Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read about Bikram Yoga here.

Avocado Nigirir Sushi

Fit for Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

blog

Heading off

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

Shrimp sandwich

Shrimps & Lisa Brennan-Jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the New York Times interview here.

Union Square Park in New York City

Poker Seat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ferrari

Ingvar’s Martin

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

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

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

Details

It’s in the Details

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

View more images of details here.

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

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

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

Read our review of the La Belle Vue here.

Coffee Beans

Coffee

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

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

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

sunflowers

The French

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wedding anniversary

20th Wedding Anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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