Honi Soit http://localhost/honiold Quality student journalism since 1929 | The University of Sydney's student newspaper Sat, 08 Feb 2014 06:13:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 Mixtape 008 – Goodbye! http://localhost/honiold/2013/12/mixtape-008-goodbye/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/12/mixtape-008-goodbye/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 00:00:12 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=9140

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This is the end, my friend. You’re a shooting star I see, a vision of ecstasy. Flew me to places I’d never been, now I’m lying on the cold hard ground. No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity. Bittersweet memories – that is all I’m taking with me. Don’t make me close one more door, I don’t want to hurt anymore. It’s go time!!! I roll in dough with a good grind.  So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind. Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time.  Blood is thicker than mud, liquor the elixir of love.  Turn this square dance into a passion hug. I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know.  Make my wish come true.  All I want for Christmas is you.

As we go on, we remember all the times we’ve had together.  And as our lives change, come whatever.  We will still be, friends forever.  We’re higher than a motherfucker.

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New University Senate Fellows reveal reform agendas http://localhost/honiold/2013/12/new-university-senate-fellows-reveal-reform-agendas/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/12/new-university-senate-fellows-reveal-reform-agendas/#comments Sun, 01 Dec 2013 05:58:07 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=9124

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Teaching conditions, student accommodation, and greater student diversity have been flagged as major priorities by the newest members of the University of Sydney Senate.

After an unusually competitive campaign the University announced that journalists Kate McClymont, Catriona Menzies-Pike, and Andrew West had been elected to the body, along with former Member for Balmain and Labor state minister Verity Firth. Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter Fitzsimmons was also returned as a Fellow, bucking a trend that saw current Graduate Fellows Jane Spring, Barry Catchlove, and David Turner all lose their positions.

Both Menzies-Pike and Firth are former Honi Soit eds.

New Senators, New Priorities

Andrew West told Honi that he was concerned about the growth of online education, and believed commercial pressures had led to the development of overly specialised courses.

“Too many universities are educating to a sort of narrow technocratic base and there are too many courses that are focused just on very narrow disciplines,” he said.

West pointed to courses like the University’s Masters of Buddhist Studies as well as its Media and Communications program as examples and argued that such courses potentially fail to provide students with a sufficiently wide base of knowledge. Like all the newly elected Fellows, however, he was careful to note that such thoughts were emblematic of his general thinking rather than specific plans.

“I’m just giving you some broad brushstrokes now of my beliefs,” West said.

West_comp

Radio National presenter Andrew West

West also said it was “incredibly important” that the University continue to find ways to increase the number of low SES and Indigenous highschoolers joining the student body and mentioned that – as the son of a railway worker – these were objectives he “totally supports”.

The Senate is one of the University’s most important organs for monitoring internal decision making and policy. It is made up of 22 Fellows – including the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor – 12 of whom are elected from and by the University’s staff, students, and graduate community.

In recent years protests associated with the anti-staff cuts and EBA campaigns have often targeted the Senate, accusing its members of betraying the interests of staff and students and attacking the corporate background of some of its members.

Firth in for Equity Goals

Equity goals may prove a common interest for the new Fellows with Verity Firth also noting the area as a high priority. “One of the main reasons I wanted to run was to make sure that Sydney Uni stayed focused on equity initiatives, on making sure the University attracts students from a range of different background,” she said.

More variety, says Verity

More variety, says Verity

Asked whether she was concerned about the University’s shift to expensive postgraduate courses such as the Juris Doctor, which effectively allow wealthier students with lower marks into competitive degrees, Firth said she had not researched the issue but cautioned that degrees must not be reduced to “money spinners”.

A win for the NTEU?

Close consultation with staff and students, and the importance of transparency, were common themes expressed by the new Fellows. Supportive of such goals, Catriona Menzies-Pike, West, and Firth all scored an endorsement from the National Tertiary Education Union during the campaign. Menzies-Pike said that her goal as a Fellow would be encouraging, “excellent teaching, world-class research and academic freedom to thrive”.

The result of the graduate election appears to indicate that the National Tertiary Education Union’s (NTEU) concerns about staff conditions have made their way into the broader University community. Though the politics of this campaign were complicated, and its results should not be read simply as a victory for the NTEU, the union’s backing clearly played a role in allowing Menzies-Pike and West to overcome other bigger names in the race, including high profile ex-Liberal MP Peter King, who ran alongside Fitzsimons in a group called “Unify” and scored support from groups like SUSF and the USU.

Earlier in the year the NTEU succeeded in having all four of its candidates elected to the academic staff positions.

“Certainly the election by graduates of three NTEU-backed candidates to Senate is a strong sign that the broader university community is concerned about the working conditions of staff on campus,” Menzies-Pike reasoned.

Menzies-Pike, who recently moved from online publisher New Matilda to The Conversation

Menzies-Pike, who recently moved from online publisher New Matilda to The Conversation

Fitzsimmons offered similar analysis.  “Politically, it is obvious that the new [Fellows] represent a strong push from [the] academic staff themselves,” he told Honi.

Though vowing to work with the NTEU, West made it clear he did not consider himself a union representative.

“Let me make this very clear to you, let me make this very clear,” West said. “I’m not a delegate of the NTEU but because I have been for 20 years, philosophically, a unionist, I support the NTEU’s right to be…an active participant in university life.”

When the Journalist meets the Subject

Though not associated with NTEU ticket, McClymont has outlined a set of priorities that are also likely to please the union’s members.

“I don’t have a set agenda but I am concerned about the erosion of face to face teaching hours, and the diminution of academic staff numbers,” McClymont wrote in an email to Honi. “I am also concerned at what I see as lack of funding for research across the Arts Faculty.”

McClymont also mentioned affordable housing as an area of concern. Though the University is greatly expanding the number of beds it offers, its definition of “affordable” has caused anger among the student body.

In response to questions about potential clashes with the non-elected members of the University’s Senate, who tend to come from corporate backgrounds, the new Fellows remained diplomatic.

But their differences could prove to be more than just philosophical.

McClymont was involved in a Fairfax investigation that revealed businessman and University of Sydney Senate Fellow (and Chair of the Investment and Commercialisation Committee) David Mortimer had previously operated a company in the tax havens of the British Virgin Islands.

In response to Honi’s questions about her potential working relationship with Mortimer, McClymont said: “With regards to David Mortimer, he has had a long career in banking and finance and I am sure he has acquired a most useful set of skills that the university would be keen to utilise. Mad if they didn’t!”

Mad indeed.

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The earth has music for those who listen http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/the-earth-has-music-for-those-who-listen/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/the-earth-has-music-for-those-who-listen/#comments Fri, 29 Nov 2013 09:07:05 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=9119

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LNTG_1

When Lonely Planet named Adelaide as one of the world’s top cities to visit this year it was met with cynicism and doubt. Affectionately known as the ‘city of churches’ the place is known to come to life for one, and only one, month in the year – during the flurry of festivals in March. But hidden underneath the tame, green hills and quiet streets of the city, lie electronic music fans that allow for a furtive underground club and warehouse party scene to flourish.  So much so that Adelaide was said to be the third techno capital of the world and overtook Melbourne and Sydney in the production of dance music in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. At the centre of this was Carmelo Bianchetti, who played as DJ HMC and was hailed as the Australian “Godfather of techno”.  He was among the first Australian DJs to champion Chicago house and Detroit techno and was identified as a coalface in the Adelaide dance scene.  Bianchetti now makes music under the Late Nite Tuff Guy moniker and moves in the direction of disco, soul and house. We spoke while he was in between making music in his studio.

“I’m always in here, I have a lot of spare time and when I’m not DJing I spend all my time in here.” For someone with such a huge reputation, Bianchetti was humble and friendly. Following some personal issues in 2000, Bianchetti decided to stop DJing because he hit a wall where he wasn’t enjoying what he was doing. He found it difficult to listen to music and started working at his parents’ bakery as a change of course. But it was the soul records he listened to on a Saturday night at home that got him out of this emotionally down period. “I found that music, especially Earth, Wind & Fire really lifted my spirits…. A little bit later I was like ‘I think I’m ready to play music again but I want to play more soul and disco along with all the house stuff.”

With a new stage name and a more positive take on his career, the once acclaimed ‘Godfather of techno’ still looked to the past to find inspiration.  Bianchetti told me that in 1990 he was sharing a house with good friends that shared his love for music. They were creative people and he would stay up late making music until five or six in the morning nearly every night. “One morning, a girl who was living with us at the time, out of the blue, called me ‘late night tough guy’… we thought it was pretty funny and it just stuck from then”.

The music made before and after the hiatus really represents Bianchetti’s emotional periods at the time, and are in stark contrast to each other. The techno from the early days is industrial and mesmerising, while the more recent disco has a smoother vibe. But Bianchetti said that the production process hadn’t changed drastically: “what I love about techno and some house is that it’s really hypnotic and kind of repetitive… I try to do that with the disco edits as well.” With age, however, comes better equipment and a more developed studio and he said that this has aided the production process.

In the early 2000s, it was clear that Bianchetti was disillusioned with the dance music scene that he was a part of. If nothing else, belonging to a city that produces music that an artist admires allows for collaboration and desegregation. In 2004, Bianchetti told inthemix that he didn’t feel a part of the Australian dance music scene and hinted at moving to Berlin indefinitely to pursue a career. That never happened. But when I asked about his opinions on changes to Australian dance music in his time, he was still disenchanted, this time for an entirely different reason. “I’ve been DJing since I was 19, but going out [clubbing] and hearing new music was a very special thing and you didn’t really get a chance to hear it anywhere else… [Now] everybody has access to all the latest music… clubbing doesn’t seem exciting anymore in that respect.”

The internet is often condemned for hurting music sales and the forced, fast-paced nature of the production of it. Bianchetti’s opinion was that, first and foremost, the internet had led to the over-commercialisation of clubbing.  He noted that there were still good underground venues and DJs playing great tracks, “but I don’t think they’re as well supported as they were back in the early ‘90s.”  He laughed while telling me that his solution was to get rid of the internet in order to avoid the masses being influenced by everything they read and see.

By taking the positive aspects of his past and intertwining them with his current musical direction, Cam Bianchetti brings a sense of class to Australian dance music that is sometimes difficult to find.  Although he takes influences from international soul and techno he has been DJing in the unassuming city of Adelaide for over 30 years and that’s an impact that is hard to deny.  “People here are into good music…I think that’s what makes Adelaide great.  I know that every time I play here I’m always more nervous than anywhere else in the world.” It seems that we may have been wrong about the city of churches.

Late Nite Tuff Guy is playing the Falls Festival dates in Marion Bay, Lorne and Byron Bay over the new years period.

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Sydney Law School Dean offers students chance to re-sit exam if they “get on their knees and beg” http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/sydney-law-school-dean-offers-students-chance-to-re-sit-exam-if-they-get-on-their-knees-and-beg/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/sydney-law-school-dean-offers-students-chance-to-re-sit-exam-if-they-get-on-their-knees-and-beg/#comments Thu, 28 Nov 2013 05:16:34 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=9112

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The Dean of Sydney University’s Law School Joellen Riley has eased her hardline stance on a recent controversial exam, promising today a second shot for students willing to “beg like they really mean it”. Following an interrupted and arguably tainted Corporations Law examination last week, Riley was less than sympathetic towards those who felt prejudiced by the unfortunate circumstances. However, in a compromise no doubt influenced by unforeseeable media attention, the Dean is now pledging reassessment to any student willing to “cry like a little bitch” on their knees in her office.

“Fine,” the Law School head conceded in a press conference this morning, “you want another exam? Prove it. I want to see tears, lots of tears.” Riley indicated that this opportunity would not be doled out willy nilly, and only those who truly debased themselves at her feet would even be considered.

“As the Dean it is not only my job to make the big decisions,” she said, “but also to contemptuously mock those students who are concerned about succeeding. In keeping with this policy, and in case anybody forgot who runs the show around here, the alternative test will be reserved for only the most shameful and degrading performances, I’m thinking really sick stuff here folks. And given Sydney University’s long history of excellence, we could expect no less.” Riley explained the extent of the anguish she considered “sufficient”: “I’m not saying students have to shit themselves in a fit of nervous desperation, but I’m also not saying that would necessarily be a bad idea.”

 

NB. This article is satirical. 

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Is it time we dropped ‘balls’? http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/is-it-time-we-dropped-balls/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/is-it-time-we-dropped-balls/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 13:34:22 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=9097

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balls

Even the smartest and most open-minded individuals amongst us still use the word ‘balls’ to mean ‘courage’. Recently, a star struck Rita Ora confessed, “I haven’t got the balls to go up to [producer Pharrell Williams].” Closer to home, the same usage of ‘balls’ made a brief appearance in at least one SRC ticket’s policy statement in the lead up to this semester’s student elections.

By using ‘balls’ in this context, we equate a positive character trait – courage – with male genitalia. As quickly as this association is invoked, the speaker perpetuates the gender stereotype of women as weak and men as strong: testicles become a pre-requisite for possessing courage. 51% of the population automatically disqualify.

But perhaps ‘balls’ has simply lost its gender-specific connotations, like the word ‘seminar’, which is from the Latin ‘seed’ or ‘semen’. Although I am sure many female university students would gladly attend more tutorials in lieu of this overcrowded delivery format, the word ‘seminar’ is never really used in English today as a way to exclude or belittle one gender. On the other hand, consider the slang used to denote those without courage: ‘pussy’. ‘Pussy’ is still specifically used as a term for vagina, even without the added connotations of weakness and cowardice.  Then, consider also our identical use of the Spanish word for testicles, ‘cojones’. In 2010, Sarah Palin declared that President Obama lacked the ‘cojones’ to reform immigration law. The same double meaning again occurs in French with ‘couilles’, in Italian with ‘cogolini’, and in Bosnian, Macedonian, Serbian and Croatian with the term ‘muda’. Indeed, rather than a word that has lost its original connotations and entered our non-gendered lexicon, this cross-lingual survey and the word’s persistent use in binary opposition to anything female suggests quite the opposite. The gendered nature of the word evidently lingers.

Why, then, do we continue to invoke this association?

Men evidently seek to gain from invoking such slang: it helps them retain positions of power in a patriarchal society that naturally values masculinity over femininity. In 2010, former Liberal leader John Hewson told Sky News that Peter Costello “never had the balls to challenge John Howard.” In August, Tony Abbott asked Kevin Rudd if he was “man enough” to tell the Greens he’d put them last. Without using ‘balls’, Abbott invoked this association in voters’ minds. And he achieved the same goal as Hewson – to belittle his opponent’s masculinity – just in a more polite way.

American philosopher Dr Helen Longino argues that all pornography demeans women, even when men are depicted in subordinate positions, because such men merely invoke the traditionally understood female role and stereotype, which reinforces the subordinate status of women. This same harm may occur when alpha males hurl insults at non-alpha males, casting their opponent in a subordinate and distinctly feminine light. Put differently, negatively charged gendered language harms women even when women are not on the receiving end of the comment, because it implies that masculine traits are the desired norm. Considering Hewson’s and Abbott’s implication that two sizable testicles and a whiff of testosterone-inspired aggression are requirements for political office, no wonder Julia Gillard – despite being the most productive PM in Australia’s history (by legislation passed per day) – was given the boot. (And no wonder Abbott struggled to find women ‘qualified’ for his cabinet). The situation is even more alienating for trans* individuals, who may fall entirely outside the rigid hetero-normative binary invoked by such sexist slang.

But observing that many conservative men lag behind on gender equality is neither a new nor interesting cultural insight. Nor is female exclusion from politics the sole consequence of this discourse. Dr Sherryl Kleinman, a University of North Carolina sociologist, claims that no matter who uses it, sexist slang gives power to men, and takes power away from women. By casting women as deviations from the ideal, it reinforces the idea that women are subhuman. And we already know that sexism feeds into attitudes that make violence against women easier to perpetrate, justify and normalise.

Considering these harms, why do ambitious and empowered women, like Rita Ora, or even Sarah Palin – who self-identified as a victim of media sexism during the 2008 election campaign – continue to invoke a binary that denigrates their own gender? As Dr Kleinman explains, “‘man’ is a high status term, and women want to be included in the ‘better’ group.” Kleinman argues that adopting slang that perpetuates male superiority may make women feel included in this group – whether this feeling of inclusion is achieved by a throwaway remark suggesting that President Obama “doesn’t have the cojones,” or in simply referring to other women as “you guys.” But this is only ever a guise of inclusion. True acceptance, Kleinman suggests, would not require women to have their gender disappear by making them “one of the guys.”

Moreover, when you consider the potential harm this language causes to the status of women, avoiding this word needn’t be an act of hyper political correctness. Neither should it be seen as an opposition to profanity, or an argument for censorship. Rather, resisting language that denigrates the status of women – even if unintentionally – may upon reflection simply appear desirable to students at a progressive university like Sydney. Whether it’s a Friday night conversation at the pub, a 140-characters-or-fewer tweet, or even a well-considered policy statement by student politicians, it seems that the time has come to make a conscious attempt to steer clear of sexist slang. We could start by dropping ‘balls’. Kicking the habit of using this word might be difficult, but when considered in the wider picture, and compared to the harms of perpetuating this gendered narrative, it may present only a minor inconvenience. And those with a penchant for anatomical vocabulary could always try ‘guts’ or ‘backbone’ instead.

Lily Allen’s new song, “Hard Out There” demands that we do more than simply reject this misleading and denigrating testicle-courage association: “Forget your balls and grow a pair of tits,” she urges her male listeners. And she has a point. There’s no truth in the association of strength with testicles anyway. Although testicles play a role in the production of testosterone, scientific studies causally link this hormone to aggression, but never to courage. More importantly, testicles are very sensitive, and relatively weak. Perhaps that’s why the comedian Sheng Wang gives his audiences the following advice: “If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.”

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Raue v Morris heard in NSW Supreme Court http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/new-information-surfaces-at-supreme-court-hearing-of-usu/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/new-information-surfaces-at-supreme-court-hearing-of-usu/#comments Sun, 24 Nov 2013 09:43:44 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=9067

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The ongoing legal dispute surrounding the University of Sydney Union (USU) Executive’s attempts to remove Tom Raue from his current position as Vice-President reached a climax last week when the matter was heard before the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

Despite a number of procedural delays, Justice Bellew presided over the case on Friday, November 15. The hearing was attended by several students from the Grassroots faction, of which Raue is a member, as well as Board Directors Tim Matthews, Kade Denton, Tara Waniganayaka, and Bebe D’Souza — who was the only Director choosing to sit with Raue. In keeping with previous hearings, Raue was represented by Doust, whereas Sirtes, senior counsel to the defendants, was joined by junior counsel, and solicitor Ben Urry of Kemp Strang, the USU’s legal advisory firm.

President Hannah Morris, in conjunction with Honorary Treasurer Sophie Stanton and Honorary Secretary John Harding-Easson, initially announced a motion notice on September 30 to move a Special Resolution calling for Raue’s dismissal after he disclosed part of a confidential USU report to Honi Soit. The leaked information indicated University management operated contrary to the rigid stance of non-collaboration it has espoused throughout the year, and instructed police movements to some extent during industrial action undertaken on Open Day, August 31.

However, the Meeting at which the Special Resolution would be put to a vote to the USU Board of Directors was postponed due to an interlocutory injunction granted by the Supreme Court on October 10, less than 24 hours before the Meeting was scheduled to occur.

The civil proceedings Raue has brought against Morris and the Board of Directors contests the Constitutional validity of the Board’s authority to dismiss Directors, in addition to challenging the allegation of “serious misconduct” which forms the basis of the Special Resolution. A bipartite claim, the Resolution asserts that Raue is “guilty” of (i) breaching his “fiduciary duty to the USU”, namely referring to a failure to comply with the USU Regulations and Directors’ Duty Statements as well as the Handling of Grievances Policy, and of (ii) making improper use of information.

At the directions hearing where the injunction was granted, counsel advising the plaintiff and the defendants outlined their arguments for the final hearing. Doust impugned the fact that section 3.1.4(a) of the Regulations, which the Resolution cited as the policy governing the expulsion of Directors from office, lies within the legal ambit stipulated in the USU Constitution. Moreover, she contended that Raue was not guilty of “serious misconduct” as the nature of the leaked information was not strictly confidential.

Conversely, Greg Sirtes SC affirmed the confidentiality of the leaked information, putting forth that Raue was aware of his obligations to discretion and acted in wilful defiance of them. Sirtes went on to argue that the Special Resolution was legitimate insofar as the Constitution broadly empowered the Board to enact regulations, such as those pertaining to the potential deposition of its Directors.

usu_logo_endorsement_rgbFirst on the witness stand was Raue, who was cross-examined by Sirtes for approximately an hour. The questioning began by scrutinising the confidentiality of the leaked information. Sirtes pointed to the word “confidential” being used by Raue to describe the information he disclosed in an initiating email to Honi Soit, and the word in a similar context appearing again in the resulting published article. In response, Raue maintained that when read in context, it can be reasonably understood that “confidential” related to the USU not wishing the information to become publicly available, not that the information was inherently private in and of itself.

Defence counsel proceeded to call into question the credibility of the way the leaked information was framed. When asked whether the police officer quoted in the report was speaking singularly or with the authority of the NSW Police Force, Raue defended the significance of the anonymous officer’s comments. “It is especially important because they were not authorised to speak,” said Raue, who summarised that the candid verbal exchange between the officer and USU staff member was much more likely to be “revelatory” than a rehearsed statement delivered by a police spokesperson.

The relationship between Raue and Honi Soit editor Hannah Ryan also came under fire. When asked why he chose not to inform the USU of this conflict of interest at the time he made Morris, Stanton, the USU CEO Andrew Woodward, and the USU Human Resources Manager Sandra Hardy aware of his decision to leak part of the report, Raue replied that he believed the relationship to be common knowledge, and simultaneously, irrelevant to the matter at hand.

Raue’s history of being victimised by police during on campus protests was likewise the subject of intense scrutiny, with a personal account published in Honi Soit of his experiences at the May 14 strike entered as evidence. When interrogated on how he “internally reconcile[s] [his] obligations as a Director and [his] strong views on police brutality,” Raue said he prioritises his Directorial duties, but, since it is shaped by his background and beliefs, his interpretation of USU policy likely differs from that of the other Directors.

Sirtes inquired whether Raue believed himself to be a “custodian of the public interest,” and in a follow-up question which was quickly disallowed and withdrawn, Sirtes asked if Raue considered himself to be “similar” to Julian Assange.

Additionally, Sirtes questioned Raue’s decision not to declare his personal experiences and views on police brutality in his affidavits, or to Woodward or Hardy as a “conflict of interest” when he discussed with them his intention to leak part of the report. Sirtes linked this aspect of non-disclosure to an intention held by Raue to misuse the information as a “personal axe to grind”. The plaintiff rebuffed this characterisation, stating that his position on police brutality was formed long before the May 14 incident, and that photographic, video, and witness evidence of students being brutalised by police during on campus demonstrations was well-documented.

Raue reiterated his belief that the leak was made in the “public interest”, to which defence counsel took particular objection. Sirtes inquired whether Raue believed himself to be a “custodian of the public interest,” and in a follow-up question which was quickly disallowed and withdrawn, Sirtes asked if Raue considered himself to be “similar” to Julian Assange.

Second on the witness stand was Hardy, who, during an equally lengthy cross-examination by Doust, established that the confidential report resulted from complaints filed by two USU employees, Zachary Ruokari and Events Manager Lee Devereux in relation to protest action, particularly “invasions” of the USU stage, conducted on Open Day. In Hardy’s affidavit, she asserted that correspondence with Morris prior to the formulation of the report had not only discussed how Morris believed Raue to have breached his fiduciary duties in participating in the protests, but also how Raue’s involvement in the protest was identified in the complaints.

Raue corroborated this during his cross-examination, stating that Hardy had assured him the report did not concern him personally. But, during her cross-examination, Hardy made a number of contradictory claims, both accepting that he was not specified in the complaints when the question was put to her by Doust, and later asserting that he was in fact named. This disparity is complicated by an email sent by Hardy requesting “real evidence” of USU staff being “threatened or endangered by a Board Director” in support of the Open Day complaints, although she denied seeking this information in relation to a particular Director.

More significantly, it was established that Hardy had not adhered to the Handling of Grievances Policy in the creation of the report, which Doust suggested effectively rendered the document invalid as a Grievance Report for the purposes expressed in the Special Resolution. Hardy admitted to failing to afford Raue procedural fairness by not providing him with a copy of the complaints or allowing him a chance to respond before concluding the investigation, despite naming him as a “respondent” and a “relevant witness”. This, in turn, cast serious doubts on the confidentiality of the report as confidentiality was bestowed by the document’s status as a Grievance Report.

Hardy’s alleged negligence in the handling of the complaints was aggravated by an email to Morris, where Hardy expressed concern over whether the course of action taken by herself and the Executive  was “deceitful”. In her investigation, Hardy interviewed Harding-Easson and a number of other Directors who did not attend Open Day, whilst choosing not to speak to D’Souza or Raue who were both in attendance. Despite being a member of Executive who had initiated the Special Resolution, Harding-Easson has not made an appearance at any of the court proceedings, making him the only Executive member liable of this. When approached for comment about his notable absence, Harding-Easson replied that he was “advised not to comment whilst [the matter] [was] before the court”.

supreme courtNext on the witness stand was Woodward. He echoed Hardy’s claims that Morris viewed Raue’s presence at the Open Day protests as constituting a breach of his fiduciary duties to the USU, and even went so far as to say that it was the “implied purpose” of the investigation into the complaints. It was also revealed that Woodward disclosed the contents of the report to Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence in an email on September 25, thereby undermining the document’s confidentiality. Although he conceded to understanding the confidentiality surrounding the investigation, he maintained that Hardy did not inform him it was leading to the preparation of a Grievance Report, which, as previously established, would have called for “absolute confidentiality”.

Transcribed in its entirety below and made public for the first time, the email from Woodward to Spence was originally redacted in response to a GIPA request for information pertaining to the USU’s dismissal of Raue, filed by a student last month. The correspondence primarily aimed to reassure the Vice-Chancellor that the USU report stemmed from an internal investigation which did not concern itself with the existence of a relationship or correspondence between the University and police.

From: Andrew Woodward [mailto: A.Woodward@usu.usyd.edu.au]

Sent: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 7:17 PM

To: Vice Chancellor

Subject: Honi Soit Article

 

Dear Vice Chancellor,

 

I wanted to provide some clarity for you around the piece in this week’s Honi Soit (New evidence indicates University collaborated with police at strikes).

The confidential report referred to in the article was an internal investigation into the potential danger to staff posed by protestor activity. The investigation was carried out to ascertain that the safety of USU staff working during the 2013 Open Day was not compromised.

As you would know, the USU has for at least the last 20 years worked closely in collaboration with the University on this important event. This year our participation included the provision of entertainment on the main stage and the presence of 20-or-so clubs and societies on the Front Lawns.

At two points during the day protestors invaded the USU stage, interrupting the student performances. I regret to say that USU Vice President Tom Raue was a participant in the stage invasions.

Our Human Resources Director undertook an investigation the following week to see to what extent staff had been threatened and equipment had been damaged (in taking the stage protestors shoved staff and disconnected microphone cables). The President also wanted to determine whether Mr Raue had breached his duties as a director in participating in the activity.

With the involved staff’s permission I can tell you that at the time of the second stage invasion the USU Event Manager asked a police officer if police could remove the protestors from the stage. The officer replied something to the effect that police had been instructed by the University not to engage with the protestors unless there were fears of violence. He added that it’s often best to let the protestors have their moment and then fade away. In both instances this is what happened.

The investigation we undertook was solely about the staff safety and whether Mr Raue’s involvement constituted a breach of his duties sufficiently serious to warrant disciplinary action on the part of his fellow directors. It was not concerned about any relationship the University may or may not have with the NSW Police Service; nor was it concerned about any instructions that may or may not have been issued by the University to the NSW Police Force.

Mr Raue, as a Director and as someone interviewed as part of the investigation was entitled to see the report. Against my counsel and the instruction of the President, he chose to pass on the contents of the report to Honi Soit. No one from the USU was contacted by Honi Soit to comment on the report’s contents. As a result, the report has been quoted entirely out of context and, I believe, the USU’s reputation has been damaged in the process.

This matter, including Mr Raue’s continued presence on the USU Board, will be discussed at a meeting of the Board this Friday.

I will inform you of any action the Board decides to take.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Andrew Woodward

Chief Executive Officer

University of Sydney Union

What the email did contain was confirmation that the investigation involved determining whether Raue’s participation in the protest embodied a “breach of his duties sufficiently serious to warrant disciplinary action on the part of his fellow directors”, which aligned with statements made by Hardy on the stand. The letter also described Raue as having been “interviewed as part of the investigation,” which was a claim rejected by the testimonies of both Raue and Hardy.

The final three witnesses called to the stand were Devereux, Stanton, and Morris respectively. Under cross-examination by Doust, Devereux offered that she had related the circumstances surrounding the complaint, including her verbal exchange with a NSW police officer, to her colleagues at the USU, to Gaylene Yuen, the University’s Events and Outreach Manager, and to her superior, Programs Director Alistair Cowie.

Again, ambiguity is thrust upon the confidential nature of the report. This admission from Devereux, as one of the two complainants, is particularly noteworthy because Morris later agreed with the proposition put forward by Doust that had Raue learned of the content of the conversation between Devereux and the police officer via some other means, for example through a conversation with a USU staff member, then the controversy around his disclosing that information to Honi Soit would be negated.

Morris went on to oppose Woodward and Hardy’s claims that the investigation was used as a vehicle to examine whether Raue’s presence at the Open Day protests was grounds for his dismissal. She stated that she “at no stage expressed a wish that there be an investigation into [Raue’s] conduct”, but this response does not satisfy the originating question of why she was given access to the report to begin with. The complaints were filed internally with the HR department and were not associated with the Board — unless a Director was somehow implicated. Morris parried this suggestion by postulating that although Raue’s presence at the protest, as USU Vice-President, naturally brought him into the investigation, he was not the focus of it.

Nonetheless, she conceded that the report should have been prepared with Raue’s consultation. Apprehensions were also raised about the issue of confidentiality with respect to Morris’ circulation of the report to Harding-Easson and Stanton, but the question was not resolved.

The November 15 hearing concluded with the cross-examination of Morris, but it has not been heard in full and remains sub judice. The case is adjourned until December 6, with the interlocutory injunction extended until December 9.

When approached for comment on the matter of the USU funding the defendants’ legal proceedings, Morris answered that they had not yet “received the invoice for total expenses”, but that Union members were entitled to inquire after it at the Annual General Meeting in 2014, where the Financial Statement would be made available. Morris also stated that herself and the other defendants were attempting to minimise legal costs “where [they] can”, but were otherwise compelled to follow due process.

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Letter to the Editors: First world problems http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/first-world-problems/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/first-world-problems/#comments Sun, 24 Nov 2013 02:56:28 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=9079

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On Tuesday 12 November 2013, while the world was mourning the devastation of tens of thousands of lives in the Philippines, tragedy also struck the Law IV/JDII students of Sydney University, who were sitting their Corporate Law exam.  An alarm sounded a short time into the exam. Some 450 or so students evacuated McLaurin Hall, into the rain-drenched quadrangle below.  Chaos broke out.

It is a great pity that we didn’t have a small army of primary school deputy principals on hand to manage the situation.  They might have marched the students out onto the wet lawns to sit legs akimbo, hand on heads (or better still, index fingers across the lips to hush any collaboration) until the crisis passed.  If we had done that we might have avoided the dreadful rumours (as yet unsubstantiated, but we are looking into it) that law students – students who are being educated for a profession with the highest ethical standards – were taking out their notes and discussing the answers to questions.

Nevertheless, the Exams Office – who do a remarkable job of managing the logistics of examinations in a big university – managed to restore order and the examination resumed.  Most students settled down and completed their papers without further fuss.

I met with relevant staff to consider what steps we needed to take to address the disruption of the exam.  A few students who emailed promptly after the exam proposed what I would label the ‘primary school solution’.  It was alleged that some students had cheated, we couldn’t identify for sure who they were (not without asking students themselves to become ‘dobbers’, and Australians hate doing that – or at least, they used to in my day), so the best solution would be to make all of the students sit another exam.  All 450 odd, including the majority who came well-prepared, followed the invigilators’ instructions, did nothing wrong, and probably did quite well in the exam, should be punished for the sins of the few.  (‘Alleged’ sins, I might add.  As Dean of a law school that values the reputation of its graduates, I am loathe to accept the allegations of cheating without firm proof.)   Students typically have summer jobs and travel plans following the exam period.  Requiring them to sit all over again would have been one of those vindictive, school ma’m decisions that I really, really hated when I was a little kid, made to sit with aching arms raised above my head, until some wretched urchin confessed to spilling his milk in the playground. Surprisingly, this was the solution pressed by the Student Representative Council (on behalf of LLB students) and SUPRA (who represent the JD cohort).  In the end, I had to make a decision.  As dean of the law school, I have to take into account all the myriad issues, and come up with the solution that does least harm.  I have offered to meet with the most vociferous agitators for the ‘primary school solution’, but so far, those who have responded to the invitation have declined to meet me because they have work, travel and personal commitments to attend to, now that exams are over. (I rest my case.)

We had a lot of email traffic about this one, as you would imagine.  Law students can be an anxious and competitive lot. They do worry dreadfully about exam marks.  A couple of years post-graduation and they will learn that the marks in any one exam are soon forgotten, and many skills other than mark-harvesting are more important to success in the profession (and in life).  Those important skills include being able to suspend emotion for long enough to assess all the ramifications of a decision you need to make.  And one vital skill is professionalism.  One good thing came out of this little typhoon that struck the corporate law exam on 12 November.  Honi Soit did me the great service of publishing possibly the best piece of personal advice I have given to a student so far in my short term as dean:  be very careful how you choose your words when you broadcast a complaint.  We do have defamation laws in this country.  The editors of Honi Soit know that, because on the same page that the ‘Stuff Happens’ story was published, there was an apology to a herbal products supplier, retracting any imputation in an earlier story that they dealt in illegal drugs.  Even if there were no defamation laws exposing those who allow emotion to swamp good sense to the risk of sizeable damages awards, we are working together at the university in a scholarly community.  Members of staff at this institution deserve respectful treatment.  I had understood, from the commendable support students showed to staff during the enterprise bargaining negotiations, that students do value good relationships with their staff.  Those relationships are best maintained by professional communication.  By all means complain when you feel you need to, but don’t fall into the temptation of writing in hyperbolic, offensive terms.  The fun of hurling insults at people is short-lived.  Lawyers in particular need to learn that lesson quickly.  If you are launching into a profession which is all about disputes, you have to be able to maintain objectivity and professionalism, even in the most annoying circumstances.

This little typhoon-in-a-tea-cup could become a real tragedy if those students who have developed a grievance about this allow it to poison their experience of law school.  Treat it as a life lesson.  Stuff does happen.  Stuff will keep happening.  All the things you are learning at law school will help you navigate a life full of some pretty awful stuff if you are going to be a lawyer. You do need to be a bit kind to yourself, and to others.

 

Joellen Riley

Dean, Sydney Law School

23 November 2013

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Reinventing the wheel: why philosophy still matters http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/reinventing-the-wheel-why-philosophy-still-matters/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/reinventing-the-wheel-why-philosophy-still-matters/#comments Sat, 23 Nov 2013 05:01:04 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=9018

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Over November 2-4, thousands turned out for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, which brought thinkers like Erwin James, Peter Hitchens and John Safran to the Opera House before throngs of thought-hungry people. This is philosophy at its apex: the considered engagement of ideas in a public context. Looking at the history of philosophy, it’s difficult to see it as something detached from the interests of society. Socrates was Athens’ most notorious conversationalist, known for accosting people in the street and arguing with them. While we tend to label anyone with similar methods a little unstable today, there’s no doubt that philosophy has always had public aspirations.

However, there has long been a tendency to treat philosophical thought as a pointless luxury of civil society. In fact, there seems to be a widespread presupposition that Australians are unconcerned with philosophical questions. Despite this, thousands testified to the importance of philosophy by attending the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

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MP Jamie Briggs

A furore erupted in September when Coalition MP Jamie Briggs labelled four government grants as “wastes of time”. Two of the projects were directly philosophical. Both were said to be “ridiculous” and treated as obstacles to Australia’s future. The crux of the argument was the appropriate allocation of government funds to “useful” ventures. The underlying implication, however, was that Australia had outgrown philosophy.

Among that which came under fire was the work of USYD academic  Professor Paul Redding. His work on the topic of God and Identity was singled out by Briggs as particularly pointless. Redding launched a retort in the Guardian, comparing philosophers to scientists in their rigorous engagement with ‘concepts’. On his account, our capacity for rational contemplation allows us to do more than just react to our environment: we can challenge and change it.

The Coalition’s funding cuts raise the question: why is philosophy important? It doesn’t seek to create avenues for profit or for the manipulation of the environment. For the economist, philosophy is an auxiliary concern. It is something to be overcome on the way to success. The marketplace is not the traditional home of philosophy.

Most people associate philosophical practice with universities. Dr. Tom Dougherty, a USYD lecturer in practical ethics, wants to distance philosophy from this reputation. His work in Britain, the US and Australia has given him perspective on how ethics and philosophy function in the public arena. For him there is “no sharp line between the sort of discussions that people have about morals or how we should organise society and the discussions that we have in universities.”

As a craft, philosophy is about “trying to persuade people with arguments.” The abolition of slavery, the restrictions of sovereignty and even the advent of democracy have their historical and ideological basis in sound rational argument. In the words of Dr. Dougherty, the university acts as a repository for philosophical knowledge, “so that we don’t have to constantly reinvent the wheel and start from first principles.”

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Australia was once notorious for its poor attention to ethics. Dr. Simon Longstaff, director at the St. James Ethics Centre in Sydney, recalls a joke that was once circulating Wall Street. “What have you got when you have eight Australian entrepreneurs up to their necks in Sand? Not enough sand.” Obviously things have changed since the late ‘80s, but this hasn’t lead to any revolution in public ethics. For many students, “ethics” lectures spell an opportunity to get a pork roll or study more important things.

Outside of the world of academic ethics, however, there are individuals and groups who recognise the importance of reasoning about values. Dr. Longstaff started the Ethics Centre in 1989, under the auspices of the St. James Church. Despite this, he recalls that the church involved itself “with a vision, and a very important vision, that it not be a religious organisation.” Though the focus was initially Australia’s crisis in business ethics, the human focus has since expanded.

“For many years,” Dr. Longstaff tells me, “I used to set up chairs in Martin Place with a sign propped up on the footpath saying, “If you want to talk to a philosopher about ideas, come and take a seat.”” The reputation of the Centre spread quickly, and came to represent an ethical voice in the media. Over the last few years, international institutions like the Intelligence Squared Debates began collaborating with the Centre. Annually, this series of talks brings international figures into direct conversation with each other and the public. Popular response to the debates has been formidable.

Dr. Longstaff harbours his own opinions about why we should stand up and take notice of philosophy. “Ethics matters because it is constantly the case that we engage with our humanity, that thing which is most distinctive about us. Namely, this is our capacity to make conscious choices, to transcend instinctive desire and to say “though everything about us says that this might be a good idea, there are some cases where we won’t do it””.

Briggs has made the issue of philosophy a practical one. For Dr. Longstaff, this poses no real issue. At the heart of the Centre’s project is the pursuit of “ethical literacy” among the Australian public. This literacy allows one to approach problems from more than one perspective or direction. “Some think about things in terms of consequence; others consider duty and others have a valency towards virtue and character. And if you’re not literate in those three, and perhaps more, you’re at real risk of never really talking to anybody in a way that they think is legitimate and understandable.”

The thought of a functioning democracy in which people are unable to voice their opinions or critically engage with facts is troubling. Philosophy might not appear useful at first sight. In Jane Campion’s Bright Star, the Romantic Charles Armitage Brown explains that “doing nothing is the musing of the poet.” But this is not the case for the vast majority of philosophers. The insistence of practical ethics and political philosophy forces both disciplines into almost every academic discipline.

It was unfortunate that a member of the USYD community came beneath the reproachful gaze of the all-knowing state. If a government refuses to dedicate time and money to the enrichment of a critical tradition, how can it be expected to wield power appropriately? The popularity of events like the Festival of Dangerous Ideas and the Intelligence Squared Debates shows that philosophy is no dead weight on Australians. In fact, we pride ourselves on our “bullshit metre” and reservation of judgement (however fatuous this pride may be). But hey, the world might not be completely lost without philosophy. Reinventing the wheel will certainly take a lot less time if everyone’s an engineer.

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Breaking news: Tony Abbott resigns as PM http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/breaking-news-tony-abbott-resigns-as-pm/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/breaking-news-tony-abbott-resigns-as-pm/#comments Tue, 19 Nov 2013 01:16:04 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=9057

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Abbott

After only 3 months into his tenure as Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott is calling it quits. At a press conference held this morning, Mr Abbott announced that he will be resuming his former position as Leader of the Opposition, and reinstating both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd to the top job in what he terms a ‘co-Prime Ministerialship.’

The shocking announcement comes mere days after Parliament reconvened for this year under the new Liberal government.

When questioned about his behaviour, Prime Minister Abbott admitted that he doesn’t “know what to do during question time,” and added, “also this chair is way more uncomfortable than my old one.”

“After much careful deliberation with my fellow cabinet members and family, I have come to realise that my best work was completed as Opposition Leader, when I could criticise all of Labor’s policies. Gillard and Rudd always gave me something to work with,” he stated.

“I’m not much of a policy maker, myself. Much more of a policy-breaker,” he chuckled to himself, adding that “no” was his favourite word, and he missed being able to use it regularly.

Shrugging his shoulders, Mr Abbott added pitifully, “Julia Gillard and her woeful misandry always spurred me to my best work. And now she’s gone. And Electricity Bill is always yelling at me. He’s really mean.”

Liberal party members and voters across Australia have welcomed Mr Abbott’s decision. Sydney University Arts Student, Young Liberal member and self-professed future Prime Minister of Australia Edward Matthew Edmund Gregory Timothy Jamieson the 67th told The Soin that “I’m really happy for Prime Minister Abbott. I think, as someone majoring in Government and International relations, I can really understand where he’s coming from, and I believe that this decision is just another example of how much Mr Abbott really cares for Australia.”

Whilst Julia Gillard has yet to comment on Mr Abbott’s decision, Kevin Rudd has expressed his support via twitter, tweeting “Third time lucky! Sorry Bill! #Ruddard #Gillrudd #wearethelazarusparty #lodgepartieswithJules #selfietime”

 

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Gender Police http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/gender-police/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/gender-police/#comments Sun, 17 Nov 2013 07:31:19 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=9040

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You might have noticed some stickers in bathrooms around the university that say “we all need to pee”. These stickers were an initiative of the National Union of Students (NUS) queer officers, in an aim to reduce gender discrimination for trans* people in bathrooms, and to ask people to stop and think before they question someone’s right to be in a gendered bathroom. Bathrooms can be a particularly hostile environment for trans* people who may not fit neatly into a gender binary, or may not appear like the gender they are. The Women’s Collective and Queer Action Collective have been putting these stickers in bathrooms around campus to raise awareness around gender discrimination.

A sticker that was defaced in a women's bathroom on campus

A defaced sticker in a women’s bathroom on campus

After seeing all the attempts to rip down the NUS stickers in various bathrooms around campus, a few of us decided to take action and put up additional stickers in a more permanent way. We spent two hours putting up new stickers in men and women’s bathrooms which were reinforced with PVA glue. We went to check out our work around the Wentworth bathrooms and found all of them gone. Dishearteningly, people had gone to extraordinary efforts to remove the stickers, just hours after we had put them up. They were scratched off, drawn on, and in one case, covered in toilet paper. It only got worse when we went into the men’s bathrooms to see them all intact and perfectly dry. Unexpectedly, the perpetrators in this case was rather not male oppressors but female aggressors, biological females obstructing trans-wom*n from entering female-autonomous spaces.

We felt a surge of shame towards those who could only be our ‘fellow women’ for trying to destroy attempts at making the university a better and safer place for all students. Instead of viewing equal access to the basic need of bathroom facilities for transwomen as positive, rather, the mere presence of the posters caused strong, negative reactions from unknown female visitors to the cubicles with toilet paper maliciously stuck to the stickers and evidence of other futile attempts clawed into the pockmarked white edges of dried stickers. Now the vandalised stickers send an explicitly queerphobic message, potentially causing gender-diverse people to feel less safe in bathrooms, specifically female ones.

Female policing of gender identity and expression in gendered spaces is so insidious and pervasive because we have literally been conditioned to do it from early childhood. We are taught to reject women who express themselves in a “masculine” manner or any kind of gender ‘intruder’ attempting to enter a space where the door shows a stick figure with a dress.  The level of misogyny experienced by biologically born females replicates and reverberates in transmisogyny, the hatred and prejudice against transsexual women. In the mainstream hegemony of heterosexual, nuclear family ideals, women are viewed as mere conduits to the man for the purposes of fertility, domesticity and sitting pretty while being valued and measured for beauty like a prized farm animal. To cisgender women aiming to fulfil these normative expressions and presentations of feminity, trans-wom*n merely translates to further competition. The ‘threat’ that transgender women can pose to cisgender women is manifested in the tasteless, senseless slurs of ‘chicks with dicks’. The hatred of trans-wom*n stems from the fear of the ‘fake’ woman, the pretender amidst the ‘real’ women who can bleed and birth as God intended.

ScanCat Rose and Hiba Casablanca, the NUS Queer Officers, were instrumental in the initial campaign. Rose felt that the right to use the bathroom of your gender, or the closest toilet around if you are gender-neutral, without questioning and harassment had not been effectively addressed on campuses and other public spaces. The posters were intended to advocate for respectful behaviour in bathrooms, and send a clear message that any harassment based on gender presentation is unacceptable and must be reported. Rose was very disappointed about the incident, however, she and members of the queer community expected the stickers to cause some controversy. Bathrooms breed a culture of ostracism for anyone who doesn’t conform to the gender binary, which is clearly defined by the normative symbols on men’s and women’s bathroom doors. There have been other incidents where the stickers’ ‘subversive’ message “I’m here to pee, not to be gender stereotyped” elicited negative reactions in public bathrooms, in an appalling reflection of the trans*phobia in our society.

But the vandalism actually shows that this campaign is working, and that the stickers challenge people to question their assumptions and prejudices about gender stereotypes. It also testifies the reality of these prejudices, sparking anger among allies. People who want to express their support have approached us on numerous occasions, and members of the Women’s and Queer Collectives have been very enthusiastically helping us replace all of the damaged stickers. While this campaign alone cannot change our culture, hopefully it will continue to challenge cis-normativity in our society.

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“Stuff happens”: bomb scare (or not) during Law exam http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/stuff-happens-bomb-scare-or-not-during-law-exam/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/stuff-happens-bomb-scare-or-not-during-law-exam/#comments Sat, 16 Nov 2013 05:53:35 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=9032

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On Tuesday this week the Quadrangle was evacuated, disrupting the majority of the fourth year law cohort as they sat their Corporations Law paper. Honi understands that at least one other exam was also interrupted. While initial rumours suggested it was a bomb scare, emails from the faculty have indicated that the disruption was simply a fire alarm.

The examination had been running for approximately twenty minutes, which means many students had read some portion of the true and false questions. Once the MacLaurin Hall was evacuated, a number of students consulted each other and their notes for the answers. Some left on the assumption that the examination would be abandoned.

According to students present, when the threat was cleared, Corporations Law lecturer Fady Aoun advised the students that while they officially had to complete their exams as usual, the paper would ‘probably’ be re-sat and that it should be treated as practice under supervised conditions. Before the examination had finished the Faculty circulated an email which stated that there would be no re-sit of the examination. While some students in a smaller classroom were informed that the exam would be their final one with an hour to go, the majority of students sitting the exam in the MacLaurin Hall received no such warning. Honi attempted to reach Aoun for comment but was unsuccessful.

The concerns of the students centred on the integrity of the examination, which was closed-book and the sole assessment for the subject. Several students reported that they found it difficult to commit to a three hour exam that would in all probability not count. Many students have contacted the Faculty. One student who was sitting the examination advised Honi that some are planning to launch a formal complaint.

“May I advise you – one lawyer to another – that you choose your words very carefully and consider the imputations in anything that you write in complaint. You risk defaming diligent members of our staff by your intemperate expression.”

The course coordinator, Professor Jennifer Hill, dismissed the seriousness of the concerns: “Although we had concerns that some students had discussed the examination paper and consulted notes during the evacuation time, the Dean, Pro-Dean and relevant lecturers decided that this did not create a sufficiently serious risk to the exam’s integrity to warrant a completely new and rescheduled exam.”

This decision is in tension with the standard University evacuation policy: “If at any point during the waiting period the examination conditions deteriorate or the examination itself is compromised, the examination is deemed to be abandoned.”

The Dean of the Law School, Professor Joellen Riley, added in an email response to students that “the markers are all experienced, and can be trusted to take into account that this test was completed under disrupted circumstances when they are grading.” But the practicalities of this are unclear, given the advice given to students regarding a resit was inconsistent. An individual response to a student was more curt: “May I advise you – one lawyer to another – that you choose your words very carefully and consider the imputations in anything that you write in complaint. You risk defaming diligent members of our staff by your intemperate expression.”

Despite that, a number of students agree with the current approach – especially given the small portion of the examination that had elapsed, and the huge inconvenience associated with another exam.

To others the most perplexing question is why a fourth year law subject was being examined with true and false questions in the first place.

In the words of the Dean: “Stuff Happens”.

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Caption contest – UNI SHMOONEY http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/caption-contest-uni-shmooney/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/caption-contest-uni-shmooney/#comments Thu, 14 Nov 2013 05:45:43 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8999

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An exam for HSTY2679 in action! It’s an excellent jumping off point for honours research!

Celebrate summer [weird and unpredictable weather because of climate change] and the end of exams [getting the bare minimum to pass your subjects] with this uni themed mixtape!  All of the artists are playing Uni Shmooney - a party at FBi social.  It’s on Saturday the 23rd of November and it’s just $10 for students!

The lineup includes Sures, Jenny Broke the Window, Naughty Rappers Collective, Super Magic Hats, Borneo, and Cull.

To win a double pass to this gig, just send us your wittiest caption idea for the photo above to editors@localhost/honiold.

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University redacts majority of information revealed through freedom of information requests http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/gipa/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/gipa/#comments Thu, 14 Nov 2013 04:43:23 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=9008

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Over a month ago on October 4, not long after Executive members of the University of Sydney Union (USU) attempted to oust Vice-President Tom Raue, I, as any student could have done, sent an application under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) to the University, seeking any communication between the University and the USU relating to the motion or allegations against Raue. I had hoped I would get a prompt response saying no such information existed.

However, on Tuesday, I received eight pages of emails between Andrew Woodward, the USU’s Board-appointed CEO, and the office of Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence. All but two of those emails were totally redacted by the University. All we know is that on September 25, Woodward emailed Spence raising concerns the USU had relating to Raue and Honi Soit. The University considers there to be an overriding public interest against us knowing what those concerns were.

The timing of the emails is interesting: Woodward’s email setting out those concerns was sent to Spence on September 25. The USU executive publicly announced their intention to oust Raue on September 30. It must have been a disappointment then, to hear back from Spence on October 1 that he “was not particularly concerned” by Raue’s comments or the Honi article.

michael spence

“Student newspapers are what they are and we cannot be too concerned about their misapprehensions.” Michael Spence’s response to an Honi article reporting on evidence leaked to the paper by Raue indicating the University collaborated with police during on campus industrial action.

Spence makes it clear that he feels he has not done anything wrong, and that the University has nothing to hide about its relationship with NSW Police. He and the Group Secretary at the University’s Office of General Counsel, Alex Maitland, who signed off on the University’s response to my request, seem to be in agreement that such clarity of position should be clearly broadcast to the University community.

Mr. Maitland’s opinion differs when it comes to the USU; the concern communicated by Mr. Woodward deserves to be hidden from its members. What did Michael Spence have a right to know, that we the members of the Union do not?

Mr. Maitland is concerned that were communication from the Union released, other campus organisations would stop communicating with the Vice-Chancellor. Which raises the question, who else has been telling tales out of school?

His main objection, however, relates to personal privacy: the documents apparently identify a person by name (who could that possibly be?), as the University does not have the “express consent of the individual concerned”. Raue was in fact contacted: when he asked to the see the documents about which concerns are apparently held, presumably on his behalf, he was told he could not see them.

The irony is that much of the information that has been redacted could end up coming out in Raue’s hearing in the Supreme Court this Friday. If that happens, we may then learn a little more about this closely guarded secret.

Until then, read the little you can below, with the comforting reminder from Spence that “student newspapers are what they are and we cannot be too concerned about their misapprehensions.”

UPDATE: The redacted document has been tendered as evidence in court and is now available here.

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Review: Iron(ic) Lady at the Red Rattler http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/review-ironic-lady-at-the-red-rattler/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/review-ironic-lady-at-the-red-rattler/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 03:41:40 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8985 ]]> ironic ladyIron(ic) Lady is an apt title for Sarah Gaul’s one-woman musical comedy show, which is concerned with the triumphs and defeats of her smart, sarcastic persona. Her songs ranged from the deeply relatable, like the tune about her annoyingly militant vegan friend, to the uproariously absurd, like the epic in which she and a gang of school children murder her ex-boyfriend by drowning him in a stream comes to mind. But actually, I totally get where she’s coming from there.

Regardless of the subject matter, Gaul’s music is both catchy and hilarious, and the show was carried along nicely by her banter and anecdotes between songs. Gaul staring at the audience and saying in a deadpan voice, “A small musical comedy show is the high point of my life right now. I’m peaking, I’m peaking … I peaked,” is indicative the show’s sense of humour.

While this was hugely entertaining overall, there were a few missteps. Gaul’s song about homesickness was touching, but felt out of place in a set in which she sings a sexy jazz-inspired number about eating all the cheese in the fridge left when alone in her apartment for too long. A song about meeting a sexist guy in a bar started promisingly, but ultimately I had no idea whether she was supporting or criticising the things he said. I still laughed, but mostly because my boyfriend was waggling his eyebrows at me, wildly trying to determine if I disapproved.

Ultimately, Iron(ic) Lady was funny and, strangely enough, ironic. Gaul has performed this show at comedy festivals around the country with her wit and talent its clear why she’s been invited. Despite less entertaining parts of the performance, seeing Iron(ic) Lady was a great experience.

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Death of a degree: how the BA (Adv) (Hons) was mismanaged http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/death-of-a-degree-how-the-ba-adv-hons-was-mismanaged/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/death-of-a-degree-how-the-ba-adv-hons-was-mismanaged/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 03:33:09 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8982

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In 2014, the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences will bid farewell to one of its most controversial degree programs. Enrollments into the Bachelor of Arts (Advanced) (Honours) will be discontinued after a series of Faculty and student investigations found the degree to be untenable in its present form. It is worth reflecting, then, on how this experimental specialist degree was mismanaged into oblivion.

Logo of the Advanced Arts Students' Club

Logo of the Advanced Arts Students’ Club

The BA(Adv)(Hons) is an accelerated version of the conventional Bachelor of Arts. Students skip junior subjects, commence senior subjects immediately (whilst maintaining a mandatory Credit average), and undertake Honours in their third year. The ATAR cut-off for BA(Adv)(Hons) has always hovered around 98.55, making the degree an attractive alternative for high-achieving students inclined to the humanities. For many in the 98.55 ≤ x < 99.70 ATAR range, it can become a satisfying stepping stone into the combined Arts/Law program.

But for many others, the degree has proven frustrating. There are approximately 100 students enrolled at any given time, with about 35 new enrollees each year. Yet from 2010–2012, for instance, the degree sustained an estimated dropout rate of at least 24%. A case study by the Advanced Arts Students’ Club (AASC) surveyed almost half the 2011 intake, and found that only 34% were on track to completing their Honours thesis.

AASC was founded by students in 2009 to address many of the problems which continue to plague the degree today. Its initiatives included mentoring programs, essay-writing seminars, information resources and advocacy for BA(Adv)(Hons) students.

In a 2011 survey, students overwhelmingly reported that university administrators and academics alike were hostile to the BA(Adv)(Hons). One student took their enrollment form to a staff member to be entered manually (for reasons unknown, Advanced Arts is wholly administered on paper à la 1910). The staff member’s initial response was “oh, I hate this degree”.

Tutors, said others, were often indifferent to the fact that Advanced Arts students are essentially school leavers thrust into the middle of a degree. The schools of Government and Philosophy were reportedly particularly unsympathetic.

It seems to be a hostility born of confusion. AASC repeatedly advised the Faculty to raise awareness of the degree among administrative and academic staff. Yet students were repeatedly given misleading advice. At best, this was a nuisance. After a fruitful year plumbing the depths of Basque nationalism and Eliot’s The Waste Land, one administrator told me in no uncertain terms that I would have to study junior units over summer in order to transfer to law.

At worst, this advice ruined degrees. Some students who approached the Faculty were given recklessly ill-informed guidance. They have been trapped in unwanted majors, unwanted Honours, or in the degree itself with few prospects of transferring or changing. “Once you’ve survived the first year of Advanced Arts, it is very difficult trying to get out,” says one former AASC executive member. “You just have to hang on for dear life”.

The Honours year was another intimidating obstacle. Rachel Bailes, a current Co-President of AASC, says that by her third year, “I felt as though I had just begun finding my feet in the university context”. Graduating this year, she nevertheless felt “extremely daunted” by the prospect of Honours and thought it premature. Former executive member Rad Sappany agrees. ‘I think its ultimate downfall was that after two years of uni, you’re really just not ready for Honours. Two years of Latin would have left me grossly unprepared”. She transferred to Law after her first year.

The degree was particularly unsuited for economics or previously unstudied languages. The majority of students study English, with History, Government and Philosophy sharing the bulk of the remainder. For many of those students, skipping first year was not a problem, but it was difficult to familiarise themselves with university processes – everything from research methods to assessment policies to cover sheets, with only a single, overburdened Degree Director (our exceptional Chair of Poetry and Poetics, Professor Barry Spurr) and the AASC providing guidance.

The degree was thus bewildering rather than supportive and challenging. As AASC explained to the Faculty, “rather than exhibit their natural passion and talent for humanities, some students began to fall through the cracks”.

AASC offered many recommendations to improve student support, including more digestible subject information, tailored degree advice, and a greater emphasis on advanced research and student-staff interaction rather than mere acceleration. “Advanced programs in high schools have extension units and cohort-based education,” explains Bailes, “but the only way to maintain the sense of a cohort within this degree was to band together of our own volition outside of the classroom”.  A diminished sense of esprit de corps in the classroom left students feeling isolated and vulnerable.

Bailes says that it is “disappointing” for the university to ignore many of these suggestions and terminate the degree. It did so without consulting AASC. But perhaps that was inevitable. In 2010, a Faculty task force reviewed the specialist Arts degrees and found that they contribute to the perception of the straight BA as a lesser degree: the ‘it’s only a BA’ phenomenon.

In its present form, the degree has not delivered on its promise to “cultivat[e] high level disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and communication skills” any more than a conventional BA with Honours. If anything, it made it more difficult to develop those skills, and students were left with the impression that it was ‘their fault’ for enrolling.

In April, the Academic Board accepted recommendations to establish a Faculty Scholars Program to take effect from 2015. This promising initiative will consist of 18 credit points of ‘enhancement’ units to those entering second year. It is yet to be seen how the program will unfold in practice.

The Faculty needs a truly advanced pathway for enthusiastic and capable students. It should not be unduly restrictive, or force students through their degree with indecent haste. It should focus on enrichment and extension rather than acceleration and omission. Those students exist, and they want to challenge themselves.

Students in the BA(Adv)(Hons) program who would like to seek assistance should contact the AASC at ask@artsadvanced.info, the Degree Director Professor Barry Spurr, or the Faculty’s Student Support Programs team at arts.network@sydney.edu.au.

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UniGate – An Exams Special: SRC Exec, SRC Reps-elect, SRC inquorate, USU shuts down competition, and Peter Fitzsimons copies and pastes http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/unigate-a-stuvac-special-src-exec-src-reps-elect-src-inquorate-usu-shuts-down-competition-and-peter-fitzsimons-copies-and-pastes/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/unigate-a-stuvac-special-src-exec-src-reps-elect-src-inquorate-usu-shuts-down-competition-and-peter-fitzsimons-copies-and-pastes/#comments Mon, 11 Nov 2013 08:10:36 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8932

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unigate

Peter FitzSimons: writer or copy and paster?

Last Friday marked the last day voters can post their ballots in the election for Graduate Fellows on the University Senate (check out the Gate’s previous coverage here). One of the best known candidates was Peter FitzSimons AM, a former Wallaby, a columnist with the Sydney Morning Herald and the author of several books. FitzSimons ran with four other candidates on the ‘Unify’ ticket, something which he has not-so-subtly referred to in his column.

It seems Fitzy may have been too busy writing other things to write his personal statement for this election, despite describing the Unify campaign as “a professional campaign” in the press. A closer look at the statement indicates that it was actually written for his last (successful) tilt at Senate four years ago. According to the statement, his nephew is a first-year student at Wesley College – which was true four years ago, but said nephew is now a fifth-year and no longer resides at Wesley. FitzSimons has also been on the board of the Sydney Writers’ Festival for ten years, not six, and is no longer the President of the Northern Suburbs Basketball Association.

When approached by the Gate, FitzSimons described it as “some kind of clerical error, I guess”. He clarified that his nephew has been joined at USYD by his son, two nieces, and another nephew. Accordingly, his “updated credentials in this field are five times what they were”. Whether the one nephew was enough to get FitzSimons over the line in the election will be known this week. Keep your eyes on the Gate for election results.

 

Coffee, tea, or me?

If you’re wondering why there’s a Tea Society but not a Coffee Society, it’s not from lack of trying. The embryo of a Coffee Society in 2009 was swiftly crushed by the University of Sydney Union, and no one really knows the real reason why due to the confidentiality around the discussion. The initial reason given was that it was too similar to the Tea Society, despite the vast differences between the two beverages.

When Julia Woods and Michael Goldman, co-founders of the Coffee Society in 2013, attempted to start the society, they were told by Clubs & Societies Committee that they: “resolved to defer to the New Club Application of the Coffee Society to Board due to a perceived conflict with the commercial interests of the USU.” In other words, the University of Sydney Union was worried about another coffee vendor on campus, especially due to unfounded rumours of the society partnering with Taste Café.

Despite the protestations from the Coffee Society that their goal was to get students in contact with coffee businesses off-campus in order to provide resources and services to students such as accessories, seminars, “cuppings” (jargon for coffee tasting and smelling) and other things that weren’t purchasable cups of hot brown liquid used for exams, the society has not yet been approved. The Coffee Society was also only provided a few minutes to make their case to the Board due to an administrative error that delayed their meeting.

When asked about the rejection, Honorary Secretary and Chair of the C&S Committee, John Harding-Easson, confirmed that the Committee deferred the decision to the Board due to potential commercial conflicts. However, he noted that the Board’s decision is confidential and therefore could not speak on the matter. Harding-Easson also told the Gate that he was in New Zealand and therefore, regrettably, the Gate had just spent an exorbitant amount of funds on an international call.

Rumours suggest that another reason the Coffee Society was rejected is due to its critical stand on the USU’s misleading use of the term “fair trade” to describe its Rainforest Alliance coffee. This was discussed in a previous Honi article that noted that Rainforest Alliance coffee does not conform to the standards of Fair Trade. The Coffee Society would also provide cuppings using fair trade sources such as Campos Coffee, which – as mentioned before – the USU allegedly perceived as purchasing from Taste Café.

With another appeal meeting scheduled for later this month, the Gate will keep you updated on the situation – that is unless the editors of the Gate finish their term and the Gate is dismantled for a newer, fancier rumour mill.

 

Circular jerk

Last semester, the Gate reported preliminarily on the attendance of the SRC’s elected Executive members at Executive meetings. The SRC Executive is elected by Council, and makes decisions on the day-to-day running of the SRC, a several million dollar organisation that employs nearly 20 part-time and full-time staff. According to the SRC’s regulations, “The Executive shall meet regularly and if possible weekly during semester.” We acquired the minutes of this year’s Executive meetings, and the findings were interesting.  The Executive met 10 times in first semester, but to our knowledge has only met 5 times this semester. Members of the Executive told the Gate that many motions had been passed ‘in circular’ – whereby a motion is passed via email – this semester. But from what we can glean from the SRC’s regulations, there is no provision for circular motions to replace meetings.

We don’t mean to insinuate any serious indiscretions on the part of the Executive members or the Committee as a whole, but we do believe that the operations of the SRC’s primary decision-making body ought to be subject to more scrutiny – particularly when its two coordinators and most senior members (the President and General Secretary) are paid over $50,000 between them.  Since the current Executive’s term began in December last year, it has met 22 times – far from the weekly ideal stipulated in the regulations. But more troubling still is the fact that of the 8 members of this year’s Executive, only three managed to attend at least two-thirds of the meetings. The Gate believes firmly in the power of student organisations, but when even the most senior office-bearers of those organisations have trouble attending regular meetings, it should come as no surprise that student politicians often attract cynicism from the student body.

 

There are two types of people in the world: those who see an inquorate SRC meeting as almost half full and those who see an inquorate SRC meeting as more than half empty

The final meeting of the prodigious Sydney University Students’ Representative Council, the birthplace of the successful careers of Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Belinda Neal, Anthony Albanese, and Michael Kirby, along with many more of Australia’s most famous and infamous personalities, did not go ahead.

With only fourteen of 33 elected councillors present, the meeting failed to make the minimum seventeen that is required for the session to proceed. Many of the other councillors had given other members of their faction their proxy votes; proxies have voting rights but do not contribute to the numbers needed to make quorum.

This is the reason why two previous meetings were called inquorate, and why at many other meetings the Gate observed frantic factional headkickers calling councillors to come to meetings, once even driving to pick them up from their house.

Each faction had around half its councillors (not including proxies) present. A provisional estimate suggests: 3/6 SLS, 4/6 Grassroots, 1/2 NLS, 3/8 Independents, and 2/5 Unity councillors. The Liberals get an honorary mention for bringing 100% of their councillors, 1/1, to the meeting.

The Gate is surprised by this attendance, not due to the general disinterest of councillors to turn up to meetings, but rather because the regulations state: “No alcohol shall be permitted in the Council chamber during Council Meetings, except for the final scheduled meeting of the current council.”

In other words, a council meeting that was essentially a drinks session was called off.

#repselect

There’s nothing the Gate loves more than a little bit of old fashioned democracy. However, in what is a rather unsurprising twist, at the annual election of Office Bearers and representatives of the SRC for 2014, known as reps-elect, on Monday night, democracy is exactly what didn’t happen. The representatives are voted in by next year’s 33 councillors. Next year’s councillors are mostly factionally aligned: Unity (Labor Right, part of Stand Up!) has eight councillors, SLS (Labor Left, also part of Stand Up!) has seven councillors, Grassroots (broad left) also has seven councillors, NLS (also Labor Left, but in a same same but different way), Socialist Alternative (AKA SAlt, who worked with Grassroots at the election) has three councillors, leaving just two factionally unaligned councillors.

More often than not (it happens almost every year), voting at reps-elect is decided in negotiations during the initial SRC elections. This year, as part of helping Jen Light to be elected, SLS demanded all of Unity’s ballots in reps-elect, meaning they had almost half of the councillors to vote the way they wanted. Grassroots (with SAlt) and NLS had a deal at the time of election that they would work together during reps-elect. However, this was reneged in favour a stronger coalition for Grassroots with SLS. Grassroots executive-elect member, Nick Rowbotham explained that “NLS didn’t get enough councillors elected to ensure a stable coalition.” Vice President-elect Laura Webster also stated “Grassroots identifies as the broad left and will always work to ensure that the SRC is filled with left wing activists that are passionate, dedicated and will work hard. SLS negotiated with us in good faith and have stated on numerous occasions that they also share this vision for the SRC next year.” As a result, the Grassroots/SLS coalition had a guaranteed 25 council votes, and thus were able to lock the other factions out of every election.

NLS councillor, Hannah Smith, expressed disappointment at the outcome of the evening, despite not putting any candidates to run in opposition for any of the major elections. She explained that “we ultimately chose not to put them [their preselected candidates] forward on the night because we felt that there was a lot of tension in the space already, and didn’t want to expose our caucus to that more than was necessary.” Independent councillor Liam Carrigan also expressed disappointment at how “undemocratic” the evening was, though is “cautiously optimistic” about the Grassroots/SLS coalition.

The only real surprise of the night was the contested election for the Ethnic Affairs Office Bearer position. This position came under fire in recent weeks, as the newly formed Ethnocultural and People of Colour Collective (EPOC) sought the right to hold these OB positions autonomously*, previously held by the non-autonomous Anti-Racism Collective (ARC). Both collectives put forward candidates for the position, and in a surprise twist, the ARC candidate, Gabby Pei-Tiatia, won with 16 votes. The EPOC candidates, Oscar Monaghan and Tabitha Prado-Richardson in one joint position, received eight votes, while the other EPOC candidates, Bridget Harilaou and Shiran Illanperuma, received six, meaning Tiatia and Monaghan/Prado-Richardson were elected.

SLS have indicated they (and therefore Unity) voted for ARC. General-Secretary-elect, James Leeder, claimed “It was a really difficult position for our councillors to be in given they had to decide whether to deny an established and very active collective like ARC any access to funding in order to support the other. We made the decision that we thought would be best for both collectives in the interim while the SRC makes appropriate provisions for both so they can continue to conduct their activism.” It is unclear where the last vote for ARC came from. Grassroots have said that while they don’t bind (and therefore can’t be sure of how members voted), Webster told the Gate “Grassroots respects the collective autonomy of EPOC”.

Those playing at home with any shred of maths ability might also have noticed that only 30 votes were cast in this election, despite there being 33 councillors. It is unclear who did not vote. While NLS were responsible for donkey voting in some of the elections, Smith told the Gate “We chose to donkey vote in ballots in which we didn’t believe in any of the candidates for reasons to do with ideology, ability or commitment to the SRC as an organisation,” and assured us that their caucus was bound in supporting EPOC. Carrigan also told the Gate he voted for EPOC. SAlt and independent Matthew Woolaston have not responded to the Gate’s messages. The mystery continues.

EPOC have stated they are “disappointed that autonomous organising around race was not respected, but are willing to establish a working relationship with Gabby,” while ARC is pleased with the outcome, stating that “the SRC has taken a clear and important stand against the injustice [Abbott’s anti-refugee policies] represent”. ARC hopes that EPOC will join them in fighting for refugees.

It is worth noting that the 2014 SRC will see the first Indigenous councillor, Kyol Blakeney, since 2006, and Laura Webster will be the first Indigenous Vice President, ever. There were also four nominations for Indigenous Officers at reps-elect this year, elected unopposed. This is a leap forward from previous reps-elects where  no one would be present to nominate for the positions of Indigenous Officers.

The Gate also attempted to contact Unity, to find out if they had any independent thoughts on how the evening went, however every call made to Unity redirected to SLS. Weird.

For the final results, see Cameron Caccamo’s spreadsheet here.

* Autonomy in this context refers to those who identify as being part of an oppressed group leading and making decisions about its own fight against oppression.

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Who pays for dinner? http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/who-pays-for-dinner/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/who-pays-for-dinner/#comments Sat, 09 Nov 2013 00:06:23 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8942

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A couple have just enjoyed a nice seafood dinner together, and the date is going swimmingly. Then the inevitable happens – someone has to pay. It’s time for the Cheque Dance:

He reaches for the bill, she does the fake reach.

He says: “I’ll get this…”

She says: “No, no – let me.”

He says: “No really, I insist.”

She smiles sweetly and bats her lashes at him in gratitude.

Sound familiar?

The politics of who pays for dinner has been a subject near and dear to my heart since my dating debut, but sadly it has become no less complex. In this tricky dating world of cheapskates, freeloading ladies and suave beasts expecting “dessert” after dinner, you’d think the rules would have evolved. So why do we still adhere to these old fashioned attitudes?

Some guys believe it’s a question of honour and etiquette for the man to pick up the cheque. This argument dates back to centuries of males acting as breadwinners, while women were confined to childbearing. The more two-dimensional responses claim this behaviour is just instinctual; that these are social constructs stemming from primordial human nature. The last I checked we had evolved from living in the Neanderthal era, when a caveman could simply bring a woman some meat, clunk her over the head with his club and drag her off to his lair.

However, society remains traditionalist: we reenact our dates as if torn from the pages of a classic romance novel, with the gallant man always picking up the tab. This logic is so ingrained in society today that men feel emasculated if they are unable to provide for a woman on a date.

Well it’s not the 1920s, gents. The work force is no longer predominately male and women can afford to pay their own way. Ladies don’t need to feel like they’re being bought or patronised. With the advent of second wave feminism in the 1970s, women began to question traditional courtship roles. It became a sign of empowerment for a woman to pay for herself. This is relevant today more than ever: if men and women are to be equals in a relationship, why shouldn’t this extend to the dinner table?

The fact is that in 2013, it’s no longer safe to assume that it’s the man who makes more money. So why do men still feel pressure to bear the financial brunt of the relationship?  What’s bad for the male ego should be measured against conforming to outdated gender norms, which is equally as bad for the male wallet. In this tough economic climate, men may have to start swallowing their pride when going out to dine.

In other words, both parties should be willing to spend a bit of coin, but the actual financial investment should be proportionate to what each individual earns. This should be determined by paycheck, not by gender. If one person (the richer) gets the movie tickets, the other (the poorer) can get the popcorn.  Because this system is indiscriminate in terms of gender, it can be applied to hetero and non-hetero couples alike.

And although I say it’s time for a little dating egalitarianism, this in no way means going Dutch. There’s nothing worse than someone who suggests splitting a bill down the middle, as if they’re about to whip out a calculator at the table. It is unromantic at best, awkward at worst, and always tacky. Rather than having to do money math on dates, take turns in treating each other. If the more financially flush person pays for dinner, the other can cover the cab. Or if you’re drinking at a bar, you can go round for round. This keeps the romance alive as well as respecting equality.

Now I’ve also known girls who will voluntarily play the Cheque Game at the end of a meal without a dime in their purse or a cent in the bank. They do this with the expectation that the man will always pay, and if he doesn’t he’s either cheap or ungentlemanly. This line of thinking belongs in the dinosaur age. Second wave feminists did not fight for independence and workplace equality just so women could twirl their hair, look away when the bill comes, and show him just how grateful she is later. Come on lady, your salad wasn’t that tasty.

Today, both parties should be contributing regularly to the cost of courtship, and at least offering to pay for things at an equal rate. It’s important that a woman makes a genuine offer to chip in, and I’m not talking just the Obligatory Wallet Reach. She should never just assume that the guy will step up to the plate. To me, that sounds like a con. Modern relationships should be equitable, and it’s time we saw young couples tweaking the rules of courtship in order to adapt to this.

Ultimately it all comes down to generosity, we’re all struggling students right? Those of us who are on Centrelink don’t get that much, those of us who aren’t work hard for our money, some of us are living at home, and despite being disparate in dollars, both people in the relationship should be equally generous and giving in spirit.

In 2013, chivalry can’t afford to be gendered anymore.

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Editorial: SUPRA’s silence http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/editorial-supras-silence/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/editorial-supras-silence/#comments Fri, 08 Nov 2013 06:30:46 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8930

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The Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association

The Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association

As some Honi readers may be aware, the 2013 editorial team is approaching the end of its tenure. As we look forward to handing over the newspaper to next year’s editorial group we would like to raise an issue that has troubled us throughout the year and which now appears likely to go unresolved.

Throughout 2013 Honi Soit has campaigned relentlessly to force both the University of Sydney and the student organisations that operate within it to act in an open, honest, and transparent manner. We have invested a great deal of time and energy into investigating and reporting the activities of the University administration, the Senate, the University of Sydney Union, and other similar organisations. We have done so with the belief that providing detailed reporting on how these bodies operate, what their aims are, and why they take certain decisions empowers the student body.

We believe that this has had an impact and that, despite recent backward steps, organisations like the USU have made efforts to deal more openly with their members as a result.

But in one case, we have been actively prevented from doing so.

Here we refer to the resignation of Sydney University Postgraduate Association (SUPRA) President Angelus Morningstar, who stepped down from the position he was elected to hold for the duration of this year on March 28.

When Morningstar stepped down he told us he had breached financial regulations, but did not elaborate.

Since that time, Honi has continually pressed new SUPRA President Joanne Gad for a more detailed explanation of what happened. Time and time again we have asked the members of the SUPRA executive to give us an indication of what occurred, to no end. They refer us back to the President, who refers us back to her previous non-comments.

Rumours about the reasons behind Morningstar’s departure have circulated all year but we have opted not to publish any of the information that has reached us as, without SUPRA’s cooperation, we could not substantiate it beyond reasonable doubt. With every single member of SUPRA refusing to comment on the issue, and the meeting at which Morningstar stepped down held in camera, we have been effectively prevented from explaining to postgraduate students exactly what their President did wrong. Which financial regulations did Morningstar breach? Did breaching them put student money, or even SUPRA as a whole, at risk? These questions remain unanswered.

To be clear, our desire to provide this information is not inspired by ill will towards either SUPRA or Mr Morningstar personally. Perhaps there is a reasonable explanation behind his sudden withdrawal from the position. If not, there may be extenuating circumstances.

But perhaps, equally, something went badly wrong in SUPRA. If this is the case, students are owed an explanation of both what happened and how it will be prevented from recurring in the future. They are also owed an apology from Mr Morningstar and SUPRA.

This year’s editorial team believes strongly in the power of student organisations and movements. But when those organisations lock the doors and render themselves opaque to ordinary students, they have already failed their most basic task. Without transparency and accountability, they can not claim to be truly representative organisations.

Every year, SUPRA lobbies the University of Sydney for a portion of the revenue raised by charging all students a $273 annual fee. It received $1 million in 2013, plus extra support from the Capital Sinking Fund. If SUPRA wishes to continue to take student money, it must be more honest with its constituents. That honesty may harm its reputation in the short term, but it will ensure that the University’s postgraduate population know they can trust their peak representative body to admit when a mistake has been made. And that is the cornerstone of longterm trust.

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Albury, Berlin, and the Caribbean: Interview with RÜFÜS http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/albury-berlin-and-the-caribbean-interview-with-rufus/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/albury-berlin-and-the-caribbean-interview-with-rufus/#comments Fri, 08 Nov 2013 04:57:22 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8878

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rufus

The name ‘Rufus’ on its own may not mean much – it could be your neighbour’s dog. But insert some umlauts and you’ve got the name of the rising indie dance trio from Sydney that is gaining serious global momentum.

Their album Atlas debuted at number one on the Australian charts this year and they’ve just wrapped up a sold out national tour. Discovered by the late DJ Ajax, schoolmates Jon George (keys/synths/percussion), Tryone Lindqvist (vocals/guitar) and James Hunt (drums) got together in 2010 to make music, and RÜFÜS was born.

“Basically the idea behind the name was to create something a bit exotic,” says drummer James Hunt. “We wanted a bold and foreign name that tied in with what we were trying to do with the album.”

The key focus of Atlas was to take the listener on a journey to other realms. The band gave each demo a working title that represented a different destination: ‘A’ for Albury came first, and ‘B’ for Berlin was next.

“Berlin actually ended up being Desert Night, ‘C’ was Caribbean which ended up being Take Me,” says Hunt, 23. “Each song was a little world that we wanted to create, and the whole album ended up being influenced by that.”

The three-piece wrote, recorded and produced Atlas themselves between two DIY studios decked out in unlikely places. They spent a month writing the original demos on a remote farmhouse in Berry last year, working into all hours of the night in a creative process that began to resemble shift-work. Then they mixed and recorded the tracks for nine months in a hollowed out water tank in Jon’s parent’s place in Cronulla.

“It was an old water tank that had been converted into a room, so we just DIY sound proofed it,” says Hunt. “Acoustically it wasn’t the best space because there were little bass pockets that would reverberate weirdly in particular parts, but it had a cool vibe about it.”

After four EPs, the refined RÜFÜS sound has reached a new calibre of maturity, with much influence stemming from their DJ-ing backgrounds.

The guys spent a month as resident DJs for Triple J’s Mix Up Exclusives earlier this year, and are becoming highly sought after for their remixing talents under the SÜFÜR moniker (RÜFÜS backwards).

While Hunt says their DJ sets are a fun opportunity to pay homage to their musical influences, “the live shows are a more expansive process.”

And while RÜFÜS wanted to travel in the studio, they’ve already been around the world this year, playing sold-out parties in New York and a main stage festival in Russia alongside Frank Ocean and Azealia Banks. And there’s plenty more to come.

“We’re looking at playing a few shows in December around Europe, mainly Berlin, Paris and the UK,” says Hunt. “And then next year we’re looking to do some shows in the US around March.”

One of the band’s goals is to move to Berlin next July for five months to absorb the music scene, but not before they play to some big home crowds this summer at The Falls Festival, Southbound and Big Day Out. Hunt says the trio has come a long way since they opened the Boiler Room for Big Day Out at 11AM last year with no one to play to.

“We just started playing the first song anyway, and about 20 seconds in they opened the gates and all these wet screaming teenagers just wanting to get out of the rain stormed towards the stage,” says Hunt.

“Towards the end of the set there was still a mass of people running… it was pretty surreal. And at that point we hadn’t played to a crowd nearly that big, so we were just laughing to ourselves on stage thinking ‘what the fuck is going on?’”

RÜFÜS are playing the Falls Festival dates in Marion Bay, Lorne and Byron Bay over the new years period.

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Vinagret http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/vinagret/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/vinagret/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2013 23:47:32 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8925

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Look out but not in
I can see a light
and it is dim

The noble Hector
once stood proud
defender of Paris
against a ruddy crowd
Now he kneels
behind a desk
pushing paper
like the rest

Look out but not in
for water once as wine
has now a bitter taste

The inculcated
steady at the prow
deflect our arrows
with a smile
As we cower
in confusion
and fair degrees of haste
to conformity in line and place

Look out but not in
for if we follow
we are not to blame

Enlightened interdependence
is the way
beyond the bounds
of Louise
and Bunker plays
Education
it’s just a game
a Lotto for the lame

Look out?
Look in!
for knowledge lies within

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Girl takes hours ordering coffee, everyone cool with it http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/girl-takes-hours-ordering-coffee-everyone-cool-with-it/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/girl-takes-hours-ordering-coffee-everyone-cool-with-it/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2013 23:35:46 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8908

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The Soin has confirmed that Kaitlin Barr’s lengthy six hundred and forty minutes and twenty-seven seconds coffee order at Taste Baguette was met with patience and tranquility from the sixteen people in line behind her.

Barr ordered a “latte … umm … no, maybe a cappuccino … long black – what is that even? People keep asking for a long black but I just don’t know what it is … uhhhhhhhhhhh … hmmmmmmmmm … do you use single origin organic beans? … Maybe a double-shot latte, yes, a double shot latte!” with “soy milk … no, almond milk, no, skim milk! … Skim almond milk … with a sugar- no, two sugars … ummmmmmm … maybe no sugar, just a packet of Stevia.”

Barr then spent another fifty-three minutes attempting to order a baguette. The extensive choices of fillings – as well as the different types of bread and their respective nutritional, gustatory, and cultural features – presented Barr with a significant obstacle as she meditated on the options before her, weighing the positives and negatives of this severe decision.

“Life is just too short to spend worrying about little things like this,” said Harry Baker, a fourth year student who was five places behind Barr. “She’s clearly having trouble deciding and that’s understandable considering the plethora of choices we’re presented in everyday life and I think pushing her would just stress her out more, and no one wants that!”

At time of print, Barr was paying for her order with silver coins.

“We are more connected than ever, flowers are blooming, the sun is shining – isn’t life grand?” said Georgia Merkel, ten places behind Barr, smiling profusely, not worrying at all about the hours passing by.

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The protest perspective Andrew Bolt was lacking http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/the-protest-perspective-andrew-bolt-was-lacking/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/the-protest-perspective-andrew-bolt-was-lacking/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2013 23:28:19 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8872

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The headline of the Herald Sun's editorial

The headline of the Herald Sun’s editorial

Mainstream media attention surrounding the October 30 student demonstration in Melbourne has tended to downplay the heavy-handed tactics employed by Victoria Police in arresting demonstrators and attempting to disperse the crowd.

I was part of the demonstration, which saw 100 protestors march from Parliament House down Bourke Street in protest against the Liberal Government’s inquiry into higher education, which could see Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debt privatised and university places capped.

At the intersection of Bourke Street and Exhibition Street, students burnt two effigies – one of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and one of Education Minister Chris Pyne – before making their way down Exhibition Street to the Liberal Party Headquarters. Shoes were thrown at the building as a symbolic gesture against oppression – adopted from the incident where an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at George Bush during a 2008 press conference.

None of these events, according to rally organiser Sarah Garnham, should have come as a surprise to the police officers who, by this point, had us outnumbered roughly 2:1. Garnham, who is a member of the Victorian Education Action Network said that the network had contacted Victoria Police and made them aware the effigy burning and shoe throwing was to occur.

I personally saw a small number of shoes hit police officers, but I cannot comment on whether this was intentional or the result of bad aim. Seconds after the last shoe was thrown, police swarmed in to make seemingly arbitrary arrests and disperse the crowd.

One woman passed out from the force used to arrest her before being carried to a nearby police van. Police officers are said to have rejected protestors’ concern that she be seen to by paramedics.

Barely five metres away from me, a woman fell down during a scuffle and was trampled on by a crowd of police officers as they attempted to arrest someone. Half a minute later, a friend of mine was thrown to the ground near the gutter by two or three police officers. I remember thinking that if he’d fallen a couple of inches to the right and hit his head on the curb, he could have been seriously injured.

The police reaction was met with resistance. Protestors stood their ground and screamed at police officers to get off their friends. One protestor is alleged to have punched a police officer in the face: something that featured heavily in mainstream media reporting.

A spokeswoman for Victoria Police said that police were in attendance to ensure the safety of all involved. The force employed by police officers did not suggest this.

Protest leaders decided to direct the rally to the East Melbourne police station via Bourke Street to make a formal complaint. This didn’t eventuate, presumably because no one was sure where arrestees had been taken. The destination was changed to the Victorian Trades Hall.

We linked arms and chanted “this is not a police state, we have the right to demonstrate” and “this is a peaceful protest, that is police brutality” as we moved down Bourke Street, police boxing us in from all sides. At one point we were stopped near an intersection and forced to continue our protest on the pedestrian walkway. I remember two more arrests being made, though accounts vary from two to four.

One of them was Jay Wymarra, Indigenous activist and 2014 First Nations Officer at the La Trobe student union. According to a note he added to his Facebook page that evening, he was arrested for lighting the effigies and is currently waiting to find out if he will be formally charged. Protestors argued that this was racially motivated, changing their chant to “always was, always will be Aboriginal land”.

Later, walking up Swanston Street, another person was arrested in a nasty snatch-and-grab move by what looked like eight police officers, as a wall of police cordoned off perceived resistors.

The demonstration ended in the RMIT university cafeteria where protestors debriefed.

Perhaps the most lamentable aspect of this demonstration is that student action against education cuts and other issues can only be seen as violent, misguided lunacy when viewed from the lens of the mainstream media. Students’ ability to articulate their struggle has been consistently ignored.

But for many activists, the events of this demonstration has only strengthened their resolve to fight what they see as an inevitable decimation of our higher education system by the Liberal Government’s proposed inquiry. That’s the conversation we should be having right now.

Matthew Campbell is an editor of Lot’s Wife, Monash University’s student magazine. This article originally appeared on their website, lotswife.com.au.

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Review: USU Public Execution http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/review-usu-public-execution/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/review-usu-public-execution/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2013 07:50:36 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8904

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Last night was the University of Sydney Union’s Fourth Annual Public Execution, held at Manning Bar. The event was MC’ed by veteran USU comedian James Colley who entertained a full house ­­– a rare occurrence for a bar that has seen a gradual decline in attendance since 2011.

The performer, Cameron Knowles, a former Union Board director who was suspended for sneezing in front of the Vice Chancellor’s office, was taken on stage to be tied to the wooden post in the centre. It was a lengthy process as the USU, following a members’ forum, stopped the use of sedatives before the show, and voted unanimously to employ sheer force in quelling the inevitable struggle.

While we were waiting, I decided to try the new James Squire that came with entry as a cross-branded marketing strategy from the USU. While tasty, the Sword Swallower left you with an aftertaste that the previous year’s Robin Hood did not. It was an excellent beer that went well with the on-stage arrowing.

An hour later, the lights dimmed and the stagehands began to put duct tape around Knowles’s face.

Colley hyped up the crowd. “Are you ready to make some noise?!”

Knowles started to scream “I’m fucking innoce-” but a stagehand rolled the tape over his mouth before he could finish. “I can’t hear you!” Colley said in the direction of Knowles, causing the audience to break into laughter. The smokers had started to move inside, and I had to put down the new-and-improved Manning Burger, $67, which I was enjoying. The USU had revamped and renovated its dinner menu after students complained the old menu reminded them of Wednesday Night bingo.

Once the cheering had died down, the Honorary Secretary of the USU, George Manson, bowed to the audience and swung his sword at Knowles, hacking into his shoulder twice before swiping cleanly through his neck. Blood began to pour down Knowles’ body and his head rolled off the stage and into the hands of a young woman in the front, who is now eligible to claim a free drink and sausage at any Union outlet. Colley yelled, “don’t you just hate that one fucking friend who will always dive for the head!” to mass applause.

The USU has once again proved it is a top entertainment provider and an integral part of student life. Five stars.

Manning Bar is Sydney's go to destination for drinks, music, and executions

Manning Bar is Sydney’s go to destination for drinks, music, and executions

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Bitches Brood http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/bitches-brood/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/bitches-brood/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2013 07:46:28 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8900 ]]> United States President, opera composer and rapper Kanye West is a father again! After using the latest development in geriatric fertilisation, his girlfriend Kris Jenner gave birth to bubba Nor Nor on the floor of the United States Capitol’s Rotunda, which our readers will recall President West converted into his private quarters in his first term back in 2021, before the royal decree allowing him to continue on to a seventh term. Nor Nor West joins the President’s brood of seventeen children, including the eldest North West, whose mother Kim Kardashian died in a tragic boating accident when her derriere completely obscured the boat-driver’s vision and he crashed the ship, leading West to record his groundbreaking disco-minimalist-rap album, I would say fuck you God but you can’t fuck yourself (although I wish you could). Nor Nor has already been promised at age 12 to Fuschia, Beyonce and Jay-Z’s youngest son, so West can finally achieve his dream of mingling his blood line with Jay-Z’s.

kanhyewest

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Horrorscopes http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/horrorscopes/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/horrorscopes/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2013 07:39:52 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8897 ]]> Gemini

Jupiter has aligned itself with space junk which means this week you’re probably going to die.

Leo

Have you got too much on your hands at the moment? Fur? Claws? You’re a lion. You can’t read.

Sagittarius

You’re probably feeling stressed at work this week.  You’re likely to find that most people hate you.

Aquarius

Is your head feeling cloudy? Maybe that’s the toxic level of CO2 in the atmosphere … also Saturn.

Cancer

You might come to the realisation that you should cook blue meth this month.  This will go on for five seasons until you die.

Aries

Relationship trouble?  Consider killing your significant other.  The world is overpopulated and the divorce rate is cruising at a steady 98% anyway.

Taurus

You are a classic Tory.  If you want to spice things up and try something new in the bedroom, why not try screwing the poor?

Virgo

If you’re having financial troubles this week that’s probably because the globe never recovered from the recession and there is no money left anywhere.

Scorpio

Do you take advice seriously from ambiguous and anonymous sources? You need to do some serious thinking and make some better life decisions this week.

Capricorn

You will draw revitalising energy from the planets this week; Uranus, for instance, is a source of great and powerful gases.

Pisces

Charon is rotating around Nix and moving towards Kerberos.  Makemake will collide with Eris. There is a chance I am making this all up.

Libra

Invisible pads.

The last time horror met zodiac

The last time horror met zodiac

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Blood on his hands http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/blood-on-his-hands/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/blood-on-his-hands/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2013 07:34:38 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8894

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After a month long pursuit, Sydney’s most infamous villain has met a messy end. He was killed at the hands of a vigilante after mounting public anger at the police casting a large but ineffective net. “The Mosquito Villain was a parasite on our society,” reported one of his victims, Mrs McGee. McGee was stalked over a period of several hours on the night of October 15. “It was like he was trying to get into my head, just like buzzing buzzing buzzing. At some points I just wished he would get it over and done with…”

Citizens are warned to be vigilant, with a number of bloodthirsty copycat killers on the loose.

Dead_mosquito

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EXCLUSIVE: Tom Raue leaks … himself http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/exclusive-tom-raue-leaks-himself/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/exclusive-tom-raue-leaks-himself/#comments Tue, 05 Nov 2013 14:51:30 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8890 ]]> leaks

Free speech activists around the globe have been changing their Facebook profile pictures to the above image in support of Raue’s latest non-violent direction action.

Outspoken champion of freedom of information and Pure Fucking Metal guitarist Tom Raue has again shocked yet another predominantly white, middle-class audience. In this particular instance, Raue was addressing the executive board of confectionery and space exploration corporation Mars Inc. about the injustices of slavery in the snack-sized chocolate industry.

“I was busy polishing my blood diamonds when the sounds of tinkling gold fell silent and everyone was just staring, dumbfounded, at the bearded peasant,” said William de Borg IV, CEO of Mars Inc.

Renowned for being Australia’s most frequent plaintiff, Raue first courted controversy in 2013 as Vice-President of the University of Sydney Union (USU), when he leaked information from a confidential USU report to The Soin indicating the University collaborated with police during industrial action on campus. Citing the leak’s value to the public interest, the ex-Board Director has since devoted his livelihood to the cause of whistleblowing and has now proven his dedication by leaking the most dangerous thing of all: himself.

The Soin spoke to a number of executive members present at the event and can confirm that Raue was chanting: “Everything must be leaked! The people have a right to know!” at the very moment a dark patch was quickly spreading across the crotch of his cargo pants. The Chief Interplanetary Officer, who holds a PhD in the history of the USU, was the first to notice, and led the executive board in a giggling counter-chant of “VP pee pee”. Raue allegedly made no effort to hide the urine soaking through his trousers or running down his legs. He was last seen being pulled away by security guards while he extolled the virtues of full communism.

Raue is currently in custody and could not be reached for comment. Nonetheless, two competing sanitary pad companies have already aired televised appeals inviting Raue to contact them about becoming the face of their new ‘Liberty, equality, sorority’ campaign.

 

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R.I.P. The Soin 2013-2013: FUCK YOU AND GOODBYE http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/r-i-p-the-soin-2013-2013-fuck-you-and-goodbye/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/r-i-p-the-soin-2013-2013-fuck-you-and-goodbye/#comments Tue, 05 Nov 2013 14:19:34 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8883

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soin

The Soin has come a long way since it started way back in January this year. We lasted more than ten whole months, which, in modern terms, is four times the length of Kim Kardashian’s marriage to Kris Humphries, sixty times the length of Lindsay Lohan’s jail sentence, and half the average lifespan of the humble cockroach. But sadly, cockroaches we are not.

The very shining paragon of print journalism you’re currently reading was born during inauspicious times, in the midst of an Australian media environment dominated by moneyed, privately educated troglodytes who know absolutely fuck all about the issues faced by real ‘Strayans. We, on the other hand, had a vision. A vision that these supercilious pricks would one day be replaced by a new breed of pricks who are equally privileged, equally sheltered and yet at the same time, still mind-bogglingly conservative. The mind boggles.

But, all good things must come to an end. Our deeply uncompromising, deeply ethically compromised journalistic practice caught up with us in the end and landed us in very hot water. To put it bluntly, we were caught red-handed, hacking phones and the social media accounts of the rich and famous.

Perhaps it was Sinéad O’Connor’s incessant sharing of the ‘We Can’t Stop’ music video, or Bill Shorten’s subtweets about Anthony Albanese, or Noam Chomsky’s radical new profile pictures featuring robust turds superimposed onto his face. Whatever may have given us away, we would like to take this opportunity to express our deepest regrets for any careers prematurely ruined or reputations irrevocably soiled.

Before any trace that The Soin ever existed disappears into the ether, however, and our magnificent, self-made empire falls into ruins, there is one last thing which needs to be addressed head-on. And that is: get the name of our newspaper right, you fuckers.

Dinosaur Jr, a band long thought to be extinct, recently regrouped to release an EP titled Don't Forget The Soin, commemorating the end of this very publication.

Dinosaur Jr., a band long thought to be extinct, recently regrouped to release a new EP, Don’t Forget The Soin, commemorating the end of this very publication. Available from all good piracy outlets.

It approximately rhymes with ‘barn’, ‘yarn’ and ‘Genghis Khan’. It most certainly does not rhyme with ‘coin’, ‘adjoin’ or ‘Des Moines’. The joke’s on us, we guess; it seems that you, dear reader, are having the last laugh. Clearly, a portmanteau combining an obsolete French expression and the name of the most widely circulated UK daily is too much to comprehend.

At the risk of repeating ourselves, there’s only one British tabloid that takes its name from a star formed 4.3 billion years ago, has eight planets orbiting it, and rises in the east and sets in the west. Don’t make us think we aggressively invaded the privacy of hundreds of D-list celebrities for nothing.

After all, we did all of that for you. Look at The Soin, look how it shines for you. Even though this publication will probably never be revived and this is in all likelihood the last Soin for the remainder of eternity, try to remember us for the understated beacon of truth we surely were, lofty and balanced enough to never, ever, ever resort to gross hyperbole or cheap emotional manipulation.

We’ve had a fucking ball bringing you almost a year’s worth of incisive, hard-hitting journalism; we were forever poised, ready to investigate life’s essential questions, such as ‘Who Wore It Better?’ and ‘Look at the Knockers on Her!’ Although we may have occasionally struggled to provide the right answers, at least we dared to dream, dared to ask the un-ask-able questions.

Think of us when you watch Tony Abbott miss the point spectacularly on the nightly news, or when you guffaw quietly at an anatomically correct penis in a bathroom stall. Because we’ll be thinking of you.

And for the last time (literally), you fucking philistines: it’s The Swahhh-n.

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Letters from the archives http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/letters-from-the-archives/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/letters-from-the-archives/#comments Tue, 05 Nov 2013 04:15:23 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8874 ]]> Dear Honi,

As you can see from the page hits, last week I only read your articles on porn and naked people and drugs. Please stop publishing such smut.

Ashamed and aroused,

Tabitha Hollinghorn

Science II

Dear Honi,

I was disappointed by your biased coverage of the recent incident where police broke the leg of a protester. I’ve personally have only had positive interactions with police. How do we know that the young man in question didn’t request that his leg be broken? People have freedom to have their legs broken if they choose. How do we know his leg wasn’t broken before he was pinned down by the policeman? MAYBE HE BROKE HIS LEG HIMSELF AS PART OF HIS CRAZED PLOT AGAINST CAPITALISM.

Please restore the balance,

Oliver Pearce

Commerce / Law III

Dear Honi,

Your paper is the biggest piece of shit. It’s like diarrhoea on the page. I hope you die.

Froyolo is definitely not in the Top 5 King St froyo shops.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Smith

Arts II

Dear Honi,

I’m just writing to say that I had a moderate response to last week’s edition. The articles were of the standard I expected and on somewhat interesting topics. Overall, a solid but not awe-inspiring edition. Keep up the quite good work.

From,

No-one ever.

Architecture I

Dear Honi,

Over the last six months I have sent you no less than twelve articles on discrimination against gun owners, to no avail. Why wonít you publish them?

Watching. Waiting. Stalking.

Jack Patrickson.

Not a student, just passionate III.

Dear Honi,

This is the best paper ever!!!! Your article last week on the underground music scene of anarcho-communist communities in the Catalunyan foothills made me rethink my entire life. What a great contribution to journalism!

Love,

Honi Soit Eds.

Anyone with an opinion about anything can write a letter to Honi. In fact, often you can write something that is in no way relevant to an article in the paper, or even current events, and still get your letter published. You know what to do.

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There’s nothing impressive about a political hack http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/theres-nothing-impressive-about-a-political-hack/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/theres-nothing-impressive-about-a-political-hack/#comments Mon, 04 Nov 2013 05:48:30 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8863

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1319A long time ago, some old school friends of mine met up with me for a beer. We’d been long overdue for a drink, with me having been caught up and unable to see them over the past couple of months.

At the time, I began to yammer on about politics, what I was up to, schemes that were in place. It demonstrated what I thought, at the time, was an impressive level of insider knowledge that would wow my friends.

One of them, who had been my best mate for about six years, looked up at me and said: “Wow mate. You’re a bit of a hack, aren’t you?”

I got a bit of a jolt out of that. Part of me felt a bit of pride. Part of my felt a bit taken aback that I had changed so much.

It’s a funny thing, being a political hack. You’re caught up in a fast paced world of machinations and games, your relationships (mostly, not always) balanced upon the finely tuned deals and factional alignments you are a part of.

Take a position from someone, and you’ll quickly go from being firm friends to sworn enemies. Make the wrong comment somewhere, and a staunch ally can become a nemesis overnight.

Of course, this leads me to my point: there is nothing impressive about political hacks.

For the most part, they lead a pretty similar life. Involvement in staffing, move into private sector (read: job in government relations or something similar), move back into the party, go into Parliament. Numerous examples of our current crop of MPs have gone down this path.

The appalling thing is this: looking at the people who are now joining our political ranks, what have we got? People with limited life experience, confined to the mad little world of politics. Parties promote these people as they have the time and commitment to contribute to the party, to play the game and to get what they need.

It is a dangerous precedent. Both Liberals and Labor have a fast-emerging system of entrenched factionalism as a result. Good people are missing out on parliamentary seats. And more and more, we are seeing evidence of what these political hacks think of the democratic system: something that is their plaything.

Look at, for example, the expenses scandals in the UK and Eddie Obeid over here.

But the current system rewards that.

There’s nothing impressive about a political hack. They play the game, preferring to hang in an isolated bubble rather than fight it out in the big bad world. And at the end of the day, we all know where their breeding ground is: Universities like Sydney.

So please, if you have a friend who is a hack, do what my friends did. Tell them, it’s time to take a look at yourself. Because when you do that, you’re doing them a favour.

Trust me.

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True crime of the Deep South: John Safran’s new book ‘Murder in Mississippi’ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/true-crime-of-the-deep-south-john-safran-on-his-new-book-murder-in-mississippi/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/true-crime-of-the-deep-south-john-safran-on-his-new-book-murder-in-mississippi/#comments Mon, 04 Nov 2013 05:28:21 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8860

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9781926428468-2John Berendt, Truman Capote, Ann Rule, John Safran?

The newest addition to the list of classic true crime writers could well be Australia’s enfant terrible of the screen, John Safran. Six months of research and inquiry in Mississippi has given us his first foray into the world of literature. Murder in Mississippi takes cues from jewels in the true crime crown such as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and In Cold Blood, leading us into the Deep South and scratching the surface of its all-pervading secrecy.

The book unpacks a bizarre murder in which a well-known yet mysterious white supremacist, Richard Barrett, has been killed by a young black man, Vincent McGee, in his home. Already this is not your average story of the meaning of race in the South – no mockingbirds are to be found here. Indeed, Safran himself told me, “Ideally I would have liked more of a clear cut race story and I was really agitated that things weren’t … This would be so much clearer if Richard had killed Vincent. I was so exhausted and irritated that I couldn’t get one clear cut story of Richard’s life or what happened between him and Vincent. By the end of it though, I thought, this what makes it interesting”.

What really happened between Richard and Vincent remains a mystery, though in talking to a range of oddball and curious Mississippians, Safran sheds light on new possibilities – including a suspected sexual relationship between the two men – further blurring the lines in what he calls his “Truman Capote moment”. Throughout the book these characters leave readers to be consumed by the mystery of the Deep South and get an idea of its distinct twang. Safran describes this quality further: “There were a lot of secrets. There were no fences and to get to the houses you have to really walk down deep into the property. I guess it’s a way of reconciling Southern hospitality with ‘fuck off’ … Things go on in people’s houses where you’re never going to see them. Here, lots of things are going on in more public places – you can start finding out about Melbourne and the people or whoever by pubs and things like that. I found it difficult that there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent there. The streets are very quiet. I was there for a while and though a lot of things just aren’t played out in public spaces.”

Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the sleazy rat of a character of Richard Barrett, who despite being dead, manages to be the indisputable star of the story. Safran and readers alike are perplexed by how many faces he seemed to have had in his lifetime – each person John speaks to appears to have met a different Richard Barrett. Sometimes we hear mismatched accounts and tidbits of his life (including fascinating FBI files); other times his name alone evokes extreme fear or gushing.

Vincent McGee, another complexity, speaks to us for the majority of the book from jail. A cocky, troubled and violent youth, Safran struggles to capture basic information from McGee during their many phone calls. He filled me in on a trade secret in combatting this: “With Vincent, there were a lot of conversations at the start where I was like, ‘What were you like when you were young?’ or ‘When you were young, did you get in trouble at school?’ and nothing would come of that. But then I realised the trick was, I went to him and I said, ‘Michael Dent [a friend of McGee] said this, and he’d be like, ‘Bullshit! Michael Dent’s full of it, that little faggot, blah blah blah’. So I cracked that riddle – you come to people with what someone has said, preferably about them, and then they talk. And then through that, all the themes you want to deal with become apparent.”

Having already been crucified (literally), attempted to join the Ku Klux Klan, and had a fatwa placed on Rove McManus, surely John Safran was undeterred in Mississippi, asking questions of strange people and being immersed in a hyper-parochial environment. When asked how his first book fit into his career and existing oeuvre, he said: “I guess on a practical level so much of what I do is me pushing and creating my own work. I thought, why don’t I try something else out? It’s me trying to explore other things. For TV I’ll write a piece and we know how it’s going to work. We’ll have a whole story arc that we’ve prewritten – it’s pretty contained, whereas the book just goes everywhere … The easiest way to write a book is to just write what happens. I don’t have the skillset yet to fudge a book. The more truthful I was the more I stopped tying myself in knots to explain every little thing which felt unnatural anyway – that’s just not what life is like.”

Murder in Mississippi is out now.

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Mature age rep revived as cyborg http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/mature-age-rep-revived-as-cyborg/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/mature-age-rep-revived-as-cyborg/#comments Sat, 02 Nov 2013 05:58:12 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8855 ]]> Tracy

Tracy

Hello, children, and welcome back to Honi! It’s been a while! For those that don’t remember I’m Tracy, your mature aged rep, and I’m here to talk to you about Sydney University’s wonderful Cybernetics Program. Thanks to them, I’m back at university doing my 10th degree.  It’s a combined course in Biochemistry and Sanskrit and I couldn’t be happier!

In 2018, the second year of my fourth degree (Plant Science), I fell down the stairs at the Manning House after getting a bit tipply from beers. I would’ve been a goner if it hadn’t been for my best friend Bridget telling me that I could get full spinal reconstruction, genetic implants, and even fake memories at the SRC! Such a wise girl, Bridget. Bless her. You can be at university for 16 years and not realise that you paying SSAF could literally save your life, I said. Six months later I was back and ready for action! Half my bones are made of metal and I’m incapable of ageing because of the repressor proteins.

I also asked to have new memories of being serenaded by Roy Orbison. They gave me some memories of attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. Even the Tannhauser Gate! I went to Bowral in ’09, but deep space is a whole different tin of beans!

I’m so grateful to the SRC that I started a Facebook ‘page’ called http://www.Facebook.com/ThanksSRCImACyborg and we have 200 ‘likes’. You should ‘like’ it too! I’m also thankful to Bridget though we haven’t really stayed in touch. She says she’s afraid of what I’ve become. She says that just because the children make fun of me for answering all the questions in tutorials I’m not allowed to … well. Bridget can just flip off, they were rude. I got on the TV and I suspect she’s a bit jealous.

What’s friendship to me anyway? What is friendship to one who has seen empires fall and kings become dust?

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SULS floats shares; takes over planet Earth http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/suls-floats-shares-takes-over-planet-earth/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/suls-floats-shares-takes-over-planet-earth/#comments Sat, 02 Nov 2013 05:21:23 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8852 ]]> A recent move to corporatise the University has gained more support since the United States Studies Centre (USSC) — the legally registered name of the Australian nuclear subsidiary of Raytheon, a US defense contractor — became the first University body to openly embrace its corporate agenda. The USSC made headlines only a week ago by declaring itself as a war-profiteering entity with no vested interests in the field of academia.

USSC President Dick Heaney confirmed the organisation’s long-standing hostility towards higher learning in a press conference last Tuesday, asserting that the USSC was not “in the business of arming those dumb proles with mind-bayonets and brain-Molotov cocktails”. When invited by Honi to elaborate on his comments, Heaney let out a putrid, ear-splitting belch before nodding in self-satisfaction.

The Institute Building housing the USSC will also be torn down in a matter of days to make way for a small-scale military compound based on Area 51, before it was converted into Luna Park, a moon-themed amusement park.

However, the USSC is not alone in wearing its corporate badge with pride. The latest member to join the corporate club, much to the surprise of absolutely everyone in the University community, is the illustrious Sydney University Law Society (SULS). The society has long enjoyed its status as a charitable tax break for top-tier law firm Herbert Smith Freehills. That is, until 2039, the year Freehills senior partners were found to be collaborating with a disgraced NASDAQ Chairman — who continued committing white collar crimes from the luxury of his cryogenic freezing station, thankfully invented in 2021 —  in operating an international Ponzi scheme. During a much publicised trial, the convicted partners referenced their experience as University of Sydney Union Board Directors and SULS portfolio bearers when questioned about the alarming efficiency and ruthlessness of their financial fraud.

SULS took Freehills’ fall from grace as an opportunity to strike out on its own. Five years after evolving into a privately owned company, what was previously the most affluent University society in the known universe took a giant leap of faith this morning by making an initial public offer of $1.5 million a share on the ASX. Reports flooding Twitter that, due to an unexpected champagne deficit in France, approximately half the nation’s population was not grossly intoxicated for at least 8 minutes earlier today, remain unsubstantiated.

The "stock market".

The “stock market”.

When approached for comment about this bold, new business strategy, SULS President Quentin Winehouse slurred incomprehensibly into the phone, whilst occasionally hiccoughing.

It is estimated that as a publicly traded company, SULS will accelerate the poverty gap by 58% per annum and be able to successfully buy out Google within three months.

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Multiculturalism a success now that everyone is racist http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/multiculturalism-a-success-now-that-everyone-is-racist/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/multiculturalism-a-success-now-that-everyone-is-racist/#comments Sat, 02 Nov 2013 05:00:14 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8847

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asianbaby

The latest United Colors of Benetton ad campaign.

Honi Soit is proud to report that multiculturalism has been declared an undeniable national success in the wake of consecutive waves of immigrants self-identifying as “racist”.

The United Nations issued a statement today congratulating the Australian government for its efforts in effectively eradicating systemic racial prejudice. In fact, the recent federal election saw poster boy of the far right, Australia First Party candidate Sanjay Chopra, voted in as this country’s first non-white Prime Minister.

Chopra made waves as a result of his much-hyped “Moats, Not Boats” campaign, which proposed not only prohibiting the resettlement of all refugees in Australia, but also vowed to build a moat around the coast of Australia because being apparently girt by sea is not enough to deter people seeking asylum.

During his victory speech on election night, Chopra was quoted as saying: “I’m honoured to become the first Indian leader of this lucky country. However, what I’m most pleased about is that I got to where I am today without special treatment in the name of political correctness, unlike what, uh, some other races have gained by whingeing.” He then proceeded to blow a dog whistle to wild applause.

Honi looks forward to the implementation of one of Chopra’s key election promises: reinstating tireless persecution of the Irish diaspora. It is widely speculated that the landslide win was due to the joint endorsement of the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Civil Liberties Union.

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StarGate: O-Week 2044 http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/stargate-o-week-2044/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/stargate-o-week-2044/#comments Sat, 02 Nov 2013 03:45:10 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8838

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STARGATE

 

SUSF GIVES SCHOLARSHIPS TO WOMBATS

Sydney University Sport and Fitness (SUSF) has made headlines in self-referential on-campus tabloids for subsidising the training costs of 37 water polo-playing wombats. This development follows an expose of SUSF’s allocation of athletic scholarships to non-USYD students.

 Honi Soit made numerous attempts to obtain comment from the recently appointed Director of Wombats but our failed communications culminated in one of our reporters being chased down a dark tunnel beneath SUSF’s Aquatic Centre, falling over and getting concussed, and subsequently waking up in a windowless subterranean room to indiscernible, monotonous chants. GPS technology tells us that our reporter was approximately three hundred metres below the sporting association’s Darlington facility. That’s all we could make out from the walkie talkie, whose battery has since been depleted.

Whatever the case may be, readers, rest assured that SUSF always acts in the interests of the entire USYD population in order to lift the university’s sporting profile. So bring on the wombat frat parties at next year’s University games!

WOMBAT SUSF

 

THE HONI RACE CONTINUES

O-Week marks the start of the nine-month-long Honi campaigning period, with this year’s tickets having been formed about five years ago.

CLIT for Honi’s website is up and running and reveals that CLIT is promising journalism that will rub you the right way and literally give you an orgasm, a sticky pink membrane of a paper that is sensitive to your touch but hard to find if you’ve never seen one before. They’re also promising an Honi app.

The name CLIT is also something of a throwback given that science confirmed the existence of the G-spot six years ago, proving to women once and for all that penetrative sex really is the best way for them to achieve sexual pleasure, and could they stop complaining about it please. Their campaign is being managed by Ricki Turnbull, a North Sydney Girls graduate who hopes to run for USU Board in three years time, but mature age student Rhys Pogonoski is rumoured to be involved behind the scenes. If CLIT is successful, it will be the fiftieth ticket in a row to win an Honi election with a one-syllable ticket name and a circular logo. CLIT’s rivals are JIZZ for Honi. Information on them is scant for the moment, but we did manage to get our hands on a flyer:

jamlogo-011

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A history of Honi in the 21st century http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/a-history-of-honi-in-the-21st-century/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/a-history-of-honi-in-the-21st-century/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 08:51:27 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8829 ]]> HS1300_051

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Fish People Invade! http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/fish-people-invade/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/fish-people-invade/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 07:29:19 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8823 ]]>  fish people invade

The General Assembly of the United Nations has today declared that it is a good day to cancel your plans and stay at home with your family. Following the recent colonisation of America by the fish people of Kepler 62-F, most members agreed that the best course of action would be to curl up under a table.

 

The fish people arrived last week via light-speed teleportation. The United States was conquered on Tuesday evening. When Honi received confirmation regarding the hostilities, I proposed to my girlfriend of two years. I hope we’re happy as long as we live.

 

New York City was overrun within the first hour. The death toll is uncertain but a reasonable estimate would be in the hundred thousands. Many more have been taken captive.

 

Dr Arthur Mahmoud of the nascent Australasian Organisation for Piscine Dissent (AOPD) – which researches effective ways to protect the people we care for – told Honi that New York was the prime target for invasion, haven’t you seen the films. “It was immediately set up as their base of operations,” he said. Honi has always wanted to climb the Statue of Liberty and now it can’t. Washington D.C. fell early the next day.

 

Humanity has not made contact with the fish forces. Their ultimate goal is, as yet, unclear. Honi instead received an email from my brother, who lived in what was once Connecticut. He saw the smoke. He saw a great monument being built but could not make out details given the distance. He asked if I was OK and wished we had been closer when we were growing up. He said the city was desolate, that there was no wind.

 

Some breakthroughs have been made regarding the fish people’s physical weaknesses and the collective human effort to combat their threat. The AOPD has released information regarding their genetic testing on flounders, a distant cousin of the fish people. “With the right approach, we can avert disaster,” Dr Mahmoud told Honi, “Flounders, and fish people by extension, are naturally susceptible to

 

NOTHING. There is no HOPE. Do not RESIST. The fish people of Kepler 62-F are stronger than humans & also faster & can breathe underwater and can see through walls. All the armies of this world COMBINED and TRIPLED cannot stop the fish people. You are a FLESHY & stupid mortal. The fish people DO NOT DIE and they are INCREDIBLE lovers. GLORY – eternal GLORY – to the FISH EMPIRE. May it outlast the fire of the SUN.

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London’s Uploading http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/londons-uploading/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/londons-uploading/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 06:42:17 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8818 ]]> DSC_0726

Of the many adages concerning the fate, or rather fates, of the Story, perhaps none is more true than the one that reminds us that stories find a way of getting themselves told. The niggling compulsion that compels individuals to make sense of experience and respond with a story, whether in the form of a direct account of a life lived and endured, or in the no less intimate other-worldliness of fiction, attests to this. The Story suffers not from prejudice either when it comes to finding a suitable medium for its eternal abode: epic poetry, as with Homer, or the diary form, such as Anne Frank’s – all are welcome within its sovereign borders. We are investigative, yearning creatures, and nothing speaks more of this painstaking and fallible, though noble task, than the many lives of the Story.

Though arguably not as watershed a moment as the advent of the novel, (or perhaps, not yet) it is only fitting that the Story has begun to court the seductive overtures of cyber-space. Along with the notable emergence of online self-publishing, the multimedia platforms of the digital terrain have been more and more amalgamated with traditional formats. As if on cue, the last couple of years have seen the emergence of the “digital essay”. The moniker says it all, as essayists have begun incorporating digital media to supplement and buttress the demanding depths probed by the long-form essay. An exemplary case is China Mieville’s “London’s Overthrow”.

Apart from incontrovertibly being one of the coolest contemporary writers, citing both Wu Tang Clan and H.P Lovecraft as influences, China Mieville is a London novelist who has crafted a literary niche in giving the fantasy genre an unusually good name. In 2012 however, he turned his lexical adroitness to write an extended essay on post-GFC London, commissioned by the New York Times. What emerges is a world that seems no less surreal than his fantastical invocations. Yet it is very truly our own world, the world in which we must try and live.

DSC_0720

An embittered and sad meditation on his home city, “London’s Overthrow” gets its name, and its thematic fulcrum, from a powerful sketch made by one John Martin, an inmate of London’s infamous “Bedlam” insane asylum. The work is a waxen, powerful ink sketch that divines London’s cataclysmic fall into urban entropy, and it hangs like a hysterical portent at the beginning of the essay.

Mieville’s eponymous essay builds a case to pardon the long-gone Martin by using his work, currently hung in the austere industrial maw of the Tate Modern, to question the supposed sanity of contemporary London. Interspersed amongst his wonderful prose that recounts the lives of some of London’s outsiders, from public sector strikers to squatters and parkour disciples, is the use of impressionistic photos the writer himself took during the writing of the essay. The deliberate over-exposure of the photographs, and their blurred modality, aping the raw evidence accumulated on the cell phones of London’s poor, lends the work a haunting power.

Mieville’s essay diagnoses one of the world’s great cities with a deepening, unmedicated bipolarity between the ever-burgeoning wealth of the City of London, the financial hub, and the sprawling and decaying outer-suburbs of London’s growing poor. Mieville’s London, caught red-handed on his digital camera, is a city that has seen a reversion to “Victorian Levels of inequality”, as financial ostentation and Olympic profligacy are increasingly met with the urban detritus and social indignation of London’s outer boroughs. Perhaps more than anything else the writing and the grim photographic testimony serve as a strong rejoinder to the political ideology of neoliberalism that prides itself on tax-payer hand-outs to perfidious Bankers amidst the closure of Libraries and community centres and patronising platitudes for lower-paid workers to tighten their belts. Mieville’s London is therefore one that has hardly escaped from the “mind forg’d manacles” of William Blake’s. Some things just don’t change.

In the sporadic photos we see tawdry skyscraper phalluses loom like smug panopticons over the graffiti and miscellaneous litter that blot the dreary concrete jungle of outer London. The abandoned, ghost-town vibe of certain languishing London suburbs has synchronised to incidents of football hooliganism and the crypto-fascism of the British Defence League. Rioters have consumed goods illegally in a bilious reaction to the social problems they face. This has predictably been met by a draconian and disproportionate retribution by authorities, and a call by politicians for “total policing” (including the use of live ammunition on the “feral teenagers” that sell so many copies of the Daily Mail).

DSC_0683The advent of the “digital essay”, with its use of multimedia as an appendage to the corpus of the text, invariably raises questions of the efficacy of the word, of the arguable feebleness, nay impotence, of language to convey this social reality. I can just hear the sniggering internal monologues of some that read “social problems” and thought “leftie garbage”. Of course, one can roll out the stats like factory hens slated for compact nugget after-life: the 400,000 unemployed in London, the richest 10 percent hold two thirds of all wealth, while the poorest half only one 20th, 333 deaths in police custody in a period of 10 years and not a single reprimanded officer, 40 percent of London’s children living in poverty… It’s as if the truth, personified, is banging its head futilely on a brick wall in Camden, waiting to be interred in Bedlam.

What do all our words and arguments even mean if we can’t agree on the evidence? Behind every photo, one can make out Mieville mutter – “Do you see what I see?” The photos are proof that seeing is believing. The eye is a special portal for the apprehension of large-scale injustice, while words seem to sink like phantasmic stones in the main of meaning. Imagination is evidently not enough, it sells the signified short: one has to see the video of a 16 year old girl being assaulted by a gang of riot police to feel even a remote level of real sympathy for those that witness and are subject to police brutality. The crude shout of “that’s a fucking girl you cunts” is the strident cry of the powerless, the unheard.

“London’s Overthrow” is certainly not the only admirable example of the digital essay that has appeared. Will Self’s fine piece “Kafka’s wound”, documenting the continued influence of Kafka’s tumultuous absurdist fiction, avails itself of videos, lectures, musical works and photographs all inspired by the essay, helping us comprehend the historical context behind Kafka’s sense of the ineluctable. Though not quite the death of the author, it is a true feat of the democratization of the text, of the story. But sometimes a lack of parameters can inhibit, rather than fortify. The extensive use of multimedia is anarchic, and is a disservice to an essay that seems to lack a meaningful focal point.

On the other hand, Mieville’s essay, though minimalist compared to Self’s digital vortex, works precisely because the writing is at the forefront, because the stories it conveys are the true answer to the doubts hovering over the language they employ. It seems that, rather than collaborating with the multitude of distractions the online world has to give, a simple story, told convincingly, offset by the verisimilitude given by photos, is the most effective way to prove, as Mieville states, that “the Apocalypse is less a cliché than a truism.”

You can, and should, access the entire essay here.

Thanks to Michael Stone for the photo originals, taken in Sydney.

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Arts faculty approves 30-year-old honours application http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/arts-faculty-approves-30-year-old-honours-application/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/arts-faculty-approves-30-year-old-honours-application/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 05:22:25 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8813

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enrolments_13 copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The University of Sydney Arts Faculty set a new record yesterday, processing an Honours application 30 years after it was originally submitted – astonishing speediness for an organisation unjustifiably considered a bit shit.

“We’re actually quite pleased with the progress,” reported administrative manager Frances Magowski. “Being open only 3 days a week for 2 hours a day with a lunch break, and no new paperwork accepted 30 mins before closing means we have to work at break neck speed. Plus, some words like ‘anthropology’ are really very long.”

Tabitha Hollinghorn is reportedly thrilled with the decision. “I only really wanted to do Honours to delay having to decide what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “So I suppose the faculty’s failure to complete basic administrative tasks has really helped me achieve my dreams.”

Hollinghorn looks forward to starting her thesis on microfinancing digital realities in post-conflict Zimbabwe. She laughed off claims from classmates that she’s a sure bet to get the medal: “I don’t know why everyone keeps saying that!” she said. “It’s an 80 -90% chance at most.”

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No more SSAFering http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/no-more-ssafering/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/no-more-ssafering/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 05:05:44 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8810

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spence

The University of Sydney’s perpetual Vice-Chancellor has angrily hit back at critics who have accused him of using the threat of funding cuts to reign over student organisations and rule them like a king.

In the face of growing criticism, the VC said he had been keeping a close eye on student groups to make sure the University was not doing anything to jeopardise their independence.

“Look, as a Board Director, holder of all SRC Office Bearer positions, and Seeker of the USYD Quidditch team, I think I would notice if the University was trying to take over student groups,” the VC commented after coaching the University of Sydney water polo team to victory against UNSW.

Some students have begged to disagree however, claiming that the VC now occupies not only every leadership position, but literally every last post of employment in the USU, SRC, and SUPRA.

In his monthly BULL column, the VC said his suspicious recent adventures into student culture and politics were sparked by a newfound desire to get involved and live up the social side of University.

“For the first 33 years I was Vice-Chancellor I felt like I didn’t have any friends at University and was isolated from the staff. But the USU really helped me find my voice which, as it turned out, was louder than the combined screams of the 60 000-strong student body,” the VC wrote.

But not everyone is convinced, and some students have said that since voluntary student unionism was introduced in 2005, and the SSAF fee was abolished in 2014, the University has been able to leverage control over student organisations by becoming their sole source of funding.

“Have you noticed how when you order a cider now they just give you a schooner of tepid soda water? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t always like that,” noted third year architecture student Ethan Bailey.

But Hermanns and Manning Bar manager Michael Spence assured Honi that this had always been the case.

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SRC Reports 2044 http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/src-reports-2044/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/src-reports-2044/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 23:39:26 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8802 ]]> I hope I stay this hot forever

I hope I stay this hot forever

Presidential Overlord’s Report

Last week when I was in the office I saw Lewis Friggert CENSORED.CENSORED.CENSORED

Hello students. My name is Lewis and I am your President. Look over to the right, that’s me! Hi me! Gosh you’re a swell looking President, me!

Welcome to O-Week 2044. I know university seems like a terrifying place but the SRC is here to help you; whether you’re a lonely country student struggling to fit in, a nervous 18-year-old falling behind on your new inner-city rent, or just another member of the Labor party looking to kickstart your career with a cushy administrative job, we’ve got you covered.

Here at the SRC we’re about protecting all of your rights, students are pretty discriminated against, donít ya know. When I say ALL your rights though, itís important to note that this doesnít include the ‘right’ to go to class during industrial action.

But the SRC isn’t just about hosting the unbearably shallow and petty conflicts of the various on campus factions, we also publish the hip newspaper Honi Soit every week. It’s great stuff, and I should know because a key part of my job is spending Monday morning trawling through the paper, hunting down any negative references to the sub-sub-faction of the ALP I belong to / my current or future lovers / the National Union of Students, and looking for genitals and cleansing them from the edition, like a faceless man disappearing a sitting PM.

Please know that you can always approach me for a casual chat if youíre having any problems here at USYD – unless you’re a Liberal, that is, in which case I will literally beat you with a wooden pole until your Tory blood runs down the SRC corridors and the caseworkers are forced to break down the door, restrain me, and hide your broken body beneath the soil of the SRC community garden.

I can’t wait to get started working as your President!

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General Secretary’s Report

Hey guys! I just got paid $18 000!

Thumbs up

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Educat1on Officers’ R3port

Co-written by Maisy Demir and Joanna Shorten

Comrades!

Comrades!

It’s that time again! – The beginning of the end of capitalism as we know it. A spectre is haunting the University of Sydney: the spectre of the Education Action Group. We are currently in a period of economic crisis and the revolution begins here, on campus, with you, my proletariat friend. Management must be abolished, and worker-student councils will be set up to administer a new era of Political Economy and maybe some Sociology or something. The bourgeoisie will be sent to the gallows! Unite! Unite-

But don’t forget to get involved in our upcoming Noodle Day where we celebrate the contribution of students to society while being really sad about student welfare in this country! Did you know that some students are really super poor? Especially poor are students from the countryside. Coming to uni was the best moment of my life but unfortunately Labor hasn’t been in power for a while so we don’t have the below-the-poverty-line youth allowance that students who were 22 or over and domestic students really enjoyed-

Don’t listen to this trash, students. Welfare is only an obstacle to the global socialist utopia. As leader of the Communist International, Russell Brand, has said: ‘the time for revolution is now – tits!’ We must organise and fight-

And vote Labor!

No, don’t vote Labor, voting is complicity in the system?

But-

Shut the fuck up, scab-

I will break you.

EAG meetings are held every Monday 1pm in the University of Sydney Students Representative Council (USSRC).

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GLAMOUR + DECAY = BAZ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/glamour-decay-baz/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/11/glamour-decay-baz/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 23:18:43 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8799

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LA with KeshaIn a film designed for HSC study, Baz Luhrmannís latest film Glamour + Decay is dripping with sequins and obtuse metaphors. For the 17th time in his film career, Luhrmann explores the drama in the juxtaposition of the hyper-reality of stylised balls, dances and allusions to the mediating force of the camera, and the gritty, weighty truth of Revolutionary France / 1920s New York / Guelph-Ghibelline Verona / Australian deserts / Australian cultural deserts.

The film pointed to the way our lives are now lived through cinema – do we really experience life? Or are we all just a series of characters playing the daughter, the wife, the prostitute? Can we conceive of romance and the epic without placing ourselves in the simulacrum of the stories of yore? All these questions are asked and repeated and repeated and repeated. Almost like the very concept of truth itself in the postmodern age…

What next for this veteran director? I for one cannot wait for his next film, Glitter + Dirt, set within the celebrity world of obscure early noughties performer Kesha Rose Sebert.

Next week: Francois le Bernardeís adaption of The Passion of the Christ: why is the acting so wooden and tortured?

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2044 USYD campus map http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/2044-usyd-campus-map/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/2044-usyd-campus-map/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 07:57:08 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8789

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Click on the map to get a better idea of where things are

Click on the map to get a better idea of where things are

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Tony Abbott: welfare cheat! http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/tony-abbott-welfare-cheat/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/tony-abbott-welfare-cheat/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 07:53:10 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8783

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"The views from Kirribilli House are a $300 million drain on the public purse and I would gladly find a better tenant," said L.J. Hooker.

“The views from Kirribilli House are a $300 million drain on the public purse and I would gladly find a better tenant,” said L.J. Hooker.

 

“Why are they living in luxury for free when I’ve been working hard for my whole life?” said Toby Jenkinson, life-long Aussie.

“Why are they living in luxury for free when I’ve been working hard for my whole life?” said Toby Jenkinson, life-long Aussie.

 

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Scientology to be added to DSM-6 http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/scientology-to-be-added-to-dsm-6/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/scientology-to-be-added-to-dsm-6/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 07:44:51 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8780

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In a controversial decision, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has revealed that ‘Scientology’ will be included in future editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a manual which describes and categorises symptoms of mental disorders.

The Church of Scientology, which has traditionally opposed psychiatric intervention, has decried the move, calling it “insane”.

Dr Peter Miller, a representative from the APA, sighed, smiled and slowly shook his head. “They would say that”, he explained. “The first symptom of Scientology is denial, followed by projection of their own paranoia onto others.”  Miller urged the Scientology spokesperson to seek help for his condition.

Next week in The Soin: Scientologists accused of being litigious. Promptly file defamation claim. 

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United States Studies Centres closes after China wins http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/united-states-studies-centres-closes-after-china-wins/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/united-states-studies-centres-closes-after-china-wins/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 07:41:18 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8772 ]]> ussc

The University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre will close its doors next Friday, never to reopen. The hub of ideas and US-government-sponsored learning has played host to visiting US bureaucrats and undergraduate West Wing fans since 2009. The closure is being attributed to pressure from the University, as well as America’s complete irrelevance to the 21st century.

“I know we only have two functional missiles remaining and almost no government to speak of,” President Obama said from the tent he moved into after the government sold the White House to minimise its deficit and repair its credit rating, which lay in tatters after the recent shutdown.

“But we still believe that real politics, soft power and American exceptionalism warrant a $25-million centre at the University of Sydney to delude students into thinking we’re still a relevant subject of inquiry.

“Plus think about it: the University of Sydney and the United States share the same initials. China can’t compete with that.”

The directive to close the USSC comes soon after the University cancelled the Dalai Lama’s visit to campus following pressure from the Chinese government. China provides considerable financial support for the University’s Confucius Institute and China Studies Centre. Some say this latest move is a cynical move which prioritises profit over education.

“I can’t believe the Vice-Chancellor has decided to shut down this multimillion-dollar centre for educational excellence and to fire its CEO and board of directors and silence its PR all in the name of getting money and favour from the Chinese government,” said protester James McLean.

“How will students ever learn without sponsored trips from US dignitaries, incredibly partisan columnists from The Spectator teaching them an in-depth analysis of the latest American shows?

“This is a completely cynical move and a dire portent of the corporatisation of the University. We’re meant to be about quality education, not money, goddammit.”

USSC CEO Bates Gill is rumoured to be moving on to head up Microsoft.

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THE FITZ FILES http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/the-fitz-files/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/the-fitz-files/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 07:38:21 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8773

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3

Hello everyone, here are some thoughts I had this week on higher education. Oh, by the way, I’m running for Senate of the University of Sydney, along with Verity Firth, Jane Spring, Peter King and Bruce McWilliam on the Unify ticket and alumni of the University can vote via postal vote.

We should be giving out more elite athlete scholarships. Blokes who like sport deserve to be recognised in the University community. And women who like sport too. I’m a feminist, and so women should be able to play sports if they want to. Jane Spring is a pretty tops sportswoman, being a champion wheelchair basketball player. Verity Firth is probably pretty tops at sports too. I’m running for the University of Sydney Senate with the two of them. Alumni of the University can vote via postal vote.

But that’s enough of that! I also think the University needs to expand its media degrees. The media is super important. As well as occasionally contributing to The Soin I also write for the Herald and also I write books. Would you consider buying my latest one? It’s $19.95 and available at all good bookstores and is on a topic relevant to Australian culture and of appeal to the common man. We should be placing more emphasis on the role of the media, like TV and Twitter. Malcolm Turnbull is very popular at the moment because he is good at using Twitter. The Wallabies need to try harder. Nothing like my day.

And that’s about all from me this week. But don’t forget: more sports and more media at University. That stuff is really important. So, without wanting to turn this column into blatant propaganda, if you’re a Sydney Uni alumnus, don’t forget to vote for Unify!

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Scott Morrison’s marriage on the rocks http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/scott-morrisons-marriage-on-the-rocks/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/scott-morrisons-marriage-on-the-rocks/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 07:28:23 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8767

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ASYLUM SEEKER REPORT CANBERRA

In a week where Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has come under fire for mandating that Canberra bureaucrats refer to asylum seekers as “illegals” (except those from Asia, who must be referred to as “yellows”) and for renaming the Department of Immigration ‘the Department of Preventing a Full-Scale Invasion’, Morrison is battling another front at home.

A source close to the Morrison family told The Soin that the reason for the marital difficulties between Morrison and his wife of two decades, Jenny, was a complete breakdown of communication between the Minister and his wife.

“When she asks him for the remote, he just responds ‘no comment’. She said that when she asked him to pass the salt the other night, he snapped at her, saying angrily, ‘I can’t comment due to ongoing legal proceedings.’

“Sometimes when she asks him how his day is going he sticks his fingers in his ears and hums.”

His children are also reportedly upset at how all pocket money seems to have dried up recently, with Morrison citing a need to break this “business model” for his stinginess.

When asked in a doorstop interview how his marriage was going, he replied: “Look, I like to call a spade a spade, so here’s your answer. My matrimony is an issue of non-disclosure on the publicly available record.”

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Fast and Furious 42: Going Places http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/fast-and-furious-42-going-places/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/fast-and-furious-42-going-places/#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 07:00:56 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8751 ]]> fast and furious 42 smallAs kiting enthusiast and current face of the hundred dollar note Benjamin Franklin once said, nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. However, since the first installment in The Fast and the Furious franchise was released in 2001, the sheer meaninglessness and transience of existence has gained another constant.

Many may remember Fast and Furious for its contributions to the contemporary cinematic landscape in pioneering the seminal genre of largely plotless action blockbusters glorifying the military-industrial complex. So groundbreakingly experimental was the franchise that its distributor, Universal Studios, was infamously tried at the International Court of Justice for exhuming and reanimating the corpse of influential auteur Federico Fellini.

Despite the public outcry from the Italian government and cinephiles everywhere, and the literal cries of Fellini’s family, Universal Studios pursued this controversial course of action regardless. Alas, Fast and Furious 8 ½: All Roads Lead to Death was universally panned and promptly faced a blanket ban in theatres across the world. It remains the highest grossing film in human history. Honi published its second ever favourable review in response to the film, exulting it to the golden standard set by Pirates of the Caribbean 12: Piracy Is Theft.

However, the series did not receive widespread critical acclaim until the debut of Fast and Furious 13: Yes, Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (No, This Is Not Blade Runner). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognised the film’s poignant depiction of the 2017 Robot Revolution with a record 24 wins, including awarding Vin Diesel Best Male Lead for his touching portrayal of a disadvantaged, inner-city cyborg with dreams of playing major league baseball.

Now in its 42nd permutation, the series continues to studiously reflect the ever-changing sociopolitical paradigm. As motor vehicles were phased out in the early ’20s to accommodate the rise of hovercars, the popularity of personal minijets declined with the invention of teleportation at the beginning of this decade. Thus, it is more than appropriate that the latest offering, Fast and Furious 42: Going Places, is only 36 seconds long, and features Vin Diesel teleporting himself to a place, then some other place, then somewhere else, then back to the first place. Critics expect the film to sweep the Oscars later this year.

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Rockin’ Dubstep Fusion Platinum Deluxe Greatest Hits or 500 Licks by The Rolling Stones (Universal Music) http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/rockin-dubstep-fusion-platinum-deluxe-greatest-hits-or-500-licks-by-the-rolling-stones-universal-music/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/rockin-dubstep-fusion-platinum-deluxe-greatest-hits-or-500-licks-by-the-rolling-stones-universal-music/#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 07:00:29 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8755 ]]> preserved mick jaggarIn a flurry of predictable mediocrity and profoundly underwhelming public reception, The Rolling Stones have released their 500th studio album for free download on AppGoogleTubeBook Incorporated, the only remaining website in the universe. The album was entirely recorded using an iPhone 27 microphone placed in a bathtub next to the bandís recording studio.

The bandís frontman, Mick Jagger, who now exists as a floating head in a luminescent jar of formaldehyde, told Honi that the band wanted to continue their proud tradition of breaking musical boundaries, always keeping it ìfreshî, and experimenting with cutting-edge technology and instruments. Weíve got to give it to them: in this respect, the album certainly delivers.

Eight tracks comprised solely of different types of corn chips being chewed up, stomped on, and thrown against a low ceiling by the bandís 84 remaining members tell the epic story of a disenfranchised protagonist facing the world – one Dorito at a time. Thematic albums have always been a strength of the Stones.

 

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Doctored receipts led to spending cap breach in SULS election http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/doctored-receipts-led-to-spending-cap-breach-in-suls-election/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/doctored-receipts-led-to-spending-cap-breach-in-suls-election/#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 01:44:06 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8759

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New information has emerged indicating that a candidate in last week’s Sydney University Law Society (SULS) election, Callum Forbes, forged receipts in order to exceed the allowable spending cap of $750. The spending cap breach led to Forbes’ ticket Fetch being disqualified from the election. The Electoral Officer Kathleen Heath also found that Forbes had engaged in “dishonest conduct in relation to the election”, which is prohibited by the electoral regulations.

Forbes, who was Fetch’s candidate for Treasurer and campaign manager, had previously told Honi that the breach occurred because he obtained a “good deal” on campaign items, whose actual market value exceeded the $750 cap by 25%.  This was the same explanation that he gave in a Facebook post from the FETCH for SULS Facebook page last Wednesday. That post disappeared a few hours later, as the Electoral Officer asked him to remove it because of its misleading content.

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A post from the ‘Fetch for SULS’ Facebook page on Wednesday October 23

In reality, the question of “mates’ rates” did not factor into the Electoral Officer’s decision. The Electoral Officer’s letter of breach, provided to members of Fetch, indicates that at a meeting soon after the close of polls Forbes admitted that he altered Fetch’s receipts using Adobe InDesign to conceal the breach of the spending cap. This concession led to the Electoral Officer’s finding of dishonest conduct. According to the electoral regulation, any breach of the spending cap automatically results in a ticket’s disqualification, with no discretion for the Electoral Officer.

Forbes, a first year JD student, is currently a councillor with the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association and the Treasurer of SHADES. He holds a Masters in Accounting. He was the IT Officer on this year’s SULS Executive but resigned this week. His conduct may be damaging to his career, as the Legal Profession Admission Board looks unkindly upon dishonesty when determining whether an applicant may be admitted as a lawyer. Forbes says he is still deciding whether to pursue a career in business or law.

On his conduct in the SULS election, Forbes said: “I made a mistake. I’ve acknowledged that and I’ve learned from it. That’s why we’re at uni – to learn.” When asked why he blamed the spending cap breach on mates’ rates instead of his doctoring of receipts, he said: “I have previously acknowledged that there were other contributing factors to the breach of the spending cap. Everything I’ve done has been to help the team move on from the situation that I’ve created.” Forbes told Honi that no other members of Fetch were aware of his actions.

Forbes had previously been rumoured to be a Liberal candidate in next year’s Union Board election. When asked if he was still planning on running, he said: “I do plan on continuing to contribute to student life at Sydney Uni over the course of my degree in whatever way my skills and experience can be most effectively utilised.”

Fetch campaign manager and Treasurer candidate Callum Forbes

Fetch campaign manager and Treasurer candidate Callum Forbes

Forbes’ teammates are unimpressed. In a statement to Honi, the other sixteen candidates said: “We were, unfortunately, misled about the state of our finances, and were only made aware of the breaches and Callum’s attempts to conceal them after the close of polling…We would like to make clear that we strongly condemn his conduct in (a) breaching the spending cap, and (b) engaging in dishonest practice in relation to the election by altering receipts in order to conceal the spending cap breach.”

Fetch’s Presidential candidate Matt Yeldham described the events as “truly, truly devastating.” When asked if he knew what was happening, he said: “I had no idea what was going on. I did have suspicions and I raised them with Callum, and Callum repeatedly told me that our finances were OK and to trust him about the state of our finances and I did.”

“I had no reason not to trust him – with him being a friend and campaign manager, but also him running for Treasurer and having a Masters in Accounting.”

“I’m not so much even upset at the fact that we lost,” said ticket member Judy Zhu. “It’s more at the fact that he breached the regulations, then lied to us about it, then lied to Honi about it, and lied to us throughout the whole campaign. We asked him several times about the spending cap, to which we were told that it was not an issue, he had everything under control. He was quite insistent.”

It appears Forbes may also have misled his ticket members as to the reason for the spending cap breach. Zhu claims she learned that Fetch had been disqualified through Forbes, but that he blamed the breach on the mates’ rates issue, and did not mention any alteration of receipts.

Drum candidate and next year’s SULS President, James Higgins, also expressed disappointment at Forbes’ conduct. “It reflects badly on the society and it’s very unfair the way it reflects on the other members of his ticket,” he said. “I think it was a very stupid thing and a very arrogant thing to do, given the procedures that are in place to prevent that kind of thing happening.”

“We all think SULS is important, but in the end it’s just a student election for a faculty society. I find it really unbelievable that anyone would do that.”

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Podcast 003: Soin radio 29th October http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/podcast-003-soin-radio-29th-october/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/podcast-003-soin-radio-29th-october/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 06:15:44 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=9149 ]]> Our final podcast for the year! Due to a few technical difficulties, the last few podcasts were not recorded. This one is a special edition Soin radio, where The Soin presenters lament the end of The Soin as we know it.

Soin Radio: 29th October by Honisoit on Mixcloud

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Honi Soit, week 14, semester 2, 2013 http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/honi-soit-week-14-semester-2-2013/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/honi-soit-week-14-semester-2-2013/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 05:01:04 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8712 ]]>

 

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Is the golden age of cinema over? http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/is-the-golden-age-of-cinema-over/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/is-the-golden-age-of-cinema-over/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 01:42:04 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8745

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12360077-photo-of-an-old-movie-projector

If you didn’t realise already, cinema is in decline.  A recent study in the US by public relations giant Edelman, found just 3% of consumers rate film and cinema as a ‘frequent source of entertainment’, and Australia is mirroring these dismal claims.  But is this really that surprising?

A few hard hours of slaving away at work would get you a ticket to a film and, if you are one of the lucky ones, perhaps a drink and popcorn. The cost of this compared to the ability and ease of torrenting and streaming films, which can leak before they even get to Australian screens, is too much of a temptation to many who have stopped going to cinemas altogether.

Production companies are beginning to respond, with Sony and Disney this year trialing a system in South Korea of streaming films whilst they are in the cinemas, to resist the money lost to piracy. The sheer impact of technology has clearly outweighed these efforts though, as financial decline in cinema sessions becomes clear. Indeed, many independent filmmakers are now seeing streaming as the only economically viable option to get their films out there.

Dr Bruce Isaacs, of the Department of Art History and Film Studies, believes the reason for the decline is two-fold however, citing the domesticity of theatrical experience and the increased variety of media experience, which has limited the monopoly value that cinema once had.

“I think cinemas need to engage with a market that finds something valuable in the experience of going to the movies,” Isaacs suggests, “film-going as a practice doesn’t have the same cultural, or social, value it once had.”

Indeed, this week saw the opening of a new cinema in Surry Hills, The Golden Age Cinema and Bar, which despite the negative forecast, has opened to a mostly sold out schedule. The difference is, they have utilised the vintage vibe that is still working so well at the moment, playing mostly classic and independent films, and providing a menu that matches the showing.

Marissa Shirbin, the Marketing Manager for Golden Age, told me experience is similarly at the forefront of their plan. “[Cinema] is so rich in terms of how you can draw… inspiration from it, and we think it is a shame to see the current state of cinema experience which seems like nothing more than a film on a big screen.”

So is the blandness of Hollywood to blame? Financial figures from The Avengers or Skyfall would say no, however they were marketed as an unmissable experience, similarly to how films in the golden age of cinema were which drew excitable audiences in. This is the factor that seems so absent in today’s current film climate.

There is something greatly nostalgic about the cinema. Despite those in the industry having a jaded gaze upon the future of film, with the phrase “I hope so” being aired so frequently it is hard to resist observer cynicism; maybe there is a longer future in cinema that engages more thoroughly with technology and experience.

Well, I hope so.

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Free your mind and the rest will follow: Interview with Cut Copy http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/free-your-mind-and-the-rest-will-follow-interview-with-cut-copy/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/free-your-mind-and-the-rest-will-follow-interview-with-cut-copy/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 00:23:28 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8738 ]]> 130918_Cut Copy_2008v1FINAL

Dan Whitford of the Australian electronic dance prodigy, Cut Copy, is pretty damn excited by his band’s fifth album Free Your Mind – so excited that according to his press agent he has forfeited a lunch break in order to talk with me, and the day’s worth of journalists arriving at his office. Being quite nervous and a little star-struck, I just have to say that Whitford came off as a genuinely nice, eloquent person – almost too down-to-earth to be reasonably comprehended as the centre of CUT COPY’s explosion of explorative, hypnotic and cathartically catchy tunes, with Free Your Mind as no exception.

The new album is being rigorously promoted as an attractive mix of sounds from the two 67 and 88 Summers of Love. Although I was unaware there were two, this truthfully describes an album which deviates from CUT COPY’s synth discothèque sound to posit an exploratory wash of acid house, rave and psychedelic sampling over their characteristic, all-too-catchy dance beats. Passages of spoken word, tripped-up instrumental breaks and Whitford’s mesmerising vocals ensure the album is just as much of a journey as the title implies. The title track has already premiered at coded Billboards nestled within the world’s deserts, as well as a music video featuring Alex Skarsgard as a shirtless (and at some points trouser-less) new-age Jesus.

In the promotional lead up to CUT COPY’s album release next week, as well as their world tour, a fully-clothed Dan Whitford had a little chat to me about his influences, making history and going to the future.

So you are also a graphic designer! How would you describe Free Your Mind in visual terms?

I worked on the album artwork so I actually have already had the opportunity to conceptualise this! So yeah, I guess I see it as a wash of bright colours. But also something quite simple and strong.

It’s quite different from your other albums. Free Your Mind incorporates elements that seem at odds with that 80’s glam and synth sound like psychedelic, world and even some Gospel elements. How would you describe the transformations in Cut Copy’s sound?

It’s probably something that just evolves for each new record. We started being fairly interested in synthesiser music, not necessarily 80’s music, but pop songs and love songs and also that synthesised sound. Later on I think we’ve gradually moved on to being more curious about 90’s sounds – maybes it has just taken us a few records to fully get there. I guess for this one it has been a rediscovery of late 80’s and early 60’s rave scene and post-acid house music with bands such as Primal Scream, Happy Mondays and the KLF.

What drives you to keep transforming?

I guess with each record you always have a different set of tracks you’re listening to at home and reference points. The other thing is that along the way each of us has become a lot more competent at what we do in the band. When I listen to Bright Like Neon Love now I can kind of hear that we don’t really know what we are doing and that it was kind of the best we could have done at that point of time. And it’s cool for its naivety and imperfection. But now I feel like we have a bit more control over what we are doing and that we can push in different directions that at a point we would have never thought possible, like Gospel and things like that.

There is also quite a lot of variation on the album itself. Even ‘Free Your Mind’ and the second track, ‘We Are Explorers’, are very different. What artists or philosophies inspire a band to actively experiment across their albums and actually within them?

The idea of having all these disparate kind of fairly disparate ideas or styles on the same record, I guess reflects the fact that I’ve always had a fairly broad interest stylistically in types of music. I’d rather have the world to choose from rather than just one thing. Like saying we are a “punk band” or a “dance band.” I’ve always kind of liked listening to artists who have a pretty wide range of things going on in their music. And I guess we have grown up and are still pretty obsessed with the idea of an album that you have listen through, have the whole experience to understand it.  It’s like a challenge to the listener; are you going to come on a journey with us from this idea to this idea to this? It’s almost a dare.

I guess the biggest change I heard in this album is the introduction of psychedelic and acid elements, as well as a change in your vocal style. You also collaborated with David Friedman who has mixed strongly psychedelic albums with bands Tame Impala and MGMT. Why psychedelic? Did you feel it in your bones? 

I think just gradually, making maybe the last and this record, it’s just been an approach to music I’ve found a lot more interesting. And I have started listening to a lot more psychedelic stuff, whether old or new stuff, in my own time. It has probably just krept up as being an influence without me even being conscious of it. I’ve kind of weirdly gone back to listening to a lot of Beatles records. There is a running joke within the band that I hate the Beatles. So don’t tell them but I have been listening to them stacks, as well as The Doors, Happy Mondays, The Seeds and then I guess sought of new stuff as well, like Connan Mockasin and Ariel Pink.

Just in the title of the album, as well as the cult figure played by Alex Skarsgard in the music video, and the subliminal messaging samples in the intro – there are a lot of references to pop psychology in this album. To what extent do you think pop music still fulfils a kind of saviour role, as it did in the Summers of Love?

It depends what kind of popular music you are talking about – if you are talking about the manufactured music industry, then perhaps I would feel a little like it’s not as important as it was. But I think music still has the power to create change and do interesting things. I guess that’s why I started to get interested into the Summer of Love and the rave scene, its just a point of time when youth culture and pop music transcended just being entertainment to become a unifying force for the youth to create a better life for themselves – and I guess its corny, but to also create a better world.

I don’t think art always has to do that but it’s nice to know if things get really shit there is a possibility that stuff like art and music can change things for the better.

The two periods of time you list as influences for this album – the late sixties and eighties- probably represent the music your parents listened to and the music you heard when you were a kid. How much do you think your choices of samples and sounds have to do with nostalgia?

I find personally probably quite a lot. I have a lot of nostalgia for time and periods of music I wasn’t actually part of. I tend to hear a track and think, “that’s cool”, and then read about it. I had that with previous records with disco era, early punk and early 80’s New York. It’s almost like becoming a little bit obsessed – the myth becomes greater than the reality. I think that’s the part of what’s so inspiring about music: the aura of these things just grow because so many people are influenced by it. In reality, early punk music was probably made up of like twenty people or something who were the main stayers. But they went on to influence so many people it seems impossible to imagine they were playing in a tiny club like CBGB’s, as they are massive names now. And I think the same thing goes for rave or 60’s psychedelic music. Being disconnected from it makes it that much more appealing.

If we zoomed into the future and looked back on the period of music taking place now, as well Cut Copy’s music, what do you think its “myth” would be? What would people be saying about it?

I don’t know. I think we are already lumped in with The Presets and The Midnight Juggernaughts and that whole explosion of dance music played live in Australia. But since then we have become more popular internationally, so hopefully the story isn’t written just yet.

Also I just get really excited about the scene now. When I think about when we first started, which was around ten years ago in a bedroom, really the basic beginnings for Cut Copy, we felt like there wasn’t anything vaguely like what we were doing in Australia. Now there is a whole scene around electronic music, that’s not just club music, but a really diverse range of cool underground stuff. Now in Sydney there is a whole warehouse party scene with Chicago House inspired stuff, psychedelic bands and Krautrock kind of things. It just seems a lot more diverse.

So it is a bit hard to tell what will have happened by the time we start looking back on the period now – hopefully we (Cut Copy) will be remembered in some capacity…you would hate to be the forgotten ones, wouldn’t you?

What is your favourite track?

On the record? They’re all my little babies so I don’t want to pick one out otherwise the other ones will get jealous! I will say, maybe, Let Me Show You Love.

Free Your Mind will be released on November 5th, you can stream the entirety of the album here.

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These chicks don’t even know the name of my band: Gordi http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/these-chicks-dont-even-know-the-name-of-my-band-gordi/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/these-chicks-dont-even-know-the-name-of-my-band-gordi/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 00:13:03 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8735 ]]> cover for digital

Honi Soit: Give us a little introduction of yourself and what you do.

Gordi: I am a 20 year-old singer songwriter and go by the name of Gordi. I am from the small town of Canowindra but have been schooled in Sydney where I’m now studying at Uni full-time. This year I’ve also had my first EP produced and am very excited to launch it over the coming months.

HS: What do you do at Sydney University?

G: I live at St Andrew’s college and am studying medicine full time.

HS: How did you get into music?

G: Music has always been a huge part of my life. I started singing as soon as I could talk and played piano from a young age before picking up guitar a little while later. My Mum teaches piano and is very musical so growing up it was something I shared with her, and still do.

HS: What are your musical influences?

G: Billy Joel, Carole King, Eva Cassidy and James Taylor are largely responsible for my taste in music but more recently Missy Higgins, Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson.

HS: If your music could be the score to an imaginary film, what would the film be about?

G: Hopefully nothing too cliche (but most likely it would be)! I wrote the songs from the EP over the past few years and I’m now 20. So I guess the film would be about the time everyone experiences at some point in their lives – trying to make it in the real world and the fear, excitement and nostalgia that comes with moving on.

HS:  Do you take inspiration from things outside of music? Nature, film, literature?

G: If I ever read a line in a poem or sentence in a book that I like the sound of I always write it down to inspire me when I’m stuck for lyrics. My natural surroundings also influence me a lot, particularly as I grew up on a farm. But I think most of my inspiration comes from more personal events and experiences.

HS: What does the future hold for Gordi?

G: Hopefully I’ll record an album if the EP is received well, recording the 4 tracks was lots of fun and I’ve got some more waiting in the wings. What I love doing most however is performing so it would be great to go on tour around the country.

Catch Gordi’s EP launch on Wednesday, October 30th at The Vanguard on King St in Newtown. For future gigs, like her Facebook page to stay in the loop! 

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United States Studies Centre academics respond to Tim Anderson http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/united-states-studies-centre-academics-respond-to-tim-anderson/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/united-states-studies-centre-academics-respond-to-tim-anderson/#comments Mon, 28 Oct 2013 09:17:52 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8718

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As academics at the United States Studies Centre, we would like to assure students that we do not, as Tim Anderson suggests, operate under the “tight control” of the Centre’s management or external funders. They have no input at all into the units we offer or what we teach in those units. The only approval we require for our offerings is from the Faculty of Arts, much like any other academic department.

Anderson thinks we must be adhering to a slavishly pro-Washington line because we teach “an entire course on the arrogant US doctrine of ‘exceptionalism’”. There is a difference between teaching students about a doctrine and indoctrinating them. You may as well accuse the History Department of being pro-fascist because it teaches a unit on fascism, or Political Economy of promoting neoliberalism. It is not dangerous to learn about things you disagree with.

In multiple undergraduate and postgraduate units—including the American exceptionalism unit—our students read work by writers such as Noam Chomsky, Melanie McAlister and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who argue that the US is engaged in an immoral and unsustainable imperial project. They also read work by people who support continuing American military intervention around the world. This is not the same thing as being a “propaganda tool”. Our students are capable of making up their own minds about the things they read.

In our tutorials we encourage vigorous critical discussion of the role the United States plays in the world, and our students have been happy to provide it. We read excellent critiques of American imperialism by some of our students—critiques that have been sharpened and strengthened by exposure to opposing viewpoints.

David Smith

Brendon O’Connor

Rebecca Sheehan

Adam Lockyer

Rodney Taveira

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Dramatic end to SULS election as ticket disqualified for spending cap breach http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/dramatic-end-to-suls-election-as-ticket-disqualified-for-spending-cap-breach/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/dramatic-end-to-suls-election-as-ticket-disqualified-for-spending-cap-breach/#comments Thu, 24 Oct 2013 10:23:22 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8697

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Fetch for SULS's logo

Fetch for SULS’s logo

Fetch for SULS, a ticket running for election as the 2014 executive of the Sydney University Law Society (SULS), has been disqualified for breaching the $750 spending cap. The disqualification occurred as polls were closing on Tuesday. As a consequence, Drum for SULS, like this year’s executive, was elected unopposed.

The Electoral Officer Kathleen Heath determined that Fetch had exceeded the spending cap by approximately 25% . While no official complaints were made regarding possible spending cap breaches, both tickets were required to submit all receipts and spending declarations, including where they had purchased their materials. The breach led automatically to Fetch’s disqualification from the two-horse race.

However, the disqualification did not change the ultimate result. An informal count of votes was conducted: out of about 800 votes cast, Drum received approximately 200 more than Fetch.

Rumours that Fetch had breached the cap dogged the ticket from the beginning of the two-and-a-half-week campaign. Fetch’s plentiful posters and flyers were notably full-colour, and Honi Soit reported last week that Fetch had purchased fifteen more T-shirts than Drum.

Fetch's posters

Fetch’s posters

Fetch’s candidate for Treasurer and campaign manager Callum Forbes admits sole responsibility for the breach. He told Honi that no other ticket member was in any way involved in the accounting process.

Forbes’ explanation is that he used a printing company in Melbourne with which he had previously done business, and managed to get a “good deal” on printing costs. While he admitted that this cheap printing, when adjusted for actual market price, did contribute to his misjudgement of the budget, he refused to comment on whether he was aware throughout the campaign that he was breaching the spending cap, or if any other factors contributed to the breach.

“I certainly do apologise to all those who supported our vision for SULS, who campaigned with Fetch, who engaged with us online and who voted for us earlier this week,” Forbes said in a statement to Honi.  ”My error in judgement has made a significant impact on my fellow Fetch candidates, all of whom are incredibly talented individuals and I am personally disappointed to have let down – especially [Presidential candidate] Matt Yeldham, someone I have the upmost respect and admiration for.”

The spending cap breach has left the sixteen other members of Fetch disappointed. In a statement given to Honi, they write: “We would like to make clear that we strongly condemn [Forbes'] conduct in (a) breaching the spending cap, and (b) engaging in dishonest practice in relation to the election, and that FETCH fully accepts the ruling of the Electoral Officer.”

Fetch campaign manager and Treasurer candidate Callum Forbes

Fetch campaign manager and Treasurer candidate Callum Forbes

Fetch’s other members claim that they continually asked Forbes about the state of the ticket’s finances. Presidential candidate Matt Yeldham told Honi that the team “had no reason not to trust” Forbes, who holds a Masters in Accounting and the Treasurer position of SHADES. According to his teammates, Forbes reassured them that they need not worry and that the budget was fine.

The Electoral Officer also concluded that Forbes also breached section 11(b) of Appendix 1 to the SULS Constitution, which prohibits “dishonest practice in relation to the election”. This investigation is ongoing. An adverse finding could be disastrous for Forbes: section 9(g) of the Appendix outlines that any complaint or offence from this election is to be passed on to the NSW Law Society, and could be used in determining an application to be a legal practitioner.

James Higgins, the Presidential candidate for Drum, expressed disappointment with the disqualification. He told Honi that this outcome was regrettable and extended his sympathies to the Fetch team. When asked about what this meant for the electoral process, Higgins was optimistic, arguing that a significant proportion of the Faculty did vote, even if their votes were ultimately futile, and argued that this outcome should not dissuade SULS from such a voting system.

 

For The Soin’s take on the SULS election, click here.

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Incoming SULS executive orders immediate intervention in Syria http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/incoming-suls-executive-orders-immediate-intervention-in-syria/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/incoming-suls-executive-orders-immediate-intervention-in-syria/#comments Thu, 24 Oct 2013 01:40:43 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8691

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First we take the Law School, then we take Syria

First we take the Law School, then we take Syria

The newly elected executive of the Sydney University Law Society (SULS) announced today that their first order of business will be a full-scale invasion of Syria. Having made their support of the Syrian rebels a prominent election platform, the incoming SULS team claimed they had a mandate to take immediate military action. “It’s the only responsible measure we could take at this point,” stated Secretary-elect Lewis Hamilton, “as the largest student society at Sydney University, these are the kinds of tough calls we’re going to have to make. The buck stops with us.”

This hasty call to arms follows a lengthy, extravagant election which saw the ‘Drum’ team claim victory after a tight and gruelling race.* “Our supporters were out in force for weeks and we have them to thank for this big win,” Hamilton confirmed, “but all that hard work makes sense now, as we have a tremendous and unique opportunity to reshape the global geopolitical arena. I’ll repeat, drawing upon vast resources in the form of manpower, flyers, posters, shirts, websites and social media was absolutely not done in vain. These efforts were justified by our subsequent ability to make radical changes in mammoth areas of policy which will inevitably go on to have a substantial and palpable impact on countless people’s lives.”

And according to Hamilton, this is just the beginning, as the Sydney University Law Society are also reportedly finalising plans for sweeping carbon pricing reform and the construction of an artificial biosphere dome on the moon to be completed by 2018.

The Freehills Syrian Army

The Freehills Syrian Army

 

*For what actually happened in the SULS election, keep watching localhost/honiold
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Cheap stuff for students! (Also theatre and culture) http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/cheap-stuff-for-students-also-theatre-and-culture/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/cheap-stuff-for-students-also-theatre-and-culture/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 01:45:01 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8684 ]]>
Photo: Matt DeTurck

Photo: Matt DeTurck

When was the last time you went to the theatre? Recent studies show that it was probably a while ago, and not necessarily due to a lack of interest but other factors that come into play. The bulk of theatre audiences is shouldered by young students (primary and high school) and mature age folk (usually 50+) and the gap in between is widening.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, theatre attendance by the 18-24 bracket has declined by more than 200 000 people over 15 years. This shows that younger audiences, specifically tertiary students, are disengaged from the sector in increasing numbers. School children’s theatre attendance is usually propped up by compulsory visits and theatre companies’ agreements with education providers or government agencies, but why are university students and those in their 20s and beyond not attending plays? Beyond a disappointing lack of interest in the art form, it could very well come down to a variety of factors – most pressingly marketing, ticket pricing and the student lifestyle.

Over the years these companies have dug deep to invest in high-quality marketing and communications strategies that should appeal to a younger, web-savvy and perhaps off-kilter “arty” audience – assuming the season productions themselves are appealing enough as they are to the stalwart older audiences. Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton’s rebranding of Sydney Theatre Company springs to mind here. An active digital presence, punchy visuals to announce each season’s productions and linking with tertiary education providers is key here, and will hopefully foster a new kind of theatre audience in time.

At the moment, however, it’s possible the message is simply not cutting through to university students. Despite all efforts, those in our age bracket have the lowest attendance of theatre performances; in fact the lowest of almost all cultural events except popular music concerts where we are far ahead.

It’s evident that the student lifestyle does not necessarily lend itself to splurging on seeing regular big-name productions, despite a love of the genre. Martin Perez-McVie, an Arts/Law undergraduate, told me, “Being a student, money is a big obstacle. That makes me more likely to go to see something by a smaller independent company rather than larger productions, unless student tickets are heavily discounted. Downloading a movie for example is substantially cheaper but I really enjoy the medium of theatre. It’s hard to beat flesh and blood human beings acting in front of you”. There is also a perceived air of pretension and inaccessibility surrounding the world of theatre, something that Kate White, a visual arts student and graphic designer, has found. “I don’t go as I cannot afford it. The “thespians” around here are extremely elitist and condescending. I tend to stay away from the theatre scene.”

Belvoir St Theatre in Surry Hills, for example, tries to open up this conversation for students and young people, rather than excluding potential arts connoisseurs and future workers. Elly Clough, a spokeswoman for the company said, “For us, the idea of access incorporates whatever background or understanding is necessary to fully appreciate the work of our theatre company. This principle informs all the programs and resources we offer. We believe that removing obstacles, especially financial ones, to young people experiencing and being changed by theatre allows young people to contemplate careers in the arts they might never have otherwise thought of. Quite apart from that, experiencing live performance allows everyone, including young people, to contemplate what is human and to ask the big questions.”

Unfortunately, the idea that theatre tickets are expensive tends to stick – prices can range from $35 per production to much more if you’re to attend a number during the year. This is not necessarily friendly to a student budget, but things are changing on that front.

Belvoir offers student rush tickets on Tuesday and Saturday matinees, subject to availability ($27 for full-time students). They also offer 30-down discounted subscriptions from $120 and have an agreement with Sydney University offering a variety of discounts. Sydney Theatre Company offer similar discounted prices to full-time students and under-30s, and have recently made a selection of tickets available for $20 for each performance through the Suncorp Twenties program which are released by phone and over the counter every Tuesday morning for the following week’s performances.

Here in Sydney theatre options are far and wide, and certainly not limited to the bigger companies mentioned above. Do your research – theatre can truly be as intimate and rewarding as a novel and as visually impressive as a film. Slotting in a play here and there (both day and night performances are common and can work around most student schedules) can be as easy as consuming other art forms or performances, and may well enrich the student experience. Figuring out what to see and what not to see is the question.

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Pretentious perspectives on politics http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/pretentious-perspectives-on-politics/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/pretentious-perspectives-on-politics/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 01:29:36 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8679

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Photo: hellofish

Photo: hellofish

The bogans of Australia make up the majority. They’re a charmingly patriotic bunch, however, they don’t seem inclined to delve into the news they consume to pick out the white/straight/male bias that permeates a swathe of our media sources. And it is the bogans who gravitate towards misogynists like Abbott and determine elections. How could a party ascribing to such archaic views of women (amongst other things), possibly have been elected with a margin large enough to comfortably fit Gina Rinehart’s arse? Blame the bogans.

‘Feminism’, for bigoted idiots, conjures images of elitist, leftist, radical, messy-haired loons.  The notion of women achieving equality, for the average VB-swilling, Ruby Champion smoking, sport loving Australian bloke, rates lower in matters of importance than… probably everything. And we saw this apathy expressed, however disappointingly, in the 2013 Federal Election.

Generous media coverage and social-media rants have been distributed regarding the horrors of Abbott’s white/straight/male cabinet (among other failures), but who is actually reading this commentary?

Probably you. I am presuming that you are semi-intelligent. That you are capable of thinking laterally, critically, objectively and independently. Ergo, I assume that you have some notion of the importance in seeking gender equality. This view, however, is inherently perceived as a tad bit highbrow. For the majority, that feminist-fist-of-rage you’ve been waving around is a bit extreme.

We need to target the mullet-grooming, Murdoch-loving conservatives who regard The Daily Telegraph as a holy text and Abbott as a man with daughters they’d definitely root. For our population of bogans, catchy tag lines and glittery flyers aren’t going to achieve much. Beyond the Hogwartian walls of our progressive University, your student activism is about as revolutionary as the ‘Kony 2012’ campaign. Remember that? No? That’s because it was pointless.

As the most privileged (yet starving and poor) minority in the country, it’s strange that we haven’t stumbled upon a successful method of disseminating progressive social policy agendas and liberal ideas amongst those who don’t attend University. We have no clue what goes on in the minds of these elusive bogans.

Yes, it’s important to encourage women, people of colour, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community to get involved in political debate and discussion. I would argue, however, that it’s imperative to include the people who discriminate against these groups in an open dialogue.

Disregarding the pretentious tone this piece has surreptitiously adopted, I’m not truly vehemently opposed to bogans and their (terribly misguided) views. I just have a little suggestion. I know I’m not the only one who’s been awkwardly trapped in a conversation with a racist/sexist/homophobic drunk. Next time, instead of habitually ignoring them, perhaps we could endeavour to speak to those raving loons about why they think that way. It probably won’t work. But it might.

Grab a beer and start the Bogan Revolution.

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Treason d’etre http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/treason-detre/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/treason-detre/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 00:52:40 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8677 ]]> Ethel walked calmly into the room. A foul, singed odour lingered in the air. She took a seat at the front of the audience, ignoring the damp outline which marked her newly deceased husband.

Minutes later, the diminutive woman strained wildly at her leather cuffs as electricity coursed through her body. Not quite dead, the warden tried again. And again. Finally, smoke billowing from her limp head, the prison staff let the corpse down. So passed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg – proud parents of two, and atomic spies.

The Rosenberg case exemplified the McCarthy-era predilection for hyperbole. The prosecution and media called them traitors. The trial judge agreed, attributing the casualties of the Korean War to their “treason”. But the couple were not convicted of treason. They were convicted of espionage: spiriting nuclear designs to the Soviet Union – a wartime ally – during the 1940s. The distinction is important.

History forgotten is inevitably repeated. Chelsea Manning was convicted in July under the Espionage Act. Like the Rosenbergs, her prosecutors clutched at hypothetical straws to prove that her leaks cost American lives. The United States federal government is investigating Edward Snowden for similar offences. The Attorney-General argues that he is a wolf in Dilbert’s clothing.

Manning, however, was acquitted of “aiding the enemy”, and Snowden is unlikely to attract the same charge.

Yet both have been attainted for treason in the court of public opinion. Politicians from House Speaker John Boehner to former Vice President Dick Cheney denounced the pair as traitors. One Congressman anonymously edited Snowden’s Wikipedia page to read “traitor” rather than “dissident”. And Democratic senators like Dianne Feinstein joined the chorus of hawks, eager to prove their national security credentials.

The Wikileaks-cum-NSA disclosures have been followed by wave upon wave of revisionism and counter-revisionism as pundits indulge that quintessentially American pastime of ‘Traitor or Hero’? Dealing only in extremes, they overlook some important subtleties: Manning and Snowden are not traitors as a matter of law, or as a matter of fact. Treason should not feature at all in the rhetorical melting pot.

It is the sole crime outlined in the US Constitution. Treason, wrote the Founding Fathers, can only consist of levying war against the US, or aiding and “adhering” to its enemies. They took a restrictive interpretation to avoid the abusive, incoherent and politicised treason law of the United Kingdom. There, for instance, it is still treason to sleep with the wife of a king. Until 1998, that was punishable by death. In New South Wales, it is treason to merely “compass or imagine” dethroning the Sovereign.

So it is difficult to charge an American with treason. There have been fewer than forty prosecutions, and a mere handful of convictions. But that is precisely the point. Jefferson et al. understood what the modern statesman does not: treason is a crime apart, not a loose epithet or political football. The penalties and stigma which accompany it should be reserved for those who not only betray their country, they wrote, but who intend to do it real harm.

Manning and Snowden hardly intended to materially injure the US or its armed forces. They were certainly reckless. Manning released files as indiscriminately as, well, an Apache helicopter firing at children and Reuters reporters. Yet she is no Tokyo Rose, Lord Haw-Haw or Anwar Al-Awlaki. A reckless traitor is not really a traitor.

But there is a more important point to be made. As Snowden’s father Lonnie explained, “Edward… has betrayed his government. But I don’t believe that he’s betrayed the people of the United States.” The same could apply to Manning, who wrote to President Obama that “I only wanted to help people… out of a love for my country”. Like Snowden, she abused the trust placed in her by the government. She sought to embarrass that government and bring its agencies into disrepute. And yet, like Snowden, she meant to improve rather than diminish the quality of American governance.

The US made it very clear in 1776 that the government is not synonymous with the People. It follows that a betrayal of government is not necessarily a betrayal of the nation. Contaminating ordinary criminal proceedings with the rhetoric of treason exposes undeserving citizens to gratuitously cruel punishments. Manning’s 35-year sentence, for instance, is longer than that given to a US soldier paid by Iraq to spy on American forces during the Gulf War. Ethel Rosenberg merely typed her husband’s notes.

Do remember the Rosenbergs and their 1953 execution. The casual conflation of “traitor” with “spy” or “criminal” is not a problem unique to the digital age. It is the product of a combustible political atmosphere, and a nation that has ceded its insistence on transparency to the rapacious demands of national security.

Deception, bad faith and espionage are not the legal or moral equivalent of treason. Nor should it be lazily invoked to intimidate public servants or legitimate whistleblowers. A charge of treason against Manning and Snowden can only be sustained by legal gymnastics and a pigheaded insistence on deterrence at the expense of justice.

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Chasing enlightenment and inevitable disappointment http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/chasing-enlightenment-and-inevitable-disappointment/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/chasing-enlightenment-and-inevitable-disappointment/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 00:44:55 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8675

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There exists amongst us an idea that to be ‘worldly’ is to be wise. This belief is especially prevalent amongst the hordes of students who flock to the far reaches of Europe in search of historical enlightenment, South-East Asia in search of holistic drunkenness and America in search of every cliché imaginable. When the intrepid adventurers eventually return, tanned and glowing, it is expected that you will listen to their tales of adventure and self-fulfillment. The people they met who changed their worldview and the splendorous sites they saw are both effusively detailed with such grandeur, you wonder why your holidays abroad appear so dull in comparison.

This is the inherent deception of travelling. With the commercialization of travel across the globe as well as increasingly affordable airfares, the once elusive gimmick of baking on the beaches of Thailand, potent cocktail in hand, is available to everyone. Historically pursued on the whims of the rich, with the widespread sales of ‘Lonely Planet’ guides and seemingly obsessive addiction to travel blogs, it is possible to find a destination and formulate an itinerary in an instant.

Fast-forward to the moment when you land in your exotic destination of choice – quick shot of arrivals sign. The moment you get into a taxi – quick shot of stunning architecture or decrepit slums (depending on your location). The moment you arrive at your accommodation – quick shot out the window with obligatory hashtags:  #thisisthelyf, #sunset #paradise. With such instantaneous access to social media and the barrage of travel-boasting that seems a rite of passage for some, it is impossible to ignore these self-obsessed submissions. It is not ‘sharing’. It serves as a means by which the person validates their $1,500 airfare, jetlag and quiet disappointment. By documenting each moment of our travels, to be immediately posted online for approval by our peers, we are diminishing the tangible experience to a series of documents and snaps.

Michelle de Kretser speaks eloquently of this phenomenon in her Miles Franklin award winning novel, “Questions of Travel”, as she highlights the vapidity of seeking ‘truth’ in foreign destinations and inevitable disappointment her characters face in the presence of natural and historical wonders. We may wander through the Vatican City and marvel at golden pillars and artistic genius, but how many of us take sneaky pictures in the hopes that it will receive ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’? To what extent do we actually appreciate what we’re in the presence of? It would seem that we are more concerned with how our trip will be perceived as compared to our actual experiences.

It is obvious to think of corrupt governments, dodgy private enterprises and greedy individuals as being the most deceptive amongst us. But shouldn’t we acknowledge the fact that in the ever competitive world of social media, we have become attuned to synthesizing our lives? We are being forced into a farcical online lie, and this deception seems most visible in our accounts of travel. As we are plagued by terminal FOMO and travel inadequacy, we feel a dishonest compulsion to filter our photos and correspondence. By posting only the gratuitous ‘selfies’ and well-lit, postcard-esque shots that do not necessary reflect our true experiences as well as gushing status updates that convey only superficial snapshots of a foreign destination, we are deceiving our friends and family and inciting artificial jealously.

And in reality, we are deceiving ourselves. By convincing yourself that by following the well-trodden paths of ‘Lonely Planet’ expertise you will somehow ‘see’ a culture, ‘understand’ a nation and reach the effervescent heights of travel nirvana – complete disappointment and bitterness can only follow.

By being honest about our experiences, we can perhaps lower expectations of ‘enlightening trips’ that are generally doomed to fail. By disregarding the compulsion to share the intimate details of what we ate from a fabulous street stall, what we saw at some historically significant ruins or what we heard at a local bar, perhaps we can actually appreciate the beauty of what we’re surrounded by when we travel. Please, put down the phone. Take a breath. Give yourself a chance to just ‘be’ in a place without recording it.

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Strictly no adults allowed http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/strictly-no-adults-allowed/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/strictly-no-adults-allowed/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 15:44:52 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8666

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Recently, I was asked to leave a park in Harlem, NYC. The security guard—apologetic—pointed to a sign that read “NO ADULTS ALLOWED UNLESS ACCOMPANIED BY CHILDREN”. It stung, mostly because I had just been turned away at a bar for not having ID and so instead of being able to kill time on the swings, I had to ride the F Train on my lonesome back to Briarwood. The whole thing felt like satire. Did I really resemble a pedophile? Hell, what does a pedophile even look like?

I couldn’t even begin to come up with a coherent, consistent image of a pedophile—at least not one in pop culture. Humbert Humbert in Lolita looked quite respectable, at the start. In contrast, the murderer in M was all wild-eyed and deranged. Surely there’s an insidious middle ground: the pedophile who doesn’t look much like anything, the one that would necessitate excluding adults from our parks. What’s more, while we’re practically hysterical over the possible pedophiles lurking in our playgrounds, we still—fifty-eight years removed from the publishing of Lolita—entertain a voyeuristic glee in watching these moral transgressions in our art. So what does the pop culture pedophile look like?

Humbert Humbert and Lolita in Lolita (1997)

Humbert Humbert and Lolita in Lolita (1997)

An episode of South Park—‘Miss Teacher Bangs A Boy’—interrogated both pedophilia and sexual double standards. While the whole town is outraged at the thought of a teacher seducing a student, they soon realise this teacher is a blonde busty female. They couldn’t be more impressed. “Nice”, says the police chief. “Ni-ice”, a fellow officer adds. They’re just happy that Ike, the child, is “scoring”. The more I looked, however, the more I found that this pedophile—deranged and unsympathetic—was not representative anymore.

Think Cate Blanchette in Notes on a Scandal. While the boy she sleeps with is much older than the five year old in South Park, she’s still undoubtedly crossing some lines. But rather than dismissing her outright for her transgression, she becomes an object of sympathy. She didn’t necessarily touch the kid out of any sexual dysfunction, just out of old relatable middle-class boredom: a snap reaction to the pressures of work and home. What’s more, we hate the kid (little scouse bastard). Some victim he turned out to be. The same sort of moral quagmire appears in Hard Candy where we hate-hate-hate the pedophile, but at the same time sort of feel sorry for him. Ellen Page is just ruthless as the 14 y.o vigilante who convinces him to commit suicide. Spoilers, by the way. Still, there’s the control group, of Ronnie in Little Children who ultimately finds himself incapable of resisting his urges, and so castrates himself at the neighborhood park.

I was feeling pretty down at this point, so I found myself circling back to South Park, this time an episode titled ‘The Wacky Molestation Adventure’. South Park, like Harlem, is suffering from pedophile hysteria. The news carries a story saying that children are most likely to be abused by their parents. So, the parents evict their children from the town, so they can’t get to them.

By the time I finished watching all this, I realised the pop culture pedophile could be anyone. Not easily spotted from a crowd, not singularly male, singularly deranged, or singularly deformed. What’s more, they’re marginally sympathetic, portrayed as passengers to their own illness. Still, the contemporary pedophile is irredeemable, only now they’re also indefinable. It’s this rampant possibility—that they could be anyone or anywhere—that has us closing off our parks and keeping our children and young siblings so firmly under thumb.

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Ashes to ashes: aftermath of a bushfire http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/ashes-to-ashes-aftermath-of-a-bushfire/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/ashes-to-ashes-aftermath-of-a-bushfire/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 15:34:29 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8663

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Photo: AAP

Photo: AAP

All is quiet now on St Georges Parade in Mount Victoria, Blue Mountains. It’s insidiously peaceful. Blackened leaves wash in the gentle breeze and the afternoon sun shines orange through a thick haze still blanketing the sky. A yellow street sign warning of an approaching “DIP” is charred brown and a powerful smell lingers. Not just of burnt wood, but of burnt plastic, rubber, and iron. Ahead, a bearded middle-aged man walks his dog down the middle of the empty street.

“It’s devastating. What can you do though? It’s part of living in the bush.” He despairingly raises his arms and examines the destruction as he speaks. His name is Tony and, living just ten minutes up the Great Western Highway, he was one of those lucky to escape the raging bush fires fuelled by extreme winds that ravaged the area last Thursday. Across other parts of the Blue Mountains and New South Wales, they continue to burn and have so far claimed at least one life and 193 homes.

The thumping beat of water-bombing helicopters above is a reminder the fire is still burning. Its now at Mount York Road, just two kilometres away. But there’s no more fuel here. The street now resembles a black-sand beach, littered with burnt logs and the rubble of the beautiful country homes that once lined it.

The silence is sliced by the clang of corrugated iron as a couple rummage the ruins of their brick home for valuables. Four totally burnt-out cars sit in their front-yard, their windows melted, not shattered. A tree-stump beside is still ablaze. I walk inside and offer my help. They refuse. Their eyes scream helplessness, but they know I can’t do anything right now. Only they know what they’re looking for amidst such destruction. Leaden ash puffs into the air as they continue rummaging as I walk away.

Further down the road, the white-picket fence of Number 32 remains. Nailed to it is a white-tiled, mosaic sign reading ‘Sunnyside’. But the house it once enclosed is now a pile of still-smoking timber, melted glass and warped iron. A yellow fire hose stamped ‘Woodford Blue Mountains AFS’ lies lifelessly, like the shedded skin of a red-bellied black snake, on the pavement leading to the ruins. It was no match.

But the flames chose their victims randomly. At Number 25, its roof buckled and insides turned to ash, a stack of dry wood is untouched. Down the road at Number 38-40, John’s mustard-yellow rendered brick home escaped unscathed. Burnt trees surround it. He and his wife only finished building this house six weeks ago. Even his clothes-line survived. “We didn’t even lose one peg.” he laughs. Nor did they lose any spirit, and today, they are back finishing the fence they started building last weekend. “There’s no point moping about it, you know? Ya just got to get on with it.”

His resilience is striking but not unfounded elsewhere on the street. Suzanne and Gavin are also newcomers and had part of their property damaged on Thursday. They’ve spent the afternoon helping neighbours extinguish spot fires around the area. Suzanne shrugs. “We all know fires happen up here. We’ll all carry on.” Her voice is calm and relaxed as she pushes the wheelbarrow of watering cans and buckets back home.
The sun turns red as it falls to the horizon. Lines of burnt gumtrees are beautifully silhouetted  against a smokey, mauve sky. Rakes and spades are put down. Leather gloves slipped off. As cicadas sing their Song of Life to those on this Parade.

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Reclaim the night, reclaim our rights http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/reclaim-the-night-reclaim-our-rights/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/reclaim-the-night-reclaim-our-rights/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 15:21:21 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8660

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reclaim-the-night

While the birth and subsequent meteoric rise of the Internet has brought with it countless treasures (information overload aside), it has also delivered the scourge of the modern Earth – internet trolls. Trolls – when they escape the grimy walls of Reddit and 4chan – spread their tentacles into the social hub of our generation, infiltrating Facebook events and pages at an unrivalled speed. Events attacked are frequently activist in nature – anything aimed at making our society a better and fairer place for all is fair game for these unruly fiends.

Most recently, a team of young people targeted the Reclaim the Night Sydney event page for 2013, posting links to videos and images along with sarcastic comments. The tamest of comments was a clip from the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” posted together with the following remark: “Together we can help reclaim the night, Sydney has become a hot bed of crime and sin, at 7pm we will look to the skies for our salvation”. Coupled with the other comments, their message became clear: talking about, and marching against, violence against women is pointless as the problem does not exist. Or if it does, it does not impact a significantly large portion of the population as to render it important. That’s it, everyone. Pack up and head home. The irony is, despite what common gendered violence narratives tell us, the majority of violence occurs in places familiar to the victim – including homes shared with family, partners, and/or friends.

Despite a considerable lack of media interest, gendered violence is a serious issue in Australia, one that affects many people on a daily basis. One woman will be killed at the hands of an intimate partner every week. One in three women over 15 will report physical or sexual violence sometime over their lifetime; unreported rates (given the failings of our legal system) are likely to be even higher. In Sydney, domestic and family violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness among women and children.

Despite this data, heterosexual domestic violence is rarely talked about and coverage is limited to seemingly random high-profile attacks taking place outside of the home. Even rarer still are discussions about violence within non-heteronormative relationships, or whether government responses to alarmingly high rates of violence are adequate for the diverse range of people who use their services.

By taking our voices to the streets, by hosting panel discussions, by inviting all members of the community to hear representatives from the NSW Rape Crisis Centre and Scarlett Alliance (among others) speak, we aim to bring light to the serious nature of gendered violence, and to assist in changing the culture that exists around such violence. In every community, attitudes need to be altered to reflect the multitude of realities that people affected by gendered violence experience. The victim is not to blame; it is not always as easy as leaving an abusive partner; violence can and does occur in queer relationships; the social stigma around sex work must be completely destroyed.

No matter the circumstance, jokes are never acceptable. While Facebook trolling may seem relatively harmless, it is indicative of a larger societal problem – that gendered violence is not taken seriously because it is believe that the only “real” gendered violence is the small percentage of cases covered in mainstream media.

One of this year’s organisers of Reclaim the Night, Katherine Bullen, notes that “Reclaim will only stop being relevant when violence is no longer an issue.” Given the current state of dialogue in our papers and on our televisions, Reclaim may be destined to be around for a considerable length of time. The organisers and supporters of Reclaim the Night will be attempting to change that on October 26 – come and make your voice heard.

Reclaim the Night is an annual event protesting all forms of violence against women. Reclaim the Night Sydney 2013 will be held on October 26 at Prince Alfred Park, Surry Hills. For more information, please visit the website at http://RTNsydney.com.

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Breaking the cycle of victim blaming http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/breaking-the-cycle-of-victim-blaming-my-time-at-college/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/breaking-the-cycle-of-victim-blaming-my-time-at-college/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 15:11:33 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8656 ]]> TRIGGER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS DISCUSSION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT

Before I begin my story, I just want to make it clear that I believe College does offer some fantastic opportunities for its students. However, there is one facet of its culture that I find offensive and detrimental. That is the ‘blame the victim’ culture. I attended college for one semester and I can honestly say that it was the most difficult time of my life.

In my first few weeks of college, I was chosen to attend an exclusive college party called the ‘bone room’. Being selected for such an event is apparently a huge honour and so I went. Members of every college were chosen and subsequently I didn’t really know anybody else who was attending. Being more of an anxious introverted person, I found the whole situation incredibly uncomfortable and drank to feel more relaxed. I was already drunk before the drinking games at dinner, which I felt obligated to participate in. After this I have virtually no memory. Although I found this horrible, it is not this event that I’m trying to condemn.

Every other person seemed to have an awesome time, and I only found it awful because I don’t enjoy being drunk. The few memories I do have, however, haunted me for years. One of the boys lead me into a room and tried to have sex with me. Despite my drunken protests he kept trying, and I think he actually did for a few seconds before I pushed him off. Being virtually unable to stand I was relying on him to hold me up and as I tried to push him away I fell backwards. And he laughed, asking if I was ‘alright.’ When he led me out into the corridor filled with people, I pulled away from him and stumbled into the nearest room, collapsing on the couch. When I woke up I was in my college room.

I was still drunk well into the afternoon and I could hardly eat for the next three days without feeling sick. I didn’t tell anyone what happened. I was so embarrassed and felt like I behaved in such a disgraceful and uncontrollable manner. A few days later, I overheard a conversation at college dinner over an article about something similar happening to another girl from College. I found a bit of comfort in the fact that I wasn’t alone. One of the girls expressed how awful it was. Another girl agreed, saying how it was awful – awful that the girl was just a drunken slut who couldn’t handle her drinks and was now blaming the college culture so she didn’t have to take responsibility.

After that, things got even worse for me. Even though I have always been a bit of an anxious person, I found it incredibly difficult to leave my room. I would stay in bed all day and eventually be drawn out due to hunger. Being from Victoria, the only immediate family I had was a brother, who would drag me for coffee every couple of days to keep me out of my room.

Uni became impossible. The ever growing pile of uni work heightened my distaste for myself. On top of this I developed chronic depression. I would dream of killing myself everyday. I stopped participating in college life completely. One girl told me that my lack of participation ‘wasn’t good enough’. With the help of my brother, I started going to the USYD health service, and over the next few months, I tried a number of different antidepressants. I also began seeing a psychologist.

Despite all of the support I now had, my symptoms worsened. I began hallucinating. I would hear things crawling across my floor and typing on my computer. One night I became completely paralysed when something suddenly jumped on me, painfully crushing my body. Absolutely beside myself with panic, I eventually managed to move my body, but as I lifted my arms and legs, they hit an invisible wall. I felt something wrap around my neck and it started chocking me. Suddenly able to lift my arms, I tried to put my hands to my throat, but again they hit an invisible barrier. I was obsessively repeating in my mind that it wasn’t real. Then it stopped. This happened a number of different times over the next few years and I was constantly terrified that it would happen in public.

Because I tried so many different medications, I had 73 tablets. They were all lined up along my desk. I would watch them for hours, contemplating suicide. On several occasions I would go out and drink heavily, then be terrified that I would kill myself if I went home alone. So I would take home boys. This contributed greatly to my self loathing. To dull the psychological pain, I would self harm. Afterwards I would be so scared and embarrassed that people would find out.

It was only until I started getting better that I saw the link between my self hatred and some of the ‘blame the victim’ comments that I heard in College. Because of my social anxiety, these comments became representative of how I thought everybody viewed me. When I applied for college, I thought it would be a place to live whilst I studied. However, it is much more like a sorority/fraternity. People become very defensive about their respective colleges and people who speak out against some aspects of its culture are condemned.

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Honi Soit, week 13, Semester 2, 2013 http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/honi-soit-week-13-semester-2-2013/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/honi-soit-week-13-semester-2-2013/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 13:01:04 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8538 ]]>

1324

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Unigate Presents…The 2013 Awards for Sydney University Excellence http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/unigate-presents-the-2013-awards-for-sydney-university-excellence/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/unigate-presents-the-2013-awards-for-sydney-university-excellence/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 12:24:05 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8632 ]]> good-job-21
John Kerr Award for Treacherous and, on Some Interpretations, Unconstitutional Dismissal:

Hannah Morris

President of the University of Sydney Union, Hannah Morris, was a key player in the – for now, attempted – dismissal of Vice Pres Tom Raue. Matthews or Waniganayaka will likely Malcolm Fraser his position.

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Augusto Pinochet Award for Biggest Right-Wing Coup

Jennifer Light

Student Unity member Jennifer Light accidentally goes from member of Executive to President of the SRC. That’s life, eh!

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The Law Library Stench of Impropriety

SUPRA

SUPRA Pres abruptly retires. Our emails go unanswered. Nothing to see here.

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Kleenex Two-Ply Extra Length Scented Award

BULL

We assume. Someone who read it told us that.

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Tony Abbott’s Cabinet Award for Female Representation

Incubate

One woman out of fifteen. Lots of money, not much gender diversity.

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The ‘Survived An Icepick in the Head’ Award for Most Intense Trotskyist Group

Socialist Alternative

Holy shit, they’re back. The infamous Trots were gone for a few years, but have been revived at USYD by an ex-Monash student doing a second Arts degree.

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Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin Award for Divisions at Home

NLS/SLS Split

Sometimes shit gets so real you just need to be with someone else.

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The Jesse James Memorial Award

SUSF

No one does highway robbery like our ‘student run’ sports organisation.

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Lucifer Award for Falling from Grace

Harry Stratton

Rising star of National/Sydney Labor Students, SRC Welfare Officer, candidate for Honi – the good times, however, did not continue to roll. He was kicked off SEX, and lost preselection for Vice President, 22-7, to a first year. Ooft.

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Pat Massarni Award for Most Litigious Politician

Tom Raue

As mentioned earlier, Tom Raue is taking the USU to THE SUPREME COURT. Let the games begin.

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Youporn.com Double Penetration Award for Being Fucked Over Twice

Jeremy Elphick

Something tells us running on lime green was his first mistake, and running on lime green again was his second. In a surprising turn of events, however, Raue’s dismissal would mean he’d be replaced by Elphick on Board, causing a third loss as his soul implodes while trying to sit through a USU Board meeting.

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The Joint Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor Award for Most Irrelevant Independents

USYD Indies

The ‘Voice’ Independents were once, arguably, the largest faction on campus. Now they have one councillor on the SRC and a fragmented support base :/

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The Prince George Award for Pre-Ordained Infant

Jethro Cohen

We don’t know what Cohen does, or who he is, or why he’s so involved as a first year. All we know is he’s destined to do something, somewhere, for some Society / the USU / the SRC / his CV.

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Honi Soit Award for Blatant Propaganda

USSC

The US Studies Centre is a mouthpiece for arms manufacturers, biotech corporations, the Murdoch press, and the White House. But they’ve got some neat guest lecturers!

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Clive Palmer Award for Shit Tonnes of Money and No Sense
St. Paul’s Alumni Award for Tasteful Parties
SDA Award for Useless Union

USU

TRIPLE THREAT: From Native American headdresses to a schoolchild themed party to a Day of the Dead party to not consulting the Indigenous community during their Indigenous Week to scabbing on the strike, the USU has caused fun times for us, frustration for others, and a lot of grief for itself.

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Kanye ‘No One (Wo)man Should Have All That Power’ West Award

Astha Rajvanshi

Rajvanshi was President of the USU from 2012-2013, and is currently the Immediate Past President. She will also be an editor of venerable student publication Honi Soit from next year. Time will tell how this turns out. Read Honi next year for more updates. Wait, hold on.

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Madeleine McCann Hide & Seek Award for Mysterious Disappearance

Andrew Potter

After the Dalai Lama debacle, the University’s PR head Andrew Potter just…vanished. If you have any information please contact us.

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Nasal Delivery System Lifetime Achievement Award for Inadequate Staying Power

USYD Wi-Fi

Ever been so excited, so impassioned, so close, so very close – don’t stop – yes, yes, almost there, FUCK… and then it just drops off? Then you’ve probably experienced the technological apocalypse that is Sydney University’s wireless internet infrastructure.

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Kevin Rudd Award for Most Censorious and Destabilising Force in the Australian Labor Party

David Pink

The current SRC President David Pink was the lead architect of the split from National Labor Students into Sydney Labor Students. He was also a lead architect in censoring Vagina Soit.

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Gina Rinehart Award for Successful Media Buyout

Liv Ronan & Robby Magyar

Ronan and Magyar both managed the victorious SEX for Honi campaign. Magyar is pursuing the Union Presidency, and Ronan is likely to run for Board next year.

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Honourable Mentions

Russell Brand and Katy Perry Award for Oddest Bedfellows: NLS and the Indies

Pavel Dmitrichenko Award for Faceless Man: Callum Drake

Two and a Half Men Award for Single Entendre: Sex for Honi

Biggest Loser Award for Losing Big: Evil for Honi

Christopher Columbus Award for Fucking Up Geography: Sarah Marriott and the ‘Hermann’s Beer Garden’ policy

Tiananmen Square Trophy for Public Space Management: NSW Riot Police

‘The Libs Ruined My Favourite TV Shows’ Award: Will & Grace Union Board campaign

Methuselah Award for Sticking Around: Rhys Pogonoski

Engineering Award for Drunken Hooliganism: The USU Board at Ed Revue

‘Holy Shit, it was Crack not Ecstasy!’ Award for Peaking Too Soon: Alexandra Brown

Schutzstaffel Award for Worst Initials: Sophie Stanton

Award for not Mentioning Alistair Stephenson, Ben Paull, or Caccamo: Us

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Happily ever after? http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/happily-ever-after/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/happily-ever-after/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 12:10:43 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8648 ]]> Upon passing a bill to legalise same sex marriage, the Australian Capital Territory’s Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr called Canberra a “city of love”. If the debate over equality makes anything clear it’s that marriage isn’t just a discretionary, personal thing; rather there is something real at stake, something that touches upon our relationships and desires. But was love the winner on Wednesday? Among this fanfare, and the ongoing debate about marriage equality, a crucial question has fallen a little by the wayside. Is marriage really worth it? Whether as a way of articulating our relationships and identities before our peers or to express the potential our romantic relationships hold for us, does marriage deliver what it promises?

Ironically, one of the most honest statements on this question was made recently by Julia Gillard, almost in the same breath as she announced her contentment with the traditional role and definition of marriage. “We could come up with other institutions that value partnerships, value love, value lifetime commitment.” Others, extolling meaningful happiness over social institutions, have called for options like “wedleases”, marriages contingent upon renewal every five years.

Yet the message remains mired in contradiction, suggesting that society hasn’t yet built up the courage or imagination to seriously try such alternatives. Furthermore, the call to arms remains thwarted by the fact that, even as divorce and infidelity rates remain scarily high, and even as generations X and Y bring our new attitudes into marriageable age, couples continue to choose marriage at a steady rate.

The mention of alternatives suggests a more radical question — does love require an institution to flourish, and moreover, endure? Here I declare myself an opponent of marriage. Having never been married, I can only assume I was a jaded divorcee in a past life. I am quite traditional in my beliefs in monogamy and, deep-down, the idea of a committed relationship. Yet I’m willing to stake any dreams of “happily ever after” on the idea that love, like many other great things in life, is most itself when independent from any institutional support or validation.

This belief began to emerge when, as a teenager, I found I detested the words “husband” and “wife”, and later reflected that, as always, there might be a deeper concern behind the phonetic discomfort. Perhaps I was initially put off by the traditional connotations of arranged, political, or religious marriage. My true concern was with the idea that romantic relationships require validation beyond their everyday existence, in a symbolic order where “husband” and “wife” represent an ideal unit sustained by traditional values.

"... only unfulfilled love can be romantic" - Juan Antonio in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

“… only unfulfilled love can be romantic” – Juan Antonio in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

 

This idea has even survived the “modernisation” of marriage into some kind of contract between two people, as the idea that marriage presents a validation of love that goes further than the formal function of the state or peers’ shouts of approval. This validation ultimately comes in the form of marriage as an end-goal to romantic love, the idea that a couple’s connection, through emotional labour, crystallises and sublimates up until the glorious ceremony and the sweat on the bedsheets. But what game is left to play the morning after?

It’s not that a sustained romantic relationship requires responsibility, commitment and sacrifice; rather all of these things are inherent within it. Love is more than a feeling; it’s a container for all the things that come with devotion between sexual partners, and that includes intimacy and distance, unbridled passion and contentment, poetry and compromise. Those things may be contradictory and may produce tension and violence enough to tear at the social fabric, yet isn’t this at the core of the greatest tales of love, à la Lancelot and Guinevere, Maria and Tony (West Side Story), and Jack and Ennis (Brokeback Mountain)?

The game is in realising that the container doesn’t have any substance or existence beyond the understandings, fictions, rules and jokes that both partners freely sustain together, yet believing in it anyway. It is in its lack of fulfillment as a fixed order of virtues that love allows individuals to be free in their romantic expression. In the words of Juan Antonio from Vicky Cristina Barcelona, “only unfulfilled love can be romantic.” Marriage formalises unification, order and fulfillment within a relationship, and so gives the game away.

Much like the idea that, in order for any life to be meaningful, there must be a meaning to life itself, the idea that love must strive for a goal other than its own unfolding is self-defeating and fails to embrace its beautiful transience, breadth, and unfulfilledness. Regardless of the pluralism with which we generally approach views on marriage, these cultural attitudes hang over us all and therefore this is a soppy and messy conversation we have to have.

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UniGate Week 12 http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/unigate-week-12/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/unigate-week-12/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 11:15:38 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8559

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The sound of SULS

If you’re reading this, it means UniGate has died. Just kidding – it means that the final vote has been cast on the 2013 Sydney University Law Society election and a result is nigh. Although you could be forgiven for wondering why a simple faculty society election has a two-week campaign period, spending cap and t-shirts, as SULS people seem to hate Honi commenting on, SULS has a pretty epic budget, and an epic election to match. The election hasn’t been all that Drumatic, and indeed the t-shirts of both tickets were certainly very Fetching.

The two tickets, Drum and Fetch, are close together on the rainbow (pink and lavender, what) but yards apart on campaigning techniques. Drum, led by current SULS VP and SRC Exec member James Higgins and managed by arch-hack Alistair Stephenson, has gone down the traditional route of posters, t-shirts (85 of them, which is still less than Fetch’s 100), a Facebook page, a website and a few videos. But Fetch, led by second-year SULS Queer Officer Matt Yeldham, is doing its best to make Fetch happen. In what the Gate believes to be a first for student elections, Fetch has released its very own ringtone, recorded by Law student Meri Amber. Fetch is also promising an app, something the 2013 Honi Soit team can assure them is far easier to promise than to deliver (Eds’ note: our Android app is coming out next week, we promise). And in its final innovation, Fetch put on a ‘Chat with Matt’, where Law students could send in questions to Fetch’s Pres candidate for him to answer via webcam at the awkward time of 8pm on a Saturday night. The Gate was busy doing something fun at the time and only managed to tune in half an hour after the starting time, by which point the Chat was already over. Fetch has also managed to squeeze full-colour posters and glossy flyers into the $750 spending cap.

One area where Fetch hasn’t innovated, however, is its videos, with several online commentators pointing out that Fetch’s flagship video and the 2012 Voice for UNSW SRC video have the same weird cinematography and the exact same song. When asked about it on Twitter, @fetchforsuls responded: “there certainly was some inspiration from other videos already on YouTube. #efficient”. If efficiency was their guiding principle, we’re not sure why they went on to make 17 more videos.

On a more serious note, Electoral Officer Kathleen Heath has confirmed that she received evidence about members of the Fetch ticket soliciting support for their campaign prior to the campaign commencement date. She made a ruling that this was prohibited by the Electoral Regulations and required that members of Fetch contact any students who received such messages and issue a formal acknowledgement of their breach.

USYD students stack UTS elections

A quick look-around UTS this week and you’d be forgiven for thinking it had become a satellite campus for Sydney Uni. UTS is one of the few campuses left in the state that continues to have an ‘open campus’ for their student elections – that is, non-students can campaign.

This makes the campus ripe for the proxy war student factions wage every year. National student factions such as the National Labor Students (Labor Left), Student Unity (Labor Right), and Socialist Alternative have a lot to gain from UTS, with 7 National Union of Students delegates up for grabs.

Discounting the infamous Master Shang and the joke ticket Legion of Spoon, the two major tickets – Elevate and Grassroots – are recruiting campaigners from other campuses, primarily Sydney Uni.

Although Grassroots, headed by presidential hopeful Andy Zephyr, has a few members of Socialist Alternative flown in from other states, it pales in comparison to Elevate, backed by NLS and Unity. Rumours suggest that up to 40 campaigners from interstate, helping out at the Miranda by-election, were asked to stick around to help out the Elevate candidate Alison Whittaker.

In a not-so-surprising twist, members of the breakaway Sydney Labor Students factions are aiding Grassroots at UTS in order to help break NLS’s presidential winning streak, meaning that NLS at their last stronghold in NSW.

Rumours also suggest that Sydney University campaigners will mill around and make snarky comments about the UTS campus. The Gate will report on these incidents from the ground.

Alas, the end has come too soon; the Gate says goodbye to print. For more in the coming weeks, see localhost/honiold

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USSC pushes Washington’s line http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/ussc/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/ussc/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 11:00:04 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8550

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The US Studies Centre (USSC) at the University of Sydney was set up specifically to counter a fear of rising ‘anti-Americanism’ in Australia, during the Iraq war. Judging from a recent information session its founders can be well satisfied.

A USSC panel discussing the US role in Syria (as part of a recruitment evening for post-graduate students) repeated most of Washington’s talking points about the Syrian crisis: for example, the US was an independent mediator, ready to perform its global policeman role but facing difficult moral ambiguities.

While it has sought credibility by positioning itself within Australia’s oldest university, the USSC has external funding, external management, and maintains tight control over its curriculum and teachers

USSC CEO Dr Bates Gill opened the session and handed over to John Barron (ABC journalist and part-time teacher at the USSC), Professor Amin Saikal (invited guest from the ANU), Dr Adam Lockyer (former soldier now lecturer at the USSC) and Tom Switzer (journalist, Liberal Party candidate and part-time teacher at the USSC).

No one on this panel presented any sort of critical examination of the US role in the Syrian crisis. The conflict was said to be a civil war, including regional players, but with “bad guys on both sides”. The US was presented as a disinterested umpire, with the Syrian crisis a challenge to Washington’s standing as the world’s moral leader.

ussc1 (1)No one on the panel showed any interest in reminding the audience that it was Washington – through proxies such as Saudi Arabia – that funded and armed the network of religious fanatics who became Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and, more recently, in Iraq. The aim, of course, was to destabilise or topple any government which developed independent political will, in the oil rich region. But you won’t hear this from the US Studies Centre.

Despite substantial evidence contrary to the Washington’s version of events, no doubt was expressed from the panel that the Syrian Government was responsible for the August chemical attack in Ghouta (East Damascus).

Nor was there any mention that US ally Saudi Arabia has armed and funded the conflict from the beginning. The Saudis cannot re-export arms without specific US approval. So how is it possible to understand the claimed ‘arbiter’ role of the US in Syria without also appreciating that Washington has directly or indirectly backed the (often foreign) ‘rebels’ from day one?

Dr Saikal repeated the Islamist line, adopted by Washington, that Syria’s political system is a minority ‘Alawite regime’ dominating a Sunni majority. In fact, as a report prepared for NATO shows, most Sunni Muslims in Syria reject the Islamist ‘rebels’ and support President Assad. The decades long ideological background to the conflict is not Alawi v. Sunni but rather a struggle between Arab nationalism and sectarian Salafi-Islamism, mostly led by the Muslim Brotherhood. Any serious student of Syrian history should understand this.

While it has sought credibility by positioning itself within Australia’s oldest university, the USSC has external funding, external management, and maintains tight control over its curriculum and teachers. This is unlike any other academic unit. The arrangement may help explain why the USSC teaches an entire course on the arrogant US doctrine of ‘exceptionalism’, and nothing on imperialism and neo-colonialism.

Students enrolling at the USSC should know that the centre was set up as a propaganda tool to counter ‘anti-Americanism’ in Australia, and that it remains a place where they will not be encouraged to participate in serious critical discussion.

Tim Anderson is a Senior Lecturer in Political Economy

Academics from the US Studies Centre have responded to Dr Anderson here.

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Federal politics gets HECS-tic http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/hecs/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/hecs/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 11:00:03 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8542 ]]> The University of Sydney has called for caution and consultation after reports that the Coalition government is considering privatising its HECS debt. The West Australian reported last week that the government was planning to convert the $23 billion debt into a financial product in order to help the budget bottom line.

The news has drawn a mixed reaction with the University of Sydney calling on the government to ensure stability in the tertiary education sector which was rocked by the $2.3 billion worth of cuts enacted by the previous Labor government earlier this year.

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“No fuck yoooouuuu David Pink”

“The University of Sydney would be very concerned about any tinkering to the HECS scheme without consultation with students and the higher education sector.  We note Prime Minister Abbott’s pre-election assurances that in Government the Coalition would provide the higher education sector with stable and consultative government,” a University spokesperson said.

The reports have sparked concerns that students could face higher interest rates and be put under greater pressure to repay the loans quickly in the future. National Union of Students President Jade Tyrrell warned media outlets that privatising the debt could move Australia closer to the burdensome loans system used by US Universities.

Sydney University SRC President David Pink echoed Tyrrell’s sentiments. “[Minister for Education Christopher] Pyne’s next step will be to introduce an American-style student loans system – where private financial firms give out loans at extortionate rates, and saddle students with debt for the rest of their lives,” Pink told Honi Soit.

However, Pink and Tyrrell’s dire warnings may prove premature with senior members of the government playing down the prospect of the debt being sold. The Australian reported late last week that Treasurer Joe Hockey’s office had reaffirmed that such plans were not included in current Coalition policy. But for now it appears that Hockey has avoided rulling out a change to that policy at a later date.

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The Soin Exclusive: Ballpit of Death http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/the-soin-exclusive-ballpit-of-death/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/the-soin-exclusive-ballpit-of-death/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 10:25:20 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8626 ]]> Tragedy struck last Thursday when Stuart Johnson, a first year Commerce student, was killed in the ball pit erected on the Front Lawns for the 2013 Verge Festival. Johnson’s friends recalled that he had spent his first year of university perched wistfully on the sidelines, too crippled by self-consciousness to fully engage with student life. A few days before the incident, however, he had declared that he was ready to “dive right in to life on campus.” He was true to his word and after plunging head first into the festival attraction, he suffered a fatal head injury.

The Verge Directors were unavailable for comment at the time, but it wasn’t long before they had scheduled an event for the following day called, “Verge Presents: Stu’s FUNeral feat. the Preatures”. The event’s description invited students to “Help us UNLEASH Stu’s soul into the cosmos before the Preatures knock you off your feet with their catchy electro-pop.”

While the funeral/concert became one of the festival’s most successful events with tickets selling out in hours, many are concerned that the murderous ball pit was only the latest instalment in the growing infantilisation of student culture.  With ponies at the Humanitarian Fair and Christian-eating lions at Interfaith Week, it is felt it was only a matter of time before the trend turned deadly. USU administration have responded by pushing for a return to the more adult-focused events of the Verge Festival’s early years such as the “Managing Mortgages in Manning” workshop in 2002 or the Impotence and Incontinence” exhibition of 2005. The USU’s end of semester party “Waiting in Line Outside a Licensed Venue” is widely believed to be the first product of this new ethos but its first major test will be “O-Week 2014: Inevitable Disillusionment.”

 

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Bill Shorten Begins Counting Numbers Against Bill Shorten http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/bill-shorten-begins-counting-numbers-against-bill-shorten/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/bill-shorten-begins-counting-numbers-against-bill-shorten/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 10:22:42 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8623 ]]> Labor leader and numbers man Bill Shorten is reportedly telling nervous MPs this week that the party should dump Bill Shorten from the top job, lest the federal Labor Party face a crushing defeat on election day, the likes of which they haven’t seen in weeks.

Amid growing concerns about his own leadership, Mr Shorten is said to have told MPs that his own unpopularity with rank-and-file members was “killing” the opposition’s chances at the next election, due to his “undeserved” reputation for unseating party leaders. In an unprecedented move Mr Shorten has called a press conference in the parliamentary gallery for late Friday to announce his change of support to rival leader Anthony Albanese, much to the dismay of the Shorten camp.

This move comes only weeks after Mr Albanese’s previous leadership bid came to an abrupt end, following a failed run for the top job that saw Mr Albanese only collect 62% of rank-and-file votes, well short of the 120% of votes required to outweigh factional backing.

Despite Mr Shorten’s attempt to unseat himself, backers of the Shorten leadership within the Labor party have declared they will not give in without a fight, and will continue to canvas numbers and rally members behind Mr Shorten, even without Mr Shorten’s support.

Mr Shorten has indicated he will spend his future time out of office working on his memoirs, running a client state with his mother in law, and undermining Mr Albanese from the sidelines.

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UOW retracts offers, students relieved http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/uow-retracts-offers-students-relieved/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/uow-retracts-offers-students-relieved/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 09:25:34 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8629

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Year 12 students across the state were relieved after receiving letters retracting their offers to the UOW, sources told The Soin. The University of Wollongong last week mistakenly sent early offers to 275 high school leavers.

One respondent told The Soin: “I got a letter offering me a place at Wollongong, and I was just like, ‘what did I do to deserve this!’, and then they retracted and it was all good.”

In other news, Sydney University has continued to send monkey themed Valentine’s Day cards to HSC students waiting on news about their applications.

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Playing with the boys http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/playing-with-the-boys/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/playing-with-the-boys/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 07:05:41 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8555

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Photo: NRK P3

 

“I’m tired of creeps on message boards discussing whether or not they’d ‘fuck’ me,” wrote electronic artist Grimes on her personal blog earlier this year.

Despite her incredible success, Grimes has been frequently forced to grapple with objectification, harassment and molestation. She also describes men making constant offers of ‘help’, treating her success as an ‘accident’, and insinuating that her gender makes her “incapable of using technology”.

Her sharp critique cut straight through denials of sexism in the industry and in electronic music in particular. The differences between how men and women are marketed and received are not confined to one genre, or indeed one industry. However, the gender disparity in electronic music is especially pronounced.

According to Alexandra Ward, who performs as Sydney artist Moon Holiday, there is “a tiny representation of female artists, if any at all” on local electronic labels. Women are an estimated 7% of Ableton users, a software used to make electronic music. Holly Friedlander Liddicoat, who runs music blog East to West describes the electronic scene as “a boys club.”  Female artists are often sexualised and relentlessly gendered: their talent is forced to share space with their looks, in both conversation and the media. Clichés of femininity colour how their music is perceived and their craftsmanship characterised.

Producer Alison Wonderland recently endured an ‘interview’ which was little more than a catalogue of sexual remarks dressed up as an extended joke about the interviewer’s crush. Beginning with “so, you’re really hot,” the interview finished by describing her debut release with a single adjective – and yes, that adjective was ‘hot’.

Ward notes how “lazy words like ‘songstress’ and ‘siren’ get thrown around” to describe her as an artist, and how otherwise different artists are ‘lumped’ together “for no apparent reason other than gender”. This dismissive categorisation reflects a wider tendency to trivialise or patronise female artists.

Electronic music is a technical medium, and technical competence is stereotypically gendered: little boys get trucks and tools and little girls get books and dolls. This can mature into an assumption that “women wouldn’t get a certain type of music because of the technical ability involved in creating it,” says Wade Gilmour, of record label the Finer Things.

It’s not an inviting landscape for women. Often barren of female peers, “there is a normalcy to all-male rosters” among both labels and audiences, Friedlander Liddicoat says. Vic Edirisinghe, an Astral People founder, points out that male-dominated lineups are “a reflection of society and the market’s taste”.

Tim Newman, also of record label The Finer Things, explains that “it’s not us saying no to female producers and artists”. Instead, he describes “a lack of artists who align to what it is that we want to do.” This gestures toward the more insidious causes of under-representation, such as the discomfort and apprehension of women entering a field largely empty of female peers.

Both men express an optimism that this will change. Edirisinghe points out that Astral People have recently added two more women to their roster, which he hopes “reflects the changing of the times.” Friedlander Liddicoat addresses the issue more directly, acknowledging that “there is definitely some misogyny in the [boys’] club.” “But,” she adds, “these gendered ideas are easily broken and breaking down.”

Criticising marginalisation does not mean ignoring gender or asking women to suppress their sexuality, or femininity, in order to be taken seriously and avoid being objectified.

There is a difference between an artist choosing to incorporate sexuality into their image or music, and other people imposing sexualisation upon them. In this regard, the onus is on the audience, peers, and media to not perpetuate the stereotypes and sexist language that women in electronic music are currently faced with.

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Damascus is burning http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/damascus-is-burning/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/damascus-is-burning/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 06:42:01 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8543

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The 48-year-old mother of four had sent her twelve year-old son to the shop to queue for bread. While he was out, a rocket collapsed his family’s apartment block. He was the only survivor. Eight members of his immediate family were killed within two years. The eldest son of a relative is kidnapped by rebels for weeks and held for ransom. Members of the village must continue to pay safety money, or more of them will be taken.

This is the human reality of the crisis in Syria. Since fighting broke out between government and rebel forces in March 2011, over 100 000 Syrians have been killed and at least two million made refugees. In a conflict of this scale, stories like those above are devastatingly common.

An additional factor unites the accounts given above: they are accounts narrated by people living inside Australia. This is remarkable given the distances at play: Damascus is burning 14 100km away.

But wars are rarely limited to the countries in which they are fought. For many Australians, this conflict has hit much closer to home. Indeed, a number of Australians have become involved in the conflict, some leaving for Syria to fight or deliver humanitarian aid, others working here as activists.  And many Syrian Australians, particularly those who fled here to escape the war, anxiously collect any news of their families.

K, a Syrian expat in her mid 70s, fled Syria for Australia last year.  Her son – who remains in Syria – had insisted that she leave. He pleaded that any time she wasn’t at home he worried about where she was, and whether she was OK.

Today it is K worrying about her son. She speaks with him via mobile phone on most days, when the lines aren’t cut. There is a four-hour queue to buy a kilo of bread from government stores. He only bathes occasionally, when there is enough water.  His sleep is sometimes interrupted by the sound of rockets destroying neighbouring areas.  She is reduced to tears by a maternal concern, and I’m reminded of my Greek grandmother: she never taught him to cook, and she worries about what he eats without her there to look after him.

K had left Syria in the 80s for the West; however, Syria was “thriving”, and she returned in the 90s as there were “lots of imports and exports”, “amazing restaurants”, “culture”, and “banks from four or five countries”. And although anti-Assad expats I spoke to countered that most of these benefits were concentrated amongst the rich, all were horrified by the destructiveness of the war.

Pro-government newspaper Al-Watan recently estimated that wide scale bombings had already destroyed over USD$ 1.5 trillion worth of infrastructure and buildings. Sanctions imposed by – amongst others – the Arab League, the EU, the US, and Australia has crippled trade in the region. During fighting, landmarks that have existed for centuries, even millennia, have been razed in hours.

During our interview, it was clear that K felt powerless as she watched her country implode. She didn’t know how or when the war would end, and what would happen. She desperately clung to any news she could get of Syria, from family back home or from media outlets. Indeed, my weekday interview with K ended exactly at noon, when she abruptly left the room we’d been talking in. Her sister explained that she had gone to a back room to watch the SBS Arabic news, to see if there were any new developments in Syria.

The top story that day was on Dubai.

***

The Syrian Australian community is small, but growing. At the time of the 2011 census, 8 392 Australians were Syrian-born. Since the conflict began, thousands of Syrians have fled to Australia using dual citizenship, family support, or a rare refugee visa. Many of these new migrants consider themselves lucky: in Australia they are safe. Yet in many ways they are anything but fortunate. Separated from their families and friends, they receive only intermittent news about what is happening back home.

Some Australians have taken a more active stance, joining groups like the anti-Assad Australian Syrian Association or the pro-government ‘Hands Off Syria’. These groups fundraise for humanitarian aid, using contacts to smuggle basics like formula milk, flour, rice and sugar into Syria via Turkey.

They also lobby the government. I spoke with a founder of the Australian Syrian Association. In 2012, he had met with Rudd, Carr, Gillard, Abbott and other prominent politicians, pressuring them to deny visas to Syrian government diplomats, and shut down the Syrian embassy in Canberra. They were thrilled when, following Carr’s expulsion of senior diplomats in May 2012, the embassy closed down that July.

These organisations also maintain a social media presence and stage rallies in support of their respective causes. In part, these efforts are designed – according to an activist I spoke with – to “show unity and solidarity with the Syrian people.” However, these groups are also entering into the public relations war, attempting to influence public opinion and potentially foreign policy by pushing their competing narratives of the Syrian conflict.

The website of the pro-rebel Australian Syrian Association describes the conflict as the “struggle of the Syrian people for their freedom and democracy” from President Bashar Al-Assad.  The Hands Off Syria members I spoke with countered that the rebels were increasingly dominated by mercenaries and radical jihadists.

There is some truth in both accounts. The defence of Assad made to me by one pro-government activist – that “nobody is perfect” – seemed unforgivably glib in the light of UN confirmation that his government is responsible for recent chemical weapon attacks in Damascus; the Sarin gas that was used is 26 times as deadly as cyanide. At the same time, the rebels have radicalised at an alarming rate, undermining claims by anti-Assad activists that extreme elements exist only on the fringe. British defence consultancy IHS Jane recently estimated that almost half of the 100 000 rebels fighting in Syria are jihadists or hardliner Islamists, with 10 000 fighting for factions linked with al-Qaeda.

Perhaps most striking is the conflict’s increasing sectarianism. William McCants, a fellow at the Brookings Saban Center, writes that although the civil war “did not start out as a sectarian conflict” in 2011, the divided became entrenched as the “conflict turned violent.” To generalise, Syrians in the Sunni Muslim majority tend to identify with the rebels, whilst most minorities – Christians, Assyrians, Armenians, Druze, and the Alawites, to which the Assad family belong – typically remain loyal to the Assad regime.

Do the activist groups in Australia mirror this divide? Hands off Syria argues that their membership doesn’t fall along sectarian lines. Indeed, many Australian activists have no family ties to the region. Hands Off Syria activists estimate that only half of their Australian members are even of Middle Eastern heritage.

However, while advocates from both sides in Australia care deeply about the wellbeing of all Syrians, sectarian undertones also pervade the activist scene. A leader of the Australian Syrian Association tells me of the 23 threats left on his mobile phone. “Assad is better than you and all the Sunnis we know,” he recalls.

That same leader then claimed that as their beliefs were heretical, Alawites such as Assad “are not Muslims”, he states. This is one of many traditional insults levelled against Alawites.

Most worryingly, this sectarian divide has escalated with assaults, arsons and even shootings. In November 2012, armed men chased the Alawite owner of a shop in Thomastown, Victoria, shouting “we’re going to shut you down, you Alawite dog.” A car displaying the emblem of the Free Syrian Army was twice firebombed. Jamal Daoud, an outspoken opponent of the rebels, was punched in front of Today Tonight’s cameras. While some of the reported attacks have targeted pro-rebel activists, most have been directed against government loyalists.

For targets of this violence, Sydney’s suburbs have split along sectarian lines. As I speak to more people, I learn that activists feel unsafe walking through neighbourhoods around Sydney. Prominent pro-government activists avoid Sunni-dominated parts of Lakemba, Auburn and Bankstown, while recognisable insurgency supporters are wary of travelling into Shia enclaves in areas such as Arncliffe, Rockdale and Belfield.

***

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Photo: James Lawler Duggan

The Syrian conflict has intensified violence within Australia, but some Australians have also contributed to the violence in Syria, travelling overseas to fight in the revolution.

Three weeks ago, a Queenslander blew himself up in a truck outside a Syrian military airport. ‘Australia’s first suicide bomber’ was a married 27-year-old, rumoured to be of Lebanese heritage. He acted on behalf of the Al-Nusrah Front, a blacklisted rebel group affiliated with Al Qaeda.

This bomber is not the only Australian to have travelled overseas to join the fight. ASIO chief David Irvine has revealed that six Australians have been killed in combat against the Assad regime, and authorities believe there are about 80 Australians participating in the conflict in either combat or support roles, although some estimates range upwards of 200.

Most of the fighters who take this pilgrimage are young, ideological, and often marginalised in broader society. Most of these men support the rebels, although it is also believed there are some Australian Shiite volunteers fighting with Hezbollah militants for the Assad regime.

The majority of these fighters are born in Australia, and come from families with strong ties in the north of Lebanon – many, like the suicide bomber, are Lebanese dual citizens. David Malet, a lecturer in International Relations from Melbourne University, writes: “most likely, the particular ties of the Australian Lebanese community with its connections in the region facilitate easy access into Syria and give Australia its disproportionate presence in this conflict.”

When fighters return, they could face federal charges under the Crimes (Foreign Incursion and Recruitment) Act, which carries a 20-year maximum prison term. However the act is rarely used in practice. Irvine, however, was more concerned that these young Australians could “become quite severely radicalised.”

It is estimated that a ninth of Westerners who had fought or trained in overseas jihadist insurgencies ultimately became involved in anti-Western terrorist plots. If true, a small proportion of Australians returning from fighting in Syria will no doubt be targeted as a security risk.

***

I spoke with an anti-Assad Sunni grandfather. He had immigrated to Australia in the 1960s. He didn’t have time for much of the “nonsense” that the activists in Australia got up to. The fighters who left Australia to fight in Syria disgust him.

“Stupid extremists” and “filthy bastards,” he remarks.

The old man reminisces on decade long friendships with Christian pro-regime friends that had disintegrated as they argued over the conflict. Before the war begun, they had been “as close as brothers.”

There was one thing the man – and many others I had spoken to – emphasised, something that united both sides of the conflict: “At the end of the day, both sides realise that they want peace.”

 

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Letters: Week Twelve http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/letters-week-twelve/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/letters-week-twelve/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 06:30:44 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8621 ]]>  

Correction

Last week, we wrote that the USU had passed on “the personal details of members to the USUAF”. We have been informed that this is not true, rather, the USUAF sent the USU the email, which was then distributed on their behalf through the member mail. Honi Soit sincerely apologises for the mistake.

An Open Letter to the USU

A lot of words have been written about the attempted sacking of the Vice President of the University of Sydney Union (USU), Tom Raue, in the pages of this paper and on social media. It has alternately been described as a storm in a teacup and the death knell of democracy. It has dragged into the spotlight, both the USU’s opaque and obfuscated accountability mechanisms and, more damningly, its views towards rank-and-file students.

Though it may be plain that my sympathies lie with Tom, I believe the Vice President’s acquisition of an interlocutory injunction is no great win for union members. Nor is it a great blow against the Union. It is a functional victory, but not a substantial one. It will delay the probability that Tom will be terminated, but the Court cannot enact the necessary change required for the union’s members.

Leaving the election or dismissal of the Board’s executive in the hands of its directors circumvents the democratic process and allows a small cabal to allocate, for themselves, tens of thousands of dollars in executive salaries, often based on pre-ordained deals between individual directors and the support bases and campus factions that propped them up. The current electoral process also means the constituency cannot hold their directors to account. Once a director is elected to Board, for their two-year term, their loyalty is tied fundamentally to the Board as it is they, not the rank-and-file, who will ultimately be the arbiters of promotion and demotion.

One of several reasons why the attempted dismissal of Raue struck a chord was the absence of discussion between the Board and its members. A special meeting was called then delayed and then injuncted, all without so much as a straw poll of the members’ mood. A snap action Facebook event was set up in response. I will admit that it and its organisers cannot fundamentally speak for the entire 5,537 students that voted this year or the 4,873 that went to the polls in 2012.

As such, I propose two constitutional amendments to address both these issues, in accordance with s 16 of the University of Sydney Union’s Constitution.The first being that election for the executive is opened up to the public, concurrent to the election of new board directors in May. I hope this amendment would, at a bare minimum, encourage the current directors to either stick to their promises or propose realistic plans at the time of their election. It would also hopefully ensure that executive appointments are based on merit and their accomplishments in office (and their ability to communicate those successes to the public), rather than on any deals they make.

And second, that the constitution be amended to provide for a ratification mechanism by the Board’s membership in the event of a dismissal. Just as the constitution may be altered “by a two-thirds majority of Members at an Annual General Meeting” as per s 16.1(a)(i) of the Constitution, any special meeting to sack a Director should be accompanied by a members’ meeting where the rank-and-file are represented and can choose to validate or invalidate the Board’s decision, by way of a similar two-thirds majority.

I believe these suggested amendments are neither particularly unreasonable nor revolutionary. However, I do think they would hypothetically prevent Tom’s expulsion based on the current grassroots movement (pun very much intended) that aims to him retain his position. I don’t see why any current director would actively stand against a perestroika and glasnost of Union’s decision-making beyond self-interest.

As it stands, every year the election of new directors is in some part operates as a power-play by the current board to shore up the numbers for a presidential run; returning that power directly to the voters would hopefully encourage current directors to sell their successes in office instead of expounding upon and creating more impossible promises.

Justin Pen

Arts/Law III

Fuck yeah, porn

Dear Honi,

I took great interest in the feature article by Anonymous about staying home to watch porn I am one of the only people I know who openly speaks about enjoying pornography, I consider it perfectly normal and healthy. I’m sure many more of my friends indulge, but the stigma around it makes talking about it comfortably (and soberly) pretty difficult. Anonymous wrote about how she struggles to find porn interesting, but the struggle I (and a couple of friends) have is finding good porn. There’s an awful lot of shitty, demeaning and frankly un-arousing stuff out there.

I’ve wasted countless hours trying to find decent, stylised, female-friendly porn. Tumblr and Reddit are the standard options, Anonymous might find something a little more sensual and to her tastes there. Even with these, finding anything more than pictures and gifs can be difficult if you don’t want to pay. Tumblr has links to seem very well produced queer porn too, which is always enjoyable and empowering, a rare combination. I ask her not to shy away from her capitalist dream of making porn: do it! Make some good porn and link me, if you find Game of Thrones more arousing than a woman asking a man to ejaculate on her glasses, I trust your artistic judgement.

Anonymous

Arts IV

 

Happy birthday to me

Hi eds (and SUBW),

Just a teeny request – November 20 is my birthday; any chance of the gift of a free nude calendar? Heck, I’ll even make a donation to the Colong Foundation, just so I can brag about the best birthday present ever!

Keep up the good work, and don’t forget the sunscreen. A burnt tush is never chic.

Kind regards,

Georgia O’Brien

Arts/Law II

 

Is there life after uni?

The end of university is near. The end of semester, and for many, the end of our time forever within these fabled sandstone walls. Some expectations have been met, and others neglected by what many of us didn’t realise when we excitedly began is the multi-million dollar business of a university. But what use is whining about this? Let’s think of what’s next.

The chatter among those finishing of what’s planned for next year is loud. Very loud. It’s like a squawking bird that’s escaped its cage. University has trained this bird to squawk three words in particular: cadetship, internship, grad-job.

But what happens when we don’t think of what’s next? When we don’t listen to the squawking bird? Both my primary and high school (from years seven to ten) were ones where opening a book at lunchtime triggered taunts of “Nerd! Nerd! Nerd!” and it was cool to be apathetic in the classroom.

I’m thankful I wasn’t swallowed up by this, that I continued being enthusiastic about learning and that I eventually made it to university. Which is why I think it’s important to consider breaking free of the dominant culture at the university which squawks that success is a cadetship or a grad-job. Breaking free of this can bring many rewards, just as breaking free of the culture at my primary and high schools did for me.

This isn’t, of course, for everyone. But we should all at least consider this option of being free from lecturers and free from bosses. Free to be yourself. Don’t just let the squawking bird deafen you. It’s a lesson in the university of life that many, like me, missed from not taking a gap year after school. And I’m as excited for it as I was going into my first lecture all the way back in 2010.

Drew Rooke

Arts IV

A Very Long Letter from the Anti-Racism Collective

Office Bearer positions should be democratically elected by SRC Councillors and be open to contest by any student who fits the criteria. Having strong democratic links between Councillors and Office Bearers encourages broad discussion about what kind of Office Bearers and associated collectives are supported by the SRC. For example, during this year’s elections both Stand Up and Grassroots ran on pro-refugee platforms. This helped win a mandate for the SRC’s continuing support for the refugee campaign through the ARC and also played a small but important role in raising awareness about the issue on campus. This kind of wider politicisation is important to building strong movements on any issue. Formally giving any collective the special right to endorse Office Bearers is a step toward narrowing down that democratic process.

Challenging the Racism of the Government
We are standing a candidate for the position of Ethnic Affairs Office Bearer, because the Ethnic Affairs Department is the SRC’s department for fighting racism. We believe the SRC should vote to elect our candidate because of the political importance of the refugee campaign in the fight against racism.

The ARC has a long-track record of fighting racism, through campaigns against the NT Intervention and against the scapegoating and brutalisation of refugees and asylum seekers. We have based our activism on the political premise that racism is systemic. It is used by politicians, the state, elites and the media to justify the genocide and continued dispossession and assimilation of Aboriginal people. It is also used to scapegoat groups such as refugees, foreign workers etc., for socio-economic problems that have in fact been created by the government, such as cuts to public funding, and justify wars, recently in the case of Islamophobia. Racism can, and must, be fought – and to do this we need to actively campaign against the policies and institutions that create and entrench racism.
The ARC has made the democratic decision to focus on the refugee campaign because the Federal Government’s anti-refugee policies are the sharp edge of racism in Australia today. Policies our government implements, such as the reopening of offshore processing and now Operation Sovereign Borders, entrench and legitimise racism in our society. As Labor raced further and further to the right on refugees, culminating in the disgraceful PNG ‘solution’, reports of racist incidents increased nationwide as did physical attacks against refugees in the community. Confronting racism on campus is also important. We have organised to picket racists such as John Howard when he attended the Sydney Uni Liberal Club’s disgraceful debating cup and we have fought the attacks of right-wingers like Chad Sidler who tried to get rid of the acknowledgement of country from the O-week Handbook. In addition we have supported the campaigns to save the Refugee Language programme and the Koori Centre.
A United Fight
We need an open, democratic, unified collective to fight racism and overcome the divisions that oppression creates and we are standing a candidate for Ethnic Affairs to promote this strategy. The most successful campaigns against racism have been ones that have involved a united fight, where people from all backgrounds and identities worked together. Under Howard a refugee campaign built on this basis was able to successfully push back his divisive agenda. In 2001 the majority of people supported the cruel policy of “turning back the boats”. By 2004 this was a minority and by 2007 Rudd was elected with a pro-refugee mandate, marginalising anti-refugee policies and the racism they brought with them. As part of our campaigning we have had refugees from Afghanistan and Iran speak on campus, taken students to visit detainees in Villawood detention centre and worked hand in hand with people from diverse backgrounds to try and achieve justice and dignity for all. The EPOC is an autonomous collective, which means that only self-identifying people of colour can be involved. We recognise the right of oppressed people to resist racism by any means necessary, but we do not consider organising on this basis the most effective strategy for overcoming racism and division.

Defending the Integrity of the ARC
 The EPOC motion has also been accompanied by various forms of public misinformation about the ARC. Members of the EPOC, who it must be said do not necessarily speak for the collective as a whole, have misquoted ARC members, made untrue statements about the history of the collective and in some extreme cases even slandered the group. For example in the week 10 edition of Honi Soit a member of the EPOC made the claim that the ARC believes “racism affects white people in the same way it affects non-white people”. No such statement has ever been made by the ARC. The same article also makes the untrue claim that a Dutch born person was elected to Ethnic Affairs in 2011. When the EPOC motion itself was moved in the SRC Council Meeting the mover openly called the ARC a “racist group” simply because it is open to people of all backgrounds.  EPOC’s idea that “white culture” is the source of oppression has led some of them to see white anti-racists as the problem instead of racist politicians.  If we want a campus where students can come together to fight racism in all its forms, we cannot legitimise or vindicate this view. This is another reason that it is important that we stand for the position of Ethnic Affairs.
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Korma Police Victim’s Report: Victim cooks with father http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/korma-police-victims-report-victim-cooks-with-father/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/korma-police-victims-report-victim-cooks-with-father/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 06:24:43 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8562

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STATEMENT: The other day I was in my kitchen helping myself to a glass of water when my dad, who was cooking dinner said, “Excuse me, Isobel, how many potatoes do we have?” Usually he would look himself, but recently his retina detached so currently he can only see out of one eye. I went to the potato basket and said, “We have two mini ones and two huge ones.” Then I brought them all to him.

“These are not huge potatoes! These are sweet potatoes!” he cried, “I am so embarrassed that you are my daughter!”

The following week he decided that since he could see out of only one eye and had taken time off work we would do some father-daughter bonding time during which he would teach me life skills. “Today I will show you how to bake my favourite cake. The somewhat prosaic title of this cake is ‘Olive Oil Cake’. I think a lot of people might find this gross. They might say, “EW YUK A CAKE MADE OF OIL.” To avoid this, I suggest you use euphemisms. Let’s just call this ‘Zest Cake’.

“Cool. Okay.”

“First we must grease the pan. You must take this baking paper and trace around the pan using a non-toxic pen.”

“Is this pen toxic?”

“No.”

“Cool. Okay.”

“Next we must beat the seven egg whites. Always use a bowl that is bigger than you would like. Now beat the eggs into stiff peaks in a swooping motion. Pretend you are like a bird swooping into a wave. No, not like that. Pretend you are like a bird. Yes, better.”

“What do I do now?”

“We must let the egg whites rest in a cool place. No, not there, that is in the sun. Yes here, in the dark corner next to the plastic bag full of shredded paper.

“Dad, can you please get the sieve. We need to sift the flour.”

“We actually don’t have a sieve. I think using this colander would be better than nothing.”

“I disagree. I think using the colander would be the same as nothing. Giant spaghetti strands have been known to escape that colander. Let’s just put the flour straight in.”

“Okay. Good executive decision! While you are beating the egg whites, I will quiz you on facts about cooking. In Masterchef, what do most chefs say their favourite cooking implement is?”

“That’s easy. Bowl.”

“WRONG! Wooden spoon.”

“But how can you mix things with your wooden spoon when you don’t have a bowl?”

“I don’t think bowl counts as an implement.”

“Cool. Okay.”

“Now we must grate the lemon and orange zest for the zest cake.” At this point he handed me a large grater and I proceeded to injure myself.

“I’m bleeding everywhere.”

 

Exhibit A: Victim's injury

Exhibit A: Victim’s injury

“Yes, now please mix those ingredients together while I lick this bowl.”

“Why would you want to lick that bowl? All it contains is flour and olive oil?”

“Mmmmm yum! This batter is nice!”

After this we put the cake in the oven and he went out. Then my mum came in and said, “Have you considered using our dog as a foot warmer? I know he is small but when he sits near my feet, I just sort of put my feet in his armpits and that is very warm.”

“Food for thought, mum. Thanks.”

At this point dad appeared out of nowhere. “That’s gross!” he said to mum. She shrugged and walked off.

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Top 5 Walking Dead characters who need to die http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/top-5-walking-dead-characters-who-need-to-die/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/top-5-walking-dead-characters-who-need-to-die/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 06:00:53 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8577 ]]> wd-seventeen5. Carl Grimes 

Carl is a kid, and no one wants to say, “hey, I want that kid to die.” Except me. I definitely want that kid to die. He’s spent the series alternately being a nuisance to the group and playing cold blooded killer. Even his own parents never seemed to like him all that much, so why should we?

4. The Woodbury Survivors 

These guys are basically cannon fodder. We don’t have to get to know them, which means we can enjoy their gruesome deaths guilt free. Think intestines getting ripped out and faces getting eaten. I mean we watch the show primarily to see people die horribly right? Please tell me I’m not alone here.

3. Carol Peletier 

A while ago I could have put Carol on this list for being extremely useless and boring. She’s really developed as a character lately, however, and this will be her undoing. This show loves to kill characters off as soon as they start doing something interesting, and Carol’s secret knife lessons with the kids are damn interesting.

2. Hershel Greene 

What’s the deal with Hershel? He positions himself as a Dale-like moral centre to the group, but a) he doesn’t even have a bucket hat, and b) no one cares what he has to say. In my house, when we think someone’s about to die we say, “he’s gonna get it!” and I’ve just started doing that every time Hershel is on screen, hoping I can will it to happen.

1. Rick Grimes

I can hear you saying, “But Rick is the main character of the show! He’s the hero!” But that’s exactly why he needs to die. If Rick is gone we’re going to see competition for leadership of the group and a massive shift in the group’s dynamics. Plus, we won’t have to look at his weird face all the time – why is he always so sweaty?

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The fun police http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/the-fun-police/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/the-fun-police/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 06:00:28 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8568 ]]> The first time I was stopped by police I was drunk and alone, walking through the backstreets of Darlinghurst early Saturday morning. They suspected that I was trying to buy drugs. I suppose that walking through the backstreets of Darlinghurst, drunk and alone at 2 a.m. is plausibly the behaviour of someone trying to buy drugs. But it is also plausibly the behaviour of me, walking home, drunk and alone through the backstreets of Darlinghurst early on a Saturday morning. It was this troubling ambiguity that the Officers were keen to resolve.

They told me the time. They noted the location. They asked me if I was intoxicated. They asked me if I was by myself. I nodded at them and they nodded at each other. Although our nodding implied that we had now reached a common understanding of our situation, I was then asked to repeat these answers several times. They asked and I answered, and we shared in an optimistic conspiracy that repetition might spontaneously transform facts into interpretation. We were like fact alchemists.

A new tack was taken: they asked me why I here, now, drunk and alone. It is always difficult to give a considered account of the choices we mundanely make to be in particular places, at particular times, doing particular things but it is obviously most difficult when its late, and you’re drunk, and lost and tired and alone.

I was told to stand up straight, to stand against a wall, to walk in a straight line, to answer clearly, to not answer back, to look them in the eyes, to not roll my eyes. Eventually, I must have struck the right balance of indignation and compliance. All five of the officers escorted me to get a cab on Oxford St, like my personal security detail.

It lasted about twenty minutes. No arrest, no charge. Since then, I have been stopped on other occasions in similar circumstances. Since then, I have been in similar circumstances and I have not been stopped. I still can’t discern when I’m moving through the city suspiciously.

Mugging

“Hold on… is it vegan?”
Cartoon: Bryant Apolonio

Of course, the police are interested in maintaining public safety. I’m a gay man so perhaps it was stupid for me to be walking around deserted streets by myself. Arguably, the police were protecting me. But I didn’t feel protected. I consider my first mugging to be a more personal encounter. After a brief negotiation, the mugger let me keep my cards and phone. I noted that my wallet was vegan leather, he laughed. He apologised.

In both cases I was targeted because I was alone and drunk in the city at night but only in one case was that treated like it was perverse. And this isn’t police misconduct; it is the conduct of modern policing. Whether it’s a music festival or Mardi Gras, or just a Saturday night in Sydney, police officers remind young people to enjoy themselves unsuspiciously. We get searched, sniffed by dogs, and asked to count our drinks. Stopped, questioned, and moved along.

For some of us, myself included, these awkward, humiliating interactions will stop when we get older. For less privileged communities, over-policing will always be a part of their lives. A redistribution occurs: some people are made to feel less safe so that others can feel more safe. In order to prevent graffiti on shop windows, young people are interrogated for merely having cans of spray paint in their backpacks.

Obviously, there is a value to some police presence but it is important to compare it to the collected minor indignities it causes. ‘More police’ can’t be the easy, lazy answer to any risk, to every risk. From my perspective, that is more threatening than any pill I could have bought from the non-existent drug dealer I wasn’t going to meet.

 

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The Great American novelist http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/the-great-american-novelist/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/the-great-american-novelist/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 06:00:09 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8558

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Oesophagal Cancer for Web

Now I know some of you will agree with Hitchens that women are about as funny as oesophagal cancer…
Cartoon: Nina Ubaldi

The decline of literature has been a long time coming. In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Jonathan Franzen rallies against the intellectual poverty that characterises our “media-saturated” world. The past couple of months saw a number of think pieces in publications such as Salon and NYT, comparing literature to a stagnant echo chamber replete with clichés. Mark Edmundson’s Poetry Slam article in the July issue of Harper’s derides modern poetry as weak and feeble.

The undercurrent of chauvinism in Edmundson’s piece is obvious. Instead of being “soft” and “lovely,” poetry should reach for “conviction” and “risk.” Franzen once again expressed his distaste for the insipidity of women’s work by proclaiming that the downfall of Alice Munro’s work is the pathological sentimentality she has for her characters. And in an odd non sequitur on Charlie Rose, David Foster Wallace rallied behind the practice of writing long-winded books against feminists, who, according to him, constantly complain that a white male will “sit down and write this enormous book and impose his phallus on the consciousness of the world.”

But Wallace’s position is deceptive because this is exactly what white, male writers take advantage of. I don’t think it’s a controversial position to claim that women are required to recognise male consciousness in a way men are not required to understand female consciousness. Films with female leads are considered ‘chick flicks,’ whereas films with male characters are considered relatable because they are framed as stories about humans. Also contemplate Zadie Smith’s deliberate decision to only mention the race of characters in her novel NW if they are white. By growing up and reading a litany of white male authors such as Saul Bellow, John Updike and Martin Amis, “everybody’s neutral unless they’re black. I just wanted to try and create perhaps a sense of alienation and otherness in this person, the white reader, to remind them that they are not neutral to other people.” Works like Huckleberry Finn and Moby Dick are revered stories for all genders. But asking boys to read novels from the likes of Austen, Woolf and Plath? No chance.

So, what next? The solution is apparently to return to the yesteryear of literature, the days of unadulterated wisdom and passion from the likes of Fitzgerald and Kerouac: the musings of tortured geniuses who encapsulated the heart of American identity. But the willingness of the public to indulge young men with no direction as poetic souls and creative contrarians is not interesting to me. Fitzgerald ‘borrowed’ extensively from his wife’s diaries for material while simultaneously discouraging her from publishing, lest she encroach upon his success. Gregory Corso, a writer in the inner circle of the Beat Generation, stated that women did exist in the movement with the caveat that “if you were male you could rebel, but if you were female your families had you locked up.”

Take a look at any women’s literature section and it becomes clear that women are not afforded the luxury of obliviousness. Even though female authors write about the same things as male authors – grand public subjects as well as the intricacies of intimate life – and just as compellingly, books about women’s lives and by women struggle to enter the echelons of top-tier literature by virtue of being characterised ‘for women.’ As Joyce Carole Oates once lamented, “the woman who writes is a writer by her own definition, but a woman writer by others’ definitions.” Seen as a doughy, undifferentiated mass of melodrama undeserving of acclaim, literature by women is still largely read with the preconceptions that authors like Franzen have.

And female writers continue to face an uphill journey in escaping the dominion white, male writers yield. VIDA, an organisation dedicated to women in literary arts, compiled a statistical rundown in 2012 with unsurprising results. Nearly three-fourths of authors reviewed in the well-known publications it analysed were men. It seems like women are stuck between a rock and a hard place. You’re only allowed to choose one or the other: wealth like Jodi Piccoult or critical acclaim like Franzen.

I enjoyed reading Infinite Jest and I don’t think Franzen’s work is without merit. But rather than offering accurate analyses on the state of literature, I see the tugged collars of writers’ shirts who feel that the white, male voice as a neutral voice for all is crumbling due to incursions from authors they deem below them. By being destined for posterity regardless of merit, it’s understandable that these men feel threatened by the likes of acclaimed authors such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who herself states that we do a “greater disservice to girls because we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of men.” I just didn’t expect their critiques to be so petulant.

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News in Revue – Week 12 http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/news-in-revue-week-12-2/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/news-in-revue-week-12-2/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 04:54:45 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8608 ]]> So Tony thought, ‘I will go over

and see this strange sight -

why the bush burns up.’

 

When the LORD saw that he

had gone over to look, God

called to him from within the bush

 

‘Tony! Tony!’ And Tony said,

‘Here I am.’ The Lord said

‘I have indeed seen the misery

 

of my people in the mountains.

I have heard them crying out

because of the carbon tax.

 

I am sending you to the mountains

to bring my people the mountain-dwellers

into safe Liberal seats. And this

 

will be the sign to you

that it is I who have sent you:

When you have spoken

 

of strange weather, you will continue

to deny climate change

on this mountain.’ Tony

 

said to God, ‘Suppose they ask me

why all the flames? Then what shall I

tell them?’ God said to Tony

‘I AM WHO I AM.’ This

is what you are to say

to the Australian public, ‘I AM

 

has sent me to you

to save you from the carbon tax.

(yet when Tony said, I AM WHO

 

I AM, Shorten, unconvinced said,

“Mean you, Tony, yourself or myself

or let’s not bring politics or religion

 

into this, thou upstart poet of

Honi Soit.”) The LORD said, ‘The elders

of Australia will listen to you.

 

Say to them, “Let me take

a three-day journey  into the wilderness,

and proclaim from the mount

 

that climate change is crap.”’ So you will

shrug your shoulders at the wonders

I will perform on your land

 

and so you will wonder at the

scorching summer, and so your people

will plunder the desert.’

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Faces behind the rhetoric http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/faces-behind-the-rhetoric/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/faces-behind-the-rhetoric/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 04:50:24 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8605

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There are few occasions when we are confronted by the realisation of just how large and fragmented the world is, and how we form a tiny flicker in its bizarre conjoinment. We live in realities, where the security, comfort and freedom we take for granted is so directly parallel to someone else’s suffering and helplessness.

Last week I met an Iranian refugee couple that had been released from detention a while ago. After a short stay in STUCCO, they were invited back by fellow residents to share their story with the student community.

My interest in attending the talk, put bluntly, was at best a feel-good act in the superficial face of humanity. I am not an activist, nor have I actively taken part in the ongoing conversations on human rights and refugee politics.

I’d heard about the couple from a friend who was helping them find accommodation. They had, in a nutshell, fled Iran out of fear of persecution, and arrived at Christmas Island by boat from Indonesia, after which they were transferred to Darwin, Adelaide and finally, Sydney.

On the day of our visit, my friend carried some books in his bag to give to the woman – copies of Sylvia Plath and Agatha Christie – which she accepted almost emphatically. That she would be interested in reading western literature surprised me – a symptom of the discourse surrounding refugees and asylum seekers as uneducated, unaccustomed and illegal that pervades the narratives cobbled together by the Australian media.

And yet, when I shook their hand and introduced myself, it was maybe the most anticlimactic, median exchange of greetings, because they appeared to be no different to me. They were both young – in their early 30s maybe, well educated and quite good-looking. He is a civil engineer, she a lecturer and academic. Both were dressed casually: a rough pair of jeans with a sporty tee and running shoes.

Perhaps the one thing that stood out between them and us was something my friend described to me perfectly – a kind of misery, etched into their faces. They were composed, polite and welcoming, but they were worn out from exhaustion.

Throughout our meeting, I remained silent. I didn’t want to be patronising or voyeuristic, but mostly, I didn’t really know what to say. As my friend conversed with them in Persian, he would occasionally turn to me and translate what was being said, largely for my benefit.

Even so, my silence was eroded with the realisation of just how scarce and vulnerable human dignity was for them, as they stood in front of their crowd, ready to relive their moments of pain with the determination to tell their story.

In between YouTube videos that brusquely exposed the chaos and calamity in the streets of Iran’s cities with the killing and beating of unarmed protestors, he described his fight for the injustices of child labour and stifled speech.

In his solemn and sombre state, he reflected, “You don’t know how lucky you are to have the freedom to do and say what you want in this county.”

She spoke of her pursuit for education and her passion for teaching – stories about her childhood dream to become a university professor, her curiosity to learn about every religion, gender and sexuality, and her desire to impart independent thought and reasoning on her students.

“I didn’t want them to end up like sheep in a herd.”

She described the inexplicable pain she felt in her legs from squatting for eight hours as they hid in a truck full of people in Indonesia, waiting to flea the fear, waiting to get on the boat.

In her eloquent yet emotionally distraught state, she made a single plea that night: “Please don’t call us criminals. We were just like you – we lived a comfortable life back home, but we didn’t have any freedom. That’s why we had to do this.”

To risk one’s life and livelihood, to leave behind all loved ones indefinitely, and to embark on a journey no less fraught with danger – these are not decisions that one makes lightly or willingly.

But fear serves no place for those people for whom the ‘rule of law’ presents a very real threat to the fundamental idea of freedom. In their devotion to human rights and human dignity, they point out the differences between acts of decency and barbarism in our world.

And yet, there is no light at the end of the tunnel: the couple are haunted by their past, and continue to be treated with contempt. They yearn for their family back home, but have given up comfort for conscience. And when the government or the media frames the discourse around refugees with terms like “illegals”, “detainees” or even “transferees,” their helplessness falls deaf on the ears of many and turns into a distorted myth.

But sending them back to their country is not an option – it should never be, because people are not herds of sheep, and they deserve not to be treated as so.

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Mass debating pay http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/mass-debating-pay/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/mass-debating-pay/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 04:46:51 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8602 ]]> Some coaches urge on their teams with acid put-downs; others try to encourage them with honeyed praise. One of my high school debating coaches was a little different. Someday, he would say, our weekly sacrifice of Friday nights and social respectability would be rewarded with what he only ever referred to as the “package”. His eyes growing starry with dollar signs, he would describe debating coaching’s genius hourly rates. Perhaps if we pushed ourselves we might even land a job at King’s, where the health insurance was all-inclusive and the CabCharge vouchers seemed to be thrown around like confetti. The included parking space was all the more attractive precisely because none of us – coach included – could drive.

David was almost certainly exaggerating when he described Parramatta’s fertile pastures, but the striking thing is that he can’t have been exaggerating by much. Bluntly, the debating economy is absurd. An entry-level coach at a selective school that runs a comparatively tight financial ship, such as Sydney Girls High, can expect to be paid somewhere in the region of $45 to $50 an hour. The even more ridiculous thing is that this is considered selling oneself short. The more privileged and private the school, the more extravagant the wages, until exclusive GPS schools like Scots and Shore are reputed to pay more than $120 an hour to some of their coaches, with one or two even rumoured to pay coaches on an annual retainer well into five figures for five hours’ work a week.

How did the market decide that teaching small children to be sophists – which many coaches sheepishly admit they’d do for free – should be valued at more than six times the minimum wage? Part of the reason lies in the fact that some of these schools simply have an awful lot of cash to throw around, but even at the richest schools sports coaches are paid at much more reasonable rates of around $20 an hour. Moreover, when there are comparative few schools which can devote so much money and effort to debating (and many devote even more effort to concealing their more profligate pay rates, even from their own junior coaches), you would assume that debating would be an employer’s market. Part of it comes from multiple concurrent debating competitions each seeking coaches and adjudicators, and fierce competition from law firms who also believe that bullshitting is an employable skill, but neither of these factors explain why Sydney’s debating coaches should be paid about two times the wage of their Melbourne equivalents.

The truth is that – despite being an overwhelmingly pro-market group of people, with a union (NSWDU) operating exclusively as a front organisation for the training of the state team and the purchase of yum cha – the debating economy is effectively controlled by a cartel of “co-ordinating coaches”, themselves paid up to $200 an hour. Since debating is a “specialist” activity, these co-ordinators make the decision to hire or fire with minimal school oversight, meaning that the market for this type of labour is limited to those who know particular co-ordinators in the very small and embarrassingly incestuous debating community. This cartel does not in any way set out to be as such. While undoubtedly there is a degree of nepotism, for co-ordinators overwhelmingly see themselves as choosing the coaches best able to win debates, and adjudicators often prove them right against schools with more limited budgets. But there lies the problem. Since the same community of current and former coaches are also employed to decide what is good and bad debating, the labyrinthine set of standards they create to mirror the community’s favourite mannerisms effectively lock those not “in the know” out of the market. It is from here that several bizarre fads of high school debating arise, including an odd fascination with libertarianism and the weirdly specific verbal crutch “problematic”, now stripped of all subtlety and life to simply mean “bad”. Moreover, since adjudicator’s pay rates rise in lockstep with those paid to coaches, it is in their interest to reduce the labour supply by maintaining those norms.

What are the results of this unconscious cartel? The first is that schools which are unable to pay such exorbitant rates are simply priced out of the competition, and thus competitions are won – each and every year – by the schools able to pay for the best coaches. (Even in public school competitions, elite inner-city selectives like Fort Street and Sydney Boys receive an unfair advantage, since their predominantly higher-SES parents are better able to pay debating subscriptions and thus afford debating’s wages.) The second is that a terrifying amount of money is spent on supporting coaches’ expensive habits, money that in the case of worse-off private and public schools could almost certainly be better spent improving facilities and reducing class sizes.

Markets are highly efficient at catering to consumer demand. Unfortunately, when that demand is culturally conditioned by the desires of the dominant economic force, it distorts prices to the point where there may as well not be a market at all.

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Opposing government homophobia http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/opposing-government-homophobia/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/opposing-government-homophobia/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 04:41:26 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8595

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This year, Tony Abbott won an election with a ‘mandate’ that included racism, sexism, climate skepticism, and the idea that our marriage rights are nothing more than a ‘fad’. This new regime is coupled with a series of state Coalition governments that are waiting to prosecute their conservatism without federal opposition from the Greens.

Already, Abbott has enacted refugee policies using his executive power that will place those fleeing to Australia from homophobic countries in great peril, pledged to repeal anti-hate speech laws and proposed cuts to public services that can only be harmful to our community. In less than nine months, Tony Abbott shall no longer have to contend with the challenges presented by the Greens in the Senate and will pass legislation with little to no oversight within the parliamentary system.

At the moment, Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) is the only group in NSW that consistently mobilises large amounts of people despite the criticism it receives from groups like Australian Marriage Equality (AME). CAAH has, from its inception, taken on causes which other groups found too marginal to advocate and this begun with marriage equality which only after this consistent agitation became popular enough for lobbyists to much later coalesce into AME and the machine which elected Alex Greenwich to parliament. Over the years, this taking up of ‘radical’ ideas has seen CAAH stand up for queer refugees, victims of police brutality and harassment at Mardi Gras, and endorse actions for sex and gender diverse rights amongst other things.

caah

This agitation and tendency toward mass action is integral to most of the progress gained in Australia, including better conditions for our workers and protections for our precious environment. Gay liberation movements within the United States have resorted to similar levels of agitation in order to achieve its goals. In 1969, a community persecuted by police and frustrated by the lack of progress achieved by lobbyists instigated the Stonewall Riots. Derided by gay lobbyists as counter-productive, the powerful actions at the Stonewall Riots, after which our own Oxford Street bar is named, led to the birth of activist groups across the world that are directly responsible for the decriminalisation of homosexuality. This is echoed in our own history of queer rights, with the original Mardi Gras condemned by the more moderate elements of our community who now profit so greatly from it.

These divisions within queer communities on the issue of opposition versus submission can still be seen quite clearly today around the issue of how to respond to an LNP government. Over the course of the federal election, AME has offered endorsement to LNP candidates who support marriage equality regardless of their views on queer refugees, HIV funding or hate speech and now condemned CAAH for its explicit opposition to Abbott.

Regardless of community division, a rally and a movement is much more than a popularity poll or a feel good exercise. It is a series of actions that provide the building blocks for change which, like our sexualities and genders, do not always please everyone in the mainstream. It is important that we build movements that push agendas rather than encourage passive support. CAAH’s recent anti-Abbott action was the beginning of this push and hopefully, like Mardi Gras, an opposition to government homophobia can also move on from community division to one with immeasurable traction.

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Tearing down the walls http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/tearing-down-the-walls/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/tearing-down-the-walls/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 04:28:22 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8592

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William Bugmy is an Aboriginal man who has spent most of his life in prison. Growing up in rural NSW, he witnessed his father stab his mother fifteen times, and never learned to read or write. He has committed various offences, most recently an assault on a prison guard. A recent High Court decision found that the disadvantages of his background should be given full weight at every sentencing. A series of prison terms have only had a negative impact of Bugmy’s already difficult life.

Imprisonment is the main tool of our criminal justice system, but prisons are ineffective at reducing crime. Prisons target the poor, create re-offenders, and serve the interests of big business. Prisons should be abolished.

***

Prisons are meant to serve as a deterrent and are thus intentionally terrifying. Inmates live in fear of guards and other prisoners. David*, who has served sentences in NSW and ACT commented that guards turned a blind eye to prisoner violence: “There would be a lot of incidents of people banging their heads on the toiled bowl, for example, or slipping down the stairs, you know what I mean?”

Female prisoners are prone to sexual abuse, at a rate five times higher than male prisoners. Prisoners have little access to their friends, families, education or recreation. Almost half of all deaths in prison are suicides.

Despite brutal conditions, evidence shows that severity of sentences and conditions in prison have no deterrent effect. Tom Bathurst, Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court, says that there is no persuasive evidence that deterrence works for the majority of crimes. Bathurst claims that the idea that criminals conduct “a rational assessment of their planned illegal behaviour’’ bears ‘’little resemblance to reality’’.

Nobody commits a crime like drug dealing, theft, rape or even murder, if they think they will go to prison. Since they do not think they will be punished at all, the threat of long sentences is no deterrent.

A higher proportion of the world’s population is in prison than at any point in history. In June 2012 there were 29,383 prisoners in Australia, costing the government $3 billion a year, not counting asylum seekers held in detention centres.

Prisoners are isolated from the outside world, have their incomes cut off, and then are released into society again with new criminal contacts. A major problem according to David is that minor offenders are lumped in with dangerous ones. “Many people that are in prison should not be there. I was there with a lot of people who were in for drink driving and minor charges, you know? Just repeat offenders that were not all there in the head. They should have been given other alternatives, other rehabilitation possibilities. Instead they were given 12 months to think about it with a pack of animals” Prison does not teach prisoners to behave, it teaches them how to be criminals. In England, some prisons have a reoffending rate of 70%. Over half of Australian prisoners have served a previous sentence.

Almost a quarter of prisoners are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent. An Indigenous person is 15 times more likely to go to prison than a non-Indigenous person. They are especially prone to abuse or neglect by guards and police causing deaths in custody. Most prisoners come from similar backgrounds: low socioeconomic status and poor education.

When poor families have their breadwinners taken away, they are plunged further into poverty. Upon release, a criminal is barred from many professions and will be generally discriminated against. With few job prospects and new criminal contacts gained in prison, it is inevitable that many former inmates turn to crime and thus a permanent criminal underclass is created by the prison system.

***

A higher proportion of the world’s population is in prison than at any point in history. In June 2012 there were 29,383 prisoners in Australia, costing the government $3 billion a year, not counting asylum seekers held in detention centres.

Australia is increasingly following the American trend of privatising prisons. Many facilities in Australia are run by corporations like Serco, G4S, and GEO Group.

Higher prison counts and tougher sentences do not provide a deterrent effect to crime, as statistics attest. The prison lobby is aware of this, but their ultimate goal is profit, not the public good. High inmate counts are good business for private security companies, and there is an incentive for those companies to lobby and influence government policy.

This influence of private security companies on public policy is often called the prison-industrial complex. Lobbying in the US is far more brazen than in Australia, but the pattern is the same. In the US, lobby groups funded by security corporations make private donations to key figures from both the Democrat and Republican parties. Senators and congress-people who sit on committees related to immigration and law enforcement are specifically targeted. For example, New York Democrat Chuck Schumer received at least $100 000 from the prison lobby in 2012. He is chair of the Rules Committee, chair of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Enforcement, member of the Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, and Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts.

silverwater-jail-dataIn Australia, Serco for example employs a team of paid lobbyists and donates money to both the Liberals and Labor. Serco runs three regular prisons and nine detention centres including Christmas Island.

These donations encourage policy makers to introduce mandatory detention for asylum seekers and to enforce drug prohibition. It encourages government spokespeople to foster a false public belief that prisons are a solution to the problems of crime. In reality, the prison-industrial complex works precisely because it doesn’t provide a solution – profit is made by increasing crime and incarceration. Unfortunately, lobbying works – the US now imprisons a higher proportion of its own citizens than any other country.

***

Reforms can be made like ending privatisation and focusing on rehabilitation instead of retribution. Rather than being an instrument for revenge, prisons would be better off focusing on reforming inmates. Trade apprenticeships, counseling, and drug rehabilitation programs go some way towards reducing the rate of reoffending, turning otherwise hopeless people into productive members of society. A good example of this new style of prison is Bastoy Island in Norway, where even murderers live with minimum security, learn trades and have ample leisure time. The rate of recidivism is only 30%, compared to 43.7% in Australia. The prison reform movement has done good work in shifting the focus of prisons away from simple punishment.

I spoke to Brett Collins, coordinator of Justice Action, an Australian prisoner advocacy group. Collins was previously an inmate himself, having first gone to prison at age seventeen, and later serving ten years out of a seventeen year sentence. He then gained an Arts degree in Law and Economics from the University of Queensland and a postgraduate diploma in Criminology at USYD. He describes the prison system as “unfair, unreasonable and counterproductive”. His organisation seeks to improve the lives of prisoners through relentless lobbying. Despite the short term victories that Justice Action has won, the ultimate goal is not simple reform but the abolition of the penal system as we know it.

***

Almost a quarter of prisoners are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent. An Indigenous person is 15 times more likely to go to prison than a non-Indigenous person.

Rehabilitating criminals is difficult in a prison environment. The power imbalance between guards and inmates lends itself to abuse. The isolation from society and concentration of criminals together provide an unsafe environment for prisoners to learn.

Reform measures are worth taking, but will not fix the fundamental problem that our criminal justice system is backwards. Instead of locking people up once they have done something, we should focus money and attention on fixing the root causes of crime. It costs an average of $75 000 a year to keep somebody in prison. If that money were spent on schools, welfare, and providing jobs then the conditions which create crime would be minimized and we would have no need for prisons. Simply legalizing and regulating currently illicit drugs would take thousands of people out of the criminal justice system so that we could instead provide treatment and rehabilitation.

***

A focus on social programs and wealth redistribution would prevent many crimes, and a system focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment would prevent minor criminals becoming serious ones. However, when it comes to very serious crimes, it is hard to see alternatives to a prison system.

Educating people about respect and consent is a better approach to rape prevention than punishment after the fact, but some people will never get the message. Most murderers can be rehabilitated, but there are rare serial killers who will always commit violence if they are left to their own devices. David stresses that prisons do more harm than good for most prisoners, but that there are some “career criminals” who are “unimaginable in society”.

Unfortunately some form of detention will always be necessary for the extremely dangerous, but it should be a last resort, and it does not need to be cruel.

***

For the overwhelming majority of crimes, prison is a waste of money. Even a reform-focused prison is destructive, breaking up families and communities and creating criminal networks on the inside. Tough prison sentences are ineffective at reducing crime, but the prison-industrial complex is geared towards failed policy. We should spend less on policing, trialing, stigmatising and imprisoning poor people. We should redirect our resources into directly preventing poverty, giving opportunities for criminals to reform, and educating people about sexism, homophobia and racism. With the prison population increasing by 4% a year, we are running out of time.

 

* Names have been changed to preserve anonymity 

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Mise-en-seen http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/mise-en-seen/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/mise-en-seen/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 03:52:42 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8534 ]]> Facebook seen

Cartoon: Rose McEwen

In 1943, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote in The Little Prince that “The essential is invisible to the eye”. I doubt he knew the extent to which the precise opposite (or something like it; bear with me) should be true in 2013: that our eyes be invisible to the essential. The essential, in this case, being Facebook messages.

70 years after de Saint-Exupéry penned his nugget of genius, I melt away the afternoon in front of my Mac, refusing to open a Facebook group message thread that has been buzzing with notifications for the past 72 hours. Meanwhile, simultaneously, my Facebook inbox is littered with prematurely ceased conversation threads, evidence of flaky acquaintanceships, and an e-trail of people who I now know to avoid in public, lest the deafening levels of silence in our virtual friendship permeate the meatspace. Although it’s possible to mark a message as “unread”, this brings an extra level of neuroticism to our online interactions.

In a world of ‘read’ receipts and surprisingly nerve-wracking “Seen: 11:37” updates, there is little space to reply to messages in our own time. We are increasingly being expected, and inadvertently pressured, to be constantly on the ball with replies. This is likely the culprit for our ever-increasing obsession with being plugged in, contactable, and active on social media and email all day. Long gone are the low-pressure days of taking your sweet time to get back to people, and nonchalantly waiting for someone to reply to you. For they have now paved the way for anxiously awaiting replies once we know our sent messages have been read.

When it comes to obsessing over ‘seen’, even I am red-handed with guilt, as I’m sure many of us are. I often catch myself checking back to message threads, curious about whether or not my recipient has opened the last message I sent them. This year, particularly, when chasing stories for Honi and messaging people outside of my friendship circle, it’s become an unshakeable crutch that I use to gauge how to approach a story, whether or not Facebook is an appropriate method of contact, or even wondering what the fuck a person is doing awake at “[Seen:] 04:12”. I’ve become a monster.

This is yet another inevitable installment of technology’s increasingly overbearing tentacles that reach into the different facets of our lives and begin to replace limbs that we didn’t even know we needed. It’s only a matter of time before we forget what it was like before we knew exactly when people had seen our messages. Relying on the ‘seen’ feature – in Facebook, text messages, and even applications like Snapchat (‘opened’ vs. simply ‘delivered’) – will soon be as normalised as the act of sending messages itself when we consider the dynamics of e-communication. In fact, it’s only a matter of time before we’re all microchipped, uniformed, lobotomised shells walking in time to the monotonous beat of our Orwellian State’s omnipotent, controlling drum. We’ll forget what it was like before “Seen” – before social media and invasive technology controlled every facet of our existence. In the great words of Abe Simpson: “I used to be with it. Then they changed what it was, and now what I’m with isn’t it, and what’s it seems weird and scary to me.

And it’s only a matter of time, non-Facebook users; Quoth Abe: “It’ll happen to you, too”.

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Breaking the glass ceiling with an M16 http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/breaking-the-glass-ceiling-with-an-m16/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/breaking-the-glass-ceiling-with-an-m16/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 03:45:12 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8531 ]]> “You turn on the television and I can’t really explain to you the feeling that you get… Well… You become numb.”

An ongoing struggle that has lasted nearly 70 years, the Israeli-Palestine conflict has become quite tedious. But for locals, it’s another level of desensitisation entirely. “Everyday there’s a terrorism attack and 30 or 40 or 50 people are killed or injured badly… you just become numb.”

It’s midnight on a Friday and I’m Skyping Shahar Kichler – a 23-year-old woman living in Israel. Her English is average and she is finding it hard to articulate to me just how strongly she feels towards the monotony that is this age-old battle. In Hebrew, her name means ‘Dawn’ and to reduce the cultural barrier she asks me to call her that.

To their audience, Israel attempts to project an image of progressive views and modern European life. In 2011 Tel Aviv held its first fashion week in 20 years. The controversial Twitter and Facebook accounts of the government are used as a tool of self-defence against Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movements around the world. The rationale behind these cultural and technological developments may be questionable, but there is no doubt that the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) is the most progressive in the world, at least statistically speaking.

The IDF boasts a strong female presence among its ranks with one third of its forces and 51% of its officers as women. In stark contrast 13.9% of the Australian Defence Force is made up of women, and the UK and America are only slightly behind that. Since the founding of the state in 1948, Israel is the only country in the world with a mandatory service period for all women.

Shahar said that it was something she always knew she’d have to do, but that didn’t stop her parents trying to protect her from it. “There’s a sentence that parents say to their children in Israel when they are young… ‘don’t worry, when you grow up you won’t have to go to the army’… but that never happens. This is the dream – it’s a fantasy.” A parent’s over-protectiveness of their child has a different meaning in a war torn country.

Shahar grew up in Ramat Gan, a city ten minutes from Tel Aviv. She was born into a war and because of the frequent terrorist attacks, wasn’t allowed much as a child.

Terrorists killing people with knives, bomb blasts, and a fear of public transport – Shahar paints a grim picture of Israel that isn’t too far from ordinary assumptions of the place. After finishing high school, students have to take tests and put in their preferences for which military unit they’d like to serve in. They have many options to serve in the IDF from ordinary occupations like marines, builders, and nurses, to more complex ones like working for rescue missions, or in intelligence. But one striking development in the IDF is that as of 2000 the Military Service law states explicitly that women have equal rights as men to serve in any role in the defence force.

Shahar was put in the education unit and was posted as a social worker in her mandatory two years. She helped disadvantaged kids and young criminals start fresh and helped them develop a new way of thinking.

“Think about when you were 18… how many responsibilities did you have in your life? You had nothing. I got to be a social worker when I was 18 without any education or anything.” Sometimes she was brutally candid with her responses. Shahar started speaking about some of her experiences serving in the army – other soldiers throwing chairs at her, men swearing at her because they disagreed with what she said, but these were all justifiable for her: “It’s educating in the end. It makes you grow stronger”.

Shahar had a number of passionate opinions, but it wasn’t until her views on the actual Israeli-Palestine conflict came up that she became incredibly emotional. Her solution was to build a big wall that would separate “us from them”. She argued that the West Bank wasn’t Israel’s to take. “We took it from them in a war… okay, point taken. But now we can give it back and we need to move on.” But the worst part for her was the fact that she did not have a choice. She didn’t want a connection to Palestine but she was forced to have one. “Why does an 18 year old girl need to know how to shoot a fucking gun? I don’t want to shoot a gun.”

The military is central to Israel and Shahar argues that people in the defence force have much better opportunities than those who aren’t. It’s almost as though it’s the only platform that gives women the equal opportunity they have been fighting for. A number of Shahar’s friends are still in the military, serving longer than their mandatory period requests, but she decided to leave and study to become a copywriter or a writer for an advertising agency. When I asked her if she thought that the gender equality in the military transferred to other walks of life in Israel she simply said, “you just need to be ambitious or aggressive enough when you need to.” It’s obvious the IDF has given her enough training in that.

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The festival of fire http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/the-festival-of-fire/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/the-festival-of-fire/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 03:41:44 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8586 ]]> Burn 6

Photo: Hayley Scrivenor

A right turn past the umpteenth paddock of Patterson’s Curse and we glimpsed, in the distance, carnival tents in a thicket of trees. There is nothing else out here in Matong State Forest. “This must be the place.” The man at the entrance to our Never, Neverland takes our tickets and asks us to exit the vehicle and step through the ‘Welcome Home’ door quaintly attached to a single wall out here in the middle of nowhere. I was ‘Home’.

Burning Seed, the Australian version of the American lifestyle and art festival Burning Man, was a week of blissful whimsy, sumptuous light displays, nostalgic sounds, and majestic sculptures. Burning Man runs on ten principles: Gifting, Decommodification, Radical-inclusion, Radical Self-reliance, Radical self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leave No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy. These principles penned by the Founder Larry Harvey in 2004 are to be abided by as all attendees attempt to live as a loving and functioning community for a week.

Soon after entering, we passed the Woman: a giant wooden effigy to be burnt at the end of the festival.  She was immense, she was radiant, the first ever female effigy featured at a Burning event. A space was found next to the Red Earth Brewery, our tents were mounted, and we installed our own dome to rival one 50 meters up from us. Walking around, people were at ease to smile, make eye contact and engage in small talk. This talk, though small, was a big leap from Sydney life where the person sitting next to you on the bus callously pretends you don’t exist despite the blood pouring from the gash on your arm acquired when trying to climb over them into the vacant window seat. Meeting new people, learning of their stories, growing to care for them – this was idyllic.

Across the festival grounds were themed camps: scattered oases offering workshops, music, activities, and beverage. One of the best was the Trash Mansion camp which was furnished as a derelict mansion and featured two luxuriously decorated bars with skull shaped beer tap handles, as well as a stage, lounges, chandeliers, and paintings. I have many a fond memory from Trash Mansion, from life drawing male models to dancing and hula hooping the night away, to my special experience as one of the 20 Burners out of 1000s provided with a tasting of the magical fruit. We sat cross-legged like 6 year olds – interesting angles were observed of the nude gentleman of the party – and were gifted a tablet of concentrated Synsepalum dulcificum, a berry which causes sour foods to taste sweet. We were taking shots of vinegar, and ravenously devouring grapefruit, lime, and lemons, as if famine had struck.

Burning Seed runs on the philosophy of gifting. I was freely gifted luxurious soy lattés each breakfast from a Nowra couple, free gin & tonics all day at the Mint Country Club, and endless whisky shots at The Loco Saloon as my friends lost at Black Jack. This gifting was quite the curiosity. When I wasn’t busy receiving gifts I contributed words to the Wooden Temple, built to pay respect and to be burnt in silence. I also experienced a rebirth travelling through the wooden vagina sculpture. I attended a knot-tying workshop, experienced outdoor cinema, and fell silent in awe of a shooting star. Saturday evening was THE NIGHT: the one you had been daily siesta-ing for, the one where you knew you would not stop till well after dawn. Gathered around at a safe distance from the Woman we marveled at the fire jugglers, and then fell collectively into raptures when the pyrotechnicians set her aflame, her arms, breasts, and skirt. Burning bright, the sky heavy with ash, she then fell and a rupture of celebratory noise exploded into the night, just in time for the nudity. Following tradition we and the nudists walked, or dangerously danced, a revolution around her burning embers. The night was a blur of dancing, lights, and elation. The day after, I approached the Woman’s remains and collected a handful of her ashes. Such a grand, imposing figure now reduced to a pile of grey. I was humbled.

I was still not ready to leave this land of nymphs and dreams, but an overdue essay brought me back.

Burn 5

Photo: Hayley Scrivenor

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Kip off the old block http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/kip-off-the-old-block/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/kip-off-the-old-block/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 03:41:09 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8528 ]]> Attachment-1

Kip Williams wrote, directed and starred in a one-man play called The Dismissal while he studied at the University of Sydney. The first act went for exactly an hour. The second ended after sixty consecutive seconds of silence from the audience. If at any point an audience member tried to leave he yelled “fuck you” at them so gutturally that finishing the show’s two-week run necessitated vocal steroids. Other members of the Sydney University Dramatic Society disliked his auteur-ship so much that his posters were vandalised.

I find it hard to imagine the 25-year-old who has just bought me a beer pissing anyone off. He is intelligent, thoughtful and polite. For a man with a resume few in the theatre industry can dream of, he is remarkably humble. He likes to direct plays in whose words he finds a musical quality. It is no surprise then, that he is drawn to opera, to Dylan Thomas, and to Shakespeare. His family is musical. Williams is the only one of his siblings who did not study at the Conservatorium. He jokes that he might have gone the same way if his voice hadn’t broken awfully at 15.

Williams’ most recent production, for the Sydney Theatre Company, is a pared back Romeo and Juliet. He adapted the work himself, reducing the cast size and subtly altering roles, in order to focus on a patriarchy that robs women of their expression and autonomy. Music and movement are our entree into his re-imagination of Verona. The young men of the play have nothing to do but drink and fuck, and amidst this, the violence which drives the tragedy seems inescapable. In his director’s note, Williams explains that he has placed more emphasis on Capulet encouraging the marriage of Paris to Juliet.

I ask him if he finds it hard, as a man, to make theatre that captures the experience of women. He describes himself as a feminist and that he thinks he has a right to comment on issues of sexism, but adds that Juliet (Eryn Jean Norvill) was an incredible collaborative resource. His imagination, to which our conversation often returns, is the only thing he lets limit his creative process. When reading Romeo and Juliet he saw “not a world split into two distinct halves, but rather a portrait of a singular universe”. Gender becomes the subject, and as Juliet delivers the play’s prologue, gun to head, his imagination is realised.

When asked what new theatre he is most excited by, Williams is enthusiastic about productions that re-imagine classic works and draw out themes of gender and class. It is there in Romeo and Juliet. One has to imagine that Macbeth, his next production, will also deliver in this regard.

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The kindness of strangers http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/the-kindness-of-strangers/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/the-kindness-of-strangers/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 03:34:53 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8525 ]]> Cartoon: Mikaela Bartels

Cartoon: Mikaela Bartels

Two lessons: strangers can sometimes be kind, and saying “thank you” is not hard. One time I helped a man push his car 200 metres uphill, and he barely acknowledged my existence. Another time I helped an old man in a broken wheelchair make it to the hospital, also uphill. Once my use was expended, he shrugged me off like I was the one that stank of shit. I’m sure this happens all the time; compassion and neighbour-loving are the foundations of most conceptions of morality, and humans are generally ungrateful and self-entitled beings. Sometimes, though, when you go above-and-beyond, you want to be thanked. You want that pat on the shoulder.

A week ago I was walking my girlfriend to the train station. From around the corner we heard banging, and when we got there we saw a middle aged Chinese couple scurrying around frantically, apparently trying to gain access to the station’s solitary toilet cubicle. She was yelling and clutching her stomach; he was holding her and looking concerned. Seeing us, the woman cried out asking if we knew how to open the restroom door. I told them it’s closed at night, and thinking this was just a case of Number One’s offered directions to a nearby patch of scrub where she might subtly pop a squat. The couple ran off as the train arrived and I saw my lady off.

Homeward bound I came across the couple again, even more helpless than before. My first thought was to offer the woman my bathroom. My second thought was that that’s a very strange thing to offer a stranger. My third thought was that they might be frightened by such an uncouth suggestion from a bearded man with no shoes – the egg would be on my face. I looked into her eyes. I saw the desperation, the torment within. “Would you like to use my bathroom? I live round the corner”, I said. “Yes please!” – and we were on our way. Post-haste we limped-jogged-skipped, me attempting to make conversation, her clutching her abdomen, him helping her walk, looking gaunt. Pleasantries were not on the agenda.

Nearly there, I tried to explain the situation: shitty student house, messy bathroom with no light, candles usually suffice, etc., but the language barrier and notable urgency of the situation made this difficult. Once inside I ran ahead, and in the bathroom illuminated only by the fluorescent tubes of the kitchen I tried to light a match for a candle – alas! A party had been thrown the night before and the flaccid, sodden matchbox fell apart in my hands like wet leaves. With no time to find a lighter, I made way for the poor woman. I leaped from the bathroom to the kitchen in the same moment her bottom hit the seat. Before you could say “extra mayonnaise, thanks!” the not-inconspicuous effects of an upset stomach assaulted the porcelain and seemed to echo around the entire house. I became instantly uncomfortable.

With the bathroom door still wide open to provide light from the kitchen, the woman’s husband stood to attention outside to provide protection and moral support. I busied myself in the kitchen, rummaging in the fridge drawer, rearranging vegetables and beers for several minutes, just hoping it would end. But the bowels would not stop churning and she continued to splat, triggering a flashback to when I shat myself on a 20 hour train ride in India after some funky chaat. The kitchen was no longer safe. Politely excusing myself with an awkward, undignified smile to the husband, I darted to the living room, distracting myself with a picture book about the universe. Planets materialize, stars collapse, a squirt and a groan of pain comes from down the hall. A black hole absorbs a galaxy, a meteoroid is destroyed as it enters the atmosphere, a wince is barely audible over a fart and a dribble.

The universe forms, destroys itself, the moaning stops, and finally she emerges, timid. I did my best to be civil, offering water, tea, fruit – it’s important to keep hydrated when you’ve got the shits! – but the pair were too polite (and probably ashamed) to take me up on it.

She hurriedly explained that their son will pick them up now, could I please text him my address? I obliged, continued offering hydration and sustenance to no avail. Very quickly they withdrew themselves from my household, a kilo or two lighter and looking at the ground. Twenty minutes later I was taking out the garbage and they were sitting there in the gutter, still waiting. I offer and awkward wave and a shrug, but I’m already forgotten.

And not a word of thanks.

 

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Take a walk on the wild side http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/take-a-walk-on-the-wild-side/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/take-a-walk-on-the-wild-side/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 03:34:04 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8583 ]]> cat 2

Photo: Andre Fenby

For Western backpackers accustomed to the steadfast regulations of their home countries, the reality of Parque Ambue Ari in Bolivia can be hard to believe.

But the closer one gets, the more word-of-mouth testaments and faded hostel flyers confirm that some 348km north of Santa Cruz is an animal refuge where volunteers ‘walk’ jaguars, pumas and ocelots, no qualifications necessary.

“I got hooked,” says Christian, a 21-year-old North American volunteer who ended up staying 14 months and working with every cat in the park as a cat coordinator. “You can’t do that anywhere else in the world for that cheap … it was definitely a crazy experience.”

Ambue Ari was set up in 2002 by the NGO Communidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY) with the support of British gap year organisation Quest Overseas. To work with one of its 26 jungle cats – typically abandoned or seized from illegal traffickers – volunteers need only commit to a 30-day minimum and pay 3400 bolivianos (around AU$17). That’s not to say it’s an easy ride; something my girlfriend Nicole and I found out when we decided to volunteer after hearing about the program in Argentina.

The park has no phone, internet or electricity. Volunteers sleep on hay mattresses and work 6 ½ days a week in tropical heat, tormented by hungry mosquitoes.  The day after we arrived, we were each assigned a puma: I was to look after a young, energetic cat named Koru, while Nicole would take Leo, an older animal known for keeping handlers out in the jungle until after sundown.

Every day except Sunday, I would walk out to Koru’s cage with my co-handler, Camila. After clipping two thick leads onto his collar, the three of us would walk a busy, mosquito-ridden jungle trail. There, Koru would watch capuchins leap dramatically from tree to tree, drag us in vain pursuit of scampering jungle animals, or simply tear the surrounding flora to shreds.

Photo: Andre Fenby

Photo: Andre Fenby

 

The prospect of being ‘jumped’ by overexcited cats was part of the job for many volunteers, especially when it came to Rupi, a large and boisterous jaguar known to knock people to the ground on a regular basis.

“We did some training and were giving a few points to watch out for,” says Martin, 30, the Irish backpacker once charged with escorting Rupi through the rainforest. “But nothing prepares you for a 9-foot, 180kg [sic] beast coming at you.”

While restraining a jaguar as powerful and strong-willed as Rupi – who “escaped” his cage more than once, according to Christian – isn’t a realistic option, we were instructed to be extra cautious with Koru. Amorphous rumours about Koru taking a chunk out of an ex-volunteer’s leg circulated the park, although that was surely an exaggeration. Surely.

One day in particular involved a few close calls. Koru first darted into the patuju (a native flower) then leapt out at me for a narrowly avoided waist-high tackle, and later bolted up a tree for an aerial attack, only to jump down sheepishly upon realising we were out of range.

Then, wising up, he walked slowly into the scrub to one of his resting spots. Camila couldn’t see him and asked me what he was doing.

”Nothing,” I said. ”He’s just sort of … staring at you.” Of course, the moment I said that Koru bolted from the bushes with intense speed and purpose. I jolted forward as he hit the end of his line, about a meter from Camila.

But, aside from one (terrifying) warning bite as I fumbled to unclip him for his dinner one afternoon, Koru never touched me in aggression. Surprisingly, one of the few incidents that occurred during my time involved Nicole’s puma, Leo, who had become agitated after too many changes in his routine.

“I have no idea how it was considered to be alright for [two] females, one with limited experience and the other with no experience, to be out on their own walking one of the biggest pumas in the park who is known to ‘jump’ its carers,” says Jesse, 28, who walked away from the incident with puncture wounds up her forearm. “It was completely irresponsible.”

After being treated by the resident vet – the nearest hospital is 48km from the park – Jesse stopped working with Leo. Despite her criticisms, she maintains she had a “a great time” and enjoyed experiencing something “almost unfathomable to my friends and family in Aus.”

Indeed, Australia is predictably strict in this regard. The Standards for Exhibiting Carnivores in NSW at least demand “adequately trained” persons handle such animals, a luxury Ambue Ari can’t afford any more than the Bolivian government can currently enforce.

But Fundraiser and Administrator of CIWY Emily Jesshope says Ambue Ari takes volunteer safety “extremely seriously”. “[Over the past year or so] we have formalised our emergency procedures, protocols and requirements,” says Jesshope. “If we deem that the risk to a volunteer becomes too high … then will stop that activity – e.g. it will become a non-contact cat.”

In an era characterised by what the World Wide Fund for Nature calls an “unprecedented spike” in the global illegal wildlife trade, it’s clear South America’s poorest country depends on CIWY, which receives no government support. And, while the Bolivian government has signalled it wants to stop Ambue Ari from letting inexperienced volunteers ‘walk’ unpredictable jungle animals, it remains to be seen whether this will come to fruition.

For now, Ambue Ari continues to provide both its volunteers and its cats a rehabilitation program only a place like Bolivia can offer.

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Letters to the Editors – Week 11 http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/letters-week-11-2/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/letters-week-11-2/#comments Fri, 18 Oct 2013 00:38:11 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8513 ]]> In defence of SULS

Dear Honi,

I write in response to last week’s article on SULS’ tax debt to clarify SULS’ position on some of the issues raised.

SULS receives annual sponsorship from corporate law firms as its main source of income. We receive around $160 000 each year, rather than the $350 000 claimed in the article. We don’t pretend that this isn’t a lot of money – as a student society, we are extremely fortunate to be in such a sound financial position. However, our relationship with corporate sponsors is mutually beneficial. Firms pay money to access students through careers events which SULS host. There is no pretense that the money that firms pay goes towards other SULS programs (including socials), but there is still a strong benefit for the firms as they recruit high numbers of Sydney Uni students. While the society cannot be categorised as ‘charitable’ by the ATO in light of this funding, all programs are planned and run by a tireless and unpaid Executive exclusively for the benefit of students.

This benefit extends to students forming and maintaining friendships through social events, such as Law Camp or Law Ball. It is important to clarify that a figure of $189 000 was not spent on socials in 2012, nor is the figure of $60 000 spent on law ball accurate or suggestive of financial recklessness or lavishness. Whilst in fact $110 000 was the gross expenditure on the 2013 ball, the net cost (event cost minus ticket sales) was around $9 000. With 700 attendees, this meant a cost to SULS of $13 per student, a cost considered reasonable by the Executive. When any campus society runs a ball or large social event, of course the gross expenditure will be high and this is countered by ticket sales. While expenditure on Law Ball in 2011 was higher than in recent years, it must be emphasised that SULS were not informed of the tax liability until the end of the 2011 Executive’s term. Naturally, a different course would have been taken had this been known.

As the article attested, the USU paid the bulk of the tax liability up front with an agreement that we would pay them back in instalments – and we are incredibly grateful for it. The discovery of the tax liability came as a complete surprise to the USU who audits SULS and to the SULS Executive. The USU paying this tax has allowed the burden of the liability to be spread over two or three years. Fortunately, the wide spectrum of SULS programs have not suffered because we have been more innovative with events, an attitude which reflects the fact that we are a student society.

The article’s closing statement that the USU funding will be spent on social justice programs or competitions (presumably rather than socials) must also be clarified. While the Socials portfolio receives more than any other portfolio on SULS, this does not mean that SULS considers socials more important than other programs. Rather, it reflects the reality that social events are costly. While a moot can be run by volunteer student convenors or our publications can be laid out by a student proficient in design programs, socials require that money be paid to an external group to administer the event. In 2013, as well as social events, SULS’ program has included over 15 corporate and non-corporate careers presentations, ten competitions, a women’s moot, numerous forums (covering issues such as Rape Culture, and Mental Health), weekly juvenile detention centre visits, two journals covering Social Justice and Women’s Issues respectively, a Road Trip to regional schools to discuss tertiary education, and a textbook exchange program.

Best wishes,

Isabelle Youssef, Arts/Law III

2013 President, Sydney University Law Society

 

Your brain can do better

Dear reader, I’m angry at you. I’m angry at the anti-intellectualism of our culture, and how even as uni students we let ourselves buy into it. Aren’t we smart, educated people? Shouldn’t we be jumping off the shelves to read books of philosophy, to play the piano, to learn a new language? And yet look at where our priorities lie. We’re squeamish about a $30-$40 newspaper/magazine subscription, yet we’re entirely satisfied with spending $50 – if not much, much more – on a single night out on booze. This is the TimeOut culture, where we’re only in it for a good time, for some mad beats, to effect the look of cool and fun and artsy and something ‘real’ and ‘authentic’. Where we relive our fantasies of Cabaret until we remember what happened when the Weimar Republic and all the singing and dancing ended. This is the culture that can afford to dedicate $18 – I still can’t believe it costs $18 – for a good cocktail, yet all the books and magazines are too expensive and burdensome. The Guardian Weekly is $5.50 a week and is sold at most newsagents, including the USU’s. Oh, it’s not a money issue; it’s just that it would just go unread because we’re oh so tragically short of time. Right, because the hours we spend on our phones are so worthwhile.

“Oh it’s all free online anyway,” you proclaim, as if money was the condition of eligibility for reading for your exulting eyes. Most of the best things in life are free, but tell me, when was the last time you went to the library, walked in the park, the public museum, the beach or played sport with friends? Listening to Yo-Yo-Ma play Bach’s first cello suite is free on YouTube, did you do that recently too?

I get it if you don’t share my love for the tangible qualities of a newspaper or a book, but do you not thrill at discovery, at curiosity, at learning something new? That at any moment you could discover something about a place or time you weren’t even aware of? You don’t always have to read, but listen to a podcast, create something, even watch TV if it’s good enough. We can agree that ‘high art’ is bullshit, but that sentiment relies upon some other form of art or meaning replacing it. Some form of creativity and otherness beyond the alienation that is popular culture; this corporate leviathan that urges us beyond all else “party down and have a good time”. Fuck off, I’ll have as bad a time as I want to, and when it’s a good time don’t think I’m asking you for consultation. Get off your arse and get a subscription, read some Foucault, or just do something; your brain deserves better.

Angus Reoch, BPESS (Honours) IV

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Porny Soit http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/porny-soit/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/porny-soit/#comments Wed, 16 Oct 2013 05:20:17 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8482

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Screen shot 2013-10-13 at 10.32.11 PM

I recently bought myself a vibrator off the internet because I was drunk and wanted an orgasm. It arrived a few days later. I got my boyfriend to help me figure out how to operate it and I used it for the first time a few days later, while watching Game of Thrones. I read on the Internet while idly Googling that you know if you’ve had an orgasm, and that it feels a bit like needing to go to the toilet. I think I know that I had an orgasm with my vibrator the second time I used it and a few times subsequent but because I only think I know I’m not really sure. All I can be sure of is that it felt way better than sex does and that I feel gipped that my boyfriend cums every time we have sex but that I never do. It’s not because he’s inattentive (he’s the opposite), I think it’s just me. The porn doesn’t make me feel better about this situation because the woman cums three times, but I’ll get to that later.

That is all by the by, because this article is about my experience as a female in her early twenties watching porn for the first time. As I write it, I’m drunk on my bed with a just-used vibrator next to me wearing quite a conservative dress but no underpants. I’ve just snapchatted a picture of my vibrator sitting on a computer to my friend because I wanted to not write this thing. I’m listening to Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ over and over again.

My friend picked the video for me. It lasts 33 minutes and 45 seconds, which is far longer than I expected. It’s a stellar bit of interracial pornography hosted by youjizz.com and featuring an actress by my mother’s name. When I texted her to let her know she shared her name with a porn star, she replied: “That was me a couple of years ago.” It was funny, but also quite weird because it means I’m thinking of her as I watch the video. I wonder what the actress’ mother would think if she saw her daughter baying like a cow as she gets fucked for half an hour by a giant black dick. I also think about how my mother would feel if she was watching me watch this film – either appalled or amused, but I can’t decide which.

0-incognito-intro

The plot is simple. Woman applies for job as secretary, interview proceeds with innuendo for a few minutes, man puts hand on woman’s thigh, oral sex, then penetrative sex, but thankfully no anal. Then she tells him she wants the job so she can fuck him every day. This raises a few concerns about the patriarchy but nothing really new, so I’m not overly distracted.

Halfway through I’m watching but pausing every now and then to check Facebook, because it’s pretty dull. I decide to try to get more actively involved, so I take off my underpants and get out my vibrator. I try to sync the vibrations of the clitoris-stimulator bit of the vibrator with the man’s thrusts. I’m getting more excited, but I think it’s just solely due to the vibrator. The porn simply isn’t that interesting. In fact, the prospect of having sex with a penis that size is frankly terrifying. And some of the positions look like you could only do them comfortably after going to the gym consistently for a while. The guy also has a PhD – pretty huge dick! I know that if I were in her position my vagina would be aching and raw and that I’d be worried about having my internal organs ruptured. I also just don’t find the sight of sex organs that appealing. At one stage, the camera lingers on her anatomy. Her gaping vagina looked like Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’. I’m also worried that no one suggested using protections, which makes me pleased that I’ve internalised the dangers of STDs.

I’m watching this the same week that I saw the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Romeo and Juliet, a play which is related to the reason I have never watched porn before. I always thought that my love of Shakespeare, Austen and Richard Curtis had given me unrealistic expectations of romance, and that porn would subtly alter my expectations of the choreography of sex – and then my interactions with the opposite sex would be permanently ruined and inauthentic. Perhaps this might have been the case if I’d started watching porn before I’d started having sex, but I have a few long-term relationships under my belt and at the moment I probably have sex about ten times a week. It’s just too late for my sex life to be ruined. In fact, watching it is probably good for me, as I now have a few good tips on how to deliver a pleasing blow job.

I’d expected to have more feminist objections to it than I do. I feel sorry for the man, who starts off wearing a burgundy velvet jacket. After his first few lines of dialogue his face leaves the screen, and then he’s just about the penis. He mumbles his lines so his character remains inchoate. The woman, on the other hand, does most of the talking (mostly about her pussy but occasionally about the job she’s applied for), and develops as a character simply because we see her face for most of the film. Perhaps this is so a heterosexual man can objectify her more easily, but I just find myself connecting with her. What’s more, while she goes down on him a few times, he also gives her oral sex and she constantly rubs her clitoris, and it’s not like female pleasure is completely absent. In fact, as I already said, she cums a lot, and the poor guy just takes forever to cum.

The capitalist in me wants to buy a camera and start making porn. I don’t know where I’d find a guy with a penis that big but otherwise the materials are easy to source and the production costs are low. Sex sells. The anti-capitalist in me sees the film’s plot as an example of how capitalism exploits women, and I worry that porn probably features a disproportionate amount of low-SES actors.

Overwhelmingly, the video remains boring, even when everything is climaxing. I would honestly much rather sit on Facebook, pressing refresh, than watch more stuff like this. I think Game of Thrones is more titillating. I’m torn between two interpretations: I’m just not that sexual a human, or the sex I have is just way better than this weird “this tight pink pussy has been a very bad pussy” shit. I know I’ve already said that I don’t orgasm during sex but I still enjoy it. I don’t need to feel bad about myself just because I don’t like a stupid video. Only once have I had sex with someone who was basically a stranger, and I can’t really remember it – the other times have been with people I was either in love with or affectionate towards. Sex that doesn’t end with a whispered “I love you” is alien to me and seems more like an exercise in endurance than a fun activity. I would never ask someone to cum on my glasses. For one, I don’t wear any so that would just be my eyes, but I’d also just rather my partner cum inside me. There’s something beautiful about that.

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Untying the strings: Lucy Watson and Bryant Apolonio http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/untying-the-strings-lucy-watson-and-bryant-apolonio/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/untying-the-strings-lucy-watson-and-bryant-apolonio/#comments Wed, 16 Oct 2013 02:11:00 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8478

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Deception. It’s a powerful tool. Whether it be lying about – or hiding – your identity, your situation or motivation, there are often a number of reasons to want to deceive an audience.

In theatre, the audience is shown the stage and little else. What goes on behind those curtains, in those wings, isn’t meant to be seen. We do know, by the nods of the head and the wave of the hands by the actors at the conclusion, that there are people back there: pulling the strings, calling the shots. Faceless men.

In the theatre, the faceless men are usually competent and humble stage-hands, lighting technicians, playwrights, designers. But, extrapolating this idea further, to life beyond the play, and there are faceless men everywhere (and women, and non-gender specific people), pulling the strings behind a whole horde of stages. Sometimes so quietly you don’t even know.

What happens when the faceless men are revealed? Time will tell in federal politics, as The Faceless Man this week becomes The Face of the ALP. But there are many more, hiding in the shadows. And newspapers – ideally beacons of transparency – are here to throw light into the places where it’s hard to see and hold the powerful to account. The faceless can hold the strings of student politics as the Chinese millionaire Master Shang allegedly does, or their partner’s wellbeing and safety, or just a lot of money and little sense, and the role of the media, we think, should be to expose such things when it can.

But the great paradox of our work as editors is that sometimes you can’t expose. Sometimes it’s clear that there’s just as much value in keeping things secret, to preserve people’s right to anonymity. For one reason or another – personal, social, or, well, criminal – four of this week’s contributors could not put their name to their work but still wanted others to know about, and learn from, their experiences. Whether it was their terrible time with LSD or their experience being a trans* man at university, they’re things mainstream society won’t (but should) let us speak openly about. In attempting to break down larger power structures, the little guys must change or redact their names. Truly great social shifts need to go down before these things can be talked about in the open, for everyone to see.

It’s very easy to feel as though your strings aren’t being pulled. To retreat into ill-formed preconceptions, judgement, and arrogance; the idea that you can see through every pretense and delusion. This is something none of us are exempt from.  But in order to shape the world into something a little better than it is – just a little better, only as much as we can –  we need only be a bit more thoughtful about who has power, a bit more critical of how they use it, and – if it isn’t being used well – how to change things so they do.

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Honi Soit – Week 11, Semester 2, 2013 http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/honi-soit-week-11-semester-2-2013/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/honi-soit-week-11-semester-2-2013/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 13:01:44 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8336 ]]>

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Reporter Awards! http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/reporter-awards/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/reporter-awards/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 12:04:58 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8494

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Best feature

WINNER: Death 2.0 – Tom O’Brien

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Silent Sexuality – Ben Brooks

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Out of Focus – Caitlin Still

 

Best profile

WINNER: The Brothers Kebabazov – Lucy Bradshaw

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Australia First, minorities second – Max Weber

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Profile: Hall Greenland – Dom Bowes

 

Best creative piece

WINNER: Stalin’s Cock and Oxford Tories: Courtney Love is still out there – Daniel Swain

HIGHLY COMMENDED: News in Revue – Bro Reveleigh

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Ward 9, Bed 23 – Lane Sainty

 

Best cover

WINNER: Look again – Alexandra Mildenhall

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Kiss My Fat Ass – Cleo Gardiner

HIGHLY COMMENDED: What’s in your head? – Anita Maritz

 

Best news piece

WINNER: Indigenous students: don’t go to Indigenous festival – Madeleine King

HIGHLY COMMENDED: UniVerse: Free school at Wollongong – Phoebe Moloney

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Harvard researchers get high…then drunk – Lachlan Munro

 

Best arts & culture

WINNER: Justin Bieber: the Larkin of our generation? – Lulu Smyth

WINNER: Bathhouses aren’t just for bathing – Lucy Hughes Jones

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Hikkikomori: the art of isolation – Jeremy Elphick

HIGHLY COMMENDED: “Fucking Abbott”: Gould’s Book Arcade – Andre Fenby

 

Best comedic piece

WINNER: Gillard cures cancer in spare time, approval rating plummets – Cameron Smith

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Melissa Doyle not only replaced in Sunrise family, but in real family too - Tom Murphy

HIGHLY COMMENDED: No, Prime Minister – Neha Kasbekar

 

Best all rounder reporters

GEORGIA KRIZ

GEORGIA BEHRENS

SAMANTHA JONSCHER

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Punched in the vagina: top 5 hospitality experiences http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/punched-in-the-vagina-top-5-hospitality-experiences/ http://localhost/honiold/2013/10/punched-in-the-vagina-top-5-hospitality-experiences/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 07:37:39 +0000 http://localhost/honiold/?p=8463

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Photo: Chris Goldberg

5. When service becomes servitude: Lately the ‘family friendly’ restaurant I work at has come to resemble a crèche, where you literally have to wade through children to serve food. So there I was last Sunday, not 30 seconds into my shift and carrying two hot plates of parmy, when a young boy decided to use my most private of parts as a punching bag. Yes, I was punched in the vagina by a 5-year-old while his parents did nothing. Usually I can deal with pram traffic jams, spaghetti wars and up to seven women breast-feeding at once, but not this. Now I generally don’t mind kids – I fully intend on making a few of my own some day – but until then I want them nowhere near my vagina, and in that moment I felt like punting the little fucker.

4. Shitting where you eat: I know a couple that got together at the Christmas party, and shared a romantic co-worker courtship where fingertips touched for an instant as they both reached for the same beer tap. Lunchbreaks were taken together, and things got caught on CCTV. That same pair six months later now need to be rostered on at different times to avoid seeing each other. Many of us have that ‘what was I thinking?’ moment with exes, but in hospo it’s like a regret you have to revisit on a daily basis once things turn sour.

3. Cash-in-hand jobs for the ‘link: Youth Allowance is one testy mother, but definitely worth getting assaulted in the line at Centrelink every now and again, and if you can earn some extra cash on the sly while you’re at it, it becomes that much more lucrative. It takes me back to the days of my first café job when I got paid $9 an hour, and my pay came each week in a crumpled brown paper bag with my name on it. Since then I’ve found myself working in the shiftiest bars and clubs in Sydney, all in the name of the cash money flow.

2. When managers are your mates: Memories of this industry will rarely include the obnoxious and drunk customers, but those behind the bar. With the right colleagues, work can be like a Disneyland where there is no currency at all: you swap beers for the chefs with a delicious steak, you cut cake slices too big and even it up bite by bite, you turn your staffies drink into a staffies bender. As long as the boss doesn’t see, the world is yours.

 1. Just for now: Whether it’s lime juice in paper cuts, the depressing locals, or just the sheer volume of vomit, we are able to endure the highs and lows of hospo in the belief that it won’t be permanent. For most of us, this is but a rite of passage that is only a temporary, gritty and exciting speed bump in our otherwise illustrious careers.

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