Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for March, 2010

How to eat kiwifruit

March 31, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Food 1 Comment →

This snack pack contains two kiwifruit—the gold variety grown in New Zealand. Gold kiwifruit is sweeter than the green kind.

It comes with a combination spoon and knife—a spife—made of the bio-plastics of fruit waste (skin peels, fruit hair, flowers, and waste fruit).

Using the pointy, serrated end of the spife, cut the kiwifruit in half.

Using the spoon, scoop up the kiwifruit and eat.

Kiwifruit is loaded in vitamin C, folate, vitamin E, and fiber. It’s the new apple.

When you’re finished, wipe your hands with the moist towelette that comes with the pack. They thought of everything: you have to love this obsessive-compulsive packaging.

The kiwifruit crop is still being harvested; they will be available in the Philippines in May.

Kiwifruit is originally from China. It was called gooseberries, which reminds me of the Chekhov story, Gooseberries. “In the evening, while we were having tea, the cook served a full plate of gooseberries. They weren’t bought, they were his own gooseberries, the first picked since the bushes were planted. Nikolai Ivanych laughed and gazed silently at the gooseberries for a moment with tears in his eyes—he couldn’t speak for excitement; then he put one berry in his mouth, glanced at me with the triumph of a child who has finally gotten his favorite toy, and said:

” ‘How delicious!’ ”

Thank you, Mr. Chekhov, there’s my segue to our Russian Lit Project. How’s your reading of The Brothers Karamazov coming along? I read the first 60 pages on the Manila-HK flight at a fast clip—certainly faster than Demons—but ran into a problem on the HK-Auckland flight.

My hardcover Everyman’s Library edition would not fit in the seat pocket.

It would have to stay under the seat, which was taken up by my tote bag, or share the chair, which was uncomfortable. So it went into my suitcase in the overhead bin. And then during the tour I put the book in my bag but with all the moving around it was just too heavy. In short, I didn’t read the Dostoevsky in NZ, but now that I’m home I will catch up.

My “You Have To See This!” movie of the year: Un Prophete

March 30, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 3 Comments →

Oy vey, ten hours on a packed Auckland to Hong Kong flight where the seats don’t actually recline but slouch so your knees are jammed against the seat in front and your spine feels like it’s stabbing your spleen, you can’t really lean back so you when you’re falling asleep you pitch forward, causing you to wake up, and to add insult some bathrooms have been taken out so the airline can add ten more rows to cattle class. And it was still worth the torment because they were showing Un Prophete by Jacques Audiard.

Three years ago I saw Audiard’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped and it blew my eyes out the back of my head, I loved it. I had to collar random strangers and yell “You have to see this!” This year Audiard’s Un Prophete is the one. Advance apologies in case I grab you.

Un Prophete starring Tahar Rahim and Niels Arestrup (who also played the father in The Beat…) is intense, gripping, and wildly entertaining: a story of survival, a coming-of-age movie set in prison, and a meditation on the meaning of freedom. Nobody makes existential thrillers like the French, they invented this stuff. I’ll go into more detail in the coming days, but there’s this scene I have to tell you about.

Malik, an illiterate 19-year-old serving a six-year sentence for assaulting a cop, is being forced by the Corsican mafia in prison to murder a fellow inmate who intends to testify against them. If Malik doesn’t kill the witness, the Corsicans will kill Malik. The plan is for Malik to offer the guy a blowjob, then suddenly stand up and cut the guy’s throat with a razor blade.

So Malik has to practice hiding the razor blade in his cheek and spitting it out. Before he’s done there’s blood all over the sink. I was squirming in my seat, which was a feat since my knees were jammed against the seat in front and my spine was digging into my spleen.

Designers on Design

March 30, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Design 1 Comment →

Flashback: My “You Have To See This!” Movie of 2007

March 30, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 1 Comment →

Here’s the review I wrote for my column three years ago. Well, sort of review. I don’t really write movie reviews, I write journal entries. Yes, I only know one subject: me.

After this column appeared I asked readers if they had a copy of Fingers by James Toback, and Mark, whom I’ve never met, was kind enough to send me the DVD. And the Toback movie starring the young Harvey Keitel is wonderful.

Emotional Weather Report: TWITCHY

Bear with me. I don’t know how you feel about the movies, but I’m kind of an overenthusiastic moviegoer. Borderline nuts. When I see a movie I really like, I decide that it’s my duty to force my friends to see it. I literally drag people to the cinema, or else I give them the DVD and hound them to see it until they crack.

It’s not always a successful approach. I get so enthusiastic, I raise expectations that can’t be met. Plus I keep forgetting the disclaimer: The fact that I love it doesn’t mean it’s a great movie. It’s a visceral thing. I mean, you can watch a film and know in your head that it’s a work of art, but not feel like collaring random strangers and yelling, “You have to see this!” Other times friends don’t feel the same way about the movie, which makes me start questioning whether my friends know me at all. It’s terrifically unfair, I know, but there you have it.

Anyway, I just saw this movie and I feel compelled to force it on you. I doubt it will be shown here, and obviously I can’t provide DVDs to everyone, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you the pitch in under 1,000 words.

It’s called The Beat That My Heart Skipped, directed by Jacques Audiard. It’s sort of a gangster movie, but not really; the French remake of a 1978 James Toback movie called Fingers that I haven’t seen. The Beat That My Heart Skipped takes place in contemporary Paris. Not the tourism brochure Paris, but the underbelly—cruddy buildings, dark alleys, lowlife sleaze. The main character is Tom, 28, a tall, skinny guy in a black leather jacket, sneering, twitchy. Tom is all nervous energy: he looks like he’s about to leap out of his skin any moment. He’s constantly listening to music—electronica, pop—but I don’t believe it soothes him. I think it’s like having his nerves plucked.

Tom and his two business partners are slumlords. They buy dilapidated buildings, chase out the tenants with thugs, baseball bats or sacks of rats, then sell the buildings. Tom’s father was in the same racket, and the old degenerate often calls on Tom to collect debts and intimidate clients. The son loves and loathes his father in equal measure, and can’t get out of his influence.

One night Tom spots his mother’s former manager. We learn that his mother was a concert pianist and that Tom himself used to play, but he stopped after she died. When the manager asks if he still plays piano, a change comes over Tom—he unclenches like a fist. Then the manager gives him his business card and offers him an audition.

What we have here is a potentially ridiculous situation: a gangster who wants to be a pianist. It’s the stuff of comedy, except that something happens to Tom. I don’t mean he abandons the criminal life and becomes a virtuous artist, that’s just corny. I’d walk out of that movie. What happens is, Tom’s nervous energy, the violence in his nature, is diverted from busting heads to playing the piano. The same hands that smash windows start attempting Bach toccatas. I’m not saying criminals can be reformed with piano lessons—there is something called talent—but here the scuzzball and the artist share a set of fingers. Look at the bruised knuckles gliding over the keys.

So Tom is not a good guy—he knows it, you know it, but he wants his life to be more than what it is. That’s why you root for this lowlife, because don’t we all want something more than this? A lot of critics have noted that Tom is split down the middle into brute and artist. Maybe they’re right, but where exactly is this difference? Humans have terrible passions that can go either way: create or destroy, it all depends on where they emerge. Art is not a tranquil occupation. What is peaceful about wrestling with nothingness? If the process isn’t brutal, it’s just decor. Your choice: violence towards others, or violence to yourself?

So Thomas is possessed by the idea of playing again, and I don’t think it’s something he has a choice in. This isn’t the story of a man changed and redeemed by art, but of a man in whom violence and beauty are the same thing. Before he can audition he has to know if he can still play the piano. He finds himself a tutor—Miao Lin, a Vietnamese pianist newly-arrived in Paris. She speaks no French, he speaks no Vietnamese; she finds him alarming, he howls and kicks at the air after making a mistake. But he goes to her flat every afternoon at 2, and they learn to work together. Miao Lin is a lovely girl, alone and probably lonely; Tom is attractive in a predatory ferret-like way, so you start waiting for the romantic angle. And the movie is too cool to go there.

Meanwhile, Tom’s business partner is trying to cheat him, and Tom has an affair with his partner’s wife. Tom’s father gets involved with Russian mobsters, and the sight of the old man waiting for Tom at a bus stop with his nose smashed in tells us there will be trouble of the worst kind. There’s so much going on, everything could fall apart in a minute, and the real life-and-death question in all this is: Will Tom get to play?

So there, in column form, is a movie nut dragging you to the cinema, except that the movie’s not showing in any local theatres. The point is that you’ve heard of it, and if you stumble across it, you may have a vague memory of someone grabbing your collar and yelling, “You have to see this!”

The true history of the Kelly Bag

March 30, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Clothing, Movies No Comments →

It was during that first pregnancy that Grace turned an accessory by Hermès into a much-coveted cult item. Out in public, she shielded her belly with a large square handbag made of brown pigskin, the Hermès sac à dépêches pour dames. The descendant of a 1930s Hermès saddlebag, it was simple, sensible, and superbly made, yet another example of “always.” Grace was carrying the principality’s future, and she protected it with something proven from the past. In her honor, Hermès christened this bag “the Kelly.”

Grace Kelly’s Forever Look in VF.


March 30, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling 1 Comment →