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Issue 10, 2015


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  • More Help Needed

  • Where the ladiez at?

  • Warning: Students May be Exposed to Some Fun This Year

  • Is Karori over the hill?


  • VUWSA and Uni weigh in on Council’s plans

  • Features

  • scientology

    Did You Ever Go Clear?

    His head emerging from a black turtleneck, a finger held out at the camera in a Toastmasters power pose, Tom Cruise tells the camera, “I think it’s a privilege to call yourself a Scientologist, and it’s something you have to earn.”


  • randi

    The Sceptical Dumbledore

    If it’s too good to be true then it isn’t. James Randi is a sceptic and debunks psychics who are psycho. The bearded and wizened man has devoted his life to exposing the people who convince others that they can move pencils by commanding them to with extraordinary mental powers. The Canadian-American retired from professional […]


  • fairtrade

    A Cynic Dissects Fairtrade

    Right now, an entire celebration is underway, and it’s dedicated to your power. That’s right, yours. Did you know that with just one stroke of your wallet, you can help farmers build better futures for themselves, and improve working conditions around the world? As the Fairtrade fortnight website says, the world needs more like you. […]


  • scientology

    Did You Ever Go Clear?

    His head emerging from a black turtleneck, a finger held out at the camera in a Toastmasters power pose, Tom Cruise tells the camera, “I think it’s a privilege to call yourself a Scientologist, and it’s something you have to earn.”


  • randi

    The Sceptical Dumbledore

    If it’s too good to be true then it isn’t. James Randi is a sceptic and debunks psychics who are psycho. The bearded and wizened man has devoted his life to exposing the people who convince others that they can move pencils by commanding them to with extraordinary mental powers. The Canadian-American retired from professional […]


  • fairtrade

    A Cynic Dissects Fairtrade

    Right now, an entire celebration is underway, and it’s dedicated to your power. That’s right, yours. Did you know that with just one stroke of your wallet, you can help farmers build better futures for themselves, and improve working conditions around the world? As the Fairtrade fortnight website says, the world needs more like you. […]


  • Arts and Science

  • Leviathan


    Leviathan is a Russian film that revolves around a few central characters in the coastal township of Teriberka: quick-tempered Kolya, whose property has been acquired for a pittance by corrupt mayor Vadim; Kolya’s depressed wife Lilia; his long-time friend and lawyer Dimitri; and his delinquent son Roma. The film follows Kolya’s battle with Vadim, and is concerned with the far-reaching effects of political corruption.

    Firstly, Leviathan is a movie that definitely deserves to be seen in the cinema, with absolutely stunning cinematography of dreary Russian landscapes, religious iconography, Soviet architecture and those absolutely fascinating ugly/beautiful Russian faces which are such a welcome relief from the all-American, often repetitive casting of Hollywood. (Being a massive fan of the epic film Koyaanisqatsi I was also expecting a fantastic soundtrack by Philip Glass, but on this occasion I was disappointed—the composer’s work only features at the beginning and end of the film and is very similar to his previous work).

    Leviathan’s exploration of wider social themes is also exceptional. For example, Vadim’s long-standing relationship with the church shows how people justify anything to themselves, as well as the inherent deceit in using the concept of “truth” as a tool of power in a religion as politics. Religion and God are addressed in various ways throughout the film—should we believe in facts over religion or is belief solely in proof an empty way to live? And the age-old classic—“why do bad things happen to good people?” Similarly, law and its abuses is a potent thread running throughout the film, from Dimitri’s initially earnest and successful attempt at acquiring justice (albeit via blackmail), to Vadim consorting with police and other justice officials. The scenes that play out in the courtroom are particularly jarring—the registrar reads out verdicts rapidly and robotically. The judicial process is made to feel inhumane and meaningless.

    In some ways this was a film I found somewhat difficult to like. It is so long. And so bleak. Similarly, I didn’t find the personal relationships that believable and I’m not sure how much I really cared about any of the characters. Perhaps this was contributed to by the language barrier but I felt the relationships largely lacked genuine feeling and spontaneity. I call this the empathy assumption—where a film assumes that you will be invested in all its characters by simply setting up a given situation and set of relationships. However, re-creating human connections necessitates a highly subtle crafting, which Leviathan lacked.

    In saying this, the film is very good at depicting figures in isolation—their loneliness and disconnection, their inability to be understood. This was particularly poignant in Lilia’s case, but even the mayor cuts a lonely figure at certain points. And I truly empathised with the characters in these moments. I suppose this may be the crux of it—Leviathan is not a film concerned with the redeeming qualities of human nature and the meaningfulness of our connections with one another. While there can be affection, maybe, the film takes a bleak view of human beings as being inherently self-interested. Thus, we cannot solely blame Vadim and his abuse of the law for everything unfolds—as Dimitri states, “Everything is everybody’s fault”. Similarly, the film redeemed itself by the end, becoming something larger and more significant than the sum of its parts. It was particularly successful in revealing to the viewer on a simple, everyday and very human level the utter devastation and destruction wrought by this kind of politics.

    Leviathan is ambitious, epic even and well worth seeing—although ultimately shy of greatness.


  • Infinitely Polar Bear


    Based on director Maya Forbes’ own childhood, Infinitely Polar Bear (2014) is an honest and bittersweet depiction of Cam Stuart’s (Mark Ruffalo) struggle with manic depression and his on-going battle to maintain his family’s love. He is confronted with the challenge to raise his two daughters (played by the adorable Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide) while his wife-not-so-wife-maybe-wife (Zoe Saldana) goes off to Columbia to finish a business degree.

    As an actor, Mark Ruffalo is often cast in sweet guy-next-door roles, sitting with Jennifer Garner on the swings while they converse about their childhood memories (13 Going On 30). While arguably Ruffalo as Cam Stuart is nothing more than a malleable extension of his usual roles, he is still presented as a beautiful juxtaposition of this “sweet guy” persona. This contrasted characterisation of Cam Stuart is consistently seen smoking and drinking throughout the film, while at times, finding himself grappling with his role as a father.

    Forbes immediately depicts Cam as an unemployed, unstable and cynical mess in the film’s opening. Hiss mental illness is visually enhanced by the consistent use of long shots and mid-shots to contrast his unusual actions to the mise-en-scene of average Boston city life or the natural and calm scenery of the country.

    The visual aesthetic is striking, and the almost immediate use of red and blue to contrast Cam’s mental struggle is an admirable and subtle touch to the viewer’s eyes. The beautiful Maggie Stuart (Zoe Saldana) is frequently dressed to oppose Cam’s own attire and to contrast the distinction between their states of minds. Maggie is often dressed in red or dark pink to oppose Cam’s blue garb and low mood, or his neutrality as represented by his lime green something-of-a-costume. Forbes’ use of the colours red and blue is also a sincere method of visualising the issue of manic depression or “whatever they call it these days” that is prevalent throughout the film.

    The key themes of the film, such as family structure, mental illness and poverty, contribute to the sincerity and emotiveness of the film. Cam’s struggle with depression permeates his household, his two daughters filling the void that Cam leaves. Even at a very young age, Cam’s daughters assume the role of responsible figurehead within the eccentric set-up of a family living in the “shithole” they call home.

    The portrayal of mental illness however is what makes the film most honest. Cam’s mental illness is often seen as a “hush hush” issue particularly at the beginning of the film and reflects the unaccepting society of the time, and sadly the attitudes that continue today. His daughter Amelia’s visit to the “halfway house” draws in a thoughtful discursive note from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Amelia notes the similarity of the situation to Lucy’s visits with Mr Tumnus—something that is secretive and perilous within the novel. This element of secrecy illustrates the practical reality of dealing with a mental illness, as something to remain silent about, and is an inescapable truth.

    The ending however adds a nice touch—Cam’s mental illness is no longer seen as a burden by his daughters, but something of a unique quality that makes the love between them more concrete. Here it becomes more coherent that Ruffalo’s performance is a key-contributing factor of the film’s success as a feel good memento. Cam Stuart becomes the C.S. of C.S. Lewis, and while his issue of having “polar bear” still exists, the stigma of mental illness is loosened for the viewer.


  • Rei—C.H.I.E.F.


    Rei’s debut album is definitely one you need to listen to. There are songs for both day and night, with reggae vibes and electronica sounds bringing the whole album to another level. This is good kiwi music in every way—unique yet relatable lyrics, talented rapping and vocals, engaging production and a bit of variety on the album too. There’s a good mix of experiences and emotions communicated across, and all with a unique yet classic kiwi vibe. As a student living in little old Welly, it’s kind of refreshing to listen to a rapper who relates and one that uses Te Reo too; it’s a bit of a change from Kanye.

    The stand out track for me is “M.O.E”. The lines “It’s Mana over everything, these fellaz sounding too American, this some NZ for your benefit” slip in near the end of the track and gives an example of the classy home grown pride that C.H.I.E.F. emanates. “Peace Pipes” is similar; the bridge is well-timed with a heartfelt hometown message. The electronica beats also carry the different pieces of the song nicely to bring it all together.

    The album has different elements that tie in and make C.H.I.E.F. a statement of hip hop in its own right. “The Tribe” is one of the tracks that set this out. It has dubstep vibes, and a mixture of more delicate vocals and rapping with a straight-up kiwi accent. The bridge is just golden. And if I ever graduate—this song is going to describe that exact moment.

    The opening track “Step Step” is damn catchy and has the most random mixture of instruments on it, but it works. I love the chorus and the pulsing beat in the verses. I’m not exactly an expert on “how to rap”, but the rapping on this one really showcases Rei’s talent with some fast and articulate verses. “Hobby” follows this and feels like a bit of an anthem, with nice vocals making “they keep on telling me to get that 9 to 5” my favourite line.

    “Love Bite” and “Ice Cream” show another side and are sure to get girls swooning. The line “What if I quoted Drake for you?” sort of explains why on its own. “Love Bite” is a bit more restrained than the others, but even then it develops with awesome production and layering, and it really works. The final track “Culture” has its own laid back vibe with a real message about what music brings to the world. This works as a perfect final song.

    The variety of songs, paces, and messages make C.H.I.E.F. an album that I would recommend, especially if you are a fan of New Zealand hip hop/rap. Along with features from Andy Fisher, Kid, and Xela, the album brings something fresh to New Zealand music that makes for a good listen—an easy four stars.


  • Mumford & Sons—Wilder Mind


    Mumford & Sons, after a brief hiatus, were all about a new beginning—as Marcus Mumford told Rolling Stone, “We felt that doing the same thing, or the same instrumentation again, just wasn’t for us.” It shows—Wilder Mind sounds distinctly suited to the rock genre the band tiptoe around, infused with grandeur and percussive explosiveness. From the opening electric chimes in “Tompkins Square Park” through the familiar slow, epic crescendo of first single “Believe”, the album is a departure from their folk-inspired past efforts. The difference with this reinvention and that of, say, U2’s Achtung Baby (the ultimate artistic U-turn) is an unmistakable feeling that Mumford & Sons’ new sound is inferior to their old.

    There are some great songs on Wilder Mind: biting guitars let loose on “Ditmas” and “Only Love”; the thumping exposition (“Shake it Off” anyone?!) and subsequent calm of “Wilder Mind”; “Snake Eyes” cathartic chorus. The musical change, however, is hit and miss, as best evidenced with “The Wolf”, a hungover track from Babel or Sigh No More—the instrumental sections don’t sound bad, but lack the organic dynamism of classics like “I Will Wait”. Wilder Mind also follows the same boring progression as the past two albums, with a teasing exposition, two or three great tracks, and a general petering out towards the end. For an album heralding a new dawn, there is a distinct lack of substantial difference from the night previous. “Tompkins Square Park” may echo “Zoo Station” in name, but for Mumford & Sons the revolution ends with turning the electricity on—Achtung Baby was U2 2.0, whereas Wilder Mind is just Mumford & Sons 1.3.

    Great bands cannot help but sound like themselves—a fact not lost on Mumford & Sons. Wilder Mind is a fun listen, with its obligatory share of endearingly terrible lyrics (“I’ll turn into a monster for you / If you pay me enough”) that somehow float alongside some fantastic melodies. If anything, it feels like more effort was put into hyping the artistic shift than the actual engineering—without prior expectation, it may have had more impact. If you’re looking for a genuine change in artistic direction, or proof of Mumford & Sons’ musical genius beneath their novelty folk roots, prepare to be disappointed. For fans, however, there’s still a lot to love on Wilder Mind.


  • Colouring In

    This is an age in which insert sweeping generalisation has changed the way we live. It is also an age where sweeping generalisations and statements can seem really daunting and distilling. What I know for shit sure is that, for whatever reason, I regularly get anxious and feel overwhelmed, and I know I am not alone in that. When faced this weekend with a daunting deadline, I felt like I needed a treat. It was time to buy an adult colouring book, duh.

    The fact that it’s an adult colouring book only matters in so far as that rather than pictures of Elsa from Frozen, the book features gorgeously creative scenes and patterns for you to colour, incredible design work akin to art.

    Adult colouring books have had a massive surge in popularity over the last few months. Joanna Basford’s first adult colouring book, Secret Garden, was published in 2013 and has sold 1.5 million copies worldwide. Her follow up book Enchanted Forest was released in March, and has sold out worldwide, selling quarter of a million in the first few weeks of it being released.

    Basford’s immense success is due in part to the help she had from several celebrities tweeting their completed images, and in part because of the upsurge in adult colouring books in general. While Basford’s pages have story elements, the basis is derived from the “mindfulness” fad. Used professionally in the psychology world since the 1970s, mindfulness is a practice applied to help people who are suffering from a variety of psychological conditions. Wikipedia defines mindfulness as “the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”, which can be trained by meditation practices derived from Buddhist anapanasati.

    Mindfulness is basically a practice where you pause, and you create space, introspection and calm. It’s a popular topic in self-help books at the moment, with books being written to help readers find mindfulness in a matter of weeks. It is entirely plausible and probable that the development of our modern age and all it entails has fostered rampant anxiety. The mindfulness movement counteracts the very common feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious about the multitude of things to do, by encouraging people to pause, and take stock. Adult colouring books are a beautiful activity, as well as a remedy for the stress of busy lives. I was very excited about this prospect. But what I had forgotten until I was about to start colouring while watching David Attenborough explain polar bear mating rituals, is that when I was a kid I hated colouring in.

    I used to have really poor dexterity; I think I was one of those left and right mix-up kids, with those rubber grips to train my fingers where to sit. It took until leaving primary school before I was a bit comfortable writing. I have traumatic memories of being sent back to try again after showing my teacher my handwriting exercises. Needless to say my colouring experiences were incredibly similar. However, I had already begun to develop perfectionist tendencies. For me as a kid, colouring was a hotbed of control issues and lacking motor skills. I remember my hands shaking in frustration and beating myself up for going outside the lines (biggest childhood faux-pas).

    As I opened the page of my chosen book, the same feelings immediately flooded back to me. I had selected The Mindfulness Colouring Book by Emma Farrarons, which is jam-packed full of intricate patterns “prompting you to meditate on your artwork as you mindfully and creatively fill these pages with colour”. Being A5, it is portable, making it easy to colour wherever you go. The templates have an endearing imperfection to their execution, which eased my initial reaction. Basford highlights that this allows creativity to flow, without the daunting feeling of a blank sheet, that the lines and patterns provide a structure, which simply needs to be coloured. However, looking at a whole page of tiny dots and swirls and lines, waiting for me to create something beautiful, made me feel a little overwhelmed.

    At first I felt overwhelmed, but I think that was an appropriate trigger to ignite before my colouring meditation. I realised that the only way to complete the page of patterns was to work colour by colour, and line by line. Without realising, the mindfulness had already begun. By stopping productive tasks, and focusing on the motion of my faber-castell pencil, I was able to find stillness in my mind, which I hadn’t had all day. It paused my mind before it got caught in a flurry figuring out Saturday night plans, and allowed me to find a sense of calm.


  • Your guide to the Renaissance superstars: Raphael

    Key works you need to know by Raphael: The School of Athens in the Stanza della Segnatura (the Pope’s drawing room in the Vatican), Sistine Madonna and The Transfiguration.

    Raphael is the final playing piece in the trinity of Renaissance superstars. While a great artist in his own right, Raphael is best remembered for his remix of the two Renaissance greatest hits—Michelangelo and Leonardo in his prolific oeuvre. To say he did it alone is hardly fair as Raphael had one of the largest workshops of the era, but unfortunately no one remembers the understudies.

    Born in Urbino, he was orphaned by age 11, but still managed to kick it with the best of them, wriggling into the Urbino court of nobles and learning how to paint and make polite conversation. This skill (along with his artistic integrity) held him in good stead with Pope Julius II who summoned him to Rome to work on the redecoration of the Vatican (Julius also summoned Michelangelo who came a little more begrudgingly).

    But before all this though Raphael found himself in Florence, the home of Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo was about thirty years older than Raphael and while there is no evidence that the two ever met, there can be no denying Raphael saw his work. After his brief time in Florence, Raphael’s work took on the stylistic qualities of Leonardo faster than HRH Prince George’s blue dungarees sold out in Britain over the weekend. Raphael imitated the poses of Leonardo’s paintings and in particular began copying his technique of sfumato (smudgy blurred painting technique).

    In Rome, Raphael found his contemporary Michelangelo was also working under Pope Julius II in the Vatican. The shared experience did not go down well—Michelangelo hated Raphael even more than he hated Leonardo, so Friday night drinks were out. Raphael was not deterred and began assimilating aspects of Michelangelo’s classicism into his work at this time—Raphael even famously included a portrait of Michelangelo in The School of Athens after he snuck a look at Michelangelo’s awesome work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

    Workplace bullying aside, Raphael had a frivolous time in Rome, enjoying many love affairs, great popularity and wealth until his death at age 37. As the scandalous tale goes, Raphael’s death resulted from a night of romping with his favourite mistress, which sent him down into a fever (don’t worry, she was well provided for in his will). Raphael was given the honour of being buried in the Pantheon and, in time, of not being overshadowed by Michelangelo and Leonardo.


  • Gaben Is Not Necessarily God

    How Valve nearly ruined everything with paid mods

    Valve Corporation has had an excellent reputation amongst gamers for a very long time. Their bibliography of titles includes some of the most ground-breaking and critically acclaimed games of the past 20 years, most notably Half-Life and its sequels. Steam, a major Valve project for over ten years, is the number one gaming platform for PC with frequent heavy discounts on great games, not to mention free multiplayer and social networking features. They have done so many great things for PC gaming over the years that the company’s co-founder, Gabe “Gaben” Newell, has been turned into a (tongue-in-cheek) deity to the gaming community. The people love Valve and want it to continue to thrive.

    And yet, in just a matter of days, and with one single action, they nearly ruined all of that.

    Valve has long been friendly to modders: members of the gaming community who create third-party content that can enhance or change aspects of games. Many of Valve’s early staff were modders and many of their games began as mods for Half-Life. The Steam Workshop provides a platform for modders to offer their work to the public in a way that anyone can easily grasp. Traditionally, mods have been given away for free, with little compensation available to modders, but Valve attempted to change that by introducing paid mods, starting with Skyrim. They thought they were doing modders a great service by allowing them to profit from their hard work.

    Well, they fucked it up. Big time.

    The majority of modders are NOT looking to make money off their work. To them, it is a hobby, and sometimes even a public service if they create patches for horribly buggy games. Even if they did want to make money from modding (with someone taking this opportunity to charge $100 for a mod that enhances horse genitalia, not kidding), they still do it as a labour of love, not only for the game but for the community that has grown around their work. They’d appreciate a donation, but forcing us to cough up cash for something that may heavily affect gameplay is not really the way to go. Valve essentially decided that they were going to put mods behind a paywall, and I’ve been on the Internet long enough to know that this is a very bad idea.

    Gaben somehow got the idea into his head that “money is how the community steers work”, a quote direct from an impromptu AMA on Reddit after all this blew up. Gaben is wrong. It doesn’t happen often, but he’s wrong. Besides, the revenue from paid mods was to be split 3:1—Valve and the original game’s developer (Bethesda, in the case of Skyrim) would get 75 per cent, while the modder would get the rest. That is incredibly dodgy. 25 per cent isn’t much, and the idea that a modder would be able to make a living is pretty much bullshit.

    To many members of the gaming community, Valve’s introduction of paid mods made them look like EA, a company obsessed with squeezing every penny out of its customers while giving them very little in return. EA’s reputation earned it the title of Worst Company in America twice in a row.

    Thankfully, Valve have since backpedalled on the whole plan. The company was inundated with constant negative feedback about paid mods, including on the Steam forums. A petition to convince Valve to reconsider got a whopping 133,013 signatures and was able to declare victory in just four days. That is the power of community. Gamers spoke out unequivocally against a stupid idea and were able to kill it before any major damage could be done.

    Does this mean, though, that Valve is the bad guy here? Well, not really; if anything, it shows that they care about what gamers want and will listen. Most companies would just push ahead even if their idiocy was staring them right in the face. Gaben and Valve took the time to hear what we had to say, and took action. The paid mods are gone. Thank fuck for that.

    And while Valve are still listening, I’d like to tell them a few things: overhaul Steam Greenlight so shit can’t get through, moderate Early Access so games actually get finished, finish Half-Life 3, and, most importantly, ༼つ ◕_◕ ༽つ VOLVO GIVE DIRETIDE.


  • 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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    : 1). I wish my friends knew that when they ask me what “percentage” of Māori I am—half, quarter, or eighth—they make me feel like a human pie chart. I don’t know how people can ask this so nonchalantly, but they do. So I want to let you know: this is a very threatening