Saturday, November 01, 2008

Saturday November 1, 5:27 p.m.

Finished my marathon of students. Mr. TOEIC was gabby on cooking of all things, The Businesswoman talked on her trip to Germany, The PA spoke on the changing face of Ginza, The Dentist described about her various trips to the spa and the new kid on the block, Miss Pronounciation, had a good start. This teacher is now tired and ready for the weekend. Luckily, it's a long one...we've got Culture Day on Monday. But my week next week will be fairly hellish; got a bit of a log jam on Thursday especially. I've even had to hand off Mr. TOEIC over to Speedy to fit Miss Pronounciation for her request on that night.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Saturday November 1, 9:51 a.m.

Well, Halloween is over...costumes are being put away...some of the costumed have probably been put away as well. Out come the Xmas decorations. Tokyu Hands was already way ahead of the curve as of Thursday night. The lit-up trees were already using up the electricity; there was even a Halloween tree to provide a smooth transition between holidays. I could imagine that Hands is probably thinking of a Thanksgiving tree.

The Ace came in last night and took the word "carving" literally to make his Jack O'Lantern. He was hacking at the interior like an axeman...was rather relieved that he was able to get it done within the hour. As for The Restauranteur, she has definitely become one of my fans; she has been very grateful for the expressions I've been able to teach her. In my line of work, I have a few fans, a few obvious detractors but most of the rest are solidly in the middle.

I'm feeling pretty tired right now, and I've got five lessons right in front of a freight train coming from the wrong direction. I've bought some goodies from La Vie Du France to help tide me over during the half-hour between Mr. TOEIC and The Businesswoman. After those two, I've got The PA, The Dentist and then Miss Pronounciation for her first lesson. I'll be ready to be poured into a bucket by 5 today...just like Odo.

I don't know what the staff situation will be like today. Speedy hasn't contacted me about who will be coming in. I gather that no news means that The Lab Tech will be in for her regular Saturday shift. Just hope that I won't be going totally solo.

We're into the final weekend before the biggest election in U.S. history (sorry about the hyperbole). Saw The Terminator himself give a rousing speech touting John McCain in Ohio this morning...I'm sure McCain is ruing the fact that he didn't use him earlier. May be a different situation if that had been the case. Apparently, Joe the Plumber has now hired his own publicity team...uh-oh, I sense a rather big fall for this guy. Obama is still leading in the national polls, but I still say that it'll come down right to the exit polls.

Anyways, gotta get back into it.
Friday October 31, 6:45 p.m.

It just seems like Winter is knocking down the doors trying to get in. The past couple of days have seen the temps just plummet (or at least feel like it). Saw quite a few commuters wearing their cold masks on the subways. Ray was looking distinctly kazegimi today at the school, just sniffling away. I was feeling pretty diminished myself as I got myself on the Tozai over to the juku...the consequences of not having anything to eat since breakfast.

It was providence then that I decided to stop off at the juku, before I headed for The Restauranteur's place. The timing was pretty good...the boss couldn't make heads nor tails about something on my pay sheet; I just pressed one button and it was all fixed, and I don't consider myself a computer expert by any means. In any case, she had no students til 8:30 so it was an easy thing for us to head over to my student's restaurant for dinner. Obviously, The Restauranteur hadn't been expecting us but her hard studying paid off and she was able to greet me in English. The boss was pleasantly surprised. She had the doria while I went for the famed garlic chicken in demiglasse sauce. Very fine dish...I could understand why the boss usually chose that one. In any case, she will be coming by for her 4th lesson in a couple of hours. Meanwhile, I've got The Ace for his pumpkin carving.

Looks like the boss also has another cat to go with Toonces. This one is Blackie and she made the official introductions between me and him after we got back from dinner.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Friday October 31, 3:25 p.m.

Like checking my messages. Just found out that Mild Jr. has cancelled out. Well, I can be a bit more leisurely about my dinner tonight.
Friday October 31, 2:45 p.m.

The Big Lug and I had an interesting session today. Instead of the usual book, he wanted me to explain some jokes that John McCain made at some black tie dinner a couple of weeks ago. Basically, I ended up talking about stuff like swing states, ACORN and that kerfuffle about McCain suspending his campaign to get that economy right. He brought out his iPod and played the coverage via "Larry King Live"; always love those out-of-the-box classes.

That must've been some moment for Doctor Who fans and the assembled audience at that British TV awards show when David Tennant gave that semi-bombshell news about him leaving the titular role next year. I saw the YouTube of it...and was that Sylar/new Spock himself giving the award? All the comments were of screaming and mourning. Just a show, folks.

Well done here and so I'll be taking off in a few minutes for the juku. I'll probably have my next meal at The Restauranteur's establishment since I haven't had lunch yet and she always provides large portions. I don't want to unduly give her a heart attack but I was interested to see how she handles a "live-fire" exercise. I've got Mild Jr and then that lone pumpkin carving with The Ace before The Restauranteur comes in to wrap up.

Tonight is indeed the witching hour although it's been more like Halloween Week with the timing of this year's holiday. A lot of the clubs and pubs have been holding their big parties all over Tokyo since last Saturday. Probably tonight will have all of the freaks and geeks out in force in Roppongi and Shibuya. The Carolinan is going to some shindig with a friend at a reserved suite in The Ritz-Carlton in Roppongi's Tokyo Midtown. I told her that she should do some observing at the main intersection.

For me, today is also the day of horrors for another a ton of bills to pay.
Friday October 31, 11:37 a.m.

Got those CDs on my points at HMV...Toko Furuuchi's latest in 3 years, and the best hits of Ego-Wrappin'. Just had a chance to look at Toko's extra DVD with her video and live appearance. Only managed to get through the first 30 seconds of the live part to realize that she shouldn't give up her studio job...terribly off-tune. The Carolinan, strangely enough, gave me some commentary on my purchases...that Toko has changed a bit; I just told her that she's gained a few kilograms....that's not a slam...I always thought she seemed a bit too thin at times. As for the lead singer of Ego-Wrappin', Yoshie Nakano, my student told me that she'd lived in the States for a time which might give some insight in her choice of lyrics and musical genre.

As for The Carolinan, we met at that Excelsior Caffee in Nishi-Shinjuku 7. It actually still exists despite its seeming persona non grata status on its website. It wasn't particularly empty but at least it didn't feel like having a lesson in a rush hour train. She's got a birthday coming up right on Election Day in the States. As usual, she and her sister, The New Yorker, will be having dinner at their favourite restaurant, the Hard Rock Cafe.

Before the lesson and the CD shopping, I had a very late lunch at Foo Foo, my old ramen haunt in JR Shinjuku. My old pai ko tan tan men was still there to be eaten; the soup is much less kotteri, more asari now. Not quite a pity. It just means that there is a slightly less chance of my arteries hardening immediately.

Got home to watch those Charlie Brown discs. "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" are two of the three crown jewels amongst the Peanuts animated specials. I noticed that the discs have been distributed by a variety of studios: Paramount, Warner Bros and even Fuji. Paramount is the newest one with the remastered versions. The Thanksgiving special was the one given that treatment with a 15-minute making-of show and a throw-in of one of the "This is America, Charlie Brown" slots about the Peanuts gang on the Mayflower. Having been done in the late 80s, Vince Guaraldi was long gone (a minus there) and the drawing was a lot more scattershot. Still, it was pretty genius for an American pop culture icon to teach history in its way. On the other hand, it was a bit jarring to see Charlie, Peppermint Patty and Linus talking about dying rather nonchalantly and looking like they were about to spew while on the ship. I was half-expecting to see Snoopy in desperation being forced to eat Woodstock. And I couldn't quite figure out why Lucy always had muddy bare feet.

Also listened to those way-out CDs of sci-fi tunes that The Trekkie had loaned me back on Monday. There was one entry called "Extremis" by some techno outfit that had an assist by Gillian Anderson of "The X-Files"; she was basically droning some sort of nonsense. I think the recording session had a bit of some weed going around at the time. And there was Geoff Love and his orchestra giving their cheesy disco versions of "UFO" and "Logan's Run". It would've been perfect if the guy just had added a "Mc" and an "-in" to his name.

Anyways, I've got The Big Lug in an hour followed by the juku crew tonight. I got a message from the boss last night that apparently Jolly had been in China for the past several days on business and that he would be heading off to India for another business trip. But he would be back on November 18th. Kinda nice to have him back but I wish he would be more considerate about letting us know about these things.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thursday October 30, 2:40 p.m.

Almost finished for the day with The Yogist and Miss Sedona done. The Yogist had her final lesson for the next little while, at least. It could be late March before she come back...if she comes back. Miss Sedona has been writing an English diary to improve her skills. I've been reading a fair share of drama in her life involving, I'm assuming, her boyfriend and the fact that her thighs are a bit too big for short skirts.

All I've got is now The Carolinan. Apparently her branch of Excelsior is missing in the Nishi-Shinjuku neighbourhood. I'll be investigating and see if there might be another place to try.

Just heard that David Tennant has finally decided to leave the TARDIS for good after the 2009 round of specials. Good for's always nice to have that periodic regeneration. Now, the sweepstakes have begun once again about who's gonna be the new Doctor Who. We've got quite a few people on the forums crying in their beer, though.
Thursday October 30, 9:19 a.m.

A bit of a traffic jam at the door just now. I finished up with The Smile and had to contend with the meeting of The Patent Attorney who had just ended his lesson with the bossman and also Grandma Dynamite who came through the door. I think the bossman probably wished every day and every hour were like that.

I've got some more prep work to do but I am grateful for the hour's respite before my turn with Grandma Dynamite.

Jennifer Hudson is going through hell right now after having coming across her murdered family a few days ago. I couldn't imagine what she's experiencing and hope I never have to...the Sympatico news page...about as smarmy as anything that a reality show could bring up had the cojones to actually ask the question "What next for Jennifer Hudson?" As if the massacre of her mother, brother and nephew were the next stepping stone in her career....disgusting.
Thursday October 30, 7:43 a.m.

Back here somewhat bleary-eyed but I did get my McBreakfast in. Overcast...and actually quite chilly...looks like that transition to Winter is coming. Plus, I saw quite a few commuters wearing the masks. All we need is the Xmas decorations...and I'm sure they will be up on Saturday.

Looked up that Excelsior Caffe where The Carolinan and I are supposed to meet for the lesson tonight but it may not exist. I also missed a bullet when I checked with Shard about his requests; it looks like my imagination caught up with me...he never asked for a Jo Hisaishi album (the fellow that is often behind all those Studio Ghibli soundtracks). But he still would like to borrow that ol' Yen Town Band album from over a decade ago.

Listened to that sci-fi hits compilation that The Trekkie had lent me last night. "Doctor Who", "The Outer Limits", "Blake's 7"...they were all in there. It sounded a bit strange to hear the jaunty theme from "Thunderbirds" at midnight, though.

Anyways, the gang is all here...Speedy and Ray are in for the early shift just like me.
Wednesday October 29, 9:27 a.m.

I'm done for the day. 001 and The Diver were fine although the latter was rather jittery over some pronounciation exercises. Methinks she could use a bit of practice with the "Fuzzy Wuzzy" limerick. As for 001, we almost made it through without needing the text for a 3rd week in a row but finally we had to touch upon something. Along with a few other students, she's also expressed some interest in the US elections next Wednesday morning (our time). Could be a doozy.

Just heard from The Carolinan. Since I finish up with Miss Sedona tomorrow in the early afternoon, I won't need to hang out at the school so I'll be meeting The Carolinan at an Excelsiors not too far away for the next lesson. I really hope that it's a whole lot less noisy than that Starbucks above JR Ichigaya.

Kinda top-loaded in the morning with The Smile, Grandma Dynamite, The Yogist and Miss Sedona. It'll be The Yogist's final lesson for the next 4 months at least....maybe forever. But then I've got some down time before The Carolinan. I'll be headed straight out in a few minutes; I need that extra sleep since I'll be out the door at 6 a.m. Yep, you heard me correctly.
Wednesday October 29, 4:29 p.m.

Finally had that lesson with The Class Act this morning. The Matron is continuing to enjoy her status as grandmother. Her husband finally met the in-laws, including his daughter-in-law and granddaughter after having disagreed vociferously to the marriage. However, he was pretty much putty after picking up his son's little girl. Men usually are. So, chalk one crisis averted.

The Lady informed me that this year's Xmas party will be later in December so I won't be able to attend. But then again, I wasn't really sure that I wanted to go again...certainly, after feeling a bit moochy for basically taking some of my posse there and just having repeated gos at the buffet table. I'm kinda wondering if my time with The Class Act may also be doing the slow fadeout; I only had the ladies once this month and I won't be able to see them until late next month. It wouldn't surprise me since I've had them for close to 5 years.

After The Class Act, I decided to build up on my HMV points some more before I start my Xmas shopping in earnest. I had been thinking of actually getting the presents right from today, starting with Shard but I just wanted to make sure I got his requests right. I did build my points up to a good a couple of more Charlie Brown DVDs and even a compilation CD of The Singer's greatest hits. Still, even including the points on my Tower Records cards, I still won't get much of a discount off of all of the Xmas shopping I have to do.

I took the bus from Shibuya Station up to Speedy's. I could take the subway up here in arguably shorter time and 40 yen cheaper but I get more enjoyment from the view from the bus. It kinda provides an oasis while I see all of the chaos outside in the world's largest metropolis. As my transport passed NHK Studios between Shibuya and Yoyogi, I saw some of the trees changing colour; it still doesn't feel crisp out there although it's far more pleasant than the summer. I noticed that the old Volks Steakhouse has been replaced by a trendy-looking coffee-and-donut shop. Speaking of which, The Class Act was remarking how much Shibuya and Ginza were changing recently. Britain's H&M stores are invading into both areas. The Ginza branch has already opened to huge lineups (the Japanese and their love of queues...sigh) while Shibuya's store won't be open for another year. It's taking over a huge block of space just across from the venerable Tokyu Department Store...that area used to house a chic Viron coffeeshop and a Book 1st branch...hmmm, I always prefer an area that has a variety of stores rather than one massive megastore.

Ginza may be one of the world's most famous shopping streets but the way The Class Act was talking about it, it's starting to sound like it's becoming one big tourist trap... et tu, Times Square and Niagara Falls? In decades past, the area had this rather posh image befitting its cost of real estate with folks dressed up a bit more better for the stroll. Still, a lot of the restaurants and stores there will only have me pressing my nose up against the glass rather than entering them.

When I got to Speedy's, I found out that The Trekkie had not only returned my Brent Spiner CD but also lent me something of her own....a compilation of various TV sci-fi themes, including "Doctor Who" and "Logan's Run"...I hope I have a bit of time tonight to listen. Doubt it since I've got that really early start with The Smile tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday October 28, 9:03 p.m.

Well, I managed to get the 3rd annual juku Pumpkin Carving Night done successfully yet again. I was able to get a bit of overlap between Suzanne's and The Milds' sessions. The Ace actually couldn't make it in due to a cold. He'll have to do his carving on Friday...gonna be a bit tricky since he's in between Mild Jr. and The Restauranteur. Speaking of Mild Jr., he actually came in with his parents tonight to help out. He even baked a chocolate cake with a bit of olive oil, of all things. It lent a very nice buttery flavour to the cake...without the calories.

Suzanne had a rollicking good time with her little pumpkin. Hers wasn't quite as accomplished as The Milds' efforts (that family must have artistic genes) but it was cute. She also made a friend in the form of a regular foreign customer at her supermarket, notably when she found out that said customer hailed from Orange County, California...the O.C. itself, the show that Suzanne is in thrall to at the moment. As I said, there was some overlap between her and The Milds who decided to come in at 7, so I made the introductions between the two classes. A pity she missed out on the chocolate cake. As for Mrs. Mild, she thoroughly enjoyed her time touring through the south of France. I even got some chocolae and a bar of soap from Marseilles.

The completed Jack O'Lanterns should make for a nice backdrop at the kids' Halloween party at the juku tomorrow. If the numbers are what the boss is guessing, it should be total mayhem. Luckily, I'll be kilometres away in either Shibuya or at Speedy's.

Speaking of whom, I found out that that pronounciation model lesson student will now be a bona fide student from this Saturday. The 1st will be a truly busy day. But every little bit of income I make between then and Xmas will be vital. As a bit of a pun, I guess my newest student will be Miss Pronounciation. Of course, she will never know this.

Pretty much finished here for tonight since Jolly is now off the roster. He never said goodbye or thanks. Not that I'm particularly bitter or's just part of the culture. A few entries ago, I was making a comparison between my adopted country and the West via the popularity of Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Back Stateside, Charlie Brown is beloved because people can empathize with his perpetual loser status, while here Snoopy is by far the most popular Peanuts character since he comes out as the perpetual winner. Well, another comparison can be made between the countries in terms of breaking off an informal business relationship. I emphasize informal since in formal situations, there are usually all sorts of written documents outlining the breakup. In any case, my image of the Western way of breaking off something is that the person who wants to leave the (student-teacher)relationship will be upfront and just say that this isn't working out. Usually, the other side will be a bit disappointed but will give the golden handshake and wish him/her well. All very honest. In fact, truth above all else...except honour. Over here, it seems like the big word in Japan is face above all else, including truth. Jolly has just ignored the phone calls from the juku boss and never called back...not a lie per se, but the message was pretty clear. In the past, The Temp, Seven and Miss Disney and some others have basically said that they've become "busy" of late and can no longer come for lessons....a pretty obvious lie that both parties can see right through but which is still stated. They don't want to be confrontational about the fact that the relationship is just not cutting it so they give in this reason to save face but still get out. It used to sting a lot for me since I resented the fact that they would "resort" to such bald subterfuge but the fact is that this is seen as probably the only correct way to go about it. It doesn't bother me as much now although my Western ways haven't been burned out of me quite yet.

In any case, I'm just about ready to head on back home with a considerably lighter bag since I no longer have to worry about pumpkins to lug. Not too busy tomorrow. Just the rescheduled Class Act, followed by 001 and The Diver at Speedy's. Thursday should be another Hump Day, though.

Basically another week before the longest campaign trail in world history, let alone American history, finally comes to its close. Obama still has a lead and perhaps McCain's window of last chances is closing fast, although I'm still thinking that a rabbit could be pulled out. In any case, over here, it's still Palin's Japanese-made glasses and the town called Obama that's probably creating the biggest effect from this election. Speaking of elections, PM Aso has still waffled on when he's gonna pull the trigger and dissolve Parliament. He wants to get the country out of this financial crisis so that his popularity rating can get out of the gutter but if he waits any longer, the decision may be taken out of his hands. In any case, it seems that the main Opposition in the form of the Japan Democratic Party may have started its putsch. On the way to the juku, there was a megaphone-laden car exhorting the masses to vote JDP. It would seem that the war has been declared.
Tuesday October 28, 4:30 p.m.

It's been a pretty decent but sunny. Had a bit of a meterological burp last night when the rains suddenly came on down with some thunder and lightning without any warning from the weatherfolks, so ended up with some damper than usual laundry on the line but by morning, they were all bone-dry.

Here at the juku, the pumpkins are ready to go...just waiting for the first of the carvers, Suzanne, to show up in 90 minutes. The Ace will be here and then The Milds. As for the rest of the roll call, it looks like my suspicions have been borne out. Jolly is now out of the picture; he hasn't called in for a few weeks and the boss has tried to make contact but to no avail. Not too badly put off by his defection since he was pretty faithful for a couple of years and at least I can go home a good 2 hours early now. The Traveler looks like she may be out as well, although again the cynic in me has me partially suspecting a little white lie here. The boss contacted her yesterday to find out that she's going through a cycle of depression. The Traveler in her short time at the juku was actually fitting in quite well with The Milds, something that I didn't think would happen. And I had no inkling that The Traveler was feeling so low. The boss told me that a lot of folks here in Japan are going through that, and I could believe it with all of those "personal emergencies" I hear on a daily basis on the JR and subways. Still, I have heard the sickness line from students who just were no longer interested in my services. I was a bit mystified when the boss said that she may or may not show up tonight. If she's that depressed, I would think that she wouldn't ever come back here.

The boss told me about her own little emergency. She went in for a checkup on Friday at St. Luke's and was told that she may have a bit of cancer in her stomach. She then wisely got a second opinion and that doctor told her it may just be an ulcer. Here's hoping that it's the latter.

In any case, the boss' student has come in annoyingly too early so I'm switching off for now.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday October 27, 7:21 p.m.

Managed to pick up The Full-Timer and teach her here at the school. There was a bit of a snafu on the schedule so Speedy has ended up teaching Mr. TOEIC instead of me. Not too bad...could use with a bit of a break.

Over the weekend, I did my Halloween purchases. After the session here at Speedy's on Saturday, I dropped by Omotesando and picked up some candy and Trick Or Treat bags. A ton of people massing the sidewalks and not a few of them were in costume mode. On Sunday, after the latest lesson with Tully & The Coffeemaker, I headed back down to Hiroo and picked up four orange pumpkins for carving at National Azabu Supermarket. There was also a distinctly Halloween atmosphere with a lot of bilingual kids in various costumes...there was also one adult in a Captain America outfit. Amongst the gourds, I picked up a can of Campbell's Chunky Soup...the marketers weren't kidding when they said that it ate like a meal...I'm sure my cholesterol count just hit the roof after ingesting that stuff.

I finally caught "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" in its entirety on Saturday night. In this age of stunning and CG-inspired animation (re: "WALL*E"), looking at Charlie's first foray into motion pictures was particularly retro and nostalgic. But the producers of this 39-year-old classic certainly tried to push the envelope in their presentation. Certain scenes looked like they were inspired by the folks behind "The Thomas Crown Affair", Expo 67 and even "2001: A Space Odyssey". That Schroeder tribute to Beethoven shouldn't be seen under the influence. The Rod McKuen songs were nothing really that special but Vince Guaraldi was the 10th player in the field with the score. For a movie that lasted under 90 minutes, it managed to bring out just about all of the characters' various it was probably a good hit for the Peanuts fans.

I did notice that the Japanese title was "Snoopy and Charlie". No real surprise there since the world's most anthropomorphic dog is also the most popular character in Peanuts here in Japan. The Japanese always prefer winners....the characters may have started out as losers and may have gone through the wringer (brutal coaches, spartan training, evil bullies) but as long as they come out on top, they'll always be loved. So, I couldn't really see Charlie and his human cohorts being all that popular. The Americans may love them as being reflections of themselves with all of their neuroses, but that philosophy doesn't fly here. They must finally win and Charlie Brown is the perpetual loser. On the other hand, Snoopy seems to be the most "with-it" of the gang.

I also went through the remastered edition of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (which is called "A Snoopy Christmas" here) and compared it with the addition of the far later "It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown". 27 years separate the two specials and they reflect different stages in the Peanuts saga. Whilst the 1965 special had the overall plot arc of Charlie Brown lamenting the commercialization of Christmas with his pal, Linus, the 1992 special was basically a series of vignettes covering a lot more characters...notably Peppermint Patty, Marcie and Rerun. All of the veterans were basically acting as special guest appearances right down to Charlie and Linus just watching the stage play instead of being in it.

My relatively busy day is now coming to a close with just The Medicine Man to teach in less than 2 hours. Then, I'm basically off tomorrow except for the pumpkin carving at the juku. When I called up the juku boss to ask about whether or not The Traveler was coming (something that I'd mentioned to her last Tuesday), she of course had completely forgotten about it.
Monday October 27, 5:57 p.m.

The rains are coming down, and noone told me. I've got my laundry on the line...not that I'm particularly miffed since I've experienced an unscheduled wash a number of times before. I think I was more miffed at my phone, actually, this morning. Apparently, it refused to cut the last line I was on and The Lady spent a lot of the early morning trying to reach me to dotakyan the lesson. I ended up heading over to the house for nothing but I was lucky to run into the woman on the way back to the station and get some cancellation money. However we did decide to re-schedule for this Wednesday.

So I ran back home to reset my phone and just ended up having lunch there. I got back and slammed the phone a few times in revenge. Then I went to meet SIL for the first time in a few weeks before heading back here to see The Nurse.

Gotta head out and pick up The Full-Timer.