Saturday, January 14, 2006

Sunday January 15, 1:39 p.m.

Much nicer outside after yesterday's icy deluge. Got some laundry done as a consequence. Went for something different for breakfast. Instead of using butter on all those nook and crannies of my English muffins, decided to make some mini-pizzas instead with the remaining cheese and salsa sauce. Worked out pretty well.

The Croissant actually chatted me up just as I was to log off last night. Looks like that second and last party of hers before she heads back Stateside may be set for the 28th. I gave Movie Buddy the heads-up but he just got back to me now saying that he and The Sylph will be headed on out for some skiing that day.
Sunday January 15, 12:38 a.m.

Yep, this month is whipping by like crazy. Life may start at 40 but it also goes downhill pretty quickly.

Saw "A Bug's Life", one of Andrew Lasseter's early PIXAR works after "Toy Story". It's light-years away from "Memoirs of a Geisha" in all ways including the fact that it actually has a heart and people....sorry, ants...we can root for. Not quite on the same level as "Toy Story" or "The Incredibles" but still a very nice diversion for 2 hours last night.

Speaking of movies, Movie Buddy was able to recruit some folks from his end for "King Kong" later today. Samwise will be coming along and then The Satyr will be joining us for dinner.
Saturday January 14, 5:50 p.m.

I guess today's weather must have come in 24 hours too late. It's safe to say that it's been the worst day so far this year, meterologically speaking. We have the worst combination of rain and cold temps which results in very miserable wet commuters. It's certainly not the 12 degrees that the weatherfolks predicted. My apartment is only 10 degrees right now. Not sure how cold it's gonna get tonight but I'm kinda wondering if there's gonna be a blanket of white on the ground later.

My first lesson with the kids this year was par for the course. Not a whole lot of jumping about but the girls were OK. The family trip to Niigata Prefecture for skiing over the Holidays was a bit of a washout, though, thanks to those blizzards they've been getting since the turn of the year. Why they would even consider going up there considering the horrible winter in the area this year is a mind-boggler for me.

I was very grateful that the new escalator finally opened at Kiba Station. The old stairs, which are still there, was just a major bottleneck for us. I'm very glad not to have to negotiate those
narrow things again. The Starbucks card helped my food budget once more since I didn't have to pay for anything there. After having that lousy chicken and salad sandwich last year, I was a lot more satisfied with their hot salami sandwich...lots of cold cuts and crusty bread. Just the thing for a miserable day like today. The only problem was that I was seated fairly close to the doors so the draft wasn't too helpful. As for JJ, she picked up a lot of vocab on crime and religion today. I was glad that I did that grammar review though...she was quite rusty. In fact, she asked if I could do the same test with her next time. I always like a diligent student.

Picked up a lot of food but still kept things under the 2000-yen line. Need something rib-sticking for dinner tonight. I received word from The Madame. She says that she's been busy and will remain so for the next little while but that she will contact me when there's time. I believe her for the most part but there is still that "don't call us, we'll call you" subtext in that response.

So, in all likelihood, it'll just be Movie Buddy, The Sylph and myself for "King Kong" tomorrow. Hopefully, the weather won't be nearly as rotten.

I hear that Al-Qaeda's No. 2 man, Al-Zawahiri, may have finally gone to that mosque (not in the sky, though) thanks to a CIA-sponsored airstrike. Well, I'll believe it when I get aboslute proof.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday January 13, 5:04 p.m.

Supposedly the unlucky day today but so far, so good. Pretty cold out there, though, as Tokyo goes. A bit of rain, too...if it gets any chillier, it will probably convert into wet snow. That would be something here since the Kanto has largely kept itself out of harm's way during this snowiest of winters in Japan.

The Teacher was in good spirits today. We had a brief talk about "Frida" before we got into her family. Apparently, her younger son is quite the future civil engineer. Afterwards, I went over to the gym for an hour. Really didn't feel like exercising today but I'm trying to maintain some consistency.

I listened to that Yuna Ito single in its entirety. Pretty to hear. It reminds me somewhat of an old 80s power ballad (calling Berlin...Kenny Loggins?).

Gonna have to plan for the kids and JJ tomorrow. Still haven't heard from MK about changing her and The Manager's lesson times. But at least, I can get home early.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Friday January 13, 12:40 a.m.

Met Shard's acquaintance at the Jonathan's family restaurant in Roppongi today. I was taken aback when he told me that it'd been about 3 years since our last encounter. I had been under the impression it was somewhat less than that but I had no reason to doubt his veracity. Still, same restaurant, perhaps same booth and he certainly hasn't changed. He's an acupuncturist by trade, and a very dedicated one at that, too. He said that he spends hundreds of thousands of yen monthly traveling around the country to pick up more knowledge of the art/science and that he's spent a lot of time overseas doing much the same thing. Like me, he's also a freelancer and he's amassed a lot of clients including some in showbiz. We had a good talk over the three hours that we were in the restaurant about the potential of some of these national movie stars to make the breakthrough into Hollywood like Ken Watanabe. I just said that those Japanese thespians who would like to cross over successfully to the more luxurious and more income-rich shores should make their opportunity right now. With movies like "Lost In Translation", "The Last Samurai" and "Memoirs of a Geisha", Tinseltown has been having its love affair with The Land of the Rising Sun for the past few years, but it's a fickle mistress. It's still far from settled that Japanese movie stars have arrived in America like its baseball stars.

Speaking of which, my acquaintance told me that he was surprisingly impressed with Ichiro's acting ability in last week's special episode of "Ninzaburo Furuhata". That was quite a comment. Unfortunately, I couldn't catch the show since I had to waste my time at Speedy's with that abortive class with 003. When I asked his opinion about former New York Met, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, he said that Shinjo would make a better rock star than actor. Considering that the hammy ball player has been appearing in a Las Vegas Elvis suit in some commercials, I would tend to agree.

As a souvenir, my lunchmate gave me one of his acupuncture needles. It's a long sucker...about 7.5 cm. He jokingly suggested that I could give it a trial at home. I half-jokingly declined. After that, we parted. He said that in all likelihood, he'll be on the move again somewhere so that our meetings could very well be a triannual occurrence. I respect his constant search to upgrade his skills all around the world. I wish I could do that but I simply don't have the financial means now.

I took a mini-nap on the Hibiya Line before stopping off at Hibiya Station and going to the local HMV. The acupuncturist was nice enough to treat me for lunch so I decided to use some of that extra yen to pick up a magazine and even a CD. I decided to get a single by a Hawaiian-born bilingual Japanese named Yuna Ito called "Endless Story". It was one of the hits from last year and came from that manga-turned-movie called "Nana". Ito actually plays the rival to rock star Nana played by current diva Mika Nakashima. I never caught the movie but I had seen the brief 10-second clip of Ito singing "Endless Story" on stage in it. Wasn't impressed. But then she came onto the "Kohaku Utagassen" on NHK and heard the entire song. Then I thought that I could give it a chance. I gave it another listen on the HMV listening post and decided that was it. Actually, I was trying to find that other more kitschy hit, "Koi no Maiahi" by European band O-Zone but couldn't quite find it.

I arrived at the Tea Room for the first time this year. I made my New Year's greetings to the manager and waitress since we are so familiar with one another. The Carolinan came and we had our lesson. She's another one of my loyal students for whom I'm very grateful. Unfortunately, MK sent regrets and cancelled her and her fiance's lessons for Saturday since her future hubby has got a major cold...which means I won't be getting that big cash windfall on the 14th that would've helped me a bit. Still, I've got the kids and JJ...I hope. I've sent word to MK asking if next Thursday would be OK.

I also received from SR's now-former colleague about my lessons. She's decided to take a chance on me. I've asked her if next Monday would be OK with her and therefore I've sent a heads-up to Speedy. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this one. Good news for Speedy....after sending those invitations to Movie Buddy, The Madame and Skippy about the school's New Year's party, I was delighted to hear that Skippy would like to come. I sent the scoop to Speedy.

As for the Madame, I found her response to be curiously terse. For someone whom she says is a special friend, I hadn't heard from her since the 23rd and again her answer was just a "Sorry, can't make it, say hi to everyone". Well, I sent a counter-response asking about coffee and then shot one across the bow asking if that omiai of hers was actually successful. I figure if I'm gonna be paranoid, I might as well be consistent. And it would be better to find out right away where our relationship is going.

Seeing that I have to return the DVD to The Teacher later this morning, I finally watched Salma Hayek's project of love, "Frida". Usually when it comes to these pet projects, I hear from critics that the lot of them are just too self-absorbed...I think Kevin Spacey's "Beyond the Sea" biopic on the late Bobby Darin was one such target. However, after seeing this movie on Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist with the monobrow, I thought it proved to be a pretty entertaining and enlightening 2 hours about the torrid and terrible romance between her and Diego Rivera. Some of those weird Monty Python-like animated segues were a little jarring, though. However, the scenes were lusciously filmed, the music was wonderful and Hayek & Alfred Molina did a fine job. Certainly for Hayek, it was a good movie to show that she's not just eye candy in flicks like "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" and "Wild Wild West". I'll have lots to talk about with The Teacher.

Now, I come to the end of my viewing day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Thursday January 12, 12:03 a.m.

Had my day at the gym. It was quite empty around the noon hour so I think it might be a favoured time for me to go.

My time at Speedy's today was calm. I had a discussion with Speedy about my response last night via e-mail, despite the fact that he was only about 3 m away from me in the outer office. I guess we like to keep things cordial in person. Not that things got heated between us in any way in our correspondence. The exchange was illuminating in one aspect. The two of us are dedicated to our craft and to our new school but our attitudes seem to be diametrically opposed. Speedy is the Superman to my Batman. He sees the good in everyone, has a sunny disposition and is very much the half-full guy. On the other hand, I often look for the angle or ulterior motive in most people, am a card-carrying cynic, and am very much the half-empty sort. This would explain why we occupy the posts we do in the school. At the end of my time there today, he gave further explanation about how profusely 003 apologized; that did make me feel a little less suspicious but there's still a part of me that will still stay on alert. I did make that letter out to her but I was gracious about it....didn't write anything about her standing me up last week. And it did sweeten the pot a bit when Speedy told me that he would pay me for the lost time but that wasn't due to my griping last night. He's a stand-up guy...he would've paid me in any case. In any case, I was glad that 001 was in her usual giddy mood. Still, I now have to think about stuff like tests, record sheets and other curricula...things that didn't bother me too much at my other postings since they had already been well established.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wednesday January 11, 10:38 a.m.

Got my 7 hours of sleep. And sure enough, I have some guilt pangs about the response to Speedy concerning the now-erstwhile 003. But then again whenever I have to deal with bad news, no matter how right or wrong I was in those responses, I always feel a little regretful. In any case, I haven't heard anything yet from him but he does have classes in the morning. Plus, he's a pretty diplomatic sort so it will take him time to craft a counter-response. Most likely, he'll be having a talk with me later on. However, I'll probably get started on some of those other projects to offset the loss of income. In any case, I think my omen of January being another lean month are unfortunately coming true.

I'll probably be heading out to the gym in about another hour or so before going to the school. I think I'll be keeping my gym outings to twice a week.

I got some word from the gang back home about "King Kong". The Entrepreneur found the fight scenes on the island impressive but Peter Jackson could have shaved off 20 minutes in his opinion. The Doctor was even more succinct...a whole hour should have been lopped off. 3 hours. That's a lot of time to be sitting...even in the most comfortable of modern cineplexes.

Nothing too big on the news here at the start of the year. The Aneha scandal has kinda gone off onto the back burner since the Holidays. There's been a murder-for-insurance money by a wife and her paramour. The big case, though, so far has been a baby kidnapping up north which luckily ended with the baby being safely found after 40 hours of not knowing and a director of a hospital having to be sent on a series of seemingly endless trips all throughout the region to pay the ransom. A common-law couple has apparently been arrested for the crime; it looks like the hubby had let his life of luxury run amok, leading to what happened.

Well, off to work.
Tuesday January 10, 10:58 p.m.

Well, my good two classes on the first juku night of the year were tempered by the fact that The Siberian cancelled again due to a cold and the fact that I got a message from Speedy that 003 has decided to fly the coop...perhaps for good. The reason is what I think is the English school equivalent of an actor or director suddenly dropping out of a film in mid-production: creative differences (i.e. the actor couldn't stand something or everything about the project). She called Speedy up earlier today to say that she'll be forfeiting the last couple of lessons due to something called issues of a personal nature, loss of motivation, and a very busy work schedule. I've heard all those before from students that just weren't working out with me including The Stylist from a couple of years ago and those two folks from the real-estate company in the early days of my freelance work. Sometimes I do wish I can just let them know first that things are simply not working out instead of getting the bad news swathed in some sort of bland excuse. But that's the nature of Japanese society when it comes to rejection. No face is lost...on the surface but I know what it really means. Most people here can take that and appreciate the easy way out. I just can't. Perhaps she really has issues of a personal nature but it's frankly not being able to know for certain that gets my craw going.

It took me an hour to shape my response to Speedy's message since I was rather lengthy and quite fiery initially. I'm glad that I've learned to take a deep breath figuratively before sending something back that could be rather abrasive. I did relate my annoyance at 003 via Speedy about how I ended up with no income last Wednesday waiting all those hours for nothing. Speedy did tell me that perhaps I could write a letter to her telling her where she had improved; I gave a warning shot across the bow that I may just let her know my feelings about standing me up. Not sure how he's gonna take that but I do remember that he's the boss.

Still, the lessons with The Beauty Pair, Mr. and Mrs. Mild and McGirl went well. They were by-the-book yet humourous and I assigned homework to boot. I know that I can do my job. However, it has gotten me thinking about what to do with The Siberian. I need to earn as much yen as I can but considering his lackadaiscal attitude I'm not sure how much longer I will have to cope with him before one of us cries "Uncle!" However, the juku boss said that she's planning to take the TOEIC test in March so she's asked me to help her out. Well, I can get started on that once she can make the time.

Kinda glad that I can do another late wake-up. I have a feeling that I'll need to sleep things away again.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Tuesday January 10, 3:04 p.m.

What is the best way to make cardboard quickly? Just take a piece of bread and accidentally warm it up, realize your mistake and then set it to toast. I had a nice square piece of roughage to go with my chicken filets.

The first Beehive was slightly smaller today. We were missing Ms. Jade and Ms. Tea. Still, everything was still clicking into ought to be after meeting almost every Tuesday for 7 years.

Actually, saw some remnants of snow on the ground here and in Tsudanuma. All the trees and roofs over there were covered in the stuff...reminiscent of a Xmas card or frosted flakes. I rather wished we could have had that scene a month ago but I do live in a southern clime.

Got word from SR's friend. She's the cautious type alright...she asked me about this deal at Speedy's school that I had thought was made clear to her last Wednesday in my e-mail. At this rate, we'll probably be starting our first lesson together (if it does at all) in the Spring.

Also got word from Movie Buddy about catching "King Kong" this Sunday. It's a lock but it'll have to be a night show since both he, The Sylph and The Madame are unavailable for most of the afternoon.
Tuesday January 10, 7:06 a.m.

Well, back to a semi-regular work week.

Woke up this morning seeing a bit of the punks acting up at their Adulthood Day ceremonies before I turned the channel (didn't want to turn my stomach before breakfast). To be honest, I don't know why the media (which has been doing a collective tsk-tsk-tsk) continues to cover this so-called annual lunacy. For one thing, I can't believe that this is a nationwide breakdown of's just a relatively small group of rebels and future yakuza...I think the media merely just wants to sensationalize it, rather than do anything to bring them down to heel. For another, I can't believe that this has been just a phenomenon of the past few years. Punks and nihilism have been part and parcel of the Japanese street scene for decades. Probably back in the West, all this anti-establishment stuff would be seen as pretty harmless...and lame. But this is rule-conscious Japan.

Speaking of lunacy, I was witness to yet another future divorce in the making in show business. Fellow tarento Emiri Henmi and Yu'ichi Kimura got hitched to the usual media glare in what is called a speed-kon here or quickie marriage. It took just 5 dates and a sudden proposal by the guy while they were waiting for the traffic signal to go green. I'm sure the tabloids are saving space in the papers next year for the eventual break-up. In keeping with recent trends, the pair has quite a gap in ages: she being 29 while the guy is actually two years older than me. Perhaps that might give me a microscopic flicker of hope....oops, the flicker just died in a puff of smoke. C'est dommage!

And speaking of tarento, however they are considered, they do make for a great channel to promote national sports. After the start of SMAPper Shingo Katori's "Sayuki" last night, there was the regular SMAP variety show in a rare live version. At the relatively late time of 11 p.m., the boys had a one-off fun game against various other TV personalities and a couple of the national team members to promote The World Cup in Germany this year (go fig...that's coming, too). Whereas back in North America, it's basically up to the sports and news shows to cover stuff like The Olympics or The World Cup, here in Japan, a lot of the variety shows go on special alert and wave the colours for their athletes. Great advertising. And I always thought it was the States that went overboard.

Back on the Adulthood Day theme, a number of celebs are celebrating their supposed entry into the great age. Acting and singing darling Aya Ueto, R&B singer Crystal Kay and a couple of the Morning Musume, Hitomi Yoshizawa and Maki Goto are turning the big Two-Oh. I think in the case of the latter two, they probably celebrated very quietly...not sure what kind of reception they would've gotten in their hometowns. They would have just as likely been sneered at as ogled.

I got an interesting article via Shard just now about The Top 50 Gadgets in the last 50 years. The Sony Walkman got the top spot (I'm sure that will cheer up the execs there after that major kerfuffle with them last year). My family owned a Walkman along with the other entry, The Game Boy. But that's about it. The Commodore 64 was in there but we only had a Vic 20 which wasn't.

Well, off to work I go...
Monday January 9, 9:30 p.m.

A bit of a switch on TV tonight. For years, Fuji-TV on Mondays at 9 p.m. was the slot for the premiere serial drama on the network. The hour was known as gekku: the smashing together of the two words for Monday and 9. The drama always starred the most popular actors of the day in a 12-episode romance. "Tokyo Love Story" and any of the Takuya Kimura shows are just some of the hits that made the coveted time slot.

Well, this time, Fuji-TV has done something quite different. The network has decided to make its first gekku drama of the year "Saiyuki", the latest remake of an ancient folk story featuring a priestess accompanied by three warriors across a desert facing down injustice on their journey. It's a bit reminiscent of Momotaro. An earlier version nearly 30 years ago had starred the late beloved actress Masako Natsume and had the improbably popular song "Monkey Magic" by 70s band, Godiego. This new version seems to be the "Ocean's Eleven" of J-dramas since the main characters are all portrayed by stars who have led their own dramas in the past: actress Eri Fukatsu (her brief start as a late 80s idol all but lost to the mists of time) is the priestess, Hideaki Ito, fresh from his TV career-making role as the otaku Densha Otoko, is the monkey-faced warrior, and comedian Teruyoshi Uchimura is the martial arts sidekick. But of course, the lead is SMAP funny guy Shingo Katori in a role that's a bit different for him...he's the eternally angry warrior Goku. Usually that sort of role would go to his SMAP mate, the aforementioned Takuya Kimura (in a nice bit of stunt casting, Kimura has a guest cameo as the archvillain) but Goku is a pretty large fellow so the much taller and bulkier Katori scored it. I long gave up watching dramas here back in the late 90s but I find myself watching it be more accurate...leaving it on as I type this. Perhaps it may due to the higher level of acting calibre but I don't think I'm gonna take too much more of Goku's temper tantrums. Of course, my watching it will all depend on whether Speedy can actually get some Monday classes for me. I've still yet to hear that response from SR's friend about my proposal; it's been almost a week so I'm not too optimistic.

I got a message from an acquaintance of mine. He's Shard's Japanese friend from his Toronto days. I can only call him an acquaintance since I've only met him once during my time in Japan but it looks like I'll be making it twice this Thursday. We'll be meeting where I met him last time...over at a Jonathan's family restaurant in Roppongi.

It's been a pretty quiet Monday. I just have to do some ironing and then I'll actually have to get some shuteye fairly early tonight for the first Beehive class of the year.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Monday January 9, 12:50 p.m.

Gorgeous day today. Another late wake-up, thanks to Adulthood Day. Otherwise, I would've already finished the lesson with The Class Act by now. However, I think if I live here the rest of my life and live the lifestyle that I have now, I'll have to live with the fact that I'm gonna get two weeks of Xmas/New Year's vacation. The first week is government-mandated while the second is just because most of my students are still getting themselves organized. And it's still gonna be fairly slow this week as well.

I think my microwave is a tad overpowered. I boiled up some water in it and it was still bubbling away for several seconds after taking it out. The first tiny marshmallow which dropped out of the packet of cocoa hit the water and it was if the water had piranhas. The water exploded in a feeding frenzy and the marshmallow just disappeared. There is absolutely no point to this; just an observation.

Well, gotta continue with my taxes and then vacuum the apartment along with getting ready for my classes tomorrow. I'll be back to just a 3-hour schedule at the juku since The New Kid bailed; believe me, I don't think we'll miss each other. And frankly, despite the loss of income, I'll be happy with just teaching the 3 hours. I could always add the extra hour somewhere else.
Sunday January 8, 6:12 p.m.

My fusilli just refuses to be eaten. I added a bit more homemade cream sauce with some bacon bits, mushrooms and cheese. I guess that was enough to inflate the volume. My tummy certainly feels the increase. Anyways, it's back into the fridge until tomorrow but no more additions, and I'll just nuke it. Hopefully, the dish won't melt into a pile of cheesy sludge. At least, I know that I'll be able to stretch that yen until The Beehive's next payment.

Otherwise, it's been a quiet day today. Again, woke up late, caught some telly and then made a compilation mix tape. It's been over a year since I made one of those, so I had quite a few new songs to add.

Thankfully, tomorrow is yet another national holiday. It's Adulthood Day once more which means we'll get to see 20-year-old women in fur-collared kimonos and 20-year-old men in suits. Then there are the wannabe chinpira who'll just try to get on the TV screens by causing all sorts of mayhem at the town hall where the mayor usually gives his/her hoary old speech on how to be good responsible adults. I would feel sympathy for the leaders of government if it weren't for the fact that a lot of the politicians aren't much better than the punks...they just hide their petty malfeasances better.