Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday July 22, 7:27 p.m.

Finished with The German about half an hour ago. It was the usual potpourri of talking about anything under the sun, including drinking, Japanese actors in Hollywood and all of the acts in Johnny's Jimusho. And strangely enough, we were actually able to get through one exercise in the text.
I'm done here for today so just heading home. I think the eel celebration will have to wait until tomorrow night since I'm getting out here rather late. By the time, I hit home all of the eel will be sold out.

I also have to mention the death of one famous, beloved local Canadian. Elwy Yost is probably not known to any of the Malaysians or Americans reading this blog, but he was the friendly, intelligent, and avuncular host of a Toronto show called "Saturday Night at the Movies" for about a quarter of a century. All of the big movies were screened and then analyzed afterwards by Yost and his interview subjects; it was basically the televised version of a very good university-level movie course. I learned more about Peter Sellers through him, and certainly I learned to appreciate the old movies such as "The Philadelphia Story" and "Casablanca". He will be missed. One of his kids ended up writing the screenplay for "Speed" with Keanu Reaves.

Anyways, I have to head off to the Golden Arches for dinner. Good weekend!

Friday July 22, 5:12 p.m.

The second food-based entry for today concerns the right picture. Yep, the end of July means Doyo-no-Ushi-no-Hi. Basically, it's time for eel! Known as unagi here, the day actually welcomes the ingesting of any food which begins with the Japanese hiragana letter of "u"(e.g. udon, uni, etc.), but eel has always been the go-to item. In these sultry days of summer (well, except for yesterday and today), eating eel-based dishes has been traditionally one way of getting that stamina to beat the heat, so to speak. And the wonderful dish of unaju (grilled and sauced eel on rice in a lacquered box) is one of the favorites.

Apparently, we have two of those days this year. One was yesterday and the other is August 2nd. I have no idea what determines the dating; all I know is that eel restaurants all over Japan must've been packed to the gills (no pun intended) with customers wanting to get their piece of eel in. I haven't had my unagi quite yet; I'm hoping to rectify that situation either tonight or tomorrow for dinner.

Friday July 22, 5:05 p.m.

Had one of these a few nights ago. It's called Dodekamin Cola (not too sure if this has any relationship with the polygonal dodecahedron but it must've sounded cool during marketing). Basically, it's the Japanese attempt of Red Bull or Jolt Cola. There is a Dodekamin Vitamin Drink that I've never tried but coming across the cola version in the neighbourhood vending machine, I decided to give it a shot.

Well, it was kinda like a combination of Virgin Cola with a shot of Geritol thrown in for good measure. I guess the old folks might like it if they wanted to stay up to the wee hour of....8 p.m., let's say. Still, it got me through the 2 hours of the Rupert Murdoch hearings which is saying something, especially with the attack of Wendi "The Tiger Wife" Deng.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Friday July 22, 2:43 p.m.

Well, The Shareholder is history. I'd gotten hints from the last lesson that he was not going to renew, and sure enough he informed me at the end of this lesson. To be honest, I'm not that unhappy about his departure since like Mrs Prissy he had a hard time getting his words out but unlike her he didn't show any particularly overt effort in getting them out. Nice guy to be sure but.... Still, we had an amiable final lesson before he gave the usual bow-out reason of getting busy and all. However, all is not lost in my income. Almost immediately after The Shareholder's lesson, the bossman asked me if I could teach some extra students over the next month at least. I didn't jump out of my seat with glee but I was quietly grateful that I can make up some of the shortfall.
Speaking of glee, I read the other day that 3 of the main cast from "Glee" were "graduating" from the show. However, I haven't read anything about it in the Mixi community, otherwise I would be seeing a sea of sad emoticons right now.
Friday July 22, 12:19 p.m.


That was the sound of the day all yesterday....emanating from my mouth, of course. Typhoon Ma-On gave us in the Kanto a unique gift in the form of....temperature. The bottom dropped out of our usual boiler room temps, giving us a royal high of 22 degrees C. That sort of temp is about as rare at this time of year as someone eating a slice of Christmas cake. Usually, when referring to typhoons, we often say in Japanese "taifuu no sei de" (because of that [insert your swear word] typhoon)...however, I would like to say "taifuu no kage de" (thanks to that [insert your most praiseworthy adjective] typhoon).
However, all good things have to come to an end. And the heat wave will come back from vacation as of tomorrow. However, I was fortunate to have that good night's sleep and a respite for my electric fan. Strangely enough, my hometown of Toronto is going through literal Hell as it records 39 degrees C.

The OL contacted me today saying that she has to beg off today's lesson since she's got a cold. I think that sudden shift in temps may have been a factor. That suddenness started manifesting itself from late Wednesday night, probably, since I was getting a bit sniffly within Speedy's. At least, I won't have to make that mini-boomerang to Nihombashi since I've got The Shareholder's (possibly final) lesson in about an hour and then The German's lesson later tonight; I can just while away the time here at the school. And I'm pretty sure The OL may be paying me because of the perceived dotakyan. She's one of the few students who actually has paid me for sudden cancellations.

Yesterday was a day off for me since none of the Thursday regulars came privately or through Speedy's. I was lucky to have seen live the final touchdown for the Space Shuttle Atlantis and for the shuttle program in general. I remember seeing the very first successful shuttle launch of The Columbia over 30 years ago. It's hard to believe NASA not launching anything for the next several years (a number of the media commentators were being very polite by saying "it'll be a short while") but inevitably there will be some sort of probe going back to The Moon or to Mars. I only wonder if this will happen when I'm into early retirement. The only regret I have about the program is that The Enterprise never made it up into was just used as the test case; I'm sure the Trekkies would've loved to have seen it hit the final frontier even once.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday July 20, 7:08 p.m.

It's been squally here over the past couple of days. Typhoon Ma-On, or as it's more dramatically known here in Japan, Typhoon No. 6 (a bit of "The Prisoner" vibe), has been making its way through the southern and Pacific coasts of the country. Yesterday, as I was making my way home after lunch with Mrs. Travel and Mrs. Jade of The Beehive, the clouds literally just opened up and the rains came down with the force of a monsoon. It looks like my area of Chiba, though, will miss the worst of it...although the squalls have been coming, we haven't had any gales or floods. I just kinda wonder if meterologists around the world have their facts straight. The weather folks over here had been warning that this would be a super-typhoon that would just meander its way across Japan thereby dumping tons of rain and woe; but the CNN's Italian weather guy verbally shrugged off Ma-On as something that would whip by the Pacific quickly. In any case, it will be finally out of our hair probably later tomorrow.

The other headline has been the continuing saga of the Japanese Women's Soccer Team as they go through the second phase of Being a Hero In Japan...interviews, news shows and variety programs, oh my. The team has now divided into smaller units to head over to various TV studios to give the same answers and watch the same highlights. Captain Sawa and a couple of her teammates even appeared on Tamori's noontime programme today, "Waratte Ii Tomo", to show off their medals. This will last for the next several days; I wouldn't be surprised if the ladies ended up doing a medley with SMAP or Arashi...will avoid.

And then the other big headline is beef, fortified with cesium. I'm just wondering when the government allows the news that other livestock have come up beeping on the Geiger Counters. And I'm sure it will happen. I kinda wonder if the soccer ladies had wondered themselves of declaring asylum in Germany.

For those regular readers of this blog, you must be wondering why I'm typing this when I should be chatting with 001 for her regular midweek lesson. Well, the lass is off today for some reason....probably the reason comes in a highball glass. I've only got Kirk today. And it looks like I've got a Thursday off as well since Mrs. Thursday has cancelled tomorrow's lesson.

Wednesday July 20, 6:33 p.m.

The much-advertised hearings with Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks by the UK government finally got on the air in the wee hours of this morning here in Tokyo. Not having any lessons until later tonight, I was able to stay up and watch the proceedings of how the pols took care of this modern-day Citizen Kane. It was all very very British...a lot of plummy accents and very tea-timey back-and-forth. And there was a bit of Japanese in it as well....and no, I'm not referring to Rupert's wife behind him since she is Chinese...I'm referring to Murdoch's repeated blunt responses of not knowing or not remembering. Whenever there is a Diet-level scandal involving one of the parliamentarians in Nagatacho, evasion is taken to a high art. And then there was son James' combination goofy Clark Kent and Hugh Grant act...a lot of hemming-and-hawing politeness from Murdoch Jr.

But there were a couple of things that got my eyes opened between 1 and 1:30 a.m. The more publicized event was, of course, Rupert Murdoch getting a face full of foam pie just when MP Mensch was starting to grill him. I think wife Wendy Murdoch showed that she was probably the most honourable of the family in that room when she went Jedi on the pieman, Johnny Marbles (sounds like a gangster on a Saturday morning kids' show).

I'm gonna sound a bit conspiratorial here but it just seemed a bit strange that even a comedian like Marbles was able to get into the room to launch his pie at point-blank range and then only have one London bobby saunter across the room to get him out. CNN's Richard Quest, no stranger to controversy himself (leave your S&M gear in Central Park, Richie?), seemed so nonchalant about the whole affair a few seconds after the camera had automatically whip-panned to the painted wall. And I'm kinda wondering if a couple of the MP's later got together at a pub near Westminster and laughed about it over a pint (MP 1: OK, you win, here's your 20 quid. BTW, how did you sneak him in?)

The second thing, though, was MP Louise Mensch herself. During her turn at questioning Rupert Murdoch, she namedropped CNN's own Piers Morgan and his alleged willingness to phone hack when he was an editor at The Daily Mirror according to a book he had written. Morgan, who's always had that rather cool-as-a-cucumber exterior on "Piers Morgan Tonight", went into a major froth on his sister show "The Situation Room", and proceeded to dress down the pol while struggling to not use any expletives (well, maybe with the exception of "balls" but that's been used so much anyways); meanwhile, Mensch took on Morgan's la-di-dah expression and perhaps a subliminal Cheshire Cat's smile and cited parliamentary privilege when refusing to repeat her allegations against Morgan. I have a feeling that there is more to this battle between Mensch and Morgan; most likely Mensch had it in for Morgan over some perceived insult that she had registered from him during his time as editor, and decided to throw a few shots across his bow.

In any case, although it looks like Rupert will still get to keep his job, the elder Murdoch probably wasn't kidding when he said that it was one of the most humbling days of his life. To have to put on a doddering old fogie show in front of the very people who used to court him and then to have a pie thrown into his mug....he was probably using more expletives than Morgan wished he could have used when he got home last night. And frankly after using all those "I don't remember" and "I don't know" responses and then brazenly shirking off any personal responsibility....I think a harmless foam pie is the least he deserved.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Monday July 18, 10:47 a.m.

This past weekend has seen me concoct another Smoothie. When you live in an air-conditionerless apartment, Smoothies are liquid lifelines. This one had me blending an apple, two bananas, maple syrup, some kale powder and a cup of yogurt. Had the big glass along with dinner last night, and one more cup for breakfast. It's very tasty when chilled overnight.

Also made some Taco Rice with some veggies and a box of Taco Rice Mix that The New Yorker had given me from her visit to Okinawa. This is where Japan excels...taking a famed foreign dish and giving its own Japanese twist. J-Tex-Mex. Kinda overdid it on the lettuce part so I had to dig deeper with the spoon to get at the rice and spicy meat sauce but I've learned. I've got one more set of the stuff to cook up tonight.

Now, to inform you, I'm back at the I-Cafe. If this had been to schedule, I would've been ready to head on out to Futako-Tamagawa to see The Jyuppies for their lessons. Instead, I got a call from Mr. Jyuppie stating that he had to cancel today. Apparently, one of his kids is sick, necessitating a visit to the hospital. Strangely enough, I'd had a premonition that he was gonna send the cancellation call...a bit of an Anakin Skywalker thing I have. And as soon as I heard the phone ring, I knew.

Referring back to the fact that I hadn't turned on my air conditioner at all during the weekend, I stayed home all day yesterday and still managed to survive. I had both my windows open (didn't help too much) and had the small electric fan going for much of the day. Plus, I used a couple of ice packs on my back and chest to get through the day. And I actually made it. Also, the fact that the plug to the air conditioner tends to heat up to the temperature of plasma when it's in the wall made my decision even easier. Still, I'm out here at the I-Cafe today to alleviate any more pressure to the electrical grid.

Just watched a lot of American TV and "Inception" on DVD. The latter movie is a classic in my books. A classic is something that one can watch over and over again without it getting old. My oldest classic is "Casablanca" of course, but my most recent one is this one. Everything and everyone just seemed to click in this DiCaprio flick. And the fight scene in the rotating hotel corridor will always go down as one of my most thrilling sights in cinema. As for the American stuff, "Hawaii Five-O" is, unsurprisingly, becoming quite the hit in Japan since it debuted on these shores several weeks ago. There are so many Japanese going to Hawaii on a regular basis that I've always made the joke that the islands should be called Hawaii Prefecture of Japan, and not the Aloha State of America. The new Japanese fans should go even more wild when they find out that Masi Oka is gonna become the 5th member of the team.

Monday July 18, 10:29 a.m.

In the wee hours of this sultry morning, I was awakened by some screaming outside my window. In my grogginess, I'd initially thought it was just another couple of cats fornicating down on the ground (I tend to hear that quite a bit...considering that I haven't had any in almost a decade, I've actually felt envious for a lower species). However, it turned out to be celebrating neighbours.

The reason was blue, white and female. Nadeshiko Japan pulled off a David-and-Goliath against the United States, and won the Women's World Cup Championship in a penalty shootout. Not surprisingly, the media was all over this one like gravy on roast beef. Every channel was covering the homely if cute mugs of Captain Homare Sawa and her team of giantbeaters, playing and replaying the winning goals on their morning wide shows. Sawa and company can now look forward to at least a few weeks of heroine worship and endless interviews on NHK, Fuji-TV, TBS, etc. Plus, all of us here in Japan can now look forward to future commercials of them hawking everything from vitamin drinks to security systems.

The unexpected victory couldn't have come at a better time for this battered country. March 11 2011 will probably overshadow July 18 2011 in Japanese history, and the victory by this team will not directly resolve the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis or the earthquake recovery difficulties. However, this championship has brought a good deal of happiness and inspiration and hope to the people here, and perhaps sending a message that the very difficult can be achieved. And certainly, it doesn't hurt Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Olympics; now Governor Ishihara has a weapon in Captain Sawa to wield.

I don't know what's gonna happen in the remaining months of this year. But for today, this Marine Day, we can walk around a bit more cheerfully than usual.