Posted in Uncategorized

I Won’t Give Up On #JaymeCloss

Jayme Closs is 13 years old. She is missing and she’s in extreme danger.

Five days ago, police in Barron County, WI received a 911 call from the Closs residence. The caller didn’t talk to the dispatcher. Within four minutes, police arrived to discover James Closs (56) and his wife Denise Closs (46) murdered in their home.

Barron County Sheriff’s office issued an Amber Alert for Jayme Closs some hours later. Due to the fact that a suspect and a vehicle were not identified, it was a delayed release.

But something happened after the alert went out with this particular photo.

People began to demonize Jayme immediately.

In the first 24 hours, instead of helping to share information, social media decided that they had already decided who the murderer was.

Conspiracy theories even began about the picture itself.

However the truth was far more mundane. The first publicly available picture for the police was Jayme’s Facebook profile picture.

While it’s not the best angle, it’s all that was available at the time. The rest of Jayme’s public photos on her timeline were too old, with Jayme looking more rounder faced and shorter than her now five foot self.

Usually in kidnapping situations, the parents are the first to give photos of their missing child to police. Since that couldn’t happen with this case, police ran with the most recent photo available to them. Later on, other family members gave different photos, much more clear and less strange looking.

But the narrative of her as murderer was already locked in place, especially on Twitter where True Crime fans love to spread “theories,” even at times encouraged by news media personalities.

As most people are probably aware, the first 24-48 hours of a missing persons case is critical. Police rely upon this unspoken and necessary trust with the public that when an amber alert is released that people will be looking for said missing person.

Despite Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald stating repeatedly into the void, “She’s not a suspect,” over and over again, the news sensationalized it and the speculations continued.

Thanks to Twitter users liking and responding to the speculations, many of those hit trending pages, cluttering up the feeds with wild theories.

And thanks to that, a lot of misinformation made its rounds.

Many news outlets latched onto the Miami lead, spreading that misinformation like wild fire. After it was deemed not credible, that Jayme was in fact still missing, it has been over 48 hours before that got cleared up.

Paul Blaume, a reporter for Fox9, tried his best throughout the whole case to continually give factual as well as credible details. He also was one of the few voices humanizing Jayme online.

The case of Jayme Closs is terrifying and heartbreaking. Someone shot through the door, killed her parents, and then took her by gunpoint.

And in addition to that horror, social media failed her. Speculation and sensationalism ruled over facts. Deemed a villain, Jayme wasn’t looked for properly, and the window to find her alive has drastically narrowed.

Over 400 tips were called into the hot line provided by Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, but none of those leads panned out. Now on day 5, it’s over 800 tips, but still no leads. FBI has expanded its search nationwide.

Yesterday, the ground searches finally began.

Over a hundred volunteers searched along Highway 8 for evidence. That means the police have credible suspicion that someone might have thrown evidence along the road, so someone might have fled from the crime scene in that general direction.

Yet, still no leads and speculation only increases with each passing hour. Finding her alive means that the narrative of Jayme Closs must change. Usually, parents are the ones who tell people about their missing children and plead for their safe return.

The plea that should exist for Jayme Closs should go something like this:

Jayme is a sweet, shy thirteen year old girl. She loves to dance every chance she gets. She loves to spend time with friends. She has dreams of being a dancer when she grows up. Her family is grieving tremendously. They’ve lost two very loved people, and the thought of losing Jayme too is too much to bear. So if you have Jayme, let her go. Give her back to her family. Drop her off at a hospital, fire station, or somewhere else safe where she can be found. Please don’t harm her. She’s just a child.

Instead of vitriol and villianizing, people should be sharing her image along with the tipline 1-855-744-3879. Talk about her as of she’s the child endangered as the police do.

Speculation isn’t going to save Jayme’s life. Actually, it might have devastated her chances of being found. Going into day five with no leads paints a grim picture for investigators.

I’ve started a rather long Twitter thread that I’ve added to as updates occur. I’m not giving up on Jayme, because I feel like so many other people have. The local county and police haven’t, but a rather large part of the nation’s population has, and that’s heartbreaking to me.

Jayme Closs is a victim, not a suspect. Let’s try to find her before it’s too late.

Updates:

It’s day 13, and a few holes are filled into the story.

Jayme’s family – her aunt Jennifer and another relative – came out to say they’ll “never stop looking” for her. With them was the Closs tiny family dog left behind at the crime scene.

Which now makes sense as to why law enforcement believe that Jayme should still be alive. Someone shot open the door, killed the parents, but not the dog. Whoever took Jayme has a semblance of a conscience.

The Barron County Sheriff’s Office and the Milwaukee FBI both seem to think that whoever broke completely intended to take Jayme with them.

The Sheriff Fitzgerald also released vehicles of interest to the case.

Over 2,000 volunteers helped to comb the area around the Closs house, and over 2,000 tips have been called in and 1,200 tips have been closed.

Rumors and speculations still abound on the Internet. A lot of people still live the secret boyfriend theory, even though the FBI have combed through her social media by this point. Both the Sheriff and the FBI have stated that if there was a person of interest or a suspect that information would be released.

As it stands, nothing.

At this point, the investigators will shift through forensics over and over again to see what they’ve missed. Tips will get called in and throughly vetted. With any luck, someone like you will see Jayme and call 911.

Any information of direct knowledge about Jayme’s location is worth $50,000.

Do you know someone acting suspicious?

Odds are Jayme was taken by someone she knows. They’re probably someone in the community, probably someone who is a loner, and has a history of petty theft or burglary. Oddly enough, this person probably has no history of sexual misconduct or murder.

Here is where people would say that’s speculation, but it’s actually based off FBI behavioral analysis of residential kidnappings.

Now, someone who kills and kidnaps while also having a shred of empathy (i.e. not killing Jayme or the dog) won’t be unaffected by those actions. They will be stressed, act out, react to the news either explosively or not at all. Think extreme reactions completely out of character for this person.

The FBI behavioral analysis paints the usual suspects as male, white, 30’s – 40’s, with no family or really close friends. They may have had sexual deviant tendencies but never acted on them before.

A female residential kidnapper usually kidnaps children as surrogates for the children they lack or have lost. With Jayme doing dance, it’s possible that someone was able to get close by being a female that the troupe and kids could trust. That being said, female residential kidnappers tend to take babies, not 13 year olds.

Either way, if you know someone in the Barron County area who isn’t acting like themselves, is a bit too interested in the Jayme Closs investigation, knew her and her family, and something doesn’t seem right, call it in.

Jayme Closs is in danger and we need to find her.

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Posted in Uncategorized

We Don’t Talk Anymore

Sometimes I go through old diaries and wish I could go back in time to hug myself. A lot of people have this bitter self-hatred of their teen and young adult selves, but I don’t. I wish I could give my past self a hug and tell her everything is going to be OK.

I found a snippet in there about my father and it was jarring to say the least. See, we don’t talk anymore. Why? Oh boy, where to start.

When I came to Japan in my first year, it was the “honeymoon” period. I was all about having the best time I could in Japan, and I did. I traveled every chance I got, went on these crazy adventures with JET Programme people in Ibaraki, which made for some great memories.

My mom and brother kept in contact with me via Skype and Facebook. We would call on the Skype phone or vid call. My brother actually helped me get miles so I could come home for Christmas!

But, well, complete radio silence from Dad.

I tried to call him once. I called, he picked up the phone, and I got maybe 5 minutes of conversation before he started complaining about how expensive the call was going to be. I don’t remember saying goodbye, just hearing the click of the line dropped. I cried my eyes out for the better part of an hour after.

I didn’t try that again.

I figured he’d call me, or maybe my step-mom would get in touch via Facebook for him. Right? Not so much. My brother actually worked as the go between for that year, helping to finalize plans and everything.

I wrote that diary entry above in 2012. I was beginning to hit a really important but kind of traumatizing realization that I couldn’t live with him as a shadow figure in my life anymore. He couldn’t care about me unless I was right in front of him, and even then, only if a football or basketball game wasn’t on.

As a child of divorce, he had weekends he could visit, but he often didn’t/couldn’t come. I remember waiting by my grandmother whenever the phone rang at her house. I remember one time I stood there and didn’t move, because I wanted to just pretend I was still waiting, or maybe he’d call back and change his mind.

Basically, I spent a very disproportionate amount of time in my life just waiting for him to show up, and he didn’t.

It’s a stereotypical story, I know, divorced kid with an abandonment complex, but the pain of it was still valid. He tried to make up for it with things, like a car on my sixteenth birthday- a Ford two-seater with a sliver of a backseat that I drove until the transmission got wonky- and a week long vacation on the Alabama coast in my senior year. Grand gestures, like he was trying, you know?

However, I knew he wasn’t paying child support for years, same for medical bills. Mom and student loans put me through college, although he would occasionally send grocery money here, emergency money there. He was inconsistent with how he wanted to care about his children, like my brother and I were two things that were on the list of things to cross off, but it depended on the season.

Christmas of 2012 was a roller-coaster ride. I was running around from city to city, trying to see as much of my family and friend groups as I could in a short time. I stayed with my dad for a bit and he got me on the plane to Japan. I thought it was all good.

Then 2013 rolled around.

I decided to just wait and see. Surely, I thought, surely he’ll send a message at some point. I left him with all my information, he can do it. Or maybe step-mom?

No birthday, no Thanksgiving, and no Christmas message.

Months into 2014, I don’t know when exactly, but my step-mother (bless her) tried to ask me about when I was coming back for a visit… And I went off.

I said some very awful things to her. Some of them I didn’t mean, and I was largely unfair to her. If I could regain contact, I think I’d apologize mostly to her. She didn’t deserve to get the emotional pent up frustration and rage I felt towards him.

And he messaged back through her account. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember reading through it and thinking to myself, “I can’t do this anymore.” It addressed nothing, didn’t even attempt to form understanding about where the anger came from, it was just…uncaring.

So I blocked him.

Ever since then, I’ve felt oddly freed. I’m not waiting around for him to acknowledge I exist anymore, and I’m not wounding myself by expecting some kind of love that’s never coming. Instead, I’m learning to love myself with the family and friends that do love me.

Maybe one day we can talk again, but I’m not going to open that door. Past me didn’t deserve to have her heart broken like that for so long. Maybe when my heart is a little bit stronger and I’m a little wiser…until then, I guess.

Posted in YouTube Videos

If You Wanna Get Caught Up…

So I’ve been vlogging a little bit more than usual, and my channel has been growing a little bit.

Basically in this video, I talk about how unhappy I was with the old way I was doing things and revamping the ideas on the channel.

Actually managed to do a semi-daily thing for a week, just talking about different things as they happened in my life.

And here we have the BEST THING I’VE EVER BOUGHT AS AN ADULT WITH MY OWN MONEY!!!

Ranting about the rainy weather and typhoons. Hahaahahaha, little did I know that I would have 5 more after that. 

Hello other typhoon, how are you? Man, these past couple of months had some brutal weather. Really, really tired of rain at this point.

Eating things I shouldn’t, also Mondays are cursed.

This one got the most views and hate. A LOT of people came out to defend Japan, which is normal. A lot of times whenever you talk critically about Japan, you’ll have tons of people try to tell you how wrong you are about the racism in the country. And most of those people DON’T ACTUALLY LIVE IN JAPAN, so it’s super frustrating. Somehow this little thing accumulated over 1,000 views, I guess because it was a hot topic at the time. Oh well, opinion unchanged (actually Japanese media is already proving me right in some instances, but what can you do?).

Anyways, hope that gets you caught up!

Posted in Uncategorized

Dear (Adult) Eikaiwa Students…

I understand that you want to improve your English for various reasons. You’re really, really trying hard, you think. You’re going to a class once (maybe twice) a week, you’re reviewing the material, but somehow you’re just not improving.

You’ll see other eikaiwa students in the lobby chatting it up with the English teachers, and you’ll wonder, “How come they’re better than me? Is it the teacher? Is it their methods?” And I might have a couple of answers for you.

If you’re having trouble in eikaiwa maybe…

You should increase your study time.

A class or two a week is not enough, not even nearly enough. When I was in the JET Programme, we were shown graphs and charts from various studies around the world. On average, you need at least two hours a week of studying to remember the material. If you want to improve in dramatic fashion, you need three to four hours a week for results.

Many eikaiwa students make the mistake of thinking that one class a week will magically make them better at English, but that’s just not possible. Languages for the average person means developing multiple skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. It means you can’t just expect a “fast food English” approach and expect grand results. I’m sorry, that’s just not how it works. In addition to that…

You might need a group class. 

A lot of Japanese students are under the impression that a private class is better because you’ll get more time with a teacher. While that is an advantage if you’re studying for a specific exam or have business related things to improve. However, for general conversation things, it would actually be better to have a group class.

Speaking with one person for forty five minutes to an hour (depending on the company) means you’re only speaking to one person. Yes, it’s a native person, but then you’re limiting yourself to that teacher only for your listening and verbal skills. With other people, you’ll have different experiences, backgrounds, and ideas. With other people you can learn from them, basically, and even learn from their mistakes.

Think about naturally learning Japanese, you didn’t do it with one teacher or one parent. You talked with all different kinds of people in different situations. That’s how languages work, you need to have a variety of different people in order to gain more conversation skills.

It also helps that in a group class you’ll make friends. When you have people you enjoy hanging out with in a group class, you’re more likely to show up to class regularly. Private students often drop classes halfway through a course because, well, their teacher is a teacher. A teacher might become your friend, but that’s often not the case. With a group class you’ll have people you can get to know, and maybe even hang out with after class, possibly even study together. Emotional investment isn’t something to ignore.

And we finally come to…

You need to set realistic goals. 

Many students at eikaiwa set themselves up to fail. Often times the expectations are something along the lines of, “Oh! If I go to class every day, once a week, for a year, I’ll be fluent!” But that’s not a realistic goal. Fluency is complicated, and usually requires years of practice and study.

Fluency would also be better acquired, honestly, in an English speaking country. In Japan where 99% of your interactions daily will be in Japanese, expecting to become fluent in one year through an eikaiwa alone is just setting yourself up to fail.

Now, there will be people who will say, “I became fluent in one year!” online. That’s probably because they devoted themselves to that language daily for hours and possibly lived in the country of the language’s origin. It is possible, but not through one class a week.

Also, expecting one class once a week to make you fluent is putting an unrealistic expectation on the teacher. Believe it or not, your teacher’s job is not to make you speak perfect English, our job is to make you communicate effectively in English. What does that mean? It means we want you to speak and then be understood.

We don’t want you to speak like the Queen of England, we just want you to be able to use the language in a way where in a conversation you send a message with words, and the person listening to you gets that message. Yes, vocabulary and grammar are important, but the core focus in our classes is communication, not tests.

In short, set yourself goals that are reachable within a year. It can be as simple as, “I will be able to travel in English.” That’s usually a basic level, asking for how much something is or where a place is. Or maybe a goal like, “I will be able to help foreigners around town.” If you’re a beginner, try to go with goals that meet that level. If you’re higher level, maybe keep an English journal for a year.

And those are just a few things I wanted to bring to your attention. I don’t expect you to maybe understand this post well, and perhaps this advice isn’t that helpful for you. Still, I hope perhaps you’ll take these points under consideration as you study.

Keep up the good work, you’ll get there!

 

Posted in LGBTQ in Japan

Upcoming Shows in Tokyo!

Hey all! So I know what you’re thinking. I’ve been M.I.A. and not really posting much. Well, that’s because I kind of got involved with a few more performance projects. Yay!

Kings of Tokyo Show Flyer.jpg

The first up is a premiere show. The Kings of Tokyo・東京王 is the first all Drag Kings performance troupe. We’re going to be having our first show very soon, on August 11th!

Venue: Shinjuku Gyoen Sound
When: August 11th, Show Starts @8:00 p.m.
Entry Charge: 2,000 yen + 1 Drink Order = ~2,500 yen.

But also! Tokyo Closet Ball will have a performance too. The theme for the night is “Dreams and Memories” so expect something amazing and magical.

36269325_1560302864081941_1524687255204003840_o.jpg

Venue: Gyoen Rosso 198
When: September 1st, Show Stars @8:00 p.m.
Entry: 2,000 yen + 1 drink order = ~2,500 yen.

Both venues and shows are LGBTQIA+ welcoming! If you want to have a fun time with some gender subversive entertainment, check out these two shows. Thanks!

Posted in cultural differences, Teaching Things

On Making Sick Kids Go to Class

If I was ever to do a “Ten Things I Hate About Japan” video, for the most part I would just spend 8 out of those 10 things complaining about the summer and the summer heat. #1: The fucking humidity, #2: The fucking heat  #3: THE HELLFIRE COMBINATION OF THEM BOTH-!

I’d figure it out. But until then, I do know one particular aspect of Japan that drives me up the wall: forcing sick kids to go to school / class.

One my students today came in- let’s call him Nashi – coughing up a lung before he even walked in the door.

“Hey, are you ok?” I asked him in English.

He responded with, “I have kaze.

Kaze is Japanese for “a cold.”

I sighed and let him in. Nashi coughed and coughed throughout the whole class. He could hardly breathe. Every single time he tried to talk he would have a fit. On top of that, his twin sister – let’s call her Natsu – was in the beginning stages of his sickness getting passed to her. Both of them proceeded to spend most of that class time DYING from coughing and coughing and coughing.

For some reason their mom prepped Natsu with a water bottle, but Nashi got nothing! I actually stopped the class about ten minutes in to grab some water for him so he could at least attempt to get through class without coughing his voice raw.

This is a class of four students, so that meant 50% of my class was sick. Because I’ve been in very similar situations before, I’m predicting the other two kids are gonna get sick. Both of them will still come to class. Fast forward to three weeks later, and I’ll be sick.

As Nashi and Natsu left I asked them, “Where is your mom?”

“Oh,” Nashi said as he sipped on the water I gave him, “she’s at home. She’s making dinner.”

And I couldn’t help it, I got a bit judgmental. So a stay at home mother just forced her sick kids into a closed in space with me and two other much younger kids? And she also forced them to go to school? I didn’t say anything, I just gave them stickers, told them to take care, and off they went.

This aspect of Japanese culture is perhaps the one aspect I cannot tolerate very well. In the United States, if a kid has a fever, they stay the hell home. At least in my generation, anyway. We don’t force kids to fight through fevers and coughing to show up to class miserable. I’ve heard that nowadays some schools have ridiculous absentee rules, but back in my day (she said like a granny) the kids stayed home to get better and then come back to school healthy. This way the germs didn’t spread around to half the school population and take out the whole class with a sickness.

In Japan, if you’re still able to lift your head and not pass out, you’re going to school. Even with fevers, I saw my high school kids come into my classroom with glazed over eyes and obvious red cheeks that signify “I am super sick, yo, someone take me home!” But they would only maybe go to the nurse’s office to sleep for an hour and then right back into the next class!

Technically, if you have a fever of over 40 degrees Celsius you should go home, but I’ve seen kids be throwing up with no temperature to match. It’s crazy to me that at so young an age kids are already being trained to kill themselves for the sake of school and then work. Health should take priority over one day of school, right?

I don’t know, maybe I am “too American” in this mindset, but I feel like science would also support my idea? Stress is considered a strong factor in keeping a sickness lasting longer than it normally would. Wounds are shown to heal slower if someone is stressed versus staying in bed. Not to mention that Japan already has a problem with stressing their children into becoming hikikomori – wherein a person wants to stay inside and never leave their house due to overwhelming anxiety.

In addition to all that, making children go to classes and school while sick is actually the opposite of the collectivist outward thinking of other people that Japan usually prides itself on.  The sickness will always spread to another person, regardless of face masks being used or not. Whether it’s the student in class or the teacher or someone on the street/in the train/on the bus, you get the idea.

So really, forcing them to go to class doesn’t really help anyone. It doesn’t help the kids, it just keeps them sicker for longer. The sickness always spreads to other kids, and to teachers. Therefore, it’s not helpful, it’s detrimental in every conceivable way.

The only argument “for it” bothers me. “Well, when they grow up, they’ll have to go to work sick too!”

But once again, science kind of says otherwise. Until you’re about 18-21 years old, your immune system isn’t developed enough to handle viruses like a fully grown adult’s body. That’s why we need kids vaccinated for the flu: they can literally DIE from strands of that yearly virus, unlike a healthy adult that can bounce back from it.

Demanding that children perform to the same expectations as an adult seems a bit of a ridiculously impossible expectation. Kids’ bodies just are not developed enough to handle the bombardment of illnesses and stress all at once.

I don’t really have any solutions to give here, I’m just a foreigner with an outsider perspective, but I worry, I really worry about my kids. Be they Nashi and Natsu who are only nine years old with colds to my high school teens with obvious flu-like symptoms, I worry about what kind of message they are learning from being forced into class and school with a sickness.

Because perhaps the thing that bother me the most is the underlying message, that your well being doesn’t matter as much as what you’re supposed to accomplish. Sacrificing your health, your wellness, your mental strength, all for the sake of…what? What does it really do for kids but set them up to feel like their wellness and health don’t matter? Not in comparison to the things they’re supposed to get done. Tests, exams, tests, exams, studying, studying, studying, all for the sake of the exams!

I don’t know, it just seems like prioritizing exams and tests over kids health is such a bad way to go all around. Once again, I’m coming from a different generation and from another country, so maybe I’m wrong. Still, I think it’s not just a cultural difference at play, there’s also a kind of cultural dissonance too. I’m sure that the kids will be alright, but I worry what it does to them.

After all, I’m a teacher, that’s kind of part of my job.