High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese

     High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese, An Interactive Poem is a very complex project that is the result of the collaborative efforts of many authors. Wah, Harwood, Zhang, Wapp, Loh, Ihaya, Ida, Djwa, and Leurig worked together for several years to create this digital, interactive piece. In a statement from the author's on the Electronic Literature Collection's website, the author's explain that the piece is meant to act as something that "troubles the cliché of historical tales of Chinese immigration to North America's 'Gold Mountain'". To add to that, the editorial comment on the site let's readers know that the piece deals with topics such as "racism, intercultural exchange, imitation, history, economics, and Chinese immigration to Canada".

    As I click the link to enter, I know that I can expect a mix of sound, poetry, video, and interactive text. A swirling Ying-Yang symbol gives way to the title screen and a picture of what looks to be a square filled with lines of Chinese characters. The picture, I learn shortly after, is a Pak Ah Pu lottery card, and if I click on certain Chinese characters, I will be met with poetry, videos, and oral histories.

     I enter. Blue ink spots appear after I clicked on the first link. The ink spots on the lottery card than transfer to ink spots on what looks to be a crud geographic image on a human torso. Everything looks hand-drawn and painted. The ink spots turn out to be clickable links. Some, the larger ones, have titles such as "Canada", "Nelson", and "Richmond". The smaller ink spots are paler and do not have titles.

     I begin by clicking on "Victoria", and I am brought to a page that is filled with drawn images. A large brick establishment without a roof sits in the center of the screen, and it is surrounded by drawn  images of civilization: people, families, town.
     First, I chose to click on the family in the top left corner. I am brought to a page where text appears and disappears fairly quickly. I had been trying to read critically, slowly, but the text disappeared too quickly for me to absorb it. I have to reenter the page in order to reread what is perhaps a brief description pertaining to tradition and history. There is a line about mah-jong and New Years celebration.

     Back at the previous page, I click on the image of the man smoking next to a building. This is perhaps poetry? Then I go back and click on the image in the bottom right corner. This time the text does not appear on a separate page, rather I stay on the main page, and the text overlays the images on the screen.

     The image of the lottery ticket remains at the bottom right hand corner of this page: a way to go back and access the page with the blue ink spots. I click on "Pacific Rim" next.

     The main screen is a watercolor image of what appears to be water on a map. Little outlines of boats are the gateways here. I click on one boat and again receive text that appears to be poetry. Again the text is fleeting; it is frustrating, and I wish that I could hold on to the text for longer.

     Back on the water screen, I click on the largest boat in the center. I am brought to my first video, which begins with the sound of musical instruments and the image of what appears to be a map. As the video goes on, the music speeds up and becomes more intense. There are so many tiny strips of paper on the screen that all say "made in China". What looks like news clippings also briefly appear. One says "cheap labor".

     This is the end of my exploration for now. I enjoyed clicking on some of the links and seeing what I could find, but I am not usually one for poetry. Poetry has never been something that I can easily enjoy. So while I thought that this project was interesting, and I can appreciate the amount of work that went into it, I do not enjoy it as much as some of the other projects that we have seen. Perhaps this is a little too abstract for me? Maybe I'll do some more exploring before we next meet.