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Issue 5, 2017

Issue 05

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News

  • Hong Kong “elects” first female Chief Executive

  • Kiwisaver makes bad investments

  • What’s with the Wi-Fi?

  • Belarus protesters detained

  • Academic Freedom under attack

  • “Inept” white supremacist group attempts VUW poster run

  • Government, agencies, private institutions failing students

  • Womens Football Fucked Over (Again)

  • Equal Pay Amendment Bill

  • Features

  • ALI

    Brave face: Crying in Public

    – SPONSORED – Someone once told me, “If I needed to have a hard conversation with you I would do it in public so you couldn’t get too upset.” We then proceeded to have a hard conversation. I shed some subtle tears, swallowing most of my feelings, composing myself at each sentence. The reality is […]

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  • Dan

    Somewhere in There: An Outsider’s Guide to Auckland

    – SPONSORED – “The city is a fact of nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its communal framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban form […]

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  • trinity

    Here’s to a Mid-Tri Pep Talk

    – SPONSORED – As we head into the grind of the trimester, I wanted to write a piece for anyone who’s already running on the dregs of yesterday’s coffee fix. In areas where we already know we’re lacking — motivation for starters — it can be really hard to confront and persevere past this. So […]

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  • ALI

    Brave face: Crying in Public

    – SPONSORED – Someone once told me, “If I needed to have a hard conversation with you I would do it in public so you couldn’t get too upset.” We then proceeded to have a hard conversation. I shed some subtle tears, swallowing most of my feelings, composing myself at each sentence. The reality is […]

    by

  • Dan

    Somewhere in There: An Outsider’s Guide to Auckland

    – SPONSORED – “The city is a fact of nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its communal framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban form […]

    by

  • trinity

    Here’s to a Mid-Tri Pep Talk

    – SPONSORED – As we head into the grind of the trimester, I wanted to write a piece for anyone who’s already running on the dregs of yesterday’s coffee fix. In areas where we already know we’re lacking — motivation for starters — it can be really hard to confront and persevere past this. So […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • The BeatGirls’ 21st: All Grown Up

    New Zealand group The BeatGirls have been performing here and overseas for 21 years. Since 1996 they’ve gone through 29 women, with both their music taste and their wardrobe both expanding since 1996. On Saturday night I pulled an old school friend along to the opening night of their birthday celebration at Circa Theatre.

    The BeatGirls cover interesting ground; they perform at an intersection between musical concert and dramatic performance. They are a New Zealand institution that celebrates the fashion and music from the 20th century.

    I knew nothing about them until my theatre editor boss called them “a slice of kiwi culture” and asked me to review the show, knowing me to be an old soul who appreciates old music. All in all, it was a classy affair. Suspended above the stage were the colourful dresses of the decades we would soon be transported to, with a retro-coloured floor from an Austin Powers film set. It was there that we were treated to several songs from the catalogue of “sing-along in the car” classics. Motown, Tom Jones, ABBA, and Tina Turner, to name a few. They didn’t just sing their songs — they danced the moves and wore the outfits.

    The costumes themselves were fabulous time capsules of the songs cycled on Classic Hits. After an impressive dance number the three singers would disappear off stage, leaving us entertained by a retro windows movie maker video, only for them to reappear just a few minutes later in a glam rock outfit or a psychedelic ’70s jumpsuit. In between the songs, the story of the BeatGirls was told, acted out, and sung. Yet this was not some distracting interlude — it was told with so many jokes that if one didn’t land, 20 one-liners would soon make you laugh. Each of the singers were also colourful characters, with their personalities shining through the songs and individual dance moves.

    As the show continued past the 60-minute mark, the desire to move your hips and sing along became unavoidable. Throughout the audience, old grandparents and young children were all swept up in the birthday celebration. A couple of ten-year olds in front of me arrived in the theatre with their parents, at first sceptical of the hanging dresses and old music. Yet they were so caught up with the dance moves and songs that as soon as the show ended they rushed out to get autographs and photos. This was a testament not just to how the songs were cross-generational, but how the energy and enthusiasm of the performers can easily transfer to school boys and me, the guy in the back row holding his little notebook in the dark. By the time “Oh, What a Night!” by The Four Seasons was sung, I was almost standing up.

    The BeatGirls is on for another week and I’d highly encourage anyone who has a free night to drag along a couple of friends to Circa Theatre. It was a much-needed escape from the world of assignments and tutorials, of flat cooking, and staring at your laptop while refreshing your Facebook newsfeed. It was both a retro trip into the past, and a celebration of a Kiwi group’s success. Above all, it was a welcomed reminder of all those complex emotions we love to sing about.

    Circa Theatre is currently offering theatre tickets for $25 for those 25 years old and under. Find out more at http://www.circa.co.nz/.

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  • Invisible Cities — Italo Calvino

    It is a fitting book to write about on a murky night, when the city from the office window is but a suggestion in the clouds, a gathering, formed from orange points between the dark structures of buildings.

    Invisible Cities is many conversations, or one dialogue, between the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan and his Venetian messenger Marco Polo who describes 55 cities from his vast realm. Each is demarcated, given its own chapter, and five are ordered around a theme, eleven in total — e.g. Cities & Names; Hidden Cities.

    The cities are encountered on a narrative path that feels circular. It is like a descent down an unending spiral staircase: a motion of “leaving there and proceeding.” To read the description of a city by Polo is to move with him through an endless wasteland; the next city on the horizon, each somehow a return to the last, but no steps retraced?

    Respite come in the moments when the book narrates Polo’s meetings with Kublai Khan in the opulent and imperial, but unlocatable, settings of the ruling class — “reclining on cushions” or “beneath the silken canopy of the imperial barge.”

    These moments of conversation allow for a reflexive contemplation on the structure that underlies Polo’s wandering descriptions. Kublai Khan, as listener, believes he can discern a pattern like that in chess where “certain pieces implied or excluded the vicinity of other pieces and were shifted along certain lines.” He thinks: “If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains.”

    Here we must step out. The structure of the novel as we read it indicates nothing but the gaps, the darkness of the unknowable. It is created from language and, like the cities, the words used to evoke them are shifting and untethered in the mists.

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  • Where We Once Belonged — Sia Figiel

    It’s a strange feeling reading stories set in contemporary Samoa. Having read books almost exclusively set in America or England, a defining aspect of the fictional world was that I never saw my real world in there. My fiction never had Aoga Faifeau, Pili (Tagaloa’s son), the makeki fou, and characters with names like Filemuepeiolelupeuatulelauolivemalueleonononafaauoiaue. The novel uses both prose and poetry, with Samoan mythology intertwined, and it feels as if you’re moving between the real and the imaginary, disrupting my understanding of fiction.

    The jarring experience of reading about places, people, and cultural nuances that I thought didn’t belong in books (especially books studied at university) is made moreso by Figiel’s matter-of-fact tone. The opening line reads: “When I saw the insides of a woman’s vagina for the first time I was not alone.” Far from being titillating, Figiel’s prose is aggressively confronting and it isn’t until you reach the chapters that are poetry that you find some room to breathe.

    This book describes a Samoa that is very similar to my experience of living in the village, but also brings new narratives that I’ve never seen or read about. It predicates the aspects of Samoan society that I took for granted in a form that allows it to be questioned: older men (often a family member) sexually preying on younger women, the pursuit of a palagi spouse because that’s seen as a rise in the social order, the extent of the beatings children receive from parents and other adults, and how “good-natured” mocking can quickly turn into bullying. The novel doesn’t overtly condemn these aspects, but describes them as just the way things are. At first I accepted them as merely realistic descriptions to set the scene. But these background details soon became the subject matters in the forefront.

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  • GIG GUIDE

    Wednesday: Eyegum Wednesdays with Disparo and Starving Millions. Whet your appetite for Australian punk with a side of Wellington hardcore with this stunner of a gig. Head remaining squarely on shoulders not guaranteed. San Fran, 9:00pm.

    Thursday and Friday: Nadia Reid Preservation Tour. Nadia Reid’s deliciously serene folk may just slip you into a trance so lovely and full that you are able to spend the entirety of the rest of your life delightedly soldiering through capitalism, the patriarchy, the prison industrial complex, casual racism, and other such pleasant institutions with vim and vigour. The beauty will unfold at Meow, doors opening at 7:30pm.

    Friday: Tenzin Choegyal. This dude is wild. He was from a nomadic family in Tibet, clandestinely escaped Chinese occupation to live in India, and learned to masterfully play the Tibetan lute and transverse bamboo flute as well as sing like a sweet baby angel, and you get to experience all this transcendental magic live in little old Wellington! Johnny Marks of The All Seeing Hand is also doing a solo throat-singing set, and this will all occur on the alternate plane of what I believe to be called “Pyramid Club”. Time is an indeterminate social construct, and if your belief is potent enough, you can access this realm whenever you choose. For the plebs who still wear watches, it’s at 8:00pm.

    Saturday: Dual EP release tour. Dual are dudes. They make sounds with buttons and wires and stuff. It’s psychedelic and nice, so you should probably go to Caroline at 8:00pm on Saturday.

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  • You tell these stories for so long that they seem true.

    In August 1955, Emmett Till, 14 years old, was brutally beaten, shot in the head, and dumped in a river in Mississippi. Carolyn Bryant, a white woman, alleged he had called her something “unutterable,” and told her he had done “something” with “white women before.”  She told her husband. He and his half-brother took Till’s life for a crime Bryant recently claimed to not entirely remember. “You tell these stories for so long that they seem true,” she said, which seems like a particularly roundabout way of saying she lied. They were never convicted.

    Mamie Till, Emmett’s mother, held an open casket funeral. An image of Till’s mutilated body was printed in Jet magazine, which had a predominantly black audience. Audience matters. “Let the people see what I’ve seen,” she said, pushing his death into the spotlight and denying the grotesque the shaded corners of seclusion it so often demands.

    Images of black boys, black men, dying, come faster now to a wider audience. Maybe we are more accustomed. Maybe numbed. Maybe at too much of a distance. Maybe videos, pixel on screen, allow everyone to think they exist at a distance.

    The Whitney Biennial is in its 78th iteration this year. Curated by Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks, it features the work of 63 artists and collectives, and aims to “gauge the state of art in America today.” Is to gauge the state of art to gauge the state of the nation? The answer rests in the audience’s reaction.

    Dana Schutz is one of the artists with work on display. Somewhere within the gallery hangs Open Casket, an abstracted image of Till, drawn from the image reproduced in Jet. If the horror of the photograph comes from the distortion it depicts, the fact that the son Mamie buried looked nothing like the son she knew, then the horror of the painting comes from the fact that Schutz has rendered him again unrecognisable.                   

    There have been calls for the painting’s removal, as of yet unsuccessful. Hannah Black’s open letter to the Whitney is eloquent, moving, and worth reading.

    I, a Polynesian woman, have little to add to Till’s narrative. But there are things we can draw from that of Open Casket. What I want to ask is how does history inform the present, how does it construct the present, and who has the right to represent it? Images are loaded. Whispering sweet nothings into the present’s ear, they present the opportunity to hijack history.

    In 2015, Jono Rotman’s large format studio portraits of Mongrel Mob members were exhibited at the City Gallery Wellington. They represent a different kind of distortion, closer to home. Search his work online and you’ll get headlines like “These Stunning Photos of New Zealand’s Largest Gang Will Give You Sleepless Nights”; “New Zealand’s Most Notorious Gang Pose For Photos That Will Make You Quiver”; “Staring Death In The Face”.

    Gangs act as a collective way of defining your existence, when as an individual, or minority group, you are otherwise denied that autonomy. They do bad things. They do good things. They are built out of urbanisation and migration. They are attempts to build community. They are acts of imperial resistance. They have many histories. They are easily sensationalised.

    Rotman hoped that his audience would be “forced to consider each man in person and consider deeply the forces that made him.” Schutz claimed art as “a space for empathy, a vehicle for connection. I don’t believe that people can ever really know what it is like to be someone else (I will never know the fear that black parents may have) but neither are we all completely unknowable.” Rotman and Schutz both display, I think, a kind of knowingness — or maybe a wilful ignorance — of the nature of their audience: it is them. It is white. It is loud. And it denies their subjects a voice by speaking right over them.

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  • Black and White

    Black and white has served a multitude of filmmakers as a means to tell a story since colour took over as the dominant form, as it offers a different technique for expression. Alfred Hitchcock famously went back and forth between the two, using red and green in the lusty illusions of Vertigo, but harsh shadows and spooky lighting in black and white for Psycho. And, of course, The Wizard of Oz starts in black and white before exploding in vibrant colours. Since nowadays black and white has become a deliberate choice, it pays to examine why filmmakers use it. The most obvious example is Spielberg’s Schindler’s List; it prompts the clear discrepancy between good and evil, while also placing us temporally. Furthermore, the often noir-style cinematography lends itself to the format with shadows, smoke, and brutal violence often featured within the frame.

    16mm black and white has also offered many varying filmmakers the ability to shoot their projects dirt cheap. Kevin Smith’s Clerks managed to scrape by on no budget, Christopher Nolan used his noir tendencies to save money with The Following, and Roman Polanski brought a visceral portrayal of sexual anxiety to the screen with Repulsion in the ’60s — the lo-fi/low-tech nature of the film working to make it all the more disturbing. At its most essential form, black and white cuts out the middleman of colour and sends our brain images of pure composition without any frills or distractions. Here’s a brief collection of films (all of which, by chance, are documentaries) that have used the advantages of black and white memorably.

     

    The Ground We Won (2015)

    Directed by Christopher Pryor and Miriam Smith

    It’s honestly surprising, given our nation’s apparent love of rugby, that more cinema hasn’t come of it. The explanation for this may well lie in this primarily observational documentary, which follows the Reporoa Rugby Club through their season, and in doing so portrays the extent to which the sport is ingrained into the New Zealand community. There’s all the swearing (“let’s smash these c*nts”), drinking (primarily crate beer), and hazing you might, or might not, have expected, but there’s also a genuine camaraderie shown between the players. Indeed, all the “aftermatch” behaviour is bracingly upfront, with alcohol-fuelled masculinity bringing out what some would call the worst of rural New Zealand. In a way, the style is almost a reference to the polarising nature of the sport itself — while some are neutral or indifferent towards rugby, there are many who loathe it, and others who live and breathe it (I am referring to those who act as if “soccer” is a poncy frivolity which threatens their way of life and furthermore is played by girls).

    This is a sports film only in the loosest sense. There’s no narration, so you’re left with whatever the filmmakers capture the men saying, and it is in the lack of explanation that the filmmakers enforce the absurdity of rugby. Had this been a documentary about the All Blacks or any of other well known rugby team, all the beats and motions would have been predictable and familiar. But with the obscurity of the team, and the use of black and white, the film becomes a microcosm of a greater community. The removal of colour makes you feel as if you could be watching any provincial team at any time in New Zealand’s history, and the film’s overall comment is all the greater for its stylistic choice.

     

    One More Time With Feeling (2016)

    Directed by Andrew Dominik

    Following 2013’s 20,000 Days On Earth, which chronicled Nick Cave’s thoughts and feelings on that particular time in his life (as well as semi-documenting the creation of the album Push The Sky Away), this film finds Cave in the wake of personal tragedy, and follows far more closely his creativity and creative process in the making of the album Skeleton Tree. Immediately reflexive in its format, the film finds Cave agitated and more concerned than usual — at a kind of crossroads. Not only in black and white, but also in 3D, you truly feel like an inhabitant of Cave’s world. That said, you’re also occasionally thrust back into the real world as the camera sometimes breaks and the filmmakers resort to split screen, with one camera flicking in and out of focus. To match that level of realism is a Nick Cave far more candid than he was in 20,000 Days, and he even admits this in relation to his songwriting. In the interviews the camera is often handheld and evocative, and intercut with lush cinematography of his surrounding seaside town, complemented by the sense of otherworldliness that black and white implies.

    As Cave describes how in wake of his son’s death he sees the world differently, we too see the world differently. It’s not a morbid piece, or one that lingers in grief, but is rather a meditation on life when you’re forced to readjust so drastically. And I haven’t even mentioned the songs yet. The entire album is played (and filmed) throughout, and there is a filmic progression to all the songs. In the beginning the filmmakers capture a distracted and hesitant Cave singing “Jesus Alone” and the set pieces get more and more elaborate and emotional, with the second to last song, “Distant Sky”, being filmed in colour and representing a progression as well as hope. In the end it’s a beautiful portrait that is thoughtful and riveting, and one that will undoubtedly engage you with its thesis on life.

     

    The Salt Of The Earth (2014)

    Directed by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado

    This one’s a bit of a cheat, because it is only about two-thirds black and white, but the way this film cuts from black and white to the occasional use of colour is something worth talking about. Exploring the 40-year career of photographer Sebastiao Salgado, this epic and breathtaking documentary recounts his greatest expeditions and examines his attitude to his work, his life, and to our own species. All of Salgado’s photographic work is black and white, so the filmmakers match this with the interview footage and a lot of the other cinematography. It’s not just stylistic however: Salgado’s work is timeless through its lack of colour, and so too becomes the film.

    Most of interviews are Salgado himself recounting his experiences as he looks over his photography, and you slowly gain insight into his views on humanity. As he documents extreme genocide and famine in Africa, it becomes apparent that the human condition is one of perpetual, self-inflicted sickness, and his photography becomes confronting and brutal. Here the timeless nature of black and white serves as a reminder that the issues that Salgado photographed then are not only issues of that time, but of all time. Incredible humanitarian injustices occurred before he saw and photographed them, and they still continue today. Within the interviews a very sombre Salgado conducts himself thoughtfully, and his eyes give the viewer a hint of the suffering he has seen. In this way the black and white serves as a means to deconstruct human expression to pure composition, with the emotion somehow more tangible, something seen also in Salgado’s work. Towards the end of the film colour is used more, as Salgado in more recent times documents the purity of nature and restores his family farm in Brazil from virtual desert to a thriving ecosystem, and in that Salgado finds his resolution in the thought that humans can still bring positive impact to the world, ending a monumental legacy of photography with a fitting conclusion.

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  • In Our Time

    Congratulations, you’ve made it to WEEK FIVE of university! You’re back into the student routine: your assignments are piling up, you’ve got a crush on a barista at Vic Books, and the Nap Paradox has reared its ugly head (the more you desperately need to nap, the less time you have to take said nap). Also, you’re LEARNING. It’s crazy how in the holidays you can spend 50 minutes watching blooper reels, whereas at uni in 50 minutes your lecturer will have taught you everything you need to know about NATO. Although the university experience is attached to many things — socialising, crippling debt, anxiety about your job prospects – it’s important to stop and think about all the things you’ve learned. Even if it seems weird or obscure, knowledge will always be important.

    Now that we’ve agreed we love to learn, check out the podcast In Our Time. Originally broadcast on the BBC, each week a different topic is discussed by host Melvyn Bragg and three academic experts. The advantage of having multiple experts is that there will often be some brisk debate around the topic, as they challenge each other’s ideas and assumptions on the topic. The range of topics discussed is immense, from penicillin to Animal Farm to the Haitian Revolution. Each episode is 50 minutes long — it’s basically a lecture you can listen to in your bed and just enjoy, knowing you’ll never be tested on it.

    The pace of discussion is quick, and there is an assumption of a proficient level of general knowledge in the listener, so I would recommend dipping your toe in at episodes where you are a bit familiar with the topic. However it’s an extremely popular programme on the BBC, with over two million listeners tuning in each week.

    Knowledge is power, but even better, knowledge brings progress. We’re all better off if we know stuff. So next time you’re walking to uni, give In Our Time a listen and LEARN NEW THINGS.

    Episode to start with: Industrial Revolution

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  • NZ Music: Kraus

    Kraus has been kicking around the Auckland underground scene for quite a while now, frequently dropping albums of lo-fi psych rock instrumentals recorded with homemade modular synths, tape drum loops, and guitars running through fuzzed out effects boxes. His stream of steady releases has gained the attention of international indie labels and his latest record Grip The Moon is set to be released on cassette via US label Soft Abuse, and on vinyl early next year via Belgian label Kraak.

    The record carries on Kraus’ blown out production style we’ve come to expect from previous releases, but has some of his most striking modular synth work on tracks like “A Cobweb My Dear” and a particularly great blokflüt part on “Boss Killer”.

    Talking about his influences, Kraus explains, “I draw a lot on East Asian folk traditions and traditional music so I’m kind of interested in those sounds and instruments. I really like the contrast of high tech futuristic synth sounds with flute sounds, an extreme contrast I like to play with.” His influences on Grip The Moon are more specific: “A Cobweb My Dear” draws from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, “a young woman who works with modular synthesisers, in the fast arpeggio stuff that’s happening on that track.” And Kraus suggests the repetitiveness of the album opener, “Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed”, comes from listening to Hawkwind quite a bit — “it doesn’t really sound like them but the hypnotic thing that they would get into is coming through there.”

    Up until about 2007 or 2008 Kraus released most of his music by making CDs and personally sending them to people. “It was a really good way to distribute music, I kind of miss that personal contact.” When the Free Music Archive was launched (freemusicarchive.org) Kraus began putting his releases up for free. His back catalogue is extensive, featuring a bunch of different instrumentation and experimentation such as the inclusion of the Guzheng (Chinese zither) on his album Workers in Kontrol.

    I asked where a good place to start searching through Kraus’s discog might be: “My album I could destroy you with a single thought which came out in 2004 is definitely one of my strongest albums. I have quite a varied style in a way, but it’s reasonably consistent in terms of quality and approach, so I think you can dip in anywhere, but that’s the album I’d recommend people go to first.”

    Kraus has spent a lot of time overseas lately playing shows, and is heading to Europe in September for a residency at the EMS studio in Stockholm (the Swedish national home of electronic music) where he’ll have access to their extensive synthesiser collection to work on new material. For now, check out Grip The Moon on kraussss.bandcamp.com if you’re into proggy, psychedelic, ambient, fuzzy, blissed out aural experiences.

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  • The Bachelor NZ, Season Three

    Hear ye, hear ye, I do decree!
    Another season of the
    Bachelor NZ to be reviewed by me!
    Roses! Dates! Champagne! Michael Hill!
    Whose wildest dreams will our new leading man fulfil?
    Each week we’ll watch as he looks for his queen,
    Let’s just hope he’s more interesting than bloody Art Green.

     

    Desperate to avoid a repeat of last year’s Bachelor catastrophe, when Jordan Mauger ditched winner Fleur hours after giving her the winning rose, the producers have gone in a completely different direction with this year’s bachelor Zac Franich. He might look like just another tall, white, brunette man with a passion for sports, but you’re wrong, because he also has a very deep tan. And they got rid of Mike Puru and Dominic Bowden’s hosting it now — I’m telling you, it’s a whole new game!

    Zac is a 28-year old surf life saving coach from the Hibiscus Coast. He loves his family, he loves his students, and he looks a lot better in motion than in promo photos. His favourite book is Catch-22 and I was surprised to learn he can read. When asked what kind of movies he enjoys during a round of tipsy group small talk, Zac claims one of his favourites is the John Belushi classic The Blues Brothers — nice try Zac, but unless you have your own DeLorean à la Jordan I’m calling BULLSHIT on your passion for ’80s film.

    The Bachelor is only in its second week as I’m writing this so it’s still hard for me to tell the difference between any of the bachelorettes. All of the women standing out to me so far are not doing so for the best reasons: Taylar, who reminds me of every girl I was scared of at high school in Christchurch; Nina, who won’t stop babbling about how she’s not like the other girls and how much she loves Harry Potter (and she wasn’t even the only contestant to mention HP in her opening interview — like, we all read them, but is a show about adult relationships really the time to be bringing child wizards up with great fervour?); Lily, who has the upper hand as a snowboard instructor but is unfortunately completely dead behind the eyes; and Bel, who LOVES. HER. CATS. There are some other nice and normal blonde girls who will stick around for a few weeks, but who will be this year’s Naz? It’s going to take a lot of sneaky editing to make any of these women look mean in a funny way.

    As per usual the group dates all involve some kind of physical activity and I look forward to the producers scrambling for ideas all but short of forcing the ladies to do the beep test. So far we’ve done relay races and touch rugby. Everyone pretends they love it — or maybe they do? I don’t. The one-on-one dates are a little more traditional, though still situated in the middle of a rugby pitch or a table on the beach safely between the flags (get it? Life saving). “I’m kind of like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman,” says early front-runner Viarni of her evening with Zac, catching herself to add, “except I’m not a hooker.” Let’s just hope Zac isn’t like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride. What’s Jordan Mauger up to these days anyways? You didn’t hear it from me (you did) but I’ve heard he can be spotted at many the Auckland club getting down and dirty on the d-floor. Romance is still alive! Raise a glass of miscellaneous champagne to that, ladies.

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  • You Can Play Too!

    As much as I like to say that games are for everyone, the unfortunate truth is that the medium is nowhere near as accessible as it should be. It isn’t about subject matter or anything to do with a game’s artistic intentions; rather, it is a matter that most people wouldn’t even give a single thought to.

    How can you play video games if holding a controller is nearly impossible?

    Think about it: how would you hold a controller? Presumably you grip it with both hands and hold it in front of your torso with your elbows at your side. That’s the way most controllers have been designed since the early days of console gaming. Unfortunately, most controllers are only designed with able-bodied players in mind, meaning that if you have a disability or other condition that affects your fine motor skills, the controller is (rather ironically) your biggest barrier to being able to play most games.

    Until very recently, the only real solution for mainstream games was to use unofficial alternative controllers. Some of these are amazing feats of engineering, such as the QuadStick, a mouth-operated controller designed for quadriplegics, and a number designed for use in one hand. As incredible and thoughtful as they are, most of these solutions are expensive and are not officially supported by console manufacturers or most games; the QuadStick only exists thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, and it will set you back at least US$399. Gaming may be an expensive hobby, and I’m certain most people with physical disabilities will do anything to feel comfortable, but you’d have to be really dedicated to fork over that amount of cash.

    Thankfully it seems that the big gaming companies are listening to this part of their consumer base and are taking accessibility into consideration more and more. For instance, the Nintendo Switch is probably the most accessible console for disabled gamers ever released, thanks to the system’s Joy-Con controllers. Having two separate controllers that work in tandem with one another allows for all sorts of configurations, whether it’s having one controller in each hand, or one in your hand and another at your feet, or whatever works for you! The very nature of the system means that you can play in a way that feels most comfortable, even if you don’t have a disability. Despite this, some of the Joy-Con features such as motion control go in the opposite direction, and as of writing there is no button remapping available.

    That ability to remap is the key idea behind a recent update to the Xbox One called Co-pilot Mode. This mode allows you to map controls for one player over two controllers, allowing for functionality similar to that built into the Joy-Cons. Remapping is already built into the Xbox One and PS4, so a mode like this should really be a no-brainer; as it is, it’s still kind of clever. Yes, it requires picking up an extra controller, but compared to the likes of the QuadStick it really won’t cost that much.

    If we want games to truly be for everyone then we need to think of those for whom the traditions of gaming are a barrier. It may be great to see more accessibility options being put out there, but true change needs to be put into systems from the ground-up, not just with system updates and unofficial accessories. If you want to find out more about accessibility options for disabled gamers, check out the AbleGamers Foundation, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of those with disabilities through gaming, at ablegamers.org.

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  • Cuts From the Deep

    Wesley Willis

    Wesley Willis is probably the wildest rock ‘n’ roll artist in history. Willis was born in the Midwest music metropolis Chicago, Illinois, and survived a traumatic childhood. He developed severe paranoid schizophrenia in the late ’80s as a result of the abuse he endured but, through this turmoil, emerged as one of the strangest, heart-warming, and lyrically astounding punk musicians and artists of the ’90s. The 300 pound giant became a cult icon not only because of his lyrically delightful verses, but also his engaging personality and peculiar demeanour.

    The base level of crude humour is apparent in songs like “Suck a Cheetah’s Dick” with great throwaway lines sprinkled in like “tell your barber you’re sick of looking like an arsehole” and “the lake of fire tore his arse up.” When you listen to his other records, there’s a level of depth, context, and emotion coming out of the frontman’s paranoia. The more politically informed songs pose questions to Ronald Reagan such as “what the fuck are you doing in my house?” and state the dread many African Americans feel — “when the police pulled up, I was doomed.” The production is about as lo-fi as it gets, however it’s undeniably heartfelt, reflective, and informed by Wesley’s own bizarre life. His artwork, despite its initially elementary appearances, is surprisingly astounding, and noted for its detailed recreation of Chicago’s cityscapes and public transport buses.

    But Willis’s personality was what sold many people, regardless of their thoughts on his actual records. Wesley developed a large bump on his forehead over his lifetime as he would always greet people by bumping his head with theirs and ask them to “Say Ra!” and “Say Raw!” for no reason at all. Despite his intimidating stature, people never seemed scared to come and engage with him to discuss how his psychotic episodes, known as joy (good)/hell (bad) rides, were treating him, a bit of chat about the three demons “Heartbreaker”, “Nervewrecker”, and “Meansucker” that taunted him, and ultimately how the rock and/or roll lifestyle was. The man had an amazing circle of friends in record shops, including Sublime’s front runner Bradley Nowell, and Dead Kennedy’s founder Jello Biafra. Biafra said in an interview that Wesley, and the way he assembled his works, “are like no else. Ever.”

    Wesley passed away in 2003 due to leukaemia that ultimately deteriorated his health beyond repair, but he will live on in the hearts and minds of all those who dare to Whoop Spiderman’s, Batman’s, or Ronald Reagan’s arse. Rock Over London, Rock on Chicago.

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  • One Thousand Thoughts

    I like watching a movie for the first time knowing as little as possible about it prior. I avoid trailers and ratings — I like to keep an element of surprise. I went into The Martian thinking it was going to be about J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter. All I knew about One Thousand Ropes was that it would contain a pregnant Frankie Adams (Ilisa) and a wall with missing photo frames demarcated.

    The Wellington premiere of One Thousand Ropes opened with speeches from Minister of Arts, Culture, and Heritage Maggie Barry, producer Catherine Fitzgerald, and director Tusi Tamasese. Once I heard Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi acknowledged as a distinguished guest, I realised this event was monumental — not just to local artists, the NZ film industry, and government officials who mispronounce every single Samoan name (does no one receive PR training for this?!), but to the wider Samoan, and Pasifika, communities. I suspected the film would address violence when the Honourable Maggie Barry complimented the film for “punching above its weight — pun intended, given the subject of the movie.”

    This film is h e a v y. Its pace is slow and, in the words of Tamasese, “demands a lot of your patience.” When watching the movie, my mind was overloaded with a thousand thoughts: whether violence is a legitimate form of protection, the normalisation of domestic violence in diasporic Samoan communities, indigenous spirituality and healing, the intergenerational disconnection between migrant parents and and their first generation New Zealand children, low socio-economic realities of the working class, the differences between the spoken gagana Samoa versus the English subtitles, the muted colour palette, the lack of a soundtrack but the visceral sound of Maea pulling a tooth out of his toe, the close-ups of dirty and bloodied skin, how Samoans laugh in such dire contexts, and if this film provided an accurate depiction of Samoan life.

    This movie is praised for being a gritty, unflinching look at the reality of Samoan and Pacific communities. I wrote in Issue 01 that Moana “does not claim to be an accurate anthropological telling of the Pacific.” One Thousand Ropes, in contrast, was framed as a film that sheds light onto “real” problems that “real” Pacific communities face — right here in Aotearoa.

    Pasefika Proud, an organisation dedicated to “promoting better well being by preventing violence in Pacific families and communities,” partnered with the film for their One Hundred Men Of Influence campaign, which is “a call to action targeting fathers to take responsibility for ending family violence in their family.” Actors Tuiasau Uelese Petaia (Maea) and Beulah Koale (Molesi) delivered emotive speeches at the premiere — urging the men in the room to think about their definition of masculinity and its implications for the people they love. They encouraged men to continue the conversation beyond the theatre, to take it back to their male friends and family members. I fought hard to hold my tears back when Petaia spoke — he spoke English with a fobby accent that felt so familiar, familial; powerful and gentle at the same time. Koale thanked the women in his life for showing him that being a man doesn’t rely on an aggressive display of physical strength.

    This film explores different expressions of strength. This is shown predominantly through Maea’s contradictory character. His careful yet strong hands mili pregnant women and deliver babies from mothers who, out of social and cultural shame, don’t go to the hospital. These hands also knead the dough of the keke pua’a, an outlet for pent-up anger. These same hands also beat up a young colleague, for showing disrespect to an older one. They had also beaten his wife. These violent acts occur off-screen. Maea’s isn’t the only strength the film brings attention to. Women’s strength is displayed through Seipua’s relentlessness on living beyond the grave, and Ilisa during her pregnancy and delivery (which she handles completely alone). Ilisa’s strength is fully realised when she eliminates Seipua for good, as well as taking herself and her baby away from the abusive men in her life.

    Does the “realness” of the film rely on whether the characters or storyline would actually exist in our real world, things people have experienced themselves, truths they already know? Yet, fiction allows us to imagine a level of reality that doesn’t look exactly like ours, but touches on very real aspects of it. The language, the jokes, the cultural shame of young (and unmarried) women’s unplanned pregnancies, the reliance on physical strength to showcase masculinity — these all felt real. Even Seipua felt real. I only know echoes of stories about indigenous Samoan spirituality (taboo in most contexts I’ve been in). I haven’t lived them, nor have I heard direct accounts of people’s experience with them. But Seipua’s “realness” for me didn’t rely on whether or not she’s an accurate visual depiction of aitu; I cannot verify this. But I’ve seen her violent anger before, in my real world. The way she condemned Maea’s abusive actions, attacked Ilisa for telling her to go away, and yearned to live and be free — these all felt real.

    One Thousand Ropes requires a second viewing. It can be frustrating when you feel like a film is being elusive and difficult for the sake of being artsy — “I don’t get it.” This complaint often assumes there is one takeaway message, one moral-of-the-story hidden that only the exclusively artsy and/or “smart” people can find. I urge you to support this film with your dollars. Pasifika narratives within mainstream Aotearoa are often packaged in bright colours, floral designs, singing, dancing, and laughter: Fresh, Laughing Samoans, Pasifika Festival, Tangata Pasifika. We need diversity in our narratives and One Thousand Ropes is one (monumental) example of it (there are many counternarratives in Pasifika art and discourse but often in lesser-known contexts).

    Go into the cinema with an open but critical mind; reflect on your own honest reactions. Pay attention to the parts that are unsettling, confusing, and enjoyable for you. It sounds taxing  and it is, I suppose. But this is what I like doing in my spare time.

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  • Escaped Alone — Caryl Churchill

    Escaped Alone at first doesn’t appear to fit the nature of Circa Theatre’s Women’s Theatre Festival (WTF!). While it’s radical to see four women over 30 claim the theatrical space, there’s no obvious feminist subject matter, as with previous WTF! pieces The Journey of Miss Batten or Hen’s Teeth. Then again, when you consider playwright Caryl Churchill’s career in theatre (being critically dismissed early on based upon an unwillingness to grant interviews, for her unashamedly experimental and political content and, dare I say it, being a female intruder on the old boys’ club of British Theatre) it makes perfect sense. Historically, whenever one of Churchill’s major productions has premiered, it has been directed by a man — but this New Zealand premiere is directed by Susan Wilson, making it a uniquely feminist experience considering the limited roles available for women on and offstage in international theatre.

    Unfortunately, Escaped Alone at times feels like witnessing the outcome of a three-way brawl between different scriptwriters, as if Churchill was in three minds about the piece while writing it. One writer is trying to produce a light-hearted ensemble comedy about the experiences of aging as women, while one is trying to cram in some deeply personal monologues addressing the ironic sense of isolation people can feel in the modern world. Then there’s the closet communist in the corner who delights in envisioning capitalism’s bloody downfall. I’m not sure how the communists’ pages got in, but they’re all there in the darkly comedic monologues of starving children watching Breakfast Shows on iPlayer and refugees on a three week NHS waiting list for gas masks. Ginette McDonald, playing Mrs Jarrett, performs these anomalies lit by a single spotlight between group scenes, and seems to relish the dripping malice of the direction.

    This isn’t to say that these three scriptwriters are bad at their job. Churchill is clever enough to keep us out of the characters’ worlds as long as possible: we are introduced to the characters with an array of non-sequiturs, in-jokes, and gossip. You spend the first twenty minutes trying to look for a deeper feminist or postcolonial meaning, like the crown jewels of Churchill’s writing Top Girls and Cloud Nine. Then, just when you’ve written off  Escaped Alone as an aimless, labour of love: the “cat monologue” happens, performed with tenacity by Irene Wood. What starts off as a laughter-inducing shpiel concerning Ailurophobia (irrational fear of cats) quickly turns to a deeply unsettling depiction of aging alone, and the paranoia that it brings. Suddenly, like the patio cracks in the floor of the set, the layers of pretense and fake smiles slip and break, and we are drawn into the murky past of endlessly charismatic Vi (Carmel McGlone) and the hidden depths of Lena (Jane Waddell).

    But as a final point, even with four excellently directed monologues, my experience of Escaped Alone  felt like a mirror of Mrs Jarrett’s experience in the play. I see women I recognise, and am invited in: they talk for an hour while I listen. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I gasp, and sometimes I make a noise somewhere in the middle. Then I leave, unsatisfied, having not understood what I should have been listening to and what was superfluous. The acting and direction of the piece is fantastic, with the characters instantly likeable and complex at once. The dialogue is paced beautifully. But I wish the individual acting, direction, and writing could have been focused upon one cohesive narrative, as opposed to trying to craft something out of three different experiences.

    As a counterpoint: it’s new theatre from Caryl Churchill. Even it’s extreme lack of cohesiveness has a certain charm.

     

    Circa Theatre is currently offering theatre tickets for $25 for those 25 years old and under. Find out more at www.circa.co.nz.

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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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