Friday, February 02, 2007

Saturday February 3, 4:16 p.m.

Came across a rather funny editing piece via YouTube. For all you Trekkies, check out "Captain Janeway's Mission: Impossible". All I'll say is that all that stylized acting and expression on the various Treks have finally found an even better use. Also, YouTube has come out as a great treasure vault for old and musty 80s music videos. Go West (the band, not the Pet Shop Boys song)? Wang Chung? I found them.

I'm typing this as Speedy is interviewing a potential new teacher. So far, he's been having problems trying to get any good ones for the interview stage. We've got a number of bittersweet running gags at this school. One is the fact that we have a revolving door when it comes to admin soon as one comes in, the other goes out the door. By the time April rolls around, we'll be losing all three of our assistants to full-time jobs. The other is the seeming impossibility for interviewees to show up on time or even show up at all. Kinda reminds me of what someone at university once told me; at the time, I thought it was prototypically arrogant of him. He said that he, more often than not, had to come down to the level of standards of his peers instead of the other way around. Considering some of the folks we've had come through the door over the months, I'm now wondering if that guy were somewhat prescient.

Looks like another one of our stores underneath my subway station has gone the way of the dodo. Our revolving sushi store died a couple of years back with no replacement even now, the Fujiya branch is undergoing self-reflective closure due to its scandal, and now a longtime book store has closed its doors for good. I could make out from the sign that it was a rather hasty exit. Not sure if there were problems with the rent.
Saturday February 3, 3:40 p.m.

Got through my EIC class again in good fashion. Yup, she's a keeper, so it was with some surprise to hear from Speedy that the bonny lass has a bit of Englishphobia...or at least, she had it...doesn't like learning the language but according to her, it is this year's mission to start liking English. Well, I can say that she's started off on the right foot.

Unfortunately, I didn't have as much success with The Polynesian this morning. She basically stood me up at the family restaurant. It's unusual for her since she's been very steady and reliable since we started lessons last year. I'm not sure if her new job has finally gotten the best of her and she subsequently needed sleep badly. I've sent a message to her cellphone but have yet to get a response. I was somewhat put out at the time but the damage wasn't too bad. In fact, I'd say this no-show was in the best of circumstances since I was supposed to be at Speedy's just a few blocks away anyways for the EIC.

Looks like we are on for Wings N' Burgers at The Maple Leaf tomorrow with The Satyr, Movie Buddy and The Sylph along with at least one more Aussie. Unfortunately, Skippy had to bail. Maybe I'll ask The Bohemian and see if he's game since I haven't seen him in a number of months.

Well, I'll be getting some stuff done for my new kids at the juku on Tuesday before heading home for dinner...
Saturday February 3, 1:37 p.m.

"Global warming caused by humans."

And now, a commentary by this blogger...


And in other news, today happens to include those hours in which America's Groundhog Day and Japan's Setsubun coincide. I think most of you know about the former (big rodent comes out of his hole...sees shadow...6 more weeks of winter...goes back to bed...just like any Sunday bachelor); as for the latter, February 3 is known here as the day of throwing hard dry beans at the devil. Everybody from mothers to sumo wrestlers throw the stuff at the folks who've pulled the short straw and ended up as the devils (ever get hit with those beans?...not exactly the greatest feeling).

I say that like those teens on "The O.C." did with Chrismakkuh, we ought to blend our two holidays to make "Setsuhog Day". That way, instead of pelting beans at people in devil masks, we can actually start chasing rats on the Tozai Line. I think that with that comment, I should be getting hate mail from PETA shortly.
Friday February 2, 6:02 p.m.

Just getting some blogging done before my lone couple of classes at the juku tonight. I've got Seven and The Ace (sounds like a new US cartoon).

Yesterday, I only had The New Yorker in Ichigaya. Just figures that with all the work I put in to make a topic like relative clauses starting with gerunds and preps more palatable for her, she had all the enthusiasm of a kid going to her first innoculation. However, she did give me a flyer from the Krispy Kreme. Amazingly, she was able to wait for the ridiculously small amount of time of 10 minutes to get her box of donuts...mind you, it was at 9 hour before closing. However, it does give me perchance to dream.

Today, it was just a trip to the local department store. I kinda looked around in the electronics area. Sure enough, I did see a CD/tape system selling for the price of just 4,100 yen. Since my old ONKYO is now dying, I'm kinda wondering if I should splurge a bit but I have yet to pay my final premiums for Citizen's Tax and Health Insurance. I also saw some bins selling for 980 yen to make things a little tidier within my burgeoning closet. However, I got some late e-mail from MB and The Satyr saying that they're actually good to go on Sunday for The Maple Leaf in Shibuya so maybe I'll have to save up some cash for that.

Saw the last hour of "Gosford Park", that 2001 Oscar winner on Super Drama TV. Chock full of celebs in what was really more "Upstairs, Downstairs" drama than a Clue-like whodunit. At least, Robert Altman was even-handed in his characters...the castes didn't matter, there were plenty of flawed people everywhere.

Stayed up late last night to see the anime version of "Nodame Cantabile" on Fuji-TV. It was pretty much a straight transition of the original manga to the screen. It was notable how blase it was toward the idea of pre-marital or even extramarital sex. The main protagonist of Chiaki used the lure of it to get back a willing Nodame from the clutches of randy virtuoso conductor Streizmann. I guess maybe that's why Fuji put it up at 12:50 in the morning.

With all of the scandals and murders so far this year, I guess 2007 still has enough room to accomodate a foot-ingesting Health Minister for stating that women are merely "baby-making machines" and to even welcome into the country a Chilean "the other woman" type who has arrived in Japan mysteriously. A few years ago, her paramour....a philandering civil servant from the north of Japan...was apparently caught red-handed for showering her with all sorts of gifts and money via the government coffers (I may be wrong...this is all coming back from memory). There was a full court press and swarm covering her like honey all yesterday. Not sure what she's up to...I assume that the skunk is still in jail.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wednesday January 31, 9:34 p.m.

Well, it looks like that plea of misquoting did get out. I just checked Michael Buble's website and he came out with a clarification about his tirade against the Grammys and Tony Bennett. As expected, he did clear the air about Bennett stating that it wasn't his intention to slag the man and that it came out all wrong. However, he stuck to his guns about the Grammys since the Traditional Jazz Award was only given out during the dinner session instead of the live and televised portion. Kudos to him for coming out whip-fast on that and though I do agree with him that it would be nice to have jazz recognized on the tube, I don't think it needs to be done; and I say this as a jazz fan. Awards shows are bloated enough as they are on TV, and admittedly, jazz frankly still remains a niche genre. Besides, I think it's a bit dodgy of him to complain about not having the category covered on the telly especially when he's nominated in it.

Anyways, I'm out of's time.
Wednesday January 31, 9:08 p.m.

Saw something mildly intriguing on the Sympatico site. There was an article in which Canadian crooner Michael Buble basically sets a torch to a lot of bridges. He lashed out at the American Grammys and the fact that there is no use going to the ceremonies since he won't win against Tony Bennett and that none of the American journalists would recognize him, and then he boasts about the fact that while some other ceremonies, the Golden Globes I believe, were going on, he was having smokes outside with some of his Canucklehead buddies while his girlfriend, actress Emily Blunt, was getting ready for her 15 minutes of fame.

Now I'm not sure if the media had been warping things out of proportion or if Buble's agent had encouraged a more controversial image for the singer. In a way, I wish that were the case. I've been a fan of Buble's for a few years now and was happy that he scored Album of the Year at the Canadian version of the Grammys last year. So it was with some dismay that I read this item, because it showed Buble as a complete whiny spoiled brat. I mean, has the guy forgotten about his awards up in The Great White North, the fact that Tony Bennett is a legend and that he should thank his lucky stars that he would even be nominated beside him? And so what about the American journalists not recognizing him? Does the guy crave fame all that much? Buble is a good singer with an obvious love for the jazz but I think Frank Sinatra's ghost oughta come on down and badda-boom-badda-bing him upside the head for that sort of commentary. I don't think much of the various awards and how they're judged upon, but Buble's tirade doesn't exactly honour himself. But then again, maybe that's how crooners act offstage. I remember that Sinatra's prince regent, Harry Connick Jr., once had a hissy fit one time at a party when he perceived some disrespect from the audience and just stormed off. Not sure if he learned anything from that experience but he seems to have a more humbler presence now.

Maybe Buble could take a lesson from actor Ricky Schroeder. On a recent interview for Season Six of "24" on Larry King Live, he mentioned that he'd gone back to Ricky from Rick, stating that he thought that whole name hoopla was just a stupid ego trip and illustration of insecurity. Again, I hope that Buble article was just a huge misquote.
Wednesday January 31, 8:05 p.m.

Just finished with 001 right now, after a 2-week hiatus. It was another good session; of course, there was the usual sidetracking. Earlier in the day, I saw her good buddy, 002. It looks like there may be another party at her place in the offing...she promised that it would be an omnivorous session this time around.

For the past few days, I've been reading a manga...that's right, a manga...thanks to the kindness of Skippy. On Sunday, she brought over the first five volumes of this Japanese comic book which had become a minor pop phenomenon last year. Called "Nodame Cantabile", the manga was written by one Tomoko Ninomiya a few years back but gained enough of a following that it was adapted into a Fuji-TV series and now, an anime series started up a couple of weeks ago. It's about all of the hijinks at this fictional music conservatory in Tokyo involving a young female pianist named Megumi Noda (hence the nickname Nodame) who tiptoes on the line between genius and madness, and her love in the form of a starchy young man named Shinichi Chiaki, another piano prodigy who really wants to become a world-class conductor. I've found the manga to be rather charming in its Japanese way...ah, by the way, Skippy lent me the English-translated versions so it's been pretty easy to skim through. I could see why the manga became this 12-ep drama serial in the coveted Monday-at-9 slot at Fuji...the manga has the usual elements of broad slapstick, characters and situations that make for a typical Japanese TV romantic comedy. I never caught the TV series since I had never read the comic but the commercials showed that the series even incorporated the silly reactions of Shinichi batting Nodame from the manga via "The Matrix" special effects; yes, I did say batting...over here, the 3 Stooges-like smacking and pounding are accepted as part of the fun. If this were ever to happen on an episode of "Grey's Anatomy", there'd be a Congressional investigation into violence on TV. I think the only thing the English version got lost in translation is how the original kanji often gets twisted or overemphasized to show the characters' emotions. In the translated versions, no matter how hot and bothered Shinichi gets, the font remains stubbornly flat and uniform. Still, the manga is a good thing to go through on the subway rides.

I've only got The New Yorker tomorrow since I don't think B2 will be taking anything with me in the evening. Sigh...another low-income start to a month. Well, at least I'll get a night off...
Wednesday January 31, 5:29 p.m.

Amazing how this month went by. On the first day, I was having New Year's dinner with my family back in T.O., and now on this final day, I've just had my dinner of two rice balls and gobo salad in Tokyo.

My 3-night binge of food and drink went fairly well although I paid dearly for it. I think the bill came out to about 11,000 yen. Now, that might not sound too bad, especially in the world's most expensive city but when my usual budget per day is a tenth of that...

Just to recap, I had that reunion party of sorts with the alumni from the ol' school on Friday night at Tsuki no Yume, another hopped-up Shibuya izakaya. That was a bit of a bust since the organizer, The Barmaiden, didn't exactly coordinate things too well there. She set everything up for 7 p.m. but as of 7:30, I was the only one there sitting in the corner just writing up the lesson reports. The manager was fairly tense as he approached me. But luckily after the second time, MB and some of the alumni showed up finally. The Barmaiden herself came through about an hour into things. It's usually hard to tell with The Barmaiden but apparently she was rather upset with management for the hassle she got; however, I think she should look into the mirror for blame.

Saturday was the shinnenkai (New Year's party) via Speedy's school. We definitely went upscale (and the bulk of my loss of money was because of this event) at Casa De Fado, a Portuguese restaurant in a side stree of Yotsuya, home of The Hotel New Otani and Sophia University. Paid 5,500 yen for a course meal which was quite tasty. I think the dish of the night was this steamed clam dish with a delectable garlic butter sauce. I was using the bulk of the complementary bread sopping up that stuff from the dish. I was seated across from PH, the first time I've seen her in half a year. I tell ya...I should've gone into the psychiatric profession. Along with The UL and The Polynesian, I had another session of listening while PH vented on the frustrations of work. At least, if I had become a counselor I could've had billable hours. Good dining experience, all in all, but I don't think I'll be going there anytime soon...that is, until I get myself into a higher income tax bracket.

Finally, on Sunday night, the movie crowd of MB, The Sylph, The Satyr, Skippy and an old friend of The Sylph's, The Designer, went to JAM'S, the latest in our burger odyssey. Located in Ebisu, JAM'S is another one of those tiny eateries which has gotten onto the media map with its unique-looking burgers. But it's not the bunned burgers...actually, this is the Japanese version with demiglasse sauce and a hot plate. Namely, we're talking Salisbury Steak here. Instead of the flat ovals, the JAM'S burgers come out looking like sausages for some reason. In fact, they're called Boston Burgers...whether or not they actually have anything to do with Beantown remains to be explained. The dishes came out in small, medium and double sizes. Of course, I decided to go whole hog and went for double. As with the others, a waitress brought out my sizzling plate of burgers, a jacket potato with butter and some other veggies, along with cooked rice. She asked me to bring up my napkin so that I wouldn't get splattered with any excess grease (not that it mattered anyways...I was practically infused with burger odor for the rest of the night) be frank, I felt kinda gay bringing up my napkin up to my nose like some sort of bouffanted woman of breeding. In any case, she split the burgers into two and then proceeded to have the rest of the cooking process done at the table to my desired doneness (medium). The burgers were actually quite raw when they arrived...only the outside was seared back in the kitchen. During the ordering, we were also to pick from several sauces. I went for ponzu, a stylized version of soy sauce. I couldn't believe it but I actually finished all 360 g worth of burger. I still had it. And the good times kept on rolling...the bunch of us walked over to Ebisu Garden Place and found a dessert eatery. Unlike the first two nights, I'm definitely looking forward to another go at JAM'S.

Earlier that Sunday, the movie group went to see "The Departed" with Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon. We did get our money's worth on that one (getting nominated for Best Picture certainly increased its cachet). Adapted from the Hong Kong crime flick "Internal Affairs", it was pretty evident where the Asian influence came into the Hollywood version (the last few minutes of guns ablazing). I was wondering where the title of this version came from but after catching it, I went "Ah..." Everyone was acting in good order; it was kind of jarring to see Martin Sheen not portraying the President of the US (just goes to show how much of a stamp he left on "The West Wing"), and of course, Jack Nicholson was Jack Nicholson. I think there was also a bit of Mamet in the dialogue, especially when Alec Baldwin's Captain Ellerby and Mark Wahlberg's incredibly hostile Sgt. Dingham got into a short intense spat. It was a fine if depressing movie to watch although I would've liked to have seen more of the happy times with Damon's character to coincide with the mental deterioration of DiCaprio's. However one of the things I did appreciate was a good "Whoa!" moment. As one gets older at the movie theatre, one gets rather jaded at the same old stuff...very few surprises for the viewer. But we did get one gasp from the audience when DiCaprio gets his six at the end.