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Issue 1, 2017

Issue 01

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News

  • Fairer Fares, Finally?

  • Sexual assaults covered up by Australian universities

  • #LoveHumanities

  • Students stung by renting crisis

  • Nick Smith finds himself in freshwater… but can he swim?

  • Fresher Fever

  • Dignified

  • Check Yourself, Wellington City Council

  • Year and a day

  • Features

  • hidden

    Our Hidden Figures

    – SPONSORED – The idea of a living wage is not a radical one: to have a job with wages that are enough to live off. It is about equity and fairness, and can significantly change the lives of those who facilitate ours. The Living Wage campaign calls on employers to pay a rate that’ll […]

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  • SUPERSTARDOM

    Superstardom and Modern Death: David Bowie’s Final Works

    – SPONSORED – Where the fuck did Monday go? asks Bowie on “Girl Loves Me”, the fifth track from his final album Blackstar (2016). An eerie line for someone who died on a Sunday night. David Bowie passed away on January 10, 2016, only two days after the release of his final album Blackstar; the […]

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  • WEKNOWTHEWAY

    We Know the Way

    – SPONSORED – I had my reservations about Moana. I braced myself for cringe-worthy cultural misunderstandings and outright disrespectful and offensive representations. The conversations about the film began long before its release, much to the annoyance of those who felt social media was being flooded with irrelevant opinions. After the release of a teaser clip […]

    by

  • hidden

    Our Hidden Figures

    – SPONSORED – The idea of a living wage is not a radical one: to have a job with wages that are enough to live off. It is about equity and fairness, and can significantly change the lives of those who facilitate ours. The Living Wage campaign calls on employers to pay a rate that’ll […]

    by

  • SUPERSTARDOM

    Superstardom and Modern Death: David Bowie’s Final Works

    – SPONSORED – Where the fuck did Monday go? asks Bowie on “Girl Loves Me”, the fifth track from his final album Blackstar (2016). An eerie line for someone who died on a Sunday night. David Bowie passed away on January 10, 2016, only two days after the release of his final album Blackstar; the […]

    by

  • WEKNOWTHEWAY

    We Know the Way

    – SPONSORED – I had my reservations about Moana. I braced myself for cringe-worthy cultural misunderstandings and outright disrespectful and offensive representations. The conversations about the film began long before its release, much to the annoyance of those who felt social media was being flooded with irrelevant opinions. After the release of a teaser clip […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • Interview with Kane Strang

    Dunedin musician Kane Strang released his self-recorded debut album Blue Cheese on Flying Nun in 2015. It’s pretty straightforward indie rock, but underpinned with some excellent pop songwriting and Kane’s particular knack for writing dismally sad but incredibly catchy lyrics. Kane had also released a very good album (since removed from the internet) A Pebble and a Paper Crane, recorded while on a trip to Germany in 2013. This album is rough, with a slightly shambolic recording lending it a woozy, psychedelic feel that won Kane a bit of a cult following early on. His latest album Oh So You’re Off I See is due out on Dead Oceans later this year. Before heading off to the US, Kane played three shows in New Zealand, and gave Salient an exclusive interview:

     

    Salient: How was the first show of the tour in Dunedin?

    Kane: It was really good and it was kind of intense. It’s always strange playing to your family and stuff. Especially when you’re about to go to America for a month. The opening acts were great. Elan vital who are an electronic act and Die In Space who are a jazz band. It was quite a mixed bag but really good. We played at Nun Gallery.

     

    Salient: How’s the Dunedin music scene looking now Chicks has gone?

    Kane: It feels pretty dormant, for me at least. I haven’t been playing anywhere near as much since Chicks closed, or been going to as many gigs. I know they’re still happening out there but it was definitely a big blow for the city, or the music scene. I’m hoping something’s gonna take its place, that’s run by good people and has good sound and shit.

     

    Salient: “Oh So You’re Off I See” is the first single we’ve heard off the album, did you pick that out or was that the label’s decision?

    Kane: It was the label’s decision, but I’m happy with it. It’s one I wrote with the band, which is cool. There are about three on the new album that we collaborated on.

     

    Salient: You recorded the last two by yourself right. Did the band play all their own parts on this next record?

    Kane: Ben my drummer did all the drums. My guitarist Peter played the three lead guitar parts he’d written. I did pretty much all the bass and the other guitars. I was collaborating but I was still a bit of a control freak at the same time.

     

    Salient: I read you programmed all the drums on Blue Cheese, is that true?

    Kane: Yeah it’s all programmed. This time I wrote them in the same way but then my drummer learned them. I’m glad to be finally recording with these guys.

     

    Salient: I wanted to ask about your somewhat unofficial first record. You released A Pebble And A Paper Crane before Blue Cheese but took it off the internet, why was that?

    Kane: I just found it a bit embarrassing, I don’t know why. It was a weird one. I guess I just wasn’t happy with it and Blue Cheese was a fresh start for me. Every time I saw it had a play on Bandcamp I started cringing a bit, and I realised I could take it down and maybe be happier. Maybe its because I know how roughly it was recorded and I can’t unhear that.

     

    Salient: I felt people were kind of into that though?

    Kane: Yeah that’s the thing, I know people like that and a lot of the time — well, not a lot of the time — people have asked me to send it to them, and I’ve happily sent it. It’s not really what I want to sound like anymore, so I took it down.

     

    Salient: You still play some of the tracks live right? I’ve seen you play “My Smile Is Extinct” a couple of times.

    Kane: Yep, that’s mainly because I know people like those songs in particular and I want people to have fun at gigs. I’m not saying they don’t mean anything to me, they definitely do. I’ve actually re-recorded a couple of old songs too for this album.

     

    Salient: Did you have more of a time limit on this record due to signing to Dead Oceans?

    Kane: There was definitely a time limit, but they were pretty flexible. They weren’t sending thugs over to break my kneecaps or something. Once I went a month or so over and they were super chill and just left me to it. They had a lot of trust in me, since they were just giving this random guy on the other side of the world some money to make an album.

     

    Salient: So you recorded with Stephen Marr of Doprah; whereabouts did you record?

    Kane: Yeah I did, I recorded at Chicks Hotel. When they shut down the venue, Tom Bell turned it into a studio, and it’s just the best place to hang out in. There’s so much crazy gear in there now and it was the best studio experience I’ve had by a mile.

     

    Salient: That’s nice the venue is still being used in some capacity.

    Kane: All my favourite gigs were there, and that’s the thing, it’s still benefitting the Dunedin music scene, just in a different way. And perhaps an even more important way. Obviously gigs and playing live are super important, but recordings are immortal. If you want to capture a period in time, that’s the way to do it.

     

    Salient: Have your influences changed at all between Blue Cheese and this new record?

    Kane: I think with Blue Cheese I was kind of like “oh this is what indie rock should sound like” and I think this album’s a blend of that and my earlier stuff. It’s a bit more singer-songwriter-y. I was listening to heaps of Elliot Smith and there was literally no acoustic guitar on Blue Cheese, it was all just short chuggy songs. On this one there are acoustic guitars and heaps of different sounds.

     

    Salient: One thing I was wondering about Blue Cheese, what did you do for the synthesizer parts? Were you using real synths?

    Kane: It was a mix. My uncle had a Juno 106 and I really wanted to use that! But it was buried in a garage somewhere so I wound up programming more of them than I wanted to. I finally got my Juno experience with the new record because they had one down at Chicks. Stephen had a Tempest as well which we used quite a bit. He’d used that quite a lot with Doprah.

     

    Salient: What is your songwriting process? I think a lot of people really admire your lyricism, does that come first or do you write the music and fit the lyrics later?

    Kane: I do things in reverse to a lot of singer-songwriters, I think. I’ll often start by writing the drum beat and the bassline. So pretty much the rhythm section. Obviously it’s different every time, but it does seem to happen that way quite a bit. I enjoy it, it’s almost my favourite part, writing the actual groove of the song.

    I have quite a short attention span so there’s a lot of luck involved. I just pick up my guitar and if I don’t come up with anything I like very quickly I put it down and leave it for a day. Lyrics wise, I’ll just get one line that I like and, rather than that being the first line and then trying to come up with the second, I’ll make the song around that. More often than not it will become the chorus or the theme and I’ll go from there. I don’t have a routine, it’s all very random for me.

     

    Salient: Does that ever stress you out if you pick up your guitar and can’t think of anything?

    Kane: It seems to work out just in time. It’s definitely stressful and frustrating. It’s never the nicest feeling when you think you’re particularly inspired and you sit down and you’re not able to express that.

     

    Salient: Could you tell us a little bit about your new record label Dead Oceans?

    Kane: It’s a part of Secretly Group which contains four different labels — Secretly Canadian, Jagjaguwar, Dead Oceans, and The Numero Group. It’s based in Austin but collaborates with these other labels.

     

    Salient: Are you still appearing on Flying Nun in New Zealand?

    Kane: It was an international deal so I’m on Dead Oceans for everywhere now. 


    Salient: Did they just approach you on the internet?

    Kane: Yeah pretty much, it’s actually been in the works for a lot longer than most people would probably think. I’ve known this might be happening since even before Blue Cheese was out on Flying Nun. They contacted me around the same time, but things were already in motion with Flying Nun and Ba Da Bing, and I loved working with those labels. If you’d told me a couple years ago I’d be out on Flying Nun I wouldn’t have believed it. I definitely like a lot of bands that have been released by them, and Ba Da Bing too.

     

    Salient: I saw Slowdive was on Dead Oceans.

    Kane: Yeah! I’m actually just getting into them. That song “When The Sun Hits” is my song of the week.

     

    Salient: So what’s the plan for the upcoming tour?

    Kane: We are playing Dunedin, Auckland, Wellington, then a couple days back in Auckland, and then Tuesday we fly to New York which I can’t really comprehend. I was pouring milk for my cereal this morning and thought that when this milk expires I’ll be playing a show in New York — it was just the weirdest what-the-fuck moment.

     

    Salient: Have you been to the states before?

    Kane: No, never. I went through Europe with my bass player when I was a bit younger and was recording Pebble and a Paper Crane. It’s gonna be crazy. Some of the venues look amazing and I’ve heard good things about them from some of my friends who are musicians.

     

    Salient: Have you heard much about ticket sales or how the reception will be in the US?

    Kane: I actually don’t know; I don’t know what to expect at all! I’m sure I could find that stuff out if I wanted to, but a lot of it happens without me. I just get told “you need to be here at this time.” But I’ve had heaps of really nice messages from people over there saying they can’t wait to see us. That’s cool, I don’t mind playing to just three people as long as they’re really into it. I’d rather that than playing to a packed room of people who were just there for the sake of it.

     

    Salient: Have you got anything planned while you’re over there?

    Kane: I feel like we’re not going have a lot of spare time. Our schedule’s pretty crazy. We have a few days in New York to get over our jetlag but after that it’s pretty much a gig in a new city each night.

     

    Salient: How many shows are you playing?

    Kane: I don’t know the exact number, but I think we’re playing more shows than there are days that we’re there. I think that’s mostly because of South By South West where we are playing a couple shows a day. We have the odd day off, but we might just sleep.

     

    Salient: Are you excited or nervous?

    Kane: I’m pretty much split down the middle. I’m excited to see what it does to us as a band. How much better we are by the end of it. Not just better at playing live but touring and travelling together.

     

    Salient: You’ll have to play some shows when you’re back so we can check you guys out.

    Kane: I’d love to do that. I’d really like to do a small run once we’re back. But maybe we’ll be skeletons, and will need to go home and get a nice fattening meal first.

     

    Salient: When you come back from your tour are you planning on staying in Dunedin?

    Kane: Everything’s a bit up in the air for me at the moment. My girlfriend lives in Auckland so that’s always an option. Living here’s just cheap and it allows me to have a flat and have a practice space and also go away and not be freaking out about paying two hundred dollars a week while I’m not even there. It’s just a cheap place to live and I think that’s why so many creative people wind up here.

     

    Salient: Were you at university in Dunedin?

    Kane: I was. I left university halfway through a degree to do this. It worked well when I wasn’t getting drowned in assignments — in combination with music I mean. As soon as I got an assessment and had gigs at the same time it became near impossible to do well. And I am a bit of a perfectionist and I started to write shitty essays and it was just frustrating. So now I’m living the pretty typical musician life. Working at a café and recording.

     

    Salient: What were you studying before you left?

    Kane: I was studying visual culture. You could take any history paper or art history paper or film paper and it would all count towards it. I liked it, because I never could make up my mind about what I wanted to study. I didn’t want to do music because I did that enough already.

     

    Salient: Is your aim to to end up working as a musician full time?

    Kane: Yeah it’s definitely the end goal for me and everyone I’ve been working with the last year. We all want to get to that point and I’m sure the label want to get us to that point. It’s a bit scary as well because that involves a lot of touring and stuff. A lot of being away. But it’s what I love to do.

     

    Salient: Any local bands you would recommend people to check out?

    Kane: My friend Adrian has a project called Tongue Flower, and I really like the new Street Chant record too. I’ve been listening to that a lot — the song “Melbourne”, such a good song. We’re playing with Emily (of Street Chant) in LA at the bootleg theatre which is really cool. She’s living there and I just messaged her like please play with us.

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  • Horoscope

    Salutations! We are Aubergine and Celeste, two pals who read the horoscopes in That’s Life a bit, and own at least 20 crystals, so are fully qualified to predict your future. Future weeks will include horoscopes, but this first column introduces you to our friends.

     

    ~*~ MEET YOUR PLANETS! ~*~

     

    Inner planets affect your day-to-day life:

    Sun: Personality

    Moon: Mood and emotion

    Mercury: Communication

    Venus: Love and frisky times

    Mars: Energy

     

    Outer planets affect wider life trends:

    Jupiter: Luck and wisdom

    Saturn: Discipline and challenge

    Neptune: Change and originality

    Uranus: Dreams and healing

    Pluto: Power and transformation

     

    ~*~ MEET YOUR STAR SIGN! ~*~

     

    Aries: March 21–April 19

    Ruled by Mars

    Lucky stuff: red, Tuesday

    You are enthusiastic and passionate, but this often manifests itself through impulsive and self-centered actions.

     

    Taurus: April 20–May 20

    Ruled by Venus

    Lucky stuff: green, pink, Friday, Monday

    You are devoted to all you do, and approach life with a practical, head-strong, and stubborn attitude.

     

    Gemini: May 21–June 20

    Ruled by Mercury

    Lucky stuff: light green, yellow, Wednesday

    No denying that Geminis have a reputation for being two-faced bitches, but they are also social and adaptable friends.

     

    Cancer: June 21–July 22

    Ruled by Moon

    Lucky stuff: white, Thursday

    Your tenacity and loyalty make you a persuasive person, but also a suspicious one.

     

    Leo: July 23–August 22

    Ruled by Sun

    Lucky stuff: gold, Sunday

    Leo, you are A LOT to deal with, but your passionate nature nearly makes up for the fact you are stubborn and self-centered. Nearly. (A Leo definitely didn’t recently dump me).

     

    Virgo: Aug 23-Sep 22

    Ruled by Mercury

    Lucky stuff: green, Monday

    No one is as witty and analytical as a Virgo, but this can lead to you being easily overwhelmed and self-destructive.

     

    Libra: Sep 23-Oct 22

    Ruled by Venus

    Lucky stuff: blue, Sunday

    Ruled by Venus, the planet of <3, everyone loves you even though you are melodramatic and a lil’ spoilt.

     

    Scorpio: Oct 23-Nov 21

    Ruled by Pluto

    Lucky stuff: red, Tuesday

    Scorpio, you put passion into everything you do, whether this be your bravery, possessive nature or revenge plans.

     

    Sagittarius: Nov 22-Dec 21

    Ruled by Jupiter

    Lucky stuff: light blue, Wednesday

    You are an honest and optimistic friend, but your honesty can be interpreted as arrogance.

     

    Capricorn: Dec 22-Jan 21

    Ruled by Saturn

    Lucky stuff: black, Friday

    Your devoted and fearless nature is unforgiving when this devotion is not reciprocated.

     

    Aquarius: Jan 22- Feb 19

    Ruled by Uranus ;)

    Lucky stuff: electric blue, Thursday

    Aquarians are great at communication, but this need for communication often comes off as desperate.

     

    Pisces: Feb 19-Mar 20

    Ruled by Neptune

    Lucky stuff: aqua, Tuesday

    You are a romantic and imaginative angel, with a tendency to be self-pitying and clingy.

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  • Interview with Miles Buckingham from Radioactive

    If you’re into quality, local, and independent music, enjoy being treated to an aural smorgasbord of global sounds, and don’t give a flying flip about those tunes being interspersed with witty repartee about Kylie Jenner’s latest foray into unnecessarily trendy makeup — you’ve likely been blasting Radioactive, or community-based stations like it, into your earholes for decades. If you’d like to endow yourself with a little history about this bastion of Wellington musical culture, then hot damn, you’re in luck! I recently sat down with Miles Buckingham, the station’s long-time music manager, to get the lowdown on all things Active.

     

    Salient: At what point in the life of the station did you join, and what made you interested in it?

    Miles Buckingham: The station started in 1977, but I joined in late February 1986, which makes me feel so old! Before I even enrolled at Victoria, I went into Active and told them I wanted to be involved, and they said “Come back once you’re enrolled!” So I came back three hours later, they trained me up, and that was that.

    S: What was your role at Active during that time?

    MB: I ended up doing the Friday night shows, which was a lot of playing records and blathering on air, and just hung around a lot! That eventually wound up with me running their mobile disco, which was a lot of fun. It involved driving around with a fairly substantial amount of sound equipment in a really crappy car, and getting some money on the side for Active, DJing these university parties. I actually managed to recruit a number of Active DJs playing The Jesus and Mary Chain and bands like that at those events.

    S: How did Active undergo the transition from university radio station to where it is now?

    MB: That all happened around 1989. By that time I was just doing shows, as my academic career had well and truly gone down the toilet [chuckles]. The students’ association at Victoria had decided that Active was costing too much money and that it could stand on its own two feet. That involved them putting a security guard on the door and changing the locks to the station, although I think Liam Luff managed to break back in and run “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy on a loop.

    It then resulted in around 25 Active DJs and fans getting together, each chipping in $2000, and setting it up as a limited liability company; suddenly it was financially viable again. We stayed at the Students’ Association building for a while, then moved the station down into Ghuznee Street, just across from where we are now.

    S: What kind of contribution do you think Radioactive has made to Wellington and New Zealand’s musical communities?

    MB: Well, I don’t think something like Fat Freddy’s Drop would’ve existed without Radioactive, because Mu (Chris Faiumu, the group’s founding member) was such a huge part. The station was the meeting point between a lot of musical cultures that allowed him to formulate his style.

    We are more often than not the first station to play a lot of New Zealand artists, which can be quite a big thing. If you want to talk to Matt from Universal Music, he will maintain that we were the first radio station in Aotearoa to play Lorde’s “Royals”.

    S: Can you think of any particular moments that strike you as really emblematic of your time at Active?

    MB: One time, we were doing a chocolate delivery promotion, and so I had to cart around this chocolate, riding around Wellington on a completely illegal motor scooter. We dubbed it something like “the burgundy putt-putt”. I was doing these live reports back to the station on a field telephone and having to pull over whenever I had to talk, as the phone obviously didn’t fit under the helmet!

    Another one was getting kicked out of the Newtown Bowling Club at our 30th birthday party as a station, because Beastwars were playing on the lawn, and they were a little bit loud! That was pretty momentous.

    S: I assume, as music manager, that a significant part of your job is trawling through platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud to find new music. Does it get difficult at times to divorce yourself from your own subjective taste, so that you can provide a wide sonic variety to the listeners?

    MB: Yeah, I get to sit around looking for stuff that people would otherwise be wasting their time looking for, in a “normal” workplace. When I got the job, the joke was that the station was going to be just nonstop Congolese rumba, as that would’ve reflected the music that I was actually listening to at the time. But I think my job requires you to go outside of yourself and think, is this a good song, is this going to work for our listeners, is it filling a part of the jigsaw puzzle that our on-air sound is?

    S: Coming back to your own tastes, are there any local acts that have been really exciting you recently?

    MB: Lake South! Really looking forward to his album, which is out mid-March. Also this morning I discovered a Kiwi two-piece called Coyote. It’s possibly ever so slightly unlistenable, but really good! They’re one of the guys from Rackets and his 13-year-old brother, and they make this wild, lo-fi, clunky electronica, but with singing, and what they’re singing about is awesome.

    S: Finally, are you able to discuss what you think the ethos of the station is, possibly what has made you stick around so long?

    MB: I would definitely say diversity, and supporting local music. Active’s relevance to the community has changed as Wellington has changed, but its ability to be a thriving part of the multiple cultures and subcultures of Wellington has been a constant, and has become even more important now.

    Throughout the ‘90s there was this real groundswell, suddenly there were all these New Zealand bands. We were the only station that was supporting them, so we got to be the centre of this super cool thing. I really hope that’s something that we continue to do.

     

    You can find Radioactive on the airwaves at 88.6FM, and wherever good WiFi exists at www.radioactive.fm.

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  • The always-already-seen: Cindy Sherman at City Gallery

    “None of the characters are me. They’re everything but me.”

    — Cindy Sherman

    “I recognised every woman I knew in that photograph.”

    — Jamie Lee Curtis

     

    Cindy Sherman is a construct. A composite image. Her (un)self-portraits reveal nothing of herself and everything about ourselves. While this is a popular theory, it inevitably raises the question: what is there for those of us who find nothing in the work that resembles our own reflection?

    Cindy Sherman at City Gallery Wellington is a full gallery show, with various series of post-2000 works arranged roughly chronologically. Sherman’s face, in its familiar masquerade, is everywhere. There are two places to hide: the Adam Auditorium, where Andy Warhol’s 13 Beautiful Boys plays on repeat, and upstairs, in the Deane and Hirschfeld Galleries, where a selection of found photographs and albums from Sherman’s own collection are on display.

    One of the albums in Sherman’s collection documents the travels of an American GI on an unidentifiable Pacific island. He takes photos of himself, the beach, the trees, and the locals. He appears, in the largest photograph on the page, squatting on the ground outside a building with a thatched roof, surrounded by native people. The island is an idyll of palm trees, calm seas, warm weather. The myth of the Pacific paradise is rampant, the narrative familiar in our minds, the warm breeze on our skin.

    The GI’s album happens to be the single place in the gallery where brown bodies are a part of the display. There is a comfort in finding them, tucked away upstairs under the glass surface of the vitrine, and a discomfort at the imagery: brown bodies working, brown bodies providing a counterpoint to the soldier’s pale skin, brown bodies frozen in someone else’s history. These photos are a part of a display that is intended to give a sense of the ways in which Sherman “amasses, mines, and reimagines images, identities and mythologies from a variety of sources.” It reminds us of how little a photo has to give in order for a narrative to be rendered implicit.

    In her own work, Sherman shows us the always-already-seen of pop culture, the always-already-seen of “the culture within which she operates,” and her own always-already-seen: the semi-tragic but well-off white woman, or, “The Real Housewives of New York.” She knows how to suggest, rather than impose, narrative; how to create an image that is so clearly a construct that it can’t help but resonate with some lived experience. Her work is deliberately composed and manipulated in post-production. It simultaneously exposes and works towards the fiction of the self, but it’s the viewer who assigns each character the narrative.

    It’s hard not to come back to the photographs of the Pacific — on one level, because so much has already been said of Sherman’s work that everything seems like a crude reinterpretation, and on another, because they allow for a reading of her work that exposes the always-already-seen as being nothing more than the always-visible: the nothing-new. What does it mean to fill our public art gallery with dozens of versions of the same woman, a handful of clowns, and thirteen beautiful boys — all white?

    Where the show was first exhibited, at Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, at least seven other exhibitions were mounted, variously, during its stay. They were all free, and included Fluent: Aboriginal Women’s Paintings from the Collection, Contemporary Asian Collection, and Line + Form: Paintings and Sculpture from the Indigenous Australian Collection. Sherman’s cultural studies of the white woman in capitalist society existed alongside works by women with different concerns, placing her oblique imagery within a context specific to the space it was occupying.

     

    Cindy Sherman runs at City Gallery Wellington until March 19.

    Admission is $12 or $8 with concession.

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  • GIRLS, Season 6, Episodes 1–2

    Lena Dunham’s bourgeois white millennial opus is back for its final season. Any discussion of Girls should begin with the disclaimer that yes, Lena Dunham is very problematic, as is the show. But with that in mind, Girls can be enjoyed for what it is — an entertaining half hour very much of its time.

    Thus far into season six, it seems the show would like us to believe that Hannah is maturing. At the risk of sounding corny, I guess it would make sense that the story of Girls would end with them as “women”. In the season opener, “All I Ever Wanted”, Hannah starts off as whiny and self-involved as ever. As part of a freelance assignment for a trendy magazine, she gets to attend a surf club, expenses paid. So what does she do? Pack a sad about how the beach isn’t fun and sulks in her hotel room. This really is Hannah at her most grating. Of course, this being Girls, there is an insanely attractive man (Riz Ahmed!) on hand to teach her about herself, a surf instructor who shows her how to relax and enjoy things instead of instantly finding all the things to hate. It is nice to see Hannah learn about “chill” from a surf instructor in an open relationship, but it is hard to figure out why he would spend all that time and energy on such a killjoy.

    In the second episode, “Hostage Situation”, great pains are taken to draw attention to how Hannah’s newfound chill has changed her enough that she barely notices when her brand new tea set is smashed by a raging Desi. But a lack of material attachment plus performative self awareness (Hannah calling Marnie out for being self-involved while acknowledging her own black-kettle status, repeatedly claiming that she is “done judging”) can only go so far; it feels less earned by the show and more forced. And Marnie! God, Marnie is just the worst. Yes, smash up the only oxycontin available to your drug-addicted ex-husband because withdrawal definitely isn’t a thing. It’s absolutely a Marnie move, but I’m alarmed (though unsurprised) the show didn’t touch on that. Girls wants to be a drama when it comes to someone’s dad being gay or someone’s friend hooking up with their boyfriend, but has consistently eschewed any meaningful engagement with addiction despite having so many afflicted characters.

    Shoshanna, despite her more overtly “girlish” taste and squeaky adderall-Barbie speaking voice, has been the frontrunner in the Girls maturity contest for a while. This time, she asserts herself over her messy cousin Jessa after the latter crashes “W.E.M.U.N.”, a meet-up for women entrepreneurs (“For those of you asking on our Facebook if the group is open to trans women, the answer is… we don’t know, okay?”). I’ve had enough dramatic friend break-ups however, and I don’t feel I learned anything about either of them except that they don’t like each other now.

    It was a difficult episode for me as a long-term Jessa fan, with her behaviour getting more difficult to excuse. Although, the image of her in “Wanted” nonchalantly talking to Ray, while naked on a couch eating yoghurt, is enough to get me through to next week. I still feel that the way Jessa handled things with Hannah, while shitty, was slightly justified, but I don’t think that many viewers, or the show itself, would agree with me, so we’ll have to see how that pans out when the girls inevitably run into each other. Unless they don’t, and Jessa and Adam get a spin-off where they move to California so Adam can further his acting career and Jessa learns to become a midwife specialising in dolphin-assisted birth. One can hope.

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  • Podcast

    Kia ora! Welcome to the podcast corner of Salient. I’m Annelise, and I’m the Podcast Editor. This is a new feature for Salient, and I’m so excited to discuss my favourite podcasts and elaborate on podcasts as a medium. I love listening to podcasts because they offer endless possibilities. Podcasts can be emotive, entertaining, informative, and provocative. You can listen anywhere, anytime. Anyone can create a podcast for very little cost, and anyone can listen for free. If you love podcasts too, please contribute! Salient is an expression of the student voice, so if you’d like to submit some podcast related content, please get in touch — email editor@salient.org.nz with the subject “Podcast”.

    In the meantime, download the truly excellent Desert Island Discs. This show is a BBC institution, and has been on air since 1942. The premise is simple: guests are “cast away” to a desert island, and asked to choose eight tracks to lift their spirits on the island. In between tracks, they are interviewed about their life, including their upbringing, education, and achievements.

    The guests are outstanding, with a plethora of big names being “cast away” such as James Corden, Lily Allen, and Malcolm Gladwell. However, just as many guests are not household names, yet equally as interesting. I particularly enjoyed the episode with Inga Beale, a phenomenal woman who overcame prejudices about her gender and sexuality to become CEO of major international insurance firm Lloyds of London.

    The guests are interviewed by Kirsty Young, whose warm Scottish brogue makes me want to listen to her for hours. She’s a great interviewer: funny and kind, but a straight shooter. Desert Islands Discs relies on honest portrayals of guests’ lives, and Young is unafraid to call someone out when she senses they are being evasive.

    Ultimately, Desert Island Discs is wonderful because it reveals every part of the human experience. Someone had a terrible childhood, someone else had a loving childhood. Someone landed their big break out of sheer luck, someone else through sheer will. Someone will always dedicate a song to someone they love, or were loved by. Touching and life-affirming, listening to Desert Island Discs you can’t help but think that everything will turn out just fine.

    Episode to start with: Tom Hanks

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  • Conchus Summit

    As part of Circa Theatre’s WTF! Women’s Theatre Festival, arts collective The Conch put together a two-part event on February 25 celebrating Pacific women’s performative art.

    During the day, Nina Nawalowalo, Tusiata Avia, and Anapela Polataivao shared their stories and experiences of creating and performing art that was not only challenging in subject matter, but also difficult to produce where there was a lack in structural, financial, and creative support from the creative industries. Nina emphasised that for Pacific stories to be told, Pacific storytellers are going to need a lot of courage. But these stories also require courage and faith from those in power to fund and facilitate their telling.

    Throughout each shared story was a running theme of the absolute necessity of sharing our platforms, our spaces, and our talents with each other. There is enough to go around. The speakers encouraged artists to leave behind the sense of competition with each other; our stories will travel further if we build them together. Tusiata explored the many moments of doubt about not being smart enough, brown enough, literary enough, creative enough, skinny enough, enough enough, to take her place in the creative world.

    In the evening was the Conchus Showcase, with an array of song, dance, readings, and acting from several artists at different points in their creative careers. Selina Alefosio’s Whatupaepae paid homage to her mother, grandmother, and ancestors who have shaped her identity, through traditional Tokelauan dance mixed with contemporary elements. Tusiata read an excerpt from a novel in progress, prose being a form outside her usual comfort zone of poetry. Tupe Lualua and Le Moana showcased the final act of their captivating show 1918, a dance show about the ‘Spanish’ influenza epidemic that spread across the world, but hit Samoa’s population significantly due to New Zealand’s poor colonial administration of Samoa.

    Filoi Vailaau choreographed and directed a piece titled Ie toga: A Samoan Woman’s Legacy that honoured two of Samoa’s precious measina (sacred treasures): Ie Toga, the fine mat gifted ceremoniously to show deep respect and alofa to the receiver; and the people who pour their spirit and sweat to weave these treasures. The performance piece did what I thought was unusual for theatre (that even I, a non-theatre goer, would know); it had the Samoan women performing as themselves. There’s something inexplicably breathtaking about seeing the women from generations before us, on a stage that would be foreign to them, but telling a story that is weaved into their being. Seeing older Samoan women, the unsigned authors and painters of many sacred tales over generations, get their time to shine and be celebrated was a beautiful moment. I don’t know if all theatre shows have this effect, but as a first-timer, this was a great first impression.

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  • Romine vs Sterling: The Final Insult

    Sometimes the most fascinating news stories in gaming don’t come from the games themselves, but the people who make a living playing them. One such story, one of the most bizarre sagas in the history of games journalism, has come to a satisfying conclusion and I’d like to offer a (perhaps belated) hot take on the situation.

    In March last year, James Romine, one half of the #FucKonami Memorial Award-winning game development company Digital Homicide, sued games critic Jim Sterling for “assault, libel, and slander” related to the latter’s coverage of the company’s games. Seeking damages of US$10 million, Romine tried and failed to crowdfund his legal fees and was forced to represent himself in court. After nearly a year of wrangling in the US courts, the case was finally dismissed with prejudice on February 21, meaning Romine cannot pursue the charges any further.

    It should not surprise you that Digital Homicide’s games were terrible, usually made from pre-purchased asset packs and produced in a matter of weeks. In their two years of selling games on Steam, they managed to launch TWENTY-ONE games, more than some developers have made in decades-long careers.

    Digital Homicide’s first game, an awful zombie survival shooter called The Slaughtering Grounds, was discovered by Sterling in 2014 and covered as a ‘Jimpressions’ video on his YouTube channel. He called the game “an absolute failure” and stated that it was a contender for the worst game of the year.

    Romine and his brother/business partner Robert lost it, launching into a barrage of ad hominem attacks against Sterling before abusing YouTube’s copyright system to have the video taken down. Sterling, undeterred, continued to cover the company’s games and shitty business practices, including how they abused Steam’s Greenlight system by uploading game projects under different names, rightfully criticising them at every turn. It quickly became clear to observers that the Romines had nothing on Sterling.

    When the lawsuit was eventually filed, the legal papers were incoherent, trying (and failing) to paint the Romines as the victims of a harassment campaign orchestrated by Sterling and his fans. While there probably were some overzealous people doing just that, Sterling himself decried such tactics. His critiques of the studio were reasonable (if occasionally crude, since he mostly plays a character: an exaggerated version of himself that believes he is a prophet).

    Did I mention that James Romine couldn’t get the money for a lawyer? Yeah, it was always going to be a skinny little jobber going up against Brock Lesnar.

    Despite all their failings as game developers and as people, the Romines seemed to have an unusual amount of pride in their work, claiming, without a trace of irony, to work hard on every game, and viciously attacking anyone who dared to criticise them. The lawsuit against Sterling was the culmination of these efforts. Make no mistake: this was a gross attack on an individual’s freedom of expression, an attempt to ruin the career of someone whose job is legally protected. Yet, they failed. They even managed to tank their own business while their alleged destroyer said nothing about them for nearly a year!

    Meanwhile, the Greenlight system that enabled Digital Homicide to exist and even thrive is being dismantled, to be replaced with one designed to keep chancers like the Romine brothers away from Steam. Whether it will succeed is yet to be seen, but what we do know is that Digital Homicide is dead, buried and rotting away in an unmarked grave, never to insult the gaming public again.

    Thank God for Jim fucking Sterling, son.

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  • Film Reviews

    Welcome to another year of film. We, Finn and Mathew, are the curators and referees of this section this year. As the year progresses we hope to cover a wide range of topics, regions, subgenres, events, and as always are hugely keen for contributions from you. To be honest, we were planning on doing some Oscar coverage, but the awards season was pretty much business as usual this year (Best Picture fuck-up aside).

    While we’re on that topic, if you’re stuck on what to watch AT THIS VERY MINUTE literally any of the films nominated are worth your time, and most of them are still in theatres, to be found in Aro Video, or (more likely) your friendly neighbourhood Pirate Bay. Kubo & The Two Strings in particular needs more love, and Sing Street was criminally overlooked by the Academy. Go forth, get amongst.

    We’ll be putting out reviews this year for films both mainstream and obscure, English language and otherwise, new and old, classic and cult, and hope to bring to your attention as many quality films as possible, while also vigorously waving red flags when a true shitstorm hits the theatres — looking at you Transformers 5.

    With that, enjoy these three reviews, and hit us up with any and all content. Peace and love, ya’ll.

     

    Pork Pie (2016)

    Director — Matt Murphy

    When I watch a film, I often take it as a bad sign when I’m left wondering “who is this being made for?” Unfortunately, this was my primary concern when watching Pork Pie. Well, that and “how much more could they miss the mark by?”

    Pork Pie is the retelling of NZ classic Goodbye Pork Pie (1981), with three misfits cavorting the length of the country in a never-ending parade of hijinks and mischief, and that mischief is where the majority of Pork Pie’s appeal lies. Despite a very small budget, the action actually comes off with flair and ingenuity. Sadly it is in the calm stretches, where the film falls to the central characters, that things start to splutter. Dean O’Gorman pulls a charismatic turn, and probably has the best batting average in turns of comedy throughout the film. What often drags is his front seat companion played by James Rolleston, who is bland and unconvincing in almost all aspects of his performance. And don’t get me started on the nose-pierced, liberal, veganism-advocate riding backseat — let’s just say I was left deeply unsure where the film’s sense of self-awareness lay after the crew’s voyage merges into a pseudo-animal rights campaign.

    But the underlying flaw that I could never quite get over is the film’s reliance on a dubious comparison with last year’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople. Where that film had its moments of referential and NZ pop culture references, they were often brief, with deeper themes and story threads flowing underneath. Sadly, Pork Pie did not have the foresight to include the latter, instead relying on beefy tourism stock footage and at least three ham-fisted cameos — an overall disappointing result.

    — Finn Holland

     

    John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

    Director — Chad Stahelski

    Following up from 2014’s bizarrely successful John Wick, stunt-man-come-director Chad Stahelski returns with more promises of lavishly stylised cinematography and masterful fight choreography.

    Wick, played by Keanu Reeves, is a widower, and an ex-hitman, possibly the world’s finest, until a Russian mobster ushers him out of retirement. Less effortless and more lacking-in-effort, the forever vacant Keanu Reeves seemingly cold-reads his lines directly to the camera, leaving the “acting” to his superior onscreen counterparts Ian McShane (Sexy Beast) and Lance Reddick (The Wire). That being said, as he’s proven time and time again, Keanu’s presence in an action sequence is one to behold.

    Though the film’s plot is relatively vapid, and filled with a number of cliché action film tropes such as cheesy one-liners and montages revealing cool new outfits, guns, and villains, the pacing and cinematography is on point. When the action returns as it always does — forever trying to one-up the louder, brighter, and more violent fights — it truly steamrolls you into your seat. Writer Derek Kolstad, smelling blood in the water in the wake of the first film’s commercial success, rightfully leaves John Wick 2 open-ended for another sequel.

    Ruby Rose’s character is entirely superfluous and Common’s feature as a rival assassin feels forced, and at times their exchanges are downright silly. However, it is still thoroughly entertaining by American action film standards.

    On the whole, the film is worth the big screen watch if you found the first agreeable, but I wouldn’t hold your standards as high as the original.

    — Mathew Watkins

     

    T2 Trainspotting (2017)

    Director — Danny Boyle

    Within the overwhelming torrents of sequels in recent years, there seems to be a growing category I like to call “oh shit, that made money a decade (or two) ago, let’s make another!” Enter an under-cooked Sin City sequel, a third Bridget Jones film, and now a follow up to ‘90s Scottish smash hit, Trainspotting.

    Despite validating my feelings about the movie industry milking properties to death, I will always turn up for any film by Danny Boyle (Shallow Grave, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Millions, Slumdog Millionaire, and the highly underrated Trance and Steve Jobs), and the talent assembled both in front and behind the camera is reason enough to see this film. All the original cast return, to great result, and Danny Boyle is as visually invigorating as ever. In fact, for the majority of the run time I felt that the team were executing this new chapter with a welcome degree of prowess.

    Unfortunately, this effort doesn’t quite make it to the finish line. The film gets confused between expanding the ideology of the first film and exploring the new themes of this film, meanwhile stacking a somewhat light plot in the middle. Trainspotting went straight to the heart of ‘90s existentialism; I thought the sequel could do much the same. It comments on the current goings-on of the world occasionally, but needed more than just another “Choose Life” speech from Ewan McGregor.

    That is not to say it’s a bad film; it’s one that is certainly worth your time. But every now and again the incredible visual flare and uncompromising language don’t quite distract from a larger opportunity being missed.

    — Finn Holland

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  • The Book of Love Is Long and Boring

    The title of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life gives a promise of brevity which the text itself, at over 700 pages, clearly breaks. Even if this novel displays an ironic knowingness or even embarrassment about its length, narrative scale nevertheless has its uses and pleasures. It looks at the outset as though A Little Life will use its several hundred pages to trace the lives of a group of college friends across several decades, though the panoramic gaze of the novel quickly settles on Jude, a brilliant and troubled lawyer. So far, so familiar. But rather than unfolding into an earnest, masculine rewriting of Girls, the vast length of the novel is instead used to slowly and painfully delineate, through a series of flashbacks, a horrifying series of unspoken but defining episodes of violence in Jude’s childhood.

    Perhaps surprisingly, given the seeming banality of its premise, A Little Life was met with enormous acclaim. It was exaggeratedly greeted by one reviewer, Garth Greenwell, as “the Great Gay Novel.” In Greenwell’s reading, the novel translates its protagonist’s personal childhood trauma into a synecdoche for “the collective traumas that have so deeply shaped gay life.” But the central concern of A Little Life is less the personal or collective trauma than the drama of narrative disclosure. Tellingly, a key scene of confession and self-realisation — in which Jude finally tells his boyfriend stories from his childhood that “are unimaginable, that are abominable” — literally takes place in a closet. The reader needn’t have read much D.A. Miller or Eve Sedgwick to see that, for Yanagihara, the ongoing project of coming out — in this case, as a survivor of abuse — is at the same time a coming-into-being.

    What struck me most forcefully, however, is the remarkable extent to which, despite its strained register of secrecy and trauma, Yanagihara’s novel traffics largely in boring details of bourgeois domesticity. If there is any redemptive possibility here, it is to be found in lengthy descriptions of marble bathrooms, converted SoHo loft apartments, and upstate holiday houses. In these scenes, the novel reads less like a chronicle of “damaged life” (to misuse Adorno) than a catalogue of middle class aspiration, or a post-queer pastiche of one of those CGI walkthroughs on Grand Designs. Just as Tom Ford’s film A Single Man (2009) filtered its protagonist’s grief over the death of his lover through a ready-to-wear aesthetic sensibility, A Little Life gives normative gay coupledom the literary equivalent of a spread in Architectural Digest.

    The pressing question here is not the political conditions of possibility for the everyday lives of queer people — these conditions seem, in the moneyed and liberal milieu in which these characters move, largely taken for granted. Rather, the novel’s primary interest is in what kind of ‘upmarket’ forms such a life might take. David Halperin may be right that interior decoration is one of the “mainstream cultural objects that gay male culture appropriates and endows with queer value.” But Yanagihara’s novel does not locate itself within this cultural tradition, since to do so would be to participate in the very regime of sexual identities and strategic essentialism that its characters openly disavow (to his friends, Jude is “post-sexual, post-racial, post-identity”). This refusal of codified categories of identity is less about seizing the emancipatory potential of Sedgwick’s “open mesh of possibilities,” I suspect, than something more reactionary: imagining an historical present in which renewed skirmishes over identity politics, and the persistent demands of social justice, are either illegible or have somehow disappeared.

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  • South of the Border, West of the Sun — Haruki Murakami

    Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun is set in 1950s post-war Japan, and centres around the comfortable, complacent existence of Hajime, a family man and owner of a jazz bar. However, Hajime comes to face the internal predicament of whether or not to give up this life when his childhood companion, Shimamoto, mysteriously reappears and their relationship soon evolves into romance.

    This novel is stunningly interpreted from Japanese to English by Philip Gabriel. Murakami’s language is fluid and accessible, creating a smooth, simple read that is equally gripping and complex. He manages to evoke strong feelings of nostalgia for a time and a culture associated with the bohemian jazz music scene, by weaving throughout his work a romanticised strain of unbridled sensuality. This work is also no exception to Murakami’s practice of presenting the reader with multiple concepts and ideas requiring a real effort to wrap your head around, and you leave the page pondering many of the lines he has crafted.

    You are left with a sense of empty space, a need for closure after reading; you somehow want the narrative interpreted a second time, not from Japanese to English, but from haunting intangibility to something more concrete, that makes sense… but that’s not the point. After the last page of this book, you will always feel like you’re still there.

    South of the Border, West of the Sun is definitely going to be appropriate for those at all levels of literacy; the reader is welcome to delve as shallow or as deep as they choose. That is part of the book’s charm. I encourage people to pick it up sometime and have a go, and do it with an open mind. Murakami’s style is in some ways very unique, but also very beautiful.

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  • Night — Elie Wiesel

    With some stories, as a reader, you know from the first sentence that this is going to be nothing less than a heart-churning experience that will reach your soul and there remain for many, many years. You know this. Your body alerts you to this prophetic knowledge by coming over entirely with a palpable wash of frightened anticipation.

    This is one of those stories. You will know, before anything has happened, as if before anything was even written, that you must take great care not to dismiss or forget what is about to happen. You must Pay Attention.

    You might remember the recent death of the author, Elie Wiesel, last year. Night is the autobiographical account of his hellish stay, along with his father, in a string of Nazi concentration camps at the time of the Holocaust. He was 15 when the Jewish community in his town of Sighet, Transylvania, was ghettoised, and then marched into cattle cars and driven away, first to Birkenau, and then to Auschwitz, and several further camps after that.

    All the while as those around him — hundreds, thousands, millions, men, women, children — passed through the fires of the ‘chimneys’, the crematoriums that were used to kill the Jewish people.

    Wiesel’s father died near to the end of their time imprisoned, but Wiesel survived. He would go on to receive a Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his life’s work fighting against all forms of systemic oppression and hatred. His writing here, only a short novel, is clear and careful, and beautifully intelligent. He narrated this nightmare because he knew that he must “bear witness.” He writes in the preface, “Others will never know. But would they at least understand?” And that is why he must be read, so that this will never happen again.

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  • About the Author ()

    Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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    In Which a Boy Leaves

    : - SPONSORED - I’ve always been a fairly lucky kid. I essentially lucked out at birth, being born white, male, heterosexual, to a well off family. My life was never going to be particularly hard. And so my tale begins, with another stroke of sheer luck. After my girlfriend sugge