Thursday, December 06, 2007

Friday December 7, 11:18 a.m.

I say this in the snarkiest of voices here: How do you make 10,000 yen (about $100 US) disappear in 2 hours? Simple...just pay postage for sending Xmas presents via Air Mail and then get your hair cut. least, I was able to bleed off some of the tension via the scalp massage.

Yep, I was able to get most of the Xmas shopping done. The family is all taken care of. I got a couple of 007 DVDs for my brother (I guess MB and I aren't the only Bond fanatics), an uplifting book for my sister-in-law and an enka DVD for the parentals. Considering how many times I've been to the neighbourhood post office this week, the staff and I should be on a first-name basis by now. And I still have got to send off the rest of the calendars to The Dancer, Shard and The Entrepreneur on Monday.

MB had left a message for me inviting me to some sushi thing on Sunday but I politely declined since my wallet is now a whole lot lighter. Besides I'm seeing him and The Satyr tomorrow for Foo Foo and Jason Bourne. Basically starting from today, I've got a 3-day weekend. Boy, could I use it.

I just heard that Kiefer Sutherland has gotten himself into a situation that even Jack Bauer wouldn't be able to escape. Got caught for DUI for a second he's going into the hoosegow for 48 days. I wonder if the judge was being a bit hilarious by sentencing him to a multiple of 24.

Nicholas Cage and his "National Treasure" crew were here to launch the Japan premiere of the sequel in Roppongi Hills last night. Looks like Helen "The Queen" Mirren is joining Jon "President Roosevelt (via "Pearl Harbour")" Voigt for this voyage. I can only hope that the sequel is a bit bouncier than that flatter-than-urine-in-a-petri-dish first movie.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Thursday December 6, 2:19 p.m.

The Yogist's very first lesson went off without a hitch. She seems somewhat similar with The Chipmunk in demeanor and delivery. Could almost be seen as a younger and taller sister. She's quite willing to speak and has a good working knowledge of English but I was surprised to find out that she didn't know the words "above" and "below". Well, I fixed that in a jiffy. Anyways, she's already reserved for the next two lessons so I guess that's a good sign.

I forgot to mention that I finished Dan Simmons' "Ilium" last night and just started the sequel, "Olympios". I had borrowed them from MB during that trip to Goro's Burger a week ago last Sunday. So, it took me about 10 days to finish off the rather thick novel over subway commutes. Gotta admit that he's quite the genius when it comes to writing sci-fi epics, especially when he juggles such disparate plot points such as The Trojan War, quantum physics and "The Tempest". In any case, he's got my respect.

The Bohemian sent me an e-mail asking me if I'd like to join him in a Xmas party somewhere in Roppongi Hills. He forwarded the invitation from his friend, but as soon as I saw the 10,000-yen cost, I balked. Besides, the party is in the middle of the week of the 16th. I've got lessons to teach and money to make.

Well, gotta go shopping again.
Thursday December 6th, 11:52 a.m.

The Xmas shopping yesterday wasn't all that successful...was only able to get the latest tome of "The Complete Peanuts" for myself...1965-1966, the one where Snoopy as The Red Baron finally appears. Not all that easy to find something on spirituality for my sister-in-law or an anime DVD with English subtitles for my brother. However, I was able to use most of those gift certificates that I'd received as a parting gift from the mother of The Elder and The Younger to get a Doraemon for my niece. I got it at Odakyu Department Store over Shinjuku Station.
MB, The Satyr and I will be meeting for dinner and a movie on Saturday. It'll be the first Foo Foo trip for the winter least when it comes to us as a group. I actually went there yesterday for lunch and had the usual pai ko tan tan men. It may have heaps of salt and cholesterol but the ramen certainly comes in handy during those cooler months. Speaking of which, I must be getting older when I consider the temperature of 11 C as being a bit chilly.

Once again, I went through the Takashimaya Times Square complex, obviously passing by the now-inevitable hour-long lineup for Krispy Kreme 1. Next week should be an auspicious one for KK since it'll be celebrating one year in business in Japan. I'm betting that there will be an anniversary donut of sorts. Went through Kinokuniya, HMV and Tower Records but nothing that I could really find. So, after my first lesson with The Yogist today, I'll be heading over to Ginza to try my luck there. May even have to consider Akiba.

Last night, during my rare Wednesday night at home, I happened to come along the "FNS Ongaku-sai" (Fuji-TV's Annual Music Festival). Y'know that the end of the year is nigh when this huge year-end party for the big musical acts comes on TV. So, there was the usual SMAP appearance along with Ayumi Hamasaki, Kumi Koda and Morning Musume. But the interesting thing was that there wasn't this huge dominant star on the stage this year. Hamasaki and Koda were the obvious main events in previous years but they didn't really take over, and certainly in the former's case, there was a feeling of passe. And Morning Musume, into their 10th year and despite their youth, just seemed irrelevant. For a group that still pops up with songs, MM had that "Whatever happened to...?" vibe. Dinner theatre, next.
Basically, the only guys who got my attention were Keisuke Kuwata of Southern All Stars (who's pretty much critic-proof these days) and that tenor named Akigawa who wowed everyone at last year's Kohaku Utagassen with his rendition of "Sen no kaze". He has been able to extend his 15 minutes in the spotlight for almost a year just on that song.
Well, I'm sure that the J-Pop forums will be analyzing this in great detail.

Ah, I was speaking about the various J-Pop Xmas songs yesterday. I forgot to mention that I did buy Tony Bennett's Xmas album. It's a remaster from his 1968 LP. He still sings the definitive jazz take on "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" but I kinda found some of the other entries kinda if Mitch Miller or Norman Luboff got their hands on the score.

In any case...back to work.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Wednesday December 5, 11:24 a.m.

The Nurse was fine. But the Manhattanite's cancelled her lesson for tomorrow night..which saves me from having to hang around the office for 7.5 hours after the Yogist's first lesson. I kinda wonder if she's trying to duck out from having me check her test. any case, I can go home early tomorrow. Let's see...the rest of today's off, tomorrow night's off and then the whole of Friday is off as well. I guess it really is feeling a lot more like Xmas.

And speaking of that, let us return back to my list of J-Pop Xmas ditties. I believe I only got to "Christmas Eve" last entry.

2) "Kimi ni Merry Xmas" (A Merry Xmas to You) Kazumasa Oda (1989) This can be considered to be the anti-"Christmas Eve" in theme. It, too, is a ballad delivered by a crooner. However, where Tatsuro Yamashita's classic has this very wistfully hopeful feel to it, Oda's bluesy song talks of some poor schlep after having a major row with the girlfriend over the Holidays and feeling totally alone. It comes complete with a bittersweet sax solo in the middle. A few years ago, AOR king Bobby Caldwell did an English cover of it.

3) "Christmas Carol no koro ni wa" (Around the Time of the Christmas Carols) Jun'ichi Inagaki (1992) Speaking of Adult Oriented Radio, Inagaki is the regional king of the genre here. Since his debut in 1982, he has been nasally delivering radio-friendly tunes so middle-of-the-road that you can just hear the Evian bubbling away in the background. However, it seems that this Xmas song is the one that will mark his 15 minutes. This song was the theme for a Japanese TV drama "Homework" (I assume it was one of those high school-based shows), but its urgent tempo kinda makes me think it should've been matched with a suspense movie set around the Yuletide. In any case, it's one of the few songs that has gone beyond its TV trappings.

4) "Lodge de matsu Christmas" (Christmas Waiting at the Lodge) Yumi Matsutoya (1978) Back on Sunday, I was watching Channel 795, Music Graffiti, a channel which often devotes air time to the golden oldies of J-Pop. One of the shows showcased J-Pop Xmas songs and as some trivia scrolled out on the screen, I found out that this song was perhaps the first bona fide Japanese Xmas song ever written. Before that, all tunes Christmas-y were all the imports from America translated into Japanese.
And who better to have this honour than the Queen of J-Pop herself, Yuming? The song comes from the album, "Ryusenkei '80" and sounds like something The Carpenters would write (ballad with flute and harpsichord accompaniment). The title just screams "Carpenters".

5) "Koibito ga Santa Claus" (My Lover is Santa Claus) Yumi Matsutoya (1980) And then Yuming does it again a couple of years later with this one off her "Surf and Snow" LP. But this time, it has this "Rockin' Around the Xmas Tree" vibe as an electric guitar wails away. You could just imagine Kris heading to Hokkaido in leather jacket and Ray-Bans.

6) "Winter Song" Dreams Come True (early 90s) I was never a huge DCT fan although I carry their compilation of hits over the nearly 20 years they've been playing as a band. However, if there were ever an ultimate makeout J-Pop Xmas song, this would be it. The million-watt voice of Miwa Yoshida is at her best as she pines away for her beau.

7) "All I Want for Christmas is You" Mariah Carey (1994) Yeah, yeah, I know...this ain't J-Pop, but considering how beloved this song has become in the Japanese pantheon of commercialized Christmas traditions, I think there might be a case for adoption here. It may just be a minor Spectorized pleasant tune in Carey's discography back Stateside, but over here it debuted as the theme song for one of the more popular TV dramas here in the early 90s, and the rest is history.

8) "Last Christmas" WHAM! (1986) Another adoptee. George Michael may now be better known as a lurker in public washrooms but back in the 80s, he and Andrew Ridgely were at the top of their game. And this song is probably their most famous hit here.

And thus, for any neophyte who has come here during this season, just keep your ears tuned. You'll inevitably hear at least some of these tunes anywhere out on the streets of Tokyo or in Japan countrywide.
Wednesday December 5, 9:38 a.m.

I was carousing through the little CD nook in that bookstore near Ichigaya Station before The New Yorker showed up for her lesson last week. I took a listen to yet another Xmas song by one of the current J-R&B crop, Crystal Kay. It's called "Shining", and although the melody sounded rather derivative, it was still catchy...not catchy enough for me to buy it right then and there, though.

Yup, it's that time of year when J-Pop and Xmas music collide...I can imagine all of the music aesthetes running away screaming while holding their ears in an emulation of Munch's masterpiece at the thought of these two genres together. Yes, Virginia, there is indeed J-Pop Xmas music...despite the fact that the holiday really has no relevance here except for Santa Claus and the excuse to enjoy mediocre Beaujolais Nouveau.

I have here some of the many examples of Japanese Yuletide jingles that actually do sound decent and not in any specific order:

1) "Christmas Eve" - Tatsuro Yamashita (1982) The "White Christmas" of J-Pop. Kinda eerie in that while the song celebrates its 25th anniversary of existence, Der Bingle's classic is celebrating its 65th anniversary since its premiere in "Holiday Inn". Anyways, it's ironic that Yamashita, known for his summery West Coast sounds, will probably be pegged for this Xmas tune. It starts with a slow guitar before it gives way to the familiar jingling bells and chimes. It even has a tribute to Pachelbel's "Canon" in the middle. It's basically a romantic ballad which fits the theme of Xmas here in Japan as a couples' celebration.
Strangely enough, "Christmas Eve" didn't really catch fire for about 5 years. Then, its usage in a series of JR commercials in the late 80s featuring a starlet waiting for her boyfriend on the snowy train platform or in the station sealed its immortality as a Holiday favourite. And it now gets used in a myriad of different commercials annually. A couple of years ago, it was even sampled by a rap group. Basically, everyone knows the opening bars and on hearing them in this country, everyone knows that Xmas is a-coming.

More later....but The Nurse should be here any minute.
Wednesday December 5, 9:28 a.m.

Managed to survive the juku night last night. Jolly actually did show up; in fact, he showed up for 2 hours since he had to make up a lesson. But compared to last week's slogfest, I managed to invest a lot of my stand-up routine into a simpler homemade text on Persuasive Presentations, and like the perennial spoonful of sugar, that helped the medicine go down nicely. My anecdote on that Maid Cafe trip with Automan helped a lot (actually, Jolly had been to the Cafes three times previously).
Mild Jr. was as intensely focused as last week on his conversations. I was surprised to see Mr. Mild show up with his was his son. He looked somewhat like Death warmed over since he was still battling the rages of a cold, and it wasn't exactly warm outside last night. Still, he gave it the ol' college try. As for the kids, although they weren't aiming any of it at me, I could tell from their banter with each other that they're approaching that cruel mouthy stage of teenage. Plus, I got the news that they'll be bringing a couple of friends next week, so my kiddie class could become a quartet.

Today, I've just got The Nurse..and that'll be all she wrote. 001 won't be showing up since she has a day off work today...and by her own admission that she's just too plain lazy to make the effort to come to class. And Mr. TOEIC is too busy at work this week. So, I'll just be doing some Xmas shopping in Shinjuku before heading back for a rare Hump Night off.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tuesday December 4, 2:14 p.m.

Since I don't have 002 today, I have a rather large hole in my schedule, so I'm doing this. I did have The Beehive this morning at Beckers. It was the usual kaffeeklatsch of Mrs. Travel, Mrs. Alp and Mrs Tee. Considering the age of the students involved, talk revolved around their aging parents and the inevitable departure from the mortal coil. Mrs. Tee had another slight crying jag.

Just have the juku ahead of me. I've got my gauntlet of Chip N' Dale, Mild Jr. and Jolly. Since Jolly (and I, by association) was felled by the rather difficult handouts on Persuasive Presentations, I made up something a bit more digestible for him. But I've got a feeling that he'll dotakyan tonight. The Milds are always easy to teach and The Siberian is always the chat.

Well, they officially released the ryukougo~sho (Buzzwords of the Year Awards) for 2007, and no surprise...sonanno kankei ne (What does that have to do with anything?) was up there. For those who view YouTube religiously, it was uttered by Yoshio Kojima, the somewhat unhinged Okinawan tarento in the tiny bikini pants, who managed to become the No. 5 most watched video worldwide. Also up there was Dondake? (How much?) by 45-year-old mincing transvestite, Ikko. And even the food fighter, Gyaru Sone, was up on the stage for O-Gui (Big Eater). Just wonder if any of them will still be on TV this time next year.
Monday December 3, 5:27 p.m.

Well, the annual Xmas party for the school is now history. Went to Fungo's...that Italian restaurant across from Shinjuku Park. We had about 30 people in all. As I had expected, I sat myself at the table with all of the grandmas...although The Dentist and a few more younger folks were there. To be honest, it kinda felt like working at a retirement home. I enjoyed the dishes but one or two of them felt that their constitutions couldn't really take the spice so I got the benefit of proximity and polished off their portions.
Overall, the party had the feel of the typical office Xmas party...initial chaos at the beginning, party games that were off and on, and the one bad drunk...which happened to be Speedy himself. He was looking pretty tipsy at the end...I come in today, and I found out from both The Admin and the bossman himself that he became the human Technicolour fountain...on tour throughout the Shinjuku area. In fact, he's still plenty hungover now and his wife isn't too happy with him since he managed to "paint" the futon...time to hit Ikea again. I gave him a couple of Bufferin in sympathy.

In any case, we'll be closing up shop a little early tonight since the boss wants to get home to recover. Apparently, his class cancelled, and Mr. TOEIC isn't showing up tonight. And The Full-Timer begged off again with a fever. Still, it's not a wasted trip since I have to prep for tomorrow's clases here.

However, it was a wasted trip yesterday. I was supposed to have had dinner with The Bohemian in Shibuya...unfortunately, The Bohemian didn't realize that. I was in front of Hachiko at 4 in the usual scrum of teens and other scuzz...I waited 20 minutes. To be honest, I had a feeling that he wouldn't show so when I called his home and his mother called for him...I wasn't too put out by the stand-up. He asked what my schedule was like next Sunday....I said I'd call him...but I probably won't. After all, I'm a snake person...I'm pretty vindictive when I want to be.