Friday, December 25, 2009

Friday December 25, 5:21 p.m.

Once again, I write from my brother's place in The Great White North on this Xmas Day. I've been back for a little over a week now. It's been the usual stuff of meeting up with old friends and stuffing myself silly. Had quite the feast last night with Ol' Sam and his family along with some others, and I'll probably end up doing the same in a few minutes with my own family.

Unlike in recent years, Toronto is having a Green Xmas this year...just some cold rain to bring in the Yuletide. Not that I mind too much...certainly moving around is a lot easier and admittedly, it's more comfortable not having to freeze one's tail feathers off.

I'm looking forward to a few more days ahead of meeting up with old friends for lunch and dinner. Gonna have to be careful with the funds, though. Pretty limited this time around.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wednesday December 16, 3:59 p.m.
Just one more lesson to go and then I'll be officially on the Holidays. Had Grandma Dynamite for the double and The Nurse earlier today. And then I went down to Times Square to pick the last couple of presents from Tokyu Hands and some reading material for the eventual flight home.
Just another Xmas tree near the main intersection of Ginza. Quite popular with the shutterbugs.
It'll be Mr. TOEFL who'll round out the year with me. Speedy had him yesterday, and yep, as I suspected, the bossman also relayed the message of our newest student not quite beating the clock for his Speaking Test.
Anyways...more later...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Monday December 14, 4:28 p.m.

Back from some more Xmas shopping. I was able to kill two birds with one stone by being able to get both my niece's present and that book for The Anime King at Yodobashi Akiba. And I could use some points off the card for a nice little discount on the Anpanman game (and that is for the niece). No doner kebab today but instead I decided to get a Whopper at Burger King nearby. Right in front of the shop, some hardcase cop was reaming out a taxi driver for some infraction. It seems to be one way or the other; I'd seen a taxi driver take on 4 cops in Shibuya once.

With that, I believe I've got virtually all of the shopping done, although I feel that I should get something as a housewarming gift for The Entrepreneur and his wife, while something should be in store for Automan and his new bride. We'll see depending on how much stuff I can get into the suitcase and bag.

Well, gotta get started on Mr. TOEFL.
Monday December 14, 10:21 a.m.

Trying to get all the Xmas shopping done yesterday...still not totally successful. I went over to Yodobashi Akiba to try and find some paraphernalia for The Anime King. Did find some books to go along with his game, but the lineups for the cashiers were way too ludicrous so I've decided to hold until after my lesson with Miss Prissy to head back to Akihabara. However, I did find the game soundtrack for him at one of the other main stores, Gamers. As for the toy for my niece, I wasn't too successful there; went over to the Tokyo equivalent of FAO Schwarz, Hakuhinkan. Scoured through all four floors and lots of harried parents and overcaffeinated kids to see absolutely nothing that she would like. The same was true for Takashimaya up in'd think the largest stores in the largest city on the planet would have something.

Did pick up another disc for the parentals at HMV, and I bought a J-Pop Xmas CD at Yamano Music for myself. It's a self-cover of the classic Jun'ichi Inagaki tune "Christmas Carol no koro ni wa" as a duet with 90s pop queen Kohmi Hirose. She was well known for a soaring soprano that could melt steel, but I guess the years have brought that down to earth somewhat. In any case, the original is still the one to beat.

Met up with a large crew to catch "Public Enemies" last night. It was MB and his wife, The Satyr and his significant other, Skippy, Frodo and Tiberius. We had our dinner at my ramen shop of Foo Foo. I was feeling quite filled from my usual menu, and from the fact that I'd had an Akiba ithiyar (a bare-bones version of the doner kebab) earlier in the day. I think my Holiday binging has officially begun.

"Public Enemies" was quite good. Glad to see that Johnny Depp could get back into the saddle from the nonsense that was "Sweeney Todd" (although The Sylph and Frodo were bored by it). The performances were fine, and Billy Crudup definitely buried himself as J. Edgar Hoover; made me forget that he was Doctor Manhattan earlier this year. And Marion Cotilliard is hopefully a future star-in-waiting and will not end up like Cuba Gooding, Jr. or even Leelee Sobieeski...who actually was in the movie in a very minor part. Getting nommed last year for her role in "Piaf" doesn't hurt.

Had a good session with Cozy. And the bossman had his hat-in-hand look on his face as he asked me to teach an extra student since he's under the weather. Ugh! And I got Mr. TOEFL to do along with The Medicine Man. But not surprised that Speedy is sick...he's been working hard and burning the midnight oil right down to the bare wick for the past several weeks. Something had to give.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Saturday December 12, 2:08 p.m.

Anyways, my final instalment of the Ruiko Experience. All in all, as I've reiterated, it was finally good to see the face behind the voice. Not sure if I would be willing to go see her again since any future appearances would have her singing her old hits again and I'm not sure if I can really afford shucking out 4,000 yen a pop. Still, I can say that I had a good time at an Aoyama nightclub.

Well, I'm done here since I finished my three students. The PA informed me that "Public Enemies" is getting hammered here and abroad by critics. Not sure how all of us will be reacting tomorrow when MB, me and Skippy see it at the Picadilly. I recall that our last Johnny Depp movie, "Sweeney Todd" had us racing for the exits in horror.

The PA also talked our mutual like for the series "Criminal Minds" with Mandy Pantinkin. I was rather shocked to learn that Thomas "Hotch" Gibson was once the one and only Greg on "Greg & Dharma". Although the sitcom ran on NHK some years ago, I never became a fan so I didn't even know who had been portraying Greg. On "Criminal Minds", Agent Hotchner is probably only beaten by Sgt. Joe Friday as the stoniest face on TV.

Anyways, I gotta make another run to Akihabara to see if I can actually complete The Anime King's request and find something for this "Dream C Club" game.

Yesterday, I had what I'd thought would be my final Spicy Chicken Sandwich Set at the neighbourhood Wendy's, only to find out that it would be my final Spicy Chicken Sandwich Set ever. Wendy's is pulling out stakes and heading home by the end of the year...victim of the hamburger wars between McDonalds and Burger King, which ironically had its own exile for several years in the 90s before coming back strong a few years ago. To be honest, I was never a big fan of Wendy's burgers due to their overall greasiness but their chicken sandwiches managed to pull me in whenever I finished my stint with The Class Act on Mondays, but I guess that was about it for me.
Saturday December 12, 12:42 p.m.

So at 7:30 last night, Ms. Kurahashi appeared in the flesh as it were, dressed in a tartan jacket and blue jeans, looking very much like a middle-aged Shirogane woman. It was amazing to finally see a face mouthing those lyrics to those songs that I've been listening to for 25 years. My image of her had always been disjointed...hearing her whispery delivery while seeing her cover pictures. She was never much of an aidoru-like smiler; she always seemed rather depressed (such as in this picture here), or perhaps the proper words here would be "...esconced in ennui..."; even in those rare pictures where she did give a smile, she seemed rather melancholy.

Well, the voice and the face were finally made whole some 10 metres in front of me. And Ruiko Kurahashi seemed a much more happier person in person. I could actually see her singing all those hits like "Glass no Yesterday" or her cover of the Neil Diamond "Hello, Again". And not only did she sing, but she also bantered with the audience like any woman running into friends at the supermarket. She did have that Judy Garland moment when she started speaking about the Pixar picture, "Up"; let us say that her life has some parallels with that of Uncle Carl, but basically she happily chatted away and made a few jokes. Not sure what she was like during the 80s, but it was fairly apparent that she was now at peace with herself and with the world.

As for the concert itself, the set went for a solid 2 hours with no intermission. It was mostly a rendition of her old hits; as a first-timer, I was quite happy with it. The audience was very well-heeled like any audience in Japan. There were very few shoutouts...more like speak-out-outs.

Ah, The Publicity Assistant is here...

Saturday December 12, 11:16 a.m.
To continue the odyssey of Seeing Ruiko, the staff of Minami-Aoyama Mandala are to be commended as representatives of the much-vaunted Japanese efficiency. When I had first seen the middle-aged mob at the bottom of the stairs, I thought ruefully "Well, I guess it will be every man and woman for himself/herself." Nothing was further from the truth. Every ticket had a seiri bango, an "organizing number"; I was 32. The staffers of the live house had everyone come in by number, so the first few lucky ones had the choice of where to sit. As the masses entered the underground club, they showed their tickets and the receptionist asked for a drink order from the menu on the table (everyone was allowed to have one free drink); I went for the Cassis Orange...I got a slip of paper with the order written on it. And then we all went down single file into the club itself where we each had our order made up by a trio of bartenders. Once we got our drinks, then we were free to take over a seat.
The club itself wasn't too big...somewhat cozy but still a nice-sized establishment with a small stage in front and a combination of chairs, tables, and sofas. I went right for the back corner since my chivalry dictated that I shouldn't be taking any tables away from groups, and I don't think too many people would come stag...just me. I sipped away at my Cassis while the throngs were getting themselves settled for about the hour before showtime.
Then at 7:30, it was lights down and curtains up. More on that in the 3rd installment.
I just had Mr. TOEIC. He had the best excuse to divert us away from the fate of his make-up test. In a "the-dog-ate-my-homework" alibi, he sheepishly said that he had lost the test possibly amongst the reams of paperwork from his company. In other words, he rendered the entire matter moot. It will now be on Speedy's lap since his next lesson will be when I'm back over in the old country.
Now, within a few minutes, The Intellectual should be arriving.

Saturday December 12, 9:33 a.m.
Wish I didn't have to teach 3 classes today....especially I got Mr. TOEIC first at bat since he flubbed his last test. I hope he succeeded on the make-up.
But I digress....last night, I went to see a performance by a singer who I've long sought to see...probably on the order of a quarter-century since I bought her album in a Toronto Chinatown record shop back in university. Her name is Ruiko Kurahashi, a self-confessed balladeer from the 80s.
In a way, the horrible weather last night kinda fit the mood. Not to say that she's a horrible singer by any means. Not at all. But her mix of AOR ballads, chanson and light jazz has that relaxed air which actually enhances the weather outside. This is the type of music that I would like to hear when I come in from a steady cold rain...the stuff that I could warm up to with a cup of java.
It was basically a lousy day turning into night as I arrived in Gaienmae. And I spent several minutes looking for the Minami-Aoyama Mandala, the venue for Ruiko's concert. I was once again the typical addled male who had forgotten to write down the address and the map for the place. Finally, after brooding half-drenched over a Big Mac set in the nearest Golden Arches, I decided to give the place a call. Luckily, my Japanese was good enough so that I could find out that the Mandala was located just down the hill going towards swanky Nishi-Azabu away from the main intersection where Aoyama Bell Commons was. Y'know when things are getting swanky when the neighbourhood has that touch of France in its architecture and shops. I couldn't see a Starbucks or a Tully's to save my caffeine addiction along that street. I was still an hour early for the official opening of the doors but I passed by the club and I thought I did see Ms. Kurahashi herself downstairs in the basement where the nightclub was. She had that short haircut she's famous for and was wearing a gigantic fur coat that I couldn't imagine anyone but a celeb wearing...she looked not unlike a giant tribble. After a half-hour in a Starbucks nursing a latte and quietly deflating from the tension of searching for the place, I returned to the club.
Within that half-hour, a good bunch of fellow Ruiko fans had shown up. The average age of the mass seemed to float around the late 40s and early 50s, so I guess I was the baby of the group. I certainly didn't see anything that remotely looked like the typical Shibuya gal or even the well-to-do young couple of Omotesando. Still, a lot of them looked like they came from a higher income tax bracket than me. Glad that I kept my mouth shut.
I'll have to let you know about the concert itself in the next entry but I gotta boil the water for Mr. TOEIC....maybe a lot more if he's flunked the make-up.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday December 10, 10:38 p.m.

And thus we have once again come to the end of our programming day. Managed to last through 7 hours of lessons, including the official first one with Mr. TOEFL. I wasn't too satisfied with it, though the lad seemed to be OK. I need to streamline things down a bit. Just like an Olympic swimming coach, I have to get his times down as much as I can.

Also had the Sisters of State earlier in the evening. The New Yorker was OK, but The Carolinan has been pretty moody of late; not sure what is up with her aside from the fact that she's been brooding about her job. Hopefully, the month-long absence may do me and her some good.

And I finally finished up with The Music Man. Both of us were pretty exhausted but he was in good humor. He admitted that he is quite into the 1st-person shooting therapy for his stress. He just imagines all of the zombies to be his boss and other hated folks.

Tomorrow, I actually have a day off. I've gotta go get my niece's present and any other remaining presents. And then tomorrow night, I'll be catching Ruiko Kurahashi live in concert in Aoyama. 25 years in the making for this. I'll be wearing my Friday best and bringing along a camera and perhaps an old album for her to sign...if she's kind enough.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Thursday December 10, 1:00 p.m.

Well, got one-third of the students out of the way today. With a 2-hour session with Grandma Dynamite, I barely made it through...basically on fumes by the last half-hour. I think one factor was the fact that I hadn't made any tea for myself. It proved to be quite restorative during the hour-long lesson with Grandma FON.

Luckily, I've now got a few hours to prep for the rest of the other lessons. Just race through The Sisters of State and The Music Man while get down to town with Mr. TOEFL. Still feeling pretty woozy from the lack of sleep.
Thursday December 10, 8:35 a.m.

Ugh! Back at Speedy's after just 5 hours of sleep due to another late class-early class. Got a really long day ahead of me. Luckily, the first two are pretty easy to plan for with The Grandmas. But I'm still happy that this will be the last such transition of this year.
Wednesday December 9, 10:34 p.m.

Well, got that sale with Mr. TOEFL...yep, that's his name now. I managed to pull one out of the hat and got him to commit for 12. Although he wasn't aware of it, there was a bit of a fly-by-the-seats-of-one's-pants nature to the model lesson. Had to put my best teacher's face on, but the important thing is I got it done. And it was a lucky thing I did, too. Speedy admitted that if I hadn't gotten the sale, my chances of getting paid before I left for home would've been close to nil.

It'll be a really busy one tomorrow, since I've got Grandma Dynamite for a double followed by Grandma FON and then some hours later I've got The Sisters of State, then Mr. TOEFL followed finally by The Music Man. I'll be ready to be poured into a bottle by that point.

Wednesday December 9, 7:37 p.m.
Just less than half an hour away from a model lesson with a fellow who'd just come in yesterday seeking help in getting his TOEFL Speaking boosted. Speedy assures me that he's pretty much a lock as long as I don't totally screw things up. I've been planning things up for a few hours, so it should be OK.
Above you see the fruits of Hokkaido: on the left is a marvelous kit of ramen which consists of 6 packets of fresh noodles and 3 pairs of representative packets of ramen stock from the northernmost prefecture.: shoyu, shio and miso. Had the second batch yesterday which was the shio. I was smarter today....didn't try to stuff myself into explosion by adding on what is in the right picture...the ikameshi. Basically a long-distance cousin of stuffed bell peppers, the stuffee happens to be made of squid flesh instead of vegetation; the stuffing itself is flavoured rice.
Yesterday morning, when I was at the Tsudanuma cafe where The Beehive and I have been having our sessions for the past couple of years, there was a somewhat unwelcome presence in the form of a boryokudan'in....a gang member, probably a chinpira or a lower-echelon hood, waiting a couple of folks in front of me. He had the Nazi buzzcut, the typically crouched stance, the sunglasses and the swagger. Strange thing, though...he actually seemed like he was trying to be friendly with the his thuggish way. The woman who was taking care of him had her charm on full blast...which probably meant that she was terrified. I wouldn't have been surprised if there had been a little puddle underneath her skirt (yes, I know, that was rather nasty of me to say). Still, he didn't come on up to the 2nd floor, so I was rather relieved.
Later on at the juku, that lady who had wanted to come in all the way from Shinagawa for a model lesson with our motley place suddenly cancelled a few hours before showtime. She complained of a cold although the boss didn't notice any problem with her voice. So, probably she came to her senses and decided that the trip for just one hour of lesson wasn't worth it. As for The Milds, their trip to Vietnam came off pretty well, aside from the food which they didn't really cotton to, due to the usage of coriander. They also got a firsthand experience of the chaos of navigating through traffic on a typical Ho Chi Minh City street; methinks that it was comparable to The Millenium Falcon going through that asteroid field in "The Empire Strikes Back". Any film that they could've taken would've come with a John Williams soundtrack.
It's been a pretty easygoing day so far. The Milds had given me some Vietnamese coffee as a souvenir, complete with that little aluminum setup. It sure took some time getting all that coffee dripped out into the cup; the condensed milk was a nice addition. However, I'd thought that Vietnamese coffee was a kicker of a brew; but I fell nicely asleep on the subway coming over here.
Just had The Do-Gooder for her 90. She seems to be coming along although she won't be coming next week and 001 has cancelled for the rest of the year so I'm probably looking at a bare Wednesday next week, unless that TOEFL guy passes muster and decides to come everyday. I'm trying to see if I can get out of having to teach in the evening, though.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Monday December 7, 8:09 p.m.

Well, got the bonenkai out of the way last night. Had it in this little out-of-the-way cafe called Ken's Cafe near Shinjuku-Gyoenmae Station. Apparently, it's been mentioned a number of times on the trend-happy commercial stations and has been used for location shoots. This time, it was used as the venue for our little own party with the Speedy crew.

Yup, it was OK. As I've gotten older, I've started to not enjoy these massive get-togethers too much (if you call 23 people getting together too much). I think I've just gotten too used to the work format of one-on-one conversations over the past 5 years to really feel comfortable in a party setting. I've got students all around me, and so my ears have to attune themselves to all of these conversations going on and then try to address them so it probably seemed to some of my conversational partners that I was somewhat distracted. I had The Grandmas beside me, The Intellectual in front of me and our newest member of staff, The Cockney next to him. I'd first met her several days ago but the conversation was purely in Japanese. Last night was the first time I got to hear her in English, and yep, she sounded like someone who just popped out of a London suburban pub.
Well, let's see. The icebreaker game was a bit of a bust since La Fille and The Cockney got two of the 5 prizes, and since The Grandmas kinda shrugged their shoulders at the proceedings, but then again, I shouldn't be too hard...the ages of all three of them put together would total nearly a quarter-millenium. The food came out in short order....kinda on the Italian side with two pasta dishes making up the main stuff. The dessert was in the form of the largest custard pudding I've seen in 15 years and some dense gateau chocolat. Pretty good stuff. Of course, my metabolism had to choose a night in which I couldn't really break down the alcohol so my face grew red as a beet. I'm sure folks were talking.
Had a good chance to talk with Mr. Influence for the first time in several months. He'd tied the knot some weeks earlier and spoke about his new digs in Kanagawa Prefecture....longer commute, but he's got a house and a wife now.
Of course, since Speedy the barfly is the boss, there was a second party for which virtually all of the guests, except for The Grandmas, decided to head over to an izakaya. I was the only one under 50 who demurred since I did have Cozy for his usual early class and since I didn't think I would really enjoy extending my endurance into a nijikai. So I quickly said my goodbyes at the station and sped home.
I got Cozy and SIL out of the way earlier today. SIL was once again in fine fettle conversationally. Went to Akiba between their lessons to search for The Anime King's wish list. Some thingie called Dream C Club...very otaku-ish stuff. The King assured me that it would be located just about everywhere; but I looked through the main stores of Animate and Gamers...bupkiss. At least, I had my regular doner kebab there. Then I ended up getting a calendar and card for Frodo off in England. Tried looking for a toy for my niece at the Matsuzakaya but it looks like I'm gonna have to make that trip over to Colton Plaza to secure it.
I've got The Medicine Man in another hour. Then I gotta read up on a potential model lesson student for Wednesday night. He's itching to improve his TOEFL score by the 20th so it looks like he'll be coming in pretty much every day until then. Oy vey!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sunday December 6, 3:33 p.m.

Yes, as unusual as it may seem, I'm typing this on a Sunday...and at Speedy's, to boot. The reason being that in about an hour, I'm supposed to be heading for the annual school bonenkai (year-end party). I'm in my dress blues...a bit tight around the waist but I'm rather accustomed to long as the buttons hold for a few hours, I'm OK. Still waiting for the bossman to get in...he should've arrived almost 5 minutes ago, but then again, he's often late for stuff. I have to whip out the icebreaker game.

Got home and whipped up that dinner consisting of the food that The Beehive so kindly had gotten for me from Hokkaido last week. I think I went a bit overboard in cooking up the ikameshi and the miso ramen. I think either by itself would've been just ample, but I just had to get a little overambitious. Managed to survive not exploding by sitting very still for an hour. I'm sure I won't have to worry about that tonight at the party since we're being given a course menu.

Now, where is Speedy?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Saturday December 5, 2:11 p.m.

Got a good chunk of the Xmas shopping done today. Bought that DVD that all of the old folks here are raving about...a comedian by the name of Ayanokoji Kimimaro who apparently does Western-style standup schtick. My mother asked for it special...I have seen him on TV looking a bit like me with a ponytail (not sure if that resemblance had anything to do with her requesting it). In any case, his DVDs were rarer than gold until I found one single disc over at Shinjuku Tower Records yesterday...didn't waste time, I just grabbed it lest a senior citizen tried to wrestle me for it. Then, just before I came over to Speedy's, I hit Kinokuniya to get a ton of calendars for the bunch back home...grabbed 10 of the Japan-themed ones for 10,000 yen; the cashier advised to sign up for the point card but there was already a sizable line for it, so I decided to just scrap that idea.

Had my final Friday night at the juku for the year since I'm heading out next Friday to see Ruiko Kurahashi live. Heard some more from the juku boss about this potential new student I gotta give the model lesson to next Tuesday. Apparently, she's coming all the way over from Shinagawa and, as the boss suspects, she may be some rich, bored housewife. Shinagawa, as last week's party at Miss Honolulu's place would attest to, isn't just any old residential neighbourhood but does have a mix of fancy-schmancy condos, hi-tech company headquarters (including SONY) and the Tokyo Regional Immigration Centre...the only reason I go to that area. The boss and I are hoping that this lady realize that she may be schtupping down a bit on the social ladder by coming to our neck of the woods.

Yesterday also seemed to be "Give-Presents-to-Me Day" for some reason. I got a package of rice crackers and tsukudani from The Bow as omiyage to my parents. I guess her family is kinda old-fashioned that way. Then, The Restauranteur gave me an o-chuugen gift of Britsh tea. Never a bad thing.

Speaking of gifts, my dinner will be mostly consisting of that Hokkaido food package I got from The Beehive a few days ago. So, it'll be ramen topped with veggies and BBQ pork along with ikameshi (squid stuffed with seasoned rice). I did try that Subway seasonal menu of Roast Chicken with Melted Cheese...not bad, the cheese was quite gooey, though.

Since The Publicity Assistant canned her lesson today, I just have The Businesswoman in about 90 minutes.

Between The Bass and The Bow, I dropped off at Colton Plaza near Moto-Yawata Station and checked out the local Toys-R'-Us for a present for my niece. My sister-in-law was kind enough to send me some info via Internet about potential presents. Yup, they were there....luckily I could go during the weekday and avoid having to deal with harried parents and bratty kids on the weekend.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thursday December 3, 10:46 p.m.

And the day ends like it alone to wrap things up. Daddy's Girl had the double with me. She needed some help with a meeting that she has to chair tomorrow morning so there was definitely a purpose to her scant arrival tonight. Nice lady but definitely not all that committed to the English cause. She conveniently forgot her textbook and didn't bother with the homework; didn't even buy the CD.

The Music Man came in looking pretty exhausted. Must have been a tough week for him...for whatever he does. He did wax eloquently about a classical concert he'd attended, though.

Well, I'm done here at the school for almost 48 hours since I've only got the privates....The Bass and The Bow before the juku gang tomorrow night.

Still sounds like it's raining pretty steadily out there. Luckily, I've got a bit of lead time before I head on out tomorrow morning.
Thursday December 3, 5:19 p.m.

Nearing the end of the holding pattern. Daddy's Girl should be arriving in little more than an hour from now. It's been miserable out there with all of the rain and cold temps. Apparently, Toronto is having similar weather which means that it's unusually balmy there. I got word from The Anime King for the first time in a while...he wants me to pick up some paraphernalia in Akiba concerning the latest craze called Dream Club. I guess The Idolmaster has finished its run.

I may be on the way to making my first enemy/rival on Mixi. On that SNS within a SNS, the movie community, some fellow wrote shabbily to some newbie when the newbie tried to introduce her own topic; basically the fellow slagged her off for putting up a topic which had already existed. I checked the newbie out...she's still new onto Mixi and could've used a bit more of a break. Then, I got a slightly snide comment from the same guy when I spelled my katakana rendition of "Death Star" wrong. For the past several months that I've been active on Mixi, I've met mostly fine folks on the various communities and some of them have become good Mixi friends, but I'm not totally naive on the fact that inevitably some crabgrass is gonna show up like the stuff that happens over at Channel 2. Well, I guess it's my time. So in my attempts to show that I'm not intimidated, I did leave a positive answer to the newbie's summons right under the crab's own comment.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Thursday December 3, 9:11 a.m.

Back for another early one, but it's not for Grandma Dynamite. Instead, I have Miss Prissy on tap at 10. Then, it's Grandma FON, followed by a long gap before I have Daddy's Girl for a double and then The Music Man to wrap up. I was gonna go down and get some early Xmas shopping done and perhaps get some shots of the LED lights in Omotesando but today's scheduled downpours have pretty much put a damper on those plans.

I got a message from the juku boss. I've got my first model lesson there in several weeks. And she apparently wants to start right from the alphabet...she's apparently that low. I may need to buy some Bufferin.
Wednesday December 2, 8:30 p.m.

Well, you see the silhouette on the right. Arguably, it's one of the most recognizable ones in all of science-fiction...probably right next to the one of the USS Enterprise. It is indeed the Space Cruiser of the most beloved anime ever made. On the heels of the current rebooting craze that has engulfed "Battlestar Galactica", "Tron" and "Star Trek", it looks like the Yamato is also coming back. But I'm mistaken by calling it a reboot. I went to the website to find out that it is actually a sequel taking place some 17 years after the last adventure done in 1983. I saw the trailer on YouTube and it looks rather thrilling...the animation doesn't look too bad at all and CG is definitely imbued into this production. And there have been quite a few changes made to the style and the characters. It comes out on the 12th, so I'm kinda chewing my fingers right now wondering whether I'll be able to catch it before I head on home.

I'm now done for the night after the lessons with The German and 001. I thought it would be a slower day tomorrow since Mr. TOEIC cancelled, but Daddy's Girl decided to come back for a double tomorrow night. I still have The Music Man so it's not as if an early night was ruined, but my attempts to catch some pics of Omotesando in all its illuminated glory may be curtailed a bit. Ach, it's still money in the bank for me.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Wednesday December 2, 3:58 p.m.

Had the Do-Gooder's very first lesson a few hours ago. Yep, she's a good conversationalist. Found out that she's a veteran Mah Jongg player. Nice to have someone who can hold her end of the bargain. And she's a 90-minute lesson, so she'd be my second of the day along with veteran student 001.

Just before I have 001, I've got The German in about 45...she's also another one who loves to sidetrack, a godsend for any teacher. Then it's the hijinks with 001. Mr. TOEIC has once again cancelled his next lesson which means I've got a huge hole in the schedule tomorrow between Grandma FON and the Music Man. Well, I've got time then to take some shots of the Omotesando Xmas Illumination in the early evening. It's the first time in 11 years since the lights last went on in the tony neighbourhood; they went off for good back in 1998 since the residents pitched a hue and cry about the garbage the crowds left. But apparently there has been a change in heart...or money changing hands. In any case, it'll be a different illumination since it'll just be trees strung up in LEDs instead of the more ornate stuff of the 80s and 90s.
Wednesday December 2, 12:37 p.m.

Probably the final day for this year's Indian Summer...or koharu biyori, as they express it here. From tomorrow, it'll be a gray rainy one. Just finished the monthly chat fest with Grandma Enka. She won't be able to make it for the year-end party on Sunday since her somewhat tyrannical husband demands her presence at one of his year-enders on the same day. As for the current numbers, Ray informed me that we're around 10 folks....halfway toward the numbers needed to ensure that we've got the venue all to ourselves...which will probably mean that Speedy will be padding things with a lot of his buddies.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tuesday December 1, 1:07 p.m.

And now we enter the final month...a time of Xmas, bonenkai, depleted bonuses (not that I've gotten one in the past 5 years) and exposed bodily fluids on the train platforms. I've only got one more planned event for the coming Sunday...the annual year-ender with Speedy. Speaking of whom, yep, I still regret opening my big fat mouth about hoping that The Medicine Man would not renew his lessons since he has often made classes as fun as pulling teeth due to his reticence. I've always known that the bossman was the type to provide a thousand words when one or even none would've sufficed. Still, as we were both walking to the station late last night, I also found out that he's been getting even more stressed than he usually is...and from an unexpected source...La Fille. Not that we're going through the manic-depressive days of BC again but apparently, she's been screwing up on schedules recently for some reason. She'd been dependable up to that point but perhaps something...or someone...has been occupying her mind. In any case, Speedy stated that he's gonna be interviewing a couple of applicants for staff positions this week...hmmm...I wonder if that's an implied threat against La Fille.

Not surprisingly, the session with The Beehive was almost all on their trip to Hokkaido last week. They did the circuit of Hakodate and Sapporo with more food ingested than in a typical variety show with tarento. Mrs Perth, being a current resident of Sapporo, was of course there to host the ladies, but even Mrs. Pottery came up all the way from subtropical Okinawa to subpolar Hokkaido to join in on the culinary fun. They had the usual delights such as fresh scallops, clams, crabs and hokke. I also received a very nice omiyage package in the form of a ramen kit, ikameshi (squid bodies stuffed with seasoned rice) and other stuff. Gonna have to plow through this stuff before I head on home.

There was a bit of pathos in the Beehive's proceedings when Mrs. Tee admitted that she may no longer be able to attend the sessions starting from January. She's retiring from her job at the end of the year but she may help her tea master full-time on Tuesdays. It isn't such a shock for me since she has been absent for weeks at a time in the last couple of years but I think the ladies will definitely miss her.

I've only got The Milds tonight...they'll have travel plans of their own from tomorrow, since they'll head off to Vietnam for about 5 nights.
Monday November 30, 10:44 p.m.

Well, made the mistake of making my frustrations about the Medicine Man out loud. I got the lecture from the bossman about how important every student is right now to the school and that we need the money....yadda, yadda, yadda. Yes, I know that at this juncture that every student is pretty much vital to the survival of this operation, but that won't stop me making criticisms and making some rather unholy wishes. I guess I'm a bit of an anarchist as well as an atheist.

Monday November 30, 8:28 p.m.

It's been a quiet evening leading to the Medicine Man's lesson. Still have another hour to go. I've been Mixi'ing, Facebook'ing and, of course...blogging. That movie community on Mixi is almost its own social networking site with the action going there. I was doing the shiritori topic when one fellow asked who the heck Keye Luke was. I was happy to educate him on the former No. 1 son of Charlie Chan. Another topic asked about cinematic disappointments. Quite a few recent movies out there such as "Burn After Reading" and even Michael Jackson's "This Is It". However, my contribution was the horrid "Sweeney Todd" that MB and I had both pilloried early last year. How a musical whose songs all sound the same got to the Hollywood stage is beyond me.
Monday November 30, 5:03 p.m.

Came back from seeing SIL about an hour ago. Had another grand old time chatting on everything under the sun, from the latest tribulations in government to the boxing match between Kameda and Naito.

Was wondering a bit about that mystery surrounding Tiger Woods' overnight auto excursion into a fire hydrant and tree. He and his wife could've just come clean immediately and the media circus wouldn't have set up shop off his front door. Instead, they've been mysteriously mum, even with the local sheriff's office, so of course, the 4th Estate have started sniffing for blood. And what a target for them....perhaps the most well-paid athlete in the world with a squeaky-clean image.

Well, it's now just Medicine Man in several hours. I rather doubt that he will come. He's not all that forthcoming one-on-one with me, and he's gone on the record that he dislikes parties.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Monday November 30, 12:39 p.m.

It's certainly feeling more like Xmas...cold and wet like a dog's nose out there, although the rain has stopped thankfully.

My weekend of parties has come to an end. Saturday's nabe over at UB's had us gorging on plenty of Chinese cabbage, minced chicken dango and the like, but I guess my old friend wasn't into the ojiya. Met some of the folks there from the last BBQ months back. There was one couple who brought over their rambunctious daughter; nice kid but the mother was reprimanding her like an errant puppy every few minutes which I could've done without.

The other party was over at Miss Honolulu's pad in the Konan neighbourhood south of Shinagawa Station. Her two friends, one of whom did just a model lesson at Speedy's last year (barely recognized her although she remembered me well enough), met me at the main clock tower at the station, and then the three of us took the same bus that I always take to head to Tokyo Immigration. Miss Honolulu lives in one of those high-class, high-rise condo complexes that pretty much infest the shores of Tokyo Bay. We had the party in one of the rental party rooms on the 37th floor that was considerably bigger than her own apartment several stories down. Great view of the bay and Rainbow Bridge. The menu was more DIY with some of Honolulu's ratatouille, various snacks and an ordered package of pizza and stuff from Pizza Salvatore. Once again, I proceeded to engorge myself like a boa constrictor on a rodent. Speedy and his wife dropped by for a couple of hours. When they left, things got a bit more interesting when Honolulu ended up getting thoroughly soused from downing a bunch of plonk. She and one of the friends started boogeying down to some early 90s disco music (C&C Music Factory, Bobby Brown, etc.) and tried to get me to shake my own considerable booty. Fortunately, they calmed down and we ended up watching one of her DVDs of Janet Jackson's "Feedback" before catching the last few rounds of that big fight between bad boy boxer Koki Kameda and Daisuke Naito. Everyone had been rooting for Naito, who had won last year's championship in that nasty exchange with the other Kameda brother, Daiki. However, it was pretty obvious that the elder Kameda was hungrier for the belt and Naito looked like he could bite the inside corner of a house with that smashed-in nose. I'm sure there were a lot of folks who looked at the showboating Kameda Boys with some disgust last night, and I'm certainly no big fan of the Osakan natives, but if there were a chance at redemption for them, last night was at least a beginning.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Saturday November 28, 1:38 p.m.

The Intellectual seemed a bit less talkative today but that was still way more lucid than some folks such as The Medicine Man. Since the chapter was on animals today, and specifically on cruelty towards them, the topic of the dolphin massacre in Taiji was brought up. No real tension but I let my opinion be known that I hope that particular "custom" dies a quick death after the release of the movie.

Now, I've got a few hours to kill before I head on out for the nabe party. I've been checking in on Mixi. Looks like I hit the motherlode of active communities when I signed up on the overall Movies Community. Topic responses seem to pour in by the half-hour. However, Roger Ebert need not lose any sleep; a lot of the chatter have revolved around fave flicks and a couple of shiritori games involving movies and actors. The number of folks enlisted in it is over 100,000, the population of one of Toronto's suburbs. Meanwhile, my Ruiko Kurahashi community barely rates hamlet status.

Earlier this morning, I caught the first half-hour of a 10-year-old movie called "The Bone Collector" with Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. It's hard to believe that those are now a decade older...they seemed not to have aged. Denzel has gained some heft although that was more because of his role on "The Taking of Pelham 123". In any case, for this flick, I'm just catching it in bits and pieces. I caught the last 10 minutes of it one night, the middle portion another night and now the beginning. I'm hoping that I'll be able to get the entire movie fit together like a jigsaw eventually.
Saturday November 28, 11:06 a.m.

Just got the one today here at Speedy's...The Intellectual. After that, I've got my ol' university buddy's nabe party beyond Ikebukuro. It'll be the first one for the pot is always good when the temps drop. Got my favourites in yosenabe and mizutaki. The latter is the one that my family usually goes for....just some boiling water, Chinese cabbage, tofu, and chicken; simple yet so satisfying. Yosenabe is the de rigueur hot pot over here...kinda like the Hot Pot 101 for beginners. It has a bit more stuff in it like salmon or firm white fish, and green onions boiling away in some fish broth. However, the piece de resistance is at the very end of the meal when the chef mixes in some beaten eggs with some extra broth and then adds either udon or rice to create a great porridge...tastes even better the next day for breakfast.

Last night, I had my usual dinner at The Restauranteur's was the Beef Stroganoff this time. And I had my 2.5 hours of work since I was pulling double classes with The Restauranteur and The Ace. I'll be doing the same next week to make up for the time I'm away in December.

Today's "Japan Times" had a 1-page article on what could be the slow fall from grace of Scientology; I wouldn't bet money on its demise just yet...the media just love to prematurely pounce on anything or anyone who dares dis the Fourth Estate. Still being a cheerful atheist, I was eating up the fact that there have been some fairly high-level defections from Hubbard's House of Horrors of late....although Tom and John are still quite esconced.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Friday November 27, 1:14 p.m.

Well, I'm 2 for 2 in the model lessons. Scored my newest student earlier this morning. The Do-Gooder is a middle-aged lady who would be just at home with The Beehive. She's fluent although not perfect and likes to absorb vocabulary. Went through the whole gamut with her and got the good word from Ray who was handling the deal.

So I treated myself to one of those calorie-laden bento for the almost obscene price of 400 yen and am enjoying a bit of Internet before I head on out to Nakano Broadway.

Looks like that Speedy bonenkai is a bit low on attendance so far. So far, we've got just some of the Grandmas and a handful; at this point, the staff outnumber the students.
Friday November 27, 9:19 a.m.

Back at the office to take care of a lone model lesson in about an hour. The bossman reminded me that I needn't have to go to the regular text for the model, so I've set food as my theme and will have the student go through the hoops with count/non-count, imperatives and tastes & textures as the tools.

Looks like my weekend will be entering Holiday mode even before December arrives. On Saturday, I'm going to the house of my old university friend, Seiko-chan, for a nabe party. I had gone there much earlier in the year in a driving rain so I'm hoping that the weather will be a whole lot more cooperative.

Then, I'm supposed to be going to the apartment of my former student, Miss Honolulu, on Sunday in Shinagawa for some sort of party. Not sure if she had invited any other former student from Speedy's, but at this point, I'm assuming that I'll be going in without knowing anyone there...never a favorite time for me. Speedy and his missus will be coming but some hours later. I kinda feel like I'm going in as the entertainment.

I've got double lessons with the juku students, The Ace & The Restauranteur, tonight since I have to make up lessons in December due to my vacation back home. Still, I'll have a lot of free time between the end of the model lesson and their lessons, so I may just drop into Nakano Broadway one last time for the year and see if there are any bargain-basement CDs to be had.
Thursday November 26, 8:25 p.m.

End to a rather steady day. Finished up with the Sisters of State. Neither met the other in passing...since there were 20 minutes between the departure of the New Yorker and the arrival of the Carolinan. The bossman remarked that my scribblings on the whiteboards for both sisters were markedly different in terms of vocabulary level. That's a bit of an understatement.

Just about ready to head on home but I don't particularly want to hit smack dab into the second major rush hour so I may decide to stay another hour or so as nuts as that may sound. Even more nuts is that I may have to have another dinner at the Golden Arches since I'm not that all that enthused about the other choices out there.

I've got that model lesson student tomorrow morning. She's an older woman and perhaps somewhat less challenging than The Toughie yesterday afternoon. Still, such thinking can lull me into a false sense of security. I'll have to brush up on that.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thursday November 26, 3:26 p.m.

I've still got The Sisters of State to teach in about 90 minutes but I'm already feeling rather knackered after having both Grandma FON and then Grandma Dynamite. Both of them are back in form...just prattling away at warp speed. Even Ray and La Fille have also tasted the mighty speed of their tongues on the phone when the grannies have made their appointments. Most of the Grandmas are coming to the party on the 6th...FON is still an uncertain, but Grandma Enka is a definite out since her husband is of the old school which means that she must accompany him to his own bonenkai.
Yup, that is indeed the display case at a Krispy Kreme branch...the one in Shibuya right inside the theater complex...a stroke of genius. MB, Skippy, The Bride and I went there after "Inglorious Basterds" to grab some donuts, especially since MB had never had one of those cholesterol bombs before. The place was crowded but only because it had collected the group coming from the movie. Actually, those days of 2-hour-long lineups are now largely gone, even at the No. 1 branch in Shinjuku. People still have to line up but these are much more reasonable now. It's hard to believe that we're approaching the 3rd anniversary since this dying franchise limped into Japan and basically regenerated like Doctor Who to become this wildly successful behemoth.
I've been faithfully listening to Xmas music, both Western and Japanese. The one that I've been putting on heavy rotation is "Christmas Carol no koro ni wa" (Around The Time of the Christmas Carols) by AOR crooner Jun'ichi Inagaki. He shares a point with another J-Pop legend, Tatsuro Yamashita, in that both singers are probably more on the summery side of AOR and yet their most famous tunes are Xmas-y in nature. Unlike a lot of the J-Pop Xmas tunes, it isn't a ballad at all; instead it is this rather driving tune which seems incongruous with its original purpose of being the main theme for a trendy drama of nearly 2 decades back called "Homework" which has been shown on reruns recently on the cable version of TBS. I saw the opening credits of the drama and it has the tune playing while the main characters are cavorting as either university students or shinjinrui in distinctly non-Xmas weather. I think the tune is far more suited for some sort of action series taking place during the Yuletide....a Japanese "Die Hard" perhaps.

Wednesday November 25, 9:14 p.m.
Yeah, might seem a month early for Xmas for this sort of menu, but this was actually for Thanksgiving. Yep, this is the high cholesterol dinner I had back on Sunday at the Roppongi Hard Rock Cafe. It was a bit of a contest to get all this down with coffee and cola but I succeeded if barely.
Well, that model lesson with Toughie was a success since I am using her code name here. And yep, as a president of her own consulting company, she had the demeanor of a friendly but pretty fierce lady. I told her so which surprised (and I suspect, delighted) the lass. In any case, she's on board but I won't have her first lesson until the New Year, which suits me fine.
001 was quite a nice person to come home to (slangily speaking of course) after getting through that model lesson. Lots of fun as usual.
I'm just about ready to call it quits for the day. Tomorrow, Grandma Dynamite has shifted her lesson over to the afternoon which means I can still get up at a rather decent time. I've also Grandma FON and then The Sisters of State. I asked the elder sister, The Carolinan, whether she and her sibling would like to go to Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi for that Thanksgiving dinner since they're both birthday purveyors of the place but she politely declined. I already had my fill of the stuff so I'm OK.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wednesday November 25, 3:34 p.m.

The bad karma continues to hang over us like a low cloud. We still haven't found that rogue text. I even made a flash visit to Kinokuniya over in Shinjuku to see if I could just buy it there, but true to today's luck, of all of the various books in the series, that text was the only one sold out. So, basically, all I got out of it was just a good 40-minute workout.
Wednesday November 25, 1:30 p.m.

Could be that some bad karma has landed on my circumstances. I'd suspected something was up existentially when I found out that I'd forgotten to pay my gas bill (2 weeks overdue); there was one other thing but can't quite remember. Now I find out from the bossman that one of the texts for that big model lesson later today is missing. Not that it is a huge disaster, but it would've been nice to consult before the prospective student comes in.

Then I found out over lunch from the bossman that that needed extra funding from The Patent Attorney has fallen through since it looks like his company has also been in the doldrums. So, it may be possible that I might be coming back from Canada to an empty school. Such is life.
Wednesday November 25, 11:14 a.m.

A month before Xmas...and there is a Hump Day here at Speedy's, although it's not necessarily mine. True, I have a rather important model lesson with a president of some sort of media company later this afternoon but it's just her and then 001. The Hump Day really lies with everyone else here since the bossman is swamped with counseling sessions. He even asked me to take Grandma Enka's lesson in 15 minutes since he needs the extra time to head to the bank. I think all of us will have to be a little extra nice to him, lest he implodes by the end of the day.

Usually when I head over to the station from home, I walk along the street that's filled with the bars. In recent years, there was some sort of attempt to make it a little more family-oriented, via the appearance of a cafe/playroom for the toddler set. It was ironically built just across from a hostess bar (Dad goes this way, the wife and kids go the other), and I would often see the kids just playing around in the indoor jungle gym while the mothers would have a respite at the cafeteria tables chatting away. I thought it was a good idea, especially in these uncertain times when the outdoor playgrounds have attracted their fair share of paedophiles and psychos. Unfortunately, in the past month, it has become apparent that the project has come to an abrupt end. Some weeks ago, the place was empty again with a telephone number asking for any potential tenants. However, the boxing gym next to it still seems to be doing quite well.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tuesday November 24, 1:07 p.m.

Been a while.

On Saturday, I met up with Skippy, and another former student, The Bridesmaid in Shibuya. We had dinner at a small burger joint called Pakutsch...sounds Russian, but I think it's a riff on the Japanese sound of popping in a burger in one's mouth. Their Pakutsch burger wasn't too bad on either the palate or the wallet. Skippy is apparently finishing up her time at her latest company after 18 months; she's given up on dealing with her boss. I can understand her feelings completely after my 7 years at the ol' school. Skippy should be fine, though; she always seems to land on her feet even in these financially troubled times.

MB, our fourth, was late in coming from that speech contest of his so he missed out on the burgers but made it for our viewing of "Inglorioius Basterds" (gee, did I misspell it correctly?) at the nearby theatre. As I recall, "Kill Bill" didn't exactly get the greatest reaction from the locals here since parody/satire don't travel particularly well overseas to Japan, so I wasn't sure what this film was gonna be like. As far I was concerned, all the hype surrounding Quentin's latest was surrounding the fact that Brad Pitt was in it.

As it was, "Inglorious Basterds" was pure Tarentino....a lot of chatter conservatively interspersed with brief moments of ultraviolence and, of course, a scene involving a woman's foot....this time, the IT girl was Diane Kruger. That one scene in the basement bar almost got me to the breaking point of boredom before the shootout finally got under way. I was virtually begging for another scalping scene. Brad Pitt was fun to watch and listen to as Lt. Aldo Ray, and Eli Roth just looked like Zachary Quinto's younger and more evil brother. However, it was the fellow who played Colonel Landa who got my attention. It says something when the villain is the most charming character in the movie. All in all, not a bad movie, and MB could finally say that he was actually could like this of only two or three he liked all year.

Back in my days in Canada, I could always look forward to turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not anymore. Even my forays back home over The Holidays are now pretty much turkey-less. For one thing, my mother isn't exactly in the mood to cook up a roast due to age, and my sister-in-law is simply not a turkey fan. So I'm out of least in The Great White North. However, I have options in Roppongi...namely the Hard Rock Cafe. I went there on Sunday since they have an American Thanksgiving dinner deal during this week. So a typically gray gloomy afternoon, I went over to HRC and got my annual shichimencho fix. The waitress told me that I would have to wait 20 minutes. Heck, no problem....I've been waiting nearly 2 years.

So what did I get for my 1800 yen? I got three huge slices of seasoned roast turkey with veggies, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. The piece de resistance was plentiful gravy poured into the "cup" of mashed potatoes and all over the slices. In other words, I was quite satisfied. In fact, in the three forays I've made for restaurant-based turkey dinners in The Big Sushi, Hard Rock Cafe was the most inexpensive and the best. ROTI was just too expensive to enjoy (I think the chefs must've enjoyed what I paid on their own turkey dinners), and I still sting from that lousy greeting that I got from the hostess at the erstwhile Fujimamas a few years ago. I was fairly full from the meal...and this was without any rolls...but I took a chance on having dessert. And it was a big-ass apple cobbler. I almost felt like Mr. Creosote from that Monty Python movie by the end of my epic meal...should've held off. I certainly didn't need to eat anything more for the rest of that Sunday.

While I lay on my sofa like a roast turkey on that Sunday, I ended up watching my DVD of "Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels", one of the best comedies I've seen in the last half-century. Not easy to imagine Sir Michael Caine being totally comedic these days, especially his latest role as a geriatric Charles Bronson in "Harry Brown", but he did great funny with Steve Martin 2 decades ago.

Yesterday, I had my lessons at The Jyuppies...the last ones for the year and the last ones with them in soon-to-be former home. They'll be moving in December to Futako-Tamagawa. Some regret from them since they were so close to one of the best parks in the Kanto...Komazawa Park, but at least in their new residence, they'll be right next to the station so that Mr. Jyuppie can reduce his commute considerably.

Started my day early with Cozy. He'll be getting ready for his mini-marathon on Sunday. He seems pretty confident since he eats 10 km for breakfast. Then, I was off to see The Beehive. The ladies will be heading on a short jaunt through Hokkaido from tomorrow, which will mean meeting Mrs. Perth in Sapporo halfway through the tour. I've got The Milds later tonight.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Friday November 20, 2:11 p.m.

Well, had a good session with The Bass in terms of the new text. We're going rather analog with some old News Tapes the next 6 months should be in check. The Bass is good that way; he's straight with what he wants but he's nice about it.

Had lunch at the Burger King across from JR Funabashi. I saw yet another foreigner behind the counter speaking very fluent Japanese while taking my order. Not that I mind it at all, but I also saw a Eastern European woman and a South Asian man doing the same thing back on Monday morning at McDonalds. It's amazing how things have changed in 15 years.

The Doctor Who community on Mixi has seen a considerable uptick in activity since David Tennant's 3rd-last episode in his tenure as The Tenth Doctor was shown a couple of days ago. Apparently, it's a pretty significant ep since it basically shows the good Doctor having a nervous breakdown, or the Time Lord equivalent of it. My DW friend and I had a good talk about what's to happen in the next few months for this programme.

Seems like the Japanese Miss Universe contestant has entered the world of Paris Hilton and Rob Lowe with her own sex tape with one other contestant and her boyfriend. Well, that is so 1990s. That woman from "Ugly Betty" beat her to the punch years ago when she was in the Miss America pageant.
Thursday November 19, 8:57 p.m.

An off-kilter day, all in all. The Nurse was fine...told me about all that all-you-can-eat tempura restaurant that she and her hubby had gone to a few weeks ago. I'll have to remember Tenta for future reference. However, things started going a bit pear-shaped when Grandma FON missed half the lesson since she had some sudden errands that needed to get done.

Had lunch at that Chinese eatery in the basement of the Maynds Tower for the first time in a while. Glad to see that the 950 yen for their lunch specials is still holding. Went upstairs to the Starbucks where I taught The Bow. Looks like she'll be staying with Dyson a little while longer than expected since her supervisor continues to need a stable hand while the company goes through a bit of turmoil with the delayed launch of their bladeless fan.

There was some further offing to my kilter in Ichigaya when I taught The New Yorker. She was rather out to lunch on the homework, and it didn't help that even the 5 o'clock slot had the Tully's crowded to the gills with folks. I was feeling a bit down at the fact that I've been teaching this one for close to 5 years and yet she can't pull together decent questions and answers. But the real disappointment came with Mr. TOEIC tonight. There's nothing more depressing when a student comes raring to go and then finds out that he flunked his test. That smile disappeared in a hurry, so I had to ease him down gently although I could still feel some tension from him at the end. Ironic since 24 hours earlier, The Music Man had just scored a perfect mark on his test.

Well, I'm done for the day but La Fille has some work that she has to get done, and since I'm the only one with the keys. I wasn't planning to head out immediately anyways since the evening rush hour is still going on.

The tough part will continue tomorrow with The Bass since we've completed the last text and we have to come up with a new curriculum. He still wants to work on Listening although since his lessons are cafe-based, it's not easy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thursday November 19, 9:11 a.m.

It's definitely looking like November out there today. Overcast, cold and gloomy...reminds me of a Toronto November day. But at least, they can get The Santa Claus Parade over there.

Fairly heavy lineup today. I've got The Nurse, Grandma FON and Mr. TOEIC here at Speedy's while I have to go outbound for The Bow and The New Yorker at two different cafes. I will definitely need my sleep tonight. However, there's always a chance that Mr. TOEIC could cancel out at the last minute, but even if he doesn't, I get to finish at 8:30 instead of last night's 11 p.m.

My entry on Xmas in Mixi certainly got a lot of happy responses from folks. I guess the Japanese are very sentimental about their adopted holiday. I always aims to please. Speaking of the Yuletide in Tokyo, I just read that after an absence of 11 years, Xmas illumination will be returning to Omotesando, which would be a real surprise since the reason that it had been taken down was that the humongous crowds just made it unbearable for the residents who actually lived there. I could understand their feeling. In my first Xmas in Tokyo in 1994, I went down with Chip Guy on Xmas Eve to see what all the fuss was about on Tokyo's widest promenade. Well, the fuss included thousands of young couples being herded down Omotesando like cattle to a slaughterhouse. And it was just as romantic. The cops were yelling at everyone to move along while Chip Guy and I were trapped in a sea of youth. Oh, so this is Christmas in the world's largest city. And of course, being December 24th, finding a restaurant to have dinner was kinda like finding a snowflake in a desert...pretty next to impossible. After creeping down the avenue for 45 minutes (the usual walk would have taken 10), we had to settle for hamburgers at the local Lotteria. Not quite sure what the return of Xmas lights to Omotesando will signify.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wednesday November 18, 2:11 p.m.
It's been a relatively peaceful couple of days so far. My session with The Beehive yesterday was enhanced by Cozy's food analyst magazines. One of the features was on how to talk about sushi in English. The ladies mopped up on that vocabulary.
The rather fuzzy shot on the left is that of the LED-led Xmas illumination infiltrating Shinjuku. These rather electric blue trees can be found just across from Krispy Kreme #1. There was a 10-minute waiting line outside of the donut shop. Nothing says "Merry Xmas" more than loading up on empty calories.
As has been the case for the past few weeks, it was just The Milds at the juku last night. The boss told me that she had spoken to Mr. White's wife and that it was agreed that Mr. White will just take the rest of the year off to recuperate as best he can before he gives me another go. I can agree with that. As for The Milds, it was definitely Mr. Mild's show last night since he was rattling some of his diary at me followed by my giving him a copy of the Eiken 3 test and then lending him my book of idioms. He was looking at the book with an equal sense of wonder and dread...I guess awe would be the best word here.
The weather has finally gotten sunny after a few days of cold rain. I think the temperature only needed to go down a few more degrees before the whole thing would transform into a blizzard. And despite the fine day, the high is only gonna be around 14 today. That's pretty chilly for Tokyo.
I just have 001 and The Music Man, but I've been pretty busy with a bunch of errands. First off, I sent out some letters to some of my nengajo tomodachi....those "friends" who only make contact through the annual New Year's cards. As per custom whenever a relative passes on, I have to alert everyone that I won't be sending any cards and that the tomodachi should also refrain from sending any to me, lest bad karma hits all concerned. At the same time, I also finally got down to town on what to do about my mail during my absence. Since I no longer wanted to impose on folks like The Milds and the juku boss to pick up my mail over the Holidays, I checked with the neighbourhood post office. Fortunately, the night before, the boss was kind enough to write down what I should request for. And sure enough, I found out that Japan Post can actually hold mail for up to a month. All I had to do was fill out a form with just my name, address and the duration of my absence and that was all she wrote. Too easy! The postmaster there also asked me for some ID...he seemed a bit stern but that was understandable; it would be his head if there were any illegalities committed.
I headed over to Oazo in Otemachi once more. I had my pho at Com Pho. Found out that the place opened right from 9 a.m. Apparently, the salaried class around Tokyo Station don't mind searing their insides in the morning. I had the Spicy Pho with some added hot sauce. It didn't kill me but my mouth was rather numb for an hour or so. I got an early start to lunch at about 11, which was good since by noon, there was a sizable lineup outside the place.
I also went back into Maruzen to see if I could find a Listening-based book for The Bass. Found plenty of texts but nothing that would really challenge him. He was able to handle the intermediate stuff in his last text fairly well although he needed a few passes on the CD, but the material I found would just be insulting to him.
Then, it was one station over to Nihombashi to get a food gift for my newest Mixi friend. He had been kind enough to send over a burned CD of some Xmas music by Ruiko Kurahashi all the way back from 1991. Well, I couldn't just let that go unrewarded so I went into the depachika of Takashimaya and searched for something appropriate. I didn't want to overwhelm him by getting a 4,000-yen box of chocolates or a bottle of wine...when exchanging gifts in this country, parity is very important. So I got him a 1,000-yen bag of Shiseido Xmas chocolates and had it sent out by Yamato Express right from the booth. The Mixi friend left his return address on the envelope that the CD had come in, but I had to look up the postal number. Otherwise, it was clear sailing.
And looks like the Xmas party is a go with the Speedy bunch. It's gonna be held at a restaurant called Ken's Cafe in Shinjuku. According to the website, it looks pretty trendy and there is a not-unreasonable set.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday November 16, 7:01 p.m.
Yes, Xmas is in the air...or in the retail areas of Tokyo, at least. This tree is in the Oazo Mall just across from Tokyo Station. Japan is very much into the Xmas spirit. The nighttime illumination is also out in force in Shinjuku.
Yesterday, I had the second half of one of my MB weekends in Jiyugaoka. MB, me and The Sylph had breakfast in a new place called Cafe Copenhagen. Nice breakfast set: coffee, bagel with butter, and homemade yogurt with honey and nuts. I also had one of their slices of apple pie to seal the deal. It would've been perfect if only The Sylph and MB didn't get into an argument in front of me (to be accurate, The Sylph sniffily chewed MB out about something stupidly silly...the usual couple can see my views on marriage have remained unchanged). But the storm quickly dissipated as soon as it had appeared.
While The Sylph went out to meet her friends for lunch, MB and I just doodled around on his latest game purchase, Marvel Alliance II. I don't get to play games much so it was nice getting out some stress by doing some whup-ass as Ironman and Daredevil. Then, the two of us went over one station to Den'en-Chofu to try out a new culinary discovery called Katsukyu, a tonkatsu restaurant. Not exactly cheap at 2,400 yen but the hirekatsu set was very tasty and plentiful. Usually hire katsu is pretty lean and therefore there is a possibility of getting something a little too dry, but this one came out pretty juicy for a hire...almost ranked in as a rosu. And the de rigueur miso soup was made with aka (red) miso, always a sign of class in such an establishment. The two of us basically waddled our way back to the apartment. It was then another round of Marvel Alliance before I headed back home.
It was another early wake-up call this morning since I had Cozy in Toyocho. At the end of the lesson, he was kind enough to give me some of his food analyst magazines. Yep, you heard me. There are such people around...people who undergo through seminar-based training and restaurant-based experience to get qualification as food analysts. According to one of the magazines, these folks can help out in anything from food design to cuisine blogs and secret supermarket inspections. TV personality tarento Kaoru Manabe is the celeb representative; I usually see her hawking zit cream on TV. If her food credentials include chocolate ingesting, then she truly is a shrewd operator. In any case, Cozy's contribution goes back to our dinner with the juku boss a couple of months ago when he noticed me taking pictures of the dishes. Frankly, though I do like cuisine, I'm not sure if I would go the lengths to become a food analyst to know that I like the stuff.
Now, on another topic, I went down to that huge post office across from Tokyo Station to see if I could get some questions answered about Japan Post being able to hold onto my mail during my absence over the Holidays...only to find out that the big building is under demolition. Well, I guess I'll have to do more investigating via Internet then. I did some further walking around Ginza and then lunch before I headed to see SIL. SIL and I had a bonanza of stuff to talk about since last week was chock-full of news: Obama, Ichihashi, Akihito, etc. I think amongst all of my students, SIL is probably the most in-tune when it comes to Japanese pop culture, quite something considering that she's in her mid-50s, but then again a lot of her knowledge is based in the 60s/70s/80s, also my era.
...which reminds me when I was browsing around in the DVD area of Yamano Music. Recently, the various TV stations have been releasing box sets of some of the old shows. I came across a new set of a variety show that I'd watched pretty religiously 20 years back. The program, "Yamada Katsutenai Terebi", featured Kuniko Yamada, back then the Queen of Variety. The lantern-jawed comedienne was basically the Carol Burnett of Japan, and every Wednesday night on Fuji-TV back during my Gunma days, I turned on the telly at 9 p.m. to watch her and her Vicki, Lyle, Tim and Harvey....otherwise known as tarento Toru Watanabe, Hiroko Moriguchi, Hikaru Nishida and Tsutomu Sekine (the last one still quite active and now with a daughter, Mari, becoming a familiar face on contemporary primetime), horse about and showcasing some of the now-natsukashii singers who were hitting the top of the pops: Kan and Mariko Nagai. I feel rather tempted in getting the box set but, of course, 10,000 yen has to give me pause.
After SIL, I went over to Shinjuku to pick up the latest issue of "Hikaru no Go" at Kinokuniya and then browse around for a potential replacement text for The Bass. When I made my purchase, I found out that the bookstore has finally gotten onto the point card bandwagon. Sure enough, outside, there was plenty of LED Xmas illumination all over South Shinjuku.
Got over to Speedy's. The bossman finally got the Xmas party set for December 6th, a rare Sunday at a place called Ken's Cafe in Shinjuku. He and the missus tried to get in to check the place out but it had already been rented out for a wedding party. Perhaps a good sign.
Also found out that the last weekend of the month will be a very social one. On the 28th, I'm heading to a nabe party at the house of my old university friend, The Socialite, and then the next day, I've been invited indirectly by a probably-former student, Ms. Honolulu, to her apartment in Shinagawa. Apparently, my reputation has preceded me...Mrs. Speedy told me that Ms. Honolulu wants me to come over as early as possible to entertain her friends with my comedic regaling. Ay, ya!
I've got Medicine Man in a couple of hours. I just don't know what to do with that guy. Told me last class, he really doesn't want to talk about himself in class. Sheesh...why bother learning English then?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sunday November 15, 1:23 a.m.

Went down to Shinjuku to meet up with MB, The Sylph and Frodo at the Picadilly. It'd been a while since we all met for a movie. And the movie was "Push", an emo-"X-Men" with Chris Evans (formerly the Human Torch from "The Fantastic Four") and a snarly, sweary Dakota Fanning (I guess this is her debut into more mature roles...just wish it had been in a better movie). Afterwards, the four of us agreed that it was a nice try with an interesting idea, but the execution didn't quite take. Although I liked the fact that it was entirely filmed on location in Hong Kong, the movie didn't move so much as it shuffled along like a sullen teenage slacker going to detention. The end was just telegraphing sequel but most likely if there is one, it'll be straight to DVD and most likely without any of the major lead actors.

We ended up having dinner at Erewan, a Thai restaurant chain in Shinjuku. The food was great, including one searingly hot plate of ground chicken and spices. The service was a bit inept but I gather that the waitresses were new, and they looked like they were trying hard.

The commute over to MB's place was typically packed on both the Yamanote and Toyoko Lines, but it is a tribute to Japanese society that despite the sardine-like nature of the subways, getting on and off was very smooth.

Everyone seemed pretty beat tonight....I guess dealing with a mediocre movie and very spicy & filling food conked just about everyone out. I'm the only guy still up but I'll be getting my shower and hitting the hay within the hour.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Saturday November 14, 2:09 p.m.

Hard to believe that we've already reached the middle of the penultimate month of the year. It's starting to feel quite wintry with the drop in temperatures.

Just had The Publicity Assistant right now. She hasn't been too busy as of late. She's always quite a good conversationalist. Found out that she was once in the top 10 one year amongst all elementary school students in Japan for her calligraphy.

Well, the most famous African-American in the world arrived in Tokyo without a whole lot of fanfare, but then the weather last night just didn't make it too hospitable for the folks to come out and greet him. Then again, it was all business with Barack handshaking lines, no dinner outings to Ten-Ichi. He is here for another 24 hours before he takes off for Singapore tomorrow. It's a bit weird since PM Hatoyama has already left for the APEC meetings there. But on the off chance that he may drop into Shinjuku tonight, I have my digital camera ready to go.

Yup, after my lesson with The Businesswoman in 45 minutes, I'll be meeting with MB later tonight to catch "Push", which would be the poor-man's "X-Men". The rather harsh reviewer for METROPOLIS actually gave the flick a guarded thumbs-up, so as long as I don't have any high expectations, I shouldn't be too disappointed. And it'll be another MB weekend at his place; it's been a while.

I listened to that "Christmas Portrait" with The Carpenters. I bought it since I'd heard one track of it, "Merry Christmas, Darling" on one of their best compilations. The album itself wasn't too bad, but I think I have to be even more into the Xmas spirit to really appreciate it. The arrangement just seemed a bit too treacly for me....a bit on the DeVol side of things.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Friday November 13, 1:24 p.m.

Well, the witching day is here. A ferry turns 45 degrees the wrong way off the Pacific coast, and I go nuts on the purchases. Hopefully, the President has no problems on Air Force One. He should be arriving within the next few hours.

I picked up my new gaijin card...or should I be more politically correct and say Alien Registration Card? I feel like an immigrant from off-planet at MIB HQ whenever I say that. I went over to the branch office and sure enough, the reject from GLAY was there to take care of me. My card is now off-white with a few holo-stamps on it; my photo still screams "Do not approach...extremely dangerous!"

As I headed down to Shibuya, I did notice the increased presence of cops there. There were two officers on the platform at Shibuya Station, one on that yellow block as is often the case, as if he were saying loudly "I'M ON DUTY NOW!" And as I was heading up to Tower Records, three cops were encircling an ordinary woman; looks like she was getting the 3rd degree since she was hurriedly unloading an orange duffel bag in front of them. I couldn't imagine what kind of offensive weapons she could've been carrying....used tampons?

At Tower Records, I'm sure the staff was quite happy with me. I bought a couple of discs there, which positively screamed "ARAFO!" which is the Japlish transcription of "Around 40". One was an old Mariya Takeuchi album "Variety" from 1984 which has one of my favourite J-AOR songs, "Plastic Love" (yeah, no snickering). The other one is The Carpenters' Xmas album since that mood is starting to drop in on me like Pon Farr onto a Vulcan. But what increased my bill was finding the latest in the "The Original Peanuts" series on the shelf on the 7th floor.

After grabbing lunch at The Golden Arches, I just got onto the bus from Shibuya Station and headed back up to here at Speedy's. I've only got Miss Prissy here today and then I'll be heading on home before the juku classes.

It's definitely feeling a whole lot more like Winter now. There is that overcast gloominess to the sky while everyone is putting on the coats and scarves. It looks like the clouds may just unload some of the dry, fluffy stuff right on us.
Thursday November 12, 10:47 p.m.

Opened the place up this morning and now I'll be closing everything up tonight. Long day. But I got The Music Man through his review more or less intact and I'll be out the door in about 5 minutes.

Gotta head to the City Hall branch office in Gyotoku tomorrow morning to pick up my new gaijin card. I kinda wonder if that GLAY band member will be handling me as well. I'll have to say hello to Mr. Ichihashi.

I don't know how the traffic will be like tomorrow with all that security roaming the city in preparation for Barack Obama's arrival into town. I'm sure the morning wide shows will be having their full court press on the visit.
Thursday November 12, 8:29 p.m.

Just digesting my dinner (which included a wedge of Camembert on a Cracotte...thank heavens for the generosity of our senior students) before The Music Man comes in about 45 minutes. I guess it's been another long whole day here at Speedy's. Won't be nearly as present here tomorrow since I only have Miss Prissy in the afternoon, but I do have the juku folks since it will be Friday.

I had The Carolinan a couple of hours earlier. She told me that there was a definite heightened presence of the police everywhere in Tokyo, so I guess things are now in preparation for President Obama's visit tomorrow. The official celebration for The Emperor's and Empress' anniversary was held earlier in the afternoon. As for Obama, The Carolinan and I were speculating on where he and Michelle would be staying. The venerable Hotel Okura is one option since it is literally next door to the fortress known as the U.S. Embassy; the other place is the Akasaka Palace which was designed after one of the palaces in France. Wherever they stay, there'll be another media scrum although nothing compared to the bedlam that surrounded the arrest of Tatsuya Ichihashi a couple of nights ago. It may be the only time in Obama's presidency that Barack would be upstaged by a 30-year-old sociopath.
Thursday November 12, 5:20 p.m.

May have encountered some controversy on the "Star Trek" Mixi community via a question I posted. I realize that it was a bit of a fantastical question and the answer that I got was skeptical but polite so I'm not too worried yet. Ironically, I thought that that community would be the most welcoming but it seems that I've been getting the cold shoulder there for some reason. Some of the other communities have been quite good to me. However, after over 6 months being active on Mixi, I have to realize that when on a social networking site, it won't always be goodness and light all the time. Hopefully, I won't be getting any Channel 2 flame wars.