Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hot Tuesday

Tuesday July 31, 11:43 a.m.

I guess as an end of July would be like, it's hot and humid out there once again. Had a Facebook chat with Movie Buddy in Japan, though. He said it's been absolutely stifling out there everyday for the past few weeks. Certainly, NHK has been leading off a lot of its news broadcasts with the searing weather. Rather glad that I'm here where at least, the nights are still pretty sane, temperature-wise. We also talked on "The Dark Knight Rises". He's already seen it and is pretty satisfied. That's a good sign since he was usually the more critical out of our movie-watching tandem.

I got a call from the teacher I'll be subbing for tomorrow. Yep, he seems to have become a fan of mine...something that he let me know during the phone. Apparently, I left a very good impression on all of his classes when I taught them a couple of months ago; it's good to hear since I couldn't really detect any sort of feeling from those classes. I'm obviously grateful for the feedback since I've been under the impression that for at least a couple of the other regular teachers, I wasn't exactly the most impressive supply teacher. I just simply have my own way and pace of doing things, and as long as the students are happy, I'm happy.

The Anime Chamberlain and I confirmed up plans for dinner tonight. We may be going to a dumpling place out in Scarberia...hopefully in a not-too-dangerous area. The Dragon will be joining us, too, but not The Anime King. The Chamberlain simply mentioned that The King was too tied up with work when he called him up; I'm wondering if The King bit his tongue really hard while talking to his former comrade.

Monday, July 30, 2012

BBQ & Olympic Report No. 2

Monday July 30, 3:58 p.m.

The weekend was a family-&-friends affair as my brother's family came over on Saturday for dinner with a whole ton of Chinese takeout. My sister-in-law and I had a long talk...or it would probably be more accurate to say that I listened to her talk about how her niece is starting to turn into a spoiled brat because of overmollycoddlying on the part of her relatives. Sometimes, I think my sister-in-law can be a bit tough on her own daughter, but after hearing about her niece, perhaps she is on the right track after all.

Then, yesterday, I went over to see an old friend of mine out in the wilds of Mississauga. The Wild Guy, being one of the members of our old group, also joined. He contributed a large amount of salad while I brought the pop and munchies. I hadn't seen my old friend in about a decade or so. He's an old Japan hand and his wife is from Nagano Prefecture. I also met one other fellow with his family whom I hadn't met in years as well, so it was just as much a reunion as it was a BBQ party. The menu was sausages from a place called Starsky's (a huge supermarket built on the remains of an abandoned Canadian Tire) which both my friend and The Wild Guy raved about in no uncertain terms. Plus, the wife whipped up some turmeric rice on the side. The other fellow and his family couldn't stay too long since they had other plans and they lived all the way out near St. Catherines. The Wild Guy once again went on another highly intellectual rant about politics and business, but our host and I have known him for years and years so we didn't have too much problem about it, although I started to fade near the end.

The Olympics are now in high gear. The two countries that I'm most concerned with: Japan and Canada have started off on different notes. Canada has only garnered one Bronze medal so far while Japan has amassed 11, and is currently 3rd in the medal count. My adoptive country has even gotten its first Gold medal, thanks to a virtuoso performance by one of the women judo-ka in the 57-kg. category.

I did another morning gig at the school. The teacher I was subbing for is nice but she's a bit of a stickeler. And I've got another all-day supply gig on Wednesday.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hey, it's Eel Day, man!

A nice flank of eel warming up.
Friday July 27, 9:42 p.m.

Around Earth, it may be the first official day of the Thirtieth Olympiad, but in little ol' Japan, it's Doyo no Ushi no Hi (土用の丑の日). But let's make it easy for ourselves, and call it Eel Day!
At around the end of July, a day is designated as the day to celebrate the eating of eel, an increasingly more expensive dish. It's said that the high content of oil in the flesh of the snaky fish provides a lot of stamina to get through the dog days of Summer, and the way it's sounding over there, those dogs are the size of mutant St. Bernards called Cujo.
So, folks in Japan will usually descend upon those restaurants specializing in eel cuisine during the day surrounding Eel Day to get their lacquered boxes of grilled eel slathered in sticky, savoury and sweet sauce topped on a bed of rice (una-don)...sometimes given a scattering of minuscule gold flakes. On normal days, a good box could cost about 3,000 yen. But with supplies of Japanese eel alarmingly low over the past couple of years, prices have gone up 20%-30%, and some eel restaurants have even tried to supplement very limited supplies of eel with other forms of meat such as pork slathered in the same sauce used for the eel.

My own una-don
Now on a teacher's salary, I never got a chance to go to a really good eel restaurant, so whenever Eel Day comes by, I just hit the supermarket and buy a package of pre-sauced eel and just warm it up in the frypan. Then I just heat up the rice and put the two together. The pack of eel comes with a small packet of extra sauce and seasonings. As you can see on the left here, what it lacks in finesse is more than compensated in quantity and taste. Maybe the eel connoisseurs may have pooh-poohed my technique but it was good enough for me. I've been in love with eel on rice since I went to Japan in 1981, and I was taken to an eel restaurant. I could not believe that such a wonderful meal originated from a life form that looked like a snake.

I guess from now on, whenever the end of July passes, I will get that twinge in my stomach showing my longing for a good round of una-don. I don't think eel is too plentiful in these parts.

The Olympics are OFFICIALLY on!

Friday July 27, 9:11 p.m.

Had my morning class at the school. It was fairly easy...I was more host than teacher since all I was required to was to show a DVD to the class. It was "Far and Away" from about 20 years ago. We all had a small laugh when I pointed out that it starred Tom Cruise and one of his ex-wives.

Came home to see the Opening Ceremonies of the London Olympics. Welllll.....I appreciate the fact that Danny Boyle was able to create this spectacle on a supposedly limited budget. Perhaps I'm getting grumpier as I slide into upper middle age, but man, even for an Opening Ceremonies, they were pretty darn flat for some reason. The celeb speakers such as Kenneth Branagh and J.K. Rowling didn't exactly have me standing up and applauding, and what were some pretty good "Wow!"moments....such as the Queen AND James Bond, and the appearance of Mr. Bean....just got overly milked for the laughs. In a way, I was glad that the sole Doctor Who moment was restricted to a few seconds of TARDIS engines....could only imagine what Boyle could have done to David Tennant or Matt Smith. And yep, I admit that I'm getting downright Scrooge-ish when I say that I could do without the massive performance art although I know that it is perhaps better than having to sit through the entire Parade of Athletes. And the lighting of the Flame was strangely anti-climactic.

Well, the Opening Ceremonies were off but the Olympics are on!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Thursday July 26, 1:36 p.m.

Went to my parents' doctor to have myself checked out earlier this morning. It was pretty painless. He just gave me the usual stethoscope, tongue depressor and blood pressure check, and also took a look at that arm that's been aching a bit. He said it's probably just a touch of tendonitis or other strain. As for the bloodwork, I'll get that done sometime later.

The GTA got doused overnight with a bunch of thunder and water. Luckily, there was no leakage into my parents' bedroom as has often been the case, but it looks like some cars got deluged in the lower areas of town.

I actually got my first celebrity follower on Twitter this morning. Since my Twitter account is just for my old J-Pop blog, "Kayo Kyoku Plus", it'll be interesting to see if Ms. Akiko Kobayashi, a singer from the 80s and 90s, decides to take a walk through my cyber-museum of music. I've been following her account for a few months; she's now living in London with her husband so she tweeted about yesterday's win by Nadeshiko Japan, the women's national soccer team, and how she was looking forward to seeing their next game against Sweden. I just replied innocently how lucky she was to see them in person and hope that she has a good time on Saturday. I never expected a reply but then she sent me a complementary and complimentary response and just became a follower of mine. I don't know if she did it just as a reflex but I'm just happy to have her join up.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Heading Into the Weekend

Wednesday July 25, 8:05 p.m.

Looks like my plans for the next number of days are taking rapid shape. The big boss at the school has scheduled me for classes on Friday and Monday. August is coming up so there's a possibility that I might get a week's worth of classes since it's vacation time.

My brother's family will be coming by on Saturday night for dinner. Then on Sunday, The Wild Guy's family and I will be heading for Mississauga to meet that old mutual friend of ours for a barbeque in his neck of the woods. I'll have to think about getting some munchies on Saturday.

Tomorrow, I have my first visit to a doctor in several years. I've had a sore shoulder and arm for the past couple of weeks, and of course being anything but an optimist, my mind has already jumped to bone cancer. I'm already starting to think about life without a left arm.

Olympic Report One

Wednesday July 25, 7:48 p.m.

Well, Japan held on to win 2-1 over Canada. It was interesting watching the news reports from both countries. The folks at CTV News were quiet but hopeful. Meanwhile, at NHK, the broadcasters were darn chipper....Nadeshiko Japan is arguably the most high-profile of the athletes, so it was a good first sign for the country's hopes for success at the Games.

One of my Facebook friends who lives in London sent in word that traffic is absolutely hellish, and it's still 2 days before the official opening of the Games. Media reports have also illustrated this commuting nightmare. And what is this about strikes and work-to-rule at Heathrow and other transportation systems? Not looking good on that front.

I hope any folks looking at getting the Games for Toronto will look at what happens in London and make some sober observations. As for me, I'm glad to watch 2012 from the comfort of my home.

The Olympics are on!

From Women's Soccer
Wednesday July 25, 1:29 p.m.

Well, the Olympics have kicked off. And true to my luck and heritage, the first game to be televised here is the Japan-Canada game in Women's Soccer.
That score needs to be updated, by the way. At this writing, Canada finally got its goal so it's now 2-1. I guess in my case, I'm in a happy quandary, but I know Nadeshiko Japan better than I do this Canadian team, which I am seeing for the first time. Mind you, the only member on the Japanese team I know by name is Homare Sawa, the former captain and most recognizable member.

It's a whole lot easier to watch the London Games from here in Toronto because of the time difference. London is only 5 hours ahead of us, while it's 8 hours behind Tokyo. Basically, the big fans watching this game over there are gonna be very bleary-eyed getting into work the next morning.

We're still 2 days away from the official opening ceremonies, but I have to say that I am somewhat concerned about the security and traffic situation there. I mean, every Olympics for the past several years have always attracted that feeling from the public and the press. However, I was never one of those people....except now. Unions are planning to go on strike soon and the recent revelation of a major security lapse have me wondering if there may be some unpleasant surprises in store tomorrow and/or Friday.

 In the things that make you go "Hmmmm...."category, I only found out what the London Olympics mascots were just a couple of days ago. Somethings called Wenlock and Mandeville. I think even in the annals of weird Olympic mascots, these guys take the proverbial crumpet. And I'm wondering if there wasn't some sort of "Doctor Who"influence after all during the design phase of these....guys. I recall that there was a similar monocular being named Alpha Centauri on an old episode of the Third Doctor back in the 70s. So, maybe we'll see David Tennant after all running down the track with the Olympic Torch.
Allow me to thank fadmvulcan for Alpha Centauri and BOTTLE PR for Wenlock & Mandeville, both via Flickr.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ichiro and Ben-to

Tuesday July 24, 12:05 p.m.

Saw the NHK Evening News at 9 at 8 a.m. this morning as I always do. The first 15 minutes of the broadcast were totally devoted to the former No. 51 of the Seattle Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki. His press conference before last night's game had him misting up a fair bit....otokonaki as we would say in Japanese. Cry like a Man! In any case, NHK gave a list of his accomplishments and they were many. It'll be an interesting remainder to the New York Yankees' season.

On a totally wacky other side to competition, I've started watching the latest anime that The Anime King had lent me. Called "Ben-To", just imagine "Fight Club" mixed with the nightly ritual in Japanese cities of buying that bento at the neighbourhood supermarket. The King suggested that I watch this wackiness as a counterpoint to the deadly serious "Madoka Magica".

Yup, each episode is 23 minutes of brawling-for-box lunches insanity. But the Tyler Durden in this anime just happens to be a cool-as-spring water high school girl called Sen Yarizui who operates the school's "Half-Priced Food Lovers' Club". The Ed Norton is an initially hapless schoolboy named Yo Sato and I guess the Meat Loaf role would be covered by the shy but gabby girl named Hana Oshiroi. Like "Fight Club", there are rules to be learned about the nightly battle for bento although none of them refer to NOT talking about the bento battles, and everyone's got a seemingly cool nickname like "The Wizard" or "The Ice Witch". Plus there's more sexual innuendo in one episode than in a very special episode of "Three's Company".

Ach, I was such a huge devourer of bento back in Japan. My personal favourite was karaage bento (Japanese-style deep-fried chicken). About as healthy as a Big Mac set (I got plenty of those, too), I was downing those about 3-4 times a week for lunch or dinner.

This was the Breaded Chicken with Tartar Sauce bento that I often got at the supermarket near my old school. It isn't karaage, though, because the chicken is breaded not battered. You might think that having tartar sauce on chicken is pretty weird, but in Japan, it's actually quite common. It cost 398 yen. Never bothered reading the caloric amount.

And this behemoth is the tonkatsu bento that I got from my neighbourhood supermarket. I always got the hire tonkatsu since hire pork is a bit leaner than the rosu....not that it would matter all that much. The one that I got here came with the thick tonkatsu sauce and mustard, but there was another one I liked which came with a tangy onion sauce. The stuff on the lower righthand corner which my chopsticks are lying on is konnyaku jelly. And up in the upper lefthand corner are sweetened soybeans. Good eatin'!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Goodbye Ichiro

Monday July 23, 11:02 p.m.

Well, it was definitely a special moment. I don't know how often it's happened, but for a star player to be traded to the very team that your now former team is playing against on the same night as your trade....

I didn't think it would happen, but Ichiro the samurai did show up. I saw the moment. He was in the New York pinstripes as he walked over to home plate. The entire audience at Safeco stood up in unison and applauded, and then Ichiro bowed three times before getting his first base hit as a Yankee. Classy!

Ichiro to NY

courtesy of Keith Allison
from Flickr
Monday July 23, 9:22 p.m.

I was doing my usual digestive nap on the armchair while watching CTV News on-and-off when sportscaster Joe Tilley offhandedly rattled off something to the effect that Ichiro was off to the Yankees. I thought I misheard it when I switched over to NHK. Nothing was said on the Tuesday morning news broadcast (Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of us here in Toronto) at the beginning which reinforced my initial thought that I was dreaming. But then 20 minutes into the broadcast, there was a 'Stop the presses!'moment, when the newscasters breathlessly reported that Ichiro Suzuki had indeed been traded to the Bronx Bombers. They repeated the bulletin no less than 3 times at one point, stating that there would be a press conference in some minutes.

The biggest thing about this news is that the Yankees are playing the Seattle Mariners on the West Coast tonight. Ichiro just has to cross the hallway for his new uniform. But I think the shock and aw(kwardness) factor tonight is such that he will probably ask to sit out tonight's game. Then again, knowing Ichiro's samurai attitude, he may just show up.

I'm sure the Japanese media are probably going as bonkers as a bunch of worker ants after some guy's boot has landed on their nest. Guaranteed the morning wide shows will have juggled their scheduled programming to ensure that Ichiro is front and centre. But here in North America? Not surprised that Tilley merely threw off the trade news. The now-former Seattle Mariner hasn't really had a great year and hasn't come off as being quite the force of nature that he had been up to a few years ago. And although the curiosity factor will be there once he starts his first few games at Yankee Stadium, he probably won't have quite the lasting effect that Hideki Matsui had during his several years there. The Ichiro Era is now in its sunset. But with the Yankees on the top of their division right now, No. 51 may still get that last chance to get a World Series ring.

Kinda wondering....

Monday July 23, 10:08 a.m.

Just a couple of minutes ago, I got the call from the school asking if I could go in this afternoon because someone fell sick. I immediately declined....which disturbed me. I told the lady that I'd already had something lined up from last night, which is not true. When I first signed up for the school months ago, the supervisor there informed me that the latest they would call me for a supply assignment would be the day before, and that teachers who are sick should call the day before as well. Well, I was already aware that both policies would be broken easily.

I don't think it's so much that I dislike being called in suddenly. In fact, I don't think that's it at all. If I really loved my kids and the environment there, it would be a no-brainer. What time and where is what I would say. I'm just wondering if I'm really enjoying my time as a teacher there. Now, when I say 'enjoying my time', I define it as whether my students are enjoying my class. And the fact of the matter is, I'm not sure. Of course, being a supply teacher means that you're invading the normal flow between the regular teacher and the students, so there is that initial tension between students and me...and frankly, having been a teacher for so long, I know that I will never please everyone.

Actually, one of the supervisors asked me a few weeks ago if I would be willing to upgrade to a regular position. I had to decline since I now had potential gigs with the translation company. Plus, I have a few things I'm not too thrilled with in terms of administration over there. I'm still wondering about just pulling out of the school altogether once the Fall starts up. I've never really felt all that comfortable over there.

And since I started becoming a "regular"fixture on Mondays there and a translator, I've left my hopes for becoming a writer very much on the back burner which I don't think is right.

These are all probably coming off as excuses but the fact that I'm even blogging about these is cause to think about what I really want to do.

Another roaster of a day

Monday July 23, 9:51 a.m.

Yup, it'll be another sweatbath in the GTA. I think it's going up to about 35 degrees again with a 44-degree Humidex. Kinda wonder how the electricity grid is gonna hold up today...I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few brownouts.

Usually at this time, I would be teaching somewhere in the school for the morning, but one of the staffers sent e-mail a few days ago giving me notice that I wouldn't be needed. I checked my inbox; no sign of the translator boss either. Kinda nice being in Limbo.

I checked out the Fan Expo website. It's gonna be held down at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from August 22-26. Of course, I totally overestimated the ticket pricing. Having thought the prices would be over a hundred bucks for the day, I found out that they're actually only hovering around the $30 mark. Even an unlimited access pass for all 4 days is just $95. Heck, I can handle that. I've sent word to The Dancer and she'll give me the go-word.

There is the special Unlimited Access to Patrick Stewart Pass....for a pittance of $299. He comes to our fair city on Sunday. As much as I would love to meet Captain Picard/Professor X in the flesh, paying that much moolah just seems a bit too extravagant for me. And most likely, if I actually bought the pass, I'd end up a gibberish-spouting wreck. I kinda wonder how the man himself feels about doing these special privileges for the fans. Does he genuinely feel happy about meeting these well-to-do Trekkies or does he go through the motions like at any other job?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

One Wish

Monday July 23, 12:55 a.m.

Earlier in the month, Japan celebrated an annual ritual called Tanabata on the 7th. Depending on where you live in Japan, the custom can range a fair bit in terms of celebration. But in every place, people write their wishes down on coloured strips of paper and tie them up to the branches of a tree.

Of course, we don't have that ritual here in Canada. But if I could, I would write down for the violence to end not just in my hometown, which has had an unprecedentedly bloody week in the number of shootings and deaths, but also in Aurora Colorado where that horrible mass movie massacre took place. And there is the genocide going on in Syria, and all sorts of mayhem happening all over the globe that is not getting reported. I just want it to all end.

T & T Night Market

T & T Market at Cherry Beach
Monday July 23, 12:22 a.m.

It was another blistering hot day yesterday, but me and The Dancer's family went down to the Cherry Beach area to check out the annual T & T Night Market festival.

I hadn't been to Cherry Beach since I was in elementary school. My memories of that time are basically fragmentary, but I could remember very distinctly my brother and I getting into our bathing suits and getting into Lake Ontario. It was like swimming in slightly more liquefied Vaseline...ugh...and we had all sorts of bugs crawling all over us.

Traffic getting onto Cherry St. was annoyingly circuitous, though, since due to construction, the car had to split west on Lakeshore for a few hundred metres, make a U-turn and then turn right onto Cherry. Luckily, there was plenty of parking although things were getting busy, and if we bought over $30 worth of items at the T & T Market itself, there would be a $5 rebate on the parking.

There were some interesting stalls such as the one selling the Tornado Tempura. The Dancer told me that this was becoming a new foodie trend in Toronto. Didn't have a chance to try it out but perhaps next time. The market officially opened at 1 p.m. but the annoying thing that I hope the organizers take into consideration for next year is that the stalls should be ready for selling by that time as well, or at least, there should be signs stating that the food will be ready at 1:30. But there was an ice cream truck that was selling free mini-samples....saved by dessert. Had the Tiger Tail....pretty good.

Our first official stop was for takoyaki. I didn't expect Osaka-level quality with the octopus balls, but still, I was happy with my half-dozen. The sauce, mayo and waving bonito flakes were there, and the balls themselves were very hot and creamy inside. Good for me.

The Dancer's husband went for the famous Stinky Tofu. Yep, that "aroma"was pretty pervasive throughout the area, but we got used to it quickly. But apparently, the tofu itself isn't the stinky part; the pickled cabbage that's put onto the tofu is the real culprit.

But of course, our foodie tour wasn't over yet. Several minutes later, we accosted our stomachs further. There was a Korean food stall whose residents were exhorting people to buy their stuff. Their next-door neighbours were doing brisker business, so I felt a little bad for the Korean stall and bought a pan of their japchae....seasoned glass noodles with carrot and sesame seeds.

I actually did buy the Popcorn Chicken from those next-door neighbours. I used to buy the stuff at my old supermarket back in Ichikawa City, and was just addicted to them. The nuggets came with a mild, mustardy sauce which was a good complement. I also noticed that Casa Manila was also a representative at the Market. That was the Filipino restaurant just across from the Westin Prince Hotel that The Anime King and I had gone to for dinner last month. Would've tried their Halo Halo again if I'd had more time. I think we all had a good time there. It looks like the visit to the Fan Expo is a go for late August. Just gotta find out how much I'm gonna have to shuck out.

Also, for the first time in a few weeks, I won't have to head over to teach a Monday morning class. And I haven't heard anything from the translation boss as well, so it might be a rather quiet day. Maybe a good thing, since it's gonna be another blistering day.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


courtesy of Andruu's that
psykoo babbler
of Flickr
Saturday July 21, 12:27 p.m.

One of the stranger aspects of Japanese culture that I came across was the act of gargling. I mean, over here you see some people doing it at home or on a sitcom as a gag (no pun intended) device. But it's not something that I would say is all that common.

However, in Japan, it's virtually a must-do in the annals of good hygiene and preventative medicine. Heck, even companies have gargling stations like the one to the left of me so that the working minions can clear out their throat of any sort of harmful bacteria; the water in those fountains are treated with some sort of iodine solution, so it actually can't be drunk. And of course, a healthy company is usually a profitable one.

I took a look at Wikipedia, and apparently the article there says gargling is a good procedure to follow, although I have read dissenting opinions. In the past couple of days, I believe I've come down with a bug of some sort, so of course, Mom has exhorted me to hit the warm salt water and rinse the ol' larynx out.

Toronto in Festival Mode

Saturday July 21, 12:17 p.m.

Well, it'll be hell on all of the drivers trying to negotiate downtown, but apparently there are a rash of festivals and events going on in the GTA for the weekend. I think there's something called "Big on Bloor"in the West End of town, while Yorkville is closed off for something, and even a foodie festival somewhere celebrating hot & spicy fare. There's also a jazz festival going on down in The Beaches.

I, myself, will not be immune to the charms of festival mania. I'm heading down to some sort of Night Market around the Cherry Beach area with The Dancer's family tomorrow afternoon. If I'm lucky, I may be able to grab another bag of bagels down there.

But of course, the big thing is that I'm hoping all of the events will be lead-free. Namely, no shootings or other such dangers. Unfortunately, there were three more shootings last night.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sunset Grill & Spiderman

The branch on Yonge & Eglinton
Saturday July 21, 12:28 a.m.

Several hours after the horrible events in Aurora, Colorado, I still decided on going to Silver City to catch "The Amazing Spiderman". The only surprising thing is that Mom didn't get on my case about going to a dangerous movie theatre.

Heading to Yonge & Eglinton made for a good excuse to have lunch at The Sunset Grill nearby. I'm always open for a good mess of Corned Beef Hash and Sausages.

Mmmm-mmmmmm good!
My waitress wasn't exactly the friendliest for some reason, but luckily she wasn't the only one serving me. My dish was served by a much nicer lady. In any case, here is the Corned Beef Hash plate with potatoes and scrambled eggs. Had two slices of toast with butter and jam on the side. Yep, that was more than enough for me.

Sausages...must have!
The thing was, I also needed my sausages. It's almost an addiction whenever I go to these all-day breakfast places. I just gotta have my reconstituted pork or I'm not satisfied. However, all those extra calories threatened to stuff my stomach a bit too much. But I survived the challenge....next time, though, I'll order coffee instead of Pepsi.

But I figure that The Wild Guy, The Egg, Automan and myself will be coming here sometime in the next few weeks for a guy-to-guy chowdown, so at least I'll pick something else from the menu.

Yep, things were quiet...
Got my ticket...well, actually, I finally used that free pass that The Egg had given me back in December. I still had to pay the $3 for the 3-D glasses. But with "The Dark Knight Rises"out in theatres as of yesterday, there was no problem in getting to see that other superhero movie. In fact, my theatre was absolutely empty for several minutes. But when I thought that I would end up watching Peter Parker all by myself, a handful of young folk came in. It still felt very much like I had my own giant home theatre, though.

"Spiderman, Spiderman
....does whatever a franchise can.."
Well, two and a half weeks after it came out here, and a full month after it had come out in Japan, I got to see "The Amazing Spiderman"....although "The Adequate Spiderman"should've been the title. After getting home and onto the Net, I talked with Movie Buddy about it and checked some of the other reviews. And we were of the opinion that it was just simply too soon to start over again.

There was this sense of malaise that came over me on seeing the new Peter Parker get bitten again, the new Ben Parker get shot and killed again, and the new May Parker eternally worrying about her nephew again. And though I thought that Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone had real chemistry (which they have translated into a real romance...for the next few months, at least), there was still that nagging feeling that the franchise should've gone fallow for another number of years before trying again. Well, the movie has made half a billion bucks, so the sequel is a foregone conclusion. I just hope that the producers-that-be will not fish out The Green Goblin or Doctor Octopus again. Let's try to make that part completely new, shall we? Perhaps Mysterio or The Scorpion or even Rhino. Heck, even The Vulture would be welcome, although I think Patrick Stewart is now just a bit too long in the tooth.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shooting Gallery Continues

Thursday July 19, 2:27 p.m.

The Summer of the Gun is continuing to claim casualties. After the massacre on Danzig St., there have been two more fatalities due to gun crime in as many days. There has been the rightful and righteous screaming and condemnation but solid action may still be days away at the very least.

As for me, it's been a pretty quiet week all told. I sent my editing assignment into the boss last night, and got my feedback from him about the prior translating assignment. He was fair...told me good and bad. Just feel bad after my double-checking that I still missed out on one obvious error.

The Wild Guy called me up to say that an old mutual friend that I hadn't seen in several years was wondering if both of us would be willing to see him for some sort of Ribfest or party out in Mississauga on Saturday night. I've declined since it's a bit of a long haul for me from all the way out here, and even before the shooting gallery started this week, I was never all that enthused about traveling the TTC at night, especially on a weekend.

The gun crisis currently plaguing Toronto reminds me of about 20 years ago when I came back from my 2-year stint in Gunma Prefecture. My parents told me NOT to head down to Chinatown. I was a regular there during my days at U of T because of the proximity, the food and the atmosphere (which could get downright rank and chewable during the summer back in those days). But some turf wars erupted amongst the Chinese and Vietnamese gangs which meant their fair share of shooting and other violence. One of former early members of The Anime Court had relatives who owned a restaurant on Dundas St. near Spadina. I never quite found out if the restaurant had been targeted or had been the unfortunate "bystander", but it managed to earn a couple of bullet holes in the window. After that and before I left for Japan for the next 17 years, I had to settle for going there during the daytime instead of having those late-night dinners I'd enjoyed. But it's not so much that I miss my Chinese dinners there; it's just that my freedom to go to one of my favourite areas in Toronto has been taken away due to fear.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Getting Things Done

Wednesday July 18, 3:32 p.m.

I've yet to hear from my boss about that translation I spent a few days on. I'm gonna assume that no news is good news. The editing thing went OK although the article was chock-filled with technobabble to the extent that I couldn't even begin to penetrate whether the translator did a perfect job with it. But the English translation was certainly fine....just a very few grammar hitches. In any case, he needs it tomorrow but I can pretty much send it back to him by tonight if he wants.

The weather is a good 8 degrees lower than during yesterday's record-breaking steam bath of a day. Still, the humidity is out there so my T-shirt is still clinging like a cheap cologne. I've kept things inside once again, but I wanna see if I can catch "The Amazing Spiderman" tomorrow with that free pass The Egg gave me.

Speaking of movies, "The Dark Knight Rises", just like its predecessor, seems to be getting rave reviews from the critics just before its unleashing into the general public on Friday. And the general public ended up going crazy about the 2008 movie. And here we thought that "The Avengers"was gonna be a danger to Chris Nolan's final entry into his magnum opus trilogy. Now this movie could be the one to beat in the blockbuster sweepstakes.

Crumbling Gardiner and DPJ

courtesy of n+s
from Flickr
Wednesday July 18, 11:04 a.m.

With all the shooting horrors over the past couple of days (to add insult & further death to injury, there was another man shot & slain at Jane & Eglinton, just a day after the mass shooting in Scarberia), it's almost laughable that the Gardiner Expressway Whack-A-Car Sweepstakes has popped up on the news again. Yep, it looks like the extreme heat amongst other factors has caused the aging highway to drop the concrete version of bird poop. Luckily, no cars were harmed but Bathurst St. has been closed which will majorly screw up traffic today.

courtesy of DonkeyHotey
from Flickr
Then, there is the quagmire of being the governing party of Japan. It seems to be death by a thousand paper cuts (or paper cranes with especially sharp beaks and wings) for Prime Minister Noda. The ruling Democratic Party of Japan has been whittled down bit by bit by defecting disgruntled party members. There was the not-insignificant chunk of led by political kingpin/Loki, Son of Odin Ichiro Ozawa which has now become a new party with another frustrating name, Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People's Life First). And just a couple of days ago, three Upper House parliamentarians left the DPJ in disappointment over their former party's recent decisions to form a caucus group called Midori no Kaze (Green Wind), although I don't think environmentalists should start getting excited. According to The Japan Times, that leaves the DPJ on the precipice to lose its No. 1 status to the official Opposition Liberal Democratic Party. And the mass media has been reporting that further defections are possible....although I think that could be just viewership baiting more than fact.

It's been a slow, agonizing fall from grace for the DPJ in the past 3 years since it arrived as the new rulers of Nagatacho on a wave of victory and hope. President Obama and the Democrats ought to look at Japan and sigh in relief that at least they haven't been quite that unlucky. The first Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama came off as an indecisive mama's boy. Then, Naoto Kan got buried underneath his handling of last year's triple disasters of quake/tsunami/Fukushima. Now, it seems as if the knives have come out for Yoshihiro Noda. Somewhat earlier on, there had been some hope that Noda would be coming out of his first year in office relatively stain-free. But in pretty rapid succession, he got 3 albatrosses strung around his neck in the form of the gradual raising of the consumption tax to 10%, the OK to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the reactivation of the nuclear power plants against massive popular opposition. Still, I have some respect for him in that he has stuck to his guns and made the unpopular if necessary decisions....he's definitely better than Hatoyama that way, and he comes off as more pragmatist than idealogue. Now, I'm just wondering how he'll do in September when the Lower House General Election beckons. There's been no talk about him resigning so most likely the DPJ elders are thinking that it's probably too late for a leadership change to do much good in the short time between now and the Fall.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Torrid Tuesday Translating

Tuesday July 17, 8:57 p.m.

Perhaps today was the hottest day of the year. I don't quite know how hot it got outside since I cocooned inside all day. I can only hope that a freak thunderstorm can come again and wipe out the humidity in one fell swoop.

Stayed inside all day to tackle and finish off that translating assignment. My new boss doesn't hesitate in throwing all sorts of stuff at me. I've already got an editing assignment in the wings once I get the go-word from him tomorrow, and I actually had to decline a big assignment since it was about 10,000 words and he needed a decision from me ASAP. Well, I don't do well with making decisions when I get those letters flashed into my face, so I erred on the side of caution and just asked him to find another translator. Plus, I could use a little bit of a break from that.

Is Toronto Safe?

Tuesday July 17, 5:15 p.m.

One of the issues that I'd initially wrestled with when I made the decision to come home for good was about crime. I mean, it wasn't a dealbreaker issue...I was coming home regardless but I did wonder about getting used to the so-called mean streets of Toronto after spending years in Tokyo, which is generally regarded as one of the safest big cities on the planet. Case in point: the street where my old Ichikawa apartment was located on was never one of the most brightly-lit, and yet even when I came home from work at around midnight (which was often), the thought of being mugged or worse never ever entered my mind in the 17 years that I'd lived in my small abode. I walked my 10 minutes home in the relative dark fully secure. That doesn't mean that Tokyo or my bedroom town of Ichikawa City was a Paradise Unto Earth. Crime did occur in the Big Sushi, whether it be the unfortunately steadily rising phenomenon of convenience store robberies or murders. Single women and elderly couples living alone have been killed by robbers or psychos over the past several years. Still, when I consider things like per capita rates and the general perception of security of urban living, my adopted home was indeed safe.

Getting back home in December, I quickly got tuned into the latest shooting somewhere in the GTA. In fact, it wasn't too difficult to hear about some sort of knifing (which was the prototypical example of assault or murder in Japan) or shooting on a nearly daily basis as the Holidays passed by. But I was able to let it slide down my back and shrugged it off as just being the necessarily evil part of urban life. I was able to get used to those mean streets. Whenever I went out to meet friends, it was almost always into the northern parts of town, nowhere near the downtown core (on New Year's Eve, I saw some ugliness on the subway and was just thankful that I didn't have to stay onboard that long). If I came home at night, I always kept my wits about me even in my neighbourhood which, knock on wood, has been pretty safe for a long time now.

But it looks like The Summer of the Gun II has come to Toronto. There have been four high-profile and very public shootings in the past number of weeks. Eaton Centre, Little Italy, some festival downtown, and then last night's spree in Scarbourough where 2 people were killed and over a dozen injured because of some altercation at a block party. But there have also been the small ones....such as the one a few nights ago when some nutjob fired a few rounds around Spadina and Queen, the only casualty being a parking meter. I've often walked through that intersection during the day, and back in my university days, I often had late-night dinners with friends in Chinatown just a few minutes north of that intersection. I don't think I've been able to do that for some years.

So the question is: Is Toronto safe? Well, Mayor Rob Ford just announced insistently that Toronto is indeed safe. I didn't see the news conference myself but I can imagine that he used the expression, "....just an isolated incident..."for the gun battle last night. He may continue bleating that mantra even if similar crimes happen over the next few weeks since he's shown he doesn't give a care about what anyone else has to say. On the other side, there will be certain news columnists and a number of citizens who will declare Canada's largest city a cesspool of iniquity....the real-life version of Gotham City without a Batman to hunt and destroy the scum.

I'm not quite in the middle. I tend toward the side that feels Toronto is not in a great state...at least for now. But I don't think the city has fallen into the chasm. I can still go out with friends and family into areas that are safe and even friendly. A festival was held in front of City Hall today in which Mayor Ford was boogeying away (a memory that I would like erased). Toronto has good safe neighbourhoods and the vast majority of Torontonians are decent people. However, all that has been overshadowed by the impression that anything bad can happen in even the safest of areas. My other fear is that this impression will be adopted permanently by us. People may just visit this certain area of the city because there is "only"a 30% chance of a gun battle happening.

Politicians and statisticians will love to state that the number of gun deaths is lower than at the same time last year or that this is the odd blip on the graph. But for the rest of us, all these shootings, big or small, few or many, scare the devil out of us. If they can happen at an enjoyable block party or a cafe in the middle of a soccer celebration or in one of the largest shopping malls in the country, they can happen in any block on any street in this city.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Anime and Foodiesm for Sunday

 Monday July 16, 9:20 p.m.

Let's get the foodie part out of the way. The Anime King and I hit Bamiyan across from East York Marketplace for the 2nd time for a nice round of hearty fare. It was a whole lot crowded during the dinner hour than when we had gone there for the first time at around opening time. Still, I got a goodly amount of Tandoori Chicken with a ton of rice, naan and salad. Yup, I paid for my sins later that night.

Earlier in the day, The King took me to Yogi Noodle in one of the Chinese malls in Scarborough....the one with Foody Mart. Had a good bowl of Shrimp Dumpling Soup with a glass of Soybean Milk.

In the middle of the day, we also went to our usual Second Cup for coffee and dessert. Our server suggested the Milky Way Cake. I didn't realize that this was a cake based on the famously sweet chocolate bar. I got hit with a major wedge of diabetic killer cake. Gonna have to be careful next time. At about the time we were in the coffee shop, the thunderstorm that just deluged Toronto hit us. When we got out to the car, it was on the "shore" of a major lake that had formed in the parking lot.  The King was wearing his sandals so he was OK with the wading, but I had to wait several metres away while his car swam back up to shore.

As for the anime segment, nothing new. We had a good discussion on "Madoka Magica"now that I've seen all of it. Basically, I see it as "Sailor Moon"with "Dark Knight"atmosphere. Of course, we caught ourselves up on "Smile Precure"...they had the trilogy of those extra-special episodes where all the characters are super-serious as they try to rescue one of their own and finally have the big showdown with all of the monsters. "Bodacious Space Pirates"is another keeper that has been growing on me with every episode. The King told me that the project had started out as a low-budget bottom-dwelling member of the totem pole but the right people took the right interest in it, and it's now getting its due. Even I would be tempted to buy the set if I ever get back to Japan again. I know I can always get it via Amazon but there's something about buying it in the home country.

Hitting the Restaurants

Monday July 16, 8:55 p.m.

Man, weather in both Japan and Toronto have been reaching parity recently. Both have been getting the high temps, and just over the last few days, both have been getting the downpours. Gonna be reaching 35 degrees tomorrow here in the GTA, and that's not including the Humidex which should put us over the 40-degree mark easily. Luckily, I don't plan on going anywhere.

Ravi Soups
Last Thursday, I met up with an old friend of nearly 40 years' standing from my Japanese Language School days. A couple of his kendo buddies suggested Ravi Soups down on Adelaide St. So we decided to check it out. Always game for a good bowl.

The two of us discussed the possibility of getting some sort of reunion of our old class from Japanese Language School. I did a bit of preliminary search via Facebook....no bites there.

Patio in the back

Soup and Wrap Deal for $10.95
As would be imagined for a restaurant that specializes in soups, Ravi Soups wasn't exactly the biggest place but there was space enough for a large wooden communal table. But my friend and I opted for the backyard patio since the weather was so good.

I went for the Soup & Wrap deal...which was quite a good deal. I got the Porcini Mushroom Soup and a Free Range Chicken in a zesty spicy sauce with lots of veggies all folded into a wrap. The soup also had plenty of richness and heft with the mushrooms just screaming its flavor out. The wrap was very generous as well...had to be careful since the sauce was just gushing out of the pocket. But it's been my policy that if one's not willing to get one's hands dirty when enjoying food, then food is not worth enjoying. Then again, I wouldn't boil beef with my bare hands.

Where's the paper umbrella?

The next day, I met up with another old friend and his family at The Olde York, that fish & chips joint that I've been to with The Anime Court and CG at separate times. He's from the ol' hometown but has been living happily with his wife and daughter for the past several years in Vancouver. Of course, it was the Hake Fish n' Chips but I opted for dessert as well. I've always wanted a Sherry Trifle, and got it in the form that was very kid-attractive. Mind you, I could taste the sherry very keenly, so I'm not sure if the kids would've been walking too straight after ingesting or imbibing it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Goodbye Panda, We Hardly Knew Ye

Thursday July 12, 10:25 a.m.

Well, despite all the hoopla and celebration and newspaper extras last week heralding the arrival of the first baby panda born in captivity in 24 years at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, there was tragedy  a couple of days ago. It's been announced that that baby panda died rather suddenly due to pneumonia after some of her mother's milk got stuck in the little one's trachea. I'm sure there was a full court press. NHK covered it pretty well, including a press conference to report on the death. The director of Ueno Zoo was nearly in tears.

I think the news was delivered home that raising a baby panda is at best a tricky affair and not at all guaranteed. However, as sad as the news was, both parents are still young and there are many more opportunities in the future.


 Thursday July 12, 10:15 a.m.

Met up with The Wild Guy yesterday at work. He was in quite a state after meeting me across from his company some 15 minutes late. Well, he's usually pretty intense to begin with and has been so for the 25 years I've known him, but he was particularly pissed off with the goings-on within his firm. It says something about our long friendship when he fairly screams out "I HATE MY JOB!"in the middle of the sidewalk, and I don't even flinch.
Anyways, once he calmed down, he took me over to his favourite shawarma place.
Believe it or not, yesterday was my first try of shawarma. Apparently, it's quietly become the lunch item of choice in Toronto over the past several months. Filled with all sorts of veggies, tahini and hot sauces, and chicken (in my case), it's an entire bento in a wrap. For my last few years in Japan, I often had a doner kebab in Akihabara...a pita stuffed with very much the same things. The shawarma, I found out, was basically the doner kebab on steroids. Back in the Winter, I read an article in which it was discovered that an average shawarma contains way more than enough calories to keep the body going for a day. Considering the average Canadian winter, this could become the essential dish to have, alongside poutine.

Yup, I gotta admit that I can get pretty addicted to this wrap. And at $4.95, it definitely beats my doner kebab in value since that cost about $7 CDN in Japan, and it's quite a bit smaller than the shawarma.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Madoka Magica

courtesy of shizen22
from Flickr
Tuesday July 10, 11:36 a.m.

Nice comfortable summer day, but of course that will not last long. Toronto will start heading into the 3H weather pattern from tomorrow with the supposed climax being this Friday when any resemblance between the city and a furnace will be purely coincidental.

In any case, I have been continuing my ironic education in the latest anime, thanks to my good friend, The Anime King. I say ironic since I'm only learning about the genre in any significant amounts here in Toronto, compared with learning next to bupkiss during my entire 17 years in Japan. The King didn't seem too surprised at all. He remarked that anime is still considered a subgenre for geeks and weirdos by the majority of Japanese society so that it would've been difficult for me to knowingly pierce through the barrier.

In the past 7 months I've been back home, The King has lent me a couple of flash drives to peruse. So I've gone through the entire run of the existential sci-fi "Mawaru Penguindrum"and the down-to-earth "Usagi Drops". Currently I'm going through the dark, angst-ridden "Madoka Magica".

I'll be honest. Despite my long residence in Japan, my still-horribly lacking Japanese language was made clear by trying to decipher what these girls/witches were talking about. I needed Cliff Notes and I got them via Wikipedia. OK, anime mini-skirted junior high school students get a wish answered in return for a metamorphosis into witches...check. But that is the mere backbone of the plot which seems to absorb elements of "Evangelion", "Star Wars" and "Highlander". I've had to squint my eyes and ears (yep, ears too) at the screen to get what has been going on. But I've liked the contrast in drawing styles. Whereas the characters are drawn in the usual style of huge eyes and small bodies, the nightmarish scenes are drawn in a very garish but artistic way. And the determination of each individual witch's power based on the original girl's wish is a clever idea.

I'm currently going onto Episode 10, so I'm in the homestretch now. Should be interesting talking with the King on Sunday. Definitely not a "Sailor Moon"episode.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Goodbye Ernest and Anthony

courtesy of Jimmybigpotatoes II
from Flickr
Tuesday July 9, 8:37 p.m.

Along with Andy Griffith, we lost another old TV icon from the 60s. I heard about the passing of Ernest Borgnine yesterday. He was probably one of the most famous and wide-ranging character actors that ever was. He could play rough-but-lovable folks that you could see yourself having a drink with, and he could play the meanest bastards. He was Quinton McHale (McHale's Navy) and Dom Santini (Airwolf)...and of course, he was Marty Piletti...the starring role that got him his Oscar back in 1955.

He may have had a wide range of characters but with those sparkling eyes, bushy eyebrows and gap-toothed smile, I can only see him as a teddy bear. He had a good long life, and I'm hoping that he and Andy are having that drink right now somewhere.

courtesy of John Biehler
from Flickr
The passing of Anthony Sedlak was a shock. He was only 29. Whenever I returned from Japan for the Holidays, I often voraciously watched The Food Network, and Sedlak's "The Main"was one of the shows that I caught in the morning. Like most of TFN's hosts, he was a very amiable and welcoming fellow in his kitchen, enthusiastically making all sorts of dishes. The one thing that stood out to me about him was his accent. I couldn't quite place it....was he from New York, New Jersey or New...foundland? As it turned out, he grew up in North Vancouver. I would've loved to have been one of his guests at a home party.

Wherever Andy and Ernest are, I hope Anthony is whipping up a fine meal to go with their drinks.

Start of Another Week

Monday July 9, 4:08 p.m.

Back at home lounging around after a few hours of teaching downtown. Not too bad but I'm just wondering if there is much future for me as a supply teacher. I got the job done of course but I'm not feeling all that much satisfaction in the classroom.

Got back home. I will be tackling my other job tonight....translating some documents before final hand-in to the boss tomorrow. Not that easy but it's stimulating. Gotta consider all those nuances besides the direct translation.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reunion of Sorts

Sunday July 8, 10:42 p.m.

There were a lot of things going on in the GTA. A couple of street festivals and the Honda Indy by the lakeshore. But for me, I just went up north to meet The Anime Chamberlain for the first time in a few months. He had some sort of Japanese drama viewing with several folks in the afternoon. Since I developed an allergy against J-Dramas several years ago (with the exception of Ume-chan Sensei recently on NHK), I wasn't willing to sit in on the viewing but The Chamberlain was nice enough to engage me in conversation for a couple of hours. He was still his opinionated self, but he kept the indignant surprises to himself which I appreciated. It was a good talk, and one of the topics we covered was the upcoming Fan Expo in August at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The Dancer and her husband first brought up the possibility of going there, so I'm intrigued although I'm not too interested in waiting 3 hours to get into the place or paying a ton of money just to get an autograph from Sir Patrick Stewart.

Got some calls tonight from The Anime King himself and an old friend, The Brain. I told The King about my visit to see The Chamberlain. He took the news amiably but told me that he was still pissed off at him. In any case, it looks like next Sunday will be a go for another foodie-and-anime session. As for The Brain, I knew him about a couple of decades ago back at U of T. Like The Anime Chamberlain, he has his somewhat arrogant and brusque side but I've been able to survive his slings and arrows, and perhaps being a family man may have mellowed him a bit. In any case, I will be seeing him on Friday for lunch.

I've basically got my first translation assignment done for that small company. And I sent my new boss a set of questions about certain parts that I wasn't sure about...standard operating procedure in a project.

Catch-Up Saturday

Sunday July 8, 9:27 a.m.

Met up with Shard yesterday down at Christie Station. It had been a little over a month since our last meeting due to our increasingly busy schedules...more on his end with family responsibilities. Sometimes, I get that twinge of regret that I decided not to have a family of my own but after hearing my friend's story, I'm all better. We went to our usual hangout of the Thumbs-Up Eatery in Korea Town. It was a brief session this time but we basically had the entire restaurant to ourselves, and our waiter was very dutiful....got a handsome tip from us. I had the feeling that my Kimchi Fried Rice was a bit smaller than before, though.

I walked Shard back to the station although I had already decided to take a further walk on Bloor eastwards. With the lament that Queen West was going away from its bohemian stylings to a more trendy and corporate style, it was pretty nice to see that perhaps Korea Town may be picking up the boho slack. There were the small bookstores and even a shop specializing in obscure Asian knickknacks including a hookah pipe. Plus there was a Japanese paper place that I'm gonna have to investigate someday.

After my goodbyes to Shard, I started that walk over to U of T when I suddenly got that urge for a washroom. At times when I eat something spicy with a lot of fiber, my GI tract has that need for speed. GI GO, you might say. By the time I turned south on Spadina (a couple of stations away from Christie), I started slowing down and focusing some of my energies on certain muscles.  I've been through this before, so I think all that sinew was already at Olympic-strength. Still, it was obvious that had I been walking through the St. George campus during the weekday, a caring student would've inquired whether I was OK or not. But as it was a Saturday, the campus was deserted as I slowly made my way into Robarts Library. Surely, there was a washroom facility in there. Not on the 1st floor apparently. UGH! So, it was down the stairs, across Hoskin Ave and down St. George to try the next oasis of Sid Smith Hall....all while under emergency clench mode.

There was some sort of job fair being held there when I went in, so I was happy to know that the place was indeed open. Problem was that I had to travel the byways of the basement area like the proverbial emaciated man in rags dragging himself through the desert before I finally found a washroom. I checked all the stalls and found one whose toilet had actually been properly flushed. After 30 seconds, I was one literally relieved fellow. I won't go into the gory details about the other two stalls, but I will rhetorically lecture that pushing down the handle doesn't take a whole lot of energy. I ended up flushing them myself....one very happy set of stalls resulted.

The rest of the walk down St. George Ave. was considerably less pain-wracked. It's always nice walking down there at any time. Perhaps nostalgia is going to be as much a condition as neuralgia as I get older. I ended up getting on the subway back home from Queen's Park Station. It was a quiet day, to be sure. Didn't see any protests coming up the street.

As for today, I was planning to just enjoy the day at home but last night, The ostracized Anime Chamberlain called me up to see if I would be willing to come out to see his little anime group which gets together periodically for viewings. Apparently, due to a request by one of his otaku, they'll actually be tackling some Japanese dramas for the first time. Ergh....not sure how that's gonna go, although some of those shows possess about the same amount of logic and acting ability that a Sunday morning anime has. But I'm not particularly interested in seeing dramas; just wanted to see how The Chamberlain has been doing and perhaps get a chance to meet some of his friends as well.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hot, Hot, Hot

Friday July 6, 11:45 a.m.

Yup, it was street-buckling hot today. 35 degrees plus. I was only outside a couple of times today but I have to admit that after several years of Japanese summers, it didn't feel all that oppressive....actually, I felt a bit drier here than I ever did during drippy July and August in Tokyo.  Not that I would ever say this to my friends on threat of being slapped with a sweat-infused handkerchief.

There was a major blackout last night in the downtown area which lasted 4 hours. Commuters and cops alike were probably a very miserable lot, and even today there was a small segment of Scarborough that got their power knocked out as well. Just wondering if this might be the signal of things to come. Plus with all those condos going up...just not sure if there will be any power to spare.

But at least, things will get to a more bearable level from tomorrow. Good thing, too, since I'll be meeting up with Shard for lunch in Koreatown.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Came for the meeting, stayed for the donuts

Thursday July 5, 3:51 p.m.

I went down for the monthly meeting at the school although I am just a substitute teacher, and therefore pretty much exempt or ineligible to follow out the procedures that the highers-up were talking about on the agenda.

And as it turned out, my one hour downtown was worthwhile just for the blueberry jam-filled Dutchie provided via the free Tim Horton's donuts. There were just too many teachers crammed into a large room, with the two staffers seeming to just address the teachers in the front half of the room. I was in the back with a bunch of fairly jaded instructors just kinda looking in more than actually participating. Kinda obvious thing for me to suggest but I think everyone would've been served better if each staffer had taken one half of the teachers in two separate classrooms; there were plenty of vacant classrooms.

At least the Pennsylvania Dutchie was delicious. And I got another gig subbing next week.

Japan Loves Its Animals

courtesy of So Kawaii
from Flickr
Thursday July 5, 3:25 p.m.

Let's see what the top news stories were on NHK today. The Oi Nuclear Reactor in Fukui Prefecture was reactivated. Check. Ichiro Ozawa's embryonic political party is slowly making its way down the tube for its birth next week. Check. And then there was Shin Shin.

Shin Shin the female Giant Panda on loan from China along with her male companion, Ri Ri, are now the proud parents of a cub after some Woo Woo. Hold the presses! Japan's largest zoo in Ueno Park, Tokyo, virtually declared a national holiday. And newspaper staff were giving out extras on the streets with all the fervor of an Olympic win. Panda bears are up there with girl group AKB 48 in terms of popularity. But the black-and-white marsupials have always been the animals to be loved in the Land of the Rising Sun.

courtesy of weenah
from Flickr
Little kids once told me that robots lived side by side with humans in Japan. To a certain extent, I would agree. However, when it comes to animals, especially the cute kind, they are given the celebrity treatment there. I remember going to Kobe during my Japanese Language School trip in 1981, and just seeing tons of pictures of panda bears because a couple of them had been visiting the country. Then there were the frilled lizards boom in the early 80s. Food products often have pictures of little critters on the boxes. And there is a certain prime time TV show starring comedian Ken Shimura that puts various animals on full display. Even NHK has a couple of weekly animal-based shows.

The Japanese mania for animals seems to have even extended to eating and drinking establishments. Cafes with cats, dogs and even rabbits have popped up all over Tokyo....like rabbits. I went to one of those Rabbit Cafes last September....more on that in a future entry.

Ironically, that love for animals doesn't seem to extend to whales and dolphins, though. Scientific research, my butt!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Into July

Wednesday July 4, 10:29 a.m.

After the massive binging of Canada Day with The Anime Court's visit to Toronto's Ribfest and then my brother's BBQ later on that day, the 2nd was relatively light. I met up with The Dancer and her husband for lunch downtown. We were supposed to have met at this mozzarella bar called Obika since they made an online reservation. However, Obika screwed up by accepting it while the restaurant stayed resolutely closed. No problems....we just went over to another very pleasant al fresco restaurant for lunch and served by a perkily pretty waitress who had a glancing resemblance to Taylor Swift and Flo the Progressive Insurance lady. Splurged a bit on a Cucumber Sangria....very refreshing.

After lunch, while the husband had to take off for a bit of work, my old friend and I did the usual 2-hour walk up Yonge St. all the way to Eglinton. We saw a couple of crazy women screaming abuse at anyone who would listen....south of Bloor, of course....and then one young female scammer near Davisville tried to give us a sob story to relieve us of some coins. She wasn't even trying to act....just rattled off some of her story like a robot before we quickly turned away and up. She yelled some mild epithet at us as we walked off.

Yesterday, I had one sub stint for the morning class. Not the greatest execution though most of the students were nice enough. Motivation levels amongst the students varied somewhat, though. Once again, there was a curveball thrown by having two new students come in, though, the current session was already halfway through. Not a huge fan of that policy by any means...and it's officially not supposed to happen, but as one veteran teacher mentioned to me, business is business. If one student wants to start ASAP, the management will not disagree.

Luckily, today will be an off day. I have a monthly meeting tomorrow there but that will be it. I'm wondering whether to catch "The Amazing Spiderman" but with the kids off for summer vacation, I'm considering whether to just wait for it on DVD. Plus, I still feel burned by the last one.

Andy Griffith

courtesy of North Carolina
State Archives
from Flickr
Wednesday July 4th, 10:00 a.m.

Perhaps it is somewhat fitting that I write this entry on the 4th of July, since it deals with the passing of an American TV icon. Not to say that Andy Griffith should be compared to Abraham Lincoln or George Washington. I'm well aware that he was an actor, singer and pitchman for Ritz Crackers, but whenever I think of my early days as a TV watcher, Sheriff Andy Taylor will always be that fictional but comfortable figure of Americana for me.

It's been recently said that as one gets older, one can only remember the last half of life with good clarity. The first half of life's memories ends up becoming mere flashes of images. Still, one image that has still remained crystal clear in my mind all these years is the opening credits for "The Andy Griffith Show", with Andy and Opie walking down to the nearest pond for a round of fishing while the theme song is being whistled. Even in this day and age of Bieber, Gaga and Rihanna, that simple tune can be remembered by most people above the age of 20, I assume.

As I was watching the tribute feature on him on the CTV News last night, the reporter pointed out that even when the show was being aired for the first time, it was already being labeled as nostalgic...like something out of the 30s. And watching reruns of the show over the decades, I can only imagine what life must've been like in a small North Carolina town where apple pies could be seen cooling on the window sill, the local lawman could be seen more often brandishing a guitar than a gun, prisoners were actually lovable, and locks were merely seen as optional on doors. Most likely a very fictional scenario even back then, but wasn't it nice to see such a peaceful town as Mayberry?

Andy Griffith may have started out his career as a slightly eccentric happy-go-lucky guy with a guitar, but he would always strike me as the ideal patriarch/career professional. Laconic, friendly, sage and leaderly (if such an adverb exists....according to my Spellcheck, it does not). He even brought some of that into his Ritz ads and "Matlock".

I don't know if "The Andy Griffith Show"ever made it out to Japan, although in the early postwar period, a lot of American TV programs did get out there to make up for the lack of domestic programming at the time. However, "Matlock"was a fixture on local cable TV.

It would be too maudlin....and false....if I said that with Griffith's passing, another link to an innocent time has been severed. Instead, with all of today's technology and archiving, Andy Taylor and that theme song will continue to go on and welcome viewers to his small imaginary town.