Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Money’

The Money Diaries of famous people will make you feel less inept about your finances

March 21, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Money, Movies, Television 1 Comment →

It’s heartwarming, discovering that clever people whose work we admire can be just as stupid about money as we are.

Richard Linklater, the director of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight and many other movies we love, explains why he’s glad he got downsized.

Anthony Bourdain seems to have all the answers, but when he was 44 he had never had a savings account, hadn’t filed taxes in 10 years, and was AWOL on his AmEx bill.

Courtship and the Market: Sexual freelancing in the gig economy

May 16, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Money, Re-lay-shun-ships No Comments →


A FRIEND of mine complains about how many of the men she meets on Tinder use corporate language to chat her up. First, they “reach out.” Then, after spending the night together, they “follow up.”

This kind of flirting is banal, but it makes sense. We constantly use economic metaphors to describe romantic and sexual relations. Few people today refer to women as “damaged goods” or wonder why a man would “buy the cow when he can get the milk for free,” but we have “friends with benefits” and “invest in relationships.” An ex may be “on” or “off the market.” Online dating makes “shopping around” explicit. Blog after blog strategizes about how to maximize your “return on investment” on OkCupid.

We use this kind of language because the ways that people date — who contacts whom, where they meet and what happens next — have always been tied to the economy. Dating applies the logic of capitalism to courtship. On the dating market, everyone competes for him or herself.

When parents worry about how their 20-something kids are (or aren’t) pairing off, or the authors of trend pieces lament “the death of courtship,” they seem to forget that the pursuit of sex and romance didn’t remain unchanged from the moment when the first Homo sapiens sidled across the savanna toward his soul mate until Steve Jobs rolled out the iPhone.

Read it in the New York Times.

Should you join an org? Go to grad school, maybe Wharton? Join the government? Vince Perez answers your career questions.

March 06, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Money No Comments →

What should you major in? What extracurricular activities should you choose in college (Do you have any hazing stories?)? Should you go to graduate school? Should you work abroad? Work in the private sector or join the government? How do you make a plan? Former energy secretary and now renewable energy proponent and part-time scribbler Vince Perez is interviewed by Quintin Pastrana for Bloomberg.

Monday Morning Vent: Bitch bank better have our money.

December 28, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Money 8 Comments →


We never wanted to be rejected by a taxi driver again. Life has enough indignity, disappointment, and misery for us to endure flagging down a taxi, telling the driver where we’re going, and watching him drive away without a word. Screw that.

Yes, we would miss the bizarre stories and the interesting cabbies, but we’ve written enough mad taxi stories in the last two decades to fill two books. So we got the Uber app. This required abandoning our beloved ancient BlackBerry and getting an iPhone so we could navigate the app. Then we got a debit card (we don’t like credit cards, we’ve been burned on those) to use specifically for Uber.

Living by your wits: no security, but less stress

October 08, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Money, Psychology, The Workplace No Comments →

Saffy had dental surgery two weeks ago. We noticed that she’d been swatting her face and snarling, and figured she had a toothache. The excellent vets at Makati Dog and Cat Hospital extracted five rotten teeth (Saffy is 15 and has never brushed her teeth in her life, being a cat). Saffy has recovered completely and is slightly nicer than she was when she was in pain, though she could still be the reincarnation of Josef Stalin. She’s even started eating hard kibble again, after having demanded paté-type cat food for the last year or so.

If we had a “normal” work schedule and went to the office everyday, we might not have noticed that our feline overlord needed medical attention. The great advantage of being freelance, i.e. living by our wits, is that we can decide how we’re going to spend our time. In the 21st century, time is a luxury that even the rich and powerful can barely afford. They’re over-scheduled and have to hoard their holidays. As long as we finish our assignments, we can go to the movies in the middle of the afternoon.

In our observation, people who live by their wits are less stressed than people with high-paying jobs or successful businesses. We don’t have real financial security, and we’re always aware that periods of liquidity can suddenly give way to penury. We’re accustomed to uncertainty and chaos, so we’ve learned to ride out the lean periods. This does not mean we’re lazy. Freelancers who are lazy cannot pay the rent or buy cat food. We toil, but we get to decide when to toil, usually in intense bursts.

Living by your wits isn’t for everybody, but if you know how to improvise and you don’t have ten children to buy braces for, we recommend it.

Going Clear: How to make tax-free billions in the religion business

September 04, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Money, Television 3 Comments →

L. Ron Hubbard was a prolific science-fiction writer of the 1940s and 50s who wanted more than the dollar per word he was paid for his pulp novels. It occurred to him that the fastest way to gain fame, fortune and power was to start his own religion. This was well within the skill set of a man who’d published over a thousand novels about space aliens with superpowers (Anyone see Battlefield: Earth?). Hubbard wrote a book called Dianetics, which became the founding text of Scientology.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief is the fascinating HBO documentary about the religion founded by L. Ron Hubbard. Writer-director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side; Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God) looks into the personal history of the founding father, who styled himself “Commodore” because he had served in the navy during World War II (and was relieved of his command when he mistakenly shelled Mexico). Gibney traces the rise of the cult, talks to high-profile apostates such as filmmaker Paul Haggis (Crash) and high-ranking ex-members of the cult, and also answers the question, “Why did Tom Cruise suddenly divorce Nicole Kidman?” One of the documentary’s producers is Lawrence Wright, author of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief. Wright mentions his fascination with religion, why people choose to believe what they believe, and their crushing certainty that eliminates all doubt.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.