Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for November, 2008

Memories of My Latchkey Childhood

November 29, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Emotional weather report 3 Comments →

There is a spate of new books on “overparenting” or “helicopter parenting”—spoiling one’s child (buying him too many toys) while subjecting him to “achievement pressure” (sending him to kindergartens with advanced math, forcing him into extracurricular activities that would look good on his college application, zealously monitoring his test scores). Most of the authors agree that overparenting is bad and may result in the children being so dependent on their elders that they may never move out of the house. All I can say is: Ha!

Arguably I am not qualified to give an opinion on parenting, having neither children to raise nor any intention of spawning. That is true, but I happen to be an authority on childhood: Mine. Owing to my staunch refusal to grow up (which is my own choice and not a consequence of overparenting), I have managed to extend my childhood for decades. In fact I have made a career of warding off adulthood; I would recommend it as a lifestyle, except that few of us are allowed by society to remain in a state of happy immaturity, and all the slots are taken. In any case, don’t be like me: if there are too many of us, civilization would grind to a halt.

As I read the review of the literature on overparenting, I recalled my early experience as a latchkey child. A latchkey child, for the benefit of you spoiled and overprotected types, is a child who goes home to an empty house after school because her parents are still at work. When I was growing up we were frequently without a maid, so I simply let myself into the house and looked after myself until my parents arrived three or four hours later. 

Continue reading Emotional Weather Report in the Star.

Guns ‘N Reprimands

November 28, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Music 1 Comment →

Chinese Democracy, the Guns ‘N Roses album that has taken 14 years to complete, is finally out. “When the new GNR album comes out” had almost become the new “When hell freezes over”, but you never know with global warming. Naturally there are rumors of a reunion tour next year, with the whole band, i.e. Axl Rose and Slash together. In the 90s Axl refused to be in the same building with Slash, claiming he was a psychic vampire.

The Chinese state newspaper Global Times has described the album as “a venomous attack on China.” The paper went on to say that the band “turns its spear point on China”. Ay, mixed metaphor.


I have only one question. Is the album any good? Because if you’re going to tick off a country, better be worth the trouble. Anyone can say “It rocks!” but I want something polysyllabic, with explanations.

Meanwhile, Axl Rose’s lawyers fired off a letter to the soft drink manufacturer Dr. Pepper reminding them to make good on their promise to give free soda to everyone in America when Chinese Democracy came out. So many people went to the manufacturer’s website to get their coupon that the site crashed. Cough up, Dr. Pepper.

Happy Clucking Thanksgiving

November 27, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Election News Junkies Support Group No Comments →

From our crush soon to be at the White House (Are they there yet? Are they there yet?)

Happy Clucking Thanksgiving

Thanks to The Bone for the sketch.

Fang Bang

November 27, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 7 Comments →

I wanted to see what the fuss was all about so I watched Twilight. My fear that each close-up of the vampire boy would elicit shrieks of “Eeeeee Cedric Diggory!” were mostly unfounded; the fan-girls reserved their most ardent Awwwws for the sequence in which the vampire Edward takes the mortal girl Bella to meet his pale family.

I kept waiting for someone to tell Edward, “You’re a little pale, shouldn’t you drop by the infirmary?” or “Go easy on the skin-whitening products”, but this is not that kind of movie. Irony and wordplay were the province of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; the key attitude in Twilight is earnestness. Edward is Heathcliff with fangs: brooding, tormented, dangerous. You don’t know if he’s going to kiss the girl or eat her. His “family” has sworn off human blood and consider themselves “vegetarians”. You might think of them as voluntary castrati. They hide in plain sight in the tiny (but multicultural!) town of Forks, WA, where the only people who recognize them are Native Americans with their own secret. (The Native American boy who likes Bella looks like Rafael Nadal; if you take squint hard enough, Edward could be the handsome version of Roger Federer.)

The action scenes are cheesy, but the romance, shot in tight close-ups, is effective. Director Catherine Hardwicke does not condescend to her audience. Of course, Stephenie Meyer devotees will have something to say about her faithfulness to the material. Bloodsucking has traditionally been a metaphor for sex; in this oddly non-threatening vampire movie the lovers get their kicks from abstinence.

My own private canon (updated)

November 26, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 6 Comments →

These are my favorite stories in English, with links where available. Some are huge influences, some I just like. Charles Bukowski should be on this list, but all his stories merge in my memory into one Bukowski story.

Alvy and Annie at the bookstore in Annie Hall 

Shirley Jackson, The Lottery. My view of life exactly, though mine has more jokes.

Woody Allen, The Whore of Mensa. Clearly not for meshuggeneh.

Delmore Schwartz, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities. Possibly the greatest short story every written about the cinema.

J.D. Salinger, A Perfect Day for Bananafish. The first time we meet Seymour Glass, he. . .

James Salter, Last Night. Killer. Read it on the train. Missed my stop because I had to read it again to make sure I got it right the first time.

Daphne DuMaurier, Don’t Look Now. Aaaaaah! Then watch the film adaptation by Nicolas Roeg. AAAAAAAH!

Laurie Colwin, My Mistress. I discovered Laurie Colwin’s novel Happy All The Time in a bargain bin when I was in high school and proceeded to read everything of hers that I could find. She wrote sharp romantic comedies full of intelligent characters. The rare stories in which romantic fulfillment does not mean idiocy.

Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man Is Hard To Find. Not what it sounds like. Aaaaaah!

Woody Allen, The Kugelmass Episode. Featuring possibly the most terrifying fate for a professor of literature. You spend your life poring through the great books and what do you get? Bupkis.

Harlan Ellison, Shatterday. I was going to put A Boy and His Dog on the list, but that’s a novella.

Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener. A 19th century classic set on Wall Street which everyone should read today.

Tobias Wolff, Bullet In The Brain. Sure it’s show-offy, but the man has powers.

Jean Stafford, Children Are Bored On Sunday. Drunks at the museum.

John Cheever, O Youth and Beauty! Longer post on John Cheever on the way.

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber.

J.D. Salinger, Just Before The War With The Eskimos.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something vital.

Kuwento tungkol sa taksi

November 25, 2008 By: jessicazafra Category: In Traffic 12 Comments →

Transit map of Manila by Ige Ramos
Transit map of Manila by Ige Ramos

Matagal na akong hindi nakikipagtalo sa tsuper ng taksi. Napagpasyahan ko na mahalaga ang aking oras at hindi ko ito aaksayahin sa walang kwentang bagay. Nguni’t minsa’y sadyang nakakainis ang mga tsuper.

Kanina’y sumakay ako ng taksi sa Makati. “Maari bang dumaan muna sa gasolinahan na may LPG? Diyan lang,” sabi ng matandang tsuper. “Sige po,” sagot ko. Napansin ko na may kalayuan ang gasolinahan. “Sabi ho ninyo ay malapit lamang,” sabi ko sa tsuper. Siguro’y dalawang kilometro ang layo ng istasyon. “Mahirap kasing makahanap ng LPG,” sagot niya. Hindi na ako nagreklamo kahit nakababa na ang metro at ako ang sisingilin para sa dagdag na distansya.

Pagdating sa aking paroroonan, P55.00 ang presyong nakatala sa metro. Binigyan ko ang tsuper ng eksaktong P65.00; wala nang “tip” dahil ako ay nagambala. Pagkatapos tanggapin ng tsuper ang bayad ay pumatak uli ang metro. Hindi pala niya ito itinaas. “Kulang,” sabi ng tsuper. “Dagdagan mo pa.”

Hindi na ako nakapag-isip dahil umandar na ang aking bibig. “You have the gall to charge me extra? In the first place you charged me for your trip to the gas station and I didn’t complain because I was being charitable, and now you try to bilk me for change?”

Totoong mabilis akong magsalita kapag ako ay nabubwisit. Tiningnan ako ng tsuper na parang ako’y taga-ibang planeta. Baka hindi niya alam na sanay akong matingnan na parang ako’y taga-ibang planeta. Madaliang umalis ang taksi. Kapaskuhan na talaga—lumalabas na ang sungay ng mga tsuper.

Ikinuwento ko kay Mike ang pangyayari habang kami’y nanananghalian. “Mayroon din akong kuwento tungkol sa taksing nasakyan ko kanina!” sambit ni Mike. At narinig ko ang kahindik-hindik na kuwento na saka ko na ibabahagi sa inyo.