Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for April, 2015

Before sunrise but after midnight

April 29, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling No Comments →


We want to be a writer-in-residence on a train line, writing stories on the railway. We could live on Snowpiercer. The way climate change is proceeding, we probably will live on Snowpiercer.


The train to Vienna was an hour late; a long delay at one station added 1 hour of tedium (fidgeting, looking at watch) to our pleasant 6-hour trip (reading, writing, taking naps). We emerged into a cold, deserted station and followed the signs to the taxi rank. Someone was yelling “Hey! Hey!” on the street. Ordinarily, hearing shouting at 1230am in a strange city would be scary, but we’d just endured an hour of boredom and could not be messed with. Then a gray animal the size of a terrier ran down the stairs into the station. Something out of the Brothers Grimm—a hedgehog? A dog fleeing its costume-obsessed humans?

There were no taxis on the empty street and we were about to call a taxi company (Globe, for Chrissakes stop sending us daily data roaming offers, we’re not interested! We told you specifically: Text roaming only, no data roaming. You had better not be billing us for data roaming or there will be tears and blood–yours) when a taxi appeared. Inside the radio was playing “Weather With You” by Crowded House, which told us we’d be fine, not that it ever occurred to us that we would not be fine. The driver took a wrong turn to the hotel and had to go round the block so he stopped the meter. Nice.

Trieste, I loved you but you’re bringing me down.

April 28, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Places, Traveling 2 Comments →


Took a break from watching movies and drinking excellent Friuli wines and hopped the train to Trieste. Trains make me happy. I start replaying The Lady Vanishes in my head (“Zere is no Eenglish lady”).

An hour later my day trip is off to a bad start. When I first came to Trieste a decade ago the train station seemed grand. Now it’s not, but maybe it’s the bitterness of age. Made the mistake of going to the station WC. Generally, bad idea to go to the WC in any train station.

Went across the street to a cafe to use their facilities, bought a cappucino (It was 9am) and sat outside. The area around a train station is not the place you want to hang out in, in Trieste or elsewhere. It looks like the place to disappear into after you’ve accidentally killed someone. A guy who looked like DJ Qualls with consumption sat at the next table and started smoking out the last of his lungs. I asked the waitress to point me to Piazza Dell’Unita by the sea.


It’s a five minute walk, but I ended up asking two more random pedestrians because I have no sense of direction.

The last time I was here it took me an hour to stop feeling that if I stepped off the curb I would vanish forever. That part in Catcher in the Rye really does happen.

I’d planned to join the James Joyce walking tour—he lived here and operated a cinema—but there was none scheduled for the day. The tourism office has audioguides for rent, but when I asked a woman in Italian for directions she said, “No parlo inglese” and turned away. What is the world coming to when the French are friendlier than the Italians? Later I went into a shoe store to buy socks and the old lady with a hairsprayed helmet cried “No! No!” and just about shooed me away. Jeez, lady, watch your blood pressure, I know your economy sucks but don’t take it out on the tourists. Tourists with money, hah, the euro is down to 46 pesos.


At the tourism office the very nice lady said the audioguide cost 5 euro till 6pm and for the life of me I could not locate my wallet. Does that happen to you? I had to take out every item in the backpack before I found it in the first place I looked. (Was it the backpack that triggered hostility? But it’s quite small and I wanted my hands free to take photos.)

Then when I started the audio tour not only was the audioguide cumbersome and the narrator too chatty, but the route was totally counter to my usual wandering. 250 pesos wasted.


I had a light lunch at the beautiful old Caffe Degli Specchi where James Joyce and Italo Svevo used to hang out (since their respective museums were closed). Cafes are always conducive to writing. Who am I kidding, if you really want to write, you could do it on a moving bus.

For years I’ve wanted a copy of Claudio Magris’s Microcosmos in English. Yes I could order it online, but I thought I’d get it from the source. Stupid romantic notion. If Triestine bookstores don’t have English translations of Magris, Svevo, their most famous writers, who would?

I would, actually. I have more Svevo in English than any bookstore I visited. Ubik, a well-stocked bookstore at the Palazzo Tergesteo had Magris, Svevo, Saba in Italian, German, French but not English. The clerk, noting my bitter disappointment, dug up a profusely illustrated book containing one poem by Umberto Saba rendered in 20 languages.


At another bookstore they had more Magris and Svevo in the original. “No,” said the manager, who was too busy arguing politics with an old man to attend to the moron who knew only English.

My mood in Trieste was appropriate triste, and for cinematic punctuation it started pissing rain. I don’t know if I’ll ever visit Trieste again, it feels like we’ve broken up.

P.S. I’ve been in Italy 5 1/2 days and have not seen a single cat. However I notice the distinctive smell of cat pee in parks, which tells me they are lurking there.

The cats are all right.

April 27, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats 1 Comment →



Report from home: Our feline housemates are fine, despite having tried all the different varieties of emotional blackmail when we were leaving the house last Wednesday. They have a catsitter who shows up everyday. Usually cats can manage on their own with a month’s worth of kibble, but Saffy and Mat are teenagers and someone has to open their canned food. Our catsitter is our cleaning lady, who is devoted to our cats. She did time for defending herself against her abusive husband, so if there are any threats to the cats she’ll shiv them.

Asian Cinema invades Europe at the Far East Film Festival 17

April 26, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Places, Traveling No Comments →

Joe Hisaishi and the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra performed some of his best-known film scores, including music from Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.

For 10 days every spring, Teatro Nuovo Giovanni Da Udine is taken over by lovers of Asian film from all over Europe.

Jackie Chan opened the 17th edition of Far East Film Festival with his martial arts epic, Dragon Blade.

Here’s the audience going nuts for Jackie Chan.

Anne Curtis and Chris Martinez, star and writer-director of The Gifted, introduce their film to an appreciative crowd. The Filipino population of the Friuli region and Milan were on hand to support their kababayan.

Read our report at

What we would be doing at home in Makati: Watching movies, reading, writing, talking to friends, serving feline overlords.

What we’ve been doing in Italy: Watching movies, reading, writing, talking to the other guests. Have not seen any cats, but at the bookstore there’s an entire shelf devoted to books about cats. None of them in English, unfortunately.

Today’s schedule:
1100 Press conferences
1350 The Tragedy of Bushido (restored Japanese 60s samurai movie)
1515 Kabukicho Love Hotel (Japan)
1745 The Royal Tailor (South Korea)
2010 Kung Fu Jungle (HK/China)

We’re in Udine till Tuesday, then taking the train to Vienna. Anyone wants to go to the opera in Vienna, let us know.

We are now flying through the Gum Nebula.

April 24, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Science No Comments →

Save your money, we’re going to space. These images of the Gum Nebula, taken by the Hubble telescope, were presented on its 25th anniversary.

The Jinx is the creepiest TV show we’ve seen this year, and it’s a documentary.

April 24, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Crime, Current Events, Monsters, Television No Comments →

A dismembered body is discovered in Galveston, Texas, wrapped in trash bags. It is missing a head. The dead person is identified as Morris Black, resident of a run-down boarding house. Police find clues in the trash bags and blood in the house. They arrest Black’s neighbor, a middle-aged mute woman named Dorothy Ciner. Who, it turns out, is neither mute nor a woman.

Why was Robert Durst, scion of a New York real estate empire, living in a crummy boarding house pretending to be a mute woman? It was not the first time he was in such close proximity to a corpse. Twenty years earlier his young wife Kathie, a medical student, disappeared and was never seen again. Ten years earlier his best friend Susan Berman was shot dead in her house in Beverly Hills. In both cases Durst had not been treated as a suspect.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.