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Issue 22, 2016


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  • Young Voters: Waking the Sleeping Giants

  • The Sky Is Falling

  • Tell us about Talis

  • Vic group launch their Reclaim-munist Manifesto

  • Bye Bye Little Karori (in two years time)

  • Students seize opportunity to rant at Grant

  • Binge drinking is still a bit bad for you

  • Ror-ing Success

  • Interview with Justin Lester

  • Fun News

  • Features

  • how-to-survive-work-with-a-hangover


    Most of you are students and don’t have to worry your pretty little first year heads about committing to shit on a Monday. You can skive off your lectures, eat mi goreng in bed, and be a general lout. This is a lesson for those of you that are eventually going to end up having […]


  • unions

    The Young and the Agitated

    Our generation has no shortage of causes. It’s probably because of the internet, which makes it easy to know about a lot of shit things that exist and also to register some kind of opinion about them, be it a like-comment-share or, if you really believe in it, the lending of the weight of your […]


  • nannies

    Nannies and mannies: my life as Fran Drescher

    Paid childcare isn’t a new occupation. Governesses, and other paid childcare providers, became more common throughout the 18th and 19th centuries as the upper-middle class were able to afford to pay others to look after their children. Governesses were more like in-home teachers than babysitters, often required to teach their charges additional languages, reading, writing, […]


  • how-to-survive-work-with-a-hangover


    Most of you are students and don’t have to worry your pretty little first year heads about committing to shit on a Monday. You can skive off your lectures, eat mi goreng in bed, and be a general lout. This is a lesson for those of you that are eventually going to end up having […]


  • unions

    The Young and the Agitated

    Our generation has no shortage of causes. It’s probably because of the internet, which makes it easy to know about a lot of shit things that exist and also to register some kind of opinion about them, be it a like-comment-share or, if you really believe in it, the lending of the weight of your […]


  • nannies

    Nannies and mannies: my life as Fran Drescher

    Paid childcare isn’t a new occupation. Governesses, and other paid childcare providers, became more common throughout the 18th and 19th centuries as the upper-middle class were able to afford to pay others to look after their children. Governesses were more like in-home teachers than babysitters, often required to teach their charges additional languages, reading, writing, […]


  • Arts and Science


    Callum, Jesse, and Jordana are three emerging artists who run MEANWHILE, a new artist-run initiative located in the CBD on 35 Victoria Street.

    I first met Jordana when she came over to my flat in Aro Valley after the series of earthquakes that hit Wellington in 2013. She was friends with my flatmate Yvette and living in a single apartment. Together we comforted each other during the aftershocks. Callum and I became friends in a sculpture paper in my third year at art school. He made an artwork with balloons, I made a readymade with objects from friends and ex-boyfriends. I met Jesse in studio class as we shared the top studio in block two. He helped me mix concrete for the first time.


    Hi, could each of you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you all met:

    Jordana: Hello, my name is Jordana Bragg: 5’1, Aries Sun, Pisces Moon, Gemini Ascending.

    I moved to Wellington in 2012 at the age of 17 to pursue a BFA (Hons) degree at Massey University Wellington, studying alongside Callum and Jesse, and graduating last year having developed an on-going video based performance practice. I currently work at City Gallery Wellington as a front of house host and audio-visual technician.

    My first vivid memory of meeting Callum is walking with him down the middle of Tasman Street at 2am on my way home from a house party in second year, and his offering to buy me chocolate at the petrol station.

    I don’t remember the specifics of meeting Jesse but remember admiring him from afar for a very long time in studio class.

    Last year in our fourth and final year at art school (2015) we collaborated as an exhibition group, alongside Samuel Jackson, on an exhibition titled Stay On. Pdf (8 Egmont Street, Wellington).

    Jesse: Hello, I’m Jesse Bowling.

    I’m currently working full time at MEANWHILE and on my own art projects. I do part-time art installation and other stuff.

    I started a BFA (Hons) at Massey when I was 21. I walked into the museum building for the first day welcome and was late. I sat through the first year group photo and then joined a “get to know your peers” thing. I was paired in a group with Callum and we hit it off, <3.

    Like Jordana, I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember she was in my second year studio group and I used to work at night in the studios. She would also be there making heaps of art and I always thought to myself who is this girl constantly here late like me. She was killing critiques and always had great conversation.

    Callum: My full name is Callum Alexander Devlin. I am a twin. According to Myers Briggs I am an ENFP which means I’m basically doomed romantically speaking. I work for CIRCUIT Artist Film and Video Aotearoa New Zealand. I make art about myself.

    I moved to Wellington from Christchurch in 2012 to study Fine Arts at Massey. Jesse and I did meet on day one and I like to mention that when I introduce Jesse to people. He’s the only one who has properly kept up with my absurd artistic practice so I trust his opinion before anyone else’s.

    I remember Jordana and I being awkwardly interviewed via an iPad in second year about our experiences at Massey (that video is probably buried in the deep web somewhere). Jordana and I first worked together on an exhibition in third year, a hyper-conceptual rule-based art experiment where we met at 8am every day for two weeks to try and make ourselves better people.

    I have made all of my closest friends through working with them, and I trust these two deeply both professionally and personally.


    What is MEANWHILE and how did the name come about?

    Jordana: Established July this year, with support from Club Mirage (Auckland), MEANWHILE is an artist-run initiative based out of 35 Victoria Street, Wellington, New Zealand.

    Jesse: MEANWHILE has come after many conversations we have had about wanting an ARI (Artist Run Initiative) in Wellington that supported contemporary emerging art projects and that’s run by emerging artists. We were contacted by a fellow ARI organiser, Sam Thomas (Snake Pit, Club Mirage), from Auckland about the space we are operating out of. Meetings etc. happened and now we are MEANWHILE, with a window space, a gallery to be opened shortly, and artist studios which currently house nine artists.

    Callum and I were brainstorming names for the window space as we didn’t know if we were going to be secured with a full gallery space. The name needed to be temporal enough that it fitted the circumstances. But also funky fresh.


    Artist run initiatives are organised as non-for profit, temporal spaces often showing, experimental based works. Why is it important for artist run spaces to exist?

    Jordana: I think the answer is in the question. MEANWHILE, like many other NZ based ARIs, is here first and foremost to facilitate and promote emergent and experimental writing, curation, and contemporary art practice, in all forms, on and offline.

    We developed out of a need to nurture and support the exceptional work of contemporary New Zealand and international artists and to challenge current understandings of the potential for contemporary art spaces, writing, curation, and artistic practice.


    MEANWHILE has exhibited three shows so far this year. What are the preparations behind running the space, exhibiting artists, and the curatorial processes?

    Jordana: To date we have hosted three Wellington based artist exhibitions: Josephine Jelich, Works in Town; The Welcoming Party, Free Time; Elijah Winter, The Horror of Nothing To See.

    Jesse: Paint a wall white, invite your friends and community, have a few VBs.

    We want to show killer work. We are engaged with the community in Wellington so we have approached artists who we think, to our mind, show a broad array of mediums and concepts to fill the window space with.

    Callum: At the moment we’re right at the top of this project. We’re broke, we don’t have a proper website or walls or any sort of sustainable infrastructure. The artists who we chose to work with are people that we trust, and trust us. And that’s a big deal for us. We’re also artists, so we want to work with artists in the way that we’d wanted to be treated, represented, and respected. So we’re figuring that out.

    Our process so far has involved a lot of meetings, plunger coffee, and ginger nuts. And talking about our feelings.

    Jesse: What’s wrong with our walls Callum?

    Callum: Needs at LEAST one more coat of paint mate.

    Jesse: True.


    How do you balance the managing of a space as well as maintaining your own art practice?

    Jordana: I don’t really. I don’t see anything as a balance because nothing is completely separable to me, although I do make lists to process and compartmentalise. I’m a pragmatist in many ways. I suppose I spend most of my time visualising completing things, which helps, if I can’t see myself doing something I just won’t do anything.

    Also: plunger coffee, red wine, pop music, good conversation, and cigarettes.

    Callum: Balance is hard. There are always emails or messages to respond to. I have four Gmail accounts which is a pretty efficient strategy for avoiding getting any real work done. I spend all of my time talking to people, which is simultaneously a distraction and a big part of my process. I just know that when I’m taking minutes I’m on the clock.


    Can you tell me about a current project / upcoming project?

    Jordana: Opening this month (September 28, Wednesday), MEANWHILE will host the first of many exhibitions / projects / events to appear around Wellington from September-October 2016 as part of Cyber Nectar, a four month collaborative project between multidisciplinary artist Hana Pera Aoake and I (founded by the art initiative Lokal Stories, and funded by WCC and CNZ).

    The exhibition will feature new works by Audrey Baldwin (Ōtautahi), Katherine Botten (Melbourne), Sophie Cassar (Melbourne), Quishile Charan (Tāmaki Makaurau), Klien (London), and Ayesha Tan-Jones (London).


    Finally, what are your hopes and dreams for MEANWHILE?

    Jesse: In November we will be opening our doors officially as a gallery space so that’s real exciting. I know we are going to make a positive impact in the current Wellington art scene and that’s what excites me the most about doing this. I don’t really have hopes, I am confident, and dreams? This is pretty much a dream at its most basic level.  

    Jordana: I am both logistically and blindly optimistic about what MEANWHILE is and what it can and will be, but I prefer to keep hopes and dreams out of it for now as it is a day by day, step by step thing.

    Callum: I have big plans.


    Like MEANWHILE on Facebook:

    Follow MEANWHILE on Instagram: @meanwhile.wgtn

    Get in touch:


    What’s on?

    Join MEANWHILE for the opening of The Gaze is Not Something You Have or Use (It is a relationship entered into).

    Wednesday, September 28, at 5:30pm.

    35 Victoria Street.


  • Atlanta


    S1E01 “The Big Bang” and S1E02 “Streets on Lock”


    Rapper, actor, writer, and now showrunner Donald Glover was raised on two cultures. On the one hand, Glover was known for his writing on 30 Rock and his acting on Community. Casts and writers for both shows were predominantly white, and both shows attracted young, white audiences. On the other hand, Glover raps under the moniker Childish Gambino. His 2013 album Because the Internet (accompanied by a short film, Clapping for the Wrong Reasons) was met with critical acclaim.

    Atlanta is a natural step forward. The show introduces Earn Marks (Glover) and his cousin Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Brian Tyree Henry). Paper Boi had become one of the hottest new rappers in the Atlanta hip-hop scene overnight. Earn, wanting to enter the hip hop scene himself, offers to manage Paper Boi.

    The first thing you notice about Atlanta is that it looks like a Childish Gambino music video. It’s no surprise that both episodes were directed by Hiro Murai, who also directed the music videos from Because the Internet. The result is pretty. Music videos from this decade tend to be overly artsy and only have about three colours, but it kinda worked for Clapping for the Wrong Reasons (Murai directed that too); it only gets better in Atlanta.

    However, Childish Gambino music videos aren’t really funny. Atlanta is. It isn’t a laugh-a-minute-show like 30 Rock or Community; rather, it’s very situational and surreal. Characters often end up in ridiculous situations and aren’t afraid to call each other out on their bullshit. Earn confronts a local white jock-type radio DJ in the first episode and finds himself in a hyper-aggressive police station in the second. None of those situations are ideal in real life, but they still end up being funny while keeping it real.

    Keeping it real; maybe that’s the most important thing about Atlanta—that it provides a quality portrayal of a non-white perspective on television. Atlanta’s hardly the first show to do this, but it’s still an honest premise. Much like all of Glover’s other works to date, it’s business and personal. Henry bemoaned that people tend to pick and choose how others view their lives, but praised Glover for showing his perspective on the hip-hop scene—warts and all. Glover himself noted that he “wanted to show white people, you don’t know everything about black culture.” The show has an all-black writing team and Glover’s own experiences in the hip-hop scene are put on full display. The Paper Boi song you hear in the first episode sounds like Royalty-era Childish; it doesn’t help that his brother provides the rap vocals.

    Yet Atlanta isn’t inherently political. It isn’t meant to be. Glover grew up in the projects with comedy, and said that he “never wanted this shit to be important… all that shit is wack to me.” Although Atlanta introduces a side to hip-hop culture that we don’t know about very well, it is first and foremost ridiculous, raw, and pretty. I grew up in suburbia but I’m also a first generation Korean immigrant; it’s great to see some different faces through Atlanta, but the show is more humour than history.

    So is Atlanta a comedy or a gritty and conscious cultural work? Despite Glover’s comments above, it does an excellent job portraying both. This is perhaps the upside to growing up with multiple cultures—perspective. If that’s not really your thing, these episodes at least show a promising premise for a fun show to come.


  • Frank Ocean—blond



    Blonde? blond?

    Even though we’ve finally heard it, we still don’t know exactly what the title of Frank Ocean’s new album is. Which is fitting: the mystery is a nod toward the infamous silence and absence of certainties that built blond (let’s pick that one) into the 2016 pop-culture phenomenon. On the back of 2012’s critically acclaimed and commercially blockbusting Channel ORANGE, Frank Ocean ditched his record label and attempted to marry creativity with box-office in his own way. He developed a strategy where he played hard to get, banking on near-unprecedented hype to ensure that whatever he produced would see success. It worked, and the successful marriage of the commercial, creative, and social elements of artistry evidence, even more so than the music of blond might, Ocean’s genius.

    Alongside blond Ocean released a magazine (Boys Don’t Cry, the rumoured title for the album) and Endless, a rough visual album. The theme across this latest body of work is one of publication-like curation and refinement, and a depth that seems intentionally at odds with the insta-feeds that oversaturate our personal space. Ocean hasn’t deliberately set out to make something we want to hear (read: you might not like blond because it definitely isn’t Channel ORANGE) and he totally shunned the audience desire for instant gratification he might have been tempted to exploit—four years is several internet lifetimes. Depending on your point of view he’s a blessing or a curse in these respects, but there’s more behind the silence. Ocean became a modern-day Gatsby—inches away from transcending into myth—and the apparent hatred of his own party guaranteed that no impending release in the world right now can claim anything like the anticipation we had for blond.

    It’s fitting and cathartic, given the exhaustive wait, that listening to blond is a unique and rewarding experience. There’s social comment, sonic textures, dulcet tones, radio static, thought-provoking lyrics, strained voices, patched together samples, and guitar strings. A huge number of artists produced / contributed / are sampled and it’s fun to try and pick them out after a few listens. blond is expertly crafted—lush, but with fuzzy, rough edges that bite. I think it’s as good as Channel ORANGE, but the two are difficult to compare. Channel ORANGE was tightly produced, almost scripted, whereas blond is more a series of sketches divided into a reluctant tracklist: a kind of atmospheric, meandering odyssey through different demographics of a city.

    blond therefore plays far better as a whole than individually. Synergy is the descriptive that springs to mind and I remember specific moments as opposed to tracks: for example, the shout of “I’m not brave!” in “Seigfried” and the transcendent last 90 seconds of “Self Control”. I still don’t really know what I think of the album but I really enjoy listening to it and if longevity is the true judge of quality, I suspect blond will go down a winner. In some ways, I hesitate to say too much: if the ‘spoiler’ tag can ever apply to music this is the album that deserves it. Discovering it for yourself is essential and, empirically, opinions on blond vary wildly.

    It is ultimately ironic that Ocean, so successful in his evasion of the spotlight, has produced a fascinating, unexpected piece of work and only become an even greater subject of intrigue. He’s lived up to his own hype (unbelievably) by somehow making an album as interesting as the circus that surrounded it. blond could’ve been a collection of “Lost” / “Super Rich Kids” / “Thinkin Bout You” clones, ready to sit atop the charts for the coming months, and nobody would’ve complained. Instead Ocean shunned his own party and gave us something much more precious: a surprise.


  • Mild High Club—Skiptracing



    Skiptracing is Alexander Brettin’s second album released under the Mild High Club moniker. His first album Timeline came out on Stones Throw Records in 2015 and was an exciting glimpse into Brettin’s familiar but unique style of psychedelic songwriting.

    Mild High Club is often mentioned in the same breath as many of Brettin’s indie rock contemporaries and collaborators such as Mac Demarco, Silk Rhodes, and Ariel Pink. However Skiptracing sees Brettin carve out his own, very special, musical niche. If Mac Demarco is the Billy Joel of this new wave of low-fi indie rock artists, Mild High Club is more like Steely Dan. Brettin’s love (and study) of jazz shines through the indie rock aesthetic and more complex chord progressions, voicings, extended melodies, jazzy solos, and licks set him apart from his peers.

    The album opens with the title track “Skiptracing”. A bossa nova style drum machine counts in some chorused out guitar chords. New background melodies and percussion tastefully slide into the mix melding cleanly and subtly with the other instruments. Every sound introduced is nearly perfect. Synthesizers are beautifully warped and analog sounding; guitars are just jangly enough; the drums are recorded cleanly and dryly. Also worth noting is Brettin’s skill at writing basslines. It is often the bass that carries the mood / grove of Mild High Club songs and Brettin’s ability to stray from convention without overcrowding the mix is probably one of his most under appreciated skills.

    “Carry Me Back” plays out like a dreamy waltz and slow guitar lines are followed along by Brettin’s soothing vocals and slowly pumping synthesizer chords. “Tessellation” is another highlight, a rhodes driven 70s jazz fusion style track with a beautiful jazzy guitar solo at the end.

    The track “¿Whodunnit?” is a strange, droning, percussive instrumental that signals the introduction of the more experimental final third of the record. Vocals begin to warp and echo in the super smooth track “Chasing My Tail”. “Ceiling Zero” is a quick interlude that sounds like a cross between a Beach Boys’ track and a nostalgic orchestral film soundtrack. Brettin uses layered vocals to voice chords while a couple of saxophones jazzily harmonise over the top. It acts as a brief intro to the next track “Chapel Perilous” which borrows small fragments of melody and lyrics from the song “When You Wish Upon A Star” from the 1940 film Pinocchio.

    For anyone getting a little tired of the lack of musicality in indie rock music at the moment or anyone wanting a less technical, smoother take on modern jazz, Skiptracing is the perfect record.


  • Is this a real console war now?

    After something of an inconspicuous start it seems that this console generation is starting to pick up some steam, courtesy of the two biggest names in the business. The PS4, dominant for much of this first part, has had some serious missteps, while Xbox under Phil Spencer seems more determined than ever to win back the hearts and minds of the gaming public. There are iterative hardware upgrades coming for both systems, and while the PS4 Pro has nearly a year long head start on Xbox’s Project Scorpio it won’t be quite as powerful. Sony have said no to game mods while Microsoft is embracing them. PSVR is real and looking fantastic while Scorpio may well have support for the major VR headsets, possibly Oculus Rift. And, of course, Nintendo is quietly chugging along, doing its own thing as it always has.

    It shouldn’t matter what side you’re on. Because whoever loses, we win.

    I like to think of myself as something of a dedicated leftie: generally I’m distrustful of large corporate entities, especially those responsible for the services we need to live good lives, since they probably don’t have the best interests of their customers at heart. There’s a lot of bullshit about the free market society we live in, particularly when the system is gamed to suit the wealthy few. Yet I’m not so cynical as to deny that a free market has its benefits; it’s just a matter of what kind of market you’re entering and what the competition is like.

    The gaming industry is probably one of the few areas in which I’m happy the market is open because the recent fronts opening up in the console wars are showing us how we’ve been told free markets are supposed to work for years. One company put out a better product than its competitor and subsequently was rewarded with higher sales, so the competitor had to change their ways in order to gain back that lost ground.

    It’s therefore almost unbelievable to think that Microsoft screwed up the launch of the Xbox One so badly in 2013, what with the always online DRM and restrictions on used games that ultimately weren’t implemented, and did enough damage that they’ve only just recovered. Sony have essentially been coasting on the PS4’s lead and appear to have stopped caring about keeping their customer base happy, opening up opportunities for the boys in Redmond. As an example, thanks to Sony’s nonsense you won’t be able to install mods for Fallout 4 and Skyrim Legendary Edition, even though support was promised by Bethesda. I’m pissed off about that since mod support has been and will be a major selling point for those games, even with them coming to consoles, and as a PS4 owner I paid full price for a product which is incomplete and inferior to every other version. Xbox One owners have had mod support since May and they have every right to feel a little smug about it.

    There’s a lot of bullshit in the gaming industry but the thing that no-one should lose sight of is that games exist to make us happy, to allow us to take a break from our stressful lives and immerse ourselves in a virtual world. If you want to be a smart consumer you should be happy to part ways with your hard-earned cash, not feel obligated to. It’s big business and the big console manufacturers will do anything to hold your attention, because that gives them opportunities to take your money. This kind of competition can only be good for gamers, so get informed and make your choice.


  • Blood Father


    Director: Jean-François Richet


    This movie has flown so far under the radar that even the person who served me at the cinema didn’t know it existed. A minute later the guy that took my ticket looked over it with an equally perplexed look. Rest assured, I found my way into a theatre where it did exist.

    Earlier this year I listened to a podcast that proclaimed “the movie star is dead.” The podcast was brought on by the fact that Money Monster, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts, bombed. Maybe the concept of movie star is dead, or maybe it’s the previous generations movie stars who are being slowly abandoned, but it does seem like films these days are being sold on brand rather than star power.

    Enter Mel Gibson’s latest film, Blood Father. As an unabashed Mad Max franchise fan, and if Mel Gibson is involved and there’s a vehicle nearby, I’ll be in that theatre. Mel Gibson plays an ex-convict who, alongside his estranged daughter (Erin Moriarty), is on the run from her drug-dealer boyfriend (Diego Luna) and his vicious cartel.

    In the Mel Gibson area the film certainly doesn’t disappoint and he gets plenty of opportunity to curse and bellow. Unfortunately the movie disappoints in the director’s approach to plot and pacing. Gibson plays a trailer park ex-con who is suddenly reunited with his missing daughter and who must protect her from vicious gang members who are after her blood.

    There’s a lot of screen time between Link (Gibson) and his daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty) but it often doesn’t quite land and the sympathy that the film sends Lydia’s way seems thoroughly undeserved. Furthermore, at 88 minutes, the film has some slow spots, which is unforgivable considering the fact that they are being chased by seemingly all-powerful, all-knowing, and murderous hit-men.


  • Sully


    Director: Clint Eastwood


    Everyone knows Clint Eastwood as the badass ‘Man With No Name’ (from the likes of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) and from his many outings as ‘Dirty Harry’ (The Enforcer), but in the decades since his time as a western and action star Eastwood has established himself as a directing force to be reckoned with.

    Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, and Unforgiven are all well-weighted films with deeply impactful themes and a reserved directing style to compliment them. And although I found Hereafter mediocre and fell asleep in J. Edgar, I’m always keen to see whatever the man has cooked up.

    Well, I certainly did not fall asleep in Sully. The film follows the real life tale of the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson.” Dealing with the event and aftermath of a fateful forced water landing (not a crash) that left all 155 passengers and crew alive, the film centres on Captain Sullenberger, a distinct everyman, who is at odds with the media circus surrounding him as well as the scrutiny he faces from investigation of the incident.

    It should come as no surprise that Tom Hanks nails the character perfectly. The man’s an acting legend and seems to excel at “Captain” roles (see Captain Philips and Saving Private Ryan). Hanks, with subtle attention to detail, expertly brings the anxious psyche.

    Every sequence is well handled, with many difficult scenes in the cockpit and boardrooms coming across excellently, but somehow the film fails to add up to something grander. Perhaps it was the non-linear storyline, as from scene to scene it did not often feel like progress was being made or that the story was building to something greater. It was the miniscule moments that made some of the material shine and I guess that can be admired, even if it maybe wasn’t the approach I expected.

    There is something to be said for the fact that this movie has all the preliminary signs for Oscars bait. It’s “based on a true story” about a “real life American hero” and stars a recognised older Hollywood actor, with an even older Hollywood heavyweight behind the camera. It even does that thing where the title is the last name of the character. But instead of “having that one scene where he loses it” or “putting on so much weight for the role” or “not breaking character for the whole film shoot,” Hanks is far more subdued and so is the film. In the end it boils down to a story which praises a small group of people’s heroics in response to a crisis which could turned out far worse.


  • War Dogs


    Director: Todd Phillips


    Based on Guy Lawson’s novel Guys and the Dudes, War Dogs was remade for the screen as an American comedy-drama directed by Todd Phillips. Starring the hilarious Jonah Hill as Efraim Diveroli (loaded arms dealer and perhaps the world’s biggest douche), and baby faced Miles Teller as Efraim’s accomplice, David Packouz, the film follows the pair on their journey as they “hustle their way to the American dream.”

    David, a poor and washed-up masseur who has recently discovered that his partner is “knocked-up,” needs to find cash quickly. After spending his life savings on a failed plan to sell high thread count sheets to unsuspecting old folks’ homes, he is left with no plan and a baby on the way. Enter Efraim, a seemingly well-to-do high school friend who represents his fortune through copious amounts of bling and self-tan. Running into each other at a mutual friend’s funeral, Efraim takes David under his wing and gives him a job at his own company AEY, which questionably fills orders for arms placed by the US government due to the ongoing war in Iraq. Their job is to find small orders that larger arms contractors do not bother with and place bids on them. After making a fortune from these “small” deals, David and Efraim close in on the deal of a lifetime—a $300 million US Government contract to supply the US armed forces with millions of bullets. Scrambling to fill the order and place their bet, the pair enlist the help of shady and bizarre arms dealer Henry Girad (played by Bradley Cooper) who seemingly sticks them over and causes the breakup of the now billion dollar company, AEY. What follows is the pair’s attempt to get themselves out of the sh*t.

    War Dogs is probably the most bizarre cinema representation of America’s involvement with the war in Iraq I’ve seen to date. However the film fulfils its purpose as a funny and cleverly constructed Hollywood blockbuster. Hill’s character is hilarious and is only rivalled by Teller’s level-headed performance. I even found War Dogs to be quite informative about the undercover arms dealings that are conducted by non-US Government contractors.

    However despite all the film’s “funny” moments and a pretty good performance by both Hill and Teller, I felt that the climax of the film never quite got there for me. The later half was spent resolving conflicts that I just didn’t really care about. Efraim, although funny, was not a very relatable character and his actions (and reactions to problems) were pretty ridiculous (think firing a machine gun in a LA ghetto because he couldn’t buy weed). Maybe it just wasn’t my type of humour. After all, it is a movie—why shouldn’t characters be able to shoot-up local suburbs in the name of humour? It’s America right?

    An accurate summary of War Dogs is: good, but not excellent. Despite this, I would still recommend the film for an easy watch on a lazy weekend.


  • An Interview with Jennifer O’Sullivan (Queen of Improv)

    I met with Jennifer O’Sullivan, the Festival Director for the New Zealand Improv Festival (NZIF), at her office last week. The festival runs from October 4–8 at BATS Theatre and each night there will be a bunch of improv shows for a range of people. Jennifer is probably one of the coolest people I’ve met in the theatre community. She offered me tea and in exchange I offered to help fold the NZIF flyers as we chatted.


    How would you describe NZIF in a couple of sentences?

    Jennifer: To a general audience I would say it’s five nights of shows where you can see some of the best improvisors in the country alongside new improvisors, who are all really passionate about improv. You can see them get up on stage and do shows! If I am talking to improvisors, you just get to hang out with your tribe for a whole week—it’s really fun!

    There are workshops, right? What do these NZIF workshops entail?

    Jennifer: Okay, so, in other years we would showcase work and companies would pitch shows with their casts. But this time we decided to make the programme full of shows where people meet and hang out and improvise together and perform with people you don’t usually perform with, throughout that week. So for the Spontaneous Showcase, there will be six workshops for the six different shows. You sign up to be a part of these workshops and you get the chance to be cast in that show. The directors will then choose the cast at the end of the workshop. So it’s going to be interesting to see a range of people on stage having a go at something.

    Are those workshops available for anyone?

    Jennifer: It is recommended that you at least have an introductory level of improv. The workshops assume that you know the basics. Some assume you are a bit more experienced, and when you sign up for them they will say. I feel like actors do have a basic understanding of improv even if they don’t know it.

    Could you give us a brief description of the variation throughout the festival?

    Jennifer: The Spontaneous Showcase contains six shows / workshops and they each have their own subject matter. These include an improvised trial; the audience are the jury and get to vote, and at the end get to see what actually happens (Nothing But the Truth). We have a show about relationships, sex, and intimacy—but keeping it fun (In Bed). One uses objects that you have left over from relationships (The Museum Of Broken Relationships). And then we have one basically all about death (Death Who Comes To Us All). And then Kiddie Time, a late night children’s show, but we want people to come along in onesies and pyjamas and watch a kids show. The last show in that showcase is Circle of Sound Story, which will use soundscape and music. So, yeah, there is quite a range of stuff… This showcase feels kind of lifecycle-y to me. Improdome is just gonna be a great excuse to do fun, short-form work, but not necessarily all comedy.

    This One Time and Grab BagGrab Bag is where everybody who wants to can put their name into the grab bag—audience members, improvisors, anyone! Then the directors will pull names out of the hat and they will be the actors.

    How has the festival changed over time?

    Jennifer: The first one only had six shows and four improv companies. Some of those early shows that came along toured for years and were sellouts. There are people who started teaching here and carried on teaching. I like it being a place where if you haven’t ever taught a festival workshop before, but you want to, I’m gonna give you a go.

    What does it take to organise a festival like this?

    Jennifer: I’ve got a decent team of people! The festival is managed by a trust and the trust is currently myself and Christine Brooks, and we have just added three people to it, who are all women. But yeah, one of our key things is delivering the festival. There’s other things we could do. I’m really interested in doing some sort of teaching conference or like a summer camp, which is really exciting.

    Last question! What is the furthest someone has travelled to attend NZIF?

    Jennifer: This year we have someone from Sweden!

    Check out the NZIF website & Facebook page for updates!


  • The Argonauts


    Author: Maggie Nelson

    Publisher: Graywolf Press


    I picked this book up, knowing it was meant to be the thing, and read a few random pages. The wide set margins, paragraph breaks, and names in the margins unnerved me—there was something going on, and this something was a thing I wouldn’t be able to understand. I acquiesced that it wasn’t for me. When I was gifted it, however, I took it as a sign and gave in, my curiosity getting the better of me. 50 pages later I still felt trepidation (the book is only 180 pages long), and I told people I felt slightly scared of the book I was reading at the moment. But the last 50 pages were the ones that reached out, grabbed me by the collar, and pulled me in.

    The Argonauts is non-fiction, memoir, prose poetry, creative writing, psychoanalysis, and everything in between. This book feels smarter than you do, or maybe just than I am; I don’t know Lacanian psychology and many of the references to people and books and philosophers were, to me, empty markers of intelligence. I didn’t understand exactly what the reference to Argonauts meant, but now I look it up it’s something about changing as you grow—which is the essence of the book.

    Once I pushed past this, once I let myself be vulnerable to the author’s intelligence, I began to be emboldened by the book. For all the names, the theories, and the philosophers, this book is a book about life. About humans and about love. Maggie Nelson is her own vehicle, her own tool, to analyse life.

    By the last pages I was crying (very likely due largely to the bad day I was having) while Nelson wove the narrative of the birth of her son with that of the death of her partner’s parents. I’ve also never read someone writing so honestly about pregnancy before, and I sort of feel less frightened and more frightened all at the same time.


  • Shrill


    Author: Lindy West

    Publisher: Quercus


    Every so often a gutsy, vital book comes along that insists to be read, shared, and discussed. Shrill, a collection of essays by Lindy West, might just be that book for 2016. West is a writer best known for her part in the fat acceptance movement and for taking on the ugliest, most woman-hating parts of the internet. While many of these essays are political in nature, what shines throughout the book is her whip-smart sense of humour.

    West tackles controversial, sensitive topics—being fat (her preferred descriptor), abortion, rape jokes—with fierce intelligence and unswerving honesty. In the essay “When Life Gives You Lemons” she writes of becoming pregnant while in an unhealthy, unstable relationship and the ways in which navigating an abortion is still so difficult for so many women. She writes: “The fact that abortion is still a taboo subject means opponents of abortion get to define it however suits them best. They can cast those of us who have had abortions as callous monstrosities, and seed fear in anyone who might need one by insisting that the procedure is always traumatic, always painful, always an impossible decision. Well, we’re not, and it’s not.”

    But West has suffered for her forthrightness—the important thing is that she hasn’t allowed that to silence her. When she was mercilessly attacked online after appearing on a television debate about the effect of rape jokes on our society’s prevailing attitude towards rape, she responded by videoing herself reading out dozens of threats and insults, turning the tide back on her attackers. Or when a vile troll made a Twitter account pretending to be her deceased father and she succeeded in getting the troll to realise the error of his ways.

    All that considered, it would be hard to believe that West started out as a comedy writer (she’s in awe of this herself). She is almost effortlessly funny, even when down in the muck with a subject that makes you question your faith in humanity. I laughed out loud throughout Shrill and that’s not something I would embellish. This book would be an enlightening and entertaining read for anyone—provided you don’t still think rape jokes are funny and not problematic at all!

    We are all lucky to live in a world which has Lindy West in it.


  • 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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