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

Still Human

Crank it. Loud, and maybe you’ll under­stand how I feel.

I’ve been in such a slump the last week. Maybe I’m over-worked, over-tired, and over-stressed. Things haven’t been going my way.

It’s filled me with such frus­tra­tion, sad­ness, and anger.

Now I’m left to face the ugly world alone, and all I can think is to never put your trust in some­one. Never be depen­dent, never expect any­thing from any­one because you’ll only get hurt.

Pick your­self up, cause no one’s going to help you.

I try to ratio­nal­ize every­thing and fol­low the Tao, but I can’t. Everything is so overwhelming.

As much as I’ve learned, as much wis­dom as I’ve gained, as far as I’ve come, I’m still human.

29 Aug 07

Busy and Broken

Every day I promise myself I’m going to bed early to catch up on sleep, and every night I break that promise.

27 Aug 07

A Trip to Zone Closer to Perfection

On a whim, I went to Zone after work. I’ve been in a dec­o­rat­ing mood lately. I spent about an hour in there, just gath­er­ing design ideas with what they had.

Thumbnail: Potpourri plate

Thumbnail: Potpourri plate closeup

I picked up a pin­cush­ion plate and some pot­pourri for my cof­fee table, replac­ing the glass bowl I had before, and lined it up with the edge of the chaise lounge.

Decorating my house has always been impor­tant to me, but I’ve never rushed into it. Part of the rea­son why it’s so empty right now is because I want to put up my own pic­tures, and I never had enough with which I was sat­is­fied to fill the walls. I don’t want pho­tos of mem­o­ries — what I have at work — I want pic­tures that set a cer­tain mood. Another thing that makes it hard is that I’ve never liked non-functioning dec­o­ra­tions; can­dles you’d never burn, baubles that don’t do any­thing, knick-knacks that clut­ter shelves don’t make sense to me.

Part of me wants to go out and buy every­thing at once and be set­tled, but another part of me never wants to finish.

Otherwise, I’d lose the thrill of the hunt, and the plea­sure of adding another thing that’s just right to the right place.

26 Aug 07

Long to Belong

Among the shots and the rounds, the friends and the fun, I found a grad­u­a­tion photo framed on his shelf, a can­did shot of the Class of ’05.

Every one of my “clique” was among the faces. There were oth­ers as well, peo­ple I knew from class, even though I never talked to them. How dif­fer­ent they all looked — all prim and proper in aca­d­e­mic regalia — yet familiar.

I was the only one not in co-op, and grad­u­ated a year before every­one else. My con­vo­ca­tion was insignif­i­cant. I only went because my par­ents wanted to see me make that walk that stage, a return on their invest­ment. I don’t know who the dean of my fac­ulty was, or who handed me my diploma. I was just another num­ber in a prof­i­teer­ing insti­tu­tion. It meant nothing.

But see­ing that photo struck a chord in me.

It made me real­ize how I’ve never really fit in. How I never belonged to a group. For some rea­son, I still long for that, or, per­haps, to have had that at one point in my life. Last time it was ele­men­tary and high-school. This time it was uni­ver­sity. I don’t know why. I have my own group of friends now. Not a clique, because they don’t hang out with each other, but a mot­ley crew I’ve built through the years.

I know it doesn’t make sense. There’s a rea­son I was never truly a part of any group.

The log­i­cal side of me under­stands that it isn’t sig­nif­i­cant. That it doesn’t, and shouldn’t mat­ter. That noth­ing is more bor­ing and pedes­trian than fit­ting in.

But another part of me feels like I missed out on something.

And I don’t know if I’ll ever let that go.

24 Aug 07

L'esprit de mes reve

Coming up with the right thing to say when it’s too late. The French have a term for it: l’espirit de l’escalier. Staircase wit. When you’re leav­ing a party, going down the stairs, per­haps play­ing over an inci­dent in your head, and you think of that per­fect riposte.

Staircase wit isn’t lim­ited to insults and witty retorts though. It can be any moment when you can’t think of any­thing to say, only to reach an epiphany soon after.

Sometimes, when I’m feel­ing shy or anti-social or just plain flus­tered, the entire day is filled with such moments.

I always end up say­ing what I want in my dreams, but it’s never as sat­is­fy­ing. This is how I know that life isn’t a dream.

Otherwise, I’d be more witty.

22 Aug 07

Background on the Tao Tattoo

Part of The Tao Tattoo Series

  1. The Meaning
  2. The Experience
  3. The Background
  4. Tattwo
Thumbnail: Various ways to write Tao
Thumbnail: Cover of Tao of Pooh

Asian char­ac­ter tat­toos have become some­what of a cliché, but not doing some­thing because it’s trendy is as bad as doing it because it’s trendy. I chose to get a tat­too for myself, which is why I it’s on the inside of my wrist, fac­ing me when I see it. Unfortunately, for­eign lan­guage tat­toos are often wrong and hilar­i­ously bad as well, as if a child had drawn them.

Thumbnail: Laozi getting off his ox
Thumbnail: A painting of the character Tao

So I did my research, and found as many draw­ings of the Tao char­ac­ter as pos­si­ble. At one point I went as far as track­ing down peo­ple who had pur­chased a cer­tain paint­ing with Tao in the title, and call­ing them to ask if they would take a pic­ture and send it to me1. I’m a per­fec­tion­ist in my every­day life, so I was going to be sure about some­thing that would last for the rest of my life.

Read the rest of this entry »

  1. I felt ter­ri­ble when one guy said that the paint­ing was with his ex-girlfriend []
19 Aug 07

Apple Vs. Khakis

The juice of an apple, much like the apple itself, even­tu­ally turns brown, and what was an innocu­ous spot of mois­ture on the pants sur­rep­ti­tiously becomes a vulgarity.

The pants, though per­fectly ironed and clean, must be washed again.

Curse you, apple.

Curse you, and your phe­no­lic liquids.

16 Aug 07

The Tao Tattoo Experience

Part of The Tao Tattoo Series

  1. The Meaning
  2. The Experience
  3. The Background
  4. Tattwo

I decided to get my Tao tat­too about a month before I actu­ally had it done. Choosing an artist wasn’t hard. Tiana, who’s awe­some bro­ken argyle tat­too reminds me of insou­ciant kites against a sky, had hers done by Jay at New Moon. After see­ing some more of his work, which fea­tures finely detailed lines sim­i­lar to what I had in mind, I decided to go with him as well.

The appoint­ment was short. A quick check to make sure the posi­tion­ing close to the wrist joint was accept­able, and to leave a deposit.

The recep­tion­ist asked me, “What does the kanji mean?”.

Kanji?”. I ques­tioned her assump­tion, and she quickly cor­rected her­self. “Sorry, is it Chinese or Japanese or Korean…?”. I explained the char­ac­ter, and how it’s writ­ten the same way in Chinese and Japanese, the cal­lig­ra­phy being in a Chinese style.

Read the rest of this entry »

14 Aug 07

i love you but i don't know you

i felt dis­con­nected all day. dis­tant. dis­jointed. another bee in the hive. i don’t know why.

when i stepped out­side get­ting off work, it was grey, breezy, devoid of sunshine.

the bass in my ears moved me. dri­ving the beat of my heart. walk­ing my feet.

the sun slowly came out, mixed bit­ter­sweet with the clouds.

and then you showed up. black and white across the street.

i kept my head down as you walked by, care­ful not to ruin that per­fect image in my head. it was enough to keep me going. to make me smile when the most i could feel all day was neutral.

i love you but i don’t know you.

13 Aug 07

The Tao Tattoo

Part of The Tao Tattoo Series

  1. The Meaning
  2. The Experience
  3. The Background
  4. Tattwo

Thumbnail: The Tao tattoo

Thumbnail: The Tao tattoo macro 

To remind me to keep my chin up.

To remind me not to sweat the small stuff.

To remind me to live in accor­dance with the nature of things.

To remind me to stay balanced.

To remind me to decrease my wants.

To remind me to indulge myself every now and then.

To remind me that every­thing is as it should be.

To remind me to stop com­par­ing myself to others.

To remind me not to use force against the world, and embrace the way of the universe.

To remind me to fol­low my own nature, and not the trap­pings of life.

To remind me that noth­ing really matters.

To remind me to have no claims to life.

To remind me to be spon­ta­neous, delib­er­ate, watch­ful, rev­er­ent, hum­ble, pure, and accepting.

To remind me that heaven is found on earth.

12 Aug 07

New Camera Gear and Twin Portraits

Thumbnail: Differences between twins
Thumbnail: Orthogonal twins
Thumbnail: Body shot
Thumbnail: See no evil, hear no evil

Okay, okay, I admit it, I bought more cam­era gear. This time it was a flash, an umbrella, and a com­bi­na­tion stand to hold the two. The flash is a Canon 580EX II, the most impor­tant fea­tures being:

I was able to test it out the rig on Andrew and Alex, who hap­pened to be in town that week­end. Out of all my friends and acquain­tances, I’ve known Andrew and Alex the longest, since ele­men­tary school. We got to hang out for a night and catch up before they had to take off. I can still tell them apart from face and voice, although it got quite a bit harder.

It was a good prac­tice in doing por­traits of two peo­ple, and fig­ur­ing out how var­ied the same scene can look with the main light source at dif­fer­ent posi­tions. Overall, I’m very pleased with how they turned out.

09 Aug 07

I Hate My Doctor

He doesn’t lis­ten to me. He’ll ask me a ques­tion, then cut me off. He triv­i­al­izes my symptoms.

Next thing I know, I’m rushed out of office.

He’s a nice guy, but nice doesn’t get you healthy.

08 Aug 07

Apocalypse Now

I just had a day with­out con­tact in the office. So I called every sin­gle per­son I reg­u­larly talk to on the phone, and not one of them picked up. These aren’t just sin­gle peo­ple, they’re fam­i­lies and cou­ples, which means that every­one in the house was out. I even called my cell phone to make sure my land line was working.

It’s like I’m the only sur­viv­ing mem­ber of an apoc­a­lypse. I’d half expect to see a mush­room cloud in the dis­tance, houses on fire, bod­ies in the streets if I looked out the window.

I’ve never felt so alone.

06 Aug 07

A Note On Chinese Titles

Both my Tai Chi teach­ers eschew the title of “Master”, and pre­fer to be called by their first names. As I’ve had it explained to me, even the true mas­ters feel like they need a cou­ple extra life­times to com­pletely mas­ter Tai Chi. This is what my teach­ers com­pare them­selves to, so I sus­pect they feel it erro­neous to use the same title, even though they’ve been teach­ing for decades.

I find it very awk­ward. In Chinese, the word “Master” or “Sifu” implies a teacher, not nec­es­sar­ily a level of skill.

When I was young, I called my cousin by his Chinese name, because I thought it was insult­ing to address him by his rela­tional title of biu dai for “mater­nal younger male cousin” (or “mother’s sib­lings’ son who is younger than me”). I thought the “dai” part referred to some­one as “under”, the way “junior” could be used pejo­ra­tively in English. The thing I didn’t under­stand was that it was appro­pri­ate, per­haps even more appro­pri­ate than address­ing him by name. I’ve since become privy to the com­plex rules of Chinese names and titles, espe­cially rela­tional fam­ily ones.

As a kid, the first thing you’re sup­posed to do when enter­ing a house is greet every­one — adults most impor­tantly — by their title.

People con­tinue this tra­di­tion though, and even as par­ents, they’ll address their elders the same way. It’s a way of rec­og­niz­ing and respect­ing the roles in the fam­ily. Even though my Tai Chi teacher is Occidental, I feel com­pelled to address my teacher as “Master”, instead of “Mike”.

And it’s hard habit for me to break.

04 Aug 07

Puscifer Queen Bee

I always thought I’d meet you at a con­cert. One of those moody, bass-heavy shows as if Robert Smith was fronting Portishead telling us to dance, dance, dance through the fire. The music’s good but too loud, and the lights are warm orange and reds.

But you’re too Suicide and I’m too xXx.