Friday, August 22, 2008

Saturday August 23, 1:12 p.m.

Another surprise in the Olympics...Japan's relay team just barely got a Bronze in its race last night. Of course, noone was gonna catch Team Jamaica so yesterday's 3rd-place finish was a coup for Japan.

The Ace seemed to be in an atypically giddy mood last night for some reason. He's usually pretty button-down about things. The juku boss' relatives, including 3 little boys, invaded the house in the last few minutes of my lesson so I basically gritted my teeth and did my greetings before making a quiet departure.

I've got Mr. TOEIC in about 45 minutes and then The Dentist in about 2 hours before I head on out to meet MB.
Friday August 22, 8:17 p.m.

After finishing up with the Speedy classes, I was able to get to an open Otokichi and buy that CD of Reimy...another one of those under-the-radar 80s J-Pop singers that I seem to enjoy. The disc is called "Sanctuary", a fairly rare album from a store that specializes in rare CDs. I basically bought it since there is a song on it, "Shotgun" that got my interest via her video clip on YouTube. Reimy had a singing career which spanned several years in the 80s and early 90s. This disc seems to be the transition one as she went from a typical aidoru years covering other singers' stuff to her singer-songwriter days of somewhat more meaningful tunes. The liner notes seem to have her writing down her diary of her days as a coed in California.

I heard just a couple of tunes from that Yuming album, "Alarm A La Mode" from 1986. This disc also seems to signify a transitional period for the Queen of New Music. It seems like those shriller synths that emphasized her late 80s-early 90s period started here, compared to her more mellow early 80s period of Fender Rhodes.

After getting the disc at Otokichi, I just had lunch at KFC before deciding to head on home instead of checking out Baker Bounce in Roppongi. I figure that it isn't going anywhere in the next few days and that I can go there on Monday since I have nothing until The Full-Timer. The weather has definitely been pegged as more attuned to late September instead of late August...not that I'm complaining at all. There was absolutely no need for air conditioning today.

There was some added pathos to the jubiliation of Japan's Women's Softball Team getting the surprise Gold last night. Sen'ichi Hoshino's Team Japan for Baseball ended up getting smacked by Korea, thus ending their dreams of getting a Gold; now it'll be a minor miracle if they can get a Bronze. Not a great way for Olympic Baseball to least, for them.

The pathos and panic continue in the sumo world as Russian rikishi Wakanoho was officiallly ousted from his sport...the first time in history that an active wrestler has been given the boot for possession of cannabis. His stablemaster, Magaki, who had been given a wrist-slap for beating up on one of his charges earlier in the year, also was given mandatory retirement by the Japan Sumo Association.

I see I wasn't the only one who thought that Usain Bolt was showboating. Even the IOC Chief, Jacques Rogge, went on air to tell the world's fastest man to knock it off. But I figure that anyone who would showboat openly at the Olympics is someone who won't bow down to authority in any case.

Kinda wonder how tomorrow is gonna shape up like. Both Mr. TOEIC and The Dentist have been known to cancel at short notice. I can imagine that there could be some messages from Speedy tonight or tomorrow morning.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Friday August 22, 2:03 p.m.

Finished with my two students here at Speedy's. The Pessimist had his usual deer-in-headlights look again, and hinted that his presence here will be much more limited since he'll be going back to work at the end of September. The Publicist and I had a good lesson talking about "The Dark Knight" among other things.

I would be out of here by now but the bossman has asked that I stay a few more minutes, at least until the banker (who's here now) gets past me. Speedy wants the impression of a somewhat bustling office....although I'm not sure how three people would make all that much of an impression over two. In any case, I'm out of here in a minute.
Friday August 22, 10:43 a.m.

It's feeling like Fall out there. The high temp today is only up to 26 C...pretty unprecedented for Tokyo Summer! That electrical storm and downpour last night pretty much doused all of the heat and humidity.

As expected, the news and wide shows have been wall-to-wall Women's Softball Gold Victory. What's making the victory even sweeter is that it will be the very last Olympic Softball game for some time to come since the IOC has decided to cut out the event for the 2012 Games in London, and of course, Team Japan managed to be seen as Goliath-beaters by toppling Team America. I sacrificed some needed sleep time by watching the highlights on NHK past midnight.

Apparently, there was some sort of jinshin jiko (personal accident) at my station last night which threw the Tozai Line into conniptions. I doubt it was the usual suicide since the place looked pretty normalized by the time I got in...and that was less than 2 hours after the incident had taken place. It was probably some guy having a seizure on board.

I've got The Pessimist and The Publicist here at Speedy's before a lengthy time-out before The Ace's return at the juku tonight. The introductory chat for each lesson will be on the softball game. I finally got word from 002 that she and her hubby are good to go for Baker Bounce on the 31st at Tokyo Midtown. So I've set things up...apparently, the burger joint has changed sites, although it seems to be just a move across the atrium. It's good incentive for me to check it out...and get in some lunch today after the lessons here. I still have to get back to Otokichi, though.
Thursday August 21, 10:42 p.m.

I was using that Mudville analogy for that Chinese hurdler who couldn't appear in his big event a few days ago. Well, tonight there is joy in Mudville if Japan is used here. The Women's Softball team just won the Gold over the heavily favoured Americans 3-1. I can imagine the morning wide shows just screaming tomorrow and extra editions being thrown out in Yurakucho and Shinjuku.
Thursday August 21, 7:16 p.m.

Still spinning my wheels here and I'm more than 2 hours away from my last lesson. Some of us are kinda trapped in the school since the skies opened up with a fanfare of thunder and lightning that has become rather common in the last several days. I knew that something was gonna strike when I saw those thunderclouds topped up like especially fluffy mashed potatoes. Quite happy that The Temp cancelled her lesson today; otherwise, I would've been fighting some major rain and wind right now. However, not sure what I'm gonna do about dinner since the weather out there is fit for neither man nor beast. Speedy was asking about my dinner plans so we're kinda waiting for 7:30, but I think the best thing would be to call something in...if the delivery guys are willing to come over.

Ray has decided to brave the elements and take off for home. We lent her one of those clear plastic cheapo umbrellas. She's been a good addition and replacement for BC. None of that emotional roller coaster that we'd had to endure from my former student for some months. Currently, AK is doing the night shift.

The Japan Sumo Association and the media are whipping up this Wakanoho-marijuana scandal full froth. Haven't been home all that much for the past couple of days so don't really know the details. People reading this outside of Japan might be wondering what the big deal is about a Russian rikishi getting caught with his hand in the MJ jar, but over here, even a bit of the weed on a celeb can be grounds for banishment. This is the same nation whose police arrested and jailed Paul McCartney back in 1980 for carrying the stuff. His status as one of the legendary Beatles didn't make a dent in the national police. Mind you, the lucky thing for these guys is that executions aren't carried out here like they are over in Southeast Asia.
Thursday August 21, 5:00 p.m.

Back from most of the afternoon out on the road. Went over to Otokichi only to find out that the guy's on summer vacation until noon tomorrow. Nice of the guy NOT to tell me on his website. However, making a positive out of a negative I went up into the Mandarake floors in Nakano Sun Plaza and went to that other discount CD shop. They have bins of discards for just 200 yen each. Managed to pick up an old Yuming and Sing Like Talking discs.

Ended up having lunch at Ringer Hut in the mall itself. Ringer Hut is nothing like Pizza Hut. It is a chain of restaurants selling champon, that Nagasaki delicacy of noodle soup. The soup has thick Chinese noodles in a cream-coloured but not creamy pork broth and is topped off by a lot of veggies. I hadn't been inside a Ringer Hut in well over a decade since my NOVA days. Just wanted something different from the usual tonkatsu or McD sets.

It hasn't been too hot or humid today. Still, I was exhausted after teaching The New Yorker. It's not easy teaching a low student inside a bustling cafe no matter how good the weather outside. She had a good b-day the other day with her sister, The Carolinan, and another friend at their customary place to celebrate, The Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi. She said that she didn't get any birthday presents per se and though she didn't mind at being all of 32 years of age, but her television is busted. A new TV would be great but I don't think I can help her out on that thing...especially since she'd like one of those flatpanels with ground digital service.

I'm off for the next four hours and change until Medicine Man gets in. I could use the time off to recover.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thursday August 21, 8:27 a.m.

One of those late night-early morning transitions that I can't stand. Looks like McDonalds has already started with the price increases with the breakfast menu. I had to pay an extra 20 yen for my Sausage McMuffin Set. Still an extra 80 yen a month is not gonna kill me...the cholesterol in the set will do that to me quite fine.

It'll be a Donut Day today...but with a small piece of dough in the middle in the form of The New Yorker in Ichigaya. I think all of the ultrarightists and ultraleftists have finally left Yasukuni Shrine, so it should be safe enough (knock on wood). The morning will have Grandma Dynamite and Miss Sedona before she takes off tomorrow for her American adventure. And then in the evening will be Medicine Man. I do plan to use some of that off-time between the morning folks and The New Yorker by heading over to Otokichi for that Reimy CD.

I was doing my usual "babysitting" of The Patent Attorney before Speedy came in. Looks like he and his family had a good time in Thailand last week for their O-bon vacation. I was surprised (as was he) that they paid the equivalent of 10,000 yen a pop for this brunch buffet in Bangkok which, amazingly, puts any of Tokyo's grand exercise in money-throwing for food to shame. Mind you, he said that the atmosphere in that hotel was absolutely the lap of luxury and not the norm. The PA also mentioned that he and his family are also massage otaku. They definitely went to the right place, then. I'm definitely feeling knotty right now.

For the past several days, my commute reading has been focused on "Starquake" by R.L. Forward. It's the sequel to a novel called "Dragon's Egg" written almost 30 years ago. At first, I wasn't quite sure what to make about a race of sesame-sized slugs living on a neutron star but it's always the sign of a good sci-fi writer who can actually make the premise work and even make me feel sympathetic to their plight. The hook about the Cheela living millions of times faster than we humans also makes for an interesting little gimmick.
Wednesday August 20, 5:11 p.m.

Polished off a conbini platter of Spaghetti Pepperoncino...forgetting that garlic and my stomach have a tempestuous relationship sometimes. Well, luckily I still had one tablet left of the stuff that the working class often take before and after a major eating and drinking binge on the town. Hopefully, that'll work better than NATO's attempts between Russia and Georgia.

In the midst of dinner, Speedy asked me if I were ready for something Mac tomorrow night between The New Yorker and Medicine Man. He informed me that Big Macs will be going for just 200 yen for the next couple of weeks...a sale to cushion the blow since from September 1, everything across the board at The Golden Arches will be going up in price. Can I kill Ronald now? Ach...I figure that the hammer was gonna come down even on those guys with the soaring price of oil.

During my model lesson with the young lady earlier this afternoon, we got onto talking about her New York life, and how she'd initially found everything there to be way too big. Ironically, coming back to Tokyo, she suffered reverse culture shock and discovered the food to be way too small. Kinda like Alice in Wonderland. To give you an example, a Large Pizza here would be a mere Medium Pizza back in the States. When I first came here, I went to that bakery chain, Cozy Corner, and rather looked in shock at the diminuitive size of their cake slices. I asked my friends sardonically whether I ate these things or just inhaled them.
Wednesday August 20, 4:26 p.m.

Finished up with that model lesson student. Yep, as Speedy had described her earlier, she's a bit of a laconic one trying to get back to New York City. Nice enough lady but not quite sure if she'll sign with us. In a very strange coincidence, though, a Shindo 4 quake rumbled through the neighbourhood just a few minutes after we had been talking about quakes. I jokingly made my apologies skyward.

I was thinking about heading to that old used CD store in Nakano, Otokichi, but have decided to cut out since time has just gotten a bit too tight. I gather I'll go either before or after The New Yorker's lesson tomorrow. Plus, I had to get that new reading assignment done for 001. Carrying on the "Heroes" bent, I've based this one on Nathan Petrelli. I hear he's been confirmed for the new season.

Got word from The Satyr who's still off in London for the next few days before returning to Japan. Looks like he's still good to go for watching "A Dark Knight" on the 31st. Still don't know what'll happen on that day since that was also the day that I'd asked about heading to Baker Bounce with 001, 002 and The Baker. I should find out in a few hours when 001 comes in. Movie Buddy has invited me back to his place for another DVD night this weekend. Believe me, I don't mind at all...especially when it comes to saving money on air conditioning at my place. Hmm...I may ask my host about getting the Richard Donner cut of "Superman 2".

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wednesday August 20, 12:15 p.m.

Just finished with The Pessimist. He was just rolling along with his delivery of his homework only to find out that he'd cribbed some of his stuff from an Internet site. Still, we had a good talk about how demanding his son could be. He's 2 years old and therefore in that frustratingly (for the parents anyways) touchy-feely exploratory mode.

Before I went to the juku yesterday, I'd been watching the last several minutes of a movie which had Superman, Lt. Saavik and Luke Skywalker. Yep, it was Reeve, Alley and Hamill in John Carpenter's remake of "Village of the Damned", that little horror from 1995 about those spooky kids with the eyes and white hair. As a horror, I thought it was rather tame in terms of the deaths (this was of course, pre-"Hostel" and pre-"Saw")...I mean, Kirstie's death scene in which her character is forced to eviscerate herself had absolutely no blood! I would think that a woman having her monthly period is far bloodier. It was a cute little afternoon timewaster but nothing more. I did read on IMdB that it was Chris Reeve's final movie before his tragic accident. As for Mark Hamill's character's demise, I felt like telling him to use The Force to get that gun away from himself.

Anyways, it's time for lunch...
Wednesday August 20, 10:23 a.m.

Another scorcher...back to the dog days. The juku classes last night went off pretty well. I guess that week's hiatus did wonders for everyone, including me. That "dreaded" meeting between the new kid and The Milds went surprisingly well. For one thing, the new kid...whom I'll call The Traveler...showed some more proficiency than she did in her model lesson a couple of weeks ago. I'd thought she was a completely blank slate then but I guess that could have been chalked up to nervousness. The fact that she upped her game was also combined with what could've been a bit of an off-night for The of the very few times that I was actually glad that a student wasn't doing so well. In any case, the scales were balanced although both the juku boss and I told The Traveler that she'll need to do a lot of catching up grammatically. I can't slow down things to a crawl for her at the expense of The Milds.

And Jolly was about as jolly as I've ever seen him. Mind you, it'd been a month since I'd seen him last and I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder. In any case, it was an atypically quick hour with him. He apologized first for the long absence by saying that the business meetings and dinners just happened to fall on Tuesdays and Fridays...perhaps a bit of poetic license there...but there has also been the issue of tons and tons of paperwork. He's been keeping up with his golf, though. The juku boss also wanted him to make up on his lessons but, unfortunately, he's gotta a farewell party to attend on Friday night. So, it'll be The Ace alone for the hour then.

Air Canada sent me the schedule change on my flight to Xmas. Not too ticked about the trip going back to Toronto, but my flight back here has gone from a leisurely departure time of noon to one of those red-eye wake-up calls for an 8:30 a.m. takeoff in January.

It'll be a minor Hump Day today with The Pessimist leading things off in about 30 minutes, and then I've got that model lesson at 1:45 with 001, The Diver and then The Fashion Designer to finish things late.

Was still listening to some of my old discs gathering dust in my room. Last night's pick was an old Pizzicato Five single with the title of "Baby Portable Rock". P5 just happened to be one of the leading lights in the Shibuya-kei Sound back in the 90s, with its mix of techno, lounge, bossa nova and 60s Mod. "Baby Portable Rock" has got that 60s American sitcom theme song-type of feel to if it had been written by DeVol...quite catchy.

Speaking of J-Pop, I think a lot of the 90s kids are probably swooning (or groaning) at the news that the female quartet of SPEED are getting back together after their breakup at the beginning of the decade. The girls are all now very established women in their own veins of of them, Eriko Imai, is now a full-fledged mother, while another has become an actress and an occasional tarento. I was never a big fan of the group although their songs have popped up in any compilation CD I've bought over the years.
Tuesday August 19, 7:41 p.m.

Man, there are definitely consequences to be paid by transiting from a heavily air-conditioned room to a very steamy corridor.

Well, it looks like Japan picked up another two medals, neither of them Gold but the Silver and Bronze from Men's Wrestling will always be welcome to the tally. I believe Japan now has 22 so far.

However, no medals for one sumo wrestler. Yes, yet again the Japan Sumo Association has to beat back another media brushfire because one of their own was caught carrying a bit of the loco weed here. Wakanoho, who's actually a 20-year-old Russian with a very long name (probably translates to mud or dumbass), lost his wallet a few months ago which he duly reported to the neighbourhood koban or police box; someone actually did turn in the wallet. When the cops took a look inside, a rather aromatic smell emanated which they quickly identified as marijuana or hashish, and sure enough the weed was in there. Wakanoho fessed up to the joint in the joint, thus the current state of affairs at the JSA. He said that he got it from some guy in Roppongi...they always get it from some guy in Roppongi. In any case, the morning wide shows now have something else besides Olympic coverage to rant about.

Just heard that Lawrence Fishburne is now the new lead CSI in the thusly-titled show. At least, he'll be later this Fall. Has this little hook of being genetically-predispositioned to be a serial killer. I think "Dexter" is rubbing off here.
Tuesday August 19, 7:17 p.m.

Finished off with Suzanne. She's definitely an interesting one. Looks even younger than her 26 years and dresses like a Shibuya gyaru, but she's really into the nitty-gritty of English grammar, and told me that she's just read "Rich Dad, Poor Dad", that self-help book by that Japanese-American. We even did a 5-minute discussion on the book's merits and demerits.. And though I risk being called sexist, I was rather surprised when she said that "Sex and The City" totally bored her...the series, that is, not the movie which she hasn't seen and probably won't. The Big Lug loves the movie, strangely enough. However, Suzanne admitted that she was miha enough that when she traveled to New York, she did track down and take a few pictures of the cafeteria where Carrie and the gang hung out. I told her that she could probably hold an auction and sell off her pics to some of my students for a goodly sum. I can only hope that my model lesson student tomorrow is as interesting. The fact that she lived in The Big Apple is a good beginning.

Still no call from Jolly but it's not quite the witching hour yet. He usually makes the call during The Milds' lesson.

I've been listening to some of my old dusty J-Pop CD singles....the 45 rpms of the 80s and 90s on my Discman (the Victrola of the 90s). I popped in a Yumi Tanimura disc. She's got some good licks in her songwriting....perhaps like a Burt Bacharach...but she's also got the voice of Burt Bacharach as well. Cute but not particularly polished.
Tuesday August 19, 4:45 p.m.

Well, the dog days of summer are back. The temps have gone above the 30 C mark and cicadas are dropping everywhere. So much for an early start to Fall.

I'm back at the juku after it went on O-bon hiatus for a week. I've got some drama coming up tonight. Along with the usual wait-and-see about Jolly's appearance, I've got that model student who wants to take a group lesson; only problem is that she's a good plunge lower in ability than The Milds. The only saving grace is that The Milds are such nice people. I'm trying to ease the pain a bit with some introductory activities but I think it's a foregone conclusion that she's not going to be with them long.

I also got a call from Speedy this afternoon. I've got a model lesson coming in tomorrow afternoon for a lady who was in New York for a couple of years and wants to shore up, in her words, her deteriorating English. I've been around the teaching block a few years now so that for a person like her, her attitude will be all-important in determining whether she'll be a stayer or whether she'll fly the coop in a few short classes. The Tippler, The Yogist's buddy, hasn't been seen here since late June. I figure that she's not coming back; she's also one that was in The Big Apple for some time but she struck me as being a bit la-di-dah about her lessons, especially since it wasn't on her initiative that she came to us but as an invitation from The Yogist, who's a whole lot more enthusiastic.

Japan's been doing pretty well at The Beijing Olympics. They'd been amassing medals every day since the Games began, but I think the medal rush ended yesterday as soon as we entered the Track And Field events. Not really too strong in that area, especially when names like Bolt are on the list. Speaking of whom, I'm not too sure but sometimes I get the sense that Usain Bolt was slumming a bit when he sped down the track during the weekend to smash those world records. I've never seen a dash artist suddenly decelerate just metres away from the finish line and already start pumping the arms in victory. Hopefully, but doubtfully, he'll get a bit of a comeuppance for that sort of attitude.

During my lesson with The Full-Timer last night (which actually went on for an extra 10 minutes...a bit unusual), we talked on the folly of Japan's contribution to the Women's Marathon on Sunday. The Full-Timer thought that Reiko Tosa and Mizuki Noguchi should never have been selected as the runners because of their ailments. Certainly I would agree that Tosa was a wrong an earlier press conference which ended up being an ominous sign of things to come, she did remark about her bunions. And sure enough, they were the cause of her downfall. There were plenty of other folks who were chomping at the bit to get their chance but Tosa got the green flag. The Marathon Selection Committee could say that Tosa and Noguchi were the best chances they had, but then the selection of young Nakamura would put down that argument; she actually came in 12th or 13th and never really stood a chance of winning a medal but the taste of experience was invaluable to her.

Continuing on the Olympic line, I guess Beijing must be Mudville while that Chinese hurdler is Casey. Only thing is that at least Casey still got to bat. I can't remember the hurdler's name but this was the second-most popular Chinese athlete behind Yao Ming, and he was expected to run the race of his life yesterday. Instead he hobbled away in agony from the track after a false start due to some nagging Achilles Tendon injury, and the chance of his lifetime has tragically flown away...perhaps forever.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday August 18, 4:02 p.m.

Over here at the school, Speedy's got Virgin Internet Radio playing ad nauseum over the computer. There have been a few songs that have gotten very heavy airplay including one that I'd thought was a new one by Cyndi certainly sounded like her over the tinny speakers. Who it was actually a singer named Duffy from Wales and the song is "Mercy", a sultry soul number. I only realized it yesterday when I was doing some channel surfing on SkyPerfect and came across her video on the Music-On-TV channel.

While I was getting checked out on that torrid Friday morning in Gyotoku, Speedy was subbing for me with The Nurse. Apparently, with her upcoming move in September, we're not sure whether she'll be showing up for any more lessons for the next little while. Also, the bossman is getting rather agitated again since three of our students have decided not to renew. Slim and 002 are two of them (still no explanation why Slim never bothered to show up last week although I think the writing on the wall is pretty clear), and the other is one of his.

Skippy sent word to us of a proposal for the 31st in which MB, me and The Satyr would watch "The Dark Knight" again while she, The Sylph and Miss Ivory would catch "Sex and the City". The only thing is that maybe, just maybe, 002 and 001 might take me up on my offer to head over to Tokyo Midtown and Baker Bounce on that day. And I'm not quite sure if "The Dark Knight", as good as it is, really merits a 2nd viewing for 1800 yen.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Monday August 18, 2:31 p.m.

I remember seeing Tim Burton's "Batman" back in the ancient year of 1989; it was the last movie I'd seen before heading off to my first Japan posting in the wilds of Gunma, so what better flick to catch than this much-awaited piece. The audience was oohing-and-aahing over the guy who had put together the sets for Gotham City (the guy ended up accepting his Oscar completely zonked out of his mind and then promptly committed suicide some months afterwards); then they were just laughing, applauding and marveling at Jack Nicholson's rendition of The Joker while accepting Michael Keaton's turn as The Dark Knight himself. Alfred was there along with Commissioner Gordon, Vicki Vale and even Harvey Dent. "Batman" was one of the cinematic showpieces that year that would change everyone's perception of him as the campy 60s TV superhero.

Now, cue ahead nearly 2 decades. I'm seated in a state-of-the-art (though not IMAX) movie theatre in Roppongi Hills with MB and The Sylph. Once again, I'm watching "Batman" again, this time Christopher Nolan's take on him; strangely enough, all of the major characters mentioned: Bruce Wayne, Alfred, The Joker, Gordon, Harvey Dent and another romantic interest, Rachel Dawes are back in this one as well. And you couldn't have a more different film.

"The Dark Knight" was in 98% cacao in a black hole dark. I'd been hearing all the buzz about this one for months, including all of the reviews in the first few weeks of its release in the States. And yep, I think this is the best movie I've seen this year. Once again, the actor playing The Joker is the toast of the town although his take on The Clown Prince of Crime is far more terrifying than Jack's. For instance, I could have the guts to stay in an alley with Nicholson's Joker for a few seconds...I would have run for the hills even before Heath Ledger's Joker had gotten within half a kilometre of the alley. Whereas the Jack Joker got his permanent comeuppance, Heath Joker could only be left hanging (and presumably taken to Arkham) while just laughing away; he was shown to be indestructible, even at the hands of Batman's "subtle" interrogation techniques.

There are so many other comparative hooks between Burton's and Nolan's creations. Although the roles of Batman, Joker, Alfred, Harvey and Gordon are in both, the last three roles were mere cyphers...not even plot devices in the 1989 "Batman". And it can be said that The Jack Joker pretty much hijacked the movie from Keaton's Batman. However, in the 2008 version, they're all major players. The Heath Joker may have gotten all the Hollywood tongues wagging but none of the other roles are slouches. Also, whereas looking at the 1989 Gotham City was like looking at a mix between Art Deco and amusement park, the newest version is very much looking at any Anycity, USA with its problems of corruption and crime. Heck, a number of critics have compared this "Batman" to the crime thriller "Heat"; the very first scene, in fact, reminded me of the climactic scene in that latter movie. I almost expected DeNiro to show up with a machine gun.

The other hook was remembering that in the 1989 version, Batman pretty much stayed pristine and saved the girl while destroying the villain. In the 2008 version, he truly became a dark knight with a darkened soul, taking down a lot of people with him, and losing two good people, including the girl in what was probably one of the more shocking scenes in the movie...and the villain survived to laugh another day. At the end of the 1989 movie, Pat Hingle's elderly Commish heralded the arrival of Batman with the Bat-Signal, a fanfare of triumph and applause from the audience. At the end of the 2008 movie, Gary Oldman's younger Gordon emphasized Batman's pariah status by smashing it.

As I said, a none-darker superhero movie can be imagined. And I'll definitely be waiting for that twin DVD pack. I think if there were a weak point (and no, I didn't have a problem with Batman's voice like so many critics have, although I think Christian Bale probably hit the Gollum Juice full-time), it would probably be with the birth of Two-Face. Just like all of the past Batman movies with two or more villains, this Batman certainly didn't have room for two freaks and it definitely showed at the end. Harvey Dent's brief stint as a bad guy came out more like a maddened serial killer...which was probably why his nom de guerre was only mentioned once and reluctantly so. It would've been interesting if Dent had been allowed to stay as the good guy right to the end or nearly to the end in which case the tragic deformation could've served as the launching point for the next movie. But then again, I'm not sure if Two-Face would be all that compelling a counterpoint as Batman's next villain where big Hollywood blockbusters are concerned. And Nolan wanted to double the pathos for Batman...losing not only his first love but also his choice of replacement. Still, this little hmmmm point doesn't compare to what is a great piece of superhero entertainment. Christopher Nolan has raised the bar pretty darn high for future superhero franchises. I can only hope that whoever's doing the next "Superman" movie or any other superhero flick takes this to heart.
Monday August 18, 2:16 p.m.

The last couple of days have been Heaven on Earth, meterologically speaking. Thanks to a major electrical storm and some pretty hair-raising downpours on Saturday evening, I was literally chilled to find out that the temps dropped significantly on Sunday morning. The high for Sunday was 26 C...a full 10 degrees lower than some of the hot stuff we had been getting all last week. Although things are a bit back to normal today at 30 C, the air hasn't been mugging us like a Central Park punk. I can only hope that this is the beginning of the end of yet another Japanese Summer in Hell. After all, the O-Bon holidays are a thing of memory now.

It's been a good Olympics for Japan now that we're past the halfway point in Beijing. Everyday so far, my adopted home's athletes have managed to bring in some medals. This past weekend seemed to belong to Women's Wrestling. All four of the entries there won 2 Gold, 1 Silver and a Bronze...yes, even the Animal's daughter got one so hopefully, the beastly father can chill out for another 4 years. However, he's been on just about every station this morning, proudly crowing about how his daughter managed to get that Bronze. We even got one in Cycling...although none of the stations have picked up that event. Unfortunately, the darling of Team Japan, table tennis player Ai Fukuhara, failed to pick up any sort of medal in her event, and after 16 years of a strong foothold in the event, the Japanese failed to pick up any medals in the Women's Marathon.

I was pretty torn on Saturday night when one of the Women's Wrestling finals was being played out. It just so happened the final was between one of the Icho sisters and a Canadian, Carol Huynh. I would've liked to have seen the sister get the Gold but at the same time, I still had those tugs with the ol' home country, especially since Canada had been undergoing a major medal drought. As it turned out, Huynh got the Gold. I just found out from Speedy that Canada has now gained a bit of respectability back with 7 medals.

Today, I've just got two. I just finished up with The Big Lug. I hadn't seen him since July 31st. He'll be heading off for Hong Kong next week, just a day after the end of the Olympics. He'll be staying at the Peninsula in Kowloon, so I also told him about The Jade Garden, as I had with The Full Timer, who is the 2nd student tonight. After that, it'll just be back home and some more Olympic moments. Tomorrow will be another quiet one with only the juku classes.