Saturday, November 05, 2005

Sunday November 6, 12:30 p.m.

I was watching the digest version of the week's "Waratte Ii Tomo", Tamori's flagship program, on Fuji-TV from the comfort of my own futon when I decided to do some channel surfing during the commercial break. I came across NHK and, lo and behold, there was the chairman of the network himself, Mr. Hashimoto, making yet another public apology at around 11 a.m. I thought, "Ach, here we go again...another employee making off with the money" and quickly turned back to Fuji. Later on, when I checked another station's newsbreak, I found out that it wasn't a case of embezzlement after all. One of NHK's reporters, a Mr. Kasamatsu, had been arrested for serial arson; it seems like he wasn't just covering fires. Apparently, Kasamatsu admitted that he had some issues to sort out. But once again, I've seen another example of how the top guy of an organization takes it on the chin for the malfeasances of a lower-ranked cog.

Well, still haven't even started on breakfast. And it's past lunch time. Still, I plan to have my bacon, eggs and pancakes. Looking decidedly gloomy out there. Happy to say, though, that my apartment is reading a comfy 21 degrees C without any need for a heater. That could change once December rolls around but in the meantime I'm hoping that my electric bill will be lower this month.
Saturday November 5, 6:10 p.m.

Cleaned up the place as best I could. I finally did some good with my bedroom. Amazing the stuff that can collect on a floor after several weeks.

As I was heading out to the supermarket, I checked my mailbox. That Immigration postcard has finally arrived but there was also a letter from my apartment management company. I decided to pick them up later after I got back but it was a pretty tense 15 minutes doing the shopping. It wasn't the postcard that got me tensed up. The envelope from the management company had a distinctly yellow cast and I saw the kanji for "not" which got me worried. I spent those minutes outside wondering if I had paid my rent. Then, thoughts of my apartment being demolished and being thrown out on my ear came to mind.

As it turned out, the company just wanted me to renew my insurance policy for the apartment and I got a little piece of oil paper (it's supposed to suck up the oil from one's face through some sort of secret process). So that was a sigh of relief. However, I have to inform The Matron and her husband about the postcard and see if either one of them can accompany me on either Wednesday or Friday morning to check on my fate. I'll probably send a fax tonight or tomorrow.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Saturday November 5, 1:10 p.m.

I see that just a few hours into my lesson-free weekend, I'm already getting a bit peckish for something to do. Yup, I know...I have to do the cleaning but that never really goes into the category of "Things I Wanna Do". So I'm doing another entry.

I made the reservations for Creambath Ebisu for The Madame and myself. Now, before all of you out there get some rather devious thoughts...Creambath Ebisu is not a love hotel or someplace involving a bath and lots of cream. Actually, I may have mentioned it last year since that was my first visit to the place. That first time was a bit of an initial disconnect for me and perhaps the manager of the place. For one thing, I got there an hour before the place opened since my pamphlet was an old one and the opening time was actually bumped later by an hour. For another, I was dressed like a bloody otaku...not exactly the greatest impression to give to a staff of an establishment designed to lend healing and beauty. Then again, the manager should have taken my case as the ultimate challenge.

Once again, I've gone off on a perpendicular tangent. To get back, Creambath Ebisu is a spa in the somewhat schizophrenic area of Ebisu (tony restaurants and apartments/some grungy elements on street level) which offers scalp massages at a not-so-cheap price. Apparently this particular type of massage comes from Bali (and considering recent political conditions there, perhaps a lot of the Japanese will probably come to this place as a safe substitute) and the representative photo shows some woman with her long hair all creamed up into a statuesque column with some sort of cold stuff infusing good healthy stuff like aloe vera or carrots. Salad for the scalp...who knew?

This time, I made the reservations on the phone instead of SR, who had first recommended the place, doing it. I've never been very comfortable about handling reservations in Japanese but the lady on the other end made it quite simple. I just gave her the time and day plus the course. So it's a done deal as long as The Madame doesn't suddenly do a pullout or I have to head over to Immigration.

I've got the TV onto a regular TBS Saturday talk-variety show called "The King's Brunch". For a brief time some years ago, I was a pretty dedicated viewer of this program which went into the latest fads, restaurants, movies and TV shows but with the kids' classes and the novelty wearing off, I've gone onto other things. Still, the feature ( or "corner", as they put it here) right now is on the most popular foreign, namely American, TV shows in Japan. It's been amazing how popular these shows have become in the DVD rental shops recently. One would have thought that shows like "Friends" or "Sex And The City" would just go directly onto prime time. But I think despite the popularity, the programs themselves would still just claim only a relative fraction of the viewing audience here in Japan. Plus, the TV industry became fully foreign-proof with its own variety shows and trendy dramas decades ago after some very early adoption of shows like "Bewitched" and "Nanny and the Professor". Anyways, right now, the Number One foreign show here is "Sex And The City".

Mind you, some shows have actually gotten themselves inserted into the viewing schedule on the regular channels although of course not during the peak times of 7-10. "The West Wing" and perennial favourite "ER" are on NHK, and TV Tokyo has had regular US programming during the lunch break hour so stuff like "Nash Bridges" and "The Adventures of Lois and Clark" can actually entertain those office ladies and salarymen while they nosh on their bentos. Fuji-TV annually has shown "24" for two hours in the wee hours of the morning every night for a period of 2 weeks. That's great for the night owl set or for those who have the timer setting on their VCRs (Japan has yet to discover the wonders of TiVo).

Well, I think it is time that I get off.
Saturday November 5, 11:49 a.m.

Glorious to have 8 hours of sleep! I got up not because I had to but actually because I wanted to. Not a feeling I've had in quite a while.

I've been relatively lucky with the cold so far. Back on late Sunday and early Monday, I had to struggle with the onset of one but after taking those two doses of Benza Block, I've been doing OK for the week. I'm a bit sniffly right now but that could be just from the usual dust that infests my apartment.

Not much to say on this side of the Pacific. JJ sent me a message about the next lesson. I've slotted her in for the 19th. So, unlike today, the rest of my Saturdays in November will be quite busy with lessons. However, as for today, I'll probably get some cleaning done and then get some groceries for dinner. I plan to have my Canadian breakfast for tomorrow.
Friday November 4, 9:35 p.m.

Managed to get through all four of my stops without too much of a problem. The Teacher once again focused on a Charles Jenkins article which was quite interesting since it showed excerpts from his book describing his first meeting, courtship and eventual marriage with Japanese abductee, Hitomi Soga.

Then it was out to the other side of the city to drop off that book at Speedys. He wasn't in; it was another trade fair that kept him busy. After that I made it out to The Tea Room for SR. Her pregnancy is coming along but things at her company are still pretty rocky. She even showed me what was a very thick envelope carrying the notice from America announcing the official news of the bankruptcy. Since SR's knowledge of legalese is minimal, she wasn't quite sure what to make of it until I took a look. Even my eyes instinctively glazed over after reading a few lines but I got the gist of it to reassure her that the letter was just a formal announcement of news that she had already known for weeks.

Finally, it was down to the Toranomon Starbucks for The OL. Apparently, she had taken a day off today from work. I had no sooner parked my wide carcass into my seat with my Tazo Chai Tea Latte and Lemon Cake when I got that familiar hello. The OL has got a major entrance exam tomorrow for entrance into a big university which could mean that she can escape into academia for a few years from the not-so-happy confines of her current company.

Well, I got a rare full weekend off from tomorrow. The kids aren't available and JJ hasn't come back to me about a lesson. I haven't even heard from the ailing GS about our first official lesson. Perhaps she's changed her mind. Not to worry...I'm just gonna enjoy sleeping in and basking on the sofa.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Friday November 4, 9:00 a.m.

TVNewser seems to be painting Aaron Brown as the runt of the litter who's been kicked out and Anderson Cooper as the bully. Obviously, the website isn't immune to sensationalism either. Look, it's a pity that Brown had to leave. I did like him on "Newsnight" by himself and I think that the 2-hour merger between him and Cooper was more like oil and water than fire and ice. And maybe President Jon Klein is just cleaning house a little too enthusiastically. However, Brown isn't exactly in dire straits in terms of future prospects and Cooper hasn't done anything to deserve the enemy status he seems to be getting. I'm sure that there was a good deal of discussion between Klein and Brown before the end came. But that's the way it goes in this business or any business. Let's move on...

Perhaps what everyone at TV Newser and CNN needs is to thwack a futon. Yep, that's right...thwack a futon. We do that over here on sunny days. In the nation famous for robotic pets and Playstation, much of the local population still dries wet laundry on the clothesline instead of the usual dryer-and-fabric softener sheet treatment. And we hang out our mattresses on the balcony railing. We let the things air out there for a few hours in the sunlight and occasionally thwack it with a...futon thwacker. Got a lot of stress? Just thwack the living daylights out of your futon. You'd be surprised at how much better you feel and your futon gets a lot fluffier and a lot less dustier. I'm surprised...and somewhat how much stuff just flies out into the air after I beat the futon. Up until a few months ago, I was thwacking no less than 3 mattresses, two of which I'd had since I moved in here 11 years ago. That was a little too long for them. Experts say that the average mattress has a lifetime of 8 or 9 years tops. My two guys were looking distinctly flat and ratty. I wouldn't have been surprised if there had been a lost civilization of mites inside those things. Much better just to thwack the lone younger and healthier futon.

As for the rest of my day. It'll be a full-up Friday. I've got The Teacher, then I have to run out to Speedys to return a text before seeing SR and then finally The OL.
Thursday November 3, 8:30 p.m.

Well, I declare tonight's ma bo dofu a success...almost one anyways. I didn't put enough cornstarch so it ended up a bit too liquidy. However, the taste was there and more importantly, I didn't blow out my tastebuds. I was able to hold back on the ton ban jan. Perhaps I can even risk serving it to friends.

Currently watching "Utaban", that musical variety show on TBS with hosts Takaaki Ishibashi (of Major League 2 and 3 "fame") and Nakai-kun (the leader of SMAP). Over here, there are two types of music programming: there are the straight ranking shows showing the Top 10 of the week and then there are these musical variety programs in which the performers have to also be able to banter humourously with the hosts. "Utaban", along with "Hey!Hey!Hey! Music Champ" hosted by Downtown, are probably the two funniest of these shows due to the quick (or half) wits of Nakai and Ishibashi. Along with the J-Pop guests, there are bizarro performers who wouldn't look out of place in an episode of "Jackass" or an early David Letterman show. And there are some visual "Airplane"-esque cues to keep the viewers happy.

Tonight's show had Hikaru Utada and this pop band which is made up to look like some rather dangerous bikers, Kishidan. However, in their first appearance on the program, they're just a bunch of softies. Usually, I don't get a chance to see the program since I'm out teaching either MK and The Manager or The New Yorker and The Carolinan on Thursdays.

When I do get home before 9 p.m. on Thursdays, the TV lineup for me is usually just "Dotchi ni Ryori Show" (Which Cuisine Shall We Choose Show) on NTV. It involves two hosts, Yuji Miyake and Hiroshi Sekiguchi, each promoting the week's two dishes in battle in front of a panel of tarento. The one mainstay panelist is Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, also of SMAP (these boys are on every channel). Each host has to convince the panel that his dish is the more favourable one via a lot of techniques such as restaurants which serve the dish, on-camera chefs which make it, and footage of where the best ingredients can be gotten. At the end of the show, the panelists decide their choice and the majority vote gets to eat their choice while the losers look on hungrily. Tonight's theme is gyoza vs. siu mai.
Thursday November 3, 6:32 p.m.

Looks like my computer needs to be cleaned out again. After another crash this morning, a lot of the graphics have gone weird once more.

The Manager and MK were quite full of beans which always helps a teacher in a bad mood. It was pretty much a smooth 2 hours.

Some interesting news today. Some nutty Japanese woman who had defected to North Korea after jumping off a tour ship and swimming to the land of Kim Jong Il has decided that Japan wasn't so bad after all. She looked rather shellshocked but life there can do that to you. And then there's yet another case of an attempted matricide...this time by a 16-year-old girl who was trying to off her mother with small doses of thallium. She's denying it but "circumstantial" can only get you so far.

I see that Prince Charles and his new wife, Camilla-The Duchess of Cornwall, are visiting the Bushes in Washington. And strangely enough, actor Kelsey Grammer was invited to the big dinner as well. Let's see....we've got a recovered drug addict, a couple of philanderers and a potential liar around a dining table. Calling Frasier Crane...I can just smell the psychoanalysis.

Well, I'm gonna make another round of ma bo do fu. I have learned my lesson not to throw in so much ton ban jan. Hopefully, it won't be nearly as fiery as last time.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Thursday November 3, 10:51 a.m.

I would've gotten started on this entry almost an hour earlier but I got a call from Mom, and then my computer decided to stab me in the back once more and I had to get onto the lesson plans for MK and The Manager.

Mom and all the rest are doing fine. I'm sure they've been enjoying their time cooking at my brother's place with the new family member in town. She also told me that my cousins were traveling in Tokyo in early September. Although I haven't really talked with my relations in some years (and I suspect one of them would be quite happy if she never spoke with me again, period), I was slightly stung by that revelation. Well, mind you, they didn't ask for my address and number and Mom didn't offer them. I've always considered myself the black sheep of the family; this further cements it. Of course, if any of them ever came across this particular entry, I might get the usual whining "Well, Haru, it goes both ways. Why don't you ever contact us?" For that, I would happily give a very loud raspberry (as you can read, I can be the blackest of sheep...Flashman has been an excellent guide).

Anyways, with that intrafamilial rant out of the way, I can also mention that Mom is hinting about a DVD player. I've given my brother a heads-up once Santa time rolls around.

I'd talk more but I gotta hustle.
Thursday November 3, 12:28 a.m.

Another one of those long Wednesdays yesterday. I had to pay off my heftiest bills next to the rent: National Health Insurance and Citizens Tax. Kinda depressing paying those since I had to also reach into my bank account for some of the money. Then, I took out all my stress at the gym. Once again, I feel rather tight around my shoulders.

Decided to have my monthly Big Mac set at the McDonalds across from the station. The branch had a recent makeover so the interior looks like retro 60s futuristic lounge. The wallpaper in the stairwell, though, looks like 70s suburban basement old sofa. Can't have everything.

Went over to Speedys. The boss man himself wasn't in the office for most of the day due to a trade fair that he attended downtown. So, it was just the two secretaries and myself. Before you get any dirty thoughts, all we did was just share in some cake that one of the newer students had brought. Although I have yet to meet her, I knew then and there it had to have been a much older student since only members of that generation have that charity to bring any sort of sweets to a school. I spent the next few hours just planning for the lessons for 001 and 003, doing some browsing of the Net and crosswords. My dress socks were starting to wear out so I took a brief respite to head back to the convenience store and pick up a new pair. I really have to cut my toenails a lot shorter (sorry if some of you folks were eating when you read this).

During my browsing, I came across some surprising news about yet another death in the Trek family. Scotty, Robert Wise, that woman who lent her vocal cords to the original Star Trek theme..who was next? Well, it was Michael Piller...the co-producer of all of the Trek sequels except for "Enterprise". He wasn't all that old either...just 57. I remember seeing that boyish face of his underneath his baseball cap. Cancer got him. I checked the Trek BBS...a lot of tributes flowing in for him.

The classes were their usual humour-filled banter bashes. I seem to have gotten into a good groove at Speedys. 001 was great although I think I should perhaps lay off the alky jokes when it comes to her. She accused me good-naturedly about my characterization of her as a boozehound. She does love her drink but I think I'll stay quiet about it for a while. As for 003, I had her rocking off her seat in laughter and managed to get some education into her. I think, really, it's been the jokes that have kept her happy more than anything on English conversation. By the way, 002 sent an e-mail to the school stating that things have been going well in Toronto. I believe she's headed back for home this weekend. She said that she would try to head for The Madison Avenue Pub, one of my old haunts near U of T before she comes back.

Speedy did come back just before I started up with 001. Since Thursday is a national holiday, he had his usual class on that night last night at the same time I was having 001. The ladies in that class decided to have part of their time at a nearby izakaya. Looks like the lesson was a great success since even by the time time I finally finished up with 003, Speedy came back to the school to see if the two of us would be interested in joining them. 003 and I agreed and we went to this old style place just behind one of the taller skyscrapers near the station. I was introduced to Speedy's three giggly students, one of whom I had met before at one of the movie nights. I realized there that entering one's forties could entail a difference in impression from new faces. For all of my thirties, I was accustomed and enjoyed the compliments of how much younger I looked. Well, those days seem to be over now. During our animated talk, we got into the topic about my love for karaoke. Immediately, one of the whippersnappers pegged me as an enka singer...people who are solidly associated with the middle-aged. Ouch!

Well, another long day has come to a close. And with my purchase of a tub of butter, I'm now down to my final 1000-yen bill. Rather depressing since my wallet had a lot more of its companions just this morning.

I guess Wednesday was a bit of a death day of sorts. Not only did I find out about Michael Piller's passing but I just found out that a bandleader of "The Tonight Show" went to that bandshell in the sky. At first, I thought it was either Doc Severinsen or Tommy Newsome, two guys from the Johnny Carson era (both aren't exactly spring chickens). But it was actually Skitch Henderson. Also, I got a postcard from a former student that I hadn't heard from in a few years. Actually, the postcard was more of a formal notice of the death of that student's father. Over here, if a family member passes away, the bereaved family members send out cards to everyone notifying them of the passing so that they don't send New Year's cards, a sign of celebration, to the family. The family goes into official mourning for a year.

Today is Culture Day, and as I mentioned, it's a national holiday. I will be doing my own contribution of culture in the form of teaching the English language to The Manager and MK later today. I don't mind since apparently I really do need the money now.

And either today or tomorrow, I will be celebrating (or more likely, merely observing) 11 years in this country. Depending on how my immigration bid goes, I hope to be here for a lot longer.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Wednesday November 2, 9:24 a.m.

The juku was as usual. The New Kid told me that his mother felt that our text was a little too easy for him; he was OK with it, though. But I'll bring over a copy of another text to see if he's OK with that next week. The Beauty Pair was also fine; they'll be away next week in Kyoto, though. McGirl seemed a bit more clued out than usual. And I once again went overtime with The Bohemian discussing the world's alphabets (you had to be there).

My sister-in-law finally sent the first pics of my niece just now. I see that she has my brother's mouth. We'll see over the coming years if she becomes a supermodel.

I'm heading out to the gym in an hour although I do have to pay my Health Insurance premiums and Citizen Tax at the UFJ first. Not looking forward to that. Then, it'll be out for my regular Wednesday nighter at Speedys.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Tuesday November 1, 1:48 p.m.

It was a full house at the Beehive today. We always try to get into the text but end up sidetracking mightily. This time, we veered off into the world of Starbucks and coffee. It's amazing that this ubiquitious chain started just 7 or 8 years ago in the Ginza to become as plentiful as McDonalds. Ms. Tulip then remembered to mention that her friend, who's been in her own coffee distribution business, would like to come by the Hive monthly to sell her wares. Not a problem, said we. Next week, the Hive will be halved with most of the veterans gone on various matters.

Got word from The Ballerina. She appreciated the compliments from The Lady and SIL about their smooth-as-glass flight. Looks like one of her old classmates will visit her soon. The Madame also sent word to me that she'll be OK for our next meeting late next week, provided that things are OK with Immigration.

Would love to take a nap right now but unfortunately I've got to plan for the juku.
Tuesday November 1, 7:45 a.m.

The times...they are a-changin'. It was actually chilly in my room thereby necessitating the bathrobe. Luckily, it's sunny out there.

Apparently, things are also a-changin' at CNN. I was checking the schedule for the network and noticed that "Anderson Cooper 360" was no longer there. The current "It" guy of news no longer had his own show?! What was up with that? Instead, Wolf Blitzer's oft-frenetic "The Situation Room" has been awkwardly put into Anderson's old spot so that Wolf is on before and after Lou Dobbs. Well, I checked TVNewser and found out that it looks like Anderson has gotten a promotion of sorts. It looks like the golden (or silver) boy will be the sole anchor of Aaron Brown's old show, "Newsnight". Meanwhile, Aaron Brown seems to have gone on vacation, perhaps permanently from CNN. I had heard that the smashing together of Brown and Anderson on an expanded form of "Newsnight" wasn't working too well. No kidding there. Brown is much more of the traditional avunculist while Cooper is the cool-n'-hip David Letterman of cable news. So it's not surprising that the latter won the larger half of the wishbone but I'm frankly not sure if putting Anderson's round peg into "Newsnight"'s square hole is the best thing. Perhaps Hurricane Katrina has claimed two more victims.

Looks like my cold has finally woken up. Time to get the medicine...
Monday October 31, 11:04 p.m.

Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know...I'm back early. But I've got some more stuff to get off my brain.

I've got a cold for one thing. My nose was killing me with post-nasal drip for much of the day. It took two doses of Benza Block to plug up the leak so The Class Act had to endure my mug being covered by a raggy tissue. With the big deviations in temperatures over the past couple of weeks, a lot of folks in The Big Sushi have been coming down with colds. Right now, I'm histamine-free although the inside of my nose still feels a bit funny. In fact, The Class Act was wondering what this winter will wreak. Last Xmas, Tokyo got inundated with a snowstorm which is pretty rare for the megalopolis. Temps were pretty cool today and they'll be about the same tomorrow although the sun will come out.

Along with the announcement of Koizumi's 3rd Cabinet appointments, the other big news item today was the possibility of Japan finally letting in US beef after two years of an import ban on the stuff due to BSE fears. The Japanese government panicked when they heard about the case of BSE in the States (actually, the case originated in Canada...ooh, how mortifying) and put up the shields against American heifers. Koizumi and the gang have been fairly leery about US inspection methods and have used that point as the key to keep the barriers up all these months. You can imagine that the Americans haven't been too pleased about this situation and the Bush representative was sure to keep that edge to his voice whenever he pointed out his indignation. And a lot of the Japanese population, notably the folks who love Yoshinoya, haven't been too happy at seeing their favourite beef dishes disappear.

Well, it looks like The Berlin Wall of Beef might be finally coming down by the end of the year...just in time for the joyous New Year's celebrations. As a lot of wags will tell you, when the US tells Japan to jump, Japan often says "How high, my liege?" Still, it took two years of intensive negotiations (yelling and screaming?) to get the Japanese government to even consider restarting importation of US beef, and we're still not sure whether the deal will come off. On the other hand, you have my aforementioned point that the lone case of BSE was actually the fault of a Canadian cow so it's not quite fair at how the Koizumi government had reacted. In addition, the United States isn't exactly a third-world country when it comes to health inspections. In a nation where beef is the meat of choice for a good chunk of the population there, it would be hard to believe that the US would get lax with inspections. Could you imagine what would happen to the beef industry if there were a BSE outbreak Stateside? So far, the locals here are cautious but they are willing to see some of that gorgeous marbled meat come back to this side of the Pacific. Beef bowls need not be a rare delicacy anymore.

Back to my mundane universe...I was happy to find out that I made a nice net profit this month despite the fact that NHK has finally started siphoning off my money for its coffers. But I do have to pay my regular premiums for National Health Insurance and Citizen Tax. I was at HMV during the break between The Class Act and SIL and saw that Diana Krall has her Xmas album out. Unghhh....I was grimacing about whether to get it sometime in December. I don't know what it is with me and Xmas jazz albums. I've already got a few different renditions of "I Wish You A Very Merry Xmas"...why would I need another one? Well, it's Diana Krall, for one thing!

Speedy has gotten back to me about The Poppy. He's still OK with it so I've sent word to the girl herself. Hopefully, I'll get a positive reply.

Ah, and I almost forgot to mention that I had my 3rd sighting of the crazy Crow Lady, that apparently paroled mental patient who rides her bike and hurls abuse at everyone around Shinjuku Park. I passed by her as she was standing by the western wall of The Century Hyatt. She wasn't aiming her garbled rants at anyone in particular this time but it seemed like she was just yelling some stream-of-consciousness stuff at anyone who would listen...which was nobody.

Time for bed...
Monday October 31, 9:54 p.m.

After all of my blather on how much bigger this Halloween seemed to be this year in Tokyo, it's ironic that on the actual day itself, I didn't come across any hint of the pumpkin day...well, aside from the waitress at Dennys showing me a special Halloween flank steak for dinner tonight. Mind you, I wasn't anywhere near Roppongi tonight and Shibuya during the day seemed to be its normally surreal teen Mecca self.

I had my first lesson with The Class Act in about a week and a half. Most of the class was spent on The Lady's and SIL's trip to London last week. Nope they didn't get to see The Ballerina but The Lady asked me to relay their compliments to her for a very good voyage. I was a bit caught off guard when The Lady told me that SIL would be having her lesson today as scheduled (lucky I asked) although I distinctly remembered hearing from SIL herself that she wouldn't be able to see me until November. No particular harm done since SIL didn't want to have anything to do with the texts today. I didn't bother asking about the Xmas party at the house since it was still too early and maybe there's a chance that The Madame would take me up on my offer to accompany me to the grand ball in early December.

It was also my last lesson with The Company. No tears, no breaking of voices, no grand farewells and even no Junior. Very pleasant. Junior was busy on another assignment so I gave him my brief goodbyes at the end of the class. Earlier, the Prez gave me his thanks for 2 years of work and asked about a farewell party sometime. I told him that Fridays look OK for that. Looks like Speedy has lived up to his name by quickly setting up two model lessons next Monday. If everything works out well, my Monday nights will continue to be busy.

As I said at the top, I had my dinner at Dennys tonight, the main reason being that I wasn't sure if The Poppy was gonna be showing up tonight. I didn't think so since her mother, The Matron, told me in class today that The Poppy ended up in hospital for a number of days last week due to some sort of raging skin infection. However, I wasn't going to take any chances and besides, I could take advantage of my single status to eat wherever I want. Sure enough, she didn't show.

But I now have to inform The Poppy or The Matron that with the possibility of two lessons at Speedy's, I'll have to move up her lesson (that is, if she's still interested in seeing me...she's very sporadic).

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sunday October 30, 6:23 p.m.

Movie Buddy finally got to my place a little less than 24 hours ago. Ordered the Domino's Quattros for both him and me and then off we went for our features. However, we had a look at "Biography" on SuperChannel at Alec Baldwin's career as an appetizer. Once the pizzas got in though it was off to the DVDs. It was Denzel Night.

The first of the double feature was "Man On Fire". Denzel Washington was playing this dissipated ex-Special Forces soldier, John Creasey, who found life worth living again after becoming this little girl's bodyguard in wild n' woolly Mexico. In its initial release at the theatres here, it was "My Bodyguard", a fairly cute title for a movie that was pretty darn violent in the latter half; I think Chris Columbus (the guy who did the first two Harry Potter flicks) directed his inaugural project with that same title. Back to the main story, "Man On Fire" was a diverting flick on DVD although I think I would've been somewhat disappointed if I had plunked down my 1800 yen for its big screen release. Denzel did a good job capturing the physicality and personality of this past-his-prime man who had given up on life until Dakota Fanning's Pita brought it all around for him. Basically, the movie has a split personality: the first half has frighteningly precocious Pita gradually counsel Creasey back to mental health while the latter half has Creasey returning the favour (via a lot of guns and torture) after his rescuer is kidnapped. Dakota Fanning is certainly trying to attain Jodie Foster status as this wunderkind of thespianship. As I said, her character in this movie was very mature (I could've easily imagined her doing the promo interviews on a chair cross-legged while smoking Camels)...more mature than her character in "War of the Worlds" where she was a much more normal pre-teen.

"Man On Fire" reminded me a lot of "Payback", that Mel Gibson flick I had caught on Friday on TV. Both protagonists spend much of the movie getting kicked about until they find the way to divine retribution. However, I thought the director, Tony Scott, needs to fall out of love with the MTV style of jump-cutting. I wasn't sure if I were watching a typical R&B video or a cutting-edge public service announcement. I think Scott still hasn't quite learned his lesson...the ads for his latest project, "Domino", show the same herky-jerky effects. The effects were so heavy-handed in "Man On Fire" that I think they extended the film well past the 2-hour mark thereby bloating it. It held my attention sure enough but I wouldn't consider it one of Denzel's finest efforts.

The second feature was another odd one by DW called "Out of Time". This one had Washington playing the more suave and handsome character that we are accustomed to seeing him playing, although his character, an essentially good if somewhat corrupt and bumbling Chief of Police in a tiny Florida hamlet, is again playing against type. This movie couldn't seem to decide what it wanted to be. In the first few minutes, I was wondering if this were going to be a straight drama or mystery. Then hints at other genres poked through like pens through plastic: comedy, thriller, suspense. As a result, the movie ended up being more than a usual made-for-HBO feature but less than a motion picture. Speaking of genres, there were a couple of other performers from the sci-fi arena who appeared as slightly less than good folks. There was Dean Cain, the ex-Superman, as the wife-beating thug and John Billingsley, the ex-Dr. Phlox of "Enterprise", portraying an amoral medical examiner though loyal friend to DW. The problem with Billingsley is that he was basically playing the same character that he plays on "Enterprise".

The next morning, MB and I did our usual leisurely wake-up while watching those huge SCTV DVDs that I had gotten last Xmas. MB really wanted to see John Candy as Orson Welles doing that blow-up scene on Liberace's Xmas special. He got the biggest kick out of seeing Welles shouting one particular line. It was then I realized that MB and I have somewhat different sensibilities when it comes to humour. I mean, that Welles line didn't particularly send me into paroxysms of laughter although the entire sketch was funny in general. On the other hand, I always enjoy watching the classic Eugene Levy sketch in which he played a comatose Perry Como in concert but it didn't kill MB although he knows who the singer is. I continued to show him a selection of other great sketches from the show such as CCCP 1 and The Gill Fisher Show. MB did have some good guffaws at the Ricardo Montalban School of Fine Acting.

We headed out for Omotesando around noon for that brunch at Fujimamas. When we arrived in the area, the annual Halloween parade was just finishing up. Apparently due to the inclement weather yesterday, it was postponed to this morning. As I had thought all month, this year's Halloween has taken full hold in Tokyo. There were a lot of kids and even some parents decked out in costumes.

Fujimamas was a somewhat interesting experience this time around. Our waiter was the same guy who had served me when I had last come here several months ago. And yet, we both noted that he wasn't particularly all that polished as a restaurant employee. MB noticed that he brought a lot of plates of food for the next table without taking the empty plates which made the table a rather crowded surface indeed. Also, he kept forgetting to bring stuff like water and milk for our coffee for us which necessitated asking another server. Luckily, I was dining with MB, a very mild-mannered fellow. However, I did remark that back in the West, he would be getting a far lower tip. Before the table faux pas with the people next to us, there had been another group of Westerners who ended up just sitting at the table for just 5 minutes. I knew things were off to a bad start when one of them told our waiter about a dirty fork and then after that they decided to depart without ordering anything. The hapless waiter tried to get them to stay with his somewhat gormless charm but the woman who had pointed out about the dirty fork just said that they had wanted to smoke but they couldn't do so since they were in a non-smoking zone. Well, I think that was a big lie right there since they could've just said something right at the entrance. Plus, our seating area may have been technically non-smoking but it was certainly not a no-smoke area. There were smokers not too far away from us in the smoking area whose wafts of nicotine were blowing quite well into our zone. In fact, one family near us politely asked to be re-seated since it was just too smoky. I think that is a very valid problem for Fujimamas that should be addressed since it is a gaijin-intensive restaurant and the gaijin are more vocal about their complaints than the native population.

The meal at Fujimamas was good and unsurprisingly a bit pricey. I picked up an ad for their annual Thanskgiving dinner although I knew that I wouldn't be able to go on November 24th since I've got my biweekly class with the Carolinan that night. Well, maybe Xmas then. MB and I turned the corner and into Kiddyland. The toy store was packed to the gills with families trying to get ready for Halloween. MB wanted to get a silly hat for his Halloween classes at his junior high school tomorrow so he bought a witch's hat. While we were inside, I noticed an otaku who brushed past me. He had this look of Billy Bob Thornton's role as that moron in "Sling Blade". He sported a tiny beanie cap, a jacket, a backpack and most notably, two cameras slung around his neck. I then went outside to wait for MB to pay for his purchase. The otaku was outside and he approached two little girls in costumes and then silently extended his hand. The girls didn't quite make out what to do and I thought maybe intervention may have been needed but luckily their parents quickly got them out of the way. The now-creepy otaku sat beside me on the metal bars, just staying quiet and turning his face down. I didn't mind him sitting beside me; as long as he did, I knew he couldn't potentially scare some kids out of their wits. In any case, when MB came out I just left him.

Omotesando was a busy place with the mix of Halloween revelers and the regular well-to-do fashionistas. I had heard that the Japanese economy was officially in turnaround in the good way (although how long it will last I have no idea). The main street was a reflection of that good news. We just walked all the way down to Shibuya where the population was much younger and singler. And the crowds were a lot more oppressive. We stopped off at Tower Records where MB and I did several minutes of browsing before I finally bought an "Entertainment Weekly". Then the two of us decided to call it a day and parted ways on the Hanzomon Line platform. Not quite sure what it'll be like in Shibuya tomorrow with it being the 31st. I'll get a chance to find out though since I'll teach The Class Act again. And I have that last lesson with The Company later on.