Friday, August 13, 2010

Saturday August 14, 12:39 p.m.

It feels nice having a full weekend off. Not much to worry about in terms of classes and such. I had a pork kimchi dinner with rice last night. I finished the last of that Bailey's Irish Creme that The Carolinan had given me a couple of weeks ago; that was the problem. I'd gotten so used to the sweetness of the liqueur that I underestimated how much alcohol was in the stuff. As a result, for about an hour or so, I looked like a massive sunburn victim and was pretty much out on the couch. I just stayed absolutely still since I didn't want any sudden movements to create a hangover situation...I just let metabolization take place at its own pace.

I also listened to that Miharu Koshi CD, "Father and Pistol". It was a bit disappointing in that she got really artsy with this 1991 album and threw in a lot of instrumental filler. But the ones that she did sing on were pretty good, and it was an indication of her old standards German period. For me, I think her intermediate techno period is my favorite so far....I listened to some of her tracks from "Boy Soprano"...really good stuff there.

I've been keeping tabs on the fate of the JET Program, the organization which got me my first teaching gig after graduating from U of T. JET stands for Japan Exchange and Teaching, and for over 20 years, the Ministries of Education, Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs have been spearheading this project via its administrative wing, CLAIR, by marshaling in thousands of Americans, Australians, Canadians and Brits to teach English within the educational system. For a kid just out of university, the salary is pretty sweet....3.6 million yen a year. It gets downright saccharine when one considers that oftentimes the "teacher" is basically there as a human tape recorder.

In the last few months, therefore, the government committee for getting rid of wasteful spending that has been hitting the headlines has now set its targeting scope on JET. And the newspapers have been debating whether it is time to bring it down or, at the very least, overhaul it. Some folks have said that JET needs to be cut since the costs far outweigh the benefits. Young arrogant 20-somethings coming over with little or no teaching experience, let alone teacher training, coming over to spout native English while earning a ton of money and often not needing to pay for a lot of rent and bills and enkai fees. Yep, I can see where the national beancounters may get rather tense. As a former JET myself back 20 years ago, I've seen a few folks that definitely should never have been allowed to set foot in this country. And the fact is, for even those people who were interested in teaching as a career, I'm not sure if JET is the ideal venue since the regular Japanese teachers of English were more than happy to hand the reins over to the native Assistant English Teacher (AET); and as veteran teachers come to realize, unless that AET is a genius, rookie teachers are always bad teachers....they haven't plumbed the tricks of the trade to handle students. Yep, I can see problems with JET.

But as for me, I'd like to see this turning point in JET as an opportunity for it to get leaner and more serious. I don't think the programme should be abolished per se; for all its weaknesses, having these young ambassadors come over to at least show kids how English is truly spoken and how life is in other countries is the very least, it can get adolescent minds thinking about what could be in their own futures.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Friday August 13, 3:51 p.m.
Some of the usual Shibuya summer scenes: high school girls enjoying some crepes and a guy with his yukata-sporting girl. But although it's been hot, I think there are signs that Autumn is, if not just around the corner, walking toward us. The nights have been slightly cooler and drier.
Had my only 2 classes of the day. I had The Bass for the first time in a few weeks; he was fine as always. I've got his next gig to attend next Saturday in Otsuka. Then I made the rush over here to teach The Stockholder. He was better today since I was able to grab him with some more hooks; not the type to gaff fish but the conversational ones.
Basically, I'm done for the week. I don't know how long it's been since I had a true weekend. But I don't have any Speedy classes tomorrow and neither Yajima nor The Jyuppies are up on Sunday. I may actually take a look at Akiba on Sunday to see if hokoten has indeed come back. I will definitely savor the next couple of days though I will be doing my share of cleaning and ironing.

Thursday August 12, 4:54 p.m.
I did go to Nakano Broadway's Recomints discount disc shop where I picked up that 1991 Miharu Koshi CD, translated as "Father and Pistol" (maybe had some daddy issues). But I also got another Mariya Takeuchi disc, "Morning Glory". Two very different artists, Koshi and Takeuchi. The former is very eclectic in her musical tastes swinging from minimalist techno to French chanson tunes while the latter is very comfy in the West Coast sounds of the United States. Just by looking at the cover of "Morning Glory", you can see that Takeuchi is going for some 50s lovelorn Sandra Dee image. Should be interesting listening to them tonight, although whether I'll be able to keep it together by the time I get home around midnight is another question. Feeling pretty peaked right now despite eating a little snack.
Afterwards, I had lunch at the Golden Arches in Nakano Broadway. The middle-aged female manager invited me to sit down just inside the doors but I decided to go al fresco and sit at the only table outside. Perhaps McDs could use with the free advertising but with my body, I could just as easily have repelled potential customers.
Afterwards, I headed out to South Shinjuku and just took a look around Times Square. Of course, a trip to Kinokuniya was in order. I didn't buy anything but I did find an interestingly shaped pizza cookbook. Then I just went up Times Square and ended up taking a nap in one of the comfy lounge seats on the 14th floor.
Got back about an hour ago. Looks like we've got another staffer, but this time it's for the kids' school.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thursday August 12, 12:01 p.m.
Yep, that was my stomach-bursting meal on Friday night at The Restauranteur's establishment. I polished off that Spaghetti Napolitano and Green Salad like a pro. Took me about 30 minutes.
Came back early this morning after what was basically less than 6 hours of sleep at home to teach The Patent Attorney here. It ended up being a double lesson since he needed to get a major amount of proofreading work done before he and his wife headed off for Vietnam this weekend. It was a pretty hefty amount of scourging through technical specs for some kind of knee stabilizing thingamajig...had me getting rather drowsy at the midpoint; it didn't help that The PA's ability to read aloud was rather poor.
At this time, I don't have anything until a model lesson tonight at 8 so I'll be heading out for a few hours. I'll probably head over to Nakano Broadway to check out Recomints for any other old CDs that have managed to fall between the cracks. I like to think of myself as the Island of Lost Toys when it comes to discounted discs. Not sure what the crowds will be like there today since we are in the middle of O-Bon season.

Wednesday August 11, 10:09 p.m.
Sunrise over my apartment in Ichikawa back on the 8th. As you can tell from the time stamp on the lower right corner, I'd gotten up in the wee hours since I had a rather lousy stomachache from overinduling in a hunk of beef the night before. However, I still had the presence of mind to see a photo opp and to use the Sundown filter on my camera.
Finished my marathon session tonight. Helped The Artist with her directions for New York City; she's actually coming for one more lesson next week before she takes off for The Big Apple next Wednesday. Then I had my newest student, Mr. Perfect. He's a handsome dentist who reminds me of a younger Paddy back in U of T days. His English is pretty darn good, too. He should make for a fine addition to my flock. I've got a feeling that he may turn some female heads.
001 was her usual giddy self. She got her Arashi concert tickets last week. The only thing is that she and her friend will be sitting all the way in the back nosebleed seats. They'll need to bring binoculars if they are to see their heroes strutting across the stage, although I think the jumbo screens should alleviate any eyestrain. Finally, I finished with Miss Sony. Another good addition. However, I still have yet another model lesson tomorrow night...with someone who's far less proficient than Mr. Perfect. However, Speedy tells me that she's somewhat more talkative than Miss Prissy....which is absolutely fine with me since I think Miss Prissy is also aces.
I'd been trying to get access to Mixi only to be told that the server is down for some reason. It has apparently made news on the Yahoo site; rumours are already flying about that the Koreans may have taken it down with a virus. And the users are getting plenty impatient. As usual, I'm taking such talk with a grain of salt. It'll be up and running when it's up and running.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wednesday August 11, 2:57 p.m.
Big Hump Day today after 2 days of easy scheduling. On Monday, I just had Cozy for his morning lesson and that was all she wrote for the rest of the day. I found out what was eating Cozy last Monday. Apparently, he and his wife have the Neighbours from Hell...notably a chinpira and his sleazoid wife. A chinpira, for those not in the know, is basically a lower-level yakuza thug or punk. For the past several months, poor Cozy has had to deal with these two; he didn't go into details about what they've done but obviously it wasn't enough to make it a crime. But Cozy did call the police, and like in the first act of any suspense movie, the cops did sympathize but said there wasn't anything they could do since the thug and thugette haven't committed anything wrong. As it stands, it's very possible that my student and his spouse may have to move...a real pity.
I caught "Inception" for a second time at Roppongi Hills after Cozy's lesson. It still stood up on a repeat viewing and I gleaned a bit more information from the mind-heisting gang. I really enjoy Hans Zimmer's score for this one and I was sorely interested in getting the soundtrack from Tower Records last night but I'm gonna hold off until the next payday.
Ah, yes, did forget to mention about the photos. The one on the left is a cicada, one of the living symbols of midsummer. The guys have finally started screeching and my neighbourhood is starting to show signs of their bodies piling up on the pavement, since after several years digging around underground as larvae, they pop up for a few days of mating before they expire.
The photo on the right is my lunch from yesterday. The Beehive and I met over at The Springs Hotel in Makuhari Messe for a special session since Ms. Tulip was back from Toronto for 3 weeks of vacation. Her daughter, whom I tried to help with her book report last Xmas, tagged along. Before everyone showed up, Mrs. Travel and Mrs. Alp spoke to me about the venue...I mentioned that perhaps it wouldn't be too bad if we could meet at the far emptier Spring Hotel cafe for our sessions since I'm always a bit tense at the crowded Beckers in Tsudanuma; it would cost me an extra 100 yen round-trip but I'm willing to pick up the cost if it means a more conducive atmosphere. However, my only worry is that the Springs is owned by a president of a pachinko parlor chain (which would explain the Vegas-like gaudiness of the lobby) which could also mean the odd appearance of unsavory types from time to time. We did have lunch at the 2nd floor sushi restaurant called Genkai. As the picture suggests, their lunch special is plenty large and tasty.
After lunch, I took the Keiyo and Chuo Rapid Lines to reach Shinjuku where I taught The New Yorker for Tuesday's lone lesson. It was the first time I tried that commuting combo to reach a venue in The Big Sushi. Rather nice ride to take a nap. The New Yorker was still struggling but kept things rather light as usual. She has her birthday on Thursday so her sister, The Carolinan will be taking her to a fancy beer garden called Meiji Kinenkaikan in Aoyama.
As I mentioned earlier, I hit Tower Records in Shinjuku since it was the 10th which meant Triple Points Day. I browsed a while on the jazz floor until I decided on getting an inexpensive 5-pack of Manhattan Transfer liner notes but the discs were fine with me. I listened to the inaugural "Manhattan Transfer" from 1975 when Laurel Masse was still part of the quartet. More than half of the album consisted of their hits but did listen to a few songs that I hadn't heard...surprisingly quite disco in flavor.
I also picked up Sophie Millman's latest since she seems to have become rather popular here of late. She had a gig over at Tokyo Blue Note earlier this year. She's also notable in that she was a University of Toronto Economics Major.
As I said, it's a busy one today. I just had The Businesswoman a few hours ago, and in a few minutes, The Artist will be coming in. She requested a special today since she'll be heading to see her brother over in The Big Apple and wanted some directions on....Directions. So I concocted some New York maps to help in that endeavor. Then, I've got some model lesson student before 001 and Miss Sony seal the deal.
The bossman informed me that tomorrow's Patent Attorney would like to go for a double session. However, it'll still be a sparse Thursday since it'll just be him and then The Music Man tomorrow night.