Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sunday February 26, 8:10 a.m.

Just before I hit the hay some 7 hours ago, I was able to catch Hikaru Utada's latest video on Youtube. "Keep On Tryin'" is this rather ethereal little ditty that's somehow insinuated itself into my brain...and that's not a bad thing. In fact, it hasn't been a bad thing for a lot of people here, apparently, since it's been at Number 1 since its release a few days ago. A lot of the Hikki fans on the forums have been cheering most enthusiastically about the song's fortunes although they don't seem to be nearly as thrilled with the video which is this very day-glo concoction of a day in a life of a Japanese city with Utada taking on the roles and costumes of various characters in that city (high school student, hostess, police officer, etc....a cosplay fetishist's dream come true). I dunno....I actually like the video although the comparisons to the video of her megahit from a few years back, "Travelin'" will be inevitable.

In any case, this should be good news for the singer and her fans. She's been in a bit of a relative lull (or would "slump" be more accurate?) for the past few years although her songs have managed to score into the Top 10; and yet, they didn't particularly embed themselves into the pop culture consciousness of those years (frankly, I thought a lot of those songs were going to categorize her as the tunesmith for overhyped video games) like her huge early successes such as "Automatic". I was kinda thinking that maybe Hikaru Utada was making that slow fade into musical history, and still I think it will take at least one more huge hit to bring her back into the superstar category. However, "Keep On Tryin'" certainly can describe Utada's gumption and her lyrics encourage everyone from the intrepid fireman to the little old lady to stick to their guns.

Yup, as's looking pretty gloomy out there. And I would have liked to have slept somewhat longer but duty calls and I'll keep on tryin'.
Sunday February 26, 12:08 a.m.

It was another mass of humanity in Shibuya today at 4 p.m. although there was still more space in front of Hachiko than there would be at 6 p.m. The Denmother showed up as scheduled but Scout S got her times wrong and would be about a couple of hours late. So, the two of us just plowed through the mass all the way to the top of Spain Zaka where The Maple Leaf was.

4 p.m. was a good time to show up since there were no crowds in the place. With the Men's Canadian Hockey team out of the running, there really was no need to fill up the bar. Good for us since we could get one of the larger booths. There was a game going on the big screen though. Before Scout S showed up, The Denmother and I tucked into some nachos and chicken wings. I actually had a half-pint of Guinness and was surprised to find it not as rich as I thought. I didn't even get so much as a buzz. And I thought it was just the poutine that was watered down. With Scout S' arrival, we ordered a second round of wings and some of those deep-fried mushrooms. Another surprising thing was that we actually stayed 3 times longer than I had expected. Scout S was a bit more voluble and of course The Denmother was very capable in holding her end of the conversation...which was great since I realized that the half-hour after ingesting a lot of food is pretty much dedicated to digestion and therefore I was out of it. The crowds did eventually come in to watch the live action between Finland and Russia in the hockey semifinals but they didn't threaten to mimic a rush hour subway. All in all, it was a nice way to spend a Saturday night in Tokyo.

Well, I've gotta head on out later on today to meet up with The Ballerina's buddy and her boyfriend in Shinagawa. The misery of Friday's weather will be returning so I'll have to bring out the umbrella. Hopefully, things will go OK with them. Then I'm gonna give Chip Guy a call about dinner. I may be having my second night of wings although the Nagoya version is less spicy and more honey-coated. They're all good to me.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Saturday February 25, 11:21 a.m.

Chip Guy called me up a little while ago. He and the family are back in Japan for a few weeks. He was asking about meeting up for lunch or dinner tomorrow night so it looks like I've got a dinner companion after that first powwow with The Ballerina's friends. He didn't mention anything about PH's party although I know that it'll probably come up during dinner. Maybe those Nagoya wings are in order or perhaps even go back to Kimu Katsu.

Man, that was one awkward segue on Larry King Live. The show is ostensibly on Goldie Hawn, who looks incredibly hot (or should I say "hawt"?) for a 60-year-old. I mean, she's older than the oldest students I teach. However, for some bizarre reason, King started off by interviewing the grandmother of that 15-year-old boy who has had a sexual relationship with a 37-year-old woman. In fact, said woman now has a bun in the oven. The interview was unsurprisingly tense and King, not one of the more hardball of journalists, looked increasingly sheepish during those first 5 minutes devoted to the irate grandma. Then, once that got done, he handed off the camera to Hawn who looked (much to her credit) quite uncomfortably noncommittal. I mean, you've got a grandmother out for blood for this woman with a reverse Lolita Complex and then you go straight to this celeb grandmother who 15-year-old boys could actually lust for. Geez, Larry...was this a theme night you were looking for?

Mind you, the Hawn interview hasn't been all fun n' giggles so far. After she showed off her foot with a tiny tattoo (too much information, if you ask me) on live TV, she got noticeably chillier when talking about all the tabloid chatter about her over the decades. It's hard to believe, though, that this was the same goofy girl who I barely remember seeing go-go dancing on "Laugh-In" when I was a toddler. BTW, I think I oughta find out whatever happened to Rowan & Martin.
Saturday February 25, 9:46 a.m.

It's a bright sunshiny day out there in comparison to the drear of yesterday. But that's been the usual pattern. Very lousy weather one day, great the next.

I tried looking it up in The Japan Times just now but couldn't find an article on this unhinged lady who had been terrorizing her Tokyo neighbourhood for years via a sonic barrage of radios, crowbars on fences and the like because she herself had alleged that her neighbours were doing the same thing to her. Some months ago, an NTV reporter went over there to the quiet neighbourhood and met up with the psychette, even unnecessarily bringing a soundmeter which didn't see much use. I mean, why bother reasoning with crazy people? In any case, apparently something had finally been done about it since this morning when I turned on the news, I found that the woman had been given 3 years by a judge...not sure if that meant imprisonment or a mental institution although I certainly hope it's the latter.

Just talked with Mom right now. Looks like she's come down with a cold. I get a little worried now about that since she and Dad aren't exactly spring chickens anymore. My niece is doing OK although she's been crying at the old man; but then again, I know that Dad likes to make scary faces at babies. The two of us kinda commiserated over Japan's lousy showing at The Olympics. The Beehive had come up with the theory that interest in winter sports has been waning over the years so that the talent pool for sports like skiing and skating was doing the same. Well, that could become the case if the decrease continues but I don't think that applies just now. There are still enough of the young folk hitting the slopes and ice. I just think the competition is that much tougher. Although Shizuka Arakawa helped the side out, once the team gets back home, there will have to be a lot of soul-searching over the next 4 years.

I've been noticing that the Muzak in a number of the stores and restaurants all around Tokyo and Chiba has been actual recordings of ol' 70s & 80s hits. Nena's "99 Luftballoons"? I can hear it in my neighbourhood department store. Sir Elton's "Yellow Brick Road"? It was being piped over the speakers at that Chinese eatery where The Madame and I had lunch the other day. Good heavens...I also heard Shalamar. Probably a lot of you back in the States are asking "Who the hell is Shalamar?" (It was Jody Watley's old unit....who the hell is Jody Watley, you may also ask). And over the years, TV commercials have also dusted off their old 45s of Billy Joel, The Carpenters and The Style Council as background music. At this rate, the aging baby boomers may feel it's alright to get their buzzcuts and wear their skinny ties again.

Anyways, I gotta get ready for JJ.
Friday February 24, 10:13 p.m.

The happy news surrounding the Gold-winning performance of Shizuka Arakawa is still coming through NHK. The top news has been about her for the past 15 minutes or so. The extras were being handed out in the Ginza, all sorts of scenes of crying and rapturous folks from her native Sendai were being shown and naturally the Prime Minister gave her a call. I think after the past few days in Parliament, Koizumi probably enjoyed the small diversion.

It's now 10:20 and it's still all Arakawa. As expected, all of the trials and tribulations of her career have been put up on screen like an episode of "Biography". But it was telling that she didn't finally flash her brilliant smile until she did get the Gold.

The weather has been wet and cold but we didn't get the snow. I was quite grateful for that subway pass that The Denmother had given me in recompense for her son standing me up. I did decide to send a terse response asking him if he would be "willing" to come out next Thursday. I'm holding my breath...not.

The New Yorker was in pretty good form. Again, she wasn't too fast in delivery but she could handle the material accurately enough. She also let me know that she has a wish list in the form of electronics. Tops on her list is an iPod which got me to talking that not only can we sleep on the subways (darling) without fear but we can carry an iPod openly without being murdered or mugged. To be honest, I wouldn't mind getting one myself but I just don't think I would ever listen to that many songs to justify the expense. Mind you, it's only 10,000 yen more or less but it's still an expense.

Since I had a few hours before The OL's lesson, I again went to the Ginza to HMV and Yamano Music to window shop. Yep, a lot of discs I would like to get but it just won't be happening for a while, at least.

I guess today was the day for caffeine overload. After several cups of tea at The Tea Room, I went to the Toranomon Starbucks. The tiny manager once again greeted me and offered to sell me a Cinnamon Roll which I ruefully couldn't resist; besides, she's such a nice lady. She even gave me an invitation for March 10 in which there will be a Tasting Party at the cafe from 6-7 on that Friday night. I don't think The OL will be in time for it but perhaps I can get something for her. And to add further bliss, I hadn't even realized that the manager gave me the wrong size mug of Caffe Latte when she gave me the right size mug. Although I hadn't drunk from the wrong mug and offered to give it back, she gallantly demurred and gave me the second mug on the house. Now that's customer service!

The OL was in better spirits although the two of us got pretty tired by the end. She and her mother had been taking in a walk in their neighbourhood last Saturday when they came across filming of a trendy drama. And she saw one of her favourite actors just a metre away from her...Yutaka Takenouchi, one of the tall hunks of burnin' love for millions of ladies. The filming was for a drama that's currently being run so it must've been for one of the final episodes. The OL was floating on air for most of the week, admittedly bragging about her discovery to everyone in the office.

I also got a message from Speedy asking me if I would be willing to teach a cooking class. I had to send in the reply by 7:30 tonight. But I decided not to call in since although I enjoy cooking, I'm not willing to risk my reputation against that of the much more accomplished Mr. Influence. Good grief....the man has published his own cookbook, for heaven's sake.

All those people I'd asked about coming with The Denmother, a sole Scout and myself to The Maple Leaf declined. It was just as well....I don't think it would've been quite the right matchup of folks. Before that, I've got JJ for her regular.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Friday February 24, 8:13 a.m.

Well, better late than never, better one than none. Shizuka Arakawa not only salvages Japanese pride with a medal but she gets the Gold! I turned on the telly around an hour ago...a good 2 hours before I was planning to wake up for some reason. NHK's cameras were trained on the audience at the ice skating arena and I heard the hushed tones of the announcer and retired Silver medalist Midori Ito. There were snippets of "It's sure hard to get Gold..." and "Finishing out of the medals is normal...", and so I thought, "Oh, good golly....we couldn't even get one here!" But then, the graphics came out with the news that Arakawa had gotten the top prize, and she and the other two medalists strode out. Arakawa, with a passing resemblance to Bob Hope (I am actually being complimentary here), still had that rapturous look of disbelief on her face from the time that she'd realized she got Gold to the podium and to the brief NHK interview by rinkside. Even she admitted that she still couldn't believe it.

Meanwhile, CNN quickly posted the news about Arakawa's win which is more than I can say for The Japan Times. Adjectives like "magnificent" and "amazing" were in abundance in the story. And I found out that for all the hoopla that surrounds figure skating in this country, Midori Ito had been the only Japanese figure skater to even medal in the Olympics and that was just a decade or so ago. And Arakawa is the first and only Gold medalist in the event. The article also pointed out that the Bronze medalist, the Russian, looked shellshocked for another reason on the podium. If the Soviet Union had still existed, I would've thought that she thought she was heading for that gulag in Siberia.

And what of the other two Japanese skaters? Well, Fumie Suguri got 4th. Her rinkside interview was fairly choked up. She was talking about trying her best and being satisfied but the disappointment was palpable on her face and she was starting to tear up pretty badly. It must be pretty hard to get so close but not get the medal. And as for the woman who'd been getting the biggest hype out of all the three skaters, Miki Ando, she scored no better than 15th due to an error-riddled performance. Ironically enough, she has been barely existent in the media this morning but she scored so far down that she didn't really show any major crying jags. It's still early in her career. Nope, the 15 minutes belong to Arakawa right now. Even with a Gold, she will get some more commercials and perhaps even a fast track to a Senatorship if she becomes politically inclined years later but that's about it. There will probably never be any of these multimillion dollar book deals or endorsements for her as would be the case for an Olympic champion in the States. But in a way, that's OK...the big money isn't really what the Olympic ideal is about anyways (ugh!...did I really say that?) And in any case, all of the channels right now are just showing her performance over and over again. And in a nice little bonus, the announcers haven't been screaming their approval; I think it's more of a relieved proclamation. Japan will be coming home with at least one medal. The gold that glitters most is the one that glitters alone. OK, I'll stop with the homespun proverbs now.

I guess I should also thank former politician and current psychiatric hospital resident, Nagata, for diluting the potentially overwhelming Arakawa coverage. His meltdown for providing that bogus e-mail in Parliament has been sharing top spot on the news. There was even one scene of him breaking down in sobs in front of the cameras before he decided to get fitted for that straitjacket.

Now, back into the more mundane existence around me....well, this has truly been a whacked out winter. After a few very balmy days earlier this week, the forecast calls for some snow although Tokyo is probably gonna be barely spared from the white stuff but will get some rain in the bargain. However, I still remember that big blunder in forecasting a few weeks ago so I wouldn't be surprised if we got a whiteout.

Let's have breakfast!
Thursday February 23, 10:31 p.m.

One of the more interesting Thursdays in my long life here. First off, my supposed consultation with The Denmother's son never came off. I rushed over to Urayasu Station thinking that I was gonna be late by a couple of minutes. But as it turned out, the hip-hop kid wasn't there. I waited around 15 minutes during which I thought I could've gotten the waiting place or the day wrong. I checked the cafe where The Denmother and I had met last Thursday twice but no one looking remotely like a member of Dragon Ash in there.

So it's now 11:15 and I'm left wondering what to do. Then, The Denmother shows up all a flutter apologizing for her son's behaviour. Apparently, he's not the most prompt person but he is setting records for the longest stays in showers. The Denmother just nattered on about how inconsiderate her son was and about the near-daily battles she's had with him of late. I guess I was seeing the other side of this relationship which I'd thought was pretty cordial. I remember distinctly meeting the boy just before December last year when his mother, The Scouts and I had gone to that Yurakucho ristorante for dinner. Mother and son seemed to have a very buddy-buddy relationship. Well, that theory went out the window this morning. According to Mom, the kid has been mouthing off at her and getting into a rather dark place of late. I couldn't really tsk-tsk about it since I had that time in my life with my own mother but this kid seems to be getting into that stage rather late in life since he's already passed the age of adulthood in this country. In any case, it finally got up to 12:10 when The Denmother and I ruefully came to the decision that he was gonna stand me up. In compensation, she got me one of those 1000-yen transit passes for Tokyo Metro so I'll be covered for tomorrow. Very kind of her. I get the impression that she has become rather inured to her son's digressions. She didn't seem too mortified at all at having him stand me up. I could see other parents just ready to burst if this sort of thing happened with their kids. In a way, though, I didn't particularly mind since that little incident reaffirmed that this guy is just not gonna become my student. However, as a P.S., when I got home tonight, I got some e-mail from the boy himself apologizing profusely and saying that he suddenly had a stomach attack or something and that he would like another chance. Well, I'll think about it. He's a nice kid but....

The second rather interesting thing was when I met The Madame for the first time in 2 months in Shinjuku for a late lunch. We ended up on the 7th floor of My City, the shopping mall in Shinjuku Station. I wasn't too enamored with her for being off the radar since before Xmas but she said that she was very busy at her father's company. Yeah, whatever... In any case, we went to this small Chinese eatery for lunch and then we went to this rather old-fashioned cafe just across the street. The Madame said that she enjoyed the cafe for its choice of chinaware and the overall ambience of old class. I found it somewhat stuffier myself. I rather prefer the somewhat more relaxed feel of The Tea Room. In any case, the interesting part was that virtually most of our conversation (pretty much one-sided on her part) dealt with her recent awakening into spiritualism. Her interest in the afterlife and other lives has grown exponentially in the weeks since I saw her last. She knows that I'm a skeptic and she did pick up that look of "Oh, really?" on my face several times. However, she appreciated that I was still willing to listen to her for over 3 hours...something that noone else has been willing to do even within her family. In fact, she's only told one other person about her hobby....her soulmate in San Francisco who she says was her a past life. She remarked that in each life, a soul will learn something of value. If that's indeed the case, I would like to get a refund on my current one.

After these somewhat bizarro encounters with The Madame and The Denmother, it was a bit of a relief that I could have a relatively peaceful encounter with The Carolinan for her lesson. But then again, my lesson with her tonight wasn't executed too well. I didn't do too much planning for it and I'm kinda wondering with all the things I gotta do for Speedy, if I'm starting to lose my groove. And I still have yet to get started on her sister's lesson for tomorrow, and she's the far weaker of the two. I may have to skip the gym.

Not surprisingly, the subway back home saw me sleeping it off. I seem to be doing that a lot of the time now instead of reading or doing my crosswords. I remarked to 006 last night that Tokyo is probably the only modern city on the Earth where I can sleep on its subways (with all due respect to Petula Clark) and not end up missing a wallet or worse. For a lot of the riders here, the subways can truly be called sleeper cars.

The Satryr dipped in about 30 minutes ago for an Internet chat. He got my message from me about the trip with me, The Denmother and Scout S to The Maple Leaf on Saturday. I wanted to stack the deck a bit since Scout S is fairly mute while The Denmother is very chatty...albeit in Japanese. I also sent word to MB, The Madame (although I'm pretty sure she won't come) and Skippy. The Satyr isn't sure since he's got an old friend in town that day. Ach, it was worth a shot.

NHK News has been crowing about the trio of skaters who seem to be our last chance of getting any medals at The Olympics. It mentioned that during the short program yesterday, the ratings went up to a pretty impressive 47%. In fact, I'd change that to pretty damn mindblowing considering that Ando, Suguri and Arakawa appeared here in the wee hours of the morning Japan time. NHK has given the expected times that the skaters will be giving their long program early tomorrow morning. Speaking of them and The Olympic coverage, that Daily Yomiuri TV columnist who gives his 2 yen every Thursday, Wm. Penn, must have a philosophically similar point of view with me when it comes to his opinion on the rah-rah-lessness of the announcers this time around. He mentioned that though the TV folks have had little to crow about, at least we've (meaning he and I) been spared a lot of the ad nauseum highlights of medal-winning performances and screaming commentators. Here, here! I really don't miss those but the journos may still have something to yell about in several hours. As for me, I'll be blissfully asleep.

On that same further amp up the interesting-ness of my Thursday, there was a major kerfuffle in Parliament today concerning that so-called e-mail potentially implicating a number of politicians in the Livedoor scandal. Well, it would seem that the e-mail in question is now looking like a fabrication or hoax perpetrated by the pol who had brought it to everyone's attention in the first place. The man's name is Nagata of the Democratic Party, the chief Opposition party in The Diet; but his name may as well be mud now. His career certainly is taking on those slimy characteristics. I just heard that he has offered his resignation and in fact he may be put on psychiatric leave. Ooof...that's harsh! He may also be dragging down the leader of the party to take responsibility. Over here, "to take responsibility" virtually means mandatory resignation.

In any case, as interesting as my Thursday was, I'm glad it's coming to an end. Hopefully by the time I wake up tomorrow, some young lady with skates will be wearing a medal around her neck.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Thursday February 23, 8:45 a.m.

Canada has been racking up the medals but ironically the Men's Hockey team will no longer be helpful in that venture. It got eliminated by Russia (of always has to be the Russians) 2-0. However, the Women's Hockey team did hold up its end by winning the Gold. Well, at least The Maple Leaf won't be that crowded on Saturday when I take The Denmother and her Scouts. Speaking of whom, I'm supposed to be seeing The Denmother's son in a few hours, and frankly, I'm at a loss as to how I'm gonna be helping this supposedly unteachable but very likeable kid. Nope, I'm gonna have a chat with him and find out what he wants to do. If he doesn't throw me a bone, I'll just give my regrets to his mother on Saturday.

My lesson with 001 was the usual good time. My first offiicial lesson with 006 wasn't a home run out of the park, though. But in retrospect, I'm not that surprised. 006 is a much more subdued lady than the effervescent 001. I tried a few things with 006 and then spent the last half-hour of her lesson going over what she thought and what she would like. So things are slowly coalescing. During that half-hour, that Fuji-TV kid's show crew arrived to do its filming of Mr. Influence and his cooking thing. Not a huge operation but there were the prerequisite cables and bright lights in the kitchen. The actor who came wasn't totally least not to me. I don't know his name but I've seen him in a number of dramas, cast as a dull cog or nerd in the office. Anyways, I didn't hang out that much longer. I was feeling pretty exhausted after fretting over how 006 would do.

During my time at the school, I got e-mail from Speedy to which I gave a polite but somewhat snappish response. I felt rather badly about that although I know what my temper can be like. But I did wonder why I was quietly set off like that yesterday. Well, I think I got my answer this morning. I received another e-mail from him and once again my blood did a slow heating-up. I've detected that his messages often have this undertone of smarminess under his usual Richie Cunningham cheeriness. It could just be me, though. In any case, I'm not gonna answer him right away. To be fair, I wouldn't be surprised if he thinks me as a closet crank through some of my e-mail messages. I still sting whenever I remember 005.

Anyways, I still gotta make that student report and then prep for The Carolinan tonight.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Wednesday February 22, 8:48 a.m.

Lou is on fire! The most terrifying anchor of CNN (at least to the White House) has devoted at least half of his program tonight to this bill giving a Dubai-based company management rights to several ports in the US. He must be doing a good job. The PR guy for the company basically told CNN to shut the man up. But Lou Dobbs is not alone...apparently, a very rarely seen bipartisanship is raising its head in Congress to go toe-to-toe on this issue with President Bush. Screenwriters, you may start your engines!

Speaking of CNN, good ol' Toronto boy J.D. Roberts...oh, I'm sorry, I guess he's known as John Roberts now, isn't he?...made his debut yesterday on the network as Senior National Correspondent. Kinda interesting how a former weekend anchorman on CBS with tons of gravitas has ended up walking the beat again (mind you, covering the entire country isn't exactly a job for a gofer). He just seems overqualified. Still, maybe this is what he likes most.

Managed to see the Canada-Czech hockey game right up until the good guys got the first goal before I turned off the lights. Woke up to see that we won 3-2. Happy, happy, joy, joy. On this side of the Pacific, it's the figure skating that's getting the focus right now. Overnight, the three princesses of the pond put out their short routines, including Fumie Suguri whom I just caught as I was waking up. So far, I think the best performance so far amongst the three has been from Suguri who's either 3rd or 4th. Still early in the game but CNN predicts it'll be a Russian sweep.
Tuesday February 21, 11:39 p.m.

Everything was nice and steady at the currently streamlined juku classes. The Milds and McGirl were fine although the latter was sniffling in what could be a prelude to either hay fever or a cold. I had my struggles with the former today necessitating a visit to the drug store. The Siberian was OK thanks to a kanji quiz I managed to cobble together. The juku cat has grown some more in the past month. He's gonna be getting his Bob Barker operation in a couple of days which should mature him some more.

Wouldn't you know it? They're gonna be showing a preliminary hockey game between Canada and another team but it'll just be when I'm about to hit the hay. Well maybe I can catch a little of the first period action before lights out.

The Japanese have been going agog over everyone's favourite Russian tennis player, Maria Sharapova, since she took her pics in the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. She oughta consider permanent residency in this country. Men may idolize Shigeo "Mr. Giants" Nagashima, and they may love Okinawan golf player Ai Miyazato but they lust for Sharapova. Can't say I blame them.

On the darker side of things, much has been analyzed about that Chinese woman who stabbed two of her daughter's classmates to death in her car a few days ago. The papers have been talking about the problems of isolation imposed upon foreign wives of Japanese men possibly causing these tragedies. However, they may be missing the point if the following rumour is to be believed. Apparently, the woman had tried to kill her mother-in-law twice by strangulation. Methinks that this isn't just a case of some lady losing her mind temporarily due to the mental pressures of an uncaring society. I think this lady had already been two bricks shy of a load for some time. My surprise is that there hadn't been a red flag raised earlier.

Also, speaking about nutcases, the guy who masterminded the sarin gas attacks almost 11 years ago through the cult Aum Shinrikyo, Shoko Asahara, was finally told that his mental state is such that he is fit to stand trial. I thought he already got his conviction of death years ago. But apparently, he's up on another charge.

Well, anyways, I got The Teacher, another gym outing and then Speedy's tomorrow. I'm hoping that 006's first class goes well.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Tuesday February 21, 2:40 p.m.

It was nice to deposit another wad of cash into the ATM. I'll be looking forward to putting even more in once I get paid by Speedy tomorrow. Surprisng how fast the month has gone at his school but then again we are talking about the shortest month of the year.

The Beehive was 40% smaller today. We didn't touch the textbook, a frequent occurrence in the class. Like with The Class Act, this generation of middle-aged women loves to talk it up. We covered quite a few things such as the justice system and how to say words in several European languages (we are if nothing very varied). Afterwards, I had my occasional lunch with them at the Royal Host family restaurant near Tsudanuma Station. Like a lot of the fast food places, Royal Host has its teen-influenced abbreviation, Roi Ho. We also chatted on the current scandal with Livedoor Inc. It looks like there has been a new wrinkle added. Apparently, there was an e-mail from Horie that was sent to several politicians. A journalist was responsible for the leak but he also has a somewhat less than sterling reputation so its authenticity hasn't been verified yet. However, if it's found out to be true, there could be a Watergate-like situation.

Ms. Tea looked exhausted as usual but her house is just about done. In fact, she'll be inviting us in a couple of weeks for a housewarming at the new digs. It'll be another potluck

Looks like The Women's Curling team has come to its end for these Games. Ms. Tulip informed me that they finished 7th. Well, I guess it's now up to the Women's Figure Skating team to salvage what little boasting Japan can make this year.

They say that the hay fever season will be only one-tenth as horrible as it was last year. And last year was plenty horrible. However, it looks like the pollen has hit me earlier than usual. I was going to the tissue pretty often so far today. I had to chuck up the yen for the medicine. Still, Spring is not a season that I look forward to.
Tuesday February 21, 7:35 a.m.

Did my wash this morning. I had the machine as packed as a morning train on the Tozai Line. Luckily, it seems to have survived. Speaking of the Tozai Line, I read in last week's issue of METROPOLIS that my line has become the city's busiest route. Oh, gee...thanks. Apparently, the little bit between Kiba and Monzen-Nakacho Stations reaches the highest capacity anywhere at a pancake-flattening 170% between 7:50 a.m. and 8:50 a.m....which oughta mean the morning screams should begin shortly. Ah...I knew there was a reason that I've tried to avoid rush hour by any means all these years.

I checked out Fuji-TV to find out a little bit more about this kiddie program which is supposed to be coming over late on Wednesday night for taping. It's called "Gatcha-gatcha Pon!" (just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Well, maybe kids' tongues are more pliable.), and if I've read the description correctly, we might either get gaijin tarento Patrick Harlan bouncing in his Coneheads-like get-up or his partner in crime. Most likely, it'll be the latter since Speedy or SB would've told me that it was the more famous Harlan.

They just finished the Ice Dancing competition live at the Turin Games. Man, those skaters really punch out late, don't they? It was about 11 p.m. over there. Still waiting for that first medal. At this rate, the announcers will go into orgasm even if one of the athletes gets one of those silver-wrapped chocolate medals.
Monday February 20, 10:33 p.m.

It remained pretty miserable throughout the day with the rain and cold temps. The lesson with The Class Act actually went quite well with the grammar although the usual conversational diversions were there. Looks like The Chef was in heavy dessert mode since all three of the snacks given during their class and SIL's were of the sweet variety. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. First, we got a Chef Original in the form of a mattcha tiramisu (talk about your Italian and Japanese fusion cuisine), then the second which is usually a fruit dish ended up being a strawberry shortcake, again by The Chef. Of course, during SIL's class, we got the usual coffee and chocolates. The Lady didn't mention anything about this glorious trip to Korea that she had been chomping at the bit about a couple of weeks ago. She actually had to leave 15 minutes early so that gave the Matron and me some time to talk between ourselves. The Matron had expected something from The Lady about this thing. When The Lady hadn't mentioned anything today, the two of us kinda shrugged our shoulders and assumed that it was perhaps just a flight of fancy after all. Not that I'm hugely disappointed or anything. I would prefer to not have anything disturb my attempts to get back on my high horse financially.

As for SIL, we had a talk on the respective court systems in the United States and Japan. I taught her the basic vocabulary of all the major players in a courtroom. When I told her that the United States' justice system practices a jury system with people occasionally being called for jury duty, SIL reminded me about the fact that the Japanese government had decided on a judge duty a couple of years ago. The new system will start up in a few years for criminal cases perhaps replacing the current system of 3 judges for a trial. Can you imagine being called to actually preside over a court case with no one else guiding your actions? I hardly can believe that that would be the case. There would be of course some sort of training involved but I'm curious if the citizen called for judge duty would actually be the only judge in the room or if that person would be sharing with a few other citizen judges whereby it would actually resemble a jury...except again there would be no judge looking on them since they would be the judges. Apparently, according to a poll, over 50% of the respondents disagreed with the new system...not that the government is listening to them. I can laugh at it somewhat since there would be very little chance that I would ever be called upon to don the black robes since I'm not a citizen and would doubt that my Japanese abilities would be up to the challenge.

Speaking of court cases, serial killer Miyazaki, the guy who killed all these kids back in 1989, finally got the word that he would be executed at a time of the government's choosing. Traditionally, noone, even the condemned, knows when or what time the gallows will come calling until the jailers come to the cell, a practice that Amnesty International has a big problem with. The man has shown no remorse and spends his days just reading his beloved manga and watching his anime. He apparently has written a book called "Aho, ka?" (Are You An Idiot?) for which he says is some sort of attempt at atonement. I'm sure when that day of reckoning comes, there will be a full court press on it.

Got over to Speedy's to find out that apparently another TV show will come calling on Wednesday night to see Mr. Influence's cooking act. It's a kiddie program this time and the filming will be taking place pretty late..right after my first lesson with 006, in fact. For Mr. Influence, I guess he must be feeling that no good deed goes unpunished. As for SB, she was still feeling pretty full after the culinary events at Kimu Katsu last night but she reiterated that she enjoyed the dinner which is good enough for me.

When I got home, I checked on the Olympics. Looks like Women's Curling may be the big thing for the fans back here...kinda goes to show how desperate the coverage has become for some sort of medal. The Japanese delegation's captain, Tomomi Okazaki, made her last hurrah at these Turin Games with a shot at the 1000 m speed skate but could only reach 16th place. Still, I think she's gonna try for Vancouver 2010. The female announcer hosting the NHK coverage punched up that wistful smile of gratitude right on schedule.

Well, sure enough...about 10 days ago, my rental management agency tossed me that due date for the rent as the 15th. I wasn't about to buy that one again so I waited, and lo and behold, another notice came in saying that the due date is now the 28th. Let's hope there are no slipups this time.

Anyways, I'm gonna go take that well-needed shower and head to bed. I'll leave the preps for The Beehive for tomorrow.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Monday February 20, 8:07 a.m.

I thank the heavens for Earl Grey Tea. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to crawl out of bed, let alone rise up from it like a regular Homo Sapiens. My insides feel and smell like a huge clove of garlic right now, though. Ode to the power of the bulb!

It seems like Chewbacca's Blog has gotten quite a lot of press in the days since I first saw it. I put it through on the Yahoo Search Engine since I really didn't want to have to go to the trouble of counting all the "r"s, "h"s and "n"s (you'll know what I mean when you see the address); sure enough, the first entry was of the site itself while the next few were of accolades to it. It's definitely not a PC site but oh-so-Farrelly Bros. funny!

Then, I checked this hilariously amazing recut trailer for "The Shining" as a cute romantic comedy. Man, it is genius. Hollywood, I think you've found your next Oscar-winning editor. The addition of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" was the winning touch.

Now that we're into the second half of the Olympics. And that means the laser-like focus is now on the skating trio of Ando, Suguri and Arakawa for Gold. Not that there's any pressure, mind you. It's just that Japan hasn't gotten any medals at all and the entire team is gonna look like a bunch of stooges coming back to Narita. Nope, no pressure at all....

I got the happy announcement from The Entrepreneur that he's now into a relationship with a young lady. I guess with him and The Wild Guy officially hitched to significant others, my little club of mildly undulating bachelors has a membership of one (well, the Doctor may not have anyone but he was able to keep news about his long relationship with a girl back in our university days in double-top-secret category for years, so you never know). Cue the tiny violin.

Anyways, I've got a full slate of classes today.
Monday February 20, 12:37 a.m.

The kids were OK yesterday. The Elder was still in her good spirits and talking mode but she did say that she wasn't too crazy about studying English. But that's OK. I hadn't been that thrilled about teaching her for a couple of years. I win! In any case, I won't be seeing them for about 3 weeks since they've got graduation stuff to worry about.

Despite the big dinner that was to happen later that night, I decided to go for McDs in the neighbourhood of the kids' house. I figured with empty calories inside me I could use them up over the next 5 hours before dinnertime walking and window shopping.

When I checked my phone messages, I found out that The Engineer had left one. He's unfortunately one of the many millions of folks that have ended up divorced. To be honest, it was no surprise since he and his wife had never lived together, and my only time communicating with her left me with a rather cold impression. In any case, there wasn't any way we could meet since he said that he would only be in town for the day and I knew that I wouldn't get home until rather late but I did leave a courtesy response at his hotel.

I stopped off at Kinokuniya for the first time this year. No particularly big changes at the venerable bookstore. I just browsed through the English text section. I hadn't believed that I would pick up anything...just looked the texts to get the brain juices going on how to approach 006's first formal lesson this Wednesday. I also went upstairs to the HMV in Times Square. Took my sweet time going through the 2nd-largest branch in Tokyo. Again, a number of CDs that I would've loved to have bought but financial circumstances precluded that hope. Then I even dropped off at the Shinjuku Station branch of Tower Records. I did see that now-famous issue of Vanity Fair with the nude Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johannsen on the cover. Nice butt, Scarlett. But that's about as racy as it got although there was a good pic of a topless Sienna Miller and a shot of the new Mrs Brad Pitt naked in the bath with butt up.

I headed on down to Ginza and went to the other HMV in Yurakucho. My willpower finally faltered and decided to pick up an issue of Total Film. Then, I just hung around Mullion until the tonkatsu gang showed up at 5. Skippy was there first as usual, followed by SB, The Satyr and then Movie Buddy & Samwise with some rather hefty packages. The two of them signified their long friendship with each other by buying his and his PSPs. Their significant others must've in a very generous mood.

Kimu Katsu illustrated how popular it was when the waiter said that there would be an hour's wait before a table would open up for us. So, we did the usual thing of having the waiter call up on Skippy's cell while we cooled our heels at the Pronto cafe around the corner for that hour. Once again, the talk was on movies. Apparently, MB found a hilarious parody trailer skillfully edited to show "The Shining" as a heartwarming movie instead of a heartbleeding one. Presumably at the same site, there is also a parody called "Brokeback to the Future". Gonna have to check that one out. We also had a little fun at the expense of the sport of curling. It may not be fair but curling may never turn out to be one of the prestige sport at these Winter Olympics.

The waiter did call us up and we dutifully headed over back to Kimu Katsu. We got our nice alcove. Skippy was just bouncing off the walls and some of us in anticipation of the bountiful feast that we were to receive. At her recommendation (although it sounded half like a demand), we all ordered the assorted platter in which we could get a choice of 3 out of 6 different deep-fried pork cutlets done up in the mille feuille style. Since there were 6 of us , we divided up into 3 pairs for ordering ease. MB and I were one pair and we got the garlic, the onion and the cheese-filled cutlets. Our orders took about 20 minutes to process...not too long for a group our size who could talk up a storm but they couldn't come too soon for Skippy. During our wait, we continued our conversation string which had started back at Pronto about the maid cafes and otakus. Skip readily admitted that she's an unrepentant manga and anime freak. She almost popped out of her skin when I told her that the Shibuya branch of Mandarake, that manga store, had a karaoke stage for otakus to render their versions of their favourite anime theme songs. You'd think you would know a person for so long but... Heck, she even taught The Satyr a dirty expression in Japanese.

Finally our orders came on thick on the wire racks and it was time for us to get down to town on these special tonkatsu. We got bowls of miso soup and very shiny rice. MB, who had taught me his sorta mother-in-law's way of washing rice, was very impressed about how sparkly the rice looked. We also had porcelain double-dip bowls where we could pour the Worcestershire sauce and ponzu with grated horseradish. Once we got our culinary preparations done, it was time to devour. The slices of pork were delicious but the texture was very interesting. Because of the layered nature of the meat, it actually felt airier or lighter on the tongue. Usually, the average tonkatsu bite would be quite solid. As it was, though, our orders would end up lying quite heavily in our stomachs. Of course, there was also plenty of shredded cabbage to have with the cutlets. By the time we finished, we were a quiet but satisfied lot. And the price wasn't too hard on the wallet either. It was just 2000 yen per person.

However, we wouldn't be finished yet. We took a 5-minute walk down the main drag of Ginza toward Shiodome. Both MB and I got a bit wistful realizing that it was the same route that we had taken years back to get to the long-dead Farm Grill. Instead, we were heading for the Shiodome branch of The Doughnut Plant. I was a bit concerned that it would be closed since it was a Sunday and shops and restaurants here have a disturbing tendency to close up rather early. But we needn't have worried. The Doughnut Plant was open until 10:30 p.m. I had a Ginger Chocolate donut with an Organic Coffee. Since it was rather late in the evening, we were able to grab the entire 2nd-floor lounge for our own. I'm not sure how long we were there but when we left, MB and Samwise decided to stay longer at the store so that they could put their PSPs to the test. The rest of us decided to split for home. It was a good night, and I would definitely return to Kimu Katsu with another crew.

It's been several hours since I'd devoured the tonkatsu but I'm still feeling pretty full. I hope I don't get too bloated in the morning. However, I have surprised myself by being able to not only iron my clothes but also to get the lesson plans done for Monday. Now, let's see if I can actually get enough sleep.