Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Drogon is 5! This week he is The Oracle.

April 12, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Music

It’s Drogon’s birthday! (I assigned the date because I don’t know exactly when he was born—it’s also the birthday of Koosi, the first cat who adopted me.) Drogon likes sitting at windows and watching the outside world. Unlike our eldest cat Saffy who is antisocial, he enjoys visiting his human’s friends on their movie nights. These days he plays tag around the house with our new cat, Jacob.

Drogon is also a ferocious hunter, with skills he seldom gets to practice as an indoor cat. The other night I noticed him sitting in the bathroom for a long time, staring unblinkingly at the wall. The following morning there was a broken dish by the sink, books fallen off the table, and in the center of the room, a small cockroach corpse. All hail the fearless hunter!

In keeping with our tradition, we declare Drogon the Oracle and invite you to post your questions and wishes in Comments. No rush—he’ll answer them throughout the long weekend.

Here’s one of Drogon’s favorite musicians, Thundercat, who is inspired by his cat, Turbo Tron Over 9000 Baby Jesus Sally, Tron for short.

Weekly Report Cards 12 and 13: Sometimes you just want a solid, old-fashioned narrative

April 10, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies


Life: B (See my review)

Ghost in the Shell: C. I never read the manga or saw the anime, so I did not fly into a rage over this live action adaptation by Rupert Sanders. But even I could see that casting Scarlett Johansson (so effective as a post-human character elsewhere) as a Japanese woman, even if her consciousness was occupying a synthetic body, was odd. She only speaks English to her boss, Takeshi Kitano, who only speaks to her in Japanese, and no one points out the strangeness. Maybe if the setting had not been Tokyo of the near-future. The production design is beautiful, even if the writing chews over philosophical problems tackled in greater depth in Blade Runner and elsewhere.

To Walk Invisible: B. How did three young women who lived in isolation in the middle of nowhere produce Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and other spellbinding classics of Victorian literature? The Brontes are an argument for the shut-in life. This film by Sally Wainright, creator of the excellent British series Happy Valley, opens with little Charlotte, Emily and Anne creating imaginary worlds with their brother Branwell. Branwell, the only boy, was believed to be a genius. The family expected him to be a great writer and artist, but he was weak, became addicted to alcohol and opium, and often brought shame to the family. On the other hand, his dramas and afflictions shook up the quiet household and may have unleashed something in his three sisters. A fascinating study of a literary family, even if the ending makes it look like an ad for the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

Books: The Idiot by Elif Batuman and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Both abandoned at the halfway mark because while I admired their intelligence and craft, Batuman’s explorations of language and Saunders’s relentless wit, I was in the mood for a traditional narrative in which I root for the protagonist and something happens. Maybe when the weather isn’t so hot, humid and friendly to mucus.

Deliberate resting: Doing more by working less

April 05, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Psychology, The Workplace

When you examine the lives of history’s most creative figures, you are immediately confronted with a paradox: They organize their lives around their work, but not their days.

Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus. Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking. Their creativity and productivity, in other words, were not the result of endless hours of toil. Their towering creative achievements result from modest “working” hours.

How did they manage to be so accomplished? Can a generation raised to believe that 80-hour workweeks are necessary for success learn something from the lives of the people who laid the foundations of chaos theory and topology or wrote Great Expectations?

Read Darwin Was A Slacker And You Should Be, Too.

I like this strategy! I’m not slacking, I’m deliberately slacking.

These cats agree.

Fantastic book tunnels and elevator shaft libraries

April 04, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Design

Entrance to the Yangzhou Zhongshuge bookstore in Zhen Yuan, China. See more photos at My Modern Met.

Reading room at the same bookstore

Studio North in Canada turns an industrial elevator shaft into a library

Road to Nowhere

April 02, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Music

I’ve always enjoyed the music choices on Noah Hawley’s shows (Listen to Fargo, Season 2.) Episode 2 of Legion opens with Syd’s cover of this cheerfully ominous Talking Heads song.

Which is the real killer: fat, sugar, or both?

March 31, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Health

Read Is Fat Killing You, or is Sugar?

Recently a friend of mine was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Usually I do not care about blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, or whatnot, and will eat whatever I want, but this news freaked me out. I’m old, so this shit now affects me. I’ve given up white rice, soda (sob) and those bottled iced teas, which are just sugared water anyway. And I try to eat sensibly, which turns out to be a challenge for people who live on delivery and take-out.

My prescription for everything is still 8-9 hours of sleep a day, and avoiding stress. I quit writing columns because wringing 800 words out of every thought was becoming stressful. (After 20 years of column-writing, I’ve said everything I have to say at least thrice.) Freedom! Being able to watch a movie without reviewing it in my head! Just being!

Also, I’ve edited my newsfeeds because I do not need to hear of developments as they happen. The pronouncements of idiots get enough attention without having mine as well. There’s a difference between staying informed and drowning in breaking news. And a difference between news and stuff that gets spewed for the sake of spewing. Silence creates space for deep thought, and that freaks people out.

Are you drowning? Let me know if you need help editing your life.