equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
30 Jun 09

Men As An Excuse For God

I think god invented porn before he came up with men and then made us so he could blame it on some­one else to the wife.

—John’s the­ory, as we were throw­ing around ideas for a cam­era phone that does 360 panora­mas, so that callers could get con­text on who they’re calling

Naturally, this brain­storm ses­sion turned to pornog­ra­phy, as it has dri­ven such tech­nol­ogy in the past; the lack of pornog­ra­phy on Sony’s Betamax was one of the con­tribut­ing fac­tors that helped JVC’s VHS win the for­mat war, dri­ving Betamax into extinc­tion. And more recently, Sony, hav­ing learned from their mis­takes, won the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion DVD for­mat war with Blu-Ray against Microsoft’s HD-DVD, as movie stu­dio back­ing, pornog­ra­phy, and games are undoubt­edly dri­ving this too.

14 Feb 09

I Want

I want the view. The city lights beneath me, blink­ing in red and white, to remind me that life still goes on even as we’re uncon­scious of it.

I want to be in the café with Darren, talk­ing about that which only we could under­stand about each other.

I want to be look­ing out the open win­dow of my uncle’s apart­ment in Hong Kong, to hear the peo­ple talk­ing, even through the night. I want to smell the age of the wood, the steril­ity of the concrete.

I want the strings to be play­ing just for me. To guide me, through lay­ers of res­o­lu­tion after resolution.

I want to stay on the beach­front. To feel the cool, moist wind blow­ing through open cur­tains and doors, com­pletely trust­ing of the world. To feel the dark­ness and quiet swal­low­ing me whole.

I want to be rolled up in my sheets with her, pressed together on the couch, naked as we came, as the morn­ing light begins to glow through the blinds.

I want to be down­town in the warmth of sum­mer, with the energy of those around me as if the night would never end.

I want the rit­u­als accorded to those who love and are loved in return.

I want to walk out of the the­atre into the deaf­en­ing night air, my mind rac­ing and hum­bled from the performance.

I want to ride with John. To speak with­out think­ing. To feel with­out car­ing. To con­fide with­out worrying.

I want this feel­ing to last forever.

17 Dec 08

At the Ontario Science Centre

Back in the sum­mer, John and I went to the Ontario Science Centre. The plan­e­tar­ium was up-and-running, so we got to view the lat­est Mars land­scape pic­tures in 360 degrees. We also arrived at the Science Arcade just in time to see a girl on the stage with her hand on the big Van de graaff, one of those mys­ti­cal flag­ship images you often see in their advertisements.

We hadn’t been there since we were lit­tle kids, but the inter­ac­tive tests and exper­i­ments are always fun, even when you’re older.

29 Oct 08


I’ve had the strangest day. Or week. Or month. Or something.

Not strange in an odd of way, but strange in a con­fus­ing way.

It’s like I don’t know what I’m feel­ing right now. I don’t even know how I’m sup­posed to feel. Maybe it’s the uncer­tainty of my life right now that’s doing it. The insta­bil­ity that makes me want to go home and hide in the com­fort of my chaise, behind the warm glare of my Macbook Pro.

All day, I think of being at home and fin­ish­ing my projects. Then I get home and pro­cras­ti­nate — not watch­ing TV, or movies, or read­ing, or clean­ing, but lit­er­ally sit­ting around — because all I think about is talk­ing to John.

It’s only after I’m off the phone with him that I feel like I can begin my evening and be pro­duc­tive. I can talk with­out think­ing, with­out wor­ry­ing that he may judge me, with­out feel­ing like I’m being patron­ized, with­out car­ing whether I’m repeat­ing myself, with­out fear of offend­ing him, with­out even hav­ing to make sense. Like a small ses­sion of ther­apy, where I need to fig­ure things out for myself, but which can only be done after I’ve put it all out there to some­one else. It helps me more than I can under­stand or explain. Unfortunately, he gen­er­ally remains unavail­able until later in the night, and by the time we’re done, it’s already passed the time I should be in bed.

Even this was only writ­ten after he called me on his way home from ini­ti­at­ing new pledges at his old fra­ter­nity. And it’s already an hour later than when I planned to be asleep.

In any case, I couldn’t even bring myself to cry today. It just wasn’t in me. It isn’t what I’m feel­ing right now. Or not the only thing.

And when Death From Above1 came on, all I wanted to do was dance.

  1. Back when Iain and I first saw them in con­cert open­ing for Billy Talent, they didn’t have the gra­tu­itous “1979” suf­fix, as it was before the legal dis­pute. I refuse to acknowl­edge them as any­thing else. []
05 Oct 08

Awkward Brunch

The time my words dig a hole out of which my best friend must climb.

If you pay spe­cial atten­tion at 1:21, you can see John’s face when he sub­tly shakes his head as if to com­mu­ni­cate to me, YOU ARE MAKING IT WORSE.

21 Aug 08

Four Day Vacation

I’m in Toronto right now, at John’s house. He has the cot­tage for his birth­day week­end, so I took two extra days off work to see him. It’s kind of strange how much I’ve been see­ing him lately. In the past, we’d go over a year with­out see­ing each other because he was in Windsor for law school and I was in Ottawa with­out a car. But now that he’s been called to the bar and I’ve obtained the Civic, things have worked out.

We plan on going to the Ontario Science Centre today — some­thing I’ve wanted to do for a while1 — then dri­ving up to the cot­tage tonight. We’ll spend two days at the cot­tage2, maybe take a day trip to another town, and drive back on Sunday. Aaron also called me yes­ter­day about his co-ed baby shower on Sunday, which i’m not sure if I’ll be attend­ing yet, since I’ll have dri­ven eight hours that day.

Sunsets and Audiobooks

The drive was absolutely amaz­ing. The weather was per­fectly cool, and the sun took its glo­ri­ous time set­ting over a few hours. I think the most sat­is­fy­ing part is get­ting to the sec­tion of high­way where the 417 splits to the 416, and one can stay in the left lane and accel­er­ate through the turn, leav­ing all the traf­fic behind.

I lis­tened to some audio CDs of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking on the way over. The con­cept is that our first reac­tions (made within a few sec­onds) are often intu­itively cor­rect, and that even after think­ing about some­thing for a long time, we end up going with our gut feel­ings any­way. We’re made to believe that the more impor­tant some­thing is, the longer we should take to make a deci­sion. I’m espe­cially guilty of this3. Wally lent them to me in an effort to help me act faster so I don’t miss any oppor­tu­ni­ties. Not sure if they’ll help me, but the way it delves into processes of the human psy­che is a very inter­est­ing lis­ten nonetheless.

Feeding Butterball

Left Dolly lots of food, and I’m hop­ing she doesn’t eat it all. The rea­son why I feed her by hand is because she doesn’t have any sense of how much to eat, and bal­loons up if not con­trolled. In either case, I expect a lot of poo in the lit­ter­box when I get back.

New Game

I bought John a copy of Assassin’s Creed for his birth­day, which thank­fully was on his list of games for which to watch. It was devel­oped by Ubisoft Montreal, the same stu­dio who made Prince of Persia, and plays very much the same way. An open-world con­cept with lots of stealth ele­ments. Certainly a game I could get into. We take turns play­ing, and it’s made me real­ize that I haven’t been play­ing much myself in the last few months.

A Sense of Overstimulation

Life has been some­what over­stim­u­lat­ing lately, and I can’t blame any­one but myself. After spend­ing a day shop­ping for house­wares with Julie last week­end, the house is a big mess, with things scat­tered over the coun­ters and floors. I haven’t even had a chance to write about the last time I came to Toronto. It seems like life is going faster than I can keep up. I’m just try­ing to enjoy it, espe­cially when the weather is this beautiful.

After all, life is for the liv­ing. This won’t last for­ever. I get to look for­ward to some time alone when every­thing is settled.

  1. I don’t think I’ve been since grade 4, so over 18 years ago. []
  2. Last time I was there was two years ago []
  3. John says that I tend to over ana­lyze things to the point of paral­y­sis. []
06 Aug 08

The Fantasist

I hope John’s wrong. Not because he’s a pes­simist, but because he’s a real­ist. I came to him over­flow­ing with excite­ment, per­haps with a bright naïveté, only to be brought down in seven words, and the words have been ring­ing in my ears ever since. I use to think he was tact­less and unsup­port­ive. Maybe he is. But he tells the truth, and instead of my hopes, I can only turn to him for this.

That doesn’t change the fact that I’m a fan­ta­sist, who wants this right now.

Who needs this right now.

07 Jul 08

The Importance of Importance

I should really be in bed, but whatever.

Tonight I dug up a let­ter John sent me a few months ago after he hurt me like never before:

I’ve been read­ing your blog and call­ing you all weekend…I know you need atten­tion and I’m sorry I’ve been so neglect­ful of you that it’s reminded you of the way your par­ents treated you. Please stop con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide as a real­is­tic course of action in order to rem­edy the prob­lem. I love you and would really miss you and at the end of the day in a self­ish way I’m scared that I’d hate you if you left me here by myself feel­ing as guilty as I’d feel if you did it. I think you have fun­da­men­tally mis­or­dered the pri­or­i­ties we all come hard­wired with. To rank the absence of sad­ness or the pres­ence of hap­pi­ness or what­ever sui­cide would gain you as goals higher than sur­vival is the first error and then to seek those first goals using the method­ol­ogy of sui­cide is the sec­ond. You’re a lit­tle Chinese man who drinks fruit shakes and is def­i­nitely intended to live longer than the genet­i­cally pre­dis­posed to die in his early 50’s Caucasoid over here. Lets keep it that way shall we, I haven’t got your eulogy pol­ished to nearly the degree you’d want it to be.

At the time, I couldn’t get past the first few sen­tences because the pain was too fresh. And his words too poignant. Whereas I’m very vocal with my feel­ings, John is the oppo­site, and for him to say these things made me feel like my heart would burst. I read it tonight because I wanted to be reminded that I’m impor­tant to some­one, the way I need to be.

It made me real­ize that a lit­tle part of me still defines myself through oth­ers. But I don’t care any­more. I have some­one who loves and needs me the way I love and need him. That’s what mat­ters. That’s what makes me feel impor­tant, like my life means something.

Knowing this brings me a great deal of comfort.

And that will be enough to get me through.

(I won­der what he’ll say at my eulogy.)

03 Mar 08

Emergence Exposition Opus 02

The last three months led up to this night.

Gallery viewing

Thumbnail: Ysabella's sculptures
Thumbnail: Baby dance
Thumbnail: Ceramic tower
Thumbnail: Ceramic sculptures
Thumbnail: Jacqueline plays piano
Thumbnail: Chocolate truffles
Thumbnail: Louise performs
Thumbnail: Frédéric plays the harp
Thumbnail: Prairie Cat
Thumbnail: Tree sculpture

After attend­ing Opus 01, I knew I wanted to be a part of this.

John, as a true friend, flew from Toronto to be there for the night. Alex, who was doing a med­ical intern­ship at a fam­ily prac­tice in a nearby city, drove there. Even Pearl also dropped by and I got to meet her.

I was so busy talk­ing with my guests that I didn’t even have time to go into the other rooms to see how the other artists were doing. The house was packed with peo­ple again, young and old.


Jacqueline’s sec­ond piece was Sonata in A Minor, by Franz Schubert (unfor­tu­nately, her first piece was over ten min­utes long, which isn’t allowed on YouTube). I found it to be a rather mas­cu­line piece, begin­ning like a som­bre funeral march, lead­ing to a jour­ney of bub­bling emo­tion, so it was mes­mer­iz­ing to see a girl play it with such con­vic­tion. Pay spe­cial atten­tion to the burn­ing trill at 5:28, which leads back to the main theme.

Misun told me that when she handed Jacqueline a rose after the per­for­mance, it looked like she had run a marathon.

Afterwards, Jacqueline told me after she couldn’t stop look­ing at my penis through her per­for­mance, then quickly cor­rected her­self and said the penis pic­ture, which was hung across from her.

Louise plays the harp by feel­ing only. She doesn’t have for­mal any musi­cal train­ing, so she doesn’t write any of her com­po­si­tions down. It just flows from her fin­gers, and quite well I might add. As a result, her music is semi-improvised.

John kept telling us how not drunk he was, even though you can clearly see­ing him down­ing glasses of wine in this video.

The after party

Thumbnail: Hors d'ouevres table
Thumbnail: Alex plays piano
Thumbnail: Cary and Ysabella
Thumbnail: Alex, me, and John
Thumbnail: Salon window

When the peo­ple left and the doors closed, the real party began for the artists, their guests, and the vol­un­teers. Frédéric and Misun broke out the cold cuts, the fresh and fancy bread, the wine, the cheese and we cel­e­brated a suc­cess­ful night. We had been stand­ing for five hours, so it was time to take a break.

When Dan gave me a read­ing two years ago, and said that I would be mak­ing money off my art within the next 15 years, I never would have believed him.

Note: All media in this post has an extremely warm colour tone. I decided to keep it instead of bal­anc­ing it to neu­tral white, because I enjoy the cozy feel of it, which expresses the mood of the house-gallery.

28 Jan 08

Waxing John

The rite of pas­sage for the males of our gen­er­a­tion — the gen­er­a­tion of the met­ro­sex­ual and hair­less porn­star — is get­ting waxed. As an act of true love for Sheila in endur­ing the pain, John asked me if I would clean up the hair on his back and arms. I agreed, as long as I could film it.

Waxing John from Jeff Ngan on Vimeo.

I sup­pose that near the end of the video my sadis­tic side comes out when I start to laugh, or dare I say, enjoy hear­ing him scream.

This is like true friend­ship”, he says, “Waxing your best friends back when you’ve got a Y-chromosome”.

08 Jan 08

The Ardent Friends

Sometimes, all I need is a friend to sup­port me.

Even the times when I know I’m stu­pid or illog­i­cal. Especially those times, I just want some­one to lis­ten and agree.

I remem­ber Aaron going through a rough patch a cou­ple years ago. He told me he couldn’t let Rob know, because Rob would have jumped in his car and busted open some heads. Aaron con­fided in me because he needed an objec­tive opin­ion to work through the sit­u­a­tion, whereas Rob may have hurt more than help.

Even though I agreed, I felt like Rob’s ardent per­son­al­ity was a sign of true broth­er­hood. It doesn’t mat­ter what the logic is, it doesn’t mat­ter what the rea­sons are, your ene­mies are his ene­mies. It’s almost like he’s blinded by his love.

And as much as there are times when Aaron doesn’t tell Rob some­thing, I’m sure there are times when doesn’t tell me things either because he needs an fer­vent friend. He needs some­one who will take his side no mat­ter what. I know I do.

Don’t get me wrong; I have plenty of friends I can go to for an hon­est opin­ion. In fact, I go to them more often than not. John’s always there to con­tra­dict me and keep me in check, Pat’s there to ratio­nal­ize the sit­u­a­tion, and Aaron’s there to help me find a solu­tion. But every now and then, the uncon­di­tional sup­port of an ardent friend gives me strength and courage more than any­thing else.

Everyone should have such secu­rity. To be able to call some­one at any time of day who’ll be there in a heart­beat1. Everyone should have a friend like Rob in their lives.

The ardent friends are just as impor­tant as the objec­tive ones.

  1. Of course, you have to earn that kind of respect from Rob, because he doesn’t give it to just any­one. []
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
08 Jan 07

Video Wrap-up '06

Much like my end-of-year pho­tos, I had a few mis­cel­la­neous video clips that didn’t seem to fit in anywhere.

Parental Sit Rep

This is the typ­i­cal thing that hap­pens when I first see John in per­son. Since it’s usu­ally only once a year I get to do this, we do all major updat­ing. The minor issues are taken care of on a weekly basis over the phone.

I didn’t real­ize what sit rep meant until I heard it again while going through my footage.

Exhaling Food

And, of course, John gets his turn at catch­ing me up with all his drama. The way John expresses him­self often ends up mak­ing me laugh at inop­por­tune moments, such as when I’m try­ing to swal­low solid foods, which then tries to make its way through my nasal cavity.

PDA = pub­lic dis­play of affection.

Bubble Juggler

Trolley makes a good attempt at jug­gling two vials of bub­ble mix, then gets served by a passer-by.

Drinking Buddy



I had John in a ten­der state, telling me about his moth­ers last moments. Even though I found out on the first day of school in grade 10 that she died, he never told me the details until that rainy sum­mer day.

29 Sep 06

Vacation With John '06: Part 4

Thumbnail: Becky cries 
Thumbnail: Me with gramma Currie 
Thumbnail: Becky tickles John 
Thumbnail: Going for a dip 
Thumbnail: John's birthday present 
Thumbnail: Parade pairs 
Thumbnail: Swimming doggie 

300 km, Windsor to Kincardine, from the bor­der of Detroit to the doorstep of the cot­tage. Due to the break-up, John was too jit­tery to drive. I took the wheel until he could com­pose himself.

This week­end was espe­cially impor­tant for John; it was his birth­day and an over­whelm­ing num­ber of fam­i­lies wanted to visit in cel­e­bra­tion, includ­ing his father. Being the mater­nal cot­tage, Dr. Lea hasn’t been up since his wife died, and this was more impor­tant to John than any­thing else.

By May, the week­ends are already booked past August at the cot­tage. It’s filled with rooms, beds, cots, couches that can accom­mo­date more than a dozen peo­ple. Families come and go, and only Gramma Currie remains con­stant. For most of the year she lives in an apart­ment in town, but when it’s warm enough to live by the fire, the cot­tage is opened for lodging.

This time there was Ross, the cousin who’s since fin­ished pay­ing off his tat­too. There was Ray, hus­band of Fran, father of Heather, uncle of John, who eats his hard-boiled eggs by reg­i­mented rou­tine: dash of salt, dash of pep­per, scoop of mar­garine, scoop of yolk in sequence. There were all the asso­ci­ated fam­i­lies, about five in total, and even a few kids run­ning around, mak­ing four gen­er­a­tions of the Currie family.

I couldn’t even remem­ber the last time I was here, but my last entry in the vis­i­tors log shows that it was three years ago.

Thumbnail: Ballon garden 
Thumbnail: Beach front 
Thumbnail: Beach bench 
Thumbnail: Clear water 
Thumbnail: Carcass 
Thumbnail: Monarch butterfly 
Thumbnail: My pasty feet 
Thumbnail: Praying mantis 
Thumbnail: Beach shells 
Thumbnail: Rock shells 
Thumbnail: Watery log 
Thumbnail: Yellow butterfly 
Thumbnail: Stormy beach 
Thumbnail: Stormy waves 

The best cot­tages are off the beach, and the begin­ning of fall is the best time of year to appre­ci­ate such things. Even though the wind com­ing off the water keeps the area rel­a­tively cool, the sum­mer heat can still over­whelm such delights.

There’s nowhere else like this.

My house was 650 km away, nine more hours on the road by car, bus, and taxi. On Sunday night, it was good to be home.

25 Sep 06

Vacation With John '06: Part 3

Thumbnail: Hamilton Market
Thumbnail: John and Sandra

A short detour, 80 km, Toronto to Hamilton.

We met up with Sandra for din­ner. Prior to this, I only knew Sandra as John’s “best friend from school”, the one he spends most his time with when he’s not with his girl­friend. On the drive up my curios­ity was killing me. Was this Sandra per­son a threat to my friend­ship with John? Would she even­tu­ally replace me as the one he goes to with his prob­lems, his inse­cu­ri­ties, his excite­ments, and would I lose my best friend in return?


Social graces dic­tate that you don’t strike up a din­ner con­ver­sa­tion on which not every­one can opine, but when you get two legal-minded peo­ple together, there’s isn’t much non-law-student can do but lis­ten and observe.

They got along well, but there’s a cer­tain level of inti­macy miss­ing. They still feel each other out, whereas John and I have con­ver­sa­tions with a sin­gle look. When we left, I was reas­sured of my posi­tion as best friend, and felt silly about how I could be so inse­cure about a bond so strong.

Thumbnail: Iced tea
Thumbnail: Club sandwhich
Thumbnail: Club 29
Thumbnail: Lounging in the club
Thumbnail: Serious John
Thumbnail: Julie
Thumbnail: Laura

300 km, Hamilton to Windsor.

I had never been to Windsor before. It’s always remained a place in my head, never tan­gi­ble, because it’s always John who vis­its me. Windsor is where he goes to law school, where he spends the major­ity of the year, and where he works. This was the first chance I had to sub­merge myself in his life and lifestyle.

I went to work with him at the com­mu­nity law office. It’s here that he shares an open office with a dozen other stu­dents, who defend clients from bad land­lords, ten­ants, par­ents, chil­dren, shoplifters, or any other type of liv­ing thing.

Law stu­dents are a dif­fer­ent breed. They’re peo­ple who have ini­tia­tive, who can be extro­verted at the right time. After work, they meet at a pub, sit on the patio, and talk about their cases, about the crown attor­neys who have vendet­tas against them, about moronic clients who speak out of turn and plead guilty to a charge before a bar­gain can be reached.

I was a fish out of water.

Thumbnail: Hall handles
Thumbnail: Room number
Thumbnail: Stair arrows

Given a short tour of the University of Windsor, I took a few quick snaps.

Thumbnail: Helen sign
Thumbnail: Helen dies

The first night we arrived in Windsor, John noticed the win­dow was open, with a note from his girl­friend about car­ing for the hibis­cus just out­side. He stuck his head out the win­dow to see. “How fit­ting”, he said. “The plant has fallen over, and died”.

Minutes before leav­ing for the next part of our trip, they broke up.