Saturday, August 21, 2004

Saturday August 21, 8:31 p.m.

Spoke with Mom for the first time in a month. She and Dad plus their friends had a good time on their Alaskan cruise. Another one of those floating all-you-can-eat buffet ships. They got to see the tail ends of whales and one brown bear up in the tundra. They also got to meet the relatives in Vancouver.

Got over to the Grapevine a full half-hour before it started. Being the first one there, the old but kindly proprietor gave me a glass of beer. I had to sip slowly so that I didn't end up entertaining the masses a bit too much. The party was a smaller affair as is usually the case with the September grads but it was good. We had eight out of nine grads show up with six teachers: me, Movie Buddy, The Jester, The Rapper, The Shamrock and a new teacher, the High Roller. In previous years, we've had our grad parties at the Grapevine. My impression was not all that great of the place due to a subpar menu one time and the fact that it's a pretty old and dank place more suited for the streets of old Asakusa. However, the fried chicken, the beef stew (for which I got a doggie bag) and the other dishes worked out very well today. Plus, the owners were very nice people. And we got some special off-menu cakes for dessert. I may just take them up on their offer to dine there for dinner one night..that is, if I ever get a chance to teach at the school again.

I may have committed one faux pas when I mentioned that there would be a singing segment and I made a snarky crack about it. The Coordinator is big on singing at these parties, but I am most definitely not. I realize that she likes it so I should've just held my tongue. It doesn't look like there was any damage, though. One good thing about the smaller September graduation parties is that the speeches by the students are resultingly smaller in number.

Also the following parties for this group were also somewhat more subdued. This group of alumni consisted of a quieter lot so we just had some coffee before the karaoke box opened up next door. We spent the next couple of hours there with The Rapper taking the lead in the singing. We started out filling a couple of rooms but by the second hour, one of the rooms emptied out. I took care of the financial matters which were surprisingly inexpensive. And I also contributed my vocal cords; my impression of Satchmo on "What A Wonderful World" seemed to have wowed the masses. Everything broke up by 6:30 which was fine with me since I really needed to get a shower.

Before he took off, the Jester and I had a short talk on stuff. True to his moniker, he's been the life of every party that we've had over the past year. However, today, despite his usual jokes and antics, he told me that he was exhausted after a pretty sleepless week. It's darn admirable of him to keep the party going but he really doesn't need to stress himself out. He did mention that he'd like to try out the food museums at the Sunshine 60 Building someday in the near future. Unfortunately, his weekeday night schedule is booked up and the museums are crowded to the rafters during the weekend, so we may have to wait a while until he gets a better schedule.

The Ballerina left a message in response to mine. She's doing OK although she did mention that she had a small problem with her eye. She'll be coming back to Tokyo in a couple of weeks so we'll probably get together again in early September.

Well, got the lesson with Jazz Buddy tomorrow in Shinagawa followed by another steak dinner at the Outback.

Looks like the weather is starting to slow down in the heat pumps. Just going to 29 tomorrow. Maybe we'll start facing that inexorable slide into Fall.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Saturday August 21, 9:27 a.m.

Had the AC turned on as soon as I got up as has been the ritual since the summer began, only to be slightly embarrassed when I opened the window to get the laundry going. It actually felt drier and cooler. Looks like the typhoon is making up for yesterday's blast by giving us more reasonable weather.

Well, it's official now. Japan medal count just surpassed its Sydney count. It was a bumper crop yestereday with two more judo golds, a swimming gold and a swimming bronze. Definitely a good way to finish up the judo competition with that double gold. Of course, the media are sinking their teeth into this story.

A little bit more household stuff to do before heading out for the grad party. Gotta pick up a camera as well.
Friday August 20, 8:11 p.m.

The lesson with The Teacher turned out to be a gabfest. Kinda too bad since the material she brought with her was on David Cronenberg. Always good to read up on a fellow Canadian.

Afterwards, I headed out to Ginza in the blazing heat. The area is a solar conductor with all of the pavement and concrete holding and reflecting the heat and the tall buildings barring any winds from the bay. I just basically browsed through the CD stores, just buying a Premiere magazine.

Then, I headed up to the school. Looks like there have been improvements during my absence. There was a rather large library along the wall with basic reader versions of famous movies ranging from "My Fair Lady" to "Mrs. Doubtfire". I got there a couple of hours before the pizza party so I spent that time re-acquainting myself with the students. They were quite happy to see me after so long so we basically had a good chatfest before the pizzas arrived. When they asked me what I was back here for, I told them that I was there for the pizza and them....although I didn't give them the ratio. Saw The Jester and met the new addition to the crew.

The pizza party took care of my dietary needs for the day. With The Teacher paying for my coffee and sandwiches this morning, my food budget was at a rare minimum. Movie Buddy was the only other teacher to show up for the culinary feast. Of course, I'll see him and another such feast tomorrow at the grad party.

I just got home to see Japan crush Canada 9-1 in baseball, and now the track n' field events are starting up with the hammer throw. We got our local favourite, Murofushi, propping up the side here.

MB asked me about catching Fahrenheit 911 on Tuesday which is fine with me since I've got nothing until the juku. I found a theatre in Ginza which is showing the Michael Moore opus. Hopefully, the free tickets will be accepted there.

I got another delivery notice at the door. Looks like Anime King made another purchase from the boys at SEGA.

Not sure what it's gonna be like tomorrow weatherwise. With the typhoon north of us, we may get a drop in temps and some rain.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Friday July 20, 8:13 a.m.

Another Gold and Silver. A once-hard luck judoist on the Olympic mats finally got her medal in a big way, and a guy who last got a bronze way back at the Montreal Olympics got a silver in archery.

Paddy's contacted me. We'll be meeting up on the 4th for some brewskis at the Maple Leaf. I've also invited PH but she's iffy. May need to get the ol' Hotel ready once again.

Watching the Michael Jackson trial, I just reminisce when he was once admired and beloved for his music and the Moonwalk back in my high school days, He's now seen as a has-been freak by most of the States except for a group of extremely loyal fans. I'm frankly not sure if he's indeed a pedophile, but I think he is a sadly disturbed fellow who has Peter Pan Syndrome.
Thursday August 19, 9:49 p.m.

Don't mind me...I'm just broiling again. Another skin-searing day today in the Big Sushi. 35 degrees once more although there were probably areas such as concrete-and-glass bound Shinbashi which registered higher temps. And we're gonna face another hot one tomorrow as well. However, we are getting a bit of variety...we've got Typhoon 15 skirting us to the north which will dump a ton of rain on the northern frontier; ironically for that reason, we'll be getting hit with the heat wave for one more day. Then, about an hour ago, we got slightly rocked by a Shindo 3 tremor. The weatherman said that after Friday, the temperature will drop below 30 as the typhoon has a more sympathetic influence on us.

Had my haircut at the salon this morning. My regular stylist is just the most "up-with-people" type. Anything I say is given the utmost attention and enthusiasm. To be honest, I'm not sure if she's truly interested in what I have to say (preferably, I'd rather have my haircut in total silence but I also like to be considerate) but my ex told me that her personality really is switched to 11 and I can't believe anyone could maintain a veneer of enthusiasm for almost 2 years without going nuts. In any case, I'm less scraggly now.

Just had a bit of lunch and stuff at home for a few hours before heading out once more in the summer sun to see SR at the Tea Room. Recently, I found out that one of the waitresses there actually lived in my neighbourhood so today we had a bit of a chat and compared notes. She goes to all of my shopping places so it'll be inevitable that we'll catch each other now that she's put me on notice. I'll have to be on my best behaviour from now on.

Cooked up a mess of protein, carbohydrates and veg in one dish so that I'll be able to hold up just nicely until breakfast. The Olympic team had a bit of heartbreak today. Kosei Inoue, the heavyweight judoist and captain of the entire Japanese delegation, was upset by a Dutchman in the quarterfinals. And the Japanese didn't fare too well in the individual gymnastics category after getting that gold for the group. Still, we're doing pretty well.

It'll just be The Teacher so no planning needed there. And then, I'll probably head out to the school for the term-end pizza party. This will actually be the first time there in a month. And it'll be the first time that I didn't get a chance to teach the graduating class in their final week. I'm not too bothered by it, though, since my time with this current group wasn't too long. However, I'll be glad to see them tomorrow and then on graduation day on Saturday.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Wednesday August 18, 8:53 p.m.

5 hours of teaching today. It's been a while since I did that; as a result, I'm feeling pretty tapped out. I'm not even that hungry. I just had some chicken nuggets with some milk. Part of the problem was the remainder of the spaghetti I had for breakfast. That was pretty gnarly stuff. Next time, I won't throw in a ton of shredded cheese into my Spaghetti Pepperoncino...not a good mix. Cheese and Spaghetti Bolognese, that's the ticket.

I had my final class with the Biologist. Very pleasant. She pulled off her best presentations to date today. I wish her well.

Looks like we have another two finals to look forward to in judo. But the Men's baseball team just had their asses handed back to them by Australia of all countries.

Checked up on how ol' Canada was doing. Just one bronze medal. A bit early but I wonder if anyone in Sports Canada will be looking for a job afterwards.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Tuesday August 17, 11:50 p.m.

Looks like Japan is going through a gold rush of sorts. Almost 24 hours after the gymnastics team got its gold, another judoka, Tanimoto, got hers in dramatic fashion. I'm starting to remember how much I enjoyed watching judo in the first half of the Sydney Olympics. And Greece got its own gold in judo right now much to the joy of the local crowd. For Japan, though, it's 6 gold medals and counting.

Another blazing hot day. The humidity was really bad thanks to the rain tonight. It just sealed in the sweat that wanted to evaporate, so I felt like I was wearing a thin coat of moisture. Not pleasant. What's worse is that we'll be back up to 35 tomorrow and I've got a full slate on my plate. I've got the kids for a rare weekday class, the Biologist for her last lesson, and then the OL. Speaking of last lessons, I had the final class with my 9-10 student tonight before he takes off for his new life in the States. Best of luck to him.

Those Yokohama pics came in. They look pretty good. I'll be quite happy to post those in my album. Well, it's off to bed.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Tuesday August 17, 9:32 a.m.

It's Asahi Beer Time! Looks like this Japanese team has been providing a lot of thrills and heartbreak...what the Olympic experience is. We picked up another couple of medals. A bronze in swimming, but the big one was a gold in group gymnastics, the first one since Montreal. Of course, the media has been swarming all over the triumphant team like bees on an invading wasp.

It's one of the intriguing things about the Japanese coverage. Back Stateside, one network bids out of the four majors to become the sole broadcaster while the other three feed on relative scraps. Over here, NHK and all of the commercial networks share coverage so that at least two stations during prime broadcasts have their eye on different venues. Great idea. I only feel sorry for the winning athletes,though. If they especially win gold, they're pretty much required to attend every network's HQ in Athens for interviews. After all their work and tension, the media spotlight must be like going from the frying pan into the fire.
Monday August 16, 9:15 p.m.

Well, since my last entry, Japan grabbed another gold from swimming. Kosuke Kitajima is another Olympian hero. However, since then, the men's soccer team played themselves out of medal contention and the women's volleyball team lost another one, this time to Italy. Right now, I just saw a former member of that women's team and a former pro tennis player giving a bit of a scolding on air about how an Olympic team should play. I can only imagine that the coach must be vocally stripping the wallpaper off in the dressing room.

Back in the real world, we got back to the heat and humidity. My back and neck were all sticky and wet as I staggered up the stairs to the apartment and my AC is up and running once more after a day off. However, we may get another round of cooler (under 30) weather and rain tomorrow.

I made it over to City Hall and updated my gaijin card. Only took 5 minutes and then I was off to Shinjuku. I ended up having my coffee again at Andersens before teaching my company class. Man, that low student was really low today....completely on tree trunk mode. I've almost finished the text so I have to think about getting the next text for them. It'll have to be the Side by Side 2; there's no way any of them can handle anything harder. I don't even know if I'm gonna get renewed.

It'll be another day of nothing tomorrow until the juku classes. I'll go grab that rubdown and then make up a mess of pasta to use up all the remaining cheese. I just bought a big hamburger patty on rice and salad for dinner. I'm rather impressed at how much the Japanese love their Salisbury Steak. Back home, when one thinks of hamburgers, one thinks of the patty between two halves of a bun and an assortment of condiments. Over here, we of course have that but hamburger steaks are even more ubiquitious than probably in Salisbury, England. Every supermarket has them in the showcase. My supermarket has them either smothered in some sort of sauce, whether it be soy or Italian tomato, on a bed of rice. It's just too easy to pick one up for a quick dinner or lunch.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Sunday August 15, 11:09 p.m.

After 40 days and 40 nights of record-breaking heat wave, the Mt. Ararat of temperatures delivered us from oblivion, albeit temporarily. Thanks to a barrage of low pressure systems up north, Tokyo finally broke its hex and got a good dousing and a mere 22-degree high. It felt almost like Fall. However, we'll be back to mundane reality again from tomorrow.

After my kids yesterday, I went off to meet Movie Buddy in front of the Picadilly in Shinjuku to catch RIDDICK. It was just two of us as I'd expected. Well, what can I say about RIDDICK? I never caught PITCH BLACK but the sequel was pretty much stand alone despite some of the back references. It struck me as an entertaining B-movie. For that reason, I was surprised that Dame Judi Dench appeared in it. I guess the old age pension just isn't making ends meet for her. As for Vin Diesel, I'm wondering if he's gonna end up being an answer to a trivia question about early 21st-century Hollywood.

We did our usual kaffeeklastch after the flick before we headed back home and did our semi-annual DVD-a-thon. We grabbed some salad and drinks at the supermarket, and then ordered some pizzas from home. It's actually been several months since my last taste of pizza. Basically, the last time I had it was during the last time MB came over for DVDs.

The DVD-a-thon followed the mediocre path started by RIDDICK earlier in the day. The best of the weak lot was BAD BOYS 2. I actually enjoyed it a bit better than MB did; he just found it headthumpingly homophobic. I thought the same, but the action scenes were typically Michael Bay entertainment. Certainly, the extended car chase rivaled that of MATRIX RELOADED. However, I found Will Smith's character throughly unlikeable and even wished that Martin Lawrence actually went through his decision to break up the partnership. Some scenes also seemed to have been tacked on as an afterthought.

It was pretty much downhill from there. I SPY was another Eddie Murphy step into the sunset of his career. Something just didn't gel between him and Owen Wilson although individually both had some good zingers. MB liked it better than I did.

And last AND least, there was BULLETPROOF MONK. The title may have been fine for an obscure comic but all it did was just elicit a smirk as a title for a feature movie. Mind you, it was nice to see that all those English lessons Chow Yun Fat had taken didn't go to waste. And it was nice seeing all those Toronto scenes. Pity about the movie.

It's been a great weekend for the local sports fan here. There are the National High School Baseball Championships and the Olympics. Great start for Japan in Athens. During our DVD-a-thon, Ryoko Tani and one other fellow managed to grab two golds in judo. Mind you, those two may represent half of the medals Japan is gonna get but it's nice to see them explode right from the start. And it's looking pretty up for the gymnastics team. Continuing on the sports beat, the huge news comes from the Giants where the dictator owner of the team suddenly resigned to take responsibility for some sort of illegal scouting scandal. I think there's more to the story than has been shown so far. A guy like Tsuneo Watanabe wouldn't just give up the goat over some low underling's error that probably occurs regularly in just about every other team.

Both MB and I had a good amount of sleep despite the fact that we hit the hay around 3 a.m. this morning. I kept the AC on for MB and then of course, the arriving coolness helped things out immensely. By the time, we got out of the apartment, it was already past noon so we ended up going to the nearby Skylark for a bit of lunch. We had a good ol' time talking up the movies.

We hit the subway and headed out to the city. MB was going back home all the way on the other side while I made a pit stop at Maruzen to pick a book for the kids. Then, it was off to Shinjuku to meet Jazz Buddy. I had an hour before she showed up so I just sat in the old plaza. It was a different feeling not sweating up fountains outside. When I went in, I saw JB sitting all the way in the back of the Starbucks. We could only do the first hour there since the place closed at 7 so we continued things at Bologne, a cafe in the Century Hyatt. We both had a very nice Steak on Rice set there and we chatted up on hitting the Outback after the lesson, so we've set up the lesson in Shinagawa next week.

Since I've got nothing until the company tomorrow night, I can wake up pretty leisurely although that will depend whether it will remain cool during the morning.

With all of the sports going on right now, the news that it's the 59th anniversary of the end of WWII for Japan has been largely smothered despite the NHK-televised ceremony at the Budokan today. Perhaps in a way, it's a good thing.

Hey, another two medals in judo.