equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
30 Oct 05

Thrice = Love: The Rush

I want to take the bul­let,
The one aimed straight for your heart.
I want to meet the wolves halfway
And let them tear me apart,
But that’s not the way they do it here.

I want to lay on the tracks,
Feel hot steel scream­ing at me.
Expose the bones on my back,
Let me show you what I mean.

Yeah, it’s a dif­fer­ent kind of love.
I want to climb barbed wire fences
And warm our hands in blood.

And this is my gift
Asking you to fix my ruined hands.
And it’s a gift that keeps on giv­ing,
And right now it’s all I have to give.

I want to write the per­fect song,
And play it just for you,
While you are tan­gled up in sleep.
I need you more than I’ll ever know.
Until I stop breath­ing,
My lungs will take you for granted.

—Thrice, In Years To Come

I remem­ber a time in my life when I was scared about love. A set of rather ado­les­cent expe­ri­ences in high school, of which I only now find myself com­fort­able speak­ing frankly, had caused me to cling to an unat­tain­able ideal. In Lolita, Humbert Humbert well describes such a hap­pen­stance that sim­i­larly “made of it a per­ma­nent obsta­cle to any fur­ther romance through­out the cold years of my youth. The spir­i­tual and the phys­i­cal had been blended in us with a per­fec­tion that must remain incom­pre­hen­si­ble to the matter-of-fact, crude, standard-brained young­sters of today”.

Eventually, I had given up my ideal, but still felt for­ever tainted, regret­fully break­ing more than enough hearts in the process.

It only took an ardent, extremely brief sum­mer romance to free me, and a jour­ney of 12500 kilo­me­tres to real­ize it.

And as fleet­ing as the entire expe­ri­ence was, it still enough to gal­va­nize, to make me want to take that bul­let, or let the wolves tear me apart. Being tan­gled up in that mad love, the love that goes against rea­son or bet­ter judge­ment, soft­ened the stone in my chest, and it felt like I was finally alive.

Gimmie a girl who can make me feel this way.

The Thrice = Love Series

  1. Introduction
  2. The Journey
  3. As The Crucible
  4. Rock It
  5. The Rush
  6. Far From The End
28 Oct 05

Thrice = Love: Rock It

Entertain the hope that some­how you’ll escape me
Weld the bolts and close the iron gate
Drink deeply the illu­sion of your safety
My how wish­ful thoughts ine­bri­ate
Masquerade and revel in your opu­lence
Writhe unfet­tered by your stabs at igno­rance
Swim through hues and whis­pered tones of heresy
A dozen strokes to run your blood cold enough to believe
Remember me
You look so sur­prised to see me here
Hells black wings did I over perch these walls
For stony lim­its can­not hold me out
And now you all die

—Thrice, The Red Death

And now again the music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more mer­rily than ever

—Edgar Allen Poe, The Masque Of The Red Death

It’s sim­ple.

Gimmie a girl who isn’t afraid to ROCK THE FUCK OUT to this song.

The Thrice = Love Series

  1. Introduction
  2. The Journey
  3. As The Crucible
  4. Rock It
  5. The Rush
  6. Far From The End
24 Oct 05

Thrice = Love: The Journey

I see the parts but not the whole
I study saints and schol­ars both
No per­fect plan unfurls
Do I trust my heart or just my mind
Why is truth so hard to find in this world
Yeah in this world

Cause I am due for a mir­a­cle
I’m wait­ing for a sign
I’ll stare straight into the sun
And I won’t close my eyes
Till I under­stand or go blind

—Thrice, Stare At The Sun

Even at my age, whether oth­ers may con­sider it young or old, I haven’t decided on a spe­cific set of beliefs, whether they be reli­gious, philo­soph­i­cal, or psychological.

In try­ing times I find myself wish­ing that I had some­thing, some form of struc­ture that would make sense of the things that hap­pen. The most serene peo­ple I know are also the most pious, as they seem to have an answer for the seem­ingly unex­plained or unde­served. I’ve often asked the­ists, the ones whose intel­li­gence I respect, what has made them believe in one or sev­eral gods. Most com­monly the answer is that they have enough evi­dence for such an exis­tence. Even though I’ve had a few serendip­i­tous expe­ri­ences myself, things which I can’t explain by chance alone, it hasn’t been enough to give me a defin­i­tive answer.

Sometimes it feels like I’m wait­ing for a mir­a­cle to give me an answer or show me a path.

I used to be an athe­ist, then an agnos­tic, until I became com­pletely unde­cided. It’s rare to find other peo­ple who are open-minded enough to admit that they are still learn­ing, or have yet to dis­cover what so many other peo­ple already have. What I know for sure is that I still have the rest of my life to find out, to walk that path and make that journey.

Gimmie a girl who isn’t afraid to stare at the sun with me.

The Thrice = Love Series

  1. Introduction
  2. The Journey
  3. As The Crucible
  4. Rock It
  5. The Rush
  6. Far From The End
22 Oct 05

Thrice = Love: Introduction

Thumbnail: Thrice ticket

It’s been more than two years since Thrice has released a new album, until Vheissu, just five days ago. I’m still explor­ing the tracks, approach­ing each song with an open mind, but never dis­sect­ing too much through analy­sis. Due to the uncer­tain­tiy of what to expect, lis­ten­ing to some­thing for the first time is always a lit­tle different.

It can be eas­ily observed that they’ve grown through all of their full-length albums. It’s dif­fi­cult to lis­ten to Identity Crisis (2000), because of how rough and unde­vel­oped it is. The Illusion of Safety (2002) was much improved, intro­duc­ing a unique, exper­i­men­tal style, though heav­ily influ­enced by punk and met­al­core. The Artist In The Ambulance (2003) took things a step fur­ther, achiev­ing tracks that were both esthetic and intelligent.

Ever since I stopped smok­ing weed on a daily basis, of which a great deal of time was spent lis­ten­ing to music, I’ve been ener­vated by the fact that songs would never sound as good, until this album.

Vheissu has renewed my hope. Saved my life.

It goes beyond every­thing else to a com­pletely spir­i­tual expe­ri­ence, from the album art­work to the chords and the key sig­na­tures. Thrice has reached out with music that is haunt­ing, mov­ing, emo­tional, try­ing things that they’ve never tried before. Dustin Kensrue sings more than he screams, even goes falsetto(!), only occas­sion­ally call­ing on his hard­core roots. Electronic sounds, piano, acoustic gui­tar have been worked into the tracks them­selves, instead of being rel­e­gated to the intro­duc­tions. The mixed meters are less obtru­sive, but still inter­est­ing enough for prog-rock fans. Even with all of this, they con­tinue to defy gen­res, as they’ve done in their pre­vi­ous albums. It all works.

Thrice is com­ing to town, and the con­cert is just six days away.

I was only intro­duced to Thrice in the last two years, but I’ve been through a lot with them. Different apart­ments, room­mates, girl­friends, breakups. Even the lyrics speak to me, lift­ing, mov­ing, never crash­ing. I only ask one thing.

Gimme a girl who loves Thrice.

The Thrice = Love Series

  1. Introduction
  2. The Journey
  3. As The Crucible
  4. Rock It
  5. The Rush
  6. Far From The End
18 Oct 05

Today, Finally

It’s dif­fi­cult to sleep with so much on the mind, and even more dif­fi­cult when you’re filled with anger about not being able to fall sleep. With my duvet wrapped around me last night, I turned my alarm off com­pletely, decid­ing to get into work when­ever I woke up, know­ing that I’d need the rest to focus on a per­sis­tent net­work issue. After try­ing to fall asleep for an hour with­out suc­cess, and feel­ing like I’d waste the rest of the morn­ing, I got up very frus­trated. Those who know me, know that five hours is con­sid­ered calami­tous. I cooked a heavy break­fast of bacon, eggs and toast, know­ing that I’d still have time to get to work early, a bit of sus­te­nance to get me through the rest of the day.

The main prob­lem I’ve been fac­ing for the last week has been the setup of a VPN for a new out-of-office sales rep we recently hired. It was the per­fect morn­ing to get to work early, because I could work on the server for about an hour with­out hav­ing to worry about affect­ing any client com­put­ers. I traced the prob­lem to an out­dated ver­sion of the firmware, and crossed my fin­gers (after my last flash­ing dis­as­ter) as I burned the lat­est ver­sion. This was at 7:00 in the morn­ing. I spent the next 13 hours try­ing to fig­ure out why inter­net access stopped work­ing within the range of inter­nal IP addresses .1 to .36 (which makes absolutely no sense with­out being a power of two, and espe­cially odd when we had no DHCP ranges set).

This meant care­fully learn­ing the exist­ing struc­ture of a net­work I didn’t set up and fig­ur­ing out the Windows inter­net pro­to­col. I’ve had no for­mal train­ing in being an MCSE, so a lot of the day was spent read­ing through white papers and tech­ni­cal notes for a pos­si­ble DNS/DHCP/IIS/firewall/RRA set­ting I may have looked over. Network ser­vice slowly degraded through­out the day as I began trou­bleshoot­ing, includ­ing a simul­ta­ne­ous crash of the main cus­tom soft­ware on every sys­tem, a loss of dynamic dns address­ing (which brought our new online ser­vice down), until I couldn’t even find the net­work address of the router.

When you’re filled with angry per­se­ver­ance, you get a lot done. If only other peo­ple could under­stand that. Wearing a face of deter­mi­na­tion means I don’t have time to be pleas­ant, or have a lunch, or lis­ten to innane sto­ries of your grandchildren.

On the walk to work, I had already decided that as soon as I got off, I was going to play some table ten­nis at one of the bi-weekly ses­sions, vision blurred, eyes dry­ing, as tired as I was, and pass­ing out after din­ner. This obvi­ously didn’t hap­pen. I’d been seri­ously plan­ning on going since last week, but things just kept get­ting in the way.

Until the last 15 min­utes, the only thing I could think about was whether I’d have to pull an all-nighter, and whether or not I’d even be able to solve things if I did. That’s the risk of tech sup­port; the solu­tion can be as sim­ple as it is elu­sive, and there can be no progress until the very last tweak. Halfway through the day, I already decided that I’d call an exter­nal net­work spe­cial­ist to help if I didn’t get any­where by tomor­row after­noon. I was too tired to worry about not get­ting the net­work up before the next busi­ness day, which would basi­cally bring the com­pany to a stand­still, and too tired to be angry at every­thing that was going on. After fig­ur­ing out our net­work struc­ture, three calls to tech sup­port, and learn­ing inter­net pro­to­col the­ory from the ground up, I finally fig­ured out that all I needed to do was do a hard reset of the router, and con­fig­ure every­thing from scratch.

It was prob­a­bly the most dif­fi­cult day I’ve had since I started the job, but I knew that if I could get through it and fix the prob­lem, I’d be able to get through any­thing that could be thrown at me. Not only did I get the web con­nec­tion work­ing through the entire sub­net, I also got the sales reps lap­top to con­nect to the VPN through dial-up. Yesterday was a late night, get­ting a web­site done for a client friend. Tomorrow’s another 14 hour day, and even though I’ve known about it for a month, I don’t think it’ll make it any easier.

I real­ized that I only really feel lonely on days like these, when my body aches, my mind loses focus, and all I want to do is have some­one else take care of me. To have some­one else decide what to do, because I’m too tired to decide for myself.

Stepping out­side, hun­gry and exhausted, I put on a win­tery playlist for the walk home, since it was two hours past sun­set and the fall nights are get­ting frigid. The first song that came on was Explode by the Cardigans. I’d been sav­ing this song for months now, skip­ping it every time it came on so I wouldn’t get tired of it.

Today I finally deserved it.

17 Oct 05

This May Feel Cold

Thumbnail: Holter monitor

I’m lying down, naked from the waist up, gig­gling uncon­trol­lably. The nurse damp­ens some tis­sue with rub­bing alco­hol, and rubs down my torso method­i­cally. I feel it evap­o­rat­ing off my skin, star­ing at the ceil­ing, unsure of any­where else I could appro­pri­ately keep my eyes. Suddenly, there’s a sharply drag­ging pain on a small area, and I see her mak­ing quick, short arm move­ments in one direction.

Ow, what is that?”, I ask jovially. I’m still gig­gling, a result of my ner­vous­ness. She picks up on this.

It’s sand­pa­per. Haven’t you ever been exfoliated?”

The sand­pa­per removes the dead skin, mak­ing the elec­trodes stick better.

Are you telling me that this is going to make my chest glow, and reduce the appear­ance of any lines and wrinkles?”

She play­fully returns, “On these five spots, yes.”

Afterwards, I’m told to sign a form with a short expla­na­tion on what is being done, that acknowl­edges my understanding.

Holter mon­i­tor­ing pro­vides a con­tin­u­ous record­ing of heart rhythm dur­ing nor­mal activ­ity. There is no dis­com­fort asso­ci­ated with the test.

I’m given a jour­nal to record any abnor­mal heart­beats, whether it’s a skipped beat, an extra beat, or an irreg­u­lar beat, but for the 24 hours that I’m wear­ing this device, I don’t write in it once. It’s a guess­ing game for them, to sort out the what’s nor­mal and what’s not. After any test they do, urine, blood, stool, holter, they say the same thing: we’ll call you if any­thing shows up in the results.

They always say, no news is good news.

15 Oct 05

Just One Thing

It’s been a long week, although it was tech­ni­cally made shorter from the long week­end. Three can­cel­la­tions in three nights. Nothing’s work­ing out. I left work early yes­ter­day because my eyes stopped func­tion­ing. The pre­vi­ous day I’d worked a full 14 hours.

I used to get angry or frus­trated at things like this, but now I find myself cold and emo­tion­less, accept­ing things as the way they are. The advan­tage is that I’m a much more sta­ble per­son. It isn’t even any attempt to be stoic, but I’m sick of all the bullshit.

All I want is a break, just one thing to go my way.


10 Oct 05

Growing Pains

Thumbnail: Dry bacon

I caught my father after a shower. How for­mal the word, father. Like address­ing a char­ac­ter in some Elizabethan play. His hair was mussed, wild, even thin­ner than before. He’s been going gray since he was 15, and every cou­ple of months he colours it black again. It works for him, tak­ing at least ten years off his age. People don’t really know how old he is until he tells them that I’m in my twenties.

How scary it was to see him like this, like some crazy old fool with all his hair point­ing out­ward and uncom­posed, but still know­ing that he was still my sta­ble, strong, cold father. The thought that he may one day go senile, lose the viril­ity that he seems so des­per­ate to cling to, filled me with pity.

The bacon they serve me for break­fast is dry, dull, devoid of soft fat, or grease that pools in the waves of each strip. A result of his heart con­di­tion. No more cheese, red meat only once a week.

Thumbnail: Wrinkled hand

Even my moth­ers’ del­i­cate hands have deeply with­ered, though they remain soft from her atten­tive care, which include vary­ing sorts of designer hand creams and spe­cial­ized lotions that fol­low her every­where. My par­ents have long stopped wear­ing their wed­dings bands, but she wears one of my grand­moth­ers rings, a beau­ti­ful old-fashioned cut on a clamp mount, left to her in the will. I remem­ber my grand­mother pinch­ing my cheeks, hold­ing my hand, her skin loose but, like mom, sup­ple as a soft­ened chamois.

I see this ring on my mother, and real­ize that she’s get­ting older too.

09 Oct 05

Elementary School

Thumbnail: School crossing sign

Thumbnail: Four-square tiles

Thumbnail: Rusty tetherball pole

Thumbnail: School portable

This was my ele­men­tary school. The Catholic insti­tu­tion I attended dur­ing the first few years of mov­ing here. Where I used to offer best-friend sta­tus for a mouth­ful of Big League Chew. Old, famil­iar four-square courts are still painted on, unmoved. The T-ball poles are rusted out and miss­ing their teth­ers. Countless feet jump­ing, run­ning, skip­ping dur­ing recess have caused the pave­ment to warp and crack. Even the old porta­bles are any­thing but, their famil­iar beige tones still inhab­it­ing the back of the school, built out of con­crete and plas­tic foam when the town was bud­ding, and the class­rooms couldn’t han­dle all the stu­dents. Walking up the wooden stairs, I bet they even have the same groan­ing creaks.

Read the rest of this entry »

08 Oct 05

Weekend By Bus

Thumbnail: Greyhound station

Leaving by bus, in the rain and in the dark, is some­thing special.

The per­fect album to put on is Ágætis Byrjun by Sigur Rós, with songs like Starálfur and Olsen Olsen, but espe­cially Sven-G-Englar and Ný Batteri. Sounds are dis­tract­ing all around with the peo­ple talk­ing, the bat­ter­ing of rain­drops on the wind­shield, the thud-thump of the uneven high­way road, but they grad­u­ally fade to a lethar­gic pulse. The unrec­og­niz­able tim­bres of each dis­tin­guish­able instru­ment take over.

This is the moment. The exact pur­pose of the song. The notes are pure, amor­phous colours in the dark­ness, a dul­cet damper for the out­side world.

Soon the rhythm of the pass­ing city lights will become more and more sparse, and all that will be left in the win­dows are the reflec­tions of those with their over­head lights on, read­ing books or keep­ing eye-contact.

It’s been ten months since the last time you did this.

How has so much hap­pened since then?

07 Oct 05

Music Is The Only Thing

I wasn’t plan­ning on writ­ing until next Monday, but I can’t seem to get away from this.

With the falling tem­per­a­tures come late morn­ings. Stepping out­side ear­lier, the sky was still dimmed with the street lamps on from the pre­vi­ous night. It felt like the sun had already set, and it was only going to get darker. I was in the mood for some jazz, so I fid­geted on my iPod until I found a Duke Ellington col­lec­tion. Unfortunately, most of it is com­prised of big band swing songs, fast mov­ing, major keys, a sound that didn’t quite match the mood. I set­tled on Going Up, a calm pro­gres­sive jazz piece fea­tur­ing brushes instead of drum sticks, har­mon mutes in the trum­pets, and Les Spann on flute. Four years of pri­vate lessons, with four dif­fer­ent bands in high-school, have made me appre­ci­ate the pol­ished, round­ness of his sound. He trav­els chro­mat­i­cally with utter smooth­ness on the wood­wind, and unlike on the piano, which the fin­gers can move across in one sweep­ing motion, each note is played with a seem­ingly ran­dom com­bi­na­tion of fin­gers. In his head, he’s four bars ahead of his fin­gers, allow­ing his into­na­tion remain pre­cise with each pur­pose­ful note.

Sometimes it feels like music is the only thing that can bring out my emo­tions again. Most of them have been replaced by sim­ple deter­mi­na­tion. Everything is busi­ness busi­ness busi­ness because the world is cold cold cold.

I’m going home for the Thanksgiving long-weekend. A much needed break that I’ve been plan­ning for a while now. Funny that I still call it home when it’s a five hour drive away, and I own my own house in this city. Home isn’t where you grew up, it isn’t where you live now, home is where the par­ents are.

03 Oct 05

Walk Without Loo

Thumbnail: Statues looking up

Thumbnail: Day building

Thumbnail: War memorial

Three pic­tures.

Patience is the great­est advan­tage. Time brings all answers. Knowing that the sun will rise again tomor­row puts the mind at ease.

Sometimes you just need to wait.

01 Oct 05

Pita And Friend

After the last house­warm­ing party, Pita stayed the night, hav­ing come all the way from Montreal, not want­ing to drive back after a few hours of drink­ing. I asked him to stay on Sunday, and we ended up play­ing all the old Gamecube games that we used to play and mas­ter, back when we lived together. We never had the chance to do this since he moved to Taiwan and back to Canada over two years ago, so it was quite a rem­i­nis­cent experience.

Discovering I had a free week­end, I invited him over a lit­tle while ago for two days of pure gam­ing. The invi­ta­tion was extended to his room­mate, after Pita said that I should meet her, being a hard­core gam­ing chick who appar­ently can kick his ass in Soul Calibur 2. I have yet to observe this ass-kicking chick phe­nom­e­non for myself, and unfor­tu­nately, I haven’t had any time to prac­tice with Kilik or Raphael, so I’m pre­pared to get my ass handed to me. I’m hop­ing to make it up in Super Smash Brothers Melee.

This is the last week­end of fun before I start to get seri­ous about work (aside from a LAN party I have planned for the first week of November). I decided not to take the job at the book­store, and put my full focus on a web solu­tions busi­ness that I reg­is­tered this week.

They should be here any minute.