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

The Weeping Sky

Thumbnail: Hurdman station on a rainy day

Thumbnail: Walkley station on a rainy day

It hasn’t stopped pour­ing since I woke up. I’m trav­el­ing through the city in my favourite hoodie. Thinking about you and your del­i­cate wrists. The pho­tos I took of you smil­ing, always look­ing away. Wondering what it must be like in your world. Wondering if we’ll ever meet again. Wondering what you meant when you told me it’s hard to be alone when you’re told you’re grow­ing old.

I write this so I won’t have to write about you again.

Perhaps in a sim­pler world things would have worked out dif­fer­ently, and you would have given me a sec­ond thought.

But I have no tears in me.

The sky weeps instead.

25 Oct 07

A Truth is Worth a Million Words

You inter­pret my heart, my nature, as you wish to believe it.

— Onegin

People see what they want to see.

As I touched on a while back, some of it comes from inse­cu­rity. Other times, from a fal­lacy of pro­jec­tion as some peo­ple igno­rantly, and mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cally, believe that every­one must think and act as they do. There are a few other cases that don’t fit into either of these cat­e­gories though.

An exam­ple: I once offered a guest in my house some yogurt. The first thing he asked was, “Is it going bad?”. He didn’t believe I would have given it to him oth­er­wise. It was a per­fect reflec­tion of his dead­beat friends who expected you to eat before com­ing to a party, and he had never known any other type of peo­ple. A more extreme exam­ple is if you offered to feed some­one at your house and they got insulted because they thought you were imply­ing that they couldn’t afford to feed them­selves. Some peo­ple see things that aren’t there. It’s an amaz­ing sub­con­scious sign of their characters.

The way some girls inter­pret things is also an inter­est­ing phe­nom­e­non. Some of them think a guy who’s talk­ing to them must be hit­ting on them so they drop the b-bomb in ran­dom points of con­ver­sa­tion, just to warn you they have a boyfriend. Some girls think you’re gay because you don’t make any advances towards them. Some girls think you’re torn up, depressed because they declined your advances, and end up mak­ing a big­ger deal about it than you do. I want noth­ing more than to tell these girls to get over them­selves, but I bite my tongue because they end up embar­rass­ing them­selves more than I could ever do myself.

There are also times when a per­son is so pig-headed and stub­born that they see every­thing through a fil­ter, inter­pret­ing your actions in some crazy way, and believe you’re at fault because they sub­con­sciously refuse to see their own mistakes.

The old me would have been insulted when some­one assumes I’m a cer­tain way. Nothing would anger me more than some­one pre­sum­ing to know how I feel or what I’m like, and I used to care des­per­ately what they thought, even if I knew I was just mis­un­der­stood. It’s an inter­est­ing feel­ing to be passed that now1.

The truth leaves no room for bias, only interpretation.

I’ve learned never to take respon­si­bil­ity for other peo­ples’ inter­pre­ta­tions. Only take respon­si­bil­ity for your intent. You learn a lot about a per­son from the way they inter­pret things and from the way they see the world.

With the truth in your heart, it doesn’t mat­ter what any­one thinks.

With the truth on your side, noth­ing can go wrong.

  1. It’s actu­ally been quiet a few months since I wrote this entry. I didn’t post it at first because I wanted to be absolutely sure that it wasn’t a fickle feel­ing, and that my strength was firm. Reading back on it now, it seems more rel­e­vant than ever. []
24 Oct 07

The Ass-Slap Ritual

As I opened the front door to walk to work, I remem­bered that Aaron is pick­ing me up for lunch today, so I thought I should check to see if my wal­let was in my left back pocket (where it always is). The thing is, I always put a wad of mois­tur­izer in my left palm so that I can lock my door with my right hand with­out get­ting my keys all greasy, then rub it in while walking.

So I reached with my right hand to pad my pocket and see if it was there, but feel­ing a bit stiff from the weather and the morn­ing, I had to stretch with a bit of force and momentum.

Exactly at that moment, my neigh­bours came out of their house. We greeted each other, and after repeat­edly refus­ing their offers to drive me to work on such a chilly day, we went our sep­a­rate ways.

Then I real­ized that since I hadn’t com­pletely stepped out of my door frame at that point, they prob­a­bly saw me check­ing for my wal­let with­out under­stand­ing what I was doing, and thought I was doing some strange cross-body back-reaching ass-slapping ritual.

21 Oct 07

Broken Snail

I was on my way to work one day, walk­ing down a hill, when I noticed that there was a rather large snail on the ground. He was about an inch and a half long, his shell a delight­ful con­trast of pink and pas­tel hues to dark brown band­ing. I wanted to take a pic­ture, but I didn’t have some­thing to carry him to work (where I have an infin­ity board and white box), so I decided I’d just grab my cam­era on break and bring him there.

Of course, my break was in a cou­ple hours, and I was pray­ing that he’d still be there when I went out­side. I grabbed the cam­era and tri­pod and ran up the hill, look­ing for a small shell cast­ing a shadow on the concrete.

Thumbnail: A crushed, broken snail and his shell

I found him crushed, splayed out in strands of mucus, most likely stepped on by some care­less per­son. Snails can’t live with­out their shells, as the cal­cium car­bon­ate struc­tures hold their inter­nal organs. I took a few pic­tures of the tragic scene anyway.

When I got home that night, I hap­pened to look at the snaps in quick suc­ces­sion and noticed that parts of him were still moving.

He was still alive.

I took a few frames and over­layed them to make this Flash ani­ma­tion, where you can see his foot wrig­gling, as well as some indis­tin­guish­able entrails that remind me of liver. It’s so sad to think that he was left out to die a slow death with his innards exposed.

I would have named him Shelly.

18 Oct 07

Unplanned Feelings

I found a small boy sleep­ing on the steps with a birth­mark cov­er­ing his face and won­dered what kind of god would give a child that.

—Sarah Miles, The End Of The Affair

I’m in such a weird mood tonight.

Met a nice, loqua­cious young man at the bus stop. I saw him hob­bling there, his man­gled gait vis­i­ble from the win­dow of my house. His voice was loud and verg­ing on uncon­trolled, “My car is in the shop, I have to be there by seven, I can’t be late, I’m coach and man­ager and med­ical staff of the Generals, so they can’t go on the field with­out me.”

With inno­cent, child­like can­dor, he con­tin­ued. I won­dered if he was aware. If peo­ple took him less seri­ously. If I really under­stood who he was.

He got on the bus first, and in a con­fi­dent tone, said to the bus dri­ver, “Can I get pri­or­ity seat­ing?”. I con­sid­ered sit­ting next to him and con­tin­u­ing our con­ver­sa­tion, but by the time my trans­fer printed out, he already started with the per­son next to him, “I can’t be late. I’m coach­ing football…”.

So I cried on the bus because Misery Is A Butterfly, even though it wasn’t loud enough. Even though I put it on. I was doing it to myself, you see, because of this mood. Because I need it and want it and won­dered how I’ve ever lived with­out it.

I’ve been read­ing Beautiful Losers. Can you tell?

I don’t plan on writ­ing these things.

Then again, I don’t plan on feel­ing this way.

16 Oct 07

Hurts So Good

I’m exhausted. It’s late. I should be going to bed, but I want to write. Here I am.

Vanilla chai, this time. I never drink this tea, so it seemed some­what appropriate.

My limbs are sore. I’ve been prac­tic­ing my Tai Chi on a reg­u­lar basis, and my under­stand­ing has sur­passed my phys­i­cal abil­ity. I’m start­ing to over-exert myself. I’ve also been using my arms instead of my whole body when advanc­ing in sin­gle push hands, caus­ing my arms to work more than they should. Tonight, it got to the point where they were com­pletely weak. I sus­pect Elizabeth could feel this, and she switched arms before I had the good sense to do it myself.

It’s get­ting cold in the house1. The ther­mo­stat says 20, but it feels more like 18. I stood in the shower for a good 15 min­utes, let­ting my skin burn under the hot water, to the point where I stepped out of the shower into the cold air and started to sweat.

No edit­ing. No back­track­ing. Just type, and publish.

I hap­pened to come across a video today by the Grass Roots.

When I think of all the wor­ries peo­ple seem to find
And how they’re in a hurry to com­pli­cate their minds
By chas­ing after money and dreams that can’t come true
I’m glad that we are dif­fer­ent, we’ve bet­ter things to do
The oth­ers plan their future, I’m busy lov­ing you

One, two, three, four
Sha-la-la-la-la-la live for today.
Sha-la-la-la-la-la live for today.

And don’t worry ’bout tomor­row, hey hey hey hey.

Maybe I’m just read­ing into it, like a born-again, but the lyrics struck me as very Taoist, and the idea of detach­ment in par­tic­u­lar2. Darren jokes that I’ll start preach­ing to him the next time I visit him because our con­ver­sa­tions always stray to Taoism.

I’ve been feel­ing decid­edly dark, decid­edly yin, lately. Not sad or upset, but in an ener­getic way. I’m bouncy. Maybe this is the way my brain adjusts to my pre­vi­ously cheer­ful upswing. The funny thing is that I’m no less cheer­ful, just in a dif­fer­ent way. I feel more bal­anced. It’s as if the mind aches from some unknown force, expressed through an emo­tional state, yet rel­ishes and wal­lows in this.

And I’m lov­ing every minute of it.

  1. I’m try­ing to wait as long as pos­si­ble before turn­ing the heat on []
  2. Something I’ve only recently been able to achieve to any rel­a­tive degree of suc­cess. []
15 Oct 07

Moments of Unexpected Kindness

Yesterday was gro­cery day.

I looked out the win­dow, and it was rain­ing. “You can’t wait for the per­fect oppor­tu­nity for­ever”, I told myself, so I grabbed my toque, my hoodie, my jacket, and stepped outside.

The rain wasn’t heavy, but enough to soak through in a cou­ple minutes.

On my way to the store, I thought of putting an ad in the classifieds.


Looking for cheer­ful model to dance in rain for photo project.

Should be slim build. Light-brunette to blond hair, no longer than shoul­ders. Bring own clothes, short-sleeved with no logo preferred.

Will offer dig­i­tal neg­a­tives for port­fo­lio as compensation.

It was a short walk.

At the deli counter was the reg­u­lar bunch of hooli­gans, a group of unmo­ti­vated, lack­adaisi­cal guys with whom I’ve dealt many times before.

I was about to say some­thing to get their atten­tion when another young man (whom I ini­tially assumed was part of this group, with the same facial hair and the same mug), walked up to greet me.

Barbecue chicken?”, he asked.


I stood there wait­ing for less than a moment before he came around the counter with some­thing in his hand.

Wipe your glasses off with this shit”, he told me, and see­ing the beads of rain­wa­ter on my glasses, handed me a wad of paper towel. The uncouth man­ner in which he pre­sented the paper towel made his ges­ture all the more warm.

Handing me my din­ner, he said “Take it easy, bro”, and touched his fin­gers to his fore­head in a mini salute.

The rain stopped before I stepped out­side again.

And I haven’t cleaned my glasses, or stopped smil­ing since.

13 Oct 07

Thanksgiving Weekend '07

Ah yes. My first trip “home“1 in about a year and a half, since my par­ents got divorced.

The entirety of my trip was in the com­pany of Andrew and Alex, who hosted me for the week­end. Pictures tell the story.

Drinks at the Madison

Thumbnail: Wide-angle Madison
Thumbnail: Jason and Kerry
Thumbnail: Alex and Emily
Thumbnail: Anne
Thumbnail: Rob and Sampson
Thumbnail: Alex and Kerry

On Friday night, we went to The Madison to catch up with their old drag­onboat team­mates. The Madison is a mas­sive pub, made from two or three amal­ga­mated houses in the down­town dis­trict. A very pop­u­lar spot, which was appar­ent from the amount of peo­ple in it as the night went on.

I hadn’t been out drink­ing in…two years? Something like that.

Read the rest of this entry »

  1. I’ve decided that from now on, the quoted “home” will refer to Toronto, and the unquoted home will refer to Ottawa []
11 Oct 07

The God Ritual

I saw her there again, wear­ing the same clothes, with her life in two new gro­cery bags. On the same night of another face­less week, except the tem­per­a­ture dropped, and I was stand­ing out­side in my bomber jacket, look­ing in. This time, she was sit­ting upright and silent, unmov­ing, hat draped over her eyes.

Crashing inside, I thought.

Her hands were cracked and dark from expo­sure. How I wanted to reach out, and straighten the tan­gled skein of her black hair. But what could I do?

God isn’t here anymore.

09 Oct 07

Grey And Undecided

It was grey today.

Grey from morn­ing to night. Grey inside and out.

I strolled home from work amid the rain­fall, with Sara Melson and her sac­cha­rine lyrics in my ear­phones. Words sung unre­strained, clichéd almost, like any other love song, but with an expe­ri­enced matu­rity nonetheless.

Now my hands are worn, my clothes are torn
A few of my dreams have been met with scorn
And I don’t have too much time left to bor­row
But still I’m gonna love you like I’ve never been hurt before

Drawn to her voice more than her face, sug­ary sweet mixed with a hint of strength. Guilty plea­sure? Maybe. Not that I mind anymore.

But it was still grey today, and I was still undecided.

04 Oct 07

I'm Up

Yes, I’m up again. Not even, but up.

I think it’s pretty obvi­ous that I don’t think straight when lack­ing sleep. I get very grumpy, and Bronwen knows not to get in my way when that hap­pens (and not to call me “Mr. Grumpykins”). Still, even with enough sleep, I don’t think it would have changed how I was feeling.

So I picked myself up by read­ing the para­bles of Chuang Tzŭ1. Though it’s still well beyond my grasp, I’m slowly learn­ing how to achieve utter empti­ness and single-minded still­ness.

I like to think that I’m aware enough to know that I’m not delud­ing myself into this state-of-mind.

Sometimes I won­der if I sound like a born-again Christian, only with Taoism. One of those peo­ple who gets preachy, where every­thing they say relates to their new-found faith. It’s as if my brain processes every­thing through a Tao fil­ter, and I see every­thing in a dif­fer­ent way. I try to be con­scious of it in con­ver­sa­tion, to avoid bor­ing some­one who wouldn’t really under­stand any­way, but I can’t help but write about it here.

Nevertheless, I feel enlight­ened, though still human2; I’m not sure if I’ll get the rug pulled out from under me again. It’s a strange feel­ing. In this mind­set, it’s as if noth­ing can stop you. Until some­thing happens.

Part of me wishes I wasn’t feel­ing this high. That I was more even, like Pat. It’s a bal­ance of emo­tion that I seek, not the dra­matic ups and downs. I’ll be con­tent when I can achieve that.

Hence it is para­dox­i­cally said, “Perfect hap­pi­ness is to be with­out hap­pi­ness; the high­est praise is to be with­out praise”.

  1. Dave helped talk some sense into me as well. I think part of my recov­ery was that our dis­cus­sion led me to feel as if he’s a kin­dred spirit. []
  2. When look­ing back on this entry, I real­ized that I wrote about pick­ing myself up twice in one month. I don’t even remem­ber writ­ing it the first time. []
03 Oct 07

A Feint Within A Feint Within A Feint

Knowing where the trap is — that’s the first step in evad­ing it. This is like sin­gle com­bat, Son, only on a larger scale — a feint within a feint within a feint…seemingly with­out end. The task is to unravel it.

—Duke Leto Atreides, Dune

A feint can be used as a test, to gather infor­ma­tion, or a trap, to get some­one to do what you want them to do, or both.

The most impor­tant part to under­stand is that the oppo­nent is inher­ently involved in the sit­u­a­tion. You can only gain advan­tage from a feint depend­ing on the way he or she (re)acts.

A savvy per­son will react with exactly the right amount of effort, espe­cially impor­tant because a feint is only a mock attack. In Tai Chi terms, they bal­ance an opponent’s yin (expan­sion) with yang (com­pres­sion), and vice-versa1. In Taoist terms, they act like a mir­ror, reflect­ing only that which is in front of them, noth­ing more and noth­ing less. With a savvy per­son, the feint fails, and noth­ing is gained.

An igno­rant per­son will fall for the trick. They over­re­act and unbal­ance them­selves2, expos­ing their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. Without under­stand­ing true inten­tion, with­out see­ing the big pic­ture, they get played like a sucker.

And the more they react, the more ridicu­lous they look.

  1. Hence the empha­sis placed on stick­ing and yield­ing; a phys­i­cal con­nec­tion is needed to know where the cen­ter of an oppo­nent is at all times []
  2. In Tai Chi terms, this is con­sid­ered overex­tend­ing or col­laps­ing the struc­ture of the body or limbs []
02 Oct 07

Cat-Sitting Sprocket

While Joel and his fam­ily were on extended vaca­tion, I took care of their cat, Sprocket.

He used to be 25 pounds (from the pre­vi­ous owner who overfed him) but slimmed down to around 14 or 15, I’d say. You can tell he used to be much big­ger; if you run your hand down the length of his body, you can feel the bones on his frame stick­ing out promi­nently, and there’s a fair amount of extra skin hang­ing from the belly.

Thumbnail: Sprocket the cat lounges
Thumbnail: Sprocket the cat yawns
Thumbnail: Sprocket the cat
Thumbnail: Sprocket stalks Dolly

He never got along with Dolly. For the entire time he was with me, which was just under two months, they got in about two dozen fights. Every now and then, there would be a tremen­dous cacoph­ony of hiss­ing, growl­ing, meow­ing, and run­ning from one end of the house to the other. I’d say that Sprocket was more often the aggres­sor, but Dolly started her share of fights. Even though she still has her back claws (Sprocket is com­pletely de-clawed), he had a large weight and size advan­tage. His bite is also very strong (which I found out from feed­ing him treats1), I’m guess­ing from all the prac­tice he got from eating.

It made me re-think get­ting a sec­ond cat while Dolly’s still alive. Two cats can fill a house nicely, but she didn’t get along with him at all. Since they don’t know how old Sprocket is, the aggres­sive­ness may sim­ply be due to his age, but I’m not sure I want to take the chance.

In any case, I can tell he enjoyed the change of pace, which was liv­ing in a house with two par­ents, two kids, and two dogs, to just me and a cat. He’s a sucker for treats, meow­ing qui­etly as a “reminder” to give him one. One funny thing I noticed is that he seemed to have harder-than-average paws. When pac­ing around on the kitchen tiles before being fed, it would sound like a horse trot.

Sprocket also loves atten­tion. No mat­ter what I was doing — cook­ing break­fast, play­ing games upstairs, writ­ing down­stairs — he would fol­low me around. It did make my Tai Chi prac­tice more dif­fi­cult, as he’d spread out on the open car­pet and roll around under my feet.

He loves to sleep on blan­kets, and would always fall asleep on my sheets when I was under them, most com­monly near the feet. He got along espe­cially well with Bronwen. When she stayed the night, he would keep her up by con­stantly walk­ing over her body, look­ing for a warm place to nestle.

I’ll cer­tainly miss him. Hopefully, he’ll remem­ber me the next time I go over to Joel’s house.

  1. I don’t think he was ever fed by hand; he would always nip my fin­gers when giv­ing him a treat. Dolly is the oppo­site. She very del­i­cately moves towards the treat with her mouth, and snatches the treat with her tongue. []
01 Oct 07

The Definition of a Hypocrite

A per­son who tells you to stop blog­ging because it’s bad for you, leaves ram­bling com­ments such as this, this, and this, draws creepy dia­grams about you then e-mails them to peo­ple you don’t even know, yet blogs com­pul­sively herself.