Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sunday January 29, 1:22 a.m.

Another long day's journey into night...with all due respect to the author.

The mother of those two kids I teach and I had a little conversation today. She apologized to me profusely for her elder daughter's lousy attitude this morning. To be honest, I did hear the battle between the two just before The Elder came in. But frankly, The Elder didn't strike me as being any different as when I had first taught her. She'd always shown varying ranges of sullen. But it was nice of the mother to let me know that she's on my side of things. And The Elder settles down pretty well once she gets into the lesson. I think it's just the usual teen rebelliousness coupled with the fact that she has to get up early in the morning for me that gets her into the bad mood. The mother is pretty frustrated, though, and I didn't make things any easier for her by telling that she'll probably have to hang on for at least another half-decade until the The Junior herself gets out of high school. But I did remind her that women generally mature faster than men although I'm sure that the mother feels that that day will not come soon enough. Coming from a family of boys, I know what a tumultuous time all of us at home had gone through. But considering the heated exchange a couple of hours earlier, all of the girls were buddy-buddy by the time I left.

Looks like my gravy train on the Starbucks card has come to an end. I used up my remaining 40 points and still had to shuck out about 770 yen for my lunch there before JJ appeared. Ah, well. Serves me right for dining twice on Sacher Torte during that card's brief life. I had JJ go through my little grammar test of 20 questions. She basically passed with flying colours aside from 2 questions. Still a ways to go though before I consider her to be very fluent.

Then it was down to Shibuya. I got there with about an hour to spare before meeting up with The Croissant and the gang for dinner so I just went over to Tower Records for the first time this year. Not surprisingly, the area was packed with youngsters. I found the new CD release of a young lady who is starting to be groomed to become 2006's "it" girl. Her name is Yuko Ando, and I suspect that she'd had an earlier career as a model since she's got some stunning waifish looks and some appearances on magazine covers and commercials. I like one of her songs which is nicely AOR in tone...some of her other stuff sounds pretty unconventionally cool so I may pick the disc up sometime in the not-too-distant future. Instead, I just picked up a Premiere mag from the 7th floor and then headed on down. I know I shouldn't have done it but I did buy a doner kebab from the truck just outside Towers since I hadn't had it in a while. It certainly didn't disappoint me but I did eat it just a half-hour before meeting up with my group. Not exactly the wisest way to good health but the tons of shredded cabbage in the pita did help me keep things regular.

Waiting around Hachiko was the usual odyssey of trying to find some space close enough to the statue of the dog. Of course, just about everyone in Shibuya and his relatives seemed to be waiting for everyone else and their relatives. It was just the usual sea of humanity on a Saturday night. It was past 6 before I found my first friendly face in the form of one of the alumna from the ol' school. I had also seen The Satyr far off in the distance but since there was the population of a small town between me and him, there was no way I could reach or yell for him. As it turned out, it would be another 25 minutes before he showed up on our radar again. In the meantime, we were able to hook up with The Croissant, The Coffeemaker and three other ladies but there was no sign of The Satyr despite two passes by me into the maelstrom. As it turned out, he finally did show up but he'd been under the impression, due to an errant e-mail, that the meeting time was 6:30 and had actually been across the street doing some window shopping.

We ended up going to this izakaya that all of us had been to before called Hana Noren just across from Shibuya Station. Nice enough place but we got gouged for the bill. Of course, when the Coffeemaker made the reservations, because of the large number of our party, we had to settle for the course and that was virtually 5,000 yen a head. Although the food was good, I'm not sure if I'd be willing to pay that much money again. Still, it was nice touching base with some of the gang again....something that I cannot do at Speedy's currently since we have very few students right now. I mostly talked with The Okinawan whom I hadn't seen in several months. She's not having a good time of it with her job since her boss is one of those permanently angry bullies who yells and throws wads of paper. But she and her beau are planning to live in sin and are looking at places in Kawasaki. Apparently, I'm the first person she's told on this Earth about this turn of events. We were later joined by The Barmaiden (who's actually enjoying her life and job), The Smoker and Gohan.

All of us kept together which is pretty rare when it comes to making the transition from the first party to the second one, especially considering the numbers. But it was just a short hop to the Hobgoblins branch just a couple of streets away. The famed Irish pub was the venue for the last Croissant get-together back on the 6th. And strangely enough, it wasn't all that crowded when we got there after 9. I had a nice talk with Gohan and The Elf, two alumni whom I hadn't really gotten to talk to all that much in the past several months. Gohan is now working in the hair care industry; he actually trains hairstylists in how to massage scalps and shampoo hair. In fact, he was demonstrating some of his techniques on a couple of the ladies back at Hana Noren. He also taught me about the right way to use shampoo which is to lather it up in your hands first before applying since direct application can be harmful to the scalp. I did not know that. Also he told us that the human head is not perfectly round but is fairly pockmarked with all sorts of indentations...kinda like an overkicked and underinflated soccer ball. One just has to place a couple of massaging fingers into one of those dents for pure massage bliss. Gohan also let the news go that one of his sempai happens to be none other than one of the members of TOKIO, that J-Pop band from Johnny's Jimusho. It was nice to hear that he's a pretty decent guy.

A few of the folks, including The Croissant, had to take off due to early wake-up calls the next day. It probably won't be for another 6 months before we see The Croissant again from the US. By that time, summer will have truly returned. The remainder continued to talk and drink for another hour or so. I also got a chance to chat with The Coffeemaker for the first time in a while. She works for the regional distribution centre of one of the big Hollywood studios so she's had her share of celeb encounters. She's actually gotten to talk with Nic Cage and see Renee Zellweger but she doesn't have many kind things to say about some of the younger folk like Lindsay Lohan or Hilary Duff who came off as being rather snobbish. Well, that's what one gets for thrusting one's childhood into the glare of Hollywood.

After downing a number of cocktails, I had a small hangover throbbing in my head during the trip back home but the shower worked some miracles so I'm not doing too badly right now as I type this. But I'm glad that I won't have anything scheduled today so that I can actually take it a bit easy.

Got word from Movie Buddy. Apparently, he's back from his skiing trip with The Sylph. Looks like the 2nd is a lock to watch "Zorro". Gonna have to check times and venues.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Saturday January 28, 7:19 a.m.

Yep, I'm up...should be more even-keeled once I have my tea. But I did try to keep some of the morning acidity out of my reply to Speedy and Mr. Influence on their critique of my lesson plans....honestly.

Looks like Movie Buddy has to check his schedule again. He suspects that The Scheduler may have schmucked up his schedule surprise there. I tell you...sometimes, I think that the lady will end up with the head of Hello, Kitty on her pillow.

Looking at some of the goings-on at Dark Horizons. Denzel and Val are popping up in some sort of sci-fi/thriller called "Deja Vu" in which they play a couple of FBI agents who go back in time to prevent a ferry from blowing up again. Uh...let's see. Washington...Virtuosity. Kilmer...Batman Forever. Police/time travel stories....Timecop? Ahhhh dunno...

However, I'm a bit hopeful about another potential project. A movie version of the 80s "Equalizer" with Edward Woodward. I know, I know...they're scraping the bottom of the TV barrel in lieu of using their imagination again. Still, I had a pretty good time watching the CBS drama back in my salad (I should really say limp lettuce) days. It could've been the template for my freelancing career. Robert McCall protects people from the scourge of villany, while I protect students from the scourge of rotten sentence structure and misused tenses...yeah, that's it. I especially got quite a kick from the opening credits which showed life in the rotten Big Apple back then....and that Stuart Townsend weirdo techno soundtrack. Plus, I've always been a sucker for spy flicks and shows. I remember that pilot episode in which Woodward just had a whale of a time hamming it up: he nearly runs down a vengeful father going after his ex and kids with his huge battleship of a car before throttling him and yelling "If you get anywhere near them, I....WILL....KILL....YOU!!!!!" Loved it! Then, there was that extra-special episode in which McCall gets kidnapped by dark forces which means that McCall's son has to get help in the form of movie tough guy Robert Mitchum.

Well, if they're gonna do this movie version of what is called "The Secret Service" here in Japan, the guys have gotta cast someone who is pretty flinty-eyed and old. I would've said Clint Eastwood right off the bat except for the fact that he's probably too old for even the most desperate of casting directors. And besides, he's already had his fill of vigilantism through the "Dirty Harry" flicks. Good about Patrick Stewart? He's already doing his own limited series back in his native UK about some sort of crime-busting scientist. He's British, he can do cranky and world-weary... And as for the music, if you're gonna keep that techno vibe, why not none other than Ryuichi Sakamoto? He was with YMO and I think he's an honourary citizen of New York.

The tea's kicked in....I'm out of here.
Friday January 27, 10:11 p.m.

Got the film that I'd been shooting over the past several weeks finally done. Nothing to write home about, and I frankly look very dissipated in them. Definitely no reprints will be done with these.

I made my shopping trip at Maruzen before heading to the Starbucks. I once again ordered the combo I ordered last week: the Caffe Latte and the Sacher Torte (I finally saw the name). Ooh. I think twice will be quite enough for that dessert...very decadent. The OL actually came in a few minutes late compared to her early arrival last week. She was still a hard worker in the lesson. I wish I can get more of those students. A pretty far cry from The Beauty Pair. And it's good that she'll be coming again next Friday as well.

Got home to see that Spielberg and Cruise's "Minority Report" is on NTV right now. I think it's the first time that it's gotten its showing on the tube but true to Japanese TV traditions, the editors have given it a hatchet job to fit the 2 hours alloted. Good lord...they took out a chunk of one of the big highlight scenes...those of John Anderton making that thrilling escape onto that neat futuristic highway.

NHK at 10 has once again started off with the Livedoor Shock. Looks like if I heard correctly, Horie and his fellow arrestees have finally come clean and said that they did do some window dressing (I think if the coverage continues for much longer, that term may be getting the prize for "Words of the Year" at the end of the year). I picked up the Asia issue of TIME at Maruzen today. It was obviously published before the events of this past Monday when Horie got nabbed by the cops, since it only covered the police raid on the company. Reading it, the reporters gave an interesting slant on the portly former president by painting as somewhat self-absorbed (already checked that one off) and even a bit megalomaniacal...Horie hinted that he would like not to die. Certainly the cover of the issue is very has him wearing a baseball glove with a small model of the Earth in it.

Still, the news on Livedoor was finished after about 15 minutes of reporting and analysis so I gather things have already started to slow down on that story. Instead, the jounalists have already gotten on the next scandal...this time with the Toyoko Inn chain...a group of inexpensive business hotels. Apparently, a number of the managers have taken to obliterating the handicapped spaces and other facilities for them for other uses. The president of the chain was apologetic but rationalized that the facilities were simply not getting enough use to make it financially feasible. Still, the feds came in and gave him a slap on the wrist.

Got word from Movie Buddy about the movie outing for next week. Yep, as I had predicted, the old school managed to throw a spanner into the works and thrust in a class next Tuesday afternoon. I'm gonna go a bit into conspiracy mode and say that the resentful management there is continuing to wreak some revenge on me by monitoring my e-mail correspondence. In any case, it looks like it'll have to be Groundhog Day for the movie.

Anyways, time to plan tomorrow's lesson plans before bedtime.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Friday January 27, 2:51 p.m.

Another nice day out there. Went out to deposit my disposable camera for developing. Can't even remember what the first several frames are about. I made some pork miso soup, and had that with the remaining so-so chijimi and a chicken filet sandwich. That should tide me over until the lesson with The OL. I have to make a pit stop at Maruzen though since I'm gonna get that text for The Junior...really don't want to see her carrying photocopies since she probably won't be able to keep track of them. And I've gotta pick up a new crossword book.

The Carolinan reassured me that she won't let the cat out of the bag concerning The Lady's son which I do appreciate. I would like The Class Act to remain my students for the next year at least since I need to keep as many people as I can. She also complimented me on the lesson last night...always good to hear a good word.
Thursday January 26, 11:21 p.m.

Yep, this is gonna be one of the busiest days that I've had as a blogger. I just had to write down about the latest bizarro police arrest. The cops arrested some chrome-domed nimrod geezer in his 50s today who, over the past few years, had managed to collect a veritable harem of women, mostly in their 20s, and kept them in his 3-storey house. Over that time, he played musical marriage chairs with a lot of them, alternately marrying and divorcing them. And yet, they stayed in the house and, as one of them has professed, they even felt like a family. That woman didn't quite know why they remained attracted to him. I can't see why either...he looks rather homely at best. He claims it's due to some sort of mantra he said to himself. When he said it, they did come. Nothing at all charismatic about him, and he looked rather lost when he was trying to explain his actions to the reporters. Calling Mulder and Scully...

Calling it a night....
Thursday January 26, 10:02 p.m.

Made it out to The Tea Room to teach The New Yorker and The Carolinan. The New Yorker is struggling with her Present and Present Continuous tenses. Had to pull her out of the grammar quagmire; I hope she doesn't decide that all is lost. Just plug along as best we can. Her sister was fine as usual although her structure still remains rather wonky. I think she really needs work on her complex sentences. The Tea Room manager told me that despite the heavy snow the other day, she still managed to bring in about two-thirds of her customers. The importance of loyalty.

Quite a lot on the news today...

...including this smuttily hilarious story about a Ricky Martin article in which the Latin singer described his creative sexual practices in mucho detail, including providing "the golden shower" to a lucky partner. Livin' la vida kaka, indeed. Ricky, meet your new backup band Super Butter Dog.

Then there is the conviction of Richard Hatch for tax evasion. No, not the Battlestar Galactica guy with the mullet. Yes, the fat gay insufferable Survivor winner. He didn't just get the book thrown at him...he got a whole tome. A lot of folks at home are probably relishing the revenge. Richard, meet prison shower soap.

A big shocker for the Middle East. Apparently Israel-hating Hamas has won the Palestinian elections in an upset victory. Sharon is basically gone forever and Hamas is now the next-door government-in-waiting. Boy, is Israel having a bad month! Nitro, meet glycerin.

Domestically, the media is still buzzing around the toppling of Takefumi Horie of Livedoor. Various businesses are fleeing in force from the company. The new president is a much more sober fellow by the name of Kozo Hiramatsu. Mr. Hiramatsu, meet maelstrom.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Thursday January 26, 2:00 p.m.

Not as cold as it has been in previous days. Quite pleasant, actually.

Well, that chijimi was more of a frittata than anything else and not all that tasty until I put on the hot sauce. Perhaps one of these days I'll get it right. But the meccho was a success as usual. I did have quite the heavy lunch with the side order of salad and fried chicken (yes, fried chicken as well).

Since it's mid-afternoon, it's chat time on the tube. After all the forced hilarity of "Waratte Ii Tomo" on Fuji, there is the talk show "Gokigen yo" (kinda like "Have a great day" ) hosted by a diminuitive, fast-talking comic tarento named Kosakai. His half-hour show has been on for years probably since the early 80s since that was when he'd first popped up on the airwaves for some sort of kids' song. Therefore, the 12-1:30 slot on the network has been locked for close to a quarter-century. In any case, the program takes place on a Western living room set in front of a live audience of mostly middle-aged women, although I do see a few younger faces like ronin students or young girls from time to time. The format is interesting...each show, Kosakai has at least three guests in the form of fellow tarento or thespians but the guests are rotating. Each guest appears for three days running before vacating for the next show's new addition. So each show has a welcoming and a goodbye. Also, with the help of a large die with chat topics instead of numbers on each side that the host tosses every five minutes, each guest has to talk about that topic as it affected his/her life...such things as "an embarrassing incident" or "a very impressive thing". Most of the time, the three guests are able to get their words in before the show runs out of time. And despite Kosakai's frenetic delivery, the show is a bit more laid-back than Tamori's program. Basically, it's one of the few chances for the audience at home and at the studio to see the tarento in a much more natural state.

The other legendary talk show comes right after "Gokigen yo" but on TV-Asahi. It's "Tetsuko no heya" (Tetsuko's Room), hosted by the very veteran (read: old) TV personality Tetsuko Kuroyanagi. The set for her show is a mock-up of a salon in an Italian piazza so Tetsuko's Room is as much an understatement as saying Tom Cruise was merely happy on that infamous Oprah episode. In any case, her show is very subdued when compared to the "having friends over for tea"-like atmosphere on "Gokigen yo". It's just the hostess and a guest quietly talking. Today's guest was actress Sachie Hara....guys, forget Morning Musume or Kumi Koda. You can proudly profess your lust for Hara, and noone will look at you as if you were a pedophile. Not sure if it were the set or Tetsuko herself but Hara was certainly like the prim and proper lady (not that she doesn't act that way on other shows). There was a lot of keigo being bandied about in their conversation. But we are talking about Tetsuko, a lady who is almost exaggeratedly coiffed and fashioned into a combination of Miss Kitty from "Gunsmoke" and some European noble. Her hair is done up in such a way that the slightly derogatory nickname of "Onionhead" was coined for her. However, lest she be scoffed off as one of the wackier TV personalities on Japanese TV, she also happened to be a UN goodwill ambassador at one time, the author of a very successful series of children's books called "Totto-chan", and a co-host of "The Best 10", the premiere music ranking show back in the 80s; her partner was none other than Hiroshi Kume who found even greater fame as the avuncular host of TV-Asahi's "News Station" for years and years before finally retiring close to a couple of years ago. So, even a young star like Sachie Hara could be forgiven if she had been guilty of knocky knees during that episode.

Anyways, I got a letter from Speedy that I have to answer.
Thursday January 26, 11:11 a.m.

In my usual habit of making mountains out of molehills, I just had a working breakfast right now. The prototypical image of such a repast is a bunch of suits in some trendy brunch place talking about figures and plans. My working breakfast had me in my robe and PJs just making a new tape for The Elder and prepping for The Sisters of State's classes tonight while drinking down a cup of cinnamon tea and eating another in the seemingly endless series of Okinawan chinsukou cookies that The Teacher had given me a couple of weeks ago. The expiry date on the package said January 14 but I guess the oft-fridge-like conditions in my living room have helped preserve them. In any case, I haven't had major budget dents for breakfast for several days now.

I'll be headed out to the supermarket in another 40 minutes to get some fixins for lunch. It'll be all-Korean today since I'm gonna make another stab at homemade chijimi with the remaining ingredients from Tuesday, and I'll be making meccho, that miso pork concoction which tastes great on rice.

The Croissant finally got the word out about when and where to meet for the party on Saturday. I'm sure I'll be ready for a drink after having the kids and JJ earlier in the day. Could use more students, though. I hope those referrals will come in eventually.
Thursday January 26, 12:14 a.m.

Just indulged in my newest vice of munching on midnight peanuts and rice crackers with a Diet Coke. Perhaps it's a little better than raiding the fridge for that piece of cake.

Looks like I'm becoming the Atlas to support the Special Projects at Speedy. He and I had an impromptu powwow about the two plans to bring in more people into the school. I made a rough draft of the necessary documents to start off the one plan and the other I'm gonna have to peruse in more detail. However, I'll take the jobs since the money will be welcome...if they do come off at all.

001 had a case of tired eyes so she was doing her fair share of squinting during the lesson last night. Didn't help her focus too well on the actual text but she tried her best as usual.

I'm kinda glad that I have failed to go to the gym this week. I'd forgotten that the hairdresser told me that it would be closed all week this week due to renovations. I checked the website at Speedy's and sure enough, it reported that the next time it would open would be next Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Wednesday January 25, 12:40 p.m.

Got the reply from The Part-Timer. Looks like she's gonna give me a further try. A bit of good news this year. Yep, I'm bitter.

With hat in hand, figuratively speaking, I've re-applied at this service bringing prospective teachers and students together. The Teacher had once recommended the site sometime before she became my student. Never got so much as a bite from that place but I didn't mind at that point since I had quite a few students back then. Kinda feel like Cinderella Man right now. Hopefully, Ron Howard will have just as happy an ending for me as he did for Russell Crowe. And I don't throw telephones (although I have slammed the receiver twice in the past 11 years)!

On "Waratte Ii Tomo", that Fuji-TV flagship show, actress Kaori Momoi appeared in the interview segment. She played the money-grubbing Okaasan in "Memoirs of a Geisha". For those back home, that old lady schtick is far from what she usually looks like despite that she's over 50. She has that aura of Marlene Dietrich ennui and a slight bohemian air surrounding her. So when I saw her character smoking that cigarette stick, I thought that director Rob Marshall chose her actress wisely. Interesting segment since she also related how she basically had been treated like a rookie actress during filming despite her veteran status in Japan.

The two segments afterwards were silliness incarnate but that's what a variety show is all about, isn't it? The first was a regular Wednesday segment in which housewives come on and present their formerly dowdy husbands after a fashion makeover. One guy looked like he regressed. He was wearing what looked like a bunch of denim scraps. He'll never live it down back at work. The other segment was the egregious "Listen to Me", supposedly the show's contribution to English conversation education. NHK has nothing to fear. Even I couldn't understand what Jessica Michibata was trying to say to Tamori and the bunch.

Well, I'm headed out the door in about 15 for lunch and then Speedy's. I hope he remembers to pay me today.
Wednesday January 25, 8:53 a.m.

Not much to say at this point except that The Croissant has finally sent out the news about this Saturday's drink fest although I've yet to get details such as time and meeting place.

Well, it's been quite a fall down from the lap of luxury to the floor of crumbs and scraps for Takafumi Horie, the former president of Livedoor (yup, he's lost the title, too). This time last week, he was still living in his spacious condo in Roppongi and eating the finest food (on his blog, he often showed himself engorging on stuff that we could admire via TV; he also once cheekily told a reporter that he never said "Umai"!...Delicious...whenever he partook in his culinary rituals since everything was umai). Now, he finds himself in a Tokyo prison cell for at least the next 3 weeks; a cell which is half the area of my living room and I'm not exactly living high on the life. His food is nutritious but that's about it. He will probably continue his custom of never saying "umai" but maybe for different reasons now. I wish I were a fly in his mind right now just to hear what he must be contemplating. Is he crying himself to sleep or plotting some sort of comeback when he does get exonerated?

I just have the gym and then 001 today. I will probably be doing my own form of contemplation for the next little while myself.
Tuesday January 24, 11:24 p.m.

Well, the students keep dropping out like flies. Tonight, The Beauty Pair informed me that that next Tuesday would be their last time with me. They gave their reason as being busy. And as per my self-made standing orders, I asked the juku boss if it had been something in my lessons. She assured that it wasn't anything on my part but as both she said and I had assumed, they just felt that after nearly 3 years it was time to move on. After nearly 3 years, they only managed to finish one Side by Side text which pretty much sums up how serious they were as students. They had always coquettishly forgotten to do their homework...which is always a sign of not being that serious. I wish I could've been a bit more tougher on them but I'd heard that The Beauty Pair didn't last more than 3 months under a previous more by-the-book teacher. So I guess in a way I did make some further inroads. The boss told me that they weren't the type of ladies to be that committed to language was just a hobby...and perhaps in a few years, they would be back. Still, although I'm not feeling that badly about their departure, it is still another drop in income. However, there's a small light at the end of the tunnel. It's possible that I might get one of the boss' high school students for training before her trip to Austrailia and the boss herself may come back to get some TOEIC help from me. I can only hope that things will pick up soon.

All these changes happening in the past few months must be happening for a reason. I'm not a religious person and I'm not a particular believer in fate but something must be headed for me from the horizon.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Tuesday January 24, 3:41 p.m.

The Beehive was once again down to just 60% attendance. Ms. Tulip was knocked out with a cold while Ms. Tee was busy with her big move. Ms. Perth seemed a bit out of it today but she is still recovering with her bout of the flu. There was quite a bit of talk on the downfall of Takafumi Horie. Ms. Alp mentioned that he's now in a prison with no central heating for the next 3 weeks. My, how the mighty have fallen. Ms. Travel gave me a whole bunch of green onions. I had been wondering what I would do with this mighty amount before she told me that they tend to shrink dramatically after cooking so that they'll go pretty quickly. She even gave the recipe for Korean chijimi, kinda like Japanese okonomiyaki but thinner, which includes a lot of the onions. So I made it for lunch. Not too bad but I would never consider serving it in an izakaya lest I really wanted to go out of business. Along with the leftover spaghetti from Sunday, it made for a filling lunch. I'll probably just grab some chocolate on the way to the juku.

That Movie Buddy...he doesn't give up, does he? He really wants to make sure that I don't miss out on using those free tickets from The Madame. He's offered the 31st to catch "Zorro". Since I've got several hours of free time between The Beehive and the juku, it's doable. He proposes Shibuya.
Tuesday January 24, 7:25 a.m.

The coldest morning thus far this winter. The water pipe for the washing machine froze but I'm not in any dire need to wash clothes today, and the other pipes are flowing well enough. Pretty chilly in my home at only 9 degrees, though.

Now, I was talking about at some length yesterday about the wonderful world of tarento and aidoru. Well, I'd written so much about tarento that I didn't have enough "room" to fit aidoru in; in reality, I was just tired. So I'll start fresh. Nothing like a brisk interior temperature to push a person to write.

Aidoru, the katakana-ized version of idol, have probably been around as long as TV has in Japan...about a good 50 years, although probably for the first 15 or 20, they may not have been known as such. For me, the aidoru boom started in the 70s when there was this seeming flood of young girls who wanted to sing pop songs. Compared to the Vegas showgirl-type of aidoru prancing around now, the aidoru of those days were pretty darn tame looking, the aidoru-next-door, so to speak. The look was black hair of varying length, a plain blouse and skirt and a brilliant smile to go with the aidoru's tune of happy-go-lucky love. Singers like Mari Amachi, Masako Mori and the legendary Momoe Yamaguchi come to mind. That last lady, Yamaguchi, was arguably THE aidoru of the 70s. What set her apart was her relatively brief tenure in show biz when compared to her everlasting fame (just 7 years) and how at that ripe young age of 13 or 14 (the newest Morning Musume, Koharu Kusumi, is around that age), she was singing out some pretty racy lyrics behind those poppy tunes. She, along with a lot of her fellow aidoru, were presented as ingenues to belt out those songs, appear in teenage romances on TV and movies, and sell teen stuff in commercials. And Yamaguchi fulfilled those roles admirably but suddenly in 1980, she decided to hang up her microphone for good and in what has been a very Garbo-esque move, she has basically shunned anything remotely looking like a TV camera for the past quarter-century. For an aidoru, she was remarkably pragmatic about her career...she did it all as a job to earn money for her family but that was it. Once she had enough of it and had a husband, she just left.

So it was perhaps timely that as Yamaguchi left the stage in 1980 that a new breed of aidoru came onto the scene: exaggeratedly poppy with short, sassy hair, bad orthodontics and frilly dresses that only a bridal planner cold love. And in came Seiko Matsuda, the woman who is now known as the Queen Idol. She pretty much led the way through the early 80s, the time of the second big aidoru boom, with her bouncy, eminently disposable but catchy tunes supported by the unlikely combo of strings and synths. Throughout the decade, it's not too much of a leap to say that probably hundreds of aidoru came and went with the vast majority just disappearing after one or two releases. It was basically throw something onto the wall and see what sticks. What stuck were names like Akina Nakamori, Kyoko Koizumi and Chiemi Hori.

But aidoru weren't just female. Young boys could also become aidoru, although not in the James Dean vein. There was a production company which is still very successful to this day, Johnny's Jimusho, that has been the premier pump of male aidoru. Two of the earliest boy aidoru were Hiromi Go and Hideki Saijo, templates for what is still the prototypical body type for the Johnny's singer/dancer: delicately featured face and whip-thin body and reedy voice. Eunuchs need only apply here but the female fans adored them anyways. Go and Saijo's reign in the 70s gave way to the Tanokin Trio, Shonentai and Hikaru Genji in the 80s, direct predecessors to what has been the most successful Johnny's group thus far, SMAP.

The temporary retirement of Seiko Matsuda in 1985 brought about another boom in new aidoru. New starlets such as Miho Nakayama, the late Minako Honda and a proto-Morning Musume group called Onyanko Club emerged who, while still retaining that overall character of girl-next-door, came across as less frilly, slightly more sassy and having more hair. Still the songs were pretty twinkly synthesized affairs...but those were the tunes that made an aidoru. By the end of the 80s, there was one last big gasp with the emergence of nasally Chisato Moritaka and the doll-like Wink along with a more conventional unit called Coco. However, a lot of people thought that the days of aidoru-dom had finally come to an end with the divergence of J-Pop into genres such as ska, glam rock and R&B.

But with the arrival of the Johnny's supergroup, SMAP, and then Up Front Agency's Hello Project, best represented by the all-girl group Morning Musume, in the mid-to-late 90s, aidoru may no longer consist of hundreds of wannabe girls and boys trying to score on the Oricon rankings but they've been consolidated into the two aidoru conglomerates. Johnny's, along with the spearheading SMAP, also has popular units such as The Kinki Kids, V6 and Tokio. All consist of the trademark cute, smooth-faced, lanky young boys (who actually range in age from early teens to mid-30s). The Hello Project has various units and individual singers such as Country Musume, Aya Matsuura and Berryz behind the behemoth that is Morning Musume. Both conglomerates' members reflect the times by being a bit more with-it and exuding some more attitude. Still, especially in the case of Morning Musume, appearances must be kept up. The girls over there aren't supposed to have boyfriends lest their image of pure chaste aidoru be ruined for thousands of slobbering males of all ages. Interestingly enough, though, I haven't seen any hint of a battle royale of the sexes between Johnny's and UFA. But the two have been able to promote their stars into the larger world of tarento. In this respect, Johnny's has been much more successful thus far than the ladies of Hello Project who seem to be content doing their concerts, appearing on music shows and hanging around their lone Sunday morning program on TV Tokyo. In fact, I'd say that the individual members of SMAP are now more popular as tarento than aidoru. Their leader, Nakai-kun, is often seen as the joking host of a number of shows while the brooding Takuya Kimura regularly scores on the ratings whenver he stars in a serial drama.

Aidoru are no longer restricted to the singing stars. There has also been a divergence in this area as well. There are baradoru (variety idols), mamadoru (idols who have become mothers) and guravia aidoru (pinup idols...the first word is the twisting of the photographic process, gravure; you got me how that word came to signify pneumatically inflated women), among other subgenres; there is a bit of overlapping amongst them. As for the third category, the pinup idols, sometime around the turn of the century, there was this sudden proliferation of very buxom beauties loosely associated in a unit called Yellow Cab (ouch!). They often showed up in the various magazines and papers before making their way into the tarento arena. And now there are quite a few of them who have become household names such as Waka Inoue, Eiko Koike and Eriko Sato. It's interesting to note, though, that once they become these TV fixtures, the blouses aren't nearly as low-cut as before. But they still make their rounds in the mags.
Monday January 23, 11:52 p.m.

Almost a week after the Livedoor offices were raided by the Japanese feds, the head honcho himself, Takafumi Horie, was arrested earlier tonight for fraudulent stock information. When I was thinking about what to write here, I was wondering if the cinematic analogy should be either "Citizen Kane" or "1984". It does have elements of both. As for Orson Welles' masterpiece, here we have this somewhat corpulent wannabe captain of industry, much like Welles' Kane, who wanted no less than to have his company become the most valuable corporate entity in the world. But it wasn't just corporate godhood that he wanted. Again like the fictional Kane, Horie also dipped his hands into other areas such as politics, music and even baseball. He wasn't successful in any of those varied sectors but he did manage to get his name out there in the public domain...which I think was really the thing that he had always wanted. Well, even in his arrest, he still remains the big name in the news. As for the "1984" analogy, I'm reminded of the tragic protagonist, Winston, who timidly dared to stand up to Big Brother, only to get smacked down, broken down and re-molded into the good little proletariat. Horie dared to do Japanese business in his own aggressive manner and as a result, the authorities smacked him down. Nope, he hasn't had the rat cage put over his head or a tooth yanked out but Horie may now be in his own Room 101 via a Tokyo prison. This part also shows the big difference in business philosophies between the US and Japan. An upstart in America may not be fully appreciated but the more established mandarins would quietly, begrudgingly enjoy the fresh competition. Not over here. As the saying goes, "The nail that sticks out will get hammered down". A lot of the media pundits have remarked that the crime that Horie has been charged with isn't that serious, and that his real crime is just being too prominent and rocking Japan's boat. Stability is more treasured here than revolution.

Not surprisingly, it's been a full court press out there tonight. I'm sure the execs at Fuji-TV are quietly dancing on Horie's virtual grave. As for the Fuji-TV news broadcast, I didn't get any particular bias either way, much to their credit. The story will no doubt continue. The great chill that arrived here today may be quite prophetic.

As for my own day, I did have the full Class Act. The Matron told us that her mother-in-law is probably in the last stages of her life as both The Lady and I had suspected last week. Again, The Matron was fairly upbeat considering the family situation but there's a pretty good chance that she won't show up next week. She was kind enough to get both of us souvenirs from Hawaii. I got my Godiva Chocolate Truffle Cocoa...good heavens...she is so kind. And The Lady had The Chef make me another wonderful lunch in the form of a vegetable cream stew and some sushi. Intereting combo but as usual it was delectable. SIL was her usual happy self. The family dog had a grand old time using my gloves as a new chewing toy. They do have that colour and texture of meat.

I got to Speedy's afterwards. Looks like everyone had a good time at the darts bar on Saturday. For a woman who has said that she greatly dislikes fraternizing with a large group of people (I think I'm more faithful to that opinion), SB had a great time throwing the darts about. Perhaps she's blossoming into a social butterfly while I continue my downward spiral into eternal pupation.

I met my newest student tonight, The Part-Timer. Being SR's colleague, we spent the first few minutes talking about our common friend before I spent the next hour gauging her abilities and what she wants to get out of me. I'd peg her as a low-intermediate student. She's got the basic tenses down pat but will need further practice with the higher stuff. She also wants to do some practice on her letter writing so that was my first homework assignment for her. I think she's OK with me but since I've become more cautious now when it comes to students, I've set goals for the next month.

Getting home, I decided to fill up the bathtub with water after my shower since it's pretty darn cold out there. I'm just afraid that my pipes might freeze for the first time in a few years. Skippy has contacted me saying that there is a branch of Kimu Katsu which is located in Ginza. That would make our commuting a bit easier rather than somewhat out-of-the-way Ebisu. And I had a rather lively exchange of e-mail with Movie Buddy concerning those free tickets from The Madame. We just couldn't negotiate our schedules to meet for a free movie this week since I work every night this week and he works in the daytime. Looks like Groundhog Day will be the only available time for me.

Well, finally heading to bed.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Monday January 23, 8:04 a.m.

The past couple of months have been sobering ones for me. I haven't had a lot of lessons recently and therefore income hasn't really been too high. I will probably have to do some financial forecasting for February to see how much I can afford. I kinda wonder if I'm gonna have jettison some things such as my gym membership. In 18 months, I haven't developed much of a joy for exercise and I just haven't seen much of an improvement. But as maudlin as I may sound, I think I'm still doing OK for the meantime considering some of the trials that the richer and more powerful like Livedoor's Takafumi Horie and Mr. Aneha are going through. And also, there have been a couple of incidents of murder-suicides involving whole families in the past week.

Well, the next thing is something that I've been trying to get out of my system. Nope, it's not more of the above...merely, just something on the wild and wacky pop culture in this country.

Words like "talent" and "idol" have been bandied about recently in the US...and perhaps in much of the Western world via that show "American Idol" and its other national equivalents. Well, over here the two words have been institutionally katakana-ized into tarento and aidoru and long used to describe the two groups of celebs that make up the backbone of Japan's TV industry. They so dominate TV that the various TV guides sold in the convenience stores and bookstores have pages listing their names and appearances in the week's programming.

Tarento is the overarching category under which all of these familiar faces we see day-to-day on the telly fall under. Like firecrackers on the 4th of July or on Chinese New Year, these TV personalities are meant to entertain and be noisy about it. They're the media stars who appear on the various game shows, talk shows and other types of variety programs to banter about humourously, shill restaurants and stores and often suffer the literal slings and arrows of misfortune. Although other celebs such as actors and singers also appear on these shows far more often than their Western equivalents, the true tarento have made TV their domain. The majority of tarento are comedians who've made their way up the ranks from various venues such as the famed Osaka hall of comedy, Yoshimoto Kogyo. A lot of them have come up due to a great schtick or even just one line which just ends up becoming one of the most quoted phrases of the year. Last year, there was a bumper crop of comedians and comedy duos such as Laser Ramon HG, Regulars, Robert, Mori Sanchu, etc. on the tube making merry. Heck, a few of the people I've just mentioned even got to talk with former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev on Xmas Eve last year.

But there are some tarento who don't come up through comedy, although they're definitely in a much smaller minority. Former aidoru (of whom I'll talk about below) who've given up their days as cute singing stars often end up taking up their second career of chatting, opining and dining. The latest example is some of those ex-Morning Musume members like Mari Yaguchi. But there are also those aidoru from the 70s and 80s such as MIE (one-half of the legendary duo, Pink Lady) and Iyo Matsumoto. Probably a lot of the younger viewers would arch their eyebrows in some surprise to find out that these mother-age ladies used to be bop around in frilly dresses. Sticking to the female side of the equation, there are also a lot of cover girls and models who also find a second life as tarento. Formerly sporting as little as possible on beach shoots, women like Sarina Suzuki and Akiko Hinagata have found bigger fame shooting off their mouths and making light of themselves.

Tarento, as I've said, wear many hats on TV. Depending on their original claim to fame, they can be raucous raconteurs on game shows and variety shows. Unlike over in the West where regular folks can come on shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" and win those huge cash prizes, the quiz programs here are more often than not populated by tarento. Over here, viewers would rather watch much more entertaining (results may vary) professionals answering the questions in their own style instead of the relatively drab common man. And the personalities can win it big...on a show called "Tokyo Friend Park", celebs have won off-road vehicles and various Akihabara products. One would think that the tarento are just making getting too much of a windfall but the fact is that a lot of them are just show biz equivalents of salaried cogs and not the huge moneymakers that their American counterparts are. The celeb winners are truly grateful to get those prizes. Variety shows, with the exception of "Saturday Night Live" and similar shows, have long become extinct in the West. In Japan, the format is very much alive and well and in need of those comedians and former singers and models to keep things hopping.

And restaurants and various shops treasure the tarentos' patronage. The TV personalities provide the service of media exposure. A few of them, for example, hit a restaurant and sample the fare available. Usually their reactions are exaggerated exclamations of culinary ecstacy but it gets the job done.

A foreign tarento, Thane Camus, once said that to be successful in Japanese show business, you just have to be willing to make a fool of oneself regularly. This would explain why a lot of the serious actors and singers will hardly appear on a variety show. Anyone out there who has seen Beat Takeshi's show in which some of his deshi (apprentices) get pummeled, run over and just generally abused will know what Thane means. Usually, the comedic sector gets the brunt of the abuse and usually that would happen on the 2-hour specials over New Years or between drama seasons. The poor guys end up getting dunked in freezing water, dumped on with a ton of talcum powder and forced to eat/drink some pretty noxious stuff as a result of losing a game or as a part of a skit. It would seem that the days of Jerry Lewis aren't just cherished in France.

And speaking of Thane, yes, there is a subsect of tarento whose members are from other countries. Thane, for instance, is American. Bobby Ologon, an African, made his mark last year as the moron who keeps speaking in Japanese non sequiturs. And there is African-American Bob Sapp who often comes on as the tough muscle to "intimidate" any quivering guests...he was seen in the Hollywood remake of "The Longest Yard" with Adam Sandler as that guy who got some instant rhinoplasty courtesy of Sandler's character. I did also forget those sports folks who end up in the tarento camp. A gymnastics Olympian in 1984 Los Angeles by the name of Morisue has been doing the variety circuit for years along with ex-sumo wrestler Akebono. Perhaps hammy Tsuyoshi Shinjo may end up doing the same after he finally retires from baseball.

As one can see or imagine, the world of tarento is quite a microcosm of Japanese pop culture. Occasionally some of them will delve into other areas such as actually appearing in a trendy drama or a movie...perhaps on their managers' advice for some added fame and money. But when one comes right down to it, these celebs are solidly at home on the tube.
Sunday January 22, 11:23 p.m.

Yep, it was a cold Sunday heading out to the supermarket. But sure enough, a lot of the snow had melted from the streets. Kids were still enjoying making snowmen and tossing snowballs in the schoolyard, though. However, the sidewalks have become fairly treacherous since the snow there had melted into slippery crags of ice, and to add further insult to potential injury, the stray cats have left their own little land mines just to keep pedestrians honest. The weatherfolks say that it'll be a cold one tomorrow so I'm afraid the ice will be here for a while yet. Hopefully, the ice will get so cold that it'll just shatter once my sneakers smack 'em. I don't think I'll risk my neck by using my good treadless dress shoes.

I just made my usual meat sauce spaghetti tonight. The news was still on the twin scandals of tainted US beef and Livedoor. Looks like along with the Aneha fiasco, they'll keep domestic journalism busy for weeks to come. Just enjoyed my typical Sunday night TV of that quiz program hosted by loudmouth Yusuke Santamaria and then "Before and After", that program which has professional architects (hopefully people a whole lot cleaner than Aneha) and designers who remodel problem houses. Today's customer was a bit of a new one: she was a 57-year-old solitary resident with a unit bath module just wedged into her kitchen. For 10 million yen, she was able to get things done right.

In other news, I forgot that tomorrow is Election Day in Canada. Will it be Martin or Harper who'll pick up the reins in Ottawa? And it's the 500th anniversary of The Swiss Guards, the special force which protects The Vatican.

Skippy just told me that the 19th is a lock. She was looking for things to do on that day before the big meal at Kimi Katsu. Well, Ebisu does have Ebisu Garden Place, and I know that our bunch does like to drink. And there is also Ebisu Bowl. I haven't thrown a kegler in ages, despite the fact that I teach The Beehive in an alley.