Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Books’

Two or three things I learned in Czechia

October 23, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Places, Traveling No Comments →

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.

A Possessed Chorus: A review of Tanghalang Pilipino’s Ang Pag-uusig (The Crucible) by Deo Giga

October 20, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Theatre No Comments →

Sinapiang Koro (A Possessed Chorus)
by Deo Giga

Sa mga huling sandali ng pelikulang The Crucible, maaalalang may pagka-sentimentál ang tagpo sa pagitan nina John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis) at ang may-bahay nitong si Elizabeth Proctor (Joan Allen). O lubhang sentimentál nga naman; tila layunin lamang ng pelikula na magpaiyak. Natatandaan kong puspos ng luha at hinagpis at pagpapaalam ang mga saglit na iyon—ngunit hindi sa paraang malamhing o nakasusuya o walang-kabuluhang sentimiyento lamang. Humantong sa ganoon ang pelikula mula sa sali-salimuot at makahulugang mga tagpo. Hindi ito tearjerker lamang. At lalong hindi ito pantasyang tulad ng The Craft na tungkol sa kulam at salamangka. Naalala ko rin kung gaano ako napoot at mabilis na humusga sa tinawag ko noong kakitiran ng pag-iisip ng mga “kontrabida.”

Kasalukuyang itinatanghal sa CCP “Ang Pag-uusig,” isang pagsasalin ng dulang The Crucible ni Arthur Miller sa Tagalog. Nilayon ni Miller na magpatungkol ang dula sa mga kalagayang pulitikal noon, lalo na ang McCarthyism (ang pagpaparatang ng kaliluhan sa bansa na walang sapat na katibayan).

Ayon mismo sa kanya, malimit matanghal ang dula sa Latin America, “just before a dictatorship is about to take over—as a warning—and just after one has been overthrown, as a reminder (bago magsimula ang isang napipintong diktadurya—bilang babala—at pagkatapos maigupo ito, bilang paalala).”


“Funny how it’s only paper that lasts.” Notes after a second viewing of Blade Runner 2049

October 17, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies, Notebooks 2 Comments →

(It’s getting longer and longer.)


Blade Runner 2049 is a religious experience.

October 12, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 5 Comments →

I crawled out of bed and got a coffee IV drip to watch Blade Runner 2049 at the cinema. Now children below 18, go away and play with your toys.

Are they gone?

Holy fuck Blade Runner 2049 is beautiful.

I don’t mean pretty visuals beautiful, I mean sublime. I mean tears and snot in rain. I mean attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.

It takes Philip K. Dick’s question about what it means to be human and walks it through Milton and Chris Marker, Stalker and Children of Men. My brain is in a different timezone so pardon my incoherence.

It is church for atheists. I’m going to see it in theaters as many times as I can.

It’s about an individual (He even has the same initial as one of Kafka’s protagonists) who leads a lonely, pointless existence made bearable by artificial entertainments, who suddenly realizes that his life could mean something. But he must make a choice.

If it’s a diversion from life that you want, maybe go see something else. This is a movie that asks: Are you human, or are you a drone?

Now returning to stasis.

Tokyo is exquisite and intense.

September 27, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Places, Traveling 3 Comments →

I’ve been in Japan for eight days to attend meetings and do research for the World Domination Project. Having kicked it over in my head for many years and published a magazine about it, the time has come to announce it to the rest of the world. It is certainly much, much saner than anything else that’s going on in the world today.

After the relative quiet of Yokohama, I moved to Tokyo. It was my first time in Tokyo. It’s a shock. Immediately I thought of what the Queen of Hearts said to Alice (in Wonderland): “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” Think of New York or Paris, then ratchet up the intensity.

The mass transit system is impressive: both efficient and mind-boggling. First you have to learn to decipher the train codes. This requires standing in front of the huge announcement boards while the light washes over you and you feel like a complete idiot. The older I get, the more I realize the futility of trying to rationalize everything in real time. These days I just absorb as much information as I can and wait for my brain to put it all together (that’s what sleep is for). At some point something clicks and you go “Aha!” and things make sense, or at least seem less random.

I’d been saving David Mitchell’s novel Number 9 Dream for my first visit to Tokyo. It’s been sitting in my bag, unread, because there is so much to process. I didn’t have to read about the sensory assault of being in Tokyo when I was undergoing that very assault. When I checked out of the hotel in Yokohama I accidentally left the book behind, but this being Japan, I simply emailed the hotel and they forwarded the book to me in Tokyo.

My great achievement on this trip was going to Shinjuku by myself, finding the main store of Kinokuniya Books, and making it back to Shibuya for a meeting. I felt like at any point, I could disappear into a crowd and never be seen again. Entering the Tokyo transit system is like going into the transporter in Star Trek: you dissolve into particles which are transmitted through the vacuum of space and reconstituted on the surface of another world. Only it takes minutes or hours, during which you consider the possibility that you won’t be put back together.

The hotel room is tiny but well-appointed. You have to do a parkour move to get to the window, but there is a bathtub, a fully automated toilet, and a washing machine and dryer. The coffee is excellent everywhere, and the convenience stores are awesome. The food! The clothes! I didn’t have time to visit a cat cafe, but I notice the English daily carries cat adoption notices. A 20 meter-high Unicorn Gundam statue was unveiled on the waterfront. On a Monday at three in the afternoon I watched the Bavarian State Opera do Tannhauser. That is a story for later.

Answer our questionnaire about your favorite books

September 14, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 18 Comments →

Saffy and Drogon guard the books.

1. What was the first book you read repeatedly?
2. What book have you reread the most?
3. What book do you wish you had written?
4. Do you have a book fetish?
5. What book do you wish would be made into a movie?
6. What book/s do you reread when you are glum?
7. What book beloved by many have you never read?
8. What is your favorite trashy book?
9. What book/s have you attempted many times and abandoned, but still resolve to read someday?

* * * * *

I’ll start.

What was the first book you read repeatedly?

An anthology of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Andrew Lang. I would reread it under the blanket with a flashlight. I especially liked The Little Mermaid because it was so sad. With each step she felt like she was treading on knives! She cast herself into the sea and turned into sea-foam, for a wussy prince! Yes, at 7 I could recognize a wuss. I’ve never seen the Disney version. It would probably make me angry.