Saturday, May 13, 2006

Saturday May 13, 4:02 p.m.

Well, it's been an eventful past few days in my own little so-called wonderful world. I finally pulled the trigger and cancelled my membership at the gym...ironically for my financial health, if not for my physical one. It was either keep going into the red or continue to just turning red on the treadmill. I chose the former option. Happily, I didn't get any of that hangdog expression from the cheerfully fit young lady at the desk. When I had cancelled my newspaper subscription years ago, the delivery guy then the regional distributor came to my door and begged me to reconsider. Obviously, the gym is doing well enough so that the cancellation of one butterball will not launch a major crying jag.

However, on Wednesday, Speedy used me as the proverbial sounding board after everyone had left to lament about the financial situation of his school. It hasn't been a good 2 months and his investor is not very happy. He vented about what could be done to get the students into the place but I really couldn't help him much. I gave him some potential suggestions which he quickly shot down like Kong and biplanes. The stress is getting to him so it's perhaps a bit of a good thing that he'll be headed out on a 2-week business trip. I'll be taking care of some of his other classes in the interim.

On Friday, I got my newest student at the juku. While the boss will do one hour of TOEIC with me, I'll be spending the second hour with The Numeral. He's this young fellow who's aiming to become a fortune teller with his system of numbers and symbols. Interesting....maybe I ought to introduce him to The Madame. Ironically, I met her for lunch at our regular tea place in Shinjuku right after The Numeral's lesson. She was having her major bout with stomachaches all throughout Golden Week which necessitated one trip to the emergency ward overnight. Hm.. that's one mighty delicate constitution. Plus, she's shucking out some major amounts of money to a mentor she's found for her education in spiritualism...problem is, she has to do it under the noses of her disapproving family. The stress can't be helping her.

I had the UL for her first lesson after tea with The Madame. Yep, she talks just like her sister, The OL. She had a good start and works just as hard as her predecessor.

I capped off my busy Friday with dinner in the usually congested Shibuya with Chip Guy who was in town with his colleague for a bit of business. We went to Toriyoshi, this izakaya that specializes in chicken dishes. Some very good stuff there. There were about 8 of, CG and his mate, PH, The Quarterback and his wife, plus one more hanger-on from the PH posse. I was a bit more comfortable in that situation since I could talk a lot more easily with these folks than I could in one of those huge parties that PH semi-annually throws. Still, I found myself getting tongue-tied at times. I became a sounding board for the second time this week when PH, who was sitting across from me, did her own venting about the backstabbing politics which often happen in her company. I had to take off after dinner since I did have the kids even earlier this morning but PH, CG and his buddy decided to go for another round at The Hub.

Had a bit of an embarrassing situation over at the kids' house this morning. I'm not sure what it was: the food last night, the cold weather this morning or what, but I had a rather nasty sudden case of Montezuma's (perhaps I should say Hirohito's, considering where I'm typing this) Revenge, smack dab at the beginning of the Junior's lesson. I tried to use Vulcan-like control for the pain but when I found myself starting to falter, I asked the girl to go ahead with her exercise in the text and sped to the bathroom to silently explode. The mother took pity on me and got me some medicine. I'm feeling much better and emptier now.

After spending a couple of hours at a Doutor's, a domestic cafe chain, near Speedy's school, I went up to the school itself to have a powwow with the boss himself. I had to negotiate myself around a lot of construction since the street in front of the building where the school is located is being torn up for a subway extension. I got the rundown on the students that I'll be teaching in his stead for the next couple of weeks. The money will come in handy, that's for sure. On the other hand, it looks like yet another student has decided to fly the coop. 006 sent a very sheepish message admitting that her work schedule is such that she can't guarantee when she'll be able to come for her next round of lessons. I've become rather inured to this perennially emptying process of the time slot right after 001's lesson. In a way, it's kinda like watching "The Prisoner" when Number 6 is introduced to a new Number 2. Probably most of you don't know what I'm talking about, do you?

Well, I'll probably be heading out in the next 30 minutes for home. Considering the delicate nature of my stomach right now, I'm not sure what I'm gonna have for dinner but I'll think up of something. I still have one lesson tomorrow with JJ. The Beehive, or Mrs. Alp specifically, was planning to hold a BBQ party at her place for us in the afternoon tomorrow but there's a good chance that it'll literally be a washout due to the ever-present rain.

Finally, I listened to that self-titled Chaz Jankel album from 1980. Half of the 45-minute disc is made up of 2 songs: the original version of "Ai no Corrida" which finishes at the 9-minute mark, and a 15-minute epic called "Am I Honest with Myself, Really?" I wasn't disappointed with the album despite my general suspicion of songs that take up the length of one-half of a sitcom. I read one Net review of the album in which the critic compared it to a typical Pet Shop Boys disc. This had been before I got it so I was scratching my head at the comparison but after giving it one full listen, I can agree with the assessment. In fact, if Jankel had released this first album much later in the 80s, I would've said it was riffing off of PSB, Level 42, perhaps a couple of other techno bands, some AOR tunesmiths and disco. But in fact, Jankel made this formerly lost album before any of these guys made their debut so he's looking and sounding a lot more prescient about the sounds of the 80s.

As it is, I still prefer the Quincy Jones version of "Ai No Corrida" although the reviewer reported that a lot of his friends enjoyed Jankel's original for sounding funkier. Well, both versions have their catchy riffs but I feel that the Jankel version has a lot more of that wayward live concert jammin' feel to it. It is obviously not as tightly edited as Jones' version and it lacks that great horn section which propels that version. And yet, it is one of the few long format songs which I can listen to and not get overly tired. Strangely enough, that could be the same for the even longer "Am I Honest Myself, Really?", although I have to give it another listen to be sure. But the title, the delivery by Jankel and the bursts of techno scream a demand for a Pet Shop Boys cover version. All in all, I think I've discovered a precious gem and will now be looking forward to "Questionnaire".

Well, gonna be heading home soon and having some grub...if my tummy will let me.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wednesday May 10, 4:47 p.m.

The weather has been getting warmer in the last two days. The thoughts of putting on the heater at night are starting to disappear slowly but we're still not quite at air conditioner levels yet.

Well, I've come to a financial decision. I'll be withdrawing my membership from the gym tomorrow, if possible. After doing the books for the past month, I was depressed to see that with all of my attempts to keep my expenditures down, I still managed to end up 7,000 yen in the red. All you ex-pats in Japan will probably be chuckling at me as if I were Chicken Little with his sky theory but though 7,000 yen doesn't even come to a bill for a regular Friday night dinner in downtown Tokyo, going negative is going negative...especially when I've yet to record any sort of plus month this year. And besides, after over 18 months of going to the gym, I don't have anything to show for it. I'm nowhere near sleek and my motivation to hit the treadmill or stationary bike is close to zero. I'll save about an extra 10,000 a month that way. But I'll also have to bring down my food budget even lower.

And all this is coming when Chip Guy is headed for town this weekend. He's asked if I were available this Friday night for dinner. PH may also be coming out as well. Could be a bit awkward.

However, there is some hope in that I'll be spelling Speedy for a couple of weeks since he has to go on some business trip. I'll be taking care of some of his classes while he's away. The extra income will be greatly appreciated.

I took a look at my DVD purchases (probably the last ones I'll be making for a long while, but then again I did say that several months ago as well). I started with Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie". It's kinda quaint to see ol' Mel, the now barely-seen wunderkind behind "The Producers", when he was hamming it in front of the cameras as well as behind them. It was also just as quaint to see these "Where are they now?" types like Sid Caesar and Bernadette Peters along with those mid-70s fashions. The sight gags have generally not aged all that well but there were a few laughs here and there still to be had.

Then there was the Director's Cut of "Superman". I was a bit disappointed at the dearth of extras in that one but I did buy just the lone DVD. I guess to get all of the trailers, the documentaries and the screen tests, I had to shuck out the yen for the 4-pack. But why should I pay out extra to get saddled with the horrible Superman 3 and 4? Still, there was that one deleted scene of Marlon Brando's Jor-El talking with Supes which was interesting to watch. I kinda wonder if that will be the Brando footage inserted into "Superman Returns". In any case, like "Silent Movie", "Superman" has also not come into the 21st-century without some mold (the soul-wincing "Can You Read My Mind?" scene comes to...mind). Still, the opening credits with that John Williams' score continues to be awesome and there are even a couple of scenes which still bring a lump to my throat. I can only hope that the update will bring back some of that shine back into the franchise.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Monday May 8, 8:48 p.m.

I was skimming through my past entries when I found out that with all the reference to my minor fiasco last week in class, I hadn't even mentioned it. Well, time to rectify that oversight. Basically, all that work and prep for this English lesson to prep three students for speaking out during the Sunday cooking classes were all for naught. The big problem was the overlapping of one student who was at the tail end of her course and two new low students who were coming for their first session. It wasn't so much the level but the fact that they were at different stages that did them...and One of the two newbies was just so low and underconfident that I needed to work with her on some of the basics at the expense of the other student who was looking visibly bored about going through the same rigamarole. At the end, noone was served well, and I had to sheepishly see everyone out. Not one of my happier ends of my day. I felt very badly for that "veteran" student and I did a bit of cyberventing to Speedy.

Looks like my time away from the Internet has resulted in a certain amount of entertainment lag. For one thing, I only found out yesterday that two of the Morning Musume, Asami Konno and Makoto Ogawa, had made that fateful decision to graduate from the group 10 days ago. Yikes...I'm usually more up on my pop cultural news than that. To be honest, I was surprised that it wasn't the current leader, Hitomi Yoshizawa. But then again, the group's musical career hasn't exactly been inspiring for the past few years except for the diehard MM otaku, and when at least one of the two retirees hasn't exactly been too prominent even for the group's sole Sunday show, I think the writing was on the wall. One can only go so far in dancing and singing mechanically in front of a ravenous group of boys. Luckily, Ms. Konno will be pursuing life in the setting of academia here while Ms. Ogawa will be going overseas to study. Neither has concretely said whether they would return in some capacity to the bright lights of TV like virtually all of the other alumna-turned-solo artists/tarento, but the two of them are planning to do something distinctly non-entertainment related so perhaps this may be the last time they'll be seen publicly for a long least until the next big reunion. I don't think something like this has happened since the very first retiree who I hear is now just mixing the drinks at her father's bar. From some of the comments on the forums since the news broke, I think some of Asami's and Makoto's fans will probably head over there to drown their sorrows.
Monday May 8, 8:01 p.m.

Well, it's been a week of non-blogging...and I still seem relatively sane, unlike some other wackos in this country, but more on that later.

After last Monday's minor fiasco with that EIC class, I was very ready for that 3-day holiday during Golden Week. And it was very refreshing to not have to worry about students and teaching for the latter half of the week. Just vegged out and did some cooking. I think it was the first time ever that I'd cooked for four of the last five days. My dishes would've been downright healthy if it hadn't been for the portions.

My first day back at work. I had The Class Act as usual. It was just the gab about the semi-annual trip to Hawaii. It looks like The Lady and The Matron may have a bit of an underground (literally) scoop on some very bad dirt. Apparently, there has been a report that due to the inordinate amount of rain falling on the islands for the past several weeks, the sewage overflowed and went straight into the ocean off of Honolulu. Well, some Japanese tourist managed to unknowingly go swimming in the bacteria-infested waters with a cut on his leg. It got infected and he has apparently died. I remarked that I'd been watching the news for the past few days and I haven't heard word one about this potential outbreak. Of course, they said. If this fact got out into the media, it would be goodbye tourism. If this is indeed true, I don't know how long this is gonna stay secret considering that someone has died...unless there was a good deal of hush money involved.

As for the news, well, this is where I talk about the psychos. Some middle-aged woman has apparently admitted to killing her beautiful daughter and perhaps her son, who had disappeared 22 years ago, when a discovery of 5 bodies was made in an apartment last week. We still don't know the motive but a DNA scan of one of the bodies may finally resolve what had happened to that boy. And then there was an incident yesterday involving a young man stabbing and bludgeoning an entire family of distant relatives. The interviews about the young man was the same: "He was quiet, y'know...a bit of a loner." That just screams "PSYCHO!"

SIL is still a no-show so it was a matter of heading out to HMV to get that discount on my card. Looks like I got "punished" for not being able to get the full 100 points. I was "demoted" back to a pink Level 1 from my silver Level 2. However, I decided to swallow my pride and get myself a couple of DVDs for the first time in a long while. I got the original "Superman" movie with Chris Reeve and then Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie". They should make for some good viewing...provided that I can find the time to do so this week. I even stopped off at the discount CD shop, Recofan, and finally bought that Chaz Jankel disc. I can finally listen to the original version of "Ai no Corrida"...all 9 minutes of it, apparently.

Well, when I got to Speedy's today, I spent a rather long time going through the e-mail. I found out that there will be quite a few old faces coming over here in the next few months. There's The Engineer in late July but just this month I've got Chip Guy coming over for a bit of business followed by an old clubmate of mine with her hubby. I gather that I'm gonna have to include that into the budget.

Speedy talked to me about the ugliness that was the class last week with those ladies. He sympathized with my plight about me having to deal with this overlapping procedure with students but told me that I'm gonna have to grit my teeth for at least another couple of classes since one student has already signed up who will probably be coming in next week with those sisters. looks like "Mission: Impossible III" has gotten some fairly decent reviews although there's a CNN article saying that it hasn't done as well as expected financially...possibly due to Cruise gallivanting on Oprah's sofa and all that Scientology nonsense. Well, I think CNN is just having a slow news day. It's still a few weeks early before the Memorial Day weekend, the traditional first weekend for the blockbuster season. We here in Japan have to wait until early July to see Ethan Hunt in action again. But once again in homage, SuperChannel is showing reruns of the 1980s version of "Mission: Impossible".

The Madame has contacted me for another kaffeeklatsch on Friday, sandwiched between my session with the juku boss and my first lesson with The UL at The Tea Room. In her initial message, she said that she had to take some sort of blood test. I cheekily wondered aloud if it was a prelude to marriage but she soberly replied that she'd been feeling unwell last week. After giving some sheepish apology, I wondered (internally this time) if The Madame is just slightly hypochondriacal.

Movie Buddy has given me the heads-up for some sort of party involving Samwise and his family for the 20th. Hopefully, this won't coincide with either Chip Guy or my other old friend from Canada.

Well, it's been nice to update myself once again but, hope beyond hope, I'll get home access again someday.