Friday, April 24, 2009

Saturday April 25, 3:00 p.m.

One of those misunderstandings that will unfortunately pop up from time to time when one can't get access to a home computer. The Coffeemaker had contacted me last night through Hotmail that she and Tully couldn't make it this morning due to work demands. Of course, the juku computer is so old that it can't handle Hotmail so couldn't read it...until I came to the Ichigaya I-Cafe after I had spent an hour at the coffeeshop waiting for them. Well, that's the way it goes.

So I wait a while before I head out to The Yellowtail's home for that BBQ in a typhoon. The rain has been coming down steadily although the winds haven't picked up. Not sure who's showing up at this thingie, but it's still on the slate.

Looks like the "Star Trek" soundtrack has been put up in dribs and drabs.'s definitely a Michael Giacchino, but I'm not quite sure if his sound quite fits with the epic sci-fi score. At first hear, it sounds like the pit orchestra at the Oscars doing a tribute to the movie.

Well, I've been back on Mixi for about a week now. But aside from one greeting from the assistant head of the Ruiko Kurahashi community, a couple of responses from old students and Speedy, plus the Ballerina's response...that's been about it despite the fact that I've introduced myself on 4 communities. Might have to get more proactive.
Friday April 24, 8:07 p.m.

It can be pretty exhausting being a freelance English teacher. I mean, I have my gigs at Speedy's and here at the juku....and those model lessons demand some level of energy...the dog n' pony show, as it were. But as a private teacher, all of the onus is on me. And so, I traveled almost the entire gamut of the Sobu Line from Nakano to Tsudanuma to meet with The Bass' acquaintance...and she is just an acquaintance. Took almost an hour so I could get a good nap out of it. I basically conked out from Shinjuku to Akihabara.

As for the lass herself, she's studying nursing at a school somewhere in the wilds of Chiba. Her level is OK...not quite there as an intermediate but I wouldn't consider her a rank beginner either. She did a 6-month tour of fun on the Working Holiday visa in Australia almost 2 years ago, but said that she didn't really pick up a lot of English, much to her dismay, since she basically surrounded herself with fellow Japanese. Her understanding is pretty good but fluency and grammar need a swift boost. Anyways, the fatigue factor and the usual trials and tribulations of meeting a virtual kid had me rambling somewhat at points but it looks like I've got her as a student for now. She said something that I couldn't quite understand but it seemed to point out that The Bass may have made some sort of crack about me. Obviously I'm not gonna follow up on it with him next week but again, I'll have to see how well things improve then since I don't think things are quite gelling. In any case, my student is The Action Freak...she likes her movies fun and violent.

I'm decompressing right now since that meet-n'-greet was the big event of the day. Have the usual Ace and Restauranteur tonight. I've heard from several sources that the Kanto may be in for one of the earliest typhoons in recent memory tomorrow. Just in time for that BBQ with my old clubmate, The Yellowtail. Not sure how that's gonna go. Keep my fingers crossed.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Friday April 24, 1:54 p.m.

Two out of the way. Miss Prissy gave her usual titanic efforts. If she weren't only so deliberate with her answers...we actually went overboard by 15 minutes before we could finally leave the classroom. Then, I actually held one of our 1-coin sessions with one young's kinda like the ol' NOVA Voice Room...I just gab with a person who wants to speak in English. Nice lady..a bit of a snob but in a good way...has a slight French accent which threw her off.

I should be hearing from Miss Honolulu....ahhh, there she is.
Friday April 24, 10:12 a.m.

Less than 12 hours later, I'm back....uploading. I finally brought in the digital camera today for my third upload of stuff into the Net (my trip to Ikspiari, the lunch at Quintessence and last Saturday's picnic). My digital social calendar has definitely filled up of late: going into the various Mixi forums and Facebook.

As expected, fallen SMAP'per Tsuyoshi Kusanagi has had his various lucrative contracts killed due to his impromptu nude dancing and singing near his apartment in the Tokyo Midtown area a couple of nights ago. Even a former minister Kunio Hatoyama gave vent to his anger on the matter...mostly because Kusanagi had been the face of the governmental plan to have all TVs go digital by 2011. However, to be chastised by a pol over here for being naughty is kinda like being chastised by Charles Manson. In any case, he's being suspended for some months at least. I also forgot that Kusanagi was also the unseen voice behind that slick music interview show on Friday nights. Not anymore.

I just saw the headline for Terence Howard being livid for being kicked out of "Ironman 2". Laddie, if you looked at your rather fey performance in the first movie, I don't think you can really blame Robert Downey, Jr.

Anyways, I got Miss Prissy in 10 minutes.
Thursday April 23, 10:37 p.m.

Well, got through the night OK. The Carolinan was nearly an hour late so I was lucky that there was that hour open between her supposedly scheduled time and the arrival of Speedy's student. Speaking of that, she's a cracker. She's the night version of Grandma Dynamite or FON...a real goodtime gal. Her syntax threatens to fall off the rails but she puts forth a grand effort. Definitely wouldn't mind having her on my schedule, and considering the bossman's schedule, she could very well end up on mine. Then, I had Music Man. He had a good time in Italy listening to operas but he also talked about the wonders of Terminal 5 in Heathrow Airport. So I can gather that those teething problems T5 had had are now in the past.

The Carolinan and I traded information on the trials and tribulations of Tsuyoshi Kusanagi of SMAP. Apparently, the news had been out as early as this morning. And I'm sure the news programs will shortly be talking about it in the next 20 minutes.

I'm locking up things here in a few minutes...only to be returning in less than 10 hours. Luckily, it's just once this week.
Thursday April 23, 4:59 p.m.

The big man of the Johnny's Jimusho totem pole, aka supergroup SMAP, has 5 members. There is Nakai-kun The Leader, KimuTaku The Cool, Shingo The Comic, Goro The Enigmatic and Tsuyoshi The Guy Next Door. Well, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi's mild image has taken a major spike upwards into the idiot zone. As I was heading out to meet The Bow in Shinjuku, I just read the newspaper banners at the kiosk screaming "SMAP's Tsuyoshi Busted!" Y'know, I thought, of all the SMAP members that could conceivably be arrested, mild-mannered, Korean-speaking Tsuyoshi was pretty much 5th on the list. What could the guy have been doing...speeding? doing MJ?

Well, after I got back to Speedy's, I checked out the Fuji-TV news website and found out that apparently the lad had been found in a park late last night in some sort of condo area of Tokyo caterwauling, singing in Korean, drunk like a skunk and starkers. Of course, the residents started yelling back at him angrily before 110 was dialed and the police arrived. Then when the cops came to cuff him, Tsuyoshi yelled back, "What's so bad about being naked?!" Uh-huh....

He certainly didn't look too defiant in the newsfilm I saw on the site as he was shown in slo-mo being taken away into the hoosegow. Meanwhile, Ray and La Fille were just giggling away at the idiocy of it all. I just sighed...what was bugging him? The pressure of making those PDAs for the coming of digital TV landlines in 2011 finally get to him? His partner on "Pussuma", obnoxious Yusuke Santamaria gave out one shout too many? Or was it that he just wasn't getting that air time during song performances?

Checked out the JPop website. It's the middle of the night over there so there were only two entries about the incident. I can only imagine how some of those SMAP fans back Stateside are gonna react when they find out in the morning. However, I checked out the SMAP community at Mixi...thousands of comments in the last number of hours....most likely by some very young fans.

Consequences? Well, it's a foregone conclusion that he'll be making a public apology in a timely manner. If he makes it very quickly, he may be able to salvage some of his many sponsors, but most likely he'll lose them. Those TV landline PDAs will probably have been yanked off the air already; "Pussuma" will go on indefinite hiatus until TV Asahi figures something out. He'll be given his walking papers from Fuji-TV noonhour flagship show, "Waratte Ii Tomo" as well as from "SMAP X SMAP", the boys' main show during the week. And he'll probably be taking a small vacation from the band while he has some time to hansei (reflect) on his actions. It won't be the first time that SMAP has had to roll out the damage control, though. Several years ago, enigmatic Goro had some carpet to eyeball when he had an altercation with a policewoman in Shibuya. He came back but I have to admit that this one is far more in the bizarre category.

Well, at least, I know that connection between Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Anne Heche, Margot Kidder and Mel Gibson now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thursday April 23, 1:18 p.m.

Had my lesson with Miss Sedona. Yep, the days are getting closer to her exodus to Canada. Pretty soon, she'll be having that final one.

The bossman has left on his business trip to Osaka. He didn't have time to chow down on his wife's bento so he gallantly offered it to me. Of course, I took it...pretty good stuff too: teriyaki chicken drumsticks with ground meat-filled fried egg and cooked cabbage over a mountain of rice. Can't be beat...

My newfound Ruiko Kurahashi fanmates on Mixi are heading off to that live concert of hers at Mandala tonight. And here I will be teaching folks...ahhh...

Anyways, I'm off to see The Bow
Thursday April 23, 11:04 a.m.

Fancy starting up at this late hour on a Thursday. Usually I would've already been done with Grandma Dynamite, but she's cancelled for today. Could actually get some restful sleep and not have an unhealthy McBreakfast but the latter will be there for me tomorrow since I have to teach Prissy then.

I've got Miss Sedona in about 45 minutes then I have to head on out to Shinjuku to get some lunch and then grab a table at Starbucks for me and The Bow. I've got some pages from my bilingual Japanese cookbook that she might find useful. Then, it's back here for The Carolinan (hopefully, she's coming out of her seeming depression), plus Speedy's student before Music Man to wrap up. I'm not getting any hunches that there will be any cancellations today. so it should be a full slate.
Wednesday April 22, 4:08 p.m.

I had a slight throb in my brain (figurative, of course...otherwise, it would've been an aneurysm and I would no longer be around) last night that there would be another cancellation today along with The Diver. Well, I not only got one but two. Just after I finished with The Big Lug, Bay informed me that Mr. Pronounciation has just dotakyan'ed in the largest sense since he was due to come in at this moment. But the big shocker was hearing that Grandma Dynamite also cancelled...which means I can actually indulge in the ancient activity of sleeping well tomorrow morning.

I sent a response to my newfound Ruiko Kurahashi friend through Mixi. Sounds like she's somewhat older than me since she has a nephew who actually lived and attended school in Montreal for a couple of years. I've also joined a community for The Carpenters.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wednesday April 22, 1:31 p.m.

The rains came on down last night. I do wonder how really effective my umbrella is when 70% of me and all of my bag get drenched (only my head and upper torso were saved).

However, I have no worries about precip today. Nice, sunny and warm out there. I met up with The Admin today. She had a bit of an edge to her today...I think it was a mix of stress from her job plus the cacophony made from the mothers' & kids' kaffeeklatsch which also takes place weekly. I guess it didn't help that I brought up Speedy's name into the mix. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that she didn't have as satisfying a time working under him as I have. Yep, he is anal but all bosses are and, frankly, have to be to a certain extent. Certainly compared to some of the bosses I've had in the past, Speedy is certainly one of the better and more generous ones. Still, The Admin expressed some sardonic surprise at my opinion; again, she was in a bit of a mood today.

Well, that Indian restaurant with the curry buffet may be gone, but there is a bento place a couple of doors down. I bought a 500-yen lunch which contained Chinese-style fried chicken on rice with the usual pickles and whatnot....worked for me. I may go that route after I finish with The Admin.

It'll be fairly busy today. From 3 o'clock, I've got the gauntlet of students to run. The Big Lug, Mr. Pronounciation, and 001 are coming on in. Then I have about 90 minutes of respite since The Diver is away today before I finish up with The Fashion Designer...if she doesn't decide to suddenly cancel again.

I was watching the NHK Morning News when the announcers cheerfully reported on the fact that The Carpenters started their illustrious career 40 years ago. In fact, NHK not only featured them once but twice in the 2 hours on air. Only in Japan. For some reason, this country's inhabitants are probably the biggest fans of Karen and Richard on the planet, and that does include the United States where their music has occasionally popped up as a sarcastic comedic prop in movies and TV ("The Simpsons" and "Ghost Rider" come to mind) or as wedding music. One doesn't mention The Carpenters in Canada or Stateside without making sure to everyone that tongue is firmly in cheek. Not to say that I'm an anti-fan; I'm a big fan of the band but I'm just pointing out reality. Here, The Carpenters are musical legends. NHK even featured a young 13-year-old girl who discovered the duo online and now regularly plays their songs on her piano and even has a poster on the ceiling immediately above her bed. Richard Carpenter came over to Japan to do an interview. His speech has become rather halting but he can still whip up the music.
Tuesday April 21, 9:09 p.m.

As expected, The Milds and I didn't get anywhere near the text. Half the lesson was on Mrs. Mild's trip to Tuscany. It was a demanding journey...very early wake-up calls and late returns to the hotels, but she said she and the 43 other members of the tour had a fine time. She showed me the group picture in Rome provided by Japan Travel Bureau; yep, I could point out the newlyweds like fireflies in a night bush. She also stated that although by her admission she isn't a great English speaker, waiters and her fellow tourmates seemed to consult her whenever some international communication was needed. Always nice to hear.

However, Mr. Mild also had his moment of international understanding. He attended a multicultural festival in Kawasaki on Saturday since his friend was involved in some Indonesian dance troupe. I wondered aloud what he would be trying next. He had attended that lecture on international religions the weekend before; perhaps that trip to outer space may not be too far off. Then, Mr. Mild mentioned that he wanted to bring over his manual from his new job at the gym in the very probable case that he will be helping out the foreign guests. Mrs. Mild had a fine brainwave of having her husband perform some role plays.

It's always nice to end a day on a high note. Wish I had more of those more often. I'm sure President Obama would concur.
Tuesday April 21, 7:39 p.m.

Well, the rains have come on down. I just went out to get a salad and some rice balls from the conbini.

My little seminar on Peanuts with Suzanne rather gave me a brainwave about whether I should search for the Peanuts community on Mixi; I'm sure it exists. Over the past 24 hours, I've been thinking about my return to the Japanese equivalent of Facebook. Unlike certain British actresses, I do think that there are benefits to online social networking. Facebook has been good for me if only to keep me in contact with my old clubmates, and perhaps Mixi may actually get me interacting with folks...even if online...again on certain topics I like. For example, my musical muse, Ruiko Kurahashi. I'm not saying my entry into that community has brought out all sorts of greetings like at an Alcoholics Anonymous session; I've only gotten that initial hello from the community manager. Still it is far better than the usual blank looks I'd gotten from folks in the real world. And even if it turns out that I'm an active community of one even there, I can still lurk and see what past contributors have written about her and why they're so enamoured of her. I think the communities dealing with aspects of Western pop culture would also be quite fascinating to peruse. This time, it is the Canuck wondering what the Japanese think of us, instead of the other way around.
Tuesday April 21, 6:58 p.m.

Well, Suzanne has come and gone. I gotta admit that she's quite flighty, breezy. Easy Breezy? Just like that horrible title that Hikaru Utada came up with for her first song into her first official foray into the American market. Anyways, last week she was on that Madonna kick which led to that extra hour of her being her which led to that reprimand from the juku boss. However, she's kinda gotten off of Madge and brought out one of those Peanuts books. At least, she's lucky in that she was talking to one of the foremost experts in Peanuts-lore. So, for this week, it wasn't anything about The Material Girl but on Lucy, Charlie, Linus, Snoopy and all of the Americana philosophizing. But she did give me the heads-up that she would like to work on general pronounciation next week. Still, maybe I'll still bring over one of my Vince Guaraldi discs.

Gonna see if I can get a quick bite from the conbini nearby before The Milds get here in less than an hour.

Toonces the juku cat was in his naughty mood today. Came up to the room and proceeded to relieve himself (luckily, it was No. 1) underneath the Ricky Ricardo bongo drums that have adorned my teaching space ever since I arrived at the juku nearly 4 years ago.
Tuesday April 21, 4:43 p.m.

Did forget to mention that The Diver atypically cancelled her lesson for tomorrow....which means I won't be seeing her for about 3 weeks since the next 2 Wednesdays are in Golden Week territory. On a professional level, I'm a bit concerned how her fluency is gonna fare over the absence. However, I'm now wondering if The Fashion Designer is gonna pull another dotakyan. As far as I know, 001 is still coming at her regular time.

Well, that IOC Selection Committee came and went over the weekend after being wined n' dined by the Tokyo hoi polloi in consideration for the 2016 Games. The committee had already gone through Chicago, Barack Obama's ol' town, and now they have to check out Rio and Madrid. Of course, the Japanese couldn't help pulling out the hi-tech in their presentation...they gave the IOC special goggles providing 3-D views of what a constructed Olympic site would look like over the currently barren ground. They were rather tickled by that. However, what it's gonna come down to is whether Tokyo can rightfully promote the spirit of sport. Apparently, some of the visitors weren't too interested about how Tokyo could bring in a Green is the overriding concern. If that's the case, then I'll be very happy to present the Olympic Flag to Chicago or Rio or Madrid. I think in this day and age, considering how many people will be affected whenever an Olympics comes roaring into their city, it has to be more than the entertainment that sports is (and yes, organized sports has been primarily entertainment dating all the way from ancient history). I think the Olympics, as potentially the largest peacetime impetus for new technologies, should become the basis for how a city can become far better than it is now. The only other way that technology has spurted forward has been war. To have to go through 7 years of increased taxes (or other sneaky ways of grabbing our money...I do not believe that the government [in spite of its insistence to the contrary]and big business are gonna be able to pull this off by themselves) and urban inconvenience for just 2 weeks of fun 'n games, and then to go through the biggest post-holiday letdown with a stadium as a shell seems to me a colossal waste. It's kinda like having to wait 2 hours to get on a roller coaster and then be subjected to the thrills of 3 minutes...but people at Tokyo Disneyland still do that...go fig. Chicago, kinda town!
Tuesday April 21, 4:24 p.m.

It was a bit of an off night last night at Speedy's. First off, Mr. TOEIC re-started his custom of calling in increasingly later and later arrival times so we ended up just having a 30-minute lesson; basically only had time to mark his test (he passed cleanly, thankfully) and then go on to one section of the text. Then, Medicine Man got flustered during the class; we were both tired as usually are since we always get together for the very last slot at 9:30. Good heavens, the man is a doctor...a profession that requires a very keen intelligence and quick & sure reflexes; and yet, the man is achingly slow with answers. He was almost "achieving" idiot savantism.

My day today started off kilter as well when I tried to pay my cable bill, and for some reason, the convenience store scanner refused to take it in so I could pay it. I tried another conbini; same result. I was 12 hours late since the due date was yesterday but there have never been any problems with my other bills if I couldn't make the due date by a day. So after having my lesson with The Beehive, I called up the service centre and headed over there. Luckily, the staffer was immaculately polite, and she gave me the form for automatic transfer that my cable guy had given me. I'll give the furikomi another try although JCN encountered problems the last time with my bank.

It'll just be the usual Suzanne and The Milds tonight. Suzanne said that she would bring down a Madonna song for us to analyze. I've downloaded the lyrics to "Papa, Don't Preach" since they have more meaning than "Borderline" (although I like the latter better). As for The Milds, Mrs. Mild should have some interesting stories about her trip to Italy last week. We're almost at the end of their textbook but I think with the Italy trip, the review of last week's material and going over any lingering grammar questions, it's safe to say that talk about the new text will have to be left for next week.

The juku boss is having another bad week physically. She told me that she'd had a 39-degree C fever over the weekend which necessitated a quick trip to the hospital. Apparently, her recovery from her cancer ordeal is taking longer than usual. I hope she'll be OK.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday April 20, 8:20 p.m.

Mr. TOEIC is gonna be an hour late due to work, and so unfortunately he'll only be able to get a 30-minute lesson. Way it goes, I guess.

Since I rejoined...or I should say, really joined...the Mixi crowd, I've gotten myself into 3 communities: Doctor Who, my ol' university club and the one for my unsung singer, Ruiko Kurahashi. I actually gave my introduction to the last one a couple of days ago, and sure enough I got a response from the current leader. All very nice and civil. I had to give her my regrets about not being able to go to Ruiko's live concert this coming Thursday night.

Strangely enough, I was walking through Jimbocho, the area known for old bookstores here in Tokyo, when I came across a shop selling old and used CDs. I followed a hunch and it paid off; I found some Ruiko CDs. Almost all of them were ones that I'd already gotten but there was one called "Sailing" that was news to me, so I just grabbed that sucker. For some strange reason, she's identifed as RuikA Kurahashi and not her usual Ruiko. Ruiko Kurahashi is a stage name for the singer so I'm sure the sudden vowel change wasn't a traumatic one for her but I could only guess she was going for some sort of image alteration. I did notice that from the albums I had that "Sailing" was her first album with a new studio away from her original Polydor. Her Polydor releases had her singing more conventional pop tunes in the early 80s but her later ones had her trying somewhat more exotic genres. "Sailing" has her trying out everything from French waltz to fusion to even country ("Ruika's Traveling Bus"). It's this last track that seems to have embedded itself into my mind; gotta hear it to believe it. Still, my hunt for more of her increasingly rare discs continues.
Monday April 20, 7:34 p.m.

Saturday afternoon at Yoyogi Park turned out to be an old university club reunion. Along with Shrek and TC, we had various Presidents and Vice-Presidents from years past from our old club at U of T. The park, which is usually pretty crowded on the weekends to begin with, was looking even more stuffed since it was Earth Day. The foreign crowd was very much in evidence. However, the eclecticness of Yoyogi was still very much in evidence; we had glam rockers having picnics along with baton-twirling young folk and tai chi practitioners.

Aside from the folks I'd already mentioned, Automan and his fiance were there, but there were also a number of folks I hadn't ever met...those execs that were after my time. One prez reminded me a lot of PH; most likely if she and her had ever met, they probably would've become either the best of friends or the worst of middle ground. Reunions often reflect how much time has passed. Seeing Shrek's and TC's kids scrambling around certainly stressed that fact.

Some hours later, the bunch of us broke up. A majority decided to hit Roppongi while Automan, his fiance and I walked the 10 minutes over to Shibuya. Then, Automan and future wife decided to do more clothes shopping while I did my usual crawl through Tower Records and HMV. At about 8, we all gathered again by the Shibuya Police Box where that PH clone took the most roundabout of an izakaya. This place was equipped with those touchscreen panels so we didn't have to actually bother a breathing waiter/waitress for orders; just press the right food and drink and they will come. Although Shrek and TC had to take their families home...some annoying bylaw about children under 18 not being allowed in izakaya...we still had about 15 alumni crammed into 3 tables.

Me and one other former club President watched a fellow whom I'd met at the picnic trying desperately to pick one comely young lady right in front of our eyes all night. The fellow was a tall and handsome type....both facts for which he was self-aware...he was trying so very hard and not giving up to make a score but the lady was not biting. It was oddly pathetic and inspirational at the same time.

I'm usually not a party animal but I did enjoy this old reunion. Will be looking forward to Shrek's Canada Day BBQ...ironically being held on Independence Day.