Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for October, 2014

The Marquis de Sade and the Borgias: now sexing up the museums of Paris

October 31, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, History, Places 5 Comments →


The Borgia exhibit at the Musee Maillol doesn’t have an English text, but everything is familiar because we’d seen the TV show The Borgias. The museum exhibition is the prestigious historical tie-in to the TV show, except that the real Borgias and their associates, as painted by artists from the Renaissance, were not as beautiful as the actors. Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo are mentioned in the title, but they are barely represented; however, there’s a display of costumes from the series. Tsk, tsk, how commercial. It’s almost American.


The same could be said of Sade: Attacking the Sun at the Musee d’Orsay which, judging from the crowd waiting to get in, is a blockbuster. The show is massive, and the pieces impressive on their own—the Rodins are especially awesome—but their connection to the writings of the mad Marquis are tenuous at best. (Have you tried reading Justine or 120 Days of Sodom? We recommend them for insomniacs. Take two pages every night and you will sleep like the dead. However, our friend recommends his Philosophy in the Boudoir as “charming”.)

The curators imply that every major artist from the 19th century onwards was secretly influenced by Sade. The influence must’ve been so secret, the artists weren’t aware of it. Fine, the Surrealists championed Sade, so they should be there, but anything sexual or violent in the work of Goya, Gericault, Ingres, Rodin, Picasso, Munch is presented as proof of this influence: “It’s obvious!”

What is most obvious is that museum curators, like filmmakers, appreciate the uses of shock value. If you promise the audience decadence and depravity, they will come. The innermost room of the Sade show is called The Chamber of Perversions, and the fact that the viewer can come away unshocked is perhaps the most shocking thing of all.

See their NSFW exhibition trailer.

In the cemetery where Truffaut lies buried

October 30, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Cats, History, Movies, Places, Traveling 3 Comments →


There’s a Francois Truffaut exposition and retrospective at the Cinematheque Francaise. Like the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Patrick Modiano (whose books are in every bookshop window, taunting us), it exists to make people who don’t speak French feel bad. “But we’ve seen The 400 Blows lots of times, we already know the plot, so we can watch it anyway,” we consoled ourself. But The 400 Blows and the Antoine Doinel movies aren’t showing this week. Noooo!

In the meantime we visited Truffaut’s grave at the Montmartre Cemetery. We’re staying at our friend’s apartment, which is within spitting distance of Sacre Coeur, but only if you’re on the hill or if you’re an Olympic-level projectile spitter.

van gogh

On the way to the cemetery, we stopped at the house where Vincent Van Gogh lived with his brother, Theo. (There’s a plaque on the side of the building.) Sad story. In your lifetime your devoted brother, an art dealer, can’t sell any of your work, and then after your death your paintings go for zillions.

Still, the letters the brothers wrote to each other are wonderful. Read them. Vincent not only had the eye, he had the ear as well. One of them.


The map at the cemetery entrance lists the famous dead on the premises: Theophile Gautier, Edgar Degas, Hector Berlioz, Edmond Goncourt and so on. Even if we have no sense of direction, we couldn’t miss Truffaut’s grave.


Visitors leave their metro tickets on it. The Last Metro, get it? Granted, it is easier than leaving 400 Blows or a piano player with a bullet through him.


We like cemeteries, they’re quiet. A fat stray cat walked in front of us, but refused to be photographed.

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Cat of the Day: Prince, of the Del Fierro-Bouyers.Tried to eat our cake because it had lots of butter.

World Domination Research: Maid in Paris

October 29, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: World Domination Update 2 Comments →

I had two and a half hours to kill in Abu Dhabi airport, and not being the luxury goods shopping type, I decided to do some research on the progress of the Filipino campaign for world domination. The Philippines is not one of the countries that immediately come to mind when one says “world domination”, but that is because people always look at the wrong criteria: wealth, or military strength, or imperial history.

Even if they do look at the right metric—global influence—their interpretation of the data is too conventional. It does not occur to them that the Philippines has been quietly taking over the world for four decades—centuries more, if you consider earlier waves beginning with the galleon trade—by sending out workers to build outposts of Filipino culture all over the world. The millions of Pinoy domestic helpers, seamen, professionals and expats out there are the agents of world domination, biding their time until we get organized and formally conquer earth.

Read our column at

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We forgot to mention that every time anyone near us sneezed or coughed, she would cover her nose and mouth and mutter, “Ebola”.

The hearty quiche and the saucy menu

October 28, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Food, Language, Places, Traveling 12 Comments →


We expected to pass out any minute from jet lag, so we had dinner in the neighborhood. Our friend took us to a restaurant called L’été en pente douce. Meaning “Summer on a gentle slope”—slope, as in the side of the hill, which requires climbing these stairs. (A second flight of stairs takes you to the basilica of Sacre Coeur. A week or so of this and we should have quads of steel.)


The restaurant serves a very good quiche, which is a meal in itself. We had champagne, this being our welcome dinner. A glass of champagne is only slightly costlier than 6 ounces of Coke. Around here Coke is more expensive than the house wine, so have the wine.

Even before the quiche arrived, we were royally entertained by the menu, in French and English versions.

ass of summer

According to various translation apps, the title means “the pot-gossip of summer” or “the pewter-pot summer”, but according to a native it could also be interpreted as “the ass of summer”.

personal of room

The translations, though perhaps overly literal, sound very grand. The French menu even asks: “Do you have an emptiness?” Why do restaurants back home never ask us existential questions?

dry so very dry

Who could resist “a dry wine, so very dry for a muscat that it causes raised eyebrows among wine connoisseurs”?

We were so fascinated by the menu that we had to ask for a copy. The waiter feigned hurt and said, “If you’re just going to laugh at it…” but we assured him that it was the laughter of genuine admiration. The menu doesn’t just offer specials, it proposes them. (“We are the only restaurant to offer this” becomes “We are the unique restaurant to propose this.”)

montmartre cat

Outside, a cat waited to be served.

In case you’ve decided to panic, don’t.

October 27, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Places, Traveling 3 Comments →

Who takes care of the cats when we are away? They have a catsitter.

We know that our readers are from the school of overthinking, so this is to assure you that we have not

(a) Had a neurological event
(b) Had an electrolyte imbalance that might lead to a medical drama or fanciful interpretation
(c) Been in a motorcycle crash due to the foolhardy behavior that comes from exposure to the clever cat poop parasite toxoplasma gondii

We just got off the plane in Paris after 17 hours in the air (and 5 in airports, including almost getting left behind in Abu Dhabi).

For the next couple of weeks we’re coming to you live from Paris and Vienna.


Joy Luck Club author Amy Tan will sign your books on Saturday, 25 October at 2pm

October 24, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books No Comments →

amy tan

We had a blast at the Amy Tan Q&A this afternoon at the Philippine Literary Festival at the Raffles Hotel in Ayala Center, Makati. She was funny, self-deprecating, insightful, inspiring, and altogether lovely. We’ll post the recording (or the transcript) as soon as we get our copy.

Tomorrow afternoon at 2pm, the author will have her book-signing at Ballroom 2 on the second floor of the Raffles Hotel. Everyone is welcome. Go.

If you’ve never read Amy Tan, pick up a copy of her first novel, The Joy Luck Club, and her latest, The Valley of Amazement, and have her sign them anyway. After you’ve read them, you’ll want to meet her.