One Year Later

A full year has passed now without any meaningful activity on Rogue-Penguin.  I think about the website a lot but I haven’t actually been all that productive in a blogging/internet presence sense.  While there have been stretches of time I’ve neglected R-P while focusing on other websites, this time was different.  Apart from my writing — which hasn’t totally gone without my attention — I just haven’t been producing written pieces to publish.  I could use the website to talk about my fan fiction, but I feel I don’t have the audience to support it and, really, much to say beyond “Hey, look here, new textual poaching!”

So, once again, I’m in the situation where I don’t know what the purpose of Rogue-Penguin actually IS anymore.  There is no comic. There are no other members of R-P anymore besides myself.  Maybe it’s time the whole thing gets retired and redirected to my Google+ account.  It certainly would be cheaper.  The internet is heading away from standalone websites now, as strange as it  sounds since that’s where we (roughly) started back in the AOL days.

I also have a Tumblr page as well, which was neglected for a long time and now I’m starting to use a tiny bit more.  Also a Twitter account which… I’ll be honest, I just don’t have an interest in.  I like long format articles and detailed conversations and Twitter is anathema to that.   I have Facebook too (which this will cross-post to) but I mostly have that for the sake of other people. Family, friends, distant acquaintances, and so on.

I’ll have to think about this more.  Until I have a real multimedia project to share, it just doesn’t make sense to invest in all this infrastructure.  And right now, I’m sorry to say, I just don’t.  Never-Forever remains in my future, but it’s not happening right now.

And maybe that’s what matters.

Perspective Shift

As it turns out, I’ve ordered an iPad Mini.  This is despite being a very ardent Google advocate.  There are some reasons for this, of which I will explain henceforth:

  1. First, and foremost, my company supports iPad devices on our corporate network and does not support Android.  If I don’t want to use a BlackBerry (bleh), I needed to get an iPad.
  2. I believe nothing blindly.  Yes, I love most of what Google does, and I wish them to flourish in the world because their philosophy as expressed in their products, services, and corporate tone is wholly endorsed by me.  That being said, there are things they do well and things they do not do well, and one thing they have not done well yet is create a piece of hardware that is as compelling to me as most of Apple’s product lineup, which includes phones, tablets, and desktop PCs (their perennial iMac line).  The best of Android’s phones are ugly or gargantuan.  The best tablets are rife with quality issues (although I heard the Nexus 7 is quite superb).  Apple, on the other hand, has produced refined, high quality, and admittedly expensive pieces of art that also are computers.
  3. My biggest complaints about Apple have become somewhat standard.  Their locked down approach to interface has been consumed and iterated upon by both Microsoft (Windows 8
    especially) and Google (ICS has driven a lot of rigidity in form and Jelly Bean is taking it further).
  4. Also, my gripe about the totalitarian nature of Apple’s software and sales approach seems to have been slightly misguided.  I still want to see openness and freedom more than restriction and censorship, but I have to admit that complete freedom is anarchy, and that’s not any better.  We need guides that help direct activity towards fruitful endeavors.  And while Apple is STILL more authoritarian than I wish to see, I can appreciate what they were trying to do.  And it has produced some very impressive results, which makes me wonder if some of the best creative work is created in the shadow of restrictions rather than out in the open.
  5. Finally, I realized that most of what I do with my Android devices is offered at the same level of quality and ability (if not higher quality) on Apple devices.  This isn’t necessarily true at the desktop level – where I’d like the ability to game now and then (of course, that’s what Parallels is for) – but it’s almost certainly true at the tablet and phone level.   Thus, to be able to do what I normally do, but in a more polished environment on a nicer piece of hardware that is more universally supported by app and device manufacturers, is an attractive alternative.

Since deliveries of the iPad Mini aren’t to arrive until Friday, I still don’t know how this is going to work in practice, but the theory is sound and it has started to crumble the tall wall that has stood between me and Apple.  Right now, it’s just the iPad, but who knows, someday I may start buying iMacs, especially if they continue to easily boot into Windows.  It’s always good to have options.

Amazon VOD: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Kaizen” is a Japanese term that is very vital part of Japanese life for it refers to a system (or a philosophy) of continual improvement.  I was first introduced to this concept when I was at Toyota, where it is a cultural imperative.  All workers from those on the line to the engineers in the tall buildings, are expected to be looking for ways of improving quality and performance at all times. There is even a rope stretched across the entirety of vehicle manufacturing that anyone on the production line can pull at any moment to stop the conveyer if he or she sees a quality issue on any aspect of the car.  In the event this happens, the worker’s immediate supervisor is expected to come down, discuss the quality issue, and together brainstorm a means of fixing it so it doesn’t show up again.

Jiro Ono is 85 years old.  He left his home when he was eight to go to work in the food industry.  He owns and operates the only 3-star Michelin restaurant in the world that’s located in an underground subway station and doesn’t have a bathroom.  He lives Kaizen.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary about Jiro Ono, his life, his children, and his amazingly well regarded restaurant.  I watched it on Amazon Prime VOD though it’s available on Netflix Instant Streaming as well.  It’s an incredibly entertaining documentary about a fascinating man.  I’d recommend it even if you don’t like Sushi – though if you do, it is mouth watering.

What’s most fascinating about the documentary though is Jiro’s dedication to improvement.  For sixty years he’s made sushi, and he believes he’s not yet made a perfect dish.  He says that every day he feels obligated to give his customers a better experience than the day before.  His life revolves around finding ways to make his restaurant better.  He studies his customers as they eat to see what they like or don’t like.  He subtly alters the size of his sushi to better fit the mouths of the people eating.  He repositions the sushi on the plate to be able to be picked up easier by left or right handed people.  He seats people in his restaurant according to how they can best enjoy their meal. It’s incredible.

Behind the scenes, he applies the same dedication.  His staff of less than ten people is slowly and methodically trained to be able to prepare the ingredients perfectly.  He has people apprentice for ten years before they can even prepare an egg dish.  One of his staff made eggs over 300 times before it was considered acceptable.  One of his staff is also his son.

Jiro’s family is just as fascinating in the documentary, as both his sons are given time to talk about their father and his influence on their lives.  The older son is over 50 and still works for his father in the restaurant, a job he took up after high school.  The younger son left to form an almost identical restaurant elsewhere in Japan when had learned enough from his father.  They both are in awe of Jiro and wonder what will happen when he finally retires or the inevitable happens.

It’s hard to describe how well made this documentary is, considering it is discussing the life story of one man.  The way it is presented is nearly perfect and I encourage everyone to watch it.  You won’t be disappointed.

Very Highly Recommended.

Why Do You Write?

This is being republished from a forum I visited:

Many times I have returned to writing thinking: “I can do that thing I just read/watched/played better.” But over time, I’ve come to realize that my vanity masks deeper concerns.

As an atheist and a cynic with a comfortable existence, I see pervasive dullness and depression in the world around me. A vast landscape of grays build upon a foundation of compromise.

I write to rebel against a world I don’t want to belong in. Where passionate people shape the world for the better instead of being marginalized or using their influence to drag us deeper into the pits.

As a result, my stories are always about people rising above mediocrity — rising above even their own limits — to ascend to greater glories, in the hopes their actions create a wave of change that can be rode by all those who follow.

I guess in short: I write to inspire.

(… and I’d like to be able to support myself financially doing so.)

Tomorrow I may have another reason in my pocket for why I do what I do, but for today, just right now, I want to be honest.  My cynicism is a poison that has corrupted my worldview and I find it hard to look beyond it anymore.  Other peoples dreams are so saccharine to me that I almost find it impossible to believe we’ll ever pull ourselves up above our situations.

I’m fairly certain that I’m wrong about that.  But knowing something and believing it are two totally different things.

Netflix: The Decoy Bride

I do not have a very good track record with Romantic Comedies.  Most of the mainstream ones released these days involve horribly demonizing a woman for whatever reason or they involve gross humor on the part of the guy or a scene where a woman belches excessively to show that she’s not just an idol on a porcelain pedestal.  Also, they are often from the perspective of the guy, as apparently it’s easy to paint men as blundering in love, but women have ‘serious’ romance movies.

Anyway, the point of all this is that The Decoy Bride is a Romantic Comedy, from the perspective of the woman (two of them, actually) and involves no gross out humor, no demonizing of either of the women in this tale, and only contains one heavily contrived situation to get the movie started.  Also, it’s quite funny and charming, and I enjoyed it heavily.

It stars Kelly MacDonald (star of the recent Pixar movie, Brave) as a failed writer living on a very tiny island in Scotland.  It’s a quirky island of less than 80 inhabitants, of which she’s the only woman who is unmarried (or even has a date).   The island of this film is as much of a cast member as MacDonald or David Tennant (of Doctor Who fame) who plays opposite of her as a fairly unremarkable novelist whose single book was exceptional overwrought and long, but happened to take place on the small Scottish island that MacDonald lives on.

The plot is set in motion by Tennant’s fiancée, Alice Eve (recently in Men in Black 3) who is a mega-star actress that has a persistent paparazzi following her around.  She is not a starlet at all, however, and has decided to retire and kick off her non-acting life with a quiet, personal wedding… which has been disrupted several times by the paparazzi barging in and trying to snap a photo.  She’s had enough and decides to ensconce herself away to the small, quiet setting of her favorite book… the one written by her fiancée.

When the paparazzi still follows her to the island, it sets in motion a collision between MacDonald and Tennant, who end up meeting, and then are asked to engage in a deception: to wed one another to throw off the Paparazzi and get them to disburse, then allow Tennant and Eve to have their quiet ceremony.  When this goes horribly wrong, Tennant and Eve find themselves roaming the island having charming conversation and slowly falling for one another.

What makes this movie work, however, is its respect to the characters.  Tennant’s character is aware he’s in dangerous waters and refuses to let himself get too entrenched.  He turns out to be an honest, faithful and decent person who acknowledges his feelings but absolutely will not betray someone for his own wandering interests.  MacDonald’s character is also respected by showing her truly endearing qualities while also demonstrating her self-defeating personality traits that have prevented her from standing out before now.  And together, they complement one another and allow each other to evolve past their current situation into a better one.

Meanwhile, Eve’s character, who could easily have been turned into a harpy or an evil obstacle in the way of the main characters, is ALSO allowed to evolve past her hang-ups and ends up in a better place at the end of the film as well.  If her character is betrayed in any way, it’s that we never quite learn enough about her as a person, as the film devotes most of its time to the growing Tennant/MacDonald romance and Eve gets the short end of the rope.  Still, she never appears ‘crazy’ or nefarious in any way.

The greatest shame of this film, really, is how disconnected Eve’s personal revelation is to the Tennant/MacDonald romance.  They could be entirely different stories, in fact, and their joined resolution comes across as incredibly convenient.  The fact that everyone ends up happy in the end is exceptionally tidy, but this isn’t intended to be deep drama.  And to have a modern romantic comedy end where nobody is demonized, nobody is screwed over, and everyone ends up better off afterwards… well, that’s just incredibly refreshing.