Lennart’s Sunday Morning Kiss
Days of a typical week seem to merge into one abstract passage of time. Slept 10 uninterrupted hours last night. Made toast with a thick layer of crunchy, organic peanut butter topped with thin slices of banana wheels.  Vietnamese coffee. Rain. Wind. Lennart’s morning kiss. Things could be worse.
Photo Credit: Charlotte Raboff

Fourth of July

Today, the fourth of July is an apt occasion to express more of my mixed feelings about the United States. These passive-aggressive emotions are not exactly subsiding, either. On the one hand, I still love taking part in the country’s cultural and geographical multitudinous. As far as I’ve experienced, only India and China can muster nearly as much width and breadth. On the other hand, I loathe that so little effort is put into addressing many of the nation’s most pertinent societal problems.

The chronic incapability (or, unwillingness) to change and evolve is both sad and pathetic. 

There is plenty of evidence to support the theory that “The American Empire” is coming to an end after a relatively long and at least partially successful run. It’s probably time for China and what could possibly be a very slippery slope downhill for democracy as we know it. I don’t think the dispassionate Chinese leaders are focused on political conversion or force-feeding their flavor of communism to the rest of the world. No, it’s time again for some classic colonialism; securing financially significant (and potential military) outposts around the world at any cost and any means. Much like the US has been busy doing for about 100 years or so. Same game, different player.

There’s no doubt that there’s been a great deal of impactful and historically noteworthy milestones for the US to celebrate along its bumpy timeline. But I don’t think the country’s version of capitalism has scaled very well. The population has grown way beyond what the system was originally designed to manage sustainably. It’s not yet completely defunct, but clearly not firing on all cylinders any longer.

Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I still think the EU has achieved much more cohesiveness within the union and helped several member nations begin evolving out of poverty in less time than the combined tenure of the last three US presidents. PM Boris has been inspired/hypnotized by the current populist movement sweeping acrosst the world and only time will tell how the UK fares without the EU and vice-versa.

Today, much of the US fabric I grew up under is slowly unraveling. If you can’t see it, nevermind accept it, you probably also feel a dose of indignation when anything critical about the US is brought to your attention. Or, you can’t see beyond political boundaries and subscribe to the notion that all that is wrong is the other party’s fault. But even so, there’s no denying that there are way too many disenfranchised Americans who will ever see their lives improve in any measurable way – and far too many well-to-do folks perfectly fine with the others dire outlook. They don’t see how or why it’s their problem. Which is a very scary attitude and one that Trump constantly propogates.

Words like solidarity, humanism, and compassion have effectively been deleted from much of the American lexicon. Increasingly, flag-waving, gun-totting patriotism has become the norm and a way of life for tens of millions of Americans. If you’re not part of that movement, you’re pretty much defined as a communist or even a potential terrorist.

It makes me sick to think about how un-nuanced and divisive the public discourse is nowadays. That the intellect of so many has over time been collectively inculcated by the oversimplification of complex societal challenges, including police brutality, economic injustice, racism, and political divisiveness is frightening. These still unaddressed challenges have proved to be similar to viruses – but much, much harder to beat than say, COVID-19.

I think most Trump supporters are simply tired of having to think independently. In a land perversely obsessed with being entertained and saturating life with all forms of consumption, it’s obviously much easier to just fall in line, put on a MAGA hat, wave the Stars and Stripes frantically and yell aggressive slogans until it’s time to go home and turn on Fox News for the latest serving of propaganda.

The fall will undoubtedly be interesting. Like most sensible people, I’m hoping DJT gets voted out of office. Should you sign a confession stating you admit to being a degenerate if you think he should stay put for another term? Yeah. Definitely.

Pretty sure Joe Biden isn’t really up for the task. Jeez, the dude’s going to be 80 before his first term is over. But as long as his running mate is at least a little younger (and considerably more coherent), I’m ok with anybody that replaces the sitting regime’s unbridled, relentless kleptocrat.

Man, I still can’t wrap my head around how so many people voted and will continue to vote for Trump. Then again, in 1932, close to 14 million Germans voted for the Nazi Party. It’s clear to me that it isn’t beyond Trump to use similar propagandistic tactics to ensure his reelection in November. I believe he’s even capable of starting a war just to distract the nation and secure a new term.

Speaking of the man with short, stubby fingers, I got a letter from the White House yesterday. It had fallen face down and the envelope’s whiteness almost camouflaged it against the bottom of the mailbox. Dated May 1st, it contained information related to a $1200 check that I was supposed to have already received but that has yet to show up. With the headline “Your Economic Payment Impact Check Has Arrived”, the letter kicked off a harangue of propagandistic platitudes I don’t want to waste space repeating here. The gist of it was likely taken from the first few pages of the “Authoritarian’s Handbook”.

Though $1200 would certainly be most welcome, I don’t understand why I received the letter in the first place. I’ve not resided in the US permanently since 1978 and thanks to the double taxation agreement between Sweden and the US (and because I’m way under the income threshold where double taxation is unavoidable), I don’t pay income tax to the Internal Revenue Service – I only have to file an income return form. Like most Swedes, I already pay way too much tax to the Swedish government. Way too much.

So today’s questions are:
• how can I possibly be eligible for the Economic Payment Impact Check?
• Is it really just by virtue of being a US citizen?
• How did the White House find me? Through the US Embassy in Stockholm?
• Is the check an ill-hidden attempt to get me to use my right to vote and pick Trump this fall?

History’s packed with politicians paying money for votes. Would it be beneath Trump to try something like this? I realize that the bill preceding the check was passed with bipartisan support and probably helped millions of Americans for a week, possibly two. But what about afterward? In a country with a fragmented, largely dysfunctional healthcare system and where the cost of living, at least in major cities, makes it challenging to survive even under normal circumstances, how effectively did $1200 cushion people’s lives?

I’m pretty sure the check serves multiple purposes. It shows that Trump could actually get a bipartisan bill passed in a timely fashion. The check is also yet another example of Trump’s use of misdirection. It temporarily veiled the media’s investigation of how late the White House responded to clear indications about the spread of the virus and the president’s well-documented downplaying of its impact.

As a child, I looked forward to celebrating the fourth of July. The picnics, all the flags and if I was at West Hollywood Park with its nearby fire station, there might even be fireworks galore. But I don’t think I really understood what we were celebrating. In a nation made up of both voluntary and forced immigrants from all over the world, the connection to the revolutionary war against the English some 200 years earlier, the unification of a string of loosely connected colonies and their independence from Great Britain, probably seemed as old as the dinosaurs to the younger me. My friends came from all kinds of exotic countries, so I suppose I just couldn’t relate to the historic symbolism the fourth of July represented. Today, I feel a little disgusted and worried whenever I see people expressing patriotism, regardless of country. I get that it can be innocent and harmless. But still…

I think the nostalgic, glorified fixation of its own history is a crucial part of what’s holding America back from taking charge of its future. That and a shitload of people that hate change.

The shot is from a junkyard exhibit of some kind in Tonopah Station in Nevada – straight across the border from Yosemite National Park in California.


Back in Vejby Baby

Feels good to be back in Vejbystrand. Especially now when we are alone again. The consequences of precautionary safety measures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic made living together (multi-generationally) increasingly challenging.

Now that Charlotte’s parents generously retreated back to Göteborg, the serene calmness I’ve always associated with being here on our own has once again returned. We already have plenty of demands on our shoulders. Not having to compromise with our time and space makes carrying them a little less laborious.

I’ll be busy for most of the next few days with all the film and stills I’ve brought with me from the near weeklong “island-hopping” along Sweden’s west coast archipelago.

Above: “Storm Horse” captured a few summers ago on the meadow.


Back in Göteborg

After about a week on Sweden’s marvelous west coast, I’m now in Göteborg. Very short visit this time around. Checked into a cheap but neat and clean hotel yesterday evening, had a tasty and fun Tex-Mex dinner with daughter Elle near the hotel in Vasastan, and went to bed fairly early to re-watch The Interpreter with Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman. It’s one of Sidney Pollack’s best films and takes largely place in the UN building in New York where I had a gig a few years ago.

Heading back to Skåne with Charlotte and Lennart later today. Shot the above image of Poseidon during last year’s visit.


Fredrik Head Chef at Nösund Havshotell

For two years back in the 1980s, I worked as a hot and cold chef in a restaurant in Göteborg. I enjoyed it and learned a lot. The restaurant was part of a large jazz club and didn’t have any ambitions whatsoever with what they offered guests. But I soaked up whatever I could from coworkers with more experience than I had (everybody) and learned a lot about basic cooking there. After a while, I knew enough to start getting creative within the boundaries of the kitchen’s recipes and that’s when my interest in cooking really took off.

If I also count the sweaty year before the aforementioned jazz club gig, which I spent as a short-order cook flipping fatty burgers, frying frozen schnitzels and serving them with drippy fries, I’d say I’ve got a reasonably good idea about what working in a kitchen is like.

As far as I can tell, kitchen life hasn’t changed much since I last put on an apron. The stress, the heat, the burns, the cuts – they’re all still there, regardless of where in the world you take a peek inside a busy kitchen.

Whenever I’ve got a gig shooting food for a restaurant, I also take note of the camaraderie and the kitchen staff’s ability – and willingness – to work together in an often ridiculously small space and produce an abundance of meals in an unreasonably short time frame.

I’ve just spent a couple of days being reminded of this here at Nösund Havshotell while filming and shooting stills for the hotel’s marketing team.

Shot the above during today’s lunch service with supremely dedicated Head Chef Fredrik and his camera-shy colleague Chef Birgitta.


Back at Nösund Havshotell

After a weekend of intense albeit distanced socializing and catching up with the old crew from yesteryear on the island of Hönö, outside of Göteborg, I’m now further north along the coast in Nösund, the seaside hotel – run by Lars J Olemyr – on the island of Orust.

The weather’s been a bit shaky since I got to Nösund Havshotell – with several heavy rain showers passing overhead. How much of this evening’s scheduled shoot I’ll be able to do outdoors is as of right now very uncertain.

Regardless of the weather, the calmness here is soothing and when not filming at the hotel and its gorgeous surroundings, I’m spending most of my time alone, catching up with myself.


Boat Trip with My af Hälsö

Here’s a few selected scenes from yesterday’s amazing boat trip along the coast with Captain Jakob, Lars Olemyr, Tommy Sahlin, Jonas Bratt, Joakim Eklund, and I. While Skåne’s coastline is certainly beautiful, I’ve missed this part of Sweden since leaving Göteborg back in 1997.


Morning Swim at Hönö

Dragged Lars Johan Olemyr, one of my oldest friends, out of his bed this morning to join me for a morning swim in the ocean. After whisking away a tiny red jellyfish, we both eased ourselves into the mirror-like surface, adjusted to the nippy temperature (19C/66F) and then enjoyed one the best morning swims ever with thick seaweed under our feet.


On the island of Hönö in Sweden’s gorgeous west coast archipelago again. In my youth, I did quite a bit of sailing along this amazing coast. Got in yesterday afternoon. The weather is as wonderful as last time. As of Midsummer, we’re slowly heading back into the darker side of the year. But for now, summer evenings like last night – pictured above – are so beautiful and precious, you never want to go to bed.


Lollo & Bernie at Quality Hotel View

From yesterday’s shoot at Quality Hotel View in Hyllie/Malmö when the popular couple Lollo and Bernie checked into the hotel. Here with General Manager Jenny Benestam. Did I hear someone say I have a diverse job? More photos from the assignment here.


Bar Italia’s Artisan Gelato

I was increasingly yearning for ice cream yesterday while editing the latest shoot for Bar Italia and their handcrafted, artisan gelato. But since no reasonably good ice cream could be found here in Hyllie (just outside of Malmö), I opted for a bag of popcorn instead.

In addition to an uncompromising position when it comes to the quality of their products ingredients, which I can corroborate is best-in-class from filming the process in the factory a couple of weeks ago, the main difference between mainstream ice cream and Italian gelato is that the former’s base is made from air-filled cream while the latter is created from pure milk.

Bar Italia’s gelato base is made with organic milk from Skåne – which not only makes for a more dense eating experience (there’s comparatively very little air in milk), the creaminess in ice cream also tends to “steal” some of the oomph from the flavorings.

I’ve tasted most of the variants seen above and they were all heavenly sumptuous.


Soft Artisan Gelato

Created this advertisement the other week for Bar Italia and their artisan soft gelato (pistachio flavor). Apparently, it’s generating quite a bit of viewership on both Facebook and Instagram.


Exclusive Wine Tasting at Vejby Vingård (Winery)

I’ve been working on this assignment for a while now and delivered the final edit yesterday to loud cheers from the client, Vigneron Jeppe Appelin at Vejbystrand’s beautiful winery, Vejby Vingård.

As per usual, it was a shoot with all kinds of lighting conditions; morning, midday, and late afternoon sunlight. Most of the closeup scenes (on the ground) were shot with the Fujinon 56mm f1.2, a lens I just can’t get enough of. Indoors, the Fujinon XF 10-24 f4 proved to be the most useful, at least when I cranked up the ISO to 800.

The Mavic’s tiny drone sensor is still after two years impressing me and the aerial shots are by far the most spectacular of this project.


Black Hole Blues

This post is inside baseball for the unitiated and will only be fully appreciated by those that know me well.

I’m usually good at focusing on something interesting about people I socialize with. And I enjoy seeking out a bridge, a common thread, some shared experiences – be it leisure or professional – with just about everyone I meet. At my age, it’s not too difficult to identify commonalities with folks I interact with and I’ll build our short or long relationship from there. While some might call this social engineering, and, to a degree, at least occupationally speaking, it is, but being professionally friendly and a “smooth operator” is in my opinion part of the gig in almost every kind of business, including mine.

Even if I prefer the creative process over the formal and financial aspects of being a freelance artist, there is just no denying that putting on a smile and a little obsequious behavior will often lead to something beneficial – for all involved. It’s the lubrication that keeps the machine wheels turning and essentially what being human is all about. Everyone wants something.

Conversely, when I have to interact intensely – over long periods of time – together with people that I have zero in common with or what we do share is no longer able to bridge the wide gaps between us, I get easily bored and ultimately, irritated and frustrated.

With folks that I have so little in common with – people so superficial and lacking depth or substance, I end up feeling like I’m being sucked into an event horizon and eventually their soulless, eternal black hole of nothingness – a place so empty, every breath feels like it could be the last. After a while, my cortisol levels seem to shoot through my veins like fiery lava, causing stress and anxiety. These interactions inevitably break the creative spell which will soon put me in a fight or flight mode. And as we are living in this singularly peculiar times, neither of those choices is very simple to make. But, as so aptly put in The Big Lebowski; the Dude abides. I’m on top of it, figuring out my next moves. Literally and figuratively.

Not sure where I discovered this wall. It’s definitely going to be part of my Resurfaced series. I call it “Black Hole Blues”.


Happy Midsummer

Happy Midsummer Everybody! Here in Sweden, Midsummer is the start of the summer and for a lot of folks, yet another Swedish holiday where we to get together, eat herring, fresh potatoes, and perhaps a chilled schnapps or two. This year, there’s no dancing around the Midsummer pole like above (from Styrsjö where we were with the recently COVID-19 deceased friend Lars Fransson, Åsa, and Lars Olemyr) and social distancing will be certainly be upheld as a few of our close friends celebrate this ancient holiday with us.


LBJ vs DJT

A friend sent this link yesterday. It led to an article about LBJ the initials for Lyndon B. Johnson, the southerner that took over after the JFK’s assignation in Dallas.

I highly recommend reading the piece as it shines a bright light on the lesser known, shadowy side of the 36th president. Though mostly remembered for his progressive civil rights agenda, LBJ also widened and deepened US involvement in the Vietnam war. And, according to the article, it turns out Lyndon was pretty much a chauvinistic bigot whom once he became president, had no problem sharing his less politically correct thoughts and ideas along with bodily functions (and fluids) with his staff.

I’m sure several of Trump’s closest underlings will be writing books about working under his presidency and that a plethora of more or less interesting idiosyncrasies will be disclosed. But while LBJ was arguably a bit of a hillbilly, he was certainly no numbskull. And unlike Trump, his legacy will largely be one that pushed the envelope and nudged American society forward.


Home Grown

Here’s what tonight’s harvest looked like from green box to salad bowl. Crunchy fresh and organically grown – from seed to the earth it grew in. Nothing beats a salad made from your own veggies.


No Number Cows

I always remove the bright, yellow number tags from the ears of cows, sheep, and goats that I photograph. The tags are not only ugly, but they also remind me of how much easier it must be for their keepers to not have to think of them as living creatures – which in turn I associate with the mindset the Nazis had when they tattooed numbers on prisoners in the labor and death camps. Why not insert a discreet RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip somewhere on the cows/sheep/goats instead?


Editing Stills and Film

Still editing and composing a collection of short films from last week’s shoot in Svedala and Malmö. As much as possible, I follow my storyboard chronologically while filming. But much of the “story” I am trying to convey ends up coming together on the timeline – the spot within the editing software where all the individual film clips are placed in chronological order. The thing with editing film (as when compared to editing still images) is that you need to take a break from it in order to fine-tune your story and minimize excessive (boring) sequences. It’s a reductive process, much like cooking a sauce or a soup. You know from the start that you’ll end up with something much closer to your vision but that it’ll take a while to get there.

I am still impressed by the high-resolution film clips produced by the Fujifilm XT-3. At 4K, 25 fps, 10-bit color depth, and 400Mbits/s video, each and every second represents 25 individual images that provide more than enough information to be used as a standalone, printable still photo.

Since the vast majority of my film projects are delivered at 1080p (HD), the abundance of recorded video information allows for generous re-framing options and exposure/color tweaking. So handy.

The shophouse above is from somewhere along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. Shot with the Fuji last year sometime and edited in Lightroom and Photoshop. A lot of folks are opting to move to Capture One as their preferred photo editing software. I’m sure it’s a capable editor. But I don’t see how leaving my current workflow would grant me any creative or time-saving advantages. I know of only one (older) photographer that somewhat strangely uses Adobe Bridge instead of Lightroom’s superior organizational features. Adobe Bridge seems archaic, one of those Swiss Army Knife applications: lots of tools, none of which are implemented very well.

I suppose that’s the way it is. Once you try a piece of software and it gets the job done without getting too much in the way, it becomes hard to abandon. I suppose I’ll be sticking with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom and Final Cut Pro for a long time yet. Definitely going to dig into Logic, or, at least Garageband sometime over the summer. Really yearning to dip my toes in the music creation universe.


Stoicism vs Zen

During a conversation with an old friend in Los Angeles this morning, the ancient philosophy of Stoicism came up. In a nutshell: The ancient philosophy of Stoicism teaches that keeping a calm and rational mind – no matter what happens – will allow you to understand and focus on what you can control and not worry about stuff you can’t.

While I full-heartedly subscribe to Stoicism, I sometimes have the opposite approach. Worry about stuff you have absolutely no way of impacting and leave the stuff you can actually change unchanged.

In this era’s pandemonium, I find myself gravitating towards a zen-like philosophy where I try to apply a meditative vibe to much of what I do. Which isn’t easy and far from smooth, but having this mindset helps me get through some of my mundane obligations and day-to-day trivialities.

We’re living in paradise right now. It’s sunny and warm. Every garden, meadow, and grove is lushly green and brightly colorful. It’s undeniably beautiful this time of year, but also a little overwhelming. Having “off days” are hard-managed when everything outside screams picture-postcard-pretty at you. I don’t know for sure where these cobblestones come from. Possibly Göteborg.


Juneteenth

Just read this article in the New York Times. I don’t know which is worse – that I had never heard of Juneteenth, that the school system I was enrolled in didn’t consider the historic event important enough to educate me about, or, the shameful fact that the day isn’t a national/public holiday.

For those of you that like me are ignorant about Juneteenth, it’s an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States and an event African-Americans have celebrated since the late 1800s. While it feels messed up to not ever having heard of Juneteeth, it’s emblematic of how lopsided the whole holiday/celebration calendar is in favor of Anglo-Saxon Christians. Not to mention the lackluster curriculum on the topic of slavery and the emancipation of hundreds of thousands of African Americans. Fortunately, we now finally have a president totally focused on this and healing the nation’s cataclysmic divide, socio-economic equality, and global peace.

I don’t remember exactly where I shot this young woman. But I sincerely hope she has a better life than her parents, grandparents, and ancestors likely did her. More importantly, I hope her children don’t have to deal with the rampant racism still so prevalent in our time and age.


Santa Monica Images

From Santa Monica Beach, somewhere north of the Santa Monica Pier and not far from where I used to surf in the mornings. In the fall of 2013, I often spent whole afternoons walking around the beach, photographing people on the bike path, and in the waves. It felt purposeful, somehow. But above all, these long, daily walks were a meditative, zen-like routine that I enjoyed. I rarely returned to our apartment on 2nd Street without at least a couple of good shots to include in my collection at Santa Monica Images. Like the lady above – one of many colorful people riding up and down the coast.


Proof: Trump Is A Lot Dumber Than a Cow

That the world is steered by a fair amount of dumb-ass, dimwits with anger management and father issues, has never been more apparent than right now. When Trump recently got on top of his wiggly soapbox (aka twitter feed) and once again made a complete fool of himself, I thought of this operatic cow and how suitable she would be to illustrate Donald’s latest fuckup. While cows tend to be content with staying within their ecosystem and rarely veering off into territory where they just don’t possess enough brain power to function or add value, some humans (mostly men) don’t recognize their mental limitations, yet manage somehow to ascend to dangerously powerful and influential positions.

Here’s Trump’s latest moronic quip:

“It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.”

Yes, once again, the president of the United States of Ameria has so generously provided us all with a formidable example of his famous, world-class ignorance by not knowing that Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, and Fort Benning were all named after generals who commanded Confederate forces, an army that fought for slavery and against the United States Army and subsequently lost! lost! lost! the Civil War.

Seriously. How the fuck can you not bother to check your facts before making such a bold, dumb-ass statement to the world?
How is it possible? Where are all the speechwriters? Why is Trump allowed to go off-script so often?

I suppose Trump has surrounded himself with even dumber dumb-asses than himself, staffers that don’t know better than to think that because the man somehow managed to finagle his way to the presidency, well, shucks and golly gee, he must be pretty damn sharp. And if the people he hired are in actuality much smarter than he, they must be horrified by his erratic, whimsical behavior and that he is pathologically vengeful. A shut-up-and-keep-the-job-and-worry-about-the-botched-CV-later, situation.

Trump’s presidency is a farce and a tragedy all at once.


Born To Run – Lennart af Lejontass

This is Lennart. The Raboff family’s third dog. After Mini Schnauzer Torsten (rest his soul) and Standard Schnauzer Palma (happily relocated to Göteborg), Lennart af Lejontass is our first Mini Dachshund. He’s cute, cuddly and slowly acclimatizing to life in Vejbystrand.

While Lennart is Charlotte’s long-awaited dream dog, I find the uninhibited love and compassion, not to mention  the enthusiasm dogs so generously and spontaneously provide, is quite frankly irresistible. I melt every time he looks at me with those beautiful puppy eyes. Follow Lennart’s adventures: @lennartminidachshund


IN MEMORY OF LARS (part III)

Shot this yesterday morning near our local winery, Vejby Vingård. I’m keeping busy but thoughts of Lars Fransson’s recent passing linger on my mind from time to time. As if there wasn’t already enough to think about.

I can only imagine how complicated life has become for Lars’s family. From experience, I know that the practicalities that inevitably follow death, at least in the beginning, are intertwined with an emotional maelstrom. Which can be a blessing in disguise, as having to deal with both significant and mundane interruptions can help distribute the sorrow over time.

I managed to run 4.3k today. It was a sloooow run, but an energizing accomplishment nonetheless. I hope to someday be back up to my regular 10k runs sometime this summer. Running along the beach and pathways here in Vejbystrand has a soothing effect on body and mind.

I’ve been making organic fruit salad bowls for our breakfasts these past couple of weeks. To add a little protein, I’ll sling the salad with organic peanut butter and a generous pinch of organic coconut flakes.

I’ll be digging into the artisan gelato project now.


IN MEMORY OF LARS (part II)

Though Lars was Swedish, I always experienced his persona to embody the American spirit. The outgoingness, self-confidence, and competitive attitude – regardless of genre – felt somehow akin to my own approach to life. We also shared a love for cooking and would make delicious meals for our families whenever and wherever we got together.

Though Charlotte and Lars’s fiancé Åsa are childhood friends and in touch regularly, Lars and I didn’t see each other that often. Up until Elle’s graduation party early last June, we hadn’t met in a few years. Yet the two of us still maintained some kind of connection through our respective partners.

In the early days, before Elle arrived and their son Oscar was born, the four of us got together all the more often – at least 4 or 5 times a year. Either on the island of Styrsjö near Göteborg where Åsa’s mother lives, or, somewhere else in Sweden. Together with another good friend, Lars Olemyr, we had an amazing week on Ibiza. And Lars and Åsa visited us twice while we were living in Thailand, once in Karon Beach on Phuket and then again on Lamai Beach on Koh Samui. I also remember a fantastic New Year’s celebration with them at the makeshift night club at Triple Two Hotel in Bangkok.

In recent years, Lars and Åsa made several efforts to get together with us and for whatever reasons, it didn’t happen – which now makes me feel an equal measure of regret and guilt. And the worse kind of guilt is that which you can never wipe completely clean.

While the loss of Lars to Covid-19 is tragic, the abiding sorrow his teenage son Oscar will now have to carry in his heart is, well, unfathomable.

Even if the circumstances were entirely different, I can still after 42 years vividly recall when my mother died and how devastated I was. Not so much because of her death per ce, after three weeks in a coma, I was prepared by her doctor that it was only a matter of time before her lungs and heart gave up. No, it was the ensuing abysmal emptiness and emotional confusion that made it so hard to realize what had happened. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to fairly soon distance myself – at least geographically – from the trauma and drama on Croft Avenue in Los Angeles, by moving to Björcksgatan in Göteborg, Sweden where I eventually started a whole new life.

It’s been harder than I expected to process Lars’s passing. At first, I thought it was my own mortality and the lingering threat of the virus that made it so difficult to accept. But no, it’s the emotional distress that Oscar must be going through right now that I can both relate to and feel somehow. I want to hug him and tell him it will be okay. Not today. Not tomorrow. But someday. Someday.


IN MEMORY OF LARS (part 1)

A friend passed away yesterday. I don’t know if it’s too early to write about it. Maybe it is. But since Lars died from complications related to Covid-19, at least part of my inclination to post about this today is to remind you, dear reader, that we still need to be careful and accept that the pandemic is still lingering and is still a threat. Please be careful.

This is the view from my room (1401) at Quality Hotel View in Hyllie, Malmö.


Black Lives Matter in Malmö

I’m in Malmö again. Filming Bar Italia’s artisan gelato and sorbetto manufacturing process. Yes, I got to try several flavors and yes, it’s another one of those assignments with great perks.

The day concluded with a demonstration for the Black Lives Matter Movement against racism and to show solidarity with the tens of thousands of American protesters. After the gathering in Ribersborg, near Västra Hamnen, I had a couple of beers with a couple of friends, UK Thomas and US Michael, where we discussed our disgust with populists [un]leaders like Dumass Donald and Blundering Boris and if Elon Musk really is a genius and if so, why isn’t he even trying to help solve some of the more concerning issues, technically solvable problems that we have right here on Earth? As cool it may be, is rocketing to Mars really ever going to solve climate change (a lifestyle problem) or world hunger (a distribution problem)?

The cultural and financial structures and institutions that most of today’s societies are built upon are way too rigid to allow for change through peaceful protests and demonstrations. I’m not supporting violence and certainly not looting. But for those in power to take serious notice, we all need to stop supporting the system. Take it down by not participating within it. Only then will those in charge understand that it’s either shape up or ship out.


Above and Beyond Vejbystrand

Much of drone flying, at least technically, resides in my muscle memory. I don’t actively think about what controls do what. I just decide on a manoeuver and my fingers instantly execute the thought. Though perhaps unremarkable because it’s so obvious and natural, I still find it interesting how easily and nimbly we humans interface with machines. How adaptable we are and how fast we take things for granted.

Anyhow… I shot this over Vejbystrand last night at about 9 pm. In the center of the photo, you should be able to see a herd of tiny cows.


Cows of Vejbystrand

I haven’t eaten beef, pork, bird, or any other kind of meat or land animal for five years – and I’m now warming up to the idea of going full-on vegetarian. I shot this Saturday night at about 09:00 pm on my way home from Strandhugget, the village’s local seaside restaurant. I love cows and don’t see how I can ever enjoy eating veal or beef again.


Looting & Protesting in L.A.

The current demonstrations, protests, looting and civil unrest spreading across the US are both tragic and symptomatic for an unwell society. George Floyd’s brutal murder is just another example of the rampant racism that still prevails in America.

It saddens me to see so many police and National Guards on the streets of Santa Monica and Los Angeles. There is absolutely no justifying the looting going on in L.A. or anyplace else. These people should no doubt be thrown in jail and left there for a decade. But the fact that the looters are so many and that they even exist is no less interesting from a sociological perspective.

I get the cynical side of taking advantage of an unruly, confusing time in history and that these lawless assholes, at least theoretically, think they have much better odds at getting away with stealing than if they tried shoplifting or burgling a store. But who are these people? What’s their story? Are they all criminally minded, past felons, and recently released convicts? Or, is it in actuality also more normal folks – hypnotized by the group or mob mentality that the protests inadvertently propagate? Can these people be otherwise civilized citizens that just feel hopeless and somehow entitled to do what they want, now when there’s very little to lose?

I hope I am wrong, but the current turmoil could worsen tenfold once we get into the election season. I can envision how regardless of whoever wins the presidential race, that there will be even more protests and civil unrest. And with the overhanging threat of a second wave of virus infections en mass, the fall could prove to be even more disastrous than the first outbreak – immunologically, and financially.

Shot the above photo from somewhere along Mullholland Drive in the Hollywood Hills.


Fred Nicholas’ Centennial Celebration

This is Fred Nicholas, by far the Raboff family’s oldest friend. When I took that photo, early last year, Fred was 99. And yesterday he turned 100. Think about that for a moment. Think about what it would be like to have been born 1920, just a few years after WWI and so close to the last global pandemic (Spanish Flu). To have experienced the Great Depression, WWII, the escalation of the Cold War – and so much else – and still be around to remember it all vividly. So many historic milestones.

While turning 100 is in itself an incredible achievement, the fact that Fred is still sharp as a knife has a great sense of humor and a memory that blows me away makes his centennial celebration all the more noteworthy and inspiring.

My father, Ernest Raboff, and Fred met as soldiers sometime during World War II and with a few gaps thereafter, maintained their friendship until my dad passed away in the fall of 1986.

We visit Fred and his family every time we’ve been back to L.A. and no trip feels complete without a long lunch or dinner with him and his son Tony or with Joan before she passed. Due to the pandemic, we couldn’t make it to what was going to be a huge birthday bash for Fred at the Hillcrest Country Club. But I did get to speak with him today, just after he’d swam his morning laps in the pool!

The mayor of Los Angeles was among the many of Fred’s friends to congratulate and thank him for all his tremendous work for the cultural scene in Los Angeles. His achievements are far too many to list here, so I highly recommend visiting this website dedicated to Fred and produced by his son, Anthony Nicholas of Lapis Press.


An Honest Insight vs The Rectum Perspective

While Donald, frustrated and thirsty for Putin or Xi Jinping’s unbridled, undemocratic powers and once again managing to insert his giant orange head way, way up his rectum, making it unambiguously apparent that he has no clue of what the First Amendment represents, I’ve been busy building a small deck.

It’s an ongoing family joke about how impractical I am at just about anything that has to do with home improvement. I love the idea of fixing stuff, but I just don’t have the knowledge, patience, or eyesight to even come close to achieving the results I honestly think I am (theoretically) capable of. By now I certainly know my strengths and weaknesses. So for me, the key to successfully executing an idea where any kind of carpentry is involved is to hire someone for the job.

Yesterday, my buddy Thomas Hansson was the designer, foreman, and Master Carpenter and I was his clumsy, impatient apprentice. I’m sure that had I not been the employer, he would have fired me early in the day. Which would have been totally justified. As I said, I know my limitations and shortcomings. Which is something Donald J. Trump time and time again proves he does not. The millions that still don’t recognize his apparent ignorance and inability to serve the nation and heal the pain so many are going through right now are nothing more than halfwits. They might not even know they are, but such is the plight of ignorant folks. Not even when presented with an abundance of evidence do they let go of their trust in halfwittedness.


Old School Mowing

From earlier today. Charlotte and I usually divide mowing the lawn here in Vejbystrand. Our neighbors insist on using an old huffing and puffing, carbon fuel emitting machine called “Stig”. But we both prefer getting a little extra cardio exercise from pushing and pulling our old school, manual mower. It’s a Husqvarna and brand new, so the blades are still sharp and as long as we don’t let the grass grow too high, mowing is a breeze.


Birds of Vejbystrand

So this morning I woke up at an ungodly hour to pee. After struggling out of bed (my back is out of whack), I realized that it wasn’t my bladder that woke me. It was the cacophony of chirping birds in the garden and adjacent meadow. There was no wind whatsoever. I put on my shoes, strolled over to the studio, found my Zoom H6 recorder and dialed in the highest possible fidelity settings (96kHz/24bit), and began recording with the x/y capsule multidirectional microphones. I know nothing about birds, but have a decent collection of them here – including the one above. This is only a minute of a 3-hour long recording. For a hour’s immersive experience (with some distant cows to boot), feel free to click right here.