House of Cards, Season 2: 5 reasons you have to watch!

I am, it would be fair to say, a massive fan of the US series “House of Cards”.  I have been waiting for the second season to come out since the first season ended and we are now, in Australia, less than a week away from that happening.

As I have boring most of my friends with talk of this excellent series and figured I might as well set out my argument for you all as to why you should watch this series:

1. Kevin Spacey: Need I say more? Spacey, to me, is the standard bearer of all actors of his generation.  In the first series of HOC he brought all of his formidable skill to the table and was just outstanding as the dastardly and deceptively evil Congressman Frank Underwood.  There has been no more intense a character in a television series in my memory and the next chapter in the career of Frank Underwood as vice president will be fascinating.

2. It is just possible that it is all true: Am I alone in being utterly convinced that the shenanigans of Frank Underwood and his cohorts might be closer to the truth of what goes on in the halls of power, both in Washington and further afield, that any of us dare to believe? The machinations surrounding recent bills, including a federal shut down, through the US federal parliament have been fascinating to watch and this is a show that gives one the feeling that one is looking the prism of what is going on over there.

3. The sites and sounds of Washington: I concede that a lot of the filming of this show takes place in Maryland and surrounds but one of the first scenes in the first episode of the show: Frank Underwood sitting on a concrete slab in the middle of the Mall in Washington after being told he was not going to be Secretary of State was the starting point of a panorama of one the most beautiful districts in the world.

4. Media and politics: an examination of politics in a digital age A principal character in the drama that is HOC is the young journalist, Zoe Barnes, who strains against the shackles of her job at a traditional newspaper only to quite (after posting a tweet of a name she was called by her editor) and joined a website devoted to news of the style of the “Drudge Report”.  The instant publishing of news is put into sharp focus as Zoe posts a story from a public bus, via her iPhone direct to the website.  The swiftness of news and news reporting is in sharp focus in this series.

5. The trailer: Jump onto youtube right now and find a trailer for the second season of this series.  If you are genuinely not hooked after watching it then I will respectfully suggest you have not watched it closely enough.  Watch it again and you will be suitably hooked.  I have never seen a more enthralling trailer for an upcoming show.

So there it is: my 5 reasons for watching season 2 of House of Cards.  I am sure I could posit another five or even another ten.  It is just a great series and on 15 February I know that I will be glued to my television watching it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I know I will.

Shumpty’s Favourite Places: Washington

The genesis of this blog, as early readers will recall was my recent trip to New Zealand.  Whilst I would not say I am a worldly traveller I have been lucky enough over the years to experience and photograph some places that have had a massive influence on my life.

On Thursday’s for the next period I will be writing a series of blogs called “Shumpty’s Favourite Places” in which I will write about places that I have loved visiting or that have been important to me (or both) over the years.  In starting this series there is not better place to start than Washington.

I wish I could visit Washington every time I travel somewhere such is the excellent time I had there some 16 months ago.

I know I am a nerd but the history of the place just screams out to be enjoyed and celebrated.  The monuments are awe inspiring and yet I found them also to be solemn places it which it was apposite to reflect on not only the effect that the parties celebrated in the monuments have had on the world that we live in but also on the awe with which our American cousins lionise their former leaders.

My favourite monument is the Lincoln Memorial.  Of course I had seen it on TV and in movies and, as is my usual style, I had done some research before I arrived there but the thing that struck me was just the size of the memorial.  It is a massive footprint and is cavernous inside whilst being imposing outside.

Any trip to Washington is not complete without a visit to the White House.  Converse to the Lincoln Memorial I was shocked a little at the lack of size of the place.  Compared again to what I had seen and my perception it struck me as a diminutive structure compared to the ornate and behemoth like buildings that surround it.

I saw a great many of wonderful things in Washington and those who know me will know that there was no way, for example, that I could resist going to the Supreme Court of the United States.  For me, this was law nerd heaven which only was heightened when I was able to watch an argument session in two cases that were before the Court on the day I was there.  I have been fortunate in my time to argue applications before the Supreme Courts of Queensland and New South Wales and the Federal Court of Australia but all of that paled into insignificance with the chill I got up my spine when I heard Chief Justice Roberts call the first case of the day.

Having waxed lyrical about my visit to the Court, you will probably be surprised that it was actually not the highlight of my trip.  That slot is reserved for the four of eleven (in Washington) Smithsonian Institute museums I visited during my stay.  Most particularly I will maintain till the day that I die that the best thing I saw in Washington was the National Air and Space Museum.  I loved it so much I went back for a second look.  From the Wright Flyer, through aviation using the World Wars into the exploration of Space it feels like the sum total of aviation history is all in one place.  It is hard to pick out any particular exhibit that I favoured over the rest: they all were just so good.  I really could have spent at least another day in just this one museum to make sure I did not miss anything.

I would happily go back to Washington again and I would love to live there some day.  As a naive traveller immensely out of his depth in the early days of my first real overseas trip, I found Washington an easy place to get around and the subway the best way to get around it. I have no doubt my next “big” overseas trip will include a Washington component, if only so I can tick a few more of the Smithsonian Institute’s museums of my list of places to see.

I leave you with an image of Washington that to this day is tattooed on my brain.  I took this photo on dusk in the National Mall: the modern day represented by the cars and the history of the Washington Memorial is just the right mix of the day to day hustle and bustle of America’s capital and its history to show the true essence this great city.  This is the image of Washington I will always remember.