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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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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

Wow.

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,
Emma

I’m at a loss for words.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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