Friday, April 03, 2009

Saturday April 4, 2:30 p.m.

Finished all of the classes today. The Intellectual was once again dripping sweat all over the place; he seems to be one of those fellows who doesn't take to heat very well. I wonder how he survives the summers here. As for The Bostonian, she told me about what had happened at the big presentation; yep, there were the technical glitches but she said that because she'd gone over the words several times, she could get through that hurdle smoothly. The one surprise was that on her way here, she came across a former First Couple of Japan in Yoyogi Park this morning. Shinzo and Akie Abe were just walking their dog sans bodyguards of any sort; I know that Tokyo is still a safe city but for a former PM to be doing something like that would evoke a lot of envy from ex-Presidents Carter, Clinton and the two generations of Bush. But it could also be that Shinzo Abe was pretty rightwing to begin with so there wouldn't be any danger of attacks from the lunatic far right. Some high schoolers even nonchalantly asked them for a picture which they very happily granted.

The Publicity Assistant did fine on her test. The movie she's promoting, "Frost Vs. Nixon" happens to be a big hit here....strange for a movie whose topic matter wouldn't really attract much attention unless there were a lot of Japanese Watergate fetishists.

It's looking pretty gorgeous out there...for now. I'll probably be taking off in about another 15 minutes or so.

Saturday April 4, 10:25 a.m.
Yep, that is indeed a very tasty Bacon Cheeseburger in one of our great Tokyo burger joints, Brozers, in Ningyocho. I usually get a few surprised exclamations at the location since Ningyocho is one of the more traditional corners of this metropolis.
Speaking of which, the latest METROPOLIS has its annual Burger Pullout Guide Menu; there are the usual entries like ROTI and Homework's, but I also did see some new stores. Looks like MB, Skippy and I will be pulling out some more Burger Tours in the not-so-distant future.
Burgers have become the "in" food for the past few years now since the Japanese diet has become rather dependent on Western fast food. Ironically, McDonalds, arguably the first fast food place to introduce hamburgers to Japan, had to join the hamburger bandwagon last year and by so doing, finally brought over the Quarter-Pounder which is doing pretty good business out there. The American ex-pat no longer needs to head back home or go inside a US military base to get a real burger.
In that same issue of METROPOLIS, there was the cover story of Japanese Rock Girls...the J-version of Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde. I think for all of those J-Pop fans, this issue should be a must-collect. It lists about 20 bands and chanteuses such as Aiha Higurashi, Afrirampo and Ringo Shiina.
Saturday April 4, 10:07 a.m.

Got some sleep last night but still feel tired. Going up to 18 C today with a chance of rain later tonight...maybe even a Taepaedong.

Last night, I was talking about that old lady in Shinjuku who had collapsed in front of The Bow and me. Well, The Restauranteur had her own little spill; the left side of her face was slightly bruised in places after she had slipped and fell in her eatery a few days ago. Not to say that she was anywhere near Two-Face but it was noticeable. She also tapped her head on the floor which rang alarm bells in me and the juku boss. For me, like that Shinjuku lady, I got reminded of Natasha Richardson and the two of us plus The Ace recommended that she go to the hospital. But The Restauranteur breezily but firmly said that she wouldn't go to any hospital since she hated them. I didn't press the issue since I'm also no lover of medical institutions.

Only have three today: The Intellectual, The Bostonian and The Publicity Assistant. I'll be seeing The Bostonian for the first time since she had that big presentation a couple of weeks ago. True to her luck (and mine), we did all those lessons on presentation only to find out that her computer and Microsoft Powerpoint went on the fritz at showtime thus rendering our carefully laid plans to ashes.

Since I have all three closely bunched together, I'll be able to get home pretty early. So far, I haven't heard anything from The Corner about those translations and since I won't be looking at my Hotmail, I will go home free. However, I'm gonna have two real Hump Days next week with Wednesday and Thursday containing 6 lessons each.
Friday April 3, 7:18 p.m.

It was a tale of two students today. I had The Bass this morning in Funabashi. We just went to the Doutors across the street from the station. He said that it was usually not that busy in the morning but I guess Fridays were an exception, but we were able to find a table. Hmmm...The Bass is a good guy but I also got the vibe that he wouldn't hesitate to dress me down if I got a bit lackadaiscal in the execution, not that I usually do and not that he shouldn't chew me out if I screw up majorly, but I wasn't sure if he were all that comfortable with the lesson today. He's probably one of my highest private students from the get-go, so it may be a case that I have to spin up my game. I certainly revved up my aftercare. He had asked me for a receipt, an audioscript and the next chapter....none of which I had on me (the first two I'd never been asked for before, and the third was a blunder on my part). So, even though we left on good terms, I felt like I was walking home after having been sent to the principal's office.

Got back to my neighbourhood and after I had my lunch at the tonkatsu place, I went over to the 100-Yen Shop and got a receipt book plus an envelope and then I headed straight on out to Maruzen. The Bass was only using a photocopy of the first chapter so part of my aftercare was to get him his own textbook and the audioscript. The text was no problem but I had to order the script which I'll have to pick up next Friday. I mailed the book and the receipt for today's class a few hours later.

The second student was The Bow who had to be subjected to semi-arctic temperatures from sitting outside at another filled-to-the-gills Starbucks last week since I couldn't get a table at the Maynds Tower Starbucks last week. I made sure that wouldn't happen today by getting there about a half-hour early. She showed up at 3 and we had a pretty good inaugural official class. Yup, she's low-intermediate which is more along who I usually teach so it was more comfortable from the get-go. I think she's gonna follow the pattern of The Sisters of State and go for biweekly sessions.

The Bow and I walked outside of The Maynds Tower...she was heading over to Takashimaya Times Square and I was heading over to the post office to mail The Bass' package when an old lady next to us suddenly collapsed and banged her head on the pavement. The two of us plus two other Good Samaritans helped her back up but she was feeling pretty woozy....and in fact, she was heading back to her room at a nearby hospital from doing a bit of shopping. I'm not sure if she had been allowed out since she was just wearing her hospital gown under a light jacket. We stayed with her for a few minutes as she just sat down on the steps in front of Maynds and insisted that we could go. We reluctantly left after lingering for another several seconds and then I told The Bow that I would check on her after I got out of the post office. Once I mailed the package off, I saw from across the street that another quartet of folks surrounded her, and one of them with a strong back decided to piggyback her to her hospital. Hopefully, she's OK now, but considering the Natasha Richardson tragedy, I hope she'll get her head examined.

I got over to Urayasu by around 6:30. I'd been thinking about having dinner at The Restauranteur's place tonight but I didn't want the juku boss to start panicking if I didn't show up at 7 so I just did KFC instead. When I got to the place, the boss told me about The Traveler's absence throughout April due to work. Still, she was in good spirits; she even gave me a mocha eclair for dessert...never could resist one of those. I have The Ace and The Restauranteur for their regular lengths of time....a half-hour each.

I've been reading my latest acquisition from Kinokuniya: Professor Michio Kaku's "Physics of the Impossible". It has been a good read, and the prof does explain things in a very layman style. But even on the subway home the last couple of nights, even his book couldn't stop me from nodding off. I was grateful for a bit more sleep today, and it'll be somewhat normal as well for the next day. I've just got The Intellectual, The Bostonian and The Publicity Assistant for Saturday.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Thursday April 2, 8:41 p.m.

Yup, I'm done for tonight...that model lesson zapped me. Not that it was bad or that the student was a problem. However, model lessons always take a lot out of student and teacher. But I still have Music Man...the last model lesson student; luckily, I got a conversion out of him. Not sure about this lady, though. Maybe, maybe not. However, I know that I gave it my best.

Now, I gotta get ready for my two new students tomorrow: The Bass and The Bow...both of them musicians in completely different genres.

Thursday April 2, 5:21 p.m.

It's been a lazy afternoon although I've got that model lesson in a little over an hour from now. Just had a late lunch or an early supper. La Fille, the new kid on the block, seems to be settling into her position. Ray and Day have been showing her the ropes over the past few days. for the scene on the left, that was one of my pics as I walked through Ginza. There was a bit of an Akiba performance art piece between two lacy-dressed women on Chuo Dori during the regular Sunday afternoon hokoten. A rather eager photographer was taking snaps of them while male pedestrians were shooting them with their cellphone cameras. Still not sure whether the Akiba hokoten has come back.
Got invitations from both MB and The Party Animal, an old university buddy from a couple of decades back. MB invited me to a yakiniku outing at a place near Yoyogi Station. I would've been quite content to spend my Sunday at home all day but the smell of searing beef got me reaching for the send button to MB in the positive. As for The Party Animal, she's invited me to her place for a BBQ out in her neck of the woods...presumably out in the west end of town on the 25th. Seeing that I have a day off on that day, I said that I would come on out. I have a feeling that it'll be an old U of T Alumni Night, although on a much more intimate scale which I prefer. I tend to avoid reunions like the plague.
Since Kim Jong Il announced that he was going to have a bit of fun with one of his more ballistic toys recently, the Japanese have been holding emergency drills just in case the big day happens during the weekend. So, NHK has been dutifully showing the men in their coveralls behind old machinery doing countdowns and sending out announcements. I'm not sure what more they can do. Trying to imagine an air raid warning in Tokyo on Saturday...don't think one of those has been sounded in over 60 years. I can't even imagine seeing a whole bunch of agejo trying to hit the dirt in those day-glo heels of theirs.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Thursday April 2, 12:56 p.m.

One of those nights where I had to dress up in my work clothes for today and sit-sleep on the sofa, lest I don't wake up in time to head back to work. Not my favourite environment since I usually end up quite tired. And I had the two Grandmas: Dynamite and FON. They sandwiched Miss Sedona. Since all three ladies were back-to-back-to-back, I now have several hours of downtime before I have that low model student and then the Music Man to finish up.

Grandma FON had just come back from a weeklong tour of places like Yakushima, a World Heritage Site and perhaps the inspiration for "Princess Mononoke". It's amazing how much energy she has, considering she's on a cane...perhaps I should've codenamed her Yoda instead; however, her syntax is better than the Jedi Master's.

I was able to get the remaining translations done and sent by Grandma Dynamite's arrival. Now I can just prep for the remaining two lessons and think about what I'll need to do for my two newest private students, The Bass and The Bow, whose first lessons are tomorrow.
Wednesday April 1, 5:21 p.m.

It might be April Fool's Day, but it's also the beginning of the new fiscal year here in Japan, a date of some import. So, it's rather appropriate that it's also my first day of real work this week after a couple of very sparse days. I had The Admin earlier this morning at the usual place; once again, she didn't really touch the text but she seems to be happy just recording every new vocab that pops up.

Again, I had another big donut of time so I just went over to that Chinese eatery in the Maynds Tower for lunch. Yep, crowded and this time there was also a sizable lineup in front. I had the chuukadon...basically chow mein but all of the toppings are on rice instead of noodles. There was also the usual miscue in orders although I got my dish OK.

Krispy Kreme #1 only had a 5-minute wait time during the rain but by the time I got out of Times Square, that wait increased to 15 minutes once the sun started coming out. Just did the usual tour of Kinokuniya and HMV. I actually got Michio Kaku's book, "Physics of the Impossible" since I was interested in what was the real deal on warp drive and teleportation. A bit heavy for subway commuting reading, especially round midnight but I trust Kaku to keep me entertained and informed.

I also decided to get the PASMO Commuter Pass to join that PASMO card that I'd gotten from MB for my birthday. I discovered that I was spending way too much money through the PASMO (over 20,000 yen) when I could just spend several thousand less through the commuter pass.

I enjoyed watching "Ironman" once again on DVD. Robert Downey Jr. certainly makes the part his own. There must be something about Oscar-winning stars who just want to slum through a superhero movie.

Going slowly through the latest Peanuts tome. This is the 1971-1972 book: Woodstock is now fully part of the family and Marcie has been introduced along with Joe Cool. Even back then, the strip has come a long way since its inception 20 years back.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday March 31, 7:05 p.m.

My second "weekend" day went off without any financial gouging thankfully. As I said I would, I went down to Ikspiari (yep, that's the real spelling of the shopping and dining complex at Maihama Station....I think someone just threw some Scrabble tiles on the floor to get the name; incredible that no "E"s ended up there). Actually, the bus ride down from Urayasu Station was pretty easy. It only took 15 minutes to reach Tokyo Disneyland...I think the Milds would only need a 20-minute walk from their house to get to The House of Mickey. The weather was still cool but at least there was a bit of sun poking through the clouds.

Ikspiari (it's like a mini-test for typing accuracy) fit in with the day-glo happy-happy-joy-joy architecture of Disneyland; all ice cream-coloured domes and walls. I'd thought for some reason that the complex was open since TDL was the same way, but it was actually enclosed like any other shopping mall. Ended up having lunch at Planet Hollywood, the first time I've ever been to the franchise that Bruce, Sylvester and Arnold built. Well, at about 11:30, it was pretty barren inside the huge circular restaurant. There were some displays of costumes that stars had worn; I was seated across from Jean-Claude Van Damme's outfit from "Street Fighter"...not that this is a recommendation to see the movie, mind you. I had one of the lunch specials: a pretty thick and hearty turkey sandwich with pieces of orange (!) squished inside, and a side order of mashed potatoes with bits of bacon and a huge melting glob of butter in the middle. Dessert was a very small pot of matcha pudding.Not too bad, I suppose.

I further explored Ikspiari which included the movie theatre, an avenue which looked like the bright lights of Broadway inside. It was pretty much what I'd expected...a shopping mall for the tourists: lots of restaurants, a few brand-name stores and other unknown ones. I walked outside along with the palm-lined avenue past the Disney Ambassador Hotel (looked like a giant blue-and-white supermarket birthday cake) and then I saw the huge white theatre that was the Japanese home of Cirque Du Soleil before I backtracked my way back to the other end of the mall. I went on ahead to where the main gates of TDL were and took some closer pictures of the humongous Tokyo Disneyland Hotel where Mild Jr. works. I wondered about taking a look inside but feeling like an interloper, I decided to head on back to the bus stop. There were announcements in English and Japanese stating TDL had to stop selling tickets since the place was at full capacity (kids are still on holiday...perhaps til tomorrow) and that maybe, just maybe, there may be tickets available from 4 p.m.

Headed on back to Urayasu by the same bus. Hmmm....I don't think I'll head back to Ikspiari anytime soon unless I got specific requests from either MB or Skippy. Still I'm glad that at least I could make the trip there. Since I had quite a bit of time before Suzanne, I hit the Starbucks for an hour. Still, I managed to surprise the juku boss when I came in at 3:30. Once again, she had forgotten that Suzanne was due to come in for a 2-hour session from 5. I was also told that The Traveler was supposed to come in for her half-hour. But it's now 7:25 and no sign of the lass so that's pretty much out the window. So I'm finished for theday.

The double-class with Suzanne was another one in which I felt like bringing out the psychiatrist's chaise lounge. We'd gone through the final part of "Desiderata" and then we spoke on her future, which included her fate with her current boyfriend. Yup, pretty deep. The lass is a good conversationalist, I gotta hand her that. We also covered Starbucks, US Presidential visits and the North Korean situation. Gotta try and hold onto this one as long as possible.

Speaking of The Hermit Kingdom, the rocket's on the launch pad, and the ships are in the waters. Ought to be an interesting piece of brinkmanship in a few days. Well, unfortunately, I'm due to be at Speedy's on the 4th...I can only hope that the missile decides to hit Odaiba instead...just joking.

I've gotten the first couple of pages of the latest Corner translations into Word but it's not quite ready for shipping over to my client just yet. Still, it'll help me come tomorrow...I've gotta get everything over to him before my Wednesday night gang starts up.

The Bass contacted me and it was lucky he did too since he'd mistakenly assumed that we were to meet next Tuesday. I corrected him on the right day. I'm wondering about bringing over the Discman and some clean headphones.

Well, I'm amazingly finished for the day, so I'll head on home and hopefully, I may even watch

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday March 30, 7:51 p.m.
Well, there you see it. For some reason, my neighbourhood happens to have the only vending machines...perhaps in the entire sell Virgin Cola. Maybe Sir Richard Branson has some sort of kickback with the Ichikawa City government. Not sure, but MB was definitely surprised by this little piece of trivia. As it is, the cola doesn't taste quite as good as Coke or Dr. Pepper. However, as a collector's item, I'm keeping this can on top of some of the CD shelves. MB was also surprised to find out that Virgin Records had been kaput for some years. I rather enjoyed their huge store in Shinjuku back in my early years here. It was where that Marui Department Store extension is now. It occupied the entire basement floor beneath Marui...maybe the equivalent floor space of three of the Tower Records floors in Shibuya, arguably the biggest CD store on the planet in terms of area and sales. It was also where my interest in jazz started in earnest when I bought my first Bill Evans disc there. Some years later, the store moved down the street toward Takashimaya Times Square on the 1st and 2nd floors of another building, but it only lasted a couple of more years there before it disappeared for good.
Speaking about disappearing movies, "Watchmen" is probably gonna be headed for a quick box-office demise....ironic for a movie that was adapted from what has been called the "Citizen Kane" of comic books. But then again, "Citizen Kane" was far from being anointed a classic when it had been first released in 1941.
Yep, MB and I caught it at Roppongi Hills last night (with a prior mini-Burger Tour stop at Baker Bounce in Tokyo Midtown). The reviews haven't been too kind to it...I just saw the METROPOLIS review of it, and the oft-cantankerous critic slagged it off as being incoherent. Well, for folks who had never read the graphic novel, perhaps, but MB and I had read it over the years so we knew what was up; we just wanted to know how well the unfilmable could be filmed. And I think Zack Snyder did as good a job as could be hoped for. Nope, the acting wasn't the greatest so we won't be seeing any Heath Ledger moments in this one. But the film had some style throughout and even during the opening credits. And the characters...most of them...were likeable. Liked Rorschach and Nite Owl the best.
I think it was kismet that MB and I had caught "Rambo" and "Knocked Up" before catching "Watchmen". The two movies had been good preparation for what we saw in this movie, strangely enough. It contained plenty of gruesome violence (kids under 7 definitely shouldn't be catching this one...not that they would be able to understand it anyways) and the profanity, sex and relationship angst were in full bloom here. Certainly, this graphic novel became quite a graphic movie. Plus, the addition of music from the 60s, 70s and 80s was also a nice plus; it was certainly a surprise to hear "99 Luftballons" alongside Leonard Cohen. But all that aside, both MB and I had a good time with it. I don't think I'll catch it again at the theatre, but I would certainly put down the yen for the DVD. I found the "Watchmen" CD with those songs but it doesn't contain Cohen's "First We Take Manhattan" which I was disappointed about.
Today, I found myself feeling somewhat as foolish and as helpless as the remaining Watchmen after getting defeated by Ozymandias at the end of the movie. Seeing that I only had two lessons in two days, I had decided that I would visit the Lilac Forest in Sunshine City. Yes, you must be thinking that I must be off on some sort of drug-induced trip mentioning such names. Well, the two places actually do exist on this plane...Sunshine City is the large shopping complex in Ikebukuro and Lilac Forest is part of the Namjatown complex specializing in massage clinics. I hadn't had a massage in a couple of years...I think the last one was when I went over to Creambath Ebisu. I took a look at Dhora Villas, the clinic that specialized in Indian massage and decided to go for the 30-minute head session. It would only cost me 3,000 yen. However, I let the smooth-talking masseuse there talk me into getting what would be the reflexology treatment along with the head treatment and ended up paying 7,500 yen in total! I just barely avoided embarrassment in that I was able to pay for everything from the remaining 7 bills and one large coin in my wallet. I'm not sure if the lady there was trying to shake me down intentionally (can't see that happening in a place like that...that would be more the type of stuff that happens in Kabukicho) but I still felt somewhat fleeced, although she did a good job and that one hour just whipped by. I did ask for a quotation from her but she said something or other I couldn't quite catch, and unfortunately my mild-mannered self didn't push the subject. Still, a lesson was learned....I won't be going inside the Lilac Forest ever again. Didn't even have enough cash to enter The Gyoza Museum for a bit of lunch. It was just as well...the kids and their mothers were flooding the place and the upstairs Ice Cream City.
After that little financial lightening, I replenished my wallet at a nearby convenience store and headed down to Shinjuku. I figure that I could use a bit of cheering up and decided to treat myself to that buffet that Skippy had introduced me to a couple of weeks ago....The Platinum Buffet in Mylord. It was pretty much the same deal as the Sunday night dinner, except that there was no roast chicken so the cost was about 500 yen cheaper. A lot of young ladies, a number of them with their beaus. I think I was the only single guy in the place....fingers were probably pointed in my direction. And then an army of high school girls in full uniform entered looking properly mesmerized by the culinary possibilities...especially the chocolate fountain. Well, got my fill and left within 45 minutes.
As I said, I only have Medicine Man tonight and tomorrow, it's just Suzanne for 2 hours at the juku. Basically, it's a full weekend except for that couple of classes. Once I get some morning stuff done, I'll be taking a look at Expery, that shopping complex across from Tokyo Disneyland that has popped up in the juku students' conversations every now and then. I'm hoping that I won't be gouged there.
Our staff got increased by one starting from today. She will be La Fille...she spent a year in a small town in France. Ray introduced us and pointed out her Gallic connections. So there was a minute or so of La Fille and me spouting some limited Francais to each other. Basically, Ray and our just-returned staffer were showing her the ropes.
Earlier, I saw the DVD of "Get Smart". Yep, I did buy it. I caught a few of the extras, including a very unfunny short of Steve Carell espousing the benefits of the movie in mock languages; just glad that Japanese wasn't part of it. Still, it was nice watching the film again for the nostalgia value, and Terence Stamp had the best lines.