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Issue 4, 2015

Pirates

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News

  • Holy Fuck! Vic Uni Ruled by White Males

  • Students are flat out done with house-hunting

  • University, Post-Dom

  • University reminds students to say hi to each other

  • Better the Neville You Know Than the Neville You Don’t

  • Got Green?

  • Features

  • ctrl-ctrl-v

    Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V

    – SPONSORED – On March 26th 2000, five executives from Jive Records met at The Palm restaurant in New York to celebrate. They ate lobster. They deserved it. It had been a big year. The third album from the Backstreet Boys—the label’s golden goose—had broken sales records, and the debut album from their latest discovery, […]

    by

  • rum

    Yo Ho Ho Bro

    It was once the drink favoured by society’s most notorious thieves and brigands—the Cody’s of the high seas. Now rum is enjoying a renaissance as a respectable and classy affair, roughness bought at $60 a bottle.

    by

  • A History of Pirate Bay

    – SPONSORED – September 2003: The Pirate Bay is founded by Peter Sunde, Gottfrid Svartholm (aka Anakata) and Fredrik Neij (aka TiAMO), members of Swedish anti-copyright group Piratbyrån. The website is launched in Mexico, and is hosted on a server owned by the company where Svartholm worked. Early 2004: The site moves to Sweden, where […]

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  • 10tyhings

    Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Pirates

    – SPONSORED – Pirates didn’t just wear earrings to look cool—it was believed that they could help cure bad eyesight, among other things. It was thought that precious metals like gold and silver had healing powers and prevented seasickness, and that a gold earring would serve as a talisman to protect a sailor from drowning. […]

    by

  • ctrl-ctrl-v

    Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V

    – SPONSORED – On March 26th 2000, five executives from Jive Records met at The Palm restaurant in New York to celebrate. They ate lobster. They deserved it. It had been a big year. The third album from the Backstreet Boys—the label’s golden goose—had broken sales records, and the debut album from their latest discovery, […]

    by

  • rum

    Yo Ho Ho Bro

    It was once the drink favoured by society’s most notorious thieves and brigands—the Cody’s of the high seas. Now rum is enjoying a renaissance as a respectable and classy affair, roughness bought at $60 a bottle.

    by

  • A History of Pirate Bay

    – SPONSORED – September 2003: The Pirate Bay is founded by Peter Sunde, Gottfrid Svartholm (aka Anakata) and Fredrik Neij (aka TiAMO), members of Swedish anti-copyright group Piratbyrån. The website is launched in Mexico, and is hosted on a server owned by the company where Svartholm worked. Early 2004: The site moves to Sweden, where […]

    by

  • 10tyhings

    Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Pirates

    – SPONSORED – Pirates didn’t just wear earrings to look cool—it was believed that they could help cure bad eyesight, among other things. It was thought that precious metals like gold and silver had healing powers and prevented seasickness, and that a gold earring would serve as a talisman to protect a sailor from drowning. […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • #WHOISBECK

    The Grammys: the only award show that would give Kanye an aisle seat, and a place where the appreciation of music can sometimes be turned into a straight up mockery. Wind the clock back a month and it’s safe to say the 2015 awards show did not disappoint. The social media frenzy that unravelled following the 2015 Grammys very quickly brought the world’s attention to the fact that most people were blissfully unaware who the strange, middle-aged, album-of-the-year-winning bohemian Beck actually was. So one year on from the release of Morning Phase, it seems only fair to shine a light on who this dude is and how exactly he managed to swindle the much-coveted Album of the Year.

    For those unfamiliar with Beck, let’s just say that he’s been around the block a few times. After a stint in New York as a homeless musician in the late 80s, he started fresh in the early 90s writing cool, LA-inspired folkie music. Unfortunately for Beck, his fairly niche genre just didn’t have a market back then (think Childish Gambino trying to release Kauai in the heat of the 1980s punk era. It just wouldn’t have worked). Two mediocre folk albums later and a frustrated Beck spat out a couple of angsty alt-rock tracks that were only meant to be throwaways. These songs sparked quite the buzz among the Simon Cowells of 1993, and so came to be Beck’s reinvention.

    This reinvention was a full 180 from what he had previously released. Remember that grimy, street scum-esque song “Loser”? Yeah well that was Beck. Yes, you heard correct. The weird, furry vest-wearing boho we saw awkwardly approach the stage at the 2015 Grammys was once upon a time the unofficial leader of the 90s slacker movement. The song was born out of the frustration he was facing as a struggling musician trying to get by on minimum wage jobs.

    The song very quickly became an anthem for the underappreciated and downtrodden humans of the world and gave Beck the invaluable exposure he’d been so desperately seeking. Two reasonably successful alt-rock albums followed “Loser”, before Beck made a bold move back to the folkie stuff he loved so dearly. The gamble paid off and his music was finally reaching the audiences he’d hoped it would. Despite this continued success, his low-key nature meant that his “celebrity” very quickly demised.

    Cue 2014: the year of the full-blown Beck comeback. After a six-year hiatus from recording, Beck released his 12th studio album, Morning Phase. Masked beneath the mellow sound of his “acoustic” album, things are pretty bloody heavy. The interlude tracks “Cycle” and “Morning” are warm like a California sunrise and will undoubtedly lure you in. This mood, however, doesn’t remain quite so light. As the album deepens, so too do the songs. Light-as-a-feather fingerpicking is phased out and an eerie melancholy ensues (see “Phase” and “Waking Light”). Each track adds a layer and everything is in its place for a reason. The lyrics are raw and the recurring references to pain and misery will make you wonder what exactly happened during Beck’s six-year hiatus that led to such an abyss of darkness. Regardless of the underlying themes, it becomes clear very quickly why Morning Phase was crowned Album of the Year—it’s just that good.

    If you’re a pretty laxed out person by nature, Beck’s post-1995 stuff will be right up your alley. On the contrary, if you’re highly-strung and struggle to sit still for more than five minutes, I suggest reaching for the new Drake album instead. His works are expertly thought out and arranged to be listened to in full, none of this shuffle-play business. With this in mind, next time you’re feeling particularly calm and ethereal, I recommend sitting down with one of his albums and taking it in in all its glory… because Beck.

    TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT BECK

    1. He got Kanye’d by Kanye at the 2015 Grammys, only to appear star struck by Yeezy’s presence.

    2. He’s a Scientologist.

    3. Album of The Year 2015 was his fifth Grammy. The prior awards were well before Gen Y’s time.

    4. He was pursued by the creators of Mad Men to compose the theme several times and still said no.

    5. His albums Odelay and Sea Change were ranked in Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums of all time.

    6. He features in The Lonely Island song “Attracted To Us”.

    7. He launched the “Record Club” in 2009, a club where musicians come together and cover an entire album in one day.

    8. He contributed a song to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

    9. The musical genius that is Beck has actually been lurking around this entire time… we just never noticed.

    10. Morning Phase beat out Beyonce. ‘Nuff said.

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  • The Order: 1886

    ★★½

    Upon completing The Order: 1886’s roughly seven-hour campaign, I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. The kind of deep, dark disappointment that comes from something truly promising, utterly failing to live up to its potential.

    Playing The Order: 1886 is a frustrating experience for many reasons, but none more so than how clearly you can identify what the game’s failings are and how easily they could have been avoided. Worse still is being able to recognise how slightly different design choices could have resulted in a truly amazing gaming experience.

    The root of The Order: 1886’s evils clearly stem from its obsession with being a cinematic experience. This preoccupation is evident in every moment of the game, from the annoying aspect ratio to the gratuitous cutscenes. To be fair, the developer Ready at Dawn truly succeeded in this attempt. The game is a cinematic feat, gloriously gorgeous at every moment, slick and clean in its visual delivery. The trouble is that The Order: 1886 is not a film, it’s a game, or so it says on the box. But having completed the campaign, it’s not easy to call it a game. More apt would be a film with brief moments of poorly-designed and alienating interaction.

    I can’t fault Ready at Dawn’s intentions; the cinematic approach was clearly implemented in an attempt to create an evocative narrative experience. In some ways they succeeded. I was often provoked by the story; I could appreciate its nuance and structure as well as its cast of interesting characters and relationships, but only as a passive observer. I never felt personally involved or responsible for the narrative—rather I felt frustrated at my lack of control and alienated from what could have been a rather compelling story.

    After all, the The Order: 1886 has a fascinating premise, telling the story of an alternate-history Victorian London in which technology has progressed much faster than in our reality. Victorian London itself is still recognisable in its tone and figures, but in this reality there are gigantic blimps in the sky and people wield powerful weapons harnessing chemicals and electricity in ways we have never seen before.

    You follow Galahad, a member of the Knights of the Round Table, or the Order, as it has become known. As part of this centuries-old society bent on maintaining stability and quelling threats, you are tasked with hunting down and putting an end to an insurgency of rebels who are somehow linked with The Order’s greatest and oldest threat: The Lycans.

    Aspects of the story are as clichéd as they sound, but overall the assimilation of a completely new alternate reality, with a well-maintained tone, make the story itself quite interesting.

    Though many may find the seven-hour campaign painfully short for a AAA title, it was actually a perfect amount of time to tell the story. The irritation I had with the game’s timing was much more a matter of pacing than of length. As I have said the game uses cutscenes abhorrently, often giving players minutes without any need to even hold the control. Though this is bad, what’s even worse is giving players literally seconds of control just to walk several feet before you are pulled into yet another cutscene. This is a large part of what makes the pacing of the game so bad; you are never comfortable in any given action knowing that you are only moments away from having control once again taken away from you.

    However, in the end you are not missing much—The Order: 1886’s version of gameplay often consists of nothing more than largely boring environment exploration or two-dimensional cover-based shooting. The environment exploration could have been interesting, but, as with every other moment of the game, you are given no control over discovery. You can pick up objects, but the objects lack any content to discover, rather Galahad just tells you what is interesting about it the moment you pick it up. The cover-based shooting is equally unimpressive, often feeling more like a way to pad the game out, rather than a fun experience or compelling way to progress the story.

    The way to make this game an exponentially better experience is clear. Ready at Dawn should have focused on making a narrative experience for the medium they chose: video games. They should have realised how key interaction is to this medium and forgone lengthy cutscenes and visual prowess for meaningful interactivity and fun gameplay.

    The Order: 1886 had every opportunity to be amazing: a world-class developer, a financially generous publisher, and some really great narrative ideas. Yet these factors were squandered on an overly cinematic experience that should have been vetoed early on in its development. But it wasn’t. And now all we have is disappointment and the bitter question rolling around our minds—what if?

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  • Wild

    ★★★★

    “God is a ruthless bitch.”—Cheryl Strayed

    Of all the comments Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) leaves in the register books that mark her journey along California’s Pacific Crest Trail, this is the only original one. The rest are apt but ever-so-slightly twee remarks that span pretty much everyone from Shakespeare to Joni Mitchell. Strayed’s own comment is a fist-pump moment in Wild. It’s not in the least about who or what or even if you think God is: it’s the voice of a gutsy 26-year-old protagonist finally owning her anger and working through it. Wild gifts us a series of windows into Strayed’s background—her mother’s death, failed marriage, drug use—to show the motivation behind her impulsive trip to the Trail, but what’s best about the film is how it avoids becoming a complete cheesefest to instead say something pretty powerful.

    The wilderness journey isn’t necessarily any less of a trope than the therapy on the couch, right? Strayed’s shtick is that she’s a woman doing this alone; that she’s walking around 1800 kilometres, and that she has no idea what the hell she’s doing. Any of these elements could’ve turned her into a joke—but director Jean-Marc Vallée has more sense. While Wild contains a few laughable moments, he doesn’t seem particularly interested in manipulating the audience to feel, well, anything specific. It lends a nice rawness. On one side, the woman and her journey; on the other, a plethora of different audience experiences responding as they see fit. The whole stripped-back thing is something I really enjoy, particularly in a narrative that ran the risk of becoming too Hornby-esque at the hands of its screenwriter.

    The director’s hand is probably most evident in the way he weaves Strayed’s memories in and out of her walk. A lot of this traces the narrative structure of the real Strayed’s memoir, on which the film is based. The memories are fragments that shouldn’t really work, and definitely don’t chronologically. The way Vallée evokes them, though, is exquisite: how they insert themselves at unwelcome moments and with unwanted consequences, the way they play with touch and smell as well as the visual. It’s a lovely way to get to know a character, and the sensory tactic really brings us closer to the film.

    This approach is all part of a strange kind of Hollywood-cum-arthouse style that it seems Vallée’s been trying to cultivate: we remember Dallas Buyers’ Club, yeah? Let’s be honest, though—Wild looked terrible. The trailer left me wincing. I just watched it, and grimaced again. Have a little faith though, friends. Aside from one cringeworthy CGI fox that was meant to be oh-so-symbolic but instead made me want to crawl under my seat every time it emerged, the film is not so Hollywood. It’s subdued, but nonetheless captivating. Wild is homespun, gritty, rough, and every other adjective you’d expect from a film with that name. It runs a whole gamut of emotion, and takes a really good shot at mimicking a working through process, instead of neatly packaging grief.

    I doubt that Reese actually ripped her toenail off for the role, and she strangely enough managed to shave her legs throughout “three months on the trail”, but she brings a little something that’s not Elle Woods. Laura Dern steals the show, and I want Bobbi to be my mother (except that she died). Wild presents us with a bunch of male characters who range from just plain nice to harmless misogynist to really genuinely threatening. Perhaps the most important thing this film brings us, though, is a female protagonist who is “strong”, but not an action hero, a Marvel character, or Scarlett Johansson. We’re used to defining females in terms of their interactions with others, and it’s nice to see Strayed undergo a transformation that only essentially involves herself, the landscape, and a fuckload of sheer grit. I’mma go climb a mountain.

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  • Not That Kind of Girl—Lena Dunham

    Dunham and her work exist in a frenzy of praise and criticism; Dunham’s book, however, is a book in its own right, entirely separate from her TV show. Regardless of personal taste, she has come to stand as a role model of female empowerment and honesty, no matter how flawed—a position that has been waiting to be filled for a while. While the very premise of the book is for us to figure out what kind of girl Dunham is, it simultaneously explores the complexity of understanding one’s own individuality.

    Dunham’s collection of essays begins in an act of justification: “There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman.” While promoting female memoirs and the didactic nature of them, she preempts criticism, but by the same vein, she has already self-aggrandised the task which she nobly sets herself. Throughout the collection, there is a sense that Dunham is stuck between the theoretical importance of the author and her own irrelevance. Her work is based in her individual experiences while promoting a universally shared experience, and refusing inhabit it.

    There are moments in which Dunham could acknowledge her narrow field of vision; it’s the privilege discussion. The same criticism has landed on a lot of her work, and yet here too she refuses to be baited by it. Dunham’s book is sprinkled with experiences and life lessons alien to many of the lives reading her book. In Dunham’s world, therapists become a ubiquitous requirement, a designer-clothing store fills the post-degree void, “artist” is a financially sound career choice, and, duh, you live in New York City.

    Yet for all its distance, Not That Kind of Girl felt like reading one of your best friends’ diaries. Unflinchingly honest, well-written and exercising her crafting skills, with a blend of modern language and imagery, it was refreshing and felt important to read. She’s had weird sex experiences too! She hated her body too! She felt bored and frustrated while studying too! Reviewers liked to compare her honesty within the book to her nude scenes in Girls. I get that. But being privy to her mind, and heart, her vaginal and uterine dilemmas, her anxiety and fear, her trials of love and loss, ambition and self-doubt, was a much more fulfilling experience than seeing Lena Dunham naked, or Marnie getting her butt eaten out.

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  • Yes Please—Amy Poehler

    If you’re feeling bereft over the finale of Parks and Recreation, don’t despair: you can still get your Poehler fix. Yes Please is the ferociously funny comedian’s memoir, although perhaps the term “scrapbook” is a more accurate description.

    Poehler shares stories from her childhood, her early days in comedy, her escapades on Saturday Night Live and her time playing everyone’s favourite fictional small-town government employee, Leslie Knope. Anecdotes are mingled with pictures, poems, lists, and life advice in haiku form (“A facelift does not/ Make daughters comfortable/ When you chaperone”). This is not a bare-all celebrity memoir, and Poehler stays away from any major revelations about her personal life, but the chapter about her two young sons and her time visiting orphanages in Haiti is candid and beautiful.

    Going in to this book I was expecting another Bossypants, the memoir written by Poehler’s friend and “comedy wife” Tina Fey. Both women have helmed successful TV shows and have proven, without a doubt, that comedy is not an old boys’ club. Despite this, the similarities between their books are scarce. While Fey tended towards the self-deprecating in a way that I couldn’t help but laugh along with, Amy has gone for the inspirational, self-help angle. Yes Please is split into three parts: “Say whatever you want”, “Do whatever you like”, and “Be whoever you are”. Little bits of wisdom are dropped throughout, in bold letters on a double page spread: Everybody is scared most of the time; Calling people sweetheart makes most people enraged; Short people do not like to be picked up (my personal favourite).

    For those familiar with her web series Smart Girls at the Party, where she interviews inspiring and successful women, and Ask Amy, where she fields questions from viewers in a cool-aunt kind of way, this won’t seem out of left-field; but for the uninitiated it might seem twee. I don’t doubt her sincerity; her dedication to empowering young women and providing viable role models for them is admirable and something that we only need more of.

    While it didn’t provide as many belly laughs as I had been hoping for, I came away from reading Yes Please with an increased admiration for somebody who had already firmly earned themselves a place on my cool-lady index. This is the perfect companion for the Amy Poehler fan.

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  • Banksy, the Artistic Pirate

    You know when you were at school and it was cool to scratch your name into the desk, doodle in the margins of your 1B5 and draw all over your hands? Some cool kids bring this habit with them to university lecture theatres; Banksy’s innocent doodles at his Bristol high school were his gateway into the graffiti world.

    Like any vaguely capable pirate, the real identity of this edgy street artist and his background are veiled in mystery, because, when you’re running around the world committing illegal acts it’s kinda important that you get through border patrol.

    Banksy is anti a lot of things—anti-war, anti-capitalist and anti-establishment. His humour is dark and his social commentary startlingly on point.  The intelligence and craft that Banksy throws into his work puts to shame the dogs who piss their tags onto council water meters. He has gained an international reputation and helped raise the status of the graffiti artist—something we still can’t quite wrap our heads around when the medium of graffiti is generally considered dirty and painted over. (FYI, anyone painting over a Banksy work would be regretting that now—one of his latest works, Mobile Lovers, sold for over £400,000.)

    Last month Banksy was in Gaza painting kittens on rubble, because the internet is more obsessed with watching fluff balls than learning about the destruction happening in the Middle East. Before the last Olympics, he was depicting athletes throwing missiles instead of javelins. For a whole month he set up art installations in public spaces in New York City, which included selling authentic art for US$60 to people who had no idea and were later able to sell the pieces for over US$200,000.

    It is a small irony that celebrities and others have paid a shit tonne for Banksy’s work, when he is so anti-capitalist and critical of consumer culture. His work is interesting and worth noting because of its accessibility outside of the gallery space, and because it causes us to question the legality of his means of making artistic comment.

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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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