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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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15 Nov 05

Reishi

Thumbnail: Reishi closeup

Thumbnail: Reishi glass

Last week I was so sick that it felt like my brain was slowly leak­ing out of my head through my nose. I’ve had a jar of lingzhi, or pow­dered reishi mush­room, sit­ting on my kitchen counter for months, but I never felt like I was sick enough to have any until then. After one glass of “tea” and a night of decent sleep, I felt bet­ter than after any­thing else I tried. My sinuses cleared, my nose dried up, the headache at the back of my neck went away, and the only thing left was the scratch­i­ness in my throat.

I’d heard of lingzhi before, as my dad started drink­ing it daily a few years ago, but never really under­stood, or believed, it’s mag­i­cal prop­er­ties until now. As a child grow­ing up in a Chinese fam­ily, it’s not uncom­mon to be exposed to all sorts of eso­teric appendages and veg­e­ta­tion, but noth­ing was as revered as the reishi mush­room, not even gin­seng. It turns out that it has a his­tory as the old­est mush­room to be used in med­i­cine over 4000 years ago, and peas­ants were once exe­cuted for con­sum­ing such a valu­able resource as it was reserved exclu­sively for the emperor and his family.

As described in Wikipedia:

Lingzhi is anti-tumor, immunomod­u­lat­ing and immunother­a­peu­tic. It is also adap­to­genic, anti-allergin and anti-hypertensive due to the pres­ence of triter­penes. Apart from these prop­er­ties, lingzhi has also been found to be anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, anti-diabetic, anti-hypotensive, and hepato­pro­tec­tive. It has also been found to inhibit platelet aggre­ga­tions, and to lower blood pres­sure, cho­les­terol and blood sugar.

It makes me quite proud to have such a sig­nif­i­cant sub­stance as a part of my cul­tural his­tory, a lit­tle secret known only to those lucky enough. Perhaps I may feel the same way about tiger penises some day.

The only down­side is the taste. I’m sure it’s noth­ing like eat­ing cock­roaches on Fear Factor, but it’s def­i­nitely a play on the palate that takes a bit of get­ting used to. The smell reminds me of the musty scent of old, dried, golden coloured lum­ber, that’s crumbly and falling apart. This comes as no sur­prise, as it only grows on the trunks of dead trees. Even though it comes in (clumpy) pow­der form, it doesn’t exactly dis­solve in water. At all. The pic­ture of the mug is after a good stir and five min­utes of set­tling. For some rea­son, half of it sinks and half of it floats. I tried to describe it to John, and the best I could come up with is that some­how it’s an entire glass of dregs.

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13 Nov 05

Birthday

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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