Thursday, August 30, 2007

Friday August 31, 11:50 a.m.

Feeling somewhat less grumpy now since I had another pleasant lesson with The Nurse. It also helped that she'd aced her test. And since Speedy has completely forgotten the incident this morning, I'll also do the same...just chalk it up to one of those pet peeve issues that often plague married couples.

Just two weeks after the 30th anniversary of the death of an iconic pop cultural figure, there will be similar observations for the 10th anniversary of an arguably even larger larger-than-life figure. A decade ago, I was between my stint at NOVA and my longer time with the ol' school; at the time, I was teaching a private student I'd picked up thanks to a connection of Paddy. On Sunday August 31, 1997, I was watching TV when a bulletin came in about a car crash involving Princess Diana in Paris. Then regular programming had resumed for a short while before the jaw-dropping news came in that the princess had indeed died. My private student for whom I had been making house calls just happened to be the daughter of a geino reporter, so on the next day when I came to her house, her father was frantically packing his bags and handling fevered faxes concerning his sudden assignment to London to handle the upcoming funeral. Not surprisingly, I spent most of my time there that day talking about the tragedy with both the girl and her mother. They said that they'd spent most of the night watching BBC News.
Several days later on the following Saturday, the funeral was aired live at 1800 JST. By that time, all of the vilification of the Queen and the paparazzi had been in full force along with Tony Blair's tribute to The People's Princess. Then, Elton John immortalized Diana by making her the theme of "Candle in the Wind" instead of Marilyn.
Man, what a difference a decade makes. Blair is gone in disgrace, the Queen is firmly back in the good graces of the people and there's been a much more complex legacy built about Diana...and for that matter, Charles and Camilla.
Friday August 31, 9:28 a.m.

Pretty rainy out there. A bit stormy here...unfortunately, for several months now, the shoe cupboard has been acting up with a oft-jammed sliding door. Speedy told me how to avoid the problem which I followed and yet it still jammed this morning...Speedy kinda gave me this sigh and this "I told you..." look and I gave him a bit of a snide retort so things are off to a grrrr-eat start...

In any case, I've got The Nurse in half an hour followed by The Chef. I've gotta get the rest of that proofreading done in the next couple of hours for her. Then, it's just The Ace tonight at the juku. Looks like Jolly is too busy this week.

Just spent last night watching that Osaka Track & Field Meet on TBS. It seems that the Japanese delegation is very much like the one for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin...just can't muster anything. At least, Shizuka Arakawa pulled one off for the side by getting the lone medal last year, but there doesn't seem to be anyone like that right now. You just gotta feel sorry for them....working so hard but just getting ditched in the dust right in front of the hometown fans.

Well, my weekend is looking nice and empty....could use with a bit of R&R, especially if boss-employee relationships are gonna be like how they started this morning...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thursday August 30, 1:10 p.m.

Not exactly cool but then again, we're not in a heat wave either. In fact, we've had a bit of rain on and off for the past couple of days...nice way to wash out the humidity. Just saw 002 for my lone class of the day. She and her hubby had gone off last week for a little trip to Taiwan; they were able to get to famed sho ron po eatery, Din Dai Fon for an early breakfast. She described it as a mix between the famed dumplings with Japanese shabu shabu...can't really see it for myself but I can take that as a further incentive to make another trip there someday. I did get a souvenir from 002 in the form of a box of tea sweets. I may give The Madame a call to see if she'd actually make the beeline over here for some tea.

Asashoryu, the beleaguered sumo yokozuna, finally went off for his home country of Mongolia yesterday to supposedly get better again. He steeled himself from responding (or retorting) to the throngs of reporters despite their best efforts and took off from Narita. Some are hoping that all comes around for him and he comes back in better condition, while others are glad to see the back of him for tarnishing the sport.

CNN has been reporting on that wayward senator from Idaho, Larry Craig. Just looking at him, his "Huh?!" press conference, and his George Michael situation, I can't help but feel that he reminds me of another Larry...Larry David from "Whose Life Is It Anyway?". I can always hear that tinkly theme song whenever they play back Craig.

I've been reading about the growing number of I-cafe refugees in Japan. Apparently, with the arrival of these Internet cafes with multiple facilities such as showers, lounge chairs and oodles of games &, the low, low prices of using them...1,500 yen per night...the young and homeless have found a haven to call their own. And indeed, the largest concentration of users are in their 20s but also folks in their 50s have been making up a pretty big chunk as well....perhaps the guys are hubbies who've been kicked out of the house. As a user myself, I can understand the appeal though I'm not a permanent resident. And the I-cafes are probably quite happy (at the moment) for the business. Plus, the homeless can probably stay safe from the depredations of homicidal teenagers.
Wednesday August 29, 8:32 p.m.

Yup, 001 was the tonic. Always good to be speaking with someone on a happier note, although I did give a brief harangue on "Transformers" at the beginning of the lesson. Even Speedy remarked that he wouldn't pay 1800 yen for a movie based on toys. I was somewhat surprised that the movie actually did get some good reviews.

Well, my clone finally appeared yesterday morning on Fuji-TV's "Mezamashi Terebi". Masi Oka from "Heroes" was dressed like a regular salaryman, a fact that didn't escape notice from the giggly announcers and my other clone, Mr. Karube, the entertaiment reporter. I was impressed that he could speak Japanese very well although it was slightly accented. I also picked up on his catchphrase from the show, "Yatta!". There had been thoughts about using "Banzai!" but he rightfully felt that would bring a whole ton of negative memories even some 60 years after the war. Anyways, the show itself is ready to be seen on SkyPerfect satellite TV on SuperDrama TV this Sunday with the regular season launching in a month's time.

Yesterday's stint at the juku was still on diminished status. However, Chip came back to join his bosom buddy, Dale for the first lesson. The little lad was pretty darn tan and he looked like he lost weight to a near dangerous level. Since Seven is now on inactive status, I had to wait another 90 minutes before The Milds came by. And then The Siberian returned after his stint singing at that Beijing contest last week. Amazingly, he and his partner came in 4th. He said that he'd enjoyed his time there although he did catch Beijing Lung due to the high pollution. He noticed that the sun was completely missing.

Well, tomorrow will just be 002 in the morning. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday.
Wednesday August 29, 5:39 p.m.

Well, my day turned out to be rather mediocre in a couple of ways. Movie Buddy called me up this morning about catching "Transformers" since he's still on summer vacation. I was planning to head to that buffet restaurant in Toyosu, a few stations down from Ginza on the Yurakucho Line since I'd seen it on that TV Tokyo variety program "Admatic Tengoku" on Saturday. It ended up that we could do both in one afternoon.

When we got to this new neighbourhood, it just looked so un-Tokyo-like. Wide streets with huge stretches of concrete and tall condos poking up here and there like bamboo shoots. I remarked to MB that it looked like something from sterile Missisauga. And sure enough, there was the sprawling shopping mall, Lalaport Two (as opposed to Lalaport One in Minami-Funabashi in Chiba). Inside, it just looked like any American shopping mall. Our main target was this Grand Buffet, but it was right across from a United Cinemas. Well, let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. We got our tickets for Optimus Prime.

The mediocre time started with the buffet. Nothing particularly wrong with the buffet itself, although it was pretty conventional....just the usual pasta, burgers and fried chicken with the drink machines. The bad stuff happened when three of the most obnoxious mothers in the country with their brats (sorry, the only way to describe them) sat beside us. Basically the rest of our time there was fairly grating since the mothers' only way to discipline the little ogres seemed to be just yelling at them at the top of their lungs. Apparently, any Japanese custom of polite reservedness was lost on them. Both MB and I thanked our stars that we had no plans to ever, ever raise kids. Note to self: don't go to The Grand Buffet.

Now, the second part of our mediocrity was the movie itself. As a child, I remember watching the original animated "Transformers". I mean, it was an OK way to waste 30 minutes every Sunday....certainly more interesting than watching "Lamp Unto My Feet". But it was certainly no classic. It was basically just the Autobots and the Decepticons just punching the mechanical crap out of each other.
Well, a quarter of a century later....I see Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay couldn't really pull off anything here either. I heard critics saying that the first third of the movie was pretty slow but then the jams get majorly kicked for some POW! kick-bang action. I'm gonna have to be contrarian here and say that the first third was more promising than what followed. There actually was some backbone of a story in the first half-hour or so....but then, that lame bit of comedy with the Autobots trying to hide around the Witwicky house started up, followed by John Tuturro's Sector 7 happened....all bets were off. John Tuturro and Jon Voigt must be enjoying their paycheques enormously. It was obvious that John was just playing his sinister G-man with tongue firmly impaling cheek, while Jon will now be famous for his usual Voigt Hunch (see Shouty Pacino for an analogy).
The special effects were truly special in the first half of the film but when the usual Bay elements of jittery cameras and explosive mayhem hijacked the last part, they just left me feeling shellshocked. By that point, I couldn't tell or care who was doing what to whom. And of course, the script brought writing back to the early days of talkies. Both MB and I just walked away from the theatre feeling like Shia LaBoeuf did after one of Bay's chewouts.

Well, here I am getting ready for 001. I'll be looking forward to the brief existential respite...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday August 27, 9:37 p.m.

Finished my day today. The Full-Timer came in and did her stint and then Mr. TOEIC finally arrived...20 minutes late, as usual. However, unlike my earlier premature assessment, I did notice that he actually improved his fluency a little bit after his week in Toronto. There may yet be hope. His appetite certainly has been running at high speed. As soon as I invited him to have a Krispy Kreme donut (he had the apricot-filled one), he just tore to the kitchen.

I'll probably be heading out in the next 20 minutes for home. I guess things are starting to wind down for the summer. The days are still pretty torrid but the nights are starting to cool down to more acceptable levels. The next few days may even see some rain and even cooler temps. All the better for us.

Today was notable in that Shinzo Abe's embattled Cabinet was getting a re-shuffle. All of the morning wide shows were devoting their 60-90 minutes to the gripping drama of seeing old guys (and one woman) entering, leaving or shifting. So far, the big move was Foreign Minister Taro Aso get the big job of LDP Secretary-General...perhaps a step closer to the Prime Ministership himself. And then there was the other event playing out in Osaka, the International Track and Field Championships. Tyson Gay unsurprisingly got his win in the 100-m dash.
Monday August 27, 5:32 p.m.

Just finished off my dinner of soumen. For the uninitiated, soumen are thin white noodles that are often eaten ice-cold dipped in a small bowl of sauce with chopped leeks and minced ginger. Very refreshing for summer and it still provides those fast-acting carbs (all apologies to those folks still on the Atkins Diet).

I've got The Full-Timer in the next half-hour. Thankfully, Speedy's given me the green light to bring her here to the school for her lesson. Nice to escape smoke and noise once in a while. And my student will be lucky to indulge in one of the KK donuts. Then, Mr. TOEIC will be back for his first since returning from Toronto a couple of weeks ago. It'll be interesting to see if he's improved any...I doubt it...he's a bit on the obtuse side but miracles can always happen.

I've been getting some work-related e-memos here and there. B2 sent me one stating that she's done the corrections to her covering letter and that she's sent it off to the airline company for perusal. And then I got word from Ms. Travel reminding me about the return of the Beehive next Tuesday at what will probably be the new Hive. The Chef sent me her usual long sheaf of fax this morning for this Friday's upcoming proofreading lesson. BC even sent me e-mail thanking me for last night. I, in turn, sent her the web address for the best Doctor Who site.

This week will actually be a fairly light one. In fact, I think today and Friday may be my only truly busy days with 3 or 4 lessons. I only have the juku tomorrow but only the kid and The Milds are confirmed. Seven is out of the picture indefinitely until she's out of the woods after her operation, Jolly told me he couldn't make it for tomorrow night and I always wonder about the Siberian. Wednesday is only 001, and Thursday only has 002.

I think the newest breakout comedy star has arrived on Japanese TV screens. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Yoshio Kojima? This guy has become quite the presence on that variety show showcasing new tarento on Saturday nights, "Enta no Kamisama" (The Gods of Entertainment). This is a nutcase who just gallivants all over the stage in only a tight Speedo with a manic grin on his face spouting out stream-of-consciousness stuff to a techno beat while he intersperses his stuff by suddenly punching the floor with his fist as he states his mantra "Sore wa kankei nai" (That doesn't have anything to do with it!") I know he's gotten his 15 minutes of fame (or 1 year in Japan) since he actually appeared for the first time on "Waratte Ii Tomo", Tamori's flagship show. There must be something to these folks who hit it big with just their real names. The past few months we've had another breakout star in the form of Sumiko Nishioka, the comedic S&M Queen; and of course, there's the veteran Sayaka Aoki, the Lucy Van Pelt of Japanese comedy.
Monday August 27, 5:01 p.m.

I've had a couple of surprises in the past 24 hours. For one thing, The Maple Leaf is gone. Yup, Tokyo's vaunted Canadian pub in the heart of Shibuya up and went some 3 months ago. And unfortunately, The Carolinan and I found that out the hard way. Last night, I had been expecting to take her, her sister and BC for some of that poutine but when I didn't see that big Canadian flag emblazoned on the 4th floor of that building, I knew something was up.
Mind you, in retrospect, I can't say that I'm that surprised at the closing. I'd never thought that The Maple Leaf was all that hopping a place. Plus, I was rather miffed at the fact that they charged 1,000 yen for one can of Labatts and served some of the lamest poutine. However, they also served the spiciest Buffalo Wings the Kanto has ever seen and some pretty decent burgers.

Well, as they say here in Tokyo, sho ga nai. And as they say in "Peanuts", "AAUGH!" However, The Carolinan and I were able to find alternate digs not too far away up on at the top of the PARCO 1 Department Store. We made a beeline to The Saigon up on 8. Nope, about as far away from Ottawa as one can get in terms of cuisine but the food there was very good, and the local beer was great to quench one's thirst....and it didn't cost 1,000 yen. The Carolinan sent word out to her sister and BC about the change in venue.
And some 20 minutes later, BC showed up followed by The New Yorker an hour after that. I felt very badly about the error so I treated everyone to the first round. Still, the dinner was fine. It was the usual orders of pho, Spring Rolls, etc...anything that's good from Vietnam. Plus, the Vietnamese Coffee was good and strong (although I still slept like a baby last night).
I realized that it was the first time that I'd ever had The Sisters of State in the same place at the same time in the years that I've been teaching them. Obviously, the usually-much-quieter New Yorker was a bit more ebullient in the presence of her sister. BC got along quite well with The New Yorker in their first meeting. In fact, BC was doing much better since her sudden waterworks more than a month back. She's still quite the Canuck-o-phile; she said that she regularly went to the CBC website, and wanted to know about this Doctor Who fellow. Well, it's the first time any Japanese citizen ever asked me that question.
It ended up being more expensive at The Saigon, especially for me since I treated everyone to the first drink but it was well worth the outing. Good food and companionship.

And then less than 24 hours later, I saw The New Yorker again for her regular lesson. Last night, I had remarked that I wished I had my own little room to teach the ladies since Tully's has recently been the target of insect swarms and has always been a noise magnet as well. Well, the noise was in full bloom there today and that isn't too good, especially when I have a student as shy and reserved as The New Yorker. It seemed like I was giving her the ultimate test in listening comprehension. Now, I'm gonna have to see if there are any places like the ol Tea Room.
But I did get a nice final surprise today in the form of a box of Krispy Kreme donuts from The New Yorker. She and her sister bought it last night after dinner. I figure that they wanted to "get me back" for the round of drinks. Whatever the case, I'm mightily grateful. It just falls in with the Japanese custom of escalating the gift exchanges here.