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

When I Die

When I die, let there be no obit­u­ar­ies or announce­ments, for the ones who should know, would know.

Let there be a gath­er­ing instead of a funeral, where my friends can relax and speak what they wish.

Let the dress be casual, for no one should be any­thing but them­selves around me.

Let there be men­tion of my flaws, for there would be no truth or human­ity with­out them.

Let there be humour and laugh­ter, for I love these things in my life.

Let there be no reli­gious ser­vice, for my life has been devoid of religion.

Let there be as much cel­e­bra­tion of my life as there is mourn­ing that it has ended.

Let every­one have a copy of Turn On The Bright Lights by which to remem­ber me.

Let my ashes be scat­tered, for I hope to carve my name on hearts, not marble.

26 Feb 07

Rob's Bachelor Party Weekend

Thumbnail: Aaron
Thumbnail: Aaron
Thumbnail: Jeff

As far as bach­e­lor par­ties go, Rob’s was a low-key deal. Seven of us in all. Half were from out of town, so we drove to Kingston to meet up.

Thumbnail: Lincoln Town Car
Thumbnail: Lincoln Logo

The first stop was Aaron’s dad’s house. Parked in his dri­ve­way was a 1980s Lincoln Continental Town Car, before they started to down­size the series. It’s a mas­sive car, with what looks like a com­plete couch in the back. As the coupe, it wasn’t even the full-size model. This is the only car that pimps teal.


Most of the day was spent giv­ing each other welts in speed­ball, which I learned is a testos­terone fused ver­sion of paint­ball. All speed and all accu­racy. I wasn’t used to a lack of con­ven­tional cover (in favour of inflat­a­bles), or the small play­ing area, but man­aged to sur­vive with­out any body hits.

Of course, being his bach­e­lor party week­end, we had to put Rob on his own team, though he didn’t quite find out until it hap­pened. This fol­lows the tra­di­tion of other frat­er­niz­ing cel­e­bra­tions, such as birth­day beats.


It was back to the hotel to get changed, and off to Rob’s favourite place to eat, which was a Chinese buf­fet. It also hap­pened to be Chinese New Year, so they had an entire roast suck­ling pig, though no one else dared to try it until I assured them it was safe.

More time was spent back at the hotel, in the hot tub, play­ing poker poker, break­ing elec­tric heaters in the exer­cise room.


Before leav­ing the next morn­ing, we went across the street to the con­ve­niently placed Golden Griddle, an all-you-can-eat break­fast buf­fet for the glut­to­nous masses. I’ve never been one to get their money’s worth out of buf­fets, but I’m sure that Rob and Aaron more than made up for my rel­a­tively small por­tion. I can’t imag­ine putting such lead into my stom­ach every week­end. Unlimited bacon and sausages should be reserved for bach­e­lor par­ties, busi­ness con­tracts, and maybe the occa­sional bris.

Drinking was lim­ited; Rob was still recov­er­ing from strep throat, as can be heard in the videos. More energy was spent mak­ing sure Sergio had a suc­cess­ful blind date; a tes­ta­ment to how much Rob takes care of his homies.

23 Feb 07

Presents For Chinese New Year's

This week, I received a small pack­age from Brenda and Jack.

Thumbnail: Chinese New Years card
Thumbnail: Paper napkins
Thumbnail: Chopsticks
Thumbnail: Chopstick rest
Thumbnail: Guylian chocolates
Thumbnail: T'ai Chi Book
Thumbnail: T'ai Chi Page

It really touched me. Not because of the amount of things in it, but because of what was in it.

A T’ai Chi hand­book. Dark, thin choco­lates; my favourite kind. A chop­stick rest in the shape of a cat. They even put money in a red enve­lope, fol­low­ing the Chinese tra­di­tion of wed­ded cou­ples giv­ing money to the unmar­ried. Everything in a red bag with red wrap­ping paper, the Chinese colour of luck. This isn’t their cul­ture, but they’ve made the effort to under­stand it. They prob­a­bly had to go out of their way to find this stuff, things which aren’t avail­able just anywhere.

I’ve done noth­ing to deserve this.

The funny thing is that Brenda and Jack are the par­ents of an ex. I can hear John warn­ing me, “They laced the choco­lates with arsenic”. I’ve been for­tu­nate enough to get along with the par­ents of many of my girl­friends. I used admit to Pat that I wish they could replace my own.

It made me won­der if some­times, in the back of my mind, I would stay in those rela­tion­ships because of them.

These are peo­ple who know me and my interests.

More than my own par­ents ever did.

19 Feb 07

The Many Faces of Bronwen

Bronwen is my orig­i­nal muse. We hap­pened to meet shortly after I got my SLR cam­era, and ever since, she’s my pri­mary model when doing pho­to­graphic tests and experiments.

These were taken over the course of about a year. From before we started dat­ing to passed the break-up.

Every angle cap­tures a dif­fer­ent side of someone.

Thumbnail: Dark and brooding
Thumbnail: The hoodie attitude.
Thumbnail: Against the wall
Thumbnail: Classy cleavage
Thumbnail: Cute mode
Thumbnail: Emo.
Thumbnail: The trustworthy companion look.
Thumbnail: The innocent look
Thumbnail: Bronwen revolution.
Thumbnail: The porcelain doll look.
Thumbnail: The cozy look.
Thumbnail: Trusting

Looking back on these reminds me of how much I miss it when she had red hair, which she dyed for me (but didn’t like to admit it). Too bad I can’t con­vince her now to do it again.

16 Feb 07

The Old Boys of '99: Providing Ignorance as Bliss

I decided to pri­va­tize the pro­files in my “Old Boys of ’99″ series from now on. Much like this blog, the series was meant to be a sort of mem­oir, a way for me to rem­i­nisce about the past. A low-key deal.

One of my fel­low Old Boys found out, and it appears that word-of-mouth is spread­ing like wild-fire. Visits have increased con­sid­er­ably as links are being e-mailed back and forth.

Funny that my hum­ble opin­ions and obser­va­tions have gen­er­ated such an interest.

I never thought that I made any kind of impres­sion on any­one at Upper Canada College, or that any­one I went to school with would actu­ally care to see what I wrote. Evidence of this fact is that I only keep in touch with two peo­ple from those days in high-school.

This is a first for me. There were a few times that I con­sid­ered pass­word pro­tect­ing my posts, sim­ply because I thought cer­tain things would be too embar­rass­ing to admit or talk about, but I’ve always forced myself to be hon­est and open.

This series, on the other hand, is where I’m hon­est about other peo­ple. Some of them took offense to what they read in one entry. They lashed out at me, because they didn’t like what was being said.

It’s hard for some to accept the truth.

They’d rather live in denial, or stay obliv­i­ous about what other peo­ple think of them, and can only cover it up with anger. I’ve made the deci­sion that it’s best for them not to know.

Those who know me well will know the pass­word. Those who don’t may apply.

The Old Boys of '99 Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Another Perspective
  3. Seeto and Bunston
  4. Mungovan and King
  5. Providing Ignorance as Bliss
  6. My Perspective
16 Feb 07

Protected: The Old Boys of '99: Mungovan and King

This con­tent is pass­word pro­tected. To view it please enter your pass­word below:

12 Feb 07

A Change Of Tea

So I wasn’t being com­pletely hon­est when I said no more tea. I’d sim­ply switched from black to orange tea. Even that didn’t work though, and a mild panic attack had me down to even lighter, Chinese tea.

A warm, relax­ing mug can be rather addicting.

Thumbnail: Green tea
Thumbnail: Longjing
Thumbnail: Rose green tea
Thumbnail: Green tea mug
Thumbnail: Leaves macro

The great thing about tea is that it doesn’t just taste good, it serves a pur­pose. Cleanses the palette. Aids diges­tion. Combats the Yang of greasy foods with Yin. Green tea in the morn­ing serves to awaken the senses. Longjing calms the mind at night.

The steep­ing process is beau­ti­ful. Green tea is espe­cially prone to scorch­ing, so the water can’t be too hot, or the tea will turn bit­ter. Not hot enough, and the leaves won’t fully release their flavour.

Note: Each frame of the video is a dif­fer­ent pho­to­graph, taken five sec­onds apart. About thirty min­utes in total.

09 Feb 07

To Eat And To Forgive

It’s Friday. Pizza day. At Louise’s house, the par­ents don’t feel like cook­ing, and the kids get a treat.

The slices are out. The salad’s in the serv­ing bowl. Everyone has an accom­mo­dat­ing fork, nap­kin, and slice. I see Eric move a hand to his face in the cor­ner of my eye, and assume that he’s started eating.

As the guest, this means I’m allowed to eat too. I take a bite out of my slice, but before I can even chew, I real­ize that Eric was just scratch­ing his beard. With a smile on his face, he says “Don’t for­get about grace, Jeff”.

It’s a dou­ble whammy.

Not only am I a rude guest, mis­tak­enly eat­ing first, but I’m a hea­then too, dis­re­spect­ful of their religion.

It reminded me of some­thing that hap­pened when I was a teenager. Matt was over. Pizza night. As the guest, Matt got the first slice. He waited while the rest were being handed out, but my dad, with­out any sense of for­mal­ity, took a bite as soon as he had one. Neither of my par­ents noticed, but there was a star­tled look on Matt’s face. He quickly closed his eyes, held a fist to his face (not a clenched one, but as if hold­ing the beads of a Rosary), and said a prayer in his head.

I always imag­ined that it went, “ThankyouGodforthispizzaandformygracioushosts”, because he was done so quickly.

It made me won­der, what was in that look? What do those who ask thanks of their meal think of those who don’t? What do Christians think of those who don’t say grace? What do Muslims think of those who don’t fast? Are we unap­pre­cia­tive? Do we take our food for granted?

Eric’s tone is kind though, not con­de­scend­ing or judg­men­tal, as if to say, “We only ask you to do this for the sake of our kids”.

Louise asks Sarah if she’d like to say grace. She sings a song that bears a strik­ing — excuse the pun — resem­blance to the melody of the Westminster quar­ters (along with choreography).

Hark to the chimes (arms held upwards and open)
Come bow your head (hands together in prayer)
We thank thee lord (arms upward again)
For this good bread (hands together again)

But as a seven-year-old, Sarah doesn’t know the right words. She says “heart” instead of “hark”. “You” instead of “thee”.

No one men­tions it though. Not every­one is per­fect. One can be forgiven.

Even me, I hope.

05 Feb 07

A Few Updates

Wide angle fun

Thumbnail: Wide angle me.
Thumbnail: Wide angle Bronwen.
Thumbnail: 15mm boots
Thumbnail: Wide angle computers.

The Canon 15mm proves to be a com­pli­cated addi­tion to the lens arse­nal. As a pho­tog­ra­pher, you really have to under­stand how to han­dle the dis­tor­tions, even when it’s on a 1.6 FOVCF body. It’s obvi­ously not meant for por­traits; faces end up being com­i­cally dis­pro­por­tion­ate. It’s great for con­text shots though, when the sur­round­ings say more than the subject.

Contract

I got a con­tract under my per­sonal busi­ness, my first. It’s made my sched­ule rather busy. There isn’t much time to just laze around on the week­ends any­more. I have to plan my fun.

Tai Chi break

Tai Chi classes have been sus­pended indef­i­nitely, as the teacher’s wife has just been diag­nosed with can­cer. While I miss the relax­ing two-hour ses­sions, I don’t miss wak­ing up at 5:30 in the morn­ing on Saturday to make class. With the extra time, I flirted with the idea of pick­ing up piano lessons again, but I’ve decided that it would too much of a com­mit­ment right now. I still need some form of phys­i­cal activ­ity, in addi­tion to the Tai Chi Yang form prac­tice on my own, so I’ll prob­a­bly be going to table ten­nis again.

Nail in the coffin

I’m off to New Hampshire for two weeks next month, for indus­try job train­ing. I had to find my pass­port, issued five years ago for my trip to Hong Kong/China/Macau, with my dorky glasses and hair parted down the mid­dle. In addi­tion to my old address, my mom was listed as con­tact in case of emer­gency, but I changed it to Pat. It would have been John if he wasn’t so far away. Pat’s also a good per­son to go to in a cri­sis; he’s the one who always keeps it together.

I miss my music source

Ever since Trolley moved out, I don’t get intro­duced to awe­some new music any­more. The lat­est find (on Jeff’s recommendation) is Wicked Wisdom, fea­tur­ing Jada Pinkett Smith as the front­woman. I never would have believed a band with Will Smith’s wife would be so good.

02 Feb 07

Jealousy As Insecurity As Love

Hey Pat,

I don’t know how seri­ous you thought I was about being the best man or MC if you ever get mar­ried. I know it may sound crazy, but you get­ting mar­ried is as impor­tant to me as it is to you. I love you, and I know I don’t tell you that enough. You are a true friend to me, and you know that I don’t have many.

I see this as a great oppor­tu­nity to do some­thing for you, because you’ve already done so much for me. Let me take on the respon­si­bil­ity and sup­port you, to be there for you on one of the most impor­tant days of your life. I eas­ily put aside the dif­fer­ences I’ve had with any poten­tial peo­ple you may invite (I think that we’re smart enough to be open and dis­cuss this), because it’s about you, not me.

These things are usu­ally planned pretty well in advance though, so I won’t be sur­prised if you have some­one else in mind. I under­stand that we’re talk­ing about YOUR big day, so you should have the peo­ple YOU want involved in YOUR wed­ding. To be hon­est, I’ll be happy with what­ever deci­sion you make, because I’m happy if you’re happy. Bottom line.

In any case, let me know when you pop the ques­tion, and WE WILL FEAST.

  —Jeff

I wrote this two years ago.

Pat pro­posed to Jen a cou­ple of months later. Several months after that, they bought a house, delay­ing the wed­ding until this year.

Last week, Pat asked me to be a grooms­man and co–MC.

When I found out that Jason would be best man (as well as the other MC) there was a tinge of jeal­ousy in my heart, fol­lowed by an over­whelm­ing sense of guilt about this jealousy.

To feel this way was a bit of a sur­prise. Jealously has never been one of my promi­nent emo­tions. It made me real­ize that I’m a lit­tle inse­cure in my rela­tion­ship with Pat. There’s so much good in him, com­pared to the hatred, dark­ness, and weak­ness in me. He’s not my oppo­site, but he’s the per­son I’m con­stantly striv­ing to become. Just being around him makes me feel elated and relaxed.

The frus­trat­ing thing is that I know it’s his wed­ding. He should be able to do what­ever he wants. There’s no rivalry between Jason and me. As studier of peo­ple, I have every bit of faith in Pat’s deci­sion. The logic has finally kicked in, and I feel a sense of warmth and secu­rity about being up there with Pat, a group exclu­sive to a hand­ful of peo­ple out of a seem­ingly end­less number.

It’s only now that I real­ize how self­ish and inap­pro­pri­ate it was of me to ask. Running around, mak­ing sure every­one is hav­ing a good time, giv­ing toasts, host­ing games, the duty of MC isn’t even some­thing I nor­mally want to do. I only asked because it was a way that I could show how much Pat has done for me, a respon­si­bil­ity I’d take on gladly.

I’m scared that I made him feel obliged, and I’m ashamed of being jeal­ous for that split-second.

Maybe that’s what love is.

Unfounded inse­cu­rity. Jealousy with­out reason.

A feel­ing that over­whelms logic.

29 Jan 07

An Assortment of Messages

I never used to answer my phone.

Part of it was because I was being stalked by a crazy girl for a while. Somehow she got my num­ber and called a few times, but Trolley picked up and was able to warn me.

The other rea­son was because I used to be stoned almost every minute off work. Dealing with peo­ple in the out­side world was an instant buzz kill.

It’s only recently that I’ve started tak­ing calls again. The lan­guid process of reha­bil­i­tat­ing my social skills has been rather slow. Sometimes I get so busy that I don’t have time to check my mes­sages, and they build up into strange archives like this, circa last month.

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.

0:22

John gives me the fun­ni­est advice some­times. I never did call the girl. Anyone who comes on that strong is usu­ally trouble.

1:13

Dan is eas­ily the most loqua­cious per­son that I know, yet he’s per­fectly suc­cinct when leav­ing mes­sages. I find it funny that he always leaves his num­ber at the end. I guess we don’t see each other enough for him to be sure that I haven’t lost it. Last time was November. I should give him a call.

1:25

One time, Pat asked me for my birth date. He told me that he wrote down the date and stuck it to his fridge, so he would be reminded every time he went to grab some­thing to eat. Apparently, he’s ter­ri­ble at remem­ber­ing birth­days, so for him to remem­ber mine was quite a gesture.

1:42

My dad left me two mes­sages. They’re rather short, so I’ll give a quick trans­la­tion. First call: “Jeff, it’s Daddy. Just call­ing to talk. I’m guess­ing you went out. I’ll call you later, bye bye.” Second call: “Hi Jeff, it’s Daddy. Daddy moved, so there’s a new address and num­ber. I’ll call you later. Bye bye.” The first two words he says are are my Chinese name, and “Daddy” doesn’t need to be translated.

2:08

This is the creepi­est mes­sage I’ve ever received. I have no idea who it is, but they know my name. I can’t even tell if they’re male or female. I tried to do a reverse lookup on the num­ber, and called it even, but it’s not in ser­vice. The only words I can make out are “Hi Jeff, this is Emily…had to fight for your number…maybe you want to chill some time”.

2:33

Even though we already broke up, Bronwen has no prob­lem telling me that she loves me, then call­ing me a loser. To this day, our rela­tion­ship is defined by this very repartee.

26 Jan 07

Protected: The Old Boys of '99: Seeto and Bunston

This con­tent is pass­word pro­tected. To view it please enter your pass­word below:

24 Jan 07

The Cutest Thing

At the Tai Chi stu­dio, bath­rooms are shared with an account­ing office in the same building.

Yesterday I found out that the keys aren’t labeled “Men” and “Women”, they say Yin and Yang.

22 Jan 07

Connor, Warrior Fish

So I got a fish.

Thumbnail: Connor side-view

A Siamese fight­ing fish, or Betta, named Connor to be exact. I wanted some­thing lively in my room, since I spend so much time in it. When I went to the store with Pat and Jen, they noticed that one fish was con­stantly flar­ing and swim­ming in cir­cles, almost like he was pac­ing. The fish in the cup next to him (to keep them sep­a­rate or they fight to the death) kept set­ting him off, so nat­u­rally, he was the one. As a clown­tail vari­ant, his fins are extended long like a comb.

I also got some live plants with which came a tiny snail, so small that he was trans­par­ent at first. After a few weeks, he grew con­sid­er­ably big­ger, and sur­vived a cou­ple hours out of water while I was clean­ing out the tank. Bronwen named him Humphrey, but he has since died, found dried up at the top of the tank one morning.

Bettas are funny crea­tures. Supposedly, they have per­son­al­i­ties (for fish), but I can never tell with pets I can’t touch. Sure, he swims towards me every time I turns on the lights or enter the room, but for all I know he could think of me as food. I can only tell that he’s very aggres­sive, flar­ing out his body and swim­ming back and forth when­ever some­thing gets near enough. It’s like he’s a caged glad­i­a­tor, rest­less about his next bat­tle. Dolly likes to sit in my chair and watch him go.

Thumbnail: Connor flares
Thumbnail: Connor flares
Thumbnail: Connor macro
Thumbnail: Pale Connor

I named him Connor, after the immor­tal Connor MacLeod from Highlander, because THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE (Betta in a bowl at a time).

19 Jan 07

The Old Boys of '99: Another Perspective

Note: I asked John, as a guest writer, to give his opin­ion. It’s funny to read his writ­ing; the style is com­pletely dif­fer­ent. It’s obvi­ous that years of law school have changed him.

When Jeff asked me to write about the “Old Boy sys­tem” at UCC, the first thing I asked was, “what sys­tem”? To me, “sys­tem” implies some order or plan or orga­ni­za­tion, and the alumni of UCC have no spe­cial kin­ship or bond. An “Old Boy sys­tem” con­notes one that is dif­fer­ent from the ones that exist in every grad­u­at­ing class from every school I know of.

I had men­tioned to him that one of our class­mates is in my year at law school and Jeff won­dered aloud whether I would have men­tioned it, or noticed it per­haps, if that class­mate and I had not gone to UCC. I replied that I would have noticed him notwith­stand­ing our atten­dance at UCC, as long as we’d been a part of the same high school class as I’m sure most peo­ple would.

My per­spec­tive on the “sys­tem” is that there isn’t one.

I find it inter­est­ing that many peo­ple seem to think that one exists, and note that the main evi­dence used to prove their case is the seem­ing preva­lence of UCC alumni in the halls of power in this coun­try. In response, I would point out that the two things, atten­dance at UCC and later pro­fes­sional suc­cess, more likely have the same root cause — money, fam­ily con­nec­tions, or dare I say it, intel­li­gence.

The like­li­hood of those things being the cause of one’s pro­fes­sional advance­ment is greater than or equal to the like­li­hood that some sys­tem of quid pro quos or school ties. Ockham’s Razor is a prin­ci­ple that I would bring up in this con­text to dis­suade those who would claim that any sys­tem is behind the rise of Old Boys in their occu­pa­tions, the tenet of that prin­ci­ple being that the sim­plest expla­na­tion is more often than not the accu­rate one, and in this case which expla­na­tion is the sim­plest and most elegant.

That Old Boys get together in some nefar­i­ous Cabal to chart the course of the coun­try and select from amongst their num­ber the cho­sen to lead it is a myth.

Or is it sim­pler to say that chaos reigns supreme and indi­vid­ual old boys make their own way in the world, with­out the kind of help that the phrase “Old Boy sys­tem” connotes?

The peo­ple sin­gled out in Fitzgerald’s book are just that — sin­gled out. There are, if I’m not mis­taken, 71 old boys pro­filed in the book who grad­u­ated from the 1920’s to the 1990’s. In that time more than 5000 boys have grad­u­ated. The idea that 1.4% of those grad­u­ates are some­how a reli­able and rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple is ludi­crous. Such a sam­ple should not be used to draw any con­clu­sions or to make any generalizations.

The Old Boys of '99 Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Another Perspective
  3. Seeto and Bunston
  4. Mungovan and King
  5. Providing Ignorance as Bliss
  6. My Perspective