Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hopefully, a quantum of solace today....

Thursday February 28, 10:42 a.m.

No real allusions to the relatively worst of the current Daniel Craig Bond movies....just would like to have a brief respite from the translation work. However, I still have to think about what to do with my Skype student on Saturday night since basically it is assumed that the new textbook will not reach him in time for the next lesson. I have some ideas...just hope that they haven't already been utilized sometime over the past 2 years.

Yesterday, Toronto did get another walloping of snow. However, although it didn't quite live up to the sturm und drang of a couple of weeks ago, the fact that it was heavy wet snow made things a nightmare for commuters, and even for me. I only had to walk across the street to the nearest convenience store for a paper but I distinctly had to make several chess knight-like moves to avoid the worst of the glacial quicksand. Speaking with The Anime King last night, he told me that he literally had had to move through and around slushy lakes to and from work. It also became a prime part of the newscast last night as well.

Well, the world loses a Pope today due to retirement and not death for the first time in 600 years. Of course, there is all the pomp and circumstance that the media outlets can provide. It looks like the next half-month can be depended on for non-stop coverage of the crowning of a new Pontiff. Perhaps CNN should change its full name to the "Catholic News Network" for the interim. Hey, maybe if Cardinal Oullet does become the first Canadian Pope, he could be called Pope Mackenzie A(rimshot!)

Speaking about losing, the Leafs dropped one to the Canadiens last night. I took a brief look when the game was still tied at 2-2, but then apparently the bottom fell out at the ACC. I hope Randy Carlyle gave a good verbal whopping to the troops. I also hope that this isn't the beginning of another mid-season collapse that's become all too much of a custom in Toronto. It looks like it was generally a bad day for local team sports. The Blue Jays got eviscerated in Dunedin and I think the Raptors lost as well.

Getting back to Bond, that limp 007 tribute at the Oscars on Sunday apparently got someone to make a superior brand of tribute on YouTube. Dark thought it good enough to show on their website. I don't think it's quite the grand slam homer but it's a definite improvement and at least it has actual quotes. For me, it would've been even better if instead of just the theme from "Skyfall", the other classic original themes from entries like "Goldfinger", "Live and Let Die" and "From Russia With Love" could've also been inserted.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bye Seth, Hello Storm

Tuesday February 26, 11:12 a.m.

Well, in a not-too-surprising PS to last night's entry about Seth MacFarlane and the Oscars, Hollywood's current bullseye just tweeted that he would definitely not come back as the host next year. So I guess Amy and Tina are up! But the producers may have to do battle with the Golden Globes guys to get them. Perhaps the producers can throw in a couple of names to be added later: Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy...please.

Supposedly, we got another major storm on the way which could veer from a lot of rain to a lot of snow. Whatever the precip, there's a lot of it coming. It's looking pretty nice out there right now, though.

Got the latest translation off to the company, but I've got one more to finish for Cozy today. Not too difficult.

The Leafs have won another one against the Flyers. It's been a good time to be a Torontonian when it comes to sports. The Blue Jays are not doing too shabbily in Dunedin, the Leafs have been doing far better than last year's sad sacks and the Raptors aren't too bad either (although they lost at home to the NBA's worst road team last night, the Washington Wizards...a bit embarrassing, that). I guess a lot of Toronto sports fans almost feel like a guy who's just come out of rehab a new man.

Unfortunately, I've just heard that 4 Japanese nationals have been killed in Egypt due to a hot air balloon exploding and falling near Luxor. From the names, the four sound like older people; very sad.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Nice College Try, Seth

Monday February 25, 11:22 p.m.

Well, I saw my 2nd Oscars in as many years last night. And well, Seth MacFarlane....I'll cut to the chase here. He wasn't great, but he wasn't the worst host either. And he was better than Billy Crystal was last year. I think we had been all forewarned about MacFarlane's frat boy humour, and he definitely proved it with the now-and-forever infamous "Saw Your Boobs" song-and-dance. To be honest, I had no particular problems with the least, the jokes that didn't land with a thud. But there was a bit of a desperation with Seth as the night wore on, especially when the show went beyond its mandated 3 hours. Apparently, the ratings were quite a ways up when all was said and done, so there is a pretty fair chance that he may be asked back, and while I was watching it, I was actually tensing up whenever he showed up just to see and hear what other terrifying thing might emanate from his mouth. But then again, I wouldn't be surprised if the producers decided to keep on searching. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey hit a grand slam apparently at The Golden Globes, something that Seth pointedly did not do.

Still, it was nice to see Shatner ham it up, MacFarlane bring back some of that ol' time big band glitz that he loves so much, and even some of the stars get into the act like Charlize Theron and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Christopher Plummer was class personified, and Barbra/Shirley/Adele brought the house down, especially Dame Bassey with "Goldfinger". She's older than my Dad but she just slammed that song out of the park. It's too bad that the so-called Oscar tribute to James Bond was just quick cuts of the movies and a couple of songs by the orchestra. But Sir Sean is too frail and Pierce is probably too embittered. The Les Miserables cast performance was fine until Russell Crowe burst in when it truly became the miserable. And I was getting desperate when I was witnessing Paul Rudd and that lady from "Identity Thief" bombing as they were trying to present an award. But I guess that's what audiences also wanted to see.....who will soar and who will die.

I think the Oscars reflects not only what the fashion is like for the year but basically what pop culture is like. In our current time of reality show programming and lowbrow humour, getting a lot of nasty jokes and "WOW! He actually said THAT?!" moments on the biggest show of the Hollywood year is part and parcel. It's probably what we deserve although I have never and never will watch a (sur)reality show. But when I see a terrified Ben Affleck throw an irritated verbal missile at Seth (who is probably the first host in a while since David Letterman to have already had a built-in list of celeb haters, thanks to "Family Guy" ) and Salma Hayek come out to present with a plastic smile after Seth had made a pretty insulting introduction about her linguistic abilities, I kinda wonder if it's time for the next host to not only bring back old time music but to bring back some form of old time class to the proceedings.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

ESL Shop and The Clubhouse

Saturday February 23, 3:13 p.m.

One of those damp and dreary February days although the temperature wasn't too bad hovering at the zero point.

Had to pick up a new textbook for Mr. Moriya which I did by going over to The ESL Shop south of Dundas West Station. I found out about this place purely by searching on the Net when I was trying to track down the text, so I placed the order and decided to head on down. It's a bit of a pity that I'm pretty much retired from teaching now since Moriya is now my lone student; the store looks pretty well stocked, although I couldn't get 2 copies of the text. And the proprietor of the shop, Mr. King, is a very amiable sort and was willing to give me a nice discount even though the text was a new purchase, and the quoted price was still quite a ways below what other sites were selling it for new....apparently, it's no longer being published so I'm gonna have to search elsewhere for my copy on Amazon. But there are plenty of used copies there when I checked.

I made some photocopies and bought a large enough envelope next door at the stationery shop so that at least I will be covered until I get that used copy. I may be paying through the nose in terms of postage since I want to get it over there by next Friday at the latest, in which case it'll be going ExpressPost....not that cheap at all but it'll get to Japan quickly.

I decided to have my meal at the lunch shop in between the stationery store and The ESL Shop. Aside from one old fellow, I was the only customer inside the place. I ordered a Clubhouse Sandwich with coffee. The old fellow came in, had his soup and stuff, and then left...while I was waiting for my sandwich. I was pretty patient, though, since the owner gave me a free copy of "The Toronto Sun" to peruse with my coffee (very good...very double-double...and that is NOT an oxymoron to me).

Then, I realized when the guy finally brought the plate over. Man, that was one massive Clubhouse Sandwich. He made it totally from scratch which included toasting and buttering the bread, and perhaps even frying up the bacon. I was so accustomed to getting the pre-made wrapped stuff from Starbucks or any other similar place that I didn't expect someone to actually make a sandwich for me. And I had completely forgotten the architecture that goes into a Clubhouse. This was one tasty meal....something that Japan still hasn't quite discovered yet. Hamburgers have been a boom there for the last several years but their sandwiches are still kinda emaciated overall. And heck, they even sell strawberry-and-cream sandwiches in the convenience stores...I like my desserts, but not between two slices of white bread.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Memories of Genkatsu

A lunch at Genkatsu
Thursday February 21, 10:12 p.m.

Sunday's tonkatsu dinner at Tako Sushi in North York brought back some memories of being a foodie in Tokyo. And one of my great memories is of a tonkatsu restaurant in Ginza called Genkatsu.(ゲンカツ

There is a show on The Food Network here in Canada called "You Gotta Here". Well, if the host, John Catucci, were ever to make it out to The Big Sushi for a special show, I would heartily recommend him to go there. Mind you, I'm not sure if the chefs would be too welcoming, though. Some of these guys in Japan can be a bit secretive about their techniques. But then again, Genkatsu is not secret at all about one technique: how they slice up the pork.

Genkatsu's claim to fame is that they take this luscious pork and slice the slab that would become a lunch or dinner entree into 25 thin slices, and then do all the egging and breading and deep-frying as if it were still one huge chunk. What gets served then has an interesting mouth feel with the juices coming out into your mouth as you break through the crispy panko coating into the layered meat.

Salty dipping sauce
Being located just a few metres away from the main Ginza intersection, it's not inexpensive like going to McDonalds or the student bento places, but it's worth every yen; I think the lunch is still going for about 1,200 yen....not bad at all for a good filling lunch in one of the most expensive neighbourhoods on the planet. The lunch comes with the usual salad and bottomless rice and tea...and of course, the shredded cabbage. Any decent tonkatsu restaurant mates that deep-fried cutlet with endless cabbage. No ifs, ands or buts on that. And besides, fiber is good. The other wonderful thing about Genkatsu is that you don't only need to have the Bulldog or Worcestershire sauce to dip the meat into. I received a bowl of salty dipping sauce....kinda like a really intense bowl of consomme for lunch, but dinner can also have a tiny tray filled with different types of salt in lieu of sauce.

And the dinners have one great entree option for neophytes. You can opt for the Assorted Platter in which you can get a plate of different types of tonkatsu with the layers stuffed with cheese or garlic or shiso. Did I mention you can get bottomless bowls of rice?

Tonkatsu restaurants are plentiful all over Tokyo, but Genkatsu and its sister restaurant, Kimukatsu, are definitely two of a kind.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Family Day, Foodie Weekend

Wednesday February 20, 12:23 p.m.

Been a while. Being away all those years, I still need to be reminded that, yes, there is an actual long weekend in February least for 3 provinces in this country. And I think having the Family Day Weekend is a necessity during a time of year when Xmas is long past us and Winter has outgrown its welcome.

Certainly, this past Saturday gave us a good reminder why Ol' Man Winter needs to get going. Although, the weather on that day was not quite the big storm from a couple of weeks ago, the snow and winds made for some treacherous driving on the highways...which is why I felt a little badly that my old friends, CG and The Entrepreneur with respective families in tow, came to my neck of the woods for a brief dinner at a place called Congee Star in the Don Mills and Eglinton area. When we had made the plans to meet up, there wasn't too much of a sign of the nutso weather, but still, it was very good of them to trudge on up all the way from the West End of town. It was brief....about a couple of hours since the kids were still very young, but it was good to chat for a while over har gow and brisket. I'll definitely head over to Mississauga next time since the two of them have raved about this restaurant called Spoon and Fork.

Sunday was the official Family Day for my clan. We decided on doing The Keg up on Leslie. I made reservations which was the smartest thing to do since when we got there at 6 pm, there was a ton of folks waiting to get a table....and the parking was something reminiscent of Yorkdale Plaza on Xmas Eve. I don't think I've had a Keg steak in a few years....went for the Baseball Top Sirloin. I wasn't disappointed; my steak looked like a slab of beef with a thyroid condition. Definitely not the definition of a Kobe steak. It was thick, juicy and was seasoned quite well. Just the right amount of salt and pepper...which probably means that it was still too much. Thick steak isn't exactly popular with a number of Japanese....they like their beef thin and melt-in-your-mouth, kinda like sukiyaki. I've told my old students in the past that here in the Americas, chewing a bite for several seconds before swallowing is part of the pleasure of enjoying a good steak. I don't think I saw that many shrugs in one room before.

Then on the holiday Monday was the biweekly meeting with The Anime King. We just can't seem to catch a break with The Olde York Fish N' Chips place on Laird. It was closed for Family Day and it's closed regularly on Sundays. So instead it was off to one of our regular Dim Sum places up in Scarberia. Not surprisingly, it was pretty brisk business there. Afterwards, it was the usual mix of Second Cup, Timmies and a few hours of anime before dinner at Tako Sushi nearby. It was my second time there, and I guess because of the Family Day weekend, there was a lineup there to rival that of what I'd witnessed at The Keg. The King didn't make any reservations but it was just a 10-minute wait.

Couldn't get a place at any of the teppanyaki tables like last time, so the two of us settled for a regular booth and the entrees. The King went for his steak dinner while I opted for tonkatsu. Tako Sushi tonkatsu is frankly more thin wiener schnitzel than Japanese deep-fried pork cutlet....which may be why I got three flat wide slabs of the pork. Tonkatsu in Japan is pretty thick stuff with plenty of shredded cabbage; one slab for lunch is enough to keep you sated until dinner. But I'm not gonna get snobby about it since I enjoyed the dinner just the same.

The King and I had a talk about possibly getting as many of the Court together for a bigger dinner, perhaps as soon as early March. But again, a couple of our number are established family men so I have my doubts whether the entire group can get together but it'll still be nice to have a group outing that doesn't involve a Ribfest. Perhaps The Baton Rouge may be the venue.

Back in the regular work week. I actually got an assignment done for translation yesterday. And I sent the invoice to Cozy for the first of the annual financial statements. Was a bit disappointed that I didn't get too many more during the two weeks that I kept open for him, so I'm potentially gonna have to deal with both Cozy's requests and those of the translation company.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Triumph Comes Home

Friday February 15, 10:24 a.m.

The above is a promotional video of the now-notorious cruise ship Triumph that was taped in 2011. Lots of panoramic shots of what to look forward to when passengers plunk down the big money for an opportunity to sail the Caribbean in relative luxury.

Of course, that final voyage was anything but for those passengers.

The comments by the unbelievably exhausted, frustrated and disgusted customers are definitely not something the management wanted to hear: "I'm just so glad to be off the ship". As someone who was on his first cruise aboard The Oasis of the Seas via Royal Caribbean last year, I can't even imagine the hell these poor folks went through. They paid for something high-class; instead they got an experience in what abject poverty is like in a number of developing countries. Sewage in the corridors and on the walls? I couldn't even imagine what my family would have done if something similar had befallen The Oasis.

Nothing compared to the Triumph, but I had a small similar taste of what those passengers had been force-fed several years ago. I was on a Northwest Airlines trip coming from Tokyo to Detroit to Toronto when the toilets stopped working over the Pacific for about 6 hours. And this happened just after we got our lunch service. Toilets were almost overflowing and looked pretty bad. Just before getting the good news, I had been looking at my paper cup with some desperation.


Friday February 15, 10:05 a.m.

Woke up a couple of hours ago to see this being featured on NHK News:

Yep, some meteor decided to drop in unannounced over the Urals. It pretty much took over the media airwaves all over the planet....even CNN which had been blanketing the most-covered cruise ship arrival in history. I think the only thing that was missing from the coverage was some John Williams music and a dark screen with the credits: "A movie by J.J. Abrams". Heck, one video of the approaching meteor even had the typical Abrams lens flare.

Apparently, this kitchen table-sized meteor slammed into the atmosphere at a breezy 33,000 mph and left a 6-metre-wide hole along with countless shattered windows and 1,000 injured of which 1% are in bad shape.

It's interesting that this piece of space rock comes roaring down several hours before a very close asteroid fly-by at about 1430 hours EST today. Things that make one go Hmmmmm! I wonder if we may actually get our very first blockbuster of the year.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Japanese Foodie Tuesday

Nope, it may not be the Priestly but I'm more than
happy with my Maple Donut and Double-Double.
Thursday February 14, 3:00 p.m.

Yes, it is indeed Valentine's Day. As usual, I'm on the outside looking in as those couples woo or re-woo each other with chocolates, roses and other paraphernalia (batteries not included).

In any case, I'm not talking about today. I'm more talking about Tuesday the 12th, otherwise known as the day I went for a nearly all-day session of noshing on Japanese outside of my home. The parentals were off in Niagara Falls for an overnighter, so I could go off guilt-free into the big city with a couple of old friends. The Egg, The Banker and I met in front of Santouka, the ramen place east of Yonge and Dundas. It was my 2nd trip to the place in as many weeks. The Banker is a big ramen fan, so he and I got together last year to try out Kenzo, but since then we hadn't met up for a bowl of Japanese noodles until a couple of days ago. We hope to shorten the time between ramen outings considerably. In any case, I partook in a bowl of their lovely toroniku ramen with the slices of tender-as-butter pork jowl cha-siu. Man, those slices really did melt in my mouth! Over in Japan, pig farmers pride themselves on making their future bacon taste so good that even the fat is delicious. I'm pretty much guaranteed that I will inherit those jowls into my own face if I keep on ordering that into the near future.

Afterwards, we walked west on Dundas past a couple of ramen joints: Sansotei and Kenzo. Ramen restaurants are continuing to spread like viruses all over the GTA, and I figure that there will be the eventual war of attrition among them. Kenzo was good and certainly above the average lunch of Sapporo Ichiban instant noodles but I think places like Santouka and Kinton have gone far ahead and have the lineups to show for it. And now, The Egg has told me that there is yet another similar joint in the neighbourhood there called Raijin. I'm OK with Ajisen although I don't consider the stuff there to be authentic Japanese ramen; it has its own brand of noodles which I'm fine with, and I did like their karaage teishoku back in December.

The three of us stopped off at a Timmies on University and Dundas for a couple of hours of chat. It'd been a very long time since all three of us got together, so a lot of stuff to catch up on. Knowing that I would later be having stuff at an izakaya, I figured I needed something purely Canadian in my gut.

The Banker had to take off for home, but The Egg and I decided to walk around a bit more. We dropped off at the World's Biggest Bookstore so that I could search for a new textbook for my Skype student but couldn't find it (I would later purchase it at The ESL Shop online). Had a brief look-see into the new and condensed Silver Snail before heading uptown to crash at The Egg's place for a few hours. Ended up watching a couple of repeat episodes from "Yamato 2199"; I think I'm gonna have to get my friend and The Anime King together once more since they've been on their own tracks of watching the genre.

Kingyo in Cabbagetown
At about 5:30, the two of us took off on the Yonge Line once more to head over to Kingyo in Cabbagetown. The Egg's wife was to have joined us but unfortunately she was under the weather so she had to pull out at the last minute. Aside from riding through the neighbourhood on my way to the Christmas Market in The Distillery back in December, I hadn't walked through Cabbagetown in many, many years. I lived right beside it in my childhood and used to regularly go to a clinic there but since we moved away back in the mid-70s, that was it for me. There have been quite a few changes in terms of a Starbucks and a number of modern commercial additions to the area, but my old area still seemed to have that old-fashioned, slightly seedy quality.

A pachinko machine on the wall.
The ramen boom may have been and still be the big culinary thing in Toronto, but izakayas have also been enjoying popularity in The Big Smoke as of late. I'd only been to DonDon with Sam last year but that was just for lunch. Kingyo was the big time. Unlike most izakayas in Japan, reservations and lineups are common in the Toronto variety. Fortunately, The Egg got that reservation although when we arrived, the place was still pretty empty at that time. Kingyo, which means "goldfish", had that mix of Japanese cuisine and service with Western size and urban upscale ambiance. Still, there were some tips of the hat to Japanese pop culture in terms of a pachinko machine on one side, a number of katana on another (probably created by the wondrous and fictional Hanzo Hattori), and reruns of an old Ultra Seven series on the big-screen TV. However, the cheesiness factor didn't quite register. Although most izakayas I had gone to in Japan were very much of the cheaper neighbourhood pub mode which stressed imbibing of mass quantities over noshing of decent fare, there was one place in Tokyo which resembled Kingyo (and the other Toronto izakaya, I assume) in terms of price, fare and atmosphere, and that was En, a classy upper-scale restaurant on the 11th floor of the Bic Camera building in Shibuya.

Ebi-Mayo (basically shrimp tempura in a spicy
mayonnaise sauce)
Neither the Egg and I are big drinkers by any means, so we were more than happy with the homemade Ginger Ale. And yep, it was good sipping. The ginger tasted very fresh without overpowering my taste buds. We rather went nuts on the menu, although things were tempered by the fact that we were missing our third member. One of our first orders was Ebi-Mayo, a standard dish at any izakaya or ramen restaurant. The original variety is served very plainly....just shrimp tempura with dollops of the sinful Kewpie mayonnaise on the plate. Over at Kingyo, it's a bit more dolled up....there's a bit of a fiery spicy component installed into the mayo. And the combination of textures was great. The crispiness of the batter with the succulence of the shrimp dunked into the creamy mayo. Lovely, lovely.

Karaage with Special Salt and Lemon
Another must-order at any decent izakaya is the plate of karaage....Japanese-style fried chicken. It's absolutely ubiquitous everywhere in Japanese supermarkets, convenience stores, ramen joints, izakaya, etc. There's something about marinated chicken deep-fried in batter that just gets everyone there slavering away, including me. And yep, the plate we ordered of Kingyo-upgraded karaage was another plus. Six huge chunks of flavoured thigh meat in crispy and crunchy batter with some dipping salt and a lemon wedge. Flavour bombs, indeed.

Maguro Carpaccio
Of course, it wasn't all upgrades of old izakaya favourites. There were some fancy dishes that usually wouldn't appear on a regular izakaya menu. We also had a couple of plates of maguro and salmon carpaccio. We didn't order salad so it was good to have some vegetation as fiber. And the sashimi underneath soaked a bit of that vinaigrette but still retained that firm but yielding texture.

One thing about the was ultra-friendly. I knew that The Eggs had been to Kingyo a couple of times previously so I had assumed that our main waitress for the evening and The Egg were quite familiar with each other, until he told me that it was the first time he had met her. He also told me that the owner was quite strict on how good the service had to be. But service in Japanese restaurants focuses far more on polite and very competent professional distance (think of a butler handling guests at a mansion); the service at Kingyo was more on the level of being a girl's new beau entering the house of the girl's eager-beaver welcoming family. It almost...but thankfully didn't...hit the overbearing level, but that's just me. Other people are far more people-loving than I am.

Matcha Brulee
And what better way to finish off a large meal than some potentially artery-hardening dessert? Mind you, I don't think my Matcha Brulee would compare to a huge slab of Black Forest Cake in the calories department, but it was a nice treat. And there was that characteristic crackling of the caramelized surface with the spoon.

It was a nice 2 hours there. A good meal at Kingyo will not be cheap but I had fully expected that I would be paying a bit more than usual. And it was a worthy repast at $65 with tax and tip. The frequency of visits there will depend on one's income tax bracket. For me, I think semi-annual trips there are quite good for me. But yep, I had a fine time there. Will need to try their Kobe steak next time, provided that my translation work becomes more lucrative.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hair Gone...and so is the Pope

Monday February 11, 9:34 p.m.

After letting my hair go into a shag for over 3 months, I finally made the trip down to Spadina and to that barber shop, Monsieur, to get my hair cut into something more reasonable. It was my second trip down there and things worked out very well. I'm starting to get really tempted to try some of their other services such as a massage or even a shave.

The weather is quite a bit warmer when compared to Friday when the huge storm barreled in. So it was relatively pleasant at 1 degree, but boy the curbs were flooded. I was looking at lakes while trying to cross the streets. My shoes and socks were partial casualties.

Before I left for downtown, I had been watching the news concerning Pope Benedict XVI's retirement announcement. Supposedly, there hasn't been a papal resignation in almost 600 years, so the former and soon-to-be once again Cardinal Ratzinger pulled off a bold move and managed to upstage any news about the weather craziness in the States and that rogue ex-cop in California. Of course, the news media here have been playing up the possibility of having the first Canadian Pope but I think the chances are better for the Catholic World's first African Pope.

Managed to crunch through another translation assignment worth a few hours work. I told the boss that I wouldn't be available for the next couple of days. There has been some give and take among myself, CG and The Entrepreneur about getting together on Saturday for an early dinner. Most of the snags in the schedule have to do with the kids. But I think things will get settled down easily.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The 12th Doctor?

Sunday February 10, 3:09 p.m.

Well, two days after the storm of the season, I think Torontonians are still trying to dig out of the 25 cm or so of snow that has befallen them. Even in my neighbourhood which has a major street alongside, a large segment of the sidewalk is still totally covered in the white stuff. But I have to say unlike a lot of aftermath days following a major snowstorm, it's been very pleasantly sunny out there, which gives an appealing glisten to the still largely untouched snow.

Anyways, onto something far more whimsical and geeky. Of course, any Whovians looking at this blog know that this year is the 50th anniversary of our favourite series, "Doctor Who", and there are plenty of events in store on the BBC and everywhere to commemorate the occasion.

Courtesy of Darth Ray
from Flickr
But my main question bouncing off the walls of my ever-fragile cranium is who will follow the 11th Doctor, thespian and character-wise. I realize it's probably quite too early for anyone but the most far forward-looking fan to consider THE most important question that Great Britain must ponder next to the question of who the next 007 will be or when Prince Charles will finally ascend to the throne. Still, the question begs to be contemplated if not answered immediately.
courtesy of Naomi Roper
from Flickr
I have come across a page that had people trying to answer that question with their own thespian choices and even right down to the type of costume. Apparently, Benedict Cumberbatch may be a busy man for the next several years if the 'Beeb' actually heeds the viewers' opinions. He's already a popular man because of the UK version of the current Sherlock Holmes program, and he's up-and-coming as the main villain on the next "Star Trek"movie. I figure if he's a lock for "Doctor Who", he only needs to score a role as a Jedi to reach ultimate sci-fi legendry.

And Cumberbatch does fulfill at least one of my conditions to become a Who: he's older. I think the Twelfth Doctor has to be someone in his late 30 or 40s, and not an obviously youthful-looking 30s or 40s either. There has been a de-aging of sorts of the Time Lord after Chris Eccleston's regeneration into David Tennant which should stop, lest we start getting the next Harry Potter or Encyclopedia Brown as the next Gallifreyan. Also, it should be someone who looks less geeky and more seasoned, someone along the lines of Eccleston or his predecessor, Paul McGann, although he shouldn't be quite as intimidatingly manic or angry as the former. The basic Doctor personality should be intact: curious and whimsical if a bit tetchy but a being who won't suffer fools gladly and can stand up for a fallen universe.

As for the new Doctor costume, again let's be away from the obviously geeky sartorial references such as bow ties, specs and suspenders The First Doctor went for Victorian; well, perhaps, the next guy can go for something more Edwardian. I think David Bowie and his besuited style immediately struck me as a Who-type when he made his dramatic entrance in the movie "The Prestige"as Nikola Tesla. I think there needs to be a certain conservatism in the next guy since the Doctor is approaching the end of his lives, and I'm also considering that situation with the Valeyard in "The Trial of a Time Lord" back during the Sixth Doctor's reign. The final 13th Doctor can deal contentedly with lives well lived, but the 12th Doctor will have to finally confront his sins and those of others before that final regeneration.

As for names, I can only think of the worldwide well-known British thespians such as Jude Law or Colin Firth, and most likely the BBC will usually eschew them for the more obscure or up-and-coming actors, so I really can't say. But one thing I can say is that when Matt Smith decides to hang up his tweed jacket for good, whether it's next year or a few years down the line, the 12th Doctor Sweepstakes will burn through the wires like no other entertainment news story.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Nice to be at home

Friday February 8, 1:28 p.m.

Well, there truly was a calm before the storm last night. There was a nice fresh coating on the ground after 9 pm, but there was nothing falling. It looked like a nice Christmas-y moment. However, this morning, the snow was coming down steadily and heavily, although traffic on my street looked pretty smooth. I even saw two TTC buses pass by within about 5 minutes of each other, which is very good on a snow day.

I took a walk outside but just around the block, since wearing heavy boots and trudging through several centimetres of the white stuff has a tendency to tucker me out fairly quickly now. Maybe someone can make a seasonal exercise regimen out of it, although I can imagine Emergency Services picking up people out of snowbanks. At least in my neck of the woods, the storm is really just a batch of really heavy snow. The winds aren't blowing all that much here, and aside from the trudging, it was a pretty nice walk. Plus, the sound-muffling qualities of freshly-fallen snow always give an eerie feel to any stroll in a quieter neighbourhood.

Speaking about Christmas, it kinda feels like I am currently in that time period. Usually when I just came for the Holidays, I had friends here in Toronto all calling or e-mailing me for that lunch or dinner somewhere in the GTA. Well, my old friend The Egg contacted me to see if I were up for something next week. I told him about my upcoming lunch with my other ramen buddy next Tuesday at Santouka, so I'm seeing if he'll be up for that. The Egg is also pretty big for Japanese food, so all these izakayas and ramen shops that have been popping up like mushrooms are manna from heaven for him. And my call from The Entrepreneur the other day and my subsequent e-mail over to CG may translate to a lunch or dinner outing in the west end of town soon. Apparently, there's some restaurant chain called Fork And Spoon that's a mutual favourite of theirs. I'm not too willing to go all the way into deepest, darkest Oakville for a meal since that's where the both of them live, but I gave a counter-proposal in the form of the chain's Etobicoke branch which would only entail a purely TTC subway and bus ride.

Newswise, of course, locally, it's been all about the snowstorm of the season, and all those cars slip-slidin' away like billiard balls. However, I've also been keeping an eye on that story in southern California where this rogue ex-cop, Christopher Dorner, has been terrorizing the LAPD with three killings and the threat of even more mayhem. It just sounds like a screenplay from a Steven Seagal movie. At this point, Dorner may be holed up in a remote wooded area which is good for the public at large. My main worry would be if he somehow evaded the dragnet and headed back into the city. With the Grammys coming up this weekend, an insane ex-cop and Navy reservist who is aiming for the cops would make things very dicey for a Hollywood high-security event like that.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Calm Before The Storm

Thursday February 7, 3:09 p.m.

It's been an enervating and energetic past few days for me. As Cozy has been a bit delayed in some of those financial statements to be translated, I've been lucky to get work from my regular gig this week, and I did get a nice healthy check to be deposited in the old account. Still, with the precision needed with this work, I could use a massage AND a nap just about now. As for the energetic part, I've gotten a couple of guest contributors for my Japanese music blog, Kayo Kyoku Plus, and they've been absolutely great with their articles. They're covering artists that I've never covered which means that I have a good chance to discover new singers. It's good talking with folks that share my admittedly niche interest, and I don't feel as much pressure to get a couple of songs up there everyday. I've had some good talks with each of them via e-mail about the wonders of kayo kyoku.

Calm before the storm? Ah, yes, Toronto and much of Southern Ontario is supposed to be socked with about 15~20 cm of the white stuff starting from tonight. So, the big news on the news channels highlights the salting trucks and the weather map. Tokyo was gonna get walloped by a second major snowstorm but it turned out to be a mostly false alarm. Some flakes did fall on The Big Sushi, but here in Toronto, we eat those flakes for a light snack. I'm just glad that I don't need to commute anymore. Although if it's as bad as they're forecasting, I think most people will be more than happy to take a sick day on a Friday.

Looks like I've got another Santouka run next Tuesday with another ramen buddy of mine. The two of us got together more than a year ago for ramen (we've gotten together a few times over the months but with his family and not for ramen) at Kenzo but nothing since then. One of my old students who's now living with his family in California recommended the toroniku ramen with pork cheeks. I did see a page devoted to that type in the menu last Friday, so hey, why not? Plenty of cholesterol to go around.

I got a call out of the blue from another old friend yesterday. Looks like he and his family had gotten bogged down by the flu over The Holidays which would explain why I didn't hear much from him for the past few months. But it sounded like he's hale and hearty again, so hopefully we can all get together for lunch or dinner in the next few weeks.....provided I can shovel out of the snow.

It looks like my Skype student will be continuing on with me. Very grateful for that but I have to find a certain textbook for him. I'll be doing my scouring via Amazon or going downtown to the various bookshops.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Monday February 4, 4:09 p.m.

Back on Friday, Sam and I got together for lunch and wondered about trying one of those Winterlicious places, but I soon tired of flipping through those pages, and he came up with the idea of hitting Santouka, one of the latest ramen places to sprout up in the GTA. Located just east of the main Yonge-Dundas intersection, it's hard not to spot the restaurant when walking from the west, since there are the rather large words "HOKKAIDO RAMEN"emblazoned in white on the side of the building which Santouka occupies.

Shio Cha-siu
Luckily enough, even though the two of us got there at 12:30, right in the thick of lunch hour, we didn't have to wait too long for a table. There were people waiting ahead of us but we could all fit in the inner air lock, and within five minutes, Sam and I got our table. Winter is the perfect season for ramen, so I went for the shio cha-siu ramen (salt and BBQ pork). The soup was savoury and not too salty....reminded me a lot of that wonderful tonkotsu from Fukuoka, but what made it different was the addition of that pickled plum at the top. I think the other interesting thing was that the bowl was smaller than the one at arguably Toronto's most popular ramen eatery, Kinton, but it was of a size that anyone could handle and be satisfied with. I love Kinton, too, but I sometimes wonder if some customers are a bit overwhelmed by the size of the portions there.

Fried gyoza
I also ordered a mess of gyoza as well...trying to relive old glories when I used to hit the ramen joints in my old neighbourhood of Minami-Gyotoku in Ichikawa, Chiba. And the table had the essential ingredients to make the sauce: soy, chili oil and vinegar. Just mix it all up. The gyoza were OK although I thought the filling seemed to have been made through a machine, but then again, maybe the chef's hands were just very good at making perfect cylinders. I've yet to try the gyoza at Kinton.

Really nice lunch there at Santouka. Next time I go, I'd like to try their pork on rice.

After my friend went back to work, I walked down over to St. Lawrence Market and picked up a few of those Chicken Parmigiana sandwiches at the Carousel Bakery there. I felt I needed to show my parents the wonders of a good hearty sandwich. I had the remaining one for lunch on Saturday, and tell ya's just as good cold as it is warm.

Strangely enough, this morning, I got an e-mail from another old friend asking if we could get together next week for ramen. He's always very busy and usually can't make it out for most things but managed to get some off time next week, so we're juggling either Santouka or Kinton.

Goodbye, Penny

Monday February 4, 3:57 p.m.

I've noticed that someone has been looking at my March 30 article (under the same Labels) for the retirement of the Canadian Penny. Wow! I didn't realize it's been almost a year since the government made the momentous announcement about the enforced disappearance of the copper coin. Well, the day has arrived. From today, the 1-cent coin is officially done (1908-2013).

Since I've been pretty good about paying exact change for just about everything for the past several years, I haven't had too much in the way of loose change, so this morning, when I checked, I only had four pennies left in my coin cup. So, they have now been put into the desk drawer for posterity. Basically, when we Canucks head off to the stores, the new rule is that the price will be rounded up or down, and that the lowest coin to be accepted is the nickel. But that all depends on the customer/cashier. If the customer puts up a fight about it, I think the cashier will most likely take pennies still.

Strangely enough, though, the 1-yen coin is still very much in circulation, despite the fact that it feels lighter than a TTC token and seems to be made by very malleable aluminium. And 1 yen certainly doesn't buy anything at all. Maybe it might be time for PM Abe to start thinking about that for his Abenomics plan.

Friday, February 1, 2013

All's Happy in Training

Friday February 1, 9:36 a.m.

Yup, definitely back to a normal Winter day here. As I type this, it's about -10 C outside, compared to the heady heights of +14 C on Wednesday.

I was watching NHK News today and the sports report mostly centered on Japanese baseball training camps in Okinawa which started yesterday. Looks like everyone's happy there....perhaps the Okinawan government should even declare the opening of training a regional statutory holiday. All of the fans were there with their cameras, cellphone-type or otherwise. The one guy who seemed to be getting the focus was a strapping young lad by the name of Otani...all of 18 and although perhaps not as tall as the beanpole Yu Darvish, he still has quite the physical presence. And ambition....he has said he wants to reach the Major Leagues someday. If he's that good, he can now probably get there within a decade.

The whole spectacle reminds me of just a couple of weeks ago when the NHL strike was over, and hockey fans descended on the Leafs truncated training. And the Leafs won at home over the struggling Caps last night...and it was a come-from-behind win, too. So, it seems that the big key here is consistency and making sure that there are no more injuries on the team.

For the first time in a few weeks, I've got no translation issues to worry about. I handed in the first of the annual translations to Cozy last night and am waiting for any further comments from the regular boss. Initial reviews have been good; the editor hasn't lost that much hair this time.

Well, I'll be heading downtown for the first time this year. Will be meeting Sam for lunch. May actually pick up some Chicken Parmagiana sandwiches over at The Carousel Bakery at St. Lawrence Market later on for the parents.