Tag Archives: Furikake

Haptics: Bubiko, Lei Cha and Data Science (Ingredients)

This is the second post in a series in which I have fun with lei cha, haptics and Bubiko. Later, when things are more organized and clear, I hope this catch the interest of data scientists, information specialists and CG filmmakers/animators. There is a fun dimension to all of this, but I seriously wonder what would happen if 1% of the earth's population ate one bowl of lei cha a week...10%? 100% ?What would happen environmentally, economically and to the health of everyone and the planet?

For now, a list of ingredients. In a future post, I will describe the ingredients and add links.If you know some ingredients that I missed, please add them in the comments section. Also, tips on places that make great lei cha are always welcome! Those too, can go in the comments section.

OK...the ingredients.(NOT a recipe)

The tea broth above is from Vege Station in Johor Jaya, one of my favorite places for lei cha.

INGREDIENTS for BROTH

100 gram basil

30 grams cilantro

Some salt

Sweet potato leaves

Broccoli

Garlic

Green beans

Chinese long beans (long-podded cowpeas)

Celery stalks

Basil

Oregano

Acenthopanax trifoliateus

Coriander

Artemisia

Sawtooth

Moringa leaves

Dill

INGREDIENTS FOR BOWL

Dried peeled shrimp

Sautéed meat

Dried tofu

Peanuts

Dried radish

Snow lotus

Ginko

Lotus

Gordon Euryale seeds

Green peas

Job’s tears

Chinese yam

Adzuki

Rice

Jack

Mung or scarlet runner beans

Soybeans

Black soybeans

Millet wheat

Wheat or red wheat

Barley

Buckwheat

Oats

Brown rice

It is likely that there are other ingredients.

everything

You are probably here because you received a piece of paper from me.   HELLO   I am writing this on Thursday, November 24....  a very full day. Probably on Sunday I can come back and fill this page full of descriptions and links about my projects. For now... SPOKEN at www.gallery.sg this was created with Eugene Soh and is full of art and writing. It requires a 10 meg download, which is free. Beach Road You'll need a VR viewing device to see this short film which was featured at the 2015 Brisbane Film Festival and nominated for Best Experimental Film at the 2016 Las Vegas VR Fest. Descriptions of my books including videos and reviews. Please consider taking a look at my crowdfunding projects for a Tiong Bahru poster AND a book on the way that technology has affected cinematography. And, scattered throughout this blog are posts about art, post full of photography, short stories and posts about all kinds of things.   THANKS FOR STOPPING BY!   Stephen Black    

Iron Fire Riceball Singapore Tour

"Art"... such a misused word. In the case of the thumb kways, the "art" label was easy to understand, in that the kways looked like thumbprints, which made them a form of self-portraiture, among other things. But now, these miso furikake riceballs... why do I label them as an artwork as opposed to, say, promotion for my Furikake book? Or marketing for Mom Natura? Or promotion for Tawaraya Rice? Ultimately, art is communication and self-portraiture. With the Iron Fire Furikake Miso Riceball  Tour, we went out, communicated, learned about natural food stores in Singapore and had fun. We weren't out to sell anything, just wanted to share the magic of rice and iron fire miso furikake.... We set out hoping to interact with most of the stores on this list.   First stop: 67 Aliwal Street. Two people had an iron fire furikake miso riceball experience. This image was created:misoriceball tour 003_scc riceballs Aliwal wall A haiku poet! Dave Tai who, like a Zen master, listened to me describe the riceball artworks. He then became one with the riceball.  http://www.haikufever.com/ misoriceball tour 005_haiku writer misoriceball tour 009_typewriterNext stop: Shaw Towers, where we had surprised Karen Ong and Lee Hui Lun at Oasis Organic the day  before. Another riceball experience! The shop had just received a big delivery, so we only took this shot, of a shelf where the goods had already been unpacked neatly... misoriceball tour 011_edited Oasis shop interior Then, we did something we don't do often: we ate meat. (I  know, I know...) This is the view of Shaw Towers. You can't see it, but there is a sign that says Shaw Leisure Gallery: The Art of Life. Wish we'd had time to see our dear friends at JDMIS, Asia's  center  for jewelry making classes and certification. misoriceball tour 013_edited Artof life shaw tower monks Next stop Tanglin Mall! The person we met at Brown Rice Paradice was not in the mood for a riceball experience but did seem happy to take the info we provided. Coincidentally, we ran into Chris, jewelry designer and maker of musical beats. We met in Tiong Bahru  in Tiong Bahru a few years ago and, unfortunately, have not yet had a chance to sit down and relax with cold beverages made of fermented wheat and hops and stuff like that... misoriceball tour 019_edited Chris SUPERNATURE! misoriceball tour 023_edited SuperNature shopper At Great World, we stopped by Four Seasons... misoriceball tour 034_edited four seasons organic marketSomewhere near Robertson Quay: documentation of the pamphlet from Mom Natura and the chirashii from Tawaraya misoriceball tour 037_edited Chirashii mom and tawaraya Could not resist! misoriceball tour 041_edited book cafe But, our ultimate destination on Mohamed Sultan was : The Organic Grocer. misoriceball tour 049_edited curated misoriceball tour 048_edited no time to waste Then, we dashed off to catch a glimpse of the Annie Liebovitz show before it closed. I'd worked for her for a month on a series of shoots in Tokyo a while ago and, even though I knew it was a naive idea, thought she might still be in town and I could just say hi. She was gone, of course, but the man in charge was extremely helpful.. and the recipient of one of the day's last iron fire miso furikake riceball masterpieces! Finally, a haiku by Dave Tai... Riceball haiku by Dave Tai

April 23, 2016: Compung (a new word) and Iron Fire Riceball Artwork

Today at the Kampung GUI Eighth Anniversary Event, I debuted a new word and a new artwork. The new word is 'compung' and the new artwork was an edible social sculpture: Iron Fire Miso Riceballs. Compung sounds like, and references, kampung, the Malay language word for village or community. However, the first three letters, c o m, reference computers. 'Compung' is a new word that may have a meaning similar to 'tribes' (as in the 'digital tribes' associated with social media), but with more "real life" interaction. The first conversation of what 'compung' might be like was with Brian Lee Xin Yang, at about 10:30 AM. A Compung Facebook page has been set up. Compung documentation (T-shirt)Created with  "unaesthetic" fonts and layouts, the information suggests incompleteness; the excitement of an initial sketch. The first line is likely the influence of my life  in Ubud. The second line is meant to be-- and look like-- the words which form the message; COMPUNG Art Seed Breaking. The next two lines are self-explanatory, and the last line is a kind of shorthand. The use of "mi" suggests music. There are some T-shirts still available. Do let me know if you'd like one. A collaboration with Mom from Mom's Natura Farms in Bali, the Iron Fire Riceballs were well received. There were discussions about fermentaion, miso's medical properties(including its anti-radiation properties) and the benefits of salt. The iron fire rice balls were an unexpected extension of my Furikake book. A blog post/short story about Mom, Tokyo, Bali and Furikake is here. iron fire riceballs and red thumbkway Lim Lam Hong Confectionery: thank you for always taking the time to make the kways perfect artworks that are delicious!. Thank you to Tawaraya for supplying us with such delicious Hokkaido Nanatsuboshi rice! fire iron miso riceball      

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.

     

Stephen Black at the Magical Kampung

Who: Stephen Black, Asia-based artist, writer and producer. What: Stephen Black will do readings, present his thumb kways and debut a new food artwork entitled Miso Furikake Riceballs, a collaboration with Mom NatuRa. When: Saturday, April 23, 2016 9:30-4:30 Where: Magical Kampung GUI  91 Lorong Chencharu, Yishun
Ground-Up Initiative (GUI)
Kampung Kampus, 91 Lorong Chencharu (Yishun), Singapore 769
Free admission. There are many events going on at the Kampung GUI, as it is their eighth anniversary. Stephen Black will be reading selections from his books, which will be available. The titles include Furikake, Contact With Shadow, Obama Search Words and I Ate Tiong Bahru. More information about the books can be found here. Information about the thumb kway artworks. Miso Furikake Riceballs, a tasty and nutritious autobiographical piece of social art, will debut at the the event. The artwork features organic tekka miso furikake, co-created with Bali-based Mom from Mom Natura Farm. There will be a few surprises as well!

Inari, Bali and Snow (3)

DO NOT READ THIS! THE FINAL VERSION IS HERE! I'm now thrashing around and the roosters are crowing. This is a work in progress that will be done within the hour. What follows are chunks of text that are being refined and polished down. Here is the start of this story. I will likely leave these mistake-filled fragments here, but the final, 14 karat version will be added to an updated version of this. Inari, Bali and Snow (3)

"Tekka" means "iron fire". Tekka miso. Iron fire miso, roasted in a pan for three hours. Sesame seeds. Coconut oil and palm sugar. Mom and I are talking about the art of food; food as social art. Nutritious, delicious sculptures and edible haikus. Popcorn as public sculpture. I explain about el Bulli, Documenta and Chinese pastries shaped like thumbprints. Mom tells me about the miso eaten at Hiroshima. We talk about making furikake.

The whole thing...

Hello. The following is a draft finalized on March 15, 2016 at about 7 AM. It will be reworked, restructured and rewritten.I include it here because it really captures the feeling of furikake. The following text is a sprinkling, a mix of tastes positioned by chance upon a whiteness.

Furikake days:

Faint, bittersweet sands of time

swirling clouds; rice ball.

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 to trudge through the snowdrifts. Cold air stung my nose and lungs. After the white maze of my neighborhood, I reached Shinjuku-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, 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. 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. Somewhere in Golden Gai was Shunchan’s. Like a wounded cowboy I limped down the stairs into a Golden Gai that was now a little white ghost town. I was sure Shunchan wouldn't be there. I was wrong.

Irrrashai!” He said it not with the loud bellowing mechanical style of most Japanese 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.

I sat in the back, watched by the same 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. There was a kerosene heater by Shunchan’s feet. My hands treasured my glass of hot water and whiskey. My frozen pants were melting.

A naked and attractive young Japanese woman tiptoed down the stairs like a pixie. With her finger, she moved her hair behind her ear. She She politely smiled at me, then leaned forward to watch Shunchan make her tea. I became fascinated with the smoke-stained chirashis promoting last years offerings of underground movies, independent music, butoh and avante-garde theatre. She was 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 went back to using his ice pick. My unforgettable morning was, for him, just another day at work.

February 21, 2016

Bamboo Spirit is a large house-like, open structure located at the top of the Penestanan steps. It’s old, made of wood and next to a stream. Bamboo Spirit is a Hindu place, a Russian place, a quietly glorious Balinese place. From the second floor and the small room on the third, one can see rice fields and the hills of Ubud. On Sundays there is a vegetarian buffet and this is how I met Mom, who, with her husband, Komang, and a team from WWOOF, operate Mom NatuRa, a farm that uses no pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Mom and her team display their goods at Bamboo Spirit. When Mom and I met, we soon discovered our shared appreciation of all things fermented. I gave Mom some laphet (Burmese fermented tea leaves) and she gave me mimosa tea. As soon as I could, I went to Mom’s farm, ready to experience the first shift, from six to nine in the morning.

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. Children from the school yelled "Hello" and "Good morning", their voices and 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.

We ate breakfast in Mom's bamboo house. Manny talked about food, air, water and McDonald's and we all discussed furikake, laphet and mimosa tea. Mom taught us that the “tekka” in tekka miso is derived from the Chinese characters meaning fire and iron. Tekka is also used to describe someone with strong, purposeful energy. Rachel mentioned something she'd read about how the visual appearance of food influences the effectiveness of digestion. We ate papaya and okra salad and rice balls. Another topic: the ideal state of mind for those people who prepare food. While I was at Mom's farm for those four hours I was in the center of a beautifully slow and flowing sequence of events, thoughts and exchanges. I drank no coffee.:)

But my strongest impression was my experience with the muddy path task. The farm has a network of paths and some sections had become very slippery because of the rain. Mom told me to use the old leaves and stalks from the banana plants as mats that would provide traction and improve safety. You don't want to fall with a large cutting instrument in your hands... I didn't plan; in such a cosmic place, everything would be naturally perfect. But I learned that 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.

So, although we had no serious discussions about furikake, my first day at Mom's taught me about her approach to farming. In that natural environment I also was given time to reflect upon myself.

But back to furikake...

It has always been my dream to create a type of furikake. I see rice as a canvas upon which a composition is sprinkled. This canvas, is in turn placed into the gallery of the mouth, where , instead of viewers, there are glands, teeth and the tongue with its taste sensors. These critics are brutal and a poor furikake artwork will be spit out. A great furikake artwork will be savored and possibly become an addiction.

This farm makes miso. I 've picked peanuts here, and used a hoe to make a ditch. Komang gave me striped okra pods that were like striped, brittle antelope horns. Three seeds in a hole. I did that carefully as I could but then the sun was going down and I speeded up. Not good to leave something undone. Komang may have seen me rushing, maybe not. He just came over and helped. "We always plant with love," is all he said.

LAPHET ART: A collaboration between Mom and Stephen Black

Miso Furikake, roasted over a pan for 2-3 hours and then mixed with other zingy things.

So:Tokyo, quite a few years, New York for a year, before and after The Handover in Hong Kong, then Tokyo for the millennium, then the excitement of crashing the dot-com boom party with Kumiko Akiyoshi. Singapore, to create Second Life, but before Second Life; to lay the foundation for something like Youtube, but before Youtube. My indefinably starlike daughter... Supernova relationships. Scholarly friends, friends who needed a bath like me, friends who drove around in new cars and threw cigarette butts out the window. Roommates with holes in their socks and roommates who blessed me with hearty breakfasts and made me feel like family. A three-legged cat and driving away from a lover's home in Paris as the sun rose and the taxi river played a ney as he drove me from the Port of Clouds to Orly. Medicinal mushrooms and sitting in a Clementi coffeeshop, a cheap mobile phone to my ear as I learned how they took a long blood vessel from the leg and put it in his chest to repair his heart. Chemo and radiation treatments. I think of all of these things,especially the chemo and radiation, as I plant black beans and watch the sunrise. Chemo and radiation, chemo and radiation.

But it was March 20, 2106 and we were in a bamboo house talking and talking, getting to know each other and preparing to create something that would be an artwork, a flavorful delight and perhaps a product: miso-based furikake. Alive, we were talking about making something that would keep people alive.

Kue.I should mention the name of this bakery because I am a food artist who has created artworks with kue, though I prefer the spelling of k-w-ay and most of Singapore, at least uses the spelling of k-u-e-h. For what it's worth, I am back in front of my computer after doing errands in downtown Ubud. There is a strawberry Danish and a pumpkin muffin on the table next to me, both from the day-old tray at Kue. I also have a cup of lukewarm Myanmar sour tea. However, just drank a cup of kopi Bali at the warung at the opposite end of the trail that runs from the Penestanan Stairs to the road that eventually leads to Ubud. I sat there, watching the women make offerings with canang sari while the men made small talk in the shade. Children from the pre-school screamed every now and then and insects making noises almost constantly,cicadas especially. Doves made their noises. Across the simple road, beneath a very large tree, was a grey structure, a covered shed built of concrete walls. The walls in the front were only about as tall as a man&s chest and there was a gate in the middle. The structure was stark yet attractive. The French architect Le Corbusier would have studied it. Le Corbusier wrote that houses are machines for living, but the structure was a machine for storing garbage, most of it unwrapped. Roosters strutted around or leaped and flew into the structure, looking like rags being tossed when they did. As I drank my coffee two of the roosters(at different times, as though they were on shifts) flew up on the short wall in front and crowed, as though proclaiming themselves guardians and thinking the dogs would be afraid.

I eventually finished my coffee and road back on the twisty trail that passes by the stream where people bathe, past the rice fields, past the luxury hotel that uses a golf cart to transport guests. I parked in front of the shop that does customized beadwork and sells papayas, then walked along the narrow trail that passes Yellow Flower Cafe and Intuitive Flow. Now I sit and review the relationship between my recent life experiences and furikake.

Miso! Man, the miso is serious! It seems to have saved people in Hiroshima.

seeds

Mom and I are standing barefooted on the ground, the earthen floor of Bamboo Spirit. There is a yellow silk canopy above that warms and softens the light, giving Mom and me, and everyone and everything here, a faint golden glow.

So yeah, Mom and I sat there in her bamboo house. Along with her husband and the WOOF volunteers, We'd worked all day and eaten a wonderful meal. We had amazake and Sayuri listened to our stories. Mom and I discovered that we'd lived in the same neighborhood in Tokyo and she was a very good friend of Shunchan's.

Bara e, e ma

pictures and words seen by kami;

it's a long old road...

Washed the clay and mud off my boots, kind of liked the muds stains on my blue jeans. Sat on the tatami wearing the green shirt my mom gave me, now with a hole between my shoulder and my heart. We sat there and Mom and I talked. She knew Shunchan very well, shared a bed with him in a nonsexual way and once was asked to pretend to be Shunchan's fiancee so his mother would stop insisting he get married. I'd heard bits and pieces of these stories from Shunchan. Mom and I had very likely waited for trains at Higashi-Nakano station at the same, time, maybe stood together almost touching maybe as we watched the practice sessions in the ninja school across from the station. We both had eaten in the Mongolian tent behind the KFC, where the owner had created a book about a circus and his daughter with autism. Maybe, three decades ago, I had sat at the bar with mom and thought of very lustful things.

A woman fully conscious of the fact that we are all in the same tiny boat on the massive River of Time, sometimes going with the flow, sometimes lost without a paddle.

Tekka “ means “iron fire.” Tekka miso, roasted in a pan for three hours. Sesame seeds. Coconut oil and palm sugar. Mom and I are talking about the art of food; food as social art. Delicious sculptures and edible haikus. Popcorn as public sculpture. I explained about el Bulli, Documenta and Chinese pastries shaped like thumbprints. Mom told me about the good salt in miso and long fermentation times. We talk about making furikake.

 

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.

Writing Furikake (a short story from the Furikake book)

  • The Author Show audio  interview with Stephen Black on the Furikake book.
So... I wrote Furikake, a collection of short stories, in 2009. I did no publicity, saying that I would bite the bullet and expect no sales until I could publicize Furikake when I had eight other completed books. That time has come. Furikake is on Amazon, where you can see the cover I created and called the "worst cover on Amazon".
terrible book covers

... ugliest cover on Amazon.

You see, unless you do publicity... your. book. is. invisible... Here is one of the stories from Furikake... WRITING FURIKAKE Dearest reader, Thank you for reading this. I do not know how this piece of writing found its way to you, but I hope it is worth your time. You are reading a piece called Writing Furikake. I will tell you right now that it is not very good. It is what I call “Saturday writing”. Saturday writing is the kind of writing that some unpublished writers force themselves to do on Saturdays or late on Sunday nights. Now, these frustrated writers can be very good and many are very good. However, when something is written out of a sense of obligation, the results are rarely memorable. So, why am I sharing this piece of poor, forced Saturday writing with you? The answer is easy: I need to pad my word count. OK, I actually am not a frustrated Saturday writer. It is now Wednesday, 2:11 a.m. and I really should start rewriting the condominium sales blurbs which are expected by nine. I would not be writing about furikake at this moment unless I had a furikake-related burning desire within my chest if. I do. Yes, I do have a furikake-related burning desire within my chest. I am serious. War zone serious. Being so deadly serious, I must inform you of a serious problem plaguing this book. I will also demonstrate the simple solution to this serious problem. However, the simple solution is not serious. As a few rough drafts of this book were completed, a problem became clear: the word ‘furikake’ is annoying when it is repeated. A page does not become a meditative mantra if it chants ‘furikake’ every six lines or so. ‘Furikake’, when used repeatedly does NOT become a hipsterish, postmodern amusement or a cute literary device. If “furikake” appears on a page more than once, its repetition overpowers the delicate sentiment and interplay of the other words, phrases and ideas. Unlike garlic or salt which can obviously dominate culinary creations (Holy guacamole! That’s way too salty!), the word ‘furikake’ almost creates an unpleasant sensation, its literary flavor somewhere between ‘French fries’ and ‘kelp’. On the page, ‘furikake’ is a leftover quiche that is “probably” OK to eat. This is sad, because furikake is a simple and marvelous thing to eat. Part of the problem is the rhythm of furikake; foo ree ka ke. In Japanese the ‘ke’ would be pronounced as’ kay, but is often mispronounced outside of Japan as ‘key’, just as sake is often mispronounced as’ sa key’, when the correct pronunciation is ‘sa kay’. Furikake: it could be a mob calling for the release of a political prisoner named Khaki. Free Khaki, Free Khaki, Free Khaki now! Or, it could be a give away for clothes: Free khaki jackets! Aisle three, while supplies last! But the above thoughts give the word ‘furikake -and the sounds used to pronounce it, more energy than they can handle. The eight letters and four syllables of furikake hint at ambition, but ultimately the word is uncomfortable in the spotlight. Furikake, is after all, a seasoning for rice, not a main course. To be fair, in Japanese the word works beautifully.' Furikake' is derived from the verb 'furikakeru', meaning 'to sprinkle over'. The sounds match the action; onomatopoeia, something the Japanese language often does wonderfully. But, in English the word just doesn’t work; the double hardness of the ‘k’ sounds at the end cancel the dreamy 'furi' part in the beginning. As promised: the solution. Easy. The solution is substitution. As you read, substitute another word or phrase whenever you see ‘furikake’. Some examples. Original text: As she was leaving for the airport, we stood on the cold empty platform, awkward, unhappy and silent. Far away a tiny light appeared on the parallel tracks; the train that would take her away. I broke the silence. “They have furikake at the supermarket in Jurong East.” This could have been a code. She had always bought the furikake, from a store by her office near City Hall, the kind of store that expats like. If it had been a code, it would have meant that I was no longer expecting her to share evenings of wine and rice with furikake. But it wasn’t a code; I was just stating a fact. We didn’t need codes. If we were to stop seeing each other, we wouldn’t say it with furikake, as though we were cryptic characters in a black and white French movie. Substitution example 1 As she was leaving for the airport, we stood on the cold empty platform; awkward, unhappy and silent. Far away a tiny light appeared on the parallel tracks; the train that would take her away. I broke the silence. “They have organic goat butter at the supermarket in Jurong East.” This could have been a code. She had always bought the organic goat butter, from a store by her office near City Hall, the kind of store that expats like. If it had been a code, it would have meant that I was no longer expecting her to share evenings of wine and rice with organic goat butter. But it wasn’t a code; I was just stating a fact. We didn’t need codes. If we were to stop seeing each other, we wouldn’t say it with organic goat butter, as though we were cryptic characters in a black and white French movie. Substitution example 2 As she was leaving for the airport, we stood on the cold empty platform; awkward, unhappy and silent. Far away a tiny light appeared on the parallel tracks; the train that would take her away would soon arrive. I broke the silence. “They have hairless Chihuahuas at the supermarket in Jurong East.” This could have been a code. She had always bought the hairless Chihuahuas, from a store by her office near City Hall, the kind of store that expats like. If it had been a code, it would have meant that I was no longer expecting her to share evenings of wine and rice, with our hairless Chihuahuas nearby. But it wasn’t a code; I was just stating a fact. We didn’t need codes. If we were to stop seeing each other, we wouldn’t say it with hairless Chihuahuas, as though we were cryptic characters in a black and white French movie. The light of the train was no longer a dot. Soon the metal beast would roar into the station, blowing our hair like it does in the movies and she would take two steps away from me. Our years of joy and intimacy would be forever ended by the guillotine of the MRT sliding doors. She turned to me to utter the last words I would ever watch her lips make. Her eyes were wet with tears. “I hope,” she said, turning her head from mine to look in the direction of the train. “I hope,” she repeated, “that hairless Chihuahuas are cheaper there.” Perhaps now you see some of the difficulties writers face. When exercises such as the one above yield so many exciting possibilities, it is difficult to stay on track. The substitution exercise is an old favorite of mine, as it not only makes writers’ block disappear, it generates ideas galore. Some of these ideas, when pruned carefully, can yield sweet and wholesome literary fruits. However, temptation be damned! I have staked my literary life on ‘furikake’, a word as dynamic as furry slippers. Yes, dear reader, I am fully aware that, linguistically ‘furikake’ generates the enthusiasm of stale crackers, but I shall carry on as planned, against all odds. Viva la furikake!
photography as part of book cover design

the new cover, an image from the Furikake performance by Felix Metayer at Mom NatuRa's organic farm, where among other things, furikake is produced.

LINKS TO THE WONDER THAT IS FURIKAKE http://www.tastespotting.com/tag/furikake http://www.notey.com/@pepper_unofficial/external/7860755/make-your-own-furikake-with-everything-from-dried-fish-to-potato-chips.html http://setthetableblog.com/set-the-table-3/homemade-furikake    

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...
And yes, if you are around Ubud on Sunday, stop by.
miso happy!

miso!