Friday, September 29, 2006

Saturday September 30, 3:43 p.m.

Already the end of the month. Oy vey! Had the kids this morning. The Elder was her usual lackadaiscal self...had her usual sullen argument with Mother before meeting me. It was the first time seeing the Younger in 2 months. She has sprouted a couple of more centimetres and may have put on a kilo or two of muscle onto her shoulders, thanks to her new physical regimen of volleyball.

Spent the last couple of hours in the smoky Doutors cafe near Speedy's. And in less than half an hour, I've got The Ramen Lady for another 90 minutes of aimless chit-chat. I am gonna lend her my X-Men DVD as promised from last time. I don't know if she's gonna like it much; she doesn't strike me as being the sci-fi blockbuster type.

Speaking of X-Men...a relative neophyte can't come up with a complete review of a movie in one sitting. So, I'm back to this movie. After gurning through the memories of yesterday's viewing of "The Last Stand", I have to admit that though X3 was entertaining enough, I think a lot of it was due to some sleight-of-hand editing. After going through the various scenes in my head, I've come to the conclusion that the entire movie was made up of quick appearances of characters without really any deep scenes. I mean, The Phoenix was referred to as such only once, and Famke Janssen was basically the mutant version of the secret weapon...came out when finally needed and not until then. In fact, if I had the opportunity to make up the credit list of cast, I would've done it this way:

X-Men 3: The Last Stand

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Sir Ian McKellen (the only performers to get anything to chew on)

Guest Starring: Kelsey Grammer, and the kids who played Kitty Pryde, Iceman and Pyro

Featuring: tons of other mutants

Special Appearances by (ie cameos): James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin and Rebecca Romijn (as Ozzy Osbourne's, I mean, Mystique)

And: Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier

Quite a different lineup and focus compared to the first movie, eh? Mind you, I did enjoy Grammer's slight invocation of Frasier during a fight scene. All that was missing was a nice retort from Wolvie.

Despite the fact that the X-Men should probably end here, I've got the sneaking suspicion and millions of dollars of box office money backing me up that there will be an X4 in the not too distant future.

Kinda strange that after catching X3 yesterday for the first time, the DVD will be released Stateside next week...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Friday September 29, 2:54 p.m.

It hasn't been the greatest of weeks for me, professionally. That little misunderstanding at the end of the juku day is still unresolved. I did send that explanation and apology to the boss but I haven't heard a thing from her. And I'm starting to wonder about my current status working at Speedy's. Speedy has been a good and patient boss with me but I'm having my doubts whether I'll be there beyond the next couple of years.

The Carolinan was in good spirits, though, last night. Apparently, on Wednesday night, she and a friend had attended a megalong SMAP concert at the Tokyo Dome. Why anyone would subject herself to....ah, I'm being nasty. The Carolinan actually enjoyed herself...and she did get her money's worth. She paid 7,000 yen for what turned out to be a 3.5-hour concert spread over 6 hours. That's certainly better value than Madonna's tiny performance of 90 minutes for 10,000 yen. Arguably, though, Madge is the better dancer and singer...

I actually was grateful that I didn't have any work for most of Thursday. I found out on the morning news that due to a circuit switchboard fire in the bowels of Tokyo Station in the wee hours which shut down all of the commuter Keiyo Line, all those commuters (80,000 of them) decided to dogpile on my Tozai Line. I was surprised to see a bird's-eye view of Urayasu Station, a station that I know intimately, look like the SMAP concert audience. Luckily, I left home at around 4:30 so the problem was pretty much contained by then. All in all, a whopping 160,000 people got majorly screwed.

And for the first time in 12 years in my apartment building, I actually experienced myself and the residents of the other two units on my floor going into our respective homes at the same time. I think I could count on one hand the number of times that I've seen even one neighbour go in or out when I've done the same. And I've never seen two. Well, the one neighbour farthest from me happened to have just moved in. It looked like a family with the numbers. And then there is my latest next-door neighbour who appears a bit scruffy. He also has a penchant for slamming his door...a number of times. Well, I figured that I would, sooner or later, get a psycho as a neighbour
Friday September 29, 2:35 p.m.

Caught "X-Men 3: The Last Stand" this morning at the nearby Warner Mycal Theatres. Once again, I find myself being a little kinder to a superhero movie than some of the American critics or Egg have been to it. Certainly, I'm more inclined to be on MB's side. There was a lot more of the action in this supposedly final installment than there were in the previous two movies combined. I'm sure Halle Berry must be happy that she finally got to kick butt verbally and physically. Once again, as in X-Men 2, the more prominent stars got the bigger sections of the script pie, although with the necessarily huge cast, there were never going to be any major soliloquies. Still, it was too bad that Anna Paquin as Rogue, who was a key plot thread in the inaugural movie, gradually ends up as a cameo...and a depowered one at that. On the other hand, I thought it was just as well that the Cyclops/Marvel Girl relationship died an early and very concrete death. And really, even Marvel Girl & Wolverine never stood that much of a chance. It may be titled X-Men, but the trilogy has pretty much centered on Hugh Jackman with Patrick Stewart as the prerequisite Obi-Wan character.

Of course, "The Last Stand" is an ending and a non-ending of sorts. Those little teasers bracketing the end credits aside, I think the X-Men are done. But Hugh Jackman can now look forward to joining folks like Tom (well not anymore perhaps), Harrison and Tobey as a franchise man with a Wolverine series. And maybe Magneto would be worth a prequel. As for what I saw today, nope, I don't think the X-Men will hit the huge heights of a Star Wars in franchise rankings but it's stayed consistently good. I'd be happy to grab the DVD when it does come out.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wednesday September 27, 10:18 p.m.

A bit of a rough...nah, more disjointed...night tonight. 001 did her test and actually passed again with flying colours but before the good news was realized, I had neglected to tell her about some of the additional things she could've done to boost her chances. Speedy had to inform her. I sent my apologies; I wouldn't have known what to do if 001 had actually failed. And as for 007, he was OK but the class didn't seem to flow too well for some reason.

I've got a feeling that Farrah, that Saturday afternoon student has flown the coop for good. She hasn't gotten back to us about signing up for more lessons. The sporadic nature of her attendance is a good factor in that. Ah, well...

My Wednesday morning was more of a Monday morning schedule with The Class Act and SIL on the block. Whilst The Lady and The Matron were back, SIL has made a permanent venue shift to Ueno-Okachimachi, my old haunt, so that she could be closer to her mother. Our new classroom was an empty office once used by her late father in an old building. It had all the trimmings of a presidential office: big, plush armchairs and sofas, stuffed birds and even a daruma waiting to have its eyes painted in. We did an article on the outgoing PM, Junichiro Koizumi. A lot of political vocab to wade through. In any case, the new venue doesn't have the serene ambience of the The Lady's tatami room but it'll do. Besides, the place is more convenient in that I have a straight beeline via the Oedo Line to Speedy's.

The rains have finally ended. I hope that my shoes have dried to a certain degree. I was thinking of catching "X-Men 3" with the subtitle of "Final Solution" here in Japan, instead of "The Last Stand". I kinda wonder if Fox Japan had been thinking of adding that extra allusion to Nazism. However, I think that I'll hold off on seeing it tomorrow. After some of my rather lousy luck workwise over the past 24 hours, I'll probably work extra hard for The Carolinan. Maybe, it'll be a Friday thing since I've only got The UL then.
Wednesday September 27, 5:49 p.m.

It was a dark and stormy night last night...yup, one of the worst openings to a book in history, but pretty appropriate opening to this entry since it was a lousy ending to a day yesterday, both literally and figuratively for me.

As for the meterological meaning, well, the rains finally stopped this afternoon but not before both my dress shoes and sneakers got waterlogged. So I face another sloshy commute home. Had to buy a couple of pairs of socks to be dry at least for part of my day.

As for the figurative meaning, I had another one of those linguistic misunderstandings with the juku boss last night which ended up with me sullenly making a quick getaway from her house. It all started when I finished my last class with Mrs. Mild. The Siberian was still away in Korea. Since the weather was just flailing away out there, I decided that I would stay until about 9:30 in the hopes that the rains would give me a bit of a reprieve. Of course, they didn't. However, at about 9:15, the boss came in with that somewhat shocked look and asked if she'd missed a beat and wondered if The Siberian would be coming after all since I was still in my room. I assured her that he was still in Seoul. She stepped out to take care of her regular student but then shortly returned and gave some sort of bilingual gibberish explanation which I basically took to mean..."Get out!" Of course, she said all this in her happy-go-lucky way. I didn't understand her for the most part but I thought she gave this rather cockamamie excuse about me cramping her and her student's style by remaining in the room. Well, it is her I got ready to go. I didn't much relish going out in a driving rainstorm and just that lame reason got my Irish up. And since I'm the type to react first, think later...I started stomping my way out of the room. She asked me if I understood the situation. I told her point blank that I didn't but that we would have words next week and just gave a curt goodbye.

She got the "message" and then proceeded to leave three messages on my machine asking me to call her and apologizing for what had happened. I'm now in a better frame of mind so I decided to send over my own apology by e-mail since my very brief snap occurred in front of her student...admittedly, not a very professional thing to do. But I also tried to explain to her why I felt a little put out. I'll be awaiting the reply.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday September 25, 9:40 p.m.

Well, tomorrow will be the big turnover in administrations. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will hand over the reins to current LDP President Shinzo Abe...who will become the youngest head of state in the postwar era, all of 52 years of age (Japan more resembles Russia in its love of gerontocracy). I saw a picture of him and his wife, Akie, in today's edition of The Japan Times, and I just got an image of Tony and Cherie Blair. And to be honest, this could be the way of the new administration. But I also read that Abe is interested in applying an American-style presidential appointment system. Perhaps Akie will try to insert herself into things a la Cherie or Hillary Clinton....although I think there will be many more limitations in this society for a First Lady. In any case, it'll be the first time to see a PM's wife in several years, since Koizumi did his job as a veteran divorce. Speaking of him, what will he do from tomorrow? Maybe he'll just play his Elvis records for an entire week before hitting the road on a journey for a sighting.

Speaking of Elvis, it seems to me French Intelligence may have come up with the anti-Elvis thing by leaking that Bin Laden may already be dead. In America, it's the live Elvis sighting. Now there could be the dead Bin Laden sighting.

Well....I've finished my two tonight. The Part-Timer was her usual diligent self. She told me that SR is back temporarily helping out at her old company. The Part-Timer also mentioned that she's gone through The Creambath Ebisu Scalp Massage Challenge...and she's another convert. As for 008, she's turning out to be an ideal tonic as well as a student. She's just absorbing grammar and vocabulary like a sponge.

Gotta get going home. I've got another busy Tuesday.
Monday September 25, 5:37 p.m.

Well, The Eggs left for home yesterday. And so I'm left with a bit of Empty Nest continue with the ornithological analogy. It was nice having the couple over for about 10 days, and the side benefit of their presence was a tidier and slightly roomier apartment. There's nothing like the impending threat of house guests to force me to get my act together domestically. So now I'm left with better access into my bedroom and a fuller, more compact closet.

There's also nothing like guests from abroad to bring a fresh perspective or a reminder about life in this zany burg. During our tour of Akihabara early in The Egg's trip, he was marveling at the wares in places like Sato Musen or Bic Camera or Yodobashi. He remarked that the variety of electronic goods and appliances makes any of The Future Shops or Radio Shacks back in Canada look like a Moscow GUM Store during a recession. He (and I) were especially impressed by the fridges of all things. Not only do they come in many, many colours but one brand in particular even has a special compartment which not only keeps things especially frosty (such as that birthday cake), but in a "Wow! Why didn't I think of that?!" moment, also keeps things such as tempura or beef stew warm or hot for late-coming-home Daddy.

During our time watching television back home at night (at our age, we've started becoming part of the sedentary generation), we came across the ubiquitious music video channels that liberally populate my SkyPerfect. As we watched folks like J-Pop princess Aiko (her songs all sound the same) and the current crop of J-R&B singers ( pale copycat pretenders of the American variety), I realized that Japanese music is in an identity crisis. Strangely enough, the so-called inferior aidoru factory of the 70s and 80s differentiated itself much better from what was hot in America and England. Now, there is a form of parity between J-Pop and American pop. It's fine that the Japanese artists are trying to emulate American song forms but the talent has been such that they'll never stand out internationally. Not to say that the producers have been trying to do that on a widespread scale (aside from Toshinobu Kubota, Dreams Come True and Hikaru Utada); they are basically just making the local population happy. In a way, despite the fact that Japanese artists have seemingly become more "serious" about their craft, their progress has come at the expense of uniqueness. I'm hoping that someday a form of Japanese music does come out that makes a big splash overseas and sets itself apart from Britpop and American hip-hop.

Another thing that got the culture clash going happened when the three of us happened to come across the tail-end of a "Densha Otoko" special on TV. The phenomenon of film and telly of last year which was born from a Channel 2 urban legend came back as this special. And it all seemed like last year's news. The otaku program earned wails of laughter from my two house guests as they witnessed the acting and dramatic arcs with all the subtlety of a William Shatner monologue. That's how the Japanese like their dramas...over-the-top. It's probably why I've stopped watching them.
Monday September 25, 5:23 p.m.

Just 3 months before'll be kinda weird being back in The Great White North.

Had a different schedule from my usual Monday. The Class Act and SIL have shifted to Wednesday for this week, so I started with The New Yorker at The Tea Room. NY is still having problems getting her syntax together...makes me wonder if she's wondering about giving up the goat after over a year with me. Some folks are just not language-friendly. The Teacher contacted me to say that she's basically pulling out due to her affliction; again, I'm not sure if she's really on the level or if she's just using the disease as an excuse...basically all of our lessons have been just talkfests and those always have a limited shelf life. I've got The Part-Timer and 008 ready to go, though. And on a further good note, a student that I'd had a limited engagement with, The Opera Singer, is going for another tour with us for another 12 lessons.