equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
22 Jul 05

Christie Had A Speech Impediment

Her unwit­ting nick­name in high school was Fudd (as in Elmer), because her “r“s came out as baby­ish “w“s.

This was par­tially due to the fact that she would imi­tate her older brother in admi­ra­tion dur­ing child­hood, after he devel­oped his own imped­i­ment from an oro­fa­cial sports injury. The other, and much more severe, aspect of her imped­i­ment was a ran­dom and sud­den inabil­ity to speak. No stut­ter, no slur.

As her speech ther­a­pist explained, it was a short-circuit in the brain, caus­ing her to believe that a sen­tence was fin­ished when she was only half-way through say­ing it. The only prob­lem was that she would get stuck on a word. On good days she sim­ply couldn’t repeat it, on bad days she couldn’t speak at all. Most peo­ple thought it was brought on by a rather trau­matic series of events brought on by her sup­posed friends in high school. The was­cals.

I always found it endear­ing, but she never cared for it. One of the tricks she used to get by was to take her time in say­ing a word. E-nun-ci-ate. It was like mas­sag­ing the ten­sion from a mus­cle, and slowly, she would be able to speak again. Another trick was to imag­ine being in a com­fort zone, which was her room, to relax when she was flustered.

I’ve always found that girls share some intrin­sic bond with their rooms. It’s almost as if they’re fol­low­ing an evo­lu­tion­ary nest­ing instinct, and their rooms become their homes. A place to grow and be safe. Along with the care­fully lined-up books and the ran­dom pieces of jew­ellery, the hid­den cache of pho­tos and the pur­pose­fully placed can­dles (some of which must never be lit), are the char­ac­ter­is­tic quirks.

Christie could never fall asleep if one of her dozen stuffed ani­mals were fac­ing her. Her bed­time rit­ual was to make sure that each one was turned away.

In time, Christie’s com­fort zone became the walk-in-closet of my room. She was old enough to make love, but simul­ta­ne­ously too young to stay overnight, so we would spend most of our time in there, the place where we could reach out and feel the walls around us, con­fined to the inti­macy of the enclo­sure. We spread out the blan­ket, lit the can­dles, and closed the door.

After a while, the humid­ity would build up, and this was no more appar­ent than in the win­ter when we would crack open the door and tan­gi­bly feel the chill on our skin. Opening the sun she called it, as the day­light sharply spilled on the blan­ket that cov­ered us. It was the only place where we could shut out the world, the only place that felt like night.

In a rela­tion­ship, shar­ing the night is more impor­tant than shar­ing flu­ids. Falling asleep with some­one is an accep­tance of trust, a way of say­ing that we’re com­fort­able enough to drift into our sub­con­scious minds. Perhaps it was the unavail­abil­ity of such a rit­ual that’s given the night so much significance.

Having no night of our own, we had to make due. I cov­ered one side of a card­board panel with glow-in-the-dark stars and sus­pended it from the top of the room. The panel was large enough to fill the vision, and in the dark­ness the closet became a micro­cosm of the starry sky. Even in the mid­dle of day it was near black­ness, and we’d lose track of time, hud­dled under the blan­kets with her sleep­ing at my chest, or lying there face-to-face, talk­ing while I ran my fin­gers through her hair. Sometimes, all we would do was get together and nap.

And even­tu­ally, Christie didn’t have much trou­ble speak­ing anymore.

20 Jul 05

Switching Books

Over the week­end, with the cozy com­fort of my duvet, I fin­ished read­ing the Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. The story took me by sur­prise. I had no prior knowl­edge of the plot, char­ac­ters, or themes, so I had the lux­ury of read­ing with­out the taint of another opin­ion. Even as a teenager, Duddy has the ambi­tion to pur­sue his dream of own­ing a huge plot of land before he’s even legally allowed to own it, but he loses his human­ity in the process. It was a fairly gal­va­niz­ing story, some­thing I’m not sure I could say if I knew more about the book before read­ing it. It’s his drive, his ini­tia­tive that I admire.

Yesterday, I started The Republic of Love (on the rec­om­men­da­tion of Karen) by Carol Shields. Even though I’m only through the first chap­ter, I can already tell that Shields knows what she’s talk­ing about. She knows how rela­tion­ships dis­in­te­grate, knows how peo­ple think, knows how our daily lives are a reflec­tion of the moods we have and mind­sets we wear. I’m reminded of Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese philoso­pher and author of The Prophet who wrote as if he under­stood love and the spirit on a com­pletely dif­fer­ent level. Even though he never met the love of his life face-to-face (they knew each other through pub­li­ca­tions), their col­lec­tion of love let­ters shows an under­stand­ing and har­mony deeper than any other two peo­ple I can think of.

It always makes me won­der: how much of an author’s writ­ing is from expe­ri­ence and how much is from imag­i­na­tion? The details, sub­tleties, thor­ough­ness of the char­ac­ters they develop, expressed in the inge­nu­ity of the words they use must be from more than mere under­stand­ing. Would Frost have been able to write his rural poetry with­out mov­ing to New Hampshire, spend­ing his time there as a cob­bler, farmer, and teacher? Would Irving have been able to write from the per­spec­tive of a teacher at Bishop Strachan, with­out first watch­ing the girls in their plaid skirts being picked up by their wealthy par­ents? Even in the pref­ace to A Hero Of Our Time, Lermontov admits, “oth­ers del­i­cately hinted that the author had drawn por­traits of him­self and his acquain­tances” and brushes this off as a “thread­bare wit­ti­cism”, but could he really have cre­ated such an amoral anti-hero with­out a lump of burn­ing indif­fer­ence in his chest?

19 Jul 05

With A More Pretentious Title Than Last?

The new Coheed And Cambria sin­gle (song starts play­ing after the Flash intro) com­pletely knocks me off my feet. I sus­pect that the new album will be darker, mood­ier, and even bet­ter pro­duced than their last. I’m not the only one who’s reminded of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin, with the chro­matic chord pro­gres­sion and orches­tral back­ing, but the sim­i­lar­i­ties end there.

Can’t wait until September.

16 Jul 05

Summer Steak

Thumbnail: Summer steak

Nothing says sum­mer like a juicy, ten­der, melt-in-your-mouth steak. And to have a friend cook it for you?

Well that’s even better.

14 Jul 05

Bachelor

Megalomania is watch­ing a man with a brain in a jar court a woman who laughs like a mule, and believ­ing that it’s the story of one’s life. Weakness is los­ing a thought to a pretty face. Concupiscence is the inter­pre­ta­tion of awk­ward rough­hous­ing as a pre­lude to fuck­ing. Jealousy is won­der­ing why one never had the same oppor­tu­nity, and accep­tance is real­iz­ing that one did.

In the end, it’s not the sit­u­a­tions we relate to, it’s the hope­less­ness of being stuck with the deci­sions we make. Of being caught between the risk of set­tling, and the fear of not doing any better.

Happiness is free­dom from both.

13 Jul 05

Today I Hit The Snooze

I also dressed down, and stole a drink from work. Two of my best friends finally met each other. They got along famously, bet­ter than any of my other friends in the past. I sup­ported one on the biggest deci­sion of his life. The other told me that I had always been her hope­ful out of the round of inter­views for my job, over a chicken sand­wich and some onion rings. I learned the four Cs of dia­mond appraisal, and saw a car­bon spec through a loupe for the first time.

I met two cats; one rolled into my lap while play­ing Double Dash with the best kids in the world. A fam­ily inspired me, and I dared to dream of some day hav­ing my own.

12 Jul 05

Some Days...

Some days I wake up and I feel like I’m ready to con­quer the world. Other days I wake up and I’m too dif­fi­dent to even answer my phone at work or at home. Most days I’m stable.

09 Jul 05

HK Fullscreen, Revisited, Again

Here I am, try­ing to get another entry down, but there’s a movie play­ing on OMNI.2, one of Canada’s pre­mier multi-cultural chan­nels. Although the pro­gram­ming of OMNI.2 is aimed for 22 dif­fer­ent eth­no­cul­tural groups in 20 dif­fer­ent lan­guages, Saturday nights are always in Cantonese. Almost just as invari­able are the roman­tic come­dies of Hong Kong cin­ema that they broad­cast around this time.

It makes sense of course; stud­ies have shown that by 2017, vis­i­ble minori­ties will top 50% in Toronto and Vancouver, with Chinese peo­ple mak­ing up over 500,000 of that per­cent­age. Add to this the grow­ing fas­ci­na­tion of younger peo­ple with the Asian cul­ture, and recent flicks from Hong Kong are the per­fect way to build a strong mar­ket presence.

Unfortunately, the movies are mostly trite: a col­lec­tion of pre­dictable, sac­cha­rine love sto­ries with lit­tle artis­tic intent, and the one on now is no dif­fer­ent. I have to admit though, as sim­ple as these movies are, they still affect me. When I see the char­ac­ter­is­tic neon build­ing signs, homely food stalls filled with wok hey, and claus­tro­pho­bi­cally busy streets of Hong Kong again, I’m filled with a cer­tain inex­plic­a­ble romanticism.

And I can’t seem to get over it. All I want to do is go to Hong Kong again and share the expe­ri­ence with some­one. An expe­ri­ence that’s heart-racingly poignant, like the ado­les­cent mem­ory of a first date, when you’re build­ing up the courage to hold someone’s hand. Perhaps, like Humbert Humbert in Nabokov’s Lolita, the mem­ory of my child­hood has frozen some­thing in me. A mem­ory that’s beautiful.

Simply, purely, beautiful.

09 Jul 05

It's A Rainy, Overcast Saturday Morning

I’m only awake now because I’m too used to wak­ing up at half past six on work­days. A mug of Hong Kong milk tea (made with con­densed milk for extra creami­ness) has always been my week­end com­fort food, but I ran out of loose leaves a few weeks ago. Usually, I sit at my desk and write after break­fast, fin­ish­ing off the tea from break­fast, but instead I’ll be going to my music for inspiration.

I’ve run into a string of good music lately, or maybe I’ve just been hear­ing things in a dif­fer­ent way. None of my playlists seem rel­e­vant again. More details when I have more time.

It’s good to be sober.

07 Jul 05

Trinary Maturity: The House

In the last year of high school, I was called into the guid­ance office for some direc­tion in choos­ing a post-secondary insti­tu­tion. The coun­cilor, a very, very Caucasian man, went through the fea­tures of each uni­ver­sity, not­ing espe­cially the ones with nice cam­puses. In an effort to save his time, I explained that the esthet­ics of a uni­ver­sity were of no con­se­quence to me, because they wouldn’t affect my life. Apparently this was a dif­fer­ent approach from other stu­dents, whom he believed decided on the direc­tion of their edu­ca­tion through a desire for lush lawns and big dorm rooms.

I’d always believed that I’d feel the same way about a house as a cam­pus. Give me enough room for my com­puter with walls thick enough to crank my music and I’ll be happy, I used to say. While this may still hold true, I’ve dis­cov­ered that I’m even hap­pier with a nice place. I finally under­stood that coun­cilor, four years later, after chang­ing uni­ver­si­ties for a brief post-graduate stint. The new cam­pus was big, mod­ern, and inspir­ing; quite a dif­fer­ence from my pre­vi­ous uni­ver­sity with its brown build­ings and con­stant construction.

It’s the same when com­par­ing a rented place of res­i­dence and an actual house. A house begets secu­rity, and in turn, a sense of con­fi­dence. There’s a dis­tinct feel­ing, every day, wak­ing up in one’s own home. Knowing that every pay­cheque is going towards some equity, a lit­tle piece of prop­erty I call my own. Having a com­fort zone, a place that I don’t have to deal with any­one I don’t want to. A place where I make the rules, not hav­ing to answer to land­lords or security.

It was the process too, that helped me grow. Aside from the com­mon sense of own­ing a house as a long-term invest­ment, I was inspired (or should I say “dri­ven”) to move because of a room­mate. After one par­tic­u­larly child­ish con­flict, I decided more than four months before I actu­ally had time to look, to buy a house and take Trolley with me. We moved in before the lease was up on the apartment.

I went through the entire process myself, know­ing noth­ing at the start. I had never done any­thing on this scale before, and while it may seem triv­ial to those who have been ini­tia­tors their entire lives, this was a big step for me. It let me know that I could actu­ally accom­plish the things I want.

And that cast aside all the doubt that was hold­ing me back.

The Trinary Maturity Series

  1. Introduction
  2. The Job
  3. The Girlfriend
  4. The House
  5. (In)Conclusion
02 Jul 05

The Garden In The Back

Thumbnail: Garden at night

It turns out I have a garden.

Thumbnail: Flower close-up

I moved in when there was still snow on the ground, and I only knew that there was a lit­tle patch of soil in my back­yard from the few dead stems stick­ing out of the snow canopy. Eventually the snow melted, then spring came and passed, but the soil remained bar­ren and dry. Summer started, and Trolley noticed some sprout­ing when he would go to smoke out­side. He pulled some dead growth and weeds but did noth­ing more, not even a water­ing. The gar­den just started to bloom by itself.

Thumbnail: Flower with bee

I have no idea what kind of plants they are, but they seem to be doing well.

28 Jun 05

Protected: The Ping-Pong Penis

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26 Jun 05

Trinary Maturity: The Girlfriend (or The Lifestyle)

It’s easy for some­one to asso­ciate an expe­ri­ence with the last mem­ory involved. I’m not with­out guilt in this issue myself. I’ll admit that the rough patches near the end of my rela­tion­ship with Loo have come to define the expe­ri­ence a lit­tle unfairly. Sometimes I have to remind myself of how much it’s helped and changed me.

In real­ity, I learned more from my time with Louise than from any pre­vi­ous rela­tion­ship. This was a per­son who inspired (and pushed) me to be bet­ter, but it wasn’t only her, it was the lifestyle as well.

I try not to have too much respon­si­bil­ity at this stage in my life, so when I do have it I take it seri­ously. Being a dom­i­nant means that respon­si­bil­ity is assumed over another per­son, another being, another liv­ing soul. To be given this respon­si­bil­ity, as a bond of supine trust, pro­vided me a sense of con­fi­dence I had never felt before.

And with this trust came a reju­ve­nated zeal for self-improvement. She was strong her­self, so I had to be stronger. If Louise’s con­tri­bu­tion was to push, my con­tri­bu­tion was to grow. It helped me fig­ure out what I want in the next few stages of my life. I stopped slouch­ing. I started speak­ing with more author­ity. I started walk­ing into restau­rants first, some­thing I could never do before, for rea­sons I could never explain. I demanded more out of life.

In the end, it didn’t work out. The dynamic wasn’t right. Unfortunately, I never felt like I was able to com­pletely han­dle every­thing until it was actu­ally over. Funny how life works out like that. What I’ve lost is only rel­e­vant now.

But what I’ve gained is more important.

The Trinary Maturity Series

  1. Introduction
  2. The Job
  3. The Girlfriend
  4. The House
  5. (In)Conclusion
23 Jun 05

Cottage On A Thursday

Thumbnail: Boat upholstery

I got to work early this morn­ing, around 7:30 or so. It was an effort to make up for yes­ter­day, in which I called in sick. By 8:30, my boss had asked me to go to his cot­tage and help him with his new pon­toon, and we left by nine.

Thumbnail: Boat motor

After pick­ing the boat up from the deal­er­ship, I was charged with the task of dri­ving his car from one of the boat docks of the lake to his cot­tage. We spent the whole day there, and I man­aged to get in a few pho­tos. I like the shot of the uphol­stery the most: the colours are per­fect, and have those lux­u­ri­ous, match­ing cream colours that are so char­ac­ter­is­tic of aqua vehi­cles. Even the motor is pretty sweet (4-stroke elec­tronic fuel injec­tion) and only requires the turn of a key to start.

Thumbnail: Cottage dock

I’m exhausted now, but it was def­i­nitely nice to be out of the office and on a lake, on a Thursday no less.

22 Jun 05

A/C For Computer

I already had a new com­puter priced out — One of the dual-core AMD Athlon X2 4400+ proces­sors (because 0.2 MHz isn’t worth a moth­er­fuck­ing $500 price jump) based on the Toledo core — mark­ing my switch to AMD, 2 gigs of super fast RAM, 200 gig SATA HDD (I decided not to go dual for RAID 0 cause strip­ing appar­ently doesn’t do much), the lat­est ATI Sapphire Radeon series — X850XT Platinum with dual DVI (I was think­ing of SLI nVidia cards, but then I’d want to buy two cards when upgrad­ing), a DVD burner, and one of the deluxe socket-939 Asus moth­er­boards. I even bought two 19″ flat panel mon­i­tors two months ago in antic­i­pa­tion of the sys­tem, and got my par­ents to front me for some of the cash.

Then my air con­di­tioner broke. It’s one of those grey areas, where it would cost me $300 just to test for leaks (after spend­ing $100 to find out what was wrong in the first place). This, in turn, is to find out how much it would cost to fix it, which could be any­where from $300 to $1000. So instead of tak­ing the chance on a seven-year-old A/C that may break again next year, I decided to put the money towards a new one. A brand-name one that would hope­fully last me more than 10 years, with a 5 year parts/labor war­ranty and a 10 year war­ranty on the com­pres­sor coil.

Unfortunately, it’s going to cost me $3500. This means that instead of sav­ing for a com­puter, I’ll be aim­ing to pay the A/C over the next six months. I could have stretched the pay­ment over a year, but it’d be at 5% inter­est, com­pounded monthly. My finan­cial goals are being put on hold now. I don’t need a new com­puter, although I could eas­ily take advan­tage of a dual-core desk­top, and it would cer­tainly be inspir­ing to use such a sweet machine to work on my projects with Aaron. This has only made me more deter­mined; I’m going to save all the money myself now, and think­ing over a longer term.