Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday February 6, 7:17 p.m.

Got home, ate some dinner, did a bit more rearranging in my apartment and even started on the "Futurama" DVDs since I've started my weaning from Japanese TV. I saw that the final season had that episode where most of the Classic Trek crew showed up. Quite a few episodes away from that one. Not quite as outrageous as "Family Guy" but it has its moments.

Looks like the juku boss is very slowly easing her way back into her old job. I was expecting her to be teaching or yelling at some kid but all was still quiet. She told me that she's cutting down on the numbers and ages of her young charges so that she doesn't burn up so much energy now that she can't take in nearly as much as she used to. She was also expressing some concern about my classes but not just because The Traveler has flown the coop and Suzanne is away for the next week; things are looking pretty sparse in my area in her estimation. She asked me about how the other schools are faring. I couldn't give her an honest answer since I don't have my ear to the ground about the competition...just Speedy's place, and so far, it hasn't been too bad for us although my February is looking a bit patchy right now. Frankly, I'm not sure about what the Milds will do in the next few months. We're almost finished the current text and I'm not quite sure if they are gonna risk another year and another textbook, but I haven't told the boss yet about that.

To be brutally honest, I frankly wouldn't mind if Tuesdays suddenly found themselves open in the evening. I wouldn't mind a weeknight off although that would be financially stupid to say. Still, my classes are half of her business so she's gonna try to beat the bushes for new customers.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Friday February 6, 11:16 a.m.

I guess this has been a week of some misunderstandings. First there was that small kerfuffle between the juku boss and Mr. Mild over a still-owing lesson (the boss had actually caught me as I was going home on Tuesday to ask if she'd been a bit too direct with him...I just said diplomatically that both parties were very honest with each other) and then there was yesterday's class with Speedy's usual group. Speedy and I had been trying to collaborate on how to teach it over the past few days since he'd asked me to try it out. The class was interested in having a few teachers come in for variety's sake.

Well, as they say about best-laid plans. First, the group couldn't get the CD player from their office for listening practice which meant that Speedy had to grab the crappy old laptop which always breaks down from the school. I'd been told by the bossman that the group was a bit quiet but amiable...still I'd been assuming the good ol' days with the oil company guys who were keen as all out while I'd been planning. These guys were frankly church mice...tough crowd for a song-and-dance man like me. And then, I find out afterwards from Speedy that I didn't need to do 80% of the text since they had already done it before....thanks, could've told me that information beforehand. And finally, I just had a memory blank which almost led to a breakdown during the second hour of review. All in front of the bossman...who was in the room the whole time. Not that I really felt that I had anything to prove to him but I was reminded that I never really liked having a peer in a classroom while I'm teaching. Basically, this was a crash-n'-burn class. And the horribly ironic thing was that one of the students at the beginning had asked me how long I'd been a teacher, and I gave my honest answer of almost 22 years. Last night's class felt like it'd been taught by someone of 2 days' experience.

As usual, Speedy was infuriatingly cheerful about it all but we've known each other a long time. I was pretty quiet going back to the school with him and he probably knew that I was far from happy. However, I should consider myself lucky. I could've had one of those screamer bosses, although I most likely deserved to get my butt kicked several ways from Sunday.

And then while I was commiserating, I came across the now-infamous Christian Bale rant story. Haven't seen the video but did hear a bit of the audio during Jeannie Moos' dependably unfunny segment on CNN's "The Situation Room". And I did come across a ton of comments from both sides of the argument. The ones that I did take with more than a grain of salt were the ones from the folks who have worked in the industry and know the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a movie set. Christian Bale may have anger management issues but, y'know, I've had my regrettable moments in my life and I'm just glad that they have never made it onto YouTube; and it rather irks me that people are just making these snap judgements about Bale based on that one moment...situations like those have a past and future. If a video were made of me during one of my major blowups (thankfully very rare), then these same people would assume that I was a jerk by nature. I may feel like a loser right now, but I'm definitely not a jerk. The other point is that one of my students at Speedy's, The Publicity Assistant, has met and taken care of Bale during his time in Japan and found him to be a class act who loves his family...unlike some other Hollywood stars she's met in the past.

And so, after watching all that stuff on the Net, I didn't feel particularly any better but I did come away knowing that I wasn't alone. Still, I was up for a long time last night. Ended up downing an entire can of Pringles in 10 minutes while watching that episode of "The West Wing" where Donna Moss nearly dies in a terrorist explosion, and President Bartlet and Leo McGarry finally have that huge fight in the Oval Office over military options. Again, that helped me put things in some silly as it may sound.

Feeling a bit better. The fact that I'm typing away here at the I-Cafe means that Swank has canned her lesson for today and will be away for the rest of February. No surprise there...I'd figured that with the fact she has put off her Eiken 1 test for another few months and that she is being stretched in all directions (not rare for a working Mom), she would be taking some time off from studying. So I may have some pretty open spaces free on Fridays for the next few weeks.

Tried to get that cheap digital camera at Yamada Denki just before I got here only to find out that it's now out of stock. Been a week. At least, it won't be too crazy for the next few days. Just have Tully & The Coffeemaker tomorrow and the usual Ace and The Restauranteur tonight.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Thursday February 5, 4:54 p.m.

Managed to finish off the latest translation but I won't be sending it off to Cozy just yet since it isn't due until Monday. I don't need to make myself appear too fast. Also had time to construct a rough outline for tonight's group lesson across the street and even make one more exercise for Swank tomorrow....provided that she will come. But she's been pretty good...she's nowhere near a Jolly. If she were to cancel, she would call the day before.

I'll probably tally up the fee for The Corner's translation tonight after I get through the rest of the workday.
Thursday February 5, 11:19 a.m.

Was reading the latest U of T Alumni Magazine and came across yet another article on an old acquaintance, Mark Roswell, or Da Shan as he's known in China as a comedian and TV host. Kinda amazing how this guy turned out over the years. I remember just having a few talks with him in the East Asian Studies Student Union at Robarts.
Thursday February 5, 10:54 a.m.

Hmmm....I realize it's only 3 weeks into his presidency but that recent "MAD Magazine" cover of Barack Obama clutching his head in The Oval Office while surrounded by every medicine that Surgeon-General Sanjay Gupta could possibly prescribe is looking pretty prescient right now. If things keep going the way they are, I wonder if that famous catchphrase "Yes, we can" may be altered to "Well, I tried".

That latter, defeatist catchphrase could sum up my class with The Fashion Designer last night. She always has the last slot as she's always finishing up things at her studio pretty late. As a result, she always looks fatigued although she's always given the best effort. Well, she was kinda flubbing up a lot in her answers last night so out of good conscience I couldn't give her the take-home. Gave her another couple of weeks to review stuff since next Wednesday is a national holiday. However, she brightened up at the end when I introduced her to The 100% Chocolate Cafe, that Meiji-produced gimmicky cafe in Kyobashi. The website is really slick and certainly she enjoyed watching the various chocolates. It's Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory for the trendified.

On the other hand, The Diver put on the afterburners in her last lesson before she got the BIG test for the entire textbook and a year's worth of self-inflicted punishment getting through it. Lucky she's got the 2 weeks to prep for it before finally tackling the monster. Keeping my fingers crossed for her.

I've got the feeling that 001 is slowly drawing out the long goodbye to us. Her allotted number of lessons are starting to dwindle down to a precious few and she's been putting in a number of absences between classes. It wouldn't surprise me if she didn't renew again since she's been with us for a few years now and it might be time for the transition. She got her official transfer orders to go to another section in her hospital, although the physical shift is just a few metres across the hallway.

Finally got word from The Corner. He said that everything was OK with the translation and that I could now get him the invoice. In fact, he gave me the heads-up that he's got another web client with pages and pages for me to translate over the next month.'ll be good money. In a way, I hope that I don't have too many classes in March.

I've just got Grandma FON and then Miss Sedona for my regulars but some hours later I'll be heading over for a rare on-site at a company just a few minutes away. I haven't done one of those in several years, since my days at the ol' school, so I'm a bit nervous but I think it's good to get shaken up at times
Wednesday February 4, 5:30 p.m.

Speedy's busily selling a potential new student; we can always use new students in this economy. Speaking of whom, The Diver has apparently pulled out all the stops and managed to buy quite a few more lessons from us. So, she'll be hemming and hawing for at least another year. I gotta give her test tonight. I can only hope she's up to the challenge. We also got a call from The Nurse stating that she'll be away for the next little while...I believe the term was "shibaraku" which could mean anything from a few weeks to several months. I guess those Dare cookies I got her will now be donated to us.

The Admin was still as enthused as ever about learning English. Like Suzanne is, or was, she's a tonic. I can only hope that this will continue for the next little while.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Wednesday February 4, 1:04 p.m.

Barack Obama must be regretting having the "-elect" taken off President. I think he was having a much more successful time during the transition than actually having the power. Let's see, the Republicans have just whiffed him off over the stimulus plan and he's lost three of his Cabinet appointees over tax illegalities. And he thought he just had his hands full with Hillary.

Grandma Fado gave us some goodies, as she usually does, by saying "Well, these pies have passed the best-by date so you can have them". Ahhh, all heart she is. I had a good monthly chit-chat with Grandma Enka...mind you, she used 60% of the time to speak in Japanese. She gave me an early Valentine's Day present in the form of Dalloyau tea leaves...probably thinking of my health. She also gave us some beans from yesterday's Setsubun festivities. She had gone to her nearest temple where there were a ton of people squeezed in trying to grab the beans thrown from the temple. During Setsubun, not only are you supposed to throw them to drive the devil out but also you're supposed to eat the number of beans equal to your age. I think I've reached the age where I have to count one bean as one decade as compared with a single year. Kinda like making sure you don't set off the fire alarm when putting the candles on your cake.

Anyways, I gotta meet The Admin.
Tuesday February 3, 9:21 p.m.

Wasn't quite an argument, thankfully, but there was a small bone of contention between the juku boss, who ws back on active duty, and Mr.Mild over a make-up lesson due to my trip back home. Since they paid for four lessons a month, they were owed at least one more lesson. So I've got them slated in for Friday the 13th. I've got a feeling that Mr. Mild is far from mild where a financial discrepancy is seen. However, things worked out OK. Not sure about Mr. Mild tonight. He seemed a little bit ill at ease towards the end; we were doing a review of Present Perfect. Perhaps, he felt that it was too bad that he and his wife have to spend a lesson going over old ground. Well, not much I can do about that....except to get them back up to speed. I wonder if they'll still have the desire to go for one more year.

Yup, as it turned out, The Traveler has joined Jolly, Miss Disney and that woman who had been placed with The Milds earlier last year. Didn't show up and didn't reply to the boss' inquiries. So, basically with Suzanne out of the country, I just had The Milds and The Beehive bracketing an empty day, some of which mind you was spent tapping out the latest translation for Cozy at the I-cafe. Got that off to him. Still have yet to hear from The Corner about his translation assignment. I may send him a friendly letter of inquiry to him tomorrow.

The YouTube safari is always an interesting one. I started out by looking at that Advanced Thesis for Dance Class video from Beyonce for "Single Ladies"; some wag laughed at it by comparing it to a kindergarten presentation. I'm sure he got quite a few nasty replies wondering if he could actually pull it off. I know I certainly couldn't...not even do a wacky satire of it a la Justin Timberlake on SNL. Then, it was to go through a whole bunch of "Doctor Who" themes before watching an ol' Karen Carpenter video before seeing a J-Pop performance by Ruiko Kurahashi

Tomorrow should be back to normal. I've got the monthly with Grandmother Enka, followed by my second class with The Admin, and then I should have the regular Wednesday lineup with 001, The Diver and The Fashion Designer. I hope The Diver is ready to take her test finally. Just not sure whether she'll continue with us after getting that test.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Tuesday February 3, 2:53 p.m.

February 3...the day of Setsubun: throwing out the Devil with dried beans while bringing in good fortune. Kinda felt like throwing out MB this morning...well, not in too malicious a way. However, he somehow got my e-mail prepositions screwed up. I had told him last night to contact me before 8:45, not at 8:45...which he did. It was all about that school visit next Tuesday for which he was still trying to sell me on. Again, show me an apartment to be moved into and some really damn fine kids, then I'll conside it. Anyways, he just kept me on for a full 15 minutes before I had to cut in and politely cut out. As a result, I was rather harried in getting out, paying off those hefty City Tax and National Health Insurance premiums and mailing out Dad's birthday present before I could get over to Tsudanuma to see The Beehive. Luckily, most everyone there is pretty leisurely about getting to the cafe. It was still only Mrs. Travel there when I rushed in. The only other two to come in were Mrs. Alp and Mrs. Jade. Mrs. Tee was caught up in work. They related about Mrs. Perth's valiant project to create her very own snow sculpture of 15 m for the annual Snow Festival up in Hokkaido. Now that's one intrepid ex-student.

Like yesterday, I also got to tuck into another rather hi-calorie lunch. Yesterday it was The Class Act and me at that spicy nabe place in Shibuya. Today it was the Chinese restaurant chain Asta across from the station. Asta is one of those faux-high-class places that's actually pretty reasonable to most folks. And the food was pretty darn good on a higher level than the average Bamiyan. The three of my students were gabbing away about their latest travel plans. The one in the immediate future is a trip to Okinawa to see their old classmate, Mrs. Potter. But the big one seems to be a Meditteranean cruise. Mrs. Travel was the only one to have actually traveled on a ship so she was providing all of the advice.

I called up the juku boss to confirm that Suzanne would not be coming tonight. Yep, I had received a message from the boss last night that Suzanne would be taking the next couple of weeks off. I'd known about the 10th since she would be in Australia by that point...musing about her future. I also wondered aloud about The Traveler's lesson tonight since she completely AWOL'ed last Tuesday. We haven't heard a thing despite the boss trying to contact her last week. The boss gave her usual quizzical "Ah, so?" when I expressed my doubts about her future with us. Too much of an optimist, she is. In any case, she'll give her another try before I get there later.

Looks like my formerly free Thursday night has now been taken up by a business class that Speedy asked me to do. I agreed since it's turning out to be a relatively light week and I figure that I'll have to be meeting those guys from time to time. Plus, my Saturday is gonna be free aside from a session with Tully & The Coffeemaker.

Haven't heard so much as a peep from those two volcanoes which stirred up some alarm a couple of days ago. Hope it stays that way.
Monday February 2, 7:36 p.m.

Good m-o-o-o-r-ning, Mr. Phelps. Your mission, if you should choose to accept it, is to apologize to the world for your emission possible. Good luck, Mike. Yup, not a world-ending disaster for MP smoking MJ...just embarrassing. And he's not gonna lose any of his medals; if there had been any chance of that happening, the US media would've already launched one of the biggest spin doctoring blitzkriegs in history.

Over the last week, we've been getting some rumbles in the Kanto. Nothing too big...just Shindo 3 at most. But then over the past 48 hours, a couple of volcanoes up north started to make their cases known in the form of ash. Even certain wards here in The Big Sushi got dry snow. I'm wondering if something is in the offing. Back on Saturday morning, as I made the commute to Speedy's, I noticed outside that the clouds looked pretty ominous...I mean, these things looked like thunderheads, not formations I would see in the dead of winter. I wonder if these clouds are the granddaddys of jishin gumo (earthquake clouds). Apparently, there is a theory that jishin gumo form like jet vapor trails going straight up from the ground a few days before any fairly major seismic events. Checked out Fuji-TV news on the breaking news items there.

Met up with The Full-Timer at Doutors...and yep, my sweater is fully funky. She has finally pulled the trigger and given in her 2 months' notice at the workplace that has steadily and inexorably turned into a small Hell on Earth. She was feeling like the proverbial suddenly umemployed Atlas...a great burden has been lifted off her shoulders. She could've given a month's notice but decided to cut things off neatly at the end of the fiscal year at the end of March. Good for her, I say. Mind you, she's quitting in the middle of a recession, so I'm not sure when she'll be able to secure a new position and whether she'll have to cut ties with me to save money.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Monday February 2, 4:39 p.m.

My gray sweater is gonna smell so funky by the time I get home that it'll gain sentience. Not only is it Groundhog Day back in Canada & the United States but it's also The Matron's birthday which meant The Lady took us to a spicy lamb hot pot place near her home in deepest Shibuya. Actually, I'd passed the restaurant several times over the months but never knew what it was all about except for a cute sheep's face logo. However, The Lady is sold on it and if she thinks it's good then that's more than good enough for me.

The hot pot was like a lot of the current craze of hot pots...a large pot with a steel divider separating chicken broth from a far more spicier soup. We were then given lots of veggies (lettuce, nappa, lotus root, etc) and a small pile of thinly sliced lamb and pork. Then we all went to work. The Class Act was definitely feeling the heat far more than me; they got full far earlier and were quite a bit more sweatier. I guess I've been weatherproofed from my years with folks such as The Anime King and his Court who used to take to similar places back in Toronto. Still, it was delish and the wrap-up, or shime, was putting two kinds of noodles into the thoroughly flavoured broths. The spicy broth did leave my palate needing some sort of asbestos lining but a bowl of tapioca cooled things off nicely. Of course, the experience did leave a certain aroma into the fibres of my sweater. Of course, I'll be seeing The Full-Timer later today which means a liberal infusion of cigarette smoke and coffee at Doutors, and with the usual perspiration that comes from a day's exertions, I'll probably be able to leave my sweater on the tatami tonight standing straight up. The place was good, though, so I'll probably bring MB and The Satyr if we're ever in the area, and perhaps even The Anime Court when they come over around Golden Week 1.

I gave my olfactory warnings to SIL when I came to see her afterwards but she was graceful enough to state that she could only sense a certain curry-like aroma.

Yesterday I met up with The Bohemian for the first time this year for dinner in Shibuya...yep, same neighbourhood as today. The one weird thing about standing in front of Hachiko this time around was that the area was far less than jam-packed on Sunday than a typical Friday or Saturday. I could actually see the other side of the plaza within my range of vision. Wasn't sure if the economic situation was a factor. The Bohemian took me to a small Chinese restaurant called Goku in that slightly sleazy alley with the S&M shop and the peeping parlour that tenuously links the two diverging streets away from JR Shibuya.

Like that nabe place today, The Bohemian's choice was also right on the money. I'm sure the 3,000-yen all-you-can-drink deal also influenced his decision. Like my old friend, The Iconoclast, The Bohemian tried to use his fractured Chinese to make contact with the Chinese waitress who was perfectly fluent in Japanese. Like The Iconoclast, the waitress couldn't make heads or tails of what he was talking about. Still, the man tried. Although I'm little more than a social drinker, I made sure I got my money's worth by alternating my booze (beer and plum wine on the rocks) with cola. The dishes themselves were great...gyoza and some stir-fry were there and there was a ma bo do fu dish which initially had me was nearly black in colour and I had some rather painful times after a similarly coloured ma bo do fu years ago with Paddy in Akasaka...let's say the words bed, bowels, void would've been liberally used to describe that experience. However, to my relief, it was hot and tasty but without any of the Jackass-like results.

The Bohemian has been enjoying his social scene over the past several months. Considering that this is a guy who was one of the earliest folks in Tokyo to get laid off, he's pretty resilient. He's been using the Mixi communities to meet up with new friends. He's been having his greatest successes with the Chinese ones and he even invited me to some gig later this month. He invited me to something next weekend involving a young lady who may or may not become a girlfriend. She's from Manchuria and she's been waitressing at an izakaya while going through school. Not quite sure whether I'll go to either one since I've kinda soured on parties over the last little while. Not surprisingly, The Bohemian struck up the friendship with her while he was a customer at her restaurant. He's never been very shy to talk with the waitresses.

After the two of us split up, I just made a quick drop-in to Tower Records to see if I could pick up anything there. I just bought the latest issue of "Total Film". Did see some blasts from the past show some new releases. The store no longer stocks those 80s compilations since they were frankly languishing on the shelves for the last several months. Those old 80s bands, Go West and ABC, put out some new stuff which didn't sound too bad. I even saw a re-release of "P-Machinery" that that seemingly one-album wonder, Propaganda, from Germany had put out 20 years ago.

Should be a fairly quiet night since I've just got The Full-Timer and Medicine Man. I'll probably be apologizing again for my sweater, though.