Ted Lasso is about to lose it

Poor Nathan

Note: spoilers for season 2 of Ted Lasso

Season 2 of Ted Lasso feels “off.” Specifically, Ted himself seems to be doing a “Ted Lasso” impression, working extra hard to be folksy, quick with one-liners and jokes, jokes, jokes. He’s actually annoying at times. I find myself wanting to say, “Ted, give the jokes a break for just 30 seconds.” Some have proposed that this is evidence of the show’s sophomore slump. But I agree with Phil Hornshaw, writing for Game Spot. Ted is having a breakdown right before our eyes.

Look at the evidence:

  1. We’ve seen Ted use humor to cope with stress before. Now, the one-liners are incessant.
  2. We saw him drinking alone on Christmas day (not the first time we’ve seen Ted dive into a bottle while lamenting the state of his family).
  3. The team hasn’t won a single match.
  4. Coach Beard had to snap Ted out of the abusive “Led Tasso” character he put on to move the team’s negative feelings away from Jamie Tartt and onto himself.

Speaking of, let’s talk about Jamie Tartt.

Ted has made decisions that seem very out-of-character in season two, the biggest one being re-signing Jamie Tartt. In season one Jamie was a major distraction, a selfish, narcissistic bully who made almost everyone unhappy. He was relentlessly cruel to Nathan (now on the coaching staff), always at odds with Roy (now on the coaching staff), and controlling of Keeley (now on the team staff and dating Roy). Why did Ted bring Jamie back, despite the huge can of worms that move would open? Not to benefit the team, but because Ted feels Jamie got ripped off in the dad department. Jamie is back because Ted feels guilty over how he’s fathering his own son, 3,000 miles away.

In addition to this, there’s conveniently a new psychologist character on the show whom Ted is avoiding like the plague.

Ted is annoying this season. He is making odd decisions and behaving out-of-character. But I believe that’s all by design. Ted will lose it before the season ends, it will be ugly, and his behavior up until that point will make sense. I believe this will be a tremendous season of Ted Lasso, but they’re playing the long game and we just have to wait for it.

Teen love: A House at the Bottom of a Lake

Note: this post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Show of hands: whose first date was spent exploring a haunted house at the bottom of a lake? No takers I see. Then let’s live vicariously through the James and Amelia, the teenaged main characters of A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman.

This brief novella (114 pages) gets right to the point when 17-year-old James asks Amelia, also 17, on a date. The pair borrow his uncle’s canoe and enjoy a typical day on the water until a previously hidden tunnel brings them to an adjacent lake they’d never seen before. Even more incredible is the two-story house just beneath its surface. Unable to resist exploring the frightening yet exhilarating mystery, the teens dive in and find everything in the house is intact: rugs, books, paintings, a coatrack that stands upright, unmoved by currents. They return home, take scuba lessons (off camera as it were) and return to the watery treasure again and again, their infatuation growing with each dive.

Malerman (who’s previous book Bird Box had people falling down and hurting themselves for fun) creates a cozy snapshot of a summer shared by two young adults experiencing the thrills and anxieties of their first real relationship. In fact, the house is a metaphor for exactly that: it’s intoxicating yet scary. Familiar yet completely foreign. The kids soon become overwhelmed not by the house itself, but their fascination with it.

The book is categorized as horror and while there are some moody, atmospheric scenes, it’s not scary. Dresses float around the sunken house as if worn by unseen occupants, and Amelia has a startling experience while looking into a mirror. These scenes and others like them foster a creepy vibe and that’s all they’re meant to do.

As a novella A House at the Bottom of a Lake is very much a snapshot of a larger story, so there’s not a lot of “how” or “why” (the kids even adopt the mantra, “Don’t ask how or why”). We don’t see the kids take scuba lessons or learn where their equipment came from. They start spending days at a time at the house, and there’s no mention of their parents’ concern over their disappearance. They eat, and I wonder where the food comes from. You can quibble over details like this, but it’s best to let them go and sink into the story.

The ending. I won’t spoil anything but it’s divisive. I’ll let you read it yourself.

A House at the Bottom of a Lake can be read in a sitting and that’s how I’d advise reading it, letting yourself sink into memories of that first special someone.

Witches, Golden Remedy, and All’s Well that Ends Well

Note: this review contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Author Mona Awad’s All’s Well features protagonist Miranda Fitch, a drama professor who suffers from chronic pain yet is determined to stage Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, a “problem play” that Professor Fitch describes as “…neither a tragedy nor a comedy, something in between.” She could also be describing Awad’s novel, which is funny, dark, at times frustrating and confounding.

The story begins with Miranda, an untenured assistant professor at a small New England college. The school’s theatre department, such that it is, has dwindled to two people, Miranda and her friend Grace (“the bitches of the English Department,” Miranda calls them). Miranda is hell bent on having her largely untalented students put on All’s Well that End Well. The mutinous students, however, want the more accessible Macbeth as the semester’s production. While Miranda floats through a haze of pain killers, white wine, and full-body pain, her students await her in the theatre. And wait. And wait. Again.

It’s only after Miranda meets a trio of mysterious, unnamed doctors in the local bar that she (and we) get respite from her pain. In a bit of surreal magic that will feel familiar to those who read Awad’s 2019 novel Bunny, the trio — reminiscent of the witches in Macbeth — offer a pair of gifts. For Miranda, the ability to physically pass her pain on to others. To the school, a large endowment. All they ask for in exchange is “…a really good show.” Specifically, a production of All’s Well that Ends Well.

I say “we” get respite from Miranda’s pain because that’s exactly how it feels. By having Miranda be the story’s narrator, Awad puts us in intimate proximity to the pain that occupies her protagonist’s body and her time. Having cost Miranda her career (it started when she fell off of a stage while performing Helen in All’s Well That Ends Well), her friendships, and her marriage, Miranda’s pain is front-and-center for the first hundred pages and it’s quite claustrophobic and uncomfortable. When she finally found relief so did I, and that’s a point of the book: we don’t want to look at female pain. We want it to go away so that we can feel better. If I’m being honest, by “we” I mean “men.”

Miranda sees one physical therapist after another, all male (four of whom are named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). They bend, twist, crack and placate with their “bro good looks” and “blue polo shirts.” At one point, Miranda is given a video to watch which features an animated, anthropomorphized brain who subtly describes that often times, pain only exists in our heads.

Things get surreal from here and the book‘s conclusion has left some scratching their heads. If you’re put off by the bizarre and a book whose climax requires interpretation, you might find All’s Well frustrating. I do feel the book could be a little shorter and Miranda’s descriptions of her pain can feel relentless, but that’s a point the story is trying to make, I believe. You want to look away; don’t. You want to be free of this; no.

Awad’s writing is beautiful and witty. I found myself re-reading sentences just for the pleasure of them. For example, Miranda describes the actress in a medication ad thusly: “…she attempts a face of what I presume to be her invisible suffering. Her brow furrows as though she’s about to take a difficult shit or else have a furious but forgettable orgasm.”

I thoroughly enjoyed All’s Well (and Bunny). I’m quite looking forward to what Awad writes next.

Oops new books

This morning I visited two of my favorite book stores and walked out with two new books.

First, I grabbed All’s Well by Mona Awad from the Brewster Book Store. This title was just published on August 3rd and follows Bunny, which is one of my favorite books of 2021 so far. From the jacket:

…a darkly funny novel about a theatre professor suffering chronic pain who, in the process of staging a troubled production of Shakespeare’s most maligned play, suddenly and miraculously recovers.

If it’s “darkly funny” in the way that Bunny was, I’m sure I’ll love it.

Next I visited The Sea Howl Book Shop to pick up For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing. I’m just now realizing I’ve read four books this year in an academic setting. It’s a theme I didn’t even realize was happening. I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm for For Your Own Good online and I’m eager to star it. From the jacket:

Teddy really can’t be bothered with a few mysterious deaths on campus that’re looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is pushing these kids to their full academic potential.  

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way. If not, well, they’ll get what they deserve.

Murder on campus. Yes, please. I’ll let you know what I think of these after I finish The Maidens. My TBR list is growing.

Greek tragedy, murder: The Maidens is my next book

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A New England university, a secret society, murder and a mystery to solve. I’m excited to read The Maidens by Alex Michaelides as my next book.

I’m on a real thriller kick recently, and The Maidens sounds like a great one:

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

I’ll let you know how it goes, of course. Expect a review in a few weeks (or sooner, depending on how quickly I get through it).

What’s making me happy this week – Aug. 6

A look at what’s making me happy this week, and how you can enjoy them, too. . You’ll find an archive of my “happy picks” here

The music of Sleepy Fish.

A prolific Chillhop artist, the musician known as Sleepy Fish produces ethereal, instrumental, lo-fi music that has become the soundtrack to my workday. I find it relaxing and uplifting, melancholic and invigorating.

Ted Lasso season two

A show about a guy who believes he (and others) can reach his goals through kindness, empathy, and belief in oneself. Exactly what I need in 2021.

This Olympic moment


Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi — who both cleared 2.37m — decided to forgo a jump-off and share the gold.

This big-ass bag.

Book review: A Deadly Education

Note: this review contains Amazon Affiliate links.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, the first title in her planned Scholomance trilogy, is the story of a young female wizard in a school of magic. Galadriel, or El as she prefers to be called, has a strong natural ability for the dark arts, which she’s determined to avoid. When the school’s golden boy, Orion Lake, senses her dark tendencies, he suspects her in the recent disappearance of a classmate. As the two get closer, new threats and opportunities arise for them both.

Novik has created yet another smart, compelling world with A Deadly Education. While there’s conflict between El, Orion the other students, it’s the teacher-free boarding school itself that poses the most significant threat. Essentially, it’s the educational equivalent of the uncle who teaches his nephew to swim by tossing him into a pool. I won’t give too much of that away here, but it works well.

The book also deals with the disparity between classes of people. Essentially, there are two classes of students: the “enclavers,” backed by a collection of established wizards in the world, and everyone else. The former are better equipped, prepared and supported in their academic career than the latter, which at the Scholomance can have deadly consequences. It’s not heavy-handed and easy to extrapolate into the real world.

The characters were quite well done. While El is a bit too petulant at times, her behavior becomes more understandable as her background is revealed. Likewise, shining star Orion has his own issues to deal with, and he becomes more sympathetic as time goes on.

The concept of the school — the setting for the entire book — really works. It feels dangerous, and is. Novik’s vision of a magic boarding school is very smart and well executed. There’s a good mix of action (wizards v. monsters if you’re into that sort of thing), relationships, and wry humor.

I’ll note that the book did focus quite a bit on the relationships between the teen students. As a reader in his 50’s I’d find my attention waning during some of these scenes, but that’s a function of my age, not Novik’s writing. I’m likely outside of this book’s intended demographic, so keep that in mind.

As I mentioned before, I also felt that El tended to be a little too sarcastic, and standoffish. Even when her classmates were being nice to her, she tended to reject that. I’d find myself thinking, “Come on, El. Give them a break.” But that’s me.

If you like the Harry Potter series or The Magicians books, you’ll enjoy A Deadly Education. Magic, action, teen drama, social commentary and a wonderfully clever setting result in a fun book. I’m looking forward to book number two.

Time for an entrance reducer?

Ok today was the third consecutive day I’ve seen my bees fighting yellow jackets at the hive entrance. It’s not a full-on robbing situation but this is a first-year hive that I established in May, and they’re still building comb in the second brood box. It may be an overreaction but I put an entrance reducer on this evening at the 3″ setting.

The bees seemed a little confused at first, walking over to the newly-sealed side and even started hovering in front of the hive as if it were an orientation flight. I’m guessing they were checking out this new “feature.”

Hopefully I did the right thing by putting the reducer on (I can always remove it of course). As a young hive it’s not a strong hive and with the dearth coming I don’t want them to get overwhelmed and robbed.

Aug. 1 bee hive inspection

First beehive inspection in 14 days. I added a second brood box a few weeks ago when my first box was about 80% full. Today the bottom box is completely full and they’ve drawn comb on 50% of the frames in the top box. Lots of nectar in the top box, as well as capped brood and uncapped larvae. I also saw the queen today in the top box, walking around and looking lively. That was a relief as I hadn’t seen her on my last two inspections.

Two concerns however. I did see a hive beetle walking around. I do have a trap so I’ll put that in tomorrow. Additionally, the other day I posted here about seeing my bees defend themselves successfully against a single yellow jacket. This evening I saw three more yellow jackets on the ground in front of the hive and hovering around the landing board. The bees were on high alert, in a tight cluster at the entrance. I could see them inspecting every bee that landed, and lunging at the yellow jackets if they got too near.

I’m worried this is building up to a robbery. I don’t know if yellow jackets send out scouts or if they’re simply finding their way here by chance. Maybe they have a nest nearby. I’m going to put an entrance reducer on the 1″ opening (didn’t want to do it tonight as there were many tense guards on the board and I didn’t want them coming at me). I hope this isn’t a robbery waiting to happen.