equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
02 Dec 07

Where I Belong

Those who rule in accor­dance with Tao do not use force against the world
For that which is forced is likely to return

—Verse 30, Tao Te Ching

I may know bet­ter, I may under­stand what I’m sup­posed to accept, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Sometimes the world is crash­ing down around you, and all you can do is watch.

Because you can’t yell at the sky to keep it from falling.

01 Dec 07

Mittens Make It Up

Thumbnail: Club Monaco mittens

The win­ter storm watch con­tin­ued at –14°C today. When you’re inside, the sun fools you with the warmth of its colour, until you step out­side and feel the bite of the wind.

I spent an hour-and-a-half look­ing for var­i­ous things and run­ning errands down­town. The streets were packed, the stores were packed, and I found nothing.

So I spent a stu­pid amount of money on these awe­some mit­tens at Club Monaco. I actu­ally walked out of the store and out of the mall when I found them, for fear that I would pur­chase them, but alas, here they are on my hands. I had to decide between the white and black stripes, the grey and black stripes, and the flat grey ones, but since most of my cloth­ing is neu­tral, I decided on the flashiest pair. The open hole for the fin­gers makes iPod and cam­era manip­u­la­tion easy. They’re 100% cash­mere; thin enough to wear indoors or inside your coat pocket.

Thumbnail: Club Monaco mittens, RW&Co toque

So it wasn’t a total waste of a day.

29 Nov 07

Fighting Oneself, Revisited

This is one of the strangest times of my life. I remem­ber feel­ing some­thing sim­i­lar to this over four years ago, but I haven’t had it since.

I’m fight­ing my old self again. Fighting against these feel­ings and past habits.

I wish I could define and explain it. Vincent Gallo has a song he titled “Glad To Be Unhappy”, filled his dis­tinctly min­i­mal­is­tic piano and acoustic gui­tar sounds, so sparse you don’t know where the down­beat falls. But there are no lyrics, and I think I’m start­ing to under­stand why.

Everything is so sim­ple when you’re set in your heart. But when you’re filled with such para­dox­i­cal, con­tra­dic­tory feel­ings, noth­ing makes any sense. The world is turned upside down.

It’s frus­trat­ing1 and beau­ti­ful all at once.

I think a part of me wants to think about it. I want to keep this feel­ing, where every song sounds as good as the first time you heard it, and the leaden sky is urg­ing you for­ward with every step you take. To be so inspired.

And while part of me knows that to fight against ones inner nature is fool­ish2, another part of me knows how destruc­tive it can be.

  1. The orig­i­nal title of that post was actu­ally just a 5x5 pixel square, meant to con­fuse the reader into not know­ing what to think. Trolley tried to cor­rect me once and told me the title was bro­ken, and I had to let him know it was done on pur­pose. With my new head­line images plu­gin, the graphic title doesn’t quite work so I had to change it. []
  2. To add another level to this, I’m fight­ing against fight­ing myself []
27 Nov 07

Differing Perceptions

Julie's drawing of me

Julie drew this pic­ture of me. The details betray her perspicacity.

Such as the way my shirt tails dan­gle insou­ciantly from the sweater. How the pant bot­toms are slightly bunched up. And while I don’t wear a tie that often, the preppy top + skater bot­toms style is accu­rate. Even the length of chain and the shape of my glasses. All the lit­tle details I think about when I dress myself. The only thing that isn’t me is the hair, which falls flat in the win­ter, due to the fact that it’s toque wear­ing season.

Also, I have no eyes, nose or mouth is this pic­ture. Only my wide-arm glasses, which I’ve said before is a large part of my iden­tity. Obviously, her exclu­sion of my facial fea­tures has put even more empha­sis on this.

I won­der: why are my arms drawn behind my back? Posture says a lot about a per­son. Maybe this was done with­out any con­sid­er­a­tion, but maybe there was sub­con­scious intent.

It’s always inter­est­ing to find out how other peo­ple see you. A self-image is often biased.

So which image is more accu­rate; yours or theirs?

25 Nov 07

Becoming Pat

At the core of our beings, Pat and I are the same person.

What sep­a­rates us is our emo­tion, or lack thereof. Pat’s the log­i­cal one, I’m the emo­tional one. I’ve always looked up to him — his strength, his morals, his per­son­al­ity — with­out really under­stand­ing why.

It’s only in the last year that I’ve come to real­ize Pat is a Taoist. This comes with the real­iza­tion that I’m a Taoist myself, and explains why I try to be more like him.

The inter­est­ing part is that he doesn’t even know that he’s a Taoist — sort of like Winnie the Pooh — which is exactly what makes him a true Taoist.

One of Chuang Tzŭ’s para­bles illus­trates this point. In an abbre­vi­ated ver­sion, Knowledge seeks a con­scious reflec­tion to know the Tao, and asked Silent Do Nothing and Reckless Blurter, before ask­ing The Yellow Emperor (ahhh, the Romantic per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of Chinese fables):

Knowledge said to The Yellow Emperor, “I asked Silent Do Nothing and he kept quiet. Not only didn’t he answer me, but he didn’t even know how to answer. I asked Reckless Blurter, and though he wanted to tell me, he didn’t, and even for­got my ques­tions. Now I’ve asked you, and you know all about it. Why do you say that you’re far from it?”.

The Yellow Emperor said, “Silent Do Nothing was truly right, because he didn’t know any­thing. Reckless Blurter was nearly right, because he’d for­got­ten it. You and I are far from right, because we know far too much”.

The same is true for Tai Chi1, or any mar­tial art for that mat­ter. Dissect it too much, and you lose the mean­ing. Think about it too much, and you don’t react. As Michael Babin wrote in his arti­cle on self-defense train­ing:

It is sad but true that real skill comes from seem­ingly end­less drilling of the basics and then learn­ing how to transcend/forget most of what you have so patiently learned.

In other words, learn­ing struc­ture is essen­tial to learn­ing to react to a com­plete lack of struc­ture (i.e. a real fight); but if you focus on struc­ture for too long it becomes counter-productive to “being with­out struc­ture” in mar­tial terms. One of the many annoy­ing para­doxes in the inter­nal arts.

One of the many para­doxes in the Taoist phi­los­o­phy as well. As much as I try to study it, learn it, and apply it, I find myself think­ing about it too much. As a result, I occa­sion­ally stray from being cen­tered, and lose my balance.

It’s the con­scious reflec­tion which Knowledge is seek­ing that pre­emp­tively dooms his search. This is my prob­lem as well. I buy Taoist books with a thirst for knowl­edge, but they’re all telling me the same thing now. Not that the books haven’t helped at all, but I feel like I’ve reached a limit. Perhaps even the sim­ple act of writ­ing about this is counter-productive.

I have the under­stand­ing, but I can’t apply it with­out think­ing about it first, and it’s the attempt to apply it that ruins the point. I’ve yet to reach a stage of pure reac­tion and spon­tane­ity, like Pat.

But I’m get­ting there.

  1. Yet another exam­ple of how Tai Chi is the phys­i­cal expres­sion of the phi­los­o­phy. Or per­haps this could be reverse-generalized, and said that the Taoist phi­los­o­phy is reflected in every­thing, such as mar­tial arts. []
23 Nov 07

Winter Window

Thumbnail: A winter scene out my window

Turning over and over in the sky, length after length of white­ness unwound over the earth and shrouded it. The bliz­zard was alone in the world; it had no rival.

When he climbed down from the win­dow sill Yura’s first impulse was to dress, run out­side, and start doing something.

—Doctor Zhivago

When one looks out­side their win­dow and sees this, this blan­ket of purity, what else can one feel but seren­ity, con­tent­ment, and hope?

21 Nov 07

A Chance To Create

Good news. Wait no. Great fuck­ing news.

I met with Frédéric, the owner of the Salon, and after show­ing him a port­fo­lio of my pic­tures, he agreed to let me have an exhibit in the next show in February.

As this wasn’t only his art gallery but his house as well, I offered to let him make the deci­sion after see­ing my com­pleted work. He told me there was no need, as he trusted me based on what he had seen in my port­fo­lio, which I felt was a very nice compliment.

As artists (and I use this in the loos­est sense of the word to describe myself), we’re very dif­fer­ent. I told him that I like to study pho­to­graphic tech­niques, espe­cially in pho­tos that I like, and apply those tech­niques to what I want to express or show. When I look at a piece of visual art, I look at mean­ing and intent. When I cre­ate, I keep the same thing in mind. Frédéric, on the other hand, is more of a gut-feeling type of artist. He does what he feels is right, and doesn’t worry as much about the under­ly­ing message.

He asked if I was sin­gle, and I told him I was. “Good”, he said, “That’ll help you focus”. It made me think of a quote by Alexander Dumas:

Woman inspires us to great things, and pre­vents us from achiev­ing them.

I made a remark about how I’d have a forum to develop my ideas now, projects I never pur­sued because I didn’t have a way to get them to a wider audi­ence. He told me that I shouldn’t worry about an audi­ence, and gave me an exam­ple to demon­strate his point: if you cre­ate the most beau­ti­ful thing you’ve ever done and you keep it in your base­ment, it isn’t art because no one sees it1, but to get caught up in that dilemma, and to not cre­ate sim­ply because of that, is a tragedy.

So now I can pur­sue and develop one of my photo project ideas. I have to decide on a theme. I have see how much enlarge­ment I can do to my pho­tos with­out too much loss of qual­ity. I have to decide on the size of the final prints. I have to decide on the frame size and shape. I have to get the final prints framed.

I’ve always wanted to cre­ate acces­si­ble art2.

Perhaps this will be my chance.

  1. An inter­pre­tive answer to the Zen kōan of the sound a tree makes falling down in the for­est, I’m sure []
  2. As opposed to some­thing such as poetry, which is less acces­si­ble to the com­mon per­son. As a medium, film, pho­tog­ra­phy, and music (with lyrics) are more eas­ily digestible. []
21 Nov 07

Recording My Dreams

Note: Dreams are funny things. As the cre­ator of the world you’re in, you have an omni­scient knowl­edge of every­thing, includ­ing what other peo­ple in the dream are think­ing. Things that are lyser­gic and ran­dom make per­fect sense in a dream. Every now and then, espe­cially when they’re very vivid, a dream will seem fas­ci­nat­ing, so I’ll write it down and post it. Then I read it over again, and think “This is the stu­pid­est, least coher­ent thing I’ve ever writ­ten”. Then I delete it. I’ve done this about a half dozen times, and they’re the only entries I’ve ever deleted from this blog.

This is an exam­ple from last night. I’ll try not to delete it.

There was also a part about play­ing table ten­nis that pre­cedes the begin­ning, like the scene between Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in Match Point, which, eerily enough, is some­what sim­i­lar to this dream. However, the mem­ory has been lost in the haze of consciousness.

P.S. If you ever read this, Alex, please don’t beat me up. KTHX.

Dreamt Sophia and I were in love.

Read the rest of this entry »

20 Nov 07

A New Winter Ritual

Snow col­lected on the grass last night.

This makes me dream of week­end morn­ings in my liv­ing room, tea and a lap­top, look­ing out to a blan­ket of white. Dolly curled up on the arm­rest next to me, as she always is. No other con­trast feels as cozy.

Ritual dic­tates that I watch Onegin or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind on the day of the first snow­fall, a trib­ute to win­ter scenes and warm romance.

This year, I’ll buy myself some skates. I’ll pack a snack and some water. Maybe my cam­era in case an image catches my fancy.

As the strings shud­der and the beats go on, I’ll carve a lit­tle path for myself on the canal, and burn beneath the orange sky.

And this will be my new ritual.

18 Nov 07

She Doesn't Know How Beautiful

The art of longing’s over, and it’s never com­ing back.

—Leonard Cohen, Death of a Ladies’ Man

They ask me why I’m cry­ing. I tell them the song is too good, not to cry.

They ask me why there’s a bounce in my step. I tell them I’m in love, and I don’t care.

They ask me if she’s taken. I tell them she is.

They ask me if she knows. I tell them it doesn’t mat­ter as long as I feel this way, and I’m never let­ting go.

They ask me, “Why her?”.

I tell them she makes me happy with­out try­ing.

17 Nov 07

Emergence Exposition Opus 01

A few days before the show, I found out that Krista and Shane were play­ing a small venue in town. Usually I make it a point to see an artist just once in my life, but last time was dif­fer­ent; I was expect­ing Lederhosen Lucil, but was treated to an entirely dif­fer­ent and unfa­mil­iar sound. This time, it was my chance to see Krista and Shane per­form after becom­ing famil­iar with the songs. Turns out the venue was in un petit salon des arts. This place boasted a mix­ture of dif­fer­ent art­forms; music, metal sculp­tures, pho­tographs, paint­ings, and graphic poems.

I didn’t really feel like going out that night, but I forced myself to go, remind­ing myself that I could say the same thing any other night and I’d never get anywhere.

Thumbnail: Entrance of the Emergence Exposition

When I arrived, the Salon was to capac­ity. I couldn’t even get in the entrance; there were peo­ple phys­i­cally block­ing the door. My chance to get in came after a few had made room by leav­ing, then I saw a path up the stairs and took it.

Enter six degrees of sep­a­ra­tion.

Read the rest of this entry »

14 Nov 07

In Her Prayers

Every now and then, Louise let’s me know that she’s pray­ing for me. For my health. For my success.

She really believes in the power of prayer. It’s healed her fam­ily, it’s given her guid­ance, it’s pro­vided her with the strength that she needs. She’s one of the few Christian’s whose faith I respect1.

It’s a nice feel­ing to be in someone’s prayers, and she does this even though I’m not Christian myself.

Normally, I’m a skep­tic about these things.

Which makes it dif­fi­cult to deny how it’s lately been working.

  1. In most of my expe­ri­ence, it’s as Nietzsche said; “The Christian resolve to find the world evil and ugly, has made the world evil and ugly.” []
13 Nov 07

Present for the 27th

Eric, who used to work with me, intro­duced me to Brant Bjork, and stoner rock in gen­eral, about two years ago. It’s a genre that explores delight­ful rep­e­ti­tion, where vari­a­tions are sub­tle, but pow­er­fully psychedelic.

[I]t is cer­tainly accepted that the effects of mar­i­juana and the often low or psy­che­delic riffs of stoner rock com­ple­ment each other.

—Wikipedia, Stoner rock

I liken the idea to Plastikman’s debut album, Sheet One. Though of a dif­fer­ent genre — trance — it fea­tures a per­fo­rated album cover, an homage to acid tab art, for which the LSD enhances the details of every sin­gle min­i­mal­is­tic beat (so I’m told).

While I’ve enjoyed Queens of the Stone Age, who are con­sid­ered to be influ­enced by the stoner rock move­ment (indeed, Josh Homme and Brant Bjork formed pio­neer­ing band Kyuss while in high school), the sound is a lit­tle more com­mer­cial, less droning.

After I heard a few songs by Brant Bjork, I was hooked. I never asso­ci­ated it with a mem­ory, which is what I do with almost all my songs, but it was good enough that I didn’t have to.

At Thanksgiving, dur­ing one of my trips through the mall with Andrew and Alex, I resumed my search for Brant Bjork’s solo album by the name of Jalamanta. It was a big­ger city, a big­ger place…maybe I’d have a bet­ter luck. Unfortunately, every music store gave me the same answer; it was an album they didn’t keep reg­u­larly in stock.

Alex asked me what I was look­ing for, the name of the album and artist, and I didn’t think any­thing of it.

Thumbnail: Brant Bjork

Yesterday, I found a pack­age in the mail. Fragile — CD, it said. Inside was the Brant Bjork CD I’ve been look­ing for, which they found at an inde­pen­dent music store. Along with the CD was a card made from my Pollen Junkie photo (which was taken in their gar­den), with a mes­sage writ­ten on the back.

And as great as it is to finally hear the songs I’ve been miss­ing, as nice as it is to have an orig­i­nal release, it’s noth­ing com­pared to the thought­ful­ness, the effort they made to find me exactly what I was look­ing for.

Update: Julie bought me a lucky bam­boo plant, along with a vase filled with dec­o­ra­tive rocks and a cute hand-drawn card. Very, very nice! Definitely an effort spent acquir­ing all these things, and much appreciated.

11 Nov 07

A Loss of Faith

Been hav­ing an insane argu­ment with a per­son on Flickr over a “racist” pic­ture of me and Bronwen.

Are peo­ple really this asi­nine? I really don’t want to believe it, but it’s kinda hard when they repeat­edly go beyond all sense of logic.

There goes my faith in humanity.

Please, please, please, let this be a joke.

09 Nov 07

Privy To All The New Shit

I’ve been in the strangest mood lately. Killing my Top Rated playlist every­where I go, yet I skip through 90% of the songs, try­ing to find the right one. Talking to myself. Replaying con­ver­sa­tions in my head.

I don’t quite feel at one with the Tao. I’ve been let­ting small things get to me. It’s as if I’m falling back into my old destruc­tive habits, but upon real­iz­ing this, I fight against it. The strug­gle, when observed objec­tively, is quite amusing.

These are excit­ing times. Along with the excite­ment comes ner­vous­ness. It’s turned me into a jum­ble of emo­tions, bit­ter­sweet, and unlike any­thing I’ve ever expe­ri­enced before.

Wish I could do some­thing with this feeling.