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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for the ‘Places’

Looking for Kafka in Prague

January 27, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Places, Traveling 1 Comment →

It’s been 14 years since we went to Prague with our sister. We’re old. We saw a hotel called Metamorphosis. Cracked us up. Check in as a person, check out as a cockroach. It was snowing in late March. A man on the street sold us cheap tickets to the opera. Our seats were just below the ceiling and we froze our butts off. People were eating ice cream in the snow. It was supposed to make you feel warmer. Not true. We had an attic room in a pension—Airbnb had not yet been invented, so we found it on a site called Eurocheapo. Our first choice was a converted mental hospital turned Soviet torture chamber but someone had already booked it. Our landlord wore a different costume every day. It made him happy. A typical meal consisted of a slab of meat, breaded and fried with cheese, with an egg on top. That made us happy.

Belgians respond to terror raids with cats

November 25, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Current Events, Places No Comments →

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When, on Sunday evening, Belgian police asked citizens not to tweet about the armed operations that were being carried out around the country, anyone could have been excused for reacting with fear.

Belgian forces – searching for suspects in the aftermath of the Paris attacks – told citizens to stay indoors and not go near their windows for safety reasons.

They also appealed for social media silence about any police action users might witness – presumably to keep the suspects in the dark.

A tense time, no doubt. But Belgium reacted – how else? – with cats.

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Conan in Armenia: At the market

November 25, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Television 1 Comment →

The Other France. Are the suburbs of Paris incubators of terrorism?

November 15, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, History, Places 2 Comments →

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Although the alienated, impoverished immigrant communities outside Paris are increasingly prone to anti-Semitism, the profiles of French jihadists don’t track closely with class. Many of them have come from bourgeois families. Photograph by Arnau Bach for The New Yorker.

Fouad Ben Ahmed never paid much attention to Charlie Hebdo. He found the satirical magazine to be vulgar and not funny, and to him it seemed fixated on Islam, but he didn’t think that its contributors did real harm. One of its cartoonists, Stéphane Charbonnier, also drew for Le Petit Quotidien, a children’s paper to which Ben Ahmed subscribed for his two kids. On January 7th, upon hearing that two French brothers with Algerian names, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, had executed twelve people at the Charlie Hebdo offices—including Charbonnier—in revenge for covers caricaturing Muhammad, Ben Ahmed wrote on Facebook, “My French heart bleeds, my Muslim soul weeps. Nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, can justify these barbaric acts. Don’t talk to me about media or politicians who would play such-and-such a game, because there’s no excuse for barbarism. #JeSuisCharlie.”

That night, Ben Ahmed left his house, in the suburbs outside Paris, and went into the city to join tens of thousands of people at a vigil. He is of Algerian and Tunisian descent, with dark skin, and a few white extremists spat threats at him, but Ben Ahmed ignored them—France was his country, too. On January 11th, he joined the one and a half million citizens who marched in unity from the Place de la République.

Ben Ahmed’s Facebook page became a forum for others, mostly French Muslims, to discuss the attacks. Many expressed simple grief and outrage; a few aired conspiracy theories, suggesting a plot to stigmatize Muslims. “Let the investigators shed light on this massacre,” Ben Ahmed advised. One woman wrote, “I fear for the Muslims of France. The narrow-minded or frightened are going to dig in their heels and make an amalgame”—conflate terrorists with all Muslims. Ben Ahmed agreed: “Our country is going to be more divided.” He defended his use of #JeSuisCharlie, arguing that critiques of Charlie’s content, however legitimate before the attack, had no place afterward. “If we have a debate on the editorial line, it’s like saying, ‘Yes—but,’ ” he later told me. “In these conditions, that is unthinkable.”

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Travel insurance: What is it for?

September 14, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling 1 Comment →

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Reuters photo of the jobless in Europe.

Whenever Filipinos apply for a Schengen visa, we are required to buy travel insurance. This way if we require medical care in a foreign land, we do not become a drain upon the state. However, the typical travel insurance policy also covers lost property and travel hassles. Most of us don’t pay attention to our travel insurance policy—it doesn’t cost much, and it’s just a pain we want to get out of the way so we can go to Europe.

Read our column at InterAksyon.

The myth of the French Resistance

September 08, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, History, Places No Comments →

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Thirstily swallowed by a humiliated France, the dominant narrative of the French Resistance was cooked up by General de Gaulle – “Joan of Arc in trousers”, Churchill testily called him – when he addressed the crowds outside the Hôtel de Ville on August 25, 1944. “Paris liberated! Liberated by its own efforts, liberated by its people with the help of the armies of France, with the help of all of France.”

Yet, as Robert Gildea exposes in this comprehensive survey of the French Resistance, the myth that the French freed themselves is largely poppycock, like de Gaulle’s boast that only “a handful of scoundrels” behaved badly under four years of Nazi occupation. (One example: by October 1943, 85,000 French women had children fathered by Germans.) Most of the population didn’t engage with their revolutionary past until the last moment, when the chief thing they recaptured was their pride. The first French soldier into Paris was part of a regiment “called ‘la Nueve’ because it was composed mainly of Spanish republicans”.

Read it. Thanks to Tina for the alert.

We love Paris, but we know the whole Resistance story is merde. Please, cheese-eating surrender monkeys, you know what you did. You are not Marguerite Duras.