Graduated, Now What? The Post-University Blues…

When I remember thinking three to four years was so far from my immediate future. It seems that before I knew it, graduation had come and gone.

When I hear the word “graduate” or “graduation,” I associate it with success, excitement, a period of transition, and most importantly, an overwhelming sense of fulfilment. I feel as though there is this belief that graduating from university should evoke feelings of pride and success. Unfortunately, my experience, and I’m not alone here in saying this, hasn’t been anything like that and I’ve got a terrible case of the post-university blues.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly proud of all I’ve achieved during my time. I’m graduating with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 6.00 and I’ve been a scholarship recipient despite coming from a disadvantaged background. But do I feel excited? Am I overwhelmed by the fulfilment and success with this qualification to my name? The simple answer is no.

Did I set myself up to feel let down? Potentially. Perhaps it was my own overly naive view that if you put in more than the effort required. I completed work experience with a local newspaper, even though it was not a prerequisite and that as soon as you complete your undergraduate degree, that piece of paper is your one-way ticket to full-time employment straight out of university. I don’t know if it is just me, but I feel increased pressure to secure full-time employment prior to attending my graduation ceremony.  For the fear of being viewed a “failure,” or “unsuccessful.”  (Side note: That’s EXACTLY how I feel.)

Since the completion of my degree, I have applied for over one-hundred jobs. I’ve been asked to attend an interview for only one of these applications, and that was a fill-in position for maternity leave. I’ve lost count on the number of hours I’ve spent polishing my cover letters and pouring over my answers to Key Selection Criteria making sure they address exactly what is asked. It was an obsession. Every morning I’d sit down with my cup of coffee and engage autopilot. Apply, polish and pour. Apply, polish and pour. I’ve never been one to fear rejection in the past, but after enduring this vicious cycle repetitively, my soul was scathed. A sense of dread would fill my lungs the more I would click “submit application”.

Eventually, this fear transpired to feelings of self-loathing and a resentment for tertiary education. An investment of both time and money had equated to this. A blank space. One I was trying, ever so desperately to fill.

But I am not alone. The 2017 Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS) results outline that one in five university graduates were unhappily working part-time in 2017.

In this day and age, graduates are experiencing a much slower transition rate to full-time employment since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) took its toll on the economy in 2008. The overall rate of undergraduates working full-time has remained on a steady decline. In 2008, the full-time employment rate for undergraduates was 85.6 % compared to 71.8 % in 2017.

Was it my course of choice? The 2017 findings from the GOS demonstrate that graduates with a degree in communications scored within the bottom five, with 60.3% of graduates securing full-time employment. This leaves 39.7 % working part-time or unemployed. Graduates in medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, and rehabilitation experienced the highest full-time employment rate of 95.9, 95.2, 86.8 and 85.7% respectively. This could correlate with the fact that with these degrees, graduates meet professional registration requirements and experience a higher employment rate as a result.

On the contrary, coursework postgraduates experience a much higher employment rate in comparison with their undergraduate counterparts. 86.1% of postgraduates reported being in full-time employment in 2017. This is a one percent increase from 85.1 % in 2016.

So, with that in mind, whilst I am feeling incredibly disheartened in the lack of employment prospects for my study area, there is a glimmer of hope shining brightly on the horizon. I can happily say that I have been accepted and am undertaking the Master of Teaching (Secondary) course to utilise the skills I have learnt in my undergraduate degree as a writing and media major to teach English and media to secondary students. These statistics alone are a promising indicator that I will gain full-time employment and encourages me to think that I’ve made a step in the right direction for my future.

Words by Dakota Powell

Dakota Powell is a postgraduate Master of Teaching (Secondary) student with an undergraduate arts degree majoring in writing and in minor media studies. When she is not working hard to achieve her dream of becoming an English/Media Teacher, she is often found savouring the very last sip of her vanilla latte or completely immersed in a game of AFL Football, and tragically dons the red white and black wherever she goes. To keep up to date, you can follow her @kotastrophes (Instagram) and @kota_powell (Twitter).

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash



(Image: HBO)

Spoilers for S8, Ep.1 ‘Winterfell’ are coming.

You have been warned.

Game of Thrones has long been praised for its portrayal of complex, multi-faceted female characters, who are every bit as honourable or conniving as the men they scheme and fight alongside. The show, however, has not been without its critics, nor has it been spared from criticism, including of a sex scene that was seen to normalise rape during its fourth season.

When the long-awaited first episode of the eighth season aired on Monday morning (or Sunday evening, for those in the northern hemisphere), reactions to what unfolded filtered onto the internet in a near-endless stream of memes, GIFS and play-by-play social media posts. Many of these centered around the first meeting of Daenerys Targaryen (and her impressive slew of titles) and Sansa Stark. In line with the Game of Thrones tradition, it did not go well. In fact, Sansa’s side-eye had never been fiercer, and Dany’s inherent self-righteousness remained strong as ever.

She [Sansa] doesn’t need to be my friend,’ Dany says to Jon. ‘But I am her Queen. If she can’t respect me…’ and then Dany trails off ominously. But Sansa’s frosty reception was an issue for more than just the Mother of Dragons. Many people online are dissatisfied that the two characters, who have both survived and overcome the challenges that have faced them, particularly as women, were instantly pitted against one another.

This Sansa/Daenerys shit is so unimaginative and dull and so clearly the idea of men,’ said @annehelen on Twitter.


This discussion falls into the larger context of the long-standing tradition of television and movie screenplays, where two women on screen together are often engaged in conflict, or are at the very least failing the Bechdel test. With this in mind, having two well-developed female characters with their own motivations and flaws at odds with one another might be interpreted as a step back from the strides forward Game of Thrones has made.

But I have to disagree.

Though their meeting crackled with all the tension that Dany’s uncompromising will and Sansa’s hard-earned abrasiveness had to offer, I think this is a good thing. In order to stay true to their character development, having the two in conflict with one another is in line with what we know of them.

Dany, after all, was set to invade Sansa’s home, and all of the Seven Kingdoms. We witness her smirk as her dragons frighten the silent Northerners who regard her suspiciously. We are reminded in the same episode of Dany’s inflexibility with Sam’s realisation that she has killed his father and brother for being unwilling to bend the knee.

Sansa, for her part, has long since learned to keep her guard up. Winterfell, and her family, have only just become a part of her life again after so many years of being alone. And, as Sir Davos reminds us, ‘If you want their [the Northerners] loyalty, you have to earn it.’

In light of this, Game of Thrones has done a service to both Sansa and Dany’s characters by putting them in conflict with one another, rather than forcing them into an instant camaraderie just because they are both women.

There is also the further context of Dany’s positive relationship with Missandei, and Sansa’s with Arya, which is reinforced during the course of the episode.

Where were you before?’ Jon asks Arya after they’re reunited. ‘I could have used your help with Sansa.’

But far from siding with her favourite brother, Arya reinforces Sansa’s position of defending their family. To me, this serves as a reminder that Sansa and Dany’s actions are not born out of girl on girl hate, nor from some misguided sense of jealousy, but rather from an incompatibility of experience.

After all, two women in power need not like or even respect each other, but it becomes a problem when such a pairing is seen as the norm. In this case, I do not think that Sansa’s distrust of Dany is a continuation of an outdated mentality that sees women on screen deferring to the more complicated storylines of men. Rather, I think it is a continuation of Game of Thrones’ commitment to Sansa and Dany’s characters, whose motivations and actions are both real and flawed.

Words by Rachael Stapleton

Header image: HBO

Rachael is a fantasy writer, an arts student, and a professional procrastinator. She spends most of her time watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, teaching her cat to play fetch and thinking about writing. You can find her on instagram at @rachaelstaple

When Female Footballers Take the Field

In Australia it is difficult to pin-point our national identity. We don’t have a great or resolved history; heck, a lot of us don’t take any pride in our history at all.  Many of us don’t have faith in our politicians. We are without an overarching religion that strongly unites our nation. We have a few successful artists, but I doubt we are defined by them.

As we are about to write off hope for a national identity, we remember our sporting culture. For many, sport is a way of learning the power of compassion, acceptance, and unity. Sport grants us with important life lessons and our most valuable friendships. For some, sport is a way of conceptualising and resolving the dark corners of our history and a way of grasping our political matters; for others, sport serves as both religion and entertainment.

In recent history, we have made every attempt to use sport as a peace-keeper, and on successful occasions it has transcended prejudice and discrimination. We hold our sporting pride close and are fiercely protective of it. From where I am standing, AFL as our national game is the centre of our sports governed moral compass. I must say that the AFL is in no way blemish free: for a long time, the AFL, with all its societal influence, exclusively represented the traditional white male identity, which is the catalyst for a plethora of issues. But now, in our developing society, we have moved past this limited representation. When male footballers speak of illness, mental health, racism or equality our nation listens. And when female footballers take the field, people flock by the thousands to show their support.

On the 31st of March 2019, the AFLW Grand Final saw us redefine our Australian sporting culture, translating to a progression in our national identity.

The 50,000 plus fans elevated these female athletes to a status above a ‘pre-game’ special. There was no lesser version of the game – as critics like to call it – to be seen that day: these women displayed skill, cohesion, ball movement and strength that silenced those who constantly sit back and only compare our game to that of children. As records were broken and tears were shed, this larger than life spectacle brought triumphs by the tonne, if only measured by the sheer amount of people packed into Adelaide Oval.

I would like to make a comment about leadership within our game. There isn’t a more concrete display of masculinity than what is seen in the role of a traditional football captain: leadership in itself is masculine, but in a space dominated by lad culture, where aggression is at its core, masculinity can be heightened to the point of toxicity. We may expect our female captains to lead in the same way, however, recent discussions about a woman’s approach to leadership have questioned if they should endeavour to lead with the same masculine approach or whether it is more effective to bring feminine qualities to the position – looking at Jacinda Ardern as a role-model.

Here our co-captains, Chelsea Randall and Erin Phillips in their guernseys and football shorts, display everything that our game has kept at arm’s length:


As leaders, Randall and Phillips embodied the femininity society assigned to them as women and gifted it to the world of football: it is a gift the AFL never knew it needed. These captains owned emotion and sensitivity, while simultaneously displaying veracious strength. They took time to celebrate vulnerability and the individual. They offered difference in leadership, a difference that was not deficient, lacking or sub-par, but equally as powerful and equally as impacting.

These leaders brought together the qualities that are traditionally separated into categories of masculine or feminine and generated a new sense of humanity in this sport. They, and the teams that follow their lead, revolutionised our national game, opening doors, building bridges and welcoming in people who have never wanted to be a part of football. They set an example, showing that there is now more than one way to lead a football team, there is more than one way to define strength in the Australian identity.

Simply, these women chose to lead as women.

When we are old and grey, we will tell our grandchildren that we were there on that day. We were there to see a group of individuals love the game in all its authenticity and cherish the opportunity they were given to play it. We were there to see them break records on a stage they so rightfully deserve. We were there to see our nation embrace football – and consequently the women who play it – in its new and equal form.

I hope that every AFLW player knows that they are adored. I hope they know that they are part of something bigger than themselves, that they are inspiring change and triggering movement in a sport and society that has stood steadfast in its ways for most of its history. I hope they know their actions have allowed every female with a connection to the football world, from spectators to grassroots players to team managers, to feel a new sense of safety, respect and belonging in Australian culture.

The greatest part of all this? It’s only the beginning.


Words by Michelle Wakim

Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash

Promoting Diversity in Comedy

“Hey Mum, I want to quit medicine and follow my passion for stand-up comedy.”

With a tone of disapproval, mixed in with unconditional love, my mother replied, “you da very funny man!”

As a son of Vietnamese refugees, my duty as a son of migrants was to “study hard, get a good job and start a family”. My parents escaped war-torn Vietnam in search for a better life and freedom. They left Vietnam on a tiny, wooden fishing boat with 250 other people, including my older brother who was only one month old.

What would compel my parents to take such a journey and risk not only their own lives but that of their first-born son?  What would compel me to risk my professional reputation and job security, for the laughs and adulation of an anonymous audience at the local open mic night?  My own leap towards artistic freedom and self-expression can never match the danger my parents made from Vietnam to Australia.

I can understand my parent’s strategy to put me on the path of higher education and job security. However, the wider Australian audience have progressed far quicker and further than that of the Asian community. The local Adelaide comedy circuit has been very supportive of me since day one, but I feel as though the Asian community are still behind when it comes to supporting the local arts.

Historically, the Asian community simply do not appreciate paying for the arts, let alone comedy. Only since I’ve become an artist, do I now understand that a $15 entry fee to a local show does not feed me physically, however, it does feed my soul (and my hunger to perform).

In Asian culture, comedians are normally portrayed as buffoons with buck teeth, or the village idiot. Humour and laughing at oneself is seen as a vector of shame, dishonour and loss of face to your family. Entry into medicine, law or engineering are seen as respectable tickets towards success. However, I know countless Asian doctors, lawyers and engineers who are dissatisfied with their life choice in their chosen fields. Many have found my story of breaking the mould, inspiring. It is hard as a person of Asian descent to find the courage to resist the wave of expectation of not only your parents and family, but your community.

Truthfully, as a minority grouping, finding our place in society, we need to be open to other occupations, especially in the arts. We can start changing our narrative, by coming out to support artists not only Asian artists at Oz Asia festivals and Lunar New Year, but the arts regardless. Only through bums on seats in the comedy rooms and pubs around the city, will this translate to bums in arts courses.

Gerard Matte in the Australian Journal of Comedy highlighted, “If comedy is a way of saying the forbidden, if it is, in Freudian terms a way of disobeying the internalised parent – the internalised authority system, then multicultural comedy in Australia has evolved to deal with two separate authority systems. One authority system is the culture of the country of origin; the other is that imposed by the local culture. The ethnic comedian has, in effect, two sets of parents, two political imperatives. One imperative is the pressure to respect and conform to the culture of the natural parents, the other is the pressure imposed by the wider culture to reject the natural parents and become part of a wider more homogenised society.”

Last year, I produced and promoted a comedy show dubbed “Pho Real”, featuring a line-up of all-Vietnamese stand-up comedians. It was an experiment to see if there was an audience from within the local Vietnamese community. To my delight, many of my Vietnamese friends and family came out to show support and enjoyed the night. I felt even more validated, that there was a row of Caucasian audience members who came because they simply loved comedy, regardless of the race orientated theme of the night.

If you would like to support local and interstate Asian comedy acts in the upcoming Adelaide Fringe here are my top three picks.


MJ Wong: In the Wong Family

MJ Wong was born into the w(r)ong family, then he fell in love and got married to the w(r)ong woman.
Will he ever belong, will two w(r)ongs ever make a right?

I have a show! Come see me!

Patrick Golamco is a regular on the Sydney open mic scene, performs improv comedy, and studies sketch comedy and scriptwriting. He has been a finalist in several U.S. scriptwriting competitions that recognised his knack for capturing the absurd!

If You Laugh It’s Comedy And If You Don’t Laugh It’s Art

Fresh from Point Blank Music School (London) Loc Tran presents ‘If You Laugh It’s Comedy And If You Don’t Laugh It’s Art’, part comedy show, part DJ performance incorporating such hits as:


Words by Dr Kim Le

Dr Kim Le is an Adelaide based psychiatrist, TEDx speaker and stand-up comedian. He will be performing with Adelaide Comedy’s Next Generation show, featuring a diverse line-up of Adelaide’s best up and coming stand-up comedians. His parents will be at his show.

Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

I Hate Cheesy-Romance Films. I Don’t Hate 10 Things I Hate About You.

10 Things I Hate About You is the best thing to come out of the 90’s.

I’m biased. I fully admit it.

I don’t like cheesy rom-coms because they bore me. But Ten Things I Hate About You isn’t like other rom-coms and you can pry it off my laptop hard drive from under my cold dead body. I’m making the assumption that you’ve watched this movie – but if you haven’t, do yourself a favour and see it. No one can argue with its engrossing story, excellent soundtrack, great cast, and the dynamite duo of 90’s Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles.

Ledger wears shiny pants, Stiles gets covered in paint and laughs about it – my uselessly bisexual self can’t handle it. I watched this movie so many times that my plan for an ideal date still revolves around the idea of spontaneous paintball that ends with us rolling around in the hay kissing. Don’t ask me how you can plan ‘spontaneous’ paintball, I’ve never worked that out.

When Valentine’s Day rolls around, with its inevitable emphasis on watching romantic films with your significant other, I always get to thinking about what a ‘romantic’ film actually is for me – beyond, of course, the self-insertion wish-fulfilment appeal of watching attractive people fall in love on a screen.

I think what draws me to the paintball scene is not the actual paintball or the kissing, but rather what the paintball and the kissing represent. It’s a moment between two people who let themselves be vulnerable idiots for and with each other. Throughout the film, we see Kat and Patrick fall for each other, making themselves vulnerable and finding that they’re accepted and understood by one-another.

It’s impossible to go on without mentioning the scene where Patrick hijacks the announcement system to perform ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’ for Kat on the bleachers, complete with band accompaniment and dorky-fun dance moves. It’s a funny, cheesy, dumb-ass act and by no means is it a moment of swooning violins. But it works as a romantic gesture because of the vulnerability implicit in this act of ‘sacrificing himself on the altar of dignity’. There’s something real sexy about someone making a fool of themselves to make you laugh; making themselves vulnerable for you and hoping that you embrace and accept this part of them. There’s also something real sexy about Ledger’s singing, but that’s a given.

Arguably, it’s the mutual act of seeing and being seen by one another that allows for Patrick and Kat’s paint balling scene. It doesn’t matter that they act foolish in front of one another in this scene, because it’s already been done in front of everyone else. Patrick and Kat can just be in the paint balling scene – they don’t have to worry about maintaining the pretences and walls that everyone has one some level. They’re just two people throwing paint, rolling in hay, and falling in love. Now that’s what I call romance.

Romance is more than just the funny easy parts though, it’s also emotional vulnerability – and there is no better moment of emotional vulnerability that the titular scene where Kat reads her poem to Patrick in front of the entire class. It would be easy for Patrick to scoff, to maintain his image and security by mocking her feelings. But he doesn’t. In that moment he sees her (metaphorically) laid bare and completely accepts her. Her vulnerability is embraced and then returned with his own. It kills me every time.

If I ask for nothing else within romance, I ask to be accepted in my vulnerability. It might lack the passions of Pride and Prejudice or the high-drama of The Notebook but 10 Things portrays this so well. Forget angsty speeches in the rain or sexually charged touches. People letting themselves be vulnerable and not thinking of how they’ll look doing dumb stuff with the other person is where it’s at in romance. Bury me in roses and call me Cupid, because that melts me into a little puddle of goo. If, like me, you hate cheesy cliches but you want to watch an appropriately valentine-y movie, then crack open some hay bales and don your best 90’s clothing because 10 Things I Hate About You is calling your name.


Words by Taeghan Buggy

Super Indie: Indie Fiction at Supanova

Indie fiction was the rising star at Adelaide’s Supanova convention in 2018. Indie fiction being a title self- published by the author rather than a house publisher. As part of Artist Alley’s Indie Press Zone, indie authors and publishers have become more prevalent at Supanova in recent years, and are now a part of the core experience. This prevalence has increased as the tools to self-publish have become more accessible. At the 2018 event I attended panels by local indie authors and had a chance to speak with some of them. Below are just some of the interesting discoveries I made about both indie fiction and the convention.

Kylie Leane, author of Chronicles of the Children series, is one of the longest exhibiting local indie authors at Supanova. She began selling her books at Supanova in 2013 and has seen the community and enthusiasm around indie fiction grow since then. She was only one of two indie authors in 2013 and only had half a booth in a very small Artist Alley. This began to grow slowly over the years, becoming four authors by her third year and now roughly 15-20 authors (fiction and comics included) as of 2018. Leane has also said she likes the enthusiasm the Supanova committee has for indie fiction. This support has been to the aligning of their interests and passion for the craft.

Kylie Leane Booth.jpg

Indie publishing appeals to some writers because of the opportunity for representing diversity Katie Fraser, author of Realm of the Lilies series, said indie fiction has given an outlet for people to tell their stories without gatekeepers, be it an agent or a head editor of a publishing company. This was a recurring criticism of traditional publishers, mentioned also in panels by authors like Maria Lewis, writer of The Witch Who Courted Death, who has been published both independently and traditionally. Even these authors have said self-publishing allows diverse voices to emerge, especially for stories traditional publishing may see as difficult to market even though they might be good. These diverse voices can be ones related to gender, disability, and minority voices to name a few.

This idea of gatekeeping makes indie fiction more appealing to some writers. Matt J. Pike, author the Apocalypse series, compared indie fiction to the Adelaide Fringe and traditional publishing to the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. The Adelaide Fringe offers a wide range of different performances where performers can experiment with their craft, compared to the Adelaide Festival, which has a more traditional arts and arts representation. Pike was encouraged to turn to indie publishing because of the long waits on hearing from agents and publishers. This frustration was also felt by Fraser, it would take months to hear from an agent and then even more time for a publisher to respond to a submission. This is what drove her to go indie with her first book, Through the Fig Tree, in 2016. However, aforementioned authors have said there is some hurdles that you will face by going indie. One of these is that you will be doing a lot of the hard work like advertising and hiring artists yourself. The authors have mentioned too that it is best to know or hire a great structural and line editor to help with your project.

KE Fraser Panel.jpg

Many indie authors mentioned the local indie community is a major benefit to them. Fraser said the indie community is amazing and they often catch up with each other, be it at Supanova or at dinners. Pike said that there is amazing support from within the community for each other.

When asked what advice they would give anyone interested in going indie, the aforementioned indie authors gave a similar response: “Just do it.” Both Fraser and Leane stressed the importance of knowing someone who is a good editor. Both were lucky to know good editors, but Fraser says you can also find good editors through Twitter as well. She also says to write what you know and that there’s no right or wrong in the indie world. The world of indie fiction offers a chance for all voices to be heard, regardless of genre or idea.

The genuine enthusiasm Supanova has for local indie fiction is undeniable looking at the schedule for 2018. Over the course of the weekend, there were at least three panels dedicated to indie authors. These were spread over comics and fiction, all headlined by local indie authors. This is a vast improvement compared to a few years ago, where an occasional indie author would join one of Supanova’s literary panels. It shows Supanova is eager to promote local indie fiction at their events and to give these authors more publicity.

Going indie allows you to get your stories out there, even if they’ve been rejected numerous times by traditional publishers. If your work is experimental then it can become a good place for you to showcase it to a niche audience. Indie publishing is a growing field, and certainly something to consider when delving into the publishing world.

Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

The Cheesiest Christmas Movies of 2018 (That you can watch from the non-judgemental safety of your own home)

Put on your ugliest sweater, grab some gingerbread and hit that remote because it’s December and that means it’s time for another year’s serving of cheesy, trope-filled Christmas movies. I’ve seen enough Christmas movies to last a lifetime so I’m here to give you the run down on some of this year’s brand new holiday flicks (that feel like they were shot in the 90s).

For the sake of length (and because there are only so many Christmas movies I can watch in November before I lose my sanity) this list is made up of Christmas movies released in 2018 on, and by, Netflix.

The Holiday Calendar

In this romantic Christmas flick photographer Abby (Kat Graham) finds herself in possession of a magical advent calendar (you know, the ones with a door for each day but you always open several doors in one go because a tiny piece of chocolate a day isn’t enough). Of course, instead of holiday treats, this calendar chucks a man Abby’s way. The guy in question is Ty (Ethan Peck), a single dad who is also a doctor and, through some kind of witchcraft, has enough free time to go on dates every single night. Oh, and he’s typical nice-rich-guy good looking, just in case that wasn’t obvious. But Ty isn’t the only man vying for Abby’s love. We also have Abby’s pal Josh (Quincy Brown) who is so deep in the friend-zone at the start of the movie that you know he’s the one.
This movie has all the classic tropes of a 90’s ‘working woman who doesn’t have time for love’ romance flick, with some equally outdated Christmas kitsch thrown in for good measure. Abby’s grandfather sports a fantastically tacky DIY Christmas vest and her family is so painfully middle-class they have a mantel-piece covered in annual family photos. This is like nostalgia porn with the odd iPhone thrown into the mix, just to remind you this movie came out in 2018.
Kat Graham gives a pretty solid performance but the rest of the cast struggles with dialogue so forced you’d think the script was causing them physical pain. Then there are the just plain bizarre and mediocre elements of the film: Abby’s photographs mostly look like she took them while being shot out of a canon, Ty somehow manages to lavish a woman he hardly knows with gifts and extravagant dates every night– making you wonder if he ever actually sees his daughter.
But the film isn’t without it’s saving graces. There are little touches of things you wouldn’t find in a mainstream Christmas movie twenty years ago. There’s the focus on Abby’s career. She’s bummed out with her current job, where her boss is a total jerk-off and she doesn’t get to express her real passion (taking Santa photos isn’t exactly what any arts grad would call ‘career fulfilment’). Her mother is constantly riding her about how photography isn’t a ‘real’ career which, for any arts worker watching, hits very close to home. Throughout the movie Abby’s passion for photography remains at the forefront of the story, placing the romantic plot more on the back-foot. In fact, even though there is a classic ‘career woman needs love’ element to the story, the more powerful message is that Abby shouldn’t give up on her dream.
The final verdict: The Holiday Calendar is an old-school Christmas romance with a bit of a modern touch to it. Easy watching if a little slow and with some seriously cliché and stunted dialogue. Best served with a glass of cheap red, in true arts-grad solidarity.

red baublered bauble

Christmas With a View

Proving that Netflix doesn’t hold the monopoly on romantic Christmas movies, Christmas With a View is surprisingly charming despite its simple plot. Proudly toting itself as an adaptation of a Harlequin novel at just 15 seconds into its run time, this is a movie that delivers exactly what it promises.
The story centres around Clara (Kaitlyn Leeb), the manager of an ultra-modern ski resort restaurant who, like any working woman in a Christmas flick since time immemorial, doesn’t have time for romance. Of course, the arrival of celebrity chef Shane Roarke (Scott Cavalheiro) changes everything. Stuck between her growing feelings for Shane and her own career aspirations, Clara also has to deal with the demands of her boss, owner of the resort Hugh Peters (Mark Ghanimé).
This really does feel like stepping into a festive romance novel, complete with atmospheric shots of snow covered landscapes and cosy decorated rooms in almost every scene. This movie does well when it comes to setting but also delivers a simple but sweet story that feels both modern and timeless. There are no ugly DIY sweaters to be found in this Christmas flick, and while it has classical elements it feels decidedly modern.
Love interest Shane is such a nice, well-meaning guy that, honestly, it’s almost refreshing. Which, in 2018, seems a little crazy. But honestly, we’ve seen so many douchebag heroes and love-interests (thanks a lot, E.L. James), that Shane being a genuinely good guy felt like a breath of fresh air. Just ignore that really shocking green-screen cooking show introduction of his character (stock-image background of a blocky, fake kitchen, anyone?).
The only other characters of any note are Clara’s friend Bonnie (Kristen Kurnik) who seems so dumb that at times I cringed hard enough to cause myself physical pain, and the scummy Hugh Peters whose scheming led to a bit of a Scooby-Doo gang break in which was, admittedly, a little fun despite being ridiculous.
The final verdict: It ain’t half bad. Of course, don’t watch this movie expecting anything new and unique. This is a Christmas movie, after all. But if you want a cheesy, sweet and easy romance this is a good one to pop on with a mug full of cocoa.

red baublered baublered bauble

The Princess Switch

It’s a trope as well-worn as two characters landing a hotel room with only one bed. I’m talking about the old classic: ordinary, usually working-class person looks exactly like someone rich/famous/noble/royal and they switch lives. Now, I’ll admit I’m not a fan of this trope. The only time I’ve ever enjoyed it was in BoJack Horseman when Todd switched places with the tyrannical prince Gustav of Cordovia (which sounds like a country made-to-order for a Christmas movie). So you could say I came to this movie with a certain level of apprehension.
This movie is exactly what you’d expect. Our heroine, Stacy (Vanessa Hudgens) is a baker who finds herself travelling to an oh-so-cosy made-up country called Belgravia, where everyone is (a) talking like they’re auditioning for Downtown Abbey, and, (b) obsessed with good, old fashioned, wholesome Christmas traditions. Stacy is set to compete in the nation’s annual Christmas baking competition which is, for some reason, a really big deal. But she’s not alone. Her friend Kevin (Nick Sagar) and his daughter Olivia (Alexa Odeosun) are coming along for the ride.
But it isn’t long before Stacy has a chance encounter with Duchess Margaret, her doppelganger and future bride of Prince Edward of Belgravia (Sam Palladio). Margaret wants to experience living like a commoner so she strikes a deal with Stacy. They’ll switch lives for a few days and, in exchange, Margaret will give Stacy whatever she wants (I would have asked for a house or something else expensive, but Stacy has more humble things in mind). Naturally, Stacy starts to fall for the dashing prince Edward (whose riding pants are so tight they might as well be a second skin), while Margaret gets close to Kevin and dotes upon Olivia. Cue the cheerful snow-ball fight montage!
This movie has so many clichés you can set your watch by them. Cute orphans: check. Dead parents: check. Magical old man who shows up at random intervals to impart wisdom: check. It also wouldn’t be a switch-places story without both women knowing next to nothing about the other’s life, or way of life. We get treated to Stacy’s complete ignorance about Margaret’s home country of Montenaro (does this girl not know about Google?), Margaret’s helplessness when it comes to speaking like one of the commoners and the much known fact: all rich people are good at riding horses.
This movie is also so much like a certain other Netflix Christmas film involving royalty and an American girl falling for a Prince that when I sat down to write this review I had to keep asking myself ‘did that one piano scene happen in this movie or that other one?’ (it was this one. I think). Thankfully, The Princess Switch is so self-aware that it actually has a couple of the characters sit down and watch A Christmas Prince during the movie. But unlike A Christmas Prince, this movie never quite sticks the landing on the fairytale romance. The ending is too perfect. There was no conflict whatsoever. Seriously, no one cared about the switch. Literally no one at all.
The final verdict: It’s not terrible, but all the adorable orphans in Belgravia couldn’t sell this one for me. It was a little too light, too cheerful. The best cheesy Christmas films need some drama, some actual stakes. This one doesn’t deliver. Tackle this one with a glass of mead. It’ll be almost as sickly-sweet as this movie.

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A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding

If you haven’t seen the first instalment of A Christmas Prince, do yourself a favour and give it a watch, then report back for some dirt on the sequel.
Is there anything that says Christmas more than British accents and the monarchy? Given the recent influx of royalty themed Christmas movies you’ve got to wonder if people in the US think that the whole holiday season is actually about snooping around old-school British traditions (and they may be onto something). In this second instalment of A Christmas Prince, Amber (Rose McIver) returns to the fictional quasi-British country of Aldovia to prepare for her wedding. But she’s in for a rough time. Not only is she forced to follow a bunch of old and tacky traditions, but she also has to deal with Aldovia’s financial troubles. Her husband-to-be, Richard (Ben Lamb), faces the nation’s financial crisis in the only way politicians know how to – by going to lots of meetings. Amber wants to play a more proactive role in the political sphere but gets stuck watching other people plan her wedding. Understandably, she’s a little salty about this, especially when she gets told she can’t blog (because blogs are still a pretty big medium in 2018, am I right?).
Teaming up with her best friends from New York, the king’s little sister Emily and the pathetic antagonist from last year’s movie, Simon, Amber sets out on a quest to uncover the mystery of where-the-flip-is-Aldovia’s-money-going (a mystery you’ll solve the moment they mention it). Unlike the adoption scandal twist from the last movie, the stakes in The Royal Wedding feel far lower. Plus, the movie spends so much time on cutesy sub-plots (Amber’s dad falling for the surly palace chef, Emily’s Christmas play and an obligatory green-screen tobogganing sequence, to mention a few) that the missing money plot feels shallow and tacked on. On top of that, the romance itself is thin on the ground. Richard spends so much time in meetings that sometimes I forgot he was even meant to be a main character. When he is on screen he adds very little to the story save for reminding everyone how stressful it is to be king (we get it Richard, being rich is hard).
The film’s saving grace is princess Emily, probably because she seems to have more intellect and skills than the rest of the characters combined. She’s a master archer, can hack into government files and she’s a DJ? She’s also played as less of the ‘loveable disabled child’ in this film, with the focus more on her skills and sass rather than her wheelchair and crutches.
But this brings up another issue I have with this franchise: why is everyone in Aldovia so overbearingly white? The only non-white characters in either film are Amber’s friend Melissa (Tahirah Sharif) and the super campy wedding planner Sahil (Raj Bajaj). I get that Aldovia is a small European nation full of people with British accents but surely at some point in its 700-ish years of fantastical existence people from other countries and ethnicities would have shown up? Or does Aldovia have some kind of weird ‘whites-only’ policy like a quaintly British version of the South African apartheid? Okay, maybe I’m expecting a little too much world-building from a Hallmark-style Christmas movie, but my point stands.
So what’s the final verdict on the second A Christmas Prince movie? It was alright as far as cheesy, predictable Christmas flicks go but as a sequel it was lacklustre. The first instalment at least had some glitz and glamour (which probably may have contributed to the Aldovian financial crisis) and a cosy, classical feel. This year’s serving felt pared back and far less Christmassy, mostly because it tried to cram so many little storylines into a 1 hour 32 minute movie. Give it a watch after a couple of glasses of white and report back on the only storyline that mattered: Emily’s romantic arc with the adorable Tom Quill (Billy Angel).

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Words by Lisandra Linde
Lisandra Linde is an Adelaide-based writer of fantasy and creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in Feminartsy, Empire Times, Bowen Street Press anthologies Pulse and Tattoo and elsewhere. She tweets at @KrestianLullaby

STEAMing Ahead

South Australia is quickly becoming the prime location for those looking for employment in the STEM fields. For those who are uncertain, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths. These fields currently offer diverse career opportunities, from medical advancements to the Australian Space Agency. However, there is one a vital component to STEM fields: Arts.

Arts and STEM have been inspiring each other for years, from Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics to the hard-scientific facts which make Andy Weir’s The Martian more realistic. This combination of STEM and the Arts is better known by professionals as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). STEAM has already been making itself known in South Australia, appearing at arts festivals and used to show off new locally developed technology.

In the 2017/2018 budget, the state government invested $250 million into Education to deliver more STEM topics to primary and secondary schools. Flinders University’s Tonsley Campus and its Innovation Hub, alongside the Medical Research and Science Centre (the cheese grater on North Terrace) are some STEM-focused buildings which now make up part of the Adelaide skyline.

It is expected STEM funding will increase with the new budget due in September. In 2018 the Adelaide Fringe generated $16.6 million at the box office and added $29.5 million to the state economy, as set out in their annual report. It is also the highest earning arts festival in Australia, generating a total of 39% of all multi-category ticket sales in the country. These figures show there is money in both STEM and the Arts in South Australia. Combined, they will make a far bigger impact on the local culture and economy than they do separately. Including Arts in STEM education will learning more interactive and fun while STEM in festivals like the Fringe more engaging and interactive.

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Beautiful night for the Fringe!

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Modern technology has been heavily influenced by the arts. Many hardware and software engineers/programmers have long been inspired by technology in science fiction. One example of this is the Adelaide based company Voxon Photonics. Their technology, the Voxon VX1, is a 3D volumetric engine that was inspired by science fiction, more specifically Dejarik in Star Wars: A New Hope. For it to work, they required the aid of the STEM fields, especially engineering and mathematics (key components in hardware and software design). They create games to demonstrate their technology’s power. The VX1 was showcased in the Indie Games Room at AVCon 2018, allowing the public to interact with their exciting new technology. While the VX1 can do other things like medical imaging, art shows its power off in a more engaging way. Voxon Photonics has advertised pushing to get more local games developed for the VX1, showing it off at Game Plus (a co-working digital games space on Pirie Street) in June 2018.

Recent advances in science and technology have influenced the Adelaide arts scene. One example is the University of South Australia’s Museum of Discovery (MOD). Opened in 2018, MOD on North Terrace is where visitors can engage with science and technology through art (STEAM). Their current displays are a showcase on the future STEAM can bring. One example being the genetic modification of children, if they’re to survive on Earth from choices made today. This allows visitors to witness these changes first hand. For more on MOD, check out our review here.

In terms of festivals, 2017’s OzAsia Festival saw an international example of STEAM. This was Keiichiro Shibuya’s The End, starring Japanese vocaloid Hatsune Miku. Unlike a traditional opera, The End is entirely virtual, containing only Miku and showcases the relationship between art and technology. This also is a reflection on the term vocaloid itself, as Miku is actually nothing more than computer software herself. Another example of STEAM is coming to 2018’s OzAsia. Called War Sum Up, it is a 21st-century electronic opera that is summed up in three words “Music. Manga. Machines.” This unique blend will be showcasing technology working alongside Japanese Noh theatre.

The South Australian Government should be pushing STEAM rather than just STEM. It is already happening around Adelaide, and if given that extra boost, can help make Adelaide stand out against other Australian cities. STEAM can help bring more young people to Adelaide and benefit other fields like tourism and education. A STEAM revolution has the potential to completely reinvent Adelaide, making it a younger, more vibrant city.

What are your thoughts? Should South Australia be aiming towards a STEAM future rather than a STEM one? Leave your comments below.

Words by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash.

You Make A Life By What You Give: Volunteering in Australia

You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”

– Winston Churchill.


The official definition of volunteering states: “Volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.”

A 2016 survey by Volunteering Australia said that 48% of Australians take part in formal volunteering, 40% take part in both formal and informal volunteering, and 6% only do informal volunteering. The last 6% do not do any kind of volunteering whatsoever.


The survey also said that 99% of volunteers would continue to engage in volunteering in the future, and 93% saw positive changes as a result of their volunteering efforts. 67% of volunteer-involving organisations stated that volunteers bring new insights into their organisation. 57% of staff in volunteer-involving organisations are actually volunteers themselves.


Most volunteers (58% in 2010) only work with one organisation, and 38% work at least once a week. Others volunteer less frequently. But this isn’t a bad thing – volunteering doesn’t necessarily have to be a long-term commitment! It can be done in small, simple ways that can still be beneficial!


Whether it’s short- and long-term, volunteering has the potential to improve people’s quality of life. It has lots of benefits, including happiness. International research also suggests that volunteers are more likely to be healthier, and be able to sleep better. This has been consistent in over 50 separate investigative research projects!


Volunteering can also improve social connections and opportunities for employment!


In other words: volunteering can improve your life, health, and well-being.


Research says that volunteering only two or three hours a week (which calculates as 100 hours a year) results in the largest benefits for people and for the organisations or causes they’re supporting.


For some people, work is the root cause of depression. I believe we are spiritual beings inhabiting a body. There are certain things we should be doing based on our personality and experiences that will give us the most pleasure and enable us to give back to society. For some of us, the things we do for a living are the opposite of this.


Volunteering is a perfect way to give back to society in a pleasurable manner.


Volunteering in this way that not only provide you with a purpose that aligns more with your life path, but benefits others too. Even if you only volunteer a couple of hours a week, you’ll still make a difference.


There are plenty of volunteering opportunities out there, across eight sectors: corporate; tourism (or voluntourism); education; community services; emergency services; sport and recreation; environment, heritage, and animal welfare; and the arts.


If you’re keen to volunteer, there’ll no doubt be one that’ll suit you.


I’m a volunteer myself. I started volunteering at Volunteering Tasmania in May 2017 after finishing an internship there, and I’m loving every second of it.


I help with media and communications, and assist with admin tasks. From time-to-time I also help out with official events like symposiums and network meetings. On top of this, I also write profiles on fellow volunteers for local newspapers.


Through this work I’ve gained experience in journalism, media, and communications (which I also studied at university). I’ve also learnt more about the craft of writing, and have met and worked with some amazing people.


But above all, volunteering has given me a sense of purpose. I’m job hunting at the moment, but instead of sitting at home all day, volunteering has given me a reason to leave the house and do something productive.


Words by Callum J. Jones

Fetishising His Own Sadness: The World of BoJack Horseman

Firstly, I must issue a spoiler warning. I can’t really talk about a series like BoJack Horseman without allowing spoilers into my discussion – that being said, they’ll be kept to a minimum.


The series’ protagonist, the eponymous BoJack Horseman, is the product of a poisonous relationship, and has subsequently been nurtured by alcoholism, drug abuse, and irresponsibility to become the well-meaning and deeply damaged man-child we all know and… well, know.

BoJack’s emotionally fractured nature is something the series never shies away from. He’s a damaged man (or horse) and he damages all who encounter him. It shows the remarkable complexity of the series that he doesn’t become the antagonist, even despite its recognition of his emotional failures.

BoJack’s insular spiral of self-destruction affects those who love him and he is held to account for this within the show’s narrative. The fact that he was shaped by his success in the care-free days of 1980s/90s excess with the privilege of a TV star is not used as some weak excuse for behaviour no longer tolerated in today’s updated ethics. A cartoon comedy is rarely so brave in delving the depths of the darker elements of humanity, let alone portray so nakedly the complexities of their situation. He is accused of fetishising his own sadness. It’s a heavy accusation to level but one borne out by the series. BoJack is unwilling to move on and points to his own – very real – damages as excuses in doing so.

BoJack is an individual given to disappearances, binges, and self-destructing spirals, in place of any real therapy. His medication is alcohol and his therapy is recklessness. The series holds separately, but equally, that BoJack has good reason for his behaviour but that it is also not necessarily excusable. Whether by deliberate action or mistake, BoJack has become a part of other peoples’ lives and with that comes a degree of responsibility to which he is not equal.

BoJack Horseman - Todd
Todd Chavez: not a gloomy roomy.

Perhaps the clearest example of how BoJack’s contradictory personality is not given carte blanche due to his own likely clinical depression is the relationship he has with resident couch-surfer Todd Chavez. He may be a victim of an abusive childhood home and trying to find a direction in life but he cannot bank on his once-victimhood for a lifetime excusing him of his behaviour to the friends of his present. The dynamic between BoJack and Todd may initially suggest that Todd is useless and a traditional slacker who offers little to the relationship but the series turns that on its head and continues to show the near-homeless Todd as more powerful than the reckless drunkenness of BoJack. He has an emotionally healthy understanding of the world and while he may not seek to reach the heights of success BoJack does, he goes about his interactions with others in a truly open and uncalculated fashion. Todd aims for little other than a good relationship with his loved ones – and, as the series continues – a better understanding of his own self.

BoJack is neither hero nor villain in his own story as he has shown himself unwilling to take control of the direction his life is taking. He is content to be passive in his own story all too often. He gives his agency over to alcohol, partying, and reckless thrills. So, what does this make him? He’s shown too great an understanding of his connection with the outside world to continue his directionless role as passive victim in his own life story and the collective understanding of his failing would surely be too much for him.

BoJack’s social privilege and financial success does nothing to keep away his own personal insecurities. The series uses this base as a perfect point from which to make brutally incisive commentary on the fleeting nature of fame, the predatory values of Hollywood, and the universal fact that depression, anxiety, and the horde of emotional concern they can bring with them, can find us even in the highest castles and the greatest peaks of success.

Princess Carolyn
Princess Carolyn, Hollywoo(d) agent.

The emotional stability of BoJack Horseman is all too often handed over to those close to him who have a stronger emotional maturity. Whether it be occasional lover and agent Princess Carolyn, biographer Diane Nguyen, or Todd Chavez, BoJack is surrounded by people willing to shoulder the burden of his emotional brokenness, not because they are the Hollywood hangers-on the series makes a profession of taking well-aimed shots at, but because they simply care for him. Seemingly unconsciously, BoJack abuses this connection. All these characters get pushed to the side by BoJack and their

Diane Nguyen, biographer.

own feelings go without due care in his pursuit of his behaviours. The result of this is not some damning indictment on BoJack and all he stands for, nor an acceptance of his own moral frailties. The result is to see that BoJack behaves in a certain way for very understandable reasons and is neither to be condemned nor enshrined for his behaviour. His ability to bring such a tight bunch of determined friends around him shows that he is capable of better than he sometimes shows.

At the end of each progressively intense – and emotionally broad –  series, we have pealed back a little more of what makes this man- horse- horse-man, such a compelling character who speaks not only to the complexities of mental health but to privilege, Hollywood excess, and the absolute mess that relationships of all kinds can quickly become. BoJack Horseman forces you to will BoJack to better, knowing he has the ability (if not yet the strength) to do so. It doesn’t forgive him his failings but offers hope he can better himself. Truly, that is a real and grounded hope it offers its audience – there is always room for growth.


Words by Liam McNally.