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.

Meanwhile in Malmö

Woke up this morning at a hotel in Copenhagen in a beautiful winter wonderland. And when we arrived this afternoon at Malmö Central Station, even more snow had fallen. I hope we get more. Much more.

New Property in Malmö: Aura

I shot this yesterday while shooting still images for one my clients latest properties here in Malmö. For January, the weather conditions couldn’t have been better. That said, I almost froze my fingers off while piloting the drone. Sounds strange coming from me, but I actually would like to see some snow now…a lot of snow.

Kockums Industrier

Time Clocks Gone Bananas
I captured this last year during one of several invited visits to document what used to be Sweden’s most famous shipbuilding company, Kockums. In the next couple of years, much of the old factory area will be demolished and eventually replaced by shiny new buildings with spaces designated for cafés, shops, condos, and corporations.
Time Clock Gone Bananas
What intrigued me with this particular scene was not just that all the punch cards next to the time clock were gone, but also how the clock itself seems to have made an attempt to leave the wall – but failed and was caught in some kind of suspended animation.
Back in 1988, I worked a summer in Göteborg’s commercial harbor as an unloader. I was only employed to work on the port’s weekly arriving banana boats – large ships from Panama that without exception were in terrible shape. Huge rust-buckets, really.
Roughly twenty of us unloaders would board the ship and start picking up boxes of unripe, green bananas from within the hatches on the very top deck. Early each morning as the shift started, the ship’s permanent crew, mostly from the Philippines, stood somewhere high above and looked unabashedly down on us, all the while smoking filterless cigarettes non-stop.
During my short stint, the union had negotiated so that we were only allowed to work in 20-minute increments and then had to rest for the next 20. It might be hard to believe, but we somehow learned to fall asleep on banana boxes during those short breaks and wake up just in time for our team to start unloading again. This gig was so incredibly regulated by the union, that the company who had hired us replaced every last unloader just a couple of years later with a fully automated unloading system.
Working the “banana boats” was popular among artists, musicians, and academics back then. It also provided some kind of street cred. Stonefunkers and members of Black Ingvars and the Soundtrack of our Lives were among my co-workers.
For some reason, I can remember that each unloader handled on average 2000 boxes a day. At 18kg/box, that meant we lifted about 36 tons of bananas per shift. It was hard work but still fairly well-paid and if we were done ahead of schedule, we still got paid for the full day.
When boxes of ripe bananas appeared on the conveyer belt, which could happen several times during a shift, we got to take them home with us. As much as I enjoyed eating bananas, I could never go through a whole box of Chiquita, Uncle Tuca or Del Monte and usually traded them for some groceries at the neighborhood’s local convenience store.
What has completely escaped me from that summer job was whether or not there was a time clock. Since everything was so regulated, I can only assume that there just had to be punch cards. If there wasn’t, I’ve still had other jobs where I had to punch in and out before and after a shift. But after 20 years of self-employment, the concept seems otherworldly. Archaic, even.

Fujifilm XT-3

Back in town again after a few days of informal research in Singapore for a client. Had a very smooth ride back to Copenhagen via Helsinki with Finnair. After a few hours on the plane and at the Finnish airport, I almost overdosed on Marimekko designed napkins, pillowcases, toiletries bags and blankets.

Brought the new Fuji XT-3 and a couple of prime lenses (equivalent of a 24mm + 85mm) with me on the trip to see how well this new kit holds up in the weight vs quality arena. After about 8 months with the technically very capable A7III, I felt Sony’s operating system made it ridiculously difficult to execute creative ideas spontaneously. Couldn’t complain in regards to quality, but I think the camera has way too many options, customizable buttons and umpteen features that I never, ever used and which just got in the way or generated confusion.

Not only does the Fujifilm XT-3 offer a pleasing retro look and feel with lockable knobs and dials, it more importantly – and unlike the Sony – bestows me with an urge and therefore a creative incentive to actually pick up the camera and creative photographs.

The shot above is from last week’s short visit to Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.

Piedra Negra burrito plate

Veggie Burrito at Piedra
Being a vegetarian/pescatarian is becoming a lot easier. As demand increases, more and more restaurants are offering succulent vegetarian options and fewer boring compromises have to made as a guest.
For today’s lunch I thoroughly enjoyed the above veggie burrito (zucchini, sweet potato, coriander, stir fried beans) at Piedra Negra, which must be one of Singapore’s most popular Tex-Mex cantinas. Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have eaten so many of those deep-fried waffle fries. But man, were they crispy and tasty!
Not in this shot, but next to the burrito plate was this big-ass mortar filled with guacamole that a server made for me a la minute at the table. Needed some salt, but was pretty darn good, too.
blue flowers

Flowers in the Abstract

Shot these blue flowers and several other colorful bouquets at sidewalk florist on Beach Road the other day.

As a long-time admirer of artist Georgia O’Keeffe and her beautiful abstract, flower inspired paintings and drawings, I love looking at and photographing flowers from an abstract perspective.


Textures Tell Tales

When nothing else grabs my attention, I can easily inject inspiration by focusing – sometimes for several hours at a time – by photographing textures and patterns. Like this wood covered wall I discovered somewhere here in Singapore’s Bugis neighborhood the other day. Some of these abstracts will subsequently be incorporated in my collages. Textures and patterns tell tales in a subtle way. When I find delapitated wall with an interesting texture, or, a repetitive pattern that I feel inclined to capture, if only for a few moment, I’ll thinkabout how it came to be.

Marina Bay Sands

Fresh Green Air

Much of the Singapore I remember from my last visit, some 15 years ago, is thankfully still here. Not that I recognize myself. No way, José.

There’s clearly been enormous growth in all directions. Today, the country is vastly more architecturally diverse (than in 2001) and boasts a truly impressive skyline, a preposterously massive Ferris Wheel and, of course, the ginormous Marina Bay Sands.

Thankfully, the government has an admirable focus on the local ecology and there’s a multitude of new parks and green areas all over the center of the city. Which was one of the differences that made Singapore so unique when compared with most urban destinations in Asia. Many of which today are horrifically, arguably even lethally, polluted.

Despite relatively dense traffic, at least during rush hour, in S’pore, unlike Bangkok, Delhi, Beijing or Shanghai, you get to actually enjoy breathing outdoors.

Shot this during a walk in the amazing Gardens by the Bay.


Humidity vs Humility in S’pore

I’m humbled by all the friendly smiles from everyday folks I meet in South East Asia. I tend to forget about that aspect once I leave the continent. It’s not just those working in the service sector and hospitality industry that smile – which in all fairness is more or less part of their job description.

Practically everyone’s default facial expression here in Singapore leans towards smiling rather than frowning.  Which I’m convinced has a lot to do with the warm climate and relatively comfortable humidity level. Especially when compared to the cold and dry air we have in northern Europe this time of year – which tends to keep smiles away and eyes turned down.

It’s hard not to put on a smile when you interact with folks with a pleasant expression. A gleaming exception to this is observation is, however, when several of my fellow guests and I are waiting for one of our hotel’s stupid elevators to show up. Though I admit to having this weird thing for OTIS elevators, I’m completely oblivious to these amazing contraptions inner workings. But ignorant as I may be, my unwavering view is that there is something terribly wrong with the four elevators at this particular hotel (supplied by Hitachi). Not only do they take forever to arrive at whatever floor you’re on, the tell-tale lights and audible indicators beep and chime unsynchronized and entirely without relevance to where in the shaft they might be. And when the elevators do finally appear, you have about 2.5 seconds to jump in before the doors close – brutally fast and irreversibly. So if you hesitate the slightest, you might have to wait another 10 minutes before the next lift arrives.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered a nifty solution to my vertical travel woes. Turns out that right next to the elevator space – on each of the hotel’s 19 floors – is a door that leads to a room where the hotel’s two staff elevators are located. One of them is broken, but the other runs super fast and reliably without a hint of glitch. That’s the silver lining of this little report from Singapore.

I shot this orchard in a nearby garden yesterday.