Sunset in Vejbystrand, Sweden

Sunset Statements

Last night. So surreal. Shot on my two year old iPhone.

A few thoughts:

– Sunset scenes like last night’s are far too magnificent to experience in anything but realtime. Here it just slides into the uncanny world of visual clichés. A picture one might find among similarly miniaturized, mass-printed moments stacked in a postcard rack at the local souvenir shop.

– Saltwater taffy ice cream is definitely a new favorite flavor. Still not even close to genuine gelato pistachio.

– The 1 kg bag of organic, sun-dried tomatoes I ordered from Amazon.de on Friday arrived yesterday. That’s a remarkably fast delivery from Germany but likely not environmentally sound.

– No,”cancel culture” isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s probably older than Gutenburg’s printing press with movable type. It just hasn’t been as weaponized or politicized before. Thanks, Trump. Thanks, Twitter. Thanks, Facebook.

– The novel coronavirus has provided many (myself included) with formidable, unquestionable arguments to avoid socializing with people you don’t really enjoy socializing with.

– Few are talking about it, but the main reason so many Americans are getting sick is that so many of them are overweight. The “underlying condition” onto which the virus has had such a successful stronghold is indirectly caused by obesity. According to this article, the body in folks that are seriously overweight is in a constant state of inflammation – making it extremely difficult for their immune defense system to cope with the virus’s attacks. The US government’s own scientists and health experts agree  unilaterally on the main reasons why 80 million Americans are obese:

  • Most Americans live in an in-the-car and sit-behind-a-desk society. Daily life doesn’t involve a lot of physical activity and exercise.
  • Anybody that’s been to the States knows that food is available practically everywhere. So are the many alluring messages telling Americans what to eat and what to drink – in order to be happy and to feel satisfied. Food is so readily available, it’s in places where it was never found before. Today, most gas stations have convenience stores that are open 24/7/365. Like in Sweden, the vast majority of their offering is snacks and sweets.
  • Food portions at restaurants and what folks prepare at home are bigger than they used to be and most contain excessive amounts of both sweeteners like fructose (≈ sugar) and sodium (≈ salt).
  • The poorer you are, the more likely it is you have to choose the cheapest options when grocery shopping. Lower prices usually mean less nutritional value and again more sugar and salt to artificially enhance flavors.
IHOP Breakfast

The Art of Living

They say that after you turn 25, not much of your character changes. Thirty-two years later, I can’t but agree with that statement.

I clearly live a healthier life in 2020 than I did in 1988 when smoking, snuffing, and drinking was all part of my daily diet. I never got into drugs, at least not the illicit kind in power form. I’ve always exercised regularly, 90 minutes of Qigong&Yoga this morning) but also fall into spells of spectacular indulgence. As I near my sixth decade, I realize that I still spoil myself regularly and enjoy much of the same stuff as back in my youth. Like the IHOP breakfast above which I ate with great vigor while waiting for a friend up in the Bronx a couple of years ago.

In 1988, I spent the entire summer unloading bananas off rusty boats from Central America (mostly Panama) which arrived weekly in Göteborg’s commercial harbor. Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries were seemingly insatiable when it came to bananas at the time. Each Friday, a freighter chuck full with about 130.000 cardboard boxes of bananas colorfully branded Uncle Tuca, Del Monte and Chiquita would dock and wait to be unloaded the following Monday morning.

At 18.4kg per banana box, placing a few thousand of them onto a conveyer belt from deep inside the vessel each shift was intense. But in retrospect, the job provided me with humbling insights into the world of the working class. Like many other labor-intensive jobs, the fruit company that hired me and my “banana boat” colleagues (which in the summer consisted mostly of students, struggling musicians, and artists) eventually automized the entire unloading process.

In October that year, I flew with Yugoslavian JAT to Thailand and worked for 6 months at the Golden Sand Resort on Lamai Beach, Koh Samui. Upon returning to Sweden in April, my brother Nick called to ask me if I wanted a bartending gig at a hotel in Riksgränsen, way, way up in Lapland towards the very tip of Sweden’s northern border – real close to both Norway and Finland. Financially depleted and desperate for work, I got on a rickety train from Göteborg where spring was abounding and arrived approximately 24 hours later in Riksgränsen where it was still midwinter.

If the lifestyle I had previously been leading – culminating with several seasons working in a bar at a ski resort – was formative, the time I spent in Riksgränsen surely solidified much of it. It took me several years to leave the restaurant business and embark on more creative, less destructive endeavors. But in essence, I’m still more or less the same guy as I was back in 1988. Just older on the outside.

Here’s an interesting documentary from the BBC about the art of living where the team has met a ancient folks living in a remote mountain village in Italy and how their lifestyle has promoted mental and physical health and longevity. As usual, I’m caught between being inspired and realizing how boring that would be.


Lennart vs Watermelon

With all the really bad stuff going on right now across the world, in Beirut, in D.C., the US, Brazil, India, and elsewhere, watching a curious, carefree puppy discover how to best eat watermelon is a wonderful distraction.

You can follow Lennart’s adventures on Instagram and YouTube by searching for @lennartminidachshund

More of my commercial and personal films here.

Saint Issac's Cathedral in St Petersburg

US EMBASSY: Don’t go to Siberia
Shot this outside of Saint Issac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg, Russia several years ago. It’s so far my only visit to the former Soviet Union.

Because I’m a US citizen, I regularly receive emails from the US government (via the US Embassy in Sthlm) about stuff that I, as an American passport holder, should think about before traveling to foreign lands or gathering in open places and spaces.

The latest warning, which arrived in my inbox recently, is travel advice for Americans planning on visiting or already in Siberia. Not that I wouldn’t want to visit Siberia. Just not right now. What could possibly go wrong in Russia right now? I wonder daily when I’ll feel comfortable traveling abroad again. When will be the next time I set foot in Bangkok, Tokyo, New York. L.A. or Madrid again? Feels a long way off.
Elle Raboff

Employee of the Month

I’m fairly sure that about this time 2o years ago, about three months before our child was born, Charlotte and I began discussing names. That he or she would have at least two names, possibly three, was something we agreed early upon. If it was a girl, we would honor our respective grandmothers by giving our baby girl a name from each of them. The same would have happened if it was a boy with our grandfathers’ first names.

I don’t remember how I came up with the name “Elle” but I know Charlotte liked it. It’s short and therefore easy to remember, it works internationally (though many Asians often pronounce L as R) and, it’s a palindrome. I don’t think Elle is a particularly difficult name, as the text in the above photo suggests we should have chosen, but it’s definitely a little unusual.

Our daughter Elle Ingrid Agnes Raboff will be 20 in a couple of months. She’s still figuring out what to do with her life. While a few of my friends knew what they wanted (or, at least felt obliged to fulfill their parents’ vision) at 20, I was still clueless.  Heck, at 57, I’m still pretty much clueless. Elle is focused on getting a higher education, which is obviously great. But for now, working at the supermarket, she’s getting a ton of valuable life/work experience all the while earning honest money.

The other day, Elle sent us a text message with the small, inserted photo above. At some point during that day’s shift, a boss had approached and asked Elle to come with her to the office. A little nervous that something was awry, it turned out that Elle, after only six months on the job, was going to be awarded “Employee of the Month”. We were both tremendously proud. The fact that the store has 300 employees means there must have been some competition.

I’m a firm believer that being proud or feeling pride is something you can only truly do when you’ve been actively involved in a positive outcome or result. Both Charlotte and I feel therefore immensely proud of Elle’s achievement. I don’t want to read too much into the award, but the motivation is certainly a testament to our daughter’s ability to do her job really well and her social intelligence.

Vejbystrand Mowing the Lawn

Mowing the Lawn with Conan

While our friendly neighbors insist on polluting the air and airwaves with our ancient fossil-fueled lawnmower, I really enjoy the exercise I get from mowing it manually. It takes about two hours, 9700 steps or, roughly 6,5km to get the property’s grass mowed down. I always listen to a podcast while mowing – today I caught up to the latest episode of Conan O’Brien’s funny show, Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend.

I think I waited a bit too long after last week’s intense rainstorm(s) as mowing the grass today was unusually sweaty. And as soon as I start to sweat, an armada of insistent flies start flying around me. Have to admit that there were a couple of moments when I considered firing up the old fuming jalopy…but now that is mowed, I’m glad I didn’t.

statue of liberty

(NO TRUMP) YOU CAN’T TOUCH THAT

Shocker: Because he’s trailing in the election polls, the president is becoming increasingly desperate. So much so, that the lunatic is now toying with, or, at least floating the insane idea of postponing the general election. Though he’s already gotten away with a bunch of crazy-ass stuff, this idea is, fortunately, something he cannot do on his own (no, not even via an Executive Order). Check this well-sourced article for how a postponement could theoretically work and why delaying the general election still won’t in reality make much of a difference.

Trump has always and will always blame anything and anybody but himself for his many well-documented shortcomings. And the president’s lackluster polling performance and receding popularity among the millions of like-minded, lost souls is certainly no exception. The blame game has always been Trump’s MO: deflect responsibility, deny wrongdoings, lie about facts, obfuscate the truth and create so much confusion and doubt that some folks, usually the most gullible, end up so utterly bewildered that they pick him out of sheer desperation.

Yes, it’s finally looking bad for Trump – but increasingly good for the American people. At least for those that can and choose to see beyond the pile of bullcrap, the current regime has been dishing out left, right, and center for the past three years. It’s about time to move on and beyond this era and start getting stuff right about improving education, creating universal healthcare, taking on institutionalized racism, reducing military spending, reeducating the nation’s police force, getting big corporations like Amazon, Google, and Facebook to pay a reasonable level of corporate tax and so on. There is so much work to be done and once Trump is out of office, hopefully, Biden & Co will waste no haste and just dig in. That is if the nation survives this election season. Have to admit, I’m a little worried…

Ok, feels much better to have gotten this off my chest.

I met this green lady in her for this post apt Halloween outfit during my last visit to New York in 2018.


Many Chairs

Shot this time-lapse from a university lecture room in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. The Qigong course I attended last September held a few classes there. I arrived early (via Grab) and the chairs in a circle got me thinking about all the different roles people have in their lives. For example, I’m a father, a husband, a filmmaker, a graphic designer, a writer, a cook, a Qigong trainer, and a professional travel photographer.

We all play different roles in our lives. Some are interconnected while others are diametrical opposites. We are simultaneously cohesive and at times, like it or not, sanctimonious.

I had a discussion with a friend the other day about whether or not it was important to determine if China intentionally or involuntarily spread the Covid-19 virus. I argue that it’s irrelevant at this stage but that it might become a key query in a future investigation – an inquiry that could hypothetically lead to massive financial retribution.

My friend also pointed out that the world should really be more cognizant, concerned and wary of how the Chinese government is manipulatively taking advantage of the generous freedoms democratic nations (naively) provide them with and forcefully establishing a significant presence all over the world – all the while concurrently acting intolerantly towards foreign citizens (journalists in particular), and more importantly, its own people. Yes, the United States has been busy with its own flavor of imperialism for many, many years. The difference is that the US has been a comparatively open society. Especially if you’re a white, Anglo-Saxon male.

I don’t think to call Covid-19 the China Virus is solving the pandemic and I don’t think the US is in a place to criticize any other country’s way of doing business. But there are no two ways about it, the Chinese government really is despicable. If the recently enforced, extremely prohibitive laws in Hong Kong in the far east wasn’t enough, how about the Chinese government’s oppression of the Uighur population in the far west. So authoritatively Orwellian, blatantly disregarding all aspects of human rights and democracy and we just keep ordering more stuff from there. We shouldn’t do business with them at all. Apple, Nike, Walmart, Amazon, and the others should shun China until Xi Jinping & Co soften their grip and drop their whip.

When I think about Xi Jinping’s dictatorial, iron-fisted, anti-democratic tenure – as well as those preceding him (for about 5000 years) and how much of the world indirectly support the Chinese regime, the level of hypocrisy is shameful. And yet though most will agree that we shouldn’t tolerate this, we just do. We just move from one chair to the next and hope the music never stops.


Ceramicist Andrea Karlsson

For my ongoing series of short films, “Time Capsules”, I visited the young ceramicist Andrea Karlsson the other day.  To have so much energy and creativity is both inspiring and a little enviable. I can easily see that this young woman has a bright future within the arts.

Shot this on the Fuji XT3 with the Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2, the Fuji XF 16mm f/1.4, and a caged Gopro 7 Black. Natural light and edited on Final Cut Pro X.

cows on the meadow in Vejbystrand

How Now Brown Cow

Shot this yesterday on the meadow here in Vejbystrand. I must admit, I’ve been having a hard time getting this year’s cow collective’s attention. So I came up with a plan. I googled “cow sounds”, clicked my way to a Youtube video that promised a bunch of farm sounds, including cows, pigs and I think sheep, and then cranked up my iPhone’s volume as loud as it would go (11) and zimzalabim, I got the attention of at least one of these beautiful creatures. At least for a few seconds. Like most people today, the attention span of cows seems also to be getting shorter and shorter.

Västra Hamnen in Malmö, Sweden

Västra Hamnen in Malmö, Sweden

I was back in Malmö the other day. Charlotte and I drove into Västra Hamnen to pick up a few things in our condo’s s storage room. I’ve been back to Malmö several times in the last six months, but strangely, I never experience any kind of elation – only the type of comfort one finds in familiarity.

The neighborhood continues to evolve and we both noticed a few new buildings. Nothing noteworthy, though. Gap-fillers, mostly.

For those of you new to this site, I documented the Västra Hamnen area thoroughly throughout most of the time we lived there (2002-2005/2007-20013/2014-2019). In the very beginning, starting way, way back in 2002, I was frantic, spending hours upon hours all year round photographing the views, buildings, and many magnificent sunsets (arguably too many). In addition to a website with hundreds of images (and a few choice videos) from around the area, my efforts also resulted in a 10 book series chronicling Västra Hamnen. I was also commissioned to produce an additional two books specifically about the Turning Torso, for the owner of the skyscraper, HSB.

In 2010, the folks running Malmö City ordered 5000 copies of that year’s Västra Hamnen book to give visitors at the Swedish pavilion during the Shanghai World Expo. The book’s cover and short texts were translated into Mandarin and it was then showcased together with a 5-meter wide image of a seaside view of Sundspromenaden that I had taken from a wobbly fishing trawler several months before the Expo.

The above image is from “Titanic”, a popular place along the shoreline in Västra Hamnen. The overhanging structures provide an excellent view of the Öresund Bridge. While the younger kids love to climb up on the railings and jump fearlessly into the sea below, today, though not visible in this image, hundreds of teens and tweens choose “Titanic” as a place to secure their “love locks” in the iron fencing that surrounds the platform.

The Hustle

The Hustle

I have a friend who lives in the Bronx and has a small business guiding visitors to various parts of the borough’s most challenged neighborhood, the South Bronx. I shot a series of photos during my last visit 2018, mostly in Mott Haven and around Concourse. The image above is a composition of some of those images. I call the piece “The Hustle”. Most New Yorkers I know are life-long hustlers in the sense that they work extremely hard and adjust to new challenging circumstances instinctively and reflexively.

birth certificate

Fifty-Seven!

Here’s my birth certificate from just about 57 years ago today. I wonder what it was like for my parents to look at me, hold me, feel about me as I lie in that crib at Saint John’s Hospital in Santa Monica back in the summer of 1963. Because of how things developed, it’s hard to imagine that they felt remotely as euphorically happy about my arrival as Charlotte and I did when our daughter Elle was born. But somehow I know they did. You can’t help but feel joy when your child is born. It’s such an amazing happening. A miracle, for lack of a less religious way to describe it.

When I think of the number fifty-seven, I can both relate to that in 13 years, I’ll be 70 and that I have a long way to go if I make it to my 100th birthday, like my friend Fred Nicholas did the other month. I have my doubts about reaching that auspicious age, though. Too many past sins…some of which are bound to catch up with me. Rationally, speaking.

Lisa, one of my oldest friends from back in LA, just pointed out that I should celebrate my triumphs today and not despair or dwell on bad shit. Everyone goes through bad shit. Bad shit is part of the human experience. Without the bad shit, how would you or could you enjoy the good shit? There has to be a balance, of course. An equilibrium between the good and the bad shit. And with the obvious exception of my first decade and a half on this wonderful blue planet, I definitely consider most of my life thus far to have been really, really good. Enviable, even. However, I do continue to yearn for some things; to be truer to myself, think less of other’s opinions, take more risks, embrace more challenges. Evolve creatively. Practice Qigong more. Drink less. Eat less with my mouth and more with my brain.

After a Champagne breakfast in bed, as per our family’s tradition, Charlotte and her co-conspirator, the mini dachshund Lennart, have a few birthday surprises in store for me today. Later, towards the evening, a couple of old friends are going to drop by and join us for dinner. That’s it. So now I’m 57. Weird.

Tyko Raboff

Tyko Blake Eskil Raboff 1967-2003

This photo is probably one of the first I’d ever taken. It was likely shot on a simple Kodak Instamatic. The moment was captured in my parent’s bedroom on 849 North Alfred Street in West Hollywood, California.

My father is holding my brother Tyko who was probably 2 years old at the time. The year would then be 1969. I have no idea what time of year I took the photo at – but because of the pajamas my mother Ina (Solveig) and father Ernest (Ernie) are wearing, it was likely winter. Within a year, my father would leave us, move out and eventually start a whole new family with Adeline, a young, troubled woman from Alaska more than half his age. She was a tenant living in the upstairs apartment of our house at the time they met.

I don’t remember much of the actual divorce other than the yelling. I can only assume my father one day packed a few things and just left. Unfortunately, the aftermath of my parent’s divorce, more than 50 years ago, still impacts me. Especially today.

Where I somehow managed to compartmentalize much of the trauma that ensued and live a relatively normal life, my brother Tyko was unable to. The accumulative impact from those formative years would eventually overpower him emotionally to the point where all he wanted was for the pain and suffering to stop. And so, in January 2003, he took his life in a hotel room in Paris.

I write something about my brother Tyko every year on his birthday. I do it to honor him, to remember him, to share my thoughts about him. Still, after all these years, I feel so sad that I never got a chance to talk to him out of his decision. On this day, more so than on the day he died, I feel a little sorry for myself. I feel so alone in my sorrow. Some sadness can be shared. Not this kind.

I had a dream about Tyko last week. The scope of the dream was a bit absurd, but in it, he was crying. I want to think it was a cry of regret.

Drone view of Stora Hult in Sweden

Clouds and Stora Hult

After our forest walk yesterday, I noticed these amazing clouds and used the drone to capture how beautifully they framed the summer landscape around Stora Hult near Vejbystrand. As far as I can remember, big puffy clouds (Cumulus) have always grabbed my attention. Might be from growing up with Hollywood classics like Gone with the Wind where painted backdrops of dramatic skies were the norm. The sprawling home with the pool and Rolls/Bentley (bottom left in the frame) is almost as spectacular as the cl0uds in the distance.

on-the-path

On or Off the Beaten Path?

Is it possible to start on a new path when you’re a few days shy of 57 years old? I hope so. I’ve reinvented myself so many times since I discovered I could, that if that no longer is a realistic option, heck, I don’t know what I’ll do.

Realism has always been an elastic concept to me. I don’t really know what realistic means. Is being “realistic” something defined by what most folks deem normal? Doable? Expectable? Respectable? Is realistic governed by some kind of physical law, like Newton’s thoughts on gravity or Einstein’s theory on special relativity? The theory of special relativity explains how space and time are linked for objects moving at a consistent speed in a straight line.

For better or worse, I have never moved at a consistent speed in a straight line. Quite the opposite. My life is more like wave after wave of zigzags with ups and downs and ins and outs. Like a Jackson Pollack painting.

I could argue that there was intent with living my life consistently inconsistent. But it would be a lie. I could also say that I always go with the flow. That too would be a kind of retrofitting of my narrative.

So, am on a path or have I stepped off – but just haven’t realized it yet? A mentor once told me to beware of becoming irrelevant. In this day age, TikTok and all the other Social Media channels, none of which I am currently participating with or contributing to, dictate what and who is relevant for the moment. So, in that regard, I have certainly made myself irrelevant. Which, on the other hand, I am actually perfectly okay with. Though not particularly spiritual, at least not in a religious sense, getting rid of the Social Media frenzy has definitely elevated my creative life to a less superficial level. And that is a path on which I intend to remain for a while longer.

Shot this forest path during a long walk with Charlotte and Lennart earlier today at Hålehall near Förslöv in northern Skåne.


Born to Run – Part Deux

Here’s the latest installment in the ongoing series with Lennart, the Raboff family’s mini dachshund puppy (and a presumptive breadwinner).

All of the footage was shot using a simple Manfrotto monopod and a Gopro Hero 7 Black Edition set to 4k/50fps. While the files are huge and at times make my 2017 iMac want to barf from exhaustion, they do give me an immense amount of post-production leeway when added to a 1080p timeline within FCPX.

Miss “Born to Run” Part Un? Have no fear. The link is here.

Mushroom

Mushroom Surprise

I’ve never taken any psychedelic drugs. At least as far as I know. There might have been an incident where, unbeknownst to me, I may have eaten a “special” cake on Koh Samui that could have been laced with “shrooms” or something even stronger. This was back in 1988.

I hadn’t noticed the above fungi until earlier today. While not beautiful in a colorful kind of way, it’s still a remarkable growth. If anybody knows what kind of mushroom it is, do let me know. Thanks.

Molle-by-the-Sea

Mölle-by-the-Sea

Though we look at it every day from where we live in Vejbystrand, it’s become a family tradition to actually visit Kullaberg across the bay Skälderviken every summer. The day before yesterday – as well as for the last couple of years – we ended our visit to Mölle by enjoying dinner with the tasty homemade pizzas over at cozy Mölle Krukmakeri.

Come August 15th, Charlotte and I are celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary. We were married at nearby Brunnby Church but the wedding reception, all-night party, and the hotel we stayed at as newlyweds was in the seaside town of Mölle-by-the-Sea, pictured above. At present, I don’t know how we’ll celebrate this year’s anniversary. Heck, I don’t even know how I’ll be celebrating my birthday next week. So much is upended.


Early Crayfish Fest

From yesterday evening’s crayfish festivities here in Vejbystrand.