Bamboo Fores in Kyoto

Listen to Tom Hanks

It’s perfectly clear that in order for him to put Americans through another four years of crazy-ass, un-governing fueled by erratic populism, Trump has to recoup at least some of last year’s financial momentum and reduce the massive post-shutdown joblessness. So, like a mobster, a likeness I think he would be perfectly comfortable with, the douche-in-chief is putting the squeeze states, cities, schools, and businesses all the while ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence how bad it already is and how easily it could get much, much worse. Clearly, his MO is to rely heavily on statistics that show how most people that catch the virus survive it without (at least as far as we know) long-term consequences. As usual, Trump’s rolling the dice. But make no mistake, behind the scenes, he’s simultaneously making sure he has a barrage of scapegoats and fall-guys when his gamble fails. The Hammer and the Dance theory has proved frighteningly accurate, however hard Trump tries to ignore it:

Tomas Pueyo is the author of the “The Hammer and the Dance” — an explainer article on “Medium” that has been viewed millions of times since it was posted in March and translated into dozens of languages. He has famously dubbed the period of lockdown to squelch the disease as “the hammer” and the subsequent period of living with it as “the dance.”

I read the New York Times religiously. It’s biased, I know, I know. But I still think the paper’s journalists are doing a Nobel Prize-worthy job sifting through and compiling numbers provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Here’s news on the seriousness of the situation in some of the southern states along the sunbelt.

As President Trump continued pressing for a broader reopening of the United States, the country set another record for new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with more than 59,000 infections announced and some states’ final numbers still unreported, according to a New York Times database. It was the fifth national record set in nine days. The previous record, 56,567, was reported on Friday.

Tom Hanks has a new WWII movie out called Greyhound. I listened to Conan O’brien’s interview with him yesterday while manually mowing our giant lawn. Tom and his wife Rita were possibly the first celebs to catch COVID-19 and here’s what he has to say about not taking the pandemic seriously.

Although the screen icon believes the “vast majority of Americans” understand the importance of protecting themselves and others from COVID-19, he didn’t mince words when laying out the dangers some have chosen to ignore.

“Look, there’s no law against ignorance. It’s not illegal to have opinions that are wrong,” Hanks said. “But there is a darkness on the edge of town here folks, and … let’s not confuse the fact: It’s killing people. … Yeah, that’s right. It’s killing people.

The shot above is from a sacred bamboo forest on the outskirts of Kyoto, Japan.


Bar Italia’s Gelato Factory

From last month’s shoot at Bar Italia’s boutique gelato factory in Svedala. Yes, I got to taste pretty much every flavor.


Nösund Havshotell Kitchen Short

From last week’s “working holiday” at Nösund Havshotell on the island of Orust along Sweden’s beautiful west coast. It’s the third time I’ve been to Nösund – but first time working with model Felicia Kallberg and the kitchen crew.

Lennart's Sunday Morning Kiss

Lennart’s Sunday Morning Kiss
Days of a typical week seem to merge into one abstract passage of time. Slept 10 uninterrupted hours last night. Made toast with a thick layer of crunchy, organic peanut butter topped with thin slices of banana wheels.  Vietnamese coffee. Rain. Wind. Lennart’s morning kiss. Things could be worse.
Photo Credit: Charlotte Raboff
Fourth of July Toopah Station

Fourth of July

Today, the fourth of July is an apt occasion to express more of my mixed feelings about the United States. These passive-aggressive emotions are not exactly subsiding, either. On the one hand, I still love taking part in the country’s cultural and geographical multitudinous. As far as I’ve experienced, only India and China can muster nearly as much width and breadth. On the other hand, I loathe that so little effort is put into addressing many of the nation’s most pertinent societal problems.

The chronic incapability (or, unwillingness) to change and evolve is both sad and pathetic. 

There is plenty of evidence to support the theory that “The American Empire” is coming to an end after a relatively long and at least partially successful run. It’s probably time for China and what could possibly be a very slippery slope downhill for democracy as we know it. I don’t think the dispassionate Chinese leaders are focused on political conversion or force-feeding their flavor of communism to the rest of the world. No, it’s time again for some classic colonialism; securing financially significant (and potential military) outposts around the world at any cost and any means. Much like the US has been busy doing for about 100 years or so. Same game, different player.

There’s no doubt that there’s been a great deal of impactful and historically noteworthy milestones for the US to celebrate along its bumpy timeline. But I don’t think the country’s version of capitalism has scaled very well. The population has grown way beyond what the system was originally designed to manage sustainably. It’s not yet completely defunct, but clearly not firing on all cylinders any longer.

Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I still think the EU has achieved much more cohesiveness within the union and helped several member nations begin evolving out of poverty in less time than the combined tenure of the last three US presidents. PM Boris has been inspired/hypnotized by the current populist movement sweeping acrosst the world and only time will tell how the UK fares without the EU and vice-versa.

Today, much of the US fabric I grew up under is slowly unraveling. If you can’t see it, nevermind accept it, you probably also feel a dose of indignation when anything critical about the US is brought to your attention. Or, you can’t see beyond political boundaries and subscribe to the notion that all that is wrong is the other party’s fault. But even so, there’s no denying that there are way too many disenfranchised Americans who will ever see their lives improve in any measurable way – and far too many well-to-do folks perfectly fine with the others dire outlook. They don’t see how or why it’s their problem. Which is a very scary attitude and one that Trump constantly propogates.

Words like solidarity, humanism, and compassion have effectively been deleted from much of the American lexicon. Increasingly, flag-waving, gun-totting patriotism has become the norm and a way of life for tens of millions of Americans. If you’re not part of that movement, you’re pretty much defined as a communist or even a potential terrorist.

It makes me sick to think about how un-nuanced and divisive the public discourse is nowadays. That the intellect of so many has over time been collectively inculcated by the oversimplification of complex societal challenges, including police brutality, economic injustice, racism, and political divisiveness is frightening. These still unaddressed challenges have proved to be similar to viruses – but much, much harder to beat than say, COVID-19.

I think most Trump supporters are simply tired of having to think independently. In a land perversely obsessed with being entertained and saturating life with all forms of consumption, it’s obviously much easier to just fall in line, put on a MAGA hat, wave the Stars and Stripes frantically and yell aggressive slogans until it’s time to go home and turn on Fox News for the latest serving of propaganda.

The fall will undoubtedly be interesting. Like most sensible people, I’m hoping DJT gets voted out of office. Should you sign a confession stating you admit to being a degenerate if you think he should stay put for another term? Yeah. Definitely.

Pretty sure Joe Biden isn’t really up for the task. Jeez, the dude’s going to be 80 before his first term is over. But as long as his running mate is at least a little younger (and considerably more coherent), I’m ok with anybody that replaces the sitting regime’s unbridled, relentless kleptocrat.

Man, I still can’t wrap my head around how so many people voted and will continue to vote for Trump. Then again, in 1932, close to 14 million Germans voted for the Nazi Party. It’s clear to me that it isn’t beyond Trump to use similar propagandistic tactics to ensure his reelection in November. I believe he’s even capable of starting a war just to distract the nation and secure a new term.

Speaking of the man with short, stubby fingers, I got a letter from the White House yesterday. It had fallen face down and the envelope’s whiteness almost camouflaged it against the bottom of the mailbox. Dated May 1st, it contained information related to a $1200 check that I was supposed to have already received but that has yet to show up. With the headline “Your Economic Payment Impact Check Has Arrived”, the letter kicked off a harangue of propagandistic platitudes I don’t want to waste space repeating here. The gist of it was likely taken from the first few pages of the “Authoritarian’s Handbook”.

Though $1200 would certainly be most welcome, I don’t understand why I received the letter in the first place. I’ve not resided in the US permanently since 1978 and thanks to the double taxation agreement between Sweden and the US (and because I’m way under the income threshold where double taxation is unavoidable), I don’t pay income tax to the Internal Revenue Service – I only have to file an income return form. Like most Swedes, I already pay way too much tax to the Swedish government. Way too much.

So today’s questions are:
• how can I possibly be eligible for the Economic Payment Impact Check?
• Is it really just by virtue of being a US citizen?
• How did the White House find me? Through the US Embassy in Stockholm?
• Is the check an ill-hidden attempt to get me to use my right to vote and pick Trump this fall?

History’s packed with politicians paying money for votes. Would it be beneath Trump to try something like this? I realize that the bill preceding the check was passed with bipartisan support and probably helped millions of Americans for a week, possibly two. But what about afterward? In a country with a fragmented, largely dysfunctional healthcare system and where the cost of living, at least in major cities, makes it challenging to survive even under normal circumstances, how effectively did $1200 cushion people’s lives?

I’m pretty sure the check serves multiple purposes. It shows that Trump could actually get a bipartisan bill passed in a timely fashion. The check is also yet another example of Trump’s use of misdirection. It temporarily veiled the media’s investigation of how late the White House responded to clear indications about the spread of the virus and the president’s well-documented downplaying of its impact.

As a child, I looked forward to celebrating the fourth of July. The picnics, all the flags and if I was at West Hollywood Park with its nearby fire station, there might even be fireworks galore. But I don’t think I really understood what we were celebrating. In a nation made up of both voluntary and forced immigrants from all over the world, the connection to the revolutionary war against the English some 200 years earlier, the unification of a string of loosely connected colonies and their independence from Great Britain, probably seemed as old as the dinosaurs to the younger me. My friends came from all kinds of exotic countries, so I suppose I just couldn’t relate to the historic symbolism the fourth of July represented. Today, I feel a little disgusted and worried whenever I see people expressing patriotism, regardless of country. I get that it can be innocent and harmless. But still…

I think the nostalgic, glorified fixation of its own history is a crucial part of what’s holding America back from taking charge of its future. That and a shitload of people that hate change.

The shot is from a junkyard exhibit of some kind in Tonopah Station in Nevada – straight across the border from Yosemite National Park in California.

Storm Horse Vejbystrand

Back in Vejby Baby

Feels good to be back in Vejbystrand. Especially now when we are alone again. The consequences of precautionary safety measures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic made living together (multi-generationally) increasingly challenging.

Now that Charlotte’s parents generously retreated back to Göteborg, the serene calmness I’ve always associated with being here on our own has once again returned. We already have plenty of demands on our shoulders. Not having to compromise with our time and space makes carrying them a little less laborious.

I’ll be busy for most of the next few days with all the film and stills I’ve brought with me from the near weeklong “island-hopping” along Sweden’s west coast archipelago.

Above: “Storm Horse” captured a few summers ago on the meadow.

Göteborg

Back in Göteborg

After about a week on Sweden’s marvelous west coast, I’m now in Göteborg. Very short visit this time around. Checked into a cheap but neat and clean hotel yesterday evening, had a tasty and fun Tex-Mex dinner with daughter Elle near the hotel in Vasastan, and went to bed fairly early to re-watch The Interpreter with Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman. It’s one of Sidney Pollack’s best films and takes largely place in the UN building in New York where I had a gig a few years ago.

Heading back to Skåne with Charlotte and Lennart later today. Shot the above image of Poseidon during last year’s visit.

Fredrik-Kökschef Nosund Havshotel

Fredrik Head Chef at Nösund Havshotell

For two years back in the 1980s, I worked as a hot and cold chef in a restaurant in Göteborg. I enjoyed it and learned a lot. The restaurant was part of a large jazz club and didn’t have any ambitions whatsoever with what they offered guests. But I soaked up whatever I could from coworkers with more experience than I had (everybody) and learned a lot about basic cooking there. After a while, I knew enough to start getting creative within the boundaries of the kitchen’s recipes and that’s when my interest in cooking really took off.

If I also count the sweaty year before the aforementioned jazz club gig, which I spent as a short-order cook flipping fatty burgers, frying frozen schnitzels and serving them with drippy fries, I’d say I’ve got a reasonably good idea about what working in a kitchen is like.

As far as I can tell, kitchen life hasn’t changed much since I last put on an apron. The stress, the heat, the burns, the cuts – they’re all still there, regardless of where in the world you take a peek inside a busy kitchen.

Whenever I’ve got a gig shooting food for a restaurant, I also take note of the camaraderie and the kitchen staff’s ability – and willingness – to work together in an often ridiculously small space and produce an abundance of meals in an unreasonably short time frame.

I’ve just spent a couple of days being reminded of this here at Nösund Havshotell while filming and shooting stills for the hotel’s marketing team.

Shot the above during today’s lunch service with supremely dedicated Head Chef Fredrik and his camera-shy colleague Chef Birgitta.

Nösund Havshotell

Back at Nösund Havshotell

After a weekend of intense albeit distanced socializing and catching up with the old crew from yesteryear on the island of Hönö, outside of Göteborg, I’m now further north along the coast in Nösund, the seaside hotel – run by Lars J Olemyr – on the island of Orust.

The weather’s been a bit shaky since I got to Nösund Havshotell – with several heavy rain showers passing overhead. How much of this evening’s scheduled shoot I’ll be able to do outdoors is as of right now very uncertain.

Regardless of the weather, the calmness here is soothing and when not filming at the hotel and its gorgeous surroundings, I’m spending most of my time alone, catching up with myself.


Boat Trip with My af Hälsö

Here’s a few selected scenes from yesterday’s amazing boat trip along the coast with Captain Jakob, Lars Olemyr, Tommy Sahlin, Jonas Bratt, Joakim Eklund, and I. While Skåne’s coastline is certainly beautiful, I’ve missed this part of Sweden since leaving Göteborg back in 1997.

Morgondopp på Hönö

Morning Swim at Hönö

Dragged Lars Johan Olemyr, one of my oldest friends, out of his bed this morning to join me for a morning swim in the ocean. After whisking away a tiny red jellyfish, we both eased ourselves into the mirror-like surface, adjusted to the nippy temperature (19C/66F) and then enjoyed one the best morning swims ever with thick seaweed under our feet.

Hönö Island

On the island of Hönö in Sweden’s gorgeous west coast archipelago again. In my youth, I did quite a bit of sailing along this amazing coast. Got in yesterday afternoon. The weather is as wonderful as last time. As of Midsummer, we’re slowly heading back into the darker side of the year. But for now, summer evenings like last night – pictured above – are so beautiful and precious, you never want to go to bed.

Lollo and Bernie

Lollo & Bernie at Quality Hotel View

From yesterday’s shoot at Quality Hotel View in Hyllie/Malmö when the popular couple Lollo and Bernie checked into the hotel. Here with General Manager Jenny Benestam. Did I hear someone say I have a diverse job? More photos from the assignment here.

Italian gelato from Bar Italia

Bar Italia’s Artisan Gelato

I was increasingly yearning for ice cream yesterday while editing the latest shoot for Bar Italia and their handcrafted, artisan gelato. But since no reasonably good ice cream could be found here in Hyllie (just outside of Malmö), I opted for a bag of popcorn instead.

In addition to an uncompromising position when it comes to the quality of their products ingredients, which I can corroborate is best-in-class from filming the process in the factory a couple of weeks ago, the main difference between mainstream ice cream and Italian gelato is that the former’s base is made from air-filled cream while the latter is created from pure milk.

Bar Italia’s gelato base is made with organic milk from Skåne – which not only makes for a more dense eating experience (there’s comparatively very little air in milk), the creaminess in ice cream also tends to “steal” some of the oomph from the flavorings.

I’ve tasted most of the variants seen above and they were all heavenly sumptuous.


Soft Artisan Gelato

Created this advertisement the other week for Bar Italia and their artisan soft gelato (pistachio flavor). Apparently, it’s generating quite a bit of viewership on both Facebook and Instagram.


Exclusive Wine Tasting at Vejby Vingård (Winery)

I’ve been working on this assignment for a while now and delivered the final edit yesterday to loud cheers from the client, Vigneron Jeppe Appelin at Vejbystrand’s beautiful winery, Vejby Vingård.

As per usual, it was a shoot with all kinds of lighting conditions; morning, midday, and late afternoon sunlight. Most of the closeup scenes (on the ground) were shot with the Fujinon 56mm f1.2, a lens I just can’t get enough of. Indoors, the Fujinon XF 10-24 f4 proved to be the most useful, at least when I cranked up the ISO to 800.

The Mavic’s tiny drone sensor is still after two years impressing me and the aerial shots are by far the most spectacular of this project.

black hole blues

Black Hole Blues

This post is inside baseball for the unitiated and will only be fully appreciated by those that know me well.

I’m usually good at focusing on something interesting about people I socialize with. And I enjoy seeking out a bridge, a common thread, some shared experiences – be it leisure or professional – with just about everyone I meet. At my age, it’s not too difficult to identify commonalities with folks I interact with and I’ll build our short or long relationship from there. While some might call this social engineering, and, to a degree, at least occupationally speaking, it is, but being professionally friendly and a “smooth operator” is in my opinion part of the gig in almost every kind of business, including mine.

Even if I prefer the creative process over the formal and financial aspects of being a freelance artist, there is just no denying that putting on a smile and a little obsequious behavior will often lead to something beneficial – for all involved. It’s the lubrication that keeps the machine wheels turning and essentially what being human is all about. Everyone wants something.

Conversely, when I have to interact intensely – over long periods of time – together with people that I have zero in common with or what we do share is no longer able to bridge the wide gaps between us, I get easily bored and ultimately, irritated and frustrated.

With folks that I have so little in common with – people so superficial and lacking depth or substance, I end up feeling like I’m being sucked into an event horizon and eventually their soulless, eternal black hole of nothingness – a place so empty, every breath feels like it could be the last. After a while, my cortisol levels seem to shoot through my veins like fiery lava, causing stress and anxiety. These interactions inevitably break the creative spell which will soon put me in a fight or flight mode. And as we are living in this singularly peculiar times, neither of those choices is very simple to make. But, as so aptly put in The Big Lebowski; the Dude abides. I’m on top of it, figuring out my next moves. Literally and figuratively.

Not sure where I discovered this wall. It’s definitely going to be part of my Resurfaced series. I call it “Black Hole Blues”.

Midsummer

Happy Midsummer

Happy Midsummer Everybody! Here in Sweden, Midsummer is the start of the summer and for a lot of folks, yet another Swedish holiday where we to get together, eat herring, fresh potatoes, and perhaps a chilled schnapps or two. This year, there’s no dancing around the Midsummer pole like above (from Styrsjö where we were with the recently COVID-19 deceased friend Lars Fransson, Åsa, and Lars Olemyr) and social distancing will be certainly be upheld as a few of our close friends celebrate this ancient holiday with us.

LBJ vs DJT

LBJ vs DJT

A friend sent this link yesterday. It led to an article about LBJ the initials for Lyndon B. Johnson, the southerner that took over after the JFK’s assignation in Dallas.

I highly recommend reading the piece as it shines a bright light on the lesser known, shadowy side of the 36th president. Though mostly remembered for his progressive civil rights agenda, LBJ also widened and deepened US involvement in the Vietnam war. And, according to the article, it turns out Lyndon was pretty much a chauvinistic bigot whom once he became president, had no problem sharing his less politically correct thoughts and ideas along with bodily functions (and fluids) with his staff.

I’m sure several of Trump’s closest underlings will be writing books about working under his presidency and that a plethora of more or less interesting idiosyncrasies will be disclosed. But while LBJ was arguably a bit of a hillbilly, he was certainly no numbskull. And unlike Trump, his legacy will largely be one that pushed the envelope and nudged American society forward.

home grown veggies

Home Grown

Here’s what tonight’s harvest looked like from green box to salad bowl. Crunchy fresh and organically grown – from seed to the earth it grew in. Nothing beats a salad made from your own veggies.