Sunday, August 15, 2021

Read Watch Grow

This was an awful week. For me. For the country. For the planet. And I don't want to talk about it or think about it or write about it.

Instead, I read a really good book and watched a really good TV show and sat on my front porch a lot and admired the flowers in my hellstrip garden bobbing in the breeze, people strolling past, and occasionally, a dog lifting its leg to pee on the marigolds. I only winced a little. 

What I read: Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

This book caught my interest because it has a weird title and colorful cover and I like John Green books. Green explains in the first chapter that he used to review books for Booklist and then he goes off on a tangent about star ratings and how not-helpful they are. Also, people will rate everything these days. Someone rated a bench in Amsterdam, for example, because it was a prop in the movie The Fault in our Stars. They gave the bench 3 stars and said in the review, "It is a bench." 

Green explains that we're living in the Anthropocene Era, a time that is dominated by humans, and humans lately, aren't doing such a great job. (Green was writing this book at the beginning of the pandemic. He's an anxious person and one of his greatest fears used to be pandemics. At the beginning of the lockdown, which he thought would last a few weeks, he bought 60 cans of Diet Dr Pepper, his favorite drink, and told his brother Hank he was prepared. His brother laughed and said, "For someone who has spent four decades worrying about disease pandemics, you sure don't understand how disease pandemics work.")

The book is a collection of essays on random topics that Green reviews and rates. Canadian geese, the Indianapolis 500, CNN, Piggly Wiggly, Googling Strangers and Auld Lang Syne are just a few. Each essay is short, funny and sometimes not-so-funny, with Green's observations about people and the strange and awful and beautiful things we do. 

There's footnotes and fun facts. And one essay made me burst into tears and feel great love for humanity. I give John Green's Anthropocene Reviewed 5 stars. 

What I watched: Ted Lasso 

This did not seem like a TV show I would like. My daughter told me about it and she said, I know you're thinking you won't like it, Mom, but you will. She was right on both counts. The show is about an American football coach, Ted Lasso, played by Jason Sudeikis, who gets hired to coach a British football (soccer) team. Ted knows nothing about British football. He's a genuinely nice guy who is in way over his head. Classic fish out of water tale. 

Whenever I read a book or watch a TV show or movie, my brain immediately goes into storytelling mode and I can see the structure behind it. How the characters and plot are set up. What the conflicts are going to be. How the whole thing will probably turn out. Ted Lasso seemed like an easy one. 

But I was wrong on basically everything, and wrong in ways that I love. We know, for example, that there's got to be a reason why Ted was hired to coach a sport he knows nothing about. The answer is clear in episode one. The team owner Rebecca Welton, played by Hannah Waddingham, is recently divorced and bitter. The team was her ex-husband's baby, but now it's hers. What better way to get revenge on the ex than to hire a ding-dong American to destroy what the ex loves? 

My brain immediately imagined the entire series from this point on. Ted would be eager to learn and help and Rebecca would thwart his every move, sabotaging all of his efforts and hurting the team. But this is NOT what happens. Only a few episodes in, I loved Rebecca, who's a much more complicated and multi-layered person than "bitter ex-wife." 

It's the same with all of the characters in this show and all in unexpected ways. Nice guy Ted has some demons, and not the ones you think. There's an arrogant soccer player, the groupie-ish model girlfriend, the old cranky soccer player who should retire but isn't ready to quit playing yet. All of these people turn out to be just as interesting as Ted and Rebecca. 

Now, I've just started watching season two, and have no idea what's going to happen to any of these people but I love it and I love them. I give Ted Lasso 5 stars. 

What I grew: 

Yellow squash and green beans and so many tomatoes that I can't make enough spaghetti sauce and salsas and caprese salads to keep up with them. Basil and ginger (a plant I bought at the farmer's market but now am unclear about when I should harvest it) and ditto, the fennel, which I have never grown before, but it looks so lovely and feathery that I'm not sure I want to pick it at all. 

Black-eyed Susans in the back flower beds and some mystery flower that I planted from seeds my father-in-law gave me, but now it's about to bloom and I had no idea what it was, exactly, that I had planted. A friend took a look and said Datura. Now that I think about it, my father-in-law called them moonflowers, which is one of the common names of Datura. Also, if you want to go down a fun rabbit hole into strange plants, take a look at the Datura entry on Wikipedia. 

(One example: "All species of Datura are poisonous and potentially psychoactive, especially their seeds and flowers, which can cause respiratory depression, arrhythmias, fever, delirium, hallucinations, anticholinergic syndrome, psychosis, and even death if taken internally. Due to their effects and symptoms, they have occasionally been used not only as poisons, but also as hallucinogens by various groups throughout history.") 

Datura. It's gorgeous, but don't smoke it. Unless you want to die. 

Also, cleome and Mexican sunflowers in the hellstrip, the sunflowers now taller than I am and possibly breaking some city ordinance about how high things can grow in front of your house, but I don't care. The people walking by seem to enjoy them and God knows the dogs do.

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