Steamrollin’ in Goa

When I saw this steamroller crushing gravel that had been carried and then emptied from the workers baskets earlier today, I was transfixed. How far from my existens was this? Lightyears.


Meine Reinemachefrau

This is my friendly cleaning lady. I’ve kept a fairly neat ship, so I  only need her help every other day. I’ve heard her hum what is probably a well-known Indian tune when she’s sweet my patio.

The headline “Meine Reinemachefrau” is German for My Cleaning Lady and is a reference to the brilliant, deadpan comedy, “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” starring Steve Martin. I don’t know why I thought of that right now. Maybe because so many German guests have checked into the hotel over the last couple of days.

I deactivated my Facebook account this morning and I feel a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Once again I found myself caught in a crossfire between having unreasonably high expectations of appreciation from what I often spent a lot of time creating and posting – and a really weird sense of resentfulness when people posting what I thought was meaninglessness were receiving a ridiculous amount of attention

– Life is not online. It’s happening every second you look beyond the screen. The only likes and comments that really count, are those you give and receive from people you interact with in real-time.

I’ve deactivated my account before and after a five year hiatus, I decided to give it a shot and see if the algorithm had changed for the better – or, if I had changed my attitude. Sadly, the answer is neither. It’s still an eco-system where everyone – whether they are aware of it or not – strive to achieve popularity and celebrity status among their friends and followers. It’s a dark place where the currency is valued in the number of Likes, Comments and Shares you collect. It’s an unhealthy place to spend even a few minutes a day. Let alone hours.

Good ridden!

Scaring Agonda Buffalo

Traveling on your own is nothing short of liberating as it provides a level of freedom group trips inherently don’t. Not that I can’t appreciate when the family and I are on an exciting escapade, I totally do. But ever since my very first backpacking adventure across western and southern Europe, way back in 1983, I’ve just loved heading out in the world on my lonesome.

A solo trip doesn’t necessarily have to be as far as India (where these words are being typed), though a bit of distance from home usually makes for more interesting experiences.

In addition to having plenty of time to reflect on life and relish in the temporary abandonment of daily chores, obligations and routines, being on your own means inviting a wealth of opportunities to see how other humans live their lives and to cross paths and maybe even interact with locals – as well as meet other travelers.

I met this gentle buffalo herder the other day on a pasture above the village of Agonda in southern Goa. It was laundry day for me and I was wearing just about the only clean clothes I had left; a white pair of shorts and a white t-shirt. It would be a gross understatement to say I stood out in the lush green environment. I made several careful attempts to get close to the heard, but each time I got within a few feet, they skedaddled.

Sedatja, my trusted rickshaw driver for two years straight now, translated the herders explanation for why the buffalo kept running away from me;

“They are very, very frightened of white color”.

Later that day, walking on my own along a twisty road that eventually leads to the main beach road and still wearing my “whites”, I came across three full-grown male buffalos with really impressive horns. They were quietly munching away in an overgrown garden at the front end of an abandoned house.

Once one of them got a glimpse of me in my shining armor, the other two looked up and within a second or two, all three were staring in disbelief, as if they’d seen the Grim Reaper and envision that I was coming to take them to buffalo purgatory.

As soon as the small herd found their footing (hoofing?), the mighty beasts jolted and then galloped towards the thicket towards the backend of the garden.

Interestingly, I didn’t get similar reactions from any of the many cows I met along the road that day. Maybe cows aren’t as superstitious. After all, they are sacred.

I’ll be heading out again today, wearing green shorts and a pink tee. We’ll see how that plays out among the Agonda buffalo population.


From Mumbai

One of the perks of traveling is meeting people from all walks of life. Even when it’s only a ephemeral encounter – as with the sweet couple above that I met at a bar on the main village road here in Agonda, it adds great value to life and a visual memory to the trip. Shot with the Fujifilm XT-3 and a Fujinon XF 56mm f1.2.


Shaken not Stirred in Goa

From yesterday’s adventure in the beautiful rural hills above Agonda in south Goa, India. I used a suction cup on the windshield of the rickshaw to connect a Gopro Hero 7 Black to see if the hypersmoth stabilization was as good as proclaimed. And it was. I’m fairly sure that it films in 4k and then uses the higher resolution to stabilize the footage in realtime and then downsample and render it to a still impressive 2.7k.


The Boring Apple
Our daughter Elle will only eat a type of Apple called “Jazz”. I’m not that picky. But the only apple I am dependent on is the one headquartered in Cupertino, California. My everyday tools, hardware and software, depend on Apple Inc’s ability to make stuff that let’s me (and my clients) envision  creativity. Lots of things changed after Steve Jobs passed in 2011. Financially, the company is in tremendous shape. Product wise, there’s not been much to talk about, except maybe the Airpods. And you know Apple isn’t innovating much anymore when the entire “applesphere” gets worked up and giddy about an incremental (= lackluster) update to the boring iPad Mini and the long overdue Airpods…
#boringapple #missstevejobs #whereisthemacpro #whocaresabouttheipadmini #getmeexcited #appleisdoomed #apple #ipadmini #jonyive #industrialdesign #airpods #powercharge #wirelesscharging #unexcited
 
 

The Breakfast Sandwich

Once I’ve discovered or located something that “fits the glove” snuggly, I’m inclined to stick with it. At least for a while or until something more appealing shows up. Such is the case with the English breakfast they serve here and that I make a very tasty open-face sandwich of. Firstly, I butter the toast, then cover each slice generously with baked beans and finally top this culinary concoction off with the fried eggs. Back when I ate meat, I might have also added a fistful of bacon to the recipe. But the thought almost disgusts me now. I don’t touch the ketchup, but I’ll eat the hashbrown potato cake thingy between the two sandwiches.


Holi Colorful Me!

If you didn’t check out the video in the previous post (below) here’s what I looked like when the staff and fellow guests had smeared color all over me during the Holi Spring Festival.

I’ve since handed in my t-shirt and shorts to the laundry lady, visited a local barber and had an Ayurvedic massage.


Traveling Solo

From just after surfing late yesterday afternoon, the Holi celebration before that and then a random yoga poser I saw while walking along the beach afterwards.

Lying here now on a reasonably comfortable bed covered on all sides but one with mosquito net and “Listen Here” by the masterful tenor saxman Eddie Harris resonating from my phone – and low tide waves of the Indian Ocean sweeping gently to shore in the distant background. Things could be worse.
 
I’ve just had an English breakfast. While the full-grain bread wasn’t nearly as toasty as I prefer it, in combination with two fried eggs (sunny side up), a generous serving of baked beans and a full pot of French press coffee, certainly made for yet another sublime breakfast experience. A hotel breakfast without baked beans on the menu gets a star knocked off in my review.
 
All meals are served in this small resort’s beachfront restaurant under a corsage of slightly swaying palm trees. Having a beautiful beach as a backdrop excuses most shortcomings. Not that I’ve experienced any. So far, all my expectations have been either met or exceeded. I’m not totally blown away, I mean, it’s beautiful and everyone is really friendly, but I’ve been around the block a few times and seen some pretty awesome places. So I just dialed in level-headed conjecture as I clicked the “Confirm Booking” button.
 
A sweet Parisian family that I’d first met at the airport and who were also on their way here, sat at the table next to me this morning. They’re living as expatriates in a city of ten million that I can’t recall the name of. I think it was south of Mumbai somewhere. They enjoyed living in India, but had heard that the expat life in Thailand was far better. Somewhat surprisingly, they had never been to the “land of smiles”. Later at dinner, I met another family, this time from Virginia (US) that lived in Delhi. They too had heard the same about how good expat life was in Bangkok.
 
India and Thailand are of course different in many ways – yet have more in common than one might reckon at first glance. For one thing, both certainly love their curries and spicy dishes. And the climates and geography are somewhat similar – at least on parallel latitudes of both countries southern regions.
 
According to what I’ve read on the subject, much of the populace in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos, all belong to a convergence of Indian and Chinese decedents. Which makes perfect sense once you consider all the trading that has been going on across the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, further south (east) for millennia. Alas, ethnic lineage is one of today’s most sensitive subjects, but intriguing nonetheless. As academic and scientific studies continue to provide evidence that we are all decedents of a common African species, I think talking more openly about lineage is a key to unlocking some of today’s most heated topics, including nationalism, bigotry, and racism.
 
I’ve been to India a few times now and thoroughly enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. Especially here in laid-back Goa – which of course is lightyears from being representative of the wildly diverse Indian subcontinent. But I’ve even enjoyed good vibes in super busy cities like Mumbai and Hyderabad. And once you venture into rural India, everything tends to play out in a fascinating slow-motion pace. There’s just no reason to stress when life is guided by seasons and not dictated by more or less virtual deadlines.
 
Though I do have deadlines, in general, travel writing and travel photography are usually stress-free assignments – unless of course the destination is uninspiring or the schedule is jam-packed with too much to absorb whilst on the go. Which happened a few years ago on tour of Croatia. The organizers had been so ambitious, they’d shoehorned at least a week of often hysterically unorganized events and spontaneous visits into three days. The result? Mutiny! As far as I know, very little was reported from that particular junket. Honestly, press trips are usually over-rated. Solo traveling is the best (and most honest) way to go. Though at times, I confess to missing the camaraderie of colleagues – especially during meals. Eating alone gets boring real fast.

Holi Festival, Batman!

From today’s extremely playful and colorful celebration of the vibrant Spring Festival called Holi. Shot on a Gopro Hero 7 (4k) and an iPhone 7+ (4k/720p). I’ve handed in my clothes to a local laundry shop, but they were dubious about being able to clean all of the colors. Not to fret, I said. Could make for a nice keepsake from an extraordinary day. Read more about Holi here.


Breakfast Coffee in Goa

I typically find more time to write whilst traveling. Especially when soloing on a long-distance trip. I suppose there is easement and solace in piecing together a description of my experiences on the road.

I woke up this morning to the sound of waves crashing onto the beach thirty or forty feet from my bungalow. As usual, I’d fallen asleep with my Airpods playing the latest podcast episode of “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” with the delightful Michelle Obama. I didn’t hear the entire interview, so I’ll finish it up sometime later today.

I usually wake up with one of the two Airpods lodged somewhere between my ribs or nestled in a fold of skin near my shoulder blades.

If the waves and the Airpods that woke me, it was definitely the smell of coffee that got me out of bed. After twenty minutes of Qigong poses, I headed downstairs to the restaurant which is directly below. After a pot of fresh coffee, a plate of baked beans and two fried eggs, I’m now ready to see how the villagers celebrate “Holi” today.


Back in Goa for Holi

After a weeklong delay, a short stint in Delhi, I’m now back on schedule and have arrived safely in Goa.

The distance from the chilly, windy and pallid southern Sweden to the balmy and colorful southern India couldn’t be wider.

While it was officially spring in Sweden yesterday, here in Goa today, they will be celebrating “Holi” which is the Hindu festival of colors honoring the triumph of good over evil, increasing the prospect of a favorable harvest as well as improving fertility.

The layered image above is a composition of cows I met heading down the village road yesterday afternoon and a young guy with a lavish hairdo I came across a few minutes later.


Goa Tuk-Tuk

From last year’s visit to south Goa in India. Shot on an old GoPro and an iPhone in the beatiful hills behind Agonda Beach during an afternoon. I remember having stubbed my toe on a piece of wood at the hotel that morning – yet still insisting on going surfing afterwards.

Quartier écolo

Un quartier modèle de Malmö en Suède, qui fonctionne à 100% aux énergies renouvelables. #19h30RTSRTSinfo

Publicerat av RADIO TELEVISION SUISSE (RTS) Måndag 11 februari 2019

TV Interview

From an interview I did for Paris based TV team Story W. They visited in January to produce a story about unique sustainability projects in Malmö – primarily Västra Hamnen and Hyllie. The reportage will be shown on Swiss TV station Radio Television Suisse (RTS) and on a yet to be disclosed (to me anyway) French TV channel as well.


Gui​lin aka 桂林

Heading east in a while. Not as far east as Guìlín in the southern reaches of China, though. Guìlín which means “Forest of Sweet Osmanthus” because of the abundance of Osmanthus trees in the region, was a magical place, especially the river trip we took down the Li River to the picturesque, laid-back village of Yangshuo – where we incidentally spent a night and drove electric scooters in the midst of the most amazing landscape of karst mountains. A small yet hopefully inspiring collection of images from Guìlín can be enjoyed here.


Ich bin ein Berliner
This post’s headline stems from JFK’s famous Cold War speech back in 1963 during a visit to West Berlin. I’ve been to Berlin a few times. Most recently last spring to check out the art scene and visit Doris and Peter – two friends that have moved there from Malmö.
There’s also been a couple of press trips to Germany that had Berlin on the itinerary. My very first visit was with Charlotte and Elle back in the mid 2000s. I really dig it Berlin and had it not been landlocked, I might even have considered living there for a spell. In addition to Berlin’s eclectic artistic scene, the city is just stoked with historical venues. Having done all that stuff, I can now appreciate just walking around, taking in the atmosphere and capturing the almost always interesting street vibe. More images from Berlin here.

Tuscany

Thanks to a friend, wine connoisseur and restauranteur Erik Schneider, I was invited to Tuscany to photograph for a few days in the Val d’Orcia region. The winery Cal d’Orcia, founded and operated by Count Cinzano (one of the family members that make and own the aperitif brand) hosted me for the week. Tuscany is as beautiful as I’d read about – and then some. And a completely different Italy than what I had seen in other regions of the country. Here’s a collection from the visit.


Istanbul

Been so busy lately, that I’ve totally forgot about updating the travel section. I’m giving it some attention now and in addition to the South Bronx and Tokyo, Istanbul went up yesterday. Politics aside, Istanbul is absolutely amazing and I’d love to return one day. If for no other reason, then for all the friendly folks I met during the weeklong visit a few years ago. If you look closely, you’ll see a plane taking off behind the Blue Mosque. More from Istanbul here.


Waiting for Spring

So, it turns out that we might not be getting any winter at all. We’ve only had a few hours of snow and few days with subzero temperatures. Nowhere near what the folks in New York have had to endure and continue to cope with. I hope now we can look forward to an early spring. Despite reasonable temperatures, mostly above zero, the cold and dry air has been unusually cold and dry.


Female Genital Mutilation
From a visit to a Maasai village in the Maasai Mara National Reserve a couple of years ago. As this was my first visit to the Mara, I wanted to visit what I was told would be an authentic Maasai village, however touristy and staged I assumed the experience was going to be.
 
While most villagers were kind and friendly, one of the young males, the fellow standing to the far left wearing a lion headdress, had a blatantly aggressive attitude. I wrote it off as a schtick, an act to emphasize his alpha male status among the other men (and me).
 
I couldn’t resist but ask about female genital mutilation (FGM) within the Masa communities. According to our guide, though still practiced, it was on the decline throughout this male-dominated society. 

After some research, I learned that traditionally, Maasai men won’t even consider marrying a young Maasai woman if she has not had her genitals circumcized. Only after going through this painful and often life-threatening ritual would women, mostly barely sexually mature young girls, be allowed to partake in cultural celebrations and have their future children considered legitimate.
 
Despite attempts to eradicate this horrific tradition, according to a 2018 United Nations estimate, because of population growth, the number of girls mutilated each year could rise from the current 3.9 million to 4.6 million by 2030. That’s roughly the entire population of women in a country like Sweden.
 
Central African Republic, Kenya, and Egypt top the list of culprits, but there are many other countries in Africa and Asia that practice Female Genital Mutilation including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and India. In the Maldives, mutilating women’s genitals – as part of a coming of age ritual – is legal and therefore sanctioned by the government.
 
For all the good intentions and funding aimed at eradicating diseases like malaria, cholera, and aid going to other important causes, I really can’t understand how we in 2019 can accept that so many millions of women are forced to go through female genital mutilation. As a human, a man and a father to a daughter, I feel ashamed on behalf of all the men in the world that inflict this on women. And I feel really sad that we literally shy away from this issue.
 
Ridding the planet from such a senseless, brutal practice should be priority number one for all humanitarian NGOs as well as the UN and WHO.
 And we should all boycott countries that openly allow this torture.
 
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-singapore-fgm-asia-factbox-idUSKCN12D04E
 
https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/prevalence/en/

Kyoto’s Bamboo Forest

From the bamboo forest on the outskirts of Kyoto, Japan. I can’t put my finger on exactly why I’m so intrigued with the country, but I really love visiting Japan and hope to visit again sometime later this year. I suppose I say that about a lot of places, mostly because I’m constantly thinking about places I’ve been, some of which I wish to return to. Check out my collection of images from Tokyo/Kyoto here.


In the studio

I’ve been painting a lot recently. More than in a long, long time and it feels absolutely terrific. Especially recently when friendly, yet seemingly random customers have literally strolled in to the studio to buy one of my paintings.

Selling an art piece is the ultimate proof that what you’re doing, what you’ve created from nothing more than a white canvas, actually has some kind of right to exist – that the many hours spent working on it is appreciated to the degree for peope to spend some of their hard-earned, ridiculously high-taxed income on just to buy it from me and then hang it on a wall in their home. It spurs me to continue – just I am sure it does for almost every visual artist.


Friends Reunited

So here’s a few snapshots from last weekend’s reunion with my old buddies Tommy Sahlin, Joakim Eklund, Jonas Bratt and Lars Olemyr. Only a handful of people know me better than this troupe and an even smaller tribe can make me laugh as hard. Friend Erik Schneider (upper right square), a wine bar owner and sommelier par excellence joined us for a couple of hours of wine tasting before, during and after dinner. His contribution was much appreciated.


In action @taladnoi

Here’s a composite of two different images from the same afternoon in Bangkok. I had told photojournalist Thomas Engström and his wife Lena about a really funky area near Chinatown called Talad Noi that was literally filled with auto parts and invited them to join me on the tail end of a photo shoot I was doing there with a local model in a ballerina outfit.


Blast from the past: High School Hamlet

I just spent the weekend here in Malmö with four of my oldest friends from High School in Göteborg, just a couple of years after I moved from L.A.

Together with Lars Olemyr, Jonas Bratt, Joakim Eklund and Tommy Sahlin (whom I’ve known since 1975 when I from time to time visited Sweden), we’ve eaten and drunken well and enjoyed a plethora of ancient, yet nonetheless laughter triggering anecdotes as we strolled merrily down memory lane.

In addition to an introductory course to Qigong on the 54th floor of the Turning Torso and a visit to Ribersborgs Kallbadhus (a beautiful, rustic seaside bathhouse and restaurant), we also watched the above video.

Excuse the crappy quality, but for the initiated, this is an epic throwback to when we were cast in Jonas Bratt’s contemporary interpretation of William Shakespeare’s drama, Hamlet (where I play Horatio very badly). Yes, that’s younger me with curly hair holding Hamlet (played by Nicklas Giertta).


Summertime DJ Gig

There was a time when I was a fairly sought after disc-jockey. For a couple of years, before I grew tired of all the late nights and smoke-filled nightclubs, I toured southern Sweden with two CD cases brimming with what I still consider to be some of the best music ever recorded. Fundamentally, my preferred genre was soul and all the cousins therein – including soothing R&B, Funk and danceable Pop.

Once in while I’ll take on a gig if for no other reason to share my favorite tunes at a bar, restaurant and almost any place where good music is welcome. In about three months, if your in the vicinity of the restaurant above, you’ll likely hear a few delicately chosen tracks by Sam & Dave, Aretha, Marvin, Chaka and Blackness. Stay tuned for date and time.


New Piece

Naming my art pieces has always been  something I enjoy doing. This particular painting’s name comes from a mix of Kafka and actual Niigata koi fish that I saw swimming in a pond in Siem Reap last fall. Some of them were breaching the pond water and splashing about – as if they knew nothing of the gravity pulling them back in to the murky water or how limited their life would be should they succeed at jumping out of the water and onto the finely cut gravel where I stood and studied them.


Elle’s Driver’s License

Early this morning, Elle Ingrid Agnes Raboff, our 18 year old daughter, got her driver’s license with flying colors. That might not seem much of biggie if you’re in the US of A where the local DMV will issue a license without much fuss. But here in Sweden, to get behind the wheel of a car is a pretty big deal with an almost preposterous amount of traffic rules and regulations. Stuff you need to learn for both the theoretical test and then prove you comprehend during the practical examination – which takes place on busy urban streets and even busier highways.

So, Charlotte and I are super happy for Elle. And more importantly, extremely proud of our wonderful daughter!


New Art

This is a piece I finished a couple of days ago. It’s an acrylic painting on canvas (100 x 140 cm) where I’ve added elevating structure to the surface and made use of the repetitive window patterns to create an abstract landscape.

I call it the Turning Torso Conundrum to reflect how the building’s asymmetrical form and shape isn’t so easily defined or pigeon-holed. Which in turn is something I can easily relate to.


Back in the Box

I shot this self-portrait years ago in my old studio here in Malmö. At that time I was training Kick n’ Box at our local gym and sports center, Kockum Fritid, three times a week.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, the class was discontinued and since I didn’t feel like I wanted to spend the time going to and from a different sports center, I went back to running and working out at our gym, usually Mon-Wed-Fri from 06:00 am to 7:00 am.

This morning, for the first time in about a year, I was back at the gym at 06:00 am and spent about an hour working up a good sweat. Just before I left, I happened to notice that there was a full-size boxing bag hanging in one of the gym’s recently remodeled rooms. I have to admit that I got a little excited when I saw it and went looking for a pair of sparring gloves. With them strapped on, I then spent roughly 15 minutes punching away until my arms felt like they were filled with Jell-O. Going to try to create a balanced training regimen this spring – an equilibrium – that includes gym training, boxing and yoga. And maybe some swimming.


About Turning Torso

I call this piece “Calatravism”. It’s an abstract collage made from over 30 photographs of the Spanish architect, engineer and sculptor Santiago Calatrava’s skyscraper, Turning Torso located right here in Västra Hamnen. It’s one of my most popular pieces, especially when printed on thick acrylic, like the one hanging right now on display in my new studio.

If I step out of my studio and walk 20 feet to the left, I’ll have the magnificent Turning Torso right in front of me. It’s quite the sight. And where most skyscrapers are often Calatravaismanal-retentively symmetric, towering above us as monuments of our incorrigible hubris as well as physical insignificance, Calatrava’s contribution to Malmö’s skyline has a uniquely asymmetrical, organic, approachable feel to it. Which is likely why I’ve never tired of photographing and interpreting it.

Based on his marble sculpture, “Twisting Torso”, the 190 meter tall building was upon completion in 2005, the world’s first twisted skyscraper and continues to attract visitors from all over the world. I ride my bike past it almost every day and even when it’s pouring down, there’s almost always someone standing in front of the entrance, struggling frenetically to come up with an angle where the entire structure will fit within their smartphone’s screen.

For me, the Turning Torso serves as a consummate reminder, a mnemonic device to keep me bold and daring – and not wait around for things to happen on their own. For an artist, nothing could be more creatively catastrophic than slipping into the role of the passive bystander. Only when I act will there ever be a reaction.

I’ve had a long and amazing relationship with Turing Torso. In late 2014, I was commissioned by HSB Malmö, the cooperative that owns and operates the mostly residential building to produce a coffee table/interview book that would commemorate the 10 year anniversary. Turning-Torso-Jubileumsbok

But already back in 1999, just a year or so after moving from Göteborg to Malmö – and way before the skyscraper’s construction began – HSB hired me to shoot footage from several heights of Turning Torso while sitting in a harness of a helicopter.

The transformation that Malmö has gone through over the past two decades is remarkable and certainly noteworthy. Yes, there is still a lot of stuff that needs attention, including the devistatingly high crime rate, thoughtless and therefore mostly unsuccessful attempts at integrating immigrants into society and arguably one of the country’s worst inner-city traffic situations.

But not entirely unlike New Yorkers who live in a city that’s had to redefine itself time and time again, most folks in Malmö feel unapologetically proud of their city. In last week’s interview with a French TV team, I mentioned that it takes time for Malmöites to embrace change. But once they do, it’s nothing less than a love affair with no end.


Switzerland on my Mind

Speaking of skiing… I’m currently thinking of heading down (and then up) to Zermatt – my favorite alp village bar none – in a few weeks. Though by no means as easy to get to as Chamonix Zermatt has quite a few other benefits that I think by far out-way the logistical demands. And if you’re lucky, the train ride’s last hour, when it makes its ascend to Zermatt, is spectacularly beautiful.

The village itself is quaint, cozy and quiet as only electric mini-buses are allowed on the streets. Especially gorgeous are the ancient buildings know as “Hinterdorf” (rear village) with 30 or so traditionally constructed wooden barns and stables from the 16th and 18th centuries.

The slopes below the majestic Matterhorn are as one might expect in Switzerland, well-maintained and, more importantly, the mountains surrounding Zermatt with Monte Rosa being the highest, offer an almost infinite amount of off-piste options.

Now, given this isn’t exactly a budget-friendly destination. Zermatt is tucked away way up at 1600 meters, so you’ll unavoidably be paying more for the secluded location itself, and it’s still considered one of the alp’s most exclusive ski resorts. Not as exclusive as, say, Gstaad, but not far off. Still, I wouldn’t say that Zermatt is ridiculously expensive. Fact is, I’ve eaten, of all things, a few sushi meals there which were both well-made and reasonably priced.


Riksgränsen via Chamonix

It’s about this time of year when I start remembering what it was like to take the train or fly up to Lapland and start a new ski season at Hotel Riksgränsen.

As the train from Kiruna would pull away from the very last stop before the route’s final destination in Narvik (Norway), an almost eery silence would ensue. Only the muted sound of snow being compressed under my boots could be heard as I walked towards the hotel from the station. As soon as I passed under the railway tunnel, I’d turn left towards the small cluster of staff houses spread out at the foot of the mountain – one of which would be my home for the better part of the next five months.

This is the train station in Chamonix from last year’s visit for www.airlinestaffrates.com


Selfie on a Stick

However you slice it, the selfie culture is a global phenomena that doesn’t seem to be waning any time soon. As a photographer, I’ve always felt compelled to help folks I meet on the street to capture their epic vacation scene.

That doesn’t happen nearly as often today as most selfie people seem to prefer awkward angles and perspectives that distort. I’ve actually been turned down a few times when trying to be a good Samaritan. But thanks to the invention of the selfie stick, things may have gotten a little better.

Shot the above image a little more than a week ago on a street in Singapore.


Friends – the Gathering
In a few weeks, a quartet of my oldest buddies and I will be getting together face-to-face for the first time in almost a decade. We’re going to spend a couple of days at our place in Malmö and boy, have I’ve got some fun stuff lined up for that weekend! We’ve been friends for about 40 years now, but as life inescapably takes us in wildly different directions, our meetups are few and far between. At this pace, we might have 2 or 3 more gatherings before we stop recognizing each other…
 
Speaking of friends…
 
I just read that the sitcom Friends is one of the most popular shows on Netflix. That’s kinda weird, no? But what makes this really baffling is the age group of the viewers.
 
Turns out that Friends is super popular among young folks – mostly teenagers, none of which were born when the show’s finale aired on May 6, 2004 (and watched by a whopping 50 million people!).
 
Fun fact: apparently, each original Friends cast member earns close to $20 million/year in residuals, thanks to the show’s sustained popularity.
 
In a day and age when we rarely talk to each other over the phone, let alone meet up on a regular basis (for whatever reasons/excuses), it could be argued that when an almost ancient sitcom about a bunch of friends hanging out is still exceptionally popular among kids, teens and tweens, that it’s an indication or symptomatic of something gone awry.
 
Perhaps the very fabric of what makes human society so compelling, inspiring and dynamic is slowly being unraveled and replaced with pseudo-relationships and virtual friendships? I for one jump a little every time my phone rings these days. As if I’ve completely forgotten about that little handy functionality.
 
Now, I don’t want to come across as being this testy curmudgeon, ‘cause historically, there have been umpteen television shows which have literally hypnotized huge swaths of society on both sides of the Atlantic.
 
When I grew up, reruns of Hogan’s Heroes, I Love Lucy, Get Smart and even the quirky sitcom Gilligan’s Island, had me and most of my friends up way past our bedtime (I personally had an obsession with Mary Ann and Ginger as well as 99 and the Flying Nun – but not so much with Lucille Ball).
 
And The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and later Late Night With David Letterman certainly had an impact on millions. But this was obviously way before the Internet as we know it, decades prior to instant messaging, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. TV, radio, and cinema were entertainment venues and complementary components in society. Not replacements for it.
 
I’d like to see polling that gives insight as to what exactly it is that the younger gens see in a show like Friends. Is it as simple as the affable and somewhat relatable characters? Can a teenager in 2019 really relate to a Chandler, a Joey, a Rachel, a Ross, a Phoebe or a Monica? Or, maybe it’s how the sextet together tackle more or less realistic life issues and overcome daily challenges as a fun-loving gang of cheeky, sarcasm strewing musketeers? Could Friends even be providing a kind of counseling and guidance to today’s always “on” generation?
 
It’s been a while, but I’ll easily admit to having watched the entire Friends series. I can even concede, albeit more reluctantly, that I’ve likely seen every single episode twice. Heck, I might as well own up to having watched several Friends specials and dozens of blooper reels. When our daughter Elle was younger, we’d watch a few episodes together on planes, trains and sometimes even instead of a bedtime story. There was something comforting about the show. And that’s exactly what makes its persistent popularity so phenomenally interesting.
 
I just looked on Amazon and you can actually buy the entire 10 seasons of Friends for less than $100. You’ll need a DVD player though, as the complete show is delivered in a box with 40 discs. Think I’ll stick to Netflix when I need a Friends fix. Or, just gather some good old buddies for some fun IRL.