Beyond the Anti-Climax River

There’s always an anti-climax after a really fun trip. Especially when returning home this time of year. Precipitously exchanging sunny southern California for the frigid and mostly achromatic southern Sweden takes time readjust to. I keep forgetting this.

I used to think that the older I became, the more enlightened I would get. That all those dense tree rings packed with collated experiences are somehow neurally inter-connected, providing an arsenal of shiny insights, a subtle form of clairvoyance, to help me navigate through the maze of life.

I’m increasingly skeptical to this line of thought.

Unless you somehow remain in a perpetually motionless state (which may actually be the hidden key here), it seems that much of one’s acquired experiences are more or less inapplicable. At least when trying to figure out the really important stuff.

Maybe life’s just too fluid. Like floating downstream on a feisty river. Each set of rocks you managed to flow over or survive through are so unique, that what you’ve learned from previous encounters has marginal value. Which on the other hand keeps life unpredictably exciting. As long as there’s a reasonably long stretch of calmness in-between the string of rapids.

I can only deduce that the aforementioned river metaphor stems from the horror movie Bird Box which I saw last week.

I shot the tree trunk somewhere in the Hollywood Hills in 2017.

The Wall
Been thinking about this wall issue again. How can you not? In my travels, I’ve actually visited several of the world’s most famous/infamous walls – purpose-built to separate people.
 
The Iron Curtain (Germany)
Belfast’s Peace Wall (Northern Ireland)
The Great Wall (China
)
The West Bank Barrier (Israel/Palestine)
The Ring Wall of Visby (Sweden)

At best we can admire their architecture, engineering, and longevity.

But fundamentally, walls intended to separate people because of opposing beliefs, opinions and economic differences are nothing but proof of failure. Failure to focus on our commonality, and, ultimately our humanity. They are at best a quick fix but inevitably doomed to fall.


Return to Palisades Park

No trip to L.A. would feel complete without a visit to Palisades Park where I shot this aloe plant at. The park’s north end is on the border between Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades and it stretches thinly along the bluff above the Pacific Coast Highway and all the way down to the Santa Monica Pier sign. The park is meticulously maintained yet never, ever crowded. There are plenty of places for picnics, playing chess or shuffleboard. There’s even a camera obscura somewhere in the middle of the park.

When we were living in Santa Monica during the fall and winter of 2013-2014, Charlotte and I would either together or separately run the park’s entire length, then jog down to the end of the pier, cross over to the bike path and run up the stairs, take the bridge over PCH and then run up the walkway to Idaho Avenue where are apartment was. Can’t remember the distance, but it may be around 5k.

I didn’t run in the park during this last visit, but I did walk up and down its length all the while admiring the season’s spectacular flora. Though I’ve not seen any winter flowers here in Malmö, it’s still unusually green for January. #hopingforanearlyspring


L.A. Rooftop Planes

Back in Sweden again after an uneventful flight over the Atlantic and a short ride from Gatwick to Copenhagen. Saw a couple of pretty bad films on the way over, but one classic and seemingly always current, All the President’s Men with a very young Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford.

Shot this from the rooftop at H Hotel where we stayed our last night near the entrance to LAX.


Back at LAX
We’re packed and just about ready to take the shuttle to the Tom Bradley Terminal here at LAX. It’s raining now, which might just be what we need to readjust to the weather back home.
 
Shot the LAX sign last night after returning to the H Hilton from yet another great family dinner at Culver City’s premiere cantina, Paco’s Tacos. I don’t know exactly why, but that place reminds me somehow of a restaurant Charlotte and I ate at somewhere along Calle Revolucion in Tijuana several years ago. Come to think of it, Paco’s Tacos is a little like a Mexican version of TGI Friday’s – where you almost overdose from all the noise, excessive kitsch, and flare. That said, the food and service at Paco’s are by far superior to what’s served up at any TGI I’ve ever been to.
 
I have been flying in and out of LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) more or less annually for the last 50 years. My very first flight was way back in 1966, probably in a SAS DC-8 that flew from L.A. to Torslanda (near Gothenburg, Sweden) via New York, Reykjavik and London. I was three years old and was probably taken by a cabin crew up to see the cockpit during the flight. I might even have been given one of those shiny SAS wing pins to put on the lapel of my little jacket.
 
I go through a lot of airports every year, especially Kastrup which is our local airfield. Most airports I transition through are either super small or ginormous, like Frankfurt, Heathrow, Zürich, and Schiphol. With recent extensions to accommodate an increase in passengers, Kastrup is, unfortunately, losing some of its medium-sized airport charms. It’s still my favorite and nowhere nearly as confusing to navigate through as, say, Frankfurt or Heathrow is. And certainly tenfold nicer than JFK or Newark. While the arrival hall isn’t all the welcoming, I do find Bangkok’s Souvannaphoum International to offer a pretty good airport experience. But of all the Thai airports I’ve traveled to thus far, the outdoor, tropical airport on Koh Samui is without a doubt my favorite.
 
In 2018, I stayed in about 30 different hotels during visits to Santa Teresa (Costa Rica), Stockholm, Chamonix, Lisbon, Goa, Berlin, Palma (Mallorca), La Horadada (Alicante), Phuket, Bangkok, Siem Reap (Cambodia), New York, Stockholm, Los Angeles, Joshua Tree and finally, Encinitas. That’s an inexcusably large carbon footprint that I aim to reduce significantly in 2019. That’s not to say I won’t be traveling at all, just not as much as last year. And preferably more via trains than on planes.
 
Here’s a couple of interesting facts. LAX was founded in all the way back in 1930 and according to L.A. Magazine, there are 1,578 landings and takeoffs here every 24 hours. That means there’s a plane either arriving or departing every single minute 24/7/365.

The Breakfast Bagel

Here’s what I’ve been eating for breakfast during the last week. The Breakfast Bagel they serve at Coffee Coffee in Leucadia/Encinitas is among the tastiest I’ve ever eaten. It comes with avocado, scrambled eggs, cream cheese, onions, tomatoes and is perfectly salted and peppered.

It’s almost time to leave Southern California. The sun was out again this morning, but it rained heavily here in Encinitas last night and I heard L.A. received a torrential downpour with some flash flooding, even.

I’ve already packed my stuff, including the yoga mat, wetsuit, camera gear and drone. Not looking forward to leaving. Like my heart, the suitcase now feels heavier somehow. Could be all the sand residue from pretty much every beach we’ve surfed on since arriving almost three weeks ago.

With the amazing family gatherings, great surfing, plenty of sunshine, friendly smiles and all the sumptuous breakfasts, lunches and dinners, how could leaving California feel anything but a bit melancholic? That said, I feel there’s now more than ever an incentive to return soon again.


Sunset at Swami’s
From last night’s sunset at Swami’s Beach in Encinitas, California. Whenever in locations like this, I’m always caught between a creative impulse to film the local surfers or leave my camera gear behind, wiggle my way into the wetsuit and join in on the fun.

I’ve surfed on beaches of Maui, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Miami, Malibu and probably a half dozen other places – including some dubious spots in Sweden. Though I’m by no means a great surfer, at best I could pass for an enthusiastic novice, for years I have been in love – addicted even – to the idea of becoming one with the waves. I used to dive a lot, but today I find that it’s too complicated.

Yesterday afternoon, while in the water waiting for the right lefty to appear, I thought about how similar surfing is to skiing. At least insofar that both provide an epic, adrenalin injecting nature experiences.

At this point in life, carving my way down a steep mountain slope or riding a tall wave to shore, are two amazing ways to keep me young in mind, body, and heart.


A Raboff Family Gathering

Here’s a truly unique group photo from last night’s Raboff Family Gathering. We took it after dinner at the taco shop I wrote about in a previous post and then continued the evening in the cozy outdoor garden of a nearby bar here in Leucadia.

My father Ernest Raboff was married four times and as far as we know, he fathered a total of six children. Through their mother Adeline, my three youngest siblings belong to the ancient Native American Indian Gwich’in people.

In addition to seeing my brother Evon D’Angeles for the first time since he was two or three years old, and my sister Princess Bethany whom I’ve not hung out with since Paris in 2015, the “Swedish Raboff’s” got to spend the evening with the amazing “Alaskan Raboff’s«. The evening could only have gotten better if brothers Nick and Odin with their respective families could have joined us. And Tyko, of course.

I’m really pleased that Elle got to meet and spend time with her cousins and hope she enjoyed hearing at least some of the evening’s many historical accounts and peculiar anecdotes our father Ernest so generously left behind.


Meanwhile at Beacon’s Beach

Given that we live in Sweden, a part of the world where sunshine is a rarity, at least this time of year, the Raboff’s are currently stocking up on natural vitamin D while here in southern California. And aside from a bit dreary weather in Joshua Tree on the 31st of December last year, we’ve enjoyed nothing but beautiful, albeit somewhat chilly weather, during our visit.

After Elle’s an my morning surf at Moonlight Beach and then breakfast, I spent an hour or so just laying on the rocks at Beacon’s Beach, straight up the road from Surfhouse, the place where we’re staying while in Encinitas.

Whenever I watch surfers, after a while I tend to get twitchy and yearn to get in the waves myself. Which is exactly what I did after this timelapse was completed.


At the beach again

At the beach again. I don’t think the year could have started much better. We woke up yesterday in the frosty desert at Joshua Tree and drove west towards the sun – as far as the highway would take us. At the small surf community of Encinitas, just north of San Diego and south of Carlsbad, we checked into a motel located just a few hundred yards from what looks like a decent beach break.


In Awe of California

No matter how much you disagree with the country’s current pathologically deranged leadership, the food frenzy, entitlement madness or shopoholism, there’s just no denying that the US of A offers some of the most astonishing nature experiences in the world. Which is primarily why I enjoy returning again and again.

I am in awe of California. With its forests, deserts, coastline, and mountains – all in close proximity to each other, visitors and locals alike have an amazing buffet of goodness to enjoy in the “Golden State”.

My very first visit to Joshua Tree was 15 years ago and my brother Nick and I camped out there for a few nights. I think it was near the park’s Hidden Valley. I was awestruck by how vast and unworldly the landscape was.

I’ve returned a couple of times since then with Elle and Charlotte and all three of us are just as mesmerized as I first was.


Fine Fish Tacos
In my experience, Mexican or Tex-Mex food tastes best when it’s served at the really simple, hole-in-the-wall places – regardless really where in the world you may be. Cause I’ve eaten superb Mole in Mexico and equally delicious burritos in Bangkok.
 
Good food knows no boundaries.
 
Like Thai cuisine, Mexican food doesn’t get any better just because its served up on fancy plates in a restaurant with vibrant sombreros and ponchos hanging on the walls or even when there’s a colorful mariachi band performing La Cucaracha with an insane passion.
 
To me, if the restaurant just serves a cold draft or bottled beer and offers at least one decent kind of tequila, I’m fairly sure they’ll not disappoint with their food.
 
To this point, we ate wonderfully tasty cilantro-laden fish tacos with thick (but not too smooth) guacamole and homemade tortilla chips for dinner last night at Kotija Jr. Taco Shop here in Encinitas.

Joshua Tree National Park

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.


Unique Blast from the Past
Here are a few film clips with the woman who was the very prerequisite for my life, namely my mother.
 
It’s been 40 years since she passed and a while ago, I found an episode on Youtube of an American game show from the late 1950s where she was one of two contestants. At the recording of this show, my mother was 28 years old, which is roughly half as old as I am today.
 
Seeing my mother at this young age and hearing her relatively young and tender voice was, to say the least, strange. Especially considering that our relationship at the end of her life had completely imploded. The delightful, affectionate tone she has on the TV show is something I have absolutely no recollection of. On contraire.
 
At the same time, I’ve felt something almost cathartic watching my mother at a time in her life when she radiated so much life, energy, and beauty. Which, in many ways, is the diametrical opposite of my visual and audible memories of her.

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.

 
Through work as a nurse in London and New York, my mother eventually ended up in Los Angeles where she spent a few years trying her luck and talent as an actress in Hollywood.
 
It was during this period that she came to participate in Groucho Marx’s popular TV show, “You Bet Your Life” under the stage name, Ina Anders. Four years after the episode was aired in 1963, I was born. The rest is, as they say, history.
 
 

The Venice Bike Path

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.


Let’s Build a Taller Chimney

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.

 


Pitfalls of Patriotism
Met this interestingly clad fellow while riding a local public bus the other day. He seemed kind and obliged instantly when I asked to take a few photos of him in between two bus stops.
 
For some reason, I didn’t think of asking about his outfit and if he was going to a masquerade or some kind of military convention where a “re-enactment” of World War II was the main draw. For all I knew, he might just have been a little unhinged and was just being appropriately dressed and prepared for a looming invasion.
 
When people here hear that I was born in the USA, I’ll often get the question of whether I feel like a Swede or an American. The standard answer is that while on an emotional level I’m definitely Swedish, I tend to think more like an American. That is, I almost always have a positive outlook on life’s possibilities and see more opportunities than obstacles. My mindset is to assume that nothing is impossible. “I can do that!” is my motto rather than “Cobbler, stick to thy last. I really see this as a strength, something I’m proud of and hope to pass on to our daughter, Elle. It’s not necessarily a distinguishing quality that only Americans have a monopoly on. But most Americans I’ve ever met, in varying degrees and often on a very superficial level, have nonetheless a similarly open and outgoing attitude.
 
I’m sure some Americans I chat with over coffee at the Cow in Venice have a hard time seeing me as “a fellow American” because I’ve not lived stateside for more than two decades. That I, as a resident of Europe, could not possibly grasp current events here and the zeitgeist that stretches beyond the talk shows and celebrityverse. I argue that nothing could be more incorrect. In fact, I’m pretty much on top of most of the public discourse and spend several hours a week reading articles and exposés on a wide range of domestic topics. And though my daily news sources’ political sympathies tend to lean towards liberal values (duh), I still get a reasonably objective perspective on key events. Admittedly, there are quite a few societal quirks and curiosities that have emerged since I last moved from the US back in 1995. Some of which I really don’t get.
 
Back to the army guy.
 
What to me seems like strange and potentially dangerous form of patriotism and something that I don’t understand at all is why every other house here has a sizable, swaying American flag mounted on a porch or facade. It’s a fixture and not just brought out occasionally to commemorate a national holiday or celebrate an event.
 
One possible, albeit weird explanation for permanently touting a flag is to clearly show that the residents in the house or building are genuine patriots. Which kinda makes everyone else who isn’t decorating their house with a “Stars & Stripes” seem unpatriotic, no?
 
A more reasonable explanation is that someone in the family of a flag-bearing house has participated in one of the many wars the United States has been involved in over the last half-century. Maybe the war on the drugs, the war on terror, or, more recently, the war on fake news.
 
Last but not least and perhaps the strongest reason for pimping your house with an American flag is to make sure that in the event of an invasion on US soil, the enemy will have no doubt where to find “true red-blooded Americans” to fight with.
 
Joni Mitchell once said in an interview that’s stayed with me since hearing it sometime in the 1980s, that the greatest challenge humans have is getting rid of all the boundaries we’ve created. Both geographical and political. She thought boundaries are fragmenting us as a species and we are way too keen on protecting our “tribe” instead of blurring out borders and building bridges between our ridiculously insignificant differences.
 
I totally agree with Ms. Mitchell.
 
Patriotism is a slippery slope that easily metamorphizes into nationalism which inevitably, however sneakily, leads to fascism.

Christmas Day at Venice Pier

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.


The Nutcracker

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.


Meanwhile, in L.A.

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


From Santa’s Workshop at Turning Torso

Here’s an ad I produced for Sky High Meetings on the 53rd and 54th floors of our neighboring skyscraper, the iconic Turning Torso.


Flushing Christmas
I’m certainly not a consistently eco-friendly individual. For one thing, I travel way too much. On the other hand, we don’t own a car, we don’t eat beef, pork or fowl and when we eat fish and seafood, we try to avoid eating what’s been farmed. When I shop for clothes (which I rarely do), I try to choose companies like Patagonia as they produce their apparel from recycled materials and act responsibly on an environmental and social level. For 2019, I’m going to reduce my jet-fuelled traveling as much as possible and work harder to help minimize the family’s carbon footprint.
 
If you’ve not been living under a rock for the past 10 years, I think we can all agree that our planet is in pretty bad shape. Regardless of whether or not it’s irreversible or, if humans even created the problems the first place, we still need to figure out how to change our ways so that we become less dependent on fossil fuels and derivatives produced from the petrochemical industry. We need to come to our senses. Full stop.
 
I have a suggestion…
 
Possibly the worst thing you can do this Christmas is to give your kids or your siblings kids or, anybody really, Christmas presents.
 
Friends, we need to stop this ridiculous tradition. A tradition loosely based on a 2000-year-old mythical story where three old men apparently gave presents (Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh) to a baby dude named Jesus.
 
I know it’s going to be hard. After all, Christmas is one deep-rooted commercial extravaganza where we can simultaneously spoil our children with lavish gifts – and – feel a little less guilty for our own shortcomings as parents. But by refusing to participate in this crazy commerce, we’ll break the tradition and help our kids become aware of how they too can help heal the planet.
 
Stopping the madness of Christmas shopping will also make it so much easier to focus on the fundamental concept in that old Jesus saga; generosity through love, understanding, and thoughtfulness (not stuff).
 
The image above is a collage of photos taken across several years. I work on it every Christmas to remind me of how important it is to break free from some of our environmentally disastrous traditions.

Avocado Alexandra at M. Seger in Stockholm

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.


Note from Downtown Camper Stockholm

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.


December Yoga

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.


Back in the Air

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.


Malmö from Above

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.


The Vault

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!


The Vault in Helsingborg

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.


A Talk

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 Highlights: Bamboo Yoga

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.


Salmonella & Lice

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.


New Film Site

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:

www.kortfilmsproduktion.se


My First Love

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.


Foggy Constitutional Rights

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)