I don’t want to freak you out or something, but August is almost coming to a close. Two thirds of the year done! 😮
Where did the year go? Absolute madness.
I wonder what MTV feels about this month. It is its last August as a thirty something year old. On the threshold of the age where it has to consider buying a home for investment reasons, where will it go from here? It let go off Music at the turn of the century, and I suppose with the close of last decade this year it will let go of TV as well. I don’t remember when was the last time I sat in front of the TV to listen to music. Which is more surprising than it sounds like because that was the defining activity of my teenage years.
Four Hours of MTV from 1981
That said, while the internet goes about killing an entire industry MTV setup, it is also a great place to find MTV’s origins. Here is MTV’s first four hours on TV stitched together. It’s fascinating to see, starting off with a rocket launch that lands on a moon and the flag revealing the iconic logo. And what’s the first song they played? Video Killed the Radio Star. The summary of the compilation is a great read as well, going down all sorts of nostalgic rabbit holes!
I must admit all this MTV nostalgia rush was propelled by a documentary trailer I saw of Suzi Quatro. You go edit your follows on Twitter and two days later the algorithm magically changes your life. Timeline is fresh and vivid, and you get gems like Suzi Q. I had never heard of her before, but what a story, what a legend!
A Japanese Invasion
Now whether my Twitter algorithm changed for the better or worse, Japan is a constant on my timeline across the inter-webs. I was exchanging emails with Uri from the Browser and I told him Pico Iyer is one of my favourite non fiction writers and he sent me this piece on the infinite silences of Japan.
(As an aside my favourite piece of Iyer on Lithub is this interview of his on travel writing)
But in the Lithub + Japan territory is this list of young Japanese authors talking about their favourite Murakami short stories. In it, when Yoka Ozawa talks of her favourite - The Last Lawn of the Afternoon, she says:
It is an extremely hot day, yet he mows and trims the lawn with exceptional care, in accordance with his uncompromising standards.
Strangely this reminded me of a chapter from Pico Iyer’s book the Lady and the Monk.
Whatever role the Japanese played, they played it so well and took it to such a pitch of excellence that one could never wish to see that part played again.
No wonder then that the best Neapolitan pizza in the world might actually be a Japanese Tokyo Neapolitan.
Tamaki makes a style of Neapolitan pizza that's not quite NYC, not quite Naples; it's something all his own, and something worthy in and of itself of a visit to Tokyo. Over the last 20-odd years, new kinds of Neapolitan-style pizza have taken shape and matured in Tokyo. The style derives from the classic Neapolitan — a thin-but-not-too-thin crust, lush San Marzano tomatoes, and careful attention to the fundamentals of fine-grained doppio zero flour, olive oil, and water —
I recently read about the Japanese concept of Shokunin, Shisho and Deshi, Master and Apprentice. [^1] In the same interview, Craig talks about Japanese appreciation for craftsmanship -
Before you become a shokunin — craftsperson — you’re a deshi, an apprentice. Let’s say you want to make pickles. You can’t just start making pickles. You first have to go through your multiple years of pickle training before you can make your own.
In the Eater piece above, Craig interviews both Tsubasa Tamaki and his mentor Susumo Kakinama. Shisho-Deshi. For Neapolitan Pizza; in Tokyo.
Master and Apprentice
There is a study, called Bloom’s Two Sigma problem. It’s as old as MTV. This is its summary -
Benjamin Bloom, decades ago, found that individual tutoring raised student's performance relative to a baseline class by two standard deviations, which is a MASSIVE1 effect. As 1:1 tutoring is very expensive, he wondered if there are approaches that approximate such an effect that were applicable for larger classrooms. Finding such a method was the "two sigma problem". And Mastery Learning seemed to be the promising way to solve it.
Although it had no bearing on the study, I see it as a validation to the eastern methods of learning. Whether it is Japan’s Shokunin-Deshi system or India’s Gharana system for performance arts. Perhaps I am being parochial in this regard. Fact is I don’t know how earlier systems worked elsewhere. But here’s a modern study, evaluating kids in a classroom, concluding that the system that works best is one on one tutoring, that’s been practiced in other places since centuries. [^2]
Pizzas of Bombay
Anyway, we digress from more important matters, namely Pizzas.
I love Pizzas. That’s the only point I wanted to make really. And yesterday I came to know that Pune’s Greedy Man has opened in Bandra! C’mon now. That makes the list of awesome places for Pizza in the city rise up to four. Here’s my list -
Please bring Pizza if you come to meet me.
At the end, on this fine Sunday morning, let me leave you with the most Japanese thing you will see - Daisugi
[^1]: Craig Mod, is one of my favourite persons online, and his work is always inspiring. Besides this essay on Eater and that interview, there’s also this piece on Pizza Toasts and Kissa cafes that he wrote last year. He recently launched a book of photos and essays on Kissaten called Kissa by Kissa, sadly it got sold out in four days of release.
[^2]: The Two Sigma problem is a classroom problem, with strong evidence to suggest that Direct Instruction, a teaching method setup by Seigfried Engelmann solves the problem in a classroom environment. However, there’s also an argument that it only works in the American schooling system. If you are interested in knowing more about Engelmann and the DI method then this book by Shepard Barbash is a good resource.
Also read this post if you want to look up both Bloom’s problem and Engelmann’s solution in detail.