Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Natural Selections

"Natural Selections" is a column written by Rowan Hooper. The columns are about science and nature, except for today, and generally they are very good.

Today's is just bizarre. I think Hooper ate a bad oyster last night.

For that is how he leads his story off. Here are his points:

a. Tokyo received more stars in the Michelin restaurant guide than any other city.
b. Hooper ate an oyster last night.
c. This is not a food column, though that's all he's talked about so far.
d. A noted Japanese chef implicitly made an ass of himself with the statement, "Japanese food was created here and only Japanese know it." Just mull that gem over.
e. "Well, how indeed?" Hooper's question, and he never answers it.
f. The chef, a non-competitive sort, apparently, turned down a chance to be rated by Michelin.
g. Tokyo Governor Ishihara is an idiot and a racist and everyone knows as much so why give the bonehead newspaper space?
h. Are Japanese and foreigners really different? (Oh, yawn!)
i. Hooper read a study last week that says Japanese brains are different.
j. Japanese and North American (and I guess that means caucasian Americans, as it nearly always does in Japan) volunteers were asked to look at a picture of a central figure, a face, surrounded by four faces in the background.
k. The participants were asked to determine the emotion of the figure in the center.
l. The Japanese reported that they were influenced by the emotions of the background figures when deciding on the emotion of the central figure.
m. The Americans focused only on the central figure.
n. A guy is quoted as saying basically what has already been said.
o. The guy says the same thing again and then makes the remarkable leap that this research backs up the Japanese phrase that the nail that sticks up gets hammered down!!
p, q, r. The study showed that Japanese tended to look move their eyes around the picture more, which of course they would if they were looking at the whole picture. Duh!
s. East Asians (notice not just Japanese anyore....I guess the only East Asians are the Japanese) are more holistic than non-Japanese.
t. What does any of this have to do with Tokyo and the food there?
u. Not much. Tokyo has more restaurants so it is logical to assume that more stars will be awarded to Tokyo than to other cities.
v. But does this explain the opinions of the racist Governor Ishihara, whose opinions are not stated in the article?
w. Hooper thinks not. Racists are just jerks.
x. And finally getting to a real point, Hooper points out that holistic doesn't mean better, just diferent.

Hooper could have written a valuable article on how Japanese do or do not tend to feel that being different can't be also being the same, or just another part of the same whole, but has to be better or worse.

The JT articles should have rejected Hooper's article and asked for a full rewrite, using his last paragraph as the lead in to a totally different article.

On the other hand, Ishihara sells papers so maybe the JT just wanted to see his name in their paper.

Or maybe in the end it was just a bad oyster day for Hooper.

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