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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Traffic has eaten our lives

September 03, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: In Traffic, Places

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Photo from InterAksyon

As lifelong veterans of traffic, we formulate explanations as to why it is so bad. These explanations are not thorough or accurate; in many cases, they’re not even right. They are increasingly desperate attempts to make sense of the black hole that swallows us up every time we go out on the street. They constitute a mantra of urban life.

The traffic is heavy because it is raining.
Because it is rush hour.
Because it is Friday.
Because it is payday.
Because there’s been a vehicular accident.
Because the highway is being repaired.
Because there are shopping malls right along the main thoroughfares.
Because the skyway is being constructed.
Because the truck ban has been lifted.
Because the trains aren’t running.
Because there are too many colorum buses.
Because there is no urban planning.
Because the motorists don’t follow basic road rules.
Because this and that.

Read our column, coming up at InterAksyon.

W-ORD News with Cookie Monster and John Oliver

September 03, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Language

Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye

September 02, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies

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Yesterday we found out that it was the 50th anniversary of our favorite Godard movie, Band of Outsiders (Bande a part). We read a review of Band of Outsiders by our favorite film critic Pauline Kael. And we remembered that when we saw Band of Outsiders, it reminded us of our favorite book in high school, The Catcher in the Rye.

There was the age, obviously—their protagonists are young people. There was the dancing. In the Godard, the three leads suddenly dance the Madison in a cafe in Paris; in the Salinger, Holden meets three girls in a club in New York and dances with them. There was the rebellion against the grown-ups, the wanting to run away. There was the sense of being young and free in a big city full of possibilities.

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And there was the nostalgia. What do young people have to be nostalgic about when nothing has happened to them yet? They’re nostalgic for something that didn’t really happen to them—for lives they experienced in the movies. In Band of Outsiders, Franz and Arthur are always pretending to be in a gunfight and acting like they’ve been shot. In Catcher, Holden gets punched in the stomach and staggers into his hotel room as if he’s been shot. Everyone constantly refers to old gangster movies and acts and talks like a tough guy. Holden recounts the plots of movies—he loved Hitchcock, and so did Godard and his cohorts in the French New Wave.

But as Kael points out, “The penalty of (this) fixation on the movie past…is that old movies may not provide an adequate frame of reference for a view of this world.”

Must remember that.

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The running through the Louvre scene, which was imitated by Eva Green and the two guys in Bertolucci’s The Dreamers. The dance scene in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction was an hommage to the Madison.

A strongly-worded gardening taboo

September 02, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

We know nothing about gardening—we could barely keep a mongo plant alive in Science class—but after Rene pointed us to this bit from the 1,000-year-old Japanese text on gardening, Sakuteiki, gardening sounds fascinating.

Regarding the placement of stones there are many taboos. If so much as one of these taboos is violated, the master of the house will fall ill and die, and his land will fall into desolation and become the abode of devils.

We like a manual that doesn’t mince words.

Waiting for The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

September 01, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books

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Over coffee we confessed that we are literary snobs. We judge people according to what they read. We think the label “Young Adult” disparages the intellectual capacity of adolescents. Deo does not read popular books unless they have been deemed worthy by the critics he listens to. Angus took some unfortunate stranger to task for thinking that Harry Potter was the greatest thing ever written.

We are all waiting for the same book: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

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According to Lola the fiction buyer of National Bookstore, The Bone Clocks is on order, along with the new Ian McEwan (We were not crazy about his previous book, which revisited terrain done better in The Innocent and Atonement. Read our review here). Both will probably ship this week, and we hope the congestion at the port doesn’t cause a delay in getting the books to the warehouse.

(“Then why don’t you get the e-book?” How clever you are. Because we want something we can hold, smell, and if we have to, throw across the room with great force.)

James Wood reviews The Bone Clocks in The New Yorker. Here’s the part where he sums up Mitchell’s work so far.

David Mitchell is a superb storyteller. He has an extraordinary facility with narrative: he can get a narrative rolling along faster than most writers, so that it is filled with its own mobile life. You feel that he can do anything he wants, in a variety of modes, and still convince. “Black Swan Green” (2006) is a funny and sweet-natured semi-autobiographical novel, conventionally told, about a boy growing up in a stifling Worcestershire village. “Cloud Atlas” (2004), his best-known book, is a brilliant postmodern suite, comprising six connected and overlapping novellas, set in such eras as the eighteen-fifties, the nineteen-thirties, the nineteen-seventies, and the dystopian future. His 2010 book, “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet,” is a more or less traditional historical novel, set in 1799, in the bay of Nagasaki, about relations between the Japanese and the Dutch. He has a marvellous sense of the real and of the unreal, and his best work keeps these elements in nice tension—a balancing of different vitalities. One of the reasons he is such a popular and critically lauded writer is that he combines both the giddy, freewheeling ceaselessness of the pure storyteller with the grounded realism of the humanist. There’s something for everyone, traditionalist or postmodernist, realist or fantasist; Mitchell is a steady entertainer. Pleasing his readership, he has said, is important to him: “One of the questions I always try to keep in the front of my mind is to ask why would anyone want to read this, and to try to find a positive answer for that. People’s time, if you bought it off them, is expensive. Someone’s going to give you eight or ten hours of their life. I want to give them something back, and I want it to be an enjoyable experience.”

Locking up the “monkey mind” in Luang Prabang

September 01, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Places

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Notes from Luang Prabang
by Joven Cuanang

Our favorite neurologist Dr. Cuanang recently retired as chief medical officer of St. Luke’s, giving him more time to teach, see patients, attend to his art collection (Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo), travel, and write. This piece on his trip to Laos appeared yesterday in the Philippine Star.

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According to their belief, every person has 32 minds and everyone is a carrier of a “monkey mind, foolish, indomitable, animal-like; locking one’s mind to his body helps the process of attaining wellness, happiness and encountering success in work-related endeavors.”

Read Notes from Luang Prabang.