Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Let’s reread Kazuo Ishiguro.

November 07, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books

The first Ishiguro novel I ever read was The Remains of the Day. It was subtle and shattering, two adjectives I’ve found myself using regularly to describe his work. (Full disclosure: I hated The Buried Giant.)

Fiction readers tend to have huge backlogs, but to celebrate Ishiguro’s Nobel Prize, why don’t we toss Never Let Me Go on top of the stack? It’s subtle, shattering, and short. Then let us know why you love (or don’t love) Kazuo Ishiguro’s work, and who was your bet for the prize. (Mine was Ursula K. LeGuin.)

Next: Less by Andrew Sean Greer.

Coming Soon: Twisted Travels Volume 2

November 04, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Notebooks, Traveling

The Twisted books are out of print so it’s time to make new ones. I just finished writing a long account of my trip to the Czech Republic, which reminded me that I have over a decade’s worth of travel notebooks, most of them unpublished. There’s enough of them to fill a large bag.

Chuvaness gave me this shopping bag last year, which is how I learned of the existence of Opening Ceremony haha.

Everything is in longhand so now I have to type it all up and edit it. That, or find a really good OCR app.

Interested publishers, email

A Halloween Story about my late cat Mat

October 31, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Notebooks

Illustration by Anne Tamondong

Yesterday I organized my journals, meaning I collected them from wherever they were scattered and put them in a trunk and in a big plastic box (there’s a lot of them). I found my journal from mid-2015, a leather notebook I got from Papers and Tschai, a handmade studio in Cebu.

In it was an account of my cat Mat’s last day. Since he had fallen ill a week earlier, he had been very weak and sleeping in the kitchen. On his last day, I was awakened at 6:30 in the morning by something fluffy landing on my feet. It was Mat, who had used his last burst of strength to walk to my room. I knew then that he didn’t have long, so I stayed with him all day and tried to make him comfortable. At 8:08pm, he breathed his last.

There was no place to bury him, so I asked my friend Tina if I could bury Mat the following morning in her garden. Then I wrapped Mat in one of my old T-shirts and put him in a box. The janitor wrapped him up some more and we put the box in the lobby where the guard could watch it overnight.

I went to bed at midnight, exhausted. At 2:45am I dreamed that someone was pounding furiously on the door. I woke up, but there was no knocking. In the morning I noticed that the welcome mat had been moved.

I like to think that Mat was trying to get back in the house, or maybe the angel of death had come to collect my firstborn male cat. (I’m sure it wasn’t a Pet Sematary scenario because Koosi and the neighbors’ dogs are all buried around here, and none of them came back.) Mat was a sweetie. The next day we couldn’t get a taxi to take us to Tina’s place (pre-Uber) so Juan lent me his car and driver. So Mat arrived in an SUV (according to witnesses, he leapt out of one and ran to my building) and left in an SUV. He was a sosyal cat.

I bought a pair of ipis earrings from the beercan art guy of Poblacion

October 30, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Design

I kept hearing about how Poblacion is the place to be, so when I met my first workshop group I suggested we eat at Bucky’s then cross the equator to El Chupacabra. You can feel your ears pop. The difference between the two sides is a subject for an anthropological paper.

Afterwards I was waiting along the street for the car when a skinny man came up to me holding a small sculpture made of recycled beercans. I was more interested in the large silver cockroach, also recycled from a beercan, that he was selling.

“You can put it on your shirt and take a selfie!” he said.

I said that I was more interested in its earring possibilities. “Can you make two small cockroaches that I can use for earrings? Just make them, I’ll attach the hooks and rings.”

We traded emails and I got them a few days later. They’re delicate but impressively detailed. Clearly Mika, the can art guy, had spent a lot of time observing cockroaches.

He can also make Edward Scissorhands thingies that you can attach to gloves, which means he could make Wolverine claws. You can find him on Felipe Street off Burgos, Makati every night. I’ve commissioned beercan cats for earrings and he’s working on them.

Thor Ragnarok is the funniest superhero movie AND the most fun!!!

October 25, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies, Music

It’s a scream, a hoot and a blast! (Plus lark, riot, barrel of laughs)

It’s anarchic and hilarious! A different kind of funny from Guardians of the Galaxy, which is pop culture-centric. Here the comedy springs from the disconnect between the characters’ ideas of themselves, what they say they’re going to do, and what they actually do. And the brightly colored CGI worlds look grotty, which make them seem more real.

It rescues Thor from the bottom of the Marvel superhero franchises! Yes, Thor is no longer the loser in the pack (I saw Thor: The Dark World in Czech and it still doesn’t work), and they saved it by allowing Chris Hemsworth to fall on his face and be funny.

It’s packed with guest stars, including actors not in the Marvel universe!

It has the rare villain (Cate Blanchett being the Anti-Galadriel) formidable enough to wipe out the heroes, plus planet-shaking consequences!

Led Zeppelin in Valhalla! Immigrant Song should be the Thor theme like Black Sabbath’s Iron Man should be Iron Man’s (it turns up occasionally) and Misty Mountain Hop should be Gollum’s (Yes, we all read the same things).

Jeff Goldblum in gold lame!

Taika Waititi is my favorite director name!

It must be discussed in exclamation points!

It has two credit sequences, FYI.

I don’t need to see another superhero flick until Black Panther! This year I’ve seen five good-to-great superhero flicks and will quit while I’m ahead.


* * * * *

I wasn’t the oldest person at the cinema (I saw it in the early afternoon, surrounded by senior citizens), but I was by far the happiest to hear Led Zeppelin in the battle sequences. “Hammer of the gods?” “We are your overlords?” Nothing could be more appropriate, not even Wagner, said my friend, a blues guitarist.

Since watching Ragnarok, I’ve been listening to Zeppelin constantly. I miss them. When I was a kid, they were schoolbus music: it was either Zeppelin or disco. Up to the 90s it seemed to me that on every overpass there was a beggar with a tinny amp singing “Stairway to Heaven”. In every dive where a band played, some drunks would inevitably start yelling “Stairway to Heaven”, which was the cue to take cover as bottles would start flying. Ah, childhood. Here’s a playlist.

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Two or three things I learned in Czechia

October 23, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Places, Traveling

Travel is always an edifying experience. Two things I learned from my recent trip.

First, the poetry you pick up in school is never completely lost. It will pop into your head when you see its real life counterpart (even in a different country). This is The Wild Swans at Coole by W.B. Yeats.

The Vltava River in Cesky Krumlov

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;

The Vltava River in Prague

Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

Second, I learned what money is for. Sure, it’s to pay bills and buy cat food, but there’s more.

Money is so you don’t have to travel coach on long-haul flights when you’re over 40 (my demarcation line between youth and age, long past). Listen to me, kids: You need those wide seats that turn into beds. You need a constant supply of drinks. You need space. When you fly a total of 15 hours, you feel every minute in your bones.

There endeth the lesson.

* * * * *

The Witcher, the story that launched Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy series, is one of eight stories from Central Europe and the Philippines in Ang Manggagaway, an anthology of science-fiction and fantasy tales edited by Dean Francis Alfar; József Bencze, Hungarian Ambassador and poet; and Jaroslav Olša, Jr., Czech Ambassador and founding father of the Czech science fiction monthly Ikarie (He knows George R.R. Martin). The stories are by Csilla Kleinheincz of Hungary, František Novotný and Julie Nováková of the Czech Republic, Juraj Cervenák and Alexandra Pavelková of Slovakia, and Elyss Punsalan and Edgar Calabia Samar of the Philippines. The Filipino translations are by Eros Atalia, Joselito de los Reyes, Beverly Siy and the Bob Ong.

Ang Manggagaway was launched recently, and will hit bookstores soon. As our world grows ever closer to the dystopian societies envisioned by Philip K. Dick and the cyberpunks, we all need to be reading science-fiction. It is no longer just the genre that helped nerds stay alive through the torments of high school. It is a matter of survival.