Saturday, October 12, 2019

Tech Kablooey, Netflix Existentialism, The Big Fire!

As those who follow me on Facebook know, my home computer went kablooey permanently and spectacularly, and I have been without for over a week. A week! (Sorry about no graphic and the terrible formatting of this post; it will be back to normal soon.) Mr. Typist has had the patience of a saint in getting everything ordered and re-built and patched and painted and back into shape, and to my great relief, it's almost done but for a few installations. I tried to put a brave face on it and take it philosophically, (philosophy will come into heavy play here momentarily,) but by day four I was crawling the walls. I was depending heavily on my twelve-year-old tablet to scratch my evening surfing and reading itch, but it wasn't the same. I downloaded a meaty book on Breaking Bad and philosophy, which was interesting in the beginning, but became existentially depressing very quickly. Then I faffed around with a few tablet games, all of which were disappointing. I finally resorted to pulling out my yarn bin and starting a new punch needle project, a pastel pink and blue hummingbird, as a sort of craft light therapy to ward off the October Seattle gloom.

During this span of time, Mr. Typist became fascinated with a Netflix series called "The Good Place", and would emerge from his computer room cave in the evenings, join me on the couch, and fire it up. I was on board at first, but I soon became deeply ambivalent about it. The plot centers around Eleanor, a young woman who dies prematurely and ends up in a bland, sweet, vaguely tacky "heaven" conceived by a genius architect named Micheal, who agonizes over every detail of his creation. The Good Place is populated by tame, banal neighbors and a comical overabundance of Frozen Yogurt shops with punny names. Soon, Eleanor gets "matched" with her supposed soulmate Chidi, a decision-phobic ethics professor who also died tragically young. It's a strange pairing, as we quickly learn that in life, Eleanor was a horrible person without a shred of integrity and no regard for anyone but herself. Eleanor can't figure out how she ended up in The Good Place at all, and can only conclude that it was a clerical error. She soon confesses to Chidi that she is in The Good Place by accident, and implores him to help her become a better person before she gets found out and expelled to Hell. Chidi has an ethical crisis about whether or not to help her, and that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the series: Eleanor struggles to overcome her wickedness (but only so hard,) Chidi engages a frustrating game of push-pull in which he provides her support and withdraws it just as quickly, and Michael feverishly over-analyzes every detail of his creation. There are also two other main characters introduced, both also morally decrepit in their own way, but the main dynamic centers around Chidi and Eleanor.

I like the overall concept, the acting is very good and the dialogue is quite funny at times, but it's a frustrating viewing experience for me all the same. Chidi's soliloquies on philosophy are interesting on the surface but ultimately lack depth, and it's cringe-inducing for me to watch how his inability to commit to a course of action causes pain to those around him. We're halfway through Season Two and only character so far to experience even incremental growth is Eleanor. Chidi is beginning to recognize that intellectual knowledge is not a substitute for a moral compass or an excuse for cowardice, but he remains unable to change his ways. And, I'll avoid spoilers here, but the constant struggle of the characters to find their way to their proper place in the afterlife feels Sisyphean. Maybe the show is just too much like real life--people are casually cruel to each other and slow to change, everyone's lost, and there are way too many frozen yogurt shops. I'll keep trying though, at least for a few more episodes.

But, I cannot neglect to tell you about the main excitement in my little burgh this week--the Big Fire! Not two blocks from my apartment on Monday afternoon, all hell broke loose and literally 65% of the Seattle fire fighting force showed en masse to put out one of the worst fires this city has seen in years. It happened in a block of businesses that have been around for a long time and were staples in the neighborhood, so that's very sad. But fortunately, despite the roof collapsing, massive amounts of smoke and toxic gas being released into the air, and wide-spread damage to the water supply, there were no serious injuries. Having just returned from FEMA school, my emergency management hackles were up in full force. I was prepared, had I been needed, to jump in with both feet and single-handedly drag smoke-inhalation victims to our Emergency Department, or start directing traffic. As it turns out, the Fire Department and police had things pretty much in hand and no one called on me. Which was a little disappointing, frankly. I just sat in my office and watched it all unfold on a live feed while Mr. Typist texted me updates. I am very grateful that no one was hurt and the fire didn't spread, and I'm proud of our fire department, so all in all, it could have been a lot worse. You can view the carnage here if you're curious. Hopefully the businesses can rebuild at some point and no one will be too financially devastated.

Since it's been a bumpy week, capped off by my return to work and 15,689 emails after two weeks off, here's a pretty and vaguely mournful little video about love and stuff by one of my faves, The Tallest Man on Earth. Enjoy!

Kristen McHenry