Quick Review: The West Wing

Quick Reviews resulted as the alternative to an old poster style I would create when I didn’t have an extensive opinions on a particular movie or television series, and so these reviews are super short and sweet.

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Winner of seventeen Primetime Emmy Awards, The West Wing, written by Aaron Sorkin focuses on fictional democratic POTUS Josiah “Jed” Bartlet who suffers no fools and therefore alienates many. He and his dedicated staffers struggle to balance the needs of the country with the political realities of Washington, D.C., working through two presidential terms that include countless scandals, threats and political scuffles. The final two seasons focus on the race to elect the candidate to proceed from Bartlet as the leader of the free world.


While Gilmore Girls gets praised as the “feminine Sorkin”, I prefer to think of The West Wing as the masculine Sherman-Palladino. Minus the pop-culture references and instead heavy with political discourse, the style of the two shows, particularly the witty, intelligent dialogue and the quick pace are key drivers to the charm of both series.

Josiah “Jed” Bartlet may not be the hero Washington deserves, but he’s the one we need right now. It’s easy to create a perfect leader, and much harder to emulate them, and The West Wing portrays the king of governance we all like to think is pulling the strings. The show is also a very interesting insight into US politics for non-Americans. What the heck is an Iowa Caucus?

Side note, added after the initial publication of this post: I was certainly more knowledgeable about the recent Presidential election including the way of the electoral college and the idea of said caucuses.

A constantly evolving cast resulted from a tumultuous battle between showrunners and writer, and the loss of Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) in season four has its own negative impact on the run of the show, not to mention the fangirls. But with the combination of Allison Janney (CJ Cregg), John Spencer (Leo McGarry), Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman) and Martin Sheen (POTUS), not to mention supporting actors Dule Hill (Charlie) and Janet Moloney (Donna), we have a cast that manages to captivate an audience from season one.

Uncle Tom’s Rabbit Proof Fence

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is on the list of 1001 Books to Read before You Die, and The Rabbit Proof Fence is one of the 1001 Movies. This blog has never been about reviewing a text, but more about a discussion into the emotion they inspire. That’s what this is.


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In the past few years of blogging, in particular the more recent 2015/2016 effort towards completing the 1001 lists, I’ve accepted few reasons to write seriously about what I’ve been experiencing. As my natural preference is towards positive or comedic creations, I tend to figure that life gives you enough lemons as it is, why delve further into the things that make you upset? No one wants to read a post on a lifestyle blog about racism, segregation or the Stolen Generation – they want to see photos of beaches and pancakes, while reading about the time I watched Fantasia with the audio out of sync.

I’m also not often a social warrior – if you want to make me cry about human failures, show me the photo of a koala sitting in a logged field, or remind me that I may get to see the Great Barrier Reef, but I will never see the Great Barrier Reef as it was in its prime. Human struggles don’t often rate on my emotional scale, and it isn’t because I’m not a genuinely kind or feeling person, and it’s not because I don’t feel for, or cry for human misfortune, it’s just because if I’m completely honest, I like to imagine Earth as it would be without us. We’re kind of the worst.

There’s only one memory I have of a serious post in relation to #the1001project, and it’s from last year when I watched Within Our Gates, the 1920s Oscar Micheaux film about slavery and racism in America. I remember at the time thinking “wow, the context of my watching this is so poignant! There are so many horrible things happening lately”, with tasering and shooting of innocent people, and several mass murders, I was upset and I’ll always remember ending that post with:

“It’s not change that we need to be afraid of, though I know there’s a lot of that going around at the moment – we need to be terrified of the ways in which we are still the same.”

I want to write poetically, or eloquently, about how I feel when I see films like Rabbit Proof Fence and read novels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin but more often than not, the reactions are more emotional and forceful. Admittedly I’m not reading as many tales as I was last year, but the aftershocks still exist, and there are still videos of police stopping noticeably shaken African American ladies, convincing them they’ve broken a law and then saying “nahhh it’s a joke! I wanna give you an ice-cream”.  I can’t decide which I hate more, that this lady had the fear of law enforcement ingrained in her, or that the police played on that insecurity to pull a blatant stunt. As ever, the phrase “Check Your Privilege” really needs to be reiterated, and yet again:

Change isn’t the enemy – be concerned about the ways we’re still the same.

Kimmy Schmidt is “Strong as Hell”

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The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Season 1
Available on DVD or Netflix online library.

A while ago at a party I was playing “Who Would Play Me in a TV Series: The I Just Met You Edition” with some new acquaintances as a sort of get to know you exercise. Now I have always fancied myself a less caricatured, less Hollywood Jessica Day [Zooey Deschanel in New Girl] with my bangs and my limitless optimistic enthusiasm so when “John Krasinski” – it was that kind of crowd – made the call that I was “clearly an Ellie Kemper”, “I was like, ‘really’?”.

I mean sure, as “The Other Kelly” in The Office, she flies her adorkable flag with Andy, but while I had always seen myself as more of the Nice Girl with a bit of weird, not to mention being exceeeedingly brunette in all understandings of the word, Ellie Kemper always struck me as playing the slightly unstable, definitely fiery-in-the-good-way, but crazy, ginger lady characters.

That was until I caught up and fell in love with The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

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From creators who between them have credits on 30 Rock, Friends, Mean Girls and of course, Saturday Night Live – Tina Fey and Robert Carlock – comes a show whose basis is so dark, we’ve burst right through the other side where everything is technicolour and we have to laugh because if we think too much about what happened, it’s really super creepy.

Kimmy Schmidt is one of the “Indiana Mole Women”, a group of ladies kidnapped by the leader of a doomsday cult and held in an underground bunker for fifteen years where, yes, “weird sex stuff happened”. Determined to escape the stigma of victimisation, and equipped with only her unbreakable enthusiasm, a ninth grade education, her Baby-Sitters Club Murder Mystery  and her $13,000 Mole Woman Fund, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt follows her adjustment to adventures in the real world.

hispanic womanAnd it’s Fey/Carlock exactly as we know and love. From a theme song created by Songify the News‘ Gregory Brothers, a tribute to songified viral videos, to challenging the media on their manipulation of “victims” for ratings and press, S01E01 Kimmy Goes Outside! sets Kimmy up as a hard-hitting reference-comedy piece exactly as we would expect from the alumni of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock.

Enter Ellie Kemper as Kimmy

After a history of cameos as the naive, quirky girl (The Office, Bridesmaids), the psycho redhead (The Mindy Project) and comedy roles in internet shorts and late night television, Ellie Kemper has finally landed a lead role and it’s great to see that it’s one with a little bit of depth: an underlying horror story.

What doesn’t kill us, can only make us stronger, and in the case of Kimmy, her experiences in an apocalypse cult, sex dungeon has only worked to make her Unbreakable. Through the use of positive reinforcement techniques and pure willpower, Kimmy remains upbeat and positive despite dealing with her demons realistically and in a not entirely sane, way. We still don’t know why Kimmy is afraid of velcro.

Protect me? From what? The worst thing that will ever happen to me happened in my own front yard. Life beats you up, Titus. You can either curl up in a ball and die, like we thought Cyndee did that time, or you can stand up and say “we’re different. We’re the strong ones and you can’t break us!”

In the end, Jess Day is a lot like Kimmy Schmidt, in an albeit more realistic and relatable way, both are optimistic, enthusiastic and a little bit naive, but while New Girl is a show about friends and quirky adventures, Kimmy Schmidt is a show about accepting the worst and being your best anyway. And friends and quirky adventures.

Top Travel: Western Australia

This list and any other Top Travel lists are in conjunction with my side venture The 1001 Project and are not only ongoing, but extensive. This page will be continuously updated as I visit more of the top travel destinations in WA.

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Bluff Knoll
Mt Barker, Western Australia
1001 Natural Wonders & 1001 Walks

With stunning 360 degree views of the Stirling Ranges from its summit, Bluff Knoll is the highest peak within the Southwestern Australian Floristic Region. During the months of August to October, thousands of wildflowers in bloom make this the leading destination for botany enthusiasts and adventurers alike.

With a vertical height of 1095m, the third tallest mountain in Western Australia, the 3.1km return trip with a hiking classification of 4 (moderately difficult), requires approximately 3 to 4 hours return, but experienced hikers or fitness freaks can complete the trek in under 120 minutes.

While September is the ideal season to visit Bluff Knoll for wildflowers, any time between May and October is suitable, weather permitting. Climate can change instantaneously, and during winter it is uncommon, but not unheard of to experience frost and even snowfall during particularly cold days. Take adequate water and sun protective equipment at all times, but consider taking wet or cold weather gear even if it might seem gratuitous.

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Torndirrup Peninsula
Albany, Western Australia
1001 Natural Wonders

Located approximately 30 minutes drive from Albany central, Torndirrup National Park is one of several protected nature reserves in the town’s vicinity, and one of two specified as Natural Wonders. With several picturesque options, there are a range of attractions to visit within the park.

The Peninsula itself is the most frequently visited, featuring both the Gap and Natural Bridge formations. No exertion is necessary, with a large open car park after a short drive, however as of December 2015, restoration activities were occurring at Natural Bridge and access was prohibited.

If you’re feeling slightly more adventurous, Cable Beach (pictured above) is my personal favourite, requiring some dirt track driving, rock walking that can be dangerous in wet weather and descent of a wooden staircase. The “beach” is non-accessible by foot without steep climbs, and high wind or water pressure can produce large, dangerous swell, so please use your own discretion and judgement when visiting.

Torndirrup also features several steep and exhaustive trails including Isthmus Hill (10km, 6-8 hour return trip) and Peak Head (4.3km, 2 hour return trip with some rock climbing), as well as short trips to the Stony Hill car park and Heritage Trail (500m, 20 minute walk) and as I would highly recommend, the Salmon Holes (300m, 10 minute walk).

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Two Peoples Bay National Park
Albany, Western Australia
1001 Natural Wonders

Little Beach (pictured above) at Two Peoples Bay National Park is so far the most convincing argument yet against my prevailing dislike of beaches. Located 35km east of Albany, this spot is one of the more convenient secrets of the Albany area, and yet secluded enough to remain relatively unknown.

As with other national parks in the area, Two Peoples Bay features several options depending on the level or type of activity. For bush-walkers and flora/fauna enthusiasts, the Heritage Trail, a 4.6km Moderately Difficult hike takes you on a 2 hour return loop through woodland with strategic lookouts along the path to view the sheltered bay. For fishermen and swimmers, the Bay itself has open shallow water perfect for frolicking, or swimming with small children and a boat ramp allowing access by open water to Little Beach.

Little Beach itself is the headline act for Two Peoples Bay. With deep, clear water for 50-100m and clean white sand, surrounded by dense natural flora (unfortunately pictured above post-burning in December 2015) and granite rock, this is a perfect, secluded location for a summer swim, with the only downfall being the unfortunately low temperatures in Albany year-round. The area is large, with plenty of room, affording everyone the luxury of desolation even if you’re sharing the beach with several other groups.

Introducing: The Roosevelt Readers Club

The Roosevelt Readers Club was created as a component of The 1001 Project, and is therefore the junction between loving reading and the outdoors, just as Teddy Roosevelt himself was a fan of both. We meet once a month to discuss a book from the list of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, and we pick a new location in Perth to do so and eat food.

This month, just as a rookie would do, the book I chose was The Children’s Book by AS Byatt and we visited Aliment in West Leederville.


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The Novel: The Children’s Book, by AS Byatt

A spellbinding novel, at once sweeping and intimate, from the Booker Prize–winning author of Possession, that spans the Victorian era through the World War I years, and centres around a famous children’s book author and the passions, betrayals, and secrets that tear apart the people she loves.

When Olive Wellwood’s oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of the new Victoria and Albert Museum—a talented working-class boy who could be a character out of one of Olive’s magical tales—she takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends.

But the joyful bacchanals Olive hosts at her rambling country house—and the separate, private books she writes for each of her seven children—conceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined. As these lives—of adults and children alike—unfold, lies are revealed, hearts are broken, and the damaging truth about the Wellwoods slowly emerges. But their personal struggles, their hidden desires, will soon be eclipsed by far greater forces, as the tides turn across Europe and a golden era comes to an end.

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At a substantial 617 pages, The Children’s Book was a mistake to choose for a book club. After initially planning to meet three weeks ago, our meetup date was changed twice to accommodate the length and difficulty of the novel. Even then only one attendee had read the entire book, and I still had 60 pages to go. It’s not the easiest novel to digest either – with large blocks of historical context and almost as many characters as Game of Thrones, it’s not an ideal choice if you’re interested in light reading and many of the book club members were feeling the struggle by the opening scenes.

That said, in my opinion (because I run this blog and the book club), the novel is wonderful. It’s clearly a novel about artists, by an artist. With heady descriptions, thoroughly researched background and literary allusions, it’s a very difficult but rewarding read that unlike many novels succeeds in absorbing you completely in the story. It’s not fluffy, and many of the themes are confronting – sexual coercion, incest, suicide and mental illness to name a few – which is unsettling, but the story is immersive and kept me constantly interested and invested.

Don’t take my word for it though: while several members of the group agreed it was difficult to continue after Part I, those who continued reading expressed the same sentiments about characters and descriptive text, and most agreed to needing to know how the story ended.


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The Cafe: Aliment Cafe, West Leederville

Aliment Cafe on Instagram
Cafe
Location: 170 Railway Parade, West Leederville
Cuisine: Cafe; Breakfast Bar; Locally Produced Beverages
Price Range: $18 – $30

Having extra people with you to try a cafe is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand you can steal Clinton’s brownie stuffed pancakes to photograph (see above), but on the other hand Clinton has brownie stuffed pancakes when you chose the mushroom hash because yesterday you sugar crashed after an Iced Chocolate, but now you have food envy.

Aliment is a small but cosy restaurant along the main street in West Leederville, that was made pleasantly quite by roadworks along Railway Parade. With a wide range of foods and local artisan beverages, the only things missing were options for vegans, which was a condition for my choice when consulting The Urban List, and was therefore a little disappointing.

Option I Chose: Mushroom Hash with Eggs Benedict and Spinach – a hearty and tasty vegetarian option.
Notable Alternative: The Brownie Filled Pancakes special! Pictured above, this sweet treat breakfast was coveted by the whole table.


The Club: A Success

“One of the better outcomes of The 1001 Project” is quite a statement as this project has brought me nothing but joy and positive experiences, but this first meeting of the Roosevelt Readers Group was better than most. What was going to be a discussion of the book, devolved into a few hours spent discussing reading, literature and life in general with a really great bunch of people, and something I’m really looking forward to continuing in future.

However, we continue to welcome new members! If you’d like to be part of a group that loves reading, meeting new people and trying new food places in Perth, send us a message on Facebook or email the1001project@gmail.com!

x Casey

Burgers of Perth: Hood Burger

Burgers of Perth is an ongoing series for exactly what it sounds like. To see other blog entries on the topic, click HERE.

Hood Burger on Facebook
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Location: Friday 5:00pm – 8:30pm – Bayswater Bowling and Recreation Club
Cuisine: Burger Bar
Price Range: $12-$18

I will be the first to admit that when it comes to comfort food, I have the worst habits. If it’s not cheesecake or a burger, it’s a waste of time, and I could SAY that the inclination to exercise is strong enough to counteract this predisposition, but really what I’m doing is heading to exercise locations where there will be food for me to eat afterwards…

Enter Hood Burger.

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Photo credit: Hood Burger Facebook page.

Partnering with the Bayswater Bowling and Recreation Club to monopolise on the hungry Friday night Street Roller Hockey League crowd was a smart move on the part of Hood Burger, and everyone benefits. With simple, straightforward flavours (a choice between single or double cheeseburgers made with high quality ingredients) plus a range of extras to mix it up a little – spicy Jalapeño sauce or Hotline [onion] Rings, Hood Burgers satisfy those basest of cravings, perfect for a Friday night treat.

Option I Chose: I always go with the single burger with cheese as it’s exactly the right amount. I always think about asking for no onion, but am often too caught up to remember.
Notable Alternative: Add chips on the side if you want a little extra, particularly if you like your fries a little crunchy.

While “burger lovers who want to spend their night watching roller hockey” might be a niche market, the Venn diagram of that niche market and “burger lovers who want to spend their night watching roller hockey and who agree that Hood Burger is the way to go about it” is a circle. I may be biased, based on how I spend my Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays too, but Fridays at the hockey with a Hood Burger are becoming a tradition. And hey, they’re also perfect for a first date if you like to know your other half doesn’t mind getting down and messy.

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Don’t just take my word for it: The Urban List also considers them in their “Top 25 Fat Feeds of Perth” list.

x Casey

Mr Munchies Sushi, Mt Lawley

Mr Munchies on Zomato
Cafe
Location: Arcade 669, off Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley
Cuisine: Japanese; Sushi-Bar
Price Range: $8 -$20

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Secreted away at the back of an arcade on Beaufort St, behind the culinary distractions that are Grill’d and Gelare, is Mr Munchies Sushi, a tiny sushi shop with anime wallpaper and Japanese pop music, where you can choose to create your own sushi combinations, or from a list of the store’s original, inventive specialties.

A chain store with one other Perth location – Victoria Park – Mr Munchies is the imaginative solution to all your sushi cravings, with few options you’d recognise, and new spins on the old favourites. It’s not just sushi either, if you like your Japanese in a Bento Box, or you’d rather swing for sashimi, there are plenty of options and they even have Japanese-style potato salad, which I hadn’t ever considered to be a thing before.

Option I Chose: Surf n Turf Roll – grilled steak rolled with steamed prawn and snow-pea sprout, topped with garlic chips and chili flakes, served with sweet onion sauce.
Notable Runner Up: Cheesy Potato Roll – potato salad, sliced carrot and kanpyo with melted cheese, mayo and teriyaki sauce with furikake.

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While the price was a little more than I’d normally spring for sushi, don’t be dissuaded by that finer detail. With generous serving sizes and the option to go for a large or small roll (pictured above), Mr Munchies is a great option for something different on a relative budget. If you’ll permit me one piece of advice however, I’d consider saving this date night for after you’ve learnt to use chopsticks, the large pieces are awkward and I was quite relieved to be eating there alone.

x Casey

Don’t just take my word for it!
Great About Perth, Urban Walkabout and the ever faithful Urban List Perth also have positive things to say about this hidden gem.

 

Mondays are what you make of them

If you’re ever in a position in your life, financially and professionally where you can take four day work weeks, I can’t recommend them highly enough. It’s currently Monday pre-lunch, and instead of sitting at my work desk wishing the time would show 12:30, I’m listening to Rocketeer, looking at wall art of Astro Boy defeating Godzilla and helping myself to free soy-sauce in a cute, empty sushi-bar tucked away off Beaufort St and eating surf’n’turf sushi. I say alone thankfully, because my chopstick skills are non-existent.

munchiesFor someone who has become accustomed to packing every minute of life over the past two months with work, extra curricular volunteering, running and roller hockey, having Mondays to myself the past three weeks has proved to be a creative blessing. Writing has been an interest of mine for a long time, but something I never had the energy or time to focus on long enough for the word vomit to form something marketable. I’ve created a lot in the past, I’m no stranger to blogging, or video production and I can finally say I’ve contributed and even led groups to professional publications, but writing and performing has always been a backdoor ambition, something that took a back seat to filling every moment with preparation for the real world, to give myself the best chance of success possible. Without any regrets however, I can say that I’ve set myself up as well as I possibly can for my future and will always continue to do so, because there can be no sushi without perseverance, but time has finally opened up enough to have a stronger work/life balance, even factoring in four games of hockey and two runs a week.

For the most recent examples of my writing, see the Bayswater Barracudas SRHC Facebook page, where graphic designs are Zac Jury, and text is (most often, Casey Causley).

While there is the handicap of living on a lower wage, there are other benefits of the constant three-day weekend. Having the time to prep meals which saves not only money, but time and health springs to mind as a huge advantage. Sleeping in an extra day when parkrun takes over a Saturday morning, spending a day with the dog so she doesn’t think I completely abandon her, using the time to clean the house and most of all to watch Pretty Little Liars in my pyjamas. But most of all, it gives me the extra time I need to get out and do the things I always said I wanted to do, but never had the time for. Not necessarily on Monday, but when I get to live an active life on the other six days of the week, I can save the recharge time for Monday and begin the work week refreshed.

Unfortunately, having a four day work week is not something that everyone can do, or
afford or even wants to do. But life is all about thinking best case[y] scenario now, and therefore all about focusing less on what it means going without, and more on making the most of what there is.

As for the finer points of Mondays, I think trying new places for lunch is going to become a thing, and I’ll be posting a little more about Mr Munchies and their sushi later tonight, but for now I’ve lurked online for too long today and productivity is calling. Welcome to bestcascenario though.

x Casey