Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Postscript to the demise of grammar…

January 26, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Language

Dragonsnake Bog in Dagobah

Last Thursday we were writing a review of Blackhat for our column at InterAksyon when we went off course as we often do, and by following the detour, ended up with a column about the enforcement of the rules of grammar at our old and much-missed newspaper, TODAY. The second paragraph started like this:

This grammatical challenge reminded me that when I was writing for TODAY, I witnessed a smackdown between two eminent editors of advanced age. They differed on whether Yakuza was capitalized or not, like Mafia or mafia. To buttress their positions they consulted the many dictionaries and manuals of style in the office library.

The column went online on Friday. Today our editor Chuchay informed us that on Friday night, one of those two grammar enforcers, Manny Benitez, died. We had not been in touch for many years.

Our condolences to Mr Benitez’s family.

We still haven’t figured out whether we’re clairvoyant or do long-range psychokinetic strikes. Time for a trip to the Dagobah system.

On the indigenous-artisanal-organic beat: Limited edition handwoven abel Iloko bags

January 26, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Clothing


“Limited” meaning there are only 3-6 pieces in existence, 3-5 of which are available because we got one of each nyahaha.


Probability of running into someone with the same bag: Extremely low.


Designed by the BLB to withstand any amount of abuse.


Prices determined by the day’s algorithm, apparently. For inquiries, post a message in Comments.

Every movie we see #10-13: Whiplash is thrilling and Selma should be Best Picture

January 24, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Movies

10. Blackhat by Michael Mann. Many filmmakers have taken a crack at making the writing and execution of computer code look thrilling. A bunch of people typing does not make for compelling cinema, unless you Matrix it. Michael Mann tries to liven up proceedings by showing a visual representation of information flowing, which doesn’t work for us, and by casting People’s Sexiest Man Alive as a genius hacker and surrounding him with hot Chinese actors (Leehom Wang from Lust, Caution, Andy On, Archie Kao of CSI), which does. Whenever we heard ourself thinking, “Chris Hemsworth as a computer genius??” Hemsworth would take off his shirt or something and we would forget our reservations. Yeah, parts of the movie are slow—they’re meant to be slow. Michael Mann will not change his pace to suit your attention span.

Blackhat is terrific, a moody thriller set in the new Wild West: the digital frontier, which laughs at national borders. With Viola Davis and Tang Wei, star of Lust, Caution.

If you liked Miami Vice with Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, which we find woefully misunderstood, you’ll love Blackhat. By the way, every Michael Mann movie is about manhood. Deal with it.

11. Selma by Ava DuVernay. In truth we expected to sleep through it. Movies about important historical moments usually feel like a duty, with their tendency to canonize their subjects. (Confession: We haven’t seen Gandhi and Lincoln in their entirety.) But from the first scene, in which Martin Luther King (the commanding David Oyelowo) is dressing up for the Nobel Prize ceremony, we were riveted. Ava DuVernay has made a powerful film that puts you right there on that bridge with the people marching for Civil Rights in 1964 and the policemen waiting to crack their skulls. It makes us ashamed of our ignorance of recent history.

Critics have torn into Selma for portraying President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson—why are the major roles played by Brits?) as the villain. We don’t know what movie they saw, but Johnson wasn’t the bad guy in Selma. He was being what he was: a politician.

Which brings us to the Oscars, which many say have been whitewashed. How many times has the Academy’s Best Picture been unquestionably the best picture? It doesn’t have to be. “Best Picture” is a political message: it’s the Academy saying, “This is how we see ourselves, this is what we aspire to.” Boyhood is a worthy contender, and Birdman, and Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice and Whiplash, but in the year of Ferguson and “I Can’t Breathe”, Selma is both worthy and timely. It captures a moment that continues to impact on today’s America. Just because Barack Obama is African-American doesn’t mean it’s over.

12. The Imitation Game by Morten Tyldum. We are the target audience for this one: Benedict Cumberbatch fans who know how Alan Turing was maltreated by his country and take an interest in the cracking of Enigma. (Polish mathematicians laid the groundwork. They started working on it in the early 30s because they knew the Nazis were coming. Turing built on their work.) And we liked Tyldum’s art crime movie, Headhunters.

We fell asleep at the Merchant-Ivoriness of the first 30 minutes. We’ll take another crack at it next week.

13. Whiplash by Damien Chazelle. Whoa! This is thrilling filmmaking. You know the oft-told story of the teacher who is tough and cranky because he wants his student to be the best he can be, but is really a kind old geezer? J.K. Simmons as the mentor is a monster on the outside, and when you get to know him he’s even more monstrous. Miles Teller is excellent as the aspiring drummer, and their final face-off is so tense we kept forgetting to breathe.

And yet we detect, in the film and in ourselves, a yearning for a mentor who will push us beyond our limits, resulting in either irrepairable breakage or greatness. “But what’s at stake?” some may ask. “No one even listens to jazz anymore. He endures all that torment, and what’s the point?” That IS the point. Greatness is not measured in fame, fortune, or the approbation of award-giving bodies. The public doesn’t care, but you will know.

That said, you do not have the right to be that mentor and condemn mediocrity if you yourself are mediocre. Also, practice is for developing discipline, it’s not a substitute for talent. Without talent, that kind of brutal training will only produce assholes.

Is krungkrung hyphenated?

January 23, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Language, The Workplace

Our friend Noel sent us a video report that could very well be the definition of krungkrung. Then he asked something that, in our universe, is a vital question: Is krungkrung hyphenated? Krungkrung or krung-krung?

Read our column at

Our beloved Watson breaks bad in Fargo

January 23, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television


The snow is always falling in Fargo, cloaking the world in metaphysical confusion. A mysterious man named Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton, whose smile portends bad things) has an accident in the snow and abandons his car, which turns out to have a naked man in the trunk. The man makes a run for it and soon freezes to death. Meanwhile, insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) is bullied by trucking magnate Sam Hess, the same thug who used to make him miserable in high school. He ends up in a hospital waiting room with Malvo, who puts ideas in his head and then offers to kill Hess for him. Lester thinks it’s a joke; it isn’t.

Read The Binge, our TV column in BusinessWorld.

Charlie Hebdo, by a survivor

January 22, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Places

The cartoonists Georges Wolinski and Cabu at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, Paris, May 23, 2012. Photo by Patrick Fouque/Getty Images

Dear Friends of Charlie Hebdo and Libération,

Right now I have nothing left but three fingers wrapped in Band-Aids, a heavily bandaged jaw, and just a few ounces of strength, a few minutes in which to express to you all my affection and thank you for your friendship and your support. This is all I wanted to say to you: if there is one thing that this attack reminded me about, or even taught me in the first place, it’s why I practice this profession at these two papers—out of a spirit of freedom and the sheer fun of expressing it, whether in the form of news or caricature, in good company, and in every way possible, however unsuccessful, without feeling the slightest need to judge the result.

Continue reading at the NYRB Blog.