equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
01 Jun 11

France, Day 1: Paris

I find myself in Paris once again, this time for a video con­tract over the next 10 days. Karin approached me to work with her in cre­at­ing sev­eral films around this beau­ti­ful city, and I have the plea­sure of being involved with this amaz­ing per­sonal project of hers.

view from Sacre Coeur

This is only the sec­ond time I’ve been at Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, and both times there’s been weed in the air. I even passed by a man try­ing to roll a joint while sit­ting on a park bench, his paper madly flap­ping in the wind. There must be some­thing really trippy about the church.

I’m doing it bet­ter this time. More effi­cient, lighter lug­gage. Luckily, I’ve made this trip before and the expe­ri­ence is pay­ing off. Pushing my lim­its last visit has given me the con­fi­dence to han­dle any­thing that may hap­pen. I can retrace my steps with­out a map, remem­ber­ing where I took what pho­tos on which walks.

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21 Apr 10

Protected: The self coming true

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05 Jan 10

Protected: Pursued

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08 Feb 08


A reader sent me this let­ter (posted with her per­mis­sion, of course):

Almost a year after I had man­aged to leave the island behind, the room, the floor, the sheets, the rape — I acci­dently ended up on your blog entry called “The begin­ning to the end” and it changed my world. It awoke feel­ings inside of me that I had for a years time tried to sup­press and scare off so that I never again would open up to any­one, never trust any­one and there­for never end up in the same sit­u­a­tion again. At that time, all men were a poten­tial threath to me.

Reading and watch­ing that very blo­gen­try have had such a great impact on my life and will to become ‘myself’ again, to reclaim my body and to dare to move towards feel­ing and being ‘beau­ti­ful’ again. Your video granted me the sen­sa­tion of how sin­cere, pure and giv­ing love and affec­tion truly are when it’s shared and not forced. It made me remem­ber blocked out feel­ings and sit­u­a­tions and it made me start to long for some­thing that I had com­pletely shut out for over a year.

I have been want­ing to write you this email for quite some time, but I havent been sure of myself or if the “new” me (which is the old in fact) would sur­vive and I didnt want to make this into a sun­shine story if it really wasnt — but after many down­hills, tri­als and tribu­la­tions, the­r­a­phy and social inter­ac­tion, I am there, I am back and I am stand­ing strong again. Nothing will ever be the same, but at least I made the right choice, for me. I have always been lifelov­ing in over­load and even if I am only halfway there yet, it is still enough to keep me going.

I still watch that video every now and then, to remind myself that any­thing is pos­si­ble and that you can recieve “help” from the most unex­pected sources. It used to make me cry, now it makes me smile instead, isnt that beau­ti­ful? I know per­fectly well that you never meant to post that entry for me, but it helped me in one of the most dif­fi­cult times in my life and for that I will be for­ever grate­ful. Thank you.

Yours sin­cerly,

I’m at a loss for words.

18 Jun 07

The Death of Romance

Romance. It dies as we get older.

I’m not talk­ing about love. Love lasts for­ever if you’re doing it right. I’m talk­ing about the time when love is still mysterious.

It’s the mys­tery that makes romance what it is. The uncer­tainty. The ner­vous­ness. The risk.

Think of high-school. Over the bra, under the blouse, hop­ing to god your parent’s don’t walk in. When you’re explor­ing someone’s body with won­der. When you’re not sure how to act, how to inter­pret things, and you’re tear­ing your heart out cause you don’t know what’s going to hap­pen next.

You lose that as you live and you learn and you grow. Confidence takes that ner­vous­ness away because you speak your mind, you share your­self, and the uncer­tainty is gone.

Maybe I’m just feel­ing old. Maybe I’m just cling­ing to the past in a fit of nos­tal­gia, to the inno­cence of my youth when love was the only thing to worry about. Romance with­out prac­ti­cal­ity, bound­aries, type, or class.

Maybe my more recent rela­tion­ships just haven’t had that ner­vous­ness. There was always that imme­di­ate con­nec­tion that leaves lit­tle room for doubt. As fiery as they were, there was no mystery.

Maybe I’m just feel­ing numb again.

John still comes to me with girl advice every now and then, when he’s los­ing sleep and he’s writ­ing ter­ri­ble, hilar­i­ous poetry. He hates the uncer­tainty, but I tell him to think of when he’s older and mar­ried to the same per­son for forty years, how much he’ll miss those feelings.

I tell him to enjoy it. To lose him­self. He should be so lucky to feel so strongly about someone.

We all should at least once in our lives, before it’s too late and the romance dies.

20 Oct 06

The Gerry Project

Thumbnail: Gerry 1

Thumbnail: Gerry 2

This is Gerald, or Gerry as he prefers, an alum­nus of my high-school, Upper Canada College.

Gerry was born in Germany, but being a German-Jew, he soon moved to Holland in the years lead­ing up to the Second World War. “My father was rather pre­scient”, he put it. Eventually, he came to Canada. For four years, he attended UCC, grad­u­at­ing in 1940. I was in the class of ’99. After a year at uni­ver­sity, he vol­un­teered for mil­i­tary ser­vice at 19.

19?”, I asked in dis­be­lief. With a smile on his face, he told me, “You grow up fast”.

He began as a com­mis­sioned offi­cer for an artillery unit. Responsibility of the lives of many men under his com­mand was some­thing he didn’t want, but his knowl­edge of German, Dutch, and English moved him to a more prefer­able posi­tion as an inter­ro­ga­tion offi­cer. His supe­ri­ors would send him co-ordinates of intel­li­gence to gather, some­times behind German lines, some­times in a downed tank, and a pri­vate would drive him in a jeep to obtain the information.

He sur­vived.

From left to right, his medals are:

His proud­est accom­plish­ment is the Maltese cross he wears on his chest — The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, pre­sented by the Governor General her­self. Even though he’s a com­man­der of the order, sec­ond only to knights or dames, he’s extremely mod­est about it. The framed award pre­sented to him lies in a pile of assorted things in his bedroom.

I first met Gerry a few days ago, after find­ing out about him from the bi-annual newslet­ter pub­lished by UCC. The newslet­ter, called Old Times, is a way for alumni, called Old Boys, to keep track of the goings’ on at the College. There was an arti­cle about the school’s prized Victoria Cross medal col­lec­tion being pre­sented to the new Canadian War Museum here in Ottawa. These were the same medals I walked by in the front hall dis­play case every day at school, too young to appre­ci­ate their his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance. Gerry was one of the vet­er­ans invited to attend the pre­sen­ta­tion ceremony.

However, my inter­est in Gerry stemmed from a dif­fer­ent sec­tion in the same issue of the newslet­ter, announc­ing a photo con­test open to all past and present stu­dents. The con­test seemed like a great project, not only as a way to prac­tice my pho­to­graphic skills, but to test myself as well. I would have to find a sub­ject related to the school in some way. Gerry, being an Ottawa-area Old Boy, was my clos­est con­nec­tion. Taking pic­tures of some­one, let alone some­one I had never met before, was a daunt­ing idea, and I would have to step out of my com­fort zone to do it.

After look­ing up his name in the phone­book and gath­er­ing up the courage, I called Gerry. He was happy to meet.

I’ll be sub­mit­ting the sec­ond photo.

Update: Here are the results of the project.

11 Aug 06

What Can I Say?

Things have changed.

I don’t write the same any­more, or about the same things. I’ve lost my fer­vent ver­bosity. Every time I sit at my com­puter, my mind blanks. Writing has become a chore. Even this entry has taken me days to think through. I find myself writ­ing and rewrit­ing every point, every paragraph.

In the begin­ning, blog­ging was a form of cathar­sis. Developing cog­ni­tively beyond my ado­les­cence was an emo­tional period, filled with con­fu­sion and grow­ing pains. The only way I could make sense of it all was to write out my thoughts, forc­ing myself to reflect and learn from every challenge.

It was also a use­ful tool in fig­ur­ing myself out, as a part of my life where I could approach things with the con­vic­tion that I lacked in the rest of my life. Now that I’ve gained enough con­fi­dence, it doesn’t seem so nec­es­sary to prove myself with words any­more. It would seem that I’ve become a vic­tim of my own self-assuredness.

I could fill this blog with entries, find­ing solace in the writ­ten word, when I was going through some­thing as sim­ple as a bad day. As time has passed, I’ve elim­i­nated most of the things that bother me enough to turn to this medium. It was a slow and sys­tem­atic process, both inter­nal and exter­nal. My new-found seren­ity has left me with lit­tle rage. I’m hap­pier now, and hap­pi­ness is too hard to write.

It would seem that I’ve run out of things to say.

There have been few epipha­nies, and even less inspi­ra­tion, in the last while. Maybe it’s because I’m in the mid­dle of a tran­si­tion. It takes a foun­da­tion of sta­bil­ity, some­thing I haven’t had in months, to grow. My life hasn’t quite set­tled yet.

Writer’s block is a sign that I’ve stopped grow­ing, a tes­ta­ment to what and how much I’ve been through.

But more impor­tantly, it’s a sign that I’m approach­ing where I want to go in my life.

04 Jul 06

Canada Day '06

Thumbnail: Pat in the hat
Thumbnail: Chaos on couch
Thumbnail: Brother Mike
Thumbnail: Lacey
Thumbnail: Beer in hand
Thumbnail: Jenn with drink
Thumbnail: Sarah licks
Thumbnail: Karen laughs
Thumbnail: Winding down on the couch
Thumbnail: Breakfast of champions
Thumbnail: Maple leaf

For Canada’s 139th, Aaron and Karen braved the rainy weather and hosted a small gath­er­ing for a bar­be­cue. By the time I arrived, sev­eral hours early from help­ing Trolley in the morn­ing, I was tired, moody, and smelling rather fresh, so I decided to leave by the time peo­ple were sup­posed to arrive in the after­noon. Fortunately, Pat and Jen showed up early too, bring­ing with them a deck of Dutch Blitz. It was a game I had never played before, but grew addicted to quickly. The fast-paced, and con­vivial nature of the game light­ened my mood, and by the sec­ond round I was feel­ing jovial. There were other games too — bul­let chess, Trivial Pursuit (90’s Edition, which the guys won for the first time ever), Soul Calibur 2 — all of which I par­took through the rest of the evening.

I had such a good time that I ended up stay­ing the night because I missed my last bus. In the morn­ing, we slowly rose with cof­fee and greasy food, even­tu­ally play­ing some more Dutch Blitz before I had to leave.

It’s hard to remem­ber a time when I was so at ease in a large group, or when I laughed so much. Maybe we’ve finally cut out the intol­er­a­ble peo­ple, the ones who rub me the wrong way with their sim­ple pres­ence. Maybe, as a sign of my grow­ing con­fi­dence, I’m get­ting more com­fort­able around other people.

Or maybe it’s a com­bi­na­tion of both.

03 Nov 05

Still Being Tested

It’s been rough going the last few weeks. Every day is a con­flict between doing some­thing relax­ing, doing the chores that will make me feel com­fort­able, or going to bed. Even now I can’t relax. I clean my mir­rors of fin­ger­prints in between sen­tences, or brush Dolly of excess fur as she force­fully nudges my wrists in mirth, and only con­tinue writ­ing when I come up with the next idea.

A sore throat and weary body had me call­ing in sick today (I sus­pect that I caught some­thing from pet­ting the same cat as Karen yes­ter­day, who’s seems sick as a dog), although I ended up going in and work­ing six hours any­way. All the extra cur­ric­u­lar things are slowly wear­ing me down. There’s the two side-businesses, the new effort of learn­ing as much as I can about my new Canon Rebel XT by pho­tograph­ing every­thing, and the blog­ging. I also started table ten­nis again, although I’m not sure how often I can attend, tak­ing four hours out of a week­day. The one reprieve is a LAN party I’ve had planned since September that starts tomor­row, and even though it’ll be a good week­end of gam­ing, it’ll still mean lit­tle rest. Normally I’m planned, pre­pared, and prac­ticed for a LAN, but this time it’ll all be improvised.

I’m being tested, and even though I know that I’ll get through this, it’s still dif­fi­cult. I’m forced to deal with peo­ple I’ve avoided my entire life. I’m push­ing myself past the lim­its of any­thing I’ve ever gone through. To be hon­est, it’s a lit­tle eas­ier than I would have imag­ined. The strength and con­fi­dence that I’ve gained over the last two years has helped tremen­dously. Knowing that things get done in their own time keeps me from being over­whelmed. If I can make it through this, I’ll be stronger than ever.