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Words by Phoebe St John
Illustration by Cameron Baker

With its ginormous mountains, wacky uniforms, extravagant arenas and continuous controversies, this year’s Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia, sometimes felt a million miles away from Melbourne. But that’s not entirely the case. This year, two University of Melbourne students proudly donned the green and gold to represent Australia and achieve their Olympic dreams on the snowy Sochi slopes.

25-year-old ski cross racer and Masters of Property student, Katya Crema, couldn’t have been happier with her experience. “Representing Australia in my second Olympic Games was an amazing feeling,” she tells me. “I came into Sochi with a completely different approach to Vancouver. This time around, being my second Olympics and with a few extra years of experience, the focus was all about the race.”

Meanwhile, it was the first time at an Olympics for 20-year-old freestyle mogul skier and Bachelor of Environments student, Brodie Summers. “I was immensely proud to wear the Aussie colours on the biggest sporting stage in the world,” he says. Summers names the Closing Ceremony as a particular highlight, calling the event “the most surreal experience I’ve ever had.”

While many of us spent last year locked up in the Baillieu on a diet of salted caramel crepes, coffee and Facebook procrastination, these two trained intensely all over the world in preparation for competition. Summers lists Sydney, Mt Buller, Canada’s Whistler, Steamboat Springs in the USA, and Switzerland as his training locations. He emphasises the work ethic and commitment involved in his intense moguls preparation, from strength and conditioning to water ramping. Similarly, Crema’s training for Sochi was a four-year process. “On-snow training consists of basic skiing skills and drills, gates training, jumping in the terrain park, free skiing, starts and obviously ski cross course specific training,” she explains. “Off-snow training out of the ski season is almost more time-consuming than on-snow training. In the lead up to the Games in the off-season, I was doing 12 dry-land sessions per week.”

Finishing 13th in the men’s moguls finals at Sochi, Summers was thrilled to be on the team. “My expectations going into the Games were simply to ski to the best of my ability,” he says. “I had only qualified to be there [at the Games] at the last World Cup of the season just a few weeks beforehand. Just being there was the best motivation for me to work as hard as I can to make sure I’m standing on that podium four years from now in Korea.”

Crema also did incredibly well, with a seventh place result in the women’s ski cross. “I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself at important races like the Olympic Games or World Championships. I seem to perform better,” she says. “Even with a shaky start to the season after a knee injury in the first World Cup in November, my goal was a top 8 result. My world ranking coming into the Games was 20th, so you definitely couldn’t say I was a favourite. I feel like I gave it my absolute best effort on the day, and finished with a 7th place result. It is extremely satisfying to come home having achieved my goal.”

As for the quirks of their time in the ever-controversial country, the athletes’ memories of the St Tropez of Russia are nothing but positive. Although admitting he was probably in a bit of a security bubble, Summers maintained that the Sochi infrastructure “was a great investment … and a great show for the world to see. I hope it boosts the appeal of winter sport for people around Australia.”

Crema agrees. “Russia put on an incredible event. Sochi was the first Winter Olympics in a very long time to host every single snow event on the same mountain. The competition venues were world-class.”

While Crema mentions activities such as babushka doll painting as a fun introduction to Russian culture in the Olympic Village, Summers speaks particularly fondly of another aspect of their accommodation. “I think the standout part of the village was the McDonald’s … I have never eaten so much McDonald’s in my life!” he laughs. “Definitely a popular place for athletes to go after their events—don’t tell our coaches!”

Spots in the Olympic team are undeniably competitive, but Summers is adamant he’ll be back for the next Winter Games held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. “Competing in Sochi was an incredibly motivating experience for me. I want to make sure I use the next four years as best I can so that when I arrive in Pyeongchang in 2018 I am ready to win a medal.” As for Crema? She’s planning on taking a well-earned season off to focus on her Masters here at Melbourne before tackling the upcoming World Cup winter.

World-class athletes studying among us? We couldn’t be more proud.

Words by Joshua Green
Illustration by Cameron Baker

It was the year eight swimming carnival and I had donned my school speedos in preparation for the 50-metre boys breaststroke. I was teetering on the brink of high school victory and stardom. It was at this point though that I glanced down and noticed puberty had worked its magic that summer.

To this day, the risk of a curly mane protruding from an unforgiving expanse of Lycra has shaped the very way I enter water. And my budgie smugglers have been replaced forever more by the infinitely less risqué board short.

But why the fuss?

Pubic hair (and the manner in which it is approached) brings up some fairly curly questions.  Are the waxing, plucking and pruning of our pelvic garden merely another beauty regimen with which we submit ourselves? Or is it perhaps something a little darker? By eschewing a pubic mane are we infantilising our otherwise sexually mature bodies?

Given my past life as a dancer (and the surplus of Lycra that came with it) the topic of waxing was discussed freely and often. For some women it appears to be a practicality thing. It’s easier to just get the curly mates downstairs removed than constantly be tugging on a leotard.

When discussing this article with my sister I only needed to mention ‘pubic hair’ before she responded, “Kill it with fire”. While there is a pro-wax camp, there are some not so keen on messing with what yo’ mama gave you. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Another woman I spoke to voiced concern over the notion that by waxing themselves, girls are emulating child-like bodies to gain adult male attention. While I don’t think anyone would condemn a bit of light sprucing around the edges during swimsuit season, there are certainly interesting ramifications of balding the vagina.

What of it for men, though? Some of my female friends are vocal in their preference for a cleanly shaven man as opposed to ‘a full body dreadlock’. Indeed, manscaping—along with its key tenet, ‘a smaller bush makes for a bigger tree’—has gained prevalence lately,  but when it comes down to it, how much does any of this maintenance matter?

Unless you’ve just been cast in an amateur production of Hair, there’s little likelihood you’re going to be exposing your pubic region again until at least November. Sure, if you’re due for any coitus in the next couple of weeks you might want to tidy the furry-pant fuzzies, but is a bit of hair really going to change the situation? The long and short of it is that pubic hair fashions come and go, for women and for men, and in the end it’s a matter of choice. Under the cloak of winter though, it’s probably safe to let everything go to seed—if not for aesthetics then for a bit of extra warmth.

Words by James Zarucky
Illustrations by Cameron Baker

Cinematic history is littered with fascinating tales of films that never saw the light of day, and  projects that started as one thing and morphed into something different by the time they were released. Many of these films suffered from a combination of poor financial judgement, the clashing of sizeable egos, and filmmakers stubbornly pursuing their vision at all costs. Here are just a few of the notable examples of films that experienced an interrupted gestation.

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Dune

In 1985, David Lynch succeeded in getting Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi text to cinemas. But fellow genius/madman Alejandro Jodorowsky had attempted to adapt Dune almost a decade earlier, a novel many considered unfilmable. The extensive pre-production and planning that Jodorowsky and his team of collaborators undertook is now the stuff of legends. Jodorowsky’s film would have been no less than a fourteen-hour feature, with a cast that included Orson Welles, Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali, backed by Pink Floyd. Dali demanded to be paid $100,000 per hour for his role, a request that Jodorowsky intended to accommodate. He planned to film as much as he could of Dali within an hour, and commissioned designs for a robotic doppelgänger which would have replaced the artist in his other scenes.

Although producers panicked and pulled the plug when they realised that close to a third of their initial investment had already been spent in pre-production, the detailed concept designs and storyboards would go on to have an influence on later science fiction films such as Blade Runner, the Star Wars franchise, and Alien.

 

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Napoleon

British director Stanley Kubrick has been tied to a number of unrealised projects, but Napoleon stands as the most ambitious of his abandoned endeavours. It is well documented that he had something of an obsession with Napoleon Bonaparte. Kubrick claimed in a number of interviews to have read close to 500 books on the man’s life, and his research resulted in the compilation of 15,000 location photos and 17,000 slides of Napoleonic imagery.

When planning for the film, he reportedly managed to get the Romanian army on board to provide 50,000 soldiers to take part in the reconstruction of epic battles from the era. The intended cast would have consisted of David Hemming and Audrey Hepburn in the lead roles, with Alec Guinness and Laurence Olivier as support. In 1970 another Napoleon film, Waterloo, was released and studios decided that Kubrick’s vision was too much of a financial risk.

Kubrick continued to talk about making the film as late as the early 1980s, and since his death, directors including Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg have been attached to projects based around Kubrick’s screenplay.

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Ghostbusters 3

The recent passing of American comedy legend Harold Ramis has drawn attention to the long-promised second Ghostbusters sequel that has been in development since the 1990s.

Numerous theories have been floated as to what approach this film would take. The most credible indication was given by Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, who suggeste the focus would shift to a younger group of characters. Undoubtedly this would have been driven by Bill Murray’s continued refusal to take part, having previously expressed his general dislike of sequels.

At the time of writing, Ghostbusters 3 is yet to have moved beyond the script development stage, with reports appearing that rewrites are in the works following Ramis’ death. Actors Emma Stone and Jonah Hill have been linked to the film at various times, but at this stage no definitive casting decisions have been announced.

 

 

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The Day The Clown Died

Comedian Jerry Lewis decided in the 1970s that he wanted to be taken seriously as an auteur. Naturally, he thought the best way to achieve this was to make a drama about a Jewish clown forced to lead children into the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

Lewis opted to finance the film out of his own pocket after other sources of funding dried up. A number of disputes between the principal creative and producer teams led to the completed film never being released to the public, with Lewis reportedly personally keeping a finished cut under lock and key. This hasn’t prevented the film becoming something of an intense source of interest for cinema historians and fans alike, with much attention surrounding the drip feed of excerpts, images and details about its production. Lewis himself has generally refused to comment when asked about it in interviews and public appearances.

 

 

 

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Batman: Year One

It’s easy to forget that there was an eight-year gap between Christopher Nolan’s revival of the caped crusader and the debacle that was Batman and Robin. Director Joel Schumacher’s second Batman film was initially a hit at the box office, but triggered a vicious critical backlash that saw Warner Bros place a prosperous franchise on hiatus.

Although Batman may have been absent from cinema screens, studio executives considered a number of potential opportunities to reboot the series in the intervening period. Perhaps the most interesting project of note was Batman: Year One. This would have been an adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name, directed by none other than Darren Aronofsky, known for his work on The Wrestler, Black Swan and the upcoming Noah. If finished this might have been the darkest adaptation of the Batman mythology to ever reach the big screen. Bruce Wayne was to be depicted as a disturbed youth who became a costumed vigilante as a way of coping with the murder of his parents. Alfred was not a butler, but an African-American mechanic who took Wayne in as a young street urchin. Unsurprisingly, Warner Bros baulked at the bleak direction the project was heading in, and opted to consider other alternatives.

 

 

 

Words by Christine Todd
Illustration by Cameron Baker

The Coalition Government is on course to create a new episode of history wars as it launches a less-than-comprehensive review of the national curriculum.

The curriculum review is designed to address what Education Minister Christopher Pyne perceives to be a clear leftist bias in the history curriculum for Australian primary and secondary school students. The minister has stated that the review will examine why the curriculum has become so politicised, why it refuses to acknowledge “the legacy of Western civilisation” and why it is “not giving important events in Australia’s history and culture the prominence they deserve, such as ANZAC Day”.

While curriculum reviews should be regularly carried out, independent organisation the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) already exists to serve this purpose. Its latest review, which took several years, included extensive consultation with teachers, parents, industry experts, and governments in all states and territories.

The urgency with which Pyne has demanded the latest review to be undertaken, as well as its remarkably short reporting date of only six months, suggests the report will be shallow and its content predetermined. That this could achieve in six months for the national curriculum what hundreds of education experts achieved in five years is foolish, and politically brazen.

The ideological tug of war between the left and the right in education is far from new. Right-wing critics, such as co-head of the new review, education commentator Kevin Donnelly, have lambasted the current curriculum for focusing too much on leftist ideals such as sustainability, trade unions, Asian perspectives, and the Australian Labor Party. Donnelly has also condemned the curriculum for promoting subjective interpretations of what Australian citizenship meant to different people, and has stated that the national history curriculum undervalued the importance of  “western civilisation and the importance of Judeo-Christian values to our institutions and ways of life”.

Such allegations are baseless when held against the reality of the curriculum. Pyne’s suggestions that the curriculum does little to celebrate the memory of the ANZACs fail to note that a significant unit of study on the First World War is examined almost solely from the perspective of the First Australian Imperial Force. Critics have also complained that the curriculum does little to celebrate conservative leaders of the past, focusing solely on Labor prime ministers. That the curriculum also discusses protectionist PM Edward Barton and Australia’s longest-serving Liberal Party PM, Robert Menzies, appears to have been conveniently ignored.

Pyne’s suspicions are far from surprising, given the long-standing perceptions of the Australian education system as a left-wing profession dependent on union support. Nevertheless, the hasty installation of two conservative education commentators in response to leftist bias in the system does not reflect well on a government that has spent its first few months in power enraging the left by removing and fund-slashing all of the projects and committees that Labor and the Greens held dear. This suggests that the government is willing to use the national curriculum as a vehicle for political point scoring in the short-term.

That the two nominated heads of the review are experts in the field of curriculum review is itself in contention. It is instead likely that education commentator Donnelly was hired simply to inflame the left with his radically conservative perspectives on what content should exist in the curriculum. Donnelly’s major claim to credibiity is his position as Director of the Education Standards Institute. However, further research suggests that this ‘Institute’ is nothing more than a one-man show registered as a trading name for Kevin Donnelly’s consulting business Impetus Consultants Pty Ltd. Donnelly uses the Institute as a means to validate his commentary on the national curriculum and his views on social issues more broadly. So far Donnelly seems only to be a man with opinions, albeit opinions conveniently favourable to the policy objectives of the Coalition Government.

Further, Donnelly’s belief that there should be a greater degree of religious education in schools is no secret to anyone that has read his biting commentary on education policy. That he expects such religious education to rotate primarily around the importance of Judeo-Christian values reflects poorly on his ability to undertake an impartial review of the curriculum. What will be his recommendations regarding the prevalence of primary level exercises that teach respect and tolerance of a diverse range of value systems? Will his recommendations suggest that western civilisation and Judeo-Christian values are the superior and preferred perspectives upon which to examine Australian history, in effect whitewashing Australia’s past? How is this biased and entirely partisan approach to a curriculum review any different to the left-leaning bias he so aggressively criticised?

For such an ideological battle to be undertaken within the domain of the national curriculum is a cause for concern. While it is not a surprising place for an ideological battle to occur, subjecting the curriculum to arbitrary political whims certainly bears the potential to inflict damage on the education of Australian children. The new review will now prevent the full roll-out of the national curriculum until 2015, a delay that our school administrators, teachers and children cannot afford. Contrary to Pyne’s claims, teachers are generally not part of a grand left-wing conspiracy, and just want to get on with the difficult job of teaching. Politicians from both sides of the fence need to stop letting their interests interfere with the Australian education system and take their politics outside.