Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday May 29, 4:10 p.m.

After the PA's class, one of our old staffers came back to the roost with Romanian husband and baby in tow. Ray, the bossman and I were there, and even La Fille made her way here to see her old comrade. The kid was adorable but it was obvious that he was getting a bit cranky over his need to get his beauty rest.

Just did some work on Sunday's lessons...I've got Yajima and The Jyuppies tomorrow before I go and see The Bohemian for dinner in Shibuya. Tonight I'm heading out to meet up with MB and The Sylph at a Kabukicho rock club to see The Bass in performance.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Saturday May 29, 3:52 p.m.

Finished up with The PA earlier this afternoon. It had almost been a month since her last lesson with me. None worse the wear. I was able to glean some info from her concerning the arrival of the cast from "Sex and The City" next week to promote the Japan premiere of "Sex and the City 2" for The Carolinan, who's a huge fan. The ladies will have the red carpet treatment at Roppongi Hills just where TV Asahi is located. Basically if The Carolinan were hoping to see the girls by the carpet, she would be out of luck since it's restricted space. So her only hope would be to watch from one of the balconies above. Not the ideal place but my student didn't have any high hopes in the first place.

Watched some more of "Glee" so that I'm now ahead of Fox Japan in its broadcasting of the hit du jour in America. I think I'm entering that stage of culture shock in which I'm starting to discover some of the more unenjoyable parts of the show. The first part of the week was the relatively euphoric stage of discovering how fun and funny "Glee" is. And I even picked up an issue of "Entertainment Weekly" at Kinokuniya yesterday when I saw the front cover adorned by none other than wicked Sue Sylvester providing a Slushee Facial (yes, I've even started internalizing the local jargon). However, from talking with GC and reading the article from EW and Wikipedia, the downside of the program may already have started to dawn on me.

I'm starting to see more of the bitchiness amongst the female characters such as Quinn, Rachel and Santana and the doofy insensitivity with Finn, Puck and even Mr. Schue...stuff that turned me off from teen dramas in the first place. And that really horrid subplot concerning Terri's hysterical pregancy should have been....well, aborted. Knowing about what is to happen at the end of the 1st season just makes watching some of the Will/Terri scenes in mid-season all the more cringeworthy. Also, the EW article points out correctly that any runaway success will inevitably invite the tomato-throwers...and apparently, that has already started with some media-based misunderstandings and perhaps viewers criticizing the musical choices (I have to say that seeing Puck singing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" was the height of incongruity).

All this "Glee" hype is happening whilst "Heroes" quietly faded away into TV obscurity a few years after it had been the Golden Boy of must-see TV. It also had a petite cheerleader as a main plot point and a fresh take on an old genre which lasted its first season. However, afterwards, the next few seasons saw it slowly nosedive in terms of quality and interest. I wonder if "Glee" may face the same fate. Seeing happy-go-lucky teens sing and dance weekly may not have the holding power to last several seasons...even with "American Idol".
Saturday May 29, 12:46 p.m.

It's been a pretty cool and cloudy day today. Not that I'm complaining. We've got the Rainy Season and then the Hell that is Summer in this part of the country coming up. So I'm savoring all of the days that I can walk without feeling like I'm swimming through an atmosphere.

Well, made another stab at seeing what Aiba-kun's family's restaurant in Makuhari-Hongo was all about. When I went there on Wednesday, the area was deserted. However, there was a different story yesterday morning. I arrived there even earlier, only to see a fairly dense pack of women in their 30s lined up, nattering away quietly. All I could do was take a picture and head on my way to Shinjuku via the Sobu Line. I didn't make any further report on Mixi but I did notice that my initial report on the first visit has suddenly gotten got some notice from the Arashi fans. No replies...bad or good...which is how I like it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday May 27, 8:04 p.m.

Well, the Carolinan had a bit of a surprise for me today. She's had a boyfriend for the past 8 months in Guam. Apparently, he's a DEA agent there rustling up all the drug dealers.

In any case, it's almost time for me to pack up shop since I'm ready for some grub. The Godiva Chocolates that I got from The Carolinan notwithstanding.

Anyways, I'm gonna try to make another play for Keikarou tomorrow.
Thursday May 27, 6:15 p.m.

Finished with The CEO about an hour ago. Yep, she kept me on my feet. So I'm a bit piqued but I've got The New Yorker in about 15 minutes so that should help me a bit.

As for the above picture...for those who can read Japanese, the sign should obviously intimate a run-of-the-mill Chinese restaurant. However, for those who are also big fans of the Johnny's Jimusho pop band, Arashi, this place, Keikarou, should also ring 5-alarm bells. The reason being that it's also a restaurant whose owner is also the father of one of the Arashi boys himself, Masaki Aiba.

I decided to check this place out after hearing about it from various sources such as Mrs Tee of the Beehive who actually lives not too far away from the place. For one thing, Keikarou may not exactly be in my neck of the woods but I can get there via Tozai and Sobu Lines within about 40 minutes. Getting to JR Makuhari-Hongo Station at about 11:30, it was just a short walk to the restaurant according to the map that Mrs. Tee was kind enough to draw for me.

I was actually quite struck about the location of the restaurant itself. Now I'm fully aware that Keikarou existed long before Aiba-kun struck it big with Arashi, but still considering that this is a fairly pricey place, it was situated smackdab in the middle of a perfectly residential area.
As I approached the restaurant, it was beside a narrow street which would give nervous drivers pause and was completely surrounded by low-rise apartments.

The other thing I was struck by was the silence. I didn't hear any wailing Arashi fans or see any major lineups of women of all ages. The darkened windows were the big clue for me. And then I came across the calendar right by the locked door. Wednesdays were the days off for the restaurant. I wasn't too disappointed, though, since I'd had doubts that I could've gotten inside anyways due to the throngs of rabid Aiba fans.

The third thing I was struck by was several signs stuck up on the walls asking (pleading) any fans to keep the noise down in respect to the neighbours. I gather that the Arashi boom has led to several chattering women distracting the close-quarter neighbours. And yet, the area around Keikarou was as quiet as church mice when I got there.

I later looked at the website of the place...yep the prices aren't exactly bargain basement. I certainly wouldn't go there for dinner but lunch looks pretty reasonable. So I may try my luck again tomorrow before I head on out to teach Swank's husband in Shinjuku. It is open on Fridays so I may yet still see those nutty fans lining up in the vain attempt to see Masaki Aiba.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thursday May 27, 3:04 p.m.
Back on Monday, after Swank's class, I decided to go on one of my own foodie recces and ended up in another tony neighbourhood...that of Azabu-Juban, home to chic restaurants, fancy boutiques and...Sailor Moon, apparently. I came across Frijoles in last Friday's "Japan Times" as this seemingly incongruous Mexican eatery in trendy Azabu-Juban.
Up to now, my knowledge of Tex-Mex restaurants was restricted to the local El Torito which is adorned in Mexican serapes, posters and sombreros. No such cultural stereotyping here. The design of the place is simply austere...almost as if Frijoles belonged more in Omotesando. And there was no mariachi bands playing on the speakers...strictly 70s/80s Western pop. I can say that Frijoles was trying to its best to be as far away from the typical trappings as possible.
Ordering the food was step-by-step. The counterperson walked me through it: first was to go for either the burrito or the taco, then it was to decide what kind of meat to stuff into the shell (chicken for my first time) and finally, the sauce. I will have to remember that there is a conversion needed when it comes to spiciness levels between here and America. I chose the medium would be considered mild in the States. I'll go for hot next time.
The tacos were soft ones, so there was no chance of "tortilla dandruff" on the stainless-steel tables. They were quite good but, as "The Japan Times" reporter pointed out, the salsa was rather underpowered, but I'm sure that things will improve over time. Pricewise, Frijoles is definitely not down on the fast food side but more along the lines of family restaurant fare.
Thursday May 27, 12:58 p.m.

Well, got through 60% of the lessons today. Had The Patent Attorney, Grandma Dynamite and Miss Prissy pretty much consecutively this morning. It had been close to a month since Miss Prissy's last time here since she got that full time job at a welfare centre. Still has that molasses-like delivery but there hasn't been a whole lot of deterioration despite the long layoff from English. In a way, Prissy reminds me of the Emma Pillsbury character on "Glee"...though without the mysophobia.

I've got The CEO in a couple of hours and then The Carolinan for my last lesson. With luck, I'll be out of here by 8 tonight.

Thursday May 27, 8:04 a.m.

Yep, looks like I'm a GleeK! The hit show from the States hit these shores several weeks ago but I didn't really get into it despite the cheerful promos and "Can't Stop Believin" on Fox Japan. I had been mistrustful of modern-day musicals since the debacle that was "Cop Rock" several years ago. Musicals are an ancient genre from the early half of the 20th century said I...."Grease" and "Chicago" aside. And the fact that the characters were all in high school didn't help things any further.

So, though "Glee" was starting to pick up its fans here in Japan, I avoided it. However, due to a strange twist of fate in which The Anime Jester had given me the Season 1 DVD to pass on to GC only to have it declined by the latter since he had already gotten it, I had had the above for several days before I finally decided to put it into the player.

And before I knew it, I was hooked right from the pilot. Bright colors, archetypal though appealing characters and a mix of show tunes and 80s songs. But the humour has also been top-notch. I don't exactly feel like hitting a karaoke box to belt out my stuff but I am willing to buy the CD that's now selling at Tower Records.

However, I think "Glee" should be paying "American Idol" a commission. As I said, the show is charming and attractive like a young Judy Garland but really its ultimate success can be laid down to timing. With all that is going for it with the critics and the audience, the show probably would've been booted off into oblivion if it had been put on as recently as a decade back. "American Idol" softened the viewing public (or toughened it) to accept musical schtick, and thus came this show.

In terms of the characters, I think my favourites would come down to Finn Hudson and Sue Sylvester. Finn is just the prototypical all-American hero (although the actor is Canadian). As for Sue, every successful show and movie has a great villain. Sue is this show's Darth Vader. Playing her with a mix of a cranky Hillary Clinton and Nurse Diesel from "High Anxiety", Jane Lynch has sparked up many a scene whenever she enters it.