Thursday, September 03, 2009

Thursday September 3, 7:14 p.m.

Another one of those long, lazy days in the office chair since I've had the Mother of All Donut Days. To remind you folks, a Donut Day is one in which I've got a student at the beginning of the day and then have to wait several hours before the next one. Between Miss Sedona and The Music Man, I've got 8.5 hours. That's a lot of computer time.

Meterologically, the alternating hot and cold cycle that Tokyo's been getting finally got broken today...on the side of Fall. It went up to just 25 C yesterday and that's what it was today as well. I went out a half-hour ago to grab a bento from the local Lawson's and it just felt pleasantly cool. That might be de rigueur in Toronto, but over here that's about akin to an early frost.

During the long break, I took care of some odds and ends such as taking care of the Advance Information Form at Air Canada and finishing up on that project for Speedy. I've got all the bare bones for this potential course for study-abroad students who may be a bit nervous about their English ability, but I just gotta come up with some skin and tissue to put it all together. Sometimes, though, I wonder if the bossman just gave me the assignment so that he could have a reason to pay me since I've been scarce on students recently. He even said that most likely there would only be a few students who would want the service. Usually the students who sign up for studying abroad are already pretty lucid.

While both Ray and La Fille were here, the three of us got into the topic of natto, that love-hate Japanese food of rotten beans that seems to be the Manna of Heaven in the Kanto while it was until recently the universal culinary equivalent of wolfsbane in the Kansai. I'm definitely of the latter is Ray, which is a bit unique since she hails from the Tohoku area. La Fille is just in love with the stuff...a lot of the natives here eat it on rice with a bit of karashi mustard...but she goes for it au naturel; just the stuff itself. When I told the both of them, however, that I'd seen a variety show in which some enterprising fellow came up with the idea of natto chocolate cake, they both gagged. The conversation then sidled into my recent trip to Nakamizo, the sushi restaurant in Chuo-Rinkan that The Jyuppies had taken me to the other Sunday. They marveled at the photos of sushi I'd taken. They were also talking about the near-legendary Carrot...a restaurant near Nishi-Ogikubo (not too far away from here) that is famed for its large Japanese-style hanbaagu (hamburg steaks). I'd first heard about it from The Matron some years ago since her hefty son had been a regular customer (figures). The place also got onto some of the variety shows as well. Lineups at Carrot are an inevitability. Someday all of us here at Speedy's may get out there for lunch...provided we survive our current financial crisis.

Just a point about Speedy's financial goes quite a ways to say that I'd earned more in the last month than the entire school did in the same amount of time...that's how bad it is now.

Also came across the Wiki entry for "Burn Notice", that whimsical spy series from FOX. The show's starting to be advertised here; there's the picture of the main character played by Jeffrey Donovan up next to his popularity predecessors, Jack Bauer and the guy from "Prison Break". I first caught it on the plane headed home last year and found the first two eps a hoot-and-a-half. Any show on a personal screen which can make me forget about the arduousness of air travel for 13 hours has my respect and enjoyment. And it looks like the show has been doing's entered its 3rd season. If it gets popular here like "24", I figure Donovan will be next in line to do a silly Calorie Mate commercial here in Tokyo just like Kiefer Sutherland.

Speaking of foreign celebs who've come in recently, I caught Hugh "Wolverine" Jackman on the NTV morning wide show yesterday. Of course, he was in to promote his latest "X-Men" movie which is coming out in general release next Friday....yep, late as usual. I think he, along with Will Smith, is one of the few Hollywood types who actually relishes kidding around with the local tarento. Of course, the folks went wild at the rumour that the next "Wolverine" flick may be filmed partly in Japan....usually those rumors fly out like so much dust at any movie series such as Bond. But this time, there may be more than a kernel of truth since James "Logan" Howlett has had his connections with Japan over the years in the comics. I rather doubt that there will be anything here in The Big Sushi. Getting permission to film here in the largest city on Earth is harder to get than getting permission to get into Fort Knox.

Well, since tomorrow I've got nothing until the juku classes, I may just enjoy myself in the sunshine and go around Tokyo for at least part of the morning and early afternoon and give my digital camera a workout. I figure why not? Every time I start wondering whether I'll be financially solvent by the end of the year, I get rather whimsical and decide to do something for the heck of it.

Movie Buddy's big weekend is officially on. He sent me the e-mail asking what time I would be coming in on Saturday and then telling me how much he's looking forward to the big dinner at that much vaunted Spanish restaurant with me, The Satyr, Miss Ivory and The Sylph.

Got a lot down in 30 minutes...

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Thursday August 3, 11:24 a.m.

Well, after the equivalent of a seasonal quarter, my odyssey with Japanese ceramics translation finally came to an end when the payment finally got transferred to my account this morning. I'm sure Ichikawa City was equally as happy to get my money.

However, Speedy is singing the blues. Apparently, the news didn't filter to him that The Fashion Designer had decided not to renew, although Ray was right there with the after-action survey. He had a rather blank look on his face for a couple of seconds before he sank into his recently customary moroseness about the situation. As for the a-a survey, I got top marks as her teacher but under the category of personal progress....she only rated herself at 3 out of 5. A bit of a kick in the pants...I really have to stop sidetracking. 001 even lamented the fact that she hasn't been progressing too far into the book.

I've only got two students today: Miss Sedona and The Music Man. Miss Sedona only has two more lessons to go, but we all know that she'll be heading for Canada to start a new life in less than 2 months so it would be no surprise if she decided not to re-up. As for The Music Man, he had just bought some more lessons so it will be several more weeks before the topic of renewal comes up again.
Wednesday September 2, 8:35 p.m.

Finished up with 001 a half-hour ago. Mostly another free-for-all gab session running the gamut from the names of the world's intelligence agencies to the karaoke stand at Mandarake in Shibuya. Yup, we really go far afield conversationally. The lass will be headed for a solo trip to Australia in a couple of weeks, so there's a very real possibility that the 16th may have me heading home very early, since I believe that The Fashion Designer will be no more as of tonight.

Just had a couple of rice balls for dinner. Not that I'm trying to prep especially for that checkup next month, but perhaps getting prepared for what I may be forced to eat if sales don't improve at either Speedy's or at the juku.

Wednesday September 2, 5:08 p.m.

To the left of me is the entrance to Nakano Plaza, home of everything that is otaku that isn't in Akihabara. I go there occasionally to see all the old-fashioned Japanese popular culture stores. One of them is...or was...Otokichi. It's actually located just some metres back from Broadway, the home of Mandarake and all other subculture shops.

Otokichi was the shop where all the old J-Pop CDs were sold...even before it was called J-Pop. Back then, it was just known as kayo kyoku, and featured singers from the immediate postwar era up to the 90s. I often went there to see if I could scavenge some gem from the 70s/80s or even the early 90s. I came across some of those unsung heroines that never really became superstars but I tend to love anyways such as Ruiko Kurahashi, Reimy or Kanako Wada. When I actually ordered a disc via Net, I even got a message from the owner asking how a Canuck like me could even hear of Ruiko Kurahashi.

Well, all good things must come to an end. And I got a blanket e-mail from the owner stating that the Tokyo branch has closed down for good, the reason being that he and his family are heading back to Hiroshima to be closer to the larger family since his father had died a few months ago. But I also noticed that Otokichi was never that full of customers although I realized that the shop was pretty small to begin with. However, the mail order service will still be online. Still, a Nakano Plaza institution has come to an end, and I'll have to try my luck with that shop I discovered in Jimbocho.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Wednesday September 2, 2:27 p.m.

Well, I did the deed. Purchased the air ticket from Air Canada...heading back home again for another 3 weeks of binging and guilt trips....oh, yes, and also the Holidays. Cost me an extra 23,000 yen now compared with the price, pre-potential strike call. So, on Mrs. Lens' call, I held back until we were sure that AC would survive. I guess the 23,000 yen can be considered my ghost legal fee.

So, I guess out of the payment from The Corner, the air ticket and the two premiums for City Tax and National Health will pretty much take a majority of that with about 50,000 yen left for savings.
Wednesday September 2, 1:17 p.m.

"Taught" Grandma Enka for her monthly...really, it was a gab session, and it is basically meant as one since Speedy has to do the dirty work with her in the other weeks. Enka keeps on complaining about how boring the text is, so to keep her happy, I'm the exhaust valve. Mind you, she seems to just want someone to talk to in Japanese although I respond in English.

Speaking about the grandmother students. we got a surprise package from Grandma FON who's been away all these weeks in the wilds of Nagano Prefecture in the form of various crackers and snacks. She'll be away for the rest of this month but may be coming back in October. As for Grandma Dynamite, Enka informed me that her sister is still ailing. She said that just when Dynamite feels up to coming back to the school, she suddenly gets those pains again. Uh-huh....

Got the response from The Corner lickety-split about the payment. It had been forgotten about but it should be in the account in the next 2 days. Well, the fact that he responded quickly enough is good, but the Dark Side in me is grumbling a bit.

I remember that poster for "Spiderman 2" in which we get a close-up of Spidey's face and reflected in his two eyespots is Doctor Octopus. Well, I'm sure some enterprising political cartoonist has already replaced Doc Ock with Mickey Mouse. Yep, I'm talking about The House That Mickey Built annexing The House That Stan Built. I can just see it now...the next time kids go to Tokyo Disneyland, they can shake hands with Goofy or get them torn off by Wolverine. Marvel Team-Ups may now actually include The X-Men and The Seven Dwarves joining forces: "Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to world domination we go..." Pluto, meet Hellcat. Doctor Doom, meet Doc. Donald, meet Howard. I hear that the synergistic forces have prompted a reboot of "Fantastic Four"; Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Minnie....your comeback vehicle is here. I guess you can insert your own drum rimshots after each of the last several sentences. I can only imagine how the comic book guys are responding to this news. I can imagine how Comic Book Guy is responding to this news: "Worst...Team...Up...Ever". We shall see.

Well, tonight I've just got 001 and The Fashion Designer....that is, if she doesn't dotakyan and thereby avoid saying goodbye.
Wednesday September 2, 11:23 a.m.

Well, I checked my account this morning again to see if The Corner had transferred payment. Nada. So, I finally decided to send him an e-mail about it. Strangely enough, he sent me an e-mail about a wholly different matter...which made me wonder if he actually did send it or completely forgot about it. In any case, I politely reminded him of it and hopefully he'll let me know in the next few hours.

In any case, Grandma Enka is here...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Tuesday September 1, 12:51 p.m.

That dreaded Typhoon 11 fortunately left us a lot sooner than expected last night. By around 9 p.m., things looked wet but significantly windless and no one was opening umbrellas. Best scenario possible. However, the war between man and nature left the corpses of umbrellas all along the way to the subway.

Not surprisingly, today is back to sunny and hot, as it usually is after a summer typhoon. Got some laundry done and did the lesson planning for the juku students. The cancellations keep on coming, though. The Admin is gone for this week along with The Bass, and even SIL has canned for this month since her mother had injured herself. And I'm still waiting for that payment from The Corner...I'm really hoping that that money is in the account right now; I tried to check but there was a long line at the ATM.

The LDP is still licking its wounds after the beating it'd gotten on Sunday night. A former Defense Minister, Ishiba, sounded a bit petty but basically repeated what everyone else has been thinking in saying that the DPJ won only because the people wanted to punish the LDP more than it thought that the DPJ was any good.

Quiet on the SNS front. Had a number of Mixi friends looking in but not commenting. Well, I guess I can do a lot of YouTube today then.

Monday August 31, 8:44 p.m.

Well, tomorrow is September 1st. For a lot of folks here, it's Earthquake Drill Day (just feel the excitement....or the artificially induced shakes in the quake simulator). However for me, it's time to play two songs with the same title, "September". One, of course, is the one made classic by the guys to the right of me here, Earth Wind & Fire. Just hearing the few beats of quiet intro followed by the racing horns brings out a few quakes in me. "Do you remember...?" I surely do.

The other is by one of the few J-Pop songstresses to last through 3 decades and still keep putting out the hits. This "September" was by Mariya Takeuchi, and it's a vastly different number. Kinda evoking the novelty teen idol sound of the American 50s, young Mariya released this nearly 30 years ago when she was harking back to the sounds of Annette Funicello and Connie Francis. Still, the two songs reflect the various aspects of Americana pop music. She's still releasing pop tunes even now in her mid-50s alongside her contemporary, Yumi Matsutoya. But she's probably famous recently for her KFC yearly Christmas jingle. If a J-Pop tune could sound like a Norman Rockwell painting, it would be this one.

Typhoon 11 has suddenly veered off a little ahead of schedule. As I look out the window, there isn't only not any rain (ouch the syntax) but I don't even see any umbrellas, living or dead. There may be hope yet for the commute home. But I'm still lucky that I don't have anything until the juku.

Monday August 31, 6:41 p.m.

Looks like that direct contact with Typhoon 11 has been delayed by 6 hours! AAUGH! I might have to run smack dab into it on the way home. That is, if the Tozai Line allows me...when I was heading to the office, I saw the announcment that Tokyo Metro will be cancelling all of the express trains (as is usually the case in emergencies) because of the typhoon. It might be rather dicey getting home...I may actually even have to grab a cab. La Fille had come back from lunch looking rather drenched. She reported that it took an Olympian effort to return to the school, and noticed that there were the carcasses of several umbrellas littering the sidewalk. So far, mine has held out for now. Speedy's regular student at this hour has dotakyan'ed, but then again, she tends to do that at the drop of a hat.

On Saturday night, I came across the rerun of "Star Wars: Episode 2" on Fuji-TV....I assume, as counter-programming against that 24-hour telethon on NTV. Fuji needn't have bad as the prequel trilogy is, I still won't get anywhere near something as maudlin as the NTV telethon. Having said that, hearing some of the horrible lines that Hayden Christensen had to vomit out in his scenes with Natalie Portman just had me rushing for the MUTE button. Still, I have hope that some enterprising young director/producer will decide to re-imagine the entire prequel in the near future....probably when George Lucas has gone to that Death Star in the sky. I figure if it could work for "Star Trek" and "Battlestar Galactica" (the latter having been inspired by the original "Star Wars"), it's gotta work for "Star Wars". Just a tragedy how the talent was wasted.
Monday August 31, 4:19 p.m.

It's gonna be another one-class night. Just The Medicine Man. I shouldn't expect any cancellations from him since Typhoon 11 will have gone north into Tohoku by that time. However, I did get one from The Admin due to a business trip this Wednesday. So, it'll just be Grandma Enka for her monthly with me followed by 001 and what I assume to be the very last lesson with The Fashion Designer.

Got word from Cozy thanking me for that quickie translation request on Saturday. It's nice to hear, especially after that arduous assignment from The Cornerette. I have yet to see the money although The Corner said that I would be paid at the end of the month. Well, I'll check the account later tonight or tomorrow. If I don't see anything there, I will probably need to think about our professional relationship.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Monday August 31, 3:41 p.m.

Back on the 11th during my mini-trip in Yokohama, I faced Typhoon 9 and a real earthquake. Today, I'm facing Typhoon 11 and a political earthquake. As for the former, the hurricane is making a beeline straight towards the Kanto and should be on our doorstep in the next few hours...the signs were right there from yesterday as I was heading off to my haircut...slight rain with a translucently white overcast sky and an eerie calm. Now, I had to do some fighting with the wind and rain between the subway station and Speedy's. As for the latter, Yukio Hatoyama of the DPJ is making a beeline straight towards the Prime Ministership and should be making his Cabinet choices in the next couple of weeks.

But enough of the comparisons...last night, all of Japanese TV went on red alert and their seemingly designed-by-Starfleet studios to provide coverage of what was basically a landslide for several hours. Even the English interpreters of NHK were making overtime up to 4 a.m. this morning. I can imagine that the 7 p.m. broadcast tonight will start off with one of those interpreters going "Good evening, and welcome to the.....YAWN....7 p.m. NHK news".

The landslide was not surprising (the media had been predicting for several days that the Democratic Party of Japan could get 300 seats in the Lower much so that the blitz probably outdid the global one for "300" the movie), but not insignificant. Folks here generally despise is (or was) very much "the Devil you know" type of society. So, it was not an inconsiderable feat that the DPJ managed to get the largest turnout of voters in 13 years to oust definitively the Liberal Democratic Party which had been in power for almost all of the last 54 years. There was a brief hiccup in 1993-1994 when Morohiro Hosokawa, not of the LDP, became PM but with a coalition government and a far less definitive margin. This time around, the DPJ did it all by themselves, getting 308 seats out of a possible 480, and in a truly O. Henryesque ending, with a leader whose grandfather was the first PM under the LDP banner in 1955. The feat was such that even Typhoon 11 has had to take a back seat behind the supposed winds of change.

Last week, I was hearing the tones of The Jazz Singer in Roppongi; well, last night I was hearing the opinions of far less pretty pundits throughout the media spectrum. NHK was putting up election results almost every second. And I just kept seeing the kanji for the DPJ, or "min"; it was just, "min, min, min" all night long....I figured I was seeing the graphic version of cicadas crying. Even though the final result was never in doubt, all of us were watching the benchmarks slowly being broken like multiple racetrack tape: the DPJ hitting the 200-seat mark, then the 241-seat mark signifying an absolute majority and finally the 300-seat mark, proving the media-inspired prediction of a landslide. Even the BBC and CNN got into the act and even had Yukio Hatoyama's victory (yawn) speech. Hatoyama may have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but charisma is sorely lacking. He's about as glum as former PM Shinzo Abe, the human Cigarstore Indian. But then again, Japanese political victories aren't about balloons and cheering crowds and 70s/80s songs used as campaign themes as it is in the States. Over here, it's three yelps of "Banzai!" and perhaps the coloring in of the second eye of the giant daruma doll if we're lucky to see it.

Now, that the DPJ has won, what next? Well, perhaps, it may resemble President Obama and the Democratic Party of the United States. Tons of promises by the inarguably more charismatic and articulate Barack Obama but everyone has been asking about where the money is gonna come from to pay for all this. Everyone will be asking Hatoyama the same thing probably within the next several hours. DPJ folks have been saying that they think they know where they can get the money; they say that since the LDP has been so corrupt and loose with their projects, Hatoyama and the gang can just tap that supposedly existent giant slush fund like an overripe maple tree. As for me, I'll believe it when I see some actual reform and help for the average guy. Being the cynical type, I predict that the DPJ, having had no leadership experience will probably stumble around like the Keystone Kops, will end up losing 4 years later in the next election, and that the LDP, which will have been ruminating in the political wilderness for that time, may get their act together and win and perhaps even improve this country's fortunes. Nope, I don't have a whole lot of faith in this new regime.