Clooney made me cry

The first thing I ever looked up on the internet was a photo of Sandra Bullock. I didn’t know what to do next, so I printed the picture out.

So baffled was I by the thrill of it all, that I didn’t know how to react.

Watching the film Gravity is a similar experience. However, it also requires the suspension of a few things.

1. Your belief that, due to escalating prices and reduced service, the era of attending cinemas is over.

2. Any opinion that Sandra Bullock should appear only in rom-coms.

3. SPOILER: You could not possibly enjoy watching George Clooney die, even after his Nespresso ads.

Clooney loves a pre-packaged coffee of no particular origin or ethics

Flat white acting

When I left the cinema, I had the usual pow-wow with my brother and we agreed that the film was excellent but also overrated. (Much of the world seems in awe of it – the film has an incredibly 97% average rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)

I did not think the film had the legs to be a classic, let alone pull an Oscar or two, as some are predicting. It was pretty much Speed in Space – both films featured Sandra careening into things while struggling to maintain control of a vehicle she is ill-equipped to pilot.

Gravity is just Speed In Space

Gravity is just Speed In Space

But here’s the weird thing; when I went to explain a few pivotal plot points to my wife, I was overcome with tears. Twice I found a salty residue streaming from my eyes at the retelling of the corny yet believable story.

The movie had moved me much more than I had realised. Something about the moment of being faced with your mortality, with George in a dream, with yet another incredibly challenging life-threatening scenario.

 “I have to warn you, I’ve heard relationships based on intense experiences never work. ”

 – Jack to Annie.  Speed (1994)

Some people have been moved in other directions. One Christian professor has said the entire movie points to a creator, with undercurrents of sacrifice and redemption, while the writer/director Alfonso Cuaron is more interested in his film’s Darwinian leanings.

jesus is an astronaut

Heavens above the stratosphere

WIRED magazine, rather than rejoicing that a film based around scientific breakthroughs is breaking box office records, has instead gone to town on its inaccuracies.

It’s a film, people. It is not Kubrick. It is not the messiah. But it may make you cry.

Nine of my favourite Blue Mountains activities

Looks like it’s time for me to write something a little more constructive than my last few blogs…

I had a chat with some tree-changers about my recent rant and while they love their new home in the mountains, they were actually yet to embrace what the area offers.

I grew up in the Blue Mountains – a childhood I loved, once I got over the lack of shopping centres and prevalence of gumnut mugs – and since then I have trashed the Blue Mountains for turning too bogan, and for being left to ruin by a council that is too conservative and small-minded .

So now, I am going to prove my deep adoration for the place where I was raised, and explain what you can do with your days if you do choose to move there, or what to do if you’d like to use it as an escape hatch to relieve inner city tension – as I do.

Everyone knows (and many abhor) the Three Sisters experience, the overpriced Scenic World, and the Leura Mall. For now, I’m leaving them to Sunday drivers and tour groups in buses that have koalas painted on the side.

Here are nine great Blue Mountains activities. They are things I enjoy and that you may not know of. Actually, it’s only eight and I want you to add a ninth in the comments…

1) Garage Sales

even hoarders gotts sell up sometime

Oi. You payin' for that?

The community in the mountains has a few humble features you might never discover without scratching the surface; The art being created, the organic food being produced and the garage sales!

Check the local paper – The BM Gazette – on Friday night and line up the best addresses on your GPS. Be ready to go by 8am – the pro’s start even earlier. I often get around to six or eight ten within a couple of hours and usually within just a few suburbs. Most garage sales are chockas with retro bric-a-brac that city stores charge you much, much more for.

Plus, you get to go in strangers’ houses! They don’t mind. Many residents see it as a social event and invite the neighbours over. It’s as if selling their junk is just an excuse to meet people. Get involved.

2) Mount Hay lookout

Hay, not bad

"It's been such an amazing journey" - Every evicted reality TV star

With countless lookouts to choose from, this one is well away from the traffic and tourists but you aren’t at risk of needing a chopper lift you out.  The walk out is pretty splendid too so park your car early and repeat the mantra “It’s all about the journey”  – this is especially useful if you are underwhelmed by wide vistas of mountains that aren’t really that blue.

3) Shop at Frou Fou.

Obviously if there was a bigger pic i would have inserted that one not this one

In the old location. Some might say, vintage.

The owner of this unique store (now on Raymond Road, Springwood) is Parissa, a friend of mine who used to run it out of a tiny space in Lilyfield. Parissa is so aesthetically minded she always looks like she just left a Parisienne street market in the 1950s. That pretty much explains the store too.

4) Wentworth Falls Lake

taken with a Canon 20D by someone better than me

The lake is better than the falls. but both work much better in daylight.

Many long-time residents of the mountains never visit this lake or the slightly less glorious Glenbrook Lagoon. I’ll never understand why. Each offers a much richer experience than those man-made ponds you find in new estates. Expect ducks, playground equipment, more ducks and barbecues.

5) Lily’s Pad Cafe 

pull up a leaf

The barista here is a cross between Michael Franti and Ghandi

Leura has many good quality cafes but the Mall is busy and full of Mosman mothers on the weekend but luckily most people don’t realise this one has the best coffee, the best outdoor area and the food is, well, it’s all about the coffee and the outdoor seating.

6) Birdwood Gully Glow-Worms

dont feed the worms

Everything I want in a bushwalk. Brevity.

How many places in Sydney boast a twilight glowworm bushwalk. Oh boy is this a cool walk, ideal for the young, old or infirm. Ok, maybe not the infirm – a wheelchair wouldn’t get beyond the first few metres. But this is a mostly level wander in a gully just a couple of minutes from Springwood’s town centre It lights up with the Aussie equivalent of fireflies at dusk. You’re all done in under forty minutes. Delightful.

7) Sassafras Gully

Elle not sighted

In Sassafras, no one can hear you ... at all.

Head to the end of Sassafras Gully Road in Springwood to discover the natural water hole made famous by my friend Doug when he initiated ten years worth of camping adventures for me and my friends. It was then made even more famous as the place where Elle Macpherson went skinny-dipping for the film Sirens. It’s about a two-hour round trip. There’s a reasonably steep walk out. Take the whole family or just your backpack – whichever is easiest to get in the car.

8 ) The Carrington

Pull up a sofa

Newspapers circa 1900 cited her as the only rival to Raffles within The Empire. Raffles!

Lay about with a glass of port in the one of the library rooms of Katoomba’s Carrington Hotel. Where else can you wander into a majestic old hotel, pull up a Chesterton lounge and dally for hours, completely unnoticed. The landscaped grounds offer more space to laze about if you get a sunny day. If you want something more high-brow, you could try Lilianfels but I imagine they’d throw you out if you had too much fun.

9) Your turn.

I want to know your secret Blue Mountains experience… PLEASE??!!
Use the comments area below.

No Nespresso, by George

A friend recently asked me what I think of Nespresso. It
was a great idea, asking me, an opinionated coffee addict with an
interest in marketing and happy to turn my steam wand on any
conniving multinational!

It's all so simple. It's also landfill.

said, no, I do not like Nespresso. And here’s why. The concept of
Nespresso, Nestle’s foray into the domestic coffee machine market,
is to give people a perfect cup every time by pre-determining your
entire experience. For a brand to go to this level of sanitising is
absurd and seeks to create a kind of culture akin to the Soda
Stream (you always knew who had one and if you were, as Ii was, a
have-not). Now, I’m no slow-foodie but when I buy coffee it’s whole
beans, by the kilo, and I like being able to meet the roaster or
check the roasting date. If I became more educated I might also
notice the country of origin. At the same time, while cafes in
Sydney are all posting hessian coffee bean bags on their walls to
show they’re connected to the source, Nestle is taking the farmer,
the wholesaler, the grinder totally out of the equation and
vacuum-packing your daily hit without even a hint of personal
interference. Simplicity replaces engagement. It’s the MAC of
coffee, and nearly everyone else is a PC. For my money, this is absurd
and a brilliant exploitation of the consumer desire to have it all
with minimum effort and with the least time taken. It’s cynical. An
end-to-end controlled coffee experience aimed at the well-off and
by a company who have nearly managed, with all their Hollywood
firepower (see ad below) to dissociate themselves from Blend 37, no, I mean Blend 43.
Three possible
reasons you would buy this insipid device:

  1. You
    really like George Clooney,
  2. You have more
    money than time,
  3. You don’t want to get your
    hands dirty (by grinding your own beans, emptying out the grinds,
    having to choose what coffee you buy etc)

The worst of it is that once you buy the (rather pricey) machine
you are tied into buying their coffee
only at their prices, meaning they can
charge whatever they want and you have to cough it up. A guy I work
with – who falls easily into category 2 above – has bought a
Nespresso machine and tried to defend their cosy pricing regime.
“I just go in and get five
boxes (of capsules) and I have enough to last me ages!” It’s all
pre-ground, pre-roasted, pre-fabricated. And there are different
beans and blends, but guess what that means; with a Nespresso
machine, your separation from the coffee production process is now
so complete that Nestle’s system now controls not where and when
and how you buy your coffee. It’s all very clever. When you buy
more expensive capsules you feel you are getting their best
beans… but are you? You can’t check anything. It could have been
roasted months ago. But, like most purchasers, my friend now buys a
cheaper type of pod because what seemed reasonable at first is soon
dropped in favour of a more affordable cost-per-cup. The problem
is, “the cheapest pods taste like sh-t!’, he tells me. So, he is
forced into buying a higher cost pod to get a reasonable flavour
coffee. The store sells the machine telling buyers they can enjoy
coffee for as low as $0.50 per cup. But my friend says to drink
something bearable it’s now it’s closer to $1 a cup. And he has no
control over any part of the process. According to a Wikipedia
, Nespresso’s cost per serving is up to three
times higher than that of alternative brewing methods. What a
treat. Sign me up, George!

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