Saturday, April 16, 2005

Sunday April 17, 4:00 p.m.

Couldn't ask for a better day. Sunny and pleasantly warm. My windows are way open airing out my apartment. It certainly didn't take too long for the entropy to return to my living room after the quick cleanup yesterday morning. My coffee table is once again the central plaza for all of my little knickknacks and parts of my sofa I cannot sit on again.

Still in my pyjamas as a bachelor like me should on a lazy Sunday. Did some washing, finished off those lesson plans for Speedy, while listening to some old 80s stuff and Tatsuro Yamashita. Who, he? He's one of those singers from all the way back in the 70s who's still at it now. He's the Beast (believe me, he ain't too much in the looks department) in the Beauty & The Beast pairing of him and his lovely wife, singer/songwriter Mariya Takeuchi. I kinda liken the two to that American duo, Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager although those folks divorced long ago. Yamashita and Takeuchi are still together. Yamashita is known for his falsetto voice and his penchant for using Beach Boys-style reverb and licks to bring summery tunes (perfect for today). His recent stuff hasn't done all that much in a J-Pop world of Morning Musume, SMAP and Ayumi Hamasaki not to mention all the J-R&B; heck, his only notable output recently has been those theme songs for an NHK anime. However, a couple of his old tunes have been used as theme songs for trendy dramas in a bit of retrofitting. His old stuff is indeed the best stuff. Ironically, it seems like his most famous song though is "Christmas Eve", the Japanese equivalent to Der Bingle's "White Christmas".

Well, not that I've elucidated you on the latest J-Pop figure, I'm gonna take a shower and get some grocery shopping done before the sun comes down.
Saturday April 16, 9:32 p.m.

Cleaned up the place as best as I could in the unlikely case OA came over but I needn't have worried.

Firstly, though, I went back to the Tea Room to see M+ M...really for the first time this year. I've seen one M twice but the other M had been very busy with her training as an occupational therapist. I gave her the calendar from way back in December; I half-jokingly mentioned that a quarter of it is now useless but she was quite happy to receive it. However, it is obvious that she has nothing even close to a sweet tooth. She nearly gagged on the Iced Royal Milk Tea, one of my mainstays. But it was still good for all three of us to chat for the first time in several months.

I got home and picked up the videos for OA. She came on schedule to my station and then we went off to Doma-Doma, the pretty upscale izakaya just around the corner. It was my first time to my neighbourhood branch although I've been to the Shinjuku restaurant a couple of times. Surprisingly, even though the place had been open for an hour already, we were only the second group to get inside. Lucky us! We had some pretty good fixins over our cocktails: yellowtail sashimi, Korean ground beef on rice, potato gratin with cod roe, etc. Not surprisingly, our talk often went into the various cuisines worldwide. It would seem that OA is quite the foodie; she and her Mom will be headed for LA over Golden Week. She's got quite the taste for fare from the Cheesecake Factory and American diners. I'm rather surprised that she's able to keep her rather svelte figure.

OA and I also talked about Jazz Buddy's situation. Actually, earlier in the day, I'd received a call from Arwen for the first time in several weeks. Both OA and Arwen let me know that they'd gone through the same situation some years earlier so that as long as JB finally gets that direction in her life straightened out, she should be as good as new. I did send a courtesy call to JB just now. Hopefully, she'll be getting that thinking done this weekend. I even sent an SOS letter to Jazz Expert whom I haven't seen in nearly a year.

Well, luckily, OA was more than willing to be on her way back to her place with her new gotten goods so here I am in my tidy little apartment ready to munch on some of those Reese's White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups that I'd kindly received from her.

Mom called me up for her usual monthly chat. That talk with OA got me to ask Mom to send over a package of Aunt Jemima's Pancake Mix. I'll be sending her those video tapes and one magazine. Fortunately, I've got nothing tomorrow so I can get some other stuff done.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Friday April 15, 11:40 a.m.

Decided to get a massage than get the workout this morning so I walked over to the clinic. It's a perfect day for a walk...not too hot, not too cold with a nice little breeze wafting what remains of the cherry blossom petals through the air. With all of the stuff that's going on in the world plus with some of the more personal issues, the walk was a bit of a balm, albeit temporary.

I got massaged by a new lad today. He asked me all about my shoulders and neck, and I laid out all the stuff with my sore eyes and headaches. Then he set to work on me. Of course, since he isn't the clinic director, I got the piledriver thumbs stuck into me but I could take the pain. Also, he mentioned that my shoulders are rather hard...a refrain I've heard every time I've been there.

I checked out some places where OA and I could have dinner tomorrow night. Looks like Doma Doma is a good izakaya. Some of her gang and I have gone to the Shinjuku branch with good results and it has a rather urban atmosphere considering it's out in the suburbs. Also, I was rather surprised to find out that that wonderful gourmet collective responsible for those pizzas at Speedy's last month has also set up shop in my neighbourhood of all places. I'll definitely have to consider taking out something from there.

Saw a couple of new names in my in-tray just now. At first, I was worried that I was under some sort of virus attack but it just turned out to be two separate thank-you letters from friends of friends. One lady is SR's buddy who has just come back from 3 years in Korea; she wanted to know how to write a general thank-you and goodbye letter for her friends in Seoul. And the other was from a friend of my friend from Nagano. I helped her out recently with a little discrepancy concerning her rental car bill back in the States. With all of the uncertainty surrounding JB, it's nice to know that I can still do good things for people.
Friday April 15, 9:00 a.m.

Well, it's always nice for a guy at my advanced age when I get some news from the telly that makes me go "Oof!" Well, that moment came this morning when I was slowly coming out of slumber and turned on my ol' rotary TV. Of course, my channel was set to Fuji-TV and its "Mezamashi Terebi" (Wake-Up TV) program. Usually at 6:19 a.m., barring any major earthquakes, the entertainment section comes on. And what did I see? The newly anointed leader of Morning Musume, a diminutive woman with a huge voice named Mari Yaguchi, threw everyone for a loop and retired from showbiz. Apparently, there were some photos by the tabloid "Friday"with her actor boyfriend that was the final straw, although the media is purporting that was the main cause. Nah...I think there's more to this...maybe just the basic reason that she didn't want to be the den mother for a bunch of kids. Mind you, I have a bit of bias on this since I'm of the "kids-should-be-seen-and-not-heard" school.

Of course, I decided to take a look at what was up on the J-Pop message forums. It looks like the news broke last night my time according to the first postings so I came in rather late into the party. Not surprisingly, shock and deep regret were the order of the day in the Morning Musume forum....along with a lot of talk. Within 12 hours, 68 pages worth of Mari were on board and I've got a feeling before this talk finally peters out, there probably will be hundreds of pages out there.
Friday April 15, 12:30 a.m.

I had one of the saddest episodes in my long stay here when I met Jazz Buddy. She didn't crack a single smile during our short 45-minute session. It almost felt like a breakup of sorts since the session basically formalized the end of our teacher-student relationship; she even returned some stuff that she'd borrowed from me month ago and I returned her Crystal Kay CD. I swear she even looked like my ex during the latter unhappier stages of our romantic relationship. JB looked absolutely listless and lost. I politely declined to take her money since this wasn't an English lesson but more of a counseling session. There were several moments in which neither of us spoke in the cafe, and when she did, her voice came out more as a soft ghostly whisper. I gently asked about what the details and suggested that she should consider professional help; not sure if I got through to her. As it ended up, I walked her over to the building where she works. She said that her colleagues were aware about her situation but nothing more. As she departed for the job that she doesn't like, it was just the most depressing thing I'd ever seen. I've found a couple of websites of counseling centres that may help her, so I'll send the information to her. I'll even ask my ex since she had a bout with it some years ago.

I had my lesson with the New Yorker today. Everything was OK but it looks like scheduling might be a bit hairy since her job schedule looks to be that way as well. Luckily, I had a good session with MK so I was somewhat buoyed.

Then I went off to meet Paddy who's here on business in Tokyo. I met him at his hotel in Akasaka and we went to a Vietnamese place in the Belle Vue mall. The food was pretty good and the talk was nicely absorbing. Certainly, Paddy lost track of the time but since I don't have The Teacher today, I wasn't too worried about getting home late.

OA suggested meeting at my station on Saturday night. No problems here...I can probably take her to one of the izakayas nearby. I'm not too crazy about bringing her to my place since we would just be a twosome.....just a bit uncomfortable for me. But just in case, I'll clean up a bit.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Thursday April 14, 7:38 a.m.

After 3 days of cold weather and rain, it looks like we're finally getting some sun and more seasonable temperatures. Certainly, I'm grateful although I may face another spate of hay fever. I know that I've sensitive to cedar pollen. However, I'm told that the cedars have thrown all their dust for the year and now it's gonna be cypress' turn to make our lives miserable. Or maybe not. I'm not sure if I'm particularly susceptible to that pollen but I haven't needed to take my medicine yet, so perhaps my suffering is gone until the Autumn.

Looks like I've got another casualty of the common cold. The Teacher called in to say that she's gonna have to cancel her lesson tomorrow...which means I can get another stint at the gym in the morning. I rather like my flexible schedule....perhaps no money, but there are other benefits.

I've asked confirmation to M + M about Saturday. I still have yet to give the souvenir calendar to one of them since she hasn't been able to meet us at all this year. I'm sure she'd appreciate it as just a gift, since a quarter of it is now useless.

The Barmaiden got back to me about the party. She took my pullout very well although I never got any response from the coordinator. Either she'd taken the day off yesterday or she's written me off like the rest of the corrupt staff.

I've got my last "lesson" with Jazz Buddy today. Actually, my last official lesson ended up to one that had taken place before the Diana Krall concert. I think the meet-up today is gonna take on an atmosphere of a breakup since apparently she's leaving to find herself and her way in life.

I got word from The Anime King that he actually got me "Citizen Kane" on DVD as a bit of compensation for my address being his clearinghouse for his anime purchases. He tried looking for "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" but apparently it's only out on VHS so I just told him to give up on that. Kinda weird....the Christmas special and virtually the entire Peanuts Saturday morning TV series have been put onto disc but not the famous movie. Must be some sort of contractual issue.

Almost forgot to mention that Paddy is in town. He and I had a brief chat...we might meet up tonight after I get finished with MK but his business may preclude that. Also, Chip Guy gave me the reminder about his return next week. He often talks a mile a minute so it's awfully hard to understand him on voice mail.
Wednesday April 13, 6:19 p.m.

Yep, another early Wednesday night home after another cancellation by The OL. I can get quite spoiled by this although The OL is one of my most faithful students.

I did my gym duty this morning. I was happy to see that my weight had actually gone down another kilo. And with the more comprehensive workout, I lost another half a kilo. Perhaps I may even break my own record next week.

Did my lone pilgrimage to see The Hawaiian. I guess sleep will be my main activity on the trains from now on. Just can't keep my eyes open when I'm on those things anymore.

I got word from The Barmaiden this morning that she's so lookin' forward to me co-hosting the welcome party next week at the school Well, I had to give her and the coordinator the bad news that I won't be showing up since I've got classes next Saturday. And the fact that I've had to can those classes this coming Saturday due to M+M means that I can't really stave them off for another week in a row. Besides, I'm not getting any lessons with the new kids from the school, and my schedule has now filled up with other privates so my time at the school is at an end. I hope the Barmaiden isn't too disappointed.

Well, my initial joy at having a defragmented computer was short-lived. The crash signs came on and I had to re-boot once again. But it was only once this morning so perhaps I may still be OK.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Wednesday April 13, 8:26 p.m.

The cold weather continues, and I think the up-and-down nature of this Spring has finally taken its toll on some of my students. Last night, The Class Act cancelled and Mrs Mild told me she'd caught her 4th cold this year. My theme with the Siberian initially was symptoms and remedies of the common cold. This weather can't be very good on Jazz Buddy's mood, either. As for last night at the juku, I had to extend my lesson with the Siberian by half an hour since he didn't make it last week (I have to do the same next week). Frankly, I'd been somewhat dreading the class since The Siberian is pretty laconic and doesn't take notes. However, it turned out to be my best lesson with him and the best lesson last night since I was able to mold it to what he likes to talk about. In fact, we went ten minutes beyond the finish time.

I finally got some good news from Speedy. He's managed to hook in the school's first student. She starts next month when I have my new Wednesday night schedule. I'll be out on the streets longer, mind you, but it's still with a committed student.

OA said that Friday won't be possible for a meet-up to take some of my videos off my hands, but perhaps the weekend may be OK. To be honest, that would be better for us, too. More incentive for us to meet in the big city and get some lunch somewhere. Maybe Skippy can join us as well.

I checked out the official Star Trek site. Looks like the Paramount folks sent an open letter to the SaveEnterprise camp telling them in no uncertain terms that they should let go and go on with life. It's curious that Paramount wouldn't say why "Enterprise" was let go. I mean, I know that the ratings have plummeted but still, I think putting the reason on paper would have made for a more reasonable explanation. Having said that, I think the SaveEnterprise folks should think about giving up the goat; heck, even the cast members have gone on with their acting lives. And besides, unless your show's title starts with the letters "C, S and I" or "Law and Order", four years is almost an impossible dream for most shows.

Y'know...the more I watch "The Incredibles", the more convinced I am is that it'll become a classic. Since I now have the luxury of manipulating the film with my trusty DVD remote control, I've been taking a closer look at it. I'm just very impressed with how the Pixar folks have been able to put not just credible emotions on their characters' faces but transitions from one emotion to another (although I think they may still have to work more on "crying"; I wasn't quite convinced with Elastigirl's bawling). Also, their prep work was quite detailed. I found out from the IMdB that all that aeronautical jargon from Elastigirl was scarily accurate. Plus, her gymnast's way of psyching up before grabbing hold of that egg monorail also stuck out. Also, I just think the in-and-out bickering and loving between Helen and Bob probably mirrors the relationship of most couples...though, admittedly, I've only had limited exposure in that area.

It's just a bit of a pity that Holly Hunter, Samuel L. and all the rest couldn't pop out on the commentaries to give their opinions on how they approached their roles. I mean, they went whole hog, in character, on the extras including the very annoying tactic of having real entertainment journalists interview the characters as if they were real people. I would've gladly swapped that extra for just a straight interview with the voice actors...although the probability would have been great that it would be another gladhanding session.

The juku boss told me about her worries concerning the current row between Japan and its two closest neighbours. Some of her kid students have been asking her about the situation, and she wondered aloud if all this could lead to war. I'm pretty sure it won't get THAT bad but it just goes to show how the area is still plenty sensitive even more than 50 years after the Second World War. It's never great feeling hated and under siege but I sometimes wonder myself if Japan has done enough to improve relations. Certainly, those textbooks haven't done much good since I do think there is a whitewash about what actually happened in Asia during those dark times. But on the other hand, I can't help but feel that some of that hate and resentment from China has been patted along by the Communist government; after all, there's nothing better to keep the power by having the masses riled up by a common enemy. Still, I think despite the violence this past weekend in Beijing, most people there aren't all that caught up in the fervor. As with most spats, I think there have to be compromises made on both sides.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Tuesday April 11, 7:48 a.m.

Back to the cold in a big way. After a weekend that was meterologically between the unnatural heat of Wednesday last week and the cold of last Monday, we are once again suffering from winter. At the Company's class, I could hear the patter of ice crystals hitting the window pane during the rains(?) of last night. Aside from the lousy weather, it was a regular full day. But it looks like I've got some cancellations.

The OL has canned her lesson for the second time in as many weeks, and I finally had that heart-to-heart (or as close to it as e-mail will allow) with Jazz Buddy. Yep, she's in a major funk so much so that I actually advised her NOT to come out for an actual lesson although I'm open to hear her pour her heart out. I kinda wonder how she's gonna do in the next number of weeks.

I've got a fairly long day ahead of me. Not that it's unusual for a Tuesday. Got the Beehive, followed by lunch and my usual gym outing. Then with the juku, my lesson with the Siberian will be extended to 90 minutes since he couldn't come out last week. I should be fit to be tied by the time I get home tonight.

Hey, I guess the defrag did the trick. No more sudden crashes.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Monday April 11, 9:08 a.m.

Had a bit of an earthquake this morning...well, it wasn't quite a bit. It registered M6.0 and not too far away from here. But everything was cool; just some side-to-side stuff, a couple of CDs threatened to dive out, nothing too major. However, all the stations went to Red Alert for about half an hour.

Well, managed to defrag the hard drive. And I'm hoping that was the major reason behind the spate of crashes. The drive definitely needed it; any resemblance between it and a piece of Swiss cheese was purely unintentional. Hopefully, that will alleviate any further frustration for the next 6 months at least. However, I will do a scandisk tonight just to make sure.

I got the call from the Lady. Looks like I have a full slate today unless The Company decides to bail out. With the current crisis involving Jazz Buddy, it's gotten me thinking about whether I should ensure that the days with The Company are numbered as well. Certainly, the recent sloggy lessons are starting to make me wonder if I should stop everything after we finish the current text. I certainly don't think the remaining students haven't got all that much out of the lessons although I've been trying to make it interesting for them. There really isn't any professional motivation for them to learn the language.
Sunday April 10, 11:34 p.m.

Well, at least I know that JB is still among us. I got the icon that she was online. So I sent some chat messages to her but no response since apparently she can't. I'm just glad she's OK.

Still, the past couple of hours have been an exercise in frustration. My computer is definitely becoming my enemy. It keeps crashing and just going completely screwy. I'm sorry but this isn't gonna be a computer-buying year for me. Not after taxes and not before I find out if I can still live in Japan after November.

Just wanna go to bed now...
Sunday April 10, 9:00 p.m.

Well, those tourists here who wanna take that package tour to see The Great Wall during Golden Week should think twice. It looks like Japan's two closest neighbours, China and Korea, aren't too thrilled right now. Let's tally it up here: Chinese citizens went on a rampage today because Japan is trying to get that seat on the UN Security Council while Koreans are up in arms about Japan trying to get those islands. I kinda wonder how the Japanese soccer team must be feeling considering that they do have that game in North Korea in the next few months. I just hope this little incident is more of a hiccup than a symptom of stomach cancer.

I did my pilgrimage to Fujimamas for breakfast today. Got out of the subway station to see that Omotesando wasn't all that crowded. Heck, I could actually see the sidewalk amongst the pedestrians. Mind you, it was pretty early for a Sunday...just 10:30. When I got there, I ordered the usual: The Plate. However, I think the chefs have lowered the amount. I was able to plow through the sausages, bacon, biscuits & gravy, hash browns and pancakes pretty quickly. In my previous three times there, it was a bit of a battle for even me to finish The Plate off. But I figure if I'd had trouble, then average mortals would have left half their Plates uneaten...and that can't be good for business.

After breakfast, I walked a circuit around the area to help the digestion process and then I made my way into the subway station again. I was just in time to avoid the weekly invasion of kids all decked out in their goth/maid/other bizarro outfits. They were just streaming up the escalators and through the ticket gates. My first stop was to Maruzen to see if I could put those gift certificates to good use. Nah...nothing there.

So my next stop was to Akihabara where I picked up the US copy of "The Incredibles". The Japanese copy won't be out for several weeks yet since the flick had just finished its first run on the big screen not too long ago. Well, as soon as I got home, I threw the DVD into the player and watched it for a third time. Still great stuff but then I took a look at the extras. There were the usual gladhanding accolades by Bird and the rest of the fun-lovin' crew at Pixar. However, the real gems were the intentionally lousy Mr. Incredible cartoon series from the 60s with commentary from an outraged Frozone and rationalizing Mr. I, and the hilarious voice clips of the various superheroes including Mr. I and his wife, Elastigirl. Holly Hunter and Craig T. Nelson should be picking up more bonuses for their work. Just a great DVD to have.

Still gotta find out from The Class Act and SIL if I'm still supposed to see them tomorrow. If not, it'll just be The Company.