Saturday, August 02, 2008

Sunday August 3, 1:38 a.m.

Currently at MB's getting ready to wind down; MB himself is taking a shower. It's pretty nice being in Jiyugaoka. There's a lot more going on here in this neighbourhood than there is in my little bedroom town. When we met up, I just saw The Sylph for just a few minutes before she had to take off for Osaka on business. Then, MB and I just went to the local Tsutaya and picked up the night's triple feature: "I am Legend", "Shooter" and "Good Night and Good Luck".

MB's new place has actually been lived in for well over 6 months ago. It's a comfy place...certainly roomier than my hole, and since it's all flooring, he and The Sylph don't have to deal with rotting tatami mats. We hung out for a couple of hours...he looked over the copy of "Total Film" I gave him while I perused that coffee book treatment of the Indiana Jones franchise that I'd also given him for his birthday.

Dinner was about 5 minutes walk away at Zats Sasebo Burger. MB had happened upon it just a few days ago. It must've been new since the lad has had his walks through the maze-like streets around Jiyugaoka Station but had never come across this burger eatery before. The proof was borne out with some of the acceptable miscues by the staff. Still working out the kinks, we saw. Still, it was a pretty big classy-looking place with friendly service. The Jumbo Sasebo Burgers were decent in the domestically de rigueur paper bags. MB noticed that the ketchup and cream were pretty chintzy though for our fries and coffee respectively. Sign of our inflated times.

Got home to watch "Good Night and Good Luck", that George Clooney film on Ed Murrow's battle with the fanatical Senator McCarthy. Great pic...very understated and classy with some nice jazz interludes by Dianne Reeves. There was none of the histrionics which would be common in an Oscar-level flick, and David Straithairn was absolutely perfect as the taciturn Murrow. Since we seem to be in the Year of the Superhero, it's interesting to note that there was a former Batman (Clooney) and a future Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.).

On the other hand, "Shooter", with one of the Wahlberg boys, screamed B-picture right from the stereotypical years-ago prelude with the death of a close friend, the frame-up by the psychotic army officer (that would be Danny Glover) and the amoral senator (that would be Ned Beatty), and the inevitable retribution by the hero. The problem was that the execution didn't quite click.

We've still got to see Will Smith's "I am Legend" later on this morning before we head on out to see "The Hulk". We'll be heading for Roppongi Hills since that's basically a straight line from Jiyugaoka via the Hibiya Line. We were surprised to find out that "The Dark Knight" was already playing there, but I discovered via The Internet Movie Database that it had been put out in limited release only in some of the major theatres. MB might be sorely tempted to make it a double-superhero day.

My day at Speedy's wasn't the best. Firstly, The Intellectual kindly admonished me for not correcting him so I quickly...and kindly...slapped him down with some corrections. Then, Slim came back not fully recovered from jet lag so he was just about as draggy as The Pessimist. Couldn't really wait to get out of the school.

Anyways, I should be hitting bed....or the sofa, in tonight's case.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Saturday August 2, 10:30 a.m.

Looks like I've got more to say....I saw CNN report that a US submarine, The USS Houston, may have been leaking radioactive water during its ports of call in San Diego and a base here in Japan. I'm sure both sides in the decades-long dispute of having nuclear subs visit this country are collectively saying "AW, F**K!" right now.

There will be a couple of talking points with MB for sure today. For one thing, the next James Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace" has its theme song singers, Alicia Keys and Jack White. It's gonna be a duet (hmmmm to uh-oh is my reaction). I'm sure Simon Cowell is probably smacking his head against a very hard wall right now. Amy Winehouse was at one point attached to the movie soundtrack but it looks like she's been re-living her own "Live and Let Die" moment so nada to her. Then, there is the upcoming issue of EMPIRE Magazine with a special on "Watchmen"; looks darn good but so did "Dick Tracy".

I was looking at the new Fukuda Cabinet and apparently ol' Yasuo did change 13 out of the 17 ministers but I'm still not seeing anything particularly fresh out there. Still, I was struck by the Japan Times article assertion that Seiko Noda may be getting groomed for the Prime Ministership, although I very much doubt that she'll get it after Fukuda since she's gotten the relatively low-key portfolio of Consumer Affairs. Apparently, manga-loving Taro Aso has gotten his key position back in the shuffle, so he may be the next guy to take over.

Did get a final e-mail from The Full-Timer before she took off for Hong Kong with her mother today. Looks like she might try the Jade Garden Restaurant in Kowloon since her hotel is just behind The Peninsula.
Saturday August 2, 10:15 a.m.

Back at Speedy's. It's gonna be back to the slow broil after a couple of days of relatively dry and pleasantly warm weather. The bossman himself is training the newest kid on the block, Violet. He made the requisite introductions. Sounds like she can handle the English language.

Last night, it was The Ace. Looks like he'd been on his very first business trip to Okayama over the past week. And he'll be away next week as well. It's possible I may have an early night off next Friday. Not too bad...may actually catch the opening ceremonies in Beijing.

I've got The Intellectual and Slim today before I head off to see MB in his neighbourhood. The Intellectual will probably be sweating like a sprinkler. As for Slim, it'll be his first lesson since coming back from his big German business trip. I'm sure he'll have tales to tell. I don't think it'll be quite as exciting as The Milds' brush with potential terrorism and Barack Obama, but he should have something to say.

There have been rumours buzzing from the psychics that Tokyo is due for The Big One this month, notably August 16th. Well, I'm taking the news with a huge grain of shio but perhaps luckily, the day will be my scheduled day off from Speedy. So, if the quake does topple concrete onto me, at least it'll be my home concrete.

That big shuffle in the Fukuda Cabinet didn't really strike me as anything dramatic. I've got a feeling that ol' Yasuo will have to think about retirement plans in another month or so.
Friday August 1, 8:23 p.m.

Back at the juku. Of course, the boss asked me a little worriedly where I'd been...despite the fact that I was still 50 minutes before The Ace's arrival. Then again, I usually arrive at the place a full 2 hours beforehand. I was a little dismissive of her concern...unfortunately, a definite weak point in my personality. I can get easily dismissive of people if my mind is concentrating on something else or if I think their concerns are nothing to be concerned about. It's probably one of the reasons that I never got married...I'd go slightly mad at being asked about every little thing and my wife would just plain get mad.

In any case, that Fukuda Cabinet re-shuffle has apparently taken place but I've heard nothing anywhere on the Net yet. Even Wikipedia,which tends to jump the gun on these events, has nothing.

Something interesting I found out in the "It's a small world" category. 001's hometown of Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture and my own home of Toronto are sister cities.
Friday August 1, 5:28 p.m.

Speedy was feeling the need for some junk-y, so it was a run to The Golden Arches for a couple of Big Mac Sets. Ray politely declined the offer. I called up the juku boss. Jolly will not be showing up but The Ace will have to make up a lesson in any case so I'll be out of there at around 10.

Speedy will be showing yet another new staffer the ropes for Saturday. So, I'll have to put out the charm again since I'll be working with her pretty regularly.

I talked with MB. The Satyr will still be in England for the next few weeks so it'll just be the two of us at the Western HQ for DVD Night. He's looking around for a good burger joint for dinner tomorrow. It will make for a nice diversion from the usual pizza.

My old friend, The Entrepreneur, will be having his birthday this weekend so I sent him a card via Facebook. I never could remember when his b-day was so it was good that I got plenty of cues from him and The Dancer.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Friday August 1, 3:55 p.m.

Well, finished up with the lessons here at Speedy's. The Pessimist was again rather turtle-like in his answers. The EIC student wrapped up nicely though I was kinda winging it since she was such an advanced student (i.e. she really didn't need to take the lessons).

Ray is handling her new responsibilities all right, although I think she has the bad habit of playing with her hair.

I'll probably hang out here for another hour before heading out to Urayasu. Still way too early since The Ace has his classes at 9.
Friday August 1, 10:31 a.m.

Back at Speedy's after a somewhat weird night here. It was the squished-in farewell pizza party for BC although the bossman still had a student to teach soon afterward. And he seemed a bit tense for some reason. However, he is back to his smiley self in the post-BC era. It's now Ray's beat. She should be coming in very soon. The Magician has arrived for her first lesson in a couple of months; she was out in Kentucky for a magic conference.

The countdown to The Olympics has begun in earnest with a week and counting. Of course, there is all that problem with the persistent smog in Beijing and now the world media is crying foul at China seemingly welching on that more open policy. Guys, it's a Communist country! By definition, China won't ever let media be free. I also saw on CNN an interview with these Olympics' oldest athlete, and he happens to be a Japanese equestrian. And pretty darn fluent in English.

PM Fukuda is planning to shuffle his Cabinet today or this weekend. But when he has a deck filled with jokers....I think the only true surprise would be if he shuffled himself out of office.

I've been reading about that psychopath who managed to kill and then saw off his seatmate's head on a bus in Manitoba to the horror of the other passengers. And here I thought Japan was having problems...

Anyways, I got The Pessimist in 20 minutes and then that EIC student in a few hours. So far as I know, I've got The Ace at the juku but I'm gonna call the boss there to see if Jolly is showing up or not.
Thursday July 31, 8:24 p.m.

Well, the party's coming to a close...the pizza from Salvatore's has been devoured, the ladies BC, Mrs. Speedy, AK and newbie Ray are just chatting away nearby as women will. Meanwhile, the bossman himself is teaching his student right now. We managed to squeeze in the little farewell for BC between the hours of 7 and 8.

I'll probably take off for home in the next hour or so. Not too ready to leave quite yet since the rush hour is probably gaining strength. Just have The Pessimist and that final appearance by the EIC student tomorrow followed by The Ace and maybe even Jolly.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thursday July 31, 12:23 p.m.

Grandma Dynamite was fine, although one can only expect so much from a septugenarian. It's BC's final day and she's doing some final training for Ray before leaving the school for the final time. Y'know, when she's busy training somebody, BC can be as sharp and competent as anyone; it's only when she's alone that we start to worry.

I ended up going off to Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku to get the farewell card for BC. Not too humid so far so it was quite bearable walking outside. My account is again quite a bit lighter after paying some of the month's bills, including the balance to Speedy for my air ticket back home this winter. Passed through the basement restaurant floor of the Maynds Building above Shinjuku Station and was sorely tempted by that Chinese eatery. However, lest there be some emergency at the school, I decided to pick up an udon lunch at the conbini near the school instead. In any case, we've got pizza coming later tonight, so I figure that I shouldn't be stuffing myself too much today...a concept that I wouldn't even have imagined a decade ago.
Thursday July 31, 8:10 a.m.

Another late night coming home. It seemed like a Friday night. I saw one middle-ager tumble over when my subway lurched a bit. He, of course, gave tacit apologies and stood back up as nonchalantly as he could. Then, apparently, the train was delayed a bit when one guy refused to get behind the yellow line which activated the conductor's speech about following the rules. As if people would really be listening at midnight.

And of course, I'm here at the unearthly hour of 8 a.m. after just 5 hours of sleep. The Patent Attorney should be coming in at any second, and Grandma Dynamite will be starting up an hour ahead of schedule. Gonna have several hours then before The Big Lug comes for his lesson so I will get some bills paid...I might get a card for BC. I believe today is her last day here before she takes off for Canada.

My missive to Skippy about "The Hulk" took its sweet time getting a response...which therefore meant that she wasn't going to come. Usually if it's a positive response, it would have arrived lickety-split.
Wednesday July 30, 9:41 p.m.

And Hump Day is finally over. Fatigue has kicked in. I'm ready for bed. But I've got miles to go before I sleep. Prissy was just a matter of finding what her comfort level is but I'll be able to get a handle. The EIC student was fine and the model lesson student was also pleasant. Both 001 and I were pretty baked by that time so it was just a slow fade to black since we are both accustomed to just chewing the fat. However, The Diver got me back on track since she's still a low student who's got high drive. In any case, I'm done like dinner.

Looks like we've got a plan for BC's farewell. It'll be a bit of takeout pizza in-house since I've got nothing after Miss Sedona. Since I've got quite a bit of time between Grandma Dynamite and The Big Lug, maybe I'll use it to get a card for BC. Apparently, she'll be moving to Burnaby.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wednesday July 30, 1:10 p.m.

It was the usual slow-as-molasses lesson with The Pessimist. I'd say that he was a true Buddhist in his contemplation. However, he did ask me an interesting question at the end of the lesson concerning the concept of saying "I'm sorry." He asked for my opinion on how I felt about the Japanese apologizing. Well, I said that there are people who think that the Japanese doth apologize too much with their "Sumimasen" and "Honto ni moshiwakearimasen". The recent numerous scandals illustrate this to such a degree to really water down any true sincerity in their prostrations. If my last statement sounds like I'm passing the buck, I'm not. I know that apologizing is part and parcel of the cultural mores here, and I also give out my ton of apologies on a daily basis (being the size I am in a crowded train pretty much guarantees it).

I then asked The Pessimist how he felt about apologizing in American culture...which is what I think he was getting at. He felt that Americans don't apologize nearly enough. At that point, I explained how in Western countries, especially the extremely litigious United States, that apologizing publicly could be perceived as being tantamount to surrendering and showing how weak one is...which can open one to all sorts of lawsuits. So, one doesn't apologize unless absolutely necessary. Very interesting topic to finish up on.

I'm now awaiting Prissy...who is still about 25 minutes away. The new assistant, Ray, is coming along nicely although she seems to be going through a cold. As for the soon-to-leave staffer, BC, she said that Mrs Speedy suggested ordering in pizza into the school instead of going out to a restaurant to commemorate BC's departure for BC. BC had no problems with that, and to be honest, I think that's probably the best solution since Speedy will have a few more hours of lessons after BC and I have finished for the day. Both The Carolinan and The Temp have given their regrets.
Wednesday July 30, 10:33 a.m.

Truly a Hump Day today...I've got 6. The Pessimist in less than half an hour. And then comes Prissy, who was my last completed EIC student, now a full-fledged regular starting her first official lesson, followed by a current EIC'er, then a model lesson student with 001 and The Diver to wrap up.

Yesterday, we had that final Beehive do at Mrs Perth's apartment. Both Perth and Mrs. Tulip were back for the special party that included Mrs. Alp, Mrs. Travel and Mrs Jade. Mrs. Tee was too busy with her work to come on out. For a spread that just had 10% meat, it was a pretty impressively savory meal. I really didn't need to eat all that much later on. I had some of the best potato salad I'd ever had by Travel, and Perth sliced up some fine cheeses from Hokkaido. She said that the relative cool and dry conditions in Sapporo have spoiled her; she would think hard about ever coming back to The Kanto during summer. It was pretty profitable for me, as well. Not only did I get a great meal, some souvenirs from Tulip and even my salary, but I also inherited a hardcase suitcase from her as well.

The juku classes were pretty full. Jolly once again dotakyan'ed but the boss still gave me the full rate. The Milds had a really exciting time in Germany....and I'm not just talking on the culinary level. At Frankfurt Airport, the couple along with hundreds of others were suddenly pushed back far from the waiting lounge when a suspicious bag was found all by its lonesome. It took an hour before the clueless idiot who owned it owned up. Then, they were in Berlin on the day that Barack Obama was in town. They'd seen the motorcade come through twice.

Meanwhile, Mild Jr. was having a new love in his life....of course, it is a secret from his parents for now. He was having me look at some of the English lyrics for various Disney songs before he serenades her with them at karaoke in early August.

MB contacted me about finally having that first Western Tokyo DVD Night in his neck of the woods of Jiyugaoka this weekend. I have those two classes at Speedy's on Saturday, but otherwise I'm good to go. We may even catch "The Hulk" on Sunday. I've sent word to Skippy, but I'm not sure if she's big on superheroes. Speaking of the hero, Ed Norton and Liv Tyler were in town to promote their film...the second night in as many nights that there has been a major Tokyo premiere for a superhero flick. Of course, Norton didn't hesitate to wow the local media with his knowledge of the Osakan dialect.

Weatherwise, it's been truly weird. We've been getting micro-storms, for the lack of a more accurate term. Certain neighbourhoods of Tokyo have been spared, but other places such as Shinjuku and Nerima Ward got majorly attacked by sudden localized downpours and lightning. There were even power outages and a qualifying soccer match between Japan and Argentina had to be cancelled midway. Urayasu got some spitting stuff and some rumbles but that was about it.

Back in Toronto, 2005 was known as The Year of the Gun because of all of the horrible gun shootings in the city. Well, I think 2008 will be known as Japan's Year of the Knife. We've had a fatal stabbing in Hachioji, a Tokyo hub, by yet another loner who snapped. And then, just a couple of days ago in another train station, a woman went nuts and started slashing commuters before she was wrestled to the ground. Her mug shot showed a haggard woman who looked far older than her 30 years would suggest. Along with the common quotation by the perpetrators that they would've killed anyone, there's a new quote about these psychos getting back at their parents for neglect.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday July 28, 10:42 p.m.

Just finished up with Medicine Man. He was a bit slower than usual on his answers. Certainly didn't help with the need to yawn at times, although I maintained my politeness. In any case, I'm ready to head home and get a bit of sleep. At least I'll have an extra hour to do so before heading out to The Beehive party at Ms. Perth's old apartment.
Monday July 28, 7:39 p.m.

Next Monday could be a very sparse day...The Class Act and SIL are on hiatus, and The Full-Timer told me that she and her mother are heading for Hong Kong next week. However, just when I thought that I may actually have a completely free day, there is yet another model lesson to do. Well, at least I can try out that jaunt back to Odaiba. I haven't been there in a couple of years.

I was watching CNN this morning with the international anchors of Anjali Rao and that Brit guy when they came across a feature on some retired fellow named Tokuda who now has a second career here in porn actor. You couldn't nuke the smirks off of the anchors' faces as they switched over to the Japan bureau chief, Kyung Lah. Yes, Virginia, there is a porn genre here which caters to the elderly. The old guys can have their own way with not only women of their age but also with the young'uns. The surprising thing is that Tokuda's wife and daughter are grateful for the income although they don't want to get any details about the nitty-gritty of the job.

I finally read those two letters from The UL's friend. She was profoundly apologetic and I sent a similar counterpart to her just now. I kinda wish she had lived a lot closer in the Kanto.
Monday July 28, 5:42 p.m.

Looks like I've got another model lesson tacked onto Wednesday. Did I just say that I was slowing down into August? Met the student briefly. She looks to be one of those librarian types.

On "Mezamashi Terebi", that Fuji-TV morning news show, one of their reporters based in The Big Apple got to have an interview with The Piano Man himself, Billy Joel. Joel has definitely gone the way of Peter Gabriel...both have gone balding, portly and beardy. It's certainly different from Joel's look of a quarter-century back with nearly Eraserhead hair. He showed the reporter his collection of motorcycles, especially pointing out the Kawasaki. I was surprised to hear that he had been in Osaka on the day of The Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. He related his experience of being shaken in his hotel room and then telling his crew that noone will be going home and that the show would still go on. That's the Billy I know.

Incidentally, The Piano Man will having a one-night show at Tokyo Dome on November 18th. For a few minutes, I was tempted to ask the juku boss for the night off and head on over. But then again, it is Tokyo Dome...fine for sports events but it has all the acoustic clarity of hearing a string quartet on a platform of JR Shinjuku during rush hour. Still, maybe even that won't turn me off. I do have to listen to him at least once before he finally hangs up his piano stool.

Well, I got the OK from Speedy. I can bring The Full-Timer over here.
Monday July 26, 4:55 p.m.

The summer hiatus is about to descend upon me. The Beehive will be having its little party tomorrow, and The Class Act/SIL have announced their absences in August. It's gonna be a fairly sparse Monday and Tuesday for the next few weeks. Well, at least I can catch some Olympic coverage.

Well, as for yesterday's little farrago concerning The UL's friend, I got a call last night from The UL herself. She was profusely apologetic about the situation. I felt rather badly about involving her and told her so, but she insisted that I did the right thing. She relayed her friend's apologies to me about the situation and basically it turned out that despite her friend's fairly good writing skills, she couldn't really (supposedly) couldn't understand my phone message or the content of my e-mails. And to add insult to injury, she lost one of the key letters. Apparently, she works for MUFG (my bank, incidentally) and has been deeply involved in the transition between computer systems which has been responsible for those once-monthly shutdowns of the ATMs. So, she's been really busy but I still think one letter or phone call couldn't have killed her and may have facilitated things a lot better. Yup, I'm being stubborn. In any case, it looks like the steam has cleared. I'll probably send off an apology letter of my own to the friend, though.

Probably the biggest thing I learned from yesterday's incident was that I'm pretty much a pessimist. If I had been an optimist, I probably would have gone to Okurayama Station all the way in Yokohama...thinking that the woman would've shown up. Instead, I thought the worst-case scenario. Perhaps if I had been a little hopeful, things would've settled more nicely. However, experience has proven to be a harsh taskmaster in the past.

I still made some income yesterday. Cozy had sent me another short translation assignment which I've just sent over to him a full day before it was due.

It is fireworks season. The Sumida River Fireworks Festival was held on Saturday as usual. But I got my own natural version last night as the skies over Chiba interrupted into a grand version of flash photography of lightning bolts. It remained dry as a bone, though. Still hot here today but there could be some rain tonight. It would be very welcome.

The countdown to the Beijing Olympics has begun. A lot of the media, local and international, have started to spout on the various angles. CNN, of course, has been focusing on some of the dear prices that have had to be paid to get the venues all set up...such as bulldozing houses and residents. The wide shows have been covering some of the more puffy pieces such as The Olympic Village and Animal Hamaguchi, who's this ex-pro wrestler with a daughter, Kyoko, in the Women's Greco-Roman Wrestling event. He's definitely a character with his manic personality and his trademark cries of "Ki ai da! Ki ai da! Ki ai da!" to get everyone's mojo up in gear. He even caused a bit of a ruckus at the Athens Games 4 years ago when a judge supposedly didn't call a fault on Kyoko's opponent which caused him to scream and rant and almost get himself ejected. The father of Serena and Venus Williams has nothing on the Animal. I'm sure he'll add atmosphere during the coverage.

Apparently, the Canadian's rowing team is based in Narashino, Chiba City for a bit of practice and acclimatization before making the final jump to Beijing.

I've only got The Full-Timer and then Medicine Man tonight. So, it shouldn't be too crazy and since the Beehive party won't happen until later in the morning, I have a chance to get a bit more sleep.

On the way back to Shibuya Station after The Class Act, I saw the huge posters for "The Dark Knight" on the department store wall over the station. Can hardly wait to see that one.