Here’s one of my views this evening in Lund. A bird settling on the head of a statue is just too much of a temptation for any serious photographer to neglect. While in the midst of a whirlwind, a statue provides an eternity of perdurability. It doesn’t sway from its stance, bow to any virus, or need to make excuses or feel embarrassed when a bird inevitably drops a huge dump on it. Such is the destiny of a statue. It takes the shit and still stands tall and unmoved by past bird dumps or from being ignored. Gonna take a bath now. Together with Toots Thielemans.
Found this old wooden door during our short visit to Båstad during the weekend. It’s a little corny, but I’ve been fascinated with doors for as long as I can remember, both from a metaphorical and aesthetic perspective.
A quick visit to Torekov where the weather is fabulous and spring is just around the corner. Charlotte and I went for a long walk and while a bit nippy, it was both refreshing and energizing.
This is what it looked like last night when the gusty winds finally subsided and left behind a vacuum of placidity and tranquility. While standing there with my camera, I felt so far from the calamity and drama sweeping across the world right now.
If you look above to the right in the image, where the big tree is, you’ll see the silhouette of a small, wooden birdhouse that I hung up there a few weeks ago, hoping some fine feathered fowl would discover the place and find it so irresistibly attractive, they’d move in. Well, yesterday, I saw a potential tenant checking the place out. I want to remember that one of my first woodshop projects when I arrived in Sweden back in 1978, was a crudely made birdhouse of birch. The one I hung up on the tree was decidedly more stylish and well-built and probably made in a factory somewhere in China.
I shot this one morning while we were living on the outskirts of Hoi An in central Vietnam. We continue to make our coffee this way, but man, that trip feels super distant right now. Not just because of the time lapsed from October until now. The whole world was different back then. Nobody had any concerns about spreading or being infected by a virus. No hidden suspicious or irrational fears. A time when handshakes and hugs were abundant and generously shared. We shopped at open-air markets, enjoyed street food and didn’t wash our hands more than before meals and after toilet visits.
I doubt there has ever been a time in the history of our species where humans have been more preoccupied with self-negotiating and micromanaging our lives. Here in Sweden, where there is no lockdown, shelter in place or judicially enforced restrictions, we are admittedly more or less free to go wherever we want and socialize, albeit in small groups.
Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone is concerned about making decisions that could either be potentially life-saving or life-threatening. From what I have seen in Ängelholm, Malmö and Lund, few people, particularly younger folk, seem to take much notice of what’s going on in Spain, Italy and the US.
I totally get that the younglings feel invincible and that life seems blissfully eternal. They should absolutely feel this way – it’s like a prerequisite for their age and enables them to reach further, jump higher and instantly bounce back when they inevitably fail and fall. And I like to think that to a degree, I still have that mentality in place. But, being a middle-aged man with a mild case of asthma and a father that definitely wants to experience what it’s like being a grandfather, I am one of those paranoid dudes that constantly self-negotiates and weighs pros and cons of many of my most rudimentary daily decisions. Perhaps not so much while being fairly isolated here in Vejbystrand. But I am super-conscious of how I am feeling and even the slightest hint of a headache, sniffle, cough, or, really any strange feeling that occurs in my body, puts me in a state of hyperawareness. Oh, did I mention that I have a mild case of Hypochondria?
This was shot in a hotel bathroom not too long ago. I couldn’t resist documenting such a beautiful faucet. What a great tribute to vintage design and outdated function. Creating the right blend of hot and cold water isn’t easily accomplished and I tend to just use the left knob and hope that I’ll have time enough to clean my hands and rinse them from soap suds before the water gets scathingly hot. I usually fail at this.
Though a capitalist out of necessity, I am clearly a left-leaning liberal at heart. Honestly, I can’t understand how you could possibly be anything else. I sincerely hope that once we see the light at the end of this dark, threatening tunnel, that a considerably more humane, empathetic perspective emerges among those in power.
The picture above is composed of photos from within my archive.
This is what Easter Eve looked like here in Vejbystrand this morning. Within the Christian tradition, Easter Eve is the Saturday after Good Friday. It’s a nugatory day because according to legend, Jesus’ disciples have locked themselves in his tomb for fear of those behind the execution. Why are they hiding? For fear that they too will be crucified? The hiding seems uncourageous to me. I mean, didn’t Jesus bravery rub off on them at all?
We are fortunate to not have to hide or shelter here, even though there is an “executioner” lurking in the shadows. An invisible, barely microscopic pathogen always on the lookout for new hosts and clearly with no regard for Easter or any holiday.
This morning, after her run, my Qigong/Yoga workout and our scrambled eggs on toast breakfast with Vietnamese coffee, Charlotte exclaimed, “the first place we’re going to travel to when all this is over, is Japan”.
I couldn’t have agreed more with her.
Our first visit to Tokyo was about this time of year. Elle was about 5 or six years old at the time and we fell in love with the Japanese capital. During our two week stay, Tokyo’s Sakura trees blossomed and because the flowers were not quite as pink as they are here in Vejbystrand (where the above shot was taken a few days ago), it kinda looked like the cherry trees were covered in a thick layer of snow.
I haven’t flown my old drone in about six months. Somewhat surprised how fast my muscle memory kicked in – making flying it feel easy peasy. I’m still fascinated by upside-down perspectives and this is from about 80 meters above Sjömantorp where we live.
As I mentioned just before canceling my accounts on December 31st, 2019, I no longer participate in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social media platform. Yet I have somehow managed to persuade a few fine friends and chosen family members to communicate with me via iMessage, email and WhatsApp. I don’t mind having to switch between the three. But if I had my way, we’d all use email. I love writing and receiving emails. Writing an email feels close to old school letter writing – which I did a lot of in my younger years. Which kind of makes me feel ancient.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted so many people’s lives, including ours. It’s hard to grasp the scope of it yet. I think we might just be seeing the very tip of an enormous iceberg – the beginning of a multi-year, planet-wide, chain of events that will have a seemingly endless ripple effect on most everyone. How folks in the developing world and the poorest are going to be able to cope is a question I keep asking myself. There’s no optimistic answer, I fear. So many countries around the world are run by a bunch of autocrats, dictators, and despots, men that are either suppressing virus facts and stats and/or just looking the other way, ignoring a problem they are incapable of addressing. Their biggest concern is not the health of the country they strongarm but rather how the crisis might affect the power they wield.
Shot the above image somewhere in Asia a few years ago.
The eggs are obviously photoshopped, but the nest is authentic. I found it the other day while cleaning out one of our many storage rooms here in Vejbystrand. Like none I’ve ever experienced before, this Easter will be unprecedentedly weird. Not sure yet if any of our traditional gatherings will occur. One pleasantry will definitely be revisited: Easter snaps. I mean, even if it is the end of the world as we know it, a chilled snaps (with mustard herring, potatoes, and dill) or two can’t possibly make it any worse..
Charlotte and I have been to a large recycling facility today. We actually made two visits there and have will probably be back there tomorrow. I got lucky during our second visit as it was time to turn on the oddly pleasing wood crushing machine when we were at the wood station. A friend pointed out how watching this brutal machine is satisfying somehow. I agree. Now if only someone could invent a way to crush COVID-19…
It’s not without us feeling a little guilt and understanding that we are supremely privileged right now. Meeting spring in Vejbystrand is always wonderful – and especially so this year.
Within just a few weeks, the designation “rural” has metamorphosed into something positive and worth embracing. We’re whole-heartedly enjoying our current small-scale lifestyle.
It’s hard, but I’m trying to keep the news at a fair distance. All the dramatic headlines deplete my optimism.
The misery of miseries, as my old aunt Lillemor always said when a disaster occurred somewhere in the world – as in the world’s brimming refugee camps, where health care is limited and risk of contamination always imminent.
The earth’s population is currently living under the shadow of uncertainty. The future looks dire in almost every direction. I feel particularly for the many people that already had it tough before all this and who cannot comprehend how to cope with all the additional burdens the virus has brought with it.
Yesterday we took a long walk along the beach and on our way home stopped to greet three fluffy sheep living carefree in one of the village’s forest groves. The meeting gave some respite from the constant flow of reports about tragedies in Bergamo, Madrid and New York.
So far we are living relatively protected here in Vejbystrand and sincerely hope that this nightmare will soon be over.
Agreed, the lyrics are nonsensical or, at best haphazardly composed. But just forget about that for a moment and listen to the sensual groove. The way master drummer Jeff Porcaro beautifully weighs his sticks and how slick Steve Lukather sings and plays guitar. Folks, it don’t get much better than this. Not even after 40 years. Having partied with the original band members back in the day during their visit to Gothenburg Sweden certainly helps keep the fire burning. But even so, compared to much else today, Toto’s early work is still unmatchable.
Society seems to be unraveling. Which is a great opportunity to find comfort in simple things, like living in Vejbystrand. Like eating vegetarian spring rolls with a bowl of jasmine rice and topped off with homemade apple chutney and fried broccoli. Some may have seen the above collage film before. It’s a collection of scenes from our nearby meadow. I compiled dozens of clips a few years back for an exhibit of landscapes from southern Sweden at Malmö Live in 2017. A version of this film was also shown during my 2018 Easter Art Show at Vejby Vingård – the village’s local winery.
I just finished watching Netflix’s über popular documentary “Tiger King: Murder Mayhem and Madness”.
Like no other documentary before it, Joe Exotic, together with all the other characters in the series, made me feel unapologetically proud to be a red-blooded American. Yee-haw! Each episode wholeheartedly encapsulated the essence, the very core and indispensable qualities that make rural America so immeasurably, unequivocally great. The multitude of enviable cultural articulations and freewheeling expressions of constitutional freedom so vividly shown in Tiger King prompted me to seriously consider abandoning my current life here in Sweden so I could relocate to hillbilly country of rural Oklahoma or near the “Glades” in Florida. Even my friend Samuel, currently a coronavirus prisoner in Málaga/Spain, says the parts of Oklahoma where much of Netflix’s Tiger King is played out is definitely an “interesting” destination.
About 15 years ago, Charlotte and I visited a tiger temple near the town of Kanchanaburi, a couple of hours’ drive west of Bangkok in Thailand and just a few clicks from the Burmese/Myanmar border. We were both incredibly naive and excited about being able to get up close to tigers and Aftonbladet, the newspaper that had commissioned us to produce a multipage travel reportage about the amazing Buddhist monks and their beautiful big cats, published our story in both print and on the interwebs.
As it turned out, the temple was in addition to being a very profitable tourist attraction with about 400 visitors per day, also a well-organized front for illegal farming and international black market trading of full-grown tigers, their cubs, tiger meat, tiger fangs, and tiger fur.
Today, I feel ashamed of having been so extremely naive. I saw how doped the tigers were, I saw the thick, short shackles that gave them zero freedom to move around and I certainly noticed that there was a disingenuous quality to the sugar-coated stories regurgitated to us by the monk during our special press tour.
Though the tiger temple was eventually closed, the site is still home to a few exotic animals, including (according to Wikipedia) a lion. As much as I love Thailand and the Thai people, I hope that some future incarnation of their government cracks down on the country’s many ill-kept and poorly supervised zoos and elephant riding camps. Most of all, I hope that the tiger above was allowed to live the rest of its life in a more peaceful environment. But I doubt it.
When I opened my eyes this morning, I saw a sliver of bright yellow sunlight protruding through the blackout curtains hanging over our bedroom window. I went to sleep unusually early last night and felt initially a little confused by the light. Had I slept in? It was Sunday, so no big deal if I had. For some reason, I remembered about the time change, that we are now officially in the summertime.
Though the pandemic is omnipresent online and in much of everyday small talk, I find that it still easily falls out of focus. I suppose that’s because we are here on the coast in Vejbystrand, so near to nature in an environment barely stirred by humans. I’m thankful that the reminders are few, at least when compared to urban dwellings. On the other hand, we kind of miss the “comfort” of having an abundance of neighbors – to share fears and hopes with – and we are at least a half an hour from the nearest ICU, if or when the shit really hits the fan.
Aside from probably lacking the emotional capacity and having zero skills, I still wish I had something to contribute to the healthcare field with right now.
The other day, a friend pointed out an interesting aspect of the unfolding situation to me. During her maternity leave, the restaurant she worked for as a manager went bankrupt. Just as her yearlong leave was about to end – but before the coronavirus took center stage – she had several interesting job offers, was hired by a bakery/café chain and set to go back to work in early March. Three weeks ago, her new employer laid her off. But with the fallout from the virus, she now feels somewhat relieved for having an unquestionably valid explanation of why she’s still not able to find a job.
I think we’ll be hearing more of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s thoughts on “UBI” a Universal Basic Income, a citizen’s dividend where a government guarantees that everyone receives a minimum salary. Defining “citizen” will obviously become a sticking point and while I think most sensible people in the world will abide and adjust to just having enough means to survive, it’s going to be really tough for most Americans to grasp what the concept of “basic” even means.
Shot these Easter flowers during a long beach walk the other day. Heard via the BBC that Kenya’s flower industry is disastrous with approximately 500.000 directly and indirectly affected and now out of work. As if life wasn’t already tough enough for them. Fuck.
Today I learned that the coronavirus is so small, that it would take several hundred of them lined up after each other just to cover the side of a single grain of sand. That’s small!
Yet once a virus gets into your body and takes hold of a host cell, almost any host cell, the very purpose, the nature, the destiny of every virus, is ultimately to take over the cell it enters and reproduce itself as fast as possible.
Furthermore, I also learned that a virus is basically a recipe, a self-executing, malignant program with code designed without any other agenda than to hijack and grow exponentially. I don’t know much about computer viruses (I’ve been using Apple computers for 30 years, so I have never experienced what it’s like to be infected by a computer virus.) but they seem to have been modeled after biological virus.
There is something humbling about the enormous reproductions caused by covad-19. For all of humans incredible inventions, all our disruptive, technical breakthroughs and feats of astonishing mechanical engineering, including advanced intercontinental ballistic missile systems, satellites, lunar travel and an international space station, all it takes to disrupt world order is a single teeny, weeny virus. And only by eventually retro-engineering it will we be able to figure out how to counteract its ability to devastatingly paralyze every society on the planet. Humbling.
The ingredients for the above collage are from Málaga where our friends are still trapped until at least April 12.
Wow, are these weird times, or what? Who would have thought that streets in entire cities would be more or less empty, seemingly abandoned? That even the most basic human social behavior would take such a colossal hit? Are we the last of those that will remember what a superficial cheek kiss, a fleeting hug, and a vigorous handshake feels like? Will this make even the slightest physical contact feel forbidden and therefore somehow even erotic? Post-coronavirus social ordinance might just well dictate a whole new set of judicial and social rules to abide by. Or, to totally disobey. If the virus is really a threat to our very existence, then I think disobedience is the only option. We’re fucked, so who cares, right?
Seriously though. This pandemic will probably leave long-term social and financial disruption in its wake. Social distancing, virtual offices, online meetups as well as homeschooling will leave the fringes and likely become preferable and dominating alternatives in our new, hunker down, shelter in place society. Maybe we’ll even abandon our megacities and migrate en masse back to the countryside, where a rural, agriculturally focused and physically demanding, yet healthier lifestyle, awaits. Or, maybe we’ll stay in our urban environments but isolate ourselves even more than now. Transform our apartments into bunkers that we rarely leave.
Speaking of bunkers…
The above collage is from photos I took at an old Stasi headquarters on the outskirts of Leipzig, Germany that I visited a few years ago during a press trip. I shot most of the photos deep down in a bunker intended for polittruks in Erich Honecker’s DDR. Interestingly, there were exercise bikes hooked up to supply electricity to the bunker’s phones as an alternative to the facility’s diesel generator.