Saturday, November 12, 2005

Sunday November 13, 4:19 p.m.

Another lazy Sunday afternoon. Just did my shopping at Daiei. Couldn't find that incense that The Wild Guy was asking for. But then again, I didn't think that a suburban department store would have anything that precise. I guess it'll be off to Tokyu Hands sometime this week. I did get a box of small cakes for The Matron in thanks for her help last Wednesday with the visa. Not much but the best I can do on my measly budget.

Got word from Skippy that The Kid could be interested in coming to the Xmas party but he may be sidelined by his job. I'll be talking with The Lady tomorrow.

I've been listening to my two latest CD acquisitions, "Joy" by Yuki (formerly of Judy & Mary) and "Drive" by the rappers Seamo. Both have sounded pretty good. "Joy" is this Fender Rhodes synth-driven groove of a happy tune by the baby-voiced Yuki. I think a lot of people would say that Yuki is the Japanese version of Bjork, albeit Yuki is a lot more accessible musically. The Bjork resemblance hasn't been lost on Yuki; she did a video which is way too close in style to that video by the Icelandic singer in which all sorts of digital bodily fluids are going in and out of Bjork's orifices (I know, I've made the description sound a whole lot racier than it really is). Anyways, getting back to "Joy", I like the song not only because of its jumpy rhythm but also because Yuki has a bit of linguistic fun with the lyrics by clipping off a lot of her words as if a Westerner were trying to say them and just doing a lot of girlish distortions of the lyrics. It's sadly ironic about the title of the tune, though, since I think it was released earlier this year or late last year around the time that her only little son died of SIDS.

As for "Drive", this frenetic Latin-flavoured rap/pop tune would be a great addition to any car trip by the ocean since the song is about...well, driving. Currently, the boys have recently paired up on one tune with the female duo, Bennie K, in some sort of musical double date. Bennie K is this group which sounds eerily like the ladies from The B-52s. To get further meta, one of those formerly bouffanted ladies from The B-52s teamed with Yuki and a number of other musicians some years ago in for a brief time as this J-Pop group.
Sunday November 13, 10:30 a.m.

A typical November day out there....sunny with temps in the low teens. I've got my blankets and mattress airing out on the balcony, and the washing machine is busy.

I watched all of the highlights from "Revenge of the Sith" last night. It did actually take a couple of hours to get through them all. "Within a Minute", the documentary on all the work and staff needed to film just one minute of the climactic Obi-Wan vs. Anakin lightsaber battle was quite an education but it was also nearly mind-numbing in its detail. I just about cried "Uncle (Owen)! Enough already! I got the picture".

The rest of the stuff was similarly detailed and interesting. But all of it just highlighted all the head-scratching about why the acting and writing had to be so hackneyed on screen. There were a few scenes of Lucas guiding Hayden Christensen...looked good enough. And the director comes off as a very congenial character (although I'm sure there were a few tense moments that will never see the light of day). It's kinda sad that such a nice guy would get lots of abuse heaped on him (especially by Movie Buddy) but I still have to say that Lucas is only a good producer. I'll have to access that "Hip-Hop Yoda" Easter Egg later on; I got the information from the Net. Also, I think there should be a blooper reel hidden somewhere.

But my day is gonna be fairly busy for a Sunday. I have the usual cleaning. But I also have to prepare for lessons and even get started on that Japanese essay for my Permanent Residency bid.
Saturday November 12, 5:14 p.m.

Ugh! Feeling pretty beat right now. That's what I get for teaching two kids and a low-level student. The Elder was her usual Dylanesque self (how she could be related to her enthusiastic mother is beyond me). At least the Younger was her usual self. As for The New Yorker, she's game but her retention of material is fairly sieve-like. Had to lower the boom on her and assign some remedial homework on her questions.

At least the weather has improved a lot since the drizzly morning. The winds have died down as well so maybe I'll get some laundry done.

Got word from The Wild Guy. He's asking for some incense for his apartment since he's managed to stink it up pretty badly with his cigar-smoking habit.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Saturday November 12, 7:21 a.m.

Well, the scumball was caught. The police got their man...or boy, in this case. That poor girl who got used as a human pincushion last night was stabbed by one of her own classmates. It would seem that the psychotic lad snapped when the girl turned cold on him once they were in high school after several years of friendship back in elementary and junior high school.

It's reading only 17 C in my room right now so I actually activated the heater for the first time this year. Back to rising TEPCO bills again. However, I only turned it on for about 5 minutes before things were back to normal. It's pretty wet out there. Should make for some shivery commuting to the kids.

Skippy got back to me. Looks like she and OA are a go for the big bash at The Lady's house next month. I've even sent feelers to see if The Kid would be interested since The Madame turned me down flat.

Ah, speaking about The Class Act, I think I'll buy something at The Tea Room for The Matron for her kindness last Wednesday. Just hope I remember.
Friday November 11, 10:29 p.m.

Looks like some changes are in store for the students I had today. SR is entering her final trimester before her baby comes on board so our talk today centered about all the big changes that will be occurring in her life including our lessons together. Perhaps from early in the new year, I may be meeting her in her own apartment.

The OL, on the other hand, who's around the same age as SR, got some good news in that she passed the entrance exam for her university. So, now her tortured days at her company are numbered.

I spent the last hour or so planning for tomorrow's lessons. I'm pretty busy with the kids and The New Yorker for a rare Saturday lesson.

I've sent my positive response to Speedy about the salary situation. I'm kinda glad that I held off on it until several hours after I had first read his letter. My response to disappointing or bad news has often been "explode now, apologize later". Not that I was ready to tear the guy's lungs out or anything but I probably would have written some unnecessary or even damaging caveats if I had responded right away. I'm sure he'll be quite relieved at my response since I got the impression he was pretty nervous at my query according to the length and the care of his reply.

A couple of days ago, I mentioned about this gory movie, "Hostel". Well, NHK News has just reported about this horrific murder in an apartment complex in Machida City, a bed town west of the 23 wards of downtown Tokyo. Some high school girl got stabbed 50 times in her own apartment late this afternoon. Her mother discovered her bloody body when she got home (good golly, what Hell must she be going through right now?). Apparently, the girl's apartment key was stolen several days ago. The thief was most likely the murderer as well since the mother had to unlock the door to get in. I hope the police get the scum!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Friday November 11, 1:00 p.m.

Yeah, I know...I should have been at the gym right now. I'm the world's worst procrastinator but the fact of the matter is that my intestines have been growling for the past few hours, and it isn't because I'm hungry (I'm certainly not hungry now...I just downed lunch). It must have been the Japanese pear, or nashi, I ate for brekkie. Back in the West, the word "pear-shaped" would automatically convey an image of a bell. Over here, there would be some confusion. We've been getting the LaFrance and Bosc pears for some years but a nashi is a huge round fruit like an apple with a thyroid condition. The taste is also a lot less tart and the pear itself is a whole lot juicier. I'm not sure what it was with that nashi, though....but without going into too many gory details, I've been hitting the can quite a few times. Maybe it's just as well that I didn't hit the gym. I think the staff would've been throwing question marks with my periodic exits.

So in the intervening time, I just went over to the corner convenience store and made some copies for SR and the younger of the two sisters I have tomorrow. Yep, I've got the kids again. On the way there, I passed by the garbage pit and saw that one of the bags due for pickup tomorrow morning had been torn open and its rather noxious contents strewn all over the road. Then, I looked up. It was the work of The Crowinator (cue "Dragnet" theme). The Crowinator isn't one of my code names for a homeless guy or one of my students. It actually happens to be a real crow. This direct descendant of a pterodactyl is a pretty big monster as crows go and it does appear that it can probably devour small rodents or kittens. However, at this point, it is settling for garbage.

I got word from Speedy just now about my query on salary. Looks like that second model lesson student is now officially Student 005 although she's also signed up for 4 classes initially. As for the salary part, I was a bit disappointed to find out from Speedy that I would be paid a whole lot less than my private student lesson rates. But I understand the cash flow situation that he's going through right now and I'll try and help him as best I can. However, I also have to be aware of my own finances, too. I can't really afford to be that charitable with time at the school if I'm only making that much.

Well, time to hit the can...again.
Friday November 11, 8:49 a.m.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month...

I received my poppy from the University of Toronto last night. I shall wear it.

I've decided to forego my trip to City Hall til Tuesday morning and just go straight to the gym. Would make things easier on the transport front since I won't be going to The Beehive then.

On the pop culture front, the death of Minako Honda has been the resonant theme this week. Ken Watanabe, the actor from "The Last Samurai" and "Batman Begins", was having his press conference to announce his inclusion into the American Express pantheon as spokesperson along with Tiger Woods and Robert DeNiro when he mentioned her. Watanabe had his own battle with leukemia some years ago which derailed his career for a while. I'm sure he's feeling wistful about the situation.

Honda's ashes were finally laid to rest in the family cemetery. It's a pity that someone so pretty has had to be reduced to a pile of carbon powder so prematurely. I was struck by how many people responded to her untimely passing. Over a thousand people attended her funeral which included some of her fellow idols from the 80s: Yu Hayami and Yoko Minamino, for example. Now, as a person with some expertise in 80s J-Pop, the idol scene was characterized by literally hundreds of girls singing the same manufactured pap and dancing the same robotic moves for much of that decade. Few, such as Honda, Hayami and Minamino, were able to rise above the crowd.

Honda was even more special in that she actually made the successful leap from the ephemeral idol scene to the world of musical theatre and respected vocalists. This ran contrary to the usual career tracks of other singers. There have been vocalists who started out in theatre (the women from the famous Takarazuka Revue come to mind) and then branched out into more poppier fare, commercials and dramas. Other idols have either disappeared into the echelons of domestic servitude or gone onto the usual default TV arena of 70s/80s tribute shows, suspense dramas and variety programs. There was one other idol, Hiromi Iwasaki, who also went into musicals like Honda. However, I never considered Iwasaki as an idol. Her set of pipes was just too good; she was made for the stage.

Honda was special because she wasn't even one of the top-tier idols. Hearing some of her hits on those old music programs, it was painfully obvious that studio magic had a good hand in shaping her idol voice. So she gets even more kudos for working with a vocal coach for years in honing the latent talent to achieve the ability she had before her death. Just listen to one of her 80s tunes (say, "One Way Generation" ) and then listen to the last song that she released, "Amazing Grace". Quite a difference. I only know of one other person who could be comparable to her. Yoko Nakayama's idol stint was just notable for her cover of Bananarama's "Venus" before she eventually started her own now successful career as an enka singer.

Minako Honda showed a lot of grit and spunk under that pretty exterior of hers. I think it's as much for that reason that her untimely death has been mourned publicly to this degree as for the fact that she died so young.
Thursday November 10, 9:47 p.m.

My hair's feeling silky smooth right now after that session at Creambath Ebisu this afternoon with The Madame. Before that, I met up with her at JR Ebisu and searched for a restaurant for lunch....not too difficult in Ebisu. We were heading our way to Ebisu Garden Place to search for propsective spots when we came across this 2nd-floor health food restaurant at a building just across from the station. We had to navigate up and down a few staircases...I guess the health part kicks in even before one enters the restaurant.

The place was called "Jinen Saboh" (nope, it's not named after a Star Wars character) and offered lunches at mostly around 1000 yen. I took the tofu burger set (there is always a tofu burger set in these places) while The Madame ordered a creamed potato set. The restaurant was one of those modern airy trendy places with an open kitchen and a lot of Ikea bookshelves with lots of tomes in them. Since we got there way past lunch, at around 1:40, Jinen Saboh was mostly empty which suited our purposes just fine.

I tried for a third time to invite her to The Lady's Xmas party next month. But she wouldn't budge...she and her family aren't too keen on The Lady's hubby, a pretty tough-as-nails sort who's created quite a reputation for himself in the corporate world. Over the years, I've certainly heard about and even spoke with him a few years back when my ex and I had gone to a previous Yuletide gathering. Yup, I'm quite aware of who he is but he didn't strike me as too scary at the party. And anyways, I know The Lady is a real good egg and that's the important thing. I was disappointed by her reply but after three times, that's it for me. I've recently thought of The Madame as such but she finally admitted herself today that she's scared of a number of things...I think one of them is a relationship. And yet, this is a young lady who's had her fair share of such things while I've only had the one with my ex. Not quite sure who's the wiser here. In any case, I quickly moved the conversation onto other things.

We arrived at Creambath Ebisu a few minutes before our official appointment. The place was just as I remembered it: softly lit bamboo decor with incense in the air. There seemed to be just two people in the clinic when we came in, the two who were to take care of our scalps for the next hour or so. Apparently, Creambath keeps good tabs on its customers. I hadn't been there in a year and yet they had a record of my first somewhat shaky first appearance right down to the type of cream (aloe, by the way) the masseuse used on my head. So I guess the service has gone up some since then.

The masseuse took care of The Madame while the masseur took care of me. I stripped topless and put on the terrycloth half-robe in the private booth. Once I did so, the masseur escorted me to the specially designed sinks on the other side of the clinic just a few metres away. And for the next 20 minutes, all my troubles seemed so far away (to quote a famous Beatles song) as he shampooed and kneaded my scalp. The Madame was also in her own world getting her scalp massaged. It all rather reminded me of our time together at the foot massage place back in Taipei, albeit today's experience was far more pleasurable.

Then it was back to our separate alcoves. The masseur proceeded to glop on the cold cream all over my head. This time, my choice was carrot which was supposed to leave quite a sheen. So it was another several minutes of glorious kneading. The guy seemed to use a combination of shiatsu and, I guess, some Balinese technique which involved a lot of long deep strokes in contrast to shiatsu's usual pinpoint and often painful pressure. I got a bit of a surprise when the guy then told me to take off my robe so he could give me the extra option I asked for: rubbing down my neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Well, I figure he's a guy but it was still a bit of a bracer knowing that I've exposed my I-cup man-breasts to a young guy. I bet he'll be telling his grandkids about the Japanese guy with the Wilfrid Brimley boobs. Enough insecurity anyways. He did a masterful job on my extremities using the cream although I'm not sure if it were the same cream he used for my head. After that, it was 10 minutes of the steam treatment over my head before having the whole thing rinsed off and dried. Those 75 minutes just flew by! During that time, I heard The Madame chatting away with her masseuse. Nah for us guys.

It cost me a cool 7800 yen for the entire thing. Nope, this thing won't be a monthly ritual but I did get a member's card since it was my second time. And to further increase my respect for them, the guy even included my last visit when he was racking my points on the card. So I have a current total of 13 points, a point per thousand yen. Once I reach 30 points, I'm eligible for a present. I would have settled for a discount on a future visit, though. The Madame had a good time.

JR Ebisu was packed to the gills when The Madame and I parted ways. I thought it was the usual rush hour scrum but it turned out that there was another one of those jinshin jiko (read: suicides) on one of the lines which yet again screwed up schedules. However, I managed to survive the trip to The Tea Room. It was fairly empty....which was usual for a Thursday night there and I had myself some dinner in the form of my favourite tuna-and-cheese sandwiches with a fruit punch. The Carolinan appeared an hour later. She was pretty stressed out; not too happy with her job. I gave her the pamphlet for the clinic since there's their website that I can click on easily enough. Maybe she and The New Yorker can give it a try sometime.

Now that I'm home, I can relax a bit. I sent an impromptu invitation to The Madame asking about brunch at Fujimamas on Sunday afternoon (keep those hopes alive, eh?). She just sent word that she won't be available this Sunday (no surprise there) but she then asked me about the 20th.

I also got word from Speedy. Apparently, I've got another new student tacked onto my new Monday schedule. Lookin' good.

As for tomorrow, I've got SR and The OL for their usual appointments. But before that, I have to head over to Ichikawa City Hall and register the fact that I have my new 3-year visa. Then it's off to the gym since my stomach feels not unlike a beach ball.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Thursday November 10, 9:53 a.m.

Took a peek at Movie Buddy's blog. He was rather surprised to see Xmas decorations already up and running throughout Tokyo. He forgets the rule of Yuletide Commercialism for all of the big department stores: Thou shalt put up tinsel, trees and fake snow no later than November 1.

Nice cool day outside to get a wake-up call from Ms. Tea of The Beehive. Yup, I have the week off next week.

And I threw in Disc 2 of the "Revenge of the Sith" DVD this morning. I was kinda struck by the relative paucity of material especially compared to the tons of stuff on "Attack of the Clones". I was especially struck numb by some of the horrible acting (and that is saying a lot, I know) in the deleted scenes. My stars and garters....there is one thankfully slashed scene in which Obi-Wan and Anakin are surrounded by General Grievous and his droids but are secretly signaling to each other in the most painfully obvious way. I could almost imagine Grievous shouting, "Hey! What's with that beard stroking, Master Kenobi?!" And with all due respect to Rick McCallum who was bemoaning its very sad deletion but I didn't think Yoda's arrival on Dagobah added one whit of insight.

The one unintentional highlight so far in the "Sith" extras was the accolade from "The New York Times" in one of the TV commercials released shortly after the movie's premiere stating that it was better than the original "Star Wars". Well, to paraphrase Palpatine during his overwrought metamorphosis into Darth Sidious: "No, no, no....NO!" Methinks that the giddy reviewer must still be enjoying his life-size X-Wing fighter kindly contributed by a secret source.
Wednesday November 9, 11:37 p.m.

And I thought Monday was a long haul. Still, just like one of the "Law & Order" shows, I got renewed for an 12th season, and a 13th, and a 14th. Yup, I got my visa extension, much to my relief and those of the juku boss and Speedy. And despite the fact that my sponsor only put down that I would be required to work for him for one year, the government gave me 3 years. Nice to keep one's nose clean.

It all started early this morning when I got to Shinagawa Station. I got there at 8, a full hour later than usual when I head out to the vast Immigration Centre in Konan. Boy, what a difference an hour makes. There was literally a river of commuters rushing for the buses at the Konan Exit. I could handle the human rapids quite well since I'm a long resident here but it still took the breath away. What took the other folks' breaths away was the maniacal screaming of one of those usual colourful demented folks who often inhabit the big stations of the JR. I wonder if he's related to the crazy Crow Lady in Shinjuku. I ended up having coffee and a tuna melt in Starbucks for 30 minutes before The Matron's arrival. The melt was good; at 420 yen, it had to have been.

I waited for The Matron right by the huge Central Gate at 8:30. She was only a few minutes late but when she arrived, she profusely apologized. She apparently got lost searching for the Takanawa Exit. I'll definitely have to be better in my explanations. What was interesting to me is that The Matron hadn't been to JR Shinagawa in over 2 decades since she's got a car. Quite a few changes for her to see, I'm sure. I was very grateful for her presence. It made for a good morale boost.

The bus heading for Immigration was one of the herky-jerkiest I'd ever been on. I almost dislocated my wrist and shoulder trying to hang onto the straps of the packed bus. Luckily, it was only a ride of 10 minutes. We got to the Centre by around 8:50. The milling numbers of foreign residents had already taken up their spots in the line some 20 minutes earlier. The two of us just went up to the 2nd floor's A Counter to get my permission stamp sheet.

The Matron looked at the Centre with some interest since this was her very first time at the new place. I told her of the airport lounge analogy. The lineup at A Counter wasn't too bad. I ended up helping a couple of folks about the procedure. One was a French fellow who was doing this extension thing for the first time. Another was, I think, a Southeast Asian woman, who was in the wrong place. She had to go to the Re-Entry Permit counters. Once 9 a.m. rolled around, the counters were up and running, and I was up at my counter within 10 minutes. It was a simple matter of handing in my passport, the postcard and my Alien Registration Card before I got them back along with a form to stick on my revenue stamp for 4000 yen...the cost of my visa extension. I just went down to the in-house convenience store to buy that and then returned to the counter to hand it in along with my passport again. Another 5 minutes, and I got my new visa extension...which incidentally included that square Aztec Art-looking bar code for cellphone sensors. Not quite sure what that was all about but perhaps if I ever do get a cellphone I can find out.

Once again, I was in and out of the place within a half-hour. I felt somewhat badly again that I not only dragged out The Matron (although she did set me straight about some Japanese instructions for the procedure) to Shinagawa but also that she cancelled her own appointments just for me. Then again she did offer her company and I accepted. I did tell her that this would be the last time that I would need her husband's help since I would now be going for Permanent Residency from now. She took my apologies with her usual cheerful grace. On the bus ride back, she realized that she had been in the area, actually on top of the water, just a couple of days ago with her hubby on a ship for a French dinner cruise. She also guilelessly told me that her son (the kid who did my taxes earlier this year) was gonna head out to Hawaii to see that Masters Golf Tournament with Tiger Woods and the other top pros. Different worlds, we live in. It won't be last trip to Immigration this year, incidentally. I still have to buy that Re-entry Permit but I know that I can come out here more leisurely for that.

To make some recompense for having dragged her out, I treated The Matron to a bit of brunch at the expense of my waistline at the NYK Cafe, one of the centerpieces in the newly beautified Shinagawa Station's Konan Gate. She had the soup-in-a-bread plate while I settled for a cheese omelet which left me pretty heavy. Tasty but I don't think I'll be trying that type of omelet all that often. Just a bit too decadent for my palate. After about an hour of noshing and chatting, the two of us hopped back onto the Yamanote Line and went to Shibuya together. We parted ways then and there. I promised to myself that I would get The Matron a nice little gift by the time her next lesson rolls around on Monday.

I decided after some rather heavy eating from Starbucks and NYK Cafe, I would spend the next number of hours just walking through the CD shops to get some of that feeling of heaviness. Well, to be exact, I went to Towers first just to get regular, so to speak. Having 3 coffees over the course of a morning can make one quite willing to run to the facilities. And then, feeling lighter in mood and body after getting that huge 800-kg Immigration gorilla off my back once and for all, I decided to treat myself to some CDs. I netted a nice little bit last month and it's been a few months since I got any music discs. I bought a couple of atypical CDs. One was actually a rap/R&B number by flavour-of-the-year Seamo called "Drive" (no, not a cover of The Cars' hit from the 80s...this song really does drive uptempo), and the other was a recent hit by the former lead singer of Judy & Mary, Yuki, called "Joy". I certainly had muted versions of both after getting my visa. I made another short drop at HMV and picked up the latest issue of "Total Film". I was really treating myself.

Then, it was up to Speedy's. I got there several hours early for 001's and 003's lessons but it was nice to have the school to crash in. After the calorie-boosting menu of this morning, I still bought some stuff for dinner since I figured that I would get hungry again before the lessons. Heck my stomach is growling now. Speedy and his two staff were having a meeting so I just planned my lessons in the lounge and read a bit of "Total Film".

In the mag, I came across a story about this horror flick which could outdo all other flicks in the amount of egregious gore and suffering. When you have Quentin Tarentino, Takashi Miike and Eli Roth all on the same project, how could it not be egregiously gory? The movie is called "Hostel" and the pic I saw was one in which a masked torturer was hoist on his own petard via two severed legs. Well, I was intrigued so I checked "Hostel" out on the Net and saw some further pics. One had some poor Oriental woman with an eye literally dangling out of her socket. The movie was reportedly shown at The Toronto Film Festival's "Midnight Madness" showing to much acclaim from the gorehounds and much fleeing from the not-so-strong of stomach. However, I just kinda wonder if there is a "Lion King/(Osamu Tezuka's) Jungle Taitei" type of unacknowledged homage vibe going on here. From the gruesome scenery, I couldn't help but be reminded of the notorious video series from here called "Guinea Pig" in which dismemberment for kicks was the theme. But then again, Miike could have based his stuff like "Ichi The Killer" on "Guinea Pig".

Both lessons for 001 and 003 went well again. And more importantly, 003 signed up for another 4 lessons. We might get that extra whiteboard for Xmas yet. My old school now seems to be heading further back into memory although I still miss the group classes from which people like Skippy, The Madame, SR and The Ballerina hailed from. I've still yet to hear from 002 since she's supposed to be back from Canada now.

I got home to see that I got that "Revenge of the Sith" DVD from The Anime King. Would like to see the extras but I really need that sleep. I'm not even gonna bother going to the gym. I just wanna crash a bit and plan for that lesson for The New Yorker later on Thursday evening before heading out to meet The Madame for lunch and then that session at Creambath.

Nonetheless, it's time for a shower and bed.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Wednesday November 9, 5:50 a.m.

I see I've passed the 1200 mark in number of entries. Looking forward to another 1200 more. My 1203rd entry is a pretty early one since I have to head over to Immigration today. At least I'm not leaving now like I did last time. Still, I'll be leaving with the early birds to work. According to the Fuji-TV morning show horoscope, Libra is at the top of the good fortune list today. I certainly that is indeed the case when I come up to the counter. Maybe if I'm very lucky, some mandarin in The Ministry of Justice will see my long life here and just give me permanent residence right then and there. Doubt it.

The night at the juku was pretty normal except for The Bohemian. This is one guy who should have just stayed in bed although I'm grateful for his 3000 yen. He was alternately fighting his cold and the effects of the powerful medicine he got from the hospital. As a result, his mind was anywhere but in the classroom. Several times, he couldn't even understand what I was asking him. Finally, I decided to kindly pull the plug and end things ten minutes early. I had to get my needed rest for the early wake-up call and he just needed plain rest.

Well, off I go.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Tuesday November 8, 1:27 p.m.

Glorious day today in comparison to the rain-soaked one of Sunday. The weather guys seem to be still screwing up, though. They've said that the temps would be dropping from today but it still feels like Spring out there.

It was the smaller version of The Beehive today. Just Ms. Perth, Ms. Alp and Ms. Tulip. Still plenty of enough conversation to keep us away from the text. I think Ms. Perth was getting a little too Perth-istent with her questions so that Ms. Tulip showed just a hint of uncharacteristic annoyance. But any tension that did arise quickly dissipated. Looks like I may have a rare day off from The Bees due to a rare appearance by my teaching partner (he lives all the way out in Kamakura now) will be happening next week.

Just went to the kaiten sushi place for lunch and then bought a little something for dinner before taking off for the juku. It'll be a slightly shorter stint there tonight since The Beauty Pair are off in Kyoto on a vacation.

I received a phone call from The Matron this morning offering to accompany me to Immigration tomorrow morning for what will hopefully be a successful visa extension. It's a bit dicey in terms of the timing although we did agree to meet at 8:30 at Shinagawa Station. I couldn't really ask her to come any earlier but at the time we did agree to could mean a much longer wait on the 2nd floor, and she did say that she had to head over to another appointment around 11. I hope those lines at the counter are express ones.
Monday November 7, 11:57 p.m.

A long day (which will get longer if both Speedy and I get our way) is coming to an end. Pretty beat but when one has done two model lessons to get two new students into a school, one will never feel all that energized by the end.

The Class Act had an interesting session. The Lady was simultaneously chewing out and aiding The Matron for an incident just a few days ago in which the latter was almost the victim of a pickpocket in a department store. What got The Lady's ire up was that The Matron let the inept security team show some vital information of The Matron's to the pickpocket among wrongful procedures. But in The Matron's defense, she was in a bit of shock since this was the first time in her life that she even almost got lifted. Her husband had dutifully given her a chewing out as well.

SIL and I had a grand old time talking about the news events of the past week: Koizumi's Cabinet shuffle, the NHK arsonist, and the death of Minako Honda. Even her name got into the discussion with SIL and The Class Act. The Lady praised her as one who had gone from the facile world of pop music into the highly demanding one of classical vocalization.

Got to Speedy's in plenty of time for the model lessons so I could actually eat dinner. In fact, Speedy was busy giving a model lesson of his own in which he managed to get his latest student. For me, I am at least batting .500. I did manage to get Student 004, this very vivacious, high-level student. The challenge is on me now to get something that will amuse and yet educate her. My second student was a bit more enigmatic. I was told later by Speedy that she indeed enjoyed the lesson I gave but I found her to be fairly slow in her responses partially since her personality is sanguine. Speedy reassured me that it wasn't a matter of teaching quality but of her financial situation that will determine whether she will be Student 005. We shall see...

Anyways, I really have to get that shower done and hit the hay.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Monday November 7, 7:22 a.m.

Yup, as expected, Fuji-TV devoted its 6:45 segment to the life and death of Minako Honda. There was a bit more talk at J-Pop on her death. On the lighter side of things, I've just watched a family segment on the same show which covered a family's way of getting closer together while building this Rube Goldberg contraption just to take a digital photo. Unfortunately, at the very last step the whole thing failed on live TV. Grandpa certainly didn't look like a happy camper.

As for that NHK arsonist story, apparently there is a connection between it and the story of last year's JR train accident in Osaka. Both were caused by people who apparently snapped after undergoing that usual Japanese corporate custom of getting repeatedly berated by superiors as a toughening-up process. The 24-year-old NHK reporter was often seen crying at his desk. Knowing how some superiors would react, that sight of a grown man weeping probably would have brought on even more grief.

I think I may have mentioned before that berating is a time-honoured custom not only in the military but in just about any institution here in Japan. I was largely spared that sort of treatment by my parents but my mother had a Spartan period during my upbringing which I didn't, and even with the passage of years, still don't appreciate. During my time on the JET Programme, I occasionally had the "privilege" of hearing the ranting and raving of a number of usually jovial teachers at a group of errant students for up to 30 minutes. It was wince-inducing. Even my English-teaching partner, whom I've seen perform some mighty chewouts, had to duck in some fear as the most fearsome teacher (and I suspect a former bully) proceeded to tear sheets and orifices out of one poor student in the teachers' room...also with a few knocks to the head.

As you may suspect, you might now have an inkling about my feelings on the topic. Nope, I don't agree with this custom. Yes, I think from time to time people need to get their cages rattled to get them off of a wrong course of action but I think this martial philosophy is overboard. And yet, the majority of people have undergone the same process when they were the freshmen or rookies in their respective organizations, and they've come out OK. In fact, some of these people end up as middle management types who would use the same process. I have often heard various people such as celebs or regular folks use the expression "shikararete kureta" ("kind enough to get scolded") instead of just plain "shikarareta" ("got scolded") in gratitude to their elders for having the guts to kick them. Well, again I've got nothing against on lowering the boom. I just have something against the length of that boom and the number of times it's used on one occasion. And I frankly think that it's still kinda hit or miss whether it does ultimately work. And in the NHK and JR cases, the consequences have been deadly. But then again, who am I judge a culture?
Monday November 7, 12:04 a.m.

It's been a quiet night. I was surprised to see that home remodeling program, "Before/After", back on TV Asahi. I'd thought that it had been dismantled. Now I can see old folks (tonight's ep dealt with a couple in their 90s!) once again get super-duper modern digs in their remaining years of life. I'm sorry...I am being a bit snarky but well, c'mon...

After that, it was just a couple of hours of taped jazz music (yep, I still haven't caught onto the DVD burning bandwagon...just the Luddite in me, I suppose). I turned on the TV to Fuji-TV and saw the last 15 minutes of this Kinki Kids-hosted program. As I vaguely remember, this Sunday night show has been on for a few years now. This show by the Domoto boys (not a common name but the boys, strangely enough, aren't brothers) came after a previous popular Saturday night music-variety half-hour also hosted by them in the mid to late 90s also on Fuji. I can't remember the title of the show although I was a pretty faithful viewer. What got me so was the pretty funny banter that the Kids had with the weekly guests (anyone from the early Morning Musume to even media-shy [or should I say, media-hating] Kazumasa Oda) and the backup band which consisted of various famed singer-musicians such as singer Keizo Nakanishi, Brother Korn, one of the legendary Alfee band, and even 90s crazed tarento, Tomoe Shinohara. The show even had a Top-10 hit in its theme song.

Well, it looks like this not-so-new show on Sundays seem to have brought back some of that old format. Now, it seems like the Domoto boys have gotten halves of duo acts and various refugees from 90s celebdom: one-half of HALCALI (a gimmick act of two Okinawan girls who seem to follow the famed quote of a long-dead agent who said of Fred Astaire: "Can't sing, can dance a little"), one-half of Puffy, actress-pop tart Kyoko Fukada, Brother Korn, the terrifyingly androgynous Takamizawa of Alfee (as opposed to the more folksy other member who appeared on the old show) and former Tetsuya Komuro paramour, Tomomi Kahala. And at the end of the show, everyone got together on their instruments and mikes to back up the singing guest of the this case, the singer who had a huge hit last year covering a hip-pop version of one of Holst's suites from "The Planets", Jupiter.

However, the real reason I'm writing this at this time when I should be already be washed and ready for futon is that I have to announce the way-too-early passing of Minako Honda. I heard on the Fuji-TV news tonight that the former 80s idol-turned-rock singer-turned-musical actress died of leukemia earlier today after a brave fight lasting almost a year. I checked some of the J-Pop sites. On one site, a list of the Top 10 hits for information on singers had her on the top of its list, and another had the sad update on a months-inactive string which had initially announced the news of her getting cancer. She was only 38.

I remember her distinctly from seeing her faces on some old music magazines that I had collected as a young university student. She was one of those girls with a huge mane of hair surrounding a pretty face...which was pretty much the usual look for an 80s J-Idol. Her music back then was not exactly my cup of tea. She was going for the early Madonna look of bared midriff, leather and chains but her voice didn't exactly match that of the real Material Girl. However, she was successful enough to reach stardom if not the superstardom of Seiko Matsuda or Akina Nakamori. There was that brief dalliance in hard rock which didn't go anywhere and then she did a 180 by doing a bit of enka and then finally settling for the genre that she stuck with until her premature end, musicals. She was now known primarily as the lead in the Japanese version of "Miss Saigon". Quite the stretches in her career and it would have been interesting how she would have further parlayed that if she had beaten her cancer. With this news, I found out a bit of trivia that I have tagged as naruhodo or "I thought as much". She was the cousin of "Snow Falling on Cedars" actress, Yuki Kudo, and in fact, Minako's original last name was Kudo. The resemblance between the two women is there.

Well, I know that Fuji-TV's entertainment news segment in about 6 hours will have a special on her life and career.
Sunday November 6, 6:31 p.m.

Once again, I went under cover of darkness to get my groceries for dinner, now that the sun disappears by 5 p.m. That gloominess translated itself into a good steady rain. With the dark, the rain and the street lights casting long shadows, I should've been dressed in a trench coat and a fedora instead of the sweater, jeans and leaky sneakers. Plus some sad jazz would've been nice.

Having a lot of time on my hands, I ended up watching three hours of "Biography" on The History Channel. The theme was fashion designers so I got to see a little bit of the late Gianni Versace and all of Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. Not that I'm a fashion hound, certainly not on my salary anyways. The only time I ever get close to those names is if I'm walking by one of their stores in the Ginza or Omotesando. But I found their life stories rather enlightening. I certainly didn't know that Klein had already been famous with a line of coats and sportswear for a good decade before his jeans and a 15-year-old Brooke Shields broke through the consumer stratosphere (and with nothing in between them). And I finally got to see the woman behind DKNY...she's the 7th-Avenue version of Barbra Streisand which is then no surprise since the real Streisand and her are best buds. However, I think if I ever made a mint, I would probably go for the understated products of Armani. Certainly, The Teacher likes his style, or to be more accurate, Andy Garcia's style whenever he dresses in one of the designer's suits.

Wait a minute...actually, I've had a couple of items by the designers mentioned. My home back in Canada actually has a bottle of Calvin Klein's "Eternity" cologne, and I bought a small version of it for a small price. And I've got a wallet from the same guy given to me by one of my bigger fans from my days at NOVA (she was an interesting one, that girl was). However, because the logo embossed on the leather was rubbed off years ago, I almost forgot its pedigree.

Well, I've been enjoying this weekend but tomorrow should be a pretty busy day (and week, for that matter). Not only do I have The Class Act and SIL, but I've got my new assignments at Speedy's in the form of two model lessons. I'm gonna be working even later than usual but I do need the money.