Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sunday August 23, 1:34 a.m.

Yesterday was truly a day that has been surprisingly rare this season...a truly blistering hot and humid day, typical of a normal summer in the Kanto. I was feeling pretty drippy by the time I got to Jiyugaoka. The station was packed nearly to dangerous levels with folks, apparently heading to one of the last fireworks festivals this season. I still managed to get to MB's place OK, though.

As usual, MB has been enjoying the world of computer games. He showed me the surprisingly good "Ghostbusters" fact, the game was so good that I think this should've been the sequel made instead of the 1989 "Ghostbusters II". Almost all of the original actors are back on voiceover duty...except for Sigourney Weaver (who later said in an interview that she actually regretted not helping the boys out).

Then, MB, his wife and I made our way to a ramen shop that MB and I had gone to about a year ago when I'd first visited him in his new neighbourhood. At that time, we'd gone for lunch so the full menu hadn't been available. Well, the dinner menu definitely had a lot more going for it. Some really fine piitan, gyoza, fried chicken wings and BBQ pork made our way to our stomachs before we all finished off with some savory ramen. I know a ramen shop is really good when the slices of char-siu are thick, tender and juicy.

The movies for tonight were Jason Statham's "Death Race" and that "Clone Wars" movie. The former had the ol' Transporter racing through psychotics-in-Mad-Max cars and plot holes the size of grottos; didn't make much sense at all but it was worth it just to see an incongruously cast Joan Allen being evil and profane.

As for "Clone Wars"....the film had come out last year here in the theatres. I'm glad that I didn't fork out the 1800 yen for what was basically little more than a Saturday morning cartoon with fancier special effects. It seems as if the more "Star Wars" movies come out, the worse its reputation gets. MB and I marveled at the fact that the last decent movie in the series had come out almost 30 years ago.

In any case, it's time to call it a night....luckily, I've got nothing until I meet The Jyuppies for dinner in Chuo-Rinkan.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Saturday August 22, 12:03 p.m.

Once again hot and humid out there. Just after boarding the subway at the station, my undershirt was already fit to be considered a life form. It may rain a little later on today; it would be the first time for precipitation in almost a week. I don't think we've had such a long stretch of dryness in this odd summer.

I've only got The Publicity Assistant and The Intellectual today. The Intellectual is on his final lesson with us, and I'm not sure whether he'll be re-upping. And The PA is just a few lessons away from her day of reckoning herself. Not sure if my Saturdays are gonna be a whole lot emptier from now on.

The session at the juku was pretty cut-and-dry last night. The juku boss started making noises about not having had any time to study for her half-hour with me but she did show up. The Ace was fine...he's probably my best student in the entire group I have. The Restauranteur was a few minutes late since she had some latecoming customers but no problems.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Friday August 21, 12:02 p.m.

Well, last night I saw some rather dramatic stuff on the news. That Lockerbie bomber got released from Scottish prison and has now headed home to Libya to a hero's welcome. Saw the actual announcement from Scotland's Minister of Justice and then after having caught the last several minutes of "A Few Good Men" on cable, I saw the plane taking off from Glasgow Airport.

What are my thoughts? Well, I first couldn't believe that the Minister actually let the guy go...after several years of bringing al-Magrahi to justice and then finally incarcerating him in 2001, only to see him get popped out in a few short hours. I guess that physics law is's always been easier to destroy than to create. The minister pounded the message into all of our heads that though this terrorist had shown no mercy to the 270 people he'd killed in December 1988, he wouldn't stoop to his level and not show any mercy to his request to be released on compassionate grounds and head home to Libya to die within the next 3 months from prostate cancer. He said that he would follow the law and show the world that Scotland is a just and moral land by giving this man leniency.

Of course, the media went nuts. Wolf and Jack on "The Situation Room" could barely contain their shock and awe towards the minister at his decision. I could just see the thought bubbles above their heads...."WTF WERE YOU THINKING?" I could only imagine how the folks at FOX took the news....they probably declared war on Scotland. The BBC newscaster at the time of the press conference also seemed about to burst a blood vessel.

Then, there are the families of those who were killed on Pan Am 103...a number of them American. I can only imagine how they must've felt when they saw footage of al-Magrahi coming down those steps in Tripoli to a large group of celebrating well-wishers....most likely extremists themselves. I'm sure the moderates were at home cringing in their houses wondering what this could mean about traveling overseas. But back to the see all their years of efforts of getting him into jail, only to see this one man unlock the cell and send him off home for what little time he has left. I'm sure a lot of them would like to head over to Scotland right now and say some very unkind words to the minister. I wouldn't blame them.

But then....this brings up the question about whether there is a price cap on forgiveness and compassion. The United States is probably the most religious country on the planet...with the majority believing in Christianity. I haven't read my King James in many a decade but isn't there a phrase that Jesus Christ espoused about forgiving all sins? Of any of the sins that have been perpetrated this year....isn't allowing a mass murderer to go back to his homeland to die the perfect opportunity to show how forgiving, how compassionate, how wonderful The Lord is? Or is forgiveness just for taking care of marital spats and forgetting anniversaries? For me, if I'd had a loved one on that Pan Am plane when it went down in flames, it would've been a no-brainer...I would've cursed the minister for the rest of our days (and in fact, my brother's old elementary school classmate was on that plane); but then again, I'm not religious....I don't believe in ultimate forgiveness. I am not divine...I am human...I err....and sometimes, I err gladly and without remorse. So, as for the Obama government's official response to the release as being a tragic mistake, and I'm considering America's status as a religious country, its supposedly official policy of separating church and state, and Obama's pronouncement that he is a Christian, my counterresponse would be, "Don't you think you're being a tad hypocritical?"

Just as the line between genius and madness is microns-thick, I think a similar line exists between bravery and foolishness. Although there are many out there who will think the Scottish Minister of Justice took the latter side in his decision for the rest of their lives, perhaps over the years, decades, and even centuries, there may be some (even now) who feel that he made the bravest decision of his career...and perhaps his prove that even an evil man is deserving of the good policy of mercy....that evil will not necessarily beget evil....and I'm referencing the phrase of "the banality of evil" when I write this.
Thursday August 20, 4:39 p.m.

Finished with The Nurse. She had only gotten a couple of hours of sleep after her last shift, so she was doing a lot of yawning in class....which is why she's scheduled her next lesson to come a bit earlier in the day when her energies aren't flagging so much.

Well, off for home. I have a sudden craving for ramen....kinda weird in this weather.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thursday August 20, 2:49 p.m.

Well, it's been a while since I made my last NorikoGate entry, so apparently the police have found trace amounts of amphetamine in hair samples. More ammunition.

Overseas voting has begun for the August 30th General Elections here in Japan. The pundits are still calling it overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party of Japan. I'm still doubtful whether the change in name will mean an actual change for the better. Hatoyama reminds me of a Japanese Joe Clark.

The Nurse should be here any minute.
Thursday August 20, 11:35 a.m.

Well, got through the first lesson pretty well. Miss Prissy managed to pass the role-plays on restaurants and shopping. Just needs to pick up the pace, though. Perhaps the service industry in Guam is pretty patient, but I know folks in the continental U.S. of A won't be as generous.

Got a surprise e-mail from Cozy. He was hoping that he, the juku boss and I would be able to get together sometime in the near future for dinner once again. Hopefully, the boss will be up to the challenge.

Speaking of food, I'll see if that bento place is open or if it has indeed shut down for good. I can't imagine it doing so; I think they were doing a brisk business selling their 500-yen lunches.
Thursday August 20, 8:58 a.m.

Back for another round. I was able to down a vitamin drink so I'm a bit peppier than I have any right to be right now. The McBreakfast helped, too. I've been reading the oh-so-serious "The Official CTU Training Manual" based on "24"; always enjoy reading manuals based on various spy/sci-fi shows (see "Star Trek"). Jack Bauer gives the foreword...I could imagine him screaming it out in any audiobook format. Kinda too bad that I've only seen the first 2 seasons, and that was several years ago. With my life, I just can't spare the time or the desire to shuck out the yen to buy the DVD box sets. That's kinda the same with shows like "Battlestar Galactica", "Lost" and "Heroes". I think I'll be in my retirement before I finally get to see any of them in their entirety. Still going through the manual but I'm pretty sure there isn't a section referring to any CTU agents involved in bar fights or alcoholism...although there should be (et tu, Kiefer).

Referring to "Modern Times", the Charlie Chaplin classic that I'd caught on cable yesterday, I was also surprised at some of the daring stuff that got passed the censors. For example, when Sir Charles accidentally ingested that heroin...innocently referred to as "nose-powder". And then there was the scene in which he tried to screw those well-placed buttons on the portly woman's coat.

Well, I just have Miss Prissy and then The Nurse later this afternoon. I'm still working with Miss Prissy on her Travel English for her upcoming trip to Guam in a couple of weeks. Then, I have the night off. Not too bad...knock on wood.
Wednesday August 19, 9:21 p.m.

Got the news from La Fille that Grandma Dynamite will be holding off on her umpteenth return to Speedy tomorrow due to health issues. Still, I'll have to make the early arrival since I have Miss Prissy. However, although I am worried about the Grandma, I'm also a bit relieved since I really don't know how to approach her anymore. Her memory isn't what it used to be.

So, I gather that tomorrow will also be a 2-lesson day.

The Fashion Designer ought to be here any minute.
Wednesday August 19, 5:47 p.m.

It's been quiet here lately...not just today. As it is, our staff here at Speedy's have never been all that raucous. Everyone does their own thing. Perhaps during BC's tenure of manic depression here, there was somewhat more tension, but overall it's been serene. However, with the Sword of Damocles hanging over us in terms of our survival over the next few months, the quietness has been somewhat wistful, especially while I was having my dinner in a sunset-glazed kitchen. Not sure what my pay packet next week will look like; I'll just be grateful that I've got that payoff from translating to be put into my account.

Not sure, either, about what will happen if the school does decide to move elsewhere to get a fresh start. If it's somewhere by the Yamanote Line or even within it, I should be OK. However, if Speedy decides to move it ever farther west...or if he decides to make it into a kids' school, well I think I may have to move on somewhere else. And I'm not sure what will happen with the remaining students. 001 still has quite a few lessons left with us, along with The Patent Attorney. The Fashion Designer has all of two left, and I'm pretty sure she won't be re-signing.

Wednesday August 19, 4:29 p.m.

Since I seemed to have had a pretty quiet week of few classes, I've been able to catch a few movies on cable. Well, two, to be exact. Both of them are absolutely different from each other but they both have made their mark in cinematic history. The first one was "Blue Velvet", the one with Isabella Rossellini, Kyle McLachlan and Dennis "Mommy" Harper. Very Lynchian although the plot was easy enough to understand. I can see where "Twin Peaks" came from. The other I just saw earlier this morning: "Modern Times", what could arguably be considered to be Charlie Chaplin's magnum opus. I'd heard of both over the decades, but it was "Modern Times" that made the bigger impression on me. Considering that it was made in 1936...well into the "talkies"...Chaplin insisted that it be kept silent, and yet, he still allowed for some sounds and speech to be added although there was a purpose to this. There was the iconic scene of Chaplin traveling through the cogs of a machine, but the two scenes that popped out at me were the one in which Chaplin's character was victimized by the automatic feeding machine and the one in which he was rollerskating blindfolded perilously close to the edge of an unprotected floor in a department store. I was also struck by how similar his co-star and then-wife Paulette Goddard resembled a young Maria Shriver (1st Lady of California) and Monica from "Friends", and the fact that despite the typically Chaplinesque bittersweet ending, both Chaplin and The Gamin walked away into the sunset together; usually the femme would be taken away from The Little Tramp for whatever reason. And it was nice to know that the classic jazz ballad, "Smile" originated from the movie. May consider picking up the DVD someday.

It'll be another Humpless Wednesday. I've only got 001 and The Fashion Designer tonight. Although it's about 30 degrees right now, I still wouldn't consider today to be a typically blazing Tokyo summer day.

This will be an entertaining weekend. After my classes at Speedy's on Saturday, it'll be another DVD night with MB, followed by dinner with The Jyuppies on Sunday, and I sent my change-of-mind notice to my old student, The Jazz Singer, and said that I would attend her gig in Roppongi since she'll be starting late and since I've got nothing again on Monday until Medicine Man. The Jazz Singer is a contemporary of SR from the ol' school. The last time I met her was at that year-end dinner that The Carolinan had planned in Ebisu last year. I listened to The Jazz Singer's rendition of "Lullaby of Birdland" and said that I gotta check her out.

My few months of getting back into the swing of things on Mixi has had me periodically swapping messages with various folks. Looks like right now, a fellow "Doctor Who" fan, Romana, and I are trading time tales.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tuesday August 18, 12:59 p.m.

Yup, I'd say that this season is definitely a reika (cool summer). Came home last night in very comfortable air; didn't even need the fan during my sleep time...just opened the window. In fact, that's been a common occurrence for me over the past several weeks. Usually a Tokyo summer without a fan on overnight is tantamount to suicide by heatstroke. Even coming to the I-Cafe today wasn't too bad at all. We're only going up to 29 C today.

Well, I got that letter from The Corner. Yup, my money will be heading my way at the end of the month. But I also got that hint that not all was well between his company and the client for that ceramics job. I think that the assignment was frankly over my punching weight in retrospect, but I wouldn't have found that out without doing it, so I'll have to slot the whole experience in as a learning one. Still, he was generous enough in saying that there may be more translation assignments in the near future....which is a relief for me, especially with business so down at both Speedy's and the juku.

Got another invite from MB about another DVD Night this Saturday. I'll be coming over a little later since I've got classes at Speedy's til 5 then. Strangely enough, the next night I've got that sushi dinner with The Jyuppies.

The Medicine Man was back to his unimaginative ways. The hour passed by rather quickly since he took so much time trying to formulate his answers.
Monday August 17, 7:08 p.m.

Had a very full weekend. With only The Nurse on Friday and just Medicine Man here tonight, I felt like I had more than 3 days off. My weekend was spent at home, catching up on a lot of movies via cable. It was kind of the weekend for sequels....and not the greatest sequels, at that. I watched "Back to the Future II", "Matrix Reloaded", and "Ocean's 12" amongst others. Yes, they were pretty mediocre efforts. Well, perhaps I'm being a bit harsh with the first one. "BTTF 2" was OK, but the tone just seemed to be yanked a little too far from the swashbuckling & lighthearted one of the original to the heartcrashing darkness of this one. I finally figured out the plot of "Ocean's 12" and just concluded the execution was bad. For the rather intriguing reason that it's now 64 years since the end of WWII, Super Drama TV has been putting on several episodes of a show called "12 O'Clock High" starring blandly handsome Paul Burke and a very young Chris Robinson (he would later be known as not only one of the cast of "General Hospital", but also as the infamous "I'm not a real doctor, but I play one on TV" guy) as bomber pilots in the war. Always kinda liked the old school TV shows.

NorikoGate seems to have finally gone on to the back burner. But it seems like the former aidoru has started to fess up that her history with drugs goes back a bit further than originally reported...a good 4 years earlier. May explain not only that Farrah Fawcett-like interview last year but also her hyperactive dancing as a DJ back in 2006.

Although I've got the juku back from tomorrow, it's still gonna be just that. Way open week. Even my dependably busy Thursdays look mighty hole-y this Thursday. Just two classes before I get to home for dinner early.

Looks like I'll be having dinner with The Jyuppies this Sunday instead of the regular lessons. Last lesson, Mr. Jyuppie was telling me about this great sushi restaurant at the end of the Den'en Toshi Line...pretty much in Kanagawa Prefecture. And so, he threw me the proposal of meeting there for dinner. Hmmm....kinda wonder if the end is near when it comes to me and them. I'm having a purposeful time with Mrs. Jyuppie but Mr. Jyuppie, since his midlife crisis began last month, hasn't been as forthcoming. Usually when my time with a certain student is ending its half-life, I get the invitation-to-a-meal notice in lieu of a regular lesson. It was true with that couple in Jiyugaoka early in my freelance career (for that one, they showed interest in my bartender's guide and wanted to make cocktails in English...yup, that was a most interesting lesson). Soon after, it was bye-bye for me. While I was still at the ol' school, I had been assigned a corporate class at a company in Osaki for which every other class involved me and the few students who would show up having dinner at a buffet place in the JR station plaza. While I enjoyed the free food, I knew my days were numbered.

Speaking of The Jyuppies, they live near Komazawa Park. After that one lesson at the end of last month, I was walking back to the station when I saw a whole cadre of TV trucks and cops across from the park. I overheard some folks talking about a jiken, an incident in the university. It wasn't until just recently that I'd heard that some young psycho, feeling jilted from not being able to participate in the university festival, decided to take his frustration out on some folks via a knife...or attempted to, anyways, before he was handily subdued.

Today, since I had a lot of time, I stopped by Kinokuniya's annual discount English-language book sale on the 11th floor of Takashimaya at Times Square. It was the last day but there were still plenty of books of all genres and sizes. I actually got three of them: last year's edition of "What Color is Your Parachute?", "Living With Star Trek"....a dissertation on the American cultural implications of one of my favourite shows, and "The Official CTU Operations Manual"; that last one just seemed so over-the-top in its earnestness over the universe that houses "24" that I just had to get it. It comes in its own hardcover case, too.