Deep Fake

Tom & Don: Deep Fake

This was my view earlier this morning. I shot it through a window using an old camera from 2013. A Fujifilm x20. Digital cameras don’t age very well, but the x20 is still fairly capable and useful. There was a beautiful full moon when I took the shot, but the camera just couldn’t capture it the way I’d seen it. So, I took a close-up of the satellite that orbits our planet with a 400mm lens and then superimposed it on the above composition. Deepfake or ShallowFake?

If you’ve seen the deepfake videos of Tom Cruise and know a little about the real Tom Cruise, you might find it interesting that the people behind these eerily accurate videos chose him as their subject matter.

I mean, not only is Tom the actor most famous for his leading role in the Mission Impossible franchise, a series of films brimming with deep fake tech. But the man behind the mask is also a devoted follower of the Church of Scientology – which some would argue is a totally fake religion.
I’m now looking forward to seeing a deepfake video of Donald J Trump recanting all of his thousands of doubt-sowing statements and completely renouncing his tentative plans for running for president in 2024. That would be a really cool deepfake video.
Foggy

The Fog

Sometimes, the fog rolls in with impressive speed. A clear sky can within moments, not even minutes, be replaced with a thick, silent mist. The obscured view displaces my focus and leaves me feeling a bit perplexed, lost even. Then the levitating fog slowly rises and moves on.

generational

Geogenerational

Lars, a friend, who’s actually an old boss, dropped by yesterday for a coffee and a glazed donut. He’s a few decades older than I, but in enviously good health, physically and intellectually. What a blessing for him and his family.

I’ve never judged anybody by something as trivial as age, gender, or ethnicity. In my worldview, the only thing that really matters is substance. I can find something interesting, at least for a little while, in almost anyone that can somehow intrigue me with their profession, life story, or creative endeavors.

I can even find remarkably superficial people, folks that hide their true selves behind a pretentious facade, to be if not interesting, then at least entertaining. For a while.

It’s been said of me that I wear my heart on my sleeve. That I lack a filter that would otherwise help me to navigate emotionally through life. But the older I get, the less I feel inclined to play games like hide-and-seek. The, I-am-who-I-am/take-me-or-leave-me-mentality is certainly preferable at my stage of life. At any stage of life, really.

The collage above is a multi-generational, multi-geographical theme that includes images from visits to India, France, the US, and Cambodia. It’s aptly named Geogenerational.

Pandora's Boxes

Pandora’s Boxes

I shot this collection of locker boxes somewhere, but I can’t remember when or where. When I saw it in the archives just now, it reminded me of how full of surprises life is. That sometimes, our curiosity takes us places we hadn’t expected. I thrive on curiosity. It drives me forward, takes me on adventures and creative challenges that help me evolve as an artist and a human. However, sometimes, I get the feeling that I open too many creative boxes at once and spread myself too thinly.

Ice Hotel Jukkasjärvi Sweden

A Winter Night in Jukkasjärvi

From a visit to the far north where, several years ago, Elle and I stayed a night at the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi.

We each had a big, comfy sleeping bag placed on a wide and thick reindeer fur. It was cold, but also exciting to fall asleep in a room where all the furniture, including the bed we were on, was made of solid blocks of ice.

When we woke up, Elle looked around and said, obviously surprised that we had survived the cold night, Papa, we made it!”.

Now that this usually chilly winter is coming to a close, it seems somehow reasonable to feel a sense of hope about the future. That we made it to the other side and lived to tell stories of cold winter nights.

chemo dreams

Dreams vs Truth

This dreamy night shot is from Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. I took it late one night just before the flight back to Europe.

I thought of it as a metaphorical image for my strange dreams that I think the chemotherapy is given me. So far, the injections have provided few benefits, but, fortunately, hardly any side effects, either. Aside from these really weird dreams. But those could also be related to our strange times. Or, both. Probably both. Maybe I should see the dreams as a benefit?

This morning I watched an interview with cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman where he claims there is solid scientific evidence that people trying to seek the “truth” about their existence, the reality of life, be that religiously, culturally, or cosmically, do not fare as well as those that just “playing the game”. Ignorance is bliss, in other words. From a biological perspective, natural selection, the survival of the fittest, and so on, I can subscribe to Hoffman’s theory. All animals are quintessentially programmed to survive and procreate. Everything else is basically fluff. Insurance policies, tools of power, myths.

Taken to its extreme, Hoffman means that the philosophical field of existentialism, the quest for the meaning of life, is just a waste of time and doesn’t really help humanoids survive or evolve. On the other foot, it’s the eternal quest for truth that makes life an interesting journey: What is my purpose? Where do I come from? What happens when I die?

Here’s the interview.

At Pier's End

At Pier’s End

This concrete pier is not far from Vejbystrand. It’s on a beach called Eskilstorpstrand (near Båstad). I found it uniquely fitting for the hint of optimism that ineluctably arrives in my mind with each and every spring. I saw the round lifesaver at the end of the pier as the poetic metaphor for the elusive vaccine.

I’ve not heard anything about when or where the vaccine will be made available to a mere mortal like myself and honestly, I’m having a hard time grasping how both local and central Swedish governments have fumbled the rollout of the vaccine. Yes, yes. I realize it’s a complicated project, logistically and quantitatively. But the vacuum of relevant and updated information does not bode well for the country’s recovery. So maybe the pier’s even longer than it looks. Or, maybe the lifesaver is an illusion. I hope it’s not.

No more Rush Limbaugh

No Rush Limbaugh

I captured this surface in an industrial area of Da Nang, Vietnam. I think artists should be willing and brave enough to share their political convictions and societal opinions often and in any way they can. I can’t help but feel engaged in things and subjects that at least momentarily grab my attention and my heart. The American radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has recently died. Good riddance, I say. The vile rhetoric he spewed through his show and social media made for a widely successful multi-decade-long career. Sadly, his racist, misogynistic bullshit will linger in many dumb-ass listeners’ ears for years to come.

I think the saddest thing about folks that buy into viewpoints made by people like Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones, is that they don’t understand how fake it is. That neither of those fine gentlemen genuinely believe in the opinions they orate. It’s a schtick, a product, a mantra that has made them famous and wealthy.

In America, disingenuousness is part of the social culture, institutionalized, even. It’s how so much business is done. The old saying, “There’s a Sucker Born Every Day” prevails. Success at any rate, at any cost. I hate that about the US of A. It’s shameful. No wonder no one knows what’s true and what’s not anymore. I realize it’s a form of salesmanship, albeit taken to an extreme level. Mitch McConnell is masterful at it. Most seasoned politicians and businessmen are.

Rush’s particular brand of undermining, doubt-sowing rhetoric can also be dangerous when it reaches critical mass and becomes the main source of reference for millions of ignorant people. Just like if you constantly watch Fox News or CNN/CNBC, you’ll inevitably become swayed and skewed to that source’s agenda.

But once again, the only real agenda is rating and advertising sales. Money. Beseeching listeners and viewers that either don’t understand what critical thinking means or just don’t care has become the norm. Eventually, I suppose you become so brainwashed that even really reasonable counterarguments are no longer allowed within your field of view.

Unsurprisingly, Trump awarded Rush with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But for what? Because Limbaugh was supportive of Trump? No, because both men knew the PR value would push their agendas forward. It’s the old I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine, exchange. Two old, obese white dudes fondling each other, knowing good and well that the award will stir up the liberals and enthuse the conservatives.

Anyway. Spring is knocking on the door. I can hear it from here.

Stir Crazy

Miss Malaga

It’s almost to the day one year ago that I flew to Sweden from Malaga, Spain. We’d been living there for just two months when we realized that this whole pandemic thing was not to be taken lightly and that it would likely have a very negative financial impact on our livelihoods. I jumped ship first and Charlotte followed a few weeks later.

Do I miss Malaga? Absolutely. I miss the cafés, tiny tapas hideaways, and soaking in the sun from our rooftop terrace. I miss seeing people on the streets, hanging out with friends, and taking a long walk ending in a cozy lunch in the old fishing village Pedregalejo. I miss going out for drinks with friends Sam and Sirpa, feeling untethered and unworried. I miss shopping at Mercado Central de Atarazanas, the old market where so much great food was beautifully displayed and reasonably priced. I miss drinking a glass of a caña, a cold beer under a huge umbrella or palm tree on the way to or from a shopping tour.

For close to 25 years, Charlotte and I have been the architects, the designers, the conductors of our lives. And I miss that too. But I don’t feel sorry for myself. Nor does Charlotte. Instead, we feel appreciative of both what we’ve had and what is here and now. The future may not look so bright right at the moment. But eventually, someday, we will return to Malaga, drink a couple of cold cañas, and munch unabashedly from a large bowl of those huge, sumptuous green olives from one of my favorite shops at Mercado Central.

The above image was captured in Malaga, somewhere near our apartment. Which, incidentally, I don’t miss.

Passport

Passport to the World

I’ve been going through a bunch of old stuff since returning to Vejbystrand on Saturday. I brought with me three jam-packed binders with all kinds of ancient letters, travel memorabilia, odd concert receipts and even drawings from when I was a child back in 1968.

I don’t know what’s more impressive, the fact that I saved it all to begin with, or, that it’s survived all the moves I made on my own and all the addresses Charlotte and I have had since we met in 1996. While not exactly meticulously categorized, all of it is neatly placed inside transparent pockets. It really boggles my mind that I had the wherewithal to salvage so much of my history. I am above all happy for Elle. I don’t think she’s as confused about who her father is as I am about mine. But if she does read through some of my letters and those sent to me, including a rather lengthy, deep email exchange between me and a philosopher I was subbing at a high school for in Göteborg in the early 1990s.

Among the most interesting memorabilia is one of my old US passports. I became a dual citizen in 1998 or 1999 and most of the stamps are from the late 1980s or early 1990s. I’d almost forgotten how much I’d traveled before meeting Charlotte. So much so that in New Zealand, I had to ask the US consulate in Auckland to add a few pages to my almost fully stamped passport just to cover my onward trips to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand that year.

For about half a decade, I was a seasonal restaurant worker: winters in northernmost Sweden at Hotel Riksgränsen, summers in Visby (on the island of Gotland) at various watering holes. Most of the fall and beginning of winter I was traveling in Asia or the US. Rinse and repeat.

I remember how some immigration officers refused to place their country’s entry stamp or visa document next to a nation they weren’t on good terms with or, just didn’t like. Traveling between mainland China and Taiwan could me you might have to sacrifice two separate passport pages.

It’s going to be interesting to see if the yellow vaccination cards make a comeback or if future passports will be forced to include verifiable verification about inoculations. At this stage, traveling still seems like a distant dream.

For some of my favorite travel assignments, head on over to www.raboffphotography.com and click on “TRAVEL”.

Vejbystrand Sea Skaters

From earlier today during a slow wintery walk along the coast. I wish I had brought the drone with me…but even more, I wish I could take part in the skating fun. My joints are too stiff and fragile for that kind of activity right now, but I’m sure that if I’d still had my ice skates, I’d probably be willing to take the risk. Happy for all the kids that get to experience a real winter here in Skåne and to see what it’s like when the sea freezes.

Malmö

Quick Visit to Malmö

Our view last night during Charlotte’s and my sunset walk. It’s one of those shots that I wish I had taken with a proper camera, as opposed to a two-year-old iPhone. There’s nothing wrong with the composition. But the dynamic range and color reproduction is way, way off. I literally held my x100v in my hand heard myself saying, nah, I don’t need to carry this in my pocket, there’s not going to be anything worth shooting anyway. The image is still worth sharing, though. At least to convey the gist of how beautiful it was.


Feeding Blackbird

This is BB1 (Blackbird One) that I’ve befriended. Or, is it me that he has befriended? In any case, I used the old Gopro to film a few minutes of his sunflower seed lunch earlier today. He did look a bit skeptical with the camera so close, but the need for seed was too strong and, so, he obviously overcame his skepticism.


Ice Capades

Here’s a short slideshow with a few more images from last weekend’s frozen waves. Because of fluctuating temperatures, most of those amazing natural ice sculptures have already melted away. I’m fine with that. In fact, I’d be even more okay if it got a little warmer. This long stretch of below zero coldness is causing my already pain-ridden, rusty joints to creak even more. I’d be much better off on a beach in Goa or, Danang.

GOP Skeleton

The GOP Remains

Still don’t know if this is a seal or a porpoise. I’m sure a biologist or an archeologist could tell, but I still see similarities of both animals when I compare skeletons online.

The carcass got me thinking about the Grim Reaper and how bad things are in the US. The divide is wider than ever and there are so many different kinds of acute crisis right now, that the future looks pretty gloomy. Then again, a lot of things look gloomy in February.

The promise of unity that President Biden delivered during his inauguration speech sounded wonderful when I listened to it live. But now, several weeks later, the lasting aftertaste is way too lofty and dreamy. Dreams are fine, but they will not bridge the considerable gap between the tens of millions of Americans that still insist Donald Trump won the election (by a landslide, no less) and an almost equal amount of voters, including myself, that feverishly disagree.

I think the American conservative movement as we know it today is in a death spiral. The party’s “ideology” been on a slippery slope ever since nominating and electing Trump as a mouthpiece and figurehead. What the GOP didn’t count on when they invited him to take the reins was that his pseudo-patriotism, a.k.a. MAGA movement, would create a tsunami of populist rhetoric that a) drowned out even the most measured Republicans and b) provided giant swaths of nincompoops with a wave of craziness they could own and surf on.

I’m wary that a lot of folks eventually turn conservative with age. Particularly men tend to become anti-almost-all-change sourpusses. I’ve already noticed this sad trait in myself. For example, I find very little contemporary music appealing and easily fall back into old trusted favorites instead of embracing new artists and new tunes. To at least partially remedy this, I force myself to listen to contemporary hit lists once in a while, fortunately with my 20-year old daughter Elle as “Curator Extraordinaire”.

If you work within the liberal arts, be that as a poet, painter or photographer, I think you owe it to your craft and creative soul to stave off the kind of conservatism that might otherwise transform you into a curmudgeon, a crusty, rusty crank.

I think that the otherwise reasonable conservatives that embraced Donald Trump for four years are slowly coming to their senses. Many have stopped defending the insurrection and protection of one of his biggest fans, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the supporter of far-right conspiracy theories that include laser beams from outer space, Pizzagate, QAnon, and, a revisionist view of 9/11. Marjorie says some unbelievably crazy shit. But it’s not that she believes any of it. Mrs. Greene just knows that it fires up the “ol’ Trump base”. Which is the very tactic that got the GOP in trouble in the first place.

I predict the Republican party splits into two separate fractions before the next mid-term elections. One with the loonies, the other with the shameful and regretful.


The Dachshund Lennart’s Winter Walk in Vejbystrand

While daughter Elle was here over the weekend, we took several walks along the beach here in Vejystrand. The cold albeit beautiful winter weather demands to be enjoyed and as long as he had his little down vest on, even Lennart appreciated the stroll.

Frozen Waves

Frozen Waves

Captured this other-worldly scene yesterday evening not more than 200m from where these words are typed. The continued freeze has now frozen the shoreline and at some point, in the midst of shallows wave hitting the rocks, the brackish water froze in an eerily suspended animated state. Shot with the Fujifilm x100v which I am enjoying shooting with more and more.

The frozen wave immediately reminded me of Ridley Scott’s film Alien from 1979, just before the embryonic pupal, which had undergone its first metamorphosis in the belly of the alien spaceship, becomes the face-hugger creature.

This cold and relatively high humidity of Vejbystrand right now reminds me of the seasons I spent in Riksgränsen, also relatively near the North Atlantic, where Arctic temperatures and similar humidity ruled the day from the time I arrived in mid-January to at least the end of March.

ice formations

Shapes, Cracks and Shards

Who would have thought that the winter of 2021 would be so cold and snowy? With the past week’s unusually calm weather and cold temperatures, even the saltwater is freezing. Though slippery, I try to walk as close to the shoreline as possible where interesting ice formations are wating to be discovered.

Blackbird Vejbystrand

Friends with The Blackbirds

Here’s one of our Blackbirds from this morning’s seed feed sessions. Not sure which of the two males that live in the garden this is. One is super shy and the other is outgoing. I can literally invite the extrovert into the hallway or the kitchen and he’ll walk right in and give me this demanding look as if to say, Dude! Where’re My Seeds?

Blackbirds can apparently live for 16 to 20 years in the wild. That’s a respectable age for a small bird, I think. The record for the longest-lived wild bird, the Laysan Albatross, is a whopping 50 years (and some change). Which is just half of Fred, the world’s oldest cockatoo at over 100.

Am I slowly becoming a birdie?

Pasoli Wok

Papa’s Got A New Wok & The Praise of Veggies

This shot is from a Pad Thai with marinated tofu and a ton of veggies that I made the other night. While not all the ingredients were grown locally or even organic, the green stuff is winter kale, which grows fervently in the garden here in Vejbystrand.

Whenever I hear about kids that don’t like vegetables, I wonder about what their parents are doing (or, not doing) in the kitchen to create such prejudice. I can’t remember not loving vegetables. Which, considering that during most of my childhood in the US I ate sugary cereals, junk food, and nuked TV dinners, is pretty amazing. Carrots in particular are among my favorite organic chews. But as of this writing, I can’t think of a single vegetable that I don’t like.

Can there be a more versatile ingredient than vegetables? Doubt it. Clearly, the transition from a hardcore carnivore/omnivore menu to a primarily herbivore’s diet, some six years ago, wasn’t all that difficult to make for me. And I am really happy about my new hand-crafted Pasoli steel wok. Pre-fired and ready to go when it got here via Amazon. Waiting for a glass lid to arrive any day now. Read about Oli and Pascal of Pasoli here.