Friday, September 08, 2006

Saturday September 9, 2:54 p.m.

Well, 40 years and nearly 6 hours ago, a little show made by a former cop and war pilot came onto the air being touted as a "Wagon Train to the Stars" and ended up becoming this geek-and-nerd magnet. Yes, "Star Trek" has just turned 40. I kinda wonder if any affiliate in the US or Canada actually put on "Man Trap" at 8 p.m. EST on the 8th. Sorry, William but I guess millions of people just won't get a life.

As for me, I guess I haven't been getting much of a teaching life this week. Not only did I not get to teach the OL or the UL on Friday but The Ace bailed out on me. But I should be grateful to him since he did so some 10 minutes after his lesson was supposed to have begun, which means I still get at least half-pay.

A big reason that I should get a new phone...I got this garbled message on my machine yesterday. All I could make out was barely a name and the fact that she was calling long-distance....and then, the line cut out. After a few minutes of going over, I came to the thought that it may have the mother for my two girls, The Elder and The Younger. The family was off in Germany from the 26th and I was wondering if they had gotten stuck there with the airflight in Europe being what it is right now. Well, the proof was in the pudding this morning when I decided to head out to the house anyways all the way from my humble abode in Ichikawa. Sure enough, after three doorbell rings and several rings on the phone, there was noone home. Well, as they say here, sho ga nai. I just headed over to Shinjuku to hang out for those two unpaid hours. Looking at the bright side of things, I did manage to pick out some Arm & Hammer Deodorizer at Tokyu Hands, the household goods store in the Takashimaya Times Square complex. With The Egg and missus heading out here on Thursday, I figure I need to do some major deodorizing of my apartment. I also did some research on some other possible purchases for the upcoming arrival...such as a new pillow and electric fan.

I decided to walk through the sea of humidity and have lunch at Hansens. Well, when one has had a frankly frustrating end to the week, one should get a bit of pampering. So I was happy to have my two hot dogs and fries. I just finished my lesson with Farrah...not sure if it'll be my last with her since she only signed for a 4-lesson block. I frankly think that she should be coming out here every Saturday to make things worthwhile. Now, I'm just waiting for the Ramen Lady who'll be here in about an hour. Then, I've got this dinner with Speedy, his wife and the secretary who's just gone on maternity leave.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Thursday September 7, 2:40 p.m.

Back at my other office in I-Cafe. I've got Fred Flintstone snoring in the next booth so things aren't as quiet as I would have hoped. Still, the two cups of complementary of blend coffee have helped.

A number of little tidbits here and there:

Looks like The Egg and I have caught a break in logistics. He and the missus are planning to come over here to the Hotel Haruhiko for a vacation next Thursday. It was gonna be a tricky thing to have the apartment ready for them since I usually have The Carolinan for her regular lesson on alternate Thursday nights. Well, she just let me know that she has to cancel the 14th which leaves me free and clear to not only get the place prepped but also to pick them up at Narita. The wife won't be here for all of their 10 days but it looks like Egg will be a roomie; it's been a while since I've had one.

002 was back from Hawaii. She and her hubby had a good time traveling the less traveled routes of the Aloha State so there was an influx of English in their dialogues but she was a bit down on herself that she couldn't get all that she'd wanted to say out of her mouth. Well, I told her that considering most of her days are spent here amongst native Japanese with only a once-a-week session with me, she's doing pretty well. My newest souvenirs were a can of SPAM (I do love my luncheon meat) and some shortbread cookies from Waikiki. The latter I've already devoured with my blend coffee.

Now I'm just twiddling my thumbs here at the cafe before I see B2. Not sure if it'll just be the lass tonight. I recall that B2B is off on business for the next little while. It'll certainly make my lessons easier.

JJ finally got back to me. Yep, I think that it's the end between us but at least she was gracious about it.
Wednesday September 6, 6:27 p.m.

Last Friday when I was teaching The Ace, the newest student at the juku, during an exercise on the Superlative, he told me that he thought teaching to be the most unrewarding occupation amongst the group of jobs listed. Though I wasn't particularly hurt by the comment...I can definitely understand why he would say that....I did do some reflection on it.

My response to his statement (for which he suddenly turned slightly crimson when he realized who he was talking to) was a memory of teaching those junior high school kids on a hot July day all those years ago. Yep, that memory would be categorized as "unrewarding". Also, beyond my own experiences, I think teaching has become even harder over the years when taking into consideration some of the extreme forms of teenage rebellion that have happened in schools. I recollect distinctly about the observations that a teacher from the ol' school had had when he visited one particular junior high school in Setagaya Ward. There, he was witness to a bunch of sociopathic monkeys in a zoo while the teachers clearly had given up.

In the English-teaching biz here, I think I have said on occasion that it's a dime-a-dozen scam a lot of the times. A lot of so-called teachers just come here with very little in the way of experience or training to the big chains such as NOVA, just throw out some ready-made lessons haphazardly and then skip off to the next Asian country. To be honest, I could understand that some students wouldn't hesitate to get revenge by suddenly not showing up for lessons anymore. Also, and I am talking about my own circumstances here, the English-teaching biz is far from financially rewarding. Sure, I can sell my lessons for at least 5,000 yen an hour and there would probably be gullible folks who would pay that much for simple conversational practice but then again I'd also be paying my soul, wouldn't I (as corny as that may sound)?

Still, I really can't say that my experiences here over the past 12 years have been unrewarding. I've had my ups and downs, certainly, but I look at the fact that though my bank account isn't exactly bursting at the seams, I've been able to make friendships and other relationships that have been valuable because of my job. I'm not exactly running The Beehive and The Class Act like a well-oiled military machine but the ladies there (I think) enjoy my company just as a source of social interaction. Former students like Skippy and The Madame still continue to hang out with me because I could help them during their time at the ol' school. And I have current students like 001 and 002 who enjoy their lessons. So, from my angle, I'd have to disagree with The Ace. Teaching may never get me into that high income tax bracket and I may never see the end result of my attempts but it's been good for me as I near two decades in the biz.
Wednesday September 6, 5:07 p.m.

We've just got ourselves a future national holiday here in Japan. And not only is the nation celebrating on this gray day but the Imperial Household Agency along with some conservative Imperial experts are breathing a sigh of relief. Yep, as of 8:45 a.m., all of the television channels were screaming "IT'S A BOY!", some 18 minutes after the birth of a future Emperor to Princess Kiko and Prince Akishino. The media played it up like a royal coronation with Fuji-TV even having tons of flowers surrounding the news desk where the two anchors were dressed to the nines. And true to its insecure nature, the same media trumpeted that even CNN and BBC had announced the birth. Reporters and cameramen were solidly planted around various areas such as the Kanagawa-ken hospital where Kiko had given birth, and Nagatacho (Japan's equivalent to the White House or Whitehall). So TV was basically hijacked for the entire morning.

Of course, the royalwatchers had their cue sticks and Imperial Family tree charts out again showing what the new line of succession will look like. The Japanese Imperial Line may not be broken but there's sure gonna be a new kink in it. As for the newest arrival, the boy is automatically 3rd in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne after Crown Prince Naruhito and his brother, Prince Akishino. Pretty big promotion for a human less than a day old. As for the princesses...well, I guess they'll be back to smiling vacuously and lisping to the reporters.

Prime Minister Koizumi's reaction to the birth: "Great, eh?" as he passed by the reporters. The silence was deafening.

Meanwhile, CNN was on the other end of the emotional spectrum, mourning the death of The Crocodile Hunter. I couldn't believe how much the news channel was devoting to this oddball. You'd think that Mr. Irwin had saved the entire US population from mutant crocodiles in the sewers. I was almost expecting to see a picture of the Aussie draped in black while Soviet funeral music was playing in the background. Irwin may have been respected for his passion for animals but he'll always strike me as "having an excess of personality", and I'm sorry but I don't have much use for a guy who would dangle his own infant son in one hand while feeding a hungry croc with the other....that's going into Wacko Jacko territory. There has been talk about the Australian government offering a state funeral for the man....I'd think that Crocodile Dundee would be more deserving. Anyways, at least I have a better understanding of stingrays now.

I had my first meeting with The Beehive yesterday in over a month. Looks like the ladies had a good summer. Five of them went off mountain climbing in early August. Our usual haunt in that Tsudanuma bowling alley was closed down due to repairs...not that the staff mentioned to us or anything. So we ended up going across the street to Ms. Perth's place. Ms. Jade was kind enough to bring some sweet corn-on-the-cob.

The juku gang was fine although it looks like Mr. Mild will be away on business for the next month. So I'm hoping for some big things from Mrs. Mild in terms of her ability. The Parisian will be away in a couple of weeks for a trip to Bali. And The Siberian is gonna be off to Korea this month. Still glad that I'm being paid by the hour instead of the number of students, though.

I only have 007 tonight. But it looks like Speedy is up the creek again...this time in the administrative department. Up until recently, it seemed like we had a plethora of secretarial help. But one of them just couldn't cut the mustard with computers, and now another one has pulled out due to a broken foot. With another girl on materity leave (did I say girl?! I meant fully adult woman), the red flags have gone up. I've even sent a plea to The Sylph via Movie Buddy.

Tomorrow will also be a pretty sparse day workwise. I've got 002 for her home lesson after her trip to Hawaii, and then several hours later I'll be seeing B2. Not sure what I'm gonna be doing in between. Maybe another trip to the I-Cafe may be in order.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Monday September 4, 9:46 p.m.

I had my first official lesson with 008 just now. She's a good student and things got off to a good start. Unfortunately, I probably won't see for her next lesson until the end of the month due to her work.

Anyways, going back to Sunday night, after "Superman Returns", Movie Buddy and I had a small snack at the local Excelsior's in Shinjuku. It was jampacked as it usually is on a Sunday afternoon. A couple of the usual boorish Shibuya gal-types tried to jump the line on us for a table but a kind staff member managed to make things right for us...this was according to MB; I was too busy munching on my Croque Monsieur to notice. MB seems to resemble The Entrepreneur in that both guys get rather throbbing headaches in the midst of smoke. Like a number of places, the non-smoking and smoking sections don't really have any differences.

We took the Marunouchi Line and Chiyoda Line to Akasaka where we did some walking around the neighbourhood for the better part of the hour before meeting Skippy and OA at Exit 2. It was nice to walk on a nearly deserted street by Hie Shrine. Since Akasaka is virtually only a commercial area, Sundays are a pedestrian's paradise. We almost got lost in the return back to the exit but luckily we got our bearings just in time to see the ladies pop out of the subway. It'd been almost a year since we've seen OA. She's been having her own time with work and a new boyfriend.

We only needed to turn a corner to reach Hyunboo, that Korean restaurant frequented by the hoi polloi near TBS Studios. According to Skippy, folks like the Korean singer BOA and other native Korean thespians have come to Hyunboo around the witching hour for some good hot grub. At first, we thought we'd entered the kitchen site but the orange-T-shirted wait staff led us into a long windowless room. It had the ambience of an airplane aisle but it was comfy enough. One wall was covered with tons of autograph cards of happy celeb customers including the aforementioned BOA. Skippy happily did the ordering for a round of BBQ pork, kimchi chijimi, a hot pot of spicy stuff and a round of beers to start. Man, the food was good and the beers had their uses. The final dish of spicy hot pot was delish but had our sweat glands working overtime. Another winner by Skippy. However, in a bad case of timing, Skippy didn't have enough funds and I wasn't exactly filled to overflowing with the yen either so I needed to replensish my wallet at the nearest 7-11.

We did a quick walk up Hie Shrine, thanks to some automatic escalators (we would never have made it up the steep stairs in our gastronomic condition), came back down and walked some more before ending up in Ark Hills, the hotel/TV Asahi Studios/Suntory Hall complex, for some coffee at a boulangerie. We had our Cafe Au Laits and watched as a ton of people came out of Suntory Hall after a concert had been held there. I got a feeling that the consecutive Sunday outings with Skippy have come to an end for a bit since I think the girl has kinda burned herself out. Besides, I'm meeting The Madame next Sunday for something. I sent her a birthday card last week but haven't gotten any reply.

The Lady pulled a dotyakan herself today but The Matron did arrive for her 90 with me. And SIL had another grand old time. Somehow, we got onto the topic of an old 70s idol by the name of Hiromi Go, one of the very early Johnny's Jimusho boy idols and precursor to SMAP and TOKIO. Now in his 40s, he's become one of those veteran celebs who only needs to show up on a show to get attention...he's just a bit of a bon vivant around town. He did have a bit of a comeback hit 7 years ago when he did his own cover of that Ricky Martin party song, "Livin La Vida Loca"...improbably called "Goldfinger 99" but mostly he's just popping about and doing ads for a spa called Takasu Clinic. But the weirdest thing happened to me today when I was on my way back to Shibuya Station when lo and behold I came across a small mob in front of the discount store, Don Quixote, and saw a camera crew. Two men stepped out of the store. One was a famous TBS announcer, and the other guy was none other than Hiromi Go himself. Man, I'll never admit it to The Madame but somehow my thoughts can be downright scary. I did send a report of my findings to SIL.

Well, things are kinda getting back to normal tomorrow. I've got the Beehive for their first after the summer vacation. It'll be my 8th year with them and knowing them pretty well by now, I've got a feeling that the talk will all be about their time off and the events of the day. Quite a few ranging from Princess Kiko's impending delivery of the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne to last week's little quake to the impending retirement of PM Koizumi. Always stuff to talk about with these ladies. But just in case, I may run off some copies of The Teacher's articles. Of course, The Teacher will be away for the next month. But I still have the juku students. Well, The Siberian will be busy with his upcoming Korea trip but I'll still have my hours with the rest of them.
Monday September 4, 6:36 p.m.

The weekend was pretty good as weekends go. Saturday was just the meeting with the one M. The other M did a dotyakan due to an interview in Yokohama. So it was the just the older M with me at The Tea Room. Ever since her rather unceremonious departure from her company last year, she's been doing just some part-time stuff but it looks like she's been wise enough to save enough money to float for quite a while. And she apparently has saved enough to get one of those Nintendo DS units. Of course, she got the English training program software. I gave it a whirl as well. You have to use one of those things in a quiet room. Even in a place like The Tea Room, the ambient noise level was such that I had to have the Nintendo repeat its phrases a few times before I could dictate it down correctly.

Sunday was the day for "Superman Returns". MB was with me for that one. But The Satyr pulled out due to finances and Skippy had already seen it in a special preview. I'd probably say that it was not nearly as bad as the American critics had put it but not the soaring piece of magnificence that the UK guys made it out to be. It's a bit of an interesting pattern, to be sure. The Yanks and the Brits were split the same way for the Star Wars prequels.

Anyways, the movie started out nicely with the old theme of planet Krypton playing while we pulled back from the erstwhile orb itself before its inevitable explosion. And then that logo and that John Williams theme blared out. The opening credit sequence just about matched the 1978 sequence except that the credits and theme were shorter (for the more ADD-riddled audience for today...and the fact that the cast list is much more concise than for the original movie) and the effects were far better. No more of those firework sparklers and oil/water splotches.

In fact, I'd say that instead of a sequel, this new Superman came off as a bit of a remake of the Christopher Reeve flick. Of course, much has been said about how similar Brandon Routh is to Reeve (not that much, in my opinion) in looks. But certain scenes paid tribute and hinted at scenes from the other movie such as Superman reappearing in public after saving an airplane in 2006 while in 1978, the other Superman rescued a helicopter. Also, certain lines were quoted as well....which, in one of the final scenes, was rather poignantly handled.

What worked was those aforementioned effects; the plane rescue sequence, for instance, was the most thrilling aspect in the movie. In those three minutes, the falling plane and the incoming Man of Steel managed to date all of the effects in the 1978 version. Also, the relationship between Supes and Lois Lane has matured...or at least Routh's and Kate Bosworth's portrayal of them. I'd like to see a show of hands of people who went for the airsick bag during the "Can You Read My Mind?" sequence with Reeve and Margot Kidder. At least here, the 2006 pairing was a lot less gooey. And then there is the meaner, more embittered and just about psychotic version of Lex Luthor as played by Kevin Spacey. No goofy theme music, no lovably oafish sidekicks and almost no comedic repartee. This Luthor has got some major hate issues with Superman and is more than willing to bring out the violence and dark banter.

What didn't quite work was some of the slow passages. MB mentioned that the ending of "Superman Returns" reminded him of the ending of "The Return of the King"....we didn't quite know when the movie would finally end. It just seemed to drag on for some minutes after the so-called climax. And speaking of that climax, MB also gave out a pretty astute point about the problem inherent within a Superman movie. Superman is supposedly so omnipotent that no villain could convincingly be a threat...unless that threat has the same powers (read: General Zod in "Superman II"). So the climax in this new flick wasn't really much of one. Not to say that the original "Superman" particularly succeeded in that regard either. Basically, it and "Superman Returns" and just about every first movie of every superhero franchise has a freshman jinx, not a sophomore one. For some reason, the first movie, whether it be the first "Spiderman" or the first "X-Men", hasn't been wholly satisfying. "Superman Returns" can also fall into this category. Brandon Routh is and will become a good Superman but he doesn't quite have the comic timing for Clark Kent down pat quite yet. Still, after so many years in development hell, I think we can give some kudos to Bryan Singer and look forward to the next adventure.