Puppy Love

Today we visited a small, family-run kennel a couple of hours from Vejbystrand. Charlotte’s been yearning for a dog for several years and she’s finally narrowed down her choice of breed to the incredibly cute and lovable Dachshund. This will be our third dog after a Miniature Schnauzer and Standard Schnauzer, both of which – like the Dachshund – is of German descent and were once primarily used to capture badgers and rats. The new dog’s name? Lennart.

Farmer Joakim

Growing Stuff and Thinking of Eskil & Agnes

I don’t know exactly why, but I feel proud somehow that my Grandfather and Grandmother were farmers.

There’s something inherently honest about farming. It’s so fundamental to our existence and makes most of today’s professions seem constructed, superficial and retroactively rationalized – until we don’t even question their actual usefulness anymore. 

Come to think about it, most modern occupations only exist as a consequence of our way of life – not because they’re quintessential or critical to our ability to survive as a species.

I have vividly fond memories of staying with Grandpa Eskil and Grandma Agnes as a young boy. Fact is, of all my childhood memories, the couple of years I spent with them – spread over a five or six-year period – were among my best. Now, I don’t know if I’m romanticizing those visits because living with my mother was such a fucking nightmare. Probably. In any case, Grandma Agnes was always extremely kind, gentle, and loving towards me. Which was something I had little experience with but likely helped me gain insight into what selfless love looked, sounded and, felt like.

When I visited, during the early and mid-1970s, the farm was winding down. The cows, chickens, and horses were gone. Ingo, the cute but horrendously smelly Beagle, was still around. Grandpa Eskil, a hopelessly macho man with a prosthetic leg and short temper, still hunted moose and plowed the few fields he had left with an old Volvo tractor and harvester. Eventually, the car manufacturer SAAB absorbed the remaining fields…and so, after their farming days were over, there wasn’t much left for my grandparents to do but get older and eventually pass on.

Aside from those visits to my mother’s parents and growing sunflowers on a balcony in Götebrog when I lived there, I have zero experience in farming. But somehow it feels almost inevitable that I would at some stage in my life explore what it’s like to grow at least some of my own food. And I can’t think of a more apt time than right now to learn how to cultivate at least a few tasty veggies. I’ve got a lot of organic seeds to plant over the next couple of days.

Canola Season

Here’s a video I shot for Erik Schneider a couple of years ago. I came to think of it as I was riding the train today through amazing yellow fields.

Hopeful in Lund

Back in Lund today. Sunshine everywhere. Hard to think apocalyptically when the weather is so damn wonderful. Spoke to an old buddy who’s a lawyer and he’s keeping busy. Lots of separations and negotiations. Ae we are holding our breaths? Is the situation going to get a lot worse before getting better?

Another friend told me of a new Swedish airline starting up soon. Sounds hopeful. I feel hopeful. Optimistic, even. Perhaps I’m in denial and not even aware of it. I don’t let my mind swerve too much of Sanity Lane. What purpose would that serve? None. Another friend told me he enjoyed not having to deal with crowds. That he didn’t miss having to share public spaces with others. I totally get that. Like the author Charles Bukowski once wrote, “It’s not that I don’t like people. I just feel better when they’re not around”.

I think that’s pretty much the collective sentiment of my demographic right now.

Shot the above while wandering aimlessly around town this afternoon after the shoot. I tried really hard to get lost today. But Lund is just too small.


Yoga & Qigong

I made this collage for a client a while ago. I used a bunch of photos from different yoga shoots in the old studio (the one next to Turning Torso in Malmö) and then removed the white background in order to create silhouettes of the model which I then added color to.

Now that the sun rises so early, I have no problem waking up at the crack of dawn. My new studio is the smallest I’ve had yet but it is still roomy enough to allow me to practice every yoga pose and Qigong movement I know of. When in Lund, depending on the room I am assigned at the hotel and because I never bring my yoga mat, I stick to a half-hour or forty minutes of intense Qigong.

Charlotte was still asleep when I returned energized and ready to take on the day’s projects. I’m still amazed at how much energy I enjoy after an hour of Qigong and Yoga. I hope to soon be able to practice outdoors on the deck. Or, somewhere in the meadow.

guggenheim museum new york

Idiocy & Kleptocracy

Ok, here we go…my Tuesday rant…

You don’t have to be a neurosurgeon, a political science major at a community college or even a uniquely intelligent goldfish to grasp that Donald J. Trump is failing miserably and will prove to be the worst possible president a country, any country, could ever have during a crisis – any crisis.

Not only has he consistently politicized his more or less coherent virus briefings, some of which have been chock full of thoughts, ideas, and analysis that make the man seem as if he’s been snorting huge quantities of bleach, he is now also attempting to cleave the nation even further by openly deciding which states to provide financial aid to based on if they are red or blue. Really? The reoccurring question: is there really no limit to how much shit a 73-year-old can discharge?

From today’s New York Times:

Mayor Bill de Blasio accused President Trump on Tuesday of “stabbing his hometown in the back” by saying that states hit hard by the virus and run by Democrats should not count on what the president called “bailouts” from the federal government.

In an interview with The New York Post published Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump said that it would be “not fair to the Republicans” to give large infusions of aid to states with Democratic governors “that have been mismanaged over a long period of time.”

Like almost no other country in the world, the United States has been hit remarkably hard by the Covid-19 virus. And now, as the pandemic is spreading throughout the country, way beyond big cities and their urban sprawl, some predict that the worse is yet to come.

And while Trump & Co are trying ever so hard to deflect their gross negligence and cavernous ineptitude by blaming China as well as the Dems (clearly interchangeable enemies), the weight of the country’s fragmented, profit-driven health care industry is clearly showing an inability to provide necessary help to the tens of thousands of diseased patients – many of which are among the poorest of the poor. Which in itself is probably the main reason why so many have been so incontrovertibly devastated by the virus in the first place. I mean, it’s not like the healthcare was functioning before this all happened, or, that there wasn’t already an opioid epidemic, a mass-shootings epidemic – not to mention a poverty crisis which has largely been driven by racism – which in turn has only been made worse by the current bigot-in-chief.

It seems pretty clear to me that if a country like India has the ability to contain the virus more efficiently than a developed nation like the US of A, the world’s (former?) most powerful economy, there’s something fundamentally awry with the management team running said country.

Sure, we can all play along with the blame game and point fingers at China, Iran, or even North Korea until doomsday knocks on our doors. But it still doesn’t remove the fact that it was Mr. Trump calling the shots from the Oval from the getgo – and that he has proven time and time again to be too asinine to helm the country – even under “normal” circumstances.

Let’s get one thing straight. I think the United States of America is a great country. I mean that with 100% sincerity. The US has always been a fabulously interesting experiment with tremendous ambitions, incredible successes, and a plethora of unbelievable failures and ongoing shortcomings. The cultural multiplicity and geographical diversity are among many, many allures. But politically, at least on a federal level, the country is in really, really bad shape. Not just because the dude in the White House is a narcissistic kleptocrat, either. Much of those on either side of the aisle in Congress are so out of touch with reality, at least the reality that most Americans live within, so filthy rich and corrupted by their power addiction, they are clearly disinterested in creating any real change that will provide long-term, positive impact. Congess is too focused on reelections, pleasing lobbyist, and political mud fights. And I think millions of Americans are getting to the point where they’re just fed up with well-crafted rhetoric and the political tug o’war that leads absolutely nowhere.

Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if when fall nears and the election craze kicks into full gear, there will be social disruption like we’ve never ever seen before. And I’m actually a bit worried, cause I don’t think it would be beyond Trump to ignite a fire in order to stay in power – regardless of how it goes for him electorally. I’m predicting here and now that as we move closer to November, we’ll also see several political movements stemming from States that are seeking to sever ties with DC and secede the union. Why wouldn’t California or Texas want to become independent nation-states?

I don’t know exactly why, but somehow the Guggenheim in New York photographed October 2018, seemed like a fitting image to accompany today’s rant.

South Sea Serenity in Vejbystrand

Here’s what it looked like just after I got back from Lund yesterday evening. I’m spoiled insofar that I’ve seen many a beautiful sunset. Formations like last night’s magnificent cumulonimbus clouds are still fairly unusual this far north. Reminded me more of the Maldives, Seychelles, and islands in southern Thailand than Vejbystrand. Thankfully, I had the wherewithal to look up from my computer screen, take notice, grab my camera, and perpetuate the unique scene. Later, just as we were trying to fall asleep, a hale storm passed overhead.

Back at Grand

Back at Grand Hotel in Lund again and was briskly checked into a cozy room on the fourth floor yesterday evening. Have a spectacular view of the park and a partial eyeshot of the train station. Supporting a client during a Zoom interview with a stock market analytics firm and then shooting a presentation.

Blommor i Sinarpsdalen

Walk in Sinarpsdalen

Shot these low-hanging flowers (Magnolia blossoms?) during Charlotte and my 7.5k walk this morning in a lush valley not far from Vejbystrand called Sinaparsdalen. It’s one of many mapped walks in and around Hallandsåsen – a hilly area south of Båstad and north of Förslöv. Here’s a satellite view of Sinaparsdalen brought to you by Google. Not many people out and about today – despite really good trekking weather – but those we met kept their distance and we were careful not to touch any of the many wooden gates with our bare hands. Strange times are theses. 

Powerwalk with Swans

Instead of Qigong and Yoga, this morning, I hooked up with Charlotte for a 6k powerwalk along the beach here in Vejbystrand. It was calm but for the strangely sounding calls coming from a dozen or so beautiful swans floating offshore and a few dozen distant seabirds. I’ll have to come back one day with my audio recorder to try and capture the swans weird sounds.

Lovin' The Root Fruit

Lovin’ The Root Fruit

Shot this crate of root fruit sometime last September during my outdoor exhibit “Malmö Upside Down”. The exhibit was immensely popular and a fun show to produce – in the midst of a large public garden in Malmö’s Slottsträdgråden. I’ve not always enjoyed eating root fruit. But I’ve enjoyed it tremendously for the past five years, which is about when I stopped eating meat and bird.

Yippie, Yippie, Yay!

Does Anybody Remember Laughter?

Everything and everybody is so serious right now. I know, I know. These are really grim times. But unlike any other animal on the planet, at least as far as I know, humans have a particularly unique ability to let off steam and zoom out from even the gravest circumstance through humor and laughter. And for some, humor seems to be off the table. As Robert Plant once sang; “Does anybody remember laughter”?

I feel thankful for having what some call a sick sense of humor. The absurd, provocative, and disgusting have always served me well when I need a good laugh. And however you slice it, the ongoing pandemic is certainly absurd, disgusting, and provocative. Absurd in how fast the virus swept across the globe, disgusting in how it ravages the body of some victims and provocative in that it’s really forcing us to reassess just about everything and anything we’ve previously taken for granted. Which in the long run might be a good thing. At least where the planet is concerned. Probably for its inhabitants as well.

One of my few “humor heroes”, David Letterman, recently made me laugh out loud when I read his commentary about VP Mike Pence’s visit to the Mayo Clinic. So spot on.

VoxelFlow Dirk Smits Terranet

Podcast Host: VoxelFlow & Road Safety

The day before yesterday, on Monday, I hosted the first in a series of international podcasts for Terranet in Lund. This first (pilot) episode was focused on autonomous vehicle technology in general and Terranet’s 3D sensor and motion detection system called VoxelFlow, which will be able to reduce traffic fatalities to a minimum and increase road safety to a maximum.

Participants in the podcast were:

• Henrik Christensen, the Qualcomm Chancellor’s Chair of Robot Systems and the director of the Contextual Robotics Institute at the University of San Diego and also a Professor of Computer Science in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

• Dirk Smits, inventor of the 3D vision motion perception technology, VoxelFlow, and CTO at Terranet.

• Nihat Kücük, Head of Navigation Maps at the Mercedes-Benz research and development center in Stuttgart, Germany.

High Speed Internet

High Speed Internet vs 28.8k

After weeks of incomprehensible and tremendously frustrating disruptions to our usually stable and speedy broadband – with umpteen tech support calls, Google searches, and two router purchases – our “pipe” to and from the Interwebs is once again working reliably and smoothly.

The other day, in the midst of our little connectivity crisis here in rural Sweden, Charlotte asked me what I thought it would be like if the ongoing financial crisis eventually impacted the Internet’s ubiquitousness. What if the ability to go online became limited, slower, and less useful? Would our smartphones turn into dumb phones? Can you even get a landline these days?

When I first connected my computer (a clunky, grey and sluggish Macintosh Performa 630) to a modem and finally succeeded at getting online sometime in late 1995, I soon understood that I was at the doorstep of an entirely new era. A new world where megabits and megabytes determined speed and experience. A layer of connectivity that spread across the planet and provided new relationships to people and eventually to brands. An epoch where both Charlotte and I would earn our living and integrate the global economy in our lives as both service providers and consumers.

Being old enough to remember what it was like before the Internet was such a critical part of society is an advantage. Especially if for whatever reason, “the web” one day regressed into something less omnipresent and less useful.

But I think I would be able to deal more easily with such a dramatic change if the Internet stopped working altogether. If it slowed down to the 28.8k modem speeds of 1995, I don’t think I could handle that for very long.

Grand Hotell Lund

Grand Perks

I’ve been frequenting the legendary Grand Hotel in Lund, the only really nice, full-service hotel available in that city, for a couple of weeks now. It’s one of the most affordable luxury hotels I’ve stayed at in Sweden. While room rates are very reasonable and eating and drinking in the restaurant is certainly a comfortable, culinary experience, it’s not quite as wallet-friendly. Their large shrimp sandwich will set you back a whopping $24 buckaroos.

I’ve got quite a ways to go before I can call myself a “patron”, but already I have been able to enjoy some of the perks that being a frequent guest brings with it. The above shot of yesterday’s breakfast is a good example. Because of Covid-19, Grand doesn’t offer their usual buffet. Instead, they serve you more or less everything available from the buffet directly at your table (with gloved hands) a la carte style. Now, since I’ve never stayed there before, I don’t know if smoked salmon could actually be found at the buffet. But when I kindly asked for some, three times out of the four that I’ve stayed there so far, the server has appeased my request with a smile and small plate with a pile of pink, sliced fish.

I should also mention a couple of additional perks, like being allowed to check out a little later than policy permits and using one of the hotel’s small conference rooms when noise from the ongoing construction/renovation work becomes overbearing.
Grand Hotell in Lund is the fourth and by far the best hotel I’ve stayed at so far this year. The location near the train station is great, the individually decorated vintage style rooms are nice and the staff is as friendly as can be. They seem to genuinely appreciate my business and do their best to accommodate reasonable requests with a smile.
door handles

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.

Pineapple Tapestry

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.

Grand Hotel

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.