Friday, August 29, 2008

Saturday August 30, 1:57 p.m.

Finished up with The Publicist. A bit more of a slog due to the material. Also gleaned some information about her job. Apparently, all of the celebs under her charge have rejected the sweet bean paste known as anko big surprise, although I think it's really no different from chocolate....but they crave the famous Kobe beef.

I actually got word from my old student, The Stick, from my ol' school days. She's a huge Star Wars fan and asked about my trip over to Makuhari Messe several weeks ago for that Star Wars convention there. I told her that she'd have to be the biggest collector or the biggest groupie to appreciate it. I'm neither...which is why I only stayed an hour and donated my 4,000 yen. Speaking of which, "The Clone Wars" did start up a couple of weeks ago in Japan. MB and I had been thinking of catching it, but the reviews have been horrible to say the least, and since MB had a very bitter taste in his mouth about "Revenge of the Sith", we've decided to wait until it came out on DVD.

And also speaking of blasts from the past, Slim actually did call back after his no-show a couple of weeks ago. He came up with this rather cockamamie excuse that he completely mixed up the dates although we made sure of it a couple of times during his last lesson. A bit of an idiot, he is.
Saturday August 30, 11:33 a.m.

We were pretty squally last night. During the wait for Jolly and Jolly's lesson itself, Urayasu seemed to get periodic orchestras of precipitation. I swear that Japan is becoming increasingly tropical in terms of weather. I can imagine that a number of national weather forecasters will be making appointments with mental health specialists in the coming days.

Jolly was his usual eponymic self. He was regaling me with his love and access to golf. He went up to some course up in Tochigi Prefecture the other weekend. It only cost him 5,000 yen to do 18 holes...that is indeed a miracle worthy of Tiger Woods in this country, considering that club fees in Japan usually have three more zeroes. Also we got into the differences between Japanese comedy and American comedy. The former is all about either: 1) one-person pin geinin who get their fifteen minutes of fame by just spouting out some inanity which ends up becoming one of the catchphrases of the year here, or 2) comedic duos who do the same shtick a la Abbott & Costello over half a century ago. Folks here usually can't seem to decipher some of the humour from sitcoms like "Friends" or "Seinfeld". And jokes that seem to fall flat at the various drinking parties often get tagged as "American jokes" Jolly admitted that when he was a high school student, he couldn't understand what was so funny with Jim Carrey's "The Mask". I feel like I'll have to be a bridge between our two cultures. In any case, I directed my padawan's attention to Robin Williams on YouTube.

It's still pretty cloudy but not sure if it's gonna rain or not. Recently, it's been a crapshoot about the probability of precipitation...which is probably why the weather folks have probably been running for their Ritalin. One thing for sure, though. The humidity and some of the heat have come back. I'm starting to get that sticky gum feeling again.

Ahhh, gosh-darn that John McCain. You can always depend on him to pull one of those way-out stunts to get the media attention back on him, after all that Obama-mania in Denver several hours before. Case in point: bringing in Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska to be his running mate. The surprise for me was slightly blunted since I'd read a headline about her being considered as a dark horse on at the juku last night. However, when I got home and turned on the cable channel itself, the BREAKING NEWS sign was flashing with its bumblebee colours and crowing that Palin was no longer a longshot but a potential heartbeat from the presidency. The pundits were, to put it in a word, gobsmacked. Even veterans like David Gergen admitted that they could've been knocked over by a feather when they got the news. McCain's choice was so far out of right (remember we are talking about the Republican party) field that he would've gotten a calmer reaction by nominating Michael Palin from "Monty Python".

But, y'know...despite Governor Palin having even less experience on foreign policy and national politics than Barack Obama...her selection could perhaps pay off.

And that is why I have my own TOP 5 list of reasons that Governor Sarah Palin may actually get John McCain the presidency:

5. She has that special gene that Mary Tyler Moore has of being able to turn the world on with a smile.

4. She will introduce the wonders of Mooseburgers and Arctic Char to the continental U.S.

3. That cute way she'll scrunch up her face in intense study when her advisers teach her about taxation.

2. Palin is eminently more parodiable by the "Saturday Night Live" performers than Joe Biden.

1. At her first Vice-Presidential press conference, all the reporters will be looking forward to her saying "You like me, you really like me."
Friday August 29, 7:29 p.m.

At the juku now. After having one final Big Mac lunch with Speedy before the price hike takes place on September 1st, I ended up playing some of those Mesmo TV games via Facebook for about an hour. I'm sure Ray must've been thinking about why I got to play computer games. I would frankly have no self-control in Vegas...which is probably the reason that I'm the only one in the family who still hasn't been there.

In any case, my pay from the juku this month is quite a bit lower due to the O-Bon holiday but I more than made up for it at Speedy's, so no big problems here. And I've got The Class Act and SIL coming back on Monday, plus The Beehive in the 2nd week, so that'll be some welcome income back.

Just have the one lesson at Speedy's tomorrow...The Publicist. A bit of a bummer although I don't blame my student at all. Just the circumstances.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Friday August 29, 3:07 p.m.

She came in rolling in like Beyonce. Yup, the model lesson student traipsed on in in her hip hop duds...extra large T-shirt and short cutoffs with huge frizzy hair and eyelashes that could sweep dirt off the wall. I thought "ooooh, a live one here".

Well, she turned out to be a pretty decent person actually. Man, 19 years old...felt like a grandfather already. Pretty fluent but with the usual linguistic deficits that would mark her as a foreigner. She'll be heading off to the wilds of California and learning hairdressing and dance. Basically, for the set of three she's reserved our school for, it'll be an "anything goes" attitude.

Saw just a bit of the Obama acceptance speech on Yup, it's definitely a historically Obama moment. The baritone voice, the stentorian delivery. Obama Girl will be swooning as 80,000 people were.

After that rather whirlwind hour with Beyonce, I'm just decompressing and waiting for Speedy to grab some McD meals. Then, I can think about heading over to the juku.
Friday August 29, 11:35 a.m.

Barack Obama is probably nearing the end or has finished his acceptance speech. I was able to catch Al Gore and Stevie Wonder do their thing for him before I had to take off. As the end of political conventions go, it sure didn't look like a typical meeting of dark-suited pols; it was more like one big New Year's party. Still, it was good that David Gergen brought things down to earth and said that the decision is far from made. Apparently, Wolf Blitzer was even having a bit of a dance with Donna Brazile. I think that would be a truly YouTube worthy scene, only topped by seeing Jack Cafferty actually tapping his toes.

While Toronto might have had the rainiest July in its history, it looks like all of Japan may end up with the wettest August in its history. Warnings have been scrolling across the screen all morning on almost all of the channels. I was kinda hoping that would kill this model lesson in a couple of hours with that hip-hop high school student, but such has yet to be. It was certainly raining a menagerie last night in Ichigaya when I had The Carolinan. Not a great lesson...since the ambient noise level was pretty high. I think both of us were getting pretty annoyed by the end of the lesson.

Aside from the model lesson, I've only got Jolly tonight...supposedly at the juku. I'm kinda hoping that he does dotakyan but unfortunately, he only does so at the 11th hour.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thursday August 28, 2:10 p.m.

Finished up with The Yogist just now. Still as giddy as ever. We spoke on her better-than-average celeb sightings. Her latest sighting was jazz pianist Chie Ayado at an Azabu-Juban boutique (for those fellow Torontonian Canucks who need a cross-reference: Azabu-Juban is kinda like Yorkville). She's seen three Prime Ministers and the comedic duo Downtown, among other folks. She's also rather fond of that lost art known as the afternoon nap. She's lucky enough in her schedule to take a nice 2-hour siesta almost everyday. For me, I'd be lucky if I could get one nap a year.

Been checking out the CNN videos of the DNC. Over the past several weeks, the McCain camp has been needling Obama and his crew about his supposed status as a vapid celebrity. Well, John may have a case considering that Barack pulled a surprise appearance after his running mate, Joe Biden, had finished his nomination speech. It reminded me whenever Frank Sinatra or Bob Hope crashed "The Tonight Show" during the years of Johnny Carson. In any case, all that's needed now is for the official Democratic nominee to give his big speech tomorrow. I may be at home to actually catch that one live.
Thursday August 28, 11:57 a.m.

Grandma Dynamite was all right major lapses in memory. She could be on a streak. The Carolinan confirmed the lesson back at the old place. And it looks like 002 will be unavailable for the entirety of September. Urk...there goes that income. Mind you, she had said that she would've only been open just twice next month, so it's only 7,000 yen out. However, I'm not sure how Speedy would feel about that. The Satyr gave his first response after getting back from London; looks like he wants to see "The Dark Knight" on the 7th.

I've been enjoying my old compilations of "The Onion". Those guys are fearless...just 2 weeks after the events of September 11, 2001, they were at it again poking fun...not sure how much security they needed and how long they needed it for.
Thursday August 28, 8:40 a.m.

Man, those late night-early morning transitions are gonna be the death of me one day. I'll probably enter the subway and never leave it.

The Diver was kinda having one of her neurotic nights...lack of sleep, she said. She certainly sapped my energy, it didn't help that the laptop computer was also as neurotic as her. Luckily, The Fashion Designer was a nice way to end the night on. Always easy to converse with her.

Got Grandma Dynamite as usual...followed by The Yogist, also one of my favourites. Then, it's The Carolinan but since I'm finishing up here early I'll have to see her at our old haunt. Will mean that extra 500 yen for the latte but a change in venue is never bad.

Finally got confirmation from 001 for Sunday; she was never one for e-mail. She did say that she was a bit nervous about Speedy joining us but I told her that Mrs. Speedy would possibly join us so she can keep the leash on him.

Kept The Patent Attorney entertained for about 15 minutes before Speedy took over. Today's topic was on the neighbourhood of Nakano for which I've become a fairly frequent patron of late. Although he said that he'd never been there before, he did know that it was a second Akihabara in terms of manga and anime supplies, and even mentioned the Maid Cafes. I told him that there weren't any such cafes far as I knew, although I did tell him about that mama-san cafe I glimpsed some time ago (he readily shuddered at the thought). And then I told him about the Butler Cafes populated by handsome, well-coiffed men in tuxes. I warned him not to tell his wife and daughter about them.

Well, I guess Hillary Clinton really did have that secret weapon. And it wasn't the speech...that was no secret. She did get that game-winning RBI last night. Nope, the secret weapon was kinda short-circuiting the roll call by proposing that Barack Obama be nominated by acclamation. Again, since I'm pulling early duty here, I couldn't see the mayhem that must've followed but apparently the audience gave a resounding YES and exploded in ear-shattering cheering. There were some boos when Massachusetts proudly touted its sports teams like the Bosox but that was probably a bunch of New Yorkers. So, members of the feared anti-Obama contingent have now been either been assuaged or permanently thrown into the McCain camp. In any case, Barack Obama is now officially the first African-American candidate for US President. And the Republicans now have to work to do.
Wednesday August 27, 6:54 p.m.

Found out that I've gotta do a model lesson on Friday with a hip-hop kid who'll be heading over to Orange County for a 1-year homestay. Ugh! Both Speedy and I agreed that neither of us are quite ideal teachers for a kid like her. And I still have (non-)memories of that slacker hip-hopper son of that ol' school student who basically never showed up for my private lessons a couple of years ago. Well, we all gotta suffer for our art.

Finished off my salad and so-men just now for dinner. I think after having a Big Mac set just a few hours ago, that probably should fit the bill for the rest of the evening. I've just got The Diver and The Fashion Designer.
Wednesday August 27, 5:09 p.m.

It's starting to cloud over something fierce. Once again, we may be given that dinnertime deluge that's been marking most of August. Good timing that I got back into the school.

Pretty much nothing came out of my 3.5-hour recce through Shibuya and Ginza. Went over to Tower Records, HMV and Recofan in Tokyo teens' answer to Mecca and found nothing that I needed to get. Plenty of gyaru strutting about in their makeup and hooker boots, though. Wondered how much they charged per hour.

Stopped off in Shiodome to see if I could grab some hot dogs at Nathan's, but it looks like the summer holidays were still going on for the families. The place was packed so I just ended up going to the local McDonalds. Walked down the Ginza strip and took a look at Krispy Kreme #2 in Itocia. Yup, still lining up around the corner. It's a wonder that the customers still haven't started looking like the donuts themselves.

It sounds as if Hillary Clinton hit that deep-to-right triple. Nope, it wasn't a homer...CNN said that there were a few pockets of folks in the convention centre who stubbornly refused to give, but I think they made their minds up long ago to either not vote or go with McCain instead. Still, the pundits gave her the high marks so that little mission is now over. Now it's Obama's turn to seal the deal.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wednesday August 27, 12:06 p.m.

Received a minor bombshell from The Pessimist...but I guess from my code name for him, it shouldn't have been too surprising. He's decided to give up the goat, so to speak, for the time being. He cited a number of personal reasons...busy schedule, depression, money, etc. And he isn't exactly near the end of his contract; he still has 10 more lessons coming to him, but he said that it could be a few months before he decides to come back again; I think he will since that's a good chunk of yen he's leaving in limbo. He was acting more forlorn than usual so I had to do The Dancing Bear with him and talk about ramen throughout Japan. We're both tonkotsu fans...that is, we're great connoisseurs when it comes to the famed ramen hailing from Fukuoka in Western Japan with that bone-white soup leached from pork bones. I learned from him that the real tonkotsu soup is actually quite watery although the great flavour is still imbued in it. I had always thought that tonkotsu was nearly globby. So, then I gather that the shop, "Akai Noren" in Maru Biru near Tokyo Station really does sell the real McCoy.

In any case, I'm out another student. Speedy will not be too happy about this state of affairs although his renewal was still several weeks away. And my Friday will now be nearly entirely empty except for Jolly's 90 in the evening...that is, if my juku student doesn't dotakyan.
Wednesday August 27, 10:26 a.m.

Had the second lesson with the newly-improvised trio of The Milds and The Traveler. That was more in keeping what I'd feared about the new addition. She can understand pretty well but her vocabulary is way lower than The Milds, although in terms of fluency, she can hold her own. Afterwards, the boss and I agreed that if anything is gonna change, it'll happen in the next couple of weeks. As for Mr. Mild, he did go up Mt. Fuji a couple of weeks ago. He continued his image as a quietly tough ol' bird...didn't suffer any altitude sickness at all although he saw a lot of folks heaving on the side of the road. Apparently, the cup ramen at the canteens along the way cost 700 yen...7 times more than they would down at sea level. Talk about price gouging.

Will have The Pessimist in about half an hour. Then, it's pretty much nothing for 8 hours and change. May drop down to Shibuya for the first time in a number of weeks since The Class Act has been on hiatus.

As usual, I've only been able to catch the pre-game parts of the Democratic National Convention in Denver. So I'll be missing out on what could be the decisive speech of the entire left-wing love-in...Hillary Clinton's speech telling her rabid supporters to let her go and take hold of Obama. She'll need to hit a home run...if she's lucky, she'll probably get a triple. However, possibly to James Carville's possible relief, there has been some red meat thrown out there to the party faithful by Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Congressman Dan Kucinich. But it'll be Hil's speech that Barack's fortunes may be hinging on.

There have been a couple of more apartments going up in the last several weeks in my neighbourhood. One is being built over a parking lot while another is being constructed over what used to be a disused lumberyard. The latter one actually looks pretty enticing but I'm sure the key money and other security payments will mean that I'll never get a shot at it. Also, the fact that it's across from the elementary school definitely makes it a no-go.
Tuesday August 26, 7:07 p.m.

As expected, Jolly has dotyakan'ed. I get to go home after The Milds. However, he did say that he would come for Friday night. Therefore it'll be the second Donut Day of the week.

Had Suzanne for the hour just now. Interesting kid, that one. She admitted that she had been groped by those subway chikan in the past...back then, there hadn't been a law banning the activity. I finally learned from her the meaning for that most teenage of epithets, "Uzzai yo!" It just means "What a pain in the ass!" It may not sound like much in English but has quite a depth of meaning in the original Japanese. Suzanne is also one of those millions of women here who have taken up the wonderful world of yoga.

One of the nice benefits of working here is getting free food from time to time. I always get the free iced coffee in the summers. And now I have a plate of sliced pears on my table. Never a problem.
Tuesday August 26, 4:33 p.m.

Kinda misting out there right now. It may be cooler but the humidity is still just as oppressive. Almost feel like turning on the AC but I'd be afraid of ending with a layer of frost all over me.

Got the word from Speedy that Prissy has canned her lesson for tomorrow...which leave me with yet another Donut Day to deal with. Between the Pessimist and the Diver, there will be an 8-hour and 15-minute hole. I think it may be time for another recce out there, provided that the weather is better.

Came into the juku to see a quiet pooch in a cage at the genkan. The boss had told me last Friday night that her niece would be back in town with her dog in tow. Not really me for me to say, but I'm not too comfy with a dog in a cage. However, the boss' cousin's family has flown the coop after the weekend. I caught just the beginning of their invasion into the house. Apparently, one of the little tykes had a bedwetting episode on one of the futon, so right now, there is a rolled-up mattress beside me that would want to get dry but can't, because of the weather out there.

Forgot that Jolly owes the juku an extra half-hour so I've gotta teach him for 90 minutes tonight. UGH! But he could always cancel at the last minute.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tuesday August 26, 1:04 p.m.

Went off to see 002 this morning. The night before I'd invited Speedy and his wife to the burger lunch at Baker Bounce this Sunday. 001 and 002 have traditionally been a bit skittish about the bossman...I guess, sometimes, Speedy does show an overabundance of personality, but that's true for any entrepreneur. 002 was quite nervous when I told her but she reassured that she would be OK. I've also sent advance word to be honest, I'm pretty sure she'll still come. I also got a melon bread from The Baker in tribute. Unfortunately, she won't come since she's got family obligations that day. In any case, I'm still OK with the invitation to the boss; he told me that he was going to be Tokyo Midtown that day anyways, and I would prefer to avoid any potential awkwardness....for example, if he showed up at Baker Bounce by coincidence while we were noshing away.

Have the juku folks tonight. As usual, it'll be a waiting game to see if Jolly shows up again. However, Suzanne will be there, as well as the new trio of The Milds and The Traveler.

The Democratic National Convention launched on schedule today. Woke up to see Wolf and Anderson start the CNN proceedings. Didn't get to see Ted Kennedy give what could be his very last speech or Michelle Obama tout the strong points of her husband. But I did catch James Carville on write about how the DNC dropped the ball by not going on the attack immediately. I wasn't too overly concerned about what Carville said since he seems to love to create trouble for just about everyone, regardless of political affiliation. However, I do believe that if Barack Obama wins or loses the election in several weeks, the pundits will be looking at this week as the key defining moment.
Monday August 25, 4:48 p.m.

Well, The Beijing Olympics are now history, and whaddaya know? They were a runaway success by any stretch of the imagination. And the Chinese could not complain at all; they were basically the winners of the competition with all of the Gold medals they raked in. Of course, the Communist treatment couldn't totally be avoided. I almost had to laugh when I heard about the government's "offer" of letting protestors do their thing in protest parks. All the "Free Tibet" people and other such organizations had to do was apply and then show up. Of course, most likely the applications ended up in the round file and the few folks who did gullibly show up at the parks were rounded up faster than Admiral Ackbar could yell "IT'S A TRAP!" and kept on very cold ice for the duration of the Games.

I was surprised to find out that the winner of the Men's Marathon, a Kenyan by the name of Samuel Wansiru, was also once a high school student up in Sendai, and he could do a pretty good post-race interview in Japanese with NHK.

Japan, though they weren't anywhere close to their heyday in Athens 2004, did quite well in the medal standings. 25 medals was a good turnout and a good 25 times better than their pathetic performance in the Winter Olympics a couple of years ago. Of course, the athletes are now going through their endless round of television appearances in the home country. We'll probably be inundated with the usual interviews for the next week.

Of course, for's now going from sports to politics with The Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, starting from tomorrow morning, local time. The Obama-Biden ticket is gonna really have to dig in, though.

Since things are on summer hiatus, I had lunch at Baker Bounce in Tokyo Midtown today. My timing couldn't have been better. Things were pretty empty when I entered the burger house but then a few minutes, the lunchtime crowd rushed in. I had their Burger Lunch at 1,050 yen...nice big burger with bacon and Monterey Jack but a bit chintzy on the fries, though. All of this was just a recon mission of sorts before I bring 001, 002 and her hubby there on Sunday. Afterwards, I just walked through the mist and browsed at Aoyama Book Centre before settling in at the Starbucks in Roppongi Hills for an hour with one of my old copies of "The Onion".

I'm back at Speedy's. I found out that The Full-Timer has cancelled her class for tonight so I've gotta wait for more than 4 hours before Medicine Man comes along. At this rate, Wednesday and Thursday will probably be the Hump Days of the week. There's a chance that The Pessimist may be my only class on Friday. I will need to check on the results of my checkup on that day.
Monday August 25, 4:39 p.m.

When the DVD Nights were over at my place, it was always takeout pizza as the main course. But now that the Nights have shifted over to MB's place for the time being, MB and I have had the run of the far more culinarily interesting Jiyugaoka. Just before the Timothy Dalton Bond-fest, MB took me to this Chinese restaurant with great dishes and surly service. I half-agreed with his assessment. The food was indeed excellent...tofu with chopped spring onions and thousand-year-old eggs was sublime (MB was grateful that I've become a recent convert to the admittedly acquired-taste eggs since he can't order them while The Sylph is around...she refuses to even see the dish), mabo dofu, deep-fried chicken, etc...but I had no problem with the service. Sure the waitresses weren't the usual smiley automatons and the vocabulary was terse, but that's what a Chinese restaurant least the ones my family had eaten at back in Toronto.

The next day, MB took me to a small one-man-operated ramen restaurant which had a reasonable deal in the form of a hefty bowl of ramen with fried rice on the side. He was a bit disappointed that none of the side dishes were available during lunch but I had no complaints. Yep, my neighbourhood definitely lacks in the fine dining department when compared to Jiyugaoka.
Monday August 25, 4:10 p.m.

It was a James Bond view-a-thon at MB's second DVD Night...more accurately, it was Timothy Dalton's James Bond night. Finally got to see the only two 007 flicks that I'd never seen. I only got to see "The Living Daylights" partially and had never seen one iota of "License to Kill" despite it approaching two decades since their release. I only heard about how mediocre they were and just gave up on them.

However, Movie Buddy, being the biggest James Bond fan this side of the Pacific, has been far more charitable and after finally seeing them, I can say that I agree that they've been left underrated to a certain extent. Almost 20 years before Daniel Craig's somewhat more actorly turn on one of cinema's most famous characters, Timothy Dalton had given Bond a more thespian grounding by returning to Ian Fleming's original roots for the character. All of the actors who had done Bond before, including my favourite of them, Sean Connery, were either former models/TV stars. Dalton was the first stage-trained thesp to take on the role, and he actually gave the character more dramatic heft. He even had to tear up briefly in "License to Kill" and looked convincing. It's a pity that he wasn't allowed to keep on doing the character. Pierce Brosnan, as about as perfect for the 007 role as could be, was still a return to the model school and I just remember that as much as he tried to really bring more gravitas to his Bond, he was still trapped in his Bond-as-a-superhero.

"The Living Daylights" definitely took James Bond into a different direction from the several movies with Roger Moore during the 70s and early 80s. I'd heard about how seemingly important it was for Bond to be monogamous in the frightening days of AIDS. And despite the climactic high-altitude battle between James and Necros the henchman, the plot of the movie was a lot less fantastical than the supervillains and the almost-impossible-to-believe situations that were concocted. "The Living Daylights" dealt with arms dealers and Afghan mujahdeen.

But ironically, it was "License to Kill" that was the one true revelation for me. It had been criticized for looking a lot less glossy...almost on the level of a made-for-TV budget. But after having seen it, I've been convinced that it and "The Living Daylights" were more on the vibe of Sean Connery's second Bond outing "From Russia With Love"...considered to be one of the best spy movies, period. Yep, there were indeed weak points in the latter movie (Q being allowed to have a larger role [that was a surprise!]; a bar brawl), but the overall "Yojimbo" aspect of it with Bond being the puppetmaster was quite a revelation. However, I think the 180-degree turn in tone from the cartoonish Roger Moore years to the far grittier Timothy Dalton period was all a bit too much for fans and moviegoers, and so five years had to pass by before a more cinema-friendly Pierce Brosnan entered in "Goldeneye".