Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sunday March 19, 11:42 a.m.

Just came off of The Japan Times website where a reporter has written about the tarento of last year, Laser Ramon HG, and his influence, positive or negative, in Japanese society, including the homosexual community in Japan. Not surprisingly, it was rather split. However, the journo hinted that he's not a big fan of the leather-clad guy pretending to be gay, but then again I surmise that he has no love for tarento in general.

This I did after having seen CNN Presents. Frank ("Glad my parents didn't call me Simon") Sesno gave a pretty chilling hour called "We Were Warned" about how our current reliance on oil could doom us all in the very near future. Obviously it's all speculation...however, informed...but it's good that at least someone has sent out the possibility.

Well, in about another hour, I head on out to catch "Munich" with The Satyr in Shinjuku. Skippy was nice enough to send the reply that she couldn't make it out this time since she had to go to a seminar on teaching English to kids but that she would like to try this new fried noodle place. Yup, she's the go-to person for restaurants in our group. Also, I admire her for keeping up her skills despite the fact that she's no longer in the field for the most part. I'm kinda wondering after recent events if it's time for me to get an upgrade myself. Then again, I remind myself that I remember nothing about my 1 year at TESL school (but I am grateful for the certificate) and yet I still retain the basics from OJT at NOVA over a decade ago. Still, seminars are skill-based, not theoretical. If I can get rustle up the money someday, I'll try for one.

On a totally different topic, along with the boom in comedian/tarento in the past couple of years, the magician has been enjoying his/her 15 minutes of fame on Japanese TV lately. It seems that at least once a week, there is one of these guys popping up on a variety show throwing the cards or the coins around. I've got nothing against these folks personally (after all, they are a bit like me in that we're all trying to make some yen educating and entertaining folks) but I kinda wish they would curtail their on-air appearances if only to keep the fawning tarento from bleating "Nande?!" at the end of a successful trick. It's getting old, guys.

On that note....
Saturday March 18, 10:16 p.m.

Well, those clear skies and sun didn't last too long. When I left home this afternoon, it was already overcast. By the time I got home, there was a steady rain falling down. It's over for now but it looks like there will be more of it for some part of tomorrow.

JJ was in pretty good form today. She did well with her Reported Speech. Outside, there was a larger-than-usual crowd in front of the doors of the Gatharia Mall. One of those balancing firethrowers was standing on a board which was on a rolling cylinder. He also had a good sense of humour; had the kids and parents in stitches. He ended his pyro act at a good time just about when the skies opened up.

Ended up just having Spam and rice for dinner tonight...along with some salad. Before you start feeling sorry for me, though, I'd like to say that Spam and rice are among my favourite dishes for dinner. Movie Buddy just cannot understand my love for this human dog food. I still went a little over the daily food allowance but I would've gone far over if I'd gone with my original plan of Taco Rice.

The telly was chock-filled with stuff tonight. NHK had one of its innumerable retrospective music hall specials inexplicably hosted by barely-out-of-her-teens binational tarento, Becky. But there were two oldtimers to balance the side, Shiro Ito and Rie Shibata. Usually I see the old Ito on his 7 p.m. quiz show, "I.Q. Sappuri" on Fuji-TV on Saturdays but that show was preempted by a 2-hour special. So he was pulling duty at NHK Hall. TV Asahi had a 2-hour special of that supernatural show called "Aura no Izumi" (The Fountain of Auras) which has Skippy's currently favourite mystic, the kimono-garbed Mr. Ehara, seemingly able to see differently-coloured auras around celeb guests. His sidekick is a middle-aged transvestite who's been on the TV for years. Tonight's guests were the actor son of Tokyo Giants legend, Shigeo Nagashima, a jazz pianist, and actress Ryoko Hirosue. And TV Tokyo had its usual 2-hour travel program with 2nd-string and 3rd-string TV personalities riding the trains everywhere to sample ekiben, train station boxed lunches. TBS had a documentary on the Super Doctors of the country showing how they handle their operations.

Then there was that NTV show which has various experts from the world of science, language, politics, you name it...coming on in front of a panel of tarento. One of tonight's guest lecturers was Shinichi Hoshino, the prototypically Japanese baseball manager, late of the Hanshin Tigers. His topic was on how to be a leader. Apparently, a few of the celebs there had been in certain situations with him in the past. One of them, actor Haruhiko (ahem) Kato was almost on the verge of tears expressing his love and respect for the so-called tough coach with the heart of gold. All of them listened in rapt attention to his speech on the need to balance sterness and affection when it comes to taking care of the team. He's definitely one of the old school managers and a guy who could probably split his admirers and detractors on cultural lines. A lot of the Japanese see him as the perfect Showa Era father... a guy who will give all his love for his kids but also know when to slap them up when they've screwed up. An American sports columnist for The Japan Times, I think by the name of Marty Kuenhert, made it plain to his readers though that he considers Hoshino to be little better than a gangster thug because of reports of him berating his players and even knocking them around. I could say that a lot of Westerners could feel the same way. As for me, I'm right on the fence since I literally have experienced both sides of it. However, I always get a little nervous when folks start treating their elders like gods, and when those gods start believing their own press. To his credit at least, Hoshino didn't act like one during his appearance. I would be interested in getting his insight when Team Japan goes up against the Korean team tomorrow at noon.

I've finished things up by watching "AdMatic Tengoku", the TV Tokyo program which does weekly focuses on various neighbourhoods in Tokyo and beyond. It's been a semi-regular show for me for several years. As with the other variety shows, there is a panel of celebs who have had some sort of connection with the area in question. Happily, they don't have that darned window showing their reactions when the video clips are running.

To continue on my TV kick, I caught a show late last night on NHK 3 (the network's educational channel) called "Weekend Japanology". There have been a few programs dedicated to the learning of the English language on NHK over the past few years but this was the first one that I've seen which didn't go into the teaching of English but just had an interview totally done in English with no hint of a lesson anywhere. In fact, in a reversal, viewers would have to go to their television's bilingual track to get the Japanese translation. Usually when I watch the news, I would have to do that to get my English. It's hosted by DJ Peter Barakan, who has often been considered a silent partner of the Yellow Magic Orchestra.

And speaking of the technopop legends, it looks like Ryuichi Sakamoto and some of his other colleagues have managed to score a hit in their bid to protest this soon-to-be enacted law that states that secondhand electrical goods (which include analog synthesizers) can no longer be sold unless they have a special inspection done which would cost an exorbitant amount of money. There was a 3-km march by a lot of young people (read: otaku) today through Akihabara to make the point. And apparently, the government has given in a bit by exempting some of those synths from the hit list. However, the customers aren't satisfied yet. I guess the protestors may have found some motivation from George Bush & Dubai World Ports vs. Congress & Lou Dobbs.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Saturday March 18, 11:21 a.m.

Unlike the windstorms of yesterday, today has been gorgeous so far. Clear blue skies, fairly warm outside and calm. So I've got the laundry drying out on the line and the futon airing out on the balcony railing like everybody else is doing. There's yet another new mid-rise condo going up a block over. I think development recently is starting to make my neighbourhood look a bit like Coruscant. And I pass by an empty lot daily on the way to the station which is just screaming "Build on me!"

I just finished prepping for JJ's lesson. Nothing too deadly for her although her confidence is a bit fragile. Just some some stuff on Reported Speech. I also gotta think about dinner tonight. Looks like it'll be Taco Rice again since I still have a jar two-thirds full of taco sauce.

I see that Larry King is back on (a)live. He's talking with Simon Cowell of "American Idol" fame. Never seen an episode of it, never caught onto it. Plus, regular folks doing very public karaoke in front of professional judges is old hat programming over here. President Jon Klein blasted back at some (like me) who think it's time to take the ol' boy out to pasture. He said it would be crazy to retire the King of Talk with his ratings. Usually when I hear that sort of praising rebuttal, something untowards happens. I'm staying tuned.

Another observation of Japanese TV culture. A lot of these variety shows have about 5-10 guest tarento who often have to sit quietly for minutes while watching videos. When I woke up this morning, I turned on the TV to see this weekly morning show hosted by female comedy duo Othello in which a video about the wonders of Quebec City was showing. While the video was running, there was a little window at the corner showing the reactions of the various tarento. I switched onto another variety show...the same thing was happening: little window with celebs oohing and aahing. It kinda reminded me of Graham Kerr's old show, "The Galloping Gourmet", when the camera would quickly get a shot of the audience members while Kerr lovingly enjoyed his latest culinary concoction. I'm not sure why the camera needs to focus on the passive reactions of tarento about some obscure topic. However, I do think that the TV personalities probably have to go through some sort of training early in their careers to try not to show boredom or disdain during the show. Perhaps there is an ad hoc school for these guys. So there are the mandatory courses such as "Camera Reactions 101", followed by "Effusive Praise at Restaurants" and "Fake Laughter".

The best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) alumnus from that last course would be Hiroshi Sekine. He's this veteran tarento with a penchant for doing impressions who has been on the tube for years and years without seeming to age (ah, he must've taken the special seminar taught by Lena Horne). In any case, he is probably one of the more prolific stars on TV. But whenever he laughs at some perceived attempt of humour, he doesn't just chuckle and politely smile (leave that to the professional thespians who have to occasionally appear on variety shows to shill their new dramas) but he just lets his jaw hit the floor and brays like a donkey. Perhaps he really is laughing but I don't think the jokes that started it are that funny. For those who are in Japan, you can catch him braying most often on that Sunday night show at 7 p.m. called "Sanma's Karakuri TV" hosted by Osakan comedian Akashiya Sanma.

However, the various other comedians also take that "Fake Laughter" or perhaps the more remedial "Exaggerated Laughter" to heart as well. It's obvious that techniques include braying like a donkey, flapping & clapping, and just standing & guffawing. And did I forget to mention the other course of "Fake Accusatory Behaviour"? Whenever a guest makes a joke at the expense of another guest, that second guest or guests immediately stand up belligerently and point and strut. The final exam consists of actually going up to the offending person and going into this face like an irate baseball manager does with the umpire.

All of these exaggerated gestures are a method to the madness. All of that behaviour would be considered (even now) as boorish in staid Japanese society. And usually we don't see that outside of drunken people and yakuza in Shimbashi or Kabukicho on a Friday night. But when the tired salarymen and harried housewives flop down in front of their TV sets, they don't wanna see fellow polite cogs on the tube; they wanna see outrageousness. In fact, I think TV assistant directors have taken celebs to task for not being overt enough during the filming of a program. It's definitely not fun n' games on the set....there's a studied hilarity on variety shows. As for the tired salarymen and harried housewives, that's why game shows hardly ever have their fellow schlubs on them. Professional entertainers are much better....even if they reap the huge cash rewards.

Probably the best example of a gradual transformation recently of entertainers becoming full-blown emotionally caricaturish tarento is none other than Morning Musume, the huge all-girl idol group. When the first of the girls landed on the TV almost a decade ago, they were just plain Jane singers back then. There was no need to work it up for the audience since all they did was just perform their latest release. However, as the girls have increased and made that slow change towards a ready-made tarento team, their personalities have become more and more outsized. Recently ousted Mari Yaguchi had been known as the loudest Musume but on seeing an old clip when she had just joined the group, she was virtually mute and was as far from being called outrageous as possible. And that's been true with the newer recruits as well. When they first show up, they come across as politely quiet deshi (apprentice) behind their sempai until they go through the training and develop their own TV personalities. Now, some of the alumna and even current members show up on the variety shows as themselves braying and clapping like the best of them.

On that note, class is dismissed.
Friday March 17, 10:00 p.m.

After getting that simulation of the first few scenes of "The Wizard of Oz" today. the winds finally died down. For the record, Tokyo and Chiba recorded the highest noted speeds for March at 32 m/s. After having checked the Tokyo Metro site for the umpteenth time and seeing the same notice, I decided to take the chance and went over to the station to see what was up. And when I got there, I found out that the trains were back running except for the very tail ends of the line. I'm not sure if the site was inept or if Tokyo Metro had decided to activate them while I was walking over. In any case, I was connected with the rest of the metropolis once more. I was able to contact The OL and let her know that the lesson was still on.

But perhaps it wouldn't have been a bad idea if the lesson had been canned. The OL looked pretty spent tonight after going through the wringer at work all week. She seemed rather out of it at times and spent several seconds looking for her pen at Starbucks and then for her train pass at Toranomon Station.

Well, I did say earlier this morning that Team Japan needed a miracle to get to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. And evidently, some deity heard me. When I got to Toranomon Station, I saw blurbs for the newspapers reading "Japan Heads for Semifinals! A Miracle!" Though I have yet to hear the full details on NHK, I think Mexico became our new international friends (sorry, Lou) by defeating the US 2-1. Manager Sadaharu Oh was sounding quite buoyant. I hope the team doesn't waste this gold-plated opportunity. And in a related aside, Japan is looking rather interestingly at Mexican beef after that little kerfuffle with the US.

And with the past few years solidly focused on the rise and fall of Citizen Horie, all of us could be forgiven if we had forgotten about Masayoshi Son, the entrepreneurial head honcho for Softbank. Well, he got back his limelight by buying out the Japanese unit of Vodafone for trillions of yen. Even with the conversion to US dollars, that's still a huge chunk of change Son just threw down.

The Satyr contacted me via chat. He just wanted to find out about what time we would be catching "Munich" on Sunday. Unfortunately, the theatres have this rather annoying habit of not showing the times for the weekend until the weekend is already here. However, I think the Picadilly in Shinjuku will still be showing it. We also had a talk about our MIA friend, Movie Buddy. It was half in jest, but the two of us wondered if ol' MB is in need of some intervention after falling in love with skiing and his PSP. I'm not sure if The Sylph will be of any help there since she also seems to be in thrall to the two hobbies. But on a serious note, I think MB is at a crossroads in his life here and it wouldn't surprise me if his appearances in my little world diminished further as time goes by. He did once tell me that he just couldn't see himself living the rest of his life in Japan. In any case, I think it'll just be the two of us. Skippy has already stated that she wouldn't be available for Sunday, and The Madame will also be a no-show. Speaking of the mystery woman, the two of us did re-schedule for Tuesday afternoon at the same place.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Friday March 17, 2:08 p.m.

I think I saw a few leprechauns fly through the air. Yep, the winds are still howling murder out there. I checked the Tokyo Metro bulletin site, and the Tozai Line is continuing to only run underground. Everything east of Toyocho Station is shut down. Not sure what this will mean for tonight's class with The OL. I may make one more stab at the station in a couple of hours and see if the line is back up and running.

So, instead of having a spicy lunch with a young woman of mystery in a Thai restaurant in Yurakucho, I just had a fried chicken konbini bento at home alone. Amazing how an increase in wind speed can wreck a social schedule. However, The Madame just sent me a message asking about the holiday Tuesday. Luckily, I'm open all day although I'm supposed to meet up with The Bohemian later on in the evening. She also asked about my plans to see the parentals. I'm not sure she would like the answer....I'm heading back for Xmas and I know she has issues with just the cold here in Tokyo. She wouldn't survive a Canadian winter.

Probably until I head out, I'll just listen to that CD of Sayaka Kushibiki that JJ had lent me last Saturday morning. I haven't been able to touch it this week and JJ wanted me to transcribe the words to "Jamaica Song", the cover of an old Booker T. Jones song. A bit of a tough nut to crack with that Japanese accent in there.
Friday March 17, 11:51 a.m.

Well, fancy me writing this at this time. With the memories of last summer's transit-crippling earthquake back to my fore, my subway line has been shut down. One of the weaknesses of the Tozai Line is that it has two main sections exposed to the elements. Unfortunately, my station is on one of those sections. But this time, it isn't a tremor but the high winds that have brought things to a standstill. In an eerie emulation of that quake in July, I was just about to take off when the alarm buzzer rang for a couple of minutes in the station. And I was seated on the subway for a few minutes when the long drone of announcements kept talking about the over-20 m/s gusts stopping all transit on the line. A bad feeling kept creeping up and the howling of the winds outside seemed to punctuate it. Finally, the news came in that anyone at the outside stations are just out of luck and would have to come up with alternatives to get into Tokyo.

I had bandied about the idea for a few seconds whether to take the taxi into town despite the fact that it would cost me more to get to Yurakucho than the price for my lunch. However, that idea died a quick death when I saw that the line at the taxi stands were already at rather ridiculous levels. I was and currently am stranded in my neighbourhood. However, I am far luckier this time than I was during that tremor-filled Saturday last year since I'm at home now instead of trapped elsewhere...for example, a train between stations. I'm sure there are a few of those out there right now with some fuming commuters. I would assume that those trains would somehow crawl to the nearest station but what if there were other trains trapped there? And even if the trains could disgorge them, the disgruntled hordes would still have to contend with the taxi stand and bus stop lineups. At least, I can just go around the corner and get myself a convenience store lunch. On the walk back home, the winds showed no sign of abating. In fact, they seemed to be strengthening in force.

I've sent my regrets to The Madame's cellphone. It was too bad she was already en route to Yurakucho but at least she could send a reply back understanding the situation. I sent a counter reply asking if she were open for Sunday, there wasn't a similarly quick response for that so I can assume that's a big no. I also sent word to The OL. I'm hoping that the winds will die down by her lesson time but just in case I'm sending the heads-up. I figure that if I don't get any good news by 5 p.m., it'll be a scratch. A pity, but it would signify that I've gotten my first totally free day in almost 2 weeks.

It seems like there is a miracle underway in Anaheim. Mexico is leading the States 2-1 in the World Baseball Classic. If Lou Dobbs' least favourite country can pull it off, Japan will get into the semis. That probably won't improve Ichiro's mood, though. He's the type that would rather get deeper into the playoffs without any flukey help.

Well, my stomach is starting to grumble. I would have liked to have seen The Madame again but as they say over here, sho ga nai.
Friday March 17, 9:32 a.m.

Well, it's been a windy start to St. Patrick's Day. Ever since last night, the gales have fully descended upon Tokyo. We might even be getting a light show later on today with some good ol' thunder and lightning. Ought to be rather entertaining over lunch with The Madame.

Currently watching Wolf Blitzer trying to drag some sort of straight talk from former Secretary of State Madelaine Albright on the topic of the current air assault in Iraq happening less than a day after Bush releases the new First Strike Option policy. She isn't even disguising the fact that she's hedging on the answer...just ends her evasiveness with "I support the military". I don't like that part about her but then again she could end up with a firestorm exploding in her face if she gave a direct answer. Speaking of firestorms, there was another article on TVNewser about CNN's penchant for repeating the same ol' feature over and over again.

I was rather tickled ironically on seeing on the CNN ticker that the Attorney General of New York has charged H & R Block, the go-to guys during tax time, with fraud. Well, I guess H & R really does know its way around the tax laws. There have been quite a few interesting tidbits just this morning on the news. William Shatner is gonna be hosting a special on how Star Trek has changed the world technologically. No doubt, thanks to Shatner and his iconic show, we now have cellphones, advanced medical equipment and hammy acting. Straight-to-video films and soap operas ought to be sending in their petitions for declaring "William Shatner Day" anytime now. Also, at the same time that the repeat of Macauley Culkin's hyper interview is being shown on Larry King in a couple of hours, his first novel has been reviewed on CNN's website....horribly.

The only thing to report from this side of the Pacific is that a white knight has shown up to help Fuji TV divest itself of its Livedoor albatross. Yasuhide Ono, the president of Usen (a cable broadcasting company), has decided to buy the network's stake in the beleaguered company to the tune of 9.5 billion yen. Fuji TV escapes but at a loss of 35 billion yen...ouch! I wouldn't be surprised if there were an imminent retirement at the top pretty soon. And huzzah! Mr. Horie is finally starting to fess up about some of his malfeasances.
Thursday March 16, 10:54 p.m.

We're getting hit with some major rain right now and it looks like it's gonna get worse into tomorrow. The thunder will be rolling in as well according to those cute little pictures of thunder demons on the NHK weather map. And I'm supposed to be meeting up with The Madame for lunch in Yurakucho.

Well, after that kerfuffle with The Denmother's kid cancelling out suddenly, I got a call from The Denmother herself since I didn't respond to the kid's e-mail quickly enough. It was a very brief call...almost as if she didn't wanna spend too much time explaining about her son's sudden illness.

Luckily, I had The Teacher for her lesson at the cafe. Since we met at 1 p.m., there was a fair number of people there but by the time we got out at 2:30, we were the only ones there, so it was a bit of a reversal of the usual situation. It looks like she may become a floater on my schedule from now on since she has her new job. That won't be too bad for least, I'll see her sometime during the week instead of just having her give up a week.

Afterwards, I headed out to Maruzen to find a text for B2. I spent quite a bit of time perusing the various books on the shelves. The highest level for Business English texts seems to be just Upper-Intermediate which narrowed my choices quite a bit. She found the highest text I had, an Intermediate level, to be a bit easy. Well, I got her something fairly nifty, I thought. It has a potpourri of conversations, discussions and vocabulary to munch on.

Making the purchase, I went down to B1 and had lupper at Com Pho, that small Vietnamese eatery. I hadn't been there so far this year so it was nice to have that warm bowl of sesame pho. And since it was around 4:30, the place only had one other consumer unlike some of the other times in which I had to squeeze myself into a slot.

Then, it was up to the Mitsukoshimae Starbucks, my 3rd Starbucks on my regular English-teaching route. I spent a couple of hours there before B2 and B2B showed up. I still can't get quite a handle on wasn't so much B2B who stayed mostly silent, taking in the stop-start conversation. Even with the photocopy of the new text for her, I couldn't really tell if she enjoyed it or not. Her reading speed isn't exactly up to speed and she had quite a few vocab questions for a lady who had spent 2 years in London. Although B2 is quite a vivacious young lady, her responses in class remind me of those of 004, that considerably more quieter erstwhile student at Speedy's. Strangely enough, 004 had also spent a couple of years in jolly ol' England. I wonder if it's a British cultural thing that transplants this reticence onto Japanese students of English. In any case, she seemed to lighten up only when we got off the book and into other stuff. Maybe she'll just be happy just chatting and picking up vocab. Still, she did ask for a Business English lesson so I'm getting her a text. Again, I'm not sure if she and her boyfriend will be keepers and I won't be able to see them for about 3 weeks. During that time, she could just as easily send me an e-mail to drop me. Nice enough lady but I wouldn't be too distraught if she decided not to use my services anymore.

During the dying minutes of the lesson, she and her guy told me that they've been giving their Nintendo DS' a good workout. they were able to buy them. And Movie Buddy and Samwise have been raving about their time on the Playstation Portables. Man, if adults in their 30s can get trapped by these little contraptions, the youth of Japan will not survive. As for me, I left my Playstation One in the closet years ago gathering dust.

TVNewser's latest article points out the point that I've made about CNN repeating some stories over and over. It looks like the fave feature on the cable channel has been that story on car chases. I've only seen it once but I was surprised to find out that it's had a long run on the various news shows. Apparently, the president has gone on the record to say that these stories need to be repeated since the average viewer supposedly watches CNN an average of 4-6 minutes a time so that he/she is probably not noticing the heavy rotation. Well, I certainly have and apparently so have many others. Jon Klein should leave this rotation approach to MTV. Speaking of CNN, I notice that it's just been repeats of Larry King all this week. We're getting that Macauley Culkin interview tomorrow....I think since that little chat between King and Culkin, the latter has gotten himself into detox again. Hmmm....I wonder if ol' King is doing OK. And one more it just me or is Miles O'Brien sounding increasingly flip whenever he opens his mouth? Good heavens, and tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day...what will he and Soledad be doing on the show then? Over here, all the pubs will be celebrating the green day.

It looks like the curse of the Turin Olympics has seeped into the World Baseball Classic as far as Japan is concerned. The team consisting of manager Sadaharu Oh and national legend Ichiro has just not been doing well at all. Today, the team got edged out by South Korea in Anaheim 2-1, never a happy result. Now, the only way that Team Japan will be able to get into the semis is if America loses to Mexico by more than 2 runs. In other words, it will take a miracle. Ichiro looked about as low as I've ever seen him. A TV clip showed him saying that this was the most humiliating day in his career and then he just stood there before he slinked off into the shadows. Quite an Emmy-winning performance...I guess his little stint on "Ninzaburo Furuhata" really rubbed off on him.

And there is another new Japanese international airport. After Kobe, Nagoya and Osaka, the latest city to hit the friendly skies is Kita Kyushu. Pretty soon, you're gonna have skies just as clogged as the Tokyo streets.

Well, time to hit the shower....after today, I need to wind down. Thankfully, I've got a pretty quiet day schedule-wise tomorrow but meterologically, it could be pretty hairy.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Thursday March 16, 7:58 a.m.

As soon as I saw the name on the e-mail inbox, I knew what the message was gonna be. The Denmother's kid sent a letter in saying that he couldn't make it today so today's lesson is a wash. He did mention a 38 C fever. Well, I can't actually accuse him of lying, but I think with him standing me up a couple of weeks ago for a stomachache, his bailout today and then the fact that I haven't had a great vibe from him is starting to make me think that I'm gonna have to red-flag him. I'm starting to think that he really doesn't have the yaruki for this sort of thing, and his mother did say that to me the other day in his other encounters with tutors. There really hasn't been any damage outside of the fact that he has canned me twice in the four times we've met (50% attendance in the first few lessons of a private tutorial isn't cause for celebrating), but it's the fact that he asked ME for help. A couple of assumptions come to mind here (and yes, I know about the faux caveat of making assumptions...I've seen that "Odd Couple" episode): either the kid didn't think things through enough when it came to his schedule or he's starting to feel a little edgy about the two times that we've met and is thinking that this isn't his cup of tea. I'm starting to head into that line of thought myself. I won't answer his latest cancellation; I want to see how he perceives my cold shoulder.

But before I start going to "victim" mode once more, I have to admit that I didn't particularly show my best stuff last Thursday either to him. It was my very first purely Writing lesson for a student so it was also a case of experimenting for me. In retrospect, I should have gotten him to do something right from the get-go instead of just keeping it to consultation.

In any case, I figure that I'll give him one more chance. If he pulls off another cancellation, I'll drop him....not that it would have any major significance anyways; the contract was for just this month. And then, there's the unusual case of B2 and B2B. I'm also not too optimistic about that couple. Thursdays are certainly not looking like a fun time of my week. For all those who read this...forgive me, but I do use my blog to write out all my feelings.

The knives are out for Larry King. Well, at least from one source anyways. This time, The Wall Street Journal has inquired about King's professional abilities not his physical health, although the latter, of course, affects the former. The reporter didn't say anything particularly new since it's been well known that the guy behind the old-fashioned mike has never come up to the Mike Wallace or Edward R. Murrow level of journalism. He's just a softballer who keeps the guests and the middle-aged viewers happy. What was new was that he said that Larry's show is the highest-rated show for the entire network. Good golly...I always seem to cringe whenever I see the commercials for Larry's upcoming shows. A treacly voice says these just-as-treacly plaudits about Tammy Faye Messner, Liza Minnelli, the cast of Roseanne and other celebs who haven't really made much news for the past decade. What was also telling was the way the reporter took a swipe at the bracketing shows: Paula Zahn and Anderson Cooper. To paraphrase, when comparing the two hosts to Larry, Zahn and Cooper come off as being the finest PBS broadcasters. Ouch! I also have to admit that I have a beef against Zahn and Cooper for repeating the same features (do I really want to see the horrors of nail salons again?). With Lou Dobbs on his very unbiased crusade and Wolf Blitzer struggling through "The Situation Room", it doesn't sound like CNN's American prime-time lineup is must-see TV.

Japanese TV journalism also doesn't have a Murrow or Cronkite or Wallace. I think it's just not part of the culture here. Media and government (which has its fingers in a lot of corporations) share a cozy bed daily via the kisha kaiken (the press clubs). The big heroes on the news programs such as Hiroshi Kume, late of the late "News Station", and Tetsuya Chikushi of TBS usually just give their stentorian take on the day's big stories and don't particularly get involved in the hit-the-streets reporting stuff, although they have interviewed the big guys...I'm not sure if either of them have ever been all that hard-hitting. However, for its defense, we've been getting a lot of details on the Livedoor scandals and that little kerfuffle involving disgraced MP Hisaya Nagata. Maybe there is hope here after all...

My hay fever is acting up again...
Wednesday March 15, 10:49 p.m.

My hay fever was starting to act up something awful so I took my second-last batch of medicine a couple of hours before leaving for work. But seeing that I didn't have enough of the pills for another dosage, I stopped off at the drug store across from the station for a refill. I always like going to that drug store, one of many that are located throughout my neigbourhood, because it is the only one where the cold medicine can be accessed without me having to use my Japanese to ask for it. At the other places, the medicine is always placed behind the cash counter so it shares the same status as film and cigarettes in Western convenience stores.

However, this time I just dawdled too long at the shelf trying to find the damned packet that I usually buy so a young druggist immediately bounded to my rescue asking if she could help out. I just asked for the usual hay fever medicine and then the manager bounded over and gave me the spiel about its effectiveness and when to take it. And then I mistakenly said "Hai!" when he asked me if I would be willing to take a dose immediately (I've been conditioned to answer in the affirmative anytime I'm asked anything in a store...makes the process go faster). Sure enough, he gave the 3 pills and a small cup of hot water...I guess to make the pills dissolve faster. I gotta admit that the service was excellent there if a tad overenthusiastic for my blood. I was a bit worried that I would go into a seizure since it had only been a few hours since I took the first batch. So I just went to my local Subways and loaded up on the sub and fries to lessen any potential overdose. As it turned out, there was no problem.

001 finally showed up after an absence of 3 weeks. I kinda rode her a bit when she came into the school by pretending to have trouble remembering her name. She got a bit of a laugh out of that. In fact, it was back to the old familiar laugh-a-minute lesson and I think she really had been looking forward to it since she had a couple of weeks of fairly intense activity at work since she got transferred to another section in her company at the end of February. Before the transfer though, she had a great time skiing in the hills of probably loosened her enough to handle the stress of the transfer. Of course, she was very happy about her idol, George Clooney, getting Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. We're just about a couple of pages away from finishing the textbook after nearly a year so next week will probably be her big test.

Before class, I was able to get some concrete plans for B2 and The Denmother's kid . B2 hasn't made it easy for me though by replying so late about which text she wants to use. In fact, she would like me to get something more difficult than anything that I'd given her a couple of weeks ago. Well, she's asked for it. I'm gonna scourge through the bookshelves at Maruzen after The Teacher's class for something high-end. Again, I'm not totally confident that this gig will work out so I figure that if things don't work out by the 3rd class, I'll quietly let her know that I'll terminate the contract.

The Madame has changed her mind about the meeting place for Friday's lunch since she came to the realization that none of the little eateries in the basement of the Tokyo International Forum really passes muster with her. Hmmm...there was that wafu place that me and that former student-turned-ground hostess had gone to some months ago there which was pretty good. Maybe it's not open for lunch. In any case, she's surprisingly requested COCA, the Thai restaurant up at the top of the Yurakucho Bic Camera where we had restarted our relationship almost a year previously. Surprising, since her tolerance for spicy food there was minimal. She replied that it was really just the spicy salad back then that had her tongue begging for water. Well, the place is still Thai so I'm frankly not sure if too many of the other dishes will be all that mild either. Plus it is noon that we're meeting. Will we have to wait several minutes to get in?

I see that Sadaam Hussein is back to his haranguing ways at his trial necessitating the ouster of the journalists. I'm kinda hoping that he would follow the example of his fellow dictator Slobodan Milosevic. In a way, it would be seen as an escape from justice but at this point, I think a lot of us wouldn't mind too much if he got a bit tired of life.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Wednesday March 15, 9:12 a.m.

It is the Ides of March, and though I'm thankful I'm not in Caesar's shoes (or sandals, as it were) today, my eyes feel like they've been given a vinegar bath. My nose apparently had visions of Jimmy Durante grandeur when I first got up but the congestion has subsided for now.

I was checking the CNN website when I came across some of these bizarre headlines that would be laughable if they weren't true. "Miss Deaf Texas Struck by Train, Killed", "Serial Killer, Students at Spring Break". They sound as if they came straight from The Onion.

It's still pretty chilly out there although the temps are supposed to head up to 13 C. Nope, not the heady levels of Sunday but I'll take that and sun over anything we got the last couple of days.

I haven't done one of my insights on Japanese culture and society for a while. This morning, I'd like to relate the fact that over here, someone seems to know Someone (and that's not a typo with the capital S). That is to say, there seems to be a greater likelihood for a resident here to know someone famous whether they be a politician, a singer or a tarento. Or at the very least, there is someone who knows someone who knows Someone. Not a 6 Degrees of Separation thing but more of just two degrees. I'm not sure whether it's because the land mass of Japan is such that contact with celebs is an inevitability or there are just more celebs per capita than anywhere in the world. Back home in the Great White North, I certainly wasn't on buddy-buddy terms with any of the rich and famous nor did I know anyone who was in that vaunted position. It's safe to say that the majority of my fellow citizens there and in the States are in the same boat. It's hard to imagine anyone in Lebanon, Nebraska or Kincardine, Ontario rubbing elbows with the hoi polloi. The Hollywood crowd are these folks that appear on the screens and not in real life.

But in Japan, and especially in Tokyo and Osaka, there seems to be this familiarity between the famous and regular folk that transcends the odd celebrity sighting in front of a swanky eatery or a movie opening in Roppongi Hills. And I've been witness to this (from my solidly second-degree position) for years. Cases in point: several years ago, I was having dinner with a single Chip Guy and a rather fecklessly wealthy acquaintance in a Hibiya izakaya one night when he receives a call on his cell from 90s Taiwanese actress-turned-Japanese tarento-transplant, Vivian Hsu; they'd been classmates at a local driving school. Skippy teaches the child of a tarento weekly...the three of them have often gone to movies together. a former student is an old classmate of an R&B diva. And of course, The Class Act meet all sorts of celebs fairly regularly. But all of those people (the regulars, that is) didn't or don't talk of their famous acquaintances in hushed tones of awe or in loud voices of braggadocio. They just refer to them as just plain folks. After all, before they (the celebs, that is) attained their more public status, they had been fellow students or young people who were struggling to make their way through life like any of us still do. But perhaps the difference here between life in the Big Sushi and life in Tinseltown is that the local celebs (with the exceptions of only the biggest stars) are still given some of their old privacy. When Skippy told me about her movie outings with that tarento and her kid, a number of the surrounding people did acknowledge that there was a celeb in their midst but didn't particularly go nuts or charge into the trio demanding autographs or photo ops. Just some polite whispering and acknowledging nods. No need for security entourages or floppy hats.

I gather that might be one of the hidden benefits of being a tarento. A tarento is seen ad nauseum all over the tube to such an extent that he/she attains the level of being just part of the household furniture. Kinda like seeing an on-the-street reporter for a local TV station going shopping. We only see the Hollywood types perhaps once in a while or perhaps only in their movies so naturally the regulars get very excited. I can just keep the TV on all week focusing on one tarento and I could potentially see him/her everyday. So, actually seeing him/her in the flesh somewhere in Shinjuku wouldn't raise red flags necessarily. But then that's just sighting. I am talking about knowing the celeb as a buddy or acquaintance. It happens with a lot more regularity here. So, does that mean that the urban Japanese, at least, have become totally jaded with celebdom? Not at all. As I hinted at earlier, the really big stars still get the ogling and rubbernecking treatment, and the teen idols still create mob scenes of ecstatic kids. For instance, I was glad that I wasn't teaching in Shibuya yesterday since the boygroup W-inds decided to drop in on the teen Mecca and basically hijacked traffic in the already-swollen intersections.

And of course, whenever the Clooneys, the Pitts and the Willis' make their way across the Pacific, there is just as much frenetic snapping of photos on the cells as there would be in America. I don't think I could ever imagine a local Japanese becoming bosom buddies with one of those guys.

Maybe someday a celeb may end up on my doorstep as a student although I doubt it. But even if I'm that lucky, I probably would never start bowing or calling him/her "Sir!" or "Madame" or "My liege". It'll probably be more like "Do you wanna grab something at McDs?"
Tuesday March 14, 11:27 p.m.

And then there was one. From an originally scheduled four lessons for tomorrow, I've been whittled down to a lone class at Speedy's...namely 001. The Denmother's kid canned out ostensibly for his part-time job, The Teacher has also got one of those now, and I just got a call from the boss himself telling me that 006 has once again cancelled her lesson due to the demands of her job at The Tokyo Stock Exchange. Such is life. With my bad luck, 001 will probably say that she's being kept in the lab.

I had a pretty fierce but brief sneezing and tearing fit during the juku boss' lesson tonight. Guess there was an extra large concentration of pollen in the room or that juku cat's fur was affecting me. Since his Bob Barker treatment a month ago, he's been getting giddily playful with anything: my fingers, my bag, my texts. I've got a few scratches and bites on my right hand to prove it as well. With the boss, I was able to sneak in a bit of TOEIC Listening practice with her; she wasn't too bad although she needed another pass at the section to get most of the pictures right. But at least, I was actually able to get something substantial done. And in fact, I'm now able to slate in a full 2-hour class with her on Friday mornings starting from next week at her request since she's got a new student coming in from next, next Tuesday night. Plus, she said she's been trying to get that new housewife class going...I think Friday afternoon would be just the time slot for them.

It was just The Milds tonight since McGirl apparently had another concert in Shibuya to attend. Too bad since I got her a White Day box of chocolates for her. In fact, Mrs Mild also got her and me (despite the fact that the tradition calls for man-to-woman reciprocation) some strawberry chocolate truffles. We both left our alms to the girl to the juku boss so that somehow she can come and pick up her booty. As for The Siberian, our supposed 90-minute class was just the 1-hour since he apparently had to head out to his own juku for something. I kinda think that maybe he just didn't want to handle 90 minutes.

Getting home tonight, I got word from Mrs Perth of The Beehive that she'd seen the website for all those old TV themes. She was rattling off those old shows like "Petticoat Junction" and "The Beverly Hillbillies" like a wizened executive from CBS. I oughta introduce her to SIL someday. I also got a note from B2 stating that one of the texts I'd suggested would be fine for her; a bit surprised since I was fully expecting her to dump me. Well, I'm still gonna see if I can find something useful for her at Maruzen tomorrow afternoon before I hit the school. The Madame got back to me about Friday. Looks like she's interested in trying out one of the restaurants in the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho. Good enough for me. And I sent word to all those affected about my upcoming trip to Korea next month.

Just before I headed out to the juku tonight, there was a Part 2 to a Bruce Willis "Biography" in which stars from Meryl Streep to Paul Newman to Melanie Griffith were just covering Bruno in all sorts of praise. You'd think that he was Olivier or something. Certainly not after "Hudson Hawk".

I can't believe how cold it's been tonight. And after such a balmy day on Sunday. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few more flakes coming down in the wee hours. Well, at least I can sleep in a bit. But my nose and eyes are watering up again.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Tuesday March 14, 2:55 p.m.

Well, after some weeks of calculating, filling out and waiting for mail, I finally got my taxes and the rent issue out of the way this afternoon. My wait at the Tax Office took only about 5 minutes and change before I got my final receipt. Now, between today and next year, I've gotta save up a ton of money. I got on that long-term project right away by depositing about 10% of what I had to pay today into the account.

After I unloaded my yen, I decided to go for some comfort food just under the station. Nope, I didn't hit the Chip Star. I went something more substantial...I had my hire tonkatsu lunch at the neighbourhood Tonki. For a nice slab of deep-fried lean pork cutlet, tons of cabbage, miso soup, pickles and rice, it cost me 1300 yen...not too bad and it'll all hold me for the rest of the day.

Afterwards, I just picked up some more White Day goodies for the juku folks tonight. All I wanna do is just relax but I gotta get busy on those lesson plans. Maybe I'll even get a bit of ironing done before I head on back out tonight.
Tuesday March 14, 7:31 a.m.

Back up and running after a cup of coffee and a couple of cake doughnuts. My shoulders feel like granite although my nose is behaving itself so far despite the high concentration of dust particles I've seen floating in the air.

And now for the Republican response or at least a disgruntled one...TVNewser picked up an article from Jon Friedman concerning the victorious Lou Dobbs over the failure of the Dubai World Ports deal. The gist of his somewhat florid and snobbily sarcastic piece basically criticized Dobbs for being overly high-handed and unbiased in his soapbox ranting and raving. I would've given Friedman's opinion a bit more respect (at times, I have wondered if Dobbs was going over the line professionally on-air, but the man himself unrepentantly declared that the term "fair and unbiased" is a bunch of bullhockey...which pretty much lays the argument at rest) if it hadn't been for the faux-erudite approach to his writing.

Back to more mundane stuff, The Teacher has agreed to the new, new shift in day to Thursdays after The Denmother's kid. She's a little worried about how crowded the cafe might get at 1 o'clock but I think there will still be some space left.

Today is indeed White Day...exactly one month after Valentine's Day. So, it's time for the men to get back at the women for all those chocolates. I'm gonna have to grab as much as of them as I can by the end of today. Those little boxes at the supermarkets and convenience stores clear out pretty quickly right after the 14th. Just gotta get boxes for the juku ladies and Speedy's wife...obligation chocolate, of course.
Monday March 13, 10:51 p.m. was 18 C yesterday and today, there were reports of snow...little bits of it only but snow nonetheless. And it was just darn cold. Strangely enough, much of Japan is gonna be hit with the white stuff yet again but once again Tokyo will be spared the worst of it.

Looks like we've got a date for that "school trip" with The Class Act. We'll be heading out on April 13 for Seoul for a night of gourmet delights. I'll probably keep mum about the trip to everyone except for those directly affected such as The OL, since I want to keep my souvenir expenses to a bare minimum. At this point, the only ones who will know are The OL and the Speedy gang. I picked up another round of White Day chocolates for The Beehive at Kinokuniya Supermarket during lunch break.

That much vaunted model lesson at Speedy's was so-so in my estimation. The koto player was nice enough although quite low. I'm still having some problems adjusting to Speedy's version of a model lesson. However, Speedy insisted that I did do a good job and that the student was happy with the way I did things. Well, that's their collective opinion. In any case, she won't be on my slate since at her level and type of shy personality, she would be better in a group lesson on Fridays. However, The Part-Timer had a good lesson which slightly buoyed my spirits back up. She had actually come back from Osaka earlier this morning on the overnight bus after a whole day at Universal Studios Japan. No hotel...just overnighting on the bus there and back. Pretty tough way to travel, remembering GC's former pilgrimages here. She even got me and Speedy souvenirs. Very magnanimous of her.

Looks like my busier schedule is suddenly getting less frenetic...unfortunately. The Denmother's kid called in to say that he won't be able to come for Wednesday since his new boss told him to handle the shift on that day. Then, The Teacher told me that the new Wednesday slots will no longer be possible since she has also got a new job on that day and Fridays. I've offered her Thursday afternoons although I don't know how she'll react to those. In any case, this coming Wednesday will be quite empty except for my regular shift at Speedy. And I am hoping that 001 and 006 actually do show up. I've always taken things a little personally when students cancel out, especially those who haven't earned their trust with me yet. After seeing the exodus of folks such as 005 and MK, I am getting more and more distrustful (warranted or not) of students who decide to fly the coop, so you'll forgive me if I don't feel particularly trusting towards The Denmother's kid or 006 right now and I'm not totally certain of B2 either. My feeling is that I will know from the first meeting if this is gonna work or not. I didn't get a great vibe from B2 or B2B at that first consultation or even at the first lesson. And the Denmother's kid was also a big question mark the other day. I think unless I get a different reaction from them, I'm gonna assume that this will probably be just a March thing with them and move on.

However, before I feel totally paranoid and self-pitying like a good little misanthrope (BTW, whatever happened to Chip Guy? Not since I threw the threat of The Bohemian last week, have I heard anything from him), there are other more pathetic figures. Such as the 41-year-old taxi driver who had invested 20 million yen of his hard-earned money into Livedoor stocks only to see it go up in smoke tonight after hearing that the company will be delisted due to former president Takafumi Horie's little antics. There was a camera pointed right at the poor driver in the cab at 8 p.m. tonight as the news told of the delisting. It was truly sad to see the tears well up in his eyes. He had wanted to buy a house with those hoped-for windfalls but I think he'll be just lucky to keep the apartment he has. As for Horie, he's still enjoying his paradise in prison and has gotten used to whiling away the time by reading history books...maybe Napoleon, perhaps. He still denies any wrongdoing. Perhaps in a way, he feels quite safe in his little home since he would have to face the wrath of shareholders if he were released tomorrow.

Shizuka Arakawa was on SMAP X SMAP tonight sampling the delights of whatever Takuya, Shingo, Tsuyoshi and Goro cooked up. Seeing her talk candidly with leader Nakai-kun, I got the definite feeling that she doesn't suffer fools gladly and that she would make a pretty formidable coach someday. Speaking of the Olympics, the Paralympics have been a great one for the Japanese team there unlike their Olympic counterparts. The athletes have been racking up the medals.

It looks like another Chinese woman has gotten into another tale of larceny in Japan, just like that first Chinese woman who has been charged with killing two kids in her car some weeks ago. The case this time though is a bit more film noirish. This naturalized Japanese citizen was arrested for allegedly attempting to kill her husband with an insulin shot; said hubby is now lying in a vegetative state in hospital. And this was just after the man had been released from intensive care after having been burned all over his body thanks to his wife throwing boiling water at him. Plus, there's the unsolved case of his parents' possible murders a decade ago when their house was burned down.

Well, I've gotta pay my taxes now. I'm a bit more ready to face the piper now than I was back on Friday.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Monday March 13, 8:31 a.m.

I've already hit the ground running this morning. I've had to catch up on my lesson planning since I didn't bother doing it last night...something about having a big bowl of Tom Yan Kung ramen and a Sacher Torte in sucession that tends to dull one's brain. Luckily, most of my lessons are kinda automatic (not a professional thing to say, I know, but it's also a compliment on The Class Act and SIL). I've also got that model lesson for the koto player squeezed in between my rush from Shibuya and The Part-Timer's class at 6:30. I'm not too, too worried about the model lesson since it's one that I've used for years. Plus, there's the usual housekeeping stuff such as doing the laundry.

I've also sent word to B2 about this Thursday. I remember she didn't look too happy at the conclusion of the first lesson but then again, I think she and The Ballerina (also rather moody at times) are cut from the same cloth. Anyways, I asked her if she were OK with any of the textbook photocopies. Then, I sent a congratulatory postcard to SR just in case the baby did arrive over the weekend. Plus, I untangled a slight misunderstanding over pay with The Denmother. No worries. However, I may be doing a bit of running even during the break between The Class Act and SIL since I have to get some White Day goodies for the Beehive tomorrow.

Shizuka Arakawa certainly has hit the big time. She's appearing on an episode of SMAP X SMAP tonight...notably the Bistro Smap segment in which she requests a dinner using a certain beloved ingredient which the boys dutifully use in their dishes. Leader Masahiro Nakai just as dutifully will look in awe at the Gold medal that Arakawa brought back from Turin. Speaking of the skater, during our chat at the Takadanobaba Starbucks last night, Skippy related from her gabby chiropractor that he's been getting an overload of patients recently who have needed his services due to a little overenthusiasm trying to emulate Arakawa doing her Inabauer technique. At this rate, she may have to make a public plea for some common sense and some stretching before exercise.

Off to the races....
Sunday March 12, 11:39 p.m.

Well, the temps certainly were fickle today. The afternoon had us basking in warm if blustery weather. Then on the way home tonight, somebody pulled out the mat from the thermometer. It was downright freezing by the time I reached home 30 minutes ago.

Today was one of those spend-it-all free-for-alls. But a little splurging with good friends is not always a bad thing. First off, I did have my breakfast at McDs across from my station this morning. Nice to have the Egg & Sausage McMuffin with Hotcakes and Hash Browns. Then it was off to see the kids at the early time of 9 a.m. I thought I would be facing some rather snarly faces from the Elder and the Junior but the Elder was in surprisingly good humour for such an early hour on a Sunday. I think it was mostly because after her one hour with me, she was headed out to meet her buddies in Harajuku. Mind you, she didn't do her homework despite the fact that she'd had 3 weeks to do so but I'm just her lowly tutor...not her mother. The Junior was fine although she did refer to her mother as a devil...ugh, that's harsh but not surprising considering she's entering the emotional roller coaster known as adolescence. She also referred to her sister in writing as selfish. The mother caught the comment on the piece of paper and heartily agreed. Apparently, the Elder has become a bit of the black sheep of the family because of her perceived arrogance. But me worry? I just teach there.

I had several hours between the kids and the movie so I spent some of them going through Shinjuku. I had to fight through the huge gale force winds that were blowing debris and people all about in the wind tunnels formed by the high-rises. I managed to navigate my way to Kinokuniya where I picked up an easy reader for The Denmother's kid on Wednesday. I also have to think about what to do with B2 on Thursday. She's still not gotten back to me about her opinion on those various photocopies I'd given her.

Since White Day is almost here, I spent a good deal of time burrowing through the basement floors of Mitsukoshi and Isetan for chocolates for The Class Act and The Tulip. The food floors were packed with folks trying to buy and send off boxes of confections. I also had to send a thank-you gift for my uncle for signing the renewal lease. I ended up sending him a box of Yoku Moku Cigar Cookies. Then, I got a couple of small boxes of cookies for The Lady and The Matron. I definitely spent some dough on those things.

I decided to spend about 40 minutes up on the rooftop of Mitsukoshi. I figured that if the Ginza branch had a rooftop lounge, then in all likelihood, the Shinjuku branch would have one, too. And sure enough, there was a smaller outdoor area with benches. There was also a Futsal yard in which combined teams of men and women were gleefully playing the modified version of soccer.

Afterwards, I headed off to the Wendys next to the theatre where I would be seeing "Narnia" with Skippy and The Satryr for a bit of lunch. It wasn't too crowded there at about 2:30. I guess that most of the people had already gone into the theatres. I didn't see the familiar figure of the Clown ambling through. I guess his presence is more of a noontime thing.

I waited another 20 minutes outside of Wendys until The Satryr showed up first and then Skippy. Skippy has been her usual happy self. It's nice to see that at least someone is enjoying her life. We were surprised to see that "Munich" after being out since the beginning of February was standing room only. I guess the Oscars must've given it more of a boost. The Satyr had seen "Crash", the winner for Best Movie, and he (plus many others) thought it wasn't worth the award.

As for "Narnia", I just felt that it was more of "Lord of the Rings" lite for the kiddie generation. I mean, it wasn't a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination but I really couldn't rid myself of a cynical smirk at watching this oh-so-very British production. Despite the fact that original source material had been published over 50 years ago, the movie liberally took cues from its larger epic siblings: "Star Wars", "Harry Potter" and the aforementioned "Lord of the Rings". In fact, during the final coronation scene, I was just waiting for the droids to pop up and John Williams' triumphant Jedi score to blaze us out. I did think that the black sheep brother, Edmund, was well cast since his face reminded me of that of Malcolm McDowell as the usual rogue. And the Star Wars influence was still there in the voice of Qui-Gon, I mean, Liam Neeson as Aslan. I expected the lion to mention something about midichlorians during his speech. There were also a couple of scenes early in the movie that uncomfortably reminded me of something almost pedophilic when Mr. Tumnus invited the littlest sibling over for tea and then the evil Queen started seducing Edmund. All in all, it wasn't a bad way to spend a couple of hours but I won't be getting the DVD anytime soon.

After the flick, the three of us headed on out to the Waseda area. We were heading for that curry place that Skippy had introduced me to during the Holidays. But it was closed so we had to walk a further 15 minutes to find the alternate, a ramen place called Tinun which is Thai in nature and serves up a mighty spicy bowl of Tom Yun Kung Ramen. We got a pretty good deal there, too. For 1500 yen (which included a mug of beer), we got the ramen, plus three small fresh spring rolls and a small bowl of spicy ground meat on rice. The three of us were getting quite sweaty at the counter. I tell ya...Skippy should be writing a book on her knowledge of restaurants.

Our final stop was a Starbucks near Takadanobaba Station. Despite the spiciness of the ramen, the winds quickly sapped us of all the heat generated during our walk there. After all we ate at Tinun, I was still insane enough to get a Caffe Latte and a Sacher Torte. Luckily, The Satyr and Skippy helped me out a bit on the rich dessert. Skippy regaled us on her relationship with her little kiddie student and her famous tarento Mom. Apparently, her chiropractor is more than willing to break the doctor-patient confidence agreement and blab to her all about his famous patients. Over here, in Japan, it's not all that common but it's certainly more probable than in the States that people eventually get to know tarento or other folks in Japanese show biz. The only other exciting bit was that there was a young couple who were doing some lovey-dovey stuff to each other (all PG rated, though).

Got home to get a message from The Madame. Looks like she's all ready for our lunch on Friday. Well, I've still gotta calculate the damage done to my wallet today because of White Day. But I can deduct those costs from my taxes next year as student expenses.