equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
29 Apr 08

Making A Difference

Over the last while, I’ve been receiv­ing some very nice let­ters and com­ments.

Two, in par­tic­u­lar, touched me. This one:

I stum­bled upon your blog a few days ago. I’m read­ing all your archives right now.

One of your entries moved me so much I had to pass it to my best, most initi­mate, most sensitive/sensual girl­friends. It wasn’t a big group, but a group I felt could hear what you were say­ing in your entry. It was about find­ing the spot on a woman that should be kissed.

I read your blog every day because I can’t believe there is a man out in the uni­verse who is this intu­itive, in tune, so aware of him­self emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally. I wish you had gone to my col­lege — you would have been so loved and admired.

So this entry dis­tresses me, and I don’t even know you. I under­stand lon­li­ness — I’ve never had inti­macy, or rather, I’m very afraid of it. I don’t even know why I’m telling you all this because you don’t know me either and you won’t care, but this entry hurts. You must know by now that some­one thinks of you every­day. Maybe it is your mom, maybe an ex-lover or girl­friend or male friend or co worker.

I think I’m more in shock that you can write so hon­estly and openly. I’m jeal­ous of that.

well, I just wanted to let you know that. And that I have a crush on your blog. Can a per­son crush on a blog?

Please take care,

And this from a few months ago:

Hi Jeff,

you don’t know me and we will prob­a­bly never meet. It’s sort of inter­est­ing the way the inter­net has changed the way we can know someone.

Allow me to intro­duce myself, since you have already bore your soul in a very real way that has moved me to write to a com­plete stranger-something i have never done.

I am a 30 yr old inte­rior designer, a born and bred new yorker cur­rently liv­ing in brook­lyn. It’s been slow at work lately, so to pass the time I have taken to read­ing blogs mostly design related, but some­how i read a com­ment that you had made on a ran­dom blog, look­ing back i can’t remem­ber which one unfor­tu­nately, and it led me back to your per­sonal blog somehow.

you see I am not like you at all. I feel sim­i­lar feel­ings, and even have sim­i­lar beliefs, but I don’t have the guts to put myself out there in that way. I dont even have a blog, and i can barely talk to my friends about the way im feel­ing. so for me your blog is very ther­a­peu­tic and refreshing.

like most peo­ple who blog, im sure, you won­der if any­one out there is read­ing. Well just wanted to let you know that I really like your blog and will con­tinue to read it.

I have added you as a flickr con­tact and i see that you have reciprocated-*armadilliz* I am not a stalker / crazy per­son, or any­thing like that, just a fan, so rest easy.

Take care,


And while peo­ple tell me how much they appre­ci­ate me being open and shar­ing myself, it’s noth­ing com­pared to what they share of them­selves in these let­ters. I don’t know what com­pels some­one to write to a total stranger, but it’s a warm­ing ges­ture, some­thing that inspires me when I’m feel­ing closed and self-conscious.

So I want to say thank you.

Thank you to the peo­ple who’ve writ­ten me. Thank you to the peo­ple who share their own prob­lems and issues and lives. Thank you to the peo­ple who let me know that I’ve inspired them to start their own jour­nals. Thank you for sup­port­ing me when we’ve never even spoken.

It’s your words that make me feel like I’m not so alone when I’m sit­ting in my house, won­der­ing what to do with myself. It’s your kind­ness that gives me strength when the world is falling down around me. It’s know­ing that I’ve been able to make a dif­fer­ence that keeps me going.

Thank you.

28 Apr 08

Tears as a Turn-On

It became painfully obvi­ous that my turn-on of girls cry­ing is related to my own pen­chant for sad love­mak­ing.

I’ve always liked the idea of bring­ing some­one from tears to bliss­ful phys­i­cal plea­sure. Like make-up sex with­out the fighting.

A girl was able to do that for me once, so I’ve always wanted to be able to do it for some­one else.

Either that, or my sad­ness is min­gling with my lust.

27 Apr 08

Defining Myself Through Others, Revisited

A deeper look at an old topic

Some time when I was a child, I asked my mother if she loved her nails more than she loved me. She had this kit full of nail tools — clip­pers, files made of metal and emery, toe sep­a­ra­tors, fake nails sep­a­rated in lit­tle boxes, even a small hand-held, battery-operated dremel with dif­fer­ent attach­ments used to grind, sand, and pol­ish — that she would carry with her around the house. When I asked her this ques­tion, she picked me up in her arms, and vehe­mently denied it. I didn’t believe her though, not in my heart. She had always paid more atten­tion to her nails than to me.

My dad was no bet­ter. One time I googled his name to find his work num­ber, and came across an audio/visual site where he had writ­ten a small para­graph as a review on a pro­jec­tor he had. I was crushed. It was more effort than he had ever put into my life, sit­ting in a cou­ple of short sen­tences in front of me. It would have been okay if he had been so unin­ter­ested in every­thing, but he wasn’t. He loved his car, he loved his home the­atre, he loved his karaoke, but me he had no inter­est in.

So, before I had become a teenager, I started to look for some kind of approval from other peo­ple. At that point, it was Andrew and Alex. They were my best friends in grade 3 and 4, but I changed schools in grade 5. Even after this, I tried to hang out with them but they seemed to be more inter­ested in school, and we lost touch.

Pretty soon, I real­ized that I wasn’t anyone’s “best friend”. I cried and I cried and I cried. I felt like I needed this to define myself. I needed be a pri­or­ity to some­one because I cer­tainly wasn’t a pri­or­ity to my par­ents. Without being someone’s best friend, I was worthless.

As an adult, you may feel inse­cure about cer­tain aspects of your life. You lack self-confidence in areas where you feel vul­ner­a­ble — inti­mate rela­tion­ships, social sit­u­a­tions, or work. Within your vul­ner­a­ble areas, you feel infe­rior to other peo­ple. You are hyper­sen­si­tive to crit­i­cism or rejection.

I still feel this way now. The prob­lem is that the need isn’t being met. Everyone puts other peo­ple first, and the one foun­da­tion I believed I had in my life has crum­bled. I’m never impor­tant enough.

Two things keep me from killing myself.

The thought that one day, I may mean some­thing to some­one. Or the thought that one day, I’ll be able to stop defin­ing myself through oth­ers, and sim­ply be con­tent with who I am.

Either way, something’s gotta give.

26 Apr 08

Drive To Nowhere

I put on my most com­fort­able hoodie, grab a cam­era and a tri­pod. Pass by the mir­ror and see my eyes are swollen. A base­ball cap’ll hide my face.

I put on The Alchemy Index. First is Fire. An anthem of rage, and burn­ing, and fury in the night.

I had Firebreather by Thrice play­ing here.

The flames will rise and devour me.
Oh, to breathe in fire, and know I’m free.

Honda Civic Coupe at night

I find a quiet, wind­ing road, alter­nat­ing between 60 and 30 max. About eight kilo­me­tres down, there’s a small ferry load­ing dock, with a place to park on the side of the road. I get out and take a pic­ture of the car. Other cars keep pass­ing by, their head­lights leav­ing streaks across my cam­era sensor.

The road slopes upwards around a bend, and I drive off again to find out where it goes.

Quebec at night

There’s a look­out point on a cliff, sur­rounded by a rail. Across the waves of the Ottawa river is Quebec. People come and go. Three types of people.

The cou­ples here for a roman­tic view. They park, walk up to the rail­ing, and talk to each other about noth­ing in par­tic­u­lar. The girl­friends get cold and shortly want to leave.

The kids in their parent’s cars, already high or drunk. They sit in the car with all the lights on, talk­ing through their music, obliv­i­ous to the seren­ity around them otherwise.

The men here by them­selves, aban­doned and alone on a Friday night. They sit in their cars with the lights out, and come out to lean on the rail­ing every now and then. I’m one of them.

Ottawa Rockcliffe parkway at night

On my way back, I skip Water and put on Air. A song about a boy who could fly, about falling upwards and away.

I had A Song for Milly Michaelson by Thrice play­ing here.

So, here we go.
Hold on tight and don’t let go.
I won’t ever let you fall.
I love the night.
Flying o’er these city lights.
But I love you most of all.

I miss a turn, and find a smooth pave­ment road that winds through the for­est. My eyes are dry and tired. I put on the high beams and cruise con­trol, dis­cov­er­ing another way home.

25 Apr 08

Alone Again

The expe­ri­ence of emo­tional depri­va­tion is harder to define than some of the other life­traps. Often it is not crys­tal­lized into thoughts. This is because the orig­i­nal depri­va­tion began so early, before you had the words to describe it. Your expe­ri­ence of emo­tional depri­va­tion is much more the sense that you are going to be lonely for­ever, that cer­tain things are never going to be ful­filled for you, that you will never be heard, never be understood.

Emotional depri­va­tion feels like some­thing is miss­ing. It is a feel­ing of empti­ness. Perhaps the image that most cap­tures its mean­ing is that of a neglected child. Emotional depri­va­tion is what a neglected child feels. It is a feel­ing of alone­ness, of nobody there. It is a sad and heavy sense of knowl­edge that you are des­tined to be alone.

I’m so fuck­ing angry­fu­ri­ous­livid at John right now. We were sup­posed to talk and play tonight, but yet again, I get brushed aside for his friends or girl­friend. I have no other com­mu­ni­ca­tion with him, save for the phonecalls.

It’s not just this time, it’s a whole bunch of times added up. And I’m left alone, again. This is the first time ever that he’s made me cry. And I’m not even sad. I’m just angry. I’m sweat­ing. I can barely see through these tears.

At least I found out that I could show my feel­ings to him. He’s the only per­son with whom I don’t have to worry about being polite. I can raise my voice at him, and I don’t clam up like I do with most people.

Right now, I have no one. John’s the one per­son I can count on to talk to me when some­thing goes wrong. No one else truly under­stands me. It’s com­pletely dev­as­tat­ing when it’s this per­son who pulls the rug out from under you.

Maybe I am sad. Maybe this makes me think of how I’m always a sec­ond pri­or­ity to every­one I know. That I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. That it’ll always be like this because I’m fuck­ing flawed and fuck­ing defec­tive and fuck­ing unlov­able in some way.

I wasn’t going to drive to nowhere tonight, but I think I will now. I just have to remem­ber not to rest my foot on the pedal.

People don’t under­stand how frag­ile I am. That some­times I have to fight to feel sig­nif­i­cant, that I have to con­vince myself that peo­ple would be sad if steered into a con­crete pole and died.

Just because I try to be easy-going and under­stand­ing doesn’t mean I’m not important.

I’m a per­son too.

25 Apr 08

The Profits of Art

I’ve sold 10 of my fruit and body prints so far. Officially, I’ve made a small profit, with the money being used to pay off the debt incurred from the pur­chase of much photo gear.

When Dan did my read­ing two years ago, he men­tioned that I see colours dif­fer­ently from other peo­ple, and that I should try mak­ing money off my art.

Back then, I was far from con­sid­er­ing myself an “artist”. I used my cam­era to express myself in cap­tur­ing mem­o­ries, not in deliv­er­ing mes­sages. At the first Emergence Exposition, Nisha would intro­duce me to peo­ple as a pho­tog­ra­pher. I would add the word ama­teur as a pre­fix, but Nisha would cor­rect me and say aspir­ing. I sup­pose I’m more inclined to agree with her now. Being able to sup­port myself like this (albeit in a small way) makes a big difference.

It’s a great feel­ing when some­one hands me a cheque, and on the lit­tle memo line is writ­ten “art”.

The best part of the entire process though, is meet­ing peo­ple. Not just meet­ing peo­ple I ask to model for me, but when I’m deliv­er­ing prints as well. I get to see where they’re going to hang the pic­tures, and I get to meet their kids, their par­ents, their pets, their friends.

Most recently, it was Tiana, who has two dogs, a cat, and a hus­band. I didn’t get to meet Brent (or the cat) but I’m sure the oppor­tu­nity will present itself at some time in the future.

No solicitors sign

Tiana feeds her dogs some treats.



Bernie roots

24 Apr 08

Protected: Two Halves Of A Whole Man

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22 Apr 08

I just want fucking makeouts

I drove home from class tonight with the win­dows down and the music cranked. It’s not the songs, it’s not the singing, it’s not the speed, it’s the air that affects you. That smell.

The Operation by Charlotte Gainsbourg is the ulti­mate night-time dri­ving track when you’re feel­ing sin­gle and elec­tri­fied.1 The base­line dri­ves you.

I had The Operation by Charlotte Gainsbourg play­ing here.

i want to explore you
i’m gonna get under your skin
so you can feel me run­ning through your veins

i want to exam­ine
every inch of your frame
the pres­sure points that cause your joy and pain

When I got home, I show­ered, got into in my PJs, took Dolly in my arms, and stood out on the patio. I wanted her to feel what I was feel­ing under that night sky. She clung to my arms, but didn’t make a sound. It was unlike her, because any time Dolly gets picked up she imme­di­ately begins purring. The night was too much for her.

I think it’s too much for me some­times.

For now, I’ll live vic­ar­i­ously through Maggie. Except I won’t be get­ting drunk on Sparks (the orange kind), I won’t be going danc­ing, I’ll just keep run­ning into my crushes at every turn, and I’ll keep meet­ing the ass­hole, idiot guys they go out with. And like Maggie, I’ll refuse to be that guy. The one who talks shit about other guys, the one who flosses his cash money, the one who dri­ves fast to prove he’s got a dick.

Yes, I’m break­ing my post order because of Maggie. It’s like she made me write this. I would totally hoola­hoop and make Dragon Ball Z poses with her. I just found out that I don’t know how to spell hoola­hoop. Hula hoop. There we go.

Maybe this dry spell is mak­ing me loopy.

I think I’ll sleep with the win­dows open tonight.

  1. This song won’t be up for long; I’m tak­ing it down in a cou­ple days. []
21 Apr 08

The Dress

Playing with food

Thumbnail: Back and hands
Thumbnail: Dress stripes
Thumbnail: Back and shoulder
Thumbnail: Curves on a waist
Thumbnail: Ring and fingers

I love this dress.

I love the colours. I love the palette. I love the stripes. I love how they go from thick to thin.

I love how she wears it. I love how it hugs her body. I love how it leads the eye along her curves.

I love how I love this dress.

19 Apr 08

Time vs. Forgiveness

John fig­ured out that I don’t for­give peo­ple because my mem­ory is too good.

And it’s true. Not only do I remem­ber expe­ri­ences, but emo­tions. It’s like I can relive every moment I’ve been hurt down to the small­est detail1. The pain remains strong and salient, years after the inci­dents have passed.

I’m sure it’s a defence mech­a­nism of some kind. Harm avoid­ance, my ther­a­pist would call it.

While time may heal wounds for most, it doesn’t for me. I’m gen­er­ally fine with this, since I believe that it should be actions and apolo­gies that breed for­give­ness, not time.

It’s only hard when I want to for­give some­one, but I can’t.

  1. This works with the other extreme too; for me, being happy is just as vivid. []
17 Apr 08

The Essence Of Spring Nights

Me in a toque

Go out­side. Right now.

It’s dark. It’s cool. It’s breezy. Grass has replaced the snow. Walking down­town, the smell of shawarma from every Lebanese restau­rant, the peo­ple shed­ding their coats, the sur­fac­ing skin, it’s as if the world is bloom­ing while the sun has set.

All I want is for you to be here with me. To share this moment with you.

It’s a pity to be alone on nights like this.

16 Apr 08

A Day In Montreal

Andrew, Alex, Annie, and I took a road trip to Montreal. Armed only with my GPS and a veg­gie plat­ter, we headed to the food cap­i­tal of Canada with­out a plan or timetable.

Schwartz's Hebrew Delicatessen

Playing with food

Thumbnail: Outside Schwartz's
Thumbnail: Queue minder
Thumbnail: Schwartz's sign
Thumbnail: Schwartz's menu
Thumbnail: Inside Schwartz's
Thumbnail: Plate of smoked meat
Thumbnail: Smoked meat sandwhich

Our first stop was for lunch at Schwartz’s. It’s a tiny place, packed with with the heady aroma of sea­soned smoked meat. Established in 1928, it’s a land­mark in Montreal. I like to imag­ine that Moe’s Diner in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz was based on a place like this, or maybe that Leonard Cohen fre­quented in his youth, and I was sit­ting where he penned the lyrics for his songs.

Read the rest of this entry »

15 Apr 08

Finishing Last

At least this means I’m a nice guy.

12 Apr 08

Nothing In Particular

It’s late. I should really be in bed. My eyes feel super dry and tired. I don’t even think I have enough energy to floss before brush­ing my teeth, but I’m going to force myself to do it cause I have a den­tist appoint­ment on Wednesday. At least I’m show­ered, warm and comfortable.

I haven’t sat down in my chaise to write in a while, although I should because it feels so good. The two-day writ­ing sched­ule fits nicely in with every­thing else going on in my life.

It’s been busy. Andrew and Alex left last week, so I have to the house to myself again. The com­pany was a fun change. Through them, I met Ziny and Ellen, whom I did pic­tures of yes­ter­day. Hopefully I’ll be doing some more of Paige tomor­row, as well as more work on my next project in the upcom­ing week.

Dolly by the window

My sleep­ing sched­ule is still some­what messed up, but only because of engage­ments that keep me up late. Thanks to smoothie power, and a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how to con­trol my eat­ing through bouts of IBS, my stom­ach is much bet­ter. I’m still break­ing out pretty badly though.

Went to see Dan today. I haven’t been to his place since last fall. Last time we hung out, it was for phở and to watch Being John Malkovich at my place. Every time we hang out, we play musi­cal ten­nis, where we take turns lis­ten­ing to a song, and giv­ing another song rec­om­men­da­tion based on the pre­vi­ous one. This is super fun, and only Dan has a taste in music as diverse as mine to play this correctly.

Drove to Quebec for the first time, and the roads are pretty bad. The lines have mostly faded and the shoul­der has encroached on the road, so you can’t tell where you’re sup­pose to be. On top of that there are pot­holes every­where, and the usual assort­ment of bad dri­vers, and this makes dri­ving in the French province less than fun.

Since I don’t take the bus any­more, I don’t have any time where I just sit down, hence no time to read. With the time I’m sav­ing, I’m try­ing to read before I go to bed. My book rota­tion right now is the following:

In the next cou­ple of week­ends, I’m try­ing to hang out with Darren, Navid, Pat, Julie and Blake, Frédéric and Misun. I don’t like to mix friends. It’s not as effi­cient, but I pre­fer to con­cen­trate on one (or one cou­ple) at a time.

Through all of this, I’m miss­ing Bronwen sooooo much.

10 Apr 08

Machine Gun Anthem

I saw a sav­ior
A sav­ior come my way
I thought I’d see it
In the cold light of day
But now I real­ize that I’m
Only for me

If only I could see
Return myself to me
And rec­og­nize the poi­son
In my heart

There is no other place
No one else I face
The rem­edy to agree
With how I feel

This beat, it moves you. It dri­ves a spike into your heart, ham­mer­ing impa­tiently — BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM — like 1,000,000 volts surg­ing through your chest to sixteenth-notes in a bar, and you’re left twitch­ing, won­der­ing how you’ll ever start your day with­out this again. It hits your ears like a wall of sound, with the synth ris­ing up, fill­ing your soul, and lead­ing your life.

This machine gun is an anthem.