SB & 3D (Why I’m excited to be in Eugene Soh’s virtual gallery project)

to enter and see IATB in an exhibition with other artists, click here.
Here is the extremely short version: from 2002 until 2008 I was involved with a visionary virtual reality project that combined educational practices with gamemaking and multimedia. However, the spiritual captain of the project was part Disney, part Microsoft and part Sex Pistols. An unexpected death, treachery, incompetence, inexperience, bureaucratic boondoggles and more made my life “interesting”… I have pages of notes about the events and the spirit of the times. We were doing things like Youtube and Second Life before they started. The project was so close… and yet so far away. (Actually, now that mobile technology has settled down, I hope that the lessons and products of that experience can be revitalized. But that’s yet another story.)
In 2006, as a way of showcasing our technology,  I entered a gamemaking hackathon. A theme was given on a Thursday morning and the next day at five the results were judged.The theme was something about healthy eating, I think. Working with my programmer in Hong Kong, we made a game in which the viewer learned about the calorie count of certain foods. The player competed with an AI character.  It was fun to do.
However, what I remember most was a team that made an incredible flash game. I don’t remember if they won or not, but I do remember two guys on that team very well. George Parel and Eugene Soh were full of energy, knowledge and bursting with creative ideas.
They still are.
I’ve been lucky to work with George and Eugene on a few projects since then. In 2008 I finally had to put the educational gamemaking project on hold while I waited for a programmer and the mobile device situation to stabilize.I put more time into writing and art projects. George and Eugene (that dude from Singapore) however, have kept on doing remarkably creative things with IT, art, design and more.
Virtual reality may seem to be an artificial place, but the gallery Eugene has created fills me with memories and hope. I am honored and very thankful for I Ate Tiong Bahru to be on display in
IATB in virtual gallery
Cheers, Eugene! Cheers, George!

Ebooks: Born to Click (1 of 3)


This informal essay is my way of marking the end of a certain era in ebook history. It’s part snapshot, part reference materials, part journal.At the end of this post are notes about me, my experiences and my books.
Thanks to Doug Rolph for his insights on economics, Eric Hellman for his input and my dad for having taken care of our family by selling books.

το πνεύμα του Ιανού

After I finish writing eight books, I will begin marketing. Until then, I’ll probably study the ebook world less and hopefully do more writing, arting and engaging with Life. When it does comes time for me to contribute to the marketing conversation, I hope I have something to say. For now, I present the following notes, quotes and thoughts as a means of punctuating a phase in the development of ebooks as I have seen and experienced it.

This is an exciting time. The ebook delivery platforms are finally stable, self-publishing has proven to have great value and a number of services have recently appeared that shorten the distances between readers and authors. It seems to me that indie ebooks and ebook marketing are about to enter a new era.

This blog post makes little mention of traditional publishing. This is simply because, as much as I would like to enjoy the benefits of being a Big 5/6 author, that fruit is not now within my reach. I am however, considering joining the Author’s Guild.

Although I’ve done almost no marketing, I have studied the environments in which ebooks are created, presented, bought and sold. Some observations:

1. Except for uploading, nothing about ebooks is easy.
Writing is the anti-social social media, full of long, long hours of pressure-filled solitude. Assembling an error-free book is never simple. The social part, finding an audience, is an immense challenge. I respect all of the authors mentioned in this post for they have successfully met these challenges and more.

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.
Stephen King

Based on my experiences, the work breakdown of an 88,000 word novel looks something like this: 1000 words a day (88 days) or, more likely, 500 words a day (176 days). Call it 200 days to prepare something for a proofreader. Two months for corrections, art, and ebook conversion. So, a book takes about 300 working days to finalize. About…
And then there are the thousands of actions needed to connect with readers… The title of Guy Kawasaki’s excellent book says it all: APE, meaning Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

This document, by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, is a data-based analysis of the ebook market. Highly recommended, it covers topics important for newbies and veterans. It touches upon issues like word count, pricing, marketing and more. For instance, his research shows that the average bestseller on Smashwords is 100,000 words, and the average romance is 112,195 words. (There are more links to resources at the end of this post.)
Very few traditionally published authors became bestsellers; the same is true for ebook publishing. My goal is not to become a bestseller, but to connect with the largest possible community of people who enjoy the art of reading.

2. A great writer or a great marketer…
….or, the frustration of being caught between not doing enough writing and not doing enough marketing. A writer writes, a salesman sells.
Self-publishing does not equal self-marketing. Spending money wisely on promotion money means income and time to write. (See the links below)
Twitter, Goodreads, FB, LinkedIn and blogging? All have their advantages and disadvantages…

3. There are no independent, hugely successful ebook-only self-publishers.
Note: Two days after this post went up, I became aware of this great piece by Dana Beth Weinberg on Digital Book World. Thank you Jacqueline Church!

Amazon is huge, Apple is huge, Kobo and Smashwords are very big. Unless you are selling from your own website or the back of your car, you’re not truly independent.

OK, A bit of an attention grabber there…but the author’s need for a partnership with Amazon and ebook distributors is a dependence that cannot be overlooked. These “automatic partners” will always protect their interests first. They call the shots. Amazon is a business, not an author.

Amanda Hocking is a hugely successful author. At one point, the average daily sales figure of her self-published ebooks was 9000. Again: average DAILY book sales: nine thousand! Her success was based on hard work, technological first mover advantage and an indirect tie-in with Hollywood.
-the successful and pioneering integration of ebook readers into tablets and mobile as well as the launch of the Kindle (2007) and the iPad(2010)
-the large demographic of young women who bought readers and tablets
- the fact that, having written many books, Hocking could quickly provide a new and large market with a variety of new titles
- writing books about the paranormal when Hollywood is pushing the same cannot hurt. Twilight, the hugely successful series of movies about teen vampires began in 2008. Hocking’s first book, My Blood Approves, began selling in 2010.

E.L. James’ book phenomenon began in the fan fiction chat rooms for Twilight. The characters in Fifty Shades of Grey were originally the characters from Twilight. Could Master of the Universe, as her series was originally called, have achieved its success without an existing network of thousands of Twilight fans?

These two women made their mark upon society in two different ways. As shared, collective book-based experiences: WOW!
However, the writing is…”not terrible” or worse

I remember SF/F authors complaining (back in 2011) that their readers hadn’t switched to e-books yet, casting jealous eyes at the outsized romance audience. But as readers did move across, we saw people like David Dalglish and BV Larson breaking out, and the rest of “genre” fiction soon followed.

There are “indie success stories” about authors who “rode into town” on the backs of traditional publishing. Funded by Big 6 money these “indies” were advertised and publicized, sent on book tours and given things like business cards. Possibly, audiobooks were made. Hundreds, if not thousands, of their books were given away, many to reviewers.
As the ‘first mover’possibilities of the ebook market became clear and realistic, these authors, knighted by the Big 6 and armed with credibility and connections, rode onto a battlefield with little opposition… Undoubtedly hard work was involved, but to label them as indies brings to mind the quip about George Bush: “…was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”

There certainly are “ebook only” indies connecting with many readers and enjoying sales. I just don’t know of any. (FOUND SOMEONE: LINDSAY BUROKER Please tell me about others! them! Somewhat related to this, are there any “ebook only” awards?

Here, authors talk about their sales experiences.

4. The ebook world evolves to reward the reader; the prepared author benefits from this.
Fan fiction. Goodreads. Ebook readers on mobile phones. The mashup between big data and metadata. Entrepreneurs with vision who see ways to connect authors and readers in a new ways.

It is an exciting time.

Ebooks: Born to Click, Part 2 of 3

visit for parts 2 and 3 of this post, as well as information on art, books and ebooks


SPOKEN design

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Roy Chan is an encyclopedia. Roy Chan is rock n’roll. Roy/E5 on Behance. This post features experimentation and design/layout tests for SPOKEN. Ultimately there will be a e-catalogue cover, “CD” covers , a GIF or two and some surprises….   … Continue reading

Stephen Black commenting on Amazon commenting on Hachette

I was sent the following  email, which also appeared  at  I think the letter is important and worth sharing, so I posted it here, then realized that the SEO gods might not like me reposting it in its entirety. So… I have added my own thoughts, in green…

(FWIW, I’ve written  three part post on my experiences with emails. The first post is here.)

A Message from the Amazon Books Team, with very serious and greatly insightful and truly important notes by an indy/KDP author

Dear Readers,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing.This is a great opening line… no one can question it. It was the paperback book. The greatness answers its own question...This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. More undebatable facts. The new paperback cost 25 cents — it was ten times cheaper. Fact!Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year. BOOM… Logical conclusion!

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Why yes, you would!Nope. No?Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. Great writing… “circled the wagons” suggests the pioneer spirit. Independence. “Edginess” and cowboy hats! They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts) .Excellent use of foreshadowing! Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution — places like newsstands and drugstores. Again, history…can’t argue about that.The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” And on top of everything else, well-researched. Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion. I wonder why George thought that way? ( A day later…Thanks to David Streitfeld at the New York Times, we now know that Orwell was misquoted and Amazon shot themselves in the foot.)

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Hmmmm… blistery? mystery?… I don’t get it.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Note the article spells the word as ‘e-books’, as opposed to ‘ebooks’. Amazon and Hachette — a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate — are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. Here we go; the heart of the matter.We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. BOOM! Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. This fact alone does not impress me. Many bottles of wine sell for $500….should they be in the same section as Two Buck Chuck? That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. Unjustifiably high for SOME ebooks… With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market — e-books cannot be resold as used books. These are all seemingly valid points…BUT IGNORE THE COST OF PRODUCING THE BOOK. AND PUBLICITY. AND PROMOTION…I am not drinking the Big 5 Kool-Aid here, but books/ebooks are not manufactured like automotive components, or products with a waiting market. One could say that the need for books has to be created. What is the cost of creating that need?  E-books can and should be less expensive. Yes, but…

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. Superb structure and follow through here….I wish there was a name at the end of this document instead of The Amazon Books Team.  So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution.  I thought I smelled expensive cologne, the kind that successful lawyers wear. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers. Take that Hachette! Ten percent legalese, ninety percent emotional knockout punch!Hachette dissed you!

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” Excellent set up…. and the payoff: They’re wrong. BOOM! Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. Now you’re talkin’…except for the part about who builds demand for books in this day and age. Before it was only books/paperbacks versus movies, newspapers and drinkin’ at the bar… On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. Yep…sure was nice not to have to compete with mobile devices. And games. And Facebook. And a zillion other things…The same will happen with e-books. As long as someone pays for the marketing. And it would be swell if that marketing wasn’t for just a few blockbusters. How many paperback publishers were there in Orwell’s day? How many indy publishers are there now?

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. Echo chamber/drawing the box…! Like it! More polite than saying they have their head up their gazebo. They think books only compete against books. They are silly, aren’t they? But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. Now you’re talkin’!Reality! If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.And a bigger part of that is to encourage authors to spend their time writing as opposed to pounding their head against the wall wondering about how to market.You want the book market to be like Hollywood, where nearly everything is formulaic and/or derivative? That is to say, safe and boring? Reading and writing are supposed to be about thinking, not commodification. How do we build communities of thinkers/those with similar interests/fans? The closer you get to 99 cents, the more you’ll find cookie cutter/”brand name” detectives or porn or cardboard “romances”. (Speaking of “brand name detectives”, I’m looking at you, Verry Larch.

I digress. 

The Amazon letter mentions a “healthy reading culture”…. Just as a diversity of food is important to a healthy diet, a diversity of books is important to a healthy reading culture. Just think about how a great book by an unknown will compete with a brand name author…Yes, life is tough, but again… why doesn’t Amazon address the fact that it makes most of its money off of the same old same old, books that are either “built” by big publishers or by indies who often combine formulaic storytelling with  full on marketing. I greatly respect the indies who do well on Amazon, but what about those writers who could contribute to a healthy reading culture, but cannot do marketing nor tie in with a publisher? How do authors who exemplify  diversity get paid?

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. Great, pass the pen share the document between the legal eagles and the bean counters. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. Excellent…but how do these customers learn about the book?Who builds that demand? Who invests the time and money? I know I am repeating myself and will now stop belaboring this major point…We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. “Quantified” is an excellent verb, and no I am not being sarcastic. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. Ah….So your research was based on the giant redwoods that flourish in your healthy reading environment. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Great! Of all of Amazon’s books, what percentage are priced at $14.99? Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000.This letter was written by what members of The Amazon Books Team? Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. Seems like today the Team is focused on the revenue side of books. Maybe tomorrow the A B Team will address the other percentage of books that don’t sell for $14.99 and could, most likely,  improve Amazon’s bottom line. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. “all parties involved”….except for the majority of authors on Amazon who do not have books with a $14.99 price tag. The pie is simply bigger. In this case, Hachette makes the pies, Amazon sells them… So, a Hachette pie or a famous author pie is $9.99…Amazon still makes a ton of money. Great! So, Amazon,could you also put the same amount of effort and concern into explaining how an author can make money for you/stay financially healthy by pricing his or her book at $2.99?

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. Classic three-act structure. Resolution. Superbly written, Amazon… It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books — he was wrong about that. Bookending with Orwell. Class.Though the NY Times says you kinda twisted his words… greatly.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. Part  II begins!When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).  Excellent debating technique…quoting a reputable third party. I love this letter! So much better than fat-headed rants by loudmouth know-it-alls! A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures. So there ya go Hachette… listen to your inner voices. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Boom!Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading. So there ya go… ya got yer Authors Guild, ya got yer petition thing, ya got yer myriad articles and posts… all for that “healthy reading culture.”

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Thank you for recognizing that. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” Some have suggested mud wrestling in front of an invited audience that reflects Amazon’s author demographics. We tried that.I guess you mean talking, not mud wrestling. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. WOAH! You took actions to reduce their sales? I heard about that… I guess that was fair, right? It’s your store! You’re gonna be Ten Buck Chuck or we won’t sell your book! Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. Hmmm… I am too tired to Google and comment wittily. Not  that that fact is stopping me now… We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Wow! You sell books and offer to help publishers decide royalties…Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Another great suggestion. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity.You are too kind! But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. I don’t do marketing for my books, nor do I have much business sense. So, I am kind of out of the loop here… Is it normal for a store to dictate terms to the manufacturers of the products the store sells? What is this thing that they call a “slippery slope”?  They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle. Sorry AB Team, this concluding sentence is the weakest line so far…

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. Hand goes up in the back: How about also fighting for ways to promote diversity as well as recognizing that the vast majority of books being offered on Amazon are not the result of the Big 5 nor authors-turned marketing/social media geniuses.  We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. Book culture?We’d like your help. I hope that me having fun with your letter helps keep Amazon healthy, as well as increases awareness that better book discovery and more diversity are needed to have a truly healthy book culture. Please email Hachette and copy us.Whatever you say, chief!

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch:

Yep, great idea adding your photo, Amazon Book Team…
Copy us at:

… makes it easier to remember a name when you have a face.

Please consider including these points:

  • We have noted your illegal collusion. Yep!Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. Maybe they are just being lazy? Have you considered that?They can and should be less expensive.Amen, goshdarnit!
  • Lowering e-book prices will help — not hurt — the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.You betcha! Seriously Amazon, be careful when you use words like”reading culture”… Let’s not kid ourselves. How about some examples of how you support “reading culture”?Again, I am not being sarcastic… 
  • Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle. Again, I am unclear as to why Amazon is giving ultimatums to another company.Whether Hachette is doing the right thing or not, isn’t that their business? Literally?
  • Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue. Amazon, I kinda love you and kinda dislike you strongly…

Thanks for your support. Thanks for being Amazon.

The Amazon Books Team

Hey, Amazon Books Team! That was fun! I enjoyed it. Waddya say we go grab something to eat? Table for six? Sixty? 

So…My books

Obama Search Words (Yes, this is about the President of the United States)

Furikake (the worst cover on Amazon? You betcha!)

Contact With Shadow  (it’s coming unglued!)

I Ate Tiong Bahru (a lady in France likes it!) (get an ebook version free!)

Bali Wave Ghost

I am not doing serious marketing until I have eight books completed. Marketing for indie authors and book discovery channels are improving every day but for me,  it is not yet worthwhile to put the time and energy into trying to sell less than eight books.

SPOKEN is a project combing virtual reality, art and creative writing. It premiers September 17… Some of the artists and writers involved are world-famous…

Further Reading

  1. The Industry View – Amazon vs Hachette 
  2. Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors   
  3. Petitioning Hachette: Stop fighting low prices and fair wages
  4. Authors United? I Wish it Were So.
  5. The Seattle Times: The publishers, not Amazon, keep authors down
  6. The Heart of the Matter
  7. Let’s Get Visible: Amazon v Hachette: Don’t Believe The Spin
  8. Winning at Monopoly
  9. The Huffington Post: Sympathy for the Devil: In Defense of Amazon
  10. GigaOm: If you love books then you should be rooting for Amazon, not Hachette or the Big Five
  11. The Cockeyed Pessimist: Who’s afraid of

Surfing a 200 foot wave (from Bali Wave Ghost)

A self-interview by Stephen Black about Bali Wave Ghost is here.


No chop, no boils. The surface is strange and smooth, like the skin of a giant blue beauty queen. My  board’s rock steady, clean as a bone. A deep, deep breath, oxygen for the control center. Mission Apollo. Science, magic and luck. Hey, ho… let’s go!

The blue  becomes battleship gray. Memories are useless: this monster’s made from an earthquake and winter storm swells. Nothing like it ever. Pressure fronts from the Indian Ocean, the tides, the shape of the cracked plates far below me and the moon: all now joining forces to make this moving mountain of water. I could be consumed. The path to the barrel  begins at the peak, but the peak’s fifty yards long. At least. Gut feeling. Go! Paddle like crazy. Shifting; The water’s starting to slope, forming  a ramp, a cliff. Power! Paddle harder! Intercept! There! In the rush! The edge! Thirty feet ahead. Mist and wind, my ribs above the foam. The edge: twenty feet.  Niagara! I thought 80, maybe 100 feet high– this is double that. Everest! Everest meets Sandy! No horizon. Far away, dark blue water covered with teeth. Sunrise blue. Thunderclouds near the shore. Lightning. Mist becomes all. Cannot see where the drop starts. Everything focused on getting speed. I must shoot over the the top of the wave. I must.

I leap off.

I am soaring.

My eyes blink and within that blink, for one millisecond, I am euphoric. Celestial. Weightless. I drop. My eyelids lift  and data collection resumes but… THERE IS NO VISUAL DATA. I swivel my head. ZERO DATA! No horizon line. No sky, no ocean below. I can’t gauge my arc. White, everything is white. I’m falling through a cloud. My feet clutch the board. Arms out, hips twisting like a belly dancer on speed; bowlegged and crucified. My senses are screaming: The immensity of this is like nothing else. This is impossible.! I REMEMBER TO COUNT.

One I’m dropping in front of something nine, ten times bigger than Jaws. Waimea’s waves go 20, 24 feet- a 20 second ride. I’m on ten times that. Two minute ride. No leash.  Pray no boats or sandbars. Or reefs.

Two Steady. Find a reference point. Something besides the roar, the white bullets, the rivers like pipes. The waterbombs. Who said surfers are just monkeys with sticks and swimwear?

Three Mind and body centered, man. Be a gyroscope, dude, a gyroscope…

Four This monster’s gonna break left… or right? Steady, steady.  Steaaaadddyyyy. The trance, the calm. Enter  IT. The moment. Steady as a planet. Totally aware, totally relaxed. Give yourself another millisecond of euphoria. You’ve been falling for days.

Five This morning I woke up on clean white sheets next to the most beautiful woman in the world. Now I’m surfin’ a tsunami.

Six This is my last ride.


Eight Survival stance. Water bombs getting bigger.  Arms out, flapping. Feet still holding the board. Aerodynamics and gut feelings. Speed. I’m on the nose of a jet in a crossfire hurricane. Zero fatigue. Contact when?

Nine How to calculate when I cannot see? How to prepare for touchdown? What to aim for?

Ten Reality. I’m falling in front of a twenty story train made of  tons and tons   of water. A speeding wave the size of a city block… My feet clutch my board. No horizon. I see myself dropping into nothing but white foam. When will I hit?



THIS STORY’S CONCLUSION WILL APPEAR IN BALI WAVE GHOST, A SOON TO BE PUBLISHED NOVEL BY STEPHEN BLACK. DROP AN EMAIL TO bookmerah+ at; if you would like to preorder. More information about Bali Wave Ghost.

The Greatest Music of All Time

Nona's drawing of James Brown

Al Green wrote the most glorious song in the world.

Love and Happiness is the beautiful insanity of cherry blossoms. Love and Happiness is poetry, fear, hope, weakness, strength, violins and big fat funk beats. I have a version of it on a CD,  Al Green’s Greatest Hits, an incredible release by Motown Records.

On the booklet that came with the CD is the Motown Records logo.  The logo features a map, and on the bottom part of the map, leading south out of Detroit, is a highway called I-75. My daughter and I are now northbound on I-75. We’re going to a concert: James Brown.

The show starts with Funky Good Time and the crowd is a smiling big fat body, clapping and shaking. James Brown is a wildfire of greatness. My daughter’s on my shoulders waving her arms. Without missing a beat, James Brown pulls her up onto the stage. The two of them boogie around and the crowd goes even wilder. The song finally ends and my daughter skips to the side of the stage. She waves at me, her happy eyes as big as saucers. James jumps into Say It Loud-I’m Black and Proud. Detroit chants it right back.

Funky, funky minutes pass by. Then, in the midst of Please, Please, Please, James Brown collapses! A man rushes onstage and covers Mr. Brown with a blanket! My daughter’s hand freezes over her mouth. James is unconscious. The troubled band slows down, slows way down… what to do, what to do? Fear and worry fill the summer air. People gasp. You can hear the cars on the highway and the quiet of the neighborhood. James is a lifeless crumpled heap.

Then, like secret doctors, the guys in the horn section nod to each other. They start to radiate whispery, jazzy notes of soul.  The trumpet becomes stronger; a light house. The drummers start to sound like waves. The backup singers harmonize on a deep melody; they sound like a sunrise

His hand twitches!

The angels with guitars play slow riffs that sound like medicine and the horn section is now the grace of God and… yes! Yes!YES! James is given the gift of life! The drums become heartbeats and the band starts pumpin’ and James is up and the blanket’s a robe! The funky medicine gets stronger! The robe’s a cape!  James Brown  kicks the mike stand! The stand lands in his outstretched hand! The band drops into the biggest baddest groove in the universe and Mr. Brown picks up where he left off! He gets his good foot up. OUTTA SIGHT! Men stare and dance and the women whirl like they’re in a trance. Detroit sheds tears of joy and James takes us even higher. He lets the groove get there, get there, get there one more time and then, with a sideways stuntman acrobat ballet body snap, he stops the world on a dime…and then THE scream from THE Godfather, “Ahhhhhhhhhhh…. 1, 2, 3, 4!” and I Feel Good starts, bigger than life, all three drummers pulling out the joints. My daughter’s up there, smiling and spinning.

That was the movie I  played in my head as we drove up I-75.

Al Green’s Greatest Hits was the first CD I ever bought and James Brown Live at the Apollo was the second.

Yes, CDs in Japan were expensive but James Brown is James Brown and Al Green is Al Green. My wife and and I needed some soul music. We were living in Tokyo and Tokyo can be soulless. Those CDs were better than gold. Now, 13 years later, I am bringing our daughter to see James Brown.

Even if I had a James Brown CD in the car, I wouldn’t play it. She’s happy with whatever’s on the radio. She knows James Brown like she knows Richard Nixon.

We start walking across the dusty parking lot outside the Michigan State Fair. The sad Detroit skyline is big on the horizon. I sense, but cannot see, the empty car factories. The little house that was once the home of Motown Records is somewhere nearby.

Five bucks each and we’re in. She gets her face painted. We get tossed around on octopus rides with lots of little flashing lightbulbs and heavy metal music. Hot dogs, blue ribbon pigs and prizewinning carrot cakes: this is the American Midwest, ground zero.

I’m nicely surprised to discover that Little Richard is also on the bill. Little Richard talks and sings and talks some more. We roll our eyes when he starts his second encore. I prepare myself for two scenarios: the first scenario is like the movie in my head. The second is a collision of boredom, hypothermia, claustrophobia, cotton candy-fueled adolescent bad temper, food poisoning, angry whines and crying.

Little Richard finally finishes and we work our way closer to the stage. We wait. She starts yawning and looking cold. We wait some more.

Finally a large group of beautifully dressed people come on stage- the Soul Generals and the Bittersweets. They play snippets of JB classics and the announcer, Danny Ray, starts building  excitement. Lights flash! “Star Time!” James Brown marches out, smiling but serious, with perfect hair and mirror shoes.

Boom! Make It Funky begins. The crowd goes wild. The song ends and James starts talking to Motown like he’s catching up with an old friend. He then gets serious, sounding like a concerned favorite uncle as he describes “all the good times and the eras full of bad nothing…You gotta do it for yourselves you know.” He  kicks into Living in America. She’s tired, but my daughter sings along. We’ll leave soon.

The song ends and, for a moment, the night is quiet. James steps back from the mike! An instrumental? A man smoothly steps in front of James. James barely moves his hand and the band gets ready. James silently mouths a countdown and then…a magical guitar riff floods my soul….

“We’re goin’ up front,” I tell my daughter as I lift her onto my shoulders, “and then we’re goin’ home.”

James Brown is grooving slowly in his gold suit. He’s serenely happy. His band is performing Al Green’s Love and Happiness. He looks out and sees my daughter on my shoulders. James Brown’s smile suddenly seems even brighter and, for an instant, we are all in sync.

3how (music/improvisation/art/Singapore)

Click here to listen to tracks from The Riverwalk Session CD by 3how.

Hello…yes, the administration/digital paperwork is nonstop. There are 3how posts scattered about and I will eventually condense them here… eventually.

Here are some 3how videos.   A small post, the first about 3how.

More of a conceptual idea than a band, 3how was born out of collaborations between musicians andartists in a pursuit of sounds that are beautiful and fresh, transcending the barriers of genre.
was first discussed and planned by Amith Narayan and Stephen Black in Singapore in 2008. It was initially meant to be part musical performance, part performance art and part cabaret. On any given night, the idea was for a temporary collective of artists, musicians and enthusiastic individuals to meetand spend time developing ideas from scratch that would later be performed. The emphasis was to find moments of creativity rather than creating a complete and polished piece.
3how  is to be always dynamic and extremely versatile with a revolving cast of contributors and collaborators. After about four years of creating different
3how  events, it was decided that a formalized structure would allow musicians and artists to better understand 3how, with the goal of duplicating 3hows worldwide. The 3how  Manifesto was then created during the summer of 2012, based oncontributions from other collaborators. As of October 2012, current 3how  collaborators include Amith Narayan, Stephen Black, Wilson GohJustin Bannister, Siva Saravanan and Curtis King. Past collaborators include Mel Araneta (Philippines), Bani Hayikal (Singapore), Banyari Band (a travelling gypsy band from Japan), Dave Daranjo (USA), Roman Tarasov (Russia/Singapore), John Banta  (USA), Terence Lau (Singapore) and several others from different parts of the world.
A 3how event aims to create situations in which music and art can be created within asupportive environment, where improvised ideas can be developed freely and spontaneously 
3how is not a band; it is a revolving group of contributors and co-collaborators 
Every performance should have at least one non-musical member (for e.g. dancer, artist, bellydancer, pyrotechnician) 
Each performance is to be unique; no piece should ever be repeated in the same style 
Every performance should feature songs/compositions either created impromptu on the spot or within 48 hours of such performance
Each musician should play more than one instrument during each performance 
Each musician and performer should have a turn to initiate and develop a musical piece 
Covers of songs are allowed, but such a Cover song
shall be reinterpreted in a way that’s never
been done before and without rehearsals(for example, covering a song impromtowhich a few
collaborators don’t know should be
a simple 3how exercise.) 
Thisis a growing list of rules which might change from time to time
The first 3how event was held on
December 23, 2008 in an unused printer’s office.
Surrounded by officefurniture and printing machines, Amith Narayan was first joined by singer Wilson Goh and then by theBanyari band. The Banyari band is a group of travelling Japanese musical gypsies. Stephen Black haddiscovered them playing on the street earlier that day and invited them to join the session. The sessionlasted until dawn and featured improvisations on guitar, ukulele, mouth harp, percussion instruments of various types and a Mohan Veena and words were sung in Japanese, English and even Sanskrit.Watch the Video : Every 3how performance since then has been unique in terms of personnel and location. Venues haveincluded restaurants, abandoned buildings, book shops and clothing warehouses. In 2010 and 2011,3how performed at the Lit Up Festivals, presenting a combination of spoken word and music in 2010
and in 2011 premiering a “rock opera” called
Big Homer 
Big Homer, based on a book by Stephen Black, was also performed at Singapore’s Substation, as part of the Singapore Night Festival in 2011. In addition to Amith Narayan, personnel have included Bani Haykal (clarinet and maui xaphoon), MelArenata (nose flutes and noise generators), John Banta-Windsor (flute), Valerie Wee (vocals), Jun (videoart) and the Wiing Liu Py Dance Group. A 3how recording session occurred on June 22, 2011 at the SAE studios in Singapore where Amith Narayan, Wilson Goh, Bani Haykal and Curtis King not only met as a group for the first time, they began recording live with no preparation. The resulting Riverwalk Session, a collection of 14 compositionsnearly all of which are on-the-spot improvisations. This album was released in July 2012.Listen to this:


SPOKEN Word Artists (writing lab)

To see all posts related to SPOKEN, click here.

Note this will be updated as confirmations come in; there will be twenty writers…

The following writers are contributing essays, stories or ideas to SPOKEN. Details to be announced in mid August.


… newest art project is 5th Tumen River International Art Festival at Tumen City, Jilin Province, China. Starting 20 August but I and 2 other members of Perahu Art  will fly there  9 August for making installation art/public art by displaying “figures of change”.


Graduated in English and French from the University of Venice (Italy) in 1995. She worked and lived in London for seven years and moved back to Italy in 2002 to complete an MA in literary translation from English. She self-published two short fictions (December, 2010), a collection of haikus, “Che haiku vuoi?” (What haiku do you want?), and wrote a series of articles on Venice for a creative project on cities told by authors – “Città Raccontate” – for the Italian webzine “Cartaresistente” (April-May 2013). She took part in the “Creative Insomnia Nights”, multi-disciplinary and multi-sensorial events on colours organised by the atelier Meta-morphic, a cultural association based in Madrid (Spain). So far four contributions: a red haiku and some recollections/suggestions evoked by the analogies enacted by the colour red; a video-tale, set in the Seventies exploring orangeness and its dark side; a yellow playlist encompassing fifty years of music from the Sixties to the New Millennium and three articles on Amaryllis, Virgil’s sheperdhess, Women’s Day, and her translation of a Josif Brodskij’s poem (“I threw my arms about those shoulders”), an essay on the green ray, the green mirage, inspired by Jules Verne’s novel, Le Rayon Vert. At the moment she’s working on a new speculative fiction.

Japanese poet specializing in tanka. Her second book, The Road to Which I Came, featuring drawings by Ken Hiratsuka and translation by Gloria McLean, was published by Bungeisha in 2011.

HO RUI AN is an artist and writer working in the intersections of contemporary art, cinema, performance and theory. In a practice that researches the questions of visuality across social, cultural and discursive contexts, he writes, talks and thinks around images, investigating their sites of emergence, transmission and disappearance. He is currently developing a body of work surrounding image economies in Singapore and Southeast Asia and has presented projects at Serpentine Galleries (London), Singapore Art Museum, LUMA/Westbau (Zürich) and Witte de With (Rotterdam). He is the Singapore desk editor for ArtAsiaPacific and has contributed to numerous catalogues and periodicals. In 2011, his first novel, Several Islands, was published by The Substation (Singapore).


He lives and works in London and Singapore.


Jamie Grefe is an author and educator working within the realms of the bizarre, the darkly comedic, the surreal, the horrific, and the cinematic. His first book, The Mondo Vixen Massacre, was published in 2013 by Eraserhead Press. It has been described by author Stephen Graham Jones as, “…the beating heart of the action movie always playing in the back of all our reptile brains.” Grefe is also the author of two Dynatox Ministries titles: Cannibal Fatales, a tribute to the “cannibalsploitation” genre, currently in print as a limited-edition hardcover with a paperback edition set for late 2014, as well as Mutagon II, a bizarre crime novella inspired by the work of Japanese filmmaker, Takashi Miike. His short work appears in such venues as Birkensnake, The Bacon Review, New Dead Families, elimae, Prick of the Spindle, Sein und Werden as well as Bizarro Central among other places. Grefe is a current graduate student in the New England College Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program as well as a post-bachelor student in Education at Northern New Mexico College. His overarching creative interests include the manifestation of excess, fear, anti-comedy, horror, the body, the gratuitous, and writing for the screen.


Author of Bones of the Dark Moon

Website, other books




Julie O’Yang is novelist and visual artist based in The Netherlands.
Born and brought up in China, Julie O’Yang came to Europe in 1990s to study at the University of London. Then she read Japanese Language and Culture at the University of Leiden, Holland, and Tokyo, Japan. Her fiction, short fiction, poetry and articles have appeared in publications worldwide.
Her most recent title, Butterfly, a novel, has received praises from global audiences as well as international literary and art scene. Known for her unique literary voice both daring and challengingly contemporary, she is a forerunner and trendsetter of media reforms and 21st century indie publishing.


Butterfly, a novel. Print version on Amazon

Butterfly, a novel. ebook version on Lelivro

An interview with Julie O’Yang


A writer and video post-production editor, Stuart Rankin has written scripts for the Turner Classic Movies channel and for Hong Kong director Ann Hui. He co-produced the short film, Flashes (Hong Kong). Stuart did editing and post-production on the following award winning films: ‘In Search of The Dragon’s Tale’, (Hong Kong); ‘Fast Trip, Long Drop’ (USA); ‘Gravity & Grace’ (USA/NZ); ‘Dance And The Camera’, BBC (UK) and ‘Logodi Utca’, Magyar Television, (Hungary).
He has also been involved in post-production on projects for  the BBC, Al Jazeera,Bloomberg, Zhang Ziyi and National Geographic. Stuart was also the script consultant for Three Cities, a Hong Kong/Russia co-production


Curator and cofounder of Ellipsis Journal



From Wikipedia

Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson (born 27 August 1962), known as Sjón (/ˈʃn/ shohn), is an Icelandic poet,novelist, and lyricist. His pen name (meaning “sight”) is an abbreviation of his given name (Sigurjón). Sjón frequently collaborates with the singer Björk and has performed with The Sugarcubes as Johnny Triumph. His works have been translated into more than 25 languages.[1]

Sjón wrote The Blue Fox.


Nhung Walsh works with artists in Southeast Asia mainly in the field of Vietnamese contemporary arts. Based in Chicago, she works between Hanoi and other locations. Raised in Vietnam, she has a background in International Studies and History, having researched the wars in Vietnam, the politics of war memories, and the development of Vietnamese contemporary arts. She participated in  UNESCO/Vietnamese cultural programs and has worked with Vietnamese NGOs.
Walsh now engages in curatorial projects and cultural programs in Vietnam and the US.  She established Nối Projects (‘nối’ is the Vietnamese word for ‘connect’) as a means of expanding the conversation of contemporary arts. Currently, she is studying Arts Administration and Policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Selection of writings: is the founder of Roma ArtsRoma Arts, founded in 2011, is a collaborative nomadic initiative, which promotes passionate, ambitious and focused ways of producing, presenting, experiencing, and writing about the diverse forms of arts. Roma Arts gives keen attention to art practices, forms of presentation, experiencing the arts, and discourses on art. In 2012, Roma Arts started a residency program to foster creative person-to-person contacts. In 2013, Roma Arts started the website Contemporary Arts Bandung to promote art-related events in Bandung.


from Wikipedia:

Xu Xi, (originally named Xu Su Xi (许素细) (born 1954) is an English language novelist from Hong Kong.[1]

She is also the Hong Kong regional editor of Routledge’s Encyclopedia of Post-colonial Literature (second edition, 2005) and the editor or co-editor of the following anthologies of Hong Kong writing in English: Fifty-Fifty: New Hong Kong Writing (2008), City Stage: Hong Kong Playwriting in English (2005), and City Voices: Hong Kong Writing in English Prose & Poetry from 1945 to the present. Her work has also been anthologized internationally. Hong Kong magazines such as Muse run her writings from time to time and her fiction and essays have appeared recently in various literary journals such as the Kenyon Review” (Ohio), Ploughshares” (Boston), The Four Quarters Magazine(India), Ninth Letter” (Illinois), Silk Road Review” (Oregon), Toad Suck Review” (Arkansas), Writing & Pedagogy” (Sheffield, UK),Arts & Letters” (Georgia), Wasifiri (London), Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts (Colorado), Hotel Amerika(Chicago), Upstreet (Massachusetts), and Asia Literary Review (Hong Kong).

HABIT OF A FOREIGN SKY (finalist for Man Asian Literary Prize)


Ekphrasis: a literary description of a visual work. Thank you Xu Xi and David Clarke for this word and the superb little pamphlet!

David Clarke’s book: Hong Kong Art: Culture and Decolonization


Augmented reality and publishing:

SPOKEN: Musical portraits of artists

To see all posts related to SPOKEN, click here.

The following is free-association as portraiture, as well as a way to give some ideas to Tommy J, the musician who is creating a soundscape for SPOKEN.

SPOKEN, by Eugene Soh and Stephen Black,  is a virtual art exhibition/text project curated by Helium. Learn more about it here.













(Could not find a SADATO song called NAKAI)















































The music of neighbors

-I once stayed in apartment on 11th Street and two musicians lived on the other side of the wall. They were/are brilliant and, among a zillion projects, released music as Cibo Matto. (And yes, somewhere is a video I shot of Love is a Muscle, which was one of the most beautiful concerts I have attended.Love is a Muscle was a working title, or a side project or something like that, before Cibo Matto. The show was at CBGB 13 or whatever it was called. Marc Ribot and Dougie Bowne and Yuko Honda…who else? The soundcheck was a gift…Marc Ribot asked the others if his guitar was too loud… that care, that intelligence yinyanginging into funk with all kinds of sweet beats and rock music and rainbow lyrics…at one point Dougie played drums with his hands…
-When we had the SPP Gallery happening in Tokyo, the man downstairs practiced violin every day, starting at 4PM. He was gifted and played classical music professionally.
-Another apartment in Tokyo: a koto teacher who gave lessons from her home.
-Aliwal Street, writing while there a silat Melayu competition was happening next door, at the Malay Cultural Centre. Percussion and yelling as I tapped the keyboard.

Now in Bali; either an experimental electronic musician or a gamelan player creating soundscapes. I hear what I can only describe as being sweet, deep, melodic tones. Very different from the children’s band that “plays” marching music during the mornings when school is in session.

A FEW DAYS AFTER I WROTE THIS… I forgot to mention roosters and other birds…

The Thumb-shaped Kway

I’m a kway, you’re a kway. (Occupy Tiong Bahru: February 18, 2012)

The small front room constantly played Hong Kong martial arts movies dubbed in Mandarin. This was a piece entitled Mother Tongue, by Green Zeng. In the room next to that was the Belly of the Beast, by Mark Wong, whose piece featured a small black teddy bear playing a deathmetal sound artwork with a deep voice growling the “..for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health’ lines read at weddings. The growling was accompanied by the sound of a pounding heart, droning guitar and an occasional scream. I was in the kitchen, serving kway.
It was great to interact with so may people. I gave out 200 pieces of way.
My project was simple , a collaboration with Kim Lam Hong Confectionary, a family that has been making kways for at least three generations. By next week we will created a kway with a design based on my thumb.The thumb kway will be an edible sculpture. It may also symbolize individuality, cultural identity and gentrification.And yes, there are prints for sale. There is more information here:
What follows are the notes which I did not refer to/read from..Please note that these are my personal notes, a kind of rough draft , and that I have not credited the sources. THESE ARE NOTES, NOT A FINISHED SPEECH/TEXT//a work in progress….

I’m A Kway, You’re A Kway

Five parts: self –introduction, history of kways, description of this project, conclusion, eating…

Jokes….(…are there any jokes about kway?)

What is small, red and whispers? … A HOARSE RADISH…”

“What do you get if you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole? Hot cross bunny.”

“Why did the tomato blush? Because it saw the salad dressing.”

“How do you make an apple turnover? Push it down a hill.”

“Two peanuts walk into a really rough bar. Unfortunately, one was a salted.”

“Waiter, waiter, what’s this fly doing in my soup? I think it’s the backstroke, sir.”


American from Ohio, artist, writer, photographer, video maker

In Asia for a long time, Singapore since 2002.

mention Book Merah,Tiong Bahru book and Its May publication

KWAY HISTORY( from Wikipedia)

Kuih (also kueh, kue, or kway; from Hokkien: 粿 koé) are bite-sized snack or dessert foods found in the Malay Archipelago as well as the Southern China provinces of Fujian and Canton. Kuih is a fairly broad term which may include items that would be called cakes, cookies,dumplings, pudding, biscuit, or pastries in English and are usually made from rice or glutinous rice.

Chinese kuih, written as “guo” (粿) or sometimes as “gao” (糕), are usually made from ground rice flours. Many of the kuihs are made especially for important festivities such as the Qingming Festival or Chinese New Year, however many others are consumed as main meals or snack on a daily basis. Example of these kuih include:[1]

Red tortoise cake (Chinese: 紅龜粿; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Âng-Ku-Kóe) is a small round or oval shaped Chinese pastry with soft sticky glutinous rice flour skin wrapped around a sweet filling in the centre.[1][2] It is molded to resemble a tortoise shell and is presented resting on a square piece of banana leaf. As suggested by its name, red tortoise cakes are traditionally red in color and has a sticky chewy texture when eaten.[3] Red tortoise cakes are shaped like tortoise shells because the Chinese traditionally believed that eating tortoises would bring longevity to those who are eating it and bring about good fortune and prosperity.[4][5] Considered to be auspicious items, these sweet pastries are especially prepared during important festivals such as Chinese New Year as offerings to the Chinese deities.

Red tortoise cakes are also prepared for occasions that are culturally important to the Chinese such as a newborn baby’s first month or birthdays of the elderly. Eating red tortoise cakes during these times are meant to represent blessings for the child and longevity for the elderly.[4][6]In modern times, red tortoise cakes continue to be important food items during Chinese festivals in many countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, China and Taiwan. However, eating red tortoise cakes in these countries is no longer restricted to special occasions for red tortoise cakes are also commercially available in many pastry shops and bakeries.

There are two main components in red tortoise cakes, the skin and the filling. The skin is made mostly from glutinous rice flour and sweet potato whereas the fillings are made from precooked ingredients such as mung bean or grounded peanuts and sugar. After kneading and molding the ingredients together, the red tortoise cakes are steamed on a piece of banana leaf. In countries such as Singapore, these pastries are popular snack items and are especially popular with children because of their sweet and savory taste. In fact, many bakeries in Singapore have created red tortoise cakes in a variety of assorted flavors, including jelly and red bean, to cater to all tastes and preferences

n Chinese culture, the color red is traditionally used as a symbol of joy and happiness whereas the tortoise symbolizes longevity, power and tenacity.[2][7][6] As such, red tortoise cakes are of a high cultural significance and value amongst the Chinese people. They are typically associated with auspicious occasions and are especially prepared during birthdays and religious festivals to symbolize blessings and good fortune.

[edit]Lunar New Year

Chinese New Year is the most important festival in Chinese culture as it represents the start of a new year for everyone where people could reconcile and welcome the new year in hope for peace and prosperity. During this festival, the Chinese people would pray for good fortune and sweets such as rice cakes and red tortoise cakes are offered to the Chinese deities on ritual altars. These ritual offerings are made in the hope that the sweetness from these cakes will leave a sweet taste in the mouths of the deities and they will bless the people with a prosperous year ahead.[5][4]

[edit]Jade Emperor’s Birthday

The Jade Emperor is one of the most important gods in chinese folklore. He is believed to be the ruler of heaven and his birthday falls on the ninth day of the first lunar month.[5][8] To celebrate his birthday, the Chinese people will conduct prayers in his name and prepare food within Chinese temples or Chinese households as ritual offerings. In Chinese culture, red tortoise cakes are considered must-haves amongst the food items that are to be offered to the Jade Emperor on altar tables.

Because the number 6 is considered an auspicious number in Chinese culture, red tortoise cakes are placed on the altar table in multiples of six such as 12, 24 or 36 in the hope that he will bless the people with good fortune and prosperity.[5]



I’m OK, You’re OK Seventies best 15 million copies Dr. Thomas Harris
Perhaps mention the history of OK, the word itself…O Kway!I’m Ok, You’re OK… a Seventies reference/..Another Seventires reference, Planet of the Apes.Ape shall not kill ape. Kway shall not kill kway

1.Joseph Beuys and other artists who work with the community to create projects.

I think the tree is an element of regeneration which in itself is a concept of time. The oak is especially so because it is a slowly growing tree with a kind of really solid heartwood. It has always been a form of sculpture, a symbol for this planet.3

The planting of seven thousand oak trees is thus only a symbolic beginning. And such a symbolic beginning requires a marker, in this instance a basalt column. The intention of such a tree-planting event is to point up the transformation of all of life, of society, and of the whole ecological system…4

From the 7000 Oaks Project

2. Ferran Adria/ El Bulli and Documenta 12

The mystery of Ferran Adrià’s role in Documenta 12 has finally been solved. As La Vanguardia reports, the star chef will participate from afar, by keeping a table for two open to exhibition visitors at his restaurant El Bulli on the Costa Brava, outside Barcelona, every night of the show. The lucky two will be chosen randomly by Buergel in Kassel and offered airfare, along with a meal at El Bulli. The award-winning restaurant, which is fully booked for the next year, will officially become an auxillary site of D12—known as “the G pavilion”—during the hundred-day event in Kassel. “Instead of us coming and cooking here (in Kassel), which was impossible,” Adrià told reporters, “we transferred Documenta to Cala Montjoi”—nearly a thousand miles away from Kassel. “Cooking cannot be ‘musefied’—it is an artistic discipline that needs its own scene,” explained Adrià, who admits that some might be disappointed by his no-show in Kassel. “In the end, the visitor decides what is art and what is not.”


At first , the following ideas were considered:

A new food based on the traditional foods of Tiong Bahru.

Work with traditional food makers and the new chefs in the neighborhood- perhaps a simple molecular version of a traditional dish

Sustainability, local produce.

Challenges: worst time of year- Christmas and CNY

KWAY moves to the forefront because the other ideas are too logistically complex.

Louis and Lim Lam Hong in my neighborhood, friendly and openminded second/third generation

New flavors and new designs

CNY is/was a challenge. CNY is/was a challenge. CNY is/was a challenge. CNY is/was a challenge. CNY is/was a challenge. CNY is/was a challenge!!!!

Design, however, moves forward as this I can do this by myself.

Tuesday new design will be ready

Premier next week

Ongoing project

THUMBPRINT symbol of individuality , yet anonymous

Hong Guan Tan worked on the design as well as the red dot poster

The business man Mr. Hirst.

The world’s biggest show.

To take in the whole work I’d need to hike to the dealer’s two other venues in Manhattan, and then fly to Gagosian branches in Los Angeles, London, Paris, Geneva, Rome, Athens, and Hong Kong.

Hirst, the British art star who turns 47 this year, has spread 331 of his signature dotted canvases, out of some 1,400 he made, across Gagosian spaces around the world.

By appropriating Hirst’s commercial designs, kway is decontextualized from tradition and becomes associated with a sophisticated successful art practice, ie “edgy.”


So.. I’m A Kway, You’re a Kway

Ultimately, this project is about identity, especially the issues of self-identity and community identity.

Kways can function as signifiers of this neighborhood’s identity; kway is, perhaps, a symbol of what makes Tiong Bahru Tiong Bahru. This statement acknowledges the fact that food, especially the market, gives Tiong Bahru its character. Architecture also does this, of course, but because of conservation policies, the physical structures of Tiong Bahru are unlikely to change.

Kway shares the following characteristics with many of the foods which are associated with Tiong Bahru:

- Kways are created by second or third generation food makers.

These people have experience. Loyalty to, or at least a strong personal interest in, the food.

-Kway makers and traditional food makers are a part of the neighborhood.

- Kways are inexpensive…. rents increase.

Kways and other inexpensive foods not only are a value to everyone, they play a large role in the lives of those with small fixed budgets and/or low income.

To summarize, kway symbolizes the social and cultural environment of Tiong Bahru. When the price of doing business increases and the traditional customer base decreases, the kway makers are at risk. If a kwaymaker’s children decide not to continue, this means labor must be hired-yet another cost. If handmade kway in Tiong Bahru disappears, it may indicate a future in which mass produced foods or non-traditional foods become dominant.This project is not a rant against tasteless gentrification, it is a celebration of tradition, diversity and uniqueness using the colors, textures and flavors of kway. It is my hope that by increasing the awareness of kway and what it represents that Tiong Bahru can better define its identity and those characteristics which make it such a unique place.

Tables of Adventure, Woe and Joy

If you have followed even a small portion of the trail I have created on the internet, you will see that there are a number of detours and half-finished roads. Despite appearances, work is being done on all of them.


With this post I am jotting down notes about food, as an experience and as artwork. The most concrete example of my food/art projects is probably the thumb kway project which was the result of my involvement with the Open House project. Recently I have been rediscovering my past experiences with all types of food, reinterpreting them as algorithm-related data, settings for performance art and also as elements/influences upon my writing.

Related: I Ate Tiong Bahru, Furikake, Lina Adams Food/Singaporean Performance Art History, Melvina Tan’s  Jiak Muay

Eventually I will add photos, links, a structure and more, but for now, the following is what it is…

My Mom

-A great cook. Christmas, carrot cake on my birthday (lemon glaze). The carrot cake article in Kurashi No Techo. Bill O’Reilly once mentioned my mom’s lasagna on national television. My mom cooked for the sisters who lived in the convent near Regina Coeli School.

My dad

Oyster stew. Turtle soup. Buying Pinconning cheese on the way to up north. Ma Wilson’s cured hams. Driving at sunset to the Moose Lodge for an all you can eat fish fry, driving back on very dark country roads, my brother and I in the back seat with very very full stomachs. Catching bluegills, bass and pike, my mom cooking them.

My cousin Denny throwing pepper at me, got some in my eye. Gramma Black’s pie made from bananas, Grampa Black: Raisin Bran for breakfast. I tried to make a cake once and added a cup of vinegar instead a cup of water. I worked at Pizza Inn. Doug, before he died telling me about one summer weekend we got a pizza to go from King Cole’s or something like that. We both remembered the place, but couldn’t  remember the name. He used to work at Ponderosa.

Bob Hartman, the summer that Elvis Presley died. We caught salmon off the southern coast of Washington State, ate them hours later. I learned what Pinot Chardonnay was.

Rochester NY,RIT Cafeteria food and then trying to experience the egg rolls of every Chinese restaurant in the city. Buffalo wings and PacMan.

Toronto: Birthday cake, Iggy Pop and leaving Chinese food on the bus; something in oyster sauce.

NYC Pizza slices. The Polish restaurant before Faculty Party played. The Ukraine restaurant. Cous cous at Carl’s(?), eating with Arleen at the unexpected dinner with the Ecuadorean family that lived above the No Se No. Thanksgiving Party on the Bowery, driving back to Brooklyn in Ben’s classic Volvo after Indian food on 5th street: the Brooklyn Bridge with Frank Sinatra playing. The meals cooked in the basement of a flat on the Lower east Side and running out at midnight to get Haagen Daasz,Paella and canolis. The Spanish food artist. Eating and cooking spaghetti with a friend in the last stages of life with AIDS. He had introduced me to Japanese food and the magic of clear soup.


Revolving sushi counters.The coffee shop in the middle of pine trees and rice fields that sheltered us and our bicycles from a thunderstorm so big and dense it turned the afternoon into night. Selfies taken with flash and film,the ice sculptures they made behind the Hilton in Shinjuku, nearly every meal a visual composition. The feasts of food, sake and good company at Miagawas. The food experiences in Miharu and Fukushima… The cooking culture of Obama, Japan. Tsukiji market with the three star sushi chef, fugu with the 3 star French chef, takoyaki with my daughter and running out to buy her yakimoo when she should have been sleeping…


Berlin: the musician taking us to the gas station that became a restaurant.

Munich. Frim Price Koelling, talking about art and our time in Seoul at the Olympics and Trio and movies with optimistic themes; the perfection of imperfection.

Hong Kong Too much Peking duck, discovering a char siew fan place that impressed even my mainland Chinese friends. The little place near Hollywood Road where I would eat breakfast nearly every day.

Brunei… the colorful cosmos of jungle fruits in the market, noodles with Masui-san at the water village

Sevilla. Dinner at the El Bulli hacienda; “the best breakfast in the world”

Achatz Handmade Pies!

Joe and Burmese food, la phet, Peninsula Plaza

Bali: La Bruschetta and barbecued baby pig, the variety of vegetarian restaurants and the Warung Java across the street


Tippling Club, Secrets of Sushi by Kazuko and Chihiro Masui