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Issue 3, 2018

Volume 81 Issue 03: Stale-ient

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News

  • VUWSA to Sell Van

  • Hunter Lounge Raking in Business as Reality Sets In

  • 15 Things I’d Rather Do Than “Discuss With the Person Next to Me” in a Lecture

  • Trump’s America

  • Students March Against Sexual Assault

  • Wellington Experiences Fruit Burst Shortage After Clubs Week at Vic

  • First Years Readjust Ambitions, from Psychologist to Life Coach

  • UVic to Offer World’s First Degree in Indigenous Law

  • VUW to Offer Free Restorative Justice Course

  • Candidate Profiles: VUWSA By-Elections

  • Awkward Silences Deafening Hall Residents

  • External Review of Young Labour Camp Announced

  • People Against Prisons Candlelit Vigil

  • Ex-Spy Poisoned

  • Anytime Library: People Do Know Things

  • Features

  • Website-Cover-Photo9

    The Year We Ruined the Olympics

    New Zealand in 1976 is an interesting time. Men are sporting awful moustaches. Women are wearing blue eyeshadow. The first McDonald’s outlet is opened in Porirua. Robert Muldoon is Prime Minister. The All Blacks are touring South Africa, an apartheid regime. In response, 28 African nations boycott the Montreal Olympics. New Zealand’s reputation is in […]

    by

  • Website-Cover-Photo7

    This Ain’t a Scene it’s a Goddamned Arm Wrestle

    Interior – Industrial Soviet Beerhall – Night It was late November and cold as hell when I stumbled into the Zhiguli Beer Hall. I was in Moscow, about to take the trans-Mongolian rail line to Beijing, and after finding someone in my hostel who could speak English, had decided to go out for a beer. […]

    by

  • Website-Cover-Photo8

    Problematic Favourites

    I decided to rewatch all 10 seasons of Friends recently, just for the heck of it. I was trying to knit three large and complicated teddy bears for my three tiny and uncomplicated new nieces, and I needed something to play in the background to soothe me, so I didn’t end up rage quitting and […]

    by

  • Website-Cover-Photo9

    The Year We Ruined the Olympics

    New Zealand in 1976 is an interesting time. Men are sporting awful moustaches. Women are wearing blue eyeshadow. The first McDonald’s outlet is opened in Porirua. Robert Muldoon is Prime Minister. The All Blacks are touring South Africa, an apartheid regime. In response, 28 African nations boycott the Montreal Olympics. New Zealand’s reputation is in […]

    by

  • Website-Cover-Photo7

    This Ain’t a Scene it’s a Goddamned Arm Wrestle

    Interior – Industrial Soviet Beerhall – Night It was late November and cold as hell when I stumbled into the Zhiguli Beer Hall. I was in Moscow, about to take the trans-Mongolian rail line to Beijing, and after finding someone in my hostel who could speak English, had decided to go out for a beer. […]

    by

  • Website-Cover-Photo8

    Problematic Favourites

    I decided to rewatch all 10 seasons of Friends recently, just for the heck of it. I was trying to knit three large and complicated teddy bears for my three tiny and uncomplicated new nieces, and I needed something to play in the background to soothe me, so I didn’t end up rage quitting and […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • Rule and Exception

    A weekend ago, I went and listened to Teju Cole speak about his photo book Blind Spot. I have learned a lot from Teju Cole already— his collection of photography is one that I read paragraphs out of for people close to me, and sometimes strangers, all the time. I have a deep appreciation for the way his thoughts trail so digressively, tumbling into each other, but still seem structured, organised.

    Towards the end of his conversation with Paula Morris, Teju Cole brought up the notion that we set rules when creating art. Sometimes we assign these rules to a certain project, and call it a brief, or perhaps we have rules flicking the back of our arms all the time — this persistent, but guiding pain to remind us who we are, what we do. It is a foreign idea to invite rules into your work. It is much more attractive to perpetuate a notion that visual art comes very organically, instinctively, spontaneously.

    What rules does Cole work under? What rules are acceptable to confine oneself within? He begins to outline them, and he begins in an unexpected way: no filters, no cropping, scanning in three different ways, minimal contrast adjustments; for Blind Spot, shooting only on 35mm film. These are technical rules, relating the production of a negative into what Cole wants us to see in it. This is the curious thing about photography, the way it balances so awkwardly between the technical and art form, not fitting comfortably in either realm. His methods do not appear artistic, but at the same time they are. The difference in the resulting positive if just one of these technical considerations is altered will change the stylistic reading of it, what hides in the shadows, what detail is blown out by light.

    Rules, for Cole, are the reason “why your kid could not do it”. Kids’ art practice is naïve, and by nature, not bound by any rules. It is the act of setting rules that differentiates the work of Cole’s and other artists’ from all the other paintings, drawings, and photographs created by children or otherwise. These rules are not prescriptive, but instead something that I suppose Cole has at the back of his mind, steering his photographic choices.

    In Blind Spot, Cole consciously avoided images of cars or people, and the collection is largely free from both of these things. But here! a boy with his head bowing below the red rail of a boat; again, the same boy, scanned by a negatives scanner a third or fourth or even a fifth time, now with his eyes looking, no longer in shadow. And here! a car, its bonnet protruding from a garage, bursting from the metal seams that someone wanted to contain it in, like bread dough rising past its tin. Small rules like these, which belong only to the creator, allow the creation of the exception— of something extraordinary that justifies shifting your personal rubric. The self-made rule is arbitrary, but it is essential to form the rule anyway, in order to realise what is most valuable.

    So, the production of the photograph becomes a thing in limbo again, between a rule and the destruction of rule— a suspension in exception. There is something sneaky about an exception. It is the grey area, the fringe of permission. The fringe often dictates what will become the centre, and the exception becomes the norm, and a new exception is made. The rule and exception is crucial in considering personal practice, and how your work will mutate and develop. The rule is still what influences who we are, what we do, but also: what will we be, where will we go?

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  • Are We Live

    4.5/5

    Back in the day, before I put out a solid $14.99 a month for Spotify, I was a huge SoundCloud fiend. Similar to the way that Bandcamp seems to champion a community fueled by dark and overly-misunderstood hipster projects, the SoundCloud community is equally niche.  That I can drop the term “SoundCloud rapper” in casual conversation and be understood attests to the unique space that SoundCloud occupies as a platform. Despite its many flaws, in the last five years SoundCloud has been largely responsible for bringing a new generation of independent artists into the realm of mainstream appeal.

    Are We Live follows the journey of four previously “up-and-coming”, now fully established, young artists based in London, who owe their success primarily to hype accrued through SoundCloud. Jordan Rakei, Tom Misch, Alfa Mist, and Barney Artist have been sporadically congregating at Pink Bird Studio in East London since 2015 to discuss their struggles, successes, favorite music, and processes, as they navigate their way through the music industry. As the young frontrunners of a resurgent neo-soul/jazz scene in South London, these four dudes provide a low-key insight into the culture which drives them and their peers.

    A typical episode begins with a round the table discussion about what each artist has been working on in the time since the last episode. This usually evolves into deeper discussion on issues with songwriting, production, touring, or the state of popular music. Are We Live is really just four mates getting together for a fat yarn, but it seems to have captured quality snapshots of each hosts’ artistic and personal development in a genuine way that can be quantified and then heard in their respective music. At the tail end of the episode, each artist picks a song for the others to listen to and discuss. This feature has helped me discover other artists who I now love, some mainstream and some unknown.

    Are We Live is a true window into the lives of young and talented artists. It lets the listener feel as though they are a part of the discussion, as opposed to a far-removed observer. Even if podcasts aren’t your buzz, all four artists are well worth a listen, as are their musical peers (see Laura Misch, Carmody, Emmavie, Elli Ingram, Zak Abel, Loyle Carner, Oscar Jerome, and Puma Blue).

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  • Superorganism Self-Titled

    Superorganism’s self-titled debut, out on Domino, arrives just over a year after the release of single “Something for Your M.I.N.D.” – likely the starting point for anyone who has encountered Superorganism, or for those who will come into contact with them moving forward. I first heard the track on Frank Ocean’s “Blonded Radio”, as he seemingly plucked the band out of obscurity. The track has punchy synths and drums, and a lackadaisical vocal appealing to any fans of slacker-pop. It’s a banger, and serves as a mission statement of sorts for the mysterious 8-piece, largely based in London. The group, notably, features former members of NZ groups The Eversons and Sherpa, as well as Kiwi background singers – so there’s definitely a local feel to this group.

    The rest of the new album follows a similar sort of trajectory to its lead single – almost to a fault. Immediate standouts include “The Prawn Song”, “Relax”, and “Nobody Cares”, all of which highlight Orono’s enigmatic vocal delivery. She is simultaneously bored-sounding and somehow full of character, and as a result she feels like the star of the group. Musically, Superorganism does seem to hit an interesting niche in the indie market, as their melodic synths and live instrumentation collide with samples.

    It’s the samples which cause me a little bit of grief on this record, however. The guitar slide sample, notably present on “Something for Your M.I.N.D.” pops up repeatedly throughout the record. I can understand the appeal of re-using a motif throughout a body of music; that’s a technique that harks back to classical music, and to much of the electronic music we hear today. In this case, however, the motif re-appears without further development, and without any real suggestion as to why it’s there. This statement could be true of much of the album, which seems to recycle a sonic template without huge development (barring the songs I highlighted above).

    Whilst Superorganism is an encouraging debut project, I think it’s slightly half-baked (and maybe a bit rushed, given the meteoric rise of the group). It would be interesting to see if, on their next project, Superorganism can branch out into other spheres of electronic/indie-pop, and channel the enigmatic nature of their vocalist to create a more varied and cohesive project.

    3/5

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  • He’s So MASC

    There’s an animal urgency to Chris Tse’s latest collection of poetry, He’s So MASC. Wrought of thrumming heartbeats and silken nights, his poems are songs: some of lust, some of love, all of light.

    He’s So MASC is angry, and justifiably so. Tse’s Chinese identity is a theme in all his poems, as he references all of the struggles and the shame over hiding his identity as a poet, and his parents’ reaction when he confessed his creativity. This comes to a head in ‘Punctum’ where Tse is aware of where he’s supposed to fit, he knows that to “study[…] to be a capitalist” is to be “a good Chinese boy”, yet seeks to rebel and break the mould.

    Perhaps the best thing about He’s So MASC is that it feels utterly contemporary. Lines like “love songs […] built with gender-neutral pronouns”, and its references to dating apps and selfies are not snide, but part of the fabric of the everyday. Tse is writing about, and for, the present.

    Then there is the underlying contemplation of masculinity from which the title is drawn. Tse characterises typical masculinity as “Coltrane, oil change, accidentally brushing a breast”, while the masculinity of his book is “Madonna, selfies, inability to grow a beard.” Tse’s real strength as a poet becomes apparent, as he expertly juggles, and considers, his many identities: as a man, as a Chinese man, as a gay man, without fetishising any of these.

    He’s So MASC has repeated motifs of cities and wolves, and the mediums which unite them: the moon, stars, neon, and things you abandon in the sky. Tse manages these transformations stylishly, pulling you through into his world. Perhaps this is poetry for poets; but a poet can be anyone, and the melody of this book is one easy to follow.

    I suggest reading this book in a city at night, when you want to find music amidst roaring.

    by

  • Poet Vs Pageant

     

    4/5

    If you weren’t already aware, the New Zealand Fringe Festival kicked off on the 2nd and will be going until the 24th of March. To start off my 2018 Fringe experience, I went and saw Poet Vs Pageant.

    Glance at the title. If you were expecting a wrestling stage, strobe lighting, and a big song and dance, then you would not have seen the one woman on the poster, and completely ignored the word “poet”. To be fair, there was one song and dance, but it was a cheerleading chant entitled “Poetry Won’t Make You Popular”.

    Indeed, the set was absolutely bare – only a table with a glass of water on it and section cards indicating each “round”. The lighting was a very simple. Even the costume begins with a simple black dress and ends with a red sequined one. All of these are obvious choices indicating to the audience that it simultaneously is and is not about the presentation of the show, and more about the words chosen in this piece and the intimacy between performer and audience.

    I absolutely applaud Telia for being such a confident performer in such an intimate space as The Studio of BATS Theatre. She welcomed us into the space and thanked us when we left, giving us a card with “onward awkward soldier” written on it, her closing lines. When she told her poem-story, she looked people directly in the eye. Two people left in the middle of the show (clearly something came up, or they found themselves in the wrong theatre, or maybe they just weren’t vibing the show), but she acknowledged them by smiling, allowed them to pass, and then carried on as normal. Top job!

    The show is one long poem, only really pausing to present the section cards like showgirls do in a car salesrooms, with so many quotable lines: “Complexion a poor substitute for comprehension.” It begins with a poet’s confusion over pageants: surely if the pageant is really about brains (as it’s a scholarship competition) then if the poet entered, she would absolutely win. It should be easy: “Beautiful people got everything but they just had nothing to give.”

    And in the beginning it was easy. The narrator warned us that this poet was our anti-hero but I agreed with so many of her thoughts that she became my hero. Until she got mean. I didn’t align myself with her then. Ironically, in the swimsuit section she got vulnerable, “as though before a lover”. She began to lose that cockiness that she started with. She admitted that as a feminist child she knew princesses were lame, but she still secretly wanted to be one.

    This tug of war within herself about superficiality and intellectualism was the crux of the show and hit the nail on the head for me. Yes! YES! I’m a woman. I have a brain. I also like to be/feel pretty. The two should not be mutually exclusive.

    The poet did not win the pageant — she came runner up — but she learnt something in that experience. Her glass slipper of wisdom was this: “The only wins that matter are the self-appointed crowns.”

    The show was fun but profound and punchy. There’s a reason why it won Best Writing at Melbourne Fringe, and as both a theatre and English literature geek, I dug it.

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  • The Facts by Therese Lloyd

    The first thing that draws you in about Therese Lloyd’s new collection, The Facts, is the soft, serene, and melancholic painting, Heather Straka’s Honey Trap 12, on its cover. Inside the oval border is a pale young woman with her back turned, her brown hair in a messy bun, and she is clad in only a small black bra.

    The image invokes silence, introversion, privacy, isolation — all themes that are at the forefront of Lloyd’s new collection that deals with deep personal feelings of love, loss, betrayal, helplessness, and a quest to start again.

    The second poem, “This Time Around”, was an immediate favourite. It describes a shotgun wedding, and its sense of recklessness and impulsivity establishes the nature, and narrative, of the relationship that runs through the entire book. But these intense feelings evaporate in the last line, which marks the end of the beginning, as the lovebirds return to the wedding venue to clean, rather than enjoy their marital bliss.

    This recklessness turns to restlessness in another standout poem, “Democratic Moves”, which is a list of “broken things”. They are broken seemingly because of an underlying struggle with a generational transfer of being unable to live up to the idea of Woman. Lloyd details the struggles of the mother, with her scones, slices, and “quiet pills”, which have been transferred onto the daughter, with her extreme boredom and bad habits.

    The titular poem, The Facts, has a fervent sweeping narrative where the relationship unfolds and collapses as the loss and betrayal is laid bare. The feelings and wounds are raw and full of anger, but towards the end there is a sense of pragmatism, reflection, and potential recovery.

    Two of my favourites from the final section were “Rebound”, with its brilliant opening line of “it shat itself”, and “Funeral Playlist,” which delves right back into the darkness and troubled emotions from earlier poems to remind us that nothing is all and well still.

    Lloyd has brilliantly mixed short, blunt, and punchy poems with long, winding, and rich narratives that tie The Facts together into one beautifully powerful and emotive collection. This book is one I will return to again and again, as I found new wonderful ideas and images each time I read and reread it over the past few weeks.

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  • Big Mouth

    Netflix’s Big Mouth is hilarious, challenging, vile, and charming, all at the same time.

    The 10-episode animated series, featuring an all-star voice cast, focuses in on the most demanding and confronting years in an adolescent’s life, displaying to the fullest extent possible just how challenging puberty can be. With a complete lack of filter and constraint, the show, mainly through the eyes of pubescent teens Nick and Andrew (characters based on two of the series creators Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg), deals with the bewildering, complicated, and unrelenting changes brought about by hormones. Alongside the teens are the outrageous “Hormone Monster” characters, who serve to only heighten how awkward and unpleasant puberty can be.  

    The lack of restraint of the show may turn some viewers off entirely – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (like when a 13-year-old boy teaches his friends how to masturbate with a pillow). But it is the show’s inherent lewdness that allows for the creation of a landscape where the adolescent characters are able to freely discuss their feelings, confusions, and urges — making room for an open conversation about puberty and its challenges. It’s hard to think of a show that has made puberty its central focus, and has dealt with it in the concentrated and free manner that Big Mouth does.

    The show, which could have only been created in animated format, is often crude and crosses the line at times, but it still remains honest throughout. Nick and Andrew’s relationship is a genuine portrayal of the difficulty teenagers face in handling, maintaining, and creating friendships when they’re developing at different speeds. The creators clearly comprehend what real life adolescents deal with, and because of this, the show is likely to speak to most people on some level.

    Where Big Mouth succeeds is how it manages to recognise both the contrasting and similar effects puberty has on boys and girls. Despite Nick and Andrew being the show’s protagonists, the show commits the same amount of time to exploring the struggle faced by adolescent girls, doing it in a way that other formats have generally failed to do. The show’s character exploration extends beyond its pubescent protagonists, often making touching commentary on the lives of parents and adults in general. From marijuana addictions and sexual awakenings, to social ineptitude, many of the adult characters are involved in experiencing what could rightfully be seen as a second adolescence of their own.

    In an utterly relatable way, Big Mouth represents the salient emergence of sex-positivity and inclusion of this generation. Amidst the absurdity and shock value of each episode lies a thoughtful and tactfully written plot, providing much-needed validation to our inner child that at the end of the day, we all go through the same shit.

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  • Ireland in Film

    The Old: In Bruges (2008)

    5/5

    By Lauren White

    Following a botched job, two Irish hitmen (Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell) are sent to the city of Bruges, Belgium, to await further instructions from their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes).
    Films like to portray assassins in the formulaic “Bond” light; unfeeling, clinical professionals, detached from morality. Allowing these characters to retain their virtuosity and strangeness is where Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards, Seven Psychopaths) takes you from the beginning.

    This dynamic of hitmen with hearts created increasingly grim situations where I felt constantly torn between laughing and collapsing in tears — it’s perfect fodder for a fantastically black comedy. Gleeson’s character is the more lilting and weather-worn of the two, with an appreciation for Bruges Venetian-esque canals and holy relics. Farrell’s, on the other hand, is bored out of his mind, passing up gothic architecture in lieu of getting pissed and laid.

    In this movie, the clumsy violence coupled with religious significance is red seeping over white snow and between the pews of a church, splashed against a macabre painting of The Last Judgment.

    In Bruges is great in the way that Martin McDonagh’s best stories are. He takes the time to invest in characters, so when moments of twisted hilarity occur, you can’t help but ache for the victims of the joke (though in all honesty he could have just looped footage of Colin Farrell’s eyebrows furrowing in immature disbelief for two hours and I would still give it 5/5).

    It is also one of Farrell’s best performances, and he gets to deliver the best line of the film: “If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me, but I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”

    The story culminates in a ridiculous and poetically poignant shoot-out, that brings it to a satisfying close. It makes sense of the many bizarre aspects of what could have been a convoluted plot, and left me with a peculiar yearning to visit Bruges.

    The New: Handsome Devil (2016)

    5/5

    By Emma Maguire

    Handsome Devil is the queer comedy-drama you never knew you needed. Set in an Irish boarding school, our two heroes, Ned (Fionn O’Shea) and Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), form an unlikely friendship in the midst of the school’s hyper-masculine, rugby-obsessed culture. Ned’s a writer, quick-witted and intelligent, while Conor finds solace in rugby and other athletic pursuits. It doesn’t seem like they would be good friends, but when they’re forced to room together by the headmaster of the school, they find that they have a lot more in common than they first realised — they’re both not entirely heterosexual.

    Handsome Devil is not a love story — this narrative doesn’t end with Ned and Conor riding off into the sunset together — but it does hold an important position within queer film history. Many queer narratives end in death or destruction (the “Bury Your Gays” trope exists for a reason), and it is very rare to get an ending where all of the characters are happy.

    While Ned and Conor go through a lot in this film (mostly situational homophobia), their friendship is (mostly) good and pure. Although the climax of the film is a tad “Disney” and more than a little bit cheesy, the positivity just adds into the overall good vibes of the film. It’s a comedy-drama for a reason, after all!

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  • About the Author ()

    Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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    Editor's Pick

    This Ain’t a Scene it’s a Goddamned Arm Wrestle

    : Interior – Industrial Soviet Beerhall – Night It was late November and cold as hell when I stumbled into the Zhiguli Beer Hall. I was in Moscow, about to take the trans-Mongolian rail line to Beijing, and after finding someone in my hostel who could speak English, had decided