Friday, February 01, 2008

Saturday February 2, 2:59 p.m.

Oops, she did it again! Couldn't resist...Britney Spears is back on that 72-hour mandatory hospital watch. Over here, the kiosks have had headlines blaring out, "Britney Attempts Suicide!"...which is of course false since the tabloids back Stateside haven't blared any similar lies in the past 24 hours.

Another American who supposedly has gotten Japan in its thrall...according to CNN (yeah, right)...none other than that smoovy Barack Obama. Apparently, the way the report goes is that the senator from Illinois is just wowing the Japanese population. Well, it's true that his books have been on large display at the bookstores; I was at Maruzen today and there is a section with his books prominently displayed, but so are Hillary's tomes. And despite the shots of busy Ginza, I'm not getting any indication that the oh-so-pronounceable name here has become so popular that he's getting his own T-shirts. We shall see in November...or sooner.
Saturday February 2, 1:54 p.m.

Well, it's the Binational Observed Holiday Weekend. Today is Groundhog Day in the West, so I expect that Punxatawney Pete...Phil...Pat?...will be making his appearance in the next 24 hours to see whether or not Winter will be continuing. From what I've heard from The Anime King and my sister-in-law, it could be a while yet. Apparently, Toronto is getting pounded yet again by 20 cm of the white stuff. And even over here, Tokyo may once again be threatened by another dreaded dusting. Luckily, I'm at home all day tomorrow watching I-go. The other half of the BOHW is the 3rd which is the annual Setsubun where beans are thrown at the devil to drive him out...kinda like getting rid of Osama Bin Laden with bad language.

As I said, The Anime King contacted me about the snowstorm. And then he talked about he's been starting to listen to some of the J-Pop hits of yesteryear. He mentioned the doll-like duo of Wink as an example...that was way back in 1988. The girls made their reputation as the Pink Lady of the late 80s with their stilted moves and their takes on Eurobeat songs. One has largely disappeared into the ether...popping up occasionally in risque photo shoots (the final tether of desperate tarento) while the other, Shoko Aida, has found some success as an atypically quiet TV personality.
I mentioned to him about my latest purchase of the Kanako Wada CD since she's an 80s artist and she was behind the theme songs of that famous anime series of that time, "Kimagure Orange Road". I actually came across it by accident last night while I was channel surfing over SkyPerfect.

My sister-in-law and my niece finally came across that ritual that every parent and child go through....the kid vomiting in the car. It didn't help that my brother was off at a conference Stateside. I tried to be the big brother and told her about my own passage of that ritual here in Japan decades ago. She seemed a bit more cheerful in her response.

Well, I've got The Dentist and then The Manhattanite in less than an hour. We've got a new getabako (shoe cabinet) in the entrance hall...this time, with proper hinged doors instead of the hellish sliding ones which didn't slide. BC was telling me that the bossman was showing his more anal ways by verbally wringing his hands at which way the doors should swing. That's the boss for you.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Friday February 1, 4:32 p.m.

January has already gone into history. At this rate, I should be looking forward to my cremation in no time.

Since I only had The Yogist yesterday, I was able to have an early night at home. I was finally able to peruse "The Maltese Falcon". Very grateful to have gotten the North American version from my brother since the Japanese have been selling the cut-rate models for just 500 yen with very little in the way of extras. The one I got is chock filled with stuff: along with the commentary and trailers, I also got the previous two inferior versions of "The Maltese Falcon", along with a blooper reel (yep...neither Dick Clark nor "Star Trek" weren't the ones who came up with the concept of bloopers) of various actors in the Warner Bros. universe screwing lines up and swearing (a debonair James Stewart whispering "Son of a bitch!"...classic), a documentary on the movie itself, and a TNT special about Humphrey Bogart's movie trailers. And it was pretty nifty of the DVD producers to arrange things so that it felt like the original movie experience at a theatre of the 40s with the trailers, a 15-minute musical short, old Bugs Bunny cartoons and even a newsreel highlight.
As for the Bogie classic itself, I'd never seen "The Maltese Falcon" before although its reputation, of course, preceded it for years. After seeing it last night, it made for an interesting comparison piece with the other movie that Humphrey is famous for, "Casablanca". The latter movie's Rick Blaine is a hard-bitten cynic who finds redemption at the end. In "Falcon", Sam Spade isn't just a cynic but he's an ice-cold son-of-a-bitch leading around other ruthless characters; and Spade doesn't find redemption at the end. Everyone gets sent up the river but Spade ends up in his own emotional prison...a lifetime sentence. Film noir, indeed.
But for the movie that started the film noir genre, I was struck by how light and comic some of the scenes came off. Even the music sounded sitcom-ish at times. It definitely deserves further viewing...with the commentary.

The other media piece I explored was the other present from my brother, the Chaz Jankel compilation, "My Occupation". It's definitely one for all those who love the disco/new wave stuff from the 70s/80s. Still kinda disappointed that the original version of "Questionnaire" wasn't included...just "Reve de Chevre" which is the stripped-down sliver version. Well, there's always the Japan-only release.

Just have The Ace for his half-hour tonight. Kinda wish that the boss would just have him come twice a month for an hour each, instead of the 4 half-hour lessons.

The big news last night was about the food poisoning cases that have been rolling through Japan over the last month due to tainted packages of frozen siu mai and gyoza dumplings....imported from China. Incredibly, the Chinese government has flown out of the starting gate to resolve things PDQ (considering the other major problem of moving all those citizens trapped in blizzards). Perhaps, the fact that the Beijing Olympics is on the slate this year may have been an incentive.

And that supposed mano-a-womano smackdown at The Kodak Theatre in LA between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton never happened. The debate was so cordial and sedate, all it was missing was a silver tea set and a string quartet. Still, history was indeed made with the first African-American and the first woman to be in such a forum to be nominated for President from the Democratic side. Should be interesting come Super Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thursday January 31, 12:42 p.m.

It's Bill had to pay off a few of them, including the biannual one for home insurance. Plus, I still gotta pay off the premiums for NHI and City Tax. Not feeling too financially stable right now.

Came to work seeing what looked like Speedy and The Admin having an argument. Actually, the two were having a mutual venting session over an unreasonable customer...happens from time to time. I just politely ignored them and had lunch. Those Hokkaido sausages I got from Ms. Travel the other day certainly hit the stop. She and two others from The Beehive had gone up north to the island to visit Ms. Perth. They had a good time playing in the snow and noshing on the local delicacies.

002 is back in from the cold. She confirmed her lessons for her regular Tuesday afternoon slots. She should have some stories to tell next week.

Those debating stages in California must be looking pretty empty right now, now that a couple of more folks have bitten the dust. Rudy Giuliani with his WTF? campaign strategy quickly threw in the towel after that embarrassing defeat in Florida and I just heard that John Edwards has also left the race. So, that Democratic debate tomorrow will be quite the arena for a smackdown between Hillary and Barack...mano a womano. Meanwhile, the Republican debate looked a bit like the ESPN newsdesk with four guys still in there. However, John McCain must be riding high in the saddle right now, although he still has to get those conservatives.

Anyways, The Yogist should be here any minute....
Wednesday January 30, 10:49 p.m.

Finished up with Medicine Man's first official lesson. Man, he's a shy, reticent one. The bossman took his Polaroid (as we usually do with all of our students)...he looked like he had just gone to a family funeral. We gotta get this guy some major social activity. But we also found out that MM hails from my family's neck of the woods in Wakayama Prefecture...hope he remembers that when it comes to renewal time.

Speaking of MM, I actually got e-mail from one half of M+M...I'd almost forgotten about those two ladies. It's been several months since I heard from them. Looks like they want to resume our conversation again. Well, now that I've been drafted for active Saturday service at Speedy's, it's gonna be a bit difficult to schedule...but I did suggest February 23.

That talk about Kanako Wada got me looking for the original singer of "I Should Be So Lucky" (finally got the title right)...namely Kylie Minogue. Reading up on the Wiki on this song brought out some party-trivia worthy nuggets such as that it was apparently written from the foundation of Pachelbel's "Canon"...sure doesn't sound like it to me. Also, the boys Stock, Aitken and Waterman whipped it up in about 20 minutes based on how unlucky Minogue seemed to be waiting outside their studio.

Then, I discovered from the Japanese-language Wiki on Wada herself that she's been pretty much retired from the biz for the past 17 years since marrying another old folkie, Michael Maki, who was responsible for the hit "Bara ga Saita" (A Rose Has Bloomed) decades ago. So, now this singer has another link with the Australian chanteuse: same pop song, same initials.
Wednesday January 30, 8:29 p.m.

Well, I guess I'm not the only one who appreciates the qualities of one Kanako Wada. I just checked out a few homepages and YouTube. Apparently, there's quite a rabid following for the lass...all of them through her contributions to the anime "Kimagure Orange Road". But it seems as if none of the comments mention the compilation album that I just got a few days ago. So, if any of them are reading this, I'll let them know that it does exist. Just check out Amazon or even come out here. Plus, they'll be happy to know that the KOR ballad is the very first track.

Nice to know that she's loved somewhere...
Wednesday January 30, 7:54 p.m.

Just have that model lesson student-turned-regular student for the 9:30 lesson. Yep, a bit of a drag to have to come out here for just one night class but that's the nature of my occupation. I've already got a friend who's been tagged as The Doctor, so I'm naming this guy Medicine Man. He's a nice enough bloke but he's also as quiet as a church mouse; willing to learn, though.

It was one of those crosstown commutes that I have to do occasionally yesterday. I had The Beehive for their usual at Beckers yesterday morning before having to come here to Speedy's to teach The Nurse for one of her rare Tuesday afternoon classes. Then it was back to Chiba for the juku classes. Both Mild Jr. and The Bohemian were absent. I got that belated Xmas present from my brother. It had what I was hoping for...that Chaz Jankel CD "My Occupation" and a 3-disc Special Edition of Bogey's "The Maltese Falcon". This DVD is definitely a keeper. It not only has the definitive effort of Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet, but also the first two versions including the more comedic version with Bette Davis titled "Satan Met A Lady".
As for the Best of Jankel, it has his hits of "Glad to Know You", a funky disco hit with some of the most Dadaist lyrics ever put to paper, along with the original "Ai No Corrida" and a chopped version of "Am I Honest With Myself, Really?"...and that still rates 8:34. I've got the extended version from his first album which spans 15 minutes. I knew that "Questionnaire" wouldn't be on the disc but I'm still a bit disappointed that it isn't present. But there's always the Japan release (if it ever gets over here) which always seems to include a bit more. And perhaps "Questionnaire" the album will be remastered.
I did listen to that Kanako Wada album during the afternoon. Very 80s...down to the cheesy synths. Recently, there has been a flood of these remastered discs featuring artists from 20-30 years ago. I've got a fraction of them in my nostalgia haze: PSY*S, Ruiko Kurahashi, Yoshie Kashiwabara. I guess the studios needed to let the ol' dogs out for accounting purposes, perhaps, since these discs have very little in the way of liner notes and the pics are just copies from previous albums. Still, I was surprised to hear that Kanako's cover of "So Lucky In Love" was given a bit more oomph.

I got e-mail from Skippy. Looks like she wants to undertake another burger trip. This time, the target is in Komazawa...west of Shibuya. It'll be great for Movie Buddy since he's virtually in the neighbourhood. Most likely, the latest invasion for ground beef will be during the next long weekend in February.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Monday January 28, 3:35 p.m.

Had my first lesson of the year with The Class Act this morning. Got a bit of a winfall as well via souvenirs. The Lady gave me a bit of tea from her latest foray into Hong Kong, and The Matron gave me a New York Times Crossword Calendar along with a bar of Lindt Chocolate with Cherry and Chili (!)...70% cacao...from Hawaii. Actually, The Lady gave us samples from her bar since she's not huge on sweets. I could only pick up the faintest hint of heat on my tongue, but then again I've been eating so much spicy food over the years that my tongue has gotten be part asbestos by now. The Matron even had an Elvis Calendar for SIL; I guess after all my talk on her about her love for The Pelvis, The Matron decided to pick something up for her. Ironically, I couldn't see SIL today due to some sort of doctor's appointment.

Since I had the extra time, I just did my first lunch at Wendy's in Shibuya before hitting Tower Records. Despite my financial conundrums, I did fire the gun and picked up a disc; it happens to be one of those 80s J-Pop artists who never really hit the big time (I seem to have a soft soft for these has-been and never-was chanteuses from 2 decades ago). The lady's name here is Kanako Wada, and the disc is a compilation of her hits. She had a minor hit almost 20 years ago with a jingle for some instant soup spaghetti called "Dreamin' Lady"; but otherwise, most of her fame came from theme tunes for anime, notably for "Kimagure Orange Road", or KOR as otaku like my friends in The Anime Court would say. Her voice is somewhere between the smokiness of a Kahori Kohiruimaki and the etherealness of a Reimy or Ruiko Kurahashi, other singers who didn't really hit the ranks of Seiko Matsuda or Akina Nakamori...but that's not exactly a slam against them. Wada also happens to be the first J-Pop singer to do a cover version of Kylie Minogue's first big hit, "I'm So Lucky In Love"; something to mention since current popsters Mihimaru GT have come out with their own version of the song.

Another cancellation to lessen my load. Mr. TOEIC, to noone's surprise, had to dotakyan tonight due to a sudden business trip. So basically, I've got The Full-Timer, The Diver and that model lesson with that doctor later on. At least I'll have a little breather before the doctor comes in. Pored over some of those Medical English books that Speedy had lent me on Saturday. Can't say that any of them are particularly all that friendly. I may have to adapt or concoct something totally on my own.

The Chipmunk contacted me about a possible new home for me. It's gonna be farther out...20 minutes instead of the current 10 minutes I have to walk from the station to my home but if it means cheaper rent and bigger digs, well...I'll be willing to take a look at it. I've also asked her for some more help when it comes to negotiations.

Saw Barack Obama do a royal smackdown on both Edwards and Clinton (figuratively, although I do wonder, considering last week's two-way abuse, if Michelle Obama hadn't considered something more physical against the junior senator from New York) yesterday on CNN. He gave a pretty stirring near-Kennedyesque victory speech. The Class Act and I touched upon the US elections briefly...after massive gossip on the latest amazing restaurants in Tokyo and Hong Kong. The Lady feels that it's still a bit early for Obama to take centre stage just yet. We both think that Hillary Clinton will still get the Democratic Brass Ring later this summer and may eventually become the first female President. But we also worry that if the senator from Illinois actually becomes President, he may achieve Kennedyesque status in a more dubious a possible assassin's target. I'm still not totally convinced that all Americans would accept an African-American President. Still, we're months away.

In the sumo world, there was a smackdown of a far more physical sort between the two Mongolian yokozuna, Hakuho and Asashoryu. This was the equivalent of the dream Super Bowl of loincloths: one is a fallen champion seeking (I think) redemption, the other is a champion seeking to continue his domination of the sport. And boy, everyone is buzzing over the fact that the final match of the first tournament of the year was one to remember for years. It was 47 seconds (an eternity in sumo terms) with the two behemoths struggling titanically (each rikishi looking like they had one up on the other) until Hakuho finally throwing Asashoryu to the ground. The dohyo was littered with ecstatically thrown zabuton. I think the right man won.

And Osaka got another celeb governor. His name is Toru Hashimoto, a 38-year-old lawyer who's also become the charismatic TV personality. Now, he's head of the second-largest metropolis in the country. The Class Act also gave their opinions...basically calling him a fame-hogging question mark. I kinda wonder myself. Some have said that the Prime Ministership may not be too far away. Considering that Yasuo Fukuda isn't exactly holding a lot of support right now, there may be some approach by the LDP mandarins. Hashimoto also has another interesting trait...he's the father of 7, count 'em 7, kids. If he ever does get the big job, that's gonna be one noisy Prime Minister's mansion in downtown Tokyo.