Thursday, April 30, 2009

Friday May 1, 1:16 p.m.

Did forget to mention that I got a response from my brother about the Swine Flu in Toronto. As expected, he said that all of the cases in Canada were pretty mild and nothing to be too worried about. There isn't a massive need to put on the masks. Over here in Tokyo, one high school student came back from a school trip Stateside (where do these schools get the money to hold massive student exoduses in this economy?!) with what could be Swine Flu. Of course, the Minister of Health told a full and hushed court press about the situation, and so the Japanese mass media went to Red Alert faster than a Commander Riker order, and have camped outside of the hospital where the lad is recuperating.

Also had to mention about the First 100 Days of President Obama....if only to say that the overall poll grade matched my own prediction for his presidency so far: a solid B-. I gave him that since I couldn't give an A because he hasn't actually hit a home run and the minus is for some of those nomination gaffes. Basically, it's a good try but you can do better mark.
Friday May 1, 1:06 p.m.

May Day....nice beginning to the 5th month. It actually does feel like a proper Spring Day: warm but not stifling, and sunny. A good start to Golden Week.

Got some errands out of the way....occasional purchase of garbage bags for the burnable stuff. Then, I sent off some letters. One went out to The New Yorker in the form of a package containing some Reese's Pieces since she'd told me once that she'd liked them. I received the stuff from Automan the other day in Yoyogi Park but since I'm being a tad careful with my sugar intake these days, I decided to make the contribution. I'm sure she was wondering why I asked her for her mailing address. The other letter was a Mother's Day card. Today was basically the last day I could do so since postal services will be off for most of next week.

I actually had my first good session with The Bass. I had gone over the chapter in his book with a fine-toothed comb beforehand and challenged him every which way in terms of vocabulary. Hopefully, this will continue. I will be going to his rock gig tomorrow night. I asked MB, The Satyr and Skippy but it's very much of a Hail Mary invitation since most likely they'll all be heading out with their significant others. Never been to a rock house before....I can only hope that I don't stand out too much.

And it looks like the fire's been put out with that misunderstanding between The Action Freak and me. Hopefully things will go much more smoothly.

My Mixi career has been coming along nicely. Got a response in the Doctor Who community and The Ballerina was kind enough to send a reply as well.

My Golden Week has officially started...I'm gonna try and relax and hoard up enough sleep to equal a hibernation.
Thursday April 30, 8:42 p.m.

Just 15-30 minutes away before The Music Man gets in....he's usually an "about" guy in terms of arrival times.

I got the latest round of translations into The Corner. This time, I didn't pussyfoot around; since I had several hours of downtime, I got those suckers translated and into him, although he said that I didn't have to get them until May 7th. Well, aside from The Bass tomorrow, I'm gonna be on holiday until the 7th.

Looks like Speedy has made it official. There will be no lessons for me tomorrow or Saturday. I'm officially on holiday as of 11 a.m. tomorrow morning, right after I get through with The Bass. I don't have The Action Freak...

....which brings me to a mea culpa of sorts. I unfortunately totally misunderstood her message from earlier this morning. I'd automatically assumed the worst about her trying to wriggle out from a commitment with me but as it turned out she only couldn't make it for this Friday. After an exchange of e-mails, she made it quite plain that I'd totally screwed up the meaning. Didn't feel too much near a million bucks so I gave my apologies and asked if the 8th would be better for her. Haven't heard from her yet but I'm hoping that she'll still be willing to work with me.

Thursday April 30, 5:30 p.m.

Not sure what happened there, but that is Toonces The Juku Cat....apparently standing in warp speed! For some reason, my latest batch of pics from my digital haven't been uploading properly. The one pic of me hamming it up while doing karaoke over at The Yellowtail's place last Saturday looked like I was swimming in a cobalt-blue ocean while I was singing away.
Thursday April 30, 5:10 p.m.

Being the last day of the month and after payday, I went a little crazy and walked down to Shinjuku and bought myself some discs and books. Decided to go for Pet Shop Boys' latest. I've read some mixed reviews: some good, some bad...par for the course. Also picked up a new jazz diva by the name of Melody Gardot...sounded pretty good at the listening post. The other three were from Asia: 2 J-Pop, one by legend Yuming...the last few releases by her haven't been all that great but this one shows promise...and the other by Superfly, a relatively new face on the scene. Miss Sedona recommended this one. Superfly is this young lady who channels Janis Joplin in fashion and tune. And the other representative from this side of the Pacific is Joanna Wang but instead of getting that 2nd release that I'd borrowed from The Admin, I went for her first album. Also picked up two more issues of "Hikaru no Go" from Kinokuniya; I needed to get caught up there.

I heard from The Action Freak, that pretty much erstwhile student. She asked me...I could hear the plaintiveness in the e-mail...if there were no other day other than Friday night that I could teach her. Well, let's see...I just merely told her twice that Friday nights were the only possible times that I could...and the Fridays themselves were gonna be pretty tight. I haven't sent a response yet but I'll get something off tonight. I'll see if she could spare anytime during the weekdays. Weeknights are absolutely out.

I brought back some Haagen-Daas for the group here since it's Golden Week and...hey, because I'm me. Ray and La Fille were quite pleased.

Did check "Pussuma" on Tuesday night since the media ostracism of Tsuyoshi Kusanagi. Yep, those editors at TV Asahi should get a raise. The entire hour was a compilation program of his partner, Yusuke Santamaria visiting high-flying homes with various female tarento for prizes and surprises....a oft-used segment.

I checked The Carpenters community on Mixi. Yep, the response to that half-hearted NHK retrospective last night hasn't been too wild.

Well, it's just Medicine Man much later on tonight. Then, with fingers crossed, it'll just be The Bass before Golden Week is here for me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thursday April 30, 11:12 a.m.

Was rather busy on Mixi...thankfully. Actually got quite a few responses to one of my queries in the Ruiko Kurahashi community. And it isn't easy responding in Japanese. I also checked out the Carpenters community about the broadcast last night on NHK. Curiously, I haven't seen any reaction...I would've thought that someone would've left a bedtime review but noone did, so I decided to put my 2 yen in.

Had Grandma Dynamite. Yep, she was in fine fettle. And I'm having Miss Sedona in another 30 minutes. The time should also fly by with her as well. After that will be a period equivalent to that of a regular workshift before Music Man shows up.

I also checked out the Mixi Toronto community; the big topic is unsurprisingly the swine flu. A lot of people have been expressing concern about loved ones in the area. In fact, I think I should take a quick check of the family myself. However, with only 6 cases in all of Canada, I think things are OK for now. Meanwhile, Narita Airport is kinda looking like a scene from "Outbreak"...yep, the thermocameras are up and plenty of folks are running about in plastic gear.
Thursday April 30, 8:22 a.m.

Enjoyed a very rare Wednesday night off. Normally, it would be the usual lineup of 001, The Diver and The Fashion Designer here at Speedy's, but it was Showa Day yesterday so could actually enjoy a homecooked meal and some TV. I could actually see the famed Fuji-TV game show "Hexagon" starring some of the allegedly really dumbasses of the geinokai along with the bullying host, Shinsuke Shimada.

On one of the satellite channels, they'd apparently been putting on a "Space Cruiser Yamato" marathon. I only caught the last part of the famed "Comet Empire" saga, and it looked like it was in a digest form. Following that came that TV movie sequel and then the 1980 movie, "Be Forever Yamato". I already have the DVD for that last movie and I've seen the TV movie a number of times so I decided to be entertained by the idiots on "Hexagon" instead. Still, it would be nice to review the legendary anime once more...only if I could get back Season 1 from The Wedding Planner who's been borrowing my DVD set for almost a year now.

At 11 last night was an NHK series which focuses on various J-Pop singers called, appropriately enough, "Songs". Well, last night's episode was focused on The Carpenters, basically an honourary J-Pop band, since they're hugely popular here. The Mixi Carpenters community had been talking about it for about a week since the programming announcement was made. 62-year-old Richard Carpenter came across the Pacific to give an interview and even do a slightly forlorn "Unforgettable"-type of duo with her late sister (basically it was just him playing along to the original video of both him and Karen doing "Close To You"). And Akiko Kobayashi, the one singer who has an uncannily similar (though not exact) voice to Karen's, did "Yesterday Once More", the most popular of the band's hits in Japan....even more than "Close To You" and "We've Only Just Begun". My only gripe is that, for a band that has been out of action for more than 25 years and yet has a vice-like grip on Japanese popular culture, NHK couldn't give more than 30 minutes to The Carpenters. I would've liked to have seen more from Richard and Akiko...and they could've done a duo together instead of appearing separately. Instead, we just had Richard acting as sole audience while Akiko did her breakout hit, "Fall In Love". A bit of a wasted opportunity but still I enjoyed those 30 minutes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wednesday April 29, 12:13 p.m.

Well, I guess it wasn't gonna last too long. The "Star Trek" soundtrack by Michael Giacchino was taken off en masse from YouTube. Some enterprising (ha, ha) fellow had uploaded all of the tracks for enraptured Trekkies to listen to. Only problem is that the official release isn't til next week. I'm sure the studios were probably willing to let that go on (although I'm also sure their lawyers were less than thrilled) for a bit before calling the order to yank it off the air. Well, my listening appetite is now whetted.

I was happy to find that two fellows were kind enough to respond to one of my community topics on Mixi. There may be hope for me after all.

Did some checking at a New Otani-affiliated hotel up in Niigata Prefecture to see if I could get some fresh air and sunshine there in mid-June since I know that I've got the Saturday off. I can only hope that The Jyuppies are nice enough to not need me on the following Sunday.
Wednesday April 29, 11:48 a.m.

Happy Showa Day! Just love these midweek national holidays. Splits a regular work week into mini-weeks. Can't complain about the weather either. Still pretty cool for a Tokyo Spring.

Well, as I had suspected, I think The Action Freak is probably gonna be a goner in terms of future lessons. She'd been a bit surprised when she had first seen me in Tsudanuma last Friday. She had been expecting blonde hair and blue eyes...didn't say it directly but implied it in her statements. And in the past 24 hours, I've gotten these hedging messages from her about putting off the time and now the day. So I just cut to the chase in my response...but I did it in the usual face-saving way that the Japanese are renowned for. I just told her that things are probably a bit inconvenient and that she can call me whenever "things free up" for her. I had a feeling that things didn't quite gell. And speaking of the guy who introduced her to me, The Bass, well, I still have his lesson this Friday.

Also, had to rush on down to the I-Cafe since I'd completely forgotten to do that rush job on The Corner's translations. Luckily, he's an understanding guy...he even sent a nearly apologetic e-mail to me stating that I needn't worry since the due date isn't til after Golden Week. Still, I had told him that I would send him the translations by last night, and I didn't. So I sent him a very contrite letter and rushed off the completed work over to him. Gotta keep those promises.

Just goes to show that I must be getting pretty tired. I forgot material for The New Yorker yesterday, I forgot about The Corner and I other thing. I'm definitely gonna be taking some time off this GW.

Well, at least, I just have The Bass this Friday and then it's all gravy for me. Just head on home and crash. At this point, I don't have anything listed for this Saturday and frankly unless Speedy gets something by tomorrow afternoon, I'll keep that day student-less.
Tuesday April 28, 7:35 p.m.

Just one more lesson to go...The Milds. Earlier in the day, I had The New Yorker. Looks like her plans for a New York odyssey were dashed. I'm not sure if she'd actually gone to an interview there but she said that whoever they were had called her to tell her the bad news. However, I don't think she should just give up since one source didn't pan out.

Suzanne and I worked on her pronounciation. Not that she really needed it but she did find the exercise mentally stimulating. I'm just glad that she's so willing to try anything across the board.

My newest student contacted me to say that she needed to change her earlier time to a later one...more like the time that we'd met last week. Hope she's not gonna be making a habit of asking for later and later times.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tuesday April 28, 11:35 a.m.

Ahhh, yes, Swine Flu...or as they say here buta influenza. Why is this so much deja vu? I think there was another pandemic starting with the letter "S" several years ago. Well, we've been lucky here in cases as of yet, and Narita Airport has activated its thermography on incoming travelers.

Heard some more clips from the Michael Giacchino soundtrack for "Star Trek". Actually the end credits sound quite a bit better. I guess it must've been that mishmash compilation on YouTube that tainted things. I can just imagine The Trekkie misting up considerably.

Saw an old episode of "Moonlighting" late Saturday on Ginga TV. Wow! It's hard to imagine Bruce Willis cracking wise and with hair. It's even harder to imagine that it's almost a quarter-century since that episode had aired.
Tuesday April 28, 10:54 a.m.

Just finished posting a couple of topics in a couple of my Mixi communities. Yep, writing in Japanese, although not a total slog, isn't the easiest thing in the world. I can understand what my students go through when it comes to English. So far, I haven't heard a lot of activity towards me, which is a bit disappointing....I guess I'm a bit of a closet narcissist. Well, I'm still hoping.

Well, I just read on the Carpenters community that NHK will be showing a brief (just 30 minutes) special late tomorrow night on the duo. Richard Carpenter will be doing a Natalie Cole "Unforgettable"-like duo with her late sister, and Akiko Kobayashi (who can sound like Karen) will also be contributing. I will try my best to remember.

It is with some irony in the week after Susan Boyle conquered the Youtube world and Simon Cowell, that a woman of the same age and frumpiness in this country has achieved fame nationally by finally being sentenced to death. Masumi Hayashi is 47, like Boyle, and isn't anyone's image of a beauty queen. She was also convicted in the poisoning deaths of several people and the injuring of several dozen in Wakayama Prefecture some 10 years after the fact. Justice takes its time here. She allegedly laced a pot of curry with arsenic that had later been found on her property. Over the years, she has been alternating between telling all and keeping mum towards the media. One famous image is of her spraying water on curious photogs from her yard. The trial went all the way up to the Supreme Court but despite the fact that there was no clincher evidence, she finally got the death notice. That rather disturbs me since she has been convicted on what seems to be incriminating and yet circumstantial evidence. No proof has come about showing Hayashi actually putting in the arsenic or her confessing to it. If this case had been Stateside, she would have been found not guilty on reasonable doubt. Now to be honest, my gut says that she is guilty of what she has done but I'm still not totally comfortable.
Tuesday April 28, 9:19 a.m.

Nice little chill in here and out there, figuratively and literally....respectively. Considering that we're on the cusp of Golden Week, the first big holiday bombast of the year, it's still feeling pretty crisp out there. I guess if you converted our temps to Canadian standards, it would be the equivalent of having close to zero temps in Toronto at this time. As for the inside figurative chill, I'm typing this at the neighbourhood I-Cafe in very quiet surroundings (some guy is snoring in the cubicle next to me) while a West Coast Cool Jazz version of "This Masquerade" is playing on the speakers.

Things are definitely calming down compared to last week's hustle and bustle. Yesterday will end up being the busiest day of the week with 5 lessons. Only looking at 3 today: The New Yorker followed by the juku gang. Of course, tomorrow is Showa Day, the birthday of the previous Emperor Hirohito and therefore the first official day of GW although there will be a few days between it and the real spread of days off which are technically regular days. But that won't stop a lot of folks taking Thursday and Friday off to get that 10-day-long exodus. Of course, I won't go anywhere near an airport or a major Shinkansen station during that time. Speaking of Thursday and Friday, I only have 3 at Speedy's. And I got the call from the juku boss last night that she's decided to call May Day off; she even called up The Ace and The Restauranteur and got their blessing. I'm sure The Ace didn't mind at all.

After that abort mission on Tully & The Coffeemaker and that long haul in the Ichigaya I-Cafe, I did make my way up to The Yellowtail's place in Hikawadai, a few stations west of Ikebukuro on the Yurakucho Line. Of course, I never go into a house emptyhanded so I dropped by Ikebukuro and got some desserts. The weather conditions then were typhoon-like, only without the winds. Basically, the clouds just unloaded straight down on us. "Wonderful" weather for a BBQ. Luckily, the Google map over to her place looked far more daunting than it actually was. The only casualties were my socks. I had to buy a new pair at the local conbini before entering The Yellowtail's place.

It'd been a decade since I last saw my old chum from university days. The last time I did see her, she'd been married to her first husband and living up in the wilds of Saitama with him and her son. I visited them in their manshon; her husband was a nice enough fellow but rather normal...and The Yellowtail was far from being the ordinary Japanese ex-OL. When I met her new husband, he was slimmer, younger and very fluent in English, and quite the mover & shaker in international business. The two of them even designed their house. Now that's synergy.

The Yellowtail didn't invite any of the other folks who had been with us in the club and who were living in the Tokyo area. But there was one fellow I did know...Mr. Congeniality...whom I'd met through Shrek and Automan almost a year ago. All of the other folks were from my hosts' respective companies. Things may have changed for both The Yellowtail and myself over the past 2 decades, but she still whips up a mean buffet. She used to be the mother of everyone in the club...staying up to all hours of the night before a major cultural festival or a picnic to cook up a huge amount of food. She would've been a great caterer, but I think she would use her talent as a hobby more than as a career.

The party was fine. Although the weather outside was frightful, the BBQ did come off. The Yellowtail's husband decided to grill everything in his spacious garage. The bunch of us did the grilling rounds in rotation. Then, the surprise of the evening (at least to me...and The Yellowtail) was when hubby brought out an old photo album from 20 years ago showing me, her and the rest of the old gang. Man, I actually was a lot thinner back then...and so was she. Of course, on seeing the photos of us back at our favourite karaoke bar in Toronto gave hubby a brainstorm and he brought out the Wii Karaoke setup. He just hooked it up online and The Yellowtail googled the numbers for each individual song. I was the trooper by being the first victim singing my old favourite and then everyone else got in on the act. I didn't stay too long after the karaoke segment got started since the trip back home would take close to 90 minutes.

Now on other news....I guess Tsuyoshi Kusanagi may be thanking Swine Flu for taking some of the media heat (and rightfully so) off of him. He looked truly repentant at his media conference to officially apologize to the nation...and to SMAP fans everywhere. Yup, he paid the price for being an A-level star. The effect was immediate on his TV obligations. He'd had a regular role on Fuji-TV flagship noonhour show "Waratte Ii Tomo"; last Friday, a usually perky female TV announcer came on to soberly announce that Kusanagi would not be appearing due to "the current news coverage concerning him". I didn't catch that program but he did have voiceover duties on "Bokura no Ongaku" (Our Music) on the same station at 11:30 that night. I had been wondering if they would just eliminate the show, but instead one of the senior announcers took over the duties there. And it was good that she did; the show featured former late 80s wunderkind musicians Maki Watase of Lindberg and Chisato Moritaka (the first techno-aidoru). Moritaka was in the role of "interviewer" since the episode was to highlight Lindberg's return to the spotlight after about 15 years away. The face is a bit leaner and angular now, but Watase can still put on a very pretty smile.

Now the next non-Kusanagi watch is later tonight. TV Asahi usually has the late night program called "Pussuma" with Tsuyoshi and loudmouth Yusuke Santamaria. The authorities that be said that they would excise any of Kusanagi's scenes. I would like to see how they are gonna pull this miracle off considering that Tsuyoshi is one-half the program. Are they just gonna crop the footage and have only Santamaria talking? That would be bizarre, to say the least but not improbable knowing these guys.
Monday April 27, 5:50 p.m.

How much can I write in 5 minutes? Afterburners are go...

Just taught what I think will be Mr. Pronounciation's final lesson before he heads on off to Toronto for his big adventure in English learning. Speedy was sweetalking with him beforehand since the lad still has quite a few lessons left but won't get through them before departure and wanted to get the remaining money back. Of course, the bossman isn't too happy about that suggestion, so he was thinking about doubling or even tripling his class time (that latter option doesn't make ME too happy). However, I think it's a bit too late now since he said that he would call us if he wanted to have more lessons. More than likely, he's flown the coop.

This week is looking too be pretty slow since we're about to enter Golden Week. I think today will be the busiest day at 5 lessons (provided that Mr. TOEIC doesn't dotakyan). Hopefully, Medicine Man will be a bit more with it tonight.