You may be wondering why the book is titled “Twisted 8 ½.” Well, it is because this is part of Jessica Zafra’s Twisted series showcasing her essays and newspaper column articles. The first time I read books by Zafra was in college when my younger brother introduced me to her Book IV: Twisted Menace and Twisted V. Those were my first and last by Zafra. Then more than a decade later this, Twisted 8 ½ released in 2010 which I bought right off the bat after seeing it displayed in an optical shop at UP Shopping Center. That was, well, just this year.
I like Jessica Zafra. I learned some of my English vocabulary by simply reading her candid essays back in college days during my free time. I like candid writings, no pretentions, not highfalutin. My most favorite was her article on my favorite alternative rock band from Seattle, USA called Pearl Jam. They had a concert here in the Philippines in 1995. I never saw that concert. I was 16 and wasn’t a fan yet. It was in 1998, when in college, that I took Pearl Jam’s music as one of the soundtracks of my teenage life. And that article that she (Jessica) wrote describing what the concert was like, what Pearl Jam was like with Filipino concertgoers, what Eddie Vedder was like was really heartwarming and kilig to the bones that I wished I was there! (One day I will share it with you.)
In Twisted 8 ½, I still experienced that same candidness from Jessica Zafra. So candid that when you open the book, there is no more introduction or foreword, it goes straight to the point, to her first article.
Life Before Google
By Jessica Zafra
I wrote my college thesis on a typewriter. All 100-plus pages of it, with footnotes and endnotes, with telltale white spots where I’d covered up my typing errors. For my research, I consulted the UP Main Library’s card catalogue, a dusty cabinet of drawers containing yellowing index cards arranged in alphabetical order. I wrote the drafts on sheets of yellow legal pad, with a ballpoint pen. When I typed the final manuscript, I made a copy using carbon paper. I still have my college thesis in my files—in hard copy.
How difficult my school must seem to today’s wired students, how slow and antiquated. Go ahead, dust the gauze wrappings around my ancient analog bones. But what if all the computer networks of the world “woke up”, became conscious, and decided to overthrow the puny humans who depend on computers for everything, from running factories to paying their bills? What if these new digital overlords created indestructible androids to enslave the humans by force? How would you digital dependents survive, much less write your thesis? (Assuming the machines allow people to go to school.)
Seriously, when I was growing up in the Seventies, “computer” had a slightly sinister connotation. Computers were very large machines that occupied entire rooms if not buildings. Only the military-industrial complex had them, and at the time, they were engaged in the Cold War. Computers controlled the nuclear missiles that the superpowers had trained on each other: they held the power of life and death over our species.
The closest most of us ever got to computers were those punch cards our parents occasionally brought home from the office. What secret messages did these cards contain? In the absence of accurate facts, we looked to the movies and television for answers. These were benign, people-friendly computers in the Bat-cave, on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, and in the Hall of Justice of the Justice League of America. On the other hand, there was HAL, the evil computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. In his stories, the science fiction writer Harlan Ellison described a future society in which intelligent machines subjugate homo sapiens. This sub-genre would lead to James Cameron’s Terminator movies.
Amid all this speculation the Internet was already being born, but we wouldn’t have access to it for two decades. The Internet was envisioned as a communications system that would survive a nuclear holocaust. I wonder if the pioneers saw that it would become (nearly) everything to everyone, or that people would spend hours each day “friending” each other and sending virtual pokes and drinks.
The early personal computers (PCs) were expensive and not very practical. One of my classmates in high school had a Radioshack unit that had all of 12 kilobytes of memory. By the time I was hammering away at my thesis, the PC had evolved into a sophisticated typewriter with a memory, on which you could play rudimentary games. Data was stored in floppy disks, so called because those thin plastic squares were literally floppy. PC keyboards did not require you to pound on the keys! Mistakes could be corrected by hitting a button! These machines were useful, convenient, but not indispensable.
A year or so after college, when I had started supporting myself by writing, I decided that a word processing program would make my life easier. So I bought my first computer. It was a cheap Taiwan-made clone that I acquired on installment from the friend of a friend who owned a store in Quad. It ran on DOS, the screen was black, and the blinking letters were green. This glorified typewriter and filing system served me well until I met my first Mac in 1993. My attitude towards computers changed radically: my Macs were not mere typewriters or machines, but extensions of myself.
In the mid-Nineties email arrived. Suddenly you could send out letters and they would reach their destinations instantaneously. We take email for granted now, but at the time it was nothing short of revolutionary. You could submit your column without having to appear at the office!
I don’t recall exactly how it happened—the last decade passed in a blur of technological change—but one day it seemed that everyone was on the World Wide Web. And I got an email from my friend Budjette, who asked the innocuous question: Have you tried google?
Googol? I replied. A number with a hundred zeroes?
How innocent we all were.
I’ve had my fair share of arguments with my family. With my mom when she felt I was getting out of hand during my “rebellious stage,” with my brother when he was being protective of me with my first boyfriend, with my sister, whom I shared a room with, whenever she would get my things without asking permission, and even with my dad when I would get scared of his sudden flare-ups. Hindi perpekto ang kahit anong pamilya, at alam mo, okay lang iyon. You may have different personalities and you all have your share of faults, but at the end of the day, there are no ties like family, and when everything else in life seems like it’s falling apart, your family is there to love and support you.
–Paano ba ‘to?! How to Survive Growing Up (Bianca Gonzalez)
I bought this book because I’m curious about Bianca Gonzalez’ private life. I know she was once a commercial model and now, a product endorser. And she’s not just a pretty face but a real good host. But I wanna know what her journey was like to get to where she is right now—successful in her chosen fields as a host, as an editor, as a columnist, and an advocate of so many good things. Not to mention, a local celebrity. I wanted to get a glimpse of who she is as a person. Like, how did she deal with family problems? Insecurities? Or even office politics? What’s her beauty secret?
In every introduction of every chapter, Bianca would reveal something about herself that has something to do with the topic on hand. Sort of a teaser. Then when you turn to the next page, there is a Q&A about common issues concerning family, friendship, love, career & money, failures, so on and so forth, that Bianca would answer candidly, sharing pieces of her heart based on her personal experience. And not to be all-knowing, there are also advices from the expert (psychotherapist, life coach, change consultant, dermatologist, etc.) to make things objective not just subjective. And to add spice, author Bianca also included sharings/lessons learned of her celebrity friends like Toni Gonzaga, Ramon Bautista, Anne Curtis, Tim Yap, Marian Rivera, Iza Calzado etc.
For example, Issue 1: “Ay, ang taba taba mo!” or “Dami mong pimples ngayon, ah!” How do I deal with negative titas without being disrespectful?
Bianca says: “How you will handle this depends largely on your personality. If you are quiet and non-confrontational, just smile and laugh it off. Kahit na sa loob loob mo nabwibwisit ka. Kung ikaw ang tipong komedyante, sabihin mo, ‘Ikaw din po, tita,’ tapos tumawa ka, tapos may konting hampas pa sa braso. If you are brutally frank, ask her aside to talk and tell her that you were offended by her comment. Minsan kasi nauunahan lang sila ng pagiging taklesa at hindi naman nila sinasadyang makasakit. Take their quips and comments with a grain of salt. Wag din masyadong dibdibin.”
Another example, Issue 2: “Lahat sila may BF na, ako single pa rin.”
Expert says: “If your focus is on being in a relationship, that is a clear recipe for not finding one. Quality relationships come into our lives when we are in our “best form.” Be free of any desperation for love and start spending time pursuing your passions. This will make love happen to you naturally, and when this love comes, it will last!”
Third example, Issue 3: “Why do guys cheat?”
Ramon says: “Because these guys do not love you.” (Pak!)
Also, to make this interesting book a little more interesting, Bianca posted her Top Ten insights at the end of every chapter, sort of like her “Key Messages” to the reader which are really personal. She wrote about “10 Mistakes I Made In Past Relationships That Prepared Me For The Right One,” “10 Difficult Things I Went Through At Work That Taught Me Valuable Lessons,” “10 Winning Mindsets I Learned Through My Failures,” so on and so forth.
I forgot to tell you that on the last page of every chapter is a blank page with a question. Here, the author will ask you something about your family, your career/dream job, your ideal partner, etc. And this sort of made this book interactive, a two-way thing because you’re not just a reader but you’ll be a writer answering questions posed by Bianca, writing them down on the blank page of every chapter of the book, and I remember thinking and reflecting seriously about it. It’s fun when you’re honest, no matter how embarrassing, because from here you’ll learn something about yourself also that for so long you’re shy to admit. And this goes without saying that this book I just bought will not be shared with anyone because of those personal stuff I wrote which I think are for my eyes only.
Paano Ba ‘To?! How to Survive Growing Up is honest, just relax thus it’s a very positive book that I finished reading for one day only. It has a lot of things going in it, it’s fun (it comes with stickers, too!), it felt like I was just having a conversation with Bianca here, or with each person who contributed to make this book a very good companion during my free day.