Tag Archives: Bali

notes on the book Seen and Unseen by Russell Darnley

Russell Darnley's experiences in Asia are somewhat like my own. We've both spent considerable time in Bali, Singapore, and Indonesia, where Russell lived for a number of years. I lived in Japan, another place that Russell wrote about. Russell is Australian; I'm American.  Seen and Unseen is  a collection of short stories  based on Russell`s memoirs but, as I read, I often found myself remembering similar situations, or comparing his descriptions of a certain place with my own. Russell's  ability to speak Indonesian put him in the midst of the hospitals and makeshift morgues of Kuta immediately after the Bali Bombing. Reading his words, I felt like I was there. This sense of being beside  the author occurred  throughout the book, and thankfully, often in much more positive places than Kuta during that terrible time. Russell's writing style is, for the most part conversational. He recreates dialogues and places them within a chronological structure. This simple method allows him to provide easily understood insights into complex matters. Russell gracefully overcomes the challenges of using non-English words in an English language text. We can understand, for example, an Indonesian word because of its context or by the way it's used by a character. Russell  spent a significant portion of his life in Indonesia. The result of all of this is that we can how political decisions affect peoples lives, especially those political decisions involving more than one country.
russell-darnley-seen-and-unseen

photo of Russell Darnley from www.anza.org.sg

In short, I enjoyed reading Seen and Unseen because it was like having an intelligent older relative sharing with me the details of a life well lived. To give you an idea of the scope of the book, I present you with a few titles of the book's twenty-nine chapters: Sid Thompson and D Company Red Poppies and Janur An Encounter With White Australia Surviving the Sixties Balikpapan: Looking Backwards and Forwards Kampanye- The Campaign Procession An Unusual Kind of Thunder Singapore 43 Years on I should mention that Russell gave me a copy of Seen and Unseen in the Tiong Bahru Market, which is where we met. Finally, I wrote  a book, Bali Wave Ghost, that constantly makes reference to the Bali Bombing. Seen and Unseen on Amazon FWIW, Russell has been spotted in The Oak Bar. (I apologize for the formatting of this post. I am unsure as to why my previews always show a much more attractive spacing and layout, but once I publish, the posts look like this one...)  

The Japanese Photographer in Bali Wave Ghost

In my latest novel, Bali Wave Ghost, there is a character named Kuroyama, who lives directly above the main character, Odie (Mr. Orgasm Donor). Kuroyama is a fictitious character, but one based on my research, life experiences and time-spent-viewing-the-works-of-photographers. like Daido Moriyama, Eikoh Hosoe andAraki,

My first introduction to the world of Japanese photography was a book called New Japanese Photography, which was published in conjunction with an exhibition at MOMA in 1974.

I imagined what it might be like if an established  Japanese photographer in his "golden years" moved to Bali... an excerpt is below.

...............

-the image used as the header was created in Ubud, Bali as part of a collaboration between Stephen Black and Mee-Young Arkim. There are several posts on this blog describing the photographic intentions of the project. Here is the first.

-an exhibition by Daido Moriyama is currently being presented as part of the Singapore International Photography Festival

-FWIW, in Tokyo I ran SPP, an art space with Barae, a dance/performance artist who occasionally modeled for Araki.

Here is the beginning of one chapter from Bali Wave Ghost...

A LAZY MAN DOES NOT SIN

On our bed, an open book. A two-page black and white photo of a naked, hairless Japanese young man in an office. His body is covered with white powder and his head is stretched so far back that the smooth, eyeless surface of his throat is where his face should be. His hands are arthritic. Like a praying mantis pinned to a desk, his body screams at a fluorescent light.

Two hours ago there was a knock on the window. ”Herro. Here I am Kuroyama.” I put on my pants and opened the door. Kuroyama looked like a lost tourist who’d just been shopping. “Do you know butoh?” he asked in his deep voice.

Butoh lives upstairs, I think.”

Kuroyama gave me the crisp white bag he’d been holding. “Butoh is art of death with agitation spirit. Please enjoy with relax feeling.” He smiled. I looked at the sky and discretely pinched myself. Kuroyama lit a cigarette and brought it to his big teeth. “Dance of reaction to human darkness. Also, please be sharing with Miss Francesca.” He smiled again, and nodded with the seriousness of a bow. “Sanku you.” He went upstairs.

It has been quiet since then.

I have a feeling Kuroyama is now directly above me, looking at the same book, the same images, at the same time.

Another black and white image. Grainy. Another Japanese body. Lips, cheekbones, nose. Throat. Her eyes are white dust and her breasts are in rags. Arching against, kicking against a dark wooden floor. Serene yet terrifying, like a long-killed mermaid. Her hair is Fukushima.

...................

Bali Wave Ghost on Amazon

MegaJakarta 2

MegaJakarta 1 is here.
megaJakarta 2

megaJakarta 2

I have lived in and written about Bali. To live in Bali is to live amongst the tourist industry, the Balinese form of Hinduism and the battle between man and nature. The image above was created at the Jakarta Airport. Noise is the brushstroke of digital photography. Eight links... Tourism in Indonesia It seems to me an interesting idea: that is to say the idea that we live in the description of a place and not in the place itself, and in every vital sense we do. -Wallace Stevens This quote is used in the introduction to "Landscape, Writing and Photography" by Sarah Hill Enlightening Enounters: Photography in Italian Literature Traveller's Visions: French Literary Encounters With Japan 1881-2004 An Archaeology of Architecture: Photowriting the Built Environment Stephen Black video interview on the writing  of Bali Wave Ghost Henry Rollins on Noise and Wolf Eyes “People ask if, as a photographer, I try to relate pictures to particular pieces of music. In the case of Glenn’s albums, we were both concerned with creating a compelling image, without reference to a specific repertoire.”
Legendary photographer, Don Hunstein recalls collaborations with Glenn Gould
 

Inari, Bali and Snow

  • The Author Show audio  interview with Stephen Black on the Furikake book.
  • On Saturday, April 23, Stephen Black will be reading and presenting the thumb kway artworks and a new artwork entitle Miso Furikake Riceballs. Details here.
  • On April 22, this will be added to the book entitled Furikake.
  • This is the final version of Inari, Bali and Snow, replacing other versions of this story that were posted on this blog.
INARI, BALI AND SNOW

February 21, 2016

Man, this miso stuff is serious!

Mom and I'd been talking about food as social art. Edible, nutritious art. Public sculptures of popcorn and haikus made of glutinous rice. We discussed the pigmentation of palm sugar, sesame seeds, coconut oil and pink Himalayan salt. Mom explained how roasting changes miso's color and texture. I introduced Mom to the artworks of Ferran Adria and el Bulli. I explained how and why I made kways shaped like my thumbprint. I learned that, in Japanese, “tekka” is written with two kanjis and means “iron fire”. And, in Kyushu, 'tekka' means someone with a strong, focused and energetic personality. Like Mom, who just told me that miso has anti-radiation properties and was used as medicine at Hiroshima. Man, this miso stuff is serious...

Mom has a healthy glow. Her eyes are bright and full of depth. Calm with wisdom, yet the signs of overwork show through. Mom is one of those people who are truly aware that we are all in the same tiny boat on the vast River of Time, sometimes going with the flow, sometimes lost without a paddle.

Bamboo Spirit is a center of social energy; a tie-dyed campus at the top of the Penestanan Steps. A Hindu place, a Russian place, a Japanese place...a  quietly glorious Balinese place. Next to a stream, the house-like, open structure is old and made of wood and stone.. From the second floor and the small strange cozy space on the third, one can see rice fields and the hills of Ubud. People celebrate food here. Mom sells her products here on Sundays.

Alex introduced us. Barefoot and standing on the hard ground, we were soon discussing fermentation, the laphet I brought from Myanmar and the tekka miso from her farm. Above us, a canopy of yellow cloth warmed and softened the light, giving everyone and everything a golden shadow. I gave Mom laphet and she gave me mimosa tea. I told Mom I would visit her farm as soon as I could. The farm is in Mas, just outside of Ubud, which is on the island of Bali in the country of Indonesia. In Spanish, 'mas' means 'more'.

Furikake stars:

Faint, bittersweet sands of time

swirling clouds; rice ball.

I Am a Muddy Path With No Banana Leaves

I drove to Mas in darkness.

Mom welcomed me: "Six o'clock. You are on time. Like the Japanese." She gave me her husband's boots. My first task was to water "our plants". That was on Level 1. Later in the morning, Rachel watered Level 2 and Liisa looked for okra on Level 3. There's a teepee on the edge of Level 4. Mom was everywhere. Lined up at the windows of their classroom, the children from the school yelled "Hello" and "Good morning", their cute voices and uncontrolled enthusiasm strong enough to cross the big field between us. Later, we heard them singing Balinese songs. I used a sickle on the plants surrounding the wild peanuts and discovered okra blossoms. As she walked in, as though she were laughing, Alex asked me how I was doing.

Breakfast, then, in Mom's bamboo house. Papaya,okra salad and rice balls, everything full of flavor. Rachel mentioned something she'd read about how the visual appearance of food influences t digestion. Another topic: the ideal state of mind for those people who prepare food. Manny talked about food, air, water and McDonald's and we all discussed furikake, laphet and mimosa tea. I wore the green shirt my mom bought for me, now faded and with a hole between my left shoulder and my heart. During the four hours I was at Mom's, I was in the center of a beautifully slow and flowing sequence of events, thoughts and exchanges. I drank no coffee. 🙂

But my muddy path task is what made the strongest impression upon me. The farm has a network of paths and the recent rain had made some sections very slippery. Mom told me to make mats from the old leaves and stalks from the banana plants. If I did that, traction and safety would be improved. You don't want someone falling with a large, sharp cutting instrument in their hands... I didn't need a plan; in such a cosmic place, everything would be naturally perfect. But, my thinking was wrong.

I should have gained information about: a) the number of banana leaves available, b) the number of trouble spots, c) the "danger rating" of trouble spots, d) "danger ratings" vs. frequency of use, e) location and f) time available to complete the task.

I should have improved the most dangerous high-traffic sections first, starting with the steps between levels. Then, I should have used my limited amount of banana tree resources to prevent new trouble spots from developing. With whatever time was left, I should have put at least one leaf on all of the remaining areas, which would have warned others of danger.

But as it is, many parts of the paths on the farm are still very slippery and one small area in Level 1 is very safe.

Gold furikake

being sprinkled on blue snow,

Hanazono dawn

During my first winter in Asia, my home was a little tatami room in Yotsuya. There, on the morning of January 28, 1985, I awoke well before dawn, bundled up and set out to wander through a snowstorm that, with a continuing, powerful grandeur, had shut down Tokyo. I was hungry; had nothing but coins in my pocket and a camera loaded with black and white film. The glass door made the rolling, shaky noise it always did when it was opened. I stepped out. Immediately my nose and lungs were stung by cold air. I trudged through a maze of snowdrifts until I reached Shinjuku-dori. Then west, past the Sun Music Building that the singer had thrown herself off of. Then Yasukuni-dori, with the thought of going right and visiting Yasukuni Shrine. I’d sat in Yasukuni's cafeteria once, with a veteran from World War II who said I looked like Gary Cooper. We drank green tea beneath a Mitsubishi Zero attached to the ceiling

But no, I wandered left, towards Shinjuku san-chome, where I stood beneath a traffic light and watched its colored lights tint the swirling snow. Eventually, Mitsukoshi and the other department stores, each big enough to occupy an entire block. Further west, across from the station, the gaudy lights, billboards and neon of Kabukicho had become soft pastels. On small side streets, I passed darkened yakitori-yas, convenience stores and round red akachochins topped with snow and ice. The quiet. The cold. The feeling of being immensely alone. And lost. Lost, lost, lost. Delightfully so.

Flower garden. A French friend and I went drinking near here one night and he told me that the Chinese characters carved in the monument now before me mean Flower Garden. Hanazono Jinja. Hundreds of years ago, the Hanazono family built this shrine dedicated to Inari, the androgynous god of fertility and worldly success. Inari, the god of the arts.

I walk forward, between two dull grey buildings. At the end of the passage, a torii; waiting like a strange goal post, or a letter from an alien alphabet. Tubular, wooden and orange, the torii is a relic from a ceremony of whispers. The people of Tokyo are warm in their beds and sleeping; I am in the cold and dreaming.

The stone basin for washing one’s hands and rinsing one’s mouth; the ice within it is now covered by a lace made of wire mesh and snow. The ema, the small, thin wood plaques covered with neatly written hopes and wishes, are bunched in rows, nooses connecting them to the display stand. The temple grounds are barely lit and surrounded by modernity. And then!

The clouds part and—for an instant– the sun rushes in like a spotlight. Against the dark blue snowy sky, golden light strikes the temple’s black tortoise shell roof, the white frost on the pine trees, and the stone foxes standing guard. The fresh vermillion paint for Oshogatsu, the corridor of red toriis, the simplistic arabesques of gold trim, the precise and clean concrete stairs; the sun is behind me, throwing itself forward everywhere. The gigantic shrine vibrates like a massive, noble flame of Japanese architecture. The vividness of details, the vividness of the whole… Then–just a glimpse– the full moon. Asahi!

I stood alone in that quiet heaven of color until the threat of the freezing cold could be ignored no longer. My feet and hands were paralyzed and one leg was becoming numb.

I vaguely recognized the steps at the back of the shrine, thought they’d be a shortcut to the Dunkin Donuts on Shinjuku-dori. At the top of the stairs, however, I saw that I was overlooking the two-story wooden shacks and alleys of Golden Gai. Somewhere in there was Shunchan’s. Like a wounded cowboy I limped down the stairs into that little white Japanese ghost town. Golden Gai: one of those places that teen aged Western boys imagine they will one day find themselves in. Prostitution, gambling, rendezvous spots, cheap drinking places, yakitori shops, bars specializing in all kinds of music; all connected by very narrow walkways lit by red paper lanterns and old cheap plastic Suntory signs. I was sure Shunchan wouldn’t be there. I was wrong.

Irrrashai!” He said it not with the loud bellowing mechanical style of most shop owners, but as though he were quietly sharing an inside joke. It was 7AM, in a frozen and snowbound Tokyo, but Shunchan smiled at me like it was late on a crowded Friday night after payday. Both serene and slightly nervous, Shunchan is the perfect host. He carefully stabbed the chunk of ice in his hand with a pick while I thought about my order.

Was Shunchan a great friend of mine? No–but he was an anchor, a touchstone.I was a regular; he and his little bar provided a sense of normality in a city full of extremes of all kinds. Always an interesting crowd, packed in around Shunchan and his bar. Whether they were Japanese, Russian or Australian, Shunchan made the hostesses feel relaxed. He treated the English teachers and backpackers like locals. Celebrities, artists and musicians brought in great mixtapes, his drinks weren’t that expensive and Shunchan laughed a lot. He was good friends with the young woman in the bright orange dress.

I sat where I always did, under the old, big posters of bent-over Japanese girls in bikinis on beaches holding mugs full of beer. Even when Shunchan’s was half-full, you had to stand behind the people seated at the bar and couldn’t help but sometimes touch them. Shunchan put down the ice pick and adjusted the kerosene heater at his feet. My hands treasured my glass of hot water and whiskey as my frozen pants started melting.

Then, like the sudden appearance of a deer in a forest, a naked and attractive young Japanese woman tiptoed down the stairs. With her finger, she moved her hair behind her ear. She politely smiled at me, then leaned forward and watched Shunchan make her tea. I immediately became fascinated with the smoke-stained chirashis promoting last year's offerings of underground movies, independent music, butoh and avante-garde theatre. She was a pixie, flush with the color and smell of sex. She was steamy. She went back upstairs. Shunchan said nothing, I said nothing. A moment later, a young naked Japanese man came down, got a drink and went back up. Then another. Shunchan, smiled at me and began to look for his ice pick. My unforgettable morning was, for him, just another day at work.

So... Tokyo, for quite a few years, New York for a year, then The Handover in Hong Kong, then Tokyo for the millennium, then the excitement of crashing the dot-com boom party. Singapore then, to create Second Life, but before Second Life; and to lay the foundation for something like Youtube, but before Youtube. My indefinably star-like daughter, all the while shining... Scholarly friends, friends who needed a bath like me, friends who drove around in new cars and threw cigarette butts out the window. Supernova relationships with boundless vigor. Roommates with holes in their socks and roommates who blessed me with hearty breakfasts and made me feel like family. Roommates who cheated me. A three-legged cat and driving away from a lover's home in Paris; the sun rising and the taxi driver playing a ney all the way from the Port of Clouds to Orly. Medicinal mushrooms. The Bioneers, just after 9/11. Sitting in a Clementi coffeeshop, a cheap mobile phone to my ear as I learned how they took a long blood vessel from his leg and put it in his chest to repair his heart. Chemo and radiation treatments. I'm working another shift on Mom's farm and thinking of all of these things, especially the chemo and radiation. I'm planting black beans and watching the sunrise. Chemo and radiation, chemo and radiation.

The clumps of clay and the big mud stains on my blue jeans give me a Sense of Accomplishment. Komang, myself and the WWOOF volunteers, are having another wonderful meal in the bamboo house. We sip amazake and Sayuri listens to us tell stories. Mom and I discover that we'd been neighbors. We'd very likely waited for trains at Higashi-Nakano station at the same time. There, we could have stood together, maybe almost touching, as we looked inside the ninja school across from the station. We'd both definitely eaten in the Mongolian tent behind the KFC, and both of us remembered the books the owner had made: one about a circus and one about his autistic daughter. Sitting on the tatami at Mom's, I remembered the life I had lived thirty years before; all of the chaotic, energetic activities with chaotic, energetic people. Mom and Shunchan had been great friends. She'd shared a bed with him--in a nonsexual way-- and once pretended to be his fiancee so Shunchan's mother would stop yelling at him to get married. I'd heard bits and pieces of these stories. Maybe Mom had sat next to me at Shunchan's and I'd thought of very lustful things.

Earlier, when I was working in Level 3, Komang gave me okra pods that were like striped, brittle antelope horns. Three seeds in a hole. I planted as carefully as I could but then the light was fading and I sped up. Not good to leave something undone. Komang may have seen me rushing, maybe not. He came over and helped. "We always plant with love," is all he said.

It should be obvious that I consider furikake to be a magnificent concept. A plain riceball is a canvas; furikake makes it an artwork. A composition of furikake, created by culture, geography, science and chance-- is placed into the mouth. The brutal critics—the glands, teeth and tongue, decide if the work is something to be savored or spit out like poison.

During many of the days described in this story I wore ragged boxer shorts, shreds of white Japanese cotton shreds patterned with torn, red goldfish. The soft rags that covered my loins were more painful than a hairshirt. The gentle white cotton bit me harder than any cilice. Those boxer shorts were bought for me on the morning of the day we watched the harvest moon rise over the Pacific Ocean. That magical day was one of many moments we shared in that little coastal village that had the best seafood and the richest sake. Silently, we often observed the changing seasons while soaking in the hot spring of our ryokan, located just a couple of train stops from Fukushima.

     

Inari, Bali and Snow (1)

DO NOT READ THIS! THE FINAL VERSION IS HERE! THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. I WILL BE WORKING ON THIS THROUGHOUT THE DAY and WILL SOON BE ADDING IT TO MY FURIKAKE BOOK. For now, I hope that the following draft provides enough finished passages for you to enjoy and that the unfinished passages provide a sense of how important the story is to me. Inari, Bali and Snow During my first winter in Asia my home was a little tatami room in Yotsuya. There, on the morning of January 28, 1985, I awoke well before dawn, bundled up and set out to wander through the continuing grandeur of a snowstorm that had shut down Tokyo. I was hungry; had nothing but coins in my pocket and a camera loaded with black and white film. I slid open the door and began marching through the snowdrifts. Cold air stung my nose and lungs. After the white maze of my neighborhood,  I reached Shijnuku-dori. Then west, past the Sun Music Building that the singer threw herself off of. Then Yasukuni-dori, with the thought of going right and visiting Yasukuni Shrine. I'd sat in its cafeteria once, with a veteran from World War II who said I looked like Gary Cooper. We drank green tea beneath a Mitsubishi Zero attached to the ceiling

But no, I wandered left, towards Shinjuku san-chome, where I stood beneath a traffic light and watched its colored lights tint the swirling snow. Eventually I reached Mitsukoshi and the other department stores, each big enough to occupy an entire block. Further west, across from the station, the gaudy lights, billboards and neon of Kabukicho had become soft pastels. On small side streets, I passed darkened yakitori-yas, convenience stores and round red akachochins topped with snow and ice. The quiet. The cold. The feeling of being immensely alone. And lost. Lost, lost, lost. Delightfully so.

Flower garden. A French friend and I went drinking near here one night and he told me that the Chinese characters carved in the monument now before me mean Flower Garden. Hanazono Jinja. Hundreds of years ago, the Hanazono family built this shrine , one dedicated to Inari, the androgynous god of fertility and worldly success. Inari, the god of the arts.

I walk forward, between two dull grey buildings. At the end of the passage, a torii; waiting like a strange goal post, or a letter from an alien alphabet. Tubular, wooden and orange, the torii is a relic from a ceremony of whispers. The people of Tokyo are warm in their beds and sleeping; I am in the cold and dreaming.

There is a stone basin for washing one's hands and rinsing one's mouth; the ice within it protected by lace made of wire mesh and snow. The ema, the small, thin wood plaques covered with neatly written hopes and wishes are bunched in rows, nooses connecting them to the display stand. The temple grounds are barely lit and surrounded by modernity.Then! The clouds part and—for an instant-- the sun rushes in like a spotlight. Below the dark blue snowy sky, golden light strikes the temple's black tortoise shell roof, the white frost on the pine trees, and the stone foxes standing guard. The fresh vermillion paint for Oshogatsu, the corridor of red toriis, the simplistic arabesques of gold trim, the precise and clean concrete stairs; the sun is behind me, throwing itself forward everywhere. The gigantic shrine vibrates like a massive, noble flame of Japanese architecture. The vividness of details, the vividness of the whole... Then--just a glimpse-- the full moon. Asahi! I stood alone in that quiet heaven of color until the threat of the freezing cold be ignored no longer. My feet and hands were paralyzed. I vaguely recognized the steps at the back of the shrine, thought they'd be a shortcut to the Dunkin Donuts on Shinjuku-dori. At the top of the stairs, however, I saw that I was overlooking the two-story wooden shacks and alleys of Golden Gai. Somewhere in there was Shunchan's. Like a wounded cowboy I limped down the stairs into that little white Japanese ghost town.   Golden Gai: one of those places that teen aged Western boys imagine they will one day find themselves in. Prostitution, gambling, rendezvous spots, cheap drinking places, yakitori shops, bars specializing in all kinds of music; all connected by very narrow walkways lit by red paper lanterns and old cheap plastic Suntory signs. I was sure Shunchan wouldn't be there. I was wrong.

Irrrashai!” He said it not with the loud bellowing mechanical style of most shop owners, but as though he were sharing an inside joke. It was 7AM, in a frozen and snowbound Tokyo, but Shunchan smiled at me like it was late on a Friday night after payday. Both serene and slightly nervous, Shunchan is the perfect host.  He stabbed the chunk of ice in his hand with an ice pick while I thought about my order.

Was Shunchan a great friend of mine? No--but he was an anchor, a touchstone. Regular. I was a regular in Shunchan's bar; he and his little bar provided a regularity in a city full of extremes of many kinds. There was always always an interesting crowd. Whether they were Japanese, Russian or Australian, Shunchan made the hostesses feel relaxed. He treated the English teachers and backpackers like locals. Celebrities, artists and musicians brought in great mixtapes, his drinks weren't that expensive and Shunchan laughed a lot. He was good friends with the young woman in the bright orange dress.

The next section is here.

Aspects of VR in Bali Wave Ghost, the novel by Stephen Black

black and white book covers Beach Road is a short VR film made by Stephen Black and hiverlab. Free download here. (The image at the top of this post, of the parking lot attendant, is a still from Beach Road. Bali Wave Ghost is the latest novel by Stephen Black. Along with three other books, it is a free download until April 12. Bali Wave Ghost is a story and a reading experience. The story aspect is simple: an American reality TV, star, Odie Holmes, returns to Bali twenty years after the Bali Bombing, in which his wife died along with 200 other victims. He has a stomach problem and the prescribed medicine has side effects, including hallucinations. He drinks, but he shouldn't. Odie's mental landscape is contrasted with the different realities of Bali: the island's tropical paradise ambience, the touristic gaudiness of Kuta, the seaside village of Sanur, and Ubud, the hilly, artistic center of Bali. Odie's new-found love is a Russian/Dutch/Balinese "event organizer" and his neighbors include a well-known Japanese photographer and Will Sun, a surfer. Balinese people weave in and out of Odie's life as well. Bali Wave Ghost vibrates between the neutrality of a fly-on-the-wall style documentary, the passion of a love story and the wildness of unleashed spirituality. Lost in Translation meets Hunter S. Thompson on the Island of the Gods. So...VR... Bali Wave Ghost features a fictitious VR viewing headgear called a SeeThing. SeeThings were conceptualized before I had actually experienced VR and created anything in VR. Bali Wave Ghost is not a "cyber" book; SeeThings are described as common objects and are more "spice" than "main course". SeeThings appear throughout the book and, in terms of literary approach, are about as "unusual" as mobile phones are now. Simply, SeeThings are just another piece of technology in the year 2022. (The book is set in that year, as the twentieth year remembrance of the Bali Bombing is an important event for Odie.) Just as 360 VR allows the viewer to be in the middle of an all-surrounding "stage", I have at times, written scenes in which the reader is aware of everything in front of him or her, as well as in back and on both sides. In VR filmmaking this is a challenge because the viewer may not want to always make the effort to turn to look behind. With words, however, the reader is always comfortably in the center of the action. No need for swivel chairs when you read a book! from Bali Wave Ghost

The bottom level of the market is where I now find myself, in a dark corner lit by dim bulbs. I slow down to watch a woman move her hand in circles before she positions red flowers in a yellow wooden shrine the size of a cereal box. The front of one stall is lined with cones of brown waxed paper containing rice, chicken and cooked green leaves. Behind them, an old woman rhythmically scoops and wraps and makes more cones. Beside her is a column, topped by a shrine draped with faded yellow cloth. The shrine holds burning incense, and next to the cloth is a spectacular, perfectly circular spider web. The web and the fluttery incense smoke are precisely defined by shafts of sunlight. The spider web reminds me of Seashore’s flat, where dreamcatchers hang in every room.

In front of me, a small rickety table is covered with bowls of food and surrounded by Balinese housewives. Without knowing exactly what is being served, I join the queue. Soon I’m seated, looking over a plate of nasi campur, a dish of rice and various kinds of meat. A woman grills satay right behind me. When she fans the flames, smoke moves over the table.

The passage above was rewritten after I had experienced VR. It literally sets the stage. The next paragraphs introduce the actors. If this were the cinematography/storyboard for a VR movie, the basement market scene would be dynamic in all dimensions before settling down and allowing most of the action to take place in front of the viewer's 180 degree field of vision. I am very interested in the relationship between VR and the way our eyes perceive the light reflected from objects (reality). In Bali Wave Ghost, I have sometimes used my ideas on these topics to create "stages of text" that allow for drama and a distinctive reading experience.Hopefully the results are more emotional than theoretical. Here is a link to a good explanation about how the eye perceives what is in front of it, as well as a comparison of the field of view(FOV) of different VR headgears.  

Bali Wave Ghost Bike Karma Crowdfunding

SHORT VERSION: Because of some very good comments and feedback, I am thinking of crowdfunding Bali Wave Ghost, my novel. The proceeds would go to replace a bike that was stolen while in my possession. I, um...am not now in a position to replace it. Crowdfunding can save the day! LONG VERSION: OK, I messed up.No excuse; I was simply not thinking... Because of that that there was unease, friction and the possibility of a lot of negativity. Despite being in a situation which was negative on many levels, I remained positive. Quiet, but positive. In my darkness, a light appeared, first on the computer screen, then in a coffee shop. A wave of calm hope appeared and a sense of determination manifested itself.. In other words, I spaced out and left the keys in a motorbike the day of the Ubud market fire. The bike is gone.I am worse than broke because I only have been working on my book called Bali Wave Ghost. A bridge of hope and understanding was built by a guy who drank a Bintang! Like I told him,I just launched the ebook version and was preparing to now find work as a photographer, videomaker or writer. I'm finally ready to at least partially reverse my financial situation. But the bike needs to be replaced asap. Back to Bali Wave Ghost: Today, on Facebook,I posted the news about the free ebook giveaway and the response has been unbelievably good. I set a record number of views and Amazon says about 100 people have downloaded my books... SO everything is on track. EXCEPT... the books are free and the bike needs to be replaced. BOTTOM LINE: because of the positive response on Facebook, I am thinking of crowdfunding. Bike gets replaced, people get a great book at a discount. The situation would set up so that the cost of a new bike is covered. If the crowdfunding goal is exceeded, the full amount of that excess goes to charity.Thoughts? Please leave your name in the comments section if you would like to get a copy of Bali Wave Ghost by crowdfunding. If I feel that there is enough support, I will try my hardest to make the project a success.

Notes for Mee-Young Arkim Photography Project

This is one of a series of essays on my relationship with, and thoughts on, using photography to create art. My collaboration with the artist Mee-Young Arkim is a starting point and a reference. The first post is here.

Unless I am asked to write a review, I do not write about how I look at photographs. For one thing, photography is as diverse as Life itself. One looks at photographs of distant galaxies differently than one looks at photographs of blood cells. Conceptual photography, portraiture, street photography, photojournalism, pornography, daguerreotypes, aerial photography, etc. etc.

With this post, I am free-associating and doing research. The following links and notes were inspired by this image that I created with Mee-Young Arkim, a Singapore-based Korean artist who has lived most of her life in Paris.

  1. My own work has often featured images that "look good in space". By this I mean that in space, there is no up or down; I have often enjoyed the challenge of creating composition that have meaning when hung on the wall in any of the four "traditional" possibilities.

minimal, hi-tech Arp water near ricefield

...the view through the camera.

minimal, hi-tech Arp water near ricefield

minimal, hi-tech Arp water near ricefield

minimal, hi-tech Arp water near ricefield

2. Hi-tech minimalist tanguy...

3. Does the Golden Ratio matter anymore?

4. Fibonacci Numbers?

5. Depth of Field as a tool of expression

6. Exposure as a tool of creative expression

7. Sometimes a good idea to listen to what the artist has to say....

8. je ne sais quoi...

9. The Zone System

Mom Natura logo poll

So...in the course of doing this and doing that with Mom NatuRa, I was asked my opinion about a logo test... Thought it would be good to do a Facebook poll, but they seem to no longer be as easy to do as they once were....This was made with Opinion Stage... [socialpoll id="2345563"] And yes, if you are around Ubud on Sunday, stop by.
miso happy!

miso!

I am Waiting for Her to Sing Again

Hope. Prayers, whatever form they may take. Life's great ups and downs.The following will make its way into Bali Wave Ghost and it is an unwanted addition. I wrote the following because loved ones were in very dark situations. Francesca, like a slow melody on an accordion “A body's like a musical instrument,full of air and making soundwaves," Will Sun once told me and now, that idea's no longer hippydippy new age surferspeak pablum. His words are circling deep within me as I look at my love. My love makes not a sound in this silent, frightening hospital room. Why is my love there with a tube in her throat? Why are her eyes closed? I had walked in and rushed to her, selfishly tried to hold her, tried to feel her heartbeat against mine; she was sedated and motionless because of medicine and delicate apparatus. Her faint heartbeat was buried beneath bandages. My love can sing out show tunes, my love can sing jazz. She loves rock and she can samba. My love can go to Roma and suddenly jump into the middle of the circle surrounding a street musician and start singing My Way. She can sing that song so loud and with so much soul that the boys on motorbikes stop and the suspicious grandmothers move closer to their curtains in their darkened rooms: my love's voice makes them forget their fear.They smile. Yesterday, for a moment, my love was an accordion played by two forces. One force that held her was the hand of Fate, the other hand was a wall, a big brick fist. A terrible note was struck and a big sudden punch of speed, gravity, and a snapped steering column hit her windpipe, broke her neck. Her bike's round mirror became the brief tinkle of deathly chimes. Then the long silence, the silence that continues now. The silence has lasted days. I have heard nothing from her. I have not heard the roosters, I have not heard the gamelan players practice, I have not heard the voices on my cell phone. I have not heard my food. And then... She told me, in a whispered voice, that she is OK. My love told me she wants to sing again.