We’re celebrating New Year’s in the alwasy beautiful Joshua Tree National Park where, eventually, an inspiring travel story will emerge. This is my third visit and I’m still in awe of the scenery. Wish everone of you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year! Let’s also hope that 2019 will bring an end to at least some of the world’s madness and the madmen that create it.
My mother was baptized Solveig Andersson and came from Järns parish in Dalsland, Sweden. Like so many young and adventurous Scandinavians after WWII, she ventured out into the world where the grass was rumored to be much, much greener.
I love cycling, rollerblading and skateboarding along the Venice Bike Path here in Southern California. The bike path stretches from the south end below the base of the hills at Palos Verdes Peninsula all the way up north to Will Rogers State Beach in the Pacific Palisades area.
There’s something inherently democratic about the Venice Bike Path. It welcomes everybody and is such a great way to exercise, get some sun and, of course, street photography. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Los Angeles without spending at least some time along the bike path.
You’ve certainly read that the US government is currently without a fiscal budget? That many federal agencies are closed now and that hundreds of thousands of government employees risk not getting paid next month?
You’ve probably also heard that President Trump refuses to sign a new budget and add more debt until Congress approves the financing of the wall along the southern border to Mexico.
What mainstream newspapers don’t write much about is that the US’s total debt now amounts to close to $20 trillion. Which is not just a staggering amount of zeros, but also a worrisome liability which is going to be almost impossible to balance.
What bothers me about this is how stupid it is to put so much money ($5 billion at first, $18 billion in total) into building a wall when the project’s real purpose is really just to win political points and not solve real problems.
It’s like building taller chimneys to deal with pollution that factories pump out into the air. Which is treating symptoms, not solving problems.
For many decades, American companies have exploited Mexican workers, both in the US and above all in Mexico, where dozens of America’s largest corporations have been operating for a long time. Extremely low wages have been paid to employees whom in addition have been forced to work in rough environments and with fewer benefits than most Americans working in the US manufacturing industry.
These low wages have not by a long shot been enough to build up a stable, Mexican middle class in the villages and towns where the factories are located. And if you’re a Mexican factory worker and hear that you’ll get paid ten or twenty times as much in the US as you currently are in Mexico, it shouldn’t really be too surprising that this country has a problem with illegal immigration.
So, what if American and other multinational companies operating in Mexico had instead paid sensible wages to their local employees and took a stand in favor of social responsibility and Fair Trade (listen up, all you Milton Friedman followers!)? I think these poor folks need to risk their lives, flee from poverty, sneak into a country up north in pursuit of a better life, would likely be reduced to a minimum. There wouldn’t be an incentive to relocate.
On a side note, I wonder how well the United States would actually manage without all the legal and illegal immigrants from Central America. How would the hospitality and restaurant business or the agricultural industry survive without the huge pool of cheap labor it has today?
The wall is unlikely to get built. Hopefully, Trump will have left his increasingly tarnished presidential post long before any wall has been erected. I also hope that some smart person in the United States identifies that the problem will never be solved with a wall. Neither now nor in the future. That the problem is only going to be solved when corporations have a long-term view and are not just focused on quarterly earnings.
Walls never solve problems. They only demonstrate that one does not understand or care about where the problems lie or don’t want to take on an important challenge. And that’s exactly the same attitude as the American government has to the country’s abysmal debt. Borrowing more money instead of trying to find ways to get debt free.
Trump (and most of his predecessors) would rather build a taller chimney so they don’t have to see the crap they’ve been burning during their tenure.
The video was shot during a photography excursion the other day arond Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles with friend and colleague Larry D’Attilio.
From earlier this morning.
Went to Cow’s End for a hearty Christmas Day breakfast: an everything on it bagel with salmon, cream cheese, capers, onions and a tall double-shot latte made with unsweetened coconut milk. With my hunger assuaged and half my cup still full, I strolled down to the Venice Pier to see if anybody I knew was out surfing. Nobody was. But it was gorgeous nonetheless.
The morning air today was suitably crisp for Christmas Day. Chilly but not cold. Warm enough for shorts but not quite ample for just a tee. It’s sunny with blue skies and that seems to bring out the smiles in folks anywhere I’ve ever travelled. And Venice Beach is certainly no exception.
While it used to amuse me as a stage for both edgy and creative characters, today I don’t much appreciate the freak show part of Venice Beach Boardwalk anymore. It seems as if there’s more emphasis on freaks than on showmanship and real talent these days. Or, maybe I’m just being a curmudgeon. So, I tend to mostly hang around the area that has the pier as its epic center.The sound of the ocean has always had a hypnotic effect on me. Especially here. At night, when traffic dies down on Pacific Avenue, I can hear the ocean ever-so vaguely from our apartment. Or, maybe someone is just heavy-handed on their vaping pipe.
I really love falling asleep to the sound of waves as they reach the shore and gently crepitate into silence. I’ll typically doze off somewhere between two waves rolling in.
In my childhood, a few years before my parents broke up, they rented the bottom floor of a two story wooden house right on Malibu Beach. This is back in the late 1960s – long before Malibu became a reservation for today’s abundantly/astronomically wealthy. Anyway, the beach house had a small porch four or five feet above the sand. At high tide, I would sit on the very edge with my feet dangling over, watching the ocean sweep under the house, give the sand a dark hue and leave golden strands of sparkling seaweed wrapped around the porch’s stilts. What a care-free time it was, indeed.
Despite being a metropolis with millions of mostly struggling urbanites, Los Angeles’ beaches tend to be amazingly empty this time of year. Which is just fine by me. Less is more, as the saying goes.
Stumbled onto to this little critter yesterday afternoon while walking along Pacific Avenue on my way to meet Elle at a surf shop (ZJ’s).
I’ve shot a fair amount of animals in the wild, so I know that it takes timing, having the right settings and some luck to get a good photo. Especially when you know how fleeting the moment is.
That said, this particular squirrel was not only patient with me. It looked almost eager to pose for me and wasn’t at all disturbed or distracted while I fidgeted with the camera’s dials. The only concern it seemed to have was to discern whether or not I was going to be a threat to the nut it had found.
Merry Christmas, everybody!
Here’s what it looked like a few hours ago as we descended on Runway 24L at LAX. Just as soon as the Dreamliner’s wheels touched down on the brightly lit tarmac, did the familiar sense of coming home arrive. It’s hard to explain, let alone convey in writing. I can feel like this in other places, too. Such is the constant traveler’s dilemma. Where is home?
After an extremely smooth immigration process, at least for Elle and myself with our shiny new US passports, the family entered a comfy ÜberX and thereafter the Sri Lankan driver took us straight to our Airbnb apartment on Pacific Avenue. It’s got this perfect address just north of Washington Boulevard near the Venice Beach Pier, a mere block west of the popular Venice Canals (made even more famous by the tv show Californication).
I’ve been a big fan of Airbnb for a half dozen years now and all three of us were positively surprised at how spacious and well-equipped the flat we’ve rented turned out to be. In addition to a large living room, we’ve also got two reasonably big bedrooms, each with ensuite bathrooms, and a kitchen with pretty much everything we need to cook during our week-long stay here.
After unpacking and getting somewhat organized, Elle and I took another Über up to Lincoln and Rose where “our” Whole Foods store is located – just to get something for a late and light evening meal and, more importantly, essentials for tomorrow’s breakfast. Of course, once we got there, the Whole Foods seduction process effectively set in and before we knew it, our cart was overflowing with a bounty of deliciousness. Always a pleasure to contribute to the bustling US economy.
Like with most folks, how I feel about my old hometown is a mixed bag of emotions. Growing up here was often tumultuous, to say the least, and I wish that at least some of my most vivid memories, nightmares really, could forever be forgotten. With age, I’m sure they increasingly will. One of few benefits of growing older. As bad as it often was, there were still some highlights. But in all honesty, I’ve had considerably more fun here as an adult than as a kid. Such is life.
Obviously, much has changed in LA. since the mid to late 70s. Especially in West Hollywood where I grew up. Tower Records on Sunset is gone and the Bowling Alley on Santa Monica where friends and I used to hang after school, has long, long been replaced. As is the amusement park Kiddyland and Ponyland off La Cienega and Beverly. Heck, those places were torn down probably 40 years ago. The famously seedy Barney’s Beanery on Santa Monica continues to do business near the old IHOP – and my old elementary schools Saint Victor’s and Rosewood are still around. Sadly though, most of my old buddies have either moved away or fallen into obscurity. At least in my universe.
We’re heading to Fairfax High School’s weekend flea market later today and through the classic Farmer’s Market was mostly absorbed by flashy strip mall The Grove several decades ago, I can still walk around parts of the old market and recognize myself. And as far as I know, Canter’s Deli is still around just up the street.
Out here on the coast, changes are much subtler and less visually disruptive. Which is probably why I insist on staying in this part of L.A. each time we’re here to work and play. Everything is just so comfortably, almost numbingly familiar. The fresh, salty breeze, wide, sandy beach, the busy bike path, a faint smokey smell of ancient tar coming from under Santa Monica pier, the light blue hues hovering gently just above the Pacific. It’s all the same – just as I remember it from way back when. It’s like a mental tattoo that has only faded a little.
– From a jetlagged Joakim
Here’s an ad I produced for Sky High Meetings on the 53rd and 54th floors of our neighboring skyscraper, the iconic Turning Torso.
From a sumptuous lunch at M. Seger in Stockholm this last week. The open-faced sandwich I chose was flush with avocado, shrimp, salmon and a couple of other indiscernible ingredients, was certainly one of the most tasty creations I’ve ever eaten. Shot with a slightly underperforming iPhone Xs Max – probably due to the poor lighting.
Enjoying a quick visit to the Swedish capital. Interestingly, I seem to make it up here more often during the winter season than any other time of the year. Regardless of when, it’s always a pleasure to visit. Especially when you get to stay at a hotel like Downtown Camper by Scandic.
Last night were invited by the Italian ambassador and the president of Liguria to experience a seven course dinner with specialties from the region that had been designed and cooked by seven of the country’s most renown chefs.
A few years ago, Charlotte and I were on assignment to Cinque Terre and we were impressed by just about everything. Especially the food.
Tonight we’ll join colleagues at the Swedish Association for Travel Journalists for the annual Christmas get-together where undoubtedly hundreds of gingerbread men await to be crunched on and washed down with a steady flow of warm and spicy glögg.
A third in and already December’s been a busy month. It’ll naturally taper off as we near the holidays. But so far, I’ve delivered a short n’ snazzy PR-film, helped redesign of client’s landing page, documented two hotels, worked on half dozen or so new paintings in the studio and written a couple posts here and elsewhere.
Most importantly, and quite frankly a prerequisite for anything and everything I do at this stage in life, is maintaining a reasonably healthy diet and a training regimen that is congruous with my workload and life situation.
Last week, I hit the yoga and qigong mat for a total of six hours and I’m convinced this helped offset some of the stiffness I usually experience this time of year when temperatures and humidity tend to fluctuate dramtically.
I can’t emphasize enough how happy I am for having yoga and qigong in my life. And for finally appreciating how important it is to keep a holistic perspective when making decisions about work, family, food and exercise.
I shot the selfie above on a scorching hot rooftop in Bangkok a few months back during Bikram yoga session.
For whatever reasons, it’s nonetheless been quite a while since I last flew the drone. So, when I noticed yesterday’s fog bank rolling in over Malmö, I persuaded myself to endure the cold, gusty wind and try and get a high altitude shot of the Turning Torso as the fog swept by.
Here’s a collection of footage shot over some of my favorite places in Malmö during the spring, summer and fall of 2018. Turned out that capturing decent, dare I say cinematic quality film from a drone wasn’t nearly as hard as I first thought.
Unsurprisingly, much of the same techniques and considerations apply as when filming on the ground. The biggest challenge, at least as I see it, is achieving useful compositions at heights of up to 120 meters within the time constraints of the batteries ability to keep the aircraft afloat.
Newly opened lifestyle hotel The Vault is, as the name suggests, located in a property that once housed a bank. The hotel sits at the top of Stortorget – just a few hundred meters from Helsingborg’s main train station and ferry terminal. The view from our large corner room was absolutely magnificent and stretched out beyond the square and towards the Öresund Sound.
Room 212 was generously sized with ample space to relax and a proper work desk. Since I mostly write in bed when staying at hotels, I particularly appreciated that there were dual power outlets on both bedside tables flanking the comfy double bed. Finally a hotel that gets this right!
The bathroom was unusually large and had two wide sinks, a large shower and a toilet in an adjoining room, which also came with a sink. This was one of the most thoughtfully designed hotel bathrooms I’ve come across and totally in par with a room at Hoxton in Paris, The Standard in New York (East Village) or The Siam in Bangkok.
To say that The Vault has been liberal with its choice of decor would be to trivialize the enormous creative effort that has been at play here. Even though much of the bank’s interior, including the entrance, towering arches and main hall are intact, you don’t have to look particularly close to see how an abundance of free-flowing artistic imagination has been expressed through the hotel’s furnishings, decor and often wonderfully quirky details. Admittedly, I’m no expert on interior design, so obviously I can’t say whether or not it follows a specific style – of which I’m completely ignorant. But maybe that’s the red thread at The Value – a wide range of tasteful interior design solutions that together form a subtly palpable and irresistible whole that won’t lend itself to be labeled in a traditional way.
There’s a unique intimacy at The Vault, repeatedly demonstrated by the relatively young staffs helpful and positive attitude. Which in its own way makes for an interesting contrast when juxtaposed with the premises’ conservative history.
Although Helsingborg has a relatively decent selection of good eateries, I would definitely recommend the hotel’s cozy restaurant, Volta. In addition to a couple of creamy pasta dishes and delicous wine from my home state California, what we were most delighted about was the kitchen’s “Little Mess”, which consisted of two generous scoops of mascarpone ice cream, chocolate truffles, hazelnut syrup and fried pieces of cocoa. Clearly our new favorite dessert. It’s also in Volta guests can enjoy a tastefully presented breakfast buffet that had everything I love, sans a pot of piping hot baked beans.
With this latest lifestyle hotel, hoteliers Karin and Kjell Jacobsson once again exhibit their tireless passion for creating uniquely memorable experiences. The Vault is certainly a thoughtfully designed hotel with a clear focus on bestowing guests with a place and a space that provides sustenance for all senses. Well done!
Currently working on an editorial project for Hotell Addict about a couple of hotels, one of which just opened here in Helsingborg, The Vault. The shot is from our room’s view tonight.
I really like this town. It’s significantly smaller than Malmö but also more quaint and easier to move around in. The harbor area is just gorgeous and the H99 neighborhood just north of the ferry terminal was somewhat of a blueprint for what eventually became Västra Hamnen.
Back in the hey days of the early 1990s, I spent a half a year in Helsingborg working as a DJ at Sweden’s oldest hotel, Mollbergs. I’d take the train down from Göteborg (where I lived at the time) on Thursdays, check in to one of the hotel’s huge rooms and play soul and funk 9:00 pm until 01:00 am from Thursday to Saturday in the hotel’s dining room. I even had an art exhibit there during the last couple of weeks of my residency.
Yesterday afternoon, I had an hour long talk to seniors at a high school about what it is like to work as professional photographer. The talk was hosted by Transfer Öresund, a non-profit organizaton I’ve been part of for about a decade.
The venue was Sundsgymnasiet, a prominent high school in Vellinge near Malmö. Though I’m confident the class appreciated that I shared a few of my anecdotes, practical tips and philosophies, I sincerely hope that at least some were given an inspiring nudge forward.
I’ve been doing these talks for a number of years and I thoroughly enjoy sharing my experiences. Inspiration has always been a key factor in my life. I think I have a fairly unique ability to immerse into almost any subject and to a degree in which I get inspired.
2018 is slowly but surely coming to an end. A year much dominated by a machiavellian cluster-fucker with full access to nuclear launch codes and no moral compass whatsoever.
On a brighter note, 2018 has been filled with some incredible experiences. One of the most recent – and arguably most important – being our amazing daughter Elle’s eighteenth birthday. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around how fast time flies.
As per usual, the Raboff family has been guilty of deepening its carbon footprint with travels near and far. Much has been work related, which is by no means an excuse, but whatyagonnado?
One of my personal favorites for 2018 was producing a short film that encapsulated the essence of what Condé Nast Traveller Magazine voted India’s formost yoga destination, Bamboo Yoga Retreat in southern Goa. If you have the time, visit this place. The food alone will make the trip worthwhile. And the meditation and yoga classes in the bamboo shalas facing the Indian Ocean are a guaranteed stress reliever. The best part of that gig was that I got to participate in several classes. I shot the majority of this with the Sony A7III with Zeiss 35mm, 18mm and 85mm glass.
Nine Piece Sushi for Bengt-Göran, cried the chef. That was the name of the elderly gentleman that sat next to me during lunch today at Sushi & Salad, a restaurant a few hundred feet from my studio in Malmö’s latest square, Masttorget.
This is crazy. We will soon have six sushi restaurants here in little Västra Hamnen – an area similar in size to Vasastan in Gothenburg, Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm or half of what Santa Monica is in L.A.. Five sushi restaurants! And as opposed to hair salons, which often have cheeky names that range from Hairport, Hairley Davidsson and Hairoscope, the sushi joints here often bear boring names like, Sushibar, Sushi For You or Harbor Sushi. Such humdrum naming should be outlawed! Unfortunately, most of them also have really bad sushi. With the exception of Salad & Sushi, where I often eat lunch and which is exceptionally good for Malmö. Had I opened a place that served sushi, I would of called it, Salmonella & Lice, Raw n’ Ready, or Mouth Sticks.
Back to Bengt-Göran.
While I was drowning my rolls in the soy/wasabi concoction and wolfing them down as if it were the last supper, my neighbor BG sat calmly and cut his nigiri and maki pieces with surgical precision. Sure, he seemed a little misplaced wearing an old pullover and suspenders – but it was clearly visible that he was enjoying the moment more than I. Though I wonder if he really understood that it was raw fish he was eating
We were the restaurant’s first lunch guests today, and I’d barely just finished my last piece of sushi on the now soy-drenched wooden cutting board when a small army of hungry office workers formed a long line at the counter. That’s when Bengt-Göran turned to me and said, “It’s a good thing we arrived when we did, right? Otherwise, we probably would not have had any fish today. ” I nodded in agreement and added, “Yeah, cause you really want your fish on Wednesdays. To myself I thought, heck, I could eat fish every day of the week. The shot of BG was taken with an iPhone XMax and those to the right with a Canon 5Ds during a shoot with a client.
Earlier this week, I launched a new website entirely dedicated to my short film ventures. It covers my most recent commercial productions as well as personal projects, like the instalments in my time capsule series.
The site’s tongue is Swedish, but should stilll be easy enough for English speakers to get around/navigate through.
Now, mosey on over and take a peak:
One year in my early twenties, I was given two unusual birthday presents. One was the size of a shoebox, the other much larger in height and width, yet thin like a picture frame or something. When I opened the smaller of the gift-wrapped presents, I saw a neatly packed row of small, white tubes. Each tube had a round black lid and was labeled with a logo juxtaposed over a vibrant color. There might have been twelve different colors in all.
The larger package contained a canvas, about the size of an LP album cover. Behind the canvas were three or four art brushes of varying sizes and a large wooden palette. I can’t remember who gave me these presents, it could of been either my brother Tyko or my aunt Lillemor. Or, maybe they both pooled resources for my birthday that year. In any case, I was excited to begin what would evolve into a life-long relationship with painting and quite frankly, the genesis of what would turn out to be a career of creativity.
I mention this because I have allocated most of the space in my new studio to painting. It feels wonderful to be able spend time with my “first love”. And at this stage in my life, I much prefer standing in front of a giant canvas and less time in front of a giant, glowing screen. After such a long hiatus from painting, I feel almost giddy about creating something in the physical world again.
The photo above is from Gotlands Konstskola – the now defunct art college I attended on the island of Gotland.
I lived and went to school for a while in Thousand Oaks in California. So the recent killing of 12 people in a club there, saddened me deeper than any of the other mass murders of recent years. I find it appalling that so many Americans still hide behind the shallow shield of the Second Amendment that protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
The amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791, which makes it more than 200 years old. Folks, this was a time when owning slaves was an integral part of society (in the north and south) and keeping African Americans in indentured servitude was considered a birthright for the white race – of which only men had the right to vote in the fledgling country’s elections.
In my worldview, to still keep the Second Amendment on the Bill of Rights is just proof that the Constitution needs an overhaul.
And that there are so many tens of millions of Americans that in 2018 still believe it’s their protected right as citizens to own and carry firearms – based on a 200-year-old piece of paper, is just madness.
No other country in the world has as many firearm related deaths as the US does.
According to GunPolicy.org, in 2010 there were 3.78 guns per 100 people in the United Kingdom.
In the United States, there are approximately 101 guns per 100 people.
Roughly 50 to 60 people die from gun-related violence or accidents in England and Wales each year.
In 2016, 38,000 gun-related deaths were reported in the United States. An increase by 4000 from the previous year.
How can this not be related to the mass killings? How can you not see the connection? How is it possible that educated, smart people don’t get this? Mind-boggling stuff.
The image above is from a flight over the Öresund Bridge in a Diamond (turboprop aircraft)
Today is our daughter Elle’s 18th birthday. We celebrated her according to family tradition with an early Champagne breakfast in bed – which, by the way, made the bottle of French bubbly Elle’s first legally consumed alcoholic beverage.
I still have very vivid memories of the day our baby girl was born. I suppose most parents do. We had been living in Malmö for a couple of years and started feeling at home in our spacious apartment on Erik Dahlbergsgatan in the center of town. I was working as a freelancer and Charlotte had her day job at Malmö Aviation as manager for the airline’s call center. We enjoyed a mostly carefree life with a lot of traveling, regular dinners with friends and family and what not. Before committing to the concept of parenthood, we promised each other that we’d continue our adventorous lifestyle and bring our new family member along with us as we explored new places – which was a promise we’ve kept ever since.
Sometime after midnight, in the wee hours of November 7th, 2000, it was time for Charlotte and I to get over to the maternity ward at what was then called Malmö Allmänna Sjukhus (MAS), I phoned a local cab company from our bedroom at the apartment and specifically asked for a driver who was fluent in Swedish and knew exactly where to pick us up and, more importantly, where the entrance to the maternity ward was. As far as I remember, the driver was on time and new his stuff.
Well there, it turned out that Elle needed more time before she was ready to grace us with her beautiful being. We had a fairly quiet night at the hospital, but just after 11:00 a.m. the following morning, Charlotte delivered Elle. I had the honor of carrying our newborn to an examination room where a nurse gently cleaned her lungs from phlegm and I nervously released her from the umbilical cord hanging from her belly button. Yup, it was surreal.
Fast forward 18 years later and here we are, November 7th, 2018. Charlotte and I have long been proud of what a wonderful human being Elle is. She’s got her heart in the right place and a good dose of street smartness to boot. And our daughter continues to inspire us in multiple ways. Not in the least being her ethical perspectives and views on animal rights.
Exactly where Elle’s biggest talent lay is too early to conclude. There’s a lot of stuff that grabs her attention and keeps her busy when not at work or school. Heck, I was closer to 25 before I realized that creativity in some shape or form was going to be my knack and calling. We’ll obviously be her biggest fans forever and whatever she decides to do.
If you’re reading this, Elle, know that we love you and congratulate you on the most auspicious of birthdays, the 18th.
Here’s one of the first things I saw upon entering the South Bronx late last week with my excellent guide, Alexandra Maruri at bronxhistoricaltours.com. It had been close to 10 years since I was there to produce an article for a magazine (either Allt om Resor or Inrikes) and I was way beyond curious about how things had developed in the area.
While most of Manhattan seems to be under siege by construction companies renovating old buildings and erecting new and impossibly tall glass towers, in one of New York’s most legendary boroughs, the neighborhood called the South Bronx or SoBro, isn’t getting nearly as much attention as it needs and deserves. Not that nothing had changed for the better, just not as much as I (naively) had expected. Sometimes, I’m just way too optimistic (and impatient).
The good news is that I did see quite a bit of positivity, mostly from within the community itself. Spoke with police officer while I was visiting the 40th precinct and he seemed optimistic. And a rep named Joe for a developer called Somerset went into some detail about his company’s committment to developing a big chunk of land near the Harlem River and will be hiring locals for the commercial and residential property project.
The South Bronx a.k.a. Boogie Down Bronx is a survivor and I am confident the neighborhood will thrive once again – as it did when folks like Al Pacino, Edgar Allan Poe, Colin Powell, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and many others lived there.
I visit the States at least once a year. It’ll be three times before 2018 comes to an end and if there’s one thing I can almost always count on during my visits, it’s the excellent dining experience I have at the vast majority of American restaurants I eat at. Especially in New York where over the years I’ve enjoyed hundreds of absolutely terrific meals from high-end to low-end.
But then Catch came along…
Taking the elevator from the dark, ground level entrance up to the restaurant’s dining room is in itself a clever means to retain customers. I don’t think it was a deliberate strategy when the owners opened the place, but regardless, once there, you feel like you’ve already made a commitment and kind of give in to whatever awaits once the elevator doors close behind you. Especially when you’re hungry.
Our party of five were seated reasonably fast on the lush terrace but then had to wait about 10 minutes before one of the half-dozen servers showed up at our table. In the meantime, a friendly busboy provided us with water but couldn’t offer us more than that – and an embarrassing smile as the wait prolonged. Such is the hierarchy at most a la carte restaurants and diners in the US.
Once the 30 something server did appear, he offered us only a smile and a promise to return »in just a minute« before rushing off again. We all looked at each other in sheer disbelief. Was he joking? The restaurant had only a few other lunch guests, so we didn’t understand why he kept us waiting – or why customers that had arrived after us were being taken care of before us. Was it perhaps because the maître d’ assumed we were European (i.e. poor tippers) and intentionally un-prioritized us?
After an additional five minutes, (yes, I was timing his promise), the server finally showed up to take our orders. I politely let him know we were a little disappointed about the 15-minute delay. But instead of apologizing, he unabashedly decided to contradict me by claiming that no, our wait had been less than 10 minutes. As if even 10 minutes wasn’t pushing it already. WTF?
We all chose the much-hyped vegan alternative, The Impossible Burger as well as a few batches of truffle fried fries.
Personally, I found the laboratory-derived burger to be surprisingly juicy and flavorful. My taste buds might have been way off due to high expectations, but I don’t think most people would be able to discern whether or not an Impossible Burger is made from plant-based ingredients or USDA Prime Ground Beef. I know I couldn’t. Insofar of taste, texture, and smell, I’d easily guess it was the real deal. Which is a little scary and for some reson reminded me of the 1970s Sci-Fi dystopia, Soylent Green.
Perhaps our server was just having a bad day. Maybe he was a little hungover. Who knows, right? In any case, we felt that for our $200 lunch at Catch we should have received much better service and less attitude.
There are plenty of really good alternative eateries in the Meatpacking District and several places on Manhattan that offer the Impossible Burger for much less than the $19 they charge at Catch.
We all felt that the restaurant’s poor service coupled with an ambitious positioning on New York’s culinary map was nothing short of a total mismatch.
Catch certainly needs to catch up with its prestige.
I say forget about shopping in New York. It’s not going to be much cheaper than in Europe and much more importantly, we all need to chill out when it comes to our out-of-control consuming habit/addiction. The planet is already threatening us with some serious consequences if we don’t get our act together.
Anyway, after breakfast with my friend Siddarth at the Roxy Hotel in Tribeca this morning, I stumbled onto this fella in Chinatown. Apparently, a painting like this one can cost an advertiser up to $10k/week to expose their product or service on a wall. Shot entirely handheld on the new iPhone Xs Max.
Back in Gotham. It’s been a couple of years…but it didn’t take more than a few minutes on the Williamsburg Bridge late last night for me to be in awe again. How can you not be? I’ve actually lost count of my visits to New York City. At least 20. Maybe even as many as 30. In addition to absorbing the art scene and an intention of revisiting the South Bronx and an artist friend in Washington Heights (where btw HBO’s The Deuce is filmed), I’m primarily here to shoot material for a travel story – and some b-roll for a music video I’ve been hired to produce next month.
I love arriving at this city at night. Especially when flying into JFK. After about 8 or 9pm, the lines through immigration move much faster and traffic towards Manhattan is usually wonderfully light. We took an Über XL to NoLita and got dropped off just outside the apartment we’ve rented which is literally right next door to the popular vegetarian restaurant Butcher’s Daughter and Black Seed Bagel. And just four blocks along Houston, at the north end of the Lower East Side, there’s a nice big Whole Foods. Which in itself is almost a good enough reason to visit New York?
That and the breathtaking diversity here. I often use New York as »Exhibit A« when talking about Malmö’s integration challenges. The sheer disparity in size certainly makes the two cities hard to juxtapose at first glance. But there are actually enough similarities, at least for me to predict that in time, Malmö will also take advantage of its tremendous potential – that lay within the current integration issues – and slowly see how they will metamorphize into extraordinary strengths. In time, perhaps a generation or two ahead of us, Malmö will ultimately become the envy of most other cities. Just like New York is today.
More photos from New York City here.
Might need a few minor tweaks, but in essence, my new short film focused site, www.kortfilmsproduktion.se is now live. It’s in Swedish, because though I’d love to work even more abroad, the reality is my work comes from domestic, local companies and organizations, most of which are right here in Malmö.
Over the last few years, I’ve produced a bunch of advertising and marketing videos for my clients. Four that I know of have been broadcast on regional television (TV 4) and the rest were uploaded to corporate websites and pushed out through social media channels.
Being born and – at least in my most formative years – raised in Hollywood (West Hollywood), I guess it was inexorable that I’d one day end up working with motion pictures. My parents did so for a while in the late 1950s and in the mid 1980s, my brother Tyko and I both worked on a few of that decadent decades most commercially successful TV shows, including, Cagney & Lacey, Moonlighting and Hunter. I particularly remember one episode of Cagney & Lacey that took place in a nightclub somewhere in North Hollywood and where one of my favorite musical artists, Chaka Khan had a cameo guest appearance. I was an extra on the set and my “role” was simple; get Chaka Khan’s autograph. We must of re-done the scene ten times and for every new take, I had to walk up to Chaka, who was sitting on a barstool next to a tall, round table just off the dance floor, and ask for her autograph. Before the eight or ninth take, I wrote on the cover of the autograph pad, “I’m going to go crazy if I have to do this again”. When Mrs Khan saw my little comment, she looked up at me, smiled warmly and wrote, “ME TOO!!! on the pad. I might still have that pad somewhere in the archives.
Working as a non-union extra and stand-in back in 1986 was interesting, albeit a bit boring. Hours were long and after a while, the dream of being “discovered”, offered a role as a cast member and membership into the Screen Actors Guild, waned. Still, the experience opened my mind to how intriguingly complicated it was to produce films, television shows and commercials. And just how much the initial, rudimentary concept of storytelling through moving pictures had evolved. Back in those days, everything was captured with either film stock or directly to video tape, all depending on what the budgetary constraints were like. I am convinced that my current iPhone offers better resolution and dynamic range than the video cameras used on Cagney & Lacey or Hunter did.
My unique selling point as a producer of short films is that I’m like a Swiss army knife, or, a Leatherman if that’s your preference. While most film production companies need up to a half dozen employees for each small assignemnt – and charging an arm and a leg to produce it – I usually only need one assistent to get more or less the same results. But I’m not comparing quality here. It’s just that when film projects get too complicated, i.e. overstaffed and exuberantly expensive, it’s usually because there are more people involved than the project really demands. So now I’ve got this website for clients that have come to this exakt same realisation.
Here’s my short film from two of Malmö’s adjacent parks, Kungsparken and Slottsparken. I shot most of it in the beginning of October and the scenes with the two extras, Andrea Pålsson (22 yrs) and Kerstin Holmqvist (82 yrs) about ten days ago.
I really want folks that view my work to interpret it for themselves. I think that’s the only reasonable position one can have as an artist. Any other expectation is bound to disappoint. That said, I still feel I need to contextualize a little (spoiler alert!).
The genesis of the film’s concept was to make a visually compelling connection between the transformation brought on by an unusually vivid and balmy autumn, and a seasonal shift of sorts that we all go through biologically as we age. When the young girl sits down on the bench, closes her eyes, puts on her hat, life fast-forwards and she is transformed to an older version of herself. It’s a cliché how life passes so fast. But true nonetheless.
Sunday morning. It’s quiet and windless. Which is unusual for this time of year. I wonder if that too can be chalked up to climate change.
There’s a lot of stuff going on right now – most of it behind the scenes. It’s not more than I can handle, but a distinct increase when compared to just three weeks ago when most of my mental capacity was dedicated to yoga, perpetuating a nutritional life and absorbing creativity.
I’m still maintaining more or less the same mindset, but also spending a lot of my awake-time figuring out how to design, structure and consequently launch two new sites: one for my short films and one for my paintings. I’m also transitioning the contents of www.raboff.com to two language specific domains: www.raboffphotography.com and www.fotografraboff.se and letting www.raboff.com become the bulkhead/switchboard for all of the companies online properties. It’s going to take some time, but should be finished by the end of November.
The shot above is from one of last week’s visits to Kungsparken/Slottsparken here in Malmö where this most magnificent fountain resides.
Here’s the video from my assignment for Airline Staff Rates on Phuket at Kata Hot Yoga in southwestern Thailand. In what was literally one of the hottest projects I’ve had so far, I was both surprised and grateful that the cameras I used didn’t overheat. On the other hand, I was completely drenched in sweat after just a few minutes in the studio at 40C /40% humidity.
I shot the bulk of the footage with the Sony A7III using three primes; 18mm, 35mm and 85mm. A few of the scenes were captured with a GoPro Hero 6.
Thanks to Goovert at Kata Hot Yoga and gracious instructor Alexandra for allowing me into their classes.
I shot this long exposure in the park of the wonderfully lit promenade – which is located along Regementsgatan across the street from Borgarskolan where Elle attends high school – last night at about 7:30 pm. For once it was completely windless in the park – which isn’t very far from the windy shores where we live.
I’d been meaning to return to this particular path before the leaves had withered or blown away, and last night was an optimal occasion for long exposures in the park. Have to mention that I did start the evening with a very juicy and tasty vegetarian burrito over at the Burrito Bar on Fersens väg. Probably the best I’ve ever had anywhere in Sweden. Aside from those I make at home…
Taking landscapes at night reminds me of analogue photography. I guess it’s the waiting for a long exposure to finish and the anticipation of how the photo turns out – which is not too dissimilar to what it was like developing a roll of film in a darkroom. You never knew for sure if you’d gotten all the settings right and if the image you had in your mind’s eye at the time the shutter button was released was what appeared in the tray. There’s more magic involved than during a daytime or studio shoot where instant gratification is, well, instant. My settings were ISO 100. f-stop 22 with an exposure time of 120 seconds.
Last night, I was focused on what is called “Blue Hour”, the hour that follows “Golden Hour” which in turn refers to the sunset hour. Whereas “Golden Hour” provides a warm, soft and flattering light with long shadows, “Blue Hour” is shadowless and colder but offers a gorgeous contrast when juxtaposed against a candescent light source or warm color hues, like fallen autumn leaves.
It’s clearly the case that I have fallen in love with Malmö’s public park with two names; Kungsparken and Slottsparken. It’s small enough to be walkable and offers astonishing variety that includes a moated castle, a couple of restaurants, a botanical garden, canals, beautiful bridges and even a casino. I’ve walked, biked, jogged and even paddled through the park – I was once a member of Malmö’s kayak club, which is also located there.
I spent about two hours photographing last night. It was the perfect distraction from my marathon video editing during the day.
Here’s a shot of one of the three salad bowls I made for the family for dinner last night. I call this particular composition, Groove Salad – which is the namesake of my long-running, favorite Internet Radio Station. I’ve eating raw vegetables as far back as I can remember and it’s just about the only food I recall my mother ever making for my brother and myself. I mean, I’m sure she cooked other stuff, at least once in a while. I just seem to have lost the memories of what the other meals were. What I do recollect, however, is that for the most part, we ate frozen dinners (called, TV Dinners), take-away junk from a local fast-food restaurant or, just a very simple salad – but nothing as elaborate as the one pictured above. If I feel pretty sure that if I hadn’t eaten at school, I think my body might of suffered from nutrition deficiency. Not that any of the schools I went to served great food. Just better than most of what we ate at home.
It might sound like I’m touting my own horn here, but I’ve always make an effort to prepare healthy and tasty food for the family. I don’t understand parents that buy, nuke and then serve prefab dinners to their families. I get that frozen meals are relatively cheap and represent a time-saver. But look close enough at what they really contain, and it’s plain to see how little nourishment is provided inside. Which essentially makes them more expensive than what the attractive price-tag suggests. It’s a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by the food industry. You buy a prefab dinner with the hope it provides sustenance. But what you get is crappy, over-processed, texturizing ingredients that taste better than they should – thanks to being doused with sugar, salt and a slew of chemically fueled enhancers.
Here’s the what went into yesterday’s salad: chopped cabbage, sliced carrots, diced tomatoes, finely cut rruccola, sliced leek, oven-baked sweet potato and asparagus, sweet corn, roasted sunflower seeds and black sesame seeds. I topped our salad bowls with a thick, feta cheese and avocado dressing.