Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sunday April 29, 1:43 p.m.

Glorious day out there. Probably around 25 C and sunny. Quite unlike the maelstrom of yesterday. I was watching the news yesterday. Apparently, Tokyo was getting whacked by gusts of up to 30 m/s. Some events held under tents got a rather rude awakening and some construction lattices got knocked over...surprisingly noone was injured.

There was also some whacking in the political arena. Looks like Japan's most popular governor (for now), Governor Higashikokubaru of Miyazaki Prefecture has started using some of his political capital to attack a politico's typical enemies: the media and other politicians. The media was no real surprise...even the domeheaded governor admitted later on his sudden tirade at his press conference was more bluster than actual grievance against the journos; he just wanted to stake his borderlines about what's permissible and what's not. However, a few days ago, in an interview along the Miyazaki coastline, he decided to take on the most powerful (and far from popular) governor in the country, Shintaro Ishihara. Higashikokubaru said that Ishihara's re-election meant that the arrogance of Tokyo will continue on and that there won't be any fruitful change. Well, a lot of folks had thought that the 74-year-old Ishihara was looking a bit frayed around the changes. However, the broadside from the countryside knocked the old man into verbal action. Ishihara started launching some sidewinder missiles of his own on Friday. Not surprisingly, Higashikokubaru got a friendly visit from one of Ishihara's main rivals in the recent elections, former Miyagi Prefecture governor Asano. As for political capital he has gained in the first 3 months of his tenure, I would advise the popular Governor Higashikokubaru that a far higher authority across the Pacific stated something similar and is now paying much more than he'd thought. Still, although panelists today on the morning political program said that this little spat would only stay one, I'm kinda looking forward to a battle between the Ishihara Gundan and Beat Takeshi's Army.

Got the place cleaned up for MB's arrival later today. I also sent a clarification to The Polynesian who's not exactly the most prompt replyer. Basically, she's lost her window of opportunity to see me tomorrow but I'm still holding out next Sunday.

Caught a new TV show last night on TBS starring the World's Busiest TV Personality (according to the good people at Guinness), Monta Mino. He's decided to further extend his masochistic schedule by hosting one of those celeb-populated game/obstacle course shows that the natives here seem to love. Called "Captain Do-Mino", it has Mino dressed up like a B-grade space captain while his "executive officer", Takashi Fujii (the fruitcake Japanese host from "Lost In Translation") is the human megaphone following orders to the various guests to take part in what could be described as an Akihabara-style array of games such as a variation of that old game, Dance Dance Revolution, via pads on a musical suit, and Memory Tic Tac Toe. The very first guests featured a fairly formidable lineup including the Queen of J-R&B, Akiko Wada.
Saturday April 28, 5:59 p.m.

Both The Dentist and I missed a couple of mighty bullets this afternoon. For my student, she got in...sans umbrella...just a few minutes before The Mother of All Downpours descended upon The Big Sushi for several minutes. We were witness to some massive sheets of precipitation smacking down on whatever and whoever was left on the pavement. Fortunately for her as well, the rains let up just when her lesson ended. As for my bullet, I missed it when I realized that I'd planned the right chapter...but for the wrong level of book. Ach! However, she still had hers and I've been doing this job long enough so that I could literally teach from her text upside down.

Just spent the last couple of hours doing some curricula. Was in danger of falling asleep a couple of times but still managed to finish off yet another text. Now, I'm planning to head on home to do some major relaxation before cleaning up things tomorrow morning before MB comes on over.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Saturday April 28, 2:40 p.m.

A fairly decent day out there. However, for the beginning of another Golden Week, the Tozai Line was pretty packed as I made my way to see the kids again. The Elder was reliving her sullen days with me today although The Junior made up for it. Since I had a couple of hours before seeing The Dentist at Speedy's, I just went over to a Chinese eatery just above Shinjuku Station on the Oedo Line. Pretty filling stuff with Spicy Chicken and rice...and the dumplings and veggies are free. Not bad for 900 yen.

I took a quick dip into Kinokuniya Bookstore. But on the way there, I saw that Krispy Kreme still has that huge 2-hour lineup attached to it. And we're going on 6 months since the place opened before Xmas. When is the chain gonna open a second branch?

Some more adjustments on my calendar. The Coffeemaker contacted me to cancel hers and Tully's lesson on the 30th, and the kids's mother wants my lessons switched to Sundays next month from the regular Saturdays. Well, at least, Movie Buddy and I can be rather leisurely with our holiday Monday. However, The Polynesian is taking her sweet time replying despite the fact that I've been contacting her cellphone e-mail.
Friday April 27, 5:36 p.m.

Forgot to mention one thing. With all the news that's gone on these past two weeks such as the Democrats and the White House slugging it out over the Iraq War, the Virginia Tech Massacre and other such nonsense, one little positive news story managed to peep out into the mediasphere like a chick breaking out of its shell. A couple of European astronomers may have come across the first inhabitable planet outside of our solar system. And it's not all that far away...just trillions of miles. Cosmically speaking, I guess that's just down the street. As a currently dormant Trekkie, I'm quite a happy camper, although I haven't been tricked by any of those CG pictures of this so-called planet. The astronomers don't have technology nearly advanced enough to actually see this Earth-like orb...just a lot of shadows and gravity fluctuations. Still, I am hoping that I will live long enough to see that TIME magazine cover stating "We are not alone".

In a related story, Stephen Hawking just had his fun time on The Vomit Comet for some gravity-free hysterics. He still insists that space is indeed the final frontier.
Friday April 27, 5:04 p.m.

A bit of a weird one at 002's yesterday. I was going to her place for her regular home lesson when the skies suddenly opened up, despite the forecast that it was gonna be sunny all day. However, it luckily only lasted as long as the lesson itself. The strangeness wasn't just limited to the outside pyrotechnics, however. 002 has always been one of my steadiest and hardest-working students in my little flock...but she does have an underconfidence problem. She got a little tongue-tied with the comparative form of "", and got comprehensively flustered within a minute. I had her repeat some of her corrected statements again but she remained somewhat unnerved. And then she half-jokingly said I was in my more "Sparta" mode today. (over here, Sparta refers to a more rigid style of teaching...namely, more ball-busting). I was a bit surprised by that statement since I don't think I changed anything in my delivery; I think she got that wrong image from all the beating that she was doing on herself. In any case, the instinct kicked in and I did my Dancing Bear routine for the last few minutes which brought her spirits back up.

Got over to Ichigaya to teach The Carolinan and BC. Those were more steadier affairs although the former was still fumbling over her structure and the latter also has a bit of a insecurity problem as well. As for BC, she'll be away for about a month, since she'll be doing a trip with friends in Belgium and Holland. In any case, by the time I got home, I felt like I really earned my yen. Luckily, I could sleep in this morning.

Woke up and caught some of CNN. There was a Democratic Presidential Nominee debate last night? First time I heard it. There were 7 or 8 of those folks including Obama, Clinton and Edwards tussling about on the issues; problem was that there were 7 or 8 of those folks. The debators and the media griped about how little they could get anything out of it with all of those Democrats on their podia.

Headed out to Ichigaya once again to teach The New Yorker at the Tully's. She was running the spectrum in terms of moment she took an eternity to answer a question and then later on, she was giving out some pretty good stuff. Looks like she and her sister, The Carolinan, will be headed out next week to catch a Hawaiian ukelele concert in downtown Yokohama. It's kinda hard to imagine The New Yorker...this quiet nail artist with a boho fashion sense....going nuts for uke music. However, the Sisters of State along with their mother will be making another beeline for The Aloha State in early summer. Would've enjoyed the talk further if it hadn't been for a gaggle of gyaru geese who were just jabbering away at huge decibels on the other side of the room. Shibuya gals don't seem to be satisfied enjoying the fine art of conversation unless they can speak at a volume that can make the windows vibrate.

Tully the student contacted me to say that he could get into Georgetown U. for a month-long English course. Lucky him...I'm sure he'll have lots to say on Monday for his class. I even got word from The Polynesian after her long absence to ask for classes again. And I even got a call from The Ballerina during breakfast yesterday. She got into Narita after another flight on her airline. Looks like it'll be a very short layover for her. She's meeting her buddy in trendy Shimo-Kitazawa today and then she's back on the plane tomorrow. Her voice has taken on a somewhat unusual if slight Eastern European accent. I wonder if she's been hanging out with gypsies.

Even earlier, I got a wake-up call thanks to The Matron. She had left a message on Wednesday night saying that she would call in the morning, so when the bell rang, I was able to leap out of the bed and grab the phone. Looks like the first class in May for The Class Act will be a field trip to a French restaurant near her hubby's office.

After The New Yorker, I went over to Maruzen in Otemachi to pick up the new text for the Elder sister for her class tomorrow. Yup, after about 3 weeks, I'm back at the kids' house. Actually, today was the launch date of yet another fancy-schmancy shopping/restaurant complex in downtown Tokyo. This time, it's the New Maru Building, just across from the old one. I would've taken a look but decided that the place would be too crowded. Besides, I was looking more forward to my Bun Bi at Com Pho downstairs.

So, I've got my class later at the juku with The Ace, another face that I haven't seen in a few weeks. Then, just some quick shuteye before seeing the kids tomorrow morning and then The Dentist at Speedy's. The Manhattanite was also supposed to come but did the quick cancellation. Movie Buddy will be over Sunday night for DVD night. The Satyr declined since he and his new girl will be off somewhere.

Looks like the first two reviews I've seen for "Spiderman 3" have been less than glowing. CNN has referred to it as "solid but not amazing" while the fellow for Tokyo Metropolis, a reviewer about as curmudgeonly as J. Jonah Jameson, just said that the second sequel is merely a cash cow (spider?) and show window for special effects. Well, I also thought the first Spiderman was kinda like what CNN said, but I also enjoyed it all the same, so it shouldn't be too bad.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wednesday April 25, 9:07 p.m.

Been here for almost 12 hours now, and I'm pretty fit for bed just about now. 001 was fine but by the end of her lesson, I think all of us (Speedy sat in for the last few minutes) were pretty ready to call it a day. At least, I won't need to get started until 002's lesson in the afternoon. Still, I'll have to plan for The Carolinan and BC tomorrow night. I also received a short e-mail from the long-absent Polynesian who wants to resume her lessons. I'm sure she'll have a tale to tell.

The good news is that I got my pay today from Speedy. A nice amount this month...may splurge a little bit.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wednesday April 25, 12:43 p.m.

So far so good. The Nurse was continuing her status as "go-to student to teach" this morning. And The Cook has cut her double lesson down to a single since...dammit...she's just not ready for the big time quite yet. I'm actually fairly relieved since my energy levels are also just not all that high today. My shoulders feel rather fossilized right now....could do with a good massage, but I don't think one will be forthcoming in the coming hours. Just glad that I've got 001 to wrap up things.

Well, the judgement came down on the Lucie Blackman case yesterday. Blackman was that British flight attendant-turned-gaijin hostess who was raped, murdered and dismembered allegedly by millionaire psychopath Joji Obara all the way back in 2000. That was a case which basically fell off the media radar for several years until it popped up again last month, close to the verdict and coincidentally, in the light of the Lindsay Ann Hawker case. Most of us thought Obara was gonna get the gallows but unfortunately, most of us weren't judging the case. The three judges decided to throw the nutbar into jail for life for serial rape but not for killing Blackman since there is no evidence directly linking him to any killing. Not a happy lot received this news, not least the poor lass' father and sister. In defense of the judges, though, the evidence was circumstantial; there have been columnists in "The Japan Times" today and probably in "The Daily Yomiuri" countering the judges' decision by stating that circumstantial evidence was enough to convict other defendants. However, I'm of the opinion that circumstantial is circumstantial. There's gotta be a conviction based on solid facts and evidence. Not that I'm happy that Obara has gotten literally away with murder, but he has gotten the maximum possible outcome outside of death, life imprisonment. I don't think he'll be seeing too many girls in the big house.

I've been noticing that the Major Leagues have gotten quite a surplus of Japanese players since Hideo Nomo made his breakout back in 1995. Until recently, everyone here could root for one of the Japanese players like Matsui or Ichiro in the hopes that he could get that World Series ring. Now, although the Japanese media breathlessly announce matchups like Matsuzaka vs. Matsui as if they were Mothra vs. Godzilla, American baseball has gotten enough players from here so that matchups of teams with J-names are pretty much common stuff. No matter who plays who, there'll be a Japanese winner and loser. Heck, Tomo Ohka got his win for the Jays the other day over Boston, which contains the more heralded Matsuzaka. Speaking of whom, I'm not sure if Dice-K got his win on Monday but, and it might just be me, but am I getting the feeling that the 51-million-dollar man isn't living up to full expectations? Then again, can anyone live up to $51 million? Hopefully, the (so-far) congenial Matsuzaka won't end up being called a toad by the team owner like former New York Yankee Hideki Irabu did by George Steinbrenner when he wasn't living up to his promise. Then again, Kei Igawa of that very same team may replace Irabu in the G-Man's doghouse.

Speaking of Japanese imports in other genres (and this isn't about the fact that Toyota has overtaken GM), my clone in the form of Masi Oka as hero Hiro of "Heroes" has finally gotten an article written about him in "The Japan Times". The problem is that the picture they showed of the genius-level actor is of him wielding some sort of club the picture of Cho Seung Hui from the Virginia Tech massacre. The news and the photos had been out there for a week....couldn't the newspaper have picked a more appropriate picture of Oka?

Well, time for some lunch...
Wednesday April 25, 9:34 a.m.

Nothing like an early morning commute on a stuffy subway with slightly damp folks to wake up one. Fortunately, no "road rage" took place.

Had my McBreakfast at the branch near Speedy's. I think that'll be my kitchen away from home during these morning classes at the school. At least, McD's has a semblance of a non-smoking area unlike Doutor's which seems to be the last refuge on Earth for desperate smokers.

I've got a large slate today with The Nurse, The Cook for her double lesson and then 001 to wrap up. Speedy is already proclaiming that he'll be taking off early tonight on account of exhaustion but from past experience, that usually means he'll only be staying 2-3 hours overtime.

Yesterday, The Beehive and I had our very last lesson in the meeting room on the 3rd floor of that bowling alley that we'd be using for years and years. At least for me, it was over 8 years. No particular tears, but all of us did thank the staff personally. So it was off to our temporary residence on the other side of Tsudanuma Station. I'd never been to the other side before; it's certainly a lot more urban and bustling than the relative residential feel where the alley is. From the 8th, we'll be trying out the food court at the JUSCO supermarket. We took a look at the place and actually had lunch there. The court is huge...and packed with a lot of families with screaming kids but then again, it was noon. I'm hoping that 10 won't be as frenetic. Still, the choices for eats and drinks were quite intriguing. I saw a couple of ramen places, a Pepper Lunch (the sizzling hamburg steak chain) and a Baskin-Robbins. I decided to have a taco/spaghetti set (!) at one stand. Not too bad, actually. The chairs are quite large, even for my girth. If the food court doesn't work out, Mrs. Alp suggested Beckers, the hamburger restaurant in Tsudanuma Station itself, where I used to teach with The Teacher. And as a last resort, we may end up doing rotations with the students' homes.

As for the juku, the mysterious Jolly finally re-surfaced though it took the fact that he had my TOEIC CDs to get him to come out of the woodwork. Apparently, he will be coming back into the fold, although the boss said that most likely he'll be shifted to the very last slot on Tuesday night due to his strenuous schedule. Well, we shall, that he has given back the discs, I wonder if he'll just pull off another disappearing act again, this time for good. As it turns out, I'll be having the full slate of students next week despite it being Golden Week. Not complaining too much since it'll be a pretty light week financially.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday April 23, 10:25 p.m.

Managed to finally get a decent lesson with Mr. TOEIC tonight...good enough so that he's renewed for another year. Just kept things nice and steady and focused on one target structure.
I also sent the latest list of questions to be answered by The Cook for her double lesson on Wednesday. She sends the recipes that she has to teach the foreign students at her cooking school, and I make up questions for her that I think she may be pelted with during her lesson. From looking at her lesson plan, though, I think some very intense proofreading is also in order. In one recipe, it talks of a "gridiron"....well, unless Montana or Favre or Stauback have made the same drastic change in hobby, I think she may mean "griddle".

Movie Buddy has contacted me for the first time in a while. Looks like we've got another DVD night on the way. It'll be the upcoming Sunday since we'll be entering Golden Week then. I've sent word out to The Satyr.

Speaking of movies, we've got a quite few out fresh on the slate this past weekend. "Rocky Balboa", "Hannibal Rising" and "Music and Lyrics" have gotten out the gate here. Not sure if any of them are worth my 1800 yen. As for that last entry, Hugh Grant is (or has just) making his appearance on "SMAP x SMAP" tonight. I saw ads for the show this morning; he was grinning with the tall SMAP'er, Shingo Katori.

Well, I've got my usual Tuesday with The Beehive...or what's left of it...we've been pretty sparse in recent weeks, and then another 6-hour layover before I got the folks at the juku.
Monday April 23, 7:14 p.m.

Well, my nearly 4-day weekend is over and I'm back on the job today. Just the usual suspects of The Class Act and SIL. However, the Part-Timer is off for the next couple of weeks. So, it's just that TOEIC fellow tonight. It's officially his last lesson with the school, so Speedy is hoping for a renewal but I'm a bit more sanguine.

Friday was a nice day to stay indoors and just veg. The only TV highlight was an NHK documentary on none other than The Carpenters. Yep, you got it..."On Top of the World", "Close to You" and "We've Only Just Begun"...those Carpenters. Y' their native States, mentioning that one likes the brother-sister act would probably bring unnaturally straight faces or naturally arched eyebrows....and those faces belong to folks my age. Couldn't imagine what the kids today would say. Carpenters songs would probably only be played ironically (like on that Simpsons episode where Homer first met Marge) or at weddings when things are coming to a close. But then the Carpenters had initially worked from a distinct disadvantage; being a white bread band that played sappy love songs in the era of Hendrix and Zepp will not exactly get you to a cool label.

But here....that's why they say "Big in Japan". The Carpenters are the musical equivalent of the young, pre-"Breakfast at Tiffany's" Audrey Hepburn. They'll always stay evergreen and popular, even with the kids. In an age of Kumi Koda, SMAP and J-R&B, the Carpenters still have relevance in the Land of the Rising Sun. Heck, even a couple of the trendier (re: starring teen heartthrobs) dramas had "On Top of the World" and "I Need to Fall in Love" as theme songs. I think the fact that karaoke boxes are still considered a proper form of recreation has also helped. I remember a variety show that featured them years ago in which one of the cute young tarento that was on the panel weeping her eyes out, not knowing that Karen had passed on years before she was born. Yes, the Carpenters live on and I don't have to whisper my like for the group's songs in this country.

Saturday was the 002 party. The theme was tekka maki or hand-wrapped sushi. So, 001 and 002 whipped all the fillings which included maguro, negitoro and egg. The Baker did show up this time with all of her mother's baked goodies. It was another pleasant affair. And I even brought the Scrabble, at 002's request. Though the four of them (002's hubby got into the act as well) toiled a bit at coming up with the vocab, they seemed to do quite well at the game. However, I think it'll probably be a one-shot.

Sunday was another full day off. I was lucky not to have had any lessons since the winds were whipping at a gale-force 27 m/s. The Tozai Line, out in the air in my area, shuts down automatically at 20 m/s. It was also the second of two by-elections nationwide. On a day which saw the world news services like CNN and BBC focusing on France and Nigeria, NHK focused on a couple of, because it had been declared bankrupt some time ago, and the other because its mayor had been assassinated last week. After Nagasaki mayor Itcho Ito got shot to death by a disgruntled Yakuza thug, the new guy, Tomihisa Taue, is a career civil servant who came up through the ranks. The tragedy for the Ito family was complete when the late mayor's son-in-law, who bravely stood in as a proxy, couldn't pull it off. On the other side of the country, bankrupt Yubari in Hokkaido may have gotten some new blood with a new mayor.

I did forget one other major gun-related incident (aside from Virginia Tech and Nagasaki). Last Friday, all stations were laser-focused on Machida City, one of the satellite towns of Tokyo, when yet another Yakuza decided to hole himself up in his own apartment after having shot down his own sempai in front of a convenience store nearby. For 15 hours, he kept the tactical teams at bay for some inexplicable reason (the crim was all alone in his apartment; in the States, that probably would've been an invitation for the SWAT guys to come and get him) until at 3 a.m. Saturday morning, the teams finally threw in the flash-bangs and got him out all kicking and screaming. Mind you, the idiot had shot himself in the head just a few minutes before...I mean, how unlucky can you get? The guy basically signed his own death warrant by shooting his own goodfella, has probably earned himself either the gallows or a life sentence, and couldn't even kill himself at point-blank range. True to form, though, the media breathlessly announced exactly how many shots were fired. It might be difficult for Americans (or the NRA) to fathom, but the Japanese are very prickly when it comes to how many bullets were sacrificed on either side. For the record, flash-bangs aside, 9 shots were fired...all of them from the thug.

Well, time for Mr. TOEIC...