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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for April, 2007

Because we don’t exist.

April 24, 2007 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra 3 Comments →

We’re supposed to be in the digital age where information travels at the speed of thought and all the hassles of bill-paying and banking transactions have been done away with etc etc, I’m sure it’s all written down in a brochure somewhere. I’ve always had my doubts about these claims, but today I decided to put them to the test. Join the information age. Ditch my outdated analog habits. Whatever.

For years I’ve paid my utilities bills through an ATM account. But what if it could get even easier? What if I could pay my bills without leaving the house? So I enrolled in the online banking service. Everything was fine until I tried to register my utilities accounts. Every time I hit ‘send’, I would get an error message. So I called the bank’s call center to find out what was wrong.

Ever called a call center? Suddenly you understand Waiting For Godot. After several minutes of listening to promos, muzak, and assurances that someone would attend to me shortly, I decided to spare myself the headache. Instead, I would pass on the headache to someone who was actually paid to endure it. I popped over to the bank (it’s close by) and explained the problem in detail to the very nice staff. She said only the call center could deal with the problem, but she would contact them herself.

Amazingly she not only called me back, but she had an answer: my browser was Mozilla Firefox, and I had to use Internet Explorer to access the site. Then she said I had to call the call center. Yaargh. So I went to the nearest internet cafe to see if using Explorer would solve everything, but the cafe’s connection was excruciatingly slow and I have a short fuse. (Turns out the browser was not the problem, but I won’t bore you with the stupid details.)
After an ice-cold drink, I figured I’d try sending money using my cellphone. Texting money, what a great idea. You register by text, you hand over your money to the agent, they text the recipient, the recipient gets the money from the agent nearest to them. Telecommunications rules. Turns out that there is paperwork. You register by text, but then you still have to fill out a form and present ID. The recipient also has to register, and when they get the text they have to fill out another form to get the cash. I thought the digital economy was supposed to cut down on paper usage, and now I find trees still have to die even if you are sending money by text.

So much for the information age. Maybe it’s happening elsewhere, but not here. Because we don’t exist. We’re not real. We’re in the Matrix, where you could enroll in a credit card company’s bill payment facility and then discover that you’ve been paying the electricity and water bills of some person you’ve never met. (Maybe she took all the money she’d saved and used it to buy the entire line of Secosana bags. Long story.)

Honeymoon of horror

April 23, 2007 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra 1 Comment →

There’s quite a bit of sex in the writings of Ian McEwan, some of it fairly nasty, so it comes as a surprise that his new book On Chesil Beach is about a couple petrified with fear on their honeymoon night. Making it the anti-McEwan McEwan: the trademark viciousness has turned into compassion. At 166 pages, it’s a thin premise made profound and moving. I’ll review it at length in my column next week, with sufficiently nasty examples.

Dead Star

April 23, 2007 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra 2 Comments →

So the media turns another killer into a celebrity. Young, dead, and famous. Once again, every psycho who thinks he has a score to settle can rest assured that if he goes out and shoots people, he will get all the attention he feels he’s been deprived of. The higher the body count, the more the airtime. He won’t be around to enjoy his celebrity, but his multimedia presentation (shades of the violent Korean film Oldboy) will be viewed by millions, and for weeks every pundit and TV psychologist will be offering an opinion as to why he did it. An object of fear is transformed into an object of pity, and then an object of envy.

Sure we have to know why he did it, but no matter what we find out, this kind of horror will likely happen again. (After Columbine we were speculating on why those children did it, and our publisher had this explanation. America, he said, is the new Rome.) When it does, people will slap their foreheads and say they saw it coming. Which doesn’t stop it from happening. There are many angry, troubled people in the world. You have problems, and you deal with them as best as you can, but since you do so without a gun and without involving others, you are not newsworthy. When did killing bystanders become a glamorous occupation?

The Virginia Tech shooting marked a watershed moment for old and new media. Read America’s first user-generated confession.

We needsss it, preciousss.

April 21, 2007 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra No Comments →

J.R.R. Tolkien, who died in 1973, has a new book out. The Children of Hurin was first written in 1919, but Tolkien kept rewriting it, and variations have appeared in his other works. This is the first stand-alone version, edited by Christopher Tolkien (He who jealously guards father’s estate. Well there’s this bar staffed with little people…).

According to the Washington Post book review by Elizabeth Hand (you have to register to read it), the events in The Children of Hurin take place 6,000 years before the Council of Elrond. Men and Elves are at war with the forces of Morgoth (Sauron’s boss). The hero Turin grows up among the Elves after his father is imprisoned by Morgoth.

“The House of Húrin matches that of Atreus in curses coming home to roost upon doomed and sometimes innocent family members. Readers looking for happy endings will find none in this book. Instead, there is grand, epic storytelling and a reminder, if one was needed, of Tolkien’s genius in creating an imaginary world that both reflects and deepens a sense of our own mythic past, the now-forgotten battles and legends that gave birth to the Aeneid, the Old Testament, the Oresteia, the Elder Eddas and the Mabinogion, Beowulf and Paradise Lost.”

Foster to Cannes

April 21, 2007 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra No Comments →

It’s official: Foster, a film by Brillante Mendoza (Masahista/The Masseur), will be screened at the Directors’ Fortnight during the Cannes Film Festival. Foster was written by Ralston Jover (Kubrador/The Bet Collector) and produced by Robbie Tan for Seiko Films (Bridal Shower. Seiko also produced those wonderful movies from the ’80s and ’90s including Huwag Mong Buhayin Ang Bangkay/Don’t Reanimate the Corpse and Patikim Ng Pinya/Taste the Pineapple, and I mention these in an admiring rather than snarky manner.) Foster follows a professional foster mother played by Cherry Pie Picache on the day that she has to hand over her ward, Tisoy, to his American adoptive parents. Mendoza, whose film Masahista won at Locarno a couple of years ago, takes an almost documentary approach to the emotionally-charged subject matter, and gets fine performances out of Picache, Jiro Manio as her natural child, and the rest of the cast. There’s some impressive camera work in a congested neighborhood; my compliments to the crowd wranglers (This is the Feelypeens: Everyone wants to be in the shot).

Answers

April 21, 2007 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra 1 Comment →

1. Sunset Boulevard, written and directed by Billy Wilder, with Gloria Swanson, William Holden, and Erich von Stroheim as the butler.
2. 8 1/2, written and directed by Federico Fellini, with Marcello Mastroianni as his stand-in.
3. Stardoom, directed by Lino Brocka, starring Lolita Rodriguez and Walter Navarro.
4. Day for Night by Francois Truffaut, starring Jean-Pierre Leaud, Jean-Paul Aumont, and Jacqueline Bisset.
5. Pagdating Sa Dulo by Ishmael Bernal, starring Rita Gomez and Vic Vargas.
6. The Bad and the Beautiful, directed by Vincente Minnelli, starring Kirk Douglas, Walter Pidgeon, Lana Turner.
7. Singin’ In The Rain, directed by Stanley Donen, starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds.
8. Pinoy Blonde, directed by Peque Gallaga, starring Epy and Boy2 Quizon.
9. The Dreamers, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, starring Eva Green.
10. Cinema Paradiso by Giuseppe Tornatore, starring Philippe Noiret as Alfredo the old projectionist.

Winners will be notified by email. Prizes can be claimed at Anvil Publishing during office hours next week. (I’ll be at the World Book Day fair at Instituto Cervantes this afternoon in case you want books signed. I mean my books, not other authors’.)

You want to know how they did those long takes in Alfonso Cuaron’s amazing movie Children of Men (Emmanuel Lubezki was DP)? Here.