Saturday, September 10, 2005

Sunday September 11, 12:56 p.m.

Got that massage in. The clinic was pretty sparsely populated today. There wasn't the usual influx of old folks or even middle-aged guys. They were probably out at the polling booths. I had the young fellow rubbing me down (OK...stop snickering). Usually after his sessions, he remarks how knotted up my shoulders are. Well, he put in the word "very" this time. I wasn't surprised. The last few days have been putting me in knots internally.

Just got some groceries for lunch and dinner. I'll probably just clean things up at home. I bought that Haagen-Daas parfait as a treat....I'd better think it as a treat. It cost almost 400 yen!

That TVNewser site is continuing its nearly daily updates on Anderson Cooper's mental health. Now, it's using words such as "existential crisis" to describe the son of Gloria Vanderbilt (only found that out just a few minutes...rather stunned by that revelation, after seeing Mommy Warbucks all these years ago in those commercials). Speaking of the Katrina devastation, apparently the flood waters are being drained a lot faster than expected. I'm not surprised. During the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, the authorities were saying that it could take years...or even decades according to some very pessimistic bring Kobe back to its former glory. Well, Kobe has been back up and running for a number of years now. I can see New Orleans bouncing back itself. Mind you, I think the emergency response to Kobe was somewhat faster.

I've been continuing my exploration of "Orion's Arm". Man, I'm not sure if the contributors are trying to be very serious or flippant about their approach to sci-fi. They go into some head-numbing detail about concepts such as AI Gods and hyperturings. They say they try to eschew everything that's soft about the conventional stuff such as "Star Trek" or "Star Wars" but it's still all technobabble to me. But then once in a while, I see stuff that makes me wonder if Douglas Adams' ghost is adding some of his own "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" spin to the material. Still, it makes for an interesting existential (there goes that word again) walk in the cyberspatial park.
Sunday September 11, 9:28 a.m.

None of the usual solemnities about this date but the US is still going through September 10th. Over here, it is Election Day! According to BBC, the turnout has been "brisk" which is saying quite a lot considering past apathy for voting.

As for me, since I'm not a citizen here, I'm merely an observer of these events. All of the networks will be turning up their engines tonight but in the meantime, it'll be regular programming. It'll just be errand day. I've already had my Sunday breakfast, done the laundry and I'll soon be headed out for my rubdown (dearly needed especially today) and then off to get some new frames for my glasses. I'm still on the old tarnished pair. Although I'm used to it now, this pair is missing an eye pad so the bare metal end has been digging into the left side of my nose.
Saturday September 10, 8:56 p.m.

Finished off my pork kimchi and rice while watching one of the satellite karaoke channels. When I first got Sky Perfect some years ago, I got this karaoke channel thinking, naively, that I would be able to get my favourite songs to croon to on demand. Well, as it turned out, the channel has a fixed schedule of spotlights on certain singers at certain times of the day while the morning is devoted to kiddie music.

However, the nights seem to have more original programming, usually in the form of shows based on stuff like music from the 80s and 70s. Of course, enka has a home here, too. And it was one of those programs I was watching while chowing down. With all the J-Pop, J-R&B and idol stuff now pounding the airwaves, it's refreshing once in a while to hear some of the old-fashioned enka. Brings back memories of yesteryear musically since the early years of my life were spent listening to this stuff on the old Victor stereo. Enka used to be a major part of the music world here for many decades until the very last one of the 20th-century when it finally started shrinking with the invasion of American and dance sounds. Still, although the genre belongs to the middle-aged guy in a suit or the woman in a kimono, there are a few young folks who have surprisingly decided to go the old-fashioned way.

The guy I saw on TV tonight was on a program called Enka O or as it's translated, "The King of Enka". And he was this somewhat androgynous fellow who would look more at home in a visual kei, the Japanese equivalent of glam rock, video. But there he was in concert crooning some new tunes with the usual vibrato and lyrics about lost love and drinking in a Sapporo bar. If he really does become a force in the industry, it would be another welcome shot in the arm since I only know one other guy in his 20s who's become a bona fide enka star, Kiyoshi Hikawa.

I'm not a huge fan of enka although I can appreciate it while being in an izakaya nursing a beer. I don't recall a single CD in my voluminous collection that would be considered an enka CD although I've got some entries in CDs detailing the top hits of certain years. And yet, I wouldn't mind a compilation disc with all of the best stuff. I've got a feeling that enka, like jazz, will never die. It may just occupy a rarefied area of music in which only the true enthusiasts will happily enter like those folks who love cool bop or baroque, but at least it will stay somewhere in the pop cultural conscience.

Earlier in the evening, I was going through "Orion's Arm" for the second time. The site is this very densely plotted and epic attempt to create a history of the future based strictly on hard science (none of these flights of fancy like warp drive or transporters, which is called soft science). Just the facts, ma'am for the multiple contributors. Despite working from this basis, it still manages to make some pretty interesting and intriguing predictions for the next 10 millenia. Very addictive.
Saturday September 10, 5:47 p.m.

The kids were pretty sleepy today. Kinda blah actually. But we managed to survive. Afterward, I headed to the mall at Kiba for lunch. The food court was tons more crowded than it was during my last trip there during O-Bon. Somehow I managed to get my KFC and get a table. JJ was her usual bubbly self. Had a heckuva time trying to get through Third Conditional but then again most students do..not an easy structure for a non-native speaker of English.

Just want to unwind tonight. I may be rather busy tomorrow getting stuff.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Saturday September 10, 6:42 a.m.

Another early day, another day at the kids'.

Got all my planning done last night so I'm not too worried about that. But I will have to be doing a bunch of photocopying at the nearby convenience store.

I see that Michael Brown of FEMA has been recalled to Washington from the disaster area. I figure that's a good move on the government's part since in a way it would be saving Brown's life. If the VP can get heckled incessantly during his little trip to Mississippi, I can only imagine what people would like to do to the FEMA director.
Friday September 9, 7:40 p.m.

Land O'Goshen! Will wonders never cease! The garbage area downstairs is no longer a cesspool. Someone actually bagged all the sludge from the past 8 weeks and then it got collected. The pit is now empty. I won't need to hold my breath whenever I leave and come home.

My lesson with The Teacher was quite interesting today. We spoke somewhat on Nagisa Oshima's "In The Realm of the Senses" or as it is known here in Japan "Ai No Corrida" (yes, the same title as the Quincy Jones disco hit from idea why composer Chaz Jankel named it after the movie). The movie is or was controversial when it was released in the 70s due to its explicit pornographic tale on the real-life story of sociopathic Sada Abe who had a very torrid affair with a man before strangling him to death and slicing off his penis as a memento.

Another topic was, strangely enough, "Space Cruiser Yamato", that classic Reiji Matsumoto anime which was known as "Star Blazers" back Stateside. The Teacher was surprised that it had been shown during my salad days as a youth in Canada. And then, her topic was on the sad "gentrification" of Akihabara. We went through an article from the Net which stated that developers via the cops were now executing a plan to clean out the famed electronics district of all its grime and otaku so that it would take on a cleaner look of a Silicon Valley. I have seen the construction of two huge skyscrapers (almost like the legs of a Gundam robot) and the opening of an express train running from here to Tsukuba, the science town famous for hosting the 1985 Expo. And then next week will be the grand opening of a humongous Yodobashi Camera just outside of the immediate Akihabara strip. This place easily looks like it wants to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. But I had no idea that all of these things were part of a conspiracy to leach Akiba of its strange flavour. Police are now actually breaking up those street-dancing performers in anime dress much to the chagrin of the appreciative otaku. These are the same performers whom I saw and reported some months ago. And they're all gonna be gone very soon. The author of the article predicts that the whole area may be otaku-free by mid-Fall. I also mentioned that when I passed by one of the skyscrapers, there were several non-Akiba like shops such as a Starbucks and other esthetically pleasing establishments. I have no idea what's to become of the maid bars.

I'm a bit disturbed by this plan of action in Akihabara. Yep, sure, there will be plenty of people happy with the gentrification since it will mean that the otaku, seen by them as very disturbed folks, will have to either find new places to haunt or go underground. Also, the cleanup will probably mean that a lot of the extreme forms of pornography will disappear. However, I still think there will be a dear cost in terms of the pop cultural aspect. Akihabara as it is (and will be for at least a few more weeks) is unique in the world as a headquarters for all things anime and manga and the genre of people known as otaku. I'm not trying to say that it should be made into a heritage site or anything but I think it's still a shame that a unique part of contemporary Japanese culture will be transformed into another nice and clean commercial district. There are plenty of those in Tokyo but only one Akiba. I guess then that book on Akihabara that I bought a few weeks ago will take on a sudden poignancy. I will mourn.

Well, in any case, after The Teacher, I went off to Shinjuku's Kinokuniya to find a text that would help the little sister's progress. I found the most updated version of New Interchange. It's the Pre-Beginner level so supposedly it's even lower than the version I use with people like MK and The New Yorker. However, the pics and the exercises look ideal for an 11-year-old kid. I also got that copy of Passport so that Speedy and I don't suffer any more incidents like the one from a couple of days ago.

I had another long session with SR at the Tea Room today. But I was able to get some lunch there on her tab as well. We only chatted...didn't touch on any of the grammar stuff but I did give her homework for next month. The next time I'll see her will be after Taiwan.

I finally got word from the juku boss. She was shocked at my two messages but she says she understands and hopes that I will continue to keep in contact with her as a friend. I suddenly felt a twinge of sadness when I read that. The fact that she wrote her reply in Japanese instead of her usual fractured English got me a little guilty as well. Sigh...I really don't want to have to leave the juku.

Well, in any case, I have to have my dinner and then get on with the lesson planning for the kids and JJ tomorrow.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Friday September 9, 8:46 a.m.

Is it me or is Anderson Cooper starting to channel Martin Sheen's character in "Apocalypse Now" and New Orleans is playing Vietnam? It is getting very surreal and the journalist is going native.

Got another e-mail from Speedy in what I hope is the last contribution to this silly thing about the texts just now. He's quite the volleyball player when it comes to messages. He replies to just about every little thing. I used to do that quite a bit, too, but I've weaned myself off the habit in recent years. Anyways, apparently, the other day he also had even more of an emergency when one of his other teachers accidentally went home with Speedy's apartment keys, and the teacher lives in my neck of the woods...a good hour's subway ride away.

I sent word to Paddy about my visa situation just because I thought he would like to know. I have yet to find out anything from the juku boss. Hmmm....

Still thinking about the next few months and what I'll have to do. It's looking increasingly likely that I'll need a miracle to maintain this current lifestyle...but perhaps change is the best thing.
Thursday September 8, 7:17 p.m.

Rushed off to Speedy's and got those books back to him. Luckily, he took the screwup well. But I'm gonna have to get my own copy of the text for 002's classes since I think this will happen again. Speedy asked me again about my decision concerning my visa but I couldn't really give him anything. I mean, there really isn't anything to be said...I gotta get a full-time job if I'm to retain my status here. I've yet to hear anything from the juku boss and she's usually quite prompt about replying. A bit worried there. If I don't hear anything soon, I'll have to start giving the bad news to everyone in a couple of weeks.

NHK's been doing its own on-site coverage of the aftermath of a major storm. Typhoon 14 doesn't compare to the death and destruction of Katrina but it still left quite a few casualties and destroyed property throughout the country. The network has also covered the 400th career home run of Hideki Matsui just now.

My lesson with The New Yorker was interesting. She told me that she'd just broken up with her boyfriend of 8 years, and she's now in the middle of getting things packed up to move back to her parents in Ibaraki Prefecture after her shack-up with her ex-beau. Never heard a peep about this boyfriend which seems to be par for the course when it comes to women here. They're quite expert at compartmentalizing the various parts of their social lives. Skippy, for example, didn't even mention a single bit about her boyfriend until way after she'd graduated from the school.

Finally finished "Ringworld" on the subway today. At first, I'd thought the characterizations were pretty thin but they deepened a little later on. I found the lead character of Louis Wu to be the glue holding the group together and also to be a bit of a jerk at the same time. I was surprised that the novel got a whole slew of sci-fi awards including the Hugo and the Nebula. I didn't think it was that amazing but then again Larry Niven probably was the first guy to develop what a ringworld would look like in detail. In any case, I still have a better impression of this novel than I did with J.D. Salinger's "Catcher In The Rye". That novel just didn't work for me...probably a product of its times. Talk about damning with faint praise.

Currently watching the Japanese version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" I'm surprised that the show has lasted this long. I think it's been about 3 or 4 years since it came to our shores. Initially, like the original version with Regis Philbin, the show had regular citizens but it soon reverted to type and is now just showcasing celebs instead. Civilians just aren't charismatic enough here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Thursday September 8, 1:13 p.m.

Looks like my week of annoying luck (or maybe I should really upgrade it to bad luck) continues. I may be in the doghouse with Speedy since I accidentally brought home some texts that he needed for his lesson right now. I got an SOS from him via phone message and e-mail. Just a lousy habit I've got. I just hate myself sometimes. Well, it's too late for his class today but I'll have to bring them over to him tonight after The New Yorker.
Thursday September 8, 11:20 a.m.

After all that typhoon stuff from early this week, it's a bit "refreshing" to see the skies clear and sunny. However, I'd like to complain to room service about the temperatures. At least, I have the chance to air out the mattress and do the laundry.

It'll be a quiet day workwise. Just have The New Yorker for her 4 o'clock. But I'm still thinking about what to do with the younger sister on Saturday. She's getting a bit old for the kiddie books but I don't think she's quite ready for my usual texts ("So, little one, can you repeat 'Does that include utilities?'"). I'll take a look around the Net for some ideas and take a look at the Shinjuku branch of Kinokuniya tomorrow between The Teacher and SR, but I have a feeling that a lot of the new regimen will be homegrown. Not a bad challenge.

With all of the Katrina coverage I've been watching, I've barely seen any of the local coverage. Not even sure about what's been happening with the election campaign although NHK has been giving air time to the various parties during the early morning and late evening hours.
Thursday September 8, 12:17 a.m.

Well, I had half-expected it but when the news came, it still left me a bit lost and saddened. This morning, I went to meet Paddy's acquaintance, an immigration lawyer, about the possibilities of getting my Permanent Residency. She told me that if I can get all the necessary documents amassed then I would be scot-free. I had already achieved the other major condition: to exist here for over a decade. The only catch: even if I threw in the whole package to Immigration in the morning, it would still take at least 6 months for the whole kit and kaboodle to be processed. And just because it's in processing doesn't mean that I'll get an extension on my current visa. I will still need to extend it...which will mean that I'll have to give up the life and students that I've been enjoying for the past few years. I gotta have a full-time job for any company to sponsor me.

On a day that was exercising some major wind power, I went over to Speedy's some 4 hours before 002's lesson. I told Speedy about my situation. And we rather mulled over the probabilities but the fact is that he can't really help me since his company is still a newborn and financially as shaky. He can't afford to give me a full-time position. I even contacted the immigration lawyer again via e-mail to pose her a question from Speedy about some loophole. She wasn't too optimistic.

As anyone would scold me, I should have seen this coming earlier and done something about it. But frankly, I'm just not one of those guys who can really see the big picture or the long-term goal. What am I gonna do when I retire? Can I just continue teaching English for the rest of my working life? Will I die alone here? Who knows? I don't have this map in my head to tell me where I will be going. But one thing is clear...because of my inaction, almost all of my students will be affected in one way or another. Most likely, I'll have to start scouring The Japan Times Monday ads again for the first time in 8 years.

At this point, I've only told Speedy and I've sent off a message to the juku boss. She will definitely not be happy. Part of the reason I did this was a Hail Mary attempt to see if she could come to my rescue in any way but I doubt it's gonna work. I didn't tell 001 and 002 but the day will most likely come soon. I ended up staying over at the school for several hours due to my very early arrival and the fact that Speedy invited me to have pizza with his wife and the graphic designer responsible for whipping up the company stationery and mugs. It was a pleasant if subdued dinner in the lounge...just perfect for my mood.

The Carolinan just contacted me right now. Looks like she'll be a scratch for later today due to the big move of her office. I'll just be seeing her sister in the late afternoon. Some sleep will be nice right about now.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Wednesday September 7, 7:38 a.m.

Woke up to some sun streaming into my room. And yet, we're still forecast for some rain later today.

I was reading on TVNewser, my most recent acquistion for my Favorites LIst, the latest article which asked the question on why if Anderson Cooper is talking about so many bodies being seen, why aren't they being shown on TV. I didn't get the impression that the author was intimating that Anderson and his colleagues were either lying or exaggerating about the body count. Perhaps he was intimating that such grisly sights need to be shown to really stress the impact of this storm. Well, of course I'm speculating on speculation but I think that the impact of the storm has been made quite well not just in the States but worldwide. Plus, there have been some bodies shown on Anderson and in reports on some of the other shows on CNN although I'm not sure what the policy is on the American networks. I think even in these days when kids would just scoff at the scenes in the very first "Alien" or "Friday the 13th", there is just something about seeing real bodies, bloated and rotting in the hot sun, that would still make a lot of folks squirm if not scream. And believe me, after having the unfortunate curiosity to page through one of those bizarro magazines at HMV detailing grisly death scenes, I think we can be spared the sight of additional bodies and just take Anderson's word for it.

Speaking of disasters, and forgive me for the very rough segue, I heard that on the upcoming Emmys on September 18th, a number of actors and actresses will be paying tribute to theme songs of the past including William Shatner doing his version of the "Star Trek" song. This could rate on the scale of the Rob Lowe/Snow White fiasco.

I received word from The Barmaiden who has just come back from her trip to the World Expo in Aichi Prefecture (there was a World Expo? Who knew?). She had some major gripes about having to line up for hours to get into pavilions to walk around in for a fraction of that time. She made the point that the Japanese seem to have too much patience to wait in queues. Yup, the locals do like their lineups. Whether it be for the most popular restaurants, big sales or overrated expos, the Japanese don't seem to mind whiling away time that could be put to better use. Perhaps there is a feeling that if so many people are lining up for so long, then the purpose for all this queueing up is well worth it. I wouldn't be too sure about that. I know that one of Chip Guy's big peeves about living in this country was the willingness of citizens to line up for hours to get that table in that rumoured Italian restaurant or kaiten sushi bar. His belief is that no restaurant is worth that much love. He has a least when it comes to Italian restaurants and sushi bars, one just has to spit in this burg and the wad would probably hit either type.
Tuesday September 6, 11:45 p.m.

Not quite sure how that typhoon is faring right now. I'm not sure how Tokyo will fare tomorrow morning.

My juku night was a bit off on all corners. I should've kept to the Eiken for The New Kid, The Beauty Pair seemed a little quiet tonight, I had to do a balancing act between The Milds and McGirl to the extent that I nearly crossed the line of favoritism to the latter's side, and The Siberian is still a tough slog. Man, he was sweating like a pig tonight due to the humidity. Just not quite sure what to do with him. He's becoming the poster child of the slogan "Teachers make the worst students". Just doesn't give out a whole lot despite his increased fluency when it comes to conversing.

Once again, the boss, The Siberian and I ended up staying a full half-hour after class chatting. Well, it was more the boss chatting at us. She was talking about the whys and wherefores of running a juku and in the midst of that, she explained how grateful she was that I was working there since I'm still quite the popular one when it comes to teaching English. It was a nice thing to hear since I'm always concerned about how I complete my job. She mentioned that more important than knowing my craft, it was my general approach as a humourous and humane teacher that's gotten me the success I have...or so it's assumed. I'm not sure if that really made The Siberian think a bit more about his lessons with me. Even at his early age and experience, teachers can be pretty set in their ways. In any case, the boss also relayed to me about that company guy whom I helped some months earlier concerning his contract. It looks like he has hit a snag with it. I could've told him the first time that his contract suffered from overly heavy use of legalese. I contacted him by e-mail tonight to see if we can meet sometime in the next few nights.

M+M, or one of them, contacted me tonight about our next session. It'll be sometime next month. I can't be sure about my schedule so far in advance but I can sure try to accomodate them.

It was unbelievable but when I got home it was actually cooler inside than it was outside. I'm still not totally convinced but apparently when I shut down my air conditioner before leaving for the juku, the cold air held its ground for several hours inside the apartment.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Tuesday September 6, 1:51 p.m.

Just watched the news about Fidel Castro's offer of help to the US concerning Katrina. When I first heard of this news last week, I was just floored. An avowed foe of the States not only offering help to its enemy but also having people stand up for a minute of silence? Cats and dogs must be living with each other. Then I saw the footage just now of Castro in front of a reported 1500 doctors with backpacks just ready to go as soon as ol' Bush gives the say-so. Then I said "Wait a minute here" with the sneer that usually comes across my face. Do I sense a bit of political theatre? It's no wonder that the White House hasn't said a thing publicly. Part of me, though, still thinks that Bush should swallow his pride and let the Cubans in. I'm sure Castro has some sort of deviousness up his sleeve but if it can save people's lives on the Gulf Coast, then I'm sure everyone except for the most extreme of right-wingers will be quite happy.
Tuesday September 6, 1:21 p.m.

Looks like another annoying luck day. Not bad luck, just annoying. I accidentally dropped an umbrella near a guy at Tsudanuma harm done but annoying. I place the same umbrella by a stack of flourescent lamps set to be installed. At the same time, the JR staffer comes by to pick some of them up, gotta move the brolley right away...annoying. And then I drop a platter of supermarket kimchi pork on rice outside thereby wasting 400 yen...well, maybe that was bad luck. I should've realized something when I saw the cost of my groceries come up to 1333 yen. Mind you, it could've been worse, I guess. The bill could have been 20 yen less.

It was a steady spritzer this morning on the way over to the Beehive but the rain has stopped for now. Only a few Bees today...well, actually we were just missing two of them: Mrs Perth and Mrs Travel but they're two of the most vocal members. Actually, everyone is pretty vocal. Mrs. Tee was her usual down-on-herself self. She's got a major house remodeling project underway which is depressing her no end. I always have to be careful that she doesn't completely drain the life out of the room. Mrs Alps was her usual happy self and Mrs Tulip was steady and armed with her e-dictionary just in case of any vocabulary emergencies. And the long-absent Mrs. Jade was back. She'd had a rather busy tough patch earlier in the year since her family was in official mourning after the death of her father-in-law. But the ready smile was back on her face and the others mentioned that she looked rather radiant today. It also helped her cause that her son got officially engaged.

Things seem to be slowly getting back to some sense of normalcy on the news after exactly a week of Live From New Orleans. General Honore is bringing law and order, FEMA and dozens of US agencies are finally getting something done, and CNN reporters are getting less strident. And the network is slowly looking at other disasters around the world: a theatre stampede in Egypt and a plane crash in Southeast Asia.
Monday September 5, 11:06 p.m.

Got word from The Madame and Skippy about their trips home after they had left me on the Yamanote last night. At the time, a driving rain had just started. Skippy was OK since her father came and picked her up in the car but The Madame got a bit of an ankle-soaking walking home. Looks like things got pretty serious last night. There was an area of Tokyo in which some houses got flooded all the way up to the ceiling of the first floor. Right now, Typhoon 14 is hitting Kagoshima on the south end of Japan. It's pretty darn powerful but according to the charts, it looks like it will skirt north of us although we'll probably still get our share of rain on Wednesday.

Had my longest day of the week starting with The Class Act. The Lady is still pretty adamant about the "horrible" service at Sadler last Thursday. To quote Movie Buddy on his opinion of "Revenge of the Sith", he and the other critics must have been watching different movies. And so I wonder if she and I were dining at different restaurants. In any case, neither of us will ever go back there again. In her case, it is out of choice. SIL was fine as usual. And once again, I just had the one student at The Company. And once again, things were better since we went piecemeal over the material instead of having to tackle the conversation in the text cold.

Then I met up with The Poppy at the local Denny's. We had a good time chatting and studying...mostly the latter. I think that's the way we'll probably have our occasional lessons. I won't be seeing her for an entire month since she's unavailable next week and the next two Mondays are occupied by a national holiday and my first day into Taiwan respectively. Man, does she like her older men. She's always had a thing for these actors, Japanese and Western, who are well into their 40s such as Gary Oldman. All I can say is that one of those celebs ought to make tracks for her right now since some of them seem to enjoy "robbing the cradle".

Speedy got back to me after I'd sent that half-apologetic thank you last night. He was pretty neutral. Didn't mention anything about what I'd said about that overagressive girl but thanked me for coming out. Well, I think all I'll do now is just take that shower and make those final comments for The Poppy before retiring. I'll try and get some of the ironing done tomorrow morning before I have my first lesson with The Beehive in several weeks.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Monday September 5, 7:32 a.m.

Well, we certainly got the month's worth of rain last night. I wasn't aware that the rain caused so much misery until I turned on NHK just before hitting the hay and seeing all these bulletins come up. Apparently, a number of homes in Saitama and other suburban areas had to be evacuated. And we still have Typhoon 14 due for touchdown this Wednesday although I think the effect won't be as bad as Typhoon 11.

Still haven't gotten onto the lesson planning. Will be doing that very soon.
Sunday September 4, 8:44 a.m.

Doesn't look too sunny right now out there. And there's rain threatening for tonight's cruise although NHK says that it won't come until after 9 p.m. I'm crossing my fingers although my brain says to expect the worst.

I got word from The Ballerina. She's been busy with her job up in the sky. Not surprisingly, she won't know her schedule for late October...when The Lady and SIL fly off to London...for several weeks but she was kind enough to say that she'd let me know if and when she gets that flight.

With all the news from the States over the past week, I haven't heard much from Japanese news but something that just came in over the radar was the discovery of remains of two Japanese tourists in Afghanistan. They could only be identified through dental records. I'm not sure if they were victims of an accident or the Taliban. One other reason that I haven't been keeping myself updated with the local stuff is that much of it is on the election campaign. If you've been here as long as I have, you'll know that it's all just the usual stentorian blather: we are better than they are, we'll get the country going right again. I've seen a few of the roving vans out there with the megaphones blaring out the candidates' names incessantly and the waving white-gloved hands...a great example of political irony.
Sunday September 4, 11:52 p.m.

It was a fun-filled Sunday for the most part; quite different from the past few Sundays had been spent at home. I met up with The Madame, The Satryr and Skippy at Ueno Station for dim sum. There was a place across the station called Bamboo Garden which sounds more Chinatown-like than Chinese. The entire place was this glass and chrome structure which stuck out incongruously against the old decrepit buildings bracketing Ueno Park. But it was in keeping with the recently remodeled station,

Dim sum in Tokyo is not like dim sum back in Toronto. That is, to say, restaurants don't have these old waitresses pushing carts yelling their wares in Cantonese or Mandarin. Basically, it's just a set course with X number of bamboo steamers. Ours cost 2000 yen per person. The food was pretty good. It was basically the old regulars such as siu mai, sho ron po and gyoza. Certainly the conversation was entertaining enough. The Satryr and I once again got into cinema class mode which often left the ladies in the dust. However, we steered the conversation back into more familiar territory for them. And of course, the ladies always seem to have the knack to get into some rather off-color topics of a sexual nature. Not that I'm complaining too much.

Afterwards, the four of us continued our conversation at a cafe in Ueno Station itself. Once again, we managed to get into some rather intriguing topics such as the uselessness of some of the settings on the bidet-like controls of modern toilet seats. Let's say we found out a little too much information about the Madame in that one. The Satyr had to make his way home so the three of us remaining continued to chat for just a little while longer before we went on to our next destination.

We all made our way down to Takeshiba Pier and met up with Speedy and his gang for that big cruise through Tokyo Bay. There was already a very sizable lineup for the ship with an hour to go before boarding. Quite a lot of folks in their yukata since yukata wearers got a 1000 yen off. Finally, at about 7 the gates opened and we boarded this surprisingly large liner. It wasn't exactly the Queen Elizabeth II but it was definitely no tugboat either. And it did manage to fit all 500 passengers pretty easily.

I found out that this cruise thing is a nightly activity that's been going on since the end of July. With all of the frolicking that took place and in such numbers, I initially thought it was just a one-off special. Each of the four decks had different types of food selling, and the alcohol was freely flowing. We all had a great time and I was personally grateful to the weather for not literally raining on our least not until we were on our way home. It was quite gusty, though, which made The Madame, Skippy and me squint a lot during the initial minutes of our 1h45min cruise. There was a lot of food such as sushi, yakitori, Korean fare and even Turkish doner kebab being bandied about while some summertime J-Pop of yesterday was blaring on the speakers. Our sizable group was up on the top deck so we had the greatest view as our ship sailed at quite a fast clip. We passed by the bright lights of Odaiba across the bay and then we ended up into some lightless black zone which made me shudder a bit before we turned around and headed back to port.

With our group, there was that rather portly young lady who was with the movie crowd a couple of weeks earlier in Shinjuku. I think it was part alcohol and partly a personal interest in me but in the last leg of the sail, she was trying to strike up a lot of conversation with me and at one point, she wrested me from my talk with The Madame and Skippy to introduce me to a former working-holiday visa guy who had spent a year in Toronto...15 years ago. We had a mutual acquaintance in the form of a guy whose friendship I dissolved several years ago for various reasons I prefer not to go into. Of course, I was polite and didn't say anything about that but that young lady kept bringing up that point just so that she could keep the two of us in the circle. Both she and Speedy tried to get me and my two female companions to go to the second party of karaoke at a building next to the port but we politely declined. For me, I have classes to teach tomorrow, something that I have yet to start planning. However, another part of it was that I just wanted to get out of that lady's gunsights. She's a nice girl and all, and I do remember stating that she was a decent person to actually strike up conversations with everyone at the movie night, but I think she just got a little too agressive that night. So the three of us just silently crept away when we finally docked, something that in retrospect that I feel a little guilty about since I didn't get a chance to thank Speedy and his friend for inviting us to the cruise in the first place. I did send him a thank-you e-mail just now, though.

Once we made our escape, the three of us decided to have a final coffee at a Starbucks in Shimbashi Station before we got on the Yamanote Line. Just a few stations before we got to our respective destinations, the skies opened up and hammered us. When I got off at my station an hour later, it had rained according to the watermarks and drying puddles of water. But thunder and flashes of lightning were rumbling about as I walked home. Just now, there was a rather intense squall followed by some steady shower activity.

I realized I gave that lady my e-mail address and phone number. Ah well...