Friday, January 11, 2008

Saturday January 12, 12:14 p.m.

The weather is a dog's nose...cold and wet. We may even be facing hatsuyuki...the first snow later tonight when the temps plummet. I'm sure JR is on Yellow Alert. However, I'll believe it when I see it. Tokyo and snow don't exactly match up much anymore.

Just had that lone lesson with The Ace last night. Apparently, one of the juku boss' students, a junior high school boy, was a no-show. When she did the requisite calls, she got the plot for "The Usual Suspects" as an explanation. Apparently, it was a sordid deed involving the sad sack kid, a bullying sempai, and one other person. However, the school authorities managed to drag everyone in, including parents, and according to the boss, the relevant teachers probably screamed everyone straight.

I received an out-of-the-blue e-mail from The Prez of The Company. It's been over 2 years since I left my Monday classes with them to head to Speedy's side. The message was a New Year's greetings. I used my best Japanese to respond, although it did take me quite a while to drag out the appropriate expressions out of my head in the polite register.

Well, it looks like the 002 nabe party is definitely on the back burner for now. Since The Baker has no chance of getting out of her maelstrom of a company, 002 has decided to postpone to a more amenable date. At least, I can just cocoon at home for the next couple of days.

Just have The Dentist in a few hours. It ought to be good to hear how her first solo trip to Boston went. I just had The Manhattanite. Looks like Hong Kong was pretty thrilling as expected for her and her buddy. She kinda overdosed on the sho ron po, though.

Next week could be pretty dire in terms of the schedule. At this point, there is a holiday Monday, my Wednesday is currently empty since 001 has canned out and The Nurse has re-scheduled to Thursday afternoon. Mr. TOEIC hasn't called in about his next class. And then Friday, The Ace won't be coming in. So, basically, I only have Tuesday and Thursday as working days. Not too good for the income flow.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Friday January 11, 3:50 p.m.

Had lunch with The Chipmunk. As effervescent as ever, she was grateful for the chance to have lunch with a friend without having to bring along her two young charges. We had the pizza lunch special at Pizza Salvatore, the gourmet chain just east of Urayasu Station. We were the first customers there since it was 11 a.m. The takeout stuff from Salvatore had always been somewhat pricey, so it was nice to see that lunch specials were indeed reasonable at 1,200 yen with a salad and drink thrown in. I had the Capriciossa with tomatoes and olives while The Chipmunk had something with a lot of chicken and skin on top of it. I'll have to try that one out next time.
We ended up gabbing over the next 3 hours there and at the nearby Starbucks about the usual gang back home and how recent meetings have included the baby carriages. I also did mention about my desire to's good to network, after all...and The Chipmunk offered to help out, since her sister's family will be transferring up here from Mie Prefecture in a couple of weeks. It ought to be an interesting transition from relatively rural surroundings to the big city.

Last night, I had The Carolinan for her first of the year at the usual Tully's. She forgot to pay me but was kind enough to have given me a rather large apple...go fig. BC then joined me for her first, although now that she's an employee at Speedy's, I have seen her in the last couple of days. Man, she really needs to get out of her funk...she is perpetually tired and depressed, although she did show some fire when she started complaining aboaut Speedy himself over some of his rather frenetic command style. I suggested that she would get used to that...and that if she didn't, she should talk to him right away. I also slightly admonished her for not eating enough after she'd admitted that she tended to skimp on the calorie intake...maybe some of that vital nutrition can activate some life back into her.
The Manhattanite has shifted tomorrow's lesson time from 11 to 4 which will give me some extra sleeping time. Also, it looks like 002 may indeed be cancelling the party since The Baker may have to opt out. However, she did ask about how Coming-of-Age Day on Monday sounded.

Well, I still have a few hours to go before I head on back to Urayasu for dinner and then the lone lesson with The Ace at the juku. I've been pretty much filling my head with the US Elections via CNN over the past several days; however, one item of news that's been filling the airwaves here is about yet another disturbed teen who just offed his entire family with a knife up in the north. Good to be a psycho these days.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Thursday January 10, 1:23 p.m.

Back to the grind here. I've got The Yogist in a little over half an hour. Then, I've gotta get ready for The Carolinan and then BC, who's just come in for her shift. Speedy approached me last night diplomatically about seeing if I could shift the time of my student/co-worker so that she could effectively cover the time gap between The Admin's departure and the night shift's arrival. I'm amenable to it but I'll have to talk it over with BC tonight.

SR, my former student-turned-fulltime mother contacted me for the first time in a while in the form of a New Year's greeting. She was the one who introduced me to The Full-Timer and The Carolinan, two of my most loyal students, so I'm quite indebted to her.

Not much to say on this front except that I did catch a late-night program featuring some near-future gadgets, a few of which I'd already heard about. It was hosted by that comedic duo whose 15 minutes seem to be up, Nankai Candies, so they're taking the emcee route to extend their career apparently. They featured the capsule camera that goes through one's GI tract so that one won't have to go through the conscious agony of swallowing metres of tube. I knew about that one and I also knew about the car with the pliable skin and the auto with the friendly robot guiding your steering. However, the one thing that did bowl me over was the special copier that could actually create a solid 3-D model of anything from some wonder powder. Mind you, it took 8 hours to create a muskmelon but the muskmelon clone looked indistinguishable from the real thing. Well, stuff to look forward to...
Wednesday January 9, 8:19 p.m.

11 hours here but won't have to be here as long as I'd expected. Sure enough, Mr. TOEIC just called to cancel his lesson with just 11 minutes before showtime. The curse of the shinnenkai continues. Right now, Speedy is giving a model lesson to Pandora, the 4th such lesson to a lady who really wants to check us out; I had my model lesson with her about 6 weeks ago. Pandora is just this woman who sounds and acts like Minnie Mouse but has enough language credentials so that she can legally teach English. And BC is whispering silently with The Amazon, one of our night staffers about stuff. BC is slowly getting the knack of things here thanks to a lot of questions on her part, and a lot of patience on ours.

001 came for her first lesson of the year. She'd been worried that the 3-week break between classes would deteriorate her abilities but that's the usual needless fret from a lot of students. It was another 90 minutes of witty repartee. She will indeed be coming to 002's party on Sunday, but I gather that she hasn't been told about her friend's class cancellations.

Speaking of shinnenkai, Speedy just announced ours for the 26th. It's gonna be taking place at the Kanda branch of that tiny oden-ya near the station...the one where The Dentist acts as resident barfly. Still not sure if I'll show up or not.

Anyways, I'll be shipping out in another hour. Luckily, I don't need to start teaching til 2 tomorrow so I can get a decent night of sleep tonight. I've got The Carolinan and BC tomorrow night; it'll be interesting to see how much BC opens up after witnessing her church mouse act at the school today.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Wednesday January 9, 3:20 p.m.

Hillary and John pulled it off. They got New Hampshire and so things are still uncertain. I saw a rather goofy picture of Mrs. Clinton on the CNN website...I'm sure it'll be a photo that'll haunt her well into The White House if she actually gets the brass ring. Next, it'll be The Melee in Michigan and The Chaos in Carolina.

Did a McLunch...just hours after the McBreakfast. Not that I do this regularly...Speedy, The Admin and BC (yep, she made it after all) razzed me about my culinary disaster. I lamely said that I did buy a salad at the nearby Lawson's for a tiny dinner...guilt can make one do strange things. Still, I may be paying for my dietary idiocy in the washroom later tonight.
Wednesday January 9, 1:07 p.m.

Well, it looks like CNN is projecting Mrs. Clinton as the winner in New Hampshire. The media is swooning at this increasingly titanic battle between her and Barack Obama...well, everybody except Lou Dobbs and Diana West, who are probably racing toward their airsick bags at this moment. As Yogi Berra once said in his non-sequitur way, "T'ain't over til it's over."
The only other way that this contest could get even more haywire is if either Bloomberg or Gore decided to invade as Independents.

Meanwhile, the pop cultural noosphere here is still buzzing about Ayumi Hamasaki's seemingly permanent deafness in her left ear. A lot of sadness has been countered by reassurances that the once-and-former queen of J-Idoldom (I think Kumi Koda now has that tiara) will be able to plow through that setback.
Wednesday January 9, 12:25 p.m.

Planned the rest of the lessons for 001 and Mr. TOEIC tonight. Again, I'm wondering if and when the latter will call in to say that he's either gonna be late or not gonna show up at all. Plus, I did some ground work for tomorrow's lessons with The Yogist and The Carolinan. As for the Carolinan, I'm gonna have to find a new bag of tricks since I've finished my basic course on Business English with her. As for BC, I'll see if she's well enough to come out for her lesson after The Carolinan.

Looks like that lunch with The Chipmunk is set for Friday. We'll probably be heading for the Urayasu branch of Pizza Salvatore...a relatively new higher-quality pizza chain. Speedy has taken out their stuff in the early days of the school. The pizza is definitely all-Italian...thin crust with premium toppings...with the prices to match.

Movie Buddy and The Satyr are all set for DVD night on the 19th. Not sure what's on the menu yet, but MB had his eyes set on "The Shooter". He also recommended "Ocean's Thirteen", despite the naysaying from the majority of critics. I may pick it up depending on finances.

John Edwards...who's looking more and more like the bridesmaid rather than the bride at these Democratic Party currently reacting to the New Hampshire contest. Not sure if this means a concession speech. CNN has been reporting that the Edwards campaign is financially on fumes heading into Michigan. In a way, it's kinda too bad about him...of the three Democratic candidates, I like him the most in terms of personality. But then again, there's a part of me that thinks a future President shouldn't be too congenial, too human. There should be an allowance for humanity during the campaign to get him or her elected to the big job, but the US President by nature should have some sort of distance from his/her electorate and the rest of the planet. But as in all managerial positions, a balance is the most desired spot. Hillary Clinton is still probably the most electable (depending on what happens during the rest of the month heading up to Super Tuesday) but hasn't been able to strike the right balance between steely ruler and amiable human being. Plus, she's saddled with the Clinton curse of polarizing Americans. I'm sure that the anti-Clinton warriors were sticking index fingers firmly down their throats at that tearing-up response by Hillary last weekend. Diana West, one of the regular panelists on Lou Dobbs and rabid anti-Clintonian, was probably rolling her eyes so much that her sockets suffered friction burns.

No matter what one may say about America's political election process, it certainly has a lot more pure Hollywood pizzazz (is that 3 or 4 z's?) than the dry-as-dust campaigning that goes on here. Although the various media outlets like NHK or Fuji-TV dust off their starship bridges during Election Day whenever it comes (being a constitutional parliamentary monarchy, Japan's Election Day can come up at any time), the campaigns themselves are pretty much restricted to megaphone-enhanced exhortations on big buses in front of major JR stations while the candidates wear Mickey Mouse gloves and their grassroots organizations just canvass the neighbourhoods via car and megaphone. There's none of this visiting of cafes or diners or the usual telewar involving smear ads. It's pretty much sedate and distanced from the regular folk. And since the LDP has had the reins on power for most of the past half-century, it's really their mandarins which have been selecting the Prime Minister.
Wednesday January 9, 11:33 a.m.

Finished up with The Nurse. Looks like she had a rather truncated holiday due to the rigours of her work. However, she was as cheerful as ever...that is, until I reminded her that she has a test coming up at the end of the month.

Well, I see that Hillary may be down but not out. Perhaps that little trickle of saline the other day may have boosted things a bit for her in New Hampshire. She's got a slight lead over Barack there right now. Wolf must be crying "Boy!" in The Situation Room. Meanwhile, everybody is slapping John McCain on the back for getting his mojo back. This is gonna be some January for all of the politico wonks Stateside.

Hmm....lessee...I've met a future Emperor, seen a former Major League baseball star and helped teach the kid of a popular TV personality. Now, I can also say that I used to be companions with a major writing force. I was in the Tsudanuma branch of Maruzen after lunch with The Beehive yesterday when I came across a large hardcover in the mystery section. It just so happened to be written by my old Trainer at NOVA; he'd been entertaining ideas of being an author since his old days as a teacher/instructor at The House that Sahashi Built (...and Destroyed) a decade ago. And now, he's released his 5th book and apparently has amassed quite a few accolades over the years. His picture has a real close-up of his face; looks slightly constipated but yep, that was him.
Wednesday January 9, 9:39 a.m.

Another early Hump Day at Speedy's. Last night turned out to be a night of nearly nothing. Those 2 kids once again no-showed since Chip's mother never bothered to call up their mothers. And then I heard Mild Jr. cancelled due to his New Year's party...along with Jolly. So it was 2.5 hours of nothing followed by a half-hour of The Siberian regaling me about his drunken stories of debauchery over the Holidays. Well, at least, I'll be getting cancellation pay from Mild Jr.

It is indeed the week of New Year's parties...shinnenkai, as they're called here....basically, just a clone of the bonenkai except they're on the other side of the year transition line. So, cancellations will probably be de rigeur for the next couple of weeks. I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. TOEIC pulled off a dotakyan tonight. However, The Nurse and 001 should be here.

The New Hampshire Primaries are on...looks like Obama may be locking up this one, too. Still too early to put a period on this one but Hillary's team may be on panic mode after this contest.

A couple of nights ago, I received a phone call from BC...who has come back from Holidays in British Columbia. Man, she sounded like my grandmother on her deathbed, thanks to a lousy cold. She was supposed to have started her new position here at the school but all of us here think that'll probably postponed for another week. Not too sure if she'll be able to make it out for her lesson tomorrow night.

Strangely enough, despite 002's cancellation of her lessons for this month, the lass sent me word that the party is still on for this Sunday. Gonna have to figure this one out.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Tuesday January 8, 3:45 p.m.

Pretty quiet Tuesday so far. I had The Beehive's first outing at our apparently permanent residence of Beckers. Kinda wish we had our own digs...I've never been comfortable about teaching the ladies in a public space since I may have the admittedly paranoid notion that other customers may not appreciate our foreign-language kaffeeklatsch. In any case, it looks like the ladies are now planning their next big voyage...last year, it was Canada; this year, Croatia is the target.

I've got the kiddies in about a couple of hours so I'm getting all prepped for an hour of mayhem. It is a model lesson so the mother will be sitting in (common sense for the mother...agony for the teacher). However, after that, I've got 2 hours of nothing....not only have the Milds canned for tonight, but their son, Mild Jr., has to go to a New Year's party. So, after the kids, I've just got the Siberian and perhaps Jolly.

Last night's session with The Full-Timer was fine enough. Apparently, the lass had gone to Seoul, South Korea on New Year's Day for a few days with her buddy. Pretty atypical since usually most Japanese stay at home with the family on January 1. It was her first time there and she did the usual Japanese tourist thing in Seoul...lots of BBQ, shopping and akasuri. The last activity is the Korean just lay on the table while some middle-aged woman sloughs all the dead skin off of you with a bristly towel. I'd think it would be kinda embarrassing for a woman to reveal that a pile of gray sludge had once covered her body...but to each her own.
She's back to work at her company. Apparently, her current supervisor is a bit of a freak. He doesn't seem to be supervising so much as he is just merely being a wall ornament in the office. Her department doesn't seem to be having a lot of luck with bosses...the last person was a bit of a manic-depressive. In any case, the new guy gave out some candy for which a lot of the staffers took very careful bites...lest he'd injected something into them.

Well, tomorrow is the New Hampshire Primary in the U.S. If it's anything like last week's first bout in Iowa, then CNN will once again throw its 4th-of-July-mixed-with-the-Starship-Enterprise set on display. Still, it was interesting to see Barack Obama win the first brass ring over the formerly inevitable Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, I won't be around to see it since I've got The Nurse for her first lesson of the year at the same time but I can always check out the results on the Net at Speedy's.

Anyways, back to planning.
Monday January 7, 5:16 p.m.

So far, so good. The day has been passing by relatively easily. However, 002 has cancelled her lessons for this month; apparently, there's been a death in the family. So I can also assume that her planned party for this Sunday is also postponed or cancelled.

I dropped off at Maruzen earlier this morning to pick up a new text for Jolly...provided that he doesn't cancel his lesson tomorrow night. However, The Siberian will be showing up for his 30 minutes. But The Milds won't be for some reason, although their son will be there for the side. The big thing at the juku tomorrow, though, will be Chip N' Dale + 2. I'll have to bring out the big guns again for the additional kids.

One of the New Year's Resolutions that I'm aiming to keep is to try to be a bit more outgoing with the few remaining friends I have left. I lost quite a few of them over the past couple of years. I sent word to The Chipmunk by e-mail about getting together for lunch sometime. She took the bait and it looks Friday may be doable.

Picked up another couple of CDs at Yamano Music. And yet another Hiromi Iwasaki disc is mine, plus one by a unit called Futaba. Like all of the other disc shops here, it has a point card incentive but Yamano is a bit chintzy on the points only awarding one for every 1,000 yen worth of purchase whereas stores like HMV and Tower Records give out two for the same amount.

Also dropped by the newest branch of Tokyu Hands, the household goods store, in trendy Yurakucho's Marronier Square. Hands usually has this image of being very handy with all sorts of stuff for the interior fixer-upper. The new Yurakucho branch though is a lot more prettified and rarefied in their products.

In the bad news area, that 16-year-old psycho who went on the run-by stabbing spree a couple of days ago in Shinagawa had apparently been going for mental counseling for a few years according to his (horrified) parents. He himself said that he's been having some girl problems. I'd say that he has bigger issues now...such as time in the big house once he reaches 18, perhaps.
Also, the news about Ayumi Hamasaki's permanent deafness in one ear has been making the rounds on the forums. It's hit the fans pretty hard. Although the singer has said that she'll continue like the trooper she is, it's hard to imagine how she'll be able to keep that quality of hers in concerts. Plus, there's also the fact that her balance has probably been affected.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Monday January 7, 9:40 a.m.

Well, there's a New Year's tradition in which folks go to the nearest temple and check out their year's fortune via little slips of paper. Kichi is good luck with dai-kichi being really good luck. On other end of the spectrum, there is kyo for bad luck, and if you get dai-kyo...well, get your last will updated.
It looks like Japan is starting out with kyo. So far, we've had the first stabbing spree in Tokyo in a Shinagawa shopping street (some 16-year-old with issues decided to slash away at the shoppers), there have already been some fires killing elderly, a robbery/murder of a 90-year-old man in his own home (so much for filial piety in this country), and pop icon Ayumi Hamasaki has admitted to completely losing her hearing in her left ear.

The working week is back on schedule. I've just got two lessons today. A rare Monday outing with The New Yorker, followed by The Full-Timer. So, actually, I have nothing at Speedy's although I will be dropping by to type up some materials. It'll make for a nice little transition back to the regular grind since Tuesday will be back to normal.

Forgot to mention that I did watch "North by Northwest" on DVD. Compared to all of the pyrotechnics and MTV-style cuts and shots of today, the ultimate Cary Grant suspense is pretty tame but it still holds up very well for a suspense that will be celebrating 50 years next year. And yep, there is some pretty thick innuendo in the repartee. I watched it as is the first time but then I caught it a second time with the commentary by the screenwriter. It was interesting hearing his take on Grant when compared to the near-fawning commentary by a film historian on "The Philadelphia Story", another of Grant's classics made almost 20 years earlier. The writer liked Grant but was in far less awe of him or Hitchcock, for that matter.

Speaking of movies, Movie Buddy got in touch with me last night. Looks like another DVD night will be in store on the 19th. He told me his move to the new apartment was greatly facilitated by the moving company that he and The Sylph had hired. Gonna have to get the number off of him.