Saturday, August 06, 2005

Sunday August 7, 3:42 p.m.

Well, it's fascinating how people react differently to the same movie. I've now seen "Revenge of the Sith" three times (and no, I don't particularly say that with a great amount of pride). Last night's final viewing was at the same place as my first Roppongi Hills. I met Frodo and Movie Buddy and we all settled in to see George Lucas' magnum opus reach its end.

I enjoyed it easily enough when I'd caught it at the Premier Theatre in RH back on July 9th almost a month ago. And a couple of weeks ago, when I'd seen it with The Satyr, his girlfriend and The Madame, we enjoyed it pretty much. However, things turn a mighty turn to the Dark Side when it came to that third viewing with the Aussies.

Things started hinting at a bad end when I noticed MB and Frodo doing a lot of restless moving in their seats, and then I knew things were taking a turn for the worse when the two were openly snickering and laughing at the lines spouted on screen. I knew beforehand of course about the writing "prowess" of George Lucas. But when the lights came up, Frodo just uttered the word "terrible". And then, Movie Buddy, who just couldn't wait to get outside, openly wished he could have gotten his money back.

The three of us then just walked over to the local Tony Romas' in Roppongi to analyze why they hated it so. Naturally, the usual reasons of lousy acting, rotten script and special effects taking over the story were stated. I guess for me, being the quintessential Libra, I find myself once again straddling the fence (you can take the expression for ill or good...ah, once again, my Libran tendencies are showing). I think fanboys will take Star Wars and just love it no matter what. But on the other hand, those who want good, well-scripted and well-acted movies should look elsewhere. Frodo and MB are very much the latter. The Stick is in the former category for sure, although, she is somewhat "hampered" by the fact that she often relies on the Japanese subtitles so she's rather immune to the "stylized" delivery by the actors. As I said, I'm solidly in the middle. Yes, I did clench my butt mightily whenever a Hayden Christensen/Natalie Portman scene came about especially during that third viewing since the special effects were now old hat to me, and the lapses in logic started to bubble into view. On the other hand, I did look forward to seeing ROTS...warts, Jar Jar Binks and all. And seeing it for what it was, I accepted that it is just a special effects extravaganza with characters that I've grown up and lived with. Again, I'm not one of those people who is especially attuned to the quality of acting or writing; I wouldn't know the difference between a great performance or script to that of a mediocre one. I can only detect the terrible ones...and yes, Star Wars is in that category. I can only gather that true movie buffs will probably leave partway through ROTS while those who just want to get away from reality for a couple of hours will go along for the ride.

Enough of that. It had been a while since I had anything to do with the original seedy strip of Roppongi. One tout came up to us and invited us to a T&A bar. We just passed him by and had our dinner at Tony Romas. We noticed how intense the gaijin quotient was in this branch. Fortunately, the rest of the conversation didn't continue on the commiseration of ROTS but went onto other movies and music. All in all, my financial austerity program kinda hit a hiccup with the money I shucked out for the movie and dinner. Still, despite the lateness of the hour, the three of us went up the street to have a bit of coffee at the local Excelsiors. There, we were visually entertained by the sight of some of the female wildlife which inhabits the jungle of Roppongi. A couple of barely-in-their-twenties women sat down at the next table wearing very little and wondering how those patches of fabric managed to stay up. The one girl was wearing translucent pants and pretty much just a green pasta noodle as an undergarment.

In any case, the witching hour was approaching so Frodo made his way home while MB and I took the long subway back to my place. Luckily, the timer on the AC was working like a charm so it was very frosty in my living room when we got back. We used some of the late time to watch the "Doctor Who" two-parter and then gab some more on ROTS before finally retiring. The AC got a very long workout from us so I'm expecting a rather enlarged bill from TEPCO later this month. We did get a slight jolt from Mother Earth in the form of a Shindo 3 tremor. Movie Buddy didn't even flinch though he acknowledged the presence of the earthquake.

Finally got up around 11 this morning and after a bit of thought, we just ended up having lunch at the nearby Skylark for a few hours. We were basically playing "You Be The Production Team" on a number of movies including ROTS. It was a very good conversation. At this point, the only other person I could talk this long and deeply with is The Madame.

Now that I'm back home after seeing off MB, I've just done some washing. Well, I figure that I'll just be taking it easy for a few hours and then get started on my usual lesson planning later tonight.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Saturday August 6, 11:45 a.m.

Now that I've gotten that rather serious topic off my chest, now for something completely different. I went off for my haircut. It was the good ol' shampoo/cut/rinse/massage/blow dry routine interspersed with the usual exchanged banalities between customer and stylist.

The shampoo was very cleansing but as soon as I got outside, the sweat started pouring off my scalp again. Will definitely need that shower before I take off for Kiba today.
Saturday August 6, 8:26 a.m.

As I write this, the 60th-anniversary ceremonies of the Hiroshima bombing is under way. Despite the special milestone reached this year, everything still seems the same: the usual declaration of no more nuclear weapons by the mayor of Hiroshima, the usual commitment by two junior high school students to peace, the usual replies of scheduling conflicts by the nuclear powers when rejecting the invitations by Japan, and the usual address by the Prime Minister.

If my words sound cynical, let me reassure you...they are. One of my professors in International Relations many years ago stated that there can be no such thing as true peace despite all the protests, declarations and commitments. His statement didn't particularly surprise me at the time although I couldn't really put my reasons into words or thoughts. Time and various events have finally helped me formulate them.

I don't remember the explanation my prof gave behind his statement. However, I think I can come up with some of the reasoning. Not to say that all humans are all latent sociopaths ready to unleash hell but all humans have dark sides. And in a world that has brought forward people ranging from Mother Teresa to Jack the Ripper to Adolf Hitler to Winston Churchill, there is infinite possibility in terms of humans tapping into that dark side to varying degrees. This tapping into the dark side could include thoughts of envy about that kid next door owning the iPod or the actions of shooting the kid to death to get that iPod. The same could be said about campaigning against nukes, rationalizing the need to own nukes to....heaven forbid, the actual usage of nukes again (although I think they will be used in the future). Many kinds of people out there.

At the risk of further sounding like a certain Muppet Jedi, fear has been the most powerful emotion to motivate the masses; neither sadness nor happiness...not even righteous anger comes close to what fear can do. That's why the nuclear powers have nukes in the first place: to let their enemies know that if push comes to shove to pushing red buttons, they will threaten or promise to wreak annihilation. That's why most of the nuclear powers will never send representatives to Hiroshima or would be the most public display of hypocrisy from people who regularly wallow in it. And even politicians are only willing to say so much without throwing up in their mouths.

The other human failing involved here is forgetfulness. The expression "Never Forget" has been a mantra yelled and intoned over and over again since 1945. However as I watch the coverage of the ceremonies, only BBC and CNN are now showing them. All of the local commercial stations have gone back to their regular sugar-coated programming. Even NHK, after showing 15 minutes of live coverage including the tolling of the bell at 8:15, had gone back to normal programming several minutes ago. So much for a very auspicious day. Also, I'm rather concerned that despite all the exhortations, there is the potential to finally wash all of this away as the hibakusha slowly fade away. The survivors of the nuclear blasts are on average in their mid-70s. Most likely, they'll all be gone within 20 years. What will happen then? I think once all of the survivors finally do pass away, there will be a slow fading of collective memory. It will be difficult to imagine or feel the horror of nuclear holocaust without the presence of the survivors even if the survivors have passed on their stories to later generations. Words, like photocopying copies of copies, will lose strength over the ages. I'm sure Marco Polo and George Washington must have had amazing lives but to most of us, their exploits will remain dates and events in history.

Sad to say, and perhaps these next words will be the most damning ones I've ever committed to this blog, but I think the only way humanity right now will truly know the horror of nuclear war is if multiple blasts, not just one blast, occurred somewhere on the planet whether by national design or terrorist attack. And even then, most likely the higher echelons in the nuclear governments will rationalize them as the ultimate necessary evil. No, to achieve total peace would require no less than the ultimate fear of global armageddon and a very serious paradigm shift in what it means to be human. Some years ago, a journalist had written in an article about the nature of racial hatred that it may not be humane but it is human. Well, I think the only way things such as nuclear abolishment can become real is if those two words, "human" and "humane" become synonyms. At present, I rather wonder if the two are just antonyms.
Friday August 5, 10:47 p.m.

Almost six hours to defrag my hard drive. Man, I must've screwed up it pretty badly. Maybe I ought to consider defragging it quarterly instead of semi-annually. While the computer was rearranging its insides, I was kinda doing the same by ingesting a large daikon salad with a bit of popcorn chicken. That oughta clean my pipes overnight.

Well, I've managed to clean up the apartment so it looks cluttered but presentable. Just hope the cockroaches don't decide to visit...especially that mutant giant that was seen in my bedroom. I'm not sure that even Movie Buddy, as laid back as he is, would be too thrilled on seeing an insect that could fly fish with its antennae.

On that "Doctor Who" tape I got from The Entrepreneur, he was also kind enough to throw in a couple of episodes from the new "Battlestar Galactica". Here I was thinking that DW was updated considerably to reflect the times...BG is even more grittier. I had seen the original pilot which was also quite a switch from the old 70s series but the episodes I saw today ensured that the new show is a very different animal than its predecessor. I saw a lot of different levels of political power plays; violence, implied and real, amongst the protagonists; and some simulated sex between Starbuck and Baltar. Quite a long ways from the "we're-all-in-this-together" atmosphere with do-gooder Richard "Apollo" Hatch and the male Starbuck. Power to both series.

Well, got that appointment with my hairstylist tomorrow morning and then it's off to teach JJ at the Starbucks. I hope she's out of that funk of hers that she showed me a couple of weeks ago. Otherwise, I might be seeing a lot of free time on my Saturdays. Then, it's off to Roppongi Hills to see "Revenge of the Sith" for the third and definitely final time.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Friday August 5, 2:47 p.m.

I had been wondering what was up with the digital display going out at Kiba and the sudden scrunching of trains last night. Well, I found out on the news today that there was a major power outage just east of here in Chiba City which basically meant all the trains there were out of service. Thousands of commuters were stranded. And I count my lucky stars.
Friday August 5, 2:16 p.m.

Feels literally hotter than a sauna out there. There was an NHK report recently in which the concrete in Tokyo raises the reported temps in the big city by 5-10 degrees...which ought to mean that it's really 45 C out there. In any case, I'm back home now in air conditioned comfort.

I met The Teacher for the only time this month since she has to help out her younger son on Fridays in August with his swimming lessons. Our article du jour was on Al Roker's stomach-stapling operation...I kid you not. To be perfectly frank, neither of us are particularly lightweight folks so perhaps the article did have some meaning to us but mostly in the vein that we are lucky not to be as obese as some of these other behemoths. Ironically, The Teacher gave me her stamp card since it's now full so I can get a nice discount on my meal there although I only go there just for her. It expires at the end of the month so I'll have to go there solo since I won't be seeing her until the first week of September.

Speaking of discounts, I actually went to McDonalds today to take advantage of my series of coupons that I'd received from The OL last Saturday. I got a Double Beef Pepper Burger with small fries and small Chicken McNuggets and a medium Coke...all for 550 yen. Definitely a bargain...and a great example of culinarily weaponized paper. The DBPB was, as its name would suggest, appropriately beefy and peppery. I'm gonna have to be very careful about these coupons since I could get back into my mid-90s mode of heading out every other day to the Golden Arches and that can't be good for my weight. Maybe I'll hand it off to Movie Buddy tomorrow.

And speaking of The OL, I just got a call from her (lucky her) saying that she has to cancel class tonight due to her much hated job. I re-scheduled her for next Friday morning in The Teacher's time slot. I basically wasted an excess 310 yen for the all-day pass in anticipation of heading out to see both The Teacher and her but on the other hand, I now have plenty of time to fix up the place for Movie Buddy's sleepover tomorrow night. He'll definitely need the AC on all night.

I'll have to keep any cleaning down to some lighter stuff, though. My living room is nice and cool but the rest of the place is still in sauna territory. It wouldn't do to suffer heatstroke before meeting Movie Buddy for the weekend.
Thursday August 4, 10:40 p.m.

Just found out on the NHK sports news that a famous high school baseball team has decided to pull out of the national championships, a competition that actually has more audience clout than the professional Japan Series, since it was brought to light yesterday that team members were smoking in their dorms and hazing juniors. Uhhhh...wait a minute...doesn't that happen regularly anyways in many high schools? I think something else is up here.

Skippy finally replied after disappearing for a few weeks. Looks like she got the rug pulled out from her when she'd found out that her apartment lease had lapsed. Well after several days of frantic searching through the real estate agencies, she finally got a new place.

I finally got the times down for Episode 3 at Roppongi Hills on Saturday. It'll be an early evening call so when we include dinner, it's most likely that Movie Buddy and I will be getting home rather late.
Thursday August 4, 9:36 p.m.

Well, took me over two and a half years but I finally passed the 1000-entry mark. From some pretty humble beginnings, I assure you.

Made my way over to Kiba for the first time since the earthquake which almost stranded me there two weeks ago. Nope, I didn't get any flashbacks from Nam or any anxiety attacks. Just got very sweaty. Business didn't seem as hectic as usual at the Starbucks. I had a good lesson with The Manager but MK got a bit moody at the end, presumably because I kinda pushed her a little hard in her superlatives. Well, at least she won't have to deal with me for over 3 weeks.

As I waiting on the platform of Kiba Station, the digital display of which trains were coming and when suddenly winked out. My first thought was one of "Not again..." in that perhaps there was another delay on the line. But it did show up but I bypassed it and the next one since there was hardly room for a sardine let alone an overweight human on either one. And they were locals, bad ones to get on at that station and at that time of night. I usually get on the semi-express since I can stay on the side of the train that doesn't open until I reach Urayasu Station where I get off and wait for the next local, which by that time is considerably less populated with commuters.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Thursday August 4, 1:05 p.m.

It isn't a summer in Japan without seeing a dead lizard on one's stairway. Well, it is now officially summer. I saw another my second tiny legs-and-tail up reptile slowly dessicating in the heat on my way to the local convenience store to pick up lunch.

Saw the last two eps of the first season of this resurrected "Doctor Who". The show's got me hooked although it's a pity that Chris Eccleston has decided to leave the series 2 years below the average length of time for an actor's turn through the good Doctor. On seeing the new guy, David Tennant for those last 10 seconds, it looks like a new direction. The Entrepreneur was kind enough to insert the pilot episode before the final two-parter. It gave me a chance to compare the character arc. Eccleston's angle on one of TV sci-fi's most enduring characters came off as certainly one of the most human despite the instances peppered throughout the season of him showing himself to be most definitely not.

Well, should be getting ready to get out to the gym although I'm not sure if I should even be doing so considering the heat outside. Mind you, I'm supposed to be inside a gym but the weather forecasters keep saying that any sort of physical activity anywhere isn't highly recommended during these dog days of summer. I gather that a lot of couples wouldn't be too "busy" in August.
Wednesday August 3, 10:46 p.m.

It was a straight in-and-out at Speedy's today. My first lesson with 002 went well. She said that the 90 minutes just flew like that...just how I like to hear it. And 001 was as dependable as usual. Speedy and I were riding each other about how that Air France crash in Toronto would finish off our chances of ever getting 002 over there on her homestay. However, 002 took it well.

Speaking of the Air France non-disaster, it was rather interesting watching the latest "Doctor Who" episode called "The Doctor Dances". Strangely enough for a BBC show that used to cater to kids in its earlier regeneration (a DW inside joke), there was almost always some form of death being dished out to the innocent as well as the guilty. Well in this ep, when things looked at its darkest, the good Doctor won out with nary a person losing his/her life. "Everybody lives!" he proclaimed joyfully and for once in his nine lives, he and his companion just tripped the light fantastic in the TARDIS. Well, there is certainly a parallel to be had with this ep and what had happened on the tarmac at Pearson International. One would hope that that would be the case with all air crashes.

Feeling pretty zapped right now after another steamy day. And I've got my weekly stint at the gym "to look forward to" tomorrow before meeting with The Manager and MK. I'm not gonna touch anything related to English teaching tonight. Gonna leave everything for tomorrow morning since I won't be leaving til mid-afternoon.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Wednesday August 3, 8:10 a.m.

I always seem to find out about these disasters when I wake up and turn on the TV. I got up an hour ago and saw that there had been an Air France crash at Pearson International. It is indeed a miracle that nobody was killed or even seriously injured. I was made quite aware about the difference in accents between Canadians and Americans as I was watching this news conference by one of the top guys at the airport on CNN. It rather reminded me of South Park: The Movie.
Tuesday August 2, 10:51 p.m.

Once again, the meterologists hinted at some lightning and downpours but nothing came of it.

I met up with The Madame at Shibuya for lunch. She found an inexpensive place just across from Bunkamura called Uwajima. It was another one of those hidden diamonds in the rough of Shibuya. It was in a rather non-descript building across from the huge Outback Grill on the 2nd floor. We were rather pleasantly delighted to enter a surprisingly spacious Japanese-style restaurant. The food and prices certainly couldn't be beat. The two of us had the tai meshi, a do-it-yourself type of dish in which you place slices of raw sea bream on a bowl of rice. Then you add some seasonings and pour a mixture of raw egg and soy sauce over the whole thing. We also got a bit of cold udon and some pickled vegetables. Not bad for a flat 1000 yen.

We continued the conversation in the next building at Soho's for their cake set. While we had our cake and coffee, our streak of talking about somewhat racy stuff and gossip was yet to be broken. We traded some rather interesting stories. By the time we got back to Shibuya Station, we rather flimsily stated that we would go for that night view from a tall building next. I've already started to look at some places but I'm not quite sure when we'll next meet.

The juku was rather entertaining tonight. The juku boss was wringing her hands over what had happened to The New Kid. As for me, I've had some doubts about his motivation recently. He'd been coming to class almost a half-hour late, and tonight he didn't show up at all. The juku boss called up his mother, her friend, and managed to have her blow up. It ended up that the sheepish kid had just slept the afternoon away at home. All I can say is that I hope the mother left some DNA of her son for posterity. I received some very heartfelt apologies from the mother but I just replied that it was OK. And it was...I would rather have someone who really wanted to be there instead of some kid going through the motions.

Looks like The Beauty Pair started another project for an outing with me. This time, we will head out to Namjatown for the Gyoza Museum, Ice Cream City and whatever food is being exhibited in late September. This outing to this Ikebukuro emporium seems to be becoming an annual affair. Also, we may try out this supposed new massage exhibition as well...if it exists.

The Milds came back from their trip to Switzerland. The McKid wasn't there today which helped me help The Milds catch up. One thing I love about students who love to travel is that I always get a nice souvenir. I received a box of assorted Lindt chocolates....mmmmmmm, creamy.

So, with The Siberian off in Oz and The New Kid going further down on my respect scale, I only taught 2 hours. And I found out from the sleepyhead New Kid himself over the phone that he won't be coming out next week either. But I do have to make up that cancelled last Tuesday round of classes. So I'll probably be teaching The Beauty Pair on the last Friday of the month while I'll have to figure out what to do with The Milds.

I received a postcard from The Hawaiian last night. Looks like she's been having a good time in Australia. And she will definitely be staying until well into the Fall.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Tuesday August 2, 10:02 a.m.

First Tuesday without the Beehive whilst they're on summer hiatus. It's still pretty steamy out there but it has been clouding over. We even got a brief spritzer earlier in the morning. It kinda reminds me of all that foreboding weather before the typhoon that wasn't last week. Although there isn't one forecast for much of this week, we may be due for some sudden downpours and even lightning. There have even been a few strikes on some poor people not too far away from here. Miraculously, they've all survived.

Koizumi is facing a mighty battle this week. Supposedly either this Thursday or early next week, the bill for the privatization bill for the post office gets the big vote. The PM's very reason for his election was very much based on this bill. I was talking with SIL about it yesterday during her lesson. She's of two minds. On the one hand, she feels that if the Japanese Postal Service were privatized, there may be better service from better staff (apparently, the JPS seems to be staffed by a whole bunch of inexperienced part-timers). But on the other hand, privatization could mean reduction of post office branches in the name of efficiency; a lot of rural folks, especialy the retired ones, could face a lot of problems trying to reach their local branches.

On a totally different note, I've been greatly enjoying the latest eps of "Doctor Who". Some really snappy writing there. This new bisexual character, Jack Harkness, looks to be a Tom Cruise clone right down to the million-watt smile.

Well, gotta take yet another shower and then head out to meet The Madame for lunch.
Monday August 1, 9:14 p.m.

True to the time of year, August has started with blazing heat and humidity. I'm telling myself that in 4 short months, it'll be December.

Looks like the middle week of the month will be the "holiday" week. O-Bon has even affected The Company. The guys will be off that Monday. Well, it'll be the first free and clear non-statutory holiday Monday for me in a number of years. I'll have to check with some of the other folks on the schedule about whether or not they'll be taking off for the hometowns. I was jamming with The Company guys today about this whole exodus back which always brings about the worst traffic jams and other transportation tieups. Junior replied that there is a very strong traditional pull for the family to head back home...kinda reminds me of the salmon. Well, unless my uncle starts tugging on my leash, I'll be very happy to stay within the borders, thank you very much.

I'm still seeing quite a few women decked out in their kimono finest on the trains. Of course, in reflection of the times, the kimono have somewhat wilder colours and the women are still sporting their tans and purple toenail polish.

I've started my financial austerity. I kept my food purchases under 2000 yen (that's pretty much the minimum for me) and restrained mightily from heading over to Tower Records or HMV in Shibuya to look for magazines or CDs. Instead, I just headed over to RECOFan, the discount disc place. I didn't think I would really find anything which is why I went there. Sure enough, there was nothing of note.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Monday August 1, 8:25 a.m.

Grumble, the first cancellation of the week from The Poppy. Well, I was warned by her mother that cancellations will be a common part of my schedule with her. I guess I shouldn't mind too much since that'll mean I get to go home early but seeing that I made another loss last month, I wouldn't mind a little more income this month. The problem is that this is a key vacation month for the Japanese.

I got e-mail from Movie Buddy. He confirmed for this Saturday night. Looks like Frodo has gotten parole from his newly-enlarged family and will be joining us. I sent off a missive to Skippy to invite her, but also to see what she's been up to. I haven't heard from her in some weeks now. I also sent off mail to The Teacher to see if she's still up for this Friday. I should find out what her future with me will be.

Hmm...let's see. I think it'll be quite a slow month businesswise. The Beehive and The Class Act will be on their usual hiatus and the juku will take one Tuesday off this month for O-Bon. And the kids won't be seen til September. I may have to go into a more ascetic mode.
Sunday July 31, 9:04 p.m.

And what did I do on this last day of the month? Just went over to Speedy's on a rare trip to witness one of the other teachers pull off a "Cooking in English" lesson with 001, 002 and a couple of other ladies. I actually ended up using most of the time before eating to start prelim plans for 002's first lesson on Wednesday.

The lunch consisted of Sesame Curry, salad, Coconut and Cashew Rice and Ice Cream with Sauteed Bananas. Quite a spread for 4 students to tackle in a second tongue but they pulled it off with aplomb. I think the school is quite lucky that it has a teacher who has a great love for cooking. I initially aimed just to spend a few pleasant hours there but I ended up staying for a good 7 hours thanks to a leisurely lunch and an inadvertent nap time.

Earlier in the morning, I got a call from Mom. Looks like she, Dad and their friends had a good time vacationing in Eastern Canada. I told her about my visa situation. I was pleasantly surprised that she took it quite well; in fact, she related to me that she has the original copy of her family register...and that I managed to screw up the kanji of both her and Dad's names. Ah, well. However, maybe now I can just bypass all that work with the town hall and just reach the scrivener directly.

Well, got myself some lesson planning to do. Luckily, I don't have to iron anything tonight.