Saturday, March 26, 2005

Sunday March 27, 9:30 a.m.

Another nice day out there. A person can get pretty spoiled on this.

Skippy has finally come back to me about next week's farewell party for The Kid. So there'll be a second consecutive Sunday of movie viewing and dinner.

My nose felt like a balloon earlier this morning so I had to turn on the air cleaner. That alleviated the symptoms somewhat and I actually did a good night's sleep but it wasn't until I popped the medicine that I feel back to normal.

Mrs. Travel from The Beehive told us last week that she's been enjoying this Internet novella of sorts about "Densha Otoko" or "Trainman" as it's translated. Apparently, according to various reports on the huge Channel 2 chatsite, there's been a fellow known as Trainman who used to be this young nebbish known for helping damsels in distress from the relentless scourge of train gropers. Well, one day Trainman rescued one damsel whom he fell in love with. And apparently this rather high-class young lady would have some eyes for him...if he weren't so nebbishy. So came this cry for help from Trainman on the various Channel 2 forums. I've never been on the site myself but I'd heard that it had a rather infamous reputation as a cyberenclave for deep otaku with a penchant for flaming that would make the current mess in Iraq look like a pleasant bout of badminton. Well, strangely enough, the warriors turned into doves and tried to help Trainman although it was kinda like the blind leading the bline. Mrs. Travel had a ball laughing at the fellows trying to explain concepts like going to a hair salon, a place that probably none of them have ever approached let alone have entered. But against all odds, Trainman did make a swan-like change into a crisply presentable young man and now his efforts have paid off in the form of a happy relationship with that formerly unattainable damsel. It almost sounds like a mix between "The Mask" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy".

Well, back to reality and my own nebbishy world.
Saturday March 26, 11:02 p.m.

Enjoyed my final haircut at the salon I'd been going to for the past 3 years. The place was really hopping; every seat was filled and the phone was often ringing off the hook. Looks like a lot of loyal clients wanted to get that last cut or perm before the place finally closed down next Thursday. In fact, my stylist wasn't with me the whole way. Her comely assistant did the initial shampoo before she finally came around to the cutting. She certainly has my respect. She also had some sort of hay fever but she was the game trouper attending to everyone's needs. She and the salon will be missed. At my last appointment there, she had mentioned that she'd told the person who was gonna take over about me but today she told me that perhaps that comely assistant may be finding employment at another salon in the neighbourhood and if that were indeed the case, she'd send word to me. In any case, even though the store will go on, she and the staff will go their separate ways and the new person will change the name of the store. So, I may find myself on the lookout for another salon come late May. There wasn't really much in the way of emotionalism at the end. Things were just too busy for that. We thanked each other for the past 3 years and I made my way home.

Well, the rest of the day was spent just doing household chores such as cleaning the bathroom and bedroom, airing out the mattresses and ironing a pile of clothes. The day was finally a nice change from all that unstable weather over the week. Not too windy, not too cold. Kept the food intake to some store-bought bento since I have to be careful about the money flow for the next couple of days until I get my money from my Monday students. Luckily, my supermarket has a good store of decent box lunches.

2004 was the year of the big Korean boom in Japan, and it looks like the boom is still continuing well into this year. I just saw a bunch of interested folk at HMV Odaiba on TV tonight watching the latest Korean pop singer make her appearance. All this interest in K-Pop over the past several months reminds me of my own initial love affair with J-Pop over 20 years ago. And although my passion with the genre has cooled down considerably since those heady days of the 80s, I still look out for some good singers now and then. I can only wonder then how long "Hanryu" will continue. It's a good thing that at least on the pop culture scene, things are very rosy between Japan and South Korea since on the diplomatic front, things couldn't be much worse with the two countries fighting over that stupid pile of rocks. My opinion: have the Americans bomb it out of existence just like Bamm-Bamm brought down that extra room during an epic feud between Fred and Barney over territory on a special episode of The Flintstones.

Speaking of music, I've found a couple of interesting examples of J-Pop mining the hits of the past for new hits. R&B singer Sowelu with a guy who looks like the Japanese version of The Notorious B.I.G. have released their cover of the ol' Shalamar (Jody Watley's former band) tune "A Night to Remember". But the real surprise is hearing an updated version of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" by another J-R&B group. I kinda wonder if that movie "Swing Girls" has started something. It's all gravy for this jazzbo.

Japan may be crying a bit of the blues today since their soccer team lost against Iran last night. But the score wasn't too bad, 2-1. And Iran did have that 12th team member, namely, the huge hometown audience.

Well, it looks like The Hawaiian will be joining Movie Buddy and I for "National Treasure" tomorrow. I'm kinda surprised. Usually, a day's notice is just too short for her. And The Teacher did send that e-mail cancelling the Friday lesson.

I'll just be having breakfast at home before I go see MB and The Hawaiian instead of trying to get out to Fujimamas because of the limited funds in my wallet. However, there is always the next Sunday. I may ask JB if she's game since she's the only one who not only finished the restaurant's Farmer's Breakfast, but finished it with ease.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Saturday March 26, 10:34 a.m.

Nice to get a decent amount of sleep. Still, I guess one will always wish he could lie in bed a little bit longer.

In my running commentary on Japanese late-night TV, I shockingly...shockingly, I tell you...neglected to mention what could be the most well-known Japanese late-night TV show in the world, thanks to the movie "Lost In Translation". The show is "Matthew's Best Hit TV" and there are probably lots of people who have watched the movie on the big screen and saw the DVD specials (as MB and I did over a year ago) who came across this weird man in blonde wig and Doctor Who clothing just dandying about a very bemused Bill Murray. Well, the show is indeed a true one but "Matthew" himself is just a persona. The man behind the character is named Takashi Fujii, an Osakan comedian. He'd already been a popular laughmeister for a few years. His shtick was to come across as this foppish gay guy (and I mean "gay" in both senses of the word) sans the day-glo suit and blonde wig. He even had a couple of hit tunes, mostly fueled by his comedic popularity more than any musical ability. However, it was with his discovery of "Matthew Minami", this love child of Lord Faunterloy and Jim Carrey, that he really hit the big time. Essentially, the show is just a projection of the character's personality: all multihued, happy-happy-joy-joy nutsiness for an hour every Wednesday night. He has somewhat more reactive guests than Bill Murray, more to bounce his lines off of than to actually hear what THEY have to say. And he has some outdoor location filming as a lot of these variety shows love to do. Americans used to love to head to Johnny Carson to forget the day's woes. Well, Japan has now got Matthew! And if there were any doubt which way Fujii swings, so to speak, it was announced last week that he's now dating another one of those pneumatic tartlets, Otoha.

I did forget to mention that there is an Expo as there usually is somewhere on the Earth every year. This year, it's in Aichi Prefecture. So people can look forward to an hour waiting for a maglev train that may come off the railings, another hour waiting for overpriced food and another hour waiting for any sort of exhibit. Now, if there were an Expo on what to do while waiting in line, then you can call me.

Actually watched the first 10 minutes of that Jane Monheit concert DVD before the urge to sleep got too strong. I always thought that both Diana Krall and Monheit had different styles: Diana has this mellow, oaken voice like a well-used whiskey aging cask while Jane possesses a more ethereal tenor. You could imagine Diana playing in some sort of darkened hole-in-the-wall during the Cool Jazz age of the late 40s and early 50s with an ever-present, ever-filled whiskey on the rocks on the piano. Jane, on the other hand, could be seen on some sort of stage during the Swing era or even early Vaudeville. Well, now I can make one more comparison. At last night's Krall concert and from her DVD "Live In Paris", Diana's explanation is cool, straight to the point and all business. After watching Jane's banter, I could surmise that she's the aw-shucks girl trying to please everyone (and I don't mean that in a necessarily critical way) in a gosh-isn't-jazz-wonderful manner. It almost tipped over into mawkish territory but Jane held it back enough so that she just came across as a 21st-century Judy Garland. Plus, you've gotta figure in their ages...Jane is in her mid-twenties while Diana is approaching the big Four-O.

Well, off to the haircut.
Friday March 25, 11:43 p.m.

I'd like to thank Diana Krall, and in absentia hubby Elvis Costello, for her wonderful if short concert tonight at Bunkamura's Orchard Hall. Jazz Buddy and I scaled our way to the upper balcony seats and half an hour later, the lights went down and the supermodel-like Ms. Krall strode out with her four-piece combo of guitar, bass, drums and herself on the 88s. JB was initially worried that the people in front of her would block her way. Luckily, Orchard Hall had been designed relatively recently so sightlines and angles had actually been considered so really it would've take a person the size of Shaquille O'Neal to hinder JB's view of the stage which was great. It also helped that I'd bought a pair of cheap opera glasses earlier in the day at Bic Camera. We could actually see her singing the words.

The show itself started a bit slowly. The combo didn't gel immediately at least perhaps not the drum and bass. The guitar player I recognized from Diana's DVD, "Live in Paris". In fact, 10 minutes into the performance, I started to nod off when the jazz chanteuse started to riff on a bit too long into a piano solo. I started getting a bit nervous about whether that 8500 yen was well spent. However, the combo got their act together and started cooking some real good stuff including what's becoming Diana's signature song, "Deed I Do". In fact, it was a bit surprising that Diana played most of her standards instead of focusing on her latest album, "The Girl Next Door" although she did play some of the songs from the album penned by her and Costello. Not that JB was unhappy, though. She preferred the standards to the songs of the last album which she kinda likened to "country music". Hmmm....looks like I'm gonna have to teach her the ways of Conway Twitty, Tanya Tucker and Johnny Cash next lesson. The concert was also rather brief....just around 90 minutes although considering the facts that the combo went nonstop for that hour and a half and that Krall chatted with the audience when she wasn't singing, I'm not surprised that she would be pretty spent. Still, I can proudly say that I caught a worthwhile concert. Next time, though, I'd like to see something with a good big band section. See you soon, Michael Buble!

Outside of the centerpiece of the day that was the concert, Friday started with a major howler of a windstorm. In fact, I thought that the winds were beyond gale force at one point and into the rarefied range of jet engines. Glad I decided to put up the wash inside the apartment. Otherwise, I would've seen some of my shirts flying over the station.

My lesson with The Teacher was another pleasant one. She kinda rode me on about my going out with Jazz Buddy to the concert tonight. But believe me, the several hours with JB didn't feel anything like a date at all. As for The Teacher, I had her in stitches about some sort of riff I went off on. Man, when I'm on a comedic roll, I'm just smoking!

After the lesson, I headed out to Tokyo. I noticed my medicine was starting to wear off quickly, especially with the winds out there which must've scattered billions of cedar pollen particles all over the Kanto. I took another batch of the medicine in mid-afternoon but they didn't kick in all that well so I was worried that my body had found a way to resist it. I ended up sniffling and even sneezing a few times which didn't help my mood at all before meeting up with JB. I did purchase some stuff including the opera glasses and even a Jane Monheit concert DVD since I was about to see a real jazz concert later that night.

I met up with Jazz Buddy at about 4 in front of Hachiko. Unlike my be-suited figure, she was a bit more dressed down in torn jeans but with a bit of an off-the-shoulder blouse underneath her jacket. We hit TGIFridays which honestly was a bit of a disappointment. We had a great appetizer in the form of the Three-For-All combo of potato skins, deep-fried mozzarella and chicken wings. However, she was not that thrilled with her pasta dish. I took a taste of it and I had to concur. It was pretty bland. My main dish of BBQ beef sandwich rather tasted like Yoshinoya-on-bread...a sort of gyupan instead of gyudon. As she said it, it was a waste of money. Ouch! I was willing to treat her since I was the one who had suggested the restaurant. However, she paid her way since she did make the choice of the pasta and therefore was not my responsibility. In any case, the two of us were still pretty stuffed. Up until concert time, we did some window shopping through Parco during which I swallowed yet another dose of medicine. Luckily, it actually took effect so I only had to sniffle a few times during the event.

When the concert broke up around 8:30 (as I said, it was a short gig), a thoroughly satisfied Jazz Buddy was mightily tempted to buy some souvenir stuff downstairs of Krall. However, she decided to hold off. Since we were so close, I took her up to show her The Class Act's base of operations. Despite the fact that it was dark, she was properly impressed.

We had a coffee and cake at Cafe Ma Maison which had some empty tables. The place is just located in the Book First complex down the street from Orchard Hall. This time, I did treat her to dessert. We went over tonight's events and agreed that it was money well spent. She also remarked that the Thriller album was merely OK and the music was...old school. Well, JB's direct if diplomatic. In fact, JB's always been pretty straightforward in her opinions on stuff but she's also rather softspoken about them. At least I know where she stands on things.

Well, considering how much I've spent today, I'm wondering if I'll have enough money to tide me over to Monday since I've got my haircut tomorrow and the outing with Movie Buddy on Sunday. I can always withdraw from the bank but that won't sit too well with me. In any case, I'm happy that I can sleep in a bit before I have to go out.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Friday March 25, 8:40 a.m.

4 days into Spring now and half of Japan is getting doused in snow. Tokyo wasn't dumped with the white stuff (so far) but last night my area got quite the light show in the form of a major thunder and lightning attack. Plus, there was the distinctive sound of hail pelting down off all the metal. 2005 is sure becoming a meterologist's dream.

It sure is nice not to have to plan anything for the next couple of days. The Teacher prefers just to gab and read she always supplies the material. I just have to show up. Great! And all of my Saturday classes are off.

My previous opinion on the creativity of late-night TV in Japan has remained unchanged. I watched one show on Channel 10 in which celebs had to decide which one of three "hosts" (I mean, those male equivalents of hostesses who work in Shinjuku/Roppongi) was actually a fake. The process was interesting to watch as all of us were privy to the off-hours lifestyle as well as the working hours of a host in Tokyo. The shocker was finding out that the ringer was actually a Buddhist priest. Genius!

Then I caught another late-night show starring the quiet, introspective member of SMAP, Goro Inagaki. In surroundings like a fancy bar, he chatted ("interviewed" wouldn't be the right word here) with one of the latest pneumatic TV personalities, Eriko Sato, a 173-cm C-cup beauty whose greatest claim to fame so far has been her commercials for Georgia Coffee and her starring role as the live-action version of Cutey Honey, based on the old anime of a barely-clothed superheroine.

Well, it's now sunny if chilly. I did my washing. As soon as I poked my eyes outside, the now-familiar itch from cedar pollen immediately started up. So I just grabbed the damp clothing and rushed back in. I'm currently listening to JB's Crystal Kay album. Yup, does sound a lot like Janet Jackson in all her reincarnations. Nice to listen to on a morning like this. Almost makes me pine for AM radio again.
Thursday March 24, 10:39 p.m.

Another relatively pollen-free day today. Still wasn't taking any major chances so my medicine-and-mask regimen of the past couple of weeks still held sway.

Jazz Buddy and I got the finishing touches on Operation: Diana Krall this morning. We'll be meeting up in the late afternoon in Shibuya for some dinner and then we'll head over to Orchard Hall. At the same time, the rest of Japan will probably be glued to their sets watching the soccer match between their team and the Iranian squad. All I hope is that Diana doesn't decide to eat bad sushi. JB was mightily upset when she'd gone to see Ms. Krall at a jazz festival a few years ago only to find out that the concert was canned due to illness. All she got was Chaka Khan; not that the divine Ms. Khan is a lousy singer (who can forget I Feel 4 U?), but Khan and Krall are rather different after all. I'll probably take JB to TGIFridays for dinner since the portions are large enough while the prices are reasonable enough. Plus, knowing her amazing appetite, she can handle it.

JB and I had a rather philosophical talk on....LOVE...of all things. I'm not sure how that got generated but it was pretty interesting comparing the different interpretations of it in the West and in Japan. Kinda nice to get a little deep sometimes instead of talking about the usual gossip or what's up in the movies. We also exchanged CDs. I'm now borrowing her Crystal Kay (who's a half-Korean/half-American version of Janet Jackson) and she got my belated b-day present of Thriller. She noted how normal Michael Jackson looked back do we all.

The rest of the day was pretty routine. Had my usual 3 hours at Speedy's school. I started on another text for lesson planning. Managed to stay mostly awake. Then I headed down to The Tea Room for my only round of sessions there this week. The New Yorker had a bit of a tough time differentiating between personal pronouns and possessive pronouns (as we all do); had to ease her doubts a bit. Her sister was dependable as usual.

Well, had a small chat with Movie Buddy. Looks like the lull at the school has truly begun for him. He's facing about 10 days of holiday time starting tomorrow. So he naturally contacted me to see if we could catch "National Treasure" on Sunday. I was kinda nudging him a bit to see if he'd be interested in hitting Fujimamas for a bit of breakfast. However, he didn't bite but I'm still thinking of trying it out by myself since we won't be meeting up until the afternoon.

I was looking through an issue of Japanzine yesterday after shopping at Towers. It was their annual Internet issue so the first few pages were uploaded with tons of websites having to do with Japan. I checked out some of the more bizarre ones such as Masamania which is run by a local street photographer who takes some pretty striking pictures of the urban jungle that is Tokyo. He also rants on various topics with a mixture of beginner-level English and profanity which reminds me of an old university friend. There was also a website that I visited, Snowblood Apple, which deals in some of the more extreme Asian movies. The movie, Ringu, is an example. However, it is one of the tamer examples. The site reviews much more gruesome stuff.

Case in point...there is a series of horror movies which is so gruesome, so sick and so stomach-churning that it makes the Friday The 13th series look like a Disney family special. It's called Guinea Pig, and no, it doesn't deal with the cute antics of rodents. It deals with victims who are systematically dismembered alive by a deranged doctor. It isn't the first time that I've come across the series in some way. Many years ago, one of the late-night programs devoted a bit of time on the series. My Japanese wasn't too hot at that time so I couldn't really fathom what the show's angle was on it. However, they did show one shot of the mad scientist and his victim after he pulled off a "Venus De Milo", shall we say? In addition, an old friend of mine who was on the Japan and Exchange Teaching Programme as a Coordinator of International Relations for his city once related to me years ago that he and City Council had to view a few minutes of this horrifying movie in which a woman's eyeball was scooped out by a spoon and swallowed like a grape. I assumed that it was one of the Guinea Pigs. The City Council was deciding on banning the distribution of it. And just last year, I was in a DVD shop in Akihabara when I came across one of the films. Boy, it's ironic considering that Japanese horror is such an in genre right now in Hollywood and yet movies like The Ring and Ju-On are largely bloodless, psychological affairs. It would be easy for Westerners to assume that Japanese horror exists on a higher plane of sophistication. Not after they view this baby...most likely, the squeamish would run screaming to their Congressmen to have it banned from their shores...after running to the toilet.

One interesting sidebar about Guinea Pig. Apparently, Charlie Sheen, not exactly the best example of all that is holy, years ago somehow saw a copy and just went ballistic. He then went to all of the authorities concerned to have this thing destroyed completely. The story goes that he thought it was a real snuff film..kudos to the special effects people. Well back to the Snowblood Apple site. There was an overview of the series and right from the start, it warned about some of the scenes being shown. Yup, not exactly for the faint of heart but some of the pics were lightened up a bit since they showed the cast smiling in an obviously off-camera shot. Mind you, it's kinda bizarre having a bloody decapitated head smiling benignly.

Well, enough talk about this ghoulishness.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Wednesday March 23, 10:05 p.m.

It was another solo act for The Class Act. The other half had to cancel out due to a migraine. So I had another wonderful opportunity to sample some of the Chef's wares. First up was an interesting strawberry marscopone shortcake in which the cake part was liberally doused in some sort of sweet liqueur created from extracts from a certain type of insect only in Italy. Talk about your exotic fare! Then, for lunch, the Lady of the House and I tucked into a plate of penne in some sort of velvety cheese sauce along with a salad made with raw figs, greens and prosciutto ham. Dee-licious!

Seeing that my lunch requirements were lovingly fulfilled, I went straight to the record shops on my latest trek for Chas Jankel. I checked Tower as well as RecoFan which is a place that specializes old and used discs. Couldn't find him there although I did come across his old band, Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Well, I'll just keep looking.

The Hawaiian and The OL were fine as usual. And I made my appointment with my hairstylist for the very last time today since she'll be heading to her new home in Gunma Prefecture at the end of the month. Could be a very emotional day on Saturday...for her.

I'm meeting Jazz Buddy tomorrow for her usual lesson (really, chatfest). It'll probably be mostly on the concert on Friday. I got her Michael Jackson's Thriller from Tower today as a belated birthday gift. Still not quite sure what the setup will be before the concert. I'm thinking of looking for some opera glasses between The Teacher's lesson and the concert since the two of us will be way up in the balcony. Not sure if we're gonna have a great view of Diana.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Wednesday March 23, 8:14 a.m.

Speedy sent me a response to my letter last night. He would be happy for my help with more lesson plans. He made a joke about my non-availability that I would rather ignore. The Anime King has sent another message about another order in May that will be going through the clearinghouse that is my home.

Well, perhaps I should consider a career as a part-time Jedi. Just a day after I'd suggested that some sort of Star Wars miniseries could crop up on TV, the Dark Horizons movie site has reported that Lucasfilm is now considering coming up with some sort of Star Wars TV. My advice: No Ewoks...please!

Speaking of TV, I only occasionally watch the domestic variety now. When I first came here, I used to devour the daily menu of variety shows, anime and trendy dramas as best I could. However, a few years ago I just found it all banal and gave up on it for the most part. Well, I still watch some of the more intriguing variety and quiz shows, and when I wanna catch up on what's going on in music, I'll see some of those shows. I've given up on dramas, though. It's just the same ol' regurgitation of boy-meets-girl/girl-hates-boy/boy-and-girl-reach-an-understanding plots.

However, I do have to say that some of the more creative stuff comes out on late-night TV. Before 1985, when the Morality Law took effect, late-night TV was once the enclave of soft-porn dramas, women going nude for no reason and variety shows with a distinctly sleazy bent. And still, there's some vestige of that burlesque from time to time. But now it seems that late-night is not really an excuse for the dirty ol' men to look forward to bed, but neither is it the territory for chat shows with stand-up comedian/hosts as in the US. Instead, Japanese late-night often has variety shows with a bit of a quirky bent or shows that feature regular prime-time TV personalities in a somewhat different light. Also, late-night is the time for a lot of up-and-coming comedian groups to try out their wares.

For example, on Monday nights at 11:30, there is a quiz show on Channel 4 that's hosted by monkeys. Yes, you read it right...monkeys. Or to be more accurate, humans dressed up a la Planet of the Apes. These monkeys then have three TV tarento and try to bend their minds with some really off-the-wall questions which are the equivalent of a very cryptic crossword. I've seen it twice so far but I'm gonna try to catch much more regularly. Then on Tuesday nights at the same time on Channel 10, a SMAP member and a comedian/actor host a show in which they do a lot of traveling around the city or elsewhere doing stuff like visiting restaurants with other guests. However, they do have one popular feature that they do from time to time which is this mass scavenger hunt through some of the more gorgeous homes in Tokyo (Hm...I wonder if the Class Act's base of operations has been targeted). Wednesday nights used to be the home of Puffy Amiyumi until their star slowly fell; I think the girls are now more popular in the US underground than in Japan now. Also, that trivia game show that's been on prime time for the past couple of years had first aired on late-night for a year before being "discovered". Even the Morning Musume, despite the fact that most of its members should be in bed by 9, have a late-night program of about 10 minutes or so featuring a certain member working hard in the studio.

There are many more of these interesting programs but I have little time now. But I would like to say that there was one harkening back to the old days of porn n' sleaze a couple of weeks ago when one late-night talk show actually three of the most popular hardcore porn stars on to talk about their "techniques", so to speak.
Tuesday March 22, 10:45 p.m.

The rains came down in a big way which alleviated the hay fever, I'm sure, for millions of sufferers. It looks like things are settling down rather nicely with The New Kid at the juku. We've been mixing our lesson with some pop culture chat...heck, he's just a kid. I'm a bit worried about the Beauty Pair, though. It was again another mostly chatty session which included some preliminary plans for a trip to Tokyo Disney Sea in mid-May. Of course, that means that progress through the text is going at a snail's pace. I realize that the ladies aren't hellbent on getting tons of English for some major purpose but I just want to make sure they get their money's worth. As for the Milds, once it was another solo act with Mr. Mild this time. This rotational status for the past several weeks has made me wonder if the two are doing this on purpose. So I'm paranoid...sue me!

Tomorrow ought to be a fairly busy but easy day at the same time. I've got The Class Act in the morning in compensation for holiday Monday, followed by The Hawaiian and then The OL. Perhaps during the break between the first two lessons, I can hit Tower or some other CD shop; I'm once again on the hunt for one of these obscure CDs. This time, the prey is Chas Jankel. Who he, you ask? Well, he's the guy who wrote the song "Ai No Corrida" which Quincy Jones covered in that smashing album "The Dude". I also have one more track of his, "Glad to Know You" which apparently was a huge hit on the dance floor. Insipid lyrics but then again, we are talking about the 80s. Anyways, I wanted to track him down for one more song called "Questionnaire" whose video I saw over 20 years ago on the old Toronto late night TV show. Again, rather catchy uptempo tune with an intriguing high-paced video filled with graphic design. I have been checking out his name on the search engines, and it looks like he's got quite the legendary reputation although any good PR guy will do that for a client.

Kenzo Tange, one of the world's premier architects, passed away today at the ripe old age of 91. Amongst his works are the Hiroshima Peace Pavillion and the rather angular Tokyo City Hall. Also, on the news front for international celebs, it looks like Bobby Fischer has finally found a new home after his horrible odyssey in legalistic limbo. For months, Japanese authorities have kept the somewhat wacko chess master under lock and key after the US had revoked his passport after he'd pulled off a diplomatic no-no in the Balkans years ago and played his old rival Spassky there. It looks like Iceland has decided to welcome him with open arms. Bjork can share the spotlight!

I sent a couple of apologetically-toned letters tonight. One was to Speedy for not being able to help him out during evenings. I did tell him that I'd be more than willing to help out if I did have nights free...which I don't. I did give him a feeble offer to help him out this Thursday with any other lesson plans that need to be done. The other message was to Jazz Buddy for getting rather presumptuous, as I am very prone to do, by assuming that we MUST go out to dinner together before the concert. I should've known better since JB isn't exactly Miss Moneybags right now. Heck, I'd be more than willing to pay for her for dinner but perhaps she also doesn't want to think that this is some sort of date.

Anyways, I'll be off to bed in another hour. Perhaps the hay fever won't be as bad tomorrow either since it'll be another wet one. One can only hope.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Tuesday March 22, 1:37 p.m.

Well, the rains have come but I think it's just spitting now. Just back for a couple of hours before I head on out to the gym and then off to the juku. I'm starting to realize how scrunched my schedule is starting to become. Speedy sent over a fairly desperate message asking if I had any time at night after my evening classes to teach there. I had figured that he would probably send something like this. Of course, I have the Monday night after The Company but that's just a no-go with me. I'm usually pretty exhausted after that class due to the low level of the students, and with the Beehive on Tuesday mornings, if I decided to do one class over at Speedy's school, it would probably end up like my very first Monday night class all the way out near Yokohama when I always got home after midnight. I know that Speedy's gig would be far less time-consuming but the same feelings would be there. I feel sorry for the guy, I really do. Starting up any enterprise is gonna be filled with a lot of ups and downs but I just hope that he has some of his other teachers to rely upon. Evenings are just simply out of the question right now unless one of the night gigs decides to pull out. The one problem on my end is that I may have to rely on Speedy with my visa situation, but I'm not sure if he'll be as forthcoming if I can't help him out.

Also, what's complicating the time crunch is that I also have to think about my stints at the gym. Lately, I've only been able to hit the place once a week...not particularly a vigourous regimen to help me lose weight. And the fact that I'm paying almost 10000 yen a month for my privileges there makes me wanna go there a lot more. Mind you, the friend who got me going there in the first place stated that most weight loss occurs from change in diet rather than just pure exercise. With Speedy competing for my available time, I've got to keep some time for the gym, though, and my free stuff.

The Beehive seemed a bit tense to me today. Three of the four ladies were fine but Mrs Tea was still a bit standoffish today. She didn't come last week and I knew she wasn't too happy at the end of the lesson a couple of weeks ago. I'm not sure if it's still something I'd said during the lesson or it's something external.
Tuesday March 22, 7:41 a.m.

Overcast and most likely some rain in the forecast today. I don't have a whole lot of time before I have to get ready for my first class so I'll have to write pretty quickly.

I got a missive from GC. It's been a while since I heard from him so I sent him a pretty lengthy response since he left a lot of hooks for me to answer to. I probably have mentioned this before but GC used to be a regular guest at the ol' apartment up until a few years ago; I practically considered him a semi-roommate. However, he and I have, not even tacitly...silently decided to terminate that relationship. We do have a lot of interests in common: movies, TV, music and the like but in the last few trips before he stopped coming while I was here, we seemed to talk less and less and whenever he came back to the apartment after a long day out in Tokyo, I always ended up sleeping on him during one of his talks. I'm sure he wasn't too happy about that, but in my own defense, I think part of it was because of age...I just can't stay up like I used to. In any case, although I'm rather sad that the relationship has now become a merely e-mail one, I'm also a bit relieved that I don't have to spruce up the joint as often.

Anyways, one of the topics that we talked about was on Star Wars...and the new trailer. It does bring me back to what I saw on "Empire" and "Jedi" yesterday. My gripe on the latter's final scene continues with the insertion of Hayden Christensen as Anakin's redeemed ghost alongside Yoda and old Obi-Wan; I don't they shouldn't have bothered. The insertion looked pretty lame and I think was only allowed since perhaps the old actor who had originally donned the Jedi robes couldn't do anything about it legally (since he's REALLY dead now; probably his estate couldn't anything about it, either). I'm sure Alec Guinness' estate would have had a major fit if old Ben's image had been replaced with that of Ewan MacGregor. Legal tangles aside, if Lucas were going to start inserting people, he should have brought in the whole Jedi Council. That would've made a nicer ending.

That also brings me to what could have been done with Episode One. A lot of the critics took a shot at it as being too focused on the kiddy element. I probably would have also said that it was also the "road movie" element which seemed to take too many pit stops. For me, the plot that would've been more satisfying was to have the Jedi AND the Sith finding about this "vergence" in the Force in the form of this little boy on Tatooine. The movie would've then focused on this race against time and between good & evil to find The Chosen One. Certainly I would have had Anakin be less "yippee" and a bit more grounded (George, why oh why, didn't you take Haley Joel Osmont?) The new plot would've also helped Yoda. As it were in the first movie, the supposed wisest Jedi in a millenium ended up sounding like a guy in the first stages of senile dementia (clouded his future is? A kid with an even higher count of mitochondria or whatever the heck they call it than even the height-challenged Muppet? I'd say that his future would be sunny and clear with a temp of 35 C!). I can only imagine that the storytellers for Episode 3 will probably explain Yoda's inexplicable loss of insight at how dangerous Anakin is by having Darth Sidious being portrayed as someone so more powerful than any of the Jedi that he could cloud even Yoda. And isn't that what the Sith are known for...naked unbridled power?

Anyways, enough ranting about the past. As for the future, I think Star Wars will NOT end with Episode 3. The saga is just too big and still ripe with possibilities. Despite Lucas' protestations to the contrary, someone will probably be anointed to create the so-called latter trilogy. Again, Lucas seems to want to cloud men's minds by saying that he only envisioned two trilogies all along, but we all know better, don't we? There is another. Also, I could also enjoy another series, maybe not a movie series but a TV miniseries (OK, stop snickering), in which focus could be laid on the Jedi Knights way back in the heyday of the Old Republic. Were the Jedi Knights organized into this Master-Padawan relationship even then or were they more nomadic? What was Yoda like as a young Jedi? Everyone's been talking about how at least the prequel trilogy has shown the Jedi as they really were. But with this so-called Phantom Menace slowly having taken control, I don't think the Jedi even then were at their peak anymore. Let's see them when they were at the top of their game.

Time to go...
Monday March 21, 5:05 p.m.

Well, got some of that Spring Cleaning done. I can never fulfill all of my wishes when it comes to domestic housekeeping. I got the living room spiffed up a bit, polished some of the kitchen surfaces and even scoured some of the gunk from the shower curtain. But the bedroom will have to wait til next weekend. Luckily, I find myself completely free then.

My hay fever wasn't too bad until I got to the dusting. I found a whole lot of sins in the unkept corners of the living room which caused my histamines to go wild, thereby getting me to swallow another 3 pills of medicine. Didn't need to put on the mask, though, when I did my quick shopping for dinner.

Watched some excerpts from the original Star Wars trilogy DVDs, notably the Lucas-altered scenes from "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi". I still rather wish that the entire ending for "Jedi" was changed from the Ewok celebration puffery to a coronation scene on Coruscant. The changing of the music for that final scene didn't improve matters much. However, current SFX technology and probably a lot of actors from that scene wouldn't handle that too well.

It's gonna be a rather short week. Today was a holiday, The Siberian will be busy tomorrow, and I've only got The Teacher on Friday. Then, comes the Diana Krall concert. Still wondering how the pre-concert festivities will go. Jazz Buddy said that she hadn't even thought about that. Perhaps she was assuming that we would just meet at Bunkamura once the doors open. Well, I'm treating this outing as a bit of a special event since this will only be my second concert in my life and it is a pretty special guest so I thought I'd make it a bit more of a thing with dinner at En beforehand. However, I have to realize that JB isn't exactly raking in the big bucks right now and perhaps she doesn't want the thing to smell too much like a date. Well, I'll see how it goes.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Sunday March 20, 10:17 p.m.

My computer is such a fickle sort...crashed repeatedly over the past few weeks, does away with a lot of fonts and bullets, and then suddenly, they're back good as new and my download speed is back at warp. Well, I'll appreciate it while it lasts.

A bit of sad news from the J-Pop front. Yuki, former lead singer of Judy and Mary and a slightly poppier equivalent to Bjork, lost her son of nearly 2 years possibly due to SIDS. And this while she was enjoying great popularity due to her current single, JOY.

Finally caught that Star Wars trailer for Episode 3. I must admit it does look rather tempting, especially with all those Jedi battle scenes amongst the lead, soon-to-be-late, characters. However, wasn't that the case with the previous two movies?

Started making my quarterly tapings of shows for the parentals. Tonight was the taping of an old Drifters retrospective, now that one year has passed since the death of the leader, Chosuke Ikariya. Kinda nice to watch some of the old stuff now and then. Almost makes me want to see some old Top Ten shows.

Anyways, I'll be glad to be able to sleep in tomorrow since it's The First Day of Spring, and therefore a national holiday. But I do have to do my spring cleaning.
Sunday March 20, 5:12 p.m.

Could have saved myself paying 1200 yen today. That was the cost of the drink and the round trip to the Tea Room. I only found out after checking my e-mail just now and after lingering 2 hours there that M + M had canceled out since one of them got sick suddenly. Just some bad timing; the message wasn't posted until after my morning check. Kinda too bad about the money but hey, that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Earlier in the day, I got that rubdown. I've been on a bit of a lucky streak; I got the director of the clinic again so another non-painful massage. Then, I finally got those gift certificates put to good use and bought myself a ton of clothes. Only shucked out a little over 1400 yen in real money for those purchases.

And there was quite a bit of a shakedown of sorts in Fukuoka of all places. When I got back from shopping, I found out that the Western city had gotten knocked about with a M7 temblor an hour earlier. The usual footage of the NHK regional bureau getting shook and scenes of fallen convenience store goods and stone walls. The interesting stuff was from a street security camera, though, as it took footage of some suddenly frantic pedestrians scurrying like frightened mice around the intersection. However, it looks like the quake wasn't too serious; all the channels are back to regular programming.