Wednesday, November 28, 2012

PS on "The Angels Take Manhattan"

Wednesday November 28, 1:03 p.m.

This entry is frankly for the "Doctor Who" fans, really. Some weeks ago, I went on a bit of a rant about how lousy the final episode for Amy Pond and Rory Williams as Companions for the current Doctor was (look up "Doctor Who-ops!" in the TV section). Still haven't changed my mind about it, but I kinda know how it feels to be a stalwart supporter of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford right now....somewhat in the minority but still defiant.

Then, I came across this video on YouTube titled "P.S.", and it is a four-and-a-half minute excerpt of what could have been filmed but was ultimately cut out of "The Angels Take Manhattan". And after viewing it, I just wondered what those editors and Moffat had been thinking by not including this scene and including some of the other extraneous stuff at the beginning.

Well, just glad that it's now up and running. At least, there was one good thing about this disappointing sendoff. And I can only imagine how many boxes of tissue the fans who actually loved the episode must be going through right now.

Oh, Geek

Wednesday November 28, 10:39 a.m.

Had another round of translations yesterday. Got those done and may get another assignment in an hour or so. Not too, too difficult but the feedback can always blow back any satisfaction.

Yup, the geek inside me....80%; the other 20% is some intriguing information via the movie site "Dark Horizons". I found out that the two British thespian knights, Sir McKellen and Sir Stewart, will be coming onto the next "X-Men" project. Of course, I'm thrilled since when those two were in the original trilogy (overall, a mediocre trio), any scene that involved them was easily up there with the best scenes. But at first, I had wondered how they were going to be shoehorned into this new series; then I realized that the title was "Days of Future Past". Somewhere in one of the filing cabinets, I have the original comic books for that story arc, and everything started to make sense....or as much sense as that story had.

Then, came the rumours about this supposed "Justice League" movie that's in the works after the success of "The Avengers" this summer. Apparently Joseph Gordon-Levitt may be playing the new Batman (not Nightwing?!). If this is actually true, then "The Dark Knight Rises" served to be a launching point for the new Caped Crusader.

And of course, news on the new "Star Trek" movie had to come out. Once again, another threat comes to Earth which means only the Enterprise can save the day. Well....not exactly news there.

All I can say is that millions of "Big Bang Theory"-like kaffeeklatsches (kolaklatsches?) of geeks are probably going into heated discussions over their cocoa right now. After reading some of this, I'll take mine with a huge crystal of salt.

Hey, can't wait to see the new "Doctor Who" Xmas special. I still think the swan song for Amy and Rory was ugly....

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Last 24 Hours

Tuesday November 27, 12:25 a.m.

It must be a great day to be a journalist of any kind in Toronto. I can imagine reporters everywhere kneeling in their bedrooms tonight and just looking upwards with a beatifically joyous gleam, screaming "THANK YOU, LORD!!! OH, THANK YOU!!!"

I would've thought that the only thing that could steal the headlines from the Argos winning the Grey Cup (the first time the team has done so on home turf in 50 years) was a miraculous agreement between the National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association. I was quite wrong. Instead, it turned out to be the firing of Mayor Rob Ford, around 12 hours after the Argos made it official.

Ford was found guilty of breaking conflict-of-interest rules for using official City Council resources to ask for donations for his football foundation back when he was still a councillor. This was back in 2010, and I guess it isn't just the arm of the law that's is the memory. And the judge was having none of it. Citing the need for administrators of high office to be held to a high standard, the judge took away Ford's council seat and gave him 2 weeks to clear out his things and get out of City Hall. Wow! I thought this reality was the least likely option; my feelings had been that the judge would've given Ford a stern lecture and ordered him to return the donated money but allowed him to keep his job.

But with this verdict, the journalists are just jumping and jiving. And it looks like the population may be evenly divided. In any case, Ford was at his most truculent and said that he would fight the verdict "tooth and nail". Politics just became a nuclear hotbed in this city. And the ironic thing is that the Argonauts are gonna have their victory parade later today which will involve the team handing over the trophy to guess who? It should make for a fascinating and awkward moment.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wow, Toronto Actually Wins a Championship!

Sunday November 25, 11:13 p.m.

A month early, but Toronto got an early Xmas present in the form of a sports championship. Been a while but the Argonauts won The Grey Cup less than an hour ago. I think a lacrosse team won a league championship a few years ago but amongst the big four sports of NHL, CFL, NBA and MLB, it's been a good long while.

I was a bit worried at the beginning of the game when it seemed like QB Ricky Ray looked a bit like his early season self. However, things started rolling along very nicely as the game approached the end of the first half. And his hanging Chads were in fine form(no snickering please). Right now, the downtown streets of Toronto are flooded with an atypical sight: ferociously celebratory fans. I haven't seen anything like that since the Canadian Olympic Hockey Teams won Gold Medals in Salt Lake City a decade ago, and I haven't experienced that kinda fun since the Jays won the World Series at Skydome 2 decades ago.

Let us enjoy the next week or so. And the victory parade is on for Tuesday.

courtesy of easy1994
from Flickr

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Weird Space

Saturday November 24, 4:35 p.m.

Pretty quiet start to the weekend. The weather people got it wrong for my neck of the woods, at least, in that it's been sunny here and there hasn't been a single flake of snow. However, there is that snap of cold in the air that we haven't felt during the past week. Perhaps the sign is here that we're finally heading into Winter.

It's supposed to be Grey Cup Weekend, but again, I get the feeling that this is more of a downtown Toronto phenomenon. Not feeling much excitement here in the relative boonies. And there haven't been any more Alex Anthopolous blockbuster surprises for the Jays, so perhaps, we may be in withdrawal right now. But what's making me feel this existential null void is that there is no hockey. Just realized it right now, but we haven't had "Hockey Night In Canada"in well over a month, and with now the All-Star Game on the scrap heap, it looks like this will be another in the series of "The Year Without An NHL". Heck even Don Cherry is now being forced to put out newspaper articles of his diatribes. I guess showing up on brokerage commercials only gets so much satisfaction.

Mind you, I've got Mr. Moriya for his Skype lesson tonight. It'll be 3 weeks since I've seen him.

Supposedly, in the last few days, NASA and its Curiosity Rover on Mars may have found something big but are keeping mum about it. Some of the Scully Skeptics are grumbling that it's all ado about nothing but you never know. Maybe they found a beer can.

The Trouble with Tracy

Yesterday I was reading MacLean Magazine's Book of Lists in the local library, when I came across one such list covering the worst in Canadian sitcoms. Frankly speaking, I thought the title a bit redundant. "SCTV", on the other hand, was one of the best shows but that was never a sitcom. And I never caught onto "Little Mosque on the Prairie" or "Corner Gas". For us Canadians, it seems, humour is still an American import, the point very heavily illustrated by the fact that "The Big Bang Theory" is the No. 1 show in this country.

I saw the No. 1 listing, and it was "The Trouble With Tracy". Suddenly memories of the old CFTO logo (now CTV Toronto), Uncle Bobby and lunchtimes at home during my elementary school days flooded into the old melon. I don't recall laughing one whit at it despite the canned laughter that all but said "You are supposed to laugh now!", but I had just thought that the humour was above my age grade. Little did I know that there was apparently no humour to be had at all. All I remember was this perky blonde, her harried husband (played by the late Steve Weston who used to be on those old Labatts "Laugh-In"-like commercials) and her good-for-nothing hippie brother, living in a high-rise apartment building that looked like some of the towers that populated my old neighbourhood of St. James Town. At the time, I probably thought that Tracy and company lived just down Ontario Street or over on Bleeker.

In any case, I wouldn't mind seeing a sliver of "The Trouble with Tracy" if only to get that bit of nostalgia and that awe at seeing what adults wore back in those days.

Larry Hagman (1931-2012)

I was surprised to hear of Larry Hagman's passing this morning. It looked like the new "Dallas" was running full steam ahead, and he had just done a Piers Morgan interview only recently. From what I remember, he looked elderly but was in pretty hale condition when I saw him. Had no idea of his throat cancer.

Of course, he will always be known as J.R. Ewing, television's most famous psychopath, decades before "Dexter"hit the screen. But since I was never all that much of a drama fan (saw "Hill Street Blues" and "St. Elsewhere" in small bits and pieces), the only real interest I ever had in the original "Dallas"was when the "Who Shot J.R.?"cliffhanger came out, and even non-fans of the series had no choice but to listen to it since it completely subsumed TV and print media.

For me, Hagman will always be astronaut Major Tony Nelson on "I Dream of Jeannie". It might be  hard to imagine for those who only knew him as the evil J.R., but Hagman could play a completely comedic and harried straight man to Barbara Eden's kooky Jeannie. He was as good as Dick York in "Bewitched".

Then, even before that, there was the thriller "Fail Safe" in which Hagman played the Russian-to-English interpreter for Henry Fonda's US President. Absolutely serious, Hagman's interpreter looked haunted especially in the eyes as he realized the nuclear devastation that was about to be rained on both Moscow and New York City.

But getting back to "Dallas", reruns of the original were playing regularly on the local cable channel in Japan, Super Drama TV. And yet, I'd read somewhere that when the prime time soap had first premiered there, it had gotten a lot of flack from critics and viewers alike since apparently Charlene Tilton's character laughed out loud without doing the proper thing of covering her mouth when she did so. Not sure how much of that was urban legend. It's certainly not a problem now since if that so-called faux pas had held up to the present day, pretty much every female tarento in Japan would be having weekly press conferences of apology.

Not sure how the new "Dallas"is going to be able to continue much longer without J.R. I've heard that some of the Season 2 episodes had already been filmed. Perhaps it would be better that all of the plot lines be tied up by the end of the season and just have the series end right there, although the bean counters in Hollywood would burn me in effigy if they ever heard that from me.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Heading into Winter?/Rogers on That

Friday November 23, 1:16 p.m.

It's been pretty balmy over the past few days, but it looks like we might get our first taste of Winter in the next few days. They're forecasting flurries or sleet over the weekend and into the next week. Just a shot across the bow before December arrives. Not sure when the big snowstorms are coming in.

I woke up this morning with the parentals grumbling that they couldn't get their TV Japan. I checked; it seemed as if a lot of the higher channels weren't coming through either. I waited in the hopes that the trouble would sort itself out, but when it didn't around noon, I sent a tweet to Rogers, and considering the bad reputation the organization has had, I was surprised when I got a friendly reply within 10 minutes of sending it. I don't think it was a bot. Anyways, I unplugged the digital box for about 30 seconds as advised, and after the TV reset itself, everything was back online and hunky dory. Cannot complain about that sort of service.

Looks like downtown Toronto is getting into Grey Cup fever. The rest of us in the burbs just have to take CP24's word for it. Apparently, Marty the Calgary Stampeders mascot was making his rounds, and after one failed attempt, finally got to enter the Royal York Hotel with a big bowl of fresh veggies waiting for him. Not sure if anything else came out of the other end during his walkabout; just hope noone was walking immediately behind, lest that person got the literal form of a politican's campaign speech.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Decompressing Time

Thursday November 22, 1:47 p.m.

Just taking some time off for the next few days. I had that all-day translating assignment yesterday, and considering the written version of a stern lecture from the boss the other day for not providing a high-quality product, I concentrated even more on this one on Wednesday. After a triple check, I handed it in a few hours before the deadline. Got the acknowledgement from the boss this morning, and he even offered me another assignment today but I turned it down. It was even larger but I'm feeling even more tired. So, today is just taking care of my blogs.

Started my Xmas time this morning when I sent out the first 8 Xmas cards over to Japan, and bought a couple of calendars for my former students since the two of them had been kind enough to send over a small parcel of rice crackers and peanuts a couple of months ago. I figure things are gonna get nuts starting in a couple of weeks.

This morning on NHK News, it was being reported that there was some sort of hostage-taking incident happening at a store in Aichi Prefecture. At the time, the psycho released a couple of hostages and got some bento for the remaining people inside. As bad as that situation is over there, I can't even imagine what it's gonna be like tomorrow on Black Friday in the States. I can guarantee that it will be violent.

Meanwhile in the final sumo championship of the year, there are two yokozuna grand champions for the first time in several years. Hakuho is protecting his one loss as the leader but the new yokozuna, Harumafuji, is looking a bit uncertain after losing 3 bouts. Not too yokozuna-like in performance but then again, the pressure is probably a bit harder on him right now.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Work (the) Future

Tuesday November 20, 12:29 p.m.

Yesterday morning, I went down to my now-former school as if I were going to teach a lesson down there. Got there early. However, it was just to return the school manual....not that I referred to it too much. I just went straight in since there was nobody there and left it at the counter and took off like the ghost I was, since I've been deemed persona non grata.

I ended up just walking up to the St. George campus at University of Toronto. I was pretty much a crap student in the 80s, although I did in fact (barely) graduate, but the campus has been a comfortable refuge for me downtown. I trudged up to Sidney Smith Hall and spent the next 3 hours in the main atrium whilst young folk criss-crossed behind me or lounged about on those comfy armchairs right in the middle. Had plenty of reading material...."The Varsity", "the newspaper" and the hilarious "Toike Oike" along with "The Toronto Sun" and "Metro". During those 3 hours, I didn't feel like a homeless person but I kinda spiritually connected to those laid-off salarymen in Japan who wouldn't tell their families about their unemployment and just secretly spent those 8 hours in parks or coffee shops. It might explain how places like Starbucks and Doutors have exploded in number in the past 15 years.

Got my lunch at one of the veteran trucks in front of Sid Smith. Always nice to get my burger and fries. I think the couple managing the truck was having a bit of a spat though. Afterwards, I walked on down to the Koffler Centre for some browsing, and then crossed the street over to the International Student Centre, one of my old haunts. It's a pity about what's happened to the place. It used to be a nice home-away-from-home to put up one's feet with the various rooms for lounging, but now it looks like all of the rooms have been converted into offices. The one room on the first floor that looked like it could still have people for lounging purposes, the Baldwin Room, was completely deserted, and it was still before 1 p.m. I quickly decided to pass through the ISC and walked to the nearest subway station for home.

Well, with my first source of income gone, what do I have? I still have translation but my boss was none too pleased with my most recent output, so I'm not sure where I stand with him and his company. However, I still have my Skype student at least until the year is up, and another former student has started sending me her essays for proofreading. I still want to get back to writing since I've let that go by the wayside over the past number of months. Nope, not particularly profitable but still alive for now.

Sports-A-Chatter in Toronto

Tuesday November 20, 12:14 p.m.

I guess it's been a banner week for Toronto sports fans. Although the one team that should be on everyone's minds at this time of year is out of commission due to the NHL strike (the running gag is that at least the Leafs have not lost any games this Fall), the Argos are headed for the Grey Cup this Sunday right in their hometown, and the sad-sack Blue Jays of 2012 seem to be regenerating into the playoff-contending Blue Jays of 2013. I say "seem" since despite all of the rabid jibber-jabber amongst fans, players and pundits during the past 7 days, we won't know whether any of these acquisitions will actually work out until well into the season. We're basically running on good wishes and educated speculation on past stats.

Of course, Alex Anthopolous is keeping that city-wide polylogue alive by introducing the new old manager of the Jays: John Gibbons. I was in Japan for all of the first decade of the 21st century so I have no idea who this guy is. My parents do, and they've immediately turned thumbs-down on him. All I know is that at his press conference, he showed a sly sense of humour and that he's been described as a hard-nosed manager. We shall see.

courtesy of hoganphoto
from Flickr

Skyfall Again and Chako Again

Tuesday November 20, 11:54 a.m.

Well, after all that talk on religion vs. science on Sunday, I had lunch with my brother's family and then it was off to see some of The Anime Court at the Cineplex near Eglinton and Pharmacy, near old Magder Studios where they had filmed part of the legendary comedy series, "SCTV" in the early 80s.

I ended up watching "Skyfall"'s pretty rare that I watch any first-run movie twice, but I think the latest 007 caper is worth a repeat look. It's definitely a few levels higher in quality than "Quantum of Solace", which I'm slowly warming up to, but the fact is that compared to this one and "Casino Royale", the second Daniel Craig movie will always come out as a bit of a slump. One critic said that the middle movie was the producers' failed attempt to fast-track Craig's 007 from rough-around-the-edges blunt end of the stick to suave-and-sophisticated killer elite. "Skyfall" was more successful from that angle. I mentioned to the bunch at dinner afterwards that Sean Connery had been approached to play the role of Kincade that Albert Finney eventually got. They were quite surprised but came to the conclusion that Sir Sean's inclusion would've been too distracting. Perhaps, but I would've been personally thrilled to see the very first....and still best....James Bond coming in on the 50th anniversary of "Dr. No". A few of the lines from Finney sounded as if they had been made specifically for Connery. However, I have the feeling that Connery is probably no longer quite well enough to do a cameo now.

After the movie, the six of us all headed out for that Korean/Japanese BBQ place Chako out in Agincourt. It cost each of us $27 but since it was all-you-can-eat which included a lot of variety in beef, chicken, pork and lamb, plus sushi and dessert, I'd say the cost/satsifaction ratio was very fair. And unlike Bulgogi Brothers, the large table has two, instead of one, burners, although arguably the latter place had a better quality of meat. However, with a bunch of friends, it's always more fun to go with the all-you-can-eat option. Apparently, Xmas has started over there since the seasonal music was playing on the speakers.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Behe Right or Behe Wrong?

Monday November 19, 4:11 p.m.

Usually when I get up early on a Sunday and head on out, it's because of another day of food-and-anime with The Anime King. Yesterday, I did indeed get up fact, it was the earliest I'd ever been up on a Sunday in Toronto at 6:30 a.m.....but it wasn't for my good friend. Instead, it was for the argument of Intelligent Design!

I'm not a religious person at all. Never have been, never will be. But my fine sister-in-law is very much so. We've gotten along well with no problems, though, and we've barely touched upon the topic that separates us. However, a few weeks ago, she informed me about a series of lectures that Dr. Michael Behe was giving at places like the University of Toronto, and asked me if I would be interested in taking a look at one of them. Well, I was a bit intrigued about what Intelligent Design was all about, although I was pretty confident that my religious non-beliefs would not be swayed.

And so yesterday, my brother and my bleary-eyed self went to a Richmond Hill community church gym to hear this professor from Pennsylvania give this talk. My brother had been expecting a lot of the dyed-in-the-wool middle-aged and elderly folks just to show up, but to his surprise, half of the audience was quite a bit younger than us. In any case, Dr. Behe gave a talk on his concept of Irreducible Complexity which explains that some systems are so complex that they cannot be broken down into simpler units....he used the common mouse trap as an analogy for the common cell. Why can the cell function with its parts such as mitochondria or cilia? Obviously having given this talk so often and so long, his delivery was as smooth as silk, bringing in some pop cultural references such as "Calvin & Hobbes", "The Far Side" and even the "Ghostbusters" logo. He also spoke of that famous sci-fi trope of individual cells being microscopic organic machines. And yes, he did hint at the firestorm of controversy between Intelligent Design and Darwinism, likening the lot of Designers to life in the old Soviet Union.

There were a few questions from the audience at the end of the talk but despite the host's proud assertions of some of the liveliness of the talks downtown, I think giving a talk involving a battle over the origins of life and biochemistry is never going to be an easy sell on a Sunday morning when people may not have had their coffee and bacon n' eggs. As for me, what I got from Dr. Behe's talk was that after nearly 2 centuries, Darwinism is getting slightly ragged and there are perhaps some holes forming in that quilt, but I'm not as eagerly willing to fill those holes with a divine solution as Dr. Behe has been. Perhaps there still are scientific explanations out there but not yet discovered. Maybe higher beings did come to this Earth millions of years ago and planned everything out, but I certainly won't say that they were supernatural ones.  Another interesting observation is that Behe never directly said that God was responsible for creating things such as the parts of a cell, although the fact that he was speaking from the middle of a church intimated things clearly enough for me, at least.

Still, the good doctor seemed like the type to have a good friendly debate about this over a beer. If it hadn't been for the fact that the both of us were constrained by time, I probably would have approached him for a question or two afterwards.

Behe can be found anywhere on the Net, but here's one page:

And here's a YouTube of one of his lectures:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dissolution or Disillusion?

Friday November 16, 7:39 p.m.

There have been some strange parallels going on between Japan and North America in the last couple of days.

Last Tuesday, the United States...or half of Barack Obama as their President in a culmination of nearly 2 years of steadily hysterical campaigning that has left the electorate exhausted after record numbers of them came out to vote, except now they're facing the Fiscal Cliff. Meanwhile in the last 24 hours, PM Noda was basically forced to dissolve the Japanese Parliament by the Opposition led by a supposedly rejuvenated former PM and current LDP leader Shinzo Abe. What will follow is a month of white-gloved and loudspeaker-manned-truck campaigning before the Lower House election on December 16....for which there will most likely be very anemic voter turnout. In another parallel, Obama gets back into the Oval Office, no longer as the Man of Change or Yes We Can, but as a hardened Chief Executive who beat a Republican candidate who just seemed to beat himself up. On the other side of the Pacific, the Democratic Party of Japan led by Yukio Hatoyama seemed to be the hopeful new engine of a Manifesto when they trounced the once-unbeatable Liberal Democratic Party 3 years ago. But as of today, the DPJ's Manifesto is pretty much a verboten word and the governing party has half the support that the LDP currently has.

And the same thing can be said about transit crime. A couple of days ago, there was a kerfuffle in which a TTC driver had been suspended for being a Good Samaritan by abandoning his post and trying to chase down an alleged sexual assaulter who ran from his vehicle (luckily, the driver has been re-instated with full pay). Over in Tokyo, a prominent NHK morning anchor for the weekend, Takeshige Morimoto, has been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a lady on the subway on Wednesday night. Since we have TV Japan, his face was a regular one to see at home. When we turned on NHK tonight to see the morning news (Tokyo is 14 hours ahead of us), he was obviously not there, and there was not a mention of his name. At this point, he is persona non grata....until things get cleared up. Apparently, Morimoto had been drinking at the time, so I guess he was pretty dissolute. Just wondering if his career is gonna be facing dissolution as well.

This is Morimoto in happier days.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pulling the Trigger, Making the Change

Thursday November 15, 1:02 p.m.

Well, treated my parents to lunch at a Chinese buffet place and then later on, my parents brought home a pizza from the Metro supermarket. I paid the price later on....gastrointestinally speaking. But that's not what the title refers to.

Nope, I decided it was time to hand in my resignation to the school. A couple of weeks back, I did my weeklong session subbing for a teacher....nice students and all, but it was far from a home run with them in terms of rapport....basically I felt like it was the Blue Jays 2012 as a teacher. I could actually see myself in Ricky Romero's cleats and just look skywards. "Why me?" I've been doing this for a quarter of a century with some good success but when it came to this school, I might as well have stuck on a piece of paper to my chest which says "WARNING: ROOKIE TEACHER ON BOARD". There was also the fact that my other work in translation was finally starting to clash with the teaching requests. I had to decline 2 or 3 requests in the last fortnight because of translation assignments. And with that last one, I told myself that it was time to make the call.

So, I sent the e-mail about an hour ago....carefully crafted so that it was polite and the powers-that-be that it was time to move on. Translation is not a walk in the park, by any means. But at least I'm getting more well-earned experience, satisfaction and income. Plus, at least I will have some time back to return to pure writing....aside from blogging.

I still have my lone student back in Japan for the Skype teaching, so that's OK. And perhaps in the future, I may be able to help some other student on an individual basis. But on the organizational level, I'm done.

Mitsuko Mori (1920-2012)

Mitsuko Mori
courtesy of Ken Mat
from Flickr
Thursday November 15, 12:28 p.m.

Over the last couple of days via NHK, I heard that veteran actress and show business queen, Mitsuko Mori, passed away on the 10th at the age of 92.

She was in so many stage plays, TV shows and movies. And for those who saw the Hayao Miyazaki classic, "Princess Mononoke", Mori played the role of Hii-sama, the wise woman of Ashitaka's village, in the original Japanese version.

I wasn't particularly a fan of hers but she was ubiquitious on the screen. Until the last few years, various channels seemed to make it an annual custom of showing her in her most famous play, "Horoki" where her character was required to do a gleeful somersault. And that is where I admired her. This is a lady...well into her 80s....who could pull off a move like that, let alone keep up the hard schedule of appearing on the stage daily or nightly. For a society that still reveres age to a certain extent, Mori must have seemed like a divine inspiration to many.

Unfortunately, in the last few years, even she couldn't stave off age indefinitely. That sparkly glint in her eyes disappeared as she entered her 90s, and her speech slowed a fair bit so that she decided to retire a few years ago. But she still retained that youthful lustrousness right up to the end.

This is Mori back in 1978 singing enka karaoke favourite, "Love Letter from Canada" with the David Bowie of Japan, Kenji Sawada.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Alex Finally Pulls the Trigger

Tuesday November 13, 11:31 p.m.

Well, all of Toronto had been impatiently waiting for it for some time after The Blue Jays' annus horribilis, but Alex Anthopolous has made that blockbuster trade that many had been hoping for. I'm sure every social networking platform that has anything to do with baseball or Toronto has been spitting out megabytes for the past few hours. It is a big one in quantity at the very least. I think it's 6 going out to Miami and 6 coming over here. The sports channels and their analysts are just masticating this like a good 20-oz. steak. Apparently, we're getting two pretty darn good starters from the get-go, and Yunel Escobar is one of the fellows heading over to the Marlins.

All I can say is that I hope this will pay off for the Jays next year. Things couldn't have gotten any worse this year.

Bento...How I Miss Thee

Yakiramen Bento
Tuesday November 13, 4:39 p.m.

I knew early on that there would always be a tradeoff when it came to the place I lived. When I lived in Ichikawa, Chiba-ken, I wouldn't be able to see my family or my Toronto friends all that often, I wouldn't be able to appreciate truly homey and comfortable coffee shops, and I wouldn't be able to see a lot of wonderful parks or the squirrels that would be scurrying about in them. Back in Toronto, I don't see my old students/friends anymore, I miss how truly convenient convenience stores are back in Japan, and the vending machines were ubiquitious.

The tradeoff also affects my food choices. When I was living in Japan, I missed Greek food, Tim Hortons and Swiss Chalet. Over here, I miss great tonkatsu, ramen and conveyor belt sushi. However, I really miss those supermarket/convenience store box lunches or bento. Bento was pretty much a daily ritual during the work week for me since I usually worked nights at my school or juku. They were as comfortable as comfort food can get....and about as nutritious. Still, it was great to have one.

That picture above is of an atyical bento. I don't think I had ever come across a yakiramen bento before. Of course, yakisoba bento is a regular thing, but this one I tried was the Hakata Tonkotsu (pork bone broth) Yakiramen....very enterprising person who came up with this idea. A lot of people adore the Tonkotsu Ramen from Fukuoka with its thick flavourful soup so why not bring that to a plastic box?

Hamburg Steak with Demiglasse Sauce
A lunch consisting of Hamburg Steak covered in Demiglasse Sauce is one of the touchstones in the bento genre. Somehow, over the past century, the Japanese were able to adopt the idea of Salisbury Steak (which we over here in Toronto would usually see in a Swanson TV Dinner) and make it into an even better foodie phenomenon. There are whole restaurants which devote themselves to making the stuff on sizzling hot iron plates. Whereas I could eat the yakiramen cold or hot, this bento had to be heated up. This was from a 7-11, by the way, and it follows the usual tropes for a bento. Along with the main course, there is the prerequisite sector of rice with the umeboshi plunked in the middle, while the slathered hamburg steak is on top of a small bed of pasta and one thin leaf of lettuce. I don't quite remember what that is on lower-left...could be some chicken....maybe.

Karaage Bento
The variety of bento is huge. But the bento that I will always gravitate toward is the one that contains the Japanese version of fried chicken...karaage. This one is from my old local supermarket, Y's Mart. As you can see the large nuggets of deep-fried thigh are there at the top right while the rice is at 7 o'clock. Other tropes are the pickled ginger at 11 o'clock and some potato salad at 5 o'clock. I haven't had any fried chicken since I got back here, outside of the odd visit to Kentucky Fried Chicken. But there is just something about karaage....whether it be the pre-marinade of garlic, soy sauce and ginger or the's just one of those things I was just about addicted to. As with all bento, the price and even the caloric intake are printed very clearly on the label. I guess that way, a customer can get two types of guilt at the same time. Pricewise, though, the average bento will range from 398-598 yen depending on the ingredients.

I will always appreciate getting my cheap and tasty Chinese food, Greek food and double-doubles now that I have been back in my hometown for almost a year, but once in a while, I will get that yearning for my karaage bento.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Miyoko Sumida

Monday November 12, 2:39 p.m.

The past several days on NHK News, there has been a long running report on this woman, Miyoko Sumida, who has allegedly been the mastermind behind the extortion and murder of a number of people connected with her extended family over a period of many years. Apparently, she, along with a few of her other family members, imprisoned, tortured, killed and dumped at least a couple of bodies while reaping some financial benefits. And this is a 64-year-old woman who supposedly has some fearsome control over her family. She has apparently confessed to the murders but will not implicate any of her henchmen. Another psychopath to add to the long list in Japan.

I haven't heard anything like this for over a decade. There was the curry-poisoning incident in Wakayama in which Masumi Hayashi was responsible for doping vats of curry with some form of arsenic in 1998. She and her husband were tried and convicted. Heck, she even tried to off him for the insurance money.

To Crosley or not to Crosley?

Monday November 12, 2:22 p.m.

One of those really balmy days....after breaking the record yesterday for Remembrance Day highs (18 degrees C), we're still doing pretty nicely at about 16 today. But true to Toronto form, we'll be plummeting down to -1 degree tonight. Gonna be feeling for those commuters coming home late tonight as their metabolisms get royally screwed.

Now, as for the fractured title above, I've been rather interested in a certain portable record player for some time now. And with Xmas coming back soon, I have been thinking of plunking down some hard-earned cash on it. It's called the Crosley 6002A Revolution, and it's been out for almost a couple of years. I've been to the Crosley website with all of the specs. It's portable, can play the old 33" and 45" discs, and even has a USB hookup for both Windows and Mac. That last feature got my attention quickly since I still have my old dance remixes and Japanese records that I haven't been able to play for well over a decade. Would love to convert them onto digital.

I looked through the Net for some reviews but I had to actually check YouTube to find them; this, of course, was far better since I could see the Revolution in action. So far, I've listened to some fairly positive reviews. It is even more portable than I thought, and even with the caveats from one reviewer that the device should only be used for testing out discs before purchase, the sound is pretty good. Besides, my only intention with the Crosley would be to convert the discs over to my computer where they can find a new home on a Flash drive. At about $150, that's not too much to ask for.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


courtesy of LaVisita Communication
from Flickr
Saturday November 10, 2:41 p.m.

Had that dinner with Sam and Ed last night. But I decided to hitch a ride with Dad a few hours earlier, so he kindly dropped me off at St. Clair Station. However, although that November gloom was out there, since it was not raining, I decided to take that long walk down Yonge St. instead all the way to Dundas. Yonge St. is never boring as one passes through the patrician uptown area and then into the still-slightly grotty downtown between Bloor and Dundas. Took a look inside the new Silver Snail....definitely a lot smaller and much more centered around the comics more than anything else. After that, it was a long browse in the neighbourhing HMV.

Met up with Sam and Ed at about 5 last night. The sun had already gone below the horizon by that point. Ed brought up the idea of catching "Skyfall", the latest James Bond outing. I'd expected that I would watch it sometime in the next week, but heck since he was offering. Beforehand, the three of us grabbed dinner at a burrito joint on Queen West on the way to the Scotiabank Theatre. Good burrito and Dr. Pepper for $10.93....despite the rapid-fire requests from the cooks, I could give my order without stumbling. We also passed by CP24 HQ where I caught intrepid reporter George Lagogianes talking into his cellphone. He always reminds me of FBI agent Booth on "Bones".

"Skyfall" had its premiere here in Toronto yesterday. Considering that Ed got tickets for general non-reserved seating, I thought that it was gonna be a mad rush for seats, but strangely enough, we could get some decent chairs not too far away from the screen. As for the movie itself, it was a solid 3rd outing for Daniel Craig. I think just like his 007, "Skyfall" was great, different, a bit flawed and complete by the end. I'm not gonna give anything away especially since it has just started its first run, but I'm still wondering if it's as good as "Casino Royale". And I think Javier Bardem's Raoul Silva could've made a better henchman than the chief villain. Although I believe that Craig is signed on for a total of five movies, I think this movie seals up a trilogy that one could say showed how the initially very rough-hewn blunt end of the stick became the world's most famous movie spy. Everything's now in place for the next two outings. And if I may say, it's nice to see Ralph Fiennes in the role that he was given. Very different from his time in the "Harry Potter" series...obviously.

Getting home wasn't too bad for a Friday night on the TTC. I'd been expecting a packed subway with a bunch of drunken rowdies and a long wait for the bus. Instead, it was surprisingly very empty on the subway, especially from Bloor northwards, and I got my bus within 5 minutes of getting to the station. Mind you, someone did end up showing us his dinner, mid-chyme state. It was obvious that much alcohol was involved according to the slightly sweet smell of his stuff.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lucasfilm & Disney

courtesy of DarkJediKnight
from Flickr
Thursday November 8, 9:57 p.m.

Tried to think of a witty and punny heading for this entry, but couldn't, so I settled for just the direct if boring title.

Yup, I heard about what happened. Mickey Mouse bought out that whole galaxy far far away with its droids, Jedi and Sith. In all likelihood, the gang on "The Big Bang Theory"is probably having a very heated discussion over their Chinese takeout. And geeks are either dancing in their basements with their plastic lightsabers or they're walking the streets in horrified Munch-like zombie states.
Like Harrison Ford right now, I'm cautiously optimistic about the possibilities of a new "Star Wars"trilogy starting from 2015, although I am wondering if that funny postcard above is more truth than fantasy (you can see a much better image at Flickr...just type in "Disney Lucasfilm". For one thing, George Lucas will no longer get anywhere near the set lest he wants to face the wrath of Donald Duck. For another, after suffering through the prequel trilogy last decade, it couldn't get any worse. I just remember coming out of the Shinjuku theatre after catching the first midnight showing of "The Phantom Menace"in July 1999, and anxiously checking with my comrades, "That was good, right? I could enjoy it....yes....really...really?" I took the weekend off for a round of deep rationalization, only to be assaulted by "Attack of the Clones"when I finally admitted that the franchise was in big trouble.
Not sure what a future trilogy will be like. Will it follow the Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn or will it go into a completely new direction? No idea....but all I hope for is a good story and script. No more Ewoks, no more Jar Jar Binks, and no more "Yippee"-yelling future Dark Lords. Perhaps if the Mouse House can actually salvage "Star Wars", maybe they can start on "The Old Republic"or even re-boot the ridiculous prequels.

In any case, May The Force Be With All of Us.

Translation Done & Skyfall

Thursday November 8, 12:11 p.m.

Well, completed an all-day translation stint assigned by the boss yesterday. Was glad to get that done. Trados is still a bit of a monster to contend with at times. I haven't heard anything from him since I handed it in late last night, but he told me that there may be some pretty big projects coming in soon. But in the meantime, I will enjoy my possibly brief respite.

I've been hearing some good buzz about the latest 007 movie, "Skyfall". It's coming out on Friday; considering whether to catch it in the morning since I'll be seeing Sam and Ed for dinner later that day. Plus, I get to stick it to ol' MB back in Japan since he's the biggest James Bond fan that side of the Pacific.

All seems to be quiet on the White House front after Obama's supposed stunning victory back on Tuesday. However, he's gonna have to contend with this Fiscal Cliff and even more immediately, the disaster in New York and New Jersey. The poor people there had gotten walloped by Sandy last week, and now they've been assaulted again by a nor'easter. And speaking about assaulted, what is up with Donald Trump? I used to respect the guy for his candor and his resilience in terms of his ability to come back from financial adversity, but now he just seems to be ranting like dictators on the verge of getting their comeuppance.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Obama Wins, I Guess

Tuesday November 6, 11:33 p.m.

Well, Barack Obama just got re-elected. I think a lot of people were expecting a bit more of a titanic struggle between him and Mitt Romney. In fact, the more pitched battle seems to be taking place amongst the talking heads at CNN right now about what Obama should do during his 2nd term. Still, CNN and the other networks did their best to keep things thrilling. At first, it seemed like the Republican challenger was making some inroads early on but then near the end, Wolf was talking himself hoarse by announcing all those projections for Obama. It was the equivalent of an ace fisherman teasing a battling muskie before definitively landing the monster with a huge wallop.

The most important thing is that the election is now over, and we can get back to some sort of least for another couple of years. Let's see what the man actually does now.

November is indeed here

Tuesday November 6, 12:18 p.m.

Well, last year Winter had decided not to show up. I guess as a form of meteorological apology, Winter this year has shown up at the door a whole lot earlier. Last Friday, as I was teaching my last lesson for my latest stint at the school, one of my students told me that the flakes were indeed coming down. And such was the case yesterday.

No classes to sub for this week, but I decided to spend the morning downtown. Got to Yonge & Bloor at about 7:30 where the skies were gloomy and some flakes were wafting down. Commuters were tightly bound up as they carried their Timmys and Starbucks. Yup, Winter may have indeed arrived.

Since the Metro Reference Library just a block north of Yonge & Bloor didn't open til 9:30 a.m., I decided to spend a couple of hours at the Starbucks just between those two points. It was still plenty empty when I got my Latte. I've always liked how some of the branches here in Toronto style their interiors as something a bit more old-style. Makes them even more appealing during the Xmas season; perhaps they may even negate the sticker shock of the high prices. The Tokyo branches of Starbucks don't really follow that rule although they had been very generous to allow me to teach my private students there over the years.

Spent my three hours at the library. Raymond Moriyama really did a good job with the place. Even after 30 years, the place still has a lot of attitude and atmosphere, although the 5th floor is still undergoing renovations. And I know that if I don't wanna work at home, I can take my translation stuff down there since there is free Wi-Fi. If I get there at opening time, finding an office, so to speak, will not be a problem. Ended up reading a book on TV theme songs.

Was feeling a mite peckish by the time noon came around, so I left the library and started searching for a lunch place. But of course, everyone else was as well, so my trips to the food courts near Yonge and Bay stations were pretty futile. However, I did find one place that didn't seem to get much traffic. It was on the outskirts of the Bay food court and had all the ambiance of a bowling alley concession stand. I ordered the burger and fries. The volume was there and the people manning the place were nice and friendly, but I think that show on The Food Network, "Restaurant: Impossible" might want to take a look. No huge problems with the burger (although the cheese inside seemed a little too alien), but the fries were obviously from a frozen food section and perhaps beyond their best-by date. Mind you, a couple of customers who came after me sounded like regulars, so who am I to judge?

Election Day

Tuesday November 6, 12:07 p.m.

Yep, political junkies....your mega fix is here! After a 2-year gestation period, the American political process is about to give birth to a new President or a new old one. So far, the lineups have been snaking around the block in a lot of neighbourhoods across the United States, especially if their states don't allow early voting.

CNN has been reporting that the turnout may even eclipse that of the 2008 election. But then again, the Obama-McCain race wasn't nearly as tight as this one. This is looking like the electoral equivalent of the Death Star battle in the very first "Star Wars". And whoever wins will have to face another polarized electorate....and perhaps even a repeat of the 2000 kerfuffle between Gore and Bush Jr. So, whoever wins least initially.

Should be fun to watch tonight, though. In the land that begat Hollywood, it seems to make a sort of sense that Election Day in America takes on the eye-blinding glow of an international pop cultural mega-event. I'm sure if things get really tight, the CNN folks like Wolf, Anderson and Candy will be popping nicotine and caffeine.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Dark Knight Revisited

courtesy of andieirfan
from Flickr
Saturday November 3, 1:48 p.m.

As I said last entry, my class and I had watched "The Dark Knight" on DVD. It still holds up well and is easily the best of the trilogy by Chris Nolan. It really did elevate itself beyond the typical comic book movie and into a crime movie. Comparisons with this one against Tim Burton's "Batman"(1989) were going to be inevitable. I guess both movies reflected the socioeconomic realities of their times. When Burton made his Dark Knight, there was still enough of the decadence of that decade that filtered into his vision of a grotesquely romanticized view of life in Gotham City with fedoras and fantastically grotty structures...kinda like smashing together Art Deco society and contemporary urban life distorted through a funhouse mirror. Jack Nicholson's take on The Joker was grand farce and Grand Guignol....a lot of laughter and he made sure that if someone died, he died noticeably....burnt into bacon or with a forced smile on his face. All that almost subsumed Michael Keaton's dour Batman....heck, even the stylized Batmobile threatened to do that. And then there was the Danny Elfman soundtrack which had the over-the-top mix of Transylvanian horror and 1940s thriller radio serial feel to it. It was the first soundtrack album that I absolutely felt compelled to buy since "Star Wars".

Then, almost 2 decades later, there was "The Dark Knight"under Christopher Nolan. It was much more down-to-earth. Gotham City could've been New York City it truly was....Chicago. People watching could relate to the sparkling skyscrapers, the grungy ghettoes and the organized crime....and even the citizens, although one of them had a penchant for wearing a rubber-and-armour batsuit and bashing criminals. Heath Ledger's Joker seemed not to have had any of the resources that the 1989 Joker had. Just knives and lint...and the odd tommy gun which he used for spree killing, a type of murder that even plagued Japan one year. Just like the city he violated, this Joker was relatable....a psychopathic terrorist leader with a Ph.D. in strategy and salesmanship. But what made him truly scary was that there was no origin story for him unlike his predecessor. No name, no accident, and he shifted his past 2 or 3 times in the course of the movie. He didn't want money or political change....he just did all that he did because he simply was The Agent of Chaos. However, as much as Ledger almost stole the show (and got that Oscar posthumously), Christian Bale could hold his own and had his own personal and professional matters to chew on. The technology that his Bruce Wayne had at his disposal was at least theoretically plausible. I could see more people asking where to get a Tumbler than the 1989 Batmobile. Whereas Keaton and Nicholson butted heads as Good and Evil from within the pages of a graphic novel, Ledger and Bale were two disturbed fellows battling each other for Chaos and Order. Overall, "The Dark Knight"adopted a much more stripped-down approach. Even Hans Zimmer's score was minimalist but effective. His theme for Batman centered on two ominous notes with added nuances depending on the mood. That's quite something for Zimmer when I remember that he was the guy behind the "Backdraft"soundtrack.

I like both of these movies done in the styles of their decades. And I'm pretty sure that there will be another series of Batman movies in the near future. I will be interested in seeing how the next auteur will approach this one. Will it be more of the down-to-earth or will it return to a more escapist and gothic feeling? Or will it head in the direction of Adam West?

Peking Duck

Saturday November 3, 1:17 p.m.

It's been nice to finally kinda unwind after a week of solid teaching....or something resembling it. I showed "The Dark Knight" as the final "activity"for the morning class. It was something that most of us agreed to, and the ones who didn't were the ones who didn't show up. One of the kids brought over a box of Timbits for everyone which was really nice. However, I just wondered, though, if it would've been better if I had just taken everyone to a Tim Hortons or a reasonable restaurant for brunch or coffee instead...the gang would've, of course, had more opportunity to speak in their final class. But there have been a lot of doubts percolating through my mind over the past few months about this gig.

Barrie, which is a small city 1 hour north of Toronto, got the meteorological icing sugar yesterday morning, and even The Big Smoke witnessed some wet snow coming down. One of my students from the afternoon class excitedly told me as I made my way out of the school. Pretty early these days for even a flurry, so I'm wondering how this Winter is gonna be. It certainly did feel quite wintry out there. After my week's work, I treated myself to lunch at Yueh Tung on Elizabeth St. Of course, I had my default Manchurian Chicken on Rice. Since I got there about 12:30, the place was at full steam in terms of both customers and harried staff. It was my fourth time there, but amazingly enough, the main guy seemed to recognize me and get me a nice table by the exit.

 Now, back on Halloween night, my family had our long awaited reunion with my Vancouver cousins. My sister-in-law was kind enough to arrange dinner at the Asian Legend in Scarberia. Thanks to her father's connections, we were able to get our own room, and the Peking Duck dinner. Yup, darn scrumptious that skin and pancake first course. I hadn't seen my cousin for over a decade since my brother got married, and as for her husband, I hadn't seen him in close to 30 years. Happily, they haven't changed all that much.

Of course, the 2nd course was that delectable duck fat-cooked dish of duck meat and vegetables wrapped in leaves of lettuce. Strangely enough though, in Japan, where Peking Duck is seen as the King of Chinese Cuisine, a lot of places only provide that first course of skin and wrap...none of the 2nd course and the duck soup at the end. I'd always thought about what the cooks did with the rest of the duck. Did they eat it or did any of the stray cats in Yokohama Chinatown look a lot bigger the next day? I figure if any of my old students ever venture to Toronto, I will arrange a true Peking Duck adventure for them.

Having said that, we didn't get the duck soup. But then again, a lot of dumplings and dessert at the end more than compensated. But when our cousins came over to the house, my mother served apple pie and coffee. Even I would've declined it, but since it was crumble-top....

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Been a Week

Thursday November 1, 8:44 a.m.

Man, I've been feeling downright domestic this week with me subbing for that teacher. It's been everyday up at the crack of dawn to head on down to the school and teach three full lessons before heading back. And all throughout, there has been that meteorological arc of the remnants of Hurricane Sandy....gloom and rain. I've met some truly nice folk and some pretty fickle ones as well. And the week's work, which will be finishing tomorrow morning, has gotten me to make a fairly big decision. To be honest, I decided to finish things this afternoon. With the afternoon classes coming to a close today, I decided to treat my entire final class to drinks at Starbucks....they've suffered enough. And tomorrow, with the final morning class, I'll be showing "The Dark Knight" as a treat.

It was a major miracle that I could get through the day today since I was out last night with my Vancouver cousins and my family for a scrumptious Chinese dinner out in Scarberia. They came over to our place after dinner for coffee and cake which meant that I didn't even get to start planning for today's lessons until close to midnight. And my ISP was breaking down, so I had to get a lot of the stuff done at the school in the hour before this morning's first lesson. Plus, the copier on my floor was out of order for 2 days which meant a lot of going up and down stairs to get the needed copies done. Twenty years ago, I would've jumped out the window.

But I feel practically giddy now that I've passed the gauntlet. Even if one of the staffers comes up to me tomorrow and asks if I would like to work next week, I'll politely decline. The way teachers bring the supply guys up to speed varies wildly. This week's guy basically threw me out on a fairly shaky limb.