Saturday, February 04, 2006

Saturday February 4, 9:41 p.m.

Feeling somewhat warmer thanks to the larger heater although I'll probably be paying through the nose again this month. Dinner was a "kitchen sink" soup with some store-bought stir-fry pork and green peppers on top of rice. It's known as jinja rosu here and has its fans and detractors depending on whether they like green peppers or not. As for the "kitchen sink" soup, I just threw in the remaining fish stock, a bit of chicken stock, a 2-year-old packet of suimono soup (yes, I do like to live dangerously), some Chinese cabbage, some more of the green onions (still couldn't finish that off...but I'll get that done tomorrow), the remaining krill (how else am I gonna describe tiny dried shrimp...I feel like I'm a whale), 300 g of pork, three spoonfuls of miso and a block of diced tofu. As I said, it's quite a concoction and I had a good two bowls of the completed product. Quite good although I'm not sure if the rest of humanity would accept it. At least, I won't have to worry about a side dish for the next dinner.

Saturday night TV in Japan was its usually zany self. On Fuji-TV, that long-running variety show hosted by Osaka duo 99 had as its theme, balding comedians undergoing some rather nasty obstacles to win prizes. Of course, the obstacles all had to cause maximum damage to their remaining follicles such as having millet placed on one's scalp and letting chickens have at it. "Hockey Night in Canada" seems so tame in comparison. On NTV, that educational variety show, which had a jovial Mikhail Gorbachev as a special guest back on Xmas Eve, invited none other than Hideki Matsui of the Yankees to appear as special lecturer on the psychology of success. So, in the past week, I've had the chance to see Ichiro as an actor and Matsui as a professor. I can only imagine that Hideo Nomo will put out a rap album.

Right now, things are pretty quiet. Well, considering that I had a drinking party last Saturday with the Croissant and others, it's kinda nice to spend a comfortable night at home.

Another big item on the news tonight was the debate about whether to pass that bill on allowing princesses to become empresses. I frankly wouldn't mind myself but a lot of those conservative LDP politicos are putting up a spirited fight against it. They say that allowing women to inherit the throne would further dilute the Imperial bloodline since female commoners have already infiltrated the royal family. Frankly, the politicos may be putting up that spirited defense but it's really a hollow one. For one thing, female commoners like the ailing Princess Masako were pretty much coerced into joining the Imperial Family so it's kinda like accusing a guy for assault after asking him to punch you. For another, the regulation banning women from the throne has, depending on which scholar you talk to, only been in force from between 60 to 120 years. Compare that with the fact that the Emperor system has been around for over 2 millenia and has had 8 Empresses. A drop in the bucket, if you ask me. A third thing is that the Imperial Family is just a symbol of state...i.e. figureheads. Why should it matter so much that women cannot ascend to the throne when the Otemachi Bunch's purpose is, for all intents and purposes, merely ceremonial and ambassadorial? So what if the so-called bloodline gets further diluted? It's been heading that way for decades since the aristocracy was pretty much disbanded, and the Showa Emperor let go of his divine status back in 1945. Besides, it really doesn't make a whole bunch of sense when regular Japanese women now have a bit more power on their side and can ascend to corporate presidencies and political office. I just think that there is just a lingering bit of gynephobia when it comes to this topic. Perhaps, the pols just want to hang onto this final bastion of the men's-only club. The problem is that I can see the old guys winning this fight since most people are frankly quite apathetic towards the Imperial Family and the Imperial Household Agency is ultraconservative.

When I had my chat with the mother of the kids today, she opined that she would also be quite happy if Princess Aiko someday made it to The Chrysanthemum Throne but at the same time, she would also pity her for her locked-in role. As Aiko's mother has found out, life in the palace isn't necessarily a cushy one.
Saturday February 4, 6:22 p.m.

Pretty darn chilly in my apartment. The problem is that my fan heater only provides the most localized of warmth...within a square metre. I just put on the main heater right now; hopefully that will soon provide a more wider radius of comfort. It just goes to show how far the temps have plummeted since the balmy days of midweek.

The kids were pretty good today. The Elder didn't show any of the crappy attitude from last week...I think she even broke the 50% mark in usage of English to Japanese. Her younger sister fared pretty well. I'm hoping that this will translate into a much more satisfying relationship. It does help that the mother has asked me to come for the next couple of weeks including the holiday Saturday next week.

M+M were also on pretty good form. M1 has been living the life of Riley so to speak for the past couple of months after resigning from her company of several years due to the oft-used reason in Tinseltown of "creative differences". She's been doing a lot of cocooning and meeting friends for dinner, and she's even got a couple of trips lined up overseas in the next month, including a hop over to Taiwan. Kinda brings back memories. But she is gonna have a casual talk with a potential employer next week through a mutual friend. M2 will be heading over to a remote prefecture as part of her training for her future career as a counselor in the Spring. She's a bit trepidatious though since she may be the only resident in a rickety old dormitory....makes for a perfect setting for a J-Horror movie. Of course, being the closet gleeful misanthrope I am, I couldn't resist stoking the flames of fear a bit.

I'll probably be making some soup in the next few minutes to take the chill away. Still got quite a bit of those green onions to use up. I'm sure they're getting quite wilted even with refrigeration.

I hear that Sony is gonna be putting the AIBO to sleep. The robo-dog has become of a victim of restructuring and the many owners are crying foul that they will only get 7 more years of maintenance on the company's tab before they're left to the fates of time and rust. Once again, the nastier side of me was tempted to snort at the possibility of seeing dozens of Aibos being bagged and tossed into the river. But the nicer side did have some sympathy for the owners' plight since their "pets", while not really sentient, did prove to be a remarkable simulacrum of canines. And Sony has probably at least laid the inspiration for future inventors and firms to come up with better attempts to create artificial lifeforms.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Saturday February 4, 7:27 a.m.

Only going up to 5 C today...the same high during Snow Day last month....only that it's brilliantly sunny out there. It was gale-force out there overnight, though. I somnabulently woke up and brought the laundry pole in around 4 a.m....amazing how I was able to do that during REM sleep. Luckily, the pipes are still working, though.

Yup, my shoulders are aching. That machine did its job.

Slight error on the new n' improved Omotesando Hills (the name of the former Dojunkai Apartments). The officiall opening is on the 11th...makes some sense since it is a national holiday: National Founding Day, in fact. Not that too many of my students and acquaintances were aware of it, but then again, when your country is over 2000 years old, it can be easy to lose track of count.

On the J-Pop front, some of the Morning Musume fans on the forums were talking about the littlest ex-Musume, Mari Yaguchi, was kinda slapping on the cold cuts, actingwise, on her debut as a thespian on this new drama. Well, I found out that it was on weekdays at 1:30 p.m. For some reason, the dramas that are on during the afternoon seem to enjoy stylized William Shatner acting. Then again, maybe the afternoon dramas are kinda like the outlet for rookie boardtreaders or veteran actors/actresses who need to vent.

Still keeping on the J-Pop front, I saw that new album by TRF, that techno group from the ancient family of Tetsuya Komuro of over 10 years ago. The members look remarkably well preserved; they don't appear as if they've aged at all on the cover. Heck, when I turned on the telly to Fuji-TV this morning, there were three of the members on that kids' program, Ponkikis. Hard to believe that this formerly cutting edge unit (especially in these days of J-R&B) is doing a promo on the same stage with a bunch of little girls in bunny outfits (not the Playboy kind so get your minds out of the gutter!).

Well, the Blue Mountain is kicking in. I'm awake and getting regular...gotta go (in both senses of the word).
Friday February 3, 9:51 p.m.

Well, the weatherguys were on the money today. They forecast a balmy 14 C in the afternoon and then a plummet down to -1. The OL and I found out how accurate they were as we were leaving the Starbucks tonight. As soon as the automatic doors slid open, we were greeted by a rather brisk dose of reality. Even I, a seasoned Canadian, shuddered. The OL bent over as if she had been kicked in the stomach. Yikes! And of course, I'd forgotten to take off the laundry off the line. So when I raced home, I found a couple of my shirts on the balcony floor. Just lucky that none of the stuff was blown off. And the winds pretty scoured the floor dry so the only problem was just dusting off the fallen laundry and not having to re-wash them. Good golly, I may have to fill up the tub with water just in case the pipes freeze by tomorrow morning.

After The Teacher's lesson this morning, I finally made my way to the gym. It was my first visit since the big remodeling last week. The place changed its colours, moved stuff here and there and got some new machines into the training room...just a nice little facelift. I tried out some of the new stuff...they kinda look like they came from the Main Engineering of the Enterprise but actually they were named Matrix; ironic then that the old machines were from the Paramount company. In any case, the Matrix machines had that new feel to them...the pulleys just glided like butter on a hot skillet. One of the new ones showed me muscles in my shoulders that I hadn't been previously aware of...I am most definitely aware of them now. Also, we were all privy to a slight Shindo 3 quake which shook some of the monitors in the training room. A lot of the middle-aged women started announcing "Quake, quake!" as if Tokyo were being bombed by the Americans once again. To be honest, I should have been a bit less blase about the whole thing since there is a swimming pool above us. And a similarly powered tremor hit the metropolis on Wednesday night as I was at Speedy's.

Since I had a number of hours left before The OL, I dropped in on Ginza. Man, there are quite a few CDs at HMV and Yamano Music that I would love to get but I do have my austerity program to follow. However, I did buy an enka DVD and birthday card for dear ol' Dad since his special day is coming up.

Getting pretty tense out in the Middle East and Europe. Not only is that Iran/IAEA war of words coming to a head today but those cartoons depicting the image of Mohammed has gotten Muslims everywhere up in arms. And there has been a sinking of a pretty heavily populated ferry in the Red Sea.

Speedy contacted me just now. I've got a potential new student coming in a for a model lesson next week. The New Yorker has made her next appointment for a couple of weeks from now, and The OL and The Teacher have confirmed their next lessons. I'm just writing this just to let myself know that I'm still wanted.

The Teacher let me know about a fellow alumna from the old school. This alumna made even The Madame look rather common in terms of her ladylike manner. She also sported a parasol as well on those glaringly sunny days. Well, this young lady who has kept in touch with The Teacher over the years since graduation married a man of some academic note a few years back through an arranged marriage or omiai. However, things didn't surprise there in these days of somewhat more empowered womenhood. The Teacher had always told me that her friend was a steel hand in a velvet glove. This year, she got a New Year's card from her in which the friend had reverted to her maiden name and a new address. Ah! I also got a similar thing a couple of years ago when one of my fellow clubmates at the U of T had sent me a "revised" New Year's card.

In any case, I gotta plan for the kids tomorrow. Hard to believe that in anothe week, the Turin Games will be upon us.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Friday February 3, 8:37 a.m.

Came across this Chewie blog. Hilarious. I urge you to see it at However, I should warn you that if any of you are squeamish about bodily fluids, you should give it a pass. Still, it's nice to see that even Wookiees can have a chance to put their growls out in public.

I see that another malicious worm is on the hunt. It's called Kama Sutra. Everybody Wang Chung Tonight!

Today or tonight could be a make-or-break day for a certain area of the world since the IAEA is deciding whether to tattle on naughty ol' Iran or not to the United Nations...although that's kinda like trying to squeal on Darth Vader by crying to Darth Sidious.

I also see that after a few years of having one side of Omotesando Avenue, Tokyo's answer to Les Champs Elysees, boarded up as the architecturally significant Dojunkai Apartments were torn down (the Japanese aren't as sentimental about historic monuments as the Europeans; they just can't afford the space), the 21st-century side of the street makes its debut today. Instead of the gray, crumbly and ivied buildings, we will now have this pearly white (at least for now) structure inhabiting the north side of the tony street. I've got a feeling that Omotesando will be as packed as a rush hour train for the next few weeks, at least. It seems that the rebuilding and remodeling of The Big Sushi is continuing apace. I heard from The Beehive's Ms. Tulip that there is yet another mall which has made its presence known near Tokyo Station.

I powered up the coffeemaker for the first time this year since Tulip's buddies sold me a bag of Blue Mountain coffee back on Tuesday. Not sure if this is one of Juan Valdez's crops (it could be from Africa), but most likely you guys in the West have probably never heard of this particular brand (unless you are a true coffee connoisseur). That's because Japan, for some reason, has been able to grab about a good 80%-90% of the stuff. It seems to have that cachet of being the best of the best when it comes to the java here despite the fact that Starbucks has brought all this other knowledge on other coffees. Probably if I mention "Blue Mountain", most of you might think "ski resort". Well, I had my 2 cups of the stuff. It's pretty rich and that's even when I drink it unrepentantly adulterated (i.e. with milk). In fact, while I was writing this entry, I had this sudden urge to head to the bathroom (which of course I did) is a very effective diuretic.

Today's personality of note: Koki Mitani. Who he? Well, he's a mix of Robert Altman/Neil Simon/Woody Allen. He's been one of Japan's most successful screenwriters/directors for years and is responsible for that detective series, "Ninzaburo Furuhata", I mentioned in yesterday's entry. He's also behind a number of these domestic high-falutin' motion picture comedies with titles like "Radio Days" and "The Uchoten Hotel".

Mitani is quite an affable character himself and has always been a welcome guest on a number of variety or interview shows. He comes across as this fairly button-down humourous mensch...a rather diminuitive figure always sporting a suit and glasses. He can be easily mistaken for one of Japan Inc.'s corporate cogs. And just like Woody Allen, he has a love for jazz which he uses for the soundtracks on his projects including his signature series of "Ninzaburo Furuhata". Mind you, I don't think he has a standing gig at Tokyo's Blue Note. His motion pictures also have a signature style of casting a large number of famous faces in very screwball situations. Just imagine a Japanese version of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" or a decidedly less cool version of "Ocean's Eleven". His latest concoction, "The Uchoten Hotel" seems to be a riff on "Grand Hotel" with Koji Yakusho (the original "Shall We Dance?", "Memoirs of a Geisha") as this efficient hotel manager facing a number of crises on New Year's Eve. It stars everyone from SMAP's Shingo Katori to respected young actress (definitely non-tarento) Takako Matsu to Mitani fave actor, Toshiaki Karasawa (who has that ability to play dead serious roles and off-kilter comedic ones).

There's one drama serial that Mitani made in the late 90s which has probably been swept into the dustbin of Japanese TV history since it didn't really garner all that much in the ratings department. However, it kinda struck a chord with me. Its English title (something that dramas here like to stick on from time to time for additional cachet) was "Sometime, Somewhere", and it starred another Mitani regular, Masahiko Nishimura (the nutty assistant tec to Ninzaburo Furuhata) as a slightly saner but downbeat nebbish transferred to New York City by his company. "There" (there were some on-site location shoots in The Big Apple but most of it was shot in the friendly confines of a Tokyo studio), his character interacts with fellow emigres played by comedian Takaaki Ishibashi (of "Major League 2" fame) and the lovely Naoko Iijima. Along with the original jazz soundtrack (of which I bought) and the ending theme of Ol' Blue Eyes rendition of "But Not For Me", I was struck by the fact that the show came across almost as a televised play since most of the action took place on one set, Nishimura's apartment, and that all of the sets were obviously those of very American apartments. No hint of a Japanese shoji or tatami anywhere on this show. This and the crisp dialogue may have contributed to its not-so-high popularity since dramas were (and still are) probably the domain of the kids and their idols...the star was an uncool nebbish, after all. However, the theme of the show dealt with a stranger in a strange land...something that any of us gaijin can relate to. Not even sure if Fuji-TV has even bothered to put this show out on DVD.

Well, it's time for this stranger to go back out in my strange land of 11 years...and counting.
Friday February 3, 12:39 a.m.

The clouds looked threatening yesterday so I took the umbrella out. Didn't need it since the skies didn't open up after all...a bit of a pain but I didn't bring the black bag either, one of the rare times that I could give it a day off.

Met up with Movie Buddy at 5:45 at the West Gate of JR Shinjuku. Rush hour hadn't officially started but, true to form, the place was swarming with commuters going in and out of the station. MB was a few minutes late but no problems there. I could spot him immediately. We quickly headed over to Foo Foo for that pai ko tan tan men set. The timing couldn't have been better since there was hardly anyone in the restaurant; guess we came in just before the usual dinner crowd. It'd been a while since I went to Foo Foo. The ramen was especially tasty for the long absence and certainly because I hadn't eaten any lunch either. MB and I caught up on some of the old faces back at the old school. Some mention was made about some of the staff but I don't miss them one whit.

Time was getting tight so we made over to the Picadilly to catch "The Legend of Zorro". We got there just when the half-hour long series of commercials and trailers was beginning. Not too many people in there which was a pity since we couldn't use those freebies that The Madame had given us. It would seem that the Picadilly isn't on the special list.

"The Legend of Zorro". Well, I thank heavens for my cynic's use of lowered expectations. The movie didn't stink. In fact, I would say that as a direct translation of the original Saturday matinee serials with Van Williams, this sequel worked quite well. It was fun and eminently disposable...kinda like a strawberry-flavoured condom (cough, cough). Probably as a 21st-century Xmas tentpole movie, it didn't really cut the mustard, though. Basically the story was pretty much from Script Writing For Sequels 101: have Zorro and Elena fight each other as one of the two main conflicts driving the story with the son revealing his parents' superhero talents. And then, have everyone battle the main antagonist at the end with guns, swords and nitro.

Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones didn't telephone their lines in. They certainly gave it heart (although considering that neither Zorro nor "Ocean's 12" were big winners, Jones may wanna consider getting a new agent) but I did miss the grounding that Anthony Hopkins gave the first movie. The stunts were fun enough to watch although they started to border on "Spiderman" unbelievable. But the story wasn't particularly deep or rich. It was what it homage to the original Zorro. I did pick up on a few homages, whether they were intentional or not: "North by Northwest", "Indiana Jones" and perhaps even "Back to the Future Part 3". The cameo by a future US President even made me remember the opening credits from the original TV version of "Police Squad" with "Special Guest Appearance: Abraham Lincoln". Not quite sure how much Zorro made this time. I figure it's on the cusp when it comes to future sequels. If it made enough money, then Banderas can be assured of a trilogy. And even if it doesn't make to a three-peat, the ending was made open enough so that Zorro's son could pick up the mask in a couple of decades a la the Superman series. Perhaps if the story were to skip ahead a few more decades, a sequel could be made in which Zorro's descendant just happens to be Bruce Wayne/Batman since Batman creator Bob Kane partially based The Caped Crusader on the Mexican avenger.

One last point is that Nick Chinlund who played this movie's psycho henchman is definitely becoming the go-to guy for sociopathic roles in movies. His heavy brow and raspy voice have served him well in "The X-Files" and "Eraser".

After the movie, the two of us went to the Excelsior Coffee nearby and we did some further chat over coffee for another 90 minutes on movies and the old school. In fact, speaking of psychos, it looks like MB had his own encounter with that most dreaded of species that any veteran English teacher in Japan will meet sooner or later: the student in obvious need of psychiatric help. For some reason, such students who need head counseling more than English education seem to end up in conversation schools. MB's bugbear was one of those folks who had mood swings wider than those of a Hollywood prima donna. Unfortunately since neither Botox nor Valium are readily available at the school, MB had to rely on his own kindness to see him through the crisis. The one good thing about these students is that they usually don't stay all that long.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Thursday February 2, 12:12 p.m.

I was gonna make this entry over an hour ago when I got a call from Old Sam from Toronto out of the blue. He was making the call via some computer software which costs him a mere 2 cents a minute. I told him my box of dying chips and circuit boards would probably find the software a bit too rich for it to digest. In any case, we did the usual middle-aged thing of reminiscing over old friends starting with the usual question of "What ever happened to....?"

Also as I was about to start on this blog entry, I was in the middle of watching a videotape of "Ninzaburo Furuhata" (Japan's Columbo) that The OL had kindly lent me. It was the special three-episode series shown over as many nights during the New Year's holiday. It's also been labeled as the final three shows with this just-as-annoying-as-Columbo detective...although I very much doubt it'll be the last we see of him.

It was the second night's show that I had wanted to see since the guest villain was none other than Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners. For you guys Stateside, Ichiro may just be a baseball star but here in The Land of the Rising Sun, he's hero, ambassador, god. So I'm sure his first dramatic star turn as a thespian must have brought the ratings screaming in faster and harder than any of his laser beam throws from the outfield. And he wasn't playing a role of a murderous baseball player...he was playing himself. I don't think in either Furuhata or Columbo was there ever a case of an actor/actress playing himself/herself....ahhh. damn, wait a minute. There was a precedent on this side of the Pacific when the top boyband, SMAP, were the culprits complicit in a murder. Well, in any case, he's the first sports figure to play himself as a bad guy in the long-running series. To be honest, I had been dreading to catch this since I have seen my fair share of athletes in the States in movies and TV shows proving that they should never consider quitting their day job (d'you hear that, Wayne Gretzky and Reggie Jackson?). However, Ichiro acquitted himself pretty well, much to my surprise. He's not gonna scare any of the professional boardtreaders but he underplayed it effectively. However, there was a slight hedge...Ichiro murdered a sleazebag extortionist who was trying to wring money out of his "older brother", so there wasn't anything cold-blooded about his motives. Still, Furuhata got his man. I guess even Ichiro couldn't slide his way out of this one. Maybe if any of you guys out there can get your hands on a subtitled tape of the show, you can see for yourselves. I'll be interested in talking with The OL tomorrow night about my thoughts.

But I will be seeing my fair share of hammy acting and bad production values tonight when I see "Zorro". Hopefully, ramen at Foo Foo will make up for it.
Thursday February 2, 1:09 a.m.

Yeah, yeah, yeah...I'm back. After doing an innocuous pit stop at TVNewser, I found out that John Roberts (the CBS anchorman, not the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court) is heading over to CNN from late February. Well, I guess the cable network never really got over seeing Bill Hemmer fly the coop. I always thought the two had the same sort of blow-dry look. Well, in any case, it'll be nice to see Roberts regularly again after so many years. Why would I know him so well? Well, (with all these "wells", I'm feeling pretty Reaganesque) starchy US network anchor John Roberts used to hip ol' J.D. Roberts of Toronto's City-TV back in the late 70s. His regular gig was on "The New Music", a groundbreaking program on what moved people musically all over the world. He was the smooth-talking baritone with the mullet, teamed up with leathertrix Jeanne Beker. And he had a brief stint as one of the very first VJ's at MuchMusic, the Canadian equivalent of MTV. He's come quite a long way. Apparently, he's making the big jump to cable after finding out that he was definitely out of the running to replace Dan Rather as the CBS Evening News permanent anchor.

Also, decided to take a look for Bobby Ologon on Yahoo. I did check out his homepage. His last entry was on New Year's Day. His Japanese looked pretty darn coherent. Hmmm...I wonder what precipitated that little attack of his. I was fairly tickled to see that my blog was the seventh entry when I punched in Ologon's name on the search engine. Mind you, my entry for him wasn't exactly complimentary. I also checked out another website from a guy who has also been in Japan for a long while...he had some interesting stuff to say on the gaijin tarento. He doesn't much mind Ologon, but he has no love for Patrick Harlan, an Ivy League grad, one-half of a bicultural comedy team, and now a co-host on NHK's "Eigo Shaberanaito", the main program devoted to promoting English conversation. The guy found Harlan pretty irritating. I don't find him nearly that bad but I sometimes think that he's channeling Herman Munster and a stereotypical radio DJ...but not all that well. each his own.

Now, I'm going to bed.
Thursday February 2, 12:09 a.m.

Happy Groundhog Day! If we actually had the vermin over here, most likely they would be able to see their shadows. It's been a pretty cold winter in Japan. It was certainly miserable commuting yesterday with the wind, cold and rain and all. Still, I was happy to deposit a bit of money into the old account. Mind you, most of that will be heading out to the government when I pay off my NHI premiums and citizen's tax.

001 was her usual giddy self in class. We both had some more of that luscious pumpkin pie with whipped cream that was still residing in the fridge. Sure, just add more to my cholesterol count, will you, SB? Nope, I enjoyed every succulent moment of ingestion.

One of my projects at Speedy's has been setting up some sort of DVD-based curriculum involving the so-called US sitcom of the 90s, "Friends" (hmmm...and I thought "Seinfeld" had that title). It has its fans over here despite the fact that sitcoms don't exist in Japan. I guess since I've also been here for much of its run, I never really got into the show although I have seen an episode now and then (the Tom Selleck ones, the one with Julia Roberts and the one with the videotape showing the gang in their high school days). Well, I've been perusing through the very first show and its transcript from a website in my research. Also, just out of curiosity, I also pored through some fansites and read the reviews of that pilot ep. Maybe it's because I've gone through the script so many times to look for vocabulary or slang but I just didn't find it all that funny (not that surprising since it is a pilot...pilots aren't usually the cream of the crop) despite the raves from the Net. Monica was the relatively normal one, Ross was the depressed one (lost his wife to a lesbian? that hurts!), Chandler was the weird wisecracker, Joey was the Noo Yawker Marlon Brando wannabe, Rachel was the spoiled naif and Phoebe was the New Age dip. Everyone's traits were just screaming in that episode so I could quickly smell that new show smell. In any case, I think the one other obstacle is those awful opening credits in which the Friends are cavorting in a fountain like a bunch of morons to that theme by The Rembrandts...sounds like a tribute to Hootie and the Blowfish.

SB and Speedy, during my review of the "Friends" DVD, came up and asked me if I could write down any romantic lines for the next issue of their digital newsletter. Being February and just a little under 2 weeks away from Valentine's Day, I gahter that they needed a theme. It took all of my facial muscle control not to look like Darth Vader before he put on the breath mask, but I tried my best and put down a couple of those squishy quotes from "Jerry McGuire". And then I quickly washed my hands.

Got an e-mail from The Teacher. She asked me if I could take a look at her "biodata summary". Exsqueeze me? I baking your powder? I replied that I wasn't sure if I could help her on that but if there were any English problems in it then perhaps I could lend some assistance. Well, it seems like she unintentionally jargonized the expression since she only wanted me to look at her resume. Good lord..."biodata summary"...sounds like something that Lt. Commander Data would say. However, on the slightly sinister side, if The Teacher is looking for a job, I'm wondering if I have to look for another client.

Well, it looks like George Bush's State of the Union address got the usual accolades and bricbracs from all sides, although it's been analyzed by the pundits as literally much ado about nothing. The US may have the earliest lame luck president on the cusp. Speaking about much ado about nothing press ops, there was a much more local one here earlier this week involving a foreign tarento. I may have mentioned him last week on my small treatise on the tarento industry. His name is Bobby Ologon and he hails from Africa. However, he's been making a mark for himself here in Japan as this Japanese-speaking non-sequitur spouting goofball on the variety show circuit. Well, apparently, and the details are pretty hazy to me (and I suspect to most of the journos who were at the press conference), the 39-year-old Ologon had a bit of an altercation with the president of the company that's been managing him in which either the former slugged the latter or vice versa. Not sure which. Just behind him, standing like a Sequoia tree, was another fellow African famous for being the assistant of disgraced pol Muneo Suzuki. I thought he was there for moral support but then SIL told me that the punches were apparently between Ologon and the tree. However, even she couldn't be sure. In any case, after the apologies were given, Ologon broke down weeping in the tree's arms...and a ton of reporters just shrugged. I would just be happy if the guy would find himself another job. Just not a funny guy.

Anyways, I'm done with my Jack Cafferty impression. Off to bed.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Thursday February 1, 11:23 a.m.

Watching Bush's State of the Union address. Same ol', same ol'...although it was nice of him to pay tribute to Coretta Scott King off the top. Just from the CNN coverage, I get the impression that this annual event is the US political equivalent of the Academy Awards.

Hmmm...interesting. Tokyo fell to No. 2 on the world's most expensive cities list. Oslo has taken over the top spot. The article hinted that falling to No. 2 isn't particularly a good sign in terms of the economy, but I can live with that. I wouldn't even mind if it fell a few more notches.

With the juku boss deciding to advertise her school on the Internet, the two of us had a long talk last night about putting up my mug in there...and here I thought she wanted to attract students. I was glad for the talk though since she was gonna tout me as a TOEIC teacher....a little bit inaccurate. From my somewhat bitter end with The New Kid, I've learned that I can only tout myself as a conversation and grammar teacher. Unless I get that TOEIC training or at least immerse myself in the machinations of that test, I can't really say that I can teach it. The boss was grateful that I'd told her at this point and will make the necessary changees. I was also glad that I could remind her that last night was pay day.

Kinda rare for a weekday but I actually whipped up some pancakes for breakfast this morning. Just had that craving. Still looking pretty gloomy out there but that's February, isn't it? Cold and wet like a dog's nose? I think that's why we have these silly celebrations in this month like Valentine's Day or Groundhog Day, and in Japan, Setsubun. Anything to keep the blues away.
Tuesday January 31, 11:53 p.m.

Still damp and cold out there. Not sure what we're gonna be facing weatherwise tomorrow.

Had my last lesson with The Beauty Pair tonight. I gave them the boxes of tea as presents. Not too maudlin...we had a bit of a laugh, in fact, over finding out that Yuri has had a hotel towel fetish for several years. She just likes to take one from any hotel domestic or overseas as a souvenir. Her recommendation...try the hotel towels at any of the Honolulu establishments; has that perfect balance of softness and absorption. Uh-huh. On a slightly more serious tone, the pair did say that after 2.5 years, they just felt it was time to move on.

So I'm kinda back to how I first started at the 8 o'clock start with the Milds although the ever-cheerful McGirl is now part of the group instead of that goth. McGirl learned some new information about the Hamburglar since I was defining the term "burglar" for them. Always happy when a student gets something she can use at work. I wonder about The Siberian though. It was another free chat session and I'm not quite sure I got away with it this time; he was looking at his watch several times. Well, I did ask him twice in the past several months about what he wanted to do. He was very non-committal so I can't say that I didn't try. The boss said that she would talk to him next week and find out what he would like to do. But again, I wouldn't really mind having him dropped from my schedule even with my depleted salary. The boss has put up a website to draw more students. Looks like I may get her back as a student come March and another student may join up in the summer. Won't scream for joy until I see those students right in front of me but it's nice that the boss is trying to get me some help here. The juku cat has been growing in leaps and bounds. It's kinda back to its biting ways.

Tomorrow, I've just got 001 at Speedy's but I'm gonna try to get to the new and improved gym supposedly. However, I am definitely gonna catch up on my sleep since I only got about 5 hours last night.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Tuesday January 31, 1:08 p.m.

Unlike the Spring-like yesterday, things have been cold and clammy today. We even got a spit of rain as well. Gets any colder, we'll be seeing snow again.

The Beehive was great as usual.Today's topic was on pet peeves and, as I'd predicted, the response from the ladies was enormous. Husbands, I would cover your ears but then again, I'm sure you have the same peeves about your wives. Also, we had another visit from those two ladies with their coffee-and-tea wares. I bought some of both, plus a couple of packages of tea for the departing Beauty Pair tonight. Not sure how it's gonna feel during their last class since we were together for almost 3 years. Doesn't compare to the Beehive or to the Class Act with whom I've been for many more years but they were good soldiers nonetheless.

Movie Buddy and I have got a lock on that movie now. Looks like we'll having dinner at Foo Foo before "Zorro".
Tuesday January 31, 8:00 a.m.

It's been a minor miracle that I could actually get up some 10 minutes after waking up this morning considering that I got less than 6 hours of sleep. However, I was able to get breakfast out of the way. So I may have some energy reserves left in me. I thought I had to give them back after turning 40.

One small reason for my lack of zzzzzs is that I received some late-minute responses to my e-mails from people I hadn't heard from in some months. The Bohemian is still alive. I had been worried about his job status but apparently he's now involved, albeit as just a side business, in some sort of trading and investment. I can only imagine how he was feeling a couple of weeks ago when the Livedoor Shock rocked through Japan.

The other response was from Chip Guy. Looks like he's still doing well. The message was fairly breezy in tone, kinda like how PH often addresses huge numbers of people at a party (she should be heading for one of the post-Oscar parties), denoting his usual busy schedule. But he did say that he and the family will be making another return pilgrimage here later in February...which will mean another PH party for him. Not sure if I will attend...even for him.

Watching the entertainment news on Fuji-TV. There was yet another one of those ball player-TV announcer marriage announcements. It must have been another slow news day since Mr. Karube, my near-clone, droned on for a few minutes about the trend of how ball players are marrying TV announcers of the same age or even older. Ichiro, for example, married a former TBS announcer who is 7 years older. Well, it's always generous for unassuming baseball athletes to have a road map on who to marry. Ohhhh, (aging) lady......(try it in a Jerry Lewis voice).

Also, veteran actress Mitsuko Mori celebrated her 70th year in the biz. Good golly! She's 85 but doesn't look a day over 60 (I know...for you younger folks, that doesn't mean will, though, it will). I know 60-year-olds who look like her parents. Not sure what she's got. Good genes, clean living, rigourous exercise regimen? It doesn't hurt though that she's had some good "friends" within the Johnny's Jimusho harem. Apparently, she and one guy named Higashiyama, nearly a half-century her junior, were an item for several years. I just don't want to imagine too deeply on that one. And I thought Tony Randall was robbing the embryo.

Yup, I'm feeling the average 85-year-old...
Monday January 30, 11:41 p.m.

Another long day come to an end. Luckily, we had a breath of Spring today. It got up to a balmy 15 C. Just wore the leather jacket...almost started to sweat in that. However, the belated Indian Summer is just a 1-day show. We'll be getting back to frigid reality from tomorrow.

I had a full Class Act today. I had half-expected that The Matron would bail out because of her mother-in-law's frail health but it looks like she's been hanging on a trouper so The Matron could show up today. But The Chef didn't cook up anything for me so I went down to Wendy's. That new girl whom I wished the best of luck on her first day a couple of weeks ago was there. She didn't look as nervous as she did but neither did she look as giddy either. Maybe the realities of working in a fast food environment are starting to rub off on her. I recall an acquaintance telling me that her time at The Golden Arches was a soul-sapping experience. Well, McGirl seems to be surviving it quite well so I guess it's very much an individual thing.

SIL was in good spirits as usual. We did an article on smoking in Japan before some of that anti-smoking campaign finally got going. We also touched upon that video tape I had lent her last week concerning the show on life in Akihabara. Let's say that she found all those specialty maid cafes rather disturbing.

I got up to Speedy's and had a small powwow with the boss man on our respective projects. Things are coalescing bit by bit. Me and Mr. Influence have got our own separate projects but there's been a lot of cross-referencing in the form of us giving our two cents on our own and each other's babies. But I gotta feeling that I'll be anchoring both in the next few weeks. I actually only ended up having a salad for dinner (maybe Hell will freeze over) but for some reason that combo of the Wendy's set and the usual chocolates that I get during SIL's lesson kept my tummy filled. But I did get a slice of homemade pumpkin pie at Speedy's...including the necessary dollop of whipped cream.

The Part-Timer came on time and we had a good second outing. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she'll become a loyal student. It just seems to me that I think the majority of my loyal students have been the ones solidly in the intermediate or high-intermediate range. The OL, JJ and now the Part-Timer can be considered in that august group. The lowbies such as The Beauty Pair have or will be dropping out, and the high guys don't last too long with me since they find out that they really have nothing to learn from me and they can just as easily get their education from foreign friends for free.

Movie Buddy contacted me. Unfortunately those free tickets via The Madame aren't allowed at the theatres that "Zorro" is playing least the ones in Shinjuku. That really sucks but then again the movie does, too, apparently. Plus, it's only 1300 yen for the discount ticket and MB really wants to have that ramen at Foo Foo again. So that freebie will have to hold for now.

Ms. Perth had sent me some jokes by e-mail a few days back. At first, I thought they would be just some lame rimshot-level cracks but on further inspection, they've turned out to be quite humourous. One reason is that the exchanges are all real and come from the halls of American justice. Apparently, some court reporter became entrepreneurial (after spending hours between a judge and the two opposing sides in a case hammering away at a specialized typewriter can do that to one) and published a book on all the hilarious stuff that can come out of a so-called serious cross-examination. I found the jokes so funny, in fact, that I've forwarded them on to some of the folks back home and to Skippy in compensation for that Sudoku puzzle she'd sent me last week.

In any case, it's time for a very quick shower and then beddy-bye.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Monday January 30, 7:32 a.m.

I've got a corner apartment and yet the sun eludes my living room like the plague. Certainly doesn't help my electricity bills. But then again, I live in a north apartment. Hard to believe that it's already the penultimate day of the first month. That ball is just running ever faster downhill.

Woke up to watch BBC's "Top Gear" auto program. I don't think I will ever ride in a Ferrari or a Porsche let alone get behind the wheel of one but I enjoy watching the trash talk exchanged amongst the three hosts. Today's episode was the one where the boys were racing against each other on a trip from Newcastle to Oslo. You've got one guy who looks like he was descended from a bear, a small guy who could've been a Hobbit, and a medium guy.

Looks like Saddam is at it again. He was doing his best Al Pacino impression of "You're out of order!" in the courtroom. At least with all the craziness, we're getting the idea of what it could've been like if Hitler had remained alive for trial in Nuremberg. I guess it's a common trait of sociopathic megalomaniacs.

I got word from The Entrepreneur that he'd recently gone to the opening of the Prince Takamado Gallery in the Royal Ontario Museum. There was some Japanese Consulate drone there who basically...droned...through his speech. And that's why we have English schools here. Also got a message from The Wild One. He's been pretty mellow with his girl. In fact, he said he was typing out his message while she was squeezing the life out of him. Uh-huh... Would've been interested what happened after that e-mail sent. On second thought....

Had meself a breakfast of homemade pizza toast with some of that remaining salsa, cheese (food) and some chorizo sausages. Hopefully, it won't come back to haunt me during the lesson with The Class Act.
Sunday January 29, 6:00 p.m.

After the long day out yesterday, it was nice to sleep in for several hours. In fact, I didn't get up until about after 1. Still, despite the late wake-up call, I was able to get some laundry and other house stuff done. I took a look through the package that The Tax Office had sent me; I was quite impressed that they actually sent me the English-language instructions. Reading through it, there was still quite a lot of gobbledygook to wade through but I still applaud them for their considerateness. Still, I'll have to go over into the wilds of Ichikawa to get one more sheet from them before I finally fill out the forms.

Watched the last few hours of some 9-part documentary on American baseball. It wasn't Ken Burns' magnum opus. However, it gave some snippets of the dark side behind the great pastime. I would still like to see Burns' epic homage to jazz despite the fact that it's gotten lesser raves than the baseball saga.

Forgot to mention that on Friday night, there was a music show called "Bokura no Ongaku" (Our Music) on Fuji-TV which comes after the TOKIO interview show. It's a bit different from the other shows that deal with rankings and live performances in that it's given a bit more of a sophisticated sheen, albeit superficial. It opens with a saxophone solo while the camera zooms over nighttime Tokyo. And usually there's no tarento host or TV announcer doing the interviewing duties of the musical guest. In fact, the line between interviewer and interviewee is blurred since the two people on the nightclub-esque set are one singer and one celeb who usually wouldn't show up on the regular variety circuit. The session is more of a casual conversation. One would expect a couple of shot glasses filled with whiskey and ice on the table between them.

That night's episode was especially notable since it featured kabuki star Kanzaburo Nakamura and singer-of-intrigue Ringo Shiina. While Nakamura looked distinguished but normal in his street duds sans white makeup, Shiina was kinda done up in some sort of 19th-century boudoir madame dress and hat. It was fairly obvious who was in control of this chat. Nakamura, whom I'm sure can be a very intimidating presence during rehearsals as the leader of his craft, was almost fawning over the coquettishly demure Shiina in what could've been an equivalent of a scene from "Lolita". Shiina rarely appears on TV and when she does, it's usually just on Music Station or Pop Jam...a few sound bites and then it's off to perform. On this show, she actually had to banter quite a bit with the kabuki master. I remember reading one interview in which the singer was portrayed as being rather low-key but friendly. Well, in this show, that coquette act was barely hiding some sort of tigress underneath....certainly, her voice had that no bull tone to it. When Nakamura asked why she ever became interested in kabuki, Shiina said straightly, "I don't like it. I like you!" BOOM! The master was acting more like a fresh apprentice as he started to sweat profusely. Not sure if all this was just an act concocted by the two and the director but it was certainly a lot more interesting than the usual meet-n'-greet on the music shows.