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Archive for April, 2009

An ATM for books

April 25, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 1 Comment →

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Koosi is skeptical about instant publishing.

It’s not elegant: it looks like a large photocopier. But the Espresso Book Machine could herald the biggest change for the literary world since Gutenberg invented his printing press more than 500 years ago.

Unveiled today at Blackwell’s Charing Cross Road branch, in central London, the machine prints and binds books in five minutes.

Blackwell’s unveils Espresso book machine—Any title printed while you wait, in the Guardian.

The manipulations of McEwan

April 24, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Books No Comments →

And indeed, knowing what readers want is at the heart of the diabolical success of this book. What is especially interesting about Atonement in the light of McEwan’s status as a popular but serious manipulator, is the delicate way it makes readers aware of their own desire to be gratified by serious narrative manipulation.

James Wood writes about the manipulations of Ian McEwan in the London Review of Books.

Live Poets Society

April 24, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Books No Comments →

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Questions following the reading by the wonderful Argentinean poet Juan Gelman at Instituto Cervantes Manila yesterday.

Audience member: Can you write political poetry in Argentina?
Gelman: Yes, of course. The question is whether people will read you.

Audience member: Your poetry—where is it coming from?
Gelman: I would like to know.

Pop Pop

April 23, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Music 19 Comments →

Ran into Imee Marcos. You can’t not talk to her, she is too interesting and funny. In any case I have stopped forming conclusions about people based on their political affiliations or those of their gene pools. Otherwise I would be severely limiting my conversational options and depriving myself of material.

So I no longer lump people into Elves and Orcs, Empire and Rebellion, Fremen and Harkonnen. I simply classify them into Boring (B) and Not Boring (N.B.). Within each category there are sub-classes; for B there’s Mildly Anaesthetic, Comatose, Flee With All Possible Haste, and Kill Yourself Now. Granted, some people who should be in the B group sometimes land in N.B. due to stunning good looks or an excellent cook, but life is not suddenly going to be fair just because you changed the categories.

Back to my story. Imee Marcos asked me whether I thought reviving the Metro Pop competition was a good idea. If you were not yet an embryo in the mid to late 70s, the Metro Pop was an annual songwriting contest. In the televised grand finals, the songs were interpreted by well-known professional singers. The winner of the very first Metropop was Ryan Cayabyab for “Kay Ganda Ng Ating Musika”. The competition produced songs now recognized as Pinoy pop classics. True, those were very different times: radio stations played mostly foreign artists, people bought music on vinyl, and the idea of downloading music from a worldwide network was science-fiction.

I said I thought bringing back Metropop was a good idea, but I would ask around. Now I’m asking you. Do you think the Metropop would be beneficial to the Filipino music and entertainment industry? Do we need it?

Tarts and meringues

April 22, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies No Comments →

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Photo: Amy Adams and Frances McDormand in Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.

It’s started raining so now it’s infernal and muggy. In this weather I try to avoid anything that may cause my brain to overheat. My reading and viewing diet is restricted to light comedies set in cold climates.

I should’ve saved my Stalingrad books for this summer—reading about limbs falling off from frostbite and armies freezing to death might bring some relief. (No thank you, not in the mood for War and Peace.) Butch saw Lav Diaz recently, and confirmed that Lav was named after Lavrenty Beria, Joseph ‘Koba’ Stalin’s dreaded enforcer—who looked exactly like the British actor Bob Hoskins—who carried out the massive purge that killed 9 million people. After Stalin’s death, Beria was himself purged. He is said to have poisoned Stalin. At least Lavrente Diaz only makes us sit for 11 hours. His new movie is only 3 hours long—a music video by Lav standards.

So I’ve been rereading P.G. Wodehouse and watching lots of romantic comedies. In most rom-coms the girl is the hero and the male lead is the non-threatening object of her affections. I guess if the guy is a real match for the girl it becomes a drama or a thriller.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Cute. Nick (Michael Cera) is dumped by manipulative teen seductress Tris, but continues to leave mix CDs on her doorstep (Road to Closure, Vol. 12. The last time I made a mix CD for anyone was. . .that recent?). Then Norah (Kat Dennings) appears and sweeps him off his feet.

Definitely, Maybe – Charming. Ryan Reynolds the ultimate non-menacing male is a man-boy reliving his romances with three women (Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz) who are all tougher than he is.

Easy Virtue – Embarrassing and execrable. Allegedly based on a Noel Coward; the estate should sue. Ben Barnes is a young Brit aristocrat who marries American race car driver Jessica Biel after whirlwind romance and takes her home to disapproving mummy in the manor. Biel dismally miscast; rom-com goes over like a lead balloon. Kristin Scott Thomas is usually exquisite but she’s made to play a one-note shrew.

Here’s something to cool you off: Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, a comedy with screwball aspirations, directed by Bharat Nalluri.

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Amy Adams and Lee Pace

It’s based on a 1938 bestseller by Winifred Watson (long out of print but reissued recently). Miss Pettigrew is set in London at the outbreak of WWII and stars Frances McDormand as the title character, an unemployed governess who in her desperation pretends to be the social secretary hired by dizzy American starlet Delysia Lafosse. Amy Adams, our favorite actress since Enchanted (She made us enjoy a Disney princess musical!), plays Delysia, who is juggling three men—a thuggish nightclub owner, a penniless pianist, and the son of a big West End producer.

Adams is brilliant: as Ricky puts it, she’s not that pretty, but she makes us believe that three guys would fight over her. Leo adds that she plays a ditzy floozy but manages to seem pure and innocent. That’s a quality that’s been mostly missing from the movies since the great screwball comedies of the 1930s. (See Carole Lombard. Nicole Kidman can do screwball comedy but she’s too tall.)

The very proper Miss Pettigrew brings order to Delysia’s chaotic life while getting a life herself. Of course it’s not like real life—it’s improbable and charming and everything looks wonderful. Light and frothy is exactly what we need to survive this summer.

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is showing at the Ayala Cinemas. Go.

Fame vs. semi-fame

April 21, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Pointless Anecdotes 6 Comments →


Photo: Jessica Zebra, acrylic paint and papier-mache, by Jay Lozada and me

Hanging out with my friend E is a walking demonstration of the difference between Fame and Semi-fame. I am semi-, okay, quarter-famous among people who read contemporary Filipino authors. E is extremely famous among people who listen to contemporary Filipino music. Fact: More people listen to music than read books. Fact: E’s old band was hysterically popular and they had a concert last month.

At my, uh, level, I get asked for an autograph or to have someone’s picture taken with me a couple of times a week. Sometimes I get chatted up, most times people just gawk while pretending not to gawk, either because it’s not cool or I might cut their heads off. E gets stared at openly, and by a wider demographic. If big, beefy guys looked at me the way they look at him, I’d call the police. While walking he gets stopped and asked to pose for pictures every 100 meters. Every waiter in the restaurant we ate in had their photo taken with him.

I think the fame level of E’s current band suits him better: you can actually talk to him now. The whole time I worked with the ‘heads he only spoke in monosyllables. That’s the way to torment me: converse in monosyllables.

If you’ve never been famous, you may have a dream view of fame. Fame carries lots of perks. You acquire certain advantages, whether you deserve them or not. Fame is a kind of artificial beauty: when famous people walk into a restaurant, conversations pause and chewing of food is suspended. It’s just like what happens when beautiful people walk into a place, except that the famous can look like trolls. Who wouldn’t want the illusion of beauty?

Being famous sounds like the cat’s pajamas. Well I’ve tried making my cats wear pajamas, and they loathe it. It’s pretty when you’re looking at it from the outside, but when you’re in there you might feel like an idiot. You suspect that you’re constantly being watched and judged, and you would be right. My theory is that vacuous people handle fame so much better because they don’t have a self to override.

But I’m talking from the mezzanine and the view from the penthouse is probably different.