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Málaga Ashtanga Yoga and Billie E
Joined a local gym today. The main reason being they have 3 yoga classes a week. I’ve not been practicing enough these last 3-4 weeks and I need to get back on track asap. Three classes a week is ridiculous when compared with my previous gym, My An Sports Center in Da Nang Vietnam, where they offer a whopping 5 classes a day, six days a week.

Whatever.

Tonight’s class was good, and even if I’m not a huge fan of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, small and dimly lit yoga rooms, I still enjoyed pushing my stiff body’s physical limits. Unsurprisingly, the instructor guided us in Spanish, which I understand marginally better than Vietnamese. I can count well enough, so that made it a little easier to follow. And even if some might feel a little uncomfortable when I sneak peek around to see what needs to be adjusted, tweaked or stretched, it’s absolutely “necesario”.

I was the only dude at tonight’s class. Somehow I doubt that yoga attracts Spanish men. It’s probably not macho enough. They don’t know what they’re missing. Walking home from the gym today I realized how warm it felt. These past sunny days have given us comfortable evening temperatures. It’s still jacket ‘n sweater season for sure. But that could be over real soon. Maybe even by next week.

So happy for Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell for sweeping up so many Grammy’s last night. What a talented team. Sad to hear of the helicopter crash and tragic death of former NBA giant Kobe Bryant and his young daughter Gianni. Don’t understand why the pilot was granted special permission to fly during such extremely poor visibility.

 


Mutt at Pedregalejo, Málaga.

Saw this fluffy mutt during yesterday’s visit to the always enjoyable village Pedregalejo on the north end of Málaga. Only after a while did I realize that the poor pouch might well have been locked in between the iron bars and the window by his owners. I really hope not.


Which Switch?

This piece is aptly called “Which Switch?”. It’s based on a photo shot somewhere within an old industrial workshop in Malmö, Sweden. I’ve sold it in varying sizes and on different materials, but I wonder if the visual appeal of those that have bought it is at least partially aligned with my initial concept of what it means to have too many choices and the mental stress from chronic ambiguity.

I was recently once again invited to the juried exhibition arranged by the cultural association MKK during Malmö Gallery Night 2020. Last year’s show went really well with a steady stream of visitors and four works sold. Looking forward to participating again with new pieces. Now all I have to do is create them…


Local But Global

These words are written from a hotel room in Malmö, not that far from where I shot the above scene of Möllevångstorget – one of Malmö’s most popular and culturally eclectic, open-air markets. I’m currently watching a live broadcast from the US Senate’s impeachment hearing in D.C. with a stream of German instrumental electronica from the Internet station Groove Salad of San Francisco as backdrop music to the unusually syrupy proceedings. I just got back from the hotel’s lobby bar where I ate two tasty Mexican tacos (veg) provided by a kind woman from Columbia (Bogota) who also supplied me with a cold draft beer named Eriksberg, a neighborhod on the outskirts of Göteborg.


New Apartment View

After discovering a water leakage from the ceiling of our old apartment here on Calle Los Negros (yeah, I hate the name too, apparently, the street we live on right now is where the first emancipated African slaves were allowed to settle, which doesn’t explain why it’s still called “The Blacks”) we were offered a new place further down the hallway. While it won’t ever win a prize for its interior decorating, it’s undeniably bigger, brighter and has two bathrooms. Not sure if we’ll be allowed to make the switch permanently or, if not, how long we’ll be able to stay in this new place. We are, after all, in Spain where Captain Whimsical and General Mañana still rule the land. But for now, we’ve never been more comfortable in Malaga.

Update: we have to move out tomorrow…but as compensation, we’ve been offered a smaller and darker apartment with only one bathroom. And if we’re really lucky, the new flat will be even closer to where the building’s ongoing construction is best heard and felt. So there you go.


Where is Paco?

Paaaco! Paaaaco! Paaaaco! As I’m typing these words, there’s an old lady across the street yelling incisively down from her kitchen window. She’s trying to get in touch with someone or something called Paco. Her voice is cranky and nagging and if I were Paco, I’d definitely stay the fuck away.

As tiring as it is to hear, I can’t help but wonder if Paco is her dog, her husband or a son. Maybe it’s her lover and he’s just got so insanely sick of looking at her and listening to that demanding, scratchy voice, that he just picked up and left, sneaking out while she was taking her morning dump. He might even have thrown himself out the window and is now slowly and painfully crawling his way to his newfound, albeit crippled freedom. If it’s her dog, I pray the tortured creature is long and forever gone.


Chinese Tourist in Málaga

It was certainly a long-haul, but a surprisingly smooth ride traveling to Málaga from Bangkok via Copenhagen. Not a single hitch or glitch along the way. We even managed to sleep 9 hours straight our first night as residence here in Andalusia.

There doesn’t seem to be much tourism in Málaga this time of year. Which is just fine for us as it’ll provide an opportunity to get to know the city before the inexorable tourist season kicks in.

The above piece was created from a dozen or so images I shot during last year’s visit to Málaga. In the middle of the collage is a young Chinese tween I saw outside of a hotel, possibly waiting for a taxi or an Uber.

Her head was slightly bent downwards, as if she was in deep prayer. Her eyes entranced on whatever was happening on the giant screen she held in her tiny, bleak hand.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a solo Chinese tourist before.


Tattooed in Talad Noi

Another footprint from the other day’s visit to Talad Noi in Bangkok. Capturing locals like this is always a gamble. My trick? To be extremely polite, speak a few words in Thai and smile my biggest smile.


2020 – New Year & New Decade

Return to Rattanakosin

Back in Bangkok again. Feels good to be back. The city certainly has plenty of cons but is just so much more organized and easier to navigate. For one thing, not having to deal with the crazy Vietnamese traffic culture (or, lack thereof) is truly calming for the nerves. And being able to walk freely on sidewalks again ain’t at all bad. Spent the afternoon with friends Lars-Vidar and Maria from Svarte in Sweden around town, mostly near the city’s oldest neighborhood, Rattanakosin where we ate a terrific Pad Thai on the street after baking in the sun on one of the many restaurant decks overlooking the Chao Phraya River below.

There were barely any tourists or anything but Thai restaurants wheStreet-Food-Rattanakosin-Bangkokn I first visited Rattanakosin in 1988. I remember spending hours walking around, talking to the vendors selling Buddhist hand-carved ornaments made of wood or stone and iron-cast icons along the sidewalks. I’d on occasion visit the art faculty at Silpakorn University and shoot a roll of film in the noname park near the Grand Palace as I eventually made my way back to Khao San Road and the guesthouse I was staying at.

Today, the Rattanakosin is flourishing with hotels, fancy dining spots, cafés, and a few relatively cheap sidewalk eateries. Fortunately and surprisingly, some of the area’s original rustic authenticity that I was so mesmerized by once upon a time, is still there. The only thing now is you have to share it with a bunch of fellow tourists.


Can Veggie Burritos Realy Save the Planet?

This is from last night’s “Burrito, Salsa and Guacamole Workshop” at our favorite café, Puna Coffee, eloquently captured by Charlotte. I enjoyed being in their tiny kitchen, chopping, slicing, and frying. Above all, it was great working together with the owners, sharing my recipes, listening to some of their histories and getting a glimpse into their lives. The veggie burritos, guacamole, and salsa were all-around appreciated. A little disappointed that the only tortilla chips I could find were of the horrendous Doritos kind. Even when saturated with my homemade salsa and guacamole could I get the artificial favoring to subside a little. As a kid, I loved munching on Doritos. Now, knowing how chock full of chemicals and unnatural ingredients they are made of, I feel ashamed to buy, let alone consume them.

Puna Coffee & Cake in Da Nang, VietnamAfter three months here, I have mixed feelings about Da Nang (and the neighboring town of Hoi An). It’s definitely an interesting place. Much more so than I was expecting. And except for those on the roads, most folks here are friendly. It’s certainly been easy living during our stay. For sure. None of the stuff we wanted to leave behind us in Malmö has been missed. Well, I do actually miss the cooking a little.

Conveniences aside, there’s always been a looming awareness of our stay’s provisionality. Maybe it’s because of how we’re living; in a fairly fancy “aparthotel” that perhaps makes it impossible to feel like you’re anything but just another ephemeral expat.

I don’t think I’ve come to any groundbreaking conclusions about the future while we’ve been here. But I do think the soul searching I’ve undertaken has been healthy. As has the Tai Chi training, almost daily yoga classes and laps in the gym’s pool.

One thing has become incredibly clear to me during the fall here, though. The awareness level of the planet’s health or even a rudimentary understanding of what environmental sustainability entails, doesn’t exist individually, or, as far as I can tell, anywhere in the collective consciousness. It’s a bit frightening, but I also get why this is, though.

Most folks are way too occupied with trying to create a reasonably comfortable life for themselves and their families to be able to accommodate such a complex and controversial narrative as, for example, the one Greta Thunberg represents. And herein lies the most challenging intellectual dilemma of our times; explaining to folks in both developing (and developed) nations that if the prognosis is even partially correct, in order for human existence on the Earth to survive long-term, we need to redefine what is essential to our lives and the lives of generations to come – and then strike a balance in relation to the environmental costs and debts involved. A tall order, I know. Heck, I haven’t even come close to figuring how to fit these thoughts into my life. So it’s no big surprise that nobody here has a clue. Sadly, everybody (myself including) seems either oblivious or way too busy glooming and dooming to even ponder changing. Is it just like the metaphorical deer caught in the headlights at night? Is reality so paralyzingly blinding that a collision is just unavoidable? I certainly hope not.


Christmas Day Chillin’

So it’s Christmas Day here Vietnam. It might be a bit quieter than usual, but for most locals, it’s business as usual. After last nigh’s Christmas Eve dinner, we’ve not been up to much today. We ate a tasty breakfast at a popular western café called Six on Six and then zigzagged our way back home through alleys and narrow lanes. We took the above shots in one of them.

Love getting a glimpse of everyday life and greeting folks on walks like today’s. While perhaps shyer than Thais, I find Vietnamese to be just as friendly and easy-going. And I thoroughly prefer the color palette and architecture here.

We’ve seen plenty of pimped-out Christmas trees and heard more than enough of the classic tunes these last few weeks. I wonder if it’s not the emperor’s new clothes at play here. Because most folks I know flee to faraway lands like Vietnam just to avoid the Christmas frenzy, not be immersed in it.

The Vietnamese do seem to have embraced the colorfulness of the Christmas holiday. I get that. And I think they just enjoy celebrating – regardless really of why or where the tradition comes from.

But if someone conducted a survey, I’d wager a pretty penny that few Da Nangers could explain why westerners worship old men with fluffy, white beards, plastic trees with little balls hanging from its branches and yearn to listen countless times to songs like Jingle Bells and Last Christmas.


Everyday Da Nang Life

For about a month, we’ve been pretty much alone on the beach during our early morning Tai Chi practice. As the weather is sloJoakim Lloyd Raboff Yogawly improving, producing one spectacular sunrise after another, there’s a considerable influx of photographers, joggers, surfers and as seen from the shot above from this morning, a bunch of yogis. As great as it looks and as much as I love practicing yoga on a daily basis, sand is certainly not my preferred yoga surface. For the past month, I’ve practiced yoga 6-7 days a week. The gym doesn’t offer any classes on Sundays, but there’s a couple of spaces on the roof of our building that almost seem purpose-built for yoga. Plus, you get a marvelous 360-degree view of bustling Da Nang below. The shot to the right is from yesterday afternoon’s session.

Anyway, today, I thought I’d share a breakdown of my daily routine:
05:10 am – first alarm rings
05:20 am – second alarm rings
05: 30 am – out the front door and on the street with my computer under one arm and accessories in a beige canvas bag across my shoulder. At this early hour, there’s very little traffic, which makes it safer to walk directly on the streets instead of on the sidewalks, where potholes, cracks and a general unevenness can easily become life-threatening hazards.
05:45 am – Qigong warm-up exercises before Tai Chi practice begins at…
6:00 am – Instructor Garry Seghers and his dogs Moose and Prince arrive. As soon as Moose is tied to “her” tree, we’ll begin an hourlong Tai Chi session while the sun rises.
07:00 am – walk back from the beach to My An Gym, get undressed and swim 1000 m, half breast and half freestyle. I swim every other day.
8:00 am – showered and ready for breakfast, I head either to Puna Coffee or, Bread ’n Salt where I order an avocado toast and soy milk cappuccino.
8:20 am – the day begins. I’ll typically do a bunch of different things in the course of the next 5-6 hours. Editing footage, sorting photos, writing a post, replying to emails.
04:00 pm – pack my stuff and walk back to the apartment and get ready for the 5:00 pm yoga class.
06:00 pm – I either meet Charlotte at the gym after the yoga class or, we’ll Rendez-Vous at a restaurant for dinner.
08:00 pm – return to the apartment, watch a movie.
10:00 pm – usually sound asleep or dozing off.

Repeat


Tai Chi with Senior Instructor Garry Seghers

Here’s the film of Tai Chi Senior Instructor Garry Seghers I mentioned I was working on a few posts ago. Shot midday at the Chùa Bửu Đài Sơn Buddhist temple here in Da Nang with the Fujifilm XT3 using primarily two prime lenses: 80mm (56mm) and a 23mm (16mm). A few sequences were captured with a GoPro Hero 7 Black where its terrific onboard stabilization feature came in handy.

I’ve owned and operated several different electronic gimbals over these last few years. Now that both optical and digital stabilization on both small and large cameras have improved so radically, I can’t say I miss having to own or operate them one bit.


Poker Position @ Bread & Salt

After an hour of slow but energizing poses, postures and flows on the beach and then a 1000 meter swim at the gym, I’m now at Bread & Salt – our choice of workplace here in Da Nang. And since I get here by 8:00 am, I get to pick the ultimate “poker seat” on the cafés’s spacious second floor.

From the spot above and with the help of a maxed out 2015 Macbook Pro, I edit films and photos, write more or less cohesive thoughts and watch a bunch of lectures and Netflix flix. And I’m just a few feet away from where I can order healthy, terrific tasting food and drinks, or, confer with Charlotte about this or that. What’s not to like about this setup?

Truth be told, I didn’t think I’d be nearly as comfortable (or productive) working from a café on a laptop as I have been – despite all the bugginess that arrived with macOS Catalina. Not that I don’t miss my 27″ iMac with its brilliant, 5k display, 64Gb of RAM and supersonic, 2TB SSD drive. But in all fairness, while that machine is certainly a lot speedier than what these words are being typed on (even Charlotte’s new Macbook Air is arguably faster than this old clunker), the mobility factor compensates far and beyond the speed loss. Plus, I’m probably spending less time on this smaller screen. Which however you slice it, is a good thing.

 


TerraNet: VoxelFlow

Here’s one of the films I’ve recently delivered to my client Terranet in Lund, Sweden. The technology behind VoxelFlow is phenomenally interesting and can potentially save the lives of millions of people worldwide. This is the first of two info films I’m producing for the company. The second will likely never be published publicly. At least not in an un-redacted version.


Filming: Tai Chi 太极拳

Chua-Buu-Dai-Son-Temple-Da-Nang-VietnamFrom 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.


FLATPACKED LIES FROM IKEA

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


Da Nang Morning

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.


Breakfast at Roots

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 ❤️ Bento Box

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.


Been there, Done That

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.


An Un-Merry Christmas

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.


The Infamous Donkey Pose

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


Strike a Pose

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!


On the Boardwalk

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.


Groucho & Fluid Cardio Strokes

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.


New: Flower Melt Sub

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.


Beauty of Urban Decay

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes. If I look hard enough, I find there’s something interesting, often beautiful, in just about everything. It’s all about angles and perspectives. Take the gate above as an example. While passing by it the other day, the colors and shapes seemed to call out to me. So I stopped, took out my camera and spent several minutes capturing various parts of it. The faded blue chipped paint, oxidation and the surface’s wear intrigued me. The cracks, crannies, and layers with a thin crust of rust made the gate look so soulful and ready to be hung on or leaned against a wall in a gallery. Much like Marcel Duchamp, I can easily see art in everyday objects, especially when isolated and removed from the intended purposefulness. Defining art is an interesting topic.


My Khe Beach in Da Nang

Shot this view of “My Khe Beach” late last night from the rooftop pool of Haian Hotel, just a few floors above our corner room in Da Nang. I think corner hotel rooms are preferable for the obvious reason that they offer a less claustrophobic room experience. As we book most of our hotel nights through Charlotte’s site ASR, the “Special Request” field you get during the reservation process is usually ignored. Why? Well, while many hotels are increasingly dependent on third-party booking companies, most will also readily admit how profit margin punishing this trend is and how they wish more guest booked directly at their website. Most hotels suck at SEO, so I don’t see how their Google ranking will improve and ever topple the leading reservation sites.

I’ve never really felt that I wasn’t fairly treated when arriving as an Agoda, Booking or Hotels guest. On the other hand, over the years, I’ve never seen any of my “Special Requests” fulfilled. Not once. If I was a hotelier, I’d probably ignore them too and instead prioritize folks that add more to their bottom line through a direct booking. I’ll therefore politely ask for a corner room or at least one with a nice view, as we’re checking in. Folks working in a reception seem not to distinguish much between guests, regardless of reservation method used.
Da Nang turned out to be just what we needed after a monthlong stay in the rice fields. Our two days by the beach have gotten us thinking about maybe spending our last month in Asia right here in Da Nang where there’s decent surfing and plenty of dining options and apartments to rent, no more than a couple of blocks behind the beautifully palm tree-lined My Khe Beach.

Da Nang seems to be booming right now with construction sites all over the place. Along the shoreline, it looks a little like Oahu’s Waikiki or from what I’ve seen of Rio’s Copacabana. The beach is long and wide like in Venice but with very few visitors. I’m guessing that many, if not the majority, of Asians that are touristing in Da Nang, aren’t swim savvy. So the beach might be of limited interest. At least when compred to the abundance of shopping, seafood dining and sightseeing available here.


Chicken vs Cat vs Snail

Last night we were at The Hub, a co-working place just down the road from our home in An My Village. Three local Hoi An entrepreneurs, two Vietnamese and one Brittish woman presented themselves and shared their business experiences with about 25 (mostly) expats. The first one up was Emma, who together with her Vietnamese husband Jack, founded and operates Jack’s Cat Café, a combo charity organization, coffee shop and animal shelter, entirely dedicated to the well-being of cats. Listening to all of the challenges the couple has overcome made for a very inspiring talk. And to hear Emma explain why they still need to keep a relatively low profile because of an overshadowing threat from the illegal cat meat trade, was shocking. Avoiding disingenuous caretakers and attracting genuine foster homes for their cats seems to involve a rigorous vetting process.

Though I’d heard of how there are restaurants here that offer dog on the menu, I was completely ignorant about the cat meat trade. I did know about its existence in China, where, if it crawls, walks, flies or swims, it’s considered both edible and often desirable. This is particularly true when myths about how specific bodily organs or fluids contain aphrodisiac or health-curing properties are afloat.

I love animals. Always have. Most are fascinating creatures and I’ve had the privilege to experience some of the planet’s most majestic species up close, including great white sharks, wild lions, and Arctic moose.

Though I definitely don’t support torturous treatment of animals in China or anywhere else, I do understand that geographically, we place widely disparate emotional values on domesticated animals – usually depending on our cultural perspective. While listening to last night’s first presentation of the cat charity/café and the horrendous meat trade the founder is crusading against, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the evening’s collective had eaten beef, pork or chicken that very same day – and the likelihood that also those poor animals had lived and died in circumstances probably not too dissimilar from the fate of creatures caught in the cat and dog meat trade.

This is quintessentially why my family and I stopped supporting the meat and poultry industries several years ago.

Why would or should we care less about how a pig is (mis) treated than you would care about the welfare of a dog? Why do we rank the planet’s animals so differently? Does a cat inherently have more worth than a chicken? I’m obviously all for supporting the fight against animal cruelty. But there’s a level of hypocrisy that clearly needs to be discussed.

The picture above? Snail eggs on on a rice field near our home in An My Village, Hoi An, Vietnam.


Koh Samui Guide

Earliter today, Charlotte noticed a memory in one of her social channel news feeds. It was from way back in 2011 when we were still producing travel guides for Swedish daily newspapers like Aftonbladet and Allt om Resor. We created and delivered a ton of them over the course of about a decade. Up until the editors we worked with either quit or become unbearable to work with. Koh Samui was the first island I ever visited in Thailand back in 1988 and it will always have a special place in my heart. But it still wouldn’t be my first choice if I were to one day move permanently to an island. Should that ever happen, I’d pick Maui without the least bit of hesitation. Interestingly, the link to our guide seems still to be active.

Some of my images from Maui are available for your viewing pleasure right here.


Gorgeous & Wonderful Imperfections

I was close to being run over last night on my way to dinner. No, I wasn’t drunk, high on shrooms or wearing clogs. I was simply walking along the sidewalk towards Bamboo, our favorite eatery here in Hoi An. Had my focus just slipped a little, or, if I’d misstepped ever-so slightly… BOOM!…I would of been a pile of aged dead meat on the street. “Good to see you didn’t end up as roadkill”, one buddy pointed out.

Though initially intended for pedestrians, most sidewalks here are in reality multifunctional spaces used for every imaginable/unimaginable purpose – most commonly as haphazard parking spots for scooters. Dodging and zigzagging in between mopeds, bicycles and other rigid, often rusty yet sharp obstacles is simply part the urban fidelity, I suppose.

Just before finally making it to the restaurant, I had this wonderful epiphany. I realized that it was likely the chaos and idiosyncrasies that make me feel so tuned-in to life whenever I’m in South East Asia. Admittedly, it can take a while before I calm down and stop cursing about the constant onslaught of death-defying road warriors that make crossing a street like Russian roulette, or, how even walking on a sidewalk feels like being trapped within a pinball machine.

Where countries in most of northern Europe stubbornly strive for a glossy, picture-perfect society, in developing countries like Vietnam, for most folks, there’s really no option other than to accept, embrace and integrate one’s life as seamlessly as possible within the imperfect, the chaotic and dysfunctional. And though we’re here as privileged guests and can easily pay our way to sidestep most discomforts (I could have taken a taxi to Bamboo last night), it’s truly humbling to take part of at least a wafer thin slice of everyday life here – and be reminded of how sterile and boring it would be without life’s wonderfully liberating imperfections.


Tam Quan Chua Ba Mu Temple

The pictoresque Tam Quan Chua Ba Mu Chinese Temple with its reflecting pond in the ancient city of Hoi An, Vietnam. Shot yesterday evening with the Fuji XT3 and Fujinon XF 16mm F1.4 prime lens. The temple reminded me of visits to Phnom Phenh and Siem Reap in Cambodia.


Yesterday at Cẩm An Beach

From yesterday’s visit to our local Cam An Beach which is considered one of the best in Vietnam. Being in the ocean and letting wave after wave wash over me has been something I’ve loved doing ever since I was a kid. They aren’t big enough for surfing, at least not right now. But in a couple of weeks, monsoon season kicks in for real and so maybe then there’ll be some decent waves to ride.

Here’s a tidy collection of my surf shots.