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Issue 16, 2018

Issue 16, Vol 81: Matters of Illumination

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News

  • Eye On Exec

  • Snapper Short-Changes Students

  • Mittens in Hot Water Over Racist Tweets

  • Dark Magicians Will Deliver Your Readings to You – For a Price

  • Women of Vic Recognised in Awards Attempting to Make up for Centuries of Gender Inequality

  • Safety Concerns After Series of Attacks Around Campuses

  • Victoria: Call Me by Your Name

  • Uncooked Chicken Served in Boulcott Hall Not “Safe, Nourishing, & Inviting”

  • Vic Merch Value Skyrockets

  • Physio to Move Off Campus

  • Features

  • Lords of the Ring

    Pro Wrestling: “It’s all fake”. I detest this statement and the people that make it. Not only is it reductive, it’s a downright insult to the individuals who intermix literal blood, sweat, and tears in the name of their passion and the entertainment of the public. Is it pretentious to tackle the idea of pro […]

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  • Rising to the Challenge

    Maxine Schecter cuts a pretty impressive figure on paper. As a child, she was baking constantly at home, and had dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Her mum wasn’t so convinced about the financial viability of that career path, and would continually try to convince Maxine every day on the way to school that she […]

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  • Matters of Illumination

    It is night. The waterfront, as always, is glittering. This evening, though, there’s an intentionality to the sparkle. It is the first night of Wellington’s Lux Light Festival, a ten day annual event that gathers light-based art and displays it on the waterfront. Children dash around me, licking glowing electric sticks (I will later discover […]

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  • Full Blooded Islanders

    Gang Patches & Boxing Gloves in Newtown, New Zealand. The year is 1985. Oscar Partsch is 3. Of Tokelau and German descent, his family has just immigrated to New Zealand from Hawaii. They come to Wellington, and settle in the suburb of Mount Cook, in the Arlington flats. Oscar described it as the “concrete jungle”. […]

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  • Lords of the Ring

    Pro Wrestling: “It’s all fake”. I detest this statement and the people that make it. Not only is it reductive, it’s a downright insult to the individuals who intermix literal blood, sweat, and tears in the name of their passion and the entertainment of the public. Is it pretentious to tackle the idea of pro […]

    by

  • Rising to the Challenge

    Maxine Schecter cuts a pretty impressive figure on paper. As a child, she was baking constantly at home, and had dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Her mum wasn’t so convinced about the financial viability of that career path, and would continually try to convince Maxine every day on the way to school that she […]

    by

  • Matters of Illumination

    It is night. The waterfront, as always, is glittering. This evening, though, there’s an intentionality to the sparkle. It is the first night of Wellington’s Lux Light Festival, a ten day annual event that gathers light-based art and displays it on the waterfront. Children dash around me, licking glowing electric sticks (I will later discover […]

    by

  • Full Blooded Islanders

    Gang Patches & Boxing Gloves in Newtown, New Zealand. The year is 1985. Oscar Partsch is 3. Of Tokelau and German descent, his family has just immigrated to New Zealand from Hawaii. They come to Wellington, and settle in the suburb of Mount Cook, in the Arlington flats. Oscar described it as the “concrete jungle”. […]

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  • Arts and Science

  • Almost Sober Interview

    I sat down with Keegan Bragg and Ben Wilson, the director and the writer of Almost Sober, a new thirteen-person theatre show currently being performed at Club 121 in the CBD. We talked about their show, why theatre shouldn’t just be for theatre people and how Almost Sober is a love letter to Wellington’s nightlife.
    Emma: In your own words, give me a description of your show.
    Ben: It’s a big scale show with about thirteen people, and it’s about a night in town — in Wellington’s club scene.
    Keegan: What I really like about Wellington is that you get some really weird nights here. There’s so many different stories, so many different characters — the idea was to cram in as much as we could in a really short amount of time, in about ninety minutes or so.
    E: Why do you think students — in particular those who don’t go to theatre very often — should come and see your show?
    B: The aspect of it is that it’s at a club, not an actual theatre and so I think there’s already a part of that “going to the theatre” stigma that’s been cut down by the fact that we’re putting it in a club — especially a club like 121, which is so student-orientated. My friend Cam [one of the club owners] saw my first play and he was so surprised by it — “there was swearing in that! I didn’t know you could swear in theatre! And you took drugs on stage — I didn’t know you could do that in theatre.” It was just so interesting to me that he had this Shakespearean idea of what theatre had to be.
    E: So, you were commissioned to write this play?
    B: Sort of. I talked to Cam when I was, y’know, under the influence at his club and I pitched it to him — the idea of putting a show on. It was about a month, just me writing everyday, and it ended up at 95 pages. When you have thirteen characters, 95 pages is a good amount.
    E: With thirteen characters I presume you have quite a diverse cast. Do you think that any theatre-goer can come in and see at least part of themselves in one of your characters?
    B: I hope so. That was a huge thing when I started and when I was talking with Keegan about it — everyone needs to feel like there’s something there. There’s a character that’s eighteen, and it’s her first time in town, and then there’s people who are like 26-27, who’ve been in the city for a very long time. I think it’s very Wellington-specific.
    K: I remember when I moved here, when I moved into halls of residences for the first time here — I remember thinking that my whole life was now in this little room — but then you get older and you get more friends — I think this city begins to feel smaller, there are less mysteries in this city. It’s quite a small city, at the end of the day. It’s not as big as Auckland, and Auckland’s not as big as cities overseas.
    B: There’s a whole thing in the play about being connected — everyone knows everybody. That’s such a big part about living in Wellington, everyday you’ll see someone that you know, or someone that you know through somebody else —

    K: For better or for worse, yeah.
    B: And for starters, when you move to Wellington, that’s exciting — but then it just gets old, more and more everyday. You’re sick of seeing people that you know — especially when you’re at your worst, you’re having a really sad day, you don’t want to see anyone you know. There’s a scene with an ex in the play — and that’s such a Wellington thing — to bump into your ex in town after two years. Wellington’s one of the only places where that’s definitely going to happen, you know?

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  • Lil Xan

    Lil Xan is a much-hyped cloud trap artist from Los Angeles. Boasting more than 220 million plays on Spotify for his single “Betrayed”, he is arguably a hot topic. His trap influenced sound continues to play on lavish renditions of drugs, money, and poor representation of women. “Xan” comes from the addictive prescription pill Xanax, which is he known to be an abuser of, while simultaneously out against its misuse.

    Several sources told me that Lil Xan took too much Xanax on his flight from Auckland to Wellington after misjudging the distance between the two cities, leading to him being carried off the plane after the short flight. Post-gig he is said to have had a tantrum for being told to finish his set.
    Xan was accompanied by a posy of hype men and security. After stretching out the pre-show hype, he appeared on stage with an almost empty bottle of bubbles (I hope it was sparkling rosé) and a microphone that received minor attention for the rest of the gig. It’s now industry standard to have a laptop DJ playing backing tracks from the album, and occasionally choruses may have backing vocals and the like. However, Xan’s backing tracks were literally the tracks from Spotify. The full vocal takes were audible throughout the gig. When Xan had the energy, he would yell inaudibly over these tracks. This progressive approach to live sound was a highlight of the evening. In addition, there were kitsch samples of machine guns and bombs for effect during banter.
    Possibly the most interesting feature of the gig was the audience. Xan has an incredibly dedicated following of privileged fuckboys. Some were so far gone, they were kicked out before Xan made it to the stage; while others were so young, their parents watched patiently in the back rows of the gig, in a zone that had been socially constructed (mutually) for anyone over the age of 21.

    Xan mentioned he wants to retire here in 10 years from now, once he’s done with the music game. Unfortunately, I feel that this is just the latest experiment from music industry giants. His uncensored social media presence suggests label tensions and evokes a lack of self-autonomy. Sources speculated the late change of venue being due to poor ticket sales, only adding to my suspicions that this genre has nearly expired. I hope Xan has someone looking out for him, and that his listenership become more critical of what his celebrated lifestyle truly represents.

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  • New Zealand International Film Festival

    4.5/5 – Searching — David Kim (John Cho) finds himself as an amateur investigator when his 16-year-old daughter goes missing. Told entirely through a computer screen, this work is a heart-wrenching thriller that far transcends the bounds of its medium. – Emma

    4/5 – Skate Kitchen — A charming, subtle, and revitalised coming-of-age story set against the gorgeous backdrop of New York City, centring on fictitious versions of the titular female skate crew. Crystal Moselle incorporates fluid camera movement to capture the urban skater jungle, intimate shot types and unfiltered dialogue to reflect the youth and humanity of these teenagers, interwoven with a driving score to match. – Monty

    2.5/5 Thelma — A young woman begins to suffer from unexplained seizures and hallucinations after she falls in love with another woman. While it is good to see queer films that aren’t just about being queer, this Norwegian film is let down by unexplained plot threads, discomforting subtext, and the way it plays heavily into the male gaze. – Emma

    4/5 Petra — A Spanish drama on the surface but layered beneath is a story akin to Greek tragedy. The film also utilises a non-linear narrative structure which carefully reveals or omits information to the audience through a melancholic sting. While the acting in Petra might seem expressionless, contrary to the events onscreen, this stillness reflects the character’s fragility as they uncover the truth. – Monty

    3.5/5 Burning — The tale of awkward man meets attractive girl then attractive girl meets attractive guy, elevated to a high art in this Korean thriller. The film is a slow burn from the start, filled with long takes that emphasise the thought process of the protagonist, Jong-Soo. While some dialogue is painfully obvious foreshadowing of the film’s climax, it’s a vast improvement and expansion of the love triangle storyline. – Monty

    5/5 You Were Never Really Here — Joaquin Phoenix delivers yet another stellar performance as Joe, a hired gun who finds young trafficked women using violent methods. However, the film inverts the hitman tropes and focuses on delving into Joe’s psychological torment through slickly edited sequences to his repressed, abusive past. This character study is deepened through some scenes having minimal dialogue or action, drawing the audience’s attention to the screen; be it the aftermath of his violent rampage, or Joe’s reaction to narrative events. Lynne Ramsay has crafted yet another high calibre art piece that focuses very much on the show-don’t-tell element of filmmaking. – Monty

    3.5/5 Our New President — Maxim Pozdorovkin’s satirical take on the election of Donald Trump is a horrifying and badly-edited 78 minutes of film. Stringing Russian propaganda footage together in the search of some goal — presumably to show the world how anti-Hillary Clinton and pro-Donald Trump Russia is — Pozdorovkin’s documentary misses the mark in more than a few ways. It is, however, fascinating — if you want to see how bizarre the Russian propaganda machine is. – Emma

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  • GLOW Season 2

    GLOW is a netflix original based on the 1980s women’s professional wrestling show The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch draw from the personas of the wrestling ladies of the 80s to weave an ensemble narrative that shines for its compelling characters and strong handling of complex emotions.
    Firmly centred on struggling actress Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), Season 1 dealt with the creation of GLOW and Ruth’s conflicts with GLOW’s director Sam Sylvia and her former best friend Debbie Eagan, a has-been TV actress who joins the cast of GLOW.
    Season 2 follows the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and the syndication of their show on cable television. Again, Ruth’s romantic life and her difficulties working with Sam are the focus of the show. Although the show focuses on Ruth’s storyline, which is endearing and hopeful in itself, Season 2 makes a welcome exploration of “Liberty Belle” Debbie Egan’s life as she assumes more power in the show’s production while coping with her divorce.
    As an ensemble show, GLOW faces the potential difficulty of having an abundance of characters it struggles to utilise and develop. While some of the cast don’t receive full character arcs, GLOW excels in making the viewer feel like they’ve still spent a valuable amount of time growing and sharing experiences with the supporting cast. This is a treat, as the ensemble itself is such a lovable, interesting, and varied range of individuals, not just shoehorned caricatures. Despite learning most of their story threads from comedic moments, they still make for entertaining and meaningful explorations of minor characters. My investment in the characters and my surprising knowledge of the personal details of their lives is a testament to the show’s clever writing.

    The beauty of GLOW lies in the brutality with which it handles emotion. GLOW shines by truly meditating on its characters as they wallow, cope with, and work through their difficult situations. Whether it’s the harshness of divorce, longing for a functional relationship between father and daughter, or a fear of disappointing the most important people in your life, GLOW’s ensemble is suitably saddled with complex, multi-faceted, and genuinely moving stories. While there is a great deal of melancholy throughout the show, GLOW succeeds by making warm and pleasant moments meaningful and genuinely uplifting.
    Such powerful character arcs can only be delivered through equally strong performances. GLOW has this in spades. The fragility portrayed by Alison Brie, Marc Maron, Betty Gilpin, Kia Stevens, and the other stars defines GLOW as less of a drama about women’s pro wrestling than one about real, multi-faceted individuals. The cast disappears into each of their respective roles, balancing humour, melancholy, and the desire to succeed as a wrestling production so well that the “ladies of GLOW” feel like an actual family with real life shared experiences, whether they’re hanging out backstage or going to the mall.
    Having binged through this season in one sitting, I found myself enthralled, overjoyed, and moved by a second season that improves upon an already stellar first season. Not having touched upon the beautiful production design, settings, costumes, nor the extremely fun “episode within an episode”, the show is a powerhouse of entertainment. The women who create and direct GLOW have struck something special in the follow up to their first season. Worth a watch? Fuck yes.

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  • Death and Desire

    What initially seemed to be a rather sensational title for an exhibition about hair proved to be entirely apt: the themes of Death and Desire interlace and tie various items from the Turnbull collections together like a neat braid.
    Though hair is not usually included under the “human remains” label, the surprising amount of this bodily material found in the Turnbull collections lends a macabre quality to the historic items on show. This exhibition doesn’t just consist of portraits either—it includes actual locks of hair that belonged to now-deceased folk. Memento mori objects like the Victorian jewellery made of hair — worn to commemorate the dead — are only considered morbid in modern times. Like vanitas paintings that incorporated skulls into still lifes, these objects were once commonplace due to high mortality rates. Death was once so pervasive that carrying the remains of a loved one, whether in a daguerreotype compact (an object similar to a locket) or woven into earrings, was arguably an act of social obligation more than it was sentimental.
    When its purpose was not to memorialise the dead, hair functioned as a substitute for subjects of desire. A particularly disturbing case in point is a diary of a settler that includes women’s hair, likely taken as a token of his sexual conquests. The diary dates to 1860-67, and it is suggested that the women were from Ruapuke, an island “where few Pākehā ever went”.
    While we can only speculate over the motives for taking their hair — or whether the women consented to having their hair collected in this way — the curator makes a case for the correlation between this instance and colonial ethnographic practices. What this would reveal is not only the disturbing sexual motives of the settler, but the inherently fetishistic interests of more “official” ethnography.
    Hair has always been a politicised site upon which intersections of racial, gendered, and class-based identities and oppressions have been enacted and embodied. Artist Sonya Clark makes the incisive point that “hair can measure hegemony within our culture”. It is for this reason that Katherine Mansfield rebelliously cut her locks short—you can see them here. Photographic portraits of wāhine Māori with long shining tresses are comparatively hung next to portraits of tightly coiffured Pākehā women. It is noted that the decision to let their hair down would have been the photographer’s: loose hair on indigenous women was regrettably stereotyped by Europeans to signal availability and lust, a trope that the photographer has played on here.
    If you’re not turned away by a phobia of detached hair or an allergy to libraries, this exhibition is worth a visit for its contemporary works in particular. One of Justine Varga’s cameraless photographs, made with hair from the shower, complements Alison Maclean’s short film entitled Kitchen Sink (1989). Taking cues from B-grade thrillers and Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s film Un Chien Andalou (1929), the film follows a woman torn between lust and horror when she accidentally grows a hairy spouse in the bath (not unlike an expandable water toy). Through a delightfully absurd narrative, this work encapsulates the opposing forces often at play in our relationships to hair.

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  • The Mars Room

    Romy Hall is 27 years old when she kills her stalker, a client at the strip club where she works, with a crowbar. Her public defender in court is overworked and underpaid, and lands her with two life sentences in Stanville Prison. Her son falls into the foster care system and is soon lost to her.
    With admitted parallels to Orange is the New Black, The Mars Room knits together the perspectives of central and peripheral characters in Romy’s life. We hear from her fellow inmates, who are crooked cops and killers of children; from prison workers, laden with guilt yet also transfixed by their own power; and even from Romy’s stalker himself, in the moments preceding his death. The narrative dips in and out of time, which lends it a detached and disorienting tone.
    Kushner constructs a rich portrayal of San Francisco as Romy recalls her life before incarceration. Intricate imagery of the city juxtaposes her pared back descriptions of Stanville Prison, so that Romy’s present day feels like a semi-reality compared to the more fully developed San Francisco of her past. This creates a real sensation of claustrophobia when we return to the prison. The strong sense of place that Kushner builds in The Mars Room showcases the visceral and evocative command of language that made her previous books so successful.
    Although Kushner’s delivery shines, the success of this novel lies in the political statement it makes. The Mars Room is a scathing critique of the criminal justice system, and of contemporary America which calls itself a place of equal opportunity. As we learn of each character’s pitiful lot in life, with abusive and poverty-stricken childhoods, the prisoners are reminded by guards that they deserve no pity for landing themselves here. In a nod to the fallacies of neoliberalism, Kushner points out the obscenity of using mass incarceration as a punishment for victims of social issues.

    The Mars Room is an important addition to contemporary literature for what it has to say on inequality and crime in the United States. For the average reader however, it’s deeply unsettling and difficult to enjoy. At times the terrible fates of the characters come across as torture porn. The writing is bleak, and no character is hugely endearing. Kushner creates a world devoid of any hope, and it’s emotionally draining to take in.
    It’s not a particularly appealing picture, but hold on now. Although it wouldn’t be recommended as lighthearted beach reading, this novel serves as a textbook for any student with a concern for social justice. Reading The Mars Room is like working in hospitality: it’s unpleasant, but by the end of it you’re better equipped to move through the world with empathy and care.

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  • Revisionist History

    I distinctly remember the first time I heard Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History. It’s the kind of event that is hard to forget.
    I was bored on the train, endlessly scrolling through Spotify searching for something new. Remembering that a friend had recommended to me the Malcolm Gladwell podcast, I tried my luck and pressed play on Episode One.
    I was already familiar with Malcolm Gladwell and, to be honest, I had been sceptical. He has been writing for The New Yorker since 1996, but more famously published books like The Tipping Point, Outliers, and David and Goliath, among many. My hesitation came from Outliers and his famous 10,000 hours theory (10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any field). I don’t think I’m the only one who finds it a bit of an oversimplification, surely there are more factors to greatness than just time, right?
    Regardless, after getting through the first episode, my opinion on Gladwell had changed. After I pressed play, there was nothing else I could listen to for the next week as I “binge-listened” through his first two seasons.
    There are many other podcasts that I do really enjoy, but this was the first time I had listened to something that surprised me.
    I’ve always loved getting caught up in the stories of great books and movies. It’s this aspect — narrative — where Gladwell truly succeeds with his podcast. He could give us a historical retelling of major events (as the title implies), but instead, he finds more interesting stories from overlooked and forgotten moments of history.
    Every episode contains all the ingredients of a Hollywood movie: a conflict, a resolution, an exciting premise, and sometimes a hero’s journey, making it incredibly easy to watch time fly by as you wait for the bus.
    Beyond an engaging narrative, Gladwell also takes the time to reflect on what each story might tell us about wider society. After all, it is easy to forget that all of these stories are non-fiction. We often turn to literary greats for an interesting reflection of our reality, but sometimes (in the words of Mark Twain), truth is stranger than fiction.
    I should note that while Gladwell is assertive, by no means does he expect to be blindly followed. He works best as an aid to constructing your own worldview.

    If I had to sum up this series (which only gets better in its third season), I’d say “it’s an audio documentary that’s actually exciting”. This is no ordinary history lesson, and it certainly doesn’t feel like you’re in a classroom. I definitely recommend taking the dive and finding out for yourself why a history podcast from Malcolm Gladwell is consistently at the top of the charts, and maintains a five-star rating on iTunes.

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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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