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.