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Issue , 2014

The How To Issue

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News

  • Allocation Allocation Allocation

  • Ranking Spanking

  • Eye on Exec

  • Best O-Week Everrrrrr

  • Students See Pluses and Minuses

  • Students Cut Up Over Cuts

  • Warm, Dry, Not Quite Yet

  • It’s Just a Little Prick

  • Brand-New Bio Building Being Built

  • “And Stay Out!”

  • News of the World

  • Features

  • How to How to

    Thanks to Google, you can find out how to do anything. Is there a catch?

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  • How to Remain a Major Player in Your Own Life

    People here offer you things, be they drugs, neoliberal economics, or copies of the Bhagavad Gita.

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  • How to Roll a Durry/Joint

    Like riding a bicycle, learning how to roll is a skill that you will never unlearn.

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  • How 200

    Our contributors teach you how to do something in 200 words.

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  • Pulse

    Alexandra Hollis created this piece at Victoria’s International Institute of Modern Letters. We love it.

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  • How to How to

    Thanks to Google, you can find out how to do anything. Is there a catch?

    by

  • How to Remain a Major Player in Your Own Life

    People here offer you things, be they drugs, neoliberal economics, or copies of the Bhagavad Gita.

    by

  • How to Roll a Durry/Joint

    Like riding a bicycle, learning how to roll is a skill that you will never unlearn.

    by

  • How 200

    Our contributors teach you how to do something in 200 words.

    by

  • Pulse

    Alexandra Hollis created this piece at Victoria’s International Institute of Modern Letters. We love it.

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  • Arts and Science

  • Interview with Megan Dunn

    Talking about art is difficult. In preparation for my piece this week, I emailed art critic Megan Dunn to find out how she tackles the subject.

    When reviewing, or trying to unpack, a work of art, where do you start? Do you read about the work beforehand, consider respective artist statements, go in blind?

    I start by describing what I have seen or experienced. This isn’t easy. Description is a joy and a pain in the arse. A writer has the responsibility to be concrete, rather than abstract, even when writing about abstraction. What kind of abstraction: Malevich’s white on white? Rothko’s fluffy ducks, his mauve haze, his fuzz balls? Or Mondrian’s primary-coloured checkerboards and parallel lines?  I once bought some Mondrian placemats from a garage sale in Rotorua. In the midst of description I always reveal myself…a metaphor or simile about the art unravels and I chase after it, claws in or out.

    I regard each artist’s statement with suspicion like a rusty sheriff’s badge.

    What’s the most art has made you feel? Have you ever cried at an artwork? Laughed out loud?

    I have cried in the company of artworks. Art increases my capacity for wonder, or perhaps it simply matches the human capacity for wonder. From the overfriendly face of the Mona Lisa to Tretchikoff’s beguiling Miss Wong. I’m not afraid to get it wrong. I covet stuff I will never own: Christo’s gift-wrapped islands; Jeff Koons totally wacko photos of himself bonking porn star, Cicciolina; Hannah Wilke’s chewed-up pieces of chewing gum. Art is as abundant and corrupt as the world. I often laugh.

    Do you feel that people, when they talk about art, are guarded for fear of interpreting it wrong?

    Fuck, nose.

    An old acquaintance attended the opening of The Chapman Brothers Retrospective at Saatchi Gallery in London. I adored this friend for his glamorous life and celebrity stories. On this occasion, he was in the company of Kylie Minogue. Kylie and my friend strolled the perimeter of Zygotic Acceleration: a sculpture of a cluster of nude children conjoined in the manner of Siamese twins. The pre-pubescent mannequins are all smooth and sexless apart from their faces. Some sport penises instead of noses.

    My friend leaned over and said to Kylie; “What do you think. Is it art? Fuck, knows?”

    Kylie remained earnest and open-minded. “I think it is art…”

    They stood in front of a mannequin that had a Pinocchio-size hard-on.

    My friend tried again. “Fuck, nose.”

    Who do you think you write reviews for? Do you feel you’re supposed to make a conscious effort to broaden the appeal of art – or do you feel that doing so is passé, that art critics write for a niche audience?

    Each publication has its own audience. The piece must be pitched to that audience while remaining sincere to the reviewer’s experience of the art. So sometimes writing with a broader appeal is a factor. This doesn’t necessarily equate to dumbing the work down, it might mean dispensing with insider jokes, trade secrets and relying on assumptions of shared knowledge; a common history.

    Readers often appreciate facts and information. I write to enrich their experience of the work and my own.  I write to entertain. (I start with myself.) I write to meet deadlines. Criticism is a form of opinion; I aim for informed opinion. Each reader has a mind of their own.

    When speaking to someone who also shares an interest in art, do you find yourself talking in a particular dialect? Do you make noticeable adjustments in the language you use when talking to different people?

    Yes and no. When I was a teenager, a picture of Van Gogh’s sunflowers hung above the kitchen table at home. My uncle, a shearer, arrived one day from out of town. He challenged me about the sunflowers. “Why is it a good picture?” I looked at the bulbous heads through his eyes. He was right. Van Gogh had not managed a photo-realist rendering of the image. I struggled to explain why Van Gogh’s sunflowers were worthy of attention that day. I’m still struggling, but I believe in Van Gogh’s turbulent sunflowers and the power of art’s tawdry, turpentine-drenched past.


    Megan Dunn has published art reviews in a number of online and print forums, including New Zealand Listener, Art News, and visual-arts website EyeContact.

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  • How to Talk Art

    It’s hard to know where to start. More often than not, it seems like art belongs to someone else. That it exists in a space penetrable only by the correct qualifications. That it speaks in a language not your own. Spoken faithfully only by those who take into account every reference to other works, every brushstroke or incision, every letter of the artist’s statement of intent. Forgive me if I’m making a sweeping generalisation, for I may be projecting my own anxieties, but it seems that if one wishes to talk about art, the onus is on them to convince anyone listening they deserve to be talking about art.

    I often make jokes about how few people read my page. Not very funny jokes, but jokes nonetheless. I’m facetious as a defence. I acknowledge art’s lack of practical application as a means of not having to justify why we should pay attention to it. Even Barack Obama, less than a month ago, during a speech at a General Electric plant, acknowledged art’s irrelevance (he later apologised). It’s difficult to argue in art’s defence when it feels like art exists to sustain itself. I’m facetious too, because I feel I have to summon a degree of hubris to be able to tell you whether I think a particular piece of art is good or not. I have to convince you I understand what I’m talking about when often it feels like I don’t.

    It seems sentimental to argue that art’s value transcends financial return, but I refuse to believe that art really does nothing at all. It can provoke. It can strive for pathos, or mourning, or something shared. It can go nicely with the drapes. It can cost a lot of money and not really make much sense.

    Talking about art is often about refusing to be intimidated. To shake off the fear that you might be looking at the work the wrong way.

    Art feeds on feeling, sometimes more explicitly than others. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell what art is asking of the viewer. The important thing to remember is that art can’t answer back.

    Language can fail, though. You reach out for reference points and come up short. Sometimes, art doesn’t remind you of anything. Sometimes, it feels like your feelings are inappropriate – I look at Rita Angus’ portrait of Betty Curnow and I think about an anecdote a lecturer once told about Betty writing to the government asking for a stipend for cigarettes. I’m distracted when I look at Bruce Nauman’s work because of how much of a babe he is. But the thing is, you’re allowed to make wild associations. We see things by making connections, and art doesn’t exist in a vacuum of its own.

    Art seems to distance itself from the viewer. Art can beg to be interactive, it can let you touch, every now and again, but such immersion is the exception rather than the rule. Unlike music, art doesn’t aim for a collective, visceral experience. It’s easy to tell when a song is sad because it immediately sounds sad. Sometimes, art hides behind itself. Like Félix González-Torres’ Perfect Lovers, what exactly is it about two clocks side by side, falling gradually out of time, that moves someone to tears?

    It’s not Philistinism to be angered by a work of art. To question whether something even qualifies for the classification.

    Maybe there’s a middle ground to find, between trusting that an artist knows their work is worthy of a response from you, and feeling at ease that your response is valid. An uncomfortable truth is that art is desperate not to be ignored. Art’s relevance is so precarious that any conversation about it should be appreciated. It’s scary at first, but it’s not as hard as it seems.

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  • “Fringe Fever Is Rife Within Wellington”

    Fringe Fever is rife within Wellington this week as countless Victoria students, sustained only by the Fix ‘pie and a V for $5’ deal and their dreams of success, are showering far too rarely and drinking far too much coffee as they finally perform the productions they have poured their hearts into for months. This week we talk to Laura Gaudin, birth-mother of Shu, Ryan Knighton, writer and director of Foxes Mate For Life and Other Stories, and George Fenn, Production Manager for Foxes, on their Fringe experiences, the venues they performed in, the difficulties that challenged them, and what advice they’d give to theatre practitioners thinking of making shows in future festivals.

    There is always a deep breath drawn and a little sobbing when Fringe-venue applications are answered, but how much difference does it actually make? On this question, Fenn explains that, “koha venues, such as 17 Tory St, Anvil House, 128 Abel Smith St, and People’s Cinema are underused avenues for emerging artists,” and that these koha environments are advantageous platforms for staging your shows, as: “when you are only paying for electricity, you can afford to take risks.”

    Knighton describes People’s Cinema as the “perfect opportunity for [our company] as newcomers, as we were able to secure a unique place and to work and craft while sharing the space with other shows,” which meant that the company had to act professionally and respectfully, which is always a valuable growth exercise. He continues, however, that: “spaces like these are perfect for people who need somewhere to start, but if not enough interest is shown, these places will not survive.” It is therefore valuable to apply for such venues when staging shows, but also to support the wonderful shows that are happening there this Fringe.

    Gaudin’s show took place at the professional “Gryphon Theatre, where the support from the venue manager and tech manager was fantastic. It was great to have this kind of support… as it was [their] first time putting on a show… [as well as] the theatre itself [being] such a great space.” Similarly, at BATS this Fringe, the convenience of staging a show in a conventional theatre space, due to the brilliance of staff and equipment already present on site, can be incredibly helpful. Then again, there are also shows in bookshops and on moving buses, so it is important to consider the philosophy of your show before applying to any venue. Professional theatre spaces are a wonderful gift, but not your only option.

    Once a venue is sorted, there are still plenty more challenges to face. Knighton explains that, “in terms of the work, [Fringe] is one of the hardest things you will ever do. All the times when you have spent too much money on the show to afford food that week, [or] a cast member has to pull out… it slowly chips away at you… then something amazing happens and your team pulls it together, your dream is reincarnated, so much more beautiful and powerful than your own personal vision or dream.” Overall, he says, “it is not talent, craft or love that Fringe teaches you, but perseverance, endurance and tenacity.” It is, he says, the people that make it bearable: “if you have an amazing group of the most genuine loving humans around you, it is all worth it.” Gaudin shares that: “when [she] found [her]self trying to record midi keyboard songs at 4.30 in the morning [she] knew the whole thing must be driving [her] a bit mad. However,” she says, she’s had “the best time, getting to create a piece with two amazing friends.” It appears that it is definitely the people that make Fringe the wonderful journey it is.

    Other advice pouring forth from these young talented practitioners, is that “marketing is tough. It is hard to put yourself out there. So many gems slip through unrecognised in every Fringe,” says Fenn. “You would be surprised,” he says, “with how many walk-ins you get solely because of the Fringe Booklet [but] you can’t rely on them. Frustratingly, most shows break even out of the pockets of family and friends. It is a real win when you start pulling crowds of strangers to your show,” but marketing is a huge part of this.

    On crafting what that audience sees, Gaudin advises that if you’re wanting to participate in Fringe, you have to “make sure you are willing to devote a lot of time to it, and also make sure you have a ready supply of tea.” Shows will take time, money, and a hell of a lot of determined spirit. Knighton’s closing advice: “Newcomers: if you want to make something, see everything. We need to support each other in this crowded and earnest field. If what you want to see is not there, then make it.”

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  • Books Coming Out in 2014 to Get Excited About

    Bark by Lorrie Moore

    Prolific American short-story writer Lorrie Moore is back in March with her first collection of stories since 1998. Moore’s early stories are well known and loved for being darkly witty and beautiful in unexpected moments. Her last novel, A Gate at the Stairs, was received in 2009 with slightly passionless reviews, but the buzz about this one is tangible.

    The Wandering Mind by Michael Corballis

    In his last popular non-fiction workPieces of Mind: 21 Short Walks Around the Human Brain, Auckland Uni emeritus professor Michael Corballis made psychology a really fun and fascinating subject to read about. This time, he takes a closer look at our subconscious: what are our brains doing when we’re not doing anything at all? Look out for it in May this year.

    Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

    In what is known to Japanese newspapers as “the Haruki effect”, thousands of people queued for days outside bookstores when Murakami’s latest novel was released in Japan last year. The English translation will be published by Random House in August. According to the book’s Wikipedia page, one million copies sold in one week. So it’s bound to be good.

    Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

    Loved and hated by many, the writer and creator of HBO series Girls is publishing a collection of essays in October. Meanwhile, her television persona Hannah Horvath is on the road to getting her own book of essays published in New York. We aren’t sure if we’re meant to ignore the synchronicity here, but regardless, Dunham’s essays should be interesting if her screenwriting choices are anything to go by.

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  • Flatter’s Survival Guide by Lauren Earl

    I started reading Flatter’s Survival Guide while I was eating a slice of chewy leftover lasagne, my room smelling faintly damp, having spent the morning pulling clumps of my flatmates’ hair out of the shower drain. Lauren Earl compiled this book from five years’ worth of flatting experiences, so there’s no doubt she knows what I’m talking about.

    This book might be the first handy compendium of tips for first-time flatters I’ve ever come across. It’s always been a given that you learn the ins and outs of flatting from experience and word-of-mouth. But not only does Flatter’s Survival Guide give advice from the author, but also from dozens of other young flatters. And it’s put together in an eye-catching and eccentric way, designed by Lauren herself. The electric lime-green cover means it’s a book you can’t miss – it won’t get lost under piles of unopened mail on the coffee table – and every page is delightfully chaotic like an art student’s sketchbook.

    From moving out of your parents’ home to solving Post-it-note conflicts in the flat, this survival guide covers it all. There are loads of things first-time flatters will find amazingly helpful, such as the pros and cons of living with friends, a list of questions to ask when you’re viewing a room, a handy “fridge flowchart” and even some flat pledges for everyone to sign. A lot of it may seem like common sense, but as one discerning flatter points out, “common sense is a flower that doesn’t grow in everyone’s garden.”

    Some of Lauren’s own anecdotes are downright scary (“seven males and two females in a seven-bedroom flat”), and sometimes her suggestions are a little out-there: when picking bedrooms, “test who has the highest sperm count – highest count, biggest room!” The book could have emphasised a little more the fact that flatting horror stories like these aren’t actually a compulsory part of student life – I think it’s important to know your own boundaries and acknowledge when your comfort zone has been overstepped. But there’s no doubt the book will be incredibly helpful for any first-time flatter, or even an experienced one who’s lost the plot a bit. From the effort put into designing each page, it’s clear that Lauren wants us to remember above all else: “we are, after all, in the prime of our lives.”

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  • How to Choose a Movie in a Flat

    A Sunday-night flat-bonding movie night seems like a bright and brilliant idea (and everyone loves to crash on the couch). Yet somehow, the process of actually choosing what to watch carries with it a very high risk of being dramatically unsuccessful.

    To begin with, picking even the genre of the movies proves to be problematic. If half the group are your classic hipsters who seem to pick films based on which are most likely to bolster their cultured reputation, yet the other half are willing to shed out $15 to see Robocop, a bit of a conundrum emerges.

    Even if you finally convince everyone that crying over The Notebook is really what they’re in the mood for, there emerges the further question of whether you then go for one that’s actually decent, or a shit one for a laugh.

    Unlike with your family, or even your best friends, forming a consensus with the people you endure dishwasher and cleaning-roster drama with involves an underlying pressure to follow social protocol.

    Of course you want to impress these flatmates, politely win some friends and not be shunned from the group for an inconsiderate and misplaced film choice.

    There are a variety of methods open to you:

    Elimination: This never works. Most likely, 4/5 people have already seen the narrowed-down choice, and everyone seems to sit there thinking about the movie they would prefer to be watching (no fun). No one’s satisfied; next.

    Nomination: A process which is heavily dependent on the person. There’s always a people-pleaser who fails to see that no option will satisfy every individual, and by trying too hard ends up picking a shit movie so everyone goes to bed anyway, imminently leaving them to take the rejection personally. Either that, or your hipster flatmates picks an obscure arthouse film in an attempt to convert the rest and boost their ego. The inevitable hopeless romantic goes for a romantic comedy like He’s Just Not That Into You which they naïvely think is a bible for real-life relationships. Or someone who gets their kicks out of nostalgia trips convinces everyone The Little Mermaid can never be watched to excess.

    The power of suggestion: Unfortunately has the potential to backfire. I have made my whole flat watch Four Lions together on the basis it was so hilarious I was in tears when watching for the second time and no one laughed. Not once. I like to think they have basic senses of humor.

    Roster: Making it a privilege to pick a movie may work a dream. By earning the right to determine what dominates those final hours of the flat’s week, not only are you prepared in advance, but you can’t complain as their consideration in taking the initiative to bring in everyone’s washing means you need to reciprocate. Even if it means you sit through The Shining and a cockroach is capable of making you scream.

    To avoid the above trials and tribulations, you have two options.

    1. Create a list at the beginning of the year so there’s no waffling. Or at least allocate different genres to each week. Half the battle is when you can’t decide to go for something like Silence of the Lambs or Easy A.

    2. Don’t bother watching the same movie at all. With technology these days, an innovative option is to all sit together, plugged into your own individual laptops. Hassle-free and ever so social at the same time.

    However, it can be wildly successful. Last year, This Is the End managed to bond my flat together on a whole new level. Nothing like watching Michael Cera blow cocaine into someone’s face to bring people together. We were talking about it for weeks. So give it a try.

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  • Ryan Hemsworth/Baauer Review

    I don’t hate first-years. That whole dialogue is so played out, so similar to the hatred of third-formers – it’s boring, and plenty of 18-year-olds are articulate and engaging. Just not the ones at the Baauer/Ryan Hemsworth show.

    It was always going to be a kind of weird show. Canada’s Ryan Hemsworth is a fairly successful producer known for versatility, warmth, and an ambient kind of hip-hop style. America’s Baauer produces trap music – notably the viral hit ‘Harlem Shake’. Whenever a wide swath of the crowd is *only* there for one act, the show has weird vibes.

    Shows at The Hunter Lounge have to end pretty early (noise complaints start roll in around 11), so Wellington’s Race Banyon had to play while it was still very sunny, to a very small audience. He was great, as always, but the mood was off.

    When Ryan Hemsworth came on near nine, Hunter had filled up. Then it all fucked up. The sound distorted and cut out – enough to make Ryan leave the stage – not once, but twice. The crowd alternated between booing Ryan, chanting “You fucked up”, yelling for Baauer to come on, and belting out Kiwi classics. What a welcome for a guy who’s come all the way from Canada!

    Eventually, things worked out, and Ryan played. His set was dreamy but danceable, full of intriguing remixes and samples. His rework of Lorde’s ‘Ribs’ was fucking excellent. The crowd got into it a bit, but didn’t fully engage until Baauer came on next.

    Away from the one-hit hype, Baauer’s a pretty good producer. He played loud, dancey, very trappy music, full of tension (buildups!) and release (drops!). He seemed a little scared of boring the audience – which was probably fair enough – playing each song for no longer than 60 or so seconds. ‘Higher’, his Just Blaze collaboration, went off the most, while chart-topping ‘Harlem Shake’ barely made it in. Either way, the crowd went crazy. White hands in the air, screaming the n-word, telling their friends “I’m so mean at dancing bro”, and just generally playing into every stereotype of first-years you’ve ever heard.

    VUWSA did their best, and sorted out two very impressive international acts. Being an old crank, I just wish the crowd had stepped up a bit too.

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  • Guilt Mirrors – Shocking Pinks

    It’s been almost a decade since the lo-fi production, coaxing melodies and abrupt lyrical content of Nick Harte’s Shocking Pinks first graced the world, and the project keeps on evolving. Recording with his newly signed Brooklyn label, Stars & Letters Records, Christchurch’s own Harte dollops out the sub bass on his new 35-track triple-album Guilt Mirrors. Intertwining droning synths and vocally distorted lyrics lend a dark, grudging tone to this gigantic work. Shocking Pinks recently played a well-received set at Camp A Low Hum, mixing old and new material on the very damp forest stage.

    This is Harte’s first album in seven years. He’s relocated to Wellington, but not before witnessing the 2011 earthquakes first-hand. The dark atmosphere and places Guilt Mirrors travels seem to echo the destruction and damage caused by the earthquake. These vast destructive emotions feel processed into his music.

    The melodic wall of sound in ‘Not Gambling’, the lead single, lets percussion drive the song, and a feature is the catchy guitar riff almost reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’, if Fleetwood Mac was going through an angsty patch of insomnia. A little gem for me was the fifth track, ‘My Best Friend’. It’s over-distortion, driving bass and slurred lyrics almost reminded me of INXS, although if it was to be included on the soundtrack of a movie, it might have to be Pretty In Black, not Pink.

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  • Articulated Splines

    University is a time to try new things.

    The parties are better, sure, but it’s also a time for us to discover hobbies and broaden our interests. If you leave Vic still listening to the same music and wearing the same clothes as the day you walked in, you’ve missed out on something important.

    Music is an interesting way of looking at it. Most of us make cool new friends here that teach us about the stuff they don’t play on the radio. It’s the same with film and books. All it takes is that cool friend or that day-long internet browse to uncover more hidden gems than we could ever possibly have dreamed of.

    It’s exactly the same with video games. There’s a whole galaxy out there of small titles, indie developers and outrageous fun to be had, and everybody is starting to catch on. Gamers on PC can take advantage of services like Steam and GOG.com, while big boys Microsoft and Sony are showing more and more support for indie gaming. Just look at the ludicrous success of Minecraft on the Xbox Live Arcade for proof of that.

    What I want to do with this column is showcase the trends and events of the wider gaming scene, as well as review some of the more interesting titles out there. After all, one Call of Duty review is much the same as another.

    There will probably be a slightly greater focus on PC and mobile gaming than the consoles. The main reason for that is because indie gaming is a lot more accessible that way. Besides, there’s already a lot out there about AAA console games like Call of Duty, and I’d rather fill these inches with something new.

    It’s a fortnightly column, so I’ll never be able to touch on everything, but at the very least it’s a wooden sword in your quest to find something new to play. Because we’re all gamers now – whether it’s FIFA, Candy Crush, Flappy Bird or Star Citizen – and that’s something to celebrate.

    Nidhogg
    PC, $18 on Steam

    This charming multiplayer platformer pits you against a friend, each of you trying to stab your way past the other and run to the final screen. Simple, but there are going to be a lot of dead stick figures before the round is over.

    Why are they duelling? What does ‘nidhogg’ mean? Why does each game end the way it does? I have absolutely no idea. What I do know is that the nuanced swordplay is frantic, the laughs are endless and the price is low. The controls are a bit unusual, and you’ll probably want to be playing with controllers, but if you’ve got the right setup this is a party game to cherish.

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  • About the Author ()

    Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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