Monday, May 29, 2006
Found. Thanks Shortbus
My personal favourite thus far:
This photocopied offer was found in a dog park in Costa Mesa, CA. The love of puppies. ha. Your dog's a slut.
For more great finds, click here.
Review: The Da Vinci Code
Most readers of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code were skepticle when talk began of a widescreen version. How can a movie adaptation possibly do justice to the careful intricacies of a masterpiece? How can such controversial issues be presented in such an obvious manner? How can Tom Hanks pretend to be 20 years younger than he actual is?
It seems that a larger portion of the consciously literate public has read and reread The Da Vinci Code. It's not often that a book, even a best seller, is discussed and recommended outside universities and/or book clubs, but occassionally a gem amongst rocks warrants talk. Though I'd always intended to get my hands on Brown's treasure, it hadn't quite happened in time for the movie release.
A veritable flop in theatres, The Da Vinci Code, slammed into cement walls of expectations. The problem, I think, is that too many viewers had read the book. The screen version of literature lives up to its written words approximately one percent of the time, in my opinion - one with which I'm sure most can readily agree. I'm also sure that The Da Vinci Code was no exception, and that the film gave Brown's literary following nothing to write home about.
Let's stop for a moment though. For the small population out there who has not read the book, was the movie as atrocious as critics made it out to be? I think not. In fact, I quite enjoyed the fast-paced action, the plot twists (though sometimes predictable), the truly screwy characters and the inventive but plausible take on historical fact. It didn't matter to me that Hanks' Robert Langdon was a few years too senior, or that Sophie Neveu's (played by Audrey Tautou) brother was still dead in the end. All else aside, it was an entertaining, and (wait for it...) FRESH 147 minutes. Highly recommended for unbiased movie-goers looking for a thinker.
On a sidenote: I am noticing (German?) actor, Paul Bettany pop up in more films lately and am quite taken with him. His searingly accurate role in The Da Vinci Code as God's plagued hitman is quite a leap from the nude version of Shakespeare he played in A Knight's Tale some years ago. At this early(?) point in his acting career, I think Bettany can do nothing better than challenge himself with diverse roles, all of which he masterfully exacts. I've got Bettany pinned as an up-and-comer, red-carpetwise.
Friday morning I woke up sick. Ugh. Not too bad... but my throat was sore, and despite my never-ending congestion and coughing, I don't often have a sore throat. I did my best to gear-up for the long day ahead.
Three play classes into the day I knew this throat thing was gonna kick my ass. Three down, seven to go. By my first break I dragged myself out to my car, set the alarm on my keitai and dropped into a fitful catnap. By my second break, which is 1.25 hours long, I wasn't playing games. I pulled the blanket and pillow from my hatch (camping gear that lives there as my apartment has little closet space), nestled onto my back seat and zonked out. Six down, four to go.
Three-year-olds. Ugh. Thankfully their mothers weren't there to watch me this time, so we had a "quiet" lesson of ABC BINGO and Letter "I" worksheets. Thankfully this is only their second class with me so they are all too scared of me still to run around the room screaming and killing each other. Thankfully it ended quickly.
Third break, 20 minutes. At this point I am too beat to drag myself back to the car, so I just laid my aching body down on the hardwood. Last three classes pretty much involved colouring and doing what the kids wanted, quietly. I learned that the kids in my last class know the phrases "ambulance to hospital?" and "go home and rest?" when they were trying to ascertain how ill I really was.
Riccardo actually lives closer to my Friday school than I do. I went there after work so he could take care of me. Actually, our plan was to go out to dinner, a plan that I ruined because I could not extricate myself from his carpet. I did manage to get up and eat at least half of the dinner that he made for us instead before returning to bed (/floor... you know, futons) and complaining that he needed to turn the A/C on. Yeah... turned out to be me. Dr. Riccardo found a thermometer in his trusty medical bag and we found that I had a temperature of 38.4. Not great. So then he made me drink eighteen grillion gallons of hot tea and called his mom for advice. I ended up with a cold towel wrapped around my calves and instructions to sleep, which I promptly did.
I ruined more plans on Saturday. My formal and written apologies to Shigeru, and Riccardo, for causing us to bail out on the long-awaited Kanuma(?) fireworks show. I know both these guys were pretty disappointed that we couldn't make it (despite my attempts at insisting Riccardo go without me) and honestly, so was I. Sorry boys.
Instead, Riccardo drove me back to Chikusei where I laid on my couch for the duration of several DVDs and was inundated by more tea. Saturday night was also Tressa's birthday bash, which was held in her apartment downstairs from mine. We had planned to go after the fireworks and had to make an appearance no matter my condition. I pulled myself together as best I could, and we met up with hordes of party-goers for some laughs. Though Riccardo had a couple drinks and was quite genki, I basically leaned on him and tried not to sleep. We left early, though it was great fun. So nice to see some peeps who haven't been around much lately.
Sunday I was feeling moderately better, so we decided to go out for some light activity. Jody-chan joined us for our escapade to Tsukuba Cineplex where we just missed the afternoon viewing of The Da Vinvi Code. Riccardo instead bought us all tickets for the 5:45pm show and went for a lovely Italian dinner in the meantime. And such was the end of my wasted weekend.
I made it through today, Monday, without over-doing it. I'm headed for an early night and some good rest because tomorrow will make-or-break my kicking these white-blotchy, golf-ballish tonsils into normalness. Hopefully next weekend will be more productive...
Did I mention that Riccardo's parent arrive this Friday?
Thursday, May 25, 2006
The soon to be no-longer-Miss Ashley Kanigan had a birthday not too long ago. She got a phone call from a broad. Um, I mean abroad. heh.
Last night at Girls Night we celebrated Tressa Kirstein's Quarter Century milestone. Sadly, we were all BROKE and the majority of the celebration has been postponed until next weeks' Girls Night. Jody, Riccardo and I chipped in to buy Trex a new microwave nonetheless. And I got her a cake, so hopefully it was still semi-birthdaylike.
My lil sis, the Kelseroo is turning the BIG 19 this weekend. Watch out peeps, another Bar Star is gonna be on the loose! No, Kelsey is actually a very responsible young lady who prioritizes her academics first... make sure to keep that up missy!All my love to the Birthday Girls!!
A Week in the Life
No, I have not fallen off the planet. Yes, my social calendar is becoming more limited, and at the same time, more redundant. It's about a boy, of course. I thought some of you might like to know what I've been doing with myself, so here's an average week in the Life of Crystal:
Monday: get up at 6am with Riccardo, eat breakfast (because he makes me), send him off to work. Go back to sleep. Work from either 9:20am to 1pm or 10:15am to 12:30 (3 classes). I then do any errands I have to do on my way home from work. At home I use the afternoon to plan my lessons for the week (Tuesday - Monday), plan the lessons for my private students, make international phone calls, catch-up on emails and (hopefully) blog about the events of the previous weekend. Sometimes I have time to clean my apartment and/or grocery shop. My first student, Yuji, comes to my house from 6 to 6:50pm. Just after 8pm I drive to Tsukuba to have my lesson with Yoshiko, which is from 9 - 10pm (because she doesn't get home from her Master's Program until 8:30). I get home around 11 and usually read and go to bed. Sometimes one or both of my students cancel their lessons with me; usually when this happens I have Jody and Tressa for dinner on Monday nights.
Tuesday: WORK. I actually hate Tuesdays. I leave for work at 9:45am and get home at 7pm. During this time I teach 10 classes, including a dreaded 50-minute class with a dozen rowdy 3-year-olds. Ugh. I am supposed to be going to a Japanese lesson on Tuesday evenings, but the teaching methods are shitty, and I hate being rushed to get there in time (it starts at 7), so Riccardo has been coming over for private study instead. We work for at least one full hour on Japanese and then just hang out and go to bed. Tuesdays, blech.
Wednesday: get up with Riccardo and all that jazz. Go back to bed. Leave for work at 10:20, teach 7 classes, depart from work at 5:50. My Tuesday and Wednesday school is in a town called Yachiyo, which is where Jody lives. Wednesday night Jody hosts Girls Night. Tressa, Nori and I go there directly after work and gossip our hearts out. The Girls Nights also include fabulous home-cooking (Jody is a real chef at Japanese cuisine), a smidgeon of wine and DVDs. Since it's a work night, we all head home and to dreamland around 10pm.
Thursday: leave for work at 9:15, teach 7 classes, return home at 1pm. I use Thursday afternoons to get to the post office, do other errands, and CLEAN my apartment. Then, at 5:45, I head out to do a semi-private class. This class is in a family's living room, with their three children, but sadly, I don't get paid more for it. It's a damn good thing the kids are loveable or I might be inclined to complain that this type of work is not, in fact, in my contract. When I get home at 7pm Riccardo usually meets me here and we usually eat together. After watching a DVD, we call it an early night because of the early morning to follow.
Friday: get up at 6am, blah blah blah. Sometimes I actually stay awake after Riccardo departs on Fridays because I have to leave at 8:45am anyhow. After teaching 10 classes I get home around 7:45pm. Yep, pretty much hate Fridays too. Friday nights are sometimes spent socially and sometimes kept low-key; depends on the financial situation and whether the week has drained us physically.
Saturday and Sunday: lately a combination of travel, sight-seeing, and relaxing has taken place on weekends. I pretty much spend the entire time with Riccardo. He is less inclined to party his life away than I am, so we've been doing less of that (which we can count as a GOOD thing); but we still go out with the crowd once in a while, or drag them outdoors for something-or-other. Sometimes we just spend a rainy day indoors watching DVDs, playing on our computers or cooking together.
So there you have it. More than you ever needed to know about Crystal. I think I really flatter myself in thinking that you all care! Well, I know my mom does, so enjoy Mom!
Hello Again, Old Friend
Some of you may recall my previous travel to Ushiku Daibutsu, the largest free-standing statue in the world (3x taller than the Statue of Liberty). Since this is Japan, the statue is, of course, of a BUDDHA! I think it was November the last time I was in Ushiku (the opposite side of Tsukuba, about an hour away by car), so it was a treat to have actual flowers in the park this time. I've already said pretty much all I want to say about the Daibutsu, so I'll end with the pictures.
Camilla Parker Bowles
As it happens, Riccardo lives in the same town as my dear friend Anna (Kiwi), which is quite a feat as the town actually classifies as a village. Tsuga Village, however, immediately neighbours Tochigishi, or Tochigi city, which can be a happening place. Having dragged Riccardo and Anna (and Dave, English) to our neck of the woods time and time again, we agreed that it was high time we brought the party to Tochigi.
Our Friday evening started at High Times, a western-style pub about 5 minutes from Riccardo's. Apparently not a popular hang-out, the pub was nearly dead. I thought I saw a tumbleweed blowing amonst the tables. The cowboyish ambiance was rather incongruent with the jazz music; as it turns out, Riccardo HATES jazz and requested a change. We were all delighted with the 80's tunes then pumped.
Riccardo brought his work colleague and friend, Shigeru to dinner. I had been wanting to meet the much-talked-about pal for some time and was not disappointed. Shigeru (Shiggy) was just a warm and jovial as Riccardo promised. Though he had to call it an early night for work reasons, he has promised to join in karaoke at a later date (apparently he has a very good singing voice). I hope to see much more of him.
Further reason that the pub is not popular could stem from the S-L-O-W service and over-priced drinks, but we weren't in the complaining mood. After some nachos, pizza and a few beers, the nine of us (Anna, Dave, Treva (American), Jody, Tressa, Alan (Canadian, Winnipeg), Brian (Irish), Riccardo and I) headed to Shidax (Please!). The inherent coolness of a town can be measured on the presense or lack of Shidax, our favourite karaoke joint.
Since there were only two smokers in the crowd, we happily got to veto smoking in our karaoke room (usually this is a MAJOR problem as all the non-smokers end up with sore throats from the fumes in those confined little rooms).
It was a fantastic evening of song, pocky and grapefruit chu-his. Though Riccardo and I lasted only until just after 3am, the rest of the group gave 'er into the wee(r) hours - we had the room until 5am. Thanks to the Tochigites/Tsugans for hosting our highly entertaining Tochigishi-Night-Out (Anna, Riccardo & Treva)!! Sidenote: you might like to know that I spent 40 minutes straightening my hair for the aforementioned evening out. Shortly after finishing, my dear boyfriend asks me,
"Do you know of Camilla Parker Bowles?"
"Of course I do," I reply, "She's the new princess."
"Hmm, well how do you feel about her hair?" Riccardo asks
"...what are you implying?" - I'm already catching on to where this is going,
"YOU LOOK LIKE CAMILLA PARKER BOWLES!!!!" laughs my terrific man
"SHE'S LIKE 80, YOU ASS!!!"
Good times, good times. Actually, I looked like old Camilla for about two seconds because as soon as I stepped out of Riccardo's "leo-palace" (bachelor apartment) the F#*%ing humidity ruined it. Apparently mid-May is already too humid for any sort of hairstyle! F#*%!
Monday, May 22, 2006
Drag Me Up A Mountain
I don't know how he did it, but last weekend Riccardo persuaded me to climb a friggin mountain. Most of my faithful readers have veiwed Tsukuba-san on this blog before. It's hard to forget since it's the only mountain visible from my city. It pokes up from a rice field abyss. It's fairly common to climb this sucker, in fact most people in these parts have done it... but then, I'm not most people.
Frankly, I'm no climber of mountains. I made this clear to Riccardo before our ascent. I also made it clear that he should expect a fair amount of complaining. Yep, I'm a true whiner.
I'm pretty sure Riccardo had his fill of my whining within the first 20 minutes of our little hike. He later admitted that for the first half-hour or so he was ready to pitch me over the side of the mountain (what a nice boyfriend I have!) Thankfully he refrained from any pitching, and instead offered moral support and encouragement...
"you can do it, you can do it, you can do it!"
ha. I knew all along that I would reach the summit of damn Tsukuba, I just wasn't sure in what year I'd get there. Aside from being quite steep at times, the trail was well, rough. We alternated between stair-mastering grillions of tiny stairs (apparently made for asian steps, which must be smaller than the western variety) to scaling boulders. With Riccardo behind me enjoying the view of my sweaty ass, I felt semi-sure that I wouldn't slip and die (it had rained for days before and the mud was slick).
My technique for mountain climbing basically involves taking six steps, stopping for a break, taking six steps, stopping for a break, and so on. The 90-minute hike ended up taking us just over two hours. Riccardo likely could have done it on his own in about an hour. Actually, we were passed at least twice by a man who was running up and down the trail at full tilt... training for something, I imagine.
At the summit of Mount Tsukuba are several eateries and shops (all offering frog paraphenalia, the mascot of Tsukuba). If one was not nearly dead from the hike one just completed one could venture to make a wide circle of the mountain top in an additional hike that takes approximately an hour. This one opted no. Instead we sat atop a revolving restaurant and soaked in the panoramic, and quite smoggy, views.
The thing I don't get about climbing Tsukuba-san is that there are other options. I mean, really, why climb a mountain when you can take a cable-car or a tram instead?!?! haha. We took the cable-car down the mountain, as most climbers do, (because the trail, especially downwards, especially slick with mud, is trecherous) and arrived safely at the bottom once more.
I am glad that Riccardo dragged my ass up this mountain. It actually wasn't THAT bad. My thanks to him for putting up with me and my tomatoface. Unfortunately, my conquering Tsukuba-san has prompted Riccardo to attempt to convince me to join his parents and him in ascending Fuji-san. Besides Tsukuba being under 900 metres, where Fuji is over 3000, understand that his parents recently returned from a quick hike up Kilamanjaro! Um, no.
Review: The Producers
Once again you are forced to witness the time warp in which I live. Already on DVD back home, the widescreen version of the Broadway hit, The Producers, has finally made it to Japan. Two gorgeous ladies, Jody and Tressa, allowed Riccardo and I to tag along to Tsukuba last weekend for a viewing of this poorly received screen adaptation.
I found my eyes rolling back in my head for the first ten-or-so minutes of the tongue-in-mouth, over-acted spectacle, but then reminded myself that the movie is derived from theatre, and very farcical theatre at that. And so, I suspended my cynicism (however breifly) and consciously decided to buy into the whole affair.
And suddenly my enjoyment factor rose exponentially. Though I'm not Uma Thurman's biggest fan, I do enjoy Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, and most especially, Will Ferrell whose flawless comedic performance was uproarious. I have to say, I laughed until I nearly wet myself and thoroughly recommend this film as a rental for those without overinflated pompous airs.