It’s a humble Civic Video sign, but it’s lit like Cinema Paradiso to me, can’t believe it’s taken twenty years to notice its logo’s VHS-shaped.
I did something I haven’t done in years tonight, I set foot inside a Civic Video… because the handwritten sign outside proclaimed they were closing down mid-August. A mixed bag of bittersweet nostalgic emotions washed over me, I grew up with Civic Video which I visited often in Five Dock, seeing Civic Video’s Newtown location in such disrepair was alarming to say the least. A lot of Aussies preferred Video Ezy: due to the lack of decent parking spaces near Five Dock’s competitor, my family always rented from Civic Video, although we visited that Video Ezy once to buy a secondhand copy of The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time for Nintendo 64. I have way more emotional connection to Civic Video, they sold me my first booster pack of Pokemon trading cards and a Toy Story alien plushie, my handful of Crazy Bones I collected each week with pocket money ballooned into three complete sets kept in a cardboard shoebox. Civic Video’s bright neon signage remains etched into my memories since childhood because effort they put into their displays gave their video rental store an enchanting aesthetic identity I preferred to Video Ezy’s sterile orange lettering. Civic placed wooden cut-outs of Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Mario advertising the shelf-space where you could rent video game consoles, me and my twin brother rented Gex: Enter The Gecko enough times that we bought an ex-rental copy. The very first DVDs I ever purchased came from Five Dock Civic Video: Frankenstein (1931), The Blair Witch Project, and Zoolander were amongst early adoption technological leaps my family participated in over a decade ago. I remember struggling to make my father’s business laptop play DVDs of Mystery Men and Shrek because we couldn’t afford an actual DVD player plugged into our CRT television, I’d won my Playstation 3 in a Sydney Morning Herald blogging competition before I hoped to consider upgrading to Blu-Ray, which was my career-highlight Cinderella story unto itself. Civic Video served me well during our genteel poverty, back when I couldn’t pop into JB Hi-Fi and grab whatever complete series I desired. I have no un-ironic reasons to revisit Five Dock these days, its five-star skateboarding park was wasted on my Tony Hawk: Pro-Skater 2 face-planting self, I’d rather hang out in Anime At Abbotsford instead whenever I’m in the area for prescription errands. Prior to them occupying its slice of prime real estate, I recall this nothing-little-corner housing a tiny grocer and a hideous computer repair office which was always closed, then these two geniuses decided they’d open their anime gift boutique within walking distance from Abbotsford Public School, securing an evergreen source of customers who compete in regular Beyblade and Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments. I’m ecstatic to see my old neighbourhood where I was educated from kindergarten onwards (besides a brief couple of grades spent in Tyalla, Coffs Harbour) prosper, Anime’s cosplay events granted my suburb relevance it hasn’t earned since commemorating Henry Lawson’s deathbed, I can’t express how different things were back when I was a little boy eating Bubble O’ Bill cowboy ice creams with chalky bubblegum noses at the Welcome Mart. I read my issues of Disney Adventures, K-Zone, Mad, and White Dwarf magazine at Five Dock’s newsagent where the only comics available were Archie and The Phantom. I attended Zone 3 laser-tag/arcade birthday parties and church youth group gatherings at bowling allies we boarded a mini-van to access. Five Dock, at least back in my adolescence, was a wasteland of Taekwondo dojos and Vietnamese bakeries (plus that Samian Brotherhood building we thought was a sinister religious cult compound, when it was in fact a Hellenic club charity organisation). It wasn’t perfect by any means, but if you were willing to be lectured about Jesus each Friday, St. Alban’s pastors running the show let us play Halo: Combat Evolved on their original Xbox set up in the corner and took us all to mini-golf at Putt-Putt Ermington celebrating the end of school term. In 2014, Putt-Putt Ermington got sold to Chinese land-developer Aqualand, facing a miserable fate which several New South Wales theme parks shared after Sydney’s 2000 Olympic Games came and went. Much Boomer-pandering ballyhoo is made about us Millennials seeming glued to our phones, without considering our playgrounds have been bulldozed by real estate agents who’re erecting high-rise apartments atop our loiter-spots. The recession hit my generation hard, and thus due to us not being able to afford to start families, Toys R’ Us bit the dust before I could say goodbye like an estranged relative who didn’t tell you they were sick. Colourful embossed toy chest sculptures and orange giraffe mascot signs vanished overnight, the last remaining artefacts of nineties mall architecture were gone, even Games Workshop’s iconic yellow and red logo had been supplanted by a much blander Warhammer sign indistinguishable from Toni & Guy hairdressers next door. I miss Borders and Angus & Robinson bookshops a lot, it’s so creepy whenever a mall only represents literacy with Kmart and Target’s bookshelves, which might also disappear soon. They’ve always been sturdier than their American counterparts, yet I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re next in line for bankruptcy. Dymocks came back to Westfield Chatswood, but I’m still traumatised by my Broadway Shopping Centre visit where I surveyed the desecration of Collin’s Bookseller’s, gutted of what made it one of the classiest bookshops of its era to make room for JB Hi-Fi. As a dedicated Death Guard Chaos Space Marines player, I finally understood why sticking spikes and Chaos blasphemies onto the Imperium of Man’s Rhino tanks offended them, I’m glad Ray Bradbury wasn’t alive to see a beautiful bookseller cafe where I had afternoon tea with my mother repurposed into this crass purveyor of discount Kesha CDs and Entourage box sets. (I’m not inferring Kesha’s latest album Rainbow sucked, apart from Tik Tok, her early catalogue doesn’t appeal to me.) Not all retailers are created equal in how the presence of their absence contributes to Australia’s philistinism, Dr What! closing down is an excellent example of it, I visited them once on a routine trip to Borders at Bondi Junction, found a massive videocassette Aladdin’s cave of wonders sitting there. I recall the thrill of holding a clamshell VHS of AMIN: The Rise And Fall with an exposed nipple on its cover, grindhouse big boxes were exotic artefacts from a time before I was born, Dr. What! represented the last authentic Quentin Tarantino video store clerk experience in the Southern Hemisphere. I looked up what prestigious celebrity clientele Dr. What! attracted, Keanu Reeves dropped by on his motorcycle when he was filming The Matrix in Australia, can’t blame his curiosity when their selection of obscure cult classics was second to none. It saddens me that Dr. What! no longer rents videos to customers, nonetheless there’s a silver lining to this gloomy cloud: they’re teaching courses for audiovisual professionals in video-editing. I have a twin brother who works in this field of expertise: I appeared in one of his PSA short films about organ donor registration, his classmates were convinced I was an elaborate special effect until they’d met me themselves at Sydney Film School, Redfern.
Dr. What! deserved to be mourned by Aussies as an independent video shop, ghetto signage concealed an astounding commitment to cinema.
I’ve seen plenty of local video rental stores go under, Lane Cove’s Blockbuster Video was a recent casualty which managed to hold its dignity together until the very end, I bought my DVD copy of Ninja Scroll there for twenty dollars new and never purchased anything else from them. I regretted not picking up the non-Harmony Gold tampered Macross and Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends Volume 3, JB Hi-Fi rectified my urgent Robotech and Rocky & Bullwinkle situation after that Blockbuster Video store got redeveloped for commercial real estate it occupied. Main reason Lane Cove’s Blockbuster Video stayed open as long as it did, was its legitimate bargains and cool stuff EzyDVD’s brick-and-mortar vendors used to stock before JB Hi-FI drank their milkshake too. Meanwhile, Civic Video Newtown remains the shabbiest shell of a former video rental chain I’ve explored in my entire life, the vast magnitude of its bleak desolation is a gruesome spectacle I’d expect Dan Bell’s Dead Mall Series to scavenge. Civic Video store layouts, at least in my experience, tended to be one-level establishments. Newtown’s Civic Video has a foreboding ambience which follows you downstairs to a dank dungeon, reminiscent of seedy adult video stores you might’ve wandered into by mistake on your way here, because all ill-reputed massage parlours keep hiring the same architect. I’ll take you aboard my guided tour through an elephant graveyard of future gentrification, illustrated by the best photojournalism my primitive iPhone can deliver; whilst I waited for a friend at the train station I assisted an Aboriginal man whose mobile got mugged – he’d offered to buy my outdated iPhone off me, I allowed him to use it to ring his wife whom I spotted rushing around searching for her husband. I’m glad I resolved their crisis without having to name-drop my Aboriginal auntie, unless an Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander man knows your relative by name, citing aunts as a bargaining chip to negotiate trust is useless. My battery was half-dead, only one of the speakers still works, he must’ve been desperate if he surrendered his woman’s digits to a whitefella. Just another Friday evening in Newtown. I didn’t tell that story to flex, I’m communicating the raw environment you’ll be dealing with here, and the mindset I had taking shelter from further dangerous scenarios inside a Civic Video where the only familiar element was its logo. I attended Reclaim The Lanes 5 in 2013, and watched Aussie hip-hop acts perform raps about fighting enemies in KFC bathrooms, blasting beats on their gigantic subwoofers which gave me heart palpitations. Subsequent festivals toned down the KFC bathroom feud aspect, I drank full-strength Greek coffee and congregated near the Writer’s Tent set up by Better Dead Than Read, eating my fairy floss before buying a taijitu necklace from a New Age stall to make my Taoist conversion official. Newtown’s Eastern Flair sells plenty of Buddhist and Hindu merchandise most Westerners have no business appropriating, Taoists are underrepresented in the tat department aside from a pair of taijitu sun-stickers which reflect light, I had to buy my powdered bronze Lao Tzu statue from Amazon. My twin brother mocked me for blowing a hundred bucks (plus shipping) acquiring my graven idol of a spiritual leader who preached frugality, to which I responded: “I only need one!” My egregious online shopping habits didn’t stop there, my twin brother respected me for scoring a VHS tape of The Pagemaster for twelve dollars on eBay, a small price to pay for closure. I’d been scouring secondhand stores, roaming from Salvos to Vinnie’s trying to find an elusive The Pagemaster VHS like I did with Blade Runner, Highlander, Jurassic Park, The Iron Giant and Space Jam. Despite barely understanding the fanatical devotion Disney buffs have for collecting the original line of Disney Renaissance clamshell home videocassettes, I now own those titles on Diamond Edition Blu-Rays, I’ve learned to appreciate the VHS-era’s beautiful tackiness displayed in its aesthetic qualities. The Pagemaster means more to me than it probably should, and because I rented it from Civic Video Five Dock back when video rental stores were still relevant, it occupies a place in my heart the same way several other now-adult nineties kids cherished Drop Dead Fred. I had a dreadful string of consecutive stress-nightmares, until I’d received The Pagemaster videocassette in the post; upon the eve of its arrival I’d dreamt Christopher Lloyd’s titular wizard character dressed in blue started waving his hands, banishing said negative vibes. I’ll never get sick of looking at this thing, no matter how much Marcel Proust warned against repetitive nostalgia with his madeleine chapter from In Search Of Lost Time, VHS box covers carry a totemic significance regardless of DVDs and Blu-Ray replacing dusty black oblongs.
Macaulay Culkin is surfing on a book, sword-fighting a dragon, holding this 1996 videocassette in my hands again comforted me a great deal.
The literal writing’s on the wall, like a red cross painted upon a door warning villagers of bubonic plague, late capitalism strikes us again.
It’s strange seeing neon signs which don’t advertise Eat At Joe’s.
Cans of assorted soda and water bottles only one dollar each, that could help Newtown’s homeless beggars quench their thirst cheap.
The full extent of Civic Video’s collapse began as I turned the corner, entering its abattoir where ex-rental video game copies come to die.
Phat Moves could be yours, tear our television off the wall, grab a deal!
All members welcome to the Funko Pop! Vinyl bandwagon, ride or die Civic Video customers from Five Dock can pay their last respects here.
M&Ms are always the first to know, doomsday’s coming mid-August.
This place has been pillaged beyond recognition, the keyboard’s past it.
Step right up folks, it’s the cheapest trash in town! Ten cents is the bleakest price-tag you can slap on any landfill-bound clearance bin.
A rapid action VHS rewinder, captured in the wild, an endangered species seldom found in its natural habitat due to climate change.
Is it the fax machine, the chords, or the “Study Desks $20” sign tucked into that drawer which completes this magnificent depressing image?
Oh geez, they’re flogging off the air-conditioning units too? Drag.
Blue neon and hot pink staffroom looks barren and bare tonight.
I would’ve been listening to Cliff Martinez’s Drive soundtrack whilst I documented all of this if I didn’t have my hands full, I suffer for my art.
Jesus Christ, they’re selling individual discs instead of complete sets, like organ harvesters who steal kidneys and leave you in an ice bath.
I apologise for the blurred snapshot, this wasn’t for artistic effect, I was trying to run the jewels and get as many photos as possible before my battery went kaput. Recommended Viewing shelves have been raided.
The Bogan Hunters and Bogan Pride are placed next to Dumb And Dumberer, I’m not even bothered that Dumb And Dumberer doesn’t belong in TV Series, that’s just perfect accidental social commentary.
Nothing rare or revelatory worth scavenging on the Documentary shelves, ex-rental DVDs are scuffed up beyond repair by this stage.
Horror section looks pretty Spartan, although I’ve never heard of 7 Mummies, which got awarded a whopping 2.5 stars on iMDB. Yikes.
WAR… HHHGN! GOOD GOD YA’LL.. WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? ABSOLUTELY NOTHIN’! SING IT AGAIN YEAH! WAR… HHHGN!
The Old West was brought to an end by the railroads, Civic Video on the other hand was ended by Netflix. What’s Hitler’s SS doing there?
There was one aspect to Newtown’s Civic Video I felt I had to document for posterity above all other shelves, its Gay & Lesbian section, which has been supplanted by Netflix and SBS Viceland’s streaming LGBT content on demand. The historical weight this section held was palpable to me, even as a straight observer, because it was larger than both the War and Western genre sections combined. The men and women who rented these movies were out and proud, it’s poignant to see something which served a vital role in this bohemian district shut down not by Stonewall police raids or lobbyist bigots demanding a plebiscite on marriage equality, but by simple technological inconvenience. I’m about to poke fun at some of the silly titles these queer film festival highlights were bestowed by their directors, the whole “rent-boy” concept becomes somewhat literal when your local Civic Video allows you to rent boys with washboard abs on the box art, but from my experience the laughable titles LGBT classics tend to have doesn’t negate their legit subcultural importance. Prior to searching The Fabulous Flag Sisters on IMDB, I’d assumed this was another light, fluffy LGBT romantic comedy; but then I read the plot synopsis, and it’s a true story about three drag queens who entertained Italy during a very turbulent period of Red Brigades and terrorist attacks. Poking fun at the cover’s stereotypical glittery-disco-ball makes me sound like an insensitive jerk now, doesn’t it? While we’re on the subject of misleading marketing, Bret Easton Ellis’ novel The Rules Of Attraction got adapted into a movie which I bought on Blu-Ray, because I collect lesser-known adaptations of transgressive novelists’ B-side works. Maybe I do this so Irvine Welsh’s Filth will encourage me to keep writing books after my Trainspotting bestseller is far behind me as an author, Chuck Palahniuk must hate being Mr. Fight Club now that white nationalists co-adopted Tyler Durden. I loved Ellis’ American Psycho (both book and film), despite resting upon his edgelord laurels, I think The Rules Of Attraction demonstrated he’s got depth beneath his surface-level nihilism and more ideas than just Patrick Bateman rehashes like Luna Park. I dunno what Bret’s 1941 reference was trying to say, perhaps I’m too young to appreciate his “fatherhood book” when fatherhood feels out of reach, or I should watch my 1941 Blu-Ray that came in a Spielberg director’s set in order to decode this oblique message. Text Publishing rereleased an Aussie LGBT classic novel called Fairyland by Sumner Locke Elliot, I found it relatable on account of its narrative verbalising how multiple generations of young Australians gave up waiting for the future to arrive at quarantine, our brightest innovators emigrated overseas to escape our regressive prisoner island sabotaged by Canberra’s cronies. Of course, Donald Trump getting elected and Brexit closed the door on those exit strategies, we’d all have to fight our battles at home. Conservative rulers always took their fullest advantage of our parochial convict continent’s tyranny of distance, leaving South Australians begging Elon Musk on social media feeds to repair storm-damaged electricity grids in Adelaide. Once we’d heard online rumours about America’s Netflix experiment, The Genie From Down Under burst out of his opal, no matter how much protection money Rupert Murdoch demands it’s over for NewsCorp very soon. I attended a snap-Sydney marriage equality rally on Sunday, August 6th: one of the original Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras veterans, Peter Murphy was there to perform a speech. A few months ago I argued with some Yank on Twitter that Australians are “the Mardi Gras of Priscilla“, like an elder Republican boasting they were “the party of Lincoln” because he believed Sydney Mardi Gras had an all-Caucasian crowd devoid of Gaysians or queer POC. A cursory glance of our diverse attendance at this rally proved his ignorance, I’d seen more rhinestone jackets at this march than I’ve seen since their peak popularity in the seventies, plus I was granted permission to carry a violet spirit part of the rainbow flag which hurt my arm with an empathetic ache for these families fighting for their rights. Intersectionality is not my expertise, but it’s a strange coincidence that the iconic rainbow flag associated with LGBT activism shares its multicolour-scheme with the autistic spectrum infinity symbol flag chosen to replace the blue Autism Speaks puzzle-piece logo. When we’d finished marching from Town Hall to Oxford Street, I handed off my rainbow flag corner to a lesbian mother, proceeding back the way I came. I spent the rest of the afternoon browsing in Kinokuniya.
Gay/Lesbian, with a dash of pink and neon blue for A E S T H E T I C.
Latter Days? Wasn’t that the quirky Mormon romantic comedy which turns into a stone-cold bummer by the end? Better leave this alone…
Adam & Steve, Bent, Boystown, plus most of the Brotherhood movies. This shelf’s triggery-buzzkill-to-uplifting ratio was way more balanced.
Patrik, Age 1.5 seems like a gay Happy Madison flick on the surface but as it turns out, is a provocative Swedish comedy about same-sex adoption. Puccini For Beginners has adorable opera-loving lesbians.
Hunk Boat Volumes 1 AND 2? Rated MA-15+ by the OFLC for its Frequent Nudity. Hard Pill contains “Strong sex scenes”, I hope so!
Psst, I think this movie has a gay agenda about marriage equality, film canisters forming same-sex wedding cakes might fly over naive heads.
“I know writers who use subtext, they’re all cowards.” – Garth Marenghi
Gayby is a cute title for an LGBT comedy, Gay Sex In The 70’s is rather blunt, that sure is some Gay Sex In The 70’s. Dat ass will be penetrated.
Queer Duck: The Movie might be the most circulated LGBT DVD in existence, I’ve seen this cartoon rear its head at retailers nationwide.
I can skip both Eating Out 1 and 2, because Eating Out 3: All You Can Eat will leave no questions unanswered about this cinematic universe.
Holding an issue of REDFLAG, a socialist newspaper publication, I love its left-wing equivalent to a Rupert Murdoch Daily Telegraph headline.
Representing the Rob Halford metalheads with this Manowar-themed placard. “And if we all were not brothers of metal, would we fall? NO!”
Carrying the rainbow flag into Oxford St. – whilst listening to Judas Priest’s British Steel album with Bose noise-cancelling headphones.
No profile of Civic Video’s range is complete without showcasing its modest Australian section, Civic’s noble attempt at stocking our domestic media products underneath one roof deserves a celebration even if its experiment in educating us about our own culture ended the way it did. Back when my mother rented me movies, Civic Video Five Dock’s VHS copy of The Godfather was an old worn out piece of junk no amount of delusion could call acceptable viewing conditions, no wonder Mum let me and my brother watch Rambo: First Blood – the videocassette transfer was so dark you couldn’t see its ultra-violent rampages. It seems mental now to think Tim Allen’s opus The Santa Clause of all bloody things had a six-month waiting list, Dad bought me a Mr. Bean VHS compilation which came with a Mr. Bean t-shirt for Christmas one year, that was considered a king’s ransom gift fit for royalty. Due to huge licensing issues many impatient children of the nineties didn’t understand yet, Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon videotapes were ubiquitous, but you could only watch Daria or Ren & Stimpy on a singular VHS release with a select number of episodes. My family owned the first season of The Simpsons on videotape, I’m uncertain who bequeathed that treasure to us, three videocassettes were packed into a prototype box set the size of a current DVD complete series. Umbrella Entertainment re-issued a bunch of seminal Ozsploitation films following the success of Not Quite Hollywood, the documentary about this era of Australian cinema which they’ve acquired the rights to, both End Play and Stork received much nicer cover art reflecting the material’s tone. Umbrella’s psychedelic graphic design and portrait of Bruce Spence does him better favours than presenting us with his off-putting visage as a gaping maw devouring most of the surface. I didn’t take photos of Civic Video Newtown’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome copy because let’s face it, if you’ve already seen Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome‘s movie poster, its DVD cover looks familiar. Thunderdome‘s poster is so iconic, they’ve been using it on home video releases for this movie since VHS: reminds me of how Hobo With A Shotgun‘s DVD and Blu-Ray releases didn’t bother hiring any design specialists, and slapped its movie poster on the cover, because why mess with perfection? I used to prefer Beyond Thunderdome to The Road Warrior as a kid, the lack of brutal rape in Beyond Thunderdome probably had something to do with it, plus Mad Max 2 had a creepy foreboding atmosphere and a few jump-scares that messed with my head. It’s weird to think in hindsight how Beyond Thunderdome used to be the capstone of the series, now Mad Max: Fury Road is beloved by critics and audiences alike, Thunderdome is once again the contentious Return Of The Jedi Ewok entry in the Mad Max franchise nobody agrees on. I went over to the Classics section and found myself an amusing treat, bestowed with one of the goofiest fonts I’ve seen plastered upon a DVD cover in quite some time: I Was A Male War Bride starring Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan. I looked up a synopsis on iMDB and wow does “zany gender-confusing antics follow” imply multitudes of meaning in our current era of marriage equality debates. By 1949 standards I Was A Male War Bride must’ve been zany, yet in our post-Chelsea Manning world, military recruits questioning their gender identity are almost mainstream. Grant looks silly wearing a woman’s wig, which I guess is the point.
You don’t need to overemphasise how Australian and seventies End Play is, Civic Video, you can kinda tell just by looking at this picture.
Umbrella Entertainment’s alternative design for End Play uses a striking red backdrop, and an updated OFLC Rating which is way more legible.
Stork starring Bruce Spence (the Gyro-Captain from Mad Max 2) was presented by the Hexagon Tribute Collection in seventies-piss-yellow.
For comparison’s sake, here’s Umbrella Entertainment’s alternative Stork cover art, doesn’t that communicate the narrative with ease?
Richard Amsel really captures Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity hair on paper, I saw some child wielding a crossbow just like hers on the subway once.
Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan in I Was A Male War Bride, rated G!
Civic Video Newtown’s candy bar was filled with discount lollies from various countries, I remained too skint to sample any of these treats deemed acceptable for consumption, the previous barrel of sugar I’d ingested was an awful Chinese gumball jar I have been told you should check for broken glass before you put it in your mouth. I was hoping I’d get Bubble O’ Bill-esque chalky bubblegum instead of the rough grey-textured gunk Kmart sold me, I won’t go into how this substance left my body, but it wasn’t pleasant. Civic Video never let me down in the lollies department, Wonka’s Redskins were pernicious yet delicious, I have very fond memories of Australia’s Yowie chocolates which were our Kinder Surprise eggs in the shape of mythical Aboriginal Dreamtime monsters with fun educational wildlife toys. My primary school librarian read Turramulli The Giant Quinkin to our class and terrified us all, so I reckon Millennials tearing the heads off chocolate Yowies was a subconscious way of coping. Fizzers often came in a Royal Easter Show-bag, they’re pretty much Laffy-Taffy with a much less off-putting name, I liked ’em. Reece’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cups are nice, but I take issue with imported Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Cream chocolate on account of Milky Bar Cookies & Cream being superior in every way imaginable. I’ve tasted American milk, it’s rubbish compared to Aussie milk due to our supply not having to travel as far across fewer states, Cadbury’s unfair dairy farm advantage over Hershey’s is seldom discussed by fans. PEZ dispensers are a love ’em or hate ’em candy toy, I’ve always loved how PEZ tastes, it’s chalky in the Bubble O’ Bill sense where you respect Vern from Stand By Me endorsing this product. I still have my Superman PEZ dispenser somewhere in storage, the staying power of a tiny plastic bust cast in the likeness of childhood characters is an evergreen concept. I only got to try Bubble Tape once because my mother refused to buy me any of it, Seriously Strawberry is preferable to Grape, I should buy some on my next stroll. Froot Loops are on the health watchdog’s hit-list at the moment, urging us to reclassify the cereal as a dessert, Toucan Sam might become an inevitable casualty of the diabetic age. My parents stopped buying me Pop Tarts two decades ago, Corn Pops and Frosted Flakes both disappeared off supermarket shelves overnight, amongst classic sugary cereals Froot Loops stands alone atop Mt. Kelloggs. If Arnott’s stop manufacturing Tim-Tams or Mint Slices, Iced Vo-Vos are next, packets of Tiny Teddies are getting smaller. I have heard chocolates in general may become scarce delicacies, which is bad news, what else am I gonna buy for Mother’s Day?
Scratch Removal Is Here! (at the Candy Bar, with confectionery less expired than that sign, plus some non-banned Kinder Surprise eggs).
Wanna feel old? This is what mobile phones used to look like back when Civic Video was still relevant, Snake was Nokia’s best game.
The frown emoticon on this Fanta Icy Whirl™ machine is adorable.
New Releases, which won’t get to become Old Releases, farewell Civic.
In the Greek myth Orpheus & Eurydice, Hades requests Orpheus never look back upon the underworld as he carries his departed wife out of his realm, or else she will be taken back amongst the dead. I struck no such pact with Hades, hence there’s no harm in me having one last glimpse back at Civic Video, before I’d left to see Suspiria at the Hayden Orpheum. I overheard a lady settling neglected overdue late fees, her total amount she owed: a mere thirty dollars. The stoic clerk counting her money behind the register has no staff to share his burden, admiring her honesty, he does his Civic duty until his final shift. Can’t be easy working for an employer you’re aware has no future, knowing robots can steal everyone’s jobs like Astro Boy warned us they would, the gig economy offers few protections against predatory market forces. I made my exit, and as I climbed back out of that dungeon, two singlet-wearing yobbos from the upstairs gym proclaimed Civic’s demise as “End of an era!” – to which I’d replied: “What a legacy…” – the class divide just melted away in that moment, commiserating with two strangers I’d never met over something which meant a great deal to us closing down. I respect the vapourwave movement for recycling our retro capitalist detritus like the Kmart muzak tapes (someone who worked there for a decade uploaded them online) into dank remixed art projects and synth albums, creating an ironic pastiche of early Playstation CGI and Californian advertisements featuring valley girls frolicking in unsustainable splendour. I watched Cobain: Montage Of Heck‘s opening credits, the harsh, distorted grunge of Generation X represented by Nirvana’s music is juxtaposed with Leave It To Beaver sitcom footage. My generation’s counter-culture often borrows its malaise, the vapourwave dialectic tackles similar themes such as consumerism’s broken promises, the splintering of suburbia by global recession and the futility of resisting irreversible change. I’ve been stockpiling my physical media for my Turbo Kid-esque post-apocalyptic bunker, because I don’t trust streaming services to host permanent libraries after my twin brother was binge-watching Dawson’s Creek and found himself deprived of James Van Der Beek at random, when Netflix decided they can revoke access to archives. I never wanna be stuck in a nihilistic jam where my sibling says binge-watching Full House seems like a reasonable alternative to being bereft of entertainment options, that saxophone was stuck in my head for a month, it was piping through his bedroom wall every lonely night. I joined him out of curiosity, misery loves company, we sympathised with Uncle Jesse struggling to make it as a musician. My brother’s been living in a Harry Potter cupboard, after he’d moved back into our parent’s place due to his previous rental agreement disintegrating with his financial security, our landlord requested we pack half the garage into storage boxes so he could install extra dormitories for his elderly Chinese relatives. Our Irish-Japanese neighbours were muscled out of their residence upstairs, I’d bought an Elsa Frozen and Tinker Bell birthday card for their two daughters at Kmart, plus I performed as a dishevelled party clown in my University of Sydney letterman jacket and they hugged me around my legs. I reckon online video streaming via Netflix (and its local competitor Stan, named after one of Eminem’s most bone-chilling tracks) taking off when it did, happened due in part to our housing affordability crisis forcing us Millennials into a nomadic lifestyle we didn’t choose. It’s difficult committing to rent our movies from a Civic Video, Hoyts or Redbox kiosk when our tenancy can be uprooted by the whims of an indifferent feudal lord evicting peasants.
Resist Records is so underground, I couldn’t find their shop entrance.
It’s easy to wallow in stagnation, clinging to nostalgia when everything’s falling apart. Dick Smith Electronics has fallen on hard times, however in its place now stands this delightful new bookseller called Harry Hartog at the Macquarie Centre, which pipes gentle folk music and has wooden model ships atop its shelves. Another blast from the distant nineties past emerged when a new Timezone arcade sprung out of nowhere beside Macquarie Centre’s JB Hi-Fi, bringing happiness to the children, especially two little girls playing Space Invaders: Frenzy. I wasn’t great at video games as a kid, many of my friends would gather round the telly playing Crash Bandicoot and I watched them vent their frustrations, never suspecting they were just as bad at finishing these games as I was. YouTube’s toxicity isn’t fantastic for long-term entertainers, but watching Let’s Players tackle games I thought were impossible showed me these difficult games could be beaten. I supplemented my morning meditation by practicing dying in Contra III: The Alien Wars so I wouldn’t get frustrated whenever I kept losing, today’s enlightenment requires today’s techniques, not only did my sore thumbs stop hurting but I reached Level Four in a game I’d never have the courage to play at age eight. During a routine trip to Abbotsford to obtain my prescription medication, my Dad decided we should go visit my primary school buddy David Harris whom we hadn’t seen since Prez Obama’s term, lo and behold he still lived at his old address. His mother Val answered the door, and invited me inside, where I reunited with a friend I’ve known since kindergarten like no time passed whatsoever. I informed him I pre-ordered the Super Nintendo Classic Edition so we can play Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts like the good-old-days on his couch, where we watched Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme action movies together. I spotted Dave posing next to a Margaritaville kiosk on Facebook, I inquired what it meant but Dave told me he was there for his sister’s wedding, he’s an uncle now and I’m very happy for him. He looked at my outfit and said: “You look like a dude from the seventies!” which sounded like a compliment from his perspective, I examined his couch sitting where it always sits. There was no Gamecube set up with TimeSplitters 2 ready to go, nor Super Nintendo with Dave’s brother Tim’s Mario Is Missing cartridge nearby as there had been back in 1997, but everything else was a time capsule which transported me to another much simpler epoch. I went to Civic Video many times with Dave, each expedition would yield a new bounty we carried over the threshold of our doors, nonetheless I’m glad our friendship has outlived the video rental industry’s glacial-paced decline now accelerated by man’s anthropocene. I can live without returning overdue tapes to Civic Video again, Dave not being Garth in our Wayne’s World duo is an unthinkable, intolerable proposition. Maybe things will get better by Christmas, maybe they won’t, the planet might get nuked by North Korea before I’ll unwrap my presents under the tree. I overthink the impermanence of arrogant institutions we take for granted, afraid I’ll die screaming while I’m wallowing in my sweatpants, unable to begin starting a family of my own if I get married or achieve real meaningful success outside this tawdry Tutankhamen’s tomb I’ve constructed for myself built using material possessions. I remain committed to my Taoist religion, I walked away from a rad fifty dollar katana at the mall’s Japan City retailer, my spirituality’s stronger than the siren-song of sword ownership. Certain sacrifices had to be made so I could become a better person, hope you all enjoyed my anxiety-disorder fuelled panic attack disguised as an article about a video rental chain.
The boys are back in town, ready for our reunion tour in 2017.