Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sunday November 15, 1:23 a.m.

Went down to Shinjuku to meet up with MB, The Sylph and Frodo at the Picadilly. It'd been a while since we all met for a movie. And the movie was "Push", an emo-"X-Men" with Chris Evans (formerly the Human Torch from "The Fantastic Four") and a snarly, sweary Dakota Fanning (I guess this is her debut into more mature roles...just wish it had been in a better movie). Afterwards, the four of us agreed that it was a nice try with an interesting idea, but the execution didn't quite take. Although I liked the fact that it was entirely filmed on location in Hong Kong, the movie didn't move so much as it shuffled along like a sullen teenage slacker going to detention. The end was just telegraphing sequel but most likely if there is one, it'll be straight to DVD and most likely without any of the major lead actors.

We ended up having dinner at Erewan, a Thai restaurant chain in Shinjuku. The food was great, including one searingly hot plate of ground chicken and spices. The service was a bit inept but I gather that the waitresses were new, and they looked like they were trying hard.

The commute over to MB's place was typically packed on both the Yamanote and Toyoko Lines, but it is a tribute to Japanese society that despite the sardine-like nature of the subways, getting on and off was very smooth.

Everyone seemed pretty beat tonight....I guess dealing with a mediocre movie and very spicy & filling food conked just about everyone out. I'm the only guy still up but I'll be getting my shower and hitting the hay within the hour.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Saturday November 14, 2:09 p.m.

Hard to believe that we've already reached the middle of the penultimate month of the year. It's starting to feel quite wintry with the drop in temperatures.

Just had The Publicity Assistant right now. She hasn't been too busy as of late. She's always quite a good conversationalist. Found out that she was once in the top 10 one year amongst all elementary school students in Japan for her calligraphy.

Well, the most famous African-American in the world arrived in Tokyo without a whole lot of fanfare, but then the weather last night just didn't make it too hospitable for the folks to come out and greet him. Then again, it was all business with Barack handshaking lines, no dinner outings to Ten-Ichi. He is here for another 24 hours before he takes off for Singapore tomorrow. It's a bit weird since PM Hatoyama has already left for the APEC meetings there. But on the off chance that he may drop into Shinjuku tonight, I have my digital camera ready to go.

Yup, after my lesson with The Businesswoman in 45 minutes, I'll be meeting with MB later tonight to catch "Push", which would be the poor-man's "X-Men". The rather harsh reviewer for METROPOLIS actually gave the flick a guarded thumbs-up, so as long as I don't have any high expectations, I shouldn't be too disappointed. And it'll be another MB weekend at his place; it's been a while.

I listened to that "Christmas Portrait" with The Carpenters. I bought it since I'd heard one track of it, "Merry Christmas, Darling" on one of their best compilations. The album itself wasn't too bad, but I think I have to be even more into the Xmas spirit to really appreciate it. The arrangement just seemed a bit too treacly for me....a bit on the DeVol side of things.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Friday November 13, 1:24 p.m.

Well, the witching day is here. A ferry turns 45 degrees the wrong way off the Pacific coast, and I go nuts on the purchases. Hopefully, the President has no problems on Air Force One. He should be arriving within the next few hours.

I picked up my new gaijin card...or should I be more politically correct and say Alien Registration Card? I feel like an immigrant from off-planet at MIB HQ whenever I say that. I went over to the branch office and sure enough, the reject from GLAY was there to take care of me. My card is now off-white with a few holo-stamps on it; my photo still screams "Do not approach...extremely dangerous!"

As I headed down to Shibuya, I did notice the increased presence of cops there. There were two officers on the platform at Shibuya Station, one on that yellow block as is often the case, as if he were saying loudly "I'M ON DUTY NOW!" And as I was heading up to Tower Records, three cops were encircling an ordinary woman; looks like she was getting the 3rd degree since she was hurriedly unloading an orange duffel bag in front of them. I couldn't imagine what kind of offensive weapons she could've been carrying....used tampons?

At Tower Records, I'm sure the staff was quite happy with me. I bought a couple of discs there, which positively screamed "ARAFO!" which is the Japlish transcription of "Around 40". One was an old Mariya Takeuchi album "Variety" from 1984 which has one of my favourite J-AOR songs, "Plastic Love" (yeah, no snickering). The other one is The Carpenters' Xmas album since that mood is starting to drop in on me like Pon Farr onto a Vulcan. But what increased my bill was finding the latest in the "The Original Peanuts" series on the shelf on the 7th floor.

After grabbing lunch at The Golden Arches, I just got onto the bus from Shibuya Station and headed back up to here at Speedy's. I've only got Miss Prissy here today and then I'll be heading on home before the juku classes.

It's definitely feeling a whole lot more like Winter now. There is that overcast gloominess to the sky while everyone is putting on the coats and scarves. It looks like the clouds may just unload some of the dry, fluffy stuff right on us.
Thursday November 12, 10:47 p.m.

Opened the place up this morning and now I'll be closing everything up tonight. Long day. But I got The Music Man through his review more or less intact and I'll be out the door in about 5 minutes.

Gotta head to the City Hall branch office in Gyotoku tomorrow morning to pick up my new gaijin card. I kinda wonder if that GLAY band member will be handling me as well. I'll have to say hello to Mr. Ichihashi.

I don't know how the traffic will be like tomorrow with all that security roaming the city in preparation for Barack Obama's arrival into town. I'm sure the morning wide shows will be having their full court press on the visit.
Thursday November 12, 8:29 p.m.

Just digesting my dinner (which included a wedge of Camembert on a Cracotte...thank heavens for the generosity of our senior students) before The Music Man comes in about 45 minutes. I guess it's been another long whole day here at Speedy's. Won't be nearly as present here tomorrow since I only have Miss Prissy in the afternoon, but I do have the juku folks since it will be Friday.

I had The Carolinan a couple of hours earlier. She told me that there was a definite heightened presence of the police everywhere in Tokyo, so I guess things are now in preparation for President Obama's visit tomorrow. The official celebration for The Emperor's and Empress' anniversary was held earlier in the afternoon. As for Obama, The Carolinan and I were speculating on where he and Michelle would be staying. The venerable Hotel Okura is one option since it is literally next door to the fortress known as the U.S. Embassy; the other place is the Akasaka Palace which was designed after one of the palaces in France. Wherever they stay, there'll be another media scrum although nothing compared to the bedlam that surrounded the arrest of Tatsuya Ichihashi a couple of nights ago. It may be the only time in Obama's presidency that Barack would be upstaged by a 30-year-old sociopath.
Thursday November 12, 5:20 p.m.

May have encountered some controversy on the "Star Trek" Mixi community via a question I posted. I realize that it was a bit of a fantastical question and the answer that I got was skeptical but polite so I'm not too worried yet. Ironically, I thought that that community would be the most welcoming but it seems that I've been getting the cold shoulder there for some reason. Some of the other communities have been quite good to me. However, after over 6 months being active on Mixi, I have to realize that when on a social networking site, it won't always be goodness and light all the time. Hopefully, I won't be getting any Channel 2 flame wars.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thursday November 12, 12:32 p.m.

Well, got the first half of my lessons today done. I had the double with Grandma Dynamite earlier...worked on vowel pronounciation and the Past Continuous. Then with Grandma FON, we basically just talked about her pilgrimage to her lodge up in Nagano Prefecture. She was supposed to have come last week but she got snowed in up there. It's amazing that at the age of 78, she can handle the roads in her car with aplomb.

Now, it's just The Carolinan and The Music Man later tonight.

The next couple of days could see a lot of nervous breakdowns amongst the security types here. President Obama and The First Lady are due here tomorrow on Friday the 13th, and then apparently, the official celebrations happen today for the Golden Anniversary of the Emperor and Empress's wedding. Heck, perhaps even the media types might be reaching for the Bufferin.
Thursday November 12, 11:21 a.m.

The sturm und drang from yesterday has gone off into the distance, and Grandma FON has just arrived. Ah, more later...
Wednesday November 11, 9:28 p.m.

Had my two lessons with The German and 001 today. Both of them went happily swimmingly. The German and I always end up sidetracking massively...perhaps even more so than with 001. Which is kinda why I'm happy that she's scheduled her next lesson on a Tuesday, a day that I'm not available here at Speedy's. I think some of the bossman's ministrations would be good for her. As for 001, we kept it going quite well since we got onto the topic of Xmas celebration.

Speaking of the Holidays, I've got a bit of a dilemma. I was going to ask The Milds again for their help during my absence in terms of mail collection. But then I got second thoughts since I really don't want to impose on them. I'd heard that the post office could hold onto the mail while I'm gone but I'm not 100% certain of this so I've once again sent the question to my Mixi friends. Hopefully, they'll come to the rescue.

Tomorrow ought to be a busy day since I've got Grandmas Dynamite and FON in the morning, followed by The Carolinan and The Music Man in the evening.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wednesday November 11, 3:29 p.m.
See that fellow on the left? His name is Tatsuya Ichihashi. As you may have guessed, despite the kanji, this is a wanted poster. Well, he's wanted no more. In what had to have been one of the biggest media feeding frenzies in recent Japanese memory, this guy was finally caught after nearly 3 years on the run for having allegedly killed a female British NOVA teacher in his apartment...just near my neighbourhood. Yup, he was living perhaps a stone's throw away from my neck of the woods. For the past 2 years and 7 months, I had become accustomed to seeing his face on posters all over the neighbourhood. At the very least, he is being charged with abandonment of a body...Lindsay Ann Hawker was found barely buried in a bathtub (!) filled with sand on his balcony. Police had a chance to grab him right then and there back in the Spring of 2007, but the man was just too fast for them and took off.
To be frankly honest, I'd thought he had committed suicide and was now residing at the bottom of Tokyo Bay. But then came the news a week ago that Ichihashi had undergone plastic surgery in Nagoya after being rejected at a clinic in Fukuoka. It is truly ironic that the man's attempt to further conceal himself ended up getting him captured. I had a feeling that once the man's (new) face got onto the screens again, it wouldn't be long. I guess in a way that his emergence to refreshed eyes finally sealed his fate.
I'd gotten home from the juku when I caught the news on NHK that the punk got nabbed waiting for a ferry for Okinawa. He didn't put up a fuss when the police confirmed who he was. However, the media just went hog wild. I thought that the scrum at Shin-Osaka Station where he had been put onto the Shinkansen was pretty wild. But his arrival at Tokyo Station at midnight was the stuff of legend. It was as if Michael Jackson's ghost had come back onto this plane of existence via a train platform. The police and Ichihashi were nearly consumed by dozens of cameramen and reporters; it was looking downright dangerous right from the platform and to the front of the station where the van was waiting for him. I don't think I'd ever witnessed this much of a scrum in my 15 years here...not even with Noriko Sakai, and not even with the arrest of the guru of Aum Shinrikyo, Shoko Asahara.
I watched the journey of the police van and various media motorcycles via helicopter camera as it went from Tokyo and into Chiba and into Ichikawa...about a 20-minute ride considering that it was past midnight. And then there was the scrum again (although it was more orderly than the chaos at Tokyo Station) at Gyotoku Police Station, perhaps just 20 minutes' walk away from my apartment. I could hear the news choppers overhead. And then Ichihashi's odyssey finally came to an end as he was escorted into the station.
Much of the time, Ichihashi's head had been covered with a coat but as he was dragged into the van in front of Tokyo Station, the coat was taken off. He had that typically sullen look of a criminal, but there was also that expression of resignation to his fate. Perhaps he is relieved that the run is finally over. I can only hope that the killer of that university student in Shimane Prefecture can be caught a whole lot sooner.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Monday November 9, 11:09 a.m.

Did what has become my new Monday morning routine which is to teach Cozy at the bleary-eyed time of 8 a.m. in Toyocho. And since apparently I won't be seeing Swank for a little while, I have come back here to the I-Cafe to relax until SIL's lesson at 2.

Yesterday was over to The Jyuppies. They're getting close to their moving day; they'll be heading over to new digs in Futako-Tamagawa which is slightly further west of their soon-to-be former Komazawa Park townhouse. In a way, it's a bit of a pity that they're moving to the allegedly tonier neighbourhood since I think K Park seems much more family-friendly. Earlier in the day, I went to Gaienmae to search for that shop where The Admin and her husband had been holding their exhibition, but after walking and looking around for the place for close to an hour, I had to abandon the search due to lack of time. So, I just ended up having lunch at the Omotesando Wendy's. It was a nice walk through Aoyama Cemetery again.

Newswise, the stations have been keeping watch on that grisly case of that murdered girl in Hiroshima Prefecture. Her head had been found in the mountains, and then yesterday, the police managed to find her torso some 80 m away. The clues are slowly starting to build up....forensics are saying that she may have been strangled. I'm hoping that there will be an arrest sometime this week.

Probably around 15 minutes ago, the verdict on Noriko Sakai was given...and I'm sure to a very attentive press. Just like my checkup results, there's probably no need to check. Prosecutors were asking for an 18-month sentence which will probably mean that she'll get that suspended for 5 years just like Manabu Oshio. Not sure if there was any full court press on what she was wearing in the courtroom.

Ended up watching another Kevin Kline movie last night....a much more fun outing than "De-Lovely". I first saw "Dave" at the theatres back in the hometown nearly 20 years ago. It was a very enjoyable and poignant take on "The Prisoner of Zenda" done against the backdrop of the White House. There was definitely a very Capraesque feel to the proceedings. "Dave" was directed by "Ghostbusters" boss Ivan Reitman; not sure if he also did it, but around the same time, there was "Groundhog Day", another whimsical fantasy grounded in the present day. Ah, I think that was Harold Ramis.

I kinda feel like I'm in that transitional seasonal phase. We're beyond Halloween and all that media talk on the seasonal foods such as ayu and matsutake, but we're not into the Xmas mood, despite all of the department store frills. It just feels rather November-ish.

In any case, I have that rare non-holiday Monday off...after SIL, that'll be it for me since Medicine Man won't be coming in today. I will enjoy today.