Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Money’

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.

Art Fair Philippines 2015: Making, shopping, schmoozing

February 04, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Money, Places No Comments →

NSFW drawings by Jose Legaspi

Geraldine Javier wants to know what you think art is.

Alwin Reamillo does stuff with the innards of old pianos.

They’re like burial plots for the colorful undead.

Clearly Poklong Anading wants you to ask what the hell that is.

We forgot to ask gallerist Albert Avellana what this is. It looks itchy.

Art Fair Philippines
5-8 February 2015
The Link (across Landmark), Ayala Center, Makati

In other art news, Picasso’s granddaughter plans to sell art, worrying the market. Because she inherited about 10,000 pieces by Picasso, whom she hated. Ooh, a glut. Can’t have prices dropping.

The Strand’s Last Stand?

November 25, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Money, Places 1 Comment →


Naah, the famed New York bookstore is still doing well in the age of Amazon, but its survival depends on whether the next generation of owners continues to love books. Because they are sitting on very expensive real estate.

Read How the Strand keeps going in the Age of Amazon, in New York magazine.

Cinemalaya X: The Economics of Indie Cinema

August 13, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Money, Movies 1 Comment →


At the Cinemalaya awards night last Sunday, the talk was less about the art and craft of film than intellectual property rights and economics. The previous day, filmmakers from the 8th and 9th editions of the annual indie film festival discovered that their films had been uploaded to YouTube in their entirety. The films were taken down, and the Cinemalaya Foundation issued apologies at the closing ceremonies, but it will take some time before the indie community stops seeing Cinemalaya as The Big Bad.

This is not the first controversy Cinemalaya has been embroiled in, but it is certainly the worst because it calls into question the very integrity of the project. We will wait for the outcome of the dialogue between the Cinemalaya Foundation and the filmmakers (Though it was a major jerk move, trying to pin the blame on technical staff). We hope that the foundation invites the most vocal critics of its policies, that these critics show up, and that the discussion is calm and productive. It is difficult to reach a consensus on Twitter, much less delve deeply into the issues.

For now we interrupt our Cinemalaya X reviews—which are late anyway (We blame the weather and especially the horrible traffic, which has reached civil rights violation levels)—to look into the cost of making indies, and their economic potential.

Read our column at

In the podcast: New Adventures in Micro Entrepreneurship

March 24, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Money, Podcast No Comments →

Citi Philippines CEO Batara Sianturi leads a discussion with participating microentrepreneurs.

We attended a round table with Citi Philippines CEO Batara Sianturi and eight beneficiaries of the Citi Microenterprise Development Center (CMDC). CMDC trains, coaches, and mentors high-potential micro business owners. It has been recognized with a social empowerment award by the Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Program.

In part 1 of the podcast, the microentrepreneurs tell us how they got started in business, and express their fears about the future of their enterprises. We’ll hear from a former overseas worker who had had enough of being separated from her family for long periods, so she set up a business that would keep her at home in the Philippines. Then there’s the former sugar plantation laborer who got a small plot of land in the agrarian reform program and turned it into a thriving plantation.

In part 2, the microentrepreneurs tell us how they overcame personal hardships, what they’ve learned about running their own businesses, and how entrepreneurship has changed their families’ fortunes. A start-up entrepreneur recounts how she switched from a hollow block-making business to something closer to her heart: native Filipino snacks. A widowed mother of three marshaled her inner resources to build a thriving meat processing business and now extends financial assistance to other microentrepreneurs.

Hear their stories in our two-part podcast at the Citi Microenterprise Development Center.

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