Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sunday Sept. 23, 2:08 p.m.

Well, the weather gods are teasing us here again. Once again, I woke up to a decent breeze flowing through the apartment. And the temps feel sub-30. I can only hope that this is truly the end to what has been a torrid summer.

After having my classes yesterday, I made it down to Roppongi Hills to meet MB for "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer". We got our tickets and headed over to Tokyo Midtown, some 15 minutes' walk away for dinner. On the way, we saw some rather buxom young ladies dressed in nothing but lingerie (even Madonna would've blushed) handing out handbills to what was probably their place of employment nearby. It didn't help that yesterday was hot and steamy already.
We got to Baker Bounce in plenty of time. There was no lineup for the place and we got served our burgers in pretty quick order...a pleasant surprise for a restaurant in downtown Tokyo on a Saturday. We also shared a plate of chicken of the culinary highlights from our last visit there. The talk was not surprisingly on movies and also on the delights (his, not mine) of Playstation Portable and other such devices. Unfortunately, I'm far less up on this latter topic. Speaking of which, there is some sort of games show happening in Makuhari Messe this week. I bet guys like The Anime King are biting their lips in frustation at not being able to come over.

The latest "Fantastic Four" movie was more fun than fantastic, but it was a lot better than "The Transformers". A lot of people have written it off as light fluff when compared to its heavier cousins like "Spiderman" and "X-Men", but "Fantastic Four" comics have never aspired to being more than just a fun diversion. And I must admit that after all the sturm und drang of those two other Marvel franchises, it was nice to see a group of superheroes actually enjoy being celebs. I can probably see another movie around the corner...probably with the birth of Franklin Richards being the core plot.
Afterwards, MB and I went downstairs and had a coffee at the local Starbucks. MB mentioned about The Satyr's b-day next month and that he and The Sylph were planning to hold a party. He was also getting concerned that with the growing numbers of people being invited, the plans were also gonna get comparatively twisted. Welcome to the club, MB. Having planned my share of events myself, I'm fully aware of the equation that there is a direct relationship between the size of the party and the size of the headaches involved.

I just had The Younger for the first time in almost two months. I think she's sprouted another inch...and it looks like she's discovering makeup. However, I'm happy to say that she's still hasn't evolved that sullenness The Elder has been afflicted with. I checked up with The Wild Thing whom I left still sleeping when I left for work this morning. Looks like his Chicken Kiev project is on for tonight. I'm supposed to be meeting him in about an hour in front of the local supermarket to get the ingredients.

I actually did take a very quick look at The Admin's husband's exhibition in Shinjuku. Basically the pics on display were the same ones I was looking at a few months ago when I was doing some proofreading for him.

Well, I'm off for the next couple of days until Tuesday. Not quite sure what The Wild Thing will be doing but I'll have to be picking up a little present for Mrs. Travel in thanks for the gift of her old computer.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Saturday Sept. 22, 2:16 p.m.

Supposedly we're into Autumn now...unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the powers-that-be. It's another steaming day out there. Not quite sure when or if the Fall will ever reach these shores.

It's been a few days since The Wild Thing made his appearance in my humble abode. And as expected, it's been him running off at the mouth at everything from Alberto Fujimori to the overpowered Canadian dollar. I've had to play some tricky channel surfing since depending on what he sees on the tube, he could go completely bonkers on some tirade. Still, he's one of my oldest and most loyal friends.
We've gone through some of those "Star Trek: New Voyages" discs. I did go on a bit of a nasty critique on the pilot, "Come What May". However, having seen the next couple of episodes, "In Harm's Way" and "To Serve All My Days", I have to admit that the stories have been pretty interesting, if not completely original. And despite the summer stock acting, there is quite a bit of heart that's been going into these fan-based and produced eps. Plus, the addition of some pretty heavy duty guest star turns such as William (Matt Decker) Windom and Walter (Chekov) Koenig has given these "fourth-season" eps a good amount of cachet.
One of the other discs also contained the first four episodes of "UFO", that weird Gerry & Sylvia Andersen show which came between "Thunderbirds" and "Space: 1999". In a way, "UFO" was an ideal transitional show. It had the model vehicle animation and stilted acting from the former show, and the rather heavy-for-children gravitas of the latter. I vaguely remember it for the white-haired, tow headed commander Ed Straker and the cool scenes of the pilots sliding down those tubes. And I realize that perhaps the goofy penchant of the Japanese to pronounce "unidentified flying object" as "U-foe" may have started from these guys.

I actually did have classes during The Wild Thing's stay. On Thursday, I met up with The Madame for the first time in several weeks. She was moaning on about the fact that she still has no boyfriend; well if she wouldn't moan so much and actually did something about her situation, perhaps she may end up married someday. Then, it was B2 for her monthly.
Yesterday was unusually busy. Not only did I have The New Yorker and then The Nurse at Speedy's, but I ended up having three classes at the juku. The Siberian, Jolly and The Ace showed up there which necessitated me having to race across town during rush hour. Only The Siberian got the brunt of my coming in 20 minutes late, but he was pretty laid back about it.

I had Tully & The Coffeemaker for their biweekly this morning. And I'll be having The Dentist in about 35 minutes. Then, it's off to Roppongi Hills to meet up with MB to catch the latest "Fantastic Four" flick. Not sure what to make of this one. I only hope that it is just a fun popcorn movie....especially after the disappointment of "Transformers". If we're lucky, we may be able to get a dinner at Baker Bounce in Midtown.

Ahhh...what 13 years will bring. All the way back in my days as a NOVA teacher, even before I set foot in one of those tiny cubicles to teach a maximum of 3 students, I had attended that large orientation meeting in NOVA's Kanto HQ in Harajuku. One fellow asked about the stability of NOVA as a business, considering the fly-by-night nature of some of these English-language schools. The trainer straightforwardly answered that the company was just too big to fall. Well, cue ahead nearly a decade and a half...the headlines on yesterday's "Japan Times" read that NOVA will probably be closing 200 out of 900 schools by the end of next week because of that stupid scandal earlier this year. Talk about being hoist on one's petard. There may be a lot of students who'll need English teachers. I would be happy to help...

It's another long weekend...this time, the special Monday is shuubun no hi or The Fall Solstice. Sure doesn't feel like it...pass the deodorant.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wednesday Sept. 19, 3:36 p.m.

Well, The Wild Thing has landed. He arrived at my place in the early afternoon with The Enigma, his wife. Apparently, both folks like my neighbourhood. Even the weather was cooperating yesterday. It was very cool in the Kanto. I'd set my air conditioner on timer setting but it wasn't necessary at all. The Wild Thing had to turn it off a half hour after getting to my apartment since he was starting to freeze.

Meanwhile, my day yesterday was typical for a Tuesday...I had the Beehive, or what's left of it, in the morning. We had lunch at a locally renowned yakiniku restaurant just by JR Makuhari Hongo Station. For just under 1,000 yen, we had veggies, soup, salad, a plate of sliced marinated rosu beef and then a choice of dessert or iced coffee. And the best part was that the ladies had pretty small stomachs so of course, they called on me to finish off the rest of their meat.
Then, it was another pleasant house call at 002 before taking care of the juku classes. The kids were fine since the lesson was chock full of games, then it was The Milds. I received another omiyage from them in the form of nure sembe (dampened rice crackers) from Choshi, a fishing port in Chiba Prefecture. The translation shouldn't turn you off...the crackers were soaked in soy sauce so they go well with a mug of beer. Jolly cancelled again but The Siberian did show up for his 60. We spoke on the latest one-hit wonders to hit the TV screen such as the naked & prancing Yoshio Kojima, S&M Queen Sumiko Nishioka and the food fighter with the elastic stomach, Gyaru Sone. We agreed that two of the three will be on the garbage heap of "Whatever happened to...?" this time next year....along with other folks such as Razor Ramon HG and the Guitar Samurai.

I got home, slightly dampened by a frizzy rain, to see The Wild Thing making himself comfortable on the sofa. We opened on a couple of brewskis and as usual, The Wild Thing just kept on talking about all sorts of things while I just silently nodded my head and drank myself into a blessed stupor. Of course, Wild Thing slept in the guest room while I crashed on the sofa. I made sure it was the sofa by the balcony windows since the other sofa has a metal bolt which has dug into my spine before. We were both very grateful that the weather cooled down considerably.
The next day, I woke up and we took a look at some of Wild Thing's presents to me in the form of burned DVDs. Apparently, his friend burned some discs of "Star Trek: The New Voyages", that fan-produced and fan-acted homage to Classic Trek that has been running on the Internet since 2004. Well, from the pilot episode, it was obvious that this was a labour of love for James Cawley and the bunch. For me, though, watching the performances was just plain hard labour. I know they're not professional actors but still, it was truly wincing at times to see these guys play dress-up for their favourite show. Still, I was surprised that old hands like John Winston and the guy who played Lt. Leslie volunteered their talents. I'll see how much more I can endure from the other eps.

Well, The Wild Thing and I ended up having lunch at the neighbourhood Yume-an, the Japanese family restaurant. One of the things that I really don't enjoy about my old friend's company is his insistence on belching on full volume. I did tell him once before about that...obviously he hasn't learned. He did it in the parking lot which got an interesting remark from an oldtimer who had been in earshot (mind you, I think the entire apartment complex behind the restaurant was probably in earshot). He told my friend that he probably ate too much to which Wild Thing cheerfully agreed. However, I'm not sure if the old guy was being purely observational or criticizing him. Still, I'll talk to Wild Thing again; he'll probably say that his personality can't help it. I'll then just take it and then quietly resolve to limit my meals with him outside to as minimal a number as possible. Mind you, it'll be rather difficult to link up since I'll be out all day for perhaps the next few days.

For the first time in a week, I'm back at Speedy's. Because of the lack of classes on the weekend and the holiday Monday, I haven't had to head over here. The bossman is exhausted as usual and he's currently sacking out in one of the rooms. I've got the usual suspects...001 will be here in a couple of hours and The Judge will end things off. Mr. TOEIC was supposed to be in the middle but he canned again, so I'll be teaching The Manhattanite instead.

Well, I'll be making a lunch run soon to The Golden Arches in half an hour for myself and the ailing Speedy.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Monday Sept. 17, 2:21 p.m.

Another hot and sticky one today. Almost went mad this morning cleaning up the place for The Wild Thing's arrival tomorrow night since I didn't have the AC on; after looking at the TEPCO bill for the past month, you wouldn't turn on the AC either. I guess this summer is gonna be dragged out kicking and screaming.

Speaking of my old friend, I met him on Saturday at Shinjuku Station. We went off to Foo Foo, my favourite ramen restaurant in the Odakyu Mall. Apparently, there has been a change in management. For one thing, the waitress automatically, and accurately, pegged The Wild Thing for a Chinese speaker and spoke to him in Cantonese. We had our usual orders of pai ko tan tan men...the famed ramen in a spicy but creamy broth with a hunk of sliced tonkatsu thrown in. The ramen also came out slightly different...instead of the usual slices of Japanese-style deep-fried pork cutlet, it was a more Chinese cha shiu style of pork. It was still good to us....especially with that mug of beer.

We ended up walking through the hotel-filled West Shinjuku for a little while. We noticed that the powers-that-be have been building a glass tower, similar to that London gherkin building. Also, for some reason, that branch of Hansen's...the hot dog place from New York...that I'd thought had closed down some months ago was still there. In fact, there was a window there for takeout.
We finally settled for dessert in a restaurant in The Century Hyatt, just across from Shinjuku Central Park. The Wild Thing marveled at the chocolate fountain. For those who may not know, the chocolate fountain is a fondue-type thing which has been thrilling women for months now. It basically operates on the same principles of a fountain, except that instead of clear water, the thing spews out liquid chocolate. Customers can just pick up a skewer of fruit and then run it through the fountain. Neither of us went for anything that decadent but I'll keep it for future reference. Not surprisingly, during our time there, The Wild Thing and I ended up gabbing on all things political and economic...with him doing most of the talking, of course. However, he has mellowed out...he didn't raise his voice even once. That's quite a far cry from a decade ago when he managed to get a bunch of us kicked out of a Shinagawa izakaya.

Yesterday was just pure relaxation at home. Didn't think of anything remotely connected to English teaching. I just watched I-Go Day In Japan on, those two guys were just sucking air and grumbling like old guys who didn't get their Jell-O. Then, I watched my copy of "From Russia With Love"...the 2nd Bond (with the uber-Bond, Sean Connery) movie on DVD. Actually, "Die Another Day", Pierce Brosnan's last outing as 007, was on NTV on Friday night. You couldn't have a bigger contrast between those two entries in the series....the former was a bit of a departure from the usual Bond format in that it came out as a relatively quiet Cold War spy thriller while the latter was pretty much an FX-laden blockbuster. And I think Daniella Bianchi is the prettiest Bond girl to ever grace the screen. And yes, I am including the two Japanese Bond girls from "You Only Live Twice".

Speaking of Bond, Japan's biggest ex-pat 007 fan, Movie Buddy, contacted me about catching the latest Fantastic Four flick this Saturday...along with the usual DVD night. I had to turn him down on the DVD night since I've got The Wild Thing as the house guest until next Wednesday, at least. Also, he's planning something for the 20th for The Satyr's B-day. Just informed Skippy about it.

Today is Respect-for-the-Aged Day, so I'm sure a lot of the programming today has been geared for and about the geriatric set. I did find out some rather mind-blowing data. Everyone has known that Japan has the most rapidly aging society on the planet...although with all of the youth-induced media, observers can be forgiven for thinking the opposite. I was still surprised at how many old folks we've got though. Apparently, we've got tens of millions of folks over the age of 65, and in fact, this nation has over 30,000 people aged 100 and up. That is one huge retirement community. All those budding entrepreneurs should be thinking up of stuff for the old folks if they want to know where the money could be flowing in from over the next few decades. Mind you, with that embarrassing pension scandal (half of the population's...50 million...pension records have disappeared), Japan may also end up having the world's largest group of penniless old people.

On the other end of the age spectrum, today's guest on Tamori's "Waratte Ii Tomo" was Gyaru Sone...that Shibuya gal who could eat Henry VIII's amount of breakfast, lunch and dinner without breaking a sweat...or a wind. She could have the recently-dethroned hot dog-ingesting king, Takeru Kobayashi doing some additional heaving with the stuff that she could put into her tiny mouth...and black hole of a stomach. Apparently, her real name is Natsuko Sone and her career in that subgenre of tarento known as food fighter all started when she was "forced" to eat tons of food at some party. I saw her for the first time late last year on one of the late-night variety shows when she silently showed her skill. Since then, she has broken out as one of the go-to gals whenever a food contest erupts somewhere on TV. So far, she's the only tarento I've seen who's become famous solely for her ingesting ability, but I'm sure the agents are looking for other TV-friendly food fighters.