Tag Archives: SB projects

Agaricus blazeii Murrill, Sacha Inchi Oil and Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

....................30...................

Part two of this story is here.

re: Paul Stamet; This is his company.

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

Touching JB: intro to the new book by Stephen Black

Touching JB: I am very very hugely, remarkably, extremely mega-excited about this project. Adrenaline, research, romance, Johor Bahru and assam laksa. Onward!

Self-portrait as a Game

Hong Kong 1995 To pay the bills you work as a promo producer for Cartoon Network/Turner Classic Movies. At a wild party in a hair salon on a Sunday morning,  a beautiful Japanese woman says you should meet Seki, because, “he’s a genius.” You:
  1. Get Seki's contact info
  2. Thank her and misbehave
You show up at Seki’s. Your eyes immediately become glued to:
  1. Seki, a short, charming man with a moustache; part Mr. Magoo, part card shark
  2. The wireframe mode of a lens displayed on his laptop
  3. The postcards of rabbits on Seki's wall
The Handover of Hong Kong from Great Britain to China is over and you have become a freelancer. You get a job as a producer for CNN, a music program called Worldbeat. You  go to Singapore to cover the WOMAD Festival, with the help of a fantastic assistant and a great cameraman. As you get back onto the plane to return to Hong Kong, you think:
  1. I ‘m never coming back here again
  2. What a fascinating multicultural, cosmopolitan first world country.  A truly desirable and charming place in which to reside!
You are now in Tokyo, to  set up and manage the six television channels operated by Fox, who have just set up operations in Japan.That contract ends and you write a movie script and search out ways to produce the film. Eventually you have to leave and re-enter the country for visa reasons. You go to:
  1. Shanghai
  2. Singapore
Singapore is where has Seki set up his $3.2  million  startup. The company has two divisions: one is doing something like Youtube; a platform for user-generated video content. (This is three years before Youtube.) The other division is creating a 3D/VR software for game development. The software is educational and entertaining and you have never seen anything like it. Seki asks you to join him, for a reasonable salary and a stake in the company. You:
  1. Join Seki
  2. Return to Tokyo to make a film
October 24, Singapore Science Center. Two years after joining Seki, the gamemaking software will premiere as part of the  three-month long Planet Games exhibition at the Singapore Science Center. You set up a small table with a large monitor and big CPU. Next to you is a large maze made out of plastic sheets;  something called AR Pacman. You and the AR Pacman team are the ony exhibitors in the Future section. Finally after more than ten years of hard work, Seki’s dream is a reality. The morning of the premiere, Seki:
  1. Dies from a heart attack
  2. Announces plans for the IPO
...to be continued....

Let’s Spend the River Together

the writing spree begins now; in  Johor Bahru, Malaysia at 2AM... What a delight it is when unplanned events suddenly enrich our lives. A small example: I wanted to research the possibilities of short story/gaming mashups. This search led me to the work of Marc Laidlaw.  His words and ideas helped shape the legendary Half-Life.  His blog post about writing for games  is a burning  Panthunian crystal, set high on a hill; guidance  for the  hooded, tired traveler that was my question. However, what was delightful is this: I have been researching hands, especially all that is profundis , as well as writing about photography. Mr. Laidlaw had once been approached about doing a “cover version” of The Viewfinder by Raymond Carver.  Hats off to  Larry McCaffery for that idea. Fingers and a camera figure prominently in Carver’s story! My  “cover” of The Viewfinder is now in its second draft and will be in the JB book. I will do my best, but it will never be as good as this story about a musical cover: http://www.blacksteps.tv/the-greatest-music-of-all-time/   PS: Just discovered this, about the use of photography in The Viewfinder:  https://www.scribd.com/document/263990334/Raymond-Carver-in-the-Viewfinder   PSS Here is the latest draft of my cover of The Viewfinder.           Weaselspittism

Steve’s VR Startup

I began working with VR in 2002, with a software development kit for children, the CDK. The Creative Development Kit allowed inexperienced children AND serious game developers to create games and projects, using our models and commands. The CDK was studied by the Singaporean Ministry of Education and used in schools throughout Singapore, as well as in the Singapore Science Center.  I took a hiatus from VR to write books, one of which has become a best seller in Singapore. I also  began research f0r a book on digital cinematography/VR/art, co-produced/curated SPOKEN, a virtual gallery with Eugene Soh and wrote/co-produced/starred in a 360 short film called Beach Road. In the middle of 2016, I decided that the time was right for my VR ideas. This blog is filled with posts about research , seminars, meetings etc. I am now refining my pitchdeck for presentation to investors/VCs. I would prefer to bootstrap, but for this company, at this time, that is a challenge that would seem to take a long time to solve.
................... Here are the basic questions investors want answered: What is it? What problem does it solve? Who is making it? Potential audience? What work has been done? How will it grow? Business projections Resources needed Reference Schedule Describe yourself Skills Here is what I can share publicly at this time. Potential audience? One billion (yes, that is a 'b') What work has been done? Extensive pre-production  including: research, research research, paper mockup, paper grey box mockup, troubleshooting  bootcamp with trusted associates, started theoretical command sequences for programmers, UI design(fonts, layout color patterns) How will it grow? I have compiled a list of personal connections and carefully selected industry leaders (mainly bloggers and journalists). These people would form a base for testing. Additionally, when the time is right, a press release will be sent to the VR media and notification give to VR social media groups. The user base will grow through these channels as well as through word of mouth. Other methods of promotion have been planned. In addition to meeting a need, the project is fun to use. Though the project is simple and functional, the user experience will feel like the best parts of a five star restaurant, Cirque Soleil and driving a Ferrari. Business projections: Huge If you would like to know more or be a beta tester, feel free to get in touch. Onward!   SB      

Touching Johor Bahru 1

I've plenty of notes about this place, as well the nights I've spent with the present owner at the 123 Cafe... http://johorkaki.blogspot.com/2012/01/indian-curry-puffs-salahuddin-bakery-in.html?m=1 https://m.facebook.com/pages/Salahuddin-Bakery-Jalan-Dhoby/151382781582630 https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g298278-d7139589-Reviews-Salahuddin_Bakery-Johor_Bahru_Johor_Bahru_District_Johor.html

Stephen Black: VR startup in Singapore. Why?

An outline of reasons as to why Singapore is the place for Stephen Black's planned  VR startup.
  1. As Creative Director/Producer for the CDK, a CG-generated VR project for a Singapore-based joint venture, SB became very familiar with Singapore's working environment, including government policies and business practices. (The CDK is described more fully elsewhere on this blog.)
  2. As a long-term resident based in Singapore since 2002, and the author of a bestselling book about Singapore (i ate tiong bahru), SB has a familiarity with Singapore as well as a personal and professional network.
  3. The government of Singapore provides support for VR and VR-related startups. https://www.spring.gov.sg/Nurturing-Startups/SEEDS/Pages/spring-start-up-enterprise-development-scheme.aspx VR in Singapore
  4. As a teacher of VR-related educational software in the Singapore educational system, SB has experience "in the trenches", regarding the demands of institutions, schools, teachers and students. The Singapore Ministry of successfully tested the CDK and  presented the results at an international educational symposium.
  5. Singapore is a regional hub, with strong connections throughout Southeast Asia,India, China and Japan. This fact, combined with SB's living experiences in Japan, Hong Kong, Paris, New York and Bali create a strong  possibility for an active beta network that will be an influential force for global take-up.
    two male avatars in a very red gallery

    Stephen Black and Eugene Soh in the virtual lobby of gallery.sg, the location for the SPOKEN exhibition

    6. Safe and stable, Singapore has trustworthy legal and business infrastructures. 7. English: yes! Other languages? Yes, yes, yes and yes! 8.Singapore's multicultural population is also very smartphone savvy.
     

stephen black start up

Two hundred percent. Ten thousand percent. Whatever it takes.... I am finalizing a pitch deck now and calmly, but urgently, looking for a Unity/C# person who works hard and dreams harder. VR and more. NOW.

Stephen Black: VR, Art, Books and Singapore

This blog post chronicles some of the activities I have been involved with since 2002, when I began being based in Singapore. Previous to 2002, I lived in Manhattan,Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong.I have a BFA degree in Photographic Illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology, with a minor in Film and Video and have been employed by companies such as Fuji TV, Cartoon Network, Fox, MTV, France 2 and Turner Classic Movies. I have directed, created promos and written scripts in addition to my activities as a photographer, artist and writer. 2002-2007 Creative Director, Producer, Cameraman, Instructor and Writer for WalkerAsia/Compudia/Blacksteps This story is quite cinematic but to simplify, the CEO who was the guiding force of WalkerAsia and  Compudia passed away unexpectedly, without a succession plan in place. The business plan of WalkerAsia was to be something like Youtube--but at the time we were unaware of Youtube, as it began 3 years later, in 2005.The business plan of Compudia was to create a platform that included email, chat, character licensing and a very very powerful educational/gaming SDK that was both simple enough for inexperienced children and advanced enough for professional game designers. CDK Landing pageI formed Blacksteps to to carry the project forward. However, despite the fact that Compudia had been set up with over $3 million dollars worth of funding and had positive, working relationships with the Singapore Ministry of Education, the Singapore Science Center  and other Singapore agencies, as well as the beginning of public acceptance, issues surrounding the IP made further successes impossible. I then decided to spend more time with art and began writing books-- a lifelong dream of mine. (My father was a book salesman.) I was certain I would return to VR once mobile technology stabilized and VR headsets were finally accessible to the public. Details about the books I wrote can be found elsewhere on this blog. The titles include: The Agaricus blazeii Murrill Notebook, Obama Search Words, Furikake, Contact With Shadow, Bali Wave Ghost and i ate tiong bahru which is a national bestseller in Singapore. The following projects are VR-related Secret Donut World is a collaboration with David Severn a British artist/resident of Japan. The Secret Donut World characters and the world they live in are designed specifically for VR. We are now reviewing SDW in light of recent stabilized technologies, such as those which made Pokemon Go and Job Simulator possible. We are preparing materials for partnerships, licensing and investors.
lance from Secret Donut World

Flame Magnet is go! Art by David Severn

SPOKEN www.gallery.sg Inside of a virtual gallery(Unity) built by Eugene Soh are a number of works which I curated. There was also a writing component. Participants were from all over the world, some very famous, some not. More details can be found on this blog.   Cinematography 8.0 light and motion in the age of VR, AR, AI, 360, 8K and drones is the title of a book work in progress. Information is available elsewhere on this blog.cinematography_cover_221116_576_1024_v3   3how: the Riverwalk Session As co-founder of 3how, I am fortunate to work with exceptionally talented people of all kinds. The musicianship on this album is outstanding and the recording technique provided valuable experience for future audio projects, VR included.
a circle with veins

3how: a table in front of a wall

Lee Wen: Ping Pong Go Round and Seasons Without Seasons Although SWS is not 360, the idea of 360 space was one of the concerns while shooting and editing Beach Road Produced with Hiverlab, this short film was featured at the 2015 Brisbane Film Festival and nominated for Best Experimental Film at the 2016 Las Vegas VR Fest.
360 video still

Stephen Black sits in a parking lot. Image is in 360. Beach Road is a coproduction between Stephen Black and hiverlab

Norm Black was the name of a photo exhibition and the public debut of Beach Road. 3how performed. 2015 ay4ya-woman-with-vr-goggles The Sudden VR Fest at Ay4ya art space at Isetan, Wisma Atria, Singapore.2016 Informal and full of surprises, the Sudden VR Fest was organized by Stephen Black and included the participation of Hiverlab, Lionel Chok/ImmersivelyPicture Perfect Productions,  Jo Joshua/Viziofly and Aram Pan. Related post:  http://www.blacksteps.tv/the-2016-sudden-vr-festival-360-videos-on-youtube/ jo-joshua-at-the-sudden-vr-festival   w-lionel-chok-at-isetan jo-joshua-pointing-at-jane-the-sudden-vr-festival  

Crowdfunding Success… or is it?

This post outlines my current crowdfunding campaign: why it successfully went over target within three days and why that is somewhat of a mixed blessing. Background For my third attempt at crowdfunding, I planned a campaign for glassware to be engraved with the phrase i ate tiong bahru, the name of my book, a national bestseller in Singapore. Prior to this, I had created a sample of the engraved glassware and it was met with support. One store had immediately expressed great interest. A successful crowdfunding campaign would allow me to do two things: 1. Create an edition of 88 numbered and signed glasses for art collectors. (I consider iatb to be a conceptual art project, but to explain why would require a separate post.) 2. Conduct a small marketing test. The amount was set at $650 dollars, which would allow one hundred glasses to be purchased and engraved. Procedure I made a video, prepared my budget and rewards. I chose to work with Zingohub because I had happened to meet Sayantan Das, the co-founder. I was impressed by him, as well as Zingohub's focus on Southeast Asia. (I should mention that Tiong Bahru is a community in Singapore.) Because Zingohub is new, I would be one of their earlybirds, meaning more attention would be given to my campaign than if it were one of the thousands on Kickstarter or other bigger crowdfunding sites. There could have been some of those unforeseen downsides that come along with a new IT company, but all went well. If anything, I was the weakest link as I decided to start a campaign very quickly during one of the busiest times of my life. Finally, I should mention that Zingohub includes an online store, which is a great idea. So with input and assistance from Zingohub, I had my rewards and video prepared. I then wrote to about twenty people that I thought would be interested in the glassware, either as an artwork or just as a simple fun household item. Then we went live. What happened... Well...within three days I went over target by 30%! Number one of the first glass in the edition of 88 was sold, for $589! I thought that the lower numbers in the edition, which sell for $59 (including a book) would be purchased first. Plus, 4 people wanted the package which includes a coffee session with me. Finally, one person pledged a very welcome dollar to be mentioned on my social media pages. Am I happy? YES.... BUT... What needs to happen next...
I really had not put my full campaign into action. I thought that of the twenty people I contacted, some would respond and the campaign would look positive from the first day. I never thought I would meet my goal so quickly, let alone exceed it.
So, now I am following through with the rest of my campaign plans. My rewards are, I believe, a good value and now I must push this value as a reason to participate. The "fun" of being part of a support team is now somewhat diminished. This is bittersweet, as it is a great feeling to be part of a team that struggles and slowly achieves success.Now, those who support my campaign are probably doing so more because the rewards, rather than because of the thrill of supporting an uncertainty. In any event, I am very thankful for any support, existing or incoming in the next two weeks. I hope that I can find at least another six supporters. Sixty supporters.... As it is now, I'm asking myself if six people are a crowd... The i ate tiong bahru glassware campaign is here. The book that started it all is on Amazon.