This is my Google review from Thursday’s pre-birthday dinner in Göteborg for old buddy Lars Olemyr’s upcoming 60th birthday.
Even though Tavolo is probably one of Gothenburg’s largest restaurants, the atmosphere is nevertheless remarkably informal and cozy. Much thanks to how beautifully lit and thoughtfully decorated the enormous dining hall is. In a previous life, the space where Tavolo resides today was a stable. Whether the ginormous white horse head is a tribute to that epoch, or, to Coppola’s cinematic triumph “The Godfather”, is up to you to decide. Regardless, there’s no denying that it’s quite spectacular.
There was certainly no shortage of ambient noise during our meal, in addition to the curated music played over the restaurant’s sound system. Yet we never experienced it being too difficult to achieve a normal dinner conversation between our table’s six guests. Portions were generous, and our orders were nicely presented and promptly served.
Given a choice, I would likely pick a different venue if I wanted a quieter, more intimate, romantic dinner. That said, Tavolo certainly offers a memorable dining experience for a group of friends, colleagues, and families. Last but not least, I must mention that the bartender on duty created a most elegant Manhattan! In my humble opinion, Tavolo is highly recommendable.
From Bangkok to Göteborg is quite the distance. Charlotte and I are here in our old hometown to promote her dog friendly hotel site www.hundvanligahotell.se My assignment is to capture footage of some of the 9000 visiting dogs from the show floor for a reel. This is a frame grab from earlier today of an irresistibly cute American Sheepdog.
Yesterday was emotional on many levels. Elle came over for dinner and she and I talked about her late uncle and godfather Tyko and how her generation is less stigmatizing about mental health.
I feel fortunate and privileged to be surrounded by people that care about me. Many reached out to me yesterday and shared their thoughts about my post. For decades, art and my creative process have helped me therapeutically to avoid falling too deep into an emotional abyss. It’s a godsend, really. Obviously, love is part of that “lifejacket” as is humor.
The Resurfaced piece above is as good a representation of my life as any. Flaky, curly, verklempt but still standing.
There are however several clues as to what led up to his suicide. Tyko had long struggled to find his way in life and how to deal with the overwhelming emotions he had. In his farewell letter, he made it very clear that much of the heartache in his life stemmed from dark memories of our often volatile, dysfunctional childhood that we both narrowly yet miraculously survived.
At the time of his death, Tyko was in one of his notoriously destructive relationships and when I spoke to him for the very last time, he sounded lonely, hollow, and lost. In contrast, my life was glowing. Our daughter Elle had just turned 3 and my life was brimming with joy and love for our small family. I was so busy with this new role and a new era in my life, that I became so distracted with all the positivity, that my otherwise close relationship with Tyko suffered.
I can of course only speculate, but as delighted as I know Tyko was for me and my newly formed family, perhaps he also felt abandoned and saddened, himself unable to find a path to long-lasting happiness.
Mental health is a sensitive subject. Especially among men. But it’s something that definitely needs to be talked more openly about and without the stigma that often ensues when someone dares to share their existential thoughts and temporary loss of the very force that helps us overcome and move beyond all the hurdles life inevitably throws at us. I know that a few of my closest friends, men, and women, have sought and received help with shorter and longer periods of therapy. And I am sure that there are many more that would benefit from doing so.
I’ve seen a psychologist and though I’m not entirely convinced that the 20+ sessions helped me all that much, just being able to open up and have someone listen to my deepest, emotional thoughts and anxieties was cathartic, relieving somehow. I’m certainly no expert, but I do know that depression can manifest in a plethora of ways. Symptoms can be reflected physically, mentally, spiritually and as a nasty concoction of them all at once. Like it or not, admit it or not, depression is part of the human experience and yet so secretive and shameful to talk about. Especially here in Sweden.
Being a man, at least if you’re really in touch with yourself and not just constantly engaged in promoting the machismo persona you’ve constructed like some Dr. Frankenstein, is at times a dauntingly hard gig to pull off. Especially if you from time to time dwell too much on the past, unable to forget, forgive, or, at least move on. Tyko couldn’t and the culmination of sadness became too overwhelming, too heavy for him to carry in his heart. He drowned in a tsunami of sadness.To mark the 20th anniversary of Tyko’s passing, I created a private Facebook group dedicated to his memory. I’ve sent an invite to a few that knew Tyko. If you haven’t received one and feel that you want to take part, let me know. Peace.
Here’s my travel map for 2022. It’s significantly longer than 2021 which in turn was more extensive than 2020.
Most of these trips have been linked to the Resurfaced Art Project. But I would be disingenuous if I didn’t admit that since the pandemic tapered off, I’ve become even more addicted to new travel experiences. Which might be a reflection of my inability to find “zen” at home. But it could also be that I don’t see why I should refrain from traveling. Aside from the environmental aspect, of course.
At the beginning of the year, I told myself that there were three things that would keep me from seeking out new places or returning to familiar destinations:
1. Health issues
2. Political hindrances
3. Financial woes
All three continue to be relevant potential perils – but so far, knock on wood, none have kept me from traveling.
I’ve mostly been to destinations with a warm climate, which has definitely helped stave off arthritic pains and aches. Together with Rinvoq, the medication I’m taking right now, I’ve been more or less asymptomatic since early November.
Obviously, the political situation in the world continues to worry. But so far, the war in Europe, as idiotic and tragic as it is, is still contained and doesn’t threaten travel in the rest of the world. At least not so far. I had a dinner discussion last night with a seasoned journalist friend about the Russia-Ukraine war and neither of us could come up with a probable or possible outcome. It’s a real deadlock.
Financially, well, things could be both a lot worse and a whole lot better. I’ve learned to be a frugal traveler and with just a few exceptions, most places I’ve visited in 2022 have not been excruciatingly costly.
Where to go in 2023? Who knows. I would love to revisit rural Japan, go skiing in Bulgaria or Georgia, do some charity work in India, go on a long hike in Madeira, surf the waves of Cornwall, and finally see the icebergs in Greenland. We shall see what the new year has in store.
Take a look at some of my travel photos from the past year right here.
If you appreciate the design and architectural style of the Art Deco era a-n-d became transfixed (i.e. binge-watched) by the 1970s-themed Netflix series “The Serpent”, about conman and serial killer Charles Sobhraj, you’ll love the beautifully renovated Miami Hotel in Bangkok.
Before its makeover, Miami Hotel was used as a backdrop for several crucial plot scenes in “The Serpent”. Short of visiting the historic hotel district on Collins Avenue in Miami, this classic Bangkokian hotel will provide a great art deco fix.
Back to work after a couple of holy days. Compared to most other big cities I’ve located Resurfaced candidates in, Bangkok is still proving to have surprisingly few qualifying surfaces. Which makes it all the more interesting because it’s harder to find them. I found this one along Sukhumvit, somewhere between Soi 53 and 55 in the Thong Lo neighborhood.
Here’s an abbreviated recap of our Christmas Eve in Bangkok. Early afternoon: serendipitous stroll down Soi 42 at Weekend Market. Early evening: located “The Missing Burro” where we had drinks and a non-Christmas Christmas dinner. Late evening: popcorn and Avatar 2 at EmQuartier’s empty movie theatre. Late evening: walk back to the hotel in a surprisingly cool temperature (71F/22C). Early night: a heartfelt Christmas chat with our daughter Elle in Sweden.
In short order, I’ve seen two big-ass Rolls Royce in Bangkok. I spotted the vintage, 1970s-era model above in Ban Rak near the gem market that I pass on my way to Talat Noi. The other, more contemporary edition of the exorbitant vehicle I saw in Saladeng, just outside of our old hotel near The Commons.
Most folks know about the legendary Rolls Royce cars. But the real money stems from the British engineering company’s Trent engine family which is used to power a wide range of commercial aircraft including the Boeing 777, 787, Airbus A330, A340, A350, and A380.
Many years ago, I had a week-long film gig for a luxury hotel called Rydges in Phuket’s Bang Tao Beach. The jovial Aussie GM had me picked up early in the morning and dropped off late in the evening in the hotel’s shiny Rolls Royce. Riding alone in a wide-bodied Rolls along Phuket’s winding, palm-tree-lined coastal roads was trippy, to say the least.
This is me earlier today, just hours ago, really. It’s a rare selfie taken just before or after lunch at Sushiro, a popular Japanese fast-food restaurant chain in Bangkok. Anyway, last night I had some “manscaping” performed on my head and face, the results of which you can see above. It’s unusual for Charlotte to appreciate when I remove my goatee and stash and she sure didn’t like it this time either. My barber, Mr. Bamma or Mr Banana, I was clearly not paying attention to what he told me his name was after I’d paid the bill, did a pretty good job. He used one of those old-school, straight razors (aka cut-throat razors) for most of my head and face, but also an electric shaver for some of those hard-to-reach places. Prior to spending about an hour at the barber’s, I’d been to a shop further down the street where a kind lady in what I am guessing is her early 70s gave me both a manicure and a pedicure. Not at the same time. Though a month ago, I did experience having two ladies dedicate half an hour each to nail-shaping my 20 digits.
I’ve been experimenting with how artificial intelligence can contribute to my artistic workflow ever since Adobe introduced Neural Filters in Photoshop back in October 2020. Recently, a friend told me about AI-generated images over at Open AI and their formidable application Dall-E which in turn led me to the remarkably useful ChatGPT, a text generator that produces coherent, well-written copy from just about any topic you throw at it (sans the cesspoolian, lewd, lubricious stuff).
The prompt I used to help the AI engine create the above picture was as follows:
A photo-realistic image of dozens of dolphins taking selfies.
This technology is still in its infancy and I can’t even imagine what it will be capable of doing going forward. While some artists are verbally skeptical and even feel threatened by Artificial Intelligence, it’s not much different from how photographers once felt about Adobe Photoshop and the slew of image-editing software that followed its introduction back in 1990. I’ve been using Photoshop on a more or less daily basis since 1996. That’s more than 25 years of image manipulation on my conscious!
My personal favorite argument in favor of image editing has always been that no camera will ever be invented that can fully capture what I see with my own two lenses (eyes) and what emotions (my heart) experienced at the moment of exposure.
Not many know this, but Photoshop was originally created to manipulate digital images way, way back in 1988 by brothers Thomas and John Knoll. The two then iterated it into a full-fledged commercial application at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), the special effects company founded by director George Lucas of Star Wars fame, before eventually becoming the flagship product of Adobe Systems.
So what is Artificial Intelligence, anyway? One “official” definition:
Simulation of human intelligence by machines, especially computers that can include natural language operations, speech recognition, and machine vision.
To me, AI is an aggregation of human-generated knowledge and experience used to generate logical (or, illogical) conclusions and actions. The knowledge and experience can be derived from all kinds of science and the arts, but it can also use input from emotions.
I can see how some professions could be made redundant as AI develops and replaces knowledge workers like programmers, scientists, researchers, journalists, and maybe even musicians. Most think of it as such or realize it, but artificial intelligence is already used in many fields including:
• Manufacturing robots
• Self-driving cars
• Smart assistants
• Monitoring of social media
• Radio playlists
• Podcast ad insertion
No, I don’t see AI as a threat to visual artists. Unlike Photoshop (which is becoming increasingly intelligent), AI is another brilliant tool that can be used to envision and execute creative ideas.
So, I’m clearly embracing this new tool wholeheartedly and its arrival doesn’t mean that all my other tools are left behind or thrown out. That would be a forgone conclusion I’m not prepared to make. At least not now.
We haven’t celebrated Christmas in a traditional, Swedish or American sense since Elle was really, really young. And even back then we were often abroad somewhere during the holidays.
Elle’s working during some of the coming holiday season and as much as we miss her, it’s nice to not have to deal with the commercial side of a Swedish or, American Christmas. Not that we don’t get our fair share of carols, trees, and lights here in South East Asia. We do and then some.
It’s kinda the Emperor’s new clothes syndrome. Shopkeepers and retailers here have been convinced that what we can’t get enough of are the classic Christmas songs looped infinitely ad nauseam accompanied by an overflow of glittering ornaments and blinking lights every time we walk into a 7-Eleven, Boots, a Zara, and other multinational chain stores.
I’m sure all the Christian tourists and local Christian kids appreciate the decorations and fuss.It probably serves as a constant visual and audible reminder to their parents lest they forget that gifts are just as welcome while they’re in this part of the world as when they celebrate Christmas back home.
We had dinner tonight at a roadside restaurant with international cuisine. We might have actually been the only non-Russian guests there. The only time I’ve seen so many young Russian families in one place was outside of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
The above image is from the hotel’s pool where the nice staff has lightly (and tastefully) added a little Christmas vibe to the beautiful seaside scenery.
We ate a delightful seafood dinner last night at Rawai Beach in Phuket. Our dinner was hosted by the always sweet and generous Sudduen family, friends that we’ve known for over 20 years.
The meal concept was new to us insofar that you buy the food you want to eat at a fishmonger’s stall, then take it with you across the street where several restaurants cook/grill and serve your fish, scallops, oysters and shrimp along with beer or whatever beverage your prefer.
Charlotte and I haven’t seen Saran, Saam and their daughter Asia together for around five years, so it was a terrific opportunity to catch up. Hard to grasp that when Saran and I went diving regularly from Kata Beach, I was just 40 and he had just turned 31. Now my old friend is 50 and in about six months, I’ll be heading into my sixth decade.
Charlotte kindly bought these slippers for me last year while we were in Costa da Caparica, the small beach and surf community near Almada, south of Lisbon, Portugal. They were very affordable and have proven to be surprisingly durable. So much so, that I’ve been using them more or daily whenever and wherever I’ve traveled. The slippers are lightweight and add a bit of extra comfort, especially when staying in hotel rooms with either scruffy wall-to-wall carpeting or cold, grimy tiles.
What makes this trip to Asia extra interesting for us is that Charlotte and I only have hand baggage with us. We each have a cabin bag (on wheels) and a small backpack.
Not having a big-ass piece of luggage to schlep in and out of trains, planes, buses, taxis, and hotels is, to put it mildly, wonderfully liberating. Kinda like a throwback to those glamorless backpacking days in South East Asia, sans the heavy backpack and with a lot more glamour.
We’ve soon been traveling for two months and moving about with so few things with us has been a lot easier than we initially imagined. When we left Sweden, our bags were neatly packed with about a week’s worth of clean clothes, walking shoes, trainers, and other carefully chosen (and weighed) essentials.
I first thought that not bringing a ton of camera gear would be an unsurmountable challenge. But I’ve missed nothing and instead figured out how to make use of what I did bring with me as creatively as possible. Which is a logical segue (pronounced segway) to how much of my life has played out so far.
Despite all my physical, emotional and intellectual shortcomings, limitations, and deficiencies, I’ve tried to use whatever I do have to make life as bearable, enjoyable, and inspiring as I can. I like to think of myself as being fairly carefree and constantly curious. And some might argue that it’s thanks to my chronic naiveté and an incurable inability to see logical limitations that have allowed me to set and often reach loftier goals and achievements.
When I was in L.A. this past October, my brother Nick gave me a pair of sheepskin UGG slippers/moccasins that were too small for him. They offer considerably more foot support and comfort than the ones I have with me. But they are also way too heavy for this trip. Rest assured, as soon as we return home to the shockingly cold reality of Swedish winter, I‘ll be slipping on those comfy UGGs and packing away my heelless Portuguese slippers. At least until it’s once again time to travel, which according to plan will happen shortly after our homecoming.
Just read that a distant friend is using her social network to sell an expensive gadget that proclaims to heal all kinds of diseases and even slow down aging. According to what I’ve read about it, this miraculous machine accomplishes its healing capability by exposing the body’s cells to certain sound wave frequencies. A lot of her followers seem to be buying both her unscrupulous sales pitch and the costly machine she’s promoting for a quick fix to better health.
Early on when I started practicing and eventually teaching classes in Qigong, I made an effort to clarify that there would be no lofty promises of curing diseases or extending life. On the contrary, before every class, I made it very clear that the Qigong postures, movements, and breathing exercises that I teach, are simply an ancient form of gymnastics. Nothing more, nothing less.
If life has taught me anything about my well-being, its that there are no quick fixes when it comes to maintaining and/or improving my health. Eating good, mostly unprocessed food, getting a few good hours of exercise a week, striving for emotional balance and enjoying quality sleep are all key health factors that can stave off past sins and possibly reduce the threat of succumbing to genetically inherited diseases.
A fruity smoothie, just like the one above shot the other day at a fancy café, is certainly a nice treat. But it ain’t no elixir. Once again the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it’s likely just another sales pitch for cure-all snake oil, i.e. bullshit.
Charlotte and I are back in Phuket, a place we’ve been returning to since the very first visit together during our honeymoon in 1998. Three years later, just weeks after Bin Laden ordered the 9/11 horrific terrorist attacks, we flew to Phuket with baby Elle, then just 10 months old.
Charlotte was on maternity leave from her position at Malmö Aviation and had started her very first travel site for airline staff (it still exists today: www.idtraveller.com) and I was going to start a small local company in Thailand focusing on film and photography within the tourism industry. We were kinda the very first digital nomads, way before someone coined the term. At least half of the travel luggage consisted of baby food and nappies.
After some searching, we finally found a perfect apartment in a high-rise on Karon Beach with a great balcony view over the Andaman Sea. We were very happy with the building’s beautiful oyster-shaped pool, and squash court, but perhaps above all, that the women working at the reception with much joy helped us with Elle Agnes when Koj, the shy nanny from a nearby village whom we had hired, did not have time to help us.
It was the at-times-allusive Mister Oj that drove us around the island in his always well-polished, silver Toyota Camry. For example on Saturday afternoons when we went grocery shopping at Big C or Tesco in Phuket Town. You see, after a while, we inevitably ran out of all the baby food we’d brought with us. So on Sundays, I cooked the week’s dinners and lunches for Elle, which we then stored neatly in the freezer in tidy meal portions.
Once a week, the Raboff family ate stone-baked pizzas and slurped banana shakes at the then-irresistible Swedish pizzeria Karlsson’s in Karon. But for the most part, we slowly ate our way through all the classic Thai dishes served by the friendly gals at Buffalo Steakhouse, also in Karon. If baby Elle was joining us for dinner, it didn’t take very long until one of the waitresses gently lifted our daughter out of the high chair, took her to the staff table, and gave her a bowl of mango sticky rice, drenched in creamy coconut milk.
Yes, we had a great time and some of our friends were so inspired by our 10-month adventure, that they traveled to Thailand and spent some time with us. Lotta and Jocke flew over, and so also did Jenny and Andreas, Åsa and Lars, Jonas and Carin, Lille-Magnus, and even my troubled brother Tyko.
Charlotte’s now 85-year-old father Allan started his retirement with us in Thailand and both he and my mother-in-law Agneta Wall lived for a time a few floors above our condo at Central Waterfront.
Between visits and dinners, Charlotte worked intensively on her website and I spent my days filming and editing commercials for some of Phuket’s more luxurious hotels, like Dusit Thani. I first worked through a local advertising agency and then on my own. My USP was that I delivered both finished films and hires campaign images on an interactive CD-ROM in a handy wallet format – if anyone remembers those round or semi-circled little plastic thingies.
During our stay in Phuket 2001-2002, Charlotte and I got to know the sweet couple Saam Sudduen and Saran Sudduen. Me and Dive Master Saran went pretty much every weekend for a meditative dive along the coast off Kata Beach. It’s been a long time since we went diving together, but maybe there will be an opportunity during our current visit.
We are not staying in Karon this time, but rather at a new hotel along the shore near Rawai, which is much quieter than Phuket’s more popular beaches – but not deserted by any means. I was told today at the reception that the hotel currently has a bunch of guests from Russia and that they (the hotel’s reservation staff) receive several requests per day from Russians who want to book rooms and bungalows for as long as six months. Which, I suppose, isn’t all that strange considering that many men from Saint Petersburg and Moscow and each city’s surrounding areas, choose to flee to Thailand to avoid Putin’s war. Not like us, to avoid a bit of the notoriously gray and dark winter in Skåne. So much did we enjoy our time in Phuket, that we ended up returning for longer stays two more times (in addition to several shorter visits). I’ll write about those adventures another time.
For every visit to this bustling city, I find myself in a state of constant bewilderment from all the skyscraper and mall projects going on simultaneously. It must be boom-time for architects, construction companies, civil engineers and builders.
I wonder how long Bangkok’s older buildings, like the one above, will be around before being torn down to make room for yet another shiny office tower or sprawling shopping center.
I’m not always as positive about new stuff as I like to think I am. Music is probably the best exemplifier of this. With a few rare exceptions, I never listen to contemporary artists or bands.
Worse yet, I tend to glorify old stuff more than they deserve to be glorified. It’s like a battle, a war between the comfort of the known (the old and familiar) and the unknown (new and different).
Fortunately, I am totally cognizant of this confrontation. It isn’t easy, but I try hard to question and challenge myself as soon as I notice that I’m recoiling from something that rattles my comfort zone.
I don’t really have particular preferences when it comes to dog types. All that really matters is their personality. I met this fellow the other day and while we didn’t have time to really “connect”, I could see that he had character and spunk.
Noisy as they can be, I’ve always thought Thailand’s long-tail boats are cool. I love the smooth shape of the hull, the brutally exposed automobile engine, its long shaft propeller, and the skillfulness in which the boat’s driver navigates the vessel, obviously years in the making.
My very first long tail boat ride took place off the shore of Lamai Beach on Koh Samui way back in 1988 during an excursion to one of the smaller islands in the region’s archipelago.
The scene above was shot near Krabi in the south a few years ago. I remember a time when daughter Elle was just a child and we were heading to Krabi to produce a travel story about the islands in the area. Elle had fixated on the world “krabi” and wondered why we had to go to “crab land”.
Perhaps the then six-year-old Elle was connecting the crabs she’d caught (and possibly been pinched by) the previous summer in the harbor of Vejbystrand with the similarly sounding word, “Krabi”.