Viewport width =

Issue 23, 2017

Issue 23

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

News

  • 2017 VUWSA ELECTION RESULTS

  • No real options for redress

  • “Education is so important”: The battle for Academic Vice-President

  • Police Responsible for a Gross Breach of Privacy

  • “Really, it’s a matter of how much I can organise”: The Battle for Engagement Vice-President

  • Don’t you, forget about me: The (other) candidates

  • Goodbye Faithful Friend

  • Calls for more support for Rohingya refugees

  • Weapons Forum to be Met with Protests

  • “The most important thing is to campaign”: The battle for Welfare Vice-President

  • Features

  • who

    /juːˈtoʊpiə/

    – SPONSORED – A learned man’s utopia is a desolate place. He creates a replica of himself to populate a land that hides the secret of perfect happiness and harmony, because he must play the role of the seeker of the truth, and what is true is what he perceives to be true. He both […]

    by

  • why

    utopia is now, today, this moment

    – SPONSORED – I.   When asked by his mokopuna to describe the “future”, Moana Jackson replied: “when we take our yesterdays and todays into all of our tomorrows.”1   The health of the land could be known by the clarity of the pool’s reflection2 —   what did the showing was the land; what did […]

    by

  • yes

    We Tell Ourselves Stories: Hierarchy, the Network, and Where We Might Go

    – SPONSORED – “The reigning economic system is a vicious circle of isolation. Its technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the goods that the spectacular system chooses to produce also serve it as weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender ‘lonely crowds.’”  — Guy […]

    by

  • any (2)

    Drakes and Snakes: When Larson met Marlon

    – SPONSORED – On another hot afternoon, this time at the Hunter Lounge, we sat down with the candidates running for VUWSA President in 2018. Marlon was wearing a crisp white t-shirt under an open purple shirt; Larson had a black t-shirt on with his slogan, No Snakes, Just Ladders, embroidered in orange thread on […]

    by

  • when

    Family Monster

    CW: Strong warning that this piece contains comprehensive discussion of child sexual abuse, rape, and incest. If you do read this article, and find yourself distressed, we’ve placed direction to support services at the end.

    by

  • could

    Rory drinks earl grey tea with milk: A conversation with the president about life, VSM, and VUWSA

    – SPONSORED – It is very sunny and we hold the interview on the wooden tables outside Milk and Honey. There’s a light wind and the occasional tui — Rory wonders if they might be kererū; “not heavy enough” — floats down into the trees on the courtyard. He gets an earl grey tea and […]

    by

  • who

    /juːˈtoʊpiə/

    – SPONSORED – A learned man’s utopia is a desolate place. He creates a replica of himself to populate a land that hides the secret of perfect happiness and harmony, because he must play the role of the seeker of the truth, and what is true is what he perceives to be true. He both […]

    by

  • why

    utopia is now, today, this moment

    – SPONSORED – I.   When asked by his mokopuna to describe the “future”, Moana Jackson replied: “when we take our yesterdays and todays into all of our tomorrows.”1   The health of the land could be known by the clarity of the pool’s reflection2 —   what did the showing was the land; what did […]

    by

  • yes

    We Tell Ourselves Stories: Hierarchy, the Network, and Where We Might Go

    – SPONSORED – “The reigning economic system is a vicious circle of isolation. Its technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the goods that the spectacular system chooses to produce also serve it as weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender ‘lonely crowds.’”  — Guy […]

    by

  • any (2)

    Drakes and Snakes: When Larson met Marlon

    – SPONSORED – On another hot afternoon, this time at the Hunter Lounge, we sat down with the candidates running for VUWSA President in 2018. Marlon was wearing a crisp white t-shirt under an open purple shirt; Larson had a black t-shirt on with his slogan, No Snakes, Just Ladders, embroidered in orange thread on […]

    by

  • when

    Family Monster

    CW: Strong warning that this piece contains comprehensive discussion of child sexual abuse, rape, and incest. If you do read this article, and find yourself distressed, we’ve placed direction to support services at the end.

    by

  • could

    Rory drinks earl grey tea with milk: A conversation with the president about life, VSM, and VUWSA

    – SPONSORED – It is very sunny and we hold the interview on the wooden tables outside Milk and Honey. There’s a light wind and the occasional tui — Rory wonders if they might be kererū; “not heavy enough” — floats down into the trees on the courtyard. He gets an earl grey tea and […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • Tales from the Spice Rack: 2017 THEA 304 Directing paper presentations

    Tales from the Spice Rack is a collection of ten minute performances of published plays, either taken in their entirety or as extracts from longer works. The 18 fragrant pieces were divided into two seasons, “Salt and “Pepper, alternately performed over four nights. We question why “Salt” and “Pepper” were deemed the most apt of flavourists, but will concede that Paprika and Basil sounds more like a folk comedy duo than is probably desirable. The 18 directors did far more than point and yell at their actors; they sprayed their collective and individual stank over the entire process: casting, sourcing, lighting, sound, stage management, production management, publicity, the whole kit and caboodle — and kudos to them for making it through the process and retaining all their hair.

    We attended the two final showings of Tales from the Spice Rack — a delightfully applicable metaphor, given one’s inability to anticipate whether the next piece would be sombre or uproariously funny: as with life, this show reminds us that “you never know what you’re gonna get,” and, undoubtedly, there were some pieces that served more punch and flavour than others.

    Salt had mostly warm shows, almost all involving an exploration of love. The most serious and intense was “Night Bird” directed by Zac Tanner, which had a clever use of two laptop screens showing the inner expressions and feelings of the characters onstage. Though we were unable to see Isadora Lao’s piece, “A Mustache and a Mattress”, due to a scheduling conflict with one of her actors, we commend her decision to stick to her proverbial guns and put on only the one showing, rather than recasting — making her piece even stronger. Our personal favourites of the season would have to be “Swimming in the Shallows” directed by Izabelle Brown, and “Words, Words, Words” directed by Adam Hart. Both pieces had an uplifting energy that infected the audience, and the respective actors brought engrossingly bizarre and amusing performances, especially Nick, who has just fallen in love in Brown’s piece. Not to mention the entire anthropomorphic monkey cast of Hart’s piece. Monkeys? Yes, you read that correctly, with protruding ears, hairy knuckles, and everything! It was great.

    Pepper offered a more diverse flavour profile. “The Actor’s Nightmare”, directed by Léon Bristow, was a delightfully self-aware opening to the night, if slightly lacking in pacing. We are of the opinion that the season might have been more impactfully concluded with the other quirky, meta-theatrical performance “Smoke Screens”, directed by Lilia Askew, which was simultaneously high-brow and high energy. Two other standouts from the evening: Beth Taylor’s take on “Confessions of a Chocoholic” with its cushy, multi-faceted set — made captivating by the returning talent Kate Anderson — and the strong performance and even stronger illustrated overhead projections of Martin McDonagh’s version of “The Pillowman”.

    Putting on a collaborative show of this magnitude, both as a budding director AND as a part of the production team, ALL THE WHILE knee deep in various other dismal university/life obligations, is no easy feat. To the directors and cast of Tales from the Spice Rack, we have only this left to say: ya done good, and we look forward to seeing where you go from here.

    by

  • Best Docos of the Year

    The other day I started sketching out a “Best Films of the Year” list. This was as much a precautionary measure for an upcoming Salient issue as a tactical device to dispatch questions along the lines of “what should I watch?” with ease. As it turned out, half of the list were documentaries. This year, at the New Zealand International Film Festival, Doc Edge, and in general, I sought out as many documentaries as I could. In previous years I’ve been able to entertain myself exclusively with dramas, indie films, and blockbusters, but those days are more or less over.

    What I can rely on now is people’s need to capture the world and their subjects, and express their ideas. To get an idea, the films here deal with race “then and now,” LGBTQ+ history, meat consumption, documentary ethics, global warming, and magic. Here are are my top seven, listed in alphabetical order:

     

    100 Men — Paul Oremland (NZ)

    Paul Oremland set out to capture and present 40 years of gay civil rights, subculture, and history in this highly ambitious, heartwarming, heartbreaking, hilarious film, which has the best premise for a documentary I’ve ever encountered. To structure his film he contacted 100 men, but more specifically his 100 most memorable shags. The film seamlessly shifts between a reflection on Paul’s own life, a speculation on how far gay civil rights have come, and dozens of anecdotes from his subjects.

     

    An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power — Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (USA)

    What this new film from Al Gore and his initial release in 2007 both have in common is a wonderful sense of optimism, even in the face of enormous odds. However, after watching the two back to back, it is evident that the world has become a far crazier place. Traversing the globe and informing others as to the effects of global warming has been Gore’s mission for years, and the film pauses to consider how far we’ve come, but also how exhaustingly far we have to go, made all the more challenging by recent developments of more political hurdles.

     

    I Am Not Your Negro — Raoul Peck (USA)

    James Baldwin once started a book, documenting the civil rights movement through his experiences with Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. He did not get very far before all three were murdered, but the 30 or so pages of notes, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, help form this heartstopping and harshly observant film, directed by Raoul Peck. The research component of the film is immense, with almost the entire runtime coming from historical footage, but the film occasionally places observations Baldwin made about 1950s America over clips from the present day, to haunting effect. He effectively asks white America: what insecurities do you have that led (and still lead) you to create the concept of the “negro”?

     

    Meat — David White (NZ)

    I published a review of this many months ago, so I won’t say much more about this film other than it’s an impressive production, right from the philosophy down to its aesthetic. Its four subjects discuss meat consumption from various angles, and throughout the film there is never a moment where it becomes too preachy, one way or the other.

     

    What Lies That Way — Paul Wolffram (NZ)

    Ethnographic filmmaker Paul Wolffram returns to the rainforests of Southern New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, where he has grown a relationship with the local Lak people over the past 15 years. This time Paul has come with the goal of completing Buai, the initiation into the shaman cult within Lak culture, and a process which blends sorcery, belief, and endurance. Both the people and the process are shot naturally and candidly, the result of incredible trust, and the result is as pure as a documentary can be. The actual period of time in which initiation takes place — four days of fasting — is barely stylistically embellished, leaving speculation open as to what exactly Paul is experiencing, both mentally and spiritually. (available On Demand)

     

    Wilbur: King in the Ring — J. Ollie Lucks and Julia Parnell (NZ)

    J. Ollie Lucks set out to make a quirky wrestling biopic about his Dunedin-based university friend Wilbur McDougall, but this quickly evolves into a weight loss journey, which then becomes a dramatic feud between friends. The ethics may be questionable, but overall the film is thoroughly enjoyable as Wilbur becomes increasingly scrutinising of Lucks’ methods with typical New Zealand dry humour. Lucks’ exploitation of Wilbur’s weight problem becomes obvious, which of course becomes problematic. Regardless, the film is fun, and never claims to be accurate, unedited, verité, or anything except a suitably over-the-top portrait of an over-the-top individual.

     

    Quest — Jonathan Olshefski (USA)

    This was one of the last films I saw at the NZIFF, when I didn’t think I could be any more emotionally engaged or overwhelmed. Little did I know that I was about to witness a small wonder of a film, which follows a working class African American family in Philadelphia through the Obama years. Intimate and evocative, the filmmakers grant access to the family, and the working class community around them, through all the highs and lows. In the downstairs of the family’s house we see the recording studio where young men are given a sanctuary from their lives, while out on the streets we see the senseless violence that sends shock waves through the communities. It’s raw and powerful, and a fantastic journey of a film.

    by

  • Archive of Trash

    1. Green plastic bag draping fork in the tree.

    2. Wooden toy (a chubby horse or cow) with dangling legs, draped next to the green plastic bag.

    3. Dirty jar — would be big enough to pickle something in. About the same size as the jar with a lid that didn’t fit that I pickled carrots in when I was grumpy. No lid on this dirty jar.

    4. Ugly wooden-body upholstered-seat (red spilling out) chair I would never want to own even when it was in its prime but is just the right height to climb in my bedroom window if it was unlocked and you wanted to.

    5. Big yellow plastic bag, looks like there is a high vis something in it, orange and silver but it might be an optical illusion.

    6. Big black box television. (Where do all the old televisions go?)

    7. Plastic container that used to (still could) have Christmas fruit mince in it.

    8. One corner of black and green striped knitted textile, very grimy.

    9. Blue fizz can.

    10. Black and gold beer can.

    11. A plank, fake wood looking but maybe real wood underneath (surely).

    12. Orange and white Palmer’s shopping bag full of more trash (or potting mix).

    13. Gridded maroon plastic, many pieces.

    14. Newspaper turned green like moss.

    15. Buried Moore Wilsons bag x 2 (fancy).

    16. Black plastic toolbox with orange on the handle.

    17. Metal pole, rusty where the white paint has come off.

    18. Metallic pink pen.

    19. Half buried bucket. GIB Plus 4: All Purpose Joining Compound. CAUTION: KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.

    20. White bits of wall leaning on the house wall, says:

    Mahina Bay Builders

    Langridge Job

    Broom Cupboard

    Handwriting looks like boys from school.

    21. Thought there were white paint splotches over everything but they are petals from the tree.

     

    Our landlord wants to buy the house next door but the elderly woman who owns it refuses to sell and that’s what capitalism’s all about right you can’t make anybody do anything they don’t want to do you can’t force anyone into a contract a contract is all about consent.

    (Of course, I never asked to be born, I never consented to capitalism).

    Nobody lives there but sometimes when it’s raining we can hear people.

    I wanted to clear out the trash visible from my bedroom window but I don’t like hard labour and anyway it is a daily reminder of capitalism’s potent contradictions. Capitalism is about efficiency, and more, but it is also meant to be about consent i.e. freedom. You can’t have both.

    What about a politics of inefficiency.

    Was the broom cupboard taken out of the house or did it never get put in?

    by

  • Nathan For You

    With his show Nathan For You that began its fourth season in late September, Nathan Fielder is the hero we need but don’t quite deserve in television right now. Having graduated from business school in Canada with “really good grades,” Nathan’s goal is to help small business owners increase their profits through ingenious and out-of-the-box marketing ideas. Despite a seemingly simple premise, Nathan For You catches you off guard with just how elaborate the stunts are, and it is chaotic evil magic to watch.

    Even if you haven’t heard of it, you might still have a peripheral awareness of Nathan For You due to its absurd schemes having a tendency to catch the attention of unaware mainstream news outlets. In 2014 the show made international headlines with “Dumb Starbucks”, a pop-up coffee shop meets art installation parodying Starbucks that was just legal through a copyright loophole, but which eventually shut down after three days for failing to meet health and safety codes. It was initially an attempt at rebranding a struggling small town café, but the café owner did not respond well to the idea of being blackmailed should Starbucks find a way to sue them. So Nathan set up Dumb Starbucks on his own.

    The show had previously made news in its first season after staging a video of a “hero pig” rescuing a goat from drowning to promote a petting zoo — the video reached over 9,000,000 views on YouTube before it was revealed as a hoax to coincide with the episode’s premiere. Season four’s second episode employs a similar strategy, with a complex plan involving a celebrity impersonator and a legally binding name change in an attempt to stage a viral moment of “Michael Richards” (Seinfeld’s Kramer) leaving a $10,000 tip on a sandwich at a small deli.

    Nathan For You is so delightfully uncomfortable that it somehow, despite all odds, becomes wholesome. Nathan’s perceived naivety allows people to open up to him, like a fucked up Louis Theroux. Over the seasons, Nathan has had a tense relationship with private investigator Brian Wolfe, with Wolfe dubbing Nathan “the Wizard of Loneliness” after a particularly bad blowup. But in the season four opener, the two find common ground admiring Wolfe’s former work as a soft-core erotica model, which Nathan brings bountiful evidence of in a thoroughly annotated binder. In another episode, Nathan changes a woman’s life when he suggests rebranding her realtor business as “The Ghost Realtor”, triggering a passion for the paranormal that persists to this day and has reinvigorated her professional life.

    With all the shows coming back in the next month (Stranger Things, Mr Robot, Curb Your Enthusiasm) I feel spoiled for choice, but Nathan for You is what I consistently look forward to each year. It is somehow the smartest and stupidest thing I have ever seen. I cannot begin to explain the joy I feel watching Nathan Fielder do things like force strangers to go on a two-day hike to save $15 on gas, or extort hours of free work by presenting manual labour as an exercise fad, or set up an entire recreation of The Bachelor starring himself to get over his fear of intimacy. It’s kind of hard to explain without doing that awful thing where you try explain a comedian telling a funny joke and ruin it completely, and maybe I’ve already done that, so take your time now to catch up on the best show you haven’t heard of.

    by

  • Gimme the Loot

    It’s no secret that video game publishers are greedy. While a successful triple-A game can generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, the upfront cost of $100 or more that us Kiwis pay is never enough. They are always looking for new ways to extract more cash from us that don’t require too large an investment on their part, and all too often we fall for them. In recent years, the industry has only gotten more insidious and less honest with consumers about monetisation, to the point where they could well be stepping into legally murky territory.

    Loot boxes are one such practice, which the game industry has taken to like a cat to a laser pointer. They first appeared in the West in 2010, when Valve’s Team Fortress 2 was preparing to go free-to-play and exploring future monetisation methods. They work like this: at a point during a game, such as when you level up, a loot box drops. These boxes contain random in-game items of varying rarities such as skins, weapons, or virtual currency. For some games, you are able to open them straight away, whereas other games require you to pay real money for a key to open the box. Some games will allow you to purchase loot boxes with virtual currency or real money, and sometimes let you trade the items with other players.

    Since those early days, loot boxes have appeared in some of the most popular games around, including CS:GO, FIFA 17, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and of course Overwatch. It is perhaps the latter which has caused a recent explosion in interest in loot boxes given its massive popularity and the cultural capital that comes with it, but with attention comes scrutiny.

    The thing is, loot boxes are gambling. There are no ifs, buts, or maybes; they are gambling, and yet they’re not being regulated as such. You’re paying real money but have no idea what you’re going to get, with the real possibility you end up receiving something totally worthless or that you already own! If you’re buying a ton of loot boxes to try to get an extremely rare item, you’re not playing a video game anymore — you’re becoming a gambling addict.

    We hear tons of horror stories of people who spend nearly their entire lives at the pokies, gambling away the last of their savings in the vain hope they will win something. But pokies are regulated. You need a licence to operate them, and to be over 18 to play them. Yet anyone can buy a copy of Overwatch and start buying loot boxes, even children.

    If some of this is sounding familiar to long time readers, it should. Last year I covered the CS:GO Lotto scandal, where two YouTubers were found to have been operating a skin gambling website and promoting it without disclosure. I stated at the time that said scumbags “got young people to think gambling skins was not only okay, but it was a fun and easy way to make money.” Well, turns out the problem runs even deeper, as do the levels of greed; in the case of Overwatch, the items aren’t even tradable, so you are literally giving Blizzard your money for fuck all.

    Loot boxes exploit that addictive part of our brains in the same ways as pokies and casino games. These kinds of practices do not belong in the video game industry, solely because so much of the customer base is young and impressionable. If you want to gamble, go to SkyCity, and please keep this crap out of my video games.

    by

  • Art Conversation with Ngaromaki

    When I talked with a musician about visual art, I should have known that the music would creep into everything, but there’s not always much to gain by keeping them so separate.

    I ask what his earliest memory of art is anyway.

    There was a really old painting that my mother had on the wall, a weird kind of Victorian painting with a white-skinned lady, skin almost like porcelain. No matter which house we lived in, we always had this, and it was one of the only things that remained consistent. I remember looking up at it, and wondering who the Victorian woman was. Who painted her? How many other people have looked up at it as well?

     

    Later, he tells me that it belonged to his grandmother. She died in a fire and his mother held onto the painting.

    I guess art is sometimes all that is left of someone when they leave.

     

    What sort of visual art do you like?

    I was always around the music side of art from a really young age, but I never had much exposure to visual art. I like performance art though. I like its intensity, the performances I’ve seen have made me cry, and it was crazy how much they could say by just by moving their bodies. I think that is a common thing between the sonic aspects of music, rather than lyrically, and visual arts, is that recognition of a tone or a mood.

    Maybe we could talk about soundtracks. I want to make music for films, and especially explore how it can convey motion and atmosphere.

     

    He lists off the skeleton of a score: cello, violins, viola, horns. It is like he breathes in chords, rather than oxygen, and I can’t keep up.

    Our brains pick up on the distances of the notes played, and we hear it as major or minor, uplifting or sad. Without knowing anything about someone, you can affect them by only playing these sounds. For this, I really like science fiction films, I’m watching this one called Primo. The music is really interesting because they use it in an opposite way to most movies, they use a lot of silence. It’s a very lonely film, and the lack of music encourages the loneliness — does that make sense?

     

    I’m still trying to talk about visual art. He keeps twirling his pen and every few twirls loses balance of it and it clacks against my laptop. When I listen back to the audio of our conversation, there the clacking noise is! I guess a musician cannot help but infiltrate a visual arts discussion with his own sounds.

    Once, I wrote a song that was the music portrayal of a painting, [Vincent Van Gogh’s] A Starry Night. We had to do a description of each part, and I illustrated certain things; the mid to treble range motifs were mimicking the swirling stars at the top.

     

    I ask about the textures of his composition. I always want to know how something would feel — could you graze your knuckles on it, or would it smother you in thick honey?

    It was kind of ambient, sort of echoes too, and it was really all over the place, like the painting. Some songs I think omit colour, and this piece really makes me feel like night, with its ups and downs. I think I have no choice, I have to make music.

    The whole world is too quiet.

    by

  • Cuts From the Deep: An Ode to My Favourite Song

    Approaching my last article for Salient as music co-editor, I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of things that I still wanted to write about and haven’t (a love letter to Kate Bush, a robust appreciation piece about the Spice Girls — I could go on). But I couldn’t pass up the chance to write a tender ode to my most loved pop song, nay, song in general, of all time. This is such an unbelievably bodacious banger that all of my nerve endings jump up and stand at attention every time those glorious first notes tickle my eardrums. Especially if I’m not the one who has induced it to play, which is a rarity. It creates what is probably the most instantaneous and potent rush of dopamine I’ll ever experience. Yes friends: forget poppers, forget MDMA, forget coffee, forget sugar, forget your Garage Project New Wave English Pale Ale; all you need is the magnificent “Pure Shores” by English girl group All Saints.

    Let’s forget for a moment that it’s strongly associated with that travesty of a Leo Dicaprio film where a bunch of entitled hippies take ownership over a remote Thai beach, and appreciate it for its musical value. It is genuinely the perfect pop song. I challenge you to put it on at a house party without getting at least five compliments and/or exuberant grunts/shrieks. Soft, relaxed dream-pop is so highly underrated and criminally missing from our current musical era, at least in the popular charts.

    That blissfully tranquil guitar riff, the lapping of the rising and falling synths, those wonderfully twangy modulated guitar chords, the bass that seems to reverberate out at you from the deep sea, the way the vocals seamlessly wend their way around each other, the unhurried pace of the song, the giddy swell of the chorus; it all spells a recipe for a song that slouches towards paradise. The choice of William Orbit as producer was bang on. As a musician with deep roots in techno and ambient, he brought the exact right kind of mellow to balance out All Saints’ airbrushed pop. Apparently Madonna was livid Orbit didn’t give the track to her after they worked together on “Ray of Light”, but despite my love of Madonna, I wouldn’t change this song for all the cone bras in the world.

    For girl groups, reaching this level of sleek, sophisticated grace is no easy feat, but this song reaches it with such ostensible ease. Even the strange video, with its woozy shots of the band in trench coats on the beach at night, intercut with shots from the Film That Shall Not Be Named, kind of adds this air of mystery and bizarre cool. Sure, the lyrics are completely inane, but they are sufficiently positive to add to the beachy paradise vibe established by the instruments and vocal melodies, and to be honest most people are probably too blissed out by the time the vocals come in to even notice what they’re saying.

    This song is a heady concoction of ambient pop that perfectly captures the 2000 zeitgeist; a beautiful meld of ecstasy and naïveté. It’s becoming increasingly important to have these slices of bliss in our current world of bleak-and-getting-bleaker, and this is one of those rare songs that can transport you to a different time, place, and state of mind by caressing your eardrums in just that exact right way. It is a dream-pop orgasm, nourishing music for the soul, and I will always hold it in my heart and in my Top 25 most played tracks on iTunes.

    by

  • Serial

    It would be hard (almost a sin, maybe?) to write about podcasts and not mention Serial. Now three-years old, this true crime podcast is widely considered the catalyst of the “podcast resurgence.” It broke records by becoming the fastest podcast to reach five million downloads in the history of iTunes — the podcast equivalent of going viral.

    I can at least personally vouch for this; prior to Serial my podcast knowledge was limited to wondering what “the point” of podcasts was and getting the vague sense it was all a little nerdy. Flash-forward to my life post-Serial and I probably listen to at least two podcasts a day. That is the power a riveting murder mystery podcast can have over your life.  

    The series follows American journalist Sarah Koenig as she investigates the murder of 18-year old Hae Min Lee, who died in 1999. Who killed her? The police believed it to be Adnan Syed, her ex-boyfriend who was convicted of her murder in 2000. But Koenig’s digging casts doubt upon his guilt. It is the ultimate question raised by the podcast, the question that splits its fans: did Adnan Syed really murder Hae Min Lee?

    But really, it is not simply the facts of the case and the information the investigation brings to light that make this podcast so compelling. What sets Serial apart is Koenig’s ability to craft a narrative, to draw the listener deep into her own mind where she struggles to decide who and what she believes. Koenig very much becomes the main character in the story. As you listen to the episodes she does not pose as an all-knowing narrator — rather, you follow her as she learns new information and delves deeper. You listen to her speculate and go back-and-forth on her opinions while you do the same.

    Serial wasn’t created to exonerate Syed; it doesn’t promise to “solve the mystery” or answer all the questions. If anything, it raises far more questions than it answers. But rather than cheapening Serial, this is its power. The unanswered questions are the reason it is still talked about today; the reason there are podcasts and countless Reddit subgroups dedicated to discussing it; the reason that it will go down as iconic.

    by

  • GIG GUIDE

    Wednesday: Give Peace a Dance! with Disasteradio and Alexa Casino — This is a free pop-up gig to support those protesting the Weapons Expo at Westpac Stadium. Weapons are bad and dancing is good, and Alexa will be bringing the introspective R&B jams while Disasteradio balances it out with wobbly ’80s synth bangers. Meet at 4.45PM at the overbridge by 90 Waterloo Quay and get your anti war-profiteering banter ready.

    Friday: Die! Die! Die! Charm. Offensive. release tour — If you like your music excessively loud and in-your-face, then this is probs the gig for you. Die! Die! Die! are rollicking punk fun, and topped off with a dash of HEX and a pinch of Mr Amish, you’re in for an evening of heavenly musical delights. 9.00pm at Meow, and don’t forget the earplugs.

    Friday and Saturday: DRIPPING — This is going to be fucking incredible. A lovely coming together of a number of cool cats from NZ’s underground music and art scenes, including Xoë Hall, Georgette Brown, Sere, Womb, and Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing; this event will be raising money for Lifeline Aotearoa. On Friday the art show opens at 6.00pm, and the bands go from 7.30pm; on Saturday it goes from midday right into the night. There will also be pies, sweet treats, jewellery, records, and many other wondrous wares to be purchased, and it’s all happening at Newtown Community Centre. You can find all the details on the Facebook event.

    by

  • The Handmaid’s Tale — Margaret Atwood

    Maybe my timing is off with this review. I know the television show just got showered with Emmys, but it’s been available to watch for a while now. It’s the kind of show that you either binge immediately, or aren’t even aware of. But I don’t fall into either category. I decided on purpose I couldn’t watch it, not yet anyway.

    The show The Handmaid’s Tale brings to extraordinary visual life something that is starkly depicted in print — a woman, all women, controlled and put by a patriarchal society in a limited number of roles that are designed to diminish and disempower them. When I read the book, I would leave it feeling incredibly on edge. There’s something disturbing about being in this dystopian world where the line between their horrifying situation and our real world is blurry.

    It isn’t so much that politically there is still gender discrimination or ignorance or apathy. It’s more that the phrases the male characters use, the attitudes they adopt, are eerily familiar. There’s a sense in which a man who says, yeah, I agree, women in movies are depicted really stupidly, and then says, that’s just how men think though, is just a lite version of the male characters depicted in the novel — for example Fred, when he presents himself as a pseudo-friend, a sympathetic companion to Offred, someone who is trying to be as kind as he can be, while at the same time he’s living off the benefits of his society and has no interest in relinquishing any power.

    Which is why I couldn’t bring myself to watch this show. Watching sexism portrayed on a screen, when everyday life isn’t free of its presence, is a hard thing to do. It’s difficult to see male characters acting in abhorrent ways, when wisps of their behaviour hang around me in reality in my friends and my family and in men in positions of authority. It’s tiring.

    But having said all this, I have to still say, I highly recommend this book. It’s remarkable. Smartly written, witty and well-crafted, and like a jackhammer into an uneducated mind.

    Essentially, the plot centres around Offred, a woman who has become a surrogate for a married couple, lives in their home, and is treated as a kind of servant. She doesn’t get to choose when or with whom she has sex. She isn’t seen as fully human — she is reduced to a birthing vessel. The society in which she lives is religiously twisted, authoritarian, and dystopian, only recently formed, and in this culture, women have come to be seen as suited for only a few predictable roles. Women here lack autonomy, rights, equality… even thinking about this is making me want to riot. To illustrate: the name “Offred” comes from the amalgamation of “of” and “Fred”, the husband in charge of the household in which Offred lives. She doesn’t get her own name. They define her by the man who rules over her. And of course, the cherry on top, there’s a whole load of brainwashing to maintain this status quo. Isn’t literature fun?

    Atwood’s novel is highly complex, weaving together themes of gender, class, race, and politics. She has a deftness to her writing that leaves room for analysis and ambiguity. Please read this book if you don’t understand how it feels to be weighed down by the burden that another person has decided your gender is; and to be completely furious about the whole bloody situation. Maybe it will be enlightening. It will definitely be worthwhile.

    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.

    Add Comment

    You must be logged in to post a comment.

    Recent posts

    1. An (im)possible dream: Living Wage for Vic Books
    2. Salient and VUW tussle over Official Information Act requests
    3. One Ocean
    4. Orphanage voluntourism a harmful exercise
    5. Interview with Grayson Gilmour
    6. Political Round Up
    7. A Town Like Alice — Nevil Shute
    8. Presidential Address
    9. Do You Ever Feel Like a Plastic Bag?
    10. Sport
    1

    Editor's Pick

    In Which a Boy Leaves

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