Saturday, August 02, 2003

August 3

I had my monthly call from Mom last night. Most of the calls are cordial but once in a while, she gets into ultra-mother mode and ends up annoying the hell outof me. Partially because part of what she says is true.

Once again, she got into her harangue about thinking about my future and marriage. She comes from the generation where marriage is a no-brainer; one gets married and that's it. She even said that my sister-in-law has offered to introduce me to one of her friends...which really steams me. After breaking up with my ex, getting into another relationship falls somewhere between eating raw liver and having a procotological exam. I'm starting to think that I really have no interest in having a "normal" life of wife and kids. But I kept my cool, though she knows that I have a bad temper.

The other thorn to stick into me was about my financial future. Here in Japan, as an alien, I probably would not get any access to an old age pension if I did stay that long, and since I'm not in Canada making any income, I'm not accruing any pension there either. Basically, there is no nest egg for me provided by the government. I am bothered by that...although I and most people both in Japan and Canada are of the opinion that old age pensions probably will not exist by the time I reach 65. However, my mother asked me whether it wouldn't be wiser to return to the Great White North and find a job with a computer company.

Once again, my blood started to boil. My parents just won't get it into their heads that I have very little interest in becoming a systems engineer or a doctor or a lawyer. And returning home would leave my career in tatters over there. I will not work for any Board of Education at home; I have no love for kids and most likely I would miss life here in Japan. I would end up wondering about how life would be like here. Maybe I'm being closed-minded but I know what I don't like.

So, I'm left at the proverbial fork in the road but a fork with roads leading possibly to dead ends. I stay here in an uncertain economy and future for Japan or head eventually back home permanently but have verylittle opportunity to pursue much of anything.

Why do I feel that my life seems to have more bitter than sweet? Great...I can go to bed grumpy.

Several hours later...

Well, I'm awake again. The grumpiness is largely gone although a lingering sense of UGH remains. Another sign that the typical Tokyo summer is here? I went straight to the air conditioner for relief, and sure enough, that sweat stain is on my futon.

Last night, I went through my increasingly neglected DVD collection (notable by the growing layer of dust) and found the South Park movie. Now that's a view into the pop culture looking glass. Back in the late 90s, the infamously crude Comedy Central series was the talk of the town. Wicked toilet humour, celebrity skewerings and quotable catchphrases ("Oh My God...they killed Kenny"; "Beefcake...BEEFCAKE!") were helping it become the latest challenger to The Simpsons.

The movie itself to me was the peak of the South Park phenomenon. Its "Jump The Shark" moment. And what a moment. The movie relentlessly went out of its way to shock and offend just about any group out there, and the result was a huge outpouring of laughter at the audacity of it all. And on top of that, its ode to musicals was unbelievably good. I could say that the movie was the last great musical of the 20th century (although I could imagine the Gershwins rolling in their graves).

I have a number of movies that I regret not having seen at the theater. Minority Report is one. The South Park movie is another. I would've loved to have been in the audience when all of the mayhem was being spewed. I heard that a number of people left the theatre in horror...with their kids, thinking that this would be a regular cartoon. I'm pretty sure that the kids were dragged kicking and screaming.

Since then, South Park is apparently still running but the glory days are over. The Simpsons are still unbeaten. I saw a recent episode of SP and found out that Kenny was PERMANENTLY dead, as non sequitur as that may sound. Now, the main challenger to Bart, Homer and the Springfield gang for respect is King of the Hill, a much less raunchy show but still very funny.

Friday, August 01, 2003

August 2

Another hot day and yet people are still wondering when the rainy season will officially close. Hello, McFly!

Decided to do a little Saturday enjoyment in the neighbourhood. Went over to thelocal massage clinic for a rubdown. I didn't get my favorite masseur, the chief, but his spunky second-in-command. She did a pretty good job.

Then it was off to McDs for a Big Mac set and Coke. I deserved it. After a bit of grocery shopping, I'm back home where I'll probably be sweating all of my Big Mac set over the next few hours while I clean the place. The wonderful thing about my apartment is that it retains heat in the summer and it loses it in the winter. Yes, you read that correctly.

More proof that there may be a god after all. The Ben-Jen vanity project, Gigli, is being slow-broiled by critics and rated a perfect 0% on the Rotten Tomatoes website. People that rich and beautiful should get some cloud with their silver lining.

August 1

A long hot Friday. The summer is definitely here...although it may be too late for the rice farmers to get a decent crop.

I had several hours of break time between my lone class and the dinner with my old students so I ended up heading for Ginza and getting a CD plus magazine. Then, I went up to the roof garden of the Mitsukoshi department store and just read my Entertainment Weekly outside for a couple of hours. It wasn't too hot there; the winds helped to cool things down.

Then, I walked over to Shimbashi Station to meet up with the four oil company students and the lone Friday night circle student (the other is in Switzerland, and my ex has pulled herself out). One of the oil company students found himself a new job with Mazda out in Hiroshima, so it was a goodbye party for him. As usual, we went to the Farm Grill. Of course, with the evening menu, we had access to the good stuff. And of course, I overindulged. Goodbye diet.

Tomorrow will be a rare Saturday off since my kids won't be available then. So I hope to wait for a package to be delivered and then do a bit of cleaning up at home since I probably won't be home on Sunday for most of the day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

July 30

Summer is just about on our doorstep. Now, the nights are starting to feel humid. Looks like I'll be burning up the yen overnight via my fan. It's that or end up with a huge sweat stain on my futon the shape and size of my body.

I made the easiest 3000 yen tonight when my student popped into the Starbucks at Toranomon to tell me that she wanted to cancel tonight's lesson because she wasn't feeling too hot. I tried to refuse the money since it wasn't earned but she insisted that I take it if only as an apology that I had to go downtown for nothing. After doing the culturally acceptable two refusals, I finally took the yen. I'm not gonna look a gift uma in the mouth.

Movie Buddy left a message on the machine today saying that he may have another group of students for me. Always nice.

Last night at my newest gig at that lady's English conversation school on the 2nd floor of her house, she first asked me how much rent I was paying for my apartment and then she shifted her attention to a potential house a couple of stations away that she was planning to get for a second school. She even mentioned that she was gonna try to bring the rent down to an unbelievable 50,000 yen a month; the original cost was 95000 yen for a 3-room, 2-floor place, still a good bargain. The catch is that it is located beside a cemetery, and the Japanese, despite all of their technological savvy, are still very superstitious, and so most people would rather eat cockroaches than move next to a final resting place. From what she was saying, I was wondering if she were thinking about me being the new resident.

I must admit that it would be tempting after nearly 9 years in my 2K. And my ex had always wanted me to get a house for us, but that's pretty much a moot deal now. However, I would wonder about having to be at home AND at work at the same time. The superstitious angle doesn't bother me, though. I'm the guy who can always find an empty spot on the subway platform where the label marked "4" (designating the area where the 4th car would be stopping) is located. Even on a crowded platform, it seems that noone native here will go to that spot since the Japanese pronounciation for 4 is a homonym for "death". However, as I write this, I'm knocking on my wooden table.

Well, I've got my early Thursday morning to look forward to

Monday, July 28, 2003

July 29

Back from another exhausting Monday. I feel very sticky all over, and it's just going to get worse once the rainy season ends officially on Friday.

Looks like August will indeed be a fairly lean month for me. My Monday morning class announced that they will be going on summer hiatus for the next 4 weeks. And along with the fact that my in-school classes and my Tuesday morning private class will be doing the same thing in the next couple of weeks, I may have to look forward to a lot of tofu meals.

After the morning class, I decided to catch a movie. Unlike most of my choices, this was a homegrown production called "Odoru Dai Sosasen 2" or as it is translated, "The Big Investigation". It and the first movie back in 1998 are the only Japanese movies I've ever caught in nearly 9 years of life in Japan. I never even bothered to catch the magical "Spirited Away" which I may regret.

Now what's so special about this flick? Well, to be honest, I first got hooked on the theme song, a kinetic techno number which has become as famous as the Hawaii Five-O theme song. And strangely enough, the movie is based on a cop show which ran for 12 weeks on the local Fuji-TV network back in 1997 before releasing the two movies.

"Odoru Dai Sosasen" will never really compare to American fare such as NYPD Blue or Hill Street Blues. Our cultures are just too different. However, both countries share a love of police dramas and this show has become the recent standard to beat. It stars Yuji Oda (those of you who are into Japanese trendy dramas may remember him from the 1991 hit Tokyo Love Story, as Kanchi Nagao) as Detective Sgt. Aoshima, a salaryman-turned-cop who fights the good fight. The show is notable for its mix of Keystone Kops-type comedy or probably the same level of comedy allowed to exist on The Love Boat and drama based on the eternal rivalry between the local police grunts and the arrogant elite detectives in Tokyo.

This rivalry was what got me further hooked into the show. Apparently, the police hierarchy is separated into two parallel forces: the aforementioned elite cops on a national level, and the grunts occupying the small precincts and police boxes all over the country. Of course, the elite look down upon the grunts which is the heart of the story.

The sequel, whose story revolves around not only the main plot of murders committed by disgruntled laid off salarymen but also on the open battle of police procedure between Aoshima and a new witch-like elite police superintendant and three very small subplots, was entertaining enough although there was very little innovation in the story. It basically followed the same formula of the internecine rivalry, a serious injury to one of the main characters which sparks a closing of ranks and Aoshima's coming to the rescue. However, the Japanese prefer this formula; just take a look at the Tora-san series or the Mito Komon TV show. Formulas rule!

Several hours later, I had my usual late-night class with my real estate agency students. However, I wasn't too impressed with my performance. I felt like I slacked off today; mind you, the one woman was simply exhausted and not in any sort of shape to learn English. However, when I'm doing my own business, slacking off will just lead to being fired off. So I'll have to smarten up next week.

I'm just glad that I just have my new Tueday night class considering how late I've stayed up.

One thing to note, though. And this will fall into the life lesson category. I've known for a while now that my circle of friends is getting very small now. In some instances, it is due to a change in family circumstances; for example, my good friend, Chip Man, has just become a father. His interaction with me, and a lot of other friends for that matter, will understandably be curtailed for the next number of weeks while the new family unit coalesces.

In other instances, though, I've intentionally let go of large groups of "friends". You notice that I've put the last word of my last sentence in quotations. Well, the fact of the matter is that I've stopped considering them my friends. I let go of one group a number of years ago; the last straw was at a Xmas party. I just found that I simply didn't mesh in with those people anymore. I rarely spoke to them, I didn't feel particularly comfortable and I knew a few of them didn't particularly chime in with me either. So it was simply a matter of not answering any invitations. There may be one group right now that I might do the same to. In both groups, none of the people involved are really bad sorts but they and I are just on different wavelengths. Frankly, as I get older, I'm getting less and less patient with accepting being the quiet listener all night at someone's house or at a restaurant.

And strangely enough, I don't feel all that bad about it. I just appreciate the relatively few friends I have all the more, and I understand that as time passes, one's circle of friends does get smaller. Sorry, but I'm not buying George Bailey's final scene of the whole town of friends bit. I liked "It's A Wonderful Life" but it's just another case of Capra-corn fantasy. Finally, I think I'm just more content being alone or being with very close friends. The rest will be kept at arm's length. If this makes me a cold fish, so be it!

Nine hours later....

I woke up to CNN to find out that Ol' Ski Nose, Bob Hope, passed away. In the past few decades, he had largely been seen as a hoary old cornball relic or just a name barely remembered from the Golden Age of Hollywood or as part of a golf tournament. And no doubt to anyone, his TV specials had largely been reduced to barely naughty rimshot jokes and appearances by buxom women who were young enough to be Bob's great-granddaughters.

However, being born in the last few years of the Baby Boom era in the middle of the 20th century, I did remember catching some of his frequent NBC specials as a child, and though, I can't remember things in detail, I do remember the huge TV in front of me and laughing my lungs out at his quips. The man was a master of delivery and timing.

The specials were of course my first exposure to Bob. But then as I grew up, I discovered the Road pictures with him and Bing Crosby, and found out how manic he had been in his ad-libs and his willingness to break the 4th wall. Probably he could be called the Robin Williams of his time.

Being a bit of a comedian myself, I've had a number of influences. Bob Hope is one of them.

I gather that this year will definitely be the one for the passing of the Golden Age celeb. So many have left in the past few months: Kate Hepburn, Gregory Peck, and Buddy Ebsen.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

July 28

Just woke up to painfully realize that my backache is back, no pun intended. At least, I know what my pain is like so I'm semi-accustomed to it. But I've taken the Blitzkrieg approach to it. I slapped on liniment, and then applied a mustard patch that I had received from my massage clinic. And I'll probably swallow a couple of aspirin for breakfast.

Japanese baseball set a dubious record thanks to the antics of the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks and the Ichiro-less Orix Blue Wave. The latter team must be really feeling the ghost pain of their best ever player 3 years after his departure, after it got shellacked for 32 hits and 26 runs. The Hawks "only" got killed for 7 runs. I guess someone forgot to tell them that the final score was more appropriate for a lopsided American football game. The game was pretty much over in the bottom of the first inning when the Hawks got 11 runs. Methinks that the Blue Wave will be doing extra jump-squats today.

And in the world of entertainment, another Musume bites the dust. Yet another original from the 1997 Group of Five, Natsumi Abe, will be "graduating" early next year. She will be the fourth girl...oops, sorry...I should say woman to leave which leaves current leader, Kaori Iida as the sole charter member. Right now, Morning Musume is at a hyper-inflated 16 females, including Abe. The announcement was made last night a t a concert via the MM's guru, Tsunku on video screen (no doubt to evade any flying bottles from the almost exclusively male audience). You could've heard a pin drop when Tsunku dropped the bombshell. it me or did President Arroyo of the Phillipines smiled very vindictively after defeating that mutiny of 296 of her soldiers in Manila?

Good golly, it's been a violent weekend. There have been a rash of these random stabbings in Japanese neighbourhoods. Crime may be low here but what few there are, they've been of the psycho variety.

Off to breakfast, I go...that is, if I can stand up.
July 27

A quiet Sunday for a change after some previous socially-influenced ones. Just did the usual home maintenance and lazed around.

Looks like those quakes in northern Japan were quite a bit more serious. There were a lot of wrecked homes and stores. Three quakes of Shindo 6....those are pretty unlucky odds there.

According to NHK, today is Eel Day. Could've fooled most of us in Japan. When I went to the supermarket today, there wasn't all that much fuss over eels.

Tomorrow will be the start of a slow-as-molasses week...luckily I should have my two most profitable classes on Monday. I may catch a movie in between classes.