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Issue 1, 2015

Orientation Guide

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  • University Sticks Rigidly to Its Dumb Policy

  • GayTMs Not So Sparkly After All

  • On the Road to Student Fares

  • Eye on Exec: Exec to Buy a New Van

  • Yet Another Victory for Wowsers

  • LOL News

  • Got 18 Problems But a Bus Ain’t One

  • Features

  • Elea feature

    Wisdom Nuggets

    These are some nuggets of wisdom I obtained during my first year of university. I now bestow them upon you. Some are more significant than others. Prioritise them how you see fit.


  • Guy Williams

    Guy Williams: “Your Editor’s Got Dumb Ideas”

    The Jono and Ben at Ten presenter on awkward non-dates, piles of mush, and his dreams of revenge against the Cambridge Hotel.


  • Drax

    That Band You Might Have Seen Outside Reading: Drax Project

    If you’ve ever been to town on a Friday or Saturday night, you’ve probably seen this four-person band playing outside Courtenay Place’s Reading Cinemas.


  • savage


    Salient’s interview with the great man.


  • Elea feature

    Wisdom Nuggets

    These are some nuggets of wisdom I obtained during my first year of university. I now bestow them upon you. Some are more significant than others. Prioritise them how you see fit.


  • Guy Williams

    Guy Williams: “Your Editor’s Got Dumb Ideas”

    The Jono and Ben at Ten presenter on awkward non-dates, piles of mush, and his dreams of revenge against the Cambridge Hotel.


  • Drax

    That Band You Might Have Seen Outside Reading: Drax Project

    If you’ve ever been to town on a Friday or Saturday night, you’ve probably seen this four-person band playing outside Courtenay Place’s Reading Cinemas.


  • savage


    Salient’s interview with the great man.


  • Arts and Science

  • The Top Three Creative Havens of Wellington

    Another year lies before us, offering, but not promising, the moments and things we want and need. The calendar gives us a fresh sense of time, and all feels slightly new. With a careful tread you might make this last, but it is easy to fall victim to routine, to become disenchanted. If you do find yourself in a rut, keep these places in mind:

    1. City Gallery—When you think of ‘art gallery’, what do you see? A logo with a trendy bold sans serif font, quiet rooms with white walls and either overly bright or overly dimmed lighting, awkward employees standing in the corners watching you as you watch the art, and neat little descriptions next to each piece that after reading you realise mean nothing at all? Well, the City Gallery has all these things! Hooray!

    2. Te Papa—How many times have you visited the giant squid in Te Papa? One? Two? Two hundred? It’s arguable how many times is enough, but most agree that it is somewhere between twenty and forty visits when the novelty starts to wear off. What not many people know is that there is in fact more to Te Papa than the giant squid (whaat?!!). The hidden masterpiece of Te Papa is in fact its 1:1 scale model of a whale’s heart, complete with a vena cava you can crawl through and sit inside, sometimes joining the company of a small child. While there are mountain summits in Nepal and ashrams in India, the inside of this plastic whale heart is arguably the most soul-inspiring place to Find Yourself.

    3. The Bucket Fountain—did you know that the bucket fountain is in fact the world’s best sculpture? It’s true! It is amazing. Kinetic, splashy, inspiring, so powerfully moving is this piece of art that many visitors swear they have been cured of disease, found love, and generally just woken up from the stupor that was their prior life and became successful and beautiful overnight.  Many have had their lives changed, and you can too. Conveniently situated in Cuba St, if you have never had a cathartic experience with art, the Bucket Fountain will change this, and change you.


  • Wellington’s Best Bookstores

    You’ve arrived in Wellington, new or returning, or perhaps you never left. Your summer has been full of boozing and binge-watching every TV show you could. Your soul is drying, and is in desperate need of some cultural hydration. Bookshops are a doctor-approved remedy for the dissolute student.

    Below are four of the best bookshops in Wellington, all located as centrally as possibe, ones that are a part of the heart of this place. But this is merely the tip of the bookshop iceberg; to discover even more wonderful bookshops, get a hold of the Bookshop Map, available from most bookshops, which will guide you through Wellington and all the independent bookshops you could dream of.



    Easterfield Building, Kelburn Parade, Wellington

    Founded in 1975, and entirely student-owned, Vicbooks is the main textbook supplier in Wellington. It is tailored to the student experience, but has grown to be a community bookshop. It is by far one of the best bookshops and cafés in Wellington. The community spirit creates a warm and welcoming place where you can spend an afternoon wandering and discovering new and second-hand selected works of every kind—and all with a coffee in one hand. It also has a satellite bookshop in Pipitea, and a new café in Karori. The staff are a part of what makes Vicbooks so special. Vicbooks is a testament to the love of the written word, and they’re passionate about the bookshop world.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I definitely work there, but while it may seem biased, it’s not a wrong bias to have.


    Unity Books

    Willbank House, 57 Willis Street, Wellington

    Set up by the sportsman and philosopher Alan Preston in 1967, Unity Books is a Wellington institution. Situated on Willis street, Unity Books is a major central hub for bibliophiles to flock to. Stacks of books fill their floors, and a seriously impressive back catalogue lines their walls. With staff at the ready with recommendations, buying a book here is a wonderful experience. But if you can’t make it in, their online store is just as good. Each year Unity has a calendar full of launches and readings—these events pull in the Wellingtonians in the know. To be in the know is as simple as joining their newsletter, or following their social media sites. It’s a melting pot of a particular milieu, a milieu every one wants to be a part of.


    Arty Bees

    106 Manners Street, Te Aro

    Around since 1988, Arty Bees is home to one of Wellington’s largest collection of second-hand books. Previously there were two shops, one in Cuba Street, and one in Courtney Place; they’ve always been right in the heart of the city. After condensing to a single shop, they are once more condensing, and moving from two levels to just one, allowing their shop to be filled with the ‘best of the best’ (this also means that there is a sale on all the books upstairs).

    Open until 7pm every night, and 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays, Arty Bees fills a gap of late-night book perusing that other shops can’t offer. Their catalogue has fiction of every kind imaginable, particularly sci-fi and New Zealand literature. The nature of the second-hand book trade means what isn’t there one day may emerge the next, requiring regular trips. While they don’t deal in second-hand textbooks, they do offer students a 10 per cent discount with a student card. Full of corners and tightly packed shelves, searching through their collection is like searching for treasure.



    Shop 204a Left Bank Cuba Mall

    Pegasus Books was first a stall at the waterfront markets, which then evolved in to a fixture on left-bank arcade, and has been there for 12 years. The walls are high and stacked with books, hand written signs accompany their specialty selections, and objects of curiosity line the shelves. Led by various personal tastes, the store has a variety on offer, from one of the best literature collections I’ve seen in a long time to a comprehensive humanities section.

    The shop has expanded and is full of winding corners and warrens to explore. The fiction section is an entire cube-shaped room, with the books lining the wall, anthologies and collections in the centre, and ladders are affixed to the walls. Something magical happens when you enter Pegasus.


  • Kingsman: The Secret Service


    As great as the new Bond films are, it’s hard not to pine for the golden age of the spy thriller. A time when logical plot and motivation were second to a rollicking good time, and punchy one-liners and repartee reigned supreme. Matthew Vaughn’s newest action flick Kingsman: The Secret Service understands what made these classic spy thrillers great and attempts to pay homage to them by cranking these factors up to a thousand.

    Following a branch of the British spy agency called Kingsman, we are treated to a My Fair Lady-type story as a veteran spy, played by the supremely badass Colin Firth, takes a young chav under his wing and turns him into a super spy. In the background, a supervillain, played by the equally awesome Samuel L. Jackson, concocts and attempts to execute a dastardly plan.

    I won’t ruin the details of this adventure, but suffice it to say they do an excellent job of playing up all the best aspects of classic spy thrillers while also doing a decent, if blatant, job of illustrating what makes them ridiculous. In particular, Jackson’s villain, Richmond Valentine, is a superb blend of megalomania and eccentricity and acts as a perfect parody of the motivations and character of many of the greatest Bond villains. Nonetheless, the film suffers from some tonal imbalances, often seeming to forget what it was trying to achieve and giving in to overly soppy displays of emotion.

    But these small moments of imbalance are far outweighed by the spectacular vision and execution of the film’s action sequences, which were undoubtedly some of the most innovative and flawlessly achieved I’ve seen. In some cases they were sublimely choreographed and filmed, such as a fight scene involving Colin Firth in a church, which I have no doubt will become a key example of how this kind of sequence should be done. In other cases, sequences that easily could have been upsetting or disturbing became hilarious and ingenious.

    Kingsman suffers slightly from its imbalanced tone, but its overall themes and perspective combined with its superb action sequences make this one of the best action films of recent years. A must see.


  • Fifty Shades of Grey


    It is impossible to review the film adaptation of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey without reference to its position in culture. Like Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Stephanie Myer’s Twilight, a literary phenomenon is quickly hammered into a film while the public interest in the text remains, resulting in a perfunctory telling of a story that has a readymade audience.

    Fifty Shades also has the added draw card of being ‘taboo’. The key dramatic tension in the film is whether our hero, college student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), will sign a contract that would make her the sexual submissive in an on-going BDSM relationship with abrupt billionaire, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).

    The series of novels achieved diverse and extreme reactions; some praised it for making this alternative sexual lifestyle accessible and engaging to a broad audience. Some slammed the novels for their lack of literary merit, others for their simplistic or offensive depiction of BDSM and for the scenes in which Anastasia does not consent to the sexual activity that occurs. In the week preceding its, feminist organisations and social conservative lobby group Family First both called for a boycott of the film, citing the way the book treats women and sexual violence.

    With this background in mind, I sat down in an afternoon session of the film and prepared myself for a shocking two hours. But the loudest gasp of those hours came before the film had even started: my fellow cinema-goers seemed extremely keen on a trailer for Pitch Perfect 2.

    In many ways Fifty Shades of Grey has a very traditional plot: a young girl who is pure and good (read: virginal) must choose how far she will go in order to be with a man who is hot and troubled. This is Grease. This is Twilight. No, really, this IS Twilight. E.L. James first started writing these stories as fan fiction for that series, and the main characters are only slight variations on Bella and Edward.

    Both leads do an admirable job with their paper-thin characters and a script absent of all subtlety. Johnson is really quite funny, and without this humour the film would be a struggle. Dornan is dashing but can’t really save the fact that his character is innately unrelatable.

    His behaviour is manipulative and borders on abusive. His desire for dominance over Steele goes much further than the bedroom: he is constantly trying to tell her what to do and punish her for breaching his rules. He lacks the good heart of other literary romantic curmudgeons like Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Darcy, which makes it hard to understand why Steele wants to be with him. He wants her to engage in this very extreme and specific type of relationship when she really just wants a nice normal romance. I can understand why the BDSM community would not be pleased with this portrayal, as Grey’s sexual preferences are shown to be directly related to his childhood trauma.

    The sex scenes are moderately graphic but not at all erotic, and BDSM is talked about much more than it is shown. The subject matter of the film is fairly unique, and I found the idea of the contract as the ‘tension point’ engaging, but there are far more interesting films about sex, power and violence, such as Steven Shainberg’s Secretary or David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

    This is a difficult film to review because it is not really very cinematic. The cinematography is unremarkable and the film’s grey colour palette is as unsubtle as the script. I did enjoy the music, especially the multiple Beyoncé tracks. Fifty Shades of Grey is a middling film that people will see to be part of the conversation about it. It is a shame that the film couldn’t speak more for itself.


  • Evolve


    It’s not often that AAA developers get the chance to take big risks. The gaming industry made an estimated US$46 billion in revenue last year, which is no doubt a ginormous amount of money, but money like that doesn’t come without equally huge financial risk. Hence it is becoming more and more rare for publishers to let developers experiment outside of popular genres and explore the realms of ‘high concept’ gameplay ideas. This makes the mere existence of Turtle Rock Studio’s newest game Evolve so startling—a game that screams “high concept” from every pixel. 2K Games allowed its developers the flexibility to try something new, to take risks. Which is why it makes me so damn happy that it paid off.

    The term ‘high concept’ means an idea that can be pitched succinctly in one sentence. However, publishers in the gaming industry want not a sentence, but an acronym that sells a game to a customer. FPS, MMO, MOBA, RTS—the list goes on. In the gaming industry, ‘high concept’ means more than an acronym.

    Evolve is an First Person Shooter (FPS) in which four Hunters attempt to track down and kill a Monster, who is played by a fifth player operating in a third-person action framework. No doubt much more wordy than just saying FPS—but it’s in all those extra words that the innovation and fun take place.

    This original idea is brought to us by the same team responsible for the excellent Left for Dead series and is set on the planet Shear in a distant future where humans have colonised much of space. The planet Shear is a wild planet, where humans have begun to take root, but the planet is still very much untamed and occupied by dangerous and spectacular fauna and wildlife.

    Playable online or offline, you get to choose who you play as. If you are a hunter you have the choice of four classes, each of which has three unlockable characters with their own unique skill sets. Assault are the damage dealers, Medics the healers, Support the defenders and Trappers can hunt down the monsters and hold them in an area. Or you can choose to be a Monster.

    The game consists of matches in which Monster is pitted against Hunters. The aim for the Monster is ultimately to kill all the Hunters or complete an objective. The Hunters’ assignment is simple: kill the Monster. Turtle Rock has done a phenomenal job balancing these two experiences. I was deeply impressed by the how equal both the challenge and the reward of playing as both a Hunter and the Monster are.

    Though the game consists only of these competitive matches, it is kept constantly interesting and dynamic by 12 different maps and a litany of map conditions that change from match to match including weather and dynamic events. Every game feels so different and creates an atmosphere that is truly palpable.

    Aside from the pure joy of the hunt, the game keeps players engaged through an excellent progression system whereby players unlock additional characters by gaining experience. Though it may not be the most profoundly interesting or innovative way to keep players engaged, I am a sucker for this kind of system and eagerly dedicated myself to leveling up characters to unlock new ones.

    Evolve is a AAA experience, but also a very innovative, original and engaging one. It’s not often these concepts go together anymore, so I suggest you check it out.


  • Sam Smith

    Sam Smith is a writer for 7 Days and Jono and Ben at Ten. He and his comedy group Fool House are bringing their Sketch comedy show My Sketchen Rules to the Wellington Fringe Festival.

    Baz: So Sam, do you want to give me a few career highlights?

    Sam: At Otago University I did a Dentistry degree while also doing the Capping Show for four years. I acted in the show for a few years and then directed it for two years, and then wrote it the year that I left.

    I then went to Vic and did the Masters of Scriptwriting, which I loved. Then I started doing standup a bit more and won the Wellington Raw Comedy festival in 2011. I started writing for 7 Days in 2010 and have been writing for them ever since.

    When Jono and Ben started up I sent in a submission packet and they foolishly decided to pay me to write for them. Then at the end of 2013 they offered me a job writing on staff, so I moved up to Auckland.


    What’s it like working as a comedy writer in NZ?

    It’s really fun. Everyone who I work with are cool, relaxed people. Most of the time we sit around yarning, trying to make each other laugh, sometimes we sit in silence trying to come up with stuff. Especially at Jono and Ben, it’s a really good place where people take on each other’s suggestions and stitch together ideas to make something really good and funny.


    What advice do you have for people who want to work as a writer in NZ?

    Do standup, write your own material and go out and perform it. Find what audiences think is funny; it’s not always what you think is funny. Sometimes you can think it’s the funniest joke you have ever written but no one is laughing at it. Once you’ve been doing it for a while it becomes more intuitive and you learn what works. Just write as much as you can, sketch groups are great for that. Improv groups are also very good for comedy writers. To get work as a comedy writer, don’t be afraid to ask people for work. I got into 7 Days because I sent an email asking if I could write for them.


    So what is Fool House?

    Fool House is sketch comedy group put together by Louise Beuvink and myself. We talked about it at the comedy festival last year in Wellington. We wanted to do a sketch comedy show like Capping Show, just because we had so much fun with it. We pitched My Sketchen Rules to the Fringe Festival and since then we’ve been writing a lot and coming up with some funny stuff.


    What can people expect from My Sketchen Rules?

    Lots of little scenes, it’s quite fast paced. A mix of different comedy stylings but all in that old school sketch vein which you don’t see much of these days, because people have moved to video sketches. But we’re keeping it old school with a modern twist.


    So in Salient tradition I’d like to ask you shoot, shag, marry. Sarah Silverman, Kristen Wiig and Tina Fey.

    Shit. Well, marry Tina Fey right away. She’s my favourite and my wife kind of looks like her, which is great. Damn, this is a hard choice… it might have to be… because Kristen Wiig is still producing absolutely golden comedy, and is going to be in GhostBusters, which is a favourite of mine, shag Kristen Wiig and with huge regret shoot Sarah Silverman.


    Fool House Presents:

    My Sketchen Rules

    Dates: 5-7 March, 10pm

    Venue: Fringe Bar, Allen St, Wellington

    Tickets: GA $10




  • Birdman; Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance


    “How did we end up here? This place is horrible. Smells like balls.”

    So asks Riggin Thomson (Michael Keaton), a washed-up actor best known for playing the superhero Birdman in the early 90s. Thomson is now trying to break into Broadway with an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, but everything’s going wrong and someone won’t lay off the fucking drums.

    Birdman, from director Alejandro Iñárritu, is a disorienting satire that takes aim less at Hollywood blockbusters than at the pretentious elites who ignore them. Most of the film consists of a single, more-than-hour-long tracking shot, winding around Thomson as he stumbles through his tiny Broadway bubble in a drunken haze.

    The film contains no real superhero action, but the genre itself looms large over proceedings. Keaton himself played Batman in 1989 and 1992, and opposite him is Edward Norton, who once played the Incredible Hulk (with a lot of CGI). Robert Downey Jnr appears on TV screens to promote the new Iron Man, and there are casual references to Jeremy Renner (“he’s an Avenger now”) and Michael Fassbender (“he’s shooting the X-Men prequel-prequel”). Sometimes, it’s hard to think of a Hollywood A-lister who hasn’t played a superhero, and Iñárritu drops plenty of hints why. Whenever Thomson leaves his theatre, he’s met with swarms of adoring fans. People loved those movies. Who watches plays?

    The humour in Birdman is wickedly funny and sepulchrally dark. Thomson acts out What We Talk About…’s final scene, in which the lead shoots himself in the head, what feels like a dozen times. In another scene, Thomson stands on the edge of a building as a crowd gathers below. “Is this for real or are you shooting a film?” a woman calls out. “Shooting a film,” he shouts back.

    “You people,” the woman replies, “are full of shit.”

    It’s a line that sums up much of the film. Thomson, trading in his cape for a stage wig, trying to buy legitimacy through his pretentious show, is full of shit. Thomson’s co-star, Mike Shiner (Norton), whipping his cock out between soliloquies about how he owns New York, is also full of shit. And so is Thomson’s daughter Sam (Emma Stone), hiding behind her generic fucked-up teen schtick.

    But Iñárritu reserves special scorn for the theatre critic, a snobbish ice queen whose New York Times column wields the absolute power to make or break a play. She is most definitely full of shit. Her power, in turn, is an implied dig at New York’s moneyed theatre-going set, who apparently possess no critical faculties of their own and are themselves full of shit. Yet it is these cultured sheep whose approval Thomson desperately craves, even as his fame with the unwashed masses—those privileged enough to decide what they like, and they like Birdman—is a source of embarrassment.

    Birdman is a fantastically subversive film, full of contradictions: a film about the stage that doesn’t seem to care for it, an art film that champions mass tastes, an anti-elitist film set in the middle of New York with an all-white cast. With its innovative direction, genius script and universally strong performances, it’s also one of the best films so far this decade. Beat that, Marvel.


  • 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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