Thursday, December 29, 2005

First Crazy Night of the Vacation

Woo. What a night. Muscles hurt I didn't even know I had. So this is what I did last night:

My room-mate's friend has come over from the States for the winter vacation, and so we are, of course, obligated to entertain him. I met up with them, and my room-mates girlfriend, in Shinjuku around 4; we went straight to Shibuya, and attended the Hub's happy hour (the Hub is a sort of imitation English pub, with franchises all around Tokyo. It is THE gaijin hangout, because it's menu is in English as well as Japanese.)

After that we had dinner at The Lockup, one of the many theme restaurants in Tokyo. The Lockup is set up like a dungeon/prison: as you walk in (and down, and down), you pass an animatronic prisoner being given the electric chair, which reveals itself with strobe lights and sound effects just as you pass it. Inside, the waitress - in orange correctional institution coveralls - met us, and locked a handcuff to C., my room-mates friend, and led us to our room, complete with a barred metal door that slides shut with a satisfyingly final clang. We ordened a drink called a 'Denki (or Electric) Shock', which may well be one of the nastiest and most potent alcoholhic beverages this side of a Prairie Fire. Throughout the meal, the lights would periodically strobe, heavy metal music would crank up to full volume, and the staff would run around in Freddy Krueger masks, jumping into people's rooms and pawing them. Quite an interesting dining experience.... Sadly, I have no pix: it was too dark.

After that, off to play some pool and drink some more beer. 'Nuff said there.

And then, finally, the night's main attraction: Ageha (warning, Flash), where Ferry Corsten was headlining. I spent relatively little time dancing to Corsten, actually; I've got nothing against trance, but there was a drum n' bass room off to the side, and dnb will always be my first love when it comes to dance music. I basically spent the whole night in there - with breaks to go outside and get some air (the dnb room was small, poorly ventilated, and crowded: the body heat alone hit you like a wall when you walked in, and the body odor was like getting punched in the nose.) But the music was great: hard, violent, driving beats that kept you going even on the verge of collapse.

One unexpected thing that happened: meeting my old friend R. She's my friend J.'s girlfriend; the last I'd seen her, they were working through some problems caused by LDR issues (she's in Japan, and he's about as far from Japan as it's possible to be), but now she's quit her job and, in less than a month, going to live with him in the Bahamas! Some people have all the luck....

So, well, that was my night. Basically, drinking and dancing. And, boy, am I ever paying for it now....

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Hachiko

Hachiko is a statue at Shibuya station. It's been there since 1934, save for a brief period during WWII when it left Japan in the form of shell casings. It's probably one of the more popular meeting spots in Tokyo, partly because of it's location (namely, right outside one of Tokyo's busiest stations, in the middle of Tokyo's best-known recreational hangout), and partly because of it's distinctiveness (saying 'let's meet at Hachiko' nails things down quite a bit better than, say,'let's meet at McDonalds.')

Now why, you might be asking, would there be a statue in honor of some random Akita? Well, there's a story to it of course. Hachiko, in his younger days, belonged to a professor at the University of Tokyo. Every day, the dog would wait for it's master at the train station. Then, his master died. No one told the dog, however, and for the rest of his life he went back to the train station every day and waited for his master.

Kind of touching, when you think about it.

Fun With Kanji - England

This Kanji currently has two meanings. One - the original meaning - is superb, or superior. The other, newer meaning, is England.

In the interests of humility, as someone with at least a little Albion in my veins, I feel it would be in extraordinarily bad taste to say anything else at this point.

Fun With Kanji - Rice Country

Okay, this is just weird. The one on the right, on it's own, means 'Rice.' The one on the left means 'country'. But them together, and what do you have?

America.

WHY!?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Reasons Why My Job Rocks

So my keitai rings at 11 a.m. - a good hour and a half before I have to call in for sub duty - and I immediately know that that doesn't bode well. A quick glance at the call log dashes my brief hopes: it was HQ. And when HQ calls early on a sub day, that's never a good sign.

I call back, and sure enough, I'm getting sent on a Journey today. Yokohama, a good hour on the train from Hachioji. Actually, this isn't as bad as it sounds; I go to Yokohama every Sunday as part of my regular schedule, and the Sunday shift starts early - have to be at work at 10:45, instead of the normal 3:35 - so I'm used to the commute. To make things even better, the only non-Free Time Lesson class I have is an IM Con (Intermediate Conversation), with which I'll cap things off. By better, here, I mean: no kids classes.

I start the day as I normally do, getting to the school a couple hours early and then finding a coffee shop and sitting down to practice my Japanese. Things take an immediate turn for the worse when I go up to clock in: S. is there.

Now, I've encountered S. twice before. I know very little about him, both of said encounters having been mercifully brief, and I have to state right up that he's never done anything against me (unless you count his ham-handed attempt to slime my friend R., a couple of months back, which I introduce as character evidence only.) Nevertheless, there is something about him - in the way he speaks, or the way he dresses (Donald Duck jacket and macthing tie), or just the annoying things he says - that makes my lizard brain want to grab control of my extremities so it can kick him in a place men shouldn't kick each other.

This is cause for comment only because the majority of the teachers at ECC are great people. The company seems to hire, not just on the basis of qualifications (ie, one official University diploma), but also on the basis of basic social skills; after all, teachers who annoy students aren't likely to be very good for business. Which makes me wonder how this creature made it past the hiring process.

Then there's the final class, the IM Con. I've been looking forward this all day: the topic for the day is clubbing, and that can't possibly be a dull subject, right?

Right?

Well, when you're class consists of 6 Japanese ladies in the upper-20's/lower-30's, who haven't been clubbing in a very long time if at all ... yeah, the topic went over real well. I figured this out pretty early on, so I fudged and basically just allowed them to talk about whatever they wanted (it is IM conversation, after all.) So they talked lots, but I'm not sure they actually learned anything.

So, that was my day at ECC. And if you're reading this, and thinking, "Wow, you barely worked and you're bitching!?", well, just keep this in mind: this is what a bad day at ECC is like. And there aren't too many of them.

Understand the title now?

Semi-Daily Haiku: Revelations 6:13

the stars have fallen
fairydust apocalypse
the cities sparkle

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Semi-Daily Haiku: Twofer

File Under 'I Miss My iPod':

other side of earth,
and still I cannot escape
from christmas music

It's everywhere! Maybe it's less annoying if you can't understand the words....

Crossing at Hachiko Plaza

pedestrian tides
isolation, connection
pulsing of the hive

Semi-Daily Haiku: Shinjuku at Night

neon fireflowers
stars blacked out, fair payment for
new constellations

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Fun With Kanji

This is how you write 'optimism' (rakuten) in Kanji:







The first means 'pleasure, comfort, relief' (it can also mean music, but that's for another pronunciation, gaku.) The second means 'heavens.'

So the Japanese word for 'optimism' literally translates as 'comfort of heaven'. And ain't that the truth....