Academic Idol: Round Six

by / September 6, 2010

This week’s question: Name your favourite book/musician/film/television show and briefly explain why they’re your favourites.

You may remember that before the break we said we were going to eliminate two people over the holidays. Well, because we’re bitches, we’ve kept our promise and two of your favourite lecturers are goneskies. Chris Eichbaum and Hilary Pearse, you’re outta here. Are all you Eichbaum and Pearse fans upset? Maybe you should have tried harder. Now there are only five left to battle it out over the coming weeks. Expect a twist. Maybe.

You know what to do. Vote either by texting 027 CUSTARD, or emailing editor@salient.org.nz. If you’re going to cheat, be smart about it. If you text us heaps, we become quite familiar with your phone number. We know you’re the same person. We’re not as stupid as we look.

We want to see more t-shirts, posters, badges and viral marketing campaigns. Call the mainstream media. Get on talkback radio. Email Kathryn Ryan while Dean is on Nine to Noon and say how awesome Salient is. We’ll love you forever. Promise.

Oh and don’t vote for Candy Badger. Or maybe, do.

Marc Wilson, Psychology
My favourite—in fact, defining—TV show is not the TV series I’ve presented (they’re a bit naff and none of you are old enough to watch TVOne anyway); it is The X-Files. If you’ve really never seen it think of Fringe but with subtlety, Gillian Anderson as the hot redhead sceptic and David Duchovny as the porn-watching crusader for the Truth. Together they investigate head transplants, alien babies, psychic killers, government cover-ups and other stuff that makes our world such an awesome place. In a time when chain-smoking was still marginally acceptable, the series’ Darth Vader was the Cigarette Smoking Man. Who killed JFK? Covered up the Roswell aliens? Rigged the 1980 Olympic US/USSR ice hockey game? Ol’smokey, that’s who. For me this isn’t just entertainment but the inspiration for my research and my teaching—join me in PSYC429 ‘Psychology of Superstition’ or PHIL215 ‘Conspiracy Theories’ anyone?

David O’Donnell, Theatre
Book: Nola Millar: A Theatrical Life by Sarah Gaitanos. Nola was a pioneer New Zealand theatre director and this book is endlessly inspiring creatively, as well as celebrating Wellington’s rich theatrical history.

Musician: Gareth Farr creates works of electrifying beauty reflecting our Pacific cultures and landscapes.

Film: Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire has angels in long black coats invisibly cruising the streets of Berlin, circus acts and Nick Cave—the perfect movie.

TV: The Office is the kind of drama I’d like to make, extracting uneasy existential laughter from foibles of real people and situations.

Peter Andreae aka Pondy, Computer Science
The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. All of Pratchett’s discworld books are wonderful; I love his insight into the way our real world works (and doesn’t). Why The Hogfather? First, the wonderful parody of a computer with an artificial intelligence, replete with obscure references to early research in AI, including some from the lab where I did my PhD. Second, it has Susan in it—seeing through the perspective of someone who is genuinely rational is always mind bending. Third, the combination of his deep skepticism combined with his warm sense of what is central to being human. Go read what Death says to Susan after she has saved the Hogfather.

Dean Knight, Law
Favourite book: Uncle’s Story by Witi Ihimaera. In the summer of 2000/01 it had me and all of my friends blubbing. A moving story blending Maoriness, gayness, sign language, masculinity—all told through a search for an uncle’s long-lost, war-time lover. Superb!

Favourite musician: Does Kathryn Ryan count? I confess my radio is usually glued to National Radio… But otherwise, Everything But the Girl. Or, for something upbeat, anything playing on GeorgeFM.

Favourite TV show: No question. West Wing. All 7 series. End of story. [FN: For the long list of favourite quotations and scenes from West Wing, see facebook status thread.]

Favourite film: I know as the law guy I should mention A Few Good Men.  A 1992 classic law movie. Stunning cross examination of Jack Nicolson by Tom Cruise:
Col Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to them.
Col Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Col Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!

But, being truthful myself: J’ai tué ma mère / I Killed My Mother from Toronto and New Zealand film fests. Stylish, quirky film about a young gay boy’s love-hate relationship with his mother—written, directed and starred in by a really talented Quebec kid.

Matthew Trundle, Classics
A Classicist to the end…

Book: The Iliad of Homer: the finest epic poem vividly portrays the struggle for life over inevitable death, the glory of eternal fame, and the horror of war sung in the finest poetry. The Iliad remains the foundation stone of western literary tradition.

Musician: In the absence of ancient music then classical must do. Dmitri Shostakovich produced the most sublime and romantic symphonies for orchestra, notably cello and violin sonatas, and especially famous is his Opus 97a. The Gadfly Suite.

Film: Gladiator, naturally, for persuading Hollywood of the value of productions about the ancient world; no corrupt sword and sandal homage this, but a genuine effort to reproduce the ancient Roman Empire. It may not be perfect, but it is wonderful!

TV Show: I Claudius. By far the finest adaptation of antiquity for the small screen, sans unnecessary blood and sand, sans CGI, just fine dialogue brilliantly acted. The Sopranos comes to the classical world, as indeed the classical world was there long before The Sopranos.

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