Saturday, August 25, 2007

Saturday August 25, 6:34 p.m.

And thus we come to the end of another teaching day. And a pretty frenetic pace we kept as well. The EIC student's last lesson came off pretty well; I think she'll fight the good fight tomorrow at her debut. Then the Dentist came in. Pretty steady job there...problem was that I suddenly got a major demand from my bowels to discharge so the last few minutes were rather clenched, not to put a fine point on it. Luckily, the DVD miracle student is also a peach of a lady so that she gave me those vital minutes to head to porcelain Valhalla. Yup, she's a keeper but unfortunately, she won't be able to come out next time so we'll have to see late in September.

Glad I'm off now. I just have that Maple Leaf outing tomorrow with The Sisters of State and BC. Just kinda wonder how crowded the place will be at 6 p.m.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Saturday August 25, 1:35 p.m.

Well, here I was yesterday wishing for rain when the entire Kanto area got deluged by supersqualls around midnight. Thank heavens I got home early enough. Not sure if that will be good enough to keep the reservoirs happy but every bit helps. We're back to hot and humid today, though.

Last night, I gave Jolly quite a bit of inspiration. During the lesson last night, I showed him my copy of METROPOLIS, the free weekly English-language magazine. In it, there was a review on some non-descript pub in the bowels of Kabukicho which had an interesting challenge for all the pubcrawlers. For 10,000 yen, a group of tipplers can try drinking a gallon of Guinness with a Bailey's Irish Cream chaser. The giant cocktail is known as the "Irish Car Bomb". I think it is named aptly if politically incorrectly. In any case, Jolly became quite like his name when he saw the challenge, and there's a good chance that he and his buddies will make a beeline to Shinjuku tonight. I, of course, gave him the issue.

As for me, nothing so extraordinary. I had Tully and The Coffeemaker at the usual Tully's Coffee Shop this morning. Unfortunately, we all had to concentrate on beating back the flies as much as going through the lesson. In about 15 minutes, I've got the final round with that EIC student before The Dentist shows up and then that miracle DVD student. With my luck, she may not show up at all.

Mr. TOEIC is coming back on Monday. Nice to supplement the income although he's a hard student to teach with his slow-as-molasses processing time. I'm not sure if his brief time in Toronto helped his fluency any.

Yesterday, I had lunch at Maharajah in the Shinjuku Southern Tower Building, home of Microsoft Japan just across from Takashimaya Times Square. They had the usual curry buffet for 1,000 yen. I certainly indulged in that one...almost overindulging myself on the pots of Chicken Saag, Vegetable Curry and all the naan & saffron rice I could get my jaws on. It's certainly a good deal, though. And I even had cherry Jello for dessert. It's been years since I had that stuff. In any case, I didn't need dinner at all after that Indian feast.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Friday August 24, 11:32 a.m.

Had a bit of a marathon session with The Nurse. I guess she's like 002 in that we usually have extended lessons to take into account the gab factor. At first, though, I guess sleepiness was having some sort of effect on her since she was just all over the place in comprehension, so she quickly got down on herself for that, which meant it was time for Dancing Bear, my alter ego, to shore things up. Luckily by the time we were finished, everything was happy, happy, joy, joy.

Now, I've gotta prepare some things for tomorrow's lessons. I've got Tully (?) and the Coffeemaker, followed by some more Speedy lessons with that other EIC student (the more ebullient one), The Dentist and then that miracle DVD student. Man, I could use more like her.
Friday August 24, 8:32 p.m.

Got another cool respite although it isn't the glorious night of one week ago. The day has started out pretty decently. Not exactly heartstoppingly icy out there but I haven't needed to take out my handkerchief yet this morning...a kerchief is pretty much a mandatory part of everyone's fashion here. Still, it's gonna hit 33 C today, and the Meterological Agency is predicting another hot September.
I was lucky that today is starting off so moderately. The fan that I'd bought just some weeks ago has already started to show signs of wear and tear. Well, I did only pay 1,300 yen for it but I had thought that Japanese reliability would have made any sign of failure something far off in the future. But when I turned off the fan by my bed after a few minutes to assist in the cooling down process, I saw this rather bright spark emanate from the wiring. I turned it on and off several times to make sure I hadn't been seeing things. Sure enough, I saw a few more sparks. Well, I'm not gonna shuck out some more yen for a replacement, so I'll have to go with the AC for the rest of the summer.

Not surprisingly, my TEPCO bill was almost twice as high as last month. The craving for air conditioning can do that to a bill. Speaking of the beleaguered company, it looks like the temporary (?) shutdown of the Kashiwazaki Nuclear Power Plant due to that big earthquake last month has had some major effects on the Tokyo area. All of the government buildings have been ordered to shut down any unnecessary lighting during the daytime hours, so a lot of the hallways and lobbies are looking pretty spooky at noon, and all air conditioning can only be set to reach no lower than 30 C. That may sound like rendering air conditioning rather useless, but when downtown Tokyo has regularly hit the 40s for the past several days, 30 degrees doesn't sound too, too bad.

It's another early start to my day here at Speedy. I just have The Nurse here and then I'm free for several hours before I teach Jolly....provided that he doesn't dotakyan again. Being a Friday, it's entirely possible that he may "have to" go out drinking tonight. I kinda wonder how The Siberian did in Beijing this week with that singing contest and all.

Well, the Asashoryu scandal is still lingering like the odor of a used fundoshi after a particularly grueling sumobeya session. The Mongolian yokozuna is still acting very un-yokozuna-like while he goes through his depressive funk. The big question right now is whether he rides out his existential storm here or heads back to his home country for good. I'm sure a lot of the ultra rightwingers are using Asashoryu as their tsk-tsk warnings about letting foreigners into the neighbourhood.

The Anime King has given me the heads-up about some more packages to be sent over. Last year, it was The Anime Chamberlain who showed up with him. This year, it'll be The Anime Jester who'll have the road trip here in Asia.

B2 has been sending me her latest covering letters to be proofread. Not too bad at all.

And I've just read that Kylie Minogue is rumoured to be leaving professional singing. I didn't think that "Doctor Who" or Doctor Who would have that much of an effect on her. Speaking of the erstwhile Gallifreyan, I haven't had much to grumble about the resurgence of the Time Lord on TV although I did read a comment on a YouTube video that pretty much stated the writer's hatred for the new series. However, I kinda wish that Russell Davies would stop hammering us over the head with all that sexual tension between David Tennant's Doctor and any of his companions. It almost makes me wish that whoever replaces Tennant will be a throwback to one of the early regenerations: old, wrinkly and asexual.

Anyways, off to work then....
Thursday August 23, 10:09 p.m.

It was a short but fairly intense night at work. I had The Carolinan at the usual time and place, but she was 10 minutes late due to a meeting. And I got the feeling that she was a bit annoyed when I told her that I had to take off right at 7:30 to head over here for that EIC student. Hey, that's her problem. Still, it was pretty cordial for the most part, although we had to contend with a group of overly happy, young girls at the next set of tables.

With the EIC student, I had the quiet and soft-spoken type for her 2nd class. Every time I asked her a question, I got a lot of "Hehhhhh...." with the requisite hemming and hawing before finally getting a whispered answer. I was patient, but I must admit that the words "wringing" and "neck" did pop up once during the lesson.

Unfortunately, it's one of those "out and back" nights. I'll be out of here in about 10 minutes but then I'm back first thing tomorrow morning for The Nurse. Well, as long as I've got the keys to the place, I can just come on in and relaxedly get ready for her lesson. Not sure what I've got until Jolly's lesson at 8 later that night.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wednesday August 22, 7:43 p.m.

Man, casting is getting interesting. I was talking about all the stuff happening on "Doctor Who", and now I learn that the re-launch of "Star Trek" has cast James (faux pedophile faun from "Narnia") McAvoy as the new Scotty. Hmmm...I gotta see how this guy can beat the first James...Doohan, that is. However, McAvoy is a true Scot instead of a Canadian trying on a Scots burr. Still looking for the new Kirk, though.

While I was trolling through YouTube for videos to watch, I decided to input an old 80s songstress, Kate Bush. Sure enough, I caught "Babooshka" for the first time in more than quarter of a century. A truly weird video from long ago...the barely-out-of-her-teens Bush scampering around with a contrabass before she metamorphosizes into something that probably inspired every Playstation video game warrior princess. Then I caught her in "Wuthering Heights" in all her big-haired, wide-eyed glory. And you thought that bizarre-but-compelling divas started with Bjork...

Actually, I get to hear those first few chords of Bush's wailing from "Wuthering Heights" every Saturday on Sanma Akashiya's talk show. The English title is "Much Ado About Nothing" which pretty much sums up this half-hour of banal chatter-and-insults between the loudmouthed, sadly overbitten Osaka comedian and a group of young women whose fashion sense is on the wrong side of skankiness. I very much doubt that anyone on the stage realizes who sings the theme song.
But then again, it would seem that 80s songs don't truly die...they just find new life in Japan. "Wuthering Heights" has become so regular that anyone listening to those first few bars would recognize it as the theme song for Sanma's show. But The Eurythmics' "Angel" and Tears for Fears "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" gets regular airplay in various cover versions. Even bad grrrl of J-Pop, Anna Tsuchiya, has done a cover of Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough" for a car commercial. I go into the main department store at Urayasu Station and always hear 80s music. I half-expect to see customers or staff wearing skinny ties and big hair.
Ironically, the one song and act that I haven't seen here: Alphaville's "Big In Japan". Then again, I haven't heard "Turning Japanese" by The Vapors either, but that song is a bit different in tone, so I hear.
Wednesday August 22, 6:52 p.m.

Just came back from this restaurant just downstairs that opened up recently. Speedy had been telling me about it since he'd gone there once for a burger, and he knows about the currently dormant Burger Tour. Actually, restaurant sounds a little generous for this place; it's more of a bar...definitely a bar. From the outside, the Chianti Piccolo Bar (love the name) seems to take on a Shinjuku Golden Gai esthetic in that the distance from the automatic door to the bar itself can be measured in millimetres. Yup, it's pretty tight but the space opens up a bit to the sides where stools and tables exist. In fact, I was a bit worried that due to the dinner hour, the place would be packed. It wouldn't take more than three couples to saturate it...or so I thought.
When I came in...and nearly walked into the bar, the friendly young waitress asked me whether I preferred smoking or non-smoking. I first she kidding? A walk-in closet has smoking and non-smoking sections? Of course, instinct forced me to answer non-smoking to which she led me into a back cubby hole. Well, the Chianti was actually a TARDIS. Actually, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Still, I was brought down a few steps into this rather dimly-lit (moody, as the locals would describe it) section. Here I truly respected the Japanese ability to make any small volume of space into a likeable, livable area. There were three tables with seats in this area...basically if I brought the MB gang here, the cubby hole would need a "No Vacancy" sign. However, just a metre or so away, there was yet another small, low-ceilinged space which could accomodate a couple if they kept sitting. I was quite impressed with this origami approach to interior design. And for such a small little bar, the Chianti was wired for the 21st century...the main area, the cubby hole, and even that small pocket had their own individual flatscreen showing NHK News.
But I was there not to admire the design. I was there to take advantage of the special campaign for a 600-yen burger plate. The Chianti Burger was usually 1200 but I guess the folks wanted to bring in the customers. It was a very generous offer considering what I got. The burger was definitely one to compare to the likes at Baker Bounce or Sasebo Burger. The owners must have quite a loss on this one. It was a pretty big burger to satisfy any American. And since the bar had an Italian theme, the Chianti Burger was not laced with the usual onion, tomato and lettuce but it also had two slices of creamy avocado and a thin but large slice of prosciutto. At first, I thought it was a waste of good Italian ham since I thought the taste would be overwhelmed by the other ingredients, but I actually could get the characteristic saltiness a few times. The sign of a generous burger is how messy and gloopy one's hands could get. Well, the Chianti passed the test. In fact, one of the avocado slices ended up in my pocket; basically, my shirt became a casualty of war.
When I finally went up to pay the bill, I also realized the secondary benefit of having such a tight locale. The waitress blocked my way to the door when she took my money. Now, if she has a black belt in judo or karate, the Chianti Piccolo Bar will be a fortress. I was lucky in that I was the only customer in the place. I was a bit worried about how business would be, but I remembered that the nights I headed home late, the place was quite filled with the customers.

Glad that I didn't have any lunch beforehand.
Wednesday August 22, 5:23 p.m.

Another hot and sticky one out there. But there may be some respite on the way in the form of thunderstorms. I couldn't imagine this pressure cooker without some sort of explosion soon.

Yesterday's juku classes were still kinda half-staffed. I only got one half of Chip n' Dale, plus The Siberian and Jolly were unavailable. The Milds showed up so it was another nice round with them. However, I received a small bombshell from Seven when she said that she would be out of the rotation for a month at least due to a serious operation she has to undergo very soon. It isn't cancer or anything like that but both the boss and I have been left somewhat worried, since she's all of just 25.

I went out back to 002 for her regular class. Officially, our classes are supposed to be just 1 hour but since I usually get there 15 minutes ahead of schedule and end up gabbing, the lessons end up nearly 90 minutes. Still, I don't think Speedy would be willing to reimburse me for the extra half-hour. I got some nap time on the Toei Shinjuku from Chiba to Shinjuku so I'm feeling a bit more upbeat, but it'll be another 3 hours before The Judge comes in for his double. 001 is off today...she's probably lounging about on her sofa in Kanagawa drinking down chuhais like there's no tomorrow.

I actually received mail from an old student of mine, and a friend of The Carolinan and SR, the Beach Girl in California. Apparently, another friend of hers is headed for Toronto and she asked if I could answer any of her questions about T.O. Speaking of The Carolinan's friends, the ailing BC sent me a note asking about resuming her lessons again; it shouldn't be any problem, and considering that I seem to be on half-staff right now, I could do with some replenishments. Still, I'm meeting her and The Sisters of State on Sunday for that round at The Maple Leaf.

In addition, I also got B2's covering letter to take a look at. Got that revised and sent off back to her. Man, I would be raking in the cash if I could translate this into a professional proofreading and counseling biz.

Being the Doctor Who fan (I they still call the fans, "Whovians"?), I've been rather intrigued by the fame that the renewed series has been garnering in the form of its guests. In the second season, it was an old friend, Sarah Jane Smith. Then, this previous season, the show had its first titled thespian, Sir Derek Jacobi as The Master. Plus, Kylie Minogue is popping in for the fourth season premiere. Now, I'm hearing rumours of another Sir coming in as another pivotal villain...Sir Ben Kingsley as the progenitor of the Daleks, Davros of Skaro. Then, there is the possibility of Joan Collins as another villainous Time Lord, The Rani... some 40 years after her appearance as "goody-goody" Edith Keeler in the most revered episode of Classic Trek, "City On The Edge of Forever". But the one casting rumour that I'm hoping does pan out is the return of Doctor Who No. 5, Peter Davison, the cricket-playing fellow. Of course, everyone would love to see teeth-and-curls Tom Baker but I think he's a bit too far gone on the age level for that to show up on a special episode, so I'll be content with the former Tristan Herriot. My only question is how convincing ol' Peter will still look after more than 20 years. I did see No. 6, Colin Baker, in a recent documentary, and there is absolutely no way he can come back.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Tuesday August 21, 1:25 p.m.

Another blazing day, but it isn't that humid which is quite the godsend. have that cool Friday back, though.

I came home last night after another late night stint at Speedy's to find out that travel agent tried to contact me once more for that Hong Kong trip. "Try" was the operative word...she attempted to send me a fax, except that I'd run out of fax paper...of all the days. So I sent out another apology to her for what has been a series of errors on both our parts, and then earlier this morning I headed out to Yamada Denki and bought a new roll of B4 fax paper. I did tell her that I would be home between 11 and 1 if she wanted to contact me directly, but it looks like she's very busy or she's gotten fed up.

Speaking of Hong Kong, I actually had a chunk of free time between The Class Act and The Full-Timer so I visited the discount CD shop, RecoFAN, in Shibuya. Well, what did a CD store have to do with HK? Well, it wasn't so much RecoFAN itself than what I ended up buying there which was that "Little King Kong" (yeah, I know....Hong Kong and King Kong....not much of a segue) single by Shibuya-kei Queen Kahimi Karie. It was used, so it cost me just 485 yen. After having seen the video on YouTube the other day, I was intrigued to get it.
Yep, she's one of a kind. She sounds like she's Japanese in name and passport only. With those wispy French-accented vocals of hers, I can only imagine what she sounds like in interviews. I did notice one video which supposedly features one such chatfest with her on YouTube, so I may take a look.

I guess I've been getting lax on keeping up with the news. I only found out this morning about that China Airlines jet which exploded at Naha Airport a full 24 hours after the event. I guess that "Thank You for Not Smoking" sign took on ironic importance. Still, it's a miracle that noone was injured, let alone killed. I wonder if CA is gonna get recalled along with the millions of toys.

The other news that I'd forgotten to mention is that all those travelers, business or pleasure, are kinda singing the blues....that is, if they're coming back from Hokkaido or Tohoku. For years, domestic travelers heading back from Sapporo or Sendai always brought back souvenirs in the form of this cream wafer cookie called "Shiroi Koibito" (White Lovers). I've often received and enjoyed the boxes of this confection over the years from various students. Well, it looks like even this legendary company has fallen to The Dark Side of Corporate Japan. Apparently, the distributors had been selling the stuff beyond the "Best By" date, so of course when the jig was up, the boxes were out. Personally, I prefer the Marseille Raisin Butter Cookies of Sapporo but those mega-calorie things don't last too long outside of the fridge.

Well, today, I've just got the juku folks. There is nothing like that little annoyance of the fax running out of paper to get me hustling on lesson plans since I had to head out this morning to the electronics shop. So I managed to get most of the plans done by bedtime this morning. The Siberian should be out there in Beijing right now with his partner, getting ready to compete for that big singing contest later this week.
Monday August 20, 7:38 p.m.

Just finished with The Full-Timer, but this time we had the lesson at Vie De France since Doutor was completely filled up. We didn't escape the smoke, though. Looks like this has been the Hawaiian souvenir day. I got the usual Kona coffee and macadamia nuts from The Class Act, and now I got some Dole Pineapple Gummies from my last student. She and her mother enjoyed themselves in The Aloha State but it looks like The Full-Timer has to contend with one of those cockroaches of corporate life...the dilettante supervisor.

Watched the last of the newest episodes of "Doctor Who" on The Entrepreneur's tape. Unfortunately, the sound was lousy so it was rather difficult to hear which necessitated me to go to Wikipedia to find out what did happen in the stories. The producers certainly have gotten ambitious...Daleks in Manhattan?! Who'd'a thought that the universe's most evil invaders could use The Empire State Building as part of their nefarious plans?
Monday August 20, 5:27 p.m.

It was an interesting weekend. For one thing, meterologically speaking, The Big Sushi got what it hadn't expected at this time of year on Friday night: a magnificently cool evening. It was like a death row prisoner getting 24 hours of freedom. I didn't have to turn on a single appliance to get temperature relief; I just opened the windows and let Nature waft in. I thought that the Fall had arrived a month early. But as it turned out, it was just a parole. Sunday brought in the heat and humidity once more.
At the same time, though, Chiba was still getting its shakes. But it looks like the worst is over for now, although the earthquake authorities warned us for some sizable tremors for the next week or so.

The only highlight for Saturday was another seasonal party at 002's. Being summer, yakiniku was the theme so the afternoon was given over to the hotplate and plenty of beef and veggies to be fried. The amazing thing was that The Baker actually came in on time...and with plenty of her mother's baked goods to satisfy us. It was the usual cast of characters: 002 and her husband with 001 and The Baker along with myself. The Baker also brought over a teacher from her current school. Talking with him, it was almost like talking with a mirror image of Speedy. He's not just a teacher but also the co-owner of the school. It was an identical story...someone who is idealistic enough to make a niche amongst the bigger English schools in the area. Like me, he's an old NOVA hand...and he had some stories about the old place that would suggest that Japan's largest eikaiwa school is in bleaker hands than is probably known.

Sunday was just a day at home...just switching back and forth between NHK and NHK Educational. One had the Annual Koshien High School Baseball Tournament while the other had the weekly I-Go matchup (yes, I'm still keeping up with my new hobby). I also got some shopping done....I was rather shocked that a lot of the veggies were sold out by mid-afternoon. Mind you, it is BBQ season so that a lot of folks may have stocked up, but I'm wondering if various storms all over the world may have contributed to a drop in availability. I already heard that Hurricane Dean may have wiped out Jamaica's banana crop.

I had The Class Act for the first time in a few weeks. Looks like the both of them had quite the time in Hawaii. The Lady was complaining mightily about her inept housekeeper/caretaker there which may necessitate another trip to The Aloha State to interview new candidates. Ah yes...something that I'm very familiar with, of course. But no SIL today. However, The Full-Timer should be back in 20 minutes and then a couple of more students including the Judge.