Next to me is Mari Goround, probably the only Asian in the audience. We’re in the balcony, the “cheap seats” that cost us a hundred and six bucks. We wish we’d bought drinks. And eaten. Below us are couples and groups of middle-aged Caucasians. Some pink hair, some green hair, some went-to-my-stylist-this afternoon-hair, grey hair, no hair. To my right, a guy in a tee shirt that says: I can’t keep calm. I’m from Toledo.
Soon, Grosse Pointe Blank will start. Afterwards, John Cusack, the movie's star and producer, will answer questions. We're hoping John will autograph a book called Ernie Banks, Home Run Slugger. It was the only Chicago Cubs book we could find. Only yesterday did we learn that John would be here.
My hands are still cold; I just checked the backstage door again, hoping John would be there, and in a good mood. A long shot, I know. All I saw was the Ohio Turnpike and an empty, long white empty bus in a parking lot full of nothing but dirty snow and black ice. The wind was freezing.
With that autographed book, Mari hopes to crowdfund a film about Yosh Kawano. Yosh took care of the Chicago Cubs for six decades. Inside the Ernie Banks book is a paper describing Mari’s documentary idea. It has four images: Yosh’s famous white fishing hat, now in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Then, a baseball card of the 1958 Cubs, with a yellow circle around Yosh. Next, Yosh’s smiling face in front of the American flag-- his obituary photo. The last photo: the Manzanar internment camp. Yosh was one of the over 100,000 Americans interned during World War II. Anyone 1/16th Japanese or more was given six days to pack and get on a train, with no destination given. Yosh was released early so he go fight in New Guinea and the Philippines. He won combat medals.
Grosse Point Blank is over and John, seated and wearing a black baseball cap, is answering questions. He’s talked about music, about politics, about the movie business. “They were open to ideas then... Like, we could talk about Dan Akroyd’s character wearing a woman’s Kabuki costume. Wild things like that. Now, committees plan everything. They film different endings and take surveys to decide who gets a happy ending or dies or falls in love or whatever. It’s discouraging. Great art can't be predicted.”
Next, a woman suggests that John should marry her daughter. Then he’s asked about his most challenging role. “Max”, he answers. An attractive woman asks John if he’d like to meet her and her friends afterwards, in a karaoke bar. The moderator moves things on, points to a man at the mike on the other side of the room.
"John, what about the World Series? I'm a Cleveland fan ".
Even from here we see John’s eyes flash. “Biblical! Grampa Rossy got hit in the face with a bal, comes back with a solo homer! Seventeen minute rain delay before the tenth... it was like Moby Dick!” John starts describing the wild ups and downs of the " most greatest world series ever.” A baseball has 108 stitches. Last time the Cubs won the series was 108 years ago. Coincidence? I think not.”
Mari looks at me. Soon, we will sneak her into one of the lines of people who paid a hundred and twenty five dollars to be photographed next to John. I will then go outside, by the backstage door, and wait.
Hi , I am Stephen Black and I'd like to thank you for reading this.
First, Mari Goround is a fictional character. The idea of crowdfunding a movie about Yosh Kawano is a good one, but I do not know of anyone doing that. I would be happy to develop the ideas above into a script. For now, I am hoping to write more, as well as develop my ideas about AR software and Augmented Reality movies. I'm also planning to be in Austin for the SXSW festival next month. If you can help keep the balls in the air, or just want to wear an attractive, unusual (and comfortable) tee shirt, click here. THANK YOU!
PS. The story above is was extracted from a longer version, half of which is posted here.
PSS I just discovered Ansel Adams photographed a baseball game at Manzanar! I do not know if Yosh was at Manzanar; I read a newspaper article that a family from Washington State was sent there. As Yosh was born in Washington, perhaps he was sent on a train down there also.
A writing experiment/draft about John Cusack's recent visit to Toledo, my recent visit to Toledo, art, the entertainment industry, the Cubs and Indians World Series, my mom and dad, surrealism and stuff like that.
YOU ARE WELCOME TO READ THE FOLLOWING, BUT A MUCH SHORTER, FINISHED VERSION IS HERE.
The typo is big: black letters on a bright yellow background, shown on the movie screen above two empty chairs. The spelling mistake dissolves into a question:
In their family’s living room, the Cusack family once did a production of Cinderella. John played:
a. the evil stepmother
c. the prince
d. the dog.
Next to me is Mari Goround, probably the only Asian in the audience. We’re in the balcony, the “cheap seats” that cost us a hundred and six bucks. We wish we’d bought drinks. And eaten. Below us are couples and groups of middle-aged Caucasians. Some pink hair, some green hair, some went-to-my-stylist-this afternoon-hair, grey hair, no hair.
Soon, Grosse Pointe Blank will start and then John Cusack will answer questions. And then...
In Mari’s purse is a book called Ernie Banks, Home Run Slugger. In the envelope on my lap is an AR ONES tee shirt. Don’t ask me how, but before the night is over, John Cusack will sign her book and wear the shirt. We’ll take photos-- and then: internet here we come!
My hands are still cold; I returned five minutes ago. I went outside again, to the backstage door, hoping to catch John in a good mood. Unlikely that he would be there, I know. All that was there was a freezing, gusting Arctic front, black ice, a long white bus with no lights on and a few cars going east and west on the Ohio Turnpike. I rushed back in, past the no firearms sign on the doors, past the autographed High Fidelity merchandise and the line of Midwesterners buying beers and little boxes of popcorn. Two guys were standing beside a guy in a wheelchair, all smiling as a woman in torn jeans photographed them in front of the Vet Tix poster.
Once Mari gets that autographed book, she’ll be able to crowdfund a film about Yosh Kawano, a relative on her mother’s side. Yosh was one of the Cub’s living legends. He took care of the clubhouse, from before World War Two until he retired in 2009. He was interned in one of the camps, and then released so he could fight in the Philippines and New Guinea.He received medals.
A photo of John wearing my AR ONES tee shirt will help me crowdfund the ARphabet Tour.
The shirt cost me thirty-two dollars and fifty cents at Franklin Park Mall. The last time I was in Toledo, I ate a salad there. It caused me a great inconvenience while I was driving home.
The tee shirt shop had a bunch of shirts with variations of the ‘carry on and remain calm’ meme: Keep calm and rub some bacon it, Keep calm and let me take a selfie, Keep calm and go away etc. I wanted the one that said: I can’t keep calm. I’m from Toledo.
We walked through JC Penney and out into the empty parking lots bordered with sad piles of grey snow. The wind was strong. The graffiti on the bus shelter benches was predictable. The warmth of the bus made us lightheaded. ‘Tom Dunn needs a kidney’ it said on a billboard. We saw a truck loaded with nine white cars. The traffic lights were softened by the snow flurries, and again and again I didn’t recognize new buildings. Secor Road, lined with Pizza Huts and Dollar Trees, seemed alien, like I was there for the first time. We passed the University of Toledo, which my grandfather worked on as part of the WPA. We passed one of the high schools I went to.
I know almost nothing about Grosse Point Blank. Something about an assassin coming back to his hometown of Grosse Point, a suburb of Detroit, to do a job and go to his high school reunion, possibly with the girl he dumped on prom night. John Cusack is in it, of course, and so are Dan Akroyd and Minnie Driver.
Like the assassin, I have returned to my hometown. Mari is here because John Cusack and I are here. John is here because his market is here. Backlot Productions arranged this; next month William Shatner will be here, because they’re screening Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.
I’ve been in this theatre twice before, both times decades ago. The first time, there was a special offer at the Head Shed: spend twenty bucks or more and get a ticket for George Carlin. I bought Stage, a live Bowie cassette. The other time, I saw Kenny Loggins; I shouldn’t have.
The lights finally go down. The credits start. The audience roars a little happiness that becomes louder when the bubbly perfection of Blister in the Sun starts. The opening scenes set the tone, or more accurately, the tones: film noir + comedy + thriller + boys with guns + high school romance teen flick. John’s sister Joan plays Marcella, his secretary. At one point Martin Q. Blank (John's character) looks at Marcella’s outfit and calls her Sergeant Pepper.
After the bus lets us off across from The Blade, we walk towards the 31H, the bus that will bring to the Stranahan. We stop in the bitter cold so I can photograph Mari in one of the dull parking lots, with the grey sky and nondescript buildings behind her. The wind swirls her long uncut hair above the cheap coat we bought in Shenzhen. Her eyes are watering and her nose is red. Beautiful, beautiful.
The 31H takes us past the High Level Bridge, the Maumee River, the Toledo Zoo, and then Monroe and Detroit, where Swayne Field used to be. My grampa, my dad, my mom and Hank the barber have told me stories about the area that is now a shopping plaza. Hank Aaron played there, Casey Stengel coached there. A bunch of guys my dad knew once had a few belts at one of the nearby bars; they ended up trying to have a picnic near right field until they got kicked out. Swayne Field is now a shopping plaza.
I’m writing this section of Catching Cusack in the house where my mother lives and my father was born. My father lives in another house. At this moment he is driving to a hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, about 40 miles from here, about 45 miles from Detroit. Last night, while Mari and I were at the Cusack event, my mom was at a birthday party for a friend she’s known since first grade. Eighty years old. She made him a scrapbook filled with black and white and faded color photos, as well as cartoon illustrations of the greatest inventions of the past eight decades: bottled water, ATM, credit cards, TV dinners and microwave ovens. Right now, my mother is baking something with cinnamon in it.
Baking and dancing are my mom’s favorite things. I’ve gained weight: anyone would. In the past two weeks she’s baked dozens of heart-shaped sugar cookies, a carrot cake, a coffee cake, Irish soda bread, muffins; and cooked all kinds of things for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. For the ARphabet Tour, she made mango sticky rice.
Last Sunday she told us about dancing at the Bavarian Club. Today, at lunch she told us about her volunteer work with the police, Swayne Field, the Tony Curtis movie she appeared in, and the ice cream store that used to be in front of the Babcock Dairy. Yesterday, for no specific reason, we found ourselves talking about death (as opposed to her finding a name in the obituaries.) Cremation or burial; she has crossed out and rewritten each word more than a few times.
I was in this room on the night of February 12, 1967. That was a Sunday night. My parents dropped me off here so they could go bowling. While my grandparents watched Lawrence Welk on the black and white TV, I sat at that table with crayons and paper. My grampa was sitting here, in the chair that’s now over there. (It was reupholstered by my mom.) My gramma was on the couch. They watched Lawrence Welk. At eight o’clock I came in, sprawled myself on the wheat colored carpet with wooden blocks. The Ed Sullivan show came on, and I didn’t understand it most of the time. But that night was something that seemed natural to me. Now, when I listen to it, I appreciate how revolutionary it was. That night, like millions of Americans, I watched a short video called Strawberry Fields Forever.
My grandparents had very loud conversations. When a car would drive by very fast, one would say, “Someone’s going to the hospital.” Or, “Where’s that cowboy going?” In the summer my grampa would take me, sometimes my brother too, for a walk down to the store with a concrete floor. We’d buy orange pushups. Sometimes, my gramma made banana cream pie.There was always something good in the fridge.
The Latin name for the biggest tree in the backyard is Liriodendron, meaning ‘lily tree’. The day of the ice storm, the snow was crisp; it sounded like I was walking on a giant white potato chip. I looked up at that tulip tree and saw a few dried flowers, each coated with ice as clear as glass. The tree is very tall, maybe twice the height of the house. Everything, from the wild geometry of the thinnest branches to the trunk, was coated with ice, dangerously so. The wind or another raindrop might have broken a branch, ending my contemplation of tree and sky.
Grosse Point Blank, the John Cusack movie we are about to watch: I know almost nothing about it. Something about an assassin coming back to his hometown near Detroit to do a job and go to a high school reunion, possibly with the girl he dumped on prom night. Dan Akroyd and Minnie Driver also star.
Like GPD’s assassin, I am returning to my hometown, Toledo. Mari is here because John Cusack and I are here. John is here because his market is here. Backlot Productions arranged this; next month William Shatner will be here, because they’re screening Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.
Four or five decades ago, there was a special offer at the Head Shed: spend twenty bucks or more and get a ticket to see George Carlin, here, at the Stranahan. I bought Stage, a live Bowie cassette. I sat down there, in the middle and to the right. The only other time I was here, I saw Kenny Loggins; I shouldn’t have.
The lights finally go down. The credits start. The audience roars a little happiness that becomes louder when the bubbly perfection of Blister in the Sun starts. The opening scenes sets the tone, or more accurately, the tones: film noir + comedy + thriller + boys with guns + high school romance teen flick. John’s sister Joan plays Marcella, his secretary. At one point Martin Q. Blank (John's character) looks at Marcella’s outfit and calls her Sergeant Pepper.
BLAM BLAM BLAM … Grosse Point Blank has gun scenes, including a John Woo-ish blastathon between Blank and Felix La Poubelle (Benny "The Jet" Urquidez). The massive exchange of bullets takes place in the Ultimart that was built where the Blank home used to be. The Ultimart dies a fireball death, a victim of the old bomb in the microwave trick. This segment, and a few others are heavy handed, so much that the GPB’s tempo is lost, to the point where it feels like a running gag instead of a showcase of clarity, insights and daring. Instead of the richnesses of blacks and whites and reds, GPB’s palette is bubblegum and grey.
However, the love that went into this movie is obvious. Minnie Driver is perfect; a captivating puzzle of emotions in nearly every scene. The “flying” scene in the bedroom, the simple cutting between the faces of Blank and a baby, and the father’s grave scene are classics. Its high ambitions and daring ideas would have benefited from a bit more polishing, but Grosse Pointe Blank is indeed, a gem.
Now is the time to talk about this book. Although this is value for the money, the hope was that readers would contact me, and I would then add more stories. In other words, this book was meant to bean experiment on Amazon: a cross between a subscription model and crowdfunding.
Currently bootstrapping, they have established a worldwide network of collaborators, and look forward to speaking with potential partners of any kind, including investors and VCs.
Stephen Black and Sayuri Okayama aim to be the Pixar of location-based AR: original characters, stories and software.
Stephen’s “unicorn”, a separate AR project, can be discussed by appointment.
Stephen is a bestselling writer, has a degree in Photographic Illustration and is an established visual artist. As a producer, he has worked in theatre, butoh, music (3how) and network television (Fuji TV, Fox, CNN and Cartoon Network).
Sayuri has extensive research in the travel industry, and conducts research related to all aspects of the startup. More biographical information at the end of this document.
The Bubiko Orwell Tour 2017/8 Stephen and Sayuri: digital nomads in SE Asia, planning AR/VR/MR, building a network, sourcing distinctive air-freightable food products, and researching food/culture. Attended Rise (“the largest and most exciting tech conference in Asia” – Forbes), HK Book Fair, Ani-Com and Games Expo HK, Supercharger Fintech Incubator Year in Review event (HK),Thailand Design Week and Amazon AWS events.
Participation: HK Food Hackathon, Ipoh Malaysia Tourism Rebranding campaign.
Presentations: Ipoh, Malaysia, Sasin School of Business (Bangkok), HK PolyU, Hong Kong MakerFaire, TechCrunch and Le Wagon (Shenzhen).
Alphabet Spikes is the book Stephen is writing about the tour. www.blacksteps.tv/
Three separate components: AR, Books/Writing and the Mango Sticky Rice Experience
Beginning with ARIA@MIT, the 100 day tour now includes stops in Phoenix, at SXSW(Austin) and the Game Developers Conference (San Francisco), as well as NYC, Washington DC, and the Chicago/Detroit area.
A combination of deliciousness, AR, and food culture! Inspired by Bubiko Foodtour’s favorite food! Featuring real mangos, as well as an AR version of mango sticky rice created by Kabaq, the leaders in augmented reality food applications. More information here.
Bubiko Foodtour (current model is a work in progress)
Bubiko is a little chef from Thailand. Her catchphrase is “aroi mak mak”, the Thai phrase for ‘very delicious’. Knowledgeable about all food, especially that of Southeast Asia, Bubiko is entertaining and informative.
On a technical level, Bubiko is a flagship for our other characters. We have plans to use SLAM and IoT to create cinematic, educational and entertaining table top experiences.
On a commercial level, Bubiko branding and merchandising possibilities are being explored, including, with a tablet manufacturer, bundling Bubiko AR experiences and her favorite recipes.
The Bubiko Orwell Tour resulted in the discovery of numerous local, often organic, food products suitable for international food fans, as well as tea and coffee lovers. An area of exploration is a Bubiko brand/marketing channel.
Bubiko is a guest star in an ARkit/Unity game demo featuring Green Bean Boy.
Created by Stephen Black and David Severn(UK/Japan), the Secret Donut World characters combine David’s wit with Stephen’s ideas on spatial computing. David is an internationally exhibited visual artist/painter and his work has been published in numerous Japanese magazines, children’s books and travel publications.
Another Severn/Black collaboration, the Doughbots will teach basic spelling and math skills in a fun and interactive way. (Designed for SLAM, spatial recording; with accompanying book).
After years of writing and self-publishing books, including the best sellingi ate tiong bahru, Stephen Black is ready to share what he has learned. His strengths include description, the musicality of words, how to use research invisibly and the relationship between length and structure. Also experienced with self-publishing; Stephen is prepared to do presentations and workshops on this topic. The workshops are geared to the level of those attending and questionnaires are used to determine this.
Stephen Black has taught poetry performance (Poetry Slam) and 3D gamemaking in Singapore, and English/writing classes in Japan. In addition to writing classes inuniversity, he has studied with screenwriting legend Robert McKee, both in a public class, and in an invitation-only private class.
The workshops can be conducted online or in person; individually or in groups.
The topic of AR and books will be only briefly touched upon, unless requested otherwise.
With eight books and many published stories, Stephen Black's readings can be geared towards the nature of your event or organization. Obvious topics include Augmented Reality, the food and history of Southeast Asia, the Tiong Bahru area of Singapore, the pre-presidential life of Barack Obama, contemporary Bali as well as insights on being a digital nomad/startup founder/entrepreneur.
Video interviews and information on Stephen Black's books here.
I want to make/produce/write AR content as soon as possible. The 100 day tour is crucial for research and development. The time to make AR content is now. Facebook and Apple are two of many major companies releasing AR smartglasses within the next 48 months. Those AR glasses will need content and experienced content makers.
Unexpectedly, I was invited to be a part of ARIA at MIT, on January 14. Also unexpectedly, last December, I was invited to pitch to Venture Capitalists at TechCrunch Shenzhen. I had originally planned to finish another book, Alphabet Spikesat this time, then create a business plan for the AR startup. However, TechCrunch and ARIA are fantastic and humbling opportunities. I must build upon them. Now.
I have been in Asia for a while and it has been good. But, I have missed my family and friends greatly. (Yes, this is really reason #1.)
4. I am now very familiar with Asia’s relationship with AR. I am aware of the medical and industrial uses of AR in America. As for AR and entertainment, I want to learn more about the consumer environment for my Pixar-like ideas (AR-centric original characters, stories and software), as well as build a network for them.
The same research and data is necessary for making a unicorn from a different idea.
5. 2019's fast.
6. Digital nomadism: again. Movement means flexibility, constantly meeting new people, checking the reality of existing and planned IT services (including 5G); and efficient scheduling. Results: all kinds of awareness, support networks and realistic plans.
7. By the time of SXSW and GDC in March 2019, there will be solid, new and improved plans and demos.
2002: After years of working in art, photography and network TV (Cartoon Network, Fuji TV, Fox, CNN+) became creative director at 3D gamemaking company, WalkerAsia
Walker/Asia was also doing something like Youtube, three years before Youtube.
CEO's unexpected demise results in non-action, despite great interest by Singapore Ministry of Education, Singapore Science Center, publishers in Hong Kong and universities in Japan.
SB, son of a book salesman, decides to write books and wait for VR/AR/spatial computing to become mainstream. Inspirations: his father, a book salesman and the release of the Kindle, Amazon's pioneering ebook reader.
2016, Oculus released. SB re-enters the world of spatial computing, begins discussing his VR ideas with receptive VCs.
Visa complications result in what will become the Bubiko Orwell Tour of Southeast Asia. SB pivots from VR to AR.
AR cinema becomes the focus, starring the following characters: the Dundercats (collaboration with Six Cat Studio), Secret Donut World (collaboration with David Severn) and Bubiko Foodtour.
AR presentations/workshops at Hong Kong PolyU, a presentation at Le Wagon and pitches to VCs at TechCrunch.
An invitation to participate in ARIA at MIT becomes the inspiration for the ARphabet Tour. Debuting at ARIA will be an ARKIT/Unity collaboration with Dominique Wu/Hummingbirdsday Studios, a game featuring Green Bean Boy and co-starring Bubiko Foodtour.
The ARphabet Tour will also be a platform for Stephen Black to do readings and writing workshops.
The ARphabet Tour also aims to educate people about mango sticky rice, Bubiko's favorite food.
Separate from this, briefly mention the unicorn concept which has a high degree of success regardless of the global economy or 5G take-up.
The ARphabet Tour is fun, serious and now taking bookings for the United States and Canada. After stops at SXSW in Austin, Texas and the Game Developers' Conference in San Francisco, The ARphabet Tour will wind down around the first of April.
Although I am planning an AR startup, the talk is about AR trends and developments. I am not using this tour as a way to directly seek investors or partners. I am interested in promoting AR as a whole.
Son of a book salesman, author of fiction and non fiction, writer for TV, websites and magazines, Stephen is well experienced with the art of writing. One of his books, I Ate Tiong Bahru, is a national bestseller in Singapore. The readings provide a behind-the scenes look at Stephen's writing techniques, inspirations ad challenges. Stephen's books and related videos and reviews can be found here.
Workshops, as much as possible, focus on ideas and text provided by students. After explaining his own writing process, write and share their own texts and ideas, which are evaluated individually and with the class as a whole. Workshops can be modified for any age group or level of writing experience. I have taught English in Japan,as well as creative writing/poetry performance in Singapore. I also studied in an invite-only class with Robert McKee, the legendary teacher and author of Story, the definitive guide to screenwriting.
Mango Sticky Rice. Yes, we will also be doing presentations and workshops on mango sticky rice. Why? Because mango sticky rice is Bubiko Foodtour's favorite food. We researched it extensively during our tour of Southeast Asia, especially in Thailand.
About Stephen Black
After graduating with a BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Stephen Black experienced the growth of digital media from these viewpoints: as a photographer, as a video artist in New York's Lower East Side and Japan; as a producer/writer/director for Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies in Hong Kong, and as a self-publisher of ebooks, books and photography books.
He was first drawn to the possibilities of spatial computing/AR/VR as the creative director for a $3.2 million game-making startup in Singapore. In 2007 he committed himself to writing books, while anticipating the arrival of AR and VR. And here we are...
Thank you to all of the athletes and attendees! The time flew by; every day the sense of community grew stronger. Thank you for making a couple of newbs feel very welcome. On Thursday morning Lunchbox gave me an hour of his time, and what I learned from him greatly increased my enjoyment of the competition.Thanks Lunchbox-- and Lunchbox Lady too!
If you are in the photos, or know the names of those pictured, please let me know.
Feel free to use the images for non-commercial purposes. If you could credit "Stephen Black", that would be great, and do let me know your link, so I can publicize your site. If you want to use the images for commercial purposes, please ask, so that I can discuss with those in the photos.
Perhaps you can tell, but this was my first experience with posting photos with Gutenberg, a new OS from WordPress. It is not what I am used to, and later I will redo these posts.
Finally, in Alphabet Spikes, there are two short stories about drones. Alphabet Spikes is about my travels in Southeast Asia and China. It is available on Amazon, as are my other books...