Friday, March 09, 2007

Saturday March 10, 1:53 p.m.

Back to nicer conditions after a couple of days of very wintry weather (though no snow). Looks like Mother Nature needed to put us in our place after that Indian Spring earlier this week.

Thursday was quite the day. I had four classes. That first class...a model lesson at Speedy's...was a good hit out of the park. The student is a teacher herself...a cooking one...and she needs the lessons to test out her English before she starts teaching the foreigners at her school. From the prep questions I'd sent out to her in advance, she said she could figure out that I liked to have fun in the kitchen. After that, I pretty much sealed the deal. I've got two more model lessons on tap next week, too.

Then, it was the 3-peat performance at the Ichigaya Tully's with The New Yorker, The Carolinan and BC. By the end of my three hours, I think one of the staff was looking at me. I'm not sure if he had been resentful of the fact that I monopolized one corner of the non-smoking section with my school without buying anything more than a Honey Latte (mind you, that was a 430-yen investment). Recently, a lot of the family restaurants have been putting up signs forbidding long residencies in their establishments (including meetings....not sure if that includes private English lessons); I hope the cafes don't follow suit. Still, I'm gonna hedge my bets at the next 3-peat and buy an extra mug or an entire meal there. What was also interesting about the back-to-back-to-back was that I went from low to high in terms of student ability. With The New Yorker, it was all about grammar drills and repetition; by the time, I finished with BC, the lesson was about coherent structure in a comparative essay dealing about Americans and Canadians.

Friday was also a day of having three lessons although not as intensively. I had 002 for her regular house call. I also got some delightful baked goodies via The Baker's mother. Man, I'm not usually a toast guy but I have and will continue to make an exception for Mom's homemade bread and apple pies. I had a slice today...blows away anything in the supermarkets. Then, it was off to downtown Tokyo for my final lesson with The OL...for now. Her university classes start up again so she'll be gone again. She and I made some prelim plans to get together with Betty Boop for another dinner together. Up until a year ago, the three of us had been fairly regular mutual diners at the various eateries in The Big Sushi. Then, I scooted back out to my neck of the woods for the last lesson of the day with The Ace. I was pretty scorched by then.

Today, I had Tully & The Coffeemaker for their semi-monthly. However, the cafe where I had my 3-peater a couple of days back was closed for remodeling (I would've been flattered in a way if the place had been closed just to keep me from hogging it up), so instead the three of us went over to the Cafe De Crie across the street. Cafe De Crie is another one of the domestic cafe chains, and the decor is somewhat lighter and more feminine than the dark woods of Tully's or Starbucks.

Tully had just returned from a few days in Hawaii (a graduation trip of sorts for him and his 2 buddies). Looks like the lad had a good time doing the circuit around the big island and even getting in some surfing. I got a box of dried fruit instead of the usual macadamia chocolates, a nice change. However, The Coffeemaker got the big winfall since she also received a White Day package from me.

Looks like The Wild Thing and I are back on for Sunday afternoon in Akiba. I've also asked Skippy, she being the not-so-closeted otaku, but I don't think she'll make it out at such short notice (Japanese usually require a week's notice for even a casual meet). However, she's thrown me an offer to catch "Happy Feet" in the next few weeks. Dancing

Still feeling a bit tired but I gotta clean house and write in my taxes before I head on out on Tuesday to the tax office. Yes, I did say that I would go yesterday but frankly I didn't have the cash on hand to pay the taxman, and I was loathe to go groveling to my ATM. With no cancellations, I should have enough by Tuesday afternoon. Also, I do have that oral test to concoct for the Younger sister tomorrow.

On the Michael Jackson front....yep, he's still here. Did Bic Camera on Monday midnight, then it was Tokyo Disneyland on Wednesday. Then, he did what his raison d'etre was on Thursday and Friday...a couple of big parties for his fans and underprivileged children at the whopping price of 400,ooo yen a head (that could be about $4,500 US)! At this meet-&-greet, there was the Michael Jackson lookalike contest (probably the second-biggest event for such people next to Elvis impersonators), a speech by the King of Pop, and a lot of photo opps. Even my clone, Mr. Karube the Fuji-TV celeb reporter, got his time in the sun with The One-Gloved One...I assume that his company and not him picked up the tab on his entry. Today is apparently his time to go watch some sort of baseball game or something at one of the US military bases near Tokyo. I'd say that if he stayed any longer, he could apply for Permanent Residency. Methinks that he would get it far faster than I did.

The other day, my sanity decided to take a few hours' off, and so I ended up forsaking my fiscal austerity program and bought a couple of discs at HMV. One was the latest by Shena Ringo, "Heisei Fuzoku" (Heisei Manners). I was intrigued by her performance on that Friday night music program the other week so I decided to splurge on the yen. Usually when I put on a new disc on my Discman just before hitting bed, the music does act like warm milk with nutmeg and I head off to la-la land. However, Shena kept slapping me awake. All of the usual Shena-nigans are there: the vacuously sinister look of the singer and complex kanji-riddled lyrics in the jacket that have been a trademark of her stuff over the past decade. In one of the singles from early in her career I have of her, there was a B-side song in which she sang a fairly good jazzy tune written and composed by her. I figured that jazz would be a good medium for her to try out. Well, I guess "Heisei Fuzoku" is perhaps that medium. Unlike the only other album of hers I got, "Muzai Moratorium", she's got a full orchestra behind her led by some cat named Neko Saito. And boy, does she put it through its paces. The first song, "Gamble" would've been a better theme song for the newest James Bond movie with its swinging brass-n-strings. And one of the middle songs, "Salle Du Bain" is probably one of the best Pet Shop Boys song the Boys never made; the lyrics kinda made me wonder if she were talking about some sort of stalker/photographer and her target or a sociopathic killer's latest conquest. Basically, the album taps into her acid jazz side, and though she won't scare Ella or Sarah, she could give the domestic folks like Ego-Wrappin' a run for their money. There's even the last track, "Memories" with her brother, Junpei Shena, that could be a Japanese cousin to The Beatles' "When I'm 64". I'd say I got my money's worth here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Thursday March 8, 12:20 p.m.

Hmmm....Matt Damon as Captain James Tiberius Kirk? Hmm...I'm starting to get images of that Matt Damon from "Team America"; y'know...Matt Damon: "Matt Damon..." Just not sure about this supposed J.J Abrams' "Star Trek XI" project. Adrien Brody as Spock? Gary Sinise as McCoy? I'm kinda wondering if this is gonna be some sort of movie of Trek impersonations. In that case, I would probably choose that actor/comedian from "The Usual Suspects" and "Hostage"...he does a killer Kirk. But then again, all's possible at this stage of the guessing game in Hollywood. And besides, look at what happened to "Battlestar Galactica". Could you have imagined the stoic lieutenant boss to Crockett and Tubbs from "Miami Vice" becoming the replacement to Lorne Greene's Commander Adama? Could anyone have imagined that this show and the new "Doctor Who" being called the best that TV has to offer in their respective countries? But there you are. The Anime King had sent me the article talking about all the fuss over the casting of this new prequel in the Star Trek series. He stated that he probably wouldn't imagine a Shatneresque rendition of Kirk. And so maybe that's the way it should go. A complete redux...a young James T. Kirk who has yet to gain the theatricality of his later self. Should be an interesting road ahead for Star Trek to regain credibility, if the movie ever gets off the ground.

And speaking of pop icons....Michael Jackson should basically think about changing residency to this country from that hothouse in the Middle East. At least Japan has four seasons...but then again, there is that rumour about the former King of Pop mulling the idea of converting to Islam. Still, Jackson would be ever-loved over here if the reaction to his latest visit is any indication. There doesn't seem to be that stigma of his creepy love of children over here that has gotten him persona non grata status in the States. Oh, the folks in Japan know about all the difficulties Jackson had been through for the last several years but that doesn't seem to be neither here nor there for his greatest fans. One girl who was approached by the cameras, barely coherent, managed to spit out between quivering lips how she could actually shake his hand. And this was because she was happy to see him. I could imagine the same reaction for folks in the States but for other more opposite reasons.

"Big in Japan" still applies for the one-gloved one, as it does for a lot of has-beens, also-rans and never-wases. Anyone who's considered AOR (the musical kiss of death in America) can find sanctuary in Japan, a country whose music stores actually have AOR sections. Jaye P. Morgan? Christopher Cross? Air Supply? Welcome home!
Thursday March 8, 11:37 a.m.

Back at Speedy's some 12 hours after I'd left it. Ended up sharing some Pizza Salvatore with the boss man, his wife and an acquaintance that I occasionally see at the school parties. Pizza Salvatore is the latest entry into the Tokyo pizza arena of battle with Domino's, Pizza-LA and Pizza Hut. I'm a Domino's guy with my de rigueur Giga Meat Medium but Pizza Salvatore probably has the highest quality pies in town. It was started up by some very professional pizzamakers (i.e. they're Italian) but a Japanese fellow who had won a prestigious pizzamaking prize in Sicily apparently also has a hand in the dough, so to speak. Accordingly, their prices aren't exactly the cheapest.

Looks like the media and rabid fans are continuing their "Where's Michael?" Easter Egg-like hunt. Yep, the one-gloved one made his latest nightly foray. On Monday, it was to the Yurakucho branch of Bic Camera at midnight...some hours after the place had closed. Still, there was quite a scrum of fans and media trying to get pics of Michael Jackson as he went rummaging like a raccoon. Last night, it was Tokyo Disneyland in my neck of the woods. Not sure, if his team had the entire place cordoned off like Bic. His big events are today and tomorrow. I'm sure Japanese TV will have all the details by this weekend.

After having the CSI franchise hijack TV Tokyo at noon with Horatio Caine and that other leader of the Las Vegas team, now it's Sydney Bristow's turn. Yep, "Alias" has finally arrived onto mainstream shores with her high-kicking and disguise-wearing. Never caught it from the beginning so I haven't particularly fallen in love with the series but if the DVD set can ever be bought for a ridiculously low price, I'll think about it. Still waiting to see if "Heroes" makes it out here someday. Maybe since a Japanese guy seems to be the big hero of the show, the series might get the fast track instead of the usual 5-year waiting period.

Well, I got that cooking teacher as my first student in an hour. It shouldn't be too intense as a model lesson since all I have to do is listen and critique her presentation. Speedy says the 16 questions I sent her to answer as part of her presentation will be more than enough for the hour. Then, I head on down to Ginza and see if I can pick up the first of my annual White Day chocolates for the students who were kind enough to give me some Valentine's Day goodies. The Sisters of State were the first ones and since I see them later today, well...gotta reciprocate. Not sure if I can afford even the smallest of the Godiva or Leonidas packages but there is always the stuff from the convenience stores. After all, it's really just giri-choco anyways.

It'll be a back-to-back-to-back evening with The Sisters of State and then the newest, BC, at the Ichigaya Tully's. I did a lot of copying today for the ladies. I hope I don't end up burning out by the end of tonight since I've got my tax office visit tomorrow AND another three classes with 002, The OL and The Ace.
Wednesday March 7, 8:22 p.m.

Another hump day gone by. The winter temps have started to creep back into the metropolis after a few days of early Spring. Only had 001 today. Looks like she's off on another one of her frequent ski weekends up in Hokkaido. Amazing the frequent flyer points she must be racking up.

Started getting my income tax papers in order before Friday's trip to the tax office to pay my cash. I found out much to my chagrin that I miscalculated somewhere and now I owe 5,000 yen more than originally thought. Just can't win.

Last night at the juku was pretty normal. The kids were fine along with Seven. Jolly dotakyan'ed as usual but both Milds showed up. I hadn't seen Mrs. Mild in nearly a month due to work. She was surprisingly quite stable despite the long absence. Of course, The Siberian is off in Korea for the rest of the month.

Another wrinkle in the celeb ethos. The Empress has been diagnosed with bleeding in her intestinal tract. Not sure how serious it is.

It'll be a busy one tomorrow. I've got a model lesson here at Speedy's with a cooking teacher asking me to take a look at her English delivery for her foreign students. If all works out, it'll become a regular gig. Then, I've got the battery of The New Yorker, The Carolinan and BC in Ichigaya.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Monday March 5, 4:39 p.m.

Well, unlike the near-summer conditions of yesterday, we've got clouds just whipping by and the threat of some heavy rain tonight, so I invested in a new collapsible umbrella to replace the one I'd left at the Tully's cafe a couple of weeks ago.

Yesterday saw The Polynesian showing some of her former loopiness in class. She couldn't string two sentences together and this was for a couple of Japanese folk tales, Momotaro and Urashimataro, stories that are as famous as Cinderella and The Tortoise and the Hare back home. Well, she did say that she had just gotten up before meeting me. I managed not to throw my pen at her in frustration.

And then I met The Wild Thing at Shinjuku Station. He and his wife were over by the escalators within the ticket gates. Wild Thing met me while his wife did an abrupt turn and quickly escaped up the escalators, off to see her friend. He did tell me once before that his wife wasn't the most open of folks but I just thought that it was somewhat rude of her not to even give a rudimentary greeting.

Anyways, I gave Wild Thing a couple of choices for eats: Saboten, the tonkatsu joint, or the old favourite of Foo Foo, the pai ko tan tan men place. We went for the latter, and of course, I introduced him to the wonder of artery-clogging deep-fried pork cutlet swimming in a spicy broth and noodles. To top off our all-cholesterol, all-the-time meal, we drank down a couple of beers. He was quite satisfied.

Wild Thing was his usual manically jovial and profane self and we did our usual swing through the talking points, going from French recipes to his wife to me bumping into our mutual friend the other night. He did belch a couple of times which I'm gonna have to warn him about.

Then, we did a walking tour through South Shinjuku since we had to attempt to walk off some of that dinner. Of course, I showed him the circus surrounding Krispy Kreme. And of course, he went into a little tirade about how this evil of business models was now sinking its teeth into the Japanese public. I've known for decades so it was all water down a duck's back to me although I couldn't really say how the folks walking around us reacted...probably just the usual: henna gaijin (strange foreigner).

After going up and down Kinokuniya and Takashimaya Times Square, we finally set down at a branch of Afternoon Tea in the Southern Tower Building. He kinda complained about the prices of an apple pie and coffee but if he's gonna be living here, he'll have to get used to it. We made a joint proposal about meeting next Sunday for a round at Akiba; I'll see if Skippy might be interested, although I'm kinda wondering how having two manic folks will be like for my sanity.

Well, the entertainment rags and morning wide shows are having a banner day today. Pop diva Hikaru Utada has decided to divorce her hubby of 4.5 years at the tender age of 24....geez, who saw that one coming? And what's more, her parents had apparently divorced last year for the 5th or 6th time; talk about your manic-depressive relationships.

Then, there is the return of Wacko Jacko to Tokyo. Michael Jackson hit the tarmac at Narita this past weekend to a wild crowd of 500 to make up for his sudden cancellation of a Xmas concert last year. He'll have another relatively long stay in the Big Sushi...the events are supposed to happen on the 8th and 9th...a lot of lounging time for a celeb. The nurseries and elementary schools are taking the necessary precautions.

And finally, a famed tarento is retiring rather suddenly at a young age. Ai Ijima has decided to pack it all in at the end of the month due to some health issues (something to do with her kidneys, I think). Ijima, 34, has stood out amongst the galaxy of TV personalities that always populate the airwaves (some would say pollute) since some 15 years ago, she wasn't Ai-chan the tarento but Ai-chan the Queen of Hard Porn. So far, she's the only one from that part of entertainment to make the full trip into mainstream TV land; kinda like if Marilyn Chambers had become a co-host on "Good Morning America". She also wrote an ingeniously titled autobiography, "Platonic Sex", several years back which became a bestseller which then became a movie and TV miniseries. Although a lot of her fellow tarento have been stating that she's a kind warm-hearted lady, she's known to the public as one of the more acid-tongued celebs out there. In fact, as late as last night (before the news broke), she apparently lashed out at Dave Spector, foreign tarento, on a TV show that both were on for being a little too gabby (yep, I would agree).

I'm sure that all three stories will be rolling through the media zeitgeist in the week to come.