Monday, December 24, 2007

Tuesday December 25, 11:43 a.m.

In my ramblings about my few days, I had forgotten about a couple of news items: one sad and wistful but thankful, the other one downright sordid.

Let's get the latter one out of the way. Apparently, some guy was arrested in an Osaka suburb for revealing his fetish for wearing girls' panties and/or wrapping them around his front gates. Then, police find out that he may have been responsible for the unsolved robbery/murder of an office lady 14 years ago. Not sure if the perv will get anything from that since I think the Statute of Limitations has run out. The man seemed to be a classic psycho...nice and quiet, and didn't even attempt to hide his face in shame...just a blank straight-ahead look.

The other story is one that I'd heard just a few hours ago about Oscar Peterson's passing. Jazz piano virtuoso, teacher, university chancellor, Canadian cultural ambassador, and so far...the only musician to get his own face on a Canadian stamp.
Tuesday December 25, 10:39 a.m.

Merry Xmas! Or as they would say over here, "Merry Tuesday December 25th!" Yep, just a regular day. Everyone's going back to work after a 3-day long weekend due to the fact that The Emperor's Birthday happened to fall on a Sunday this year...lucky merchants...Xmas Eve was therefore a statutory holiday which meant a ton of young folk heading for the restaurants and hotels. I'm sure that a lot of the newbie English teachers or other 1st-year ex-pats may be experiencing a form of depression since they will experience a working Xmas Day for the first time. As for me, tenure has its advantages in that I simply asked the juku boss for the night off.

It's been a while since the last entry so let us catch up...

After my final lesson at Speedy's on Saturday, the bossman suggested dinner together before we all took off for the Holidays. So we ended up at the nearby oden restaurant. Oden, for all those Japanese cuisine neophytes, is the usual winter stew of various boiled fish cakes, meat balls and eggs. A lot of times one can get the stuff at some sort of portable cart in the downtown area or at your local 7-11. However, there are also proper restaurants. The one near the school is this rather tiny affair with only counter seating for 10...pretty intimate, as you could guess. Basically, it ended up to be an unintentional Speedy party there since when the four of us got there, The Dentist (a regular there on a part with Norm of "Cheers") had already been partaking for an hour. And then, some of the Dentist's cadre, including her husband and son, joined the group.
Oden would never be my first choice for dinner, but the stuff there is good and was perfectly fitting for a night like that one which was cold and rainy. However, it set me back a good 4,000 yen...which reminded me that going out with Speedy usually ends up costing quite a bit.

The next day was even more expensive. I actually joined Movie Buddy and The Satyr in Shinjuku on Sunday to watch "Beowulf"....again, like the oden, not my first draft pick. The experience was intriguing, not so much for the fact that it was in both CG and 3-D, but because it was the first time that MB and The Satyr were so diametrically opposed in their opinions on the movie. It was like watching Siskel and Ebert on a really disagreeable night.
The Satyr (thumbs-down to the ground) castigated "Beowulf" as a pointless exercise in movie technology and cellphone-called-in performances. MB (thumbs-up to the stratosphere) lauded it on the other hand as a blow-me-away spectacle of surprising depth, sex and violence. I was securely in the middle, although I was kinda pulling towards The Satyr. On the one hand, I could see The Satyr's argument about CG-ing perfectly live actors (Angelina Jolie, Anthonly Hopkins, John Malkovich...and even the security chief from "Enterprise") in their own images...why bother spending all that time and money when the actual performers can do that? On the other hand, tubby Ray Winstone couldn't be least, the young version anyways...and even if the actor had wanted to, he couldn't have done all of those crazy stunts such as slaying Grendel and dragons.
My own beefs against the movie are two. As spectacular as the movie was and as scarifyingly close to real people as the images were, I couldn't help but feel that there was still an element of "Shrek" to it. I was half-expecting Shrek, Donkey and Puss n' Boots to pop out any moment in a Pythonesque moment of levity. And as for 3-D, it's dead. No matter how improved it gets, it'll always seem to me as an excuse to have arrows and other objects to be thrown at the audience. Nothing less than the world's first holodeck will convince me that 3-D is a useless gimmick. That gimmick was costly, too. It cost me an extra 700 yen to put on some glasses.

After the movie...and a brief but intense discussion between my two comrades about it...we met up with their significant others, The Sylph and Miss Ivory, in front of The Gap at the southeastern corner of JR Shinjuku. Of course, the ladies had little interest in a blood n' guts epic like "Beowulf", preferring to use their tactical skills on clothes. The expensive part came when we decided to have dinner at Wolfgang Puck upstairs. Cost me 5,500 yen to experience not-so-Buffalo Wings (more Buffalo Calf), a steak that I'd ordered as well-done that actually came in medium-rare and more suited to be sliced up for shabu-shabu (folks, do yourself a favour and go to a proper steakhouse here boasting US or Aussie beef for your steaks...the one I had just had too much marbling in it), and slow & not particularly competent service.

Well, at least I did one good bargain on that Sunday. Thanks to a sale and my filled point card, I could get a couple of classics on DVD at HMV for the grand price of 284 yen. I bought "The Philadephia Story" and "North by Northwest" for my Holiday viewing pleasure. It had slipped my mind that both movie starred Cary Grant...almost 20 years apart.

And so, I started enjoying my 2 days of semi-coccooning by watching a number of Festive DVDs. Last night, I watched my annual viewings of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and the special "SCTV" Xmas show (can't believe it's been over a quarter of a century since that thing first aired); the latter was fun and nostalgic to watch, but I don't think "Neil Simon's 'The Nutcracker Suite'" has dated all that well. I did watch "The Philadelphia Story" in the afternoon. I could see how it continued the tradition of screwball comedy banter from "Bringing Up Baby" and how it influenced various movies and even TV shows like "Moonlighting". As I said, Cary is in both movies, but after seeing this again yesterday, I thought Cary's role was more of a supporting one than an actual starring one. Everything revolved around Kate Hepburn's Tracy Lord (no surprise there) with James Stewart as the romantic foil. Considering that Hepburn had been considered as "box-office poison" at the time and that Stewart was still just coming into Hollywood being, it may have been very generous of Grant to give his two co-stars the spotlight. The DVD came with a special "Biography"-friendly one hour about Hepburn's life and career; of course, the lady herself narrated it and pointedly smashed some myths and answered some of the lingering questions about her quavering voice and head, and about her and Spencer Tracy.
I could imagine folks such as The Coen Brothers trying to remake "The Philadelphia Story" for the 21st century. In fact, it had already been remade once as "High Society" with Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Gene Kelly in the 50s. And the original seemed remarkably hep even by today's standards...perhaps due to its overarching timeless theme involving the human condition. Well, if George Clooney and Julia Roberts would like to go once more unto the breach...

Well, no turkey today (although my supermarket is selling pre-roasted turkey for 5,800 yen). Instead, it'll be Sweet N' Sour Chicken and I've still gotta find a pie shell for that cheesecake. I'm continuing my round of taping shows for the parentals since we're into TV Special Season. It's gonna be the semi-annual marathon monomane show on Fuji-TV tonight. Monomane is that fave tactic for a lot of tarento to do impressions of other tarento...something that would be easy for a homogenous society such as the one in Japan.

Ahhhh....caught Michael Douglas' debut as the new announcer for "The NBC Nightly News" on YouTube. He can work a bit more on his cadence.

And to all a good day...