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

A Taoist Dilemma

Over some cab­bage roll and peach juice, I asked a sage, “Taoism teaches me to accept every­one and cast aside my purist ways. Yet how can I do this if it’s in my nature to refuse to accept people’s flaws? I must accept myself as I accept others”.

He told me, “If you are happy with your­self and the deci­sions you make, then there is noth­ing to worry about”.

Then he took my bowl, washed it, and we played Warcraft III for eleven straight hours.

29 Jul 07

Summer Days Alone

Thumbnail: Clothesline

Thumbnail: Purple flower

It’s 28°C out­side. It’s hot, but there isn’t a touch of humid­ity in the air. I can’t help but take my time. I’m sup­posed to be think­ing of where I’m going, what I’m doing, but it’s too nice out. Another beau­ti­ful sum­mer day.

And no one to share it with.

27 Jul 07

Interpol and Cat Power

I gasped when I found out that Interpol was com­ing out with a new album. Then I threw up a lit­tle in my mouth when I heard the first single.

Why, Interpol, why? What hap­pened to the min­i­mal­ist, sparse gui­tar riffs? Why did you have to sell out with lighter, more acces­si­ble music?

Turn On The Bright Lights remains one of the most mys­te­ri­ously affect­ing albums of my life. Antics was crap. Our Love To Admire is worse. Interpol needs a return to form.

Oh yes, and I’m in love with Cat Power. Not from her new stuff, which I find pretty bor­ing (her mate­r­ial was a lot more inter­est­ing when she was a drunk), but from the way she dances in the Cross Bones Style video.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXWvjkX446A 480 380]

And while it doesn’t exactly make me go out and buy Kleenex at Costco, it does make me rub against the cor­ners of walls and door frames in a felo­nious manner.

Don’t worry, Mel der Maur, no one will ever replace you.

26 Jul 07

Pat Doesn't Need Me

Sometimes I feel like I don’t offer any­thing to Pat. I call him for advice all the time, ask him to give me rides (gro­ceries, fur­ni­ture, large items on which he bar­gains), vent to him. He grew up rely­ing on nobody but him­self, so he never asks me for any favours, and I sup­pose he has Jen with whom to express his feelings.

Maybe this is the root of my inse­cu­rity. Pat’s friend­ship with me appears diluted. We’d both take a bul­let for our friends, but mine is a far more exclu­sive club than his.

Pat doesn’t need me.

But I need him.

24 Jul 07

An Emotional Day, Reminding Me

Today I woke up and felt uneasy, remind­ing me that I’m human.

Tonight I read that People who lived through Yenan remem­bered see­ing caves in val­leys crammed with peo­ple, “many of whom had gone mad. Some were laugh­ing wildly, some cry­ing” and I felt dis­il­lu­sioned, remind­ing me that human com­pre­hen­sion is lim­ited by the human mind.

Tonight she put her hands on another man, I was sum­mar­ily dis­missed from the group, and it made me jeal­ous, remind­ing me that I’m alive.

Tonight I sat on a rick­ety wooden bench and fin­gered the yin-yang engraved in the mid­dle, remind­ing me that it’s all part of the Way.

24 Jul 07

Are You In A Lot Of Pain?

People won­der how it got so far. They ask me if some­thing hap­pened and I tell them, “Yeah…my childhood”.

They ask me if I hate you, and I tell them “hate” isn’t a strong enough word.

It hurts, doesn’t it? Are you in a lot of pain? Cause I was in a lot of pain.

I’m still try­ing to fix your dam­age. Still try­ing to cover up the scars.

You deserve this. You did this to yourself.

And I fuck­ing hope it hurts.

22 Jul 07

Creatures Of Our Cultures

One or sep­a­rate bills?”, the wait­ress asks us. She has a slight Japanese accent, but aside from her raven hair, her fea­tures are dis­tinctly Occidental.

One please”.

We’re treat­ing, Jeff”.

Nope. You guys are in my town.”

What does that have to do with any­thing?”, they ask, and threaten to leave if I pay. It does noth­ing to con­vince me or change my conviction.

You guys are a lot more behaved than when I was your age”, says the man sit­ting next to us.

Thumbnail: Teppanyaki Flare 

When the bill comes around, we wrench the tray from each oth­ers hands.

Must be odd”, the man whis­pers to his wife, who’s laugh­ing at us.

But it’s not odd to me. It’s the Chinese way. Like hav­ing too much food when you’re host­ing a party because to run out is the ulti­mate embarrassment.

To me, it’s odd when some­one doesn’t offer to pay.

The same way it’s odd to hear North American peo­ple com­plain about their jobs. To the Chinese, a job is how you take care of your fam­ily. It doesn’t mat­ter that it’s mind­less, stress­ful, or hard phys­i­cal labour. You’re just happy to have that oppor­tu­nity. All my Canadian Chinese friends feel the same1.

This is how we were raised. It wasn’t a rule that was spo­ken. We learned it by watch­ing our par­ents, who would clip coupons for gro­ceries, only buy clothes on sale, re-use paper by writ­ing over again with dif­fer­ent coloured inks, but go out to feast with ten peo­ple then fight to pay the bill. Sometimes, they’d even get up to find the server to make a pre­emp­tive, sur­rep­ti­tious pay­ment. Occasionally there were spilled drinks and soiled clothes, as the fight became phys­i­cal2. I think it’s nice part of the cul­ture to be so adamant about friend­ship and company.

And I’m glad to be a part of it.

  1. Aaron is prob­a­bly one of the few peo­ple I know who under­stands. He’ll fight with me, not just over a bill when eat­ing out, but for movies, gro­ceries, and other sun­dries. []
  2. I remem­ber a child cry­ing once, a rel­a­tive of a rel­a­tive, think­ing the par­ents were argu­ing with anger. []
22 Jul 07

Memories Of My Own

They’re out now, the lot of them. Out-of-towners who drove five hours to cel­e­brate with one of their own. People I haven’t seen in years. Seven maybe? God, I feel old. I’ve known a few of them since grade three.

But bar hop­ping isn’t my scene. There’s also this dull, nag­ging headache from stay­ing up yes­ter­day into the early morn­ing. Catching up like old times. I’m reminded of the sleep­overs. Summers putting on plays and learn­ing how to make piñatas at Camp Creative. Catching min­nows and cray­fish in the streams back home.

I’m a dif­fer­ent per­son now though. I was a dif­fer­ent per­son from them then even. I never really fit in the group.

Sometimes I look at the pic­tures of their trips and events and I think to myself, “I wish I was more social. I wish I had more memories.”

But I know it’s not in me to be social.

I have to her­mi­tize or I get over­stim­u­lated. It took me until my early twen­ties to come out of my shell. Then I think of the par­ties I’ve been to, the times I’ve had, the pic­tures I’ve taken, and real­ize that I do have memories.

I have enough.

I have my own.

18 Jul 07

The Best Part Of My Day

She leans the chair back, my neck to rest in the cra­dle of the wash basin. The water comes out luke­warm. She knows it’s hot outside.

Shampoo. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. In small cir­cles, her fin­gers work my scalp, mas­sag­ing with­out too much pres­sure, scratch­ing when there is no itch.

This is the best part of my day”, I say.

Mine too”.

17 Jul 07

The Part In My Hair Has Moved

It used to be on the left side of my head, now it’s on the right.

This does not make sense to me.

15 Jul 07

Chasing Amy

And while I was falling for you I put a ceil­ing on that, because you were a guy. Until I remem­bered why I opened the door to women in the first place: to not limit the like­li­hood of find­ing that one per­son who’d com­ple­ment me so com­pletely. So here we are. I was thor­ough when I looked for you. And I feel jus­ti­fied lying in your arms, ’cause I got here on my own terms, and I have no ques­tion there was some place I didn’t look.

I sup­pose I would have enjoyed Chasing Amy more if the dia­logue had been more believ­able, but I couldn’t buy it.

We don’t live in a Dawson’s Creek world where everyone’s a psy­chol­o­gist, com­pletely in tune with their emo­tions and the emo­tions of others.

People aren’t con­fronta­tional in real life either. They don’t say what they mean or mean what they say.

And when you’re try­ing to tell the girl that you’re in love with her, it doesn’t come out as some flow­ery, roman­tic verse, it comes out in jum­bles. You’re trip­ping over your own words cause it’s the girl.

Maybe I was just hop­ing for a love story that worked out. I would have given in to the sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief that peo­ple actu­ally talk like that, had there been a happy ending.

15 Jul 07

This Was Written On A Saturday Night

I’m most pro­duc­tive on Saturday nights. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing noth­ing all day and I’m feel­ing guilty. I’ve never been one to work on Saturday after­noons, which were made for relaxation.

The nights are dif­fer­ent though. It’s when I can con­cen­trate on my writ­ing. I’m tired. My guard is down.

The week comes pour­ing out.

This was written from the heart

With my back against the wall, I sit on the ground next to my back door, open­ing it to let the breeze drift in. Sometimes I turn my head to look out­side and smell the night air. It’s cool, no mat­ter the time of year. The street lamps are soft, and they bathe my back porch in warm light.

One can’t help but feel influ­enced by such serenity.

This was written out of order

I’ve become a slave to this blog. After some self-evaluation, I’ve come to real­ize that every­thing is inspired but forced. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, no more.

It’s time to start writ­ing when I want.

13 Jul 07

Becoming One With The Tao

After 26 years, I’ve real­ized that I’m a Taoist.

I dab­bled in Existentialism (after read­ing Huis Clos, revis­it­ing it when read­ing Thus Spoke Zarathustra), athe­ism (when I was dat­ing an Anglican), agnos­ti­cism (after we broke up), Nihilism (while read­ing sev­eral books of Russian Romantic lit­er­a­ture), Buddhism (in early uni­ver­sity), and Christianity (through­out my life). None of it ever felt complete.

In 2003, I hap­pened to come across a few verses of the Tao Te Ching. The con­cepts were dif­fi­cult to grasp at first1. Eventually, with the guid­ance of some Chinese elders, I came to a solid foun­da­tion of under­stand­ing, then approached it slowly and care­fully. I had put so much hope in find­ing a sys­tem of beliefs in the past, that I was scared of hur­riedly align­ing myself with the first one that bared a pass­ing resem­blance to my own.

More specif­i­cally, I’m a philo­soph­i­cal Taoist. I don’t believe in any poly­the­is­tic aspects of the reli­gious side, the div­ina­tion of the I Ching, or any of the archaic sex­ual prac­tices of ret­ro­grade ejac­u­la­tion and the like.

This doesn’t mean that I’m a per­fect Taoist, inso­far as there are no per­fect Christians, or per­fect peo­ple. The Tao Te Ching is my bible. It guides me on how to live and behave as much as it is a label of my exist­ing beliefs. There are things I have yet to learn, apply, or both.

I think I’ve always been a Taoist. I just never knew it. For as long as I can remem­ber, I’ve lived by the prin­ci­ples of bal­ance, empti­ness (or recep­tive­ness), and strength of flex­i­bil­ity. I’m glad that it’s a part of the cul­ture of my blood. It makes me proud. Understanding Cantonese has cer­tainly helped me appre­ci­ate the beauty of it all.

One doesn’t decide to become a Taoist. The Way is described as hav­ing no begin­ning or end. You must become one with it.

As such, a trav­eler is at his des­ti­na­tion at every part of the journey.

  1. I’ve come to see that the ideas are eas­ily lost in trans­la­tion []
11 Jul 07


Thumbnail: Puddles sniffs
Thumbnail: Puddles on a leash
Thumbnail: Puddles yawns
Thumbnail: Puddles on the couch
Thumbnail: Sleepy Puddles
Thumbnail: Big head Puddles

Puddles was the sole sur­vivor of a lit­ter of pup­pies left in the cold of Canadian win­ter, because the owner didn’t want to keep them. He stayed alive by bury­ing him­self under his moth­ers body to stay warm. At a cou­ple weeks old he was taken to his new and per­ma­nent home, where he’s lived for over 13 years.

Puddles is cur­rently suf­fer­ing from aller­gies (he’s chewed through his fur), arthri­tis, and severe dia­betes. He can’t even make it up the front steps with­out the momen­tum of a run. Once a healthy 110 pound dog, he now weighs 88lbs.

I was com­mis­sioned to take some pic­tures of him with the kids before he passes.

Thumbnail: Fresh baguette
Thumbnail: Shrimp pasta

In return, I was offered din­ner; a savoury pasta with tiger shrimp and lemon zest, along with apple crisp for dessert. All made from scratch.

This was a small exer­cise in shoot­ing RAW (used for about half the shots). It’s great to not worry about white bal­ance and to have an extra stop expo­sure adjust­ment, but I still find that get­ting the pro­cess­ing right is a bit tricky.

04 Jul 07

Antipathy Never Came So Quickly

Try to put me down and make me feel bad. Do your best to make your­self look good.

Throw some advice my way (I’ll leave it). Assume you know me bet­ter than I know myself (what arro­gance!). Give me some food for thought, and believe you were any­thing more than a pass­ing fancy (but try to get over yourself).

My god, how wrong I was about you.