Everywhere and Nowhere

Why is the subtitle Playing Chinese? How do you play a language or a culture? I think that was my first thought when I opened to the landing page of High Muck a Muck. The instructions on how to go through this piece suggested to keep the sound on, but I don’t have headphones that work with my laptop at the moment, and I’m not working in a spot where I can play things at a volume I’ll be able to clearly hear and not disturb the other working people around me. So I guess going through with the sound off it is.

Just in the first two pages there are a couple mentions of the lottery.

I was going to start with the Everywhere and Nowhere button, but again, considering that I don’t have my headphones and I’m sitting in [a currently crowded] East Campus Cafe, I passed on the video for now. There was a little card with Mandarin written on it, and I noticed that hovering over the image brought up the menu– not exactly as it was seen after clicking the “enter” button, but with most all of the same links. So I used that to get back to the Intro page and then find my way back to the makeshift map drawn on the back and arms of a person.

Where the dots are:

  • Book at the left hand : British Colombia
  • Base of the neck : Everywhere and Nowhere
  • Left shoulder blade : no description
  • Left tricep : Pacific Rim
  • Left hip : no description, Victoria, Richmond, and Vancouver
  • Middle back : 4 buttons no description
  • Right hip : no description and Nelson
  • Right elbow : Canada

When I went back to the map, I started to wonder the significance of why these places were placed at these points on the body, and why the more translucent, smaller dots had no description. Seven dots were like that with no location attached to them, seven were larger, darker, and had locations attached. One was not a dot on the body-map at all– British Colombia has a whole book, which I think didn’t catch my eye until now because it was in the corner.

British Colombia

Poem title : MADE IN CHINA

Why does the speaker need a son? I know this is something highly significant to Chinese culture, but to be honest I never understood it. You don’t need another person for anything– no person will complete you or satisfy your deepest longings or heal the broken pieces of your soul that you often don’t even realize are broken (that is, no person but Jesus). But the second stanza struck me as I remember the Creative Nonfiction class I took last semester; I have a friend who asked so many questions about my faith because she was so closed off to almost every other religion in her orthodox Jewish community. Of course, I had been patient with the almost overwhelming number of questions she asked and the interesting view she previously held of Jesus because of what she’d been taught (and that’s where this ties into the piece).

Who is he, this uncle

All smiles, suit, and tie

Coming through the front door of the café,

eyeing Foo Let behind the counter,

shaking his hand?

High Muck a Muck by Fred Wah, Nicola Harwood, Jin Zhang, Bessie Wapp, Thomas Loh, Tomoyo Ihaya, Hiromoto Ida, Phillip Djwa, and Patrice Leung

Who is this uncle? My friend had been asking herself the same thing about Jesus, especially since her mother had come from a Catholic upbringing but speaks so little about it.

Christianity to me was like a distant cousin and Jesus to me like a depraved uncle who drinks too much and has eyes that wander.

Leila Chomski

Chomski’s quote, upon first hearing it read aloud, had me raising my eyebrows because that’s far from who the Lord actually is. After talking to her about it though, I realized that she was talking about how she had previously viewed Him.

But with that little connection from my life aside, the next line that really struck me about this guy was “He is a China.” How can one man be an entire country, and presumably not the only one to be China itself? But then later on, how can this Charley go back to China if he is China? I know it’s not actually this literal but these are the thoughts running through my head as I’m reading. And I’m still trying to put together who needs a son here– is it Charley speaking in the first line of the poem? It does say that Charley is going back to China only once and coming back in a year with a wife and some money. Maybe the speaker is saying that for himself as he’s observing someone else that he knows is going out to do what he needs to do but can’t bring himself to do.

Prose / Poetry title : GATES

Why are there gates to the kitchen? I don’t even think doors are normal in kitchens, let alone gates. From there it just seems like a string of places? people? things? But then:

They swing and they turn, gate of to and gate of from, entrance and exit, the flow, the discharge, the access, the egress, the Mountains of the Blest, the winds of ch’i, mouth of Yin and eye of Yang,

High Muck a Muck by Fred Wah, Nicola Harwood, Jin Zhang, Bessie Wapp, Thomas Loh, Tomoyo Ihaya, Hiromoto Ida, Phillip Djwa, and Patrice Leung

This really reminded me of the last message I gave at youth on being mindful about what you take in because it affects what you put out into the world. (Now the gates are making a bit more sense to me.) One of the analogies I used was that a cup can only pour out what’s first poured in. I mean think about it, about 80% of what we learn is visual, and what we express is based on things that we’ve learned or experienced. To some extent, I think that’s what the above quote from High Muck a Muck is getting at. What goes in comes out… what goes around comes around… yin and yang.

I expanded on the analogy with two pitchers, only one filled with water to begin. Can the empty pitcher fill another cup? No! It’s empty. So I poured half the water from the full pitcher into the other and asked them: how about now? Yes, it can now. So I took a packet of Crystal Light fruit punch mix and poured that into one of the pitchers and mixed it up and asked them: will you get a glass of water if you pour from the pitcher I just poured into? No! The water is now fruit punch because of what’s been added to it. I then poured half the fruit punch into the water pitcher and asked if I could pour out water at all now. Still no. In the end, there’s only one recorded instance where something was poured into a vessel and something else came out without pouring more than one thing in or without some sort of distilling process: the wedding at Cana.


I had plenty more dots to choose from on the forearm and hand that came up. I thought about it: which dot do I click on? But there’s another book in the corner too… do I click on that instead? I did it. I chose the book.

THE LINE (Pak Ah Pu, the Lottery)

The earth is not limitless. That’s the first thing that bugged me about this poem. Also, why’s the moon crying with tears from a hundred years ago? also know that the Father would love the salt– He did call us to be salt and light to the world, after all. The Eye of the whale? Why is The Eye capitalized? Why is it a secret? A “suffix of ginger” is an interesting way of putting things.

“Stand beside yourself / Don’t listen for the echo.” Sounds like some pretty solid advice that the mannequin that drowned herself could’ve used. Also, can a mannequin even drown if it’s not alive. I’m thinking back to how many times this mannequin named Timmy was “drowned” in the deep end of the pool at work.

Blog Two

I found the Elit readings of High Muck a Muck to be my favorite thus far. I am a huge poetry fan so being able to walk through the readings of more and more poetry was quite enjoyable. My favorite section as I was navigating my way through all the readings was Canada. In Canada, there were quite a few poems that liked. One in particular that stood out the most to me was,

“Trust ugly words

To show how heavy


This one was interesting. It was also the first little poem that was introduced in the Canada section. I believed it was to be written by FW. Like the rest of them. This Canada section of Elit seemed to me to be little poems of advice. Each blue dot you clicked on were also some other little poems that were short, but straight to the point and impactful. Seemed to be little reminders of advice, or at least that’s how I took it. Overall, I really enjoyed this Elit and reading through the thoughtful poems.

High Muck A Mucks

I started this without reading any instructions or about info. I don’t read instructions. I’m the type to check the instructions after I get lost. So naturally, I got lost and checked the about page. It didn’t help much but at least I’m watching a relaxing video of two people moving glass cups.

From my understanding, none of the cups are in the same spot where they started in the video. And as the video continues, there are more cups, making it more complicated and making me want to try this. However, based on the audio and the music, it seems like it’s supposed to be stressful and challenging.

I listened to a description of Chinatown, how it isn’t a tourist trap but instead a place where Chinese immigrants and their descendants could live and work peacefully. That sense of community reminds me of where I grew up. While where I grew up is entirely different from Chinatown, the sense of community is similar.

Next, there was a video with the words “Made in Taiwan”, “Made in Japan”, “Made in Indonesia”, and “Made in China” scrolling across the screen with different products behind them. It made me think about just how many products Americans get from Asia, that we don’t even think about.

I did enjoy getting to see another culture and how their beginnings in America were. And their effect on Chinese culture in America.

High Muck a Muck: Interactive Historic Journey

At glance of this interactive work of E- literature I was intrigued by the actual visuals that these individuals used t capture this story. When you first enter the site you are introduced t the lottery card, which I soon learned was a game that the Chinese play in their culture. I also saw it as symbol to represent the sort of luck or gamble the Chinese immigrants were taking with their migrating to British Columbia, Canada. Once you click the blue shaded Chinese character you are immerse into a new world almost.

The entire outline used was the human body, but it included many elements of the earth and world that surround us, such as trees, boats, the ocean, and mountain shapes. The way the authors portrayed this map showed the idea of the Chinese people moving throughout earths different terrains as they migrated, and what they may have seen on their travels through the different areas in which they came from and where they ended up. Next you are prompted to click on the blue shaded areas and this is how your journey through this work of literature truly begins.

Everywhere and Nowhere is where I started and was met with a video of an older Chinese man who looked very aged, and as the video closed in on his eye you can truly see the wisdom and knowledge that an elder has typically because they have lived a long life. As the video began to pan out the eyes then changed to that of a new born whose eyes looked more bright and eager to learn in a way. You can see the difference in wonder in the baby compared to the elder who was old and seems as though he has seen a lot throughout his life time. This peace spoke to the way the authors related things to the ancestors through the work.

Skipping around on the map I landed in Canada where a quote stuck out to me. “Trust ugly words, to show how heavy, beauty” . For some reason this stuck out to me and made me wonder what the author truly meant. As i ponder I thought maybe he can be referring to the beauty in everything, even somethings that we may find least attractive or appealing. I thought of things within nature that may not be the prettiest but still has a beautiful story or purpose. Even words that or spoken can have an ugly context, so to speak, but hen paired with the write verb-age can create a beautiful language. For instance I thought of a fire. They can be dangerous and create a bad ending, but the image it creates as it burns is something beautiful. At a campfire to hear the crack and pop of a fire created, to feel its warmth when it is cold, and to see the different shades of red within creates a beautiful imagine for something that can be so dangerous.

“These are gates and you can either kick them open or walk through in silence, same dif.” This is another quote which i found in the Victoria section and it resonated with me. As these immigrants leave there homes to go to a place they are wanting to make a new life in they are met with some boundaries. They can be language barriers, settling issues, or trying to make a living in this new environment. They can either chose to let these obstacles stop them, or they can chose to conquer them and succeed. As they go through these obstacles, or “gates”, they can chose to either sole their issues calmly or they can literally face them head on, but either way to end goal is to get the job done no matter how each individual chooses to do so. Everyone chooses a different path but its completing the goal that matters in the end.

Although their were parts I did not fully understand I still found-the piece very interesting and engaging. The story tellers did a great job of keeping the theme alive ,but yet you can still see the many contributions each author made as well. Collectively the piece flowed and gave a great poetic language to such a heavy topic. his was definitely something new for me, but really enjoyed the experience and can see me finding other pieces like this to engage with. Overall this gives he reader an experience and at the same time allows for the reader to read while creating their own experience by being able to read whatever they want next and having no specific right or wrong way to read the text.

High Muck A Muck Review

This was an enjoyable experience. The website was easy to navigate, had seamless transitions from page to page, and was very aesthetically pleasing, which made it easy to hold my interest.

First, I want to talk about the aesthetic. For starters, the color scheme was perfect. Not only did it fit the Chinese vibes, but it also was incredibly calming and relaxing. I also liked how the visuals portrayed a city and the poems matched. Having the poems coincide made it a much more understandable piece. I also appreciated the subtle touches, like having the same characters in multiple locations. It felt like with each place, their stories were developing more and more. Or how when one poem speaks about the grandpa spitting when he sees certain signs, and then you see a visual of spit flying. The little touches really set it off for me.

The visuals made me question their significance. For example, the “home page” was located on a back. What exactly does that mean? Or Canada was an arm showcasing veins with specific spots to click on, so what’s the meaning of it? At one of the points, it talks about ancestors, so does that mean our ancestors live within us? The visuals made this a thought-provoking and enjoyable experience.

Now here’s what I didn’t like about this. One, the words sometimes move too fast. Not everyone is a fast reader, so I wished at times it didn’t disappear so quickly. Two, sometimes, the words overlap the images, which isn’t the most visually appealing. With this problem, this isn’t the most accessible for you if you have sight problems. Lastly, I was not too fond of the videos. This was a relaxing piece, and the videos felt disruptive and unnecessary. It didn’t match the energy that the experience gave off.

High Muck A Muck

High Muck A Muck, an e-lit collaboration between 11 different creators, is difficult to define as any one thing. The editorial statement describes it as “sound, poetry, video, and interactive text,” which is a fair jumping-off point for a read-through of it. All these elements interact and overlap, but are still able to be distinctly identified: you interact with different images and textual pieces to “discover” poetry, sound bites, and videos, navigating via a central home “hub” to different parts of Canada where elements are grouped. The navigation reminds me slightly of a point-and-click adventure video game.

I will come out and say it right away: I had a difficult time deciphering and making meaning of much of this piece. I think part of it has to do with the fact that it’s layering the already difficult task of interpreting poetry (or at least, that is a difficult task for me) onto the also difficult task of interpreting e-lit. That is not at all to say anything detrimental about the quality of High Muck A Muck; it’s a beautifully made, intricate, and fascinating experience of electronic literature. It’s just a hard “read”, at least for me.

Reading the authors’ and editorial statements before going in certainly helped me out a lot. I’m not sure how much I would have comprehended without this initial help. The surface-level meanings behind the piece, such as an exploration of Chinese immigration to Canada and the ensuing formation of Chinatowns and struggles that these Chinese-Canadians faced, were easily enough recognized and understood, but determining the meaning behind some other parts of the piece was much harder. Take, for example, the videos.

Watching the videos felt a lot like trying to decipher the meaning of performance art (which, actually, may be exactly what the videos are.) They made little sense to me, though they were fascinating to watch and had a beauty about them. I was frustrated with myself for not being able to…”get it.” One of the first videos I came across in the piece was the one of the calligraphy brush overlaid against the man who was tied up and doing some sort of acrobatics. I am so certain that there is deep meaning there, that everything in the video means something and there is a connection between the brush, the man, and the poem being read aloud, but I can’t grasp it. It’s frustrating, but again, the frustration isn’t really directed at the piece but at myself.

For me, my favorite parts were the audio snippets located in Nelson. These were stories of people’s lived experiences, and they were much easier for me to make sense of. When I’m able to figure out the meaning of something (even if it’s just my meaning, going back to the idea that with an e-lit piece, there are infinite meanings created by the readers), I’m usually able to enjoy it much more.

Despite the difficulties this piece gave me, I liked reading it. I love multimodal approaches to storytelling such as this, and I have a great appreciation for what the creators were doing and the story they were relaying, even if it feels like a lot of it went over my head. As with Twelve Blue, I think a rereading (or multiple rereadings) will help me piece together more and more and eventually come to a higher understanding.