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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for September, 2017

Finished or not finished, pass your papers

September 30, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Workshops No Comments →

First submission: Iris Clamor. Good work!

Tokyo is exquisite and intense.

September 27, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Places, Traveling 3 Comments →

I’ve been in Japan for eight days to attend meetings and do research for the World Domination Project. Having kicked it over in my head for many years and published a magazine about it, the time has come to announce it to the rest of the world. It is certainly much, much saner than anything else that’s going on in the world today.

After the relative quiet of Yokohama, I moved to Tokyo. It was my first time in Tokyo. It’s a shock. Immediately I thought of what the Queen of Hearts said to Alice (in Wonderland): “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” Think of New York or Paris, then ratchet up the intensity.

The mass transit system is impressive: both efficient and mind-boggling. First you have to learn to decipher the train codes. This requires standing in front of the huge announcement boards while the light washes over you and you feel like a complete idiot. The older I get, the more I realize the futility of trying to rationalize everything in real time. These days I just absorb as much information as I can and wait for my brain to put it all together (that’s what sleep is for). At some point something clicks and you go “Aha!” and things make sense, or at least seem less random.

I’d been saving David Mitchell’s novel Number 9 Dream for my first visit to Tokyo. It’s been sitting in my bag, unread, because there is so much to process. I didn’t have to read about the sensory assault of being in Tokyo when I was undergoing that very assault. When I checked out of the hotel in Yokohama I accidentally left the book behind, but this being Japan, I simply emailed the hotel and they forwarded the book to me in Tokyo.

My great achievement on this trip was going to Shinjuku by myself, finding the main store of Kinokuniya Books, and making it back to Shibuya for a meeting. I felt like at any point, I could disappear into a crowd and never be seen again. Entering the Tokyo transit system is like going into the transporter in Star Trek: you dissolve into particles which are transmitted through the vacuum of space and reconstituted on the surface of another world. Only it takes minutes or hours, during which you consider the possibility that you won’t be put back together.

The hotel room is tiny but well-appointed. You have to do a parkour move to get to the window, but there is a bathtub, a fully automated toilet, and a washing machine and dryer. The coffee is excellent everywhere, and the convenience stores are awesome. The food! The clothes! I didn’t have time to visit a cat cafe, but I notice the English daily carries cat adoption notices. A 20 meter-high Unicorn Gundam statue was unveiled on the waterfront. On a Monday at three in the afternoon I watched the Bavarian State Opera do Tannhauser. That is a story for later.

And so, like many, many, many others before me, I fall in love with Japanese fashion.

September 26, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Clothing, Places No Comments →

I know, it’s so cliche.

The store is called Kapital. The class struggle between labour and capital is the clash between my desire and my wallet.

Then I find that David Sedaris has already come up with an accurate description of their clothes.

The neighborhood it was in—Ebisu—is home to one of our favorite shops, Kapital. The clothes they sell are new but appear to have been previously worn, perhaps by someone who was shot or stabbed and then thrown off a boat. Everything looks as if it had been pulled from the evidence rack at a murder trial. I don’t know how they do it. Most distressed clothing looks fake, but not theirs, for some reason. Do they put it in a dryer with broken glass and rusty steak knives? Do they drag it behind a tank over a still-smoldering battlefield? How do they get the cuts and stains so . . . right?

If I had to use one word to describe Kapital’s clothing, I’d be torn between “wrong” and “tragic.” A shirt might look normal enough until you try it on, and discover that the armholes have been moved, and are no longer level with your shoulders, like a capital “T,” but farther down your torso, like a lowercase one.

Read The Perfect Fit.

Obviously we recognize the same powers.

Let’s talk about socks

September 23, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Clothing 10 Comments →


My favorite shoes with my favorite socks

I’m going on several trips in the next month and doing a lot of walking, so before I left Manila I went to Marks and Spencer and bought a pack of socks. You’d think socks would be easier to find than shoes. Nope. In the last three years I’ve bought dozens of socks that turned out to be useless. Crew socks (mid-calf) and boot socks are easy. Happy Socks and Proppy do them well. But ankle socks, including the ones that claim to be no-show, cause problems—they slip down and disappear into my shoes. I’m talking about you, Old Navy, Calzedonia, and now Marks and Spencer ankle socks. Only Muji ankle socks do their job. If there’s anything that causes me to revert into an eight-year-old, it’s socks that get eaten by shoes.

Yesterday I had barely walked a block when my socks retreated to my arches and my ankles were chafed by the backs of my shoes. Blasted socks. Fortunately there are convenience stores on every street corner in Yokohama so I ducked into one and bought a pair of men’s socks. Which held up perfectly, and saved my feet from bleeding.

Could somebody tell me where to get good ankle socks?

An introduction to Steely Dan, my favorite cerebral-ironic jazz-rock nerd grouch band

September 20, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Music 2 Comments →

When I was 14 I got a Walkman, and from that moment on I was free to choose my own mental soundtrack. I never had to hear Air Supply or David Pomeranz again, unless my batteries died or I caught a stray high note while changing cassettes. The most pleasurable and most agonizing choice of the day was which four albums to take to school with me.

One of the first albums I bought with my own money was Gaucho by Steely Dan. I would never have heard of Steely Dan if “Hey, Nineteen” had not briefly cracked the the Top 40 chart. Obviously I did not relate to the band’s experience—I had no memory of 1967 and was not a dandy ogling teenage girls who did not know who Aretha Franklin was. (I had a vague idea who Aretha was.) I liked the funny-sarcastic lyrics, the sound (beloved of audiophiles), the way their songs had narrators, and the weirdly moving vocal harmonies. So I looked up their previous albums. Aja remains my favorite. I remember listening to “Home At Last” and sitting bolt upright as I realized it was the Odyssey. Luckily I always sat in the back during Physics lab.

Walter Becker died on September 3. I’m hoping Donald Fagen resumes his tour. But damnit, I’ll never see the whole Steely Dan perform live. And another thing has occurred to me: Do younger musicians, people 30 and below, listen to Steely Dan and play their songs? They should.

So if you have a band and you play Steely Dan, let me know. I’ll come to your gig, bring music nerd friends, write about you. We can talk about what the songs mean.

If you have no idea what Steely Dan is, here’s a basic playlist.

* * *

Goddamnit Donald Fagen was supposed to headline the Blue Note Jazz Festival in Yokohama this weekend and I’m in Yokohama and the festival has been cancelled!!!

I hereby make a vow to see Donald Fagen in concert as soon as possible.

Weekend in Cebu: LitFest, Writing Boot Camp, fabrics and accessories

September 17, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Design, Food, Places, Projects 2 Comments →


I left the house under the guilt-inducing gaze of Drogon, who disapproves of any activities that do not involve him.

I was in Cebu from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning for two events organized by Hendri Go, who runs the Cebu Literary Festival. I like Cebu: One can still breathe, even if the traffic is getting heavy; there are enthusiastic creative enterprises like Happy Garaje the design studio and Anthill the fabric gallery; there are intense chocolate creations at The Chocolate Chamber and that cake at the coffee shop of Big Hotel; and the major malls have wider, taller spaces than the ones in Manila. Also, Avatar earrings and accessories and Sunburst fried chicken.

After a quick lunch and chocolate fix, I did a reading and Q&A at one of the Cebu LitFest venues, a rooftop amphitheatre at SM Seaside. Near the amphitheatre is a cafe staffed by fluffy, lazy cats.

I slept like a baby at the Marco Polo Plaza, where the lovely staff sent up midnight snacks: ensaymada and tea on the first night, chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk on the second.

Before boot camp the next day I visited Anthill, a gallery and training center for producers of indigenous handwoven fabrics and accessories. I bought a reversible shawl that can be worn sixteen ways, which means I only have to bring a bunch of black T-shirts and jeans when I go to Tokyo this week.

Writing Boot Camp was held at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in the I.T. Park in Lahug. I talked about building the habit of writing, gave writing exercises, and interviewed each participant about what was keeping her/him from writing. Then we talked about the writing projects they will undertake, the first five pages of which are due on Saturday, 30 September.

En route to the airport I stopped by the Avatar showroom, where I stuck to my resolve to buy only two or three items. Lately I’ve felt that my things are closing in on me like the trash compactor in Star Wars, so I limit my purchases to stuff I need or really like. Hence, the slightly weird.

Thank you, Cebu! I’ll be back.