Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

It’s time to write something! Join our Writing Boot Camp on July 22 and 29

July 12, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Workshops

You’ve always wanted to write, but you don’t know how to get started.

You used to write, but you haven’t done it in a while and you feel rusty.

You’re sort of interested in writing, but you’re afraid to even admit it.

You’ve started many stories, but you ran out of steam.

You think you can write, but you need a second opinion.

You have a writing project that you’ve been putting off, and you just looked at the calendar and it’s almost 2018.

You want to learn the basics of storytelling. (Or you have a friend who is any/all of the above and you want to give them a little push.)

Join our Writing Boot Camp! The objective is simple: to start and finish a piece of writing (a short story, a personal essay, or a piece of fanfiction) in two weekends.

Dates: July 22 and 29, 2017, from 1-5pm.
Venue: WSI Corporate Center, Metropolitan Avenue, Makati (near the Makati fire station at the end of Ayala Avenue)
Cost: Php6,000

Note: No one has ever burst into tears or had a nervous breakdown at our workshops.

For inquiries and to book a place, email

Some books are meant to be read slowly, some are to be devoured in one sitting.

July 12, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books

What started as pragmatic laziness—leaving big books at home and traveling with slimmer ones—has led me to a different way of reading. The active ritual of reading one book extremely slowly, patiently, in the same place, over an unreasonably long time, has changed the way I see. It’s a measured meting out of a book, like nibbling one piece of chocolate each night in the same chair over a year. It’s a refusal to hurry up or to turn reading into a life hack; it’s the anti-summer reading, the anti-binge read. It’s site-specific, intensely slow reading, for no other reason than to bask in what’s good.

Read The Case for Taking Forever to Finish Reading Books.

The other night I was bored, a condition I’ve learned to appreciate since I climbed out of the anxiety pit. I started organizing my files, and among the stories I saved from the Paris Review and other sites I found several by Ottessa Moshfegh, the author of Eileen. For months I’ve been looking for a copy of her story collection, Homesick for Another World—turns out I have most of the pieces (but will still buy the book when I find it). I started reading a story called The Weirdos, and before I knew it I’d finished eight stories.

They’re short, intense, and the opening paragraphs just seize you like face-sucking xenomorphs.

On our first date, he bought me a taco, talked at length about the ancients’ theories of light, how it streams at angles to align events in space and time, that it is the source of all information, determines every outcome, how we can reflect it to summon aliens using mirrored bowls of water.

If you require fictional characters to be nice and “relatable”, don’t even look at Homesick. I found most of the people repellent but fascinating, and in the 10 to 15 minutes it took to read each story, I imagined I was those people. It’s amazing, being in someone else’s skin, especially someone you would have nothing to do with in real life. That’s one of the reasons I read fiction.

Wanted: A human parent for this sweet little cat

July 11, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats

This sweet girl needs a home. She is currently living in a construction site in Bel-Air 2, Makati. My friend thinks the cat used to live in the house in front of the site, but her people moved out and did not take her along.

A kind foreman at the construction site is feeding and looking after the white cat for now. However, the house will soon be finished and the kitty will be left on her own again.

This kitty is docile and accustomed to being around humans. She is approximately three years old, white with blue eyes (I will check on the hearing situation). She is already spayed, so you don’t have to take her to the vet for the procedure.

Don’t let her wander around by herself, rooting in the garbage and getting drenched in the rain. Won’t you let her be part of your household? She is looking for people to love.

If you would like to adopt this cat, leave a message in comments or email me at and I’ll arrange a meeting.

Update: We’ve been in touch with the cat parents we know, and they all have too many cats as it is. So we need to convince someone who likes cats to start adopting. Know anyone?

Update: We have a human! Abs has kindly offered to adopt the kitty. We will meet next week to introduce them.

Monday with Cats

July 10, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats

Cat merchandise! Clockwise: Exploding Kittens, a hilarious card game from The Oatmeal; cat button earrings; an “invisible” (clear acrylic) cat pendant from Croatia; and magnets shaped like cat butts, from a store in Singapore.

Actual cat: Here’s Jacob when he was a homeless cat living downstairs a year ago. I fed the strays daily, but they still had a hard life and could not expect to live long. Jacob, in particular, had been run over by a car and has a limp. He’s also too friendly, and once staggered back to the garage wrapped in wire courtesy of some shithead.

Jacob now, three and a half months after he moved in with us. His activities include wandering around the apartment, watching at windows, and learning mixed martial arts with his best friend, Drogon.

Adopt a cat today! Visit a cat shelter and get a furry housemate. Look at these cats and dogs who need you.

When people say, “Shouldn’t you look after people before you worry about animals?” the correct answer is, “We should look after people AND animals.”

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a delightful teen movie with superpowers, not that anyone needed an opinion.

July 06, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies

Can you remember the time before superhero movies ate the cineplex, when viewers could actually choose from a wide range of categories and genres, and humans-with-incredible-abilities was just one of the options? My favorite movie year is 1999, when these were just some of the movies at the cinema: Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson, Being John Malkovich by Spike Jonze, Rushmore by Wes Anderson, The Matrix by the Wachowskis, Three Kings by David O. Russell, The Talented Mr. Ripley by Anthony Minghella, Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick, Summer of Sam by Spike Lee (mixed reviews, I loved it), South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, Notting Hill, Bowfinger (laughed my head off), Fight Club by David Fincher, and GalaxyQuest. See the range?

Now consider that this year, the movies I’ve enjoyed most are Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man: Homecoming, and I’m looking forward to Thor: Ragnarok.

I enjoy superhero movies, but I wish I had options. I’d probably watch them all anyway.

That said, I enjoyed Spider-Man: Homecoming very much. It’s giving me a Back to the Future vibe, and in my world that is a high compliment.

Spider-Man: Homecoming’s main strength is its youthful energy. Tom Holland is perfectly cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. We believe he is a geeky 15-year-old reveling in his newly-acquired abilities and his insanely upgraded suit courtesy of Tony Stark while dealing with the adolescent stuff: his torpe crush on the lovely Liz (Laura Harrier), being mocked by his rich asshole classmate (Tony Revolori of Grand Budapest Hotel as Flash**, whom I imagine Tony Stark was like in his teens), trying to be taken seriously by the adults (Tony Stark and Happy Hogan are not real adults) and keeping his crime-fighting activities from Aunt May (Marisa Tomei)*, who is presumably grieving for her husband. (This time we don’t see Uncle Ben die or hear the power-responsibility equation.) Holland, a classically-trained dancer, has the added advantage of being able to express himself through movement. His physical grace contrasts nicely with his social awkwardness.

Peter’s best friend probably has a harder time than he does, being non-white (Jacob Batalon is Fil-American; with Dave Bautista that makes two Fil-Ams in Marvel movies) and non-skinny. There’s also Michelle (Zendaya), a sarcastic, antisocial classmate who will presumably become the love interest in the sequel. I like how Peter is surrounded by Americans of African and Asian descent, and it’s perfectly normal. Because it IS perfectly normal.

Mindful that there have been two reboots of this Marvel property in the last 15 years, the filmmakers spare us a repeat of the radioactive spider bite. The movie begins a few months after Spider-Man’s impressive introduction in Captain America: Civil War.

In Homecoming, director Jon Watts and a legion of screenwriters try to address two common criticisms of Marvel movies: the generic-sounding music, and the generic villain. The former is fixed by Michael Giacchino’s soaring soundtrack. With songs from the 80s! Holy crap, it’s The Ramones. Later I thought I was hearing things, but it was A Flock of Seagulls.

The villain is still a problem. Michael Keaton can do anything, but he needs a character. We hear of The Vulture’s resentment, which echoes the resentments of most other villains. In the Marvel universe, apparently, there are villains because there are heroes. A good villain divides our loyalties, gets our sympathy despite their fiendish plots. Here The Vulture kills an associate by mistake, and doesn’t exhibit a shred of remorse. Arms-dealing is justified by the need to pay the mortgage. (Then again, people vote for flimsier reasons.) Bad guy and good guy do have a chilling encounter out of costume, and for a few minutes we’re in Hitchcock territory. Then it’s back to thrashing each other.

Not surprisingly, the movie is sprightlier and more engaging when the kids are onscreen and when Peter is testing his suit (It has a voice, like Ms Jarvis, and I mean Jennifer Connelly) than in the final fight between Spidey and The Vulture. Martin Starr from Silicon Valley, still hilariously deadpan, is the coach of the academic decathlon team. Bokeem Woodbine, so memorable in the second season of Fargo, is a henchman who may reappear. Hannibal Buress and Donald Glover show up; here’s hoping they have more to do next time. (Apparently Glover’s character is a reference to the current comic book Spidey.) There are two credit sequences and a running joke about Captain America.

Watch it!!!! (4 exclamation points)

* Does anyone remember that romcom Only You with Tomei and Downey?
** I caught the branzino allusion, which means I have seen too many comic book adaptations.
*** I’ll probably see the movie a few more times during its run, so this post will be tweaked.

This book kept me from running amok while I was stranded for 3 hours in that massive traffic jam last Friday.

July 05, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books

Theft by Finding*, David Sedaris’s diaries from 1977 – 2002, is the funniest book I’ve read in years. Every other page I had to stop and cackle to myself, and then take a picture of a page that made me laugh and send it to a friend. That’s how I survived being stuck in BGC for three hours on Friday the 30th, when the conditions for the perfect traffic jam—Friday, payday, and rain—combined to open a hellmouth where time moved at 1/20th its usual speed.**

Sedaris started keeping a diary in 1977 when he had no direction and no prospects, was dirt poor, took drugs, had sex with strangers, and lived in horrific crime-ridden neighborhoods where non-whites were routinely abused and beaten, women were routinely abused and beaten, and gays were routinely abused and beaten. (Sedaris got extra abuse because he was mistaken for a Jew.) And yet the book is hilarious! The author doesn’t try to be funny, he just recounts his daily humiliations in a deadpan tone that heightens their absurdity. He doesn’t complain about his lot. He doesn’t judge the scum of the earth (I did, by typing this sentence). He is kind to everyone: the mean, scary, ugly, filthy and stupid. We’re all just trapped in this hell, trying to make it out alive.

In the later entries you can see the genesis of his famous essays. However, I am especially fond of the accounts from the bleak years, when he didn’t know that his writing would take him anywhere, and he was just writing because he had nothing else. If you think your life is going absolutely nowhere and you feel like a great big loser, this book will give you perspective.

* Apparently there’s a law in England that says if you pick up something valuable and you don’t report it, you’ve committed theft by finding. It’s the opposite of “Finders, keepers”.
** There were no Grab or Uber cars available, and I could’ve walked home except that there was no sidewalk.