Saturday, August 20, 2005

Sunday August 21, 2:01 a.m.

Yup, it was another hot one in the big city last night. Could have used some of that deluge that crashed on Toronto yesterday. The Engineer contacted me by chat just now and informed me that his vacation to the West was snuffed out with very little recourse or remorse from Air Canada due to the events of 24 hours previously. I guess when a company is pretty much the only one in its industry nationally, it can pretty much dictate what it will and won't do. Earlier, I spoke with Mom who hadn't heard a single thing about this Noah's Ark-level storm. Apparently, the only thing the parentals watch these days on the telly is NHK Satellite. Kinda strange trying to make that phone call. Mom, as usual, had contacted me to save on the long-distance fees but in the first minute of our call, the connection suddenly died. Later she told me that she'd tried to reconnect several times with no success. I kinda wondered if it had been due to my seemingly ancient cordless phone. Well, in any case, I called KDD to initiate things from my side. I then got this young operator who struck me as inexperienced, flustered or inept....very atypical for a KDD staffer. She kept screwing up my telephone number when I gave it, but I managed to hold in my sarcasm. After 5 minutes of waiting, she finally got me through. I wonder if that megastorm in Toronto ionized the atmosphere there that thoroughly.

I went out to Kiba once more to teach JJ. Surprisingly, Starbucks wasn't all that crowded but I gather that most of the Saturday regulars were still on the way home from O-Bon vacations. Unfortunately, for half the lesson, there was either an overzealous tutor giving his poor charge some whup-ass for some sort of infraction in his studies or a loud-mouthed thug. I had some rather dangerous thoughts going through my mind that I had to compartmentalize so that I could keep on track with JJ. But again thankfully, he and his more servile companion left on the half-hour.

After the lesson, I decided to get an early dinner before I met up with Speedy and the gang in Shinjuku. So I went to the food court in the mall and got something from the old Colonel. It'd been several months since I actually ordered chicken with those 11 herbs and spices. I had the so-called tokumori set: three pieces of chicken with fries and a medium drink. Tokumori means "special large". Well, for me, anything especially large from KFC means a barrel of Colonel Sanders' finest and some mighty hunger on my side. Still, I was quite happy to have gobbled down what I had.

Got up to Shinjuku about 45 minutes before meeting time so I just hung out in the big plaza in Kabukicho where the Tokyu Milano theatre was located. There were two interesting things of note happening. One was that on the other side of the plaza opposite the Milano was the big theatre showing that Queen musical. On a huge screen above the entrance, excerpts from the musical itself were being played intercut with the actual videos of the late Freddie Mercury and his band singing their hits. I had no idea that the video for the iconic "We Will Rock You" was basically them just singing out in the snow in someone's backyard. Still, there were quite a few admirers looking up and watching. The other thing of note was that right in the centre of the plaza was a tiny haunted house set up called "Noroi". Basically, people lined up in front of this ramshackle hut which appeared as if it had been transplanted from the wilds of Gunma Prefecture. Every few minutes, the creaking sliding door would open and the next batch of kids to be frightened would go in. Supposedly female screams pierced the air every 30 seconds or so but they really sounded like emotional chimps going crazy over Queen.

Finally, I met up with Speedy and the gang to see "Madagascar". Aside from Speedy, his wife and The Secretary, everyone was new faces....female students who were slotted into the other nights that I wasn't working at the school. As I had initially expected, there were the usual bows and polite greetings amongst everyone, and so I thought it would be another "Let's spend the night isolated" thing. However, one of them was a better person than the rest of us and actually engaged me in some conversation. But on the other side of the equation were two other women: one, an actual student, while the other was someone who had come for a trial lesson but didn't bite. The latter was quiet, noncommittal and just generally struck me as pretty dour...basically a female version of me whenever these large parties crop up.

The Tokyu Milano had an advantage and disadvantage. The advantage was that the waiting area was quite wide to hold the crowds. However, the actual theatre itself wasn't well air-conditioned. I'm not sure if the management had wanted to show actual temperature conditions of the country Madagascar itself. I also think our motley crew needs a bit of training in group seating. We were all just spread out in one row like a line of army ants. Perhaps there could have been a bit more togetherness if we had bunched up over a couple of rows, but I digress.

As for the movie itself, I found it OK but not quite in the same league as "Toy Story" or "The Incredibles". The scattergun punchline delivery of the characters and the tons of pop cultural refererences put "Madagascar" definitely into "Shrek" territory although the design of the people reminded me more of "The Incredibles". A lot of the pop references though, such as HMOs and the theme from "National Geographic" probably couldn't register with 99% of the audience. Most likely, the subtitler didn't even broach the subject of HMOs in the results of her efforts. The story was generally pretty simplistic: the usual fish-out-of-water story which was done in "Shrek 2" and the first "Toy Story". Nothing particularly special there. And I was surprised that the score was done by Hans Zimmer, he who would inherit John Williams' crown of bombastic orchestration. It was pretty understated but the soundtrack had to share itself with a lot of other famous tunes such as Earth, Wind & Fire's "Disco Wonderland" and the theme from "Hawaii Five-O". Basically, it was a nice timewaster of 90 minutes.

I thought I would be heading home right after the movie but I, for some reason, decided to go with the bunch for what turned out to be dinner. And all this time I had thought that Speedy was only planning to hold a kaffeeklatch at a cafe. He made reservations at another one of those upscale izakaya: dim lighting, organic interior design and jazz playing on the speakers. The place was not too far from the old site of Kinokuniya Bookstore. By that time, the teacher who does the cooking lessons at Speedy's, The Straight Man, appeared. His button-down sense of humour didn't initially play too well with those two quiet ladies so I thought...mmmm, this might be trouble. But they ended up sitting beside each other at the table and getting along well enough although I'm not sure if any of us will be seeing the dour woman at any future movie outing. That other woman, the one with the conversational initiative, was quite the conversationalist so our side of the table was doing very well. Then again, Speedy was also doing his best to hold up things on his side of the table.

However, tonight's events do bring one truth about me to the fore. I think I'll only be comfortable in groups which consist of two kinds of people: students and teachers. I know that one half wants to practice their second language so I'm more than happy to listen, and that same half wants to listen to what we teachers have to say since it is good for their comprehension. Everybody is served. However, sad to say, in any party with PH or the Quarterback, I'll always end up being the wallpaper there. I can gather that I will no longer be attending any future BBQs or Thanksgiving parties that PH gives.

I took off about 11:15; a few of us had already flown the coop due to early starts today. I just wanted to be able to catch my last train. And I did. I was able to catch the final subway heading into Chiba. Good thing it was at Takadanobaba since I could grab a seat easily. Since it was a Saturday night, the train got mightily packed around Otemachi and Nihombashi. At Takadanobaba, there was one guy who must have drunk more than his good share of booze since he was rather splayed across one-half of one of the long seats. I was kinda wondering what would happen. I'd half-expected that, knowing this country's commuters, any riders who came on wouldn't dare bother him, even with the crammed conditions at Otemachi. But whether by some assertive commuter or by himself, the man actually did rise up and sit up against the bars near the door before finally getting off at Otemachi himself.

I'm so happy that I put the AC on timer mode. I got home to some pretty nice wintry blasts of air. E-mailwise, I got mail from The Madame and Skippy. Looks like both are good to go for dim sum in a couple of weeks so we have an official event now. I also informed The Satyr of the plan.

I decided to be nice and send The Barmaiden an e-greeting card in the form of congratulations for her graduation from the old school. A pity I couldn't make it out tonight for their event.

And now it's past 3...a whole hour after I'd started this literary auto trip. Guess it's time to call it a morning.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Saturday August 20, 11:04 a.m.

Spent last night watching "The Incredibles" on DVD again. Still a fun movie to watch...lots of heart.

Looks like the dim sum plan is picking up steam. I'm currently "negotiating" between Skippy and The Madame for a date, time and place.

I just heard from The Anime King that Toronto got washed out with a massive thunderstorm. I've sent off a message to my brother to check to see that he's OK. I kinda wish we could get one of those things for Shikoku. I haven't heard any news of any typhoons coming anywhere near us for a few weeks now....very unusual.

Just gotta get prepped for JJ this afternoon, and then I head on off to Shinjuku to meet with Speedy's crew for "Madagascar". Could be a tough slog walking outside today, though.
Friday August 19, 7:37 p.m.

The guy just can't get enough attention. Mr. Horie of Livedoor, Inc. is at it again. The Bill Gates/Donald Trump of Japan wasn't satisfied with having an epic battle against Fuji-TV for a radio station earlier this year. Now he wants to get into politics. He's just announced his candidacy for Hiroshima's 6th Constituency in the General Elections on September 11th.

Another scorcher tomorrow. It's gonna be 34 C. Time to put on the heavy-duty sunscreen.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Friday August 19, 2:47 p.m.

Ay, ay, is a scorcher out there! I took a shower as soon as I got home since I felt like a piece of chewed gum. I cooled off in my air-conditioned living room for a few minutes. But as soon as I got out to the kitchen to get the bottle of chilled green tea, I started sprinkling like a leaky hose. Considering the water shortages out in Shikoku, I'm kinda wondering how the Tokyo water supply is doing.

Had my session with the OL. No problems there. Looks like I won't see her again for a few weeks...close to a month, actually. Then I went to the Ginza to check on those pens that Shard wanted me to find out prices for. There was nothing in his range. The various Namiki and Pilot pens there started from 30,000 yen. On my way to Yamano Music, there was some filming due to start on one of the side streets as trendy dramas usually do. There was the lunchtime crowd standing around with their half-expectant smiles. I saw a filming crew and there was a silver car with some actress I assume waiting for her cue to come out. But she didn't come out and I wasn't willing to melt outside to see who it was so I just slogged my unmerry way to the CD store.

I didn't bother getting anything at Yamano Music after some browsing and cooling off so I just made my way to the Marunouchi Line and hopped the one station to Tokyo. I felt in dire need of some stamina so I had lunch at Akai Noren, that Hakata ramen shop on the 6th floor of the Marunouchi Building (Maru Biru, to the locals). Actually, on my way to the OL I was feeling rather lightheaded so I popped in and drank a vitamin drink. Perhaps I have an iron deficiency. The ramen may have been cholesterol straight to the arteries but it did the trick.

Then I walked over via the underground pass and made my second consecutive trip to Maruzen in as many weeks. No luck in getting that crossword puzzle book. So, just made my way back home in the shimmering heat. Just checked my e-mail right now. Skippy gave a cheerful response back...looks like her moving is almost done and she's interested in the dim sum. I asked her about which days would be good for her. Then, I got word from The Anime King that he had gotten the package. He asked what he could do in return. The light bulb went off in my head and so I asked for some crossword puzzle books to be shipped over.

As I was saying in my last entry, there's this whole business about the announcer class in TV. They are, by profession, professional hosts. However, they also serve very utilitarian roles. They aren't journalists but they often read the news, they aren't singers but they are often called upon to make these jingles or singles to promote the station, and they may not be full-fledged celebs but they are, especially the Fuji-TV cadre, as well known on the tube and in the rags as the comedians and variety show folks. And a number of the female announcers end up getting married to some of those celebs, including sports figures such as Ichiro Suzuki. The Fuji-TV announcers have often capitalized on their status on the top rung by holding an annual show in which several of them get together and hold readings of romantic essays. Methinks they are getting a little swollen and pretentious in their pride. I think that's what happened to that Fuji announcer, Ms. Kikuma, when she solicited that underage band member to go on a drunken rampage. Several years earlier when she had taken that rather dramatic fall on live TV and broke her pelvis, she got so much support from within and without. Over the years, that may have resulted in a bit too buildup for her ego and thus this happens. Now her name is mud and she's nowhere to be seen.

Is it me or is Ewan McGregor just ending up in a lot of mediocre movies this year? "Revenge of the Sith", "Robots", "The Island" and now "Valiant". Perhaps he's finding out how his old buddy, Jude Law, felt last year. Hopefully, he'll get just as much support from Sean Penn on the Oscars next year.
Friday August 19, 8:17 a.m.

Well, back up again after about 6 hours of sleep. Not feeling too bad, though. The coffee certainly helps and I'm sure a cup of joe at Starbucks will just add to the buzz.

Watching Anderson Cooper as the BTK killer finally gets his justice handed to him. Y'know...I've seen all these movie serial killers like Jason and Freddie. Then we have the serial killer as bon vivant, Hannibal Lecter. BTK, Dennis Rader, is the serial killer as nebbishy accountant. But we all know now what he's like on the inside.

On a totally different front, I was watching the morning show on Fuji-TV. In the entertainment section, the female announcer/co-host was revealed to have played as an extra on some sort of upcoming drama written and directed by the Neil Simon of Japan, Koki Mitani (Mitani was the guy behind the original "Shall We Dance?" ).

TV announcers disappeared from Canadian and American screens decades ago. Perhaps the only example left of their ilk is Don Pardo from "Saturday Night Live". However, the announcer is still a vital part of the TV landscape here in Japan. In fact, every TV station from NHK to the smallest town affiliate has its cadre of smiling faces whose job it is to provide a visual vase of flowers and help out with the co-hosting duties on any variety or talk show.

You might say that announcers are another layer of celebrity. Certainly the female ones, I'm sure, have their legion of fans. And they often get as much publicity in the gossip rags and programs as the celebs they're to support. Basically, an announcer is the Chief Petty Officer to the celebrity Captain. While the main host, a popular tarento or commentator, provides his/her opinions, the announcer just nods and agrees soberly while providing a workmanlike summary of the topic or smoothly giving the segue to another topic or part of the program.

The Fuji-TV announcers are the most popular group. For some reason, this network seems to be able to promote their announcers particularly well. They're not quite on a first-name basis with the viewing public like the A-list celebs but their full names can be used and people will note "Ah, yes." Announcers on the other stations can only look on in envy although one or two on TBS and TV-Asahi have made the big time.

But more on the announcers later...I gotta go to work.
Friday August 19, 12:01 a.m.

It was back to the scalding heat and humidity of a regular Tokyo summer yesterday. But thank the heavens I'm not living in Shikoku. Those guys are going through some major drought. There was helicopter footage of the local reservoir: looked like a dry lake bed. And in fact, there was only 5% capacity.

Actually went out into Tokyo on a non-teaching trip. Decided to check out Kinokuniya for the first time in several weeks. Nothing of note there except for the usual overpriced magazines. Then I went to Tower just up the road and picked up a Premiere mag. I figured I deserved some break from my austerity. There was a DVD playing of some sort of Chris Cunningham/Aphex Twin video of a mutant shapeshifting boy...bleech, literally. Then there is the song that may be turning into this year's gimmick tune. It's by some sort of Eastern European band which has concocted this cute technopoppy tune with vaguely Japanese lyrics delivered in Slim Whitman falsetto. The killer thing with it is the video which features crudely animated cute kitties making like drunken salarymen on a bender (I'm NOT on a bender myself describing this). It rather reminds me of a decade ago when the late Scatman John had his juugofun kan of fame with his rap song that year.

I then did a bit of recon to the restaurant where The Madame and I would be having dinner later that night. It's called DINING OUT 53, a higher-class izakaya on the 53rd floor of The Centre Building in West Shinjuku. Once I figured out how to get there from the station, I went back to the station itself and just cruised through the Odakyu Department Store for about an hour before I picked up The Madame at the west gates.

I internally snickered when we got into the place at 6 p.m. I made these reservations for the place since the Internet ad stated that they were necessary but when we got there, the place was virtually deserted. However, we were shown to a nice window side table overlooking Shinjuku east of the station. The sun was setting so we were able to get a nice view going into the evening which was what The Madame wanted to see. I was quite impressed to see how large Shinjuku Gyoen Park really was. The food and drink were actually quite good and the final tab reflected that along with the overhead the izakaya must pay for its place up in the sky. My first and only cocktail of the evening, a Grasshopper, was this tiny little champagne glass of minty cream which went for a solid 1000 yen....20% of my contribution to the bill.

After a couple of hours there, we went for some coffee downstairs. We ended up going to the local Pronto cafe for about an hour. Once again, we went into our usual commiseration of our seemingly perpetual bachelor and bachelorette status. And then I had to open up my big mouth and vomited forth my nonchalance toward cockroaches and the old chestnut of that rat in the izakaya. She was properly disgusted so I sent a letter of semi-apology to her tonight. Well, she might as well know the bad along with the good if she and I are gonna continue our renewed friendship. We did mention about the possibility of us going to Yokohama for dim sum sometime between now and Taiwan. I also sent a note about it to Skippy although it may be awfully tough to swing with both ladies since The Madame works on Sundays and I'm not sure what Skippy's schedule is like.

Well, gotta hit the hay. I've got The OL for her morning class later today. I will be dropping by Maruzen again. I can't believe it but I'm already almost through my crossword book and I just bought the thing last week. Goes to show how fast I can go through puzzles when are no diversions such as magazines or newspapers to read. Not sure if I'll do the gym though.

Corresponded with GC. He's been telling me about these two blogs by a couple of local celebs that are running right now. One is by the Korean-Japanese tarento, Sonim, this young woman who got her break by being this teenage dancer who appeared on a Sunday night variety show several years ago. She's been struggling to make it as a singer but she's had a bit more success as just one of those variety show bodies. The other blog is operated by another young tarento by the name of Eriko Sato. She's strictly a tarento known mostly by her statuesque, well-proportioned body of 173 cm (tall for a Japanese woman). She was also part of a group of well-endowed women called The Yellow Cabs (ouch!) populated by other now-famous tarento like Waka Inoue and MEGUMI. Her biggest claim to fame was her titular role in the live-action version of the old anime "Cutie Honey", but she also opened some eyes when she did tastefully discreet nude shots for a commercial and a feature for the fashion magazine "An-an".

After visiting the two blogs, I just thought, cynically as usual, they were the usual examples of self-promotion and fanboy magnets. GC had wondered about any foreigners who would send messages in English to them. My only impression was what would anyone like me say to them. It's the digital equivalent of me tripping over my tongue trying to say something to Cameron Diaz. I'm sure Diaz would probably just roll her eyes and think, "Another live one..." The distance of relevance between the average person and them would be equivalent to that between our galaxy and Andromeda.

Good night.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Wednesday August 17, 11:26 p.m.

Did my gym thing today. To help out with the workout I did today, I kept my caloric intake rather small at least on the price side of things. One of my major meals merely consisted of a bottle of Gatorade that I got in the gym lounge. I was sorely tempted when I dropped off at the convenience store during the walk home to pick up a microwavable platter of noodles but the angel side of me just weighed too heavily on my shoulder. I gather that he must have had a pretty hefty dinner tonight.

I stayed a lot later than usual after 001's lesson once again due to a soccer game between Japan and Iran. Not quite as exciting as the last game that all of us had seen. There wasn't as much screaming from 001 and The Secretary, and I threatened to nod a couple of times during the second half. But there was a bit more activity in the dying minutes, and the important thing was that the good guys won 2-1. Coach Zico, a former World Cup player for Argentina or Brazil, is starting to approach Shigeo Nagashima of the Tokyo Giants in becoming the nation's beloved sports father figure....or perhaps I exaggerate.

During the intermission, we all found out that Japanese politics got a new party consisting of disgruntled former LDPers who had voted against the Postal Privatization Bill. Called "Kokumin Shin Tou" or The People's New Party, another new political party is something we need like we need a new appendix. Over the last decade, political parties have been forming, merging, breaking up and re-forming like so many paraffin blobs in a lava lamp. It's still all the same. Just take samples from the same dozen words such as "new", "democratic" or "liberal" and mix them about to get a new party name.

Well, it'll be another day off for me tomorrow which is nice, especially since I'll be meeting The Madame for dinner. Hopefully, I will have fulfilled her wish and got those window seats on the 53rd floor of the Shinjuku Centre Building in a swanky izakaya.

On Saturday, I'll be heading out for my first "field trip" of sorts with Speedy's crew. It's another new monthly project in which we all head out for a movie. It'll be "Madagascar" in Shinjuku. Unfortunately, I had to turn down The Okinawan's kind invitation for the grad party for The Barmaiden since she finishes up her time at the old school on Friday. Well, I figure that since I'm no longer welcome there and I had never taught The Barmaiden in her year there, it really wouldn't be too much of a choice to make in any case.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Wednesday August 17, 11:25 a.m.

Woke up an hour later than expected. Most likely meant that I needed the sleep. That was further emphasized by the fact that my alarm clock had been turned off. Unless the Alarm Fairy did the deed, I must've turned it off when it went off but I don't remember any of it.

In any case, I spent a lot of the hour checking up on e-mail. And I found out that there had been a computer worm scourging its way through the Net. It knocked CNN and The New York Times for a loop. But the same sources say the worm targets corporations with Windows 2000 and XP. So I gather my computer is too Neanderthalic to get attacked. Or so I thought. Just in case, I did a Live Update. After several minutes, the Update wouldn't stop even when I pressed the "Cancel" button so now I'm kinda wondering. Then again, my computer's drive is now so wonky that it could just as easily have been the culprit.

I should be heading out for the gym in about 90 minutes then it will be off to teach 001. Hopefully, things will be just as routine as it has been tying this sentence.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Tuesday August 16, 2:35 p.m.

Well, there was some major damage from that quake this morning. Up in Sendai, a ceiling over an indoor pool collapsed injuring about 80 people. Miraculously, there have been no fatalities so far.

That quake and the one that struck Tokyo a few weeks ago got me thinking about what several students have told me about "earthquake clouds". Known as "jishin gumo" over here, I kinda placed the phenomenon in the same well as the Loch Ness Monster and crop circles. However, after checking the Net, apparently there have been academic articles written on the subject so there could be some basis for it. There were even a few pictures of earthquake clouds. As one student put it, it looks like a white snake crawling up the sky. Well, now I know what to look for.

The sky has cleared considerably so I've got my washing machine back at work. I went out for an hour to send out that parcel and then succumb to lunch at the local Lotteria. Looks like dinner will be meat sauce and spaghetti with salad.
Tuesday August 16, 12:05 p.m.

Just 15 minutes ago, I was taking a shower when suddenly I felt the bathtub swerve around me. I initially thought that I had the shower on too hot and the heat was affecting me. Well, sure enough, it was one of them dang tremors bothering us again. It was a Shindo 3 here...a low-moderate shake but the epicenter was 3 hours away by train up in Miyagi Prefecture. That place got royally rocked with a Shindo 6 Minus or an M 7.0.

The tremor went on for several seconds so I turned off the water and waited before I deemed it safe to rinse myself off. Once I dried myself, I turned on NHK and found out indeed there was a major quake. There are even tsunami warnings out for the area. Most of the stations are now broadcasting, except for Fuji-TV and TV Tokyo. Fuji's "Waratte Ii Tomo" still trumps major earthquake coverage although it was generous of the host, the powerful Tamori, to laughingly mention it at the start. Nice of you sir. The show must still go on. But seriously speaking, it looks like it was a pretty widespread tremor. The entire Tohoku region is reading Shindo 4.

I gotta admit that the Japanese are very well heeled when it comes to quakes. As is always the case, the stations have been broadcasting what it was like when the tremor hit the local TV affiliate in Miyagi. No panic...just some guys standing up and trying to keep the shelves standing up. However, Junior from The Company related to me a different angle. He was living in the Kansai area when the Great Hanshin Earthquake wreaked major havoc a decade ago. Now, even if he feels a little tremor, he starts freezing up since that was how the 1995 quake had started.

Ooh, well, look at this. I spoke too soon concerning the power of Tamori. Fuji-TV has broken into live coverage. I'm looking at live coverage from a chopper over Sendai, south of the epicentre. Doesn't look like there has been much damage.
Tuesday August 16, 9:17 a.m.

Well, the rains did come pouring down overnight which may decrease or increase the humidity depending on how the rest of the day goes. It's gonna be a stay-at-home day today just to let my body rest after the workout yesterday. I do have a package to send home to the parentals.

Ah, found out from the Net that one of the key things to losing weight is lots of least 7 hours' worth. Then, I'm in the wrong land and society. My bedroom, even with a fan going on all night, is not cool, and in this country, 6 hours is considered a luxury.

Kinda wondering what I'm gonna be doing for the rest of the day since both the juku and The Beehive are on hiatus. When I start thinking about that, it's time to get back to work. Luckily, I do have that one lesson with 001 tomorrow night.
Monday August 15, 5:50 p.m.

You could've written the word "fountain" on a sign and hung it over my head. It wouldn't have looked out of place at all. I was sweating all over the place at the gym today. Happily, I dumped quite a bit since my last unpleasant surprise. I started at 92 kg and ended up a good kilo down after my exertions. Not too many people there today. I gather that most of the folks are out of town.

It's clouded up a lot since I left this afternoon. Looks like those downpours could be on their way. Nice to have had the day off today.

Earlier this morning, I was listening to one of my J-Pop compilation tapes all the way from '96, the year of the Atlanta Olympics. It was interesting to hear these oldies by these then-hot singers who have pretty much disappeared from the pop culture radar now. But then again, that's true anywhere. It's a very rare thing for any singer or band to have any relevance beyond 5 years, let alone a decade. I think The Rolling Stones and U2 are the winners in that lottery over in the West while perhaps The Southern All Stars and TUBE would be the Japanese representatives.

Anyways, it was interesting to hear artists such as Maki Oguro, TRF and Dreams Come True in their heyday. DCT is still around but isn't the tour de force it once was. And back in 1996, SMAP was only sprouting into the pop cultural conglomerate it now is, most of the Morning Musume were toddling around in elementary school and J-R&B was just represented by one man, Toshinobu Kubota. Back then, Japanese pop music was under the thrall of another guy with the same initials as Kubota: Tetsuya Komuro. His only blip in the West was as the composer of the amped-up theme to "Speed 2". Talk about going down with a sinking ship.

Even before I had come here back in 1994, Tetsuya Komuro was already a prolific songwriter having penned Misato Watanabe's best hit, "My Revolution" some 10 years previously and going on from there. And of course, he had his old job as bouffant-haired keyboardist for 80s techno/rock band, TM Network. But then his big streak in the 90s came when he put together the techno song-and-dance act, TRF, back in 1993. After that, he got Namie Amuro's career off the ground with a similar techno beat. Then, there was Tomomi Kahala, H Jungle with T, Globe and DOS. The Komuro Family was born. In fact, one New Year's Eve, Komuro had his own concert to bring in the New Year with his harem. At that time, NHK's "Kohaku Utagassen" had been usually under siege by a Southern All Stars concert. I wonder how the starched suits in Shibuya HQ must have reacted when Komuro's brand of techno was charging into the battle with SAS' brand of summery rock n' roll.

NHK needn't have worried as The Komuro Family pretty much petered out by the turn of the millenium. TRF petered out, Amuro went on maternity leave, Kahala, a shaky singer at best only helped out by the fact that she'd been Komuro's paramour, went on her own sabbatical to New York and H Jungle with T was just a temporary side project responsible for what I consider to be the worst song ever to make it to No. 1 in that year, "Wow War Tonight" (as an analogy, think about Marisa Tomei's win for Best Supporting Actress in "My Cousin Vinnie"). Globe has actually come back with a single this week but does anyone really think it'll mean a resurgence? Interestingly enough, the lead singer of Globe, Keiko, is now Mrs. Komuro.

Nope, Komuro had his moment in the sun during the mid-to-late 90s. R&B finally made its way into Japan en masse, and on the other end of the spectrum, SMAP exploded all over the place and Sharan-Q's lead singer, Tsunku, became the new Svengali to the unit that would become Morning Musume. The last report I heard was that Komuro was now affiliated as just another employee of Yoshimoto Kogyo, the famed Osaka managment company which churns out all those comedian duos. I never thought humour was one of Komuro's strong points. However, Namie Amuro is back as a dancing hip-pop performer, seemingly perpetually entrenched as a J-diva who'll always spring into the Top 10 with any new single. And as for Tomomi Kahala, she's now a frequent presence on all those variety shows...kinda like dinner show theatre.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Monday August 15, 10:36 a.m.

Another late wake-up call...for those looking up at the time and doing double-takes: yes, 10:30 IS late for me on a weekday. For one thing, I fell prey to the Helsinki bug again. Watched it right to the final event at 3 a.m. live here. Let's see the last three events were the Men's High Jump (enh...although it was nice to see Canada place 2nd) and the Men's/Women's 400 m relay. At least the Men's team won gold for the USA; I saw the other Men's kerfuffle in screwing up the baton pass in the prelims and then I heard about how the women's team destroyed its chances by one member running in the wrong lane.

Currently, I've got this thing called Star Digio on right now on the Sky Perfect. Star Digio is this haphazardly named (digital radio) service having 100 channels playing different kinds of music. I've been rotating amongst the channels for 80s & 90s J-Pop and 80s music. Yesterday may have been another "open house" day for Sky Perfect since the service "unlocked" the weather channels and Star Digio for viewing. However, Star Digio is still on today which makes me wonder if Sky Perfect has decided to make it part of the regular service; it would be a nice addition. Back in Toronto, Rogers has the same thing as part of its basic package.

It looks like another hot one out there although they're forecasting downpours for tonight. The rest of Asia is commemorating the surrender of their former lord and master, Japan, today. Hmmm...I would feel rather sorry for any O-Bon travelers who decided to book tickets to Korea, Shanghai and Singapore right now.
Sunday August 14, 11:57 p.m.

Finally found out that name of that new Russian love child for the Japanese media. Her name is Yelena Isinbayeva (try saying that three times fast after a couple of glasses of vodka...rather, don't), the new world record holder for pole vault at the Helsinki Championships. Seeing the highlights of her run to glory, the announcer for TBS was coughing up his lungs screaming when she got the new record of 5.01 m. One would think that the TBS announcer thought that he was extolling the virtues of a Japanese athlete.

It's been quiet tonight...just how I like it. Cooked up dinner and ironed some clothes. I've been switching between the Helsinki highlights and the news about that airplane that had crashed in Greece.

Will probably head out to the gym tomorrow afternoon. Not quite sure whether the place will be packed with holidaying salarymen or will be completely empty. Still, my O-bon holiday continues...