equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
27 Dec 13

lessons learned on the path to awakening

Order mat­ters. Timing is impor­tant. It’s help­ful to arrive at the point where things can only get bet­ter, but los­ing every­thing takes time. Making mis­takes is okay. Being unable to cope is okay. Not being ready to say it back is okay. Life is a bal­ance between hold­ing on and let­ting go. Some peo­ple should never have chil­dren. You’re only over some­one when you don’t need to make a con­scious effort to stop think­ing about them. The first step in tak­ing respon­si­bil­ity for your needs is com­mu­ni­cat­ing those needs.

cat

Cats are lit­tle bun­dles of non-judgmental, unas­sum­ing, food-conditional love.

I need to be with lis­ten­ers more than talk­ers. A day spent writ­ing let­ters that will never be read isn’t a waste. Some peo­ple don’t know how to help, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. It’s impor­tant to make peace with one’s suf­fer­ing. You never stop grow­ing with the right peo­ple in your life. She never loved me more than the words I wrote. The last thing I want is to be ignored when I open up. It’s okay when friends pri­or­i­tize their kids before me. It’s okay to pri­or­i­tize myself before any­one else. Always be mind­ful of long hair when cuddling.

Foxhole party

There are peo­ple who love me enough to save my life (and pants are optional at their parties).

The ones with a lit­tle bit of dark­ness to them tend to be more inter­est­ing. If a guy in a suit is cute like me, that means I’m cute like him. Lisa is my third cat and that’s enough for now. I deserve to be happy. A bad trip doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean a bad expe­ri­ence. Strength is often quiet, recep­tive deter­mi­na­tion, rather than chest-thumping pushi­ness. Being kind to dif­fi­cult peo­ple is just as impor­tant as being kind to bene­fac­tors and friends; being kind to myself is most impor­tant of all.

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14 Jun 13

Protected: lost locks

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02 Jun 13

thousand-yard stare

Heather G left a pack­age out­side my door after try­ing to make plans and get­ting what must have been a dis­tant answer. Organic herbal tea, 80% dark choco­late truf­fles, and not only sushi from my favourite restau­rant, but my favourite kinds too. She knows me extra­or­di­nar­ily well for a per­son I barely get a chance to see, and she cares so much even though she has no idea what I’m going through. It’s helped me real­ize that some peo­ple are bet­ter at being what you need, that you can’t expect every per­son to fill all the roles in your life. I’m also try­ing to fig­ure out what those needs are right now, and how to express those needs to oth­ers (or how hard it is for me to express them).

It always takes me a while to recover from these kinds of weeks, and this one was par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult. When the cops showed up, I pulled the whole Drexl Spivey thing and ate my Chinese, car­ried on like I ain’t got a care in the world. I know what they need to hear, espe­cially the sec­ond time around, and what’s more, I know that noth­ing they say will make a difference.

Everything has left me feel­ing numb and over­stim­u­lated. Almost all the hours are spent in Far Cry 3 with a bolt-action sup­pressed Z93, wast­ing time and lives in appro­pri­ate por­tions. Losing myself in that world and not get­ting any­thing pro­duc­tive done at all was an easy deci­sion. I know I deserve to be okay for a lit­tle while, and we all deal with our dam­age in dif­fer­ent ways.

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10 Apr 13

This is a picture I didn't take

Of you, arms up and chest out, body crash­ing against the surf. Top pulled back into place with each wave, bot­toms adjusted as needed. A splash of rain on a flower soon to burgeon.

In that instance I became aware of what was hap­pen­ing in myself. I could look at it clearly, and saw it as it was because it was already there, part of my expe­ri­ence in that moment, for bet­ter or for worse. I allowed myself to be exactly as I was with­out fear or shame. Detached yet present. Mindful to how I’ve longed to feel this for some­one again, and how I’ve never fully sur­ren­dered myself to it until now. A rea­son for the lyrics in the awk­ward smiles, the molto crescendo in every inci­den­tal touch.

This is a pic­ture I didn’t take of you, a mem­ory from which I can’t seem to look away. A moment I carry with me to remind myself that I can love again.

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07 Mar 13

looping: forever

crotch grab

I’ve been hav­ing a lot of fun mak­ing these lit­tle ani­mated gifs, each one a moment from a wed­ding I shot last sea­son. Not all my footage makes it into the final cut of a film; occa­sion­ally, some­thing has to be sac­ri­ficed for rea­sons of pac­ing or tim­ing or…appropriateness, and it seemed like such a pity that these clips would end up on the cut­ting room floor.

The tricky part is not mak­ing a gif too long, oth­er­wise it becomes a scene, and loses the rep­e­ti­tion that makes us believe the moment goes on forever.

Read the rest of this entry »

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23 Jan 13

that I may cease to mourn

At some point along the way, I dis­cover that I’m ter­ri­ble at being alone. I need some­one to care for / spoil / love / give my exis­tence mean­ing. Echoes of a try­ing child­hood I’m just now sort­ing out. Otherwise, I’m con­stantly feel­ing empty instead of fulfilled.

Once a week I’m torn down so I can be rebuilt again, and some days I won­der: what of me will be left?

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04 Jan 13

tides

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I’ve been look­ing for new inspi­ra­tion and lis­ten­ing to as much new music as I can find recently. I haven’t dared go into much of my old music. I sup­pose that means I’m not yet com­pletely over some­thing or other. Thankfully, peo­ple send me new songs all the time (this gem cour­tesy of Mansour Chow), and often it keeps me going until the next addiction.

I haven’t picked up my gui­tar lately either. For the first time, the break has been self-imposed, though out of a desire to pur­sue other inter­ests more than any­thing else. Also pos­si­bly the fact that I lost two months of growth when I chipped my thumb­nail, and I’m not inter­ested in learn­ing any­thing that requires a thumbpick right now. Ever since my dad gave me Larissa as a birth­day present two years ago, I haven’t able to put her down until now. I’m hop­ing it’ll reset a few bad habits, and give me more focus when I start again.

Practicing gui­tar has been the one tan­gi­ble way in which I could tell I was improv­ing. Now that I’m tak­ing a break, I’ve been faced with an unset­tling sense of stag­nancy, cause I’ve always held self-improvement as one of my main rea­sons for liv­ing. But I’ve also real­ized that it’s not always pos­si­ble to con­tin­u­ally improve, so I’m try­ing to be happy with who I am at the moment, and accept that it’s nat­ural to go through cycles of growth and stag­nancy, pain and heal­ing, frailty and strength.

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23 Dec 12

finishing the game

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It’s been an aim­less win­ter. Some days full of mean­ing, oth­ers pass­ing with­out so much as a moment worth remem­ber­ing. I’ve learned to cher­ish every storm cause each one could be your last. Who knows when you’ll get to walk on trails cut through tan­gled branches with the snow as wet and thick and heavy as this again?

long driveway with snow

 

The hol­i­days snuck up on me. I’ve been try­ing to fig­ure out where all the time has gone and how best to use what’s left. The only dec­o­rat­ing I’ve done for the sea­son is a real pine wreath (gen­er­ously given to me by Steph) hung on the office door. A small act that doesn’t seem like much com­pared to the glo­ri­ous ceiling-scraping trees in the houses of my friends and neigh­bours, but cer­tainly more than I’ve done in the recent years. It’s an easy con­ces­sion to make against my grow­ing dis­taste for the com­mer­cial­ized Christmas cul­ture when my room is filled with the scent of sap, scat­tered pine nee­dles, and other reminders of life.

car-in-snow

The ever-faithful steed.

My exis­tence is defined by what I have left to do, and the list grows ever shorter. I live week-by-week, through cycles of pro­duc­tiv­ity and play, try­ing to meet each need in turn. It’s always a del­i­cate bal­ance to be man­ag­ing when so much in life is out of your control.

As for the short term, I’m off to Shirley’s for Christmas and my annual dose of fam­ily. It’ll be a com­plete break from my reg­u­lar life of single-serving meals and never being around more than one per­son at a time. I imag­ine we’ll spend most of the days eat­ing fin­ger foods and watch­ing real­ity TV among the ram­bunc­tious flus­ter of her kids. I always look for­ward to see­ing how they’re car­ry­ing their grown-up voices and how their styles have changed.

hot chocolate

 

This is the time of year I’m most scared of being left with­out plans1, but recently I haven’t had enough time alone. It’s left me feel­ing numb and tired and that’s exactly what I need right now.

Friends still make the best dis­trac­tions. It’s easy to hide from any­thing when you’re shar­ing a blan­ket and some early episodes of Trailer Park Boys.

  1. Also why I usu­ally make a trip to Toronto. []
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12 Dec 12

found and lost

I don’t know how to tell my friends about you. What am I sup­posed to say? That all we shared was some tea and talk and those four hours are rea­son I still believe in chem­istry after all the prac­ti­cal fail­ings of my past rela­tion­ships? And how do I bring you up, now that it’s been so long I won­der if you even remem­ber me?

Perhaps you wouldn’t be in my mind so often if Green Eyes wasn’t one of my favourite songs. It always takes me back to those days on the mend, when all I had was your brother — singing with a voice like it was soaked in Scotch and left to dry on a line in win­ter — to give me some­thing new to love. You were the one to give me some­thing to be excited about when it felt like noth­ing mat­tered any­more, and just as much became an inex­tri­ca­ble part of that time.

That’s why I haven’t for­got­ten you. That’s why I never will.

I can still see the cav­a­lier way you’d toss your curly hair over your head every now and then, as if you were per­pet­u­ally decid­ing how best to wear it. I’ve come to appre­ci­ate that kind of casual come­li­ness, and the fact that you were so unaware of it made it all the more endearing.

We were sup­posed to start a band of our own. I’d pick up key­board or cello if you wanted to stick with gui­tar, we’d do cov­ers of Andrew Vincent, open for house shows, and get signed to Kelp some day. Instead, all I have is a pic­ture of you danc­ing at the Raw Sugar, and what if for­ever on my lips.

I may hardly know you, but the truth is I miss you. I still want you in my life. I want to know where you’ve been and who you’ve loved, what you’re danc­ing to and how else your cre­ativ­ity has taken form. But all I can do is won­der if our paths will ever cross again.

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22 Nov 12

makeshift wings

I’m ready for the win­ter. To be reborn with the first snow­fall that cov­ers the grass, awash in muf­fled serenity.

Time is mea­sured in weeks, not by the cycle of day and night, and this makes every­thing pass at a blis­ter­ing pace. The good weeks involve bacon break­fasts and peo­ple bring­ing me food and new projects and Magic nights. The bad ones involve bat­tles with my old arch neme­sis, acne, and his side-kick, scarring-on-my-fucking-nose.

I’ve been deal­ing with this over­whelm­ing sense that any­thing can change. So much has left me feel­ing like there’s no cer­tainty any­more. Maybe that’s why I’ve stopped dream­ing. I have no idea what to expect from the future, and I don’t know if that scares me or gives me hope.

To stop myself from think­ing about it too much, I dis­tract with all the right things and few of the wrong ones. It’s a frag­ile form of sta­bil­ity. Some days, the strings, they don’t do enough.

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13 Nov 12

clever people and grocers, they weigh everything

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It’s been hard to write, though not from a lack of inspi­ra­tion. Far from it; it seems like there’s a smile or tear hid­den in every lit­tle detail of an Autumn day. The prob­lem is I don’t have the time. I don’t reflect on an emo­tional rush until I have a chance to write by a win­dow in the dark, and those oppor­tu­ni­ties are get­ting more and more rare.

That means I’m get­ting bet­ter at putting my feel­ings on hold, though no bet­ter at fig­ur­ing out whether that kind of dis­trac­tion is a good idea. I imag­ine it’ll all catch up to me at some point, and I’ll find out soon enough.

girl in doorway

 

It’s a sure sign that the Cipralex is out of my sys­tem. I’ve decided that being able to feel is bet­ter than being numb, even if that means not know­ing which way things are going to go. Right now, I’m just appre­cia­tive of fru­gal forms of hap­pi­ness again, my lat­est dis­cov­ery being the feel­ing of a healthy lather rins­ing clean from your hair.

Maybe my time away did me some good. I lost a week, but I’m feel­ing recharged. I’ve been pro­duc­tive. I’ve been social. I’ve even been exer­cis­ing.

Now I’m ready to begin again.

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26 Oct 12

Matteo Carcassi: Study in A Minor (Etude No.7)

While study­ing this Carcassi étude — and ana­lyz­ing as many ver­sion as pos­si­ble in aid of that — I real­ized that clas­si­cal music is like wine. They’re both based on a cen­tral theme or taste, and it’s the sub­tle dif­fer­ences between the inter­pre­ta­tion of each per­former or wine maker that make them unique and inter­est­ing. That’s why you need to lis­ten to a lot clas­si­cal music (or drink a lot of wine) to develop a palate. I bet two dif­fer­ent musi­cians (or even the same musi­cian at two dif­fer­ent points in their career) play­ing the same piece would sound the same to some peo­ple for the same rea­son that two dif­fer­ent mer­lots would taste the same to others.

This is sup­posed to be played alle­gro, but I’ve yet to hear a ver­sion above 105 bpm that didn’t feel rushed to me, so I pre­fer to play it andante1. Luckily, I enjoy clas­si­cal music, and I can tell the time I’ve invested in devel­op­ing that foun­da­tion trans­lates over to non-classical songs, not only in the extra fin­ger pre­ci­sion but in prac­tic­ing tech­niques too.

I’m still using elec­tric strings2, which I’ve had on longer than any other set, cause I love how crisp and brassy the tone is through­out the range. For a piece like this where the melody switches between bass and tre­ble, that becomes really important.

  1. Also cause I’m not good enough to play it that quickly yet. []
  2. XL Chromes, warm/mellow, flat-wound, extra light gauge. []
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22 Oct 12

thanks for the trouble you took from her eyes

That lit­tle fur­row was there because you weren’t. That’s why you never saw it, of course. You must think I hate you cause it was the only thing I couldn’t help her with myself. But I could never hate you. You gave her what she wanted. In the end, that’s all I really wanted too.

I knew it was seri­ous when I saw your umbrella under her bed, back when she hid those kinds of things for my sake. You never real­ized she only took it as an excuse to see you again (not because she was par­tic­u­larly scared of get­ting her merino socks wet), the same way you never real­ized how easy it all was for you. That was a sign that you were the right one. I knew it before she did.

If only there was a bit of mys­tery left in you. Instead, I had you pegged by the sec­ond night, and all I can tell peo­ple is that you’re a nice guy, when I want to say you’re an artist, a lover, a fighter, a wor­thy rival, a slayer of inse­cu­ri­ties, a breaker of bar­ri­ers, a tes­ta­ment to testos­terone, a hero among men. She deserves more than the painfully pedes­trian life you’ve given her, but I know she’s had enough of heart­break to think that nor­mal is hard enough to come by. And so I’ve learned that a person’s hap­pi­ness is all that mat­ters, not the dreams you have for them. I guess it’s hard to give up those dreams when you’re part of them yourself.

I want to say I’m leav­ing for some noble rea­son of great impor­tance, but it’s really because there’s noth­ing left for me in this lit­tle town. I used to believe I could escape; even­tu­ally I real­ized you can’t out­run your mem­o­ries. Now I’m just try­ing to fig­ure out where I belong. She was all I knew for so long, and now that life is gone.

And so I must tread care­fully with new lovers; it’s impos­si­ble for me to tell my story with­out that part of my past. That’s why I won­der what she told you about me, about us. About los­ing feel­ing in her face and let­ters you wouldn’t know how to write. If she inten­tion­ally left any­thing out, or whether our time was even worth men­tion­ing. But the past is still the past, and that’s the only rea­son I can write a let­ter now to the man who saved her with­out ever know­ing it.

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10 Oct 12

Singhouse Studios — Sparkle

Singhouse Studios is a voice and per­for­mance school for peo­ple of all ages, and one night every year the stu­dents per­form in a big show. This year, the show — titled Sparkle — was celebrity-themed, com­plete with a melange of hits from the last five decades, a red car­pet run­way for all the stars, and even Ottawa’s local pop heart­throb, Alex Lacasse1.

Music by Five Stripe Studios. Adrian and I worked closely to make sure the music had the right kind of play­ful energy to focus on the school’s main demographic.

I was asked to cre­ate a pro­mo­tional video for the stu­dio, so I fol­lowed the per­form­ers to tell the story of their day, from the back­stage to the main stage. I felt it was as impor­tant to see all the prepa­ra­tion as much as the per­for­mances them­selves, which is why I included footage of warm-up rou­tines, prac­tice rit­u­als, and dress rehearsals. I love to see the focus so many of the young per­form­ers have, and much of that comes out before they even step into the spotlight.

  1. Who’s been a stu­dent at the stu­dio for years now. []
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13 Sep 12

collab

I’m very pleased to say that I’m now work­ing with Five Stripe Studios, a tal­ented bou­tique music com­po­si­tion stu­dio, to score my films. Music is one of the most impor­tant parts of any film, and the right music can make great footage look even better.

Choosing the right music also hap­pens to be one of the most dif­fi­cult parts of the sto­ry­telling process. For one wed­ding, I spent a week look­ing for the per­fect song. When I dis­cov­ered it had an inap­pro­pri­ate line (noth­ing vul­gar, just very unfit­ting for a wed­ding), I spent another week try­ing to find a replace­ment, but even­tu­ally went with my orig­i­nal choice, using audio soft­ware to take the line out.

Kyden’s First was a small project we worked on to make sure we were able to com­mu­ni­cate effec­tively at dif­fer­ent stages of the scor­ing process.

It made sense to find a more capa­ble per­son to han­dle this respon­si­bil­ity, and I just hap­pened to come in con­tact with the right per­son at the right time. Adrian is the cre­ative direc­tor of Five Stripe Studios, and not only does he write the music, he sings, plays, and records it as well. I met him in Australia when we were much younger1, and he con­tacted me after com­ing across my work many years later.

This not only gives me total con­trol over the music, allow­ing me to choose the right instru­ments, tone, pace, and mood, but I have more options with the footage as well, as I some­times found myself leav­ing out a great scene out to match another scene with a cer­tain part of a song. Adrian is also a very dynamic com­poser, and can give me widely vary­ing styles and gen­res; exactly what I need when work­ing with all the dif­fer­ent things I film.

  1. I still remem­ber us play­ing NHL Hockey on the NES, which would have meant I was in my early teens. []
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