equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
26 Mar 06

A Girl's Room

Thumbnail: Green Ikea hanger
Thumbnail: Belts and bracelets
Thumbnail: Dream journal
Thumbnail: Sextrology book
Thumbnail: Valentine's card
Thumbnail: Sweetums

Some of this movie comes from, you know, from me, sure. But it’s not, you know, I’m never going to be able to make a movie that doesn’t, you know. Even if I’m mak­ing a movie about the turn of the cen­tury, I think you’re gonna, it’s always going to be per­sonal. It’s just in the detailed stuff; the horses in Sheryl Lynn’s bed­room, with the rib­bons on the wall, and you got sis­ters or you got a girl­friend who loves to ride horses and all this stuff. And those lit­tle details that you remem­ber, I’ve been lov­ing to put those in a movie.

I think, you know what, when I grew up in the val­ley, I lived there, I was really embar­rassed for the longest time that that’s where I lived and that’s where I grew up, cause I knew I wanted to make movies. And I would look back to my favourite direc­tors, and think, okay, there’s Howard Hawks, and boy, he served in the war. And there’s Ernst Lubich who escaped Germany, you know, and all these won­der­ful sort of things going on in our lives that you could, you’re sup­posed to bring to a movie, you know. But, I don’t have shit to bring, I was like, I’m from the fuck­ing val­ley, you know. And, I was really embar­rassed about that for a long time, I guess, until one day I just woke up and said, “Well, I’m from the val­ley, and I remem­ber things like lit­tle plas­tic horses and the blue rib­bon on the wall with the fuck­ing girl­friend, and you know, I guess that’s what I have to make movies about.”

—Paul Thomas Anderson, Boogie Nights director’s commentary

A girl and her things.

Memories of burn­ing can­dles, sham­poo scents. The colours and the smells give me a total over­whelm­ing sense of poignant nostalgia.

Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve been in a real girls room, and being there, in the mid­dle of all the dainty things and the dif­fer­ent fab­rics, I didn’t know what was more embar­rass­ing: the fact that I felt like I was 17 again, or the real­iza­tion of how much I’ve missed it.

And this is all I can write about.

23 Mar 06

Greyhound To Her

Thumbnail: Greyhound decal
Thumbnail: Toronto city
Thumbnail: Bronwen on bed

They call it the red-eye for a rea­son, and although I’m expect­ing to sleep through most of the ride, I’m not pre­pared to wake up every half hour. The bus was sup­posed to be half-full, being 12:30 on a Friday morn­ing, but when I arrive at the sta­tion, the line stretches across the hall­way, dash­ing my hopes of a win­dow seat. The guy beside me watches movies on his lap­top, while the old man across the aisle works on an assort­ment of papers with the only light in the bus on. He sits alone, away from the win­dow, a big fuck you to any­one who may want a seat. It’s his light that keeps me up.

The grey­hound is sup­posed to stand for speed, named after the fastest breed of dog used in dog rac­ing, but for me it stands for free­dom. The cost is a stranger sit­ting next to you, a cou­ple hours of leg cramps, and a lit­tle over a hun­dred dollars.

The lay­over is an hour and a half. As I sit in the ter­mi­nal, I think of how close my par­ents are. I haven’t seen them since Christmas, and even though they’re an 45 minute drive away, I won’t be see­ing them this time around.

This bus brings me to her.

19 Mar 06

New Lens Path

Thumbnail: Current lenses

Thumbnail: 70mm long

Thumbnail: 16mm wide

So I’ve devi­ated from my pre­vi­ous plan to wait until the new Canon 17–55mm f/2.8 IS came out before mak­ing any lens pur­chases. Aside from the fact that I would have had to wait until the sum­mer for reviews that may be less than favourable any­way, the main rea­son is that my two dream lenses, the Canon EF 24–70mm f/2.8 L and the Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8 L were being sold refur­bished and used respec­tively. I make it a habit to check one par­tic­u­lar pop­u­lar online retailer every morn­ing in case of any such deals, since they update their stock some time around five in the morn­ing and most lenses are gone by nine, L glass espe­cially. Although I had no plan on buy­ing either lens (I had yet to see either up for sale until this month), I couldn’t pass up the oppor­tu­nity. It saved me close to $2000 in total.

Now I have my ideal focal range cov­ered with a lens that goes as wide as 16mm for my envi­ron­men­tal and land­scape shots, and another one that goes as long as 70mm for por­traits. Both have ring ultra­sonic motor focus­ing sys­tems, which makes aut­o­fo­cus­ing beau­ti­fully slick, smooth, and quiet, with sup­port for full-time man­ual focus­ing as well. They also go as wide f/2.8, which is per­fect since I do a lot of low-light, indoor shoot­ing, and the extra aper­ture blades pro­vide but­tery smooth back­ground blur.

The trade-off is that both lenses are heavy, one heav­ier than the cam­era body itself. This comes from the fact that the con­struc­tion is rock-solid and weather-sealed, being made from metal and ground glass. There are sto­ries of peo­ple drop­ping their L lenses onto asphalt or rocks and sur­viv­ing with only cos­metic scratches.

After all the money I just spent (more than twice as much than on the cam­era itself), not includ­ing the extra hand-strap/bag/filters that went along with it, I’m try­ing not to think of my next pur­chase. In the back of my mind I know that I want a macro lens or a full frame body, but I think I’ll be sat­is­fied for the next lit­tle while.

11 Mar 06

Only 19

And she’s all­l­l­l­l­l­l­l­l­lll mine.

Thumbnail: Bronwen model

After four months, I finally have the per­fect pic­ture for my frame. Ordered a 12x18 print that should be in next week.

10 Mar 06

Table Tennis Growth

When I read the order of play to Norm, he laughed. The first group­ing was against Hit-And-Miss, and being such an active mem­ber in the com­mu­nity, Norm knew them well. Against this team of three middle-aged, white met­ro­sex­u­als and their buddy Chinese cap­tain, we fared what can only be described as holo­caus­tic. They wore tight-fitting shirts, styl­ish tear­away pants, and had the strength, and speed to match.

Except for the Chinese guy. He had a bit of a pot belly, a bit of a scruff, and a very feared, well-balanced, pen-holders grip. And he spoke great English.

It was a plea­sure to lose to such nice guys.

I asked them about the next team we were up against, and they told us that they trashed the two lit­tle guys at the last league meet. Little guys? Kids. But I can already tell that both have improved since last month, the capain told me.

No chal­lenge for four fit men in their thir­ties plus one Chinese guy (40 give or take 10 years). A lit­tle more dif­fi­cult for me and my team­mates, Norm, a calmly pas­sion­ate Chinese guy in his 50’s, and Andrzej, a Polish man who picked up table ten­nis this year after a 40 year break, both of whom are bet­ter than I am.

I never would have believed that an 11-year-old and his seven-year-old brother could be so intim­i­dat­ing, a very FRENCH Olivier and Laurent. As cap­tain, I had the deci­sion to make as to who was play­ing first.

In table ten­nis, as with chess, the strongest player on the team is usu­ally signed to the first match so that the matches may end before the weaker play­ers have to play. Captain 1 signs the play sheet for the order of play for his team, and hands the sheet folded in half to Captain 2 so he can’t see, and use such infor­ma­tion to his advan­tage by pair­ing up oppo­nent styles against their weak­nesses. Out of five matches, there are two sin­gles at the start, a dou­bles in the mid­dle, and two more sin­gles at the end between the first sin­gles oppo­nents reversed, for best out of five matches.

Confused yet?

Before I signed the play sheet, Norm let me in on a lit­tle secret; when Olivier was 10 last year, Norm beat him in the league. Gambling that this would still hold true, and our oppo­nents would fol­low form, I put Norm first, me sec­ond, and Andrew with Norm as dou­bles. That way Norm had the best chance at beat­ing the older brother, I would have a chance at beat­ing the younger brother, they would win dou­bles, and that would be it.

Unfortunately, they decided to play the younger brother, Laurent, first. He could only see about a foot over the table, and I could tell his move­ments were strained from the height dis­ad­van­tage. He spoke no English, except for the phrase “Backhand?” dur­ing warm-ups, and “One mo!” when he was at 10 points. Sometimes he would mimic the table ten­nis pros with lit­tle grunts of sat­is­fac­tion when he got a point. Eventually, he lost to Norm gra­ciously (for a seven-year-old).

Then I was up against the Olivier, the older brother. Believing that a pair of descended tes­ti­cles to be my only advan­tage, I played with a lump in my throat, and he returned like a machine, sur­pris­ing me at every point. I could never keep him off bal­ance, or run him around the table. He just kept land­ing the ball on my side.

I lost. Then we lost at dou­bles, a tremen­dous upset. My mind was out, and I was forced to play the younger brother next. I lost again, although I won one set after Norm told me to serve to the far side of his stance (they had a time-out and eas­ily adjusted for the next set). By that time, we lost three out of five matches, and they were deter­mined to be the win­ning team, but Olivier asked to play Norm for the final match any­way. When Oliver won, he walked over and shook Norm’s hand, a look of proud accom­plish­ment on his face.

And this is what Norm loves the most. To see those younger play­ers grow up and improve and become national team players.

07 Mar 06

Card By Louise

Thumbnail: Gift card from Louise

05 Mar 06

A Jumble Of Emotions

I’ve been a jum­ble of emo­tions lately. A mix of excite­ment and worry, fun and stress, unset­tling uncer­tainty and crossed-signals. On top of it all I keep get­ting all sorts of BULLSHIT from peo­ple, when it’s the last thing I need.

I gen­er­ally don’t like this feel­ing. To grow, and this is espe­cially true for me, one needs a foun­da­tion of sta­bil­ity. Once the basic things are con­stant, there can be changes and adjust­ments made to improve. Now I find myself strug­gling to keep the sim­plest things under control.

It’s cer­tainly been an inter­est­ing year so far.

24 Feb 06

The Return (Hiatus 1: Octave)

We move in cir­cles
Balanced all the while
On a gleam­ing razor’s edge

A per­fect sphere
Colliding with our fate
This story ends where it began

—Dream Theater, Octavarium

Back to this.

So much has passed, yet noth­ing seems to have changed. I’ve never gone this long with­out writ­ing an entry. For a while there, I didn’t mind. Didn’t mind not forc­ing myself to sit and write at every free moment. Didn’t mind my life not being taken over by this.

Now it feels like I’m in the mid­dle of a tran­si­tion. So much is hap­pen­ing around me, with so much to do, while my emo­tions remain neu­tral as if I don’t know what to think. There’s hasn’t been enough sta­bil­ity yet, or per­haps I haven’t been able to sit down to write and think about what’s going on. I’m ready now.

It’s been 33 days.

I def­i­nitely missed this.

21 Jan 06

Busyness Ensues

Yup.

Thumbnail: Dolly scratches

18 Jan 06

Quills

You can’t be a proper writer with­out a touch of mad­ness, can you?

—Madeleine LeClerc, Quills

Has this become my only refuge?

No. Not even this.

15 Jan 06

Slightly Emo Frames

Thumbnail: Me with new glasses

Thumbnail: New glasses

Got a new pair of specs. I wanted either thicker rims, for a bolder look, or han­dles screwed into the glass with­out rims, for an even sim­pler look than what I have now. After try­ing on both styles, I decided on the thicker rims. Since these aren’t tita­nium, they’re sev­eral times heav­ier than my old pair, so I keep the old pair around for when I’m relax­ing or doing sports. The funny thing is that this is one of the least expen­sive pairs of glasses I’ve ever pur­chased, yet they’re D&G made.

13 Jan 06

The Winter Schedule

But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed in the gen­eral con­scious­ness you feel most delight­fully and unmis­tak­ably warm.

I save the window-opening rit­ual for Friday nights, after a long, tir­ing week, when the sweaters are all folded, and the shirts all ironed. Before I go to bed, I turn off the lights, square off my desk, and turn the win­dow crank 220 degrees clock­wise. Even though the ther­mo­stat is at 23°C, it’s any­where from –16°C to 5°C out­side these nights.

When I wake up at 5:00 a.m., as I usu­ally do, my room is filled with the chilly, snow-smelling air.

I do this only once a week to appre­ci­ate it.

I do it on Fridays to enjoy it.

11 Jan 06

Tremblant '06

Thumbnail: Winding road
Thumbnail: Cabin at night
Thumbnail: Aaron and Karen
Thumbnail: Poker game
Thumbnail: Phil's royal flush
Thumbnail: Old and new skis

Here I am, in a cabin in the mid­dle of the woods, 160 km away for two short days and a night in Tremblent. Today, we drove the wind­ing roads lined with pine trees and set­tled in. By tomor­row morn­ing, the 10 beds and mat­tresses are going to be filled with 16 peo­ple, all-round exhausted, cram­ming in as much sleep as they can before the hills open.

In between, Aaron finds a Bubbles action fig­ure that looks just like Karen. Phil is dealt a royal flush, which we’ll prob­a­bly never see again in our lives, dur­ing the sec­ond game of poker. For this, we drink, and I’m asked to make a print of the photo for every­one present to sign.

I’m not here to ski, or snow­board, or party, I’m just here to observe. Nick gave me the use of his lenses, includ­ing a 200mm prime L, but it was the 15mm fish-eye Sigma that I grew to love. How strange it is to be record­ing my mem­o­ries with some­one else’s glass.

This week­end it feels like I’m run­ning. I’m look­ing for some­thing, but I don’t know what it is or where to find it.

09 Jan 06

A Stoic Beginning

Sometimes, after pulling your­self out of bed instead of call­ing in late because there’s too much to do, when the walk to work is through ankle-deep snow which is com­ing down in sheets, you give up on avoid­ing the pud­dles because your socks are already soaked through after five min­utes, you can barely keep your eyes open from the pre­cip­i­ta­tion and the exhaus­tion, the cold is giv­ing you a split­ting headache, and the only thing keep­ing you stoic is to con­cen­trate on the music in your ears but your iPod runs out of bat­ter­ies and this is the start of your week, you have no other choice but to laugh.

02 Jan 06

New Year's '06

Thumbnail: Aaron and Rob
Thumbnail: Cheese tots
Thumbnail: Cristina's poker face
Thumbnail: Cuff links
Thumbnail: Lacey
Thumbnail: pass the booze
Thumbnail: Sarah
Thumbnail: Poker table
Thumbnail: Karen

Aaron and Karen’s annual New Years party was a fun time in a relax­ing sense, much lower-key than last year, with fewer peo­ple and casual clothes. I don’t believe there was any­one who felt out-of-place, which meant that one could eas­ily move from group to group with­out any feel­ings of intru­sion. So that I didn’t have to worry about catch­ing a bus home early, they lent me the use of their SUV for me to drive home.

I’m espe­cially pleased with this set of pho­tos. I think I was able to show the mood appro­pri­ately, with­out over-exposing the flash too much. My two favourite are with Sarah in her scarf and with Aaron hand­ing the low­ball to Rob. The for­mer because of the pure chance that worked out in cap­tur­ing the moment along with the won­der­ful tex­ture of her scarf, and the lat­ter because of how strong the two sets of hands look, like a firm hand­shake with­out touching.