ice formations

Shapes, Cracks and Shards

Who would have thought that the winter of 2021 would be so cold and snowy? With the past week’s unusually calm weather and cold temperatures, even the saltwater is freezing. Though slippery, I try to walk as close to the shoreline as possible where interesting ice formations are wating to be discovered.

Blackbird Vejbystrand

Friends with The Blackbirds

Here’s one of our Blackbirds from this morning’s seed feed sessions. Not sure which of the two males that live in the garden this is. One is super shy and the other is outgoing. I can literally invite the extrovert into the hallway or the kitchen and he’ll walk right in and give me this demanding look as if to say, Dude! Where’re My Seeds?

Blackbirds can apparently live for 16 to 20 years in the wild. That’s a respectable age for a small bird, I think. The record for the longest-lived wild bird, the Laysan Albatross, is a whopping 50 years (and some change). Which is just half of Fred, the world’s oldest cockatoo at over 100.

Am I slowly becoming a birdie?

Pasoli Wok

Papa’s Got A New Wok & The Praise of Veggies

This shot is from a Pad Thai with marinated tofu and a ton of veggies that I made the other night. While not all the ingredients were grown locally or even organic, the green stuff is winter kale, which grows fervently in the garden here in Vejbystrand.

Whenever I hear about kids that don’t like vegetables, I wonder about what their parents are doing (or, not doing) in the kitchen to create such prejudice. I can’t remember not loving vegetables. Which, considering that during most of my childhood in the US I ate sugary cereals, junk food, and nuked TV dinners, is pretty amazing. Carrots in particular are among my favorite organic chews. But as of this writing, I can’t think of a single vegetable that I don’t like.

Can there be a more versatile ingredient than vegetables? Doubt it. Clearly, the transition from a hardcore carnivore/omnivore menu to a primarily herbivore’s diet, some six years ago, wasn’t all that difficult to make for me. And I am really happy about my new hand-crafted Pasoli steel wok. Pre-fired and ready to go when it got here via Amazon. Waiting for a glass lid to arrive any day now. Read about Oli and Pascal of Pasoli here.

myanmar

Myanmar Coup: Aung San Suu Kyi Detained

This is the very last photo from our trip to Myanmar nine years ago. We were there on a weeklong assignment to research and photograph for a travel guide. Things had started looking promising for the country and Aung San Suu Kyi was sharing at least (theoretically) some of the power with the military junta. It felt okay to visit. We experienced a half dozen beautiful locations and always felt safe and secure. Well, at least when we weren’t flying on the domestic airline Air KBZ, which at the time was a bit sketchy.

I’m not sure if Charlotte or one of the Buddhist nuns took the above group photo. Nor do I know why one sock is so much higher than the other. What I distinctly recall is that everybody we met throughout the country was friendly and hospitable.

My first visit to Asia was in 1988 when I spent six months in the south of Thailand. Since then I’ve always benchmarked other nations from those experiences. Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos have a lot in common with Thailand, especially culturally and I’ve never been chagrined during any of my visits to those countries either. I really liked Vietnam, but it’s so totally different than the rest of former Indochina.

Some would argue that several of the nations in South East Asia, as well as China, could use a nice big injection of democracy. That it’s time to retire autocracy and totalitarianism. Political oppression and military rule are not fitting for a people who in general are among the kindest and friendliest I’ve had the pleasure of encountering.

So I certainly don’t condone nor justify the Myanmarese regime’s recent power grab and declaration of a state of emergency. But it’s also hard to see beyond how Aung San Suu Kyi’s pseudo-democratic government neglects the persecution of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority.

Whenever I read about Aung San Suu Kyi, I remind myself that she comes from a family of extreme privilege and is one of a number of people in the region who are the sons or daughters or widows of leaders and at least to a degree, ride on the shiny coattails of their fathers or spouses. I’m definitely not saying that Aung San Suu Kyi still couldn’t be a really great leader and lift her country and compatriots to new heights and help Myanmar evolve into a democracy.. But her track record thus far has been lackluster and disappointing. So, perhaps it’s also time for Aung San Suu Kyi to retire her dynastic ambitions.

blackbirds

The Blackbirds

I can for sure appreciate the beauty of all kinds of birds, but I am by no means a birdie. Saw these tracks the other day out on the meadow. No idea what type of bird made them, where it was going or, even if there were more than one. Not much of a tracker, am I.

I do feed two Blackbirds almost every day with organic sunflower seeds imported from Germany (of all places). I want to imagine that I’m helping them survive this year’s unusually cold and snowy winter. It’s gone so far now that all I have to do is crack the kitchen door open a little and gently whistle a few times and at least one of them shows up within seconds, landing a few feet away from me. The short distance is a tell-tale sign that the Blackbirdies don’t see me as a threat. but as a meal ticket.

Here’s one of my favorite takes on Blackbirds.

Freeway at Los Angeles International Airport

L.A. vs Writer’s Blockade

Finding it hard to write right now. Not just because of my physical restraints. A paragraph here and then… I drift and allow myself to get distracted. As the Swedish idiom goes, I have far too many strings to play on my creative lyre. Though alternating between them has always been how I get through the “valley of the doldrums”, I am increasingly suspicious that there is a level of procrastination involved. The challenging and also considerably more self-important, self-assigned project of writing episodes from my early history in Los Angeles is hard, hard, hard. I don’t have writer’s block. I have writer’s blockade (to quote New York humorist Fran Liebowitz).

There could be a third explanation.

As a freelance artist, where photography, filmmaking, and painting have been my foremost mediums, there has always been a demand to deliver whatever my clients have ordered in a timely fashion. My creative outpouring has, therefore, at least to a degree, been shaped by my ability to not only identify and theorize about a solution to a problem but to also execute and fulfill my client’s expectations by supplying them with something substantive.

I think this is part of why I find writing long-form so challenging. The end is nowhere in sight and so, from time to time, I feel an urge to create something that will see the light of day within a reasonable timeframe. Like this blog post…

Photo: an early morning by a freeway underpass near Los Angeles International Airport.


Travel Lust 2021

It took some time, but here’s a collage of places I’ve had the privilege of visiting in recent years. In my creative calling and line of work, the boundary between work and pleasure is essentially invisible. Most of my days, regardless of where I spend them, in Vejbystrand, on the streets of Tokyo or discovering hidden gems in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, I’m constantly looking for interesting scenes to film or photograph. While the shortcomings of my vision don’t always allow me to clearly perceive what I have in front of me, the camera never, ever lies.

Not being able to travel right now is fine. I have come to terms with it. My body needs the rest. But that’s not stopping my mind from its chronic wanderlust. And so, I felt the need to sift through my travels and put this little film together and publish it online. Watching reminds me of how wonderfully diverse a planet we live on. Which is humbling.

lily flower

Flower at Jim’s

Though I can surely tell you if a rose is a rose and a sunflower is a sunflower, I’m not a botanist by any stretch of the imagination. The floral world is just too big for me and I’m already spreading myself thinly across several different fields of interest.

From a quick cross-reference of the above flower via Google’s collection of flowers, I’m fairly convinced it’s a lily of some flavor. I shot it about a year ago at Jim Thompson’s House in Bangkok.

Telephone Kockums Industries

Connecting

Saw this small phone booth during a visit to a derelict factory in Malmö called Kockums Industries. They made everything from cast iron stoves to submarines and gigantic cargo ships there. The phone is yet another one of my homages to Duchamp’s still wonderfully provocative “readymade” approach to everyday objects as (meta) art.

Who was the last person to use the phone before it was pulled from the network? What was the final word spoken through it? Who designed it and what was the process like? How long did the cord need to be?

I chose this image as a symbol of connectivity. See, I’ve recently linked with a few choice relatives on my father’s side of the family. Though I’ve heard their names mentioned from time to time, most are entirely new acquaintances. Very exciting to learn more about a part of my family that I’ve ignored/neglected/distanced myself from. Why? Probably to avoid what I assumed would be a lot of emotional wear and tear. But I don’t feel nearly as fraught with gloom or filled with wrath as I had foreseen. Instead, I’ve tried to take a neutral approach.

I’m more of an amateur social anthropologist, piecing together characters, anecdotes, timelines, and plot twists and by doing so, hopefully creating a less fragmented, distorted image of my father; who he was as an individual and why he did so much weird shit.

Ultimately, as usual in my life, I want to see if I can find the silver lining and once and for all shake off the shadow of a man I never knew. This in order to get to know myself better, to learn to accept myself better. To feel better.

Chamonix Train Station

Retouching & Fixing: Chamonix Train Station
Speaking of Eurail train travel…here’s a project from 2018 where I retouched the train station at Chamonix which was under renovation and busy with all kinds of stuff and distractions when I got there. Retouching is becoming increasingly difficult, but I still feel compelled to challenge myself creatively with this type of work. At least once in a while.

Nice in Nice

It was here, at the beginning of July of 1983, while on my first European solo backpacking trip, after an uneventful night in Marseille together with my newfound friends from Denmark and Canada, that I slept on the beach Plage Publique des Ponchettes in Nice.

Of all the places I’ve been fortunate to have visited in France (and I sincerely hope to expand that roster in the years ahead), Nice is among my favorites. Elle, Charlotte, and I spent a couple of days in Nice 2016 on our way back from the annual Photo Festival held throughout the ancient city of Arles in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southern France.

Eiffel Tower Paris

The Eiffel Tower in Paris

Here’s my favorite shot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. My relationship with “P-a-h-r-e-e” is somewhat complicated. The above image is from one of my visits to Paris with Charlotte. I think we were there, at least in part, for Charlotte’s 40th birthday. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I left the UK for Paris and spent much of my stay there walking to and from all the classic sites and scenes with my thick, orange “Let’s Go Europe” travel guide in hand. I don’t remember where I slept or, how I navigated the city. This was back in 1983, about a decade prior to GPS technology and some 15 years before the Internet started becoming a ubiquitous part of everyday life.

At some point, I must have gotten sick of the intensity of city life and via Gare du Sud, headed down to the south of France. I do recall taking a night train, the TGV to Marseille. When possible, night trains (and night ferries) were the preferred way to travel when on a Eurail pass, as it meant you could sleep on the train (or, on the deck of the ferry) and not have to pay for loggings.

Like many of the great cities of the world, Paris is layered and dotted with distinct neighborhoods of varying interest and allure. My favorite Parisian neighborhoods? Marais and St Germain.

Interestingly, my father met his second wife Margit in Paris sometime just after WWII. He was stationed there as a reporter for the US Army’s newspaper, Stars & Stripes and Margit was in Paris to attend a fashion school. According to what she told me several years before passing away, the two had met at Café de Flore on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain och Rue Saint-Benoît.

In the early days of 2003, my relationship with Paris become fraught with tragedy. In an act of desperation and abysmal sadness, my brother Tyko took his life at a hotel near Arc de Triomphe. Of all the places I’d like to return to, Paris is fairly low on my list. Morbid as it may sound, I may one day return to Paris and visit the hotel where my brother’s life ended.

Shoreditch-London

Missing London

This is one of many streetart captures during my most recent visit to London in 2018. I’ve stayed in about a dozen different areas in the capital, but this was my very first time in Shoreditch, East London. Loved it there! Lots of great curry places and a level of grittiness that tickles me creatively.

I can’t remember last when so much time has passed without visiting London. As an American, the UK is the only country in Europe where, thanks to the combo of a common language and wildly diverse ethnicity, I’ve always felt perfectly at home. The contrasts of HiSo and Lowbrow, new and old, mundane and surprising make almost every visit to London a fun experience.

My first visit was in 1983 during a whirlwind tour of the continent on a Eurail pass. I’d started my train journey from Göteborg, where I was living at the time, through Denmark and Germany and then over to Holland. This was way before the Eurotunnel was available, so I crossed the English Channel with a ferry from Hoek van Holland to Harwich and finally a train headed for Victoria Station.

I’d met a Swedish gal on the ferry who’s father was a pastor at the Swedish Seaman’s Church in London. She convinced me to stay there for a few nights. Restless as always and with only a month of vacation to explore Europe with, I left England after just four of five days and headed to Paris. I had just turned 20 and it was my first solo adventure.

Comeback Kid

The Comeback Kid

This is one of the last photos I took in Asia in early 2020. Shortly after, Charlotte and I flew to Copenhagen and then onwards to Malaga where we lived for about two months before heading back to Sweden as the pandemic swept across the world. I love the reflection and how it skewed the view behind me. It got me thinking about the transition of the past and the future yesterday below the Capitol in Washington D.C..

I watched the entire inaugural ceremony last night. I laughed and cried. But mostly I smiled. After his third try, Joe Biden finally hit a home run and is now the 46th president of the United States. Talk about being the comeback kid. In India and in Jamaica, people are feeling joyous for Kamala Harris. She is solid proof that the American Dream is still alive and kicking. That change and opportunities are endless.

A friend in L.A. told me a few hours ago how she felt relieved now that Joe and Kamala have replaced Donald and Mike. That the anxiety she’d been experiencing for months had subsided.

I find it’s kinda like when Luke Skywalker blew up the first Death Star and sent Darth Vader twirling out of control into space. I know, comparing Donald Trump to Darth Vader isn’t fair. Darth was pretty cool and had awesome mind-control powers. Donald was uncool and his ability to control feeble-minded folk only worked as long as he was in power.

The challenges that lie ahead are enormous. But with the new administration, the American Idea has been resuscitated. So now, the American experiment can continue, uninterrupted by the tyrannic despot that tried hard to sow fear and doubt and tore feverishly on the American quilt. I’m not sure the experiment will ever succeed. But like with my own life, one must never give up trying.

I wonder if Four Season Total Landscaping will donate a portion of their parking lot for Trump’s Presidential Library…

Funny Cow

Time for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

This is one of my favorites from the cow series. It symbolizes how I feel today. A day when I and the rest of the sane world get to stick our collective tongues out at the soon ex-prez.

I watched Trump’s farewell speech this morning and all I could feel was sadness. Trump came to power by promising so much, to be the antithesis of a politician, which reminded me of T-Mobile’s “Uncarrier” terrific marketing slogan for many years. He portrayed himself as a rebel, someone that could get stuff done.

Tragically, instead, Donald J. Trump turned out to not only be unfit for the gig, but he also came to embrace and embody the worst qualities of a crooked politician, a used car salesman, and a snake oil peddler combined into a whirling cesspool of voluminous spewing bullshit. I couldn’t think of a single thing Trump said in his final speech that wasn’t an extreme exaggeration or a blatant lie. Not to mention the patriotic rhetoric crap that you know he doesn’t believe in but understands how solidly it hits a home run with his crowd of white supremacists, Qanon believers, and conspiracy theorists.

Sure, Joe Biden is an old guy that often looks really tired. But he’s decent, calm, and has in Kamala Harris made an excellent choice for VP. Not just because of gender or her diverse ethnicity, which really doesn’t interest me that much. What counts in my worldview is that she comes across as being very smart and having a good heart. Two qualities that supersede everything else she brings to the table. Let’s hope that J&K can get along with Congress so that they can start fixing stuff that Trump broke and pave the way for a brighter American future.

For many, Trump has represented the liberator of an often exaggerated political correctness that has swept across the world for several years. And it would have been ok if the healthy breath of truth had brought with it an era of more objective and honest politicians who said what they thought, regardless of whether their opinions were politically correct or not.

But it was not just Trump’s unfiltered rhetoric that characterized his four years in power. Instead, it was a never-ending diarrhea of extreme exaggerations and, above all, lies whose main purpose was to set his many followers on fire – especially rural Americans.

Trump could then use his populism and the radical movement he created as both a leveraging device and a whip, a threat to force congressional Republicans to both accept and on the surface embrace his often bizarre political outbursts and rash decisions.

From a historical perspective, Trump’s presidency will be associated with amateurism, cynicism, and fraud. And even though there are small, barely noteworthy gold nuggets from his time as the 45th President of the United States, even fool can get lucky, they are so few and so small that, in my opinion, they are negligible in relation to how much severe damage he has caused the American people and the world. Not least as a terrible representative of a leader for the world’s oldest democracy.

Some believe that Trump was subjected to a witch hunt from day one. But, I think instead, it was Trump who was the witch or the troll. A troll who today finally leaves the world stage so that serious, responsible people can take over the helm. It feels like it will be an early spring this year.

The Day before the Day

The Day Before The Grifter Leaves

Here’s an ancient border wall near where these words were typed. Seems fitting considering we are soon leaving a particularly bad chapter of our history and, thankfully, moving on to another, hopefully, brighter one.

Tomorrow, the Grifter-in-Chief will be ousted from a position and office he was unsuited of holding and should never have been voted to do so.

It’s clear to most smart people that traditional media together with social media, especially Twitter, enabled the four-year rampage by Trump & Co. I can almost hear a collective sigh of relief now that an era of hatred, division, and chaos is coming to a close.

Generally, there are two fractions that supported Trump; the ignorant millions that could not see that Donald is just a grifter, a conman, a huckster, and the über-cynical opportunists that kissed his ass and injected their tongues so far up his asshole, that they no longer could breathe without him passing wind. Among these mice (not men) are Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, and Ted Cruz. They should feel immeasurable, eternal shame for supporting the Grifter.

I’m not a big fan of Hillary Clinton, but she certainly recognized Trump and his followers very early on: In September 2016 she said:

– You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. The other half feel that the government has let them down and they are desperate for change.

And George Orwell, writing in 1946, had this to say about the deniers, conspiracy theorists and revisionists:

– The point is that we are all capable of believing things that we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

Finally, I highly recommend listening to this interview with Ronald Reagan’s son, Ron Reagan. Interesting, inspiring, and very funny. While I think Reagan Sr started pushing the Republican party down the dark path that brought forth a character like Trump, in no small way by playing heavily on the nationalistic “America First” fiddle and making it clear that if you’re not a flag-waving patriot, you’re possibly a communist, he was still a decent man worthy of the presidency. Here’s the interview.

Martin Luther King Day

HAPPY MLK DAY

Today is Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Dr. King was a wise man and he penned many thoughtful ideas and revelatory truths that are still apt and poignant to this day. Here are a few of those that can’t be shared enough.

The time is always right to do what is right.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

(If I had to choose an American political figure that represented the diametrical opposite of MLK, it would be the outgoing president, Donald J. Trump).


Bjäre Delivers

Bjäre always delivers – regardless of the season. I lit a nice warming fire, sat down, and let the day’s magical walk in the snow slowly sink into body and soul. It’s on days like these that I usually say “everything is forgiven”. A thought born of pure gratitude.

When the weather gods offer their widest smiles, it’s an immeasurable privilege to live in Vejbystrand. Today’s excursion went from Stora Hult to Segelstorp via Lillaro where freshly baked sourdough bread was available. Couldn’t wait to get home and tore off a piece along the way home.

A dwarf sparrow attracted a few dozen birdies this afternoon. Thought it was interesting that the gang was looking for an even smaller variant of an already tiny bird.

At the time of writing, it’s -7C/19F. With a little luck, we’ll get even more sun tomorrow – at least for a while. If nothing else for the little blackbird that greets me every day when I come home from my walks. And the dwarf sparrow, of course.

I ate my dinner in front of the fireplace above.

Sheep

Avoiding the Doldrums

Shot this curious trio yesterday during a refreshing walk in the village yesterday. I’ve realized a few things these last couple of days. Maybe it’s the huge snowfall. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever.

Here we go.

The pandemic has brought forth three positive perspectives.

One, I feel so much more appreciative of all the traveling we’ve been able to do during the last 25 years. I traveled a lot before meeting Charlotte, but once we connected, the traveling increased exponentially. The only other couple I know of that comes somewhat close to us is the Friberg’s.

Once you contract the “travel bug”, you never really get rid of it. At least I haven’t. And while I tend to be more enthralled and inspired by creative folks in general, if they’ve also traveled extensively, we’ll usually hit it off instantly.

We’re all different, I get that. But not filling your life with as many new experiences as possible (as opposed to those that are repetitive, predictable, and safe) is still a life concept I can’t relate to.

Anyway, I know it’s not exactly brag-worthy from an environmental perspective, but since 1997, I’ve logged about 367 000 kilometers of air travel. That’s not including trips before then and not all the domestic distances I’ve traveled via train, boat, car, and bus. In all, 600k is still not too far off from a round trip voyage to the moon (768k).

So, if I don’t ever get to travel again, I’d certainly be disappointed and deeply saddened, but not devastated as in feeling my life had been hollow and boring. It’s been a privileged life and in retrospect, I’m really happy that I’ve thoroughly documented the vast majority of our adventures around the world.

Secondly, because of the situation in my life and obviously in the world right now, I’ve found that I can still appreciate my new, hamstrung boundaries. Living here in the Vejbystrand is also a privilege and though I keep walking along the same paths, beaches, and trails, so far, I’ve not felt the least bit bored.

And this brings us to my third perspective.

The pandemic has provided me with time for reflection. I’m working on a  retrospective-introspective exhibition of sorts. Essentially, I’ve embarked on a journey without an outlined goal or even a decent map. More like a reckoning and inventory of my 57-year-old life. The idea being that this will eventually clue me into how to move forward, stay fluid, creative, and, continue to suck up as much as possible out of life. Most importantly, I need to be mindful of “The Valley of Doldrums” which many old folks tend to not realize they’ve fallen into until it’s kept them, hostage, for so long, they succumb to Stockholm Syndrome.

New York City

Fred and Donald Trump

Shot this from a dodgy fire escape stairwell somewhere behind Madison Square Park in Midtown Manhattan in New York City a few years ago. Been thinking about New York a lot lately. Especially today after I learned about Martin Scorsese’s new Netflix show where he and Spike Lee interview author and humorist Fran Leibowitz. If you’ve never heard of Fran, start by listening to this wonderfully funny and inspiring interview.

I am worried about the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on the 20th. The president continues to refuse to admit all and any guilt in last week’s craziness on Capitol Hill. I’m trying really hard to understand how Donald Trump can be so oblivious to his incitements and continued denial of how his judgment and behavior are wreaking havoc in the minds and souls of so many millions of already lost Americans.

So, as one does, I decided to think of a scene, a defining moment from Trump’s early childhood where his father, Fred Trump, felt it necessary to give his son a profound life-lesson, just as his father, Friedrich Trump, had likely given him at some point.

Fred Trump to his then eight-year-old son Donald:

“Donald, now listen here and listen good. No matter what you do badly, no matter what you say wrongly or however tall a lie you tell, never, I repeat, never admit it. Admission is for losers, my son. Do you want to be a loser, Donald? I didn’t think so. There will come a time in your life when you’ll need to lie to win or just to survive. And since only the strong survive and win, it’s not really lying. It’s showing your strength and survival instincts. Donald, always remember that Trumps are NOT losers. We are survivors and winners. 

And to imprint this lesson, Fred Trump gave his son a whopping smack on the head so that Donald almost fell over. But he never forgot the lesson.