Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Wednesday April 26, 9:06 p.m.

Well, got finished with another class with 001. It was another rousing affair. I could sure use more students like her. Quite a bit different than my time with The New Yorker. It was her first time seeing me in about a month, and unfortunately, the absence didn't do her any good. She wasn't exactly a tabula rasa but her comprehension and accuracy have degraded to a good degree. Kinda too bad since she gave me a nice souvenir in the form of a 3-section notebook and some Reese's Pieces from Guam. Once again, she wasn't too impressed with the island; she was similarly unimpressed with Seoul. Nothing to do, she says. Pretty tough critic, but when you're called The New Yorker...

The Madame has cancelled our meeting for Friday due to a fever. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise. I won't have to go out for anything...just keep it to the neighbourhood. Plus, I figure that I have those essays to mark from BULATS. With the deadline and the way the weekend is shaping up, I'm just gonna have a day to mark all 40 of them.

It looks like Speedy and his wife are getting closer to signing on the burger tour to Baker Bounce on Sunday. We were all salivating at the pics on the website but Speedy discovered several spelling errors. Humburgers, anyone? I think that Ebenezer Scrooge would make one excellent spokesperson for the shop.

Well, it looks like I won't be logging on again for a few days unless my computer manages to come out of its coma.
Wednesday April 26, 4:41 p.m.

I may have to be writing my computer's elegy. My aging SOTEC is 4 years old (that would be 80 human years), and after several months of frequent crashes, it finally blurted out at me this morning that it couldn't get it up...that is, it couldn't get Windows up. It automatically sent me to Safe Mode which could allow me to access my budget but not to the Internet which cramps my social life a lot. It means that unless I sign up for a Kinko's membership, Speedy's will be the only free access I've got to e-mail & the blog, and I only come here a couple of times a week. I'm not exactly overflowing with money right now so a new computer is out of the question. Well, perhaps I need a bit of a vacation from cyberspace... The Satyr was the first to respond to my announcement of my computer woes. He remarked that it would be next to impossible to reach me since I now have neither a good computer or a cellphone. I thought that was a remarkable statement to make; a decade ago, almost noone would have sweated a drop in panic at the thought of not having those two devices for instant communication. Now, if someone is missing just one, he/she would probably go into techno-withdrawal. As for me, I could tell The Satyr that there are devices I have called a home phone and a message machine for him to initiate contact but I decided to hold my tongue.

The purge has begun. This morning at about 8:45 a.m., the police and media swept down on several company officials from at least 3 companies involved in the Aneha architectural scandal and promptly arrested them. There would've been a perp walk except that the media scrum was so dense that it just resembled an especially hostile commute on the Yamanote Line. Call it a perp crawl. In any case, in all the chaos was almost forgotten the fact that the central figure himself, disgraced architect Aneha, was thrown into the van on the way to jail.

Looks like the burger crawl may be picking up speed. I told Speedy and asked if he would like to join us. He may be bringing his wife and even our resident chef, Mr. Influence, since he wanted to do a bit of research before his slated-for-summer spate of burger recipes for cooking class. BTW, I made a slight error in the name of this place we're going to. It's called Baker's Bounce.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tuesday April 25, 11:34 p.m. computer must be on its last legs. It was tearing up not only Hotmail but even my GMail account has been going through conniptions. I did see enough of a letter from Speedy to know that 006 has once again canned out. Well, at least it makes my lesson planning easier since I'm pretty much too pooped to plan.

I got a new student at the juku tonight. She's a real character as well. She's 23 going on 12 and was accompanied to the demo lesson by her mother....ooookay. Nice young lady and she could pick up the conversational point pretty quickly despite being a low-level student, but she just looks and talks like an anime character. She told me that she's a freeta or a part-timer; I kinda wondered if one of the Maid Cafes is employing her services. The juku boss and her student, McGirl's kid brother, did a double take on seeing this tousle-haired girl with the saucer eyes. The kid even referred to her as a burikko, an old slang term going back a quarter-century at least which refers to some girl who pretends to be a damsel in distress. You can just look at old videos of Seiko Matsuda to get the idea. Well, in any case, it'll be another hour's worth of income in the pot starting from next week.

Movie Buddy has gotten his plan for massive burger eating on Sunday. He's made his choice a joint called The Daily Bounce in Sangenjaya, a commercial district west of Shibuya. I've taken a look at the website; looks promising. My stomach growled in approval. Those a la mode desserts didn't look too bad either. I've sent the message to the others.

The Madame has nixed the plans for a trip to "Riraku no Mori", the massage emporium located at Sunshine 60 for Friday due to her tight schedule but she's still open for some coffee in her neck of the woods so I've gallantly taken her up on her offer.

Newswise, it's been a tale of more psychos and corrupt architectural officials. In the first case, an Osaka man was arrested for killing, dismembering and grilling his mother because she had kept nagging him about not getting a job (the guy is 57, by the way). Yup, those Kansai folk don't hold anything back. In the second case, the president of a company called E-Homes who had once emblazoned himself in glory as a whistleblower may be heading to the Big House for some of his own malfeasances with the accounting books. Mr. Horie, meet your new neighbour. Speaking of the defrocked Livedoor founder, I wonder how he's been doing all these weeks.

Well, I'll be waiting for those essays to be marked tomorrow.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Tuesday April 25, 3:45 p.m.'s been one of those up-and-down days meterologically again. Cloudy, cold and squally in the morning and now it's beaming sunshine if cool. Actually, I prefer this type of refreshing weather to the balminess we got yesterday. While I was walking in Shibuya, I saw that industrial haze which often pops up during the summer. Regardless of what I like, though, it's been a most unusual Winter and Spring.

The Beehive was only two-thirds full with Mrs. Alp and Mrs. Perth away. However the others plus the new old student in the form of Mrs. Potter were back. Mrs. Tulip certainly has a cheeky side to her which contrasts with her usual soft-spoken self. Had quite a bit of chocolate since both Potter and Tulip brought some German and Kahlua-based stuff respectively. Also, the Coffee Ladies made their monthly visit with their wares. Considering that they always bring two large baskets of products, it's difficult to not buy anything without a guilty conscience.

The Teacher and I were back in our new venue at Becker's. The second floor is pretty nicely apportioned but I still prefer our old place at Myoden. It just seems more comfy. But also those post-lunch discussion lessons are killers...I was trying my best to stifle yawns and keep the Sandman away while my stomach was draining all of my blood to digest my Chicken Sandwich set.

The Engineer contacted me for the first time in a while. He had gotten in touch with me during his last business trip but it was just an exchange of phone messages last time since he was too busy with the matter at hand. However, he's told that he'll be coming for some R&R this time in the steaminess of July.

I'm not sure how the reverie got started but I was reminded of the different stages in my professional life here in Japan. In the mid-90s, I had my usual cubby hole at NOVA teaching my max of 3 students while keeping with the program. Then for a period of several years, I taught several "generations" of students at the ol' school in true classrooms. The atmosphere there was most cordial and the interplay certainly helped everyone there. It was no surprise that those classes were amongst the favoured ones for most of the teachers who had passed through those hallowed halls. Students and teachers interacted very informally and frequently. Now and for the past few years, my touchstones have been the juku, Speedy's schools and the various cafes that I've taught in as a freelancer. There has been none of that controlled chaos in the classrooms and lounge at the ol' school. For the most part, I deal with students on a very individual basis so the collegial party atmosphere has been non-existent. Speedy's school is still trying to find its feet so the school has yet to achieve its reputation as a meeting place for many students. And of course, the juku is just so down-home and neighbourly...I couldn't imagine any sort of mayhem happening there...unless the juku cat gets naughty in front of us during the class transition from The Milds to The Siberian.

In any case, that's my meandering thoughtline for now. Gotta prep for the classes tonight.
Tuesday April 25, 7:37 a.m.

Lou Dobbs is in a snarky mood. Must be Tuesday.

Got a line from Paddy for the first time in a while. Looks like he and his wife are doing fine in good ol' London town. I'm sure he's raking in the big bucks...he'd have to, considering the high rents over there.

The Anime King finally got that package I'd sent to him by air mail after 2 weeks in transit. It seems that Revenue Canada has been getting high on the annual tax collecting and decided to make an example of the package. They managed to squeeze a further $60 out of my friend.

JJ got back to me about the forgotten payment. She was her usual profusely apologetic self. No problems, I reassured her.

On the Japanese side of entertainment, the Svengali of Morning Musume, Tsunku, announced his betrothal through a casual omiai to a model, some 12 years his junior. Well, I gather that's gonna be one hell of a long line of bridesmaids at the wedding.

It's another damp day out there. It'll probably be cool but so far I haven't needed to put on the heater.
Monday April 24, 10:16 p.m.

The rest of my evening at Speedy's was quiet. Speedy himself was taking a power nap while SB was typing away and I was just prepping for The Part-Timer's lesson. I'm gonna just have that 1-hour EIC lesson to show for my entire May Day next week. The Part-Timer is off on Golden Week vacation as will be The Class Act/SIL

Speaking of The Class Act, The Lady told me that she never watches television these days. She just finds most of the programming moronic and just overly chatty. I think that's probably why a lot of the younger folk like TV. I have to admit that my viewing habits have decreased to a few hours a week recently. A lot of it is due to my busy weeknights and the fact that I've been out on the weekends for the past couple of weeks now. But I also have to confess that there's not a lot that's grabbing me beyond the news and reruns of "Star Trek" on SkyPerfect.

And making another segue, this morning's episode was "Space Seed", the episode that gave us the immortal Khan Noonien Singh played by Mr. Roarke himself, Ricardo Montalban. I could always hear the Latin guitars and whispers of Corinthian Leather whenever he entered a scene. Of course, this ep paved the way 15 years later for what was arguably the best of the 10 Star Trek movies, "The Wrath of Khan". But the ep itself was notable for a lot of firsts: the first time that Khan appeared, the first time that the Enterprise gets taken over by an enemy (I'm sure the Borg, Sybok's followers and the Reman are in Khan's debt), the first time that Scotty punches someone out, the first time that Uhura gets slapped around, etc. Lots of fun to be had.

The juku boss contacted me to say that I've got another trial lesson coming up tomorrow night. One of the Beauty Pair, my now erstwhile students there, was kind enough to refer one of her buddies to us. Hmmm...judging from The Pair's level during their three years with me, I don't think she's gonna be any better. The friend wants to be put into a group, if possible, but I'll have to see during the trial lesson if she can be put with The Milds and McGirl. I kinda doubt it and I wouldn't mind having another hour of income coming in.
Monday April 24, 4:24 p.m.

About a month late but it really does feel like Spring for the first time this year. Sunny and quite warm. However, The Matron informed me today that from tomorrow, things will be going back to their pre-Spring temps. Man, this has been a long Winter.

The Class Act felt like its normal self after the Korea trip and last week's wrap-up chat. However, the ladies are going on holiday mode once more since Golden Week is around the corner. I've got nothing next Monday aside from that EIC student late next Monday night and perhaps The Part-Timer, if she hasn't caught the holidaying bug.

Movie Buddy got back to me about the burger trip. Looks like we are a go. His and our destination seems to be some place in the Sangenjaya area. Well, it's gonna be another long trip out for me but not too bad for the others.

I forgot to mention during my report on my Yokohama day trip with The Madame last Friday that the two of us had been walking up the main street of the city when we came across this vending machine. Now, vending machines are so numerous all over the country that they should be giving voting rights in my estimation. However, what made this one so special was that it was selling Kit Kat. At first viewing, I thought the bottle with the familiar red-and-white label was filled with a liquid version of the ol' chocolate-and-hazelnut bar. Eeesh...I like Kit Kat just fine but serving it in liquid form just didn't hit the ol' stomach just right. However, I needn't have worried since it was actually a glass bottle filled with 6 mini Kit Kat bars. And it was quite cold. Dang...just love Japanese pop culture.

Back to Monday, after my usual repast at Wendy's (I gather that the gravy train with The Chef is now completely over), I dropped by HMV to see if there were anything remotely interesting that I would be willing to fork over my hard-earned cash. Nada, but then again, today isn't the right day. I should do my major purchasing at the CD shop over the next few days though since it's double-point week from the 25th. Hopefully, I'll be able to pull off a last-minute flourish of scoring and fill up my card which expires next week.

It's been a quiet day at Speedy's. The ol' man is truly burnt out. He's currently taking a nap in the lounge next door. Before he went off to La-La Land, the two of us had talked about any other ways to generate some more income. It's tough being at the top.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Monday April 24, 7:32 a.m.

Fuji-TV's morning program is taking place live on the island of Yakushima. At first, I thought it was one of those contested islands between Korea and Japan which I'm sure would've set off some diplomatic the very least. However, Yakushima is just a sleepy little sea knoll of 14,000. On the same program, Mr. Karube of the entertainment segment talked about the new TomKat baby...oddly he didn't mention her name...probably because he didn't want to set the hosts snickering uncontrollably. Apparently, CNN has reported that a lot of folks in Israel are shaking and scratching their heads at the name choice of "Suri". Unlike the initial reports that Suri means "princess" in Hebrew, the current meaning is "get out of here". What a convenient moniker...a name and immediate reaction at the same time. As for me, I'm just waiting for Tom Cruise to start berating reporters from calling him and his wife, TomKat.

I still gotta send out more packages of Korean nori and candy to the family. Today won't be as busy as I'd thought. Not great on the income side but at least I'll be able to get a small breather. I'm sure things will be revving up here at the airports by the end of the week for Golden Week.
Sunday April 23, 11:33 p.m.

I love the smell of coffee, I like the taste of it but I can't stand coming home with it on me. It is as much of a factor in the formation of OMO (Old Man Odor) as alcohol is. And once again, OMO was lingering on me like a cheap suit on the ride home tonight. I had to scrub pretty hard in the shower to get it off.

My session with JJ went well but she forgot to pay me again. Not that I was in any danger of needing to withdraw anything from the bank. I make it a policy not to inform a student that she's forgotten to pay me since to me it seems so unseemly, even if I did render a service. I think that should be up to the student to remember. However, I did send a very polite reminder to her. In any case, I will be seeing her next week.

I raced up to Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku afterwards to meet The Satyr and The Madame. We first went to have a bit of a drink while we waited for Skippy to arrive. The Madame regaled The Satyr about my bout with the fear of heights on the Yokohama Ferris Wheel back on Friday. I winced a bit at her teasing me about how she had to calm me down but I figured she deserved a bit of payback on me for all my potshots at her about her spiritualism.

Skippy showed up a half-hour later and we got our tickets for "The Libertine" before heading off across the railway yards to The Southern Tower building where my favourite Mexican restaurant, El Torito, was located in the basement. I usually order fajitas or the Fiesta Platter but it looks like this time, the four of us went individual. The Satyr and I both had the rather interestingly named Macho Meal of one taco, two burritos and an enchilada. Once again, The Madame had me act as vacuum cleaner for the remaining half of her Vegetable Burrito. And as well, she told us of her latest adventures in the spirit world, including some rather carnal punishment she had suffered from her spirit guides thanks to our rather carnal discussion at Subway last week, although she was technically risking getting spanked again for announcing their way of punishment. While the ladies were out powedering their noses, I asked The Satyr his opinion about The Madame's long expositions last week and today. He was pretty much on the same wavelength as me: we both believe that she believes very fervently...and too much. However, The Madame may have picked up an acolyte in Skippy. I'm also worried about The Madame's health. She says that she's been suffering from a ringing in her ears for some time; she says that it's probably due to her spiritual communion so she hasn't bothered to see an Earthbound doctor. I've sent her a little friendly advice tonight about her trying out one of them just in case her tinnitus actually has a good cause based in the mundane world of medical science. I don't want her to needlessly go deaf on account of religious piety.

Well, it was time for Johnny Depp so we returned to the small theatre on the 12th floor of Times Square. The audience was solidly in the younger category with the majority being women; Depp fans, no doubt. Of course, one of the trailers was for "Pirates of the Caribbean II". There was also another trailer which was bizarre enough to get my attention (I usually sleep through those things); it was for a Japanese movie which seems to be filmed in a Monty Pythonesque style, the plot being about various stock Japanese historical characters ordering tons of hamburgers in a fast food restaurant. Sounds Pythonesque, to be sure. The theatre itself was quite nice. It was done up like any of those new cineplexes with stadium-style seating.

I was surprised to read on the IMdB just now that "The Libertine" had actually been released as early as late 2004...quite some months before Depp got his pop culture icon role as Captain Jack Sparrow and his weeper role as the creator of Peter Pan. I also read some of the rave reviews for the movie. It was the first time that I'd seen such florid praise on the usually down-to-earth website; one would think that the reviews were all written by The Earl of Rochester himself.

For the record, I didn't think it was really quite that good although I have to admit that I'm a Neanderthal when it comes to feeling real emotions from 2-D characters off a huge screen. I did not get weepy or awe-struck when Depp's repulsive John Wilmot gave his posthumous prologue, and neither did I swoon when Samantha Morton's Lizzie and Wilmot had their tete-a-tete tutorial. I guess I'm rather tone-deaf when it comes to fabulous performances. I know when I see a universally good movie, and "The Libertine" was a good movie. It was well-acted...I didn't pick up a false note from any of the performers that could've jarred the historical setting, and certainly the star of the piece grabbed the script and ran with it. Even through my thick hide, I could tell that his amorally complex character largely succeeded in attracting revulsion and pity. The plotting was well-paced...I was actually surprised that a corset-and-longstocking movie didn't have me looking at my watch despite that it was a full 2 hours. But did I leap out of my seat at the end of the movie and proclaim it as one of the most important films of the early 21st century? Nah... The Satyr liked it as did the Japanese female pair although the Canadian side had to do a bit of explaining of some of the more confusing parts.

I am hoping that the movie version of "Rent" comes out soon. I don't want to watch it but I'm getting tired of seeing that trailer of the cast singing "256,000 Minutes" or however many minutes make up a year.

Skippy had to take off so it was once again the three of us who ended up going to that old-fashioned cafe that The Madame and I have gone to twice near Shinjuku Station. It was there that I got that infusion of coffee odor. The three of us spent another 2 hours just gabbing away although the discussion did actually stray away from spiritualism.

I've sent off a missive to Movie Buddy about this visit to a burger joint he had first put out on the table. I asked him about the 30th for which I'm still awaiting a reply. Looks like my lunch-and-movie colleagues are interested although The Madame warned me that I will most likely be ingesting her purchases. Not complaining at all. I also asked The Madame if she would be piqued to try out "Riraku no Mori", that little area stuck amidst The Gyoza Museum, Ice Cream City and a seasonal food-themed exhibition, for a try at some of their relaxation therapies, since the two of us have the day off this Friday. Not sure if she'll bite since there is the burger Sunday to think about.

Speedy told me that the lady who has been taking the EIC classes will be scheduling her final third lesson for May Day so I'll be finishing off with The Part-Timer tomorrow. Also, SIL has cancelled her lesson again after the one for The Class Act. Apparently, her mother has injured herself again.

Once again, my Hotmail has been taking the time of blackstrap molasses sliding down a frozen window to send out mail. I have tried everything to get it working right but it looks like I'm stuck with slow service until something happens.