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Issue 20, 2017

Issue 20

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News

  • Rant with Grant

  • A Fairer Aotearoa

  • VUWSA Constitutional Changes

  • Yes We Care

  • Not Enough to Begin With

  • Policy for Policies

  • Thursdays in Black report ‘In Our Own Words’ released

  • Council continues to try to limit fairer fares

  • Features

  • maxx

    The Politics of Caring: Interview with Max Harris

    – SPONSORED – Max Harris is the author of The New Zealand Project, which argues for a values-centred approach to politics in New Zealand. Max is a recipient of the All Souls Fellowship and is currently completing his PhD at Oxford University. We spoke with Max over Skype as he ate his dinner in a […]

    by

  • kate (1)

    On the Fence

    – SPONSORED – Katie Meadows, in conversation with Kate Baxter In case you hadn’t noticed we’re in the midst of a general election that’s been kind of stressful so far, and it’s become pretty difficult to separate the personal from the political; reading through pages of policies from each party isn’t high on my list […]

    by

  • any (1)

    The Intricate Art of Actually Voting: Salient’s (mostly) unbiased guide to the 2017 General Election

    – SPONSORED –   What (is all this election nonsense)? So, after being harassed by massive multi-media campaigns featuring bright orange blobs, politicians’ shit-eating grins, and enough billboards to cover the outside of the Majestic Centre, it’s finally time for us New Zealanders to go to the polls for the general election. Over the last […]

    by

  • henry

    Why Did He Do It? Men’s Health and Suicide

    – SPONSORED – CW: Suicide   Suicide is a much bigger issue than many people realise. New Zealand’s youth suicide rate (20–25 year olds) is the second worst in the developed world. New Zealand’s teen suicide rate (15–19 year olds) is the worst in the developed world. The number of suicides in New Zealand has […]

    by

  • any1

    Sport and Politics

    – SPONSORED – The influential Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz famously observed that war is “a continuation of politics by any other means.” It is an equally compelling idea that competitive sport is a form of substitute warfare which allows groups to compete and savour victory without any meaningful risk. This creates a syllogism: if […]

    by

  • rose

    Let’s Keep Fighting Together

    – SPONSORED – CW: Suicide   I want to say something that may be uncomfortable to read and acknowledge. Talking about mental illness and suicide is hard and painful, but we need to be having this conversation and keep pushing for change. We all need to play our part. Four months ago, I lost my […]

    by

  • any1

    Should old acquaintance be forgot? The idiosyncrasies of New Zealand’s Legislative Council

    – SPONSORED – The words of “Auld Lang Syne”, written by Scottish poet Robert Burns and traditionally sung at midnight on New Year’s Eve to farewell the old year, rang out through the modestly sized Legislative Council Chamber, echoing off of its grand Italian marble pillars and out into the wooden halls of Parliament. The […]

    by

  • maxx

    The Politics of Caring: Interview with Max Harris

    – SPONSORED – Max Harris is the author of The New Zealand Project, which argues for a values-centred approach to politics in New Zealand. Max is a recipient of the All Souls Fellowship and is currently completing his PhD at Oxford University. We spoke with Max over Skype as he ate his dinner in a […]

    by

  • kate (1)

    On the Fence

    – SPONSORED – Katie Meadows, in conversation with Kate Baxter In case you hadn’t noticed we’re in the midst of a general election that’s been kind of stressful so far, and it’s become pretty difficult to separate the personal from the political; reading through pages of policies from each party isn’t high on my list […]

    by

  • any (1)

    The Intricate Art of Actually Voting: Salient’s (mostly) unbiased guide to the 2017 General Election

    – SPONSORED –   What (is all this election nonsense)? So, after being harassed by massive multi-media campaigns featuring bright orange blobs, politicians’ shit-eating grins, and enough billboards to cover the outside of the Majestic Centre, it’s finally time for us New Zealanders to go to the polls for the general election. Over the last […]

    by

  • henry

    Why Did He Do It? Men’s Health and Suicide

    – SPONSORED – CW: Suicide   Suicide is a much bigger issue than many people realise. New Zealand’s youth suicide rate (20–25 year olds) is the second worst in the developed world. New Zealand’s teen suicide rate (15–19 year olds) is the worst in the developed world. The number of suicides in New Zealand has […]

    by

  • any1

    Sport and Politics

    – SPONSORED – The influential Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz famously observed that war is “a continuation of politics by any other means.” It is an equally compelling idea that competitive sport is a form of substitute warfare which allows groups to compete and savour victory without any meaningful risk. This creates a syllogism: if […]

    by

  • rose

    Let’s Keep Fighting Together

    – SPONSORED – CW: Suicide   I want to say something that may be uncomfortable to read and acknowledge. Talking about mental illness and suicide is hard and painful, but we need to be having this conversation and keep pushing for change. We all need to play our part. Four months ago, I lost my […]

    by

  • any1

    Should old acquaintance be forgot? The idiosyncrasies of New Zealand’s Legislative Council

    – SPONSORED – The words of “Auld Lang Syne”, written by Scottish poet Robert Burns and traditionally sung at midnight on New Year’s Eve to farewell the old year, rang out through the modestly sized Legislative Council Chamber, echoing off of its grand Italian marble pillars and out into the wooden halls of Parliament. The […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • ONCE: A captivating collection of solo dance works

    So you think you can dance? 80% of people say yes, 10% quietly believe they can (me), and the other 10% embrace the knowledge that they can’t. Wherever you are on the spectrum of dance capabilities, I’m sure you cannot dance like those performing in ONCE.

    The New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) 50th anniversary show celebrates ten dances created by graduates from five decades of the school, performed by ten contemporary dance students who graduate in 2017.

    I have always appreciated dance, leaving films like Step Up wishing I could be as committed and talented as they. Leaving ONCE gave me much the same impression. Here are gymnasts and acrobats, landing so quietly on their feet, with such physical discipline, producing beautiful and awe-inspiring performance art with their bodies.

    The stage was a simple rectangle of white lino, with the audience seated and facing the corners. As a theatre student, the lighting is fucking LIT. The opening lighting had 60 centimetres of the edge of the stage illuminated indirectly, meaning if one is to stand on it, the floor would be in light but not necessarily their body. The show opens with all the performers standing in this periphery, looking at each other, acknowledging the space, breathing together, before departing and the lights coming down for the first dance to begin.

    Stand out and stepped up performances for me were Sunflower Sutra performed by Holly Brogan and choreographed by Eliza Sanders; Solo for Toa performed by Toa Paranihi and choreographed by Raewyn Hill; and Creatúra performed by Christina Guieb and choreographed by Lauren Langlois.

    Sunflower Sutra began as soon as the preceding dance finished, with only her voice muttering, which I initially thought was a disrespectful audience member. Wearing a gold jumpsuit reminiscent of an American prisoner’s uniform, Brogan began to dance, muttering to herself all the while, tapping and twitching, at times becoming her own music before the music began. She captivated our attention entirely.

    Wellington, NZ. 07.09.2016. ONCE. By the New Zealand School of Dance at Te Whaea Theatre. Solo contemporary dance work. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court. COPYRIGHT ©Stephen A’Court

    Holly Brogan in ‘Sunflower Sultra’, choreographed by Eliza Sanders. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

     

    Solo for Toa was exactly what Hill’s brief said it would be: “a celebration of the movement language and the extraordinary spirit that resides in Toa’s body.” Paranihi stepped onto the stage and danced along its periphery, acknowledging the space, before diving into the centre. Because he was topless, his body was performing to the entire audience, and the muscles in his torso and back danced with him. Simply captivating and beautiful.

    Wellington, NZ. 07.09.2016. ONCE. By the New Zealand School of Dance at Te Whaea Theatre. Solo contemporary dance work. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court. COPYRIGHT ©Stephen A’Court

    Toa Paranihi in ‘Solo for Toa’, choreographed by Raewyn Hill. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

     

    Creatúra closed ONCE and was the pinnacle. Guieb and the music (“Mixed_feelings_about_Alien_STEMS” by Alisdair Macindoe) were connected, and the audience knew at once where we were and the story: a robotic character is created, but just as it starts to explore its world, it begins to glitch, ultimately destroying it. Of course, as the finale and also a performance specifically about technology, the lighting here goes nuts and I loved it. Guieb so completely commanded my attention that I only managed to write one thing down: a heart.

    Wellington, NZ. 07.09.2016. ONCE. By the New Zealand School of Dance at Te Whaea Theatre. Solo contemporary dance work. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court. COPYRIGHT ©Stephen A’Court

    Christina Guieb in ‘Creatura’, choreographed by Lauren Langlois. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

     

    I encourage everyone to come and see this show, supporting art in all its forms, applauding these performers for feats I will never attain, and also all the production team for putting together this beautiful dance show. Happy 50th birthday NZDS!

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  • Matilda the Musical — Matthew Warchus

    When I was in London in 2015, I was fortunate enough to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and my mind was blown, seeing things that I didn’t think were possible to do on stage. Matilda the Musical brings the same kind of highly professional theatre to New Zealand and it is absolutely amazing.

    Matilda the Musical is based on Matilda by Roald Dahl and follows it closely, with a few new details. For example, Mrs Wormwood (Kay Murphy) is addicted to ballroom dancing with her “secret weapon” Italian dancer Rudolpho (Travis Khan), rather than bingo, making her addiction to money and high-class life more believable. Meanwhile Matilda’s brother Michael (Daniel Raso) only speaks by yelling words his father has said, e.g. “BACKWARDS!” (While this detail did highlight and exacerbate the frustration Matilda (Annabella Cowley) felt within her family, I am uneasy that it may perpetuate stereotypes of disability, with the character being used for comedic relief in a musical aimed at children). Finally, the show creates a closer relationship between Matilda and the librarian, Mrs Phelps (Cle Morgan). Throughout the show Matilda tells Mrs Phelps parts of a story she’s made up about an escapologist and an acrobat, which is later revealed to be the real story of Miss Honey’s (Lucy Maunder) parents. Morgan’s characterisation of Mrs Phelps was warmly welcomed; she brought an amplified energy that was contagious to the audience.

    The show takes the magic and grittiness of Dahl’s work and makes it more accessible for audience members to dive into the world of Matilda. Miss Trunchbull (James Millar), who comes across as downright terrifying in the book, still holds that terror as a literally large bully, but also delicately balances comedy, allowing children to laugh at her, especially when Bruce Bogtrotter (Ewan Herdman) completes her challenge of eating an entire chocolate cake.

    A huge theme of Matilda is children’s craving of stories and knowledge being stopped by learning-hating adults such as Mr and Mrs Wormwood, and Miss Trunchbull. When the intermission was coming to a close, Mr Wormwood (Daniel Frederiksen) comes on stage and declares that what children have seen today should not be tried at home: reading! He promotes television, telling us everything he’s learnt he’s “learnt from tele”, of course in a song, seamlessly slipping into the second half of the show. Yet it’s obvious that learning and reading will win the day, as adults such as Miss Honey and Mrs Phelps nurture Matilda’s curiosity. The set is literally covered in letters that make up hidden words from the show; it was an absolute delight to find our seats and go on a crossword hunt.

    Matilda stands for fairness, learning, and reading, accompanied by some stellar songs and gorgeous characters. You’ll regret missing this show.

    P.S. All the actors names I have used are from the night on which I saw the show — Friday, September 2. The child actors rotate when they perform, therefore there may be different actors when you go to see the show.

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  • FUCK ENGLISH, VOTE POEM

    The layer of mist over paddocks,

    delicate and cold; the layer of cows

    under a silver sun-bleached tree; the hills

    rising over them and in the distance

    the whole countryside demarcated

    by accidental hydrangeas

    or a gentle river.

     

    All of these layers upon layers

    over something good, I say.

     

    But then I remember we have some

    of the most polluted rivers in our history

     

    because former Prime Minister John Key

    and the identical-looking, interchangeable men

    that replace him; that is, white, middle-aged men,

    think conservation is too expensive,

     

    and the arts are too expensive,

    and interfering with the housing crisis

    in our little, manageable cities

    won’t make the right people the right

    amount of money,

    so it’s too expensive.

     

    Shelter, art and nature are too expensive,

    so what do we have left?

    Health? LOL.

    But can you have health if you don’t have

    insulation in a leaky house

    that you live in with seven others?

    Or a bank account solely

    for rent and bread because that’s

    all anyone can afford, and that

    should be good enough, they say.

    But what did rent and bread cost

    in 1981 at the University of Canterbury?

     

    Even though you can’t afford to pay

    your student loan today,

    I still love you.

     

    Even though John Key and Bill English’s

    tuition was free

    you know that art teaches us

    how to love and that is important.

    And while you paid for that lesson

    in the tens of thousands

    and John and Bill didn’t,

    you know that they

    didn’t learn it, or much at all,

    because all they do is take

    when they have already been given

    so much.

     

    Even though you consider the legacy

    of our nation’s multi-millionaire

    former banker leader

    to be poorly formed one-liners

    for media soundbites

    a national humiliation,

    I still love you.

     

    Even though you’re sick again this winter

    because you can’t afford heat

    or the fight against mold

    in houses bought and ‘maintained’

    by John Key lookalikes,

    I still love you.

     

    Even though you are so sad today

    and there is no one to tell

    and you feel there is nowhere to go

    with your sadness:

    no job

    no plane ticket

    no warm home

     

    I still love you.

    I still love you.

    I vote for you.

    by

  • Gone by Lunchtime

    The other day, a workmate remarked to me that after spending hours at work each day, the last thing he wanted to do when he got home was read up on politics and party policies.  I can understand this. Politics can often seem an incredibly dry and tedious topic; reading lengthy and in-depth analyses of party policy and election news is not typically within most people’s definition of “fun” or “relaxation”.

    But, as members of a democracy, it is our civic duty to try to remain informed — or at least a little in the know, especially in an election year. Fortunately for all, engaging with politics doesn’t have to be an utterly soul-sucking process — there are podcasts that exist to ease this pain! I would like to recommend The Spinoff’s politics podcast Gone by Lunchtime.

    The main appeal of this podcast to me is its relaxed nature. The podcast usually involves a discussion panel consisting of The Spinoff’s policy editor Toby Manhire and political journalists Annabelle Lee and Ben Thomas. The episodes do not have a strict structure or format to adhere to, allowing the approach to be far more casual. An episode typically involves the three hosts discussing the main New Zealand political news of the past few weeks.

    It is the relaxed tone of the podcast that makes it so accessible and easy to listen to, both for those who engage heavily in politics and those who are newcomers. Far from the sensation of watching the news or listening to a dry radio report, it feels like you’re just listening to a few friends chat about politics. The episodes are often littered with humorous moments and back-and-forths between the hosts; it’s this lightness which makes the political conversation feel more welcoming and engaging.

    Manhire, Lee, and Thomas are also unafraid to differ in their opinions, and the resulting discussion and debate can be great for listeners who are not sure where they stand on a topic and want to hear both sides. Lee, also the executive producer on TV3’s The Hui, is knowledgeable on Māori affairs. She brings this insight to the podcast, providing a perspective that is vital but frequently undervalued and unheard in New Zealand political discourse.

    All in all, I would strongly encourage giving Gone by Lunchtime a listen, even if only so you can say you understand the political memes. Happy voting folks!

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  • Destiny 2 (review in progress)

    Developer: Bungie

    Publisher: Activision

    Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC (from 24 October)

     

    I must confess that I never played the original Destiny. As Bungie’s first game since being released from their servitude to Microsoft and the Halo franchise, hopes were certainly high for the pseudo-MMO first person looter shooter, but it never seemed to deliver. The perception of the game being little more than a boring grind stuck with me, and since it had been available for nearly a year before I got my PS4, jumping in seemed overwhelming.

    Destiny 2 therefore feels like something of a fresh start, an opportunity to refine the best bits of the original while still appealing to newcomers such as myself. There is, however, so much content even at launch that I simply cannot cover all of it in a single review. For that reason, I’ll mostly be looking at the story campaign and the levelling-up process here.

    For the uninitiated, the Destiny games are set in a “mythic science fiction” world where humanity has significantly advanced due to a giant celestial body called “the Traveller” granting a mysterious power called “Light”, but now faces near-extinction. As a Guardian in one of three classes (Hunter, Titan, or Warlock), you defend Earth and its interstellar colonies from alien threats. In Destiny 2, the Red Legion, an elite faction of the Cabal race led by Dominus Ghaul, have invaded humanity’s last city on Earth, trapped the Traveller and taken as much Light as they can. After discovering a shard of the Traveller and reclaiming your powers, it’s up to you to fight back and reclaim your home.

    That sounds like a pretty bog-standard sci-fi story, and that’s because it basically is. However, when your predecessor struggled to have any coherent story, it is certainly something to take note of. Character interactions crackle with witty dialogue, particularly from the Nathan Fillion voiced Cayde-6, and the action is well-paced and stacked with tension, particularly during boss battles.

    While it’s nice to have a half-decent story, the loot and progression systems are the game’s meat and potatoes. Killing enemies, particularly difficult ones, will result in random loot of varying rarities being dropped. During the campaign you probably won’t get too much higher than rare loot, but if you pray to RNGesus you might get an Exotic weapon eventually. With a level cap of 20 you probably won’t need to do too much grinding in the early stages, especially since there aren’t too many abilities to spend upgrade points on unless you change your subclass.

    As you would expect from the creators of one of the most influential shooters of all time in Halo, the gunplay is nothing short of excellent. It is incredibly satisfying to use the wide variety of guns available, even when using lower-level gear. With new weapons dropping regularly, sticking to one gun for prolonged periods will not get you very far, with different types working best against certain enemy types.

    Of course, once you’re done with the campaign there is so much more to do that I have no space to describe it all in detail. While it’s not necessary, joining a clan will open up many opportunities to play PvE missions with friends, or make new ones. If you get bored of the campaign or your teammates are away, the Crucible is always there — a 4v4 competitive mode allowing you to test your skills against fellow Guardians. While the Crucible is simplistic compared to many multiplayer shooters, with just five game modes, it offers some relief from the grind.

    I did not expect to enjoy my first 25 or so hours with Destiny 2 as much as I did. Of course, this is only the beginning, and I certainly look forward to this game having a bright future. If you want to join me for future raids and other in-game events, join the clan “OSWreview” and maybe I’ll say something nice…

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  • Wanted: Star Wars Film Director (Fixed Term, 3–6 Months at the Most)

    Salient touches on some pretty hot topics politically, socially, and culturally, so I thought I’d add to the mix by discussing the absolute shit-storm that has been going on behind closed doors at Lucasfilm, the production company in charge of Star Wars films, over the past few years. The franchise has had four directors quit or be fired in two years. What this means is that in the bland, homogenised wasteland that has become blockbuster season, one of the most reliable and original series on the planet is in serious jeopardy in terms of its risk taking and creativity. But first, let’s flash back to 2015 when The Force Awakens was nearly upon us, and a slate of films with attached directors were equally imminent.

    Part of this slate was a Boba Fett stand-alone film, and Josh Trank, director of the excellent Chronicle, was attached to direct. Admittedly, he also directed that year’s Fantastic Four, which was a flaming trash fire of cinema. There are reports that he repeatedly turned up drunk on set for the latter, resulting in him being swiftly kicked off the Boba Fett project. At the time it also seemed like no big deal, given that the movie had not even entered pre-production. What started to raise alarm bells was the news of the extensive reshoots conducted in mid-2016 for the Gareth Edwards-directed Rogue One, the first stand-alone Star Wars film.

    Rogue One is an enjoyable film, but it’s nowhere near the “Saving Private Ryan of Star Wars” it was anticipated to be. To me, it’s not even a very emotionally engaging movie. Part of this is due to the fact that Lucasfilm, headed by Kathleen Kennedy, was displeased with Edwards’ cut of the film, and a major reshoot and re-edit was carried out without the director. The third act was changed the most, with a reportedly gritty beach battle being replaced with a convoluted plot in which characters die strangely separate from each other. The final act had virtually no emotional weight or satisfaction, largely because the character arcs that were begun earlier in the film went nowhere by the end of it. However, the film was plenty Star Wars-esque, and was a financial success, so all remained well.

    Then around two months ago came the news that Christopher Miller and Phil Lord had been fired from the production of the untitled Han Solo film, the difference this time being they had five weeks shooting still to go. Directors leaving in pre-production and post-production is one thing, but I’ve trawled the internet for cases of directors being fired during production, and there are scarcely any, let alone on a project as large scale as a Star Wars film. Reportedly, Kathleen Kennedy and co. were displeased with the assembly cut coming together under the pair, and their visions did not align. My question therefore is this: if Lucasfilm were not on board with Lord and Miller’s vision prior to the start of filming, why did they hire them in the first place? On the one hand, it’s curious that that the directors of 21 and 22 Jump Street were given a Star Wars project at all, and when reports came that they were disregarding the script in favour of improvising with the actors, surely Lucasfilm had no right to be surprised? But then, allegedly the cast and crew broke into applause when news broke that the directors had been fired, so how much fun could they really have been having?

    Anyway, without losing any breath whatsoever, Ron Howard was hired to finish those five weeks, as well as another five weeks of reshoots and the post-production. He’s a good director, but undoubtedly a very, very safe choice as well. I (unjustifiably) loath the Tom Hanks Da Vinci Code movies, but he directed A Beautiful Mind and I personally love Rush from 2013, so I’ll hold out and wait to see what the project yields.

    Finally, it was recently announced that Colin Trevorrow was “mutually” parting ways with Lucasfilm, stepping down from directing Episode IX. This is the most mixed bag in terms of news, but I think it’s the last nail in the coffin for the collaboration and artistic vision on these films. Trank was fired because he was deemed risky, Edwards was fired because the product he turned out did not please the higher ups, and Lord and Miller were fired in mid-creation of a product the higher ups were displeased with. Now Trevorrow has left the project prior to pre-production, with the rumours suggesting that Lucasfilm lost faith in the director. This theory has potential; his last two films, Jurassic World and The Book of Henry, are not exactly the kind of films that scream “Star Wars” or even “semi-artistic vision”. LucasFilm may have seen dollar signs with Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, but it seems they’ve just realised that he doesn’t have the artistic capabilities to bring in both the box office as well as the critical reviews. But for God’s sake, surely when you’re screening a director for a project you take all these into account? You find out their vision? Or you find out if they have a vision at all?

    What all of these cases mean overall is that Star Wars, and the producers and executives that manage the films’ production, are hiring and firing directors at will, with little to no regard for the individual’s vision. I’m not even the biggest Star Wars fan, but I know that the franchise began from unruly and unorthodox thinking. In fact A New Hope and Jaws, made one year apart, were essentially made on the basis of turning up in the morning, assessing which props and effects were actually working, and going from there. Now the studio won’t even let the directors come up with their own ideas, let alone realise them. Blockbusters are becoming increasingly homogenous, trying to appeal to as many people as possible, and it would be truly heartbreaking to see Star Wars go the same way. If they keep following the route they are now, all that can happen is that Star Wars will become diluted, aimless, and an exercise in production design with no underlying meaning or characters. It’d be a sad day when that happens, but I will be happily disproven by any and all of the projects I have pre-emptively judged.

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  • “Elsewhere” — Emma Shi

    What a strange story. I wish I understood the classical references better. I know about Antigone — she was the one in the cave with the dead brothers. And Medea — she killed her children.

    Classical figures serve their purpose as personified ideas to study and comprehend more clearly. So Medea isn’t just a devastated mother driven to infanticide. She’s also the idea that we could be driven to anything if we were backed into a corner. Don’t think yourself immune to madness, you don’t know what’s coming.

    This story uses its central figure, the “I”, to personify a particular tension between the need to run away and the need to be at home. We want to fly off on an adventure, to a new world, but we can’t escape the pull of our roots, buried in tight, and we’re afraid to pull too hard.

    “I”, or she, does run away, and wherever she goes she encounters the women of ancient Greece. Again, I wish I could understand better what they each mean. It would probably clear things up. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of intentional symbolism. No one speaks except in italics — what if, what if, what if —because instead of telling, they show. They show her how they’re pulled in two directions as well, and somehow, they bring her to terms with her turmoil.

    It’s not a straightforward story. It’s a lot of suggestion and sensual description, more like poetry than strict prose. The classical juts up against the modern. Medea attacks her with a knife on an airplane, to give one example. She has strange dreams in the story, but it’s hard to argue that the whole thing isn’t a dream.

    The author is from New Zealand, which you can tell by the choice of language: carefully simple, slightly detached, but weirdly lush. I’m glad to see New Zealand writers use sophisticated references. Sometimes we’re scared into only using the things directly around us, to prove that we’re from New Zealand, I guess, or to pander to critics who want us to talk about sheds and small towns and alcoholism.

    I’ve got to be critical myself, though. Despite the high end classical references, the prose had loud notes of self-indulgence, and this inevitably made the sentences ring false, like perfectly rounded pearl beads on a necklace. And I would have appreciated a plot, or at least some sort of physical contextualisation for the dreamy sequences.

    But now some nice criticism. It’s an atmospheric journey. She doesn’t use over-flowery language, and this makes the environment that surrounds her characters quickly and effectively felt. “Blue, blue sky and the rush of white marble.” And maybe this was because I was also listening to SoKo when I read this, but the emotion could be felt too. “All the memories disappear, even the warm ones that I kept safe when I thought no one was watching.” Observations like that about loss of love, ones that come from the writer’s own experiences, are the most potent ones.

    Read this short story — did I mention it was thirteen pages long? I never manage to mention the important things. If you can understand classical Greek references and then please explain them to me. Read it if sometimes your heart feels like it’s being softly tugged into two bits. Read it if you’ve ever been to the Mediterranean and when the author says, “I have never seen so many stars in my life. They reflect off the ocean around me. There are no signs of civilisation for kilometres and kilometres,” you know just what she’s talking about.

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  • Interview with October

    Heralded as “one to watch” back in 2015 by The Wireless, Emma Logan aka October may be young, but her talent should not be overlooked or taken lightly. The Auckland-based musician draws from tenets of glam rock, post-punk, and punk rock in both her style and music to provide an enticing visual and aural experience. Her newest release “Pure” picks at the inconsistencies and contradictions that are typically conflated with the term “purity” and what it traditionally stands for in a wider sense, as well as how it is imposed on individuals in a gendered fashion. The latest release projects the kind of quality that makes you want to dance in appropriate places; it bestows both a sense of depth and carelessness to the listener. Salient spoke to October recently to talk about her new song, what the idea of purity means to her, and her quickly emerging status in the music industry.

     

    October3_sml_Marissa Findlay

     

    Salient: What was your initial inspiration for “Pure”? How long did you spend coming up with the song?

    Emma: “Pure” was actually one of the most recent songs I’ve written, in the period of 4–6 months that I was writing. At the time I was thinking a lot about what it means to be, or rather everything it means to not be, pure — in every sense of what pure means. I was thinking a lot about commercialism in music. And whether you can be a true musician or a pure musician while still maintaining a sense of commercialism, and whether you can still be in service of the music but still be considering the best way for your music to be heard by a lot of people. I was feeling a bit of conflict with that because I’ve certainly started to consider the commercial aspect of my music a lot more than I used to. But I don’t think that makes me less of a true musician.

    I was also thinking a lot about, just generally, what it means to be a good person. Also, thinking a lot about being a female, being a feminist, and what it means to be feminine. I think that for me, I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself traditionally “feminine”, but I’m obviously entirely female, and I’m entirely feminine in my own way. I would say that I don’t exactly contour my image to the taste of men. It’s not something that I would generally consider in my music, I’m so obviously still entirely female but I don’t necessarily bend to the traditional sort of tropes of being a feminine female. I think I was just thinking about purity in general, in every sense of the word.

     

    S: Do you feel as a young person emerging onto the scene you’re getting noticed, that there’s pressure for you to not sell out?

    E: I would say that I’m aware that the pressure is probably there, but I definitely choose to ignore it. I’m kind of the person where if I ever meet a labelhead or my management for example, before I sign anything the first thing I tell people is that I don’t like being told what to do, you don’t need to tell me what to do. I’m writing and producing all this stuff myself, I come up with the visual concepts myself with my boyfriend. I’m kind of like this package deal that you don’t need to worry about, all I need you to do is like the business side of it because that’s not my area of expertise. But in saying that, obviously as an artist I care a lot about how I am portrayed and how I am sort of distributed and how my image is distributed, and I don’t think that makes me necessarily a “fake” sort of person, or contrived, because I am considering that a little more. It’s just that I’d much rather it, and these decisions, come from me, rather than the labelhead or management. Because basically it comes down to the fact that I want who I am, and my music and my image, to be entirely authentic, and so the easiest way to do that is do it myself and consider every facet of the business side.

     

    S: Do you feel like a lot of people disregard pop or dance music on the basis that it doesn’t appear deep or have any substance?

    E: Well honestly, I’d be the first person to sort of disregard pop, I don’t really listen to a lot of pop. I listen to a wide array of artists but mainly from the ’60s/’70s/’80s. I think when it comes to writing I’m not necessarily thinking about writing a pop song, I’m thinking about writing a good song, and a good melody, with a good set of chord progressions, and you know whatever genre that falls into so be it.

     

    S: Going back to last year when your other stuff came out like the Switchblade EP, was that a developmental time? When I hear it I feel, with the lyrics, you kind of create this identity — especially in the song “Switchblade” — you don’t want to be misinterpreted.

    E: Yeah I guess with “Switchblade” it was when I first left home [Blenheim]; I moved to Wellington. It became this opportunity where I could create this whole new persona in my music and because people had never heard of me before this was the first opportunity where I was releasing music for people to hear. I think that I’m talking a lot about sort of standing up for myself and saying to people, “watch out, don’t push me around.” I think as a female in the music industry it’s really easy to be trampled on in the sense that a lot of your ideas can get pushed to the side, and you’re not necessarily taken seriously — especially as a female producer. I mean a lot of people didn’t even believe I was producing my own stuff, they assumed it was my band mate that would play in the live versions of my songs. So I think that song is just really about saying, don’t belittle me, and take me seriously. I obviously still believe in that sentiment to this day.

     

    S: What prompted you to move to Auckland?

    E: Music, really. I think I was gaining a tiny bit of momentum with my music, with Switchblade EP and with “Voids” which was the very first song I put out. I wasn’t necessarily enjoying university, I really loved learning, but I was constantly skipping class to go back home and make music. So I thought rather than waste more money and waste more time being at university, I just wanted to take the opportunity, and the leap of faith, and move to Auckland, and pretty much see what happens. So far so good, it kind of paid off.

     

    S: Speaking of “Voids” (released in 2015), does that seem like an age ago to you now? What have you learnt since that release?

    E: Oh god, it really does seem like an age ago. I think most importantly what I’ve learnt is better production techniques — as a musician, as a producer, as a writer. I’ve learnt and improved so much. You could probably listen to “Voids” and listen to my stuff now and think it’s two very separate artists. But I would hate to think people would think that I’m leaving my roots behind, because it’s not necessarily that, it’s the fact that I’ve improved and gotten better. You know the stuff that I’m making now I think is still in line with what I was making two years ago, it’s just that it’s better, especially in quality.

     

    S: So you used to do a lot of this production stuff on your own, like in your bedroom, now you’re working in proper studios here and overseas. Is there anything you miss from working alone?

    E: Actually for the majority of the songs I still write and produce them at home. Then I would take them to a big fancy studio and then finish off the recording and production there. I definitely haven’t left the bedroom producing behind — that’s my favourite part of it, and I definitely prefer working alone. I never plan to leave that process out at all. The reason why I went overseas to work with producers was mainly actually for the fact that I wanted to learn to become a better producer. That’s why I was in the studio with Joel Little, which was super fascinating. And I was also with Tom Powers from The Naked and Famous. I wanted to learn and better myself as a producer.

     

    S: What has your average day consisted of since moving to Auckland and releasing more music?

    E: Half of this year I was in a very intense writing phase so it would consist of me waking up at 7.00am, when my boyfriend was going to university, I’d start writing at 8.00am, and I’d do that right through until lunch time, have a small break, then continuing writing up until 7.00pm, have dinner, then write more ’til 11.00pm or 12.00am at night. That was pretty much my day every single day for about four or five months. Me in my bedroom producing, making a lot of music — a lot of bad music [laughs] — but also a lot of good music I think, refining it down to these select few songs that I am about to start unleashing upon everyone. I really wanted to treat it like a job. I’d been given this opportunity where I could dedicate every day to music and I wasn’t going to take that lightly so I really worked my butt off. It paid off I think.

     

    S: You performed at the Stolen Girlfriends Club show during NZFW just the other week, how was that?

    E: That was a pretty interesting show. It was my first show in like a year, and we had a completely new set up because we now have a live drummer and guitarist. We fucked up a little bit, but it’s all fun and games… I think I got progressively more drunk during the set. I think in my eyes the set got better [laughs], there’s nothing like a little bit of liquid confidence. But you know, it was super fun, people were dancing, the sound was a bit shitty but you can kind of expect that when you have a short, snappy soundcheck. I really can’t wait to start performing again and it was basically just a good trial run for my shows I just had in Brisbane, the last couple of days at Big Sound.

     

    S: In regards to future shows, are you thinking of doing your own tour any time soon because I think that would be so viable now. I think you’re ready?

    E: Definitely! I mean I don’t have any set dates yet or where and when, but it’s definitely on the horizon. I just gotta plan when and where basically. I’ll make sure everyone knows about it, that’s for sure.

    by

  • Disjointed (Netflix)

    I’ve been really wanting to trash something in a review for a while. Yeah, yeah, it’s the golden age of TV, we know, but there’s still a lot of bad shows going on, and not the good bad ones that I usually write about. A lot of these shows are too boring and pretentious for me to even come up with 600 words about (Ozark), or so inappropriate and terrible that I don’t want to give space to them (13 Reasons Why). But I saw a new show on Netflix the other day, something I’d read about a few months ago and, at the time, thought sounded cool: Disjointed, a sitcom starring Kathy Bates as the owner of a marijuana dispensary, preaching the plant’s medicinal qualities and working with a young staff, including her son, in Los Angeles. That sounds neat! Haha, 420, right? Big number. And I love Kathy Bates! It’s nice seeing her so often on all those Ryan Murphy shows, but she’s worth so much more than that — she has an Academy Award! Disjointed also seems like a logical next step in the wake of the American weed gold rush as more and more states move to legalise it.

    But this is a Chuck Lorre sitcom. Chuck Lorre made Two and Half Men. He made Mike and Molly. He made Big Bang Theory. He made the word bazinga (ba-zin-ga: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth). What a monster. Disjointed is tonally exactly the same as those shows; it is unfunny, offensive, and haunted by a soulless laugh track. Every character is bad. SUDDENLY! A watered-down Tim & Eric-esque skit, something-something stoners watch too many infomercials, because they are dumb. I’m thrown off. SUDDENLY! Kathy Bates said fuck! Very explicit joke about handjobs, all the seedy uncle subtlety of Charlie Sheen mid-bender out the window — this is Netflix, people! HBO? I don’t know her! SUDDENLY! Psychedelic animation featuring an extremely serious voice-over recital of slam poetry about post-traumatic stress disorder from military service! SUDDENLY! Hand jobs again, as demonstrated on a car steering wheel by a miscellaneous housewife high on the pot. Excuse me? Is this what weed is like? Does anyone know what I’ve been smoking? Am I okay? Is Kathy Bates okay? Do I need to crash her car and hold her hostage in my remote cabin until she makes better decisions? Life feels meaningless, and long.

    I don’t know if it’s a play on the title, because I genuinely cannot bring myself to watch a second episode, but there is no conceivable plot or purpose to Disjointed and watching it is extremely disorientating. I still cannot figure out who the audience for this show is, and I don’t ever care to meet those people should they exist. Nothing about it was redeemable; it was stupid, crude, racist, misogynistic, and insulting to me as an esteemed viewer of the magic box that plays the moving pictures. Did you know that every second of our lives we are all inching closer to death? I never want to watch this show again and it has 20 episodes commissioned. Good thing Chuck Lorre sitcoms aren’t very successful… oh, they are? Two and a Half Men continued to thrive even after the violent drug-addicted lead actor they were paying over a million dollars per episode tried to destroy it? The Big Bang Theory is one of the most popular and successful sitcoms in America and is to be followed by the prequel, Young Sheldon, in November of this year? Smash my fucking ankles in.

    by

  • art conversation with my father

    My father’s favourite colour is always blue. Blue of the clearest day, and of cold lips from being in the ocean too long. He cannot swim well, but he says my mother is solar powered, so we go to the beach anyway.

    I ask him about art on the telephone.

    what is your earliest memory of art

    is it a fond memory is it hard to recall

    My father grew up in rural New Zealand in the 1970s. Where he went to school is now a house, still with the same tennis court that he used to play on. I know this because I grew up in the same place, and I see the overgrown tennis court when I go home. His earliest memory of art is painting Māori designs onto his primary school walls. He was a child of the introduction of the Taha Māori initiative into the New Zealand education system, a government-sponsored programme to give children the opportunity to learn aspects of tikanga and te reo. From this, they used vivid reds and black and white to paint their classroom with koru patterns. His memory is always fading, and his intense recollection of this moment tells me more about its importance for him than the words themselves.

    He recounts to me his bewilderment the day when my grandma and grandad brought home a John Constable print. My grandad is harsh and his words are thick and grate. I cannot imagine him purchasing an artwork, even of a landscape.

    art ! a waste of bloody time what’s the good of art anyway

    My father used to draw cars that were streamlined and fast, Back to the Future cars; DeLoreans with doors that opened upwards. I picture him in my grandparents’ house, in the room with the sunflower wallpaper and a yellow duvet. I picture him stuck in a ’70s and ’80s warp.

    i still can’t remember when i started to see the importance of art

    somewhere somehow there was a shift

    For a while, we talk about the relevance of art now, and the absence of it in mainstream discourse, and the lack of incentive, particularly in the primary and secondary education systems, to undertake arts-based learning.

    there’s more change now there’s faster change the change is faster

    Critically, this is where he sees the need for the arts. In the current political, social, and economic climate, he expresses a need for visual arts to convey the ideas and challenges that are facing us within Aotearoa and globally. Sometimes visual art can address ideas that the written or the spoken still trip clumsily over, and question the accepted systems that our lives are structured around. This may be an articulation of the urgency of climate action, or another form of direct information. Often though, he prefers ambiguous works that ask for more generosity in intimate consideration from the viewer.

    He refers to Mark Rothko more than once. He has an obsession with Rothko, yet he forgets his name every time. Rothko’s works are atmospheric and non-figurative, drowned instead in the richness of brick colour and navy. They are sea swell immense, but hold you just before the wave breaks. Somehow, he sees Rothko’s works as a way to bridge the gap between who you are and what you are, and the other who you are — the person you are internally. The ambiguity of this sort of abstract art makes him drag those things out of some mental crevasse, forces him to look at that part of his mind.

    There is nothing new under the sun, he says, but perhaps art can help us to remember some of the things that are under it.

    by

  • 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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