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Issue 9, 2017

Issue 09

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  • Australian Tertiary Fees to Increase

  • Bring Back Our Girls

  • VUW Demonstration in Support of Living Wage

  • Mental Health Sector in Crisis

  • Ecosystems Under Threat

  • Auckland University called to Divest from Fossil Fuels

  • Features

  • emma

    Don’t Worry, I Feel It Too

    The astronaut learns to breathe at a certain pace. If you breathe too quickly, they say, you will use up too much air and all the oxygen will thin out around you. Your helmet will fog up and then all the stars will disappear into clouds. He learns not to cry, too. If you cry, […]


  • dankelly

    Man on the Street: The Poetical World of David Merritt

    On the day I contacted David about this interview he was attacked. A woman he knew from his time in Auckland, a semi-regular visitor to the bench on K’ Road where he had plied his trade for five years, had appeared in Nelson. She was unwell, seemed troubled. David gave her cigarettes and money for […]


  • be-brave

    To Be Brave and Imaginative: Transforming our Constitution

    Say a word enough times and it starts to lose its meaning, and just becomes sound. The word “constitution” is the opposite, where it’s hardly heard and is so alien that it too is just sound. In an attempt to give meaning to this word, we ask — what is a constitution? Two esteemed constitutional […]


  • rules

    Rules For Brown* Students In Lecture Theatres

    *I have been told by a Sri Lankan acquaintance of mine that this gets confusing: “Do you mean Pacific brown, South Asian brown, what?” — fair point. Thus, I state here that this refers specifically to Māori and Pasifika brown. In this country. At this time. And place?   Dedicated to the first person who […]


  • emma

    Don’t Worry, I Feel It Too

    The astronaut learns to breathe at a certain pace. If you breathe too quickly, they say, you will use up too much air and all the oxygen will thin out around you. Your helmet will fog up and then all the stars will disappear into clouds. He learns not to cry, too. If you cry, […]


  • dankelly

    Man on the Street: The Poetical World of David Merritt

    On the day I contacted David about this interview he was attacked. A woman he knew from his time in Auckland, a semi-regular visitor to the bench on K’ Road where he had plied his trade for five years, had appeared in Nelson. She was unwell, seemed troubled. David gave her cigarettes and money for […]


  • be-brave

    To Be Brave and Imaginative: Transforming our Constitution

    Say a word enough times and it starts to lose its meaning, and just becomes sound. The word “constitution” is the opposite, where it’s hardly heard and is so alien that it too is just sound. In an attempt to give meaning to this word, we ask — what is a constitution? Two esteemed constitutional […]


  • rules

    Rules For Brown* Students In Lecture Theatres

    *I have been told by a Sri Lankan acquaintance of mine that this gets confusing: “Do you mean Pacific brown, South Asian brown, what?” — fair point. Thus, I state here that this refers specifically to Māori and Pasifika brown. In this country. At this time. And place?   Dedicated to the first person who […]


  • Arts and Science

  • A pause between two periods of motion

    I have a working definition of poise, which came to me looking at paparazzi pictures of Rihanna crossing an iron grate in heels. She does it, often — always captured by the press — and what is she if not poised; as in, suspended in the moment before the pounce. Poise has no uniform but it requires a balance, made all the more difficult by a pair of stilettos. If that is not a display of power then tell me what is. Poise: a woman who is not about to slip through the cracks.

    Pipilotti Rist’s Pickelporno, on display at the Adam Art Gallery, begins with such an image. Silver heels, strappy, cross an iron grate, turning beam to bridge. It’s a calculated entrance, one loaded with intent; a woman dressed in yellow moves toward a man in blue. They greet one another, he hands her a rose, they fall into bed. If we think of porn, which so often insists sex take place in context — no matter how fanciful — then this is not that; it is also not erotica, which demands much of the same. No, this is sex as association.

    What do you see when you see a lemon?

    How does a flower fuck?

    How do you feel, seeing fingers plunged deep into watermelon flesh?

    What is the truth of sex, if not that it feels better than it looks it should?

    Laura Mulvey insisted on the idea of the woman as bearer of symbolic meaning, never being herself alone but the carrier of a history defined by what it means to be seen. Woman is not just person, and nor is man — they can be not that but they can’t be nothing more — because unless the viewer allows for sex to be something that erases the individual, then they must be read as agents in these actions; players in a game. How can they allow that, if we assume they never have before? What I’m saying is the body is more than the means, less than the message. This is a game of signs.

    In Pickelporno sensations have blurred outlines. Tactile emotions are translated into the  visual, which melts into memory — the ever unreliable — and suddenly sex looks a lot like a pile of rocks, or two birds flying overhead. This overlay of images works to create a film that extends outwards, rather than inwards: a film that is impossible to penetrate. This is what Laura Marks would call a haptic mode of looking, tending not to “distinguish form so much as discern texture.” Love, which might be defined as believing the lies you tell your lover, is coarse in texture. Like sandpaper, it smoothes rough edges. Sex has more tactile potential: the goosebumps of a lemon; a flow of lava; an orange wedged in the crease of your knee; limbs turned to liquid under a firm hand.

    Poise in another sense, courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary: a pause between two periods of motion. In the film, at the point just prior to climax, things speed up. Images flash — nature, flowers, plants, bodies — then they stop. And for a moment, we pause in the shadows of a blank screen.


  • Flinthook

    Developer/Publisher: Tribute Games

    Platform: PS4, PC (Windows), Xbox One

    Review copy supplied by publisher.


    Roguelike games — traditionally RPGs containing procedurally generated environments, permadeath, turn-based combat, and tile-based graphics — have been around since the early days of computer gaming, but seem to be becoming more popular in recent years, especially among indie developers. The modern interpretations, perhaps best called “rogue-lites”, combine the procedural generation and permadeath of traditional roguelikes with modern graphics and gameplay styles. One such game, The Binding of Isaac, is single-handedly responsible for reviving the genre and can rightfully be called one of the best indie games ever made.

    Flinthook, therefore, is in very good company. An action-platformer with the aforementioned roguelike elements, you play as the titular Captain Flinthook, a space pirate and bounty hunter raiding ships for treasure and hunting down elusive bosses. In terms of the story, that’s pretty much the extent, but with gameplay as good as this game has, who needs it?

    The game’s major innovation is the grappling hook, with each room designed to have you swinging from point to point while taking down enemies with your plasma gun and collecting some sweet loot. It’s a personal belief of mine that any game with a grappling hook is instantly better, so needless to say I was hooked (pun totally intended).

    Everything you do once you start a run is centred on the left stick, used not only to control your movement but also for aiming your grappling hook and plasma gun. The control is tight, but not so much as to heavily punish you for making tiny mistakes; your character’s movement feels incredibly intuitive and is very satisfying, especially when using the hook in mid-air. Having everything bound to the same stick can feel a little weird, especially the shooting — my preference would be to have this bound to the right stick — but I found myself getting used to it after a few levels. The difficulty feels just right: it’s challenging, but never cheap. You can even slow down time if you find yourself in a tight spot.

    Each run is split into chapters, requiring you to raid a set number of ships before facing a boss for their bounty. Though there are modifiers which add certain obstacles such as low gravity or infestations of certain enemy types, the basic layout for most levels is similar: a linear path with a couple of side rooms containing shops or chests. There is the occasional labyrinthine level, though because you can choose which version of a level you prefer, they are mostly optional. Backtracking through levels can be a little tedious, though since you keep whichever rewards you earn, even when you die, it is still worthwhile.

    While the game does utilise pixel art, as is common for many retro-styled platformers and rogue-lites, the art they use is incredible. The character designs are rather cute and give the game a cartoon-like playfulness that I adore. There is some great chiptune inspired music to keep you pumped up, the intro track being a definite highlight.

    The game being a rogue-lite, I can see myself returning to Flinthook over and over again just to see if I can beat my high score, something I haven’t felt from a game in a long time. While many of its key elements aren’t exactly original (the grappling hook being an exception, of course), their execution is nothing short of superb. Just be warned: if you aren’t prepared, you are probably going to die repeatedly. But I reckon you will be hooked nonetheless (sorry, but that pun is just so good I had to use it again!)


  • This Generous Time

    Out of the blue, Bibhu Padhi, a distinguished poet from India, sent us some of his unpublished work. Padhi suffered from a migraine for 44 years; it stopped last year, but during one particularly bad attack in December 1974 he took three anti-pain tablets on an empty stomach and had to go to hospital. It was after witnessing five people die from his hospital bed that he came to poetry:

    It seemed as if everyone was dying. When I came back home, I decided to write two poems, each based on two deaths. One of the dead was a young boy who died of kidney failure; the other one — quite young, and married — died of cancer.

    Since this beginning, Padhi’s expanded to many other topics and published his poetry in multiple publications (including The New Criterion and Indian Review) and put out eleven collections of poetry. We asked him about his experiences, how a poem becomes a poem:

    I always look forward to the first line. It takes about a week to arrive. Once that is done, I let the first line stay in my head for another week or so. Finally I choose to write the poem. Once the first line has come, the next lines come slowly and gently.

    It is very difficult to write a good love poem without being sentimental at the same time. As far as my treatment of love goes, most of my love poems hardly describe a woman’s body. They could be called “spiritual.” There are other kinds of love poems though. My love for my grandmother, the hungry children in Ethiopia, the imaginary daughter. I do not have a daughter — only two sons.




    For a long time I haven’t loved myself,

    this body and all that it calls mine,

    all that has risen in time.


    I have only struggled to come to terms

    with all that belongs elsewhere,

    all that was never mine.


    Years have passed in the darkness

    of a world that had lost itself

    among words and incoherence.


    There have been lovers in plenty —

    girls who knew well how to

    use things and cleverness.


    There have been too many thoughts

    to comply with, or none at all;

    the sleeping bed knows how.


    But today, at this quiet hour of intimacy,

    I realise how beautiful the body can be,

    how real the eyes, what it does not find.


    The soul’s prayer to be ever with it,

    the mind’s easy games, a secret wind’s

    loving pressure on the skin.


    There are other affections too, other wishes

    that generate energy and life, far from

    neuralgia, migraine and a reasonless lethargy.


    I guess, this body is fine as it is and I need not

    ask for more than it needs, more than

    just life’s happy residency.


    Let money grow on trees, the rich prosper

    enough to turn into gods, but please, let me

    stay here, with this body, this generous time.





    The taste of last evening’s sadness

    is still in the mouth.


    A sadness of love, its absences,

    the world’s reluctance

    to take notice of it.


    All those who I thought were mine,

    are busy finding their own

    explanations, fluent like


    their own past, as if they knew

    all that was going to happen.


    As it was yesterday, I am all heart,

    inarticulate in its efforts


    to say something that might matter

    in some distant future.


    As always, love is elsewhere, at some

    gloomy station of this vastness


    that is supposed to be my lot,

    waiting to be noticed, taken care of.


    And I am so far away, so much lost

    to myself, I don’t even know

    where it waits.


    Perhaps I should soon be leaving

    this place, which I call mine.

    Love is dying.


  • Reality

    The first moving pictures ever produced were of a documentary nature. In 1895, the Lumière Brothers filmed trains in stations and factory workers heading home from work. It seems somewhat pedestrian now, but at the time these were great feats of science and were incredible to watch.

    Through the decades, documentaries have advanced to such a point that subject matter is no longer the most important aspect of the film. Instead, what draws in an audience are stylistic choices and the ingenuity of the director to convey their message through imagery and select uses of sound, colour, and tone. As well as this, the documentary has come to serve as a powerful form in which to present the controversial, beautiful, honest, hidden truth.

    Films such as Last Train Home or Jiro Dreams of Sushi focus on seemingly banal subjects, but the way they are executed leave lasting impressions on the viewer about how things such as happiness are to be achieved or perceived.

    On the other hand, overly informing an audience has become a style of its own, as seen in the brutal skinning of a fox in Earthlings, or the man in turquoise committing suicide in the opening sequence of The Bridge. Films like this have shone a light on what was previously hidden in plain sight, and have been huge turning points in people’s lives.


    Last Men in Aleppo (2017)

    In the war-torn city of Aleppo, markets of people trying to feed their families, homes, and playgrounds filled with children and mothers, are all seen as fodder for the Russian military, ISIS, and the Assad regime. Last Men in Aleppo follows three Syrian men who chose to stay in their homes to do what they can as the White Helmets, a group who act as first responders to save civilian life following bombings and heartless attacks by their own government.

    With support from Aleppo Media Centre and citizen journalists, director Feras Fayyad — now an exile from his home country for fear of execution — documents cases of crimes against humanity, as well as a world of resilience and extreme courage.  It is a crushingly painful watch as we follow the day to day life of these men, trapped in a city once their home, now forced to dig out the bodies of children from the rubble that was once houses, schools, and even playgrounds. The constant threat of death looms over the men we follow and even the crew themselves as we witness the day-to-day operations of a White Helmet aid worker. There’s not much to be said about a film that carries the weight of a subject matter so brutal; all there is to do is sit in awe and shame as you watch it.

    Sitting down to watch this film, I knew it was going to be a difficult experience. Within the first ten minutes, Khaled and Mahmood rush to the site of a bombed neighborhood, and laboriously dig through a ton of rubble to save the lives of three babies.  After succeeding with the first two, we watch as the lifeless body of the third, partially crushed under stone, is uncovered through concrete dust and twisted metal.

    The film continues along these lines, juxtaposing tragedy with imagery of Khaled and Mahmood with their families, still trying to make things work under the carnage.

    It is a strange thing to bear witness to such atrocities, feeling privileged to never have known such tragedy but also so helpless knowing that things like this happen on the same planet as your own with nothing you can do to help. The modesty and courage of the men depicted in this film is inspiring, but all I was left with were questions: “Where are the good guys? Why is nobody helping these people? Where is humanity?”

    — Mathew Watkins


    Meat (2017)

    One of the reasons I love documentaries is that many of them seem to present one specific viewpoint, and in that respect take on a universal appeal. With that in mind, I’d like to start talking about Meat under the provision that, regardless of what you choose to eat, you seek out this film. The film analyses the perspectives and stories of a pig farmer, a sheep farmer, a chicken farmer, and a hunter, from across New Zealand. Regardless of whether or not you agree with a single word they say, they’ve got some fascinating ideas.

    The hunter is very philosophical about the ethics of killing animals and feels that most people who eat meat (or even choose vegetarianism) are merely misinformed about the way in which meat can be sourced. He certainly doesn’t feel like there’s any great injustice when he walks 10km up a snowy mountain to shoot a goat.

    In contrast, it is likely the pig farmer who will raise the most questions. If you take away the conditions under which he farms pigs (which could be considered incredibly ethical or incredibly unethical), he actually raises some other points that pertain to New Zealand, that of a general low quality of food which is causing us to become one of the most obese countries in the world. He also challenges us with the notion that he’ll stop producing so much pork as soon as New Zealanders stop letting 40% of food go to waste.

    I don’t want to put words into these people’s mouths, and again I urge you to go hear them out for yourselves, but I found much of what they had to say fascinating. Where some people might start to lose sympathy comes when the audience is shown some fairly comprehensive slaughter of animals. But to me it came as an important addition to the film. It may not be shocking to all, but the objective nature in which it is filmed certainly counts as informative material for those who may have their heads in the sand.

    The documentary’s ultimate strength lies in the sheer breadth of opinions covered in its relatively short run time. Each of the four people featured are given their own individual treatment, down to the setting and colour palette, and it gives the viewer a broad spectrum of facts and philosophies, as well as presenting a very good looking and well made film. What is even more interesting is its relatively loose stance, even given its subject. It may not have taught me anything I didn’t know already, but that’s just my experience, and don’t go into this film thinking of it as “meat propaganda” or “vegetarian propaganda” because it pays to be open about the content presented here. You never know, you might come to some conclusion you wouldn’t have formed otherwise.

    — Finn Holland



  • Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays — George Orwell

    Orwell is fashionable at the moment, particularly for Nineteen Eighty-Four. People are certain that they live in a time when their fundamental rights are in jeopardy, and a small group of elites are tearing down society, brick by brick, to their profit and our loss. While history never makes an exact copy of itself, it does repeat, so this isn’t a stupid belief.

    A good idea would be to learn what Orwell believed, without all the allegory. He was a democratic socialist, a church-going atheist, and a veteran of the Spanish Civil War. He believed much of what we believe today, but was able to explain himself better.

    The short essays in Shooting an Elephant paint Orwell as a furiously incisive critic of almost everything; literature, wars, politics, education, and even Gandhi. On principle, his writing is straightforward. The title essay is about his time in the imperial police in Burma and the unfair discrepancies he witnessed — and his own role in them. He shot a rampaging elephant dead because white men weren’t meant to be afraid, even though he was. His incompetence butchered the animal, but he was celebrated.

    To bring things back to a salient point, I want to argue that politically charged writing is complex. Saying that the Trump administration is like Animal Farm or that we’re living under “Big Brother” is too simple. These terms become just buzz words flung out of emotional frustration that the parallels exist. But what matters is education. What matters is knowing why you’re afraid or mad or leaping into action. Shallow arguments are easily traversed. Be smarter than that.

    But that’s a lot of politics. I’ll stop now. In conclusion, I think you should read this book. It’s strongly written by a man brimming with talent, it’s thought-provoking, and it’s really, really interesting.


  • Slowdive by Slowdive (and a love letter to Shoegaze)

    Shoegaze is a strange genre, named after the fact that bands spent entire shows staring down at the guitar pedals at their feet instead of looking at the crowds they were playing to. It’s a kind of music particularly laden in clichés, sad guitar playing, and average poem-writing teens expressing some personal emotions probably a little too publicly. To be honest, many of these stereotypes are accurate.

    Slowdive formed when they were about 18 and their first album Just For A Day came out only a couple of years later. Their most well known (and most accessible album) Souvlaki came out in 1993 and featured some of the best and saddest songs they’ve written. The lyrics “The world is full of noise, yeah” from the aptly named track “Dagger” stick out in my memory. The joy of shoegaze is kind of in this excessive embrace of melodrama. Content and mood wise, it’s a bit like emo music was in the early 2000s, but made in the early ’90s when people were probably just a bit more tasteful in general.

    This week, Slowdive released their fourth self-titled album after a 20 year gap. It’s the first they’ve put out together since Pygmalion, their 1995 album that was more of a stripped back ambient experiment in mood and texture. However, this new album is more of a spiritual successor to 1993’s Souvlaki.. It’s interesting seeing the band, now 20 years older, revisiting the kind of sounds and ideas they were exploring as teenagers. The songs definitely feel a bit more contemporary, but not in the way acts like U2 or Neil Young would make “contemporary records.” They’re not trying to develop their sound to try and stay relevant. Slowdive have stuck to what they know sounds good and seem to be hoping people are still into the sounds they were exploring in the early ’90s (which I think people are).


    MUSIC - Slowdive


    The opening track “Slomo” and single “Sugar for the Pill” feature clean digitally delayed guitar lines that lead into droney walls of sound, like on the Souvlaki tracks “When The Sun Hits” and “Souvlaki Space Station”, the closest thing in shoegaze you’d probably get to “bangers”. “Don’t Know Why” is one of the most new sounding tracks on the new album featuring almost Stereolab-like drums and quicker than usual ethereal vocals from Rachel Goswell. “Falling Ashes” is also quite new territory for Slowdive, featuring a Ryuichi Sakamoto-esque simple piano melody looped over lots of different ambient musical ideas shifting underneath. The typically melodramatic refrain “thinkinaboutloveeee,” sang by both Goswell and Neil Halstead, is a nice reminder the band hasn’t completely lost touch with it’s obsessive teenage source material.

    You could spend a lot of time deconstructing the different parts of the new record, which all seem very purposeful and well thought out. However, I think it’s best to just let it hit you; if you spend time thinking about the production; where one part ends and another starts, it can get a bit overwhelming. Everything is supposed to meld together seamlessly. That’s the beauty of shoegaze; it’s not often technically or musically that complicated. In this way it can be like (certain types of) reggae or hip hop; you’ve got to let yourself just fall into the loops and grooves that make up the piece of music.

    The gravitation towards sadness and depression in music in general is quite psychologically complex and something I’m definitely not qualified to provide any accurate analysis of. Obviously not all music is sad, but our obsession with really quite troubled people across pretty much every genre (in and out of music too) is definitely striking: Lou Reed, Kurt Cobain, Tupac, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson. The rise of sadness as material for memes and internet culture is also something that (at least within my — what I like to think is fairly normal — social media bubble) has been particularly noticeable lately too. Maybe the pleasure in this kind of content comes from a “talking about it” kind of thing, a sympathetic “oh, you feel this shit all the time as well”. Whatever the reason, listening to overtly sad music that uses overt sonic experimentation like droney guitars and ambient noise is definitely a cathartic experience; it’s one that you shouldn’t feel you have to shy away from. It’s good to be that sad sometimes and find solace in stuff that’s sad too.

    For the new shoegaze listener, Slowdive by Slowdive is probably a good place to start. It’s a great record filled with a lot of feeling that I was a little worried would be lost as the band aged. Souvlaki is probably still a better place to start; maybe it’s just my nostalgic preconceptions, but for whatever reason I don’t think the band will ever truly capture the kind of raw emotion they did in that album. Other shoegaze classics to check out are Loveless by My Bloody Valentine, and The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Darklands, an early inspiration for Slowdive’s main songwriter Neil Halstead. Halstead and Goswell’s work as Mojave 3 in the late ’90s and early 2000s is good as well; it’s more refined and slightly unplugged. In New Zealand, contemporary acts like The Shocking Pinks and Glass Vaults are engaging in interesting experimentation with shoegaze / dream poppy washed out emotion. VUW export Grayson Gilmour is also up to some particularly interesting stuff, not really shoegaze at first but thematically similar in its raw honesty.

    Slowdive by Slowdive is a great homage to the genre and a revisit of the classic tropes that make the band what they are at their best. If you haven’t listened to Slowdive before, maybe wait for the next rainy day, sit down for a bit, and turn them up loud.


  • Cards on the Table — Agatha Christie

    Cards on the Table knows exactly what it wants to be. At the start of the book, Christie immediately informs the audience that there are only four suspects.

    The case is straightforward. At a dinner party during a game of bridge, the host of the party is mysteriously murdered. The four people in the room become the suspects and each one has an equally believable alibi. The other four party members become the “detectives”, and from there the book branches out as the detectives investigate the past of each of the suspects and find further mysteries in them.

    The key is psychology. The only clue the detectives have to go on at first is the bridge game, which can explain what sort of person the killer is. A lot of care seemed to go into crafting the culprit, and while they might not necessarily be the greatest of Hercule Poirot’s foes, they are certainly a psychologically interesting one.

    Arguably the most important thing in this book is the introduction of Ariadne Oliver, a stand in for Christie herself. Ms Oliver gives the reader some insight into Christie and gives the book greater depth.

    Do not expect much drama until the third act. Additionally, knowing the rules of bridge can help in understanding many of the discussions. The writing itself is solid and there is a fair amount of humour.

    A solid mystery (one of Poirot’s best, and hardest, cases), fun interactions, and character depth make for a great read. Though it won’t be remembered as much as some of Christie’s other works, it challenges the reader in a brash and upfront way that few others dare. And it should be said, as a rare (for her time) example of a female author of detective fiction, Christie is worth reading.


  • 99% Invisible

    Who’s the sadist that designed push/pull doors? What makes a sign internationally understood? How do you design a nuclear symbol so that future generations know not to disturb toxic waste? Why did a small-town American church congregation feel obliged to smuggle political refugees into the country? When did Sweden switch over from driving on the left to the right? Where exactly is Busta Rhymes Island? Well, if you’re at all interested in questions like these, then I implore you to search for 99% Invisible on your listening devices.

    All of these questions and many more are answered in fascinating detail as each episode goes in-depth on an aspect of design, from curious oddities to political movements and everything in between. The information is presented in a clear and engaging way by host and creator, Roman Mars.

    Listening to his show has given me a renewed appreciation for the urban space that we live in. For example, I was on the crowded route 17 bus into university while listening to Episode 257: “Reversing the Grid”, about solar panels. Did you know they could return excess unused electricity back into the electric grid, reducing your bill? Did you also know that the first man to hook up solar panels to the power grid did it without asking permission from the power company? I had never once thought that solar panels, of all things, could have such a rock ‘n’ roll origin!

    Times can be tough, and it doesn’t hurt to take the time to appreciate the history and method of what we experience as global citizens. To start with, I recommend jumping in from whichever headline catches your attention, as each episode covers its own subject (the earliest episodes are shorter and not as high quality, audio-wise). It’s easy to take the designs of what we experience for granted, but it’s the clouded peak that we don’t end up seeing; clever design ends up being 99% Invisible.


  • Survivor NZ

    During school holidays between ages ten and 13, I would catch the bus down to Dunedin to stay with my cousin who was studying at Otago and working as a librarian. After her shifts at the library would finish, we would catch the bus back to her flat. My favourite game to play on those trips was memorising every single winner and runner up of Survivor. She ordered the soundtrack from eBay and we would dance around the yard chanting. Naturally, I became a huge fan of the show and, 15 years later, here I am writing about the very first season of Survivor New Zealand!

    First up, I’m impressed with Survivor NZ’s attempts to not be bogged down by that “kiwi reality television” vibe (I know you know what I mean). At $100,000 the grand prize falls quite short of the usual cool million in the US version, but they got the actual theme song, font, and filter for the opening credits, and even found someone who kind of looks like Jeff Probst, though that is mainly because his hat covers his face. Fake Jeff Probst is super amped throughout the whole episode and does a lot of yell-narrating, maybe a bit too much. He’s no Dom Bowden.

    Within five minutes we get a great selection of soundbites, from Louise’s “I actually didn’t know where South America or North America was,” to Sala’s “I’ll take on any gang member but I won’t take on a spider.” When the truck pulls up on the Nicaraguan beach for the show to begin, tattooed customer service worker Dee is quick to establish herself as a villain. Recalling her months of preparation, she says, “I started meditating and trying to figure out how to convince people I’m a decent person,” which really required The Bachelor’s knife sound. There’s a guy called Tom who looks like he makes craft brew at your friend’s flat. Rockabilly Hannah is a plus-size model AND a powerlifter; I like the cut of her jib.

    After the tribes are assigned (Mogoton and Hermosa), there is a quick and confusing challenge to acquire food and camping implements, followed by a half hour of terrible attempts at forming alliances. I don’t think any of these people have watched Survivor before, except Dee, and no one is even talking to her. Everyone keeps calling Hannah weak because of her size, even though she is literally a fucking powerlifter. Snap forward to the double Tribal Council and Dee and Hannah are both eliminated, while everyone on their respective tribes look down at their feet so as to avoid conflict.

    In a “surprise” twist, a very surly looking Hannah and Dee return to the beach for a chance at returning to the game — Hannah looks so angry and her tribe seems very afraid. Fake Jeff Probst yells that they must “duel” one another for the right to return, by tying some sticks together and using them as poles to retrieve hanging keys and open a “door” (sticks, it’s a frame of sticks). Hannah powerlifts the heck out of those sticks and wins the challenge, but she must spend the night alone on “Redemption Island”; she’s stoked because her tribe is full of SNAKES. For the second time tonight Dee’s elimination is announced and she must leave Nicaragua, but not before giving the speech of a lifetime: “One thing everyone didn’t know is that Survivor is actually my life. I’ve watched every season about three times. I listen to podcasts for about 40 hours a week. I’ve listened to 600 hours of audiobooks. I follow every blogger. I’m a Survivor superfan… My life has been a Survivor fan. Just not a survivor.” I am in tears.

    Catch Survivor NZ on Sundays at TVNZ On Demand, because no one has a TV.


  • Theatre: Interview with Tony Woods

    I caught up with American comedian Tony Woods on the phone for around ten minutes between his connecting flight from Auckland to Wellington. Naturally, for a comedian with followings across the globe who fly out regularly, he sounded as exhausted as I was nervous. He’s had an insane career taking him from Def Comedy Jam to Comedy Central to new audiences in Sydney. He’s performing in the NZ International Comedy festival at the Wellington Rowers Club from the May 9-13.


    I was looking at your bio: you’ve been in Montreal, across the US, and travel seems to come up as a theme in your comedy. Do you have a favourite audience to perform for?

    I guess it’s funny performing for different audiences all the time; I like the ones that laugh and get all that I’m saying.


    Do you have places you still have to go that you haven’t been yet?

    Well I haven’t been to Africa yet. I hope to go, I’ve only been to like the islands around it, I haven’t been to the continent yet.


    It’s evident that you’re a veteran, starting out with Def Comedy Jam and sharing bills with Kevin Hart, to now becoming such a globetrotter. Has your approach to comedy changed, or have you kept with the same formula?

    Well my theme is still the same: I get myself into misadventures and I’m the last to know, you know? So like when you watch a TV show and you know what the guy’s about to get into and you’re like don’t do that but he does it anyway.


    In terms of new routines, do you add that stuff straightaway or—

    I add it straightaway. Straightaway.


    Watching how each bit develops, is it helpful to work it through onstage?

    Well sometimes I forget and sometimes I remember, it keeps it fresh, you know I could be scripted, but it’s hard to train yourself to say the same things.


    So do you have to adapt your content for different audiences? Like have you seen audience reception in different countries change over time?

    Of course yeah, you have to do that. I’ll still be the same ballplayer but, you know, in a different gym. Not only does it change from country to country but city to city, venue to venue… Just cause you’re in New York don’t think you’re gonna get the same audience in Manhattan that you’re gonna have over in Brooklyn or in the Bronx or in Queens or in Jersey. Same when you go to London — I’ve been all over London and you know the audience you get in Bow definitely differs from the one you get in Camden Yards.


    Do you still get nervous?

    Yeah I get nervous man, you gotta stay nervous. Cause you know nervous is productive. Just ‘cause you’re nervous that don’t mean you’re scared. When you see guys go up — they’re nervous but they’re not scared, they’re not afraid. They know what they gonna do.


    You just gotta keep going.

    You gotta keep going son. Imagine if I was a high-diver. I’m nervous about it but I can’t be afraid. When you go up you’ve already jumped off, you’re like “I better go through with it.”


    But you’ve had rough audiences right?

    You mean people trying to kill you and stuff?


    I guess so!

    Yeah well usually if something happens, you don’t let them see you sweat. But you know, somebody shot at me in the parking lot after a show. One time there was a melee in the audience, that was in Canada! They tore up the whole place because I said something to somebody. But he started it. He didn’t finish it.


    What sort of things do people have the biggest reaction to?

    It depends. Nobody really ever gets upset. Well I shouldn’t say that, I’m sure people have been upset with me about something at some point or another [laughs]… Yeah. I’m on my way to the plane now.


    Oh jeez. Well it’s crazy people got so riled up in Canada, I assumed they were polite…

    Well I was doing a show for Jamaican people. It was a dancehall, they were doing comedy in it. They caused a little bit of ruckus, but we made it through.


    How do you relax after that, and on the road?

    I take a nap! It’s easy to obsess… oh we’re walking down the jetway. I’m about to get on a plane man… wait is this being recorded?


    Yeah man it’s all good.

    Oh! You shoulda told me man I would’ve been bouncing around, y’know “hahaha,” “hohoho,” I would have been cracking jokes and all! Oh man, I woulda been saying “Wellington, be there or be square!” [laughs]


    I’m sure I can add that in, I’ve just been recording on the phone.

    Oh man, you caught me half-asleep…


    It’s fine dude, you’ve been travelling—

    It was all a dream… I used to read word up magazine…

    [At this point we briefly sing The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1994 smash hit “Juicy” together. It’s no biggie].


    Good luck with the show man, you’ve had a good time in New Zealand?

    As a matter of fact, every show has been excellent. We hit Christchurch, we hit Auckland, but we can’t wait to get back to Wellington. You can’t control me, I’m busting at the seams. [laughing)] I just wet myself I’m so excited.


    Maybe I’ll leave that out—

    No no don’t leave that out, that’s what I’m saying.


    So I left it in. You can grab tickets for Tony’s Wellington shows at and follow him at


  • 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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