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Words by Zoe Efron, Kevin Hawkins, Michelle See-Tho, and Sean Watson

It’s easy to feel selfish when you’re a Farrago editor. Without meaning to boast, the four of us are lucky enough to be getting paid to do stuff we love—putting together a beautiful magazine, making up April Fools’ Day scams, and exchanging our favourite Sandy Cohen quotes. But sometimes it’s pertinent to stop and ask ourselves, “Is this job just a bit of a wank or are we actually doing something meaningful?”

We like to think that the third edition of Farrago for 2014 is a very meaningful publication. It draws attention to a range of important social issues, namely the harsh living conditions of asylum seekers and the struggles they face seeking refuge in Australia. The phenomenally talented (and ever-reliable) Cameron Baker has highlighted this issue with a thought-provoking front cover. We’re also proud to feature Gajan Thiyagarajah’s profile piece on Fawad Ahmed and Mohammad Ali Baqiri, two former refugees who are making significant contributions to their communities in Melbourne.

Our intention in publishing these pieces is not to push a political agenda, but to bring attention to the human side of this issue and add an important voice to the conversation. The same can be said about Christine Li’s feature on the university’s investment in fossil fuels, where she goes beyond the moral arguments to assess the financial feasibility of the university’s current approach.

But, in true Farrago styleedition three doesn’t just cover the serious topics; we like to think it’s a lot of fun, too. Over the following 60 pages, Simon Farley attempts to play muggle quidditch, Jeremy Nadel joins the secret Cave Clan, and Will Whiten takes us through Myanmar. Oh, and Mia Abrahams helps us fulfil our number one goal for the year: publishing a Sandy Cohen quote.

Here are five things the four of us have argued about while making edition three:

  1. The fine line between humour and racism: In celebration of the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, our original plan was to publish a piece arguing for and against being Asian. Kevin and Michelle, who between them are 150 per cent Chinese, thought the piece was hilarious. But Zoe and Sean (both white) vetoed that decision, fearing that some readers might find the piece racist.
  2. Being partisan: The four of us each have strong political views. The question is, is it appropriate for us to yell them at our readers? Half of us shouted ‘YES’. The other half whispered ‘no’.
  3. Letter of the month: Zoe wanted Z; Kevin wanted K; Michelle wanted M; and Sean wanted S. We settled with a happy medium: ö
  4. Advertorial: We weren’t sure whether it would be a conflict of interest for Kevin to commission a piece about Live Below the Line, the charity campaign that invites Australians to live on $2 a day for five days from 5-9 May. Kevin worked for the campaign last year. (Ed: and you can donate to his fundraising page at lbl.com.au/me/hihathawkins)
  5. Who should write the editorial? As writers with big egos, we each wanted to be the author of this page. We even toyed with the idea of writing an editorial each and printing all four of them. For those of you playing at home, Kevin won this round. But the sentiments are shared by all four of us. Guess that’s one thing we could actually agree on.

Zoe, Kevin, Michelle, and Sean

Words by Michelle See-Tho

 

If you watch Sammy J perform solo for long enough, it’s easy to forget how crass his puppet counterpart, Randy (puppetry by Heath McIvor), can be.

It’s been more than a year since the two collaborated on home soil. They’ve used their time apart to separately perform live solo acts. Sammy J has also hosted the ABC’s Wednesday Night Fever.

But this year, they’ve reunited for ‘Sammy J and Randy’s Difficult First Album Tour’ at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

The show describes the duo’s tour of their first album, providing an element of meta-humour that adds depth to the story. They kick things off with a song about how they met—Sammy was a pole dancer, Randy an overzealous customer. The show moves on to cover the things the pair saw and did while promoting their album—including a disturbing number about being Swiss lovers in their past lives.

Back in the days of solo Sammy J, numbers like ‘Delete’ and the ‘Backward Song’ were typical of the baby-faced comedian, with little to no swearing as he sipped from a juice box at his piano. But there’s none of that virginal innocence in the ‘Difficult First Album Tour’. (Well, the juice box is still there, but it’s little more than a remnant of Sammy J’s Randy-less performances.)

Instead, Randy brings with him a whole lot of dirtiness. It works for the most part, especially because homophobic jokes are simple but funny, as the duo points out with a song.

However, it remains to be seen whether that song itself is just for cheap laughs or is satirical social commentary on the comedy industry.

All in all, it’s a fun show, and the contrast between sweet, boyish Sammy J and politically incorrect Randy is beyond entertaining. But anyone expecting Sammy J to maintain his innocence is sure to be disappointed.

Words by Michelle See-Tho

 

Seussical will rouse a sense of nostalgia in anyone who loves Dr Seuss, or ever participated in musicals at school.

The musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2000, isn’t really a comedy show, though it does provide humour in parts. At MICF, it’s performed by the Old Carey Performing Arts Club.

Seussical is a clever intertwining of several different Dr Seuss stories: Horton Hears a Who!, Horton Hatches the Egg, and Gertrude McFuzz. It also features the Cat in the Hat, as narrator and various other roles.

Much of Seussical’s charm lies in its amateur feel. Some of the acting is exaggerated and transitions between scenes aren’t always seamless (the Cat in the Hat pointed out that intermission was timed so they could clean up the fake snow on stage). A giant box of props is wheeled around on stage, just like Year 9 Drama class.

That said, there are some outstanding performances. Sam McPartlan, who plays Horton, has a great singing voice. Not to mention, he’s adorable as the “faithful” elephant dedicated to saving the Whos and hatching an egg. Nicholas Renfree-Marks is fabulous as the flamboyant Sour Kangaroo – I only wish we’d seen more of him. Other special mentions should go to Mark Yeates (the Cat in the Hat) and Elise Cavallo (Mayzie LaBird) – both are very talented and have promising futures in theatre ahead of them. Yeates’ interaction with the audience was engaging and particularly appealing for children.

There’s plenty in the show for adults to enjoy too. Themes of unplanned pregnancy, drugs, body image, oppression, bullying and prejudice are all present. But they’re all addressed in a humorous and light-hearted way – the kids probably didn’t even notice.

One last thing: if you’re planning on seeing Seussical, be aware that it’s currently school holidays. The theatre will likely be packed with screaming children, and you may well be the oldest non-parent there.

 

The Old Carey Performing Arts Club is performing Seussical at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from 7 April to 19 April. 

Words by Michelle See-Tho

If you happened to catch some low harmonies in the air at the Arts Centre this year, it’s because Perfect Tripod was back in town. The a cappella trio feat. Eddie Perfect performed Australian Songs for a short stint in this year’s Comedy Festival.

Fans of a cappella would have loved it, but it’s harder to tell whether fans of old school Tripod did. There was little of the satirical Revenge of the Nerds style Tripod have been famous for in the past.

Instead, the show is a medley of a cappella covers of Australian songs.

Every member of Perfect Tripod has a strong voice and good pitching, so the quality of the sound was always beautiful—even though they had to tune themselves to beer bottles. Highlights included Gotye’s ‘Heart’s A Mess’, The Reels’ ‘Quasimodo’s Dream’, and—introduced as “our national anthem”—‘You’re The Voice’.

But the ‘comedy’ aspect of the show was minimal. It seemed more like a concert with occasional jokes than a comedy show. Adding Eddie Perfect wasn’t necessarily a bad choice, but it seems he might have been the reason for the lack of comedic music. Regardless, it was a stunning and heart-warming set.

The boys are aging. Scod—once a nerdy love interest for me—now has a receding hairline and is a little wrinkled. But he’s still as charming as he was in the days of Middleborough Rd. Eddie Perfect seemed a little out of place, but that’s probably because I just knew him as Mick from Offspring. He admitted joining Tripod was like trying to jump into the big skipping rope in a primary school yard.

Having said all that, there’s not one thing wrong with Australian Songs; music, geeks, and music geekery hardly make a bad combination.

Words by Michelle See-Tho

Students, staff and members of the public have gathered to watch the launch of the university’s involvement in a national campaign against racism.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s “Racism. It Stops With Me” launch took place in North Court on Monday 7 April at 1pm, and featured an appearance from Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane.

Dr Soutphommasane told Farrago the campaign has been actively engaging universities for over a year. He believes universities have a strong role to play in addressing racism. “When it comes to combating racism, the task is fundamentally educational,” he said.

He wants conversations to be a major part of the movement, saying, “The challenge is just to get people talking about racism in a mature way. Often you get knee-jerk responses, or very emotional responses, but the message is quite simple: there’s always something you can do about prejudice and discrimination.”

Provost Professor Margaret Sheil was at the event as acting Vice Chancellor. International students will soon be included in her Provost portfolio.

“With our really diverse student body here—with students from 160 countries—it’s really critical that we model behaviours we want our students to model when they go out into the workplace,” she said.

Senior Consultant for Fairness and Diversity at the university Ms Catherine Gow said she was happy with how the campaign was progressing.

“[Racism] has this direct impact to our staff and our students: international academics, international students, local students who are perceived to be from overseas.”

On the issue of repealing the Racial Discrimination Act, Dr Soutphommasane said he was “concerned”. “It’s important to have strong and effective protections against racism and to send an unambiguous signal about civility and tolerance in Australian society.”

Dr Soutphommasane began his appointment as Race Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission in August 2013.

The launch was part of the student union’s Diversity Week, which aims to celebrate cultural diversity and help prevent discrimination.

Words by Michelle See-Tho

If you’ve recently booked tickets to a comedy show called One Man Show, you might be surprised when the show begins. Believe it or not, there are actually two men in it.

The Chaser’s Andrew Hansen and Chris Taylor are putting their Monty Python-influenced heads together for the performance. Andrew tells me he had to slap the title on before they’d even written the show. They just wanted a vague title. And they’ve succeeded.

“It’s a show that indulges my taste and Chris’s taste for a sort of old school British style of silliness,” he tells me. “We play a lot of different characters in the show and dress up in a lot of different outfits and there’s a bunch of songs.”

He also mentions that The Athenaeum Theatre, where the show will take place, has a trapdoor in the stage. “I’m wondering if we can work some way of using it into our show. I would love to see Chris fall through a trapdoor.”

I ask him about the press release, which says the show is aimed at the “43 to 43-and-a-half year old market”.

“If you pitch a show to a TV network, one of the only questions they’ll ask you is”—he puts on a blokey voice, like a TV exec—“‘So, who’s the demographic, who’s the target audience? Is it for 17 to 23 year olds? Because if so, we’re not interested. We want stuff for 24 to 26 year olds.’”

Andrew says he finds that kind of language  funny, because it’s not the way most consumers think about television. “You don’t hear people saying, ‘I love Breaking Bad. My favourite thing about it is that it really appeals to the 18 to 34 year old market’. No one says that!”

But why should you go see the show, if it’s aimed at 43 to 43-and-a-half year olds?

“One of the main criticisms I always hear of my stuff, from pompous blowhards who disapprove of fun, is that it’s ‘undergraduate’,” Andrew says. “I take it as a compliment actually.”

He says young people tend to enjoy comedy more, because “when people get older they get more jaded and boring, and they find it harder to laugh at things.”

Before we say goodbye, we bond over his stint in student media, when he was one of the editors of University of Sydney paper Honi Soit. He laments the “ridiculous circus” of student politics preceding his 1996 editorship.

“It seemed very odd to me that it had nothing whatsoever to do with people’s ability to edit a newspaper,” he says. “It was entirely a thing to do with student politics.”

But even then, Andrew had fellow Chaser member Craig Reucassel to give him a hand. “He knew how to pull all those strings. I didn’t have a clue. I was really sort of interested in writing a few jokes, maybe.”

“I also used to wonder, though, who was reading Honi Soit. I used to worry that the only people reading it were our friends, and I suppose you never know. You never get to find out.”

After that, he had a sort of “demotion”: “a paid job of delivering the student newspaper at UTS.” Driving a van to deliver copies of Vertigo to different campuses meant he could see both ends of student media: “from the perspective of an editor and then later from the perspective of a delivery man”.

And after talking about the past, we turn to the future.

The Chaser will produce a new TV show in the second half of this year. The team is currently “nutting out a new format” for it. “I wish I could tell you about the format but we haven’t really worked it out yet!” Andrew says. “I’m not promising miracles at this stage, who knows? It might be awful.”

Andrew Hansen and Chris Taylor will be performing One Man Show from 23 to 26 April. We don’t know anything about the new mystery show yet, so we can’t plug it here.

You might notice the smell of books missing from your walk down Swanston Street now—and not because it’s masked by the smell of Subway. Sainsbury Books has closed down. The former second-hand bookshop lived a happy life just outside the Parkville campus. We commemorate it with a cover, by the very talented Lynley Eavis, dedicated to pre-loved books, and a nice little news piece detailing its closure (by Rebecca Carroll and Steph Bishop-Hall). We’re sorry to see it go; there is no adequate replacement for it on campus.

This edition is filled with a substantial amount of heavy content: drugs, sexual assault, and religion all form part of our second creation of the year. But to balance it out, we’ve also got a nice picture of a fluffy animal on page 27, as well as bits and pieces on music festivals, comic books, and pubic hair. They’re all topped off with our entertaining columns: sex, stationery, and historical conspiracies, to name a few.

The semester is now well underway, and so are we. Farrago has traditionally been a print magazine, but we’re getting into this ‘new media’ thing now too. Our dedicated multimedia team has been hard at work making us as accessible on the interwebs as we are on campus. We’ll be starting a podcast series, which will tie into the magazine as well as feature some completely self-contained content. We’ve got a new video ad coming out soon as well—just like on TV! Check us out on Facebook to find it, and while you’re there, hit the ‘Like’ button too.

We were incredibly excited to see how quickly edition one disappeared off the stands. It only took two weeks for every single copy to be completely snapped up. Sorry if you’ve been suffering from Farrago withdrawal for the past two weeks, but fear not: edition two is here! As always, we hope you enjoy reading and looking at it as much as we enjoyed putting it all together. And if you don’t, please write us an angry letter. We love hate mail.

Last but not least, we encourage you to get involved! The aforementioned teams of creative genii are always looking for fresh faces and keen minds. Whether you’re into writing, drawing, talking into a microphone, or anything else, we can find some way for you to bring those talents to the Farrago field.

Please send expressions of interest, pitches, artworks, declarations of undying love, and/or death threats to farragomagazine2014@gmail.com.

Zoe, Kevin, Michelle, and Sean.

Words by Will Higginbotham and Michelle See-Tho

Government funding cuts to the University of Melbourne might not hit students and staff as hard as they fear. The university expects to see cuts of up to $150 million over the next four years. But the chancellery is responding to potential reductions in public funding by remodelling its administrative sector.

The potential cuts and a “wafer thin” surplus are pressuring the university to make its administration setup more efficient, according to Senior Vice-Principal Mr Ian Marshman.

The scheduled changes have raised concerns about professional job losses and effects on students.

University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) President Declan McGonigle criticised the university for not consulting more with students about the changes.

“Students have been left in the dark about what’s happening,” he said.

However, according to Provost Professor Margaret Sheil, the university liaised with some students through focus groups. “We’ve involved as many students as we can,” she said.

Many staff and students are concerned that funding cuts might lead to job losses. Yet Professor Sheil and Mr Marshman maintain there are no planned redundancies.

“The goal isn’t to cut jobs,” Professor Sheil said. “We’ve just announced savings targets and some of that will be through procurement and some of it will be through natural attrition.” She said there was even the possibility of an increase in academic staff if administrative costs are reallocated.

National Tertiary Education Union Branch President Ted Clark is less optimistic. “It looks like … there may actually be job losses. But we don’t know where those job losses are. We haven’t been informed of that at all.”

Despite his concerns, Mr Clark said the NTEU is not opposed to trying to increase the university’s efficiency.

According to Mr Marshman, the university’s administrative restructure will involve condensing the existing 11 different administrative divisions into one. “If we can get a lot of [administration] done consistently, once, by professional people, we think we’ll do a better service for students, and we’ll actually save some money, as a result of doing it more efficiently,” Mr Marshman said.

Professor Sheil also told Farrago no academic courses at the university would be cut under the changes. She maintained the “angst” other universities have about reducing programs
is not present at Melbourne. “We are not actually cutting any academic programs,” she said.

However, Mr Clark is more concerned about professional staff having intense vocational work. He feels remaining staff may “suffer work intensification” in order to make services more efficient, but admits this might not happen. Mr Clark cited initial issues with the Integrated Student Information System (ISIS, an online management system mostly used by staff at the university), as the reason for his concerns. He said ISIS’s introduction “meant there was a lot more work for the professional staff, even though it was supposed to be more automated.”

The changes are being implemented as part of the university’s Business Improvement Program, launched in December 2013. The program will be rolled out over the next 18 months. The new model is intended to streamline the university’s back-office functions, save money, and re-invest it into resources and teaching.

By Michelle See-Tho

International students can soon get a taste of the benefits of half-price public transport. The Victorian government has now granted international students access to concessions for public transport.

International students are eligible to purchase annual myki passes with the 50 per cent discount afforded to local students. However, they are not eligible to access the concession fare for other myki fare types—such as daily and weekly passes, and myki money. The annual myki pass, with a concession fare, can cost around $1000.

The three-year concession fare trial will begin in 2015.

In a university press release, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Engagement) Professor Sue Elliott said, “This concession scheme is a further step towards showing international students that they are welcome in Melbourne and are supported across the broader community.”

University of Melbourne Student Union Welfare Officer Kinsey Li said she was happy to see increased consideration for international students. “International students’ fees are already more than three times that of local students—it’s not like they’re in a well-off position. The transport concessions definitely make it easier for them, by reducing their living expenses, she said.

In the past, international students have been denied concessions for public transport. Li has been a strong advocate of the cause. Movements such as the Fair’s Fare petition have pushed for the change in recent years, with involvement from Li and other students, both local and international.

Words by Leannza Chia and Michelle See-Tho

Graduate students in need of support will now have to acquire it from a different source.

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) will no longer fund its advocacy service, as of 1 March this year. Instead, it will hand these services to the Student Union Advocacy Service (SUAS).

GSA President Jim Smith has defended the organisation’s continuing importance in graduate students’ lives. “The representation of graduates is the core purpose of our Association,” he said. “We have over 70 affiliated Graduate Student Groups, we regularly raise matters of importance with the university, run day events, organise a ball and other social and networking opportunities for students.”

According to Smith, in 2011, the University awarded SUAS the sole contract to provide advocacy to both graduate and undergraduate students, when the GSA chose not to submit a tender application at the time. He said that the following year, the GSA was not allowed to use the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) to fund their Advocacy service and had to self-fund advocacy from a small pool of funds, as well as compete with the university-supported SUAS service.

University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) General Manager Justin Baré said the changes will impact GSA more than UMSU. “Obviously we will have a role, which will be working with the GSA in ensuring that they get the information that the advocacy service generates, because there’s really important data that they will need in their student representative functions,” he said. “The student representatives from the GSA will be included in the UMSU student advisory group for Advocacy and Legal Services, so that they get to be a part of that process.”

Smith emphasized the importance of having one provider of the service to ensure a “consistency of approach”, but also said the GSA would assist SUAS with cases regarding graduate students.

“We will assist existing students accessing GSA services to gain alternative support,” he said. “Additionally, we will continue to assist and advise SUAS where possible to ensure that graduate students receive high quality advocacy services into the future.”