Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

If you wished Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life were longer, your wish has been granted.

May 18, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books

Saffy says: As Felis imperator I hereby declare a moratorium on book-buying.

We didn’t even know a new Kate Atkinson novel was due! Thank you, publisher. According to the blurbs this is a companion to Life After Life, in which Ursula Todd lived her life over and over with variations to allow her to do something that would save millions of people. In the new novel, A God In Ruins, Ursula’s brother Teddy expects to die in battle, but doesn’t. This is what happens next.

The trade paperback is now available at National Bookstores, Php645. We’re going to claim that it was our enthusiasm for the work of Kate Atkinson that got her novels in stores. It’s probably not true, but we’re going to claim it.

Wolf Hall: The realpolitik of sex and power

May 15, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television


On the day of execution, the prisoner is led out of the tower to a small stage in front of an eager crowd. The prisoner, a woman who once had the King of England under her thumb, looks pale and child-like. As she approaches the stage, trailed by her ladies-in-waiting, she opens her wallet and hands out coins to random spectators. She keeps glancing up at the tower, as if she expects some last-minute reprieve. In the audience is the king’s secretary Thomas Cromwell, who had engineered her rise to power then at the king’s behest, engineered her fall.

That is the penultimate scene of the BBC miniseries Wolf Hall, and this is not a spoiler—for nearly 500 years, people have known the outcome of that royal drama. What is admirable about Peter Straughan’s adaptation of the novels by Hilary Mantel is that we know exactly what’s going to happen, but we still lean forward and stare at the screen, drawn in by the almost-unbearable tension and the bleak beauty of the scene. Wolf Hall is so good, it is spoiler-proof.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

Mad Max returns—faster, more furious, and exuberantly insane.

May 14, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies

Holy crap, it’s really Mad Max.

George Miller is still George Miller, 30 years after the last Mad Max. We thought, Okay, if he wants to cash in he’s earned the right because he made Max and Babe, and anyway how do you reboot a series that ended with Mel Gibson facing Tina Turner’s Auntie Entity? Can you top the exuberant anarchic insanity of those desert chases?

He does.

Mad Max: Fury Road is so thrilling and relentless, seatbelts and barf bags should be issued to the audience. There’s so much gasoline, you suspect that when you breathe the air will combust.
The cinema lives in the age of the franchise blockbuster!

Tom Hardy is Max Rockatansky, but Charlize Theron is Mel Gibson: serene beauty and deep reserves of nuts. And pretty Nicholas Hoult makes his suicidal freak strangely moving. What the previous movies didn’t have enough of: girls, and here they’re the heroes.

There’s very little exposition, the movie cuts straight to the chase. It’s exhilarating. The drivers of the ruling maniac even have a flame-throwing metal guitarist mounted on top of a truck against a wall of amps to provide their soundtrack. We were laughing and flinching at the same time. For all the mayhem, the action is clear, the geography excellent.

Never leave us again, George Miller. Happy Feet was cute, but this is what we need from you.

We have to see that again.

Read our review of Mad Max: Fury Road at

The couch where psychoanalysis was born

May 14, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, History, Places, Traveling

The couch in Dr. Freud’s office

We didn’t get to read The Interpretation of Dreams, which we’d packed for our trip to Vienna. There was so much to see that we could not look at pages. And then we took lots of photos at the Sigmund Freud Museum, which used to be the Freud family apartments. Since we’re maniacal about organizing our files, we transferred the photos into our Mac, which was stolen two days later.

Book unread, photos stolen—if as Dr Freud said there is no such thing as an accident, what does this mean?

Dr. Freud and his dog

Fortunately we bought a couple of postcards from the little museum shop, which carries Freud’s books.

The museum is a recreation of Freud’s office where he saw his patients, with shelves containing his books and collections of tchotchkes, and plenty of photographs. Some rooms are used as contemporary art exhibition spaces. There is a replica of his famous couch—the original is in London. Apparently he didn’t write his books in his office, he would work on them during his travels. There are also home movies narrated by the doctor’s daughter Anna. In one of them, Sigmund is hanging out with his grandson Lucian Freud the artist.

The Freuds fled Vienna for London when the Nazis came to power. They took their furniture with them, and of course their beloved Chows.

* * * * *

Speaking of dreams and the contents of people’s unconscious, some images from The Art of Dreams in the Public Domain Review.

henry fuseli
The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli (1781). People who have experienced bangungot say it feels like a monster is sitting on their chest. Voila.

Job’s Evil Dreams by William Blake (1805).

The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Hokusai (1814). Tentacle porn is older than we think.

Dream Vision by Albrecht Durer (1525) with text describing what he saw.

Please bring strange things: A poem for wanderers

May 13, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Places, Traveling

Prater, Wien

Initiation Song from the Finders’ Lodge
by Ursula K. LeGuin, from her novel Always Coming Home

Please bring strange things.
Please come bringing new things.
Let very old things come into your hands.
Let what you do not know come into your eyes.
Let desert sand harden your feet.
Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.
Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps
and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.
Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing
and your outbreath be the shining of ice.

Terror Museum, the former Nazi HQ then Communist prison, Budapest

May your mouth contain the shapes of strange words.
May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.
May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.
May your soul be at home where there are no houses.
Walk carefully, well loved one,
walk mindfully, well loved one,
walk fearlessly, well loved one.
Return with us, return to us,
be always coming home.

Blue dog on palazzo balcony, Venice

Lady Killers: 1 in 6 serial killers is a woman

May 12, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Crime, Monsters

Aileen Wuornos, who murdered seven men in 1989 and 1990, is sometimes referred to, mistakenly, as America’s first female serial killer.

“She’s likely to be in her twenties or thirties, middle-class, probably married, probably Christian, probably average intelligence,” Harrison said. “I just described, you know, your next-door neighbor.” (Something similar is true of male serial killers, who tend to possess average intelligence and work blue-collar jobs. Very few are legally insane.) Altogether, the women on the list had killed at least three hundred and thirty-one people, an average of six victims each. More than half had murdered children, and a quarter had targeted the elderly and infirm. Female serial killers also appear to have become more common over the years. Harrison’s team identified thirty-eight who were active in the United States between 1965 and 2014, compared with just fifteen during the preceding fifty years. That’s an increase of more than a hundred and fifty per cent, although, Harrison noted, it’s possible that serial killers are simply more likely to be caught in the modern era.

Read Lady Killers in the New Yorker.