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Issue 20, 2016

Body

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News

  • Apparently Winston cares about u

  • VUWSA elections getting lit

  • Students to be deported

  • State housing shortage

  • Lincoln Uni gets desperate

  • Lester Gets Set to Get Wet

  • Students speak up for Fairer Fares

  • Counting on change

  • Room for more students from China

  • Fun news

  • Features

  • charlie

    We demand choice over our bodies

    When the media talk about transgender people the discussion will often focus on genitals. The question “have you had the surgery” regularly comes up. But it is not that simple. Not all transgender people wish to medically transition; some people only want certain procedures and this does not make them any less trans. Medical transition […]

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  • sharon

    Searching for a hands-free orgasm just made me angry and horny

    Orgasms that don’t require any physical touch have long been discussed in department store whispers. First comes salad, then comes yoga, then come orgasmic meditation workshops. Is there any truth to these fully clothed, hands-free orgasms, or are they just another fad popularised by people who have a bit more time and a bit more […]

    by

  • itchy

    Itchy

    They always covered up the parts they hated most. Stretch-marked thighs and blemished skin, but now they had a bigger problem. It started as a pimple just above their belly button. Overnight it multiplied and darkened. So they told no one and drew a line around the patch of miscellaneous rash, hoping to track its […]

    by

  • charlie

    We demand choice over our bodies

    When the media talk about transgender people the discussion will often focus on genitals. The question “have you had the surgery” regularly comes up. But it is not that simple. Not all transgender people wish to medically transition; some people only want certain procedures and this does not make them any less trans. Medical transition […]

    by

  • sharon

    Searching for a hands-free orgasm just made me angry and horny

    Orgasms that don’t require any physical touch have long been discussed in department store whispers. First comes salad, then comes yoga, then come orgasmic meditation workshops. Is there any truth to these fully clothed, hands-free orgasms, or are they just another fad popularised by people who have a bit more time and a bit more […]

    by

  • itchy

    Itchy

    They always covered up the parts they hated most. Stretch-marked thighs and blemished skin, but now they had a bigger problem. It started as a pimple just above their belly button. Overnight it multiplied and darkened. So they told no one and drew a line around the patch of miscellaneous rash, hoping to track its […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • Angel Olsen—My Woman

    ★★★½

    Love songs are a tricky thing to pull off. You run the risk of sounding too cheesy, insincere, or, god forbid, you get in a bit too deep and create something so embarrassing I have to turn that shit off midway through.

    So then how does Angel Olsen fare? After her 2012 release Half Way Home I’ll admit I felt her follow up Burn Your Fire For No Witness stepped in a lot of the right directions, but it lacked the visceral impact I was after. My Woman makes more of these moves and combines her dreamy, silky smooth, voice with some absolutely gorgeous 50/60s rock and roll guitar tones, making a sound almost like that of Fiona Apple, or a more hyped up version of Joanna Newsom. It’s an alluring combo and on first listen I was enamoured.

    When I was 14 I felt the same way about a girl in my English class. She was funny, smart, and made my puberty-wracked body feel kinda strange. I did my best at being séduisant and before I knew it (and to my amazement) we were in a very teenage sense dating. We went to movies, we went to cheap cafes—the usual fare. It was exactly what I wanted, exactly the way I thought it should go.

    But within a couple of weeks it was still just that. It seemed we were following some kind of script unknowingly. I wasn’t entirely sure if I was doing something right or wrong. People had always told me about the spark, the passion—was it simply I was too young?

    I became distant. She noticed, it quickly ended. I wasn’t sure how to feel. I wasn’t happy, but at the same time I wasn’t particularly upset either. In retrospect I’m pretty sure she felt the same way. We were just going through the motions, carrying on in a way that was expected of us. Now that I think about it I don’t even know if she actually liked me that much.

    This is the same way My Woman makes me feel. It’s a logical progression and a step in the right direction. Everything sounds heartfelt and nice, but underneath there is a sense of the calculated, the expected. I wanted something more; I wanted something that I wasn’t expecting; I wanted to feel like someone had gone out of their way to make something that felt genuinely special. All the motions are here, but it doesn’t feel quite right.

    But I’m torn. I cannot deny the way I felt after first listen, and for those whose only exposure to Olsen will be this album, it’s a modern masterpiece in romantic storytelling. It’s laden with as much humor as it is heartfelt and undying love. Cheesy lines like “shut up and kiss me” are presented in a way that makes you genuinely want to do it. Olsen deftly avoids all the pitfalls so many modern love songs succumb to.

    In a sense this album is representative of the way a lot of relationships fall apart. Everything seems so exciting at first, but one quickly falls into a routine. Spontaneity falls by the wayside and you’re left with a hollow feeling. But you can’t put a score on love, and I guess I have to put a score on this album.

    Angel Olsen will perform at San Fran (Wellington) on December 13.

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  • The New Punk Rock

    A new phenomenon has become observable within Wellington as of late: the return of the artist-run space. Artist-run spaces take many shapes and forms, from windows to garages, to some of the starkest industrial bunkers you could find, all the way to the classic wooden floor, white walls loft. Artist-run spaces have been a pillar of the New Zealand art landscape for the past 20–30 years, but I had feared that in the last three or four years Wellington has been lacking these vital fledgling initiatives.

    Artist-run spaces are often the culmination of a group of ambitious young artists testing ideas and models that challenge our everyday lives, and go outside of the worry-filled, future-centric thought that ‘University, Careers, and Society’ inflict upon us. Artist-run spaces are (hopefully) free thinking, radical, experimental places that young artists use to propose new ideas, new thinking, and new systems for us to cope—or not—with the world we currently reside in. They are the punk rock of a crispy clean art world.

    Thats right, punk AF. Enjoy Gallery was originally conceived as an artist-run space; a small group of Ilam art school graduates from Christchurch moved up and took themselves seriously. Enjoy continues today, 16 years on, as a pillar of the Wellington art community supporting both emerging and established artists year in year out. Dilohanna Lekamge’s solo show—FOR ANY WHO COME TO TAKE FROM HERE—is currently being exhibited at Enjoy until the September 17, with an artist talk on Thursday, September 15, at 5.30pm. This is the work that got me thinking about writing for this issue of Salient, the body issue. Dilohanna uses the confrontation and beauty of the body and her practice explores notions of diaspora and the emotional distance from women’s issues in Sri Lanka where she was born. I have been exposed to Dilohanna’s work right through art school until now and it is uniquely conflicting, both serene and grating, and equally radical. I wanted desperately to write about her work and her current show, but I haven’t yet been able to see it. I promise to see it though, you should too!

    Dilohanna’s show / work got me thinking about rad emerging artists in Wellington, which led me to these new spaces that are popping up. It is something I am particularly passionate about; I have been writing about and trying to set up numerous spaces and projects for the last two to three years. Now some other people are actually getting their shit together and nailing it!

    The most recently established is Meanwhile: a curious space that has been set up by Callum Devlin, Jesse Bowling, Jordana Bragg, with a bunch of other supporters. It is a pokey office-y looking space right next to the Police Station at 35 Victoria Street. What a place to be, smack bang in the centre of the CBD, near the Library, and right next to what could be the clearest manifestation of the state. I couldn’t think of anywhere better to be disrupting the corporate mass flooding by throughout the day, to be presenting alternative ideas to the embodiment of our contemporary neoliberal society. The most recent show was The Welcoming Party’s Free Time. The Welcoming Party are a performance collective made up of Elisabeth Pointon and Lucas Donnell; a formidable duo of zany random acts of kindness, surprise, and celebration, their actions disrupt the rigid normality of the every day. They cause curiosity and query in whatever public audience that might be party to their antics—my favourite so far BYOGA (bring-your-own-yoga, get it?). This is the sort of work that I am excited about being presented in emerging artist-run spaces. Wacky eccentric work that challenges the perceptions of Art’s (yes capital A) inaccessibility.

    Another space named Playstation is about to open in the coming weeks on Egmont Street. They are booked up with shows for the rest of the year and I am stoked to see what will come out of our new mini Art-World. Exciting and challenging ideas is what I’m dreaming of. Keep your eye out on Facebook etc. and make the effort to get out and support these new spaces. These young artists are literally starving themselves to afford to operate these spaces, so get there and show them that you like people doing rad stuff (whether you are into it or not—and let them know what you think!).

     

    What’s on:

    The horror of nothing to see

    Elijah Winter at Meanwhile (35 Victoria St)

    September 7, 5.30pm

     

    For any who come to take from here

    Dilohanna Lekamge at Enjoy Gallery (Level 1/147 Cuba St)

    August 25 to September 17

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  • Mr Robot, Season Two

    ★★★★★

    Hello, friend. Everybody wants to rule the world—to have control over their surroundings, to feel safe, to be aware of everything going on around them. But control is an illusion; a skewed perception of your own security where you hide the truth to protect yourself. It’s just a matter of how deep in the illusion you are.

    If you haven’t seen the engrossing first season, Mr Robot follows Elliott Alderson, a twenty-something security engineer for cyber security company AllSafe. Elliott suffers from severe depression and social anxiety that he manages with a morphine addiction, weekly visits with a therapist, and by hacking every single person around him to try and feel closer to them. When Elliott is approached by a hacker group, fsociety, led by the enigmatic Mr Robot he is given the opportunity to be a part of something huge, as the group plan a large-scale data hack to erase global digital debt.

    Often when I try to describe the premise of Mr Robot I worry it can seem a bit off putting in a pretentious way, coming across as a Fight Club-esque fantasy penned by a 4chan basement activist. There are a lot of opportunities for that to happen—the masks and all the political allegories can come across a little heavy handed—but the show always manages to save itself by being just so damn smart. I can’t imagine the stacks of notebooks, or rather desktop folders, show creator / writer / director Sam Esmail has to keep track of the world he has created. Not since Lost has my brain been so full of theories and questions, but luckily Mr Robot has a good record of actually tying up all these loose ends.

    In writing about season two there is not a lot I can talk about in regards to the actual plot: not because it’s lacking, but because Mr Robot is a richly satisfying psychological puzzle that I would hate to spoil for anyone. What I can say is that after the events of the first season, fsociety continues to function and taunt the rich and powerful in an increasingly dystopian reality, with Elliott attempting to remain off the grid while being slowly dragged back into the world of Mr Robot whether he likes it or not. If you thought the first season had twists, prepare to be left dizzy and be careful of extreme whiplash around the halfway point. Constantly anticipating plot twists can often be exhausting and disappointing, but Mr Robot is so well crafted that you can appreciate each turn, no matter how abrupt and gutting it can be. It’s a show that isn’t afraid to completely flip its own world upside down and leave you struggling to steady yourself again and you can’t even be mad because you’re too busy admiring the set up.

    Rami Malek, now with a fresh Emmy award for his portrayal of Elliott in season one, returns with even more intensity and fragility than thought humanly possible, especially for an actor whose biggest credit until now was Night at the Museum. Christian Slater is back for more deception and scheming as Mr Robot, along with BD Wong from SVU as Whiterose, leader of the Chinese hacker group the Dark Army. There are some pleasantly surprising cameos in comedian Craig Robinson (Pineapple Express, Hot Tub Time Machine) as the delightfully evil Ray, and rapper Joey Bada$$ as Elliott’s new friend, Leon. Esmail has stated he so far has up to five seasons of Mr Robot planned and, as frustrating as that sounds, I am so very ready.

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  • ORPHANS—A play that challenges notions of belonging

    How does one navigate their sense of belonging, family, and home in the world? How do these notions play a part in adult life and how far will one go to preserve and protect these quintessential notions of kinship? These are the compelling and resonant questions put forward in Lyle Kessler’s hauntingly captivating play ORPHANS, directed by Stella Reid, and performed this year at BATS Theatre. 

    ORPHANS is a highly acclaimed play, nominated for the Tony Award. It is successful in all aspects: from its intriguing characters Phillip, Treat, and Harold and their dynamic relationship, to the captivating narrative, complete with twists and turns, surprises and familiarities, that keeps the audience on edge. However this review isn’t about how well written ORPHANS is, but how well it was brought to life by the eyes and hands of Wellington theatre practitioners—as this was New Zealand’s premiere of the production. 

    Treat and Phillip are the yin-yang orphaned brothers who live together-alone in their tired, cluttered household. Treat, the hot-tempered and hyper-masculine older brother, is extremely protective of his younger brother Phillip. Phillip, the careful and sensitive listener of the pair, discovers where he is in the world by watching 1930s films and the strangers who walk past his living room window. It is never explicitly stated when their parents disappeared, but we do know that Phillip treasures his parents’ wardrobe as a place for hiding and spying on visitors.

    One particular visitor marks the turning point in the boys’ lives. Harold, an old, rich businessman with a dodgy history, first appears when Treat drags drunk Harold back to their home, in an attempt to rob him. Phillip finds in Harold a newfound father figure and Harold hires Treat as his bodyguard, utilising Treat’s intimidating and “violent nature,” but only momentarily is he satisfied with this. Slowly but surely Treat becomes overly suspicious of Harold’s paternal antics, and the older brother staggers into a downward spiral of paranoia and torment. In the end, the tables between the brothers are turned and we discover that it is Treat that relies more on Phillip. 

    The cast sustained a high level of energy throughout the 90 minute performance. Each actor portrayed a uniquely charismatic and daring interpretation of their character. K. C. Kelly enriched Harold as the charming and undeniably slippery adoptee father, Andrew Patterson was the boisterous yet troubled Treat, and Jimmy O’Donovan gave an irresistibly idiosyncratic characterisation of lovable, quirky Phillip. 

    The set design work as the audience gets to see each character move about the small home, and as the story reveals itself, so too do the intricacies of the home. Clarke-Edwards’ set is so meticulously detailed, that we get a palpable sense of ‘living’: from the full tuna cans, to the mess of videotapes, the flickering of the TV screen onto the walls of the house, and Treat’s careless flicking of mandarin skins. You can almost smell the house, taste it. The home was a character in and of itself. By the end of the play I wanted to go and inspect the hundreds of personal items left awash on the stage. 

    The world of ORPHANS, in Reid’s words, is an “altered state, a place halfway between magical realism and statement.” I heartily commend the ambitious staging, and for the most part this intention was effectively realised. However the lighting and sound design could have been made clearer through a more progressive introduction into the magical-realist world. While the off-skew bursts of lighting and sound helped to create a sense of danger, oddity, and surrealism, at times they detracted from the drama onstage.  

    Reid’s team of designers, actors, and production staff did an astounding job in presenting a play both funny and thrilling. When I chatted to the team members, I was dumbfounded to know that they put this production together in just four weeks! ORPHANS felt so full and resounding. To hear that each member of cast and crew worked their asses off to create something with such dramaturgical flow, that complemented and supported the performance, made me excited about experiencing and making theatre again.

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  • Young Thug—JEFFERY

    ⠆⠏⠐⠓

     

    Catch ’em down bad

    Beat ’em with a bat, hashtag that

    I call it New Jack, yeah, yeah

    Bitch, I got a blue Jag

    I make that cash talk

    Bitch, I got a new house

    You wanna get in, need a passcode nigga

    — “Harambe”

     

    I will never be as cool as Young Thug is. I will never have the confidence to release a rap mixtape while wearing a Edo-era-esque dress, looking like a next level samurai. I will never be brave enough to release tracks titled after my idols, unironically naming one “Harambe” (dicks out). And for all of these reasons I think Young Thug is by far one of the best artists to explode into popularity in the last half decade.

    Let’s work through this, one piece at a time, as there is a lot to decode. First things first, the dress. Designed by Alessandro Trincone, it is quite possibly one of the biggest indicators as to how Young Thug transverses gender divides; he brings androgyny, intersexualism, and aesexualism into the mainstream rap lexicon. Bringing haute couture into an industry that was dominated by a singular image less that 15 years ago is a brave move, and one I can’t think of any other artists replicating. It’s also the perfect launching point for just how fluid Thuggers music can be.

    As an example, in “Harambe” (we’ll get to the name later) Thugger bombastically boasts about taking care of his own family, before delivering a voice-crackingly desperate line about how he’ll kill every member of your family if he has to. This flexibility in subject is only rivalled by how he can bend his voice. In the next track, “Weebie”, he replaces his rage-fuelled delivery with almost soulful singing. It’s this division of styles, attempting various vocal chops without fear of how it might be interpreted that makes Thugger so interesting. While the delivery method he uses is impeccable, it’s clear that it’s secondary to the message he’s trying to get across.

    Ok, the titles. Naming each track after an influence in your life is hard, as it will undoubtedly draw comparisons to the artist / individual they’re named after. Yet Thugger navigates this masterfully, adapting each track to contain callbacks to each person. “RiRi” uses the repetition of the word “work” to parallel Rihanna’s track of the same name. “Guwop” uses Gucci Mane’s comedic influences and weaves them with drug slang. And “Harambe”, well, from a literal interpretation has a lot of references to shooting in it, but at the same time is a perfect representation of Young Thug himself. To a lot of people he started life as a meme, but he has managed to enter the wider world as a discussion point with no correct answer—a niche that has entered the modern mainstream, something which you can’t say with certainty is a joke or not, delving so deep into post-post-irony that you don’t really know what’s real anymore.

    But before this review derails any further, let’s take a step back. JEFFERY is a stylistically varied, exceedingly modern release. It showcases Young Thug incredibly well; his vocal range, flow flexibility, and ability to create music that is representative of a moment in time are all put in the limelight. If you’re looking to get into Young Thug this is an excellent starting point before heading into his more avant-garde releases.

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  • Move along, nothing to see here…

    By the time you read this the good people at Sony Interactive Entertainment will probably have announced the PS4 Neo, along with a new slim model of the original PS4, at a media event in New York. Certainly, the Neo is interesting enough by itself, but the latter has something of a buzz surrounding it, because at the time of writing (September 2) Sony, for whatever reason, have refused to admit that the slim model is even a thing, even when the proof is right in our faces.

    First pictures of the new console were leaked courtesy of a listing from an auction site on August 21, showing how the new unit looks and some of its functionality. A couple of days later, an unboxing video from YouTube user ZRZ gave us an even better look at it, but it was taken down as a result of copyright claims from Sony. But the work of games journalist Laura Kate Dale really takes the cake; not only did she manage to buy a slim PS4 off eBay, but she wrote a full review and made an unboxing video, confirming beyond a shadow of a doubt that this thing is real and you will probably be able to buy it soon.

    I’m pretty sure someone over at PlayStation HQ is red in the face over this. They shouldn’t be.

    Leaks like this happen all the time. It’ll come up whenever the latest iPhone model is around eight months old, starting the hype train for all the Apple fanboys. Whether it’s from the factory or a retailer that doesn’t mind breaking the street date, it happens, and it no longer surprises me when it does. Hell, I am surprised the PS4 Neo or the Nintendo NX haven’t been leaked in any meaningful way, even though I’m pretty damn sure they’re coming. There are also plenty of media outlets, especially in the gaming press, desperate for anything like this that will give them clicks and views, meaning more precious ad revenue, and there’s audiences out there equally desperate to gobble it all up.

    The real test comes when companies affected by leaks have an opportunity to respond. It’s kind of a tough spot: once the information is out there, it is difficult to bring under your control, potentially damaging your reputation depending on the circumstances. In this case, Sony have said nothing official and are unlikely to until the media event on September 7, which has made them look a little foolish. The aforementioned takedown notices were some unnecessary dickishness, but they seem content at the moment to just let the wave of hype build up some momentum until they can ride it without too much trouble. Laura’s review is still up, and it seems as though it will stay, and since it’s some damn fine journalism it should stay.

    I get it Sony, you wanted to show off your new toy, but someone decided to steal your thunder and show it off instead. Just put it out and don’t be a dick about it, okay?

    By the way, in case you’re curious, the slim PS4 actually looks kind of nice. It’s not really an improvement over the current model in terms of performance, which is a bit of a shame, but it should provide a cheaper option for those on a budget. The more notable changes include the removal of the optical port (which the audiophiles can worry about), an accessible bay for easier hard drive replacement, and a light bar on the controller. Other than that, it’s a smaller PS4, nothing more.

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  • Me Before You

    ★½

    Director: Thea Sharrock

     

    Aptly named “Me Before You,” this cinema adaption of Jojo Moyes 2012 novel follows Will Traynor’s journey as he learns to live with a disability. Bitter that he has to give up his adventurous lifestyle after a tragic accident, Will is reluctant to accept that his life is not bound to his wheelchair. Will (played by Sam Claflin) lives as a stubborn and cynical recluse in his parents’ country home. Endlessly going through caregivers due to his relentless bad attitude, Will doesn’t give any less attitude when quirky, eccentric, and undertrained Lou (played by Emilia Clarke) shows up. The Traynor family believes that Lou’s peculiar (to put it mildly) and stubborn personality might push Will out of his glum state of mind and open his eyes to the beauty of living life to the fullest no matter the circumstances.

    However I felt that this message was lost as Me Before You took a bizarre turn for the worst. (Spoiler alert). After establishing a romantic connection on vacation, Will drops the untimely bomb that he intends to fly to Switzerland to be euthanized. This shocking plot twist comes after the audience (and Lou) learn that Will only ever intended to ‘try’ to live with his disability for six months before he would leave the country to undergo the life-ending procedure that is still illegal in the US. Obviously distraught, Lou begs Will not to go through with his decision, but to no avail, and the film ends with a scene in which Will’s voice-over encourages Lou to “live well.”

    I thought it was pretty shocking that such a controversial topic was treated in such a way. This is not to say that the film was an advocate for people living with disabilities to ‘give up’ on living, but I think the issue could have been approached with a little more taste. Yes, the film exemplifies the difficulties of living with a disability or mental illness and it’s great to see these issues being addressed in films (see Still Alice for a great film that addresses mental illness), but killing off the main character for lack of trying to “live well” felt rather blunt and made me feel as though the film’s overarching message was invalid.

    What carried the film for me was Emilia Clarke’s performance. Playing an oddball worked for her, and she definitely brought most of the humour to the film. In classic rom-com style, the buildup to the romantic climax was highly anticipated, and Clarke’s loveable character made it that much easier to get on board with Will and Lou’s relationship, which until this point had ticked all the romantic comedy boxes for me.

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  • The Shallows

    ★★★½

    Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

     

    It really is a travesty that possibly one of the scariest beasts Mother Nature has ever cooked up has been utilised to such little effect on screen. In 1976 audiences were terrified by Jaws, and in 1999 Samuel L. Jackson was claimed by a great white in one of the most unintentionally funny deaths of all time, but other than that sharks seem to be more parodies on screen than legitimate threats. There are three awful Jaws sequels, and three awful Sharknado films—hardly the justice the creature deserves. I’d take Freddy, Jason, and Buffalo Bill any day over a six foot marine serial killer, and after watching the events unfold in The Shallows I’m sure Blake Lively would agree with me.

    Thankfully this film is far more Jaws than Sharknado, and left me surprisingly entertained. The prologue may not be a selling point, with cringy dialogue and over-exposed footage drenched in instagram filters, but once Lively hits the waves the film locks into a tense, fiercely engaging, episode of Lively versus shark. The director makes good use of a bobbing, semi submerged camera and the isolated setting to reduce the narrative to its bare bones—much like what the shark is trying to do to the protagonist. The use of colour is also fantastic, particularly the explosive red of blood in the dark blue water, and the setting always feels authentic, even down to the natural lighting. Blake Lively does exceptionally well as a person in dire straits trying to preserve themselves, and she sells the pain and terror effortlessly. Her companion (i.e. the shark) in this piece is equally as solid; the shark’s special effects always add up to scares, and never comic relief. The two bring together a decent, if simple, thriller that may give you pause to wade into the water come summer.

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  • Kubo and The Two Strings

    ★★★★★

    Director: Travis Knight

     

    Kubo and The Two Strings is the latest stop motion animation film from Laika Entertainment, the people who brought us the very entertaining Paranorman and The Boxtrolls, and probably scarred a lot of children for life with Coraline. Set vaguely in ancient China, the film tells the story of young Kubo who must leave his village on a perilous quest, along with a talking monkey, a small origami samurai, and a cursed warrior who has been transformed into a six foot beetle-warrior. It sounds quirky and offbeat (it is), and makes for a film in which Laika rises to a new height of filmmaking.

    Nearly every aspect of this film is outstanding, and will hopefully do as much for adults as it does for kids. The animation is brilliant and imaginative. It is a deeply textured and beautifully lit world which is wonderful to get lost in, and has an evocative story woven in. This film actually teaches and engages, and more importantly asks for the audience’s imagination. After watching the visual upheaval that was Angry Birds earlier this year, it is refreshing to see a children’s film that is restrained and thoughtful, rather than a buffet of exploding colours, punchlines, and pop songs. The voice talent on display is also top notch, with Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey both trumping their previous performances in animated films.

    Most notable though is Art Parkinson (aka Rickon “should-have-zig-zagged” Stark—GoT fans will get what I mean here) as Kubo, who carries most of the narrative and emotional weight of the film. Overall this is a refreshing side-step from the usual animated fare, and warrants a lot more attention and admiration than it is getting. So if you’re tossing up between that Blake Lively shark movie, the godawful looking Ben Hur remake, and the Richie McCaw movie (which for some reason exists?), maybe check this one out instead.

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  • This Is How You Lose Her

    ★★★

    Author: Junot Díaz

    Publisher: Riverhead Books

     

    Junot Díaz shoots straight from the hip; swear words and sad lives and all. The people in his stories drink, they smoke weed until they can’t feel anything, they sleep with “putas”—careful to note their ethnicity and the shape of their bodies.

    Yunior, the young Dominican guy that keeps popping up across this short story collection, is ill-fated and ill-fitted for the life he’s been given. Spread amid a scattering of different tales concerning Dominican existence in the US, Díaz chronicles Yunior’s desperate romances (if romance is the right word) over his early years, with merciless details of his pride, his selfishness, and his self-loathing. You can’t believe anyone could bear to live for long in such a tragedy—a life defined by frustration. I wonder if any of this is autobiographical? But I didn’t bother googling it.

    I think you need to just sit in your response to this work for a while. Tell yourself no one really lives that way, it’s just a story, people have more hope than that. Which is true—Díaz has a sort of restricted perspective which is unique to his personality, like every author—but that doesn’t mean he’s alone. His characters feel real. And, incidentally, he’s been glorified by the New York literary types, specifically the New York Times’ critic Michiko Kakutani. His work resonates with them, at least, which proves something.

    This Is How You Lose Her is a searing, disorienting account of a broken community in America; a Dominican diaspora unhinged, unstable, unseen that lies in the dark shadows of the American dream.

    Read if you want to face a harsh reality, or if you love a fresh modern voice, or if you’re a bit of a dick and want some literary company, because Yunior is the guy behind that depressing relationship story that every girl has in her back pocket.

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  • Self-Help

    ★★★★★

    Author: Lorrie Moore

    Publisher: Faber & Faber

     

    Self-Help is the first short story collection from American writer Lorrie Moore, published in 1985. It’s the kind of collection that might make you feel badly about your own attempts at writing short fiction—her skill at crafting a story around small actions and observations with poignancy and humour is boundless.

    As the title suggests, Moore is playing with the idea of self-help manuals. The opening story of the collection, “How to Be an Other Woman”, is about a young woman who enters into an affair with an older, married man. Told in the second person, the reader is put into the front seat of the story—it’s an effective narrative technique. “After four movies, three concerts, and two-and-a-half museums you sleep with him. It seems the right number of cultural events,” Moore writes. As the narrator starts to lose her sense of self in the relationship, compiling lists in an attempt to hold on to reality, we are taken along with her.

    Moore’s stories deal with serious, even morbid subjects, but her skill as a writer allows her to tinge them with a humour that doesn’t detract from the story itself. Such as in “Go Like This”, a story about a woman with cancer who decides to end her own life and announces her intention to a roomful of friends, to varying responses. “How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes)” tells the story of a relationship between a mother and daughter in reverse, from after the mother’s death. It’s quietly heartbreaking, but with moments of almost defiant comedy.

    Moore’s stories are truly one of a kind and I feel richer for having read her. She has also written novels, but in my opinion her strengths lie most in her short stories. Self-Help is the perfect place to get acquainted with her.

    by

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    Ten things I wish my friends knew about being Māori

    : 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