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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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You’re probably going to watch the new Mission Impossible this weekend, and we approve.

July 31, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies

Tom-Cruise-Stars-in-Mission-Impossible-Rogue-Nation

The secondary title is often misspelled “Rouge Nation”, which makes it sound like a conspiracy of the cosmetics industry. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote The Usual Suspects and the seriously underrated Edge of Tomorrow, Mission Impossible 5 delivers what we expect of the franchise: choreographed thrills, complicated stunts, amazing prosthetics, absurd mayhem, ridiculous fun, and the hardest-working star in Hollywood. It’s a series of set pieces in which Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) hangs from a plane, swings through the ropes backstage at the Vienna Opera, dives into a tank with no oxygen supply, crashes in a car that flips over and over again, engages in a high-speed motorcycle chase, gets punched a lot, and runs and runs and runs.

Two ways MI5 is different from most Tom Cruise vehicles: It actually makes fun of Tom, and Tom actually has chemistry with a female agent with the cheeky name of Ilsa Faust (We’re guessing the Ilsa is an allusion to Casablanca). Rebecca Ferguson (star of the BBC’s The White Queen) makes a strong impression as a spy who is Hunt’s equal. Great support from Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner as the IMF crew, Alec Baldwin being Alec Baldwin as the CIA chief who shuts them down, Sean Harris (he was the in-house killer in The Borgias) as villain Solomon Lane, and Tom Hollander as the dopey British Prime Mister.

The Philippines is mentioned as the site of one of the villain’s dastardly deeds. Lane is also blamed for the disappearance of a passenger plane carrying more than 200 people. (Right after the movie we saw a news report that the missing Malaysian Airline planes may have been found.)

Rating: Highly recommended.

The animals on Zoo should rise up and overthrow the series.

July 31, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Television

zoo

The series opens in Botswana, where the hard-drinking handsome American Jackson Oz (James Wolk) and his best friend Abraham Kenyatta (Nonso Anozie from Game of Thrones) are taking tourists on safari to see the lions. Conveniently, Oz’s father (Ken Olin, seen in old videos) was a brilliant zoologist who got kicked out of Harvard for espousing the theory that animals would rise up and overthrow humankind. Shortly after we hear the older Oz’s lecture, lions attack a tour van and kill all the tourists. If those tourists were taking selfies with the lions, they deserved to get eaten. Yay, natural selection.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, two lions raised in captivity kill their trainer, break out of the zoo, and attack two men urinating in an alley. Again no one looks into the simplest explanation for the violence: lions don’t like public peeing. (Seriously, don’t mark their territory.) Newspaper reporter Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly) believes that the big cat attacks have something to do with the brand of animal feed the zoo uses. This is plausible because whenever we run out of Fancy Feast cat food at home, my cat Saffy sharpens her claws on my favorite books.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

Oliver Sacks’s latest dispatch from the edge of death

July 30, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Science

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Oliver Sacks illustration by Aidan Koch

In February the neurologist, writer and all-around super-nerd Oliver Sacks wrote that he had metastatic cancer and did not have long to live. He sounded more serene and cheerful as he awaited the end than many people with decades and decades ahead of them. Last week he published an update on his condition. It is dire. And yet he sounds almost excited to be at the final frontier. We know that when the time comes, in the event that there is an afterlife and there is any way he can report to us from there, he will.

We haven’t gotten around to reviewing his autobiography On The Move because we get too emotional.

* * * * *

I have tended since early boyhood to deal with loss — losing people dear to me — by turning to the nonhuman. When I was sent away to a boarding school as a child of 6, at the outset of the Second World War, numbers became my friends; when I returned to London at 10, the elements and the periodic table became my companions. Times of stress throughout my life have led me to turn, or return, to the physical sciences, a world where there is no life, but also no death.

And now, at this juncture, when death is no longer an abstract concept, but a presence — an all-too-close, not-to-be-denied presence — I am again surrounding myself, as I did when I was a boy, with metals and minerals, little emblems of eternity. At one end of my writing table, I have element 81 in a charming box, sent to me by element-friends in England: It says, “Happy Thallium Birthday,”a souvenir of my 81st birthday last July; then, a realm devoted to lead, element 82, for my just celebrated 82nd birthday earlier this month. Here, too, is a little lead casket, containing element 90, thorium, crystalline thorium, as beautiful as diamonds, and, of course, radioactive — hence the lead casket.

Read it.

Everyday sights in Miami

July 30, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places

Man on motorbike1

Our friend went to Orlando for a tech conference and then proceeded to Miami to look at Art Deco. And saw these common sights in Miami traffic. Shirtless guys on bikes: banned in Manila.

Purple car1

And then guys in tricked-out cars blasting music stop in the middle in the street, people gather round and a party breaks out.

Earworm: Devil May Care

July 30, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Music, Science

Woke up the other day with this playing in our head. Why, we have no idea. We read the chapter on earworms in Oliver Sacks’s Musicophilia, but he doesn’t know what causes them, either. Earworms are also known as “last song syndrome”, but in this case we hadn’t heard Bob Dorough in years when he started singing in our head. We have a cassette of one of his albums, which a friend recorded from vinyl, but our one surviving cassette player has a perpetual whirr. So we were happy to find Devil May Care on YouTube, along with his other songs including Baltimore Oriole and Blue Xmas, an anti-Xmas song that ranks up there with Christmastime is Here from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Yes, we like bebop, our musical tastes are guy-ish and Dorough’s singing IS odd.

SWOT Analysis: PNoy’s Last SONA

July 28, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events

Strengths

The play of words in lines like “May pumapasok nang madilim pa, at may umuuwing madilim na—pero lahat sila, naiiwan sa dilim dahil hindi sapat ang oras ng pag-aaral” (Some went to school when it was still dark, others went home when it was already dark, but everyone was in the dark…) gave it rhythm.

His claims are supported by figures and percentages: dividends from GOCCs, revenues generated by BIR, budget reform, global competitiveness and economic growth, investment-grade credit rating, net foreign investments, domestic investments, growth of the manufacturing sector, lowest unemployment in a decade, better opportunities so OFWs can return to the Philippines, improved labor relations, support for education, wider heath coverage, etc. Admittedly numbers are not thrilling and many listeners may have tuned out, but how else do you illustrate improvement? Besides, we will know that we have matured as a nation when our politics becomes boring. Perhaps aware that reciting numbers makes listeners sleepy, he closed out the math section by quoting Aiza Seguerra: “I thank you, bow.” Later he provided a helpful summary for listeners who had just woken up.

Weaknesses

Aquino absolves Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya for the atrocious state of the MRT, heaping the blame on the private corporation maintaining it. “Di po ba miski sinong kumpanya, dapat sinisigurong masusulit ang kanilang investment? Pero hinayaan lang nilang lumala nang lumala ang situwasyon hanggang umabot sa puntong ipinasa na sa atin nang ora-orada ang pagsasaayos ng MRT.” (Whatever the company, shouldn’t they be ensuring a return on their investment? But they let the situation get worse and worse…) Why are you complaining to us about how your private partner runs the MRT? You’re the government! The MRT is a public utility!

Opportunities

Aquino points out that politicians exploit the forgiving nature of Filipinos (which we ascribe to very poor memory and a refusal to do anything that might cause other people to dislike them), chanting “Kawawa naman kami” (Poor pitiful us) all the way back to power. This is the closest he got to criticizing his “bosses”. “May naalala ba kayong nagsabing, ‘Sorry sa pagnanakaw at pang-aabuso, handa na akong magbago?’” (Do you recall anyone saying, ‘Sorry for the theft and abuse of power, I am ready to change?’”)

Threats

In detailing efforts to upgrade the Armed Forces (the Air Force now has actual planes) and the National Police, he cited these statistics: In Metro Manila, from January to June 2014, there were 37 murders and homicides every week. The number is now down to 23 murders and homicides. There were 919 cases of robbery, theft and carjacking every week, but they’re down to 444 cases a week. What! That many?! The stats may be down, but it still sounds like a crime wave.

Read our column at InterAksyon.