Saturday, November 26, 2005

Sunday November 27, 10:29 a.m.

There's been some fallout from the Aneha Scandal. A president of one of the contractors that Aneha has accused of demanding kickbacks has offed himself by throwing himself into the ocean. His body was picked up some time later. And another president has said that his company would pay back all the money to the betrayed customers. Mr. Aneha, whether or not he's the only architect implicated, is one dead man.

But enough bad news...a bit on pop culture here once more. There's been quite a boom on comedic duos over the past couple of years. Forgive me if the steady stream of names throws you for a loop but popular teams like Garage Sale, Angaruzu, Nankai Candies, Robert and Yamada Dai Circus have been populating the variety airwaves for the past several months. I'm sure the TV program producers are just dancing all over the studios at these ratings magnets. But one team I'd like to mention is Regulars, a duo that is about as regular as the infamous joke The Aristocrats is about aristocrats (look it up on the Net). It consists of two homely fellows who could be seen as the Japanese equivalent of the "Dumb and Dumber" boys.

One fat fellow looks not unlike a casual salesman with a shirt, tie and beige slacks while the other looks like an older-than-usual university student. Unlike other duos, Regulars' schtick isn't adversarial with the straight man berating or knocking his partner upside the head like Abbott and Costello. Instead, they are quite agreeable with each other and natter to each other at warp speed (perhaps, they're closer to those congenial gophers from the Warner Bros cartoons). For about 20 seconds, they do all this nattering and then they go into this little jig when the fat guy raps out this punchline which has the audience in stitches. Then they go into this further dance and spout some trademark line which I still can't understand. In any case, they have also become darlings on the variety show circuit.

Anyways, in about 10 minutes I head into the shower and then I'm out of here for "Harry Potter".
Sunday November 27, 12:28 a.m.

Well, the Speedy gang and I had that meet-n'-greet at The Foreign Correspondents Club in Yurakucho tonight. Once again, I realized how much I dislike those things. I've never been too comfortable meeting new people...I guess I never received that sociablity gene but then again my parents never really had it either. Just like in the old Language Exchange in Toronto, it was mostly a mix of foreign males and Japanese females. I'm sure there was a fair bit of nampa going on; certainly, Speedy's wife suspected as such as well. Our host, a very young man, told us that tonight's party was a pretty slow one since it was November...yeah, right...200 people in one large room. I'd say that would be the count of a pretty healthy wedding reception. It's usually double that for the special ones for Xmas and Halloween. Speedy and the other teacher, Mr. Influence, were doing all of the chatting up and handing out of name cards. Mr. Influence especially was garnering a lot of attention from the laydeez. It certainly reflected one disadvantage of being The Stealth Gaijin on my part; then again, in my case, perhaps I shouldn't consider it a disadvantage since I preferred to just observe things. I felt a little bad since perhaps I should have been doing my part promoting the school but, again, I'm no salesman, and Speedy didn't invite me there for that role anyways. Plus, it was all free food and drink. Speedy and I had been under the idea that it would just be pizza and beer. Well, the beer part was correct but the food turned out to be a pretty decent buffet. No roast beef or anything on that level. but there was plenty of fried chicken, pasta and other hearty izakaya fare. Can't complain about that. Speedy's two admin assistants, SB and HK, were laughing and gawking at how many times I went back to the buffet table (five, incidentally)...aside from breakfast, I'd only had two rice balls for lunch so I was quite famished.

All in all, when the festivities were over as of 9 p.m., Speedy thought that it was good that all of us could go just to get the free food and advertising for the school...all the usual schmoozing. However, he was also rather tepid about having any of us go there again regularly since it would actually cost us money in future attempts. He didn't think it was that great. And I probably won't go there again. It does make me think about The Lady's party in a couple of weeks. I'm taking a small away team there. Maybe it won't matter. I'll probably still have an awkward time. But on the good side is the fact that Mr. Influence was able to get a few nibbles for his biweekly cooking classes. Speedy can always hope that those cooking-in-English classes will translate into possible students for the regular classes. We were told by our host that the next big party will be on December 22, the Xmas version. I think I'll be quite happy teaching The Carolinan that night instead.

Well, it looks like that it'll be the four of us for "Harry Potter" later today. Skippy and The Madame will join me for lunch before the movie and then The Satyr will meet us at 3 in front of the Picadilly in Shinjuku. The Madame was hoping to find a quieter place for lunch. In Shinjuku? On Sunday? Good luck!

While one side of the Atlantic is mourning the passing of George Best, the aptly named tragic legend of English football, I've found out that Noriyuki "Pat" Morita has also gone to that karate dojo in the sky. Although he's going to be immortalized as the "Wax on, wax off" sensei from "The Karate Kid", I'll always know him as Arnold from "Happy Days". His faux-Japanese accent and bwahahahaha laugh may have been stereotyped but I'll take that over that terrible Mickey Rooney impression of a Japanese tourist in "Breakfast at Tiffany's". Come to think of it, it's amazing how many currently famous people have managed to come from that show: Ron Howard, Morita, Tom Hanks, Robin Williams and Penny Marshall.

On the way home from the party, I was reading the last page of METROPOLIS, that free English-language weekly. The last page is always set aside for some foreign viewpoint on Japan, and this week's contributor opined that Japan was actually freer than America now. According to him, Americans often have to contend with potential terrorist attacks from abroad and safety issues from within on a daily basis whereas the Japanese don't have to worry about such things. The one young lady I spoke with at the party and I had talked about that same topic. And the author is right. At night, my neighbourhood is off the beaten path and is not brightly lit but I can go home securely without having to turn my head around repeatedly. On the other hand, I have to do just that when I'm back in Toronto even though my apartment is on a major street. The author also points out that one of the factors which has given the Japanese this bigger freedom is the existence of kumiai, the neighbourhood association, which consists of neighbours who help out in keeping order and cleanliness within their area thereby reducing reliance on Uncle Osamu and reducing taxes. Also, the kumiai keeps everyone and, by association, their families honest so that perhaps teenage deliquency isn't nearly as high as it might be in the West.

Although the author points out that no country, including Japan, is perfect, I think he still comes across as being a bit Pollyannish and as someone who hasn't been out into the wilds of Tokyo all that much (and he's been here longer than I have). For one thing, bar none, Japan is overall probably the safest country within the G-8 at least. Still, that doesn't mean Japan is a utopia. Crimes may be relatively few and almost gun-free here but they can be quite heinous. Take that murder of the little girl inHiroshima this week, for example. She isn't the first child murder victim this year and won't be the last. Her neighbourhood, kumiai or not, isn't feeling too secure right now with the murderer still loose. And in my 11 years here, I have noticed an increase in convenience store and ATM robberies. But of course, there is also the organized crime element which has now included overseas influences such as The Snakeheads and The Russian Mafia. And certainly, teenagers today have had a tendency to become more immorally savvy than their earlier counterparts. It may be harder to find, but danger is still out there.

As for the kumiai part, I'm not sure but I can imagine some folks back in the States who could see such an association as something smacking of Communism. However, overall, I think Japan in terms of security and secureness is smacking more hits right now than in the USA because the country isn't a total democracy. It's a democracy with socialistic elements, a democracy with responsibilites attached. The United States prides itself with liberty for all but not all can end up as good moral people.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Saturday November 26, 11:21 a.m.

One month before those lovely Boxing Day sales. However, I think some of you folks getting ready to pounce on unsuspecting department stores may want to think twice if you see any of that CNN footage of battling consumers on Black Friday. Grown adults tussling for things like laptops. And Americans wonder why the rest of the world sniff at them so much. Mind you, the little old ladies here can get rather aggressive as well when a big sale hits.

Some big news from the sumo world. Sekiwake Koto-Oshu toppled yokozuna Asashoryu yesterday in a much-ballyhooed match. Now, Koto-Oshu stands a good chance of being promoted to ozeki, the second-highest level. A third-ranked sumotori beating a grand champion is always a great sight to watch (the audience always fling their purple cushions around the stadium in glee at an upset victory), but what gave this match further flavour is that Koto-Oshu is the the first European sumotori (Bulgarian, to be exact) to reach the rarefied level of ozeki. A further bonus is that the Bulgarian defeated Asashoryu, a Mongolian. In a centuries-old sport in which women (no matter their standing in Japanese society) still aren't allowed to enter the match ring, it certainly says much when a native audience can cheer for two non-Japanese warriors. As for the defeated Asashoryu, he didn't give anything to Koto-Oshu...just sanguinely saying that he should've done better. And perhaps he should have....yokozuna aren't expected to be defeated...ever...except by fellow yokozuna.

Got one of those occasional letters from The Dancer back in Toronto. Looks like she and the family have been keeping busy. I let her and the others in the CC list, The Entrepreneur and The Doctor, that I won't be coming home for Xmas (sounds rather sad, doesn't it?). Not that it would affect The Doctor too much since he lives in Washington D.C. now. The Dancer mentioned that she may have caught a stomach bug from a meal at Mr. Greenjeans, one of my old haunts back in my university days. It certainly brought memories for me....I'm sure it brought something more dire back for The Dancer.

It is a glorious thing to wake up on a Saturday morning not having to teach sullen kids. However, I do have to send in some student reports to Speedy and then clean up the living room and the kitchen before I meet Speedy and the gang tonight.
Friday November 25, 9:53 p.m.

Although it's still one month before Xmas, I already feel quite stuffed, thank you very much. I tried out that chef's technique and cooked that hunk of beef. It didn't quite turn out as nicely pink as it had on that show (I had the heat on a little too high for a little too long), and it was a bit tough but it still came out OK, especially when I concocted a little onion gravy from the slices I threw into the foil and some garlic...just added some soy sauce and a slice of butter and that's all she wrote. Not too bad for a first time attempt and I hope to improve on it in the weeks and months to come. Who knows? Maybe that will be my "turkey" come Xmas Day. I've just had some Crunky chocolate with some tea to wash things down.

The kids' mother called me about an hour ago to say that the lessons with them are cancelled since the family has to deal with a grandmother's operation. So my weekend has already started. I won't get that extra money for weekend stuff but at least I can wake up late tomorrow and actually do a bit of cleanup before meeting Speedy and the rest of the staff for this party at The Foreign Correspondents' Club.

"Music Station", one of the shows that I don't get to watch because of lessons, brought out its big guns tonight. SMAP, Namie Amuro, Ayumi Hamasaki and BoA were all up with their latest hits. To be honest, I don't think I missed out on much all these Friday nights.

Earlier this afternoon, I was just spending a couple of hours on the Net looking at "Space 1999" stuff (yep, I'm still getting my yah-yahs out on that program). Looking through the IMDb, I found out that most of the six pages of review contributors have cherished the show over the years while the last page seemed to have all of the naysayers. But even a number of the folks who liked the show preceded or anteceded their praise with caveats. They said that people will enjoy it as long as they: 1) watched the shows as little kids, and 2) could overlook the oft-hokey acting and writing. Well, I think that's certainly true of the original Star Trek as well.

But whether contributors were fans or detractors of the program, it seemed that the IMDb folks were of one opinion that the music was first-class, including the killer theme song. I had read somewhere that none other than George Lucas, some years before Star Wars, had drawn some inspiration from a "Space 1999" special effect of the belly of a massive spaceship pressing forward at the top of the screen for that iconic first scene from "A New Hope". Well, maybe John Williams got some inspiration from Barry Gray, the composer of the score for the first season of the series. I've been listening to the soundtrack from the show for the past couple of days, and even without the pictures, I can sense that the music was the 10th player in the baseball team known as Moonbase Alpha. The BGM certainly overshadows anything that was played for Classic Trek (although both series used the technique of leitmotif...using specific themes over and over again for certain situations. Williams used that technique for all of the Star Wars films). One episode, "Matter of Life and Death", may not have been the most scientifically sound of shows in that first season, but it had a score that could have merited its own release. The overture-like theme of hope and innocence which represented the planet of Terra Nova contrasted nicely with the down-to-moon reality of the Moonbase themes.

I also looked up on what was up with Martin Landau. I would have to agree with one contributor to the IMDb when it came to the issue of his performances. He can be astonishing in his art but he has to be well directed...which would mean that he may share something in common with Tom Cruise. Landau should be giving yearly tribute to directors like Woody Allen and Tim Burton. I saw the "Space 1999" episode called "Collision Course" which had Commander Koenig almost break out in a huge crying jag for his best pilot, Alan Carter, when he was in a spot of danger. The character had never shown so much caring for a single crewmember before or since (you'd think that Carter was Koenig's long-lost son from Australia). You would have thought that Landau should have had better control over his character; it just seemed so ham-fisted of a performance....which therefore brought me to agree with that IMDb contributor. Well, apparently, Landau may have his third try at a series in January. Apparently, he's slated to appear as a criminalist in an ABC drama.

Since I've mentioned Star Wars and Space:1999 in the same breath, I think I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that there were a number of actors who cut their teeth on the latter before getting recruited for the former. Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, the guy who played Admiral ("he's as clumsy as he is stupid") Ozzel, and Dave Prowse all got their space legs on 1999 before heading for that other galaxy. I guess George Lucas was really doing his research on the show.

Anyways, I've gone otaku again. Time for me to take a breath...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Friday November 25, 3:27 p.m.

One month before Xmas but all's not well...not with The Teacher anyways. She's in a major depression and boy, did she unload some stuff on me. That would make her the second student to get into a big funk during my watch after Jazz Buddy. However, unlike JB, I will see The Teacher next Friday. Hopefully, she'll be in a better frame of mind although it seems as if she has a lot of stuff on her shoulders.

Since SR and The OL are off today, I just went to the gym to get some exercise before having lunch at The Colonel's (Sanders, that is). Nothing indicates the fact that Xmas is around the corner in Japan more than seeing the plastic form of Colonel Sanders wearing a Santa suit. And ironically, the big new item at KFC for Xmas happens to be Cajun Chicken. Only in New Orleans, you say? Strangely enough, when it comes to Xmas dinner over here, KFC is one busy place. The commercials are already up with a jaunty Holiday tune by pop songstress Mariya Takeuchi (the Petula Clark of Japan) with a happy family taking over the bucket of poultry with all those 16 herbs and spices. However, I just went for the boneless crispy batter-fried chicken set.

Looks like I'll be answering my culinary curiosity tonight by following an intriguing way to make roast beef out of a hunk of flank steak. Some famed hotel chef on TV the other night said that one can just take that chunk of beef, sear all of its sides in a frypan, then wrap it up in tinfoil and put that shiny package back in the pan while cooking it on each side for 10 minutes before leaving it to steam on a plate for a further 10 minutes. I did get my foil. Wish me luck! Also, I was surprised to hear of a salad dressing made from 5 tsps of grapefruit juice, 2 tsps of olive oil and 1.5 tsps of soy sauce.

Sent off that package of video games to The Anime King. I'm still waiting for that confirmation of Wild Guy's address before sending his incense.
Thursday November 24, 10:17 p.m.

The big news on NHK tonight is the government panel report on changing the Imperial accession rules to include princesses. Surprisingly, the panel recommended that it was high time to bring back the concept of empresses into Japan. I say surprisingly since I always had the impression that the higher muckety-mucks were rather conservative (read: chauvinistic) when it came to letting the girls play despite the fact that the male-only rule was only 57 years old compared to the fact that in the ancient history of Japan, there were empresses. Of course, there were comments from both supporters and naysayers for the proposal. It ought to be interesting if Princess Aiko gets her chance to inherit The Chrysanthemum Throne.

The police still haven't found the killer of that poor girl in Hiroshima. However, they seem to be picking up clues all around including one involving the cardboard box in which the body was found. Whatever happens, the damage has been done. A neighbourhood is now living in fear and the kids are being escorted to and from school by the parents everyday.

And Mr. Aneha, the architect-turned-dead-man-walking, got his first day at a hearing to find out what the heck possessed him to file false structural reports. And the guy did his version of buck-passing by accusing two contractors of pressuring him to file those reports under threat of moving their business to other architectural firms. The firms have gone on the record to firmly deny the accusations and have threatened to sue Aneha for slander. Well, we shall see. My instinct says that those firms are probably not lily-white either.
Thursday November 24, 9:24 p.m.

Fairly easy day today since I just had the Sisters of the States. The New Yorker was under the weather. Oddly enough, though, she was a bit more on the ball than when she was with me last time at full health. She was doing some major sniffling and sneezing and if hadn't been for that extra pack of tissue I was carrying, I'm not sure how she would have lasted the hour. As it was, she left a good bunch of used tissue on the table.

The Carolinan, on the other hand, was in fine fettle. In fact, she was dressed to kill since she was on her way to a party at the Grand Hyatt in Roppongi Hills after the lesson. The New Kid could take some lessons from her in attitude although I think the comparison is admittedly unfair.

I ended up having dinner at Yume-An, the Japanese-style family restaurant near my apartment. I was a bit disappointed that they didn't have their tonkatsu course like they did in the summer but I just went with the tempura set. It fit the bill.

It'll be a quiet day tomorrow as well since I've only got The Teacher. Then I'm free and easy. I'll head for the gym. I've also gotta send out the first of a swarm of Xmas cards and presents.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Wednesday November 23, 9:55 p.m.

Well, this Labour Thanksgiving has been a fairly pleasant affair. It was a comfortable 15 C as I headed over to the Ginza for some shopping. I was sporting an orange sleeveless vest over a denim shirt. For some reason, I had an urge to direct traffic.

Actually, I first stopped off at Maruzen for the first time in several weeks. I picked up my next book of crosswords. Can't be caught without one on the subway, y'know...although I concede that I'm starting to enjoy my new hobby of sleeping there (with all due respect to Petula Clark).

Being the holiday, the main street was closed down to vehicular traffic but it was more than compensated by the huge crowds walking, or shuffling to be more accurate. Going through the first floors of the major department stores was an exercise in futility at points. But that wasn't the only futile thing I experienced there. I had been interested in getting a trench coat and shoes for The Lady's big party in a couple of weeks. I just had to laugh when I saw the prices on those things in Matsuya, Mitsukoshi and Matsuzakaya. My 5,000 yen worth of gift certificates didn't stand a chance of making any sort of dent in the prices coats and shoes were going for. Trench coats were going for an insane 72,000 yen ($800 US, I think) and shoes were at least 20,000 yen a pair. I think I could've stood a chance if I had decided to go for one shoe. But since I had no intention to hop over to The Lady's house, I demurred.

I was able to get some mass-produced Xmas cards from Ito-ya, the Ginza stationery shop, and I even fell prey to my current "Space: 1999" virus and picked up the CD at Yamano Music. Well, at least I also got some more points on my card there so that if I literally play my cards (from Tower and HMV) right, I may be in for a very good bonanza for discs once the Xmas season truly gets under way in December. Yes, I used Ginza very well today.

Got home for a very rare early Wednesday night home and made some spaghetti for dinner. Rather nice to kick back during the middle of the week. It's even nicer that I don't have to head out until tomorrow afternoon. I even got to see "Trivia no Izumi" for the first time in months. It hasn't changed a bit. However, what hasn't been nice is this new news of yet another case of a little girl getting murdered by a psycho. This time, the incident took place near Hiroshima. The police are on the case. Hopefully, they'll get their man or woman as fast as they caught the kid who had offed his classmate last week

Also, that building design scandal just deepens and expands. Right now, NHK is saying that there are 194 cases of faulty design in buildings across 22 prefectures. It's amazing that Mr. Aneha hasn't been arrested yet but the government said that it would file an official complaint against him with the police tomorrow. Mr. Aneha, meanwhile is continuing to show his erstwhile character by telling the reporters that the government is indirectly responsible for his need to cook the books which resulted in having all these pretty deathtraps put up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Wednesday November 23, 10:10 a.m.

Well, got my 6 hours of shuteye (yep, I burned the midnight oil again going through the Net). I've just had my breakfast of cereal, juice, tea and a pastry...the default morning meal. At least it's nice and sunny out there. I have to await that supposed early afternoon arrival of the package for The Anime King.

Had a chat with The Satyr. I hadn't heard from him in several months. Looks like he may be game for Sunday's viewing of "Harry Potter" but he's gonna have to check (with his girlfriend). Betty Boop has been keeping a running commentary with me about this dinner (now changed to eel since The OL wasn't impressed with that Vietnamese place) on the 3rd.

The Wild Guy has been doing the same thing with me since we got onto that incense request of his. I got him Wild Strawberries (perfectly named, doncha think?). No, not particularly Japanese sounding but it was produced here.
Tuesday November 22, 11:50 p.m.

Currently watching "Pussuma", a late-night variety show starring Korean-spouting Tsuyoshi Kusanagi of SMAP and Yusuke Santamaria, the loudmouthed tarento. The reason that it's shown late at night is especially evident tonight since the boys with another masculine pair are gleefully judging young ladies clad in skimpy bikinis. What separates this from your run-of-the-mill beauty contest is that the judges get to have the girls make all sorts of nasty poses just centimetres away from their sweaty faces. Nice work if you can get it.

Tonight's stint at the juku was pretty off for the most part. The New Kid made me wonder why he even bothered to show up. He came in half an hour late and although his mother did call in to say that he would be so, he didn't particularly show much humility or come clean on why he was late. I came fairly close to giving him a lecture but held it in. The Beauty Pair have become a little too comfy with their friendship with me although they did fairly well with the grammar at hand. There was, of course, no lesson when it came to The Siberian. It was the usual gabfest. But at least, he was finally cured of his cold. The only good class was with The Milds and McKid. All of this was overshadowed by the special guest in the juku...a cute little kitten that the boss had taken in after she'd seen it abandoned in a garbage pit dangerously tangled up in some wiring. She's currently looking for a new master for it since she can't keep it herself due to some rather heavy jealousy from her pet bunny. If it weren't for the fact that I live alone, I would've been happy to keep the feline myself.

The Madame just sent the big cancellation for Yokohama on the 4th. Just as well...Movie Buddy and Skippy just gave their regrets as well. Maybe I'll just go by myself. Hopefully, there is that buffet restaurant by the East Gate of Chinatown that I'd visited last summer.

Interesting thing about Skippy. From her message of regrets just now and a previous message, I'm getting the impression that things aren't well with her company. Or perhaps her company has indeed gone under since she's now only a part-timer. I'd thought she was a full-timer. I was gonna probe a bit further but thought better of it. If she's gonna say something, let her make the first move. I was taken aback last year when her school funded a faculty trip all the way to Paris. That struck me as a bit decadent. In any case, I'm to see her and The Madame on Sunday for "Harry Potter"...provided that we can get in on only the 2nd day of release.

Earlier this morning, I sent the blanket message to all the students about my Xmas schedule. Luckily, it coincides with Speedy's for the school. I'll be off for the week...that should be just fine with me since I can't really afford to have too many days off.

The Bohemian contacted me for the first time in several months for dinner tonight. But for obvious reasons, I had to decline but did give the option of meeting me sometime in December.

Well, tomorrow is Japan's Labour Day...nice to have a national holiday in the middle of the week. I think I'm already over the hump with the somewhat arduous night at the juku. Thursday will consist of The Sisters of the States (The Carolinan/The New Yorker) and then Friday will just be with The Teacher. SR and The OL can't make it out that day. I'll have to make my way out to Tokyo to get some Xmas stuff in the form of greeting cards and other stuff.

I'm currently watching yet another late-night variety fest with the comedian duo Garage Sale. On it, there seems to be a former porn actress who may be making inroads into the regular TV industry. Her name is Nao Oikawa (not sure if that's her real name) and if she's successful, she'd only be the 2nd adult video performer to hit it big in the mainstream after the firmly established Ai Iijima. Iijima has been around so long now on TV that there are probably some viewers who don't realize her sordid past.

Anyways, time to shut off.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Tuesday November 22, 7:22 a.m.

I had always wondered why on weather forecasts over here, the meterologists had dryness alerts in the Fall and Winter. I mean, that struck me as appealing to the vain in all of us. Winter storm alerts, typhoon alerts, earthquake alerts...all of these are there to warn us of potentially dangerous phenomena. But dryness?!

Well, I've come to the realization that there is some sense to this minor alert. With the dropping temps, my feet and lower legs have started to flake like the best products by Crisco. Forgive me for being grotty but with my unbearable urge to itch, my feet were leaving a white trail of dust on my black shoes. I would've forgiven a cocaine addict if he/she had mistaken the area around my ankles as his/her next big hit. Time to slap on the aloe vera.
Monday November 21, 11:57 p.m.

I'm back home from my now regularly late Mondays. Well, at least it's better than late Fridays. As it turned out, all that kerfuffle with 004 was nicely smoothed out tonight in class. Everything is off of yellow alert...thank the heavens. As it turned out, both lessons with 004 and 005 were OK. 004 was happy and 005 said that she would probably enlist for more lessons after her 4th one next week. Good to hear.

Earlier in the day, 002 dropped by to say hello after her month-long odyssey in Toronto. Yep, she still misses the city (apparently she didn't read The Big Smoke's distinction as the nation's gun capital). Looks like she's copied my habit of taking shots of food over there. Luckily, I'd had some dinner before I took a look at them. I probably would've taken a chomp out of her album if I hadn't. If she does decide to come back to Speedy's, it won't be for at least another 6 months since she has to get that new job and some extra money saved up. Speedy's a patient man, though.

The lessons with The Class Act and SIL were also OK. It was the first time in a few weeks that I got to see The Lady. I did tell her who I was probably bringing with me to the Xmas party in less then 3 weeks. She looked a bit surprised when I told her that I'd be bringing 3 folks. Uh-oh. So I had to turn down Speedy's request to bring his wife. I couldn't take the chance of antagonizing The Lady. SIL was a good half-hour late for her lesson since traffic was just deplorable in The Big Sushi today, the reason being that President Putin of Russia was in town. I'm sure all those ultrarightist trucks protesting Russia's takeover of the Kuriles didn't help things either.

Speedy's got things planned for us. There is this monthly international party at The Foreign Correspondents Club in Yurakucho on Saturday for which the entire Speedy faculty, including me, will attend. Nothing formal, though. The menu is supposed to be pizza and beer...very blue collar. And then, Speedy told me to keep December 23rd open for the Xmas party for the school. Yes, sir!

Skippy got back to me about this upcoming Sunday for "Harry Potter". Yep, she's still a go but it looks like it'll be just her, The Madame and myself. I was a bit struck by her last comment that she would be having a job interview tomorrow. I thought she was happy with her current job. Then again, I did hear about this kids's school that went bankrupt a few weeks back. Hmmm...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sunday November 20, 9:31 p.m.

Now, back to "Space: 1999"...

As I was saying before, this space program of my childhood seemed like an offshoot of "2001: A Space Odyssey" in looks, sounds and themes. It was about as different from the pro-US idealism of "Star Trek" as one could get but still maintain this overarching mood of hope for a better life. "Space: 1999" was also an interesting British production of British, American, and Australaisian performers, a group led by three actors from hit US TV shows of the 60s supported by a cast of unknowns in the shaggy-haired and bell-bottomed 70s pretending to be in the world of the 90s.

The final show in the first season, "The Testament of Arkadia" was a show that I'd seen only once and just barely remember as one of those special episodes because of some rather classical life-affirming music and a couple of Alphans who decide to become the new Adam and Eve of this world. On going through the synopsis of it in the Moonbase Alpha website, the writer wasn't hugely enamored with it but from his report and my fractured memory of it, I thought that ep was probably the culmination of what that first season and the original premise of the show was all about: people forced to become pioneers in a brave new galaxy.

"Space: 1999", despite a lot of it going over my head during my childhood, still managed to leave enough of an impact on me so that I actually bought a Transporter Eagle from a toy store. The special effects guys on the show should be well commended for producing an ingenious realistic vehicle. It was modular in that the passenger section could detach from the rest of the ship. The only bad thing was that the command module at the front could not be removed. The Eagle had me in its grips so that I remember drawing it so many times in my scrapbook. I even bought a couple of comic books of the show.

A couple of years later, I got the news that CBC would now be broadcasting the show on Saturdays. I thought that they would just be showing reruns but then I saw the commercials for it. The shots weren't anything I remembered from the first season. Then, on catching this 2nd season after CBC showed the original pilot, everything changed. The theme, the opening credits and the setting were totally changed. Main Mission, the huge airy "bridge" of Moonbase Alpha became the more cramped surroundings of Command Centre. Uniforms were altered and some of the supporting cast was thrown out. Heck, even Barry Morse was let go but comely Catherine Schell was brought in. It looked like the entire show was given a facelift.

I wasn't a huge fan of the 2nd season of the show. I thought that "Space: 1999", instead of keeping to its metaphysical themes, decided to firmly follow the "Star Trek" way. There was an alien science officer by the name of Maya from the planet Psychon (as opposed to Spock from Vulcan) who, instead of using cool logic to solve problems, just changed into whatever animal or alien creature to fight the forces of evil. Commander Koenig became more of a Captain Kirk with fisticuffs (I'm sure "Mission: Impossible" helped out in this regard) and romance (although instead of the woman in every spaceport, there was Helena). Heck, even the tech on the moon was beefier: there were huge laser cannons and fortified Eagles guarding the base. And the stories were getting eerily similar to a lot of old Star Trek episodes (Alpha meets God, bouncy sentient white globes in underground caverns, etc). Now I am a Trekkie but not a fan of sci-fi shows that try to copy Trek. All this Trekkifying is no surprise since the new producer of the show was Fred Freiberger, the guy who had overseen the final season of Star Trek before its demise. Not only was I not a fan of his would seem that Martin Landau was far from one either...not a happy camper. And in fact, according to one interview years ago, it was said that this was when his marriage with Barbara Bain was starting to approach rocky shoals, ironic considering that they were in many more clinches in the 2nd season than they were in their chaste 1st season.

So, "Space: 1999" quietly left the airwaves for good after that 2nd season, only to be seen in reruns on various affiliates and then later on sci-fi channels. Landau and Bain didn't truly hit bottom, though, until they appeared several years later as the guest villains on "The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island". Oy vey! The only thing more pathetic than seeing Russell "The Professor" Johnson dance around in a pre-game introduction was seeing the once slick couple of Martin and Barbara not even pretending to do a good job of crying off into the sunset after being defeated by the former castaways (wait a minute, there is possibly one thing even sadder...the possibly forced cameo appearance of a clearly ailing Jim Backus). However, after that nadir, Martin Landau came back with his supporting actor Oscar nods, Barbara Bain seemed to retire (aside from a guest role in "Moonlighting" ) and Barry Morse popped up in stuff like "The Martian Chronicles" and commercials. He'd been offered the part of the father of Tommy Lee Jones' Sam Gerard in the movie version of "The Fugitive" but declined. All of the majors from the first season are still alive and kicking. In fact, I only found out a few days ago that in the late 90s, some of the original cast, including Landau and Bain, came back to a sci-fi convention and did a spoof of the show. Very sporting of Landau considering that he was now known as this high-falutin' Hollywood character actor in motion pictures.

However, the thing that finally wrapped the tale of Moonbase Alpha was in the form of a short video coda that had been shown perhaps at the same convention. It starred a visibly older Zienia Merton reprising her role as the Audrey Hepbernesque Sandra Benes. Considering that it was 23 years later, the character was made to look exactly like her self back when the moon had still just blasted out of orbit. Not a great move...she looked more preserved than naturally aged. However, the video was effective in its poignancy. Benes had sent this message in an electronic bottle stating that the Alphans had finally found their new home and begun settling it in a finally successful Operation: Exodus. She even gave a convincing crying near-breakdown which, I'm sure, had some fans tearing up. And in her final speech, she resolutely confirmed that the two seasons were very much tied together when she gave her tributes to the ones lost from the 1st season and referred to Maya from the 2nd season. To be honest, the 2nd season seems to have started some years after the events in the 1st season so anything could have happened. Still, I wasn't crazy about Koenig's mullet in the 2nd season.

So, now that the saga of Moonbase Alpha has gone into the history books of pop culture, what next? Well, of course, there has to be the movie or TV remake. And why not? "Battlestar Galactica", with a 3rd season confirmed, is now beyond being a successful rehashing. I'm sure "Space: 1999"'s number will be up soon considering Hollywood's current desperate predilection to strip mine the vaults of old TV shows. And if anyone mentions any potential problem with the year 1999, I would tell them to just change it. Make it "Space: 2099" or for those optimists, "Space: 2059". Besides, real Earth has yet to put anything remotely close to Moonbase Alpha onto the Moon. While some producer mulls this blog entry over from the comforts of his huger-than-my-entire-apartment balcony in Santa Barbara (no relation to Ms. Bain), I'll be looking at the Moon, grateful that life hasn't imitated art.
Sunday November 20, 6:52 p.m.

Had that lupper with The Madame today. I waited for her at Meiji-Jingumae Station for about half an hour since she was running late with her class. It was a nice day out by the Harajuku-Omotesando adjunct, although with the winds it was rather chilly. A lot of folks dressed up like Eskimoses, to quote a line from "The Christmas Song". A couple of armoured ultrarightist trucks drove by as usual berating its usual Imperial songs.

The Madame ran up the stairs out of breath and in need of a washroom. So I kinda gave her the juvenile teasing of mentioning things like Niagara Falls and apple juice. However, her bladder was strong enough until we got to Fujimamas. This time around, we got the 2nd floor. It was the first time for me to be placed up there in the large loft while it was The Madame's first time for her to go there for any sort of brunch. I had "The Plate" (pancakes, sausages, bacon, potatoes and biscuits with gravy) while she had some sort of scrambled eggs which can be put into some sort of fajita wrapper. As usual, it was up to me to finish off what she left over (yes, it was a bit of an arm twist....heheheh). Fujimamas wasn't all that filled up, to be honest. Hmmm...perhaps I will never really need to get there all that early to partake in the brunch.

The Madame seems to be determined to keep my Sundays busy for the next little while. She suggested the idea for going to Yokohama for dim sum. She rather surprised me when she said that she'd never been to Yokohama in her life. For a Torontonian, that's like saying that one's never been to Missisauga. Well, we'll have to do something about that. I've sent the word out to Movie Buddy and Skippy to see if they are interested.

The two of us ended up walking from Harajuku to Shibuya since we were rather stuffed. The Madame looked for a card in Tokyu Hands and then we stopped by the Swarovski crystal shop in Bunkamura. Since we were in the neighbourhood, I showed her The Lady's house. Well, if she isn't gonna come to the Xmas party, at leastI can show her the place. We took a walk through the neighbourhood...since it was indeed a residential area, things were very quiet as we walked through. I didn't push her again on the topic of inviting her to the party since I had failed in each of the three previous times; she's made up her mind.

Back home now watching NHK News. Looks like that idiot architect Mr. Aneha is reaping the rotten fruits of his labour. The government found out that two more buildings may not be up to specs in terms of earthquake resistance. The probe Hayabusa failed to make its landing on the asteroid Itokawa. However, there was some good news when Sydney Olympics marathon champion, Naoko Takahashi, won the Tokyo International Marathon today. Plus, the Chiba Lotte Marines finally got their victory parade down the main street of Chiba City. It sure talks of the size of Metropolitan Tokyo when neither The Madame or I had any inkling about either event happening.

I'll resume "Space: 1999" later on....