Click and Collect reviewed

Woolworths store, George St, Sydney

Shopping online has never been easier. With Afterpay and various other payment options, sale on sale pricing, and endless mid season reductions across a myriad categories, the question should be ‘Why not?’ Adding to this ease has been this thing, Click and Collect, which is as simple as ordering online and picking up your item/s in-store. While there are a couple of iterations, we’ll review four stores, including Myer and Woolworths.

1) Click and Collect (Myer). Having been around for a while, this basically involves shopping online, checking for in-store availability, and purchasing your desired goods. Though appearing straightforward, it’s more complicated than you think. Sometimes, the stock check is rather faulty; you’d end up paying for your order only to get an annoying notice that your store has ran out of stock. Unlike other retailers, you’re at the mercy of floor stock: if they don’t have it in your pick up location, you’d stand empty handed. Over the years, I’ve collected a Lonely Planet guide, brush head refills, a merino v-neck jumper, etc. If they could improve the in-store availability where items could be shipped from other outlets, watch out.

2) Pick up (Woolworths). The retail front runner has rebranded their erstwhile Click and Collect service, but is the new Pick up worth it? The answer is a resounding yes. For a minimum of $30 for each pick up order, you get the woolies team to hand pick your items in-store. You order and pay for said item online, reserve your collection window, and you’ll be asking, ‘How you doin?’ in no time. Order before 11am and you can collect your purchases on the same day. The service is still being rolled out, but it’s available in our area already. I’m pleased to say that I’ve tried it a few times and it saves time and aisle counting. The only drawback is that some items could be out of stock. One look at the enquiries register (the designated collection spot) will tell you that more and more shoppers are opting for the quick and painless.


3) Collect in-store (Jeanswest). As I’ve detailed previously, I’ve done a bit of shopping from this store. Over the years, I’ve purchased clothes both from their physical stores and online. For instance, I bought a grey pullover in-store last year; I’ve likewise selected a green vest and a blue jacket for delivery last year. This annum, I’ve opted to use their free in-store pickup. Shopping online and the guarantee of collecting your items, regardless of store stock, is the best thing about this feature. No availability? No worries; they’ll send your chosen goods to your local store. Too easy. This year, I’ve picked up a blue merino jumper, a crew knit, chino shorts, and a pair of blue jeans. Unfortunately, they’ve been closing down their stores at an alarming rate. From familiar sites across town, there are now only a few left in Sydney metro. Given that I’ve grabbed a few things in their stores, it’s a real shame.

4) Pickup in store (Kathmandu). Same as the others, but with a catch: these days, you pay standard shipping costs for pickup. That’s $10, the same as having it delivered. I was lucky that wasn’t the case when I shopped their website mid-year. I bought thermal underwear and ski goggles, which I received in store free of shipping charges. Good for snow and active gear, but overpriced outside of clearance periods.

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Pickup may be hassle free but always read the fine print. Some of them are ideal, like Woolworths and Jeanswest, while others could be improved. Click and Collect is also not peculiar to these retailers, as others offer this too, including David Jones, Cotton On, JB Hifi, Coles, and Harvey Norman. Don’t forget to scrutinise their returns policy. Most stores might have at least two weeks, but make sure to get in there quick as they also keep your purchases for up to two weeks. Remember: returns delayed are returns denied.

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My grown up spy list

In recent cinematic history, action movies dominate. Whether it’s superheroes or buddy cops, mutants or fugitives our for blood, the tradition of dodging bullets ‘continue…for yet…ANOTHER year’. You have a spent John Wick rallying against the world, a generous bounty placed on his head. This week we look at some of the more noteworthy spy franchises around. Alert: there’s no superheroes this time.

1) 007. There are over 20 films to this brand, with seven actors portraying Bond over six decades. Scotsman Sean Connery was the original secret agent, with Brits assuming all iterations except for Aussie George Lazenby, who was Bond for a day. While the series can trace its origins to author Ian Fleming, the Cold War era was the main backdrop. Even though that epoch is mostly behind us, you have to give their producers credit. They’ve managed to expand the series through sustained globetrotting, high tech gadgets, and revolving nemeses. They’ve also featured a never ending cavalcade of Bond girls over time. I have to admit that I’ve only watched part of the franchise, mostly the last two Bonds. Decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, fans would have to wonder whether there’s still a place for the slippery, womanising, martini cocktail drinking assassin. 

2) Bourne. Like 007, Bourne was previously a protagonist in novels. Unlike many adaptations, which don’t do justice to the original, the Bourne films are infinitely better than the books. Once I borrowed Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Ultimatum, but the overwhelming amount of needless description made me surrender. It’s encouraging to think though that the film series is rather loosely based on those reads. While Bond is a suave terminator, Bourne is equally adept at hand to hand combat. The fight scenes in Bourne helmer Paul Greengrass’s movies, complete with swinging handhelds, set a trend in future action flicks. 

In addition, Bourne’s language skills are on full display, especially since he is every bit the globetrotter that 007 is. He’s cool enough that, as in Bourne Identity, he comes up with some perfect German while guards hound him in the still night. Catching them off guard, he puts them to sleep with well timed punches. He also knows enough Russian to say $$ while catching a cab, and some choice Spanish in Bourne tres allow him to slip away from the baddies. More than an enviable linguist and action star, Bourne is also an ingenious operator. There are numerous scenes across the series where he thinks on the fly, tipping the momentum to his favour. In all the cinematic spy universe, Bourne is the undoubted badass.

3) Jack Ryan. Again, based on the Tom Clancy books, this likewise involves the CIA. Unlike Bourne or Bond, Ryan rises through the ranks and becomes the Agency’s number two man. He is mostly not a fugitive, but rather a government sanctioned rifleman. Personally, I’ve only seen two or three Ryan movies, including one with Harrison Ford and another with Ben Affleck. A villain with a thick Scottish accent, as in Red October, is a disappointing watch. There are no splashy gadgets (like 007) and no surprising language skills (like Bourne). Indeed, as Bourne searches for his identity, Ryan conceals his own. The longevity of this series though, with sporadic offerings through three decades, is enough for third spot. 

4) Mission Impossible. If it’s from Cruise, it’s overrated. His best days as a movie superstar are all but over. To put things in perspective, Jerry Maguire was released the same year (1996) as Mission Impossible. That’s almost two hundred years ago. In fairness, the latter revolutionised the industry with its stunts and unsuspecting plot twists. Three sequels later, they’re not fooling anyone. 

Honourable mention: John Wick. I would have to include this because the first film exceeded my expectations. I’ve seen Keanu in Street Kings, and he’s just as sharp in this offering. Reeves’s character shows incredible resilience for someone who’s lost everything. The sequel, despite receiving glowing reviews, is an affront to the original. A super loud, overly serious production, the senseless gun battles make the drawn out film appear even longer than it already is. As a result, this chapter turned me off halfway through the slog. The lengthy wait for its release here was unwarranted.

So that’s my starter spy list, which might differ from yours. Whether scaling office buildings or speaking a foreign tongue, action is here to stay. Laters. 

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The land of the free(bie)

I need to clear the air about the post title. America is the ‘Land of the free’, but Topher subsists in the ‘Land of the freebie’. In a costly world, most of us trudging adults have a soft spot for something ‘priceless’. As they say, ‘The best things in the world are for free.’ We’re not talking about the Freeview ad, which reused that phrase to no end. Today we talk about free food and stuff, giveaways that brighten up our day and show the best of the human spirit. While there are many out there, I’ll give you guys a limited sample.

Free pizza at Dominos. Over one month, Dominos is offering 20,000 free pizzas over four instalments. There is a freebie each day for thirty moons, from free crust upgrade to complimentary 1.25L soft drinks, buy one get one pizzas to extra bacon. Domino’s generosity has been a big reason why they’ve blasted the competition away. They can count on continued success should they keep this up. Last I heard, those 5000 pizzas were gone after five minutes. Everyone loves a freebie (insert devil smile here).

Birthday freebies. This one is worth a whole article onto itself. Free birthday Boosts, free meals at Subway and Oporto’s, discounts at clothing retailers, free ice cream at Baskin Robbins, free burrito at Salsa’s…the list goes on. Some of these could only be redeemed on the day, while others are more lenient. 

Free burrito day at Guzman y Gomez. A few months ago this Mexican franchise had a free day where, for two hours during lunch time, you could grab a burrito for nil. As expected, there was a long queue. Regardless, I didn’t bother.

Free breakfast. I must admit this is almost unparalleled. Someone told me about this. A friend of a friend was apparently walking outside when she saw a table with pastries, sandwiches, and drinks. While others just passed by, she asked a few questions and learned that said tableful was free of charge. There were six food items there, and the friend tried a few, including the milk tea. It was very serendipitous as said friend had skipped breakfast. How cool is that? Upon seeing her eating, some of the other passers by joined in on the fun. One even did take away to the tram stop. I heard the volunteers were very helpful. In Melbourne, there is always a kind stranger.

Free block of cheese. Yep you’ve heard that right; not just a sliver of cheese either, but a quarter kilo of the good stuff. This took off last month. The New Zealand company, Mainland, was offering free blocks to the first 10,000 claimants. You had to register online with your email, and they’ll then send you a code which you can show at the counter. You could then take a pick of their range at the Kwik e mart, get your code scanned and voila! The block costs $8+, but I didn’t claim my code since we regularly buy Mainland cheese. Anyhow, the 10000 blocks were history after the second day of promotion. 

Of course, this is not to say that everything here is free. A more accurate pronouncement is that most things have a price, some of them may go down, but you have to practice utmost patience if you were to grab a free one. When there’s no out of pocket cost, you have to act quick. Many peeps would have the same idea, so shoot now, or forever hold your silence. If it’s not a race against time, please be prudent. You wouldn’t want to grab five sauce packs when you only need three. You’ll find out that mere weeks later, the free chicken sauces were free no more. So think before you whack, but don’t overthink. After all, you can’t be caught partying in two islands at one time.

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Being Donald Trump

Note: The cult favourite, Being John Malkovich, starring John Cusack and Cameron Diaz, has inspired the title of this post. More on that later.

I was at my chiropractor the other day when we discussed the Emmy’s. I learned that Jeff didn’t watch it, but I told him I wasn’t familiar with many shows. I then mentioned the Donald Trump impersonator on Saturday Night Live (SNL). He said he didn’t see the episodes on TV, but he viewed some clips online. Thinking about the spoof made him laugh. I told him that Alec Baldwin received an Emmy for his trouble. Indeed some outlets have looked at this Emmy as recognition for ‘the most important TV performance of the year’. In his acceptance speech, Baldwin announced, ‘I suppose I should say, ‘Mr President, here is your Emmy.’ 


A timely social critique


Baldwin’s turn as the pouting, live-wire, foul-mouthed Mr President has never been more timely, a social critique on the most pressing issues of our time. Not only has he dominated Saturday prime time, but his imprint is all over the world. On such a media savvy planet, information is transmitted by the second, so his depictions have took the Internet by storm. Indeed that Trump is no stranger to Tweeting is very ironic. So where does the above movie fit in this assessment? It’s a matter of being someone else. While the film received glowing reviews, few viewers would know that not a few companies rejected the script. One executive even jokingly asked why it wasn’t named ’Being Tom Cruise’. The 7 1/2th floor wasn’t originally in the screenplay. Said landing is the claustrophobic level where Cusack’s character temps. Here he discovers a portal to another world, where he could be the great American actor John Malkovich. As the aforementioned thespian, he could date the women of his dreams. He can be someone better, and live out a fantasy. 


7 1/2th floor is real



In case you’re wondering too, there is a 7 1/2th floor on 30 Rockefeller, New York. This happened to be Baldwin’s former workplace. The suffocating level has a portal that leads to a doppelgänger of Trump’s White House. Due to the comedic brillIiance of Tina Fey and Baldwin, finders have yet to locate this doorway. The gateway allows Baldwin to have creative control of his parody. With the help of screenwriters, Baldwin manages to give one impressive rendition after another. Just don’t tell this to Donald Trump. If he finds out about this undisclosed portal, we might end up exactly as the movie. Remember what happened to the real John Malkovich? When it was his turn at the doorway, he only got minions of mini me’s buzzing around. Everything on the dinner menu was a Malkovich. He was freaked out. One thing’s for sure: such self absorption from President Trump wouldn’t help the economy, stupid. 

 

Original entertainment

Being John Malkovich has been praised for its originality. The late critic Roger Ebert gave the film four stars (out of four), citing it worthy for Oscar contention. We now know that Baldwin’s sketch of Trump is Emmy award-winning. The SNL brain thrust are truly one of a kind to have spawned such a fitting critique. Meanwhile, the same goes for the creators of Malkovich, who were honoured with three Oscar nominations. Not all of us mortals could be blessed with a 7 1/2th floor in an uptown Manhattan skyscraper, which is why we should appreciate original and well timed entertainment when we can.  A little ingenuity will go a long way in making one’s point.

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Border Security: inside the series

This gallery contains 5 photos.

While you were sleeping, ‘Thousands of men and women dedicate their lives to protecting Australia’s border.’ The immigration series airs at most once a week on the Seven network. I remember discussing the programme in one of my electives at … Continue reading

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60 Minutes Australia

‘Tonight on 60 Minutes…’

Thus begins the weekly broadcast of one of the most revered shows on Australian telly. The newsmagazine is almost forty years old, but has continued to supply viewers with intriguing stories and gripping reports. Since it’s inception in 1979, it has provided unique insights on an almost weeks basis. The programme has likewise featured the best Aussie reporters around, from Ray Martin and the late Peter Harvey, to Peter Overton and Liz Hayes. 


Issues for all Australians

Operating on the Siamese twins, tales of lost boys from India to the Philippines, and scandal in the Catholic Church are just some of their highly original stories. They shared the heartwarming tale of Saroo Brierley, which opened the doors for the latter to Hollywood scripts and beyond. Another time they interviewed people with photographic memories. Said savants could remember historic events, to the day, that transpired forty years ago. One look at a text and they could tell the entire story. I remember a young woman who memorised every word of the entire Harry Potter book series. They’ve talked with shark attack victims, stood up against big corporations, and on many occasions took a stand against injustice, deceit, and abuse. 

Their reportage is very Australian, which I sometimes admire but also dislike. In their segments, they are very blunt, as if they have carte blanche. They are rarely not in control of their interviews, and impress a no-holds-barred technique. They usually include three segments, each about 15 minutes long. One of these sections is typically a date with a famous person, including Bruce Springsteen, Tiger Woods, and Tom Hanks. 

Newsworthy

Even outside of the studios, their staff are in the news. For instance, a veteran reporter and her crew were caught up in a child abduction scandal in Lebanon. They were jailed for their alleged involvement in the rescue of two Aussie children from their dad in Lebanon. While ultimately vindicated and returned home, the episode is a cautionary tale. Over the years, their newscasters have also garnered many awards, both here and abroad. This is a testament to their never ending quest to expose the truth and inform their viewers.


‘Still the one’

Lately, the show has consistently gone over its titular 60 Minutes. Counting Peter Overton’s mailbag, the programme could easily surpass 70 minutes. For a while, the show commenced at 7pm, but due to the popularity of other reality shows in its lineup, this has been moved to 8:30pm. However, it remains a staple in Aussie homes during Sunday evening. Thus, the show is clearly the runaway winner of its time slot. The closest challenger, Seven’s Sunday Night, has had to have an earlier start to avert a potential showdown that it cannot win. 

60 Minutes is one of the big reasons why Channel Nine dominates the free to air ratings. With Australia’s number one news broadcasting nightly, not to mention A Current Affair’s charm, the network’s news coverage remains unrivalled. While less and less people follow the nightly news, few would argue that Channel Nine would be their first choice if they do so. 

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IT (2017) Reviewed

‘You’ll float too’

Skimming through my previous posts, I haven’t written a movie review in a while. I’ve gone to the cinemas regularly, but I’ve also been branching out to other subjects. This time I’ll review the biggest blockbuster of the month, IT. Based on Stephen King’s tome, it’s hard to believe that this is the first big screen adaptation of the terrifying book. 

Shorter version

Before I could begin, pls note that I could give you a longer version of this review. Yet, from what I’ve seen, a short version would suffice. There has been a big buildup to the film. The trailers were catchy, and left a lot to be explored. People wondered whether the big screen adaptation would cleave closely to the novel. The local cinemas have even offered late night ‘fright sessions’. There were also at least a dozen showings of IT during the first week in some cineplexes. On another level, evil clowns have been sighted wrecking havoc in the U.S. since last year. Police are investigating whether said clown attacks are premeditated or part of the pre-release entertainment.

So how did it fare? It was okay; nothing out of this world. Yes horror movies can get ear splitting but there are some that let the creepiness do its magic. This was not one of those types. At some points, the bangs and screeches creeped me out more than the blood and gore. The plot was good, a coming of age turn straight out of the 80s. Friendship, love, school dynamics, and family relations are all covered here. There is incest, abuse, and bullying too. In one two-hour episode, the movie deals with more tough themes than a regular flick. 

Deepest fears

There is also Pennywise the dancing clown, the titular IT. He lives on their fears and returns after 27 year hibernations. The main troupe consists of all school outcasts, 8 students who grapple with their own troubles. From an asthmatic kid to a black teenager, from stutterer Bill to the ‘new kid’, each battles their own demons. Pennywise exploits these fears. For instance, in the opening sequence, Bill had a younger brother who got lost after playing with his paper boat in the rain. Bill would never believe that his brother was dead. Years later, he is confronted by his dead sibling. Who could forget the scene: ‘You’ll float too! You’ll float too!’ 

Did they became the masters of their own fears? Banding together, did they manage to outsmart and ultimately vanquish Pennywise? Will they all come out in one piece, after the scariest ride of their lives? Personally, I think all the hoopla around the movie was nothing but sound and fury. Yes, that’s my final verdict: given the amount of promotion, the movie per se was disappointing. Other critics may be of a different opinion, as evidenced by the picture’s overwhelming review scores. For me though this was merely adequate; an okay film. As we prepare for the second and final sequel, I’ll leave that for others to try…if they dare. 

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