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

Show Me Which Constellations You Know, A Denouement

Eternal Sunshine 1

Eternal Sunshine 2

Eternal Sunshine 3

People always say that this song or that book or some movie is a story about them­selves in some way. One of my friends is truly deter­mined that his life has been proph­e­sied in the eight and a half minute rock-opera Paradise By The Dashboard Lights. My story was told in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, but it wasn’t any­thing with as much grandeur, it was sim­ply about a girl.

Interestingly enough, it’s not the sto­ries them­selves, but the details of each story that give them such relat­able con­vic­tion. In Paradise By The Dashboard Lights, Meatloaf sings about a coerced com­mit­ment lead­ing to an even­tual eter­nity spent with the wrong per­son because of a stub­born, but more impor­tantly moral, refusal to break a promise. The prog­nos­ti­ca­tion of these par­tic­u­lars sends my friend sweat­ing when­ever he hears the song.

For me, it took the form of pangs, from the details of Clementine’s char­ac­ter. The fucked up girl look­ing for her own peace of mind, who applies her per­son­al­ity in a paste. A per­son who keeps you off bal­ance, always guess­ing, and con­stantly frus­trated. A girl who sends off sirens in your brain telling you to run as far as you can before you get burned, but you stay any­way, against all logic, resigned to the even­tual fate.

And here I was, wait­ing to be saved, think­ing she’s a con­cept, or she’ll com­plete me, or she’s going to make me feel alive. When it didn’t work out, I used to say that it was for the best, that I was in it to have no regrets, but it was really because I couldn’t leave. I was drawn mag­net­i­cally, inex­plic­a­bly, to the last per­son to deserve even the effort of all the torn up thoughts.

To the one that got away.

On the week­end, I dis­cov­ered that I could finally watch Eternal Sunshine with­out those pangs when I had felt them for so long, even when I already knew how impor­tant it is not to for­get these expe­ri­ences, as Joel fig­ures out while hid­ing Clementine in his sub­con­scious. All the resid­ual emo­tions have passed, and now I can talk, and laugh, and think, and share the expe­ri­ence like an embar­rass­ing ado­les­cent mem­ory. It only took two years.

Everybody’s gotta learn sometime.

28 Nov 05

A Weekend With Pita

Pita was over for the week­end. He had a com­pe­ti­tion in the city, in both Standard and Latin, and needed a place to crash. He tells me that he’s at the point where he’s stuck between achiev­ing a higher level and pri­or­i­tiz­ing the sport as a recre­ation, espe­cially after com­ing back empty-handed this week­end when he won two golds at the last com­pe­ti­tion. 25 is get­ting old for a com­pet­i­tive dancer, and his instruc­tor, who’s the same age as him, is already the Canadian champion.

I have an inter­est­ing rela­tion­ship with Pita. He was the first per­son I met when I moved to this city, shar­ing a room on the 15th floor of a res­i­dency. Similar inter­ests and intel­lects meant that we got along much bet­ter than the other pairs of frosh room­mates, most of whom got stuck with the crazy, the irra­tional, and the dis­gust­ing. We went sep­a­rate ways the next year, but moved into an apart­ment together for the fol­low­ing two years. After part­ing ways as room­mates, when he moved 12000 kilo­me­tres to the place he was born, before com­ing back to this coun­try, we didn’t speak to each other for more than eigh­teen months.

Now, when­ever I see him, when­ever he’s in town vis­it­ing old friends or par­tic­i­pat­ing in com­pe­ti­tions, we can greet each other with­out for­mal­i­ties and just pick up where we left off. It’s on odd state between acquain­tance and friend­ship. We share our­selves, and what we’ve learned and how we’ve changed since last see­ing each other, but never keep in touch oth­er­wise. We also give each other per­spec­tive. He often speaks as if he’s ask­ing for advice or guid­ance, with­out actu­ally ask­ing. I offer my point of view, which he always inter­prets in a dif­fer­ent way than intended, and this keeps me on my toes.

26 Nov 05

Show Me Which Constellations You Know

Forget what went wrong. The tiffs, the tantrums, the tears.

Remember every­thing we had. The com­fort of cradling under sheets in the sum­mer, the quin­tes­sen­tial excite­ment of the unknown, the rush of being saved from a pro­saic life.

Show me which con­stel­la­tions you know.

And we’ll walk along the beach forever.

23 Nov 05

Back Into The Game

After a ten month hia­tus, I’m back into my reg­u­lar table ten­nis rou­tine again. I started out extremely rusty, feel­ing as if I was learn­ing how to play again, but now I’m almost at the level that I ended with. It feels like it’s advan­ta­geous to take a step back from play­ing so that I can for­get all my bad habits while remem­ber­ing all the the­ory, because I can tell exactly what I need to change to improve now. I wish I could say the same for my golf game when I get out on the courses every spring.

My bout with gas­troen­teri­tis left me with a smaller appetite and ema­ci­ated frame. The sud­den weight loss — bring­ing my weight pre­car­i­ously close to 100 lbs. — has been rather notice­able; my sweaters are baggy, my rings slip off my fin­gers, and I’ve lost two notches on my belt. Most peo­ple strug­gle to lose weight, I strug­gle to gain it and stay above 120. Table ten­nis is one of the best things I can do to fix this. After every ses­sion, I’m rav­en­ously hun­gry, and this usu­ally con­tin­ues through to the day after.

Table ten­nis is also one of the only sports that I enjoy enough to not have to drag my ass out every time, which is def­i­nitely an advan­tage when the venue is an hour away. Unfortunately, my sched­ule on Tuesdays and Thursdays now con­sists of:

  1. wak­ing up at six thirty in the morning
  2. going to work for eight and a half hours
  3. com­ing home and sleep­ing for half an hour
  4. eat­ing a din­ner which I’ve pre­pared ear­lier in the week (with no time to cook)
  5. trav­el­ling to the gym
  6. play­ing for two hours
  7. trav­el­ling home
  8. show­er­ing and falling asleep by midnight

There are no breaks in between, which means that I have to watch the clock dur­ing almost every­thing that I do. It’s a com­plete rush from start to fin­ish. The upside is that when I’m at the gym, work­ing on bet­ter short-ball con­trol, or try­ing to achieve a back­hand smash, I can for­get every­thing else, which is some­thing that doesn’t hap­pen for me easily.

21 Nov 05

A Bittersweet Life

He admit­ted to me that in his car, when he’s dri­ving alone, there’s a com­pul­sion to put together the details of his father as he writes in his mind the speech for the even­tual day that a eulogy will need to be deliv­ered. The only other per­son he’s admit­ted this to is his girl­friend, who’s labeled the prac­tice as rather dis­turb­ing. Morbid, I’ll agree, as his father is far from pass­ing, but not as strange as she makes it out to be. In return, I admit to him that I do the same thing when I piece together sto­ries of his life for the speech I’ll be deliv­er­ing as best man at his wed­ding, an event just as grave, and every bit as tragic.

He humor­ously finds relief in this.

19 Nov 05

Winter Has Come

Thumbnail: Cat snowprints

Thumbnail: Cozy comforts

Cats are always curi­ous in the snow. As they sniff, the touch of their noses melt the snowflakes, and their tongues come out to lick away the mois­ture. They cau­tiously walk into it and inspect their paws, won­der­ing how they sud­denly became wet.

As for me, I’m com­fort­able at home with a warm drink and the glow of my mon­i­tors. The week has me burned out nowa­days, and the week­ends have become the only time for me to relax, the only time I can enjoy the sun­light dur­ing the short­ened win­ter days. You can always rec­og­nize a win­ter sky by its pale­ness, caus­ing par­tic­u­larly bright days and orange nights.

Christmas will be here soon. Vacation and trips home and fam­ily and the spirit of the sea­son. Fall has come and gone. How does the time pass so quickly? Did I imag­ine I’d be here, at this stage in life, a year ago? Not at all.

I never real­ized how much I missed the win­ter, until the snow started falling.

13 Nov 05


I received a birth­day reminder two days ago in the form of a card from my par­ents (a Richard Scarry–esque draw­ing of a crowd of cats, cell-phones to their ears, with the line inside, “Can you hear me meow?”). I had mostly for­got­ten, although it came to mind about a month ago, and the thought remained dor­mant until Pat brought it up today.

During the week I made plans to meet Pat and Jen for dim sum, not know­ing that they secretly invited Aaron and Karen as well, and that it was really to take me out for my birth­day. Afterwards, we came back here to play some Donkey Konga and Mario Party. As sim­ple as it may seem to sit around play­ing games with a bunch of friends, it’s rare to find a day that our sched­ules match. It’s even more rare to hang out with a group of peo­ple I can totally relax with and just have a good time, let alone be able to indulge in the plea­sure of a bunch of addic­tive party games with them. These are real friends, peo­ple who remind me how good it is to laugh, and help me real­ize that I don’t do it nearly enough anymore.

On a day that I ask for noth­ing, I was given every­thing that I could have wanted.

11 Nov 05

Introduction: Lacey

Thumbnail: Lacey hides

Thumbnail: Lacey scratches

Thumbnail: Lacey naps

Aaron and Karen adopted another cat, and named her Lacey. She’s a tiny thing, with downy white hair and ears like satel­lite dishes. So far she’s a bit shy, as Chaos fol­lows her around often, but I think she’ll get used to it.

Until Lacey came along, I would have never sus­pected how much the cats look like their own­ers, but the resem­blance, as dif­fi­cult as it was to put my fin­ger on at first, is strik­ing. Chaos is the nearly over­weight cat who some­times has a goofy look on his face like he’s say­ing “WHATSGOINGONOVERHEREGUYS??”, and Lacey is much smaller with big ears and del­i­cate features.

09 Nov 05

The Inconclusive End

Over break­fast, a gen­er­ous gorg­ing of sausage links, over easy, and hashed browns, the real­iza­tion dawns on me that out of the eight peo­ple seated, four of us have worked in the same office.

In fact, three of us had the same job; while Aaron was work­ing as a devel­oper, Pat was brought in to replace Jacques, and I was hired when Pat left. What a small world. That’s how Pat and I met Aaron, how Aaron met Jacques, and it was only on that day, four years later, that Pat was intro­duced to Jacques.

Now we can sit around a break­fast table, fill­ing our­selves with greasy food and caf­feine in prepa­ra­tion for a week­end of gaming.

How long ago those days seem, work­ing in an unmo­ti­vated gov­ern­ment office, dat­ing some­one I thought I wanted to make my wife. I remarked to Pat how funny it was to believe back then that I knew what I wanted in life, and with a smirk, he asked me, “You think you know what you want now?”.

The ques­tion was rhetor­i­cal, of course. Sometimes Pat knows me bet­ter than I know myself. In his way, he was remind­ing me that even now, after all my con­tem­pla­tion and all my con­clu­sions, I still may not have fig­ured that out yet.

Do I really know what I want?

Not really. In my career, my rela­tion­ships, my short-term life I can say that there’s a path I’m mov­ing towards, but I also know that this will most likely change. As I learn and grow, as new goals are met and made, what I want changes too.

And per­haps being sure of this is what I really want.

07 Nov 05

The Everyday Sickness Of Stress

Thumbnail: Card by Elle

I called in sick again today, but this time I didn’t go in.

In Psych 101, you learn that a group of stu­dents are sprayed in the face with the cold bac­te­ria dur­ing their exams, while a con­trol group is sprayed dur­ing the reg­u­lar school year. The result is that the stu­dents going through their finals are more than twice as likely to get sick. Stress low­ers the immune sys­tem, and the les­son here is that there’s a direct con­nec­tion between the health of the mind and the body.

Knowing this isn’t enough to pre­vent it. Sometimes it all adds up, and you get worn down.

Little sur­prises come in the form of friends offer­ing to pick things up from the phar­macy, peo­ple I’ve never even spo­ken to ask­ing if I’m okay, or care pack­ages from ex-girlfriends, con­sist­ing of choco­late bars, vit­a­min C drops, African peanut soup, a DVD of BMW shorts, and even a get-well-soon card.

05 Nov 05

Trolley's B-Day '05

Thumbnail: Chillin outside
Thumbnail: Strike a pose
Thumbnail: Shots of Jag
Thumbnail: Dual Stella cans
Thumbnail: Cheers

A cou­ple of shots (no pun intended) from Trolley’s birth­day cel­e­bra­tion, also mark­ing my first for­ray into the dig­i­tal SLR cam­era world. I had no idea how much was involved in pho­tog­ra­phy until I started going fully man­ual (quite a change from my sim­ple point-and-shoot Elph), but just try­ing to achieve what’s “tech­ni­cally” cor­rect has made me appre­ci­ate both what the pro­fes­sion­als go through and what the artists try to express.

03 Nov 05

Still Being Tested

It’s been rough going the last few weeks. Every day is a con­flict between doing some­thing relax­ing, doing the chores that will make me feel com­fort­able, or going to bed. Even now I can’t relax. I clean my mir­rors of fin­ger­prints in between sen­tences, or brush Dolly of excess fur as she force­fully nudges my wrists in mirth, and only con­tinue writ­ing when I come up with the next idea.

A sore throat and weary body had me call­ing in sick today (I sus­pect that I caught some­thing from pet­ting the same cat as Karen yes­ter­day, who’s seems sick as a dog), although I ended up going in and work­ing six hours any­way. All the extra cur­ric­u­lar things are slowly wear­ing me down. There’s the two side-businesses, the new effort of learn­ing as much as I can about my new Canon Rebel XT by pho­tograph­ing every­thing, and the blog­ging. I also started table ten­nis again, although I’m not sure how often I can attend, tak­ing four hours out of a week­day. The one reprieve is a LAN party I’ve had planned since September that starts tomor­row, and even though it’ll be a good week­end of gam­ing, it’ll still mean lit­tle rest. Normally I’m planned, pre­pared, and prac­ticed for a LAN, but this time it’ll all be improvised.

I’m being tested, and even though I know that I’ll get through this, it’s still dif­fi­cult. I’m forced to deal with peo­ple I’ve avoided my entire life. I’m push­ing myself past the lim­its of any­thing I’ve ever gone through. To be hon­est, it’s a lit­tle eas­ier than I would have imag­ined. The strength and con­fi­dence that I’ve gained over the last two years has helped tremen­dously. Knowing that things get done in their own time keeps me from being over­whelmed. If I can make it through this, I’ll be stronger than ever.

01 Nov 05

Thrice = Love: Far From The End

The con­cert was quite amaz­ing. The set lasted just over an hour and a half. Nothing was per­formed off the first album, which makes me think that Thrice actu­ally knows how weak an LP it was. They did two encores, one of which was Dustin play­ing an acoustic ver­sion of Staring At The Sun, and the other which was a short lit­tle piece from the mid­dle of The Abolition Of Man, where Dustin actu­ally hands off his gui­tar to a guy who comes on stage with a grey hoodie, and walks into the crowd to scream the last few bars. Unfortunately, my mem­ory card ran out of space dur­ing the LAST WORD, ulti­mately ruin­ing the clip.

It was good to see that peo­ple knew all the words to Artist In The Ambulance, and Deadbolt (which they didn’t play until every­one was yelling it in chorus).

Thumbnail: Crowd
Thumbnail: Dustin with acoustic guitar
Thumbnail: Stage

On his celebrity, Dustin once said, “It’s pretty awe­some. A lot of peo­ple throw under­wear at bands, but our kids bring us books”. If I ever had the chance, I’d give him Huis-Clos by Jean-Paul Sartre.

There’s more that can be said, but I think I’ll put this to rest for now.

Thrice is Love.

The Thrice = Love Series

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