April 18th 2020

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Justice at last: Cardinal Pell set free

EDITORIAL Australia needs an economic reset after covid19 crisis

CANBERRA OBSERVED The very young can still be 'taken care of' during the covid19 outbreak

RURAL AFFAIRS A national disgrace: Our great land sale

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Use detention centres to help deal with covid19

GENDER POLITICS Do we really need to ask, what is a woman?

REFLECTION A chance for a change of heart: Covid19 as Memento mori

FAMILY Who let the kids out? The stay-at-home parent and covid19

ECONOMICS The oil cartel: The lesson for other industries from OEC

HEALTH Lessons from the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic

CULTURE AND SOCIETY There is a war: The battle in and for hearts

ASIAN AFFAIRS What makes China different is not the Chinese but the CCP

HUMOUR Locked down in Covi Town

MUSIC Great, er, swan songs

CINEMA+TV Staying in; staying sane

BOOK REVIEW Not our Robin Hood

BOOK REVIEW At home among others




CARDINAL GEORGE PELL FREE: The commentary file

Books promotion page

Staying in; staying sane

by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, April 18, 2020

Once upon a time, going to the movies was a big deal. Magnificent pictures palaces, designed to emulate grand theatres were built, and people attended in all their finery – but with cheap seats and spaces for everyone.


Then came television. The communal experience still existed, but now it was experienced in the home with only the household present. Instead of going out and mixing with one another, people stayed in and mixed with the imagined people on the small screen. Shepherded along by the calm voices of TV hosts and news presenters, they invited everyone, from the bigwigs to the lowlifes, into their homes.There were also travelling shows, rolling into town with the latest releases and a screen to watch them on. The movies were a communal event, a liturgy for the masses, with lessons of right and wrong, and vicarious sacrifices offered on the altar of the silver screen.

What was once distant became close, but with that closeness to celebrity, came the possibility of distance from one’s own community. News Weekly’s founder, B.A. Santamaria, appreciated these nuances and commented on them to great effect.

TV’s influence on our civilisation should not be underestimated, but like all technologies it became integrated within the wider human experience, neither changing it completely nor leaving it unchanged.

New technologies – the computer, the video game console, the internet, the mobile phone, social media – have further disrupted the human experience, but in time they too would likely become more humane. Nuanced critiques of technology and social media from the likes of Cal Newport in Digital Minimalism, Jaron Lanier in You Are Not a Gadget, and Steve Jobs of Apple kick-started a movement for intentional tech use. Instead of a blinkered, sci-fi inspired transhumanism in which we become machines, these thinkers in different ways encourage using technology to make us more humane, not more machine-like.

Then came covid19 and we find ourselves at home experiencing the wider world through screens and calls, bodily disconnected from the body politic, religious practice switched from a physical community to a virtual one.

We are all hermits now – except hermits with magic screens bringing us whatever we desire. I suspect the Desert Fathers would not know what to make of it all.

In these times it makes sense to consider some of the main streaming video options.

YouTube is a user-generated streaming site, which means anyone can upload videos. There is a lot on Youtube, much of it legally uploaded, and some of it less so. Sesame Street and Play School have their own channels, as does the gentle and genteel Little Bear.

You can also buy or rent movies or TV series. Viewers need, however, to be aware that YouTube has all manner of dodgy and creepy things on it, from disinformation and conspiracy theories to online predators stalking comments’ sections.

Disney+ is probably the single most worthwhile streaming service for families, because it has Disney’s entire back catalogue, as well as access to everything Disney owns. This means all of Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars; as well as most of the FOX stable of TV shows and movies, such as X-Men and The Simpsons.

Netflix pioneered streaming video and has a vast supply of original and licensed content from around the world. It has produced stellar work, like the blind Catholic superhero series Daredevil, and the animated adventures of Troll-hunters.

Kanopy is worthwhile for anyone looking for classics, arthouse or foreign films and is freely available via many libraries. Not all libraries have it, but it’s worth looking for.

Stan is Australia’s homegrown streaming service, with lots of Aussie and international content – including all of James Bond.

Amazon Prime Video has a vast catalogue and is constantly pumping out new material. It has everything from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and many other classics, to superb versions of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, sci-fi space epic The Expanse, and even a brilliant grown-up take on superhero satire, The Tick.

SBS On Demand is a great, and free, option for mature TV series, like Scandinavian detective shows and French thrillers, as well as a range of other international, and some local, offerings.

Most TV channels, like ABC, have their own free catch-up and special content services, with Ten also having Ten All Access, which gives access to its new parent corporation CBS’s archive.

Now is a good time to introduce the kids to some classics, as long as we also remember to keep in touch with each other.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia (FCCA).

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm