Saturday, August 28, 2004

Sunday August 29, 12:55 p.m.

Typhoon 16 is making its presence felt here although to a far lesser degree than in the south and west. It's been raining steadily all day but we've been saved the gales. A lot of people were saying that this typhoon will mark the coming of Fall. Not according to the weather forecast. We still have a few more days of torrid heat coming up.

Yesterday was pretty quiet. Just went to see M + M at the Tea Room. Had a very nice chat about what everyone was up to. One of them said that she'd started driving lessons since she was approaching the big 4-0. Signs of a mid-life crisis? She needn't worry all that much...she still looks young for someone in their late 30s. For me, the only place I wanna be in a car is in the back.

The Olympics are winding down and most of the Japanese contingent are back home. I kinda wonder how that's gonna look to the rest of the Athens crowd during the closing ceremonies but then again as I recall, all the athletes just enter the stadium pell-mell regardless of nation anyways. Still, Japan has nothing to be ashamed about...the best ever results for the country in Olympic history and 5th overall in the medal standings. Lots of fodder for the wide shows for the next week.

With this rainy Sunday, I'll be getting some housework out of the way. I'll pack a couple of more boxes for the Anime King to be shipped out on Tuesday. Then, I'll start planning for lessons for tomorrow before getting the fixins for dinner.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Friday August 27, 10:39 p.m.

My chat with The Teacher produced some info that I could use for future travels to smaller Japanese-style ryokan. Perhaps, I may try for one more overnighter in the Fall in Sendai but seeing how my income is so far this month, maybe it'll have to wait until next year.

I met up with The Beauty Pair and their eccentric friend for karaoke tonight at the Urayasu Shidax. It was only my second time there, the first time being several years ago. It hasn't changed...still has that Disneyland look. When we got there, all of the customers were just teens probably enjoying their final days of freedom before returning to school next week. We got our little cubicle and spent 3 hours of singing and noshing...the food at the Shidax is a bit higher class than that of the other chains. I certainly got my money's worth of singing; I basically followed the pattern of alternating between English and Japanese. I was even able to tackle some songs that I hadn't done in years, and I realized that "Beyond the Sea" is gonna be one of my touchstones from now on. We also got some entertainment from our eccentric friend when he tried to blast through some Zeppelin with his fractured English.

After all that debauchery, I'm glad that I don't have anything until 4 p.m. tomorrow since the kids are still enjoying their vacation in Hawaii. And I'm now assuming that the mother of the Little Owl has dumped me since I haven't heard anything from her for over a month now. Hey, fine with me...I was never much for teaching kids anyways. I am a bit concerned about the weather since Typhoon 16 is just around the corner. Apparently, the storm may even make a sharp turn north towards us on Monday.

Being the Trekkie, it's with sadness that I heard about James "Scotty" Doohan's swan song appearance at the next Star Trek convention. I'd kept hearing about his final appearance for a number of months so I figured that the "Miracle Worker" was ailing. Indeed, he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's so he'll be walking down that inexorable road toward oblivion. That last appearance there may not even leave a Borg or a Vulcan dry-eyed.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Friday August 27, 9:32 a.m.

Just watching the Paula Zahn exclusive with the soldiers who were right there when all the Abu Ghraib abuses were going on. What was striking was how Peter Parker the accused looked and sounded. Just makes me wonder how many regular people could be in that situation and act any differently. I'm afraid I can't be that optimistic.

Another typhoon is on our doorstep...or a little off on the lawn, so to speak. Okinawa and southern Japan will get the brunt of it, but Tokyo may also get a bit sideswiped this weekend.
Thursday August 26, 10:20 p.m.

Looks like the Athens organizers can be happy that the arena was filled to overflowing for at least one night after a fellow countrywoman got the gold in the 400m hurdles.

Quiet day today. Just cleaned up the place just in case the Chipmunk visited which she didn't. I picked her up at the station and took her to the Japanese-style family restaurant a minute away from the apartment. I helped her out on a couple of English presentation she'll have to make next week overseas...the topic was on wince-inducing stuff such as urine bags and catheters. I managed not to scrunch my face too much. She treated me to dinner in thanks but I also gave her some of those New York bagels that I got from one of my students. I had one of them this morning...yup, it tastes like a bagel.

The Japanese equivalent of the FTC actually raided some of the big music companies like Sony and Avex Japan. It looks like there was some sort of unholy cartel among the big five to bar the other smaller outfits from reaping profits from the usage of original songs as in lieu of ring tones on cellphones. Amazing what happens here...

Well, I have my last class of a very slow week tomorrow. I've got The Teacher for her lesson. Then I meet the Beauty Pair for all-night karaoke.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Thursday August 26, 2:28 a.m.

Up somewhat late tonight so I might as well contribute something before I finally retire.

For the first time since the Athens Games began, Japan didn't earn a single medal on Tuesday. But it did get its bronze in baseball yesterday. So, now, Japan has passed its old record of 32 medals set back in LA 1984 to have its most successful Olympics. And the synchro swimming pair may actually get something today.

I met up with the ladies today. As usual, a lot of gab but they were happy. Also, I got some souvenirs from one of them in the form of bagels straight from the Big Apple. Looks like I won't be worrying about breakfast rolls for the next little while. And I also got a number of chocolates. Afterwards, I went up to Akihabara to see if the Anime King's latest request in the form of a soundtrack were there. No such luck. But I did see my favorite Doner Kebab truck nestled in one of the many side streets of the electronics district. Resistance was indeed futile so I grabbed myself some lunch.

Although it was too bad that the OL cancelled out last night, I was able to get home early and crash a bit before dinner. Dinner was a recipe from my trusty ol' Chinese cookbook that I'd bought all the way back in the late 80s. The recipe called for Hoisin Sauce. When my old buddy, the Iconoclast, dumped a lot of stuff on me, he left me several jars of various Chinese condiments. The Hoisin Sauce officially expired in 2002 so I was somewhat concerned. But aside from some gray scum to the side, the sauce worked out well. The wonders of refrigeration for you...

With a free Thursday, I'll be cleaning up the place again so that I can possibly entertain Chipmunk's arrival later tonight.

The last part of this is on a wistful note, but seeing that it is the middle of the night, I thought it would be appropos. For over a month, I've gotten no word from either Arwen or 99. I'd actually sent a message off to Arwen whose e-mail address I do have, but never got a reply back. I know that she has that new demanding job but I'd thought that she'd have some time to let me know how she's doing. The last time I saw the pair was at El Torito where they had a great time. I'm still 100% positive but I have the sad feeling that that Sunday night was perhaps the big kissoff to me. My lessons with them weren't exactly the most successful since they didn't seem to chime in with the text too well. I would have thought that Arwen would have at least given me some sort of lame excuse to forego our professional relationship but she hasn't sent word one. And I would've thought that at least our personal friendship was still intact but I'm now thinking that even that's non-existent as well. I don't think I offended them in any way or was that bad a teacher. It just hurts, that's all, especially because in the one year prior to their "disappearance", I'd thought that our little friendship had been one of my stronger ones. Just don't know...but I do know that in the very iffy case that I hear from either or both of them again, I don't think I'll be nearly as cordial.

I think what makes it even more galling for me is that Arwen isn't the first one. The Madam pulled a similar stunt earlier this year starting with that sudden cancellation from my Xmas dinner. I haven't totally forgiven her for that since I felt pretty rotten eating alone at the restaurant. Now I'm just afraid that I may have to be standoffish where students are concerned. I haven't bothered calling Skippy since I don't want to give the impression that I'm pushing. And I haven't sent any word over to my ex for the same and additional reasons. Frankly, I'm wondering if I'll have to live the life of a monk from now on with only Movie Buddy being the only person that I really trust here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Tuesday August 24, 10:33 p.m.

Another sweaty day. Met Movie Buddy for Fahrenheit 911 at la Theatre Ginza. We noticed that the majority of the viewers were quite a bit older than us. The staff also had an interesting approach for getting the people in...kinda like boarding procedures for a plane. It was actually a full house...the first time since The Phantom Menace back in 1999 that I'd actually experienced that, although the theatre only held 150 people. The trailers also seemed to drag on for a long time before the main event.

Now as for Michael Moore's magnum opus: after all the hoopla and the Palme D'Or, I got to see what all the fuss was about. I'm just gonna state the obvious here, but it was a very heavily partisan attack on Bush and his administration...not just professionally but on a personal level as well. Despite that repeatedly played scene of Bush on vacation with the Go-Gos background music, 911 was definitely a lot more somber than Bowling for Columbine. I marveled at how Moore got access to some of that footage from Iraq; I'm sure that Bush's press team must have been slapping themselves upside the head at how some of those scenes got to Moore. Moore also wove an intricate web of conspiracy connecting Bush, Cheney and the Bin Ladens on a scale that matched The Lone Gunman and anything from the X-Files but I have to wonder how strong that web really is. Some of the footage was fairly humourous, especially on how Moore chose his BGM for his scenes (the theme from that ol' 80s show, "The Greatest American Hero" to back up Bush's now-criticized appearance on the aircraft carrier, for example), and harrowing when it came to the grisliness of the bombing victims and Mrs Pedersen's coming to terms with her son's death.

Will 911 actually sway the election? Maybe/maybe not. Anti-Bushers and pro-Bushers will remain in their respective camps, and the undecided bloc will only use the movie as a small touchstone to make their decisions. There are many more variables out there for those folks to think about. And in any case, it isn't a direct election. I couldn't say that I enjoyed the film...things were just too grim for that but I can say that Moore gave his viewpoint very clearly. Plus, it is the first documentary that I've seen in a theater for decades. My butt was starting to get awfully sore and therefore I was getting pretty restless by the time 911 finished 2 hours and 10 minutes later. There wasn't the usual buildup, climax and denouement of a regular escapist flick for me to time my comfort zone.

Afterwards, MB and I made a slow walk through Ginza which didn't exactly keep me cool. The theater also wasn't all that cool either so I was feeling distinctly moist. We were searching for a pizza buffet place that MB's girlfriend knows but to no avail, so we ended up having a late lunch at the Fujiya in Yurakucho. Surprisingly, we didn't really go into all that much analysis of 911. I guess Moore did that for us. We just did our usual chat on other movies before breaking up an hour later. I'm not sure when we'll be meeting next time. Perhaps it'll be when the Ballerina makes her next return to Tokyo in a couple of weeks.

I made my way back to Urayasu for my juku. My two classes were fairly spritely affairs. The Beauty Pair and I spent a few minutes talking about our next social meeting on Friday with their eccentric friend from a few weeks ago. Hopefully, he won't drop his pants at Urayasu Station like he did when he first entered the izakaya. It'll be a karaoke affair at the local SHIDAX. Good choice, since the chain has the best rep amongst the karaoke boxes. Also, the juku boss herself will be filling the slot vacated by that student who's now getting used to life in Kentucky. She'll need the work since her structure is all over the place. I'll be glad to keep that extra slot occupied for the income.

The Office Lady sent in a cancellation notice today. So I've just got the Class Act for the first time in a few weeks. It'll be nice seeing them again. I'll have to tell them about 911 since it was one of them who had given me the ticket. Plus, I'll be seeing the Chipmunk Thursday night to check her PowerPoint presentation. It'll be a working dinner near my place. Also, it looks like The Anime King has made another order with Sega. I got another note from Yamato. I don't mind helping out my friend but I just don't want to end up being a clearinghouse all the time.

The Olympics are starting to wind down as far as the Japanese contingent is concerned. The main engines for the national gold rush have come back home and had their press conferences. The women's volleyball team have finally been eliminated (a lot of soul-searching will be taking place for that group, I'm sure), the gymnastics are done, and the coach for the women's softball team has resigned. Plus, Japan is not much of a force in the remaining track n' field events. I think the last couple of hopes for gold are in the baseball and synchro. We may actually match, if not exceed, the best gold result by the time the Games wrap up.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Tuesday August 24, 8:04 a.m.

Another bittersweet night at the Olympics. There were no less than 4 women in wrestling up for gold. Half got their wish. However, the expected champion, Kyoko Hamaguchi, had to settle for bronze in a rather large upset. Her rather colourful father, "Animal" Hamaguchi - a former pro wrestler, raised the 9 Levels of Hell from the stands at the officiating. Before one makes the inevitable comparisons between Animal and the father of the Williams sisters, though, he really is a tough but tender father. However, I don't think any judge should approach the Animal anytime soon.

Yesterday, on my way to the company, I dropped off at a point between Ginza and Kyobashi to check out Le Ginza Theatre a day before Fahrenheit 911. It looks like I may have to head out a bit early this morning to get another ticket since the lady told me that yesterday's afternoon show got a full house. The theatre is next door to the Seiyo Hotel, that place that one of my Monday morning students told me about. It's a small, subtle but expensive-looking hotel; the two Benzs out in front made that point abundantly clear. Luckily, I was in more formal gear, otherwise I would've felt distinctly underdressed even just passing the Seiyo.

I read the latest issue of METROPOLIS. It certainly has bulked up on the human interest stories. First, the Fischer controversy and now an article on the mean streets of Tokyo and how the governor is cracking down on the sin via a page out of Rudy Giuliani's playbook. Hey, I'm all for that; however, I'm not sure if I can really believe seeing a Warner Bros. goods store in formerly gang-ridden Kabukicho.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Monday August 23, 9:02 a.m.

It's become a morning ritual. Go to sleep and then wake up to find out that Japan has gotten a few more medals. For the 2nd consecutive Olympics, a Japanese won the Women's Marathon. It certainly helped that her main rival, a British woman, crumpled in the heat and humidity. I'd say it was a testament as well as a miracle that the training and stamina could keep most of the competitors in the race, let alone actually finish, considering the aforementioned weather and the arduousness of the course. Along with the gold in the marathon, Murofushi got his silver in the hammer throw and there were another two bronzes. I think the winner in the marathon can look forward to having a lucrative career in TV ads if she follows her predecessor's lead. It was a good race for everyone...all 3 entrants from Japan placed in the top 10.

The weather does feel good outside. We'll also get some rain later on. Hopefully, a sign of things to come?
Sunday August 22, 7:57 p.m.

An interesting time with the Jazz Buddy today. I fulfilled her request for steak by setting the lesson in Shinagawa so that we could go to the Outback afterwards. She may be soft-spoken but she doesn't hesitate to reject something if she doesn't like it. We initially went to Anna Millers, that bastion of short-skirted waitresses and the target for millions of otaku everywhere on the Net, as a venue for the lesson. We had just sat down and looked at our menus when JB asked if we could move elsewhere. It wasn't because of the potentially sexually harassing atmosphere, though; she just felt the place was too stuffy and a bit too expensive for just coffee.

So we ended up at one of those trendy open cafes within a store in the WING shopping mall some metres down the way. The lesson went fairly well and then we went to the Outback. It was her first time there so she was looking forward to seeing what all the fuss was about when Gabby had told her about the group outing there a few weeks ago.

We both ordered pretty much the same thing: the Outback Special with relevant side items, complementary sourdough bread and a shared plate of chicken wings. She didn't seem to care much for the sourdough bread so I was quite happy to take it off her hands. During the order-taking, JB gave our amiable bilingual waitress a good grilling on the recommendations. I'm not very sure if she would've gotten as polite and friendly a response if she'd done the same sort of thing at an equivalent American eatery, though.

I gotta admit...for such a slim and somewhat pallid lady, JB has an appetite to rival mine. The lady was as relentless as the Borg in tackling her meal. In my past outings with various students over the years at the Outback, the ladies either shared one plate in pairs or crumbled under the weight of 225 grams individually. Not Jazz Buddy. She didn't devour her steak and sides with gusto or speed but she did devour it some 10 minutes with grim determination after I sped through my meal. Our conversation unsurprisingly centered on the theme of comparing Japanese vs. American cuisine. She would later thank me for introducing her to what American cuisine was like. I would also recall that she was the only one in our group outing at Fujimamas a couple of months ago that could polish off the entire humongous breakfast platter there.

She even decided to go for dessert so I immediately ordered the Chocolate Thunder from Down Under, a massive tower with a brownie foundation, a large scoop of vanilla ice cream, a towering penthouse of whipped cream and an intimidating amount of chocolate sauce pooling and covering the bottome of the plate. Both the waitress and I assumed it would be a shared eating opportunity so she brought 2 spoons. However, the symbolism of extra silverware was lost on JB who then proceeded to pull the entire dish towards her and again used her Borg powers to single-handedly shave down the sides of all the layers and mash it up before eating. Relentless and efficient...past challengers just attacked the Thunder anywhere which brought down the whole mess like a fallen redwood within the first 30 seconds of attack. The kicker was that all the time she was eating it solo, she just kept stating how overly sweet and undelicious it was. The lady's a machine. I didn't particularly mind not being included in the participation in dessert though I think I could've lessened her suffering if she'd asked me to help her out; I find that the Thunder has a pretty cloying Play-Doh aftertaste. I prefer the cheesecake but I didn't bothering ordering it since I knew I couldn't handle that all by least not anymore.

Well, back home now. Japan has further garnered some more medals. No golds in today's harvest but the folks in swimming, yachting and bicycling managed to fill up the silver and bronze ranks quite nicely.

My Monday will be fairly blank until my lone class at the company tomorrow night. I'll just clean up around the place and then do some recon for that theater in Ginza before Movie Buddy and I catch Fahrenheit 911 on Tuesday.