equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
26 Apr 06

My Average Life

You ever read any Nietzsche?

Nietzsche says there are two kinds of peo­ple in the world. People who are des­tined for great­ness, like Walt Disney, and Hitler. And then there’s the rest of us. He called us “The bun­gled and the botched”.

We get teased. We some­times get close to great­ness, but we never get there.

We’re the expend­able masses.

—Jack Lucas, The Fisher King

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When I lis­ten to this song, a post-hardcore blend of catchy, melodic gui­tar lines and tech­ni­cal scream­ing, a feel­ing washes over me. I rec­og­nize it immediately.

Envy.

It’s the other, other, Jeff’s band, and he fits the eccen­tric rock­star per­sona to a tee. His clothes are all tight-fitting, thrift-store finds and Sally Ann recy­clables. Even his frames are a mod­ern­ized ver­sion of the old-school bad-boy sun­glasses. An unas­sum­ing type until you talk to him about his music, and then he’s a gal­va­nized, ani­mated per­son. He spends his money on stu­dio hours, and his free-time lay­ing down tracks, mix­ing songs, jam ses­sions. I don’t even know the name of his band.

I do know that this song is a huge improve­ment over the mate­r­ial he gave me a month ago. The struc­ture is less exper­i­men­tal, the sound is more pol­ished. The result of a new drum­mer, and redone vocals. Jeff’s goal is to get his name out there, win a record­ing con­tract, and spend the rest of his life mak­ing music. I can already tell that he’ll catch the atten­tion of the right per­son at the right time.

The envy burns a hole in my chest.

Knowing that this young man, in his mid-20s, is going some­where, is what fuels it. He has the ambi­tion, the abil­ity, the mind­set to achieve great­ness, while I remain one of the many.

If I had the time, the money, the ambi­tion, I’d do the same. I’d be a direc­tor. A pho­tog­ra­pher. Things I think I’d be great at. Instead, I sim­ply use video and pho­tog­ra­phy to doc­u­ment my life, as an extra form of expres­sion over the writ­ten word. As a result, my desire to improve is solely dri­ven by my per­fec­tion­ist atti­tude, not a desire to be great or to make money. I under­stand that to become one of the few is an invest­ment of one’s entire life, and the risks of doing so are severe. Too severe.

It’s my choice to live like this: risk-free and secure. It’s a part of my per­son­al­ity. I invest in gov­ern­ment bonds over stock. I’m a 9-to-5 guy, who doesn’t like going out on week­days, whose pri­mary goal is to pay off the mort­gage before I retire. My great­ness is a steady pay­cheque, a cat who jumps on my lap, and eight full hours of sleep. I enjoy the sim­ple things, and sat­is­fac­tion with what I have.

And I real­ize that not know­ing the name of Jeff’s band is a sub­con­scious choice I make. That way, there’s less chance I’ll learn of his suc­cess when I’m read­ing the paper.

Less chance I’ll be reminded of how aver­age my life is.

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22 Apr 06

No More Tea

Thumbnail: Hong Kong milk tea with menu

Walking in, the first thing to notice is the aro­matic smell of freshly brewed tea that per­me­ates the air.

They wait on us using Cantonese with var­i­ous accents, an assort­ment of dialects from minor provinces. They rudely throw the dishes on the table, and tell me that I can’t take pic­tures of the menu. My par­ents com­plain to me about the ser­vice, about their main­land man­ners, and say that they’ll never come here again.

I slowly sip my tea, and leave before it’s half fin­ished. Even on a full stom­ach, I can feel myself get­ting uneasy.

The caf­feine is mak­ing me anx­ious, a sub­tle reminder of the panic attack I suf­fered last year.

It’s been six months since I’ve had a glass of authen­tic Hong Kong style milk tea. No more, I’ve decided.

Saturday morn­ings won’t be the same.

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20 Apr 06

Spring Thaw

I can feel myself get­ting run-down, a vic­tim of my own active­ness. There’s barely enough time to do any­thing dur­ing the day now, and week­ends leave me with lit­tle more than time to cook. Last week I went home with Bronwen to meet the par­ents, and hav­ing caught another red-eye, was jet-lagged the whole time.

Pita comes over to cel­e­brate his new career this week­end, with John vis­it­ing at the end of his exams the next. The week­end after is help­ing Pat move into his new place, then Aaron, then a break, then Nick’s wed­ding, which brings me to the end of May.

I was plan­ning on hav­ing a bar­be­cue at my house, but real­ized that I have nei­ther the time nor the money. Bronny’s also mov­ing in for the sum­mer next week, which will def­i­nitely cut down on travel time, but increase my photo explo­ration pro­por­tion­ately as we do things around town.

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07 Apr 06

Birthday Rounds '06

Thumbnail: Lacey and Rick 
Thumbnail: Aaron 
Thumbnail: Two strangers 
Thumbnail: Trivial Pursuit pieces 
Thumbnail: Buddies 
Thumbnail: 6th floor apartment view 
Thumbnail: Pat playing poker 
Thumbnail: Phil and Nick 
Thumbnail: Me volunteering for something 
Thumbnail: Karen 
Thumbnail: Girls play Trivial Pursuit 
Thumbnail: Rick 

To cover three birth­days (Pat’s, Aaron’s, and Karen’s respec­tively), we all met up at McEwen along the river. The mer­ri­ment con­sisted of some light drink­ing, friendly poker play­ing, and rather seri­ous photo taking.

They say that the ruder you are, the bet­ter a pho­tog­ra­pher it makes you. Since being rude goes against the very basis of my per­son­al­ity, get­ting can­dids of peo­ple with a large cam­era and flash becomes quite a men­tal chal­lenge. Some peo­ple really don’t like to have their pic­ture taken, and they sig­nal this by blink­ing rapidly with bewil­der­ment, com­bined with the fur­row­ing of their brows in annoy­ance. This reminds me that I pri­mar­ily bought a cam­era to have mem­o­ries of my friends, who are all com­fort­able with my paparazzo ten­den­cies. It cer­tainly makes me appre­ci­ate the strangers or acquain­tances who don’t mind.

It was also a hap­pen­stance meet­ing of the four bosses, although def­i­nitely not the pri­vate affair that it usu­ally is.

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05 Apr 06

Greyhound Home

Thumbnail: Bus seats
Thumbnail: Sleepy Passenger
Thumbnail: Half way scenery

I’m on my way home. It’s early morn­ing, and the air is clean and clear. Everyone on the bus is asleep, and even­tu­ally I suc­cumb to the drowsiness.

Half-way through is the Log Cabin, a Greyhound autho­rized stop that’s a com­bi­na­tion con­ve­nience store and restau­rant. Out of the dozens of times I’ve trav­eled this route, I never get off the bus. It’s some pho­bia I have of los­ing my seat, or los­ing my place, or for­get­ting to get back on, but this day I grab my cam­era and step off, giv­ing up to my wanderlust.

This shaggy, old build­ing, located on the side of a two-lane asphalt road stretch­ing end­lessly, is sur­rounded by wilt­ing trees and grass. There’s noth­ing else around but an aban­doned red struc­ture 50 metres away. I walk behind. To my sur­prise is a frozen river run­ning par­al­lel to the high­way, a stark win­ter scene I rarely get to see. The ele­va­tion and veg­e­ta­tion keeps this hid­den from my view on the bus.

And once again, I’ve taken a chance, and this is my reward.

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03 Apr 06

Cold And Sterile

Thumbnail: Circular ceiling
Thumbnail: Seeing around corners
Thumbnail: Geometric roof
Thumbnail: Campus stairs
Thumbnail: Map reader

The cam­pus life when you’re just a num­ber, when you choose not to party with all the brain­less idiots, when uni­ver­sity is just another awk­ward tran­si­tion out of high school.

I remem­ber this.

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