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.


Stolen: Ernie’s Girard Perregaux Wristwatch

The above is a collage of my father Ernest “Ernie” Raboff‘s Girard Perregaux wristwatch. It was manufactured sometime in the mid to late 1970s. Thieves broke into my little studio here in Vejbystrand the other night and stole it.

I’ve taken care of the watch since my father died in 1986 and though its slick style is somewhat effeminate and not something I would wear on my wrist, I have always admired the amazing craftsmanship that went into it.

I don’t know when my dad bought the watch or if it was gifted to him by someone. I do know it was the only remaining thing I had left from him.

Though considered vintage, the value of the watch isn’t significant. A few years ago, I actually asked a couple of horologists – even one at Girard Perregaux HQ in Switzerland – about its value. and was told that thanks to the uniquely slim 18k gold movement, bezel, and casing, the watch would likely fetch about SEK12k at a typical watch auction.

I wonder where the watch will end up. Will the thief keep it? Or, will he (or, she) sell it? Perhaps my father’s old Girard Perregaux will be used to pay off a debt or as a sweetener in a trade together with a bunch of other stolen goods. Maybe a “fence” will read this post and feel compassionate enough to get in touch and return the watch to me. You never know.


Return to Normal
My latest piece in the Resurfaced series. Each layer of the composition was captured in Malmö over the weekend.

Enjoying a twenty-four-hour visit to Helsingborg for a meeting. Staying at an old favorite hotel, Mollberg where I lived Thursday to Sunday during a six month DJ gig back in the early 1990s.

Soon back to the tranquillity of Vejbystrand.


Tommy & The Sunset

From earlier tonight here in Malmö where I’ll be until tomorrow before heading back north to Vejbystrand with a night’s stop in Helsingborg along the way.

The weather here has been phenomenal during my stay here. No wind and relatively warm. Took a long 15k walk around town this afternoon and found plentiful of motifs for my “Resurfaced” series before returning to Västra Hamnen as the sun started setting at around 4:30 pm.

Without knowing it at the time, the boat in the above shot turned out to belong to a good friend. We can call him Tommy.


Elle’s 20th!

That’s what I call a double whammy and a perfect present to round off Elle’s twentieth birthday celebration with today; Trump is defeated and the first female Vice President Kamala Harris is elected together with her running mate, President-elect, Joe Biden. We are so proud of Elle and how she continues to inspire and make us proud parents. And as she and I are American (and Swedish) citizens, we were both sooooo relieved when we just after having finished dinner at (Kitchen & Table in Mamö) learned that the huge voter turnout turned out to be the amount of engagement required to oust the worst guy to be voted president since Tricky Dick Nixon. Unlike Richard Milhous Nixon, though, Trump hasn’t got enough sense to admit defeat, make sure the transition of power goes smoothly, and slowly but surely diminish into oblivion.


Winning and Losing

I made the above collage with both passion and sadness.

At this stage, it looks like Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris are going to secure enough electoral votes to win the election. Feels good to have voted for predictable/reliable sanity. Even if I doubt that ticket is going to be capable of leading the country out of its multiple crises. Already back in July, Trump declared he would contest the mail-in ballots if he lost. So no surprise that he’s followed through on that threat/promise. It’s just a continuum of the president’s devious strategy to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of his many ignorant followers.

Regardless of whoever wins, the US is forever a changed nation. Why? Exhibit A: close to 70 million people voted for a sociopath. The most saddening fact? There’s not enough glue in the known universe to mend that which Trump has so consciously crushed: the remaining trust in the democratic process.

Because of the collateral damage Trump intentionally created in order to try to secure this election, something he began doing soon after he won in 2016, it’s going to be hard to feel any real joy, even when the last vote is counted – and then re-counted.


The Fatherless to Fatherhood initiative Podcast

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I was going to be a guest on my creative and inspiring friend Michael G. Poe’s show, The Fatherless to Fatherhood Initiative Podcast.

Well, the ninth episode has just dropped and can be listened to by clicking here. I hope other fatherless fathers that hear my story – and Michael’s other guests’ stories – will connect and recognize some of the same experiences and emotions that I share.

Sadly, we still live in an era where toxic masculinity prevails and sets the emotional agenda for men – and women. Men are still expected to keep their feelings tucked away beneath a facade of seemingly impenetrable resilience – sheilding themselves from showing and sharing their vunerability. Hindering them to develop and evolve as fathers, as spouses. as humans.

While The Fatherless to Fatherhood Initiative Podcast focuses on fathers that were abandoned by their fathers, there are also plenty of dads that were physically present, but so emotionally distant and/or abusive, that their children still felt abandoned.

In my case, I not only had to deal with not having a father, a mentor, and a role model. my brother and I were raised in a home environment characterized by our mother’s rampant alcoholism. Which is one of these podcast’s themes: how drama feeds drama.

Being able to talk openly about some of this was cathartic and has spurred me on to continue writing about those early years and how the fallout came to shape my life as an individual and father.


The Donald Effect

Well, it’s finally time for the 2020 Presidential Election. Not that you hear much about it, but there’s are actually a lot of other elections going on today, too. The Senate could flip and the Dems might end up “owning” Congress. At least for a couple of years.

I spent a few hours walking along the beach earlier today. Instead of listening to a podcast or music, I just let all thoughts that flew into my mind flow freely there. The point was to just contemplate, not try to resolve anything. I’ve been doing a lot of that recently and I am finding the results interesting.

Today, being the “E Day”, I spent considerable time thinking about the two candidates and how unbelievable it is that there are millions of supporters that back a man so far removed from what I think is decent and presidential. A man so full of his own loud-mouth, bullying bullshit, it’s impossible to conceive that he’s ever anything but disingenuous. Talk about fake.

I’m not saying Biden doesn’t produce or represent a great deal of bullshit as well. He is, after all, a seasoned politician. But at least he’s not doing his best to instigate hatred, promote division and be a total dick like Trump is time and time again. I get that he likes to fire up his “Tumpsters” while simultaneously provoking the Democrates. But could he also just try to be a nice guy once in a while?

A surprised as I am that so many can cast their vote on the most blatantly insincere president in modern history, it still ain’t nothing compared to how strange it is to know that I have family members who are wholeheartedly supporting Trump.

How does one deal with that, I ask you? Aside from the fact that we are related, what could I possibly have in common with someone that truly believes in their heart of hearts that this vulgar and crude populist is worthy of their love and vote? What can possibly bridge our divide when so many fundamental human values are swept to the wayside? What do you talk about? The weather? No, cause that will certainly lead to a discussion about climate change. Travel? Nah, cause that too will lead to a discussion about how piss-poor the federal government has and continues to manage the pandemic, making it impossible to travel to the States. Politics? Uh, no. Health? Maybe. But that too would surely lead to a discussion about how shitty the American health care system is – and the cesspoolian orgy in which insurance companies, private hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and doctors participate frenziedly. No, I don’t think I have that much to talk to a Trump supporter about. *

Hopefully, this family conundrum might change once he’s actually out of office in a couple of months.

Am I worried that there might be a civil war? Nope. Most Americans are too old, too fat, and way too dependent on their entertainment addiction. The mighty few remaining activists, those that are really engaged, well, they’re just too few to initiate and fulfill the demands of a full-on civil war. Civil unrest? Yep. That’s for sure.

My biggest concern isn’t about Trump losing or the potential for wide-spread, civil unrest. Both of those things will likely occur within the next 72 hours.

During my walk today, I spent time pondering what the heck Donald is going to do between his concession speech and the time he has to pack his stuff, check out of the West Wing, leave town with his tail stuck between his legs and retreat to the Sunshine Orange State.

One really interesting theory I’ve heard is this: To avoid prosecution for crimes committed prior and during his presidency, Trump will strategically resign ahead of Biden’s inauguration, enthusiastically handing over the reins to the East German bad guy dude aka Mike Pence. This so that the new President (taken from Central Casting of Die Hard VI), can exonerate his ousted predecessor. We shall see…

The Donald Effect is part of my ongoing art series “Resurfacd”.

 


Autumn from Above

I’ve been filming during most of my walks. Footage that will soon be used in a short film about my stay here in Vejbystrand. While out getting a few sequences with a top-down perspective over some of the places that my walks takem, I saw this view and had to share. It represents autumn in this neck of the woods perfectly.


American Pancakes & Election Woes

Here’s me this morning after a most sumptuous breakfast. I’m feeling more American right now than I have in many years. I’m excited. The election is nearing and it’s nothing short of a thriller! With the crazy-ass, winner-take-all system, where all the votes from a state’s electoral college go to the winner of the popular vote of that state, how can it not be the most exciting happening of at least the last four years? Last time around, Trump won the electoral vote after losing by 3.000.000 in the popular vote.

As if that exciting enough for us, we also have the virus, Macron stirring things up in the Middle East, a devastating earthquake in Turkey/Greece, the climate stuff and, not to forget, how shops in Beverly Hills and elsewhere are boarding up their store windows ahead of what many seem to think could be a looming civil war.

Anyway…

There are times when I question my judgment. Some would probably argue that I don’t do this enough. I think a little self-analysis is a sign of relatively good mental health. I’m doing a lot of that these days. Time seems to stand still in Vejbystrand so there’s plentiful time for introspection, taking inventory, and judging one’s ideas, perceptions, and conclusions.

In any case, like most reasonable people, I too have moments where I question a very hardline opinion I have about something or someone. Like the ongoing debate about who is best suited to steer the US of A out of these abysmally seeming troubled times.

There have been a few occasions recently when I needed to ask myself if I was absolutely sure that I was actually “getting” Trump. Could there be a slight possibility that he is in fact a good guy, just a different kind of good guy? A leader that we’ve never seen before and feel unaccustomed with. An oddball business tycoon that can cut through the cocktail murmur and just get stuff done faster without worrying too much about polish or finesse. Or about tomorrow. A man at the moment, so to speak.

Perhaps I am judging Trump too much on appearance and his inability to communicate with tact and intellect. Maybe Fox News, all those right-leaning activist groups like Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, and the minions of Trumpsters are in fact looking out for the country’s best interests. Maybe all the rest of us are just plain wrong and too blind to see it.*

But even if my judgment has been unfair, that I’ve been biased in part because the transition from the decent, rhetorically gifted Obama to the bombastic Trump has been too much to absorb, there are still just too many people way, way smarter than me that are in total agreement; Donald J. Trump is by far the worst president in modern history. He’s bad for the country domestically, bad for international relations and goddammit, bad for the reputation of the presidency as the highest office in the land and something all Americans should admire, respect, and perhaps, at least at some point in their lives, even aspire to hold.

Still, I have hope. Hope that I would have all the necessary ingredients needed to make simple American pancakes in the kitchen when I woke up this morning. And low and behold, I did! I did! Here are the recipe’s ingredients:
1 cup flourAmerican Pancakes
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk or Oatly’s iKaffe.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Mix it all together and then make yourself some thick cakes in a scorching hot, buttered skillet. While the first side is being fryed, I added thin slices of banana and a few sprinkles of cinnamon for extra yum.


Dr Nicholas Christakis: The Enduring Impact Of COVID-19

Dr. Nicholas Christakis is probably one of the most knowledgeable experts on the ongoing pandemic I’ve heard so far. I embedded Fresh Air’s Dave Davies interview with him below for your listening pleasure. Nicholas Christakis provides a lot of insight into how we got here and where we’re heading. Interestingly, like most other experts, Christakis doesn’t talk about what we need to do to avoid future pandemics. This despite the fact that he also has a Ph.D. in Sociology. It boggles my mind that not even really well-educated and experienced smart people want to touch the 800lb gorilla in the room. I’m not talking here about wet markets or dangerous, unhygienic storage of carcasses. Instead, I’m referring to why these pathogens keep showing up and the unprecedented changes we need to undertake in order to avoid the current and future variants of pandemics. The image above is from my series “Resurfaced“.


Punching In

Wake up. It’s 05:37. Still dark. Quiet. Slight headache. Not too stiff. I can smell. Feel ok. Have to pee. Put on yesterday’s teeshirt. Slip into shoes. Walk down creaky stairs. Unlock front door. Lock front door from outside. Walk to other house. Unlock white door. Pee. Brush teeth. Prepare coffee. Shower. Dry. Dress. Drink coffee. Walk to studio. Unlock door. Turn on light. Wake up Mac. Tune in Drone Zone. Update firmware. Read news. Make more coffee. Start writing.


Thoughts on the Pandemic

Folks, I really hope COVID-19 turns into a precautionary tale. One where we instead of trying to figure out how best to avoid getting sick – through social distancing, masks, lockdowns, and vaccines – begin to tackle the virus from an existential point of view.

Yes! We need to ask the uncomfortable question: why the hell have there been so many of them in the last 10-15 years? Why all of the sudden are these deadly viruses threatening our way of life? Is it because our way of life is actually inviting these viruses to jump species and spread across the globe like locusts?

What if by encroaching on primal forests in the Amazon, in Africa and in Asia – where deadly viruses are naturally abundant – just so we can grow even more soy and raise even more cows and other factory farm animals – we are in fact fucking with shit that’s way beyond our pay grade?

What if the latest virus is a trojan horse that not only brings down the immune system of infected people for a while, killing some, but is also secretly leaving behind a bunch of genetic code so ruinous that we will never, ever fully recover?

What if the virus rewires our genetic code so that humans are eventually, within just a generation or two, essentially wiped off the face of the earth?

On top of the virus and all the devastation it has already caused, we also have plenty of warning signs from increasingly worried climatologists and other scientists.

It seems as if somehow, through the collective consciousness of our planet’s own immune system, Darwin’s natural selection process has been initiated to slowly but steadfastly weed out humans from Earth’s ecosystem.

The fact that Trump denies the climate calamities experienced all over the world, that all he is interested in is promoting and perpetuating a flamboyant, shortsighted, deficit-increasing lifestyle, which, unless you are incredibly naive, is clearly unsustainable, is reason enough to vote the man out of office.

And if that isn’t good enough for you, let’s add that Trump is a well-documented misogynist, a barely literate, doubt-seeding confrontationist and the worst representative of qualities most sensible Americans embody.

If you can….VOTE!

The above image is titled, “Honey, they’ve pillaged Kitty” and is part of my ongoing series called “Resurfaced”. More of this can be viewed here: www.raboff.com/resurfaced