Saturday, April 29, 2023

Ted Lasso: A Beacon of Joy and Compassion


Scott D. Parker

Note: This has been a week of Mondays for me and I'm going to have to call an audible and put up a repeat post from October 2022. A highlight of this week (and every week it's been on this spring) is Ted Lasso. It is like a beacon of joy and compassion when those things seem absent. So as we gear up to the end of Ted Lasso, I encourage everyone to jump on board and watch the finale in real time.

One thing that last week's episode contained was this quote: "He was just a humble preacher's son. And yes, he had his demons, but they never stopped him from searching for beauty. Because when you find beauty, you find inspiration. If, that is, you stay as determined as Vincent. Never stop, no matter how many failures. When you know you're doing what you're meant to do, you have to try."

Boy did I need to hear that.

Enjoy the rerun and I'll be back next week.


I expected the laughs. I kind of expected some drama. I did not expect the characters and their relationships.

The wife and I finally watched both seasons of Ted Lasso, the Jason Sudeikis-fronted program on Apple TV. From the outside, it looked like just a sitcom about an American football coach brought over to England to coach a soccer team with the end goal being to drive said team into the ground. This being the plan of team owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) as a get-back to her ex-husband who left her for a younger woman and loved the team.

That might serve as the how-it-started part, but that’s nowhere near where it ended up. By the end of the 22 episodes to date, what we got was a show that could make you crane your ear at the TV to make sure you got the joke a character said in an off-hand manner and then next moment have you mute with emotion, with tears likely rimming your eyes.

Each character has a moment to shine, usually in multiple episodes. With Lasso himself, I expected a overly optimistic, shuck kind of guy where nothing much phases him. That’s certainly Lasso’s exterior, but on more than one occasion, Sudeikis lays bare the coach and reveals him to be a man who hides much behind his veneer of happiness.

That’s not to say his joy isn’t contagious. It was fun to watch his outlook on life wash over all the people in which he comes into contact, ultimately making them better people. Or more real, if you want to get down with the truth of this show.

There are so many things you could say about each character and after I watched the last episode, I got on the internet to read some.

Pro Tip: Never go on the internet when you are catching up on an existing show unless you want spoilers. I learned that lesson long ago and now I watch all my TV shows without my phone in my hand. Well, unless I’m watching the live broadcast of SyFy’s Resident Alien because the cast live tweets and they are hilarious and engaging. (But even then, I put the phone down during the show itself.)

But as much as I enjoyed each character’s moments in the spotlight, what I really appreciated was the depth of their relationships with each other. How great is team owner Rebecca and model/publicist Keeley Jones (Juno Temple). On screen, it’s like their sisters who only discovered each other in adulthood. Unlike other shows where these two might be pitted against each other for, say, to get the same guy, Keeley and Rebecca come to really love each other. They bolster each other when one is feeling down and there’s nary a mean things said between. Super refreshing.

The group of guys surrounding Lasso are also great to see on camera. Dubbed the Diamond Dogs, they consist of Lasso, assistant coach Beard (yup, the character’s real name and not just because actor Brendan Hunt sports facial hair), Director of Football Operations Leslie Higgins (Jeremy Swift), and Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed), the guy who went from being a kit manager to an assistant coach. They also keep things together between them and, most importantly, allow themselves to be vulnerable with each other.

By the end of the second season, I found myself thinking about the show over and over while mowing the lawn or commuting to work. The stories, the characters, the depth just stayed with me. Like I wrote about in a review of Resident Alien a few weeks ago, I’m just glad there are shows like Ted Lasso that demonstrate you can have a light and funny show while still delivering the depth and nuance you might only think exists in dramas.

There's a reason so many people respond to this show. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

My Favorite Prison

I read an article in the NY Times the other day about a prison that perhaps should be a model for others around the world. It's in Peru, and the title of the article sums up what it's about: "TWO FORMER PERUVIAN LEADERS SHARE THE SAME JAIL.  ANOTHER MAY SOON JOIN THEM".

In Lima, the article tells us, "Two of Peru's former presidents are behind bars, one convicted of human rights violations, the other accused of trying to dissolve Congress. A third ex-president may soon join that ignominious group with all three sharing the same prison."

The ex-prez who may be on the way to jail is one Alejandro Toledo. Now 77 years old, he led Peru two decades ago, and this past Friday he surrendered in California to law enforcement people, "having exhausted efforts to resist extradition nearly four years after his arrest in connection with one of the biggest corruption scandals in Latin America".  It seems that once he is returned to Peru, he will be locked up in the same jail as the other two ex-presidents while the case against him moves forward.  

One of the two jailbird ex-presidents is Alberto Fujimori, who those old enough to recall may remember as the Peruvian president who cracked down very hard on the Shining Path militants that wrought untold violence on the country.  Later, he was involved in scandals of his own, abruptly resigned the presidency, and fled to Japan. But then he came back to the country, and after much legal wrangling wound up on trial and got convicted for "crimes against humanity involving extrajudicial killings and kidnappings by a military death squad he had created." There's a superb documentary about him from 2005 called The Fall of Fujimori, in which, I have to say, he comes across as a quite interesting, complicated, and not entirely devoid of charm human being. Anyway, considering that he's 84 years old and was sentenced to 25 years in prison not all that long ago, it's quite possible that his sentence is a life sentence.  

His co ex-president inmate is Pedro Castillo, much younger (born in 1969), who was removed from office by the Peruvian Congress on December 7, 2022.  He is, in the Times' words, "accused of rebellion and conspiracy", though from what I've followed of his problems, he still has a lot of supporters in Peru. In fact, his arrest has "sparked strikes, marches, and general unrest throughout the country as protestors" have called for the immediate resignation of his successor.  So his imprisonment, unlike Fujimori's, sounds like something of an ongoing story that has yet to reach a resolution and that may depend on what happens in Peru politically.  So two ex-presidents in jail, with a third on the way, and it should be mentioned as well that another former Peruvian ex-president, Alan Garcia, who was implicated in the same scandal that Alejandro Toledo was allegedly involved in, avoided arrest by shooting himself fatally in the head in his bedroom as the authorities were trying to arrest him at his house in 2019.

Somehow this article about a prison with ex-presidents doing time in the same place reminded me of the things I've read about serial killers Edmund Kemper and Herbert Mullin, circa 1973, sharing a cell block after their arrests in the California Medical Facility.  Kemper disliked Mullin and accused him of being a cold-blooded killer who "killed everybody he saw for no good reason", and some stories I've read say they would yell at each other on their cell block, each accusing the other of having taken dump sites in the area (Santa Cruz) the other could have used for his own victims.  I wonder if the incarcerated ex-presidents discuss and debate their past actions, weighing who was more effective at repression, corruption, manipulation of the populace, state-sanctioned violence, and whatever else ex-presidents in prison talk about.  Or maybe they are in there insisting to each other they have been wronged, the victims of injustice. Until, of course, the guard on their block says no more talking, lights out, and it's time for these once-powerful guys to hit the hay in their respective cells. 

Regardless of what goes on in there, I have to say that the idea of a prison housing a country's ex-presidents is an amusing one. It's a pleasing thought to ruminate on. Gotta get this idea to catch on in places other than just Peru.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

The Right To Read


By Claire Booth

Tomorrow is Right to Read Day.

It’s the start of National Library Week, which has been a thing for years. But this year the American Library Association decided to turn the first day of this week into a defense of reading freedom. It’s now a national call to action, and it’s desperately needed.

Book banning attempts reached record levels in 2022. According to the ALA, more than half of the states in the U.S. have passed or proposed legislation to remove library books, punish library workers who make certain books accessible, and eliminate access to books by LGBTQ and BIPOC authors.

The ALA’s permanent initiative, Unite Against Book Bans, promotes a very simple position: people should be trusted to make their own decisions about what they read and believe.

“That’s why ALA created Unite Against Book Bans: to be a collective voice in defending the right to read,” ALA president Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada said in a statement.

So how can you make noise in defense of reading? Here are five ALA suggestions:

- Check out and read a challenged book in your area, or a book banned somewhere else. 

- Attend a library board or school board meeting. 

- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper in support of reading freedom. 

- Report censorship. You can do that here.

- Stay up to date on censorship news and reading advocacy. 

Libraries are one of our most important societal resources. Let's protect them.