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Issue 13, 2015

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News

  • Ermagherd, rent

  • Holy shit, a functioning national student body

  • Bud-shit. Ammaright.

  • A brief history of why your life sucks

  • Stop, collaborate and listen

  • Young Labour wants to help a brother (and sister) out

  • Features

  • susan price

    The Sedulous Recorder

    For Susan Price, collecting and sharing children’s books is the stronghold of her life. She is self-described as mad, she is generous, and eternally admirable while refusing to admit it.

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  • cryptids

    Cryptical Thinking

    – SPONSORED – When I suggested that I write an article on cryptids, I was dismayed to learn that no-one in the office knew what they were. Sam, our esteemed editor, hadn’t even heard of them. To which I said, “exactly!”, whilst adjusting my monocle and twirling my moustache. You see, a “cryptid” is a […]

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  • heroes

    Under the Influence of Unsung Heroes

    – SPONSORED – I’d like to take a brief moment to offer a massive shout-out to all the parents in the place with style and grace, whether “regular” or “step-” or otherwise. Even in practical terms the responsibility is daunting. Sleepless nights spent tending to mewling, projectile-shitting devilspawn. Dealing with terrible twos and terrible teens […]

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  • coffee

    Are You Addicted to Coffee?

    – SPONSORED – 1. Do you consume coffee daily? Yes / No 2. Do you get a headache if you haven’t had coffee by midday? Yes / No 3. Do you take caffeine pills if drinking coffee isn’t possible? Yes / No 4. Do you consume at least 4-5 coffees per day? Yes / No […]

    by

  • susan price

    The Sedulous Recorder

    For Susan Price, collecting and sharing children’s books is the stronghold of her life. She is self-described as mad, she is generous, and eternally admirable while refusing to admit it.

    by

  • cryptids

    Cryptical Thinking

    – SPONSORED – When I suggested that I write an article on cryptids, I was dismayed to learn that no-one in the office knew what they were. Sam, our esteemed editor, hadn’t even heard of them. To which I said, “exactly!”, whilst adjusting my monocle and twirling my moustache. You see, a “cryptid” is a […]

    by

  • heroes

    Under the Influence of Unsung Heroes

    – SPONSORED – I’d like to take a brief moment to offer a massive shout-out to all the parents in the place with style and grace, whether “regular” or “step-” or otherwise. Even in practical terms the responsibility is daunting. Sleepless nights spent tending to mewling, projectile-shitting devilspawn. Dealing with terrible twos and terrible teens […]

    by

  • coffee

    Are You Addicted to Coffee?

    – SPONSORED – 1. Do you consume coffee daily? Yes / No 2. Do you get a headache if you haven’t had coffee by midday? Yes / No 3. Do you take caffeine pills if drinking coffee isn’t possible? Yes / No 4. Do you consume at least 4-5 coffees per day? Yes / No […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • 80 Years of Penguin

    Whether you regard them as an essential component of your library, or merely a trendy hipster staple, Penguin paperbacks—especially in their ubiquitous orange form—are an integral part of the reading experience.

    This year marks 80 years since the very first Penguin paperbacks were published. Allen Lane, of the publishing company Bodley Head, founded Penguin Books as a subsidiary in 1935, driven by the ethos that good literature should be available cheaply and to all. While paperbacks had been around since the mid-nineteenth century, Penguin’s initial publication of ten titles, colour coded by genre, the perfect size for travel and costing only sixpence, were an enormous success with the reading public.

    The following year, Penguin became a company in its own right, and the publishing industry was revolutionised. Not only did Lane and his team want to bring great literature to the masses, they weren’t afraid to challenge the status quo. Penguin was the first to openly publish the uncensored edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960, and their subsequent prosecution and trial tested the new Obscene Publications Act 1959, which decreed that publishers could avoid a conviction for publishing obscene material if they could prove the work had literary merit. Penguin was also the publisher of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, a controversial novel which led to a fatwa being issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, on the author and anybody associated with the book.

    Much has changed in the publishing world since 1935, and today Penguin Books is an imprint of the worldwide Penguin Random House. Despite their expansion, they remain dedicated to publishing good literature, at good prices; their central ethos hasn’t changed. The Popular Penguins range, released in 2008 by Penguin’s Australian branch, harks back to the early years of Penguin, and is an eponymous aspect of all bookshops and libraries. With the iconic cream and orange covers, the range now boasts 200 titles in both fiction and non-fiction and is a favourite with readers. To celebrate 80 years in the book business, Penguin has released 80 Little Black Classics—small, stylish volumes excerpted from the Penguin Classics range, around 60 pages each and costing a mere 80p (or $2.99 for us, which is still bloody good). However, the appeal is not just in the price—for those of us who struggle to find time to read for pleasure around thick slabs of course notes, and the essay production lines, the Little Black Classics are a literary blessing. They’re the perfect size for a study break, or to unwind with after a long day. They’re also a great way to discover different authors without committing to a large tome, and they’re so small you can carry a few with you at a time.

    The Little Black Classics range also raises the importance of celebrating literature and reading in general. In a time when our attention is demanded by the latest iPhone model, or the new Jurassic Park film, reading as entertainment has never had so much competition. Anything that serves to remind us of the power and permanence of literature should be emphasised, and the Little Black Classics are positively crying out “Hey! You do have time to read!” Plus, you just can’t beat the satisfaction of reading a book, however small.

    Little Reviews

    Katherine Mansfield—Miss Brill
    The only New Zealand entry to the Little Black Classics, the three short stories in this volume prove once again that Miss Mansfield is worth her weight in words, and is one of our finest literary exports. Miss Brill itself is both picturesque and haunting, a true example of Mansfield’s brilliance. This is the perfect place to start if you haven’t read Mansfield before—aficionados will want to add this to their collection.

    Charles Dickens—The Great Winglebury Duel
    Dickens is not only regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era, but is also a masterful purveyor of comedy (not to mention tragedy). Acquaint yourself with him with this two-tale volume, or if you’re already converted, quench your thirst for Dickens in between classes.

    Hafez—The Nightingales Are Drunk
    It doesn’t get much more romantic than a fourteenth-century Persian poet. Try this: “Life’s garden flourishes when your / Bright countenance is here. / Come back! Without your face’s bloom / The spring has left the year.” That’s sure to impress that guy or gal in your tutorial that you’ve been incessantly Facebook stalking. Knowing a bit of obscure poetry also boosts your literary cred.

    Mary Kingsley—A Hippo Banquet
    Mary Kingsley was a trailblazing Victorian woman, travelling throughout West Africa without a husband to accompany her (gasp) and writing about the people and cultures she encountered. Intelligent and outspoken, she openly criticised Christian missionaries for attempting to convert the African people and corrupt their religion. In this volume you can read about some of her exciting encounters with wild animals. A must for lovers of natural history.

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  • Up and Adam

    On the Adam Art Gallery website, Tim Beaglehole (academic and former Chancellor of Victoria University) talks about art as a way of seeing the world. I’ve long thought about art in this way—as a means of accessing different viewpoints and realities. There’s always something new to discover and entering into that hallowed space always feels like a relief from the fast-paced and (let’s be honest) sometimes humdrum nature of everyday life. This is especially true of contemporary art, which is hugely diverse. As Stephen Cleland (newly appointed curator at the Adam) states, “what is particularly exciting about contemporary art is that it encompasses an increasingly broad scope of materials. One can be working in video, performance, painting or photography or various other media and still be working within this framework of ideas and discussion around culture.”

    Given this, we’re really lucky at Vic to have the Adam—a gallery that has been purpose-built for the University and which delivers an impressive array of contemporary work, in a really stunning space. However, although students may be aware of its existence, I’m not sure they’re as fully conscious as they could be of what it has to offer. For instance, the Adam has “a large public program built around the exhibitions which have free events, people conversing about art, openings and drinks.” In this vein, one of Stephen’s aims is to better connect with the staff and student body, as well as the wider public. While the Adam “is in a position where we want to acknowledge depth, because that’s something we value within our field, we are also in a role where we’re trying to open up contemporary art… people should feel like they’re welcomed when they come to the Adam, that there’ll be information on hand and it won’t be patronising or pretentious.”

    The Adam manages the Victoria University art collection, which is exhibited primarily around campus and sometimes in the gallery. However, exhibitions at the Adam primarily focus on contemporary and temporary work, often with an inter-disciplinary focus. For example the latest show, entitled Drawing Is/Not Building, “involves architects working with an idea of drawing.” This is part of Stephen’s vision for the future of the Adam—that the exhibition program will increasingly “draw in existing knowledge on campus into discussions around the shows with the hope that it opens up our contemporary art program to the larger audience that we occupy.” The temporary nature of the work exhibited—in that much of it is not owned by the Adam—is also a part of this dynamic. As Stephen states, “the freedom of a contemporary art gallery like the Adam… is you can work directly with artists to deliver a more responsive program. You can operate in quite a fleet-footed manner and deliver projects that are more exciting than slower moving, larger organisations.” And I think you do really get a sense of this from frequenting the Adam—the shows feel spontaneous, surprising and always unique.

    Students are also able to get involved—the Adam relies heavily on volunteers to babysit the gallery and help with events. A blog associated with the Adam is also going to be starting soon, giving students the opportunity to write about shows and events. Stephen’s advice for those aspiring to work in the art world is to “get involved in whatever capacity you can… I ran [Window, a contemporary art space at Auckland University] for pretty much no income for a number of years but I was always amazed by the generosity of the community to respond to invitations and take up projects. And then each one of those projects carried a lot of questions. One of the most challenging things for young curators in particular is developing a range of discussion points, for instance being able to be as conversant with a young painter as you are with a new photographer or performance artist, because each one of those practices involves not only a shift in media but an entirely different worldview of concerns so that’s one of the bigger challenges I think. But it’s an exciting one.”

    The current shows, DrawingIs/Not Building and Living Cities 2011, are on until the 28 June. After that, the Adam will hopefully be showing some McCahons, contemporary photography by Andrew Beck and an installation by David Claerbout, where the floor of the space will be transformed into a mirror. Next time you feel like a bit of down time from studying, I highly recommend checking out the exhibitions or coming to one of the events. This is our gallery after all, and it’s so easy—and so good!

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  • The Vaccines—English Graffiti

    ★★★

    The Vaccines were formed in West London in 2010, and have since released two studio albums, toured extensively and opened for acts like Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Stone Roses, Arctic Monkeys and Muse, to name a few. They’ve just released their third LP English Graffiti, following their 2011 release What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? and its 2012 follow-up Come of Age. English Graffiti is certainly not my favourite album of theirs, but it’s a refreshing sound nonetheless and one that delivers the reinvention that was earlier promised with Come of Age.

    The Vaccines teamed up with producers Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Tame Impala, MGMT) and Cole MGN (Ariel Pink, Beck, Nite Jewel) for English Graffiti, an album that the band says they want to sound “amazing next year and then terrible in ten years.” Even when this album sounds like something by The Vaccines, it’s still different to anything you’ve heard before; it’s more kitschy, more colourful and certainly more exaggerated.

    The album opens with “Handsome”, a track that very much sounds like the standard upbeat indie song by The Vaccines. The music video features the band being taught martial arts by an alien, which really kicks off the whole sci-fi vibe of the album. “Dream Lover” is next up and is definitely one to check out—the music video gets a little bit deeper into the sci-fi thing too, just in case you weren’t entirely convinced that it was a theme. This song is one that sees them furthest from their work on past albums, though I have to admit, I’m not particularly sold on it.

    “Minimal Affection” picks up a more electro pop sound. It’s followed by “20/20,” which is the first sense of urgency on the record, and a definite highlight. “(All Afternoon) In Love” is a floaty ballad and is easily the most somber point of the LP. “Radio Bikini” is also worth a mention. It’s a neo-punk grind about the post-WWII bombing of Bikini Atoll and one of the more infectious tracks on the record—it almost feels like a tamer version of The Dead Kennedys’ “Holiday in Cambodia.” “Maybe I Could Hold You” is probably one of the better tracks on the the album; it channels Arctic Monkeys’ AM in a similar way to “Dream Lover” but perhaps pulls it off slightly better.

    All in all, English Graffiti is hard to fault. It’s a good record; it might lose some old fans, but it will certainly win some new ones too.

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  • Four Year Strong—Four Year Strong

    ★★★½

    Pop punk heroes Four Year Strong are all set to drop their new self-titled album via Pure Noise Records. Four Year Strong is the band’s fifth full-length release—their first since being signed to Pure Noise—and there’s currently a leaked version floating around the internet. Should I be reviewing said leaked version? Probably not, but I’m going to anyway.

    Four Year Strong returned to the scene last year, playing Vans Warped Tour after releasing a little teaser in the form of their Go Down In History EP. They’ve had huge success with their previous releases, my favourite (and arguably the best) being 2010’s Enemy Of The World. In 2011, Four Year Strong released In Some Way, Shape Or Form to mixed (read: bad) reviews before disappearing for some time. In the words of guitarist/vocalist Dan O’Connor, “some people felt [the album] was too big of a jump for our band.”

    Four Year Strong didn’t have to achieve much in order for it to be better than the last release, and luckily for everyone, it does just enough. According to O’Connor the new album is “One of the most raw records we’ve ever made, it’s just us playing. No fancy computer shit. Made for singing along and head-banging.”

    Four Year Strong released three songs prior to the release of the album, the first being “We All Float Down Here” in April. This track sees Alan Day reach the top of his vocal range from the very start: “Peel your skin back to show what you’re made of / Too bad you never did have the guts to know where your heart should go.” The title is an obvious reference to Stephen King’s It, and it’s cool to see the band’s penchant for pop culture references still going strong. This release was followed by “I’m A Big, Bright Shining Star” and “Eating My Words,” and all three are definite highlights. The album closes with “Go Down In History” which essentially sounds the same as it did when they released it with their EP of the same name last year, which makes it a little bit anticlimactic as a closing track.

    Four Year Strong is a good album. It’s easily better than In Some Way, Shape Or Form but it’s still a letdown for fans of Rise Or Die Trying and Enemy Of The World. None of the tracks stand out like “Bada Bing! Wit’ A Pipe” or “It Must Really Suck To Be Four Year Strong Right Now”, but it’s a solid album nonetheless.

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  • Destiny: House of Wolves

    House of Wolves, the new downloadable content for Bungie’s Destiny, dropped last week. Like the main title, it is both great and sometimes disappointing.

    Destiny is polarising. People seem to love it or hate it. Destiny is paradoxical. In some ways it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played; in others it’s undeniably, well, shit.

    Let’s talk about what goes right for the game: Bungie is the developer that brought you the original Halo trilogy, Halo: Reach and Halo: ODST. Halo games are, for the most part, mechanically flawless. So is Destiny. Running, driving, jumping, jetpacking, sliding, racking up headshots, and meleeing close enemies all feel superb here. The title is also pretty as hell. Some environments look sterile and uninspired, but it’s hard to argue that the plains of old Russia and your caped space marine don’t look baller as fuck.

    Now I’m given the daunting task of summarising what Destiny does wrong. Got a minute, or ten? Much of Destiny’s world feels lifeless, un-lived-in and bland. Many of the game’s non-playable characters are voiced by big name actors (Peter Dinklage and Bill Nighy, for example) who without exception perform as if they’re really bored. And who wouldn’t be? Destiny aims at being a generation-spanning space opera, but the whole story revolves around fetch quests with little elaborative dialogue (and when there is speech I don’t usually understand what the space nerds mean). Destiny’s gameplay hook is that you repeat very little content over and over in a long grind to become stronger. I am partial to doing meaningless tasks for meaningless progression. Most people are not, and (quite rightly) feel let down as a result.

    Bungie had an excellent opportunity to remedy Destiny’s bevy of issues through downloadable content. The first piece of DLC was called The Dark Below. On this attempt Bungie completely missed the mark. The expansion included three or four new story missions, two new strikes, and a raid. In MMORPG (FPS) speak, that means loads of new opportunities to kill stuff. The issue was that the stuff you were killing was the same as in the main title, and where you were killing it was, with a few exceptions, also the same. The expansion also required players to fully re-level already maxed-out gear to reach the new level cap. At the end of the day The Dark Below got everything that Destiny excels at right, and everything that it fails at wrong.

    So finally we’ve come to last week’s House of Wolves. Last week The Witcher 3 was also released, plus I have essays. The balancing act has been exhausting, but worthwhile. House of Wolves is far superior to the The Dark Below. As expected, new story missions and strikes were made available. A shiny raid was left out in favour of wave-based arena combat, reminiscent of Gears of War’s horde mode. This fresh idea is just enough to mix up what has previously made Destiny’s repetitive combat stale. Fighting oncoming swarms with friends is a tried and true formula, which seems almost original after hundreds of hours of fetch quests. A new one-life-per-round multiplayer mode was dropped too. The tactics and skills employed in this more careful game are in stark contrast to the run and gun combat seen in normal team deathmatch. Bungie also used House of Wolves to fix equipment progression (so you don’t have to do everything over). The uninspired narrative and characters have still not been addressed, but hey, let’s be fair, at this point they’re not what you keep coming back for.

    Destiny is a mechanically sound grind-fest with innumerable problems. It’s a flawed gem. If you did not like the game to begin with, you probably never will. Having said that, the second expansion House of Wolves is the first step in the right direction that Bungie has made thus far.

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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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