The Twilight Land of the Luddite

Earlier this week the following text message came through…


My immediate reaction was: where the hell do I get my movies from now?


I remember my Dad hiring beta movies in the early 80s from a store in Bridge Street, Ballarat. It was the only one with a half decent selection of beta tapes. I remember us joining Blockbuster Video in Cairns when we moved there in the late 80s… and the summer that followed gorging on a bunch of movies I had been previously banned from watching (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Flash Dance, Footloose and being underwhelmed and wondering what the big deal was with them all). I remember finding a tape tucked away in the back of our TV cabinet when I lived in Leeton–a new release–and discovering our movie had gone back to the store (gratefully it wasn’t anything like one of ‘those home movies’) and how they’d kept our movie but still charged me late fees. I remember borrowing all six of Children of the Corn movies from there, American Gothic and Nudist Colony of the Dead–their B Grade horror film selection was top notch. I remember being drunk and walking with my best friend to the local Blockbuster in Mulgrave Road singing snippets from 10 Things I Hate About You. Gratefully the bottle shop was right next door and armed with more movies and more wine, the night continued on.


Our local video store is attached to the same strip of shops we get our fish and chips from. It also houses the pizza shop, the noodle shop, the bakery and a bunch of other small and larger business. We got there every Tuesday on Cheap Tuesday (perhaps we’re the reason they are closing down?) Mr D gets a bunch of kids movies, I get one or two and we’re set for the week. It’s just what we do on a Tuesday.

It was where Mr D learned an important lesson about honesty–when he accepted responsibility for a broken disc when he was four and discovered if you tell the truth, bad things don’t happen to you (and I only had to pay a $5 fee!) It’s where two years ago they asked in November if they’d be getting rumballs again that year. Of course they were, I always made them. But they were just making sure!

Two and a half years ago we returned from Malaysia to find the video store had halved in size. A partition wall had gone up and the electrical store and taken over the cast off space. The films went from being displayed face out, to be stacked spine out. And I got that horrible sick feeling in my guts that the end was coming.

And now it has.

Is this what it’s like to be a Luddite in a digital world?


Like buying books and records, hiring a movie is going to become a committed effort on my part. At the end of January it will no longer a down-the-road-convenience.

I don’t download (legal or otherwise),we don’t have Netflix here in Australia, I’m not interested in buying everything through iTunes or else where (sometimes its nice to watch on a screen larger than my lap top…and no, I don’t want to buy an Apple TV adaptor thing), I hate YouTube, I don’t want to have to sign up to have my films posted to me or have them dispensed from a little red box, or delivered through a T-Box. And here’s why…


Like the bookstore and the music store… it’s more than just buying a product. It’s the experience of discovery that’s just as important as reading/listening/watching. So is the discussion with those who work there. These stores are community hubs–they are not just product dispensers.

Jordan, the guy who works at the video store, saw me in there on Tuesday night and came up to apologise personally for not telling me the store was closing down, “It’s just been so long since I saw you.” Yeah, the Christmas period will do that. And then there was the issue about the missing rum balls this year–I had to apologise—there had been friends visiting and they’d eaten them all! (The apocalypse came to the local video store because I didn’t get the rumballs there last year!)

Over the years Jordan and I talked about all kinds of movies. He erased the missing Ninja Turtles video from our account and told us it didn’t matter.’ But it’s not just Jordan… I can think of half a dozen people who have worked there and who have shared small parts of their lives with me, their tastes, their opinions. Remembered who I am and let me get by without having a card for years even though the account was in Dave’s name (who has been to the store less than five times in six years!)

I know I am one of a small and diminishing sub-section of the community who gives a shit about this…who wants the kind of convenience and experience of the local [insert what you want in here] store. Someone who sees convenience as much a dismantler, as an enabler. Who yearns for things to just stay as they are.

Perhaps it’s okay for the time being, that hiring a movie will become an outing (like buying a book… gratefully we still have a record store just down the road). While there is still another DVD store within an reasonably easy drive (ironically the store we used to go to before we moved) to hire films from and the effort required adds to the ritual and enjoyment of the experience, I can’t help but worry, ‘for how much longer.” When they close…

…then what?


There are so many things I love about the digital landscape and the opportunities technology is opening up. But at the same time, I’m not yet ready to let die many of the other things that belong to the old world: a world of real life people, of tangible objects, shared passions and conversations, differing opinions, of the physicality of leaving your home, going somewhere else and becoming immersed for a short period of time in a different world

And as if the folk at Apple or Telstra or Amazon or going to give two tosses whether they got rum balls at Christmas or not.


I understand better now the terror my Pa experienced in a world rapidly changing as he aged; especially in the early 90s, in his twilight years.

He was understandably leary of ATMs…he wanted to go into the bank and talk to the tellers—the same people who had been managing his accounts, in the same location, for decades. Someone to ask after my Nanna, us grandkids…how the bowls season was going, the fact Essendon won or lost the weekend past.

He wanted the security of handing over his deposits to a real person with a deposit slip (how many hours of fun did I have filling them out as a kid!) He wanted the safeguard of withdrawals handed to him by a real person inside his stamped and initialled, dog-eared passbook that fitted in the back pocket of his trousers. He didn’t want to have to remember a pin number or carry a card in his wallet. The fact the bank closed at 4pm never bothered him, he went via the bank in the morning when he walked down to buy the paper.

I never understood at the time, what bothered him so much about the ATMs appearing everywhere. You could get money out any time. It was convenient and quick and easy. I was never going to get to the bank before 4pm…especially when I became a shift worker.

This week I’ve suddenly realised I’m getting old. How quickly the world around me is changing. And how resistant, more and more, I am of it. How I want some things to just goddamned stay the way they are.

I wish my Pa was around now, so I could tell him: I understand.

5 thoughts on “The Twilight Land of the Luddite

  1. The need for community must never be forgotten. It must be fostered wherever and in whatever form we can make it. But it is the real life connections that are the most important.
    Adam B @revhappiness


    • I was thinking how I so grateful to the digital evolution in communication for all the wonderful, supportive people it has brought into my life… but how it is the real world connections that come from that, that are the real boon… the real soul food.

      After all – a photo of a plate of brownies is just a photo. A real plate of brownies… well that is another thing.

      All the folks that happily buy into the digital convenience of downloading etc … perhaps they never cared about the personal connections. And as such, it’s easy to throw it off. Perhaps we’ve always been different beasts and its a different age rising to facilitate a different section of the population?

      Was just talking to Chris today how at the basis of the home birth community meetings I used to attend (and then run) was story telling. How as humans story telling (and yes, food!) bind us together, if we allow them to.


  2. I was honestly surprised to see that there was still a Blockbuster still open somewhere. Online rentals like Netflix destroyed the brick-and-mortar rental chains. But from what I’ve been reading on here, Australia is sadly last to get any movies on DVD for sale/rental, and even then they’re wildly overpriced compared to other countries.


  3. I have livered rurally for 3 years now. I haven’t been to a video store since the first year we mover to the country. Its an hour long round trip to the nearest one and we only go there on shopping trips once a fortnight.

    And we are on 3g internet so downloading movies legal or otherwise is out of the question. I have come to really appreciate SBS and ABC again though 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s