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Issue , 2014

The Them Issue

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News

  • Get In-ternational Students, or Get Out?

  • Decrease Sees Theses Cease

  • Bing Goes

  • Overseas, Overdrawn, Over Here

  • Referendum Flagged

  • Eye on Exec

  • News of the World

  • Features

  • Indigenous Geeks

    Too many NZers view Māori as ‘others’. Where does this “Iwi versus Kiwi” mindset come from?

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  • Writing Schindler

    An interview with Thomas Keneally

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  • People Experiencing Homelessness

    There are now more people experiencing homelessness in Wellington than ever before. This feature examines their treatment.

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  • Standing Upright Here

    The question I dread being asked the most is, “Where do you come from?”

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  • Grant Guilford: the GC, the VC

    Last Tuesday afternoon, Salient had a chat with our new Vice-Chancellor, Grant Guilford. Turns out he’s quite a legend.

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  • Indigenous Geeks

    Too many NZers view Māori as ‘others’. Where does this “Iwi versus Kiwi” mindset come from?

    by

  • Writing Schindler

    An interview with Thomas Keneally

    by

  • People Experiencing Homelessness

    There are now more people experiencing homelessness in Wellington than ever before. This feature examines their treatment.

    by

  • Standing Upright Here

    The question I dread being asked the most is, “Where do you come from?”

    by

  • Grant Guilford: the GC, the VC

    Last Tuesday afternoon, Salient had a chat with our new Vice-Chancellor, Grant Guilford. Turns out he’s quite a legend.

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  • Arts and Science

  • Clap Clap Riot: Nobody / Everybody Gig and Album Review

    New Zealand indie rock hasn’t changed much since the days of Split Enz. It is still comprised of guitar-centric songs featuring dudes singing about girls they met in high school. This lack of ‘progress’ within such a popular genre has led a lot of listeners to ask one specific question when a new New Zealand indie-rock album comes out: so what?

    That response is entirely applicable to Clap Clap Riot’s latest disc Nobody / Everybody. The songs may be magnificently melodic, but so is everything else streaming live through your preferred music device. The lyrics are angsty and relatable – “ you better ask my girl if we can be together” – but so is the average teenager’s first attempt at writing a blog. Even the band’s lead vocalist, Stephen, admits the band has “always been into music of that era (1960s rock’n’roll) so it was nothing new.”

    But…

    The album – along with their latest live performance at Puppies – doesn’t present anything ‘new’, so therefore anyone capable of musical criticism should be full of disdain, embarrassed to call these kids members of the New Zealand music community. Yet their music is just so freaking FUN.

    Nobody / Everybody belongs in the film Risky Business. It belongs on your Workout playlist. It belongs in the background of a pre-town drinks gathering. It is a ‘solid’, loyal album, reliable in its ability to quicken heartbeats and linger in your eardrums long after the speakers have been turned off.

    Part of the reason for the album’s success is probably the excellent production; their first LP, Counting Spins (2012), might as well have been recorded on Garage Band. Guitarist Dave Rowland says the band was “definitely a lot more organised with what we wanted production-wise. The main plan of attack was to get a very live honest feel for the record.” They achieve this goal in absolute Sir-Ed-climbs-Everest style.

    What the production of this album offers is ease of listening. An often underrated asset in recorded music, over-ambitious production which tries to achieve symphonic complexity within the space of each three-minute song is distracting. It detracts from great lyrics, catchy riffs, and danceable beats. Conversely, Nobody / Everybody features simple songs which are memorable and inoffensive, thus suiting any mood you could possibly be in while listening to music.

    It has been playing on repeat in my bedroom.

    Then there is Clap Clap Riot’s live performance. As suggested above, their gig last Saturday at Puppies was pretty standard. The music was loud. The lead guitarist had long hair which was aesthetically entertaining. The crowd got drunk (two girls in particular) and occasionally waved their hands in the air like they just didn’t care.

    While their gig was pretty average, what saved it from being below average was the venue. The small stage which the musicians could hardly all fit on made the audience want to snuggle up to them, allowing us to get close enough to see the sweat slipping through the guitarist’s spiderweb of hair. While a bigger stage might have allowed the band to jump around a bit more, a larger floor space would have made the audience feel awkward and exposed. In other words, bravo Puppies, and bravo the band’s managers.

    This review has been confusing, but hopefully the following numerical data clarifies things:

    Album: 4/5

    Gig: 2.5/5

    ——

    Blink’s five favourite Blink-182 songs:

    1. ‘Waggy’

    2. ‘Anthem’

    3. ‘Man Overboard’

    4. ‘Pathetic’

    5. ‘Carousel’

    Three albums we’ll review next week, promise:

    1. Metronomy – Love Letters

    2. Johnny Foreigner – You Can Do Better

    3. Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love

    We’re now on Twitter! Follow for songs when they actually come out, rather than a week and a half later @salient_music

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  • Real Estate – Atlas (Review)

    Three albums into their career, Real Estate are still ploughing the mine of suburbia for woozy, guitar-focussed dream pop. But where their first two albums were often nostalgic trips down memory lane, their new album, Atlas, is decidedly more present.

    Lead singer/songwriter Martin Courtney’s recent marriage is a sure reason for this new found focus and mellowness. Not that their previous albums were raucous – the opposite in fact – but Atlas has a calmness to it befitting a band and singer who have come across contentment. Much of the criticism surrounding Real Estate is a lack of diversity in their music and basic sound. This is true. Real Estate’s music evolves incrementally, and on Atlas, they have never sounded more comfortable in their own skin. Though there is nothing as immediately attention-grabbing as tracks like ‘It’s Real’ from their second album, tracks like ‘How Might I Live’ and ‘Navigator’ are more beautiful than anything they have previously released, and the production quality has stepped up too.

    I hate to say it, but Atlas is certainly a grower. This album is more than chilled-out, summer background music. It will work its way from that background and given enough time its intricacies will reveal themselves; any ironic distance the band held toward their suburban heritage is lost. Atlas proves that few bands know their sound so well and fewer still can execute it on the level Real Estate can. Growing old, settling down and moving to the suburbs finally has a soundtrack. That may sound sad to some, but in the hands of Real Estate it doesn’t seem so bad.

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  • In Review

    By now, your Facebook news feeds will be empty of pitiful Leonardo memes and transsexual outrage at Jared Leto’s success. So talking about the Oscars makes this article a little outdated. However, I passionately feel the event embodies and epitomises many significant social issues which permeate the disappointing cult of celebrity today, and therefore demands in-depth discussion.

    First, Pharrell wore shorts. Not only did this scandalous leg exposure lower dress-standard expectations (next thing we know women will be wearing suits, omg) but the stunt reflected a general lack of formality this year, making the Academy Awards somewhat disappointing and disillusioning. In short, where has the fairytale gone?

    Celebrities seem to think they can use social-media trends to appease the masses, following in the footsteps of John Key who has cottoned onto the idea of taking selfies with many a Young Nat #youngatheartdesperateforyouthvotes, albeit confusing the role of a Prime Minister with that of a celebrity. Prolific people confusing their purpose. The Academy Awards is supposed to be the ultimate embodiment of Hollywood glamour. However, the advent of social-media pranks played by confused, dressed-up celebrities sadly diminishes its splendour.

    I was completely in the dark about who was the hottest female in what dress this year, as social media was more preoccupied with Benedict Cumberbatch and Bill Murray’s photo-bombing efforts (it’s been done already, move on), the ‘biggest selfie ever’ #buysamsung, and Leonardo missing out on an Oscar for a role we’ve seen him play countless times before. Twitter and Facebook thus disrupt the exclusive feel of the Academy Awards, creating a novel form of excessive transparency which makes the event too relatable. As an institution, the awards play a fundamental role in constructing the distance in relationships between people of normalcy and people of God (read: celebrities). I want the escapism from my unsatisfying everyday life, not to feel like Jennifer Lawrence could be my friend (she can’t keep her feet on the ground anyway).

    Don’t even get me started on the very safe choice of Ellen DeGeneres as a host, who isn’t even that funny. All round, a disappointing year. Jared Leto has already confessed to a ding in the back of his statue from dropping it down the stairs. So take selfies at the MTV awards and Pharrell put some pants on like everyone else. Let’s maintain the glamour status quo.

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  • NZ Writers Week Review: Writers Under the Stars

    I’ve circled almost every event in my Writers Week festival booklet, but my course-related costs only stretch to a few worthy sessions. Writers Under the Stars was one I couldn’t miss. Featuring poet Robert Sullivan (ENGL201, anyone?), Eleanor Catton and science writer Marcus Chown, it promised exciting things: literary conversation about stars, space and the universe, coupled with poetry and hardcore science.

    I arrived at the Carter Observatory absurdly early with my notebook in hand. It’s an odd place for a literary event. I think they self-combusted slightly as 60 pushy old people (and me) converged on their reception, but I forgive them. Seated in the small planetarium on seats that tilt back beneath a domed screen, Eleanor Catton enters the room to hushed titters of excitement (the other writers enter too, but just then, no one really looks at them). She’s wearing really great pants.

    The room empties itself of light and stars pepper the screen above. Robert Sullivan, one of New Zealand’s most important and influential Māori poets, reads poems relating to the sky and its celestial bodies. He devotes the most time to his best-known collection Star Waka. His poetry really does suit being read aloud under the (fake) night sky. “Your Venus is a pinprick in the sky / who doesn’t understand the science of your sighs,” he reads, and the stars brighten as the line ends, pulsing and glowing behind planets. With the writers seated behind us at the edge of the room, their disembodied voices floating up in the dark are weirdly comforting.

    Next, Eleanor Catton gives an incredible talk on the intricate patterns of the zodiac, its mathematical and musical structure, and the attributes of each sign. “Their meaning is always relational,” she says. Even though the system is endlessly complicated, she has the ability (duh) to communicate most complex ideas with beautiful, measured clarity. Traced outlines of the constellations waft across the screen as she asks philosophical questions that, as she demonstrates, the patterns of the zodiac boil down to: “What is the universe? Did we play a role in its making?” A weighty silence follows – we’re starting to feel really small, looking up at the blue clouds of the Milky Way – then a round of fervent applause. My mum, who’s been asleep since Robert Sullivan, starts waking up. (I made her come with me.)

    Marcus Chown is the writer I’m most curious about. He writes for kids and adults about the universe and solar system, he’s done stand-up comedy, and his goal is to be able to explain enormous scientific concepts to anyone waiting at the bus stop. He talks us through 14 of his favourite images of the universe. “I was going to do ten, but I got very enthusiastic about it,” he laughs. Audience members who found themselves rather sleepy (my mum) suddenly perk up as his first image materialises. It shows a streaked bright blue surface. Chown plays a guessing game with the audience: “Is it lunar craters?” croaks someone down the front. “It’s Europa, the ice moon,” he reveals. He colourfully describes its core encased in thick cracked ice as the moon gets pulled and squeezed by Jupiter’s gravity. Beneath all that ice, there’s probably a 1000 km–deep ocean with tube worms the size of your arm wriggling along the ocean floor. These kinds of freaky, unforgettable details are what draw people into even the densest science – Chown knows it, and explains it all with flair. His last image ties the evening together neatly: a photograph of the view looking back towards Earth from deep interstellar space, the farthest-away view of our planet we’ve seen. “We now know there are actually more planets than stars, and yet, we only know of one that holds life – that little dot right there. And it’s wonderful.”

    I doubt there are other literary festival events like this one. It was ambitious, but it worked. The three writers’ talks could have been helped along by a convener to prompt discussion, making for more of a cohesive experience. But I leave feeling contemplative and meditative, eager to appreciate science and literature as two parts of a whole, not as two separate things. I’m so keen to go look at the night sky, to try and recreate that overawed feeling, that I forget to get my books signed.

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    BOOKS WE THINK EVERYONE SHOULD READ, #1

    THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

     The Great Gatsby has been called a bunch of things: the Great American Novel, Leo’s Best Shot at an Oscar, etc. In the glittering excess of the 1920s, people party all night, crash fancy cars, and drink to stay drunk. The decade of indulgence is on the brink of self-destruction and Nick Carraway, the narrator,​ sways between enchantment and despair: “For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened—then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.” In just 120 pages, Fitzgerald’s writing will compel you forward breathlessly, headlong into the fading glow of the Jazz Age where mo’ money definitely​ means mo’ problems.

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  • Art as Therapy as Bullshit

    Last year, philosophers Alain de Botton and John Armstrong published a book called Art as Therapy. In it, they propose that art has the potential to solve life’s most intimate dilemmas, but, they argue, we’re looking at it the wrong way. Organising art chronologically serves only to anaesthetise it. We’re accustomed to thinking of art academically, favouring rational readings to emotional responses, and this allows for elitism to flourish. They outline a utopian vision of art appreciation, one in which art museums are modelled around their immediate emotional purpose. In their future, individual galleries in large institutions will be arranged around specific moral quandaries, such as anxiety or loneliness.

    Right now, the idea seems novel to the point of ridicule, but it is gaining traction. In May, the Rijksmuseum will display a large-scale exhibition curated by de Botton. Personally, I’m not convinced. It may be the crippling debt I’ve accrued for my conviction in thinking about art critically, or it may be because I like reading wall text. De Botton’s vision would assume consensus. It would require a didactic approach from curators, one that makes claims for what artworks do to individual viewers based on a general feeling.

    In arguing for a holistic overhaul of art-viewing, though, the authors strike at a pertinent question. In the present climate, art’s claims to self-betterment are based more on the stockpiling of cultural capital than on a concern for emotional wellbeing.

    During the New Zealand Festival, Melbourne-based artist Jason Maling offered personalised sessions intended to cure patrons’ arts anxieties. Patients were led into a small room on City Gallery’s first floor and asked to take a seat. Everything from the couch to the computer was upholstered in blue (almost International Klein Blue) billiard-table material. Adjacent to the couch stood two tables equipped with a range of implements designed for healing – a mallet, leather straps, blindfolds. After a brief chat, patients were encouraged to select items that may interest them and roam the galleries.

    Maling plays with the disengagement de Botton and Armstrong are concerned with. Going so far as to pathologise it, as indifference disorder – a natural defence against the oppressive nature of gallery behaviour. During my own session with Maling, he showed me a few examples of other patients; some took the opportunity to make political statements – one woman, frustrated by the lack of seating in the gallery, placed a chair in the middle of Simon Starling’s retrospective; some actions were meditative, others whimsical.

    He noted my reluctance to engage with the objects. He wasn’t wrong. Full disclosure: I hate being asked for input. As I was leaving the house to go to my session, I decried participatory art as “fucking irresponsible” or something a little less eloquent. Maling, however, never takes you further than you’re willing to go. Some patients, he said, preferred to stay inside the room for the entire session, just chatting.

    Eventually, I blindfolded myself and let Maling lead me around the gallery. He told me to take my shoes off and I did. When I felt the time was right, I arranged a set of felt squares on the ground.

    The project’s appeal is in its transgression. There is something deeply exciting about being granted permission to act outside a sanctioned behavioural code. Maling’s manifestation of art as a therapeutic experience is perhaps more effective than de Botton and Armstrong’s, because rather than relying on a pedagogic notion of what art should evoke, Maling allows for a reclamation of public space. The patient is entitled to turn the gallery into what they wish.

    Until 22 March, at 29 Manners St (formerly an ASB branch), artist Vanessa Crowe and Dr Sarah Elsie Baker will be staging an installation called ‘Moodbank’. The project is an examination of urban space as a site of exchange. Late capitalism relies on the suppression of emotion to sustain itself – to act professionally is to refuse to dissociate the irrational self. At the same time, governments are concerned with measuring the relative happiness of populations. Moodbank acknowledges the absurdity in trying to quantify collective happiness, but it also gives credence to humans as emotional creatures – its aim is to create an emotional map of Wellington – to realign the value placed on particular kinds of happiness, and to refute the notion that it can be purchased.

    De Botton has been accused (by me, right now) of a kind of blind idealism. The problems of disengagement are timely, but his solution – a prescriptive populism – is too limiting. Both Maling and Moodbank rely on similar anxieties around alienation, but they let participants drive the work. Art’s function as a tool for emotional healing can’t rely on audiences being told how they should respond to art – rather, if art is to re-establish itself as an unironic tool for social good, it must do so with the complicity and input of its audience.

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  • An Interview
    Alexander Sparrow is a third-year English Literature and Theatre student, but he cheerfully markets himself as “the best thing that’s happened to the world since North Korea became a country and people stopped talking about that guy that climbed Mount Everest.” I had the delight of interviewing the scallywag.
     

    What were your recent Fringe Festival shows centred around?

    One was called de Sade about the Marquis de Sade – one of the world’s darkest minds and a renowned philosopher/pornographer. The other was How to Pick Up Women, though it’s less about weightlifting and more about seduction. I played five of the greatest pick-up artists. Both were one-man shows.

    How did you handle a topic like ‘How to pick up women’ without becoming a misogynist prick?

    I didn’t. Among the pieces of quality advice given (as different characters) were reliable hints like ‘make her feel ugly and take advantage of her while she’s down’, right through to ‘pretend you’re physically disabled so she feels pity and can’t help but talking to you’. I’m a comedian; if you take everything I say literally, I’m not to be blamed. That said, there’s always a little bit of backwards logic that should make you sit up and think ‘that makes sense, even though it shouldn’t’. Also, women are clearly better than men in every way – except for pay rates, childbirth and G-strings (which are uncomfortable) – and I respect them for that.

    Do you consider yourself a master of picking up aforementioned women?

    What is the correct answer to this? It’s either yes, I’m irresistable – a massive claim; or no, I’m a failure – a reputation-destroying statement. I pick yes.

    What does your girlfriend make of this?

    *girlfriends

    What challenges does working alone bring? And what reliefs?

    The only challenge in one-man shows is the organisation. All work, deadlines, and problems go through me – in any other format, I would be concentrating entirely on creativity. It can be very stressful, especially putting on two solo shows in one month.

    That said, there is no better format than the one-person show. I have complete creative control, I can make any changes I like, and it’s my show. When people come up and say they love one of them, I know for a fact it’s down to the work I’ve put in. I also do it for practical reasons. I can tour a show whenever I like, I keep all the money, and I can get out into crowds and make sure they’re having a great time. Solo shows are the one way to guarantee I get paid for performing, which is what I’m here to do.

    How did you become an established comedian on the Wellington scene? How did you start out?

    I started doing weekly gigs at The Medicine at The Cavern Club on Wednesdays, and Raw Meat Monday at Fringe Bar. The most important thing is to have goals and back yourself. I put on shows and I make my own opportunities. Waiting for weekly gigs to come to you guarantees stand-up will stay a hobby. You have to work hard.

    Why do you maintain this public persona of being so opinionated – often to the point of being an arsehole?

    My job is to say what I think, not what everyone already believes. When I say North Korea is my favourite country because it’s super-efficient and everyone feels complete loyalty to their leader, people remember it. Nobody cares about a Labour-supporting comedian; I say vote Colin Craig! He stands for what he believes in. All I’m saying is New Zealand should be a dictatorship and Winston Peters should be our foreign-affairs minister. Also, New Zealand is a boring place. Put me on the $5 note pulling the finger with the slogan ‘New Zealand, fuck yeah!’ instead of that dude that climbed a hill. Hillary was a beekeeper, and our national bird can’t even fly. We need to sort a few things out.

    See what I mean about you being an arsehole?

    I have an opinion, and it’s the right one. No apologies given.

    What can we expect from you next?

    It Was Supposed to Be a Joke is my solo show in the NZ International Comedy Festival – if you want opinions, jokes, and a bloody good time, book now.

    What advice would you give to a budding stand-up enthusiast?

    Watch a lot, write a lot, perform a lot. Write about what people want to hear about, in a new way.

    Highlight of your Fringe Festival?

    On the last night, the show started late because somebody had stolen the whip. My mum ran to Peaches and Cream and purchased an $80 riding crop for me to be whipped with because all the other whips had been sold (to me, on previous nights). My mother bought sex gear for me so I could be whipped in front of a paying crowd. It’s comedy gold – no one has a better story than that.

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  • A Trendy Traveller

    This summer, I was fortunate enough to spend an inspiring and spiritual five weeks travelling around Southeast Asia. Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Singapore, Indonesia: beautiful.

    Myself and my 24 travel buddies were told to “pack light”. I did not. Here are the fashion-related lessons I learnt while abroad.

    New Balances

    I hated the sports-shoes-as-a-style trend when it first became a thing in early 2013. And I swear, the only reason I purchased a pair of extortionately priced patent-leather New Balance 574s was to accommodate my aching feet as they trekked through the Southeast Asian terrain.

    But even I, an until-now successful avoider of Good as Gold, found these shoes to be an amazing investment. They look good with anything – even Cambodian elephant pants – and were comfortable on those long intercontinental plane rides. AND you can take out the insoles should you need to wash them!

    LBD

    My half-price plain little black dress from Glassons bought a week before departing New Zealand was another brilliant decision. I wore it probably 20 times on the trip, every time styling it differently. If you are planning on embracing the local culture in this part of the world (which you really, really should), you will undoubtedly end up purchasing multi-coloured multi-patterned clothes during your travels. These new acquisitions – including touristy T-shirts – can easily be layered over the top of your LBD, mixing your old and new fashion identity perfectly.

    Bras

    One lace, one sports, one soccer-mom-who-prefers-comfort-over-fashion. Sorted.

    But while you’re away…

    Embrace the local culture!!! I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to get amongst the sometimes-insane clothing trends that you will encounter overseas. Trust me, no one will understand how cool your two-piece three-eyed-pineapple-print suit is when you return to Aotearoa.

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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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