Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Joel Edgerton has directed a movie and now he wants to give you a notebook.

August 20, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Contest, Movies

The movie is The Gift, it stars Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, and Edgerton himself, and it is now showing in cinemas. We haven’t seen it yet, but according to the production notes it’s about a married couple (Bateman and Hall) who run into an old high school acquaintance (Edgerton) of the husband’s, who starts sending them gifts and alluding to something that happened in the past. Critics have compared it to Hitchcock, which works for us because we love movies that mess with your head.

Joel Edgerton—fine, his distributors—sent us three The Gift notebooks, which we will give to three readers who answer this question: Were you nice to everyone in your past? Don’t hesitate to furnish lurid details!

Post your answers in Comments.

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Thanks antiquaryanne and leeflailmarch! Send your mailing addresses to so we can send you your notebooks.

There’s one notebook left, if anyone else has a story about having personally mistreated anyone in the past.

From the Workshop: Almost Forty

August 19, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Re-lay-shun-ships, Workshops

We give writing workshops at the Ayala Museum. The workshops consist of three two-hour sessions of lectures, exercises, and group discussions held over three weeks. The next workshop, Writing Boot Camp, will start on 3 September 2015. For more information or to make a reservation, email Marj Villaflores,

This month we are featuring, with their permission, essays by the participants in July’s Personal Essay workshop. The submissions were half-standup comedy, half-trauma ward. We encouraged everyone to get over their fear of exposure, embarrassment and “What will people think?” Here are some of the results.

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Still from Napoleon Dynamite. When we googled movies about online dating to illustrate this essay, we discovered that there are no great movies about online dating. Because people looking at screens is not exciting. Black Hat almost did it, but only because it starred Chris Hemsworth.

Almost Forty
By Mia V. Estolano

Almost 40. If I were to live until age 70, I would have lived half my life already –no husband, no kids, no house, no boyfriend, no boyfriend…yet. A pasted-on smile is my usual answer to relatives or friends who ask the squirm-inducing question. I love my work. I love to travel. Oftentimes, the person who asks the question lets go. At times, they prod more. I don’t mind answering. It can get annoying, especially when they seem to think there’s something wrong with me, or worse, that I am a sad person.

But I am happy. I love men. And I’ve tried dating, just not the usual route. I tried to get dates online. It’s quicker and cuts the preliminaries of dating. At least that’s what my cousin told me. We are similar, only she lives in the US where online dating is very common. She said that I should try it.

So I did.

Read the rest of this entry →

Gold and Memory: Unlocking our collective amnesia

August 18, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, History


In the heart of the financial district of Makati and in a basement at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas complex sits what may be the most valuable tangible heritage of the Philippines: gold objects believed to be a thousand years old. There are gold bangles inlaid with semi-precious stones and arm ornaments of hammered gold. There are belts of woven gold weighing over half a kilogram, and finely wrought ear ornaments. There are death masks, cutwork diadems, ritual vessels and elaborate headdresses. There is a gold halter weighing nearly four kilos that can choke the most avaricious fashion victim.

There are well over a thousand artefacts at the Ayala Museum and at the Bangko Sentral, all of them found in the Philippines, all of them dating back centuries before the Spanish conquest. The intricacy of the designs and the painstaking labor that went into their production point to a sophisticated culture with a high-level of gold and metal-working technology. The number of funerary masks and other grave goods hints at a culture that believed in an afterlife. Recurring Hindu motifs such as the Upavita and the kinnari suggest that the owners of the gold traded with the kingdoms of Southeast Asia or were even part of such a kingdom. Point to, hint at, suggest — meaning we don’t know for sure. It is characteristic of our unawareness of our own history that we do not know who made these objects.

Read our essay Gold and Memory at BusinessWorld.

The mathematics of history

August 18, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Language, Science

via 3QD

Sexing up the classics

August 17, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Design


Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein. . .great books that generations of students have been required to read for their edification. They’re supposed to be “good for us”, like exercise or a trip to the dentist. Nothing kills the pleasure of reading a good book faster than treating it like homework.


What if the novels of Shelley, Bronte, Austen and company were regarded not as prerequisites for intellectual improvement, but as intended by their authors—as entertainment? What if the classics could be fun?

Pulp the Classics is a brilliant idea: taking some of the most famous works of literature and packaging them as 1950s pulp paperbacks with sensational covers, witty taglines, boldly-colored edges and fake scuff marks.


There’s a Ryan Gosling-like Dorian Gray peering out of his portrait saying, “Hey Girl…I’d sell my soul for you!” Marilyn Monroe as Tess of the D’Urbervilles—”She’s…No Angel.” A louche Mr. Darcy, the Colin Firth version, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and the tagline, “Lock up your daughters…Darcy’s in town!”

The only cover we’re not crazy about is Wuthering Heights with Humphrey Bogart as Heathcliff. We love Bogey, but he’s not a Heathcliff.


The series is so effective, we bought copies for the design and ended up reading Tess again. We’re looking for the edition of Dubliners whose cover is based on Reservoir Dogs.

Pulp the Classics, available at National Bookstores, Php249 apiece.

Hammer and Cavill have a beauty contest in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and we all win.

August 16, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies


We have seen The Man from U.N.C.L.E. twice, the first time for the beautiful leads, and the second time for its Dolce Vita-era style and fashion.

The movie is adapted from a TV show that is so old, even we don’t remember seeing it. This is what the original stars looked like.


Robert Vaughn and David McCallum played Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, an American spy and a Russian spy who worked together to save the world from evil masterminds. The TV show was on during the height of the Cold War, so the idea of Russians and Americans working together must’ve offered some comfort to people who expected the world to blow up at at any time.

The movie by Guy Ritchie is still set in 1963, and stars these two.


Every time Henry Cavill (Napoleon Solo) or Armie Hammer (Ilya Kuryakin) spoke, each time one of them so much as raised an eyebrow, the women in our row would go: Hihihihihihihihihihihi. Cavill and Hammer (Cammer? Havill?) looked so good in their outfits that we decided not to write a letter to the studio protesting the fact that no one took his shirt off.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is fun, cheeky, and not as spastic as previous Guy Ritchie movies. He actually slows down the pace so we can enjoy the humor, such as in the sequence where Cavill eats a sandwich while, in the window, we can see Hammer being chased up and down the harbor by fascist goons. There’s also a lot of multiple split screens, which work.

The plot is basic, the execution stylish. We had expected a parody of 60s spy thrillers and got an hommage to them instead. We especially enjoyed the use of Italian pop songs from the 60s—during a furious chase scene, some guy would be wailing about thwarted love or whatever.

Photos from Henry Cavill Online.

To continue the season of feminine ass-kickers (Mad Max: Fury Road, Ant-Man, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and who knew Magic Mike XXL would be feminist?) The Man from U.N.C.L.E. co-stars Alicia Vikander as a Nazi scientist’s daughter who is also a brilliant mechanic, and Elizabeth Debicki (she played Jordan in The Great Gatsby) as the most sosyal fascist villain in films this year. Her line readings are delicious, and even at the most dangerous moments she cannot be rushed.

Fashion is one of the movie’s stars, as Hammer and Cavill remind us when they have a discussion over whether a Paco Rabanne belt can go with a Jean Patou. Men who are gorgeous, resourceful, speak many languages, can kill with their bare hands and know how to accessorize: perfect.


There is something for everyone, including double-entendre and queer-baiting (“I’ll take the top.” “I’ll take the bottom.”). Someone brought their very smart kid to a screening, and the kid asked the right questions (“Why does he keep talking about his father’s watch?”). In one scene Cavill…entertains a lady in his hotel room, and in the room directly below it, Hammer observes the chandelier shaking and certain sounds coming from above. “Why is it shaking?” the kid asked. We didn’t hear how his parents answered the question.

And look, it’s Hugh Grant!

Essay question: Hammer or Cavill?