Thinking Now, of Now and Ahead, with some help from Trainspotting’s Renton


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If we look at it closely, we can appreciate Renton’s jutting butt much better. For the mesmerizing irony is his butt is a whiff away from the subs, the subs which the butt’s projection (and the subsequent scenes) betray. Aside from this, Renton’s uneasy figure is overpowered by the colourful, clean and very organized background; hence, his littleness is in place precisely because he is out-of-place (almost an inconsequential presence) in the entire scene.

Which can be said as well to the last urinal in Do You Not Think so Far Ahead? The rest of the urinals in the work are mere backgrounders to each section’s title; even some of them are blurred. But the last urinal is presented in so meticulous details: with parts labelled, an inset and a see-through. What is a “wax ring,” a “ballcock”; how about “flange bolts”? The last urinal shows those. Before this, the urinals shown are dead daily company. In the last one, it is presented as an intricate machine, with all its mechanical workings implied.

I’m no longer alive, said all previous urinals. Not true. Renton went as fast as he could, looking for any decent toilet; while fantasizing too.

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Kristeva distinguished the symbolic from the semiotic mode of signification: the former is an “expression of orderly meaning” and the latter is a “discharge of subject’s energy, emotion, drives.” Renton had fantasies not only of order but of pristineness, not only a toilet seat but

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Eventually, what he had was an artless, if not perfunctory, discharge. He too anticipated it, he was aware of the circumstances, he was aware of the pathos of fantasies, his very own fantasies

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To posit, obliquely, that art is or can be autonomous is to flirt with fantasies. And most likely it is the pathetic kind of fantasy (I fancy it precisely because it not here, it is not real, I cannot make it real). But it can be read in more empowering terms: rather than art striving to be “autonomous”; art recognizing itself as “situated,” as located and invested and as “Do You Not Think so Far Ahead” put it, “such formulation certainly brings in the sociality and the materiality of a given work.”

I recall Zizek and his notes on “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” and Desire: the very unfulfilment of Desire fuels Desire – fulfils it, why not?! In more solid terms that can defeat those defeatist undertones, we can say of art and autonomy that art, now explicit about its location, its situatedness, “bursts forth” “towards it,” towards autonomy, or more aptly, towards the abandonment of this very pursuit.

The notion of an autonomous art has long gone filthy; it is time to flush it.

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In many ways, we have these confounding contradictions: always have them, so the great differences will lie on how to confront them. “What if the very properties which were supposed to repel market forces are the same properties which pull it towards the market?”

What could be these properties of art? What are the forces of the market – the art institutions, the purchasers of art, the art auctions? But not all art institutions are the same; so are the purchasers and auctioneers of art. Here, not only raising questions are equally, if not more significant than raising a point; making explicit and interrogating, again, the very location, where one is making her point, where one is coming from is significant too.

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In the movie, it makes sense. What was just announced as the “worst toilet in Scotland’ revealed itself promptly as indeed, worthy of such title (an interpolation ‘outside’ of the film, for, if you let me spell it out, what Renton saw was just the “toilet,” not “the worst toilet in Scotland – now I feel like a loser for spelling it out).

Yet outside the movie again (literally “outside” for this was presumably hardly known until this  came out) there was a betrayal – a perfectly harmless and logical one for movies are all about representing reality using its techniques – props and effects included.

But not all makes sense neatly in this sequence in Trainspotting. Okay, it is the worst toilet in Scotland; but if that is so, then why this look on Renton’s face:

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Further, why this?

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And finally, this:

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Can we go back to Kristeva? Or, is this a going back to Kristeva? The motherly womb, the place of plenitude, oceanic fullness, psychoanalytic pleases?

Easy, we are forgetting that Renton was on heroin

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And as he said much earlier in the film and much famously: Who needs reasons, when you’ve got heroin? Who needs Kristeva and Zizek when you’ve got heroin? The heroine is not the Mother, but – sorry – heroin.

The contradiction is resolved in the film, in a way. Renton’s retreat into fantasy is an upshot of his drugs. But drugs are not explicitly the gimmick involved in “Do You Not Think so Far Ahead.”

So when it said that “we will never run out of gimmicks,” we can ask if the inexhaustibility being implied here is the liberal one – the surplus of ideas, the surplus of gimmicks, often without asking, for what purpose?. In “On Choosing,” a suggested answer: for every gimmick, a certain amount to be paid. Will it be a payment for resistance, a payment for individual glorification, a payment for lazy indoctrination, a payment to have, finally, a will? We choose.

(What did Renton choose? Interestingly, he chose something seemingly Zizekian):

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What did “Do You Not Think So Far Ahead” choose? In “On Access,” it chose to speak of “carollers from the gaps of the gate, tugging at each other, hesitant to sing their song” while it also speaks of people who “exude confidence and the importance of their words.” In a single page, it chose to speak of hesitance and confidence, exuding importance and tugging at each other and the access of art becomes an axis of the social divide.

And this divide is present not only in SOCIETY AT LARGE, but in one’s self, the tininess of one’s selves: the conflict, the “chasm” “between a person’s radical ‘principles’ and her/his decadent lifestyle.”

This paves the way for “On Choosing” and “On This Right Now,” with the latter I am opting to read not as a simplistic insistence on the now, the moment (ATM! ATM!). “On This Right Now” gets back to questioning, looking at the very ground where one is standing, where one does the thinking and the looking – whether it be looking away, looking and thinking against, looking and thinking ahead.

Which brings me to this conclusion: I should not think so far ahead, I should not forget to think of the here and now where I am doing this thinking ahead.

Baguio is the tears that you cry when you read Eco, the tears when you write chronicles (IN Baguio Chronicle, TO Adamson Chronicle)


The silent — though uncontainable – feeling is that the final fifteen, sixteen, seventeen days remaining in 20166 will be Baguio. As much as you want to EEWW the ‘looking-back’ stuff happening as the year ends, you also see some of its value: something cliched: putting the past to a thought-process in order to set fire to the future)

(This is not just nostalgia trip, and is that not a bit rude to the word ‘nostalgia,’ using it in reference to events just in the past months? You counter yourself, 2016 feels so big, the months seemed like the bookshelves of Calvino and the deaths in the name of the ‘war on drugs’ in our country)

Goodreads made me review my “Year in Books,” and the Baguio-to-Manila plotline is alive there and evil, wounding, adding salt to the wound, licking the wound with a salted tongue.

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Again, our Baguio window

The books you’ve read, they speak of memories that in turn speak of specific locus, concrete locations, situations. I was reading Eagleton’s “The Function of Criticism” upon waking up – 7am, 8am – in our Parisas home, and it was January and you know how Baguio is when it’s January, and we are not talking of city centers but a semi-secluded village in the fringes of Bakakeng. Bauman’s “Towards A Critical Sociology,” I remember bringing to Mt. Cloud’s Third Monday from the Sun and I almost left it, almost. F. Sionil’s “Vibora” I cram-read as I cram-conceptualized a paper for KRITIKA’s call for submissions. I finished the novelette in two days, I guess, but did not find it worthy of writing at least a ten-page paper about. Kruger’s “Remote Control,” Jameson’s “Marxism and Form,” Graff’s “Literature Against Itself,” all these man, I read them with brewed coffee and our Parisas windows which offered calmness and gathering dogs sometimes, sometimes a goat, sometimes a sheep, and always, the unassuming but pretty trees. All these three I borrowed from UP Baguio’s library, while I was a graduating Graduate student, erratically prolonging thesis completion mainly to continue availing of the library’s sexy books. Malabou’s “Changing Difference,” Mao’s essays, Gamalinda’s “Empire of Memory” were all borrowed from UP Baguio’s library, through Mam Brenda, through the cheery librarians of the campus (Sometimes, they will ask me, O kelan ka ga-gradaute? Thesis na lang ba? something).

“The Critical Villa” edited by Jonathan Chua is the bridge. I started reading it in Baguio, did not finish there, was able to finish it in – surprise – Manila, courtesy of Adamson’s library, the university where I am now teaching. “Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street,” I remember reading at Silahis, 100 meters away from NCCA’s office at Intramuros, while I was waiting for Jesa. Wark’s “The Spectacle of Disintegration” I remember reading during the dull moments of our retooling seminar, again at Adamson.”Days of War, Nights of Love,” I mostly read during LRT rides to and from work (I suspect my eyesight has to say “fuck you” to me about this, for I can feel it is deteriorating). Adamson’s library is not without its sweetness. I was able to read Badiou and Engelmann’s “Philosophy and the Idea of Communism” here, and Raymond Williams work on Modernism, and Kerouac’s “Tristessa” and Almario’s thick “Balagtasismo versus Modernismo” which was reserved at UP Baguio (and which curiously I hardly bothered to even check when I was there). Yesterday I finished in one sitting, Marquez’ short “Memories of my Melancholy Whores,” while I was eating time in the last week of school this year. I remember doing that to Apol Sta. Maria’s “Alamat ng Panget” too, only that, again, I was wearing boxers, and long-sleeves and exhaling fog even as Baguio’s own fogginess engulfs me some eleven months ago.

My writings will also make me cry about this (big) city shift. January, I was taking writing for Baguio Chronicle quite seriously, contributing essays about Whang-od and Panagbenga or reviews of an exhibit about film at Baguio Cinematheque. December, I find myself writing a riposte to a lampoon article published in the Adamson Chronicle. Last night, I just returned the revised draft of a paper on Session in Bloom. Nights ago, not only the writings were about Baguio; they were IN Baguio.

Here, right now, I try to chronicle 2016 via the books I’ve read and where I have read them and where I have sweated for them and via the writings I’ve done and there is Baguio, like God (and if there would be blasphemy here, it will be with respect to the former, not the latter): all-powerful, all-present, all-known (not “knowing).

Will I end this piece the way Cesar Ruiz Aquino ended his “Proheme to Zamboanga” (All you were amoeba-fashion Zamboanga Zamboanga Zamboanga)? Enough to put it there because I will not.

My tears for Baguio are so big I sort of bled for almost 1000 words and an earlier plan is yet to be carried out: I will write about Baguio, bearing in mind Cesar’s “Proheme” to his city and Umberto Eco’s own cry for his “Alessandra” – which he described thus, “Alessandria is made up of great spaces. It is empty.”

I almost cried man, while reading Eco’s piece on Alessandra, his city, his place, the locations that make him throb. I was having brewed coffee – still bought in Baguio’s dirty and yet somehow fragrant and charming public market (all markets are dirty, rarely are they eerily fragrant and charming) – in our apartment in coughing Pasay when I almost cried on Eco’s Alessandra, and though the sad thing is that that brewed coffee is the only Baguio remnant I had, the happy, dazzling thing is that Baguio is 256 kilometers away, six hours via Genesis, four hours via Joybus (we are very near the Pasay terminals). Baguio is away like that, just some kilometric count, and another big decision away, another city-shift, (more aptly, a reversal, a return), one that is most surely a lovelier and less agonizing one.