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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for March, 2008

Bartlebying

March 26, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 3 Comments →

I’m off to Shanghai for a few days. Here’s an important short story: Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville. The story is illustrated with contemporary photographs by Paul Ford.

Will post as often as I can. I asked Kermit for tips on haggling with vendors in Shanghai. He says my opening bid should be 20 percent of the quoted price, and the closing bid should be no more than 30 percent. Bert says I should bring a large calculator. If the vendor names an atrocious price, I should punch “0.7734” and show it to the vendor upside down (“Hello”).

Otakuness: a geek history

March 25, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 6 Comments →

Shakespeare&Co cat.jpg, originally uploaded by 160507.

There are times when you pick up a book and you get a shock of pure recognition. You don’t know the author, the author doesn’t know you, but you see yourself so clearly in that book, you could’ve been looking in a mirror. It’s not an obvious resemblance, but you know it on a molecular level. You can’t tell other people because they’ll think you’re corny or stupid, and this is important to you. It becomes a personal mantra: I am Wart. I am Holden Caulfield. I am Jane Eyre or Lizzie Bennett or Eustacia Vye. I am the Kwisatz Haderach.

This is one of those times. The protagonist of Junot Diaz’s first novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is the son of Dominican immigrants growing up in Paterson, NJ in the 1980s. It nails the geek experience and drives it home. And I’ve only read the first two chapters.

“Oscar had always been a young nerd—the kind of kid who read Tom Swift, who loved comic books and watched Ultraman—but by high school his commitment to the Genres had become absolute. . .he was gorging himself on a steady stream of Lovecraft, Wells, Burroughs, Howard, Alexander, Herbert, Asimov, Bova, and Heinlein, and even the Old Ones who were already beginning to fade—E.E. “Doc” Smith, Stapledon, and the guy who wrote all the Doc Savage books. . .You couldn’t have torn him away from any movie or TV show or cartoon where there were monsters or spaceships or mutants or doomsday devices or destinies or magic or evil villains. . .Could write in Elvish, could speak Chakobsa, could differentiate between a Slan, a Dorsai, and a Lensman in acute detail, knew more about the Marvel Universe than Stan Lee, and was a role-playing game fanatic. . .Perhaps if like me he’d been able to hide his otakuness maybe shit would have been easier for him, but he couldn’t. Dude wore his nerdiness like a Jedi wore his light saber or a Lensman her lens. Couldn’t have passed for Normal if he wanted to.”

I’m telling you, it’s mental.

March 24, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Tennis 8 Comments →

Roger Federer lost to world number 98 Mardy Fish in the semis at Indian Wells. No offence to Fish, who beat Davydenko and Nalbandian in the same tournament, but this just doesn’t happen. Not even with mononucleosis. Before that The Fed had breezed through his matches. The other semifinal pit Rafael Nadal against eventual winner Novak Djokovic. That’s two guys who make The Fed feel vulnerable. I suspect he did not want to play either of them, so he lost to Fish. I don’t think it’s fear or a lack of nerve. I suspect it’s a form of rebellion. (Or petulance. Basta. Ayoko.) The Fed is the best tennis player in history, but not the greatest competitor. Get a coach, Roger.

What are you reading? 4

March 23, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 9 Comments →

Spent an hour prowling the shelves at National Bookstore. There’s a sale on, with discounts of at least 20 percent. A whole bunch of hardcover titles is on sale at 75 percent off—new books, not used library books. I found Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Bad Girl, original price P1199, for P299, and The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander for P262. Warren Ellis’s first novel, Crooked Little Vein, and Away by Amy Bloom were going for less than P299.

If you like historical swashbucklers, you get your money’s worth with Arturo Perez – Reverte’s Alatriste series. The Sun Over Breda in hardcover was marked down to P299. The novels are set in the 1620s as Spain tries to keep its empire together amid wars and the Spanish Inquisition; the hero Captain Alatriste is a dashing swordsman for hire. He has all sorts of opportunities to seize power and wealth, but is too proud and noble to take advantage of them. There’s a very enjoyable film based on the series and starring the spectacular Viggo Mortensen, who has that Errol Flynn thing going. The film is in Spanish—Viggo is fluent in the language, having spent part of his childhood in Argentina. The more beat-up he gets, the better he looks dammit.

Desperately Seeking Shekels

March 23, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 5 Comments →

We saw the new Vhong Navarro movie Suhpapapalicious, directed by Gilbert Perez.

1. It could’ve been a really crazy comedy, instead it’s just desperate. You have to give the production credit for shamelessness. Lately Star Cinema has been employing the kitchen sink approach: Let’s throw everything in and hope for the best!

2. The first thing I noticed was how much lighter Vhong Navarro’s skin tone is. Of course they threw in a glutathione reference. My friend noted that Vhong Navarro’s hairstyle gets worse with each movie.

3. Speaking of hair, Javier Bardem’s hair in Love In The Time Of Cholera is even worse than in No Country For Old Men. I’m pretty sure this is the only time you’ll ever encounter the concepts ‘Bardem’, ‘Garcia Marquez novel’, ‘Coen Brothers movie’ and Suhpapapalicious in the same article.

4. I found myself laughing at several scenes, not necessarily because they were funny, but because I was impressed at how low they would go. Now that’s commitment.

5. Mura is hysterically funny as a dipsomaniac. Name some other movies (besides David Lynch’s) that feature an alcoholic midget. Truly the Philippines rules the world in the field of midget cinema. I know some European critics who still wax lyrical over the late Weng Weng. When Mura made his showbiz debut, he had to pretend to be a girl—making him a midget transvestite actor. Bravo.

MLAATM* 4: Logorrhea vs. Hypochondria

March 22, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Pointless Anecdotes 1 Comment →

*My life as a talky movie. Grover and Guy Smiley have requested that their pseudonyms be changed to Bert and Ernie, respectively, as they feel they resemble these Sesame Street characters more than they do Grover and Guy. Obviously Bert and Ernie are the perfect characters for our non-adventures series, because they care about the accuracy of their muppet avatars. Kermit is now Big Bird because he has imaginary friends (Snuffleupagi) who might turn out to be real, and The Count is now Kermit. Since we are basically nerds and most of our action is mental, the movie would be less Less Than Zero, than Less Than Coke Zero.

Weekday, 9pm.

Bert: Have you seen my writing bag?
Ernie and Grungella: It’s beautiful! I want one!
Ernie: Look, the manufacturer’s tag says ‘Isle Manilhe’. Manilhe, not Manille.
Grungella: Is that correct?
Ernie: Maybe it’s not French, but another language.
There is a crash.
Bert: I cut my toe.
Grungella: What happened?
Bert: The clock fell on it.
Grungella: The clock fell on it?
Bert: It was on the stepladder.
Grungella: Why was the clock on the stepladder?
Ernie: Let’s check the French dictionary. Oh look, ‘Manilhe’ is an alternate spelling.
Bert: Should I let it bleed?
Grungella: Is it bleeding? (Note: The cut is 2mm long.)
Bert: Maybe it’s bleeding internally.
Ernie: So ‘Manilhe’ is correct. Shouldn’t ‘Isle’ be ‘Ile’, though?
Bert: What should I do with it?
Ernie: Maybe it’s an alternate spelling. No, it’s not here. Let’s look at another dictionary.
Bert: It’s painful.
Ernie: Disinfect it. Maybe it’s archaic French.
Bert: Should I bandage it?
Grungella: Leave it alone, let your antibodies do the work.
Ernie: No, ‘isle’ is incorrect.
Grungella: And even if it were correct, Manila is not an island!
Bert wonders if he should take his toe to the ER.

So your time isn’t entirely wasted: Descended from Salinger in the NYT.