Friday, September 03, 2004

Saturday September 4, 6:31 a.m.

We had a bit of a light show overnight when some unscheduled thunder and lightning and heavy rain fell upon us. The rest of the day should be suitably gloomy but the temps will be a bit more moderate. Having said that, I've got the fan on.

Well, the place is just about ready for Paddy. Just some finishing touches to take care of before I head off to see the kids. Then I meet Paddy at Hachiko. Still not 100% sure what we're gonna be doing after our initial stop at the Maple Leaf. However, I think we're more than likely to head out to PH's place for that BBQ. It's not as if it's even the regular gang that I hardly talk's a bunch of PH's work buddies. I'm not even sure if the Quarterback will drop by.

It was basically Beslan that made up most of my TV viewing last night. However, as I woke up this morning, the story was finally taken off "BREAKING NEWS" status. It was a least 200 dead, 600 shot. Most of the terrorists have been either caught or killed, mostly the latter. Still, with the two planes being bombed out of the sky 2 weeks ago, the Moscow subway bombing early this week and now this horror. Not to be too cliche but I think Russia is going through its own "9/11".
Friday September 3, 9:41 p.m.

No justice in Russia today. That hostage incident in that Beslan school has ended tragically with an impromptu firefight between the terrorists and Russian forces. No idea how many casualties there will be in the next few hours, and the situation has worsened in that a good fraction of the hostage-takers has escaped into the city itself so now Beslan is a shooting range. How is Putin gonna react now?

I tried out those bath salts in the bath tonight. Once again, I only lasted 10 minutes in the tub before I got distracted enough by the events in Russia to get out. However, I think I have gone native in one way. I took a shower beforehand to wash the sweat off and then I drew the bath which took 20 minutes. I can't even imagine soaping myself in an actual bath anymore.

Well, the Hawaiian, after a number of months, has contacted me to see if I could start her English lessons. I gather that she and her family have been in a state of mourning after her father passed away.

Back to Russia...oh, boy...the ITN reporter has just breathlessly stated that there are a lot of bodies in the collapsed room with a lot of back-and-forth gun exchange.
Friday September 3, 4:06 p.m.

Well, the RNC is over...Bush gave his speech but aside from his rabid fans in MSG, there really wasn't anything new. I think his nephew, Pierce, needs some Ritalin, though.

Nothing really to say...the Teacher gave me some bath salts so I may give them a shot tonight. Other than that, I just gave my place the once-over before Paddy crashes here tomorrow night. He's a bit of a neat freak so I made sure I dusted as well. Probably won't matter by tomorrow night. Dust has a tendency to clump up pretty quickly here. Still gotta hose down the bathroom but I think bathtime will be the time for that.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Wednesday September 1, 10:26 p.m.

Well, being September 1st once again means that it is the 81st anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake and therefore today is Earthquake and Fire Drill Day. The gravity of the day today was also not lost on Mother Earth which not only decided to throw us a M5.8 tremor our way around noon but Mt. Asama on the Gunma/Nagano Prefectural border decided to erupt a bit of lava and ash a couple of hours ago. If Nagano sounds familiar, it just happened to be the site for the 1998 Winter Olympics. Kinda wonder if this is the start of something shaky.

Called up Paddy tonight. Well, it looks like Paddy may have had a change of heart concerning heading to PH's BBQ on Saturday. Now he's saying it depends on what the Quaterback says...sigh. In any case, I've been invited to come up to our mutual friend's place up in Karuizawa in the middle of the month. Karuizawa is the equivalent of Banff in Alberta or perhaps Aspen. In any case, it's nice, cool and very cottagey. I'd like to take a look at the place itself and check out one of the lodges there.

I only have the lesson with the Jazz Buddy tomorrow morning in Shinjuku. I've sent her a courtesy call just in case she forgets. I hope things don't get too bizarre like at the Outback a couple of weeks back. Then, I've gotta pick up new texts for the Company folks.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Wednesday September 1, 2:25 p.m.

Blazing hot as has been the case for the entire summer. Just beating down on my scalp as I made my way to the post office. I should probably be earning a few carcinomas there within the next few decades.

Saw Arnuld overpower the Republican masses with his speech today. Hard to believe that this is the guy who was once the Terminator and a man who dressed up as a bottled vitamin drink on Japanese commercials and now he's the ruler of the 6th-largest nation-state on Earth. Hollywood couldn't have come up with a better or more unbelievable script.

Party Hearty sent a message and stated in her usual oh-so-silly-me way that she double-booked herself for Saturday so she asked Paddy and myself over for another BBQ since her work buddies were oh-so-desperate to try out the famous PH grill. Paddy sent me a rather terse sentence describing what he'd thought of her little switch. I must admit it was pretty silly of her but that's her way. In any case, I declined the invitation and just told Paddy that it'll be just a twosome on Saturday at the Maple Leaf. I have a feeling that the Quarterback will head for the BBQ.

They've been showing all sorts of Peanuts specials on the Cartoon Network daily. It's been a mix of the specials and the short-lived cartoon series ranging all the way from 1968 ("He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown") to sometime in the 90s (the Peanuts gang head out to the ISS). They've been entertaining though I'm sure the current generation (and even the one before that) are probably wondering what the fuss is all about). However, as I've said before, it's just not the same without Vince Guaraldi doing the score but the latter entries do try to carry on with a jazz-tinged theme. On that point, the less said about "Flashbeagle", the better.

One thing about living in this city is that the homeless here are very passive unlike in other major cities where they can be aggressive to a near-dangerous degree. They just trudge along or just sit or lie around the pavement in places like Shinjuku Station or Sumida Park. No, the aggressive ones on the street here are the touts, scouts and the survey-takers.

The touts are those tuxedoed fellows in the red-light district of Kabukicho or Shibuya who try to drag in salarymen into their overly-priced bars (and financial doom) or sex shops. However, Governor Ishihara has recently been trying to shut them down with moderate success.

The scouts are those folks who try to lure young women into becoming porn starlets. I see most of them out in Shibuya; they're the guys in the flashy suits and spiky dyed hair who swoop in on unsuspecting lone girls and women and try to ask them if they've ever considered a career in "modeling". I guess they haven't been too successful of late since now their handlers are also throwing in attractive women to do some of the luring.

Finally, there are the survey-takers. Exactly the opposite from the first two categories, these people are usually just middle-aged women who I've usually found to be in Shibuya and they try to get people to fill out surveys on various consumer goods.

I barely go into Kabukicho so I've had no problems with the touts, and certainly I haven't been approached by the scouts and most likely will never be (unless the porn industry goes into a distinctly kinky direction). However, the survey takers are out there. My usual response? I just look straight ahead and fly past them. If they start following me, I just raise my hand in a half-prayer and wave it back and forth and pick up speed.

On Monday, though, I did get a rather unique mix of two of the types. I was walking past the Century Hyatt when a young attractive girl approached me to perhaps sell me on some sort of thing and wondered if I could take a look at a tiny little screen. I used my technique and quickly shook her off.

Well, I'll be taking in off in little more than an hour to see The Office Lady. I haven't heard anything from her so I'm assuming that we're still on in Toranomon as usual.
Tuesday August 31, 10:23 p.m.

I found out the reason for that prospective student deciding not to join the juku. My boss told me that her mother...or should I say her mommy?...had phoned up and said that her daughter just couldn't come over to the juku since she doesn't know how to ride a bicycle. Well, it's either the lamest excuse I've ever heard for declining lessons or that woman is one mightily spoiled brat. Either way, I'm glad that she didn't sign up. So it looks like I have the boss herself for her regular lessons starting in the 9 p.m. slot next week.

Speaking of new students, I think I may get one starting from Sept. 9th biweekly.

I got word from Paddy who has just come back to Japan. Looks like the Quarterback did get back to him after all. Not sure if either he or Party Hearty will come out on Saturday,though.

Saw Rudy Giuliani wow the crowd New York-style at the RNC today. The gloves are definitely off. No clown there. Still early, though.

The Olympic athletes have been scattering off to their respective hometowns all over the country to cheering crowds and warm welcomes according to the NHK cameras.

Well, Typhoon 16 is now a low-pressure memory but No. 17 seems to be on the same trajectory.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Tuesday August 31, 9:48 a.m.

Watching a visibly annoyed Paula Zahn and George Bush, Sr. go at each other in an interview.

Received a partially wistful letter from Paddy just now. He sent some e-mail over to the Quarterback about getting together but hasn't received any reply. He admitted that in their time in Toronto together that he hadn't treated Q well at times which may explain Q's non-response. My feeling is that as one gets older and more set in attitudes and opinions, one's circle of friends gets smaller. As for me, I think all three of us are generally good if flawed people. That doesn't mean that we'll stay friends. Certain ways we treat each other in the past will bring either benefits or consequences. In our probably erstwhile relationship with the Quarterback, the latter seems to be the case. The only thing we can do is ensure that the friendships we do have continue to be strong.

Woke up to a lot of strong winds howling out there but they seem to be dissipating now and T16 is now headed up north. We've avoided another bullet.

The juku boss let me know that that prospective student has gone elsewhere for her lessons which suits me fine. I couldn't really see her coming to our casual little niche. She would seem more at home with a more professional outfit.
Monday August 30, 9:40 p.m.

It got steamy again today although the signs were there that there was a typhoon not too, too far away. A spit of rain here, a gush of wind there. But there was nothing here to compare with the sturm und drang in the south. With the Olympics all done, the typhoon now has centre stage. It's gonna get downright torrid tomorrow with temps reaching 34. Shades of this summer.

Had the Class Act this morning as usual. The one student and I were heavily praising the other student on some bagels that we'd gotten from her as a souvenir last week. Boy, were they good! Her son-in-law had brought them over frozen from New York City from a highly praised bakery that has gotten high grades from the Jewish community. If bagels can be this good even after a deep freeze and several thousand kilometres of travel, I can only imagine how freshly-made must be like. I'm sorely tempted to check out their website.

After class, I checked out Tower Records and HMV in Shibuya for the first time there in a few weeks. That former SPEED girl, HIRO, has got her jazz CD out. I listened to a few tracks...not too bad. I may get it at the very least for curiosity's sake. However, the homegrown talent that I've become intrigued with is a unit called FRIED PRIDE.

I also ended up at McD's for lunch for the first time in well over a week. For me, that's a big achievement. However, I was a bit humbled by the Class Act when they told me that neither of them had been at the Golden Arches in several months. I'll chalk that up to generational gap. I would have chosen another Doner Kebab since I saw the truck outside of Towers today but unfortunately the guy was just setting up shop and I couldn't wait.

Went up to Shinjuku and I made a pit stop at the convenience store on the way to the Andersens Plaza to get another batch of Gatsby's Mentholated Wipes for my sweaty face and neck. Thought I wouldn't need anymore this year but I guess the summer is not done with us yet.

My lesson at the company was another solo. Luckily, it was the guy who actually can benefit from the lessons since he may be transferred to Toronto in the not-so-distant future. Still, I was pretty wiped by the end.

Got home to see that the typhoon was still taking up air time. Tokyo will be probably get its closest swipe overnight but it won't be too bad. The historical founders for the capital chose their site wisely. It's usually a freak occurence if a typhoon actually hits Tokyo dead-on.

From one circus to another. Now that the Athens Games have gone into history, the next big thing is the Republican National Convention in the States. Interesting term...circus. One featured the strongmen, the other will feature a lot more clowns.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Monday August 30, 7:34 a.m.

Not surprisingly, the Olympics and Typhoon 16 are sharing top spot in the news today. NHK is currently doing a musical interlude of all the medal winners ad nauseum...a pattern which I'm sure will be repeated throughout all the channels today and tomorrow.

Murofushi had that press conference about his new gold medal several hours ago. Again to use the expression, "not surprisingly", he expressed some regret about not getting it through the regular channels, namely on a podium in front of a cheering crowd. Still, he was grateful to get it.

Looks like that Men's Marathon had a bit of unwanted excitement. Some psycho defrocked Irish priest decided to tackle the Brazilian runner who had been in the lead. Apparently, the idiot is on some deluded mission to warn everyone about the end of the world by attacking athletes at world events. The runner sadly couldn't get the Gold but he did get the Bronze and he came in smiling, just thankful that he wasn't killed out there. Right attitude to have. But aside from that sordidness, the Athens Games finished safely.

Shard just told me that 80s pop singer Laura Branigan had passed away last week. Way too early for her to leave at 47. I know about "Gloria" but my favorite song by her is the ballad "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You?" I'm sure a lot of her diehard fans are crying that right now.

Now, as for the looks like it's doing a real number on Shikoku and Kyushu. However, the forecast for the Kanto area for the next 24 hours will just be rain and some increased wind power. The closest it'll get timewise will be overnight tonight...very considerate of the typhoon. But I'll be bringing in my poles off the balcony before I take off for work today. Still, it'll literally skirt us here so there is every possibility that it may hiccup and end up dumping a world of meterological hurt on us.
Sunday August 29, 10:43 p.m.

The rain had pretty much gone down to a trickle by the time I got out for shopping. Was out and back within a half-hour. With the kimchi chicken sandwich, the remaining Japanese-style onion soup and rice with seasonings, I managed to stuff myself almost to bursting in a way that I didn't attain even at the Outback last week.

Even now on the final day of the Olympics, the Japanese medal rush continues. One of the male wrestlers managed to get himself a hard-fought bronze medal. I also have a bone to pick with NHK. In this country, there's a rather annoying rule amongst the TV networks here that the schedule is always king. So in Japanese baseball coverage, the networks give 2 hours at night...2.5 hours if there are extra innings...but that is it. Anything more is could be a nailbiter of an extra-inning game but it doesn't matter...once 9:30 comes around, goodbye baseball. To be fair, though. I think the rules go out the window during the playoffs.

The reason I bring this up is that today, there was a real nailbiter of a Gold Medal handball match between Korea and Denmark which went into double overtime and eventually into a shootout. But then a few seconds into the second overtime, NHK decided to switch over for the weather. Yes, I know...Japan wasn't involved and yes, there was a typhoon to be scared of...but jeez, NHK...

This just in...looks like that Hungarian hammer thrower, Annus, just lost his gold due to doping. Murofushi gets it instead...YEAAAAH! This means that not only has Murofushi become the first Japanese to get a gold medal in the hammer throw but it means that Japan has gotten the highest number of gold medals in its Olympic history. The only down side is that the news comes in a much more subdued manner than if Murofushi had won it fair and square during the actual competition. Well, I'm sure that Mr. M doesn't mind at all. I guess his news will be competing with Typhoon 16 for time on the wide shows tomorrow morning. As for Annus, I'm sure he must feel like his name right now.

Got a call from my juku boss an hour ago. Looks like I've got a trial lesson with some high-falutin' intellectual type on Tuesday after my two regular classes. My boss says that she has the same sort of personality as that erstwhile student with the heart of darkness. Oh, that's just great...she apparently works at Tokyo University, just the most highly regarded (true or not) institution of higher learning in the country. Her TOEIC score is up around 900 which could signify advanced speaking ability. I just hope she's not a snob...

More on James "Scotty" Doohan. I remember 13 years ago when I had just returned from my tour of duty on the JET Programme back to Toronto to attend the big 25th-anniversary celebration in front of City Hall for Star Trek. It was basically a huge love-in for all things Trek with the star event being the appearance of the four supporting characters from the original series: Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols. The four were several hours late due to some plane delays, but I'm sure that all worked in favour of the vendors; everyone had been waiting to see the four. Finally as sunset was entering its final phase, they finally showed up.

George Takei seemed to act like he was the Ambassador of Star Trek with all the affectations of pomp and circumstance, Nichelle Nichols acted every inch the Holiday Inn lounge princess (she even sang a verse from one of her new tunes...the less said, the better), and Koenig was fairly sardonic (everyone enjoyed his sarcastic imitation of love lost there). However, it was Jimmy Doohan who got the biggest response of the night; we all loved the Miracle Worker. However, the stunner was when he revealed that he had once lived in the Toronto neighbourhood of Don Mills (he was born in Vancouver but raised in Sarnia, Ontario) and he even told the exact address. Oh my golly, I thought, the poor residents at that address will be inundated with extreme Trekkies on their front lawn for weeks.