Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for October, 2008

The Halloween Scare-Off: Blue state or Red state?

October 31, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events 42 Comments →

Photo: What I’m looking at this very minute. The lighter blue is the pool, darker blue is the sea. I don’t swim.

So I’m in a quaint, rustic, retro hideout. . .with wi-fi. It’s time for a write-in contest! 

The question is: If the Filipinos in the Philippines could vote in the US elections, would they cast their votes for Obama or McCain? Why? Post your answers in Comments—no length requirements, as always, knock yourselves out. The winner picked by our board of judges gets this:

The Top 10 of Everything, as spotted in the National Bookstore in NAIA Terminal 3 (Cavernous! Not crammed with humans!). The deadline for entries is 12 noon on November 4, Election Day. Vote now!

Meanwhile: How Simon Cowell saved American democracy, in TNR. “. . .as much as some might scoff at the deleterious effects of “Idol” on our culture, it has created a culture of voting among our young people. . .”

Also: Red State, Blue State: Why do so many evangelical teenagers become pregnant?

The truth has a stench.

October 31, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 1 Comment →

Several times at a Cinemanila screening of Serbis I was ready to bolt from my seat. The very first scene, in which a naked teenage girl preens in front of mirror as if she were starring in a porno. Undue attention was paid to her genitalia, I thought. What for? Cheap exploitation in the guise of art?

Shortly afterwards, a young man is bandaging a boil on his derriere. Do I really need to see a purulent sore on someone’s ass? Is this an excuse to show the actor’s derriere? When another young man is shown masturbating I thought I had become inured to the director’s shock tactics, but then there is the scene of the overflowing toilet, inviting viewers to disgorge their dinners.

It struck me as I looked around for the nearest exit that the movie was daring me to walk out. The filmmakers were calling me a wimp, a delicate coward who cannot look directly at the decay and squalor around her. Because that is the subject of Brillante Mendoza’s movie: Ugliness. He is aiming his camera at the rotten core of society, the sleaze that surrounds us, the filth we refuse to see. We pretend that it’s not there, and the more we pretend, the more it spreads and festers. We take refuge in illusion and artifice, the gloss and prettiness of the movies. 

But the movies have failed us.

My review of Serbis in Emotional Weather Report, today in the Star.

Piddig by night

October 31, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling 7 Comments →


This is where I’ll be living for the next three days. It’s a 1930s house from the town of Piddig in Ilocos Norte that was taken apart and rebuilt in Sitio Remedios, a heritage resort in Currimao, by the South China Sea. 



The sala has a daybed, so if your guests are boring, you can fall asleep on them.



The piano, in case one is possessed by the spirit of Franz Liszt. Or by the urge to remake Huwag Mong Buhayin Ang Bangkay! in which the corpse of a pianist played by Jestoni Alarcon is reanimated by his scheming mother Charito Solis through a pact with the devil. The pianist spends the rest of the movie decomposing. Rimshot.



Someone went to a lot of trouble to spell out the names in petals.

It’s vewy, vewy quiet. I can hear all the voices in my head, and they can hear all the voices in your heads.

This is our election, we just don’t have a vote.

October 30, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events 6 Comments →

Timothy Garton Ash on the US elections:

“From my observation perch in Stanford, California, an English European turned 24/7-cablenews-Webcast junkie, I notice that many Americans still suffer from a touching delusion that this is their election. How curious. Don’t they understand? This is our election. The world’s election. Our future depends on it, and we live it as intensely as Americans do. All we lack is the vote.

“The world may not have a vote, but it has a candidate. A BBC World Service poll, conducted across twenty-two countries this summer, found Barack Obama was preferred to John McCain by a margin of four to one. Nearly half those asked said an Obama victory would “fundamentally change” their perception of the United States. And it certainly needs changing. Over the two terms of President George W. Bush, the Pew Global Attitudes Project, a series of worldwide public opinion surveys, has documented what anyone who travels around the world knows: a substantial fall in the standing, credibility, attractiveness, and therefore power of the United States. . .”

A Fateful Election: Russell Baker, David Bromwich, Darryl Pinckney, Joan Didion, Garry Wills and others on the election in which so much is at stake. In the New York Review of Books.

North by Northwest

October 30, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling No Comments →


I’m off to Sitio Remedios in Currimao to listen to the pounding waves and read Vasily Grossman’s doorstop, Life and Fate, in the lighthouse. In the daytime I will stay out of the frizzling sun, read the novel I finished writing in May, and decide whether to shred it or rewrite chunks of it, assuming I can bear the sight of it. In the nighttime I will take walks, assuming the mosquitoes let me, look at the sky, and figure out once and for all where the blasted Big Dipper is. We might put up a white sheet on the beach and watch movies—any time is the right time for Preston Sturges. If I am not too lazy I will look at the contestants for the best grave, maybe visit some haunted houses. I’ve never actually seen a ghost; they avoid me, and for good reason.

Is you stoopid now?

October 29, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Technology 5 Comments →

In The Atlantic, Nicholas Carr asks: “Is Google making us stupid?

“Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?” So the supercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial brain. “Dave, my mind is going,” HAL says, forlornly. “I can feel it. I can feel it.”

“I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

Carr recounts how, when Nietzsche started using a typewriter, his prose became tighter and more “telegraphic”. Nietzsche said, “Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.”

I know this to be true. The stuff I write with pen and paper sounds different from the stuff I type directly onto a computer. You literally feel more—the texture of the paper, the way the ink flows onto the paper, the bump on your middle finger where you rest your pen—and it soaks into what you’re writing. This isn’t romantic hooey, I’ve been on a 1,000 words a day regimen for over a decade and have empirical data. Also, I don’t really think when I’m typing, it’s like being on automatic pilot. What works for me is composing a story in my notebook, longhand, and then typing it onto my computer, editing (usually tightening the sentences and removing some of the digressions) in the process.



Page written by Honore de Balzac, who kept a lot of cats, drank a lot of coffee, and cranked out about a novel a week.