Saturday, May 14, 2005

Saturday May 14, 11:29 p.m.

Long day today. I had the two sisters. I won't be seeing them for about a couple of weeks due to family obligations on their side. The mother asked me how long it's been since I first started teaching them. I replied almost 2 years. Hmm...I didn't think too deeply about the question but I have to wonder how long I can continue to teach these kids. I'm sure that there are probably other better teachers out there for them. I kinda wonder if the mother is thinking those same thoughts herself.

After seeing JJ, I went over to Ichigaya for another reunion of the past year's crew. The other two teachers who came were Movie Buddy and The Satyr, who's now working for a boys' high school. It was a group of 10 which included The Coffeemaker, The Barmaiden, and Scully. I found out that at the welcome party today, the coordinator came uncharacteristically dressed in a gym trainer. I'm not quite sure what kind of message she was sending with that. In any case, it was a good five hours of noshing, drinking and talking as usual. Coffeemaker stated that there would probably be another get-together early in June when The Okinawan returns from her Canadian odyssey. And then probably when another alumna comes in from the States later in June, there will be another gathering.

Well, I've also got another student-inspired function to go to tomorrow. The Beauty Pair, along with Mr. Eccentric, have invited me to go to Disney Sea near my neighbourhood. It isn't too far from the main Tokyo Disneyland. Basically, Disney Sea is a more adult version of the Magic Kingdom...more for the couples and adults who are looking for a more sedate experience in the form of musicals and cuisine. The Pair told me that there was one ride, though, which is based on that mine ride from "Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom". Not sure about that...but the ladies assured me that it isn't anywhere as frenetic as a roller coaster. Another boost to my confidence came from an unlikely source. The elder sister of the Saturday kids told me that she was rather bored there. Great! If the kids don't like it, then it can't be that bad.

I got a rather intriguing message from the juku boss. She asked if I could dub a 150-page real estate book in English for a client within an hour before my regular classes on Tuesday. I had to laugh a bit sarcastically at that request.

Talking with JJ today got me wondering if I should try for another Yokohama retreat like I did last summer. Hmmm...wouldn't be a bad thing. But wouldn't it be nice if I could bring somebody along?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Saturday May 14, 8:31 a.m.

Looks like the big news on NHK right now is about this so-called bank heist that occurred last night. If I didn't hear incorrectly, I think one of the suspects is a former cop. It's rather quaint that in a country which doesn't allow handguns in the vast majority of the public that the media reports exactly how many shots were fired by pursuing police. All of two! Quite a scandal, that.

Just caught the opening credits for the "Enterprise" mirror universe episode. Genious! Too bad the series ended last night.

I listened to that international Kaori Iida album. Hmm...I may have to listen to it again but my first hearing of it left me rather mixed. Since I don't understand Greek or Italian, I could accept her voice but since I do have some knowledge of French, I found her Gallic interpretations of "Downtown" (yes, the Petula Clark classic) and "The Girl From Ipanema" a bit mangled but I can't be too harsh since she was probably going at it all phonetically. Judging from the album and the single that I'd heard the night before, I think Ms. Iida shouldn't give up her day language. Nana Mouskouri needn't worry about any competition.

Well, off to work.
Friday May 13, 9:27 p.m.

Well, so far so good, knock on wood. 2.5 hours left but nothing bad has occurred to me despite the unlucky day...although I did get that message from the coordinator about the welcome party. I just responded that since I no longer teach at the ol' school, it would be a bit silly and awkward for me to show up. Not sure how she'll react. Her message was pretty straightforward until she added that smarmy bit at the end that the Barmaiden was waiting for me. Uh...not exactly, I'd already told The Barmaiden why I wouldn't attend a number of weeks ago.

Did my usual Friday routine of teaching/talking to The Teacher and SR. I had lunch at the Vietnamese restaurant in Oazo. Looks like one of the staffers had decided to add a bit of "atmosphere" by yelling out a very enthusiastic "Thank you and have a very nice day!" to every customer who left. Can't damn the man for his gumption but frankly I couldn't wait to get out of there...unless it was his intention to ensure a short stay for each eater in the little place.

Went over to the HMV in Yurakucho and put my filled point card to good use and bought that full Kaori Iida album. It should be interesting...the former Morning Musume leader apparently sings in Greek, French and Italian. And she sings "The Girl From Ipanema". Talk about the acid test.

Hmm...looks like Channel 4 has put on "Evolution", that David Duchovny flick that's proven to be his only relative non-X-Files hit so far. It kinda strikes me as a lower copy of "Ghostbusters" with an alien bent instead of a supernatural one. Not particularly funny but there have been some snickerworthy lines.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Friday May 13, 8:26 a.m.

Let's's the unlucky day today and the Fuji-TV morning horoscope indicated that Libras are gonna have a bad day. Hmmm...I wonder if I should stay home....nahhh.

I taught the New Yorker last night. Yep, she's trying hard but she still mixes up her possessive pronouns with her personal ones (you can tell that I've been teaching for a long time, can't you?). And I've been teaching her twice a month for the past few months; I still have yet to get her onto Simple Present. So I'm now thinking that perhaps I'm going about the low-levels all wrong. My old group classes at the ol' school used a similar textbook everyday, 2 hours a day. As I said, the New Yorker only meets me twice a month, an hour a time. The pacing is wrong...I'm now considering accelerating the pace a bit. However, I also have to consider that the New Yorker isn't exactly the most confident of people...I may overwhelm her; still, I'll see if I can get some Simple Past into her before she and her sister take off for Las Vegas in June.

The tremors are still rumbling through my apartment, and in fact, my computer monitor is shivering as I type this. I'm now wondering if these aren't quakes but some sort of construction going on. In the past few years, we've had quite a bit of condo-building in the neighbourhood. All the Tokyo guides mention that earthquakes occur everyday continuously but the vast majority are undetectable. Well, I'd like to counter that statement right now. Mind you, the tremors actually did add to the sensurround experience of watching the latest thrilling episode of "Enterprise".

The Coffeemaker contacted me to say that there's another reunion coming up tomorrow in my old haunt. I'm sure that there is some influence from the fact that there is a welcome party for the new guys at the school. The Barmaiden is still part of the veteran class there so I'm sure it was her idea....not sure, though, if she'll bring some of the new folks over. The coordinator had sent me an "invitation" of sorts a few days ago but I didn't bother responding. It's rather silly to accept it when I'm persona non grata there.

Pretty gloomy outside right now...certainly adds to that Friday the 13th feeling. Nothing really to prepare for my two lessons today. It's the usual Friday that way...just The Teacher and SR. I do have to talk with SR, though, what she would like to do for the future. We've pretty much exhausted the grammar option. I think in between classes, I may drop by HMV again. I filled out my point card there when I bought the two CDS and magazine on Wednesday. So I've got a 2500 yen discount coming to me. Well, if I do find that full Kaori Iida CD, I'll grab that.

Speaking of CDs, I listened to Mika Nakashima's release last night, the rather obviously titled "Music". When I first heard her a few years ago, she had some good promise but found her voice a bit off tune which prevented me from getting more with her program. However, she's improved although I don't think she's quite reached the top of her game just yet. What I do like about this album and the last one is that she's explored a few genres, mostly in black music. There are examples of funk, R&B and jazz, and one song has her backed up with a bit of hard rock. Her jazz outing, a torch song called "Fake", is OK but it's obvious that she doesn't quite the range that Misia does. Mind you, Mika's star seems to be higher than Misia's at this time.

I've been watching this "developing story" on CNN's Anderson Cooper about these two parents who have been struggling to find a name for their daughter for the past 18 months. Not surprisingly, they've gotten their share of bricks from unbelieving people. Well, let me throw my own masonry into the fire. NAME HER, FOR BLOODY SAKE! STOP TAKING UP NEWS TIME! What do you think she is, Commander Data or the Doctor?! Ah...I feel better now.

Anyways, off to the salt mines.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Thursday May 12, 12:00 p.m.

Started perusing the tape that The Entrepreneur had sent me the night before. There was the "Enterprise" episode at the beginning, and then next up was an ep of the new "Doctor Who". Well, I can say that it's not my father's Doctor Who...or for that matter, my own "Doctor Who". A Doctor Who ep with musical interjections by Soft Cell and Britney Spears? And better special effects?

The new Doctor, by Chris Eccleston, resembles Movie Buddy in appearance and character, I have to admit. And the new companion is quite comely. The ep definitively, and perhaps even defiantly, sheds the production values and overall feel of the old series right from its opening credits to its slightly more profane dialogue to its bigger feel of pathos. At certain points, I thought I was watching "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". And I'm not quite sure if the new producer, Russell T. Davies, is actually continuing from the old series or if he has actually given it a re-imagination a la Tim Burton. I'm not quite sure about this Doctor's pitieous proclamation that he is the last of the Time Lords due to a great war...after all the Gallifreyans are supposedly the masters of time and space; Time Lords can then pop in at any time and in any number before this cataclysm occurs. The Doctor really doesn't have to look like MacBeth during his "Is this a dagger that I see..." soliloquy. Still, I'm willing to give the show a good shake as an old childhood fan of Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.
Thursday May 12, 9:55 a.m.

Well, looks like there was some fun in Washington just when I turned the lights off here for bed. A couple of morons flew their Cessna into the no-fly zone around the White House. Luckily for their hides, the security protocols worked well and they're still alive although I hear that they're getting enough elephant dung piled on them by fellow pilots to fill the Astrodome. CNN at least has been having a field day with the coverage. Now I know what the protocols are.

For some reason, I've been feeling a lot of small tremors rumbling through my neighbourhood for the past number of days now. Nothing too serious...just feels as if a subway were going under my apartment building, and my computer shakes a bit. I can see this as a good thing...that the Earth is bleeding off its seismic energy in dribs and drabs thereby negating the need for a major quake, or on other other hand, this is a prelude to something infinitely worse.

I actually did listen to that Kaori Iida CD last night. Certainly, I don't think her music was one of those "Hold the presses"-type epiphanies, but she acquitted herself pretty well. She sounded no worse than any of those singers back in the 80s here who were exploring more European and South American sounds. The songs actually made me reminisce a bit to that era of non-idol adult contemporary stuff which was hiding under that rather thick slab of pop idol music that was prevalent 20 years ago. The two songs on the single were written by Morning Musume svengali, Tsunku, and they certainly sounded like Tsunku songs according to some of the stuff he's written for some of the other Musume. Still, it's nice to hear Iida singing more than the one line she's thrown on an average MM song. My only criticism of the single is that the two songs sound even more alike than the first two Rick Astley hits.

Well, I'm waiting for a package. Then in the afternoon it's back to the gym before having the sisters tonight.
Wednesday May 11, 10:18 p.m.

Finally got that workout in this morning after a couple of weeks of nothing. I didn't gain all that much for my fortnight of sloth...just 400 g. I was able to shave 75% of it off by the end. I'll probably be doing the same thing tomorrow afternoon before I have the The Carolinan and The New Yorker in the evening. It'll also be about a couple of weeks since I've been to The Tea Room.

After the workout, I had some lunch at that family restaurant just a few floors down from the gym. I went a bit cheaper since the lunch specials changed. I had a small piece of grilled chicken and Tatsuta-style fried mackerel with rice on the side...very Japanese family-style. Then, I popped on the subway. I had a fairly schizo old woman sitting not too far away from me; I could "feel" her staring at me through peripheral vision. Luckily, she didn't do anything that both she and I would regret, but she immediately jumped with a start when a salaryman sat right next to her which meant that she snuggled a bit closer to me. No harm done, though. On the way home, I also had an obnoxious guy standing over me snorting and flapping his paper very loudly. Not quite sure if he was also a nut but once he got a seat next to me, he calmed down.

On the way to The Hawaiian's lesson, I stopped off at HMV in Yurakucho. I bought a couple of CDs and an EMPIRE magazine which boasted and has delivered the largest amount of coverage on the next Star Wars movie. As for the CDs, I got Mika Nakashima's latest. She didn't let me down with her last album so I'm hopeful for this one. Actually, I had listened to it on a listening post some weeks ago and found it quite promising. The other one is a bit of a risk, though, since it is by a former Morning Musume member. Kaori Iida, one of the first generation, has released 3 albums so far in her solo career, all of which seem to be on the Meditteranean side of things musically which got me interested. And frankly speaking, she isn't all that bad to look at (settle down, kids). Well, I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Actually, the disc I got is a single. If she sounds promising, I may actually go for that full album.

I finally got that debut as teacher at Speedy's school tonight. Student No. 001 was one of my charity lesson students from February. She's still wondering about which book to go with so I taught her the first lesson from the lower textbook. Not too surprisingly, she found it rather easy but I think she could stand to use it since her fluency and vocab aren't that high. It's all a matter of challenging her outside the text and having her use the text as review at home. All in all, though, she was quite happy with the lesson which was for an hour. In Speedy's system, the hour lesson is followed by a 15-minute break and then comes the 30-minute lounge session with a no-notebook, no-text policy. I think there will be some adjustments needed but Speedy may be onto a good thing. That is, if the students start to come in. I hope 001 will bring in some more numbers through word-of-mouth.

I was doing some research on the Net last night. Basically, I was looking for a new barber or hairstylist since my previous one has moved to the wilds of Gunma. Boy, it is NOT easy to do so since this time I was hoping to find a place that has bilingual service and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. However, I couldn't get any info at all on either criteria. The big hotels should have the bilingual service and I don't mind making the trek outside of my neighbourhood since I consider a Japanese tonsorial one of the few non-teaching events that I would venture long kilometres for, but the price is the thing. Kei of the Beauty Pair had mentioned last night that her stylist in Omotesando "only" charges about 10,000 yen! Ooops...obviously, she hasn't been to a suburban place. Well, I guess I'll have to start asking people. I'm due for a cut in another couple of weeks.

Well, I finally saw my first balanced review of "Revenge of the Sith" on Dark Horizons right now. He said that it was an enjoyable movie (and what Star Wars movie has gotten that tag in the over-2 decades since "Return of the Jedi"?) but he pointed out the good and bad points in equal measure. I knew that I had to temper my enthusiasm for those over-the-top raves. Mind you, the reviewer thought the final cut very cheesy. I know what the final scene is...and I guess my Star Wars colours are showing when I say that I'll heartily disagree.

Gotta do a bit of ironing and showering before hitting bed. Ahh...I also forgot about the dishes.

Quite cool today, though. Only went to 15 degrees in Tokyo. And Hokkaido is still getting snowed on.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Tuesday May 10, 2:19 p.m.

Just had lunch and prepped lessons for the juku tonight. May not have been able to hit the gym today but at least I'm not fretting over my work. The Beehive was pretty self-generating in terms of conversation. The ladies, at one point, got into a comparison between the Japanese and American elementary school systems. All this was started over the fact that there's apparently been a special zone in Gunma Prefecture created whose elementary schools will teach everything only in English. Some families have even gone to the expense of moving into the zone. Interesting experiment but I'm not sure what the point is if the surrounding area is still Japan.

For lunch today, I had one of the usual supermarket offerings of bento, or boxed lunches. Japan is probably THE place to get a very efficently packed lunch for picnics or just the office noon hour. I hear that every JR station has its own special box lunch according to area. But for me, since I don't travel all that much, I'm content with whatever is available in my supermarket. And the supply is quite considerable; however, I think there are some food items which fit the box lunch image and some that don't. I think I had the one that doesn't. I had a bowl of Korean Bibimpap. Sorry...nice idea but I don't think it quite passes muster. The meat was all stringy and fatty like that of a typical Yoshinoya bowl (no, I'm not a fan of the place) and I wasn't crazy about the raw egg, either. I'll stick with the real thing at a Korean BBQ place. I think box lunches work best with fried chicken, sashimi and good ol' hamburger.

Well, it looks like "Revenge of the Sith" is getting lavish praise according to the IMDB site. So far, I've heard nothing but good-to-great reviews from the lucky ones who've gotten the sneak peek (mostly journos). The dialogue is still clunky in parts, and at this point, what's a Star Wars without lousy lines? But the story and the effects have finally come into tune...just in time.
Monday May 9, 11:00 p.m.

Pretty long day today. I had my first regular Monday lineup since GW finished up yesterday. The Class Act, as expected, talked about their respective trips to Hawaii. And as expected, I got my bountiful souvenirs: macadamia nuts, Godiva coffee and the wonderful H & H bagels from NYC thanks to the Lady's son-in-law. I bought some butter tonight so I can have a great breakfast tomorrow. SIL also had a great time in the Aloha State but none of the ladies spoke much English since Hawaii is more of a Japanese prefecture nowadays than an American state.

En route to The Company, I found out that Chip had to bail out due to some sudden business stuff. Luckily, I was able to get in contact with The Bohemian to make some adjustments. As for The Company, I just had the one student but managed to pull out some good stuff from him tonight.

Then I made my way over to the Odakyu Line gates to pick up The Bohemian. We spent about 30 minutes searching for a decent izakaya since he's more for drinking. We finally found some place that boasted cheap beer (for 180 yen...that IS indeed bargain basement). The place itself was on the west side of Shinjuku Station. It was smaller than the usual chains and the place was very much salt-of-the-earth. I think The Bohemian referred to it as "unsophisticated". But we had to admit that the beer tasted just as fine as well as the food. Certainly, I didn't have to pull out the big bucks like I did last night at Toraji but still I had to shuck out 3000 yen. To add to the ambience, our waitress was a tall lanky one draped by tattoos and various piercings on her face. She could've been fairly threatening but actually she was a pretty nice sort...good service, too. I don't think I'll make that place a regular hangout but for what it was worth, it was a good Monday night out.

Noticed on the Yamanote train interior monitors that there were a lot of accidents and mechanical breakdowns on the other JR lines around Tokyo. Well, I'm sure that a lot of the affected commuters must have been wondering about that accident in Amagasaki two weeks ago.

I'm just gonna forego the prep work on tomorrow's lessons. I'll see if I can get them done before I go to the Beehive. If worse comes to worse, I'll just sacrifice my return to the gym and plan over the afternoon.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Monday May 9, 12:04 a.m.

Gotta get this done pretty quickly since I gotta get some shuteye. It's back to full duty from the morning.

Picked up a TIME at Tower Records before I met up with Chip and the bunch for dinner. It had a surprisingly positive review for the new Star Wars movie. Well, I'll be looking forward to that then.

Ten of us got together for dinner at Toraji, that Korean BBQ place on the 7th floor of the Parco 1 Building. We had a great 4 hours there but boy, did it cost us. I opened up the bill and saw this whopping bill for 75,000 yen. I knew beforehand that Toraji wasn't exactly bargain basement in the price department but some of us were a bit thrown by that figure. However, we cooled down when we realized that we'd ordered quite a bit to drink and quite a bit to eat. Chip was getting quite excited about seeing the new Star Wars movie. I lent him the TIME so that he could read the special on Lucas and his supposedly final movie. While we munched away on our succulent pieces of marinated beef, there was an interesting dichotomy of conversation. On the Chip's side of the table, the men talked about work while the women on the other side had a good time entertaining and being entertained by Chip's daughter.

Well, it looks like tonight will not be the last night I see him and the family before they take off for home this week. I may catch him for one final meal in Shinjuku after work. I've left a message with The Bohemian to see if he's available. I'm thinking of taking him to a tempura place in Takashimaya Times Square since Chip said that's the only thing he hasn't had in his 3 weeks back in Japan. We'll play it by ear.