Of more unsettling idiocies


How are we idiots in our own ways?  In Francis Veber’s 1998 film, this question seemed to be laid on the thrust. Coming from the rich tradition of French comedy, the film stands out for its reliance of sheer wittiness and comical characters in order to rise to the caliber of earlier classic French comic films. “The Dinner Game,” an eighty-minute wonder that could largely help in brushing off your day’s stress and think about your own sanity after showed us the meeting of Pierre and Pignon and the unruly, but totally sensical sequences that came after .

Mr. Pignon is our typical, on-surface idiot – too engrossed with his matchstick models, incessantly talking about it and seriously hoping that his viewers would appreciate his masterly work. Add to that the film’s attempt to bank in a stereotype – Mr. Pignon looks not the bit handsome, with thinning hair and a fat face and stout figure, seemingly making that reasonable match: idiocy and ugliness, or to be a bit kinder, unpresentability. Perhaps just when we were beginning to think of him as the normally self-centered idiot, the film did not bend and reserved the changing of attitude towards him much later.

Taken from: http://www.sbs.com.au/films/movie/1728/The-Dinner-Game

But despite the superficial “idiocy,” Pignon is smart on his own way; moreover, he also has that less-cherished kindness. And given most of our upbringing which highly likely gives high merits on kindness of the heart, how easily can we dismiss Pignon as just as an annoying boor?

On the other side of the fence, there is Pierre, the typical good-looking guy you expect to see in movies and hear the most spellbinding lines from. But we see his character twisted a bit here. Beside Pignon, he is supreme, no doubt, but all depths neglected. Looking more closely, and watching the film further, we see more of Pierre and how he compares less than Pignon – his philandering that imperiled his marriage, his overt meanness and lack of heart. Remember that Pierre was supposed to bring Pignon in the Dinner Game where his “smart” friends take in some ”idiots” and make them talk the night out for their hidden pleasures. The very idea of this kind of dinner is already mean by itself.

Francis Veber’s Dinner Game then becomes a face that subtly reveals the unexpected slippages that can occur in human relations. The supposedly stable smart-idiot dichotomy whose interaction should be favorable for the former, mocking and making fun of the latter was disturbed by circumstances which eventually shook the relationship of the two. The golf fiasco at the beginning of the film foiled Pierre and Pignon’s attendance to the dinner and thereby also foiling the execution of Pierre’s “supremacy” over the “idiotic” Pignon. And that initial fiasco already reveals something – while Pignon has some mental weakness, Pierre is similarly prone to external factors that can expose his weaknesses too. And while his back aches, he had to rely on Pignon several times while they were together in his house – picking up the phone for him, sending him to his room among others.

Another case that betokens Pierre’s vulnerability is his relationship with his wife. His implied mild infidelity made her wife feel low, to the point of pondering about their marriage. This is a serious matter for Pierre, so when he appears to be already losing his wife, his dejection only became more resounding. Notably, while trying to win this case over his wife, trying to win her back, all that Pierre seemed to have left is idiotic Pignon. Pignon’s friend, Cheval, who knows the address of the person whom his wife Christine is most probably with, had been of great help in relieving Pierre and Pignon was very useful in contacting him. Despite Mr. Pignon’s “idiocy,” the fact that Pierre-the-smart-guy relied on him at a lengthy part of the film is already telling. This destabilizes, if not totally reverses the smart-idiot dichotomy and make the use of quotations to flank the designations more reasonable.

Ultimately, what can be seen in Dinner Game is the fluidity of social relations, how they are can be reversed or executed against the current, even only shortly, even only by little. In the same thread, categories such as “idiot” and “smart” are not stable and hence, the expectations and ideas that we create out of them are likewise always open to interrogation and negotiation.

Something else

Post-structuralist writing and thinking is avid of the use of these: “”. Either to coin a new term, or to use an old one but with an associated meaning far from the way it was traditionally conceived. The instability of meaning, the slippages caused by language, the Foucauldian dispersal of power – all these give rise to the potential for destruction and creation happening after the other, opening up wider spaces for inquiries and provocation. After knowing how our beliefs and predispositions have been preset for us with the infusions given to the words we use and encounter everyday, where do we stand? Ask more questions? Spacing away from perhaps dangerous stabilities? But: where is the danger coming from? In the present where differences are forced to be always for the sake of one and the expense of the other (rich businessman and his low-earning employees, rich landlord and his back-breaking, heat-bathing peasants, virile man and inferiorated woman), it is certainly not enough to just adjust the differences, to destabilize them. It is imperative that we adjust the present conditions in society where these differences originate, both in form and meaning, in existence and interpretation. Because I sometimes want to be as crazy as Pignon but more so longs for the chance to be like “it” without being jested.

Advertisements

On the supposed namelessness of money



“Money had no name, of course. And if it did have a name, it would no longer be money. What gave money its true meaning was its dark-night namelessness, its breath-taking interchangeability (Haruki Murakami, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle)

 

There is no traffic, when it comes to

the sheaf of paper, orange, red, violet

green, blue.

One arrives as another leaves

The same is true of copper, and silver, and nickel,

perfectly round, dead heroes

emblazoned on them.

 

They interchange, with

one another, with fried chicken, or a Blackberry,

or an escort service, or a pair of socks.

a continuous flow –

unbridled unlike the usual traffic in the

metro’s busiest streets.

 

The absence of traffic makes one

pay no attention.

Pass them on, to the cashier,

to the minimum wage worker, to the

Yosi vendor, to the business partner

in coat and tie

to manong driver.

They have value, some worth,

but no names.

 

In perfect, smooth circulation,

someone pays, someone takes her change.

Names, they don’t have them.

One works to find them, and find

ways to spend them.

Usually swifter than when they

were earned.

The seeming harmonious flow of

nameless objects, central to everyday

Economics of eating, commuting,

dressing up, shopping, living.

 

Coming and going, naturally,

From one palm to another.

Precisely, the namelessness of

money.

The absence of traffic.

The smoothness of circulation.

 

There are no names, nor traffic

Only feigned smoothness

And an overarching pathway

Where the flow of what I earn

And what you can spend

is owned by someone –

who has a name.

 

Where words truly lead us



Shall I compare thee to the night

That springs evanescent, our skies alight

Shall I compare you to a comparison?

A (seeming) tautology that breaks our unison

Next, shall I look at you like a man possessed

Self-control, sanity and wit not blessed

A clean beggar but for food, makes behests

What a world, clarity’s a request

In other words, we thrive on opposites

Clean, dirty, black, white, whole and bits

Kiss luck away and don’t play the game

If you’re like this: “-“ you’ll have no gain

Because the strong are rich and white

Ask the academe and things won’t be light

“Jouissance” “dasein” “differance” and more

Expect your nose to smell some gore

In search of clear, we fly above

Because ourselves, we oh so love

But above them all, one seems to be

The mightiest, the smartest tree

Of course, you know, this is just me

But who knows, one days, our lose chains will agree 

When reality stares and why taking pictures is not enough


What I find most commendable about The City of God is its realistic depiction of the city where poverty and violence and crime reek so strongly simultaneously people just get acquainted with them in the long run.

At the beginning of the movie, we already have an unknown preview of the life in the City of God. A chicken is being cooked, its feathers being removed while another chicken, probably the next in line is anxious while seeing the fate of the first chicken. At the same time, a swift series of shots showing a knife being sharpened, carrots being cut by the knife and the “cooking operation” being done on the first chicken which causes the anxiety of the second. The congruence among these shots is very telling, very metaphorical to the City of God: the swift pace of life, or the need thereof, and the presence of danger, of numerous risks that one needs to take and overcome, that if someone is neither swift enough nor courageous to take and undergo the risks, he might as well look for another place to live in; that is, if there is one. Sullenly, it seems that there is not much privilege of a choice in the City of God, so one just need to live and deal with the frenetic and dangerous pace in it. One needs to be so if he wants to stay alive, just like the anxious, second chicken who managed to get out of the leash and avoid being cooked over the beaming fire.

And when we get to the first dialogue in the film, our initial impressions may have just been reinforced. A black, curly man whom we will identify as Lil Ze later said, “Fuck,” the chicken’s got away. Go after that chicken, man! (translations).” We heard it first, a swear word, which will suffuse in our ears as the movie goes on. And then the command to go after the chicken, who has barely escaped from death and now has another danger to face. Welcome to the City of God, where your life is always on the brink and you have to push hard, take risks, and yes, sell drugs, take drugs and kill people just to stay alive.

As the flashback begun, cutting from the instance when Rocket was caught on the crossfire between the notorious hoodlums of the City of God and the police, we were led to a protracted tale of violence and unprecedented criminality in the city.

First, the story of the Tender Trio whose lawless ways are even sophomoric compared to what we will see in the next parts of the story. Discreetly, it shows the subtle rule in the hood. With Benny and Lil Dice (the young Lil Ze) tagging along the trio, we see how age is highly regarded; and expectedly, the youngsters always have to take the back seat and cannot have their say in the talks of the older ones. The trio’s story ended with Clipper going back to the church, Goose, Rocket’s brother getting killed by the gone-bold Lil Dice and Shaggy being killed by the police. On the other hand, Lil Dice had decided to go on his own way, separate from the Tender Trio. He worked hard with his pal Benny in the field of crime. When the Tender Trio was collapsing, marked by Lil Dice’s killing of Goose, Lil Dice felt that his turn to become the “boss of the City of God” has arrived. As such, when he turned 18 and established himself as one of the most notorious hood in the city, he sought for an inauguration of sorts, a baptism that will dramatize the shift he wants to happen with his image – from the young, inexperienced Lil Dice to the tougher and slyer Lil Ze. Then the rampant killings have become normal killings. He took over the illegal businesses in the city, whose illegalities are even out of the question, because during that time, the City has blossomed into a place that has devised its own laws. And that law can sort of borrow Darwin’s “survival of the fittest;” and to survive, one needs to be loaded, with cash and guns, and the right connections.

And so Lil Ze got Blacky’s drug business, ensuring he got loaded and maintaining his status as the most sought-after person to connect oneself with, or more aptly, to avoid messing with, if one wants to stay unharmed in the city.

Then it turned out that the battle between Lil Ze and Carrot for supremacy in the City has silently started. The runts, little kids who do petty crimes, and who do not respect the law of the slums, were subjected to the wrath of Lil Ze, who apparently has become the boss of the city and the one setting the law in the City of God.

This battle peaked after Benny’s death, something that had the potential of changing Lil Ze’s perspective in life but did not happen. Benny planned to depart from Lil Ze and go with Angelica, who has become so sick of the violence in the City of God. Here, we see a crucial paradigm shift. Angelica offered an alternative to Benny, ”Peace and Love” which he accepted by being willing to go with her. In telling this plan to Lil Ze, Benny once and for all made an implicit judgment of the life Lil Ze has been living, “Everyone’s a motherfucker to you!” This can be read as Benny’s condemnation of the grim and heartless life of Lil Ze. And then Benny got killed by Blacky, who actually aimed at Lil Ze. Benny’s death pained Lil Ze, and yes, he felt pain. Perhaps he tried to heed his advice, as he tried to go after the girl she first saw in the disco bar, Knockout Ned’s girl. She ignored him, goes to Ned, only to frustrate Lil Ze and impelled him to rape her and made him think of killing Ned. Eventually, he ended up killing Knockout Ned’s father and uncle. And then Knockout Ned’s plan of revenge, teaming up with Carrot against Lil Ze which resulted to the all-out was between the two groups. This war has intensified to the point of attracting the media’s attention and paving the way for Rocket’s success story as a photographer.

Now, what do we make out of this?

The realistic depiction is there: the young runts naturally talking about selling drugs and aspiring to get into that business, the bloodshed during the all-out war, Carrot’s effortless killing of Blacky after he killed Benny which is no different from the way Lil Ze killed Tuba later in the movie. However, I found it problematic that this depiction of a lived hell unabashedly showing us the naturalized marriage of guns and young kids and bullets and bodies has been seemingly overshadowed by another impression: the idealistic potential of success to emerge from this living hell. This can be misleading. It seems to drive away the viewer’s attention from the more important point of the story: the difficulty of life in the City of God. It should be argued that Rocket’s success story was merely an exception to the rule, a digression from the norm, the usual life in the City of God. And it occurred because of yes, hard work, and the right attitude and a bit of luck, perhaps. But not everyone gets to have that. In an impoverished community like the City of God, where killings and robbery have become THE way of life, the problem is not the lack of hard work or the right attitude of people.

These factors are also conditioned by the very situation they find themselves in. the problem is not that everyone is not like Rocket, the problem is that people do not recognize why some people like Rocket has to stand out to exemplify the possibility of success in a slum area. The problem is that people do not fully fathom the similar situation which prods them to commit crimes, kill people nonchalantly and live in a community covered with hatred and terror and rancor.

The brutality and harshness in the City of God have appeared inherent, normal in it, when they are not. Brutality and killings and crime have sprung because people do not have food; they do not live a decent life. And perhaps, resorting to robbery and other crimes seemed to them the only possible thing to do if they want to survive the days.

Hence, the poverty, the despondence battening in the City of God should not be the mere starting point of our analysis. If we do that, we will naturally arrive at the conclusion that indeed, Rocket’s story was a successful one, a beautiful exception that emerged out of the dark and desolate (seeming) norm in the City of God. We should recognize that the emergence of this despondence in even the notorious City of God to begin with, is not something that is already there. It has its own causes. And the movie exceptionally brings us closer to the darkness and difficulty of living in the City of God. While Rocket’s case should serve as an inspiration, we should not dwell too much on that decoy. It turns our attention away from the more vital point of discussion – the very existence of City of God, a land rife with crime and the hard life they have been normalized in the long run and its being a product of violent relations among groups of people on the society nearly forgotten.

Which we should not.

 

 

 

Of trees, corporate greeds, ooops, capitalism, and yes, changing the world


Yesterday, I joined in what was touted as the biggest mass mobilization held in Baguio City in a long time which protested against the cutting/earth-balling of trees at SM Baguio, one of the hottest issues in the city recently (and notably, the media coverage also reached the national level).

From the march protest from Session Road to the rather blustering program (but still not to the point of being off-base) up to perhaps the day-concluding “Occupy SM” mode in the rotonda just facing the modestly gargantuan mall, I stayed with copious fellow protesters from various organizations and different orientations finding a similar cause to unitedly rally behind.

As a fellow blogger stated and to which I concurred, the sense of solidarity manifested in the protest was overwhelming. With another fellow protester who belongs to an organization which I have closer ties with, we agreed that, sana ganito rin karami ang tao ‘pab mog against budget cut or SONA ni Pnoy. I guess we were both deeply contemplative as we watched the program at Malcolm Square and surveyed the mass of people around the area listening closely to the speakers: What are the adjustments that need to be done for budget cut and other more overtly political campaigns to garner the same, if not more mobilizations than this one? What forms these campaigns could take to replicate, if not emulate this picture of unmistakable unity and engaged involvement shown by the people here at Malcom Square, braving the torrid 3pm sun just to voice out their opposition against the SM-tree-cutting plan?

But so much for tacit envy. The protest action yesterday was fun primarily for the turnout of participants but also for the insights it forced on me. All throughout the event, I have seen, and heard several calls which although at first seems to imply the variety of orientations and consciousnesses where which the protesters are coming from, can still be lumped together to identify in the end the single enemy which we were all crying against. And I think the task is to pinpoint this common enemy, identify this one, big ghost lurking in front of us, threatening us with a nasty grin strapped on its face, initially mocking us, but actually, challenging us to seize it and do the murder.

“Save the trees”

First and foremost and not surprisingly so, the protest actions was dubbed, and then viewed as something that fights for an environmental cause. As to the words of my fellows in our organizations, this issue is a “broad” one wherein we can most easily gather the widest number of supporters. What deceit can shroud it anyway, the impact of environment and its degradation can have on us? There are a number of sound slogans that can be mentioned here: This is our planet, the place where we live, the place that will be inherited from us by our daughters and granddaughters, our Mother Earth, our place of nurturance. This unsurprisingly easily unites us because the fact that it is an issue we all share is obvious.

And at this point, I’d like to insert some more personal remark. As much in the general socio-political affairs as in literature and the other arts, there is this pressing emphasis on the environment, on ecology. While the emergence of ecocriticism is becoming more pointed in literature, so is the heightened vigilance towards global warming and other environmental issues in the world affairs. For the latter, this are best proven by sprouting green campaigns, banning of plastics and Styrofoam materials, the one-hour turn-off-your-lights tradition-in-the-making among others. My take on this is that there is a resurgence, conscious or otherwise, of a “return to nature.” After all the 20th century drama given two World Wars, Nazism and the capitalist crisis and the Cold War, the people have been, perhaps lulled by the advent of the postmodern trend towards the end of the 20th century. After the modernist anxiety came the postmodernist care-freeness and celebrate open-endedness mode, perhaps popularized to inject some relief to all of humanity but now to lessening avail. I think this attitude can no longer sustain itself especially now that the social crisis is becoming more felt. (And actually, putting it up as “social crisis” is still a bit shy and concealing because frankly, how we should call what is currently happening to us is the “capitalist crisis.” Now, I believe we’ll touch more of that later.) Okay, clichés: rising prices, unemployment, wealthy gets wealthier, poor gets poorer blah blah blah. We all know that, and we all feel that. But it is only recently that we are seeing more pronounced actions opposing this trend and inculcating among all of us, willy-nilly, that we are living in hard times, that our culture is one of corruption and festering inequality and, again, whether we like it or not, we have to do something.

And so the rising popularity of “Save the planet” campaigns. Because we are sick of this culture and we want, most probably, to go back to the more natural state of things. Do not kill the trees.  Do not destroy our nature. When all we have in the news are human greed and Ipads being invented to cover up the evils of capitalist scheme (Hey, these Ipads can do multitude of things at once, so why say that capitalism is horrible?), we want a piece of something that would be consoling in the end. And we turned to nature, everything not man-made, because in the recent past, what man has created, err, what those who have the capacity to create has made are things that are beneficial not for everyone but only for themselves.

And I am not saying that this Green cause is a petty one and that we have to face only the more hardcore issues such as employment and social services which are emanating from the existence of our Great Enemy that is Capitalism. My point is for us to try to understand that all these environmental brouhahas are also germinating from, yes, the current social system we sometimes hate to call, capitalism. Which brings me to this next thing.

“No to Corporate Greed”

Yes, corporate greed. And I was joyful yesterday, when a speaker in the Malcolm Square program lashed SM corporation, sometimes Henry SY himself, for their capitalist greed, for their plans of expansion which is obviously business-oriented (notwithstanding all their “green architecture” rhetoric). Moreover, another speaker brought out the much important point, SM City Baguio does not give back anything to the city: no taxes, and more smartly, and perhaps more tellingly, no educational, cultural or health values as he put them.

In our lingo, we have “Malaking Burgesyang Kumprador.” And while most people would easily dismiss the idea of further discussion once this term is brought up, there would be cases like this which present themselves as apt chances to concretize “big words” (ahem, imperyalismo, burukrata kapitalismo). That is precisely Henry Sy’s SM malls: operating under the capitalistic scheme: socialized production, private capital and profit. Precisely a huge factor why we have this: wealthy becomes wealthier, poor becomes poorer.

And another important thing to mention, another “titan” abused, slowly murdered by the giants: the small-scale businesses that would have to be “relocated” (to put it much nicely) when SM’s parking lot is put up. Where would they go? What would happen to their small businesses? And later, how would they feed their families? How would they survive in these times of economic stress? Evidently, the giant corporations, with their “corporate greed” are eating all of us alive. And so here we are to the ultimate, perhaps most provoking part:

“Sorry for the inconvenience, we are trying to change the world”

Kinuha sa: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=349970248364965&set=o.137659306326055&type=1&theater

Perhaps without spite or pun intended, a companion remarked about this statement in a slogan we saw among the sea of slogans yesterday: something like, “big words,” or “Grabe naman yung call niya.”

But in further thought, the slogan completely makes sense. This is not just a battle for the trees, or against SM corporations and their corporate greed; this is a battle for our people, of Baguio and the country, against the large system where tree-cutting projects like this are just one of the numerous evil manifestations. This is fight against a system where things are done for the benefit of a few and at the expense of the many. Okay, clichés, clichés — again. But when we encounter things like this, hitting us in the face, showing us upfront what do these terms we usually invoke with well-placed rancor and indignation look like, we have to submit to their truthfulness.

This is how our world looks like. This is how things are. Trees should be cut for Henry Sy’s bank accounts. Small-scale Ube Jam and Sundot Kulangot vendors have to be displaced for “development.” The people have to be deprived of natural air for progress. This IS our world.

And we are trying to change it. We have had enough. We have seen enough. And now we have mustered enough strength and determination and formed the right consciousness to fight against this, altogether.

It’s not only for the trees and against Henry Sy or SM, it is for the people and against the system that all throughout history and at large, has proven to be well, to ride in with the Occupy stuff, against the 99%.

For stasis


Now I am bringing them here, modas, the mushy sentiments, the sort of hardcore political commentaries, the sentimental poems, the unabashedly, blandly political poems – all comprising the mélange of myself and my connivances, disputes and struggles with the world and others.

For this blog, the intention was for it not to be a container of experiences, but of knowledge, and let us pretend first that there’s a clean gap between those two. Not for ramblings about the day or people whom I want to gaze at the moon with, but for reflections and observations and thoughts from everyday – films watched, people met, places traveled.

The problem for that paragraph is that the difference between the two elements being talked about is not clearly put, and to begin with, is not really clear-cut. But what I was trying to say is that this blog was not intended for mushiness, for the personal, or perhaps more aptly, the overly personal. This should be for the words coming from my more detached part, the thinker, the onlooker, the constantly attempting analyst, the stolid critique, political or cultural.

Another problem is that the “knowledge” and “experience” are not exactly poles apart from each other. The two overlap, but as I paraphrase a passage I read in a book on postmodernity, the more one knows, the less one experiences; and the more one experiences, the less one knows. However, what appears to be a simplistic proposition cannot be exempted from potential arguments. In the application of Dialectics in practical Marxism in the Philippines, this can be elucidated by changing the terminologies and show how the two elements are always related to each other. Knowledge is also “theory” while experience lies closer to “practice.” Within these terms, the relation can be located at the way by which one helps in the development of the other in continuous fashion. Theory is put into, tested, validated in practice; and then practice, with the aid of constant observation, reflection and evaluation can develop the theory further which in turn can result to more developed practices. The point perhaps is that there must be a certain balance that will keep us from being drawn too much on either knowledge or experiences, theory or practice, or following Philippines Marxism, dogmatism or empiricism, although those terms zero in on more specific situations.

So again, I am bringing them here now: the rides of the calendars, random musings and gorgeous thoughts emerging from the taciturn, the most taciturn violences of everyday — hopping tertiary publications for CEGP, meeting city mayors and municipal councilors for alliance works (hehe, usually through solicitations), slow talks with fast thinkers and unguarded poets, sighting despondencies in the city market, fake glamour in malls and high-end restaurants, Kristeva in the infants in the office, Butler in disco bars, Mao in regular meetings.

The personal is political, a cliché that could sum up the tracks laid in here. When I write too much about love, I meant the pop-sounding, cheesy love, perhaps I am reading too much Shakespeare and Carter and should retake my dose of MLM. When I keep on spouting about the pressing need to organize and immerse with the masses, perhaps I have recently been to Kalinga seeing peasants and their children brave the afternoon heat for the seedlings to be planted and spent a dinner or two sharing kangkong and tinapa with them and our difficult, but nonetheless cheerful conversations.

And I want to utilize this blog, to make my CEGP friends see that I am not all on hardcore politics, like Imperyalismo ibagsak or Penoy si Pinoy. In a sense, I am, I’d like to think, or, I want to believe. But I’m a juggler of forms and I might be shouting those lines boldly already without actually shouting them. Every time I accost them, I seldom balk because I think that they have that notion of me and that makes them uneasy or makes me an unwanted stimulus for them to respond to. So I am showing these other sides, altogether revealing the multiple facets. Like, I listen to Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus and Florence and the Machines and James Morrisson; I have hundreds of pens, all working, I read Shakespeare and Murakami the same way that I have Marx’s and Mao’s basic statements in memory, and I enjoy SM too, sometimes, and used to watch and rave at Pacquiao’s knockout wins.

No wonder why I am under humanities in college, and still more inclined to it now. Let us not lose our humanities in these times and age of simulacra, late capitalism, malakolonya at malapyudal na lipunan, suspicion to origins, new Millennium, plain retardation and end of history and new ideology.

 

 

 

Till next weekend


No jinxs, no myths, only two commas and a completion of a first sentence towards the end of Friday. Night. Which in some sense, is just beginning to most people perhaps.

The original plan for tonight was not as shy as what actually happened, although it was neither too grand. With my checked body clock and perhaps a tacit 2012 resolution to kill the nocturnal in me and start being more productive in the day, and not at night, the weekdays just felt a bit heavier. Meetings, relishing office atmosphere, writing propaganda statements, mingling with Cordi pubs during their CHED Presscon, arranging interviews and being interviewed via phone patch – the week was lived in daytime, not mostly after midnight reading Western thinkers or snatching NBA time or wasting time in the internet. I welcomed the reversal and despite my seeming over-fondness of being a night person most of the time after graduation, there was neither difficulty nor major adjustments.

And then I thought of it, just right this moment, how day seems to be the more realistic, while night portents more of romanticism, escape, self-deluding poetry. In the day, people sweat their backs off, riding the public transport, ambling from Session to Magsaysay, make money, race with their lives, duel with the dangers of the metro, breathe polluted air and second-hand smoke.  In the night, they drink the hours away, salivating at the breeze, basking at hands which they held and which were not theirs, resorting to thick, cozy jackets, ukay or otherwise. Someone called it catatonia, the awakening at night, rising from the dead just like the zombies, jubilating at the relative peace, jubilating at the partial death of law.

And is not that one of my more candid celebrations in the recent past, back in my catatonic days – the law is dead in the evening. Right now, looking at that perhaps misguided declaration, I sense a tincture of cowardice. Nights are venues for escape, and those who frolic on it are escapists. From the density of the metro, from the street lights and the police’s whistle, from the annoying heat, from the hard, bleak realities the day presents without miss, without exaggeration.

And so, I am right here, in the fifth paragraph, the third straight one shoving all the others just to get “and” at the onset. It’s almost 12, almost technically Saturday and I am sort of saying to myself that the night should be just beginning. My new self-set curfew for sleep is 3am. Yes, I failed to comply to that one time already this week, last Tuesday night, while rushing some really important project for someone really special. Now, I am keen at sleeping on time, even though I whispered to myself earlier and in the days before that there should be one night when I will sit down and just get the words out of my head and take a shot at beauty. Tonight shall be that night.

Ok, back to the plan. The original plan. It included Tanduay ice, just a bottle, and some fine smoke, and some cold January Baguio air, and a pen and a notepad. And yes, before that, a good dinner, no canned foods, no NFA rice. Friday nights. This time, I anticipated it with more zeal, after successfully upholding the idea that I am just like most people who work five days a week, eight hours a day. Friday nights announce the onset of the weekend, temporary break from figures and papers and reports and hurried lunches and forgotten dinners. On my first Friday night post-catatonia, I had relatively ambitious imaginations.

But I ended up with corned beef, steamed in the sinaing just like hotdogs can manage. Apparently, corned beefs need onions and garlics, my dinner was sort of out of taste. And not Tanduay Ice, because with the way Marcos Highway is being “renovated” and the ensuing traffic, all I was able to go to earlier for the night’s supplies was Tiongsan Harrison. And yes, they don’t have Tanduay Ice. Even just a bottle? Yes, they don’t have even just a bottle. Queue might be getting longer in the sweet terminal, unbearably longer already and I may find myself robbed of a jeepney ride to home. I do not want to start the night with that.

So I consoled myself, with made-up assurance, the stores near our home will still be open when I get there and they might have Tanduay Ice.

But what they have is San Mig Light.

And I thought, sige na nga, pwede na rin ‘to.

There were too many narrations, boring ones. What I want is beauty in brief. I stopped gulping the beer down and proceeded here, but without much contentment. Perhaps the real point is that something lacks, no, someone is not here. And all Friday nights would seem incomplete, too wilted, without her matching what I saw in my head from Monday to Thursday. Silences with our laptops, different preoccupations but sometimes rhythmic breathings, occasional nudging and teasing, Bloc Pary or John Mayer breaks. But these are only words. And all I have now is a head in a coil and an Itunes program opened but paused.

So hello weekend.

Don’t idle! Things on “Nobody Move”


While everyone is feasting on Noche Buena, I tried to think about Denis Johnson’s Nobody Move.

Yes, this is 21st century fiction, written by someone who perhaps has penchance for the 60s hippies and 80s rock bands and other creative trend that have emerged in the recent past. Where Johnson brought me in Nobody Move is not a world of damsels-in-distress or a confused identity or a battle against a heart-rending fate. In point-blank range, he microscoped for me, a world of mainstream losers – outlaws and pace-setters – a world where all our traditions and laws have seemed to be relegated somewhere else.

Jimmy Luntz one-night-stands with Anita, the money-nabbing bombshell, or the bombshell money-nabberr — whichever persona appeals truer to you. And together, albeit sometimes in different routes, they tried to dodge the axe both of the law, or only those whom they have wronged before, which unsurprisingly are also not “very legally clean” people. Talking to Luntz, Anita would argue, and breaching our sense of logic, “You can’t steal stolen money (88).” Luntz himself was up against a drug-dealer and he was just content at the fact that he’s doing the lesser evil. Still, he had to find a way to avoid the mess he has started with his contacts with Gambol and Juarez. There’s Anita, trying to avoid a lawsuit and the potential of jail after facing money issues with her husband which she just divorced. Eventually, she killed him. In this world of drug-deals and almost nonchalant murders and other violence, one can hardly expect even a morsel of lasting genuineness. Everyone might be playing their own games and trusts and partnerships can only be tactical as they are temporary. Jimmy thinks he was lucky for fucking a beautiful Indian in Anita but this luck, we might avow, also ran out easily. Anita sometimes implied she’s more than liking Jimmy (“I like a bad man who hates himself” (87)), but as we expected perhaps, there are no wedding bells or kissing scenes in the end. It would just spoil every suspense and carefree dialogues the novel has built on in earlier parts to bring it to its end.

Capra and Sally Fuck, Jimmy’s buddies, were either dead or has fled to a more probable frightened escape when the novel ends, but Jimmy being able to carry on does not elevate him to the status of the winner. I believe he neither wants nor needs that elevation. His ways, the dominant center of discourse would tell, are that of a loser, an unpopular, unloved man. But I believe he does not care one bit. That life of a “loser,” a life off-center is his, is theirs, and to put a quotation mark in a word is to render that term malleable, to showcase its manipulability, and its being manipulated.

Jimmy gunned Juarez, the one whom he owed a large sum of money on. In their world of guns and golden Cadillacs and quick sex and quick everything, there is no welcome remark for the nervous, the tentative and the mushy. Everyone in the novel, from the pretentiously good Jimmy to the powerful-because-rich Juarez, to hard-to-underestimate Anita, has some great mettle and spunk that enabled them to go through the whirlwinds in the planet. And these are not your usual dramas. These do not involve losing a parent or a girlfriend, but actual face-to-face encounters with the vicissitudes of fate, encounters with the gun-wielding enemies or the warrant-arresting law enforcers.

Crime is the name of the game and when the law and the police says “nobody move,” the opposite point becomes more applicable. The point is to keep moving and start moving fast. Or much better, keep moving and be at pace with your own self and your own nasty tricks and do not wait for that sort of frightful moment when someone who clings on law and order utters those two words.