Category Archives: The Agaricus blazeii Murrill Notebook

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.


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.

ARphabet Tour

Stephen Black

the ARphabet tour

Indiegogo Prelaunch  page.

With the three topics of AR, Books and Mango Sticky Rice, The ARphabet tour starts at ARIA at MIT, January 14 and 15, 2019.  AR-themed presentations are one part of the tour, the second involves readings and writing workshops.There is also a component called The Mango Sticky Rice Experience.

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.

Newest version of the flyer.

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.

Here is an example, from my workshops last summer, at HK  PolyU.

AR: 2018 State of the Art Workshop @ Hong Kong PolyU

AR Presentations

Presentation will be focused  to provide maximum relevant information to any of the following groups. No AR knowledge or experience necessary. Consultations should be scheduled separately.

  • General
  • Children
  • Grade School Students
  • High School Students
  • University Students
  • Advertising/Media
  • Food Industry
  • Medical
  • Artists, including Dancers and Sculptors
  • Filmmakers
  • Writers and Poets 
  • Investors

Unless requested otherwise, the presentations are not overly technical and consist of personal experiences and observations about the past, present and future of AR.

Introducing  Bubiko Foodtour, an AR character

Readings and Workshops

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.

Publishing Magnates
Stephen Black , Book Merah CEO/author , with Stuart Rankin, Chairman of The Dundercats Multimedia Group.
360 films
Stephen Black in Beach Road, the 360VR film he co-produced with Hiverlab. The film has been featured in festivals in Las Vegas, Brisbane and Singapore.

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...

Presentations and workshops by Stephen Black
A Chinese newspaper review of i ate tiong bahru. iatb is available as an audio book and a softcover, on Amazon. The first edition of the printed version is sold out.

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

FOODHACK! HK Poly June 15-17

EELCOIN! (The foodhack was a weekend full of hard work and hope. I was on a team with Beeno, Ann, Sayuri and Kerong. We worked and ate amongst talented people who shared ideas and experiences related to fixing global food challenges.)

Welcome HK Foodhackers!

My name is Stephen Black and I have worked with food as an artist, as a photographer, a videomaker and someone with an interest in AR. Following are introductions to some of my food-related projects, including books.

Bubiko Foodtour is on her way to becoming an AR superstar! This week I just concluded workshops and presentations about AR, here at HK Poly.

Presentations and workshops by Stephen Black

Bubiko Foodtour is on Instagram.

A summary of the AR presentations at HK Poly

My experiences on a permaculture farm in Bali.

I am an unofficial representative for sustainable organic coffee and tea from Northern Thailand.

photography as part of book cover design

Furikake: japanese rice seasonings. Food-related short stories.


A national bestseller in Singapore

i ate tiong bahru on Goodreads.

i ate tiong bahru on Amazon

i ate tiong bahru audiobook

Check Amazon for other food-related books by Stephen Black.

And this book features a protagonist who is an amateur chef specializing in molecular cuisine.

Stephen Black: 72 hour Facebook Live Broadcast



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


Fires by Cyril Wong

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

Bali Wave Ghost

Flame Magnet

red dot SAD


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.



This was the schedule for 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!


To find out what nownownow is about, visit!


I am now working on an AR app featuring Bubiko Foodtour, and building a bridge between the worlds of AR and bicycling.

Agaricus blazeii Murrill, Sacha Inchi Oil and Me (part 2)

the first part of this post is here

To review, from about 1999 to 2002, I was very involved with researching and promoting a medicinal and gourmet mushroom called ABM, Agaricus blazeii Murrill. As part of this, I wrote my first book. I did this in Tokyo, Manhattan and around Toledo, Ohio. I established many relationships and enjoyed being involved with a healthful food item in a positive community, and creating possibilities. However, I entered the world of VR and, after that, returned to the world of books and art. I don’t feel as if there are huge differences between the different areas in my life.

Everything is about human relationships and data/information. Efficiency and planning are the keys and I am always working to improve in these areas, without becoming closed-minded. I've been told that the Japanese word for “busy”(isogashii) means “no heart”. Something like that.

So... Johor Bahru, Malaysia. April 2017. Sacha inchi oil. When you are around people who are really healthy, you notice it immediately. !!!! As a writer I have to be careful here! Sometimes, when one describes one’s interactions and activities that are associated with healthy foods and practices, it is easy to across as purely a salesman, sincere or otherwise. Yes, there is an economic aspect, but it is not the main reason that I am thinking about sacha inchi. Sales can lead to an awareness of the powers within plants and humans.

Sacha inchi reminds me of ABM very much. I am considering getting involved with it because I now have experience in sharing nutraceutical information, and interest in sacha inchi is already starting. It seems that Singapore, Malaysia and China are growing markets. America and Japan have potential.

It would be interesting to come up with some idea that combines art with sacha oil. A year ago, my partner and I performed the Iron Fire Riceball Tour, which combined performance art with food art. Meaning simply, we just marched around to all of the organic food stores in Singapore and asked any of the staff if they would like to try an organic riceball flavored with organic miso with permaculture grown ingredients. It was not a commercial project, it was about communication and connecting;art. We didn’t talk business, though it was clear where the miso and rice came from. We had been living in Bali and had worked on the permaculture farm that produced the miso. That little tour was beautiful.

So now; it is an amusement for me to think of how to connect with saha ishi in a way that is personal. What I have thought of so far:

-a book on sacha inchi, but one that is a collection of short stories about everything from the history of the plant to the growing to the processing to the person who is using sacha inchi as a treatment for a serious diseases.Fact-based fiction with emotion.

-a 360 short film that documents a room full of longtime saha ichi users. The setting would be naturalistic and simple. There would be at least 10 or 12 actors and actresses. These people would not have to do anything, but they would be aware of the fact that they are being filmed. The person who sees the film would, simply, sense and observe the healthy bodies.

-the sacha inchi game. Something interactive, of course.Exciting and based on how scientists think sacha inchi empowers the immune system, it would be cool to make a game something like this:

I will think. Sacha inchi is good stuff!

Agaricus blazeii Murrill, Sacha Inchi Oil and Me

Unexpectedly, I now find myself in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. I have been here for two months, during which time I started to write a book called Touching JB. It is about Johor Bahru, Singapore, food, AR/VR, people, game development, history; many things. It is also self-reflective, but hopefully not in a narcissistic way. My past experiences connect me to the present and future, of course, as they do for everyone.

The most recent example of this involves something called Sacha Inchi Oil. I  was just introduced to it here in JB, and I am very interested in it. First, some background information. The first book I wrote was called the Agaricus blazei Murrill Notebook. It was print-on-demand, but I never marketed it. I believe in that book, but it needs to be revised. Paul Stamets, one of the world’s top mushroom scientists, wrote to me soon after I informed him of the book. He told me two things and then suggested I stop publication.

I don't remember exactly,but first Paul told me something like the taxonomy (the way that scientists classify things) for the "ABM" mushroom had changed. Agaricus blazeii Murrill had become cultivated and improved so much that it was considered to have be a new species called agaricus subrufescens.Or something like that; even now the taxonomy isn't straightforward. That happened weeks before I finished the book, and I was unaware of it. That by itself was not an absolute game changer, as most of people would continue to use the old name or would be aware of both. The other complication was that a test result that I referred to in the book had been found to be inaccurate; falsified.So, despite a great deal of interest, I didn’t get the ABM Notebook in the hands of readers.

At the time of the book’s completion I had moved to Singapore to work for a startup doing 3D gamemaking/VR, which I was thrilled to be doing, but which also took up all of my time.I didn’t revise the book.

Before the move to Singapore, I was working with an amazing woman who was a pharmacist and a mother of two boys. We were both living in Japan at that time, and it was there that she introduced me to the company that grew and produced very high quality ABM. We sold their product on the internet as well as at health fairs in the US.The challenges: we were both new at selling something like ABM, the internet was new to us and our freeze-dried ABM was extremely expensive. We seemed to be pioneers as very few people knew about ABM. In short, we learned a lot, made some great connections and didn’t sell much.

However...there are very few things that can compare to playing a small part in a process that results in a person regaining some, or all, of their health.

However, the partnership, the international network and the lessons learned became dormant. But... a few days ago, I discovered sacha inchi oil.


Part two of this story is here.

re: Paul Stamet; This is his company.

This TED talk by Paul is full of mushroom/cancer facts and hope. Go to 1:20

Book Merah: 10 years without any marketing. Why?

...this post has been prepared as part of the Book Merah Ten Year Anniversary Party... to see other posts related to the history of Book Merah, click here.

"Each author should experiment, but I will say that nothing is better than writing the next book. If any time is being spent marketing in lieu of writing, that’s a bad decision."

Hugh Howie, NY Times bestseller and superstar self-published writer, in an interview with Digital Book World that appeared online April 4, 2016. The interview is here. A few days earlier, the Observer published its own interview with Mr. Howie. Both of these articles are must reads for anyone seriously interested in self-publishing.

I didn't know about Hugh Howie in 2006. Thanks to my father, though, I did know a lot about the book business. My father sold/sells books to school libraries. (I remember him driving his Buick (usually full of boxes of books);  me in the passenger seat reading the best-seller lists that were on the last page of Publishers' Weekly; I imagined them to be as cool and exciting as sports statistics or music top ten charts. In 2006, when I decided that I would launch Book Merah, I also decided to do no marketing until I had eight books under my belt. Why?

  1. Very often, first books are wobbly collections of words on pages, not  clock-stopping reading experiences. There is no shortcut to mastering a craft and an artform. I'm not saying I have mastered writing--not by any means. But after my third or fourth book I started to bleed less  and had more energy to give to the reader.
  2. Technology. There were no targeted ads in 2006. Things were not quite in focus. Now, you can ask Facebook or Google to put an ad for your book in front of your desired ideal reader. To comply with your request, Facebook will ask you about the age of your desired reader, will ask for his or her shoe size and the last place he or she used a public bathroom. Like a drone equipped with facial recognition software and GPS, Facebook or Google will get your ad in front of him or her.
  3. Social media. My latest book is set in Bali. I can check LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and other services for groups in or related to Bali. Yes, I must be be respectful, but it is a huge timesaver and mentally reassuring to know that there are groups of people who share one thing in common with my book, even if it is only location. However, awareness of these groups, and a small amount of involvement with them, is not  marketing.
  4. Marketing is a full-time job and there is a learning curve. For example, how much time does it take to understand and utilize keywords? SEO? Metadata? Time is limited: I decided I would rather wrete and postpone learning about how to do successful online marketing.
  5. The amount of resources needed to market and publicize eight books is almost the same as the amount required to market and publicize one book.
  6. One sale leads to another, hopefully. If a reader likes one book, they will likely be interested in my other books, even if the subject and style are different.
  7. Even if the first book became popular as a result of marketing, there would be a lag before the next book was written and produced. That lag would likely dissolve any marketing achievements made by the first book; the second book might have to start from zero.
  8. I also incorrectly thought that Barack Obama, the subject of my first book on Amazon, would attract readers. If xxx million people  look for short stories about the President of the United States, wouldn't a percentage of them, even a very small percentage of them--find Obama Search Words? Nope. If you want a book to sell, you have to do marketing.
  9. Subject matter. If I were writing non-fiction, different story. If, for example, I wrote a guidebook about Tiong Bahru, I would market it heavily. But my work seems to be cross-genre. Travel-literature-history humor. One of the comments for I Ate Tiong Bahru was "like nothing I've read before."
  10. It's a marathon, not a sprint.  I took the long term view, and am now ready to make a little marketing noise. Maybe make up for "lost" time. Hope that I can connect with interested readers.  Finally, I should mention that despite a lack of marketing, I Ate Tiong Bahru has sold almost 2000 copies in Singapore, where that number is considered a "national bestseller". The review here is stunning, and no, I had absolutely no connection with the magazine that wrote it.

Tables of Adventure, Woe and Joy

If you have followed even a small portion of the trail I have created on the internet, you will see that there are a number of detours and half-finished roads. Despite appearances, work is being done on all of them.   With this post I am jotting down notes about food, as an experience and as artwork. The most concrete example of my food/art projects is probably the thumb kway project which was the result of my involvement with the Open House project. Recently I have been rediscovering my past experiences with all types of food, reinterpreting them as algorithm-related data, settings for performance art and also as elements/influences upon my writing. Related: I Ate Tiong Bahru, Furikake, Lina Adams Food/Singaporean Performance Art History, Melvina Tan's  Jiak Muay Eventually I will add photos, links, a structure and more, but for now, the following is what it is... My Mom -A great cook. Christmas, carrot cake on my birthday (lemon glaze). The carrot cake article in Kurashi No Techo. Bill O'Reilly once mentioned my mom's lasagna on national television. My mom cooked for the sisters who lived in the convent near Regina Coeli School. My dad Oyster stew. Turtle soup. Buying Pinconning cheese on the way to up north. Ma Wilson's cured hams. Driving at sunset to the Moose Lodge for an all you can eat fish fry, driving back on very dark country roads, my brother and I in the back seat with very very full stomachs. Catching bluegills, bass and pike, my mom cooking them. My cousin Denny throwing pepper at me, got some in my eye. Gramma Black's pie made from bananas, Grampa Black: Raisin Bran for breakfast. I tried to make a cake once and added a cup of vinegar instead a cup of water. I worked at Pizza Inn. Doug, before he died telling me about one summer weekend we got a pizza to go from King Cole's or something like that. We both remembered the place, but couldn't  remember the name. He used to work at Ponderosa. Bob Hartman, the summer that Elvis Presley died. We caught salmon off the southern coast of Washington State, ate them hours later. I learned what Pinot Chardonnay was. Rochester NY,RIT Cafeteria food and then trying to experience the egg rolls of every Chinese restaurant in the city. Buffalo wings and PacMan. Toronto: Birthday cake, Iggy Pop and leaving Chinese food on the bus; something in oyster sauce. NYC Pizza slices. The Polish restaurant before Faculty Party played. The Ukraine restaurant. Cous cous at Carl's(?), eating with Arleen at the unexpected dinner with the Ecuadorean family that lived above the No Se No. Thanksgiving Party on the Bowery, driving back to Brooklyn in Ben's classic Volvo after Indian food on 5th street: the Brooklyn Bridge with Frank Sinatra playing. The meals cooked in the basement of a flat on the Lower east Side and running out at midnight to get Haagen Daasz,Paella and canolis. The Spanish food artist. Eating and cooking spaghetti with a friend in the last stages of life with AIDS. He had introduced me to Japanese food and the magic of clear soup. Tokyo Revolving sushi counters.The coffee shop in the middle of pine trees and rice fields that sheltered us and our bicycles from a thunderstorm so big and dense it turned the afternoon into night. Selfies taken with flash and film,the ice sculptures they made behind the Hilton in Shinjuku, nearly every meal a visual composition. The feasts of food, sake and good company at Miagawas. The food experiences in Miharu and Fukushima... The cooking culture of Obama, Japan. Tsukiji market with the three star sushi chef, fugu with the 3 star French chef, takoyaki with my daughter and running out to buy her yakimoo when she should have been sleeping... Paris Berlin: the musician taking us to the gas station that became a restaurant. Munich. Frim Price Koelling, talking about art and our time in Seoul at the Olympics and Trio and movies with optimistic themes; the perfection of imperfection. Hong Kong Too much Peking duck, discovering a char siew fan place that impressed even my mainland Chinese friends. The little place near Hollywood Road where I would eat breakfast nearly every day. Brunei... the colorful cosmos of jungle fruits in the market, noodles with Masui-san at the water village Sevilla. Dinner at the El Bulli hacienda; "the best breakfast in the world" Achatz Handmade Pies! Joe and Burmese food, la phet, Peninsula Plaza Bali: La Bruschetta and barbecued baby pig, the variety of vegetarian restaurants and the Warung Java across the street Documentations Tippling Club, Secrets of Sushi by Kazuko and Chihiro Masui