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Issue 7, 2017

Issue 07

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News

  • Update: VUW Faculty of Health

  • UN to receive SOUL

  • Care workers win equal pay

  • Government knifes international student graduates in the back

  • Death of Wellington Icon

  • Workers face hurdles to sell their services in Christchurch neighbourhood

  • Significant support for Fairer Fares

  • Boycott Restaurant Brands; support striking workers!

  • Pharmac to not subsidise sanitary items

  • Features

  • DAN

    The Sun Also Rises: ANZAC and The End of the Day

    – SPONSORED – “I only fought for my body and my land; I had not any wish to fight. After the fall of Rangiriri I desired that peace be made… Put it to the arbitrator, for him to ask who was it that made this war.” — Wiremu Tamihana   As always, I’d left it […]

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  • korea

    Not My President, But My Country

    – SPONSORED – On the last day of March, 2017, President Park Geun-hye was arrested for the part she played in a major 2016 South Korean political scandal. By then it was three months after her official impeachment, but that time was not enough to dilute the drama of the occasion. Some commentators argue that […]

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  • jasmin

    Gallipoli, Magiagi, and me: Talking about the horrors of war

    – SPONSORED – “Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon.” — Redgum, “I was only 19” (1983)   The Polynesian soldiers whose faces fill several large frames at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum look as if they are going to start a conversation with you, if you stare at them long enough. […]

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  • DAN

    The Sun Also Rises: ANZAC and The End of the Day

    – SPONSORED – “I only fought for my body and my land; I had not any wish to fight. After the fall of Rangiriri I desired that peace be made… Put it to the arbitrator, for him to ask who was it that made this war.” — Wiremu Tamihana   As always, I’d left it […]

    by

  • korea

    Not My President, But My Country

    – SPONSORED – On the last day of March, 2017, President Park Geun-hye was arrested for the part she played in a major 2016 South Korean political scandal. By then it was three months after her official impeachment, but that time was not enough to dilute the drama of the occasion. Some commentators argue that […]

    by

  • jasmin

    Gallipoli, Magiagi, and me: Talking about the horrors of war

    – SPONSORED – “Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon.” — Redgum, “I was only 19” (1983)   The Polynesian soldiers whose faces fill several large frames at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum look as if they are going to start a conversation with you, if you stare at them long enough. […]

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  • Arts and Science

  • The Word for World is Forest — Ursula K. Le Guin

    In nearly the same way that Michael Scott marched into his offices and loudly, assuredly, declared bankruptcy, so too did European colonists trot off to lands across deserts and seas, rifles in hand and a fascinating diversity of hats on head, plant a proud flag, and declare sovereignty; and so too do the “yumans”, upon arriving on Athshe, a lush, green planet budding with the forestry that Earth has long since been stripped of, declare their presence to the native alien population.

    Science fiction is famous for its allegorical powers. Le Guin is careful to lay out the clash of races realistically, drawing from history as well as moulding the story of this new world within the lines that she has drawn around their distinct reality. So certain characters feel and sound familiar: Davidson, the boasting and brutal soldier, the militarised racial purist that grows increasingly blind to the horror of his own acts; Lyubov, the empathetic scientist, whose detachment in his anthropological pursuits becomes impossible; and Selver, indigenous leader and ex-slave, who feels the call to revolution against his oppressors, and the subsequent siren call to mimic their violence. But the key difference is that in this case, it is two species at odds, and the right path seems less clear.

    I think it’s worthwhile reading Le Guin. Science fiction functions in ways that can take you by surprise, and it’s necessary as a human being to allow yourself to be challenged, to doubt yourself, and to pursue truth. As a master writer, Le Guin’s books are valuable to that end. The Word for World is Forest, specifically, is one of her more famous works. It’s cleanly written, and a short read, if that’s a concern, which, considering the girth of some spec-fic, I wouldn’t be surprised by. So go for it.

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  • An ode to Alien (1979)

    My favourite quote in regards to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece comes from Chris Taylor’s (highly recommended) book How Star Wars Conquered The Universe. In it, producer David Giler says, “Alien is to Star Wars what The Rolling Stones were to The Beatles.” Alien is the badder, nastier version. Indeed, in 1979 very little serious nastiness had come from the space genre, but heavens above did that change after a vicious intergalactic beast latched itself to John Hurt’s unsuspecting face. Where Star Wars was groundbreaking and dazzling, Scott chose instead to take the special effects in a far more realistic but equally flooring direction. The gargantuan space freighter the Nostromo is a heartless, hulking monolith representing the industrial nature of humankind at this point in the future, and the theme of corporation does not stop at the mere visuals.

    Likewise, the crew is far from the lovable rag-tag band we all know and love from George Lucas’ trilogy. There is bickering about bonuses, tension in the ranks, and conflicts of interest — you know, all the best team dynamics you need when a giant beast is scrambling through the air vents devouring your fellow crew mates. What is perhaps most interesting about the cast of characters is that Ripley, in Sigourney Weaver’s signature performance, doesn’t emerge as the protagonist until the second act. In the beginning, each of the cast are dealt to equally. It is only when half a dozen of them are killed off that Ripley begins to take charge, and once she does she cements herself as one of the most iconic sci-fi characters of all time. Here’s someone facing a threat that is entirely alien, without the necessary skills or knowledge, but who survives on pure force of will and tenacity. Her opponent is equally tenacious however, and the xenomorph is still incredibly effective today (granted you don’t Google image search what the prop looked like out in the open; clearly the close ups and dark lighting were used for a reason).

    However, it is the small effects that elevate this film as well. All of the lighting is expert: the heavenly white chamber that the crew are brought out of hypersleep carries heavy connotations to human birth; the steamy, slightly sickly and sterile canteen conveys heavy artifice; and then there’s every single puff of smoke and rich colour to the fire and alarm lights in the third act that pump one’s veins with a medically alarming dose of adrenaline. Visually every aspect is splendid, especially the art direction from H. R. Giger, who I suggest you Google only out of morbid curiosity. Rumour has it he was put in the far most corner of the offices where the film was being worked on because no one particularly enjoyed his company, and when you see the symbolism (or just direct portrayal) of various genitals in his work it’s not hard to see why. Still, it makes for such a multi-layered piece of film and science fiction.

    On the one hand you have a film which is just like a Rolling Stones record; it’s 40 years old but still gets people moving because it’s a pure banger. I adore watching it with people for the first time because there are at least half a dozen scenes that induce a visceral reaction every time a coconut. But then beneath that is a deeply psychological horror story wherein there is a gender struggle and a basic narrative involving the invasive “other”. There’s a reason the xenomorph’s tongue is phallic, and there’s a reason its method of reproduction is a perverse and violent version of human pregnancy. Further still is comment on human greed in the wake of commercialism, as the crew of Nostromo is sacrificed by their higher ups in order to bring the xenomorph back to earth and weaponise it. There’s even a development (SPOILER ALERT) where Scott begins to explore an idea he’d bring to the forefront in his adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? re-titled Blade Runner — the idea of what makes us human. When the science officer Ash is revealed to be a traitorous company android, all kinds of questions are raised. As it turns out in Ripley’s case, to be human is to crawl tooth and nail, against the clock and against all odds, to survival.

    I first saw this film on a family holiday in my very early teens when my uncle exclaimed over dinner “you’ve never seen Alien?!” I think my mother and father’s parental techniques were subsequently called into question and said uncle swiftly departed to the rental store. Now I’ve seen Alien at sleepovers, movies nights, in lectures theatres, the planetarium, and most recently in a proper theatre for the first time on Alien Day last Wednesday, and at no point in the foreseeable future can I see it losing any replay value for myself, or any long-time or first-time viewers.

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  • Interview with Andy Zaltzman

    Andy Zaltzman is an English stand-up comedian who has been making audiences the world over laugh with his superb political satire for almost 20 years. He is also the co-host of the immensely popular podcast The Bugle, which he created with Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver.

     

    Hi Andy, thanks so much for talking to us today! I believe you’re in Melbourne currently for their comedy festival, how is that going?

    It’s been good thanks! People have been mostly laughing in the right places, so it’s been fun.

     

    The show you’re bringing to NZ is called “Plan Z”, what can audiences expect to see?

    Well, it’s a quick scoot round various global events of the last year or so, which touches on global issues like Syria, global migration, obviously Trump, a bit of British stuff, and I guess I’ll have to mug up on whatever is going on in NZ before I go over!

     

    To my mind, comedy is derived from nuance — does it become more difficult writing political comedy as our engagement with politics seems more devoid of nuance than ever?

    I don’t know, I think there’s different ways of going about it. I think one of the great challenges, particularly about Trump, is, as many people have said, he’s almost beyond satire. Also many people on TV and in stand-up and online are doing bits on Trump, so finding an interesting and distinctive angle can be something of a challenge, but I think on the flipside of that he just generates so many stories that you could make political comedy out of, so it works both ways. Same with Brexit back home, it’s put politics in the forefront of consciousness, so it’s made it a fruitful area for comedy.

     

    You’re also the host of the phenomenally successful podcast, The Bugle. Does writing for the podcast help with writing standup material?

    Unquestionably yes. I’m been doing The Bugle for 10 years now, for most of that time it’s been a weekly show, and having that regular deadline to write topical stuff and random tangential stuff is a great discipline. The more you write, the more ideas you have and some of that stuff will seep into The Bugle and adapt and develop into standup as well. So just having that regular outlet definitely helps to write stuff for live shows.

     

    The Bugle is back after a hiatus, with a revolving set of co-hosts. Are you enjoying the new perspectives they bring to the show?

    Yeah it’s been great, obviously I miss working with John [Oliver] because we worked together for 12 or 13 years, back on The Bugle and before. It was clear he just didn’t have time any more. Having lots of different people to work with, having different perspectives, having different comedic styles — I’ve had two co-hosts in the shows recorded in Australia which I think has freshened things up further so maybe there will be more of those in the future. It’s been great working with new people I’ve not really worked with before.

     

    The Bugle used to be distributed by The Times, now it’s distributed by Radiotopia — do you have complete creative control over what the show sounds like, or does Radiotopia help shape the show?

    No, it’s completely down to me basically. Even when we were with The Times they would just let John and me get on with it, they never really interfered with anything — apart from one libelous thing that we did* — then for four years we were independent. Since the relaunch we’ve been with Radiotopia but they just let us get on with it, which is great. The great thing about podcasting is you do have that total freedom, although I guess it could depend who you’re doing it for. The stuff we did on the radio we were always worried about radio commissioners looking over your shoulder, and waiting another year to find out if you’ve been recommissioned the podcasts. I guess like YouTube for visual comedy, it has opened up opportunities for comedians to make what they want to make and help them find their audience without having to wait to get something commissioned or recommissioned.

     

    It seems clear that your American co-hosts — Hari Kondabolu and Wyatt Cenac — are really keen to talk about the Trump administration, because it’s the nightmare they’re living in, yet many non-American listeners may be suffering from Trump fatigue. Is there such a thing as too much news, and does that worry you as a political comedian?

    Because it is a topical news comedy podcast people expect The Bugle to cover these stories fairly repeatedly, and I don’t think that is too much of a problem seeing as they are always shifting and changing and there’s always new stories and new angles coming up. Also the show has a built in balance where we shift from doing stuff about Trump to something completely unrelated about sport or absolute nonsense. I guess there is an element of there is only so much people can take, but I think if you can present it comedically in a way that’s fresh that can be quite a good thing, if in the deluge of news you can provide a fresh perspective and some respite.

     

    What’s next for you — any upcoming projects our readers would like to hear about?

    I’m carrying on with The Bugle, touring the UK, writing about cricket for ESPN, and then we’ll see what comes up!

     

    *The pair were dropped by The Times in 2011 after repeatedly criticising Rupert Murdoch, the paper’s owner, for the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

     

    Andy is performing his show “Plan Z” in Wellington on Monday, May 1, at the Hannah Playhouse as part of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival.

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  • Supply and demand: How Nintendo is screwing you

    Did you want a Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System (aka the NES Mini)? You know, the miniature plug-and-play replica of Nintendo’s most famous console that came out last christmas? It has thirty classic NES games on it, the controller feels just like an original NES controller, and the emulation of NES hardware is as good as it gets. Sounds like a great little package, doesn’t it?

    Sorry, but you’re too late.

    Despite being on the market for less than six months, and even after selling 1.5 million units, Nintendo are discontinuing the NES Mini. The last shipments have gone out to retailers, and they’ve likely already been snapped up by some lucky bastards. Even when they were making them, they were rarer than hen’s teeth, with Kiwi retailers selling out their pre-order allocations months before launch. If you desperately want one, there’s probably a few on TradeMe, but they’re going for well over the standard price of $120; some arseholes on eBay are selling individual units for thousands of dollars!

    But why is the NES Mini’s discontinuation a big deal? You might be thinking: a little plastic box with some retro games in it going away isn’t that important, is it? Pretty much every other case of this happening hasn’t caused this kind of fuss, so why write about it?

    Guys, this is Nintendo we’re talking about. Nothing that this company does is typical, nor does it make much sense. This issue is somewhat reflective of Nintendo’s attitudes towards both its own products and the gaming market in general, and what I see is something that is just a little worrying.

    Much of Nintendo’s current business practices can be summed up in just two words: artificial scarcity. While it has never been confirmed they are doing this, the prevailing view amongst gamers is that Nintendo deliberately manufactures less units than what would adequately meet demand. The lack of available units creates a buzz that essentially guarantees the product will sell well over time, even once they finally start making enough of them.

    Pretty much every Nintendo product not named the Wii U has had supply issues since the launch of the Wii in 2006, notably with certain Amiibo figurines being notoriously difficult to find. In the case of the NES Mini, it got bloody ridiculous; some brick-and-mortar stores reported receiving as little as TWO units in each shipment, and Amazon of all places sold out their pre-orders in less than 15 minutes. Even the Nintendo Switch isn’t immune from this; while there are plenty for sale in New Zealand, elsewhere there aren’t enough to go around.

    Artificial scarcity punishes consumers simply for playing their role in the open market, and it frankly beggars belief that companies like Nintendo can seemingly get away with it. While I can understand being cautious with new product launches, there’s a difference between that and acting dick-ish towards your customers, and Nintendo often skirts that line. Perhaps with the NES Mini, they never planned for it to be available for very long in the first place; it is essentially a toy, a nostalgic novelty that supplemented their core business, and it was likely just a stop-gap between the Christmas season and the launch of the Switch.

    But that doesn’t excuse this kind of bullshit. Nintendo probably knew full well they hadn’t made enough NES Minis, and they pushed on knowing suckers would buy them no matter what. This is the kind of bollocks that drives people away from games, and it needs to stop — make the product so we can buy the product!

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  • Small truths

    It is Thursday and I am on an island just outside of the city, in a cabin my father’s flamboyant boss owns. He is clearly enamoured of Marilyn Monroe, tribal vases, and hanging cheap plastic leis over everything. The blisters on my heels burn in a prickly way and I am convinced that I’m continually being bitten by mosquitoes even though I don’t have a single visible bite. I am wearing a Guns N’ Roses t-shirt despite not being partial enough to their music to feel that wearing them on my chest is warranted, and occasionally checking my ab development in the mirror (non-existent).

    My father continues to punctuate his sentences with “Fred” and “sport” even though I’ve long been over the age of eight. I let him because I’ve always been reluctant to let go of these remnants of childhood (when I realised that my parents stopped making me do a “cheesy grin” and then vigorously brushing my teeth for me every night, I had a mild panic attack).

    His room smells like talcum powder and old sweat.

    I read The Old Man and the Sea near an old man (my father) and the sea (a swampy inlet). He plays online poker.

    We go on a tiki tour. I keep telling him to go up fun looking roads that turn into dead ends.

    We are stationary at an intersection between Dead Dog Bay and Rocky Bay.

    “Which way should we go?” I can tell my dad is antsy.

    “’There are lots of chickens in the sports park,” I respond.

    I want to go up Bella Vista Road because I think it means nice views in some European language, but he ignores my wordless request.

    I want him to teach me to skim rocks at Rocky Bay but all the rocks are jagged. I notice three large boats sitting next to us on the shore and we have to turn away and leave immediately before a panic attack ensues.

    I show him my impressive tyre swinging skills. He smiles absently and lights up a cigarette.

    I tell him that I used to think quarries were staircases for giants. He laughs and unnecessarily repeats “quarries.”

    I like staring into vineyards because each new row brings a new sliver of the world.

    High tide. Overcast. Lots of strangers cycling.

    Overly large front lawns fill me with a slow boiling sort of anger.

    Someone drew an elephant in the sand. I draw a cat riding on top of it.

    I finally remember that I can’t open the door at first because there’s no central locking and feel an inexplicable sense of pride.

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  • Interview: Onono

    Onono is the official moniker of Jono Nott, a local multi-instrumentalist who studied fine arts at Massey, and has played in various bands around Wellington’s indie scenes. He released his debut album as Onono, Bad Posture, at the end of last year, which was entirely self-produced and is filled with stone-cold bangers. I sat down with Jono to get the lowdown on the inspirations for his solo project, finding strange beatboxing voice memos on his phone, and the realities of touring with a pop band.

     

    Salient: How did you came to be a musician and what kind of projects were you involved in before Onono?

    Jono Nott: I come from a musical family, and started playing guitar pretty young. Then I got interested in drums when I learned to play my uncle’s old Pearl drum kit down in the Sounds in his woolshed. I started playing in cover bands when I was in high school, and I remember we’d play this country medley of “The Gambler” and “Folsom Prison Blues”, along with classics from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and we’d finish the night with “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen. That was a job for a bit when I was about 16 or 17. Then I moved up to Wellington, and was studying and started playing in some more bands, like Hans Pucket, and more recently I’ve been playing with bands like Red Sky Blues. I’ve been playing some pop music as well, with Broods, which is definitely a vibe change, but I’ve learnt a lot about touring and about the other side of music that you don’t really delve into in Wellington.

     

    S: So how did Onono come about?

    JN: I started writing a bunch of songs over the last couple of years, not really with any goal in mind, but as a small recording project that I could use to jam with myself and figure out how to record. I got to a point where I thought there were actually some good songs there, boiled it down to maybe seven tracks, put together a release, then thought hey, maybe I should play these songs live. So I got a bunch of my friends together who I’d played in other bands with and we started playing shows this year all throughout the North Island. Well, Auckland, Whanganui, and Wellington so far, but it feels like it’s been throughout.

     

    S: I can feel, in your album, you drawing on the sensibilities of some of your other projects. Some tracks, like “Filth”, start with the whimsy of Hans Pucket, and then delve into the grungier Red Sky Blues side of things. How have your other projects affected the way you went about making Bad Posture?

    JN: The process of writing was at a point where I was playing in all these other bands, so the songs were mash-ups of all those different vibes. I feel it brought a nice diversity to the album, with heavier songs like “Dreem” right through to quite chill songs like “Custom”. But it really just happened, there wasn’t a huge amount of thought going into the end result. Sometimes I’d come up with a riff, or a chord progression, and then everything else would fall into place from there.

     

    S: How do you go about writing lyrics?

    JN: With pretty much every song I come up with, I will have written the entire song with all the instrumentation before I even approach the vocal melody. Recently, I heard Ruban Nielson (of Unknown Mortal Orchestra) talking about how he and Kody wrote “Multi Love”. They were jamming the chord progression, and then vocal jamming over the top of that, and through the process of elimination got to a perfect melody. That’s the way I like to think that I work. But lyrics are generally an afterthought a lot of the time. I might come up with a line that seems catchy or that I read somewhere, and from that, the whole story will unfold.

     

    S: I really dig the line in the breakdown of “Custom” that goes “The time company/ selling you for more/ than you can afford.” How did that one come about?

    JN: I was sitting at my desk, thinking “what am I gonna sing now?” I had a melody but I didn’t have any lyrics. On the wall above the area where I mix and write, there’s a clock that I think was from the Warehouse or Briscoes or something, but the brand was The Time Company. It’s crazy that there’s actually a company called The Time Company, and they probably thought when they came up with it, “I can’t believe no one’s ever thought of this, this is gold.” So I looked at the clock and it just came to me. I thought about how you never have enough time in the day, and everyone’s rushed off their feet, saying “I can’t do this because I’m busy.” You overbook yourself, you double-book yourself. The time company is selling you for more than you can afford.

     

    S: What inspires you to write for instruments?

    JN: I know a lot of people walk around with headphones in, listening to music, and get inspired that way, but I find it can be much better to just have nothing in your ears, and then a riff or something will come to me. Often, I’m in the middle of nowhere, so I end up with all these odd voice memos on my phone of me doing weird beatboxes and shit like that. At the time I was probably super stoned or something, thinking that it was gonna be the next hit.

     

    Jono Nott

     

    S: Does your background in visual art inform what you do with music?

    JN: I found myself, when I was studying, trying to make this organic, psychedelic imagery, and playing in bands; I was trying to match the two together. Obviously, album art and live projected visuals are also a nice meeting point between them. I’ve become more aware, playing in a bigger pop band in shows with incredible production and stuff, or even making music videos, of the whole idea of creating an entire experience, not just the music itself.

     

    S: Speaking of, have you got any more videos brewing — other than the most recent one for “Slo Burn” where you sensually eat fruit in the forest?

    JN: Just that one at the moment, although we’ve had some offers from friends who film stuff. But that video had to be the lowest budget music video ever, I think the only thing we had to pay for were some mandarins and a bottle of sparkling grape juice; it wasn’t even champagne! We’re at the point now where we’ve played a few shows and the album’s been out since December, so it could be a good idea to release a music video to refresh a song that people have heard already.

     

    S: Are there any bands or artists that you’ve been exposed to recently that you’re excited about?

    JN: Being over in Europe, I’ve been exposed to some great house music. As well, being in a pop band and being able to see how other pop musicians work and produce music has been really interesting, in terms of mixing sampling and electronic elements with more organic instruments. I saw Glass Animals play the O2 in London recently. They’re one of those bands that are doing the crossover of playing with both samples and instruments really well, but they don’t use MIDI clocks or anything so they’re not relying on technology to keep them in time. They just know the tempo of their samples and they make these loops, and night to night it could vary, not by heaps, but it’s definitely a challenge for them. My experience is playing to a track with a metronome so it was quite impressive to see them smash a show like that.

    I’ve been enjoying other local Wellington bands like Mr Amish. He’s got an amazing voice, and the way he plays guitar is awesome to watch and hear. Mothers Dearest are making the kind of music that I think has been missing in Wellington, this heavy, gnarly, teeth-gritting, detuned kind of music, and they’re doing it really well.

     

    S: So what’s next for Onono?

    JN: At the moment I’ve got these songs that I recorded at the end of last year, just before I released the album. They are newer songs with slightly different guitar sounds that I’ve been trying to find a place for. They’re two fully written songs that I haven’t managed to find a melody for yet, it’s been hard in terms of motivation. That’s something I want to work on though, releasing an EP or maybe some singles to maintain interest in Onono. I’ve also been thinking about releasing an album, maybe at the end of this year or start of next year, possibly with the help of a label. But I’m still exploring those options; I’m not quite sure how to navigate that yet. We can’t really do too many shows here because I’m quite busy touring and going away for a couple of months at a time. So when we do have shows, it’s good to put more hype behind it, because a lot of bands in Wellington just find themselves playing the same venue week in week out and don’t give themselves enough time to refresh their set. We’ve had some good luck in the sense that the first few shows have been really in great venues with great other bands, and sometimes people have heard about it that I haven’t even met which is really cool.

     

    You can find Jono’s debut album at https://o-n-o-n-o.bandcamp.com.

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  • Deus ex flying car: Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota

    Gods in fantasy novels are as unexceptional and versatile as chocolate. Characters whose gifts alter the rules are commoner yet to both fantasy and science fiction — witch, superhero, telepath, choose your flavour and let the consequences roll. I like all those flavours. But when, in chapter one of Ada Palmer’s Too Like The Lightning, a child demonstrates the ability to bring toys and other depictions to life, something is different. This is not a superpower, it is a miracle.

    The miracle child, Bridger, is not ensconced in a world where divine interference has agreed-upon precedent, and the characters who must react to Bridger do so not only at the genre-conventional level of awe and speculation — “Who are you? Where did that come from? How can we make use of you?” — but at the real world one, including alongside those other concerns: “In terms of all human thinking and wondering about the divine, what does this mean and how must our thoughts be changed?” So many science fiction novels have atheism in their DNA. This one opens, not with old answers, but with old questions.

    They are not the only questions at play, either. Too Like The Lightning is the first half of a two-volume story, which is itself the first half of a projected four-volume science fiction series, Terra Ignota. I was fascinated by it from the start. Until recently I could not trust it. Ada Palmer, a historian, presents a future of historical complexity, rooted in more cultures than one and in more times than now. Unlike much speculative fiction which, for the sake of convenience, give a planet the cultural complexity of a city, or allows five hundred years to produce one great war and one great poet, Terra Ignota interposes between our 2017 and Palmer’s constructed 2450 not a single alteration and its consequences, nor two, nor three, but a twining complexity in which everything changes but no change is complete. Gender presentation has been culturally set to neuter, but the concepts “female” and “male” retain an unacknowledged power. Organised religion is forbidden, but private religion is mandated. Nations are non-geographic, but those who think of themselves as Spanish may still bow to a King of Spain.

    The complexity of the world-building, and its inseparability from the complexity of the plot, come across gradually, via the deliciously mannered narration of Mycroft Canner, a convict whose crime and sentence lack close modern parallels. Until midway through Too Like the Lightning I was, while enjoying that narration, still looking in puzzlement at the components it was showing me, unsure if their individual gleams would come together into more than a dazzling heap. But the more I read, the less the book’s complexity resembled chaos. Through to the end of Too Like the Lightning and into its sequel, Seven Surrenders, the pleasures of reading chapter after chapter became the pleasures of realising how every turning cog would serve the clock, how each cuckoo would spring its hour.

    Likewise, until midway through Seven Surrenders, I was still nervous that the exceptional weight being given to ontological questions might crash down, supported only by a genre-conventional answer which, while lively on its own terms, did not match the implied promise. I will have to do more thinking before I know how much I like the answers Seven Surrenders has — I could point to the chapter where my “this is delightful!” turned into “this may delight me when I’ve reread it, so much to process!” — but it does conclude on the terms it promised.

    There are good reasons why many novels don’t attempt Terra Ignota’s level of complexity: it’s difficult, if poorly handled it burns up a story’s oxygen, and it requires a deep knowledge base. But Palmer has been planning these books for years; they’re her learned contribution to several genre conversations, they’ll make you think new thoughts, and they’re damn good fun.

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  • GIG GUIDE

    Wednesday: Eyegum Wednesdays — Bring your delightful selves down to San Fran for a hop and a bop with surf rockers Beatcomber and groovy lil dudes Gregonce. Best of all, it’s free and comes with $5 pints of Kereru, kicking off around 9:00pm.

    Thursday: Matt Steele Quartet — If you’re the kind of person who knows that university existence is just a blip on the radar and you’ll soon be living your true and splendid boujee life, then the Pyramid Club is the place to be! Lets face it, we all feel a little jazzy sometimes, and with incredible Lower Hutt pianist Matt Steele at the helm of your musical jaunt, it’s bound to be a smooth ride. From 7:45pm.

    Friday: Fortunes — For your fuckbois and highbrow hipsters alike, Fortunes will be serving top notch slinky, sensual, R&B realness at Caroline. Doors open at 8:00pm, tickets from Just The Ticket.

    Saturday: Tapz and Mzwetwo — If you’re in the mood for some innovative rap, then look no further than Meow for your Saturday evening plans. Tapz and Mzwetwo are NZ locals who migrated from Zimbabwe in their youths, and are bringing their show back home on the back of signing a management deal with Kanye’s label G.O.O.D. Music. Starts 8:00pm, tickets online from Under The Radar.

    Also Saturday: So Laid Back Country China and Teeth — If you prefer your music lighter on the swears and heavier on the guitars, then San Fran has got the show for you! Bringing together local stoner country legends SLBCC and psych supergroup Teeth, this will be a joyful and bizarrely satisfying affair, that kicks off at 8:00pm.

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  • The Body Laid Bare

    A Google ad for Auckland Art Gallery’s new exhibition, The Body Laid Bare: Masterpieces from the Tate, is captioned: “Masterpieces from Picasso, Matisse, Rodin and many other renowned artists.” The artwork which illustrates the ad is Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss, a 19th century figura serpentinata of naked marble bodies in romantic embrace. Plastered on the cover of pamphlets distributed across campus, the intertwined figures represent a history of Western art’s ability to do just as the title suggests: lay the body bare.

    Each time I’ve seen Rodin’s figures in their various states of reproduction I’ve wondered if the rest of the exhibition is more diverse than the imagery used to sell it to the public. The title of the exhibition is a nice reminder that the body — the female body specifically — has for centuries been stripped and manipulated by the minds of male artists. The female nude comes in various forms, from Delacroix’s exoticised visions of the “Oriental” harem, depicting piles of languid, submissive (and curiously white) female bodies awaiting penetration; to Picasso’s dismembered and “othered” bodies of prostitutes in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The female body as (re)imagined by the male is a defining trope of Western Art History that has been heavily criticised since the 1970s, when the gender gap in art institutions first came into question — which is not to say issues of representation and recognition in art have been entirely redressed today.

    A recent article by Jori Finkel, published in The New York Times, questions the lack of female artists included in the Desert X biennial, an open-air installation of 16 art works across Coachella Valley. When asked about the gender imbalance of the show, Neville Wakefield, the curator, responded “I’m not a quota curator.”  It’s a response typical of the art world, where straight white men are accorded a status of natural default, and affirmative action is considered contrary to the notion of “Great Art” which, we can assume, could be made by anyone —  that “anyone” is so often a white male is suggested to be coincidence. Finkel goes on to describe the four artworks produced by women as being “less spectacle-driven and more contemplative,” a stereotype often attributed to art made by women which simply isn’t true of the works at hand — one being a 3 x 30 metre wall covered in bold black and white patterns. Exhibitions curated by women often also give precedence to male artists, as in the case of Nancy Spector’s 2008 theanyspacewhatever at the Guggenheim Museum, which focused on the Relational Aesthetics movement but left out key female figures.

    In the gallery’s shop, full of books, lamps, and fine jewellery, there is a collection of exhibition-specific merchandise, including a publication commissioned in relation to the exhibition — which is in this case wrapped in a fleshy pink cover, panelled by a close-up of Frederic Leighton’s The Bath Of Psyche: the melancholy face of classical European beauty. Also for sale: the Guerrilla Girls’ manifesto-mocking The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist printed on a hot pink tea towel, a token of stereotypically female labour. The work is a list of sarcastic aphorisms detailing the pleasures of being a woman in the art world: “not having to undergo the embarrassment of being called a genius”; “working without the pleasures of success”; “having an escape from the art world in your 4 free-lance jobs”.  The Guerrilla Girls were a collective of artists intent on fighting the deeply embedded sexism and racism of the art world, formed in response to the 1984 MoMA exhibition An International Survey of  Recent Painting and Sculpture, in which only 13 of the 165 artists featured were female, and even fewer were people of colour — none women.  Another one of their works, commissioned but rejected by the New York Public Art Fund, is a billboard asking: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum? Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.” This observation was based on a count taken in 1989, but a more recent count on their website shows that by 2012 the Metropolitan Museum’s statistics had barely changed.

    Upstairs, in the gallery, the loosely chronological arrangement of the show exposes art history’s tendency to exploit the female figure as a medium for artistic experimentation — often contorted, amputated, and simplified to near-nothingness. As the art on display develops — from early voyeuristic scenes in the painter’s studio and “primitive” renderings of erotic bodies, to Giacometti’s decapitated Walking Woman I — female-made works crop up to counter those by the better-known masters. Louise Bourgeois’ Arched Figure subverts the traditional male bronze by placing the subject in the involuntary state of a seizure, headless and helpless in the face of its objection; while Tracey Emin’s The Last Thing I Said to You was Don’t Leave Me Here II, in which Emin sits naked with her back to the camera, insists on the artist’s agency over the depiction of her body by allowing her to be both vulnerable and autonomous: a multiplicity the female figure is so often denied. It’s a shame the exhibit’s advertising did not hint at its inclusion of contemporary works.

    I left with a renewed appreciation of the formal diversity of the nude across genres and historic periods, perhaps due to something inherent in the body’s capacity to express inner psychological states and respond to external stimuli — including the artist’s hand. I wonder what the Guerrilla Girls would think of the show.

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  • Riverdale

    The town of Riverdale is left stunned when all-star high school quarterback Jason Blossom goes missing, presumed dead, with no clear suspect or motive. But when a group of teenagers make it their mission to find out the truth, it opens up a Pandora’s box of seemingly unending secrets and scandal upon the sleepy community.

    Riverdale, the CW’s newest teen craze, is an adaptation of the Archie comics, though I think characters and setting aside it’s a fairly loose adaptation. It’s also got an edge, and you can tell that because everything is the same colour as the first Twilight film. When I tell people about Riverdale, I say it’s “got a Twin Peaks vibe” even though I’ve never watched Twin Peaks. Starring New Zealander KJ Apa as boy wonder Archie Andrews, former Disney cutie Cole Sprouse as aloof weirdo Jughead Jones, and a smattering of ’90s heartthrobs (Luke Perry! Skeet Ulrich!) with dad bods, Riverdale is your new favourite show to complain about watching on Twitter while living for every moment of it.

    First up, seeing a Shortland Street actor on a CW show is a wild experience. I used to watch a lot of Shortland Street, and in turn got everyone in my life addicted to Shortland Street, and then I abruptly stopped watching Shortland Street and left everyone in my dust. But seeing KJ Apa on my screen as Archie Andrews makes me feel so weirdly patriotic, and that’s coming from someone who is writing this at 3am on Anzac Day and feeling absolutely nothing. While he was never the most animated actor on Shorty, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt since he was playing a depressed teenager on a New Zealand soap opera. His ginger dye job in Riverdale is atrocious, but his American accent is okay and he’s very nice to look at. Archie is the most oblivious main character in television history and frankly couldn’t care less about this murder mystery because he has a lot of people to make out with.

    Cole Sprouse is delightfully sulky as Jughead Jones, and yes, he is also very cute. Lili Reinhart’s Betty Cooper is a good girl with a perfect ponytail on the edge of a complete breakdown, something that seems imminent between the demands of her psychotic family and new girl Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) flirting up a storm with Betty’s long-time crush, Archie. For a teen drama Riverdale is refreshingly self-aware and delights in being messy. The very first episode features a faux-lesbian kiss that is immediately shot down as a dated antic by a head cheerleader, and also normie cutie Archie making out with his music teacher Miss Grundy in a sweaty car. Each episode is sure to feature a handful of reaction-gif-in-the-making moments from Kevin, the openly gay son of the town’s sheriff, who is hooking up with every closeted guy in Riverdale. Jason Blossom’s grieving twin sister Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) is a show standout and the ultimate scheming queen bee bitch we need right now.

    Riverdale isn’t even close to perfect; it has a cheesy script and overly muddled storylines (maple syrup empire?), and it definitely isn’t anything you’d recommend to your friends who only watch “serious” shows like True Detective or Westworld. No, Riverdale is steaming hot trash and I am the gaping begging garbage can it is thrown into. If you too still watch melodramatic teen shows from the mid-2000s (The OC, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill) in your mid-20s, you will love this. Riverdale is currently streaming on Netflix, ready to binge watch in time for the end of the first season in May.

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  • The Collected Writings of Jaysankar Lal Shaw: Indian Analytic and Anglophone Philosophy — Dr Jaysankar Lal Shaw

    I am unqualified to take on a formal review of this book. Three years of philosophy papers, three years ago, is the sharpest tool I have on me as I approach this work. My memory has grown dim through the years. I no longer see as clearly as I once did the intricately woven cords of logic and language played with sweet tenderness by those who chose this as their life, their livelihood, and their greatest pursuit.

    And as I continue to stall, because in all honesty I haven’t read the thing personally, take it upon yourself, perhaps, to consider picking up a copy of something that might provoke you to think, despite its painful resemblance to those textbooks sitting there in a pile on your floor, uncracked and buried in dust.

    The Collected Writings of Jaysankar Lal Shaw is a study of Indian classical thought as it can be used to approach Western philosophy. It is a work of analytical philosophy focusing in particular on philosophical logic and the philosophy of language. In English, this means that it talks about how Indian traditions of thinking can throw light on Western traditions of thinking. It actually sounds pretty fascinating to me. I’ve always had the suspicion that the divide between East and West is not as easily drawn as it is sometimes made out to be.

    Shaw’s book launched in late March of this year, at a prestigious event held by VUW and sponsored in part by the Society for Philosophy and Culture. Shaw is widely respected and was dutifully honoured by those in attendance. It is an exciting thing to see complex philosophical scholarship be so well-received in this day and age of populist thought.

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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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