Category Archives: short stories

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)

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 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.

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.

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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