Friday, February 27, 2009

Saturday February 28, 4:09 p.m.

Well, he did it...Mr. Pronounciation pulled off a dotakyan (the sudden cancellation) during my lesson with The Businesswoman. So, I'm now officially off for the weekend. I was kinda thinking that he was gonna do something like this today...a bit Daphne Moon, I know. As soon as I heard that phone ring in the outer office, I kinda figured something was up. A pity for him, too. If he'd called the day before, he could've kept his money but since this was on the day of, he lost that. Speedy may be rather surprised to drop in and see that everyone's gone home.
Saturday February 28, 2:42 p.m.

Just 20 minutes away from The Businesswoman coming in. Bay is in the house and I've handed off her the translation.

On the way over here, I came across something that might become disturbingly more common as the economy continues to worsen. I mentioned about the Central Park/Hibiya Park similarity where the homeless and breadlines are concerned. Well, now another New York phenomenon came to my eyes this morning on the Tozai Line. Some clearly unhinged fellow came onto the train and started spouting some stream-of-consciousness gibberish. At first, he sounded like someone talking on his cell with the diction of a TV announcer. Then, I started hearing his content of penises, masturbation and drugs and discoverered that the fellow was talking to noone in least noone tangible. Just like the New York commuters, the Tokyo commuters uncomfortably tried to pay him no mind.
Saturday February 28, 1:08 p.m.

Well, well, well....look who comes back. I think it's a fuzzy, lighter patch in the clouds. And there was a strange orange ball icon on the weather map on TV this morning.'s the sun. We're actually gonna be able to use the adjective "sunny" again before this month peters out in less than 12 hours.

I did get my wake-up call this morning from The Matron. She'd left a couple of messages for me on the phone over the last couple of days...most likely about the future of our lessons since the bombshell concerning The Lady's husband. Not surprisingly, The Matron said that there would be no lessons for March (at least) but she has made a reservation at that 3-Michelin star French restaurant in Shirogane called Quintessence. My student also mentioned that her classmate is doing fine under the circumstances; no word on her husband, though. Kinda amazing that she would even think of doing a swanky lunch in these times. I will lament the loss of income but at least I will get extra sleep on Mondays for the next few weeks.

Speaking of the economic horror that noone will stubbornly call The Great Depression of the 21st Century, I was watching a CNN feature on the trials and tribulations of Japan. It was sobering to see that, like Central Park during the first Great Depression exactly 80 years ago, Hibiya Park in Tokyo has now become home to bread lines and the homeless. There was one interviewee in the piece who used to be an art director with his own gallery and a cushy lifestyle. Now he has none of that, plus his family has left him. The way the reporter put it, it sounds as if his wife and kids cruelly deserted him, but I think it's also possible that the separation was on mutual consent and that his estranged family is living with the in-laws somewhere in the boonies. The man now scrubs rooms in modern flophouses for folks who may also be in his situation. Quite a fall from grace but he's not alone by any means. I can't even sure what my fate will be in 6 months.

It used to be the fact that even during recessions, I cheekily remarked "Recession, what recession?" whenever Tokyo entered the discussion. Even during low times, the nightlife here had been bustling in places like Shibuya and Roppongi. Now, although I haven't visited those places at night in some time, I kinda wonder if reality is finally going to step in. The news has been reporting that Japan is going through its worst economic times since World War II and it's getting even deeper. There will be changes here in the next several months...I know this. Suicides in this suicide-happy country will further soar, and I just can't see some of these pop cultural trends continuing for too much longer. Stuff like the agejo; these are the Shibuya punk gyaru who dress up in huge blonde wigs and wear more mascara than Gwen Stefani...can't see how much more makeup they can afford, let alone those fake designer bags. And I'm not even too sure if the Maid Cafes will survive...even the most diehard otaku won't be so desperate to part with 500-yen coffee and 500-yen table charges at the AtHome Cafe in Akiba.

It's ironic then that the various local TV stations such as Nippon Television and Fuji-TV are currently celebrating their 50th anniversary since they went on the air. Or is it? When TV stations came on during the postwar period, Japan was also the down-and-out country. TV was probably needed to give the masses some form of respite while they worked themselves out of misery. The two stations have been doing 3-hour retrospectives over the past few days and I think Fuji-TV will be pulling out all the stops on March 1 since that is its official birthday. And it must be a weird experience for some of the oldtimers watching the specials seeing these feelgood black & white variety and music shows all over again in an economic morass all over again. But the younger generations...if they're not working their second jobs or just working extremely hard at the office in their first one...will now also partake in this video morphine. Last night, Fuji based its latest special on music over the past 50 years...too bad I couldn't be home at that time...since I have an interest in the ol' Showa pop, but then again on the telly I was watching the segment where TV drama stars were plying their musical prowess...or lack thereof...I quickly went back to CNN. Tonight, Fuji is focusing on the variety TV programs...a genre that may have died out decades ago in the States but is still going on pretty strong. I think that variety shows may have to work extra hard to keep the masses happy, but then I came across another article last week which said that the powers-that-be at the stations are now thinking of cutting back on their services, putting more pressure on their relatively low-paid tarento celebs to do more live shoots and to be funnier. Strangely enough, just when TV may be needed the most to comfort the audience, TV may also be heading for the scrap heap.

Anyways, I got word from The Bohemian. Looks like we're on for another dinner tomorrow in Shinjuku. I'm trying to be careful with the funds but I was happy to get that payment from The Corner last night. Not sure when the next big assignment is coming in, though.
Friday February 27, 8:22 p.m.

Well, the earlier Toronto weather has given way to Vancouver weather...which means that the fluffy snowfall of this morning has turned to the usual cold rain. I left Speedy's mid-afternoon and headed for Shinjuku to see if I could find that "Art of Noise" album but I only came across the individual albums and not their best compilation.; ended up getting a couple of old DVDs at 30% off at HMV; a lot of sales going on with the economic downturn. Got "Ronin", the final movie by John Frankenheimer and a classic spy tale with one of the best team-ups in movie history to boot: Robert DeNiro and Jean Reno. The other disc was on the other end of the scale: "Young Frankenstein". Continued the search at the other HMV above JR Shinjuku but that branch was pretty small-scale. Made one more attempt at Tower Records but couldn't find Art of Noise so I ended up getting the latest Best Of disc of Earth, Wind & Fire. Did blow half of my tax rebate.

Had my dinner at the pasta place run by The Restauranteur. Man, this has been a heavy protein-and-carb day for me. Succumbed to hunger and ended up having a Big Mac set for lunch, and then it was Meat Sauce Spaghetti with Corn Soup at the pasta place. I'd forgotten that the portions of spaghetti over there were hefty...easily for two normal people. Luckily, I'm not exactly normal...I was able to down the whole bowl although I was wondering if I were going to end up like that first victim from "Seven". The Restauranteur pointed out that whenever Friday rolls around and she sees me, the weather is always bad. She's been calling me ameotoko, the Rain Man, but nothing to do with that Dustin Hoffman character. I don't think the moniker is particularly negative, and certainly my student didn't mean it that's just an indicator of meterological tendencies.

Still, there's a good chance that we'll have a repeat of today tomorrow. More snow possibly. Luckily, I will be able to get a very sound round of sleep tonight unlike last night since I only have 2 classes at Speedy's on Saturday and they're solidly in the mid-afternoon.

It's been pretty quiet here at the juku. The boss initially cancelled all of her classes tonight since she'd thought that that she would be needed at a funeral tonight for a friend's mother. But that deal fell through and so the boss tried to call up at least one student to say that the juku's back on. However, the kid had yet to return from school and he still hasn't shown up, so I gather that I'm the only game in town tonight. Culinarily, when it rains it pours, too, apparently. After surviving my massive spaghetti dinner, the boss handed me a large ice cream cone from the conbini.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Friday February 27, 11:44 a.m.

Snow, snow. SNOW! Just like the song from "White Christmas". The wet fluffy stuff started coming down in droves just before Miss Prissy arrived and has yet to stop. Not sure if this is a local phenomenon or metro-wide, but it definitely got Ray's attention for several minutes. Nice to watch from inside a heated school, but I hope the temperatures don't start dropping so that accumulation might actually occur, thereby screwing up the entire public transportation network of Tokyo.

Basically, I'm done for the next several hours so I'll just get to work on Bay's favour and then I'll probably head on out to Shinjuku.
Friday February 27, 8:07 a.m.

The "Blade Runner/Black Rain" weather continues to plague the Kanto. In fact, the weather forecasters have even placed a snowman where Saitama is. The high is supposed to be just 5 C in Chiba, but I frankly think we surpassed that already...just doesn't feel that cold to me right now. But for the natives, they must be cursing "samu, samu" under their trenchcoats.

Well, the big night of the week has passed. That model lesson in the last slot was taken care of pretty workmanlike by me. The guy was pretty reticent about his job...probably a spy or something...and he does like his DeBussy; don't know yet if he's gonna take my bait and sign up. That plus the previous lesson with the Nervous Nellie Bostonian (due to her upcoming presentation in English) pretty much drained the calories away from me.

Since I had the late slot, I once again came home past midnight and had to come back here for the early slot to teach Miss Prissy this morning. Knowing that I would only have 5 hours of sleep, I decided to just take my shower and get dressed up in today's work clothes and just sleep sitting on the sofa, thinking that if I were not that comfortable I would be able to get up a lot quicker. Well, my plan...regrettably...worked brilliantly. Didn't get much shuteye at all. And even a seat on the subway didn't help me catch up on the sleep. My hunger from last night was sated by the MegaMuffin at McD' first time there in about 2 weeks (that is a record, by the way). But again, that McMuffin on steroids is just a huge grease bomb. I don't think I'll be tempted to have another one of those for at least 6 months.

Now that the big night is out of the way, I can relatively coast with just 2 hours' worth of classes today...Miss Prissy in about 2 hours and then the usual Ace/Restauranteur combo much later tonight. But Bay gave me some of her own translation request in the form of her koseki tohon, which translates as "family register info". Every citizen has one. She needs hers translated since she's apparently gonna tie the knot with her American boyfriend. Found that out from the congratulatory messages on her Facebook (I sometimes do some trolling through the Friends).

From my pay packet, Speedy informed me that 20,000 yen of that is pure rebate from the government so I'm sorely tempted to get me some CDs later on today. That "Best of Art of Noise" sounds like the beginning of an apt reward.

The Patent Attorney should be here any second...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thursday February 26, 3:50 p.m.

Finished with The Big Lug nearly an hour ago. He said he's been busy with mention about that death in the family, and I didn't pry. He's heading off to The Big Apple next week for about a week for the very first time, so we used some of the hour on the stuff that he will...and won't...look forward to. Speaking of which, 001 is probably already on the plane for Hokkaido for another round of 3-day skiing. She must not have any other hobbies except for saving up for big trips.

I finally got off that last of this month's Cozy translations...keeping my fingers crossed on that one. If it passes muster, I can get that invoice written up and sent away for money. I'm still waiting for the next big assignment from The Corner.
Thursday February 26, 1:14 p.m.

The gloom and rain will just not end here in The Big Sushi. In fact, it'll be March 1 before we see any glimmer of sunshine. Such is February.

Got the pay packet from Speedy last night just before going home. The timing was good. The 25th of each month is usually pay day for a majority of the companies here, and so the banks and the ATMs are packed tighter than a Barack Obama event. But on the 26th, it's the eye of the hurricane. And so depositing my hard-earned cash only took a minute.

Speaking of the US President, apparently he's gotten good marks from pundits, pols (even Republicans) and the public. And so I figure, the marketers and marketeers will be gurning their hands in Uriah Heep glory as they introduce the sequel to the bestselling Barack Obama's Inaugural Address DVD that's been playing ad nauseum in all of the bookstores in Tokyo. It doesn't matter that he'll be talking about what to do with Medicare, the economy and the War on Terrorism; as long as those dulcet tones waft down from the speakers and into your hungry ears, the Japanese yen will be satisfying the Japanese listen to their political Barry White.

Well, it won't be as busy as it was scheduled. Strangely enough, as Grandma Dynamite signaled her intention to return to the fold, Grandma FON called in sick last night. Her trip to hot, dry Morocco and her return to cold, wet Japan knocked her metabolism for a loop so she's recovering in bed today. Instead, I'll be starting with The Big Lug; haven't seen him in nearly 3 months. Then, The Carolinan will be making a return appearance here, followed by The Bostonian in her attempts to be presentation-ready in a couple of weeks. And I wrap up with a model lesson. Always nervous about those.
Wednesday February 25, 5:45 p.m.

Yup, it's been a quiet Wednesday, judging by the number of my entries.

Well, I've been reading "Eats, Shoots and Leaves", the bestseller by Lynne Truss. Not exactly the rip-roarin' gutbuster according to the tributes, but that's probably the handiwork of her agent and my comedian's vow to keep a straight face. Still, interesting timewaster on the trains to and from home.

Interesting observation of the cast of characters on the I-go and Shogi TV channel that I now have as part of my regular cable (yes, I am truly a deprived person socially). For some reason, it would seem that a lot of the women who play the two traditional Japanese games are just darn pretty. There are some women who...well...look like the ones I would expect to see play I-go or shogi, but there are some lookers, for the lack of a better word, in front of the brown gridboard and they have standing in the dan class. Kinda too bad for them, though, that their male counterparts look like the salarymen who would buy the girlie magazines.

Anyways, time to get ready for 001's arrival.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wednesday February 25, 4:52 p.m.

Spent most of the afternoon working on the last of the latest translations from Cozy. Still gotta tweak it a bit tomorrow morning; I think I can still hand it in a bit late but I'll be waiting for Cozy's reply on that. Thought I would be rushing through prepping for the regular Wednesday night lineup but managed to get that done within 5 minutes. 001 is mostly gabbing...and since she'll be off to her second ski trip to Hokkaido from tomorrow, she'll probably be trying to get away from the text. The Diver will be straightforward text with lots and lots of practice and application, and the lesson with The Fashion Designer is just checking her latest test followed by the new chapter.

I remember the earlier lesson with The Admin. Next week, we don't have a lesson together since AK will be visiting The Admin's home around that time. Though The Admin didn't go into details (obviously not any of my business), AK is apparently harbouring some sort of problem. Not sure if it's romance-related or if it's anything to do with Speedy himself. He can be pretty demanding of his staff. Ray just had an intense talk with him not too long ago; and I know that Bay is probably the most vocal of the lot in terms of objections.

Also remember the fact that "The Revenge of the Sith" played for the first time on Japanese network TV on Saturday on Fuji-TV. It just seems that every time I watch it, it gets worse and worse...mostly because of the acting which is horrendous. Hayden Christensen didn't help his career get any further with that sort of performance, although Lucas' writing provided plenty of excuses.
Wednesday February 25, 2:48 p.m.

Turned in the 2nd draft of the latest Cozy translations over to the guy himself. That took about a couple of hours right there, and I still have the first draft of that other thing for Cozy to hand in. Luckily, I decided to come into Speedy's early today instead of just traipsing around Shinjuku to walk off that curry buffet lunch. Yup, I did it again. This time, my timing wasn't as good. I went in just smack dab in the middle of a major scrum of folks. I had to sit next to a burly guy who was grumbling at the waitress about still waiting for his naan; the guy looked like he already had too much naan in him. But within 10 minutes, most of the lunch crowd cleared out.

Well, President Obama gave his not-"State of the Nation" address earlier today. CNN and the government were adamant in saying that this was an address to Congress about his plans for the economy. Looks like the people are still happy with him; fully two-thirds of the audience gave him thumbs-up. Notably, the official Republican rebuttal was given by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, the first Indian-American governor and one of the youngest to boot. Not too many years ago, I couldn't have imagined that an Indian-American of political stature would be giving official rebuttals to African-American US Presidents. And ol' Bobby may be following in Obama's footsteps someday.

Looks like Grandma Dynamite will be returning from hibernation from March but at an earlier time. Ah, my early wake-up calls are coming back...sigh. However, in this current economic state, I cannot really gripe about the fact that I have lots of work.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tuesday February 24, 4:20 p.m.

At the juku. On the way over, I think I saw Suzanne in the Starbucks across from Urayasu Station. Didn't bother going anywhere near her since she would probably want to enjoy her private time, but I'll check her on it in an hour or so. The boss finally got that Japanese-style peanut brittle she'd been raving about to me for the past couple of weeks...just when I got my bag of kaki-P (salty peanuts and rice crackers) for dinner. It's called Nankyo Tsukune and it's pretty darn good. Basically, it's like kaki-P except that it's been drowned in hardened syrup. I'll probably share it with Suzanne since she was kind enough to bring over those Black Forest Tim-Tams last week.

Was doing my share of YouTube surfing at the I-Cafe. I did find the coverage of Mokkun and the gang behind "Departures" getting their Oscar. I was interested in hearing how their English sounded. It was kinda like listening to those annual English recitation contests that I'd been forced to hear back on the JET Programme. Mokkun sounded like the most earnest Berlitz student ever groomed...kinda like Judy Garland. Meanwhile, the two female co-stars, Ryoko Hirosue and Kimiko Yo, sounded like a couple of high school girls suddenly being ambushed by by a gaijin tarento and forced to speak something in their second language. Speedy to the rescue.

Also came across some ol' Art of Noise remixes on YouTube, courtesy of Trevor Horn...specifically, "Dragnet" from their Best Of album. Argghhh....not another reason to part with my yen. Then, it was a hilarious George W. Bush "tribute" done a la the opening credits to "Space 1999".

Heard that while the Oscars were going on, the current President had the ultimate R&B kings, Earth Wind & Fire, up at the White House as the musical entertainment for the big powwow for the State Governors. I think even John McCain would've started doing a jig to these guys but it seemed a bit strange seeing EW&B boogying Wonderland in such an enclosed space. It was almost like watching a hired band at a bat mitzvah.

Unfortunately, PM Aso won't be in time for any remaining cake when he gets to Washington in the next several hours. He's probably been crowing that he's the first Head of State to meet Barack Obama since he took office. last month. However, the experts are saying that Aso won't leave too much of an impression with the far more charismatic Obama. I think even Junichiro Koizumi would prostrate himself in front of the President while crowing "I'm not worthy!" Basically, President Obama will have Taro scheduled between nap time and his colorectal examination.

However, I do wonder if this love affair between America and Obama is starting to reach saccharine levels. CNN has been practically working as his press agent, announcing the big State of the Union address for later today. I don't think Bush or any other US President ever got that much advertising for his big speech to Congress.

Anyways, I got the usual cast of characters tonight: Suzanne, The Traveler and The Milds. And the boss' student should be coming up any minute so I'll head back into my room.
Tuesday February 24, 1:25 p.m.

Back at the I-cafe again. I had vowed that I would only come here twice a month since I now have a slightly heavier payment for TV and phone now. But with my translation gig, I needed to get that second of three assignments in today before the last of the three gets out tomorrow. I like Cozy to know that I'm on the ball.

Had The Beehive: just Jade, Travel and Alp, but the talk was pretty lively on two main topics. First, of course, was about the collapse of the company that The Lady's husband used to own. I was kinda surprised that they hadn't sent me a message the day before. The second was about the Oscar win by "Okuribito" (known as "Departures" in English), the Best Foreign Film.

It was rather surreal to see Mokkun (the nickname of the star of the movie) and Qui-Gon Jinn on the stage together. Hell, it was just surreal to see that star, Masahiro Motoki...a former member of 80s Johnny's Jimusho boy band, Shibugakitai...along with pop aidoru/actress Ryoko Hirosue dressed to the nines on the Oscar stage. Both Mrs Travel and Mrs. Jade had seen the movie and gave it an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Both remarked on its whimsical and tragicomic tone (it's about a cello player who ends up becoming a talented mortician). Though I'm not one for dramas, especially J-dramas, I have to admit that seeing one scene of Mokkun's protagonist dress up a dearly departed person for the funeral has gotten me a bit interested. I don't think I'll shuck up the 1800 yen for it at the theatre, but perhaps I'll get the DVD for the parentals. According to Jade and Travel, the only cast member who let down the side is Hirosue who's apparently not the greatest of acting talent (not saying much, I suppose); but they think the world of Motoki's performance.

Masahiro Motoki certainly has come a long way since his days as a Johnny's aidoru. I remember him as the one truly good-looking kid in the triumvirate known as Shibugakitai; the other two were merely cute boys-next-door types...just like most of the other Johnny's guys. The group bleated out the usual overproduced pop ditties in their day-glo striped T-shirts and white pants like Menudo on acid. Then, Motoki had his wild solo days which not only featured him doing weirdo roles in movies and TV shows and commercials, but also a notorious performance on the annual Red&White Song Festival on NHK one year in which he jiggled around in pants that showed off his bare buns. The phones didn't stop ringing...although I think some of those folks were quite praiseworthy as well as condemning. But now, it seems like he has reached his post-"Forrest Gump" Tom Hanks phase. He certainly did look good in that photo on the Oscar stage last night....pretty classic looks in that tux. Maybe he might do a Ken Watanabe?

In any case, he and the director have been assaulted by the media pretty much nonstop for the past 24 hours. It seemed that every TV station drilled onto them in interviews whenever I clicked through the remote. They should sleep well tonight. And speaking of Oscars, apparently host Hugh Jackman will be coming over to Fuji-TV in the next couple of days...probably to promote "Australia". Yeowch!
Monday February 23, 9:15 p.m.

Have started the week off losing. Lost one of my gloves, maybe even lost a client. As for the glove, I lost it in the rush to get to the subway. I was grumbling about it on the train over to Otemachi...until I realized I was grumbling about a stinkin' glove that cost me 500 yen. It's not as if I were Michael Jackson pulling a hissy fit for accidentally flushing a jewel-encrusted glove down the toilet.

As for the client part, well, when I got off the subway at Otemachi Station, I saw one of the headline banners at the kiosk state that one of the big companies had gone down in what has become a disturbing sign of the times. And it turned out that the company belongs...or the husband of The Lady. Eeowich! Well, maybe it was a good thing that I didn't have her class today; otherwise, I would've had to fight off the media hordes outside her house. However, I'm not too worried about losing her since compared to what she pays me for my services, I must represent a mere millionth of their total expenditures. We'll see...I sent a letter of condolences to her.

I had my first Com Pho bowl of pho noodles of the year. The economy may be tanking but I'm always ready for a good bowl of their stuff. I also went upstairs to Maruzen. Picked up the weekly METROPOLIS; there was a photo book of a lot of Japanese actresses playing dead all over Japan. I'm sure for a lot of J-drama fans, this must be Xmas...I'm sure for a lot of anti-J-drama fans....this must also be Xmas.

Taught SIL....she didn't mention anything about the collapse of her brother's company, so I didn't say anything either.

Saw The Full-Timer. Looks like she'll be taking another trip to Hawaii on her freebie ticket courtesy of her soon-to-be-ex-company next week. Gotta use your opportunities when you can.

And I've got Medicine Man any minute now.

Heard that the Oscars were another snorefest. Nothing new there...even with Hugh Jackman as the host. I was happy to hear that "Departures", the Japanese entry for Foreign Film got the big prize. And of course, Heath must be quite happy in Heaven right now. He pulled off the second posthumous Oscar after Peter Finch.