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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Subtle Chinese Food

April 21, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, Places

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James and Boboy were having lunch with friends in Binondo, at a noodle place called Lan Zhou La Mien. We took advantage of the comparatively light (but not by much, since everyone stayed in town apparently, and Edsa was being reblocked) long weekend traffic to drive to Chinatown.

Even with Ricky’s navigational skills (can moonlight as a taxi driver) and Noel’s GPS-reading abilities, Binondo is a maze and we stopped to ask for directions.

“Deretso, tapos kaliwa sa unang kanto, kaliwa ulit. Yung pula, siguradong makikita nyo.” Straight ahead, then left, then left. It’s red, you can’t miss it.

We had not gone 5 meters when we realized that every sign in Chinatown is red.

“Easier if he’d said yung hindi pula,” Noel pointed out.

So we asked another guy who was watching cars.

“Deretso lang, yung pula na sikat.”

By this time we were close to a hysterical giggling fit.

“What does Lan Zhou La Mien mean?” Ricky asked.

“Yung pula na sikat,” Noel translated.

Luckily we were spotted by James.

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La Mien is deservedly famous for its hand-pulled noodles, which have the best texture of any noodles we’ve tried lately. Along with the Beef La Mien and the excellent steamed kuchay dumplings, the waiter brought a pair of scissors in a bowl of hot water. These scissors are not for warding off diners hovering by your table urging you to leave (It’s a small place). They are for cutting the noodles, which are very long. We stabbed at our bowls a few times, and were ready to eat.

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The Beef La Mien is wonderful: delicately-flavored yet filling. We could only finish half the bowl before throwing down our chopsticks in surrender. Ricky recommends eating the la mien as quickly as possible because the noodles absorb the broth and expand.

Subtle Chinese, and only Php120.

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Of course no trip to Binondo is complete without a visit to the Temple of Hopia, Salazar, winner of our Hopia Challenge.

Lan Zhou La Mien is on 818 Benavidez Street in Binondo, Manila.

Drogon is a White Gem

April 20, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats

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Drogon doing yoga, photographed by his teacher

You’ve met Drogon, the youngest cat in our household. Technically we adopted him in September last year, when he was (according to the vet) about one and a half, but if there was any adopting going on, he did it. He turned up on our doorstep in August, having tagged along with Meriadoc the stray cat who turns up at mealtimes. Unlike Meriadoc, who is feral and does not allow himself to be petted, Drogon invited himself into our house, where he befriended our resident cats. He is extremely friendly. By September he had moved in completely.

Friends have noted that Drogon is unusual-looking. He has snowy white fur and blue eyes (one with an incomplete eyeball, like the Death Star under construction) but is not deaf, as far as we know, with a pink nose and pink paw pads. He is extremely sociable, likes humans, and allows his claws to be trimmed without going on a murderous rampage. He addresses us with a high-pitched meow and likes taking showers in the sink. Every time we turn on a tap, he comes running.

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This is not Drogon.

Last week Juan discovered this article on exotic cat breeds.

These cats are not easy to describe, they have their own peculiarities, features of character and special peculiarity in appearance. The breed takes its origin from Thailand and its name means “White Gem”. In different parts of the world they are called “Diamond Eyes”, as these cats may have blue, gold eyes, moreover they may also have eyes of different color: one blue, one gold. The cats with odd eyes are the most popular, preferable and precious. As for their character, Khao Manees are known to be smart, active and communicative. You can recognize Manees not only by their eyes but also by the snowy white fur and pink paw pads. There are no other features that could distinguish them from ordinary domestic cats. These cats like to cuddle in your lap and cry loudly to get what they need.

The cat in the photo looks exactly like Drogon, down to the slightly cross-eyed stare. It appears that Drogon is a Khao Manee, a.k.a. White Gem or Diamond Eyes.

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Drogon’s paws

Drogon approves of the name. Tina says he probably escaped from North Forbes and made his way to our building. Another origin myth! The story around here is that Mat (Matthias Eomer) our white tabby with black ears jumped out of a moving Mercedes Benz (one of the guards said he was sitting on the lap of a uniformed yaya) and took asylum in our building.

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A very Roman Holiday story, and Mat is very regal. He has perfect manners, and when Saffy and Drogon misbehave he gives them a swift clout on the ear. (Mat’s ears are very slightly torn on top because when he lived outside he was always brawling with the strays.)

Every movie we see #42: Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel is a box of macarons

April 19, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Design, Movies

40. A Handful of Dust. The book is hilarious, the movie is not.
41. Homefront. It’s finally happened. We’re tired of Jason Statham.

* * * * *

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Perhaps the word that best describes Wes Anderson movies is exquisite. They are beautiful, like well-curated museum exhibitions. The color palettes are carefully selected, as if the director had begun planning his movies not with notes but with fabric swatches.

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The compositions are symmetrical.

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The production design is elaborate (It makes you want to run home and redecorate).

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The art direction is meticulous.

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The filmmaking style is unapologetically mannered, that is, not particularly concerned with presenting life as it really is.

In short, the films of Wes Anderson are macarons. When the ingredients are fresh and mixed in the precise, perfect quantities, the result is delightful (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums). One miscalculation and the outcome can be precious, or cloyingly cute (We loathe Moonrise Kingdom with a passion. Granted, this is preferable to casual loathing). Balance must be achieved, or the audience goes home feeling slightly nauseous.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a lovely box of macarons, an affectionate look at a more civilized era where everyone could expect courtesy, decorum, discretion and consideration on the basis of shared humanity. The catch is that this more civilized era may not ever have existed, but the longing for it is universal (The same way people who have read a lot of Mitteleuropean literature are nostalgic for the Habsburg empire without ever having been part of it). The filmmaker acknowledges this by putting the story of The Grand Budapest Hotel in a frame within a frame within a frame: a girl in the recent past reads a book written by a former guest of the hotel, who recalls a conversation in the more distant past with a former hotel employee, who tells a story from an even earlier time.

Macaron is apt because while it may be argued that The Grand Budapest Hotel is no more than a confection, it is a wonderful confection. If we’re going to risk diabetes and heart disease by eating dessert, it had better be a sublime dessert. Otherwise we might as well spoon lard out of a vat.

Verdict: Enthusiastically recommended. We like the way Wes Anderson acknowledges the work of Stefan Zweig, whom we “met” through one of our all-time favorite movies, Max Ophuls’s Letter From An Unknown Woman.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is now showing at Ayala Cinemas.

Illustrations for the Apocalypse

April 18, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Books, History

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In the 8th century, in a monastery in the mountains of northern Spain, 700 years after the Book of Revelations was written, a monk named Beatus set down to illustrate a collection of writings he had compiled about this most vivid and apocalyptic of the New Testament books. Throughout the next few centuries his depictions of multi-headed beasts, decapitated sinners, and trumpet blowing angels, would be copied over and over again in various versions of the manuscript.

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Read about the Beatus of Facundus at the Public Domain Review.

Is this art?

April 17, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Places

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Ivar in London

If I suddenly exit, is that performance art?

What to do with all these spectacles

April 15, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Clothing, Design

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Steampunk eyeglass frames by Sunny

We love spectacles. We have a lot of eyeglasses because we wear them all the time (If we had contact lenses we would end up poking our eyes out from sheer clumsiness). Everyone wonders how dumb the population of Metropolis has to be not to see that Clark Kent is Superman with eyeglasses, but having worn glasses since age 8, we know they make effective disguises. No one can recognize us minus our glasses. The disguise has become the person! Nyahahahaa (thunder, lightning)!

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While relocating dust from one piece of furniture to the next (i.e. cleaning), we found a bag full of old spectacles we don’t use anymore. Not the vintage frames—we’ll use those forever—but fairly ordinary plastic glasses from the 90s, with plastic lenses in our old prescription (Our astigmatism has lessened since then). Fourteen in total, all of them from our optometrist Nella Sarabia at UP Shopping Center. What can we do with them?

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Reading glasses we found at a flea market. They’re warped with age and no longer usable as glasses, but we’re keeping them to turn into a pendant or something.

We could donate them to charity. Better, we could sell them and donate the proceeds to charity (or have them auctioned for charity, assuming anyone would buy them).

We could give a pair to anyone who makes a donation in a specified amount (Say, Php2500) to CARA (Compassion and Responsibility for Animals) or PAWS (Philippine Animal Welfare Society).

We could give a pair of glasses to anyone who buys three sets of books in The Last Twisted Sale.

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We could give the frames to Sunny Garcia who makes funky spectacles and sells them at Legazpi Market on Sundays (They’re closed this Sunday). Or give them to Leo Abaya to fuse onto a sculpture project.

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That’s a handwoven abel table runner in python weave. Ask Rene Guatlo.

Ideas are welcome.