Thursday, May 14, 2015

Back from dealing with paperwork

Well, dear reader, once again I've been gone for too long. This time, it was the bureaucracy of my newly adopted state which kept me from updating. Thing is, to get any small matter accomplished these days results in facing off against a hundred different people who all seem caught in some algorithm designed for the insane. And no matter how well intentioned these people are, no matter how many times they smile, there's still the matter of them having to deal with the laws, some  of which contradict others. And there I am, hustling from one office to another, knowing I'm in the right (using a metric of right and wrong from my childhood—a mistake, I know), yet with the creeping sense that I will be punished for some mistake I'm not aware of. It's enough to want to throw up your hands and join the Tea Party [1]

Nevertheless, after visiting a few hapless offices nestled in suburban parking lot plazas—small offices that denied their own importance, to say nothing of their deteriorating facades—I was sent to a large complex of government buildings in the middle of my new town. Odd buildings, these. Built on black rock with black glass and black pillars. Imposing, in that bureaucratic sense (no, no, maybe even in that Stalinist sense); I was a little surprised that a small town in the NW would have such buildings.

Without any markings to guide me, I bumbled back and forth. No one knew about anything other than their own floor. As you can imagine, it took quite a bit of calling and asking before I found the right office. Then, when I did, there was the need to find another office to approve or stamp this piece of paperwork or another.

But my mundane trials and tribulations within this system is not my concern here: I want to focus on other matters such as the one show I kept seeing on all the TV screens. Now, my previous experience with government offices with TV screens either had FOXnews (in the Army, unfortunately) blaring on all of them, or some other odd channels (to include, interestingly enough, Judge shows). But this time a cartoon show was on all of them. I ignored it at first, assuming that perhaps this was for the children, soon, however it had me enthralled. In each office I saw a new episode. Each episode varied from a few minutes to about twenty. There were no ads. I wasn't sure who had chosen it, and when I asked a worker in the last office, she merely shrugged. The studio sign at the end of each show, a black and white American flag with a sad emoticon in place of the stars, didn't help to solve the problem of who created this show.

The show seemed to revolve around a family of humans. They lived in a perfectly curated, eclectic suburban house, rarely left it, and seemed perfectly made for its Petra-like facade, rounded walls, rooms carved from stone, multi-leveled and flowered front yard, and Japanese garden backyard. The characters themselves, a family of five, were of all sorts of colors and enjoyed arguing amongst themselves. Around the outside of the house roamed their guard dogs, all with semi-human physiques—mainly of the bodybuilding kind.

Well educated, the family quoted Plato and Hegel and Shakespeare and the Bible and the Quran and Mahabharata with relative ease. This alone piqued my curiosity and I would stay longer, or wait longer, or let people cut in line ahead of me just to see the end of each episode. The problem of each episode would be presented almost immediately, and the family or subsection thereof would go about solving the problem. 

Fine, right? Not exactly completely different from a lot of other shows I've seen. But some of the episodes were quite deep. In one the daughter wins money off her younger brother who falls for a trick of probability. The argument follows that since the brother didn't know about the math it was a trick and she should return the money. The daughter disagrees and says that the knowledge was out there, not very niche and the little brother was old enough to read and understand it, so why should she give back the money? The family has a trial and they end up agreeing that the little brother would  best be served with this little lesson. The little brother disappears but no one seems too concerned (his leaving the family possibly hinted at brain damage) for the trial has concluded fairly. They quote several philosophers and leave it at that.

In another one the daughter finds magic mushrooms in the backyard and the family sits around and discusses whether it's fine to let someone that young try out a mushroom that will certainly allow her to see another dimension, while at the same time poisoning her. It deals with the uselessness of seeing too much in this world while also needing to harness/expand the youth's imagination. They actually quote the Doors on this one and the entire family eat the mushrooms.

So that's a small sample size of episodes. But even that's not what really captured my attention. What got to me was a background story that sometimes came to the fore in a few episodes. Creatures (hooded) in the forest. They were, according to all in the family (it is rumored that the brother who left might have joined them), evil enemies who deserved any ill fate that came their way. And they tried at all turns to trick the family to leave their house or to sabotage some aspect of their house.

Again, this was usually in the background. A family member fixing a broken window and complaining about the creatures or the guard dogs barking and a creature scurrying off shouting some insults or even the guard dogs finally catching one and tearing it to shreds (to which the family would merely shut a window if the noise was too loud). But on a couple episodes the creatures would somehow be dragged in alive or manage to corner one of the smaller family members long enough to spout their grievances: the house might have been too close to the forest or the guard dogs were ravaging through the forest or the family's sewage was flooding the forest. And each time the family member wrapped the creature in such a torrent of great lines from philosophers that the creature would be stunned and the guard dogs would finish what was left.

I'm not sure why this captivated me. Most episodes didn't even have an ending. And these creatures would only add to that sense of incompletion. Also, I wasn't entirely sure whether the family was under siege (the father had said as much in an episode where the creatures had thrown a rock that hit him on the head and then proceeded to go out with the dogs and burn a large section of the forest) or if it was the creatures who had legitimate claims to being under siege (they claimed that some of the wood in the house came illegally from the forest, though that seemed a little much since there was plenty of wood in the forest). Nevertheless, I want to find this show and see if there is some completion with regard to the family and the creatures, for I sense that this is the bigger story. Perhaps I'm wrong.

Any other interesting shows out there?

[1] I'm not applying to the Tea Party such a simple motivation. Just my own. 

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