Monday, May 29, 2006

Monday May 29, 4:55 p.m.

The summer is here...especially inside Speedy's lounge. Gad it feels like Venus on an "Ode to Humidity" day. And the bossman is back...having a meeting with SB, presumably on what he's missed in the past 2 weeks.

My weekend went halfway as expected. Saturday was supposed to have been the latest night for DVDs with Movie Buddy but just as I was about to head out to see JJ for her usual lesson, I got a call from the man himself stating that he had to dotakyan (Japanese slang for "suddenly cancel") because his live-in had one of those 24-hour bugs. So things were rather quiet on the 27th but I still decided to clean up the apartment for the heck of it. As for JJ, it wasn't one of her days since her fluency was stumbling all over during our wonderful trek through the world of Relative Clauses...a tough slog for any intermediate English student. Still, she got down in the dumps as she usually does when she's had a tough class. I'm used to it but it still gets kinda annoying. Y'know...she only sees me once a week for an hour and she's surrounded for the rest of the time by her fellow native Japanese speakers. Fluency can only go so far in that environment.

Since my Saturday night opened up dramatically, I ended up watching some Japanese TV for the first time in a long while. I saw the usual silly hijinks on Fuji-TV for 2 hours with a game show and the long-running variety program starring the comedy duo of 99. But then I came across the second part of this 2-part special called "The Hit Parade". This program was the equivalent of a combination of "Your Show of Shows" and "American Bandstand" with the hokey schmaltz of "The Lawrence Welk Show" (remember Bobby & Cissy?...I didn't think so). The show also had run back in the pioneer days of Japanese TV, the 50s and 60s, and was a huge hit for the national audience in the still-hardscrabble life of those postwar days.

Anyways, I hadn't been able to catch Part 1 of the program due to my classes on Friday but I did remember seeing the posters in the subway station. Part 2, like the poster, was chock-filled with all sorts of A-level actors and very familiar TV faces playing real-life stars from those free-wheeling days. Basically, the 2-part epic focused on the life and career of Shin Watanabe, the creator of the show who was also the president of an entertainment production company; he was dedicated to bringing the masses some cheer in their hard lives. He had started as the bassist of a jazz band called "The 4 Joes" but soon entered into the backroom world of management. Strangely enough, the smiley ever-optimistic Shin-chan was played by Toshiro Yanagiba who's famous for his iconic role as the taciturn Spock-like Chief Inspector Shinji Muroi in the acclaimed "Odoru Dai Sosasen" (Bayside Shakedown) series. Perenially popular (and pleasing to the eye) TV drama actress Takako Tokiwa played his wife, Misa. And one other actor played the future former unpopular governor of Tokyo, Yukio Aoshima, when he was still a comedian. And the Abe sisters (one a former Morning Musume member, the other a probably washed-up singer) played The Peanuts, a twin sister singing act, notable in the West as those two tiny sirens who called for Mothra in those Godzilla movies.

The special interwove the re-enactment of Watanabe's career with narrated bits about the various acts who came and went during the 30 years between the 50s and 80s. The drama itself was the usual sepia-toned affair with the near-treacly approach of its protagonist being the do-no-wrong virtuous boss that is common to similar productions in this country. That usually brings up a red alert in my head; I cannot believe anyone is that good. I'm sure the real Watanabe, who died of cancer in the early 80s, had had his share of skeletons in the closet. Still, the docu-drama was pleasant to watch since I've gotten into my nostalgic phase and the drama did go by at a fairly fast clip. Plus, the jazz background music helped in that respect as well. I never saw "The Hit Parade" because of course I was raised in Canada but seeing some of the clips made me realize how much more of a comfort it was for people in that day and age than even Arthur Godfrey, Sid Caesar or even Ed Sullivan were for Americans back home. After all, the Japanese lost the war and paid dearly for it.

Coming back to local entertainment in this century, Michael Jackson (yep, that one) dropped by Tokyo during the weekend to get a special achievement prize from MTV Japan. He even showed up for the channel's awards ceremonies yesterday. Still, the Gloved One after all these years. It would seem that the Japanese still love him, but then again...fondling minors in this country doesn't seem to have the stigma that it has in the States.

I've started looking at some of those Trek DVDs that my brother had sent me via the mules of our mutual friends on Friday. I caught the Trek Classic episode of "Tomorrow is Yesterday" and DS9's 30th anniversary tribute via "More Trials and Tribble-ations". It was good to watch the eps but I was disappointed that there weren't more in the extras. Just a text commentary by the Okudas which pop up like those things for "Pop-Up Video".

My day in The Big Sushi was pretty routine today. I had The Class Act for their regular followed by The New Yorker at The Tea Room. I was quite impressed by The New Yorker. She really did try quite hard and was fairly successful with her Past Tense. The manager sighed some relief that I did come in today since she otherwise wouldn't have been able to contact me. Apparently, there is gonna be some sort of construction work on Thursday and Friday. I've got no problem with Thursday since it's B2's night and that's out in Mitsukoshimae but I do have The UL on Friday. However, the manager told me that the work should be done by 5 and that's when I have my student so everything will probably be fine. I did my own reassuring by giving her my name card.

I did forget to mention that we had another burger stop, our second one, yesterday. Despite MB having to cancel DVD night on Saturday, The Sylph recovered well enough so that the second in our series of burger tours could go on. This time, it was The Roti Grill, the smaller cousin to the main ROTI in Roppongi. Instead of that tony neighbourhood, The Roti Grill was located in the more residential area of Kachidoki, near the fish market of Tsukiji. Actually, there's a small shopping mall called Harumi Triton Mall where the burger eatery was located but I think that's more for the locals instead of people from all over Tokyo. As a result, the Grill wasn't all that crowded. The group for the outing was MB and his girl along with The Satyr and his new girl. Of course, I was the designated stag for the afternoon. The Satyr, in his correspondence, remarked that he would be bringing his "friend". It was rather obvious that she was more than that. She was stroking his arm so much that I was afraid that she would completely depillate the poor guy. It was also evident it was early on in their relationship. It's been a while since I've seen such a lovey-dovey couple.

Anyways, the burgers at Roti Grill were fine. In fact, I would peg my burger as being better than that behemoth Double Burger I had at Baker Bounce last month if only it was easier to handle and to chew. Still, there was plenty of mess oozing out of the crevices. Pricewise, my Steak Burger was a few hundred yen cheaper and I got more value out of the set. Also, the atmosphere was nicer there since we weren't cramped like we were at the aforementioned Bounce. Roti Grill is a good size smaller than its big cousin but it was still plenty spacious. And there wasn't this huge crowd of people lining up so we could actually stay there for 4 hours. More than enough time to have a leisurely dessert and even test run a card game that MB was thinking of unleashing on his kids. Ironically, this gourmet burger emporium was just across the hall from a branch of The Golden Arches. I guess it was only right to provide the population with options.

I guess we can call today 2 A.S.N. (after Shiloh Nouvel). CNN broke the news of the birth of Brangelina's love child. And once again, the celebs kept up the tradition of inflicting weirdo first names on the second generation. I think the couple should seriously consider emigrating to Namibia where their kid was born (or is that "entered the spotlight" in Hollywood-ese?). The authorities have provided the couple with near-perfect protection from the parasitic paparazzi via strict Immigration checks. I certainly wouldn't long as "Mr. and Mrs. Smith 2" stay as far away from me as possible.