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Issue 6, 2015


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  • Students unite!

  • Cost vs Quality: Are universities milking international students?

  • Coffee for the People!

  • The Young and the Parkless

  • ODT Gives Students a Hyde-ing Once Again

  • Features

  • synesthesia

    This Article Tastes How Purple Smells

    Like many people with synesthesia, Tori didn’t know that her senses worked a little differently until she was 15. The school she went to screened a short film about the perils of not wearing a bike helmet. One scene showed a man crash his bike before cutting to a close-up of the fellows head being […]


  • bachelor

    Thank God for The Bachelor

    It seems like a good moment to reflect on the place of reality television in New Zealand. The Kills and Moon episode has been the high-water mark of cultural vacuity, but there is something bigger at play here; the problems are more than superficial. It’s only in its second season but The X Factor has […]


  • spider

    The Giant Spider in the Room

    Winter is coming, which means yet another season of Game of Thrones is upon us. On 12 April, we’ll hole ourselves up in our cold flats or flock back to the nests in our hometowns, and escape into Westeros once more. I’m still woefully behind on the show, but I keep up when I can, […]


  • synesthesia

    This Article Tastes How Purple Smells

    Like many people with synesthesia, Tori didn’t know that her senses worked a little differently until she was 15. The school she went to screened a short film about the perils of not wearing a bike helmet. One scene showed a man crash his bike before cutting to a close-up of the fellows head being […]


  • bachelor

    Thank God for The Bachelor

    It seems like a good moment to reflect on the place of reality television in New Zealand. The Kills and Moon episode has been the high-water mark of cultural vacuity, but there is something bigger at play here; the problems are more than superficial. It’s only in its second season but The X Factor has […]


  • spider

    The Giant Spider in the Room

    Winter is coming, which means yet another season of Game of Thrones is upon us. On 12 April, we’ll hole ourselves up in our cold flats or flock back to the nests in our hometowns, and escape into Westeros once more. I’m still woefully behind on the show, but I keep up when I can, […]


  • Arts and Science

  • San Cisco—Gracetown


    Australian indie pop outfit San Cisco have just released their second studio album, Gracetown. With three EPs (Golden Revolver, Awkward, and Beach) and their self-titled debut studio album already under their belt, it’s safe to say that San Cisco is here to stay.

    The quartet (made up of Jordi Davieson, Josh Biondillo, Nick Gardner and Scarlett Stevens) was formed in 2009 as they finished high school in Fremantle, Western Australia. A few years later, they released their hit single “Awkward”, which has now amassed more than seven million views on YouTube. That single, along with “Wild Things” and “Fred Astaire”, have all placed in Triple J’s Hottest 100. The band worked on Gracetown with producer Steven Schram and it’s now entered the Australian charts at #2, only just falling behind Madonna’s Rebel Heart.

    Gracetown is miles better than their self-titled debut and it speaks volumes about the progress San Cisco has made with their sound. It definitely has a more mature feel to it, but it’s still filled with the simple melodies and good hooks that they do so well. It’s also worth mentioning that the band is currently touring the album in America and Mexico without bassist Nick Gardner as he’s literally shot himself in the foot—there’s a photo of the wound in various places on the internet but I don’t recommend checking it out.

    The album begins with its first single “RUN”, an upbeat track that according to the band started out as a “drum and bass groove”. Syncopated gasps and handclaps create a pretty interesting beat in this one that works surprisingly well. It’s super catchy and even though the single was only released in October, it still managed to come in at number 33 on the Triple J Hottest 100 last year. The second single from the album is “Too Much Time Together”. The song is about a dysfunctional relationship and it’s apparently the track that took the least amount of time to write and record. Again, the track is catchy and upbeat—the kind of thing that San Cisco does best. The guitar chords are reminiscent of their previous work and the lyrics are refreshing and real with the chorus “We spend too much time together/ I wanna be with you forever/ But we need space/ You should stay at your place”.

    The first track on the album that features Stevens as the main vocalist is “Magic”. The track uses vocal percussion and has a late 90s pop vibe to it (think Nelly Furtado but cooler). “Snow” is another highlight from the album that heads in a more electronic direction. It starts off feeling pretty dreamy before jumping into some high pitched vocals. Like many of the songs on this record, it’s about broken hearts and relationship struggles—this time in terms of the strain that touring and travelling puts on relationships.

    The tone of the album changes slightly with “Wash It All Away”, a song that came about from playing around with “filthy drum sounds and high vocal melodies”. It’s a little more relaxed than most of the other tracks on the album with lyrics like “Tell me is it love or a lust?/ Be honest, be honest”. It’s followed by “Bitter Winter” and then “Jealousy” which is another interesting track that began as finished music. According to the band, “Jordie just freestyled some words” on it and “it turned it out to be pretty cool”. And it did—a definite highlight, and it also features Isabella Manfredi from The Preatures.

    Towards the end of the album is a fairly simple acoustic track called “Skool”, a lighthearted high school love song with lyrics like “English was not my forte/ But I fought for you/ Distraction was just a reaction to you”. It’s simple and cute, and it’s a definite throwback to the band’s earlier stuff, which is cool because it keeps that youthful vibe around.

    Ultimately, this isn’t an album that I can fault. Every song on this album is endearing in its own way, they work well together and they’re also great standalone tracks. The fact that the band can so easily break up vocals between Davieson and Stevens is always impressive, but on this album it really adds another dimension to their sound. It’s not often that a whole album comes together without at least one somewhat disappointing track, but with Gracetown San Cisco has done it well.


  • British India—Nothing Touches Me


    Nothing Touches Me is the fifth album release from Melbourne alternative rock group British India. I love listening to an album where the artist seems to have put real thought into the structure of the track list as a whole, and Nothing Touches Me delivers in this respect. It’s an uplifting album without being too optimistic, and it also gives doses of reality without being depressing. And let’s face it, that cover art is pretty cool too.

    I read that British India play “tough but melodic garage influenced rock” (, which is a pretty spot on observation. The opening track “Spider Chords” gives insight into this. Variations on the vocals, layers of chords, the building drums, and the big guitar riffs near the end all make this a great track. This song is apparently about falling in love with the same person twice, but honestly I just like the poetic lyrics that aren’t really telling a clear story, just for their quality and point of difference.

    “Suddenly” is a simple but awesome song about the feeling when love first hits you. The big drums and loud, loveable chorus make this track a stand out. “Blame It All On Me” challenges your instincts and makes for an interesting track. The echoing intro with steady drums and a building beat imply that the song is going somewhere happy and uplifting, but then you realise that the lyrics are actually incredibly sad. “Jay Walker” adds a nice slow pace song for the middle of the album. The title track “Nothing Touches Me” has a more classic garagey sound, with strained vocals and a more intense use of the guitars and drums. All of the components fit really well together to showcase a total Nothing Touches Me theme. A final stand out for me is “This is How it Feels” which tells a story, and adds another nice change of pace to the album.

    This album isn’t trying to be epic or life-changing—but because the album as a whole is so good it becomes better than the ordinary. The range of songs showcases the band’s ability to build an album for listening to from start to finish. British India’s talented lyrics, vocals, and layers of tones and chords set this apart as well. I would recommend it if you like a bit of low key alternative rock—and you’re not expecting the next Bob Dylan or Kings of Leon.


  • Old School Gems: Vib Ribbon

    For reasons I cannot fully comprehend, rhythm games seem to be making a comeback with the announcement of a next-gen Rock Band game. How exciting this must be for those who actually bought the plastic instruments.

    I, however, have neither the space nor the money necessary to get such rubbish, so I set out on a search to find a rhythm game from the PS1 era, one that would offer fun and challenging rhythm gameplay with a great soundtrack and cool characters. Disappointed that I’d probably have to play PaRappa the Rapper again, I nearly gave up, until I came across a strange sight on the PS Store.

    A rabbit. Drawn in vector graphics. No colour. No filled-in polygons. Barely even a picture.

    I had never seen anything like it on the PlayStation, let alone any console going back to the Atari 2600. I instantly knew I had found that game. I had found Vib Ribbon.

    If you’ve never had the pleasure of playing this weird little rarity, you are in for a real treat. Combining a simple but effective graphical style with a soundtrack of insane J-pop (courtesy of the group Laugh and Peace) and a surprisingly deep gameplay that is simple to learn but hard to master, Vib Ribbon is a fun little game that could only have come from Japan. Controlling Vibri the rabbit along that line is addictive and frustrating, but ultimately rewarding on the game’s base tracks.

    The real meat of the game, however, is being able to use any music CD with the game, generating a unique level from any track off any album you want. Unfortunately, I bought a copy to use with my PSP, so I couldn’t use this feature. If anyone can get around that, let me know, or at least let me borrow your PS3.


  • Dying Light


    Interesting characters, a fun crafting system, and an engaging open world make Dying Light the equivalent of a Far Cry game with zombies.

    Dying Light’s gameplay is reminiscent of developer Techland’s previous work, the Dead Island games. The player primarily wields a series of ridiculous and lethal melee weapons to take down swarms of the undead. What’s new is the introduction of a free running mechanic. It feels great to move swiftly through the environment, and you’re going to need to, as the world’s size is absolutely massive!

    This zombie apocalypse is set in Harran, an eastern-feeling city with a resemblance to ancient Turkey. There are two regions: The Slums and Ember City. Both offer a unique gorgeous look and exhilarating different ways to traverse the land.

    Surprisingly, the personalities and plot of Dying Light surpass much of the action genre. You’ll find yourself caring about specific people, and the surviving population of Harran. This can be a real bitch because Techland is rather overzealous in its killing off of the supporting cast.

    Of course, in any game featuring the living dead, combat is key. You’ll start by bludgeoning zombies until they drop. With time there will be a progression to more devastating melee weapons, requiring only one or two precision hits to the skull. A set of well thought out combat perks also keeps the game fresh well into its tenth hour.

    Unfortunately Dying Light suffers from the same issue as most survival horror games: how does the developer keep enemies a threat whilst empowering the player? The first time I met a human with a gun, I only just killed him. He left me with an assault rifle, and ten bullets. Two hours later I had used three of those bullets, only in desperate circumstances. I did not want to attract the dead with the sound of my rifle. Experiences like these are truly memorable and make Dying Light stand out—that is, until about halfway through the campaign when firearms become easily accessible. Gunplay is solid, but I wish Techland had stuck with the survival elements so rarely done well in open-world games.

    I would be surprised if Dying Light did not prove to be one of 2015’s most impressive games.  Minor issues aside, a well-realised world, terrific combat and an original narrative means you should be playing this game. I know I will be.


  • Kidnapping Mr Heineken


    Ah, beer. We Kiwis love it almost as much as we love our rugby. It makes up the majority of our overall alcohol sales and every drinker has an epic booze-fueled story to tell, indulging in excess being a habit that has proven hard to break.

    You’d therefore think a movie with the name of one of the world’s most popular lagers in it would be a smash hit, a robust and satisfying brew with a malty taste, slightly fruity aroma and dry finish with some gentle bitterness, as the actual beer’s tasting notes describe it. Unfortunately, what you’re really getting is barely-drinkable piss water that somehow smells like compost and that people only drink because the packaging looks pretty fancy.

    Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is as bland and tasteless as action movies come, showing a generic bunch of criminals doing generic criminal things to their generic innocent victims. The only thing this film has going for it is its basis on real events. Yes, the head of the Heineken brewery and his driver really were kidnapped. Yes, the guys who did it really did get the biggest ransom ever. No, it does not make for an interesting movie. Not one with Sam Worthington in it anyway.

    As I sat in the theatre with a few couples on their only night out, I just kept thinking to myself: I feel like I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen it every time I’ve stayed up way too late on a Saturday night watching TV. It literally has the quality of one of those late night movies TV3 shows after Nightline or Paul Henry; you’ve never heard of it, but you know it’s going to put you to sleep with crass and banal dialogue, a lack of any semblance of character, and an overarching sense that nobody really cared. If I hadn’t been sent to an actual cinema to view Kidnapping Mr. Heineken, it could just as easily be another one of those pieces of crap. Not even Anthony Hopkins could save it. I just thought he was playing a richer and more profane Burt Munro, without the bike of course. Seriously, don’t bother with this one. You may think you’re fancy by going to see a fancy independent movie at a fancy cinema, but it just indicates you have little taste.

    Kind of like drinking Heineken.


  • The Interview

    After the whole Sony scandal that occurred late last year, I really didn’t think Rogen and Goldberg’s The Interview (2014) would make the cut onto the big screen. The typecasting of Rogen in several comical roles meant that there was no room for any actual political thought to develop from the film. Categorised as a political satire comedy, the film is a meagre 112 minutes long and full of the typical comedy and action genre conventions.

    The cast includes cameos from Eminem, Rob Lowe, Guy Fieri, and Joseph-Gordon Levitt, to name a few, and with this, the film has a promising potential to turn itself into a comic spectacle. However, it is no more than an unnecessary embarrassment in the filmmakers’ histories. The film is merely comprised of several mid-shots of explosions, an uncomfortable sex scene, and a gruesome death.

    The film is centred on Dave Skylark (James Franco) and Aaron Rapoport’s (Seth Rogen) trip to North Korea for a scripted interview with Kim Jong-un (not played by the real Kim Jong-un just FYI) and an underlying mission to terminate him. When the two arrive in North Korea, Kim Jong-un, a devoted fan of Dave Skylark, welcomes him on a tour of his home. Dave learns that Kim, like any other person, likes sexualising women, blowing stuff up, and drinking margaritas.

    The script involves a mix of Korean and English lines—the translated phrases on screen epitomise the lack of understanding of the language. As a South Korean viewer it was awkward to hear my native language so heavily accented that it just sounded like your school principal trying to speak Te Reo. None of the Korean dialogue spoken in the film actually sounded Korean.

    Despite its many weaknesses, I can only give a subjective point of view. If you’re the type of person to wear a Native American Indian headdress to a costume party and you think sushi is the most oriental food you’re ever going to eat—you’re in luck, this film might just be for you. In contrast, if you’re the type of person who pays attention to the mise-en-scene and enjoys a good screening of your favourite Hollywood classic, I would definitely give this one a miss.

    The only highlight for me was the puppy, because puppies are adorable.


  • Cinderella


    Cinderella is one of the most prominent fairy tales of the twentieth century. Now, almost 70 years after the release of Disney’s animated version of the story, Kenneth Branagh has released his incredibly faithful live action Cinderella. But despite how wonderfully beautiful and superbly crafted the movie was, I couldn’t help but ask myself: Who is this movie for? And are these messages relevant anymore?

    The film tells the story of Cinderella exactly as we have all heard it a thousand times before, which is perhaps the film’s greatest flaw. Within the first five minutes, when I realised how loyal this retelling was going to be, I groaned internally, knowing exactly how the next ninety minutes were going to play out. But I told myself: this movie is to introduce young audiences to the story.

    There are two problems with this. Firstly, the film is far more mature than you would think, often recalling nostalgia for 1950’s romance and dancing movies more than it does any form of modern children’s movie. Kids throughout the cinema squirmed through intellectually demanding scenes, as I was enthralled by the pathos. So this movie definitely doesn’t seem aimed at the kiddies. Secondly, is this story really one we want to teach young girls and boys? Branagh’s retelling is entirely faithful to the 1950 film, sexist and degrading portrayal of women included. Cinderella is still portrayed as a helpless damsel in distress. There were many moments when the evil stepmother was being an absolute arsehole, and all I wanted Cinderella to do was give her a good kicking. But of course she doesn’t, spouting incredibly vague sentiments of kindness and love instead. Children’s movies have grown more complex than these Disney sentiments. Pixar movies, for example, teach kids wonderful lessons without shoving it down their throats, simply through having narratives and characters that support good behaviours and thoughts.

    Though Cinderella doesn’t remedy the sexism of past retellings, it does attempt somewhat to balance gender representation through its portrayal of the Prince. There are several scenes in which the Prince reveals his insecurities and weakness. A particularly praiseworthy scene includes the prince at his father’s deathbed, which concludes with him weeping in the fetal position under his dying father’s arms. Though this demonstration of male weakness doesn’t forgive the problematic representation of women, it feels better than nothing.

    But despite the questions of why this movie was made and for whom, there is no denying that it is a beautiful piece of cinema. Colourful, vibrant and often a joy to behold, Branagh’s direction brings the world to life, giving the film a fluidity and form that often kept me engaged when the narrative didn’t. There are quite a few set pieces as well, such as a tense carriage ride, which give the film a much-needed sense of action. Personally, I was smitten by an extended ballroom dancing scene between Cinderella and the Prince, the exquisitely choreographed movements accompanied by equally superb direction. However, the little girl beside me didn’t seem to share my enjoyment: she took the moment as an opportunity to turn around and rest her face against the back of her seat.

    The film is very well cast, using many lesser-known talents and only ever using big celebrities in roles they are very much suited for. Lily James as Cinderella and Richard Madden as the Prince were particularly likable, which is surprising as they both were often working with pretty over-the-top material. Cate Blanchett as the Evil Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother were also excellent. Blanchett gave a performance which gave complexity to a historically one-dimensional character; Bonham Carter, on the other hand, was working with a script that was clearly written specifically for her, and so of course she rocked it.

    Cinderella is a beautiful film, but the question needs to be asked about its relevance in the twenty-first century. In the end the real draw should be the short film that opens it: Frozen Fever. Now that is a franchise that understands how to make meaningful kids’ entertainment for this century.


  • The Remains of the Day (1989)

    Given the formal rigour of this Booker Prize winning gem, it can be surprising to discover that the bulk of its prose was laid down over a single four-week period—ominously dubbed “the Crash” by Ishiguro and his wife—with scarce thought given to early errors, contradictions or lapses in style. Any literary misdemeanours must have been ironed out in the re-drafts, since The Remains of the Day endures as a masterclass in character revelation and narrative architecture. Ishiguro’s brief but intensive retreat from the world, in which he spurned all emails, social calls and household chores to write from 9am until 10.30pm, allowed the novelist, in his own words, “to reach a mental state in which my fictional world was more real to me than the actual one”.

    The fictional and psychological world he captures is that of one Mr Stevens, an ageing, meticulous, profession-soaked, long-serving butler of an English stately home, who decides to take a roadtrip through England’s green and pleasant land to visit an old female colleague and friend. A 1950s motorcar jaunt through the Home Counties might sound sparse on thrills, but the ride allows Stevens to meditate, reminisce and relate extensive, mildly obsessive details of his inter-war years, a period that sees the rise of Nazism and the jittery collapse of gentleman politics, as well as the broad straining and gradual fragmentation of an entire British social order. He reflects upon his own marginal yet quietly impressive role over this time, serving and waiting upon “great” but often flawed aristocrats and heads of state. These personal musings spiral deeper into troubling doubts regarding dignity, self-worth, responsibility and emotional detachment in the face of professional duty.

    It is a short but remarkably searing account of an individual faced with the growing prospect that all he has held dear over the years, all he has placed faith in, may have been unsound. Salman Rushdie, a great admirer of the work, described the novel rather bruisingly as “a portrait of a wasted life”. There is more hope in it than that, I believe, but the dull ache of elderly disappointment, a sense of time and opportunities lost, romances never to be regained, have rarely been explored more movingly than here. If you find screens more palatable than pages, James Ivory’s 1993 adaptation, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, is well worth a punt.


  • Kasuo Ishiguro—The Buried Giant

    It has been ten years since Ishiguro’s last novel Never Let Me Go was released. With bated breath the public has awaited this release, The Buried Giant, which promises to be “a luminous story about the act of forgetting and the power of memory”. Much like Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro flouts genre categories; here he refuses to let The Buried Giant be considered fantasy, though it is set in Arthurian Britain, in the wake of Roman Rule, and prior to the Anglo-Saxon take over. The medieval backdrop provides a storytelling lexicon in the old medieval sense, which enhances the themes of memory and history present throughout the novel. Most significant to the setting is the presence of dragons and ogres, and in the same land a mysterious mist has descended, erasing the permanence of memories across many villages.

    While the mist takes on an amorphous centrality in this novel, the key figures are elderly couple Axl and Beatrice, who undertake a quest to find their son after their recollections become faint from the mist. Along their quest they encounter knights, monks, and mystical creatures; there is a scene in which Axl fights pixies. Axl and Beatrice want desperately to access their memories, to remember the years of love they shared, and to find their son. But as the quest continues, we see it may not be as simple as that.

    Despite access to multiple narrators, the reader is held in an oblique position; the mist has altered every character’s memory. Ishiguro has given the reader access to this world through the unreliability of the narrators; each has a view as opaque as the next. This is the first work in which Ishiguro explores the significance of memory on an individual and societal level; for “when is it better to remember, and when is it better to forget?”—a question he posits in a Goodreads interview that also forms the central question of the novel.

    If this book were pulled apart for analysis and strong narrative theory applied to it, it would surely yield positive results. But the prose is flat, the plot is slow to unfold, the complexities are fairly uncomplicated, and the enjoyment level is like riding in neutral; you’re going somewhere but nothing is moving you. In many ways Ishiguro is resting on his laurels; symptomatic of his popularity, with two previous books selling over a million copies, his name upon this book may be all it needs.


  • Your Guide to the Renaissance Superstars: Michelangelo

    Key works you need to know by the hand of Michelangelo: that massive sculpture in Florence of David, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and the dome of St Peter’s basilica in Rome.

    Michelangelo is a Renaissance superstar because his works were all massive in size (think statues and buildings), because he was influenced by Greek/Roman sculpture (which was rediscovered and popular in this period), and because of his rivalry with Leonardo da Vinci.

    Michelangelo spent his artistic career two-timing Italian superpowers the Medici family and Pope Julius II. Unlike many geniuses Mike’s talent was recognised during his lifetime (he was called “the divine one”) and Pope Julius needed to utilise this famous talent to secure his authority as the head of the Italian state. Thus Mike was dragged to Rome and ordered to design and sculpt the Pope’s tomb, because important people want kick-ass monuments to be dead in. Took him forty years—let that sink in, forty—to complete the tomb and poor Mike didn’t even like it when it was finished. I hope it’s the thought that counts, Julius.

    During those forty years Mike was interrupted from his beloved sculpting by Julius to paint the ceiling of the Sistine chapel. Thing is, Mike hated painting and he wasn’t taking any shit from Julius on this one. He threw out Julius’ design and planned a narrative of the Book of Genesis (that’s the one where God creates the world, Eve eats the apple and Noah raps A Lonely Island’s  “I’m On A Boat”). Essentially this painting became the world’s largest and most strangely placed comic strip. It covers the entire ceiling and has some insane illusionary architecture. Because sculpting was his thang Mike painted the figures to look like sculptures. It took him four years of craning his neck to finish the ceiling. It should also be noted that he was painting in fresco, a mix of fast drying plaster and paint that is really difficult to fix if you screw it up.

    The best thing about the Sistine Chapel ceiling is that Mike painted a lot of naked male figures, just chilling in the architecture and serving about as much purpose to the story of the Book of Genesis as an Abercrombie & Fitch model. This unconventional move from Mike (supported by the hundreds of poems he wrote to addressed to males and his own diary entries) has given rise to the theory that maybe Mike liked dudes.

    Now Mike, your sexuality is no business of ours—only I would kind of love it if one of the institutions that is most opposed to homosexuality had had its ceiling famously (and awesomely) painted by a gay man who took the opportunity to say “fuck you I’m painting naked dudes on your sacred ceiling because I like them that way.” Given the historical context it is unlikely the Michelangelo was so bold and there are plenty of other theories that aren’t as sensationalist, but hey, art is open to interpretation.

    So that’s the very brief highlights tour of Michelangelo “the divine”, who has been setting unrealistic male muscle standards since 1505.


  • 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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