From yesterday’s film project with Tai Chi teacher Garry Seghers at the beautiful Chùa Bửu Đài Sơn Buddhist temple near where Da Nang’s fishing fleet anchor. Note the ancient symbols arrogated by the Nazi movement seen on either side of the temple’s entrance arch.
We’ve now moved to new dwellings. It’s our ninth move since arriving here in Asia more than two months ago. Which I know to some sounds absolutely mad. But when you consider we’ve traveled to three different cities, two of which were visited twice, it’s really not all that weird. Unlike many, Charlotte and I find that how and where we live is incredibly important to our ability to function emotionally and creatively.
We’ll be installed at this new place, a so-called “aparthotel”, for the remainder of our stay in the country. Instead of a partial ocean view (which we had at the old place and admittedly miss), we now have this really strange view of a driving school’s driving course.
The view got me thinking. At the beginning of the year, I was in Singapore at the behest of Terranet, a long-time Swedish client within the automotive safety space. They had sent me to meet with a representative for Nanyang Technical University and the fellow I met there guided me around the university’s test track for autonomous vehicles. And guess what? It looked similar to the driving course directly behind our new digs, which I time-lapsed this morning.
Here’s the view of My Khe Beach when I look over the ledge from the 40th floor of the Muong Thanh Luxury Hotel. Unlike most other rooftops I’ve been on in recent years here in Asia, not only did I have the entire place to myself, but it was uneasily easy to stand slightly above the pane of thick glass to shoot footage or stills at a 90 gree downwards-facing angle.
I mean, if I was a little shaky while holding my Fujifilm XT-3 above the sidewalk at about 175 m (574 ft), I can just imagine somebody shorter than I accidentally dropping their smartphone at a similar angle.
Shot this at 05:55 today – a few minutes before and not at all far from where Garry and I practiced Tai Chi and Qigong. It feels much colder here right now and it took me quite a few laps in the gym’s unheated pool before I warmed up and could complete the morning’s 1000m.
I just have to get this off my chest. At times, I worry too much about how rapidly our environment is changing and how dismal the forecast for the future is. Mostly, I worry about how drunk with apathy we all seem to be and that it’ll be too late to react once we finally sober up. One of my most pounding questions is what’s going to happen when all the billions of people on Earth (7.700.000.000 and counting) – not just those that can afford to today – decide it’s imperative to happiness to fill all our closets with dozens of outfits, our homes with umpteen electric and electronic appliances and then furnish and refurnish our living spaces every three to four years with new furniture and decorations? Or, should I just not care and let folks in the future deal with this? I don’t think so. Especially after watching this incredibly interesting, albeit very upsetting Netflix documentary (episode 3) that unveils the horrific level of public deceit, disingenuous PR responses, and general corporate trickery of IKEA.
Like none before it, this documentary makes it crystal clear to me that the Swedish “fast-furniture” behemoth is nothing less than a ruthless, profit-hungry, bad actor with a diabolical business model which is slowly but surely killing the planet and designing as well as manufacturing and selling products that are indirectly causing deaths among its tiniest and most innocent end-users. There are other bad actors out there, but none as mindbogglingly fake, two-faced and cynical as IKEA. And none that dominates the “fast-furniture” segment as much.
Honestly, anybody that believes what they hear from corporate IKEA about being “forest positive”, that the company actually cares about “the many people”, or, that they are genuinely interested in becoming a more eco-friendly, sustainable corporate citizen, is either unbelievably naive or, working at or for the company. Which in essence means they’ve been affected by an illusionary ideology purposely designed to brainwash and immerse employees in the company’s shiny, blue and yellow distortion field.
I’ve felt this way for a while, but now I really feel disgusted for having consulted for them several years ago. I will do my utmost to never enter any of their big box stores again and urge you, dear reader, to take a stance, show some integrity and demand that IKEA takes criticism like what the documentary unveiled, seriously. If you really care about the environment and the future of our children and their children, watch the documentary and then through your consumer choices, force companies like IKEA to be accountable for past and future actions.
#ikea #ikeaofsweden #interikea #sustainability #forestdestruction #romania #cheapfurniture #corporatevillain
After several days with weather inconducive with outdoor Qigong and Tai Chi practice, here’s what the bright orange sun looked like as it made its way through thick rain clouds midway through Garry’s class on this Saturday morning in December.
Like most folks, when I find and identify something that fits perfectly to my liking, I tend to get a little carried away with my enthusiasm. Not only indulging but also overindulge until I’m sick of it.
Whenever I bought an LP/CD back in the day, I would play it back-to-back until I either knew every little note and lyric by heart or just got incredibly tired of hearing it.
Right now Charlotte and I are in love with a small café with a plant-based menu called Roots that Elle discovered while she was here last week. The food is sumptuous and even if it’s a tiny place with mostly uncomfortable seating, we just can’t stop plowing through the menu. Here’s what this morning’s breakfast at Roots looked like. And yes, it was fabulicious! Must return with my camera one day to document the beautiful presentations the friendly staff create there.
I get childishly excited whenever I’m at a Japanse restaurant where a Bento Box is a prominent menu option. It’s just such a convenient way to enjoy a few of my favorite dishes from the Japanese kitchen.
At some point in my earliest school years at Rosewood Avenue Elementary, near Melrose Place, I remember having a blue, metal Charlie Brown or Snoopy lunchbox. Once you flicked up the two flimsy fasteners and opened the round lid, the box’s innards had two dividers which created three separate compartments. One was probably used for either peanut butter and jelly or a baloney and mustard sandwiches. The second might of contained fruit or a Ding Dong and the third possibly a can of some kind, like Welch’s Grape Juice – a super sugary lunchtime beverage favorite with probably zero real grape juice in it.
We realized after just a few hours of walking around in our new neighborhood in Da Nang that we’d be staying in the midst of a building boom. Not that we’re not accustomed to sharing our immediate environment with cranes, bulldozers, jackhammers and every other imaginable site and sound related to construction sites. Our many years in Malmö’s endlessly expanding Västra Hamnen have certainly familiarized us with the noise, dust and hazardous endeavors of sharing sidewalks and streets with gigantic trucks, diesel generators, and compressors.
On a brighter side, the ongoing boom here provides a superfluity of interesting patterns, textures, and compositions. Depending on my mood and time of day, some of these compel me to whip out my camera and start documenting. Like the plastic net above which I discovered the other day at some building site on my way to the gym and which I have already made use of in one of my latest collages. I love the faded blue hues, the waviness and how its bends come in and out of focus. I shot it at f2 or, possibly at f1.4.
I think having an ability to get exiting about random patterns or textures and imagining their potential in an artistic context is somehow akin to my ambition to see something positive in almost everything, everybody, and every situation. More of my artwork can be viewed here.
As long as it’s not raining when I go to sleep, I usually get out of bed at around 5:15 am. First, I’ll check the weather on my weather app and then in realtime through the balcony overlooking the South China Sea. If it’s dry outside and doesn’t look like it’s going to pour down any time soon, I’ll get dressed, pack my stuff and head on down to My Khe Beach, which is just a few hundred meters from our highrise pad in here Da Nang. A bit south of our nearest crosswalk, I’ll meet up with instructor Garry for an hour of energizing Tai Chi and Qigong exercises. Above is what it looked like today at exactly 6:00 a.m. There’s always a small gathering of locals on the beach or, in the adjacent park. Some are making use of the crude public gym equipment, others are doing various free-from exercises, including Qigong, Tai Chi and, possibly even Falun Gong. All three are related, so it’s hard for me to discern which is which.
The other day, I had an inspiring thought that I felt compelled to jot down here. Elle, Charlotte and I were at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican taqueria not far from the apartment, enjoying a late but tasty Saturday night dinner. During the meal, I couldn’t help noticing the affable interaction going on between the sweet woman serving us and her two colleagues working in the place’s small kitchen.
As I’ve spent several years working at various positions in the restaurant industry, including a few stints as a cook, I both recognized and appreciated the rapport they enjoyed as a team. It also helped me realize how much stuff in life that I’ve worked with and how those archived experiences, when juxtaposed over situations I see and live through today, many, many years later, keep me both humble and empathetic to folks that work with more physically demanding occupations. And since my professional life has been exceptionally varied; I’ve subbed multiple semesters as a teacher, worked in kitchens, as a bartender, a waiter, a writer, lecturer, deejay, house painter, web designer, creative coach, journalist, filmmaker, photographer, and artist, I can relate to a lot of occupations and work situations and understand some of what goes on behind the scenes.
Sidenote: if everything goes according to a plan I’ve devised since just after arriving here in Asia, about two months ago, in the new year, I’ll be once again reinventing myself, embarking on a brand new, yet to be announced, career path and journey. And this one could perhaps be the most important and possibly/hopefully the most fulfilling I’ve had to date. We’ll see.
Career-wise, it’s been an incredibly interesting ride so far and I certainly don’t have any regrets. What would the point of that be? It’s a given that there’s been struggles, challenges and failures. And not all the choices I’ve made have been super smart or, even provided me with useful life lessons. And I am well aware that at times, especially in my younger years, some of my more irrational decisions were made way too spontaneously. But that’s only to be expected since I’ve been making most of my life up as I go along – at least as far back as my memory serves me. I’ve rarely had any master plan, future-proofing forethought or felt that securing full-time employment was a goal worth pursuing.
Consequently, I have a relentless ability to improvise, reinvent myself and make the best of every situation I either purposely or inadvertently land in. Part genetic luck and part the result of my improvisational lifestyle, I’m the kind of guy who’ll open up a fridge door and instead of identifying all the missing ingredients, use what’s there to make something reasonably edible, if not healthy. I actually wake up each and every morning and damn near always find something positive to hang on to, get excited about and look forward to solving that very same day.
Arguably, I’m more a jack of all trades than a master of anyone in particular. But the undeniable fact that I’ve had so many different types of professions as well as traveled far and wide, allows me to connect relatively easy with folks from all walks of life. Regardless of where in the world our paths cross. I think this ability applies to all kinds of stuff I’ve done so far in my life. Including learning some basic Tai Chi in the early morning hours on a beautiful beach in Vietnam.
I created this image some time ago and it is one of my most downloaded. I have no idea who buys it, such is the world of stock photography. I can only hope that it’s published in a context that jells with my initial conceptual intention. As much as I like the adjective “merry”, to me it projects an image of a tall, elaborately ornamented Christmas tree, anchored with a tremendous amount of brightly colored, gift-wrapped presents. It is, therefore, a great symbol of much of what has gone awry with how we define happiness.
It’s almost December and the multinationals are tooting their horns louder and more frequently, prompting us to once again pony up our hard-earned, unscrupulously taxed income to buy more stuff, so they can fill their coffers and keep Wall Street blissfully happy…
Like most folks, I am a hypocrite. I do not live as I preach. But these days, I try hard to make conscious, eco-friendly decisions whenever and wherever I can. Especially when it’s time to actually consume. I don’t always succeed. Probably not even close to as much as I should or could. For I am weak and addicted to a lifestyle nurtured for over five decades. And so, I often take the easy, instantly gratifying route, instead of seeking out a level of fulfillment that would not only provide me with longer-lasting satisfaction but also be better for the planet.
Climate change, global warming, and the planet’s health issues do not seem to be part of the discourse here in Vietnam. Which is no big surprise. Most folks here can’t afford such seemingly lofty luxuries whilst in survival mode. The same goes for the rest of the developing world.
What is considerably more surprising and worrisome, though, is how the vast majority of people that at least theoretically can both grasp the seismic challenges our species must confront to reverse the awaiting cataclysmic, planetary havoc, and have the practical and financial means to do so, are just turning a blind eye. I obviously include myself among these blind-eye, nay-sayers.
As I view it, the main challenge with reining in rampant consumerism, which includes both stuff we buy for our bodies and homes, as well as food, is the belief that only by continuing our perverse indulgences, can we achieve happiness. In other words, we need to figure out how to be happier with less and yet increase our satisfaction through long-lasting, fulfilling experiences – rather than living life within a sickly cycle of instant gratification – fueled through constant over-consumption of crap – and feeding our bodies with environmentally insane food and drink choices with dubious health advantages.
I think the secret sauce to a successful reversal lies within being focused and intellectually mindful about every choice we make as consumers, and stop making purchases habitually or ritualistically – or, even worse, allowing us to be influenced by anybody or anything other than what our hearts and minds can deduce independently, if we just think a little beforehand. If we simply envision the chain of events that lead up to how or what we choose came into existence – as well as the unavoidable aftermath it generates – we could collectively become a powerful force, and lead by example, a more sustainable life.
Here’s a simple Qigong Warmup for all of us Screen Warriors. A couple of years ago, I enlisted a Qigong instructor to teach me a few basic movements that could help relieve some of the stiffness I was feeling from arthritis. I’ve since spent many hours practicing and taking additional courses to learn other systems and styles. But these first few movements are still really relevant to me and I continue to practice them almost daily.
Since being introduced to Qigong, I’ve often tried to help others that also experience stiffness and pain in, for example, knees, hips, shoulders, neck, and elbows, by passing on my learnings. I’ll show some of the system to friends, family and even complete strangers I meet on the street or at a hotel. But I’ve always felt that I should really create a short video demonstrating some of the basic movements that I find to be the most effective at warming me up and lubricating my joints and ligaments.
After about 15 minutes of these simple movements, my stiffness is usually long gone and I’m ready for the day’s physical challenges.
This shot is a frame grab from a scene during the filming two years ago at Bamboo Yoga Retreat, a revered, beachfront yoga resort on the south end of Patnem Beach in Goa, India. I went to a yoga class today at my new sports club (where they offer 5 yoga classes/day!). It was me, Garry, the Brittish Tai Chi fellow I met swimming the other day, a tall, blonde gal and 20 or so local women in a large room with zero air-conditioning. I noticed that there were a couple of small fans, but for some reason, all were turned off once we began. Yeah, it was hot in there. Almost Bikram hot.
Yoga wise, I’ve been off-course for a few days, so there were audible cracks and squeaks coming from my mat – which was so drenched from dripping sweat, that I was literally slipin’ and slidin’ during most of the class. I’ll be bringing my own mat next time. Over the last four years, I’ve practiced several different styles of yoga, including the worshiped/loathed Bikram Yoga – or, Hot Yoga, as it’s often referred to these days for either copyright infringement reasons, or, because studio owners want to distance themselves from the style’s controversial, sex offender accused (but oddly, never criminally charged) founder, Chandra Bikram.
At Da Nang’s My An Sport Center, they offer Hatha Yoga, which is usually defined as a style that includes a wide range of classic poses, flows, and breathing. I didn’t understand an utterance the instructor said, and oddly, she didn’t even participate actively in the class – which was a first for me. But it was still very clear she knew her stuff.
My only gripe with the class is that I don’t appreciate the exaggerated length spent seated. It was the same in Hoi An. I get that it’s all part of the deal to be thoroughly grounded physically and mentally before getting started with more strenuous standing movements. But here in Vietnam, they apparently extend this portion of a class way beyond what I am used to.
Thing is, the lower part of my body simply buckles under the pressure when sitting crosslegged for anything longer than 3 and a half minutes. I usually manage to pull it off, no pain, no gain, right? But once we stood up yesterday, it took a few minutes before feeling like I’d been riding bareback on a big-ass donkey for several hours, slowly faded away. I think I’ll go swimming tomorrow. Got some of my yoga videos here: www.raboff.com/film
I said, “Strike a pose, just like in the Madonna video, Vogue. Remember?”. She looked at me in disbelief, as if I was completely insane and fitting perfectly into the narrative of a typical crazy-ass westerner in Da Nang.
Then she surprised me and muttered, “Eh, which part of the video do you mean?
Flabbergasted, I replied, “Rita Hayworth gave good face, Lauren, Katherine, Lana too. Bette Davis – ladies with an attitude. Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it! Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it!
Met this colorfully synchronized fellowship of young Chinese ladies on the boardwalk tonight just before Charlotte and I enjoyed a noodle dinner on the beach.
The image above is from where these very words were typed a few minutes ago (depending, of course, on when you read this). For the second day in a row, I’m at Bread & Salt, a co-working space, cum café that Charlotte’s discovered near the beach in Da Nang, Vietnam. Not sure why it’s called co-working, cause nobody is actually working together. At least not here at Bread & Salt. While Charlotte has made good use of dozens of co-working spaces around the world, I’ve never appreciated what they have to offer. The few that I’ve tried, have been way too lively and crowded – making it really hard for someone like myself to get anything important done.
At Bread & Salt though, I seem to have found an exception to the rule. Or, maybe I’m just getting better at turning off disturbing stimuli. And when it does get a bit noisy here, I’ll put on my over-the-ear headphones and drown out most of the chatter and mindlessly assembled playlist coming from an excellent speaker system.
Bread & Salt’s giant avocado toast is remarkably tasty. As is the coconut coffee. So the food and drink, the location – right around the corner from the My An Sport Center – the blazingly fast Internet, the convenience of having electrical outlets at practically every seat and being spacious enough to not experience an invasion of personal space, make working here a viable option. And should I tire of my fellow co-workers, I can always stroll back to our beachfront apartment – about five blocks from Bread & Salt – and be all by my lonesome.
Groucho Marx once said to a tennis club representative when he wanted to cancel his membership, “I Don’t Want to Belong to Any Club That Will Accept Me as a Member”. I love that quote. And yet, I’ve just joined a club that without hesitation let me in. A club called My An Sport Center. The membership fee for a month is just shy of $50 and includes the pool, gym, all Yoga sessions (5/day) and Zumba classes and a steam room.
I’ve been told that the vast majority of Vietnamese adults can’t swim. Which makes sense. For folks in developing countries, learning how to swim is probably considered a relatively useless skill that most can’t afford even if they understood the benefits. Yesterday it was a fellow from Florida and today I shared the entire pool with a Brittish gentleman. I swam intensely for 30 minutes and left the club feeling invigorated and hungry as a wolf. At first, I was a little hesitant about swimming in a public pool which was likely saturated with chlorine, as opposed to more preferable saltwater pools and even those cleaned with Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). But I can deal with it, as long as it’s outdoors, where I don’t have to both swim in – and breathe in – chemicals.
As much as I feel mindful, focused and relaxed after a session of Yoga, Qigong and more recently, Tai Chi, I don’t get in nearly as much cardio as I know I need when compared with just 30 laps – alternating between freestyle (crawl) and breaststrokes. Where my shot knees keep me from jogging and more recently surfing, I feel no pain whatsoever while swimming.
As a young teen, I competed for the West Hollywood Park Swim Team (today called the Aquatics) and despite my zodiac sign being closer to Leo than Pisces, I’ve always felt a deep, emotional and physical tie with water. Regardless of activity.
Shot this today during a break from working on a new project for a client in Sweden. The beauty with producing time lapses, especially when using your phone as I did for this video, is that you don’t have to oversee anything. Used to be much more cumbersome back in the day. Now it’s just pushing a button and then editing a few clips. We’re talking minutes rather than hours.
Anyway, these snippets were shot from our balcony here in Da Nang early this morning, just after I’d been to the beach to practice Yoga and Qigong – and go for a quick dip in the South China Sea. Strangely, I find the smell of the ocean air here to be eerily similar to that of what I am used to from Southern California. Maybe it’s because the air temperature is about the same. Or it could also be that the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean are actually opposite bookends of the same body of water.
Here’s a 6o showreel I created for our local sports center in Malmö, Sweden a couple of months ago. Kockum Fritid is filled with both a wide range of physical activities and a unique depth of competence among those that work there. You can swim, play hockey, eat great food and even bring your infant there for a Mother-Baby workout session. When you visit Malmö next time around, be sure to drop by Kockum Fritid and check it out.
#kockumfritid #lesmills #hockey #sportscenter #livehealthy #htakockumfritid #exercisescience #måbra #malmö #sweden #västrahamnen
Here’s a brand new collage I’ve been working on for a while. It’s reasonable to assume that I would instinctively know when an abstract picture like this is finished. In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, there’s never a clear, concise path in my artistic process. It has always been – and I suppose always will be – organic. It’s how I work when filming, editing, writing, painting or creating abstract photographic collages.
There is, of course, some planning involved. But I am a firm believer that from an originality perspective, the advantages of spontaneity by far outweigh the gains offered from too much forethought. Unless I’m working for a client who has provided a concrete, creative brief and is expecting a specific result and has a critical delivery date, I could probably continue working on a piece like this for several more days – or, weeks, even.
That said, there obviously was a point in this picture’s particular timeline where colors and shapes provided a level of visual satisfaction that allowed me to put down my palette and feel good about how it turned out.