Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday April 17, 7:33 p.m.

Once again, just when we thought the seasons were finally progressing, Winter decides to come back and annoy us like Columbo does when he goes after a suspect. A few days ago, some of us were sweltering in our jackets; now we're back to shivering in them.

Hmmmm....not sure how this gig with The Bass is turning out. Had my 2nd official lesson with him; since he felt that the Doutors across from JR Funabashi was a bit too noisy for him, we changed to another venue. Not too bad, but I did notice that one middle-aged salaryman had put his coat down but on seeing us banter in English, he sullenly picked it up and changed to another seat. Must've failed his Eiken as a child. Still, the thing that struck me was that although things were a bit smoother this morning, I still don't think we've quite gelled. He's a high student and does challenge me on answers which is actually quite refreshing to experience, but I'm not sure if he seems too happy with the way things are going. Plus, he did mention that things have been a bit slow in his business lately. If we don't see much more improvement in the next month or so, my alternate Friday mornings may be empty again. I mentioned to him that that friend of his had contacted me and we'd set up an initial meet-n'-greet for next Friday. I found out from him that he'd only met this "friend" just once at a bar in Shinjuku. Apparently, despite the fact that she'd been corresponding with me only in Japanese, The Bass informed me that she had done anywhere from 2 to 6 months in Australia on some sort of visa.

Dropped off at my station for an early lunch at the tonkatsu place. It was just me and one other customer which was rather nice. Had my usual hire katsu teishoku, and then it was back off on the subway over to Shinjuku. Had some extra time before The Bow's lesson so just did the usual browsing around in Tower Records and Kinokuniya before finding a table at Starbucks. The Bow showed up about an hour later and we had a pretty good lesson compared to The Bass'. After we parted, I decided to head up to HMV in Times Square...came across another new jazz diva whose CD I might get come payday.

It's the usual Ace and Restauranteur combo tonight. Automan confirmed that the meeting time is 1 p.m. in Harajuku tomorrow and it's BYOF (bring your own food). Well, it's just The Intellectual tomorrow morning, so I may actually be able to make the rendezvous time. Not sure what the temps will be like then, but if it's anything like today, I may experience the same sort of conditions for that Ohanami in Komazawa Park a few weeks ago.

I've been tracking via the TokyoWalker website how "Watchmen" has been doing here in The Big Sushi. Not too good, I'm afraid, but I'm also not surprised. Less than 50% from the theatre exit polls said it was "Excellent" or "Very Good", and it didn't even hit the Top 10 in the "Glad I Watched It". As the reviewer in METROPOLIS put it in his pan of it, it's just for the fanboys. I did warn The Publicity Assistant that she should read the graphic novel before watching the movie, but I'm not sure if even a dedicated Nakano Broadway-visiting girl like her would shuck out the yen to do so.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday April 16, 9:39 p.m.

The Mega-Hump Day is over and I managed to survive it. I was feeling a bit peaked at the end of Mr. TOEIC's lesson (he's very rusty) but held in there for The European's student. Luckily, she was cooperative with the sub teacher.

Automan is back from Hokkaido and informed me about the plan on Saturday. Looks like everyone's getting together at Yoyogi Park in the afternoon. If I'm very fortunate, I may actually meet them there at the assigned time, and The Intellectual has always been prompt about his arrivals and departures. I expect that Shrek and TC may even be there.

That friend of The Bass' has finally gotten the time and day down pat for our first meeting. It'll be next Friday in Tsudanuma.
Thursday April 16, 5:26 p.m.

Apparently, I've got just a half-hour before Blogger shuts down for some maintenance.

After Grandma Dynamite, I went through a trio consisting of Miss Sedona, Miss Honolulu (long time, no see) and Mr. Pronounciation. Miss Sedona's workmate-from-Hell seems to have finally left the danger zone, much to her relief. Miss Honolulu...I hadn't seen last November. She's been busy getting married...on New Year's Day, no less (easy way to remember; and no excuses for forgetting on the husband's part). And she's taken up her spouse's hobby of golf. She also showed me a photo of herself and veteran singer Hiromi Go. She even showed me a picture of her and Go 15 years previously; she was quite the early 90s Disco Queen back then. Not that she's a buddy of his; just a very dedicated fan.

Mr. Pronounciation came in for his 60. No particular problems but as his day of departure is drawing closer, he has more questions about Toronto.

We've just had the changing of the guard. Bay has gone home after a full day, suffering fully from hay fever. At one point, we had close to a full crew with Speedy, Ray, Bay, La Fille and myself. The European is currently teaching The Magician and then Mr. TOEIC will be coming in less than an hour for the first time since the end of January. I guess along with Miss Honolulu, it's a bit of Ol' Homecoming Day at the school.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thursday April 16, 12:20 p.m.

I've been continuing to read the various reviews and reports on this new "Star Trek". So far, the overwhelming positive response has been reassuring to hear, being an old Trekkie and all. However, being a cynic on the level of a Dr. McCoy, I think it is inevitable to see a rant amongst all of the raves, and such a pan is also needed to keep things grounded....that this movie isn't the biggest thing since the wheel. Sure enough, I did find a couple of them, basically accusing it of being a sci-fi flick with coincidental title of "Star Trek". I'm pretty open to this new interpretation (although I will definitely be doing some eye-rolling at the fact that these Starfleet kids will be getting promoted so inexplicably fast that they'll be suffering major nosebleeds), partly since I was so disappointed by the last two movies "Insurrection" and "Nemesis" (even Patrick Stewart cannot rescue dire plotwork). Basically, as long as it's fun to watch, I'll be happy to coronate this flick as the new Trek. Still, I can also imagine coming home from the theatre in little over a month from now, thinking "That ain't Trek!" And unfortunately, I can't burn William Shatner's toupee in effigy as I did for "Star Trek V".

I have a feeling, though, that I may be watching this film all alone. MB isn't a huge fan of the franchise to begin with, and I just couldn't imagine him stomaching too much of the last two movies, and I don't think The Satyr is a closet Trekkie either. As for The Trekkie, our former staffer here at Speedy's, she hasn't made any contact with me since the year began. It may be interesting to head into the lineups, though, to see who dresses up as Starfleet, Klingon or Vulcan officers.
Thursday April 16, 11:27 a.m.

Managed to survive the onslaught that is Grandma Dynamite. Did the double lesson with her since she pulled out of last Thursday. She's a really nice lady but her energy is just flying out in all directions...just try to imagine keeping down a high-pressure water hose with a few well-placed holes.

Luckily, I've got an hour to decompress a bit before Miss Sedona comes by for her regular 60. Still have to plan some more for the rest of the lessons this afternoon. Speaking of my groovy student, I was at Tower Records Shibuya, aka the largest CD store on the planet, and came across the latest album by Superfly, the cool female Japanese chanteuse who has a Janis Joplin way about her with some Carole King thrown in. Miss Sedona has always been a fan of the hippie/70s period when it comes to popular culture...she kinda dresses as a Haight-Ashbury type...and Superfly was a perfect fit for her. Yep, when I was listening at one of the posts at Tower, Superfly does sound rather appealing. I noticed that there was one track called "Vancouver"...I kinda wonder if that tune had any influence on her decision on where to live in Canada.

Looks like Speedy ordered another electronic doodad. Yesterday, there was a new router for the computer and now I see a cardboard box containing an air filter machine to clean our air. Since hay fever season began, we've been asking students to leave their coats and jackets in the outer office so that the chances of bringing in pollen are minimized. I guess the bossman has decided to bring in the heavy artillery.

Thursday April 16, 8:06 a.m.

An appropriately early start to Mega Hump Day. Did the usual McBreakfast with the Latin Jazz BGM in the background. The Patent Attorney has cancelled his lesson for the morning, so no need to be the substitute host.
To my left here might seem like the newest kids' show hosts but they're just a happy anime fan and a large cellphone. Another pic from the Tokyo Anime Fair from almost a month ago. Speaking of which, I should be taking another look at Nakano Broadway sometime in the near future; probably Golden Week. The latest METROPOLIS issue had a nice little article about the area. According to it, the place hasn't changed in 30 years...certainly looks it.
I've come to the realization that there's a certain art to sitting down on the subways. The morning commutes aren't exactly conducive for me to sit down since all of the seats are filled by the time the Tozai reaches my station...and this is even at 6:30 a.m.! However, in the off chance that someone does vacate his/her seat in front of me, I try to gently ease myself into the usually slightly snug vacuum; I pull in my muscles like an accordion and try not to touch my fellow passengers on either side of me since they're most likely snoozing away. I keep this position for a few minutes...just think like a player of that ol' Milton Bradley game, Operation...don't touch the sides. Then, I can gradually relax those muscles and after a few seconds of adjustment amongst me and the two fellows, I'm snug as a bug in a rug.

Wednesday April 15, 6:45 p.m.

Just some of the goodies that one of the Beehive ladies made back on March 3, the Doll Festival Day. It's traditional to make stuff like fish cakes (kamaboko), special tofu and some sticky bean paste popsicles and put them in a lacquered box. Just behind the box is a bottle of sake...which would explain the looser conversation that transpired later on.

Well, I just heard from La Fille that The Fashion Designer has dotakyan'ed again for the 2nd week in a row. So I get to go home early but I kinda feel sorry for my last student since she's now given up another batch of money since she's cancelled on the day of. Must be plenty busy on the catwalk.

I've gotten back to Mixi, the Japanese equivalent of Facebook, after an absence of a couple of years. My page is still up there. Why did I go back? Well, Facebook seems to have the fun apps such as Mesmo and Metropolis, and of course, the "Star Trek" and "Doctor Who" trivia questions but Mixi seems to specialize in the individual communities. Yup, so I did join the local chapter of "Doctor Who" and my beloved singer, Ruiko Kurahashi; haven't made any intros quite yet since I have to concoct up the kanji but perhaps I can make some friends there. Ruiko is having a concert next Thursday night in an Aoyama nightclub, but again like Cinderella being stuck in the house, I've got my night classes. Would be intrigued to actually participate in a Mixi-influenced event someday, though.

Well, since The Fashion Designer has cancelled again, and 001 isn't here tonight, I've just got The Diver to focus on.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wednesday April 15, 2:16 p.m.

Forgot to mention that I came across a funny feature on YouTube yesterday that The Bostonian had referred me to. In romaji, it comes across as "kotoba ni dekinai" (Can't Be Expressed In Words); I think if you can type the English letters, you should be able to hit it, but a knowledge of hiragana and/or kanji would help. The video is an amalgam of hilarious shots of mangled Japanese signs and cute pet incidents...basically, Jay Leno's Newspaper Headlines segments in Japanese without Jay but with titular background song by famed J-Pop singer, Kazumasa Oda (he of the "Tokyo Love Story" theme); the lovely ballad actually enhances the hilarity.

Gotta admit...Mr. Mild is becoming quite the Renaissance Man now that he's retired from his career. In the year since he left, he has gone through a DIY course which involved carpentry and painting and has just started a new job working in a gym. And last night, he told me that he's been attending a monthly series of lectures on various aspects of foreign culture. Last Saturday, he went to a seminar given by a Japanese professor who's teaching Stateside on the various religions. I'd say that he was already quite a wise man, but this is icing on the cake.
Wednesday April 15, 12:46 p.m.

Especially blustery this morning in the Speedy neighbourhood. I now know what a freshly-minted facelift patient must feel like.

I actually got my letter from the Ichikawa government stating that I'm eligible to get my 12,000-yen handout from PM Aso provided I give the appropriate information. Ichikawa TV says that I probably wouldn't get the transfer into my account until after Golden Week. No matter, my engorgement at a yakiniku restaurant can happen at any time.

Well, that friend of The Bass asked me if I could conduct the model lesson anytime other than this Friday...actually, I was hoping that that would be the case since I was worried that I was cutting things a bit close between The Bow and the Friday night juku classes.

Had my lesson with The Admin this morning. The family restaurant was truly one....since there were two tables worth of mothers and screaming kids nearby. I didn't pay it too much mind.

Mr. TOEIC has decided to cancel his lesson for early Saturday morning...thereby taking away the threat of him trying to get those early classes again. But he has booked it for Thursday night which will pretty much kill me on what will be the biggest Mega Hump Day I've ever had with this school.

Just have The Big Lug and then it'll be The Diver and The Fashion Designer later tonight.
Tuesday April 14, 9:22 p.m.

Suzanne and I have had a pretty good...platonic and professional, may I stress...relationship for the past year. I tried out both "I.G.Y" and Allen Ginsburg poem of "Ken Kesey" on her as slices of Americana. She had an unexpectedly harder time understanding the concepts than I thought she would. Then, we got on talking about her and her mother's love for singer Madonna, and we discussed about our thoughts on the diva from our different temporal perspectives which led the both of us to this computer to check out YouTube and Wikipedia. Unfortunately, since the juku computer is behind the times in terms of operating systems, there was no way for us to look at "Borderline" or "Lucky Star". However, our little chat ended up going a full hour overtime. Not that I minded at all.

But then when she finally left, the juku boss came back up looking slightly consternated at how late Suzanne had taken off for home. She didn't unleash the Hounds of Hell on me, but she did give me a warning about how I shouldn't be keeping students way past their lesson time; may not set a good precedent. I did feel a bit of a soft lashing but realized that she was right...I may have crossed a certain line in terms of professionalism with that line distinguishing between student and friend. For good or for bad, one of the characteristics in my teaching style is that I do get chummy with my charges and it's often been the case that we've gone overtime by about 5 minutes because we got into a good groove conversationally. The 1 hour was definitely a new record for me, though. I took her reprimand seriously and apologized for breaking a Prime Directive of sorts.

I taught Mr. Mild as scheduled. We also did our fair share of sidetracking since we were almost near the end of the text and I really wanted to end things with both The Milds in attendance. Once the hour was up, the juku boss came back up but this time in a somewhat more sheepish mood. She actually apologized to me for being so "harsh"; she said that it wasn't really her but her bad health today that had unleashed the so-called invective. I was a bit surprised since I'd agreed with her that I was in the wrong, but she was quite sorry and even gave me a bag of cookies as peace offering. I assured her that she had been right for giving me the warning on keeping Suzanne way past her class time...but still accepted the cookies. No harm done. That seems to be the pattern of the boss....she did something similar to Mr. Mild some weeks ago when there was a slight misunderstanding about the schedule, and later on, she asked me whether she'd been a little too hard on the guy. Nah, not at all.

In any case, I'm done here...and with a clearer sense of responsibility.
Tuesday April 14, 4:06 p.m.

It's overcast and it's spritzed a bit out there but I'm feeling a bit sticky...a sign that Spring has come and that Summer isn't too far off. Met with Mrs. Travel and Mrs. Jade for the weekly Beehive session. Slightly depressing since that was one of the topics talked about. Not too long ago, one of Jade's friends had suffered a heart attack at a nearby station and later died...wasn't too old either, just 63. Travel cheered her up by suggesting going to a gym to exercise and exorcise those demons. Not quite sure what next week will be like...Travel won't be around and it could be just Jade.

Ended up having lunch at the neighbourhood Lotteria. I have to admit that Lotteria may occupy a lower rung on the fast food chains in Tokyo, but it does have a pretty tasty burger compared to the Big Mac. The only problem is that it's quite a bit smaller and more expensive.

Last night, I had a chance to talk with La Fille in more depth since she and I were having dinner in the school kitchen at the same time. It always seems like every time a new staffer comes in, I end up sharing a table with her just once; it was the same with Ray and Bay. Anyways, La Fille is actually trilingual: fluent in Japanese, French and English. I think that may be a first with us in our crew of bilingual folk. Yup, she quite the up-with-people type although she's not nearly as frenetic as The Trekkie.

Got word from that friend of The Bass'. I thought when I didn't hear from her in the last few days, she'd lost interest since I couldn't really offer a wide variety of available days. But she did get back to me so perhaps Friday afternoon will be doable. It'll be a sliver of time...just the 5-6 hour.

The juku boss wasn't doing too well when I came in, which doesn't strike me as a good sign at all, since the boss is almost always jovial. Definitely not today...she looks like she's in distinct pain although she insists that it's fatigue; in any case, the cancer is the root. And yet, she says she still has to teach one kid and cook dinner for her husband downstairs. I'd say that hubby can get his own dinner, although it might be difficult to suddenly cancel on the kid (knowing the Japanese work ethic and giri). I hope she's OK.

Just Suzanne and then Mr. Mild tonight. I've brought Donald Fagen's legendary "The Nightfly" as the potential "poem of the week" for her. I think an analysis of "I.G.Y." is in order. Mrs Mild is off in Italy right now, although she was also suffering last week with a major headache.

Just thinking about the upcoming "Star Trek". Critics and regular folk alike have been praising the efforts of J.J. Abrams (thankfully, this new approach to Gene Roddenberry's baby is more "Cloverfield" than "Mission: Impossible 3") for a product that, if not cerebral or universally-themed, still fits in with the original idea of Roddenberry and provides a crackin' good time in terms of the action quotient. I have a feeling that this movie may actually become a bigger hit than any of the last four movies with "The Next Generation" crew. Just from what I've heard of the story and the scenes I've seen, "Star Trek", intentionally or no, seems to follow to a certain degree the storyline from "Space Cruiser Yamato". Both have got iconic ships in epic battles, a firebrand deputy captain, a wise and seasoned captain, a lone comely female officer and a humanoid deus ex machina (Startia from "Yamato" and ancient Spock in the new movie). Kinda wonder how many of the Japanese fans will be coming out of the woodwork.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday April 13, 10:39 p.m.

Finished for the day. Medicine Man was fine; needs a bit more practice on Reported Speech with Commands, though. Consulted with the European, our recently arrived teacher. Looks like I'll be teaching her night student on Thursday which pretty much nixes any hope of getting an early Thursday night.

Recently, I got an invititation from the U of T Alumni Association to some sort of wingding in Tokyo for the President of Vic College, my old alma mater. It's on a Thursday night which nixes any of that right off the bat...not that I would've gone in any event. And besides, I don't they would miss a fellow who barely passed the minimum GPA to graduate in any event. I don't really have many fond ties with the university.

Tomorrow, it'll be the usual gabfest with The Beehive. I downloaded the inaugural speech of Barack Obama...I'm sure there'll be lots to talk about and analyze.
Monday April 13, 8:09 p.m.

Yup, the Spring is starting to heat up. I didn't have to wear a jacket today although I've got one scrunched into the bag for the evening. La Fille was complaining of the temps; man, I hope she's used to the Tokyo variety in a few months.

Yesterday, I met up with both Tully & The Coffeemaker at the usual place for the first time in over 2 months. I didn't bother asking Tully about what had happened to his European tour; methinks that it's not something I should be prying into. He was also suffering from some rust in terms of his English, but I gather that his status as a freshman in the Tokyu Corporation may be taking up about 100% of his time.

I also got that model lesson with The Sylph's former colleague and his wife near Komazawa Park. Took the bus from Shibuya Station; since I got that commuter PASMO I haven't been taking my old bus from the school to Nakano Station, so it was nice to have a ride through Setagaya Ward. The route I was taking was dominated by that huge expressway overhead; I wouldn't want to be anywhere near that when The Big One finally hits. It took about half an hour to get to the couple's neighbourhood and the bus dropped me conveniently off just a minute away from their house. As usual, I ended up getting there a half-hour early so I wanted to find a place to grab a quick bite but I walked down the wrong side of the street since the only fast food joint was Mosburger and Mosburger always prepares its burgers fresh which means a long wait time. After traversing in a relative fast food desert for close to half a kilometre, I just doubled back and dropped by a small cake shop that I'd passed by. I never want to enter a house emptyhanded so I decided to buy some goodies there. There was a couple bickering inside; unusual in that they were two men. Nothing too violent, just the usual familiar back & forth that family members go through. If the men had actually been closer in age, I would've pegged them as a gay couple, but the two seemed to be a father-son combo. Anyways, while the staffer patiently waited for them to come to a decision, I pressed ahead and got a box of small chocolate cakes.

The Jyuppies were delighted to see this Roman bearing gifts. And I was quite happy how the two hours of model lesson went, although I didn't earn any yen. Mrs. Jyuppie was first and she turned out not to be the tabula rasa I'd been dreading but fairly good although she was still fairly low...good attitude. It was a big jump to Mr. Jyuppie's level but he really appreciated me bringing the Presentations book for him. Like his wife, he was also good student material. I'd done a lot of prep work over the past week so I was happy that things went off without any major hitches. Like a lot of other house calls I've done over the years, this place came with its pet...a very friendly little dog who wanted to get in on the conversation. Looks like my planning bore some fruit; the couple tentatively booked me in for three Sundays in May although Mr. Jyuppie said that they have one more teacher to meet in a couple of weeks.

Afterwards, I decided to have my dinner at the nearby Freshness Burger. The Komazawa Park neighbourhood is a trendy residential area that any yuppie would love to be in. It's also a pet paradise according to all of the canines I saw walking around with their masters. Would love to live there myself, but on a lowly teacher's salary...

Saw SIL this afternoon for the first time in a few weeks; some good talk catching up on the latest events. Then, I had to rush on over to teach Mr. Pronounciation before seeing The No-Timer. She's been making the transition from harried accounting staffer to jogging-and-napping unemployed lady. Not a bad way to be in, considering that she still lives at home with the folks. For some reason, we got on the topic of past pets and she told me about how she was inadvertently responsible for her pet crayfish's death. I told her that was nothing; I told her the events surrounding my pet gerbil's demise. I won't get into that online; suffice it to say that The No-Timer was somewhat shocked at the dark side I possessed as a kid.

Found out that Mr. TOEIC is coming back to the fold. He's asked for a 10a.m. class before Mr. Intellectual. I'm OK for that but if he starts trying to back up the time again, I'll have to have a word with the bossman. Unfortunately, my hopes for a very early start to my Thursday evening were dashed definitely with the sudden influx of students. After Miss Sedona, Miss Honolulu comes back followed by another visit from Mr. Pronounciation and then I gotta take over The Diva's student later in the evening.

I finally got the first big review on "Star Trek" via Dark Horizons. Up to now, it's been all the fanboys and fangirls talking, and although the critic wasn't quite as enamoured with the movie as the Trekkies were, he did say that the film provided a lot of fun and hope for the launch of a new alternate universe Trek. High praise indeed considering how the last few movies have fared. Still hoping for a sneak peek at that soundtrack.