Saturday, December 31, 2005

Sunday January 1 2006, 1:52 p.m.

I've been up for nearly a couple of hours after 8 hours of sleep. I ended up watching this late-night bowling match amongst a whole slew of tarento which was strangely engrossing.

Now that I'm up, I'm switching back and forth between the local channels and CNN which has Anderson Cooper about to bring in the New Year in New York. Speaking of Anderson Cooper, he's had quite the year, hasn't he? Before Katrina, he was just the wisecracking cable journalist with an obsession for Japanese navy recruitment videos. After the killer typhoon, he became the Voice of Reason for all of America (seemingly) and the "It" guy of TV news. Kinda reminds me of Tom Hanks' career.

Right now on local TV, it's been nothing but variety shows. If there is a day that is custom-made for tarento's alleged talents, this is the day. Viewers need a reason to plonk themselves down at the kotatsu and eat their mikan and o-sechi. The male TV personalities are all decked out in hakama while the females are all dolled up in their kimonos. And of course, there are tons of live on-site coverage from all over the country of some of the newer tarento earning their stripes by doing all sorts of stuff such as visiting the best restaurants, dunking themselves in onsen or skiing down their mountains. Lots of silly games in store as well. This will be the custom for the next few days.

And now it's 2006 in New York....

I received a couple of e-mail New Year's cards from The Teacher and Ms. Perth of The Beehive. I'm sure that there are a few cards in the postbox waiting to be picked up downstairs but I'm not quite ready to head on out just yet. I'll probably be calling my Uncle later tonight to wish him and his a Happy New Year and thank him for the castella....which I'll probably totally consume three days past the expiry date even if I eat three slices a day.
Saturday December 31, 11:44 p.m.

Well, the 56th annual Kohaku Utagassen is coming to a close. Against my expectations and good taste, the win went to the White (guys) team. The usual rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" finished things off. Actress Yukie Nakama, who was the young host and captain of the Red (girls) team looked rather pissed when she gave her congratulations to her male counterpart (I don't know his name...I just remember him from years ago from the drama "Hitotsu Yane no Shita" as the mute wheelchair-ridden boy). You know that time is indeed passing when you see more and more Musume old enough to be at the big singalong at the end of the festival.

Gotta admit that this year's festival did go rather well. The producers threw in a few changes into the lineup. In the past, younger viewers could catch their faves in the opening half while the older folks caught the enka singers in the latter half of the program. This time, they actually had two enka singers start the program off and some of the younger groups and singers like SMAP and Mika Nakashima were in the very last minutes. There was even...gasp...some needed spontaneity. A lead singer for this rather bizarro band stopped the song midway to go and have a talk with the newly minted ozeki, Koto-O-Oshu of Bulgaria. And although I had been rather leery about the very democratic process of having the citizenry of Japan pick out the singers and their songs since I felt that it was just gonna lead to a feeling of Kohaku reruns, it was actually nice to hear some of the old songs again. Mind you, I think there should be a rule of minimum time between a re-performance of a song. I swear that some performers just sang the same song from last year.

One unintentionally hilarious usual, enka singer Saburo Kitajima, the grand veteran of the proceedings at 42 appearances, had his blizzard of paper snow come hailing on him (I wonder how many trees gave their lives for his performance) as usual. Then, when they cut back to the hosts and other singers, they looked rather nonplussed as they tried to dig out of the storm before they all got back to telegenic mode.

Well, it's past midnight and we're now into the New Year. I just bypassed the NHK "Yuku Toshi, Kuru Toshi" (The Leaving Year, The Coming Year) to watch an orchestra play the epic Beethoven 9th Symphony to end right at 12 midnight. The orchestra was successful of course. Much more thrilling than waiting to hear gongs.

How was my 2005? Can't say it was an annus horribilus but can't really say it was a great year either. I've had to tighten my belt financially and face all the tax and immigration stuff. I also lost a number of students...that in a few cases perhaps I shouldn't have: Jazz Buddy and The New Kid are two that will stick in my craw. However, there were some high points such as my trip to Taiwan and the birth of my niece. Do I have any resolutions? One is the chronic need to shape up physically...I really have to do better with my weight. The other is trying to get more in the plus column financially. Not quite sure how to pull that one off. Not quite sure what I'm gonna say next year in this blog at this time either. Will I be happier with some lady at my side? Will I be celebrating my 13th year in this little apartment of mine? Will I still be alive?
Saturday December 31, 10:56 p.m.

Less than an hour left in the Red and White Show. Well, I have to admit that it has been more on the entertaining side than usual. Probably because there has been more to anticipate than in recent years. How far could Kumi Koda go in her traditionally skimpy fashion on staid NHK (not too racy but enough to keep the fans happy)? What would two different generations of Morning Musume do on the stage (pretty good performance for them)? How would cross-dressing Gorie do in his/her (kinda) cover of The Bay City Rollers' "Saturday Night" (answer: he and about a thousand cheerleaders have probably won it for the girls' side with one of the most liveliest performances in recent history)? And I'm currently seeing the legendary Queen of J-Pop herself, Yumi Matsutoya, appear for the very first time on the Kohaku Utagassen...although it's with her multi-culti unit, Friends of the Earth, to do what will probably be just a one-off. And Misato Watanabe is still yet to appear with her 20-year-old anthem, "My Revolution", and I'm waiting to see even bigger legend Akiko Wada do her soul stuff with dance music guys, M-Flo. All in all, the anticipation has been well met with good performances. I hope the same holds true for next year.

Speaking of Morning Musume, I was checking the J-Pop forums. The folks at the MM forum have been covering their performance like the US media did for the infamous Gore-Bush election of 2000. It's Oscar night on the Net!

As for dinner, the Sweet N' Sour Chicken came out well and I'm saving half for dinner tomorrow. I also have a pot of stock ready for some more goodies since I used it tonight for that toshikoshi soba. Feeling pretty full right now. I would pop open the bubbly at midnight but I don't think my stomach will be able to handle the alcohol.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Saturday December 31, 2:45 p.m.

Odd thing about these long's awfully hard at times to remember what day it is or even if it's the weekend or not. During a regular work week, I can figure out that if I have The Class Act then it's a Monday...if I have the kids and JJ then it's a Saturday. With no lessons in the past few days, every day seems like every other day. I guess that's how the chronically unemployed feel. It almost feels like an eternity since I had The Lady and The Matron back on Monday.

Just came back from my final shopping of the year. The neighbourhood immediately around me was very quiet...kinda like Xmas back in Canada. I just bought some toiletries and then went to the supermarket to get some goodies for tonight. Since it is an auspicious night tonight, I'm going for Sweet N' Sour Chicken with that remaining Mabo Dofu from last night....all Chinese. I've had the chicken marinating for over 24 hours so that sucker should be plenty tender and flavourful by now. I also got the fresh toshikoshi soba for cooking later tonight while I'm watching The Red and White Song Festival on NHK...why I continue watching that program eludes me; maybe it's some subliminal programming emanating from the other programs in December that makes me watch this annual tradition that has long passed its freshness date. Case in point: NHK has two regular weekly programs from the same hall that deal with enka and the current craze in rock and hip-hop tinged pop respectively...and in addition, there are all of the other music programs all over the Japanese TV spectrum. There's no real particular need for the Festival since its original purpose of cheering up the folks during the bleak postwar years has long gone. And the forced cheeriness of all these old enka singers against the sullen "Why the hell did I accept to come here?" attitude of some of these new young acts just reminds me of a massive monthly family reunion. Well, I guess it makes for some pretty good audio-video wallpaper. In any case, while the Red-and-White is playing on, I'll be simultaneously taping another old chestnut of New Year's programming on TV Tokyo. This show is strictly for the older generation: 4.5 hours of enka for the parents.

The supermarket was crowded as usual. And the o-sechi foodstuffs were in full display on the shelves. I just bought some ready-made squid tempura to top off my soba. However, despite the fact that a lot of stores will be open on New Year's Day, my supermarket and the one across the street will definitely be taking a breather for the next couple of days. Well, at least I know that I'll be cocooning very close to home. Luckily, there is that restaurant up the street which stays open all year and the convenience store around the corner didn't have any signs stating any closing dates so I think I'm covered.

I received a belated Xmas card from a couple of friends who have gone from the wonderful world of English teaching into a higher level of financial security (damn them). The hubby has now become a government representative for his state to promote business between his home and East Asia. And to think, a decade ago he was telling the natives to repeat phrases twice. I'll have to send them a New Year's Card. In a way, I've got the worst of both worlds...I have to send Xmas cards and New Year's Cards. The latter is definitely the harder of the two since I have to consult my kanji dictionary and be very careful with my calligraphy skills. Ironic, since most folks nowadays have software in their PCs or even printers whose sole purpose is to spit out New Year's Cards with the addresses and messages printed out in immaculate kanji. For me, I've gotta do it the old way, and usually my way is the messy way. My kanji could probably be bettered by a Grade 6'er after an all-night study session. Also, another fly in the ointment is that I have to be careful about deaths in the family. According to tradition, I cannot send New Year's Cards to families who are in the yearlong mourning period after a death of a loved one. Well, the remembering is often alleviated by a shot across the bow in the form of a printed postcard from the grieving family that a death has taken place. Unfortunately, I didn't get anything from The Matron whose father had passed away earlier this year, although she did mention that fact in the Spring. Equally as unfortunately, my memory storage capacity apparently doesn't extend beyond a few months so when I apologized to her this past Monday that my card to her would show my poor kanji skills, she quickly showed me the light for which I profusely apologized even more. Luckily, she took it in stride. But I did tell her half-jokingly that once she came across it, she is to rip it up into several pieces.

I've pretty much finished off the Big Clean. I did a bit of cheating with the bathroom by just hosing it down with the shower head and then spraying on some of that cleanser everywhere. But I still gotta get the bedroom nice n' tidy and spray some other surfaces. In about an hour and a half, I gotta start taping that enka program.
Friday December 30, 5:39 p.m.

Back in the West, Xmas Eve is the busiest shopping day of the year with tons of customers just grabbing and clawing for all those goodies at low, low prices. Well over here, it's not yet New Year's Eve but I think I got the Japanese equivalent of the lunacy that presides over back home. The supermarket was just packed with people trying to grab the various ingredients for their traditional New Year's food, o-sechi. I did see one forlorn whole chicken waiting to be roasted but it's about a week late now. For those who don't want to spend the night of the 31st slaving away over a hot stove making the stuff, there were some ready-made o-sechi platters but at the steep cost of 10,000 yen (over $100). That's a little too special for me. However, I may grab some noodles and whip up some toshi-koshi soba with some deep-fried squid and green onions tomorrow....that is, if there is any of the soba left. Customers were pretty ravenous today.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Friday December 30, 12:58 p.m.

Pretty nice out there for the penultimate day of the year. Sunny, cold and clear...the usual for a Tokyo winter day. Actually forced myself to lay in bed for a good 10 hours so I just got up a half-hour ago...first time I woke up past noon in several years. Feeling a bit of the burn after trying a heavier weight on my shoulders at the gym yesterday; I think I need to push myself a little bit harder. Just doing my second-last laundry load of the year...I figure that I'll have to clean the futon sheets tomorrow. Usually one of the days in the last week of the year is set aside for The Big Cleanup, a Japanese tradition in which anything is not needed is thrown out and anything that still is will be spic n' span. I'll be setting my Big Cleanup for New Year's Eve.

SR contacted me. She had her last day at her faltering airline company. Thankfully, no big incidents. But unsurprisingly, she won't be able to see me for some time due to her pregnancy and then her duties to take care of the baby. The Denmother once again thanked me for last night. I proposed that perhaps any New Year's party could take place at The Maple Leaf. I'm also thinking of setting any potential lessons with her on Friday right after The Teacher but I've yet to hear when she's available.

I think the TV industry here is now in full New Year's mode according to the TV guide. Huge blocks on the schedule are now saved for multi-hour programs. So far, it's only been news retrospectives on the past year but there have been some comedy bits. The variety stuff should be starting tonight. I'll be making my first taping later for my parents.
Thursday December 29, 11:48 p.m.

Killed two birds with one stone and got my rubdown at the clinic and then did the gym. I got another young guy after having the buttoned-down fellow for a few months. The new guy was also pretty soft on me although I was wearing my vest which could have cushioned the pressure. I think I still prefer the buttoned-down guy.

My gym outing was my first in a couple of weeks. It was probably the most crowded that I had ever seen it in my 15 months at the place. Everyone was on holiday so it was fairly tight going in the locker room and I actually had to wait to get a spot at the showers (albeit just for a few short minutes). Negotiating through the gym room was also slightly tricky...I couldn't get to use all of the machines but I was able to get enough of a workout. I had been thinking of going again the next day but I'm now considering just waiting until the Holiday rush is over. A guy can get spoiled on the usual weekday plan.

I also made what hopefully will be my last withdrawal from the bank for the next few days since UFJ will be closing down all service as of 7 p.m. on New Year's Eve for over 3 days. I imagined things could be pretty hairy in the ATMs on the last day of the year so I decided to jump the gun and get some cash out. There were already a few people ahead of me but it was just a minute's wait til my turn.

After a small pit stop at McDonalds, I met up with the Denmother at Myoden Station. Actually, I first met Scout Q; it was probably the first time that I actually had a meaningful talk with her even if it was only for a few minutes before The D arrived. It would be the eastern group who would join us which meant that Scout B would be the only other addition. However, The D's hip-hopping son also tagged along. We had a bit of a logistical hiccup at the beginning when The D and I got our wires crossed; we both had thought the other knew about this Chinese restaurant in the area. But I think I was the screwup in this one since I was just relating what Yuri of The Beauty Pair had once told me about this wonderful place. But The D took it in stride and so all of us just walked outside for about 10 minutes trying to find this place on our own. We may have found it just on the outskirts of the SATY complex but if it was indeed so, it was just too small for our purposes so we headed on back toward the station and took our meal in an izakaya under the subway tracks.

Scout B wouldn't join us for about 90 minutes so the four of us went on ahead and ordered stuff. We were lucky to share a semi-private room with another group. There was a huge bonenkai going on in the main hall which got pretty rowdy near the end so that we often had a hard time talking over the noise. The D and her son had a fairly humourous argument about the latter going out for the umpteenth time this month...presumably to the bright lights of Roppongi. He's an interesting dude...he has this deep appreciation for hip-hop and dance culture. Despite my limited knowledge of the genre, we had a good brief talk in English about hip-hop music in Japan. We both agreed that pretenders like Namie Amuro and Hikaru Utada aren't really hip-hop singers per se...just pop singers with a little R&B mixed in for good measure. We also both agreed that there is a hip-hop culture buried deep within the streets of Roppongi but it's often covered by these mainstream performers and regular folks who just like talking the talk but not walking the walk (or strutting the strut, as it were). He feels that hip-hop can only be accurately expressed in English since the genre originated in the hardened streets of the American urban cores...not the relatively safe ones of Tokyo. I'm sure that there will probably be quite a few other Japanese who would disagree with him but I can respect his opinion.

Finally, Scout B came...straight from his second part-time job working at a game centre further east in Chiba. The B'ster looks fairly sleepy but he is a hard worker...he's pulling down two jobs; along with the game centre, he also works in a zoo, and he also has classes at a community school so he's got his plate full. In fact, he won't have anything remotely resembling a long holiday since the game centre will be requiring his presence on New Year's Day and then the zoo will also be needing him on the other days.

That year-end party in the next area got very raucous near the end but it finally broke up at around 10. However, and not totally unexpectedly, there were a few shouting matches by drunk folks. The entire group probably numbered in the few dozens so a few out-of-control drunks were an inevitability. But the Denmother kept the conversation flowing. Still, I think our little party dragged on about a half-hour too late. The rest of us were quite ready to move on to a new venue or just home but The D kept on rolling until about 10:30. Perhaps in a way, it was good that we were kept there until that time since if we had followed our instincts and left at 10, we would've been smack dab in the middle of that besotted exodus by the other party next door. Scouts Q and B went the other way while The D and I took the train back west. She did mention a little about the potential for teaching her but we decided to wait until January to make some concrete decisions about time and day.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Wednesday December 28, 11:01 p.m.

It was another one of those final long days in the big city before the end of 2005. I hit the road fairly early this morning to go to Immigration but it wasn't one of those "up with the robins"-type sojourns. I got to the three-winged monolithic building at about 10:30. I headed straight to Section D for Permanent Residency. I rather wished they would be a bit more specific about their labels. I picked up my number, waited for 20 minutes and endured one of those lousy re-enactments of marital spats on a Fuji-TV morning program famous for them before finding out from the somewhat nervous clerk (I'm sure she's faced down more vigourous reactions than mine) that I was in the wrong line-up since Section D is only for those people who are getting word on their applications for Permanent Residency. For people who are actually handing their applications in, I had to go to Section B for all applications. I was nice enough to just acknowledge the error and went straight over to Section B. When I picked up my number, I found out that there were over 50 people in front of me. That's it, I thought....I'm gonna be spending the rest of my afternoon in the waiting lounge. Well, to my delight, those 50 people just seemed to fly by in about 30 minutes thanks to rapid processing and the 6 counters handling applicants. When my turn came up, I just handed in my documents and tensed up in case that I was missing anything that I hadn't been told about. Within a few minutes, I was given the "In Process" stamp in my passport and told to wait for that postcard. And with that, a big long stage in my immigration process came to an end. Now it would be the waiting game. It's difficult to believe that I may be waiting anything from 6-8 months for Immigration to contact me since my previous times there only involved extending my visa which only necessitated a month's wait. Still, I'm prepared for a long wait as I boarded the bus back to Shinagawa Station.

For lunch, I had my meal at Hansen's once again. Only stuck to one hot and fries this time since I was still feeling rather bloated after the relative feast the night before at The Maple Leaf. Yes, I know that for most mortals, one hot dog is plenty but as my appetite will attest, I'm not any regular person. Still, I'm not nearly as prolific as that Japanese stringbean who managed to eat his way into the record books by downing several dozen franks in a minute...and thereby had Hansen's brought over to these shores (much to my eternal gratitude).

Afterwards, I picked up a magazine at HMV in Yurakucho and then a calendar at the department store Mitsukoshi in Nihombashi with my lone gift certificate. Re-explored Corredo The Shopping Mall for half an hour before heading over to Waseda, a good 3 hours before meeting Skippy there for dinner. I was happy that I did get the one-day pass so I had no compunction to head over to the busier district of Takadanobaba which was one station over. I kinda wished that I had planned those idle hours more efficiently since I ended up staying at two cafes during that time. I had my second chocolate croissant and American (watered-down coffee...for some reason, the US seems to have a kinship with watered-down drinks in this country...must be the Budweiser effect) in as many days. For some reason, this branch of Choco-Cro was morbidly insistent that the front door stayed open despite the cold so the customers in the non-smoking section..namely me...was at risk of frostbite on my legs. So I had to find another venue for reading and idling time..ended up for an hour at a Doutor.

Finally, I returned to Waseda and waited in front of the McDonalds. Luckily, I only had to wait a minute before Skippy showed up (she's refreshingly prompt) and we headed out to this famous place for curry. Forgot the name although it is Thai-sounding. Apparently, the eatery gets a lot of university students lining up for its much so that it has been seen on a lot of these variety shows. However, it is the Holidays and since school is out, the restaurant was pretty deserted, lucky for us. I had the double set of Thai Red and Gray Curries. Very nice on a cold day like today. Skippy, who is continuing to impress me with not only the size of her appetite but with her endurance to spicy food, selected the hottest thing on the menu. I almost gagged on her Thai Chicken Curry...thankfully, we had ordered a couple of lhassies to cool us down. I still can't remember the name of the place but I know where it is and I know I'll be a return customer, provided that I can get a seat during a normal day. Afterwards, we ended up going across the street to one of the domestic cafe chains that has managed to survive despite the steamroller that is Starbucks and Tullys. It's called Chat Noir (the managment could consider changing the name) and we spent another chatting about her job and her supposedly strange neighbour who lives upstairs. She suspects he could be one of those hikikomori, or shut-ins...those people who have decided to live hermit-like existences. Well, she seems to be OK with him, and I guess as long as he isn't into collecting human organs or eyelids, she'll let him be.

Back home now. Just watching...or enduring...the semi-annual "Waratte Ii Tomo" live special. Tamori and all of his charges have just finished a rash of impersonations of other celebs that wouldn't get genuine laughs from the giddiest office ladies at a year-end party. I think the real carousers at such a party would be more effective. But this is what I'm gonna have to be facing for the next few days as we approach New Years.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Wednesday December 28, 6:30 a.m.

My mouth currently has that taste of toxic waste...consequences of that chili at The Maple Leaf last night. In fact, a lot of these things went through my piehole over there. I met up with Movie Buddy in Shibuya. I was slightly caught off-guard when he brought a guest but he had stated the night before that he would be asking a couple of current students at the ol' school if they would be interested in joining us. The young lady in question had an uncanny resemblance to The Ballerina...not enough to be considered a twin but she could easily be mistaken for her sister. The Ballerina-B also had some of the original's giddiness.

The three of us got to The Maple Leaf right at the opening time of 5 (I guess that idea of opening up for lunch didn't really work) but the shutter was still down. There was a sign that said that the pub would be open Monday to Friday but we were still wondering if we'd been taken for a ride. However, a few minutes later, a sheepish staff member bounded up the stairs to open up. But as it turned out, there were already a few barflies in there just talking away...Norm-like regulars, I wondered. For the first 90 minutes or so, it was just the three of us on Labatt's Blues, poutine and deep-fried mushrooms. MB enjoyed the light, very refreshing taste of the Blue and wondered what this Pilsener process was all about, but he was also slightly aghast at the hefty price of 900 yen. I found the poutine somewhat disappointing since the gravy came out rather watery. Good poutine should have gravy rich enough to coat the lining of your did make me think about what the financial status of The Leaf was if they had to give out distinctly watered-down gravy. The mushrooms were fine, though.

Surprisingly, Skippy did show up. It was lucky that I was able to contact her on MB's cell since she couldn't find The Maple Leaf after all. I was able to lead her in by meeting her in front of Tokyu Hands several metres away. All that possible offense I may have caused was no longer existent. At the same time, Ballerina-B's classmate, a photographer who had taken shots of an ol' school Xmas party a few years ago. also arrived. The Photog remembered me as the party Santa. Once the whole gang was there, we could tuck into the main stuff so MB, B-B and I had those burgers. Skippy was truly amazing...despite the fact that she had to run off to another year-end party later, she ordered up quite a few things for herself such as the buffalo wings and chili. How a woman as slim as her could have my appetite...well, as it turned, we all helped out with her contributions. She also was her usual very chatty self which lent a very convivial air to the proceedings.

Ballerina-B and The Photog quickly revealed their very strong friendship. They made for quite a humourous pair. The Photog was quick to disintegrate into giggling fits and her mate was one of those tennen boke, a naturally funny person....she could say anything that would be taken a bit off-kilter which would garner laughter. In my years at the ol' school, that type of student was gold in any classroom. It made me a bit wistful for those group classes again. Teaching at that school of Speedy's has been fine for the past several months but we've yet to get that group class; there is that dynamic that's missing.

Skippy had to take off an hour later although she certainly gave the impression that she wasn't all that eager to leave. However, she made plans with me for yet another dinner tonight in Waseda for a curry place that she especially recommended. She would see if OA is available since she lives close by. The rest of us left about another 90 minutes later since there were no coffee-and-cake options at The Maple Leaf. We ended up just around the corner at another one of those Choco-Cro cafes for about an hour where I tucked into a chocolate croissant and coffee. By the time I was on the subway home, I was feeling very beat but I still had some pep left to take a shower. Good thing, too...since I think I would have contaminated my sheets. Despite it being Tuesday, the holiday feeling was definitely in Tokyo. I saw one salaryman heaving his guts out on the walk back to the station and another guy had to be lifted out of the Tozai after collapsing on the train.

Well, now I've gotta eat some breakfast before taking off for Immigration. I've gotta make that final check of my documents and then I'll be off. I've got no idea what the lineup is gonna be like for a Permanent Residency bid....keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Tuesday December 27, 9:38 a.m.

I've just hopped myself on the last of the chocolate nuggets that have been laying on my coffee table for about 10 days since the sukiyaki party. Got about 7 hours of sleep but don't feel all that refreshed.

I had written some doubts last night about whether or not Skippy wasn't too happy with my response concerning the night out tonight. Well, I realized some minutes ago that I may have the impression that I wasn't willing to pick her up and guide her into The Maple Leaf since I didn't explain to her that I would be meeting MB about 90 minutes earlier. Tail tucked in between me, I've sent an apology to her cell phone. I hope her cell e-mail size limits don't cut me off.

Well, there's been some interesting news back in The Great White North. Apparently, the federal government has decided to allow group sex houses...I'm sure the politicians are very quietly celebrating this...and maybe I know where. Not surprisingly, Quebecers (their province is the place where the party started) are taking this with their usual grain of sel while the suits in Toronto, uptight as always, have gone onto their PCs to write editorials of outrage. Well, as for me in all honesty, there's a part of me (which one, I wonder...heheheh) which would be curious about visiting such a place but I'm afraid that I would still be left sitting in a corner nursing a soda (cue Charlie Brown theme).

And keeping to the Canadiana theme, it looks like Mike Myers and his wife are calling it quits after 12 years of marriage. I wonder if that means he's gonna move back into the basement in Scarborough. It would be nice to have him as a neighbour again although I'm now living many thousands of kilometres away.

Well, time to get some breakfast and then get some document copying done.
Tuesday December 27, 1:15 a.m.

Yup, I'm still up....had to get through the mountain of ironing. Well, it didn't help that I just had to watch "Star Trek: Nemesis" on DVD last night. Y'know...with all the bricks and bats that I'd thrown at it after that first viewing at the cineplex three years ago, after seeing it again it is actually more palatable. It's still not a great movie and I've now noticed that it borrows heavily from "Wrath of Khan" and even the only good TNG movie "First Contact". But despite all of its faults, the cast still has that long-earned chemistry amongst themselves and Patrick Stewart can still own the room. And to be a bit kinder to Tom Hardy, he did try to be the nemesis to Captain Picard, not an easy acting task by any means. Still, he just came off as a pretty light foe when compared to the scenery-chewing Ricardo Montalban.

I received a call midway through the DVD from Movie Buddy who had just come back from a ski trip to Hokkaido. Looks like he and his girl had a great time hitting the slopes and at a very surprising cost of only 40000 yen for the 4 days. Makes me kinda wonder about how much I had paid for my summer trip to Sapporo last year. Anyways, I'm due to meet him for dinner later today at The Maple Leaf. I kinda wished that Skippy had answered my summons a bit sooner though. She said that she would prefer Wednesday night but I'd already set up the plan with MB so I just let her know the game plan just in case she can come out. Otherwise, the next night is still OK with me. She gave me a rather vague answer stating that if she could come out on Tuesday, she'll be able to head over to the pub herself. Not sure if I offended her or not by jumping the gun like that but then again who can understand women at times?

Well, I'll be hitting the hay in the next few minutes. I'll be writing some notes for Immigration and then making the copies of every document that I have to hand in. Looks like I'll be going to Shinagawa on its last day of operation on Wednesday before it closes for the New Year's holidays.

Saw an interesting BBC interview with Gene Wilder, the original Leo Bloom, on Hardtalk Extra about a half-hour ago. He comes off as this very content, articulate man despite all the woes that had assaulted him in his life including the death of his wife, Gilda Radner, his own neurotic battles and then cancer a few years ago. I can only wish that I can make that sort of peace with life when I get to be his age. It's hard to imagine him as that manic comic actor from the 70s in those Mel Brooks movies and those other films with Richard Pryor.
Monday December 26, 6:09 p.m.

Well, it was supposed to be an ordinary day but I guess a lot of citizens decided to take their New Year's holidays a bit early this year. The subways weren't all that crowded either going or coming....not that I'm complaining, mind you...just a bit odd.

The Class Act had their usual gab session. No free lunch from The Chef, though, since he was taking a well-deserved holiday. I made it out to Speedy's...his neighbourhood was just one big wind tunnel. I think the folks in that area now realize what a Toronto wind chill factor is like. As both Speedy and I had suspected, that model lesson student called in to cancel. The last week of any year is basically the week of Hell for anyone in corporate Japan. Speedy also found that out when he went to the bank to draw out my salary. There was quite a lineup ahead of him. I did quite a goodly sum of money from him which I hadn't quite expected. It still wasn't enough to break through the million barrier but I'll take whatever I can. He also had a bit of a powwow with me for a few minutes concerning any other ideas about drawing in the students. The school has been kinda dry for the past several weeks.

I was doing quite a bit of napping on the subways coming home. Almost missed my stops a couple of times which is a sign that I really need to relax more. Found out that my uncle decided to get a bit of revenge on me by sending me a package of castella cake. Unfortunately, I wasn't home at the time of the attempted delivery so I'm having it re-delivered on Thursday. I'll definitely have to give him a call on New Year's Day.

Movie Buddy slipped in a message while I was in the shower. He was wondering if I were open for either tomorrow or Wednesday night. I decided to drop Skippy a line to see if she were also open since she had sent the same sort of message last week. Perhaps I can then combine the trip to Immigration with the later meeting with either or both. I'm thinking of taking the two of them to The Maple Leaf.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Monday December 26, 7:11 a.m.

The day after... I didn't eat a Christmas dinner last night (that was the Fujimamas experience on Xmas Eve) but I have that "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" feeling. So I'm keeping my breakfast down to cereal, juice and coffee; the coffee I don't really need but since it is a diuretic and I need to...well, unload...

I don't get to watch it every week and I'm not at all interested in cars or driving but I have a special affinity for BBC's "Top Gear" whenever I do get to see it, which I did first thing when I turned on the telly. I don't watch it for the cars but for the snarky banter amongst the three hosts.

There's been quite a bit of news going on over here over the past several hours. Two of the reports aren't happy ones and they've occurred up north. One even got onto CNN...there was a derailment of a JR train in Yamagata Prefecture which has killed three and injured 33 others. Winds might be to blame there. And up in the regional capital of Sendai, some truck driver who apparently snapped decided to ram his car into a major shopping arcade which injured seven. Even before he did the dirty deed, he had sent in a message to police stating that he was thinking of doing something evil. On a happier note, three of the big female skaters here got their tickets to the Olympics. One of them has apparently become the first female to pull off two triple axels in a program...whatever that means. The skaters have already become a regular part of the pop cultural zeitgeist with their frequent appearances on the sports news and, more notably, those chocolate bar commercials with Dreams Come True singing in the background.

I got a call from Mom last night. At this time over at home, my brother and his family should be on their way to my parents for Xmas dinner. They'll be having just roast beef for Xmas dinner (I'm a traditionalist...I think turkey should be mandatory for Xmas, and whenever I am back home for The Holidays, that's what we have). My brother should be bringing over the DVD player for them so that they can put the Hiroshi Itsuki disc I sent them to good use.

Usually when I am back home for the Holidays, I get to see "White Christmas" or "Holiday Inn" or the usual Xmas movies. Last night? Well, along with the Charlie Brown festivities, I saw a few eps of "Space Cruiser Yamato III" on that satelite channel showing old Japanese TV programs. Hm..I guess 1981 can now be considered to be ancient history.

Just before I laid my bloated corpse to bed last night, I turned on the TV to see a bit of that movie-and-music show on TV Tokyo at midnight. Gwen Stefani was showing off her latest music video called "Hollaback Girl". As per her days with No Doubt, her song was catchy as all hell. And continuing on with her current Harajuku Girl obsession, there was the kanji for Harajuku emblazoned on the floor in a ceiling shot. Y'know...when it comes to the local pop diva, Ayumi Hamasaki has often been compared to Madonna. I think that comparison should be changed. Gwen Stefani seems to be more similar in style and looks to Hamasaki. Speaking of The Material Girl (yes, children...back in the ancient 80s, Madonna had that nickname after one of her old songs), she was here last week to promote her latest dance album, and she complimented Japan on the heated toilet seats. Perhaps she should have a word to the Ichikawa City Hall about getting those modern toilets.

I woke up this morning as usual to the talking heads from "Mezamashi Terebi", the Fuji-TV morning news show. Fave sports figure in Japan, Maria Sharapova (she should heavily consider Japanese citizenship...she'd get it in a second) has once more come to her adopted country to show off some fashion. The usual questions of insecurity from the Japanese press came to the fore such as "What Japanese food have you eaten since you arrived?"

It's always simultaneously interesting and sad watching foreign channels such as CNN and seeing all that Xmas ho-ho-ho going on back in the States from a country which treats the Yuletide like we do Halloween...just a cultural observation and not this most important of holidays. I don't harbor any resentment against the Japanese, naturally. After all, Japan isn't a Christian country. But when one has been raised in a Yuletide country, it does seem somewhat poignant. But this week will be different. Now, it will be Japan's time to rev up the holiday motors since their most important holiday of New Year's is on the way. The stores will be selling their special New Year's food and putting up the special decorations to replace the culturally grafted Xmas trees and wreathes.

Now, I've gotta go to the can...
Sunday December 25, 10:15 p.m.

This time last year, I was back home getting stuffed on Xmas turkey and the like. Well, I'm stuffed again right now but it's because of pork kimchi, smoked duck yakitori and lots of rice. Yup, it's Xmas in Ichikawa. As it is not a national holiday here, it was just a regular Sunday outside but the supermarket had some roast chicken legs for families to get for their Xmas dinner including some that looked like they came off of Foghorn Leghorn. I guess those genetic engineering experiments have paid off in dividends.

Indoors, I just listened to some Xmas music and then ended up watching the two broadcasts of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on the Cartoon Network...despite the fact that I'd bought the DVD of the show a few days ago. Yup, I'm a true-blue Peanuts fan.

For dessert, I whipped up some an applesauce concoction with apple slices, butter, sugar and some rum...just like The Madame did last week...and poured it on some of that roll cake...that I had bought last week. Strangely enough, the roll cake is still edible which frightens me in a way. In any case, I'm feeling pretty heavy right now. I was thinking of doing some ironing but decided to hold off until tomorrow since I don't think I should be doing any major moving for the next hour or so.

The Entrepreneur said he would be taping the first David Tennant "Doctor Who" show. It's happening today in jolly ol' England. And according to the BBC and Outpost Gallifrey sites, the show is getting a ton of press. It reminds me of all the hype that "Star Trek: The Next Generation" got when it was about to premiere 18 years ago. Well, David, welcome to the world of Captain Kirk, Obi-Wan Kenobi and...Doctor Who (The Tom Baker years). I hope you're handling the pressure well on this Xmas Day. I saw the full commercial for "The Xmas Invasion" on the BBC, those "special" effects of flying spray-painted styrofoam balls are long over. I just saw that big gherkin building in London effectively explode...authentically, and the TARDIS being thrown all over Rose's neighbourhood. I'm gonna be looking forward to this episode.

Well, I'm back teaching The Class Act tomorrow, and hopefully that will be my final class of the year. Speedy warned me that there could be a model lesson tomorrow night but I'd rather not have to do that as my final. I know full well that Speedy needs the all the clients he can get but I'm just not in the mood for handling that type of lesson at this time of year.