Saturday, December 03, 2005

Sunday December 4, 1:47 p.m.

A cold December day out there. I've had a throbbing headache, most likely due to the change in air pressure. I went out to the massage clinic where the receptionist cheerfully noted that it'd been a while since my last visit (about 5 or 6 weeks). Once again, I had that rather button-down guy as my masseur. He's definitely become the go-to guy there for me since I haven't had the clinic director for some months. Did a great job on my arms. But unfortunately, he didn't cure me of my headache so it was back to chemical means.

I got myself an envelope for my parents' Xmas load before hitting the supermarket for the fixins for lunch and dinner. For lunch, I bought chuuka don....basically a thick chop suey mix of meat and veggies on rice. Eating chuuka don brings back memories of my time on the JET Program since I often went monthly from the mountains of Gunma Prefecture into the capital city of Maebashi. There was a small dingy Chinese restaurant in one of the shopping arcades in downtown Maebashi where I used to order chuuka don exclusively. The dish isn't all that hard to create if one's willing to slice up the veggies (carrots, onions, etc.) and pork. Then just stir-fry the whole she-bang, add a mix of chicken stock and oyster sauce/soy sauce, and finally add the cornstarch to thicken it all up.

I got the last batch of Xmas cards to send home done just now. And I'll have to head on out again in about an hour to buy those dress shoes and maybe that trench coat.
Sunday December 4, 9:34 a.m.

I've woken up pretty early for a Sunday. Usually at this time, I would still be sound asleep but I'm up now since I plan to head out to the massage clinic within the next hour to get my neck and shoulders unknotted. Plus, I've got a bit of a headache that could see some rubbing out.

I only found out now that Don Adams, Agent 86 of "Get Smart", passed away back in late September. Dang! I would have found that information right then and there but I realized that I had been off in Taiwan. "Get Smart" was a great program...just took the piss out of all those spy shows and movies that had been all the rage during the 60s.

My brother has gotten back to me about that DVD player. Yep, they're gonna get one for the parents for Xmas so it's up to me to get an enka concert DVD. I'm on the case.

I've got some other Xmas themed things to do today such as get some new dress shoes for The Lady's party this Friday (can't believe I'll be heading there once again in a few days), perhaps a trench coat at Daiei if it isn't too exorbitantly expensive. And I gotta get some envelopes for my usual gift of calendars for the guys back at home.
Saturday December 3, 11:32 p.m.

Kinda broke the bank today as our Gourmet Trio of myself, The OL and Betty Boop once again traveled into downtown Tokyo to sample another tasty treat. The restaurant du jour was Nodaiwa, a restaurant specializing in eel dishes, just a 10-minute walk away from Akabanebashi Station near Tokyo Tower. As soon as we went through the automatic sliding door, I knew we were in a for a good if expensive dinner. The decor of the place seemed to be Meiji Era Japan, a mix of 19th-century British with Japanese accents. The waitresses were all middle-aged and dressed in utilitarian kimono (none of that "Memoirs of a Geisha" type fashion).

The three of us were taken up to the second floor where we had our own little comfy room. It just seemed like a small drawing room in someone's house...that certainly put us at ease immediately. We took a gander at the menu...yup, not exactly on the McDonalds level of pricing. The liquor page had prices well into the thousands of yen. All of us decided to go for a set consisting of a small hot pot stew and unaju, grilled and basted eel on rice.

The rest of the evening was a chorus of oishii and umai (delicious and delicious). The first course was that stew. Each of us got a small black pot over a bit of Sterno. Inside was a mix of tofu, beef and pre-grilled eel in a light but tasty broth. The waitress lit the Sterno and we waited 10 minutes as the stew started to bubble away. Then we added the condiments of yuzu peel (a citrus fruit native only to Japan) and wasabi. Very delicious! Then the second course of that eel on rice came out. Also very good. Not surprisingly, Nodaiwa is quite the popular restaurant. The waitress must have gotten rather tired of us complimenting her place of employment via her. She told us that the lineups are pretty long during lunch and dinner. So Betty didn't waste a moment in making another reservation for herself, her mother and a third party to be named later for the 17th.

I took home a small pamphlet about the restaurant. Apparently, Nodaiwa has other branches in Nihombashi and Shimo-Kitazawa (kinda interesting about that placement since that area is distinctly youth-oriented in atmosphere). There is even a branch in Paris of all places. When we asked about the restaurant's Gallic cousin, the waitress replied that the French and Japanese share a common love for seafood. True...the French have their escargots and oysters while we have our own shellfish. I noticed that there wasn't an American branch. I think Americans still shiver at the thought of eating eel since it looks so snaky that an eel restaurant wouldn't be viable...yet.

We finished our repast with a palate-cleansing dessert of plum gelatin. All in all, we spent about a couple of hours and 4,300 yen there. No, not inexpensive but then again, we are the Gourmet Trio...not the McMeal Trio. The waitress finally came to us and discreetly asked if we could vacate the premises since people were waiting downstairs.

As the red-orange glow of Tokyo Tower shone over us, we were shivering outside wondering where to go. We decided to head back and beyond Akabanebashi Station and into the Mita area. Mita is notable in that the sidewalks are quite wide for Tokyo standards. Unfortunately, things tend to close down fairly early there. A number of cafes, including Tully's, close up at the ripe old time of 7 p.m. We made a brief pit stop at a Matsumoto Kiyoshi (a famous drug store) since the ladies noticed that I was itching something awful around my ankles...yup, my lower leg dandruff was back. BB and The OL recommended a jar of keratin cream to soothe the area since it was looking pretty chapped.

Just as we were approaching Keio University, we found a cafe that would stay open til 9 p.m., St-Marc's. The ladies had a very unusual concoction of Oolong Chai which takes some getting used to. I had my extra dessert in the form of a chocolate-pear cake and straight tea. Among the topics we discussed were our next culinary target (BB suggested a wafu place in Roppongi which specializes in steak) and The OL's future at Aoyama Gakuin.

Finally, at around closing time, we decided to call it a night. We all went our separate ways. I may have spent quite a bit of money but the companionship and the food made it all worthwhile. Certainly, Nodaiwa is worth a second visit...perhaps with The Madame.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Saturday December 3, 11:45 a.m.

It's official...I think I have the cold. After I posted my last entry, I started getting the shivers pretty badly. And here I was, boasting to everyone that Tokyo winters are nothing compared to the deep freezes of Toronto. My extremities felt like icicles. I wrapped myself like a burrito in my blankets and had my electric blanket up a couple of notches higher than usual. That did help although I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to head to the washroom...golly, I am getting old.

I couldn't get back to sleep for a while after my toilette. Then images of me getting a medical checkup came into my head. For some reason, the docs over here seem to love using the endoscope when it comes to checkups. It's probably one of the main reasons that I've held off heading to a doctor. But the fact that I got these images is probably a big hint that I should go sometime in the next few months. What do they say....once past 40, an annual checkup should be the rule.

Another sign that I have the cold is that I have that vague achy feeling all over and my mouth has that slightly metallic taste of disease. I took a couple of medicine during breakfast. Strangely enough, my nose isn't running like an open tap.

I started sending out my e-cards to various students in tribute to the Holiday season last night. And when I checked my e-mail this morning, I saw quite a few messages stating that my cards were picked up. One of the messages came from The Ballerina from London. She sent me a rather large picture of her and a former student with her baby son in front of Buckingham Palace. That former student was just barely out of her teens during her time at the old school when her beau kinda forgot about the contraception and a shotgun marriage resulted. The student now seems more mature in the picture but when a baby keeps waking up on you every 3 to 4 hours, youth has a way of disappearing a lot more rapidly.

Well, I've got JJ in a few hours. I think I'm gonna take another shower despite taking one last night since I sweated myself into better condition. Then, I meet up with The OL and Betty Boop for eel.

Also, just wanted to mention that the animated Charlie Brown and I share the same age. Yup, that's right...the iconic "A Charlie Brown Christmas" celebrates 40 years. One of my earliest images as a baby was seeing that opening shot of the Peanuts kids skating on a gray snowy day with Vince Guaraldi's jazz theme in the background. There was an article in The Japan Times about the show. The author kinda gave a backhanded compliment in that the plot was thin, the pacing was sluggish but it somehow worked. Well, considering that the cartoon was basically pastiched from a bunch of the original 4-frame comics, I'm not surprised that people would find it fairly thin on overall story arc. I think what made it stand out was that it was this rather languid, melancholy but hopeful Christmas cartoon starring kids who spoke like adults. And with Warner Bros and Disney often going to orchestras or swing bands for their frenetic music, Guaraldi's music from a trio brought a certain intimacy to the proceedings. Most likely, I'll see if there is a special 40th-anniversary of the show out on DVD sometime...hopefully with a lot of extras. Most likely, when I do leave this mortal coil, that image of children skating on a pond will be the last thing I see in my head.
Friday December 2, 10:30 p.m.

Well, it's been an interesting day. There was a reversal in The Teacher's mood compared to her dark feelings of last week. At least on the surface, it seemed like she made a 180-degree turn for the better. She was laughing quite a bit during the chat. In fact, she told me that she'd entered a maid cafe accidentally in Akihabara. No problems but she did see a number of those ladies in their uniforms. Didn't hear any squeaky voices, though. It was good that she had a happier attitude.

I did my Xmas shopping by dropping in at Takashimaya in Nihombashi. I used the remaining gift certificates that I'd gotten from the kids' mother several months ago to purchase a number of calendars for some of the guys back home. Luckily, my certificates not only covered the cost of the calendars but I got some change from it as well. Then, I dropped by Maruzen and picked up a smaller text for The New Yorker for her to study from on the train at her request. It was obvious that the service at Takashimaya was still old-school prompt and very helpful. One of the salesladies saw me with my calendars and immediately rushed out to take care of me though there were a couple of people at the cashier before me. She gladly took my certificates, wrapped up the calendars and gave me the change and the couple was still there at the cashier. On the other hand, the young cashier at Maruzen was polite but pretty dour looking. Unfortunately, a lot of the current generation behind the sales counter are more of the latter.

I had what could be my final lesson with SR for at least a long while. She's got a baby on the way and not surprisingly will be pretty busy with the kid for the next several months. She said that perhaps I may be back on her schedule in I said, quite a while. Not sure if she did it as a bit of recompense for her departure from the scene but she told me that one of her colleagues at her soon-to-be former company was interested in taking my lessons. From what I got from SR, the potential new client may be a good deal higher than SR herself. I don't quite know how I'm gonna fit her into the schedule though since she works between 1 and 5 daily and my nights during the week are packed. Considering her level, though, she may not really require weekly lessons, so I suggested to SR that perhaps a biweekly on the weekend may be possible. Also, since my Wednesday and Thursdays mornings are free, she could see me just before she heads off for work but I've got a feeling that the girl may not be too open to that option.

My lesson with The OL went well considering it was on the Passive of Present Continuous and Present Perfect. However, she suddenly got a bit quiet and distracted at the end which I was a little concerned about. When I asked her in the Starbucks what was up, she was a bit evasive. But then when we got outside she came clean and told me that she couldn't help overhearing a mother and son who were at a neighbouring table talking about the terminally ill father with a certain lack of sadness...she just found it a bit creepy. I just suggested that they were waiting for the guy to kick the bucket so that they could collect on the inheritance or insurance. Considering how much gets gouged out for inheritance tax in Japan, I wouldn't be dancing too much on his grave, though.

I've felt slightly flu-ish all day so I did take my medicine just in case. It has gotten quite colder and should be dropping even more tomorrow. Rather the past hour we've had a couple of earthquakes...nothing serious, just some gentle swaying. But the worst news is that there has been another child murder up in Ibaraki Prefecture. And as I preface this statement with the fact that all murders of children are horrific in themselves, today's discovery of the body of a Grade 1 elementary school girl in the woods was more horrifying in that she had been stabbed a number of times in the chest. It's perhaps not so scary being a kid here since kids wouldn't be too aware of stuff but I do feel for parents nowadays.

I think I can finally say that I've seen everything. I was reading Japanzine, another free English-language weekly, when I came across this article about a web channel called "Naked News", a Toronto-based outfit in which some buxom women of various nationalities do the news in the nude. What surprised even more than the fact that this project had originated in my hometown is that "Naked News" has been going on since 1998! I did take a look at their website which gave a somewhat titillating preview if one signs up for the service. Well, although a couple of them actually are trained journalists and NN may have "...the best international coverage this side of the BBC..." but they still sound little better than helium-filled pop tarts. The other bizarro thing I came across was this female Japanese duo called Afriampo who apparently often do their concerts of thrash in the nude. Shades of The Plasmatics!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thursday December 1, 11:33 p.m.

Had my usual dependable Spam-and-rice for dinner. I just don't know why Movie Buddy and others equate the stuff to dog food. It's manna from heaven for me.

Another two signs that the end of the year is near: one is the yearly announcement of The Top Words of the Year. Yup, catchphrases and catchy words need only apply. Not surprisingly, that exhalation of air that taste of the year, Razor Ramon HG, always spouts out, "Foo!" got onto the list along with "Cool Biz". Razor Ramon had better enjoy his fame while it lasts...this time last year, it was The Guitar Samurai who was getting quoted all the time for his "Zannen!" (Too Bad). He's basically disappeared now.

That other big sign is the announcement of the list of singers on this year's Kohaku Utagassen (Red and White Song Festival) on NHK. Yup, I'm sure that all of the J-Pop BBS' are just buzzing about who made it. Two singers who raised my eyebrows are none other than Yumi Matsutoya and Misato Watanabe. Watanabe is a singer with the big eyes and brassy voice who made it real big in the J-Pop scene for several years in the 80s and 90s while Yuming is a legend who can be arguably called The Queen of New Music and a songstress who can boast the number of beloved songs that different generations can sing. Both are appearing on the Kohaku for the first time. And both, in my opinion, had their best days at least a decade ago.

The Kohaku Utagassen is a Japanese TV institution going back half a century at least. And like all institutions, the young generally avoid or disdain it like a nerd invasion, even if currently hot bands or singers are recruited to appear on it. Plus, there are many more events and things to do now outside than there were back in the 50s. All these years, Yuming and Misato never bothered to come on the show although both had some huge hits at their respective peaks. Certainly before today's announcement, they hadn't appeared since they really didn't have any hits. So what gives? In Yuming's case, she's appearing with this multiculti group she fashioned together called Friends of the Earth (hm...environmentally friendly band names...something to do with The Kyoto Protocols? Discuss. ). So, this may be more of a promotional stunt than any hat-in-hand retrospective. Not sure if Yuming will do a medley of her hits. Perhaps if this new project hadn't arisen, she would have still not given NHK the time of day. As for Misato, maybe she will do a mini-retrospective. And maybe both will be the blueprint for faded stars of the future who've never appeared on the Kohaku like Hikaru Utada or Misia.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Thursday December 1, 3:32 p.m.

It's the first day of the final month. The sun is lower in the sky, jackets are now a daily part of my "fashion" ensemble, and the house around the corner has its Xmas lights on although the display is nowhere near the extravaganza that a lot of apparently money-loaded houses show back in Toronto annually.

I woke up to my recent habit of catching "Space 1999" on SuperChannel. It was the one about the Earth probe with the dangerous propulsion. Kinda strange about the parallels between that episode and "Star Trek". It guest starred Jeremy Kemp, who later played Captain Picard's resentful brother on TNG; there was a Voyager probe in both this episode and in "Star Trek: The Motion(less) Picture"; and Commander Koenig had to referee a rare debate between his science officer and medical officer just like Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

I met up with the juku boss today at Nishi-Funabashi Station and the two of us headed out to Chiba Station some 10 minutes away for this Milano art exhibit at the Chiba City Art Gallery. I hadn't been back to Chiba Station in many years since I stopped teaching at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plant. I used to head to Chiba three times a week after teaching at the old school. There was the Chiba Urban Monorail overhanging all of us at the station, the stylized police box, or koban, made up to look like a giant owl, and a crepe shop right by the bus stops. The crepe shop is gone now...replaced by a Fotomat. I used to get to Chiba some minutes earlier before the MHI minibus came to pick me and a few employees up so I noshed on a crepe at the odd time. The bus then took us off on a 20-minute ride to the factories. Always enjoyed getting that sleep on the minibus.

Strangely enough, today was the first time for me to actually get onto the monorail. It was one of those overhead systems in which the monorail "hung" from the rail like a cable car. The boss, herself a first-timer, was a bit nervous at the view. It was only a short 5-minute ride to the station closest to the art gallery but it was an expensive one...190 yen for just 2 stations. The same fare can get me much further on the JR or regular subways.

It was a short 5-minute walk over to the gallery. To be honest, to quote a Shakesperean title, the Milano exhibit, which showed a lot of art (mostly paintings) from Milan produced over the centuries, was much ado about nothing. The exhibit itself was pretty small...the two of us were able to navigate it in about 15 minutes. Unless one is an art freak, willing to visually dissect or verbally give a running commentary, I'm sure a lot of people would wait until a bigger display comes to the Tokyo Edo Museum or the Ueno Museum. When the boss and I passed by the reproduction of "The Last Supper", she told me about the conspiracy theories behind Leonardo's masterpiece, something I'm sure that will be amply covered in "The DaVinci Code" next year with Tom Hanks. Since we got through the Milano exhibition in record time, we took a look at another exhibit on the floor above...just some Japanese silkscreens. As you can read, I'm not a huge art freak. Afterwards, the boss also admitted that Milano was lacking something. Luckily, we had received the tickets gratis.

It was past 12:30 when the two of us got the stomach grumbles so we went into the side streets between the gallery and the wide avenue for a place to nosh it off. We found one such eatery called Ban's Cafe (apparently named after an American deodorant). The thing that lured us in was the price...just 500 yen for any set on the lunch menu. Couldn't beat that price. The interior was 100% 21st-century lunch place: small tables, counter seating, no non-smoking area and a large bookshelf filled with comics for all the salarymen but the staff were all young women, the decor was a better level of Ikea and the menu was written up on blackboards. The boss and I ordered the rohsu tonkatsu set...for 500 yen.

A little background here on tonkatsu, or deep-fried pork cutlet, for all of you neophytes on Japanese cuisine. There are two types of tonkatsu, usually. One is rohsu and the other is hire (possibly a Japanization of the word filet). The latter is leaner than the other (I know...when it comes to deep-fried anything, the differences here are pretty meaningless...I can gain 200 kcal by just stepping into a tonkatsu restaurant). In a set in any self-respecting tonkatsu place, you get your bowl of miso soup, pickles, a bowl of rice and a huge mound of shredded a pot of Japanese-style Worcestershire sauce.

Although I kept my comments to myself since it was obvious that the boss enjoyed her cutlet, I had to admit that the expression, "You get what you pay for" popped up in my head in the negative sense. I think I should've gone with the hire instead. My rohsu was true to its definition since the first two slices were basically deep-fried breaded fat, a sign of an inferior tonkatsu place or a place that is trying to keep prices low. Luckily, the remaining three-quarters of the cutlet were meaty. As with The Madame, I had to help out the boss with some of the remaining rice on her plate although she did polish off her tonkatsu easily enough. In fact, the two of us even went for the dessert, cheesecake. I knew right from the first bite that it was homemade. It was much creamier and less reminiscent of the New York-style brick. So I can't give Ban's Cafe a full 10 points but I'm sure there a lot of people who would flock there for lunch. If I'm ever in the area, I'd try it again although I'll be careful and pass on the rohsu tonkatsu. Even with the dessert and coffee, the final bill came out to just 950 yen each...that's still 50 yen less than what an average lunch set would call for in Tokyo.

The boss and I soon parted ways since she was gonna do a bit of bookhunting in the nearby Parco department store so I just walked up the main avenue since I did need the exercise and headed back to the station. I saw that UFJ was getting its signs readied for the big merger next year between it and Tokyo-Mitsubishi Bank. There were a couple of skateboarders showing their stuff at an open space nearby. Rather nice to get that walk. When I finally got onto the Sobu Line, I had a nice nap on that leg of the trip home.

Checking up on the Net, I first dropped in at The Teacher's blog. I was worried since she had that quiet intense breakdown at last week's session. But it looks like according to what she's written, she seems to be on the mend again. Hopefully, she'll be in better spirits tomorrow. It sounds like Movie Buddy is game for "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" on the 11th, and he and The Sylph will be OK for nabe on the 18th. It will get crowded in the living room. I just read on the Net that there is some concern about how Japan will be portrayed in "Memoirs of a Geisha". Yep, no kidding there....that's why I'm not too eager to watch it despite The Madame's desire to do so. Seeing some of the poetic license that the costume designer took with some of the kimono for Ziyi Zhang's character didn't change my trepidations. Mrs. Travel and Mrs Tee of the Beehive have definitely decided to avoid the picture altogether.

The Daily Yomiuri had the main article about the arrest of Carlos Yagi for the murder of little Airi Kinoshita. Yagi is apparently a Japanese-Peruvian who has a long-term settler's visa. I'm not sure if that is the same as a Permanent Residency but I'm just a bit concerned about my chances of getting one if the government decides to change the rules concerning foreigners of Japanese descent because of what this guy allegedly did.

On the flip side of things, it seems like The Wild Guy is head-over-heels and maybe the love of his life is just as reciprocative. He's been sending me some pretty up-to-date reports about how things have been going for him and his girl.
Wednesday November 30, 11:54 p.m.

Well, the Indian Summer that had been blessing us for a few days has come to an abrupt chilly close tonight. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the wash on the line had a bit of frost by the morning. I guess it's appropriate for the season to change considering it'll be December in a few minutes.

SB was back on duty today at Speedys. Speedy himself was slightly more subdued today...not as chatty, but he was quite busy today with a number of lessons to supervise. As for me, I had my usual good time with 001 with a few running gags at her expense and then 003 was also OK but I kinda screwed up a message that I was supposed to relay to her from Speedy. Well, I hope she doesn't get too spooked out by it.

Looks like The Madame and I will be seeing "Memoirs of a Geisha" sometime during the week before Xmas. She may be seeing me quite a bit during that week with the nabe party and a couple of invitations I've extended to her for Speedy's Xmas party and then a possible Xmas dinner at Fujimamas. I would be winning the lottery if she actually accepted both of them. I've also sent the official invites to Movie Buddy and The Sylph for nabe. Not sure if they'll be heading out to the in-laws again, though.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wednesday November 30, 8:20 a.m.

During the wee hours of this morning, National Police swooped down on a house in Suzuka, Mie Prefecture (yes, the site of the F-1 racetrack) and arrested a Peruvian for the murder of that young girl in Hiroshima last week. Every channel has been leading with the story. Although I'm happy that Carlos Yagi (possible ethnic Japanese?) has been caught, I'm also slightly concerned what that could mean in terms of attitudes toward the resident Peruvians here of which there are 55,000. I'm just thinking about what had happened way back in 1923 after The Great Kanto Earthquake when a number of Koreans were lynched by Japanese for some theory being that the Koreans were blamed for somehow starting the tremor. Hopefully, people have progressed a bit since then but when racism exists even in immigrant countries such as the United States and Canada, I wouldn't be surprised if things may get a bit tough against some Peruvians for the next little while.

The cold weather has come back although it's nice and sunny out there. I'm waiting for that package from The Wild Guy which hopefully will arrive sooner rather than later. I've just got the Speedy classes with 001 and 003 later tonight. In the meantime, I've gotta continue tackling that translation for the essay for my Permanent Residency bid.
Tuesday November 29, 11:23 p.m.

An unexpectedly truncated session at the juku tonight. The boss, in her usual fashion, forgot to tell me that The New Kid wouldn't be coming since he had done his 4 lessons per month and due to the fact that tonight was the 5th Tuesday, he was told that he didn't have to come. I was just left doing my crosswords for almost 30 minutes past his expected start time when the boss decided to call her friend, TNK's mother. She got corrected in a hurry and then rushed in to profusely apologize to me for the screwup. Screwup? Let's see...I still got my full pay for the hour for an AWOL teen who hasn't particularly shown me a good attitude the last couple of weeks....I oughta been paying her for the relief.

Looks like I was rolling sevens tonight. I regained some of that balance between jovial chat and get-down-to-town study with The Beauty Pair that I'd lost for a few weeks. I ran them through the gauntlet of Simple Past with not much of a problem although Yuri is chronically having difficulties with her structure. The Milds and McKid were their usual diligent best, and even The Siberian was into the lesson for at least half of it since I went into the world of acronyms; but I don't think the articles I use with SIL are gonna be as effective with him. He's a bit out there.

The juku's new mascot, that rescued little kitten from last week, will probably be making a home with us. At least I hope so although the boss is trying to pawn him/her off. I think resistance is futile in this case since little Hana has obviously imprinted itself on the boss, and a number of the students have imprinted themselves on it including McKid, Mr. Mild and The Siberian. Heck, I've gotten quite fond of it as the boss hasn't hesitated to point out. Again, I'd love to have the little tyke for my own but single status doesn't lend itself well to pet care.

Looks like my first Xmas present is on it way here tomorrow morning, probably from The Wild Guy. Speaking of whom, it seems as if he may have a budding romance on the scene. I hope it does turn out well for him. He can use a bit of settling down.

My dance card is starting to fill up for December. Not only do I have that big ball at The Lady's place on the 9th and Speedy's bonenkai on the 23rd but I also have my own little nabe party on the 18th and the annual Xmas potluck with The Beehive on the 20th.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Tuesday November 29, 12:28 a.m.

Well, my Monday nights are spent about a kilometre further west from The Company, three hours later than usual and at half the salary of what my Monday nights used to be. However, I think I'm doing more worthwhile work with 004 and 005. Well, at least I think I am...I can never be quite sure with 004 since that little torpedo she sent a couple of weeks ago. As it was, the two classes went well enough. It was just Speedy and me manning the shop since SB was once again out of commission due to fatigue and a cold.

I'm starting to peg out a pattern between my Mondays and Wednesdays at Speedy's. The Monday nights with 004 and 005 are somewhat more serious in nature although I still keep a fairly jaunty atmosphere in the classroom. However, it is quite a bit more lighthearted when it comes to my midweek classes with the jovial 001 and giggly 003.

Looks like a lot of little strings are getting tied up. I asked The Matron if her hubby could get me a copy of the employment contract for me since I need to hand that in along with the rest of the paperwork for my Permanent Residency bid. Then I informed The Lady about who I'm bringing along to the party on the 9th. The Chef is already getting his stuff ready for the big party though it will be almost another 2 weeks before the big night arrives. The Tulip even contacted me for the first time in a couple of months to let me know she's OK. Earlier in the day her mother told me that her daughter may want French lessons. That's right up Speedy's alley. SIL was her old happy self; she really enjoyed the article on Japlish. Then when I went up to Speedy's, I drew up a map for the boss man himself on how to get over to The Lady's place since he won't be arriving until about an hour after the ladies and I get there.

For lunch, I ended up at my usual Monday afternoon Wendys near Bunkamura. This time, instead of the Spicy Chicken Burger Set, I went for this thing translated into English as The Mealburger Set. Basically, it's just a double-patty burger with all the fixins on top. Yup, I can see why it would be called that. I really only needed a soup and rice ball to finish off my culinary needs for the day. I also took a look through HMV. Man, there are gonna be so many CDs that I'll want to buy in December. There's a jazz tribute to the 40th annversary of that Charlie Brown Xmas Special. I took a listen to it...pretty darn good and since it and I share the same birthyear...

I've also sent out the "official" invites to Skippy and The Madame for this nabe party on the 18th. I've asked Speedy and his wife, plus I'll probably ask Movie Buddy and his girl, along with OA. Could be pretty cramped. And I've also gotten started on setting up some movie dates in December. I'll see if The Madame is up for "Memoirs of a Geisha" on the 11th. I mean, she's chomping at the bit to see that movie (called "Sayuri" here...apparently, "memoirs" is just beyond the translators) although I'm somewhat more sanguine about it since I'm always leery about catching any Hollywood representation of Japan. I've yet to see "The Last Samurai" although 005 said that she really enjoyed it. Looking through an issue of "Entertainment Weekly" which showed the costumes of Sayuri-chan, I saw a couple of kimonos that the title character wears which are obviously more for the cinematography than for reality. Even the designer says as much....ooh, boy. And the soundtrack has Ziyi Zhang's gorgeous face with blue eyes! Uh...exqueeze me? Frankly, I'm more looking forward to "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" which is being released on the same day as "Memoirs"...namely Saturday. Apparently, the colony creature known as Brangelina arrived last night at Narita.

Just gotta mention that Hideki Matsui apparently has a new love in his life by the name of Naho Toda, a young actress most famous for her role in the cult fave drama, "Shomu-ni". Not a bad choice, Matsui.

Anyways, time to hit the hay.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sunday November 27, 11:51 p.m.

The longest Sunday I've had this month. I made it up to the theatre about a good half hour before The Madame arrived...with a mask over her mouth. Looks like she's been suffering from ragweed. Skippy had to skip lunch because of a bit of a stomach problem. I was surprised that she would still be willing to show up but she really wanted to see "Harry Potter". But in the meantime, it was the usual duo of me and The Madame so we had some lunch up at an udon place in the next building up on the 8th floor. The Madame's headed for San Francisco next week to see a friend of hers. Apparently, her parents aren't too pleased about it; according to them, she's using too much money to travel. I think that's partly true but both she and I figure that they don't really like her traveling abroad at all.

While I'd been waiting for The Madame in front of the Picadilly, I did see some of the more colourful creatures that pass for human life in Shinjuku. One was the Clown, this seemingly deluded mental patient who traipses around in a huge clown suit carrying tons of stuff including a big melon in a fishnet bag. And then there were two young ladies who were propping their friend, a very cranky drunk girl, and seeing what their chances were for the movie. There were two other movies playing at the theatre, both of them being Japanese romances.

When The Madame and I got back to the theatre, The Madame and The Satyr were waiting for us. And we did our vigil inside for about an hour. One of the things we discussed was the big party at The Lady's mansion. Yep, The Kid isn't gonna make it after all so Speedy is definitely in as the third member. Also, I got confirmation from Skippy that, yes indeed, her teaching firm did collapse at the end of October. However, true to form, Skippy was able to grab another job as a temp worker at IBM starting from tomorrow. Skippy is the proverbial cat..always lands on her feet.

As for "The Goblet of Fire" itself, let's say that I think "Prisoner of Azkaban" is the best of the "Harry Potter" series. The characters have all come up to bat, and the film is still in its better darker vein. However, it is just too busy. Plus there is a lot of that teenage angst that I really can't stand. Part of the reason is that I don't care much for teens as a whole but I'll just digress from that point. And to be honest, the first part of the movie in which that angst comes to a head doesn't really make much sense since it seems to have been crushed into the movie like a Size 10 foot into a Size 7 shoe. Harry's name gets put into and selected from the draw for the Tri-wizard Contest. What does everyone do, including Hermione and Ron? They all treat Mr. Potter like a pariah to be hated...for all of 15 minutes. Ron especially comes out looking like the third villain of the piece after Lord Voldemort and...well, I won't say that other name. I kinda felt like yelling at the Benedict Arnolds of Hogwarts that they had short memories about their friend's good character and elevated status from the other movies. But then despite being verbally spat at, he ends up getting cheered when he enters the arena for his first challenge. Uh-huh...I guess hating someone in a school doesn't mean that he shouldn't be accorded some good support in a death-defying sport.

It wasn't just this squished teenage crisis that didn't make too much sense for me. I also wasn't too thrilled with the fact that the challengers from the other magic academies ended up being merely ciphers for the plot and the main characters. But I gather when there are three main characters along with the supporting cast of the faculty and the other students at Hogwarts, there just won't be too much time and space allowed for them. However, it is a bit of misleading advertising with that huge poster of Harry, Hermione, Ron and then all of these other kids who perhaps share just a page's worth of script amongst them.

I think what did work for me were the two characters, Mad-Eye and Voldemort. Fine time by both of them. Voldemort still doesn't get anywhere close to the villany of Darth Vader or Hannibal Lecter in my book, but Ralph Fiennes still performed valiantly in his brief appearance. And it was a hoot seeing Dave Tennant, the new Doctor Who, give his scenery-chewing best. Now, I am looking forward to seeing his rendition of everyone's favourite Time Lord.

I'd seen a bit of the very first "Harry Potter" the other night on local TV here. Seeing those little munchkins on their train ride to the academy and then seeing today's "Goblet of Fire", I've realized how far they've come. It will be interesting to see what they will be like when the final book of the series finally gets on the screen.

After the movie, the four of us ended up going to this izakaya called Yama-chan up on the fringes of Kabukicho. The Satyr called up his girlfriend to join us which she did. We had to wait several minutes though since it was a Sunday night. I think it was close to half an hour or more before we finally got our table. Yama-chan is a Nagoya-based izakaya which boasts food fare from its area...the piece de resistance being its delectable chicken wings. We had quite a few dishes from the Nagoya area including ten-musu, kishimen and miso-katsu. All very good. I even braved drinking ao jiru which directly translates as "green liquid". This is a drink that's often used as a punishment for losers in games on TV variety shows, and even the menu at Yama-chan described it as terrible tasting. However, I gave it a shot. won't ever come into my top 1o list of fave drinks but it wasn't nearly that bad. The Madame, though, disagreed with me after taking one swig. To me, it just tasted like some mix of pureed grass and mattcha tea.

As usual, with Skippy, The Madame and I in the same room, the conversation did manage to get rather randy at times. Topics included fetishes, maid cafes and chikan bars. Chikan is translated as gropers. Yep, there are actually bars in which incorrigible men can get their rocks off by groping female employees on fake subway sets without the hassle of actually being arrested.

The dinner session was a good way to end the day. It looks like we've already got some preliminary plans to catch either "Memoirs of a Geisha" or "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" in the next few weeks. I'm not all that thrilled to see the former since I have an allergy when it comes to Hollywood's treatment of all things Japanese but The Madame is just chomping at the bit to see Ziyi Zhang's latest. Also, we may have things coming along for the first nabe party of the season at my place. Maybe the 18th?