Retouching & Fixing: Chamonix Train Station
Speaking of Eurail train travel…here’s a project from 2018 where I retouched the train station at Chamonix which was under renovation and busy with all kinds of stuff and distractions when I got there. Retouching is becoming increasingly difficult, but I still feel compelled to challenge myself creatively with this type of work. At least once in a while.

Nice in Nice

It was here, at the beginning of July of 1983, while on my first European solo backpacking trip, after an uneventful night in Marseille together with my newfound friends from Denmark and Canada, that I slept on the beach Plage Publique des Ponchettes in Nice.

Of all the places I’ve been fortunate to have visited in France (and I sincerely hope to expand that roster in the years ahead), Nice is among my favorites. Elle, Charlotte, and I spent a couple of days in Nice 2016 on our way back from the annual Photo Festival held throughout the ancient city of Arles in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southern France.


The Eiffel Tower in Paris

Here’s my favorite shot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. My relationship with “P-a-h-r-e-e” is somewhat complicated. The above image is from one of my visits to Paris with Charlotte. I think we were there, at least in part, for Charlotte’s 40th birthday. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I left the UK for Paris and spent much of my stay there walking to and from all the classic sites and scenes with my thick, orange “Let’s Go Europe” travel guide in hand. I don’t remember where I slept or, how I navigated the city. This was back in 1983, about a decade prior to GPS technology and some 15 years before the Internet started becoming a ubiquitous part of everyday life.

At some point, I must have gotten sick of the intensity of city life and via Gare du Sud, headed down to the south of France. I do recall taking a night train, the TGV to Marseille. When possible, night trains (and night ferries) were the preferred way to travel when on a Eurail pass, as it meant you could sleep on the train (or, on the deck of the ferry) and not have to pay for loggings.

Like many of the great cities of the world, Paris is layered and dotted with distinct neighborhoods of varying interest and allure. My favorite Parisian neighborhoods? Marais and St Germain.

Interestingly, my father met his second wife Margit in Paris sometime just after WWII. He was stationed there as a reporter for the US Army’s newspaper, Stars & Stripes and Margit was in Paris to attend a fashion school. According to what she told me several years before passing away, the two had met at Café de Flore on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain och Rue Saint-Benoît.

In the early days of 2003, my relationship with Paris become fraught with tragedy. In an act of desperation and abysmal sadness, my brother Tyko took his life at a hotel near Arc de Triomphe. Of all the places I’d like to return to, Paris is fairly low on my list. Morbid as it may sound, I may one day return to Paris and visit the hotel where my brother’s life ended.


Missing London

This is one of many streetart captures during my most recent visit to London in 2018. I’ve stayed in about a dozen different areas in the capital, but this was my very first time in Shoreditch, East London. Loved it there! Lots of great curry places and a level of grittiness that tickles me creatively.

I can’t remember last when so much time has passed without visiting London. As an American, the UK is the only country in Europe where, thanks to the combo of a common language and wildly diverse ethnicity, I’ve always felt perfectly at home. The contrasts of HiSo and Lowbrow, new and old, mundane and surprising make almost every visit to London a fun experience.

My first visit was in 1983 during a whirlwind tour of the continent on a Eurail pass. I’d started my train journey from Göteborg, where I was living at the time, through Denmark and Germany and then over to Holland. This was way before the Eurotunnel was available, so I crossed the English Channel with a ferry from Hoek van Holland to Harwich and finally a train headed for Victoria Station.

I’d met a Swedish gal on the ferry who’s father was a pastor at the Swedish Seaman’s Church in London. She convinced me to stay there for a few nights. Restless as always and with only a month of vacation to explore Europe with, I left England after just four of five days and headed to Paris. I had just turned 20 and it was my first solo adventure.


The Comeback Kid

This is one of the last photos I took in Asia in early 2020. Shortly after, Charlotte and I flew to Copenhagen and then onwards to Malaga where we lived for about two months before heading back to Sweden as the pandemic swept across the world. I love the reflection and how it skewed the view behind me. It got me thinking about the transition of the past and the future yesterday below the Capitol in Washington D.C..

I watched the entire inaugural ceremony last night. I laughed and cried. But mostly I smiled. After his third try, Joe Biden finally hit a home run and is now the 46th president of the United States. Talk about being the comeback kid. In India and in Jamaica, people are feeling joyous for Kamala Harris. She is solid proof that the American Dream is still alive and kicking. That change and opportunities are endless.

A friend in L.A. told me a few hours ago how she felt relieved now that Joe and Kamala have replaced Donald and Mike. That the anxiety she’d been experiencing for months had subsided.

I find it’s kinda like when Luke Skywalker blew up the first Death Star and sent Darth Vader twirling out of control into space. I know, comparing Donald Trump to Darth Vader isn’t fair. Darth was pretty cool and had awesome mind-control powers. Donald was uncool and his ability to control feeble-minded folk only worked as long as he was in power.

The challenges that lie ahead are enormous. But with the new administration, the American Idea has been resuscitated. So now, the American experiment can continue, uninterrupted by the tyrannic despot that tried hard to sow fear and doubt and tore feverishly on the American quilt. I’m not sure the experiment will ever succeed. But like with my own life, one must never give up trying.

I wonder if Four Season Total Landscaping will donate a portion of their parking lot for Trump’s Presidential Library…


Time for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

This is one of my favorites from the cow series. It symbolizes how I feel today. A day when I and the rest of the sane world get to stick our collective tongues out at the soon ex-prez.

I watched Trump’s farewell speech this morning and all I could feel was sadness. Trump came to power by promising so much, to be the antithesis of a politician, which reminded me of T-Mobile’s “Uncarrier” terrific marketing slogan for many years. He portrayed himself as a rebel, someone that could get stuff done.

Tragically, instead, Donald J. Trump turned out to not only be unfit for the gig, but he also came to embrace and embody the worst qualities of a crooked politician, a used car salesman, and a snake oil peddler combined into a whirling cesspool of voluminous spewing bullshit. I couldn’t think of a single thing Trump said in his final speech that wasn’t an extreme exaggeration or a blatant lie. Not to mention the patriotic rhetoric crap that you know he doesn’t believe in but understands how solidly it hits a home run with his crowd of white supremacists, Qanon believers, and conspiracy theorists.

Sure, Joe Biden is an old guy that often looks really tired. But he’s decent, calm, and has in Kamala Harris made an excellent choice for VP. Not just because of gender or her diverse ethnicity, which really doesn’t interest me that much. What counts in my worldview is that she comes across as being very smart and having a good heart. Two qualities that supersede everything else she brings to the table. Let’s hope that J&K can get along with Congress so that they can start fixing stuff that Trump broke and pave the way for a brighter American future.

For many, Trump has represented the liberator of an often exaggerated political correctness that has swept across the world for several years. And it would have been ok if the healthy breath of truth had brought with it an era of more objective and honest politicians who said what they thought, regardless of whether their opinions were politically correct or not.

But it was not just Trump’s unfiltered rhetoric that characterized his four years in power. Instead, it was a never-ending diarrhea of extreme exaggerations and, above all, lies whose main purpose was to set his many followers on fire – especially rural Americans.

Trump could then use his populism and the radical movement he created as both a leveraging device and a whip, a threat to force congressional Republicans to both accept and on the surface embrace his often bizarre political outbursts and rash decisions.

From a historical perspective, Trump’s presidency will be associated with amateurism, cynicism, and fraud. And even though there are small, barely noteworthy gold nuggets from his time as the 45th President of the United States, even fool can get lucky, they are so few and so small that, in my opinion, they are negligible in relation to how much severe damage he has caused the American people and the world. Not least as a terrible representative of a leader for the world’s oldest democracy.

Some believe that Trump was subjected to a witch hunt from day one. But, I think instead, it was Trump who was the witch or the troll. A troll who today finally leaves the world stage so that serious, responsible people can take over the helm. It feels like it will be an early spring this year.


The Day Before The Grifter Leaves

Here’s an ancient border wall near where these words were typed. Seems fitting considering we are soon leaving a particularly bad chapter of our history and, thankfully, moving on to another, hopefully, brighter one.

Tomorrow, the Grifter-in-Chief will be ousted from a position and office he was unsuited of holding and should never have been voted to do so.

It’s clear to most smart people that traditional media together with social media, especially Twitter, enabled the four-year rampage by Trump & Co. I can almost hear a collective sigh of relief now that an era of hatred, division, and chaos is coming to a close.

Generally, there are two fractions that supported Trump; the ignorant millions that could not see that Donald is just a grifter, a conman, a huckster, and the über-cynical opportunists that kissed his ass and injected their tongues so far up his asshole, that they no longer could breathe without him passing wind. Among these mice (not men) are Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, and Ted Cruz. They should feel immeasurable, eternal shame for supporting the Grifter.

I’m not a big fan of Hillary Clinton, but she certainly recognized Trump and his followers very early on: In September 2016 she said:

– You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. The other half feel that the government has let them down and they are desperate for change.

And George Orwell, writing in 1946, had this to say about the deniers, conspiracy theorists and revisionists:

– The point is that we are all capable of believing things that we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

Finally, I highly recommend listening to this interview with Ronald Reagan’s son, Ron Reagan. Interesting, inspiring, and very funny. While I think Reagan Sr started pushing the Republican party down the dark path that brought forth a character like Trump, in no small way by playing heavily on the nationalistic “America First” fiddle and making it clear that if you’re not a flag-waving patriot, you’re possibly a communist, he was still a decent man worthy of the presidency. Here’s the interview.


HAPPY MLK DAY

Today is Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Dr. King was a wise man and he penned many thoughtful ideas and revelatory truths that are still apt and poignant to this day. Here are a few of those that can’t be shared enough.

The time is always right to do what is right.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

(If I had to choose an American political figure that represented the diametrical opposite of MLK, it would be the outgoing president, Donald J. Trump).


Bjäre Delivers

Bjäre always delivers – regardless of the season. I lit a nice warming fire, sat down, and let the day’s magical walk in the snow slowly sink into body and soul. It’s on days like these that I usually say “everything is forgiven”. A thought born of pure gratitude.

When the weather gods offer their widest smiles, it’s an immeasurable privilege to live in Vejbystrand. Today’s excursion went from Stora Hult to Segelstorp via Lillaro where freshly baked sourdough bread was available. Couldn’t wait to get home and tore off a piece along the way home.

A dwarf sparrow attracted a few dozen birdies this afternoon. Thought it was interesting that the gang was looking for an even smaller variant of an already tiny bird.

At the time of writing, it’s -7C/19F. With a little luck, we’ll get even more sun tomorrow – at least for a while. If nothing else for the little blackbird that greets me every day when I come home from my walks. And the dwarf sparrow, of course.

I ate my dinner in front of the fireplace above.


Avoiding the Doldrums

Shot this curious trio yesterday during a refreshing walk in the village yesterday. I’ve realized a few things these last couple of days. Maybe it’s the huge snowfall. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever.

Here we go.

The pandemic has brought forth three positive perspectives.

One, I feel so much more appreciative of all the traveling we’ve been able to do during the last 25 years. I traveled a lot before meeting Charlotte, but once we connected, the traveling increased exponentially. The only other couple I know of that comes somewhat close to us is the Friberg’s.

Once you contract the “travel bug”, you never really get rid of it. At least I haven’t. And while I tend to be more enthralled and inspired by creative folks in general, if they’ve also traveled extensively, we’ll usually hit it off instantly.

We’re all different, I get that. But not filling your life with as many new experiences as possible (as opposed to those that are repetitive, predictable, and safe) is still a life concept I can’t relate to.

Anyway, I know it’s not exactly brag-worthy from an environmental perspective, but since 1997, I’ve logged about 367 000 kilometers of air travel. That’s not including trips before then and not all the domestic distances I’ve traveled via train, boat, car, and bus. In all, 600k is still not too far off from a round trip voyage to the moon (768k).

So, if I don’t ever get to travel again, I’d certainly be disappointed and deeply saddened, but not devastated as in feeling my life had been hollow and boring. It’s been a privileged life and in retrospect, I’m really happy that I’ve thoroughly documented the vast majority of our adventures around the world.

Secondly, because of the situation in my life and obviously in the world right now, I’ve found that I can still appreciate my new, hamstrung boundaries. Living here in the Vejbystrand is also a privilege and though I keep walking along the same paths, beaches, and trails, so far, I’ve not felt the least bit bored.

And this brings us to my third perspective.

The pandemic has provided me with time for reflection. I’m working on a  retrospective-introspective exhibition of sorts. Essentially, I’ve embarked on a journey without an outlined goal or even a decent map. More like a reckoning and inventory of my 57-year-old life. The idea being that this will eventually clue me into how to move forward, stay fluid, creative, and, continue to suck up as much as possible out of life. Most importantly, I need to be mindful of “The Valley of Doldrums” which many old folks tend to not realize they’ve fallen into until it’s kept them, hostage, for so long, they succumb to Stockholm Syndrome.


Fred and Donald Trump

Shot this from a dodgy fire escape stairwell somewhere behind Madison Square Park in Midtown Manhattan in New York City a few years ago. Been thinking about New York a lot lately. Especially today after I learned about Martin Scorsese’s new Netflix show where he and Spike Lee interview author and humorist Fran Leibowitz. If you’ve never heard of Fran, start by listening to this wonderfully funny and inspiring interview.

I am worried about the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on the 20th. The president continues to refuse to admit all and any guilt in last week’s craziness on Capitol Hill. I’m trying really hard to understand how Donald Trump can be so oblivious to his incitements and continued denial of how his judgment and behavior are wreaking havoc in the minds and souls of so many millions of already lost Americans.

So, as one does, I decided to think of a scene, a defining moment from Trump’s early childhood where his father, Fred Trump, felt it necessary to give his son a profound life-lesson, just as his father, Friedrich Trump, had likely given him at some point.

Fred Trump to his then eight-year-old son Donald:

“Donald, now listen here and listen good. No matter what you do badly, no matter what you say wrongly or however tall a lie you tell, never, I repeat, never admit it. Admission is for losers, my son. Do you want to be a loser, Donald? I didn’t think so. There will come a time in your life when you’ll need to lie to win or just to survive. And since only the strong survive and win, it’s not really lying. It’s showing your strength and survival instincts. Donald, always remember that Trumps are NOT losers. We are survivors and winners. 

And to imprint this lesson, Fred Trump gave his son a whopping smack on the head so that Donald almost fell over. But he never forgot the lesson.

Injecting Chemo

This is what I use to shoot up methotrexate once a week. Its chemical name is 4-amino-10-methyl folic acid and its chemical formula is C20H22N8O5.

I picked up a new batch of six syringes at the local store yesterday. They come in a tidy box complete with multilingual instructions and antiseptic pads to clean my choice of injection location. I try to alternate between the left and right thigh and the left and right side of my belly.

Since I’ve not felt any improvement since reluctantly beginning this chemotherapy seven weeks ago, my kind rheumatologist has decided to increase the dosage by about thirty percent.

There was a sharp pain today as I injected the thick, yellow fluid. Clearly from the larger volume. I really felt like a heroin addict…minus the rush and euphoria they are said to feel. I made a cup of tea and have since noticed nothing from the shot.

Hopefully, within the next six weeks, I’ll see some improvement with my arthritis. Or, start shooting heroin. Kidding. 


Pandemic Indulgence, Winter Kale & A Greek Salad

Like for many people, January means embarking on a voyage to try to recapture the health one had before the annual holiday indulgences began. The problem with this is that many, including myself, have been indulging way too much for way too long.

Pandemic indulgence is a pandemic in itself.

Since Tuesday, I’ve been coffee-free, alcohol-free, and cut down my meals to one per day. I’ll snack on fruits and nuts and then eat a healthy, tasty dinner. The abstinence from coffee is the most painful. Caffeine withdrawals give me a nagging headache that lasts for two to three days. Today I feel fine.

Tonight I’ll be eating pea soup – made from scratch – with some of the above Greek salad with homegrown winter kale that was leftover from last night’s dinner. Swedish pea soup with sweet mustard tastes a lot better than it sounds.
Trust me.


Bye-Bye Trump & Co

Here’s a collage that’s fresh from the drawing board. What to say about the rioters and protesters storming Congress yesterday? Should we really be so surprised after all of the instigating from Trump and Rudy Giuliani? I think not.

What I do think is that both of these shady characters should be thrown in jail for their incendiary behavior and for manipulating millions of ignorant Americans (including some of my family members).

This morning I asked myself: can I really blame people for making godawful decisions when their ability to parse what is true and what is not has become too fuzzy and complicated for them? What can you expect from folks that have been emotionally hijacked insofar that they are willing to fight for every single oddball theory and crazy-ass rumor – as long as it feeds their narrative, no matter how implausible or diabolical it may seem?

Maybe these people should automatically get a free pass. They’re certainly lazy-minded and therefore can’t help themselves being drawn into a movement created by sinister politicians and fueled by right-wing media. A movement that has perpetuated conspiracy theories and audacious lies for years without realizing how negative and cynical life has become for those soaking it all up?

Isn’t this similar to what happened in Germany during the 1920s?

Final thought: Maybe someone should ask the Department of Defense how wisely they’re spending their annual 700 billion dollar budget. I mean, how can the US be expected to defend the world from tyranny, fascism, and communism, if they can’t even secure the building where the legislative branch of government resides – let alone stop Russians/Chinese/Whoever from hacking their way into crucial data networks?


It Will Be Alright (in 2021)

Here’s the English version of my short film shot along some of my favorite walks by the coast here in Vejbystrand. In it, I share a few thoughts about how this tiny village in the Swedish hinterland turned out to be the perfect sanctuary for me.

I’ve been visiting Vejbystrand for about 22 years and the timeless milieu here is unequivocally worthy of veritable reverence and vehement admiration. What makes Vejbystrand so unique? The amalgamation of meadows, forests, coastal trails, free-roaming farm creatures, an infinite flow of fresh air, limitless skies, magnificent sunsets, and relentless storms. But I also appreciate not being surrounded by ugly, artificial environments, traffic, and a bombardment of sounds and noises.

Being able to live in such a natural environment as that which Vejbystrand provides has been nothing short of a privilege. I realize this every time I visit a city these days and see how absurd it is that so many people, myself included, live most of our lives in these concrete boxes with only tiny windows to provide us with a hint of a life on the outside. Is urbanism really a measure of worthy progress? Have humans actually evolved since our days as simple farmers? Are we so much happier, healthier, and more caring towards each other compared with our seemingly primitive, cave-dwelling, hunter-gatherer ancestors? I wonder…

My year in Vejbystrand has answered a few key questions on how I want to define happiness going forward. Like the importance of having plenty of breathing space and how identifying situations and interactions that either add or subtract emotional value to my life, is crucial to my well-being.

I should really consider producing a book about Vejbystrnad. Wait! I did that already!

Happy New Year!


End of 2020

When I look back through a year, I tend to think of it in terms of an exhibition at a gallery or a museum. I call the piece above “End of 2020” and it consists of a dozen or so of my images from this remarkable year.

Closing in on 2020. Up until the very end, a year full of surprises – one of which is really great and will be unveiled sometime relatively soon. Like most years, there been both positive and negative challenges. I continue to refuse to use the word problem as it implies the possibility of being unsolvable.

I’ve had plenty of interesting work throughout 2020, including an almost sold-out niche photo book focused on the ancient village of Vejbystrand, an invitation to exhibit new work during the annual Gallery Night in Malmö, and a dozen or so film projects. The last of which will be published here tomorrow.

Physically, life could obviously be much better. I can only hope that sometime in 2021 I will be able to enjoy life more fluidly than what’s currently possible. In the meantime, I am recuperating.

As for the rest of the family, things are looking pretty damn good. Charlotte’s new business idea has been approved and at least partially funded and daughter Elle was just awarded Employee of the Year at the supermarket where she’s been working since February. Elle’s plan is still to begin studying at the university next fall, but in the meantime, she’s making decent money, learning a bunch of new stuff about the food and retail industries, and honing her social work skills.

If we cut away all the bull, the objective of life is essentially procreation and to thereafter support your kids through love, affection, wisdom, and role modeling, so that their ability to succeed on their own is maximized. For all my shortcomings, the one thing – the only thing – I feel a long-lasting sense of pride about is and always will be how wonderful a person Elle grew up to be. She’s still finding her footing on this strange planet, but she’s doing it with stable, righteous steps.

Ira Glass, the founder of one of my favorite podcast shows, This American Life, shares his thoughts in this super-short video about challenges.


Christmas Trap Door

This collage is from images captured during a short visit to Göteborg over Christmas. Towards the end of this post I’ll explain why I made it.

Well, the awfully strange Christmas 2020 is officially over now. While Covid-19 still lingers in the shadows, morphing into new variants all over the place, an armada of vaccines is certainly closing in. But it seems as if the virus knows this and is shape-shifting – almost playing with us.

From what I’ve understood, the new vaccines represent the next-level in immunology tech.
But what if this breed of virus is even smarter and capable of mutating beyond what all the involved pharmaceuticals can provide protection against? What if this is just the first installment in an endless cat-and-mouse game where, for example, BioNTech’s synthesized mRNA therapeutical vaccine has to constantly be tweaked to cope with new virus versions?

Listen to Kara Swisher’s straight forward interview with the two head scientists at BioNTech here. Or, better yet, read the transcript from the interview here. Kara’s podcast “Sway” is a new NYTimes.com favorite. Not quite up there with Michael Barbaro’s show, The Daily, at least not yet.

In Sweden, we have this old tradition where children open up “hidden” doors in a cardboard Christmas Calendar until it’s either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, I forget which.

While driving back to Vejbystrand earlier today in torrential rain and then a snow blizzard, we listened to a few podcasts, including the aforementioned interview with BioNTech. It was while listening to that episode that I came up with the idea for the collage above. Smart scientists have found a door and located a handle to open it with. They’ve even picked the lock. But we don’t know for sure what awaits behind it…

More of my collages here: www.raboff.com/art


The Elephant Hug

Our daughter Elle shot this during lunch at an elephant sanctuary in Botswana’s sprawling Okavango Delta a while back.

Whenever I’ve shown this image, the first reaction people have is that it’s photoshopped. Once I’ve convinced them that it’s not, they then ask how we dared let such an incredibly large and potentially dangerous animal get so close to us.

While definitely one of my life’s most humbling experience, up there with diving with great white sharks outside of Cape Town, we were never frightened or worried. The sanctuary’s three elephants were orphans and at least partially brought up by humans. So beautiful. So friendly.

I’ve been fortunate to have met dozens of elephants over the years in Asia and Africa, none as close as during this amazing bush lunch, though. A few days after this lunch, we saw a herd of elephants that our guide estimated to have about 100 members. That too was a surreal experience. I feel like I need to hug an elephant again.


Winter Solstice

The winter solstice is one of my favorite days of the year. Especially when I am here in Scandinavia. According to Wikipedia, the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere happens on the 21 of December and is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year when the Sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky.

Essentially, the winter solstice means that as of tomorrow, we’re once again heading out of the darkness and into the light.

I would argue that the light won’t fully return until January 20 when Donald Trump and his entourage of nitwits, halfwits, and knuckleheads finally leave the White House.

I shot the above in Palisades Park on December 21, 2013, while we were living in Santa Monica, California. The sculpture was made by Bailey Oakes and called Gestation III.


Ending The Pity Party

Understandably, at least from my vantage point, I’ve been having serious tribulations about how the disease arthritis is going to dictate my future professionally and ability to function frictionless socially. And if I extrapolate, what will its impact look like in a year, two years, a decade?

My hesitation to begin taking Methotrexate is based on the fact that it’s an immune-suppressing drug with potential life-threatening side-effects. Considering that this is a time of human history when having a strong immune system is crucially important, my worries aren’t exactly unfounded. Also, once you start with chemotherapy, you’re on a slippery slope that doesn’t lead to anywhere pretty.

And if it wasn’t enough to be on chemo, easier this week I found out that my already shitty vision has gotten a lot worse. So, worse case scenario, I might be both blind and bedridden before retirement.

So, as you can probably tell, dear reader, I’ve been having a pathetic “Pity Party” for a few days. I don’t enjoy feeling sorry for myself, but hey, no one is better at it than oneself.  And as long as it doesn’t become a pathetic pity orgy, I think it’s perfectly okay to shed a few tears of despair in the face of what at times feels like a grim future.

Fortunately, I’ve had plenty of experience over the years dealing with all kinds of crap thrown my way. I’ll survive. Or, as the legendary Lebowski so aptly put it, the dude abides. There’s too much fun stuff to look forward to. Can’t just allow life to cave in on me. I will need to make some adjustments and learn how to say no more often, though. But then again, that’s something I’ve needed to do anyway.

So, fuck it. Time to move on. The Pity Party is over.

(Created the above collage from several utility boxes I recently shot in Malmö).


Fighting for Another Round
For the last 25 years, I’ve been living and working more than full-time as an artist. I’ve invented workarounds for my physical and emotional challenges so I could keep moving forward and at all costs avoid inertia. Since discovering my creative ability in the mid-1980s, I’ve been possessed with expressing it.

I like the drug analogy. I was both the dealer and the user and no part of my life couldn’t be made into some kind of creative adventure or give me the high I yearned for. After a while, I needed a constant supply of creative challenges to even feel alive.

Like with most addictions, it’s hard to fathom how life without the drug could be possible. A life where only the consumption of others’ creativity exists would be tres, tres, trist. Meaningless. If there’s a purpose to the existence of humans, in addition to procreating our species, it’s to use our lives to be creative, to invent, improve, iterate, strive for progress. How could making use of our extremely limited time on the planet by exploring our creative capabilities not be anyone’s highest priority? I am a strong believer in that everyone has a creative gift. It might not be easy to find, but if you try enough, it will show itself.

I’m going through some shit right now. A huge shit sandwich, actually. My body isn’t cooperating at all. It hasn’t been for a few years but I’ve been doing my best to camouflage my pain, invent workarounds and keep a stiff upper lip. I can only hope that things will improve with the new medication and a new mindset.

I feel like a heroin user each time I press the needle to my skin and inject a few milligrams of a thick, yellow poison. It’s going to take time before I feel any results. Months. And I’ll never be cured. Only more or less asymptomatic. Which is a realization I can’t find words to describe.

I’ve always seen myself as the original comeback kid. Someone that always makes sure to bounce back from the brink. From tough times. From hell. But now, for the first time, I can feel a strange weight. A shadow hovering above me.

I am angry. Frustrated. Disappointed. When do I get a break? Or, have I already had mine? Was it so short and sweet that I didn’t recognize it? Maybe that’s it. We have a certain amount of time where we are weightless. Without burdon. A slice of life that seems indefinite. Eternal. But it’s only a slice. Then comes the decline. Payback time. I’m not giving up. The umpire is looking at me as I sit in the corner of the boxing ring. He’s trying to determine if I have a new round in me or if I’m through. I think I have a few more in me. Just need to rest a little. Take off the gloves for a while. Collect my thoughts. Figure stuff out. Find the bounce again. How to keep moving forward.


Shadow Golfers

Here’s a reworked scene from an upcoming short film I produced (1 of 5) for a company focused on attracting tourists to our county, Ängelholm. While the drone shot was planned ahead, I certainly got lucky with the sunshine casting those extremely long shadows. This is the first time (ever) that I’ve composed the soundtrack myself. It’s early, but I feel confident that I’ve added a new creative form of expression.


Merry Christmas

I’ve published this collage a few times before and it’s one of my top 50 downloaded images online. I shot the room with trashcans somewhere in Bangkok, Thailand a few years back.

I’m trying hard to resist buying Christmas presents this year. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people are buying more stuff than during a normal Christmas as a way to compensate for some of the sacrifices we’ve all had to make due to the pandemic. We feel sorry for ourselves and allow for a bit more indulgence than usual.

According to a NASA report from 2019, a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in global temperature is projected to bring with it a slew of climate-related risks to human health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, and economic growth.

Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t it a little counterintuitive when an organization so dependent on rocket fuel and so focused on space travel, is making scientific projections that reflect negatively on their very existence? Kinda like if an airline published a report about how travel by train was safer and better for the environment. What if NASA instead put all that amazing brainpower they have into solving some of the more acute climate-related issues we have here on Earth? We might not need to be so desperate about relocating to another planet. I mean, honestly, with our track record, what’s to say we won’t fuck up Mars just as we have Earth?


Christmas in Vejbystrand 2020

Captured this scene yesterday afternoon. It looks like it’s later in the day than it is. I started my hour-long trek around the village at about 4:00 pm. The darkness seems to arrive earlier here in the Swedish hinterland. I’ve published the images over at the Vejby Baby site.

Like the rest of this strange year, 2020 is certainly going to offer up an unusual Christmas holiday. A year of a pandemic no one saw coming. I just looked up the origin of the word “pandemic”. Unsurprisingly, it’s Greek and connects the two words “pan” = “all” and “demos” = “people” or, population. A pandemic affects all (or nearly all) of the people, regardless of whether or not you contract the disease.

2021 has a lot of promises to fulfill. But I doubt we’ll see a noticeable reduction of restrictions until midyear. Maybe even later if the anti-vaccine movement succeeds in influencing reasonable people to boycott getting inoculated. I still find it fascinating how the main objective now is for everything to go back to normal. That as long as we get to continue to lead the lives we led pre-pandemic, things will be ok again.

Nobody seems to take this unique situation as an opportunity to begin redefining our relationship with Mother Earth. Which worries me. We’re like that beautiful deer caught in the headlights of a huge truck roaring down a highway at night. Paralyzed and ignorant of what happens if it doesn’t move or change direction. Booom! If you connect the dots, the virus origin, the way it spread, the people it’s impacting the most are all related symptoms of something much more serious.


California Surfers

If I had to pick out 10 of my proudest shots, this photo would be among them. Even without palm trees, sunshine, or anything else that typically symbolizes California, it still evokes strong emotions of what makes me long for Venice Beach and the Pacific Ocean. It has the low-sailing pelicans, the gentle swell of waves, and the camaraderie among surfers most of whom appreciate how generous and privileged life can be.


Rose Hip Soup

Shot these rose hips just a few weeks ago somewhere along Saltörsvägen here in Vejbystrand where calmness abides.

When I was a boy living for a summer or a winter with my grandparents Agnes and Eskil Andersson in Trollhättan, rose hip soup was a common dish during the winter months. It’s not my favorite soup. Too sweet. I’m more into savory soups.

A light layer of snow arrived last night. Won’t last long, though. After a windy November, December has begun windless. Lennart and Charlotte are spending the weekend with me. Looking forward to spending some time with them.

I’m in daily contact with a few choice friends located all over the world, but my IRL life is barely measurable. Lennart is clearly the most enthusiastic when we reunite and it usually takes about ten minutes for him to calm down and stop smothering me with kisses. Poor guy, he probably thinks I’m his dad, not just a good friend that makes movies he stars in.


Electrifying History?

I’ve been thinking about all the historically significant events and shifts that have played out during my lifespan so far. I guess it’s the pandemic that got me started thinking about this.

The moon landing, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, the Flower Power era, Richard Nixon’s resignation, the rise of a more conservative American nationalism through the Reagan presidency, the fall and dismantling of the Soviet Union, China as a dominant manufacturer, the birth of the Internet, the birth of our daughter Elle, the global economy, low-cost air travel, the smartphone, electric vehicles, climate change, social upheaval, and protest movements – and the introduction of reoccurring viral pandemics.

I suppose each generation has its fair share of electrifying events, social, industrial, and financial paradigm shifts spread out across a lifetime. And today, the ability at any given moment to hear and see world events unfold is unique in the history of our species. So maybe when I think that I’ve experienced a lot more than the generation before me, I might just be confusing quantity with quality.

That’s not to say that the Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ movements aren’t as important as other socio-political crusades. But in the grand scheme of things, they are relatively niche and likely given a larger spotlight because they mostly take place in the US. I mean, you don’t see a lot of protests in America or Europe for the rights of the Chinese ethnic Uygur or against the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s almost decade-long slaughter of his own people. Us fat cats in the west are very picky about what we care about, for sure.

I find some kind of solace in knowing that most of what has transpired during the relatively short history of my life and the entire time humanoids have been around is actually quite insignificant. That what we have created, tall, deep, wide, fast, or large, is of diminishing importance when juxtaposed against, for example, the amazing evolution of animals and plants that take place over several millennia. Knowing that our species has always been equally capable of impressive and horrific stuff gives a little perspective when I feel like I’m overdosing on the onslaught of bad, sensational news perpetrated by the media 24/7.

The above collage consists of about 5 different images ranging from a skull of a dead water buffalo from Asia to a fantastic wall packed with old industrial outlets and fuse boxes that I found in Malmö a few weeks ago.


Unlocking Creativity

I was thinking about creativity today in the shower and how fortunate I am to have discovered my ability to unlock/unleash it. To be able to write, paint, photograph and film not only allows me to alternate between different mediums, but also to never ever have nothing to do during my awake time.

Ever since my discovery in the mid 1980s, producing my own stuff has been more important to me than consuming others. I definitely need a certain amount of input and inspiration, but if I only consumed what other creative people made and never let my impressions be expressed and exposed somehow, I’d feel pretty empty.

Once in a while I lecture high school seniors here in Skåne. The main theme is always a combo of filmmaking and photography. But the underlying layer is about creativity and how important it is to me. My hope is to leave these lectures with the kids feeling a little curious about their own creative ability.

I believe everyone, especially those that say to me that they’re not the least bit creative, can be just that. And if they only allowed themselves the time to explore and discover the keys that unlock their particular abilities, the need to constantly and passively consume others creative output, would be reduced and the world would possibly be in a better place today.

The beauty with creativity is that it is 100% free. At least the process is. But you don’t actually need a fancy computer, a painters studio or a truckload of camera gear to express your feelings, thoughts or ideas. It’s actually within the smaller, tighter boundaries that some of history’s most noteworthy and inspring art is born.

The picture above is from The Josh, a fine  hotel in Bangkok.


The Biden & Harris Chill Pill

Here’s a new piece for the Resurfaced series titled “Cranking Ahead”. It has an old bike crankset at the foundation of the layered collage.

I don’t know how you feel, but I’m certainly experiencing a more relaxed post-election vibe right now. I’ve taken a dose of The Biden & Harris Chill Pill.

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in home where there always was a lot of yelling, screaming and fighting. I have a theory that I became so used to the highly volatile and often violent atmosphere, that it became the norm. One of the consequences, something I’m still dealing with today, is that I easily get worked up and have a hard time unwinding without being physically/mentally exhausted or by drinking.

So, with Trump finally avowing that he lost, albeit in a typically asinine fashion, I feel a little less wound up and relaxed.

The novelty of Trump’s un-PC presidency soon wore off and once those of us not hypnotized by his bullshit and/or mesmerized by an anomalous level of fear-mongering, doubt-seeding and shameless gloating, can now finally let out a collective sigh of relief.

Now, don’t interpret this as a wish, but should Joe Biden not feel up to the task, I mean, at 78 he’ll be the oldest president to hold the office, I feel very confident that Kamala Harris will have the grit and intelligence required to try to unify the country a little and address at least some of the most acute issues; the pandemic, unemployment, the healthcare system and, of course, the climate/environment. Especially if those two Senate seats in Georgia go blue.


Take the Plunge

Shot this in Lervik, on the last really sunny day here. I was almost tempted to jump in. Not today as yet another storm is sweeping by with cold, gusty winds.

Random Thoughts Monday

• Even though Sir Jony Ive has left Apple, the new operating system, Big Sur, is way too minimalistic for my taste. Function should always take the front seat and rule over form and design. The new macOS represents the opposite. While it’s clean and sleek, for someone like me with poor vision, the operating systems new design aesthetic – with a minimalistic approach to navigation and interface elements – is way too understated and therefore harder for someone like me to use.

• Had one of those inspiring chats with a friend that like me has a past that continues to impact his present. Emotionally and creatively. Always good talking to TB as it leaves me feeling less lonely and more inspired. Our two-hour talk went by so fast, though. So many commonalities between us.
• Noticed a herd of cows grazing on one of the meadows closest to the sea during my walk northbound yesterday. It was great to see that they are outdoors this time of year. No sheep, though.
• The fourth season of The Crown is fantastic. What a cast! What dialogue! What cinematic excellence! Watch it!
• Netflix’s other popular show, The Queen’s Gambit, makes me want to start playing chess again. Something I haven’t done in probably 30 years. There should be at least a few sites that host virtual chess games.
• The Unites States is heading for a virtual civil war where the reasonable and unreasonable will clash verbally for a long time. Hopefully, when Biden and Harris take office and the vaccine rolls out, everyone will chill.
• Will we need an ID or some kind of documentation to prove we’ve been vaccinated once that whole process gets started in the spring? I’ve heard that the airline industry is already hinting at this.
• How many storms can fit into the month of November?

The Slick Lick List

Here’s my top 40 list of slick songs with groovy licks, smooth vocals, and laid-back beats. Artists like Michael Franks, Gino Vanelli, Richard Page, Kenny Loggins, and Lee Ritenour among many others. If you don’t dig at least some of these songs, you might want to check your wiring.

 


AIRPORT CODES 2020

Shot in Los Angeles on Sepulveda near LAX. A fun idea with these new “airport codes”. But also quite sad. Some of my favorite airports: DPS, NRT, BKK, JFK,  MIA, SFO, LAS, BBK, SEZ.


Veal Burger & How To Deal with Meat Lust

Here’s a “Wallenbergare” which is arguably one of the most classic Swedish dishes ever invented. It used to be one of my favorite dishes. It’s basically a burger made of veal accompanied with mashed potatoes, green peas, lingonberrries and a butter sauce. I shot it 6 years ago for a restaurant in Malmö after which I ate it with great pleasure eve if it was a little cold.

It’s been more than five years since I ate beef, pork, or any kind of bird.

I have yet to feel that declining from eating land animals (I’m a pescatarian) has been a huge sacrifice. There’s been a few occasions when lifting the lid off one of those stainless steel pans you typically find at a hotel’s breakfast buffet, usually brimming with steaming bacon, caught me off-guard. But once I start thinking of how poorly the pigs were cared for before they were slaughtered and then sliced into strips of bacon (and other cuts), and all the other guests with grimy hands and filthy fingers that have used the same fork or tong to shovel bacon onto their plates, I have zero problems moving on.

That’s not to say that I don’t miss bacon. I do. I miss the chewiness, the smokey flavor, and the salinity. Can’t wait for “Impossible Bacon” or “Beyond Bacon” to show up someday at the store.


Cleaning Lady at Malmö Opera

This is a Vietnamese cleaning lady at Malmö Opera. I photographed her during the “We are Malmö Opera” book project 2017. I interviewed 54 individuals for that book and though the above woman wasn’t included, her colleague Tam Nguyen was.

I remember reflecting on the vocational distance between the lady cleaning seats, floors, and restrooms at the opera, and, for example, the musicians and singers. That the lady above, if she had been given the opportunity and encouragement, might have been a virtuoso cellist, conductor, or a soprano. Who knows, right?

I’ve always believed that everyone, every single person on the planet has the potential to excel in some field. That we are all, at least, to begin with, are at the mercy of circumstances that either inhibit or facilitate. The time and place we were born. Our parents. Our friends. We obviously have to recognize an opportunity and take advantage of it and not always choose the path of least resistance.

While I don’t know the backstory of the woman above, I am sure she feels that her life has turned out ok and that her children will have a much better opportunity to aspire to more than just surviving as she did.

In addition to being a fucking pain in the ass from a practical point of view, the pandemic can also be a bit of a “dream killer” – a creative inhibitor that squashes stuff I’d like to try and places I want to experience.

Even after so many months, I tend to forget about all the restrictions and mental hurdles the situation entails.

On the other hand, I also see this strange time as an interesting challenge. A time to figure stuff out and problem solve. A time for reflection and deduction. What’s important? How can I make use of my creativity to feel better, do better, live better, love better?

As Covid-19 continues to ravage the world,  it reminds me of how fragile the lives we’ve taken for granted for so long are. That not unlike the lady above, we perhaps need to chill out and calm down. Be grateful. You know?


Travel Lust: Maldives

Met this fine feather friend hanging around near our bungalow on an island in the Maldives. We were in Bangkok at the time to produce a travel guide. A couple of friends had been to the Maldives a few months earlier for their honeymoon and when we realized that it was only about a four-hour plane ride away from Thailand, we decided to go. So, we flew with the boutique carrier Bangkok Airways to the island nation’s capital Male, and then jumped on a speedboat to a tiny atoll where we stayed for four or five nights.