Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for December, 2006


December 22, 2006 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra 2 Comments →

Almost. Be among the first five people to answer 50 book-related questions correctly, and get a copy of The 500 People You Meet In Hell. In today’s Emotional Weather Report, in the Philippine Star.

Update: I’ve received more email entries than I anticipated and they’ve gotten nearly all the answers right, so to be on the safe side I’d name all the Glass children and the specific story/ies by J.D. Salinger in which each one appears.

Readers’ bloc (updated)

December 21, 2006 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra 10 Comments →

I asked some serious readers (my definition: people who read at least one book a week, not counting technical manuals, feasibility studies, things required at work) to name the five best books they read in 2006 (they don’t have to be recent publications). The lists will be posted as they arrive.

Reader: Jaime Augusto Zobel, candidate for cloning
An off-the-cuff list:
Imperium by Robert Harris. Set in ancient Rome, feels modern.
Pathfinders by Felipe Fernandez Armesto
Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
The Riders by Tim Winton, and Winton’s story collection, The Turning. The stories are linked across time. Excellent characterization, painfully raw at times in its depiction of individuals in “small town” Australia. This writer deserves far greater recognition globally.
The Lighthouse by P.D. James

Reader: Mario Taguiwalo, information cruncher
1. The Unschooled Mind by Howard Gardner: lots of respect for the enduring mind formed at 5-6 years old.
2. The Moral Foundations of Politics by Ian Shapiro: why GMA has no moral basis for legitimacy from utilitarian, marxist or democratic perspectives.
3. Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett: it’s time to examine religion as a natural phenomenon.
4. 1776 by David McCullough: The USA was neither inevitable nor destined; it was improvised through one accident after another.
5. The Wisdom Paradox by Elkhonon Goldberg: latest synthesis of neurosciences says the more we use our minds, the healthier they are; lots of really neat stuff about the organ above the neck.

Reader: Uro de la Cruz, compulsive theorizer
Xerxes Invades Greece by Herodotus, the Penguin edition
Adios Hemingway by Leonardo Fuentes
Caligari to Hitler by Siegfried Kracauer
Infidelities by Josip Novakovich
I wish I had not bothered to read The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco.

Reader: Tina Cuyugan, scourge of the asinine
Philip Larkin: Collected Poems. Mercilessly bleak, hilarious, and unforgettable. Concentrated misogyny guaranteed to send feminists into foaming frenzy. The perfect antidote to any gooey feelings left over from Christmas.
The Places In Between by Rory Stewart (travel). Skinny, intrepid Englishman takes two years to cross (on foot) the frozen wastes of war-torn Afghanistan, clad in itchy woolen robes, and with only a toothless mastiff for company. I’m marrying this man.
The People’s Act of Love by James Meek (novel). More frozen wastes, this time in Siberia. Anarchy. Shamans. Revolution. Exile. Christian madness. Nobility in extreme circumstances. Cannibalism of the most pragmatic kind. Oh, and true love.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (family memoir) Brilliant, irresponsible parents create a hell of poverty and dislocation for their kids–who, despite everything, still love mom and pop with clear-eyed compassion. Stop whining about your own childhood.
King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild (history) The true heart of darkness beat in the breast of this 19th-century European monarch who plundered and terrorized the Congo. Prototype of many a 20th-century megalomaniac.

Reader: Din Atienza, masticator of worlds
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller Jr.
My umpteenth re-read, obviously a personal favorite. Random quote: “I am the Immaculate Conception. Accurate am I the exception. I commensurate the deception. Am.” Brilliant!
Blink: the power of thinking without thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
The lazy, Jabba-the-Hutt side of me was immediately attracted to its title. Better-written and more thoughtful than its predecessor The Tipping Point, although I am still undecided if its thesis is brilliantly profound or profoundly stupid.
Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon
Revered among the science fiction cognoscenti as a seminal work. Found it somewhat odd, as it is not really a novel, but a big picture summary of the history of mankind narrated by an omniscient being. It’s obvious he laid the groundwork for many SF writers, although many of these ideas we take for granted now. Ironic though, almost like some college punk reading a Greek tragedy and saying, Hey, they ripped off Star Wars!
The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Bottom line: the wife was reading it and I had nothing new to read in the house for the entire weekend.
Star Trek: Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph
Hi, my name is *** and I’m a Star Trek fan. Dark, guilty pleasure, but no shame there. I am large, I contain multitudes.

Reader: Grace Subido, recovering academic
Boswell’s Clap and Other Essays by William B. Ober – medical analyses of literary men’s afflictions
Lives of Muses by Francine Prose
Letters Of A Nation, edited by Andrew Carrol
– appeals to the voyeur in me. Particularly amused by letter from Earl Stanley Gardner to Black Mask magazine: ” ‘Three O’Clock in the Morning’ is a damn good story. If you have any comments, write ’em on the back of a check.”
Contemporary Fiction, 50 Short Stories since 1970, edited by Lex Williford.
The Art of Literary Research by Richard Altick – puts a different ante on academic writing, especially as a lot of writers in the academe have to realize that “language. . .is not to be treated like a wrestling opponent.”

Click on Comments to post your own list.

The Adventures of Sarcazmo

December 20, 2006 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra 1 Comment →

My friend Rene hails a taxi on the other side of the street. The driver signals him to cross, meaning he will take passengers. So Rene gets into the cab. “Sa Fort po,” he tells the driver. The driver scratches his head to signify that much as he’d like to oblige, he has to decline. “Ay, pupunta kasi ako sa LTFRB para magpa-seal ng metro.”
“Ganoon ho ba?” Rene says in a pleasant tone of voice. “Eh di sasakay na ako papuntang LTFRB para i-report kayo.”
“Bakit naman?” the driver says.
“Hindi niyo ba napanood sa news kagabi?” Rene says. “7pm at 11pm. Sabi ho nila, pag may taxi na ayaw tumanggap ng pasahero, i-text sa LTFRB hotline.”
The driver scratches his head again, to signify that he would rather not oblige, but has no choice. Or maybe his dandruff  is eating his brain. He mutters darkly to himself—something about passengers who make his life difficult.
Rene never stops smiling. “Pagpunta ho ninyo sa LTFRB, itanong ninyo kung ano ang hotline para sa mga pasaherong makulit na ayaw bumaba.”
The taxi brought him to The Fort without further incident.

Joe Barbera, 1911-2006

December 19, 2006 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra 2 Comments →

When I was a kid I thought Hanna Barbera was the clever woman who made all those cartoons. Then again, I thought martial law was a mean Chinese woman. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera created Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, The Jetsons, Huckleberry Hound and many other cartoons.

Remember The Funky Phantom? What a strange idea: one of America’s founders reappearing as a funny ghost. His favorite expression was, “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” Who was Murgatroyd? I googled the name and many genealogies turned up but I’m not sure exactly which Murgatroyd was referred to. Amazing how much stuff we remember that we don’t even remember we remember.

Hear Here

December 17, 2006 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra 3 Comments →

My sister and I were at the mall one day when we saw a woman standing in front of a store, wielding a microphone and singing. She was really exercising her vocal chords, oblivious to the throngs walking past her. Who were just as oblivious to her performance. A few minutes later, inside a bookstore, we spotted another singer, male, who was so engrossed in his own vocalising that he was practically fellating the microphone. The caterwauling issuing from another corner of the mall indicated yet another vocalist. I counted five singers that afternoon, all of them demonstrating the capabilities of their handheld karaoke mic. They had varying degrees of singing ability, but most of them seemed very serious about what they were doing; you could tell that in their minds they were not just standing in a mall ignored by passersby, but on the stage of the Araneta Coliseum, cheered on by their adoring public. The fact that nobody seemed to notice or care was beside the point; they were singing in a large venue.

“See what people have to endure to make a living,” I told Cookie. “Standing there singing like fools while everyone walks right past them. Think of the embarrassment.”

Cookie harrumphed. I don’t know about your sisters, but mine harrumphs, and occasionally supplements her commentary with eyeball-rolling. “What do you mean, embarrassment? Where are you from? It’s probably their dream job! They get to stand in the mall and sing all day in front of an audience. They’re professional singers. Sort of.”

I feel like an alien.


December 17, 2006 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra No Comments →

The world has run amuck, religion gets away with bloody murder, and more than ever we need the consolations of rational thinking. Reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker, is like flicking on a light switch in your brain—there’s a series of pops as the stadium floodlights come on, wiping out the darkness in which you’ve been living. If you are incensed at how powerful lobbies attempt to bring creationism back by repackaging it as “intelligent design”, read this book. If you are sick of being bullied by evangelists and fundamentalists bludgeoning the hordes with their ignorance, read this book. If you feel compelled to feign belief in things that have always struck you as illogical and more than slightly silly, read this book. If you’re afraid to announce what you really think because you’re afraid to be isolated, read this book. If you can’t buy it or find it, I’ll lend it to you. No, wait, I just remembered all the books I had that were never returned. But read this book.