Friday, May 23, 2008

Saturday May 24, 3:09 p.m.

Slim had his first tough lesson since he started coming here. He was kinda cruising through the first several lessons although cruising is a relative was still fairly challenging to him. But because of a combination of one error by me (for which I apologized) and some misunderstandings of instructions, the lesson was a bit of a slog. Didn't exactly destroy him a la Simon Cowell but his confidence took a hit, I could tell.

Well, I'm hoping that The Bostonian will go a bit better.
Saturday May 24, 1:04 p.m.

Yesterday was a first sighting of summer. It was warm...perhaps even warmer than the 27 C that was forecast. A bit cooler today since we've got some rain coming in later.

I picked up Mom at Tokyo Station. Before that, I had a good chance to do a recce around the newly built-up area surrounding the station. Nothing particularly special...just that hoary ol' Daimaru the department store got a major facelift. After the pickup, I took her back to the apartment and we had dinner at the restaurant just a minute away. We had been thinking of sending one large piece of luggage to the airport a day ahead by Yamato but basically the message was that it would be a bit risky just 24 hours before, so it looks like we're gonna taxi it tomorrow. Mom apparently doesn't mind splurging 20,000 yen. Dad called again, and this time there was a bit of that usual bickering over the phone...old Japanese folks like to do that. There was another series of back-and-forth....of the nice variety...between Mom and her host for ten days, my uncle and aunt. The previous generation is still very much of the protracted osewaninarimashita conversations.

A bit of a hopping weekend for me. While Mom is taking care of packing at home, I still have to do my job and teach 3 lessons. I saw just The Coffeemaker at the cafe today; it's been a month since the last meeting. And I've got Slim and The Bostonian here at Speedy's in about an hour. Then I gotta run out to Ginza Yamano Music afterwards to pick up an enka CD or two for Dad. I wish there were a closer place but Yamano is the only major outlet to have enka CDs in big numbers. After that, it's back home for dinner with Mom, though, I think the only other option is tonkatsu. She's not big on ramen.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thursday May 22, 5:53 p.m.

Well, my Thursday shift ends in a few minutes. It was interesting in terms of comparing students. I had Grandmother Tango...nearly an octogenarian but she could probably blow off most of her compadres in terms of her English fluency. She spoke about her English experience during and after the war...World War 2, that is. And then I had The Yogist, who was even more hyper than she usually is...I guess she was worried about her test results. She ended up spending 40 minutes trying to decipher what to do with one question...not her fault but the badly-worded question stymied her there. I'll have to talk with the bossman about that when he gets back. But she aced fact, she got a better mark than she did on her first one.

Then, I brought over The New Yorker over here for the first time. She's the first private student since The Full-Timer to have come to the school for a lesson with me. Despite the lack of surrounding ambient noise here at the school compared to a cafe, she still lacked a lot of volume. But we got free coffee and peace of mind. I gave her the grand tour of the school and together with BC, we chatted for several minutes. Her sister, The Carolinan, has also said that she would be able to come here next week for her lesson. Coincidentally, as soon as The New Yorker left for home, California Girl contacted me via Facebook Chat so we did just that for about 15 minutes. California Girl had just finished a late-night gig on the keyboards.

Already behind schedule getting my place in order but there's still the morning tomorrow before I head over to the station to pick up Mom.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thursday May 22, 8:28 a.m.

Another straight-home and straight-back transition. I think I should really consider getting just a dormitory if I have any more of these 5-hour sleep breaks between work periods. However, on the flip side, it is nice to be able to come in early and enjoy some solitude instead of having to deal with the fellow customers at McDonalds for 90 minutes. And I won't have Tango for another 2 hours.

The Entrepreneur chimed in to say that he'd caught "Ironman" with Chip Guy the other day. He said it was very enjoyable...almost as good as the first "Spiderman" and even better than "Spiderman 2". I frankly have the opposite opinion on the two Tobey flicks but I will take it as a good sign for the new Marvel franchise.

The Satyr also sent e-mail saying that Movie Buddy had been itching to go back to Mo-Yan, that funky curry place that Skippy had introduced all of us to last year, but not necessarily as a birthday venue. Still, I'd say that would be as good a place as any to enjoy dinner after "Narnia".

I may be feeling the creep in my bones but at least I'll be finished after The New Yorker's lesson and then I can head on home and get the place prepped again for Mother's arrival tomorrow. It doesn't take long for a home to go to seed for a single guy...even if Mom had 2 days to straighten it out.
Wednesday May 21, 10:23 p.m.

Well, coming to the end of another Hump Day. Slim was his usual dutiful self while The Diver was her usual uncertain one. I've had a cuppa with Mrs. Speedy who'll be closing up the shop in her husband's absence. I was able to get in contact with Mom to confirm her arriving Bullet Train on Friday. I guess I'm gonna also have to think about getting a better faxphone since the message machine is starting to go senile on me. Even Speedy called up to check on things. He was sounding like his usual chipper self despite the usual long flight from Tokyo to Toronto.
Wednesday May 21, 5:20 p.m.

Kinda glad that I'm not Bunny's regular teacher...and I mean that in the most complimentary of ways. She and I are pretty big movie buffs...on the level of MB and The Satyr. We got majorly sidetracked. However, we've still got one more gig together in a couple of weeks.

Well, I'm starting to hit the wall since I haven't eaten anything since breakfast. Will probably be hitting the Lawson's for a bento before Slim comes into town.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wednesday May 21, 3:13 p.m.

It's been a nice n' quiet afternoon. Got the 2nd call from Mom about her train coming in. Luckily, she was able to get the particulars in for that, although it still managed to cut her off at the end. I'll probably a small tongue-lashing from her since I'll be calling her up at Uncle's to confirm everything.

I've been reading up on the remake of "Get Smart" on Wiki and then at a website dedicated to the original series. Not surprisingly, what I've heard has been pretty dire. The author of the site was pretty scathing...and he did see the preview. To be honest, movie remakes of old 60s spy shows have had a horrible record (et tu, "Mission Impossible" and "I Spy"), and something like "Get Smart", fetching Anne Hathaway aside, won't have a chance to buck the trend. I saw the trailer...and there's nothing there to recommend it to me. Don Adams' magnum opus was itself a parody of the then-in-vogue spy programs, and parodying a parody is kinda like trying to make copies of copies. I'm even surprised that it's gonna get a release in the theatres here early in October...."Get Smart" isn't anywhere in the Japanese pop cultural zeitgeist, unlike old imports "Bewitched" or even "Knight Rider". Noone in Tokyo, except for foreigners who adore reruns, will get the expressions "Missed it by that much." or "Would you believe...?" Methinks it's getting the first-run treatment because both Hathaway and Masi Oka are not only in the movie, but are also quasi-famous names in this country.

Speaking of upcoming movies, it looks like Skippy is getting things moving on the next outing for June 1. The target will be the second "Narnia" movie. The Satyr has also suggested doing something for Movie Buddy, since his b-day has just passed. Skippy had initially given the choice of either this Sunday or the 1st, but I can't make it out for the former date since I gotta be escorting Mom back to Narita then. And MB wisely pointed out that the first of every month is half-price day for flicks.

I recently also got some of the first coverage of that new subway line, the Fukutoshin Line (geseundheit), which will be getting its debut in less than a month. There were rumours flying about the trains for that one will be looking distinctly futuristic. But that's what they were...just rumours. What I saw is just the run-of-the-mill platforms and subways...but they'll be even deeper than the Oedo Line. At this rate, any other new lines built in the next decade will end up having stations in South America. It's gonna feel like what Woody Allen had described about being on a jumbo jet. By the time you get to your seat, you will have to get off at the destination already. Walking from the Tozai Line to the Oedo Line at Iidabashi Station takes 5 minutes easily to traverse the 455 metres. Before Tokyo Metro extended the service hours of its trains, many was the time around midnight that a whole bunch of slightly inebriated commuters would dash for the Tozai like whippet hounds chasing a rabbit around a racetrack. Now, with this new line coming out, commuters will be clamouring for another train just to take them from one line to another.

And speaking of transportation, I heard from Jolly last night that things were even whacked out on the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line due to the typhoon. Commuters were stuck on that train for 2 hours before things got better. The Keihin-Tohoku is one of the crosstown lines which go all the way from Saitama to Kanagawa Prefectures, so if that one goes down, millions of commuters get pretty cranky.

I heard recently that Wild Thing finally got his job in Hong isn't what he was looking for, but considering how long it's been since he had work, I'm sure he wasn't too picky.
Wednesday May 21, 1:25 p.m.

Well, pulled off a coup of sorts. I was able to persuade The New Yorker to come over to Speedy's for her lesson tomorrow. The opportunity to teach her in a quiet setting without having to pay the high prices for coffee and worrying about getting attacked by other patrons was too tempting to pass up. If everything works out tomorrow afternoon, I may try the same tactic with The Carolinan. Plus, their friend, BC, is here.

Averted a minor crisis with one of the Grandmas this morning. I was supposed to have her between 10:15 and 11:15; Fado usually gets here about 5 minutes ahead of schedule and we just start then and there. When she finishes, she usually heads out to La Vie Du France afterwards to chat with Enka and Tango, the other grandmas over coffee. Like a tag team, Enka relieves her through her class after Fado. Enka came in and remarked that she was surprised to see Fado show up after the lesson so early which got me and BC in a temporary tizzy. At first, I'd thought that I may have inadvertently cheated her out of 10 minutes of class time. Enka reassured me that Fado wasn't miffed and that she had felt satisfied with the lesson. I think it was just that Fado got there even earlier than her early arrivals. Tango will be tomorrow. Next up in a few hours will be Speedy's long-time student, Bunny. I've seen her countless times but it'll be the first time for me to teach her.

I've been going through the latest volume of "The Complete Peanuts: 1967-1968". The foreword comes from none other than the notorious John Waters, he of "Hairspray". He and I definitely agree on one point...Schulz went a bit more haywire with his pencils in '67. Linus, Lucy and Snoopy go through some pretty extreme emotions in this one. And I finally got to meet the short-lived Jose Peterson.

Looks like it's becoming more inevitable that Barack Obama will be sewing up the nomination. Hillary may have gotten Kentucky under her belt, but Obama has gotten Oregon. As much as I would like to see Obama get it, it's still a pity not to see the first woman getting the nod from either the Democratic or Republican party. However, I am hoping that what Obama and Clinton have done these past several months will start bringing out more women and minorities into the mix. There will be a shadow overlooking the runup to Denver...the main bulwark of the Dems, Ted Kennedy, has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour after his sudden collapse on the weekend.

Found out from Enka that she's a huge fan of veteran chanteuse Mariko Takahashi. That would make it a triumvirate consisting of Enka, Mrs. Mild and myself. I first heard of her from multicultural radio back in T.O. a quarter-century ago...she is a vocal powerhouse of J-ballads and used to belong to a folk unit with the bizarro name of Pedro and Capricious. She brings out the crowds...of a certain the music halls and has even played Carnegie Hall in NYC. In a way, I could say that she is the proto-Misia.
Wednesday May 21, 8:28 p.m.

Exactly one month before summer officially arrives, but it looks like we're gonna get a small taste of it today after the crazy weather of yesterday morning.

Jolly actually did arrive last night...I think he needn't have bothered. Unlike his fully-rested self when he had come first in the lineup on the last day of Golden Week, he was in even more slovenly shape than he usually is when he comes in the last slot. Didn't do his homework...didn't even have his homework...wasn't even aware that he had received his homework. And he was just stumbling over his words like Dudley Moore in "Arthur". That was frankly one hour I would've liked back.

Got a partial message from Mom about her arrival back in Tokyo. Unfortunately, my cantankerous message machine only got the greetings and not the vitals. I'll have to call my uncle up tonight.

It's been amazing how many old faces I've been hearing from on Facebook. Just a few minutes ago, I got a Friend Request from an old U of T mate, Gold. I've tagged him that since that was what he was back in the of those golden guys born with a silver spoon in his mouth, along with an innate ability for languages including Japanese. But he's now living in New Zealand. Go fig on that.

With the bossman off on his trip, I've got the keys so I won't have to lounge around McDonalds for 90 minutes. Now, I just get the Sausage Muffin Set polished off there lickety-split and just lounge around here. I've got the grandmothers first up....they will probably tire me out soon enough.
Tuesday May 20, 4:41 p.m.

Had my lunch at Tonki after the I-cafe...good timing since there is barely anyone in the place during the mid-afternoon there. I ate a nice combo of tonkatsu, fried chicken and fried fish. My metabolic syndrome won't be any better but I'm satisfied.

Got to the juku. The boss suddenly realized that she'd forgotten to get some senbe for Mom, so she rushed on out before I had a chance to stop her, and she got these delicious rice crackers. Also, I asked her to send a reminder to Miss Disney that I won't be here this Friday since I'll be taking care of Mom when she gets back. I'm kinda wondering if Miss Disney is starting to tire of English. In any case, I have the usual lineup today: Suzanne, Mild Jr., The Milds and Jolly. Hopefully, the juku cat won't be showing up when Mild Jr. comes by; he had a rather bad allergic reaction to him. A fellow who's trained in martial arts and looks it is felled by a feline. Oh, the irony.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tuesday May 20, 12:38 p.m.

Back at the I-Cafe. 002 cancelled out due to her work schedule so I've got the hours to waste away. It seemed a bit iffy, but I did make it to Tsudanuma to see The Beehive one last time before they head off to Croatia on Saturday. The major rains had stopped by the time I left the apartment but the winds were whipping up a bit which, of course, meant that the JR was heavily delayed. But I was lucky that The Sobu Line did get me to Tsudanuma in good time. It was just Alp, Travel and Jade today. They were getting pretty excited about the flight over, but we still looked at an article on the lives of John and Yoko. Not surprisingly, the British press at that time were calling them all sorts of names for their so-called horrific romance. It seems that Fleet Street has a penchant for being particularly nasty against "the other woman". Yoko was called downright ugly....well, I never thought that she was all that good-looking, but I think "ugly" is a bit harsh. Of course, a couple of years ago, Camilla Parker-Bowles was often referred as being somewhat equine in looks herself.

The conversation then turned to the broader meaning of that age for The Beehive, since the ladies were all college-age students. I remarked that their time in higher education was far more exciting and tumultous than my university years of the mid-80s. They had the student movements to deal with. Travel had often been asked by her fellow classmates about her allegiances...either to the establishment or the students.
Monday May 19, 9:37 p.m.

During my talk with The Class Act this morning, we touched upon music near the end. I was surprised to hear that The Lady enjoys Feist's "1,2,3,4..." from last year's iPod commercials. I'm trying to get the CD of her here. And she also apparently enjoys the tunes of some singer from Israel. The Lady hummed a few bars of the tune, and both The Matron and I remarked that it sounded almost like Japanese enka. In fact, a lot of this genre's tunes have a very Meditteranean feel. Enka singers such as Teresa Teng and Hiroshi Itsuki have liberally borrowed melodies from the Old World. And even now, I saw the name of a sub-genre pop up for an atypical singer....former Morning Musume member from the very 1st generation, Kaori Iida. Ms. Iida sings that kinda take from sources such as Greek music and Julio Iglesias. And years ago back in university, an old friend of mine once remarked that one of WHAM!'s later hits, "Where Did Your Heart Go?" or something like that, sounded suspiciously like an enka tune.

This brings up an observational comparison between American pop and J-pop. American music has brought jazz, rock n' roll and hip-hop into the world. They invented whole genres of music. Japan seems to do the inverse....they bring in elements of music from different cultures and innovate existing stuff here. It's no wonder that the Japanese seem to be into all sorts of genres to a bigger degree than in the States. I've learned more about jazz, bossa nova, and Latin here in Japan than I ever did back in Canada.
Monday May 19, 9:18 p.m.

Did forget to mention about the latest METROPOLIS issue I read this afternoon. Man, it's good that the free English-language magazine for Tokyo goes into all sorts of stuff about the city. However, I gotta admit the cover story of doll fetishism was pretty...urk! The first paragraph talked about how a temple in Akiba performed a ceremony for a well-used sex doll after its master decided to marry a real live woman....speeeew! Talk about Too Much Information.

I purchased something that was a whole lot more conventional and much more indicative of Americana. It was the latest issue of "The Complete Peanuts" with Violet being the cover girl here. However, knowing some of the underground sordidness of the otaku industry, somewhere out there, there is probably some manga with the Peanuts gang involved in stuff that would make Charles Schulz die a second death.
Monday May 19, 9:06 p.m.

It's raining out there. At least, I was spared it when I taught The Full-Timer. I was somehow able to pull the lesson off despite being seated between two gabby pairs. And they were so self-absorbed that they weren't particularly bothered by the sight of an English lesson being performed. Slim was his usual proficient self. If I had more of him, I would consider myself a most fortunate person.

Speedy and I made a final run-through of the students I'll be teaching in his stead while he's away on business. Should be OK, although I may be exhausted after teaching his cadre of grandmothers.

One thing I noticed that is a good sign of improving Sino-Japan relations. After the tragic earthquake of last week in Szechuan Province, the Japanese rescue team made its way there. And the Japanese Embassy in Beijing got lots of phone calls from grateful Chinese. That's a far cry from the scary moments of angry Chinese a few years ago smashing up Japanese establishments in the country in cities such as Shanghai. No comments from either former PM Koizumi or current Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who's pretty rabid about his anti-Chinese feelings.

Skippy sent the feeler out about catching the second in the Narnia series. She asked about this coming Sunday but that's the day I escort Mom back to Narita. So, June 1st will be the alternate. And I also threw out the possibilities of catching the new Indiana Jones flick when it comes out in late June. So far, what I've been hearing is that the movie is getting respectful, but not glowing reviews. But then again, another view is that it's pretty much critic-proof.
Monday May 19, 4:43 p.m.

Just waiting for that Typhoon No. 4 to come roaring in...maybe. The NHK guys were warning that things would be deteriorating around this moment, but so far, things are still looking dry thankfully. I'm sure it'll probably be nuts tomorrow, though. Just my luck, since I gotta drag all of Mom's omiyage for the Beehive ladies tomorrow morning. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Yesterday was a nice and quiet day. Ended up cleaning up the room and then watching a Yellow Magic Orchestra concert DVD on the player. Rather natsukashii seeing very slim Hosono, Takahashi, and Sakamoto on the synths as well as realizing how cutting-edge chromakey was at that time.

Had The Class Act and SIL this morning. Got some omiyage myself. Whipped butter and other little sundries from The Matron, and some usual Hawaiian goodies from The Lady. As for SIL, we just talked about current events as usual. Apparently, some AV actress exposed herself in Akihabara recently according to the news which traumatized SIL's mother. I would've thought that was pretty usual now there.

I guess the entertainment showbiz types here must've had a field day today with the announcement that legendary band, Southern All Stars, is taking a long break as of next year. Yup, Keisuke Kuwata will be hanging up their hoopla and scantily-clad women after their usual round of summer concerts is done. I was never a huge fan of the group although I like some of their songs such as classic "Itoshi no Ellie". And I have to admit that Kuwata is, so far, the only guy to successfully cover Donald Fagen's "I.G.Y."

Well, in about an hour, I've got The Full-Timer as usual followed by Slim for another one of his lessons. Speedy is off getting the bunch of us McDonalds fare via coupons since he'll be heading off from tomorrow for his annual business trip to the West.