Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sunday November 20, 9:45 a.m.

Space: 1999

(I've decided to be kind and warn you if you aren't into sci-fi, just steer clear of this entry.)

Seeing that I do have a bit of, or too much, time on my hands depending on your point of view, I've decided to set this piece of cyberspace for one of the programs of my childhood. In recent entries, I've been talking a little about this strange series starring thespians from old 60s US TV hits so I thought maybe it's better to get all of my yah-yahs on this topic in one big burst.

Anyways, my first glimpse at "Space: 1999" was through the promotional commercials before its premiere on CHCH-TV, Channel 11 in Ontario way back in the early 70s. Even at my small age, I was somewhat intrigued by science-fiction. However, at the time, I hadn't realized that actors Martin Landau, Barbara Bain and Barry Morse had already made their marks in TV legend through "Mission: Impossible" and "The Fugitive". I barely remembered the iconic theme song and opening credits (match striking a fuse, the tape recorder, etc.) of "Mission: Impossible" as I was only the age of 4 during its heyday with Landau and Bain. As for Morse, you can imagine my surprise on seeing my first episode of the original 60s version of "The Fugitive" and catching this actor playing the tensely intrepid Lt. Gerard. Apparently, he was known as the "most hated man on TV in America". That's quite a thing to read considering Morse's Perry Como-esque take on Professor Bergmann ("Moon blasted out of orbit? Spend the rest of my life careening through outer space? Enh...that's life...what's for dinner?")

I saw the first episode "Breakaway" on a Sunday at 5 p.m. on the aforementioned CHCH. Back in those days, I was starting to catch onto the original "Star Trek" with Kirk, Spock and McCoy. "Space: 1999" was no Star Trek. It reminded me more of "2001: A Space Odyssey" in look. Somewhat more realistic-looking sets? Check. Grand music? Check. Sterile pastel uniforms? Check. There was the opening teaser of the astronaut going berserk in the nuclear waste facility on the moon before he finally collapses with the camera doing a close-up on his gray eyeball. Then, suddenly this timpani roll came thundering in and introducing us to the actors in the opening credits with this amazingly epic orchestral score and the titles over Moonbase Alpha. Then I got another shock after the Eagle falls and explodes when there was a musical 90-degree turn and I got all this 70s electric guitar during the part where the montage of the upcoming episode was flashed at us at warp speed (I've always wondered if Landau and Bain, being "Mission: Impossible" vets, had anything to do with those opening credits) before returning to the orchestra. I knew then and there that things were gonna be different with this show. And the concept of that first episode and for the series was high enough for even a dense 8-year-old like to understand. Still, there were a lot of episodes in which I didn't have a clue as to what was going on.

Well, with the benefit of more than 3 decades passing by and seeing these eps again, I've been able to finally figure things out. There is also a website called "Moonbase Alpha's Space: 1999" that has provided a lot of info on the series, including episode descriptions and reviews. In it, the creator of the site mentions that "Space: 1999" went more into the more cerebral and more metaphysical least in its first season. Ahhh...that's why John and Victor were eons old and using telepathy in a black hole...gotcha. There were definitely some episodes whose ideas were just a little out there for young me back then. Some 15 years before "Star Trek: The Next Generation", "Space: 1999" was dabbling into alternate universes, black holes (even before the term was publically acknowledged), and space brains although it also went into the conventional themes of monsters from outer space and hostile alien races.

However, "Space: 1999" and "Star Trek" converged when it came to the basic structure of the characters and setting. Like the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triumvirate, there were Commander John Koenig (Landau), Dr. Helena Russell (Bain) and Professor Victor Bergmann (Morse) along with the regular supporting crew on their "ship", the Moon itself via Moonbase Alpha. However, things seemed more congenial, surprisingly congenial considering their circumstances, amongst the top three than with their Star Trek counterparts. In fact, it wasn't until I started watching the 1st-season episodes again recently that I noticed that there was a bit of a potential romantic triangle with Russell as the apex.

As I said once before, it is interesting to see Martin Landau as the lead in this British production somewhere between his successful sepia-hued days as Rollin "The Man With a Thousand Faces" Hand in "Mission: Impossible" and his Oscar-calibre work in movies like "Ed Wood" (him, Bill Murray and Johnny Depp in the same flick?!) and "Crimes and Misdemeanors". In his first season as Commander Koenig, Landau played it pretty serious and moody...about as rock-like as his craggy face. But then again, when you're the commanding officer of a base whose moon gets blasted out of orbit for all of eternity....well, let's say you probably wouldn't be Marty Sunshine either. Then there was his wife at the time, Barbara ("JOHN!") Bain. I guess having been married for 15 years helped in their onscreen relationship. There was a very comfortable familiarity between those two. As for Barry (Oh...John) Morse's character.... well, as I said before, you couldn't faze Victor with anything, even the sight of a black hole just brought out even more wistfulness and a bottle of brandy from him.

"Space: 1999", aside from its use of then-cutting-edge special effects, was also notable for its unflinching unreluctant use of some rather gory images from time to time. Some charred corpses did pop up in a few episodes and one episode featured a brutal psychopathic attack on the poor Commander. I do recall having the cushion nearby for some quick escape when those things came into view.

Another point was the music in the first season. I do pay attention to BGM and I thought that the music in that show was very key to setting the mood. The theme certainly got me awake (and since my renewed interest in the show, I have downloaded variations on the theme) with its clash of orchestra and prog rock. Even the orchestra took on a bit of a Latin nuance at the end of the theme. Yesterday, during my stopover at Yamano Music, I actually found the soundtrack to that first season and gave it a listen at one of the listening posts. I'm about to show my otaku character but after listening to some of the tracks without the images, I just thought that there was a fascinating similarity between the music of "Space: 1999" and that of anime legend "Space Battle Cruiser Yamato". Both shows had a lot of epic orchestral music and some electric guitar thrown in for good measure. Also both shows were produced around the same time. It does make me go hmmmmm. Space: 1999 also didn't hesitate to borrow a couple of established classical pieces. One was "Mars" from Holst's "The Planets" for the episode "Space Brain" and the other was a very mournful piece (I can't remember the title just now...but I think it has the word "Adagio") which was used for "Dragon's Domain" and for a segment in the original version of "Rollerball" with James Caan.

Ahhhh...time just flew by too quickly. I've gotta continue this later.
Sunday November 20, 12:42 a.m.

Nice long day yesterday. Strangely enough, the elder of the two sisters was actually quite vocal in her adopted tongue of English. I wonder if there had been a sudden eclipse. However, I took full advantage of that fact and made sure she got a lot of talking in. Ironically, soon after that breakthrough, she had another one of those mother-daughter catfights in the corridor during my lesson with her younger sister.

I'm starting to appreciate my commuter naps on the subway. Since I had JJ after the kids, I took the long way around the Oedo Line...about a half-hour or so. Although I'm conceding my advancing age, at least I'm feeling rather refreshed afterwards. Ah...just another one of those adjustments to turning 40.

JJ was also having a pretty good day after some recent stumbles on her fluency. I was quite relieved since I had been worried that she would get so discouraged that she was gonna drop me. I was slightly distracted by the juggler outside the Starbucks. Kinda felt sorry for him since he didn't really attract all that much of a crowd. Then again, it is November in Tokyo. People have been shivering lately at the falling temps, so I can't realy imagine too many folks willing to stand outside to watch a juggling act like they did during the hot summer.

Afterwards, I went to the Ginza for an hour before meeting with The Denmother and her Scouts. I was there on the tail end of the customary weekend closing of Meiji Dori. I took a peek inside Yamano Music. Yup, the Xmas CDs were out along with tribute discs to the late Minako Honda. There are definitely a number of discs I want to get but gotta think about that budget.

At 5:30, I met the group outside of Bic Camera in Yurakucho. The Denmother was there along with Scouts Q, C and B. It's quite fortunate that The Denmother is quite a talker since the rest of the group is so quiet. When Scout S finally showed up, we made our way to this Italian place called Bravo just on the Hibiya side of Yurakucho. I've been there before once or twice in the past decade. I'm not sure what I would call it in the Italian ranking of restaurants (trattoria?) but it's classified on its name cards as a bar & grill. The dish portions would make it an equivalent of an izakaya. We were sharing a lot of dishes: some good stuff there although the portions are pretty small....Rosemary Potatoes, Porcini Mushroom & Minced Chicken Spaghetti, and good ol' traditional Lasagna amongst other things.

As I said before, The Denmother is quite a talker. Usually when there are a whole bunch of talkers, I clam up and just take in the ambiance. But it seems as if whenever there is a dearth of conversationalists, my verbal abilities decide to kick in so for the first couple of hours, it was basically just The D and me gabbing with some support from the other Scouts. Then, The D's only son joined us as advertised. He's definitely one mighty hip-hopping guy: he's got the look and the fashion of a man ready to krunk and krumple like the best of them in LA or NYC. And yet, he's a pretty regular soft-spoken and friendly guy...not a bit of attitude as might be depicted on an average MTV video. I envied him and his mother's his admission, they are more buddies than mother-son although The Denmother did admit having to bounce his head a few times. Gotta admit that The D is not your typical middle-aged mom, either. The son indicated her fashion sense and I had to admit it was unusual once I realized it. Her shirt was a quilt-like patchwork of various colours and images. Certainly, I couldn't really see The Elder and her more traditional mother bonding like these two. And I have to admit that my parents have always been parents. I was quite surprised and delighted that her son could get along quite well with a fuddy-duddy like me although I was slightly taken aback when mother and son told me that I reminded them of dear ol' Dad in appearance and demeanor!

We finally got out of Bravo around 10-ish or so. It was quite cool outside by that point which meant that the others were freezing. Scouts Q, C and S decided to make their ways home but The Denmother, Scout B, the son and I decided to get one more drop to drink. We did a bit of searching around Yurakucho until we settled for the Lotteria burger shop in the basement of the huge Fujiya Building. Obviously, smoking was very much allowed there since there was a constant haze and my nose was starting to act up. The Denmother was asking me about my probability of getting married. I said it was pretty low. I didn't feel too badly about it, especially since back at the Italian restaurant, The D had related to us about the trials and tribulations that The Songbird was going through with her fiance concerning her upcoming wedding, which includes an overbearing future mother-in-law.

At last, we broke up close to 11. The D's son was off to Roppongi for an all-nighter at his dance club (man, what a cool mother....he's only 19 and he can shake his bootie all night), and Scout B was off for home. So it was just The Denmother and me for the ride back home. She's also based in Urayasu so we had a nice little chat. Yep, it would be nice to keep in contact with her and the Scouts. A lot quieter, on average, than Skippy, The Madame and all those folks from their year at the ol' school but still good fellows.

Looks like I've got another delivery failure notice from Yamato which means that another package for The Anime King is on the way. I've rescheduled it for delivery on the holiday Wednesday.

Gahhh...this is stuff that just unnerves me. I mentioned last night about all the shootings in Toronto. Well, some gang thugs rubbed out a potential witness at the funeral of the guy whose murder that the witness had seen and that the thugs had instigated. My blood just ran hot and cold reading that bit of news. There was the usual outrage from the police and politicos but I just got the impression that they're just helpless after a summer of gun violence. I can only hope that the mayor will finally declare war on gangs.

Well, anyways, later today, I'm off to see The Madame for lupper at Fujimamas. I'm thinking about getting there a bit earlier so that I can get a bit of Xmas shopping done. I've already got an Xmas card from The Entrepreneur.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday November 18, 10:03 p.m.

The Teacher was having some major pain problems with her neck today to the extent that I was wondering about cutting the lesson short. However, she held on for the full 90 minutes. It was just another talkfest without looking at any article today. She gave me some advice on getting a trenchcoat when The Lady's party comes around. I think it'll be just a little too chilly by that night for me even to wear my full suit. Even the cheapest ones will set me back about 10000 yen. Ugh! And I have to get a pair of new dress shoes since the leather is starting to crack.

I did pull off a minor miracle and went to the gym for my second day in a week. A bit more crowded than usual due to an aerobics class in the studio area and some extra bodies in the gym area. In fact, I couldn't even finish off my workout with the usual half-hour treadmill since they were all taken.

Just came home after the gym, had lunch and planned for the kids' lessons before setting out again to see The OL. Looks like the Toranomon Starbucks has also gone Christmas in terms of BGM. The OL herself seems a lot more happier since she got the word last week that she could enter Aoyama University. Good for her. She also gave me another restaurant tip on a good dim sum place in Omotesando.

Got word from The Denmother. Looks like I'm to meet her and the others in front of Bic Camera in Yurakucho at 5:30 tomorrow night. Because of my lesson with JJ tomorrow, they had to do a bit of rescheduling so I hope they're not too, too sore with me. I've already had to go through with all of that crud with Speedy this week.

Well, there's been a pretty major scandal uncovered but it doesn't involve the usual politicians or other celebs. It actually involves architects and building inspectors. A very sheepish architect came clean and admitted that he had deliberately falsified documents regarding the structural integrity of buildings that he'd had a hand in designing and were then constructed. Basically, the buildings don't meet up to specs in a Shindo 5.0 quake. To add context, the quake that brought down Kobe in 1995 was a Shindo 7.0, a million times more powerful than a Shindo 5. In other words, those residents who've moved into several new condos and apartments in the past few months in Tokyo, Yokohama and Kawasaki have been royally screwed.

The loser architect said that he had done the dastardly deed so that he could push through his projects at a lower price and a quicker pace. If he could pull off such a stunt, I can imagine that there could be others who may have fallen to The Dark Side. You can imagine the phone calls that rang in today. The scandal reached all the way up to the prefectural level with Governor Ishihara of Tokyo, for example, holding a press conference this afternoon. And NHK News has just issued methods on how cheated tenants can get justice. Man, imagine finding out that you've been living in a house of cards. Hmmm...I wonder if Mr. & Mrs Kuroda know about this...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Thursday November 17, 9:30 p.m.

The Kiba shopping mall, Gatharia (where do they come up with these names?), had its trees all decked out in Xmas lights. It would've made for a very pretty sight except that there was a huge skyscraper being erected in front of the complex. But lights were flashing even from there but in that case, the lights were from acetylene torches.

Starbucks inside was also very much swooning in the Yuletide as the folks were hawking some Xmas-y concoctions such as Creme Brulee Latte in festive red cups. I definitely knew it would only be a matter of time before Noel would arrive when I started hearing the "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown" soundtrack. There's nothing like Vince Guaraldi to bring that hint of the red and green.

The Manager indicated a line of people getting longer by the second outside and across from Starbucks. But, unlike the spirit inside, the folks outside weren't waiting to get on Santa's lap. Instead, they were waiting to get their lottery tickets for Lotto 6. Yep, lottery fever has been a big thing here for the past several years. Tonight, though, was quite special. Lotto 6 apparently has amassed quite a large pool for top prize since there have been no winners for the past few weeks. And apparently tonight is the final night before the draw. The pot is 500 million yen which come out to about 7 million bucks...don't ask me whether it's Canadian or US. Just a relative drop in the bucket when compared to the ridiculous amounts given out Stateside to retired folks but over here, that's a lot of yen to capture.

Both the Manager and MK were fine tonight. They made for a nice tonic after my little shot of reality yesterday. But most likely I won't see them for almost a month since they're gonna be busy.

Man, what is happening in Toronto these days? I read in the paper yesterday that the former Toronto The Good has become the 21st-century Canadian equivalent of Dodge City with its imported gun culture. A lot of shooting up going on in there. And the The Anime King told me of this horrific crime in which 15 youths have been arrested in the gangbang of a high school girl. to be honest, I've been hearing of both gun and youth violence for some years now in the old hometown but it's still pretty chilling to read since I've got family there. But I'm hopeful...15 years ago when I returned to Toronto during the summer, my mother most emphatically told me not to head down to downtown Chinatown because of the gang warfare that was peaking there at the time. During my 3-year stay back home, though, the violence had subsided so that I could still enjoy my frequent Chinese dinners and dim sums. Mind you, I could no longer really stay there beyond 10 p.m. Maybe a Rudy Giuliani-style intervention may be needed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Thursday November 17, 11:28 a.m.

As expected, I didn't get up until 10:30 this morning after staying up til nearly 4 a.m. scrolling through this website dedicated to "Space: 1999". Part of it was to assuage my just-as-fat ego after the events of yesterday (however, I'm starting to get that sense that this whole mountain is just a molehill...I'm still reminding myself that she is a paying customer). The other part is just another more harmless trait of mine that wants to explore nostalgia (as people of a certain age are wont to do). I'll probably have more comments on this in the entries to come. However, I did want to point out that on another website, people were struggling to come up with some sort of explanation for the huge continuity changes between the 1st and 2nd seasons of the show (for those who haven't seen a single episode, you may just leave now for the next several lines). Certain members died in unseen accidents, Commander Koenig went on a redecorating spree, etc. I'd say that the show just changed producers and let it go. I mean, this is like trying to explain why James Bond has changed appearance over the decades....ahhh, I get it. He's really another one of those rebellious Time Lords like The Doctor and The Master, and he just regenerates whenever he's mortally wounded or outquipped by a villain...ah, what my eyes have seen. The Broccoli family can be rest assured in their knowledge then that they could potentially still have seven more Bonds before luck finally runs out for the world's greatest superspy. But back to the for the grand rationale for the big changes between Season 1 and Season 2 of Space: 1999, just use the alternate universe theory. I cannot come up with any other reason for the 1st-season Koenig to get that horrible mullet in Season 2.

Anyways, I got word from The Denmother. That long-awaited meeting between those old students and me is coming off this Saturday after all. Despite me throwing a wrench into the proceedings (didn't want to do it, I assure you) with a lesson with JJ, she got back to me and said that things were still not solidified yet and that there would still be something.

Well, I gotta get some domestic stuff done and then prep for The Manager and MK tonight.
Thursday November 17, 1:00 a.m.

Well, I certainly got a wake-up call yesterday...or maybe it's better to say that I got torpedoed. Here I was stating that Student 004 had been a great addition when I got an e-mail forwarded from her via Speedy. Apparently, the feeling of Monday's lesson was not completely reciprocal. She was happy with the first part of the lesson with the business articles but then she nailed me for just doing general conversation for the last half hour in the lounge. I had absolutely no idea that she was dissatisfied at all during those 30 minutes.

Once again I had to keep my bile in check and sent a quick response to Speedy. I let him know that if 004 had not been happy then I would do my utmost to be better. However I did defend myself in stating that she had initiated the happy talk segment, not me. So I naturally assumed that it would be the regular format. I knew obviously she was a high student but I didn't realize she used English everyday at work.

Speedy kept me CC'ed through the quick series of spin doctoring e-mails between him and 004, stating that perhaps I was trying to get to know her better as a student (no, I wasn't...I was just following procedure). To 004's credit, she emphasized in two e-mails that she'd had absolutely no qualms about the regular classroom lesson but that she would like to keep things strictly business from now on. Speedy gently admonished me that she is a paying high-level customer and that she expects top quality for her top yen. What? And I was lowballing her? Speedy did redeem himself by stating that I had no reason to defend myself and that he had every little confidence in my abilities.

It looks like the crisis has been averted but I will be having a very serious talk with her on Monday about ground rules. I think the first few minutes will be awkward though; I don't hide bad news very well but I'm sure with a bit of groveling apology, I should be able to keep myself in her good graces. But the damage has been done. She's asked to go down to just an hourlong lesson which will drop my pay a bit.

Yep, I'm acting like a spoiled prima donna but then again what can one expect from a guy who's had a very good track record all these years teaching and making students laugh? That's the flip side of taking my work seriously. I'm gonna take any sort of criticism personally. I know that I'm gonna have those few students who won't take to me but it's not gonna prevent me from still feeling a sting when I do get dumped.

Speedy took me out afterwards to that oden place that we had gone to a few weeks earlier. I thought it would be just to celebrate getting my visa extended as had been planned. Instead, it turned out to be a pep talk reassuring me that my job was safe and that 004 bore me no ill will. Ugh! I hate those types of outings. I should know...I did that once myself to an errant teacher and once good friend almost a decade ago during my own thankfully brief time as a supervisor. As I recall, he didn't particularly take the session too happily either. Well, this time I was on the wrong end, but I have to admit that Speedy did it a lot better than I did.

As most of the above has been generated by The Dark Side of me, it would only be fair to let The Light Side give its two cents (but only two). Perhaps this wake-up call will nudge me in being a bit more harsh on some of the laggards in my flock like the kids, The New Kid and The Beauty Pair. They are all paying me money (not a lot of it in the latter two cases) for a good lesson. If they don't want to try, I still have to deliver something.

In other news, I did register my visa extension at City Hall. The lady there was annoyingly patronizing...she enunciated her Japanese so affectedly (in the assumption that I could understand her better) that I didn't think she was Japanese at all. However, her name plate told otherwise. But it was only a 5-minute endurance test.

Had quite a lot of e-mail in the box (a lot of it being the spinning between Speedy and 004). The Madame accepted my invitation for lupper at Fujimamas on Sunday. In fact, she had been there before and enjoyed it. She'll also be OK for Harry Potter on the 27th with Skippy. Movie Buddy initially also accepted the call but later retracted it when he once again realized that he and The Sylph already had other plans.

Well, it's been a day...not necessarily a good one, but it's been one.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Wednesday November 16, 7:29 a.m.

I'm currently watching an old episode of "Space 1999" on SuperChannel. Quaint program, considering. Even in 2005, we can only wish for the fake technology of Moonbase Alpha. This ep was "Earthbound", guest starring Christopher Lee in a rare good-guy alien role. I used to watch "Space 1999" on CHCH-TV on Sundays. For the time, the special effects were top-notch (it was filmed a few years before Star Wars premiered) and were reminiscent of the stuff used on "2001 Space Odyssey". Martin Landau did his best with his dour version of Captain Kirk while Barry Morse was his congenial sidekick, Professor Bergmann. It's a bit nostalgic seeing Landau in this strange interesting part of his career, between star turns in "North by Northwest" and "Mission: Impossible" and his Oscar-worthy character roles later on. I wonder how William Shatner feels about him (although he should be happy that he finally got his Emmy).

Well, I should be getting things tidied up for the trip to City Hall and then the gym. I'm pretty much ready for the lessons tonight. Student 001 is one of those people that I consider an "auto pilot"...I don't really need to plan (although I already have something in mind) for her; she can just take any ball and run with it. I also have something ready for Student 003 but I'll need to refine her plan at Speedy's.

The weather is getting chillier for sure. It's only going up to 12 C today (which I would translate into "freezing" for the natives here) and it was only a couple of degrees warmer when I entered the living room. Still only 16 in here.
Tuesday November 15, 10:37 p.m.

NHK has just wrapped up its half-hour devoted to the wedding today. It was surprising that the media was allowed to televise the reception. It just looked like a regular wedding reception although the guests were of a far higher calibre. For example, Governor Shintaro Ishihara of Tokyo, the big boss of groom Yoshiki Kuroda, gave the opening speech and toast. I think it was a good choice that the dinner was French; I don't think the governor would have liked a Chinese menu (inside joke).

Meanwhile. George W. Bush has touched down in Japan via Osaka International Airport to head over to Kyoto for the big meeting with PM Koizumi tomorrow. Security is obviously very tight. For some reason, Bobby Valentine of the Japan Series-winning Chiba Lotte Marines and batting legend Sadaharu Oh greeted the President when he got onto the tarmac.

Hmmm...tonight's stint at the juku was a bit off. The New Kid was a bit down in the mouth tonight, and The Beauty Pair was just plain lazy. I did get a nice box of yatsuhashi as a souvenir during their trip to Kyoto, though. However, I'm gonna have to buckle down on them. Only The Milds and McKid were their dependable selves. The Bohemian cancelled out due to his cold. Considering his whacked-out condition last week, I'm glad he chose the safe option.

It'll be another nighttime series of classes tomorrow night with my second stint at Speedys this week. Beforehand, I will have to head over to City Hall to register the fact that I got my visa extended. Then it'll be my first stint at the gym in a while.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Tuesday November 15, 2:26 p.m.

I just saw the press conference of Mr. and Mrs. Kuroda (nee Princess Nori)...all 5 minutes of it. Not surprisingly, it was the usual bland platitudes of making the best life possible together, and of course, the media lapped them all up like thirsty cats to milk. It was an interesting point I found from CNN. Thanks to a 1947 law, Japanese princesses apparently only stay that way until marriage. Basically, if one is born a princess, she won't die as one unless she wants to spend the rest of her life as an old maid. It's kinda like the reverse of women who marry into the Imperial family. However, Mrs. Kuroda isn't the first to become a commoner; there have been other instances of, I mean, regular folk.

It'll be interesting how Sayoko Kuroda's life will turn out over the years. Will she now be fair game for the media since the all-powerful Imperial Household Agency, which could put many dictatorships to shame, no longer has control over her (or that's what I assume)? Will the paparazzi of magazines like Friday try to snap shots of her buying groceries or blowing her nose? Will she actually get rid of that ridiculous Imperial way of speaking (the folks in the Palace all sound like spirits from the netherworld...I thought Emperor Hirohito renounced godhood back in 1945)? Will she actually let down her hair and actually take natural pics (perhaps throw up a Peace sign) instead of having that eerie sleepy-eyed smile which raises my hackles?

Methinks, no...not completely, anyways. She's been a princess for 36 years...old habits die hard and she does have an appearance to keep up, commoner or not. However, I think she will slowly thaw a bit now that she will be surrounded by regular folk; without the Imperial Household Agency around her, I think that shroud of Imperial reservedness will become more permeable. She's already gotten practice in shopping at supermarkets and driving a car (those themes from "Bewitched" and "Green Acres" are now playing in my head) so the conversion is beginning. And I just cannot believe that within the halls of the Imperial Palace that the folks all speak that affected way all the time. I was watching some footage of the Princess as a little girl; she did sound normal enough in her uniform. And some other footage of Mr. Kuroda in a very normal situation had him speak like a regular guy, although his appearances in front of the press had him taking on that linguistic formality. They will probably gab (and fight) quite normally at home in the rarefied heights of their condo in Akihabara. I'm sure Crown Princess Masako has had some rather choice words to say in secret to her hubby over the years since it's been documented that she hasn't been a happy camper (shades of Princess Diana). However, unlike the open-book life of the British Royals, the IHA has kept a Darth Vader-like Force grip on any news leaking out to the ravenous press. The press, for the most part, hasn't raised so much as a pinkie on the point of increased access to the Imperials probably because journalists could get some rather nasty repercussions. As I said the IHA has some scary power considering that the Imperial Family is a mere symbol of state.

Meanwhile, as for schlubby big me, I'm still trying to make ends meet.
Tuesday November 15, 9:36 a.m.

Got another one of those slight rockings as a wake-up call. Well, a 6.9M quake wouldn't usually merit such a label but it hit several hundred kilometres up north so it wasn't too strong here; however, it did last a good long while. The tsunami warnings popped up all over the north Pacific coast until about a half-hour ago when the all-clear was given.

Pretty chilly in the apartment although not shiveringly so. It was about 15 C in the living room; now with all the appliances on, the temp is at a balmy 16. Looks much colder outside though. It's gray and overcast with some rain slated for later in the evening. Not particularly great marrying weather although Mr. Kuroda looked uncharacteristically but unsurprisingly jaunty as he made his way to the Imperial Hotel to get wedded with his Princess. The wide shows all led off with the coverage of the impending nuptials between the civil servant and the soon-to-be former Princess Nori. The wedding itself should be taking place in less than 90 minutes. During the weekend, the Princess made her official goodbyes to the Emperor and Empress. Sure there wasn't a dry eye in the palace. Sometime after 11 today, she'll be known as just Sayoko Kuroda, employee at some ornithological institute in Chiba. She says that she intends to use the train like everyone else (although there will always be a ring of security around her...I, for one, would love to see how that's gonna work during rush hour). Perhaps I might see her sitting across from me sometime. Still, I would be more amused if she were sitting across from a bunch of cellphone-sporting, cosmetics-applying Harajuku girls.

Well, while all that hysteria plays out on the TV, I'll be just ironing and getting ready for my lessons tonight at the juku. I somehow managed to lose my invitation to the reception.
Tuesday November 15, 12:50 a.m.

I guess my Mondays are just gonna be late ones now. I had my first official Monday night lessons with 004 and 005 at Speedy's. I end up finishing at about 10 instead of the 7 that I once had with The Company, and then I usually have a bit of shop talk with the big boss himself which means I probably won't get out until 10:30. Ah, least, I feel that I'm actually accomplishing something. 004 is a bundle of joy...the perfect high-level student. So far, she's eager to do anything I ask. Kinda reminds me of The Hawaiian who's now firmly established in Australia. As for 005, I had to do it the hard way but I finally got her out of her shell. She finally revealed herself to be the grammatically high student both Speedy and I suspected she would be. The photocopy of the text turned out to be way too easy for her (some of the muffled laughter from her when we took a look at it kinda hinted at that) so we quickly extrapolated away from that stuff. It's always so difficult with these shy types...and they wonder why the lessons don't go so well. It takes two to tango, that's why.

Apparently 002 will be making her way to Speedy's next Monday but only to visit. Speedy isn't too sure whether or not she will renew with us since she's already got a contract with another major English conversation school.

I ended up having only The Matron for the morning lesson, and then SIL for the afternoon. It looks like the new regimen of newspaper articles is a good one for SIL.

Well, it looks like Bush will be meeting with Koizumi in Kyoto on Wednesday. I think that should put the security guys here in Tokyo at ease considering the Princess' wedding is later today.

Man, I'm beat. I'm just lucky I don't have The Beehive this week but I'm wondering how Monday nights and Tuesday mornings are gonna be like from now on.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Monday November 14, 7:15 a.m.

It was a quiet night last night. Just watched the usual "Before/After" episode. A bit more heartwarming than usual. The customer of last night's show was a guy in his late 60s whose chronic leg injury was so severe that he hadn't seen his 2nd floor in ages. The architect to the rescue was able to design and build a new interior for him and his wife so that it was much more user-friendly for him.

Then I watched "Revenge of the Sith" in its entirety on the DVD with commentary by the usual suspects: George Lucas, Rick McCallum, etc. I was a bit disappointed that the commentary was once again parallelized; that is, the various speakers gave their contributions separately. That was one of the few things I was disappointed with in the DVDs of the first trilogy. Episodes I and II had the boys all together and chatting it up. I didn't think they ended up just yakking all over the place in those discs like so many casts did in other movies. Episode III was somewhere in between. Lucas was all by his lonesome while McCallum and one other guy were together. Then again, time was also an issue (the yak tracks were laid down just three weeks after the movie's theatrical premiere in the US), and I surmised that the parallelization was so that Lucas could focus on the plot points while the others could address the scenes technically.

As for the commentaries themselves, I was amused by McCallum's statement right at the opening crawl about Lucas' determination to keep the acting/writing/action on the same template as those old Flash Gordon serials...something that Lucas had been hawking ad nauseum about for years. And like Lucas, I'm sure McCallum's opener was in part a defense against the critics' harping about the stylized performances by Messrs McGregor, Jackson, McDiarmid, Christensen, etc.

My argument is that the original Star Wars could get away with that sort of thing since it was the first of its kind and so at that time the hackneyed acting and writing could be seen as a bit of cute homage to the serials of the 30s and 40s. And of course, maybe...just maybe, Lucas was safe with his devotion to that sad cinematic religion in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" (although the former movie is considered to be the best overall in quality....tellingly, Lucas neither wrote or directed it) for continuity's sake. Of course, overall, Lucas was working with three relatively unknown commodities in Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, actors who really didn't have established careers at that time and so were relatively more amenable to the Lucas technique.

But since then, thanks to all the fans and media over the decades, the ethos surrounding Star Wars and the Jedi just deepened to truly become this pop-cultural religion. The stylized acting and writing in homage to those serials of long ago (at that time, Flash Gordon was indeed the Star Wars of that time) haven't been able to support this new trilogy. And frankly, huge event movies (of which Star Wars and Jaws were the very first) are a lot more numerous than they were during the late 70s, and not only that, they are now starting to include better writing and acting (see Spiderman). We wanted to have that same level of writing and acting for this new trilogy. What would Episodes I to III have been like if the script and performances had been on the level of, say, "Lord of the Rings"? Certainly, the story of the Jedi in their heyday (and that's only relative since it's assumed that Darth Sidious had controlled even the knights right from the get-go) would have only benefitted with the rejection of the "Flash Gordon" acting and writing. It was a different time (for both the setting and for the viewers watching the films) and a different approach to the early episodes would have nicely distinguished them from the later somewhat hack-acted but action-packed movies. In a nutshell, the times, blockbuster movies, viewers and the actors have outgrown the acting/writing in a Star Wars movie. This is a point that Lucas quietly tries to quash in his last line of the DVD when he says that the two trilogies should actually be seen as one 7-hour movie.

And as for the actors themselves? It's also quite telling that in all of the commentaries for all of the movies, only Carrie Fisher has come on to give her two cents. I very much doubt Liam Neeson would ever give George Lucas the time of day let alone come onto another Star Wars project.

Now in other news...

I did start that essay for my Permanent Residency bid. I was quite surprised that I could write a lot of it so far as much as I did. I've just been writing about my history when it came to my long interest in this country. I guess it was something that has been bubbling to get out. For sure, this blog has rather helped me in my writing. Still, I'm not quite finished yet and I have to translate the whole thing into Japanese.

Security is gonna have a pretty rotten day tomorrow. Not only is it the big wedding day for Princess Nori at The Imperial Hotel but I just found that George W. is also supposed to be here for talks with PM Koizumi. As for Princess Nori, it'll mean her demotion to commoner. Now, this would be an interesting idea for a "Bewitched"-like reality show. Imagine a former royal having to get a part-time job in a 7-11. She'd be the politest cashier in the entire franchise. Certainly the concept could be a whole lot more entertaining than the recent movie version of "Bewitched".

I got some intriguing news from The Wild Guy. He hinted that a mutual friend of ours has had a big change in his life....and it isn't marriage. He said that it would be better if the news came from the friend himself. I wonder if George Takei has been influencing a few people lately. Hmmm...