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Stoneface Cracks a Smile.

July 2, 2011 at 7:23 PM


every Thursday night for the last few years has been an excursion into intellectual damnation under the auspices of the beloved `Stoneface.` My curiously named nemesis is a truly hard core septegenarian university professor who drags me kicking and screaming through deconstructions of Montaigne and Bordieu in Japanese, her face a handsome stone mask staying immobile and sarcastic looking throughout my every flub.

I did , of course, affectionately name her after the school teacher in my favorite Japanese comedy `My Boss My hero,` in which a twenty eight year old gangster with an IQ of about 3 returns to senior high school and is beaten into shape by the tough love care of sensei `Iron face.`

I think... she likes me.....It took her a long time to figure out how to teach me since, lacking formal education, my mind moves to an odd rhythm, a challenge she enjoyes. Plus I can read and write about 3500 (sino)Japanese characters now, at least half of which are completely obselete and utterly useless. And of course, I am a musician of sorts.

Her daughter is a professional singer so naturally I was obliged to buy a ticket to what I thought was a solo recital. On the day in question I just made it to the small private concert hall having come directly from the Tohoku disaster zone. I probably looked a bit odd (and smelly) with my 50 litre rucksack full of old washing but is it really my fault if the hall doesn`t have a desk where you can leave luggage?

A quick look at the program and I am surprised to discover that her daughter is one of -seven-sopranos taking turns to sing rather maudlin and very old TV sound tracks. The daughter walks out on stage and I am immediately impressed with how naturally she stands and moves around, something quite difficult for singers to get. She is a -very- good musician with a strong sense of Jazz nuance and what goes on between the notes. A good quality voice being used very sensitively. I am optimistic since she is clearly the lowest ranked and hallowed performer on the program. Alas, the next singer waddles on and sings a very low number that is clearly below her natural range (nothing wrong with transposition). It`s out of tune and unpleasant to my ears. The next sopranos are worse. Huge, self deludedly operatic voices with 6 inch vibrato. My head begins to ache and I wonder if my last sandwich is going to make a miraculous reincarnation. Finally we get to the halfway mark in a mercifully short program and I sprint for the door with my rucksack on. No-one is going to prevent my escape!!!

Back home I wonder what to say to Stoneface. Would it sound funny if I said `Your daughter was great. Everyone else was rubbish.` A touch of the brown nose perhaps? Would she then retaliate by teaching me to say things like `Iwashi no atama mo shinjin kara...` when I was proposing to my next wife?

Like all complex problems here, the matter was clearly best discussed with the school nurse who is not only smart but easy on the eye to boot. Her advice- `just be perfectly honest. It`s not your problem.`

Thus empowered I nervously went into my next lesson and explained that I had found with the exception of her daughter, all those fairly famous sopranos to be utterly awful to the point of wanting to throw up.

Stoneface smiles. `Me too.`

She has finally cracked.



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