Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for November, 2016

We live in science-fiction times. You have to read Ted Chiang’s The Story of Your Life (filmed as Arrival).

November 29, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 1 Comment →

Movies showing in New York: Moonlight (which I have to see with my friends), Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford’s latest, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Venice where Lav Diaz won the Golden Lion), and Manchester by the Sea, the new film by Kenneth Lonergan starring Casey Affleck. Cost of a movie ticket: $16.

I loved the ill-fated Lonergan movie Margaret and wanted to see Manchester by the Sea. Casey Affleck, who has used his freaky stare to great effect in his brother’s Gone Baby, Gone and The Assassination of Jesse James, is said to be terrific in it (the word Oscar has been used). But when I got to the Angelika both screenings of Manchester were sold out (there was a Q&A with the filmmakers aargh) so I settled for Nocturnal Animals.

Tom Ford’s first movie A Single Man, an adaptation of the Christopher Isherwood novel, was a feature-length perfume commercial (Bawal ang pangit) lifted by a heartbreaking performance by Colin Firth (who really won his Oscar with that). Nocturnal Animals, an adaptation of Tony and Susan by Austin Wright, is actually two movies. The first is about an art gallery owner played by Amy Adams who seems to have everything she wants: a thriving career, a rich and gorgeous husband (Armie Hammer), a fabulous house and glamorous lifestyle. It still looks like a perfume commercial, but this is to underscore the shallowness of her existence.

The second movie is a dramatization of the novel her first husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) has written and dedicated to her. It’s a nasty, alarming thriller in which a man (Jake), his wife (Isla Fisher, brilliantly cast—she looks like Amy) and daughter (Ellie Bamber) are driving through a Texas highway in the dead of night when they are forced off the road by a trio of thugs led by a terrifying Aaron Taylor-Johnson. The worst that can happen, happens. The ensuing investigation is led by the always disconcerting Michael Shannon, who would’ve made off with the entire movie if Jake were not so solid.

As the gallerist reads the manuscript, she recalls her relationship with her sweet, unambitious ex and how she destroyed him at the prodding of her mother (Laura Linney, who is brilliant). Nocturnal Animals stays in your head for days, and should cause a few arguments about the ending.

Amy Adams is having a great year. I’m looking forward to Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario). Even before I’ve seen the movie, I already owe it a great debt for introducing me to the work of Ted Chiang.


Arrival is based on Chiang’s The Story of Your Life. Ostensibly a first contact with extraterrestrials tale, it is a mind-bending rumination on language and cognition, and a deeply emotional story of motherhood. The main idea is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis:

the theory that an individual’s thoughts and actions are determined by the language or languages that individual speaks. The strong version of the hypothesis states that all human thoughts and actions are bound by the restraints of language, and is generally less accepted than the weaker version, which says that language only somewhat shapes our thinking and behavior.

Chiang is a writer who explores exhilarating ideas without losing sight of the familiar and human. Like many of the finest writers today, he is isolated from the general audience by the label “science-fiction”. But we live in science-fiction times, and the only way we can make sense of this pandemonium is to read writers like him.

If you see Ted Chiang’s books in stores, buy them all. Read them and give them to your friends. If for some reason you don’t like them, send them to me and I’ll swap other books for them.

In praise of the three-martini lunch

November 26, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Drink, Places, Traveling 2 Comments →

Photos of the library, building and cafe from

Carmen invited me to a three-martini lunch at the Morgan Library. A year like this calls for regular doses of alcohol as a survival mechanism, so I said yes.

The Morgan Library houses the impressive collection of Pierpont Morgan. Listen, if you’re going to be a robber baron, the least you can do is leave a spectacular library.


The library is pretty much the way it was in Morgan’s time, but the building has been renovated by Renzo Piano.


It feels a little jarring to step out of the exhibit of Charlotte Bronte’s papers and into this. One is expecting Thornfield Hall, mud and howling wind.


Carmen, a tech consultant, started Whisky and Books, which pairs books with whisky and meets every month to discuss. This month’s pairing: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and Bruichladdich X4+3. What a great idea, we should do this in Manila. Noel and I have long planned a Silence of the Lambs dinner with a good chianti (and fava beans).


I associate martini lunches with this scene from Mad Men. (Coincidentally, I have a ticket to The Front Page starring Nathan Lane and John Slattery.) We did not remake this, probably because I did not eat a bucket of oysters.


As long as we were pleasantly tipsy we visited an altar to literature and drink: The Algonquin Hotel, where Dorothy Parker et al held court at the Round Table.


The Algonquin is now ruled by the imperious Matilda, third of her name.

The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls

November 21, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Music, Places, Traveling 1 Comment →

A New Yorker who stood up against bullies.

The people of New York standing up against bullies. The Post-It Project.

Overheard in the 14th St station: “You wanna stop and write your feelings? Hey !@#$%^ tell the world how you feel!”

On the platform a woman was singing “Hallelujah” in a way that honored Leonard Cohen while wiping the floor with his version. (In the immediate aftermath of the US presidential election Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, and Sharon Jones have died.)

Sneaky Burials and other atrocities in the “post-truth” world

November 19, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Current Events 3 Comments →

Bird’s Hell from ‘Max Beckmann in New York’, Metropolitan Museum

We knew it was going to happen so we prepared ourselves for the outrage, but the temerity of the deed, the sheer contempt for justice and human decency challenges even the power of language.

This is an abomination.

They will not get away with this.

Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Lunch.

November 18, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, Places, Traveling No Comments →

We were too early for lunch so we had a coffee at Peter Pan Donuts first. Naturally I had a doughnut appetizer.

Peter Pan is a Brooklyn institution. Tina Fey has declared that so great is her passion for Peter Pan doughnuts, if she had a penis she would violate them.

Greenpoint Fish and Lobster sells excellent fish tacos and sandwiches.

Greenpoint is the sort of neighborhood where everyone knows everyone. Polish is widely spoken. The HBO show Girls is shot here.


Next door to the fish restaurant is another doughnut place, Mo’s. The owner used to work at Peter Pan. There was a big kerfuffle.

A coffee shop offers advice on how to deal with living in a Chinese curse.

Chelsea, Manhattan, Lunch.

November 16, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Music, Places, Traveling 8 Comments →

The Chelsea Hotel is still under renovation.



When David Byrne wrote Here Lies Love, the disco musical about Imelda Marcos, the strongman’s widow was a figure of the recent past haunting the present. And now they’re baaaaack and may very well be the future. New songs will be written, but what can be done about willful amnesia and delusional nostalgia?

(Yes that is David Byrne. Please couch envious comments in song lyrics. You start a conversation, you can’t even finish it. You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything.)