Ed iti o n 3 Vo lu me 85
Pri de / Pre ju dice
Picture by Yashi Renoir
REGULARS 5 whatâ€™s up on campus 6 credits 7 editorials 9 advice corner 10 prosh
FEATURES 10 discrimination 11 biotech 12 knighthoods 13 sperm 14 surgery 15 misogynist 16 illustrations 18 drugs
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SECTIONS 19 politics 22 film 26 music 30 books 34 arts 39 culture
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Melbourne Law School
Experiences that mean the world The Melbourne JD Law degree www.law.unimelb.edu.au/jd Australiaâ€™s first, Australiaâ€™s global.
WHAT’S UP ON CAMPUS What would we do without language? The UWA Linguistics Society is for all :) language lovers Come and play word games, follow our series “ULS Talks TED” and participate in our exciting linguistic projects around campus! You can also follow news and events at our Facebook page: https://www.facebook. com/uwalinguisticssociety UWA PAW (UWA People for Animal Welfare) Are you passionate about animals? Then you need to join PAW!! We stand for animal welfare and rights and support ethical treatment of animals of all species, shapes and sizes! Through our fun events such as veganfriendly BBQ’s, public lectures, movie nights, quiz nights & e-letters (and more!), we facilitate education and awareness of animal rights, ethics and welfare issues at the same time as supporting community animal welfare organisations through fundraisers.
UWA Society for Creative Anachronism
If you think you belong, join us at https://www.facebook.com/ groups/131830273672010/ and grab a membership for only $5 at any of our upcoming events! UWA Amnesty International The UWA Amnesty International group meet fortnightly on the Reid Lawn (or Reid café if it’s raining) at 1-2pm on Tuesdays. If you’re interested in human rights in Australia and internationally, do come and join us. Find out more at https://www.facebook. com/AmnestyUWA UWA Catholic Society ‘The UWA Catholic Society (UCS) is an organising body for young Catholics and other interested persons on campus. We aim to serve Christ and the Church, and to help everyone grow in fides, spes and caritas. We believe in the dignity of all from conception to natural death - as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary”. Mass is 12pm, Tuesday and Thursday in the Law Link chapel.’
Known as the College of Saint Basil the Great, we are part of the international Society for Creative Anachronism, dedicated to recreating activities of the medieval world. We uphold the values of chivalry and honour and practice armoured combat, rapier fighting, archery, sewing, costuming, dancing, music, feasting, cooking, brewing and armouring. Join us for College Training on Oak Lawn from 5pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays to learn about swordplay, dancing, get ideas for garb and costumes,or even just to chat about history. Arts Union presents: Braveheart Pubcrawl to Freedom Arts Union’s Braveheart-themed pubcrawl returns for 2014! It happens every year. Dig out your kilts, tartan skirts, swords and war paint and prepare for more Scottish-themed mayhem than ever before. This year it’s more relevant than ever. Scotland are literally, not figuratively, having a referendum for independence from the UK. Four or more different venues. Party buses. Brilliant fun.
ALUMNI ANNUAL FUND GRANTS NOW OPEN! Grants of up to $30,000 are available for innovative projects or activities that aim to enhance the UWA student experience. Apply today at www.uwa.edu.au/aafgrants 5
CONTRIBUTORS CONTENTS IMAGE Yashi Renoir CONTRIBUTOR IMAGE Michael Trown DESIGN Kate “The Incredible (seriously, thank you so much for enduring us)” Hoolahan ADVERTISING Alex “Mr Darcy in the” Pond Karrie “Fine Eyes” McClelland EDITORS Wade “Anmer” McCagh Zoe “Tolerable, I suppose” Kilbourn SECTION EDITORS Arts: Laruen “Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?” Wiszniewski Books: Elisa “AKB48” Thompson Culture: Lucy “People-Factor” Ballantyne Film: Matthew “Suicidal Tendancies” Green Music: Simon “ScHoolboy D” Donnes Politics: Hamish “Best Thing Since Sliced Bread” Hobbs
CONTRIBUTORS Nick “Get Your Goat” Ballantyne ☺ Darcie “Cat Enthusiastic” Boelen ☺ Eleanor “Botulinum” Bruyn ☺ Mini “Fever” Burr ☺ Callum “No Blood” Corkill ☺ Julianne “Learning German” de Souza ☺ James “Catchiest Hook” Enderby☺ Ross “Leaky” Franklyn ☺ Ayeesha “Very Punctual” Frederickson ★ Callum “Legendary” Green ☺ Alex “Taking it to The Edge” Griffin ☺ Brad “Love in a Cup” Griffin ☺ Molly “Knight of the Realm” Harris ☺ Tom “420” Hutchinson ☺ Somayya “Libertarian Poster Boys” Ismailjee ☺ Cameron “Pre-recorded” James ☺ Tamara “Red Wheelbarrow” Jennings ★ Hugh “Stella” Manning ☺ Sean “The Patriarchy” McEwan ☺ Alice “Feminist Apathy Network” McCollough ★ Nicholas “Gibb Brother Enthusiast” Monisse ☺ Nick “Millennial” Morlet ☺ James “Bigots for Brandis” Munt ☺ Kate ‘De-prend-able’ Predergast ☺ ★ Kieran “G As Hell” Rayney ☺ Yashi “denwa bango wa” Renoir ★ Tom “Smelly Kid” Rossiter ☺ Caz “No Frills Fun” Stafford ☺ Michael “Trownton Abbey” Trown ☺ ★ Camden “Nice Guy” Watts ★ Dan “Bio-technologically Superior” Werndly ☺ Kenneth “Eat, Pray, Love” Woo ☺
Picture by Michael Trown
COVER IMAGE Kate Prendergast
★ = artwork ☺ = writing
SAY IT LOUD (WE’RE PELICAN AND WE’RE PROUD!) Are you looking to get up, get into it, (and/or) get involved? Think too many people are talkin’ loud and sayin’ nothing? Think Pelican is super bad? Well, it’s a new day and Pelican are looking for writers, artists and sex machines to help make Pelican and make it funky. You can get in contact with Pelican through our Facebook page, through our email at pelican@ guild.uwa.edu.au, or you can come and find us on the 1st Floor of the Guild Building. Get up offa that thing and get on down to our next Writers Night, held in the Guild Council Meeting Room, for pizza and overwhelming love and appreciate for James Brown. Ain’t it funky now!
PELIWHOOPS Pelican apologises a thousand times over to Nick Ballantyne, whose article in ed. 2 was credited to Nick Thompson. Mr Thompson, we’ve never met, but if you’re out there, you should be deeply honoured. The article was an excellent expose of music sharing software. Nick, we love you. DISCLAIMER: The views expressed within are not the views of the UWA Student Guild or the Pelican editorial staff.
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Continuing my theme of relating Pelican themes with popular computer games, Pride and Prejudice was a difficult one. Relating a novel written by some lady long ago about a main character who deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of early 19th-century England, is more than a bit challenging but here goes. Let’s look at pride, referring to an inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments. If there is any game where one feels accomplished it is that of Call of Duty. Just staying alive for more than 10 seconds without taking a grenade to the body or a sniper bullet to the face brings upon the elation of success. An even though it may not follow the exact story line of the original it certainly does explore the issues of manners or lack thereof in the online gaming community. This leads well into prejudice referring to prejudgment, or forming an opinion before becoming aware of the relevant facts of a case. If there is a game where there is a distinct level of prejudice it is Call of Duty or any online game. DON’T BE RUSSIAN! Having a Russian name for a while online only gets you abuse! DON’T PLAY IF YOU ARE A NOOB! If you have the chance to make a mistake, don’t because all hell will break loose. Now like all things, take what I write with a grain of salt. The online community and Call of Duty has its good and bad sides just like real life, but being quick to judge is never a good option and only gets one in trouble. Encouraging the small wins is life will make you and those around you a much happier person.
I did English Lit in high school. Shocking, I know. An editor who liked reading and talking about books! Preposterous! Yet, it seemed to me like this was something of an abnormality at the time, because I was one of only two males in a class of 18. I’m not exactly sure what the cause of this drought of boys who like books was, or whether or not this was just a statistical anomaly at my high school. But it did make for an interesting dynamic in class discussions. This was most evident when we studied Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. There was a great affection for the book and love for Austen amongst my classmates, and deservedly so. It’s a very good book in my opinion. But when I ventured to say that perhaps it was somewhat overrated, and certainly not ‘THE BEST BOOK OF ALL TIME’ as many seemed to vehemently insist, I was immediately slammed by my peers. Inevitably, the main retort to my objection was that I didn’t get it because I was a guy. From that point on, my classmates never let an opportunity to heap shame on my ‘hatred’ for Austen and her works. Of course, I should mention that in my teenage years I was a notorious provocateur and general shit-stirrer, desperate to argue any point, joyfully taking pleasure in pushing buttons and watching opponents abandon civility and sometimes logic in order to ‘win’ the debate. This probably explains why I loved English Lit so much. So it may have just been that I was getting (deserved) payback from my classmates – there was no retort or riposte I could muster that could break through my inability to comprehend the book’s greatness because of my gender. Of course, this is a very tongue-in-cheek story, but it was a useful learning experience. Being a middle-class, university educated, straight white male, I have absolutely no credibility when it comes to enduring discrimination and prejudice. We all have our prejudices, and it’s our responsibility to identify and consider them. Within the pages of this issue are some reflections on prejudice in many (but certainly not all) of its forms. I hope you enjoy reading and reflecting on these pieces as much as we have collecting them.
After a particularly gruelling Prosh all-nighter, I picked up a copy of Mansfield Park for comfort reading. Maybe it was just the sleep deprivation, but that first page seemed wildly, cynically funny. Only seven thousand pounds! At least three thousand short of an equitable claim on a baronet! Austen gets it. Then, a few pages in, I woozily realised I’d gotten the wrong bus, stumbled off at an unfamiliar stop, and walked into a ticket machine. In the harsh light of an afternoon hangover, I realised that it’s really not funny at all. No amount of ironic distance changes the fact that these women are trapped in an elaborate matrix of propriety that denies them their fundamental right to bad amateur theatrics, let alone political representation or property rights. Could be worse, though. Could be working in a flour mill or a sweatshop. Or worser - on generous benefactor Thomas Bertram’s Antiguan slave plantation. Jesus, Regency England is a dark place. Contemporary Australia isn’t exactly a breeze for many marginalised and underrepresented people, but as long as you’re not in a detention centre, people generally aren’t treated as chattels, and you have some access to basic political freedoms. I guess whether or not circumstances do change, it’s important to remember that it is possible to change them, and that no matter how rigid the status quo appears (or how attractive the baronet’s younger son), it’s worth figuring out where the touch ups need to happen. In a dazzlingly subtle segue, I’d like to draw attention to a timely example of complete, self-aware turnaround. Although in recent years Prosh has garnered a reputation for low blows and dick humour, 2014 turned a trend on its head and produced a paper absolutely in sync with what the magazine should have - not so long ago was - about. Genuinely funny, intelligent, and inclusive, this year’s paper was a product everyone could feel great about (and even greater hawking for charity). Kudos guys, you done good.
PELICAN ADVICE CORNER About a month ago Pelican Magazine wrote me to say that they greatly admired me and if it wasn’t too much trouble would I answer some questions for their readers. I thought about it and read the questions they sent and was writing them yes and then Gertrude Stein said, it does not look to me as if you are ever going to answer those questions. And I said, no Gertrude I do believe I am. But Gertrude Stein who is one of the three true geniuses I have had the great fortune to meet, the others being Matisse and Picasso, said, you know what I am going to do. I am going to write it for you. And I said but Gertrude. And she said, I am going to write it as simply as Defoe did about Robinson Crusoe. And I said, O.K. but I get to sit at the big table and talk to the painters tonight. And Gertrude Stein said, I’ll think about it. And she answered the questions and these are them. Heyyyyyy Alice, I heard you can make a wick hash brownie. What’s your recipe? Blaise, South Fremantle I do like to cook and do all the homely wifely things that Gertrude Stein doesn’t do. That is not to say that Gertrude Stein can’t do those things, she can but she doesn’t have the time as she is always so busy with her writing and talking to important people and looking at paintings. Before we met she used to do those things all the time just because, she was very good at easy mac and sometimes very substantial meals like mi goreng with ketchup and salt. Once she did a very nice and surprising thing for me which was to make some coffee and some toast with butter that wasn’t burnt at all and gave it to me when I had been spending a lot of time buying hats with Olga, she really showed me then that she did care for me and was a helpful and kind friend to me. When I cook for Gertrude Stein it is so nice, I can feel like I am repaying her a little for all her kindnesses to me. I especially like to make her favourite meal which is veal fillet with roast vegetables and a little ratatouille bake because she is so pleased. Sometimes I make cakes with cannabis in them, all the painters tell Gertrude Stein they are very good.
All my friends from high school started Engineering this year, and I started Arts. Now, every time I try and hang out with them I feel more and more left out. I don’t really like anyone in my classes and I’m not sure I even want to study for this degree. Is it worth changing course for my friends? Is there hope for us?
I really want to go on exchange to France next year, but my parents won’t pay up. How do I convince them that funding my trip would be a vital investment in my future?
Myrtle, Kardinya When I moved to Paris from my home San Francisco I was so worried, I knew no one and could not see the smiling faces of my friends and family. Then I met Gertrude Stein and I met Gertrude Stein’s friends, who were all dreadfully clever. But only Picasso was as clever as Gertrude Stein with Matisse coming a close third. I liked them all so much and was so glad, I could never want for anything else or miss any of my mediocre friends from home. One day I said I would like to find out how my family were, and how big is Mary’s baby now? He must be three. I said I thought I might like to go home and pay them all a visit. But Gertrude Stein said, no you cannot go home. This is your home now. You have left them all forever. And I said but Gertrude I am sure you are not serious. And Gertrude Stein said I don’t want you to go. They could never love you like I love you, and also I need you here, and sometimes I get to thinking that maybe you aren’t serious about this relationship. That is just like you Alice, to leave me like you left your friends and family. I am sure they hate you now. I am sure that I would hate you were I not so goodhearted. And I said, thank you Gertrude for preventing me from what must be a heartbreak to me. And Gertrude Stein said, no problem. And at the time I was sad, but I knew in my heart she was right.
Pre-Law, Nedlands Paris is where all the artists go but more than that like most nations France has a character and Paris has a character too. America has a character too as Gertrude Stein is always saying, all nations have characters she says and where Paris is refined and pasteurised America is crumbly and gluten free. As for Nedlands I am sure it too has a character but I do not care for Australia which is almost as far away as Africa or Asia which are not continents much to Gertrude Stein’s liking, and so I do not care to know what your life in Nedlands is like. I can tell you that Gertrude Stein would say you should always travel especially on your parents money and if you can use your parents money to buy artworks which is the most important reason to leave your home town. Do they sell artwork in your part of the world I wonder. As it is so far from Europe I guess now it does not.
EQUALITY, FRATERNITY, NEOLIBERTY by Somayya Ismalijee Critics of the Racial Discrimination Act love freedom. Andrew Bolt loves freedom. The government loves freedom. In fact, apparently the only people in Australia who don’t love freedom are those pesky ethnic minorities demanding some basic protections against the societal prejudice that impacts them every day of their life. In the laughable scenario that the government would have us believe, Australia is supposedly in the throes of a battle to liberate those historically oppressed rich white men from the shackles of repression at the hands of the ethnic minorities who wield power at every level of Australian society. But when Attorney-General George Brandis recently stood in parliament’s hallowed chambers to bravely defend everyone’s “right to be a bigot”, all he did was bring out an imaginary dragon to slay. The reality is that the so-called “debate” on free speech and the Racial Discrimination Act is built upon such a tower of mistruths, misinformation, and frankly, mythology, that it desperately needs to be shaken at its foundations and exposed for the fraud that it is, because, if you look closely, it’s actually a false dilemma. Suppressed by the phony battlecries of those masquerading as freedom-fighters is the fact that if our society was interested in acknowledging what racism actually is, we’d see that free speech and basic protections for the oppressed can really coexist quite fine, and in fact, that they’ve really never been at odds. As the government is attempting to obfuscate, the plan to repeal the RDA has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with pandering to key right-wing cheerleaders, protecting privilege, and the role of racist prejudice in the neoliberal state.
The government’s farcical “debate” over repealing the RDA rests upon the flagrant lie that racism is even a free speech issue to begin with. Everything about the government and right-wing elites’ campaign to carve up the Act has revolved around trivializing racism as a mere matter of words. In the privileged existences of those who dictate such national debates, racism is just something that other people complain about. Forget the minorities who do not have the luxury of such an existence. To recognise racism as a centuries-old structure of oppression that manifests in all levels of society against everyone “otherised” in a white supremacist society would mean having to acknowledge complicity in it. And once you acknowledge racism as a whole system of violence extending far beyond words, there are few things you can call upon to justify it. Not even Libertarian poster boy John Stuart Mill is on your freedom-loving side (see the harm principle). This is why the government, with the usual mouthpieces for privilege in society have had to concoct a false dichotomy. A bogus situation where their rights are being trampled on by repressive laws to protect the thin-skinned from offense. It’s hard to imagine that the drive to repeal the RDA would have even come about without the trial of the notorious conservative News Ltd columnist and loudest Abbott government cheerleader, Andrew Bolt, who was successfully prosecuted in 2011 under section 18c of the Act for his twisted obsession with trying to “expose” prominent Indigenous people in his articles as “faking” Aboriginality for benefits. Having to face accountability for peddling falsehoods to vilify a whole group of people came as a shock to poor Andrew who had successfully made a whole career out of it til then (and on). The right-wing elite never let it go, with the influential Institute
of Public Affairs (IPA) adding the repeal of the Act to their list of demands for the Abbott government, and now, here we are. Aside from powerful right-wing ideologues, there is another core constituency that the Liberals (and Labor) have worked hard for many years to capture the hearts of: the bigots. When Brandis stood up to bat for the “right” to be a bigot, he knew he was affirming exactly what a notinsignificant section of the population wanted to hear: that being bigoted is a rightful exercise of their freedom. Racism is both a product and a powerful tool in the neoliberalisation of states such as Australia. Private security contracting giants are raking in billions from the mass incarceration of marginalized and demonized groups such as asylum seekers and Indigenous people here. This has been the neoliberal order of the day worldwide: the effect and perpetuation of systemic racism. Similarly, racism has been used to get buy-in for other lucrative ventures for oligarchs. Preceding the illegal invasion of Iraq for oil was virulent fear mongering around Muslims (the Islam-isn’t-a-race brigade should see the countless Sikhs attacked for “looking Muslim”). In 2007, the Howard government suspended the RDA to invade Indigenous communities in the NT in a land-grab attempt for mining companies who had their eyes on the region’s resources. Axing the Act altogether could open the way for any kind of profit seeking affecting specific groups. In short, for all their pontificating about freedom, the government’s campaign to axe the RDA has been an imaginary war to push through an agenda about anything but, and the message to minorities has been clear: know your place. Our “freedom” matters more than your protection. We decide what racism is, and we decide how you must deal with it.
BIOTECHNICALITIES by Dan Werndly Biotech is my hero. He takes on many forms across the globe but his intent is always to help people. Without him you wouldn’t be able to enjoy your morning coffee, take a bite out of your vegemite and cheese sandwich or even enjoy a cold one down at the pub on a Sunday night. But along with many of his superhero compatriots, he has fallen under an enormous amount of scrutiny for his actions from multiple parties worldwide because of the way he works. Biotech’s superpower is his ability to alter the genetic code of an organism for mutual benefit, and he uses this in a multitude of ways worldwide. Biotechnology has been used since the beginning of relatively modern humanity, back to the time when humans were only first starting to huddle together in small settlements. Way back then, biotechnology was used to domesticate wild animals and turn them into useful and loveable companions like cats, dogs and the great plethora of barnyard creatures we have today, a few thousand years after that the best crops from the wild were chosen and grown into the varieties of rice, wheat and corn that are the staples of the world’s food supply. It would be hard to make a meal today or even choose an outfit without using a product that has been altered with biotechnology. More recently, biotechnology has been implemented in medical sciences, with the first major medical accomplishment being the production of human insulin from transgenic bacteria in 1978. Insulin for diabetics was once harvested from pigs, sheep, and cows but as it varied slightly from humanly produced insulin, people would have allergic reactions and rejection issues. This use of biotechnology was met with little if any resistance, as it didn’t involve much human input. The genes for insulin production weren’t altered in any way and were really just spliced into place along with and activator so the production of the insulin could be controlled. Although this therapeutic biotechnology does control the symptoms and limit the long term effects of the disease, it doesn’t remedy the source.
Gene therapy has the potential to remedy all gene based diseases in the human genome and it may even have the ability to prevent the disease from being passed on to children by their parents. Gene therapy involves swapping selected pieces of DNA with other prepared segments. It works because similar pieces of DNA attract one another due to their overall chemical charges, and if the correct enzyme is added into the environment the unwanted piece of DNA can be removed and the desired piece can take its place. If this is done right, the desired DNA segment will simply replace the old one without impacting the rest of the DNA strand. Researchers have been able to do this using viral vectors, as viruses reproduce by inserting their genome into a cell’s in order to get the cell to create more copies of the virus. It’s therefore just a matter of replacing the viral DNA with the desired DNA segment. This does carry some risks, the DNA segment can be incorporated into the wrong part of the DNA strand or it may be spliced in without removing the unwanted piece.
LOVEABLE COMPANIONS LIKE CATS, DOGS AND THE GREAT PLETHORA OF BARNYARD CREATURES WE HAVE TODAY Gene therapy has already been able to help people. The most promising evidence is its ability to stop and even reverse some of the symptoms of cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is caused by a recessive mutation
in a gene that regulates salt passage in and out of skin cells, that means that two copies of the gene (one for each chromosome) are needed for the symptoms to appear. If the gene is only present on one of the chromosomes, the person will be a carrier of the disease with the potential to pass it on to their children. The application for gene therapy here is obvious and clear cut. A single gene, cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) is the cause of all the problems and the gene has already been isolated. So we know where it is, we know how to cure it, but why are thousands of people needlessly dying? It’s because research into gene therapy is wrapped in a whole lot of red tape and requires licenses, an intergovernmental review, and public approval. In Australia, the fate of a clinical trial falls into the hands of one person, the Gene Technology Regulator, so the approval or disapproval process becomes one heavily steeped in bias. This elongated and almost impossible process forces people to travel overseas in order to receive treatment, in countries with laxer health and safety guidelines. There have been complications with these proceedures in the pastduring a project attempting to restore sight using stem cells, there were reports of bone fragments growing inside patients’ eyes. But despite these risks, gene therapy is a vastly untapped resource of regenerative and restorative medicine with the potential to greatly increase the quality of life for people with paralyses or practically any bodily ailment. In my view, the groups who are against gene therapy are afraid we’re over-reaching our boundaries as humans, but what is progress if not over-reaching? Where would we be today if someone hadn’t dreamed of being warm in the winter or flying like a bird, and for those who say gene therapy works contrary to evolution. Doesn’t it make sense that the people who are intelligent enough to alter their DNA to survive are viable to pass it on to the next generation. Biotech is my hero. I wouldn’t be alive without him.
A GAME OF TONEZ
I think it’s fair to say that this is getting downright ridiculous. Knighthoods? I mean, really? When I first heard of the resurrection of the Australian honours system I honestly thought it was a joke. Without a doubt, the system is brilliant for the development of our national image, and of course for the people deserving of these awards, but are there not bigger issues to be contemplating, Tony? More importantly, doesn’t this decision change the whole structure of Australia, taking us back to a time of monarchy and… jousting? Couldn’t we, as members of contemporary Australian society suggest a more advanced and inclusive alternative? In the fabulously multicultural era we live in today, shouldn’t there be an option which values the traditions and the importance of our incredibly diverse range of cultures? Undoubtedly, being honoured as an extraordinary and pre-eminent member of any society is something to be proud of, and is an act that should occur regardless of national circumstances. The people who have given up their lives to serve for Australia should be recognised for their triumphs. So why is the average Australian mocking the cause? Is our prejudice merely jealousy? Or is it possible that we feel there is no need to separate the honourable from the average? Perhaps we are in need of a system that doesn’t imply that the majority of citizens are not worthy, simply by rewarding the small minority of the honourable. Maybe it’s merely the perception of eminence in Australia which needs altering, and not just the honours system. At the beginning of the year, it could have been argued that the aim of Australia was to unite people of all different backgrounds. However, at this moment in time, the reintroduction of the honours system proves that even the smallest change can disrupt an entire social system. With only four lucky victors to be awarded with a title each year, the average Australian is now able to visibly comprehend the hierarchal structure which stands before us, and realise that our reasonably egalitarian society is merely
an illusion. This realisation, alongside the recommencement of appointing knights and dames, forces many of us to question the Prime Minister’s commitment to the care of all Australians. This decision clearly does not benefit every hard working citizen, and thus seems extraordinarily out of place in our advanced era. Hence, it appears rational to ask, what is the point of resurrecting a practice that has been dead since the twentieth century? Has Tony lost the plot? It’s easy to imagine him sitting in bed at night, his eyes gazing up at Game of Thrones playing on television. As Tony watches, he ponders his own significance, contemplating how he could prove his capabilities to the globe. The various financial and environmental issues encompassing Australian politics are perhaps too difficult to solve overnight, and boats and sharks are so far gone now to even consider the possibility of repair. Suddenly, the answer materialises right before his eyes. Jaime Lannister appears on screen, grasping his sword with all his mightiness. A bulb lights up above Tony’s head. “Knights!” he squeals as he grabs his silk robe, jumps on his finest steed, and gallops to the nearest carrier pigeon to consult Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The case of this event ever occurring might have seemed a little peculiar a few months ago, but with the revolutionary reintroduction of the Australian honours system, who knows what could’ve happened? The revival of knights and dames might just be a sign that media and television have sunk so profoundly into the heart of our culture that fantasy has become unconsciously embedded in even important political decisions. Or perhaps unprogressive really is the new black. Could Tony be advocating the next phase of vintage? Forget vinyl records, I’m becoming a knight. If this really is the case, why all the fuss? This could mean being one step closer our childhood dreams of becoming Disney royalty. Who knows? Maybe Lorde was wrong. Maybe it really does run in our blood. Even with the importance of tradition held high within our present media focused
society, it is indisputably vivid that the decision to reintroduce the honours system reeks of anachronism. How is Australia going to become a transformed, influential, and pre-emptive nation whilst resting on underlining monarchical values? Prominent contributors to Australian society will never be truly valued until the awards process is altered from its archaic form. The Australian honours system will never be taken seriously until it recognises everybody’s role in our diverse nation. Knighthood will only ever be taken seriously in the fantasy realms in which it belongs, and Australia is no match for Westeros. But more importantly, Tony will never be taken seriously until he proves his significance by focusing on the critical issues which Australia is encountering now. Only one thing is for sure: season four is upon us. Brace yourselves. Winter Is Coming.
Picture by Kate Prendergast
by Molly Harris
GINGER BALLS, GINGER GENES I like to think of myself as a kind of champion of equality. I feel like people in all circumstances deserve egalitarian treatment, so when I found out that something which made me who I am gave me a significant disadvantage in a particular area, I felt angry. I felt like something was seriously wrong. I am a ginger, a bloodnut, fantapants, a ranga, goldilocks, bluey, whatever you want to call me. That’s who I am. And, gosh darn, if I want to donate sperm I should be able to. I heard a few years ago that ginger (as I will refer to those with naturally occurring orange or red-colored hair henceforth in this article) sperm is less desired by sperm banks. And now, I finally have the opportunity to put on my investigative journalism hat. Searching on Google, I found a site representing Sperm Donors Australia. Unfortunately there were no offices in Perth, though there were two in Brisbane. Perhaps the men over there are more virile. I could only find one sperm donor location in Perth, which was an IVF facility. Being the curious individual I am, I decided to get a closer look. When I rocked up to their clinic in Subiaco, it was all very nicely decorated – all smiling parents and cute babies. But I had no time for that and was in no such mood to indulge in the pretty pictures. I asked the receptionist about sperm donation and she said there was a long waiting time. Swallowing my disappointment - I fully intended to ejaculate into a cup in the name of Pelican - I said that I was more interested specifically in their policies regarding sperm donation by “my people.” Perhaps my word choice was a little poor because she didn’t seem to understand what I meant. I pointed to my hair and she got it. Unfortunately she said that she was unable to disclose information on sperm donation receivers’ choices, even if she had them. She did however remark that she had no knowledge of gingers being less in demand in Perth. My avenues of information seeking in the Perth scene of sperm donation exhausted, I returned home, dejected. While I wasn’t
able to find any cold hard statistics on the desirability of ginger sperm donation in Perth, I was able to critique international results. My interest in this story began with an article published by The Telegraph in 2011 (written by the perfectly named Richard Orange), which detailed the decision by the world’s largest sperm bank Cyros to stop accepting sperm donations from ginger customers. He remarked, “I do not think you choose a redhead, unless the partner - for example, the sterile male - has red hair, or because the lone woman has a preference for redheads. And that’s perhaps not so many, especially in the latter case.” So prospective mothers are much less likely to want a ginger child – I suppose this makes sense. As a ginger, perhaps having a brownhaired child would be a little strange to me, but I would certainly not be opposed to it. As a hair colour, ginger is the only one to be selected and ridiculed. So why is this? What makes us less desirable and more easily ‘othered’? The concept of the ‘other’ is one that helps to explain racism and prejudice based on skin colour and culture, but being prejudiced against gingers based on their hair colour isn’t tantamount to racism, is it? Well according to 72% of those polled on www.gingerism.com, it is! Supermodel Lily Cole, herself a ginger, also believes that it is a form of discrimination on par with racism, but the difference is that there is no stigma around it, so there is no reason for bullies not to target gingers. A fair point? Perhaps. I have never been refused a job based on my hair colour and I am sure you would not be able to find anyone who has, but I feel like I have been treated differently. At times it’s made it harder to make friends, and there was always the occasional incident of looking up on the train or the bus to see someone sniggering into their coat with their friend whilst looking at
me. My experiences in school did not prepare me for the ridicules and taunts I received after school. My hair colour was never something to be ashamed of during my schooling. However by the end of my first year at university I wanted to dye my hair forever. I wanted to fit in more than anything. It took a long conversation with my mother to sort that out. Sure, maybe some people give us a pretty bad rap (YouTube user CopperCap springs to mind as a pretty bad spokesperson for ginger rights), but outside YouTube vloggers with undiagnosed learning disabilities, is there really a reason to discriminate? Are we so different? I daresay not. But for as long as an ‘other’ exists, those with the dominant physical features of society, particularly Australia, with our prevalence of brown and black hair, will naturally and instinctively seek out a minority to single out and exclude. Such is the way of the world. Watch the video clip for ‘Born Free’ by M.I.A.
Picture by Kate Prendergast
by Brad Griffin
TAKING PRIDE IN YOUR APPEARANCE by Eleanor Bruyn Many of us feel self-conscious about our bodies and what tends to drive our dissatisfaction in our appearance is our inability to measure up to the portrayal of beauty in society. This ‘beauty ideal’ is intrinsically unattainable and yet many still strive for it. Marketing for beauty products and aesthetic surgery continues, fuelling a society obsessed with beauty. Cosmetic procedures are expensive and so as their popularity has grown, so too has the availability and volume of cheaper imitation products. These do-it-yourself ‘bootleg-versions’ aren’t monitored and so they can be unsterile and contain ingredients at toxic levels. These products are a real gamble and can result in severe health consequences. There is no way of knowing whether they contain the correct ingredients in their pure form or at the right concentrations, but some people are so determined to look ‘attractive’ that they accept these high risks. Dermal fillers and Botulinum toxin injections (Botox) are among the most common and carry a multitude of associated risks. Dermal fillers involve the injection of materials under the skin to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, lines and to add volume to areas like the lips and cheeks, whilst Botulinum is used to relax the muscles of the face and reduce wrinkles. Botox injections are made from the Botulinum toxin type A which can cause both paralysis and fatality. In 2004, a doctor from Florida used an imitation product on himself and three other people. Following the treatment, the doctor and his patients were rushed to emergency and suffered varying degrees of paralysis. His girlfriend experienced paralysis of both the lungs and muscles so that she was unable to move, speak, or breathe,,spending 7 months in hospital on a ventilator. The idea of injecting myself in the face with risky products is terrifying and not surprisingly The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery has warned consumers to avoid doing it yourself ‘at all costs’. As well as the high risks of infection, paralysis, drooping of the
face and poisoning you have to be very careful where you inject the toxin or filler. Specialists spend years learning where the nerves, arteries and muscles of the face are and no amount of YouTube How-Tos are going to substitute this training and yet people are still game enough to give it a go.
INTRINSICALLY UNATTAINABLE AND YET MANY STILL STRIVE FOR IT The pressure to look attractive is ridiculous and is resulting in people risking disfigurement and fatality by using these products. Representations of beautiful people dominate advertising and the media but looking like them isn’t a realistic expectation to have because they too aren’t perfect and rely on makeup and airbrushing to enhance their appearance. Whilst surgery or cosmetic procedures may satisfy some consumers, it can also end in disappointment. The results of these procedures can vary hugely from person to person and may produce little to no noticeable improvement, but even this is far better than disfigurement. People driven to cosmetic procedures by mental illness and severe body issues may not even end up any better off. If the results are positive then they may just transfer their attention and insecurities to another area of the body. This can result in addiction to cosmetic surgery and the idea that everything has to be enhanced, which creates a vicious cycle. The beauty industry is big business and relies on this kind of addiction, even if it’s not to cosmetic surgery. You keep going back to get your nails done and have your roots touched up in the same way that some women may continually engage in cosmetic procedures.
Whilst it’s encouraged by a culturally constructed image of beauty and undoubtedly feeds on female insecurity, there can be other reasons for self enhancement and it may be a positive experience. Some people, especially those with noticeable abnormalities can end up feeling far more confident and comfortable in their own skin after surgery. Whilst the procedure hasn’t fixed a functional problem, eliminating a large birthmark or dark scar for example can allow people to feel as if they ‘fit in’. Women who’ve undergone breast augmentation or liposuction can also feel better about themselves and more confident in their own skin.
“DO-IT-YOURSELF ‘BOOTLEGVERSIONS’” There’s nothing wrong with cosmetic surgery (done safely) or taking a certain pride in your appearance but it’s easy to have unrealistic expectations of the results and go too far trying to look absolutely ‘perfect’. The dangers of counterfeit cosmetic kits should be more strongly communicated to people and really there should be less pressure to use them in the first place. Unachievable ideals shouldn’t be marketed so strongly at people because it’s causing some to seriously risk their health. Having flaws and getting wrinkles as you age is normal and it’s something that we should be comfortable with. Imperfections are inevitable aspects of life and so it’s not healthy to treat them as optional.
BETTER RED THAN DEAD /u/Tiny_Kitt3n wants to know why women are incapable of love, and yes, she’s done the suggested reading. “Maybe this is solipsistic of me (I am a woman),” she writes, “but I feel I have personally experienced loving a man and if one woman has done it, doesn’t that mean it’s possible?” She’s posting, presumably sincerely, to /r/ TheRedPill, one of the thousands of forums (“subreddits”) hosted by Reddit - an enormously popular, mostly anonymous, mostly uncensored linksharing website. TheRedPill has several answers for her, and they all whittle down to buzzwords: hypergamy, hamstering, alphas and betas, oneitis. What those buzzwords in turn whittle down to is something more pervasive and disturbing than the Boys’ Own newspeak would suggest. Red Pill philosophy, which extends beyond Reddit to a multinational network of writers and vloggers, is rooted in a gender essentialism that leads not to pity or contempt, but rage. Maybe I’m drawn to these dark corners of the internet out of sociological fascination or for the self-righteous kick. Perhaps, like Tiny_Kitt3n, it’s out of a perverse need to be told exactly why, as a woman, I’m awful. Whatever the cause, something keeps driving me back to the Red Pill. After graduating from PUA forum lurking, I’ve found myself trawling through this bitter misogynist shit for months, and it’s difficult to articulate why. Red Pillers, as part of a broader (you couldn’t make this shit up) “Manosphere”, are heterosexual men who discuss and practice what is euphemistically called “sexual strategy”. The Manosphere extends to several, often elaborate, schools of thought: Pick Up Artistry, slightly dated, which teaches attention-grabbing techniques for club hookups; Men Going their Own Way, right wingers who feel any engagement with women is not worth their trouble; the tamer, faux-egalitarian Men’s Rights movement, which indentifes feminism as the cause of modern practices (American custody laws, circumcision, systems of rape prosecution) that disadvantage men. All of these hubs feed into one another, and, for three at least, the idea that women have biologically, irrevocably and implicitly inferior modes of thought is fundamental. Women, of course, are determined by very narrow biological guidelines - these men flat-out reject performativity, postmodernity, and non-binary gender identity.
As you might expect from something that reads like a college dorm bullshit session, the movement takes its central analogy and name from a science fiction film. The Red Pill, as pitched by major players (in all senses of the word) like RooshV and RationalMale, are the bitter truths you need to swallow before you can wake up to reality. Reality is pretty close to The Matrix’s machine-driven horrorscape: men are livestock, sapped of their natural masculinity by a feminising society that prefers them as spiritually castrated alimony farmers. It’s brutal, but once you accept that women are incapable of love and attracted to a stereotyped set of alpha traits (muscles, money, power), you can focus on a very rigid program of self-improvement. By becoming like every other musclebound, ruggedly individualist Red Piller, you’ve found your true self. Cue selfactualisation and rivers of pussy. In response to popular feminist and postfeminist shorthand - which has gone viral in the past few years and, to be fair, is often used indiscriminately - the Manosphere has set up its own distinctively Bro lingo, directed at both feminist institutions and women at large. Hamstering is a woman’s rationalisation process; hypergamy is their inevitable drive to “date up”; the wall is a Bridget Joneseque thirty-something’s panic. Men are categorised as alphas, betas and omegas; women get a number from 1-10. Any man who cries NAWALT (not all women are like that) is probably recovering from oneitis, or is hunting for the hypothetical perfect woman (a “unicorn” - even Red Pillers know the Eternal Feminine is wishful thinking). Whole swathes of social behaviour are stripped down to aphorisms - “alpha bux/beta fux”, “women are gatekeepers to sex, men are gatekeepers to relationships”. For writers who stress women’s “solipsism”, it’s funny (and horrifying) how insular and self-serving Red Pill communities can be. While there’s a very specific rundown of what attractiveness means, why it is all a woman can hope to provide a man, and when to justifiably reject them, men’s “involuntary celibacy” is turned outwards onto the women who deny “incels” sex. While women are all by default sluts, no sensible man would marry anyone who had at any point been promiscuous. A slutty woman would put out on the first or second date, but a manipulative one would make you wait five.
It’s worth asking how significant, if at all, an internet forum phenomenon can actually be. /r/TheRedPill boasts 45,000 followers at the time of writing . But when accounts can be created in less than five seconds, require no personal details save a reusable email address, and are often created by trolls, bots, or users with a gimmick, without page view information it’s hard to gague how much involvement there really is. What is clear is that it is not a joke the level of commitment bloggers, advertisers and commentators invest in Manosphere blogs defies any level of performance art - and that it does resonate with more men than would be comfortable. It also resonates with a lot of equity-focused internet critics, who are naturally alarmed by the more explicitly shit-stirring blog articles (“Five reasons you should date a girl with an eating disorder”; “Why women with short hair are damaged”). What is significant is how pervasive the foundational Red Pill myths are. They’ve codified centuries of traditional practice into a hyperRandian pseudoscience. Real men take what they want, regardless of other men’s needs; real men are powerful, and they deserve it through sheer force of will. Men need sexual variety; while women are willing to give it, nothing ruins a woman more than multiple partners. Most disturbingly is the suggestion that women have a default mental setting that sets them apart from men. Not only does this mean they can be hacked (most can - through thinly veiled emotional abuse), but that hackability leaves them undeserving of any real leadership and independence, as far as the bro coven are concerned.
Picture by Tamara Jennings
by Zoe Kilbourn
I’D LIKE TO BUY A BOOK. WITH PICTURES, PLEASE. by Kate Prendergast Alongside Saturday Disney cartoons and tireswing wars, picture books are the bees’ knees of childhood. You remember— you must, you were as impressionable as a kitten made of putty back then— you remember when almost every page was a visual wonderland? You remember The Wishing Tree? The Phantom Tollbooth? The Owl and the Pussycat, and how they dined on mince, and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon? It is not only impossible to divide the experience and memory of these books from their pictures. It is exquisitely impossible. Picture books, it can be grumbled, are the fleeting prerogative of the corrigible illiterate— such as we were back then in our fairy-bread days. But once we can read unassisted— our accretive intellect shunting us up into highergrade exile from Miss Lewis, never again to hear her sweet lisping of how the caterpillar gorged himself to beautiful explosive pupation, or how Willy Wonka systematically did away with child after beastly child in a confectionary kingdom of horrors— then the picture book is shut up. The text is purged of colour and variable form. Word and image suffer a terrible severance, which only deepens as we regress into adulthood.
I might as well point out now that when I say ‘picture books’ I don’t mean graphic novels. Whilst the latter have enjoyed a warming of the critical gaze after Spiegelman’s Maus and
Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan, illustrated fiction can only justify its existence as anachronism, irrelevance, indulgence or irony. Pictures serry in juvenile literature and gift-books, but are scarce on the pages elsewhere. Small populations also exist in pulps, Stephen King novels, vintage collections, and those modern arthouse books sold on the appeal of existential whimsy, and likely to come from some fey, make-believe country like Sweden.
became part of the cherished essence of books, accentuating their idiosyncrasies and imbuing them with layers of added meaning. When we tumble down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, becoming entangled in the story is just as much about Lewis’ prose as John Tenniel’s excitingly disturbing images, and the way in which all the characters have preternaturally large heads. And the soul’s whimper will always rise to a shriek when Poe’s tales of horror are allied with the ghoulishly ravishing black ink of Harry Clarke.
Adult fiction was not always so puritanically aloof. The 19th century contained what is known as the ‘Golden Age’ of book illustration, with Dickens credited as its harbinger and patriarch. His 1936 Pickwick Papers, with drawings done by the relatively obscure H.K. Browne (or ‘Phiz’ as he signed his works) popularized the illustrated serial format right up until 1970, with his contemporaries all rushing to emulate his success. Dickens went on to work with a whole bunch of other artists, from William Hogarth to George Cruikshank, hailing from backgrounds in traditional painting and cartooning alike. Collectively, they produced for him in excess of 900 original illustrations.
‘You will see that the little clicking contraption with the revolving handle will make a revolution in our life— in the life of writers. It is a direct attack on the old methods of literary art. We shall have to adapt ourselves to the shadowy screen and to the cold machine. A new form of writing will be necessary. I have thought of that and I can feel what is coming’.
Profitability can lend cultural credence to pretty much anything, and illustration went from being seen as a superfluous accompaniment to a respectable and commonplace art form. As Dickens biographer Jane Cohen notes, its success had a lot to do with the fact that images were pretty rare on the street back then. ‘Lacking television, movies, photographs, a regular illustrated press, and even a public art museum, the semiliterate audience keenly anticipated, relished and remembered what it was able to see’. The heaving demand threw up waves of prodigal talent, from Arthur Rackham’s black-filigreed, luminescent paintings to the delightful cheek of Edward Lear. Pictures
As the new century approached however, the value of illustration began a fatal degeneration. There were several forces militating against it, but the advent of cinema is perhaps the most significant. Many writers were deeply worried and suspicious of cinema’s ‘hoodwinking’ of the hoi polloi. They felt threatened by the new form, and spurned the image in fear and contempt. Tolstoy’s morbid prediction is typical, made not long before his death:
This deep substrate of existential anxiety in authors was where the ‘word/image’ wars began, and where— as ever— pride and prejudice went glove in claw. Occupying different spheres of representation, and having different semiotic systems, the two were seen as diametrically opposed, and incapable of reconciliation. ‘Words and images are not merely different kinds of creatures,’ W.J.T. Mitchell has since declared. ‘They are antithetical kinds...The history of culture is in part a struggle for
dominance between pictorial and linguistic signs’. Alliances between the two were therefore either seen as either an act of fraternization, or worse, compromise. Like the crudity of excessive dialogue in film, pictures in novels disturbed the expressive power of the text— making them less ‘pure’. Their intrusion made it impossible for the book to realize itself in its Platonic ideal, dooming it to a shared life, and so, a half-life. In this sense, illustrations became to the paranoid author a metaphysical risk— distracting and detracting, corrupting and belittling, altogether botching the meaning that had been woven with such exquisite care into their creation.
is how much kerning there is between letters in the titles. It is a dull, sterile affair, as many modern things are, with expression of identity dismissed as a sign of vulgarity. The New York Times wrote on this depressing trend in cover art design last year. ‘For serious literature to pander to us with cosmetic allurements would be somehow tacky, uncool’ sighs Tim Krieder. ‘The more important a book is, the less likely there is to be anything at all on its cover’. All in all, the word/image divide has the feel of a Romeo and Juliet-style tragedy. They were made to love one another; they know how to hit it off in style. But they are told they must be enemies because of the silly bigotries of those who care for them.
More than anything (except perhaps an unwillingness to share power and legacy), 20th century writers are touchy about illustrations very claim to existence. Their inclusion is an affront to literature’s power of evocation. They insinuate a writerly lack. Author Henry James belonged very much to this camp of opinion, rounding on book illustration with ferocious pedantry. ‘The danger of pictures, of people and scenes’, he insisted, ‘is that anything that relieves responsible prose of the duty of being, while placed before us, good enough, interesting enough and, if the question be of picture, pictorial enough, above all in itself, does the worst of services, and may well inspire in the lover of literature certain lively questions as to the future of that institution.’ (No wonder he disliked images; his prose is so awfully barren of them. I mean, really).
It’s sad to think of how much writers, publishers, illustrators and readers are missing out on a good thing. Illustration has always been a difficult, thankless and underpaid job; but for Victorian illustrators it was also an important stepping stone and supplement to a successful career. What’s more, the collaboration between the two different kinds of artists means that each can help the other build their reputation and skill, whilst encouraging them to become more attuned and empathic to the mystery of the other medium.
Yet writers are jealously protective of their craft for the opposite reason too. Whilst they aspire for their prose to be as richly sensuous as a painting, they also embrace the inherent ambiguity of language, which makes inevitable all that they describe appear a little differently
in the mind of each individual. Images, in their sensory absolutism, present the risk of over-determination. For readers, Elizabeth Bennet’s ‘fine eyes’ and ‘light and pleasing figure’ will mean different things. There are, in consequence, a million Elizabeth Bennets. Some will have long ear-lobes, some will have short; some will have very fine buttocks, some will...well, probably all Elizabeth Bennets have very fine buttocks, but only according to each readers’ definition of ‘fine’. Yet everyone who has read Moomintroll will imagine exactly the same Moomin. For these reasons and more, illustrations have been driven out from adult fiction like a colony of lepers for more than a century. Even after Barthes sounded the death-knell of the author, the reader inherited his prickly pride: we too are insulted by the idea of illustrations. To us, they imply a less-than-potent imagination. In spite of our visual culture then, the illustration is still discriminated against as the refuge for dunces or the choice of the lazy. They’re kind of seen as the arbour chair of prose; the resting-spot for unsophisticated minds to ease their over-taxed attention; their sensibilities being too feeble to animate the deeper and more nuanced world contained within the text. It’s even possible to see the prejudice against illustration bleeding outward onto book covers too. Walk into a bookstore today, and you’ll be met with what looks like a precocious colour chart, where the extent of design innovation
So, to all our literary arrogance against illustrated adult fiction: humbug! Let the false war between words and images end. Like Alice said: ‘What is the use of a book without pictures?’
RISKY BUSINESS The public debate for drug legalization is predominantly focused on weed. In a way, marijuana is the lowest hanging fruit; it is seemingly the least dangerous of the recreational drugs in popular use around the world, it has demonstrated medical uses, and a sustained political movement that’s been building in strength for decades. On May 28th 2013, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed two bills that made Colorado the world’s first legal recreational cannabis market for adults, with Washington following not long after. A the end of 2013 Uruguay became the first nation state to legalize, although the market will be strictly controlled by the government and sales restricted to citizens. While it’s hard to imagine Australia legalizing cannabis any time soon, it’s obvious that public opinion is changing all over the world, albeit at a snail’s pace. There are plenty of reasons why cannabis should be legalised and thankfully these reasons are increasingly being voiced in public. But it’s important to remember that many of these reasons apply to other recreational drugs as well, and that we need to educate people on the real risks involved in taking recreational drugs if we want to reduce the damage many of them are capable of. In 2007, British Professor David Nutt published a scientific paper that attempted to rank 20 recreational drugs in order of harmfulness. Most interesting to the media at the time was that Nutt and his team had ranked alcohol higher than several illegal drugs such as cannabis, MDMA and LSD. At the time, Nutt was chair of the Advisory Council of the Misuse of Drugs, a British advisory group established by the government in the 70s to recommend how drugs should be legally classified. While he received a lot of public scrutiny for his paper at the time, it wasn’t until 2009, when he published an editorial in the Journal of Psychopharmacology comparing the harms caused by ecstasy to those of horseriding, that he was fired from the ACMD. In particular, he demonstrated that one person is seriously injured every 10,000th pill of ecstasy taken, while for horse riding it is
every 350th ride. His editorial was intended to make the point that criminalising risky behaviour is only one way to reduce harm, and not always the appropriate way. Humans are naturally going to take risks in the pursuit of physical and mental rewards.The important goal is minimising the risks, not just punishing those who seek them. For many people, illegal recreational drugs are seen as not only harmful, but immoral. The specifics of exactly how they are harmful is irrelevant because no-one should be using them in the first place. Alcohol and coffee can not be compared to illegal drugs because they exist in a completely separate category of the mind. This leads to drug policy that attempts to simply reduce the use of illegal drugs rather than limit the harm that is caused by all drugs, including alcohol. This is problematic because the government likely has only a small impact on whether people try drugs in the first place, it’s largely social and cultural trends. Government initiatives like the US’s DARE program teach children that smoking a joint will turn them into psychotic murderers, while alcohol is safe as long as it’s used responsibly. When education programs are built on these kinds of lies it doesn’t matter that mixed in with the bullshit are legitimate health warnings. When children realise they’ve been lied to, they disregard the source entirely. When the government lies to its citizens about drugs, especially children, it reduces drug usage by a small amount but increases harm overall. As David Nutt explains in his latest book ‘Drugs without the hot air’: “The more that government officials exaggerate the harmfulness of recreational drugs, the less credibility the have to the teenagers binge drinking themselves into comas every day”.
Most people enjoy using recreational drugs like alcohol and caffeine, as well as many more that are not currently legal. While most cultures that have existed in human history have used plants and other substances to alter their consciousness, individuals were only exposed to what could be found nearby. This meant that cultures had generations to use and understand the mind altering drugs that were available. Now that we live in a connected world, as well as one where chemistry has increased the potency of existing drugs and created new ones, drugs are both more useful and more dangerous. Rather than attempt to demonize the users of illicit substances, we need to teach ourselves and our children the effects and the harms of all drugs. We also need to stop putting people in jail for engaging in risky behaviour, and instead we should do everything we can to make the risks as small as possible.
Picture by Ayeesha Fredrickson
by Tom Hutchinson
BREADJUDICE: The politics of diet and the gospel of good food When we turn on the TV (if anyone still uses those…) we are assaulted by an overwhelming wave of unsubtle messages: yoghurts to cure your wobbly stomach, cereals to loosen your jeans waistband and gym commercials to tone those sexy thighs. When we walk outside and see someone that is overweight or obese, these powerful images flare up in our mind. It is hard not to think, why didn’t they buy the yoghurt? Why not schedule in another trip to the gym? Obesity, in contemporary western culture, is seen as an overwhelmingly personal issue; a simple matter of individual self-control and personal responsibility. What we don’t see is that food and the social judgments which come along with it have a long, sordid and deeply political history. A slice of bread, at first glance, isn’t a particularly politically loaded subject. When you look deeper, however, you uncover a long history of racial politics and classism. From Lenin’s promise of “Peace, Land and Bread” to the “Bread Riots” leading up to the French Revolution, bread has a powerful political history. In both Lenin’s April Thesis and the bread riots of the French Revolution, it was understood that food and hunger were explicitly political subjects. It was easy to see that when the aristocracy could eat decadently while the poor could not afford enough bread to subsist on, a large part of the hunger problem was political. As we move further into the future, towards the 20th century, however, the politics of food becomes more complex. Now that food is more widely available and starvation less common, the politics of food has become a potent litmus test for the various forms of social discrimination that dominate our society. A prime example was the mid-20th century rise of mechanized sliced bread production. The idea of bread which could be produced “untouched by human hands” became enmeshed in a moral panic surrounding racial purity in America. When industrial bread production was taking off, the number one public health issue was food borne illness. At the same time, America was suffering a crisis of racial identity. This culminated in a public health frenzy which was concerned that unclean immigrants were
the primary bakers of the public’s bread. In response to this fear, mass-produced, white bread was seen as the clean, hygienic alternative to bread handled by unclean immigrants. An article in the New York Times in the 1920s by Amy Lyons Schaeffer even went so far as to suggest that ‘white bread’ was not a certain color or type of bread, but rather the kind of bread which was fit for white people to eat. This socio-political fear contributed significantly to the rapid takeoff of mechanized bread production. The ability to eat white bread became a status symbol, evidence of the ability to afford both ethnically and physically clean bread. These kinds of socio-political food based prejudices seem ridiculous now at first glance, until we look at our public health frenzy du jour: fat-shaming. The obesity epidemic is a real and serious public health concern, but the current way we are publicizing it and tackling it relies upon a dangerous blindness to social inequality. Obesity is not a health concern spread evenly throughout the population. People with low incomes, racial minorities and other disadvantaged populations are significantly more likely to be overweight or obese. In Australia, people living in areas that measured low on the social disadvantage index were almost twice as likely to be obese as those in areas that measured high on the social disadvantage index (12% and 22% obesity respectively). Countries with greater levels of income inequality have even greater levels of obesity in both men and women. Obesity is a political as well as personal issue. The solutions to the epidemic come from a range of sources, from the wellmeaning scientific health authorities to uncomfortably talkative strangers on buses. These solutions always involve an apparently simple combination of eating fresher, healthier food, exercising more and buying healthy, nutrient rich meals instead of buying fast food or eating refined products. These solutions, however, once again place the individual as the center of both blame and responsibility. It is solely their fault that they are fat and they should fix it. Whenever a solution to obesity is offered, there is always a red, flashing, unacknowledged price tag, whether it’s that expensive gym membership or those pricey health food alternatives. The
precious, ethnically clean white bread of the 20th century has been replaced once again by the new, expensive, health-guru friendly wholegrain additive free soy decaf loaf. The solutions which are offered to obesity rely on a highly neoliberal, ‘buy your own way out of the problem’ mentality. It is easy to look only at the personal choices which lead to obesity, but to effectively understand the issue it is necessary to see the whole picture. Currently, our food system makes fast food and store-bought mi goreng the cheapest dietary options and pushes low income households towards obesity, then profits from a booming health foods market that grows as obesity spreads. At the same time, this system promotes the shaming of overweight and obese people because it positions them as the center of blame. This shaming is both ineffective and kinda mean. A study in Florida found that overweight people who experienced fat shaming were more than twice as likely to end up obese. Our current approaches and understandings of obesity are clearly what need to change. Our current food system systematically disadvantages the poor, blaming them for their health problems while structurally pushing them into the very unhealthy lifestyle which causes them to gain weight. To tackle the obesity epidemic, we should look at these structures, understand the politics and stop blaming the individuals as though it all comes down to personal choice. Then again, maybe I’m wrong; maybe poor people just haven’t bought enough yoghurt yet.
Picture by Michael Trown
by Hamish Hobbs
DEMOCRATIC PRIDE: What are elections actually for anyway? by Ross Franklyn
It is easy, when walking up to the ballot box in Australia, to look around you and lament the lack of true policy discussion in Australian elections. With the campaign trifecta of mudslinging, pork barreling, and fear mongering, it can be difficult to be inspired by our two major political parties and their predictable monotonous campaigns. It’s like watching an episode of Friends where every single character is Ross: everyone is mad and argumentative, and no one really knows why. The recent Western Australian Senate Election – take two – was no exception. But before rushing to criticize Australian democracy, it is important to consider: what are our elections actually for? When we discuss elections, we often harken back to some kind of political golden age, where elections marked a decision between two truly divergent, revolutionary policy agendas; a time when who you voted for would change the direction of your country forever. We think of Franklin D Roosevelt, sweeping in to implement his New Deal and lifting the USA briefly out of recession. We think of Thatcher’s sweeping libertarian conservatism. We think of Nelson Mandela’s platform to dismantle Apartheid and bring in a new era for South Africa. While we might not agree with all of these policy agendas, they stand out as stark new paths which gave the voters of their nation a true choice. What we don’t tend to think of is “stop the boats”. Why then, have recent Australian elections seemed so comparatively trivial? Our politicians focus a huge proportion of their efforts and justify untold human rights abuses to prevent a relatively small and internationally standard influx of asylum seekers. Our largest issue of division is a watered down, market based emissions reduction system which is too small and too weak to significantly change Australian carbon emissions whether it remains implemented or not. It is easy to draw negative conclusions about either our popular media or the general voting public from this lack of interesting policy
alternatives in discussion, but as much as I love to blame A Current Affair, this doesn’t tell the whole story. A large part of the reason that our elections focus on such trivial issues is because our two major parties no longer have significant divergence in many of their policies. Labor has drifted right, losing its progressive roots and both parties now occupy a roughly similar center-right political niche. Labor may be slightly more socially progressive, but the selection of strongly conservative Joe Bullock for first preference on the West Australian Senate Election ballot throws even that into question. Labor has bought into the Liberal rhetoric which paints all increases in spending as bad and any cut in government funding as a necessary route to budget surplus. They have abandoned their rhetorical commitment to social democracy, which would allow them to justify more divergent policy alternatives. By rhetorically surrendering to the Liberals’ neoliberal worldview, Labor has undermined itself across the board. It is not possible to beat the liberals at their own game of fiscally focused social conservatism. As a result, policies such as the Carbon Tax have become some of the greatest PR disasters in recent Australian political history. Instead of selling the widespread social benefits of a healthier environment, Labor has had to try, and fail, to engage with the issue of increased electricity prices and declines in economic growth. Because Labor has distanced itself from its social democrat roots, the party didn’t even seem to consider the option of campaigning on the idea that perhaps a healthy environment is worth paying for. Suck it polar bears, daddy wants a bonus. If we take a look at the minor parties, it only becomes clearer that Australian politics has become entrapped in just one uncompromising way of viewing the world: the Liberal way. The Greens Party offers a distinctly different approach, but was labelled by Abbott in the last federal election as dangerously radical
and committed to “fringe economics”. Despite this, the Greens Party vote has been experiencing rapid growth, frequently at the expense of Labor and the Liberals, suggesting that perhaps their “fringe” policies are potentially the kind of different political options that Australians are look for in healthy democracy. The Palmer United Party remains a testament to that old saying by Jane Austen herself: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune can get themselves elected to political office. Ultimately, it seems that the Liberal Party has currently succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of Australia. Whether it is the Liberal Party or the Labor Party in power, it will be liberal rhetoric and liberal ideology that is in command. This takes us back to the original question, what are elections actually for? This brings to the fore the seemingly forgotten role which politicians can have in a democracy, the role as inspiration and policy advocates. Given Labor’s extremely weak results in Western Australia’s most recent attempt at a Senate Election, perhaps this is the role which they need to explore some more.
SUCK IT POLAR BEARS, DADDY WANTS A BONUS. Elections are not simply about allowing the population to decide whose face they want to see on the front of the Australian for the next few years They are a chance to present Australians a new way of thinking about their country. Currently Australia has bought into the Liberal paradigm; if Labor wants a chance in the next election, it needs to work out what it would mean to be a Labor Australia.
“PEOPLE DO HAVE A RIGHT TO BE IDIOTS, YOU KNOW” by James Munt With Abbott’s rouge Knights and Dames announcement coming right on its heel, Attorney-General George Brandis’ recent reassurance of support for the repeal of Section 1C of the Racial Discrimination Act appears almost kooky, displaying a government striving to meet its own inclusive ideological ends, regardless of what the general public might view as the nations priorities. “People do have a right to be bigots, you know,” Brandis infamously claimed a day before announcing changes to the Act that would see the removal of the ban on acts that “offend, insult [or] humiliate” on racial grounds but keeping that on those that “intimidate” and adding a new clause for those that “vilify”. Who is actually worrying about their freedom of speech being impinged apart from Bolt? The legislation has been complaint-free for 20 years. Brandis claims there is a “chill” of censorship because, what? Journalists can’t “humiliate” people based on their race? Seriously? The statement implies that there is some kind of inability to fundamentally express that bigotry because of this legislation, and that’s just ridiculous. You need only take a glance at the asylum seeker debate over the past decade or ask any single non-white person to find out that’s not the case. Whilst perhaps the inclusion of “offense” might be marginal, it has worked perfectly well for decades and removing it as publicly and as self-righteously as this runs the very real threat of opening a big can of worms by giving a lease on racism and hate speech in Australia. Appealing to John Locke and J.S. Mill does very little to relate to the average Australian; the government telling people they have a right to be a bigot in contrast is going to sound like a helpful appeal to social acceptability of their beliefs for some racists. As nice as that would be, I am highly sceptical that language that harms and humiliates people can readily be addressed by sound arguments as
proponents often claim, which is why it’s so distressing that Australia’s new Human Rights Commissioner is personally in favour of abolishing the whole thing. As ANU professor Simon Rice said, the amendment itself switches the focus from the harm caused by the act to its ability to incite racial hatred, which in the words of Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, is a “very high threshold to meet”. Frankly as Waleed Aly said in his excellent analysis, I don’t see how the legislation can stop anything since “public discussion of any political, social, cultural (or) religious” issues are exempt and how you can vilify someone without discussing a social issue is beyond me.
BRANDIS CLAIMS THERE IS A “CHILL” OF CENSORSHIP BECAUSE, WHAT? Bolt & Brandis’ own indignation at this so-called suppression of free speech becomes all the more ridiculous when you consider their own outrage at the smallest expressions of free speech, not even close to rivalling the humiliation of Bolt’s article and the harm caused by racial attacks. Recall Brandis’ acrimonious demand for a high school to remove a book calling Menzies a “tyrant” from its library and his effective extortion of any arts festivals even thinking about peacefully protesting sponsorship from companies they condemn. Bolt too, after having his racial abuse condemned by Marcia Langton on Q&A (she even referenced the judge’s statement that the conditions for a racist act were met by Bolt’s article), said he was “so bruised” that she called his racist article racist he had to spend the next
day at home. Of course Marcia was right; Bolt’s article was racist in black-and-white and ascribing a person’s aboriginality based on the colour of their skin does demonstrate belief in antiquated “race theory”. The ABC’s apology thus demonstrates the uncomfortable fact that accusations of racism have become as powerful and victim-making as the actual proven racism the law should be protecting. Perhaps the most astounding thing about the legislation is the sheer whiteness and privilege of the thing. The people drafting these changes are never are never going to actually experience them first-hand, unless of course they say something terribly racist in public. It’s about as inappropriate as a white man being both Minister for Women and Indigenous Affairs Minister and it shows with the Coalition already facing the threat of internal division from their own Indigenous members like Ken Wyatt. Whether the act is “intimidating” or not is “to be determined by the standards of an ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community” which of course would be a white person since the distinction of their race for non-white people, their inability to be invisibility and ordinary, fundamentally underpins white privilege. If the amendment is passed, whilst I’m sure one man will be very happy, it won’t be a popular move generally, especially in progressive seats or those with concentrations of people that actually get racially abused. If Abbott is serious about his intent to be seen as a PM tackling indigenous issues and if he wants to be seen by the general public as having his priorities straight, he is going to need to think seriously about engaging with why we actually need this legislation.
UPSTAIRS//DOWNSTAIRS: The Class War on Screen It’s fair to say that representations of the working class - on TV or in film - aren’t exactly fair or even-handed. Think Vicky Pollard in Little Britain or the downright ridiculous Irish stereotypes in Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Don’t even get me started on the Wog Boy film series. They actually made two of those. Even ostensibly positive portrayals of the working class and rural populations seems offensive in their own cartoonish way; look what Crocodile Dundee did for Australia’s image overseas! Let’s not even bother engaging with the mind-boggling irony that our most revered blue-collar icon Mick Dundee was played by a ludicrously wealthy tax cheat. Never mind that, look at his funny hat! Give me Michael Caton and The Castle any day. Caricaturing the working class, either as slovenly deviants or non-threatening stereotypes, isn’t unique to Australia. While here we have bogan-bashing, in the UK, they have chav-hatred. Taken from a Romani word meaning ‘child’, chav-hate tends to depict the working class as lazy, dangerous, and totally lacking in moral fibre. Critic Owen Jones, in his book Chavs: the Demonization of the Working Class, argues that representations of the working class are implicitly designed to reinforce extremely negative stereotypes. He highlights Vicky Pollard as a classic example; Pollard, played by comedian Matt Lucas, himself privately educated, exhibited supposedly typical working class traits: unemployed, chain-smoking, and pregnant (without knowing it). Our obvious equivalent would be Kath & Kim; ‘gently’ poking fun at those less fortunate. Maybe I’m taking it a little seriously, but surely these things matter? The recent popularity of historical drama inevitably forced audiences to recognize the subject of class division, particularly the upstairs/downstairs divide on which the aristocracy was built. Downton Abbey has been a huge, worldwide success. Channel 7 is relentless in their advertising for the Abbey, although I’m not sure that intense, throbbing dubstep is the best way to market a show set in postEdwardian Britain... The show divides its focus between the aristocratic Crawley family and their hardworking servants. For
a show that takes in the First World War, the Spanish flu epidemic, that whole Irish debacle, and the sinking of the bloody Titanic, not a lot seems to happen; the characters sort of pleasantly wave as those moments pass by. What’s actually interesting about the show is its take on class. The Crawleys, led by Robert (Hugh Bonneville) are sort of like benevolent dictators; they are kind to their servants, and they understand how tough their lives are. Then they go back to living in opulence and staring dramatically at each other. It’s a really brazen rewrite of history, and the only way the show could really fly. Nothing is really at stake for the Crawleys, plotwise; they’re never going to lose their wealth or status, and if they aren’t compassionate the audience would be left wondering why the servants don’t revolt. Downton is written by Julian Fellowes, a prominent stage actor and writer, but more interestingly, a Conservative peer and member of the House of Lords. He literally is the aristocracy; of course his show is going to be a rose-tinted look at history. At this point I should admit, I’m not the biggest fan of the show. However, Fellowes also wrote Gosford Park. On the face of it, the film has exactly the same plot and premise as Downton. A collection of fabulously wealthy families stay for a weekend in a grand old manor in 1932. They are waited on hand and foot by their diligent servants, whom they either treat with utter contempt or ignore entirely. Over the weekend, the master of the house (Michael Gambon) is murdered, and it turns into a classic whodunit. Gosford Park cleverly exposes the snobbery and obliviousness of the upper class; they are so reliant on people that might as well be invisible to them. The chief matron sums it up best: “I’m the perfect servant. I know when they’ll be hungry, and the food is ready. I know when they’ll be tired, and the bed is turned down. I know it before they know it themselves.” How is it that Fellowes can go from writing one of the best historical dramas out there (he won an Oscar for his script), to producing an apologist’s rewrite of history, in Downton Abbey? The answer probably lies in the direction of Robert Altman, who
filmed Gosford. Altman was the largely unrecognized genius of 20th Century American cinema, and was a mentor to today’s genius, Paul Thomas Anderson. Altman was a master of cramming as much dialogue into his movies as possible and it’s no different here. He often used two cameras, moving simultaneously, to capture every actor’s lines. No bit of prissy aristocratic gossip goes unfilmed; Altman had a satirist’s eye for spotting and exposing bullshit. Countess Constance and Lady Sylvia (Maggie Smith & Kristin Scott Thomas) don’t so much come off as cruel as they do come off completely oblivious to their own fortune. Altman is also careful to include a servant in every shot, as they patiently dote on their superiors. The class divide is best summarised by the angry reaction to Henry Denton (Ryan Philippe), an actor who tries to pose as a servant: “You can’t be on both teams at once, sir.” It’s well worth checking out.
LOOK WHAT CROCODILE DUNDEE DID FOR AUSTRALIA’S IMAGE OVERSEAS! There are less and less films that fairly represent the working class. I mentioned The Castle earlier. You might describe the depiction of the Kerrigan family as a little simplistic, but I’d argue the opposite. It’s about a hardworking family trying to keep their home, and winning. Cheesy, but I’d take that over Vicky Pollard, no questions asked.
LOTTERYWEST FILM FEST - BEST/WORST by Matt Green The LotteryWest Film Fest, with screenings on-campus at Somerville and at Joondalup Pines, is a staple of the PIAF line-up, as well as a wicked way to spend a casual summer night. Here’s a quick recap of some of the best (and worst) films that were on offer. The Good All is Lost (USA) I’m pretty sure the central message of All is Lost was: if you’re gonna go sailing, maybe you ought to bring a friend along? Robert Redford stars as a nameless sailor attempting to cross the Indian Ocean solo, and pretty much everything imaginable goes wrong. The film opens with Redford giving a solemn monologue, seemingly on the point of death, and apparently having surrendered to his fate. His troubles start when he wakes to find his ship has crashed into a rogue shipping container, seriously damaging his hull, and destroying his radio equipment. From then on, the sailor faces a series of massive storms, his ship sinking, and trying to navigate in a rubber dinghy. Redford gives an impressively gruelling performance, throwing himself about with the vigour of a much younger man. Directed by J.C. Chandor, All is Lost is a gripping survival drama, on the level of last year’s Gravity (albeit set in the ocean). N.B. Redford throws out one of the all-time great cinematic “FFFUUU” moments. 4/5. My Sweet Pepper Land (Iraq) It’s not very often you see a Western set in war-torn Iraq. Set in the immediate aftermath of Saddam’s toppling in 2003, My Sweet Pepper Land follows Baran, a rebel fighter turned sheriff, who is appointed as police chief in the lawless northern province of Iraqi Kurdistan. A true patriot, he wants to wrestle control from the corrupt warlord Aziz Aga, and finds a soul mate in the new primary school teacher, Govend (played by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani). Sidenote: the film’s setting in the Kurdistani mountains is gorgeous and otherworldly; you would never guess it was filmed on site in Iraq. It’s
heavily influenced by classic Westerns, and Baran quickly models himself on his heroes Clint Eastwood and Elvis. I was expecting a gritty take on a grim state of affairs; I got a charming and funny film determined to inspire hope in its audience. 4/5. Short Term 12 (USA) Hold up. Stop what you’re doing and find a way to watch this film. Short Term 12 is set in a Californian foster care centre for disadvantaged teens, starring Brie Larson as the facility’s supervisor, Grace. Grace is a no-nonsense caretaker, and secretly dating one of her co-workers, Mason. They struggle to help Marcus, who is legally required to leave the facility when he turns 18. A new girl, Jayden, played by Kaitlyn Dever, arrives to stay, and provides Grace with unwanted reminders to her own darkly troubled past. Overall, Short Term 12 is a case study in empathy, for both the residents and their caretakers. Special mention has to go to Keith Stanfield as Marcus, giving a performance full of humour, confusion, and palpable sadness. Go see it. 5/5. The Okay The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium) This film came so close to excellence, only to fall short in the final act. The Broken Circle Breakdown is a heartfelt love letter to bluegrass music, in Flanders, of all places. Didier and Elise (played by Johan Heldenbergh and Veerle Baetens, respectively) meet, start a bluegrass band, fall in love, and have a child over the course of the film, which is told mostly through flashbacks and brief vignettes. Their child falls seriously ill, and their relationship brutally disintegrates on screen. The story is gripping and upsetting, and masterfully directed by Felix van Groeningen. However, the film is let down by a ridiculously melodramatic third act, kicked off by Didier’s onstage meltdown over the politics of George Bush, due to his opposition to the stem cell research that would’ve saved their daughter’s life. No, seriously. The sequence breaks the
4th wall and from there on it only gets more over the top, which is a shame. 3/5. The Bad The Darkside (Australia) Warwick Thornton wrote and directed Samson and Delilah, which became a huge success, both at home and internationally. His latest film is The Darkside. Thornton sent a callout through the ABC asking for people’s own ghost stories. Here he has assembled the stories, and sought out Australia’s premium actors (including Deborah Mailman, Bryan Brown, Aaron Pedersen & Claudia Karvan) to recite them, in character. It’s such an awesome idea, it’s a real shame that it doesn’t quite work. By casting actors to recite the stories, something is lost, and you’re immediately aware of the artifice of the whole thing. The best story featured is one of the few not performed by an actor, instead using an audio recording of the original interview, recounting an haunting experience of working at the National Film Archive, which was formerly the site of what was effectively Australia’s own eugenics program. Other than that, though, the ghost stories generally fall a bit short. 2/5. Violette (France) There’s nothing too much wrong with Martin Provost’s biopic of French feminist Violette Leduc, played by Emmanuelle Devos. It’s just that I’m not sure it really needed to be made in the first place. Violette is far too long, for one, and almost exclusively (and relentlessly) focuses on Leduc’s misery. It also doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of biopics in the first place; they tend to shower their subjects with praise, and assume the audience is similarly enthralled. There are a couple of saving graces, though. Devos provides pathos to the sad, unfulfilled life of Leduc, while Sandrine Kiberlain is funny and interesting as her mentor, the hugely famous Simone de Beauvoir. There’s a funny running gag about how ugly Jean-Paul Sartre is, too. But otherwise, I wasn’t sold. 2/5.
FILM REVIEWS on me). So it is with a heavy heart that I admit that I really, really did not like this film.
Any Day Now Director: Travis Fine Starring: Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt I am loath to dislike anything Alan Cumming puts his name to. I am so weirdly attracted to him, probably a hangover from childhood after Spy Kids and Josie and the Pussycats. Definitely had a Good Wife phase (she just feels so much). Loved his guest appearances in Sex and The City and regular appearances in The L Word. I even really liked that version of The Tempest he was in with Russell Brand and Helen Mirren (though this is potentially an indictment
Cumming plays Rudy Donatello, the lead drag queen in a trio who perform at a divey gay bar. It is here where he meets Paul Fliger (Garret Dillahunt), a highfalutin lawyer. The two men become lovers and when Rudy takes in his junkie neighbor’s 14-year-old Down Syndrome son Marco, Paul leads the charge to gain full custody over the child for he and Rudy. The 70s are definitely having a moment right now, with American Hustle garnering award noms and Lovelace traumatizing audiences everywhere towards the end of last year. Any Day Now is set in 1979 West Hollywood so, like these other films, the sets and costumes are amazing. But this is about all that’s amazing about it. The subject matter sounds heavy, and it is. The ending, though in hindsight was probably quite predictable, provoked an audible gasp from the packed cinema. But where the film was obviously meant to
regime that demands conformity – sound familiar? This isn’t particularly groundbreaking stuff.
Divergent Director: Neil Burger Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet Based on the novel by Veronica Roth, Divergent is the story of a dystopian future in which people are grouped into factions according to their personalities. Protagonist Tris Prior (what is it with dystopian novels and ridiculous names? – Ed), played by Shailene Woodley, is a likeable, if slightly dull heroine. She is a seemingly ordinary girl who is forced to become extraordinary in the face of a
In the midst of the recent barrage of young adult, dystopian fiction, I had hoped for a modicum of originality in this trilogy (yes, another one), but thus far I have been largely disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, Divergent is an entertaining film; there is enough intrigue to keep an audience engaged, the casting was appropriate, and the score was well managed (if a little Ellie Goulding-heavy). There are, however, a lot of ways in which this film falls short. For me, the clichéd romance is by far the worst element of this film, but it isn’t helped by average visuals and contrived action sequences either. The chemistry between Tris and her love interest, Four (Theo James) is decidedly lacking, but what’s worse is the irrationality in the escalation and intensity of their relationship. I just didn’t buy it.
be a tear-jerker, I felt very little. It jumped in too soon: within the first fifteen minutes Rudy had met Paul and they’d both decided to take in Marco, no questions asked. There was no groundwork laid. We were clearly meant to get the emotional punch from the hideous soft-focus montages of Cumming and Dillahunt running across beaches with their surrogate son, but those were trite and I’m not stupid. Said montages were set to Cumming singing moody jazz, which maybe could have worked if Alan Cumming was not the worst actor-cum-singer since Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia. Likewise, his faux-Queens accent was so intense I couldn’t decide if it was very good or extremely bad. Alan, you’re making it nigh on impossible for me to love you the way I do. Let’s just do Josie and the Pussycats 2. 2/5 Lucy Ballantyne
Kate Winslet, as the stoic bad-lady, should have been an asset in a cast of comparatively small names. However, she is largely squandered in an attempt to shove her into scenes where her character has no place. There is, for example, a scene where Four and Tris must go head to head in combat. What could have been a moving climactic moment is ruined in translation from novel to movie with the addition of several extra characters, including Winslet, when there only needed to be two. Divergent is not ambitious enough to be a good film – it breaks no moulds and offers nothing profound cinematically or thematically. It is, however, not farfetched enough to be bad – just average. Watch it if you’d like a high budget, visual representation of the novel, but otherwise don’t bother. 2.5/5 Elisa Thompson
The Grand Budapest Hotel Director: Wes Anderson Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Saoirse Ronan, literally every actor you can think of Wes Anderson’s reputation for immaculate craftsmanship in his films has marked him as one of the truly great American directors working today, surpassed perhaps only by his namesake, Paul Thomas Anderson. The Grand Budapest Hotel continues his obsession with artificiality, meta-fiction, and playing around with history. It’s also his funniest film yet, and certainly his most emotionally charged since The Royal Tenenbaums. The plot (relayed to the audience as a story-within-a-story-within-anotherstory) follows the escapades of Monsieur
Gustave H. (Fiennes), chief concierge at the famed Grand Budapest Hotel in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka. The year is 1932, and Zubrowka is on the verge of war. Gustave takes the young lobby boy Zero (Revolori) under his wing, teaching him the ins and outs of the service industry. At the same time, Gustave carries on a number of affairs with the aging, wealthy clientele of the hotel. One such customer, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), dies suddenly, bequeathing him an incredibly valuable painting, to the anger of her bratty son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody). Dmitri then frames Gustave for her murder, and he must fight to clear his name. Anderson is a master of framing, each microscopic detail adds to the greater, intricate world he’s constructed. Some shots, like the close-up of Zero’s lover Agatha (Ronan), are beautiful beyond description. The film was shot in multiple aspect ratios, cleverly corresponding to each shift in timeframe. It’s really absorbing story-telling, never pretentious or alienating. It’s not all laughs, though. The obvious nods to Europe’s descent into fascism are poignant and affecting, while it’s surprisingly violent for a
put in by the ‘Frat Pack’ and they definitely deliver their crudest and rudest film yet.
Bad Neighbours Director: Nicholas Stoller Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron On the fateful night I caught this flick I found myself in the lobby of the cinema waiting when I overheard two middleaged Bogan ladies debating. One said to the other ‘Oh it’s alright, we’ll just have a bong while we wait’. No joke, two minutes later, Perth legend Ben Cousins strolled past. It really feels now that this was a forecast of what was to follow. Bad Neighbours, starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron and directed by Nicholas Stoller (of Forgetting Sarah Marshall fame), is the culmination of the years of hard work
Rogen and co-star Rose Byrne play husband and wife Mac and Kelly, who move to Suburbia hoping to embrace the middle class dream with their infant daughter. Little do they know they will become engaged in a bizarre and increasingly creative territorial dispute with a fraternity, led by Ted and Pete (Efron and Dave Franco) that moves in next door. What follows is an hour and a half of ‘Frat Pack’ patented improv dialogue and crack-pot schemes and affairs. It seems as if the editors have struggled to select which lines and jokes to include or discard; consequently, everyone seems a bit schizophrenic as they madly ramble on to one another in some sort of competition to see who can say the most dumb shit. That said, I think that as far as college frat films go this is pretty successful in that it just aims so hilariously and relentlessly
Wes Anderson flick. Behind Anderson’s quickwitted dialogue and lavish set-pieces, there’s a tangible sadness that permeates throughout. Ralph Fiennes carries the film as the needy and superficial Gustave; his comic timing is impeccable, it wouldn’t work with anyone else in the role. Fiennes is at the same time highly refined yet hilariously vulgar; his polished veneer is always on the verge of slipping. The movie’s littered with pleasing cameos from pretty much all of Anderson’s regular collaborators. It’s a testament to Anderson’s reputation that so many stars were willing to take on such minor roles. None of their appearances feel forced or distracting, either; they’re more like polite winks to the audience. Brody & Dafoe, in their roles as agents of an SS-style paramilitary force, are genuinely frightening. The Grand Budapest Hotel is part alternate history, part whodunit caper, part meta-fiction, and part slapstick; all together it’s very, very funny and flawlessly framed. 5/5 Matthew Green
low. Christopher Mintz-Plasse for example plays a man named Scoonie whose entire on screen presence is predicated on his two foot long ‘legendary’ dick, and there is an oddly sympathetic character in this film named Ass-Juice. You catch my drift; it’s that kind of comedy. Rogen is his standard likeable self as the dorky dad character and Byrne is effective as the crazy suburban schemer and manipulator. The real stars however are Efron and Franco. Their energetic and catching performances as the douchebag leaders of the fraternity provide the film with its best moments and they do a pretty damn good job satirising the college frat boy dream of indebted slavery, beer and ‘out of your league’ girls. It’s a fun and easy watch but far from a classic. 2.5/5 Callum Green
PRIDE (IN THE NAME OF FUN) The freedom to meme was hard fought. Every time some drongo on your newsfeed posts something about X meaning WINTER IS COMING, they’re pouring cold water over old ways of seeing the world, over the things that used to keep ideas from butting heads with each other until they meshed (albeit in the most boring way possible). Importantly, the meme is about the disempowerment of the image of the powerful, and one skirmish on the long path to 9gag, for better or for worse, took place between U2 – then, the biggest band on earth – and a gaggle of freaky San Franciscan cyberpunks who went under the name Negativland. Negativland, who had formed in 1980, had already pioneered the remix and the sound collage before they decided to take on U2. The band’s insanely hyperreferential 1989 record Helter Stupid sampled Charles Manson and The Beatles with impunity, but they set their sights on a living thing for their next target. In terms of musical content, their 1991 U2 EP was comprised of American Top 40 host Casey Kasem dissing the Irish band pretty hard (“these guys are from England, who gives a shit! Diddly shit!”) over a tongue-through-cheek rendition of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, complete with kazoo and detuned Casio. As a piece of musical satire – the anthemic power of the song is made into a seasick sub-lullaby, while the falsehoods behind the promotional merry-go-round that beamed it into every house in America are laid hilariously bare – it’s a bloody peach. The kicker, though, was the cover; by cleverly mimicking their in-house style (a grainy palette of red, grey and black and the loom of the U2 logo), the cover looked exactly like what you might expect a new U2 album to look like. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a Lockheed U-2 bomber gliding ominously across the frame. SST – the original home of Black Flag and Minor Threat, so people who knew a bit about oppositional aesthetics - issued the record in a fairly limited run, and considering that it was fairly overpriced, it was hardly a blip. However, before long Negativland and SST were getting a summons from U2’s label Island, who argued that Negativland were seeking to profit by confusing U2 fans who were at the time salivating over the prospect of the imminent U2 album Achtung Baby. Debord’s notion of the deceptive detournement had suddenly taken on some pretty legal ramifications. Though the parties
arrived at an out of court settlement about potential copyright breaches, Island demanded that SST and Negativland cover the label’s costs, and if you know anything about the approach of pre-internet major record labels to building legal think tanks, things got very real for our merry freaks. This seemed like an intractable life-ruiner until U2’s publicist happened to contact the L.A. based cyberpunk magazine Mondo 2000 for an interview to discuss the band’s upcoming American tour. Unfortunately for The Edge (U2’s guitarist delegated for the interview), Mondo’s editor R. U. Sirius (90s cyberpunk was full of such turns of wit) happened to be a pretty close associate of the Negativland lads, and sensing an opportunity, he put his buddies in the room with the guy whose representatives were trying to ruin them financially. Havoc followed. Edge contradicted the Island legal department on a number of points, and went to great lengths to distance U2 from the kind of people who would go to great expense to hassle a bunch of Californian weirdos. Quoth him: “By the time we realised what was going on it was kinda too late, and we actually did approach the record company on your behalf and said, ‘Look, c’mon, this is just, this is very heavy...” Nevertheless, the interview ends shortly after Hosler asks The Edge for a loan. Though Negativland mailed him a detailed proposal and repayment plan, the money wasn’t forthcoming. Now, The Edge’s flappy-handed protestations would have come off a lot more sincerely if it weren’t for two things. Firstly, it was their manager (Paul McGuinness) who instigated the whole legal shemozzle by passing on a copy of the record to the Island legal department. Secondly, the Zoo TV tour that The Edge was so eager to promote as a bold new step for Music (while generating millions of dollars from ticket buying saps) was essentially
built from the same kind of co-opting and sampling of uncredited source material that had gotten Negativland into hot water. The tour used a huge amount of collaged video material to make a hammy and self-conscious statement about information overload, at a time when U2 were desperately trying to shed their overly-serious image (for reference- and Christ’s-sake, Bono was dressed up as a nervy sexpot called ‘The Fly’ for the majority of the tour. The costume was mainly wraparound sunglasses.) While Negativland were hobbyists being sued for their playful use of material, U2 sold over five million tickets to deliver a message Negativland beat them to by fifteen years, by using virtually the same means. As the maxim goes, pop will eat itself. Rock music was the first predominant cultural form to actively lower the barriers to entry -- like, anyone can play a guitar, but there’s only one Brahms -- but the capitalist machinery that developed around it progressively made the people inside the tent untouchable. Despite their attorneyplated axes, Island never squeezed their legal fees out of Negtivland, and the cultural legacy of the U2 EP is arguably greater than that of the U2 album they pre-empted. After all, without the work of detourners like Negativland, who made the production of subversive bricolages not only a possibility but an inevitability when it came to major cultural events, it’s difficult to imagine the majority of user-generated content on YouTube, let alone the development of the meme. After all, remixes don’t serve to bring the remixer up; they bring the subject down, and for that, we’re all on a more equal playing field. When was the last time anyone under 25 really listened to Achtung Baby?
Picture by Ayeesha Fredrickson
by Alex Griffin
PRIDE / PREJUDICE MUSIC REVIEWS Burn Your Fire For No Witness Angel Olsen Jagjguwar Issues of social isolation, angst and misunderstanding seem the hot topic amongst Millennial musos, from producer James Blake to indie four-piece Real Estate. US artist Angel Olsen’s most recent LP Burn Your Fire For No Witness marks an entry to this canon of remarkable intimacy and lyrical sophistication. Many of the songs on display here are (sigh) hauntingly beautiful, with wilting melodies and hypnotic guitars: the singer’s vocal ability is impressive and often captivating. The low-fi aesthetic generally works to the favour of Olsen’s bluegrass crooner voice and simple but inventive guitar riffs, though the nice little details are sometimes lost, and the album suffers as a result. The style and tone of Olsen’s music quite effectively shifts throughout the album: candid folk serenades like the heartrending ‘Enemy’ or the opener ‘Unfucktheworld’ are positioned against songs like the follower, ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’: an assertive indierock power ballad that prove Olsen can lead a whole band, not just herself. The central pillar of this album is White Fire, a 7-minute slowburn on Olsen’s self-imposed social exile; the guitar drones relentlessly as the artist’s voice whispers and weaves her sorry tale; it quite effectively puts the listener into Olsen’s headspace of selfdoubt and stoicism. High & Wild, the song that follows then seems like a sort of after
party, where Angel sobers up a bit and puts the distance back between herself and the listener. Those themes of social isolation, desperation, and general malaise pervade the LP, exhibited primarily through Olsen’s excellent lyrics: “oh how i wish i could/ remove this doubt i feel somehow”. Burn Your Fire For No Witness, an amalgam of country western, indie folk and low-fi that may leave you affected and refreshed. 8.5/10 Nick Morlet Post Tropical James Vincent McMorrow EMI/Universal If Barry Gibb of the Bee Gee’s voice and Justin Vernon’s song writing sensibilities were to conceive a baby, this would be it. But don’t let the image of a bearded hipster child wearing flares deter you from enjoying McMorrow’s follow up to 2010’s Early in the Morning. Predominantly written and recorded in Juarez, a Mexican cartel controlled town straddling the U.S. border, Post Tropical serves a large helping of ambling, laid-back tunes for which McMorrow wrote, produced, and played every instrument. The end result is a very solid album whose tracks are consistently high in quality, but lack a level of variety that I feel could have taken it to the next level. That being said, it’s still very enjoyable, and the steady, pulsing nature of the songs creates an uplifting and inspiring mood. The album is a perfectly balanced, yet chaotic blend of instruments, with piano, guitar, 808s, clarinets, horns and mandolins, all accompanying McMorrow’s beautiful falsetto. ‘Cavalier’ is the album’s ambling, nostalgia inducing single, and by far the strongest track on the album. With its whispering vocals and throbbing melody that will surely define this release, it surges to an uplifting crescendo with the help of a powerful horns section. ‘All Points’ and ‘Red Dust’, also receive honorable mentions as stand out tracks. Post Tropical is best listened to in the early morning, as you stroll along a beach and feel the warmth of the rising sun on your back, with the music providing a soundtrack that promises to provide you with a new lease on life. And hey, if Barry Gibb and Justin Vernon did
miraculously conceive a baby, I sure hope it would produce an album of this quality too. 8/10 Nicholas Monisse Imaginary Enemy The Used Gas Union How many excerpts from political, status-quo questioning speeches can a band stand to have in a single album? With a somewhat inexplicable political bent and a sound that builds directly off the natural progression from their previous record, The Used have created a pretty confusing mashup in Imaginary Enemy. Perhaps Bert McCracken got tired of the image of a thousand schoolgirls and boys either crying deeply or moshing senselessly to his music and decided that he needed to go for something deeper. Either way, it feels like The Used have jumped on the political bandwagon without a real modus operandi – it’s just there for the hell of it. The rather pretentiously named ‘A Song to Stifle Imperial Aggression (A work in progress)’ has a hooky, boppy chorus, the likes of which fans of The Used would no doubt appreciate, but it’s hard to consider that demographic politically mobilizing as a result. Do McCracken and co. expect to launch a tweenie revolution? If tracks like ‘Cry’, ‘El-Oh-Vee-Ee’ and ‘Make Believe’ are anything to go by, it’s that the band isn’t fully ready to give up their comfortable role as a mouthpiece of socially awkward young Westerners and embrace an identity as a protest band. On a purely technical level, Imaginary Enemy is tight. The tracks are more or less concise and follow a familiar, safe pattern. The Used largely stick to their strengths in this regard, allowing McCracken’s vocals to dominate the pace and flow of the album. Technical drum beats and conspicuous bass lines layer driving guitar tracks. This is a record that has seen The Used grow in technical maturity, but at the cost of direction. It’s safe to say they have a bit of soul-searching to do before they next hit the studio. Quit the political tone and get back to breaking teen hearts, McCracken. If you chase two chickens, you’ll lose them both. 5/10 Brad Griffin
Here and Nowhere Else Cloud Nothings Mom + Pop Records Cloud Nothing’s 2012’s critically acclaimed debut effort, Attack on Memory shot the band into the underground spotlight with its mix of fast paced grunge toned songs and 5 – 8 minute sludgy epics. The extremely catchy pop punk singles, ‘Fall In’ and ‘Stay Useless’ assured this, and showed us that Dylan Baldi, the band’s founder can write some catchy as hell hooks whilst still dealing with some rather depressing but relatable subject matters. This year’s follow up, ‘Here and Nowhere Else’ shows a departure and an ambitious progression from their previous record. Its fast, dense, heavy, punchy, poppy and anthemic. Over its thick layer of fuzzy distorted borrow 90’s guitars tones, and bloody fast drums, Baldi belts out lyrics centering around being content with the present, moving forward from past ideas, and heartbreak. The first three tracks, ‘Now Hear In’, ‘Quieter Today’ and ‘Psychic Trauma’ are back to back great songs. The album’s first single, and by far most impressive track ‘I’m Not Part of Me’ is a song fit for a stadium. Baldi might have written THE CATCHIEST HOOK that will never crawl its way out of your brain, even if you sprayed it with a ’44. The longest track ‘Pattern Walks’ is reminiscent of ‘Attack on Memory’ and marks a breather from the album’s typical 2-3 minute shredders, with a massive breakdown and jam in the middle of the song, it turns around completely into an upbeat ending with Baldi’s vocals laced with dreamy echoes. Here and Nowhere Else is quality album with hooks for days and discloses something new in every listen. If you’ve been stuck in 90’s guitar music this will be hard to stop listening to. Baldi has really hit the metaphorical pop punk nail on the head with this behemoth effort. 8/10 James Enderby
Whats Life Without Losers Mikhael Pascalev Mom + Pop Records So you know that guy who has the really poppy single on Triple J with the Risky Business-esque film clip that went viral? That’s Mikhael Paskalev, and golly his album What’s Life without Losers is actually pretty good. It’s very pop-without-the-synth relying instead on a bopping base and what can only be described as joyous toe-tapping’ rhythms; it’s kind of folky but still really accessible and incredibly catchy. Paskalev admits much nostalgia towards the symbolic and lyrical tendencies of pop from the 60s and 70s, and while that comes across in the style of the music, in my opinion all that lyrical effort just gets a bit lost. There’s just one too many chanting chorus’ and jangling riffs that obscures whatever pop-poetry he’s trying to construct. There’s a lot going for this album, but there’s a lot that’s just going over and over. Most of the songs are pretty similar, almost exactly the same. Apart from the haunting ‘Dune’ and the country riff ‘Susie’, it’s pretty much just the one poppy, folksy jam with a group chorus and a smile. In the end it leaves you longing for just that little bit more of the substance Paskalev is supposedly aiming for. If you’re not trying too hard to listen to the words and are just out for a lil’ no-frills fun, this album is absolutely delicious and will genuinely have you up and dancing, but maybe not in your underwear. 7/10 Caroline Stafford Oxymoron Schoolboy Q Interscope The man with the bucket hats, ScHoolboy Q, is back with his third album and a strong follow up to Habits &
Contradictions. For Q, known for rapping about gang-banging and prescription drug dealing, Oxymoron is not a departure; the album covers such subjects as gangbanging and prescription drug dealing. The first half of Oxymoron is just great, opening with one of my favourites, Gangsta, and the catchy single ‘Collard Greens’ featuring fellow Angeleno and Black Hippy founder Kendrick Lamar. Contributions from Lamar, as well as Jay Rock, 2 Chainz, Tyler the Creator, and Raekwon never seem forced, (Kurupt’s verse in ‘The Purge’ being particularly memorable) although the star power may have helped Oxymoron debut at number 1 on the Billboard 200. On first listen, though, the whole album is a stand out with consistently strong backing tracks, and songs like ‘Prescription/Oxymoron,’ ‘F**k LA’ and ‘Yay Yay’ will make you feel G as hell driving your mum’s Honda to the shops. As easy as it was to initially overlook the lyrical content, the former Crip leader has much to offer over an hour and twenty minutes, particularly to listeners who are as far removed from gangland life as I. His deliberate delivery in ‘Hoover Street’ details his upbringing, frankly dealing with crack slinging and home robberies by relatives. That said, Oxymoron is not as lyrically impressive as Habits & Contradictions, and even though the subject matter throughout was sometimes serious, I felt like I was being told rather than being led to understand. I don’t feel like there was much subtlety to ‘Bruh I see girls everywhere, Titty ass hands in the air.’ anyway, but I digress. I really enjoyed this album for the banging beats on just about every track (if you like snare rolls, you’ll have a wonderful time) but don’t expect Q to deliver a lyrical equivalent of his previous releases. P.S. Watching the official “Man of the Year” music video is strongly recommended. 8/10 Kieran Rayney
LET’S JUST KEEP TELLING OURSELVES THEY’RE JEALOUS For too long have Fantasy and Sci-Fi been treated as the smelly kid on the playground by the bullies of proper literature - a particularly appropriate analogy, since most of the readers of Sci-Fi and fantasy were themselves the smelly kids on their respective playgrounds. But I say it ends here. We SF&F readers shall acquire the deodorant of literary respect that we so deserve. ‘Genre Fiction’ is the literary community’s current go-to phrase for making you feel bad about the things you enjoy. The term is used to describe books written to fall into a certain marketing genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Westerns, Crime and Detective novels, Romance, etc. At the same time that this term emerged, other, more respectable works became known as ‘literary fiction’ as if to clearly distinguish what was literature, and what wasn’t. There’s a huge amount of bias against these genre fictions, both in literary circles and (in my experience) everyday conversation. Critics of genre fiction often accuse its authors of writing stories heavy on plot and light on meaning to appeal to large, established audiences for the sole purpose of making money, rather than any love of the art form. Whilst that argument might have flown a decade or two ago, the distinction between genre and literary fiction is becoming increasingly vague. Genre authors such as Suzanne Collins and Neil Gaiman notably use techniques set aside by most critics as “literary” in their genre works. And literary authors are using classic, plot-heavy genre fiction techniques in theirs – hell, in 2002 Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon wrote Summerland, a Young Adult Fantasy novel. Genre Fiction, especially Sci-Fi and Fantasy, is most often dismissed as ‘escapist’ fantasy, read only for the purpose of allowing a reader to escape their tedious daily existence. This is essentially ridiculous as it assumes that somehow a lack of realism in genre fiction makes it worth less than more realist “literary” fiction. Yet classics that progress into unrealistic situations somehow remain exempt. I don’t want to spoil the
end of GK Chesterton’s The Man who was Thursday, but suffice it so say, things get surreal, and I’ve never heard anyone accuse Kafka of being escapist. This fixation on a lack of realism in SF&F is sheer nitpickery on behalf of genre fiction critics. Some people are just terrified of having to use a little imagination.
books, read prior to something great, really sharpens my appreciation for the latter book’s quality. Or, if a book is just that right kind of guilty-pleasure-terrible (Matthew Reilly, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit), as long as you never tell anyone (oops) you can always find solace in imagining you’re enjoying it out of some sense of irony.
Most of the bias comes from the very roots of Sci-Fi and Fantasy: pulp magazines cheaply made and poorly written left a terrible impression on the literary community when they exploded in popularity in the mid-20th Century. This hasn’t been improved by the clichés modern exponents of the genre seem to embrace. To be totally honest, maybe two thirds of Fantasy authors are total hacks. They might as well be picking tropes blindly from a big box and stringing them together into some kind of semi coherent story. If there’s a farm boy and/ or orphan, an ancient prophecy and words with too many “Z”s, “X”s or “Q”s (“They just look cooler” - every hack SF&F author ever), you might as well just put that thing right back down. Of course, there is pleasure to be gained in terrible books. I personally find that reading one or even two (if I really feel like punishing myself) terrible fantasy
Anyone who’s ever gone into a book store and spent five minutes looking for the dingiest corner (undoubtedly the location of the genre fiction) terrified to ask the probably perfectly nice store clerks where they keep that book you’re after can tell you there’s a lot of SF&F stigma out there. SF&F even have to have their own prizes, notably the Locus, Nebula and Hugo, since large awards committees never give out their accolades to the humble authors of genre fiction (unless your name happens to be Stephen King). And SF&F’s trying to rename itself ‘speculative fiction’ hasn’t helped either. Whilst it may allude to some veneer of sophistication, it’s really just the same as our beloved smelly kid insisting he exudes some kind of ‘natural musk.’ He doesn’t. But maybe, with time and more open-minded literary critics, things could get better.
Picture by Camden Watts
by Tom Rossiter
RUSSIAN FORMALISM IS SO HOT RIGHT NOW A conversation about one’s favourite books is a big deal. Someone who takes their reading seriously will not divulge such personal (and possibly incriminating) information lightly – I speak from experience. Now, don’t be mistaken into thinking that I consider my #TopFiveBooks too obscure and highbrow for the rest of the population. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Back in the day, conversations about one’s reading preferences were a top-notch way to bond with other juveniles, to discover new books to read (BRING BACK SCHOLASTIC BOOK CLUB), to keep alive the hope that one day you would find another person who was equally knowledgeable (the word ‘obsessed’ is so stigmatized) about Mary Kate and Ashley’s Two of a Kind series. Then, shit happened: the distinction between English and ‘Lit’ was made clear in high school; you enrolled at UWA; and Mary Kate started dating Nicolas Sarkozy’s creepy half-brother 17 years her senior. And so, with this crude loss of innocence we flash forward to the present day, where “What are your favourite books?” is the quickest way to classify oneself as a superior, well-read species and wreak havoc among those who still think it’s okay to admit that they actually like Vampire Academy. Yes, I am talking about the Book Snob. We’ve all met at least one, and if you are part of the minority that hasn’t, I recommend you go to the ‘Literature’ section of your nearest secondhand bookshop and pronounce ‘Camus’ phonetically (you’re welcome). I know that I certainly encountered more than my fair share of Book Snobs during adolescence. Believe it or not, there was a time when I would happily regurgitate a comprehensive review of the most recent young adult fiction book that I had read to anybody that I walked past (Lemony Snicket five-ever <3). And yet you wouldn’t know this by looking at me now – years of meaningful scoffs, outlandish statements like “Harry Potter isn’t even good, it’s just a kid’s book” and pompous questions such as “Next time, why don’t you try reading a classic?” have transformed me into an emotionally hardened university student, avoiding the eyes of passersby (maintain eye contact for too long and they’ll think it’s okay to tell you about how they’ve started Ulysses
for light reading) and recoiling from words such as ‘Formalism’ and ‘Tolstoy’. Trust no one, kids. Book Snobbery can be attributed to a number of reasons, of which I believe the most obvious to be growing up (always problematic) and starting tertiary education. It is a fact that you are more likely to encounter Book Snobs at university. It makes sense: university life means less free time, less free time means fewer chances to read (for leisure, that is. One still has plenty of time to get stuck into Banking and Financial Institutions Law, or whatever) and thus, those who still have time to throw back some Bukowski in between classes and counting pennies for a cappuccino from Rocket Fuel have become somewhat a rarity. This means that the Book Snob considers his or herself more cultured and intelligent than the average university student, when in reality they probably just have superior time management skills (and less contact hours). However, you know that they will pounce on any conversational lull to make you aware of what they believe to be their literary superiority. Another reason for Book Snobbery is the misguided yet ever-present concept that ‘mainstream’ and ‘good quality’ are mutually exclusive. This idea is applied across the board – with movies, music, television shows. Yet due to the aforementioned decline in reading due to more pressing ‘adult’ responsibilities, this aversion to all things mainstream is particularly common with books. When a book or series comes along that causes what seems like the entire population to fall to their knees in love and admiration, you would assume that this is because it’s really, really good, right? Wrong. It’s actually because everyone is stupid and doesn’t know what it means for a book to be truly ‘good’. Such is the belief of the Book Snob. Having said all this, I would be lying if I portrayed myself as merely the victim. I have certainly discriminated against certain books during my time, no
matter how passionate I am in my ‘EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL BOOKS’ crusade. The truth is that it’s near impossible to completely avoid Book Snobbish tendencies; the line between being accepting and being discerning is a fine one indeed. If we were to compare the scale of Book Snobbery to another scale that is universally tried and tested, then “I heard that that’s basically soft porn, but I’ll give it a go anyway!” would be equivalent to Lemon & Herb, while “Did I tell you that I’m learning Italian? You know, so that I can read the Divine Comedy in its original language” would be right up there with Extra Hot. I like to think I fall somewhere around the Lemon & Herb/Mild border (“I appreciate the recommendation, but I think I’ll save Lauren Conrad’s biography for another time”). All I’m saying is, to the Book Snobs out there: I understand that the classics are ‘classic’ for a reason, but there’s nothing wrong with expanding your horizons. Next time your hand gravitates toward Kafka, why not try swapping him in for a bit of EL James? For as a wise woman once said: “How can you be so sure that thinly-veiled Twilight fan fiction isn’t your thing if you’ve never given it a fair go?”
Picture by Lauren Wiszniewski
by Julianne de Souza
KEEPING UP WITH THE NAIPAULS by Kenneth Woo I have a certain naivety when it comes to printed word: I would like to believe that all authors are judged solely based on their literary works, and that the author’s sex should not be a factor in deciding whether the book sucked or not. Oh cruel world, how you slap me in the face again. I don’t know if many people have noticed this, but many of the major book review lists and awards across the world are biased towards men. There seems to be an underlying current of sexism washing over the literary world – is everyone really okay with that?
OH CRUEL WORLD, HOW YOU SLAP ME IN THE FACE AGAIN. An article by the Sydney Morning Herald got me thinking about this whole issue of sexism and books. The article quotes world-famous author V.S. Naipaul as saying “Because of women’s sentimentality, their narrow view of the world… inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing, too”. Thanks to people like him, it has now become okay to express sexist views in the literary world. My absolute favourite quote was from an Australian writer, Kirsten Tranter who says (you need to sit down, it’s a doozie), “It’s become possible for respected critics to openly admit – not just when they’re drunk at a party but in public, in writing – that they think issues of gender equality are dated and irrelevant and that women who complain about it are privileged whingers”. The views of one writer might be dismissed as just the mad ramblings of an individual, but what happens if it’s seemingly codified in book review sections of major newspapers? The crème de la crème of book reviews are found in the
New York Times - the statistics there are so ridiculous, I thought I was at a parody site. A study found that 95% of American political authors reviewed by the Times were men, while another study found that 66% of mystery novels reviewed were by men (this rose to 72% in 2010). The question is, why is there such an uneven split? There seems to be a bias against women and the genres that they write for - a double standard that seeks to devalue the experiences and creativity of women. Author Jennifer Weiner puts it quite succinctly: “I think it’s a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it’s literature with a capital L, but when a women considers the same topics, it’s romance, or a beach book – in short, it’s something unworthy of a serious critic’s attention”. What she argues is that this literary sexism is actually devaluing the contributions and experiences of female authors. One does not need to look far to see examples for this: go into any bookshop and pick up two books of similar topics, one written by a man and the other by a woman, and see how the books are classified. A woman’s “domestic fiction” is a man’s “sweeping family saga”. To many people it does not seem to be very obvious, but it is an insidious thing, hiding in plain sight. The literary world is point blank telling consumers that the works, experiences and insights of women writers are not worth the same literary clout as men. This disturbs me, as female authors wrote some of the best books that I have read. One of my absolute favourite books is Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert’s incredibly powerful memoir of her journey and self-reflection. Bookshops list it as “chick-lit” or “self-help” but not as “memoir”. Huh…interesting. Literary awards are not excused from this apparent sexism, with men constantly winning prize after prize. In Australia, a man has won the Miles Franklin Prize eight times in ten years (the irony is not lost on me that the prize was named after a woman, Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin). The awkwardness must have been so great that the Australian literary world created the Stella Prize, solely for women. To me,
it seems to be simple tokenism; it implies that books by female authors are not good enough to compete with books by male authors, and it reeks of condescending undertones.
THE CRÈME DE LA CRÈME OF BOOK REVIEWS The question that has popped up the most to me while writing this is, where is all of this bias coming from? Are we being taught from a young age that works by male authors are better? Author Elizabeth Lhuede wrote, “I grew up reading a canon of ‘great literature’ written by men…At school we read almost exclusively male writers…Our one woman author was Jane Austen”. It makes sense that the literary world’s biases against female writers can be traced back to how we were educated as children. Male writers were always shown to be great. Female writers? Not so much. School is where we form our beliefs and prejudices. We will often change our minds later in life, but first impressions always run deep.
BOOK REVIEWS A Love Like Blood Marcus Sedgwick A Love Like Blood is author Marcus Sedgwick’s first novel for adults, and follows Charles Jackson on a hunt through Europe over decades to find the man who he saw commit a great crime during the war. The novel is anything but a young adult supernatural mystery - it’s suspenseful, intriguing and utterly enthralling. The first feeling I had was that I was reading a classic horror story. The kind with vampires, stakes and holy water. But as the story unfolded the book became more of a macabre thriller, more suspenseful, and at times it even felt like I was reading a gritty detective novel. Although the book it ostensibly a vampire novel, with many of the tropes that that entails, the book focuses on blood; it’s the main theme and there wasn’t a single chapter that didn’t at least reference it. Through Jackson the religious, scientific and mythical nature of blood is explored. And although these digressions are useful for showing the degrading mental state of Jackson, they can at times feel forced with little or no relevance to the story. I enjoyed this book, but it is brutal, violent, and it involves a man spending most of his life obsessing over and hunting a perverse killer, corrupting himself to catch this killer, accepting more and more collateral damage in his pursuit and eventually losing parts of himself. Those who are squeamish or dislike blood-drinking, self-surgery and grisly murder should give this one a miss – to everyone else, it’s a great read that will keep you guessing for days. Best Bit: “... to expose a long and fresh wound from which blood flowed freely, and from which, I understood at once, he had been drinking.” Worst Bit: “She took my erection in her hand and tugged it. ‘No blood,’ she said, ‘no sex.’” Callum Corkill is a science student who is known in the cadaver labs as the ‘Fainter’. 3.5/5
Beautiful Cats Darlene Arden, Nick Mays and Andrew Perris If I had $30 to spend on an informative, interesting, aesthetically appealing coffee table book, I would not spend it on this. Being a cat owner and enthusiast, I feel like I am going against everything I believe in by refusing to indulge in this book – but it is far too indulgent in and of itself. There is no shame in being proud of your show cat or being interested in cats, but there is also a great deal of vanity in it, too. This book is not marketed for people of all walks of life. It feels like it has been designed by cat show people for cat show people, and not for cat people in general. And as a general cat person, I am disappointed. There is an awful lot of stick with not a lot of carrot at the end of it with this book. Most (and by most, I mean all) of the information in this book is readily available online. It feels like the sort of book somebody might have bought before Google. The information presented here is not comprehensive, nor is it particularly hard-hitting. Aside from the words, which I might be happy to ignore, this book is supposed to showcase beautiful cats. To me, a beautiful cat is a sleepy, purring cat with half-shut eyes, or a playful cat with toy mice and cardboard boxes. Or even a cat that plunges itself into a sink full of water and leaves pawprints all over the hallway tiles. The cats in this book do not look sleepy, or playful, or silly. Many of them look incredibly uncomfortable. Instead of looking happy and relaxed, most of these cats look like they’re either about to vomit or run away. Anybody who has tried to upload a catstagram (#ilovemycat) knows that taking a good cat picture can be tricky, so the photographer gets points for trying. But if you cannot portray the cats as happy, don’t bother putting them into a book. This book doesn’t make me admire the cats for their showcat perfection, it makes me feel sorry for them and wonder why several of them are inexplicably cross-eyed.
The Boy with the Porcelain Blade Den Patrick There are not a lot of things I hate more than a predictable fantasy book – and they don’t get more predictable than The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick. We’re talking all of the usual tropes – long winded Italian-esque names with a bit too many vowels, a cast of distrusted orphans, backstabbing noble houses, a mysterious hooded mastermind, and an absent king and abandoned castle-come-religious place of worship. This, combined with a seriously confused timeline, full of seemingly random flashbacks make this book and absolute chore to read. That said, Patrick does have a very elegant and enticing style of prose, and it is easy to fall in love with central orphan – Lucien (obligatory and unnecessary biblical references are dabbed thickly throughout the narrative). There are also plenty of characters to hate, from the overbearing school master to the school yard bully who grows up to become rich/influential/ taller. This does mean that you will end up enduring each pointless interruption to the primary narrative, just so you can get back to the struggle between generic underdog hero and corrupt ruling figure. To be honest, if you’re like me and you’re looking for your typical struggle between man and spoiled society with a heavy dose of magical folk and swords thrown in, you’ll love it. Best bit: Genuinely looking forward to the misshapen orphan guy getting the girl. Worst bit: Having to rely heavily on the glossary of characters during each heated sword fight. Caz Stafford is getting too old for this. 2/5
I wish I liked this book, but it’s old-fashioned and outdated, attempting to nudge into a market it cannot compete in. There are about a hundred other cat-themed coffee-table books I’d buy before I bought this one. Best bit: Norwegian forest cat Worst bit: photographic cat show epilogue Darcie Boelen is not happy, Jan. 1/5
NEVER MIND THE POLLOCKS by Lauren Wiszniewski
What makes one piece of art more valuable than another? If it is by an acclaimed artist, the price increases tenfold. If it has some wanky, post-structuralist meaning, all the better. Art is supposed to make us think and reflect upon the world, yet this can become contrived and ultimately meaningless. Who the *$&% Is Jackson Pollock?, a documentary released in 2006, follows the quest of 73-year-old former long-haul truck driver Teri Horton to authenticate a $5 thrift shop buy as a Jackson Pollock. The fact that Teri had no idea who Jackson Pollock was when she first bought the painting illustrates how art can be valued in a way that does not correlate with its actual appearance. There are countless numbers of artworks that have been put into the trash by cleaners and others that have barely survived test of time (cue rotting fruit and vegetables). Additionally, some pieces, like Tracey Emin’s Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, seem more like pointed “fuck you”s than actual art. The piece, a tent appliqued with 102 people she had slept with (sex or just slept with) up to the time of its creation, was inspired by her then-boyfriend Carl Freedman. In her own words, Emin says, “Carl said to me that I should make some big work as he thought the small-scale stuff I was doing at the time wouldn’t stand up well. I was furious. Making that work was my way of getting back at him.” The tent was destroyed in a fire at the East London Momart warehouse and the media reacted with mockery and scorn. Tabloid papers, The Sun and the Daily Mail, stated that they had already created their own replacement tents, with the latter also asking, “Didn’t millions cheer as this ‘rubbish’ went up in flames?” The fact that Emin sold the piece for £12,000 to a private dealer who later sold it to Charles Saatchi for £40,000 signifies that some, however, do consider her artwork ‘valuable’. In Who the *$&% Is Jackson Pollock?, Teri faces difficulty
authenticating the painting as it was purchased at an op shop, is unsigned, and is without provenance. This artwork is not considered valuable because its origins cannot be proved. The main problem with the painting is that, according to art valuers does not “have the soul of a Pollock,” and therefore is most likely a poor imitation. Indeed, the painting was only bought because of its cheery colours and was due to be sold in a garage sale before a local high school art teacher recognized its potential - most probably because she had seen enough Pollock imitations in her lifetime to be able to recognize one painted splashed canvas from another. While some deriders have suggested a Pollock could be painted by a four year old, the 2006 sale of his No. 5, 1948 marked the piece as the world’s most expensive painting at a price tag of $140,000,000 and Pollock as one of the most exclusive artists of all time. To be successful in art one must come from a position of privilege. It is only then that they can promote and incorporate meaning into their works. Art has become a business and making money in business is an art. This concept promoted by artists such as Andy Warhol has seen people becoming creative in order to become successful. Jeff Koons made millions after switching from stockbroking to borrowing imagery from popular culture. While some may look down
upon a Bachelor of Arts, it may actually be the key to understanding issues that will inspire your next masterpiece. Current on-trend pieces include climate change, war, missing airplanes and giant goon bags. Sex is always on topic. Approaching a subject from a privileged position means that you can continue to express the views of the bourgeoisie while remaining critical of the world around you. That being said, not every modern art piece is missing the point, some remain in touch with an ever-changing world. Art valuation is an important tool used to measure the worth of a piece. For collectors, the emotional connection felt towards a work or collection creates subjective personal value that will affect the price weight assigned by such a collector. Charles Saatchi sought after Tracey Emin’s work because he felt like it had relevance to the world around him while others thought differently. Art therefore can have differing values to different people, meaning that art valuation is not always a valid method in determining whether a piece is actually ‘quality’ or not. Teri Horton’s painting only increased in value when it was deemed a Pollock, not because the painting was considered anything special. In the modern world art is considered more of a financial rather than an aesthetic concern. It is up to us to decide if this is right or not, and how we will value the world around us.
THE HOWLING FANTODS: Suffering & Suicide in the Art World(s) by Matt Green “I’m a much happier guy than most people think I am.” Since Cobain eventually stuck a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger, this quote was maybe a little tongue-incheek. But the guy had a point: there was more to him than just the music he wrote, his issues with drugs, or his supposed role as spearhead for a generational movement. But in the end that’s what we focus on: Cobain as tragic hero, the miserablist God of Gen X, a prescient rock star who burnt out before he faded away. His suicide is celebrated as an act of artistic martyrdom, like it somehow makes him more sincere, more real. He died, so his music must be good, yeah? Suicide and suffering have long been culturally attractive signifiers in art, often to the point where previously unheralded artists become hugely successful and notorious only after killing themselves, often to the neglect of their actual work. Take Van Gogh, for starters. Here was an intensely troubled and frustrated man who consistently struggled to make a living through his art, on account of his bouts of depression and illness. Whenever poor Vince is brought up, inevitably references will be made to his probable suicide, or that whole fucked up episode when he cut off his own fucking ear. Van Gogh only started to garner serious praise well after his death, but to attribute this success solely to his fluctuating mental health is a serious disservice to his skill as a painter. French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is another painter famed for his perceived suffering. Lautrec produced prints and posters, many of them documenting the decadence and romance of the postimpressionist movement in Paris. Due to a rare genetic disorder, Lautrec’s legs ceased to grow at a young age, rendering him extremely short. Constant mockery drove him to alcoholism, which along with syphilis, led to his death at 36. Syphilis: the romantic way to die. Lautrec and Van Gogh were, in turn, massive influences on the Danish artist Edvard Munch. Munch was plagued his entire life by severe anxiety, alcoholism, and a tendency to get into drunken
brawls. Although he’s most famous for ‘The Scream’, Munch also produced wood etchings, prints and surrealist photography. In 1930 he suffered an intraocular haemorrhage, filling his eye with blood, and imposing disturbing and bizarre shapes upon his vision. Munch, terribly anxious he would lose his ability to paint, would cover his left eye, and painted what he saw. A friend of mine referred to this as ‘cheating’. It produced some really haunting sketches and paintings. Munch used to describe ‘The Scream’ as depicting his deepest anxieties: “I was almost mad ... I was stretched to the limit – nature was screaming in my blood... After that I gave up hope of ever being able to love again.” Looking at the painting can give you the howling fantods.
FILLING HIS EYE WITH BLOOD, AND IMPOSING DISTURBING AND BIZARRE SHAPES UPON HIS VISION. Glorification of suffering and suicide is not just limited strictly to the art world. Since his suicide by hanging in 2008, writer David Foster Wallace has become something of a lifestyle guru for the Information Age. Wallace only published two novels in his lifetime, along with a couple of short story and nonfiction collections. His gargantuan second novel, Infinite Jest, at over 1000 pages long (with endnotes!) is big enough that you could beat someone to death with it. It’s filled with prescient predictions of where society was headed in the age of mass surveillance, rampant consumerism and waste, and holds pearls of wisdom for seemingly any subject, from tennis to hardcore drug abuse to surviving boredom. A serious subculture of fanboys exists, prepared to quote IJ as if it were scripture, while his rare TV appearances rack up
serious numbers on Youtube. Suffering is itself a hugely important theme in Infinite Jest; several of the novel’s characters struggle with various addictions, mirroring Wallace’s own struggles. Wallace was hugely influenced by Fyodor Dostoevsky, who knew more than a thing or two about intense personal suffering, himself. There’s a nagging sense that a lot of DFW’s popularity derives its source from his sad, premature death. Wallace suffered severe clinical depression, and spent most of his life on a series of heavy antidepressants. His suicide stemmed from a failed attempt to wean himself off outdated meds. It’s also resulted in an unfortunate situation whereby publishers are scrambling to release every last unpublished word of his they can find. Since his death, at least 3-4 books with his name on the cover have been released, and it’s clear some of them weren’t intended to have been. There’s even a biopic coming out later this year, starring Jason Segel (fuck off). Intense wider scrutiny on his demise runs the risk of overshadowing his more accomplished work. I’ll be heartbroken if the movie is just Segel with a pair of glasses and a comedy doo-rag on. Ultimately, it’s really dangerous to glorify suffering as the root cause of what makes art good. There’s a palpable sense of voyeuristic schadenfreude, as if knowing an artist’s pain was real somehow transfers directly to the supposed authenticity of the art. This is bullshit; art should be taken on its own inherent worth, rather than have value grafted on by prejudices based on an unsettling philosophy (that suicide is romantic). There is nothing romantic about not wanting to live. It’s important also to remember that the above artists, to varying degrees, suffered from chemical imbalances in their brains, and the majority of their existences were far from romantic. They truly struggled, and came out with art to show for it. I’ll bring it back to Dostoevsky, who advocated: “Accept suffering and achieve atonement through it – that is what you must do.”
ARCADIAN DREAMS by Simon Donnes Chloé Elizabeth Sellars walks into the cafe. Dressed in all black, the newly exhibited Perth artist is calm and charming. She opts for the hug rather than a handshake, and asks with sincerity for permission to order tea. Teaming up with local indie game developer SK Games, Chloé aka Arcadian Dreams features the likes of demented playgrounds, pagan-demon cats and unamused balloon men at the forefront of her art. I spoke with her about interactive exhibits, art history and tattoos. SD How does one get involved putting on an exhibit in what is basically a trendy office space? AD So I was doing art games with a company on Williams St, Artlab, they had a pop-up gallery there called Occupy, and they had this game which was a sort of a rap battle with paint. I worked with them for that, I did two of those, and through the second one of those I met Lou who runs SK Games. He saw me there and asked me if I was interested in going collab in making an arcade
game, which went really successfully, and we figured, why not make it an exhibition of my art to go with the game launch? That was last week it was a really great turnout and a great night overall. SD I was kind of hoping for a walk-through because the brief on this didn’t explain anything, so can you explain how you have an Interactive Design x Art exhibit, like how does it all work? AD It was pretty out of the blue and seems like it wouldn’t work, mixing traditional Art with a gaming company. I worked really closely with the designers at SK and Lou who basically made the whole unit from scratch - the screens, the box, all of it. I did all the layers and visual work which was not too far off my regular method of creation because I work so much with photoshop now; they animated it all, gave the characters facial expressions, let them pop and burst and move, that sort of thing. So they did all the technical bits and I did all the art for it. It turned out really well, it’s a simple game but it works well and I think because of its simplicity it’s got a broad appeal, both with the design and the visuals. It was a sort of juxtaposition, this really detailed art and really simple execution. SD So have they offered you a job yet? AD They hire designers and things like that, I’m not sure I’d be cut out for making sprites all day. Gaming’s not really my thing, I’ll stick to the drawing for now, but as a collab it was incredible. The turnout was overwhelming and so was the response. SD Well you’ve certainly got the talent for the illustration; it’s this ethereal, uncanny valley stuff, reminds me of those original Alice in Wonderland illustrations by John Tenniel. Am I close? AD Loads of things inspire my stuff. Alice in Wonderland, Beatrix Potter, lot of old children’s illustrations and 30’s style prints were hugely inspiring and impacted my early work heaps. A lot of my concepts come from renaissance style art and a lot of classical art, Greek mythology things like
that. Art history in general really, that’s my driving point. I did a lot of study of that at uni, especially earlier European art and there it just lets you dabble in a lot of different fields. In terms of movements I find a lot of stylistic resonance with the romantics and the baroque, real old school paintings, I just love that depth and contrast of lighting, it’s called Chiaroscuro, getting that darkest of darks next to that lightest of lights and you can capture these face tones so pristinely. SD It does have a real smorgasbord feel about it, and as a viewer, having just enough art history knowledge to be dangerous it’s nice how you can connect the dots. AD That’s what I love about [art history] is how so much comes together with it. Its all these different disciplines building off one another like Aristotle and Plato, Greek myth and Renaissance - art with all this context makes so much more sense. I definitely got a lot from studying it. Same with architecture history. There’s so much crossover, like the Greek and Roman columns are art as architecture. It also gives you a lot of new perspective, like with Curtin and brutalism. It’s got a utilitarian charm to its raw concrete, it’s got an industrial power, it’s more than just ugly. SD At the same time though, there’s things like the new Arena. My architecture friend shakes his fist every time he drives past it. AD Yeah, that one’s pretty divisive. I think they were just trying to be edgy, trying to give Perth a jump-start of modern energy or just because they could. Spikes and stuff on the top, they really went kind of nuts with it. What’s really weird is how utilitarian it is on the inside. SD Yeah, it reminded me of the Hong Kong metro, this minimalist labyrinth. AD It copped flack for that too, but, I mean, at least it made discussion, even if it was really expensive discussion. I feel like there’s a lot of truth to that crossover of
love and hate, like you only hate something if you’re disappointed by it or it’s stirring some emotion in you. Indifference is like death. SD So bigger and better things from here? World Conquest? AD To be really frank I don’t know, I just go with what opportunities get thrown at me and I’m pretty happy to take them for arts sake. I’m happy to just go home and stay up all night thinking of concepts and then developing them. I don’t really see myself as being “I wanna do this, I want to be huge.” I just want to achieve lots of things within my art. It just makes me happy, being creatively expressed. I want to get back into tattooing though, and oil painting. SD I notice you’ve got some really nice tattoos. Do you design your own stuff? AD Probably about three years ago I was doing a tattooing apprenticeship, but because I was studying at uni at the same time as I still wanted to do things on the side so it just sort of got too much when I started piling these freelance gigs on top. I was doing anything I could find, I just needed more expressive avenues and to just get it out there. I want to get back into tattooing, once I feel like I’ve done what I need to do right now and just settle down a little, do it when I’m ready. SD Settle down and do tattooing. AD Yeah, it’s a little funny, but it is pretty stable and I will go back to it. For now I’m happy to just do commissions on the side - it’s a nice variety, it makes me really happy. Same with the SK thing. It was really different, it sounded awesome ,so I just took it and ran with it. SD What’s your take on watercolour tattoos? I’ve seen some incredible stuff but I hear bad things about their long-term survival. AD Awesome, it’s absolutely amazing that you can get stuff that looks straight off a wall onto your body, not just bound to these straight, hard lines. I find it really impressive, and the idea of literally taking something
off the wall and transposing it to the body I think is quite forward thinking. A lot of my work has these more organic textures worked in with these hard lines and to be able to put that on someone’s skin would be incredible. SD So, these tattoos I can see you have, did you design these yourself? Did you do them yourself? AD [laughs] No I didn’t do any of them on myself, I’ve designed all of them though. When I was apprenticing I got some of my
first ones, the other tattoos I had a concept and I went in there with them but they changed. Some of them are pretty weird. I had a concept, but when I was traveling I’d just go to any artist tell them what I wanted, kinda like a souvenir. Some people get a keychain and will say, “Oh, I brought this back from blah blah.” For me, this is like my little memento instead. Chloé was the cover artist for Ed. 1: Beautiful/Damned. Her artwork can be found at https://www.facebook.com/ arcadiandreamsillustration.
REVIEW: A Streetcar Named Desire Black Swan Theatre Company by Hugh Manning One of the things that struck me upon seeing A Streetcar Named Desire for the first time in years is just how spectacular Tennessee Williams’ script is. Streetcar is a confronting exploration of the struggles of American women in the late 1940s, and continues to be a moving and thought provoking experience more than 60 years on.
REVIEW: Trampoline by Dan Werndly The line between dream and reality wavers for Matt and makes for an interesting playground for everyday life. Trampoline, produced by Weeping Spoon Productions as part of the Perth Independent Theatre Festival, follows the story of a young
However, it is a challenging script, with physically demanding scenes and accent dilemmas. Whilst Black Swan’s recent performance of the play held onto the spirit of the original, it is clear that these aspects were a struggle for the director and cast. Of the play’s three central characters, Jo Morris’ Stella was the strongest, although this exemplary performance was a little wasted on a character who is consistently dominated and overwhelmed by the two other main characters. Sigrid Thorton found her feet by the end of the performance, with her last few scenes portraying Blanche’s breakdown being a particular highlight. The weakest link in the production was Nathaniel Dean’s Stanley whose accent was all over the place, frequently falling closer to Australian Bloke than to New Orleans Working Man, and who failed to embody the animal grace required by the character. The technical aspect of the play was a confusing mess, with some areas performing spectacularly while others failed. The set, for example, was magnificent, with the whole structure anchoring the performance convincingly in the raucous mess of post-
man who’s struggling to fit in with the rest of the crowd. The three actors played a number of roles, with Shane Adamczak as Matt the only person not constantly switching in and out. The set was relatively simple: the focal point was a small trampoline in the centre of the room used as a couch, bed, and a trampoline, among other things. The play was well developed and ran seamlessly with a high standard of acting, especially considering the number of roles the actors had to take on. The play, although running short at just an hour long, tried to discuss quite a few themes. The main one, and the premise of the play, was the distinction between dreams and reality and whether it is important to live in a fully realistic world. As Matt becomes more comfortable with himself and his surroundings his dreams stop seeping into his life, but when trouble strikes, his awake self seems to do all the work, with his dreaming self talking to a cowboy. There is also an obscurity to Kelly, Matt’s
war New Orleans. The lighting design was largely unremarkable bar one scene in which the designer perfectly recreated the atmosphere of Stella’s lazy morning happiness, an atmosphere that contrasted excellently with both the violence of the previous scene and Blanche’s anxieties. Whilst the set and sound were done well, the absolute shambles that was the play’s sound design dragged them both down. Sound design being one tacky-ass Saxophonist wandering around the set between scenes in a fedora. The wandering saxophonist became a constant distraction that detracted from the play itself. On the whole this was a fairly middling performance, held together largely by Morris’ prowess and the strength of the script. Whilst the sound design wasn’t an incredibly important part of the performance, it really stood out as a result of its tackiness, and in many ways it sullied what was an otherwise incredibly technically competent piece. Black Swan, you can do better than this.
neighbour and love interest, which makes you question whether she is in fact real or just a dream. This is brought up when Matt’s psychiatrist, played by Amanda Woodhams, asks him straight up whether she is real, to which he replies “I think so?” This questions whether or not it is important that she is ‘real’ or not, provided that she makes him happy. Yet far from the panic mixie dream girl trope, Kelly is a wellformed character with her own story. She is not mere daydream. Ultimately, Trampoline ponders the concept of reality and dreams, perspective and viewpoint. Does what constitute our reality become actual reality due to belief? Or does it make us a little ‘quirky’ and an outsider to others? Trampoline is a small jewel that shines bright and shows off Perth’s talent. Giving you a peak into new worlds, the play fixates on what it means to be human and the flaws that define us. It’s worth checking out.
MATE, PERTH IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD by Lucy Ballantyne I once had a tutorial with a Glaswegian mature-age student. He didn’t dominate discussion, but when he did speak it was with more clarity and intelligence than anyone else in the room. He told us about first migrating to Perth, and learning about favourite haunts and popular places. He snickered to himself as he explained that as a kind of toughlooking, tattooed guy he had been terrified of venturing into Northbridge for the first time. The native Perthlings talked about it like some grimy, scummy seventh level of hell. Naturally, on visiting Perth’s favourite nightspot, he was disappointed. ‘Have you ever even seen a real city?’ he decried, ‘it looks like that everywhere’. When Baz Dreisinger’s travel piece for the world’s most famous newspaper ‘Catching Perth’s Wave in Western Australia’ went viral in February, my Glaswegian peer’s comments rang through my head over and over. My Facebook feed was dominated by West Australian natives lambasting the article: ‘Bullshit!’ hipsters cried into their $5 lattes, ‘living in Perth is like, so dull!’ Which was such a welcome change from tears over a bus that was two minutes late, or photos of your last trip to Bali.
‘HAVE YOU EVER EVEN SEEN A REAL CITY?’ It wasn’t long before the hipster press caught up, and some wang at The Guardian published his response, ‘Mate, Perth is not a hipster city’. Bars have to close at midnight! Smart people move to Melbourne! By the time I got to the end of that article and read the conclusion that Dreisinger should have just told people the facts, i.e. that Perth has the world’s most beautiful women, I couldn’t decide who had irritated me more.
Dreisinger’s article was undoubtedly hyperbolic, but mostly it just described a Perth that I know exists, but don’t really care for. If you’ve got cash money to throw around, I’m sure the spirulina noodles at Print Hall are delicious. But a Pon a budget is going to have no idea what you’re talking about. And even if I did have the money to spend on a weekend at Crown, I can’t really think of anything worse. Crown Perth isn’t a ‘sumptuous planet’ to me: it’s sticky Burswood with a new name.
‘BULLSHIT!’ HIPSTERS CRIED INTO THEIR $5 LATTES By the same token, the idea that a city is simply unlivable because the bars close at midnight, or because Tarvydas couldn’t afford rent on King Street, is kind of offensive. When I was in high school, my English teacher moved to Melbourne. When we asked why he was leaving, he explained that ‘buildings have histories. If you love history you have to live somewhere like Melbourne’. Though I couldn’t articulate it at the time, even my 15-year-old self knew that was a crock of shit. I, like every other thinking person in Perth, am also filled with desperation and despair when I see another historic building destroyed and merely a façade preserved. But that despair doesn’t define my experience of Perth. That’s a privilege I reserve for family, friends and the almighty dollar.
centre really does buzz the way it always promises it could. Perth continues to reap the benefits of the mining boom and for every $13 pint I drank in that two week period, there was some performer pretty much giving it away for free. Bloody brilliant. I’m sure you can get a beer for $2.50 in Williamsberg, and lucky you. But you can earn $25 an hour for doing an unskilled, entry-level job in Perth. There’s a winner and a loser in every game and if you’re paying next to nothing for your bevvy, somebody’s missing out. It will never cease to amaze me how we can remove the ‘people factor’ when we talk about a city. I want my bartender to get paid a fair wage. Yes, Perth lets me down all the time. But when I think about what anchors me to any place, believe it or not, cheap drinks doesn’t come up first (I was surprised too). The pull to stay comes from knowing that in Perth, I am surrounded and comforted by people I love. If you walk around the city like a tourist, you can see a lot of what makes Perth special. The spiderweb roof of the Perth Train Station: the achingly beautiful town hall: the hills: the beach, but most importantly, you. Baz was right and I’m sorry, the bar does close at midnight. But my door is always open. I’ll tell you what everybody neglected to tell our Glasweigan friend, and seems so determined to continue to deny years later: it ain’t all bad.
If I were a visitor to Perth in the first two months of the year, I would also think I had stumbled upon some cool artsy CBD oasis. Our festival season gets bigger every year. This year on my seriously tight budget, between Perth Festival and Fringe, I saw about 20 shows. In the magical fortnight when the two events overlap, crowds heave and the cultural
YOU GIVE ME (YELLOW) FEVER Hi, my name is Mini and I think I might be a bit of a racist. Okay, not in a go-back-to-where-youcame-from, stop-the-boats kind of way. Please, before you put this paper down out of disgust, let me explain. First up, you should know that I’m of Indian/ Australian descent and I probably wouldn’t ordinarily consider myself a racist. In fact, I am incredibly racially aware to the point that it can be quite frustrating for those who spend a lot of time with me. I absolutely abhor the question “where are you from” and I swing between mirth and indignation whenever someone tries (and usually fails) to pronounce my full name correctly. But recently I’ve become ‘the racist’ within my group of friends because of my rather obvious taste in men. After recent forays into the dark, dark place that is Tinder, it has become increasingly obvious that I have a “type”, and this type seems predominantly to be guys of the Caucasian variety. Actually, after my friends witnessed some rather swift swipes to the right, it might be more correct to say this type explicitly excludes men of sub-continental descent. Whilst this all seemed perfectly normal to me, my friends’ reaction got me thinking: am I secretly a racist? Jungle/salsa/curry/yellow fever is where people, generally white, straight males, are sexually attracted to people of (insert your minority here) descent. It’s basically a term to describe a racial fetish. There’s been a hell of a lot of criticism of these “fevers”, with some saying they’re disgustingly racist and others claiming that they would be flattered by it. There’s no real issue with having a preference for certain physical attributes. I don’t think any straight guy has ever been chastised for liking big boobs. If that’s what you’re into, good for you! Considering how online dating and Tinder basically force you to make a decision purely off a couple of snaps, of course your preference for certain physical attributes is going influence who you pick. So you find yourself attracted to bronzed goddesses with dark hair? – Congratulations! You’re not a racist! But here’s where things get a bit problematic. What can sometimes happen with people who have racial fetishes is that they start attributing certain characteristics, values and behaviours
to people they have never met based purely on race. The danger in having such a fetish is that you start pursuing a type of person as opposed to a person in their own right. So while it’s all well and good that you like Asian girls, exclusively dating them because you believe they are more subservient, hard working and “make better wives” than their white counterparts? Then you have a problem. Likewise, the use of racial “knowledge” of someone you’re chatting up can end disastrously and often becomes an appalling example of the pervasiveness of racial stereotypes and presumptions. I’ve experienced some of these outrageous presumptions and prejudices first hand. I’ve had people start chatting me up in Japanese thinking a) I am Japanese and b) that I speak the language (which isn’t the case). In the space of about 5 seconds, this guy had made numerous assumptions about me without me even opening my mouth. And the problem is how I can’t shake the feeling that if he hadn’t thought I was Japanese that he wouldn’t have come over. He was more interested in finding an ideal Japanese girl than actually getting to know me, the person who’s standing right there in front of him. It’s behaviour and prejudices like this that numerous women (and men) of colour across the world have had to experience and put up with. All these issues come back to the same general problem – that these presumptions based on race can often have little or no connection to the person standing in front of you. No one is defined purely by his or her race, upbringing, religion or political views. While they these things play a part in defining who you may be, none are determinative. I’ve always just thought that the reverse of all these “fevers” applied to me, that I just dig pale skinned guys and get turned off by mass amounts of body hair, which sadly generally knocks Indian boys off the top of my list of hotties. Likewise, my sister doesn’t date Indian boys either. I would consider myself Australian before anything else and I don’t feel particularly in touch with my Indian heritage. I’ve spent a
lot of my time trying to dissociate myself from expectations and ideals that people, including my extended family, dump on me that relate to a culture that I don’t really feel a part of. That being said, part of me can’t help but thinking that my lack of attraction to brown boys is somehow linked to this anger. Perhaps what I’m doing is that in dealing with my own quandaries to do with cultural identity, I’ve also subconsciously pushed away anyone who might threaten how I want myself to be perceived- I don’t want to be the Indian girl who ends up with an Indian guy because that’s what people are going to expect of me. But doesn’t this in turn make me just as bad as those Creepy White Guys? Aren’t I doing the exact same thing, making a million assumptions about a person’s upbringing, values and personality, based on their appearance? I know we’re all going to judge a book by its cover, it’s inevitable living in the superficial world that we do. But while it’s fine to have a preference, you have to make sure that you get to know the person, not the culture. One of the best things about dating is really getting to know someone, not just fantasising about the person you saw across the crowded bar. You have to read the book, not impose your own story.
Picture by Ayeesha Fredrickson
by Mini Burr
PLAYING THE LONG COMIC-CON I love Oz Comic-Con. There is no other place that I can comfortably dress up as a Japanese pop star, a hero from an obscure video game, or a character from collector cards. Nor is there anywhere else that I would be stopped and asked for photographs – not because people want to post my image to social media and publicly make fun of my interests, but because they recognise the fandoms, and they appreciate the effort that I’ve gone to. For me, and for many others who are similarly inclined, this is what conventions are all about; a sense of community and a freedom to express yourself in a largely judgement-free zone. Oz Comic-Con is not only for comic books – as the name might suggest – but for followers of all fandoms, artists, and promoters and lovers of everything pop culture. Comic books, graphic novels, science fiction and fantasy; if you say you like those things at a meet and greet the impression people used to get from you was, nerd. Nowadays if you mention any of those things you’re more likely to be labelled as alternative at best. ComicCon and other similar fan conventions have been running annually since the 70s, but it is only recently that they have multiplied and spread across the world. Oz Comic-Con was first held in 2012 so in just two years it has gained a large following and spread from two cities to five. The content of the conventions continues to grow as well, with brands such as DC, Marvel and Dark Horse comics being displayed and sold. This year the event had expanded to fill two large conference rooms of the Perth Convention Centre, providing ample room for the sale of artwork, promotion of games and clubs, celebrity panels, photographs and signings. For local independent artists (particularly those with non-traditional styles), conventions like these provide an opportunity to interact with their potential audiences, and display their unique work.
Among the promotions this year was a Nintendo area complete with consoles and beanbags, a small laser tag arena and a Magic: The Gathering corner, where you could learn to play the card game. Good Games, a store that is located in St James, teamed up with Wizards of the Coast (publishers of Magic) for the second year in a row to promote the game. While their sales at the convention don’t afford much profit, the opportunity to engage new and open-minded participants makes it worth the effort. The celebrity guests ranged from the obscure (Amanda Tapping from sci-fi show Sanctuary), to those of cult fame (Jewel Staite from the famously cancelled Firefly) and Hollywood names (Dean O’Gorman, John Callen and Stephen Hunter from The Hobbit). Panels allow for fans to see them in the flesh, ask them questions about their favourite fandoms, and listen to stories from behind the scenes of the fictional worlds they know so well – a rare opportunity for most of us, particularly in Perth. The future looks bright for what were traditionally ‘fringe’ cultures. As culture develops, fashions and fads grow and change. This could be happening with the fantasy/fiction genre of media. A prime example of this is Doctor Who, which despite being a sci-fi show has burst into mainstream interest and gained a massive influx of viewers and fans. Doctor Who is only one of many media that are part of the fantasy/fiction class that are steadily becoming more mainstream. Star Trek, Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games are all set in otherworldly scenarios yet they entrap millions of people worldwide. The Hunger Games; Catching Fire made over $110 dollars, besting many of the season’s more traditionally ‘mainstream’ films.
Social acceptance may simply mean that the public who aren’t interested in the fantasy/fiction genre are simply learning to deal with it. This however wouldn’t explain the vast swathes of people attending the conventions like ComicCon. The most probable explanation for why this genre of media is becoming more popular is a mixture of the two, and as more people begin to look outside the mundane to draw comparison to their existence the fan base will keep growing. For lovers of pop culture, conventions like ComicCon are a must, and this audience is ever expanding. Popular culture, particularly in terms of the sci-fi and fantasy realms, is no longer enjoyed only by the socially awkward and painfully geeky, but by the masses – and so it should be.
Picture by Camden Watts
by Elisa Thompson and Dan Werndly
CULTURE REVIEWS REVIEW: GOAT SIMULATOR If I had to describe this game to you in 3 words, I would calmly look you in the eye, meeting your gaze just long enough to incite an element of fear into your heart before quickly looking down, brushing the single tear from my face and whispering into your beautifully sculpted ear, still quivering with excitement... ‘Goat’. You shudder, losing balance and collapsing into my arms. As I catch you, we’re both hit by a truck, slam into the petrol station, blow it up with our dangling heads, fly into the sky, and earn the ‘Michael Bay!’ achievement while baa-ing uncontrollably. This, dear reader, is the elegant beauty of Goat Simulator. At first glance you’d think that it was a joke (which is most certainly is), but
REVIEW: HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER FINALE #SPOILERS In the final two episodes of ‘How I Met Your Mother’, the show swept away everything it’s built up to in order to deliver a pre-packaged ending the creators planned nine years ago when it began. I am feeling pretty pissed off by the conclusion. Okay, so, the format of the show itself takes on the approach of a future narrator and main protagonist Ted, retelling his kids about the story of how he met their mother. Occasionally, the show breaks away from the story of 20-somethings dicking around in New York in order for the narrator to directly tell his kids what was going on. The thing is, these shots were made nine years ago when the show began, and because it could never have really planned out becoming a gigantic hit and eventually stretching out for almost a decade, the
beneath the goat-filled aesthetic lies an extremely well crafted experience. It plays like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, with airtime, mad combos, and glitch incitation rewarded with (pointless) points. There are many tools to assist you in your buggy onslaught, ranging from carrying axes that fly uncontrollably around you with your tongue, summoning goats to fall from the sky, and even channelling the power of Goat Satan. These create a surprisingly rich experience for a game about being a goat, but the true brilliance of the game lies in its thinly veiled mockery of the industry as a whole.
video games have tried to stupefy. Bugs are embraced with open rag-doll physics arms, references are spurted forth like an episode of The Memeticist, and Flappy Goat is a legitimate minigame serving to honour the wrongfully slain legend. There are no cut-scenes or semblances of deep characterisation, just pure goat madness.
To say this is the most important video game the industry has ever made would be the understatement of the century. It’s about stupefying everything that video games have tried so hard to legitimise, while simultaneously legitimising everything
The birth of a child Autumn leaves brush your soft skin Goat Simulator
same shots were re-used over and over. So, to incorporate the meta-narrative into the actual narrative, the final scenes of the finale were shot back when the show began. The creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, had everything planned out from the beginning. That ending turned out to be, regardless of whatever would end up happening in future episodes, that Ted’s yet-unannounced mother was dead, and that this story was simply a method for stating a case to his kids on why Robin should be their new replacement mother.
being interesting after the first three seasons; and Ted’s actual wife turned out to completely live up to the hype after nine whole seasons of build-up (she was perfect). But hey, how could the creators have known that was going to happen? In the end, HIMYM was trapped to end sourly due to the foresight (or lack thereof) of its own creators.
Didn’t the entire final season revolve around Robin getting married to Barney? Well, yes. That was completely undone in the second-last episode with a couple lines of dialogue. It’s a shame because all of Barney’s character development that was built up after the final three seasons was quickly washed away, and he reverted back to his sleazy, original self. That’s a huge bummer, and what’s worse is that the whole Robin-Ted dynamic stopped
My final thoughts: Love it or hate it, you will love it. Goat/Goat, would play again. I highly encourage you to buy this, endorse this, support this shambling embarrassment of triumphant design. And, in true goat fashion, a haiku:
I grew up with this show. It stated when I was 12, and was the first real thing I stared watching that made me feel like an “adult”. Like all great sitcoms, I’ve really grown to love these characters and their stories. And y’know, if we knew this was the trajectory way back in the first season, I probably would have loved the idea as well. It’s still a great TV show; it’s loved by a generation and filled in the glaring void left by ‘Friends’. Although, it’ll be weird coming home, tired after a long day, and flipping on the TV to catch a re-run, knowing that everything that plays out in front of me is essentially pointless. Cameron James
The journey begins 16th May 2014 • Oak Lawn Get on board V-Fest, Guild Volunteering’s one-day, action packed journey! Departing from UWA our destination will be a community organisation who needs your help! After you’ve lent a hand, we’ll return to UWA and wrap up the journey with a well-deserved picnic! What are you waiting for? Start planning your trip at www.volunteering.guild.uwa.edu.au or find Guild Volunteering on Facebook.
MYTHBUSTING PROSH by Sean McEwan So I edited Prosh this year. After I climbed down from my ivory tower, I noticed that there was a notable amount of chatter regarding how “unfunny” and “safe” Prosh had been this year, and wondering why it hadn’t kept going like “the good ol’ days”. I have decided to take the opportunity to voice some of what went on “behind the scenes” in this famous bastion of liberal, elitist (pseudo) intelligentsia (and by that I mean Arts students), to work through some of these arguments, and explain exactly why people arguing them should go fuck themselves. A disclaimer: I don’t think Prosh 2013 was concocted by a cabal of evil racists that sought to turn back the clock on Indigenous progress. What I seek to address when I speak of Prosh is the poor souls that, even given the huge amount of outcry among the Indigenous community, sought to downplay this reaction and insist that 2013 Prosh was a right and proper entry into the Prosh tradition with no fault whatsoever, and that nothing needs change. “Prosh has always been about offending everyone equally, and you’ll always offend someone”. Prosh has never been exclusively about “causing offense”. Josh Chiat has written a comprehensive history on the early days of Prosh that you can find by googling his name + Prosh history. Even if we’re granting this fucking dumb premise that “a thing should be like it has always been”, then Prosh has not “been like it has always been”. Furthermore, things have no obligation to continue the way they are in perpetuity for the sake of doing so (see: slavery). Let’s say that you will not be able to write a paper that does not offend someone in some way. Given this information, what groups should you target to deliberately offend? If you said “groups that already suffer widespread
societal disadvantage”, then I’m going to take “You’re a fucking sociopath” for $10, Jim. Saying you “offend everyone equally” would be all well and good if we lived in a utopia where nobody suffered systemic disadvantage because of their sexuality, race, gender, etc, and everyone subsisted entirely on rainbows and happiness and smiles and nobody’s grandparents were managed alongside flora and fauna or expected to die out as a race eventually because of their inherent inferiority. The idea that everyone can suffer equal “offense” implies that everyone is on a level playing field when it comes to receiving “offense”. It would appear to be self-evident that this is not the case. Typically white racial slurs stem from a time where whites owned property and people. This is a far cry from other racial slurs you can name that directly tie into… I don’t know, dispossession, slavery, massacre. This is not to deny that members of disadvantaged groups can not “laugh at themselves”. But others are uncomfortable about it. And others still kill themselves after years of people telling them that they should be able to laugh at words that rely on putting their identity down as their basis of humour. And given that this is the case, maybe you should err on the side of caution of that side of “offense”. With this in mind - sticks and stones may break bones but words leave deep-seated psychological impact - let’s revisit this idea of not being able to cause offense. Okay, so we have to cause offense in some way. It’s inevitable. So let’s figure out what offense we want to cause. Offending rich white people strips them of privilege. Prejudice against them causes loss of entitlement, but prejudice against disadvantaged groups incarcerate and kill. Being racist and sexist is society’s job and it doesn’t really need any help with it. If you’re saying something along the lines that Prosh went “too far” in trying not to “cause offense” in 2014, I hope you understand at this point that you are arguing that Prosh needs to be racist in
some form to be considered a successful Prosh. That you would feel the need to rely on racist and sexist crutches for humour speaks to a real dearth of creativity that exists within your very soul and is probably why your parents are disappointed in you and feel shame for having participated in your existence. “Causing offense is okay, because it’s for charity” I take a pretty dim view on 90% of people’s charitable contributions in general, but the idea that Prosh’s moral responsibility is absolved by its charitable nature is a non sequitur. Crimes are not absolved because you give money to a good cause. If I pay money to fuck your wife, you’re not going to be very happy if I say it’s okay because she gave the money to domestic violence victims. I still fucked your wife. It’s a harm that is not going to go away. The swirling possibilities of the sordid detail will fill your every waking moment. The question of how much more comprehensively I satisfied your wife (and rest assured, I did, and to great extremes) will haunt you, and any vague, warm fuzzy feeling about donating to charity will offer little to no comfort when every time you close your eyes you see her heavy-lidded, ecstatic countenance, mouthing my name in perpetuity. “Prosh this year was “too politically correct” and filled with “white guilt”. I fucking resent the term “politically correct” with every fibre of my being. If I could convert the hate that I feel for that term into some sort of energy, any potential energy crisis of the future would be solved and we could use my pure, unadulterated rage to power interstellar travel until the end of time. This idea of “political correctness” as a form of censorship or whatever is bullshit. It’s not being “politically correct” to hold off on racial slurs. It’s saying, maybe racial slurs are bad, and maybe we can do better. It is an attempt by the “Thought Police” to control people’s
actions, in so much as that racist speech support racist actions and racist actions are kinda shitty on the whole. And look, these issues should and can be openly discussed in a public forum, and people have the right to be bigots, to quote one of the greatest political catchphrases of the 21st century so far. But people have no right to have their views elevated by publication in a 100,000 circulation newspaper, even a dumb one by students that nobody reads anyway. If someone wants to make a case for publishing racist “satire” in some sort of John Stuart Mill-like argument for the free and open expression of ideas letting only the cream rise to the top, they can. But I would argue that with the West Australian and Sunday Times, our state market for race-baiting is already saturated. If somebody didn’t like Prosh for going against this tide in 2014, then they can still find comfort in that their worldview is backed up in our two statewide newspapers. It’s never about saying “You can’t say that!”. It’s about saying “You can say that, but given that it causes real harm, why the fuck would you?”. And I don’t feel any guilt for being white (I still really like Minor Threat though). But, as Louis CK says, being white is thoroughly good, and if you don’t admit it, you’re an asshole.
of Prosh should be satire, and satire should punch up, not down. Any efforts I made to cleanse the content written in 2014 of casual sexism, racism, classism, homophobia and the like (and this amounted to very, very little work on my part), was not done on the University’s behest. I made the decision to edit a paper that didn’t mindlessly made fun of the disadvantaged not because I felt like I had to due to external pressure. I did it because I like to think I’m a decent human being.
“Prosh this year kowtowed to University demands to clean up the content”.
While we’re on this topic, I’d also like to highlight that this isn’t a one man coup d’etat of Prosh by a uppity pinko with ideas above his station, even if such a thing were possible. (Really, there’s too many people involved in the creation of Prosh that one person could ever make enough of a difference, but thanks for presuming I could). This is a systematic overhaul of Prosh’s process by the Guild as a way of saying “our bad”. It isn’t about shutting down free speech, but about recognising the power that Prosh has within the community. With power comes responsibility and it’s about us owning up to that responsibility in the future, rather than saying that we are entitled to do whatever we like. And I think everyone involved has made great steps towards that. Really, it’s less about “political correctness” than it is about “not being a shit bloke”.
This is a tricky one. Yes, the University did express concern regarding Prosh 2013, and sought to avoid a repeat of 2013, especially given that the University faced a litany of criticism from people who did not understand the split between the Guild and University itself. Aside from this, I don’t want to speculate upon the politics involved here. I want to make absolutely clear, however: under no point in time did I feel any pressure from University or Guild representatives to make the paper “less offensive”. I met with the Vice Chancellor earlier in the year and we agreed that the content
While I’m here, I would also like to formally thank the entirety of the layout group for, well, writing the paper, and the Guild staff who were tremendously supportive throughout. I also worked closely with the Western Australian Students Aboriginal Corporation and I have to commend them for the grace they showed throughout it all considering the very raw wounds we were dealing with. And, given that we were pretty critical of the Vice Chancellor, it was fairly commendable of him (and spoke
to an internal consistency that not many in his position have) to send us an email congratulating us. This is probably going to be the only time I ever say anything nice about the VC, so take a picture or something. Prosh is a fantastic, unique event run by a group of committed individuals and deserves to celebrated for what it is. I can barely find enough superlatives to praise all involved in student-run event that sees 100,000 copies of a studentwritten satirical paper put in the hands of commuters. But at no point should we risk conflating the celebration of this event with an abdication of moral responsibility for the content. That is my point, if I can be said to have a point with all this.
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Published on Apr 30, 2014