Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for November, 2009

Paranormal Islands

November 30, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 5 Comments →


Paranormal Activity is an entertaining low-budget little fake reality video build on the Blair Witch concept: To make a successful horror movie, let the audience scare themselves.

That said, it’ll take more than a demon to scare us Pinoys, who live in the same archipelago as clan Ampatuan.

So the nice young couple Micah and Katie get a camera to record the bizarre goings-on in their house. In true Heisenbergian fashion the presence of the camera spurs the unseen whatnot into making its presence felt. It’s a comment on our reality show-obsessed times that when Micah hears a crash downstairs he grabs the camera and runs to shoot it. The two actors are believably not acting, and Micah’s guy behavior is authentic: instead of seeking outside help he keeps trying to fix the problem himself. It’s the same behavior guys exhibit when lost: they refuse to ask for directions.

Compared to Americans the average Filipino is an expert on the paranormal. Face it, life on our islands IS paranormal. At the first sign of a haunting we would know to:

1. Turn on every light in the house.
2. Run to the neighbor’s house, assuming they’re not already at your door to investigate the noise.
3. Leave the house posthaste and go to the mall or to your parents’ house, someplace with lots of people. The mamaw may be connected to the girl and not the house, but it would have to deal with more people. Nosy, interfering people.
4. Consult a psychic, arbolaryo, priest, mambabarang, exorcist, or mangkukulam immediately.
5. Alert the news media to get everyone involved.
6. Freak out the mamaw by behaving even more weirdly than it does.

As the beleaguered couple hole up in their nice haunted house it occurred to me that Paranormal Activity is a metaphor for the American financial meltdown. There’s clearly something wrong, but they refuse to deal with it directly; they go into lockdown and shut out the rest of the world. They hang on to their touching faith in technology and belief in the D-I-Y ethic, never considering that there are things going on that are beyond their comprehension.

When the movie ended I got a text message from Fabia: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is running for a seat in the House. I got chills.

LitWit Challenge: Heating Up Twilight

November 30, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 17 Comments →

I know what's missing.

The reason Twilight doesn’t work for us is obvious, and it’s been pointed out by many readers and critics. Vampire stories are intrinsically sexy—biting, sucking, blood, dread, excitement. Twilight has been neutered.

What it needs is a sex scene.

So our LitWit Challenge for this week: Write a sex scene for Stephenie Meyer’s hysterically popular, hysterically chaste bestseller, Twilight. It can involve any of the characters (We already know what’s going to happen) and take place at any point in the four-volume saga. The writing of sex scenes is a delicate matter, as the annual Bad Sex in Fiction awards attest: your scene has to be very good, or so horrendously bad it’s great. You cannot use expletives, that’s cheating. Maximum 1,000 words, please. Oh right, the Twilight saga is for juvenile readers, so the sex scene has to use metaphors rather than explicit descriptions. Sorry, amateur pornographers.

All entries will be screened before posting. Only the entries that get published are eligible for the prize: The Twilight Saga box set (in photo, being sniffed disdainfully).

The Weekly LitWit Challenge is brought to us by National Bookstore, The national bookstore.

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From io9: Bella and Edward Are In An Abusive Relationship.


November 30, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Food 6 Comments →

This is a question of monumental import. I hope you will address it with the seriousness it deserves.

What is the best hopiang mongo?

My friend Azon who grew up in Ongpin—her parents had a restaurant that served the famous peanut soup—vouches for the mongo hopia of Salazar Bakery. She finds Eng Bee Tin hopia a little too sweet.

Salazar hopia

Hopia is an insidious food. Never open the pack with five pieces if you are alone. One second you’re opening it, the next second only the wrapper is left, and you have no one else to accuse of gluttony.

LitWit Winner: Cram this.

November 29, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Contest 1 Comment →

Thanks to all the readers who joined the LitWit Challenge: Cramming the Philippines. We asked you to recommend a book for the Jolie-Pitts to read on the plane en route to the Philippines, and we got some interesting answers.

Painting after Damian Domingo by Jay Lozada
Paseo (1994) by Jay Lozada. After Damian Domingo.

The winner is dindin, who recommended The Great Philippine Jungle Energy Cafe by Alfred Krip Yuson. Books written in conventional prose, no matter how finely-crafted or accomplished, cannot adequately capture the strangeness of living in this archipelago. The language simply bogs down and surrenders. Yuson’s novel is not to everyone’s taste but it attempts to express the inexpressibly bizarre quality of Philippine life. (Mawiwindang ang mga bisita.) Living here must be like being on drugs all the time: good luck making regular sense of it.

More than one reader suggested The Great Philippine Jungle Energy Cafe to Angelina and Brad, but dindin’s entry has the fuller explanation.

Congratulations, dindin, please post your full name in Comments (It won’t be published). We’ll alert you when your prizes can be picked up at National Bookstore in Power Plant Mall, Rockwell, Makati.

The next LitWit challenge is coming up.

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Thanks, dindin, for your prompt reply. You can have your books picked up any time from the Customer Service counter at National in Rockwell starting tomorrow.

How to fend off a vampire attack

November 29, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Art No Comments →

Hans Brumann crosses 1

In the dead of night when the bat flies into your bedroom window and transforms into a vampire, show him this selection of crosses by Hans Brumann. Wrought in gold, mother-of-pearl, metal, and wood, these crucifixes are so arresting the fanged one will immediately be distracted from your suddenly uninteresting neck.

Hans Brumann crosses 2

Count Dracula would stop dead in his tracks to shriek, “I love it!” It is to die for.

Hans Brumann crosses 4

If the vampire refuses to be deterred, conk him on the head with this heavy kamagong cross with a pearl accent. He’ll be out so long, the sunlight will vaporize him.

Hans Brumann crosses 3

If all else fails show him the price tags. At P100,000 – P180,000, that should kill him. Unless he’s The Count and decides to count them.

The crucifixes are on display at Hans Brumann on the third floor of Greenbelt 5. Details: +632 728 2175;

What are you reading?

November 28, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 6 Comments →

Lush Life

I was about to crack open Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel when I saw Richard Price’s bio in the trade paperback of Lush Life. Along with his literary accomplishments it notes his having been “co-writer of HBO’s The Wire”. Thomas Cromwell can wait, I have to read Richard Price.

Price is usually praised for his “wonderful ear for dialogue”. James Wood suggests we praise his wonderful mind for dialogue instead.

Price is particularly good when the flat cynicism of his speakers works against the slight floweriness or literariness of their language. Here, a deputy inspector tells a detective sergeant about the hierarchy, and how the top brass sit on everything:

Berkowitz held up a hand. “Perception, reality, whatever. They’re not happy, and shit rolls downhill. They’re at the peak, I’m like mid-mountain, and you’re in this, this arroyo at the bottom. If I can be any more picturesque than that, let me know.”
“In my father’s house there are many bosses,” Matty said.
“Whatever. Hey, nobody is telling you not to go all out, just do it quietly.”

Fiction has developed in unexpected ways since Elizabeth Bowen commanded, in her Notes on Writing a Novel, that the “functional use of dialogue for the plot must be the first thing in the novelist’s mind. Where functional usefulness cannot be established, dialogue must be left out.” Bowen counsels precise selection, following, in this respect, Edith Wharton, who also disliked novelists who “used irrelevant small-talk, in the hope of thus producing a greater air of reality.” Many contemporary novelists use dialogue precisely as small talk: as verismo-filler, giving us a comfy, televisual sense of the already known.

But Price is both a drifter and a selector. His dialogue, partly because there is so much of it in his books, is really a very long ribbon of small talk; but it is highly functional, always pushing on not only the plot (the least interesting aspect of his writing) but our sense of his characters. . .