Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for March, 2008

Top 10 reasons for plagiarising Wikipedia

March 31, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events 11 Comments →

10. But I thought Wikipedia was free and for everybody.
9. Not my fault, my assistant/ghostwriter did it.
8. Umm. . .imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?
7. I did write footnotes and a bibliography, but all them ibids and op cits wouldn’t fit on the page.
6. See, I have a photographic memory, so I must’ve remembered the Wikipedia entry and thought it was mine.
5. No, that’s not plagiarism, I just ran a press release someone sent me. Verbatim.
4. I was testing you to see if you’d recognize the piece. Very good!
3. If twelve monkeys randomly pounding typewriters will eventually “write” the complete works of Shakespeare, why can’t I randomly type the Wikipedia thingy?
2. But everybody does it.
1. You don’t understand. I wrote that wiki, so it’s okay.

Bonus # 11. People read Wikipedia?!

Cutting and pasting your newspaper column out of Wikipedia entries: Evil (If you did it in school you would be expelled immediately, but in the real world you actually get rewarded!!) or Moronic (You couldn’t find a really obscure text to rip off?!)? Discuss.

Shanghai, the digest

March 30, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling 3 Comments →

Traditional proctological exam, originally uploaded by 160507.

I’m back. Shanghai was a blast. Lots to write about.
1. Shanghai is having an extended winter: it got colder by the day. Rained all weekend.
2. It’s very dusty, probably because there’s so much construction going on. You can see new Bentleys drive by with dusty roofs.
3. It always looks like dusk or early dawn because of all the lights.
4. If you are not accompanied by a local, you need to carry cards with the Chinese characters for “washroom”, “taxi”, “subway”, etc, and all the places you’re going to, especially your hotel.
5. It takes ages to change dollars. There are queues. You have to change your money at a bank as there are fake bills going around.
6. The locals only sound like they’re fighting, or at least one hopes so.
7. The Filipino brand Oishi rules the snack market.
8. Traffic is as bad as Manila’s, and the drivers are as nuts, so you feel right at home.
9. The locations in Lust, Caution no longer exist, but you can see where they used to be.
10. There’s a beautiful two-storey branch of Figaro in Luwan district. They have a book club.
11. The Bund Underground Tourist Tunnel screams, “We have so much money, we don’t know what to do with it!”
12. In the Museum of Sex you can buy an assortment of lewd figurines and a tea set that, when you pour water in the cups, shows you couples in different positions. However, the most popular item was out of stock. Tell you about it later.
13. Through a strange series of events involving Eileen Chang, Bread Pan, and chairs, my schlubby non-designer label-wearing self ended up at a preview of the Ferragamo 80th year retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art. In attendance were actual Ferragamos, both footwear and humans. Have plenty of pictures.

Murphy’s Series

March 28, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Traveling 3 Comments →

Obviously my cats were not happy. Despite my attempts to pack a suitcase in secret, they knew I was planning an escape. On Wednesday, while I waited for the airport service, the three felines sat around me in a circle, glaring. Think BF on the big Metro Gwapo signs, only adorable and furry. They appeared to be casting some sort of spell to prevent my leaving. Whenever I stood up, Saffy would meow shrilly–the same meow she utters when she rolls on the floor next to my feet and falsely accuses me of stepping on her.

I was expecting the airport service at 9.40am, but it was 9.45 and there was no sign of the car. So I called the service. There was no record of my order. I’d had a strange conversation with their dispatcher the previous night. Just before midnight, I dialed the same number I’ve dialed for ten years. “I need a taxi to the airport at 9.40am,” I told the woman who answered. “This is not a taxi company,” she replied. I said sorry, I must’ve dialed the wrong number. I tried again. The same woman answered. I tried a different tack. “Are you a car rental company?” I asked. She said yes. “Then I’d like a car to the airport at 9.40am.” Turns out it was the exact same company that has provided my airport service for a decade, only she didn’t want to use the word “taxi”. Picky.

And a nitwit. She confirmed my order, but didn’t record it. The morning dispatcher apologized and said she would send a car over immediately. Meaning the car leisurely drove up at 10.10. I had to meet the contact who had my passport and visa at the airport entrance at 10.30. Then I saw the building guard turning the car away, saying
“She doesn’t live here anymore.” No! I got to the car before it could drive off. Apparently the driver had been given the name of my sister, who moved out two year ago.

“I have to be at the Centennial terminal at 10.30, can we manage?” I asked the driver. “We’ll see,” was his noncommital answer. “Let’s take Nichols through the Fort,” I said. “Okay,” he said, unimpressed by my sense of urgency. He proceeded to take the long way. “This is the long way,” I pointed out. “Oh, did you want to go through the Fort?” Suffice it to say that when a driver asks me for directions, it is not a good omen. He tuned in to an easy listening station and proceeded at 15kph on an empty road, stopping every so often to let arthritic ants cross without peril.

to be continued

Chocolate Quiz

March 28, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 18 Comments →

Take this quiz on chocolate in literature.

Additional question: In the novel Atonement, the Tallises’ house guest Paul Marshall owned a factory that made chocolate for British Army rations. What were these chocolate bars called?

A condensed history of the rich

March 27, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Current Events 7 Comments →

Corkscrews chandelier.jpg, originally uploaded by 160507.

There’s an ongoing discussion about “the elite” outside of their regular turf (society pages and magazines). This is an excerpt from an article I wrote in 2005. It appeared in the Hong Kong Standard, but I can’t find the link. The full text appears in Twisted 8.
It is generally assumed that the “old rich” are descended from the Spanish who colonized the Philippines. They maintain the impression by conversing among themselves in a sort of Spanish, or at least cursing in Spanish. With a few notable exceptions, most of the people we call mestizo are actually descendants of the Chinese mestizos who built their fortunes in trade during the Spanish colonial period. During the American period, they acquired the agricultural lands of the Spanish religious orders and became hacenderos. And when the Americans introduced a bicameral legislature, the mestizos with their rural economic base were well-placed to take political power. They congregated in Manila to attend the sessions of the House and the Senate and became the ruling class.

In The Spectre of Comparisons, Benedict Anderson refers to the years 1954 – 1972 as “the heyday of the oligarchy”. They had complete access to the state’s financial instrumentalities. “Under the guise of promoting economic independence and import-substitution industrialization, exchange rates were manipulated, monopolistic licenses parcelled out, huge, cheap, often unrepaid bank loans passed around, and the national budget frittered away in pork-barrel legislation. Some of the more enterprising dynasties diversified into urban real estate, hotels, utilities, insurance, the mass media, and so forth. The press, owned by rival cacique families, was famously free.” The newspapers published damning exposés on the abuse of power, but the author points out that no one was ever convicted for graft and corruption. At least, no one from the right family.

When pundits wish to beat their breasts over the state of the Philippine economy, they remind us that in the 1950s and 60s, the Philippine economy was the strongest in Asia, second only to Japan. Anderson notes that “uncontrolled and parasitic plundering of state and private resources tilted the Philippines on its long plunge from being the most “advanced” capitalist society in Southeast Asia in the 1950s to being the most depressed and indigent in the 1980s. By the end of the golden era, 5 percent of the country’s income earners received, probably, about 50 percent of total income. At the same time, over 70 percent of state revenues came from regressive sales and excise taxes, and a mere 27.5 percent from income taxes—largely paid by foreign corporations.”

When the dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, he promised to wage war on the oligarchs. True, the less cooperative political families fell out of the loop and were replaced by Marcos relatives and cronies. But when Marcos was overthrown in the People Power Revolution at Edsa in 1986, and Corazon Cojuangco Aquino ascended to the presidency, the oligarchs came back in a big way. Representatives of traditional political families dominated Senate and Congressional elections. They still do, despite recent electoral successes by show business personalities.

The World Bank has noted that income distribution in the Philippines is substantially less equal that in most low and middle income countries in Asia. The income gap between the rich and the poor is still widening. The inequitable distribution of incomes and assets feeds the unending cycle of poverty.

Be Kind Remake.

March 26, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 6 Comments →

In Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind, all the videotapes in a rental shop are accidentally erased, so Mos Def and Jack Black “remake” the movies using a camcorder and common household objects. They call it “Sweding”.

“At the “Be Kind Rewind” Web site (, Mr. Black’s voice defines Sweding as “putting YOU into the thing you like,” and there is a quiet strain of populist defiance buried in Mr. Gondry’s wonder cabinet,” A.O. Scott writes in the New York Times. “Commercial pop culture is, too often, understood as a top-down enterprise, its expensive, disposable products passively consumed by the public. And yet at the same time that stuff is capable of inspiring a deep and durable sense of ownership. The movies we love belong in some profound way to us, and part of us lives inside them. Sweding is Mr. Gondry’s way of making that rather abstract sense of connection literal, of suggesting that even if we are not strictly speaking the owners and authors of the movies we like, well, then, perhaps we should be.”

This is your cue to swede yourself into your favorite Pinoy movies. How about a remake of Temptation Island in which you play all the roles? Bituing Walang Ningning with two guys as Sharon Cuneta and Cherie Gil? A mash-up of Himala and The Flor Contemplacion Story? In the words of Manny Pacquiao, Duet! Send me the link.