The Nightfly to Sophia

In late 2021, just as the pandemic was tapering off, Charlotte and I had an interesting fall remote working as “digital nomads” from a sleepy seaside town in Croatia called Zadar.

We made friends with a few folks while we were there, among them was Richard, a fellow nomad from the UK. One afternoon while chatting in a local bar, Richard mentioned that he’d spent some time in a relatively obscure ski resort called Bansko in the mountainous region of southern Bulgaria.

As Bulgaria had been on my bucket list for quite a while and I hadn’t skied since our last visit to Chamonix in 2019, I was intrigued. So here we are after an uneventful night’s flight to Sophia from Copenhagen.

We’re in Bulgaria to produce a story about the UNESCO World Heritage-listed village Bansko, the co-working scene, and what it’s like on the slopes.

After last year’s visit to Albania, several trips to Croatia and Greece, and a short stay in Serbia, I’m digging the Balkan Peninsula more and more. So far, the folks we’ve interacted with here in Bansko come across as being friendly, soft-spoken, and genuinely helpful. This is to be expected since this is a popular tourist destination among skiers from Great Britain, Romania, and neighboring Greece. But still, the politeness doesn’t seem contrived or forced. It’s there, somewhat hidden underneath a layer of shyness, which I find to be a positive characteristic of folks from the Balkans.


And then what? Fish?

It’s not exactly a new year’s resolution, but I have promised myself that before I hit the 60 mark this July 22, I’ll have published no less than three new books. One is already on the finish line and if I don’t let myself get too distracted with other stuff, I feel justifiably confident that I can accomplish this goal in the next 4-5 months.

Each book will be a companion to the three art projects I’ve been working on for several years; Resurfaced, Silhouette Surfers, and Heavy Metal in Sieng Gong. As much as I have loved working on each of them, I need to move on.

But then what?

I’ve been pondering whether or not to pursue an anthology, a large format book filled with images and accompanying stories from personal projects, assignments, and travels. Then again, I could also produce a book about fish and seafood, which I have a curiously large amount of images of. Including the one above.


Resurfaced: Beverly & Fairfax

I located this surface along the northwest corner of Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue while in Los Angeles this past October. There was a long stretch of beautifully layered postings and I probably spent the better part of an hour capturing a series of potential artifacts along the wall. I didn’t visit DTLA during my short visit to L.A., so this was one of the few places where I found some truly interesting surfaces.

At the time, I was staying at a motel a few blocks further east on Beverly and walked one day all the way to San Vicente Boulevard and my old stomping grounds at West Hollywood Park. The park had changed so much since my childhood that I no longer recognized myself there, which was both a bit disappointing but also to be expected. After all, the last time I spent any significant time swimming, riding my old red Schwinn, playing catch or touch football in West Hollywood Park would have been when I was 14, some 45 years ago.


Big Wave Surf in Nazaré

It was about a year ago, while we were staying in Lisbon for a few months, that I took a regional bus to the ancient fishing village of Nazaré in the historical province of Estremadura where the world’s largest waves roll in during the winter.

It’s thanks to the “Nazaré Canyon”, a submarine geomorphological phenomenon that creates Nazaré´s enormous waves. The canyon runs about 170 kilometers along the Portuguese coast, reaching a whopping depth of 5,000 meters, by far the deepest in Europe.

The competition was quite an event that was streamed globally and I shared the live experience with people that had traveled to Nazaré from all over the world.

I’ve collected a gallery of images from my two days in Nazaré here


The Ginger Snuff Story

I’ve been off nicotine for about a decade now. I replaced traditional tobacco snuff in 2013 while we were living on the corner of Idaho Avenue and 2nd Street in Santa Monica Beach.

I had wanted to quit snuff for some time, but I always fell off the wagon, buying yet another round container of Swedish General or the dreadful American Skoal Bandits.

One evening, while cooking a Thai dish with a generous portion of fresh ginger root from our local Whole Foods, I ate a sizable chunk, chewed on it for a little while, and then instinctively pushed it up my top lip. It burned nicely and I suppose it was then and there that I realized how ginger quite possibly could be the silver bullet, the hero surrogate I so desperately needed to kick the habit and once and for all rid myself of traditional snuff.

A few years later, I made the above short film to show how ridiculously simple it was to create homemade ginger snuff.


Resurfaced: The Tragic Deconstruction of Kyiv

I literally stumbled upon this wall in 2021 while scouring downtown Kyiv for the Resurfaced project. It’s saddening when I think of how much suffering the Ukrainian people have gone through since the Russian invasion almost a year ago.

I wonder what all the people I met during my stay in the county are doing to survive mentally, physically, and financially. What are the two brilliant guides that showed me around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant doing now that their jobs are gone? What about the kind staff at the now-closed café on Bohdana Khmelnitskogo Street where I ate my breakfast and worked on the previous day’s images?

Shattered dreams. Lost hope. Seemingly futureless. So it would seem at present.

I hope to return to Kyiv and Ukraine one day and be able to walk around freely, enjoy the city’s street life, beautiful architecture, and once again experience the famous Kyivan hospitality.


All Book Covers Minus One

Here’s the current collection of books I’ve published and been commissioned to produce since 2005. Counting the 5000 printed for the Chinese version of the World Fair edition of my 2010 book about Västra Hamnen and the 5000 copies produced of the “Vad Sysslar Du Med?” interview book, there could be about 25,000 books with my name on them “in the wild”.

The one project not included here is the satirical guidebook I produced with a friend using the pseudonym Sebastian T. Armstrong called “Penile Photography: An Authoritative Handbook To Improve Your Penis Photography”.

Now you might be asking yourself right now, how the hell did you come up with that idea, Joakim? Well, one afternoon in early 2020, after several jugs of cheap beer in a dive bar somewhere in downtown Malaga, my buddy and I were chatting about how absurd the whole dick-pic debacle was. We couldn’t grasp how men could think that a shitty photograph of their genitalia would do anything but repulse a recipient.

At some point during our marvel of the phenomenon of penis photographers, my friend suggested in passing that someone should write a manual for these sad men to help them at least improve their images.

Maybe it was too many beers or just pre-pandemic boredom, but it was then and there that we decided to produce a satirically-minded, yet genuinely helpful manual for all the penis photographers out there.

You can buy the kindle and the printed version of the book from the Swedish Amazon store here.

You can buy the kindle and the printed version of the book from the US Amazon store here.


The Menu: Art vs Food

Last night I saw the comedic drama The Menu and I absolutely loved every minute of it. It reminded me of both the excellent 1997 film The Game with Sean Penn and Michael Douglas and Peter Greenaway’s bizarre 1989 movie “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover” with Helen Mirren and Tim Roth.

And with Ralph Fiennes playing the Executive Chef, The Menu also brought back memories of his scary portrayal of a serial killer in the star-studded Hannibal Lecter installment “Red Dragon” with Anthony Hopkins, Emily Watson, Harvey Keitel, and Edward Norton.

I’ve had the privilege of eating at a few fine-dining restaurants in Europa, the US, and Asia. I can certainly appreciate the inventive, creative process of unique combinations where smell, taste, and texture are at the forefront of the experience. But The Menu does an excellent job of highlighting how ridiculously theatrical dining can be in the culinary stratosphere.

I’m all for enjoying visually appealing food, like Japanese cuisine. A beautiful presentation of even the most basic dish is always preferable and finding new interesting combinations of contrasting or compatible flavors is something I often try. But at the end of the day, I’d be a happy customer with just a bowl of Heinz baked beans in tomato sauce in front of me. Or, a bowl of noodles which is what I’ve been eating while writing this post.


Sieng Gong Book Project

This a screenshot from the editing environment I’ve spent most of today in working on “Heavy Metal in Sieng Gong”, my latest book project. The new book will have about 150 pages and be the 20th thus far and the very first with photographs entirely in monochrome. The Gold Master should be ready by the end of this week and once it’s been handed off to my trusty book designer David, I can get back to editing the mini-documentary about the neighborhood on which the book is focused. While five of the 20 books have been filled with interviews and accompanying portraits, this one will be a mostly visual experience. That said, it will have a lengthy introduction for some context and to give readers a basic understanding of my fascination for Sieng Gong.


Chili Tuna Soba Noodle Soup

Sunday evening. Just finished dinner. Tonight I made a spicy soba noodle soup with seared tuna from two frozen steaks I had deep in the freezer. I marinated them for about 30 minutes in a plastic bag with some soy sauce, chili flakes, sesame oil, Szechuan pepper, and a few drops of lime juice. No need to salt as the soy sauce takes care of most of the needed salinity.

I made the soup’s broth with a tablespoon of miso paste, water, Midori Sriracha, chopped red cabbage, bell pepper, spring onion, and a diced clove of garlic. Finally, I topped the seared tuna with a generous dab of Hellman’s mayo spiced up a bit with a few sprinkles of cayenne and a pinch of wasabi. All the chili made both Charlotte (and me) a little sweaty, but she said it was by far the best meal she’d had so far this year.


Huddled in the Fog

The fog has rolled into town again. Might be the first time this year. I don’t mind the fog. It’s mysterious but also beautiful as it can only exist when there is next to no wind. And we certainly get enough wind here as it is. So I’m enjoying both.


Chinese Newspaper Wall

It struck me just a little while ago how much I love communication and that I’ve now (as of 2023) worked within the field in a variety of roles for more than 25 years.

It’s been a long, wonderful love affair and one that has provided a wealth of creative and monetary rewards that I feel confident few other vocations could have provided me with. I’ve tried a handful of other professions and none came even close. This is probably why I love this newspaper wall so much – even if I can’t understand a single symbol. I don’t even know if the wall is actual news or merely fresh propaganda from the PRC’s long arm.

Regardless, I think it’s a beautiful representation of public communication, which, thanks to its location, makes it accessible and inclusive – as long as you can read Mandarin (I’m obviously guessing here that the wall’s newspapers aren’t printed in Cantonese).

I love Chinese characters as they remind me that the oldest form of communication was hand-painted on cave walls and not written letters, words, or sentences. The shapes and forms of the earliest Chinese characters (Shang Dynasty, 1600 – 1046 B.C.) were more reflective of what they represented and the oldest cave paintings (Indonesia, 43,000 B.C.) were rough but basic and concise. Inarguable as long as you knew what they represented. If you hadn’t seen a wild pig, you wouldn’t know what that thing on the cave wall was until someone showed you what a wild pig looked like. If you’d seen a lamb, you might be able to guess it was an animal, or, at least that it represented food. Kinda like the difference between two related languages…

It would be kinda cool if we once again had newspaper walls like the one above here in Europe. A public space where all kinds of papers could post an article or two. Maybe adding a QR code for those that wanted to read beyond the wall’s limited space. Yeah, that could be an interesting installation themed on communication.


Resurfaced: Jackson Lamb

I’ve been a Gary Oldman fan since Sid & Nancy and True Romance. His performance as Winston Churchill is possibly my favorite. So it was a thrill to watch him in the final two episodes of Slow Horse last night. His cast members are good, some of them really good. But he outshines most actors in every scene he shares. Oldman’s character Jackson Lamb is easy to relate to. I’d wager that most men, myself included, can easily identify with at least a few of the sordid M-15 department head’s flaws and shortcomings, the imperfections, and cynicism that inevitably arrive with age and disillusionment. I’m sure Oldman – the man –  can, too. And that’s probably why he took the role in the first place and how he plays it so remarkably well. I chose to name the above Resurfaced piece Jackson Lamb because he represents the wonderful chaos and imperfection of life.


Daughter & Father Collaboration

Daughter Elle captured this portrait of me, her father, late last summer. In retrospect, I was significantly more interested in our creative collaboration than whether or not the results turned out to be as good as they ended up being. Which is by no means a reflection of Elle’s capability to take a portrait of me, this is the second portrait she’s taken that I’ve published, as it is my inability to accept what I actually look like these days.

I think this particular version of me turned out really well. It’s compositionally excellent and my look feels emotionally, if not physically relatable. It mirrors one side of who I am: a serious, composed, and focused dude in his sixth decade. 


Resurfaced: Malmö’s Eastside

Here’s yet another artifact for the Resurfaced project that captured yesterday in Malmö’s Eastside. There’s definitely a correlation between these new pieces and that fact that I discovered them in a part of town populated with an overall younger demographic and considerable more ethnic diversity than in, say, our neighborhood. Posters and posting can be found all over the city, but since most cultural events happen on the Eastside, that’s where most of them are glued, stapled and pinned.


Resurfaced: Södervärn

Captured this intriguing Resurfaced piece earlier today on my way to a friend’s book release event in a part of Malmö I rarely visit, Södervärn. On the way back, I located a long plywood wall full of riveting surfaces of which I hastily captured a few. I definitely need to return sometime next week to take a closer look.


Resurfaced: Nr 378

This is from Sieng Gong, the neighborhood in Bangkok that I’ve been documenting off and on since 2011. I wasn’t there to discover new surfaces for the Resurfaced project, but sometimes I get lucky. The naming of this piece was extraordinarily obvious.

My dear cousin and amazing Berkley-based artist Laura Raboff recently suggested I reduce the collection of Resurfaced artifacts. I couldn’t agree more with her. But…it’s not an easy task as I have an unhealthy amount of favorites making it almost impossible to curate. Once I’m finished with the Sieng Gong book project, I’ll start the Resurfaced book project. Hopefully, both will be ready by the time I exhibit my Silhouette Surfers in April.


Resurfaced: Calle Oficina en Málaga

Three years ago today, we arrived in southern Spain, two months before the Covid-19 pandemic began. I remember the sun was shining brightly from a crisp blue sky and how we spent a good chunk of that very first afternoon enjoying a typical Spanish tapas lunch somewhere near Mercado Central de Atarazanas, Málaga’s formidable old market.

Málaga was a great destination for the Resurfaced project and though I still had to cover a lot of pavement before locating qualifying surfaces, our two months there provided a wealth of artifacts, several of which will likely be included in a future exhibit and book about the project.

I’m currently on the lookout for a popup gallery/studio/event place here in Malmö. As in all of the other cities and towns I’ve had the privilege of spending time working on the Resurfaced project in, my “oficina” in Málaga was in the city’s many cafés and from time to time, in a variety of Málaga’s infamous dive bars, as well as on the historical streets and along the winding, narrow alleys. One of my favorite spots to sit and write in was at Café Libo in Unicaja Concert Hall María Cristina which seems to be temporarily closed right now.


MyDOG 2023

Still kinda unpacking my experiences from our visit to Göteborg this past weekend. A few interesting revelations stemming from friends and a whole lotta love from hundreds of mutts, pups, and well-bred dogs at the trade show MyDOG 2023. This collection of clips for Charlotte’s popular dog-friendly hotel site www.hundvanligahotell.se was shot using “Cinematic Mode” on the iPhone 14 Pro Max and the old trusty GoPro Hero 7 Black mounted on a barebones basic €20 Manfrotto monopod.


Overdosing on Jellybeans

For the past several mornings, after what can only be fairly and squarely described as a breakfast for champions, I’ve unapologetically dipped deep down into the hotel’s jar of colorful jellybeans.There were Oreo’s, cupcakes and tiny marshmallows, but I abstained. Aside from the occasional chocolate treat, these days, I’m not much for sweets. My daily fistful of jellybeans is perfectly symbolic of the last few days over-indulgence. Back on the wagon tomorrow.


Lars Olemyr’s Pre-Birthday Dinner at Tavolo

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.


My Dog 2023

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.


Resurfaced: Another Layer

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.


Tyko Raboff 1967-2003
This post is essentially about mental health. Why such a tough subject so early in the new year, you might ask? Well, Today is the 20th anniversary of when brother Tyko Raboff decided he no longer wanted to live. It’s taken this long for me to publicly open up and share some of my thoughts about this. Exactly why Tyko came to the conclusion that his only option was to end his life in a small, Parisian hotel room on January 3, 2003, will always be a tragic, painful, and unsolvable mystery to me and to everyone that knew him.

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.

He was on his way to Stockholm from Los Angeles when the flight that was supposed to take him from Charles de Gaulle to Arlanda was canceled and he was provided a room at the Phoenix Hotel in Paris. While there, he wrote a long farewell letter and then ended his life.

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.


Travel Map 2022

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.


Miami Hotel Bangkok

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.


Cooler in Talat Noi
These are from yesterday’s visit to the Talat Noi area. Might have been my 40th or 50th time there. I’m now finally on the finish line with the book about this remarkable area that I’ve documented since first discovering it back in 2011.

It’s in Talat Noi where they sell used (almost antiquated) engines, gearboxes, rear axles, cooling fans, etc. The area is Heavy Metal for real and came into existence sometime during World War II when there were hardly any spare parts available for cars and trucks.

Each visit to Talat Noi has almost always provided something new and so it was yesterday when I serendipitously came across Tattoo-Chen and a little later discovered a new, hysterically colorful tea shop. A visit to the old Fiat has become mandatory.

It’s usually extremely sweaty in Talat Noi. From April until the monsoon rains in September and October, especially in the middle of the day, it’s almost unbearably hot. Now in December, the temperature in Bangkok is very tolerable and it’s even cooler in areas bordering the Chao Phraya River like Talat Noi.

The difference in temperature is most noticeable in the afternoon when people in Talat Noi take a break from welding, milling, and filing to and socialize again with neighbors and colleagues. That’s when I usually show up and finagle my way to a couple of new street portraits.

In order to get locals I meet to agree to a spontaneous portrait shoot, I first give off a huge smile and then great them with a really polite phrase. Most people are so surprised to hear me say “Hello, good afternoon! Sure is nice with this cool weather we have right now?”, in decent Thai, that they usually let me photograph them.

I’ll have to try this in Malmö and see how it goes there. Keeping my expectations low, though. I have time for a couple more turns to Talat Noi before we return home to Sweden.


Resurfaced: Rare Surface in Bangkok

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.


Christmas Eve in Bangkok

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.


Rolls Royce in Bangkok

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.


The Christmas Shave

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.


Divisive: Artificial Intelligence: Open AI: Dall-E & ChatGPT

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.


Christmas

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.


Seafood with the Sudduens

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.


Light Traveling with Slippers

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.

That’s it.

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.

Anyway…

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.