Friday, December 21, 2007

Saturday December 22, 2:47 p.m.

The first day of Winter actually is looking like the first day of Winter. It's overcast, cold and there's an outside chance of snow in the Big Sushi....mind you, over here that usually means a few "blink-and-you'll-miss-them" flakes. It's the final long weekend of the year. Sunday is the current Emperor's birthday, so the 24th will be the compensatory day off. I'm sure a lot of the restaurants are celebrating their good fortune at having Xmas Eve as a semi-official holiday this year. It'll definitely be a party weekend.

Movie Buddy actually wondered yesterday if I would be up for "Beowulf" tonight but the time was cutting a little too close after my lesson with The Manhattanite, and since the last thing I really want to do is have a late dinner in Shinjuku with the good chance of rain and perhaps even some snow hanging over us, I politely declined. Most likely, our next movie outing will be in the New Year. Besides, despite the promise of a nude CG Angelina Jolie, "Beowulf" isn't really my cup of tea.

Just had The Ace for the lone lesson at the juku last night. He's good to go for that karaoke outing on the 27th. Shidax said on its website that it would call me back to confirm after I'd made the Internet reservations; didn't hear from them for 2 days so I called them back. Sure enough, everything is OK. The guy there said that he called me up but noone was home. I internally verbalized, "It's called a message machine. Use it!"

Today, it'll be The Dentist for her final prep lesson before she takes off for Boston to see her daughter there, and then The Manhattanite before heading home before the worst of the weather descends on Tokyo like Rodan.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Friday December 21, 9:25 a.m.

Went through HMV Sukibayashi yesterday to see if there was anything worth getting for free since I got all of my points on the ol' Silver card. Nada. I was actually looking for "D.A.N.C.E." by Justice but didn't luck out so I'll just be holding on a bit. But I did go over to Yamano Music in Ginza. Yamano is a bit more square in that it has a larger enka section but almost nothing for techno or dance music, unless you're into the 70s scene.
I did come across a one-off disc by this piano-playing duo called Futaba. Apparently, they enlisted Chikuzen Sato of J-AOR band Sing Like Talking and club chanteuse Bird to do a couple of covers. Sato filters one of the 80s' most notable songs, "Hatsukoi" (First Love) by the late Kozo Murashita through a Steely Dan-like arrangement. Kozo Murashita was one of those folkie-type singers with a somewhat more ethereal voice which was in vogue during the late 70s and early 80s (Off-Course's Kazumasa Oda is another similar figure), but it was "Hatsukoi", a very 80s pop song heavy on the analog synths that got him immortalized.
Then, Bird does her rendition of "You Can't Hurry Love" by Diana Ross & The Supremes and then covered most famously by Phil Collins. The interesting thing about this one is that Bird sings Japanese lyrics...a nod to the 50s & 60s when the singers of the day used to do the same thing with American hits.

Next, I found another CD which does the opposite...came across a disc in which various American artists, including The Manhattan Transfer's Janis Siegel, pay tribute to Yumi Matsutoya. I've always been a bit leery of these efforts...I actually have similar tribute albums for the aforementioned Kazumasa Oda, Mariya Takeuchi and band Every Little Thing; after one listen, they usually just languish on my shelves. I guess I just have this prejudice about established Western artists trying to take on J-Pop; my usual reaction to these efforts is "How badly did these guys need the money?" However, having said that, Bobby Caldwell's take on Kaz Oda's "Kimi ni Merry Xmas" is pretty good.

Had The Carolinan's final lesson of the year. Her listening was kinda out to lunch although we weren't exactly surrounded by tons of chatting coffee drinkers. It was kinda like the other night's session with 001. The two of us were just tired. However, she did give me some flyers to some sort of champagne event at Roppongi Hills. She also warned me that the cheapest glass of the bubbly will be about $20. Warning well received. However, I did find out that "The Simpsons Movie" is playing at the multiplex there, so who knows?

NHK is still pushing its annual Red & White Song Festival on New Year's Eve, I see. Talking about "Best By" scandals. The interpreter on the English track pointed out that uber-otaku goddess Shoko Nakamura will be debuting and the two female mega groups of Hello Project and AKB 48 will be sharing the stage (would love to see the mother of all catfights backstage...that would have the wide shows chattering for days...once they get through all the New Year's specials in the first week). Leah Dizon, the French/Filipino American who's made it big in Japan, will also be giving us her golden pipes (and I think she'll really "give" it to us). However, the one on the Red team that's gotten my attention is Ataru Nakamura. I'd heard about this singer although I'm not a fan of hers. But I found out last night that she's transgendered....doesn't mean I'm any more of a fan but I thought it was an interesting footnote. As for the Johnny's, I should say White team...apparently actor Akira Terao will be breaking up things by returning to sing his bluesy hit from 1981 "Ruby no yubiwa".

Just have The Ace tonight for 90 minutes so happy to get a bit of relaxation in.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thursday December 20, 12:31 p.m.

The Yogist is quite an interesting bird. The first 10 minutes of the lesson were spent just calming her down on the fact that she'd gotten accepted into The Tokyo Marathon next February. Entering is through raffle, so apparently she entered on a lark. Well, the lark has come back to roost. I'm not sure what she's so rattled about. This is a lady who's a yoga instructor, a competitor in surfing and swimming races and she's panicking about a little ol' marathon. It's not as if she has my entering that in a 42-km race would be cause for a ten-bell alarm. I told her that if need be, I would refer her to 002, who is a veteran of many marathons including The Honolulu Marathon of last week.

Well, I'm off until 6:30 so gotta be thinking about things like lunch and using that used-up HMV card.
Thursday December 20, 9:33 a.m.

Well, back at the office some 11 hours after I'd left it. I did decide to take the earlier pre-rush train over here. The traffic was accordingly not too full although I still had to stand for the majority of the time on the Tozai Line. Didn't do the McBreakfast this time since I did that yesterday morning and thinking that having two Sausage Egg McMuffins in as many days may lead to gastrointestinal implosion, I went down a dozen metres down the road to do a Jonathan's Breakfast instead.
Jonathan's is one of the major family restaurant (or famiresu, in katakanaese) chains, known for its red-and-white striped awnings. I ended up having a plate of wet scrambled eggs, one strip of fatty bacon, a thin weiner, a hash brown and a small pile of lettuce given the oil-&-vinegar bath; that, plus a plate of typically thick slabs of toast. Not exactly the size of a Denny's Grand Slam in the States, but it did the trick. Also, I enjoyed a lot more space with my own booth than I do with my usual stool in The Golden Arches. The restaurant was generally devoid of people which was also refreshing.

Last night, I took a listen to David Bowie's "Let's Dance" album...arguably his most mainstream effort when compared to his days as either Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane. It was easy to identify the hits as I laid in my futon. I was lying/shimmying to the first three tracks of "Modern Love", "China Girl" and the long version of the title track. After that, I ended up getting groggy with the last half...I think I completely slept through "Cat People".
As I looked through the liner notes, I saw the glossy pictures of the man himself in various poses and 80s fashion. I think he could've made a fine Doctor Who...and a terrifying one, at that. But he decided to work with YMO's Ryuichi Sakamoto and then-mere comedian Beat Takeshi in "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence". Never saw that movie, but I could imagine that Sakamoto and Bowie must've been comparing cosmetics notes offscreen in what must've been a proto-metrosexual encounter. The theme song still gets heavy airplay around this time.

The Anime King gave me another heads-up for another package coming in. And sure enough, I got a Delivery Notice from Yamato about it. Well, it'll probably be a while before he gets it with all of the Xmas traffic and all. Speaking of Xmas cards, I did get one from a long, long ago student from the ol' school, Legs. We're kinda like what the locals call "nengatomo" or the New Year's equivalent of pen pals. She even sent a photo of her, her straitlaced hubby and her two growing kids.

Just have The Yogist in an hour and then The Carolinan for her last of the year tonight. Not sure what to do in the several hours in-between. Will probably take advantage of my 2,500-yen discount from HMV and get another disc. I heard that "The Simpsons-The Movie" has made a quiet splashdown on these shores so I'll probably catch that sometime in the next couple of weeks, although I can't really imagine too much laughter ringing in these theatres...the humour is just too topical for Japan. There is a dubbed version playing as well with some pretty big heavy-hitting tarento such as Osaka singer Akiko Wada as Marge and singer/comedian George Tokoro as Homer, but I'm obviously not going for that.

Some more gun stuff in the news. Looks like some police sergeant made his feelings known loud and clear yesterday morning in a very loud place. He offed himself with his gun in the police box near Tokyo Station while his two colleagues were either sleeping or making rounds outside. And then there is the increasing sordidness surrounding that Sasebo shooting spree last Friday night. Apparently, it's looking likely that the dead psycho, Magome, was intentionally aiming for the two dead victims: his old classmate from junior high, and a 26-year-old female swimming instructor at the sports club where he committed his rampage. He only used buckshot for the rest of the shootings but he saved some pretty ugly slugs just for those two...police have found out that Magome had the hots for the instructor.
Wednesday December 19, 8:51 p.m.

Things are slowing to a crawl now here at Speedy's. 001 left here a little over half an hour ago. Our lesson was akin to a couple of punch-drunk boxers in the 12th round. The two of us were pretty exhausted; she because of work, me because of the year. So it was pretty much down to our default position of humourous banter and walking down Memory Lane...for her, that would be the late 80s and early 90s.

Since Mr. TOEIC isn't here tonight, it's just the bossman and myself in the office now. He's basically just waiting for his wife to show up, and then it'll be my cue to get going home. I'll probably have to be departing home the same time I did this morning...6:40. Although my class with The Yogist isn't til 11, the scrum on the Tozai Line will probably not cool down at the desired time of 9, and even after almost a decade and a half here, I'm still not willing to battle the crush that is morning rush hour.

At 002's yesterday, the lass showed me photos of her Honolulu Marathon trip; some of them actually had come from her friend's Mixi homepage. For those outside of Japan, Mixi is the Japanese equivalent of Facebook. Then, I showed her my own little page on the same Facebook. She was amazed at the content...although I have to admit that I've been a bit more...shall we say, otaku-ish about my contribution. I made a quick comparison myself, since I also have a languishing Mixi page that I haven't done anything with in the last several months. I think it's a cultural would seem rather Western that Facebook folks would be more than happy to supply just about all the information outside of favored sexual position whilst the Japanese are relatively more conservative and therefore applications are few and far between on Mixi. As far as I know, I haven't seen anything like an "X Me" app or an "Audiovisual Rack" on the Japanese version. I don't think people here would really want to take the chance of having everyone on the planet knowing that they actually still listen to Morning Musume. And that's fine.
Wednesday December 19, 5:48 p.m.

Gained a few things and lost one in the past few hours. Weight is probably the first of the former. Had lunch at Foo Foo, that ramen place in the Odakyu Shopping Mall right by Shinjuku Station...I needed to get just one more raffle ticket to get 2 turns on the wheel. For collecting 20 tickets, I earned myself two tiny packages of sour candy. Also managed to get myself a new HMV card...a gold card. I've finally reached elite status in something. My purchase of David Bowie's "Let's Dance" album was what did it. After hearing David Craig 's(or is it Craig David?) sampling of the title track, Memory Lane did the rest...some 25 years after it had first been released.
Mind you, I lost my pair of gloves. Basically, it would be useless of me to ever buy expensive gloves or umbrellas since the number of gloves and brolleys I've lost in the past decade would amount to the cost of their premium cousins. All I can say is that the Tokyo Metro can go into a lucrative side business selling all of their items from Lost & Found.

I made those reservations at the Shidax karaoke box nearest the juku for the 27th. It was all done on the Net but I still have to await confirmation by phone. It looks like we may have an octet.

Just waiting for 001 to show up for her final class of the year, then I'm done for the day. But I'll be back again here tomorrow for The Yogist. I really need to loosen those shoulder muscles.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wednesday December 19, 9:47 a.m.

Another early Wednesday to teach The Nurse, but at least it'll be the last one for this year. Not that I don't like her...she's a fine chatty student, but I could do with some more sleep.

Last night at the juku, I started off with that sort-of party with Chip N' Dale. As expected, the fondue segment did take about 30 minutes from melting the chocolate to finishing the last of the banana slices. And then it was Scrabble for the rest of the hour. Obviously with melted chocolate, there was some mess involved but everything was squared away by the time Mild Jr. showed up. The rest of the evening was pretty smooth-going.

After almost 3 weeks, I've finally finished sci-fi writer Dan Simmons' recent mega-opus, "Ilium" and "Olympos". Man, after reading through his books which often touch upon classic literature such as "Canterbury Tales"and "The Tempest" as much as sci-fi concepts as artificial intelligence and black hole manipulation, a budding writer will either be inspired or absolutely discouraged. But to be honest, I don't think Simmons would appeal to every potential reader, either. His stuff can force people to re-read certain segments again.
And Simmons doesn't exactly skimp on the sex and violence. There was one chapter in "Olympos" which made me wonder if I hadn't come (no pun intended) upon an X-rated porn film. I'd read on Wiki that there had been some attempt made to make this latest Simmons epic into a movie or miniseries, but I just don't know how that could be done without withering or whittling away a lot of the meat. However, in answer to my unspoken question, the attempt had been made quite a few years ago but nothing has been heard since. It is truly an epic piece; when I recollect the characters at the beginning and the end of the tale...and then the journey in between, I just had to go "Wow!" Count me a fan.

Well, the Nurse should be here any second...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tuesday December 18, 4:46 p.m.

Well, the march of the final classes of the year continues. Said goodbye last night to Mr. TOEIC and The Full-Timer, and today was The Beehive and 002. Mrs. Alp of the Beehive couldn't make it out for the final since her back gave out, but supposedly the rest of them (including Mrs. Perth and Mrs. Potter) are heading for a French dinner in Tokyo tonight. They were lapping up my report on the party at The Lady's last Friday.

As for 002, it had been about 3 weeks since my last lesson since she had annual trip to Honolulu for the marathon there. She did pretty well...made it to the finish line in 4:41. Beforehand, she had her medical checkup; over here, a checkup is pretty comprehensive. It includes not only an MRI scan but also getting that endoscope. She said that the latter was actually less worse than the former. For one thing, the doctor gave her some local anaesthesia so she only noticed her mouth open but not the artificial snake going down her gullet. In any case, she only registered a bit of an inflamed stomach...nothing major.

Now, I just have to prepare for the little party with Chip N' Dale in about an hour and then the rest of the juku students.
Monday December 17, 5:42 p.m.

Just finished a double with Mr. TOEIC...unusual for him since he is a regular salaryman, so a daytime lesson is pretty rare. Apparently, he will be cooking teriyaki chicken for his girlfriend on Xmas Eve...and Hell won't freeze over, either. He wasn't too bad in the certainly helps not to be exhausted from work.
Also rather rare Monday for me in that I'll be seeing The Full-Timer and then heading straight home from Doutors...maybe if the traffic isn't too crazy. I couldn't get any photos from the party last Friday for her (I just thought it was a bit tacky to take them for the purposes of showing off The Lady's mansion....although we did invade her buffet table like D-Day at Normandy), but I will be giving some of that leftover cake as a memento.

I guess aside from Britain officially ceding Basra Province back to the Iraqis, it must be a slow news day for BBC so they put up the news about David Tennant possibly leaving "Doctor Who" after this season. Well, I mean he put in his three seasons so why not leave while the iron is still hot? Besides, it wasn't even him making the announcement but that comedienne Catherine Tate. And nothing shakes up the UK and the rest of the Commonwealth more than anticipating the new actor to enter the role of Everyone's Favourite Time Lord.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Monday December 17, 2:45 p.m.

I guess this would be the week before Xmas. The media onslaught should be beginning in earnest just about now. I can hardly wait for all those KFC commercials now.

Well, The Bohemian left yet another message on the machine yesterday asking me to call him. I had given him a suggestion about meeting him for dinner yesterday...2 weeks ago. However, he called me yesterday...a bit too short notice. So I sent him back a reply with some advice of my own.

Only had The Matron today at the mansion. The Lady was suddenly occupied with something concerning her daughter. However, I did receive some nice slabs of leftover cake from the party on Friday. As for the Matron, we basically discussed her daughter's snagging of her first real boyfriend. Of course, Daddy doesn't know anything.

I was able to grab some goodies for the little party with Chip N' Dale tomorrow. The usual Santa hats and goodies from Tokyu Hands. It'll probably be chocolate fondue with some other snacks; nothing like the Yuletide to bring us all closer diabetes. The planning shouldn't be difficult since the kids had requested another round of Scrabble...that should take 20 minutes at least. Just really Jolly's class to worry about..