Saturday, April 09, 2005

Saturday April 9th, 10:17 p.m.

Well from the solemnity and joy of the Pope's funeral to the pomp and surrealism of Prince Charles' second wedding. I gotta say that the Windsors are probably the third-most dysfunctional TV family next to the Bundys and the Simpsons. This second try at wedded bliss for The Royal Pair of Ears is rather different...more down-to-earth, more realistic than the amazing fantasy that was the wedding of Charles and Diana and what turned out to be the entire marriage.

I'm pretty much back to my ol' self although I still haven't heard from Jazz Buddy. I'm still searching the newspapers online for any possible news there.

I guess with the death of the Pope, Johnny Carson and some of the other big celebs of this year, my computer may also be on its last legs. It's been crashing all over the place lately. Well, I gotta perhaps give it a defrag treatment and maybe even a full scandisk. If that doesn't work, it might be time to head to Akihabara.

After my classes today, I went up to Ichigaya and met Speedy there and then we went to the nearest Tengu where we saw some of the old alumni having drinks after having had a nice Ohanami. The Barmaiden and The Coffeemaker were there. Of course, The Barmaiden was regaling all of us with some of her stories of the fights with her hubby and meeting David Duchovny of "The X-Files". All of us were there for about three hours before breaking up. I still hadn't eaten anything since my snacks at the kids' house this morning, so I just had some ramen in the subway mall. However, I will make my way to Fujimamas tomorrow morning for that Farmer's Breakfast. I don't have to do it since I could have my breakfast here but hey, one's gotta live it up a bit on a Sunday sometime. And certainly after the rather lousy end to the week, I could use some good food.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Saturday April 9, 7:38 a.m.

Having my access to my blog cut off for about a day has given me some more time to do some self-reflection and worrying.

As for the "worry" part, it concerns Jazz Buddy. She's never struck me as being one of the happier types like Skippy. For reasons mentioned before, she's always been in a bit of a funk. Well, my initial anger at having been stood up by her for a second time has been replaced by a general sense of worry at her well-being. The following part is gonna sound conspiratorial and circumstantial but here goes:

I was watching the news last night. And one item brought up a red flag from me. Apparently, in Oita Prefecture, there was a death reported of an unnamed woman due to some complications when she was involved in some alternative diet regimen there. The woman was 27, suffered from atopy and was under this regimen for 2 weeks.

Now, without releasing any real names here, JB is 27, has a slight case of atopy and I haven't seen her in 2 weeks. Now as for the Oita angle, she can access her e-mail from anywhere in the country. And in her last message to me, she cited that she had a "private problem". I really hope I'm wrong...and in all likelihood, I am. Still I'm gonna keep my eyes and ears open until I get some confirmation either way.

As for the self-reflection part, my temper tantrum and subsequent profane entry on Thursday night have made think a lot about the personality that I've been saddled with. Most of my students think I'm this teacher with the patience of Job and the kindness of a Santa. Well, that is the professional side of me. My personal side is a whole lot less secure and I have to say that I've inherited a number of elements from my parents, two of which are my brief but explosive rage from my Dad, and a general sense of grumbling and distrust from my Mom. No, they're not nice things to say about one's parents but sad to say, it's true. The worst of both worlds, in effect. I wish I could do something about that but since I don't have the money or the time or the inclination to end up on some shrink's lounger, the best I can do is just to keep a distance from my students and realize any closer long-term relationships will be difficult at best.

However, I still worry about JB.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Friday April 8, 8:32 a.m.

Has a night's sleep helped my mood any? Ummm....nahhh. Well, at least I can control my temper in front of The Teacher. Perhaps I can destroy the workout machines when I head to the gym. I've got a lot to get off my chest, my back, my whatever... I did receive an apology letter from The New Yorker that I have decided not to read yet. I really don't think I could answer adequately to that right now.

However with the passage of time, I've been able to come to the conclusion that probably I wouldn't have gone off so hard on the sisters if it hadn't been for the earlier no-show by JB. No reply to my two letters to her...and there's a possibility that she may not answer them.
Thursday April 7, 9:44 p.m.

Well, well, a rather sheepish call from The New Yorker right now stating that she thought we would be meeting every 2nd and 4th Thursdays in the month. Well....grrrrr...may be so...but I still wish she bloody called me! We've been doing this for months now...we had to have have some 1st and 3rd f#&&n Thursdays. Anyways, we're on the for the 21st! F#&k! Sometimes I could just strangle Life itself!
Thursday April 7, 9:04 p.m.

Incredible! And I mean that in the worst possible way. I had 3 no-shows! Jazz Buddy, The Carolinan and The New Yorker all stood me up.

As for the Jazz Buddy, it was another repeat of last Thursday when I was left waiting for 30 minutes outside for a woman who would not appear. I checked my phone messages (only the first in several throughout the day)...nada. Frankly, I was starting to fume. After having lunch and showing up at Speedy's, I checked my e-mail. Sure enough, there was a message from her...some minutes after the lesson was supposed to have begun. She was saying that she had a private matter that she had to take care of. The rest of the message sounded like she was in a rather deep depression. She always had been rather down about a lot of things in the time I've known her....everything from her neurotic sister to her thankless job. Although I tried to keep this plus the fact that she gave me those chocolates 2 months ago in mind, I was just a little too annoyed to be too forgiving. So I basically unleashed a bit of Hell on her along with some concern for her well-being. A couple of hours later, I was more accomodating and sent her an additional message of concern, hoping that if she wouldn't be willing to open to me, at least she could talk to one of her buddies. I even sent a missive off to Skippy to see if she could help out from a female point of view.

And here I thought that would be the end of it. No such luck. I got to the Tea Room an hour before the sisters would arrive. I had my dinner and drink and my books out on the table. And there I waited, and waited and waited. Soon, the hour set aside for The New Yorker went past so I thought I would hope against hope and see if The Carolinan would show. I wasn't as patient for her. I only waited 15 minutes into her time before I decided to leave in silent disgust. I can only figure out that if NEITHER lady showed up, I could only think of two things: 1) they had a family emergency, 2) they've decided to ditch me as their teacher altogether. Me being the eternal cynic, I have decided to go for Door No. 2.

Before you think it, nope...I think I am a pretty decent teacher. I've got nearly 18 years of hard-won experience and training under my belt to be blown off like this. Having said that, I know that sometimes for whatever reason, things just don't mesh between a student and teacher. However, I could have at least received a courtesy call from the both the sisters and Jazz Buddy to cancel their lessons...for today or permanently. Frankly, I'm starting to respect The Stylist, the lady who decided to stop my lessons face-to-face, more and more for her candor. As it turned out, I earned no money and basically wasted a lot of hours that I could've spent at home without wasting the transportation. I sent off a terse message to the New Yorker asking her to get back to me about tonight. If she has any class, she will do so.

The actual productive hours at Speedy's school only amounted just to one lesson plan made. The reason for the small output was because Speedy got me into an impromptu powwow about how he can bring the customers in for the school At this point, the school has bupkiss. He was still cheerful as usual but he admitted that he's starting to get a little worried about the slow start. I really feel for him. I even sent a message off to the OL to see if she'd be willing to shift her regular lessons to Friday evenings so that I could help Speedy out on Wednesday nights. I even said that perhaps I could even ditch The Company on Monday nights if the slogginess continues over there.

Man, what a lousy day!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Wednesday April 6, 8:19 p.m.

Currently in mid-chat with Movie Buddy as I write down this entry. I'm always worried that the multitasking will bring my computer down. It's already done so once this time.

I guessed I had it coming. Yesterday, I griped about how cold it was on Monday and then today, we get hit with a minor heat wave. It was in the high 20s in Tokyo and Gunma of all places hit the big 3-0 today. Man, this year has been so wacky!

My lone lesson out in the boondocks with The Hawaiian went well. If all of my students were this easy to teach. I just came home to cook up another mess of Korean miso third attempt at it in a week, and this time, I did it without the recipe since it's apparently gone missing. The only thing I messed up on was forgetting to put in a dash of sugar into the sauce. However, the dish still came out aces if a bit saltier. Getting this craving for dessert....however, I don't think I'll indulge that urge tonight. Feeling pretty full.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Wednesday April 6, 10:25 a.m.

Had my weekly good night of sleep. It certainly did wonders for my hay fever. Didn't take any medicine last night but when I finally woke up from my slumber some nine hours later, my nose was feeling a lot less stuffy than it had been in the last several mornings. However, I wasn't going to take chances so I swallowed the pills this morning at breakfast.

Received a message from The Ballerina acknowledging my own message from a few days ago. Also got word Speedy about one of my former students at the school trying out for the secretarial position at his school. He was very diplomatic about it but basically his message could be boiled down to a snowball's chance in Hell of her actually passing muster. She's just very young and inexperienced. Her resume amounted to just her name and her contact number. Not good. I just hope that Speedy wasn't thinking that I was trying to push her on him.

Well, what would it take to finally kick out the mammoth wall of news on the Pope's death from the top spot on the Catholic...oops, sorry...Cable News Network? The trials and tribulations of the Royal Wedding? Nope, although it did get a place on Paula Zahn Now. Nope, it took some bad news on another public figure within a more regional but more intimate scale. Peter Jennings of ABC News announced that he has inoperable lung cancer. Whoa! Pretty big surprise for me considering that I used to watch him from time to time during my high school and university years. The experts were already on the CNN website and Larry King Live...they were dancing around the issue but basically the gist of what they were saying was that it doesn't look too good for Peter. This has some major overhaul for the major news networks in America. Tom Brokaw left his post last year with honour, Dan Rather left a few weeks ago without it, and now Peter.

Talking about departures on a more whimsical level, I recently heard that the actor playing the first Doctor Who reincarnation in several years, Chris Eccleston, has decided to leave the show for fears of stereotyping. He must've been watching some old reruns of Classic Trek. But honestly speaking, I can understand some of his trepidation. I can guess that some of the other actors who had played the good Doctor must've had some difficulty trying other roles without people pointing and calling out, "Hey, it's the (add your number here) Doctor!" Mind you, the Third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee, was able to get another British TV hero under his belt under the name of Worzel Gummidge. Still, I hope this one regeneration-a-year practice doesn't become a regular thing. At this rate...and I only expect the Whovians to know this....this new series will be over in about 3 years, which was the usual life expectancy of one Doctor's regeneration.

Well, gotta get a lot of stuff done before I head out to see The Hawaiian.
Tuesday April 5, 10:32 p.m.

The hay fever was pretty bad today. The medicine didn't last as long as hoped for. So I've got my itchy eyes and stuffy nose.

It was a typical Tuesday. I just had the Beehive and then went to the gym before hitting the juku. I was thinking of doing the gym tomorrow morning as well but since I've got quite a bit of ironing to do and some lesson plans to get over to Speedy, I may as well get that out of the way. I've only got The Hawaiian (that is, if she stays healthy) tomorrow so I should have the time to get all that done. Plus, all I really want to do right now is take another shower and get to bed.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Monday April 4, 10:11 p.m.

My eyes are as red as beets right now since I did my nightly rubbing. Even the medicine was having difficulty holding the line even with the rain and the cold temps. And speaking of the temps, what is up with the weather? I came home feeling like it was the beginning of January. I don't that bodes well for the partygoers for O-hanami.

Looks like the entire family was out at the Class Act's base of operations today since I got word from SIL about that death in the family. So it was just her friend and me for the 90 minutes. No special lunch but that's OK...I've already gotten more than I deserve. Since I had that huge block of time again between lessons, I took a look around Tower. Looks like Towa Tei has got a new album out. I'm kinda wondering about getting it but then again, I also have a Fantastic Plastic Machine album which I've only heard twice since I got it several years ago.

I walked up in the wintry weather to the Harajuku/Omotesando intersection to get my dose of hot dogs at Hansens since Skippy, OA and I had that conversation the night before about restaurants we frequent. Still good stuff. Once again, afterwards, I hiked up to Shinjuku and checked out Kinokuniya. I was armed with those book gift certificates but nothing there worth getting. So I just did some more walking until I got to the Starbucks nearest The Company and spent another hour half-dozing, half-trying to do my crosswords.

Man, it was another sloggy lesson with the lone Company guy who came. I sometimes wonder when the axe is finally gonna come down on me over there. Generally, I've been coming home exhausted every work night...hopefully because of the unstable weather and hay fever. At least, I'm not alone. The Coffeemaker also sent word that she's been feeling the same as well. I actually had to buy a vitamin drink just to make dinner tonight...and because I do have to prep for 4 classes tomorrow. Luckily, the juku boss contacted me to say that The Siberian has canned his lesson tomorrow.

I made that miso pork dish again that I'd made back on Friday. Deee-licious! I really owe The OL on that one. Speaking of whom, she's confirmed that she will be unavailable for her regular lesson on Wednesday due to work. It's possible then that I might be able to meet up with OA to get her some of those videos she's dying to watch then but I'm still standing by. Chip Guy has contacted me about dinner on the 23rd. Should be nice.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Monday April 4, 7:24 a.m.

Over the years, Western celebs have come here to film silly commercials; stuff that they would never dare have let shown in the States or Europe. However, the Internet has pretty much nullified any special clauses in their contracts about not showing them. I'm not sure if that is the reason for the dearth of those celebs recently. Basically, Natalie Portman and Liv Tyler seem to have cornered the market with their ads for coffee and shampoo...surprising in a land where giants like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone once shilled Japanese products.

However, Natalie and Liv will have to move over a bit now. It first started with the subway station ads. Calorie Mate, the name of a brand of diet food, has recruited Kiefer Sutherland as the intrepid Jack Bauer of "24" fame. There is a poster of him in his iconic pose of shouting instructions into a cellphone while the familiar yellow-and-black of Calorie Mate shines in the background. Now, the commercial has come out with him jumping out of a helicopter along with some Special Ops types onto the roof of a Shinjuku building. He's shouting some instructions into his cellphone looking suitably mussed up while some hapless Japanese maintenance workers look on. Of course, he's consuming his Calorie Mate. I couldn't really tell since I saw the ad while I was waking up, but I think he was downing the drink version. The cookie version is OK but the drink tastes like particularly chunky spit. The slogan for the ad is translated "Forward! Go forward!" After drinking Calorie Mate, I can guarantee your bowels will follow that advice to the letter.

I talked ad nauseum about "The Aviator" last night, and how it was good that it didn't win Best Movie or Director although it was good enough to get nominated. However, I do think that Cate Blanchett did deserve to get her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Her performance certainly made me forget the fact that this was THE Galadriel from "Lord of the Rings". As for Leo DiCaprio, he will get his Oscar someday but his Howard Hughes wasn't all that much different (aside from the usual actorly relish to show off the tics) from his Jack in "Titanic" or the con artist in "Catch Me If You Can". And frankly, the same could be said about all of the other performances. John C. Reilly was his usual John C. Reilly, Alan Alda's Senator Brewster was old serious Hawkeye Pierce and Alec Baldwin was Alec Baldwin.

The Pope's passing has, unsurprisingly, passed with very little incident here in Japan. It was basically the 3rd or 4th story in the news broadcasts, or perhaps the leading story in those 5-minute news flashes during prime time. In a country where a little over 1% of the population has any religious affiliation (and that's up from under 1% in the history books), the past weekend was just business as usual. In fact, one of the morning shows had a very helpful spot known as "Who is the Pope?" which explained about this little thing called Roman Catholicism.

It was downpouring earlier this morning and it'll probably continue to rain somewhat for most of the day. I've run out of medicine and I have to take off for The Class Act in a little over an hour. The drug store won't be open yet so this morning's class could be a rather drippy affair unfortunately.
Sunday April 3, 11:37 p.m.

Well, met Skippy at the Wendy's for the first time this year. I think the last time I saw her was way back in November. Yup, still happy as ever although she's been pretty busy taking up the slack left by a runaway disgruntled fellow employee.

Hmmm...interesting thing about the buzz surrounding "The Aviator" (and the very slight pun was not intended). Skippy had passed by the discount ticket shop on the way to the Wendy's and noticed that the tickets for the movie were just 1000 yen a piece. Discount tickets don't get under 1300 yen unless it was one of the special days such as the 1st of the month and this wasn't one of those days. So a week after its release in Japan, I was wondering if this movie was getting as many accolades as it had been given back Stateside. When we reached the theatre, the Milano-za, there wasn't much of a lineup at all for the flick despite it being a Sunday afternoon and only a week of release. This made me wonder even more. And I also remembered that when I checked the ratings for it on TokyoWalker, they were the most middling marks that I had seen of any of the movies that I'd checked on the website. Just a little over 50% of the movie thought it "Good" or "Very Good". Even "National Treasure" rated more highly.

Well, about the movie. I'll be one of those folks who will go against the TokyoWalker tracker and say that it was better than "National Treasure". It had the gloss of Oscar all over it: the epicness, the grand acting and the effects including the money piece of Howard Hughes' experimental fighter laying waste to much of Beverly Hills and Hughes himself. I've also been a long fan of watching early 20th-century depictions in cinema such as "The Untouchables", "The Godfather" and even "Dick Tracy", and certainly Scorcese and his team did a great homage to the 20s, 30s and 40s. And of course, being a jazz fan, I certainly enjoyed hearing some of the old standard tunes being played at that time. Leo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett put in their heart and soul and probably much of their other internal organs into their characterizations; Cate especially spread her Kate Hepburn imitation a bit thick at the beginning but settled down by the end of her scenes.

However, both Skippy and I agreed that there was something lacking in "The Aviator". And I still can't put my finger on it completely. And I'm not totally unaware of who Howard Hughes is considering that most of the moviegoing public had very little idea of who he was, and for that matter, cared little about who he was. Certainly, the Scorcese-DiCaprio cachet went a long way to getting this baby recognized. But one thing I can fault on the movie was that it seemed to shove down all of Howard Hughes' OCD lunacy in one huge glob two-thirds of the way into the movie. There were hints of it right from the opening scene but I think the producers and Scorcese thought that it wouldn't be a biopic on Hughes if the nuttiness of his later life couldn't be thrown in. So in go the scenes of the tons of used tissue wads, the long fingernails and the milk bottles filled with urine. Historically, I don't think Hughes went that way until long after the events of The Spruce Goose. So I think that inclusion of scenes was a waste of film. There probably should have been more on his dalliances with the various women in his life, most of which was spent on Hughes/Hepburn. It was certainly a reveleation to me since all this time I always recollect the Tracy/Hepburn romance. And I would have thought it a bit better if more attention had been paid to the very oil & water relationship between Hughes and Ava Gardner. All in all, it was a good film to watch but I now have to take the tack that it was probably right for the Oscar NOT to have gone to Scorcese for Best Director or Best Movie.

After that slight disappointment of a movie, Skippy and I moved out to a meeting place near Seibu-Shinjuku Station to meet OA, another alumnus that I hadn't seen in several months. When she did come, we walked over to the edges of Koreatown in Shin-Okubo and went into a new yakiniku restaurant that had just opened a few months previously. However, despite its rookie credentials, it has already garnered quite a bit of attention from the media via celeb-autographed cards, called bromides, and visits from said celebs themselves including the biggest Korean heartthrob in Japan himself, Yon-sama. Certainly, the place was pretty packed so we ended up getting a table on some tatami which made things a bit cramped for me. I would've preferred a simple table and chairs. But the food couldn't be beat. We had a nice amount of kalbi and other meats cooking on our rather unique brazier, a sloped pan on which the waiter and waitress cooked our meal whilst the excess oil drained off to a bottom metal trough. The conversation was also very good. Skippy has a great gift of the gab and it'd been a while since our last meeting with OA so there was plenty to talk about. OA also has kindly offered to take some of my videos off my hands since she would like to watch more US programming and commercials. I'll have to reconfirm with her about that.

After that terrific dinner (it is now a must-visit in my mind), we went back into Shinjuku and had coffee over at the neighbourhood Excelsiors. We had another good chat and discussed about some of the US franchises that have come over to Japan such as that hot dog place I'd visited twice, Hansens. Not quite sure if that abortive party for The Kid will ever come off; I doubt it. But hopefully, that won't prevent any of us present today from hitting another movie pretty soon.

Got home today and checked my e-mail. Jazz Buddy came on-line and gave me a brief chat about how sorry she was for standing me up on Thursday. And The Hawaiian also gave her apologies again for not being able to come out for the movie. It's all water under the bridge but I did ask JB to give me a better heads-up warning if she's gonna call in sick.

SIL has canned her lesson for tomorrow due to a death in the family. So I'll have a chunk of time to spend between The Class Act and The Company. However, perhaps I can use some of those gift certificates for books that I had received from Betty Boop last night.