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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Public art as a poke in the eye

October 16, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Places, Traveling

Our guide the hairless Serb suggested we go to the Zizkov TV tower because “they were taking down the babies”. I had no idea what he was talking about, but this is how he always spoke (Let’s just say he’s seen things you people wouldn’t believe). The babies turned out to be David Cerny sculptures climbing up the tower, and they were being taken down for renovation.

Later that week we saw Cerny’s sculpture of two men peeing into a basin shaped like the Czech Republic. Apparently the pee stream writes quotes from famous Czechs. If you text a certain number, they will render your message in pee.

Cerny also had an installation featuring giant torsos bent from the waist down. You climbed a ladder and stuck your head where the sun don’t shine to view a video of politicians eating slop to the tune of “We Are The Champions”.

The relatively uncontroversial piece above is of a cat burglar at the modern art museum in Olomouc, across from the cathedral where Mozart had played the pipe organ. Every so often the burglar yells out something rude.

Blade Runner 2049 is a religious experience.

October 12, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies

I crawled out of bed and got a coffee IV drip to watch Blade Runner 2049 at the cinema. Now children below 18, go away and play with your toys.

Are they gone?

Holy fuck Blade Runner 2049 is beautiful.

I don’t mean pretty visuals beautiful, I mean sublime. I mean tears and snot in rain. I mean attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.

It takes Philip K. Dick’s question about what it means to be human and walks it through Milton and Chris Marker, Stalker and Children of Men. My brain is in a different timezone so pardon my incoherence.

It is church for atheists. I’m going to see it in theaters as many times as I can.

It’s about an individual (He even has the same initial as one of Kafka’s protagonists) who leads a lonely, pointless existence made bearable by artificial entertainments, who suddenly realizes that his life could mean something. But he must make a choice.

If it’s a diversion from life that you want, maybe go see something else. This is a movie that asks: Are you human, or are you a drone?

Now returning to stasis.

If I lived in Prague, this would be my address.

October 12, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Design, Places, Traveling

The Imperial Hotel is in a gorgeous Art Deco/Czech Cubist building in Praha 1. It was built on the site of a pub dating back to the 1700s. The hotel opened in 1914, and in recent years it was completely renovated according to its original plans.

This is an elevator.


Going home would be the high point of the day, even if you just went out to the pharmacy.

You would have breakfast every day at the Imperial Cafe.

Look at this staircase, Wes Anderson would plotz. Amazingly, no movies have been filmed at the Imperial, not for lack of interest, but because it is usually full.

And the hotel is pet-friendly, so the cats and I would be very comfortable. My dream house has always been a luxury hotel. Whatever state you leave your rooms in, when you return, everything is orderly and gleaming. There is no need to cook or wash dishes, because there is room service. When you get tired of the decor, you could move to another good hotel. Hey hotels, what about a writer-in-residence program? All my stories would take place at the hotel.

* * * * *

As soon as I wake up I’m going to watch Blade Runner 2049. I just checked the movie schedule and found out that the film adaptation of HHhH is also in local cinemas. It’s called The Man With The Iron Heart, with Jason Clarke as Heydrich and Jacks O’Connell and Reynor as Josef Gabcik and Jan Kubis. The dreaded Nazi Butcher of Prague was assassinated by young Czech fighters who parachuted into Prague, leading to a seven-hour standoff between seven Czech fighters and the German Army at the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius. One of the most stirring episodes of resistance and courage in World War II–I hope the filmmakers did it justice.

Where am I? (Answered)

October 04, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling

That is the question I asked myself when my eyes flew open at 6am after a very sound sleep brought on by jet lag and a lot of plum liquor. That plum liquor is brilliant stuff—not only did it wipe out the stiffness caused by walking ten kilometers, usually uphill, but there’s no hangover.

Where do you think?

6 October. Yes, I was in Prague, and now going round the Czech Republic to Brno and Czesky Krumlov.

The first photo is of a room in the Kafka Museum, a new (opened 2005, and around here if it’s not 19th century it’s new) tribute to Prague’s most famous writer and neurotic. The museum does a good job of simulating the experience of reading Kafka: this room looks like an archive and a morgue.

The second is of a gargoyle on the facade of St. Vitus Cathedral in the Castle complex. According to the story—I love these stories of ancient and medieval martyrs, they’re so bizarre—Vitus volunteered for the Roman army but converted to Christianity. So the Romans threw him in the lions’ den, but the lions refused to eat him. You’d think he would get a pass after that, but then the Romans doused him in boiling oil. His dying seizures gave the name to St. Vitus’s Dance. Religion is cruel.

Another medieval saint, this one in the Loreto. Uncumber was the daughter of a nobleman who planned to marry her off to another noble family. But she had no intention of marrying, so she prayed to God to prevent it from happening. And God answered her prayer by sending her a full beard. The wedding was off. The furious father had her crucified. You understand my skepticism at these medieval martyr tales.

The Schwarzenberg Palace, also at the Castle complex. It’s now the National Gallery. The Schwarzenbergs were a prominent Catholic family. Prague has a long history of religious bloodshed. The Catholics would kill the Protestants. The Protestants would kill the Catholics. The Catholics would kill the Protestants. The Prostestants would kill the Catholics. Occasionally they would get together and kill the Jews.

Yes, that is the John Lennon Wall. Lennon never gave a concert in Prague, though many had hoped he would. (Their Velvet Revolution of 1989 was not only named after the Velvet Underground, but got the support of bands like the Stones. The Rolling Stones visited Vaclav Havel in his office at the Castle and noted that it had no chandeliers. So they donated chandeliers.) After Lennon’s death in 1980, this wall outside the building of the Knights of Malta became a battleground for free speech. Every night the anti-Communist resistance would come and paint graffiti on the wall. Every day the police would paint over it. Every night the resistance would do the graffiti again. Resistance requires relentless insistence in the face of official absurdity. Never give in.

Pelicula, the Spanish film festival, is on from October 5-15

October 03, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies

Salvador Calvo will open the Festival with his movie 1898, Los últimos de Filipinas. The film tells the story of the Baler siege of 1898, when a group of Spanish soldiers resisted for 337 days without knowing that the Philippine Revolution against Spain was over. Calvo will have a Q&A with the audience on October 6, at 9:30pm.

Sally Gutiérrez will present her documentary Ta acorda ba Tu el Filipinas? on October 6, at 4:30pm.

Read the official catalogue of Pelicula 2017.

Tickets are at Php100. Get them at the Greenbelt 3 box office, or buy them online at sureseats.com.

For more information, log on to the Instituto Cervantes website (www.manila.cervantes.es) or www.facebook.com/InstitutoCervantesManila.

Calling Filipino expats, OFWs, immigrants. It’s time to enlist in the World Domination Project.

October 01, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, World Domination Update

I will be traveling often in the next five months to talk to you wherever you happen to be right now. Join the World Domination Project Facebook page (run by Bubbles) to get updates and set our meetings.

You can also email me at koosama@gmail.com.

Thanks to Rommel in NZ, Patricia in France, Patrick in BKK, Hendrick in Dubai, Leah in Munich for the emails. Talk soon!