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

Checkout Purgatory

The check­out clerks (girls mostly) at my gro­cery store have a strange habit of not acknowl­edg­ing the next cus­tomer until the cur­rent one has paid. So there’s often a point where the cur­rent cus­tomer has passed the cash reg­is­ter to put their gro­ceries in a cart, and they’re just wait­ing for their credit card to go through.

I end up stand­ing right in front of the clerk, who won’t say any­thing, even though you know they see you out of their periph­eral vision. They only say hello as soon as the pre­vi­ous cus­tomer has been rung through. Like they’re com­put­ers who can’t han­dle more than one task per per­son at a time.

It’s quite awkward.

26 Sep 08

Believing In Her Beauty

The torso of my beautiful muse

I tell her she’s beau­ti­ful. Over and over again. As often as I can.

But she shakes her head, and says I only think so because I love her.

The front of my beautiful muse

It’s true. But would I love her any less if she didn’t have those soft, inno­cent eyes? If she didn’t wear her hair up, or down, or curly, or straight, or dif­fer­ent every time I saw her? If her body didn’t curve so dis­tract­ingly when she lets her­self fall into me?

The body of my beautiful muse

It makes me won­der if any­one sees the same thing that I do.

How much of it is her beauty, and how much of it is the beauty I see in her?

To me, her beauty is obvi­ous, not sub­tle in any way.

The legs of my beautiful muse

So I tell her, over and over again.

Sometimes I think she’ll start to believe me if I say it enough.

22 Sep 08

Your Interest In My Love

I’ve always enjoyed read­ing about peo­ple who are in love, but most of all when that love is unre­quited. Vivid pic­tures painted in details about a saucy diastema, the observed rit­ual of walk­ing by a cer­tain table every day to get a cup of water for paint, an unso­licited brush against a hip. Stories about awk­ward­ness, weak­ness, burn­ing desire.

Perhaps it’s because I can relate to these expe­ri­ences, or because they make me feel like I’m less alone in my own clumsy deal­ings with the oppo­site sex. Even though there are count­less sto­ries writ­ten about unre­quited love, there aren’t enough. For the few of us who are “oppressed by the fig­ures of beauty”, as Leonard Cohen calls it, noth­ing makes us feel bet­ter. All we can do is silently com­mis­er­ate with the words of those who share them­selves in this way.

When I look through my old entries, it seems like most of them are about love or a torch I carry in one way or another, and how this affects me.

And some­times I won­der if this is the rea­son why peo­ple come here to read my words.

21 Sep 08

Protected: Breaking the Attraction Defence Mechanism

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14 Sep 08

Good Times For A Change

Before you start read­ing, play this song. It’s a Deftones cover of The Smiths’ song Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want. There have been a few other artists who have done cov­ers too, includ­ing Muse, but only Chino has the kind of raw emo­tion in his voice that matches Morrisey.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (ver­sion 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the lat­est ver­sion here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

This song was writ­ten for right now.

Orchid bouquet

I’ve moved mainly to video. Getting a lit­tle tired of the still pho­to­graph medium. I had my first com­mis­sion this week­end at the NAC, record­ing a jazz trio con­cert in exchange for a few tick­ets for my friends.

If you couldn’t tell, I’ve been obsessed with colour tones and vignetting lately. Making my pho­tos look like old mem­o­ries. Maybe this is a way for me to go back; revert­ing to past expe­ri­ences, draw­ing inward as an intro­vert, regress­ing to a dif­fer­ent time, when all I had was inno­cence but that was enough.

Me in a tie

I’ve been strangely serene. Sleeping well. When things get com­pli­cated I’ve been less stoic, and more light-hearted.

Dolly eating chicken

Maybe it’s the house being clean. Maybe I’m sat­is­fied with the the new dec­o­ra­tions. Maybe it was the last week­end, get­ting caught up on errands and tasks, finally feel­ing like my head is above water.

Maybe it’s the weather. The rain. The wind. The warmth of the sun. The tem­per­a­ture drop. The way I can leave my win­dow open at night.

Civic logo in rain

Maybe it’s feel­ing socially ful­filled. Seeing friends, laugh­ing hard, trips out of town, trips on my own.

Star fingers

Maybe it’s the nights spent hold­ing her, caress­ing every inch of her skin. Maybe it’s the way she held me too.

Chopped vegetables

Maybe it’s the accep­tance. A way I’ve let go where I’ve found myself finally free, and liv­ing. Something I always think I’ve been able to do, only to real­ize a day later that I didn’t before, but I have now, hon­estly.

School bus

Maybe it’s all the movies I’ve been watch­ing in the time between, see­ing myself in every char­ac­ter, every sit­u­a­tion. Going back to high school, being back at university.

Potting plant

I’m not sure what it is, but I know this feel­ing won’t last for­ever. It never has. It’s the flux between storm and seren­ity that moves me.

Been writ­ing this entry over the last week.

In a cou­ple days, this blog turns six.

Maybe I just had a few good weeks.

09 Sep 08

Agnes and Sophia

Agnes face

Thumbnail: Sophia from front
Thumbnail: Agnes from above
Thumbnail: Sophia from above
Thumbnail: Agnes profile
Thumbnail: Sophia profile
Thumbnail: Agnes side bust
Thumbnail: Sophia side bust

Still play­ing around with black-and-white tones. This time, I went with less con­trast, so more of a low-key feel, not just in the over­all scene but in the fig­ures them­selves. In doing so, the tex­ture isn’t so blown-out as in my pre­vi­ous black-and-whites.

I love the dreamy look of high-key, but for more focus on facial fea­tures, I’m start­ing to turn to a greater range of light.

Agnes and Sophia being silly

Thumbnail: Agnes and Sophia faces
Thumbnail: Agnes and Sophia back-to-back
Thumbnail: Agnes and Sophia faces
Thumbnail: Agnes and Sophia being silly
Thumbnail: Agnes and Sophia piggy back

In return for mod­el­ing for some of my other projects, I agreed to give Agnes and Soph some por­traits. Siblings are gen­er­ally easy to work with. There’s a com­fort­ing famil­iar­ity that lets them act nat­u­rally together. To tell them apart, one sim­ply has to observe how dif­fer­ently each acts in front of a camera.

07 Sep 08

Tai Chi Classmates

There’s a good mix of body types and skill lev­els in my Tai Chi class. As the most junior per­son in the group, I have the ben­e­fit of always work­ing with peo­ple who are bet­ter than me (although being able to teach some­one myself would cer­tainly help solid­ify the con­cepts in my head).

Nothing beats work­ing with the teacher, who can pre­cisely vary his skill level so one can learn and absorb things in small incre­ments, a sys­tem­atic way of fine-tuning the details at a grad­ual pace. It’s some­thing that takes a great deal of time for bet­ter results in the long-run, and I’m sure that in this sense, he’s invest­ing in his stu­dents as much as one invests in the class.

Still, there are senior stu­dents who teach me sig­nif­i­cant things within a sin­gle minute of work­ing with them. They fill in the gaps in my knowl­edge that I’m not sure I’d be able to fig­ure out by myself, because they’ve been at my level before and under­stand what I’m doing wrong. Add to this a propen­sity to teach and help, and every class I walk away feel­ing like I’m improv­ing, if only by a small amount. Sometimes it’s to the point where I feel like my mind is going to explode, and the coor­di­na­tion of my body needs to catch up with the con­cepts in my brain.

But there are also senior stu­dents who seem stiff and unco­op­er­a­tive to the point where I feel I don’t learn any­thing from them. And even though I’m told they’re being nice and not over­bear­ing, I find prac­tic­ing with them to be very dif­fi­cult. It’s as if they’re work­ing too far beyond my level, where my struc­ture falls apart and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Maybe it just means I’m not skilled enough to adjust and do it right yet. I’m still thank­ful to be able to work with them though, because at the very least, they remind me that not every­one who’s going to attack you will be cooperative.

04 Sep 08

Tom and I

We used to have a code: I’d ask him “Hey Tom, you want to van­dal­ize the grave­yard tonight?”, this obscure line from an episode of Married…with Children.

If he responded with, “No, Jeff, that would be wrong” (the next line from the episode), that meant he’d agree to throw rocks into a lit­tle stream under an over­pass dur­ing our grade 7 lunch break. When we were fin­ished eat­ing in the cafe­te­ria, we’d walk to the stream with the remains of the hour, dressed in bur­gundy tie and pine blazer, heav­ing any appro­pri­ately sized rocks into the water. It was our goal to block the flow of the stream one day.

It was a fruit­less goal, of course, so much like every­thing we did back then, when noth­ing we did ever seemed to mat­ter. A goal we’d never hope to accomplish.

A way of say­ing, “I hope these days never end. I hope I never grow up, and I’m never too old to throw rocks with a good friend.”

Sometimes we’d throw what was left of our lunches into the stream, and be rewarded with the glimpse of a soli­tary fish break­ing the sur­face of the water and snatch­ing a morsel.

By the time we returned to class, the sheen on my brogues would be replaced by a fine layer of dust from walk­ing around in the gravel. I’d wear that dust proudly, because no one ever knew how it got there, a secret code between him and me.

Sometimes I check up on Tommy. Not that he knows. I won­der if we could be friends again. We lead two dif­fer­ent lives, but that’s never stopped me from being friends with some­one. Part of me is scared that he’s never changed, never grown out from the ele­men­tary school Tom I used to know — some­thing all too com­mon in my expe­ri­ence — and I’d just rather not know. It’s enough for me not to con­tact him.

But I still root for him, not because we used to be such good friends, but because I know that if he can make it, so can I.