Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sunday January 31, 2:02 a.m.

If I'm writing this at this time, I must be at MB's place. MB and the missus are currently sleeping away, and I still have yet to take a shower so I am running very late.

The three of us had dinner in Futako-Tamagawa, a well-heeled neighbourhood just an express train stop away from Jiyugaoka. We were supposed to have gone to a Chinese restaurant that MB has been raving about but unfortunately all of the tables were booked so we went to Plan B in the form of an Italian place down the street called "RI" (standing for Ristorante Italiano). We were much more luckier there since there weren't too many people at that time. The service was a bit slow but the food more than compensated. The seafood-and-cauliflower soup was one of the highlights, as was the Spaghetti Carbonara. Not exactly cheap but I definitely got my money's worth.

Then MB and I settled for a double feature on the DVDs. We first caught "Crank 2: High Voltage" which was just as hilariously insane as the first one. The camerawork alone was worth the price of admission....or rental. Then we saw "The International", a far more sobering piece by Tom Twyker and starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts. Not a bad movie but didn't quite pull off the execution. James Rebhorn came in once more as the utility player behind his stock-in-trade cowardly jackass character, and Armin-Mueller whatever did his usual sinister elderly statesman.

Tomorrow, I'll be having lunch with MB and The Sylph, before having class with The Jyuppies, and then I'm heading over to Koenji to see the ladies of Speedy for dinner. Apparently, it may be the last time I see Bay before she heads off to the States permanently to join her husband there.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Saturday January 30, 11:24 a.m.

Another Saturday round at Speedy's. The usual suspects of The Intellectual and The PA. Then an hour of translation work for Cozy followed by the trip to Jiyugaoka for the quarterly DVD Night with MB.

Looking pretty nice out there. Not too cold although the shivering masses may disagree.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday January 28, 8:15 p.m.

Well, it was a bit under the wire, but all four of us staffers at Speedy's managed to down the ramen. I probably would've appreciated it better with some more time but the onions definitely kept my mouth on alert. On the other side, The Carolinan was probably at her moodiest; I know that she hadn't been too crazy about her colleagues but for most of the lesson, there was a distinct chill in the room. I sent her some e-mail about tonight.

It's now just Mr. TOEFL. Not sure what he would prefer. To either go for a dry run at the test or just keep practicing.
Thursday January 28, 5:17 p.m.

Ray and La Fille have been gabbing pretty much non-stop for the past few hours since the bossman has been out. He should be coming back any minute. I went out to the store and got the fixins for that tonkotsu ramen. And I'll have to start cooking within the next 15 minutes since I've got The Carolinan coming in at 6:30, followed by Mr. TOEFL. The fixins themselves are BBQ pork, bean sprouts, green onions and eggs which will have to be soft-boiled.

It seems like Speedy has been able to procure some funds to keep us going for a little while at least.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thursday January 28, 12:50 p.m.

In the donut hole between Miss Prissy at 10 a.m. and The Carolinan at 6:30 p.m. Yep, a lot of down time today. However, I've been keeping myself occupied by making printouts for tomorrow's lesson with The Restauranteur and then for The Sisters of Teen...yep, the new name for those two school-age sisters I've now got on my Tuesday night schedule at the juku. Hopefully, they'll be better than The Elder and the Junior. I am still personally wishing the Elder ends up getting in trouble with the law in a foreign country for some slipup in her fractured English. Not quite sure what I'll be calling the sisters individually. I've also done some prep work for Mr. TOEFL's final lesson before his big test on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Speedy was eyeing my package of tonkatsu ramen noodles that I'd gotten from The PA a week ago last Saturday. Straight from her hometown of Fukuoka, so they gotta be good. I'm thinking of getting some fixins such as char siu, bean sprouts and memma at the local supermarket later today.
Thursday January 28, 11:27 a.m.

To the right, sumo yokozuna Asashoryu. As incongruous as it may look and sound, he does share something with folks like Dennis Rodman in the NBA and Tie Domi in the NHL, or even the late great Miles Davis in jazz. They're all bad boys. Yup, Asashoryu has become a grand champion in the 2-millenium-old tradition of sumo but he has also pulled some rather rascally scandals such as playing with Japanese soccer great Hidetoshi Nakata in his native Mongolia, while he was supposed to be nursing an injury in Japan. And then there was his resentful shoving and glaring at fellow yokozuna and countryman Hakuho in one match which also got the Japan Sumo Association's tongues as well as those of the media wagging. And finally, there was a few days ago when, after his latest triumph in the New Year's tournament, he went on a drunken spree at his victory party. The next day, he just apologized without much emotion...or perhaps remorse. He'll be as bad as he wants to be, I suppose. I've never been a huge (no pun intended) supporter of sumo, but it would be nice if the JSA would do something more than a tongue-lashing against Asashoryu. But I guess their hands are rather tied since a yokozuna can never be demoted. Asashoryu can be retired but only if he starts getting a string of losses...but he hasn't done that and sumo needs all the star power and money it can get.

Ironically enough, Asashoryu's nemesis on the Japan Sumo Association, a writer by the name of Uchidate, has stepped down after fulfilling her role as one of the members. She has been one of the few people who has openly dissed the Mongolian wrestler as a ne'er-do-well who hasn't lived up to the image of a yokozuna. Asashoryu hasn't said much about that or her, but I'm sure he isn't too sad to see her go.

Then, there is the other story of retired yokozuna Takanohana trying to muscle in on the JSA to give a major Spring Cleaning to the hidebound association (can't really blame him). The association is resisting with all of its might. Not a boring day in this world.
Thursday January 28, 9:00 a.m.

Another one of those late night-early morning transitions. I'm actually pretty good at it, although the question begs about why I should continue doing it. However, if things don't improve at Speedy's within the next few months, I may not have to worry about such things any longer.

I've just about finished the DVD set of Series 4 of "Doctor Who". I've gone through all of the episodes and the commentaries, and now I'm just wrapping up with the en masse viewing of "Doctor Who Confidential". This show has definitely come a long way since those years of the Classic Series. I don't think anyone could've envisioned weekly making-of broadcasts of this program back then. And certainly this season will probably go down as the most dramatic one in the show's 47-year history (yes, I am cognizant of the fact that there was no regular series between 1988 and 2005).

When I first saw Catherine Tate as Donna Noble in "The Runaway Bride", I just thought that she was the absolute worst companion to appear in a TARDIS. Rude, mouthy, selfish....I'd heard of Tate's comedy show in which she specialized in playing a lot of unlikeable characters. Well, frankly, my opinion of her was "Not in my TARDIS!"

Then, the Martha year came and gone, and then I no longer got video tapes of the show from The Entrepreneur since my VCR up and died and since he got up and married. I did cheat, though, and saw that last tragic scene of Donna "dying" in the TARDIS via YouTube soon after "Journey's End" had aired but never saw any of her least until I bought the DVD set during the Holidays. So, I was running almost 2 years behind. I did get a glimpse of how nice Donna became, though.

As soon as I started watching Series 4 with "Partners in Crime", I knew Donna, even before she had her reunion with The Doctor, had become an improved version within the first few minutes of the episode. And the reunion itself, a 2-minute skit in comedic mime, was probably one of the more humourous scenes I'd seen of the show. Try to imagine any of the other companions...even Rose...pull this off. Over the episodes, this Donna not only became a better person for her travels but became a truly good...platonic...companion for the Time Lord. She became a buddy....something very rare that The Doctor needed. Going over all of my knowledge of the various companions since 1963, I could only come up with two other people who could have possibly achieved that status: Jamie McCrimmon during the 2nd Doctor's years and Romana 2 during the 4th's time. And even the latter might be a bit suspect, since there was a hint of flirtation between the Time Lord and the Time Lady...on and off screen. All of the other companions were, more or less, acting as his acolytes or his lovesick admirers (et tu, Sarah Jane?)

Donna may not have been The Doctor's equal in all things Time Lord-y, at least not until her very last regular episode, but she more than made up for that in the human things. And she was very willing to stand up and tell him he was wrong. And there was never a hint of anything romantic...which was something I was getting a bit antsy about with the previous two companions. So, without the emotion of love fogging things up in the TARDIS, the Doctor and Donna made a good team with the two of them improving over their brief time....which made things all the more tragic when the even briefer appearance of the DoctorDonna had to be excised. Obviously, Donna didn't die physically but the soul of the new improved version did, to be returned to her original Lucy Van Pelt self. There have been a lot of bricks thrown at Russell T. Davies along with the flowers, but I don't think anyone could've been so brave to write that arc in. There had been three other deaths of companions over the 47 years but character was never a huge priority in the Classic Series so their physical deaths didn't have nearly as much resonance as Donna's psychic one. It was somewhat painful to see Donna revert to her unpleasant persona, but the very last episode of David Tennant's reign, "The End of Time, Part 2", provided a small coda and a bit of hope. Another year passed and although Donna was perhaps not as near to her elevated self in her TARDIS year but she seemed to have become somewhat better as a human being, thanks to a bit of attudinal improvement in her harrdian-like mother and the true love of a man.

Still, I'd like to think that Donna's song is not quite finished yet (to adopt an Ood-ism). Her memories are suppressed not erased, and so I think there is still a story yet to be related about her currently hidden Time Lady. In a way, though, I think the arc of Donna Noble is similar to that of Icarus...someone who had gone for a goal far too lofty and was destined to crash. The new boss behind "Doctor Who", Stephen Moffatt, has made some great stories for the show, but he'll have some big shoes to fill when it comes to the new Doctor-companion dynamic between Matt Smith and Karen Gillan.
Wednesday January 27, 5:30 p.m.

Speedy, Ray and La Fille are having their regular meeting right now. I don't think I need even one guess to know what the main topic of discussion is: survival. Tomorrow is the day that the bossman goes hat in hand to the bank to see about that one more loan to tide us over. To be frankly honest, if I were a lender, I'd be very doubtful. So I can only hope that Speedy is very persuasive.

Meanwhile, Ray is suffering mightily from some sort of stomach ailment. Now, it's my turn to ask her "Daijobu desu ka?" after asking me that very question on Saturday when I came down with that post-nasal drip. She's hanging in there which makes her a lot stronger than me. I probably would've at least gone straight for the sofa for a long nap.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wednesday January 27, 3:21 p.m.
Nope, that wasn't my collective dinner last night. Dinner just consisted of conbini salad and small pasta. Actually, the right side picture is a souvenir Skippy sent me from that trip to Blacow on Sunday. Yep, Skippy can shoot some pretty tasty shots...look at that slab of bacon....look at that flab of fat covering my internal organs.
In any case, the picture of note is on the left. Apparently, Chocolate Beer has been making the trendy rounds recently. It has undergone analysis by those brains at TokyoWalker, and even the bunch on The Burger Tour has imbibed the stuff. And I did see the fusion brew at the neighbourhood supermarket last week, so I decided to give it a go. I can drink beer and love chocolate; perhaps, I thought, this could be a melding of tastes so sublime on the level of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
As you can see in the picture, I bought the Chocolate Brewery Bitter, the brainchild of Sapporo Beer and Royce's Chocolates. After taking the shot, I poured the stuff into a goblet more reserved for brandy. It looked just like a glass of Guinness. As the stuff cascaded down into the glass, I could get a slight whiff of the familiar scent of cacao but when I put the stuff between my lips, I got hit with a rather alien flavor: faintly beerish with carbonated soda pop but very little chocolate aftertaste. In fact, I had to gulp down the whole glass to even register any hint of chocolate. Not altogether the culinary epiphany of a peanut butter cup and I probably won't be having this one again. But there are two other brands of Chocolate Beer to try.
In any case, the beer gave me a late-night buzz which enhanced my watching of the last couple of episodes of Series 4 of "Doctor Who". Yep, the epicness of "The Stolen Earth/Journey's End" got that added boost; even Harriet Jones was starting to look pretty foxy close to midnight. But even without the alcohol-added advantage, those last two shows were probably some of the finest hours in the program's long history. Very sad about Donna Noble, but I'm glad that the Rose and Martha strings have finally been tied up. Bring on Matt Smith!
Found out that those high school sisters have decided to take their chances on me as their teacher. The juku boss and I had a powwow and we both agreed that I should go along the same lines as with The Restauranteur....make the lessons based on homemade copies and ensure that the kids can use the language immediately. I'll have to think up of some code names for them.
The CEO has cancelled her lesson for today (which explains why I can type this right now) but I still have 001 and The Music Man later tonight. The former may be interested in the Chocolate Beer.
I'm also rather happy to say that I've gotten through the preliminary stuff concerning Cozy's translation of his website and The Corporation's second proofreading assignment. Hopefully, this will open up a lot of time tomorrow for me to plan for Mr. TOEFL's final lesson before his test this weekend.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday January 25, 7:21 p.m.
Another Burger Tour started for this year with this new place in Ebisu. Blacow's is just a few hundred metres away from the West Exit of JR Ebisu.
It was a pretty big crew this time around. It was Skippy, with MB, The Satyr, Frodo and their significant others, and in Frodo's case, even his kids. However, the restaurant could seat all of us right away...always a good sign.
I ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger, my seeming default burger whenever I go on the Burger Tour. And it was the usual price for a burger its size in Tokyo....1400 yen plus tax. The rest of the guys seemed to like their cows as well. The name "Blacow's", as I may have mentioned earlier, comes from "black" and "cow", the rough translation of Kurobe Wagyu, one of the premier examples of beef in this country. The burger was indeed thick and meaty; perhaps it could've been a bit juicier but otherwise it was fine. I think Brozer's will still be the one to beat, though.
Since the bunch of us hadn't met since before The Holidays, the guys and I caught up on what was what. Everyone had seen "Avatar" at the Kawasaki IMAX theatre and were quite blown away by it, which is saying something since 2009 was frankly a year that MB had not enjoyed cinematically. Still, I'm not sure if I'm willing to make my way into Kanagawa Prefecture just to see a movie, even if it is in 3-D and IMAX and has been in the No. 1 slot for the past 5 weeks. I've still yet to watch "Up", but MB told me that the 3-D treatment was just horrible and that I can get away with seeing it in the original 2-D.
Afterwards, all of us went down the street to another homey, folksy place called "Heaven". A lot of wooden benches inside. It was just dessert there so I ended up with chai in a cafe au lait cup and some Gateau Chocolat. Skippy was her usual kid-friendly self with Frodo's children. Since she'll be finishing up her time at her current company in another month, some of us remarked that she would have a promising career as a professional nanny.
The night before I met up with The Bohemian in Shibuya. I was coming down with a small cold, and since I didn't have any meds with me, I was burning through the pocket tissue like a hot knife through butter. My right coat pocket basically became the waste paper basket. The two of us ended up at a Chinese eatery, Songoku, that we'd been to before. It's located in the seedy alley next to a sex toys shop. I thought that the 3,000-yen price tag for the all-you-can-drink was a bit on the costly side since I'm not a huge drinker and we could only get three dishes but I still downed a beer and a couple of plum wines on the rocks. Was a bit worried that I had imbibed too much but managed to survive. The ma bo do fu was indeed good, though. As for The Bohemian himself, he actually started off sounding pretty darn serious, so I thought perhaps he finally has reached peak maturity, but then when he started downing the booze, his old impolitic, repetitive, slightly annoying self came back to the fore. Didn't get to the point where I wanted to just leave him there but I just told him when he started getting a bit much that he was getting a little out of control.
Well, the first shoe has dropped. I'd been expecting the message for some months now, and so it came as no surprise when Speedy informed me that the school was now operating on fumes. The last few months of hearing nothing but woe from the bossman had to have had some influence on the bottom line. However, it looks like we'll be OK for the next little while. I kinda felt bad getting the latest pay packet from him, but remembering my own personal financial crunch a couple of years ago, I cannot afford giving him back the pay.
I've got my last two students in the next little while. Mr. TOEFL and then The Medicine Man.