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

Randomness and Disconnection

So much to say in my head, but when I sit down, it all dis­ap­pears. It’s as if being in front of a blank page, with the all the pos­si­bil­i­ties before me, is cathar­sis enough.

Many things to do has left me with lit­tle time to write. A trip to Toronto for the long week­end means I have to make sure all my bat­ter­ies are charged (one for the dig­i­tal cam­era, two for the HD cam­corder, three sets for the flashes), and my mem­ory cards (two for the dig­i­tal cam­era, two for the HD cam­corder) are cleared.

Thunder has inter­rupted this post. I opened up the blinds to see the rain­fall, and the light from the street lamps has come spilling into the room. This makes me real­ize that the hot choco­late can­dle Shirley gave me for Christmas, along with the glare of my Macbook Pro screen, weren’t doing a great job of illu­mi­nat­ing my writ­ing nook. I had Thrice play­ing, but have turned it down so I can hear the sheets of water pour­ing through the street.

Got a bunch of stuff done tonight. While pick­ing up some gro­ceries, I was served by a book­ish girl with braces. She had a dis­tinct lisp, but car­ried on ebul­liently as if she had the most beau­ti­ful voice in the world. Later on, as I walked through the mall, I caught this Katherine-with-a-K slouched back in a seat in the food court, eat­ing din­ner with one arm in her lap. It reminded me of an entry I wrote about a girl doing the same thing six years ago. How I wish for that kind of peace and seren­ity. How long ago that was (uni­ver­sity!). How dif­fer­ent I was back then.

Been feel­ing very aloof lately. Not sure if it’s me, or some­thing my mind is doing to pro­tect itself. Maybe it’s a way of dis­con­nect­ing myself from the world. I must need it right now. This after­noon I was read­ing from a book of Tai Chi clas­sics Louise bought me, and found one part par­tic­u­larly fit­ting1: “Do not be con­cerned with form. Do not be con­cerned with the ways in which form man­i­fests. It is best to for­get your own exis­tence”.

  1. Listed as the first of the Eight Truths of Tai Chi. []
27 Jul 08

She Is The Water, I Am The Waves

Her waves

She is the light, I am the prism.

She is the words, I am the voice.

She is the viola string, I am the vibration.

She is the bud, I am the bloom.

She is the life, I am the living.

She is the heart, I am the pulse.

She is the medium, I am the message.

She is the water, I am the waves.

22 Jul 08

Blood Work

Vial of blood

This lit­tle vial, along with a few drops of anti-coagulant, is filled with blood. My blood. I needed some for a pho­tog­ra­phy project I’m work­ing on, so I got a friend of mine in the med­ical indus­try to take it from me.

Now I’ve both fig­u­ra­tively and lit­er­ally bled for my work.

20 Jul 08

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (In The Car)

When I was young, the only affec­tion my par­ents ever showed for each other was occa­sion­ally (maybe five times ever) hold­ing hands in the car. They never kissed, never hugged, never said “I love you”. Aside from sit­ting down to eat din­ner, their lives were com­pletely sep­a­rate. They wouldn’t even sleep in the same room.

Now that I have a car, hold­ing hands while dri­ving has come to define a rela­tion­ship for me. I leave my right hand on the shifter, tap­ping it to the beat of my music, but I always have this urge to hold someone’s hand, as if it’s some strange ideal I’ve never been able to experience.

17 Jul 08

Questioning Happiness

Last class, Mike asked how I was doing, and as a some­what phatic response, I told him I was doing well.

He told me, with a chuckle, that if he didn’t know me any bet­ter and went only by my writ­ings, he would imag­ine me to be like Joe Btfsplk, with a per­pet­ual rain cloud above my head.

So I went home and read through the last cou­ple pages of my entries, and found that they painted a some­what lugubri­ous picture.

I’ve always con­tended that hap­pi­ness is too hard to write. When I feel like express­ing myself, it’s often because of a prob­lem of some sort, inter­nal or exter­nal, that I need to fig­ure out. Writing has always been a way for me to get my thoughts in line, and off my chest. Not much of a peace­ful, detached, care-free Taoist, am I?

Perhaps I’ll always lead a Cohen-esque life, where love, sex, phi­los­o­phy, and depres­sion are the dom­i­nant themes.

The funny thing is that my life has improved tremen­dously after ther­apy. I used to be a very dark per­son. After gain­ing the sta­bil­ity of a house and a career, along with sep­a­ra­tion from my mother, not much else has changed. I’ve come to real­ize that it’s not so much the things in my life that’s improved in the last few years (aside from the strug­gle with anx­i­ety), as my atti­tude. To be hon­est, I have noth­ing to com­plain about.

That doesn’t change the fact that my entries have been some­what depressing.

Perhaps I’m still not truly happy yet.

Or per­haps I’m still not look­ing at things the right way.

16 Jul 08

Canada Day '08

Sarah looks up

Thumbnail: Cashew cookies
Thumbnail: Dog
Thumbnail: Peeling potatoes
Thumbnail: Orange juice in the grass
Thumbnail: Orange juice in the grass

For Canada’s 141st, Aaron had the reg­u­lar char­ac­ters over, along with some new faces, for the annual bar­be­cue. We stayed out­side this time, lawn chairs in a semi-circle while the burg­ers and dogs were being cooked, and took it easy while the sun bathed us.

It was a beau­ti­ful day; sunny, with a refresh­ing breeze blow­ing through the air.

I don’t get to do this often enough.

15 Jul 08

Every Sadness is Unique

Which is why we can never truly pre­pare our­selves. We may see it com­ing, we may under­stand why, but that never makes it any easier.

Every tear is an entity. An expres­sion that swells to escape our bodies.

Every day is a chance to heal.

14 Jul 08

Hello Neighbour

Nighttime condo

The blinds are open so I can see outside.

Secretly, I hope a face from one of the win­dows will appear and look out­side, some­one who’s think­ing the same thing, so that I may not be so alone. A way of com­fort­ing myself, when I’m by myself in this veneer of a house.

I’m not sure if it’s working.

12 Jul 08

Protected: The Wedding Loser

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11 Jul 08


If you beat a dog, don’t be sur­prised if he runs away.

—let­ter to my uncle, March 2008

When I was a child my mom would always ask me if I’d let her live in a nurs­ing home. She would do this as a form of reas­sur­ance, a way of address­ing her inse­cu­rity about dying alone. To Chinese peo­ple, this is a fate worse than death. I under­stand that there may be med­ical con­di­tions or other cir­cum­stances that make it imprac­ti­cal for a fam­ily mem­ber to live in your house, but that doesn’t change the fact that being put in a nurs­ing home is like wait­ing to die.

At the time, I was too young to under­stand the grav­ity of such a ques­tion, so I would always reas­sure her, no. Maybe I even loved her at that point, and meant it. But I’ve since cut off all ties with her, and after the divorce, she has no one left. Her rel­a­tives lead their own lives, and she’s never had enough of a per­son­al­ity to make any friends. I’ve lived with her long enough to under­stand what a hol­low, empty exis­tence she has.

Now I’m old enough to know that she’ll die alone.

And that it’ll be exactly what she deserves.

09 Jul 08

Be Still, My Heart

Muse side face

In the dark, our bod­ies fit like puz­zle pieces — face in neck, crest in val­ley, curve in curve. I’m com­pletely vul­ner­a­ble when she lets me love her like this. She brings my guard down.

It’s the way she makes me happy with­out try­ing. The way I’m filled with ten­der­ness every time I feel the warmth of her skin against mine. The way her exis­tence gives me hope for the rest of the world.

If I chose to fall back on old habits and kept my dis­tance to pro­tect myself, I wouldn’t know this inef­fa­ble feel­ing. I may get hurt, but it’s worth every moment I can be next to her.

Maybe she’s right, and I’ll feel dif­fer­ently by the time it’s nec­es­sary. Until then, there’s no use in fight­ing it.

Not that I let myself fall for her.

My heart never gave me a choice.

06 Jul 08

Just a Spoke in the Wheel

Sometimes, life moves too fast for words.

06 Jul 08

On Isotretinoin

I recently started a course of Isotretinoin, a strong med­ica­tion used to cure severe acne by alter­ing DNA tran­scrip­tion. For some rea­son, my acne has really flared up in my late twen­ties. I would get huge cysts on my face that would last for weeks, not to men­tion the hyper-pigmentation that would last even longer after the cyst went away. Needless to say, it was mak­ing me very anti-social when I was talk­ing to peo­ple and felt like there was a huge dis­trac­tion on my face.

I was referred to a der­ma­tol­o­gist, who gave me a pre­scrip­tion for “full strength” (accord­ing to my body weight) to see if I could han­dle the side effects. The phar­ma­cist asked me if she made a mis­take because they don’t offer a dosage that strong, so now I take a com­bi­na­tion of two dosages.

Due to the potency of the med­ica­tion, there’s a huge list of side effects. The scari­est is the mood changes. I’m sup­posed to stop the dose if I start experiencing:

As a per­son who’s suf­fered from sui­ci­dal thoughts in the past, this was quite a fright­en­ing propo­si­tion. I asked my friends to be aware, just in case I don’t notice any changes in myself.

So far though, the only side effect has been extremely dry skin, espe­cially on the face. The lips have been the worst; I can’t eat or drink any­thing with­out apply­ing a thick layer of mois­tur­izer on them, oth­er­wise they peel like mad.

There’s also a dry­ing of mucous mem­branes. To relieve the chap­ping, I’ve started smear­ing Vaseline in my nose.

Prior to this, the only time I used Vaseline was as a sex­ual lubricant.

Now I get aroused every time I breathe in.

04 Jul 08

Emergence Exposition Opus 03

Mixed media piece

Thumbnail: Mixed media piece detail
Thumbnail: Large pieces
Thumbnail: Handmade birds
Thumbnail: Handmade birds on windowsill
Thumbnail: Misun mingles
Thumbnail: Canvas embroidery
Thumbnail: Canvas embroidery detail
Thumbnail: Memory jars
Thumbnail: Female sculpture detail
Thumbnail: Frederic mingles
Thumbnail: Invitation
Thumbnail: Abstract piece
Thumbnail: Krista Muir and Shane Watt
Thumbnail: Metal plant
Thumbnail: Metal chair
Thumbnail: Rurick pieces 1
Thumbnail: Rurick pieces 2
Thumbnail: Rurick's titles
Thumbnail: Shane Watt and his trail mix
Thumbnail: Tree sculpture detail

The third Emergence Exposition was the first sum­mer show. With day­light com­ing through the house, and the doors and win­dows open, there was a dif­fer­ent mood float­ing around. People also dressed lightly and in bright colours, adding to the sense of airiness.

Along with the mind-blowing visual art­work, there were per­for­mances by Con Brio, a string quar­tet, and Aura Giles, a mod­ern flutist with huge lungs.

One of the most mem­o­rable parts of the night, how­ever, was a per­for­mance of an orig­i­nal com­po­si­tion by John Alac, where he tells a story of a man about to be exe­cuted, using only his gui­tar. The num­ber of dif­fer­ent sounds he gets from pluck­ing, tap­ping, scratch­ing his strings is quite amaz­ing, although what really blew my mind was the way he got the sound of a bell to toll at 4:06.

(You can watch this in High Definition on the Vimeo site. It looks much nicer.)

02 Jul 08

An End To Therapy

I stopped going to therapy.

Because I feel like I’m fixed.

Not com­pletely, but I’m at the point where I can rec­og­nize my prob­lems, bad men­tal habits, and work towards fix­ing them myself. My anx­i­ety — the rea­son why I went to ther­apy in the first place — is under con­trol, and I’ve been delight­fully drink­ing black tea in the morn­ings1. No more sui­ci­dal thoughts either.

I asked my psy­chol­o­gist whether I could hang out with him out­side of the ses­sions because I enjoyed his com­pany so much on a per­sonal level. From life to art to soci­ol­ogy, we would always stray onto a wide vari­ety of other top­ics. Perhaps I found the human mind to be as fas­ci­nat­ing as he did.

He told me that as much as he’d like to, his ethics wouldn’t allow him to do so. I brought up the option of going to some­one else for ther­apy, so that we could be friends, but after a bit of con­sid­er­a­tion, I didn’t like that option either, because I really enjoyed work­ing with him. On top of that, as he explained, he would be avail­able to me if I ever required his ser­vices in the future. I won’t lie and say that it didn’t make me very sad, but I under­stood and respected his reasons.

So after my last ses­sion, we shook hands, and he said “I’ll see you when I see you. Take care”.

And he meant it.

  1. Caffeine, along with many other things, used to trig­ger anx­i­ety attacks in me. []