Saturday, August 30, 2003

August 30, 5:44 p.m.

OK day. My kids were pretty good and my monthly man-to-man with a former student went quite swimmingly throughout the 2 hours aside from the washroom breaks.

Fell asleep as usual on the subway home which brings about the trivial topic of subway sleepers. Think of it as the combination of overall lack of sleep, the comfortable sitting opportunities and the rocking motion of the subway which creates this temporary comfort zone for the overworked masses. I never did sleep on the subways back at home for some reason; I think the risk of ridicule was just too high there.

However, here, sleep is considered just part of the regular activity on a train. And types of sleepers appear. One, for example, is the LARGEMOUTH BASS, who conks out with his neck whipped back while his gaping mouth reveals all of his bridgework (if he's older than 50, then he probably has enough gold and silver to make a tray of rings), and in some unfortunate cases, the predilection to snore and share his halitosis. Unsurprisingly, the bass is almost exclusively a male.

Next is the DROOPER who sleeps with his/her head hanging like a bell over the chest. Unlike the bass, the drooper does have male and female cases, and there are even variations. There are crossed-arm droopers and those who lean on their umbrellas.

And finally, there is the DRAWBRIDGE. Usually these folks tend to sleep leaning to one side or the other, and a number of times, they can also end up coming down on an adjacent person's shoulder, thus the moniker. A drawbridge also takes some risks as well. Sometimes, the person may end up leaning on a fellow who doesn't particularly mind the sudden weight gain (especially if the drawbridge is a young woman), but other times, the leanee may suddenly jerk his shoulder violently out of the way, especially if the leaner is a drunken middle-aged salaryman, or even worse, he may even thrust his shoulder up giving the drawbridge a shock back to consciousness. Perhaps in rare cases, an epithet may be thrown out at the offending sleeper.

As for me, I've actually exhibited traits of all 3. How do I know this? Well, there are those first few seconds back from La-La Land when I realize where I am. So, I gather that sleepers aren't just locked into one category.

One other observation about sleeping on the subways. They are usually seen en masse in the mornings and the late evenings. The morning sleepers contribute to a serene feeling on the trains since everyone is basically just doing their own thing. However, the evening sleepers are often the result of overwork or drunkenness, and they are mixed in with the oft-garrulous commuters just coming from the various bars and izakayas, so the atmosphere is a bit more anarchic.

Friday, August 29, 2003

August 29, 10:28 p.m.

Spent another long day at the school today doing mostly nothing. Just had the oil class, then lunch, followed by a few hours of reading then once again playing solitaire and hearts on the computer. I really need to do something. However, today had a bit of excitement as I overheard a 30-minute argument/friendly debate between a female cop and a Portuguese teacher on a matter of teaching procedure. Yes, you heard correctly. For the past year or so, our school has had a group of cops destined to be transferred to overseas postings, and it seems like the language they need is Portuguese. The female cop just happened to be the coordinator of the program from the Metro Police side. Although things got heated at times, they soon realized that they both had a common enemy: our management (no surprise there) Once again, to quote a famous movie line: "What we have here is a failure to communicate." So I guess it just isn't the English side of things that gets shafted.

Well, as I start gaining students, it looks like I'll be losing a couple of them in a couple of months. My Friday night circle has basically hinted that it'll be dissolving in October due to time constraints at work. It could also very well be possible that the ladies just wanted to let me down easy that they were just getting tired of the same Friday routine, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. In any case, although the circle will be missed after 3 years' worth of Friday nights, I wouldn't particularly mind a Friday night off with occasional outings.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

August 28, 8:30 p.m.

Had the lunch with my ex today. It was nice to see that she looked much happier. There was none of that awkwardness that would usually occur in the movies between exes. We went over to a good ramen shop near her company. 850 yen for a bowl of ramen wasn't exactly cheap but it was tasty. I found out that, as I had suspected, one of my former students in the oil company did try to make a go at her via e-mail. Unfortunately fo r him, he decided to choose career over potential romance as he has gone off to work for an auto company in Hiroshima a month ago.

Thanks to my current oil company students being off at the training center until tomorrow, and the fact that my business letter writing student will not be available for lessons until the end of September, I had a rare full day off. It was rather nice being able to walk through Tokyo and then head home early, and to even get a nap. However, it's back to reality as the oil company guys return to school early Friday morning. I'm interested in seeing how the Intensive turned out.

Speaking of potential romances, once again the Madame and I hav e had one of those Hanks/Ryan-type comical e-mail exchanges. Once again, she got a kick out of my lousy French. And once again, my innoucuous friendly statement in French turned out to have a much more embarrassing meaning. She took it in stride, though. However, this is the second time that this has happened, and since among the grads, she and I have been recently referred to as the husband and wife, I do wonder how the next few months will go in our "relationship".

Tonight, I saw another of the recent flood of "foreign" TV programs hitting our shores. This time, it is "Smallville", the revisionist version of Superman filtered through "Dawson's Creek". The teenage spin on it was refreshing to see, as one sees this Clark Kent not as the usual uberdweeb of Metropolis but as the morally upright but angst-ridden adolescent. I also enjoyed the relationship between him and the teenage Lex Luthor; there is a friendship with an undertone of differing philosophies which of course will manifest in their mutual enmity later in life.

Over here in Japan, "Smallville" is known as "Young Superman" which brings up the topic of how the Japanese authorities will change titles of Western movies and TV shows to make them more comprehensibly non-ironic. Here is a short list:

Original Title Title for Japan

Ally McBeal Ally, My Love (a pun on a title of a Japanese pop song)
The West Wing The White House
Beaches Forever Friends
Crouching Tiger.... Green Destiny (you got me on that one)
Suddenly Susan Hello, Susan

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

August 27, 10:03 p.m.

Well, after 60,000 years, Mars has come by for a close encounter with Earth. For the astronomers, this must be the equivalent (or one of them anyways) of a grand slam. For the rest of us, the very rare event must have been so difficult to fathom that it really didn't register much except as an interesting piece of trivia. However, I did get to see the Red Planet myself on myway home. I figured it must've been Mars since it was in the southeast sky, it glinted a red hue and it just hovered there. One of the news programs started off its broadcast with the "2001: A Space Odyssey" theme.

It's official. This year's rice crop will see a shortfall due to the cool summer. To comprehend the horror of this news in this country, imagine if CNN announced that there would be a beef and chicken shortage in the US. Not a pretty sight. It means that Japan may have to go hat in hand for handouts from the US or Thailand for the first time in a decade. However, NHK has just reported that there should be enough of a stored surplus of domestic rice to last the winter. Of course, the Japanese have developed a certain Russian-like fatalism so they're not looking too happy.

For the first time in a while, a TV show here has actually made some waves in the form of good ratings, and it isn't a trendy drama. It's called "Trivia no Izumi" or as it is translated, "The Fountain of Trivia". It's a miz of the American program "Jeopardy" and the usual celeb-laden quiz show here. The masses send in bits of trivia by mail or e-mail every week, and selected items are presented to a panel of celebs for judgement. Each member of the panel taps a button to register their interest; the button sounds like a castrato yelping the Japanese equivalent of a "Wow". Each "Wow" is worth 100 yen, so the lucky person could make as much as 10,000 yen and prize in the form of a golden brain. Not exactly "The Price is Right" but Japan has never had any of these enormous lottery prizes in America that retired folks usually seem to win. In any case, the show premiered last October on late-night TV but was just shifted to its prime-time slot on Wednesdays earlier this summer where it's raking in the ratings. Meanwhile, the former king of the airwaves, the trendy drama , is barely making any sort of dent anymore.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

August 26, 9:57 p.m.

Hmmm...I'm kinda wondering if this is going to be one of those bad weeks that I usually have to drive out of my system. The private class with the BEEs went well enough. We had a frantic lesson about describing the recipes for some of the potluck stuff that everyone had brought in. However, along with last night's slug of a class, I may have been a bit too ambitious with my lesson tonight as one of the students, an underconfident one to begin with, fell down spiritually when I decided to start them on the vagaries of the Simple Present. Mind you, the other two were OK with it. Earlier in my career, I would've been kicking myself five ways from Sunday for the supposed blunder, but I know now that occasionally I will overstep my bound s to find out the students' limits, so I'm not particularly frazzled about it although I'm sorry that she had such a tough time with it.

Well, Larry King had a non-legal issue show today. In fact, he had a panel discussion about Alfred Hitchcock which was nice for an old movie buff like me. I was rather surprised by the revelations that he was actually a pretty nice fellow considering some of the earlier rumours about him as being a master manipulator.

Luckily, from tomorrow, I have a 2-day respite with just one class on Wednesday (hopefully, she won't come late again), and a free day on Thursday. Also, I'm wondering about the newest student; she cancelled out on me yesterday and she has yet to get back to me about re-scheduling. Movie Buddy did warn me, though, that she was a bit flighty.

Monday, August 25, 2003

August 26, 12:27 a.m.

Well, I had my regular Monday morning class after a month's hiatus. It was the usual talk about our vacations. However, one interesting development was that one of them, a huge steak fan, was rather intrigued by my talk on the Oregon Bar and Grill in the Shiodome City Centre. As a result, there is a possibility we may head out there for lunch. Whoopee!

On the other hand, my night class with my real estate agency folks was pretty much a zero. When I took on THIS gig, I had figured that there would be times when the pair would be rather tired from working and having a class at such a late time. Y'know, I'm pretty sympathetic to that fact, and I remember getting the theory on what makes an ideal student. Still, I couldn't help germinate a bit of irritation that I had to hang out in Shibuya for 7 hours to have a dud class. It almost seems as if everything were conspiring against them to NOT have a good lesson today: long hours, August heat and humidity, and a rather rich dinner beforehand which included shark's-fin on rice. The students were groggily chastened, and they said that they would try to hold on dinner until AFTER the lesson.

Well, at least I'll have another nice outing with the BEEs in the morning. The inaugural class of the fall season will entail a potluck lunch at one of the students' homes. Then I have my usual night class, and that will prove to be a relatively short one since the later student is currently on a business trip.

During my day in Shibuya, I went over to RECOFAN, a discount CD shop to see if I could dig up a cheap nugget, and sure enough, I found the first Swingout Sister album. They certainly were an eclectic group: two guys backing up a former fashion model with a really mellow voice. Their mix of jazz, Swinging 60s London and Bacharach-like arrangements really stood out against all of the then-current R&B/pop stuff from Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, and the synth sounds of the time. It always goes to show you that timing and a different sound can reap dividends. In a way, Swingout Sister kinda paved the way for people like Lisa Stansfield and Basia.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

August 25, 12:27 a.m.

The second outing with the Movie Buddies turned out to be another long affair. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Actually with a couple of cancellations, we were actually at about the same number as last time. We had a couple of more teachers join us, though.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was an interesting movie, to be sure. But then again, its subject is no ordinary human, even for a Hollywood fellow like Chuck Barris. To the staff's credit, the movie didn't exactly go to plan. Chuck Barris' life, if it is to be believed, had a lot of highs and lows of a very bizarre nature, and the final scene of the real Chuck Barris, looking so haggard and worn, didn't particularly signify a clean end to his final years. I think, to fully appreciate it, one had to have lived through the Barris years of The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game and his opus, The Gong Show. The students remarked that it was a bit difficult to follow at times.

Afterwards, we went for a bit of coffee before going for our next main event, which was dinner at a Polynesian restaurant around the corner. I'd been there before with Berkeley students from the past so I thought it would be a good fit for these guys as well. I was a bit disappointed with the selection of the food; as I remembered it, there used to be a lot more dishes on the menu. However, the kids liked it the three floor shows of shimmering and sashaying hula dancers.

The conversation was also fairly spicy, thanks to the former lead student of the graduating class. The Madame was getting quite into the intimate details of one of the teachers, followed by some avid palm readings. She's apparently quite an expert; she had me figured out after she did a detailed look through mypalms. Once again, the others were ragging on us about our suitability for each other. To be honest, neither of us seemed to mind it so much, and the icing on the cake happened when one of the hula dancers came to our table during a Hawaiian love song, and gave a gesture indicating us being together. I can't really speak for her, but I still have some fundamental doubts about this; she's an uptown girl, while I'm definitely a more downtown guy.

We finally broke up around 11....a couple of hours later than expected, so I'm gonna have my work cut out for me later today as I teach 3 classes. Luckily, though, the bracketing classes are not much of a problem to plan for. But I'm gonna have to hit the hay pretty soon.