Monthly Archives: May 2008

Ellen and Ziny

Peace sign

Thumbnail: Ellen laughing
Thumbnail: Ziny smiling
Thumbnail: Girls back-to-back
Thumbnail: Ellen serious
Thumbnail: Ziny laughing

Some more practice with photographing couples. Ellen and Ziny are both med students who used to be roommates. They happened to be in Ottawa at the same time for internships at different hospitals, so it was the perfect opportunity to get them both together for a few shots.

Getting black hair and clothes to show up against a black background is very tricky. I suspect darker textures need their own dedicated light source to increase the exposure.

I Found Her

The woman I’ve been looking for my entire life.

Her name was Christine. She was thin lipped. Frail limbed. Not the least bit camera shy, as she pulled her shirt up to expose a breast, like she had fallen on the grass this way and the folds in her clothes rearranged themselves on her body.

Here she is on a horse in the night. Here she is, grim-faced, cradling her son. There was a scar on her neck from a suicide attempt years earlier, and through a series of photographs, you could see the scar heal.

For seven years she was married, before she successfully jumped to her death from the 9th floor of an apartment in East Berlin.

A blink in my eye, a snap of someone else’s shutter. A muse of flesh and blood. The Jane Birkin to Serge Gainsbourg. The Olga Ivinskaya to Boris Pasternak.

This is someone who understood his art, his morbidity, his need to capture her suicide in a frame, then publish the image of her body on the pavement, looking down from the 9th floor, along with insouciant pictures of a teacup, a playground, a tank, three plants.

And as soon as I had found her, she’s gone.

Should I be happy that she existed? Should I be sad that she’s gone? Should I be punished for comparing the women I’ve had to her?

Is this painful, or beautiful, or both?


Part of The Tao Tattoo Series

  1. The Meaning
  2. The Experience
  3. The Background
  4. Tattwo

The tao tattoo


Some people ask me whether I feel more Chinese or Canadian. While some first-generation Canadians say that they’re neither, I feel like I’m both, because I appreciate and understand things from both cultures. I have the best of both worlds.

I already have a the hanzi character for “tao” on my right wrist, so I got the word “tao” on my left in English. This tattoo serves two purposes: as an expression of this dual heritage, and as another reminder for me to follow the tao.

The Operation

I went back to Jay at New Moon, who did an awesome job on my first tattoo. When I walked in, he had the latest Mars Volta album on, which I didn’t even know was out until that day. Most of the time was passed comparing them to Tool, two of our favourite bands1.

Can you tell when he’s going over my artery? (Hint: I start to swear)


tao typography

The three-letter word is written in Avenir. As the Humanist, sans-serif typeface designed by Adrian Fruitiger (also used for the title and menu of this site), it’s my favourite font. Clean, sharp, minimalist, and legible. The most distinguishing part, as with most good fonts, is the double-story “a”, which increases legibility.

I had over a dozen variations, at different point sizes, kerning values, and weights. I wanted the weight, size, and position to balance with the one on my right wrist. In the end, I went with one that was 63.78 points, and the 35 “light” weight.

Continue reading “Tattwo”…

  1. Tool was a favourite until Lateralus came out, and I discovered Dream Theater. Ænima remains one of my top albums though. []

Psychoanalytic Reflections 05

Sometimes I come out of a session feeling great. Sometimes I come out feeling like a monster, like some horrible, fucked-up person.

During my first session, my therapist noted that this was a mutual process. It wasn’t as if he was going to surgically remove an issue with me, it would take the both of us working together, with a progressive effort from me.

That’s what I’m doing now. I’m determined to fix myself.


  • I have a general feeling of incompetence, which leads to a lack of trust in my own judgments. As a result, I have a very difficult time making decisions because I’m paralyzed by the fact that I may make the wrong one.
    • I can trace this back from my childhood to my early twenties when my parents were overbearing and would never let me make any of my own decisions. In fact, they would make most of my decisions for me, including significant ones, like my program of study in university.
  • The result is that I tend to ask people for advice on everything, although I’m dependent on Pat the most. This is because Pat is so smart and experienced, and has never, ever let me down. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that Pat is so smart because he’s already made his mistakes.
  • This was linked to my anxiety, where I felt like I couldn’t handle anything on my own.
  • I’ve been trying to fix this is to keep in mind that it’s not the end of the world if I make a mistake, and that sometimes, making mistakes is the only way to learn.

Unrelenting Standards revisited

  • I realized that I tend to have unrelenting standards when it comes to life in general, but especially in my writing, photography, or art because I feel like this is the only way I will ever distinguish myself and be worth something. I feel like if I’m not the best, then I’m worthless. As a result, it’s difficult for me to enjoy my life, even something as simple as sitting down and watching a movie.
    • The roots of this are more difficult to trace than I initially thought. While my parents were a tremendous influence in terms of making me feel like their love was conditional, I believe a large part of this lifetrap has to do with me making up for my emotional deprivation by filling my deeper emptiness with success.
  • Even when I do something that I know I should be proud of and satisfied, I feel like there’s always another thing to do, another level to reach. While this fuels my self-improvement and has gotten me to where I am now, I’ve come to realize that there’s an imbalance between the effort and the payoff. I work too hard for too little enjoyment.
  • I may realize this, but it’s a hard habit to break. I have a feeling that I’ll need to fix my emotional deprivation at the same time to do so.