Saturday, May 29, 2004

Sunday May 30, 8:32 a.m.

It was indeed a quiet night last night. I cleaned up my place, and sure enough, it just took a few hours for the living room to get lived in again.

I made the final adjustments for the reservations at Fujimamas. It's only an increase of one, and I'm pretty sure that if I didn't say anything, they would just get another place setting arranged easily enough but I'm not one to leave things to chance when I'm planning something. Which is why some of the students have called me a "mame" or a bean. Over here, the lowly bean gets a promotion in that its slang meaning is "diligent one". I checked my e-mail; no messages from any of the participants which I'll take as a good sign. The last thing I need is a wholesale cancellation or more people all of a sudden.

I also did a dry run packing a single bag with my clothes and other stuff for Hokkaido. Keeping it light with just an extra pair of trousers, no pajamas among other things, I think I can pull it off. Also saw my hotel on the Internet; I took down the address and number; I'm happy about the check-in time but I would've liked a later check-out time, but I'm just grousing.

Not quite sure what I'll do after the brunch. Those two students from my juku never called up for the cheesecake thing in Ikebukuro so my stomach has been saved from a "Seven"-like fate. Most likely some of us will just head out for some form of coffee. In fact, I think I may even end up doing the course I did with Betty and The Office Lady a couple of weeks earlier. However, back then, it was pretty cold and rainy. From my vantage point, it looks far better today. Perhaps a walk around Harajuku and Omotesando would be in order.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Saturday May 29, 11:40 a.m.

Yup, really glad to have the day off. I've hung out the mattresses out to air out in what is a glorious day. It looks like my kids' schools aren't the only ones to have their festivals. The two elementary schools in my neighbourhood are currently having their own little sports festivals out in the schoolyards. The glacee stands are out there and families are bringing their picnic baskets and blankets. The usual John Phillip Sousa marches are playing while the kids are racing around the track.

Of course, I see this as an outsider since I have no connection with family which suits me just fine. I took my now-rare opportunity of getting my rubdown. I've always respected my massage clinic. I don't think I go there all that often and with all of the other customers that come in, I'm impressed that the receptionist and the director of the clinic not only know my name but what I usually want: work on my shoulders, neck and scalp. The place has become the equivalent of the neighbourhood tavern or even the old Japanese sento. Lots of banter among the techs and customers.

Well, I got my shopping done and now after lunch, I'll be cleaning up the apartment before dinner. Nice to do something not related to teaching once in a while. SR sent me a note stating that she won't be able to make our Friday lesson. I let her know that that was alright since I probably would appreciate the extra time off after coming back from Sapporo Thursday night.

I heard that a couple of Japanese journalists got shot and killed in Iraq. But I haven't heard anything in the wide shows which is rather strange, although I did see some headlines of the fact last night.

In a way, I hope I can get that cleaning done fairly quickly. On a day like today, I could sure use a nap.
Saturday May 29, 12:33 a.m.

Man, it was one of those boner days again yesterday with Arwen, 77 and Automan.The day before it was my fault for forgetting to call Automan, Today, however, was multi-pronged. First, 77 accidentally tipped over my teapot...well, that didn't really cramp my style since the owner of the tea room was more than happy to fill up the pot once again. But I found out that I hadn't given them some handouts which would've supplied some homework for them, so I looked pretty foolish there. And then Movie Buddy dropped in, so I wasn't sure if 77 were too happy about having another chatfest instead of some substantial work being done. MB is a great guy but sometimes he doesn't know when not to stay out of stuff.

Then, it was trying to contact Automan several times and just getting his message machine. I finally had to leave the Tea Room's number on it so that Automan could reach me. It turned out that his cellphone batteries had died. So the trio of us and MB ended up spending an extra 2 hours there before we could get some sort of idea of what was happening. I felt doubly bad since I had asked Arwen and 77 if they wanted to tag along. I wasn't sure if they were thinking of coming along initially since I hadn't heard any sort of response but obviously when they hung on for the extra 2 hours, I knew that something was up. Well, it wasn't over yet. Automan and I decided that we would meet him at Akihabara Station at 5:30. He didn't show up until 6:00 p.m. which didn't exactly please me but I didn't say anything since I had company. But the fact that the two women were left hanging (at one point, they even wrote placards with Automan's name on it to flag him down) left me feeling even more guilty.

As it turned out, we ended up going to a nearby Denny's where some of us just had some juice. During the usual interrogation by the ladies of our guest, Automan decided to correct the ladies on their grammar which embarrassed and irked me. There is a time to correct students and there is a time NOT to do so. Overall, I felt very uncomfortable; I realize that I had informed Arwen about the fact that we would meet him for some coffee and then dinner but with his tardiness and just the long lag time, I felt like I was responsible for wasting their time. He can be feckless.

Luckily, he left a bit early so that he could meet up with some more old friends in Ikebukuro. The three of us, alone again, could talk up a bit before I went to catch up with Automan at the restaurant in Ikebukuro. There, I met up with one old friend, The Veteran, whom I hadn't seen in years since our time in the old club together. He'd gotten married with a Japanese woman and was now living in Matsudo. There were quite a few people there, all who had lived in Toronto at some period in the last decade. One of them had a rather massive decolletage. However, most of the time was spent talking with The Veteran. He'd only been in the Big Sushi a few months but he's already grumbling about the chaos of life here, and he has yet to experience a Japanese summer. Some people get used to it; others beg to get on the first plane out of the country.

We were restricted to 2 hours at the place. It was another one of those classier izakaya with the burnt wood interiors, dim lighting and jazz music and somewhat imaginatively produced food. Afterwards, we had the prerequisite spate of reunion photos and surprisingly enough, I believe that most of us called it a night. I certainly wanted to; not that I didn't enjoy the company but it was a Friday night and that means a lot of drunken idiots on the train. Sure enough, my train back home had some besotted fool attempting to stay standing beside me while I had my seat. His bag kept hitting me on the knee; I coddled fanstasies of taking ripping into the leather until I remembered from the conversation with Arwen and 77. Arwen mentioned that a week previously, when she, the coordinator and a couple of other former students went off to a concert, the coordinator, rather drunk and smoking heavily, gleefully admitted to vandalizing a neighbour's dog which was barking too much. Knowing the coordinator was just one book short of a shelf, I rather held back on my foul thoughts. In any case, the drunk got off a couple of stations before I did.

I got home, took a shower and then sent off an e-mail apologizing to Arwen about the past day. I know that she'll probably fend off any apology for both her and 77 but I think things just didn't work out. I'll have to be pretty careful about inviting them next time.

I'm so happy that I don't have to teach the kids today. I'll be getting that long-needed rubdown at my massage clinic before I tackle cleaning the place up. And then I'm gonna try and see if I can pack just one bag for Hokkaido.

Saw Macauley Culkin on Larry King tonight. Man, he's annoyingly chirpy. I can't really say that he's turned out all that physically handsome either.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Friday May 28, 8:47 a.m.

Pretty warm start to the day. I've got the fan on at full blast right now.

My juku boss let me know not to worry about next Tuesday classes. She'll probably just cancel them. I think it's much better that way and I'd feel more at ease.

Now, for one of my observations on the paradoxes of this society. For a country that has a pacifistic constitution (albeit one written by the United States), the Japanese seem to have a very high gore threshold. In the past few weeks, I've gone through some of their tabloids...glossier than their American or British equivalents but tabloids nonetheless. They have shown the pics of those American engineers who were shot and immolated by the Iraqis, and they actually showed the beheading of Nick Berg, including the picture of the terrorist holding Berg's head. Now, one can point out that the grisly video is on the Internet for anyone to access, but I think that people here have much easier access to a magazine at a kiosk than to a computer website. Also, in the video stores I've come across stuff like "Faces of Death". In another mini-paradox of the horror genre, the traditional Japanese horror has very little gore, relying on mood and centuries-old horror characters to scare the pants off of the audience. However, there are also the Japanese take on Western-style "splatter" horror movies which seem to outgore "Friday the 13th" or "Elm Street" by a good country mile. I'll save the...gory..details, but one traipse through a video store here will bear my observation out.
Thursday May 27, 9:19 p.m.

Today's class went well. Unfortunately, I pulled a bit of a boner by forgetting to call Automan after the class to let him know my availability. He contacted me so I'll definitely be meeting him tomorrow afternoon.

The Curry Master informed me that there is a possibility that it might be rather difficult from now on to have Thursday classes because of some job training. I'm not sure if she's telling the truth or if she's doing the usual Japanese white lie to save face, but I let her know that if she won't be available, perhaps I can teach that other woman she had mentioned weeks ago.

Well, I've got those reservations in for Sunday. Sure enough, the first e-mail I get is from OA asking if her buddy can join in the fun. I'll hold on and see if someone decides to cancel out before I make any changes.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Wednesday May 26, 10:10 p.m.

Another appearance of the Dancing Bear for another class at the school. The kids had a great time as usual but I'm kinda wondering if I just acted a little too much like fellow Canadian Jim Carrey instead of the professional teacher. In retrospect, I think I should've pulled myself in a bit. However, tomorrow's lesson is with the lowest class which I didn't exactly set on fire the first time around, so I may have to pull out the stops for them.

Once I got home I had a few housekeeping things to set up. It looks like I got a party of 7 for the brunch so I'll have to get that reservation at Fujimamas tomorrow morning. But I figure even if I can't snag it, we'll just show up 30 minutes earlier and just grab some seats.

I actually got my coupons for Hokkaido tonight from a rather forlorn delivery man. Looks like everything is in order. And I don't have to show up hours earlier for my morning flight. 40 minutes will do just nicely.

I called up The Curry Master since I didn't get any response from her by e-mail. It looks like she's had a bout with tonsillitis. Over here, it's not the custom to have the tonsils out during childhood. In fact, the philsophy about the tissue is exactly opposite from that of North America. Over here, apparently, the tonsils are kept to protect oneself from bacteria. Well, CM managed to survive the past two days without having to rid herself of them. So, it looks like the lessons are on tomorrow. However, she has told me that most likely she won't be subbing for me on Tuesday since she's gonna be too busy and with her energy levels rather sapped from the tonsillitis, she won't be in too good of a condition for teaching. I'm not exactly disappointed with her decision. Call it a bit of Mother Hen Syndrome but after a year of teaching my Tuesday nighters, I feel a bit defensive of anyone taking over. Plus, the logistics involved would be a bit difficult to pull off since I'm gonna have to write reports and make a lot of copies. However, I'm not sure how the boss is gonna take it, though. There is one more veteran teacher that she could ask, but that teacher is a bit on the strict side.

It looks like the party for Automan last night went off well. It turned out to be a regular reunion for the U of T guys. I haven't heard anything from him yet about tomorrow afternoon, the only window of opportunity that we have to meet.

I called up the mother of my Saturday afternoon kid. Yup, the morning students' mother called it right. The afternoon kid will be out at that school festival. I've got the entire day off. I can do some prelim planning for the trip next week.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Wednesday May 26, 8:39 a.m.

It hasn't gotten mentioned on CNN, so I'll do the honours. It looks like the Japanese authorities have started moving in on some places for the Al Qaeda connection. Apparently, there is one fellow that they really want to meet.

Looks like another potential blockbuster threat to the United States has surfaced again. Must be summer...

I checked the e-mail. I haven't received any acknowledgement from the Curry Master about the assignment that I'd sent earlier this morning. She usually checks her e-mail around midnight so I'm wondering if her mother is keeping her away from the computer.

Well, I'm facing far less work today. I'm only a third as busy as I was yesterday. Just three hours worth of classes.

That Japanese kid who won the Best Actor prize at Cannes hasn't made too much of a splash here in the media since grabbing it. It looks like the abductees are still taking the front page. In a way, I think it's quite right.
Wednesday May 26, 12:21 a.m.

I ran through the gauntlet of classes yesterday more or less intact. I didn't even have to rely on the vitamin drinks. My juku boss' 3 cups of coffee got me through the night. However, I was happy to get that shower when I got home. That spruced me up a bit to get through the e-mail and blogging business before I hit the hay.

The two classes at the school went well. I kept my streak of reducing students to giggling mounds of jelly alive with my Dancing Bear act. Basically, I was brought in to teach the top class yesterday since the coordinator got an earful from the kids the day before for some lousy teaching from the others. Basically put, I was the English teaching equivalent of the stopper. The students quickly picked up on that as soon as I came in, and sure enough, I got the job done. But boy, it's not a good situation if I have to be brought in for that sort of thing too often.

I raced to the juku after my classes with a quick stop at a convenience store for a very small dinner of two rice balls, a tangy salad and some strawberry chocolates. My first pair of students got pretty interested in my flyer of that Cheesecake Exhibition in Namjatown at the Sunshine 60 Building in Ikebukuro. The older sullen sister on Saturday gave it to me after her visit there. One of them suggested a potential visit there on the 30th since the exhibition will be wrapping up on June 6th. The 30th is also the day for that brunch with Arwen and 77. In a way, I'm kinda hoping that the plans for this visit to munch on cheesecake falls through since I'm not sure what my condition will be after another brunch at Fujimamas. Plus, the exhibition will probably be packed with people on Sunday anyways.

Speaking of Fujimamas, I so far have 5 people including myself ready to go for brunch. I need one more person to get those reservations in. However, if noone else shows up, I can save myself the phone call and just tell everyone to show up in Harajuku at 10:30 a.m.

By the end of my juku classes, I was fit to be tied. And yet, I still had to make some copies for the sub teacher for my Thursday night student and then talk with the boss about next Tuesday's classes. There's a possibility that the Curry Master will be taking over for me then so I've gotta get some info out to her. I still have to get an assignment made up for her lesson on Thursday night. But the boss told me last night that CM's mother is in town staying at her place so I'm not sure what her situation will be.

Another old friend of mine from years past, Seiko, sent me a message about an upcoming alumni reunion party in July. She quickly pointed out the fact that she's back to her maiden name. Uh-oh. I remember some years ago when she boasted that she and her hubby had never had a spat since tying the knot. I guess they both caught up on that part to their detriment.

The Persian's friend sent me a message stating that she won't be able to make it out for Saturday since she'll probably be packing for her trip back to Taiwan on Sunday. A pity but totally understandable. I also wonder how that party for Automan went last night. With the 9 hours of classes, I forgot about this wingding.

I wrapped up the Charlie Brown retrospective with that 1987 interview with Schulz. He may have been a somewhat neurotic fellow with chronic self-doubt but he certainly didn't hold back on his opinions about other artists. He sure had a chip on his shoulder about Garry Trudeau and Doonesbury. I certainly could relate with Schulz though with a number of his personal issues. A number of parallels can be drawn between the two of us. Either we could have been good friends or the worst of enemies.

Well, gotta get that assignment done and it's already almost 1.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Monday May 24, 9:48 p.m.

Feeling pretty tired right now after 5 hours of classes. Not a good omen for tomorrow's marathon of classes. Well, I guess I'll have to load up on the vitamin drinks and coffee.

My first class with the ladies ended up as another gabfest. One of them, the owner of the house that I teach at, asked if we could actually tackle some written material in the form of a short story or an article. Knowing them, I think an article would be better since they sidetrack so easily. It's almost like throwing a bowling ball down an alley which has been bent upwards in the middle.

My final class with the company folks wasn't as bad as last week's slogfest but it certainly wasn't any thriller. I was saved by the fact that the weakest link in the class was out on a business trip and the fact that for some reason, the guys got pretty obsessed with trying to distinguish [r] and [l] in pronunciation. Go fig!

It was another bipolar day meterologically. After the freeze and rain of yesterday, the morning and afternoon were pretty much in the slow broil zone. However, the rain has come back tonight. Apparently, this checkerboard approach to weather will continue tomorrow with another sunny day.

I'm rather lucky that I was able to start planning for tomorrow's classes during the brief break that I had before the company class. I'm not much up for doing anything academic right now. I'll probably just wash the dishes, throw out the garbage and take a shower. I would hit the hay right at 11 as well if it weren't for the fact that I ate dinner at 9. If I'm gonna save my stomach from morning turmoil, I don't dare go to bed until at least midnight.

I made it through the first volume of strips from THE COMPLETE PEANUTS and now I'm starting the rather deep analysis of Schulz's masterpiece by some sort of expert. Going through the first two years of PEANUTS (1950-1952) was a revelation for me. I was born some 15 years after its debut so the characters had already evolved into their "mature" state, so to speak, starting with my first exposure to the annual Xmas special. The less shaky, even more simplistic drawings aside, it was interesting to note that Charlie Brown had often been as vindictive as his friends in the early days...far from the lovable loser that we know today. Snoopy was much more conventional as a mostly mute beagle which walked on all four feet, Linus and Schroeder were barely toddlers, Patty, Violet and Shermy were Chuck's main buddies, and Lucy was not just a little companion who looked up to Charlie but she was actually sweet. It'll probably cost me a fair bit of coin but I'm definitely looking forward to Volume 2.

In more contemporary and localized pop culture, it looks like Morning Musume will be ousting another couple of members come January. One, the current leader, won't be any major loss since she seems to just exist as a living totem pole, but the other is a fairly popular figure. With the defections of three other popular members this year, some of the young'uns on the MM maillist have been crying out for the hide of Tsunku, the Svengali of the group. It's hard to say what the guy's motives are with this huge Spring Cleaning. Perhaps he's trying to induce a quick demise to a group that has peaked a few years ago or perhaps he's trying to pull off a rather drastic Hail Mary.

What else is new? Well, according to CNN, PM Koizumi's approval ratings have gone up a bit since the weekend's summit which got those kids out of North Korea. I'm pretty confident that those families whose missing members are still such weren't responsible for the rise in the polls.

I got word from my contact at Japan Tours about my travel coupons for Hokkaido next week. It'd been a week since I had heard anything from her so I was getting a bit antsy. I'm wondering if she's just a rookie, though, she seems to ask a lot of questions like a greenhorn. Well, I gotta get a bag to carry some of my clothes. I don't particularly want to carry a suitcase for a trip like this.

And that giggly friend of the Persian's contacted me again by e-mail. I suggested that we could meet up on Saturday night for dinner before she finally heads out back to the home country.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Sunday May 23, 9:25 p.m.

Got together with some of the gang to catch TROY. But first I picked up that first volume of the Peanuts gang. I saved a good 1000 yen by picking it up at Towers instead of another bookstore. I guess I've got that case of Snoopy fever now.

I had a half-hour before the group met up at the Picadilly in Shinjuku so I took a walk down to check out the Virgin Megastore only to find that it has been replaced by a furniture shop. I guess unless it has moved its digs elsewhere, Richard Branson is making even less of a mark now than ever. His Virgin cola didn't last too long here and I guess the same is true about his CD store. It really couldn't compete with HMV and Towers.

Skippy and the Maid were the first to show up. They told me that three of the others including The Madame were going to be scratches. However, Movie Buddy saved the day by bringing Frodo and another friend of his. TROY was an OK movie as blockbusters go...plenty of action and the two stars comported themselves quite well. I think Eric Bana is starting to make inroads toward the A-list, for example. I can't even imagine him as a sketch comedian as he was back in Oz, but then again, who would have thought that Tom Hanks would become the Jimmy Stewart of the early 21st century back in his Bosom Buddies days?
Anyways, storywise, Homer would have been spinning in his grave somewhat. The movie itself probably gets a 6 or 7 in my estimation; it just didn't have all that epic a feel despite all that CG of marching armies and sailing ships. But I've got a feeling that Achilles' line of "Take it!...It's yours!" could become the catchphrase of the summer.

Afterwards, all of us went to this nearby cafe with very stylish sensibilities and jazz music. MB and Frodo picked up their better halves and one other lad to join our group. There was some transitional time necessary to get everyone comfy with each other but it did get accomplished. Mind you, it isn't everyday that the extraction of wisdom teeth becomes one of the main topics for discussion. OA called up on Skippy's phone. She couldn't make it because of her TOEIC test; it'd been a few weeks since I'd heard from her. I think the last time was during the Ballerina's dinner when she got obnoxiously drunk.

All of us split up but Skippy, The Maid and I decided to head to the wilds of Kabukicho into the Theatre Plaza facing the Koma Theater to see the actual Trojan Horse used in TROY. Somehow, the powers-that-be managed to deconstruct, ship and then reconstruct it in the plaza. The two ladies took some pics standing in front of it with their cellphone cameras.

More info got talked about concerning the brunch next Sunday and then even the next movie. Most likely, it'll be THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW.

In other news, those family members of the abductees finally got home from North Korea in what was another live event across all of the channels. Cameras were following every kilometre from Haneda Airport to the Akasaka Prince Hotel as the bus and police escort made its way across downtown Tokyo. Meanwhile, the guy who got them out of there, PM Koizumi, is in pretty hot water with the families of 10 still-missing abductees. They were uncharacteristically blunt and furious at the Prime Minister for not doing nearly enough to get info on what has happened to their long-lost loved ones. I can understand the families' frustrations but I also gotta feel for the PM as well. It was pretty much a no-win situation; there was no way that enough info would have satisfied the families and one has to be very careful negotiating with a self-made delusional god like Kim Jong Il.

I forgot to mention that Automan called me up this morning. Apparently, he was already on the tarmac running when he got in last night. He'd already gotten invited to some sort of do out in Yokohama which would be a good 2 hours from Narita on a good day. Surprisingly, he accepted and trudged all the way out there. He said he was still in pretty good condition. But I'm not sure if we will be able to get together considering the tightness of both our schedules this week.

Well, off to take a shower, get a cup of chai into me, and then read some more Peanuts to Vince Guaraldi before hitting the hay. The lesson planning can wait til the morning.