Münich. Home of Puma, BMW, and a bunch of other huge German conglomerates. Like in Stuttgart, everyone wears masks here too. At least in public spaces and until it’s time to eat. Germans don’t hesitate a second to give you a somewhat perturbed, reprimanding look if you don’t have a mask strapped on.
Arrived in the Bavarian capital kinda late last night after a full day of meetings in Stuttgart. No doubt that it’s “big boy business” down here. The niche, fringe, and edge-case stuff isn’t exactly frowned upon, but it’s still traditional, old school industry that rules the day here.
Traveling for a couple of hours along the busy Autobahn A8 yesterday evening, frequently passed by a slew of vehicles, most at well above 200km/h, it became perfectly clear why there are so many supercharged cars here. Makes much less sense to own an AMG GLC or a Lamborghini Urus in Sweden with its low-bar speed limitations.
Took an off-the-street taxi to a meeting today, a Mercedes S Class (6 cyl/300hp/2019) which according to the driver cost about €150k – including some extra bells and whistles. I can’t wrap my head around how much money that represents and, above all, how many passengers that taxi has to transport before getting some kind of ROI.
Last time this far south in Germany, I was in Eisenach, about 4 hours north of Stuttgart. I was there on a press event together with a few other journalists from Scandinavia to see how beautifully reunited Germany had become 20 years after the wall and fences had come tumbling down.
If memory serves me correctly, Eisenach is famous for two things; an automotive museum located adjacent to what used to be a BMW factory but was renamed EMW (Eisenacher Motorenwerk) as Eisenach was part of East Germany – and Wartburg Castle where Martin Luther (of the Protestant persuasion) was kept under house arrest and also where he translated the bible from Latin to German.
Both Wartburg Castle and the factory were interesting places to visit. But the most memorable takeaway was during the press dinner when our guide, a woman in her 60s, admitted how much she missed East Germany’s patriarch, Erich Honecker, and how the state “took care” of everything for its citizens.
I’m going to paraphrase her here, but the gist of this remarkable, wine-fueled confession was this:
“You know, we never had to worry about anything…where to live, where to study, what kind of work we would do, the food we could buy…it was the same for everyone. Now it’s chaos…capitalist chaos…”
Currently in Germany for meetings in Stuttgart and Münich. First time I’ve left Sweden in over 7 months. It’s possibly been 25 years since the last time I stayed domestic for that long.
Mandatory mask on from the moment we traversed the Danish side of the Öresund Bridge, throughout the airport, the SAS lounge, on the aircraft, at the airport in Stuttgart and everywhere but my room at the hotel. My N95 mask fits relatively comfortably over my face. Not being able to read facial expressions other than by looking at people’s eyes and eyebrows is certainly interesting.
Kastrup was far from empty, but most shops, cafés, and restaurants were closed. It felt like having a middle-of-the-night departure time – but during a sunny afternoon. Weird.
Here in Germany, I’ll be staying at an American owned hotel where, unlike most hotels in the US, a spectacular breakfast buffet is included in the room rate (a rate which is roughly half of what it would have been if the hotel was located in the States).
Over the years, I’ve been spoiled rotten by lavish hotel breakfasts in Asia and, to a slightly lesser degree, here in Europe. But today, for the very first time ever, they offered fresh pretzels over at the bread corner. A pretzel is a pretty good substitute for a bagel. Back to work now.
Above is a piece I’ve been working on for a while. I’ve lost count how many different walls it consists of. It may or may not make it to the exhibit I’ve been invited to in a couple of weeks, but it’s definitely a finalist.
I really love being so busy as I am right now and looking forward to a short trip to a not-so-foreign land soon. I feel a little anxious about international travel. I’ve got a couple of n95 certified masks and as much liquid antiseptic fluid as I’m allowed to carry onboard.
Like the next guy, I can totally dig partaking in a good discussion. Discussions can often be an excellent platform for testing out arguments, venting thoughts, and learning what “the other side” thinks and has opinions about. Recently, I got into an acidic discussion with an old friend. I was fuming about something and needed to get it off my chest when I posted some angry commentary. Unsurprisingly, this pal answered me with a sledgehammer of contrarian views and belittling comments he felt compelled to share. Probably because my views were within his wheelhouse (or fishbowl).
Historically, my rhetorically gifted friend has often allowed his sharp intellect and an other-worldly ability to recall (and tirelessly recite) memories in ludicrous detail, (coupled with relentless, wide-ranging nerdiness) take a front seat socially. For as long as we’ve been friends, he’s been infamous for being a know-it-all, a behavior I feel a lot of common acquaintances would agree, albeit anonymously, can be a bit taxing. In moderation, socializing with him can nonetheless be a pleasant experience. Our discussion turned ridiculously ironic when he claimed that it was me, not him, that had a history of being a wisenheimer. Not that I can’t be incredibly stubborn about my opinions. But I never forget that they are just that, opinions.
To some people, being anything but right, regardless really of whether or not they’ve identified that there might just be different takes, opinions, and perspectives, or, god forbid, that they’re just plain wrong, is a seemingly absurd concept. It’s as if their lives depended on being right. Or, their fathers. It’s a trait of Donald Trump and exactly how he’s created the abysmal divide. Put in other words, it’s bullying.
One would think that at our ripe old age, despite being a know-it-all, my friend would have had grasped that discussions aren’t necessarily clear-cut right or wrong. Regardless of the topic, really, a discussion is a debate, a challenge, a contest of hopefully thoughtful, unemotional arguments – as opposed to thoughtless, unbecoming, belligerent speak.
I realize I really shouldn’t be that surprised about how this ended…and I guess I was just plain naive for continuing the discussion when it had gone down such a negative path early on. And I was certainly way too spontaneous and emotional in my opening statements. Live and learn.
Every once in a while, I cross paths with a website that gets me all fired up – in a good way – and I end up getting totally hooked for a time. This is the case with Poolside FM, a relatively new place on the Internet where great music and 1980s design aesthetics converge in a wonderfully cooky way. So well done. I never ever thought I’d look back at the 80s and feel some kind of weird nostalgia. After all, it was mostly a decade chock full of pastels, mullets, and, rarely memorable music! Poolside FM is available on iOS as well.
I couldn’t find any other poolside photo, so my shot of former pro swimmer Rebecca will have to do.
I took this photo on the shores of Mono Lake in Central California, as the bird flies, not too far from the Nevada state line. I was there with fellow photographer David Pahmp. We were heading to Bodie and stopped by the lake real quick to take a few early evening shots. As soon as we pulled back on to the highway again, a patrol car pulled us over for speeding. But just when the stocky highway patrolman was about to give us a well-deserved, triple-digit fine, he got a call on the radio and had leave us pronto with only a gentle slap on the wrist. He seemed like a decent fellow and after the verbal reprimand, wished us a safe journey onwards.
America is full of people like that. Decent folks with reasonably sound values and good attitudes. Unlike the president…
From David Frum of The Atlantic:
One of the most striking things about Trump is how seldom, if ever, anybody tells a story of kindness and compassion about him. Not even his own children have much to say. […] Few former employees of the Trump administration praise him as a boss. Few business partners speak of his honesty. Few tenants of Trump buildings have anything good to say about the homes he supposedly built. Few officials of any city have been willing to celebrate any contribution to urban life. Few beneficiaries of any Trump philanthropy.
Imagine a man who has lived in the public eye for half a century, supposedly one of the country’s leading business figures, and when in trouble he struggles to summon credible or trustworthy witnesses from outside the Fox Cinematic Universe. There’s just a gaping zero where goodness should be.
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From the other night here in rural Sweden where things seem peacefully timeless – at least until you go online.
Generally speaking, I’m an optimistic dude. I literally wake up most mornings and have at least one fun or interesting thing to look forward to. Today, it was first practicing yoga, then making a tasty breakfast for Charlotte, and finally, working on a super-snazzy presentation for a client.
I’m taking a break from that right now. Got to get some thoughts out of my head.
I still read a lot. Mostly news from liberal outlets like the Washington Posts, New York Times, The Atlantic, Chicago Tribune, and, of course, The L.A. Times. I dig into Swedish news as well, but honestly, it just reads so incredibly trivial – pebbles thrown in a tiny pond of political indulgence. At least when compared to all the really important issues the rest of the world is going through now. Obvious biases aside, I still feel I have a pretty good objective sense of key ongoings.
I continue to worry about the state of the US and what could be a potentially devastatingly chaotic, disastrous autumn. Living in this part of the world (EU) feels a whole lot safer, more secure – but also uneventful. I have family in California and Alaska, so that gives me a little anxiety. What if things get really bad? Lawless, even.
The rioting and protests aside, the socio-political upheavals have so far been mostly sensationalized by the media but trivial in the grand scheme of things. But what if there’s a dramatic escalation as we near November? What if Trump double downs on the confusion and deploys more military troupes, declares Marshall Law and does his best to fan the fires so the pandemonium spirals, spreads, and blankets the entire nation prior, during, and after the election?
The United States is going through so much turbulence right now. It’s mindboggling. I watched this really well-made documentary about Fascism in Europe the other day and was taken aback by how many parallels there were between the 1920s-30s in Italy and Germany and how things are right now. Trump isn’t smart enough to fully emulate the strategies of Mussolini and Hilter. But he does surround himself with a gang of ruthless thugs that could – and they are already in control of the narrative on Twitter and Fox News. Amazing that we forget how to recognize the signature elements of dictators. It’s like we all suffer from collective amnesia or dementia.
Maybe it’s time for a total reset. Maybe the fall will be so chaotic, so violent and disruptive, that good thing will come from it all once the dust has cleared.
Finally, a reminder of a few things that I think needs immediate fixing.
I learned of what is referred to as “The Chickenization of America” the other day. Not that I wasn’t aware of how monopolism, in general, is slowly but surely eating away and destroying democracy around the world. I just hadn’t heard it framed and phrased that way before. Just like at the beginning of the last century, a few key actors, huge, publicly-traded conglomerates, focused entirely on domination and increasing profits at any cost, are pulling all the strings today. Forbes has an excellent piece that points this out incontrovertibly. And since America has this problem, I can’t see how not breaking up the monopolies wouldn’t spread the wealth and revive competition!
Lobbying and Political Finances
The amount of money in US politics is another issue that needs to be fixed pronto. I think you have to either be cretinous or just plain ignorant not to see how American politicians are bought and sold left and right. Someone recently suggested that the American public should hire a lobbying firm to represent them in Congress. A brilliant idea, however sad it is. Shorten political term limits are also high on my list of ways to improve sound political activism in the US. To put it bluntly, Americans are too fat, physically, and mentally to understand how their democratic system is being dismantled and sold piece by piece by piece. Just the fact that their needs to be lobbyists should be a clear warning that the system is fucked.
Universal Healthcare is such a no-brainer that I don’t get how anybody could question it. How to finance this? Easy. Just reduce 10% of the Pentagon’s budget. Take another 5% and you could have a free college education for everyone. The Guardian has written an interesting article about this could save trillions. On the other hand, Americans would probably not need full universal healthcare if they just started eating and living healthier.
Ok, back to work.
Back in the village after a day in Lund where I discovered this wonderful resurfaced piece somewhere on an otherwise bland side street in the city’s historic district. More from my Resurfaced series can be enjoyed here.
I have more than enough photos of cows munching grass and simply calling out to them on the meadow hasn’t helped grab their attention at all. So, I devised a slightly different strategy, realizing that I had to befriend them somehow. Cows might not be the animal kingdom’s smartest mammal, but they surely know that I don’t belong to their tribe.
A month or so ago, I came up with an idea. I played a string of sound effects of cows mooing and calling out through my iPhone’s tiny speakers. Low and behold, the whole crew would not only look up from their grass munching, but a few of the boldest ones would also walk towards me, possibly thinking that in fact, I was one of them after all – just a little different. My strategy is the same as what some birdies do when they use a whistle or hunters when they employ horny moose calls. And with a few slices of apple with me, I literally have the cows in Vejbystrand eating out of my hand.
When I moved into this little cabin back in February, it was a mess. Unfinished walls and packed from floor to ceiling with all kinds of stuff n’ junk. Most of the cabin’s contents went to our local charity and whatever was left has been archived in boxes and stored away.
After giving the place a coat of paint, new furniture, wall decor, and both elephant grass and giant bamboo, my little summer studio has been a great place to work. At least until the late afternoon when the sun is out and pointed straight at my front window and the place gets sauna hot. On these rare afternoons, I’m usually ready to quit anyway, so no harm is done.
We’ll be heading back to Malmö in a while and I’m looking forward to enjoying additional indoor space – especially now that autumn is almost upon us. Still, I can see how I’ll be back here later in the fall to work on my new book of short stories.
Back in Vejbystrand again where the days are slowly getting shorter and the nights seem darker, somehow.
It’s only a matter of time now before fall is upon us with shifting colors, cooler winds and less gardening. I hand-mowed the giant lawn here this afternoon and finished just minutes before it started pouring.
The cows are still here. Don’t know for how long, though. Will we ever see them again? Sadly, the next time might be in the meat section at our local supermarket.
I have an art show in Malmö in less than a month. Thinking of showings some of my most amusing “cowtraits”. Like the one above.
I never understood how Microsoft became so successful. I mean, I get how their licensing business model was genius and that preinstalling their OS on every PC soon made it ubiquitous.
What was harder to comprehend was how so many people in offices all over the world ever got anything done on those trashy machines filled with bloated, buggy, and butt-ugly software.
At some point, during my years working for various ad agencies in different roles, I had to work on Windows PCs to ensure that the multimedia projects I was working on were cross-platform. It was an interesting but not a very creatively fulfilling process.
As Steve Jobs once said, Microsoft doesn’t have to lose in order for Apple to win. Today, “the fruit company” is thriving and Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, is thankfully using a big chunk of the fortune he made from Windows 95 (and later iterations of it) for charitable projects all over the world.
Sadly, sometimes, standardization has nothing to do with whether or not a product or service is best-in-class. A Windows-based PC has and never will be as easy to use as a Mac. The gap isn’t as wide as it once was, but there’s still a level of clunkiness to a PC that will likely never go away. And I still think Microsoft makes an aesthetically repugnant, unintuitive operating system that distracts from my creative process. Just look at the above commercial (which was likely created on a Mac…).
So, no, I don’t think there’s any reason to celebrate the launch of Window’s 95 some 25 years ago. Especially since much of Microsoft’s then-new operating system’s interface was blatantly ripped off from Apple’s macOS. Then again, Steve Jobs “stole” much of Mac’s interface from Xerox when he visited Parc, one of the photocopier company’s research labs.
I haven’t counted all the Apple computers I’ve owned over the years. Could be about 20 by now. I’m writing this on a relatively new Macbook Pro 16″ and I plan to upgrade my iMac later in the year. Back in 1998, when I bought my very first workstation, a top-of-the-line Apple Macintosh 8600, I felt a little worried that the then-struggling Apple might go actually go bankrupt. Around this time, Microsoft made a substantial investment in the company which sent a message, a vote of confidence that seemed to resonate well with Apple consumers like me. Today, Apple is among the most profitable companies in the world. So I no longer hesitate about buying into their walled-garden ecosystem. And their computers and the operating system still enables me to pursue my creative ambitions. Which is fundamentally why I continue working on them. Macs are enabling. Facilitators. Tools.
Back in Malmö for a stint. Found a place with a great view. A vantage point I’ve not been privy to before. Strangely, it feels good to be back here. Meet with friends, eat from a wider selection, and just have more options. After six months as a country boy, I kinda miss city life.
The mental health of a rabid Trump supporter and the cultish way said support is displayed, has never been made clearer to me than after watching this speech with Kimberly Guilfoyle. She’s really scary – on so many levels! It’s’ what happens when a verbally gifted redneck, a contradiction in itself, is given the spotlight and allowed to spew – in full regalia – absurd and offensive 0bscenities unabashedly.
If I hadn’t known better, I would have guessed Mrs. Guilfoyle was instead a comedian performing a satirical sketch of a hardcore Trumpian on Saturday Night Live – not at the Republican National Convention. It’s that cooky. And scary.
Like I’ve said before, the fall’s presidential race is going to incredibly interesting. Hopefully, it won’t be a race to the bottom for a country already in dire straits.
From today’s film shoot at among other locations, Långa Bryggan (the long pier) in Bjärred, Sweden. I’ve been hired to film a trailer for a Master Class (of sorts) themed around a business case and told through the lens of a seasoned CEO who’s been through hell and high water during his decade long tenure.
Behind me in this shot is a restaurant where we both ate a tremendously tasty lunch. If you’re not starved before arriving, the 500m trek along the pier could help muster a bit of hunger. I ate the above Asian Shrimp Salad.
Yesterday, I was offered a boat ride but since the seas were high, I declined. Instead, I stood firmly on the cement pier in the morning and captured a few exciting moments from the Swedish Championship in the 505 class sailboats that are competing in the waters just off the coast here in Vejbystrand. All footage shot with the XT3 set to 4k, 59fps, and 200Mb/s. That generates a ton of data, but on the other hand, it provides me with a ton of flexibility in post-production. I practice, the amount of information each frame contains, allows me to zoom in to about 200% without much loss in quality or the final render being pixelated.
From a 10-day press trip that took me all around Guatemala. This shot is from Lake Atitlan up in the hills in the southwest of the country. Beautiful region. Surrounding by majestic volcanoes, Lake Atitlan has several ancient villages populated with Native American Indian tribes. Poor, but not destitute and rich in colorful, flavorful culture.
Here’s a version of my simple, unquestionably delectable egg salad sandwich. I’ve been eating some version of this recipe off and on since I was a knee-high. In the US, the egg salad sandwich is inducted in the Sandwich Hall of Fame, right up there with the Peanut Butter & Jelly and the Baloney & Mayo (or, Mustard, or both) sandwiches.
Today, my most basic version is created with all organic ingredients; boiled eggs, mayo, chopped onions, salt, black pepper, and a gentle squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Add a dash of wasabi, a sprinkle of cumin, or, a pinch of chili flakes to your likin’. Just don’t mix all the ingredients together too fast or the concoction will end up being way too smooth. Add some chopped cabbage if you like. Cabbabe gives any sandwich a little extra crunch. And who in their right mind can resist biting into a little extra crunch once in a while?