Charlotte and I have been to a large recycling facility today. We actually made two visits there and have will probably be back there tomorrow. I got lucky during our second visit as it was time to turn on the oddly pleasing wood crushing machine when we were at the wood station. A friend pointed out how watching this brutal machine is satisfying somehow. I agree. Now if only someone could invent a way to crush COVID-19…
It’s not without us feeling a little guilt and understanding that we are supremely privileged right now. Meeting spring in Vejbystrand is always wonderful – and especially so this year.
Within just a few weeks, the designation “rural” has metamorphosed into something positive and worth embracing. We’re whole-heartedly enjoying our current small-scale lifestyle.
It’s hard, but I’m trying to keep the news at a fair distance. All the dramatic headlines deplete my optimism.
The misery of miseries, as my old aunt Lillemor always said when a disaster occurred somewhere in the world – as in the world’s brimming refugee camps, where health care is limited and risk of contamination always imminent.
The earth’s population is currently living under the shadow of uncertainty. The future looks dire in almost every direction. I feel particularly for the many people that already had it tough before all this and who cannot comprehend how to cope with all the additional burdens the virus has brought with it.
Yesterday we took a long walk along the beach and on our way home stopped to greet three fluffy sheep living carefree in one of the village’s forest groves. The meeting gave some respite from the constant flow of reports about tragedies in Bergamo, Madrid and New York.
So far we are living relatively protected here in Vejbystrand and sincerely hope that this nightmare will soon be over.
Agreed, the lyrics are nonsensical or, at best haphazardly composed. But just forget about that for a moment and listen to the sensual groove. The way master drummer Jeff Porcaro beautifully weighs his sticks and how slick Steve Lukather sings and plays guitar. Folks, it don’t get much better than this. Not even after 40 years. Having partied with the original band members back in the day during their visit to Gothenburg Sweden certainly helps keep the fire burning. But even so, compared to much else today, Toto’s early work is still unmatchable.
Society seems to be unraveling. Which is a great opportunity to find comfort in simple things, like living in Vejbystrand. Like eating vegetarian spring rolls with a bowl of jasmine rice and topped off with homemade apple chutney and fried broccoli. Some may have seen the above collage film before. It’s a collection of scenes from our nearby meadow. I compiled dozens of clips a few years back for an exhibit of landscapes from southern Sweden at Malmö Live in 2017. A version of this film was also shown during my 2018 Easter Art Show at Vejby Vingård – the village’s local winery.
I just finished watching Netflix’s über popular documentary “Tiger King: Murder Mayhem and Madness”.
Like no other documentary before it, Joe Exotic, together with all the other characters in the series, made me feel unapologetically proud to be a red-blooded American. Yee-haw! Each episode wholeheartedly encapsulated the essence, the very core and indispensable qualities that make rural America so immeasurably, unequivocally great. The multitude of enviable cultural articulations and freewheeling expressions of constitutional freedom so vividly shown in Tiger King prompted me to seriously consider abandoning my current life here in Sweden so I could relocate to hillbilly country of rural Oklahoma or near the “Glades” in Florida. Even my friend Samuel, currently a coronavirus prisoner in Málaga/Spain, says the parts of Oklahoma where much of Netflix’s Tiger King is played out is definitely an “interesting” destination.
About 15 years ago, Charlotte and I visited a tiger temple near the town of Kanchanaburi, a couple of hours’ drive west of Bangkok in Thailand and just a few clicks from the Burmese/Myanmar border. We were both incredibly naive and excited about being able to get up close to tigers and Aftonbladet, the newspaper that had commissioned us to produce a multipage travel reportage about the amazing Buddhist monks and their beautiful big cats, published our story in both print and on the interwebs.
As it turned out, the temple was in addition to being a very profitable tourist attraction with about 400 visitors per day, also a well-organized front for illegal farming and international black market trading of full-grown tigers, their cubs, tiger meat, tiger fangs, and tiger fur.
Today, I feel ashamed of having been so extremely naive. I saw how doped the tigers were, I saw the thick, short shackles that gave them zero freedom to move around and I certainly noticed that there was a disingenuous quality to the sugar-coated stories regurgitated to us by the monk during our special press tour.
Though the tiger temple was eventually closed, the site is still home to a few exotic animals, including (according to Wikipedia) a lion. As much as I love Thailand and the Thai people, I hope that some future incarnation of their government cracks down on the country’s many ill-kept and poorly supervised zoos and elephant riding camps. Most of all, I hope that the tiger above was allowed to live the rest of its life in a more peaceful environment. But I doubt it.
When I opened my eyes this morning, I saw a sliver of bright yellow sunlight protruding through the blackout curtains hanging over our bedroom window. I went to sleep unusually early last night and felt initially a little confused by the light. Had I slept in? It was Sunday, so no big deal if I had. For some reason, I remembered about the time change, that we are now officially in the summertime.
Though the pandemic is omnipresent online and in much of everyday small talk, I find that it still easily falls out of focus. I suppose that’s because we are here on the coast in Vejbystrand, so near to nature in an environment barely stirred by humans. I’m thankful that the reminders are few, at least when compared to urban dwellings. On the other hand, we kind of miss the “comfort” of having an abundance of neighbors – to share fears and hopes with – and we are at least a half an hour from the nearest ICU, if or when the shit really hits the fan.
Aside from probably lacking the emotional capacity and having zero skills, I still wish I had something to contribute to the healthcare field with right now.
The other day, a friend pointed out an interesting aspect of the unfolding situation to me. During her maternity leave, the restaurant she worked for as a manager went bankrupt. Just as her yearlong leave was about to end – but before the coronavirus took center stage – she had several interesting job offers, was hired by a bakery/café chain and set to go back to work in early March. Three weeks ago, her new employer laid her off. But with the fallout from the virus, she now feels somewhat relieved for having an unquestionably valid explanation of why she’s still not able to find a job.
I think we’ll be hearing more of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s thoughts on “UBI” a Universal Basic Income, a citizen’s dividend where a government guarantees that everyone receives a minimum salary. Defining “citizen” will obviously become a sticking point and while I think most sensible people in the world will abide and adjust to just having enough means to survive, it’s going to be really tough for most Americans to grasp what the concept of “basic” even means.
Shot these Easter flowers during a long beach walk the other day. Heard via the BBC that Kenya’s flower industry is disastrous with approximately 500.000 directly and indirectly affected and now out of work. As if life wasn’t already tough enough for them. Fuck.
Today I learned that the coronavirus is so small, that it would take several hundred of them lined up after each other just to cover the side of a single grain of sand. That’s small!
Yet once a virus gets into your body and takes hold of a host cell, almost any host cell, the very purpose, the nature, the destiny of every virus, is ultimately to take over the cell it enters and reproduce itself as fast as possible.
Furthermore, I also learned that a virus is basically a recipe, a self-executing, malignant program with code designed without any other agenda than to hijack and grow exponentially. I don’t know much about computer viruses (I’ve been using Apple computers for 30 years, so I have never experienced what it’s like to be infected by a computer virus.) but they seem to have been modeled after biological virus.
There is something humbling about the enormous reproductions caused by covad-19. For all of humans incredible inventions, all our disruptive, technical breakthroughs and feats of astonishing mechanical engineering, including advanced intercontinental ballistic missile systems, satellites, lunar travel and an international space station, all it takes to disrupt world order is a single teeny, weeny virus. And only by eventually retro-engineering it will we be able to figure out how to counteract its ability to devastatingly paralyze every society on the planet. Humbling.
The ingredients for the above collage are from Málaga where our friends are still trapped until at least April 12.
Wow, are these weird times, or what? Who would have thought that streets in entire cities would be more or less empty, seemingly abandoned? That even the most basic human social behavior would take such a colossal hit? Are we the last of those that will remember what a superficial cheek kiss, a fleeting hug, and a vigorous handshake feels like? Will this make even the slightest physical contact feel forbidden and therefore somehow even erotic? Post-coronavirus social ordinance might just well dictate a whole new set of judicial and social rules to abide by. Or, to totally disobey. If the virus is really a threat to our very existence, then I think disobedience is the only option. We’re fucked, so who cares, right?
Seriously though. This pandemic will probably leave long-term social and financial disruption in its wake. Social distancing, virtual offices, online meetups as well as homeschooling will leave the fringes and likely become preferable and dominating alternatives in our new, hunker down, shelter in place society. Maybe we’ll even abandon our megacities and migrate en masse back to the countryside, where a rural, agriculturally focused and physically demanding, yet healthier lifestyle, awaits. Or, maybe we’ll stay in our urban environments but isolate ourselves even more than now. Transform our apartments into bunkers that we rarely leave.
Speaking of bunkers…
The above collage is from photos I took at an old Stasi headquarters on the outskirts of Leipzig, Germany that I visited a few years ago during a press trip. I shot most of the photos deep down in a bunker intended for polittruks in Erich Honecker’s DDR. Interestingly, there were exercise bikes hooked up to supply electricity to the bunker’s phones as an alternative to the facility’s diesel generator.
Do yourself a favor and please, please, please listen to the latest episode of the daily by clicking here. It got me thinking… what if the doomsday proselytizers are actually spot on? Are we heading towards Armageddon or is the turning point actually near? Is the very fabric of western society becoming unraveled or just teased, tested and temporarily stressed? Will we need to reassess just about every aspect of our lives or can we all soon resume normality – as if this was just a small blip on the vast radar screen or a miniscule bump in the yellow brick road? Will things like the Olympics seem as absurd as flipping through TV channels and being disappointed by lackluster viewing choices on Netflix and Pornhub? Or, will we soon be allowed to forget about this craziness and just let the past couple of months fade into memory. I wonder.
Is it soon time to reevaluate frozen food and find favorites among dishes like dill and codfish gratin, schnitzel and green peas and other below zero fast-food options? Can we really adjust to not eating fresh food on a daily basis? Bananas, avocados, and tomatoes? Really?
Will those that have farmable land be the new privileged few? I mean, even if you are extremely rich, will the money, in reality, be worth anything once we move into a barter economy where a fistful of raisins is worth about as much as a single roll of toilet paper?
These are of course all seemingly absurd questions and preposterous thoughts. But in our current world where purported value is still measured in abstractions like stocks, hedge funds, and security bonds, my queries might not actually be that far off.
Personally, I wouldn’t mind at all if we started trading solid goods and truly useful services with each other. That said, I’m not sure exactly what I would be able to contribute with. Qigong? Cooking? Painting? Film and Photography? I don’t know if any of these skills would add value to folks struggling to survive. They all seem somehow superfluous. More of a layer that can be easily shed without any real consequences. Then again, my skillset would perhaps be seen as worth more than what a lawyer, office manager or social media expert would offer.
The photo is from the Salton Sea, a Mad Max-ish area surrounding a man-made lake south of Joshua Tree National Park and south east of Palm Springs. If you want a glimpse of sincere decrepitation, this is a real Disneyland after dark.
I feel for New Yorkers. The population density has made it way too simple for the virus to spread across the city’s many neighborhoods and five boroughs. So far, our New York friends are fine and coping with the shutdown and self-imposed quarantine.
Like most destinations that I have returned to time and time again, New York has a very special place in my heart. Just looking at the 800+ photos I have from New York in my Lightroom catalog, paints a clear picture of how much I love the Big Apple. I’ve never lived there, not more than for two weeks at the most, but somehow, I’ve always felt that I would if I could. I was once very close to moving to New York, but that’s a long and complicated story.
I really hope that the way the virus has spread there isn’t an indicator of what things will be like when it hits other favorite cities like Cape Town, Bangkok, Havana, Athens and Istanbul. The above photo was shot from my balcony at The Paul, a tiny hotel not too far from the United Nations HQ where I was hired a few years ago by the Swedish Mission to the UN to showcase artic themed photos and a film during an international climate summit/conference.
Meanwhile, here in Sweden, the government seems, unfortunately, to have taken cues from Mr. Trump & Co and their devious corporate bailout strategy. It’s nothing short of a tragedy how Trump, nothing more than a guiltless grafter, has the gall to try stuff like this. He says he’s looking out for the workers of America – yet tries to push a bill that will inevitably ensure that corporations survive, including his own, while fired workers are left to fend for themselves, without severance, healthcare benefits or other ways to help manage life on the dole. Seriously, what is wrong with Trump? Has he no empathy whatsoever? How can a base of MAGA millions just put up with so much blustering, inflated crap time and time again without overdosing and finally coming to their senses? It really boggles my mind.
Someone recently tried to explain to me that this is the way life is and that I need to wake up from my liberal dreamland and accept it. The classic “survival of the fittest” defense strategy which argues why some must suffer while a chosen few get to enjoy lavish lives – without feeling even the slightest pinch of guilt. Have we as a species not evolved beyond hiding behind such ridiculous Darwinistic excuses? Or, isn’t this just how the privileged few, those cushioned through trust funds and generous inheritances often view the world and carry themselves with an aura of arrogance and self-important entitlement? It makes me sick.
The vast majority of people I admire and respect in the world are those that have created their own lives, been in charge of their destinies and humbled by both failures and victories. Without exception, these people, both close friends and distant role models, are all in total agreement that Trump is an evil person, a douche, a loathsome bully unworthy of the office he manipulated his way in to.
Yes, he certainly represents a large bulk of Americans that have been duped and, ultimately become insatiably mesmerized by his simplistic, albeit effective (but always vulgar and offensive), populist rhetoric. They know no better or care not to see through him. Some are surely even convinced that he is righteous, honest and genuine. But Trump is none of those things.
Yes, he is financially backed by many really smart (cynical and moralless) people with considerable wealth and who have “hired” him first and foremost as a defender of their fortunes and don’t mind at all that he is also always protecting and promoting his own business interests – instead of working selflessly for the country he is supposed to helm. To me, Trump is a caricature of a comic book menace, a villain that I hope will soon be replaced or forced to step down before things get too virus crazy.
Like in the US, Sweden’s small business owners have now also been totally screwed and abandoned by the government. And through a series of dubious decrees from the Ministry of Finance, commercial banks are only willing to provide short-term credit and small loans at steep interest rates and with preposterous surety bonds attached.
Sweden, the once so industrious and capable Scandinavian country admired by so many for its ability to balance universal healthcare, social welfare, and a largely successful private sector, is now incapacitated, paralyzed even, and heading straight for mass unemployment, an imploding healthcare system and ultimately, total depletion of political support for the sitting Social Democratic party.
As I write this, it’s bright and sunny outside. Spring is actually upon us. But on the horizon, dark, menacing clouds are slowly moving in. Darkness awaits. God help us.
My addiction to reading The New York Times has not abated. Yes, I am well aware of how getting most of my information from a single source is a one-sided approach – but I also browse several online papers that I don’t subscribe to, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic and The Los Angeles Times.
Today, “The Times” provided a most insightful piece about American deniers and disbelievers in several of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. If you’re a subscriber, you can read the full article here.
We have a strange soup of information and disinformation about the virus out there now. It’s crazy. I honestly think the virus is way too abstract for some people to comprehend and absorb in a serious, coherent fashion. They just refuse to even play it safe and adhere to the advice given by really smart and experienced professionals.
I totally get that a lot of teenagers have an oblivious, “fuck you” kind of attitude towards messaging from the government – and, basically, anybody representing authority that is telling them what or what not to do in their lives. It’s the obstinate and ignorant adults that seem to just not give a shit that worries me. And here I define ignorance as something you actively choose not to understand or respect, and therefore don’t believe that it applies to you. Hence the full-throttle Spring Break partying in Florida and other potential hotspots across America.
During the Black Plague, which peaked in Europe from 1347 to 1351 (and was believed to be caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis), there were plenty of people knowing that it was only a matter of time before they would die soon enough from the disease, chose to celebrate life extensively with dance, orgies and heavy drinking.
The Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro (116–27 BC) wrote about diseases caused by creatures invisible to the human eye more than 2,000 years ago. Varro warned against living in proximity to swamps ‘because there are bred certain minute creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes, which float in the air and enter the body through the mouth and nose and there cause serious diseases’.
Above soup shot from when the supermarket Green Matmarknad next to my old studio was alive and kicking. A Curry soup, I think it was.
I am concerned about how fast the covid-19 virus is taking a foothold on the US east coast. Folks there are so locked into their routines that shopping, eating out and socializing unrestricted is going to be almost impossible to thwart completely. Unless the new rules are enforced by the military, like in Spain. I don’t see that happening any time soon, though. But it could eventually be a last resort.
Also concerning is also how often Trump blames the previous administration and China for his lack of initiative when this mess began. Typical bully tactics. As soon as you’re caught, pass on the blame to someone else. And the fact that he takes every opportunity he gets to highlight his own successes and his self-congratulatory attitude makes me want to puke. Fortunately, he seems to have some smart people helping him look much smarter than he actually is. Then again it’s easy to shine when you’re standing next to an imbecile.
February 26th, 2020. President Trump: “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
March 20th, 2020. Confirmed cases in the United States rise to 16,064.
Like many folks my age, I too suffer from the occasional bout of hypochondria. So right now I am hyper-aware of every little strange sensation or involuntary twitch that comes over me during a typical day. I’m not sleeping consistently well, either. A good night’s sleep will be followed by an uneasy one. Of course, now we don’t really have any schedule or timetable to live by. So I can sleep in or take a nap at my leisure. I tend to get up at 5 or 6 am for Qigong and then take an hourlong afternoon nap.
I used to be an avid Stephen King fan and at one point, long before he was as popular as today, I would eagerly await the arrival of his latest book at the local bookshop. One of my absolute favorite King novels was the post-apocalyptic story, The Stand. It wasn’t the intricacies of the story’s good vs evil shootout that intrigued me the most. Instead, it was the book’s deadly virus called “Captain Trips” that was engineered to be used as a biological weapon by the government and accidentally released across America and the world, killing 99.4% of the entire planet’s population. I was fascinated by the concept of being one of the very few survivors and what it would mean to roam the streets of West Hollywood.
Though the symptoms of the ongoing virus pandemic will vary widely, at least once expert thinks that about 70% of the world’s population will be infected by it. The likelihood of catching Covid-19 is really, really big – unless, of course, you have the option to spend the foreseeable future secluded in a comfy bunker, cave or isolated on a deserted but insulated island somewhere off Antarctica.
I have yet to come across anyone I know that has been infected. Yet.
The above image is what it looked like last night here in Vejbystrand. Being on a tiny planet among many millions of stars and otherworldly places gives virus kerfuffle a bit of perspective.
Social distancing is harder than I thought it would be. Socializing is, after all, an important part of the human experience. Perhaps we are fortunate to live in an era where remote socializing is readily available. Two friends and I will gather in our first-ever virtual leisure meetup someday soon. It should be an interesting evening.
As a vegetarian, I can’t help but remind all you mindless carnivores out there that most of these dangerous pathogens stem from meat consumption.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Approximately 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting people began as diseases in animals.”
While some wild creatures are inherently toxic to begin with and not at all suitable for human consumption, especially so if they’ve had a chance to rot and/or exposed to poor hygienic conditions, factory-farmed animals are so mistreated through their lifetime, that it’s no big mystery why they have to be constantly medicated and their feed artificially fortified.
It’s really crazy that people still eat factory-farmed food. We’re all looking for how to avoid getting sick and hoping someone will come up with a vaccine. Yet no one seems to give a shit about how this mess got started. Fuck, is there really no lesson to be learned here? Are we that blind, deaf and dumb?
If nothing else, I hope one of the takeaways from this global ordeal is that we all become more mindful of what we eat and how it arrives in our fridge, on our plates and in our gaping, unsuspecting mouths.
Social distancing is harder than I thought it would be. Socializing is, after all, an important part of the human experience. Perhaps we are fortunate to live in an era where remote socializing is readily available. Two friends and I will gather in our first-ever virtual leisure meetup someday soon. It should be interesting.
As a vegetarian, I can’t help but remind all you mindless carnivores that most of these dangerous viruses stem from meat consumption.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Approximately 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting people began as diseases in animals.”
While some wild creatures are inherently toxic to begin with and not at all suitable for human consumption, especially so if they’ve had a chance to rot and/or exposed to poor hygienic conditions, factory-farmed animals are so mistreated through their lifetime, that it’s no wonder most are constantly medicated and their feed artificially fortified.
It’s really crazy that people still eat factory-farmed food and don’t see how this forces everyone onto the path of Covid-19 pathogenes. We’re all looking for how to avoid getting sick and hoping (praying) someone will come up with a vaccine asap. But no one seems to give a shit about how this mess got started. Fuck, is there really no lesson to be learned here? Are we that blind, deaf and dumb?
If nothing else, I hope one of the takeaways from this global ordeal is that we all become more mindful of what we eat and how it gets to our plates.
From earlier today on a rocky beach in Vejbystrand with Charlotte holding the camera. Brilliant weather.
Feels like it’s a good time for a new round of random thoughts and factoids from the above Raboff Randomizer.
• Few people seem to know (or, are willing to acknowledge) the fact that Sweden has an abundance of trees and milling facilities that can transform almost any kind of tree into any imaginable kind of paper product – including toilet paper. So people, stop hoarding it!
• Popcorn, at least when made the old school way, is a reasonably healthy indulgence that nothing should ever keep you from enjoying. If you’re a micro pop fan, read the ingredients and then stop nuking your corn, dude.
• With over 100.000 lakes, water will never become a scarcity in Sweden or Finland or Norway. Neither will vodka.
• The real reason Danes closed their country’s borders? So they could smoke and drink without feeling guilty or frowned upon by goodie-two-shoes tourists from Sweden.
• I’ve met and shaken paws with the Swedish Prime Minster twice without washing afterward. But his shake was about as coarse and dry as Ingvar Kamprad’s thick, leathery hands were.
• If you don’t have peanut butter, banana and cinnamon as three main accessories in your porridge, you’re absolutely missing the whole point of the dish. And since growing oats is extremely common in Swedish agriculture, you don’t need to hoard that either.
• Any single malt whiskey will always lose against Four Roses bourbon (small batch) and, according to my friend Michael, this applies to a staple straight bourbon like Maker´s Mark.
• The true brilliance of the Star Wars series is that it takes place in the past. Not in some absurdly overrated future.
• Mike Pence could definitely have been cast as an East German villain in a Die Hard or Lethal Weapon, Gung-ho movie, circa 1984.
A collage made up of a bunch of old walls from recently locked-down Málaga. We have Swedish American friends still there and I can’t help but feel, well, sorry for them being stuck and forced to live under the government’s recently imposed state of emergency rules where they are barely allowed to leave their apartment on Plaza de la Merced.
As a small business owner, I also feel for all the shop owners, restauranteurs, and bars that we frequented regularly during our stay in Málaga. Most will likely go bankrupt in the next couple of months. Something we might have to do as well.
Like many others, I probably think too much about the long-term implications this pandemic could have. Since the spread is delayed around the world, what will happen once the virus hits poverty-stricken Africa, India, South America – and other regions where it has yet appeared?
One of the most important questions is; how do we avoid having the virus return once we’ve got it eradicated, or, at least diminished within the EU and US?
Will there be a vigorous screening process put in place at all borders, including airports, seaports, bus and train stations? I’m thinking here of a checkpoint process that will make today’s tiresome airport safety procedures seem ridiculously negligent and expeditious.
What if anybody arriving internationally has to undergo a diligent health control before being allowed to enter the European bloc?
Hopefully, the extensive time required today between testing and getting lab results will decrease substantially. But in the meantime, will all intercontinental travelers have to endure a quarantine? For how long? Hours? Days?
Even if test methods do become more effective, trustworthy and results arrive faster, I still think there will likely be at least a few hours, maybe even days of quarantine for all arrivals. And who’s going to pay for this? Airport authorities? Local or state governments? Will the extra cost be added to your airline ticket? Will a chain of quarantine hotels pop up to accommodate imposed isolation demands? Questions, questions.
I can foresee an even wider divide between the world’s haves and have nots emerging once this virological tsunami has receded. A gaping divide between the affluent and the strugglers. Which will inevitably perpetuate financial and ethnic prejudice and possibly result in societal upheaval, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
On the brighter side, this virus could be the trigger that forces us to reset and take the bitter medicine we all really need. It might just give us time to reevaluate, recalibrate and redesign what is important in life and that which is worth pursuing.
Obviously, the mess we’re in right now is, at least to a degree, symptomatic of a how putting a blind eye to all the apparent meteorological indicators proves we need a course correction. That we can no longer expect the planet to absorb our arrogant goals where achieving material wealth at any cost is virtuous and where sustainability is really just smartly packaged marketing fluff.
After weeks of playing down the severity in his typical ignorant-arrogant fashion, someone has finally woken Trump up, whispered in his ear that the situation is dire and needs the entire nation’s attention. People that solely watch Fox News won’t grasp this, of course. To them, the man can do no wrong and like their heralded MAGA chieftain, they prefer to play the blame game. It’s just so convenient to point at the previous administration, China, the Dems or whoever is within their spitting range at the moment.
So sad that otherwise fine, friendly people, some of them even educated, are unable to see things a bit more nuanced right now. Ultra-conservative television channels, radio stations, and podcasts, including Fox News, literally prey on this particular demographic. And droves of people continue to flock, convinced that Murdoch is the beacon of FREEDOM and that the financial gain the company’s programming generates is just simply a byproduct and only secondary to Rupert’s genuine conservative agenda. Oh, my.
The extremely divisive atmosphere that the USA is drowning in is especially sad now when we need to unite collectively to beat the shit out the coronavirus. An American journalist specializing in epidemics and pandemics, recently suggested that we need a Rock Hudson moment to fully understand how serious this is. I sincerely hope Tom Hanks and his wife survive their bout with the virus. But it wouldn’t make me too sad if Mitch or Lindsey got seriously ill so we could stop being forced to listen to their populistic propaganda bullshit.
There’s been a bit of pandemonium in Los Angeles this past week. Mostly in stores and malls, I hear. Not sure what Americans fear most, being forced to curb their shopping addiction, not being able to continuously feed their faces or worrying about what wiping their assholes without toilet paper is going to be like. Probably all of the above.
Sadly, most Americans are so accustomed to excessive consumption, that even questioning their behavior is considered rude, unpatriotic and possibly, at least to some, even an act of terrorism. I kid you not, shopaholism and gluttony are surely deteriorating the country from within. But something tells me this chronic need to consume, which has taken decades of scientifically calibrated marketing to infiltrate and integrate into the psyche of most Americans, is at a pivotal phase right now. A reset of the monstrosity that western-style society has evolved into could be coming to a grinding halt.
Not too long ago, I wondered what it would take for us all to just chill out, look around and smell the flowers. How could we possibly change the Mordor-like path our lifestyle had taken, stop or even reverse the increasing climate calamities and hopefully save our species and a whole bunch of others. This new virus (or the next) might be what it takes.
I took the photo above not much more than 100 feet from where this was written today here in Vejbystrand. Not only do I love the apparent symbiotic relationship between the horse and the little birdy, but I also think the three layers, foreground, middle-ground and background work beautifully together to draw the viewer’s eyes into the scene.
Let’s just put the virus to the side for a moment, shall we? Let’s focus on something fun and important. Like this recipe. For lunch this afternoon, I made one of my most famous dishes; the Raboffski Open Egg Salad Sandwich. For whatever reason, I’d never served Charlotte this classic before and since I happened to have all the required ingredients at home today, everything fell perfectly into place.
So, boil two to four eggs. Cool them off. Peel and place in a large bowl. Add a tablespoon or two of Hellman’s mayo, a half of a finely chopped red or yellow onion, a generous tablespoon of relish, a teaspoon of dijon mustard, some salt, pepper and a long squeeze of lemon.
Shot this yesterday while filming a late winter storm that passed through here in Vejbystrand. Trying to figure out how to best ride out the ongoing coronavirus storm and what to believe is sensationalistic journalism, what is mass hysteria and where to find actual facts – and above all – what the trajectory of this crazy crisis’ is going to be going forward.
From yesterday’s walk along the coast. I love the drama of stormy weather about as much as I appreciate the tranquility I get from when there’s total calmness. Best of all here in the “sticks” is that that I’ve got the scenery more or less to myself aside from the occasional dog walker or energetic stave trekker. Unlike most proper cities that have gone through extensive iterations through the decades and centuries, the environment here is so timeless, so eternal.
From where I’m sitting and typing these words, with just a small window and a garden between me, a meadow and the sea beyond, there’s a landscape that has looked much liked it does today for probably tens of thousands of years. Maybe longer. This is somehow comforting to me. That in the long run, Earth will survive and work things out – regardless of whether or not we can comprehend a timeline that reaches far beyond the scope of our barely measurable existence on the planet.
We, humans, try so very hard to cram as much into our ridiculously short lifespans, that it’s no wonder we don’t have time to think about all the stuff we’re doing to our environment as well as the species and organisms that live among us.
Short-term, the chain of events that have led to the exponential spread of the coronavirus is having a bigger and wider impact than I initially thought it would. Long term, I’m fairly sure the psychological reverberations are going to be both long-lasting and make a huge dent in societal behavior;
We are likely going to be very suspicious of each other and scan for symptoms of the disease like never before. This could last years.
• We’ll be even more wary about foreigners in general and Chinese tourists in particular.
• Hand hygiene will improve substantially – and not a day too late.
• It will become trendy to wear colorful, surgical gloves throughout the day and neon hues at night. If you’re in the mask, glove or antiseptic wipes biz, good for you.
That people are frightened about getting to close to potential carriers in crowded situations like public transportation, shopping centers, amusement parks, cinemas, restaurants, political rallies, concerts, airports, planes, and trains isn’t hard to understand. Even if you are healthy, who wants to be quarantined and isolated for up to two weeks, right?
Long-term, the effects could also mean that industries that aren’t fully automated might take a big hit. Farming and food production industries, their supply chains and the complex logistics of making sure fresh dairy products, meat, fish and produce are replenished in grocery stores and supermarkets might have to endure big disruptions in the next few months.
I can see this as something good, though. It’s the meat-eating population that got us into this mess, to begin with. I don’t want to point fingers, but I hope that a whole lot of people take note that the virus does not stem from a rotten carrot or an overripe head of cabbage. So, on some level, I hope that this scare does get our species to start reevaluating how we treat our host, Mother Earth, and our fellow planetarians.
Perhaps I’m reading too much press. Maybe it isn’t all that bad and I am allowing my vivid imagination to run amok. In any case, this deep rabbit hole got me thinking about what kind of stuff I would stock up on (hoard) if fresh food actually became a rarity or even a scarcity. Condiments aside, my list of favorite non-perishables would look something like this:
• variety of beans
• kalamata olives
• peanut butter
• all and any kinds of dried fruit
• sweet corn
• popcorn (non-microwave)
• brown rice
• all and any nuts (and legumes)
• oats (for my addiction to porridge)
The pile of chain links was shot here in Vejbystrand the other day.
An old friend paid a visit today. We snacked on peanut butter crackers, drank Earl Grey and chatted about everything two old friends can talk about. Limitless. Because my relationship with social media is so fraught with inevitable failure, Facebook, in particular, I don’t keep up with a lot of my old buddies’ lives anymore. So our Sunday meetup – in realtime – was most welcome and enjoyable.
As these words are being typed, Charlotte is literally on her merry way to Vejbystrand – our new home for the foreseeable future. It’s her first time here in about 6 months. I’m genuinely glad that I had the opportunity to settle in beforehand. Because even if I consider myself to still be extremely adjustable to new circumstances and dwellings, I am finding that the older I get, the longer it takes for me to acclimatize to the point where I feel I’m really comfortable and relaxed.
I can totally appreciate the benefits of having a permanent residence, a place to call home. I’ve had plenty and for a time, I enjoy staying in one place. But it would be disingenuous of me to deny that I have an almost pathological addiction to shaking things up from time to time – and abandoning what most people consider to be the very foundation of their life; home sweet home.
If I were to make a rough estimate of how many homes I’ve had over the years, it wouldn’t be anything less than 35 (on three different continents).
I find that somehow, someway, something good always comes out of these periodic shakeups. Which might not be immediately obvious, but looking back, I can almost pinpoint when and where I changed lanes or moved into a new direction, one that I’d consciously or subconsciously been eying for a while.
Security feeds stagnation. Stagnation disguises procrastination. Procrastination is an excuse to avoid fulfilling unfulfilled dreams and desires. I sincerely hope that Vejbystrand isn’t our final destination. That would be a little sad. Not that Vejbystrand isn’t a wonderfully beautiful place to take stock of what’s happened and start brewing a new formula for the future. It is that for sure. But as soon as the coronavirus lets up, I feel confident that we’ll start thinking about where the next adventure will take us.
Shot this scene yesterday evening while Facetiming with brother Nick in L.A. He too was blown away by how beautiful the scenery was.
Thinking al lot about the coronavirus lately. It’s front-page news everywhere. Arguing that the world’s various ecosystems are self-healing and will autonomously regulate and correct mutations gone awry, the evolutionaries are convinced the coronavirus is a natural phenomenon. Some believe this almost to the point of embraceability. While a hard pill to swallow, on some level, I have to concur. I generally don’t buy into the other mostly wild-ass conspiracy theories. Like that it’s really the hand of God at play hee. That he/she has reached down from a loft above the puffy clouds and with his/her ever-so nimble fingers, created a chain of events to clue us in on his disappointment with our behavior – hallelujah!
Look, it’s really quite simple. There are just some species that aren’t compatible and when mixed together wreak havoc. And because we humans are so brutally indiscriminate about what we eat, where what we eat comes from and how it was grown or raised – and continue to encroach natural habitats of species we should keep the fuck away from – the COVID-19 outbreak shouldn’t really be too surprising. It’s scary, yes. Frightening? Absolutely. But is it the end of the world? Hm. The jury’s out on that one. We might just be at the very beginning, middle or end of this unfolding story. My biggest concern is what happens when the devastatingly poor folks become infected and how that will impact society as a whole. It could take years before we have a vaccine and once there is one, will Big Pharma be as greedy as they’ve been historically or be forced to subsidize or even provide a vaccine for free? And how will the anti-vaxxers react once there is one wildly available? Questions, questions.
One thing is for sure, the forthcoming presidential election will be the most interesting ever. What with the virus, climate change, the everlasting threat of full-scale war in the Middle East, the always unpredictable Kim Jong Un (aka Guiding Star of the 21st Century – just one of his many official titles), the mullahs in Iran, the opioid epidemic and about 20% of the US population living way below the poverty level of Macedonia, how can this year’s race not be the most exciting thing since sliced bread? And with both Democratic candidates closer to 80 than 60 years old and the country’s commander-in-chief being a full-blown nincompoop, I know for sure the fall will be extremely entertaining.
It’s been “every-other-day” weather here for a while. Which, I totally appreciate as it’s coincidentally kind of how I describe my life. Seldom two terrific days in a row. Not that the lesser in-between day is necessarily bad or unmentionable. No, no. I make sure that almost everyday generates at least something noteworthy. At least to me.
I feel fortunate to have arrived here just when the long, bad weather spell was broken. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that spring has arrived quite yet. But it is nice and toasty when I go for my walks. Which might have a little bit to do with my layer-upon-layer clothing strategy.
Anyway, the other day when the sun was out (which it is again this afternoon), I went for a long walk along the beach and shot this film with my mobile and a credit-card-sized tripod I have neatly tucked away in the phone’s case. Vejbystrand is beautiful all year round. And surprisingly colorful, too.
This is from a small forest near the public pool in Vejbystrand which the locals fondly refer to as “The Enchanted Forest”. The area has a plethora of windswept trees that over time, possibly hundreds of years, have become remarkably twisted. It reminds me of a gathering of similarly warped trees just north of the city of Visby on the island of Gotland. At the very last moment, I realized that this beautiful hideaway needs to be included in the map of Vejbystrand that I’ve made for the upcoming book, “Moments from Vejbystrand”.
Yesterday, I was invited for a cup of tea at our neighbors and later two friends drove here from Malmö and I made lunch. When they left, I was all by my lonesome again. For the first time in a long, long while, I don’t have any trips planned. Oh, wait. I do have a trip to L.A. planned. But that’s in three months.
Living in this tiny, ancient fishing village, without much social interaction is interesting. Aside from the cashier at the local grocery store, my first week here has been like living in a vacuum. Walking along the beach today in fabulous spring-ish weather, I felt so far removed from all the stuff going on in the world right now. Geographically speaking.. This suits me perfectly as I am in the final stages of finishing my new book and definitely don’t want to be too distracted.
But since I’m a huge fan (and long-time subscriber) of the New York Times online edition and listen religiously to both The Daily Podcast and the BBC’s Global News Podcast, I’m pretty much always tuned in and up to date with the latest events. And boy-oh-boy, there’s certainly no shortage sensationalistic news coverage right now! Doomsayers think the coronavirus is going to force the U.S. economy to a grinding halt. And since the U.S. economy is so intertwined and financially dependent on the Chinese economy, they preach the whole world is heading for an unprecedented recession. Maybe even depression. Interesting.
Personally, I don’t subscribe to that kind of negativity. Also, it implies a very simplistic worldview. The world is a friggin’ complex place and it’s literally impossible for me to even wrap my head around how the perfectly ripe, organically grown avocado I bought the other day, wound up in this little ancient fishing village way up in northern Europe.
We tend to define the world’s economic well-being by how often and how much Americans are willing to use their credit cards. How often they visit a car dealership, a realtor, their local mall and now more than ever before, the online shopping portals. I’m no expert, but I’m fairly sure that most Americans are fully prepared to max out their credit cards if they just feel that their personal finances are reasonably stable – and, of course, the trajectory of the US economy – which, by the way, has been booming for close to a decade now (long before Trump arrived). Yes, if they feel uncertain, most credit card holders will refrain from shopping excessively. And that will for sure have an impact on a whole chain of production-related, supply chain disruptive events on a global scale.
But in actuality, the world consists of so many, many economies, most of which I think will do just fine even if the consequences of the coronavirus impacts the G7 nations the hardest financially (and psychologically). Our local market outside of Hoi An in Vietnam for example, will probably not even notice should the US economy take a nosedive. There will probably be fewer tourists, sure, but most of the shopkeepers at outdoor markets in Asia (and probably anywhere in the world) cater to locals, anyway.
So, while the giant gears may currently be churning sluggardly to the point that they almost seem frozen, for the vast majority of people around the world, it’ll be business as usual. I might have to sacrifice eating avocados for a while, though.
There’s something intriguing about old rusty locks. This one is from somewhere in the old town of Tarifa in Cádiz, Andalusia, Spain. Shot last summer.
The symbolism is perhaps obvious, but I am nonetheless fascinated by what locks represent as a metaphor. I’m also curious about what’s actually behind the door, gate or wherever a lock is used. What’s in there?
Though I’ve never attempted to pick a lock, I have always considered myself someone that can find, or, at least try real hard, to reach a solution that bypasses a seemingly impenetrable situation. Finding a solution or, a workaround, so that whatever needs to get done gets done, is an intricate part of my purpose, process and my life. I don’t necessarily think of it consciously, but I do tend to see most projects in some kind of linear timeline. You start picking the lock and eventually figure out a way to get that sucker open.
In creativity, as opposed to say, mechanical engineering where solving problems is binary, you aren’t always sure that you’ve actually picked the lock, opened the door or solved the problem.
The unsureness factor can at times be overwhelming and undermine rational thought and logic. And it can definitely screw up the timeline.
Yet the very idea of picking a new lock, solving a problem, new and old, or creating something entirely new is so addictive, that you just deal with the uncertainty and try your best to calculate it within the process. Which is why it can at times be difficult to motivate (and invoice) that once you’ve created something, you do need to let it rest, simmer, marinate, for a while, after which you return and see if it holds up and is worth its salt. If you’ve really, really picked the lock.
I’d honestly be surprised if at least some Americans didn’t assume the latest coronavirus originated from the beer with the same name and which they are now rigorously avoiding. Update: This new poll indicates my assumption was spot on (thanks P-O).
My grandmother Agnes, a solid lady by any measure, was a farmer’s daughter and a wife of a farmer herself. She would likely have thought the expanding pandemic was nature’s own brutal way of regulating overpopulation. I don’t think she would of been wrong. Homospaiens are certainly not the best custodians Mother Earth has had thus for.
It’s hard for me to understand why the Trump administration is politicizing yet another health crisis instead of taking the spread of the virus seriously. No, I take that back. It makes perfect sense. At least insofar that I shouldn’t have expected anything else. The logic behind putting Pence in charge of all official virus-related messaging is still a little fuzzy, though.
Why the pharmaceutical and food conglomerates aren’t handing out free disinfection soaps, hand-wipes, gloves and masks left, right and center, is just dumb. I mean, keeping your customers healthy and alive should be fairly paramount. Snd the PR value of handing out masks would be immeasurable. .
If you’ve not seen the star-studded film Contagion yet, and still don’t quite grasp what’s going on, I strongly suggest watching it. According to real-life scientists, the film’s plot provides a reasonably accurate description of what happens when a virus spreads across the world.
Yesterday was one of those, “I forgive everything” days. Zero wind, sunny sky and not too cold. I spoke to several people during my two-hour walk and everyone seemed elated about the vexatious and stubbornly consistent bleak weather letting up for a day. Though I’ve been fortunate to have been able to avoid this year’s winter, I can totally relate to the sentiment.
Here’s a new piece I’ve been working on called Solidarity. It’s made of about a half dozen photos from various walls covered with a range of frayed posters, worn stickers and whatnot.
I woke up at 4:30 am feeling perky and thinking I should take advantage of the extra time before the day formally begins. Of course here in Vejbystrand, where formality is wonderfully AWOL and I periodically feel like I’m living in a twilight zone – a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity and where the collective silence is compact. No dogs barking. No scooters zipping about. No yelling. Just the wind whistling as it brushes agains barren branches or turns the corner of the house. I can’t hear the sea from here, not right now anyway. But there’s something comforting and subduing knowing it’s so close by.
After so many months using a 15-inch laptop for all my artwork, sitting in front of a 27-inch monitor again, with all its screen real estate and horsepower, feels a little overwhelming. As I go through various art projects initiated on the smaller screen and now get to look at them in larger, more detailed versions, discerning which to keep and what to delete is so much easier.
I woke up at first daylight, after my first night in Vejbystrand since sometime the previous summer. I don’t remember when I last slept here during the winter. Years ago.
Once up, I did my Qigong routine for half an hour and then made banana/cinnamon porridge. The sun was shining when I laster went for a walk along the soaking wet meadow and stormy sea beyond.
Down by the mostly empty harbor, a lady was walking her dog. I think it was a Golden Retriever. A couple of teenagers were playing on a swing and I wondered how come they weren’t freezing as much as I was. Trekked up from the harbor to the village’s only grocery store and bought more oranges and a few ingredients for tonight’s dinner; minestrone soup. Took the above shot just before the skies opened up and I closed myself indoors.
A bone-cold rain is pouring down right now. But that’s perfectly okay.
Whenever I’m here alone, I feel a wave of soothing melancholy come over me. And now more than ever, I can embrace it. I can’t remember when I was this quiet. I’m not peaceful, too much going on for that. But quiet. Which in itself is a most pleasant experience.