Avoiding Handy Handles

Without even realizing this before, it turns out that I am somewhat of a germaphobe. Not so much at home or when I am with family and close friends. But in public spaces, avoiding door handles, stair rails, elevator buttons or any type of knob is something I’ve been doing automatically for as long as I can remember. I can’t explain why – other than that my notoriously vivid imagination can easily envision how grimy and filthy the fingers and hands of the person before me were. Especially when it comes to men – which I know from half a century of experience of visiting public bathrooms – do not care nearly as much about cleanliness as they should.

Some men, not all, seem to think that at least part of their maleness lies in an ability to completely disregard personal hygiene or consider the implications their neglect of it could have on others. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a dude come out from a toilet stall in an airport or restaurant after “discharging” and then leave without even glancing at the sink or thinking of cleaning his hands, it would certainly be a tall pile of bills.

So, being extra precautious about touching stuff in the public realm isn’t much of hassle for me. All things considered right now and for the foreseeable future, having a hands-off and cleanliness approach will hopefully be the new normal for most people around the world. But hopefully, we’ll all be able to give and receive hugs more generously within the not-to-distant future. I miss them hugs!

Shot these handy door handles in Málaga a few months ago.


Qigong in Vejbystrand

From the other evening in the harbor of Vejbystrand where I found the perfect spot to practice a few of my Qigong moves.


Forgetful Yet Uneasy

Thanks to or because of, depending on your choice of perspective, my current workload distracts me from thinking too much about the pandemic and the tsunami of physical, emotional, and financial implications it carries with it. For hours on end, I am so immersed in my work, I can totally forget about it all.

Like most folks that have yet to know anybody that has been directly hit by the virus, it’s the indirect impact I hear of; from one friend in Malmö whom will likely lose his expansive restaurant business, to another pal, scared and hiding in complete isolation deep in one of Los Angeles sprawling suburbs.

The weirdest part of this unfolding drama is our collective uneasiness. We, including all the self-proclamied experts, still don’t know squat about how this craziness will actually conclude. Antithetical to an earthquake and other natural catastrophes, where there usually are plenty of historical precedents and aggregated statistics to help fill the void, map the scope (and to cope), here there are just too many puzzle pieces missing to provide a full picture of what the Covid-19 pandemic will look like going forward. Is there going to be even more radical plot twists? Like not becoming immune even after recovering from the disease? Or, that even if you only experience mild symptoms the first time you contract the virus, will they worsen the second or third time around – after your immunology has been compromised and exhausted? 

To put our current situation in a comically contextual perspective, it’s kinda like having a really bad stomach flu. Even several days after the last time you had diarrhea, you feel uneasy about letting out the tiniest fart. It’s just so friggin’ hard to relax these days.

The above photo of a pineapple themed tapestry is totally unrelated to this post but works as a decorative featured image nonetheless.


From Grand to Park

Shot today from my hotel room on the 7th floor at Park Inn in Västra Hamnen, Malmö. While both have their respective merits, Grand Hotel Lund and Park Inn Malmö could not possibly be more different in every aspect except for two shining similarities; affordable, mid-week room rates, and an extraordinarily high service level thanks to an extraordinarily low occupancy rate.


At Night: Grand Hotel Lund

When I finally got out of the tub, I peeked out the window and noticed how gorgeous and calm the evening was. Once I dried off, I put on a t-shirt, a pair of jeans and slipped into my shoes. Then I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed down and out to the small park right outside the Grand Hotel Lund to create the above image.


In Lund

Here’s one of my views this evening in Lund. A bird settling on the head of a statue is just too much of a temptation for any serious photographer to neglect. While in the midst of a whirlwind, a statue provides an eternity of perdurability. It doesn’t sway from its stance, bow to any virus, or need to make excuses or feel embarrassed when a bird inevitably drops a huge dump on it. Such is the destiny of a statue. It takes the shit and still stands tall and unmoved by past bird dumps or from being ignored. Gonna take a bath now. Together with Toots Thielemans.


Doors

Found this old wooden door during our short visit to Båstad during the weekend. It’s a little corny, but I’ve been fascinated with doors for as long as I can remember, both from a metaphorical and aesthetic perspective.


Bjärehalvön – Torekov

A quick visit to Torekov where the weather is fabulous and spring is just around the corner. Charlotte and I went for a long walk and while a bit nippy, it was both refreshing and energizing.


Calmness in the Calamity

This is what it looked like last night when the gusty winds finally subsided and left behind a vacuum of placidity and tranquility. While standing there with my camera, I felt so far from the calamity and drama sweeping across the world right now.

If you look above to the right in the image, where the big tree is, you’ll see the silhouette of a small, wooden birdhouse that I hung up there a few weeks ago, hoping some fine feathered fowl would discover the place and find it so irresistibly attractive, they’d move in. Well, yesterday, I saw a potential tenant checking the place out. I want to remember that one of my first woodshop projects when I arrived in Sweden back in 1978, was a crudely made birdhouse of birch. The one I hung up on the tree was decidedly more stylish and well-built and probably made in a factory somewhere in China.


Slow Coffee & Drip Life

I shot this one morning while we were living on the outskirts of Hoi An in central Vietnam. We continue to make our coffee this way, but man, that trip feels super distant right now. Not just because of the time lapsed from October until now. The whole world was different back then. Nobody had any concerns about spreading or being infected by a virus. No hidden suspicious or irrational fears. A time when handshakes and hugs were abundant and generously shared. We shopped at open-air markets, enjoyed street food and didn’t wash our hands more than before meals and after toilet visits.

I doubt there has ever been a time in the history of our species where humans have been more preoccupied with self-negotiating and micromanaging our lives. Here in Sweden, where there is no lockdown, shelter in place or judicially enforced restrictions, we are admittedly more or less free to go wherever we want and socialize, albeit in small groups.

Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone is concerned about making decisions that could either be potentially life-saving or life-threatening. From what I have seen in Ängelholm, Malmö and Lund, few people, particularly younger folk, seem to take much notice of what’s going on in Spain, Italy and the US.

I totally get that the younglings feel invincible and that life seems blissfully eternal. They should absolutely feel this way – it’s like a prerequisite for their age and enables them to reach further, jump higher and instantly bounce back when they inevitably fail and fall. And I like to think that to a degree, I still have that mentality in place. But, being a middle-aged man with a mild case of asthma and a father that definitely wants to experience what it’s like being a grandfather, I am one of those paranoid dudes that constantly self-negotiates and weighs pros and cons of many of my most rudimentary daily decisions. Perhaps not so much while being fairly isolated here in Vejbystrand. But I am super-conscious of how I am feeling and even the slightest hint of a headache, sniffle, cough, or, really any strange feeling that occurs in my body, puts me in a state of hyperawareness. Oh, did I mention that I have a mild case of Hypochondria?


The Hot Water Knob

This was shot in a hotel bathroom not too long ago. I couldn’t resist documenting such a beautiful faucet. What a great tribute to vintage design and outdated function. Creating the right blend of hot and cold water isn’t easily accomplished and I tend to just use the left knob and hope that I’ll have time enough to clean my hands and rinse them from soap suds before the water gets scathingly hot. I usually fail at this.


Leaning Left

Though a capitalist out of necessity, I am clearly a left-leaning liberal at heart. Honestly, I can’t understand how you could possibly be anything else. I sincerely hope that once we see the light at the end of this dark, threatening tunnel, that a considerably more humane, empathetic perspective emerges among those in power.

The picture above is composed of photos from within my archive.


Easter Eve in Vejbystrand

This is what Easter Eve looked like here in Vejbystrand this morning. Within the Christian tradition, Easter Eve is the Saturday after Good Friday. It’s a nugatory day because according to legend, Jesus’ disciples have locked themselves in his tomb for fear of those behind the execution. Why are they hiding? For fear that they too will be crucified? The hiding seems uncourageous to me. I mean, didn’t Jesus bravery rub off on them at all?

We are fortunate to not have to hide or shelter here, even though there is an “executioner” lurking in the shadows. An invisible, barely microscopic pathogen always on the lookout for new hosts and clearly with no regard for Easter or any holiday.

 


Sakura Flowers in Tokyo vs Vejbystrand

This morning, after her run, my Qigong/Yoga workout and our scrambled eggs on toast breakfast with Vietnamese coffee, Charlotte exclaimed, “the first place we’re going to travel to when all this is over, is Japan”.

I couldn’t have agreed more with her.

Our first visit to Tokyo was about this time of year. Elle was about 5 or six years old at the time and we fell in love with the Japanese capital. During our two week stay, Tokyo’s Sakura trees blossomed and because the flowers were not quite as pink as they are here in Vejbystrand (where the above shot was taken a few days ago), it kinda looked like the cherry trees were covered in a thick layer of snow.


Sjömantorp from above

I haven’t flown my old drone in about six months. Somewhat surprised how fast my muscle memory kicked in – making flying it feel easy peasy. I’m still fascinated by upside-down perspectives and this is from about 80 meters above Sjömantorp where we live.


Dualism

As I mentioned just before canceling my accounts on December 31st, 2019, I no longer participate in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social media platform. Yet I have somehow managed to persuade a few fine friends and chosen family members to communicate with me via iMessage, email and WhatsApp. I don’t mind having to switch between the three. But if I had my way, we’d all use email. I love writing and receiving emails. Writing an email feels close to old school letter writing – which I did a lot of in my younger years. Which kind of makes me feel ancient.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted so many people’s lives, including ours. It’s hard to grasp the scope of it yet. I think we might just be seeing the very tip of an enormous iceberg – the beginning of a multi-year, planet-wide, chain of events that will have a seemingly endless ripple effect on most everyone. How folks in the developing world and the poorest are going to be able to cope is a question I keep asking myself. There’s no optimistic answer, I fear. So many countries around the world are run by a bunch of autocrats, dictators, and despots, men that are either suppressing virus facts and stats and/or just looking the other way, ignoring a problem they are incapable of addressing. Their biggest concern is not the health of the country they strongarm but rather how the crisis might affect the power they wield.

Shot the above image somewhere in Asia a few years ago.


Easter Week 2020

The eggs are obviously photoshopped, but the nest is authentic. I found it the other day while cleaning out one of our many storage rooms here in Vejbystrand.  Like none I’ve ever experienced before, this Easter will be unprecedentedly weird. Not sure yet if any of our traditional gatherings will occur. One pleasantry will definitely be revisited: Easter snaps. I mean, even if it is the end of the world as we know it, a chilled snaps (with mustard herring, potatoes, and dill) or two can’t possibly make it any worse..


The Crusher

Charlotte and I have been to a large recycling facility today. We actually made two visits there and have will probably be back there tomorrow. I got lucky during our second visit as it was time to turn on the oddly pleasing wood crushing machine when we were at the wood station. A friend pointed out how watching this brutal machine is satisfying somehow. I agree. Now if only someone could invent a way to crush COVID-19…


Sheep Respite

It’s not without us feeling a little guilt and understanding that we are supremely privileged right now. Meeting spring in Vejbystrand is always wonderful – and especially so this year.

Within just a few weeks, the designation “rural” has metamorphosed into something positive and worth embracing. We’re whole-heartedly enjoying our current small-scale lifestyle.

It’s hard, but I’m trying to keep the news at a fair distance. All the dramatic headlines deplete my optimism.

The misery of miseries, as my old aunt Lillemor always said when a disaster occurred somewhere in the world – as in the world’s brimming refugee camps, where health care is limited and risk of contamination always imminent.

The earth’s population is currently living under the shadow of uncertainty. The future looks dire in almost every direction. I feel particularly for the many people that already had it tough before all this and who cannot comprehend how to cope with all the additional burdens the virus has brought with it.

Yesterday we took a long walk along the beach and on our way home stopped to greet three fluffy sheep living carefree in one of the village’s forest groves. The meeting gave some respite from the constant flow of reports about tragedies in Bergamo, Madrid and New York.

So far we are living relatively protected here in Vejbystrand and sincerely hope that this nightmare will soon be over.

Be safe!


Georgy Porgy

Agreed, the lyrics are nonsensical or, at best haphazardly composed. But just forget about that for a moment and listen to the sensual groove. The way master drummer Jeff Porcaro beautifully weighs his sticks and how slick Steve Lukather sings and plays guitar. Folks, it don’t get much better than this. Not even after 40 years. Having partied with the original band members back in the day during their visit to Gothenburg Sweden certainly helps keep the fire burning. But even so, compared to much else today, Toto’s early work is still unmatchable.


The Meadow

Society seems to be unraveling. Which is a great opportunity to find comfort in simple things, like living in Vejbystrand. Like eating vegetarian spring rolls with a bowl of jasmine rice and topped off with homemade apple chutney and fried broccoli. Some may have seen the above collage film before. It’s a collection of scenes from our nearby meadow. I compiled dozens of clips a few years back for an exhibit of landscapes from southern Sweden at Malmö Live in 2017. A version of this film was also shown during my 2018 Easter Art Show at Vejby Vingård – the village’s local winery.


Tiger King

I just finished watching Netflix’s über popular documentary “Tiger King: Murder Mayhem and Madness”.

Like no other documentary before it, Joe Exotic, together with all the other characters in the series, made me feel unapologetically proud to be a red-blooded American. Yee-haw! Each episode wholeheartedly encapsulated the essence, the very core and indispensable qualities that make rural America so immeasurably, unequivocally great. The multitude of enviable cultural articulations and freewheeling expressions of constitutional freedom so vividly shown in Tiger King prompted me to seriously consider abandoning my current life here in Sweden so I could relocate to hillbilly country of rural Oklahoma or near the “Glades” in Florida. Even my friend Samuel, currently a coronavirus prisoner in Málaga/Spain, says the parts of Oklahoma where much of Netflix’s Tiger King is played out is definitely an “interesting” destination.

Anyway…

About 15 years ago, Charlotte and I visited a tiger temple near the town of Kanchanaburi, a couple of hours’ drive west of Bangkok in Thailand and just a few clicks from the Burmese/Myanmar border. We were both incredibly naive and excited about being able to get up close to tigers and Aftonbladet, the newspaper that had commissioned us to produce a multipage travel reportage about the amazing Buddhist monks and their beautiful big cats, published our story in both print and on the interwebs.

As it turned out, the temple was in addition to being a very profitable tourist attraction with about 400 visitors per day, also a well-organized front for illegal farming and international black market trading of full-grown tigers, their cubs, tiger meat, tiger fangs, and tiger fur.

Today, I feel ashamed of having been so extremely naive. I saw how doped the tigers were, I saw the thick, short shackles that gave them zero freedom to move around and I certainly noticed that there was a disingenuous quality to the sugar-coated stories regurgitated to us by the monk during our special press tour.

Though the tiger temple was eventually closed, the site is still home to a few exotic animals, including (according to Wikipedia) a lion. As much as I love Thailand and the Thai people, I hope that some future incarnation of their government cracks down on the country’s many ill-kept and poorly supervised zoos and elephant riding camps. Most of all, I hope that the tiger above was allowed to live the rest of its life in a more peaceful environment. But I doubt it.


Summer Time

When I opened my eyes this morning, I saw a sliver of bright yellow sunlight protruding through the blackout curtains hanging over our bedroom window. I went to sleep unusually early last night and felt initially a little confused by the light. Had I slept in? It was Sunday, so no big deal if I had. For some reason, I remembered about the time change, that we are now officially in the summertime.

Though the pandemic is omnipresent online and in much of everyday small talk, I find that it still easily falls out of focus. I suppose that’s because we are here on the coast in Vejbystrand, so near to nature in an environment barely stirred by humans. I’m thankful that the reminders are few, at least when compared to urban dwellings. On the other hand, we kind of miss the “comfort” of having an abundance of neighbors – to share fears and hopes with – and we are at least a half an hour from the nearest ICU, if or when the shit really hits the fan.

Aside from probably lacking the emotional capacity and having zero skills, I still wish I had something to contribute to the healthcare field with right now.

The other day, a friend pointed out an interesting aspect of the unfolding situation to me. During her maternity leave, the restaurant she worked for as a manager went bankrupt. Just as her yearlong leave was about to end – but before the coronavirus took center stage – she had several interesting job offers, was hired by a bakery/café chain and set to go back to work in early March. Three weeks ago, her new employer laid her off. But with the fallout from the virus, she now feels somewhat relieved for having an unquestionably valid explanation of why she’s still not able to find a job.

I think we’ll be hearing more of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s thoughts on “UBI” a Universal Basic Income, a citizen’s dividend where a government guarantees that everyone receives a minimum salary. Defining “citizen” will obviously become a sticking point and while I think most sensible people in the world will abide and adjust to just having enough means to survive, it’s going to be really tough for most Americans to grasp what the concept of “basic” even means.

Shot these Easter flowers during a long beach walk the other day. Heard via the BBC that Kenya’s flower industry is disastrous with approximately 500.000 directly and indirectly affected and now out of work. As if life wasn’t already tough enough for them. Fuck.


Humbled by Coda-19

Today I learned that the coronavirus is so small, that it would take several hundred of them lined up after each other just to cover the side of a single grain of sand. That’s small!

Yet once a virus gets into your body and takes hold of a host cell, almost any host cell, the very purpose, the nature, the destiny of every virus, is ultimately to take over the cell it enters and reproduce itself as fast as possible.

Furthermore, I also learned that a virus is basically a recipe, a self-executing, malignant program with code designed without any other agenda than to hijack and grow exponentially. I don’t know much about computer viruses (I’ve been using Apple computers for 30 years, so I have never experienced what it’s like to be infected by a computer virus.) but they seem to have been modeled after biological virus.

There is something humbling about the enormous reproductions caused by covad-19. For all of humans incredible inventions, all our disruptive, technical breakthroughs and feats of astonishing mechanical engineering, including advanced intercontinental ballistic missile systems, satellites, lunar travel and an international space station, all it takes to disrupt world order is a single teeny, weeny virus. And only by eventually retro-engineering it will we be able to figure out how to counteract its ability to devastatingly paralyze every society on the planet. Humbling.

The ingredients for the above collage are from Málaga where our friends are still trapped until at least April 12.


Hugless, Kissless and Shakeless – but not Hopeless

Wow, are these weird times, or what? Who would have thought that streets in entire cities would be more or less empty, seemingly abandoned? That even the most basic human social behavior would take such a colossal hit? Are we the last of those that will remember what a superficial cheek kiss, a fleeting hug, and a vigorous handshake feels like? Will this make even the slightest physical contact feel forbidden and therefore somehow even erotic? Post-coronavirus social ordinance might just well dictate a whole new set of judicial and social rules to abide by. Or, to totally disobey. If the virus is really a threat to our very existence, then I think disobedience is the only option. We’re fucked, so who cares, right?

Seriously though. This pandemic will probably leave long-term social and financial disruption in its wake. Social distancing, virtual offices, online meetups as well as homeschooling will leave the fringes and likely become preferable and dominating alternatives in our new, hunker down, shelter in place society. Maybe we’ll even abandon our megacities and migrate en masse back to the countryside, where a rural, agriculturally focused and physically demanding, yet healthier lifestyle, awaits. Or, maybe we’ll stay in our urban environments but isolate ourselves even more than now. Transform our apartments into bunkers that we rarely leave.

Speaking of bunkers…

The above collage is from photos I took at an old Stasi headquarters on the outskirts of Leipzig, Germany that I visited a few years ago during a press trip. I shot most of the photos deep down in a bunker intended for polittruks in Erich Honecker’s DDR. Interestingly, there were exercise bikes hooked up to supply electricity to the bunker’s phones as an alternative to the facility’s diesel generator.


Reassessing and Reevaluating

Do yourself a favor and please, please, please listen to the latest episode of the daily by clicking here. It got me thinking… what if the doomsday proselytizers are actually spot on? Are we heading towards Armageddon or is the turning point actually near? Is the very fabric of western society becoming unraveled or just teased, tested and temporarily stressed? 

Will we need to reassess just about every aspect of our lives or can we all soon resume normality – as if this was just a small blip on the vast radar screen or a miniscule bump in the yellow brick road? Will things like the Olympics seem as absurd as flipping through TV channels and being disappointed by lackluster viewing choices on Netflix and Pornhub? Or, will we soon be allowed to forget about this craziness and just let the past couple of months fade into memory. I wonder.

Is it soon time to reevaluate frozen food and find favorites among dishes like dill and codfish gratin, schnitzel and green peas and other below zero fast-food options? Can we really adjust to not eating fresh food on a daily basis? Bananas, avocados, and tomatoes? Really?

Will those that have farmable land be the new privileged few? I mean, even if you are extremely rich, will the money, in reality, be worth anything once we move into a barter economy where a fistful of raisins is worth about as much as a single roll of toilet paper?

These are of course all seemingly absurd questions and preposterous thoughts. But in our current world where purported value is still measured in abstractions like stocks, hedge funds, and security bonds, my queries might not actually be that far off.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind at all if we started trading solid goods and truly useful services with each other. That said, I’m not sure exactly what I would be able to contribute with. Qigong? Cooking? Painting? Film and Photography? I don’t know if any of these skills would add value to folks struggling to survive. They all seem somehow superfluous. More of a layer that can be easily shed without any real consequences. Then again, my skillset would perhaps be seen as worth more than what a lawyer, office manager or social media expert would offer.

The photo is from the Salton Sea, a Mad Max-ish area surrounding a man-made lake south of Joshua Tree National Park and south east of Palm Springs. If you want a glimpse of sincere decrepitation, this is a real Disneyland after dark.


I Feel for New York

I feel for New Yorkers. The population density has made it way too simple for the virus to spread across the city’s many neighborhoods and five boroughs. So far, our New York friends are fine and coping with the shutdown and self-imposed quarantine.

Like most destinations that I have returned to time and time again, New York has a very special place in my heart. Just looking at the 800+ photos I have from New York in my Lightroom catalog, paints a clear picture of how much I love the Big Apple. I’ve never lived there, not more than for two weeks at the most, but somehow, I’ve always felt that I would if I could. I was once very close to moving to New York, but that’s a long and complicated story.

I really hope that the way the virus has spread there isn’t an indicator of what things will be like when it hits other favorite cities like Cape Town, Bangkok, Havana, Athens and Istanbul. The above photo was shot from my balcony at The Paul, a tiny hotel not too far from the United Nations HQ where I was hired a few years ago by the Swedish Mission to the UN to showcase artic themed photos and a film during an international climate summit/conference.


Meanwhile, here in Sweden

Meanwhile, here in Sweden, the government seems, unfortunately, to have taken cues from Mr. Trump & Co and their devious corporate bailout strategy. It’s nothing short of a tragedy how Trump, nothing more than a guiltless grafter, has the gall to try stuff like this. He says he’s looking out for the workers of America – yet tries to push a bill that will inevitably ensure that corporations survive, including his own, while fired workers are left to fend for themselves, without severance, healthcare benefits or other ways to help manage life on the dole. Seriously, what is wrong with Trump? Has he no empathy whatsoever? How can a base of MAGA millions just put up with so much blustering, inflated crap time and time again without overdosing and finally coming to their senses? It really boggles my mind.

Someone recently tried to explain to me that this is the way life is and that I need to wake up from my liberal dreamland and accept it. The classic “survival of the fittest” defense strategy which argues why some must suffer while a chosen few get to enjoy lavish lives – without feeling even the slightest pinch of guilt. Have we as a species not evolved beyond hiding behind such ridiculous Darwinistic excuses? Or, isn’t this just how the privileged few, those cushioned through trust funds and generous inheritances often view the world and carry themselves with an aura of arrogance and self-important entitlement? It makes me sick.

The vast majority of people I admire and respect in the world are those that have created their own lives, been in charge of their destinies and humbled by both failures and victories. Without exception, these people, both close friends and distant role models, are all in total agreement that Trump is an evil person, a douche, a loathsome bully unworthy of the office he manipulated his way in to.

Yes, he certainly represents a large bulk of Americans that have been duped and, ultimately become insatiably mesmerized by his simplistic, albeit effective (but always vulgar and offensive), populist rhetoric. They know no better or care not to see through him. Some are surely even convinced that he is righteous, honest and genuine. But Trump is none of those things.

Yes, he is financially backed by many really smart (cynical and moralless) people with considerable wealth and who have “hired” him first and foremost as a defender of their fortunes and don’t mind at all that he is also always protecting and promoting his own business interests – instead of working selflessly for the country he is supposed to helm. To me, Trump is a caricature of a comic book menace, a villain that I hope will soon be replaced or forced to step down before things get too virus crazy.

Like in the US, Sweden’s small business owners have now also been totally screwed and abandoned by the government. And through a series of dubious decrees from the Ministry of Finance, commercial banks are only willing to provide short-term credit and small loans at steep interest rates and with preposterous surety bonds attached.

Sweden, the once so industrious and capable Scandinavian country admired by so many for its ability to balance universal healthcare, social welfare, and a largely successful private sector, is now incapacitated, paralyzed even, and heading straight for mass unemployment, an imploding healthcare system and ultimately, total depletion of political support for the sitting Social Democratic party.

As I write this, it’s bright and sunny outside. Spring is actually upon us. But on the horizon, dark, menacing clouds are slowly moving in. Darkness awaits. God help us.


Coronavirus Soup: Deniers and Disbelievers

My addiction to reading The New York Times has not abated. Yes, I am well aware of how getting most of my information from a single source is a one-sided approach – but I also browse several online papers that I don’t subscribe to, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic and The Los Angeles Times.

Today, “The Times” provided a most insightful piece about American deniers and disbelievers in several of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. If you’re a subscriber, you can read the full article here.

We have a strange soup of information and disinformation about the virus out there now. It’s crazy. I honestly think the virus is way too abstract for some people to comprehend and absorb in a serious, coherent fashion. They just refuse to even play it safe and adhere to the advice given by really smart and experienced professionals.

I totally get that a lot of teenagers have an oblivious, “fuck you” kind of attitude towards messaging from the government – and, basically, anybody representing authority that is telling them what or what not to do in their lives. It’s the obstinate and ignorant adults that seem to just not give a shit that worries me. And here I define ignorance as something you actively choose not to understand or respect, and therefore don’t believe that it applies to you. Hence the full-throttle Spring Break partying in Florida and other potential hotspots across America.

During the Black Plague, which peaked in Europe from 1347 to 1351 (and was believed to be caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis), there were plenty of people knowing that it was only a matter of time before they would die soon enough from the disease, chose to celebrate life extensively with dance, orgies and heavy drinking.

The Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro (116–27 BC) wrote about diseases caused by creatures invisible to the human eye more than 2,000 years ago. Varro warned against living in proximity to swamps ‘because there are bred certain minute creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes, which float in the air and enter the body through the mouth and nose and there cause serious diseases’.

Above soup shot from when the supermarket Green Matmarknad next to my old studio was alive and kicking. A Curry soup, I think it was.


Covid-19 & A Starry Night in Vejbystrand

I am concerned about how fast the covid-19 virus is taking a foothold on the US east coast. Folks there are so locked into their routines that shopping, eating out and socializing unrestricted is going to be almost impossible to thwart completely. Unless the new rules are enforced by the military, like in Spain. I don’t see that happening any time soon, though. But it could eventually be a last resort.

Also concerning is also how often Trump blames the previous administration and China for his lack of initiative when this mess began. Typical bully tactics. As soon as you’re caught, pass on the blame to someone else. And the fact that he takes every opportunity he gets to highlight his own successes and his self-congratulatory attitude makes me want to puke. Fortunately, he seems to have some smart people helping him look much smarter than he actually is. Then again it’s easy to shine when you’re standing next to an imbecile.

February 26th, 2020. President Trump: “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

March 20th, 2020. Confirmed cases in the United States rise to 16,064.

Like many folks my age, I too suffer from the occasional bout of hypochondria. So right now I am hyper-aware of every little strange sensation or involuntary twitch that comes over me during a typical day. I’m not sleeping consistently well, either. A good night’s sleep will be followed by an uneasy one. Of course, now we don’t really have any schedule or timetable to live by. So I can sleep in or take a nap at my leisure. I tend to get up at 5 or 6 am for Qigong and then take an hourlong afternoon nap.

I used to be an avid Stephen King fan and at one point, long before he was as popular as today, I would eagerly await the arrival of his latest book at the local bookshop. One of my absolute favorite King novels was the post-apocalyptic story, The Stand. It wasn’t the intricacies of the story’s good vs evil shootout that intrigued me the most. Instead, it was the book’s deadly virus called “Captain Trips” that was engineered to be used as a biological weapon by the government and accidentally released across America and the world, killing 99.4% of the entire planet’s population. I was fascinated by the concept of being one of the very few survivors and what it would mean to roam the streets of West Hollywood.

Though the symptoms of the ongoing virus pandemic will vary widely, at least once expert thinks that about 70% of the world’s population will be infected by it. The likelihood of catching Covid-19 is really, really big – unless, of course, you have the option to spend the foreseeable future secluded in a comfy bunker, cave or isolated on a deserted but insulated island somewhere off Antarctica.

I have yet to come across anyone I know that has been infected. Yet.

The above image is what it looked like last night here in Vejbystrand. Being on a tiny planet among many millions of stars and otherworldly places gives virus kerfuffle a bit of perspective.


Path To Covid 19

Social distancing is harder than I thought it would be. Socializing is, after all, an important part of the human experience. Perhaps we are fortunate to live in an era where remote socializing is readily available. 

Two friends and I will gather in our first-ever virtual leisure meetup someday soon. It should be an interesting evening.

As a vegetarian, I can’t help but remind all you mindless carnivores out there that most of these dangerous pathogens stem from meat consumption.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Approximately 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting people began as diseases in animals.”

While some wild creatures are inherently toxic to begin with and not at all suitable for human consumption, especially so if they’ve had a chance to rot and/or exposed to poor hygienic conditions, factory-farmed animals are so mistreated through their lifetime, that it’s no big mystery why they have to be constantly medicated and their feed artificially fortified.

It’s really crazy that people still eat factory-farmed food. We’re all looking for how to avoid getting sick and hoping someone will come up with a vaccine. Yet no one seems to give a shit about how this mess got started. 

Fuck, is there really no lesson to be learned here? Are we that blind, deaf and dumb?

If nothing else, I hope one of the takeaways from this global ordeal is that we all become more mindful of what we eat and how it arrives in our fridge, on our plates and in our gaping, unsuspecting mouths.


Covid-19 comes from infected animals that people eat

Social distancing is harder than I thought it would be. Socializing is, after all, an important part of the human experience. Perhaps we are fortunate to live in an era where remote socializing is readily available. 

Two friends and I will gather in our first-ever virtual leisure meetup someday soon. It should be interesting.

As a vegetarian, I can’t help but remind all you mindless carnivores that most of these dangerous viruses stem from meat consumption.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Approximately 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting people began as diseases in animals.”

While some wild creatures are inherently toxic to begin with and not at all suitable for human consumption, especially so if they’ve had a chance to rot and/or exposed to poor hygienic conditions, factory-farmed animals are so mistreated through their lifetime, that it’s no wonder most are constantly medicated and their feed artificially fortified.

It’s really crazy that people still eat factory-farmed food and don’t see how this forces everyone onto the path of Covid-19 pathogenes. We’re all looking for how to avoid getting sick and hoping (praying) someone will come up with a vaccine asap. But no one seems to give a shit about how this mess got started. 

Fuck, is there really no lesson to be learned here? Are we that blind, deaf and dumb?

If nothing else, I hope one of the takeaways from this global ordeal is that we all become more mindful of what we eat and how it gets to our plates.


Qigong on the Beach

From earlier today on a rocky beach in Vejbystrand with Charlotte holding the camera. Brilliant weather.


The Raboff Randomizer

Feels like it’s a good time for a new round of random thoughts and factoids from the above Raboff Randomizer.

• Few people seem to know (or, are willing to acknowledge) the fact that Sweden has an abundance of trees and milling facilities that can transform almost any kind of tree into any imaginable kind of paper product – including toilet paper. So people, stop hoarding it!

• Popcorn, at least when made the old school way, is a reasonably healthy indulgence that nothing should ever keep you from enjoying. If you’re a micro pop fan, read the ingredients and then stop nuking your corn, dude.

• With over 100.000 lakes, water will never become a scarcity in Sweden or Finland or Norway. Neither will vodka.

• The real reason Danes closed their country’s borders? So they could smoke and drink without feeling guilty or frowned upon by goodie-two-shoes tourists from Sweden.

• I’ve met and shaken paws with the Swedish Prime Minster twice without washing afterward. But his shake was about as coarse and dry as Ingvar Kamprad’s thick, leathery hands were.

• If you don’t have peanut butter, banana and cinnamon as three main accessories in your porridge, you’re absolutely missing the whole point of the dish. And since growing oats is extremely common in Swedish agriculture, you don’t need to hoard that either.

• Any single malt whiskey will always lose against Four Roses bourbon (small batch) and, according to my friend Michael, this applies to a staple straight bourbon like Maker´s Mark.

• The true brilliance of the Star Wars series is that it takes place in the past. Not in some absurdly overrated future.

• Mike Pence could definitely have been cast as an East German villain in a Die Hard or Lethal Weapon, Gung-ho movie, circa 1984.


Reset and Course Correction

A collage made up of a bunch of old walls from recently locked-down Málaga. We have Swedish American friends still there and I can’t help but feel, well, sorry for them being stuck and forced to live under the government’s recently imposed state of emergency rules where they are barely allowed to leave their apartment on Plaza de la Merced.

As a small business owner, I also feel for all the shop owners, restauranteurs, and bars that we frequented regularly during our stay in Málaga. Most will likely go bankrupt in the next couple of months. Something we might have to do as well.

Like many others, I probably think too much about the long-term implications this pandemic could have. Since the spread is delayed around the world, what will happen once the virus hits poverty-stricken Africa, India, South America – and other regions where it has yet appeared?

One of the most important questions is; how do we avoid having the virus return once we’ve got it eradicated, or, at least diminished within the EU and US?

Will there be a vigorous screening process put in place at all borders, including airports, seaports, bus and train stations? I’m thinking here of a checkpoint process that will make today’s tiresome airport safety procedures seem ridiculously negligent and expeditious.

What if anybody arriving internationally has to undergo a diligent health control before being allowed to enter the European bloc?

Hopefully, the extensive time required today between testing and getting lab results will decrease substantially. But in the meantime, will all intercontinental travelers have to endure a quarantine? For how long? Hours? Days?

Even if test methods do become more effective, trustworthy and results arrive faster, I still think there will likely be at least a few hours, maybe even days of quarantine for all arrivals. And who’s going to pay for this? Airport authorities? Local or state governments? Will the extra cost be added to your airline ticket? Will a chain of quarantine hotels pop up to accommodate imposed isolation demands? Questions, questions.

I can foresee an even wider divide between the world’s haves and have nots emerging once this virological tsunami has receded. A gaping divide between the affluent and the strugglers. Which will inevitably perpetuate financial and ethnic prejudice and possibly result in societal upheaval, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

On the brighter side, this virus could be the trigger that forces us to reset and take the bitter medicine we all really need. It might just give us time to reevaluate, recalibrate and redesign what is important in life and that which is worth pursuing.

Obviously, the mess we’re in right now is, at least to a degree, symptomatic of a how putting a blind eye to all the apparent meteorological indicators proves we need a course correction. That we can no longer expect the planet to absorb our arrogant goals where achieving material wealth at any cost is virtuous and where sustainability is really just smartly packaged marketing fluff.