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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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The Stranger seen from the other side

June 29, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books

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The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud, Php555 at National Bookstores

Here at last is a retelling of an important novel from the perspective of another character, and if you were thinking Grey, the latest product for people who dream of getting chained, flogged and electrocuted in their privates by weird rich guys but would never actually do it, we are happy to disappoint you.

In The Stranger by Albert Camus, a novel we admire so much that a group of us translated it into Tagalog (See Camus in Tagalog, above), the protagonist Meursault shoots an Arab on the beach for no particular reason. The dead man doesn’t get a name or history, he’s just a corpse, a plot device to put Meursault in jail (and The Cure material for a song).

This first novel by Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud gives that man a name, a history, hopes and disappointments. It is narrated by the dead man’s brother, who sits in a bar night after night describing the murder and its aftermath. The very first line is a reply to Camus:

Mama’s still alive today.

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Other famous novels reimagined from a different character’s POV: The Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys’s take on Jane Eyre as told by the first Mrs Rochester; The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (The Odyssey); and we’re sure you’ll remind us of the others.

Silicon Valley: The geeks have still not inherited the earth.

June 26, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television

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Created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, Silicon Valley was reportedly inspired by Judge’s stint as a software engineer in the 1980s. It was, by his account, a soul-crushing experience. “The people I met were like Stepford Wives,” he said in an interview. “They were true believers in something, and I don’t know what it was.” He ended up on television, writing, directing, producing, starring and doing the music for Beavis and Butt-head. He also did the cartoon King of the Hill and the film Office Space, the classic on the banality of corporate evil.

“Every day it feels like I’ve died and gone to hell,” Gilfoyle declares.

“He’s a Satanist,” Dinesh explains. “It’s a good thing.”

Mike Judge knows better than anyone that highly intelligent people can behave like complete morons, and in that IQ gulf live the big laughs. Silicon Valley takes Office Space’s penetrating criticism of corporate culture, and delivers it with the off-color, juvenile humor of Beavis and Butt-head.

Read our review of Silicon Valley at our TV column The Binge in BusinessWorld.

Watch Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency. Language will offend some. There’s also a bit about Filipinos in season 2, but it’s a spoiler.

We plan to review every play at Virgin Labfest XI

June 26, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: twisted by jessica zafra

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Reviews of Set A.

Everyone’s looking forward to Nick Pichay’s Macho Dancer: The Musical. Get your tickets now at the CCP Box Office or Ticketworld, Php300 per set—just Php100 per play. Cheaper than a movie, but conversation fodder for days.

It’s less fun in this hotel

June 24, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling

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Owing to a mix-up, the Cebu Literary Festival organizer had to find us hotel accommodations at the last minute, and the guests from Manila were billeted at a hotel called Center Suites. The owners of Center Suites are members of Opus Dei, the ultra-conservative Catholic group, and our party included Carlos Celdran, celebrated “offender of religious feelings”. Carlos has actually been barred from some churches—they bolted the doors upon his approach—bringing up the possibility that the hotel would require an exorcism.

“Are you sure this is okay?” Hendri the one-man Cebu Litfest management asked about 20 times. We agreed so that we could tell our friends we had stayed at an Opus Dei-run hotel; at this point we just do things for the story value.

Upon check-in we were given copies of the house rules. “No instant couples” proclaimed a sign at the reception desk, meaning couples have to present a marriage certificate in order to get admitted. Immediately we thought of sending our friends who had gotten married in Ireland; the house rules did not mention same-sex couples.

The rules also prescribed “stain charges”—Php150 for the sheets, Php120 for the towel, etc—but did not specify the nature of the stains, which became an occasion for impure thoughts. Would the stain inspection be conducted with a black light?

Our room was very small, plain, clean, like a monk’s cell, not that we’ve ever been a monk. The window offered a view of the fire escape. In case the house rules were unclear there were helpful reminders taped on the walls. The bathmat was rolled up with a label that declared in large type: This is not a rag, you will be charged for heavy stains.

To our disappointment, the drawer contained neither hairshirt nor whips in case our conduct required punishment. Then again, it may have been to prevent reenactments of that 50 Shades crap.

The accommodations were so quiet and fun was such a distant threat that we actually got some work done. All we need are freezing airconditioning, a strong wifi signal, and a TV airing endless reruns of Law and Order, any version. If you want thrills, local color, vibrant company and aesthetic delights, this is not the place for you. But if you have responsibilities to meet and drudgery to endure, come on in.

We recommend Center Suites to parents whose children are going to Cebu—nothing keeps the young in line like house rules and a 10:30 curfew. Other hotels offer fun and excitement; Center Suites has a chapel with a full oratory. Does the Four Seasons have that? We think not.

Avatar makes Cebu the earring capital of the Philippines

June 23, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Clothing, Design, Places

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Our first stop in Cebu was the Avatar store at the Bellavista Hotel.

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Avatar is a Cebu-based fashion accessories and jewelry brand that pre-dates the James Cameron movie (although the tall blue aliens would like it). Its products are exported all over the world, and it’s won many awards for design.

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“Avatar” means “the incarnation of an idea” and if the idea is “Death to the boring,” we consider it a success.

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They have a pop-up store in Greenbelt, but the Bellavista Hotel outlet has the best prices. You can get earrings for as low as Php100. There are bracelets, necklaces, etc, but we didn’t look at them because we were on our way to lunch.

Our next workshop: The Personal Essay

June 22, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Workshops

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Drogon approves of this poster. We look like we’re talking into Drogon’s butt.

Drogon looks like:
a) A fearsome dragon
b) A White Walker (white with all-blue eyes)
c) Ghost the direwolf