Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Television’

Girls and Advertorials

August 26, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Television 6 Comments →

Lena Dunham in Girls

Girls grew on us. When we started watching Lena Dunham’s HBO series a couple of years ago we found it irritating—all those self-obsessed, privileged, whiny 22-year-olds—and alarming. By the third episode we were hooked and by the fourth we were quoting it like Whit Stillman movies (“I’m not on Facebook.” “You’re so fucking classy.”). We like it because the characters can be awful and gross, make stupid choices, embarrass themselves, but manage to go on living. Also, the show is funny and sometimes moving, it messes with audience expectations by making the chubby Hannah (Lena Dunham) get naked the most, and the conventionally pretty Marnie (Allison Williams) is the most messed-up character. Yeah, let the beautiful one suffer. The breakout star of Girls is Adam Driver, who plays Adam, who started out weird and repulsive but turns out to be a man of integrity; he seems to be in every movie being made, including the next Star Wars.

Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham and Allison Williams

In the third season, Hannah finally gets a proper job writing for GQ. Except that she’s not in the Editorial section of that literary institution but in Advertorial—the section where you get tricked into reading articles only to find that they’re ads for the sponsors. She’s making real money and getting many freebies, but there is the very real possibility that she’ll wake up years in the future and realize that she hasn’t written the things she wanted to write because she was getting paid so well writing about department stores and mineral supplements and so on. Aha! We know exactly what that’s like.

We’ve done lots of advertorials, and they pay many times what we get paid for writing the things that we love. Wait, a hundred times zero is still zero—well, we got paid enough to pay the rent and utilities, while the best stuff we’ve ever written makes bupkis. We didn’t hate what we were writing advertorials about, but we didn’t love them, either. We loved being able to pay the rent and utilities and buy cat food. Fine, we also liked flying business class to Melbourne and drinking champagne in the sponsor’s lounge and watching the Australian Open finals from the front row. It’s one of those galling compromises grown-ups have to make. Write what you need to write to pay the bills; find a way to write what you love. And don’t fool yourself about the true nature of the work.

The real question is, What isn’t an advertorial these days?

So here’s this blog’s policy on advertorials. We get invited to a lot of events, and some of our friends are publicists. We write up the event if we found it interesting; other times we find we have nothing to say so we don’t write it up. Usually we mention if we were invited by the publicist or the sponsor. If we get paid to promote a product, we’ll indicate that the post was sponsored. In case anyone’s wondering.

Binge-watching: Vikings

August 19, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, History, Television 3 Comments →

All photos from the History Channel site.

We like swords, carnage, and medieval history, so we’re watching Vikings. It’s the first drama series from the History Channel, created by Michael Hirst who was behind The Tudors, The Borgias, and Camelot.

The Vikings were a race of seafaring Nordic badasses who went on marauding expeditions to Europe, Russia, all the way to North America. They were large, terrifying warriors who not only did not fear death, they went looking for it. To die a glorious death in battle meant that they would be taken by Valkyrie maidens to Valhalla, where they would feast in the great hall of Odin.

Vikings follows the adventures of the Ragnar Lothbrok, legendary hero of Norse sagas. Here he is with an unfortunate haircut and a stare that makes him look like an inbred redneck (We hear banjoes! Flee!).


When we meet him in the first season, he is a young farmer with a wife and two small kids, but what he really wants to do is sail west to loot and pillage. That was the common job description at the time: Farmer/Marauder. His earl has grown over-cautious and doesn’t believe there’s anything in the west. So Ragnar asks his best friend Floki to secretly build a ship that can sail great distances using primitive GPS technology.


Floki is played by Gustaf Skarsgard, son of Stellan, brother of the hot vampire on True Blood. (Yup, that’s the genetic lottery for you.) We don’t watch True Blood but our sister has Alexander Skarsgard on her Google alerts and of course we’ve seen his naked GIFs. The eccentric Floki is said to be descended from the trickster god Loki (Hoy, cute si Loki ha).


Ragnar has a good-looking brother named Rollo who is a great fighter but is deeply jealous of Ragnar. Bad enough that everyone considers him the spare, but Rollo is also in love with Ragnar’s wife, the shieldmaiden Lagertha.


Some scholars believe that in Viking culture, the women could fight along with the men. Lagertha cooks and raises the children, but she also gets ticked off when Ragnar goes off marauding without her.

On one raid Ragnar captures an Anglo-Saxon monk named Athelstan, who becomes his slave and later his friend. The Athelstan character lets us see the differences between the Viking and Christian cultures. The Vikings have a very open and healthy attitude towards sex (Rollo: Where are your parents? Bjorn: They’re having sex). The Christians are stuck up and fearful, and Athelstan nervously declines when he gets invited to a threesome.

On the show the Vikings look filthy, but they were definitely cleaner than the monks, who never bathed. They live in what is now Denmark, so they should look like Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones). And if axe-wielding Nikolaj Coster-Waldaus are coming at you, surrender and ask for their autograph.

Rating: Highly recommended.

In one Comp Lit course we had to read Scandinavian sagas. Along with the Volsunga, we read the Njala, which is also called Burnt Njal. We don’t remember any of it, except that part where the hero Njal is besieged in his house and he valiantly fights off the invaders with bow and arrow. Unfortunately his bowstrings snap, so he turns to his wife and asks her to braid her hair into a bowstring. And she says something like, “Remember two months ago when you hit me?” and refuses to give her hair to his defense. She leaves, and Njal’s enemies surround his house and burn it down with him in it. That’s why it’s called Burnt Njal.

Reading year 2014: In George R.R. Martin’s Westeros prequel, the thrill of battle and the horror of war

August 14, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television 4 Comments →

Dangerous Women, all new tales of powerful women from Jim Butcher (We love The Dresden Files), Diana Gabaldon, Lev Grossman, Brandon Sanderson, George R.R. Martin et al. Edited by GRRM and Gardner Dozois. Hardcover, Php1399 at National Bookstores.

We were so excited to read the new George R.R. Martin novella, a prequel to A Song of Ice and Fire, that we unwrapped the doorstop-size book while we were standing in the taxi queue at Glorietta 4. That’s when we were approached by a beggar who said he needed money to buy medicine, whereupon he lifted his pants leg to show his blackened, swollen leg. So we gave him all the change in our pocket, which must’ve been around ten bucks. He seemed to really be ill, and to be honest we just wanted him to stop showing us his leg. He looked at the coins and said, “Ah. Change.” Then he went away, looking peeved and making us sorry we had given him anything.

That has nothing to do with the book, we just thought we’d mention it.

The novella The Princess and the Queen, or The Blacks and the Greens is about one of the civil wars that rocked Westeros centuries before the events in A Song of Ice and Fire. Specifically, the war among the Targaryens known as The Dance of Dragons. At 81 pages, this novella is 20 times more eventful than A Dance with Dragons, the fifth volume of Martin’s epic. That one was a slog, with entire chapters that read like filler, and too much mooning about love by Daenerys (Get a grip, you have a kingdom to reconquer). We confess that we skipped many sections, which we will probably regret once all the plots are resolved.

The Princess and the Queen does away with the interior monologues and most of the dialogue, focusing instead on the major events following the death of Viserys I Targaryen. His eldest daughter Rhaenyra was presumed to be his heir, but his second wife Alicent decided it would be better for Westeros if her son Aegon II succeeded to the Iron Throne. Both sides have dragons, and the sections on how one becomes a dragonrider could provide material for a whole book. (Don’t tell George, it’ll distract him some more.)

The Princess and the Queen reads like those medieval chronicles enumerating the warriors and their most prominent qualities, then telling us how they died. It is brutal and efficient, and you can imagine the author cackling at the wonderful names he’s invented (And then howling at the twists he puts his characters through). There is plenty of carnage, and in case we enjoy the bloodletting too much, the sorrow and the pity of war. Conspiracy! Treachery! And best of all, aerial battles involving dragons, whom we respond to as if they were human.

A Song of Fire and Ice is said to be loosely based on the Hundred Years’ War in British history; The Princess and the Queen seems to draw from events in The Anarchy, in which the king’s daughter Matilda asserted her right to the throne over the male claimants. Or maybe it doesn’t. Our point is that shocking as the events in Game of Thrones may be, most of them happened in real life.

We mean no disrespect towards the other authors, whose stories we will now read.

* * * * *
The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Mass market paperback, Php415 at National Bookstores.

We’ve been seeing rave reviews of the TV series The Outlander, which we would view unhesitatingly if it weren’t produced by Starz. Has anyone seen it? The photos look Highlander-ish. According to the book blurb it is a historical time-travel romance; we’ll give it a whack.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami. Hardcover, Php885 at National Bookstores.

Another year, another Murakami book.

Jacket and binding design by Chip Kidd, who also did the terrific IQ84 cover.

The Piollow Experience, a bekimmentary

August 12, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Famous People, Television 4 Comments →

photo 3

A Bekimmentary by Allan Carreon and Deo Giga

We sent the Minister of Propaganda and the Lord of the Thesaurus to the press launch for the E! News Asia special on Philippine King of Heartthrobs Piolo Pascual. Here is their report.

Lord of the Thesaurus (LOT): Ohmygawd! I just came from the bathroom. Guess who was there! Papa P! You should’ve joined me!

Minister of Propaganda (MOP): Okay, excuse me. Now I need to pee. (After a few minutes) Grabe! He’s so tall pala!

LOT: I know! I was dwarfed. I couldn’t pee because the handicapped stall was locked. I couldn’t pee in front of Papa P!

MOP: Maybe that’s why they call him Papa P. We get so starstruck, mapapa-pee ka na lang next time!

LOT: I wasn’t so much starstruck as I was star-terrified.

MOP: Sumisixteen, teh? PBB Teens lang? Me, walang keme-keme. I went inside the stall, although I couldn’t look him in the eye. Not with a bodyguard following me in. Do I look like Erika Christensen in Swimfan?

LOT: If it’s dark. Really, really dark. Like, pitch black.

MOP: I saw the actress who played the maid in Kimmy Dora. She’s also in Moon of Desire, which—judge me now. She was in the bathroom talking to Papa P. I suspect that’s even less appropriate than me hanging around in there. Surprisingly, I actually wanted her autograph more than Papa P’s.

LOT: I believe she’s Papa P’s PA.

MOP: Even in the washroom, he needs a PA? What sort of assistance does he need inside the men’s room? And can I apply for the job?

LOT: You know, this pasta tastes like nothing.

MOP: It’s pasta? I never would’ve thought!

LOT: And you would think a place as ritzy as this would at least try to stay away from artificial creamer and give us the real stuff!

MOP: And use cups that don’t look like they came from Rodic’s.
(Note: Rodic’s is a diner in the UP Shopping Center.)

LOT: The presscon is starting!

MOP: The host is a girl. She’s so sosyal. Can I also have her job?

LOT: Only if you can properly say, “Ladies and gennelmen.”

MOP: I’m not sure I can get the right combination of adorable, fascinating, and annoying.

LOT: She says Anne Curtis was the first Filipina to be featured in this E! Asia series. What does that make Papa P?

MOP: The second.

LOT: Speaking of! Papa P is here!

MOP: Wait. Is he… singing?

LOT: Yes. “If I Fell” by the Beatles.

MOP: To be fair, his CDs achieved Gold sales. Or was it Platinum?

LOT: Shhh. Listen. He’s now talking.

MOP: I’m still wondering if his solo CD was better than his time with The Hunks.

LOT: The Hunks have long disbanded. 40% of the team have no careers.

MOP: Shhh. Listen.

LOT: I said that first.

MOP: So Papa P didn’t like being called Papa P, eh? But he just got used to it.

LOT: Like he could do something about it. Besides, it’s become its own brand, that nickname. Do you think there will be a Q&A? Or will this go straight to photo-ops?

MOP: Well, it looks like no one’s going straight! See? They’re beginning the Q&A.

LOT: These questions are so safe. They’re boring.

MOP: They’re so safe, they’re practically time-locked.

LOT: Why even have this presscon if they can just tell us to watch the show for the juicy details?

MOP: As juicy as can possibly be within the bounds of reason and taste, I assume. Because this is, after all, Papa P. And not It Takes Gutz To Be A Gutierrez.

LOT: Not that we should complain. Look at Papa P’s bone structure. It makes me feel mortal. On a side note, I’m curious if he has plans to direct any movies.

MOP: Well, that girl just asked. And there’s his answer.

LOT: He thinks Pinoy celebrities have the advantage over others because our artists can supposedly act, sing, dance, and host.

MOP: Heck, they can even become congressmen and senators.

LOT: Well, not counting the politics, he’s obviously done all of that.

MOP: What do you expect? He’s apparently versatile!

LOT: So what persuaded him to appear in this supposedly no-holds-barred reality feature?

MOP: Well, he’s been in the business for over twenty years. Frankly, he deserves this more than Anne Curtis. But then she probably could buy E! Asia, their friends, and their houses.

LOT: Papa P still has the power to make me panic. I’ll give him that.

MOP: Yes, the kilig factor is still there. Ay! The Q&A is done?

LOT: That’s it? Oh, well, at least there’s a raffle!

MOP: Who cares? I never win these things. Okay, once. Pizza in high school. Okay, twice. Won a TV in my old job. Wait. I won an underwater cam the following year. So what are the chances again, right? So dedma.

LOT: The grand prize is a Samsung Galaxy phone.

(Papa P: Minister of Propaganda… Where is the Minister of Propaganda?)

LOT: That’s you!

MOP: It’s me?

LOT: It’s you!

MOP: OMG! That’s me! He said my name! Binigkas nya ang pangalan ko! Mahal na nya ako!

LOT: I hate you.

MOP: You want to buy it?

LOT: Yes, I’m in dire need of a new phone! How many “gives”?

MOP: Too bad! It’s not for sale. It’s my birthday gift from Papa P. And I don’t even like Samsung much. I’m Steve Jobs’s bitch.

LOT: Do you think he’ll save his number on the phone?

MOP: Hope so. Wait! Is the launch over?

LOT: Your raffle prize ended the launch.

MOP: So I’m the face that ended a thousand launches.

LOT: Look at these giveaways! Nice pillows with Papa P’s face on them. We should get one for the Minister of Teleportation!

MOP: Why?

LOT: He looks like you-know-who! He can take a picture with it, and let’s see if people can tell the difference. The rumors will fly. It will require another tell-all.

MOP: It’s Piolo on a pillow! It’s a Piollow! Now we can sleep with Papa P as much and as often as we want!

Piolo Pascual’s exclusive tell-all interview special will air on E! News Asia Channel on 28 September 2014 at 9:00PM.

She never wanted to believe

July 24, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Childhood, Music, Science, Television 2 Comments →

…even when she was kidnapped by extraterrestrials.

While watching the Scully video, this started playing in our head.

We think of it as the Philippine Science High School anthem, not that “Crests and troughs of the sea of life that flows/Thy light our beacon be” crap.

Speaking of science, here’s the trailer for The Imitation Game, in which Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing. He also played Stephen Hawking and is currently Sherlock so he must get a pick of the big brain characters. Because he has the facial shape of a Zeta Reticulan.

He’s not that into you, Keira!

You realize he was the villain in Atonement? Secondary, if you count Briony as the main bad guy.

Caption these photos of Drogon with Sherlock

June 25, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Cats, Contest, Television 5 Comments →




Drogon is named after one of Daenerys’s dragons and Sherlock’s actor is the voice of Smaug so they are related.

Write a caption for these photos (or if you’re really bored, an entire story about them) and post it in Comments before 11.59pm on Friday, 27 June 2014. The composers of the two best captions will each get the Bantam Classic paperback Sherlock Holmes Complete Novels and Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, courtesy of National Bookstore. (Buy your own poster.)