Saturday, March 06, 2004

Saturday March 6, 8:23 p.m.

I thought I would just have that one kid today but her mother asked me if I could also teach her older sister for an hour. Luckily, I didn't have any plans. The other sister is quite a bit more fluent and talkative. Since the class was a sudden one, I just made it more of an exploration session finding out what she wants to do. Being a teen, she was suitably vague about it all so I had to decide that she needed a bit more work on higher grammar. Perhaps, she could use that text that I had bought the other day but it seems rather similar to one other that she's using in her high school, so I'm not quite sure. But it looks like I'll be having a 2-hour session in their house for the next couple of weeks. Good golly...4 hours of kids for the next 2 weeks...I hope I survive.

Martha, Martha,'s amazing how much that somewhat archaic female name was thrown around on CNN this morning, after the Domestic Diva got nailed to the wall. It was wall-to-wall Ms. Stewart on Anderson Cooper, Paula Zahn and Larry King. The first two shows handled the conviction fairly professionally, although I thought that legal analyst Jeff Toobin seemed uncharacteristically uncharitable when he blurted out in quick succession : 1) that Martha had lied to his face in an interview last year, and 2) that he was absolutely sure that she would get a good tough prison sentence. Talk about your vindictiveness. I would have thought that Toobin, being a former prosecutor, would have been able to sniff out any bull at that interview. I guess her souffle must have thrown him for a loop.

The Larry King show should've been called "The Sore Losers". Once again, the show was handled by frequent guest host, Nancy Grace, the most ironically named talking head on TV. There was no doubt on which side of the well-manicured fence she and most of the guests were standing on. They just sounded like the most embittered Martha Stewart fans anywhere. Jeffrey Toobin would have been flayed alive. I have no qualms about Grace and her opinions but her way of spitting them out like a rabid Schnauzer and showing very little consideration for her fellow panelists just galls me. The perpetual sneer and Robert De Niro lingo that she pitches out makes her ripe for a "Saturday Night Live" caricature. If only were she on Crossfire...

Well, things are a bit quieter now so I just cooked up a couple of thin steaks...from Australia, of course...and finished off the leftovers from last night. Drinking the stuff down with some sake has given me a bit of a buzz. Too bad I'm gonna have to call up that guy who's planning to head over to Toronto; hope I don't sound too soused.

With all of the news I've been watching on CNN and BBC recently, the local Japanese TV variety shows actually acted like a tonic. There's nothing like four grown TV personalities dancing around a microphone in a combination game of "Name That Tune" and "Musical Chairs" to make one forget about the more depressing things in life. And TV Tokyo has also been doing its part by showing its regular fare of travel and food shows.

I heard that the paper legend of Japanese baseball, Shigeo Nagashima, suffered a mild stroke a couple of days ago. That would definitely have been grounds for a special bulletin in the Japanese media.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Friday March 5, 9:15 p.m.

Pretty quiet day today. I just went over to the juku to pick up my suitcase. The owner is off in the hospital having an operation for her gallstones.

Then I met up with my Friday afternoon student for her regular class. No problems. I got home and cooked up a pretty starchy dinner consisting of macaroni & cheese, pizza and broccoli soup. I couldn't finish it all off...thank heavens, I've grown out of that need to finish everything at one meal. I probably would have exploded if I'd had.

The weekend looks pretty quiet. I just have the little kid for tomorrow and then the rest of the time should have nothing. I was thinking about looking for a text for that new lady on Monday, but I figure that perhaps the new text I just used on the Curry Master, Arwen and Ms. 77 may suffice.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Thursday March 4, 10:41 p.m.

Well, it's official...I've got a cold. albeit at this moment, I'm suffering chiefly from a sore throat. However, I'm also feeling some aches and pains in my upper body. I was planning to get some domestic stuff done but it looks like my priority is sleep after another dose of medicine.

My lesson with Arwen and Ms. 77 went quite well with the new book. Once again, though, we ended up talking about what's wrong with my school. I wonder if the staff has been having some sneezing fits recently (sorry...that's an inside Japanese cultural joke). It was also quite successful in that I have found takers for those tickets to the Kabuki. And as a further bonus, I've been invited to one of the recent grad's goodbye party next Wednesday. I'll have to see if I can re-schedule my class with The Office Lady.

My later class with the Curry Master went pretty swimmingly. We just extrapolated from the material that I used with the earlier couple. Then, I met my second student who's a systems engineer. He's pretty good but needs some fluency as well as some conversational practice.

Well, I just hope that I'll be OK to pick up the hotplate from the juku tomorrow morning. My voice is just about gone...not that it really matters on a blog.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Wednesday March 3, 10:46 p.m.

It was certainly a cold day for the annual Hina Matsuri, that time to celebrate the girls of this country. Basically, all it entails is setting up a multi-tiered stage with little dolls called hina. I felt even colder than usual despite the longjohns and the coat which probably means that I've come down with a bug. Certainly, the beginnings of a sore throat isn't a very positive harbinger.

The Stylist's lesson was pretty freewheeling. Just into our second formal lesson, we already started getting majorly sidetracked into topics that I was surprised to get into at such an early stage in our professional relationship. Well, I was able to get some English into her and I got paid and she had a smile on her face so I guess that it wasn't too bad. However, it'll be more than a month before I see her again since she'll be off on a vacation up in the wilds of Hokkaido in mid-March.

Seeing that I had almost 7 hours of nothing between classes, I just had lunch at SEI-AN up in the station building before heading up to Maruzen up in Nihonbashi to pick up another couple of texts, and then it was off to Ginza to check out what was selling in HMV and Yamano Music. I did see a number of CDs that I wanted to get but the only one I splurged for was an old J-Pop disc.

The Office Lady was the only one who recognized Hina Matsuri by telling me that she was heading out to a hot spring out in Odaiba with her friend. I'm sure she's appreciating soaking in the tub on such a frigid evening. To remedy my chills, I made some Sapporo Ichiban with some cheap fish cake. I'll also probably take a good hot shower tonight before hitting the hay. I hadn't been getting a lot of quality sleep these past few days so I'm looking forward to getting some tonight without having to set the alarm for an ungodly hour. To think, the weather forecaster on NHK has predicted some snow again for my area tomorrow morning.

Well, I've got Arwen and Ms. 77 in the early afternoon, and then the Curry Master and her old student in the evening. I may be picking up the printer from her then.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Tuesday March 2, 11:27 p.m.

There was none of that freak snowfall from yesterday but the gray and the cold were still there as I headed off to see the Tsudanuma group in Ryogoku. It was the fisrt time in a long time that the entire membership showed up. One of them, the most fluent of the group, stopped coming some months ago; she says it's because she's busy but I think it's because she just finds the class a bit too easy for her.

It was the first time ever for me to go to Ryogoku, that area which boasts the Sumo Arena. We didn't actually go to see that but instead we went to the Tokyo Edo Museum. It certainly was an intriguingly designed building with a main base propping up a large wedge which represented the upper floors by huge red pylons. We were there to see the Okyo Maruyama painting exhibit; he had lived in the 18th-century where he was revered for combining Eastern and Western techniques. I'm not a huge art fan but I did enjoy looking at his works painted on scrolls and sliding door panels, and I had a good running dialogue with the students about the exhibit. Then, we went up to the wedge to see the general museum. There was a large semi-representation of Edo Tokyo surrounding Nihombashi. The gigantic exhibit gave insights on what life was like in Edo from the Tokugawa Period into Meiji-era Tokyo. It was all quite impressive and may merit another closer look in the near future.

The entire tour took less than 2 hours which suited me fine. We then hopped into a couple of taxis and headed for the Asahi Beer Building in Asakusa. It is one of the more notable buildings in Tokyo, no slouch when it comes to architectural oddities, in that it was developed by Phillip Stark and that it does look like a mug of beer with most of the building gilded in gold and the rooftop coloured in white. We had lunch at an Italian restaurant with a good view of the city below. From the impeccable service and the quality of the food, I assume that the place is usually a pretty exclusive place but their lunches were very reasonably priced. We all drank our lunch down with Bellevue Cherry Beer from Belgium. It's a deceptively strong brew despite its sweetness. After the satisfying lunch, I accompanied some of the remaining members into Asakusa, my old haunt, into Shin-Nakamise Dori, the shopping arcade until we reached a famous shoe store known for its low, low prices despite the cachet of its wares. I took a brief look and though there were a few pairs my size, I wasn't really into purchasing anything so I took my leave of the ladies and headed back home. I did receive a pair of invitation tickets from the most fluent of the group for a Kabuki show at the National Theater for the 16th. I'll have to try and find someone to go with although I think it will be rather tough. I don't know too many young folks who still like Kabuki.

I managed to stay at home for a little under 2 hours before heading out again to the juku to start off my 2nd Pancake Day festivities. I had to do a lot of quick thinking and arranging since I was lugging a lot of stuff over there. I skimmed some equipment before leaving with one suitcase holding the hotplate and a bag of utensils, books and the fondue pot. Getting there, I had to make one more pit stop at a nearby convenience store before the gang got there. The juku owner also joined us. After a brief note on how maple syrup is produced, all of us hit the production of pancakes with great gusto. Ironically, the one young lady who would have really appreciated the pancakes couldn't make it because of overtime. It's even sadder to note since she had never missed a single class before tonight. Well, the rest of us even tried the fondue. We actually had to boil the mixture on the stove to warm it up quickly but it also turned out OK. My 9 o'clock guy couldn't make it for the main party but I still had enough fixins on the table so that I was able to cook up a couple of pancakes which he gobbled down with panache. My little seminar and Q & A on maple syrup helped to cut down the time considerably.

I'm happy to be back home although I'll have to get up relatively early again since I have the Stylist tomorrow morning for her biweekly class.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Monday March 1, 9:32 p.m.

I'm very happy to hear that "The Return of the King" not only got the Oscar for Best Picture but swept every category that it had been nominated in. Hearing the other major Oscar winners, I gather that it was a pretty dull affair surprises at all. I often miss and dread watching the show at the same time. There's plenty of potential for some pop culture moments and moments of cringing. Seeing Sean Penn go up to the stage to collect his Oscar, I'm reminded that this was Jeff Spicoli 23 years ago.

I was meteorologically surprised today when I went off to work and was greeted by the sight of wet snow dropping out of the sky. Nothing punctuated the strangeness of this winter than the cold temps and snow after a fairly balmy weekend. Unfortunately, I had hung out my wash to dry, but the washing machine was pretty overloaded so I really had no choice in the matter.

I had another new student added onto the list this afternoon when my Monday morning student's sister-in-law asked me to help her with her English. Her ability is quite good but she's just a naturally shy person with not a whole lot of confidence. This could be a challenge. My Monday nighter was the first one without the company of The Iconoclast who had taken off for Hong Kong last Thursday. Therefore, I will probably not be having anymore Monday night dinners at Chinese restaurants and Foo Foo. It'll save me the money but I'll miss the conversation. I just had one student tonight, the weakest one of the bunch and it was a fair struggle to get through the wonderful world of preps. It didn't help that the President of the company was having a rather loud phone conversation for some of the class.

Well, I'm 70000 yen poorer after having paid my lease renewal fee, but that should take care of the drama behind the biannual rite. I'm sending off a thank-you gift to my uncle and his family for helping me out.

Although, officially I'll just be teaching one class tomorrow night, I've got quite a few miles to go before I lay my head down to sleep. I've gotta pack the aformentioned gift, do some ironing lest I really want to go outside without pants the next day and get the stuff ready for Pancake Day 2.

I got a message from Jazz Veteran. Hmmm...I hope that we can really get some sort of outing for a jazz place sometime in the next little while just to compensate for that downer by the Madam.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Monday March 1, 8:19 a.m.

Busy social calendar yesterday. I met up with Chip Guy and his family plus a couple of others for brunch in tony Omotesando. The place was called Fujimamas, a foreigner's enclave close by the landmark Kiddyland toy shop. The menu and portions were definitely akin to any place back home. My order, "The Plate" was an understatement; it was more of a platter laden down with scrambled eggs, sausages, pancakes, biscuits with gravy and hash browns. It was half the price of the ROTI version, but it was a bit uneven. The pancakes and hash browns were fine but the sausages tasted sweet and I didn't care much for the gravy. Amidst the conversation, I found out that Chip Guy will be pulling up stakes at the end of April.

I was frankly stuffed so I decided to walk up from Omotesando to Shinjuku. It didn't help too much in alleviating the bloated feeling but the exercise was good. I met up with Movie Buddy, Jazz Buddy and Jazz Veteran to catch "Master and Commander". The movie was good not great. There were some great battle scenes and Russell Crowe WAS Captain Jack. He really was convincing as a leader of men, and I wonder if his character could have been Captain Kirk's ancestor in terms of his command style and personality. The only thing that was missing was a predilection for women which only came up as a long stare at a pretty woman in a boat.

The movie had some slow points, though, and it was obvious from the pacing and episodic feel that the producers and writers were liberally borrowing from various chapters in the literary series. It felt like one season of a TV series pastiched together into a 2-hour movie. However, it was nice to see Billy Boyd use some of those swordsmanship skills from LOTR. All in all, though, I'm a bit surprised that it actually did get nominated for a Best Movie Oscar. I thought it would have been better if Crowe did get another Best Actor nomination.

Movie Buddy enjoyed it thoroughly but I think the two ladies were not nearly as enthralled. It did come off as more of a man's movie. Afterwards, we met up with Skippy and Sandra Dee in front of the theater for dinner. Movie Buddy took off for home while the rest of us headed for a nearby Asian fusion place nearby. We were later joined by Cutey. The food was quite good and we all ended up at the place for four hours, buoyed by the fare and the happy, and occasionally mildly raunchy, talk .

Perhaps the next time we meet, it will be to go with the Jazz ladies to a jazz club. So I'll have to search the Internet for a relatively cheap place (Jazz Buddy hinted a bit at the high price of the movie, despite the fact that we bought the tickets at the discount shop).