Friday, June 20, 2003

June 20

The World Cup was one year ago here but you would've thought it had never ended. David Beckham and his wife, Posh Spice, swept into Tokyo with all of the fanfare of a mix of rock star/head of state (I believe David is a soccer player of some merit). Hundreds of mostly rabid female fans at Narita Airport on Wednesday afternoon had their camera-laden cellphones thrust up into the air like technological Excaliburs to get a shot of their lord and master. Considering that David and Posh breezed through the gate and into the elevator inside of 15 seconds, a lot of people were left disappointed.
His timing in arriving in Japan was a godsend for the local media and, of course, for him since it was during the flight that it was announced that Beckham was dealt to Real Madrid from Manchester United.
If the Beckhams are thinking of running for public office after David's eventual retirement from the game, they are certainly getting a lot of practice at being heads of state right now. There was a reception for them last night with a lot of the Tokyo glitterati in attendance. And today, while the missus took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony of a posh new store in the posh neighbourhood of Minami-Aoyama, the hubby held a press conference at 11 with 300 journalists in the room. The piece de resistance of this event was having Becks unveil a 3-metre likeness of himself all done up in delicious milk chocolate.
Then, Becks continued his state tour with a visit to an elementary school near Ginza in which a whole bunch of kids were there to hear his pearls of advice. He took some questions from the kids (which were no worse than some of the inane questions asked at the press conference) and kicked a few balls from the soccer team for promotional purposes. Again, tons of media were on hand to capture the event live and a lot of office workers desceded upon the schoolyard en masse.
At this time, he is currently doing interviews at Fuji-TV where he was seen handing out presents of chocolate-covered almonds to his hosts. I'd say at this rate, the Japanese would be more than happy to vote Beckham as the new PM of Great Britain. Certainly, he's a whole lot more popular than the current guy.

On more mundane matters, I've finished off another week as a part-timer. Happy to see that I've been a pretty good boy with my budget. I've been far more successful with my financial diet than with my physical one. I couldn't believe how much less I spent on hobbies this past week. I hope this plan of austerity reaps some dividends for me by the time the next paycheck comes in. Also, the life itself isn't too bad. The extra time has given me more sleep and less stress (although my back is still not too good). And I may be picking up yet another former student of mine as a private.
Also, I managed to catch up with a couple of old movies. One was the Audrey Hepburn suspense, "Wait Until Dark". I'm a bit surprised with that one since here in Japan, Audrey Hepburn's career only goes as far as "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and the suspense was a post-Tiffany release. To the locals, Audrey will always be the young gamine of the 50s and only that. As a suspense, it was an interesting concept of having a blind person fend off three criminals, and I could see how the Jodie Foster movie "The Panic Room" may have gotten some inspiration from it.

The other flick was one that I'd seen before, "The Caine Mutiny", Humphrey Bogart's last great movie before his death. It was also an interesting one to see certain actors cast against type, notably Bogie's role as the mentally crushed Captain Queeg. Then there was also Fred MacMurray (from My Three Sons) as the cowardly and treacherous Mr. Keefer. I'd say that the movie was ahead of its time in terms of plot direction. If it had been a conventional flick from the 50s, Queeg would've been revealed as a straight nutso villain, and the crew as the heroes...end of story. Instead, we got the "Gotcha" ending when the victorious yet spiteful defense lawyer, Lt. Greenwald, drunkenly castigates the celebrating crew on being just as guilty for not helping Queeg when he had asked for help. Certainly a sobering way to finish a Best Movie nominee that showed Queeg in a more complex light.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

June 17

Kinda nice double-whammy day. First I find out that my buddy had given me a 10,000-yen bill yesterday not just to cover his expenses with me giving the rest back to him, but in fact, he gave me the whole amount as a partial advance for my potential new student. Then I started getting some compliments from various students about my slow but steady slimming.

Well, my social calendar is starting to fill up which is fine for me, but a bit worrying too considering that I'm not making all that much money. Luckily, I've been able to maintain a good budget so far.

Some more TV reminiscing. Lately, I've been catching reruns of that ol' chestnut, Perry Mason, every weekday morning on the satellite Super Channel. It was definitely a product of its times: virtually all Caucasians, Perry always won and didn't have a single problem (outside of obvious weight gain and smoking...but then again, I did say that it was a product of its times) and the usual overwrought, hackneyed acting.
However, in this age of moral ambiguity and depressingly human antiheroes, it is kinda nice to turn back the clock to a more innocent (or naive) time. Perry Mason was notable for the stolidness of (Canadian...yeah!) Raymond Burr in the lead role, and his tete-a-tete with Hamilton Burger. Also, just the overall film noir quality and that famous theme song gave the show that touch of class. I just came off from the always fun "Jump The Shark" website where I found out that the show had quite a fair share of diehard fans and sneering detractors. But the big shock for me was finding out that the actor who had played the craggy DA Burger, William Tallman, was kicked off the show for smoking pot at a nudist colony. Gah...get that image away from my mind!
I did catch a special episode this morning, the supposed one of only two times that Mason had ever been seen losing a case (well, actually, he later proved that the defendant was indeed innocent). Of course, the director played it up to the hilt. It actually started with the darkened courtroom just before the "shocking" verdict came in.

More on the old faces bandwagon. Last night, I caught a Biography of Burt Bacharach. I recall vaguely having watched some of his TV specials. I have to forgive him for writing "What's New, Pussycat?", but pretty much the rest are classics. I actually got to listen to that burned CD of the Elvis Costello/Bacharach collaboration of a few years ago. To be honest, I'm gonna have to let it grow on me. I didn't hear a single tune that really got my attention.

Finally, I have to say that my back is slowly coming back to normal, thanks to Aspirin and those heating pads. Man, I will really have to be careful.

Monday, June 16, 2003

June 16

There's nothing that ages a person more than a bad back. Well, I got aged more than a good side of beef over the last few days. My lumbar has been feeling knifed which has made any sort of attempt to stand up or even absorb the inevitable shaking on a subway an exercise in pain. I'm not a religious person by any means but I would be willing to give tribute to the Aspirin God today thanks to the wonderful quick-acting efficiency of pain relief. I'll be going to the next step of a hot shower and then a heating pad.

Today, I also got to add a new restaurant to my repertoire of Tokyo eateries when a friend of mine invited me to a cake buffet at the Tokyo Hilton in Shinjuku. I first thought it somewhat odd since over here cake buffets usually attract the opposite sex. However, I was happy to find out that there were enough savory dishes to relax even the manliest of men. The cakes were also excellent...perhaps even better than those of my beloved Farm Grill. And when one sees bread pudding AND accompanying sauce at a buffet....well, nothing more needs to be said. Another fringe benefit was that the guy who had invited me may be getting a new client in the form of his president. Ahhh...those word-of-mouth referrals.

Reflecting on my 4th Monday on part-time status, I realized that I was able to pull off this trip to the cake buffet because of my new schedule. Again, money is a concern at this time but the main thing is that I could enjoy myself during a time which otherwise would've been spent potentially teaching a boring class with boring material. I can't say that it's been too bad. However, I am tempered by the fact that I will have a regular Tuesday schedule. Glad I could get that self-indulgent stuff out of the way.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

June 15

I heard some stuff about the next and last Star Wars movie. Apparently, Chewbacca gets his intro here and ends up rescuing the Skywalker twins and handing them off to Obi-Wan. Y'know, with all of these coincidental connections among the characters, I think they should be retitling Episode IV from "A New Hope" to "Small World, Eh?"

My rarefied week begins with my regular class and then I see some friends for a cake buffet at the Shinjuku Hilton. There goes my budget and my diet. Well, if you have to die, die hard.