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Issue 6, 2016

Environment

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News

  • Eye on the exec: Special IGM edition!

  • Nuclear Security Summit 2016

  • Justin ‘Trudeau’ Lester launches campaign

  • On Thursdays we wear black

  • Renters of the world unite

  • Fishing for better flats

  • Student graduates running scared

  • Yaaaas kween—Aunty Helen might run the UN

  • Nicola Young hates beggars

  • Fun News

  • Students rally for a safer city

  • Features

  • milkshake

    Milkshakedown

    Finn takes a look at the sorry state of our rivers, how they got to be this way, and whether New Zealand could ever do justice to its claim to be ‘100% pure’. It turns out when you talk about rivers you talk a lot about dairy.   However you like to think about this […]

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  • Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 11.22.49 am

    The climate needs to chill

    On November 28 last year about 7000 Wellingtonians marched on parliament demanding action on climate change. Hundreds of thousands more marched across the world: in Beirut and Barcelona, in Mexico and Melbourne. The timing was designed to put pressure on heads of states and diplomats from across the globe who were attending the Paris Climate […]

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  • coffee

    Coffee casts no shade.

    The grey dawn lifts and you can see the afflicted everywhere. The 5:15am train commuters, 6:00am traffic jammers, all members of the collective whole. We are the coffee-toting weekday warriors. We brave the wind, weapon in hand. The coffee cup: our must-have accessory. It is the common brand of the busy and the important. Made […]

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  • milkshake

    Milkshakedown

    Finn takes a look at the sorry state of our rivers, how they got to be this way, and whether New Zealand could ever do justice to its claim to be ‘100% pure’. It turns out when you talk about rivers you talk a lot about dairy.   However you like to think about this […]

    by

  • Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 11.22.49 am

    The climate needs to chill

    On November 28 last year about 7000 Wellingtonians marched on parliament demanding action on climate change. Hundreds of thousands more marched across the world: in Beirut and Barcelona, in Mexico and Melbourne. The timing was designed to put pressure on heads of states and diplomats from across the globe who were attending the Paris Climate […]

    by

  • coffee

    Coffee casts no shade.

    The grey dawn lifts and you can see the afflicted everywhere. The 5:15am train commuters, 6:00am traffic jammers, all members of the collective whole. We are the coffee-toting weekday warriors. We brave the wind, weapon in hand. The coffee cup: our must-have accessory. It is the common brand of the busy and the important. Made […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • What you bring with you to work

    It’s the difficult things that linger. A bad night’s sleep, stress, anxiety, responsibility, fanciful obsessions. Happiness can be a distraction to, romance a guaranteed. Day dreams alone are often enough to pull our attentions elsewhere.

    Fiona Connor’s What you bring to work with you seeks to makes visible the often unseen and unheard labours of the gallery, both physically and by association. Connor, in a beautifully obsessive process, replicated the bedroom windows of nine art gallery hosts. In the upstairs room of the recently re-opened Christchurch City Art Gallery, three of the windows have been recessed into the gallery walls as part of the ongoing group show Above Ground, an exhibition exploring the impact of architecture, imagination, and memory.

    Installed, the windows glass panes give a glimpse into the inner workings of the galleries architecture: the construction of the walls and the supporting framework, rupturing the smooth facade white walls seek to uphold. Easily labeled as a work imploring the theories of institutional critique (a term favoured for work and practices that seek to make visible or challenge the underlying structure of art institutions), What you bring to work with you goes beyond this idea, as who and how the work was made tells an important story.

    The series of windows replicate and reveal a position of intimacy. It is commonplace for the personal life and opinions of the artists to be made public, through their work or its surrounding discussion. One of the roles of gallery hosts is to learn these details, becoming filters through which this information can be shared to visitors. Connor’s windows reverse this relationship, as she entered the homes of the hosts, and further still—to their bedrooms, capturing every part of the original architecture in minute detail. Each crack and stain is represented, the sills are layered with the dust someone didn’t care to clean or was too tired to clean, bars barricading a window belonging to a room that seems barely over a meter wide. The original frames were not perfect nor glamorous, but there is empathy to this humility.

    What you bring to work with you imposes private details into public and institutional space. Its title asks us to consider how the struggle and triumphs we face at home may seep into the working hours. Addressing the structure of the gallery, the works test our expectations of who can share information in these spaces and who has the privilege of being listened to. For residents of Christchurch, the dislocated architecture and exposed building structures will mirror a different story, as the difficulties of re-building are an ongoing reality. While the windows tell but a small piece of each individual’s life, it is worth admiring the detail.

     

    What’s On

    Jae Hoon Lee, Blue Screen, April 7–30.

    Robert Heald Gallery

     

    Contemporary Art Night School with Tina Barton, April 5, 12, 19 from 5.30pm.

    City Gallery Wellington

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  • Five Craziest Reality TV Moments

    Pumpkin Spits on New York—Flavor of Love

    Tiffany “New York” Pollard is the self proclaimed head bitch in charge of reality television. New York created the genre’s trope of the loveable villain, letting nothing get in the way of her and Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav. Very clearly not here to make friends, when her arch enemy Pumpkin was sent home and New York began hurling abuse, Pumpkin turned around and spat in her face. Within seconds New York had lunged forward and grabbed Pumpkin’s hair, dragging her to the ground in a scene more vicious and brutal than any Game of Thrones episode. The fight ended with Pumpkin taken away by security while New York got two (!) spin offs.

     

     

    God Warrior—Trading Spouses

    At it’s core Trading Spouses was just a show about putting together two groups of people with extremely differing ideologies and lifestyles, and watching the chaos that ensued. This worked spectacularly well with Marguerite Perrin, an unstable Evangelical Christian woman who was sent to live with a family who liked New Age stuff like incense and tarot cards, which Marguerite deemed of the occult and “dark sided.” After failing to convert the family to Christianity, Marguerite returned home to her own family to loudly lecture and berate them about the horrible and unholy things she had witnessed, professing herself to be a “god warrior.” It was completely terrifying and you felt sorry for her family. She still took the money.

     

    Everyone Gets Wasted—Rock of Love

    VH1’s Rock of Love saw 20 women compete for the heart of a clump of hair, grease, and raw dough held together with a bandana called Bret Michaels. Lead singer of Poison, Bret takes his girls on a road trip to Vegas to see him in action. After the gig Bret leaves the women with his band backstage to have a drink while he goes off to prepare an elaborate date, but when he arrives back fifteen minutes later everyone is so drunk that they have to be carried to dinner. Lacey is so drunk that she climbs onto a bar table and smashes no less than eighty glasses. Dinner is an elaborate seafood spread, and the sight of oysters causes Brandi M. to gag and as she tries to cover her mouth with a napkin vomit sprays out either side of her hands. While vomiting she tells Bret that she loves him which he finds exceptionally emotional, as did I.


    Liz Shaw’s Audition—New Zealand Idol

    In 2004 New Zealand took it upon itself to adapt the successful Idol series for our televisions and it birthed a national icon. Liz Shaw auditioned for season one and unfortunately didn’t make it to the next round, but she didn’t go down without a fight. After the judges laughed at her strained rendition of Hole’s “Malibu”, Liz became extremely aggressive, calling Paul Ellis’ black clothes “boring,” and Frankie Steven’s bald head “shiny” before storming out hissing, “thanks, I had fun, fuck you.” Liz went on to try stand as an Independent MP in the Auckland Central electorate in 2011, proposing a very literal bridge be built between Auckland and Sydney. She has currently blocked me on twitter.

     

    The Whole Show—The Swan

    Do you remember Extreme Makeover? Not Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, where a tan man experiencing a manic episode built overly expensive houses for poor families and ruined children’s rooms with extreme themes, but the original one where they gave women with low self esteem entirely new faces to fit into society’s rigid eurocentric beauty standards? That show was horrible but even more horrible was The Swan, where the same sort of fragile women were taken and given new identical faces and then forced to compete in a beauty pageant. When the apocalypse begins, everyone who watched this show will go to hell.

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  • A Fairytale For Adults

    The Blue-Bearded Lady, a solo performance by Pipi-Ayesha Evans, hit BATS theatre in March. It is based on the French folktale Blue Beard, a story about a powerful Lord who makes a nasty habit of killing his wives. Evans and her creative team present a subversive theatrical take on a dark, sadistic story. In this version, we follow a woman’s experience of childhood, power, lust, and horror—culminating in an erotic circus spectacle.

    Lady Blue-Beard (Evans) welcomes the audience into the dome, while perched high on an aerial hoop, which she dangles and swoops on throughout the show. As she darts from silk tissue to rope and back to hoop, her strange and unsettling story unfolds. Her accompanying characters are symbolically manifested in a nearly decapitated teddy bear, which represents her alter ego, secretive (as well as confident and callous) husband, Blue. She leads a curiously unconventional life; not wanting the “white picket fence” like the rest of her family. This became increasingly clear as her seductive, mysterious characterisation shifted from playful princess, to taunting stripper, to feral wolf through the show.

    The opening scene is particularly enchanting. Evans wears a white linen skirt stretching from her waist all the way to the ground, and underneath a pair of monstrous stilt legs. Sitting in her hoop, slowly turning at an impressive height, Evans hums the tune to Billy Joel’s “White Wedding”, and occasionally glances at the audience through the reflection of her hand mirror, with a mischievous, seductive smile. She evokes an eerie atmosphere in this first scene, which intrigued the audience from the start.

    In a particularly climactic moment, Lady Blue-Beard reveals to us her husband’s deepest and darkest secret—a sex chamber filled with blood and carcasses. This content alienates the audience, creating unease and confusion. Yet she attempts to lure us back in by moving around the silk tissue tantalizingly. Evans is not your typical graceful, feminine dancer. Instead, she gradually becomes animalistic and sprightly, which is fitting of the ghoulish tale. In the opening scene we see her smear a blue paint beard across her jaw, which enhances her aggressive facial expressions, erratic movements, and impressive circus ability. We see flinging limbs, crawling and snarling, amalgamating in a crescendo of a jarring howl at the moon on the projector.

    The aerial dance and athleticism that Evans brought to the stage were highlights of the show. She performed on the circus apparatus with confidence and ease. Her movement and agility accentuated the spectacle and originality of a circus fairytale. However, without the use of aerial theatricality, Evan’s storytelling techniques and narrative qualities are analogous to thin ice; the audience doesn’t feel very comfortable or safe during her more erotic moments, and some of the dramaturgical elements (such as the teddy bear’s interchanging role) are superfluous to the performance.

    Evans has created something truly unique with The Blue-Bearded Lady. Although the moments of explicit and erotic performance were dubious theatrically, her circus performance saved the show in it’s beautiful aesthetic, and bravery. Evans offers an out-of-the-box dynamic solo piece, adding an eclectic zing to BATS’ calendar this year.

     

    What’s on?

    What: Jekyll and Hyde

    Who: Slightly Isolated Dog (theatre company), directed by Leo Gene Peters.

    Where: Circa Theatre

    When: March 19, to April 16.

    How: Book tickets online at www.circa.co.nz, or call 04 801 7992

    Filled with jokes, improvisation, and a group of sexy and talented actors. Jump along to Circa this month to find out what Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde get up to in this entertaining and interactive piece of theatre.


     

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  • Women and Machines

    When looking at the music industry, a couple of archetypes often come into view. In mainstream music we see females like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, powerful performers supported by the technical knowledge of mostly male producers. But, like most things in our modern world, gender cannot be categorized so easily. Women are taking more technical roles, taking control of their own ideas and changing our perceptions of gender in the music industry. Though there are challenges when facing a male-dominated world that often resists change, these girls won’t be told they can’t. They’re doing their thing, doing it well, and you can too.

    Before I go on to the great empowerment stuff, why has it been so tough in the past for females? Well, as detailed in Feminism 101, it is linked to the hideous evil that is the patriarchy. Really though, when a woman’s role was almost strictly homemaker during the economic boom of the 1960s, most emerging industries were being established entirely by men. Advancements in music-related technologies and software began emerging around the 1980s and 1990s, during which time second-wave feminism was also in boom. However, the music industry was already very comfortable in serving the perspectives of an ‘all boys club’, therefore making audio engineering an out of reach and intimidating prospect for women. The position we were designated was instead as the pretty face to satisfy the male, voyeuristic gaze.

    Before we get the pitchforks out, it’s fair to say we’ve come quite far since then, and things are definitely changing. So what is encouraging females to enter the production game now? Well, we can give a nod of appreciation to the beautiful thing bestowed upon our generation—the internet. With professional audio software only a download click away, and eons of YouTube tutorials about every aspect of the process, we now have as much chance as any dude to sonically express our ideas. Emma Logan, also known as October, has been taking the NZ music scene by storm with her dark synth pop tones. “I had been messing around with GarageBand ever since I was a kid and I was always writing songs on my piano, so I just wanted to translate these acoustic pieces into a more electronic setting.” October could’ve hired a male producer to help with this process, but with the opportunity to do it herself so easily accessible, she took it on for the benefit of her own creative integrity. “I’m very much a firm believer that females are absolutely capable of sitting at home and teaching themselves… I didn’t see the point of taking my songs to someone else where my initial idea was going to be filtered through theirs.”

    It’s also through the support of others that females are rising to the challenge. Katherine Anderson, known by her stage name K2K, makes vaporwave-influenced, ambient house music. At first, she was a little intimidated by the idea of production. “I didn’t start until I was 22 as it seemed so unattainable and unclear how to begin.” But with the help of YouTube tutorials as well as a boyfriend at the time to help her with any added questions, she realized just “how easy it could be.” It might be a bit scary asking others for support, but it can definitely simplify the process. Now K2K has a strong following on SoundCloud and has even gone on to work with the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy in Paris, proving that dedication pays off. “Having someone help you at the early stages isn’t vital, but it does make the process a lot easier.”

    On a similar note, an interesting initiative getting popular is all-female introductory production and DJ classes. There have been many workshops like this popping up everywhere, including New Zealand when Misfit Mod ran classes in Christchurch last August. It provides a friendly, informative space that lets females who are a little intimidated by the practice give it a go. After seeing classes like this across America and Canada, K2K notes that, “so many females want to make music but don’t want to be judged at the early stages of learning… many male producers and DJs can be pretty judgmental and expect you to prove yourself, which is a scary and unproductive environment to learn in.” With such high pressure on girls to be good enough, it’s understandable they might not want to continue something that induces such stress. By providing this space, girls can now relax knowing they will not be judged and can cross initial hurdles with confidence.

    Though this is fantastic progress, we still urgently need to change the out-of-date sexism that a male-dominated industry perpetuates. “Nothing outward is really said but you’re very aware of the fact that you’re female.” K2K tells me of various assumptions that are “standard” for girls in the scene, such as assuming she is only the singer, that someone else produces for her, and people even question who the girl in her SoundCloud picture is, because surely it couldn’t be a girl making such good music right? Could you even imagine?

    Wellington-based Stephanie Engelbrecht, also known for her experimental electronic project as Altar Elektra, has experienced many similar cases during her time as a producer/percussionist. “I’ve had a few paid jobs where I’ve made music for people and either not been given the follow up work I was promised or not been paid at all after I’ve refused to go to dinner with them, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” She also mentions how often during her solo gigs she’s asked if she received her spot because another act playing was her boyfriend. “It can be pretty frustrating. I’ve got a degree in Sonic Arts and spent thousands of hours learning how to do this. I’m here because I work hard and people like what I do, just like any other act.”

    But, please don’t let these stories get you down my friends, because they show just how important it is do something and change the culture for the better! As October puts it, “we need female producers to show we can be just as creative, as technical, and as boundary pushing as men in every aspect of our lives.” By giving it a go, we can deconstruct misconceptions and show that anyone can do anything regardless of what sits between their legs. By creating a more diverse, accepting culture, we create a place that accepts all ideas, that shares and collaborates to create a higher grade of music that expresses a broad range of perspectives. When asked what females bring to production, Altar Elektra makes a great point saying: “it isn’t as clear cut as females can do this and males can’t. We all have unique musical voices based on our experiences, and it’s important that all of these different perspectives receive equal opportunities to be heard.” It’s not just about females, but non-binary and members of the LGBT communities, who need to be represented so that we can connect with their realities and unite for what we are—humans on planet Earth, having a good time dancing together to great bangers.

    Sounds great right? So what can we do to get into this utopian nightclub? Well first off, if producing music has always been of interest to you, get on it! If you feel a bit hesitant, find a friend who will learn with you and take inspiration from current badass female producers. It won’t happen all at once, but if you stick at it you’ll definitely see results. Be the change you wish to see in the world, carpe diem, etc. October goes on to say this: “we are all perfectly capable, intelligent, and able enough to teach ourselves… be bold, be fearless, be fervent, and simply dgaf what others think.”

     

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  • Salt and Sanctuary

    ★★★★½

    Developer/Publisher: Ska Studios

    Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PS Vita, PC (Windows)

     

    This game is Dark Souls. It may be in the form of a two-dimensional platformer, but no matter how you look at it, this game is Dark Souls. And I love it.

    Dark Souls was developed by FromSoftware, and their series of action role playing games have become one of the most prominent franchises in gaming, highlighted by brutal difficulty, layered combat, and grim atmosphere. The games are shamelessly hardcore, and there’s only one way to “git gud” at playing them: dying over and over again. Needless to say, it takes a special kind of mindset to appreciate Dark Souls, but anyone who possesses it is going to love Salt and Sanctuary.

    Almost everything in the game is a core mechanic of solo Dark Souls play. You start off by picking a character class, a weapon, and an item. You collect salt by defeating enemies and use it to level up and upgrade weapons and attributes. The combat involves rolls, parrying and riposting, while managing stamina levels. When you die, you drop all of your salt, respawn at a sanctuary and must retrieve it. You swear an oath to a creed which gives you certain benefits. At certain points, you fight a tough boss that drops a ton of loot upon defeat. You can even leave messages for other players that give tips on how to progress. There’s even a New Game Plus mode.

    Sound familiar? Just replace “salt,” “sanctuary,” and “creed” with “souls,” “bonfires,” and “covenants” and you might get the idea that this is little more than a lazy rip-off. Except it isn’t.

    The translation to a two-dimensional plane and the addition of a jump button, of all things, gives Salt and Sanctuary’s combat a unique edge over typical Dark Souls-like combat, one that may not seem too obvious at first glance. Your character as a whole feels more responsive, and is able to chain light and use heavy attacks more effectively than what is possible in three dimensions. Attacks from the air are key to getting the jump on enemies and are among the most satisfying moves you can pull off. The combat overall feels faster and more aggressive, and while by no means easy, is not as tricky as the comparatively slower and more defensively-oriented combat of Dark Souls. If you’re put off the Dark Souls series because of that, then you may well find a lot to like here.

    The key element that makes this less of a rip-off and more of a tribute is the atmosphere. What makes Dark Souls so great is the idea that danger is always lurking in the darkness, and learning not just to anticipate that danger but to overcome it is your overall goal. Salt and Sanctuary is very much a game about exploring and what the game lacks in visual fidelity it makes up for with the sheer amount of areas to explore. It is very easy to get lost in this world and you probably won’t mind, since there’s a few goodies about, but venturing too far into the darkness may well result in your doom.

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Salt and Sanctuary proves that it understands what makes the very thing it’s imitating so compelling in the first place. Ska Studios may only be a two-person team, meaning the spectacle and scope is somewhat limited, but they clearly love Dark Souls and had the talent to translate it into a great platformer that had me grinning with masochistic joy all the way to the end.

    Don’t get salty about dying though, just git gud you scrub.

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  • Dad’s Army (2016)

    ★★

    Director: Oliver Parker

     

    Dad’s Army is a film adaptation of the popular 1970s BBC series of the same name, and a very limp one at that. The film entails the members of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard Platoon (those too old/young/sick to be in active service) during WW2, and their efforts to “protect” the home front of Britain in fear of a German invasion. There is word of a German spy among those in the coastal town of Walmington-on-Sea, and the Home Guard, led by the pompous and self-righteous Captain Mainwaring (Toby Jones), have to locate the spy before it is too late.

    In the TV series the appeal stemmed from the Home Guard members’ personalities coupled with the inept leadership of Mainwaring, and the resulting attempt by the unit trying to be taken as seriously as possible. However, in the film the tropes and qualities of the characters are present, but it definitely feels like it’s trying too hard to evoke the show.

    The characters are all imitations, with the exception of Sir Michael Gambon as the doddery yet good-hearted Private Godfrey who is impossible to dislike. The focus on Catherine Zeta-Jones as a reporter, and resulting love interests from the platoon, take up way too much screen time.

    While the spy plot is jarring and uninteresting (seeing as the movie spoils their identity 15 minutes in), it would have been better to focus on 90 minutes of pure antics from Mainwaring and his company. I think honestly, the show’s format doesn’t work for a film, and the overall direction is proof. Cutting between a German agent being shot in a confrontation and Mainwaring banging his head on a coffee table definitely shows it.

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  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

    ★★

    Director: Zack Snyder

     

    Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Just by the title, you know what you’re getting in for with this film. Not only is it the story of the two title characters’ titanic clash, it’s also the springboard for the countless upcoming DC films—primarily the Justice League, which is partially set up in this movie. And, that doesn’t even cover the half of it. A more apt title would be Batman v Superman feat. Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor: Dawn of Endless Sequels. There you go, a title as bloated as the film it describes.

    Yes, at just a smidge over the two and a half hour mark, and stuffed with dozens of characters and dozens of subplots, this thing is bloated. It may sport the two heavy weights of comic book lore, but short of some spot-on casting, occasional flares of writing and action (the kind that should come easy given the source material), this latest entry from DC does not have a hell of a lot going for it. The majority of the film is stuffed to bursting in several keys ways. Visually the CGI is in-your-face and out of place, and will have many longing for the crisp realism and practicality of Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Even outside the spectacle, director Zack Synder drenches every frame in excessive filters, draining the life from most of the drama. The action at best is exhilarating (one of two Batman sequences spring to mind), though it is often bland and weightless, and at worst feels like being cinematically water-boarded. Even the score at times feels overwhelming and supremely over-dramatic despite the film itself having barely a scrape of drama to cling to.

    Don’t give me the old “it’s only a comic book movie,” because to be honest some of them rock, and just because this one has Batman AND Superman (and a budget that could economically stabilise at least three impoverished nations) this isn’t one of them.

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  • The Big Short (2015)

    ★★★★

    Director: Adam McKay

     

    I laughed a lot for a movie about one of the most severe events of our lifetime. Director Adam McKay probably didn’t want to produce something gloomy and prescriptive. But, despite the light-hearted portions, the film has a serious message—and its late 2015 release is surely no coincidence with the impending US election. It flicks between comedy and at times horror, which may seem synthetic, despite the film being based on Michael Lewis’ bestseller book by the same name. 

    At the centre of the story, Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is a socially awkward hedge fund manager. His analysis of the 2005 debt market finds an extremely high probability of a market collapse in 2007. Pitching the concept of a credit default swap (CDO) on housing to investment banks, who consider real estate to be stable as ever, he is able to ‘short’ the market by 100s of millions. Subplots for the other characters revolve around Burry’s quest to profit from economic disaster. Two fund managers (Finn Wittrock & John Magaro), mentored by Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), obtain the financing necessary to buy in on the CDO deal; and Mark Baum (Steve Carrel) uses his dealer desk gang to short the market and condemn (with no effect) the banks responsible for the mass loss of middle class wealth and job security. 

    The movie works, firstly because of the acting. Carrell is convincing as a hedge fund manager with an atypical conscience. Some method actors need months in a character’s environment to evolve into the role, but you can imagine Carrell’s ease of becoming the real Mark Baum as soon as the overgrown hair parting is swept right and the plaid suit comes on. Eccentric, he contrasts Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) who epitomizes the Wall Street metonym. Goslings’ character is at all times smooth as he narrates and then administers the plot as a CDO brokering Deutsche Bank subordinate.

    The second great thing about the movie is the editing. While the dramatic scenes are sequenced like a documentary, the comedic scenes contain deliberate breaches of continuity. Further spontaneous cutaways with celebrities explaining key buzzwords (as an acknowledgement that Wall Street jargon is not understood by all) help to control the pace. Consequently, Margot Robbie explaining the logistics of collateralized debt obligations while in a bath may extinguish the bitter mood, but McKay compensates by making the next course more intensely anti-Wall Street flavoured. 

    Go in craving Wolf of Wall Street; come out sticking Sanders’ bumper stickers on your car.

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  • Dispatches from Continent Seven: An Anthology of Antarctic Science

    ★★★★★

    Author: Rebecca Priestley

    Publisher: Awa Press

     

    In this book’s introduction, as editor and science historian Rebecca Priestley writes of the all-encompassing cold of Antarctica, I am overcome with trepidation. “I know that even if there were something seriously wrong with me—Why can’t I breathe?—I would be stuck here,” she writes. Her words start to explain the isolation and inhospitality of the continent, the same place that nevertheless continues to lure people—scientists, artists, nature enthusiasts—from all over the world. The pull of Antarctica has persisted since before it was first sighted, when people dreamed of what might exist at the bottom of the world. It is a place that has never really welcomed us, and yet we cannot stay away.

    This impressive volume is a collection of stories from all ages of human habitation on “Continent Seven,” focusing on scientific endeavour. After all, harnessing the history of this land is key to understanding the future of our planet. The earliest explorers, such as Captain James Cook, James Clark Ross, and Robert Falcon Scott, made important discoveries that paved the way for future scientists. Today, the game-changing discoveries continue. In “A page from the ice diary”, Nancy Bertler describes the Roosevelt Island Climate Evolution project, a three-year ice drilling venture aimed at predicting the speed at which the Ross Ice Shelf and the West Antarctic Ice Shelf will deteriorate in response to the earth’s warming climate. A chilly thought. Kathryn Smith writes of warming ocean temperatures causing the invasion of the king crab on Antarctica’s continental shelf, threatening the vulnerable creatures who live there.

    While science is the prevailing subject, the poets get a look-in too: Bill Manhire writes of a leopard seal playing with its penguin dinner; Ashleigh Young imagines the inner life of krill. Looking at scientific events through the eyes of an artist might seem at odds with the whole idea of science, and yet there is more than one way of observing the natural world; the poetry collected here skillfully captures the immensity and wonder of Antarctica.

    There is so much to discover in this beautifully compiled book. Some stories will appeal more to others, but with not a scientific bone in my body, I found myself enthralled by even the most jargon-heavy passages. It seems that Antarctica has that kind of effect on people.

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  • Ocean Notorious

    ★★★★★

    Author: Matt Vance

    Publisher: Awa Press

     

    Matt Vance, like many brave souls before him, felt the pull of the South well before he glimpsed his first iceberg. When he took a job as a lecturer and Zodiac driver on a ship shuttling adventurous travellers down into the depths of the Southern Ocean, it was the beginning of a lifelong passion for conservation and education concerning the bountiful waters, lands, and species of the South.

    Ocean Notorious contains stories of Vance’s encounters with the South, as well as of those who went before him: Scott, Shackleton, and Amundsen racing to reach the South Pole and making extraordinary discoveries along the way; the New Zealanders who kept watch for enemy ships from the Auckland and Campbell Islands during the Second World War; Gerry Clark, a “fearless sailor” whose passion for seabirds lead him into oceanic turbulence time and again. Divided into three sections—“Islands”, “Ocean”, “Ice”—Vance has given us a look at the different aspects of human and animal endeavour in one of the toughest climes on Earth.

    Far from a passive observer, Vance tells us of how he took matters into his own hands on subantarctic Macquarie Island, overrun with rabbits that were introduced by early sealers, and which had multiplied to wreak havoc on the ecosystem. He wrote letters to the Australian minister for the environment on his numerous visits to the island. In 2007, thanks to the tenacity of people like Vance, the largest pest eradication programme ever attempted was carried out successfully on Macquarie. It’s a satisfying story to read, and speaks of the urgency we face to respond to the degradation of our fragile planet. As Vance shows, every letter counts.

    It’s invigorating to read the words of somebody so enamoured with a place, or several places as is the case here. We follow Vance from towering seas and rocky islands to the frozen continent of Antarctica, standing with reverence in Shackleton’s hut and watching the teeming wildlife—penguins, seals, whales. This book truly is a tribute, and I am filled with respect and awe for these places I will likely never go.

    by

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    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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