Be better everyday

Last night I saw Penguin Highway. The movie gave me a lot to think about.

Scene from the Anime "Penguin Highway", two 10 year old boys crouch in front of a penguin on a roofboy.

I. Be better everyday

The movie opens with a montage of the main character Aoyama studying and writing in his diary, explaining his philosophy of “becoming a little better every day”. Aoyama wonders how great of an adult he can become if he improves everyday for 3000 days, until he reaches 20. Japanese coming of age anime very often have this message of self-improvement, but in Penguin Highway, it is put front and center.

This hit me hard in the gut. For how long have I ceased to “improve every day”? When did I stop, and why? How hard is it to “learn a little something new everyday”?

Things to think about, and try to put into practice.

II. Research Notebooks

During the movie, everything Aoyama studies, thinks and feels, he writes into his diaries… or as he puts it, research notebooks. I always envied those characters in movies that wrote everything in messy, living, nice looking diaries, starting from Dr. Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

I even met a few real people who also had thick fat diaries full of their thoughts. How many times have I tried failed to keep a paper diary? But keeping diaries of different shapes and sizes over the years is so hard. I miss the years when I used to religiously buy Tokyo University planners every year and write my tasks on them…

The idea of having a notebook for each “research project” sounds better than my generic “Research notebooks”, that tended to become messy TODO lists, and become abandoned when I unerringly moved the TODO list to a computer. How should physical diaries and digital documents co-exist? Does a blog take the place of a diary? You can’t doddle, or rip, or glue physical things into a blog.

III. Was it a good movie?

The movie threw me into an introspective mood, so in a sense it was good? But when I think about the movie itself, I surprisingly didn’t like it that much. Other than “think about what you’re doing with your life”, it didn’t click that much with me. The animation was quite well done, though.

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