equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
30 Apr 07

Wedding Shot Scouting

Thumbnail: Church tower
Thumbnail: Brick corner
Thumbnail: Alterna Bank
Thumbnail: Matrix wall
Thumbnail: Brown brick wall
Thumbnail: Large brick wall
Thumbnail: Alterna Bank
Thumbnail: Lined wall
Thumbnail: On the stairs
Thumbnail: Stall warm-up
Thumbnail: Pat stalls
Thumbnail: Jeff stalls
Thumbnail: Tunnel pillars
Thumbnail: Wide-angle sunglasses

I offered to help Pat and Jen scout out some loca­tions for the wed­ding pho­tos. They’re look­ing for the less-conventional urban look, which I think is a great change from the clichéd tree and river shots that have been done to death. Since it’s mostly archi­tec­tural, empha­sis is placed on struc­tures, tex­tures, and colours. We spent a cou­ple hours down­town, dis­cov­er­ing areas of Ottawa that we’ve never found before (and Pat’s lived here all his life).

This was prob­a­bly one of the most pro­duc­tive photo ses­sions I’ve ever had. I got a bunch of great shots, but there are too many to put into one entry here.

27 Apr 07

Letter From An Ex-Girlfriend


Where do I start? I can’t even begin to recount the last six weeks of my life, and really if I were able…Im [sic] not sure you’d want to hear it. I won’t say the “let’s be friends” email was a sur­prize [sic]…I sup­pose I just needed to hear it.

I find a let­ter in my mail­box, wrapped in a gold foil enve­lope, teal let­ters on a white page.

The let­ters are blocky, square, with no regard for case. She used to write me notes with her Es as three par­al­lel lines, count­ing on the eye to draw an illu­sion of a ver­ti­cal bar, and her Os dot­ted in the cen­tre. It was one of her things, one of the details she used to be unique.

Now she’s aban­doned all that.

I’m already skep­ti­cal, on my guard.

It’s hard though…I had my chance…I sup­pose you had yours through our relationship…you couldn’t be what I needed then and now look at you — the sub­ject of my fantasies…watching from afar…wishing I’d have saw [sic] these things then — won­der­ing if maybe I had looked through less skep­ti­cal eyes, I could have saw [sic] who you are today.

I’m reminded of why it ended. Of how hard I tried to make it work, of all the things she did to hurt me.

Now she points out her faults. The mis­takes she made. She flat­ters me. She lets her guard down. I’ve never felt her so vul­ner­a­ble, and this is how I know she’s changed.

You lead the struc­tured life I always wanted, I don’t know if you have a coun­ter­part in your life…I don’t know if you’re con­tent now to struc­ture your own world and not yet some­one else’s…there are few things I do know about you…but what I do see…Im [sic] sorry I didn’t before.

Truth be told…Ive [sic] dri­ven all the way to the east end on a few occa­sions and turned back. My inten­tion was to fall at your feet…to kiss them as I had in the past but with a renewed respect for you and a bet­ter under­stand­ing of myself. But I was affraid [sic].

I’m reminded now of what drove me to achieve what I have now. To cast off that part of my life, to buy a house, to live on my own, to move on. I may never have had any of this if it wasn’t for her.

I’m sure you’re shak­ing your head now…maybe laughing…maybe not even read­ing this any­more. You’re done with me it seems. i’m [sic] okay with that…afterall [sic] it’s my own fault. I had that chance and I couldn’t take it.

i’ll [sic] get to the point: on the next page is a short fan­tasy I had pass through my mind yes­ter­day and so I wrote it down in my jour­nal because lately some­thing has changed in me — I never assign a name or face or…person to my fantisies…lately you’ve been front and centre.

I’m reminded of how intensely sex­ual she was. The nights we stayed up, alive in flame, con­sumed by our con­cu­pis­cence, push­ing the lim­its of our bod­ies. There were times when I never felt so alive.

Before you read this next page…know that if you had wanted me at your feet—Id [sic] be there in a heartbeat—even still—what an hon­nor [sic] it would be to curl up at your feet while you read this—

Okay now Im [sic] stalling—because Im ner­vous at the thought of you open­ing your eyes to my want…for you.

Her words aren’t enough. Not enough to change my mind or what’s past.

Too lit­tle, too late.

Note: The sec­ond page, the fan­tasy, wasn’t included, for fear that it would give away the iden­tity of writer. It reads like some­thing from l’Histoire d’O; noth­ing vul­gar, but flat, dry, and devoid of lit­er­ary devices.

25 Apr 07

Words From One Who Cannot Write

I used to fancy myself a poet. Then I read a series of poems by Susan Musgrave and real­ized how naïve I was to believe such a thing. So I stuck with writ­ing, and fan­cied myself a writer, until I read Aurora’s words, mys­te­ri­ous and res­onat­ing, still bit­ter from the breakup in January.

A while ago, it felt like I ran out of things to say. Now I real­ize that it’s not a lack of sub­ject mat­ter, but a lack of conviction.

The seren­ity, bal­ance, matu­rity I’ve gained has robbed me of the pas­sion that once fueled my writing.

Even as recent as January, Dave Seah, pro­lific cre­ator of the Printable CEO, Procrastinator’s Clock, and fel­low 9ruler, said that I wrote with “literate-yet-conversational inten­sity, the kind of writ­ing that sounds good when spo­ken aloud”. Now my entries are dry and tech­ni­cal, devoid of the inten­sity I used to feel, and I fear that it’s a reflec­tion of myself.

Maybe this is why I’m so quick to embrace my moods and emo­tions. They let me write the way I used to, with the lyri­cal qual­ity and style I once enjoyed.

So I sit here, with the lights out and Leonard Cohen on, the early folk stuff before he went synth in the 80s, songs of love and hate, win­dows open to the night, try­ing to recap­ture the pas­sion that drove me to write when I started this blog.

I’m not a writer. I can’t write.

I’m sim­ply a thinker, with the need to express himself.

23 Apr 07

Spring Realizations

Thumbnail: Sparse beard

I’m a thinker, not a writer, a critic, not an artist, and I can­not, for the life of me, grow a beard.

20 Apr 07

Letter To An Ex-Girlfriend: Bronwen

I love you too much baby
For you to be with me
I love you too much baby
I gotta set you free

—Shea Seger, I Love You Too Much

You were the clos­est I’ve ever come to per­fect in a girl­friend. In fact, you raised the bar. Now I know there are girls out there who are funny, intel­li­gent, open-minded, car­ing, sane, and I’ll always be look­ing for the same now.

Making love to you was fun because you’re so damn cute. I loved to look into your eyes, though I wish you’d be able to keep yours open.

In so many ways, we worked. My love of dark choco­late and your love of milk choco­late meant that we’d never have a prob­lem fin­ish­ing off an assorted box. You’re so easy-going, while I’m so uptight. All the lit­tle things, like puz­zle pieces made of clay.

Even though it’s been months since we’ve bro­ken up, our video is still by far the most played item on my iTunes playlist. It’s such a beat­i­ful mem­ory, and I’ll always cher­ish it.

I still miss those notes you used to leave me about what you did dur­ing the day and when you’d be back. Those times we’d take the bus, and you’d rest your head on my shoul­der. Those times we’d wres­tle and fall asleep in a pile, right there, from exhaustion.

I miss all these things, but the fact is that it didn’t feel right, and it wouldn’t be fair to either of us to keep going. You deserve to be with some­one bet­ter. Someone who will fully appre­ci­ate you and the things you do.

I know I never said it in our rela­tion­ship, but I loved you.

And I still do.

The Letter To An Ex-Girlfriend series

  1. Introduction
  2. Ashley
  3. Michele
  4. Christie
  5. Jackie
  6. Louise
  7. Bronwen
17 Apr 07

A Year Of Sobriety

It’s com­ing close to a year now that I ended my affair with mar­i­juana. As refresh­ing, pro­duc­tive, and lucid as it is to be sober, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t miss it.

THC has the delight­ful abil­ity to make every­thing bet­ter: music, food, girls, writ­ing, rid­ing the bus, doing the laun­dry. There are also things that can only be appre­ci­ated after a joint. You don’t see, hear, feel things the same way.

It turned into a lifestyle, a word I like to use because it sounds so much bet­ter than “addiction”.

Between 2004–2006, I’d only be sober for about nine hours on weekdays.

Weekends were straight wake-and-bake, espe­cially if there was a party, a camp­ing trip, or some good old dim sum.

I was a com­plete light-weight too; it didn’t take much to have me float­ing for a night. As a result, one ounce of BC hydro would last me more than a year. An added bonus was that I never needed a dealer; there was always some con­ve­nient source through a friend of a friend. O Canada, land of the free, the Inuit, and the plen­ti­ful bud. I’m sure that Pierre Burton would agree.

Sessions were a habit­ual provider of great mem­o­ries (from what my brain was actu­ally able to retain). I still think of Darren at the wheel of the Civic, look­ing over at me and whis­per­ing “Vanilla Sky” as he’d taunt our mor­tal­ity by let­ting the wheel drift the car into the oncom­ing lane. It was at once ter­ri­fy­ing and invig­o­rat­ing, some­thing you could only feel after a ses­sion in the park. Even a few of my favourite entries were either inspired by weed or writ­ten under the influ­ence.

Food was also a big thing. Every meal was like nec­tar and ambrosia. I never really stopped eat­ing over the course of the day, as I’d have food around me at all times. Pretty soon, I hit a sat­is­fy­ing all-time high (no pun intended) with my weight. Now that I’ve stopped, I lost it all. They won’t even let me donate blood any­more because I don’t meet the min­i­mum weight require­ments. This is what I looked like, circa early 2005, and this is what I looked like circa early week­end. How I miss the full­ness of my face.

Sobriety is dif­fer­ent. Everything is clearer, but toned down. Life gets evened out.

As much as I miss it, I won’t go back to smok­ing weed again. I had a hard enough time stop­ping in the first place, and the risk of get­ting addicted again isn’t worth it.

Maybe I was just get­ting older, but near the end, the side-effects started tak­ing their toll on me.

Instead of the rac­ing ideas and inspi­ra­tion from when I started, I turned into a zoned-out waste. I’d be com­pletely use­less when it came to talk­ing or think­ing. I stopped lik­ing myself when I was stoned. My stom­ach felt like it was slowly digest­ing a sack of peb­bles, and my throat became sore and dry. Even now, I still come across the odd stash of honey lozenges in the back of a drawer.

It was espe­cially scary in the last few months when I could feel my tol­er­ance build­ing up. I was con­stantly chas­ing after that head-tripping peak from the early days, smok­ing more and more, but it’d never last longer than a half hour. The weed would help me sleep, and when I stopped I turned into an insom­niac. For a while, the will to do any­thing eluded me because noth­ing was entertaining.

Now I’ve quit my vices alto­gether. No alco­hol, no caf­feine, noth­ing. Sobriety is underrated.

I know I’ll never go back to that time in my life, but I sure do miss it.

13 Apr 07

Letters From A Prisoner

I’m not going to deny it any­more. It’s always been you. But I under­stand, you don’t need to explain, I get it. Work, our lives, we’re busy. You’re about to go off on a grand adven­ture. And I can see why you think that a rela­tion­ship with me and that adven­ture are mutu­ally exclu­sive but I just want to say my piece. Getting lost with each other could be the great­est adven­ture we’ve yet to embark on and I just want to say that if you want to get lost with me I’ll always be here per­pet­u­ally lost with­out you.

I read his let­ters, some dated, some titled with expres­sions of for­lorn hope. Familiar words that cut me to the bone.

They’re beau­ti­ful. I never knew he was capa­ble of such poignancy, such emo­tion. It fills me with envy.

Sometimes I just want to be noticed. Not often, but some­times late at night when I’m think­ing about the “what-ifs” of the day. Being too obvi­ous would be dan­ger­ous though and so I slink away, back to my cave to think, rather than do. Such a cow­ard, I loathe myself. You’d say no, every ratio­nal sce­nario I’ve played out ends with that.

He’s trapped, per­pet­u­ally lost in the thought of another. This time, I’m on the out­side, look­ing in. It’s all new for him, and I can hear in his voice how much he detests it.

His angst is unbe­com­ing. He’s not a writer, but he writes these let­ters, hop­ing the cathar­sis will save him. I’ve been here enough times to know that it’ll be alright, but that there’s also noth­ing I can do to help, so I resign myself to helplessness.

And now I’ll be pre-occupied and jeal­ous for the rest of the week­end. Me, jeal­ous and not trust­ing myself to speak, me. Not me, any­more. This love is like lep­rosy, pieces of myself are falling away. It’s ablative.

Yet his tone is so unfa­mil­iar, so unlike him. Me, he writes, Not me, any­more. He doesn’t even believe it him­self. The san­guine friend, reduced to an enfee­bled state he wants des­per­ately to cast aside. Even with the wis­dom I’ve gained, it still sur­prises me how attrac­tion, infat­u­a­tion, love can make one so irrational.

In these let­ters he shares his feel­ings, wholly, as if to say, “Here is my heart. Please hold it gen­tly”. The words would strip him bare if he spoke them to her, so he writes them where no one but me will read.

A pris­oner, he lives in this cage, caught between the will and the risk of express­ing to her how he feels.

09 Apr 07

Weekends with Pat (and Jen)

Thumbnail: Marinating pork and lamb chops
Thumbnail: Pork and lamb chops, Vietnamese style
Thumbnail: Godiva hot chocolate
Thumbnail: A pasta dish
Thumbnail: Spice rack
Thumbnail: Steeping tea
Thumbnail: Woven trivet
Thumbnail: Woven trivet

A sense of hedo­nism has the bet­ter of me lately.

I remem­ber feel­ing this way once. It was about five years ago, soon after I lost my grand­mother and job in the same week. I’ve come to under­stand that such is a pass­ing phase, and that I should sim­ply enjoy such guilt-free things while it lasts.

As a result, I’ve been self­ishly monop­o­liz­ing Pat these last few weekends.

An exor­bi­tant amount of plea­sure comes from the mot­ley assort­ment of foods he prepares.

A friend who cooks as a hobby is up there with the other friends with sim­i­lar sorts of prac­ti­cal, eso­teric knowl­edge: the lawyer friend, the car mechanic friend, the com­puter geek friend (so I’m told).

Over the course of a few sum­mers he per­fected his grilling tech­nique, and has now moved onto a mas­tery of cold sal­ads. We have an agree­ment when it comes to prac­tic­ing his cook­ing skills, where he gets a record of his con­sum­able accom­plish­ments, and in return I get a mem­o­rable meal and some great pho­tos. He often men­tions that he’ll have to join forces with Karen, an accom­plished baker, to pro­vide the desserts. Baking abil­ity is some­thing that’s admit­tedly eluded him, as he focuses on entrées.

The other, less tan­gi­ble yet truly sub­lime form of plea­sure comes from our con­ver­sa­tions. Pat’s a per­son who lis­tens and con­tributes to a topic in equal mea­sure. Someone who doesn’t just wait for his turn to speak. As a result, I’m com­fort­able open­ing up to him, some­thing that I shy away from with most other people.

Lately though, it’s clar­ity that I’ve been look­ing for. Too often, I over-analyze my life, and it’s no secret that my emo­tions affect me more than I’d like.

When I need to sort out my life, Pat’s the per­son I turn to. I don’t seek guid­ance or coun­cil from him, only perspective.

In the end, noth­ing clar­i­fies and refreshes like a cou­ple mugs of tea and some good conversation.

I’ve been hog­ging Pat these last few week­ends, steal­ing him from the rest of his friends and fam­ily, but I don’t care.

Hedonism is the new rule, and I’m giv­ing in with caprice.

05 Apr 07

Lessons From a Childhood of Abuse

I often explain to peo­ple that Karaoke to the Chinese is like drink­ing to the British. We don’t pour pints at our par­ties, we sing. It’s part of the cul­ture. The Chinese-Canadian dream is a Toyota in every dri­ve­way and a Karaoke machine in every house.

My dad was no excep­tion. Like all his hob­bies, he took Karaoke seri­ously. He had singing lessons from a famous teacher. Sometimes, he would record him­self and lis­ten to the tapes to ana­lyze his singing when dri­ving me to school. We would never talk on those hour-long rides, I would only hear him singing, some­times along with his recorded voice, some­times prac­tic­ing the parts that he didn’t have quite right.

When I was young, about seven, I would sing one of the English songs from his col­lec­tion. I couldn’t tell you why. Karaoke didn’t par­tic­u­larly inter­est me. Maybe it was a way for me to be a part of his life. He had noth­ing to do with me otherwise.

Read the rest of this entry »

02 Apr 07

First Photo Contest Win

Thumbnail: In A Flash Contest Results

Not the grand prize, but I won the por­trait cat­e­gory for my pic­tures of Chaos from Canada Day ’06, and Gerry from my Gerry Project.

Our judges had their hands full. With close to 100 entries, and pho­tos of every­thing from pen­guins to croc­o­diles to war vet­er­ans and other UCC lumi­nar­ies, it wasn’t an easy deci­sion to com­pare these apples and oranges. Ultimately, the judges decided that tech­nique and con­tent counted in equal measure.

To cre­ate as fair a judg­ing process as pos­si­ble, names, grade, and grad­u­a­tion years were left off the pho­tos, and replaced by a num­ber. That way, cur­rent stu­dents and Old Boys all had an equal shot. (To ensure no judge was swayed by the opin­ion of another, each wrote down his or her favourite num­ber, with no prior discussion.)

It was a blind judg­ing, and as a result, my two pho­tos tied with each other for first place with­out the judges know­ing that they were both from one per­son. Not bad for the first pho­tog­ra­phy con­test I entered.

Seeing my pic­tures in print is great, but win­ning isn’t the impor­tant part.

The most sat­is­fac­tion comes from know­ing that I could step out of my com­fort zone to call a stranger and take pic­tures of him, which was the main goal of the Gerry Project.

Being rec­og­nized for the pic­tures was a nice lit­tle bonus.