Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sunday July 1, 2:04 p.m.

So, another Canada Day is here. How does a Canadian who never celebrated Canada Day all that much in his home country celebrate Canada Day here? Answer: he doesn't.

A bit of a snarky start, I know. I've never been a huge purveyor of straight dramas on TV or in the movies...and especially in real life. So, it is through some gritted teeth that I admit that I had one of my few major blowups on Friday night...and my second with a Speedy staff member within a few weeks.
Again, it was an unfortunate combination of the usual stresses of urban living compounded with the race to get out to Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture all the way from 002's apartment in Funabashi City, Chiba Prefecture (I would say that this would be the equivalent of coming from Whitby to Burlington for all you Ontarians), the fact that I don't like to be bothered by work when I'm officially on weekend mode, and the fact that I made the mistake of checking my messages. I got a couple of garbled messages from The Admin asking to call back as soon as possible.
Well, the fuse was lit when The Admin told me that The Chef, whose lesson I'd taught earlier in the afternoon, wanted that fax of corrected notes sent back to her. Unfortunately, I had that fax with me since I wanted to use to correct some of the additional notes. The Admin told me that The Chef really couldn't wait. And so here I was rapidly rushing through my clothes to find the fax and trying to rush for the train when this little drama started to play itself out. The TNT exploded when I realized that I would have to make photocopies of everything and fax them over to The Chef at some convenience store near the hotel in Fujisawa. Regrettably, I poured out my ire on The Admin whose fault it definitely was not (hopefully, she recognized it was The Chef that I was angry at) and slammed the phone down as a final punctuation mark. I later had a message on my machine from a contrite boss stating that there will be some sort of remedy. Luckily, the Toei Shinjuku Line to Shinjuku Station was a long one so that I had plenty of time to cool off.
As it turned out, it wasn't too bad. I could catch the 18:53 express straight to Fujisawa without needing to make any connections. Even so, the express took 70 minutes to make it out there. I was indeed beyond Yokohama and closer to the famed beaches of Shonan. The area around the station was the usual conglomeration of restaurants and stores and faded neon. It took me just 5 minutes to reach the hotel and get into my room.
The next hour before I finally met my old friend, The Dancer and her family, I used to clear up the mess that The Chef had created. So with some help from the front desk staff, I managed to find a Lawson's around the corner and did my copying. Of course, it would be my luck that the fax machine was rather cranky which made the final process a whole lot longer than it needed to be.
Having gotten that done, I sent a much cooler message back to Speedy stating that I was sorry for the outburst and would apologize to The Admin on Monday in person. To be honest, although The Admin is indeed a very nice person and I am truly sorry that she did get the brunt of my rant, I've always found her to be slightly annoying...kinda giggling at inopportune moments like "The Simpsons" Dr. Hibbert. Maybe my obstreperousness can induce a bit more distance between us. However, wrong is wrong....I'll have to do some do-gesa when I get to work tomorrow.

The Dancer did contact me in my room and we all met at the Starbucks downstairs. True to form, my old friend of some 2 decades was calling the shots at the slightly befuddled cashier in English. It'd been some 6 months since our last meeting so we caught up on old times with her husband. Her kids, 7 and 4 respectively, were of course running around and playing with the automatic doors.
The next day, we all got together at the Saizeriya family restaurant on the 2nd floor for breakfast. The Dancer had to leave early to get prepped for her performances at the nearby auditorium; she had two of them in what was a daylong festival of Nihon Buyo (Japanese dancing). It would be her first as a natori, or instructor....I guess in Star Wars lingo, she was no longer a padawan but a full Jedi Knight. All of us saw her on stage but in the long intervals, the Dancer's husband and the kids with me tagging along did things such as hit the game centre to try the UFO Catchers. Man, my choice not to get married or have kids was fully supported during that time in the game centre when the younger of the two kids started having a major temper tantrum because Daddy couldn't get the banana doll he wanted...even though, Daddy did score two Stitch dolls (from "Lilo & Stitch"). Well, Daddy...who's probably one of the most even-keeled people I know...blew a gasket and dragged his son out to tell him in no uncertain terms that he should stop acting like a brat. It wasn't pleasant to see but I kinda felt vindicated since I could see that even the most patient of us had our limits....children can do that.

Well, after the long day....The Dancer got back into tourist mode and all of us went out to a nearby yakiniku restaurant for dinner. Luckily, the younger kid stayed fast asleep. Nothing less than a 3rd nuclear attack on Japan would wake him up....much to everyone's relief. The Dancer remarked that the dinner reminded us of our times in Koreantown back in Toronto.

Afterwards, The Dancer and her hubby carrying both kids trundled off back to the hotel while I made my long way back home....some 2 hours away....thinking about how I was going to make it up to The Admin....and how Speedy and I are gonna talk about The Chef.

Just had The Junior for her class today. Now, just do some domestic stuff before heading back into work the next day.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Friday June 29, 12:38 p.m.

Kiichi Miyazawa, the former Prime Minister, passed away yesterday at the ripe old age of 87. Why mention him? Well, he may have been PM before that revolving door of Japanese leaders in the mid-90s, but he was the most fluent English-speaking Japanese politician I'd ever seen on TV. He kinda sounded (and looked) like that Chinese-American actor, Keye Luke.

Once again, Tokyo beat out the other world cities in movie premieres. Last time, it was "Spiderman 3". Last night, it was the latest Harry Potter movie...I forgot the title, maybe it was "Harry Potter and the Law of Diminishing Returns" or something. Anyways, Daniel Radcliffe (fully clothed) showed up at Roppongi Hills to do his part for his cash cow...a few days before it opens up in Britain.

Speaking of jolly ol' England (OK, you Scots and Welshmen, calm down), I got the latest Doctor Who tape from The Entrepreneur. Still gotta get through the latter half of Season 2. Yep, that's right....I'm still watching Rose Tyler. Actually, strangely enough, the DVD sets for the first 2 seasons are out in the Japanese stores....never thought that there would be an audience here for The Time Lord. But am I gonna shuck out 20,000 yen even for him?

I listened to that latest CD by songbird Mariya Takeuchi, "Denim". Yep, the first track...a big band styling of "On the Street Where You Live" is the big winner here. It didn't pass the futon test, though....I pretty much dozed off halfway through the disc, but Takeuchi has that rather soothing voice. And I did listen to a bit of the latest Hiromi Iwasaki CD from 1978...yep, idol stuff from the 70s, an acquired taste but she's got the pipes to overcome it.
Friday June 29, 11:38 a.m.

Kinda interesting about garbage disposal in my neck of the woods. You leave your raw garbage outside to be ripped apart by cats and left for hours in the hot sun to fester. However, you leave a 12-year-old electric fan and 6 hours later....pffft, it's gone. That is indeed what happened to one of my oldest and dearest possessions when I had decided it was time to have it go to that big junkyard in the sky (when the cord starts glowing orange in places it wasn't supposed to, I think it's time to let it go). I just took it down to the garbage pickup at the bottom of the stairs when I went off to teach last night, and 6 hours later, it's probably now in the hands of some scavenger needing cheap air conditioning. But no problems....earlier in the day, I had bought a new fan; one of those small, cute models that doesn't have a stand. It claimed to have a silent motor. It was plenty loud enough for me. Also, I got myself a small proper ironing board, so I no longer have to rely on my sofa cushions...I'm sure my cushions are fully appreciative.

As for my two students last night...The Carolinan was good to go, and quite rarin' to head off to Hawaii with her sister and mother next week. Of course, I couldn't resist the need to assign her homework in the form of a report on her time there. As for BC....well, as it happens from time to time, I had to put on my counselor's cap last night for her. Looks like the poor lass has been suffering from depression recently. Her mind was really not on the lesson or her homework assignment which was fairly wretched...she didn't come close to answering the question. I don't think I was being too Simon Cowell-ish on her but the effect was the same: she started getting misty, so we went a half-hour overtime talking about her troubles. I hope she gets out of her funk eventually.

As for me, I've got just the Chef and 002 before I head out to Fujisawa tonight to see my old friend, The Dancer, and her clan on the eve of her performance at the community centre there. It'll be a long haul trip since I'll be going all the way from 002's apartment in Funabashi, Chiba to Fujisawa, Kanagawa...just southwest of Kamakura. That will take a good 2 hours, at least.

Well, I finally caught that media event of the year....Larry King's interview with Paris Hilton yesterday morning. All I can say is that I'll have to see it to believe it when it comes to her promises to be good from now on. Actually, it would seem that most of the watercooler talk on the Net was about Anderson Cooper's reaction to her afterwards. Some of his guests were taking a bit of the piss out of Mr. Seamanship for his barely disguised disgust and disdain over having to do the post-game analysis. I guess AC was taking a page out of the Lou Dobbs playbook. Still, I don't think Cooper did himself any favours for acting as if he had watched Paris having sex with Larry, and I think his protestations about not disliking the girl came off as being as flat as his hairdo.

Speaking of CNN's Rottweiler, Lou Dobbs was just about to jump on his desk and dance the Macarena on seeing that Immigration Reform bill die a horrible death on the Senate floor. And he was smelling good old pro-Amnesty blood when he took on that despondent Hispanic politician. I had the volume turned off but I could see the two verbally tangoing with each other like two WWF wrestlers before a grudge match.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wednesday June 27, 4:36 p.m.

Another hot and sunny out there today. I got quite a bit done today after The Nurse's lesson. Got prepped for the other two lessons of the day, got ready for The Chef's lesson on Friday after rummaging through all that fax paper, and even did some prep for tomorrow's lessons with The Carolinan and BC. Since BC is such the Canuck-o-phile, I've whipped up a Canada Day's Quiz for her.

Since I had several hours between The Nurse and 001, I went out for a bite to eat near the station. There is a bakery retaurant right next to the convenience store; I'd been there a couple of times before. Some good stuff although it's the most expensive place compared to the other places like the aforementioned convenience store, McDonalds and China Quick. But then I should really hold back on the choices; I had myself a tuna melt, a hot dog, a salad and a raisin pastry and a glass of milk (had to be healthy in at least one aspect).

I took the subway down to Shinjuku where I got a bit of a surprise. The lineup at Krispy Kreme was no longer winding around the corner and down the bridge to Takashimaya Square. It was merely in that tightly coiled lineup in front of the shop itself. The poor saps only had to wait an hour to get their fix of doughnuts. I guess the honeymoon is nearing its end. But I'm still very stubborn on my conditions....I get to the counter in 5 minutes or it's no deal.

At Kinokuniya, I picked up another I-go book, this time by a fellow who cuts to the chase and has the reader plunge headfirst into all of the scintillating action. It should be an interesting comparison with the Peter Shotwell book I've already got. The real reason that I got the new book, though, is that it comes with its own paper set of I-go pieces and 9x9 grid.
I also came across the latest of those "Peanuts" tomes. Nearing July, the distributors weren't exactly too quick with this new issue. I'd thought it would've been out back then. Another reason to throw away some more money.

My final stop was at HMV in Takashimaya Times Square. I could no longer resist...I had to get the latest Mariya Takeuchi CD, "Denim". Takeuchi is probably, next to J-Pop Queen Yumi Matsutoya, the most veteran female crooner of J-Pop songs. Unlike Yuming, though, Takeuchi has a more widely enjoyable voice for the general masses. She's a tenor but her voice isn't husky like that of an Akiko Kobayashi or Kahoru Kohiruimaki (ah, I see my 80s JPop is showing) would be somewhat fit for some of those old 50s ballads, which is probably why a lot of her songs are reminiscent of those.
I was also looking for a single that has insinuated itself into my brain over the past few days since I heard it at Tower Records the other day. It's "D.A.N.C.E." by French techno duo, Justice. It has that de rigueur church boys' choir that seems to be needed for the occasional rock or hip hop song but with a danceable poppy beat. The music video may also get nommed for some MTV award....pretty good use of animated doubt the real thing may happen within the next 10 years. Not sure if the song will tear up the conventional Oricon charts like what happened with that Serbian band's tune a few years back. However, I couldn't find it so instead I ended up just getting yet another Hiromi Iwasaki re-mastered re-release.
I was surprised to find out at the cashier that my HMV point card, currently at the middle colour of gray...just below the Gold Card, is now being phased out. My card will still be honoured until I reach those 100 points but the Gold is now out. I'll be able to get that 3,000-yen discount at the end but I have to go start over again with a black piece of plastic, just like a credit card and then earn myself another 100,000 yen worth of purchases before I can for the gold once more. The other surprising thing was that the cashier was actually quite friendly with me. Usually, HMV has that holier-than-thou grunge look amongst its staff.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wednesday June 27, 12:14 p.m.

Yes, Paris Hilton has finally left the building...a fact that has garnered, deservedly or undeservedly, worldwide attention. Even in Japan, the hotel heiress-turned-walking train wreck has attracted takusan attention from the relentless and insatiable tabloid media types. To be honest, she would be given royal status from the Shibuya ko-gal types since she resembles them in so many ways (the spiky eyelashes, bronzed look, etc.). However, the regular crew on Fuji-TV's morning news show, "Mezamashi Terebi", were being somewhat catty during the featuring of Hilton's departure from the big house. They were virtually wagging their fingers and tsk-tsking at the sight of the girl sauntering (I don't think in all my years I've ever seen an ex-con saunter from prison as if she were doing the catwalk) from jail over to Daddy Warbucks' SUV.
And with all that kerfuffle about MSNBC trying to pull off that sneaky bucks-for-talk scam under the counter to get that first exclusive with Paris, it was Larry King himself who actually got first digs...supposedly for no money.

Well, after all that talk on the rise of gorn or torture porn (and here I thought that lizard creature from the original "Star Trek" cornered the rights on that word) over the past 18 months, it would seem that this so-called new type of horror has fizzled just as quickly as it soared out of the sick minds of Eli Roth and the guy behind the "Saw" series. Apparently, "Hostel 2" merely limped out of the box office like Jay Fernandez's "Paxton" in the first movie. Meanwhile, "Hostel" has arrived on SkyPerfect as a pay-per-view movie. Like any PPV, every time I've checked out the channel, I get a few scenes or a minute's worth of movie before it blacks out (for various wiring reasons, I can no longer get PPV ability). Still, I've managed to see some of the infamous stuff such as Paxton getting dragged down the dingy hallway while seeing some of the other "residents" getting tortured to death, and that Japanese girl throwing herself onto the tracks to get smushed. However, I've yet to see the so-called money shot of said girl getting her face burned off via blowtorch.
So from, from what I've seen I can't really say that I've been all that grossed out which may unfortunately reflect how desensitized I've become to violence. I mean, I think the train suicide looked very CG and the other torture victims didn't look all that put cold as that sounds. To be honest, I've seen far worse in some of the local product here. Eli Roth may not hold that much of a candle to Takashi Miike but I think Miike may be in a similar situation with some of his predecessors. Before gorn, there was all that Hollywood homage to J-Horror such as "The Ring" and "The Grudge". However, I remember years ago when the video shelves seem to revel in some of the goriest Japanese movies...stuff that would make "Hostel" or "Saw" look like "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". There is the cult "Guinea Pig " series of vivisection and dismemberment that was made back in the 80s which got over to the States and freaked out Charlie Sheen so much that he, a man not exactly known for his moral side, hailed a cinematic Red Alert. I also remember seeing stills of a cheapo horror flick called "Guzoo" in which an "Alien"-like abomination kills and eats its victims very violently from the inside of their bodies. One victim was a uniformed high school student. But even going away from the B-stuff, TV programs such as "24" and "CSI" often show the more uncomfortable aspects of murder, so perhaps it's not all that surprising that gorn has quickly worn out its welcome. Gorn won't disappear, though. There will always be that aspect of the movie-going public that will shuck out the sheckels for this niche of blood-letting. It's just that its 15 minutes are now up. Perhaps, it's now time for a return to psychological horrors.
Wednesday June 27, 9:42 a.m.

The parallels are somewhat interesting. In England, Tony Blair leaves 10 Downing Street after 10 years to head for his new post as Mideast envoy to bring some semblance of peace. In the US, Paris Hilton leaves jail after 23 days to head for her little teddy bear, Mr. Snuggles.

Anyways, in much more mundane news, I enjoyed my day off yesterday until my juku classes. It looks like the hit of the night was that box of chocolate-covered fruit peels from les bon hommes at Maison Du Chocolat in Paris (the city, not the damaged heiress), courtesy of some souvenir shopping by The Lady. I'd received it from her last Wednesday but only opened it, initially, for my fellow foodie and student, Seven. However, there was so much of the stuff that Seven actually demurred my offer of taking it home to her family. So, The Milds were absolutely crowing about it...usually when I bring any snacks, they politely just take the one piece. But for this offering, the couple went hog wild and took some extra stuff. Still, there was plenty left over for the Siberian and Jolly. I didn't give any to Chip N' Dale since I thought the chocolates were just a bit too mature for their Morinaga-influenced tastes. So for them, I just got them some jam biscuits from Mini-Stop.

It's another long day although with some large gaps in between classes. The Nurse ought to be traipsing through any minute and then some 7 hours later, it'll be 001 followed by The Judge another 90 minutes after the end of her lesson. I may step out for two hours to Shinjuku but I was greeted by a huge ream of fax paper last night at home. The Chef sought fit to send her next lesson topic to me.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday June 25, 10:08 p.m.

Well, another long day comes to an end. Just finished up with Mr. TOEIC...his first class with us in about 3 weeks after a marathon session of sudden cancellations or dotakyan as the young would say over here. Not exactly back to a tabula rasa but he was quite rusty. And it didn't help that he had forgotten both his homework and textbook.

This week is shaping up to be a relatively light one. Tomorrow and Thursday will only have me working in the evenings although Wednesdsay will be another long one with The Nurse for her 10 o'clock in the morning and finishing up with The Judge at about 10:30 p.m. The Lady of the Class Act ducked out again this morning since she hasn't fully kicked out her affliction quite yet. I won't be seeing the ladies again for another couple of weeks since both The Lady and SIL have to head out to Osaka next week for their father's memorial anniversary. SIL actually cancelled her lesson today due to a cold.

Well, "Pirates of the Caribbean 3" turned out to be better than I'd expected but still the weakest link in what was a pretty weak series to begin with. The first two movies had plenty of swash and buckle but for some reason, the director, Gore Verbinski, decided to pile on massive amounts of metaphysics and mythos on the supposedly final chapter. His decision pretty much smothered a lot of the fun, including the only thing that really made "Pirates" worth watching, Johnny Depp. MB remarked that the audience needed Cliff Notes to understand all the crosses and doublecrosses that were taking place in the movie. Basically, I think the movie only deserved 650 yen of the 1300 I paid for the discount ticket.

Afterwards, MB, The Satyr and their significant others along with myself met Skippy in front of the Milano where we had seen the flick. Skip had already seen "Pirates" a week earlier. She and Seven came to the same conclusion that things could've gone a whole lot better. Skippy, being the resident foodie expert, took us to Mo-Yan, that curry place-cum-manga cafe in West Shinjuku that she'd taken me to some months earlier. Despite the small surroundings and the crowds, the management was able to squeeze us into a table. Last time I was there, Skip and I had ordered the regular size curry plates which were quite big in themselves. The ordering takes a few seconds longer than usual since a customer has to not only order the size of plate (anything from an 80% of normal for the ladies to the Millenium size for the sumo wrestlers) but also the spice level; the rates go from 0 (barely any spice) to 20 (write a will). In a foolish attempt to re-live past glories, I ordered the second-biggest plate of Megaton with an order of Level 5 Curry including the works (chicken, beef, cheese, and seafood). I wasn't expecting the Tokyo Dome-like mound of rice I got...the curry was darn good but I could only tunnel through half of the white stuff before calling it quits. Luckily, the place is one of the fewest I know that will allow doggie bags, and so I have a still-formidable amount of Mo-Yan curry and rice at home ready to be devoured for lunch or breakfast tomorrow.

In any case, I think it's time for me to head on home. I've gotta clean up the place and think about what the heck I have to do with Chip N' Dale at the juku.