Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Thursday June 14, 11:41 a.m.

I'm thankfully enjoying this partial day off today. Yesterday, I left home at the eye-cringing time of 6:45 a.m. and then came home at the eye-drooping time of 12:17 a.m. this morning. Yup, 18 hours out on the road and in the school. And here I was some 4 years ago when I started this freelancing career naively thinking that I could actually get some nights off. Well, I'm wiser if more tired. And the fact is that I won't have a single total day off until next next Sunday. Actually, Mrs. Alp invited us all to her house for a BBQ this coming Sunday but a part of me still considers that work since I've gotta be on my best behaviour. It's getting to the point that I've put a huge black "X" on the 24th on my calendar so that I guarantee myself no classes.

My little vent at Speedy's expense yesterday has been forgiven and forgotten. I sent over a written apology via e-mail along with some attached curricula stuff to be looked at. But it has gotten me thinking about what I should do about my relatives....part of the vent was influenced by my chat with Mom the other night concerning my letter to my Uncle sending my deepest condolences on the death of my grandfather. Apparently, by sending the letter to my Uncle, who's actually the second son, I committed a slight faux pas in that I should've sent it to my other Uncle, a man whom I haven't had any contact in almost 2 decades. Mom didn't intend it but just by telling me the list of my errors, my bile pit rapidly filled up since this was stuff I could've heard some days before sending out the letter. So, now it feels like I've basically excommunicated myself from the expanded family. To be honest, it doesn't bother me too much since I've never been all that close to the relations on either side of the family....and this isn't all on my doing. My mother seems to have always vetoed any attempts on my part to go see them over the years....saying that I would just be a burden on them. And I could see her point to a certain extent....imagine a Canuck with limited Japanese ability in his forties shuffling off to see relatives who might as well be strangers. Certainly, I couldn't go now...with the passing of Grandpa over their heads. So, I've just decided that I'll take off the albatross around my neck and sever all ties with the relatives. My lease is up for renewal next year...I would usually have to beg for my Uncle's signature as guarantor. Well, I'm just gonna have to find a new place without the need of such a person....such places are now on the increase.

In other news, I'd dropped a line to Chip Guy to see how he was doing since we haven't spoken in some weeks. I mentioned in the message about when his wife would be delivering Child No. 2. Well, I should've put some money down on the roulette table...Mrs. CG is having the kid today. If I had a cigar...

Corporate Japan has been getting its face slapped a lot this month. Of course, the government has been doing damage control on the grandest scale to rescue itself over the news that a ton of pensioners' deposit records have been lost. Then, Goodwill Japan had to do its deepest bows of contrition when one of its companies in the elderly care industry, Comsyn, tried to do a bit of creative paperwork. Now the other shoe has dropped on my old company, NOVA (the McDonalds of English teaching). Because the management was found guilty a few months ago of cheating students on the contracts, NOVA has been told to suspend partial operations. So, the branches will stay open but they just won't be able to sell long-term contracts for the next 6 months. That could sting a bit since that's what NOVA has always pushed rather aggressively.

Ah...well, this isn't exactly on the scale of the Bob Woolmer revelation that he wasn't murdered after all (that retired Scotland Yard guy who had been crying wolf must feel flatter than a bagpipe's deflated sack right now), but the death of the ZARD lead singer, Izumi Sakai (aka Sachiko Kamachi), was officially ruled a tragic accident in the papers a few days ago. Of course, true to the slightly sleazy nature of some of the rags, the headline was accompanied by a topless photo of the singer when she was still under her real name and doing pinup photos.

Well, I've got The Carolinan and BC tonight. Hopefully, the cafe won't be hopping too much today.
Wednesday June 13, 5:25 p.m.

Still have some time before 001 comes in, and I've already got all the lesson plans done, so here I am.

I've heard about the much-awaited finale to "The Sopranos" and its rather virulently disappointed reaction from the masses. On the Sympatico newssite, Tony Soprano's swan song has already gotten onto "TV's Worst Finales"...there's James Gandolfini's mug along with those of Mulder and Scully and even the gang from "Seinfeld". Well, "The Sopranos" have just barely gotten through half of its first season here in Japan via SkyPerfect's Super Drama TV so it'll be another 6 or so years before some of us start bellyaching. As for me, I saw the pilot but it didn't really come across as must-see TV for me. I can only wonder if the pressure is now on "The Simpsons" if and when it comes to its last episode. As for best finales, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", "Newhart", "MASH" and yes...."Star Trek: The Next Generation" still fit the bill.

I got a quick response from The Carolinan concerning her family's passport status. She reassured me that all is OK, and they won't be treated like potential terrorists by Honolulu Immigration or Five-O.

I've got my triple pack tonight but at least I've got a pretty empty Thursday aside from The Carolinan and BC. I think BC's lessons need a bit of a pick-me-up after a somewhat laconic lesson last time, so I've printed out an article on Louis Riel, the Metis rebel since she's such a Canuck-o-phile. Hopefully, that will be the tonic.
Wednesday June 13, 4:40 p.m.

I just had my lesson with The New Yorker in Ichigaya. Maybe it was the hair, but I thought she lost some weight. Mind you, I may have helped her do just that when I sent her into a little panic when I asked whether her passport was machine-readable. Y'see, the Sisters of State and their mother will be heading for a short vacation to Hawaii next month. The New Yorker wasn't too sure so I told her about Ms. Tulip's hubby's little nightmare a couple of years ago when US Immigration kicked him out of the country for bringing in a non-machine-readable passport despite it being perfectly valid. He had to head back in what was practically a 16-hour round trip for nothing, probably get chewed out by his boss, and then endure a week of quick processing for a new passport. Hm...I could see where The New Yorker might get a little antsy. Well, I do remember that the sisters did go to Vegas a few years ago, so they should be OK but I'm not sure about their mother. But just in case, I also sent a heads-up to The Carolinan.

The Manhattanite has been playing musical chairs once more with the schedule. Now, instead of next Monday, she has changed over to this Saturday between The Coffeemaker and The Dentist. One can only hope that she will come back someday.

Stateside, it would seem that the big news is Immigration Reform...or is that mostly due to Lou Dobbs? Well, over here, the big story is Pension Records...and how the records of thousands (or millions) of people have slipped through the cracks over the past 20 years. You can imagine that a very quiet panic has set in with the population, and the City Halls all over the country have been inundated with worried and irate pensioners and near-pensioners wondering if they will get their fair share. The Liberal Democratic Party, the government party that has been in power virtually for 60 years, is getting the slings and arrows thrown at them despite its promises to rectify the situation. Shinzo Abe must be rolling his eyes like a roulette as the Upper House elections are in less than a month.

In any case, I've got my triple-pack tonight with an EIC class sandwiched between 001 and The Judge.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wednesday June 13, 9:14 a.m.

Well, off to a not-so-great-start. I had a conversation with Speedy about a change in schedule next week with The Nurse. She usually chooses (but it's not committed in stone) Wednesday mornings, but next week I've got The Class Act in a rare Wednesday morning class. I received a little lecture from the bossman about how important it is not to bump a client from a regular slot; I was already in a bit of a bad mood due to one of those calls from my Mom concerning my recently deceased grandfather last night. So having to get a lecture from a guy who's a bit anal to begin with (as much as I am grateful to him for letting me teach here)...well, I did a mild snap and just said to him that The Class Act got in first and when it comes to my business, my students come first. I automatically regretted that as soon as I said it. Well, I'm not quite up to apologizing quite yet...but I'll send something to Speedy later on...or maybe not...even when he's accepting apologies, he tends to prefer 10 words when just one would do.

Anyways, yesterday morning, I had The Beehive for their usual kaffeeklatsch. The main topic was on this Second Life craze that's been sucking in folks into the Internet for hours at a time. Ms. Alp, the resident techhead-and-spy geek, was the one introducing the topic. Ms. Perth was trying to wrap her head around the concept that people could actually have vicarious thrills and second lives in cyberspace. Also, there was some mild, good-humoured griping about the difference between Japanese service-oriented responses and Canadian service-oriented responses. The case in point has been all of the hotels in The Great White North that the ladies have been trying to reserve for their big tour in October. It seems like response time is greatly lengthened back home. I did warn them not to expect the usual high calibre of service that one gets here.

002 was fine...her usual happy-go-lucky self. And as for the juku, it looks like the emphasis on fun and games for Chip N' Dale has been successful. With Seven, it was the customary exchange of sweets; we shared the chestnut-based Mont Blanc pastries this time while I found out that she's not too crazy about dried fruits...or most fruits, for that matter. The lass is basically tolerant of just citrus fruits and perhaps the odd watermelon. I think Atlanta or Florida would be ideal for her.

It was a short night for me. Both The Siberian and Jolly canceled their lessons so I was able to get some sleep time in. Just as well....I've got a long day ahead of me. The Nurse, The New Yorker, 001, a new EIC student and finally The Judge.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday June 11, 10:02 p.m.

Dunno how much time I have left before Speedy decides to call it quits for the day; he's still feeling fairly jetlagged after his time on the road.

However, I did want to address an interesting quirk on Japanese pop culture...yeah, as opposed to the thousands of other quirks. But this quirk has a's Bobby Caldwell. In the United States, perhaps the vast majority of the citizenry may have recognized the name as that belonging to Matt Damon's character's father in "Ocean's Eleven" ("Oh, you're Bobby Caldwell's kid!")

Well, despite having been born and raised in the good ol' U.S of A, the Bobby Caldwell is that singer who sang the late 70s AOR hit, "What You Won't Do For Love". The song itself is pretty catchy and has been covered by a lot of acts including 80s British band Go West and 90s Japanese AOR act Sing Like Talking. And in fact, probably a lot of R&B musicians today know Caldwell better than the public since they've sampled those famous opening beats to Caldwell's signature tune. The quirk comes in the fact that the man has been more of a legend here than in his home country. People usually say "Big in Japan" as a denigration of an over-the-hill singer or band...for Caldwell, it's the ultimate compliment. Not sure what it is about the man in the fedora with a penchant for white-eyed soul that has made him such a musical fixture in The Land of the Rising Sun but the guy's albums usually get released here before they make it Stateside. I have to admit that I also have a few of his albums. He's just one of those musical equivalents of comfort food. And he's certainly shown his gratitude to his Japanese fans; he married a Japanese woman and has had a couple of kids.

Well, speaking of well-worn musicians, I caught uber-aidoru Seiko Matsuda on an episode of "Bokutachi No Ongaku" (Our Music), that Friday-night Fuji-TV music show with a touch of urbanity. Usually the singer of the episode gets interviewed by a tarento of some sort. Strangely enough, the interviewer happened to be Kane Kosugi, the young muscular son of movie ninja Sho Kosugi. I was later to find out that the choice of interviewer was due to the fact that the two of them appear as May-October lovers in Seiko's latest music video. I kinda wonder if father Sho wanted to throw a couple of shuriken at errant son for that affair. Still, if anyone is in doubt, Seiko is still out there. Now, if only someone can explain to me what has happened to Akina Nakamori...
Monday June 11, 7:44 p.m.

The first Great Rain descended upon the Kanto yesterday morning in what was a most timely fashion for me. I had just arrived at the house of the two sisters, although I'm now only teaching the Junior. The first few drops of what would become an hour of deluge started falling just as I was entering the door. Then during our lesson, the drops became sheets of precipitation, but by the time I finished, things were back to a trickle again. As for my new status as a teacher of one sister, well, it wasn't too bad. There were no awkward moments since The Elder had taken off to celebrate her freedom by running to Disneyland. Still, the mother was kind enough to up my salary by 500 yen.

Today was a greatly truncated schedule. The Class Act had an atypical day off while Mr. TOEIC cancelled his class tonight. So, it was just SIL and The Full-Timer. Since I had a late start, I headed off to Maruzen at Otemachi to buy a copy of the text that I'm now using with 002 and then had lunch at Com Pho, my favourite eatery in the area. This time, it was the hot Pho Ga instead of my usual Bun Bi. Then, I just went over to Yamano Music and put my hard-earned discount points to work and bought 3 CDs. I've just about scavenged through the 80s, so I've got further back and got some disco...yep, you read me...disco....compilations. Hey, it wasn't as if I were actively buying records of the stuff during my childhood...this was the stuff that was my aural wallpaper from the radio and the TV. But I still kept my foot in the New Wave era by purchasing Hall & Oates' "Big Bam Boom". Well, I'm glad I recharged the Discman.

After 2 weeks, Speedy was back. He was able to scratch up some new business but he was moaning the fact that he would need to do some heavy catch-up. However, he was kind enough to help me generate the two tests for 001 and 002. I've given the ladies the (bad) news.

The Full-Timer and I were back at the Doutors again...after that one blissful lesson at the school itself. So, I am once again infused with the noxious smell of coffee and cigarettes. Still, I had another good session with the lass. It looks like she may be starting another hobby via kickboxing. Apparently, she referred to the teacher as "cute"...although he must have a kick that could stop an elephant dead. In fact, The Full-Timer said that he was a professional athlete who's been on the telly by the name of Hayato. Also, it seems like she also knows someone who has fallen under the spell of "Billy's Boot Camp" by the B-movie bad guy known as Billy Blanks. I've been seeing his commercial of hardcore workouts on CNN for weeks now, and one of The Quiet Pair has started her first lesson under his tutelage. Speedy informed me that one of his acquaintances has also been doing his/her military presses, and now it's The Full-Timer's friend. Ironic, considering that the Japanese have gotten hardcore for high-calorie meals. But perhaps, this rush for all things Billy is the effect of the rush for all things hamburger.

Anyways, I gotta help the bossman install the air conditioner...