For feeling uncomfortable in my skin, alienated, and unwanted. I couldn't understand how aching it must've been for his child to subject him to the same abuse he once faced as a non-English speaking immigrant. 

    He came to America as an eight-year-old boy. By the time he got through elementary school, he had gone to three different schools because of how many fights he was in for being a "chink" and not speaking English. 

    One Christmas, all he wanted was a bike. So my grandma saved all she could to grant him his wish. As soon as he got it, it was gone. Riding his bike home from school, two kids knocked him over and beat him, prying it from his hands. When they went to the police, they were waved off for broken English and underlying prejudices. 

    When my dad married a white woman, my grandparents were somewhat pleased because they thought it would protect us from experiencing the same things they did.

    But the otherness that comes with being Asian-American persisted. I was still made to feel foreign. I was still subject to slurs, jokes and stereotypes. 

    I wasn't able to find a home in the Asian community either. Being a "halfie" isn't Asian enough. But it is also associated with white privilege. I've been told that I'm "lucky to be only half" because then I could "marry a white guy and have white kids." 

    Being "only half" still doesn't protect me from having my mere existence evoke racially fueled hate. Like the time I stood outside of a train station waiting for an Uber when two men walking by threw their hot coffee cups at me. As they walked away they just grunted, "Chinese." 

    Maddie Lee with her parents, 2001. Photo by Jamie Lee

    In the context of triggering events this past year, our community has been experiencing higher instances of racism and violence than usual. 

    According to this Pew Research Center report, since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, many Black and Asian Americans have reported a rise in instances of discrimination. Between March and December last year, Stop AAPI Hate, an organization dedicated to tracking hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islanders, counted just under 3,000 incidents in the U.S and Canada. 

    The rhetoric used by former President Donald Trump has also brought painful consequences for the AAPI community. Blaming the Chinese and referring to the virus with terms like "Kung Flu" or "Chinese Virus" likely fueled a rise in aggression. 

    The Asian community has been left to deal with this tidal wave of ugly attacks in solitude. Our elders have been bearing the brunt of the violence – being struck, punched, stabbed, killed. Almost everyday our community has to witness this, while mainstream media glosses over it. 

    Our immigrant parents and grandparents endured their abuse in silence in the hopes of providing us with better opportunities. They shouldn't have to continue suffering in silence. They deserve to be protected.  

    It took a massacre to get mainstream media to grieve with us. The Atlanta Spa Shootings in which eight people were killed, six of them Asian women, has become a defining moment for our movement. We're finally being seen on the front pages, but yet, it's still not being labeled a hate crime. Nicole Hong, a reporter for The New York Times, says that it's harder to classify Asian hate crimes because of a "lack of signals." 

    Stereotypes may not count as a tangible symbol of Asian hate, but they should still absolutely be acknowledged as hate crimes. 

    Part of the reason I've been so uncomfortable in my skin is because of the way my race is fetishized and hypersexualized. You're not seen as a person. You're an idea that will be thrown away if it doesn't meet someone's false expectations. So even if the shooter says that he was sexually motivated, and not racially motivated, it absolutely feels like these women were simply a disposable idea to him. 

    In response, President Biden has issued a statement to "urge Congress to swiftly pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act." 

    Although action is finally being taken bureaucratically, I still have barely heard or seen anything from my non-Asian peers. It's such a disappointing sting to call into the void and only hear the echoes of your voice.

    We need help from louder voices, not just our own.

    The model minority myth has isolated Asian, South Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders from the rest of the BIPOC community. The idea that Asian-Americans have managed to assimilate into white culture diminishes the discrimination we still face. Additionally, it pits minorities against each other, keeping us distracted from real progress. 

    I want to clarify that asking others to include AAPI in their anti-racist work does not mean to take away from Black Lives Matter. Black lives matter now and always. These issues are not mutually exclusive. Nor do I mean to say that all the ways marginalized groups are discriminated against can be umbrellaed. 

    But if you know what it's like to not have a choice in the way the world sees you. To be vulnerable or at risk because of who you are. To not have the privilege of simply existing. Then you should want to advocate for anyone and everyone who has ever felt your pain. 

    I'm not an expert on this subject matter,  nor am I claiming to be. But I appreciate finally having the space to vent my internalized frustrations as an Asian-American woman. I know how long I have been waiting to be heard, but I didn't know if that day would ever come. 

    Now, we are not willing to sit in silence. But are you willing to listen?

  • Cuba's efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 is breaking its fragile economy

    Robin Cordoví's life savings are draining away. A Havana native and Airbnb super host, Cordoví previously made enough money to afford the steep prices and skip the long lines for food and other necessities. The pandemic put an end to that. Tourism here is dead, and Cordoví has had to use the majority of his savings to get by. "Maybe at the end of coronavirus I have zero," he told me.

    Cubans rely on government rations and a stipend of 30 CUCs (Cuban convertible pesos, roughly equal to the US dollar) a month to meet their basic needs. This has proved mostly inadequate. Foreign currency is relied on to import approximately two-thirds of food consumed in Cuba. Now that the foreign currency exchange has sharply declined, previously scarce items have become even more elusive and expensive. 

    Image: Maddie Lee

    "To get food," says Cordoví, "some have to get up at three a.m and wait. They go [to] maybe buy chicken and they say, 'Sorry no more chicken,' and then they have no food for the day." 

    "In Cuba, the government tries to be your father, you depend 100 percent on your father, and now everything is very expensive. Believe me, I don't know how people can live, but always they find a way." 

    Access to everyday necessities for Cuban citizens is notoriously unreliable. CNN's Havana correspondent, Patrick Oppmann comments, "This isn't anything new for the Cuban people, but it is more extreme."

    He added, "While lines are nothing new, the scarcity Cuba has experienced during the pandemic of basic products is much worse than anything I have seen in eight years of living here."

    Image: Maddie Lee

    In an attempt to make up for the deficiency of US currency, the government has opened stores that accept only US currency — something Oppmann says they "haven't seen in almost 20 years."

    Cuban economist, Albert Lahens, says that a few months before these dollar stores opened, "…there were plenty of consumption goods (tomato sauce, cheese, pasta, just to mention a few) who were missing for a long time. These goods used to be available in CUCs stores but suddenly disappeared until the government sold them once again  in the "new" stores, where you could only pay with international debit cards and, of course, foreign currency."

    To be clear, a CUC should be roughly equal to the USD. However, Lahens explained that, "Even when there was a tax on the USD, on the informal markets, you could get 1.15 CUC for 1USD. Today, when there's no longer a tax on the USD if you go to the black market and exchange your USDs, for every single one of them you could get 1.60 CUCs." 

    To put the exchange rate into perspective, he said, "Back in March, a kilo of Gouda Cheese was 8.45 CUC when you could find it. Then it disappeared for three months… the price is still 8.45/kilo but this time 8.45 USD, hence 50% more expensive due to the local currency devaluation."

    Another blow to an already reeling economy is the Trump administration's sanctions on Cuba, which are "some of the toughest sanctions in decades," according to Oppmann, and "have had a big impact without a doubt, and it's certainly not helping the situation right now as Cuba's trying to deal with the pandemic like the rest of the world." 

    Undoing the Obama administration's opening of Cuba has made it more difficult for citizens to have their own businesses. Furthermore, it has crippled the accessibility of making contact outside of the island. 

    Lahens says. "…if Trump gets reelected the regime won't have any other choice. They will push harder on their reforms schedule." It is speculated that a Biden administration would bring an influx of tourists to the island, due to eased sanctions.

    Although the pandemic has amplified some of Cuba's pre-existing problems, the government has managed to keep coronavirus cases remarkably low. On an island of just over 11 million people, there have been 123 deaths and less than 6,000 confirmed cases. 

    Despite limited resources, the nationwide healthcare system is quite comprehensive. The government has made it their top priority to stay on top of the outbreak. 

    Oppmann says Cubans don't dispute the government's mandate to wear a mask in public. He believes that the cooperation extends beyond that of having to comply with a strict communist government. He says, "People trust doctors here and doctors say you need to wear a mask and that's all there is to it." 

    In contrast, Cordoví observed that the government handled the pandemic so well that many people don't believe it is a "pandemic." He further explained that the risk of catching coronavirus from waiting in long, crowded lines was not the main concern for many because, "The people, they want bread for today, they want meat for today, so forget the pandemic." 

    There are signs of a possible, but slow, recovery. The hardest-hit region by the virus, Havana, has slowly begun to come out of lockdown. Beaches have reopened, as well as some restaurants and bars at limited capacity. Schools are set to reopen next month.

    Limited travel has resumed on some parts of the island. Tourists are allowed to stay at government-run resorts, bar Americans, in the Cuban Keys. Plans to open Havana to visitors are in the works for as soon as next week. 

    The return of tourism seems like a sign of hope. But for now, since travelers can only stay at government-run resorts — which operate similar to the NBA's Disneyworld bubble – the revenue will barely benefit the average Cuban.

    So although tourism is slowly returning to the island, Oppmann says the adverse effects of the lockdown will "continue to be a problem for a long time to come." 

    Collectively, the world is coping with the fallout from Covid-19. The pandemic has shown us the importance of having compassion for our neighbors and helping our communities when we can. If you are left wondering if there is a way to help our Cuban neighbors, Mr. Cordoví (who has become a good friend since I met him seven months ago in Cuba) has started a new Airbnb experience called "Supporting Cuban's non-profit." A $13 donation will "be directed to solve a specific need such as food for a struggling family, an auto part for a vintage car and driver, a motor for a farmer to pump water to his ranch, or paying bills for someone hospitalized. These are some of the many examples of the political, economic, and social problems today's Cubans suffer." You can leave a message for the person receiving your support, and Mr. Cordoví will show it to them when he delivers the assistance to them. On October 15, 2020, Mr. Cordoví told me he was able to deliver food to 50 seniors in his town thanks to support for the project. 

  • The adventure app Randonautica has led users to dead bodies, haunted houses, and other bizarre destinations

    Living through a pandemic may not feel predictable, but your quarantine routine probably does. However, even beyond lockdown life, the world can be "close to deterministic," according to the Fatum Project theory. "All things in the world are causally connected and everything that happens, including our thoughts, is usually determined by the sum of all environmental factors."

    Randonautica is an app that borrows from the Fatum Project's research to break away from the probability-tunnels our everyday choices create. Using a quantum number generator to send users to a set of mysterious coordinates, Randonautica has become a "fully functional reality-tunnel creating machine that digs rabbit holes to wonderland." Perhaps it sounds enchanting, but for some, the trip to wonderland can be unnervingly ominous.

    If you're not into quantum physics and philosophy, this may seem like a jumble of nonsense. Maybe you are into quantum physics and philosophy, but it still sounds like a jumble of nonsense. Either way, I'll offer a quick summary of what helped me make sense of some of the internet's "Randonauts" adventures and get to the fun (spooky) stuff.

    No matter what choices we make, there are simply some places we can never be because our chain of decisions will never lead us there. The app can measure different magnetic fields around you called voids, attractors, or a pseudo (more on those later). Meshing the physical energy, or lack of it, around you with the power of the human mind can show you something you would never have found otherwise.

    Many users of the app have generated trip reports saying they got what they wanted. Before beginning a trip, the app asks the user to "set an intention." Popular intents are somewhat mystical, like "adventure," "peaceful," or asking for some sign from the universe. A large portion of Randonauts say they were led to hidden waterfalls, lush greenery, or did indeed receive a message from the universe.

    My intention was "Glitch", kind of looking for a sign to know if the reality we live in is a simulation. Guess I found it. from r/randonauts

    More recently, though, the app's adventurous mix of technology and spirituality has taken on a somewhat sinister reputation after @ughhenry posted a video on TikTok of their coordinates leading to a suitcase on a beach with two dead bodies stuffed into it.


    Something traumatic happened that changed my life checkkkk 😐🥺 @natthecvt ##fyp ##viral ##crime ##murder ##randonautica ##randonauting ##scary ##washington

    ♬ Creepy, scary, horror, synth, tension – Sound Production Gin

    In a live stream after the video was posted, the TikToker reportedly said their intention was "travel" and had chosen an attractor to generate their quantum points. Attractors are areas with dense quantum points and have high human mind-matter interactions. When the video appeared on my TikTok For You Page, I thought the build-up would be anticlimactic. If anything, a hoax, but Seattle police confirmed the app had led the teens to a crime scene, according to Heavy.

    The Randonauts Reddit page has existed since March of 2019 and currently has 121,000 members. Since the viral video, Randonautica has gained a tremendous new following, many who have ditched the mystical for the macabre.

    In another unsettling video, a young woman's trip report shows her sobbing while explaining that her intention of "death" led her to a man who lay dying in his wife's arms after being shot by the side of the road.


    this just happened in aurora colorado. please do not go randonauting, you never know what you're going to come across. ##randonautica

    ♬ original sound – mykenarae

    One user says they went Randonauting on their daily walk and wanted to manifest "something depressing." Along the route they take every morning they suddenly found this:

    So I used to Randonautica app again this morning on my walk (same route i take every time), my intention was set on something "depressing". Half hour later I find this graffiti art piece on a wall I walk pass at least 4 times during my normal walk. I've never seen it before. from r/randonauts

    A group of friends asking for something creepy came across this worrisome find:

    Tried randonauting for the first time yesterday. Intent was "creepy"and "bag". Our coordinates landed in the woods behind an old farm where we found strange rock piles, tires, and a bag that contained about 20 different ids, credit cards and residency cards belonging to different women. Creepy bag?! from r/randonauts

    Initially, it would seem the ID cards belong to murder victims, but the Randonaut who discovered them decided they belonged to women using fake IDs as a way to immigrate.

    One user believes they came across something paranormal on a night drive to see something interesting. They say that they arrived at a house with a single red light bulb illuminating a tall figure staring at them from the end of the driveway. They say that since then, they have been receiving calls and voicemails from unknown numbers. The app asks that you do not go Randonauting at night.

    This Randonauter says they captured evidence of the paranormal (zoom into upper left window):

    Intention: ghost from r/randonauts

    Some Randonauts have less chilling supernatural finds. This couple asked for something "otherworldly" and arrived at a celestial underground scene:

    Set intention for "otherworldly" GPS took us to a point on a very busy street near our house. We heard faint, bizarre music and my boyfriend pointed out the bike path that ran under the road below us. Meandered down to find this! from r/randonauts

    This one found God:

    First Time – I was looking for God. Took me to the top of a hill overlooking the city and etched deeply in the dirt read "Jesus Christ is God" hahaha from r/randonauts

    Finally, some intentions manifest in the way a tricky genie would make your wish come true.

    This Randonaut had the intention of "safe," as in "safety," and was brought to a literal safe:

    Intention: safe (as in safety) – it brought me to a literal gd safe 😂 from r/randonauts

    This couple asked for Ariana Grande:

    My Intention: Ariana Grande from r/randonauts

    These examples are a tiny portion of the meaningful coincidences and strange happenings the Randonaut subreddit offers.

    However, with the increased appetite for the dark side of Randonauting, I've seen multiple stories about some eerie finds such as smashed phones, women's clothing strewn about, children's toys, and sometimes even bones. Another frequent occurrence is users saying the app led them somewhere a disturbing death previously took place. These findings are all in line with what the users said were their intentions.

    Some Randonauts are actively seeking something on the dark side, but even those who aren't may manifest something called a "despair meme". Randonautica defines it as "an idea, behavior, or style that spreads by means of imitation from person to person…." If a user only sees Randonauting negatively, their mind will take those connections and apply it to their own experiences with the app. This may contribute to the influx of unsettling trip reports.

    If you are still skeptical, well, why wouldn't you be? With the clout that comes with a good ole viral video, it makes sense that some users would put out a false narrative. For example, one video showed two young men who say the app led them up a narrow hillside where they could not turn around. When they get out of the truck, a small boulder comes hurtling down the hill to the road. After watching a second time, it became clear that there is a third person behind a tree, chucking the rock down. This post was one of the only ones I could find with others agreeing it was fake. Otherwise, many of the creepier posts have arguments in the comments between believers and skeptics.

    If Randonauting manages to break the user out of probability tunnels, chaos theory would say that the one small change can make the system behave entirely differently. The invitation to new possibilities coupled with any synchronicity the human mind could gather offers some validity to much of the Randonauts community trip reports.

    It seems to me that where you go Randonauting will also profoundly influence your results. I have tried about 26 times intending to find a stray dog I could adopt and call Chubba or Beef Wellington, but exploring suburban areas doesn't seem optimal for this. Maybe that was also a bit too specific, but I had hope after hearing stories of people finding their new pets with the app.

    To generate your trip, Randonautica asks you to choose a void, an attractor, or a pseudo. These types of points influence where you will go and what you will find. A void has a sparse number of quantum points, meaning it does not have much influence by human mind-matter interaction. According to Randonautica, "the more sparse the void, the stronger its power is, and the higher significance it has towards your intention." When I chose to venture towards a void, it would take me to places like Mulholland Drive or hiking trails.

    An attractor is the opposite of a void. When I chose trips to an attractor, I would end up at apartment complexes, homes, or other properties I couldn't go in.

    Pseudos are a truly random point that has you explore your blind spots. You are also able to choose what type of generator to use. Choosing ANU means a machine at the Australian National University generates numbers based on "fluctuations in the magnetic field of virtual particles in a vacuum." The temporal option provides random numbers generated by a CPU.

    I do believe that the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Falling down the Randonaut rabbit hole has opened my mind to an alternate thought process that is open to randomness and meaningful coincidences. Perhaps, that in itself invites an entirely new set of possibilities I would never have found otherwise.

    [Although the above paragraph was supposed to be my last, I had to send Boing Boing a new bit of last-minute information. After I last went Randonauting Wednesday morning, for my full-figured new pet, a friend reached out to ask if I could foster her Rottweiler, Helga. I said yes.]

    Image: @ughhenry / TikTok

  • These dessert fans scour Japan to showcase the best convenience store treats

    @parlor_sweets is a delectable Instagram account that curates pre-packaged desserts from konbini, or convenience stores, across Japan. American 7-Elevens aren't known for their assortment of sweet treats, save for a Slurpee on a hot summer day, which is why this enticing convenience store content lured us in.

    A gooey soufflé pancake melts onto crumbs waiting to collect the overflow.

    A cartoon cow rests on the froth of a creamy milk pudding that bounces as it's scooped.

    The thick middle of a glazed cookie cream puff feels glutinous to watch as it oozes from the rupture.

    The members of @parlor_sweets's curators — who call their group BAKE — are just as delightful as the desserts they share. Intrigued by the dizzying varieties of delectable treats, they document them through photos and videos on their Instagram account. We asked them to tell us more about their group, why they came together, and how their account "introduces the beauty of Japan overseas."

    Why convenience store desserts?

    In konbini, there are wide varieties of desserts at decent prices. Among other things, these desserts catch the most attention from foreign travelers. The packaging is well-designed to appeal to customers and some are co-directed by famous patissiers or brands. [For example], the cake that was collaborated with Godiva was absolutely superb in terms of both presentation and taste.

    How and why was BAKE started?

    We first met up through an online community and agreed to run a co-owned Instagram account. Since Tokyo had already been chosen to host the 2020 Olympics, we were hoping to introduce the beauty of Japan overseas. At that time, Iwashi happened to be eating a konbini dessert and proposed the idea to us. We intuitively knew that's what we had to do. Unfortunately, the Olympics have been postponed, but we hope our content is one reason to visit Japan.

    Do you actually try all the desserts you post?

    Sure! We all fight for the yummy desserts in my family. The cream puff that I posted the other day was my third one. They [my family] made it disappear twice very quickly. I've learned to set up a photo shoot as soon as I bring it back home.

    Which is your favorite?

    I would recommend them all because they are all my favorite, but above all, I love Mille Crepes.

    They are French cakes that were born in Japan. Crepes are layered with cream to form a layered cake. Not only that — it's creamy, moist and flavorful, with a delightful array of textures in each bite. It's an instagenic and mouth-watering dessert, even to the followers.

    I'd also recommend Demon Slayer.

    This was sold as a limited edition in Japan with a special collaboration with Demon Slayer. It's so popular now in Japan. I got lucky to be able to get my hands on this. One of my buddies in our team hopped around the countless konbini and had no luck. People have gone crazy for it and they swept it all up from every store on the very first day.

    Also, dorayaki and pound cake were popular among our followers.

    Which is the worst and why?

    They were all so good, but I struggled the most with Daifuku.

    It was hard to make it look appealing. Mochi (the outer part) is sticky and not easy to cut sharp. I wasn't happy with the photo shoot, so I kept going back to the store. [I bought] the same item so many times that the worker there gave me the great advice to buy more at a time. Hope you like that post.

    Finally, introduce yourselves!

    Hiroto/ account manager:
    Male, 42 years old, living in Tokyo.
    Originally not being a big fan of sweets but having this account opened my eyes for dessert. I'm horrified to know my weight every morning.

    Female, 37 years old, living in Ibaraki Prefecture.
    Currently with a big bump called baby. When she eats konbini dessert the baby shows happiness with a kick. Running this account for her is a "sweet" education for a baby. Just hoping that the baby doesn't get stuck in there at birth.

    Male, 35 years old, living in Hyogo Prefecture.
    He has generally admitted to being a big sweets lover, whether it's western or Japanese dessert.
    His issue is that his photo shooting skills really suck. He had to redo his photo shooting, buy more sweets, eat them all and repeat. His weight is on the rise along with this project.

    Mr. King:
    Male, 37 years old, living in Kanagawa Prefecture.
    The only issue he has is that he's not allowed to eat sweets for a health reason. All he does is complain and drool when he watches. I think he needs a bib.

    Top image: Instagram: @parlor_sweets

  • After Larry David's spite goes up in flames, along comes the Ember smart mug

    Have you ever been let down by a business you frequent? Have you ever patronized an establishment and thought, "Man, who's running this place? A pack of teacup chihuahua's in a person suit?" That feeling of betrayal inspired Curb Your Enthusiasm's character Larry David to open up his very first spite store, Latte Larry's.

    The spite began when Mocha Joe, the owner of Mocha Joe's, served Mr. David a cup of coffee that became too cool, too fast. The disagreement over proper beverage temperature motivated Mr. David to invent his shop's signature self-heating mug. Located right next to Mocha Joe's, Latte Larry's goal was to ensure that not a single customer's cup of joe goes cold.

    However, Mr. David was unable to revel in the contemptuous victory, for where he goes fiasco follows. His invention ended up in flames, reducing both Mocha Joe's and Latte Larry's to ashes. Mr. David blames the accident on an employee's rogue appendage.

    While Mr. David is under investigation, a real-life version of the mugs, ironically called the Ember, has topped Science Focus Magazine's list of the coolest gadgets for 2020. This iteration of the self-heating mug connects to your smartphone and will keep your beverage at the temperature of your choice for 1.5 hours. If you can stomach the scorching $99.95 price, check out Ember, along with 46 other new pieces of tech, here.

    If you plan to avenge your enemies, please be cautious not to take yourself down with them.

  • 2020 is seeing an "epidemic" in transgender and gender non-conforming murders

    This year, the Human Rights Campaign has recorded at least 21 violent deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people. In 2019, they tracked at least 27. In what is being called an "epidemic," 2020 is likely to see more fatal attacks than in 2019.

    The Human Rights Campaign says "at least" because "too often these stories go unreported — or misreported."

    The month of June brought celebrations of LGBTQ+ Pride that often intersected with the Black Lives Matter protests.

    Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for HRC's Trans Justice Initiative, said, "In just four days, we have seen the deaths of at least three transgender and gender non-conforming people […] This horrific spike in violence against our community must be an urgent call to action for every single person in this nation," in response to the July 1 killing of 32-year-old Shaki Peters.

    On July 3, 27-year-old Bree Black was killed in Pompano Beach, Florida, making her the fourth Black transgender woman to be murdered in eight days.

    Transgender women of color, particularly Black transgender women, are disproportionately victimized. Eight out of the 21 reported murders this year have been Black transgender women.

    Another alarming trend on the Human Rights Campaign's list of lives lost is that at least five of the killings occurred in Puerto Rico. No other states appear on the list more than once, with the exceptions of Texas and Florida, which both appear twice.

    This is not only a murder epidemic.

    In May, Kristian Rouse, an 18-year-old Black transgender male, was found by his mother and sister severely beaten in their apartment. His mother is sure it was a hate crime because he was found with his breasts exposed, which would be a "humiliating thing for a transgender male." Rouse spent four weeks in the ICU. He is still unable to speak due to a buildup of scar tissue in his throat.

    In June, a viral video showed 21-year-old Iyanna Dior, a transgender woman, being beaten inside and outside of a convenience store in St. Paul Minnesota. Late one night, Dior was moving a friend's car when she hit several other cars in the process. When one of the car's owners demanded she pay with cash that she did not have, she fled the scene out of fear. She asked the owners of a nearby convenience store to call the police for her, but they declined.

    The U.S. has seen powerful civil rights movements catch fire since the killing of George Floyd. The voices of historically marginalized and oppressed peoples are being heard and supported in ways never seen before. The institutions the U.S. has functioned on since its inception are collapsing and decaying, making growth and rebirth possible.

    Reports that at least seven Black transgender women have been murdered since the beginning of Pride Month are a tragic sign that the fight must rage on.

    The Human Rights Campaign has compiled a thorough report called "Dismantling a Culture Of Violence" to demonstrate the conditions that create "a culture of violence."
    It states that anti-transgender stigma can lead to environments that prevent a trans person's full participation in society. These conditions can include homelessness, employment discrimination, exclusion from health care services, and more.

    The report is especially informative for allies who may be unsure how to fight for transgender protection and inclusion.

    Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign, recently told The Daily Beast, "If we had every person who is supportive theoretically of LGBTQ issues actively engage we can change the political and social landscape so that LGBTQ people are protected moving forward." He then added, "I don't think we have enough people engaged in this fight."

    Image: ConstructionDealMkting / Flickr

  • Drive-In Raves bring back large-scale live music events

    With the cancelation of live events for the foreseeable future, the rave community has been facing serious withdrawals. No hypnotizing light shows to get lost in, no desert playground to run around in, and no trading kandi with strangers.

    In an attempt to comfort the EDM community, famous event organizer Insomniac, whose festivals include the Electric Daisy Carnival, has been hosting virtual raves.

    But, it may have done little to soothe a raver's EDM heart.

    Ravers aching to get back into the scene pulled up to Insomniac and Restless Beats' "Park 'N Rave" event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports in Chandler, Arizona on June 26 and 27.

    In a way, this socially distanced version of raving seems more luxurious than it is traditionally. One guest described her experience on edmmaniac.com saying,

    "Our personal dance floor was ample space for us to set up our viewing station. We were allowed to bring our own lawn chairs, blow up couches, air beds, and beer pong tables. As a grandma raver, being able to chill from time to time between sets without leaving my group or having to walk away from the stage was awesome. Guests were also encouraged to bring decorations, so many personalized their space with tapestries, flowers, Christmas lights, totems, and flags that made it feel like a camping festival. There was so much space for flow arts! I saw so many hoopers, levi wanders, glovers, and staffers doing their thing without being afraid to run into people!

    Being able to bring our own food and alcohol was a real game changer! We saved SOO much money on drinks. And what's great is that if you needed any other food, it would be delivered to your car. We forgot ice, and they brought us a huge bag which saved us! They even delivered merch right to your spot. Without a doubt, the lineup was fantastic. The crew of Lick, Drezo, Wooli, and Seven Lions filled the void in my heart that missed live music."

    The rave community is a notoriously friendly one. Many look forward to making new friends and dancing with strangers at these events. Unfortunately, until there is a vaccine ravers will be confined to their quarantine bubble.

    Another drawback might be that it is not the massive production that ravers are used too. Typically, thousands stand shoulder to shoulder, crammed in between metal railings to look up at a sprawling screen of trippy visuals. At a Park' N Rave, the audience will not be able to get lost in the warm wave of bodies and lights.

    So you won't be getting whipped by someone's pigtails as they headbang in front of you and you won't be pushed out of the way by rave trains fighting their way to the front of the stage. But, still, it seems that Park 'N Raves carry the same enchanting and electric energy that keeps ravers spellbound.

    Image: YouTube

  • Why Native Americans are protesting Trump's celebration at Mount Rushmore

    In another controversial decision, President Trump is celebrating the fourth of July with a fiery display atop South Dakota's Mount Rushmore. The decision may seem troublesome to anyone worried about things such as the uncontained coronavirus or shooting explosives off the top of a forest. But it is most certainly troublesome for the native Lakota people, who's sacred Black Hills were desecrated for the purpose of the monument.

    On a cross country road trip, I recently drove through South Dakota and spent a day exploring the Black Hills. The drive from Mount Rushmore to the Lakota's Crazy Horse memorial was a discouraging perpetuation of the white supremacy this country was built off of. During the 17-mile ride, I saw Trump 2020 lawn signs spread throughout the hills. At the base of the road that leads to the Crazy Horse memorial is a wild west themed tourist stop for food and souvenirs. On a street corner nearby, a man dedicated his makeshift booth to selling Trump 2020 t-shirts in every color.

    From a non-native perspective, it struck me as an unsettling display of ignorance towards true American history. I can only imagine how upsetting it might be for an Oglala Lakota Native living in a place that does not seem to acknowledge you or your history.

    The Oglala speakers I heard from at the memorial said nothing about the president and his impact. However, they did speak about the bloody history of the Black Hills and how it affects them to this day.
    In the video above, Simon Moya-Smith, a citizen of the Oglala Lakota nation, explains the conflict and why Native Americans are protesting Trump's celebration today. Seventy years have passed and the Crazy Horse Memorial is still struggling to be completed. If you are able to and would like to make donations towards it's completion, click here. — Maddie Lee