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Issue 17, 2017

Issue 17

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News

  • Australian Sexual Assault Report Released

  • People Dying from Synthetic Cannabis

  • Save the Penguins

  • PNG Election Part II

  • Features

  • Cameron

    Aspie on Campus

    – SPONSORED – It is estimated that one in every 66 New Zealanders has an autistic spectrum disorder, such as the high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome. I have Asperger’s, which directly influences my view of the world. Here’s how a typical day usually goes for me. I arise from my slumber to the squeal of my phone […]

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  • ataria

    To Name the World

    – SPONSORED – Pedagogy of the Oppressed was Paolo Freire’s creative response to the suffering of those around him. In this small book (which packs a punch) he discusses those “whose humanity has been stolen” through an unjust social order and how they may reclaim their humanity through education. Freire spent his life educating and […]

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  • DANwater

    To Each Their Own: New Models for Water Care

    – SPONSORED – An Interview with Sam Judd of Sustainable Coastlines   “Nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it. Thus he undoes the built-in checks and balances by which nature holds the species within bounds . . . Have we fallen into a mesmerised state […]

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  • LOCKED-OUT

    Locked Out

    – SPONSORED – The first prisons in New Zealand were established in the 1840s, and there are now 18 prisons nationwide.¹ According to the Department of Corrections, the prison population was 10,035 in March — of which, 50.9% are Māori, 32.0% are Pākehā, 11.0% are Pasifika, and 4.7% are “Other (incl. Asian).” Compare this to […]

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  • Cameron

    Aspie on Campus

    – SPONSORED – It is estimated that one in every 66 New Zealanders has an autistic spectrum disorder, such as the high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome. I have Asperger’s, which directly influences my view of the world. Here’s how a typical day usually goes for me. I arise from my slumber to the squeal of my phone […]

    by

  • ataria

    To Name the World

    – SPONSORED – Pedagogy of the Oppressed was Paolo Freire’s creative response to the suffering of those around him. In this small book (which packs a punch) he discusses those “whose humanity has been stolen” through an unjust social order and how they may reclaim their humanity through education. Freire spent his life educating and […]

    by

  • DANwater

    To Each Their Own: New Models for Water Care

    – SPONSORED – An Interview with Sam Judd of Sustainable Coastlines   “Nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it. Thus he undoes the built-in checks and balances by which nature holds the species within bounds . . . Have we fallen into a mesmerised state […]

    by

  • LOCKED-OUT

    Locked Out

    – SPONSORED – The first prisons in New Zealand were established in the 1840s, and there are now 18 prisons nationwide.¹ According to the Department of Corrections, the prison population was 10,035 in March — of which, 50.9% are Māori, 32.0% are Pākehā, 11.0% are Pasifika, and 4.7% are “Other (incl. Asian).” Compare this to […]

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  • Arts and Science

  • Blind Spot

    Not far into Teju Cole’s new book, Blind Spot, after Nuremberg and before Muottas Muragal, comes Auckland. A photograph of the Aotea Centre, reflected in a glass, or maybe chrome, surface spreads across one page before creeping beyond the spine into the other. The light is dappled, the landscape slightly distorted, the human presence shrouded and unknowable. I looked at the photograph for a while, wondering how it seems to float before I realised it is because Cole himself is not reflected within it. This sense of distance carries throughout the book, which is intimate but evokes a sense of solitude. Cole never appears within the images, and although the texts are written in the first person they have a strange play to them, as though “I” becomes “me”: reader. “Auckland”, the text beside the photograph reads, “Tane and his siblings conspire to push apart their mother, Papatuanuku, the earth, and father, Ranginui, the sky. In the space forced between the two is the light of the world. The light falls and flows between two eyelids.”

    Light falls and flows until the shadows, reflections, and various plays of light become to feel prolonged; until we forget these images track instances, not passages, of time. Cole takes photographs that look like memories. The texture of memory, he writes, is “an intense combination of freedom verging on randomness and a specificity that feels oneiric.” The texture of memory is the soft curves of light playing on a mesh curtain in a hotel room in Nuremberg, folding in and out of shadow; or, perhaps it’s cooler to the touch: the harsh facets of a mirrored surface. The texture of memory has never been the smooth, slippery surface of a photographic print.

    Could we consider reflection as synonymous to memory? Both look backward — “re”, as prefix (recollection, reflection) is derived from the latin for “behind” — which is not to say they cannot move forward. Think of the Hawaiian term for future: Ka ua mahope, “the time which comes after or behind.” Blind Spot features many photographs of reflection: in glass, in puddles, in the rephotographing of images. Cole writes that these subjects, images already made, are “neither more nor less than the ‘real’ elements by which they were framed […] Which world? See how? We who?”

    Cole’s instances of reflection draw our attention back to the photographic lens, reminding us that what we know of the scene is only what the frame allows us: that the photograph is always, at least, a view of a view. Blind Spot asks us to look for the continuity of places in spaces where we might not have thought to: in dreams, in dappled light, in shadows, in reflection; “hearing the silence because we have heard some of the sounds.”¹

     

    1. Greg Denning, “Empowering Imaginations,” The Contemporary Pacific 9(2) (1997): 419-29.

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  • The Swimmer

    The Swimmer, written and directed by Manuel Saez, and performed at Bats Theatre, immediately appealed to me because I’m a swimmer and I was just so excited to see a play that involved this very individualistic, lonely sport and was curious as to how it would be staged. When I read the synopsis I was even more excited: it is the story of two young professional swimmers, Anna (Meron McCardle) and Tabitha (Anastasia Dolinina), whose love is hindered by Anna’s overbearing former competitive swimmer mother (Kassie Mcluskie), also called Anna, who keeps pushing her daughter exponentially to be the best. Swimming is a highly competitive sport and also rather odd as everyone is half or virtually naked when competing, in skin tight and wet swimwear; sexual tension is virtually handed to a playwright on a plate.

    First red flag: all female characters, a lesbian love, written and directed by a man. I wasn’t sure how to feel about this. I was suspicious as to how a man can enter a female mind and a female sexuality. This is not to say that men can’t tell a lesbian love story or have female characters; it has been done before. But, as the play began, I started to question the background story. How long had these characters been seeing each other? How intimate were they? How old are they? Do they go to school or university? Does Tabitha also live at home with her parents? All these questions, plus a lack of any real touching moment between the two lovers, failed to make me believe in their love. Even a hot club dancing scene left me unsatisfied, with hands on bodies in only all the acceptable places. I’m not even confident that the two ever kissed on stage; the staging when they were dancing was in a way that I couldn’t see their faces or proximity.

    Second red flag: I got very lost in the play, and not in the wanderlust kind of way. I’m not even sure there was a storyline. The two lovers wanted to get away from it all — pretty vague — and the mother obviously hindered them from doing so. There is something about an accident in the mother’s past that made her unable to swim again but I’m unsure where it occurs in their timeline. Does the mother have a dark secret? I’m not sure. Is the mother genuinely unstable? The play certainly hinted at her being so. And, without giving anything away, I really did not appreciate the ending.

    Third red flag: the acting. All the actors are talented, however I’m not sure if they hit the right beats with their monologues and tone of voice. The only actor I could follow consistently was Mcluskie. McCardle’s Anna seemed perpetually angry, which made the tender moments with the mother rather odd. Her consistent harsh tone made me tune out very fast. Dolinina reached some very human moments, but they were too brief for me. Plus, it really frustrates me when actors are talking to the audience but NOT LOOKING AT ANYONE. Be brave and include the audience when talking to them! It makes everything far more interesting and engaging.

    As visually interesting as the swimming moments within the show were, I really could have done without the actors creating a “swoosh” noise with each stroke. The visual image of the actors walking around the set was pleasing but they lacked purpose. But I think I’m most disappointed at the lack of swimming jargon. Swimming was not essential to the plot or themes and could have been replaced with literally any other sport.

    Redeeming factors were that the show was fast-paced (one hour), and the set and lighting were incredible. Plastic lino floor treatment made a kind of “splash” sound as the actors walked, and the lighting was strong, sharp, and purposeful: I only wish the play was as well.

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  • A Monster Calls — J. A. Bayona

    There are children’s films, and there are films about children. If ever there were a film that proves how different those two categories are, it’s A Monster Calls, one of this year’s offerings from the NZIFF. With a screenplay written by Patrick Ness, adapted from his novel of the same name, A Monster Calls shows that a 12-year old protagonist doesn’t tie a film to that demographic.

    The plot revolves around 12-year old Conor O’Malley, whose mother is dying of cancer, and who has nocturnal visits from a tree-like monster-turned-therapist. But just as A Monster Calls is not a children’s film, it is also not a cancer film — though it’s certainly a tear-jerker. Conor is guided through his anger and grief by the Monster, who’s voiced by Liam Neeson in a performance that sits beautifully between Aslan and Darth Vader. The Monster’s teachings take the form of three stories, fantastical tales of witches, princes, and apothecaries. The stories subvert their own fairytale qualities to show Conor that, as his usually-absent father says, “for most of us there’s just messily ever after.” There is a nostalgic thread that runs through the film’s visual aspects, from the Monster’s form as an Ent-like tree creature, to the presentation of his tales in painterly animation that heavily draws on Harry Potter’s The Tale of the Three Brothers, but is no less striking for it. These indicators of childhood imbue the film with a sense of wistful youth, drawing us into Conor’s emotional state and inviting us to consider how we would react in his shoes — at a guess, not much better.

    Though the sombre themes can drag a little, seamless CGI and stellar performances propel a script that lags in places (it’s hard not to blame Ness’ literary roots). Felicity Jones is heart-breaking as Conor’s increasingly frail mother, and Sigourney Weaver plays a conflicted and well-realised grandmother, despite a slightly suspicious English accent. But any film with a child protagonist hangs on its youthful actor, and Lewis MacDougall shines in the main spot, communicating more with his tired eyes than many adult actors can with a speech.

    A Monster Calls is a film about the ugly reality of grief, the complex nature of how children experience the world, and the age-old and irresistible theme of the link between imagination and emotion. To be entirely honest, while I know what A Monster Calls isn’t — a kids’ film, or a cancer film — I can’t firmly say what I think it is either. But I do know that a film that can keep an audience in their seats a full five minutes after the last credit (I must not have been the only one waiting for my tears to dry) is one that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten in the afternoon slots of a festival.

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  • Can of Worms!

    As it is for many, music has always been a place in my life where I can find depth and feeling. And when these experiences are shared with others, it makes them all the more meaningful. I started studying music five years ago because I wanted to find out how music can move us in the way that it does. After all this time, I find it usually comes back to the experience of identity and belonging among people. I’m lucky to be friends with so many talented artists that have helped be apart of who I am, and I want to share them to the world.

    Which is why I’m so excited about the release of Can of Worms! — a compilation tape featuring a collection of songs from a bunch of different musical projects. This thing is a collaboration between some great friends and talented artists that I’ve been lucky enough to befriend. Big tunes and buzzy art. 18 tracks, two posters, and a whole load of cassettes. It is a lens into some of the musicians bursting at the seams in creative scenes throughout the country (and the internet).

    The proceeds go towards supporting fieldwork expenses for my Master’s, where I’m looking into hip-hop as a tool of expression for Japanese youth. Hip-hop culture worldwide has grown to become a voice for so many and Japanese hip-hop is now its own bonafide musical style and subculture. My work focuses on how hip-hop creates voices of dialogue for people the world over and draws attention to some of the talented underground MCs that often don’t want to compete in the commercial industry, but still want to be recognised for their talent.

    Can of Worms! incorporates a mix of electronic, eclectic, and enormous tunes — fuzzy guitar melodies from the likes of Hans Pucket, Casseus Nebula, C R Barlow, and Mr. Amish; galactic trap from Bill Heavens; jangly guitar from Str8breetha; hip-hop hitters from Stevie Franchise and Pope Flamez; ambient warmth from Swampman; sound art pieces from George Nelson and Marcus Jackson as well as many others. These creatives are producing content in all walks of life. One is currently making a book to sell in Tokyo, another is linking up with homies in the US he met via Twitter. Most of the talent on this record comes from musicians who have spent their time as bedroom producers, meticulously honing their craft, finding their sound.

    The artwork for the cassette tape features alternate covers from Louie Jackson and Stevie Franchise. Denzel De Ruyusscher made a poster of the hazy scenes of Tokyo, and Louie cartoonified the Can of Worms! name.

    There’s so much great music to discover out there if you look hard enough. But this a good place to start. Please consider buying this thing so I can get back to studying!

    The compilation is available from canofwormscompilation.bandcamp.com for as little as a Vic Books coffee. Use the code “salientmag” for a 20% discount.

    Support ya locals, #getwittytojapan.

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  • GIG GUIDE

    Thursday: Church of Goya / Beatcomber / Damn Dans — Slip on down to Moon this Thursday for a heavenly infusion of post-punk, surf rock, and pop jams. Doors at 7.00pm, $10.

    Friday: Unholy jam space show — An absolute stellar lineup of Pam, Girlboss, Dodge Viper, and Happily Headless makes this $5 steal of a show an absolute Friday night must. Get on down to 305a Mansfield St from 6.00pm for a jolly good loving stroke for your earholes.

    Friday: Alexa Casino Release PARTY — Party is all in caps for a reason, come along and see Alexa Casino perform new music feat. Womb and cool DJs at Caroline from 8.00pm, $10.

    Saturday: For the Maui — A delightfully wholesome all-ages daytime gig for the benefit of our endangered brethren the Maui dolphin, with a sinfully good lineup including queen of mellow doof k2k, ambient goddess Ludus, FCKCPS, Rifts, and many more. Entry is by donation and prints are available to buy from various artists on the day so crack open your piggy bank, my sweets! At Raglan Roast from 3.00pm.

    Sunday: Black Sheep Animal Sanctuary Fundraiser — Yet another daytime event for a wonderful cause, this time the upkeep of over 200 rescued sweet animal babies. With the greatest concoction of activities known to womankind — cheap booze, vegan food, vintage clothes, tattoo flash, facepainting, AND tunes from Unsanitary Napkin, TVX, Pantihero and Corpse Rat — you’d be an absolute melon to miss this one. It’s going down at Newtown Workingmen’s Bowling Club, 2.00–9.00pm.

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  • Black Hands: A Family Mass Murder

    Help… They’re all dead…

    This is the haunting sentence from the 111 call made by David Bain on the morning of June 20, 1994, and is the opening line to each episode of the new ten-part Stuff and Tandem Studios podcast series, Black Hands: A Family Mass Murder.

    Written and narrated by journalist Martin van Beynen, Black Hands is an in-depth analysis of the Bain family murder case that has divided the nation for over two decades, and once again tries to answer the ultimate question — who did it?

    The series is broken up into two parts. The first five episodes discuss the events that lead up to the crime and provide a look into the Bain family’s life; the final five episodes discuss the scientific and circumstantial evidence of the case.

    One of the strengths of the series is its high production value, as the narration is broken up with sound-bites taken from police interrogations, witness interviews, news clips, and testimony from the two trials that round out van Beynen’s solo-narration.

    Another strength is that van Beynen remains relatively neutral throughout the series, and looks into how the evidence points to David as the killer, but also how it can point to Robin. He only reveals his own opinion in the final episode, which makes you want to listen all the way through.

    The most interesting and compelling episodes are #5 “Incest, Blackmail, Murder”, and #8 “The Suicide Puzzle”, as van Beynen delves deep into the incest and suicide theories that make the case so fascinating.

    I’m not normally a fan of narrative-style podcasts, but the series is absolutely engrossing and addictive. The level of research is an impressive feat, and van Beynen’s passion to find out the truth is apparent. You finish an episode feeling confused about what you thought you believed, but being unable to resist listening to the next one to hear what happens next.  

    This podcast series is not just for those interested in true crime (hey fellow murderinos!), but all New Zealanders curious about this enthralling and tragic moment of New Zealand’s history.  

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  • Splatoon 2

    Developer: Nintendo EPD

    Publisher: Nintendo

    Platform: Nintendo Switch

     

    I’ve complained a lot about Nintendo in the past, to the point where some of you are probably getting sick of it. Nintendo’s weird inclination to do the exact opposite of what is expected of a gaming company turns the simplest of tasks into a frustrating mess, making one wonder why you should even bother putting up with their crap. Then you actually plays a Nintendo game for a while, and realise — Nintendo still know how to make their games fun.

    Splatoon, one of the Big N’s few online multiplayer-focused franchises, is no exception on both fronts. The original game, while not at all bad, had the misfortune of being on the Wii U; though, by all accounts, it ended up being one of the few reasons to get one. Its sequel is likely going to be everyone’s first opportunity to try multiplayer shooting, Nintendo-style. While it is much better poised to succeed thanks to the Switch’s high sales (except, it seems, here in NZ), there are several technical issues which may well put players off, new and experienced alike.

    The core gameplay is essentially what you would expect a multiplayer shooter by Nintendo to be like: colourful, wacky, and very kid-friendly. Rather than focusing on eliminating other players, as an Inkling your objective is to cover the map in as much coloured ink as possible, changing between humanoid and squid forms to get around and using a great variety of guns, buckets, and brushes to mark your team’s territory. Matches are short, usually around five minutes, but a ton of bonkers action is packed into them, making for an addictive experience. With ranked mode and special “league battles” available, there are plenty of opportunities to keep coming back and testing your skills.

    The game’s campaign isn’t really anything to write home about, though it does translate the main mechanics into a single player experience relatively well, complete with some really good boss battles. In addition, a co-op mode called Salmon Run is available, and it may well be the best part of the entire Splatoon 2 experience; taking down waves of crazy Salmonids and filling your quota of golden eggs for Grizzco is just as addictive as a standard match, maybe even more so.

    While the actual game might be a solid foundation, the infrastructure supporting it is so poorly designed it could only come from a company that simply doesn’t get how online multiplayer should be done. Splatoon 2 uses peer-to-peer connections for matchmaking, making lag a real possibility if you have a less-than-decent internet connection, not to mention the potential for cheating. No online game should still be using peer-to-peer in 2017, yet Nintendo insists. Multiplayer matchups are also subject to scheduling, where only certain maps and modes are available for a given amount of time — criminally, this includes Salmon Run, which can disappear for hours at a time.

    But that’s nothing compared to setting up a lobby to play with friends, accomplished using the new Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app. Yes, a separate app on a separate device is needed for functionality that is built into literally every other console! It gets downright laughable if you want to use voice chat; you need a splitter (sold separately) that connects to your phone, the Switch, and your headset. Fucking really?! Yet, despite all of this, Nintendo wants Splatoon 2 to become an e-sport. Believe me, with this kind of set-up, that won’t happen in a million years.

    If you can look past all of the arbitrary crap thrown your way, Splatoon 2 is still a unique shooter experience that is just so much dang fun. It doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or a squid, because things will get messy.

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  • The Colour of Magic — Terry Pratchett

    The world is a wonderful place full of crazy nuts. Sometimes, it’s best to escape into a world that reflects our constant low-level panic that our world doesn’t really make sense. That way, we can be reassured that we’re not alone in thinking this — Terry Pratchett crafted us who are perpetual worriers a life raft.

    The Colour of Magic (1983) is Pratchett’s first Discworld novel. The Discworld is what it sounds like: a world shaped like a disc, instead of a globe (and carried on the back of four elephants and a giant star turtle). This world contains a whole lot of magic. Rincewind, the main character, dreams of a world that makes sense, and is hugely disappointed when he discovers the world’s first camera is not, as he vaguely suspects, a device that captures light on a chemically-treated paper, but is the home of a small pixie with an easel and paintbrush.

    That’s the most obvious thing about Pratchett’s writing, actually. It’s funny. Constantly, irreverently, unpredictably funny. I was too serious, or too sincere, as a child to like it. I thought it was crass and ignoble. Which it is, but I’ve only recently grown cynical enough to take it as the joke it was meant to be.

    The other thing is that it’s commentary. Nothing better than a children’s book of wizards and heroes to also be a severe tract on social ills, right? But fantasy novels at the time were known for clichéd writing, presenting within their many, many, many pages a long stream of arrogant heroes, limp-wristed heroines with remarkably sensual yet virginal beauty, overtly sexualised witches who were evil seductresses and somehow also easily thwarted, old, wise white men and not-white pagan savages in need of civilisation (I didn’t do this on purpose, but isn’t that Game of Thrones?). Anyway, Pratchett provides a healthy dose of sense and humour to this pile of boring. Heroes are thugs and illiterates, the main character is a cowardly criminal, wizards are violent and self-aggrandising, and women can be patricidal dragon-tamers. It’s great.

    So why would anyone choose to lose themselves in this irrational fantasy instead of pulling up their boots and getting to work fixing the world? It’s a good question for a student to ask (except the English majors — those guys are away with the clouds at all hours). Well, because fantasy creates worlds unlike our own. It imagines things differently, impossibly. It demands that we accept dragons alongside the equality of humankind, and when we believe in dragons we learn to believe in equality. Sometimes it does the opposite, and we learn judgement and revenge. But these things are lodged in our minds and they affect how we see reality. So when you read a good fantasy book, you’re taking the first step for practical change. You’re teaching yourself that change is possible.

    Mind you, I don’t agree philosophically with everything that Pratchett wrote. But when I read his books, I build empathy for people who do. And I remember how much I used to adore fantasy novels when I was twelve, and how deeply I would fall into them. And again, it’s really funny. The many-legged Luggage runs around and eats people. How is that a sentence I can write?

    I’m already reading the second Discworld novel as we speak — The Light Fantastic. It has programmer priests and a candy house in the woods and Death learns how to play bridge with Famine and War. It couldn’t be further from the real world right now. But I don’t think of it as escapism. It’s just taking the long way round towards reality instead of marching straight there. Read this series if you never did because you thought the name Terry was gross, or if you feel under pressure and need space to breathe, or if you would rather believe in dragons than in guns.

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  • Celebrity Big Brother, Season 20

    Remember Big Brother? That Australian show from the mid-2000s with people in a house full of cameras, competing in random tasks, and trying to outlast eviction ceremonies to win a cash prize? That guy from Neighbours was on it once, and there was that girl who wore pajamas and danced in rabbit ears, and there was also an “after dark” edition that you’d sneak watch at 11:30pm where they’d show unaired footage of everyone jerking off in the showers?

    Big Brother is still alive and well in the UK, regularly throwing strangers in a house so they will get drunk and fight for our entertainment, but the real gem of the franchise is its celebrity edition; people still get drunk and fight in a house, but they are all simultaneously extremely narcissistic and deeply embarrassed to have reached this point in their careers. Each season beautifully manages to capture the vibe of when your parents told you to “stop showing off” when people were over at your house, but everyone showing off is an adult, and I live for it.

    The word “celebrity” should always be taken with a grain of salt when it comes to CBB — I think the most famous people to have ever been on it would be David Gest (know for being Elizabeth Taylor’s ex) and Gary Busey (known for being batshit). Daniel Baldwin was on once, but he is definitively the least known of the Baldwin brothers (I consider myself an expert). Personally I’ve never found the lack of recognition to matter, and I often get very attached to people from Eastenders, a show I have never seen.

    This season has the usual mix of reality stars, washed-up singers and soap opera actors from the UK and America — with the added joy of YouTube superstar Trisha Paytas, who is maybe the only YouTuber I know and that makes me feel young and validated. Trisha is known for talking very fast, crying on her kitchen floor, mukbang shows (Korean for “eating broadcast”), and dating D-list actors from ’80s films — imagine her dismay when this season’s cast does not at all meet her standards. The 15 housemates include The Bachelor’s Chad Johnson (who?), pop group Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding (whom?), and Celebrity Love Island’s Paul Danan (whomst’d’ve?). There is a television psychic, Derek Acorah, who has been asked about ghosts every single day; in case you were wondering, his spirit guide is called Sam, and yes, he can see into the future.

    Though nothing can ever top Tiffany “New York” Pollard’s reaction to what she thought was a fellow housemate’s sudden death (I cannot go into more detail without sabotaging my word limit, but I implore you to search YouTube for “David’s dead”), the promise of Trisha gives me great hope for the coming few weeks. She has already had iconic moments, purposefully sabotaging her chance at immunity for pizza, and crying because she has not been provided a washcloth with which to scrub her own ass.

    The best thing about CBB is that it is so frequent, airing at least once every day in the form of the main highlights show, often followed by an hour long livestream from the house. There are bi-weekly live evictions — as voted by the public — that also function as that day’s highlights show and can sometimes go for up to two hours. And then, every weekday, there is Big Brother’s Bit on the Side, a talk show discussing the day’s events hosted by former contestant Rylan Clark. In other words, it is the perfect show for you. Yes, you, smoking your third spliff of the day, eating yesterday’s Hell’s pizza. Embrace the trash, for you are already in the bin.

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  • The Party (2017) — Sally Porter

    Janet (Kirsten Scott Thomas) has just been named the new Minister of Health and invites a group of friends to celebrate with her. Her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) is drunk and despondent, her friend April (Patricia Clarkson) can barely contain her nihilist despair, and Tom (Cillian Murphy) is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The happier participants — Jinny, Martha, and Gottfried (played by Emily Mortimer, Cherry Jones, and Bruno Ganz, respectively) — attempt to paint a smile on proceedings, but they quickly begin to crack.

    It’s a familiar set-up: a group of respected actors are given a witty script and confined to a single location. At its best, this kind of melodrama can be the perfect representation of Sartre’s declaration that “hell is other people.” Of course, People Arguing and Coming to Terms with ThingsTM is not a very cinematic premise, but, under Porter’s direction, this comedy of manners is a tightly-wound machine.

    The editing undergirds every verbal barb, and quick cuts to Spall’s empty eyes and Clarkson’s raised eyebrows act as the ultimate form of punctuation. These expressions, whether they’re smirks, cringes, or thousand-yard stares, are cast into an even more vivid light by the film’s black and white cinematography (made more impressive by the Embassy’s giant screen). These emotions aren’t just writ large, but stretched to absolute, hyperbolic limits. In any other circumstance, the shift from verbal (and emotional) violence to physical altercations would seem contrived; in this film, however, every slap is an extension of a character’s tongue, a natural overflow of their simmering frustration.

    The Party is the funniest film I have seen all year: there is nothing more fascinating than watching characters snap on screen, and nothing more transgressive than being able to laugh about it.

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  • A Doll’s House — Katherine MacRae (adapted by Emily Perkins)

    A Doll’s House is the second adaption of a Henrik Ibsen play Circa have done this year, and I am not complaining. Three Days in the Country came out back in May and it was an abundant, sentimental, and optimistically romantic play. The Doll’s House, however, sends its audience crashing to earth.

    This is writer Emily Perkins’ first transition from page to stage and it comes across as effortless. There is no question as to why she received the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature. Her dialogue has a magnetic but domestic quality; a sort of heightened realism that many modern writers try to aim for but don’t quite reach. This is a play which might engross a wider audience than one might initially think; its postmodern and simplistic set may give off the vibe of “theatrical elitism and fragmented storylines,” but it was both entertaining and accessible.

    The real winners of the show were the actors. Sophie Hambleton plays Nora, a housewife who gets into trouble and ends up in a tunnel of lies and deceit in a desperate attempt to prevent her husband from finding out. Her role was tough — Nora was both likeable and flawed — but Hambleton had such great energy, and it came across like she was enjoying herself and the role she was playing. Arthur Meek played the husband, Theo, perfectly capturing his laid-back and sensitive personality, and executing palpable chemistry with Hambleton’s Nora. The actors playing the family’s children were also excellent, coming across naturally and easing the tension during the more tense and dramatic scenes.

    But I do have a problem with the play when we break it down thematically and explore its message. Central is the importance of telling the truth and being honest in relationships, especially during tough times. Nora’s problems started with a lie to her husband, and because of that she finds herself in so much trouble she doesn’t know who to turn to. The second theme, more underlying, but revealed near the end, is domestic boredom and existential restlessness. This second theme takes over and the first, about honesty, gets swept aside. I understand why: Nora represents a lot of people, and everyone loves a story about people finding freedom and being liberated from the chains that are holding them down. However, the first theme is left unresolved and, in the play’s worst moments, it validates dishonesty and running away from your problems. Theo is right: when you’ve got struggles, talk about it. Work things through. That’s how relationships work. Fleeing doesn’t solve your problems.

    Despite this issue, A Doll’s House is still a well-acted and directed play. It will engage you, not letting you go until the end. I would recommend going down to Circa to see it this weekend. Take a friend as well; it’s a play you’ll want to discuss and debate once the curtains close.

     

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

    by

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    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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