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A panic visit to IKEA and why I’m not a fan of the retail experience

When Apple launched their own brick and mortar stores several years ago, like many other curious visitors and potential customers, I thought their concept was blissfully brilliant. I’ve used Apple computers as my tools of choice for close to three decades. My main argument for paying the premium “Apple tax” has always been that their computers (and other gadgets) have facilitated my creative expression without getting in the way of it. Theoretically, you could run a marathon in wooden clogs. But who the fuck would want to do that?

It was easy to get seduced by the new Apple stores. Unlike any other computer retailer, they were sparsely furnished and roomy, beautifully lit and had giant hands-on tables for trying out the company’s shiny new computers and iPods. I loved the idea with the Genius Bar and the Theatre (found mostly in flagship stores) where Apple experts would demonstrate and teach how to use the company’s software. Interacting with Apple’s retail staff was usually pleasurable, if a bit weird in a “Truman Show” kind of way. The store’s locations were always great, too. Like the Apple store in the old post office on Prince Street and the glass cube on 5th Avenue in New York. Of course, as Apple’s hardware became increasingly popular, the stores got really crowded. Especially during peak shopping hours and throughout most of the holiday season. Overall, I think the retail experience has become increasingly unpleasant and burdensome. There’s too many people and way too many colors, signs and bling trying to grab my attention – and mall/store layouts that are convoluted and confusing to navigate through (obviously designed to keep you in the store as long as possible and thereby increase spending). I see it as a necessary evil when I’m “forced” to get something at a shopping center. Adn it only takes but a few minutes for me to feel mentally saturated from all the stimuli.

For several years now and on an almost daily basis, I’ve been an avid online shopper. I buy all kinds of stuff, including (but not limited to) food, clothes and shoes. I even buy furniture, cameras and related gear and book flights and make hotel reservations – all online and always at my convenience using just my fingertips. My family insists that I’m addicted to shopping at Amazon UK and to a lesser degree at Ebay UK. And they’re right. Unlike the stereotypical male, I actually enjoy shopping – as long as it’s online where the experience is both calmer, easier and faster. And even if I can’t feel the products being browsed physically, I think it’s a tremendous benefit to be able to read reviews from folks that have already purchased and tried them out. Given that many of Amazon’s reviews are bogus and probably written by the company selling them (or, if negative, by a competitor). Shop online long enough, I find that you’ll eventually hone in on which reviews are real and the fakes. It’s all part of the online research process that I’ve become accustomed to and enjoy. Admittely, I screw up once in a while. Maybe in a year I’ll have 3-4 returns. That’s all.

Yesterday, I had to return a few things to IKEA that Charlotte had bought for my new art space. It was Saturday and marvelous weather, so we figured most folks would be outdoors, enjoying what might just well be one of the last sunny days of the year. Nothing could have been wronger than that figuring. The store was so swarming with visitors, that I had to continually dodge, lunge and leap to make the slightest progress along the “snake” (IKEA-speak for the arrow marked path that wiggles customers through the store).

Ironically, the amount of visitors at IKEA yesterday afternoon was negligable when compared to just about any department store in Asia. But after the morning’s long run along an empty beach, I suppose I was taken aback by the slow-moving crowds at the furnishing giant’s behemoth warehouse. So, I had a mini panic attackk and just wanted to get out of there asap. For some reason, maybe after quitting coffee over 5 weeks ago, my sense of smell has improved considerably. And as I was passing through the various departments on my way to the cashiers (where Charlotte was waiting patiently for me), I sensed a strong odor of plastic and glue, as if much of the thousands of products displayed had just arrived from the factories without having been aired properly. It got me thinking about the scale of such operation, the turnover of products and all the micro-particles of solvents, paints and adhesive fumes that must be constantly flying around in the warehouse – and inhaled by the many young and old, unsuspecting visitors and workforce. I wonder what the lungs of those that work there look like after a few years. Where is Hans-Günter Wallraff, by the way?

About a decade ago, I spent 5-6 years consulting on various internal projects at IKEA, primarily in Älmhult, but also in Delft/Holland. I worked mostly as a creative coach helping out with communication and marketing campaigns. It was interesting, but in the long run, more taxing to my health than fiscally rewarding. I met the founder, Ingvar Kamprad on a few occasions. The guy had huge hands and a friendly smile.

I’ve always thought of IKEA as the McDonalds of the furniture world and that the humble tone they want customers to hear is a really genious marketing ploy aimed at adding artficial heart and warmth to their sales pitch. Kind of like the Ronald Mcdonald clown. At its core, IKEA is like any other multinational corporation, no matter how hard they try to humanize the brand with a sweet voice that sounds caring and thoughtful. The bottom line is and always will be; profit first.

On the one hand, it’s hard not to admire IKEA’s enormous success. They are by far the largest and most successful furniture compnay in the world. But when you step back a bit and allow yourself to contemplate the real price for their long-term goals and the extremely negative environmental impact their concept of, “providing a range of home furnishing products that are affordable to the many people, not just the few”, and how the implications of such a bold mission statement imposes enormous resource demands on the planet, it’s kind of disgusting. Read the lastest report from the United Nations on how bad shape the planet could be in as soon as 2040.

Even if we forget the massive amounts of fosil fuel needed to produce and transport the company’s wide range of offerings, most of the products from IKEA are in one way or another either made from or dependent on really bad-for-the-planet plastics, glues, paints and other toxic materials and ingredients. Then add that most, but not all, of the company’s 10,000+ products are designed and produced primarily for large-scale production (to keep prices low/increase profit profit margins) and that the company still doesn’t have a serious recycling policy in place, it becomes crystal clear that IKEA is not genuinly interested in being a Earth-friendly corporate citizen. The company’s management just doesn’t care enough to warrant changes that might decrease profitability and hinder their ambitious growth strategy. I’m not saying that Walmart, Amazon, ILVA or other furniture companies are better than IKEA. But it’s sad that the leader of the pack isn’t doing more to show sincerity and take leadership in environmental issues that impact us all. If the most well-known and profitable furniture company in the known universe can’t come up with a few truly innovative ideas to substantially reduce their pollution and increase sustainability, we’re pretty much screwed.

Like many consumers these days, we’re trying to make a consistent effort to refrain from shopping goods that haven’t been recycled or are manufactured in a way that is considerate of the planet’s limited resources and our environment. Yet I’m the first to admit there’s still plenty of room for improvement on our part.

Unlike IKEA and most other successful consumer-oriented brands that I can think of right now, only just a few companies like Patagonia and Apple own a clear vision and have taken a firm stance with their environmental policies. Their eco-friendly positioning adds value to their brand, their products and services as well as makes such good business sense that it’s apparently worth pursuing full-on. Incidentally, most of Apple’s efforts have been implemented under Tim Cook’s leadership. I don’t think Steve Jobs really gave a shit about the environment. And I don’t think that Ingvar Kamprad did, either. Not really. Not sincerely.

Where IKEA uses clever PR fluff and barely measurable, incremental efforts (in the grand scheme of things) to try to convince us they are in fact doing their veru best and really, really do care about the planet, Apple has been pushing the sustainability envelope for several years and just recently announced groundbreaking commitments that will lessen their environmental footprint even more – like improving the quality of their products so they last longer. So, yes I admire Apple for more than just the quality and thoughtfulness they put into their products. For a corporation, they have soul and heart.

We talk a about stuff like this at home. Not every dinner, but the topic of sustainability comes up now and again. And when it does, it often pertains to food and clothes. We travel a great deal for work (and pleasure) and there is no denying we should at least fly less if we really wanted to reduce our own carbon footprint. Being consequential isn’t easy for a mere consumer. That said, I think it’s important to be mindful about companies we buy from and the food we eat and clothes we wear. Hopefully Elle will absorb some of our discussions and create her very own mission statement.

Shot the beautiful Malmöhus Slott above yesterday afternoon. There’s something about that castle that I love. Maybe because it was where Elle and I spent so many weekends when she was a child. Maybe it’s because the structure itself somehow represents an echo of historic sustainability that resonates with me.


Post Asia xsMAX 10k

Mrs Raboff and I went for a wonderfully energizing 10k run this morning in what I think was the best possible weather; zero wind and 12 °C/53 °F with a little sunshine – just to add some color to our path along the beach. It was my first run in a while and though relatively slow paced, I feel good to have completed the challenge. Running with 6kg less around the waist seem to make it a little easier on my knees and ankles.  Could also be my imagination. We’ll see later today how sore they arenike-run-club

The beach run here in Malmö is nothing short of phenomenal. Especially on days like this when it’s so sublimely placid. After being utterly immersed in hyper-intense Bangkok – where over 8 million people dwell – an early morning run on an empty beach felt surreal. By the time we reached the halfway point, in Limhamn somewhere, and were on our way back to Västra Hamnen, we met dozens of colorfully dressed joggers of all ages and strides.

I ran with the new iPhone Xs Max in my pocket and took the above/below shots with it. The new dual camera’s larger sensors, new image signal processor and neural engine chip produce images with an astonishing amount of dynamic range. Face ID unlocks the phone seamlessly and though a whole different UX (user experience), I’m already up to speed navigating throughout iOS12 using the intuitive swiping gestures.

ribersborgs kallbadhus

 


Hotel Beds & New Art Studio

At hotels, I often find myself thinking about all the thousands of folks that have slept in the exact same bed that I’m going to be sleeping in. Thankfully it’s a fleeting thought, because by indulging too much on this topic, one might feel less inclined to stay at hotels.

Over the last five weeks, I’ve slept in five different beds. Interestingly, each one has been much better than the previous. The mattress I slept on during my 10 day Bikram Yoga challenge just barely qualified as a bed. It was hard as hell and had pillows that were anything but comfortable. I have no idea what they were stuffed with. Shredded cardboard? But I just sort of added the sleeping discomfort to the rest of my ongoing challenge.

Unsurprisingly, none of the five beds I slept on came remotely close to offering the same level of repose as our bed at home does – though the king size mattress at the Peninsula came fairly close, mostly thanks to linnen that was softer than what we sleep on/in. But on the other hand, we never use softeners or mangle our linnen.

I think one of the key factors to our bed’s luxurious feel are the two extra thick, double mattresses and the top layer mattress, all from Hilding Anders. We enjoying sleeping a bit elevated and so both Charlotte and I have to literally jump a little to get up on the bed.

Our sleeping kit didn’t cost as much as even the least expensive from Hästens, but far exceeded the most costly (but not nearly as good) solution from IKEA. We’ve also invested heavily on quality pillows. A couple of years ago I discovered (via Amazon UK) that the best reviewed, eco-friendly and hypoallergenic pillows were those filled with shredded bamboo fibers. So we have two of those, four extra large down pillows from Swedish brand Stunda and two wide down comforters from Danish Illum Bolighus – just to ensure our bed offers a pleasurable 360 degree experience all year round

After more than a year of working out of our home office, I’ve now moved into a new art studio/gallery about a 7 minute walk from our condo on Sundspromenaden. The space is considerably smaller than all of my previous places, but it’s only a temporary solution until we’ve figured out what part of the world we want to relocate to next year. So for now, this place will do nicely. I’m quite excited about working in this new space and the creativity it’ll hopefully facilitate.

I’ve owned a bunch of easels over the years. Might even have bought my very first one as far back as in 1986. I bought my latest easel from a art supplier in Germany via Ebay UK (while on Phuket Island) and it arrived ahead of time – while I was still in Asia. I assembled it yesterday afternoon relatively easily and it feels stable enough to hold a sizable canvas. Paints and brushes arrived a few days ago and all I need now are a few canvases. And some ideas…

The flowerpot and surrounding nishikigoi (koi or carp) above are from the hotel Shinta Mani in Cambodia where we stayed one week ago and where the bed was good if not great.

Han Solo on Thai Airways

Home again after an eventless night flight home from Suvarnabhumi Airport on a Thai Airways Boeing 777. The cabin was almost full, but Charlotte and I got really lucky and each had three seats to ourselves (and sat right behind one another). We both managed to sleep for about 6-7 of the 10,5 hour, 8640 kilometer distance. As we filed through “monkey class” and then saw how relatively small and cramped the pricey Business Class seats were (the 777 was a bit long in the tooth), I think we actually slept more comfortably.

During a couple of the flight’s remaining hours I re-watched “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, the franchise’s spinoff prequel tale of Han Solo, the charming scoundrel, daredevil pilot, and captain of the spaceship, the Millennium Falcon. Despite Ron Howard directing, Woody Harrelson starring and mostly solid performances by a cast of live action and CG actors, the film’s still gotten mixed reviews. I thought it was entertaining and provided an interesting backstory for a few of the original trilogy’s characters. Then again, I’ve been a fan of most of the Star Wars feature films ever since I was a kid.

As the plane descended and started its path towards Kastrup International Airport, we could see that the rainy autumn weather wasn’t too different from when we took off from Bangkok, ten hours earlier. Aside from the sun peeking out for a few mintues and the 20 degree drop in temperature, that is. It’s nevertheless good to be home. I’ve signed a lease for a new creative hub/gallery/art studio. and can’t wait to get started working on it.


Siem Reap Reprise

Currently in Siem Reap in northern Cambodia. We experienced Phnom Penh a few years ago, but haven’t been to Siem Reap in over a decade. It’s cozy here, just as I remember it. Not much seems to have changed. Everything still feels scaled down and manageable, from a visitors perspective. No looming highrises like in the Cambodian capital. Yet now there’s even more of an abundance with really good, reasonably priced restaurants, pubs and cheap foot massage shops, hairdressers and spas.

If your into beer, several places here will pour you a tall glass of local draft for as little as $1. A tasty and almost filling Khmer dinner will only set you back about $4 and to enjoy an hour long foot massage, most places will charge just five buckaroos.

Why I’m referring to prices in US dollars, you ask? Well, because even if the local currency, the »riel«, is the official method of payment, the de facto and widely preferred unofficial second currency is for whatever reason the US dollar. Sad in way, but it makes paying (and tipping) here very simple and straightforward. Siem Reapians are easy-going, generous with their smiles and ever-so-polite, without being subserviant. It’s about as safe here as anywhere else I’ve been in Southeast Asia. Never feel unsafe in this part of the world – as I unfortunately do from time to time back home in Malmö.

We spent yesterday’s sunset and this morning’s sunrise climbing the steep steps of stupas, walking down long palatial corridors and wandering into enormous prayer halls at Angkor Wat and Phnom Bakheng. And today, we explored the giant trees that have reclaimed the temple of Ta Prohm. What should of been a fairly serene visit to this ancient and sacred buddhist site, was anything but. We shared most of our excursions with some of the most rowdy, loud-mouthed, flag-waving, selfie-taking, ill-dressed tourists I’ve ever had the displeasure of rubbing elbows with. Not all, but most were from the Middle Kingdom. A forebearer of things to come?

I’ve been shooting travel photos professionally for close to 20 years now and have had hundreds (if not thousands) of my images published in dozens of magazines and newspapers in Scandinavia, Europe and the US. So I can say with some assertiveness that I don’t find it particularly hard to photograph temples here. Quite the opposite. With the right lens arsenal (primes, in my case), shooting at the optimum time of day for the best possible light (and perhaps lugging around a travel tripod), it should be hard to screw up. The only entirely uncontrollable, capricious factor that has ruffled my feathers, is with the many others I have to share the scenes with and how insensitive or uncooperative they turn out to be.

I totally get that there is no real reason for me to think I should have priority over anyone else. It’s not that which I am referring to. I’m talking about plain and simple politeness and a reasonable perception and consideration of what’s happening beyond the group’s tireless flag-waving. That’s all.

To say I’m not a huge fan of institutionalized religion would be a massive understatement. Don’t misunderstand me, though. I get that religion is important to many, many billions of people across the globe, and as long as the faith is personal and practiced unjudgmentally, I have zero problems respecting it.

Walking through Angkor Wat’s massive temple grounds made me think about religion again. How complex a role it has played in human history –  in a way that no other species on this planet could even begin to comprehend. Not even dolphins, I think. So, to see all the trees do there outmost to reclaim the temple ruins and expand the forrest around Angkor Wat, as if there actually were Ents from Tolkien’s ring saga doing the reclaiming, was somehow soothing.


Thoughts on fitness & beating my food frenzy

My 4 week strategy of eating a fastidious, plant-based diet, aligning my meals with a intermittent fasting regimen and getting at least an hour of intense exercise per day, has proven to be a successful combination. I’ve shrunk my waist’s girth by 4cm/1,5in and reduced about 5kg/11lbs of excessive body fat. It’s nothing short of an amazing accomplishment and I feel pretty fucking proud of myself.

Honestly, I don’t think I have ever eaten so much fruit and vegetables as during this past month. Above all, I don’t think I’ve ever been so successful at avoiding crappy food – or, stuff I know will only satisfy my tastebuds – including ice cream, popcorn or other snacks, no pastries, candies or other processed junkfoods. I’ve calculated that I skipped about 60 meals this past month, i.e. most breakfasts and lunches. Not a single food frenzy for a month. It’s been such a relief just to not  have to think about food so damn much. At home, I feel it’s a constant worry about what to eat and when – as if we’d all starve to death if we didn’t put our meals on the very top of our priority list.

It was Charlotte’s suggestion that I kickstart my journey with 10 days of intense Bikram Yoga at Kata Hot Yoga on Phuket. I did, and it turned out to be an excellent way to get going. And after the first few days when a nagging – but not debilitating – headache subsided, it was surprisingly easy to adjust to the new daily routine. I complimented each morning’s sweat-dripping yet energizing yoga class with afternoon beach walks and when there were waves, some surfing, too. And I continued with long, daily walks and pool laps whilst in Bangkok. On top of this, I also practiced Qigong and/or Yoga 4-5 times a week, either at Suananda Studio in Bang Rak or on my own (image above). Losing weight around the waist has also let me go much deeper into several poses.

While morning diets have consisted of fruit, vegetables and nuts, I’ve been keeping to a more flexible, pescatarian diet for evening meals and avoiding eating altogether for at least 8 hours during the day. Which of course means I’ve enjoyed dinners tremendously and eaten a wide range of dishes, including pad thai with tofu, hand-rolled tuna nigiri, spicy fish tacos and plain ol’ fish n chips. I’ve sorta seen dinner as a way to reward myself for keeping my daytime intake so lean.

It’s hard for me not to sermonize about how triumphant my journey has been. As with everything that inspires me, I can’t help but share my findings – so that friends and family can also enjoy the blissfulness that I’ve experienced. I’ve always been excited to share my views on music, food, travel, photography gear, whatever.

And so, there’s now no doubt in my mind that the only realistic and natural way to get in better shape and lose excess body fat is to calibrate a balance between what you eat, how much you eat and what your body really needs to function, endure, repair and regenerate.

I like to think of it like this; if your body isn’t able to make use of what you eat, that it takes more energy to digest than what you gain from it because the food is crap or you’re system can’t handle all of the day’s intake, you’re quite literally using your body as a garbage disposal and allowing your tastebuds to make judgment calls it is incompetent to do.

Folks, we’re living in an era of food frenzy where the abundance of food has led us to an extremely unhealthy relationship with the planet we exploit so thoroughly to produce it on. Eating excessively has become an addiction and a natural, yet unquestioned, part of our need to constantly entertain our tastebuds

The hundred thousand dollar question: will I be able to withstand temptations upon returnng to “normal life” back home in Malmö?
The trillion dollar question: how the hell do we rid ourselves from an addiction that could eradicate us as a species and practically annihilate our planet? Or, should we just let everything take its course and assume that Earth’s self-healing will eventually realign everything?


Sunflowers in Benjasiri

I’ve loved sunflowers ever since attending art college in Visby, the capital of Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea. While there, I read a few books about Vincent Van Gogh and was – like so many others – completely mesmarized by his series of earthy hued paintings and thick, rough sketches inspired by sunflowers from around the town of Arles in Provence, France.

I discovered these sunflowers just the other day in Benjasiri Park, one of Bangkok’s most beautiful urban oasis.

I used Moment’s wide angle lens attached to my iPhone for the majority of the shots and was blown away by how close I could get to the flowers and the shallow depth of field the puny albeit sharm glass provided.


On the move in Bangkok

I can’t help but be mesmerized by the intensity of traffic in downtown Bangkok. I’ve experienced some heavy-duty congestion in Hanoi, Hyderabad and Nairobi. Even PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) can get clogged up during rush hours. But those places don’t come anywhere close insofar of the fierce force and magnitude of all of Bangkok’s cars, trucks, buses, tuk-tuks, motorcycles, skytrains, subways, cyclists and pedestrians heading somewhere simultaneously.

Yesterday, I walked from the shopping district at Siam Center/Siam Discovery/Siam Paragon via Sukhumvit Road all the way to Thong Lor, soi 23, which is about a distance of 10 kilometers. There’s always street-level activity going on along Sukhumvit Road and yesterday was no exception. The noise level is almost deafening and the air thick with fumes. Still, I always get a few good shots and decent footage during my urban treks. Yeah, I know, Bangkok is certainly not the healthiest place to powerwalk.

As I was hittting the pavement down Sukhumvit, which is the city’s main artery, I reflected now and again about the complexity of Bangkok’s current traffic situation. And it made me wonder if in the future all the buses, trucks, cars, motorcycles and tuk-tuks could likely be replaced with fully autonomous electric vehicles. Most street-level traffic seems to consist of solo drivers in cars, trucks or on motorcycles. So ride sharing alone would for sure help to reduce traffic.

The obvious caveat would be that the prosperous and super-influential petrochemical industry would fight to the very last drop of oil before allowing such a scenario. Unless of course, we all use fossil fuels to generate electricity needed to charge all the batteries.

Before the Skytrain was inaugurated 1999, getting around Bangkok was a tedious and an unpredictable activity. At times it could be a real nightmare. Back in the late 1980, depending on the time of day, taking a cab from Silom or Sathorn to Asoke or Thong Lor in the Sukhumvit district, could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. It was absolutely nuts.

Today, the Skytrain is very popular and has become the preferred way to move about in Bangkok. Which means that during rush hours, it’s almost as crowded as on Tokyo’s morning subway along the Ginza line. They might need to hire official pushers and shovers soon.

I shot the clips for the above short film during these last couple of days. Mostly with my iPhone and a GoPro.

More images from Bangkok can be enjoyed here.


How to take Street Portraits

Taking street portraits of random, everyday folks I meet during walks in any part of the world, is inspiring but can also certainly be a multi-level challenge. To be able to capture a series of unstaged, authentic portraits, I need to be prepared on a technical, emotional and creative level.

Let me explain.

Technically. Since I don’t possess Spiderman’s lightning speed and can switch setting and dial in optimal settings on the fly, I have to prep the camera before approaching my subject. Sneaky style, if you know what I mean. Often I’ll recognize someone I want to photograph, make a 180 degree turn so I can get all my stuff in order before he or she notices me and then turn back around again and start working the shot.

If you’re shooting with autofocus and auto ISO enabled, then all you’ll really need to decide on is depth of fied and how to compose the portrait. As long as the capture size in the camera’s preferences is set to a large enough size (JPEG or, even better, RAW), you should be provided with a big enough photo to allow for recomposing (by scaling up/cropping) in your preferred image editing software. All of the photos above were shot with an iPhone 7+ using Apple’s standard camera app. All of them have been cropped to bring forth what I felt was the best composition for each subject.

Emotionally. I try to be both humble and decisive when attempting to photograph interesting people – or, people in interesting situations – that I come across during a street walk. Above all, I always smile just before conjuring up my camera and looking ever-so unassuming as I ask to take a photo of them. The real trick is to startle folks a little and hope they feel charmed and flattered by the very thought that someone actually wants to take a photograph them. Hopefully, I’ll get the shot before they start analyzing the situation too much. If I can only get a subject to freeze physically (and intellectually) for just a few seconds, I’ll usually be able to capture a few frames. Subjects who are standing still are much, much easier to shoot than getting those on the move to stop in their tracks and let some stranger point a camera at them. I also find reading the mood to be a key variable. Statistically, about 70% of everyone I ask agrees to let me take their portrait. Especially if the camera I’m using is small and discreet. Like a cellphone…

I’ve just ordered the new iPhone Xs Max and though it comes with a bigger screen, the phones physical size isn’t bigger than my current, two year old iPhone. What has gotten much bigger, though, is the camera sensor. Apple’s camera team has increased the sensor size by a whopping 30%. In addition to all the benefits a larger sensor provides, like better lowlight sensitivity, better color rendering and wider dynamic range – thanks in part to larger pixels (Apple opted for larger pixels of higher quality instead of increasing the amount of pixels) – the new iPhone models have vastly improved optical image stabilization. To me, the latter is really interesting. See, if the camera sensor can move to counter-balance a hand’s shake, the shutter speed can be lowered without introducing blur in the photo or having to increase the ISO level – which inevitably adds noise to the portrait. Sure, I can always reduce noise during the editing process, but the cleaner the image is when captured, the more leeway I have to make adjustments after the fact. In short, shit in, shit out.

Creatively. Taking street portraits can at times be pretty stressful. Even if I’ve seduced the subject into letting me take his or her portrait and my camera’s ready to go, at best, I still have only but a few seconds to compose and make sure there’s not too much going on in the background or on either side of the subject. Unless of course it’s my objective to contextualize the portrait using the surroundings. As with the female motorcycle taxi driver pictured above (center).

Like many other photographers I’ve talked about this with, taking street portraits is a heck of a lot easier in Asia than most other places. Especially in the US and Europe where urbanites tend to be so abnormally self-concious about their “image”, they often freak out when I approach them for a street portrait. Where as in countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos, folks are generally un-shy and happy as can be to pose. And they’re also easy to get smiling, which is isn’t a prerequisite, but after all, a smile does make for a nicer portrait.


Live Jazz on Sukhumvit Rd & Quincy Jones

Enjoyed a set of jazz classics by local musical quartet, Jook-kru Brass who were performing on the sidewalk of Sukhumvit Road the other afternoon. I admire the brass band’s tenacity – competing with the pandemonium emitted from Bangkok’s indisputably busiest street takes some real artistic courage. I met them on my way to dinner at the Japanese restaurant Isao and they were still playing on my way back to Thong Lor about an hour later.

Last night I saw a riveting new documentary on Netflix about multitalented musician and producer Quincy Jones. What a tumultuous life he’s lived! I knew about some of the world class musicians the man had worked with. But the film really provides new insights as to both Quincy’s genius and fragility as a human being. I just found some of his many brainy quotes here.

Aside from having several of his solo albums in my Apple Music collection, including the outstanding »The Dude«, the only two remote connections to »Q« I have is that my late father also worked with Frank Sinatra as an actor in a film called “The Man with the Golden Arm” from 1955 (my dad’s wearing a hat and sitting immediately to the right of Sinatra at the poker table) and younger brother Tyko who during the mid 1980s was good friends with Quincy Delight Jones III, Quincy Sr’s son from a marriage with model, actress and photographer, Ulla Jones from Sweden. They stayed in touch until Tyko eventually left Stockholm and moved permanently to L.A.


Meanwhile, stomy back at home…

It’s been mostly fair weather since I arrived in Southeast Asia close to a month ago. A few monsoon showers, but no flooding or unbearable heatwaves, either.

I would perhaps not extend the meteorological description to include adjectives like cool or even pleasant, but from time to time, a soothing breeze sneaks its way through Bangkok’s myriad of skyscrapers and blows gently on your face. Excuse the double negative, but for a moment, the weather is not entirely disagreeable.

Meanwhile, in Malmö, one of autumns first storms arrived yesterday. The footage is from late August last year, when I storm rolled in to southern Sweden and Västra Hamnen where we live. More visuals from Malmö can be viewed here.


The Sidewalk Tailor

Yesterday, while eating dinner at a small restaurant here in Thong Lor’s popular foodcourt, The Commons, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a conversation between a 30 something American (or, Canadian) guy and an American (or, Canadian) women sitting in the booth in front of me. It wasn’t really a conversation they were having, though.

It was more like the guy was giving his sermon or lecturing her. I have no idea what their relationship was. But regardless of if they were a couple or just good friends, I was astonished at how much he seemed to enjoy talking about himself, his accomplishments and what he must of thought was an infallible approach to life.

As I was eating my way through the day’s only meal while listening to the guy’s endless oration, I contemplated why we men have such a constant need to assert ourselves, share our many anecdotes and assume that the world has actually been starving for our universal wisdom. Knowledge we men are so generously giving away to practically anyone willing to listen.

Maybe she was thoroughly enjoying his rant. Maybe she just wanted to get him into bed and listening to his lecture was just a (boring) means to an end. Or, perhaps, to her, he represented a father figure. Someone to help her find »enlightenment«. Who knows, right?

In any case, I felt sad that we men – not all, but enough to go around – really are so self-centered and full of ourselves. As I walked down the sidewalk, eventually to the stretch of sidewalk where I met the tailor above, I wondered if I was just like that unapologetically talkative dude at the restaurant. Constantly giving unsolicited advice and unasked for guidance. Probably. But what about the tailor? When he gets home after a full day of sewing, measuring and threading, does he just sit in a sofa quietly with his family? Probably not.

During this trip to Asia, a working hiatus, if you will, I’ve tried to uncover the layers that form the composition of Joakim. I like to consider myself a reflective indivisual. So this is certainly not the first time I’ve been on a introspective journey. As could be expected, it’s been an analytical, self-concious process where I’ve taken inventory of everything from habitual behavior and things that triggers emotional instability (and vice-versa) to my insatiable need for creative input/output and perceptions of what’s really important in life.

The endgame of this five week long expedition is to figure out a way to reduce non-essentials and keep laser focus on the stuff that I can influence and which will incontrovertibly add tangible physical, emotional, spiritual and creative value. I’ve still got a couple of weeks to go, but I already feel interesting discoveries and important insights have been made. I’m betting heavily on that after this trip, I can achieve a more holistic perspective and approach to life – if I try hard enough and keep to the straight and narrow path – which I’ve discovered already resides within me.


Thong Lor

I’ve moved on now. I took a Grab (Über equivalent) to Thong Lor where I’ve rented a really sweet apartment for a week. In addition to all the usual amenaties you’d expect from a reptuable hotell, I now finally also get to sleep in a really comfortable. It’s nowhere near the quality of what we have at home, but certainly better than what I’ve slept on up until just 24 hours ago.

Thong Lor is one of the most schizophrenic streets in the world. On par with Lincoln Boulevard in L.A., I think. And it perfectly epitomizes what I find so inspiringly captivating about Bangkok; the extreme culture clashes between contemporary and traditional, ridiculouslly costly and dirt cheap, futuristic and historic, decrepit and torn, shiny new and futuristic.

To me, Thong Lor is like an amalgamate of classic Bangkok, Abbot-Kinney, Harajuku and Rodeo Drive.

It’s an urban catwalk for young and affluent locals as well as the many well-heeled expat crowd living around here. They’re  perfectly styled, meticulously manicured and ever-so self-concious as they stroll in pairs or small groups along Thong Lor’s sidewalks. They omit an almost tangible aura of unflinching purpose while heading towards a boutique coffee bar, a teeth-whitening dentistry, maybe a shave at one of several chic barber shops, a bowl of organic Udon soup at a noodle restaurant or, some serious shopping along the string of ultra trendy fashion shops lining stretches of Thong Lor.

Perhaps the clearest indicator that you’re about to set foot on what is arguably the Thai capital’s most exclusive and expensive street is the mango store on the corner of Thong Lor and Sukhumvit Road where a large (non-organic) ripe mango will set you back as much as THB200 $6.

Up towards the Thong Lor Skytrain station, as you near the usual traffic chaos of Sukhumvit, it gets considerably less fancy-pancy. Here’s where you’ll see fewer influences from Tokyo and much more of classic Bangkok dominating the street scene. This is home to several cheap Chinese and Thai eateries, foot massage shops and, as customary in downtown Bangkok, soi corners occupied by a half dozen or so gritty-looking moto-cy taxi drivers.

Perhaps as part of a misguided rebellion, the woman above sat in front of jewelry shop in Thong Lor selling her wares. I saw her during yesterday’s 10k walk which led me to my favorite park, Benjasiri where I walked a few laps in a pleasant afternoon breeze before returning.

The woman was evidently oblivious to the urban gentrification so clearly visible just a bit further down the road. She laughed hard and long when I showed her the photo. There was a look about her that seemed to say she didn’t give a hoot about all the shenanigans going on in her neighborhood.


FILM ABOUT T/S HELENE

I’ve sailed with T/S Helene a couple of times and when I was younger, with a few other old sail ships of her generation.

On the first occasion, two years ago, I met the skipper and chairman of Ystad’s Sailing Club, Pelle T Olsson and his friendly crew of enthused sailors. It was then that the idea of making a short film about T/S Helene began to simmer.

Though the ship was originally built as a schooner in 1916 at the Ystad Shipyard, after a storm in 1943, which tore her rigg completely off, she was refitted as galliot (a single-masted cargo boat or fishing vessel).

T/S Helene is officially recognized by the Swedish National Maritime Museums – a public agency under the Ministry of Culture – as a historic and culturally significant vessel. In Swedish,she’s »K-Märkt«.

Shooting a film on a ship like T/S Helene had its challenges. I can imagine how hard must of been for Steven Spielberg during the film, Jaws. I used a stabilized Sony A7III with a Zeiss 18mm prime lens, a GoPro Hero 6 and Canon’s 70D equipped with a 50mm f1,4 lens for the earthbound footage. The DJI Mavic Air stood for the aerial shots. Except for the scene on top of the mast, which was so eloquently captured by the young sailor, Atle Runstål.


The Flutist

From yesterday’s 10k walk between Pratunam and Surasak on Sathorn Road. The flutist was standing under one of Bangkok’s many skywalks, playing so beautifully. I just couldn’t resist get a few clips of him.


Memories from Khao San Road

Gained a few new friends yesterday during a culinary safari led by buddy and colleague Thomas Engström. We ended up in the Banglamphu area where we ate at a small vegetarian restaurant tucked away in an alley a few hundred meters from Khao San Road.

In the 1980s, Khao San was a meeting place for backpackers  from all over the world. I’m sure it still is. You’d meet there, stay a few nights, enjoy some good, cheap meals and then move on to Bali, Samui, Goa, Chiang Rai or the mysterious Myanmar. It was a carefree, free-wheeling period of my life, signified by casual socializing, superficial friendships and laconic romances.

I’ve spent many hours along Khao San Road. And I’ve slept at a half dozen sketchy places on that short stub of a street. You could pay as little as 50 baht per night for a small room on one of the guest houses’ dimly lit floors. A guest house staffer would unethusiasticaly show you to a room with a small bed, a ceiling fan, wafer thin walls and a generic padlock to lock your door. Showers and bathrooms were shared and everthhing was wet, dirty, noisy and uncomfortable, but I loved it. Each guest house had a restaurant on the ground floor with cheap, decent food and most places would be packed during the evening when a couple of popular pirated films were shown back to back at 7 pm and 9 pm. on a large TV or projector screen.

It was such a stripped down existens and one that I could afford to live for a half a year or so after working a summer unloading gazillion banana boxes from rusty old ships in Gothenburg’s harbor.

Along both sides of Khao San Road were several shops specializing in cassette tapes with pirated music. Except for the usual comical misspellings, tape labels looked like the real deal and sounded pretty good, too. At least for the heaadphones connected to my beat up old Sony Walkman

This was a couple of years before the compact disc went mainstream.

Side note: According Wikipeida, The first commercial compact disc was produced on 17 August 1982. It was »The Visitors« by ABBA. The first 50 titles were released in Japan on October 1, 1982, the very first of which was a rerelease of the Billy Joel album 52nd Street.

Most Khao San cassette shops had a wide selection and I usually found some of the music I liked back then (and I still listen to, at least from time to time). Taking long bus and train rides and drowning out noise from a neighbors room in a guesthouse was easier while listening to greatest hits and mixtapes with jazz favorites, which included, Dave Grusin, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour and Stan Getz. I want to recall that back then a tape cost about 100 baht, or so. I usually carried about ten in my backpack and must of spent a small fortune on batteries.

After my very first trip to South East Asia, I started staying at a guest house a few klicks north of Banglamphu at the C & C Guest House first location in a temple neighborhood that I can’t remember the name of. At some point, I’d invested in a couple of small speakers that I could connect to my Walkman’s headphone jack. The sound must of been horrific.

Fast forward to 2018 and I’m laying in a nice Bangkok hotel, listening to a playlist on my iPhone with ambient electronica (chillout grooves) from Apple Music (yup, I’m one of the few folks I know of not on Spotify). Same, same. But different.

The scenes from Khao San Road in Danny Boyle’s film »The Beach« with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton, offers a fair depiction of Khao San Road back in the day.


Sidewalk Locksmith at Key Position

Shot this busy sidewalk locksmith yesterday afternoon while walking to the neighborhood Worachok. His customers sat patiently – chatting ever-so happily – in a couple of foldable chairs on either side of the makeshift street shop. Like most neighborhoods in Bangkok, there’s never a definitive or, even a bluntly defined border between commercial and residential areas. Both are intertwined in wonderfully chaotic way.

With so many small entrepreneurs like the locksmith lining the streets of Bangkok, I could literally work full-time for years just shooting and editing videos like this one. Should be a couple of similar videos over in the Short Film section of this site.

Joining Thomas – a Swedish friend and fellow photojournalist stationed here – together with a couple of other folks from Sweden for what will likely be a culinary safari around the Thong Lor area.


Chennai Kitchen Indian Cuisine

This is what last night’s dinner at Chennai Kitchen here on Pan Road looked like. A few minutes earlier during my evening walkabout, it started to drizzle and I just barely made it inside before a torrential downpour flushed the sidewalks and streets. My place is just a minute and a half down the street, so I’d passed Chennai Kitchen on a daily basis and wanted to give it a go before moving on to my new digs.

I have mixed feelings about Indian food. On the one hand, it’s not something I often long for. But once I do eat it, very rarely am I disappointed. I’ve gotten a little sick a few times, which may explain my anxiety about choosing Indian before, say, Thai or Japanese.

I’ve been to the sub continent few times (but never Chennai/Madras) and love the chaos, colors and vibrancy of India. I was there most recently in April filming a beachfront yoga retreat in south Goa. During my stay, I enjoyed some of the best vegetarian food ever. The curry was spicy but never too hot and everything was always delightfully flavorful. Tasty food on a beautiful beach during a colorful sunset will inevitably add to most dining experiences.

Chennai Kitchen hasn’t exactly spent a lot of time on trivialities like interior design, lighting or tableware. The ceiling mounted florescent panels cast a dim, blueish glow across the small dining room which had four or five basic tables and chairs. But then again, guests don’t come there to appreciate the physical space of the family run restaurant. According to a huge flag hanging from the wall with the TripAdvisor logo on top and the word »EXCELLENCE« printed centerstage, the main attraction at Chennai Kitchen is undoubtedly the food.

As per usual, I asked my waiter (who might well have also been the owner) what dishes returning customers tend to order. He had no problems making a recommendation and ten or so minutes later, the tray you see above showed up. I know he mentioned lentils and tomato soup, and the rice was plain to see. But the rest? Who knows. But it was all very delicious.


Wasabi Complexity

Returned to Tuna Ichiban yesterday evening after my 10 k walkabout. There was a breeze coming off the Chao Phraya river and it ran straight through Silom Road as I walked up towards Saladeng (from Saphan Taksin BridgeI) to my new favorite Bangkokian eatery.

I ordered a very tasty udon noodle soup – which, incidentally, reminded me of the one my buddy Michael served up a while back – with seaweed. I also got a batch of crispy shrimp tempura, crunchy soft shell crab salad and five solid slices of salmon sashimi. Yes, it was a small feast.

As I’m still on my Intermittent Fasting project, this was my only proper meal of the day. So all of my rudimentary senses (touch, taste, sound, smell and, sight) were singularly tuned in and colluded to enhance the dining experience. As you can imagine, everything tasted just fantastic. Normally, I would of had some saké and a bottle or two of beer. But in all honesty, I didn’t miss either.

As I was sitting there with my small plates, bowls and the small rectangular side dish with a teaspoon or so of wasabi in it, I started thinking of the enormous amount of wasabi Tuna Ichiban must go through in week’s time. The place has been packed during both of my visits, so we’re presumably talking about double-digit kilograms of wasabi. And that’s just in one relatively small eatery in city with possibly 250 Japanese restaurants!

The upscaling boggled my mind and by the time I’d finished thinking of how big the vats must be in what is likely a humungous wasabi factory in an smog covered, anonymous industrial city in China, the logistics that go into distributing the zesty, green paste to umpteen sushi restaurants in Bangkok – and how that all trickles down to the tiny dish I had in front of me, I actually wished I’d had a nice cold beer in front of me.

Being a modern day consumer means taking a lot of really complicated stuff for granted. We expect, presume and trust that the lightbulb will turn on when we flick the switch, that the toilet bowl will empty when we flush it and the supermarket will be stocked with our favorite foods and drinks. We blatantly anticipate that  everything that’s part of our daily lives will always continue to be just that. But we give little regard to how the heck it got there or how something works in order to meet our expectations. The story behind, I mean.

And when there’s the slightest glitch, hicup, delay or missed expectation, we whine, get annoyed or worse yet, demand an explanation! It’s as if we weren’t so friggin’ clueless as we really are. I mean, if only we had insight into what actually goes on behind the scenes when we flush the toilet, turn on the light and reach for our organic bananas, we might be a bit more humble and appreciative as to everything we take for granted.

I worked on a project for IKEA several years ago where they were doing their outmost to dig up information on the stories behind some of the company’s older products. Stuff that were still part of the current range. The idea was to spin each story from an environmental perspective. But as it turned out, in most cases, there wasn’t much to go on. Memories had faded and very little documentation existed.

As I was walking up busy Silom Road yesterday evening towards my little rectangular wasabi plate, I walked past the lady above. Since she was using an analogue phone, the sight of her talking on it caught my attention. Though I remember our very first phone number on Alfred Street in Los Angeles (213-651-4215), I can’t recall when it was we ditched our landline in Sweden. Eight years ago? Nine?

Today is a dedicated gallery day with a ton of inspiration abound.


Hot Walkabout

I really love the bustling street life here in South East Asia. Though Tokyo’s one of my favorite Asian cities, its street life pales when compared with Phnom Penh, Hanoi and Bangkok. So many contrasts and interesting things going on.

Yesterday, I went for a 10k walk up Sathorn to the lush Lumpini Park and back via a little grocery shopping at the exuberantly ruinous Villa Market in Saladeng. Like the amateur I am from time to time, I planned my walk during the hottest part of the day and became so sweaty, that my white t-shirt soon turned gray with perspiration and stuck to my body like a second skin.

As I headed out, I immediately reflected on how hot it was. Instead of waiting for the midday heat to relent, I continued, reasoning that if I only pace myself and walk slowly enough, it’ll be ok and I’ll not sweat so much. But I soon realized there were two pivotal flaws with my logic. First of all, I can’t walk slowly and secondly, however abundant escalators are here, there is still no way for a mere mortal to avoid having to climb up a few steep stairs while walking in Bangkok. And even if I treaded ever-so carefully to the top of an overpass, with the temperate at 32 C, not becoming sweaty was never an option.

How the Thais maintain their cool all the while dressed in office outfits and suits, I do not know. They must have developed natural heat resilience genes that help their sweat glands tolerate much higher temperatures when compared with most westerners. You’ll certainly often here Thais complain about the heat, complaining about the weather is a universal thing. But I’ve never seen anyone nearly as drenched in sweat as I was during yesterday’s walk.

I’m going for my first ever yoga class in Bangkok this morning and will take my 10k walk later in the afternoon. When the sweltering heat has subsided a bit. The shot above is from one of my favorite areas in Bangkok, Rattanakosin. Which is also the oldest of the capital’s neighborhoods. More images from this fascinating city can be found here.


Pan Rd & Tuna Ichiban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Right to Choose

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

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

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

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


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

The Bikram Challenge

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

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


Greek Salad

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

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

Back to Santorini.

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

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

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

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


Bikram Yoga Film

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

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

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

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


Kung Fu Pizza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fruitful conversation

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

– Hello there, my friend!

– Hello! How are you today?

– Good, good. And yourself?

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

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

– Absolutely. How are them mangos lookin’ today?

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

– Yes, m’am!

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

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

– Ok. No watermelon?

– Oh, yeah, a watermelon, too.

– Anything else?

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

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

– Thank you.

11:36

– Everything’s ready to go, my friend.

– Thanks! How much do I owe you?

– That’ll be 165 baht, please.

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

– Sure, my pleasure!

Click, click, click.

– Thanks!

– See you tomorrow, my friend!

– See you tomorrow and good luck!


Clearing the Clouds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Switching Off

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

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

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

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

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


The Perfect Combo

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

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

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


Food for thought

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bikram Yoga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read about Bikram Yoga here.


Fit for Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Heading off

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


Shrimps & Lisa Brennan-Jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the New York Times interview here.