Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for February, 2007

Working on the fun thing

February 28, 2007 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra No Comments →

Pool at the New Majestic, originally uploaded by Koosama.

There looked to be a problem before our tour of Singapore had even started: our tour guide was observing Ramadan, and could not partake of food and drink between sunrise and sunset. The tour organized by the Singapore Tourism Board included sumptuous dinners at some of the city’s finest restaurants. (The dinner at Saint Julien at the Fullerton Boat House was so good, some of us burst into tears.)

“Not a problem,” shrugged our guide, whose wardrobe was inspired by Pinoy singer Freddie Aguilar. “I’m used to it. I’ll just not eat.” And for five days, as we tucked into some fairly spectacular meals, he sat at the table regaling us with tales of Singapore life, impervious to the feasts appearing and disappearing right under his nose.

The tour was designed for visitors interested in arts and culture, cuisine and night life. Barely a decade ago the words “night life” and “Singapore” would not have occurred in the same sentence. Back then, cyberpunk author William Gibson described the city- state as “Disneyland with a death penalty.” Many viewed it as an antiseptic nation of robots in which punishment was meted out to drug users, gum-chewers, and people who did not flush the toilet. It was an impression that the government of Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew did not waste time dispelling – they had other priorities, such as transforming a tiny country with no natural resources into one of the wealthiest (and cleanest) on the planet.

Now that the mission has been accomplished, the citizens are being urged to cultivate pursuits outside the office. Translation: They must learn to have fun.

Property developers have been acquiring old buildings and repurposing them into chic hotels with theme rooms executed by local designers. For instance, the New Majestic Hotel in Chinatown has 30 theme rooms ranging from the Mirror Room (“Watch and be watched!”); Hey Diddle Diddle, a reinterpretation of the nursery rhyme; and the Pussy Parlour, which I leave to your imagination. It’s all excruciatingly hip and a tad self-conscious, but let no one doubt the Singaporean determination to achieve coolness. Yes, they have toiled for the right to party.

Another boutique hotel, The Scarlet, aspires to the look of an upscale Victorian bordello: all deep red hues and plush furniture. It’s like early ’90s Victoria Court with a budget, with Temptation Island tossed in. The rooms have names like Lavish and Passion, the gym is called Flaunt, and the boardroom is the Sanctum. Even the mailbox is made of leather.

Folding universes

February 27, 2007 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra 7 Comments →

Physicist Robert J. Lang quit his job to do origami full-time.

In his book Heat, Bill Buford describes how he quit his job as an editor at the New Yorker to become a kitchen slave at Mario Batali’s restaurant Babbo, then a line cook, then an apprentice butcher in Tuscany.

Do you have a theoretical parallel life? Ever think of dropping everything to pursue some possibly half-assed notion? That’s a real question, I want answers.

Shameless plugs

February 27, 2007 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra No Comments →

Half-conscious among Rubenses, originally uploaded by Koosama.

My most recent book, The 500 People You Meet In Hell, is on the National Bookstore bestseller list. Thanks to everyone who bought the book; do buy more copies. The 500 was designed and illustrated by Ige Ramos, whose culinary/consumerist column Bandehado will appear in Bandera Sundays starting March 4. On Sunday the aspiring Nigella answers the question: “Bakit hindi lumulobo ang fishball na nabibili sa supermarket di tulad ng fishball na nabibili sa kalye?”

Twisted volumes 1 to 7, Twisted Flicks, and Pinoy Elections are all available in softcover at National Bookstores and Powerbooks. My book publisher tells me that we have to keep the prices down, hence the newsprint. Something about my readers being predominantly students, etc. So kids, sorry about eating into your allowance; we’ll keep the books under P200.

My columns appear Fridays in the Star and monthly in Metro. Manila Envelope 3 will launch in May. Also, I have a few dozen tapes of my old radio talk show Twisted on Sunday waiting to be converted into mp3s, but who has the time to do that? If you have the time (and the equipment), email me; we’re talking a couple of years’ worth of podcasts.


February 26, 2007 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra 2 Comments →

Martin Scorsese is my favorite Catholic. How many great films does a guy have to make to win a goddamn Oscar? Alright everyone, time to stop humping Marty’s leg.
I had thought cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on Children of Men was unbeatable. Pan’s Labyrinth is amazing though. I hated Babel, but the Mexicans (Cuaron, Del Toro, Inarritu) are on to something.
During the telecast I saw many ads I’d never seen before. I learned that coffee and malted barley are good for me. Must drink more coffee and Guinness then.

What I missed

February 26, 2007 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra 2 Comments →

Did you know that Airto Moreira and Flora Purim played at the Coconut Palace last Friday? I didn’t. Nobody told me. You’d think that of all the email I get from people I don’t know, at least one would tell me that Purim and Airto were performing in Manila. Instead I get letters from aliens claiming to be evil dictators or their accountants appealing to my greed to help them move their imaginary funds out of their countries, or press releases from politicians trumpeting their alleged achievements. (Suggestion to politicians: In the series Rome, no matter what you’ve done, you can try to redeem yourself by bravely baring your throat when the time comes, or stripping off your armor and walking into an opposing army. That’s the season 2, episode 6 recap, by the way.)
You’d think the posters for the Philippine Jazz Festival would have “Airto” and “Purim” in great big letters, but all we see are silhouettes of saxophonists and scatters, and I’m not into scat because I can’t help thinking they’re doing it because they’ve forgotten the lyrics.
You’d think that of all the billboards blighting the urban landscape at least one would say Airto would have a concert here, and by the way what happened to all those declarations post-typhoon Milenyo that billboards, being threats to public safety, would be taken down? The billboards are back up, in greater numbers, informing us that your grandmother, who if you looked again turned out to be Cliff Richard, is having a Valentine’s Day concert, and that if everyone used Botox, we’d have one vision, one nation, presumably because we wouldn’t be able to contort our faces in rage.
I did find out that Purim, Airto, and Diane Schuur were supposed to jam at the Ayala museum cafe Sunday night. I didn’t go.

Dictator makeover

February 25, 2007 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra No Comments →

Five fashion designers/stylists propose makeovers for North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Il, whose attachment to the James Bond archvillain look of the Sixties is even stronger than his attachment to his nuclear arsenal. For the sake of world peace, I propose a runway walk-off between the two scariest men of our time: Kim Jong-Il and Karl Lagerfeld. Bring out the garlic and the holy water! Place your bets.