Saturday, February 28, 2004

Sunday Feb. 29, 1:01 a.m.

My kids' classes were two-thirds OK. The older sister was giving me attitude again. I sometimes think that adolescence should be banned. After I finished with my last student, I decided to head home instead of just hang out downtown for five hours looking for dinner. It was a good decision since I was able to get some down time with a cheap bento.

I met up with the Cop, Movie Buddy and DTE at the bar along with the Cop's girlfriend and some of her friends. They were very friendly but the conversation was pretty much segregated into native English speakers and native Japanese speakers. We got into all sorts of topics including the usual harangue about the idiots who run our school. DTE also had some very choice words for the Scheduler; I now consider her to be a full veteran. MB was providing some sage advice for her about upcoming contract negotiations. Once again, I was the first to leave since the chime struck 11. Also, there were quite a few boorish and obnoxious men and women there by that time so I felt it was best that I leave.

Tomorrow I've got that brunch with Chip Guy followed by catching "Master and Commander" in Shinjuku. Skippy contacted me about some confusion over the bill from last Saturday's karaoke session. Ugh. I told her that we'll talk later.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Saturday Feb. 28, 8:07 a.m.

Got less than 6 hours of sleep so I'm feeling rather out of sorts now. However, the chai is helping a bit. I'm starting to fine-tune the recipe after the Iconoclast's initial lesson back on Sunday. My first solo attempt was way too strong...let's say that it acted as a good alternative to Ex-Lax.

I've prepped my lessons for today. Hopefully, everything will work out although knowing the unpredictability of kids, one really never knows. I just have to figure out what I'm going to do for 4 hours between my last lesson and the Cop's farewell.
Saturday Feb. 27, 12:09 a.m.

Well, I found out that Aum Shinrikyo guru Shoko Asahara got the death sentence that he so richly deserves for that sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways back in March 1995. I remember being home at the time when the special bulletins came in, and seeing bird's-eye views of emergency crews and stricken commuters scattered throughout the central business district. Because of today's verdict, the police were on high alert for any possibility that the Aum, now known as Aleph, might wreak revenge. Strangely enough, several other cultists have been given the death penalty but none of them have been executed as of yet. Perhaps the guru will be the first to hang. I'm not sure if there will be any mention of when the execution of Asahara will take place; Japan has a custom of keeping executions secret until well after the the deed has been done.

I blew a lot of money today on work-related expenditures such as texts at Maruzen and another round of maple syrup from Kinokuniya. One bottle will be contributed to the Pancake Day party at my juku while the other plus a box of candy will be going to my uncle in thanks for his stamp on my lease renewal form. I sent in the renewal form by mail today but I couldn't make the transfer payment since the banks were all filled with people due to payday today.

I crashed at my school trying to get some of the props from my Pancake Day party. The coordinator was nowhere to be found so I just sat down in the computer room for several minutes until I heard the chatter of former students who just couldn't let go their old alma mater. I had a nice talk with them including the one boy with a number of fetishes. Then I met up with two of my newest students, newly-graduated Arwen and Ms. 77.

We went off to the Tea Room to have our inaugural lesson. It was basically talking on a printout of a CNN article on the Janet Jackson controversy. We leapt from there into unexpectedly deep topics such as religion and one's mortality. The talk was quite good, but at the end I wondered if the two were really satisfied with the lesson because of its casual nature. They reassured me it was but I wasn't totally convinced. In any case, they did request that they would like a mix of structured lessons and casual ones like today's. It looks like I'll be doing some more shopping next week.

Then the three of us went off to Foo Foo where we all tucked into my fave Breaded Pork in Spicy Ramen. It was there that the chemistry finally started to click in so that we ended up talking up a storm for 2 hours. I felt that the relationship was dipping deep into close friendship territory which may or may not be a good thing considering that I'll be teaching them. But in any case, it was a very enjoyable dinner. Luckily that harridan food critic from Monday didn't show up. I was also privy to some rather interesting gossip about the former top class. Apparently, there was a lot of friction and cliquism there. Certain students didn't care much for Skippy and vice versa; Arwen and 77 mentioned that their class which was one level lower had a much more convivial relationship. It was interesting to hear but not surprising. Skippy was indeed this year's lead student, and leaders of any sort have their detractors. Past lead students have also had their enemies at my school. It is a bit ironic that the same reasons which explained Skippy's good work in front of the teachers also got her enmity from a few of her classmates.

We finally broke up at about 10:30 with the next class being held next Thursday in the afternoon. The Cop left a message asking me whether I would be attending his farewell later Saturday evening. I relayed a message to him via Movie Buddy that I indeed would. I've got those kids beforehand which makes me kinda glad that my two former students have canned their session with me at the Tea Room due to illness. I could use a bit of down time after the kids.

And surprise, surprise. The Madam sent me a brief note after several weeks of no contact. I was just as short and sweet with her.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Friday Feb. 27, 11:42 a.m.

I received an SOS of sorts from my old school, so DTE's premonition that I may be getting more requests from them due to the sudden exodus of teachers may be coming true. I initially asked the scheduler who the students were, and she told me that they were the kid s heading off for university in the States. Over the years, I've also taught my fair share of those classes, and it's been a bit of a mixed bag so I replied that I could do the 10-12 slot. Perhaps the kids may be a bit more sedate then.

Well, I finished off the remaining Fettucine (otherwise known scientifically as artery-hardening plaque) and the Japanese pork soup, so I don't think I'll be needing any lunch before my class today at 6. I've got a bit of shopping and other errands to do, though, which should help burn off some of those abundant calories.

I'm watching some of that Democratic Debate on CNN. For the first time in history, I think Larry King is actually having some trouble moderating his guests, and that's saying a lot considering he often has that harridan lawyer on the regular show.
Thursday Feb. 26, 10:18 p.m.

Well, I finally got to see the much vaunted "Lost In Translation", the movie that takes place on my turf in the largest city on the planet. Movie Buddy brought over the DVD, and we immediately fired up the player. Nice opening shot of Charlotte's butt. MB joked about how Scarlett Johannsen managed to find her motivation for that scene.

I've heard views from friends back home. One commented that it was a fascinating trip through the bizarro world of nighttime Tokyo paralleling with Bill Murray's poignant trip throught a mid-life crisis. Another just stated that he found the flick merely ponderous and self-indulgent. A third friend was straight down the middle. As for me, I thought it was a very nice little movie although I'm not wholly convinced that it merits Oscar recognition, but it is nice that it has been nominated. I think Bill gave his best performance in his second career as a well-respected actor instead of his early years as the lovable goofball of "Stripes", "Meatballs" and "Ghostbusters". In fact, I think he was basically playing himself filled with regret over doing those movies. As a longtime resident of Tokyo, I've walked through Shinjuku and Shibuya countless numbers of times, but seeing the protagonists look at the strangeness of the neon and concrete of those areas brought back some early memories to me. I could actually relate to some of what they went through. There wasn't really any local talent involved in the film except for that Matthew Minami fellow. He does exist and he does indeed have that same show on Wednesday nights at 11:30. It was rather surreal seeing it with with Bill as the guest as a special feature on the DVD after having seen it before on real Japanese TV. Actually, Matthew is a character portrayed by the actor/comedian Takashi Fujii. I think the only other comment on a specific scene is the accuracy of the lunacy of filming a Japanese commercial with Hollywood celebs. I wonder if people like Harrison Ford, Richard Gere and Cameron Dias had to go through the same sort of hell for 2 million bucks. Speaking of Diaz, I think Anna Faris did a good job dissing her in the movie.

When we finished the movie, MB continued to watch through the extras while I made up that Fettucine Alfredo that the Iconoclast left me. Serving it as a side dish along with some other stuff, I think my stomach and the Astrodome now share something in common. Regardless, I will have to finish the rest of it off tomorrow for breakfast. After dinner, MB was starting to enter sleep mode although he made it through half of "South Park: The Movie" before calling it a night and heading home. Not having seen it before, he did get some laughs out of it.

I activated that air cleaner for the first time today. It seems to work OK although I didn't notice any particular improvement in the room. However, the fact that I didn't sneeze may augur good news. However, there was a rather unpleasant smell emanating from it, so I just threw in some cinnamon powder to get rid of it.

I did some preliminary planning for the kids' classes on Saturday in the afternoon. I'm glad I did it then since I'm not feeling too energetic to do it now. But I will have to think about my schedule tomorrow since I'll be doing some shopping for that new kid, the Pancake Day next Tuesday and then picking up some of the Pancake Day props from the school. All that before meeting Arwen and Ms. 77 for their first lesson at the Tea Room.

And speaking of the Tea Room, I got word from one of the former Tea Room ladies who's now living in Argentina. She sent me the first photo of her baby daughter.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Thursday, Feb. 26, 12:21 p.m.

I woke up this morning after a rare lengthy sleep to see my cluttered living room with the Iconoclast's plastic box of engineering notes esconced under my coffee table, an air cleaner nestled next to my fan and heater. And I remember how clean Movie Buddy's 1K apartment was last night. Good heavens, the man even hangs out his sink trap to dry. My only saving grace is that he's lived in his place for little more than a year while I've been here for nearly ten. That's a good enough time (and excuse) for my place to get filled up.

I am very happy for the computer speakers and the mouse. The speakers boom with sound instead of just squeak. And my mouse actually goes where I want it to go. I will have to get accustomed to pinpoint steering again.

Well, CNN has been focusing on what could be Mel Gibson's opus to overlook "Braveheart". "The Passion of the Christ" opened on Wednesday to much controversy and to some of the greatest marketing ever done for a movie. I'm definitely not a religious man by any means, but I think what Gibson has done is not stir up a hornet's nest or open up a Pandora's Box but to start a huge healthy debate on one of the most seminal events in human history. Considering all of the controversy surrounding the movie, I think it would be rather superficial to even mention future Oscar possibilities, but I think the Academy will probably steer it away from any of the major categories. It would be interesting to see how something like this film would play in this still largely non-Christian nation (although I think the percentage of practicing Christians in Japan must be over the 1% mark that has been written in the history books).

Well, I've gotten my op-ed piece out of my system. Now it's time to unclutter the clutter.
Thursday Feb. 26, 12:43 a.m.

It's been another windfall day fo rme with the Iconoclast meeting me for the last time before taking off for Hong Kong later today. He brought me some more stuff including an extra futon, and even better, a better mouse and speakers. Also, he gave my old SOTEC a Norton Utilities lookover; unfortunately, he couldn't bring back my missing fonts but most of the other problems have been solved. It is nice to be able to have an obedient mouse once again.

After my class, I sped off to Nakano to Movie Buddy's apartment in preparation for his surprise birthday party. DTE was to meet me at the station but she got held up at her student's dinner party, all the way up on the 35th floor of the Marunouchi Bldg...nice place, so she came later. The Curry Master and MB's girlfriend were there to meet me so we planned out a pretty low-key spread consisting of my bottle of sake, smoked salmon & cream cheese on cracottes, friend chicken and sushi rolls. MB finally came home several minutes later. He didn't look too surprised which worried The Curry Master a bit, but his girlfriend assured us that MB is not one to wear his emotions on his sleeve. I gave him his present of that Lord of the Rings book.

When DTE finally came over, she related to me her frustration about all of the schedule changes and screwups (she used far more creative language) at the school this week. I told her that she was now a full-fledged member of the school. I think all of the veterans have had at least a few run-ins with the staff about some inanity.

I think that half-glass of sake really liberated me. I was spouting off more off-color jokes than I usually do. But I think I left people relatively unoffended.

Well, my Thursday night student canned his class once again. I think this guy is gonna probably fade away pretty soon. As a result, I have no classes so Movie Buddy will be coming over with his better DVD copy of "Lost In Translation" that he is borrowing from Arwen tonight. Speaking of movies, Arwen had to pull out of the Sunday outing because the timing just wasn't good for her. Maybe Ms. 77 will do the same as well, but the Jazz Buddy will be bringing another classmate of hers instead. And, Movie Buddy will also come out. I therefore sent word to Chip Guy that he can count me in for Sunday brunch. I feel kinda bad for Arwen but at least I'll see her and 77 on Friday night and then hopefully take them out to Foo Foo.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Wed. Feb. 25, 10:51 a.m.

I got a bit of a surprise last night when I was trying out the YAHOO search engine to look up info on the Kinokuniya Supermarket and found one of my blog entries as one of the results. Nice to have one's name in lights, so to speak.

So far, so quiet. I got a call from the Iconoclast a half-hour ago concerning his next arrival. He'll be trying for the same time of 1400 h. I may be getting some rather bulky stuff such as a futon. I wonder where I'll be storing some of this stuff.

Did a superficial cleaning of the apartment since I don't foresee us staying at home too long. Plus, mid-week laziness is setting in. And I do have my regular Wednesday nighter before heading off for Movie Buddy's surprise birthday party.

I received an article via one of my oldest friends, The Doctor, concerning my bizarre little industry in Japan. It was interesting reading and pretty accurately summed it up for me...that it's not all that far removed from being a bit of a McDonalds.

My area seems to be getting rocked every few minutes or so with tremors. I'm just kinda wondering if this is a prelude to The Big One.
Wednesday Feb. 25, 12:20 a.m.

Steady day today. My Tsudanuma class went quite smoothly although I had that little chat with that student who had rejected my proposal to be my guarantor. She said that her husband wouldn't agree because HE had never met me and didn't know my character. Again, I will gripe slightly and say that HE could have trusted his wife's assessment of me. Well, it's all water under the bridge for me since my uncle has agreed to be my guarantor.

The evening classes also went pretty smoothly. I did get th e message out to everyone about Pancake Day next week. It looks like everyone is pretty keen on it, and I was lucky to have have my photos from the first Pancake day with me to show as a promotion. Then, after class I had a powwow with the owner about the plans. The scale will be much smaller than at the main school but I'll still have to do my shopping for syrup and lug my hotplate once more.

Next Tuesday will probably be the easiest Tuesday I've ever had here since both my private classes will be of a special nature. The Tsudanuma class and I will be off on a field trip to the Edo Museum in Ryogoku, and of course, there is Pancake Day at the juku.

It also looks like Movie Buddy's surprise party plans are getting together. And the plans for the next Movie Buddy outing are being sent out to the pertinent players. Now, it's just a matter of the responses. If everything works out, I will be able to join Chip Guy and family for brunch on Sunday before meeting up with the rest for "Master and Commander".

Now, it's just a matter of hearing from The Iconoclast about when he'll be returning to my neighbourhood for some final unlaoding.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Monday Feb. 23, 10:56 p.m.

Well, that calm and pleasant day didn't last that long. The wind picked up and the temps dropped by the evening so by the time I got home, most of my wash was on the balcony floor. Mind you, they were nice and dry. I just wonder if any of it flew off to the second floor.

My Monday morning student followed up on that potential new student in the form of her sister-in-law. It looks like the initial meeting is set for March 1st. It'll cut down on my respite but at least I'll make a bit more money in the process, and it may just curtail me from pulling off any more of those binges that I was guilty of last week.

After the class, I went searching for that Canadian bar in Shibuya. My initial foray turned up nothing so I just went for my weekly Big Mac and then went off to Towers to pick up Movie Buddy's present....the book about the making of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I think that's fair recompense for his kind gift of a Star Trek book. After that, I made one more try into the heart of Shibuya and found a couple of forlorn Canadian flags fluttering all the way on the banister of a fourth-floor staircase. I was later to find out from Chip Guy, who had gone there yesterday, that the place was a bit on the smallish side with friendly staff but was still finding its sea legs. Not surprising considering that it's barely a week old.

Then, I headed off to Nihombashi to do a bit of initial shopping for materials for a few of my students. Boy, these things can get really expensive. I mean, I know that I'll get reimbursed for them but still I'm sure the clients would appreciate not having to pay so much. I decided to pick up a TOEIC practice book for the Office Lady. There were some books that I wanted to get for my newest, littlest kid on Saturday but I decided to hold that purchase off until later in the week.

My night class was OK although one student is simply needing a lot of time for the stuff to sink in. And my other student was pretty tired by the end. Afterwards, the Iconoclast gave me some further foodstuffs and discs which weighed down my already burgeoning load even more. We went off to our usual Monday night haunt of Foo Fool for ramen. I don't think the Iconoclast noticed but some non-Japanese woman in front of us at the counter was clearly complaining to the stuff about the quality of the ramen. She wasn't loud about it but she made her point clear to which the staff apologized. I hate to say it, but I was thinking some rather evil thoughts at her such as "How dare you mouth off at them?" I think part of my slow boil was because of how much I enjoyed the place myself, and also because she was going at it in such a superior holier-than-thou manner. I realize that everyone has the right to criticize a product, especially when that person is paying money for it....and that an individual has his or her own way to criticize: diplomatically or brusquely. I couldn't even say that she was even brusque...just haughty. Mind you, I've always despised snobs with a passion. Still, the bottom line was that I was not too happy with her. I just hope that she isn't one of those psychos who regularly haunt such places just to abuse the staff since I'm planning to bring Arwen and Ms. 77 here on Friday after their first lesson with me.

Well, I finally got home. I decided to work on the birthday project for Movie Buddy. The Curry Master and MB's girl don't really know any of the teachers so they asked me to see if I could contact anyone. I decided to go through Movie Buddy himself to surrepitiously contact one of his close buddies in the school, DTE. I asked him if I could get her to call me. I was surprised to get a call from her in about 15 minutes. We spent the better part of the hour talkingabout the party and just chatting on various things. She's always been a good person to talk to. In anycase, I'm gonna get back to the Curry Master about the addition in the guest list.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Monday Feb. 23, 7:54 a.m.

It's sunny and warm outside compared to last night's wind and rain. Hope it stays that way.

Looks like there has been a bit of Yakuza warfare. Last week, a gang leader was assassinated which touched off 11 shootings of payback all around the Kanto yesterday. Three bit the bullet. I wonder if I should just be avoiding Shimbashi or Shinjuku for the next little while.

Looks like that plan to see "Master and Commander" is starting to take shape. I got a reply from Arwen just now giving her OK for next Sunday. She'll see if her karaoke buddy will be joining the fray. Skippy and the Swimmer are already game for later that night. Maybe I'll even give the Jazz Buddy, and certainly the Movie Buddy will be getting the call.

Speaking of Movie Buddy, his party venue has been switched to his place. For purely selfish reasons, I would've preferred the Curry Master's place since it's just two stations down from my apartment. However, the Curry Master was trumped by MB's girlfriend who lives all the way out in the west. I'm gonna have to get him a present.
Sunday Feb. 22, 9:52 p.m.

Very windy today. In fact, I'm hearing a lot of whistling past my window as I type. I wonder if this is the HARU ICHIBAN (The First One of the Spring), the Japanese equivalent of Canada's Chinook winds. I couldn't complain about the temps, though. It was in the high teens which made the winds a lot more bearable.

I definitely hit the jackpot in the food sweepstakes. The Iconoclast came over with three big bags of stuff. Along with the bathrobe, the pan, the cutting board and other utensils, I also inherited the fixins for real chai tea, tons of sugar, dried scallops (good for Chinese soups), Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, olive oil, a jar of winter honey, candies, a barrel of iced tea mix, a jug of maple syrup and even ingredients to make Fettucine Alfredo. In a very small act of compensation, I paid for his lunch at the neighbourhood eatery.

The Iconoclast gave me a lesson in making chai with the very assorted spices. The stuff certainly put hair on my chest and put the Starbucks' variety to shame. It would probably kill the ordinary Japanese person. Luckily, the winter honey took the edge off nicely.

At the same time, he set off to work on my computer. He marveled at how I could stand using my mouse, a very moody part of my computer. He was able to not only get my Windows Media Player up and running, but we were able to watch Michael Moore's "Bowling For Columbine" on it. It was definitely a very interesting movie. I think that exchange between Moore and former NRA president Charlton Heston was priceless.

Afterwards, we went off to a ramen shop for dinner. Once again, my bad luck with restaurants this year continues. Another favorite restaurant has apparently bit the dust. For many years, I used to frequent this place called Tsukasa for decent ramen. Well, sometime in the last couple of months, it got replaced by a new joint under Chinese management. Since the Iconoclast could speak some Chinese, we were quite lucky although the waitress was perfectly capable in speaking Japanese. The decor was very different and the ramen was OK. It may be worth another shot. Unfortunately, there was one of those loudmouth Japanese rednecks shooting off what little intelligence at another table but we managed to ignore it.

As we passed by the domino effect fallen bicycles and the flying traffic cones, The Iconoclast said that he would be dropping by my place on Wednesday to give me some further stuff for safekeeping and eventual transport back to Canada. Speaking of Wednesday, the Curry Master asked if I were doing anything on that night, presumably for Movie Buddy's birthday party. It was a strange night to be having it but since I don't have anything for most of Thursday, I said that I could make it out there.

Skippy got back to me about catching a movie on the 29th. It looks like she'll be busy at a seminar until the evening so the movie is out but she and her fellow grad, The Swimmer, would be game for dinner. I'll take that as a yes. Now, it's just a matter of finding a good place for dinner.

Well, I gotta clean up the kitchen and find out where to store the extra foodstuffs before tackling the plans for tomorrow's lessons. It will be a very light week.