Thursday, August 09, 2007

Friday August 10, 1:16 p.m.

Wasn't expecting to be here at the I-Cafe today but in the last few hours, I've had a few reasons to send out the e-mail. In a way, though, it's a good thing. Along with the regular electricity bill, I also got a notice from TEPCO about being a bit more careful with power usage yesterday stating that due to the big earthquake in Niigata a month ago, the Kashiwazaki Nuclear Plant has had to be closed down which will put a big strain on all of us in the Kanto. TEPCO has asked us to kinda curb those appliances, including air conditioners, between the hours of 1 and 4 p.m.
My city of Ichikawa must then therefore be the dream city for the TEPCO boys. Most of the population heads into Tokyo during the day...which would therefore also mean that Ichikawa is a dream city for thieves. Some wags would say that there is no distinguishing between the two parties. In any case, there shouldn't be too much power activity from this bedroom town. So I thought I could get away with blasting the AC during those prime afternoon hours. But then came that need to send out the e-mail.

For one thing, I called up No. 1 Travel, that discount travel agency with the lousy commercials to see if I could procure tickets for Hong Kong when I have my second excursion with The Class Act in October. Well, the lady there said that there was no problem with getting over there on the date I asked for but there was nothing for coming back although there were seats available on the next day. I've decided to contact The Lady for consultation.
Then I had to check to see if Skippy would join Speedy and I for "Ratatouille" or as it is called here "Remi's Delicious Restaurant" tomorrow night after my shift at the school. Surprisingly enough, she said yes. So, I've got that extra 1,800 yen, not including dinner expenses to budget.

Despite my gripes about spending, I still splurged the 4,000 yesterday to buy the latest issue of the "Peanuts" opus with Charlie Brown and the gang...some things in my life will transcend even my budget. It's the 1963-1964 edition; from the strips inside, I could recognize that these were the first strips I remembered from my childhood from signing out some of the original paperback compilations from the primary school library. Charles Schulz was now going through the glory years. Amazing how this guy was able to have these little folks spout out these potent nuggets of adult neuroses.

I only have the juku folks tonight. Jolly will be coming in to make up that lesson he missed out on the other night while The Ace will be coming for his usual Friday 60. The juku will be going on O-bon recess next week so my Tuesday will be completely free. I think the boss will be treating this O-bon even more seriously since her mother died less than a month ago.

Tomorrow will be a busy one, though. I've got The Carolinan and then Tully & The Coffeemaker at the Ichigaya Tully's before I have to head out to Speedy's for The Dentist and then the DVD "Friends" lesson. Still, I can still save on the AC bill.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Thursday August 9, 9:51 a.m.

Looks like the sci-fi franchises are still throwing around the A-list casting rumours like 10-metre lightsabers. First, there was the Tom Cruise-as-Christopher Pike rumour for "Star Trek" yesterday. Then, I've come across the rumour that Doctor Who may be bringing in Sir Ben Kingsley to play none other than Davros, the creator of the Daleks. I have to admit that there is a certain resemblance in the cranial area and if Kingsley were aged, oh, let's say, 20 or 30 more years, it would be nearly perfect. I think there would be a bigger chance of Kingsley playing a prime Who villain than Cruise as Pike; Sir Ben is no stranger to either sci-fi or villainy, and last season, Sir Derek Jacobi got to play The Master, albeit for just a few seconds. With all of these British knights popping up on Who, I can wholly expect to see Sir Alec Guinness come back as a past spirit form, of course.
Thursday August 9, 9:23 a.m.

Back here again after a long Wednesday night. Got home about midnight to a stifling apartment. Took a well-needed shower and even had the AC on for about 30 minutes...was planning to sleep in the living room with the AC but the thing was just making too much noise...and the thought of having irate neighbours (especially with yet another weirdo next door) murder me in my sleep activated my cowardice hormones, and so I endured a sweaty night in my bedroom with my little fan gamely trying to cool me. Luckily, I only had to stay at home for less than an hour before hitting the road again.

I'm doing pretty well considering that I got just 5 hours of fitful sleep. Did the McBreakfast near the school and read The Japan Times. There was a rather blistering article by a Ronald Blum on Barry Bonds; Blum's dissing of Bonds makes Bob Costas sound like Bonds' best buddy. Even over here, Bonds 756th homer made the front pages, sharing space with the two Koreas' sudden declaration of a summit. All I can say is that I hope the next big Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth will take over as soon as possible.

Got to the school to see Grandma Dynamite by the 1st floor elevators doing very well after her little sprain a couple of weeks back. Speedy's teaching her right now; he looks pretty rumpled, so I guess the trip to Dubai had limited restorative effects. I've just got The Nurse in half an hour, and then I just do a bit of curricula stuff before heading on out. No other classes today so I hope to have a nice and pleasant evening in cool comfort.
Wednesday August 8, 5:20 p.m.

Started to feel the fatigue setting in so I, contradictorily, decided to get on with dinner. Thanks to the La Vie En France bakery branch nearby, I downed a chicken stick (nope, it doesn't sound too French, but it's a nice crisp wrap with chicken chunks & white sauce inside) and something called an epi. I'd never heard or seen one before but it's this fairly long French breadstick if it had been designed by Picasso during his Cubist period. Each knob has a small bit of bacon inside. That small bit is able to release a bit of its oil which completely adds to the epi's savory nature.
Probably the reason for my stamina hitting rock bottom some minutes ago was that I'd downed a couple of those Marseille Raisin Butter Cookies for a snack an hour or so ago. What they, you say? Well, a company in Hokkaido has been creating these little desserts which consist of a hunk of butter and/or clotted cream with tons of raisins in between two rectangular cookies. As the Borg would say, "Resistance is futile". The Dentist, who originally hails from Japan's northernmost prefecture, went back to her old home and bought back some boxes as souvenirs. Lovely stuff but they sure go down like lead inside your stomach. Now, that would be a challenge for Takeru Kobayashi, formerly the Hot Dog Eating King. If the thought of him spewing pre-digested pork matter and bread turns your insides, just imagine him doing the same with those raisin butter cookies.

Speedy is back up; he'd been taking a nap to soothe some of that headache he's been suffering. Looks like it's been another busy week for him.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Wednesday August 8, 3:40 p.m.

Well, I see that Big Barry Bonds finally did the inevitable...break Hank Aaron's record. I'm sure Bob Costas would love to break Bonds, period. I didn't hear too much about it until I came across the unusually small article on the CNN website. I guess it's one of those few times in which the media really didn't want to trumpet this particularly controversial record. I, myself, have reached the big 1,900 in my blogging career. Within a couple of months, I may be able to hit the big 2,000....and without any chemical influences....well, perhaps caffeine.

It's another hot and steamy one in The Big Sushi. In Ichigaya, everyone was rushing into the bookstore...that is, the ones who weren't lucky enough to squeeze into the coffee shops during lunch hour. One aisle looked like a rush hour subway. The New Yorker and I were lucky to get the last table in Tully's for our lesson. She was once again in slow mode today but then again, a crowded cafe isn't exactly ideal surroundings for a shy student in a lesson.

I heard another one of those ridiculous casting rumours for the upcoming revamped "Star Trek". You have heard of Matt Damon as Captain Kirk? Well, how about Tom ("But, I'm always in every scene!") Cruise as Captain Christopher Pike? Oh, I can see and hear all the Trekkies throwing Vulcan ears at the Scientology Institute now. As Comic Book Guy (from "The Simpsons") would say, "Worst. Idea. Ever."

Looks like The Maple Leaf project is well under way. The melancholy BC wanted to go to The Maple Leaf, the Canadian pub in the heart of Shibuya. So, I was able to get The Carolinan's OK for her to come with us on the 26th. Plus, The New Yorker can also make it out, albeit around the 9 o'clock hour.

Speaking of melancholy, Japan's Sumo Association is currently looking up in askance at what to do with its first truly rebel yokozuna, Asashoryu. Several days ago, the native Mongolian begged off the usual intercompetition promotional tours, which involve signing autographs and playing with kids who may want to become future sumotori, citing back problems. Well, the JSA let him off the hook and look at what their generosity got them. Some guy managed to get a home video of Asashoryu back in his home country, playing a pretty healthy game of soccer with retired Japanese soccer legend, Hidetoshi Nakata. I can imagine Nakata inspiring anyone to kick a mean ball, but that video made the sumo champion look mighty guilty. Not surpisingly, there was a huge hue and cry in the JSA, the media and the fans. Not particularly behaviour befitting a Grand Champion, they say. And so, Asashoryu has been suspended from participating in the next two tournaments....basically, he's out for the rest of the year.
Now, Asashoryu is a mighty sad panda. His counselor has said that he's just inches away from full-blown depression and that he may decide to return to Mongolia to mull over his prospects. Well, I'd tell the JSA to get a full explanation from the lug and give him a second chance, and then just strip his rank if he screws up again.
Wednesday August 8, 9:42 a.m.

Met The Madame yesterday for lunch down in Shibuya. Looks like she's set up a niche in my life once more for the next little while, at least. We had lunch at a Chinese place in Mark City; the price for the lunch set was not too bad for a place in a major commercial hub (1300 yen), and the portions were OK as well, although they would look pretty chintzy in Toronto's Chinatown.
Afterwards, we had tea at that teahouse we'd gone last time for lunch. Apparently, there was a tea seminar going on on the more spacious 3rd floor so we had to settle for a table on the 2nd. The Madame is sensitive to air conditioning. She actually put on two cardigans (though they were flimsy fashions) inside; being the Canadian, I was quite comfy. We shared plates of coconut tarts and milk plums; the latter dish is just raisinized plums coated in sweetened milk powder. I was quite impressed with them, actually.
Finally, The Madame could no longer withstand the relentless AC so we moved it back into Mark City where we sat on lighted benches which actually made me feel like cooking bacon. Still, The Madame was quite happy with the warmer surroundings. The local Coldstone Creamery was attracting a very long line. I'll have to try that place out someday.

The night at the juku started out very noisily. Actually, I got there a full 2 hours ahead of my first class with Chip N' Dale. The juku boss was in feisty, take-no-crap mode since she had to teach three future teenage delinquents. While I was prepping in the one room, I had to listen to her trade verbal jabs with her young charges. Happily, it was only for an hour. The only ones not to show up last night were Mr. Mild and Jolly.

I've got myself a fairly full day, almost all compressed into the evening hours. I've got The New Yorker at 1 in Ichigaya but then it's wall-to-wall at Speedy's with 001, a new EIC student and then The Judge to wrap things up. Unfortunately, it's gonna be one of those quick sleep at home things since I've gotta be back at the school first thing tomorrow to teach The Nurse. But after that, I'm free and clear. I'll probably head to Akiba or Shinjuku to get my brother his birthday present; I've just sent him his card.

I got the gift of "300" on DVD from The Anime King as thanks for continuing to be his middleman for his anime shipments. Not exactly chomping at the bit to watch the Trojan flick but I'm free on Sunday so I should be able to view it then....after the last of the "Doctor Who" episodes.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Monday August 6, 5:11 p.m.

My weekend was one of the rare ones without any lessons to teach. A good thing, too, since it was blazingly hot and humid. Spent most of the morning on Saturday overhauling my apartment since 1) MB was coming over and 2) it desperately needed the cleaning. I was able to pull it off in about a couple of hours without suffering heat prostration; it did help that I'd left the AC on.

MB called me up for the pickup and we both did the usual of grabbing munchies at the supermarket and then ordering Domino's Pizza for dinner. It was basically a Bruce Willis Night at the Movies with "16 Blocks" and "Lucky Number Slevin" being the main features. Along with "Die Hard 4.0" which I'd seen a few days earlier, ol' Bruno kept within his comfort zone of playing cops and antiheroes but still it was nice to see that he was stretching a bit. Of course "Die Hard" had him playing the wisecracking and tough-as-nails John McClane. However in "16 Blocks", he played the type of cop that John McClane would've loved to beat into pulp: a dissipated alcoholic with a broken moral compass. For most of the movie, Jack Mosely (same initials?) was a man of few words until he finally came out of his whiskey-induced stupor and approached McClaneville again. MB noticed that there was a bit of Clint Eastwood's "The Gauntlet" in it...not sure if Willis was trying to channel ol' Squinty Eyes but he and Mos Def made a good pair. Of course, David Morse was his usual self playing a Machiavellian dirty cop. The DVD had an extra, much more downbeat alternate ending. I'm usually more for the latter, but this time, it was nice to see Mosely reaching redemption.

"Lucky Number Slevin" was a pretty offbeat number, though with a pretty top-heavy cast. Morgan Freeman, Sir Ben Kingsley, Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Stanley Tucci along with Bruce? It wasn't exactly Oscar-calibre but it made for a worthwhile diversion. Bruce played a slick assassin with a lousy toupee called Mr. Goodcat in a flick that was basically one big Kansas City Shuffle. Maybe it was the cinematography, but it had an indie vibe to me. Bruce was again fairly mute, letting Josh get most of the joshing done with Morgan and Sir Ben. And Lucy was about as winning as I'd every seen her. No Ice Queen here.

Usually, there is a 3rd feature at the quarterly DVD nights but MB brought only two. However we did get one fashioned for us, thanks to the good folks at Super Drama TV! The two of us got to see the pilot episode of that old CBS action chestnut, "Airwolf". That's right...we got to see Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine give Seagal-level line readings...even before Seagal became famous...while piloting the aerial rival to NBC's "Knight Rider". It was painfully 80s...the Flashdancing women, the Giorgio Moroder-like synth soundtrack (although the theme song will forever be etched into my brain), and those villains-of-the-time, the Libyans.

Got up the next day feeling very cool and dry since MB needs the air conditioner on to survive. I think that TEPCO will love my August tribute, though. We did our usual visit to Skylark and just coasted there for about 3 hours before heading out to Yurakucho Mullion where we met Skippy and MB's squeeze, The Sylph. Yep, it was time to catch the latest instalment in the increasingly darkening series of "Harry Potter". Skippy had frantically called up on MB's phone during our ride on the subway to see if she could grab the tickets since apparently the SalonPas Theatre in the Mullion was selling out like hotcakes. So by the time we met her, Skip had all our tickets ready and waiting. We spent an hour cooling our heels in an underground cafe in the Tokyo International Forum...the basement looks like something from the original "Rollerball". There was some sort of outlet-like sale on the main convention floor on B2, so The Sylph made use of her good time and went shopping. Between Mullion and TIF, there was another new gleaming tower of glass and steel being built on what used to be an aging group of buildings housing various pachinko parlors and the famed COCA Thai hot pot restaurant.
As for the new SalonPas Theatre, it was the same theatre that I'd seen "Ronin" a decade ago. As for the name, SalonPas is a medicinal product which is basically BenGay on a bandage. The jokes were flying about whether we would all get that whiff of mentholatum when we entered the theatre or our butts would get that numbing sensation as soon as we sat down.

Now as for "The Order of the Phoenix", it was a pretty fun movie to watch. Mind you, I can hardly remember each of the previous four entries of "Harry Potter" since I seem to have a determinedly Muggle sense when it comes to the thrall that has surrounded the franchise. However, I will remember this one for two things: 1) the fact that this movie was getting awfully crowded with characters: Mad-Eye Moody, Professor Lupin, Sirius Black along with new characters of Bellatrix and Lena Lovegood (apparently, she grows up to become Phoebe on "Friends")...and that's to compete with the regular Hogwarts crew. It was becoming a regular "X-Men" entry. I think Lupin only had one line at the beginning of the movie before being relegated to Jedi extra status at the end.
Speaking of the end, that brings me to 2) the fact that the big battle at the end of "Phoenix" pretty much put to shame anything that the Yoda/Dooku/Obi-Wan/Anakin group could rustle up in "Attack of the Clones". Dumbledore and Voldemort showed how a mighty battle between two titans at the top of their game should be fought. I'll definitely be looking forward to the war when "The Deathly Hallows" finally makes its appearance on the big screen in about 3 years' time.
Afterwards, MB and The Sylph, who have been keeping with the books, gave a middling-to-good grade on the movie version, although both agreed that the book is far better at explaining things. I will probably enjoy the series more when I finish off the movies and then go onto the books.

Skippy had been telling us about this Indian restaurant south of the main intersection of Ginza called NAIR. However when we went there, much to Skip's dismay, the place was closed for some reason. So, instead, I took the gang up a block to The Siam, the Thai restaurant that I usually frequent for the lunch buffet. It was the first time that I've gone there for dinner. Actually, the price wasn't too bad...just under 2,000 yen each. However, it was obvious that Movie Buddy and The Sylph aren't exactly the most spice-accustomed folk; they were gulping down a lot of drinks after each of the dishes.

Finally, we made our final stop at Starbucks No. 1, the one that started the coffee invasion a decade ago, just south of the main drag in Ginza. MB was fascinated by the humoungous mirror in the unisex washroom. Most likely, the next flick for us will be "Transformers". I don't think the ladies will be joining us for's a guy thing. Maybe if I have the funds to spare, I may catch "Ocean's 13" later this week.

Today has been a fairly easy day. Just had 002 on a rare Monday meeting since The Class Act is off on summer hiatus. Then, I rushed over for SIL's last lesson before she goes on summer break as well. She was panicking a bit since the AC wasn't doing a great job at cooling the office but I assured her that it just needed a bit more time....kinda like Bush with his Surge. Unlike that, though, the wait did bring results. It was nice and chilly by the end of our session.
I now only have Mr. TOEIC (provided that he doesn't dotakyan again) tonight for his last lesson before he takes off for his homestay next week. The Full-Timer is enjoying herself in sunny Hawaii.