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. []
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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12 Jul 08

Protected: The Wedding Loser

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11 Jul 08

Kar-Ma

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.

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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.

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06 Jul 08

Just a Spoke in the Wheel

Sometimes, life moves too fast for words.

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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.

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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.)

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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. []
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