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Issue 3, 2015




  • Clubbing on Campus

  • Eye on Exec

  • It’s a MASSIVE Issue, Guys

  • Soy whaaaat!

  • No Aus-scape for Student Loan Rangers

  • New Shitters on University’s A-Gender

  • Mind the Gap

  • Features

  • Blink’s 182nd Project

    Last February, at the last Camp A Low Hum ever, Ian Jorgensen, who goes by the alias “Blink”, woke up to muddy, sodden grounds and the faces of some festival-goers who were clearly not having a good time. “I’m not proud,” he wrote after the event finished, “but at that moment I threw my head back and wept.”


  • Georgina Beyer

    From boy, to girl, to prostitute, to drag queen, to actress, to community worker—Georgina Beyer didn’t exactly follow the typical evolutionary process of a politician.


  • Blink’s 182nd Project

    Last February, at the last Camp A Low Hum ever, Ian Jorgensen, who goes by the alias “Blink”, woke up to muddy, sodden grounds and the faces of some festival-goers who were clearly not having a good time. “I’m not proud,” he wrote after the event finished, “but at that moment I threw my head back and wept.”


  • Georgina Beyer

    From boy, to girl, to prostitute, to drag queen, to actress, to community worker—Georgina Beyer didn’t exactly follow the typical evolutionary process of a politician.


  • Arts and Science

  • The Three Most Important Paintings of My Life

    Art has the power to influence entire generations and entire cultures. This usually happens subtly and is only picked up when a future generation looks back in haughty comparison. But the easiest way to observe art’s influence is incredibly simple – reflect upon your own life and ask yourself what pieces of art have arrested, charmed, disturbed, or helped you?


    Keith Haring (1958-1990)

    In primary school, an art teacher headed a group of older students who would paint large murals around the school. Often these would be direct copies or be in the style of other artists (though at the time, and at the age of eight, I did not know this). There was one mural in particular that I really, really liked. There wasn’t anything else to it—something in the bold black lines, the simple colours, the excited faceless people, was something that eight-year-old me simply loved staring at.

    I skilfully relocated my group of friends to a different lunch spot so that I could eat lunch near the painting everyday. The painting was one that would become ingrained in my mind and later in life I would learn all about the original artist—I read his journals, learnt about his philosophy towards art and life, his importance in the pop art scene and his battles with AIDS. Learning about Keith Haring changed how I think of art, but it was his art and his art alone—a pure visual image that won over an eight-year-old girl, that made me ever want to care about art at all.

    Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist

    Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)

    As silly it may seem, this painting was what consoled me best after my first breakup. I bought a cheap book on art in 2012 when I was on a bus to Christchurch after spending summer visiting a boy in Nelson, a boy that would soon “break my heart”, which is about the most epic tragedy a 19-year-old can have. He had revealed he had been kissing another girl, and the teary teenager that I was broke up with him instantaneously.

    Shortly after this devastating event, flicking through the very book I’d bought while visiting him, I came across a painting that left me lingering. With fresh betrayal and heartbreak still prickling my eyes, there was something in the cool, smug smile and gaze of the woman that made me feel surprisingly better. In her eyes was a welcoming confidence that said I need not be sad over a trivial boy, who was as good as a head on a plate.

    Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow

    Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)

    When I was a young child I saw a Piet Mondrian painting for the first time on an episode of Arthur. Later, I would see it again on the first The Sims. Like Keith Haring’s painting, I didn’t know the name of the artist or the painting’s context until much later, but I had already given the painting my own meaning. I knew that the piece was famous and likely worth a lot of money—it was good enough for television and computer games, after all! And I also knew that it was utterly simple, thus becoming for me became the visual epitome of modern art pieces that seem silly and could be recreated by anyone and yet still be worth millions and millions.

    This was how Mondrian became a reference point in my life—my interpretation of the painting was that you don’t necessarily need refined skill or have to work super hard: if you can offer a point of difference that is strong enough, then you can get by with creativity and wit alone. Whether or not this is a good life philosophy to have, I am still finding out. And whether or not Mondrian would appreciate this interpretation, I am sure he appreciated having people paying millions for a few squares of primary colour.


  • Creamy Psychology and the Importance of Books

    All around town you can see freaky ladies, with awkward smiles, and dead gazes watching you from billboards, Yvonne Todd’s exhibition Creamy Psychology has injected a weird and wonderful gothic presence into the capital this summer. But with the exhibition coming to a close soon, it is worth taking stock of the books that had an impact upon the development of Todd’s work. For within these books, the same mixture of constructed beauty, fragmented vanity, and uncomfortable subject matter beautifully merge.

    The books in question are those that operate in the “guilty pleasure” section of our libraries, the books where the subject matter is a particularly dreadful mixture of vanity and villainy. They are the books of “pulp fiction”, which fill you up and leave you empty at the same time; they are the McDonalds of literature.  From the wholesome and gossip worthy Sweet Valley High series, to the trashy horrors of Virginia Andrews, and the passive terror of the Valley of the Dolls, each has a particular place within this terrifically terrifying exhibition. These novels capture the same part of your imagination that is reserved for Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Hoarders.

    The Sweet Valley High series can be found in op-shops; it captured the imagination of so many teenagers through the 1980s and really drove home the idea that beauty isn’t everything, especially if you have beauty and brains. It followed two equally beautiful twin sisters, who have marginally different personalities, save for where they fall on the nerd and cool kid spectrum. Their lives are full of dramas surrounding the boys they date and cheat on, the friends they gain and betray.

    The duality between the sisters, Elizabeth (the studious, serious, kind, and patient one) and Jessica (the more “wild” one who likes boys and gossiping, appears shallow, but is like totally deep as well) gives the reader a full spectrum of available characters for females, either the virgin or the whore. Todd is obviously drawn to this limited duality, as she constructs images with classically “beautiful” accoutrements, and yet produces an ever so slightly gross image.

    The stories of VC Andrews are even more extreme. They take the complexities of the Sweet Valley High female characters, and push them to further boundaries of the gross. Her work follows similar threads of secrecy, forbidden love (especially incest), and often follows a classic structure of rags-to-riches. Her stories are a perfect marriage between the Gothic horror and the soap-operatic family saga.

    Her most famous work was Flowers in the Attic, a tale that follows a jealous mother and grandmother who push their cripplingly beautiful children into a life in the attic. While living in the attic, one of the children dies, and the eldest son and daughter fall in love—just your classic love story right? The terror of the situation seems to be enhanced by the beauty of the characters subjected to it.

    The film version of Valley of the Dolls plays on loop in one the rooms of the exhibition. Based on the 1966 Jacquelin Smith novel, it dramatises the drug use and doll-like role of women in the Hollywood world. Used as toys, passed around and manipulated, they rely on stimulants to operate; these women are a living construction.

    Throughout Creamy Psychology the act of construction is played out through the staging of the shots. The generic visual language of studio photography is present in the use of props, screens, stylised sets, and physically uncomfortable positions. The novels, along with Todd’s photographed characters, have a complicated relationship to feminism, as they provoke questions regarding the construction of female identity, and the nature of artifice within such an identity.

    The books make a fascinating sideline to this exhibition; their lasting impact upon Todd can be seen as she negotiates the space between substance and surface. She has infused the characters within her work with an ugly beauty, which is in itself an enactment of the destructive forces of beauty and ornament, the power of the surface to disguise what lies beneath.

    The novels are brandished as trashy and meaningless; much like their female protagonists, they are derided for their largely ornamental and sensational existence. Yet within the ivory walls of the Wellington City Art Gallery, Todd examines these tropes of female identity and construction, breathing a fresh, and somewhat disturbing lack of life into them, elevating them to a gallery-worthy position.


  • The Imitation Game


    Although I don’t altogether understand the phenomenon of Bennysnickers Scoopypants, I’ll be the first to admit that the fellow can act. Case in point: his portrayal of Alan Turing—mathematician, cryptanalyst, all-round genius and undercover hero—in The Imitation Game. Cumberbatch’s acting is, in fact, the highlight of the film, which otherwise seems to suffer from a lamentable identity issue. Is it a biopic, lauding a talented and troubled man? A historical film, depicting the cracking of the Enigma code as a significant breakthrough for British intelligence? A thrilleresque drama set during WWII and featuring offhand BBC flourishes? It seems director Morten Tyldum is not quite sure and, hence, neither are we.

    Let’s consider the film, firstly, as a biographical piece. While the real Turing was certainly homosexual, The Imitation Game minimises the issue of sexuality to create a new hybrid hero, who also just happens to be autistic. Being homosexual in Britain in the 1940s was, apparently, not quite difficult enough to warrant a full diegesis. The decision could perhaps have been justified if it led to a strong progressive representation for either cause; however, (quelle horreur!) the thesis the film constantly reproduces is that Turing is “not normal”. Hollywood’s intended motivational platitudes (in this case, “sometimes it is the people whom no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine”) are thereby warped beyond recognition.

    Through its characterisation of Turing, the film reads vaguely thus: Turing is rendered an outcast by his sexuality and disability. This means he is a genius who is able to achieve great things, which normal people cannot do. Outcasts can be valued for their brains, but must die alone. It’s an indictment on the film industry that we still commend (see: the Oscars) works with such a jaw-droppingly insensitive worldview. The Imitation Game seeks to redeem this situation by including a few trite facts about past horrific treatment of homosexuals by way of intertitling at the film’s conclusion (as if to suddenly incite viewers to human rights advocacy just as they leave the cinema), but to me it was a weak token gesture of support for issues that need a strong, not diluted, filmic voice.

    In considering the film as explicitly historical, the various decades of the 30s to 50s were neatly evoked with costume and mise-en-scene. It is intriguing that the film takes such pains to accurately represent a setting after taking such liberties with its central character. Tyldum produced strange senses of dissonance by using true historical war reels along with reconstructed footage of wartime events, which served as a constant reminder of the then-and-there versus the here-and-now. Some of these montages were effective, and lent a certain flair to the film, but often they recycled tired war tropes such as the streetside newspaper boy, children loaded onto trains, or cups of tea drunk while perched atop piles of rubble.

    On the plus side, The Imitation Game’s cinematography and visual style are crisp and polished, aided by a sympathetic score. Cumberbatch’s interactions with Commander Denniston (Charles Dance, looking a lot more dignified than when we last saw him on the small screen) are a joy to behold, and Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, a token intelligent woman, is somewhat more palatable than usual. The film is perhaps worth seeing on the strength of these performances, but only if you’ve the stomach for enormously patronising representations and Hollywoodised history on a grandiose scale.


  • Whiplash


    Black screen. The drum beat starts, so slowly that you aren’t even sure you’re hearing a beat. The tempo builds as the beat gets stronger, faster, louder, with earnest. As it reaches a climax, the tempo cuts to a young man, resetting his drum kit to start the beat again. As the camera tracks down the corridor, we become aware that the camera is the perspective of a person. This person is none other than the young man’s teaching hero.

    The start, stop of the tempo at the will of the approaching teacher becomes the pace of the film. It creates the tempo of the central relationship between the student and his teacher. You’re fearful that this tempo will simply collapse on itself. Surely no one can keep that rhythm, that pace and that discipline to not stray from the beat. You can fall on either side of the argument with the relationship between band teacher Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) and student Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller). It can read as a teacher pushing his student to be the best drummer that he could ever be. Or you can read it as a teacher who cannot see the line between encouragement and physical and emotional abuse.

    Either way, this relationship is glorious to watch; just like jazz, it’s unpredictable. It has the build-up and the crescendos, the composed pieces and the improvisations. Throughout, the film is held together by the building of tension that gets released, only to become even more intense. You can’t trust your own instincts on where the film is going—you don’t have the sheet music in front of you. You have to let the music take you on a journey you may not want to be on.

    I didn’t know what to expect when walking into the cinema, but walking out I can certainly say that I have never had to control myself more to keep myself in my seat. The drum beat throughout this film flows through your muscles. This film is so rewarding to watch, the performances from both the acting and music stopped me from noticing many of the films’ flaws (plot and diversity wise). It is a joy to watch a film that places so much care in showcasing the true passion of music and how it can represent—no matter cruelly—the dedication of a teacher striving for greatness in their student.


  • There Came an Echo


    There Came an Echo is equal parts epic vision and shallow one-note gameplay. The game’s premise is perhaps its greatest strength: you, the mysterious Sam, command a small group with just your voice, from a top-down real time strategy perspective. Disappointingly, you’re likely to spend more of your time with There Came an Echo frustrated than empowered.

    You control your team simply by using specific assigned words to make characters maneuver and act in certain ways. For example, one might say “Corrin attack target one”, “Everyone move to alpha two, on my mark” or “Corrin switch to sniper” and the AI should act accordingly. The option to create your own custom commands is also available. Suddenly “Hey good looking, stroll on down to party one and hit chump two!” has you working identically to people with more earnest approaches. The game also gives the option for conventional controls. Keyboard, mouse and controller support are all here.

    Playing with the non-voice control schemes is clunky. A dial is used to issue all orders, and doesn’t seem intuitive as the sole tool of control in a game that is not turn based. Playing There Came an Echo without voice control seems pointless. There are a total of 12 upgrades and five guns in the game. They unlock almost instantly, and selecting which of your four characters will carry what into battle is the beginning and end of all tactical depth (besides perhaps the ability to flank your enemy). Echo offers little besides the novelty of using your voice meaningfully in a video game.

    The word “gimmick” will naturally spring to mind. I think that undersells what this experience is. When the voice recognition is working, you feel like a god. Directing your troops can work seamlessly like a well-oiled machine. Regrettably, the process only works about 60 per cent of the time, and the louder you shout in a vain attempt to save the lives of your heroes, the less Echo wants to listen. Yet the game is full of potential. Voice recognition gaming, if we take this experience’s successes, could well be a new genre in the coming years. The highlight mission of the campaign is undoubtedly a tower defense segment, halfway through where the voice commands really seem to mesh well with core gameplay.

    Strange design decisions hold There Came an Echo back from functioning as any more than a proof of concept. There are around two points where the player is given the choice of two different tactical plans of action. It seems strange to dangle this sort of autonomy in front of the user to then rarely use the tool again. This brings us to Echo’s length. Steam informs me that I spent six hours with the game, at least three of which I know to have been spent dealing with glitches, bugs and the making back of progress I had lost when the game so frequently crashed.

    It would be unfair to focus solely on the many failings of There Came an Echo, leaving out what has been done right. The small cast is capable and often charming. The producers often stress the voice of Corrin, the game’s protagonist, to be Wil Wheaton (of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame), but characters Val and Syll consistently gave more interesting performances. The narrative will entertain while it is needed, and in places invests you in characters, but serves mostly as an excuse for gameplay. Music and overall sound design also impress, showing an indie developer can achieve quality on par with AAA titles. Echo’s graphics are not particularly memorable, but their simplicity allows for play on lower caliber PCs. The art style reminded me of a toned down XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a game Iridium Studios clearly has drawn a lot from.

    There Came an Echo acts as an exciting proof of concept for an idea still years away. It’s great to see indie developers try their hand at something so ambitious. I recommend it to anyone interested in voice recognition software, but several significant shortcomings make it hard to label a good game.


  • Man, It Feels Like Space Again—Pond


    If you haven’t heard of Pond, you’re missing out. They’re a psychedelic rock band from Perth with a lineup that currently consists of Nick Allbrook, Jay Watson, Joseph Ryan and Jamie Terry. The group’s lineup has changed numerous times since the band’s formation, which has resulted in some really interesting albums and their most recent release Man, It Feels Like Space Again is no exception.

    Pond formed in 2008 after Joseph Ryan (Mink Mussel Creek), Nick Allbrook (Mink Mussel Creek, Allbrook/Avery, Tame Impala, Peter Bibby & His Bottles of Confidence) and Jay Watson (Tame Impala) decided to form an ego-free collaborative. They recorded Psychedelic Mango with a little help from Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) and they literally haven’t stopped since.

    Man, It Feels Like Space Again is their sixth album since forming in 2008. It’s impressive for a band to be pumping out such good music in such a short space of time and their latest effort might just be the best one yet. The album leans more towards psych-pop than psych-rock, with more emphasis on the synths and dance rhythms than ever before.

    Throughout the album, the focus remains on the instruments—the vocals usually sound far away and spacey which only adds to the psychedelic feel of the whole thing. “Waiting Around for Grace” opens gently, but soon the guitar kicks in and the energy changes. The title track is my personal favourite, an eight minute song that combines the heavy use of synths with rolling drums and vocals. If you get a chance, I definitely recommend checking out the video too—I may be a little biased in that I know one of the people responsible for it, but it’s seriously cool and I promise you won’t regret it. “Zond” is another of my favourite tracks from this album, it feels a little bit more upbeat and I definitely recommend checking out the video for this one too (and I don’t even know anyone involved, it’s just good).

    Pond is such a cool band in that they don’t take themselves seriously, it’s all a bit of fun and it’s all in the name of creative expression. Man, It Feels Like Space Again is an album that I can’t fault and is definitely one to check out if you’re a fan of Tame Impala, Django Django and those kind of vibes.


  • I Want to Grow Up—Colleen Green


    Colleen Green is a Los Angeles-based songwriter and self-proclaimed stoner who’s just hit 30. She’s a special kind of SoCal pop-punk and this time around she’s focused on responsibility, romantic failures, insecurities and growing up.

    I Want To Grow Up is fairly self-explanatory in that it really is all about growing up. Green makes responsibilty feel cool. Kinda. It’s about letting that unwillingness to grow up go completely, or at least trying to. It’s claustrophobic, it’s fear, it’s the futility of life. It’s the realisation that you’re growing up whether you want to or not. It’s that stoner kid paranoia glazed with sugary bubblegum grunge. It’s the idea that your life should be all figured out by 30, when in reality you’re still struggling to get by.

    The title track isn’t that lyrically impressive, but it’s got a catchy beat and a good balance between heavy instruments and whingey vocals. “Deeper Than Love” is one of my favourite tracks, with lyrics like “Will I find a love that lasts as long as my life or will I die before ever becoming a wife? And I’m wondering if I’m even the marrying kind. How can I give you my life when I know you’re just gonna die?” The song continues “‘Cause I’m shitty and I’m lame and I’m dumb and I’m a bore/ And once you get to know me you won’t like me anymore.” They’re scary thoughts, but they’re relatable. This heavy self-reflective stuff is repeated throughout the album with all of Green’s lyrics following a similarly anxious theme.

    “Some People” feels like something that would play at a school dance in an awkward 90s coming of age film. “Grind My Teeth” feels a little bit more punk, it’s upbeat and it’s definitely one of my favourites from the album. “TV” is kind of a depressing reality, with lyrics like “TV is my friend, made me who I am/ And if you’re not a fan then I can’t relate.” “Whatever I Want” ends the album and it’s the ultimate coming of age song as Green realises that she actually can do whatever she wants. I can’t help hoping she realised this before the age of 30 though.

    I Want To Grow Up is a relatable mix of catchy tracks, it’s a tiny bit grunge, a tiny bit surf pop and it sounds suitably nostalgic. It’s a scarily familiar rendition of how hard and scary it is to grow up, but it’s also about how boring all that shit is. All in all, it’s definitely worth a listen.


  • 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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