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Issue 8, 2015




  • The Week In Feminism

  • “FUUUUUUUCK!” – Overseas borrowers

  • Legal Easin’ on this Heezy

  • More than just numbers

  • Confusion reigns after Academic Committee farce

  • Features

  • Game Changers

    At some point in their youth, everyone wants to make a video game. Maybe you assumed that you would literally get paid to play video games all day so that all that time on Crash Team Racing as a child will have been beneficial to your career. But most have had that dream quashed when […]


  • The Importance of Being Idle

    Working at a commercial law firm over summer was the first time I’d ever engaged in conventional full time work. While some love to demonise the experience and the corporate world generally, I actually really liked the people and enjoyed the work. Even so, there’s no denying that firms in the corporate sector exemplify anti-idling […]


  • The World’s Strangest Leisure Activities

    Europe: Austria: Celebrating Krampus In Austria, a popular Christmas tradition is to celebrate Krampus, a figure who deals with naughty children. Not only do people dress up as this horned beast, dishing out coal and Ruten (twigs painted gold), but they actually hold Krampuslauf runs where people dress up as huge hairy beasts and run […]


  • Game Changers

    At some point in their youth, everyone wants to make a video game. Maybe you assumed that you would literally get paid to play video games all day so that all that time on Crash Team Racing as a child will have been beneficial to your career. But most have had that dream quashed when […]


  • The Importance of Being Idle

    Working at a commercial law firm over summer was the first time I’d ever engaged in conventional full time work. While some love to demonise the experience and the corporate world generally, I actually really liked the people and enjoyed the work. Even so, there’s no denying that firms in the corporate sector exemplify anti-idling […]


  • The World’s Strangest Leisure Activities

    Europe: Austria: Celebrating Krampus In Austria, a popular Christmas tradition is to celebrate Krampus, a figure who deals with naughty children. Not only do people dress up as this horned beast, dishing out coal and Ruten (twigs painted gold), but they actually hold Krampuslauf runs where people dress up as huge hairy beasts and run […]


  • Arts and Science

  • One Finger Death Punch

    So, true story: some sort of colossal fuck-up at the Salient offices meant there almost wasn’t going to be a gaming page this week. Baz, our intrepid games editor, was desperate for anything to fill the page, and so he turned to the guy who owns neither a console nor a PC that can play GTA V or Mortal Kombat X. I know, not exactly the smartest move, but I do the best I can. I could have rented a console from the video shop down the road from my flat, but without a membership I’d be paying a $400 deposit just to have it overnight. Yikes.

    So, in the interests of ensuring you can have something to fulfil your gaming review requirements from us, I looked for something that wouldn’t break the bank but nevertheless would be twice as fun as anything a triple-A developer can produce these days. Behold, from the depths of a Steam sale from a few years ago: the visceral brawling and intense action of One Finger Death Punch.

    Look up Silver Dollar Games on any gaming forum and you’ll likely find a torrential downpour of negativity. Their library of games can be summed up in a single word: shovelware. They all feel like something a couple of kids made for a class project that got out of hand once they got onto Xbox Live Arcade. That’s pretty much what happened anyway. And yet when this developer, the one behind No Luca No of all things, decided to make a 2D brawler with stick-figures, they somehow managed to strike gold.

    One Finger Death Punch is so brilliant because it takes fighting games back to basics, and yet feels as fully featured as something like Mortal Kombat. It utilises a unique 1:1 response system which uses only the left and right mouse buttons, your character stands in the centre as enemies come at you from both sides, most only requiring one hit to kill. You’ll need quick reflexes and an attentive eye if you want to truly master this game though, with more difficult enemy types coming along at increasing speeds as you progress through the levels.

    I’ve never come across a game that just feels so satisfying to play. Unlike other, more traditional brawlers and fighting games, every click, every move you make, has to count. Don’t think you can just instantly crush your way through the campaign in a few hours by button mashing, because it will not help you—with this game’s brawling system, genuine skill is the only thing that will take you far. Like I said, quick reflexes are a must, but even the quickest fingers will soon be straining as you bust out the combos and punch, kick, slice and dice your way through ten stick-figures at a time.

    The game takes much of its inspiration from old school kung-fu movies which, despite your character being a stick-figure, is actually really effective, especially with the soundtrack. A game where kicking ass is the game’s main mechanic needs kick-ass music to back up the action, and this game fucking delivers with fast, crunching beats mixed with the Eastern influence you expect from kung-fu action. The graphics look rather cheap, almost like a mid-noughties flash game on Newgrounds, but with gameplay as tight as it is, the graphics pretty much had to take a back seat. Hell, even TotalBiscuit, he of the FOV slider master race, found a lot to like without giving a single fuck about visuals or the options menu!

    Best of all, you don’t even need an expensive console or PC rig to play it. For a game under $10, you’d expect it to run buttery smooth on pretty much anything, and that’s certainly true, except for you poor bastards with expensive, but useless, Macs. It’s even on Android now, so you pretty much have no excuse.

    One Finger Death Punch is probably the most fun you can buy on a student budget right now. Fuck GTA, fuck Bloodborne, fuck Mortal Kombat X, and fuck every game you can’t afford right now. Play One Finger Death Punch instead so you can eat this week and still have fun.


  • A Little Chaos

    I was really looking forward to watching a film directed by Alan Rickman. I, like most people in the English-speaking world, have a strong affection for Rickman as an actor. From Die Hard to Sense and Sensibility to Galaxy Quest (and apparently he is in some wizard film I haven’t seen), he has established himself as one of the most engaging actors of the last 30 years. So it brings me no pleasure point out that A Little Chaos is a terrible boring mess of a film.

    The film is set in 1670s France during the building of Versailles. King Louis XIV’s official landscaper gardener looks to hire someone to design and build a fountain as part of the gardens. Of the potential landscapers he chooses a woman, Sabine de Barra. This setup seem to indicate a story about a woman ahead of her time in a male-dominated world and there are certainly elements of that narrative. However, the problem is there are elements of so many different themes all incoherently mixed in. Sometimes the film is about gender roles, others times about the nature of romantic relationships and the importance of monogamy, then the focus shifts to post traumatic stress, then the isolation of class roles in society. There were more, but it was really exhausting trying to keep track of the story jumping from one point to another across the ridiculous number of forgettable characters.

    On top of sheer number of themes, each were thrown at the audience in such heavy handed ways, which is not only bad filmmaking, but often made these shifts jarring. I will give Rickman credit that it was bold to try and encompass so many elements into a single film, but unlike more assured filmmakers, such as Robert Altman, there was no through-line to the story.

    Another bold aspect of the film was setting it in Baroque-period France. This was one of the most opulent and extravagant times in European history and Versailles was very much the epitome of this. However, it was clear that the film lacked the budget to portray this lavishness. The filming techniques used to overcome this just creating a feeling that everything was small and a look that was very bland. All of this made for one of the least engaging films I have ever seen in a cinema.


  • Still Life


    Directed and written by Uberto Pasolini, Still Life was originally released in Italy in the Venice Film Festival in 2013, and went on to win the award for Best Director in the category “Orizzonti”. It also received the Black Pearl award at the 2013 Abu Dhabi Film Festival for “its humanity, empathy, and grace in treating grief, solitude, and death”, and for his performance, lead actor Eddie Marsan won the Best British Actor award at the 2014 Edinburgh International Film Festival. One might, therefore, expect quite a stunning film, and this is backed by the 81 per cent positive audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. What one might not expect is to be holding back yawns for the majority of the film.

    This 92 minute drama commences with a series of funerals, varying in religion and venue, but not in attendance. The sole mourner, John May (played by Eddie Marson) is a London council worker who is charged with finding the next of kin of those who have died alone. Not only does he attend the funerals of the deceased, he also arranges them himself (using council money which, as his boss pointedly remarks, could be better spent elsewhere) and even writes their eulogies. This painstaking nature is carefully maintained by Marson, who depicts Mr May as systematic in every aspect of his life, including his austere tuna-and-toast dinner (applying the “bachelors cannot cook” trope) and the meticulous ritual of pasting photographs from his casefiles into a personal album. The audience quickly realises that Mr May is without relatives and friends, and his muted, solitary life is observed with as much quiet sympathy he accords to his cases.

    The melancholic leitmotif, a sombre plucking of strings which follows Mr May throughout the film, lends it a subtle atmosphere of sadness, although the majority of Still Life is drably ordinary and not conducive to alertness, especially on a comfortable cinema seat. Perhaps too light on backstory, the film only offers small glimpses into the life of Mr Billy Stoke, the last case Mr May is responsible for, and none on Mr May himself. When Joanne Froggatt is introduced as Kelly Stoke, the late Billy’s daughter, a breeze of conversation and change floats across the screen. Then, with only 15 minutes left, the inevitable conclusion is turned on its head and Pasolini pulls a bus out of the hat! With a lugubrious, unexpected ending, Still Life is transformed into a profound bit of dramatic irony that is worth the lengthy wait.


  • Karen Joy Fowler—We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

    After finishing We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, it occurred to me that no matter what book I started next, nothing would come close to this. I finished this book in tears; it stays with you, and it gets under your skin. It renders following books meagre in its shadow. Fowler has crafted a novel of equally smart and funny proportions. It was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and has had an atmosphere of mystique around it; customers who have read it don’t want to tell me what it’s about, while the reviews spoil it entirely. I will not do this. I want to try to let you have an ignorant experience, like I did, because it makes all the difference.

    There is a detail, which once revealed changes the game entirely, in the best way possible. The pivotal revelation comes 77 pages in, as Fowler uncannily anticipates the readers’ expectations and meets none of them. The central character, Rosemary, is the youngest of the Cooke family, with both of her eldest siblings having, for reasons unknown, disappeared. In the wake of her siblings’ abrupt departures, Rosemary has given up talking for the most part, though as a child, Rosemary insists, she wouldn’t stop talking. The mystery around her siblings’ departures, and her withdrawn silence forms the crux of this novel.

    We are subject to Rosemary’s perspectives, as she navigates university, and has to grapple with her own troubled sense of identity. When she meets a new and wild friend Harlow, her conceptions of self are thrown into further disarray, and she must begin to take stock of her past. The entire crux of the novel is hinged upon Rosemary’s subjectivity and unreliability as a narrator, and certain events make it essential for her to rethink her childhood, and to reassess the memories she has locked away.

    Fowler’s novel takes a sympathetic look at family breakdowns and repairs, childhood grief and trauma, and the impossibility of dealing with it all properly. Her novel also raises fascinating questions surrounding the ethics of scientific experiments, animal cruelty, the incompetency of airlines, and the ever-changing conceptions of family. With vivid and loveable characters, I want to preserve the feeling of reading this book, to put it in a jar for safekeeping (keep it secret, keep it safe).


  • Miranda July—The First Bad Man

    The First Bad Man is the much-anticipated first novel of American multimedia artist Miranda July, following her 2007 short story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You. July’s story follows 40-something year old Cheryl Glickman, who lives alone and works for a company that produces women’s fitness/self-defence DVDs. At the most basic level, the novel is about how Cheryl’s neurotically regimented life is turned upside down when her boss’s 20-year-old daughter Clee comes to live with her. But what July has actually written is a complex, unconventional novel about love and motherhood that aptly reflects the changing ideas around parenthood and family which are happening right now.

    July is an immensely talented writer, painting in the details of the weird and wonderful idiosyncrasies that people possess. Whether her characters bemuse, repulse or delight is entirely up to the reader. It is fair to say this is not a novel that will gel with everyone who picks it up; Cheryl’s mind is an uncanny place, and there are some very bizarre sexual fantasy scenes that could challenge even the most unflinching reader. But ultimately Cheryl is the most sympathetic, even lovable, character in the book. It is her quirks that make her relatable—keeping the absolute minimum amount of dishes in the house to avoid clutter; her generation-spanning connection with a baby she met when she was nine years old; her complete inability to fire the homeless man who turns up every week to tend to her garden. There might be nobody quite like Cheryl, but there is something everybody can recognise in her, especially her vulnerability and need for love.

    I don’t want to give too much away. The twists and turns of the story are so odd and unexpected that it does a disservice to spoil them in a review. July’s prose is funny, poignant, honest and wise, often all at the same time. I found myself savouring the book, not wanting it to be over too quickly. I can say with surety that The First Bad Man is one of the most bizarre and unexpectedly beautiful novels I have ever read, and is definitely a stand-out book for 2015.


  • Caroles—Momentary Decline


    Caroles, the Auckland-based noise/punk/emo trio, released their new album Momentary Decline on April Fools. It follows Hollow Trophy recorded in August 2013, and their debut release Huge Pizza in February of the same year. The new album is excellent, full of the sullen and youthful energy of the previous releases; it differs in that it feels a little more balanced and cohesive.

    Momentary Decline, especially when compared with Huge Pizza recorded live at bFM studios, and Hollow Trophy recorded in a day somewhere out of Auckland (and, according to a Bandcamp itinerary, was preceded and followed by tripping balls), is more refined. It was recorded in the spring of last year, mixed by drummer Lawrence Goodwin, and mastered by Chris Townsend who has worked with the likes of Die! Die! Die! and Portishead.

    The musical influences across the album are vast. The frantic energy that pervades it is similar to that of post hard-core bands like At the Drive-In. Tracks like “Bad Sleep” and “Clarity Decline” are reminiscent of early Modest Mouse. The track “Greenfog” is a shout out to the Auckland band of the same name, with whom Caroles are currently touring New Zealand. A standout, the album closer “Dwindling”, has all the tempering of ‘90s emo, with washed vocals and droning guitar.

    This is not to say that Caroles don’t have their own sound—they do. Rather, the influences are varied, adopted well, and transformed into something fresh and new. Momentary Decline embodies a youthful ethos that is unique and innovative, and has a distinct place in the music emerging out the New Zealand underground scene.

    It is an album of rise and falls, at times slow and pensive, and at others crashing and furious. This is how Caroles manipulate noise. They space thrashing crescendos with gloomy, slow riffs, creating feelings of despair and pent up frustration. Tracks like “Now You Know” and “ANAL_BONGRIPPAH” embody this up/down pattern, and it is particularly notable on “Bad Sleep”—perhaps the most beautiful Caroles track to date. It pairs a sad echoic riff with soft, hollowed out vocals, before building into a fast-paced climax.

    Momentary Decline is an album despondent and sometimes angry, but also energetic, and even cathartic as an outlet for pent up frustrations.


  • Tyler, the Creator—Cherry Bomb


    Tyler, the Creator is a bit of an enigma. He’s been a “walking fucking paradox” long before he gave himself the moniker on “Yonkers”. He’s controversial and has been accused of being homophobic and misogynistic, but he has a huge fan base nonetheless. He’s the co-founder and leader of OFWGKTA and has his own brand, Golf Wang. When asked to describe himself recently, he replied “I’m very bright. I’m smart. I’m annoying and obnoxious. I’m very creative and borderline genius, and I think other people are starting to see that, too.”

    Cherry Bomb is his fourth LP and his third official album, following Goblin and Wolf. This latest release marks yet another change in his style; it shows his progress as a producer but is perhaps telling of his lack of growth as a rapper and as a lyricist. Brevity has never been Tyler’s strength either, Cherry Bomb is a solid 54 minutes long. While significantly shorter than its 70 minute-plus predecessors, it’s still incredibly lengthy when compared to other albums, like Earl Sweatshirt’s recent I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside that clocks in at a mere 28 minutes.

    If you stream Cherry Bomb on Spotify, you’ll find the “EXPLICIT” label on every single track, which says a lot about Tyler’s style. Despite the expletives, Cherry Bomb is a little bit more chill than Tyler’s earlier work, with some critics even going as far to suggest that it’s a little bit soft. “Soft” is definitely not the word that I would use though; lyrically the album makes it clear that Tyler is still desperately trying to be as controversial as ever.

    Cherry Bomb’s opening track “DEATHCAMP” has undeniable N.E.R.D. vibes and crunching, distorted guitar sounds. “SMUCKERS” is one of the most hyped tracks on the album, featuring verses from both Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne. On it, Tyler raps about being banned from New Zealand: “I got banned from New Zealand, whitey called me demon / And a terrorist, God dammit I couldn’t believe it”. Cherry Bomb also features a number of other artists, like Schoolboy Q, Pharrell, Toro Y Moi and Kali Uchis. Interestingly, you won’t find them credited on iTunes or Spotify and Cherry Bomb’s tracklist offers no hint at the extensive guest appearances it features.

    Cherry Bomb ultimately marks a change for both Tyler, the Creator and for Odd Future as a whole. They’re no longer a bunch of relatable kids who got lucky—they’re rich, successful and they’re definitely in the big leagues now.


  • In Review: Candice Breitz

    The City Gallery has recently unveiled an exhibition by the internationally acclaimed Candice Breitz. Her series of video installations explores themes such as pop culture, international film industries, family relations and how these shape both individual and community identity. I went along to the opening night to welcome in the new exhibit.

    Upon reaching the gallery entrance, my colleague and I were greeted by a well-dressed woman with a warm smile. We returned her smile and felt relief, her greeting lifted worries that our youthful and peasant-like demeanour would draw attention to us amongst what we expected would be a mature, cultured crowd. Once inside, a handsome-in-an-ugly-way waiter offered us wine immediately and made us feel as if we had also donated a six figure sum to the arts, which we shallowly assumed people in the room had. The Ross Geller lookalike then asked if I’d like a white or red wine, I replied white, Ross then asked if I’d prefer a pinot gris or a sauvignon blanc, I said pinot gris, Ross directed me to the row of white wine-filled wine glasses on a table and said to help myself. Awkwardness was created upon my realisation that there were two different shades of white wine in the glasses and Ross had not specified which was the pinot and which the sav. I confidently but blindly picked up one of them, Ross then nodded and I felt relief and false pride. So far, the service had been great and the wine was nice and, most importantly, free.

    Soon the director of the gallery introduced the guest speaker, Miranda Harcourt, who was very eloquent and looked reassuringly like Suzy Cato. She impressed us by name dropping Anna Sophia Robb and that Hunger Games boy—two child actors that she had coached. After polite applause came the real highlight of the night, as to our delight, more catering staff appeared, holding trays of Chinese soup spoons. As veteran masters of gallery opening scavenging, my colleague and I skilfully and subtly glided alongside the early trays that were filtering the room. The spoons cradled within them a harmony of fresh figs, balsamic reduction, buffalo mozzarella, roasted walnuts and a bit of rocket. We were in heaven as we gulped down the first spoon and knew that tonight, we would feast.

    After enjoying more spoons, each time from a different staff member so to not raise suspicion, we had finished our first glasses of wine. Ross was on the case, as he now circulated the crowd refilling wine glasses. As he approached us I realised that there was now a chunk of mozzarella in my wine glass. I quickly fished it out with my finger and ate it, thus cleaning my glass and continuing my graceful and cultured persona that I had already established with Ross.

    New trays offering more varieties emerged, each as delicious and delicate as the next. There was a pepper-crusted smoked salmon on dense brown bread, and what was the star of the night—a bacon infused mini doughnut with crème fraiche centre. It was so delicious that I force fed it to my vegetarian colleague, who was not quite as impressed. I also tried the red wine, which was also quite nice, and once again, nicely free. There was also a lager tasting station, which proved to be tasty, but perhaps not worth the forced interest and “mms” and “aahs” that one feels indebted to give to the eager server.

    This shameless feeding and watering went on for some time, until we felt that our sobriety was depleting to a level where we would not be able to retain the air of grace and modesty that was cloaking our obvious inhaling of free food and alcohol. We ended the night by departing with a bottle of non-alcoholic sarsaparilla soda, which served as a lovely liquid dessert on the walk home.

    Final verdict: 5/5. The arts can truly enrich one’s life, especially when in the form of infused doughnuts and buffalo mozzarella.

    Candice Breitz is now showing at the City Gallery Wellington until July 26, 2015.


  • Avengers: Age of Ultron


    There’s a certain level of expectation with Marvel Studio films. They’ve churned out hit after hit, and while fans have laid cash over fist for every effort, they still anxiously anticipate a potential dud each time. Once more, Joss Whedon has the unenviable task of helming film’s biggest superhero team for the second and final time in the joint-writer director helm. And thankfully, once more he swings for the fences and knocks it out of the goddamn park. Avengers: Age of Ultron is nothing short of incredible.

    The film assumes you’re up to date with the other ten movies that precede it, allowing it to hit the ground running and speed through at a great clip. The plot is fairly simple: Tony Stark want to build a “suit of armour around the world” in the form of Ultron, a artificial intelligence safeguard that can do the Avengers’ job for them. Stark sees an endgame for the Avengers, but upon activation, Ultron “creatively” reinterprets this protocol and sets out to protect the world from those who would hurt it most: humanity. But the Avengers aren’t going down without several awesome fights.

    While the first Avengers was kept squarely in New York, this outing has an international focus. This gives it the feeling that the entire world is in danger, and paints the Avengers as an extraordinary rescue operations group for global catastrophes; less Justice League and more Thunderbirds. These high stakes mean the film’s themes naturally revolve around global safety, and the true costs of keeping the world safe. The lip service and runtime paid to preventing civilian casualties in the super-fistfights is very much welcomed, and I couldn’t help but think it may have been a deliberate dig at Man of Steel, which was criticised at release for neglecting to show its hero looking out for the little guy. Look, up in the sky! Its a bird flipped in your direction, Warner Bros.

    By now, all the actors have settled into their roles in the Marvel pantheon, and everyone gives it 110 per cent. Everyone from Captain America to War Machine gets a shot in the spotlight, almost exhaustively so. In the film’s quieter moments, Whedon overindulges the yin-yang of his characters and their potential to be either heroes or demons. It sometimes descends into melancholy, but thankfully it never stays there. The Marvel penchant for humour is never lost, as almost every other line is genuinely hilarious repartee, although fans who still aren’t on board with Whedon’s overtly quippy character writing may grit their teeth.

    But if I had to pick an MVP, it would be Ultron himself, voiced and mo-capped by James Spader (Alan Shore from Boston Legal). Beyond the CGI wizardry that animates his eerie robotic frame, Spader’s Ultron is surprisingly affable for a robot. Spader smartly avoids the HAL-style monotone, instead giving him the emotionally charged malice of a true psychopath, simultaneously oozing good humour and disdain towards the carbon sacks he’s forced to deal with to enact his grandiose plans.

    As a filmgoer and a Marvel fan, I am perfectly satisfied, but I have to take one star off for its length. People talk about the day where superhero movie fatigue will finally set in, but having seen this one I know it won’t be from quantity of films, but from quantity of running time. The sheer amount of content the film manages to squeeze in, from characters to action scenes to set-up for the sequels, is astonishing to behold, but fans and non-fans alike will be fatigued from the sheer emotional marathon of it all. And don’t forget, we’re getting a dozen more of these over the next half-decade. I don’t think my ARC reactor heart can take it.

    In short: if you’re a Marvel fan, then you know I’m preaching to the converted. For those in the wings anxious to know if this film is worth your student allowance, rest assured, this is something to assemble for.


  • 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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