Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for July, 2008

Citizen X

July 31, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 3 Comments →

Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence may be considered the frontrunner in this year’s Booker Prize longlist, but the book I’m interested in is Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith, a detective thriller about the hunt for a serial killer in Stalinist Russia. (Serial killer+Stalin+Russia=I want to read it.) It’s supposed to be based on the events dramatised in the HBO movie, Citizen X.

In this excerpt, two boys go out hunting for a cat. Their village is starving, all the pets and rats have been eaten, and the appearance of a living cat is nothing short of miraculous. They manage to catch the cat, but they get separated, and then. . .

“He was about to call out when he swallowed his words. There was a noise. He turned sharply, looking around. The woods were dense, dark. He shut his eyes, concentrating on that sound—a rhythm: the crunch, crunch, crunch of snow. It was getting faster, louder. Adrenaline shot through Pavel’s body. He opened his eyes. There, in the darkness, was movement: a man, running. He was holding a thick, heavy branch. His strides were wide. He was sprinting straight toward Pavel. He’d heard them kill the cat and now he was going to steal their prize. But Pavel wouldn’t let him: he wouldn’t let their mother starve. He wouldn’t fail as his father had failed. He began kicking snow over the cat, trying to conceal it.

—We’re collecting . . .

Pavel’s voice trailed off as the man burst through the trees, raising the branch. Only now, seeing this man’s gaunt face and wild eyes, did Pavel realize that this man didn’t want the cat. He wanted him.”

Fortunately my cats are not going to read it.

Macho dancer movie capital of the world

July 30, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 7 Comments →

Francis Pasion says, I need a synopsis of Jay, 1400 characters max, including spaces. Voila! The instant synopsis generator.

“Jay, a schoolteacher, is brutally murdered in an apparent sex-crime. Even before his family hears about it, a TV producer—also named Jay—and his camera crew are inside their house to document their shock and grief. The TV producer convinces the family to let him shoot the dead man’s wake and funeral for a “reality show”. This will help them to ferret out the truth about the crime, find the killer, and bring him to justice, he says. However, it soon becomes clear that this concept of “truth” owes much to the entertainment value of the material being shot, and the expectations of the television audience. The “Jay” who emerges from the TV producer’s interviews with the dead man’s mother, sister, ex-lover, friends, and co-workers is less a portrait of the victim than a collection of cliches and stereotypes gleaned from their collective memory of Filipino movie melodramas. Skillfully orchestrating this “reality show” is the dead man’s namesake—a “journalist” who knows that the “truth” is whatever works on camera.”

Jay will compete at this year’s Venice filmfest, along with Lav Diaz’s latest opus. Very apt, since Tuhog was in Venice in 2001, and Jay is of the Tuhog-Bing Lao School.

May I say how refreshing it is to have a Pinoy filmfest entry that does not involve macho dancers (male exotic dancers in gay bars). Like it or not, that’s our “niche” in world cinema. Fact: It’s macho dancer movies that get picked up for international distribution. The first such movie to be shown worldwide: Lino Brocka’s Macho Dancer. International filmfests apparently regard them as our contribution to cinema. Besides Rob Schneider, our cultural ambassador.

House does not appear. Patients die.

July 29, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events 10 Comments →

In Slate: Waiting Doom: How hospitals are killing E.R. patients.

In Manila: A young man on the way home from work is mugged and hit on the head. Passersby take him to the nearest hospital. The admissions staff wants to know if he can afford to pay for treatment. He’s half-conscious by then, he’s got a brain hemorrhage. The hospital takes a long time calling the young man’s employers and getting someone to sign forms and to guarantee that his hospital fees will be paid. By the time they get around to examining the patient, he has fallen into an irreversible coma. Some days later, he dies. The hospital gets paid.


July 28, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats 4 Comments →

Bambini, originally uploaded by 160507.

Saffy and Mat are my guardians—they have to be in the same room with me at all times. (Koosi guards the perimeter and keeps me on my toes by biting my toes.) One early morning, about three years ago, I woke up from a deep sleep and saw a monumental figure standing at the foot of my bed. It looked like the Winged Victory of Samothrace, yes I know how weird this sounds. It was massive and brownish, and I didn’t notice if it had a head because I immediately turned away. I figured I was dreaming it, but then I noticed that Mat was crouched on my left and Saffy on my right, like library lions, and they were both staring at whatever that was at the foot of my bed. When I looked again, it was gone. So we all went back to sleep. I had been in a deep funk, but for some reason the “apparition” cheered me up. It may have been a collective dream.

No Plastic

July 27, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events 18 Comments →

We’re drowning in an ocean of plastic bags, and no matter how they were photographed in American Beauty (I could never understand why people love that movie), they’re ugly. Every time I do my general housecleaning, I throw away another hill of plastic bags. These bags will end up in landfills—as if we have land to waste on garbage—or in the sewage, where they get washed into the ocean and choke dolphins. No matter how you feel about cute aquatic creatures, plastic bags are not good. I just came from a sale at Music One, where they put my single DVD purchase (Empire of the Sun, which I’m giving my niece on her second birthday. It’s a gift that says, “In the very distant event that you’re separated from the adults, you can raise yourself.”) in a large Tower Records plastic bag folded into four. Now that’s silly. I took out the DVD, put it in my bag, and returned the plastic bag.

There’s a thought: instead of throwing away plastic bags, let’s collect them and return them to the establishments they came from. True, some of these stores will be complete dumbasses and throw them anyway, but some will have brains and re-use them. Be prepared to get strange looks when you return their plastic. That is the burden of the thinking citizens: the bafflement of the ignorant. If stores refuse to take back their plastic bags, let me know: we can try to embarrass them, and you know how highly this society prizes public opinion.

Here’s something sad: hanging onto the plastic bags of upscale stores so you can carry them around as an announcement that you shop in those places. In the first place the glamorous stores have already switched to recyclable packaging, and in the second place everyone knows what you’re thinking.

P.S. Phasing out plastic is something you have to train yourself to do. I just bought three doughnuts, and the clerk put them in a box, then put the box in a plastic bag. Why, will the box be lonely? And I took the plastic bag without thinking. So much for my plan; must habituate myself. As for the bag, Saffy is now biting it. She doesn’t eat plastic, she just likes to make holes with her fangs. I think it’s how she flosses.

Holy shaken and stirred!

July 25, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 3 Comments →

“So, riddle me this, trivia-hounds, can you name all the actors who’ve played James Bond or Batman in the movies? Including the likes ofDavid Niven in the first Casino Royale and Lewis Wilson in the 1943 Batman serial? Well, dynamic dunderheads, did you know one actor has not only played Batman and James Bond but did so in the same film?

“Step forward Rodolfo Vera Quizon (always billed as ‘Dolphy’), the Peter Sellers or Roberto Benigni of the Philippines. Or maybe the Benny Hill or Don Knotts. Dolphy takes the two roles (three, if you count the ‘Bruce Wayne’ part separately) in the 1966 Tagalog-language multi-hero spoof James Batman — which, with apologies to Christian Bale and Daniel Craig, is one of the darnedest things I’ve ever seen.”

Dark Knight is unforgettable, but who remembers James Batman? by Kim Newman. Thanks to Roby for the link.

This truly is our niche in world cinema: Parody, travesty, and deconstruction.