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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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A totally unnecessary review of the extremely amusing Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2

April 26, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies

Yes, it’s a blast, almost strenuously cheerful.

1. It’s funny and the opposite of self-serious.

2. There are unexpectedly affecting moments, most of them having to do with father-son relationships. Gamora’s relationship with Nebula also gets some attention. Captain America is all about politics, Spider-Man is about adolescence, X-Men is about nerds and Guardians is about family. (Fantastic Four should’ve been about family, but they never figured it out.)

3. It has even more music in it than the first Guardians; you could view it as an exhausting series of very expensive music videos. The poster looks like an album cover.

It uses Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, which is also the score of one of two scenes I bring up to convince people to watch The Americans (The other scene is set to Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk.)

4. There are famous actor cameos that I suspect will be spun off into other movie franchises. At this point Marvel Studio movies should no longer be reviewed as cinema, but as business strategies. The villain’s plan for universal domination could actually be the studio’s.

5. Chris Pratt is probably at peak adorableness. (Chris Pratt and Anna Faris might be this century’s Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.) His idiotic comment about blue collar representation in Hollywood—and subsequent apology—actually helps him; otherwise he would be too adorable and the audience would be sick of him. (Three franchises.)

6. There are five credit sequences and they are not a pain to sit through.

7. Yes, the Marvel flicks use those de-aging effects very well.

8. Fine use of Michael Rooker.

9. Vin Diesel is most effective when his dialogue is limited to one line (with countless readings).

10. The achievement of James Gunn and GOTG is making everything seem spontaneous, wacky and random, when the product is so slick one could suspect they have reduced us into algorithms.

Clear your head by cleaning your house

April 25, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Health, Psychology


Migraine illustration by Dave Cutler

I spent all of Sunday in bed with a migraine, and on Monday my head still felt like an egg in danger of cracking, but I managed to go to the bank then to lunch, to buy the week’s supply of cat food, and to record my Trippies voice-overs despite bizarre misunderstandings with two Uber drivers, neither of them could find Glorietta 1—the mall where the airconditioning is as feeble as the dying exhalations of a consumptive mouse—and one of whom attempted to drive to Legaspi Village by way of Alabang. Some of the confusion was due to curious instructions from Waze, which would not have been an issue if the drivers were familiar with the Makati business district, and which were probably due to the faint, faint, disappearing internet connection on their phones. When I got home I tried to take a nap to preempt another headache, but I felt like my apartment was closing in on me like the garbage chute in Star Wars: A New Hope. I was suffocating in stuff. I needed space, air, blankness.

So I got out of bed, assembled a large cardboard box and started tossing in things I would never use again and had forgotten I owned. The key to housecleaning is ruthlessness. I knew I’d accumulated an incredible amount of garbage over the years, but even I was surprised by how much stuff was choking the place. Into the box went half a dozen unused, very dusty corporate giveaway umbrellas, sneakers whose soles had disintegrated from disuse and humidity, and shoes that hosted exotic fungi cultures. Next to the box went two once-pretty picnic baskets full of empty boxes and cans I had intended for various craft projects that were never started. And newspapers, magazines, tape receipts faded with age, papers reeking of cat pee and clotted with fur and dustballs. In went tote bags I suppose I could’ve laundered and saved, but what for.

Among the junk I found and saved three doorstops—biographies of John Cheever and Georges Simenon, and the journals of Sylvia Plath, a vintage Remington typewriter, pens shaped like cats, diskettes! and cat toys that had been ignored by my feline overlords, but which Jacob the new cat happily kicked around the house. In two and a half hours I amassed two big boxes and several trash bags of stuff that had been clogging my space, and threw them away. Immediately I felt clean and free, and my head was clear. I even considered firing the cleaning lady, who, it turns out, only pushes the dirt around and redistributes it among the corners, but quickly came to my senses (She is an excellent cat-sitter).

This cleaning frenzy is wonderful. Usually it seizes me once a year, but next week I plan to be irritated by the sight of my closets.

Houellebecq’s Submission is distressing, essential reading for these apocalyptic times

April 21, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Current Events


English translation by Lorin Stein. Available at National Bookstores, Php715.

While reading this insightful, disturbing piece about the French election on Sunday, I remembered that I had a copy of Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission gathering dust on a shelf.

You’ve heard of Submission—the book and its author were on the cover of Charlie Hebdo the day gunmen entered the office of the magazine and killed eight people.

I find Houellebecq’s work repulsive, full of characters who have no convictions and pornographically-detailed sex scenes. And yet I’ve read Elementary Particles, Platform, The Map and the Territory, and now Submission all the way to the end. Man writes compelling prose, even if it causes queasiness. It’s supposed to be satire; I wish it were funny. In this case I wish it were funny and so far-out it could be dismissed as mere provocation.

Submission is set in Paris in 2022, on the eve of a general election. Its narrator is Francois, a professor at the Sorbonne and an expert on J.K. Huysmans (In Under Three Flags, Benedict Anderson writes that Huysmans’s novel Against Nature was a model for El Filibusterismo). Francois has no reason to live; he doesn’t even feel like sleeping with his students anymore. Then the election is held. The National Front of Marine Le Pen is the frontrunner. The Socialists are impotent.

To prevent the nativists from winning, the Socialists form an alliance with the newly-formed Muslim Brotherhood. A charming moderate Muslim named Ben- Abbes becomes president. France becomes an Islamic country and the French quickly fall in line. The Sorbonne is privatized and flush with petrodollars. Women can no longer teach. Families are given subsidies so women can stay home, raise their children and make more babies. Polygamy is legal. The European Union expands to include Egypt, Lebanon, North Africa. A new Roman Empire is in the works, a re-reconquista.

Francois, who believes in nothing and has nothing to hold on to, is offered a promotion, way more money, academic prestige, and young wives. The submission of the nation mirrors the submission of women.

Read it. I’m going to have a drink or three.

* * *

Thank you, France, now do it again on May 7. Prove how superior you are, and you can look down your nose at everyone else.

Calculated misery: How airlines turn your discomfort and aggravation into profits

April 19, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Traveling

Some airlines make the experience of flying so awful that you would pay extra to avoid the awfulness. In the words of the law professor who coined the term “calculated misery”:

…in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as “calculated misery.” Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that’s where the suffering begins.

Calculated misery

is the reversal of how we usually think about upgrades. Think of going to a restaurant and ordering a burger: Cheese and bacon usually cost extra, and many people will gladly pony up because the gooey cheese and crackling, salty bacon enhance the experience.

With the airline industry, it’s the opposite: You’re upgrading to avoid hell.

It’s like if a burger joint charged you for a patty of plain ground beef and a bun, then gave you the chance to make your burger more palatable by paying a seasoning fee, a medium-rare fee, and separate surcharges for lettuce, tomato, and onion. Or, in airline speak, a seat selection fee, a checked baggage fee, a wifi fee, a preboarding fee, an extra legroom fee, and so on.

In the airline industry, many services and amenities that used to be standard now qualify as an “upgrade.” Meanwhile, the “standard” experience is frequently so miserable that many people will pay to make it better.

Read the piece and shudder.

More: Why airlines overbook, and your rights as passengers.

Back-to-work links: Jerusalem cats, the Pope’s laundry, Salter, trashy movies, old book smells, and Prince’s death anniversary

April 17, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Cats, Health, Music

Holy Cats! Jerusalem’s strays and their unsung guardian

The Pope sponsors a free laundromat for the homeless

A brief history of the short story: James Salter

“Movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them.” – Pauline Kael

How many of these 50 Trashy Movies Needs to See Before They Die have you seen?

A new, more rigorous study confirms: The more you use Facebook, the worse you feel.

Do you spend so much time on Facebook because you are depressed, or does spending so much time on Facebook make you depressed?

Rules of memory ‘beautifully’ rewritten

The brain makes two copies.

Old books actually smell like chocolate and coffee.

That explains so much.

Prince’s Death: One Year Later, Unsolved Mysteries

Fentanyl killed him.