Friday, May 30, 2008

Saturday May 31, 3:19 p.m.

The end to another Saturday. Kinda interesting how the personality tries to fit with the students. With The Businesswoman, I'm fairly professorial while with Slim, I'm the usual run-of-the-mill English teacher. And then with The Manhattanite, I'm the stand-up comedian. It'd been a few weeks at the very least since I saw her. Yep, she's pretty rusty. Any resemblance between me and a chameleon or the various incarnations of Doctor Who are purely coincidental.

Will be heading out soon to take advantage of the extra cash that I got, courtesy of Mom, and some gift certificates also courtesy of the same person. Got quite the wish list, too. If everything works out, I may be watching "Ocean's 13" and "Shrek 3" on DVD tonight. If I'm very lucky, I may even be able to find an anime for my brother that has English subtitling. A bit iffy, but he's OK if it's straight-out Japanese.
Saturday May 31, 10:41 a.m.

Back at Speedy's for a triumvirate of lessons with The Businesswoman, Slim and then The Manhattanite. It's still raining out there...looks like the Rainy Season may have hit us a bit early this year, and I hear that another typhoon might be on the way for the middle of next week.

Well, happy to say that I did get that short note from Cozy translated and off to him before The Ace came in half an hour later. However, Jolly did dotakyan again and not even a word from him. The boss tried to ring up his cellphone without success which means that he was either fully in thrall to his partying tendencies or conked out on the train somewhere. But I still made my money.

Heard about that crane incident in Manhattan last night. Geez...the second one in 3 months. I can imagine Mayor Bloomberg getting a few eggs thrown at him. And there's the uproar about Scott McClellan, former press secretary for the Bush administration, coming out with his tell-all book. He probably won't be invited to any Republican functions anytime soon.

Over here, some more stuff has been coming out about this fellow, Ishizu, who had been arrested for a string of stab-and-run robberies over the past couple of weeks in the Kansai and Kanto areas. His story reads like Michael Douglas' character, D-Fens, in that 90s film. Just a schlub who was having words with his noisy downstairs punk neighbours until he finally snapped, screamed epithets from in front of his apartment building, and then stabbed those same neighbours before taking off on his new career of criminal. One of the teens showed his new stapled scar on his head.

Well, The Businesswoman should be here in the next 5 minutes or so...
Friday May 30, 7:13 p.m.

Looks like Urayasu is sprucing up for its quadrennial festival again. All the lanterns have been lit up and ready to go.

I printed out Cozy's latest assignment so I'll be getting to work on that in the next few minutes. With luck, I should even get it back to him translated before The Ace comes in. I got a message from BC stating that Grandma Dynamite will be returning to the fold from next week. Looks like both Speedy and I will be having a date with her once more. She's not nearly as proficient as Grandma Tango but not as structurally over-the-place as Grandma Fado...and she's quite the firecracker when talking. Should add to the caffeine buzz in the morning.

Skippy finally got back to us about Sunday's outing to see "Narnia". We'll be at the Wald 9 complex in Shinjuku. Not sure what the dinner plans will be since The Satyr wants to have a little something for MB's birthday.

I've been reading on Dark Horizons that Harrison Ford wants to revive Jack Ryan; maybe all those millions going ka-ching at the box office for his other major character, Indiana Jones, may have perked him up. He'll be joining Sylvester Stallone in that department of hoary ol' action stars of the 80s trying to get their groove back. On the same site, I read that even "Beverly Hills Cop" is getting its own look-see. Man, never thought that studios could have Mid-Life Crisis themselves.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Friday May 30, 12:12 p.m.

Apparently, the cops have caught some sociopath who had been committing a series of stab-and-run robberies throughout the country. Looks like the usual schlub. He tried to make a getaway in Saitama but it was a simple matter for the police to tackle him...these guys aren't known for working out too much. As for the psycho, Hoshijima, who stabbed his female neighbour to death and then chopped her into bits to be flushed down the toilet, the cops have been able to find bits and pieces of her bones in the sewage system. Crime in Japan, everyone...

Yesterday's time at Speedy's was nice n' quiet. I had what was the first satisfying session with The Magician, normally Speedy's student. I've had her in the past whenever the bossman takes off for his annual business had always been stop n' start with her, but yesterday, I was able to take things nice n' easy. She even did some impressions that she does with her audience including the characters of Baikinman (Bacteria Man) from the anime, "Anpanman" and Chibi Maruko-chan. In return, I gave her some English tongue-twisters. Although The Magician is a university graduate, I kept the juku boss' advice from Tuesday keenly in mind when I was teaching her. Since her appearances at the school are rather sparse due to her job, she's still a fairly low student and so I was just as much entertaining her as educating her.

The Carolinan made her debut at Speedy's, a week after her sister came by herself. She remarked that it was nice to have a quiet lesson for once considering our usual sessions at the cafes in Ichigaya. Afterwards, she, BC and I headed for that Indian fusion cafe nearby for dinner. It was an achievement of sorts for BC to come out with us considering her personal problems right now. She thankfully didn't blurt out the real reasons for her depression to her friend although The Carolinan probably did realize something was up. BC and I exchanged some secretive glances.

The rains have gone away although the cool weather is still here. And it was nearly scorching on Tuesday as well.

Cozy has contacted me again after a few months. He sent me a short little memo to be translated by tomorrow. Will just be a drop in the bucket in terms of earnings but I'm grateful that he still remembers me.

I've only got The Ace and then Jolly tonight, although the latter guy still has the penchant of cancelling at the last minute, and it is a Friday night.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thursday May 29, 12:39 p.m.

Just 20 minutes away from The Yogist's lesson. It's still raining domesticated animals out there. Grandma Tango came in for her usual hour of rustic homily. We made an agreement that we would actually try the text for my last time with her before Speedy gets back, but she's not really a big fan of it.

BC is still pretty glum but at least she's more communicative and no longer having crying jags. And maybe the fact that her old colleague and friend, The Carolinan, will be having her lesson here at the school tonight will buoy her spirits a bit. Actually, we've also made dinner plans once we're done here since The Carolinan will be the final student of the night. Most likely, we'll be heading to that cafe where BC had first introduced me to The Temp.
Thursday May 29, 8:37 a.m.

Back at the school again after less than 5 hours of sleep. Yep, I feel accordingly tired and achy although the breakfast at La Vie Du France helped. It was a chili dog (yes, you read that right), a salad and a raisin danish with coffee...good quality stuff but it was more than twice the price of a McDonalds Sausage McMuffin Set. I don't think I'll be doing La Vie all that often. Arguably, the nutritional value may be better but spending nearly 1,000 yen on just a morning meal is a bit too rich for my blood.

It's raining quote an old Supertramp song. And it'll probably continue doing so for the next couple of days. I have yet to hear from Skippy about the "Narnia" outing on the 1st but then again, the theatres are notoriously coy about releasing times for their movies until the last minute
Wednesday May 28, 10:42 p.m.

Well, all of my guys are great ones but still it was a long day today. I had the Grandmas, that little crisis with The Nurse, another mirth-filled lesson with 001, an angst-filled one with The Diver and then a very dutiful one with Slim. He's definitely back humming a happy tune after that little hiccup a few days ago. He's quite the Columbo of my students, though...asks a lot of questions if invited.

001 has been quite busy with the American TV programs. She's just scoured through the first 2 seasons of "24" and been watching the reruns of "Heroes" off of tapes via NTV. She was rather surprised to hear that former idol Eriko Tamura would be appearing in the 2nd season.

And I finally found out what has been eating BC all these days. Looks like she's been stuck with a jerkoff for a boyfriend. I think the solution is rather clear but she's still stuck in neutral about it. I just hope there's a resolution to it soon. In any case, BC has cancelled her lesson tomorrow. So, it'll be The Carolinan to finish up. Not sure what'll happen while she and BC are here.

Gotta go home for 5 hours of shuteye before coming back here again.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wednesday May 28, 2:10 p.m.

Well, it's been a while but I finally had a true Crash n' Burn class at this school. And ironically, it was with The of the best I've got. First, she didn't pass her test...well, actually, she got 68% but over here the line is 70%...which meant an automatic make-up test, the first time I've had to invoke that rule. And then we had to tackle the next chapter which deals with graphs, never an easy chapter. Then, she got really mute and muttered a whole bunch of "I don't know", before I finally asked her to close the book and asked her what the matter was. I kept a pretty good lid on my emotions but my temperature was going up, since The Nurse seemed to be acting like The Elder, that teenage brat I'd been attempting to teach for 3 years. Basically, the rest of the time which I extended by another half-hour was salvaging the lesson through free talk. We eventually did get things back on course by the end, but nope, I'm still feeling like a damp dishrag, considering I also had the grandmothers before The Nurse. All I wanna do is just decompress for the next few hours. Unfortunately, I don't think I have that option.
Wednesday May 28, 9:50 a.m.

BC just came in and she looks like Death warmed over. Not a nice thing to say but she's in a major funk. Maybe I can't really risk leaving her in the office alone today. However, as long as I keep her distracted with talk about the bossman (frequently, her favourite punching bag...well, not that bad, but there are a few issues) and stuff other than her own plight, she should be OK.

Speaking of punching bags, it looks like I've been really missing out on "Lou Dobbs Tonight" on CNN since CNNj decided to go almost wholly international. He went mano a mano with some sort of media fellow about this long-standing immigration platform he's been on, and now I've been reading regular CNN contributor, something Klein or other from TIME Magazine, is targeting Dobbs for criticism. Certainly the responders to the Klein blog entry are no fans of ol' Lou or for a number of the CNN USA folks like Candy Crowley or even mild-mannered John King (Mr. Telescreen Guy).
Wednesday May 28, 8:30 a.m.

Another start to a 2-day marathon of classes at Speedy's while the bossman is away. I'll be spending more hours here than at home. I've got 6 of them today alone but all of them are good eggs.

Looks like I've got another OldFacebook Friend from the days at uni. Like The Dancer, The Singaporean was in our club and has moved to London. GC has actually been keeping a running commentary with me for the last few days.

Not sure but I may just head out to Kinokuniya during the small break between The Nurse and 001 just so that I don't go completely stir-crazy, but then fragile BC may not like that too much. Speedy says that BC is much more emotionally stable when I'm around the farm.
Tuesday May 27, 9:16 p.m.

Just had another rollicking good time with The Milds. I may have lost one student to unfortunate circumstances so you hold onto your fans even tighter. I'm approaching 4 years with this couple. Just waiting for Jolly...hope he's in better form today.

Actually did get a call from BC from the school earlier today. Looks like The Big Lug wants to get a lesson in. He may have to squeeze himself in the traffic jam that is representing June 4th. Tomorrow should also be another tight one. I've got Speedy's grandmothers, The Nurse, The Magician, 001, The Diver and then another appearance by Slim.

I heard about Sydney Pollack's passing today on CNN. I was never a huge fan of his...not that I hated him or anything...I just didn't watch most of his movies. He was notable in that he often came in as a supporting player as much as he was a director.

As expected, the morning wide shows were all talking about the suicide of that former TBS announcer yesterday. But they were also agog about the latest scandal involving the two Mongolian yokozuna, Asashoryu and Hakuho. Apparently in the shadow of Kotooshu's resurgence, one of the two decided to clop the other on the last day of the tournament which led to some angry stares. And there's been another bizarre murder case...or alleged murder Tokyo. Some computer dweeb has been arrested for his fessing up to the murder, mutilation and then flushing down the toilet of a female neighbour a couple of months ago.
Tuesday May 27, 7:06 p.m.

As expected, Miss Disney has flown the coop. I got the word from the juku boss this morning when I called her about whether or not she would occupy the slot vacated by Mild Jr. for tonight. The boss informed me that she'd "gotten a new job and wouldn't be available for a while". The fact that I've put her reason in quotes can tell you how much I believed it. I could put that between two slices of bread and have it for lunch. As usual, my brain went into analysis mode about how I could've improved things...and I'm pretty sure that she won't be back.

When I got to the juku today, I was expecting the boss to do her usual thing and la-di-da it away. Instead when I told her what I really thought of the situation, she and I had a heart-to-heart talk about teaching and students. And for a woman who I've often called a scatterbrain (not to her face), she hit it on the head like NASA launched and landed The Phoenix on Mars. She told me that the students who generally stuck it out with me were those with a higher educational background...Obama types, if you will. People like 001, 002, The Milds and The Siberian not only had the accumulated learning knowledge but had also had the appreciation of my teaching style which is admittedly pretty heavily based on grammar. I teach conversation but I'm of the opinion that if you wanna learn a language, grammar has to be the foundation. The boss feels that people like Miss Disney, Seven and even The Beauty Pair, the very first students in my juku career, were not the greatest students in grade school and therefore could've been intimidated or turned off by my approach. The Beauty Pair actually hung on for 3 years with me, but in retrospect, the last year or so with them was basically just chatter with some English expressions thrown in. Seven lasted a year with me but we also used the textbook "Expressways" which wasn't grammar-based. There is the matter with The New Yorker, but no theory is perfect. However, I do remember that rather lousy time with that kid of my former student at the ol' school, Mr. Hip-Hop. He was truly a hip-hop kid with little interest in studies and much more interest in hitting the Roppongi nightclub scene. He and his mother had said that he would have liked some English lessons from me, but as it turned out, he kept putting things off until I decided to call the whole thing off. Under the juku boss' explanation, he definitely fit the category of someone that I really couldn't teach with my approach. Yep, she really nailed it on the head, and so, although I have as much talent reading people as I do reading Arabic, I'll have to put my new practice to use to try and avoid anything like Miss Disney's situation. It is a pity but it is also an opportunity.

Having said that, Suzanne came by for her final lesson before hitting that plane for the Gold Coast next week. Though she might have a passing resemblance for that supposedly ditzy tarento, she's definitely not a Clintonian student. She'll be back and we actually did go through both grammar and conversation.

I would continue but I should get some grub before The Milds get here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday May 26, 7:23 p.m.

Sure enough, Slim called in to say that he would be 10 minutes late. No problems since he just works across the street.

The Full-Timer told me about her experience on a Hato Bus tour about a decade or so ago. She actually participated in the one designed for the English-language tourists. I asked her whether the tour guide was miffed about having one of the natives on board, but apparently he didn't mind at all. In the late 90s, it was about 10,000 yen for the all-day tour including dinner at a Japanese steakhouse....not bad at all, considering that dinner at a Japanese steakhouse alone would probably cost the same price. But it did get me thinking about trying one of those out. Certainly, I'd like to try the double-decker bus ride that goes around Tokyo Station.

As I was waiting for The Full-Timer at the station, I read a banner at the subway kiosk stating that a former TBS announcer, Ako Kawada, had committed suicide today. She was apparently found dead in her car...probably from exhaust poisoning. She was only 29. I'd never really gotten to know her but I think I saw her on a variety program or two on the network. I checked out the headlines on Yahoo Japan and found her blog. Her latest entry was just on mention about any difficulties. I'm sure there might be some news about it on the morning wide shows tomorrow.

Well, Slim should be here any second now. Hopefully, he'll be in a better frame of mind tonight.

I actually got word from GC...the first time I'd heard from him directly in several months. He has his birthday today so I actually did send him a card. He has also been suffering some financial setbacks recently so I gave him some encouragement. Not that I'm particularly out of the woods, but I'm still quote an old Elton John tune. I don't think he'll come back to his old semi-annual pilgrimages...not that summer is a good time to spend a week in my apartment. I certainly cannot afford to pay a lot of AC now that the TEPCO bill has gone up.
Monday May 26, 4:44 p.m.

Not sure about the timing of this entry....the time has all "4" in it...four is the death number here. No quakes, please.

Still, it's been an auspicious day for NASA, and they've certainly needed all the good news they could get in the past few lean years. The Phoenix Lander actually made it through the "7 Minutes of Hell" and landed with flying colours on Mars. I was lucky to see the whole thing live on CNN. Even BBC was covering...the Brit announcer was positively glowing about it...rather unnatural thing to see on him with all that "stiff upper lip" stuff.

On the other hand, reality brutally invaded the "Harry Potter" family when the news media reported that one of the actors in the newest movie got himself killed in a bar brawl in London. The CNN scroll just said that a "Harry Potter" actor was stabbed to death. At first, I wasn't sure who it could've been, but I figured it wouldn't be any of the major stars since their names would've been front and centre.

Well, pretty quiet today so far. The Class Act and I basically chatted on all sorts of things. I did talk about Mom and how she managed to complain about every little thing in my apartment. Not that I was griping myself about's just the mother's way. And then I let slip that all Kansai people tend to gripe easily, which brought a friendly but strong denial from The Madame who is originally from the area. I still maintained my position.

SIL and I went back through US Pop Cultural Memory Lane again...a frequent pastime of ours. We discussed a lot of TV shows from the 60's in America such as "Hawaii Five-O", "Leave it to Beaver" and "Gilligan's Island".

I've got the usual lineup tonight: the Full-Timer, followed by Slim and then Medicine Man. Hopefully, Slim is feeling a bit better after that slight setback on Saturday.

Apparently, a Takashi Kurosawa film got the Best Director Award at Cannes...something that none of the media here failed to miss reporting on. Of course, CNN and BBC covered the Palme D'Or winner. I also read the article about Ziyi Zhang having a meltdown there when she realized that a lot of folks at the movie orgy didn't really know about the Chinese earthquake. Not quite sure how true it is, but if it is, I can only say to her, "What did you expect at Cannes?" A lot of those folks are probably so self-absorbed that their mouths and anuses probably have tea together daily.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday May 25, 5:43 p.m.

7 months before Xmas and I'm already going through a letdown, but not a pre-holiday one. More like a post-relative one. I saw Mom off at Narita yesterday after her 2 weeks here in The Land of The Rising Sun. It's always a bit sad seeing off any of the family although I know that I'll probably be seeing everyone again in December. We actually went off in some style from the apartment. Mom splurged the 20,000 yen on a taxi that I had ordered to take us from home all the way to Terminal 1. Actually, the ride didn't take that long at all...just 40 minutes via the highway. It usually takes me the better part of 90 minutes at least via subway and train lugging my ancient suitcase (no strap and dead wheels). Still, I only pay a fraction of what Mom did. We were lucky that the monsoon-like conditions of last night and early morning magically parted by the time the taxi arrived.

I finally got to treat Mom to kaiten sushi on the 5th floor of T1. The place is quite good as conveyor belt sushi goes. I noshed away quite a lot although it was my money...don't get quite the chance to eat sushi anymore. Although the maguro was curiously devoid of a lot of oil, the rest of the fare such as the negi toro and the shake aburi were delectable.

It was the usual nutso lineup when check-in started up at the Air Canada counter but things moved as smoothly as they could. There was the one cranky oyaji giving a petite ANA staffer a hard time, but I'm sure everyone is trained in anger management.

One interesting observation about Narita Airport...and this is its 30th anniversary (I wonder if the ousted farmers there are gonna throw firebombs in tribute) this year....for such a supposedly modern facility, it doesn't seem to have Internet booths...or at least, Terminal 1 doesn't. I was able to find one at Pearson in Toronto with little problem.

I finally bought "Warped Passages" by Lisa Randall at the airport Tsutaya. I'd been wanting to get it for some months since it boasts her ability to talk about extra-dimensional universes (yes, I do have a pointy head) in a language that a layman could understand. My geekdom will show, but I do have a passing interest in the subject.

Of course, Mom being Mom, she gave me money to pay for her time at my place...despite that she only crashed here for 4 out of the 14 nights. I duly protested but I've learned not to argue with a Kansai mother. It was a generous stipend, nonetheless, so I'll get my "revenge" by searching for some goodies for the family in the coming weeks and months.

I've discovered that both parents have become rather interested in sumo since they've got NHK International being piped into the apartment. It was a good time to be interested, too. This has been a comeback story of sorts for Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu. On the verge of being demoted (a fate worse than death in the sumo usually means retirement is just a throwdown away), the big lug not only staved off demotion but he won the entire tournament, the first European to do so. It wasn't a perfect record...the bout before his clinching victory was one of those "What the hell was that?" losers, but the main point is that he's now a hero again and he can make those Bulgaria yogurt commercials once more. And the media, I'm sure, will be even hinting at possible yokozuna-hood, although that will take a number of more yusho before the Sumo Association even considers it.

Also, another foreign hero has been making inroads in another formerly Japanese-only field. Jero, the first African-American enka singer, has been the big guy on campus with his hit, "Umiyuki" (Sea Snow). And he has done so by not wearing the typical suit or kimono that vets like Hiroshi Itsuki or Shinichi Mori sport; he looks more like The Fresh Prince. He's gotten his own iced coffee commercial now and it's a given that he'll be on the Kohaku Utagassen on New Year's Eve. I learned from Wiki that his stage name (sounds like the stuff I used to see Bill Cosby hawk years ago) is short for Jerome White. Of course, the enka experts are hoping that Jero will bring back its genre to the fore. I don't think enka has ever been eliminated in the first place although I don't think it'll ever regain its place as pop music; it'll be something like jazz...there will always be an audience for it. Certainly, CD Countdown has shown a number of enka singers up on the top 50.