Friday, June 24, 2005

Saturday June 25, 8:06 a.m.

Friday was rather uneventful. Just had my usual trio of students, albeit in different order. The OL wasn't working yesterday and since she had a dinner party last night, I taught her class in a rather snug fit between The Teacher and SR. But the good thing is that I got all the lessons out of the way by 6 p.m.

"The Phantom Menace" was on NTV last night. It's a rather strange thing but for all the bricbracs that the first prequel has gotten, it still made for an entertaining romp on TV. Maybe that's the's a better made-for-TV movie than a motion picture. "Attack of the Clones" will be shown the eve of the launch of Episode 3. The special previews, though, start tonight.

It's gonna be the first truly hot day today. It's going up to 32 C. Since I don't have my first lesson until 1 with MK, I'll be getting that rubdown and some shopping chores out of the way. I've been getting somewhat stressed out with the various classes thrown at me today. I'll be looking forward to that massage, although it's always a bit of potluck as to who I get as my masseur/masseuse, and the trip out to Karuizawa later tonight. JJ contacted me last night to cancel her lesson for the next couple of weeks. Hmmm...I wonder about her. Perhaps she may not be a stayer. However, I do have that potential new student, the colleague of MK's. At least, I won't have to carry so many texts along with my overnight luggage and I'll have some extra time to print out some more documents for my immigration bid.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Thursday June 23, 11:47 p.m.

Started off with some good news today. I actually fell down into the 92 kg. zone despite only going to the gym just once last week. I wonder what I have or haven't been eating. After my good buoyant workout (my arms are just aching right now), I decided to celebrate inanely by having a Big Mac attack and even going for the cake set at the Tea Room. Talk about your reversal of fortune!

I went into the Tea Room when I was suddenly accosted by a trio of voices calling my name. It turned out to be Scully and a couple of other alumna. I chatted with them for a few minutes before taking my seat elsewhere; there was no need to ruin their good chatter with my presence. But it was nice of them to say goodbye when they were leaving.

Hmmm...the Carolinan was 20 minutes late and she seemed rather stiff tonight; not very effusive at all. Well, she was never all that effusive like The Hawaiian but her responses were terser than usual. She was sneezing quite a bit, though, and did mention that she had caught a cold in Las Vegas thanks to the combination of hot temps outside and freezing temps inside the hotel and casino. Perhaps it was because of that that she wasn't too talkative tonight.

Well, I rushed over to Urayasu to meet that friend of the juku boss'. I got there at about 9:20, a little behind schedule but nothing too serious. I called up the house just in case to let the boss know that I could be a minute late. For some strange reason, there was no answer. So I started my brisk walk down to the juku. When I was crossing the main intersection, I heard my name called for the second time tonight. It turned out to be the boss on her bicycle. She was fairly frantic about my whereabouts and offered to give me her bike so that I can rush over to the juku. I got a bit annoyed at her since: 1) I had already told her that I would probably arrive between 9 and 9:30...I was still well within the range, and 2) I don't ride bikes. So she cheerfully raced back home while I stepped up the pace some more.

I managed to get to the juku by around 9:31. Still, when I got up to the second floor, I profusely apologized in Japanese to the gentleman for my tardiness and he was quite gracious. I was also very grateful for the frostiness of my room. As I'd expected, that dreaded idea of going over 50 pages of contract within 3 hours turned out to be a false alarm. Instead, it was just two parts of the contract that I rewrote and simplified for him within 55 minutes. Still, I was just stunned by the amount of legalistic gobbledygook that infested this contract and I thanked my lucky stars that I didn't have to go through that. Apparently, the man had to research 5 sources to come up with this contract. Gahh...but at least, I got my 3500 yen and I gave him my e-mail addresses just in case he needs to consult with me again over the next two weeks. So, I'm back home a lot earlier than expected.

Looks like I won't be facing a cancelled class with the OL after all. She offered to meet me between The Teacher and SR. It'll be tight but doable. I also got a blanket goodbye e-mail from Shrek who'll be pulling up roots with his family and taking off for Hong Kong next week. He's having a goodbye party at The Maple Leaf on Tuesday but of course, I do have the juku so I gave him my farewell response.

I faxed over a greeting to that tax consultant whom the tax office was pushing on me. I got a message from him thanking me for my fax but little else. He said that he'd contact me again. I also got some info from my real estate management company today concerning the trash disposal. Recently, the trash area has been looking like the proverbial Elysian Fields for flies and any other insects since the rules haven't been adhered to very well. So the company put its collective foot down and told us to shape up and gave us the lowdown on what garbage can be thrown out on what days. I'm actually quite grateful although I'm not sure if I'll have to adhere to the rule of getting the garbage out in the morning before 8 a.m. instead of pitching the bags out the night before. I would rather not have to get dressed and race out in the a.m. but if it means not having to see a maggot-ridden dump in the evenings, then it'll be a price I'll gladly pay.

Anyways, gotta hit the hay.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Thursday June 23, 12:21 p.m.

I had been sensing that feel of burnout last night so I was grateful that I was able to get some more sleep. And I was able to get some of the household stuff out of the way like vacuuming and send off a model lesson to Speedy. I've got a bit more time before I head out to the gym so I'll get some more translating done for the Matron's daughter. It's frustrating but oddly absorbing.
Wednesday June 22, 10:46 p.m.

Another humid, sweaty day comes to a close. Luckily, the rains were just restricted to the morning.

I picked up my reserved seat ticket at Tokyo Station for the trip up to Karuizawa this morning. Man, I'm looking forward to this mini-trip especially after I run the gauntlet tomorrow and Saturday.

Then it was up to Kinkos in Shinjuku to try out The Teacher's suggestion of how to pull off what's starting to be the near-alchemical transition of converting a PDF to a Word document. Nada on that but at least I could have the PDF printed out so now I finally have some hardcopy. Not sure if it will be acceptable to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs or Justice, though. I still sent off a copy of the PDF to The Teacher to see if she can do something with it.

Luckily, after an hour on the Net I only had to walk down a few dozen metres to Maharajah, the Indian restaurant with the daily specials. I had the Executive Lunch which consisted of a piece of fleshy tandoori chicken, a generously-sized piece of naan, two curries and a goodly pile of rice in the middle. Plus, I got access to some salad and papad. Did the trick.

I made my way across the tracks to Kinokuniya. I hadn't been there in a while. I pulled the trigger and bought myself a book titled "Cruising The Anime City: An Otaku Guide to Neo Tokyo". It's been a while since I'd bought a tome on Japanese pop culture and this book looked nicely glossy and up-to-date. I'll be enjoying taking a look this one.

I saw The Hawaiian for her possibly final lesson since she'll be taking off for her homestay in Australia. She just shot me a lot of questions on what to say to her homestay family. Not sure when she'll be back. It could be anything from 1 to 3 months although I've been ragging her awful about the possibility of her snagging a handsome Aussie and sprouting permanent roots. In any case, my Wednesday will be mostly free for the next month at least. At this rate, it's looking like the middle of the week will be the breezy part of my schedule whereas the ends could be the killer days. Fridays can be variable though. I know that The Teacher will almost always be there but SR usually cancels once a month and The OL has the occasional event to attend. In fact, I think that may be the case this Friday since she just sent in a message asking if she can see me a few hours earlier. Unfortunately, since I've got SR in that time slot, I have a feeling that The OL will have to take a pass this week

My lesson with Student 001 was OK, not great, in my estimation. 001 seemed to enjoy it just fine but for me, since the lesson was a review one, it just seemed somewhat aimless. However, we did manage to have a very good talk about her trip to Africa a few years ago in the lounge. And she's expressed interest in heading over to Peru someday. I never pegged her as the adventurous sort.

Despite having that Indian lunch and a Snicker bar plus orange chunks in gelatin for "supper", I still ended up rather hungry when I got home. So, against my better judgement, I opted to get a package of Sapporo Ichiban ramen and a small package of fish cake and ate that. Sapporo Ichiban is the ramen that started it all for me...even before Cup O' Noodles hit the market with a bodyslam. I remember Mom making the stuff on either Saturday or Sunday for lunch when she didn't want to make anything too fancy. I used to throw in some day-old rice amongst other toppings into the soup (now, that'll help you to become a sumo). Well, seeing that I won't be leaving the apartment in the morning tomorrow since I only have The Carolinan and that friend of the juku boss late in the evening, I can afford to stay up a bit longer and digest the noodles properly before hitting bed and sleeping late.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Wednesday June 22, 9:33 a.m.

I've been reading about the death of the VHS and audio cassette tapes. Those rolled-up magnetic strips have been keeping me in visual and audio thrall for the past few decades. Well, I've pretty much made the conversion to DVD when it comes to my home movie viewing habits and my collection is vastly CD in composition but I have a few dozen tapes of my homemade compilations from J-Pop to jazz. Once in a while, if I have absolutely nothing to do (very rare nowadays) and have the urge to be creative, I pull out 24 of my CDs and decide to mix selected songs onto a 120-minute cassette. Of course, it does take me a little more than 2 hours to get it done which also explains why the urge doesn't come very often.

I've often thought about if my days of listening to tapes are indeed numbered. After all, magnetic tapes will eventually wear out over time; that is, if a magnetic surge doesn't wipe them out or the mechanics in the tape player don't end up pulling and twisting the tape like a piece of taffy. The peripherals for proper tape care have become a rare thing to see. I can't easily get a tape head cleaner anymore.

Then again, I still have my trusty ONKYO tape deck/CD system of 10 years plus. It seems as if as long as I keep it in good condition, it won't let me down. And even my earliest compilation of 16 years ago still sounds pretty good. So, I'm not in any major hurry to get that disc burner or an iPod. But I do see that CD/tape deck systems are pretty much history in my local Yamada Denki. The combo is currently CD/MD.
Wednesday June 22, 9:16 a.m.

Woke up to the sounds of a squall outside my window. It does feel cooler than it did yesterday; it's just going up to 23 today, thankfully. Hopefully, the rains won't drag on all day but then again, we are talking about Rainy Season.

My old university friend has sent me his colleague's resume for me to peruse. I took a quick peek at it. The lad's got a TESOL which will least, on paper. But I did notice a lack of university credentials. Mind you, the university degree is just for Immigration as a filter to keep out the riffraff (yes, apparently, if you are the owner of a university diploma, it means that you are a cultured, mature person automatically...uh-huh). He can circumvent that problem by coming over on a working-holiday visa or a student visa and then getting the job with one of the bigs such as NOVA or ECC and switch over to the working visa. The problems are: 1) the bigs themselves...rather soul-sapping, and 2) I think getting a job with a real school may be a bit more difficult than that.
Tuesday June 21, 11:12 p.m.

Managed to get through the juku gauntlet tonight thanks to the very powerful air conditioner in my room. Of course, being a Canadian I was happy as a pea in a pod but I had to turn the thing off at various points for the more thin-skinned students. The New Kid was a bit more sullen today; he was 10 minutes late, the second time in recent weeks that he's been tardy so I'm starting to wonder if he's starting to get a bit uninterested in English. I received a couple of muskmelons from Kei of The Beauty Pair during the second hour; somehow I managed to fit them into the fridge.

The Poppy got both Milds tonight. Compared to the first meeting last week, she started faltering once we got into the text. I'll probably have to use my TLC on her. She looked like she'd been through the wringer by the end of class but at least she kept some sort of game face on. As for the Siberian. he'd been through Hell last week with some sort of bug which throttled him with a 39-degree C fever.

I got word from The Hawaiian tonight. She'll be good to go for tomorrow's final lesson before she takes off for Oz on Saturday. Still don't know how she's gonna fare there with that sensitive stomach of hers.

Anyways, I gotta head on out relatively early tomorrow since I gotta get my ticket for Karuizawa on Saturday night and then check out Kinkos to see if I could pull off that rather circuituous suggestion that The Teacher had given me about how to convert my PDFs into Microsoft Word-friendly files. Well, if I head out to the Shinjuku branch, I can get have lunch at the Indian restaurant on the same floor.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Tuesday June 21, 3:14 p.m.

Yep, summer is here. I've got the air con on for the second time this year. But at least the sun is out so I can air out the mattress. Today's session with the Beehive started off OK but got a bit stumbly at the end. I got the impression that Mrs. Perth wasn't too satisfied with my answer concerning answering a negative Yes/No question. I tried my best but I didn't want to spend the rest of the class obsessing over one grammatical tic. I told the ladies about my plans to go to Taiwan in the Fall, and they picked up on the fact that I used the feminine personal pronoun to refer to my partner. I did say that she was just a friend but their Cheshire Cat smiles could've sliced through metal. Anyways, Mrs. Travel was more than willing to dish out the advice about where to go and I'll be looking forward to those ideas in the weeks to come.

Got back home to see that there was a message from the juku boss. I called back to find out that she really needs me to help out her friend with some 50 pages of proofreading. Well, since I've got my weekend up in Karuizawa, I can only help her out late Thursday night after my lesson with The Carolinan. I will literally be burning the midnight oil but most of my day on Thursday is way open so it won't be too bad.

The Madame is still on the case about researching that trip to Taiwan. Looks like we're both on the same wavelength about what we want in a tour, but then again she did say that we share a common vibe. She said that we ought to have a powwow sometime to talk about the trip. I offered to take her out to the Maple Leaf, that Canadian pub in Shibuya for lunch sometime next week since The Hawaiian will be on hiatus.

I got a surprise message from an old university friend of mine via The Wild Thing. Apparently, he wanted to pick my brain for one of his colleagues who is interested in teaching at a real school here. He apparently doesn't have a university degree. Well, I think his trip is gonna be a short one. He could possibly get something at one of the big English conversation schools such as ECC or NOVA, provided that he got at least a working-holiday visa but forget about a regular school unless he's got some really good friends in high places.
Tuesday June 21, 12:07 a.m.

I gather it's the First Day of Summer. It certainly feels that way in my apartment right now. It felt like an oven when I came in and now there's a huge mosquito hovering over me. I've got my electric insect repellant on but I'm afraid that I may only just antagonize it.

I had the full pair of The Class Act and then SIL yesterday. The Chef was kind enough to whip up lunch for all of us. The dish du jour was cod roe spaghetti with Italian tomato and spinach salad.

The Company class was sloggy as usual but at least the guys are finally getting the hang of answering what they did for their weekends. Threw out some of the kanji that the Siberian had given me as levity. That kanji page has really helped as a much needed conversational tangent.

Then, it was my newest class. The Matron's daughter became the latest sheep in my flock. I met her and her Mom in the lobby of the Tokyo Hilton just a few minutes away from The Company. She's a typical elder teenager but what she needed help on was far from my usual repertoire of stuff. She seems to be heading into musicologist territory so as we sipped on iced coffees in the Marble Lounge, I had to tackle on-the-spot translating of her very university-level articles on the amazing Beethoven from English to Japanese in preparation for her class on Wednesday. To me, I think I did a pretty patchy job but she seemed to appreciate my efforts, at least outwardly. We ended up finishing our first class almost two hours later. The Matron was out in the car waiting for us patiently. She was kind enough to give me a lift to Nakano Station so that I wouldn't need to transfer lines. However, she got a call from her son, the guy that "tried" to help me out with my tax return but ended up starting me on that back-and-forth odyssey between me and the tax office. He was waiting to be picked up at the station and was wondering why it was taking Mom so long to get over. When she told him that I was in the car, I overheard a very distinctive "Why?!" from him. The Matron did say that the two of us did resemble each other; I wonder if the foot-in-mouth disease that I occasionally catch has passed onto him. In any case, I did greet him cordially enough at the station. Man, I just hope that the class doesn't end up going overtime like it did tonight although I'm happy for the extra dough and the fact that my food bill ended up well under 1000 yen tonight since The Matron footed the bill for my coffee. In any case, we'll be meeting next week at the far cheaper Denny's nearby the hotel. I'm gonna send off some translations of her text in advance so we don't have to slog our way like we did tonight.

Alright, I really could use some shuteye right about now.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Monday June 20, 8:00 a.m.

I was prematurely awakened (by 5 hours) by a strong jolt from Mother Earth earlier this morning. It was strong enough that I turned on the TV. Sure enough, after a few minutes, the announcer came on to report on the quake. I think it was a Shindo 4 in my neighbourhood since the epicentre wasn't too far away. Speaking of quakes, I'm kinda wondering how the sisters, The New Yorker and The Carolinan, are faring in shaky California.

Got some atypical e-mail in my in-box. I actually got a message from The Doll. She apologized for her Lenny Bruce profanity. Enh...I took it in stride; it's always more interesting to know a person with different aspects. Then, I heard from The Wild Thing for the first time in a long time. He's back in Vancouver crunching numbers. The Madame updated me on her research for Taiwan trips. I think it'll be a late summer/early fall thing...although I believe the temps will still be set to broil over there.
Sunday June 19, 9:21 p.m.

The entertainment week has come to an end. After the debauchery of Saturday night, Sunday was somewhat more sedate. I waited at the JR Shinjuku Gate for The Satyr but was surprised by the prior appearance of Skippy who'd remembered my open note to the Satyr about where I was meeting him. Once he arrived, the three of us were off to pick up our tickets and then meet the rest of the gang in front of the Wendy's beside the Picadilly. Sure enough, Movie Buddy came up along with his language exchange partner and her friend. We ended up noshing and chatting over lunch for about 90 minutes, and yet there wasn't much of a lineup forming for "Batman Begins". I'm gonna have to re-think about when to assemble everyone although I still think that for "Revenge of the Sith", the earlier the better. Actually, The Hawaiian once again pulled out due to stomach problems. Movie Buddy was a bit disappointed about that since his good friend will probably be taking off on Saturday without a final meeting.

The Satyr's girlfriend showed up shortly afterwards and then some minutes later, we all lined up inside the theatre. There were more than a few dozen people ahead of us but none of these huge lines I'd been wondering about. Skippy informed me that probably the lineups would be longer in the later shows...a prediction that turned out to be fact.

As for the movie itself, "Batman Begins" IS indeed different from any of its predecessors. It does come off somewhat darker although there were a few moments of levity, mostly through Michael Caine's sardonic interpretation of Alfred Pennyworth (hard to imagine now that this was the same actor who had been the original Alfie and the lead character in "Get Carter"). The movie spends most of the first hour going really deep into how Bruce Wayne becomes the titular superhero. In fact, the movie almost threatened to make wonder when or if Wayne was gonna ever put on the batsuit in this movie.

The movie, as a whole, struck me as one that director Christopher Nolan has tried to re-define the franchise. It is definitely a beginning...of not only Batman the character but of this formerly laughingstock superhero series. Gone is the depiction of Gotham City as the frighteningly baroque/art deco/gothic metropolis from Tim Burton's movies, and for that matter, Joel Schumacher's Gotham City as urban day-glo amusement park. The city comes across as nearly normal but as one that's definitely in crisis. Also, the depiction of Bruce Wayne as a mild-mannered boring do-gooder multimillionaire (whew!) through Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney has also been eradicated. Christian Bale really puts hard-edged boundaries amongst his personae as an uncaring feckless Bruce Wayne, the real Bruce and his scarier Batman. I think Bale's roles in "The Machinist" and "American Psycho" have been good practice for his latest one. Skippy and one of the other ladies with me asked about who Bale was. Indeed, he's not a huge name here (ironic, considering that his first role was in Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun") although that could change with this movie. It also helps that he has a lot of mighty supportive help from the aforementioned Caine, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman (he should be racking up the air mileage points with his trips to Japan for "Million Dollar Baby", "Unleashed" and this flick). Of course, having local fave Ken Watanabe in a cameo can't hurt either.

"Batman Begins" ultimately didn't strike me as an immediate classic of the genre. I think it's gonna be one of those movies that will grow on me over time, though. As The Satyr mentioned later, he enjoyed it for the most part but it won't be a repeat viewing. I would agree...the overall movie seemed to have a bit of weight lugging it down throughout its 2.5 hours. My eyes glazed over at times. As had been reported in the otherwise glowing reviews, the movie's first half is a bit slow although Movie Buddy said that he enjoyed it better than the latter half. But the second half also seems to suffer from having too many slight villains to worry about which tended to unfocus things and pretty much pushed any sort of romantic interlude between Batman and Katie Holmes to a far corner. In addition, I wasn't particularly impressed by the much-vaunted first entrance of the Batman on his war against crime. His hand-to-hand combat scenes just addled my eyes like those frenetic fight scenes from "The Bourne Supremacy". Please...if Nolan or any other director who's interested in the franchise reads more super closeup, handheld camera shots durng battle please. The gimmick is over. Also, I'm starting to tire of Liam Neeson(though he is one of the best actors in the biz) in his mentor roles. He's starting to become a genre of his own.

On the good side, though, there are the winning performances by one and all. And the story, without all of the extra weight, is good enough. But as one of our members stated, she is looking forward more to the second movie with this new cast now that the origin stuff is out of the way.

Once our main course was over, all of us walked out into the humid afternoon and made our way westward to a coffee shop to drink and while away the hour before dinner at Viet Huong. Looks like I may have been the harshest critic since everyone else seemed to like it just fine. We went to the Caffe Veloce, one of the local coffee shop franchises in town. Skippy recommended the coffee jelly with scoop of vanilla ice cream on top since she used to work for them in her earlier days. Well, I did get it. In a tip to decadence, the dish came with a tiny container of liquid sugar. Believe me, it didn't need it...something that I found out the hard way. Some of the other things I heard from Skip was that she'd recently got a bootleg copy of the Star Wars movie on DVD but she wisely said that she would refrain from catching it until she saw the real McCoy on the big screen in a few weeks. The other was that she gave me some scoop on the trials and tribulations surrounding Jazz Buddy. Apparently, according to The Kid, JB had actually been in a fractious relationship with some guy which is causing this massive depression. Not quite sure if this is a smokescreen or not.

Well, 5 came around and we all headed out to Viet Huong around the corner. The Madame and the Sylph came later. The Madame was sitting at the other end of the table on my side so we never really talked all that much tonight but I figured that the two of us had talked plenty on Thursday anyways. The food was fine as was the service. Yup, Viet Huong will be on speed dial. As we made our way back to the station, Skippy and I spoke tentatively about getting together for "Revenge of the Sith" although she's weighing that against going to the Expo. Well, I know what I'm gonna be doing on July 10th.