Pan Rd & Tuna Ichiban

While Sweden voted in general, regional and local elections yesterday, I was exploring Bangkok again. I’m here to produce a couple of short editorial videos, continue with my »in progress« documentation of the endlessly beguiling area, Worachak as well as practice yoga and wait for Charlotte to arrive.

When we’re in the Thai capital, we usually set up base camp somewhere in the Sukhumvit area. Granted, it’s a convenient part of the city where a lot of restaurants, movie theatres, shopping malls and hotels are located. But staying in Sukhumvit also means having to deal with constant traffic jams, hordes of tourists and a myriad of dubious entertainment venues.

This time, I’m staying very local in the lo-fi neighborhood of Bang Rak, where I checked into a tiny hotel that I’d read good reviews about and that sits just off Pan Road – which runs between Silom Road and Sathorn Road.

What’s great about Pan Road is that it provides a unique local atmosphere without much fanfare – or, compromising. More less everything I need is right here or close by. There’s a couple of old school barbershops, two or three foot massage places, a few cafés, a dozen vegetarian restaurants and, the omnipresent 7-11 and Family Mart stores. The popular café and interior design company, Casa Pagoda, has a presence towards the Sathorn end and on the corner of Pan and Silom is the majestic, 139 year old Hindu temple, Maha Uma Devi, known also as Wat Khaek. Life here seems to be lived on the sidewalks, in the open shophouses and along the dozens of rickety snack carts double-parked just below the curb.

I’ve seen a half dozen or so hostels on both sides of Pan Road, next to residential buildings where a diverse range of business is underway in the ground floor shops. The closer to the Hindu temple you get, the more the businesses tend to offer prayer flowers, floral arrangmets and religious knick-knacks.

Pan is my new favorite road in Bangkok and yet another reason why I never tire of visiting this captivating city. But what really gets me excited when I think of Bangkok is still the enormous selection of really good restaurants. I don’t think anyone can even make an educated guesstimate of the total amount of licensed restaurans – let alone all those operating under the radar, so to speak.

As a pescatarian, I’m a little limited, but not disturbingly much. There’s plenty of vegetarian restaurants here, including the popular Broccoli Revolution. And at both of La Monita Taqueria’s two locations, they makes a fantastic veggie burrito stuffed with shrooms, freshly made guac and a bunch of greens. And let’s not forget all the sushi restaurants on the map here. Must be in the hundreds.

Last night, I finally got a chance to eat at what is reported to be Bangkok’s oldest sushi restaurant, Tuna Ichiban (ichiban is Japanese for number 1, but also means something that’s better than the rest). Not only was the food tasty and reasonably priced, the fact that they offered diner seating was an added and most welcome benefit. Especially since I wanted to take a few discreet food shots with Moment’s wide angle lens attached to my iPhone 7+ (of which the results you see above) without having to disturb any of my fellow guests.

I made my dinner selections from two dozen iPad pages after which a young woman from a small army of waitresses hurried to my booth to take my order. Within minutes after she headed off to the kitchen, a new waitress arrived with my first dish. I would easily pay a pretty penny/stang to spend just a few minutes filming in Tuna Ichiban’s kitchen. I’d like to think of it as being extraordinarily well organized, military style. The dishes above: Ichiban Sandwich (salmon), Avocado Lava (tuna) and a plate of mixed nigiri.

Tonight I think I’m going to eat at a well-regarded (on TripAdvisor, anyway) Indian restaurant near where I’m staying that specializes in vegetarian food. Or, I might just go back to Tuna Ichiban – stay tuned or stay tuna:d…


The Right to Choose

I like choice. I don’t need 55 different options, but a few is preferable. The video above from a cool cocktail bar in Malmö might seem off-topic for this post, but it was meant to help visualize choice.

And folks, if you’re in Sweden and carry a Swedish passport, today it’s time to choose. It’s election day in Sweden

I already voted on August 24 when I stood in the polling both and put three ballots in an envelope and then handed it over to a sweet older woman at  Kockum Fritid’s voting office. The lady checked my identity, registered my name on a list and then she put the envelope in a ballot box.

Regardless of what we think of the other parties, we are privileged to be able choose between several and vote for the ones we believe most in.
 Hopefully you will find one or more that represents your opinions and who gets the confidence of your vote.


Given the fact that democracy is failing in many countries today, the election in Sweden also fills a symbolic function.
By voting, you show that we believe in a free and open society, which in turn sends a very clear signal to the rest of the world that in Sweden, we safeguard our democratic right – and civil liability – to choose who we best think represents our views on how to manage Malmö, Skåne and Sweden in the future.
Tne

The Bikram Challenge

This morning I completed my Bikram Yoga challenge! I reached my goal of 10 consecutive days of 90 minute Bikram Yoga classes. To some, it might not seem that impressive. But anyone who’s ever practiced hot yoga will for sure know what I’ve been going through for the last week and a half.

Some bodies are easily bent. Like Tora in the video above that I shot earlier in the year at Altitude Meetings Black Box. But after 10 days here at Kata Hot Yoga, I’ve made surprisingly huge strides. Which in turn has translated into less aches and better overal posture.


Greek Salad

Speaking of Greek food, which I appreciate as much as I do Thai and Spanish cuisine, here’s a photo of a classic crispy Greek salad on a gorgeous blue plate that I took during an assignment trip to the breathtakingly beautiful island of Santorini.

When I was living in Göteborg/Gothenburg back in the 1980s and 90s, during the period when I was painting, I’d venture from my apartment at least one a week to “Saluhallen” – an old classic food hall and market where I’d buy Greek Kalamata olives, feta cheese and a loaf of Hungarian sourdough bread at a small shop called Alexandras – owned by a fellow that went by the nickname of Elvis. Adjacent to the food hall was a warehouse where a company sold vegetables at wholesale prices. I’d return to my kitchenette where oil paints and unfinished canvases waited, with all the ingredients I needed to make myself a nice big Greek salad and a bowl of hummus. It was a simple life.

Back to Santorini.

I believe I’ve posted something about this before, but when we we’re there in 2016, we shared much of the sights and attractions with hundreds of Chinese tourists. Curious as to what so many folks from China were doing on Santorini in October, we asked around a little.

The explanation from a waiter at one of the restaurants we ate at a few times was nothing less than extraordinary. According to him, the island had for about a year or so been enjoying a tremendous boom which had in fact extended the tourist season with three months. The boom, the waiter continued, was thanks to an extremely popular romantic movie in China that ended with a young couple getting engaged or married on Santorini.

Personally, I’d never seen so many variations of selfie sticks or, gleefully smiling Chinese tourists, for that matter, as during our four days in Greece. More images from that trip here.

A collection of my work related food and drink photos can be enjoyed once you click here.


Bikram Yoga Film

Slept well last night, despite having had a few too many Greek dishes at »Odysseus« a few blocks from here. Saran, Saam and their cute daughter Asia had never tried Greek food before, but genuinely enjoyed all of what Dimitri presented to us.

As I filmed during most of this morning’s class for an editorial video about hot yoga, I’ll be getting my 9th session done during this evening’s 7:00pm class. I’m still a little bewildered by how fast the instructions are delivered in Bikram Yoga. The total opposite of every other kind of yoga I’ve tried. In some of the standing poses – like the Eagle and the Tree – poses I am now after a week of practice able to hold with some dignity – the rapidness of instructions creates turbulence in my concentration which in turn nudges me off-balance from time to time.

However counter intuitive it may seem, I suppose it’s the combination of 26 poses, the intense heat, soaking humidity and verbal firestorm that will all work together to help me eventually summon the required laser focus I need to improve my postures.

Filming in a hot yoga studio was, as one might imagine, sweaty. I was there for about an hour using three different cameras (two stationary, two movable) and audio via a Zoom H6 recording unit. But it wasn’t the heat that presented the greatest challenge today. It was the mirrors. Trying to find angles and perspectives that didn’t reflect my image in the background somewhere, was not easy. But then again, who wants easy, anyway?


Kung Fu Pizza

When I was a kid growing up in the US, there was this tremendously popular western series called, »Kung Fu« that had a huge following among me and my friends. The show’s gauntly character, Kwai Chang Caine, was a wandering apostle of Chinese philosophy with a black belt in Kung Fu. He was portrayed by a the actor David Carradine.

The soft-spoken Caine used proverbs and aphorisms to solve conflicts that arose along his lonesome journey across the American Old West to find his half-brother. But where his fortune-cookie wisdoms didn’t persuade the antagonists, his lightning fast fists and feet certainly could – and some butt would be kicked in each episode.

Second only to reruns of “The Wild Wild West“, “Kung Fu” was a favoite I’d watch almost daily. I particularly enjoyed the flashbacks of when Caine was a young boy in rural China. Each episode would have at least one of those flashback scenes – seemingly shot with a soft lens or one that had been covered with a thin layer of vaseline – where a mentor at the Shaolin Monastery in Hunan Province where he was raised, would instruct the young Caine, referred to as »Grasshopper« in martial arts. More importantly, at least from my point of view, the mentor would emphasize that it was crucial the young apprentice be mindful of everything going on in his life; socially, emotionally, spiritually and, yes, culinarily.

For some reason, “Kung Fu” popped into my head while twisting and turning and bending my body to get to the correct configuration during one of today’s more gruelling poses.

It was my eighth consecutive Bikram Yoga class today and I suppose I momentarily lost my ability to concentrate at a 100% level. A while later, as I was regaining consciousness from Savasana (the dead body pose), I started to feel really hungry. I’d not eaten anything prior to the class and it was now almost 10:45. A wide range of food ideas started flowing over me. One of the first was pizza. I figured I could be generous and perhaps treat myself to a few slices of freshly baked pizza pie. If for no other reason, than to commentate my weeklong accomplishments on the yoga mat.

Like the next guy, I love pizza. Most people do. Pizzas smell good and if you’re lucky, they taste great, too. And a pizza is still a relatively inexpensive option when dining out.

Finding a really good pizzeria, you know, where the crust is thin, the dough chewy and the sauce zesty, can, however, be a big challenge. Quite frankly, I’ve not eaten many really good pizzas in my life and very few in Sweden. Pizzas do the job, fit the bill and fill you up…but it’s sort of the old emperor’s new clothes syndrome. Nobody seems to acknowledge (or, worse, care!) that generally speaking, pizzas are flavorless and made half-assed. Not even the most reputable pizzeria in Malmö makes a pizza worth an honorable mention – despite the wood-fired oven the owners claim makes their pizzas so fantastico. Honestly, they suck. A pizza is only as good as when there’s been some mindfulness poured into the dough, sauce, seasoning and toppings. Sadly, that’s rarely the case. People that run pizzerias, wherever in the world, seem only to be in it for the money. There is no passion. No mindfulness.

As I was slowly walking out of the yoga studio, sweaty as can be and still not sure what to eat (or, where), I came to the realization and conclusion that it would be extremely counter-productive to eat a pizza for lunch after a 90 minute workout. It would be like eating a half a loaf of bread.

On my up the stairs to my apartment and shower to cool off, I reasoned that if I’m going to be seriously mindful about what I eat, I need to look at the face value of my choices. And when it comes down to it, what is pizza if not baked bread covered with tomato paste, fermented milk (cheese) and whatever toppings. And as fulfilling as that may be, there’s actually very little nourishment in a pizza. It’s comfort food. Plain and simple. Sure, a pizza is usually easily accessible, you stuff your mouth with it, feel full and content (at times, painfully so) – and then a few hours later, whatever’s left of the pizza leaves your body without having done much for it.

Long story short (too late, I know), I ended up going back to the same place I’ve been eating at for the past week. A corner restaurant where I am served by the same sweet waiter (an older guy with a super-high pitched, Mickey Mouse voice), order the same exact dish (stir fried vegetables with tofu and steamed rice) and leave the same tip (10 baht).

Tonight, together with an old friend and his family, I’ll splurge a little and celebrate my culinary mindfulness – at Dimitris organic Greek restaurant.

The pizza above comes from a shoot I had for Smarta Kök earlier this year.


Fruitful conversation

Today at 11:35 by the corner fruit stand. Not verbatim. But close.

– Hello there, my friend!

– Hello! How are you today?

– Good, good. And yourself?

– Feeling very perky after my yoga class. How’s business?

– Oh, it’s slow. Low season, you know. The monsun doesn’t help much, either. Time again for some fruit?

– Absolutely. How are them mangos lookin’ today?

– You’ll not get a sweeter or juicer batch than what we have in stock right now. I kid you not. Would you like for me to slice you up a couple of really nice plump ones?

– Yes, m’am!

– What else are you looking for today, my friend?

– Well, I’m a little tired of peeling mangosteen and angel fruit doesn’t really grab me anymore. So, let’s go with a half kilo rambutan today.

– Ok. No watermelon?

– Oh, yeah, a watermelon, too.

– Anything else?

– I think I’ve run out of bananas, so add a batch, please.

– Ok, come back in 10 minutes and I’ll have sliced up your mangos and watermelon.

– Thank you.

11:36

– Everything’s ready to go, my friend.

– Thanks! How much do I owe you?

– That’ll be 165 baht, please.

– Ok, here you are. Oh, and by the way, can I take a few photos of you and the family here by your wonderful fruit shop?

– Sure, my pleasure!

Click, click, click.

– Thanks!

– See you tomorrow, my friend!

– See you tomorrow and good luck!


Clearing the Clouds

From yesterday afternoon’s long beach walk. Remarkable skies right now as we’re edging into monsun season here. I’ll never cease to be amazed by the spectacular formations created by cumulus clouds. Infinite variations of fleeting beauty. A healthy reminder of how ephemeral everything really is and how important it is to take the time to experience life in real-time – not just screen time.

Checked off Bikram Yoga session number six this morning. Might of been the best class yet for me. Woke up a little earlier today to offset some lower back pain (which I’ve had for about 24 hours) with 20 minutes of Qigong, before class began. Not sure what or where the pain stems from. Could be my slightly rigid bed – or, that I’ve pinched a nerve during one of the spine postures or  snapping situps. Could also come from jumping prematurely off a surfboard the other day. Regardless, I think doing Qigong before Yoga is the way to go until the pain subsides.

Each class has about 10-12 participants and the demographic is a really mixed bag. About half are Thai and the rest are westerners from all over Europe. Most are in the 30s or 40s with 1 or 2 being closer to my age. There’s one lanky Italian guy (his name is Lorenzo and his shorts are minimal, so I’m only assuming he’s from Italy) and a couple of pasty Russians or Ukrainians in their mid 20s.

Sometime during pose number 15 or 16 (of a total of 26) I started speculating about what motivated the others in the studio to train Bikram Yoga. What was the driving force? Weight loss? Increased stamina? Improve elasticity? Prolong life?

Like many kinds of self-generating exercises, but especially when originating from the Far East, there are usually several self-proclaimed, yet widely contested and feverishly debated benefits that are given top billing by the protagonists. But reliability is often undermined when these advantages get too much exposure. They tend to reach an almost mythological status and that’s when my alarm clock goes off.

As per usual, I’m an optimistic sceptic who prefers to take a holistic approach in favor of bombastic and unsubstantiated statements. After all, I’ve worked most of my adult life within the dubious advertising industry. So I know a thing or two about creative writing and crafting powerful, bullshit reeking headlines.

What I can tell you with half a dozen Bikram Yoga classes under my belt, is that the training has definitely increased my body’s flexibility, my ability to decrease my heart rate through breathing, and, of course, my heat tolerability. For sure I’m feeling stronger, more physically balanced and mentally focused than when I started my hot yoga challenge, about one week ago. But like I mentioned above, with a wide-angle lens on, those benefits can just as well be ascribed to my current vegan diet and extremely puritanical lifestyle.


Spiced up Pistachios

To some, looking at pistachios up close like the tidy batch above, might not be so appetizing. But believe me, they were absolutely scrumptiously divine and worth documenting (with Moment’s new wide-angle iPhone lens).

Whoever came up with the idea of spicing up pistachios with chili and black peppar needs to be recognized and commemorated as a formidable culinary genius. By the way, did you know that pistachios are technically a fruit? I sure didn’t. Live and learn.

As I’m more or less on a vegan diet right now – disallowing myself from much of the usual indulgences – eating a batch of nuts a day not only allows me to quench my life-long snacking addiction, today’s spicy pistachios will also provide me with some extra protein and antioxidants. And you know what? Shelled pistachios are kinda fun to eat! You have to work a little before you get gratification.

There’s a common misconception, mostly among meat-eaters (duh), that living off a plant-based diet will inherently cause protein deficiency. Those same folks don’t know that protein is found in just about every living organism on the planet. Especially in plants!

Proteins are in essence a combination of amino acids. Each of these amino acids have a designated role or purpose in our bodies. While some are configured to help our metabolism, others assist in the repair and development our muscles. Nine of the different amino acids are absolutely essential to our basic functions. And since we can’t create them in our bodies, they’re kinda of indispensable and thus need to be part of our diet. The good news is that vegetarians (even vegans!) can easily get enough of these crucial amino acids by eating a balanced plant-based diet. Anybody trying to tell you differently is just ignorant (or, is a lobbyist for the meat/poultry industry).

Here’s a resource for how to stop worrying about vegetarianism/veganism and protein deficiency (with great recipes, too).

As a former meat-eater,I totally get why the vast majority of the world’s population (but not most folks in India) would enjoy sinking their teeth into a juicy, barbecued beef or pork steak, chewing off a mouthful of double-dipped, deep fried chicken or chomping on a perfectly grilled hotdog with mustard, ketchup and relish.

Up until a bit more than three years ago, I did all those things regularly with great vigor and noticeable intensity. And to be totally honest, there are times when I miss those orgastic, multiple sensory kicks I’d get when eating at places like, Baby Blues BBQ in Los Angeles or at Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. Heck, I even miss our own back patio and countryside »barbies« we hosted in the summertime.

But the more mindful about how beneficial it is to stay clear of poultry, meat and all processed foods I become – and if you don’t think most meat is processed, please click here – the easier it is to shrug at times gone by and keep chomping on carrots, gnawing fresh mango and munching on spicy pistachios.

Fifth hot yoga class today. Different teacher, same drill and metaphors. Tough stuff. But, man, do I feel invigorated afterwards! Five more days to go. Gonna try to get in some surfing, too. Maybe even a long jog.


Switching Off

Met this guy last night as I was heading out for dinner. I was curious to know if he’d ever heard of Über or Lyft, but the language barrier was just too wide for us to communicate about such matters. Still I wondered if the dude, who couldn’t have been much more than 10 years my senior, was familiar with the concept of ride sharing. For all I could tell, he could very well have been a heavy Twitter user or, even made sure to update his Facebook status on an hourly basis. But I doubt it.

Aside from my posts here on the blog side of the moon, I’ve disengaged myself from all social media channels and platforms. I joined Instagram earlier this year and I’ve enjoyed posting my photos and videos there on an almost daily basis. But now, after almost a week without any uploads or checking my Like-status, I can’t say I miss it. I certainly don’t miss the incessant flow of notifications. And since I don’t even log on or check in – which I know might lure me into a mindset where the fear of missing out (FOMO), of not participating in the »conversation«, would likely have had a negative effect on my ability to focus on stuff that’s really important. Which is what I want to do more of. Much more.

Right now I don’t even think about what’s going on in the abstract, online universe where the hypnotic gravity pull of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have gazillions of people – myself included, at least periodically – orbiting their worlds as if no other realities exist. Honestly, I’ve always been socially awkward. So why wouldn’t I feel torn about socializing online?

For the first time in a long while, I feel tuned out, and it’s liberating, to say the least – and part of a long-term, multi-faceted strategy that will hopefully lead to a myriad of new, creative adventures.

Today was my fourth day of Bikram yoga and though progress is incremental, I’m definitely pushing forward. Above all, my body’s ability to recuperate between poses is improving dramatically. Due to a nagging-old knee wound, there are three leg-focused, stretching poses that I’ll probably never be able to fully pull off. Still, 23 out of 26 isn’t bad for a guy my age. Rigid as I may be, thankfully, a few of the other (younger) participants aren’t nearly as relatively nimble or elastic as I am. I know, that’s a totally reprehensible way to think in the yoga world. But I have to admit to feeling some genuine solace when I see them struggle, shake and ultimately fall to the mat. Yeah, I’m shameless.


The Perfect Combo

Third day of my Bikram yoga challenge. Starting to get the hang of it now – insofar that I can actually manage to bend my body and shift my limbs correctly according how the postures are supposed to be executed. Today was harder than yesterday – possibly because I didn’t get a full night of undisturbed sleep. Woke up a few times after two really strange, vivid dreams. Must be the detoxification process. The effects just from caffeine withdrawal ought to be at least a little bewildering to my body.

One thing that really takes time getting used to with Bikram yoga is how fast and intense instructions, corrections and affirmations are delivered. It’s like being at an auction where the auctioneer is never quiet and a steady stream of utterances fly through the ever-so hot and humid studio air. Which is pretty much the diametrical opposite of the mostly soft-spoken, mild-mannered instructors that have previously guided me through yoga classes. But just like the class’ tropical climate, I’m slowly getting used to the verbal intensity as well. Still flabbergasted by how much I’m sweating, though. That alone must be fantastic for the pores and skin.

As opposed to yoga, surfing is a lonesome, relatively quiet sport – which I think makes it the perfect complimentary activity. Went surfing yesterday afternoon for about an hour. The low tide brought some small although rideable waves with it and I had a blast catching them with a wobbly 8.2ft board I’d rented from Swiss Mike.


Food for thought

I’m on a quest. A mission of sort. A gnarly adventure, even.

See, one of several objectives with this trip is to take a breather from a few habits that have been an integral part of my life for eons. Nothing life-threatening, at least not short term. Rid myself of those habits a long time ago.

Like most folks, I live a fairly habitual life when it comes to what I eat and drink. And though I try to be picky and choosy, at the end of the day, I suspect my total calorie intake is far greater than it need be. Which means my digestive system is constantly working overtime to manage all of the more or less healthy stuff I devour in a day.

Admittedly, most of my meals as well as drink choices are predominately made – more or less consciously – on a whim. I suspect it’s my memories of tastes, textures and smells that steer my decisions on what to make for dinner or what to order when eating out. Not to intellectualize too much, but I feel so ready to eat less with my tastebuds and be more mindful of what my body actually needs to function. This isn’t revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination. But if it was more of a commonplace way to shape our eating habits, I am sure the planet would benefit greatly.

It’s near the tail end of day three here and food-wise, I’ve been doing pretty good so far. In addition to attending morning yoga classes in a sauna temperatured room and subsequently drinking several liters of water per day, I’m restricting my diet to fresh mangosteen, mango, rambutan, bananas and various types of nuts.

For lunch, as pictured above, I’ve been enjoying a bowl of steamed rice with fried vegetables and a tall glass of sparkling water. I’m sure the calorie count is still a bit high, but I’ve eliminated so much other stuff – including bread, coffee, pasta, beer – that I literally feel less bloated and, if not trimmer, than at least a little flatter around the old gut. Looking forward to seeing where this quest takes me.


Bikram Yoga

Still just a tad jetlagged. But it’s not too bad. As usual, I ate most of whatever was served to me onboard – a habit I really want to rid myself of. The two pre-ordered vegetarian meals were way over-cooked and more or less without flavor and texture. So, I’m hoping that I’ll start feeling 100% again once I get all the dubious airplane food out of my system and log a couple of nights of horizontal sleep.

I’ve rented a small apartment about 50 meters from the beach and right above a yoga studio where this morning I practiced Bikram »Hot Yoga« for the very first time ever. The 90 minute class was led by a young Swedish woman from Malmö with a equilibrium of physical energy and verbal enthusiasm – qualities which I find archetypal for Swedish female fitness instructors from Malmö.

As opposed to much of the yoga I’ve practiced during the last couple of years, Bikram is by far the most challenging. Not so much because there were a bunch of new moves – in one way or another, I’ve done all of the poses in previous classes. No, what made it so tough was the studio’s 40 °C/104°F heat and 40% humidity. I can’t remember ever sweating so profusely and feeling so nauseous as during much of today’s class.

The only time that might of come close in terms of veritable perspiration, was once when I went for an early morning run along a lonesome highway that runs through a section of California’s vast desert, Death Valley.

Anyway, despite having a few moments of abysmal doubt that I’d make it all the way throuh to the very last minute, according to the instructor, for my very first Bikram class, I apparently did really well. Nothing like some positive reenforcement after a near-death experience.

Ironically, as soon as I stepped out into the open air, the yoga studio’s steamy climate made the outdoor temperature, which is scalding-hot, feel almost pleasurable.

The photo is from tonight’s class which I only partook in momentarily in order to get the shot.

Read about Bikram Yoga here.


Fit for Life

For the past several years, I’ve been hooked on a premise about food and eating habits. Particularly my eating habits. The idiom, you are what you eat is true, but even more precise is my own, very personal mantra; don’t eat food that takes more energy to digest than what it provides your body with.

Back in the 1980s, there was a hugely successful book called, “Fit for Life”.

It was one of the first self-help books that tried to provide explanations about the growing population of of overweight Americans, many of which were heading fast into a state of obesity. The authors brought forth several theories about, for example, how we ought not to combine proteins and carbohydrates in our meals, that we should avoid dairy products altogether in our diet, only eat fruit in the morning, and eat less meat and more raw fruits and vegetables.

In the wild, the book argued (with some fuzzy logic), carnivores only eat prey that are vegetarians. Therefore, by eating “living” food, like vegetables and fruits, as opposed to a diet consisting of processed ingredients and “dead food” that clog our digestive system and arteries, we’ll not only enjoy better health, ultimately, we get to live a longer life!

It’s now been over three years since I gave up meat and poultry. The family and I still eat fish and seafood and I have serious doubts I’ll ever be able to exclude meals that consist of sushi, mussels and shrimp from my life. But I am increasingly focused on removing overly processed foods from our fridge and kitchen. And by processed, I also include food that has been genetically manipulated or cultivated with the “help” of chemicals. Generally, chemicals are not added to benefit consumers. They are usually there as a means to improve profits for the conglomerates that produce them by enriching flavors (sugars), adding (synthetic) vitamins, enhancing flavors, manipulating characteristics (thickness, fluidity), prolonging shelf-life and improving crop yields (GMO).

Much of the food industry is incredibly cynical. Almost as bad as some of the most nefarious pharmaceuticals, like Purdue Pharma – a company that through dubious marketing practicies of it’s hero product, Oxycodone, is now claimed by the press in the US to be responsible for the tragic opioid addiction epiedemic that last year alone, direct or indirectly, claimed over 75,000 American lives.

I’m trying hard to be mindful about a wide range of things in my life these days. Especially about what I eat and drink. At 55, I’d be naive/stupid not to. So, I’m analyzing and making choices more carefully than say, when I was younger and my body’s ability to self-heal was seemingly infinite. But let me tell you, it’s hard. I mean, I grew up in the US in the 1970s when much of today’s fast-food and snack culture was invented and marketed as something unreservedly good, fun and desirable. A lifestyle worth pursuing. As it turns out, sugars (fructose) and salts (sodium) added to much of processed “foods”, have similar effects on us as other, illicit drugs, including cocaine, and create an addiction (which we at best recognize as a bad habit) that is really hard to break.

I’m a firm believer in the theory that you can either kickstart latent genetic diseases or do your outmost to thwart them by eating healthy food, exercising constructively (as opposed to destructively) and last, but not least, by giving your body adequate time to repair through resting, sleeping and meditating. It’s all about determining a good balance.

Some of my food photos from a variety of assignments can be viewed here.


Heading off

Captured this cloudy scene earlier today, a few hours before dark clouds blanketed Malmö and the rain started pouring down. I’m heading off soon. To where the sun is. Traveling alone this time and will continue working on a couple of my long-running, ostensibly endless film projects – and hopefully catch a wave or two in between takes. As per usual, I also have a couple of assignments to produce during the trip. I’ll return before the trees have shed their leaves and, hopefully, before the inevitable cold winds and sweeping darkness has arrived.


Shrimps & Lisa Brennan-Jobs

There’s a saying in Swedish that translates roughly, “gliding through life on a shrimp sandwich”. I know, it doesn’t make much sense – not even in Swedish. But let’s just spend a few words to dissect this weird epigram a little, shall we?

One somewhat logical explanation, honestly, the only one I can think of right now, is that because a shrimp sandwich like the one above is consider by many (myself included) to be the most luxurious and by default any reputable café’s most costly offering, to “glide” on a shrimp sandwich would consequently imply that some folks are able to slide frictionless and extremely comfortably (with their butts placed on the mayo?) through life without so much as a hitch, hiccup or heckle.

As much as I appreciate a really good shrimp sandwich – like the absolutely superb sample above that I ate for lunch today and which was the best I’ve eaten in a long while – the maxim is certainly not how I would describe my life. A wobbly, rickety roller-coaster ride would be a much more fitting metaphor.

This afternoon, I read an interesting interview with Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter of Apple’s late co-founder, Steve Jobs. She’s out and about right now promoting her new book, “Small Fry” which will be available September 4.

Lisa Brennan-Jobs life seems to have been full of ups and downs. Her varying careers alone would probably make for a good read. But according to the interview, her early years as the daughter to one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, were mostly a series of letdowns.

It’s no secret that Steve Jobs wasn’t an easy person to work with. His notorious shit-fits are part of his legacy and of the lore that surrounds it. And you may have had way too much of the Apple Kool-Aid to not extrapolate his erratic behavior, tantrums and cynicism and understand that there was no way in hell the man could of been anything but a terrible, trauma-inducing father.

Having had similar experiences growing up with a mercurial parent, I can only imagine how unpredictably difficult it must of been to be one of Steve Jobs four children. Especially for Lisa Brennan-Jobs, who’s father first denied his paternity (despite a DNA test confirming him being Lisa’s father) and then still only provided emotional attention periodically and financial support sporadically.

I’ve often thought of writing about my own childhood. But aside from a couple of lengthy, mostly blissful visits to Sweden and that the process  might turn out to be cathartic, who else would want to read such a gloomy book? A lost leader, for sure.

I think Lisa Brennan-Jobs is courageous. In the New York Times interview, she’s very clear about just how difficult it is to convey childhood experiences and put ones feelings on display for the world to read, interpret and analyze. And in this day and age, where folks are more polarized on all kinds of more or less important issues than ever before, it takes a lot of guts to share your inner feelings about your father (or, mother). Particularly when he’s Steve Jobs, whom millions love for his genius and showmanship. Lisa Brennan-Jobs is no Small Fry, in my opinion. She’s huge.

Read the New York Times interview here.


Poker Seat

The beauty about photography, at least when you are an “omnivore” like me, is that you constantly feel compelled/intrigued/absorbed in to trying to figure out the most interesting way to capture a particular subject – regardless of whether or not it’s animated or a still life.

I am invariably sweeping through my environment, using my eyes to frame or shape compositions of whatever it is I am looking at. I do this in real-time, but more or less subconsciously. For example, whenever I enter a room, or, stand in front of a building, without even thinking about it, I instantly move to an angle that just feels right.

For the last several years, Charlotte and I compete for what I call the “poker seat” when we visit restaurants or a café. As soon as we get in, we both immediately locate the best seat in the house. Though I’m a bit more anal about this than Charlotte, the best seat is always the one that provides us with the widest possible angle or overview of where we’re at.

Ultimately, I prefer to sit with my back against a wall, hence the poker reference. Because from there, nobody can peek at your hand (of cards). Also, if Charlotte gets to the prime seat first, which happens about 50% of the time in say, a diner on Manhattan or somewhere else in New York City, I might end up having to deal with a lot of commotion going on behind me. You know, folks literally talking behind my back, moving around and lots of noise that I can’t fully identify what it is until I turn around 180 degrees to look. Which can sometimes be a total deal-breaker for me.

Which is why I absolutely love diners and restaurants that have booths. Proper booths offer seclusion and intimacy and are usually quite cozy. I doubt it will ever happen, but should I decide to open a restaurant or café someday, you can bet on the layout of the dining area complying with my feelings on this touchy subject. Might even call the place “Poker Seat”…

The shot above is from Union Square Park during an assignment in New York where I was sent to produce a video installation for Kitchen & Table at Clarion Hotel Malmö Live. The video was to be themed on…yup, you guessed it, the Big Apple. It was one of four trips to NYC that year. Will be heading back to NYC for an assignment in October.


Ingvar’s Martin

As some of you patient visitors may have noticed, I’m currently updating www.raboff.com to include a bit more content than in the site’s previous, somewhat minimalistic incarnation.

Today, I found the above shot of Ingvar and his beloved Aston Martin parked on Scaniaplatsen in Västra Hamnen, Malmö. According to what I recall Ingvar telling me during the shoot, he was thinking of selling the Aston Martin and buying the same model Ferrari as the king of Sweden owns. Or, maybe it was the other way around.

Though the basic pose and car were shot as is, much of the image has been altered in order to add some drama and “pazaz”. Somewhere I know I also have a considerably less exciting car/owner in almost the exact same pose. Obviously, choosing between the two was a cinch.


It’s in the Details

Here’s one of my favorite shots from the new collection of photographs from our visit to La Belle Vue in Neffiés, France. The devil is in the detail, as the idiom goes. And boy, were there a lot of details to document there. This particular photo is from what I beleive is a vintage room divider. Not sure how vintage it actually is, though.

View more images of details here.

I shot most of these images with a Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens and though much bulkier and consequentially heavier than my old Canon 35mm f1.4L lens, I find the results to be both cleaner and crispier. One of the benefits of leaving the Canon camp, at least temporarily, was to experience shooting with gear that wasn’t so damn heavy and offered me better video features. After four years, the Canon was getting long in the tooth.

The Sony A7III camera body weighs a bit less than half of my Canon 5Ds, but with the Sigma 35mm lens screwed on, the difference is negligible. My two Zeiss prime lenses are much lighter, but also significantly more expensive. Seems as if Sigma has chosen more or at least heavier glass lens elements in the 35mm f1.4 Art in order to achieve as good results as Canon gets with fewer/lighter glass elements in their version of the 35mm f1.4L. Which makes perfect sense.

The entire collection of images from La Belle Vue can be viewed here.

Read our review of the La Belle Vue here.

 


Coffee

I didn’t start drinking coffee regularly until I was about 25. There’s a likelihood that the habit began around the time when the infamous “Galliano Hotshot” swept the planet’s bars and restaurants. Up until then, I didn’t think coffee was much more than a bitter beverage for grownups.

Swedes are one of the leading coffee consumers in the world and today, there are more cafés and more kinds of coffee than ever before. Last year, I paid a visit to my old friends Katti and Budha’s Kaffe och Rosteri – a gorgeous café waaaaay up north in Lycksele where coffee is the drink du jour. Budha is undisputably one of the country’s formost roasting experts and has a plethora of knowledge on how to uncover and enjoy all the aromas and tastes available – if you’re sincere and serious about roasting, brewing and serving coffee. Short video from the cafe can be viewed here.

Several years ago, I visited a coffee plantation in Antigua, Guatemala called Filadelfia which is now a full-fledged coffee resort. The beans above, however, are from a shoot I had yesterday afternoon right here in Malmö.


The French

Back from France. A country I’ve visited twice already this year and enjoy returning to whenever possible. Over the years, I think I’ve been to France around 20 times. Mostly to Paris, the Alps, Nice and Provence. Yeah, I really do dig the French.

Outside of Paris, the French really embrace traditions with an intense passion.

Some of the age-old tradtions and cultural antics we experienced seem so unnecessarily impractical – at least to a foreigner. Like why even low-end tourist restaurants stop serving food in the afternoon. Why many shops and cafés still don’t take credit cards and why so many find driving so ridiculously fast on narrow, single lane country roads the most reasonable way to get from a to b.

But there is so much I absolutely adore about the French. Including the language, the often amazing dining experiences (sans Foie gras) and the wonderfully regulated table etiquette (sans smoking). But also how the French invest so heavily in conversation – never shying away from sharing intellectual, albeit often controversial thoughts and opinions about everything and anything. I love that the French love to talk (in French, of course).

Since I haven’t improved much on my basic French since High School, my personal language barrier is sadly still in place. However, the French are much better today at speaking English than they were when I visited during my first Eurail Pass Tour back in the summer of ’83. Much better, even.

Though still often a bit arrogant and operatically dramatic in gestures and facial expressions, I’d argue that in general, that Frenchmen working in the hotel and restaurant industries have made noticeable strides with their attitude and behavior – even if you don’t speak their tongue. Much more so than Gemans outside of Berlin. Last I visited Leipzig, I remember it being really hard to communicate with the locals. Where the French get dramatic, the Germans tend to shy away. Or, in some bizarr situations that I’ve expereinced in Germany, folks just keep on chatting with you in German, as if you were joking about, nicht sprechen sie Deutsch.

In France, the age old rule still applies, though. You know, that if you just try to word a few things in French, the uneasiness wanes and you instantly go from being a foe to a bro. Especially among young folks in bigger cities. Not so much in the Languedoc region, where we just spent five days. Even young folks working in tourism there didn’t seem to speak or understand much English. Probably because the vast majority of their customers are French – hence little need to be able to parley (or, practice) Anglais.

Not saying it’s the only reason for the lack of interest in speaking another language, but the fact that French television (state run and private) have for eons dubbed foreign films and shows in French, has literally deprived the country of at least becoming somewhat familiar with a different way to communicate than just in langue française.

On the other hand, France is such a large, all-encompassing country, geographically speaking, that if you’re French and don’t feel the need to travel abroad for whatever reason, lack of language skills could be one, there’s just about everything you need right at home; alps, gorgeous, palm lined beaches, islands, a multitude of wine districts and a half dozen or so cosmopolitan cities. Which I suppose you could make the argument also applies to the United States and would also serve as an explanation to why so many Americans choose to vacation within the country. That and the fact that only 36% of Americans actually have a passport…

Anyway, the few villages we visited during our short stay in Languedoc were charmingly old and astonishingly beautiful – and most locals we met were genuinely friendly – if not always exceptionaally communicable. Last night we ate a couple of kilos of white wine marinated mussels at the main square in the beach community of Carnon Plage (near Montpellier). The service was excellent, the mussels and fries exquisite and when the bill arrived, our dinner was as surprisingly affordable as everywhere else we’d eaten during the trip to southern France. Except for the two poke bowls at The Beach Club along Carnon Plage which we found both underwhelming in taste and way overpriced.

So, what does this all have to do with the sunflowers above? Well, not much. Aside from the fact that they were shot just outside of the ancient Roman city of Arles in Provence in a field that had possibly attracted a certain Vincent van Gogh – a few years earlier.


20th Wedding Anniversary

Today, while working in southern France, Charlotte and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.

We were married on this very day in 1998 at Brunnby Church, near Mölle-by-the-Sea, in southern Sweden. Charlotte’s family’s priest, Ola Stålnacke, performed the ceremony and there were around 100 invited guests at the church and wedding dinner which we hosted at a nearby Faulty Towers kind of hotell called, Turisthotellet.

I clearly remember the many heartfelt speeches, that the food was bland and how the after dinner music was awful (due to the crappy dj I’d hired). Yet for many, many years, several of our guests would mention to us how much fun they’d had and that our wedding dinner was what they used to benchmark and compare other weddings with. I’m obviously biased, but I can’t remember a wedding that has even comes close to that very special day on August 15, 1998.

Last night, we celebrated our anniversary with a late-ish dinner at one of Neffies’ most popular restaurants, Bistrot L’escampette where we enjoyed a tasty three course meal together with local patrons.

It was romantic insofar that we spent most of the dinner reminiscing about how we first met, our first few months together and how fast time has passed since. We agreed that the vast majority of our two decades together have been really fun and adventurous.

Like for any couple that have lasted as long as we have, there have been a few arguments and disagreements. But they pale when compared to the amount of times we’ve laughed hysterically together, revelled in our successes and rejoiced at how wonderful a life we’ve managed to carve out for ourselves. Of all of our accomplishments, we’re of course proudest of our soon 18 year old daughter Elle. Hope she’s as lucky as we have been and will one day meet her soulmate.


First impressions at hotels

Here’s the first thing you see after entering through the gate at Le Belle Vue where we are staying for another night.

I check in to around 25-30 different hotels per year. I’m already at 19 for 2018 and it’s just August. I’m guessing it’ll be closer to 35 hotels before the year is over. I honestly don’t know anyone that sleeps in so many different beds as Charlotte and I do. None of which beat our crazy comfortable bed at home, I might add.

First impressions at hotels are important in all kinds of ways and situations. Especially in the hospitality industry – in which I’ve spent a significant amount of time, both working within and, for the past two decades, as a guest.

There’s an old saying that if your first impression of a hotel (or, a BnB for that matter) is good, you’ll enjoy the stay and overlook most shortcomings that might follow. Similarly, if your very first impression is miserable, it will take about 7 consecutive positive experiences to overcome that first negative one.

I certainly subscribe to this »theory« and therefore pay absurdly close attention to all visual and auditory input and cues during the first few minutes after arriving at a hotel. The beautiful garden installation above is a great example of how to visually manage the aforementioned crucial first impression. At least visually.


La Belle Vue – Neffiès

This beautiful old gate is on the same street as where Charlotte and I are staying right now, at Yvonne and Micke’s BnB, La Belle Vue in Neffiès – a small village in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. We’re about an hour from Montpellier and three and some change from Barcelona.

I’ve been to Provence plenty of times and love that part of the country. Especially towns with Roman ruins, like Arles.

Neffiès, which belongs to the arrondissement Béziers, is tiny and quieter than any place I’ve ever been to in France. And as I understand it, it’s just one of hundreds of similarly small villages – scattered throughout the region – and that are around 1000 years old. Lots of patina to be enjoyed here, for sure.

Today, after a sumptuous breakfast on the patio, we spent a few hours discovering a slice of the coast called Sérignan Plage after which we headed to Pézenas for lunch. While there, we checked out the town’s biggest draw; antiques. Someone told me today during breakfast that on the main antique drag, there are no less than 54 shops selling vintage stuff.


August before September

August is a strange month here in Sweden. It’s officially the last full month of summer and though usually warm and meteorologically fair, August is when most folks return to the grind after their annual summer vacation.

To me, August is kinda like March, just on the opposite side of the calendar year. It’s the gateway month to September, which for some reason has always been my favorite. Maybe it’s just the name, S-E-P-T-E-M-B-E-R that I dig. Or, perhaps I’ve listened a few too many times to EWF’s classic 70s tune, “September” and subconsciously made its way to the top of my top-favorite-months list.

Surely everyone has a favorite month?

We’re currently in the aftermath of a rather vigorous summer storm and the temperature has fallen to a – for the season – more normal level. It’s this time of year when extraordinarily colorful, often surrealisticaly dramatic sundowns play out over the sea and Copenhagen beyond. Like the one above, shot the other night a few feet from our front door.