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Archive for the ‘Places’

Tama the station cat dies, is elevated to goddess

July 01, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Places No Comments →

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A lavish funeral has been held for a Japanese cat which became an international star when she was made a station master in western Japan.

Tama, which was made a railway official eight years ago, was credited with putting the rail firm back on track financially after drawing in thousands of tourists.

Her custom-made cap and jacket made her a familiar sight at Kishi station.

The 16-year-old cat died of heart failure on 22 June.

Dozens of company officials and thousands of fans turned out for Tama’s Shinto-style funeral on Sunday, where she was elevated to the status of a goddess.

Tama the station cat dies at the BBC.

It’s less fun in this hotel

June 24, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling No Comments →

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Owing to a mix-up, the Cebu Literary Festival organizer had to find us hotel accommodations at the last minute, and the guests from Manila were billeted at a hotel called Center Suites. The owners of Center Suites are members of Opus Dei, the ultra-conservative Catholic group, and our party included Carlos Celdran, celebrated “offender of religious feelings”. Carlos has actually been barred from some churches—they bolted the doors upon his approach—bringing up the possibility that the hotel would require an exorcism.

“Are you sure this is okay?” Hendri the one-man Cebu Litfest management asked about 20 times. We agreed so that we could tell our friends we had stayed at an Opus Dei-run hotel; at this point we just do things for the story value.

Upon check-in we were given copies of the house rules. “No instant couples” proclaimed a sign at the reception desk, meaning couples have to present a marriage certificate in order to get admitted. Immediately we thought of sending our friends who had gotten married in Ireland; the house rules did not mention same-sex couples.

The rules also prescribed “stain charges”—Php150 for the sheets, Php120 for the towel, etc—but did not specify the nature of the stains, which became an occasion for impure thoughts. Would the stain inspection be conducted with a black light?

Our room was very small, plain, clean, like a monk’s cell, not that we’ve ever been a monk. The window offered a view of the fire escape. In case the house rules were unclear there were helpful reminders taped on the walls. The bathmat was rolled up with a label that declared in large type: This is not a rag, you will be charged for heavy stains.

To our disappointment, the drawer contained neither hairshirt nor whips in case our conduct required punishment. Then again, it may have been to prevent reenactments of that 50 Shades crap.

The accommodations were so quiet and fun was such a distant threat that we actually got some work done. All we need are freezing airconditioning, a strong wifi signal, and a TV airing endless reruns of Law and Order, any version. If you want thrills, local color, vibrant company and aesthetic delights, this is not the place for you. But if you have responsibilities to meet and drudgery to endure, come on in.

We recommend Center Suites to parents whose children are going to Cebu—nothing keeps the young in line like house rules and a 10:30 curfew. Other hotels offer fun and excitement; Center Suites has a chapel with a full oratory. Does the Four Seasons have that? We think not.

Avatar makes Cebu the earring capital of the Philippines

June 23, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Clothing, Design, Places No Comments →

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Our first stop in Cebu was the Avatar store at the Bellavista Hotel.

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Avatar is a Cebu-based fashion accessories and jewelry brand that pre-dates the James Cameron movie (although the tall blue aliens would like it). Its products are exported all over the world, and it’s won many awards for design.

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“Avatar” means “the incarnation of an idea” and if the idea is “Death to the boring,” we consider it a success.

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They have a pop-up store in Greenbelt, but the Bellavista Hotel outlet has the best prices. You can get earrings for as low as Php100. There are bracelets, necklaces, etc, but we didn’t look at them because we were on our way to lunch.

See you at the Cebu Literary Festival

June 19, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Television, Traveling No Comments →

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We’re in Cebu from lunchtime till Sunday morning for the Cebu Literary Festival at the Ayala Center Cebu. We’re giving a talk, signing books, doing an interview with historian Resil Mojares, and visiting the Iron Throne at Happy Garaje.

Read our Season 5 review in our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld. Spoilers.

If you’re not in Cebu, you could go to Fete de la Musique. Click on the image to enlarge.

fete de la musique 2015

In the dungeon where Dracula was imprisoned

May 22, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Places, Traveling No Comments →

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The non-claustrophobic can go down to the Castle Labyrinth (Entrance fee: 2,000 forints), the long, dark, very cold tunnels where the kings kept their prisoners. The most famous inmate of the dungeons was the prince Dracula of Transylvania, which used to be part of Hungary. Dracula was the son-in-law of King Matyas, for whom the fabulous Matyas Church was named. Old Vlad D was accused of being in league with the Turks, who invaded Hungary many times. He was reportedly tortured in the dungeons. Repeat, Vlad the Impaler was tortured in the labyrinth, and if I ran the tour there would be background music punctuated with bloodcurdling shrieks. My main fear was not that Dracula would appear, but that I would wander into a secondary tunnel and disappear. Outside it was noon; inside it was so dark and cold you could imagine vampires eating babies. The tour operator relieved the monotony of endless walls of rock with mannequins dressed as characters in a Mozart opera, finds from archeological digs, and other tchotchkes, but all you need is bad night vision and an active imagination.

Read our article Budapest Saves the Day at the BusinessWorld Weekender.

The couch where psychoanalysis was born

May 14, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, History, Places, Traveling No Comments →

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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?

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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.

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

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

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

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

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