Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for November, 2012

The Extortionist’s Xmas Alphabet (from avaricious accessories to zany zygotes)

November 30, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Shopping 55 Comments →

While searching in vain for our copy of Agincourt* (the popular history by Juliet Barker), we saw our Amphigorey collections by Edward Gorey and spent the next three hours laughing over our favorites.

From The Chinese Obelisks

Inspired by Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies and other alphabets, we started writing our own verses for the holidays.

Help us complete our Xmas alphabet! Post your rhymes in Comments. The ones we like, we’ll add to the work in progress. Don’t feel compelled to start with C; pick any letter. Best couplet gets that History Channel leather notebook we showed you a couple of weeks ago.

M is for (bespoke titanium) Motorcycle
So we can say “Oye!” to J. Augusto Zobel

C is for Caran d’Ache to sign the tuition cheques
To send our kids to school with those of Posh and Becks

T is for Tiara to complete the delusion
Of nuptials impending to a jillionaire’s scion

* Rule of book-locating: The book you want is usually in the first place you looked.

* * * * *

Perhaps the instructions were vague. Consider the first two lines. The speaker wants alahas, preferably big, and a bag that is mamahalin. Who is the speaker? A social climber! (Then why isn’t it called The Social Climber’s Xmas Alphabet? Because the X in Extortionist goes with the X in Xmas.) So think pretentious, venal, shallow.

* * * * *


You suck at rhyme and metre, and even worse at gold digging. Why must you be such decent, upstanding folk?

The entries have improved, but you need to acquire that arch, mocking, horrible tone. We prescribe regular doses of Edward Gorey, beginning with these:

The Gashlycrumb Tinies
The Recently Deflowered Girl (Not for prudes)

We’ll accept this couplet from Momelia, which we have rewritten for added unscrupulousness.

And this rhyme from butoygirl, which we have divested of shame.

More! More! It’s easy when you’re awful.

N is for Nose job, that we might be mistaken
For socialites with ancestors sufficiently Iberian.

T is for Tickets to Paris and Milan
(Whoever flies us Coach is not a gentleman.)

F is for Ferrari, there’s no need to be coy.
We don’t desire to breathe the same air as the hoi polloi.

* * * * *
Day 2

At last! The combination of wickedness and panache we have been looking for (with very minor edits).

From stellalehua


From tudor


From Ejia

The classic false pregnancy extortion scheme! Here’s another from Ejia (We have found a pro! Yikes).

From Ruth

Send us your couplets!

Z is for Zirconium, infomercial variety,
Until we get an upgrade from Pangilinan, Manny.

C is for Chauffeur (it sounds richer than “driver”)
Who has the same…qualities as Michael Fassbender.

T is for Tea from the hinterlands of the Caucasus.
We can’t tell the diff’rence but, from the price, it’s fabulous!

* * * * *

Day 3

* * * * *

EJIA wins the leather notebook! Please post full name (it won’t be published) in Comments.

Update: Ejia, your notebook has been delivered to National Bookstore in Rockwell. Just give your name to the Customer Service desk (tel. 897 4562). Enjoy.

Bishops are pro-vampire, possibly Team Edward; stand on zombies awaited

November 29, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 7 Comments →

MANILA, Philippines — The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) movie ratings board has found a “pro-life” message in the vampires and werewolves movie “Breaking Dawn 2.”

In fact, the CBCP-Catholic Initiative for Enlightened Movie Appreciation (CINEMA) has recommended that the faithful watch the movie—the last installment of the Twilight series—and read the novel on which it was based.

Read CBCP’s Cinema endorses Breaking Dawn Part 2 for its pro-life message.

Are they so desperate for support for their medieval anti-RH bill stand that they would align themselves with the bloodsucking undead?

Do they have an affinity towards bloodsuckers?

Boboy wants to know: Are they Team Edward or Team Jacob?

What is their official stand on zombies?

In Christian theology, do vampires have souls?

Of course vampires don’t need birth control—because they can’t have sex. How are you supposed to get an erection without a functioning circulatory system? Twilight promotes ignorance of basic science. Oh now we see the affinity.

Does this mean vampires will have eternal life after their already eternal life?

Are the bishops secretly for the RH bill? They’re making themselves too easy a target.

How To Choose A Book

November 29, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 15 Comments →

1. By its reputation. The book is considered a classic or, if new, has received glowing reviews.

In 2013 we are going to climb Mt. Proust. We are currently in training. Volunteers accepted. You will be asked to sign a waiver clearing us of any responsibility should you run amok.

2. By its author. You’ve read and admired the author’s other works. Maybe you’re a completist.

We bought Jean-Christophe Valtat’s steampunk adventure Aurorarama because we loved his novella, 03. And because we’re a sucker for anything set in Venice.

There’s a story by Irwin Shaw in which a character chooses books on the basis of the author’s photograph on the jacket. Sounds silly, but it makes sense—we tend to be kinder towards people whose faces appeal to us.

3. By its cover. You like the way it looks. You are not being superficial. As books become niche products cover art, layout, fonts, the quality of the paper will matter more and more. Design and packaging may keep the book from extinction in the face of cheaper, more convenient, accessible digital versions.

4. By the movie. You’ve seen the film adaptation and wish to compare it with the book, or you want to read the book before the film comes out. Mark Millar pointed out that it’s in the author’s best interest to make sure the movie does justice to his work because face it, more people will see the movie than ever read the book. As far as they’re concerned, the movie IS the book.

5. By a recommendation from a friend. Can be complicated: If you hate the book, friend may take it as a slur on her personal taste. People are sensitive.

6. By the first line. “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Now you have to read it.

7. By the last line. “For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.” Go back and read it.

8. The Ford Madox Ford rule: Read page 99. But page 99 of which edition? We downloaded a simple text file of Some Do Not…, the first volume of Parade’s End, from Project Gutenberg. It has no pagination.

Top of page 99 of The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño:

“At the hotel where we have Lupe. Your father was there.”

“What was he doing there?” The voice was uninflected; it was like talking to a brick wall, I thought.

Hmmm. True, it’s in translation.

9. The Marshall McLuhan rule: Read page 69.

From The Savage Detectives:

He held his two hands at chest height. They were trembling considerably.

“On a project?” I said affably, looking at the papers spread out on the table.

Eh. We’ll read it for reason #1.

10. The Jane Chord. Combine the first word and the last word. Pride and Prejudice: It/them.

At Last by Edward St. Aubyn: Surprised/for.

Atonement by Ian McEwan: The/sleep.

The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis: Seven/pen.


11. By browsing through it.

12. By suggestion. You saw a character in a movie or TV show reading that book. Apparently lots of people pick up books they spotted on Mad Men. Hey, it works for Don Draper. (Note: Because he’s Don Draper.)

13. It’s by a brilliant author, it was suppressed by Stalin, and it’s published for the first time in English by the New York Review of Books. Works for us.

Read Robert Crum on the best way to test a novel before you read it.

Royal plots: Q, Picard, Scar and Loki do Shakespeare

November 28, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television 21 Comments →

Ben Whishaw as Richard II

We popped the dvd of The Hollow Crown, the new made-for-TV adaptations of Shakespeare’s history plays produced by Sam Mendes, into the player at 2am last Sunday, confident that it would not endanger our sleep. Verse, history, the first episode starring Ben Whishaw…we gave our eyelids 45 minutes, tops.

Five minutes later we bolted upright, dislodging two sleeping cats, and cried, “Holy crap, we get Shakespeare!” Sure we majored in Lit, we took Professor Ramas’s English 23 class and she drilled us in the greatness of Shakespeare (A brilliant teacher, she could turn you into stone with a glance, but she also made you want to be a better reader, interpreter and actor—we each had to perform 500 lines in front of an audience). But it was still homework. Since then we’ve watched Shakespeare on screen and stage and enjoyed it, even if we knew we weren’t getting all of it. When these beautiful words are flying at you, you catch what you can and fill in the blanks. It’s not about vocabulary: the words mean whatever the hell Shakespeare wants them to mean. He made the English language his bitch.

Many years later, something clicks in our head and suddenly we understand the lines as if they were in plain English. We’re sure Prof. Ramas, repeat viewings of Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, Kurosawa’s Macbeth (Throne of Blood) and Lear (Ran), and Harold Bloom’s books had something to do with this “A-ha!” moment, but it was also the way the TV movies approach the plays. The Hollow Crown makes Shakespeare intimate and accessible.

Theatre gives the material a sense of urgency, film gives it epic scale, and TV makes it seem real. It’s like watching the news. In The Hollow Crown the lines sound like actual dialogue. Okay, conversations among the metaphorical-minded, but none of the flowery declamation contest stuff that causes involuntary eyeball-rolling.

In Richard II, the king (Whishaw) is a mincing wuss who believes that having been chosen by God, he can do no wrong. He makes arbitrary, terrible decisions and alienates his strongest allies. He banishes his cousin Henry Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear) for 6 years. When Henry’s father, Richard’s uncle John of Gaunt (Patrick Stewart!!) falls ill and dies, Richard disinherits Henry and takes his property to fund an ill-advised expedition to Ireland. Henry returns, leads a revolt, deposes Richard and is crowned Henry IV. Richard is imprisoned in the Tower. Richard’s allies plot to overthrow Henry; when the plot is discovered, one of them tries to gain Henry’s favor by murdering Richard. So Henry’s reign begins with a storm of guilt.

The best part of Richard II: the death scene of John of Gaunt. As you know, no one in Shakespeare is so ill that they can’t deliver a killer speech with their last breath. Because it’s a play, not an exact copy of life. Nobody talks like that. It’s the mind speaking, not the mouth. Obviously it has to come out of their mouths or the actors would just be standing there.

Next: Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. Why would you be interested? Because that’s nearly nine hours of Tom Hiddleston, and we know some of you sign your diaries “Mrs. Hiddleston-Cumberbatch”.

Jeremy Irons as Henry IV berates Tom Hiddleston who plays the future Henry V. As the play is over 400 years old, that is not a spoiler.

Have a sonnet. You’ll thank us for this.

Sonnet 130: My mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun

Via the lovely obsessives on tumblr

The Magna Carta of Yaya

November 27, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events 2 Comments →

Dear Sir and Madam:

As the kasambahay bill setting forth the rights of domestic workers may soon be signed into law, this seems the appropriate time to discuss its repercussions on our relationship as employer and employee. Before we proceed, let us dispense with the topic that is no doubt foremost in your minds: When did I learn to write in English?

Had I a choice, you would be reading this letter in Tagalog, which is not only my first language, but one I consider far more elegant and evocative than English, the current global standard for commercial transactions and legal documentation. In fact I composed this letter in my native tongue, but in deference to your limited linguistic capabilities I’ve had it translated into English…

Read our column at

You don’t mess with the Roman cats

November 27, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Places No Comments →

Who knows why the Rome edition of the left-leaning newspaper La Repubblica decided to pick on the cat ladies just before Halloween?

A Roman Cat Fight by Massimo Gatto (his real name?) in the NYRBlog.

Once spent five days wandering Rome. Skipped the Vatican. Saw the Colosseum—no gladiators, but lots of cats. Visited Largo Argentina, which may or may not be the place where Julius Caesar was assassinated. There’s a big cat sanctuary on the site. Roman cats eat spaghetti. Our cats shun carbs.