Because I Am Alive

Better to live on a beggar’s bread with those we love alive, than taste their blood in rich feasts spread and, guiltily survive.

(Pics on this one so be sure to check out the blog)

If I had the chance to start my own Elit piece all over again, I would want to make it like Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive. To me, it is the most compelling piece of Elit I’ve read so far and I am a little bit more than a little jealous that I did not pick this piece for my own presentation (though I was rather taken with Nelson’s This is How You Will Die).

With Those We Love Alive is a hypertext work created in Twine that transports readers into this fantastical and casually violent world in which they must use their magickal abilities to serve a merciless larval queen and her bloody empire. In this nightmare-scape, there are rat and slime kids, diremaidens, silent gods, and dream thieves. It seems dreams fuel this nightmare world, actually. Or, at least, the thievery of these dreams fuels this world, death standing audience. Maybe we’re all dead….

I found this metaphor of absent/stolen dreams to be a very powerful representation of abuse and its lasting mark. In this work, you as the character you create are able to travel to different spaces in this world–the balcony, the garden, the throne room, your workplace, the city–and, once in these different spaces, you are able to interact with other spaces. It’s kind of like a web. Anyway, the city-space has the Dream Distillery where you can drink the dreams harvested every day (from the eternally sleeping), each day offering a different mixture of flavours–things like anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure), miscarriage, agoraphobia. exile, etc. After you drink of the dreams, you can talk to the workers who will tell you something about the process of harvesting dreams. And, one of the things they say is something about the dreams usually becoming too bitter for consumption after 6 years (they say something to the effect of wanting to change the pipes, I think, to remedy that problem). But, this line made me think of how many child abusers don’t want their victim anymore once they reach a certain age. The child becomes too “old” for them. To me, this idea with the dreams seems to be referencing this commonality in cases of abuse. The dreams become symbolic of youth and childhood and naivety and the siphoning of them as fuel for monsters, their breeding, and their monstrous world becomes symbolic of abuse and its lasting effects. I think this reading is further supported by what we find out about our character’s younger years.

At least, when I played this piece, I discovered that when I (my character) was younger, my (their) mother made them drink this vile potion that made me (them) dream all the dreams I (they) ever could have in one sitting so that I (they) would not be taken to have my (their) dreams harvested (as was in vogue to do at the time). In consequence, I never dreamed again. There is only darkness and emptiness. This dream thievery represents a different kind of abuse from the previous mentioned but I think its lasting effects are still evident in my (character’s) apparent apathy and depression.Their is this resignment and listlessness to my actions that seems to relate back to this emptying of my dreams against my will. I believe Sedina, at some point, says that what was done to her can be seen on the outside (meaning her scars) but what was done to me was done to the inside and so cannot be seen. All of this, I believe, is meant to reference abuse and its many varieties and levels. And, Sedina and me (my character) and the rat and slime kids, the dreamers in the distillery, and the diremaidens are all meant to show that abuse manifests in different ways. No two people cope–or don’t cope–the same way. Some of us turn to religion while others turn to whatever will make us most numb, even if that means allowing ourselves to be consumed or sucked dry.

2016-12-02-8

Focusing specifically on myself (my character), I think my listlessness and apathy were very well-conveyed through the medium. There is this kind of blase feeling that is communicated through allowing me only to keep flipping pages, going from one thing to the next without much room for processing. Everything is very shallow by allowing me only to click and flip. There is this lack of depth in my ability to navigate this piece. Even the music remains relatively unmoved throughout the reading of this piece, morphing only at certain points. Also, I’m only allowed 1 choice of response sometimes, making me a complicit entity in this abusive and ugly world; which seems to represent how abuse and its effects make choices for us sometimes. Again, Sedina says something that seems to relate to the overall experience of this phenomena–“The brain won’t let you know what happened till it’s over.” Often, the exact nature of abuse suffered doesn’t really come to light or hit until many years after the fact. More, you are so young when it occurs that you don’t even have the words to identify it let alone process it. I think this line and what the interface of this piece is trying to communicate is that idea–that the true impact of everything read won’t really come until later. Like, my (our character’s) escape that doesn’t come until after many shallow readings through what seems like an endless cycle of events. Freedom, like realization, takes time. So much time.

2016-12-02-3

Another aspect of this piece that is compelling is the, well, physical one. In this work, readers are invited to draw sigils of remembrance on themselves.

2016-12-03-1

This one really got me.

img_3834

Marks for letting go, for new beginnings, for shame, for pain, for choices made…. I think doing this is supposed to be reminiscent of how abuse and violence imprint themselves on us, oft in very physical ways. Very personal ways, as well. These marks we draw on our skin become a record not just of our journey through this piece (that is instructing us to draw them) but also a record of our own realities that inspire–individualize–them. Through these marks, this Elit piece is able to transcend its technological bounds and merge with our own realities. In many ways, this interaction, too, becomes symbolic of how abuse transcends whatever “neat little box” we try to tuck it away in and bleeds into all aspects of our lives. Meeting Sedina again for the first time in the palace, just meeting their eyes, seeing their scars, was enough to silence me and transport me back to a time in which I (my character) was powerless. Looking at the weapon I made for the queen gave me no sense of accomplishment and seemed, also, to be only symbolic of my powerlessness. And, the telescope, served only as a reminder that I am trapped on the inside, an eternal observer. All of these little things brought me back to this central idea that I am what has been done to me and not what I choose to be. And, that is how abuse operates. It bleeds into every interaction with the world. Swallows everything you feel till it is all you feel. Watches you like a dead person only you can see. Makes you feel like a dead person.

2016-12-02-5

2016-12-02-6

Clicking each word makes them disappear until only damage is left and then it disappears.

It is very isolating as well which, I think, is another aspect this piece captures very well. Throughout play, you rarely interact with another (living) soul. Mostly, you are a quiet observer. A ghost moving from one haunt to the next. Messengers are sent for you when the queen needs you and the workers at the dream distillery feed you the same lines on repeat but, other than that, there are no pages that offer you (your character) meaningful or thoughtful interaction. It isn’t until Sedina shows up that dialogue is really introduced in this work.

Through interaction with Sedina, you are given more avenues of expression. There is less complicity and more individuality (perhaps showing how the system is created to silence while people are not). You can choose how you are “coping” or how you imagine what your character has gone though. As I read this piece as a narrative of abuse, I chose to say things that related to that experience. Like, when Sedina asked if it still hurt, I’d say, “Yes.” Or, if she asked if I was doing okay though, I’d lie and say, “I’m okay.” And, Sedina seemed to both commiserate with me and counsel me. She is the instigator of escape. Sedina wants to kill the queen. I write her a letter begging her not try for trying is in and of itself an act that will not be forgiven. And, my reaction seems to be a very accurate response. Tackling the monster that is abuse is very scary and seems like something that will come back to bit with vengeance. But, as this piece communicates, it is necessary to face our monsters. And, it’s alright to fail–as Sedina does. Killing the monster is not the point. Facing it is. Realizing that there are things that are more important than it is. Wanting things again is. Realizing you are alive is.

Honestly, there are far too many aspects of this piece to touch upon in one analysis. I could go on and on and probably still find new things every time. Like, I didn’t even really get to go into detail about the diremaidens but I think those characters are infinitely fascinating even though their time in the piece is brief. They surrender themselves. Humiliate themselves. Empty themselves forever into boxes. In ritual. People leave petals of memory to worship their plights. To me, they are the victims who could not live with the idea that there were no gods to give greater purpose to life and thus provide reason for their abuse and suffering. So, they made themselves into offerings. Chose to forget themselves/lose themselves to a cause. After a few pages, all memory of them disappears. Exactly as they wanted.

I didn’t really get to talk about the queen and just how symbolic of abuse she is. I mean, she communicates via implanting her thoughts directly into your brain. How much more intrusive and invasive can this monster be? How much less can she care about your bodily autonomy. And, when she wants something, the only options this piece gives you are to fulfill the queen’s desires. You are complicit and made a conscript. Which is what an abusive context does.

And, we have the gods who derive power from silence.

2016-12-02-1

Never any explanation.

Truthfully, this concept makes me think of that graffiti that was supposedly found on the wall in one of the concentration camps– “If there is a god, he will have to beg my forgiveness.” And, I think this whole concept is supposed to juxtapose the diremaidens–who are putting themselves in the service of these silent gods–the ones who presumably chose silence over interfering with their abuse. There’s an accusation of betrayal charging this statement, to me. A, “where were you?” A, “why didn’t you do anything?” Ultimately, I think this aspect of the piece is meant to convey the betrayal victims feel towards figures of authority who either committed the act of abuse or violence or who simply did nothing, whether they were aware of what was happening or not.

There is just so much to explore through this piece. Even though the interface is relatively simple, the story that is being told is infinitely inviting of deeper reading. So, I suppose this is a decidedly literary piece of Elit. Most of its meaning is derived from its text paired with sound and some colour. This simplicity, though, I think resonates because it allows readers to realize how  abuse can be so simple in process but so difficult and complicated to process. The complexity of it exists in its implications, in the marks it leaves and that are remembered.

2016-12-02

It is so hard to fill the emptiness.

“This was the hardest thing to internalize; that something permanent but invisible had happened.” ~ Maggie Stiefvater

(I got so absorbed in this piece that I’m not sure whether or not I’ll be writing about the other piece yet–sorry Jess if I don’t. In fact, I’m very inspired from this piece to work on my own Elit work.

As for the title suggestions for TiM, I’ll either add them to this post later, create a new one for them, or just bring my suggestions to class. It’s hard to be clever when you’re trying to be. I need more time to mull.)

Advertisements

Dark Dr. Seuss

(And, I thought my piece was entirely too on the nose for current times….)

So, I did not read carefully enough through the introduction for Hobo Lobo of Hamelin and, because of that, I was not aware until my second reading through that it was referencing/ inspired by the tale of the Pied Piper. After I was aware of that though, this piece really came together and I felt like I was better able to appreciate all of elements. And, let’s get into exactly why that is!

Upon first accessing this Elit piece, before I knew about its inspiration, I thought it was riffing on Dr. Seuss–twisting the aesthetic of Dr. Seuss and his picture books into something urban and dark. The illustrations used to guide readers through the piece just seem very reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’s work. There are animals mingling with humanesque characters. Odd proportions. A picturesque environment. All distinctive elements of most of Dr. Seuss’s picture books. Mixed with the edgy tone and point-blank language of the story–which discussed “coked-up rats” and the dark underbelly of the bureaucratic/ “democratic” process–I was expecting re-imagined telling of a Dr. Seuss classic now with more cynicism and tricked out with moral dilemmas. No happy endings.

Hobo Lobo sure delivered all of that, riffing on the Dr. Seuss aesthetic or not.

The story here starts out in a rather traditional way. On page 1 (because, yes, we do have pages for navigation in this piece), which is divided into 7 short pages itself, we have our setting laid out and a conflict introduced. The quaint little hamlet of Hamelin is under “siege” by some coked-up rats–just in time for election season. Our dick mayor Dick Mayor (heavily inspired, it seems, by the concept of Big Brother) is freaking out cause he doesn’t know how to get rid of these rats. He consults a psychic who advises him to find the help of a professional, much to the mayor’s frustration. Throughout this whole exposition, illustrations depicting what is going on–with the rats, the mayor, etc.–float by along the top of the screen. And, they are continuous on each page. There are no page breaks. All of the mini-pages on each page bleed seamlessly into each other, an illusion emphasized by these illustrations flowing one into the next. You don’t even feel like you’re flipping pages. This kind of site-structure really creates a sense of a cinematic experience for readers. And, when you do go to the next page and the illustrations do change to a new setting, it’s like a cut-scene.

Anyway, flipping to page 2 introduces us to our protagonist-of-sorts–a stranger from a strange land rolling into town. And, look at that! This stranger’s–Hobo Lobo’s–is just what the mayor ordered. Hobo Lobo is a jack-of-all trades, a real Renaissance wolf. You got a problem, he can solve it–within reason of course. One of the illustrations depicts a scene where a boy brings their dead fish to Hobo Lobo who can only shake his wolfy head, unable to fix this particular problem. This is where I would differentiation between Dr. Seuss and Stevan Živadinovic (Hobo Lobo‘s creator). I mean, there are obviously many different between the 2 artists and their illustration styles. When I talk about differentiating between the 2, I’m referencing the manner in which the artists present themes. I think that Živadinovic is less subtle with the presentation and, I think because of the medium and content he’s working with, he doesn’t have to be as subtle. He’s not specifically writing for an audience of children. As evidenced purely by the language being used, Hobo Lobo is clearly directed towards an older audience and so more mature themes can be more explicitly expressed.

Continuing, Dick Mayor tasks Hobo Lobo with ridding Hamelin of its rat infestation–for a hefty sum of treasure. Hobo Lobo accepts under the pretense of being paid for his service. The next page of this piece is possibly the most interesting of all of them and so explicitly a reference to the tale of the Pied Piper that I can’t believe I didn’t realize it on my first read-through. Page 3 opens without any words accompanying the illustrations–as there have been up until this point. The lack of guiding words prompts turning the pages to see if you can figure out what’s going on. At around the 3rd or 4th page flip, crickets chirping give way to music–soft before it gets louder as you continue flipping the pages. Rats walking through the woods, ostensibly towards the source of the sound, are illustrated. On page 10, words appear again, posing the question of whether or not rats have wings? An image of a line of rats walking towards the edge of a cliff accompanies this question. The next page cuts the music to something more foreboding and adds a scythe to the illustration. Then, we have this odd collage of animated images that I am not sure what to make of (so, I can’t wait to hear what Katherine has to say on Tuesday night about them).

Anyway, the reference to the tale of the Pied Piper was very clear here–the rats being led to their demise by the hypnotic sound of music (a fiddle and an accordion? instead of a pipe in this case). In my recollection of the tale, I thought the rats were drowned but according to a quick Google search, there are many variations of this tale so the cliff interpretation here is perfectly within reason. I also think it references that idiom, “when pigs fly.” Even though it’s rats, we do get an image of a pig on a silver platter being chased by a chef on one of the min-pages.

After Hobo Lobo deals with the rat problem, Dick Mayor gets re-elected as dick mayor of Hamelin. He, of course, promptly takes credit for ridding the town of its rat infestation. We get a lot of animated images on page 4 that mimic TV sets flickering and lighting up. And, the content of these images seems to be making fun of mainstream media news outlets and their penchant for “stirring the pot” and for reaffirming the images of certain people, like the mayor, as being gold standards of behavior who can do nothing reprehensible. Or, at the very least, mainstream media is not keen to call out public figures for their reprehensible actions even when those actions are and news outlets should. Hobo Lobo watches this all go down, his reflection in the TV screens mimicking my own reflection in my computer screen.

On the next page, Hobo Lobo tries to get recompense for his services–it does not go well. Essentially, the mayor asserts that he saved Hamelin and that Hobo Lobo is a usurper. The animation here on the illustrations zooms in on the mayor’s dick face, turning red as it really focuses on how bulbous the mayor’s dick head is. This emphasized focal point and colour change really communicates a sense of anger.

On the next to last page, we see Hobo Lobo losing his case in court against the mayor–no written agreement = no court in the world will side with you. Got to love the legal process. It’s really there for the little man. The illustrations fade into a radio show broadcast the mayor is doing in which he frames everything he says in his favor and avoids any questions that actually seek a real answer.Dick Mayor is sure to emphasize that all his actions have the people of Hamelin in mind. He only wants to see that Hamelin remains a great place. The radio show hosts decides its time to take some questions from the audience here and the 1st question is about the safety of the children of Hamelin. Dick Mayor reassures the caller that all the children of Hamelin will be safe because they are kept in the mayor’s prayers. He prays for their future, one free from the burdens of “the debts of the mooching class.” Hobo Lobo, who had been listening to this broadcast, kicks the radio, breaking it.

The last page of this Elit piece is a direct reference to the tale of the Pied Piper. Because the mayor did not pay his debts, Hobo Lobo led all the children out of Hamelin and trapped them in a cave. Lesson learned, right Mr. Mayor? The animation on this last page is that of a steady stream of children, illustrated as if playing and having a grand ol’ time. Slowly but surely they slide across 1, 2, 3 pages, disappearing into the open mouth of a cave. Hobo Lobo’s wolfy shadow can be seen. Demon-like creature pull and prod at the rock above the entrance to the cave. Once all the children are inside, Hobo Lob’s shadow disappears and the demons disappear too, the rock they were prodding finally falling in place, trapping the kids inside. The last mini-page of this page depicts Hobo Lobo covering his face, obviously ashamed and begrieved by what he had to do. Possibly exhausted as well.

Overall, I think Hobo Lobo of Hamelin is interesting re-imagining of the typical storybook tale. And, it is fascinating to see how the pop-up book medium can be articulated in an electronic space. Despite none of the illustrations being able to physically enter your space, the use of animation is still able to communicate that sense of the story entering your personal at times. Also, there is the added element of sound to this piece which I also think helps this piece enter your personal space. Hobo Lobo is a very creative exploration of the power of sound and animation to create a very visceral reading experience when no physical elements exist.

 

Finding the Right Words

To an extent, I think we are all aware of the editing of ourselves we do. Whether it be in regards to how we write or how we dress or speak or move, I think we all are aware of the compromises we make in our conduct. Oft, these compromises are made to spare feelings–our own or another’s. So, in a sense, the way we edit ourselves is actually an exercise of our power. It is how we exert a measure of control over otherwise nonsensical, uncontrollable existences. Excuse me, though, if that is getting a little too deep. I just know that, in regards to my own interactions with the world around me, I make plenty of compromises. I hold my tongue. Restrict. Constrict. Contain. Toe the line but never cross it. Scratch down words then scribble them out. Replace them with the “right” ones. The ones that understand and accuse no one. The ones that seek abnegation in place of self- actualization.

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, there are rules of conduct in this world. And, every role you assume has its own tailor-fit code. This is how it has been for a very long time–something I believe Emily Short and Liza Daly’s First Draft of the Revolution captures considerably well. In this work of ELit, the ways in which we compromise and edit ourselves are explored though an interactive, letter-constructing interface. Readers of this piece assume the role of 1 of 4 different letter-writers and are then able to “revise” or “review” or “construct” letters based upon the unique concerns presented to them according to which letter-writer’s role they are assuming. All of those option are in quotations (i.e “review”) because, while there are certainly many responses to different revisionary suggestions, all of those responses are provided by the interface. So, readers don’t get to generate their own, entirely unique responses. Though, sometimes, you do get the option to erase a line entirely from a letter which I would argue, to a certain extent, allows some level of personal contribution to the piece–through exemption, oddly enough (i.e refer to the mention of abnegation above).

Anyway, it is very interesting to see how each role you assume imposes its own concerns on your psyche as a reader.For example, when I “was” Henri, I definitely felt more conservative with what I wrote–like I was withholding information in order to preserve some of my own concerns. Whereas, when I “was” Juliette, I felt more manipulative while I was choosing my words–revealing or not particular things depending upon what would get me to my own ends. The ends justify the means and all that. So, I viewed secrecy in different ways depending upon which role I had. And, this was definitely not a conscious decision. It’s only afterward, thinking about how I chose to conduct myself, that I realize these distinctions. Which, I think is also reflective of real life–there are many roles we play whose rules are just intuit or inherent now. When I’m on the train, I immediately curl inward–shoulders hunched, bags close, legs crossed. I’m trying to take up as little room as possible. And, if I someone still brushes shoulders with me, I apologize. Especially if they’re a man. Even though I don’t always want to–because it’s not always my fault–I’ve been taught to be small and apologetic first. Men, not so much. Man-spreading is every bit the issue you’ve heard–lots of space on public transportation devoured without thought by the male sex. Because, taking up space is not ingrained as a taboo in them. It is not an ever-conscious concern the same ways in which it is for me as a young woman. My role dictates conscious concern. Though, as I said, sometimes that concern just becomes so embedded that you no longer pay it much concentrated attention. It’s just something you do. Which, is what happened for me in First Draft of the Revolution.

And, while I appreciate the attention of this piece to reality, I found myself irritated at certain points because I had to revise all of the letter sometimes instead of just parts of it. The piece would not let me send the letter if I did not edit some lines. Sometimes, there were multiple choices of revision and you could just settle for one and the piece would let you move forward but other times, if there was only one suggestion for revision, you had to take it in order to send the letter and progress. For example, one of Juliette’s letters started with, “Do you think I am so stupid?” and I really wanted to keep that as the first line for that letter but the piece would not allow me to progress without erasing that beginning entirely. To me, I did not think it was so outlandish for the material that was being addressed in the letter itself but I guess that was just my interpretation. To me, that was a perfectly acceptable reaction for a young wife finding out about her husband’s bastard child and then being spared as know the knowledge were not perfectly clear. Like, who did Henri think he was attempting to for one second pull the wool over Juliette’s eyes? Juliette knew long before Henri’s letters even began to broach the suspicion. At least, I believe she did.

Perhaps, the role Juliette had to play struck a chord too close to home for me as a young, female reader myself. That, “Do you think I am so stupid?” is a kind of sentiment about a lot of things I’d definitely like to feel more comfortable expressing and so, maybe, I imprinted that on Juliette. Maybe the role she is in does not allow for such liberties with language. Maybe I just want it to.

Overall, I found this piece to be a rather compelling exploration of how the roles we are made to assume compromise our abilities to freely express ourselves as individuals. The ending (I experienced) I found to be a bit rushed–like, I have questions about the bastard son! Is he really on his father’s side now? What became of the country friar? And, of Bernadette? Did she come to live with her son in Paris? What was her story? The Countess, too? What does she know about magic and the rebellion being stages against it and the aristocracy? Like, this could be a book! ….Well, it was a book. At least, it was presented in a traditional kind of book format with pages to turn and plot points which is unusual for more contemporary pieces of Elit–which this one is (2012).

I think this piece lends itself to a lot of speculation. And, a lot of intrigue, of course. I think the letter-writing interface really communicates this idea of “seeing behind the curtains.” Discovering how a trick is performed. Which, interestingly enough takes away some of the magic but does have its own mystique nonetheless. There is something deeply personal about writing letters. It carries this connotation of divulging, of revealing the otherwise unstated. And yet, here, we see that is seldom the case. Even in our seemingly personal spheres, we are still subject to outside influence. Prisoners to circumstance, even. I think this piece gets you to contemplate the ways in which you strip your own freedoms from yourself and why. While I don’t think this piece encourages direct confrontation with the status quo of conduct, I do think it invites readers to think about why they don’t speak their minds as oft as they no doubt want to.

“Be brave. No remembers a coward.” ~ Something I wanted to tell Juliette sooner but something I think she learned nonetheless toawrds the end of the piece.

 

Piecing Together the Pieces

“We imagine things are not so fixed and integrated into waterfalls…” ~ F.W.

I’ve heard nostalgia is a liar, one that makes the past shine brighter than any polishing you remember giving it. A gleam in your rear-view mirror you can almost place. Always vanishing in your blind-spot when you try to slow down for a closer look. Nostalgia teases for its own sake, its own amusement. Or, so I’ve heard. I’ve also heard they don’t make nostalgia like they to, though. And, that makes me laugh. Mixes longing and sadness with fondness. Creates bittersweet.

Nostalgia, I find, tends to be similar to if not interchangeable with bittersweet.  While reading High Muck A Muck, I found myself thinking a lot about, as you can no doubt guess, nostalgia and the things that oft cause its blossoming. For me, it was almost hard not to. From the light washes of colour to the seemingly “light-handedness” of the text (its font) to the text itself as it appears, everything appears fading if does not outright fade from sight. Your memory of the words or the figures or the people is the only thing left. I think this idea is best symbolized by the deep, blue smudges on the body background of the “main page.”

Each richly pigmented dot is a memory–it contains a story and characters, depth beyond its borders. But, the dot is also smudged, its deep pigment uneven upon a closer look. When I look at those dots, I remember some lines from the story–“anger at the empty, emptied, voice…”, “Trust ugly words to show how heavy beauty….”,  “Don’t mention yourself when you show a family portrait…”, and “nostalgia is the future….”–images of the characters, the timber of a voice but, ultimately, my impression is imperfect. Shallow is some places. Bleeding through in others.

This piece’s connection to nostalgia is further solidified by the fact that almost the entirety of it unfolds atop/from an image of the body. Memories are stored in the body. Build up on the skin like residue. A film (of which we had many in this piece, if you’ll mind the play on words). The body is the storehouse for memories. It is the gateway to memory. Something that does not go overlooked in this piece. “The Liver, the Stomach, the core and the surface, the rock and the lake. These are the gates and you can either kick them open or walk through in silence.” it says in the British Columbia book. On the body map, the place where the liver would be located is where blue and cream collide, water and flesh blend. Streams of blue become veins and veins, streams of blue. There is an ambiguity created here. No clear separation. Is the Victoria island/mass breaking away from or joining with the rest? It becomes a metaphor for the overarching idea that courses through this piece: that Chinese-Canadians are neither Chinese nor Canadian. They don’t know where they fit. Canada is the found home but China is the home home. Or, it was.

Yearning flows throughout this piece, literally as you move from one point, one memory to the next. “Lillooet could sound like jade.” “Far means near/ the rule is similar…” “The valley is not empty/ full of ancestors…” “a China in the heart….” There is so much longing to have it both ways (if only) in this piece. Navigating it is like driving towards the origin of a heat haze–you’ll never reach it. I click and click, move from one dot to the next, but I never find closure. No comfortable answer. No comfort. Only bittersweet.

 

“it’s not the heart has wings

but just the mind that clings…” ~ F.W.

 

**Edit: I mentioned a book early–for British Columbia–and didn’t really explain it. In High Muck A Muck: Playing Chinese, there are multiple ways to navigate. Or, rather, there are multiple ways to read the same text. It can be presented via clicking on characters on a page, watching a video, or clicking on a book icon in the corner (if there is one) and reading. The content really lends itself to this multi-modal expression.

Speaking of content, I hope you’ll excuse my lack of analysis on the actual content of this piece. I chose to stick to the context of the content instead because, well, I feel like I personally don’t have the context to reply to this piece. Whenever I tried to speak to the content of this piece, I found that I didn’t have the words. They wouldn’t come. Experiencing this piece and talking about that is one thing but commenting on the experiences of the real people who created this piece just felt–just didn’t feel like my place. And, I hope you’ll excuse the oversight this time and respect my boundaries on the issue.

Image courtesy of the Electronic Literature Directory.