Category Archives: Authors

now

To find out what nownownow is about, visit!

Hello!

I am an American who has experienced Life mainly in Asia, in the areas of art, television production, music, fine art and commercial photography, food, VR and gaming.

I am now combining these experiences and writing books, creating a new portfolio of visual works and finalizing business plans for two startups one VR-based, one AR-based.

I am especially keen to communicate with Unity or Daydream/Android 7.1 people, as well as literary agents, publishers or anyone who has an interest in anything I do.

If I can help anyone in any of the above areas just ask. Or if you just have a question or want to say hi or meet for a meal or just Skype... get in touch!

Now I am in Kuala Lumpur.

I am very excited about Bubiko Foodtour! Always looking for ways to make another 360 "VR" movie like Beach Road, or be involved with another virtual project like SPOKEN.

MUSIC! I have done everything a band member can do except play an instrument! Lee Wen/Seasons Without Seasons. This series of interviews may be of interest. 3how! (Derek Sivers is connected to this post in more ways than one!)

As for my books, I will be happy to send a free ebook to anyone who requests one. If the titles interest you, check for more info on the internet or click here.

The Agaricus blazei Murrill Notebook

Obama Search Words

On Seng Poh Road

Tiong Bahru Blue

Furikake

Contact With Shadow

Bus Stopping

i ate tiong bahru (a best seller in Singapore)

The classic coffee mug reborn with a glassy pop art, postmodern touch

Bali Wave Ghost

red dot SAD

(rdS uses as Amazon as a base for crowdfunding.)

Something Something About VR (the name keeps changing but the contests are essays about VR, AR, digital cinematography and related topics.Some essays are elsewhere on www.blacksteps.tv

Touching JB (finishing late in 2017)

Tiong Bahru Mouth (2018. images, stories and essays)

Urnovl/121 words: a brief essay about a great big little idea

The concept of Urnovl/121.com is exciting, but it isn’t new. Their ‘texts with a word count of 121 ’ approach is a bigger, prose version of the “17 syllable rule” of haiku writing. Brian Williams once ran Littlerature, which featured stories 1064 words long. I had a few stories on Littlerature, including one about 3how, which is included in red dot SAD. So, the fixed short form is an old friend of mine. I am sure there were, and are, other flash fiction sites based on a specific word count.

The Urnovl/121 website is exciting because it is state of the art literature. Potentially at least: as with any uncurated, free platform, there will be “interesting” submissions. Two Shades of Gray proved that “interesting” stories can have interesting results. “State of the art”, in this case, means mobile-friendly, social media-friendly, attractive design and visuals. One or two things could be tweaked, but the site is still in beta. Two upgrades are planned before September.

So far, I’ve posted three pieces. The word count of 121 is a bit low for my liking, but that’s what makes it interesting. The texts have more depth than tweets, yet can be appreciated immediately; no need for links nor downloading, like ebooks. Readers, and those working in publishing, can quickly decide if a writer is worth learning more about. FWIW: This post has 242 words, the equivalent of two posts on the Urnovl/121 site.

Foreign Search Engine: Dorya Glenn

Dorya Glenn Project

Julie O'Yang and Filip Naudts

The Picture of Dorya Glenn is a collaboration between Chinese novelist/artist Julie O’Yang and Belgian photographer Filip Naudts. Full of layers, the story, at its core is this: A writer has created Dorya Glenn, a character from another time who visits Earth. Dorya and the author become obsessions for a photographer. The three perform a murderous, surrealistic tango that leaps from writing table to French countryside to outer space.

Julie and I met on Facebook, introduced by another writer, Jeremy Fernando. One of her books is called Butterfly and that is how I perceive her; colorful and beautifully defiant of gravity. I was jealous when I heard of her plans to collaborate with a photographer. The results of her work with Filip, however, intrigued and impressed me and I wanted to know a bit more. Thus, this interview.

Dorya Glenn is very multidimensional: Oscar Wilde, cyberspace, Belgium, the future, the idea of the "New European", outer space and romance. I enjoy the motif of the surveillance cameras; how they document with a constant neutrality, unlike writing, which involves transformation of both the writer and the reader. The surveillance cameras treat domestic spaces as pages where scenes related to sex, gender, race and violence are written. Orwell had Big Brother, perhaps the cameras in Dorya Glenn are Big Mother...

OK, about the project itself... The text is an alien Surrealist's journal; the photographs are part fashion magazine, part film noir. Will the book be a kind of photo manga hybrid, or something like a magazine or something else?

J: Maybe I want to wake up Oscar Wilde by making some UFO sounds, that's all. Dorya Glenn is about telling a good story. Moreover, we want to address a few urgent issues. Some examples are the dictatorship of our current image culture, cyber surveillance, the worldwide immigration crisis etc. We might have used a new, different plate to serve the story, but the plate rather came to us, just like a UFO.

F: Where our collaboration leads us is a mystery to us too... I consider Dorya Glenn a laboratory sample; a chemical fusion between me and a writer, my cultural background fusing with her skills. But it's more. Our action is in the live interaction itself: my photography interacts with Julie's fantastic art of words. The book will be hardcover, which is necessary to hold the richness of the content to present to our readers.

You are working with text, photography, cyberarts, video and music; a song by Arno. Plus, the text and photography, of course. Can you talk about the collaboration process? Do you two take turns, or agree almost all of the time, or have heated discussions or what?

J: We've danced. It's very beautiful. The Picture of Dorya Glenn is a classic erotic thriller with a feminist touch.

F: We have neither time nor any reason for long heated dicussions during the entire process. Our battle is fought in the story. It's the battle between words and pictures and the latter certainly won! Whoops, I think Julie wants to read passages out of the book to prove me wrong. Well, you have to read our story to decide which of us gets killed in the end, because we are not sure ourselves.

Dorya Glenn seen from outside

image by Filip Naudts

Biggest challenge so far?

J: Funding.

F: I agree with Julie. Extremely tough and embarrassing. Artists shouldn't be busy worrying about where does money come from. If a crowdfunding manager is reading us, please get in touch.

Nicest surprise so far?

J: I like acting & performance and did better than I expected from myself. And it is the superpower that Filip the photographer gave me!

F: The fused creative powers result in huge impact. Our project stands for creative and cultural collaborations.

Regarding Kickstarter, have you had any surprises or learned anything?

J: It scared me. It still does. But I do feel more powerful. I guess it's called character building.

F: I will never become a successful salesman.

Favorite or most dramatic section of the book?

J:The last scene...is firework. And I think the most dramatic section is the alien directly relating to the refugee crisis, the labour camp and the crossing of the Mediterranean and so on. I'm also working on a list of special sci-fi words I have invented for the story. It's pushing the edge of imaginative power.

F: The suspense in the erotic scene.

Julie, can you comment upon the writing process?

J:Writing involves transformation of both the writer and the reader. It also involves the sacrifice of the writer and sometimes the writer needs to "kill" herself to become her protagonist. On the other hand, The Picture of Dorya Glenn is a story about sexual, racial, gender violence, it is feminist science fiction that reflects the here and now and our reality today --

The veil...?

The costume was made by Monika Acman for Dorya on our request. She is a Polish tailor living in Belgium. An ancient ritual on Dorya's planet is to "re-veil" a chosen woman; this allows her to become worthy of worship. Dorya Glenn unifies our universe with hers. In both, to some degree, she is both idol and dictator.

an albino alien

Image by Filip Naudts from the text/visual project entitled The Picture of Dorya Glenn, a collaboration between Julie O'Yang and Filip Naudts

Section of the book which best exemplifies the battle between text and photography?

J: The whole story is a tango between word and image. And remember: it takes three to tango. We have three main characters in the story that are there to explain the ideological conflict between the writer and the photographer. Who is the third person?

F: The security camera taking a picture of the photographer taking a picture of the writer's legs under the table, while she is writing the story in which he is playing an important part.

What is Dorya's relationship with the photographer?

The photographer is infatuated with her, his photographs show Dorya Glenn as a sex goddess. This is destructive-but for whom?

The Picture of Dorya Glenn is a campaign now on Kickstarter.

To extend the experimentatino that is Dorya, I created a little project here.

red dot SAD (Stories, Art, Digitalia 2002-2017)

red dot SAD is a collection of stories, essays and images created during Stephen Black's fifteen years in Southeast Asia, mainly in Singapore. An American who has also lived in Tokyo, Manhattan, Hong Kong and Paris, the book documents a creative life that knows no boundaries.

Topics include virtual reality, performance art, network television, food, music, photography, and art projects of all kinds. Physical locations range from an abandoned "haunted" hotel to facilities stacked with IT machinery, from wet markets and beaches to construction sites, the Singapore Biennale, and government built housing complexes. For those interested in Singapore and anyone who enjoys visual arts and well-researched, dynamic writing.

red dot SAD is also an experiment. Presently the book is about 150 pages. Eventually the book will be printed on paper. Those who buy the earlier editions of the ebook receive the updated versions free of charge. For more information on how red dot SAD is re-inventing Amazon and crowdfunding, click here.

To see the current list of topics, click here.

red dot SAD on Amazon

Reviews of i ate tiong bahru, Black's bestselling book are here.

Interviews with Stephen Black and descriptions of his other books are here.

minimal book covers

red dot SAD (Stories Art, Digitalia 2002-2017) book by Stephen Black

red dot SAD (content update)

red dot SAD will ultimately be a printed book of about 300 pages. The contents reflect 15 years of a creative life, one based in Singapore. Besides fiction, rdS includes reports and essays about art, VR, AR, photography, video and food.The list below does not include the many photographs and images in rDS.

The current ebook version of red dot SAD is available on Amazon. Those who purchase the current version will receive the updated ebook versions free of charge. This is explained here, on Medium and here on this blog.

I Ate Carrot Cake This Morning

My life is built upon a foundation of grated carrots, walnuts and lemon glaze.

Smoke and Mirrors

Long live the homemade satay cart of Tiong Bahru! (a chapter from the bestselling i ate tiong bahru)

Haikus

Five-seven-five, all night long.

Contact With Lightning

Frisbee and shock on the lawn of Fort Canning.(a chapter from Contact With Shadow)

The Unseen Guest: Checkpoint (album review)

Li Cassidy-Peet

She taught singing.

The Aloha of God

Hawaii, Vietnam, Selma and orchids. Obama.

Correspondence

You can’t make this up.

Hummingbird vs. Helicopter

Most accurately: Hummingbird vs. Helicopter vs. Happy Crab

A Star is Born or Something

3how is rocknrollwritingperformanceart. We don’t explore anything. We laugh when it breaks.

A Story about the Armenian Alphabet, Vitamin Supplements and the Singapore National Library

All you need is love and Vitamin B.

Your Super Restaurant (Hugh Howey Must D’yer Maker)

Connecting the spicy dots between the Father of Amish Sci-fi, self-publishing and a guy who’s angry at Stephen Colbert.

I’m a Kway, You’re a Kway

A clueless American food artist and a legendary recipe for a 4000 year old auspicious Chinese pastry. What could go wrong?

How I Met Shigeru Miyamoto, the Man who created Mario and Donkey Kong

It was a dark and snowy night. Suddenly…

Notes on the Blue Flower

Mud, Concrete and Stars, Beauty and Hope(text written for an exhibition by Philipp Aldrup)

The Red Dot Museum

A museum full of award-winning design.

Mysticus fragrans: nutmeg

Charlotte Brontë reports on what really happened upon that fateful night at Fort Canning. A never before told story of Sir Raffles and Lady Sophia.

The Eye of Flesh

Rice seasonings:poetic and visionary. (a chapter from >Furikake)

Happy as Larry

A chicchetti (little savoury snacks) tour with Carla Bonollo. One of the pieces written for SPOKEN, the virtual art exhibition created by Eugene Soh and SB.(www.gallery.sg)

The Music of Will Sun

Medication and meditations for broken bones and hearts. (A chapter from Bali Wave Ghost)

red dot SAD (content update)Self-portrait as MPG

Do you think this is some kind of game?

Biff “Grayboox” Enum:Game Developer

Exclusive interview with the mastermind who behind the multi-platform megahit Powerfrog Troopers Revolution 6:the Croak Goes On.

Five Things I Learned on My First 360 “VR” shoot

Stephen Black :VR Startup in Singapore. Why?

Stephen Black :VR/AR Startup Plans

red dot SAD reinvents Amazon (kinda)

red dot SAD is a snapshot of Stephen Black’s creative life in Singapore, from 2002 to 2017. The nonfiction topics include art, AR, VR, gaming, 3how, photography and daily life in Singapore.

The red dot SAD book project:

1. Offers money for value: the 99 cent, 129 page book contains stories, images and essays, including an extract from i ate tiong bahru, a national bestseller in Singapore.

2. Continually adds content to create new versions that replace the existing version on Amazon.(Latest additions here.)

3. Sends, by email, the new versions to those who have purchased a previous edition.

The reasons for this trial are:

1. Crowdfunding-in-disguise. Directing a “fan base” of readers towards Amazon means they can immediately receive an ebook and join in the rdS experience. Even a small number of sales is beneficial. Although there is a less concentrated effort than a crowdfunding campaign, an equal or greater amount of funds can be generated over a longer period.

2. The crowdfunding-in-disguise idea can stimulate Amazon’s algorithms, further generating interest. Increased rankings and positive “list activity” can result.

3. Those who request updated versions likely will contribute some form of feedback

4. Ideally, a percentage of these readers will leave reviews, and share the book info with other readers.

minimal book covers

red dot SAD (Stories Art, Digitalia 2002-2017) book by Stephen Black

The Amazoncentric ideas I am experimenting with are not that different from those used in the serialization of novels. What is different is that a new ebook, with a considerable amount of new content, is being sent to those who purchased previous editions. In the world of physical art and books, limited editions hold value for collectors. This may prove to be also true for the “outdated” offline digital versions of rdS.

Related to this, I am now researching the possibilities that have just arisen from a partnership between Reedsy and Blurb. Reedsy’s book editor has been invaluable to me. If the workflow with Blurb is what I hope it is, the files of new versions can be easily replaced, This, in turn, means that older print versions will become limited editions.

Ultimately, I hope that the final version of red dot SAD, with a few hundred pages,either becomes a very successful self-published project, or is picked up by someone like as Phaidon or Steidl. The result of fifteen creative years in Singapore, I believe red dot SAD will be an interesting visual and written document. The book's journey is, and will be, an interesting one.

(The image used in the header of this post is a photograph of a sculpture called Manifold, by Gerald Leow.)

Bubi and Conquest (part 3 of 3)

part one is here

A cat zipped from under one table to another. It had been outside.

”It isn’t any fun to be a poor kitty in a downpour.”

In the back of the prata place, on something like an altar, is an aquarium. A teaspoon of red tetras circle in the corner, and a bland piranha paces back and forth. The altar is covered with artificial grass. Pink cloth flowers are tied to the tree branches that are stacked around the aquarium. Like everything else here, everything’s big except a little naked doll standing in a circle of plastic roses.

“Bubi! How are you?”

I take two steps towards the aquarium and sit back down with the doll.

“Bubi, this is Mysteriouswomanpool. Mysteriouswomanpool, this is Bubi.”

She is obviously happy to see the doll and relieved that no one is watching. I lean Bubi against the clear plastic bag of buns that have black lips.

“I met Bubi years ago, when I lived in Minnesota. She used to go out with a classmate of mine, a Norwegian hockey player named Bjorn Free Vikingstad. In the summers we often enjoyed banana and ham pancakes.”

She laughs a big laugh and I laugh a bigger laugh. Together we laugh very very bigly.

I quit while I'm ahead. “Bubi must go back to Minnesota now. We can call her later, though.” I push my empty glass to the edge of the table, she does the same. Now, the place is empty. I count coins and put them on the table.”

“Three eighty boss.” He slides the coins onto his palm.

We walk out into the heavy rain, down the slope of Jalan Pahang. Our inkblot shadows float on a river of silver fingerprints. Despite our hopes, we’ll be back here in a few hours, when the sky will be blue and rich with the smell of freshly baked banana bread. The laundry shops will be busy, the tailors will be arriving and the trendy two story cafes will still be closed. The cracks and potholes will be dry. The people who work here will again wonder what is wrong with us; same clothes, same three plastic bags. Now, though, we cling together against the cold ocean of night, plodding through glistening nets full of streetlights, neon and stars. Flowing, flowing, everything’s flowing toward the Great Attractor.

She taps my elbow and I pull her closer. “Can we call Minnesota?” she says.

Bubi and Conquest (part 2 of 3)

Part 1 is here.“It’s for kids? Adults?”

“Both. It’ll be a novel, but some parts are like movies. Horror movies! Fairytales. Some areas will be for newlyweds. You can ride with God in an elevator. I plant the stories and then they rewrite themselves based on interactions with people and the environment.“

“OK... The characters will get old?"

“Some.”

“How do you come up with ideas for all of this?”

“In my workspace I have little pictures of James Joyce, J.K. Rowlings, Robin Williams and Tarantino. I imagined them making a game together. Didn’t work. Now, I think of them as a band. Williams on vocals, Tarantino on guitar, Joyce on drums and Rowlings on bass. What would their music be like?”

“And that makes you creative?”

“Not really...”

Without warning, the South China Sea falls upon the tin roof.

“You have to think of music. First person shooters are guitar solos. A character’s stories and skills are important, of course, but it’s all about harmony. And improvisation. MPGs are symphonies. With Spring Valley I want to make a game that gives the players power. Like, instead of being chased so that you fall into a pit filled with spears, what if you fall into something soft that recharged you? What if other players gave you healing powers instead of bullet holes?

Musicians give each other energy. The audience absorbs their interplay and sings along or cries or something, right? Harmonized decision making in microseconds. Play music. Play. So important."

....................30............ The conclusion .

Bubi and Conquest (1 of 3)

I am currently in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, where I am working on a book. The following is a work in progress.

“There’s this Great Attractor thing, and no one knows what it is. Maybe a monster sphere made of gravity waves or something. Maybe a magnetic hole in the universe big enough for all the galaxies. Our sun and the other planets are flowing towards it, right? Flowing at millions of miles an hour. And then there’s the surface of the Earth…”

“...which is spinning.”

“Correct. Spinning and traveling ‘round the sun. Superfast. So, this ramshackle little prata place we’re in is actually moving at a zillion miles an hour. At least.”

Three something in the morning; we’re exhausted. Waiting. One minute feels like a long week. The policeman near the door flicks his lighter and the friction of its little rough metal circle is heard everywhere. Outside, in the canyon of night, a big motorcycle rides past, its roaring engine like a huge threat.Overhead, eight fluorescent lights: six are working. It will rain soon.

Sleeplessness stretches and magnifies perceptions-- very big bunches of bananas are upon the very big tables in this very big mamak stall. Big buns in clear plastic bags are are also on the tables. They hover like clouds. My kopi and her teh halia o kosong are the size of glass oil barrels. Half-formed dreams float into logical thoughts, then disappear. There are three huge customers. “Hotel California” blares, a reggae version.

The guy who took our order is probably a Bangladeshi. I catch his eye, point at the speaker and move my little hand down. “Great cover, but we can’t talk.”

“No problem, boss.”

“ Bob Marley?”

“Could be, boss. I’ll check.”

I look at my glass like I’m seeing coffee for the first time. Maybe her head is moving slightly back and forth to the rhythm. Relax said the white man, we are programmed to deceive. “It’s reggae and Mexican music together. I saw The Eagles once. I like it when musicians mix styles. Hybrids. Like Ziggy Stardust was rock and chanson.”

“Who? Ziggy Sparkle?”

“Bowie. David Bowie...Ziggy Stardust?”

“Sorry.”

“Boss, that’s the Moonshiners.” He’s carrying a huge cone of tissue prata on a silver plate.

“Thanks.”

The tops of the floating buns have burn marks that look like big black lips.

“You only listen to classical, right?”

“Not really. All kinds.”

“Like what? What was the last thing you downloaded?"

“A Chinese dance song. "My Little Apple"...”

“That seems about right. You remind me of a lawyer. But you’re not in thousand dollars an hour mode now, right? Maybe I’m wrong, wrong to say that. Hard to think straight right now...”

She rotates her glass mug. It’s half full. Looks around, looks at me. “So, is this speeding intergalactic prata place in your game?”

“Maybe. It’s interesting because it’s not interesting. Boring comes first. Then, back end stuff like static variables and resolution issues. I do what I can to keep the frame rate high. Make everybody happy without them knowing it. You make the little dull things exciting, the big things go boom. Megaboom! When a player actually enjoys an office level-- that’s gold. It’s about death and self-portraiture. Like all great art.“

“Great art...” She stops herself, rubs her finger on her glass of tea. ”And the Chinese asked you to make a game for Spring Valley?”

“Yep, biggest site-specific AR game ever. There’s a stadium. Four artificial islands with everything, like a city. There’s gonna be four, five hundred thousand residents. A million times better than Pokemon.”

.......................30................................ the next section is here.

Can We Call Minnesotapool?

I am now working on the second draft of a 60,000 word book that has been written during my three month stay in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The book combines fictional stories with essays on travel and food in JB and notes related to my proposed VR/AR startup. The book is called Game of JB.

As she sleeps, I look for bruises on her hands. Last night she kept smashing--really smashing--her fists into the knuckles of Errol, a Swiss martial artist. He’s also a bon vivant, but a hard working one, uninterested in kiss-kiss party talk. We discovered him on the hotel’s rooftop patio.

Errol left a government job to work with his wife, Olga. Together, they document vanishing or unusual cultures. They are in JB for Chingay, the huge procession dedicated to Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. A comparatively “easy” documentation perhaps, as hot water is everywhere. No waist-deep mud, no clouds of mosquitoes and, at the end of the day, beds with blankets and pillows instead of thin mats on dirt floors.

“Tsuyoi, tsuyoi, tsuyoi!” Errol had started by barely tapping her hands. “Tsuyoi! Tsuyoi! Tsuyoi!” The tapping became a revolving dance, then a serious boxing match. She surprised me with her ferocity; my little lawyer desk mouse had become a tigress. “TSUYOITSUYOTSUYOITSUYOTSUYOI!” Bigger than the roof,their voices; bigger than JB, big enough to be heard in Woodlands! Their fist-banging empowerment ritual happened in the middle of a night filled with the serious conversations of travelers. We leave tomorrow.

Next to the patio was the penthouse, now a subdivided maze of plywood and sheetrock with locks on flimsy doors. These were the cheapest rooms. The patio, with its stone carvings and arches, was an Art Nouveau time capsule, but with laundry racks and tiny bathrooms in yellow structures that looked like Porta Potties. I showered there this morning, when the world was dark indigo. I stepped out naked. I thought about the two letters- my father’s initials, upon a building to my right. Singapore was across the water, on my left. The ledge. The street below my feet. Finally, the dawn began and I went back to our room with something like certainty.

We had talked on the couch, on the tile floor and as we leaned on the balconies overlooking the night market and Meldrum Street. We watched the comings and goings at the musical lounge and the 123 Cafe. Our conversations flowed: Papua New Guinea, Geneva, John Zorn, Iggy Pop, parallel universes, Kryon and time travel. Visas and immigration, of course. Ender’s Game, but no one knew if an actual Ender’s Game game had been made. I listened to Errol’s advice about Wordfence security and how to enhance a media library. We drank cheap brandy. There was a crescent moon.

At one point in the night she asked me a question, not knowing that Errol had returned from the toilet. He was right behind her.“Can you call Minnesotapool?”

“Headpool!” We yelled the word at the same time.

Errol acrobatically tumbled over the couch and down onto the tiles. He rolled over and got up on his hands and knees. “Woof woof,” he said, with a slightly Swiss accent. “Dogpool!” we answered, like game show contestants hoping to win a million in prizes.

He stood on his knees, made himself childish and pretended to hold a sword.

“Kidpool!”

He acted like he had very big boobs and pointed an imaginary gun. He thrust his hips.

“Wada Wilson,” I said,”Lady Deadpool,” she said. “Two correct answers! We have our winners!” We stayed up on that patio ‘til very late.

Until Sarina finally showed up at Western Union, our life was hard, frozen and dry. We’d met her just two days ago. Zero passports plus hunger minus sleep equals desperate logic. Big leaps of faith.But, she showed up. We then ate ham cha and drank ginger soymilk. We found a place where we could check in. Then, healing sleep. We woke up at twilight and found an excellent five ringgit vegetarian buffet. Came back, explored the hotel and met Errol. “I feel alive again,” she said, as we got into bed, “tonight was like high school.”.

“Everything Is Important and Serious. Decisions are heavy dates on calendars or sudden, unexpected jumps through doors, behind which consequences are feared or ignored. Obligations to society or personal growth, sometimes both. Rarely both. Now of course, we know we have almost no control over anything. We’re all puppets. Sometimes we perform for thousands, sometimes we wait in a dark box.” I recited that to her. It was written by my high school sweetheart a long time ago.

“She was so mature at times! I kept that letter from her forever, memorized every line. Her signature was small and cute. Later, she said she wanted the letter back, said the poems were terrible. My first real girlfriend… Do people even write letters anymore? The stamp was the face of angel, looking up at Love USA 55. I remember everything. Our love is a fast summer sea sun in an ice age year. She became a jockey, can you believe that? A jockey, then a financial consultant. A very successful one.”

“Did she like Deadpool?”

I don’t hear her question. I am thoughtfully looking off into the distance. I run my ginger through my hair. My gingernails are wrong. I accept my mistakes and the incorrect suggestions from Autospell as my destiny. Intentional confusion is not confusion. No puppet, no puppet, you're the puppet.

“Did you two attend the Highschoolpool prom?”

“Stop! Can’t you see that ours is a serious narrative and I am a troubled game developer who wants to prove himself as a Serious Writer by writing an angst-filled postmodern novel about love, tribulation and exile during a Millennium of Darkness? Nihilism, woman, nihilism! Not funny stuff.”

“Can we call Minnesotapool?”

“A curse upon you! Woman, I am deaf to your tomfoolery! I shall recite a touching poem that meant so much to me in my use. Then I will hurl a pillow upon your human form.” I again gaze into the distance, again move my ginger through my hair and think of the girl who broke my hat.

Let the Chinese and English lunchroom gang gossip continue; it is not ours. Moonrise is ours, our eyes. Twilight is ours, our ears. La Vie En Rose is ours, our hearts. Galloping, galloping; never drive me home.

“Never drive me homepool...” She laughs at me. ”This is Johor Bahru 2017, dear, not some black and white French high school yearbook. We’re old teenagers now, with jobs and commitments and Trump and Alzheimer’s waiting in the wings. So what? This, this, this… this is our new normal. We've got to make sense of things. Look here. I hate that view. It’s like the condo I had before my ex trashed everything. Holland V Big palm trees and green benches, a little park and a path where I walked my dog. Same fence with barbed wire. I bet there’s a pool in front. And barbecues.”

“What kind of dog?”

“A hairless Chihuahua. Peaches, sweetest dog in the world.”

“Peaches. A hairless Chihuahuapool.” I threw a pillow at her.

The room we are in is cheap; a dirty little rhinestone. A black dusty TV screen on one of the faded blue walls, old white curtains and a yellowed air conditioner. The bed is beneath a small window. She is still deeply asleep. Graceful.Her occasional twitches are like small, calm lightning. I study her knuckles one last time. They are a little red, but she is fine.

.................................30..................>

Olga and Errol's documentation of Chingay is here

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