Punching in

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.

Honey They Pillaged Kitty

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
abstinence from alcohol

Cocktails vs Abstinence

I saw this “cocktail sextet” of various gin-tonics earlier today as I was submerged deep, deep down in my archives. It’s from a rare combo shoot where high res stills and a film were both parts of the F&B gig. I think I captured the essence of a staged bar scene pretty well. In addition, it’s one of my more popular photos on Shutterstock.

The film can be viewed here.

Aside from feeling artistically proud about the composition, the shot also reminded me of something I’ve written about many, many times before here on the blog; my ongoing, complex, love-hate relationship with alcohol.

It’s now been almost two weeks since my last drink – which to me sounds like something I would be saying at an AA meeting if I ever went to one. Not that the thought hasn’t crossed my mind. Cause it has. Just not that often.

Now, now. Don’t misinterpret me.

I do not miss drinking and have no problem with 100% sobriety. Especially here, living on my own for a while in the peaceful, wonderfully lonesome Vejbystrand. But also considering I suffer mentally and physically from a life-long inability to stay within my limit. I never yearn for just one sip, one shot or one beer. My problem is that I want more than just the “Release”. And I easily fall into a destructive cycle after being on a binge.

The “Release”, as a friend of a friend so appropriately coined the emotion many years ago, is that explicit moment after you’ve had that very first sip of wine, a swig of beer, shot of bourbon. It’s when that familiar, warm, relaxing sensation begins to flow outwards from your belly, throughout your veins and body, finally reaching your head and calming your mind. This is when you begin to think that everything, just everything is fine, all is forgiven and so much is forgotten. This, dear reader, is what I miss.

After living half my life in Sweden, I can say with some authority that the social culture here almost demands that you participate in some of the ancient traditions – reoccurring celebrations where alcohol is at the forefront of the occasion. These include annual holidays, like Midsummer, Easter, and Christmas, but also the infamous corporate Christmas party and the end-of-summer “Crayfish Fest”. These events are all there in the social calendar, under the pretenses of helping everyone create and justify socially legit opportunities to ingest inordinate amounts of alcohol.

“Hey Dude! It’s a tradition, come on man, have a drink!”

According to WHO, in 2016, on average, Swedish men consumed the equivalent of 17.4 liters of pure alcohol. Comparatively, women are lightweights and drank “only” 6.1 liters of pure alcohol. Oddly, when I look at those numbers, it doesn’t really seem like all that much. Then again, it’s a naked, unnuanced statistic. A number that hardly describes my experiences where the amount is probably ten times higher.

Jokingly, I often refer to Sweden as being located on the fringe of a virtual “Vodka Belt”. We’re not exactly as excited about liquor as, say, the Finns are. And Swedes have not nearly the enormous capacity (or appetite) as vodka guzzling Russians, Polacks, and various folks in the Baltic nations. Statistically, Swedes are more famous for their coffee obsession than for alcohol abuse.

I don’t know if I’ve ever consumed as much alcohol since the pandemic was officially declared, back in March. I feel pretty sure a lot of folks can say the same thing. I probably did drink more during the first couple of seasons bartending in Lapland, at the hotel in Riksgränsen. While I don’t feel a need to redact this (alcohol-fueled) part of my life, it was a much younger me from more than a quarter of a century ago.

Honestly, there hasn’t been that many times in my adult life when I could say that I haven’t had anything to drink in two weeks, with the exception of when I’ve been on a Qigong or Yoga course. The thing is, I don’t want to quit. Stubbornly, I still think I can learn how to not be so consistently seduced by the allure of going so far beyond the initial, hypnotic “release”.

Anyway, I’ll be sure to stay sober until the election. If Trump wins, it’s all going to hell anyway. So why not just give in to a major release then? 🙄

Da Nang Vietnam

Fall, Fail, Camel Pose

Shot these crispy dry autumn leaves about a year ago somewhere in Da Nang, Vietnam which is right now bracing for yet another typhoon. Hard to believe how mild last year’s monsoon season was compared to 2020. Hope our friends there stay safe and ride out the storm without more setbacks than they already have had to endure.

According to the soon-to-be ousted President Trump, his administration has already ended the pandemic. That’s good to know, even though there are hundreds of thousands of recently infected Americans that, if they could, would argue nothing is further from the truth than that dumbass, hurtful lie.

The kitchen project is moving along according to plan. It’s been 56 years since the last renovation, so there’s a great deal of old (and odd) solutions to fix/correct along the way.

We’re in the rainy (DDR) season now. And with winter officially here, the short days and enveloping darkness make me want to spend as much time outside as I can – weather permitting. So far, there hasn’t been a single day without the sun showing up – even if it’s just for a brief shine. Daylight is so precious. Early this morning, I practiced Qigong and Yoga without much light at all in the studio. But I actually enjoyed the extra challenge of keeping my balance whilst in the dark. And as the 90 minute session came to a close with the Camel pose, early daylight arrived.


Trump vs Biden: Bad Lip Reading

Folks, it doesn’t get much funnier than this. As a friend and fellow American, photographer and filmmaker, Timmy Skinner pointed out, this is more or less how many of us see and hear these two 70+ white dudes. Thanks pal and GM Lars Olemyr at Nösund Havshotell for the superb tip! What a way to start the week!

Oh, and finally, finally, finally, here’s Trump’s long-awaited Covid-19 Plan.

sheep and lamb at Magnarp Strand

Long Walks – Deep Thoughts

This is from yesterday during my 10k walk down to Magnarp Strand. After a while, curiosity overtook fear and I was allowed to get pretty close to the herd’s lambs. So cute. Can’t wrap my head around that these were all shot on my 2-year-old iPhone. It’s really just a matter of time before I can sell, or, at least leave my other, bulky cameras to collect dust on the shelf. The color science Apple has developed for its camera phones is crazy good.

It’s taken about a week alone here to get into a routine where long walks and other healthier habits open up for deep thoughts, mindful thinking, and saying no to the kind of impulsive decisions that I know beforehand will end up causing more pain than gain.

On the one hand, I find it strange that at 57, I still haven’t settled into a life dictated by routines. On the other hand, I don’t really admire or feel envious of people that are entirely engulfed in a rigid, daily modus operandi. Then again, maybe that’s just a response, a perspective or an attitude to help me deal with not being able to be more consistent in my life.

2020 has been such a tumultuous year – and there’s still 2 months to go before we can put it behind us! Not that I think so much will change just because we begin a new year. Not in the grand scheme of things, anyway.

I’m writing a lot now and enjoying the challenge. Working on a few separate writing projects and trying hard not to let myself be distracted with other creative channels on my big screen. I really hope 2021 will be a year of artistic metamorphoses. I’m already steering my outpour in that direction so that by the time the new year arrives, I’ll be well into the groove.


Pence’s Secret Corona Strategy

What the heck is Pence’s Secret Coronavirus Strategy? There’s certainly something to be said about the level of competence vice president Mike Pence has, the man supposedly leading the Coronavirus Task Force, when several of his colleagues have now been infected by the very disease they have the mandate to confine and presumably eradicate. Am I missing something here? Are these folks running the country from the White House really that arrogant and unworried? I mean, sure, for most people, it’s non-lethal. But how the fuck do they think they’re going to get rid of this plague if they don’t help reduce the spread? Herd immunity? Sacrificing a few hundred more American lives? Is that the untold strategy? If not, then what is the secret behind the blatant disregard for the safety measures most of the world has curbed up to?


Pandemic Explained

Here’s a video by the always smart, courageous, and empathic Nicholas Kristof and his colleagues Johnny Harris and Adam B. Ellick explaining how the pandemic devastated the US. After you watch it, you’ll understand why Donald J Trump should stand trial for neglecting his responsibility by refusing to take the situation seriously and not responding acutely – which ultimately ended up causing the untimely and unnecessary death of over 200.000 Americans.

While DJT continues to claim that everything is returning to normal and that country’s economy is bouncing back and will be stronger than ever – and that the whole virus thing is the fault of China, the video clearly lays out hard evidence that Trump, Pence and the entire White House staff is incredibly arrogant and, even worse, totally incompetent.

Ovan Sjömantorp Vejbystrand

Helicopter Perspective & Burglars

Can’t get enough of this perspective. Just read that there was a burglary in a house not too far away from here. Over the years, I’ve heard that thieves often go on a “tour” and break into a series of vacation homes in a limited area, neighborhood or village. Fortunately, aside from an old TV, there’s really not much to steal here. That said, if I was a burglar, I’d certainly look for (and do some recon beforehand) isolated homes like where I’m at now. Houses that could, at least potentially, provide a good risk-return tradeoff. I think I’ll keep the lights on for a few weeks. And probably do a lot of yelling if and when I hear unusual sounds during the night. Just as a precautionary measure. To scare, you know, the burglars – away. 🙄 Problem is, since the house is way over 100 years old, when the wind blows, which it does a lot of this time of year, there’s no shortage of indeterminable noises.

Kullaberg

Kullaberg & Trump’s Deceit

This is a view Kullaberg I shot a few days ago during one of those crisp, clear mornings. Kullaberg is where Charlotte and Elle were baptized and where Charlotte and I were married in 1998.

Today it’s DDR weather again. I don’t mind, though. I got up early, practiced Qigong and Yoga for 90 minutes, showered, got dressed, made some Vietnamese coffee, and sat down to work on finalizing four short films for a client. In a while, I’ll start emptying out the rest of the old kitchen before the demolition team gets here next Monday.

It’s so uncompromisingly peaceful here. No distractions, musts-do:s or have-to:s. The only social interaction I have is online with a few old friends and the occasional phone call.

Tomorrow, I’m going to be a guest on a show called The Fatherless to Fatherhood Initiative Podcast created by a fellow fatherless buddy, the fearless Michael G Poe.

Yesterday, an email from Los Angeles confirmed that my vote had been registered and counted. Feels good to know that I, at least symbolically since most Californians historically vote Democratic, pitched in to remove the unbelievalby vulgar, shameful, and incompetent Donald Trump out of the White House.

Here’s something to give you an idea of how poorly Trump has run USA Inc. While diehard proponents of his tenure thus far will argue that the president has in fact done a lot for Americans; lowered taxes. removed federal regulations, increased military spending, built portions of the border wall, here’s what it’s all costing – according to a bipartisan budget group published on Market Watch:

Policies pursued by President Donald Trump in his current term will end up boosting budget deficits by almost $4 trillion, a bipartisan group said Wednesday. These costs do not include the spending on containing the coronavirus pandemic approved by Congress this year.

Effectively, Trump has shown zero fiscal responsibility with no intent on even trying to balance the federal budget. Everything he’s done has been short-sighted and always, always, always for personal gain.

I think it’s basically the same Ponzi scheme he’s always used to finance his empire. Tragically, the collateral he’s used to amassing so much debt as president, isn’t just shimmering hotels, lavish golf courses, and luxury resorts. It’s the American people’s future.

I can’t wait to see Trump be humiliated in a couple of weeks and if necessary, forcefully escorted out of the White House in January. So the national nightmare can finally be over.

From an opinion piece in conservative The Wall Street Journal by William McRaven, a Navy admiral, and commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011-14:

– This week I went to the polls in Texas. Truth be told, I am a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, small-government, strong-defense, and a national-anthem-standing conservative. But, I also believe that black lives matter, that the Dreamers deserve a path to citizenship, that diversity and inclusion are essential to our national success, that education is the great equalizer, that climate change is real, and that the First Amendment is the cornerstone of our democracy. Most importantly, I believe that America must lead in the world with courage, conviction and a sense of honor and humility.

If we remain indifferent to our role in the world if we retreat from our obligation to our citizens and our allies and if we fail to choose the right leader, then we will pay the highest price for our neglect and shortsightedness.

I voted for Joe Biden.

I wonder where all the people that are now loudly disbanding Trump were when he got elected in 2016 and throughout his first term. How could they not have seen/heard/understood that he was a joker/jackass/jerk that would or could do no good? Did they give him the benefit of the doubt? I totally get that most conservative politicians took advantage of his pathological opportunism and sided with him in the hopes that it would benefit their agendas. But what about everyone else?

Lervik Harbor

Lervik Harbor

Captured this view over the weekend. Today this small harbor is known as Lervik (clay bay), but back in 1562, there apparently was a rather large port and village here called Grytehamn where timber and firewood was shipped from.

Grinden Sjömantorp

Where Are The Cows?

Took the drone for a short flight yeasterday in an attempt to caputre the calm. clear and crisp day. Cows are gone. All that is left is their drying dung. I wonder about their fate.

flag

‘Corruption, Anger, Chaos, Incompetence, Lies, Decay’

The New York Times Editorial Board:

Mr. Trump stands without any real rivals as the worst American president in modern history. In 2016, his bitter account of the nation’s ailments struck a chord with many voters. But the lesson of the last four years is that he cannot solve the nation’s pressing problems because he is the nation’s most pressing problem.

He is a racist demagogue presiding over an increasingly diverse country; an isolationist in an interconnected world; a showman forever boasting about things he has never done, and promising to do things he never will.

Vote.

Autumn in Vejbystrand

Autumn in Vejbystrand

We’re back in “Vejby” again. Feels great. So peaceful. So few people. Beautiful fall hues and light. Instead of rigging all my gear, I raked leaves. Gonna hang around here for a while. Chill. Rise early. Help out with the renovations. Expand my Qigong and Yoga knowledge. Breath. Relax. Create. Think. Sleep.

Vietnam Motorcycle Side Car Tour Hoi An

Sidecar Tour in Hoi An

From almost a year ago in and around Hoi An in central Vietnam where we’re staying at the time. The tour was exhilaratingly fun – especially when I got to drive, something I haven’t done since probably the early 1990s in Thailand. An electric version of the original BMW R71 (1938) or, the above ripoff, a Chinese Chang Jiang CJ750, would be a cool vehicle to drive around in. Here’s the video I shot of our tour.

official ballot 2020

Official Ballot – Part Two

Weeks after seeing in my official ballot, downloaded, printed, and signed according to the instructions, a new official ballot arrived. Confused, I felt I needed to reach out to the good folks in charge of the overseas voting process in L.A. to see what’s what.

I can’t believe it’s 2020 and my only two options for the presidential election is two white dudes in their 70s. That’s crazy and emblematic of how stale/rigid/reactionary the US political system is. Regardless really of whether you prefer a Donkey or an Elephant.


Adjustment Issues

Here’s a film I produced about this time last year. It’s a montage/collage dedicated to Västra Hamnen in Malmö. There’s no plot or underlying theme other than it being entirely devoted to the sights and scenes in the neighborhood which we’ve called home since, well, depending on how you count, as far back as 2002.

I spent the better part of 15 years shooting stills and amassing footage from Västra Hamnen until one day, about two years ago, I realized that I couldn’t do it anymore. Bluntly put, the magic was gone. And so, a surprisingly long-lasting visual love affair had come to an end.

Several years ago, after completing yet another book (in a series of 10 about the area), I remember contemplating what it would be like if I did tire of documenting Västra Hamnen. I’d enjoyed some success and financial gain with my niche focus on the area. But what would it be like if I rode the wave too far? Would I run the risk of finding myself in such shallow water that I inevitably felt stranded creatively? Could I really get so fed up with my own enthusiasm, even though Västra Hamnen continued to expand and evolve, that I just plain quit?

When I published the film last year, we had just embarked on our odyssey to South East Asia where we ended up spending four months in Hoi An and Da Nang (Vietnam) and then two more in Malaga (Spain).

Neatly tucked away among all my camera equipment, clothes, shoes, toiletries, and containers with homemade ginger snus, was a mental list of important, yet ostensively unanswerable, existential questions:

What was the essential purpose of our trip? Would we find a different kind of happiness along the way now that the family unit was dispersed geographically? Could we redefine ourselves, our relationship, and maybe even our livelihoods at an entirely new place? Could we muster enough entrepreneurial spirit and have enough financial capacity to accomplish a relocation – without having to liquidate our assets or depleting our “rainy day” savings back home?

Today, those six months seem so, so distant. Above all, compounded with all that’s happened since the pandemic arrived on the scene, I realize now how carefree, despite the added existential layer, our trip was.

But truth be told, for me anyway, that half-year was also often tumultuous. Like a foreshadowing of things to come, i. e. the tsunami of chaos that began washing over us and the world in the spring of 2020. The irony here is that because of the immediate impact the virus had on our situation in Spain, we never needed to see how things played out or if we had answers to any of the aforementioned existential questions. In this sense, Covid-19 offered us (and many others) a way out of an existential predicament.

So, now we’re back where we started from about a year ago. And yeah… I’m having some readjustment issues. Bewilderment seems like an apt description of how I feel right now. Can I once again readjust to a location and a lifestyle that I felt had little more to offer me creatively and that while cushy and comfy, provided only the challenge of surviving everyday mundanities and trivialities? How do I avoid feeling like I’m stuck in the groove of an old scratchy record, doomed to loop eternally but with an increasingly audible, nagging noise?

We’ll see. I’m taking it day by day, knowing that from recent experiences, spread over the last few years, that it can take me a while to settle in on a new reality and work my way towards a harmonious existence. A subsistence where I can both appreciate what I have and self-generate enough creative challenges to keep me preoccupied and, ultimately, less focused on stuff that bores the hell out of me.


From Malibu to Malmö

Looking forward to enjoying this view again. It’s not quite as timeless or soothing as what we have had here in Vejbystrand since early spring. But as long as I have a sea view, I’m a happy camper.

During the first few years of my life, up to about when I was five, my parents rented the bottom half of a beach house in Malibu, California. I suppose being in the water a lot and falling asleep/waking up to the sound of waves from the Pacific Ocean left a lasting impression on me. The fact is, of all my earliest childhood memories, the only real positives ones are from those first few years on the beach. I wish I could say I remember my mother and father being happy there together. I’m sure they were from time to time. I just can’t visualize it from any of my earliest memories. What I do recall, even if it’s more than 50 years ago, is how wonderful living on the beach in Malibu was. The inserted photo is of my (then apparently happy) mother (on the right) and Stella, the lady she and my father rented the house behind them from. Can’t grasp how I can remember Stella’s name.

From Malibu to Malmö. Who would have thought?

Charlotte and I will continue with our small and big house projects in Vejbystrand and be back on the weekends throughout the fall. There’s so much room for improvement and like all old houses, it both demands and deserves a lot of tender loving care and to be properly updated.

dark side of the moon

The Dark Side of Perpetual Limbo

I shot this a couple of weeks ago using a 600mm lens. The visual reference to Pink Floyd’s paradigmatic record, “Dark Side of the Moon” is given. At least to me it is. Especially now as we’re at the frontend of this weird year’s darkest months – figuratively and literally.

Several countries around the world have recently begun imposing new lockdowns and travel restrictions. I presume that the sense of fatigue many of us already feel from the limitations the pandemic has caused will likely increase over the next few months while we hope/pray/beg for those sweet better times to return.

Close friends have recently been infected with the virus, but are, fortunately, at least this far, asymptomatic. Charlotte and I got an antibody test a few weeks ago. Both of our test results were negative which made me wonder if a) we may have been infected but the antibodies had already left our bodies, or, b) the test results were false negative. Either way, like billions of other Earthlings, we are still caught in a perpetual “Covid Limbo”.

Red Sea Scuba Diving in Jordan

Red Sea Diving in Aqaba

I don’t remember who shot it, but this group photo was taken with one of my old Canon cameras in an underwater case during a press trip to Aqaba, the sleepy seaside dive resort by the Red Sea. We only had a day and a night in Aqaba before heading to the ancient Jordanian city of Petra, so I can’t say much about the city, even if there was much to say about it (which I doubt there is).

While I don’t remember the dive location being particularly spectacular, I clearly recall the merry band of journalists from Scandinavia I was there with being extraordinarily fun to travel with. From other photos from this part of the press trip, I know that we did get to see some rather large coral formations and schooling fish.

I can’t remember when I last went scuba diving. Might have been when the above photo was taken. Or, maybe it was in Thailand a few years ago or as far back as in the Bay of Pigs, off the coast of Cuba. Hm. If that’s the case, it’s been way too long, for sure.

I wonder if my old Thai buddy Saran Sudduen still goes diving. When we were both younger men and lived not far from each other on Phuket, he and I would dive for about an hour most Saturday mornings outside of Kata Beach. We’d gear up at a local dive shop on the main road, walk down to the beach, and then head out into the Andaman Sea. Scorpionfish were fairly abundant and once in a while, we’d catch a glimpse of a small reef shark. Once we swam out to Koh Gai (Chicken Island) and dove entirely around it before swimming back with depleted tanks. We’d always return to shore carrying plastic bags and other garbage we’d collected during the dive.

Just like in Aqaba, it must be eerily quiet on Phuket now. Which is both hard to imagine and sad to think about. I hope 2021 will see things turn around. Maybe I’ll even be able to go for a dive again. I really miss buoyancy.