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Issue 6, 2018

Issue 06, Volume 81: Touching on Taboos

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News

  • Doin’ it for the Retweets: NZ Police’s Rainbow Car

  • National Urges Govt to be More Ambitious with Child Poverty Legislation

  • Sexual Violence Court Pilot

  • A Useful Post Shocks Class Facebook Group Users

  • Tinder Usage Booms as Cold Snap Hits NZ

  • Weir House Playground Replaced

  • Queer Coverage

  • Trump’s America

  • The Bizarre Story of Dave Bucks

  • Pākehā New Zealanders Defence of Racism Limited to Googling Word “racism”

  • Study Shows No Significant Effects Felt by Removal of Post-grad Student Allowance

  • Otago Law Dean Steps Down

  • The Social Network 2: Congressional Boogaloo

  • Krishna Price Hike

  • Features

  • Website-Cover-Photo3 (1)

    It’s not you, it’s Hookup Culture

    Is there anything wrong with Hookup Culture? I don’t remember his last name. His first name was Kyle: the perfect name for a faceless memory from your early 20s. In most respects, he was attractive, with a nice smile and deep set blue eyes. I first met him in a bar on Courtenay Place. I […]

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  • Website-Cover-Photo1 (1)

    My Night With Naked Boys

    He dances up to the stage in a dressing gown and pink high heels. He turns his back to the audience, turns his head back to look at us, grins. The robes come off. The woman sitting in front of me hollers into her friend’s ear, “I can see his penis!”   Wellington has just […]

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  • Website-Cover-Photo4 (1)

    Povo

    Short for poverty. Up until I reached university, I had never heard the word “povo” before. Indeed, I had lived in my community, in the apparently mistaken belief that we were normal. We are normal — let me emphasise that. We didn’t have the most. But compared to others a short walk away, we were […]

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  • Website-Cover-Photo2 (1)

    Tentacle Porn

    Tentacle Porn: Is it good shit?   CW: Tentacle porn, rape. There comes a time in every hapless student’s life when you chance upon the spectacle of one bodily orifice or another being filled by a slimy, big ass, monster tentacle. They say this event shapes an individual, that the image burns into their subconscious. […]

    by

  • Website-Cover-Photo3 (1)

    It’s not you, it’s Hookup Culture

    Is there anything wrong with Hookup Culture? I don’t remember his last name. His first name was Kyle: the perfect name for a faceless memory from your early 20s. In most respects, he was attractive, with a nice smile and deep set blue eyes. I first met him in a bar on Courtenay Place. I […]

    by

  • Website-Cover-Photo1 (1)

    My Night With Naked Boys

    He dances up to the stage in a dressing gown and pink high heels. He turns his back to the audience, turns his head back to look at us, grins. The robes come off. The woman sitting in front of me hollers into her friend’s ear, “I can see his penis!”   Wellington has just […]

    by

  • Website-Cover-Photo4 (1)

    Povo

    Short for poverty. Up until I reached university, I had never heard the word “povo” before. Indeed, I had lived in my community, in the apparently mistaken belief that we were normal. We are normal — let me emphasise that. We didn’t have the most. But compared to others a short walk away, we were […]

    by

  • Website-Cover-Photo2 (1)

    Tentacle Porn

    Tentacle Porn: Is it good shit?   CW: Tentacle porn, rape. There comes a time in every hapless student’s life when you chance upon the spectacle of one bodily orifice or another being filled by a slimy, big ass, monster tentacle. They say this event shapes an individual, that the image burns into their subconscious. […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • WOMAD

    The common responses I get at the mention of WOMAD are, “isn’t that just a weird hippie festival?”, and “I don’t know any bands on the lineup”. Firstly, since when were weird hippie festivals a bad thing? Secondly, yes, but that is exactly the point. WOMAD is a festival that traverses the globe, and is a celebration of world music, being the World of Music and Dance. Or World of Music, Art, and Dance, I can never remember. You go to WOMAD to hear and see music that you had no idea existed, to discover new bands, and most importantly, to boogie. Taking place over a Friday night and all day and night Saturday and Sunday, it showcases dozens of gems in performance and dance culture, as well as presenting you with the best festival kitchen in all New Zealand, one that will make eating five meals a day completely justifiable.

    While many artists fly into New Zealand the day of their concert and fly out immediately afterwards (looking at you Migos), WOMAD is a festival where artists can form relationships with their audience over the length of the festival. Daymé Arocena for example played on both the Friday and Sunday evenings, taught Cuban cooking at a stage dedicated to Taste the World and did an artist meet and greet in between. Kamasi Washington finished his set and wandered into the food village where he told me he was having a “lovely time” before continuing on his way among the “beautiful people”.

    He seemed to get the idea that WOMAD is a very fluid experience. You dip in out (though mostly in) at liberty, based on what takes your fancy. Often I’d find myself going in the direction of one stage to see a particular artist, but getting distracted on the way by some enticing smell or interesting sounds and would end up at another stage with some Hungarian fried puff bread. It was a far cry from the temporal stress and social politics of crammed and conflicting schedules at other festivals (I’m looking at you Laneway. With death in my eyes). It is by far the chillest festival I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Tired? Just lie down on the grass for a bit, there’s always a couple of areas where not much is going on. Thirsty? Hungry? I feel like I’ve already covered this adequately. Every single person at WOMAD is catered to, even the 65+ who have special elevated seating areas, though as Daymé Arocena pointed out, “my grandmother is 70, and she dances. A lot”.

     

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  • Taboo (Things) in Films

    The Old: Human Centipede (2009)

    1/5

    The Human Centipede is a terrible film. I got very drunk over Easter and watched it.

    A maniacal guy kidnaps three people and sews them together into a human centipede. He then tortures them for 92 minutes until they die. I’d wonder where this director gets his film ideas from, but I’d prefer never to think about this director again.

    Our evil dude lives alone in a house with lino floors. At least he’s forward planning? Blood’s probably pretty hard to get out of the carpet. At forty-five minutes into the film, he’s already captured his victims and sewn them into the centipede. Where on earth could we go from here?

    At fifty-two minutes in, I take a foray into this film’s Wikipedia article. Apparently the writers consulted with a doctor, and the film is “100% medically accurate”.

    One wonders where one goes to get a medical degree in human centipedes.

    I begin to feel incredibly sorry for these actors. What could someone could be persuaded by to take on such a thing? There are shitty roles, and there are shitty roles, and I think we crossed the line the moment that one of these women had to pretend to be choking on fecal matter.

    The condition of the centipede begins to degrade mere minutes after its construction. One of the people in it gets septicemia. That’s probably because her mouth was literally stapled to someone’s ass, but hey, I’m not a centipede scientist.

    At this point I’ve had about six standard drinks. The earth is swaying below me. Standing up is an impossibility. The centipede (which I mispelled frequently in my notes as “centipedge”) has escaped.

    Then everyone dies in an epic, bloody shootout. Relatable.

    I try to go on to watch the sequel — because why not, at this point — and find out it’s banned in New Zealand. What a disappointment.

    The New: The Neon Demon (2016)

    4/5

    Nicholas Winding Refn’s newest oeuvre is quite the taboo buffet. The Neon Demon is beautifully shot, amazingly edited, and has far more cannibalism than I’m comfortable with.

    Aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning) has moved to Los Angeles to become a star. She’s taken under the wing of makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) who helps to introduce her to the world of professional modelling. Jesse is hired by a prestigious agency and starts taking roles off more experienced models, who quickly grow jealous of her youth and beauty. Much, much exposition happens, then Jesse gets killed by the older models.

    They also bathe in her blood.

    It’s one of those art films.

    The Neon Demon is absolutely beautiful. It’s full of glitz and glamour, and Refn really knows his way around the use of lighting and colour on screen. It’s visually flawless.

    It sure is a shame that the film is let down by its story. There’s just little parts of the film that don’t make sense. It’s like Refn was trying for an allegory, and not quite pushing hard enough. Yes, this film is a metaphor for the brutality of the fashion industry (the “eat you alive” mentality, so to speak), but it doesn’t quite telegraph that enough. It’s almost as though Refn was hoping for an allegory and got sidetracked by the appeal of torture porn.

    The lesbian necrophilia was, uh, certainly a choice?

    Truly, truly baffling.

     

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  • How to Stretch Space

    MEANWHILE is an artist-run initiative on Willis Street, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, and is facilitated by Laura Duffy, Sean Burn, Dilohana Lekamge, Jordana Bragg, and Simon Gennard. Laura, Sean, and Dilohana generously talked to me about what MEANWHILE is and will become.

    The ability to be constantly changing is how I best understand the philosophy of MEANWHILE.

    MEANWHILE was conceived in the interim, in a period between leases in a space on Victoria Street. Then, MEANWHILE moved, to its current Willis Street premises. Parallel to this, MEANWHILE has an online gallery platform, hosting exhibitions that exist in a digital format, and archiving their past exhibitions. And now, a window gallery has been opened as well, an extension of their upstairs Willis location, reiterating how energising it is to be in a state of flux.

    In the window at the moment there is a water cooler— the ultimate emblem of workplace banality. It is accompanied by an illuminated sign that reads “welcome to the real world”, and a possibly artificial pot plant. Here, the sarcastic, weary, and exhausting attitude embedded in that phrase, and in the concept of the workplace, has been given a physical form. This installment is part of Gwyn Easterbrook-Smith and Elisabeth Pointon’s show Human Resources, which interrogates unpaid but emotionally and physically demanding expectations of femmes in the workplace.

    The window gallery disrupts its surrounding environment. It is neighboured by stagnant shop fronts, while the gallery is continuously reactivated through MEANWHILE’s changing programme.

    However, the current Human Resources also cynically reflects what many people walking past the window space, during lunch breaks or on their way home, are simultaneously experiencing first-hand. In this way, the gallery space sprawls into the urban environment too— our interaction with it must always be from the street, so the MEANWHILE window gallery has a different audience than who would visit their upstairs space, as everyone that walks past and glances in the window involuntarily involves themselves.

    MEANWHILE are really good at stretching the space they have been given. The soundtrack to a previous window exhibition fills the stairwell, expanding beyond the square metres that their rent pays for. The institution is always so solid and certain, and MEANWHILE is not.

    There is a real emphasis on ensuring that it is a gallery that is safe and inclusive. This is not an abstract objective, but something that they explain includes a formalised process of contracts between artists, volunteers, and facilitators, so that everyone is really clear on what is expected of them, and what they can expect. A specific safe space policy and message of vision has also been mapped out, so that even as the group of facilitators, and people working with MEANWHILE varies, there is no inconsistency or miscommunication that arises because of this. It is a space that can be passed on and on and on, to different locations and people, but in these flows and surges is where places emerge for underrepresented works, discussions, and artists to do their freaky shit.

    Human Resources in on at MEANWHILE until 21 April, and their online space is active all the time, http://meanwhile.gallery/  

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  • Wild Wild Country

    4/5

    It has become apparent that pop culture is in no way scared to retread the same cult tales in order to satisfy viewers. There seems to be no slowing down of stories about Charles Manson or Scientology. Netflix’s documentary series Wild Wild Country has an advantage over most documentaries (which mostly serve to expand a viewer’s already held knowledge about a topic) in that its subject matter introduces an incredible, and mostly forgotten, story in recent American history.

    The 6-part series recounts the events leading up to and taking place during the founding of the Rajneeshpuram commune in Oregon in the 1980s, headed by controversial religious guru Baghwan Shree Rajneesh. After clashing horns too many times with the Government of India, Rajneesh and his followers decided to build a new home in America, making the most of uninhabited farm land. A giant dam, an electricity station, an airport, and 10,000 seat mediation centre were all created on the land that would become Rajneeshpuram, and upon it being ready, Rajneesh and his followers relocated there. The cult that ultimately came about from these events reflected what many would consider to be key elements of some the most well-known cults; paranoia, control, eccentricity, and an unwavering vision.

    If this were simply a retelling of a spiritual movement clashing with conservative townsfolk, the series may still have worked. But it is the themes of sexual exploration, religious freedoms, vigilantism, criminal prosecution, immigration fraud, and biological warfare, that create a confronting and fascinating story which ignited a cultural conversation.

    One of the main strengths about Wild Wild Country is its even-handedness and intelligence in chronicling the events brought about by both Rajneeshpuram members and the townspeople living in the small town of Antelope, Oregon, where the commune was established. With filmmakers Maclain Way and Chapman Way interviewing all those involved, Rajneesh’s followers, the townspeople, and law enforcement officials, not one perspective or concern is spared and viewers are left with a fully realised picture of what occurred.

    Yet even with such a full picture, you would not be alone in still having a hazy perspective of the story. The fact that this is likely to be the first time you see or hear about Rajneeshpuram makes it all the more complicated — viewers are going in with fresh minds and no preconceived ideas about who may be the heroes and who may be the villains. It is quite intriguing to see the completely different experiences one could have of Wild Wild Country. Depending on what you take away from the series, and who you are and what you believe, you are challenged with the complication question of: who and what do you support? Do you side with blind religious devotion or devotion to your country? Much like those involved in the Rajneeshpuram events, it comes down to what beliefs you hold, and those beliefs will determine who you assign fault to.

    For a tale that seems so distant from current society, the series proves to be enveloping and appropriately handled and paced. Rather than just telling viewers the story of an obscure cult, Wild Wild Country draws you in for the long run, and it proves to be a both a marathon, and a sprint.

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  • A Clockwork Orange

    5/5

    Each month, the Salient books team are going to review the books on the program for the Vic Books 2018 Book Club. The second book on this list is the 1962 dark dystopian satire A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

    The novel is set in England in a dystopian future and follows Alex (not me I promise!), a teen delinquent who drinks, fights, steals, and kills with his gang of thugs, but is then is caught and sent to prison where he undergoes a new alternative treatment to reform his wicked ways.

    It is quite serendipitous that this review coincided with the “Taboo” issue, as its depiction of extreme violence has made A Clockwork Orange a controversial novel since its publication. It has been so controversial that it was banned in some places in America and Britain in the 1970s, even resulting in some cases of booksellers being arrested for stocking it.

    But that reaction is arguably the very point Burgess is trying to make. He challenged the idea of taboos in society, and pushed the boundaries of what is deemed appropriate for production and consumption in literature and popular culture when it comes to these controversial topics such as youth, sex, addiction, crime, justice, morals, and politics.

    The novel is written in an interesting style, as it uses an invented language, Nadsat, which is a hybrid of Russian, medieval English, childhood phrases, and rhyming slang that Burgess created for all of the teenage characters to speak in. From the outset, it feels nonsensical and comical, but within a matter of pages you’re fluent. As a reader, you’re fully immersed in the narrative, as you are constantly thinking and translating what is on the page in front of you.

    But this immersion into the language and culture of Alex and his droogs (friends) means full immersion into their extremely violent rampages, called the “ultra-violence”. The reader is referenced as “my brothers” and you’re drawn in even further into the world that you often feel like the fifth member of the gang. This absorption into the story meant there were moments when reading this book where I wanted to be sick, as I felt like I was in the room with them. But because it could generate this type of physical response, I respected and enjoyed the novel even more.

    I was, and still am, still challenged by the events in the novel for its confronting amplification of violence, but I believe Burgess requires this from us. We need to be confronted and shocked by the book in order to then separate ourselves from this fictional world to see his satire at work. We are shocked at the violence on a surface level, but then shocked that this violence is, or could be, ringing true to our lives already.

    A Clockwork Orange is a novel that absolutely surprised me, as I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. This book is strange and completely batshit crazy, but incredibly fascinating and compelling. I loved it from the very first page.

    So grab your horrowshow droogs, get a shlapa for your litso, put on some white platties, get a glass of moloko, put on a Ludwig Van album, and check this book out.

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  • The 9th Floor

    Cliche as it may sound, understanding our past — where we have been and come from — is imperative to understanding who we are now. If you are looking to get a bit more perspective and insight into New Zealand’s political history then Radio New Zealand’s podcast The 9th Floor might just be the thing for you. I can’t say the series transformed me into a fully enlightened being, but it did really make me think. The series is made up of five long-form interviews with the former New Zealand Prime Ministers from 1989 — 2008: Geoffrey Palmer, Mike Moore, Jim Bolger, Jenny Shipley, and Helen Clark.

    The interviews were conducted by the consistently great Guyon Espiner (what? I’m not biased) in April last year. He does well at giving the interviewees the space to tell their stories, while still challenging and questioning when necessary. The interviews aren’t a political grilling but more a conversation, a chance for leading figures to reflect on their time spent in power and the choices they made. It feels both interesting and important to learn how our country, laws, culture, and beliefs have been shaped by the person standing behind the wheel.

    But it’s not just the politics that matter, in fact, it is really the individual not the politician that is on display. It is easy for nation leaders to become symbolic figures, representing a particular period or political party. It is easy for their personality to be lauded or trashed. It is much harder to see and understand the human underneath, and this is what The 9th Floor does so excellently. The interviews give you a real sense of who these individuals are and what motivated them as leaders, without the gloss of any election or political campaigns.

    However, the series has not been without criticism, receiving mixed reviews across different outlets. In an article for The Spinoff Duncan Greive declared it “easily the best piece of New Zealand broadcasting to date”. Joe Nunweek, writing for The Pantograph Punch, was less complimentary and expressed his disappointment with the series for lacking in content that he felt was truly reflective and meaningful. I can see where Nunweek is coming from, the interviews vary greatly from person to person: some, like Moore, are more reflective and regretful, others like Shipley seem more on the defense. But all in all the series is still a rewarding listen, because even an inability to admit when you are wrong says something interesting about a leader.

    Listening to The 9th Floor felt like much more than just a pastime to me; it felt like a vital activity. This series breaths new light into New Zealand history (something not often embraced), and it does so in a really accessible way. The interviewees are not perfect, sometimes they’re not even honest, but the series itself gives an insight into politics that feels real, and that is something quite rare.

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  • Tröll

    Think Coraline, Stranger Things, and Wreck It Ralph, smashed into a late nineties internet tale with Icelandic monsters: that was Tröll.

    Tröll follows Otto (Ralph McCubbin Howell), a twelve year old boy in love with the internet because he can choose his own name, be thirteen, and actually like the stuff he likes and not feel ashamed of it.

    Otto lives with his parents, his sister (Hannah Smith), and his Icelandic grandmother, Amma. Strange noises are heard from the walls of his house, which develop into a troll, which becomes bigger when Otto doesn’t take care of it. Meanwhile, Amma feeds him stories of Iceland and their monsters. “But how could there be a troll in New Zealand?” asks Otto. “These cables are like ropes for trolls to climb,” says Amma.

    As Otto isolates himself more, the troll in the wall grows bigger, and suddenly the internet is not a fun place full of friends who also want to discuss questions about the dark ages, but “dicks” (people, not the anatomy) who are, as we know, trolls. The kids at school start to tease him, and he’s embarrassed about having Boudica as his idol, and his chain-smoking Amma is dying of lung cancer. The troll is a metaphor for depression: a thing that grows in the dark, looming at the edges of the mind, and can only be turned to stone and killed by exposure to sunlight.

    Otto’s mother catches him in the computer room one morning, asking if he’d stayed there all night. There is a beautiful moment captured by McCubbin Howell’s lyrical words where the troll has taken his tongue and he can’t speak, until suddenly all his words pour out of him and he tells his mother everything. This is a very familiar moment, when you feel like you should tell someone but you either don’t know how or are too afraid to do so, but speaking about it is always the first step.

    Trick of the Light Theatre is an award-winning company made of two Victoria University Theatre and English Department alum – sigh! My dream! The script was clever at weaving together plot points and metaphors, and the theatrical and tech elements were eye-catching. Trick of the Light is known for shadow puppetry and puppetry in general; this show had only one puppet, the baby troll, but it used shadows effectively to display the house and street where the story takes place — Otto walking through the streets, as well as shadow depictions of Otto’s parents. There were other cool green projections reminiscent of the nineties computer screens, dial up internet (yup, I remember dial up, do you?), and old computer games.

    I loved the idea of depression manifesting in a mythical Nordic creature like a troll, but I do wonder if the internet references are accessible to tweens today. They are certainly accessible to adults.

    I was dissatisfied with the ending. The play finishes with Otto’s sister, now an adult in present time, narrating her trip to their old house. During the whole play, she didn’t have much of a personality, so I wasn’t very engaged when she took control of the stage.

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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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