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


equiv­o­cal­ity 8.0 has arrived. Though arriv­ing with lit­tle fan­fare, I felt this design update was impor­tant enough to have it’s own entry.

8.0 is an evo­lu­tion in the design of this blog. I wanted a lay­out where the infor­ma­tion was pre­sented with less clut­ter, while main­tain­ing the min­i­mal­ist feel. There’s a rea­son behind every mar­gin, every line, every shade.

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27 Jun 07

New Glasses: Wide-Arm Wireframes

Thumbnail: Colour is gunshot metal
Thumbnail: Front view
Thumbnail: Side detail, D&G logo
Thumbnail: Side view
Thumbnail: White designer case
Thumbnail: The branding on the case
Thumbnail: Texture of pad printed fabric

I finally got some new glasses. It’s been years since I had my pre­scrip­tion updated and things in the dis­tance were start­ing to get blurry, mak­ing my eyes tired very early in the day. This time I got a wire-frame pair, instead of the thick emo frames I got last year, though they’re still D&G.

The wide arms are in now, but I really don’t like that style (or maybe it just doesn’t fit my face). I also tend to not buy any­thing that’s cur­rently fash­ion­able, as I pre­fer clas­sic designs. The wide wire-frame arms on this pair push the whole idea of trendy, but are oth­er­wise acceptable.

I’m still get­ting used to the weight. They’re very light, but still not as light as my last com­monly worn pair, which were like not wear­ing glasses at all. The good thing, I’ve come to dis­cover, is that they’re not flex­i­ble, and while this makes them more frag­ile, they’re much eas­ier to clean as they don’t bend when try­ing to hold steady.

Some peo­ple ask me why I don’t get con­tacts, and it’s because glasses are a part of my per­son­al­ity. In a way, they define me, stay­ing in touch with my dorky past. At the wed­ding Tom asked me to take them off for the pic­tures since they turn photo grey from UV light, but I refused. I think I would have looked stranger with­out my glasses, then with my eyes obscured by tint.

Choosing these frames took a cou­ple of vis­its. I had a hard time trust­ing Bronwen’s opin­ion because some­times she thinks I look good in things that make me either laugh or hurl. I went to Lenscrafters with Aaron and he tried on one pair that imme­di­ately made me think that’s the one, but I didn’t have that instantly recog­ni­tion with mine. Louise did though when I showed her, and that’s when I decided on them. Apparently they make me look more mature, or some shit.

26 Jun 07


I haven’t been sleep­ing well lately.”

Are you in love, Jeff?”


25 Jun 07

Thoughts On Missing A Play

In post war England, an immi­nent mur­der is announced in the local paper. A mur­der does occur, but not the one expected and it is Miss Marple who comes to the res­cue to solve the mys­ti­fy­ing case.

Two tick­ets, but I’m on the down­swing. It’s the intro­verted end of my cycle and I can’t meet new peo­ple or go out­side with­out feel­ing some kind of anx­i­ety. I used to live two blocks away from the the­atre, pass­ing it many times but never in atten­dance. I always kept an eye out for a play I wanted to see — Equus, or Hamlet, or Picasso at the Lapin Agile — but noth­ing piqued my inter­est. This time, the oppor­tu­nity pre­sented itself, Pearl double-booked with extra tick­ets, and I couldn’t say no.

I force myself to go.

It’s a lit­tle warm to be wear­ing a blazer, but noth­ing else affords me the pock­ets for my Moleskine, pen, lens cloth, and iPod. Waiting at the bus stop, I write.

At this time on a Sunday, I’m usu­ally wind­ing down. Taking out the garbage, doing the dishes, fin­ish­ing off an entry, get­ting things squared away for another week. Instead, I’m head­ing out. For days I’ve been try­ing to write about how jum­bled I feel. There have been new devel­op­ments, both good and bad, leav­ing me with a mix­ture of excite­ment and dis­ap­point­ment. The most I can say is that it makes sense, how I feel, and I can trace every emo­tion to a cause.

The bus comes. On it, I lis­ten to my music but I can’t get in the right head space. Nothing fits. I’m not feel­ing sad, or happy, or jaded, or ener­getic. I skip song after song.

Stepping off the bus, my ago­ra­pho­bia begins to choke me.

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22 Jun 07

They Know I Know They Know

The guys, they tease me. Call me “fucker”, half jok­ing, half jeal­ous. I ner­vously laugh it off, but this gives me away. They know they’re right; no direct neg­a­tive acknowl­edges their sus­pi­cions. I don’t want to admit it, but I can’t stop laugh­ing. We’re all think­ing the same thing.

To deny myself is to deny them too.

20 Jun 07

This Is Rob

Thumbnail: Me and Rob laughing

Rob and Chris took off their coats. Not that it was par­tic­u­larly hot, but the Prince Charlie jacket doesn’t allow much flex­i­bil­ity of move­ment when work­ing uten­sils at a table.

I tugged on mine, but the but­tons on my vest held me back. I had the youth size, you see, a word I like to use more than “children’s”, where the vest is an illu­sion cre­ated by sewing two pan­els to the jacket. I would have been naked had I had taken off my coat as the vest is a mod­ern cuirass, offer­ing a form of psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion, and I was left with the option of all or nothing.

I made a com­ment about it in pass­ing, and Rob started to unbut­ton his vest, then adamantly told Chris to take his off. I had to con­vince them that I was jok­ing before they stopped.

This has come to define Rob to me. A guy who’s will­ing to embar­rass him­self so that oth­ers will feel more com­fort­able. It reminded me of Adam Sandler in Billy Madison, pre­tend­ing that he peed his pants by splash­ing water on his crotch so Ernie didn’t feel so bad about doing it him­self. Sometimes Rob goes out of his way to help you and ends up embar­rass­ing you even more, but his inten­tions make it easy to for­give him. His heart is in the right place, and that’s more than you can say for most peo­ple nowadays.

Beneath his tough-guy, rough-edged per­sona is the teddy bear.

It’s the same way with his intel­li­gence. He wraps his thoughts in humour, per­haps as a way of hid­ing his per­spicu­ity to put oth­ers at ease1. Unfortunately, some peo­ple can’t see beneath this veneer and mis­in­ter­pret it as typ­i­cal male obnox­ious­ness. It didn’t fool Pat though, who described him as diverse, a per­son with some­thing insight­ful to say about any sub­ject. It was only after Pat used that word that I real­ized Rob is a cos­mopoli­tan who feels at home any­where doing anything.

Rob is also one of the few peo­ple who can tease me and get away with it, because he’s just as self-deprecating. I’ll make fun of his size, and he’ll make fun of mine. And while he’s a man’s man, he has no prob­lem admit­ting that he has he vis­its craft stores for his daugh­ter, that he watches cook­ing shows with his wife, and that he loves his brothers.

That’s the great thing about Rob. He’s filled with con­fi­dence and he has no prob­lem speak­ing his mind, instead of pussy-footing around sen­si­tive sub­jects2. He’s the gen­uine arti­cle. What you see is what you get, and if you have a prob­lem with him, it’s your fault, not his.

That’s Rob.

  1. I think many are intim­i­dated by some­one who can ana­lyze things []
  2. I hate it when some­one doesn’t speak up because they’re scared that some­one may not like their opin­ion []
15 Jun 07

The Old and Immature

My mom called.

She started about some trans­fer forms, unfin­ished busi­ness in the wake of the divorce, but care­fully segued into ask­ing if I wanted to take a trip to the States with some other family.

This is how she tries to make amends. She doesn’t apol­o­gize or ask how I’m doing because she can’t. She can’t admit that she’s done any wrong, not even to her­self. Her inse­cu­rity doesn’t allow her to show any vulnerability.

I keep my rage in check, but it’s a hard fire to fight. After what I’ve been through, after telling her never to talk to me again, she has the audac­ity to ask as if noth­ing has happened.

With a firm voice, I tell her no. No to the trip, no to her, and this causes her tone to grow angry. It’s funny to think that she may be angry at me, like a rapist being angry at his vic­tim, but I know it’s not anger. It’s sad­ness, but she masks it with anger, the way she hides her guilt behind her excuses and explanations.

It’s eas­ier to deal with the loss of your only child when it’s his fault.

From what she says, I can tell she’s more wor­ried about her image of being a bad par­ent to her friends, than to actu­ally being a mother to me. This was the per­son who “raised” me. The per­son who was sup­posed to teach me to be proud of who I am. To not be super­fi­cial. To be hum­ble. To own up to my mis­takes. To take respon­si­bil­ity for my actions. It’s a scary thought.

I can read my mom like a book. Not because I’ve known her for so long, but because she’s still a child. I know exactly what she’s think­ing, and at the same time, she shows a total lack of self-awareness. She still hasn’t learned the impor­tant lessons, the epipha­nies one expe­ri­ences through child­hood, ado­les­cence, and young adulthood.

Talking to her is like talk­ing to myself at an ear­lier stage in life.

13 Jun 07

Rockstar Jeff

Thumbnail: Muted colours
Thumbnail: Sun shot
Thumbnail: Soft focus
Thumbnail: The chest tattoo
Thumbnail: Two star tattoos
Thumbnail: Blackness

I asked Rockstar Jeff, an old source of envy, if I could take a few por­traits of him.

Jeff’s very pho­to­genic, but he doesn’t agree. I’m 75% prep and 25% bad-ass, whereas he’s 75% bad-ass and 25% prep. Sometimes we joke about trad­ing styles because there’s a mix in each of us, and we always like where the other ones goes with it. The truth of the mat­ter is that I could never pull off his style. Anyone can do prep, but he’s got the right face, the right clothes, the right atti­tude for hardcore.

This was his hit single.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (ver­sion 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the lat­est ver­sion here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

He’s the gui­tarist and screamer. The band broke up, but he’s cur­rently explor­ing other musi­cal oppor­tu­ni­ties. It’s inter­est­ing to hear his other projects; he’s always the front­man, but he adjusts his singing style to the band while adding his own edge.


Stars on wrist

This was a mutual tat­too done with a friend (his “right hand” per­son), which is why there are two of them. His friend has the same tat­toos on her wrist.

Crows on right arm

As the crow is the uni­ver­sal sym­bol of bad luck, Jeff got each crow to remind him of a hard time in his life. Each one of them sig­nify a moment. There’s one red one with a nail going through it, as a sym­bol that his bad luck is hope­fully behind him (but he says it isn’t yet).

Daisy on right arm

The daisy is his mom’s flower. It’s not really wilted or bro­ken (which is what I thought at first), it’s sim­ply miss­ing petals. He got this at a time when he was really angry at her, which is why it’s red. He had drawn two years ear­lier, but only decided to get it inked when she kicked him out of the house, to remind him of the hard love of family.

Stars on elbows

There’s actu­ally one larger star on each elbow, with the ini­tials of peo­ple com­ing out of them. They’re the first tat­toos he ever got, to remind him of the tough lessons that he’s gone through with or from these people.

Heart on chest

This one was inspired by his mom. He was mak­ing mak­ing some fool­ish deci­sions around 18, and his mom reminded him that he should be happy with him­self when he looks in the mir­ror, that there should be no hid­ing from the truth, and he should always be true to himself.

The word “truth” is sur­rounded by peri­ods to empha­size that it’s a strong fact in itself. The word “self” doesn’t start with a period because the heart is a part of the sentence.

The only change he would make is to have it drawn back­wards, so he could read it when he looks in the mirror.

11 Jun 07

Guest Entry: Inspiration is Everywhere

This is a guest entry by fel­low 9rules mem­ber, Dave Seah. We started this entry swap­ping ven­ture as an exer­cise in writ­ing out­side of our nor­mal styles. It also let us see how dif­fer­ently we would explore a topic that was defined by a sin­gle sen­tence, which was “Inspiration is every­where”.

I approached Dave because he writes with a deep insight in his words while pre­sent­ing it with a light can­dor that draws the reader in. Not only do I admire his writ­ing style and con­tent, I’m envi­ous of his abil­ity to come up with cre­ative, phe­nom­e­nal ideas. I’m glad that he agreed to par­tic­i­pate in this exer­cise, and leave his words and ideas as part of my per­sonal journey.

You can read my take on the sub­ject at Dave’s site here.

If I were in your shoes and got hit with an happy-sounding phrase like INSPIRATION IS EVERYWHERE, I’d men­tally spring into one of three mind­sets: 1. Skepticism 2. “Amen, Brother!” or 3. Apathy. I’d also make a few assump­tions: that the inten­tion behind such a procla­ma­tion was to be inspi­ra­tional in itself. Furthermore, the meta-assumption is that we’re all look­ing for it, or need it real bad.

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09 Jun 07

In a Child's Face

Thumbnail: A child's eyes

Thumbnail: Sitting on the bench
Thumbnail: Running through the grass
Thumbnail: Mom holds the shoes
Thumbnail: Playing in a puddle
Thumbnail: Running to mom

In a child’s face you see inno­cence, in his expres­sion, hope, in his eyes, the world.

08 Jun 07

Give Me One More Day

I’ve been bit­ing off more than I can chew.

I used to enjoy my quiet, lazy, relax­ing nights where I could sit down and write, but chances for cre­ativ­ity, expres­sion, socia­bil­ity have recently been sprout­ing up every­where. These oppor­tu­ni­ties that don’t come around often, so I force myself to take the ini­tia­tive before they’re gone.


06 Jun 07

Letting Go of Bronwen

Bronwen started dat­ing another guy.

It’s funny, my first reac­tion is to think another guy, as if we’re still dat­ing our­selves. I sup­pose our rela­tion­ship has never been con­ven­tional, but that’s what makes it so spe­cial. We still spend our week­ends together. We still talk on the phone for hours with­out actu­ally talk­ing. We’re close enough that I’m com­pletely com­fort­able around her, enough for me to let my guard to go down.

It’s made me real­ize how pro­tec­tive I still am of her, how upset I’ll be if she gets hurt. I think of all the things I could have done bet­ter, and hope this guy can treat her bet­ter than I did.

I have all these mixed feel­ings about it though. I’m wor­ried that I may lose my friend, but I’m glad there’s some­one to make her happy. In the end, I know I can’t be self­ish. Letting go of her the first time was hard enough.

Doing it again doesn’t make it any easier.

04 Jun 07

At the Bike Park with Tyler

Thumbnail: Classic Tyler
Thumbnail: Park rule signboard
Thumbnail: Ramp
Thumbnail: Shadows
Thumbnail: Concrete island
Thumbnail: Meeting the kids
Thumbnail: Talking
Thumbnail: On one wheel
Thumbnail: Wide shot

Tyler and I decided to com­bine our hob­bies (bik­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy respec­tively), so we headed to the local skate and bike park after work. It’s amaz­ing to see him on his bike. It’s a part of him, an exten­sion of his body. I got a ride home while he rode his bike, and even though we left at the same time he beat me there. He was pretty burned out that day, due to it being his first time out this year, he still man­aged the energy for some great shots.

At the park, we met these 15-years-old kids. As Tyler noticed, you can tell a lot from some­one from the bike they ride. The kid with the most skills (black shirt and jeans) had a used bike, some­thing he put together him­self. The other two kids had shiny new bikes with hel­mets. Tyler said it revealed how their par­ents were sup­port­ive of their hobby, but weren’t as hard­core in their hearts.

The great thing about Tyler is that he had no qualms about ask­ing these kids, ten years his junior, how to do cer­tain tricks. He has such a con­fi­dence that he wasn’t embar­rassed about it at all.

Thumbnail: To the dirt
Thumbnail: Private property
Thumbnail: The dirt park
Thumbnail: The starting grill
Thumbnail: On the hill
Thumbnail: The 360 Kid
Thumbnail: More image than substance
Thumbnail: Tyler with tongue out
Thumbnail: Comparing bikes

The ses­sion was an exer­cise in motion pho­tog­ra­phy. It’s very dif­fer­ent from dif­fer­ent what my usual por­traits and still shots. Being placed in such a sit­u­a­tion forced me to learn how to use AF Servo, which turned out to be more use­ful than I could have imagined.

The con­cept of motion is so sub­tle. You stop a frame in motion, and from look­ing at the bike you can’t tell which direc­tion they’re going. It’s the mus­cles, the expres­sions on their faces, the direc­tion of con­cen­tra­tion that tell you what a biker is try­ing to do.

01 Jun 07

Embracing My Emotional Reactions

I laugh when I’m ner­vous. Especially around girls I’m attracted to — total gig­gle­fest. I also laugh uncon­trol­lably around peo­ple I meet for the first time. People lower their guard when there’s laugh­ter, and I sus­pect my mind sub­con­sciously finds humour in every­thing to put peo­ple at ease around me.

Around peo­ple I hate, I’m dead silent. That’s how you know I don’t like you: if I don’t talk. The mere pres­ence of one of these peo­ple forces me to fully con­cen­trate on not drilling a 4-inch hole in my tem­ple with a cord­less DeWalt.

Pat’s dif­fer­ent. He told me once that if you ever see him shake his head and shrug his shoul­ders, you’re in his black­list. In an act of faith, he’ll give every­one respect and will even go so far as to stab you in the front, but he gives up if you cross his line of ethics. He’ll never be involved with any­thing related to you after that. It’s not that he hates these peo­ple, like me, he loses all inter­est. This is prob­a­bly even worse than my reac­tion which, because his is cold. You mean noth­ing to him. I try to let go as well, but I can’t. In the back of my head I cling to the hope that these peo­ple can change. Sometimes I also won­der if these peo­ple ever lis­ten to them­selves and can under­stand exactly why I hate them, because it’s so obvi­ous to me.

I also cry in emo­tional sit­u­a­tions. It doesn’t have to be any­thing par­tic­u­larly sad or happy, just a time when emo­tions are high. Intense sports games, Tim Horton’s com­mer­cials, some­times just because some­one else is cry­ing. I can hide it pretty well though; peo­ple don’t under­stand if you start cry­ing in a seem­ingly innocu­ous situation.

As frus­trat­ing as these emo­tional reac­tions can be, I know they make me who I am.

I used to try des­per­ately to remain cere­bral and log­i­cal — like Pat — but my emo­tions would always get the bet­ter of me. Now I’ve learned to embrace them. I could only do this after accept­ing myself and becom­ing con­tent with who I am. They give me some­thing Pat doesn’t have: intense inspi­ra­tion. That rush, when your stom­ach churns, when your head is burns, when you heart flutters.

They’re a part of me, and they make me who I am.