Saturday, April 02, 2005

Sunday April 3, 9:53 a.m.

Well, I stayed up until 2 a.m. to get any news on the Pope's health but just had to get to bed after nodding off several times in front of the TV. Got up at 9 and found out that he'd passed away a few hours ago. Of course, CNN is there. Karol just HAS to be in a better place now.

Well (and I say this with a lot of sarcasm), the attrition continues for Skippy's plans for The Kid's farewell party. I got this call from her just a few minutes ago telling me that even The Kid has bowed out due to illness. But she was her still very chipper self....amazing these young folks. I probably would have gone several shades of red and cursed the heavens if I'd be planning this fiasco. Boy, Kid, I hope you REALLY feel sick AND bad! Heck, the movie outing is just gonna be Skippy and me...and then for dinner, we may just have one more person.
Saturday April 2, 11:41 p.m.

Went to all that trouble getting that tape dubbed for the elder sister and prep for her lesson this morning only to find out that she was out at volleyball practice. And I didn't have anything prepped for the substitution, her mother. However, her mother is a joy to have; just wind her up and let her go. Unlike her sullen daughter, Mom is a happy talker

After JJ today, I met up with the OL and Betty Boop at Shinagawa Station. I really wasn't sure whether we were gonna have a real lesson or not. However, when the OL said that Boop would be meeting us right at 5, the proposed time for the lesson, I considered that a lesson-not-to-be. It would just be silly having a non-student just sitting by while I try to teach the OL something. And in any case, I was tired running around after 3 classes so I was happy for the respite.

We ended up going to the TGIFridays at the Pacific Meridien since it was an American restaurant and we wanted to have the atmosphere for the OL's 5-day trip to the States next month. We actually did hold a role-play in which I played the OL's host father whose family had hosted Boop several years back during her yearlong stay Stateside. Like the good student she's been, she was writing notes and vocab down like a stenographer.

As for the food itself, we had the same appetizers that Jazz Buddy and I had had last Friday at the Shibuya branch of TGIF before the Diana Krall concert. Looks like those were and are the big winners on the menu. However, we were all rather shocked and disappointed at the main course (as much as JB and I were at ours) of spareribs. The mass of meat looked like something a caveman would have eaten 70,000 years ago after discovering fire. It was just a hunk of meat smothering the rib cage of the poor animal just with a line of sauce going down the back. To add insult to injury, it came to us rather cold. We complained to the waitress who immediately took it back to the kitchen. The only remedy the cooks did, though, was to just reheat it. Apparently, someone forgot to take off the small bowl of cole slaw from the plate since it came back rather hot. The meat itself didn't come off too easily from the bones; I guess we were meant to fight for our meal. However, it was nice that one of the higher-ups came by to apologize although the improvement was not much of one. So, Tony Romas has nothing to worry about from this restaurant. As for the higher-up, it looks like she was gonna have a bad day; the table next to us griped to her about some sort of slight. Well, my conclusion for TGIF was TGIO by the end of our time there: Thank God It's Over! The restaurant now has a reputation in my head as a bit of a mine field...some good and some bad.

Well, found out that The Hawaiian is dropping out from the movie outing due to illness. I was gonna do a bit of griping right now but I've come to my senses. I mean, Movie Buddy is not coming tomorrow and she isn't coming to the dinner so she probably wouldn't feel too comfy within the old school group. In fact, I have come up with my own little white lies to get out of parties since I really didn't cherish going to them.

However, the Coffeemaker contacted me about a cherry-blossom viewing party next Saturday. Most likely, I won't be able to make it for the actual viewing (ie drinking outside) but I said I could visit them for any dinner drinking.

I read an interesting article in this week's METROPOLIS about the idol industry and actually how more mundane and perhaps even more arduous the duties are for these so-called celebs than for the usual cog in a company. Even the current commercial queen, Aya Ueto, with all of the money that's been generated by her is just considered to be an employee of the talent agency that has hired her. In fact, the most telling sentence from the article is that unlike in Hollywood where the stars pay the agents a percentage, over here it's the other way around. The so-called stars get the 10%! Man, Michael Ovitz must be wondering about a place change. It certainly makes me a lot more grateful that I didn't bother for a career in show business in this country. I think there really has to be even more of a passion from these wannabes to reach the top of Japan's entertainment industry considering all the added obstacles.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Saturday April 2, 8:17 a.m.

Just got word from Shrek. His wife just had their baby a couple of days ago. Also heard from The Engineer about the good news. He jokingly remarked that the new kid has more hair than Shrek. However, I tried to remedy things by saying that the baby has his father's exact looks. During our brief chat, my computer decided to have its daily crash. So it took me another 5 minutes to get that started up. Man, if I ever get that extension on my visa, I'm gonna really have to think about getting a laptop.

However, I'm happy to say that my new double-deck recorder has passed muster. Ah, the wonders of speed dubbing.

It's rather ironic with the good news of Shrek Jr.'s arrival that the rest of the world is holding its breath about the imminent departure of Pope John Paul II...and for that matter, the potential departure of Prince Rainier of Monaco. Despite my non-beliefs, I have to admit that the Pope has registered strongly as a world leader. Before him, I had no idea about the Papacy. It'll be strange not seeing him on TV anymore but considering how the last few years have exacted their toll on him, I think it'll be a relief for him.

Well, off I go.
Friday April 1, 9:33 p.m.

Decided to hold off on the gym. Instead I got some more hours of sleep. I think I did get the better end of the deal. In any case, I did get to go there twice this week, and strangely enough, my second time there, I dropped a ton, figuratively speaking of course. I lost over a kilogram or 2 pounds in less than 24 hours. Well, without getting into too much grisly detail, I guess I must have lost it through natural processes....hehheheh.

Just had SR for 2 hours. Very pleasant as usual. Beforehand, though, I went off to the Yamada Denki near my apartment, and I picked up an old double tape deck stereo. In these days of MD/CD/DVD players, this old chestnut cost me a little over the equivalent of 2 CDs. And all I need it for is just to dub my textbook tapes onto blanks. I cannot trust my old Onkyo tape decks since they have gotten rather dust ridden even with some heavy blow from my hair dryer....on the cool setting. In any case, it would be nice to listen to some of my taped compilations in the bedroom as well.

I spent the better part of an hour cooking up some of those Korean recipes that the OL kindly gave me last week. The recipes were taken from a popular Korean cooking drama that's being broadcast on NHK Satellite. One was a simple beef stew and the other was some miso-covered pork. Apparently, they were considered to be special dishes only reserved for the ancient Korean Royal Family. Well, I like to say that I'm pretty good in the kitchen after all these years but I wasn't sure if I could be that good with the recipes. However, aside from a bit of an imbalance in the amount of miso for the pork, I could say that the dishes passed muster. I'll have to pass on the good news to OL and Boop when I meet them for dinner tomorrow in Shinagawa.

Well, gotta hit the books.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Thursday March 31, 9:21 p.m.

Had another one of those frustrating days in which I found out too late that my student had to pull out suddenly. Earlier this month, it was M + M who left me hanging. Today it was Jazz Buddy. I was waiting for half an hour in front of the Andersen's Bakery before I thought about checking out the New York Muffin Factory. JB has had a penchant for forgetting meeting places so I thought perhaps she may be there. No such luck. Finally I decided to call her up which I should've done in the first place. Sure enough, a very groggy voice answered sheepishly saying that she couldn't make it out because of illness. She did say that she'd sent me an e-mail but it must've been after I'd checked it this morning. It was all I could do to keep the annoyance out of my voice since, of course, she was sick...nothing can be done about that.

However, the Dark Side still beckoned. So to alleviate it, I decided to spoil myself and head straight to the tonkatsu joint a few hundred metres down the corridor. A half hour later, I wasn't quite satisfied so I decided to head over to HMV and bought myself a couple of CDs. Well, after all that, I headed off to Speedy's for my usual 3-hour stint behind the computer. I managed to fire off a couple of chapters. It looks like Speedy is still waiting for customers to come in. He's still pretty chipper, though.

I heard from Chip Guy for the first time since Xmas. He doesn't get a chance to do recreational e-mail all that often. Looks like he's rarin' to go with his family holiday back over here. Just hope he's aware that PH is planning his welcome back party.

MK's lesson was a bit more difficult than usual since she was still making errors in some of the pronouns. I tried to keep her spirits up as much as I could. And I was pretty much successful in that department.

I'm currently listening to one of the tapes from that package for my latest textbook. No, not particularly scintillating stuff. And I think the voice actors are getting a bit carried away with the accents. It's nice to differentiate the voices and all, but I swear sometimes that I'm listening to dialogue from "The Godfather".

And I remember mentioning this morning about the overuse of packaging for a sold product. Well, I had a typical example right under my nose. This cardboard box which contained the 3-pack of textbook tapes was big enough to hold a couple of pretty heavy textbooks. And so when I opened the box up, I saw these tiny tapes stuffed in a huge amount of newsprint. I realize that it's important to safeguard the transport of items but I think an inflated car airbag is far more dangerous than this setup in comparison. And I'm sure the little tree that sacrificed itself in Borneo might be rather nonplussed to hear that he was used as little more than cushioning.

Well, after all this running around, I decided to send JB a get-well card. I recall there was a saying which came out like this: if you are annoyed at someone, be even nicer to them. It does sound rather Christian, doesn't it? Ugh! Well, just wanted to let her know that I still care.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Thursday March 31, 7:35 a.m.

Pretty chilly for a final day in March. Apparently, O-Hanami season will be coming in a week late, although I don't really feel any time lag. Then again, I really don't partake in the practice of getting stinkin' drunk under blossoming cherry trees. However, Movie Buddy did invite me to such a party on Saturday. Unfortunately, I've already got 4 classes the day after tomorrow and then dinner with Boop and The OL.

It's kinda interesting how much Japanese care about how their things are packaged. Anyone's who's stayed any length of time in this country has probably seen how department store staff wrap their goodies in mounds of crepe and other types of paper. Well, case in point, it's currently strawberry season and so there are a lot of plastic boxes of the red berries selling. Top-of-the-line varieties are selling for a pretty hefty 598 yen a box. The berries are all of the same perfect size and shape, perfectly packed in rows. And they probably have perfectly sweet flavour, to boot. There is a slightly cheaper variety at 398 yen; the berries there look just as perfect but perhaps the flavour doesn't quite rate as highly. Then, there is the stuff I bought at just 198 yen, about a third of the price of the most expensive berries. Those berries are a hodgepodge of misfits: overly large berries, tiny berries, berries that are a little overripe in spots but not ripe enough in others. And they're just thrown in the box as if they were collected by some overenthusiastic kid in the berry bush. But the flavour is perfectly fine to me....well, uneven, but then again, like Forrest Gump said, you never know what you're gonna get. So what would you prefer: perfect clones or perfectly human berries? Discuss.

Speaking of perfect clones, we had a couple of visitations by the beautiful people of Hollywood in the last couple of days. I've groggily woken up to watch Richard Gere have a little dance with his so-called clone, Prime Minister Koizumi; apparently Junichiro is perfectly secure with his sexuality. Of course, Gere couldn't resist selling a bit about the Dalai Lama but his main purpose there was to sell the US version of "Shall We Dance?" More on the comparison a little later.

The second attack of a clone was this morning when I groggily caught the pneumatic Mariah Carey visit the august HQ of Fuji-TV in Odaiba with a ton of relatively plainer staffwomen surrounding her. She was guided by the lead entertainment reporter, one of my clones. She remarked that she'd never been to a TV studio before....uh, really?

Now, as for the comparison between the two versions of "Shall We Dance?", apparently the US version hasn't really done all that much Stateside. I'm not quite sure how this version will or is doing here, but allow me a few points. For one thing, it's awfully hard for me at least to imagine Richard Gere as a depressed schlub trying to find his mojo on an L train...certainly not after seeing "Chicago". On the other hand, the original version's actor, Koji Yakusho can boast some authenticity since for the first half of his working life, he really was a schlub at a civil service job. My second point is one of different cultures. Here in Japan, where regular salarymen are still seen and still encouraged to not stand out and just tow the line until retirement, natural death or suicide, the characters in the original version were doing something bold and brash if not quite scandalous. However in the US where standing out is virtually an unwritten part of the Constitution, the impact of the characters' actions to suddently hit the dance floor is much more blunted into a "So what?" thing. Midlife crises are also an unwritten part of the Constitution there, too. Over here, midlife crises aren't allowed to be seen or if they do pop out from some schlub or schlubette, the poor person is seen as needing a mental health professional. And in this country, such professionals are even rarer than salarymen getting that irrational urge to dance. I think the only really accepted form to battle the entry into middle age in Japan is to hit the hair dye.

Completely different topic but something I've just observed as Lou Dobbs Tonight is broadcasting now. Lou introduced his show by first mentioning a snippet about how the Earth is rapidly depleting its natural resources at an alarming rate and then he goes, "But first, about the crisis in the broken borders surrounding our country...". much for priorities.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Tuesday March 29, 11:11 p.m.

There's no better indicator that life is truly unfair when one discovers that one has gained all his lost weight back in 1 week after working to lose that weight over 3 months. Truly there is no better reason to be an atheist!

Was able to blow off another 4 hours at the juku. Not bad but still 4 hours straight is sometimes not a desirable thing.

Just gonna hit bed in a few minutes, although I wonder if I'll be able to get to sleep after chugging down 3 cups of coffee at the juku. The Beauty Pair gave me a present from Mr. Eccentric. After I got him a souvenir calendar over Xmas, some months later, he has given me a coffeemaker of all things. I keep thinking of the Sean Connery analogy in "The Untouchables": "He pulls out a knife, you pull a gun!" I wonder what would happen if I gave him a coffeemaker? Does his next present come with a mortgage?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Monday March 28, 11:09 p.m.

I thank the fates for having a student with one of the best chefs in Japan as an employee of hers. After my usual lesson with The Class Act, I just got up assuming that I would have to do the fast food lunch since The Lady didn't mention anything about lunch to me this time. However, just when I slipped on my jacket, The Lady said that the Chef would be cooking up another pasta lunch for me. Ahhhhh...the life of a teacher. Today's lunch was a wonderful Spaghetti Bolognese with a salad doused in balsamic vinegar and some tiny oranges native to Japan; they were so sweet that I could even eat the peel. I paid homage to The Chef by licking up every last bit of sauce from the dish. Ah, by the way, The Lady's classmate, The Seamstress, came back from her trip through Eastern Europe. I got a nice souvenir in the form of a Hungarian port.

SIL was in good form. In fact, I was rather surprised that she possessed quite the knowledge of old US TV shows such as The Three Stooges, The Beverly Hillbillies and even The Little Rascals. Man, I thought I would always be alone on that topic in this country. Ah...if only she were much younger...

Even the Company was OK...not too much of a slog although the lesson was much more basic than the previous two. I kept it rather light mixing some chatter with the serious stuff. That's pretty much the only way we can get through without exhausting ourselves to death.

The rains did come down. I still had to take one dose of medicine but I didn't need the mask. Thank heavens for small blessings. I'm gonna hit bed pretty soon. This week may also be a bit of a light one since I don't have The Beehive tomorrow, The OL has re-scheduled this week's lesson to Saturday afternoon and The Teacher has cancelled hers.

Looks like one of my former students has joined the ranks of Movie Buddy in starting up her own blog. She invited me to it just now. Pretty impressive with all of the bells and whistles and she's even invited replies. I do wonder if she's aware that her blog will eventually be "heckled" by some chowderhead. Movie Buddy's blog has already had one attack, but of course, MB took it all in stride.

I did catch another movie after the disappointment that was "National Treasure". It was "Men In Black 2" on TV last night. It made for a decent timewaster of a couple of hours on prime time. However, as a motion picture on the big screen which I caught a few years ago, I was also rather disappointed. Rosario Dawson's character was even more one-note than Agent L from the first movie. And I thought the attempt to have role reversal between the smart-mouthed Agent J and the seen-it-all Agent K fell flat which basically condemned the movie to the status of failed sequels. I'm kinda hopeful though that the MIB series will be like the Indiana Jones series in which the Temple of Doom was a relative failure before the comeback of the third entry with Sean Connery.

Well in any case, I'm gonna take a shower and then head to bed in half an hour so that I can watch that Monkey quiz show.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Monday March 28, 7:49 a.m.

Looks like PH is back in party mode once more. She's planning another huge bash for the "return" of Chip Guy and his family. I put the key word in quotes since CG is just here on vacation. The Chips are very rooted back in the Toronto suburbs now. I can see CG's eyes roll into the back of his head; he was never much for parties held in his honour, and especially since he, by his own admission, doesn't really talk with 90% of the folks who usually show up for these things. As you know, I've never been a great fan of large parties, period, but I figure since it's for Chip, I've sent in my RSVP to PH.

Looks like that Expo in Aichi has already gotten its first special guest, French President Chirac (I can imagine the US Embassy staffers getting their dartboards ready). Chirac is a huge Japanophile having made 45 trips to the country during his long tenure as France's top guy; heck, he's named his dog "Sumo".

Gonna be a wet one today. Not great to hold the umbrella but perhaps the pollen will get washed out again.
Sunday March 27, 7:47 p.m.

Caught "National Treasure" with Movie Buddy and The Hawaiian today in Shinjuku. I can see why the reviewers were rather lukewarm on it at best. It just seemed like an attempt at an Indiana Jones flick as filtered by Ingmar Bergmann. No high highs, no low lows...just this flat plot-driven relentlessness powered by Nic Cage's usual hero of earnestness. My only surprises came in the casting of Jon Voigt and Christopher Plummer. Kinda glad that I only paid discount prices for it. There was just something lacking. It's somewhat akin to the some of the reviews I'd been hearing about "The Aviator" as well, so I'm a bit nervous about what I'll get next week when a whole bunch catches that flick.

MB and The Hawaiian already had their dinner committments so we just had a bit of coffee for an hour before parting our ways. I ended up having dinner at the local kaiten sushi in my neighbourhood. It was actually quite full today which is nice to see since the place didn't seem to be making much business, but I do wonder if it will continue on for much longer. Across the hall, the latest attempt to create a viable enterprise there failed a couple of weeks ago. It was a ramen shop that I'd only visited once in the several months that it had been open. That particular patch of real estate may need a Buddhist priest to exorcise it of any demons that it may have. It's the Ace of Spades in the mall; the last few shops there have all failed. I suggest that a McDonalds or a Chinese restaurant should be put up.

It's been interesting seeing what's been on the news in both the US and Japan. The US has been consumed with the Terry Schiavo case. There couldn't be any higher drama or pathos when it comes to this heartrending story since it deals with the essence of life itself. Over here, though, the news that's been consuming valuable airtime for the past several weeks has been this corporate battle between Internet company Livedoor and the Fuji Television Network over a tiny radio station. Apparently, this station represents a nice piece of property for which Livedoor can get a good chunk of media clout. However, Fuji TV isn't too keen on what amounts to be a hostile takeover. On another level, the battle represents youth and veteran. But I have to say that I can't understand why it's been so prominent in the news since this is something that was news in the States years ago when corporate raiding was once considered sexy. However, I think the fact that this brash interloper in the form of Livedoor President Horie is trying to make inroads into the conservative media market has gotten all of the media outlets up in arms, thereby demanding a full court press whether it deserves it or not. In any case, I have no particular warmth toward either Horie or any of the Fuji fogies. Horie strikes me as being one of these lumbering oxen in a china shop while the big guys at Fuji are the usual fossilized stubborn asses of chairmanship. Now another wrinkle has come in the form of that other rebel company, Softbank, which signaled its intention to get a piece of the pie.