Category Archives: short stories

Books by Book Merah

Book Merah has primarily published the works of Stephen Black, the exception being Singapore Literature prize winner Cyril Wong.Book Merah is now open to discussions with writers.

Stephen Black's books and stories are often set in Asia, and combine research with storytelling. The links below lead to reviews, descriptions, photos and videos, as well as links to Amazon and Unglue.

I Ate Tiong Bahru

A bestseller in Singapore...
black and white book covers

Bali Wave Ghost

Obama Search Words by Stephen Black

Obama Search Words

Red chairs, and Cyril Wong: the cover of Fires.

Fires, by Cyril Wong

the cover of furikake; a photograph of a dancer on a farm, the title and the author's name, Stephen Black. Also on the cover is a description: short stories about rice seasonings.

Furikake

The word 'Stephen', a rectangle of black and a red dot/
red dot SAD (Stories Art, Digitalia 2002-2017) book by Stephen Black

Red Dot SAD

Publishing Magnates
Stephen Black , Book Merah CEO/author , with Stuart Rankin, Chairman of The Dundercats Multimedia Group.
Book covers of Singapore books
cover by Debbie Ding

Contact With Shadow

Lance, the moose from Secret Donut World, contemplates a skull, ala the poor Yorick scene from Hamlet.

Flame Magnet

Alphabet Spikes

Book covers from books by Book Merah. Authors include Stephen Black and Cyril Wong

Despite having produced one bestseller, Book Merah has done no marketing. Marketing will begin in 2020.

Starring John Cusack and the Spirit of Yosh Kawano

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 pale red; 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 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 an envelope containing a paper describing Mari’s documentary idea. Four images on the paper:  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 ends 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 approaches one of the mikes and suggests to John that he 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 ball, 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.


Photo Documentation by Stephen Black of FAI Drone Racing Championships, Shenzhen 2018 (part 2)

Welcome Birdwatchers!

If you know the name of the pilots, or anyone else, please let me know via the comments section.

For commercial uses of these photos, please contact me so I can discuss with the those in the photo. Yes, non-commercial use is free, but please credit Stephen Black, and let me know your link so I can share it....and do feel free to buy Alphabet Spikes, one of my ebooks. Alphabet Spikes has a couple of short stories in it, stories about DRONES!

For many of the photos I have RAW files, which means I can improve the quality somewhat, in case you want prints or something.  The link to the first set of photos is here.

Alphabet Spikes P-S (notes from July 2018, Hong Kong)

Alphabet Spikes is a collection of stories, essays and experiments created from February 2017 until now--and in the future! The core of the book is here, on Amazon, but this ebook project is actually something like crowdfunding. Once you buy the book, send me your email and you will get an updated ebook with new stories, as I add them. Right now, the version on Amazon includes stories about a game developer, Antigone Cloud and my brief encounter with Anthony Bourdain. Next will be journal entries from the Bubiko Orwell Tour, which voyaged through Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong. The purpose of the tour was to research food, to create a network of people interested in AR, and two work on two books. Besides the tour journal, there are, and will be, short stories, interviews and essays about Southeast Asia and people, events and places connected to it. Alphabet Spikes: Art and entrepreneurship go on a road trip in Southeast Asia. Lots of eating, a few meetings, and nonstop ups and downs. In reverse alphabetical order, the following are some of my experiences in Hong Kong; these will become stories and essays. Questions? Leave in the comments section, as well as any info you'd like to share. Thanks! The Z-T sections are here. S Searching R Rise Bubiko Foodtour @ Rise. Rooftop gardening @ HK PolyU. Q The footage was taken with a Qoocam, which was part of a demonstration by Kandao at an event at HK PolyU, as part of the Maker Faire event. After a Q and A session with Marco Pierre-White. Other Rise Q and A sessions: Metta World Peace, Brad Smith, and Mike Massimino. I shook Mr. Massimino's hand.

Alphabet Spikes Z-T (notes from June 2018, Hong Kong)

One of the books free/discounted, as part of the HK Book Fair.

Alphabet Spikes is a collection of stories, essays and experiments created from February 2017 until now--and in the future! The core of the book is here, on Amazon, but this ebook actually something like crowdfunding.

Once you buy the book, send me your email and you will get an updated ebook with new stories, as I add them. Right now, the version on Amazon includes stories about a game developer, Antigone Cloud and my brief encounter with Anthony Bourdain. Next will be journal entries from the Bubiko Orwell Tour, which voyaged through Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong. The purpose of the tour was to research food, to create a network of people interested in AR, and two work on two books.

Besides the tour journal, there are, and will be, short stories, interviews and essays about Southeast Asia and people, events and places connected to it.

Alphabet Spikes: Art and entrepreneurship go on a road trip in Southeast Asia. Lots of eating, a few meetings, and nonstop ups and downs.

In reverse alphabetical order, the following are some of my experiences in Hong Kong; these will become stories and essays. Questions? Leave in the comments section, as well as any info you'd like to share. Thanks!

Zorn. Click to hear the HK/Macau/CBGB story.

Yam cha and dim sum

Yam cha! The literal translation is "drink tea". However, yum cha usually means eating a meal of dim sum. Dim sum are the foods served in the round bamboo containers. Dim sum restaurants are everywhere in Hong Kong.

Xu Xi at the launch of Insignificance

“An audacious, inventive and original collection: these ‘Hong Kong’ stories are full of clever energy and lively strangeness.” - Gail Jones On Amazon.

Walsh, Joe. Performing with Shear, Jules and John, Doctor.

VR HMD ad on a tram.

Uniworks, the display of students' work, near the entrance of the Jockey Club Innovation Tower on the Hong Kong Polytechnic campus.

Inside the Dome

Tony Tan, Delta Blues Audio

Tai Kwun Art Complex, just down the road from where I used to live.

Alphabet Spikes: Q-S is here.

another book by Book Merah

Seeing things

Last night, an old woman's shaking hand pushed my nose towards fish bones and lemongrass. One of the rats ran over the sparkly shoes of a woman from The Golden Palace. She screamed. The man who sells pens came by, so did the man with the folding rattan chair. I stepped on a hot cigarette butt, caught off balance by the hisses of a male intruder. The friendly man with burnt skin sold perfume from a new duffel bag. The monk walked through and studied everyone, offered his bronze bowl to a few. I listened to happiness, drunkenness, boredom, suspicion, lust and a fight. A barefoot boy snapped his fingers, hit me with a bottle cap. Little radios played Cantonese music all night.

Now I’m lying in the sunrise shadows of the red plastic chairs. Coins are being counted on a metal table. The man behind the Apple Daily smokes and drinks coffee.

When I lived in the place with big windows I only worried about rainy days. I had no scars, no friends and two eyes.

Stephen Black: 72 hour Facebook Live Broadcast

THE BROADCAST IS HERE.

HELLO

Augmented Reality,art, Southeast Asian food, Bubiko Foodtour, VR, music, haikus, photographs, videos, unusualness... and discussions, readings from, and free downloads of, EBOOKS! The broadcast starts at 3PM September 30, Malaysia time, ends on Monday, October 2 at 3PM Malaysia time.

Until October 2, these ebooks are free downloads on Amazon:

Obama Search Words

Furikake

Fires by Cyril Wong

i ate tiong bahru (a paper copy is available at naiise)

Bali Wave Ghost

Flame Magnet

red dot SAD

Ipoh

Contact With Shadow is not a free download, but if you are interested in the future of book distribution, you should know about Unglue.

There is an audiobook version of i ate tiong bahru, narrated by Mirai Booth-Ong. And, this is 3how's debut album.

Bubiko Foodtour is AR's first superstar.

Base of operations: the Abby Hotel in Ipoh, Malaysia.

Thank you: Hock Moon Hiong BBQ meat and Jewellery Design and Management International School

If you are here because you are interested in my AR-related startup ideas, this post gives you an overview.

FWIW, I will soon have stories on Popularium and ElevenAsia

I am writing this 30 hours after the marathon went live.On one hand my blog views are double what they usually are. On the other hand, there haven't been many viewers. That is OK. I didn't do any pre-publicity, I am not paying Facebook to blast the event and there are no costs, other than my time. I hope that towards the end of the 72 hours there are more viewers. For now, I can only say if you visit the FB live page, say hi.

Here is an email I've sent out to friends and associates:

Hello everyone... I hope the weekend is a good one for you.

Just to short note to say that I am doing a live FB broadcast from Ipoh-for 72 hours. I started Friday at 3, will finish at 3 on Monday. The camera I am using isn't very good, the audio is so-so, the internet is slow and I am silhouetted during the daytime. Perfect!

Actually I am learning a lot, and my blog is seeing a nice amount of action. The free ebooks are trickling out of Amazon. I can see clicks on my blog posts about my AR startup plans. Yesterday I was interviewed by a reporter from the Malay Mail.

Anyhoo...stop by and chat with the silhouette... and meet Secret Donut World, the Doughbots and steamboatbubikofoodtourwillie. http://www.blacksteps.tv/stephen-black-72-hour-facebook-live-broadcast/

onwARd,

Steve

This was the schedule for Friday...

FRIDAY

3pm Ipoh (3AM NYC)8AM London

Son Mn Chinese Lantern Exhibition

4:30-5:30 Ipoh(4:30-5:30AM NYC)9:30-10:30 AM London

reading from Obama Search Words

5:30-6:15 Ipoh

Ipoh food adventures

6:15-7PM Ipoh

Ipoh evening tour

7pm(7AM NYC)12PM London

Bubiko: Adventures in Photoshop at Thanas Wedding Photography

9pm(9am NYC)2pm London

Ipoh Evening food adventures

9-10 Ipoh

Free ebooks introduction

10pm(10am NYC)3pm London

Stephen Black and VR

11pm(11am NYC)4pm London

Stephen Black startup ideas

12am(12pm NYC)5pm Lon

Stephen Black and AR

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 30, 2017 (in Ipoh)

coming soon!

Black Tofu Soup and The Reality of a Late Afternoon

I’m multi-tasking; this short piece of writing hops across topics like Southeast Asian cuisine, Bubiko Foodtour, self-promotion, AR, VR, branding, racism, philosophy, and the meaning of life. In short: I’m rambling.

We get out of a Grab car in front of a McDonald’s. A young Malay is standing and eating soft ice cream. We ask where the police station is. He doesn’t know, but asks an elderly Chinese, who does. Both men are friendly. We quickly set off down the covered sidewalk. Our destination is the cart of a vendor who sells kidney bean soup and almond paste. The internet says he is near the police station and he sells out by 5, sometimes earlier. It’s now 4:30.

VRLab! I didn’t know there was one here. This morning I had exchanged emails regarding an interview with Dato Jack, VR Lab’s founder. From outside, I can see two women signing in. I enter, explain my connection with Dato Jack, and am allowed to watch. After a thorough explanation and simple instructions, the two women put on headsets. First, they move their heads in all directions, then they slowly manipulate their hands and arms, acquiring the skills to become virtual archers. I study all this because I am writing a book about VR and haptics, as well as planning an AR startup that will eventually expand to VR.

The TV screens in the room show me what they are seeing: a castle under siege. Suddenly, an axe-thrower attacks so suddenly that the woman with braids jumps. Her headset falls off. I leave after a few minutes, by which time they are fully immersed: crouching, cautiously turning and laughing. They are killing people with arrows.

We rush back outside. The sky is soft and complex: rain clouds/blue sky/sunlight/evening. The atmosphere is fresh and I’m glad to have a camera. We find the soup vendor. He’s surrounded by people, all of whom seem to have placed large orders to bring back home. Nearby is a truck stall selling assam laksa. The aroma is uniquely seductive, like a tart, mysterious fruit beckoning from a bed of homemade noodles.

We are soon seated at a rickety table, experiencing multiple foodgasms from the assam laksa, the kidney bean soup, the almond paste and a plate of perfectly fried kway teow that we couldn’t resist. We finish and head into the U-shaped market. In an hour it will be packed.

Ears of sweet corn! I can honestly say I am a farmboy from Ohio, with many memories of corn fields and corn roasts. However, the corn I picked and the cows I milked were actually in Michigan. (OK, full disclosure, about the cows: There was only one. I was a five-year-old visiting a farm with my family. And, yeah... I was too shy to squeeze anything.)

A sign for Pun Tofu! Word play that is not wordplay. I write, often about food. Eight books. One, i ate tiong bahru, is a national bestseller in Singapore. Stories about my IT/VR/AR adventures in Hong Kong and Singapore will soon be a series on Popularium. This trip to the market is research for the text part of Bubiko Foodtour, an AR project. A stall sells kuehs and this is good: I heart kuehs.

The sky is peacefully exploding. Sharply outlined clouds, bulging with water vapor, dissolve into darkening, ragged zones of blue and orange. More generators are started. The lights of the night market come on as the moon rises in a kaleidoscopic sea of twilight. We eat black tofu. This same stall had intrigued us at another market, but we hadn’t tried it. We watch it being made and find a table. Surprisingly, the chicken soup served with it has the taste of green tea. The news of the day encroaches unexpectedly: skin color and Charlottesville.

I remember an article I found while doing research. In a city in Malaysia, over an unspecified period, the police took action on illegal street vendors. The breakdown: 158 actions against Chinese-based businesses, 103 against Malay businesses, 31 against Indians and 13 on other races. The harmonious flavors in the black tofu soup are wonderful , but not enough to take me away from thoughts about Nazis, Communists and the White House.

We step into the crowd one last time, studying foods like nasi lemak, Vietnamese pizza and salt-baked chicken. Five blind Chinese, all elderly, sit on red plastic chairs and sing Chinese songs. A man plays acoustic guitar, a woman taps a tambourine. There is a bowl at the woman’s feet. We listen as we watch Murtabak Sam make pandan pancakes with bamboo charcoal flour. We call a Grab and wait.

Now, here on Medium, are some of my experiences, my reality at that market. As I wrote this I remembered scenes, recalled what I was thinking and added new thoughts. I input my data into the internet, and now it is all over the world.

…one kind of wonder after another kind of wonder, all in something wondrous...

Toyo Project 1

ANYONE CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THIS PROJECT. But yeah, you probably had to be there: LES in the 80s.

I have videos of No Se No performances and Toyo talking about life in the Lower East Side. (Thank you, Cowboy) If anyone has ideas on how to transfer Beta (Beta, not Betacam) tapes into today's technology, please get in touch. Thank you.

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I started this to bring attention to Toyo's photographic work and to see what would happen. Yes, I can write, but maybe I don't need to write anything. There is already one book about the Rivington School. Probably other people have more interesting things to say. Toyo's own memories and stories are treasures. I entered into this thinking that if I did write, I'd write about Toyo's images in a very impersonal manner, to counterbalance his intimacy. Topics like dates and short biographies, how Toyo constructs images, the challenges of film. Then, out of the blue... He sent some picture of me.

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OK... Let's get something out of the way. This series of blog posts is not about me. The first three introduce Toyo and myself, but after that... who knows? I graduated from RIT with a BFA in Photographic Illustration, with a minor in Film and Video. I graduated early, in March 1983. I was having a party and I told a teacher about it. He said where you going? I said New York City. He said what are you going to do and I said I don't know. He showed me a fax. Call them. If you work there, you get access to equipment. That's what it's all about. That was on a Friday. They wanted me to come in on Monday. I arrived in Brooklyn, sat by the river with my good friend Pat and wondered about the Manhattan skyline. We were waiting for another good friend, Ben to show up. We were going to stay at his loft.

The next morning Ben's girlfriend took us on the subway to Rivington Street. It was cold but there was a street market in the park we had to cut across. I imagined fruits and vegetables, maybe cooked chicken or something. We got closer, we were in the middle of it. The ground was completely blue, covered with empty syringe wrappers. Heroin. My interview was just on the other side. We walked through, I went up the stairs, started work the next day. That place was called Young Filmakers/Video Arts. The address was 4 Rivington. Later I moved right around the corner, onto the Bowery.

No Se No was at 32 Rivington Street. I left for a two week stay in Japan in October, 1984. The energy of what I experienced--and so much more, bursts out of every image Toyo has created. I am writing this from Kuala Lumpur, on July 18, 2017. I am seeing some of these pictures of myself... for the first time.

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Toyo Project 2 is here.

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.