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German Breakfast

Currently in Germany for meetings in Stuttgart and Münich. First time I’ve left Sweden in over 7 months. It’s possibly been 25 years since the last time I stayed domestic for that long.

Mandatory mask on from the moment we traversed the Danish side of the Öresund Bridge, throughout the airport, the SAS lounge, on the aircraft, at the airport in Stuttgart and everywhere but my room at the hotel. My N95 mask fits relatively comfortably over my face. Not being able to read facial expressions other than by looking at people’s eyes and eyebrows is certainly interesting.

Kastrup was far from empty, but most shops, cafés, and restaurants were closed. It felt like having a middle-of-the-night departure time – but during a sunny afternoon. Weird.

Here in Germany, I’ll be staying at an American owned hotel where, unlike most hotels in the US, a spectacular breakfast buffet is included in the room rate (a rate which is roughly half of what it would have been if the hotel was located in the States).

Over the years, I’ve been spoiled rotten by lavish hotel breakfasts in Asia and, to a slightly lesser degree, here in Europe. But today, for the very first time ever, they offered fresh pretzels over at the bread corner. A pretzel is a pretty good substitute for a bagel. Back to work now.


Exhibit at MKK’s Gallery Night

For the second consecutive year, I’ve been invited by MKK to exhibit a tidy collection of artworks during Malmö’s annual Gallery Night. As a safety precaution, due to the pandemic, there will be a limited amount of visitors admitted to the hall at any given time throughout the weekend.


More Egg Salad Sandwich

Here’s a version of my simple, unquestionably delectable egg salad sandwich. I’ve been eating some version of this recipe off and on since I was a knee-high. In the US, the egg salad sandwich is inducted in the Sandwich Hall of Fame, right up there with the Peanut Butter & Jelly and the Baloney & Mayo (or, Mustard, or both) sandwiches.

Today, my most basic version is created with all organic ingredients; boiled eggs, mayo, chopped onions, salt, black pepper, and a gentle squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Add a dash of wasabi, a sprinkle of cumin, or, a pinch of chili flakes to your likin’. Just don’t mix all the ingredients together too fast or the concoction will end up being way too smooth. Add some chopped cabbage if you like. Cabbabe gives any sandwich a little extra crunch. And who in their right mind can resist biting into a little extra crunch once in a while?


Tyko Blake Eskil Raboff 1967-2003

This photo is probably one of the first I’d ever taken. It was likely shot on a simple Kodak Instamatic. The moment was captured in my parent’s bedroom on 849 North Alfred Street in West Hollywood, California.

My father is holding my brother Tyko who was probably 2 years old at the time. The year would then be 1969. I have no idea what time of year I took the photo at – but because of the pajamas my mother Ina (Solveig) and father Ernest (Ernie) are wearing, it was likely winter. Within a year, my father would leave us, move out and eventually start a whole new family with Adeline, a young, troubled woman from Alaska more than half his age. She was a tenant living in the upstairs apartment of our house at the time they met.

I don’t remember much of the actual divorce other than the yelling. I can only assume my father one day packed a few things and just left. Unfortunately, the aftermath of my parent’s divorce, more than 50 years ago, still impacts me. Especially today.

Where I somehow managed to compartmentalize much of the trauma that ensued and live a relatively normal life, my brother Tyko was unable to. The accumulative impact from those formative years would eventually overpower him emotionally to the point where all he wanted was for the pain and suffering to stop. And so, in January 2003, he took his life in a hotel room in Paris.

I write something about my brother Tyko every year on his birthday. I do it to honor him, to remember him, to share my thoughts about him. Still, after all these years, I feel so sad that I never got a chance to talk to him out of his decision. On this day, more so than on the day he died, I feel a little sorry for myself. I feel so alone in my sorrow. Some sadness can be shared. Not this kind.

I had a dream about Tyko last week. The scope of the dream was a bit absurd, but in it, he was crying. I want to think it was a cry of regret.


Bar Italia’s Artisan Gelato

I was increasingly yearning for ice cream yesterday while editing the latest shoot for Bar Italia and their handcrafted, artisan gelato. But since no reasonably good ice cream could be found here in Hyllie (just outside of Malmö), I opted for a bag of popcorn instead.

In addition to an uncompromising position when it comes to the quality of their products ingredients, which I can corroborate is best-in-class from filming the process in the factory a couple of weeks ago, the main difference between mainstream ice cream and Italian gelato is that the former’s base is made from air-filled cream while the latter is created from pure milk.

Bar Italia’s gelato base is made with organic milk from Skåne – which not only makes for a more dense eating experience (there’s comparatively very little air in milk), the creaminess in ice cream also tends to “steal” some of the oomph from the flavorings.

I’ve tasted most of the variants seen above and they were all heavenly sumptuous.


No Number Cows

I always remove the bright, yellow number tags from the ears of cows, sheep, and goats that I photograph. The tags are not only ugly, but they also remind me of how much easier it must be for their keepers to not have to think of them as living creatures – which in turn I associate with the mindset the Nazis had when they tattooed numbers on prisoners in the labor and death camps. Why not insert a discreet RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip somewhere on the cows/sheep/goats instead?


Stoicism vs Zen

During a conversation with an old friend in Los Angeles this morning, the ancient philosophy of Stoicism came up. In a nutshell: The ancient philosophy of Stoicism teaches that keeping a calm and rational mind – no matter what happens – will allow you to understand and focus on what you can control and not worry about stuff you can’t.

While I full-heartedly subscribe to Stoicism, I sometimes have the opposite approach. Worry about stuff you have absolutely no way of impacting and leave the stuff you can actually change unchanged.

In this era’s pandemonium, I find myself gravitating towards a zen-like philosophy where I try to apply a meditative vibe to much of what I do. Which isn’t easy and far from smooth, but having this mindset helps me get through some of my mundane obligations and day-to-day trivialities.

We’re living in paradise right now. It’s sunny and warm. Every garden, meadow, and grove is lushly green and brightly colorful. It’s undeniably beautiful this time of year, but also a little overwhelming. Having “off days” are hard-managed when everything outside screams picture-postcard-pretty at you. I don’t know for sure where these cobblestones come from. Possibly Göteborg.


Juneteenth

Just read this article in the New York Times. I don’t know which is worse – that I had never heard of Juneteenth, that the school system I was enrolled in didn’t consider the historic event important enough to educate me about, or, the shameful fact that the day isn’t a national/public holiday.

For those of you that like me are ignorant about Juneteenth, it’s an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States and an event African-Americans have celebrated since the late 1800s. While it feels messed up to not ever having heard of Juneteeth, it’s emblematic of how lopsided the whole holiday/celebration calendar is in favor of Anglo-Saxon Christians. Not to mention the lackluster curriculum on the topic of slavery and the emancipation of hundreds of thousands of African Americans. Fortunately, we now finally have a president totally focused on this and healing the nation’s cataclysmic divide, socio-economic equality, and global peace.

I don’t remember exactly where I shot this young woman. But I sincerely hope she has a better life than her parents, grandparents, and ancestors likely did her. More importantly, I hope her children don’t have to deal with the rampant racism still so prevalent in our time and age.


IN MEMORY OF LARS (part III)

Shot this yesterday morning near our local winery, Vejby Vingård. I’m keeping busy but thoughts of Lars Fransson’s recent passing linger on my mind from time to time. As if there wasn’t already enough to think about.

I can only imagine how complicated life has become for Lars’s family. From experience, I know that the practicalities that inevitably follow death, at least in the beginning, are intertwined with an emotional maelstrom. Which can be a blessing in disguise, as having to deal with both significant and mundane interruptions can help distribute the sorrow over time.

I managed to run 4.3k today. It was a sloooow run, but an energizing accomplishment nonetheless. I hope to someday be back up to my regular 10k runs sometime this summer. Running along the beach and pathways here in Vejbystrand has a soothing effect on body and mind.

I’ve been making organic fruit salad bowls for our breakfasts these past couple of weeks. To add a little protein, I’ll sling the salad with organic peanut butter and a generous pinch of organic coconut flakes.

I’ll be digging into the artisan gelato project now.


Fred Nicholas’ Centennial Celebration

This is Fred Nicholas, by far the Raboff family’s oldest friend. When I took that photo, early last year, Fred was 99. And yesterday he turned 100. Think about that for a moment. Think about what it would be like to have been born 1920, just a few years after WWI and so close to the last global pandemic (Spanish Flu). To have experienced the Great Depression, WWII, the escalation of the Cold War – and so much else – and still be around to remember it all vividly. So many historic milestones.

While turning 100 is in itself an incredible achievement, the fact that Fred is still sharp as a knife has a great sense of humor and a memory that blows me away makes his centennial celebration all the more noteworthy and inspiring.

My father, Ernest Raboff, and Fred met as soldiers sometime during World War II and with a few gaps thereafter, maintained their friendship until my dad passed away in the fall of 1986.

We visit Fred and his family every time we’ve been back to L.A. and no trip feels complete without a long lunch or dinner with him and his son Tony or with Joan before she passed. Due to the pandemic, we couldn’t make it to what was going to be a huge birthday bash for Fred at the Hillcrest Country Club. But I did get to speak with him today, just after he’d swam his morning laps in the pool!

The mayor of Los Angeles was among the many of Fred’s friends to congratulate and thank him for all his tremendous work for the cultural scene in Los Angeles. His achievements are far too many to list here, so I highly recommend visiting this website dedicated to Fred and produced by his son, Anthony Nicholas of Lapis Press.


Artist Statement

I’ve been crafting my artist’s statement for a while now. Not actually writing anything. More thinking and pondering what it is I want to say and why I want to say it. The purpose of an artist’s statement is to clarify a vision and the reasoning behind a particular project or collection of themed work.

My ongoing series, “Resurfaced” is both a counter-reaction to my diminishing interest in the easily attainable – aesthetically pleasing but boring images – and a growing delight in what most regard as deterioration, decay, and disrepair. When I see an old wall, I don’t just see an old wall. I look at it with imaginative interest to see if it somehow speaks to me and has a story to tell. As most surfaces that I document are located outdoors – mostly in a public space – I know that over time the composition’s original elements will consequentially change; paint fades, concrete cracks, posters tear, and so on.

Read my statement here. View the Resurfaced series here.


Italian Gelato Made In Sweden

I shot this about 10 years ago in northern Italy. We were there to research a story about Bergamo for a Swedish travel magazine (Allt om Resor) and relished in great food and drink during the entire week. Best of all was the abundance of gelato shops and best of the gelato shops gelato was – and still my favorite – pistachio flavored gelato. I mention this since I’ve just been hired to produce an inspiring short film about a brand new gelato brand, made in Sweden with Italian ingredients and an old school, traditional recipe. I was provided with a sample after meeting with the client and can vouch for that their gelato would compete extremely well amongst the best gelato made in Bergamo or elsewhere in Italy.


Aquatically Reinvigorated in Lund

Back in Lund again to shoot an elevator pitch. Also hosting a podcast about the current state and future of autonomous vehicles with three expert guests, Robert Falk, CEO för Einride, Peter Janevik, CEO för Asta Zero and until recently board member of Terranet and Christian Larsson, expert på advanced driver assistance technology at AFRY and SVP Product Management at Terranet. You can enjoy the podcast here (in Swedish).

I’m fairly sure 154 is my fifth room here at Grand. Once I’ve experienced one I like, I tend to stay put for a while before moving on to the next. While 154 is smaller than the others, I appreciate the front-facing view, blue tapestry, and the full-length bathtub. The bathroom in 154 is tiny, much smaller than in any of the other rooms. The small size reminded of the bathroom in my old bachelor pad in Göteborg at Vidblicksgatan 5. Though small, it too had a full-size tub in which I spent many hours.

We haven’t lived in an apartment equipped with a tub in just shy of 20 years. So I make sure to book a room with one whenever and wherever I can. Tonight, after dinner and before bed, I slid into the warm bathtub, got comfy, and listened to the latest episode of The Daily from the New York Times with excellent host Michael Barbaro. I’m fully aware that the “Times” is a liberal-leaning outlet, but their quality of journalism, especially in the human-interest genre, is nonetheless top-notch.

Tonight I’ll be re-watching Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins in the brilliant adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption. Spread over 25 years, this is probably the fifth or sixth time I’ve seen it. One of the few advantages of growing older is that I tend to forget bits and pieces of some of my favorite movies. They’re not totally unpredictable – heck, I’m not that old yet. But rewatching them, even after just a few years, is usually long enough for me to have forgotten some of the story’s details and plot twists. It’s kinda comforting when none of the stuff on Netflix, HBO, SVT intrigues me.


Information Overload

From a wall somewhere in Lund. I think the abundance of layers in this particular piece speaks volumes to me about the tsunami of information we are wading in right now. I feel a bit overloaded and need to ration my intake.


South Sea Serenity in Vejbystrand

Here’s what it looked like just after I got back from Lund yesterday evening. I’m spoiled insofar that I’ve seen many a beautiful sunset. Formations like last night’s magnificent cumulonimbus clouds are still fairly unusual this far north. Reminded me more of the Maldives, Seychelles, and islands in southern Thailand than Vejbystrand. Thankfully, I had the wherewithal to look up from my computer screen, take notice, grab my camera, and perpetuate the unique scene. Later, just as we were trying to fall asleep, a hale storm passed overhead.


From Grand to Park

Shot today from my hotel room on the 7th floor at Park Inn in Västra Hamnen, Malmö. While both have their respective merits, Grand Hotel Lund and Park Inn Malmö could not possibly be more different in every aspect except for two shining similarities; affordable, mid-week room rates, and an extraordinarily high service level thanks to an extraordinarily low occupancy rate.


Bjärehalvön – Torekov

A quick visit to Torekov where the weather is fabulous and spring is just around the corner. Charlotte and I went for a long walk and while a bit nippy, it was both refreshing and energizing.


Slow Coffee & Drip Life

I shot this one morning while we were living on the outskirts of Hoi An in central Vietnam. We continue to make our coffee this way, but man, that trip feels super distant right now. Not just because of the time lapsed from October until now. The whole world was different back then. Nobody had any concerns about spreading or being infected by a virus. No hidden suspicious or irrational fears. A time when handshakes and hugs were abundant and generously shared. We shopped at open-air markets, enjoyed street food and didn’t wash our hands more than before meals and after toilet visits.

I doubt there has ever been a time in the history of our species where humans have been more preoccupied with self-negotiating and micromanaging our lives. Here in Sweden, where there is no lockdown, shelter in place or judicially enforced restrictions, we are admittedly more or less free to go wherever we want and socialize, albeit in small groups.

Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone is concerned about making decisions that could either be potentially life-saving or life-threatening. From what I have seen in Ängelholm, Malmö and Lund, few people, particularly younger folk, seem to take much notice of what’s going on in Spain, Italy and the US.

I totally get that the younglings feel invincible and that life seems blissfully eternal. They should absolutely feel this way – it’s like a prerequisite for their age and enables them to reach further, jump higher and instantly bounce back when they inevitably fail and fall. And I like to think that to a degree, I still have that mentality in place. But, being a middle-aged man with a mild case of asthma and a father that definitely wants to experience what it’s like being a grandfather, I am one of those paranoid dudes that constantly self-negotiates and weighs pros and cons of many of my most rudimentary daily decisions. Perhaps not so much while being fairly isolated here in Vejbystrand. But I am super-conscious of how I am feeling and even the slightest hint of a headache, sniffle, cough, or, really any strange feeling that occurs in my body, puts me in a state of hyperawareness. Oh, did I mention that I have a mild case of Hypochondria?


The Hot Water Knob

This was shot in a hotel bathroom not too long ago. I couldn’t resist documenting such a beautiful faucet. What a great tribute to vintage design and outdated function. Creating the right blend of hot and cold water isn’t easily accomplished and I tend to just use the left knob and hope that I’ll have time enough to clean my hands and rinse them from soap suds before the water gets scathingly hot. I usually fail at this.


Leaning Left

Though a capitalist out of necessity, I am clearly a left-leaning liberal at heart. Honestly, I can’t understand how you could possibly be anything else. I sincerely hope that once we see the light at the end of this dark, threatening tunnel, that a considerably more humane, empathetic perspective emerges among those in power.

The picture above is composed of photos from within my archive.


The Crusher

Charlotte and I have been to a large recycling facility today. We actually made two visits there and have will probably be back there tomorrow. I got lucky during our second visit as it was time to turn on the oddly pleasing wood crushing machine when we were at the wood station. A friend pointed out how watching this brutal machine is satisfying somehow. I agree. Now if only someone could invent a way to crush COVID-19…


The Meadow

Society seems to be unraveling. Which is a great opportunity to find comfort in simple things, like living in Vejbystrand. Like eating vegetarian spring rolls with a bowl of jasmine rice and topped off with homemade apple chutney and fried broccoli. Some may have seen the above collage film before. It’s a collection of scenes from our nearby meadow. I compiled dozens of clips a few years back for an exhibit of landscapes from southern Sweden at Malmö Live in 2017. A version of this film was also shown during my 2018 Easter Art Show at Vejby Vingård – the village’s local winery.


Summer Time

When I opened my eyes this morning, I saw a sliver of bright yellow sunlight protruding through the blackout curtains hanging over our bedroom window. I went to sleep unusually early last night and felt initially a little confused by the light. Had I slept in? It was Sunday, so no big deal if I had. For some reason, I remembered about the time change, that we are now officially in the summertime.

Though the pandemic is omnipresent online and in much of everyday small talk, I find that it still easily falls out of focus. I suppose that’s because we are here on the coast in Vejbystrand, so near to nature in an environment barely stirred by humans. I’m thankful that the reminders are few, at least when compared to urban dwellings. On the other hand, we kind of miss the “comfort” of having an abundance of neighbors – to share fears and hopes with – and we are at least a half an hour from the nearest ICU, if or when the shit really hits the fan.

Aside from probably lacking the emotional capacity and having zero skills, I still wish I had something to contribute to the healthcare field with right now.

The other day, a friend pointed out an interesting aspect of the unfolding situation to me. During her maternity leave, the restaurant she worked for as a manager went bankrupt. Just as her yearlong leave was about to end – but before the coronavirus took center stage – she had several interesting job offers, was hired by a bakery/café chain and set to go back to work in early March. Three weeks ago, her new employer laid her off. But with the fallout from the virus, she now feels somewhat relieved for having an unquestionably valid explanation of why she’s still not able to find a job.

I think we’ll be hearing more of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s thoughts on “UBI” a Universal Basic Income, a citizen’s dividend where a government guarantees that everyone receives a minimum salary. Defining “citizen” will obviously become a sticking point and while I think most sensible people in the world will abide and adjust to just having enough means to survive, it’s going to be really tough for most Americans to grasp what the concept of “basic” even means.

Shot these Easter flowers during a long beach walk the other day. Heard via the BBC that Kenya’s flower industry is disastrous with approximately 500.000 directly and indirectly affected and now out of work. As if life wasn’t already tough enough for them. Fuck.


Humbled by Coda-19

Today I learned that the coronavirus is so small, that it would take several hundred of them lined up after each other just to cover the side of a single grain of sand. That’s small!

Yet once a virus gets into your body and takes hold of a host cell, almost any host cell, the very purpose, the nature, the destiny of every virus, is ultimately to take over the cell it enters and reproduce itself as fast as possible.

Furthermore, I also learned that a virus is basically a recipe, a self-executing, malignant program with code designed without any other agenda than to hijack and grow exponentially. I don’t know much about computer viruses (I’ve been using Apple computers for 30 years, so I have never experienced what it’s like to be infected by a computer virus.) but they seem to have been modeled after biological virus.

There is something humbling about the enormous reproductions caused by covad-19. For all of humans incredible inventions, all our disruptive, technical breakthroughs and feats of astonishing mechanical engineering, including advanced intercontinental ballistic missile systems, satellites, lunar travel and an international space station, all it takes to disrupt world order is a single teeny, weeny virus. And only by eventually retro-engineering it will we be able to figure out how to counteract its ability to devastatingly paralyze every society on the planet. Humbling.

The ingredients for the above collage are from Málaga where our friends are still trapped until at least April 12.


Reassessing and Reevaluating

Do yourself a favor and please, please, please listen to the latest episode of the daily by clicking here. It got me thinking… what if the doomsday proselytizers are actually spot on? Are we heading towards Armageddon or is the turning point actually near? Is the very fabric of western society becoming unraveled or just teased, tested and temporarily stressed? 

Will we need to reassess just about every aspect of our lives or can we all soon resume normality – as if this was just a small blip on the vast radar screen or a miniscule bump in the yellow brick road? Will things like the Olympics seem as absurd as flipping through TV channels and being disappointed by lackluster viewing choices on Netflix and Pornhub? Or, will we soon be allowed to forget about this craziness and just let the past couple of months fade into memory. I wonder.

Is it soon time to reevaluate frozen food and find favorites among dishes like dill and codfish gratin, schnitzel and green peas and other below zero fast-food options? Can we really adjust to not eating fresh food on a daily basis? Bananas, avocados, and tomatoes? Really?

Will those that have farmable land be the new privileged few? I mean, even if you are extremely rich, will the money, in reality, be worth anything once we move into a barter economy where a fistful of raisins is worth about as much as a single roll of toilet paper?

These are of course all seemingly absurd questions and preposterous thoughts. But in our current world where purported value is still measured in abstractions like stocks, hedge funds, and security bonds, my queries might not actually be that far off.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind at all if we started trading solid goods and truly useful services with each other. That said, I’m not sure exactly what I would be able to contribute with. Qigong? Cooking? Painting? Film and Photography? I don’t know if any of these skills would add value to folks struggling to survive. They all seem somehow superfluous. More of a layer that can be easily shed without any real consequences. Then again, my skillset would perhaps be seen as worth more than what a lawyer, office manager or social media expert would offer.

The photo is from the Salton Sea, a Mad Max-ish area surrounding a man-made lake south of Joshua Tree National Park and south east of Palm Springs. If you want a glimpse of sincere decrepitation, this is a real Disneyland after dark.


Coronavirus Soup: Deniers and Disbelievers

My addiction to reading The New York Times has not abated. Yes, I am well aware of how getting most of my information from a single source is a one-sided approach – but I also browse several online papers that I don’t subscribe to, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic and The Los Angeles Times.

Today, “The Times” provided a most insightful piece about American deniers and disbelievers in several of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. If you’re a subscriber, you can read the full article here.

We have a strange soup of information and disinformation about the virus out there now. It’s crazy. I honestly think the virus is way too abstract for some people to comprehend and absorb in a serious, coherent fashion. They just refuse to even play it safe and adhere to the advice given by really smart and experienced professionals.

I totally get that a lot of teenagers have an oblivious, “fuck you” kind of attitude towards messaging from the government – and, basically, anybody representing authority that is telling them what or what not to do in their lives. It’s the obstinate and ignorant adults that seem to just not give a shit that worries me. And here I define ignorance as something you actively choose not to understand or respect, and therefore don’t believe that it applies to you. Hence the full-throttle Spring Break partying in Florida and other potential hotspots across America.

During the Black Plague, which peaked in Europe from 1347 to 1351 (and was believed to be caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis), there were plenty of people knowing that it was only a matter of time before they would die soon enough from the disease, chose to celebrate life extensively with dance, orgies and heavy drinking.

The Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro (116–27 BC) wrote about diseases caused by creatures invisible to the human eye more than 2,000 years ago. Varro warned against living in proximity to swamps ‘because there are bred certain minute creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes, which float in the air and enter the body through the mouth and nose and there cause serious diseases’.

Above soup shot from when the supermarket Green Matmarknad next to my old studio was alive and kicking. A Curry soup, I think it was.


Covid-19 & A Starry Night in Vejbystrand

I am concerned about how fast the covid-19 virus is taking a foothold on the US east coast. Folks there are so locked into their routines that shopping, eating out and socializing unrestricted is going to be almost impossible to thwart completely. Unless the new rules are enforced by the military, like in Spain. I don’t see that happening any time soon, though. But it could eventually be a last resort.

Also concerning is also how often Trump blames the previous administration and China for his lack of initiative when this mess began. Typical bully tactics. As soon as you’re caught, pass on the blame to someone else. And the fact that he takes every opportunity he gets to highlight his own successes and his self-congratulatory attitude makes me want to puke. Fortunately, he seems to have some smart people helping him look much smarter than he actually is. Then again it’s easy to shine when you’re standing next to an imbecile.

February 26th, 2020. President Trump: “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

March 20th, 2020. Confirmed cases in the United States rise to 16,064.

Like many folks my age, I too suffer from the occasional bout of hypochondria. So right now I am hyper-aware of every little strange sensation or involuntary twitch that comes over me during a typical day. I’m not sleeping consistently well, either. A good night’s sleep will be followed by an uneasy one. Of course, now we don’t really have any schedule or timetable to live by. So I can sleep in or take a nap at my leisure. I tend to get up at 5 or 6 am for Qigong and then take an hourlong afternoon nap.

I used to be an avid Stephen King fan and at one point, long before he was as popular as today, I would eagerly await the arrival of his latest book at the local bookshop. One of my absolute favorite King novels was the post-apocalyptic story, The Stand. It wasn’t the intricacies of the story’s good vs evil shootout that intrigued me the most. Instead, it was the book’s deadly virus called “Captain Trips” that was engineered to be used as a biological weapon by the government and accidentally released across America and the world, killing 99.4% of the entire planet’s population. I was fascinated by the concept of being one of the very few survivors and what it would mean to roam the streets of West Hollywood.

Though the symptoms of the ongoing virus pandemic will vary widely, at least once expert thinks that about 70% of the world’s population will be infected by it. The likelihood of catching Covid-19 is really, really big – unless, of course, you have the option to spend the foreseeable future secluded in a comfy bunker, cave or isolated on a deserted but insulated island somewhere off Antarctica.

I have yet to come across anyone I know that has been infected. Yet.

The above image is what it looked like last night here in Vejbystrand. Being on a tiny planet among many millions of stars and otherworldly places gives virus kerfuffle a bit of perspective.


Covid-19 comes from infected animals that people eat

Social distancing is harder than I thought it would be. Socializing is, after all, an important part of the human experience. Perhaps we are fortunate to live in an era where remote socializing is readily available. 

Two friends and I will gather in our first-ever virtual leisure meetup someday soon. It should be interesting.

As a vegetarian, I can’t help but remind all you mindless carnivores that most of these dangerous viruses stem from meat consumption.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Approximately 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting people began as diseases in animals.”

While some wild creatures are inherently toxic to begin with and not at all suitable for human consumption, especially so if they’ve had a chance to rot and/or exposed to poor hygienic conditions, factory-farmed animals are so mistreated through their lifetime, that it’s no wonder most are constantly medicated and their feed artificially fortified.

It’s really crazy that people still eat factory-farmed food and don’t see how this forces everyone onto the path of Covid-19 pathogenes. We’re all looking for how to avoid getting sick and hoping (praying) someone will come up with a vaccine asap. But no one seems to give a shit about how this mess got started. 

Fuck, is there really no lesson to be learned here? Are we that blind, deaf and dumb?

If nothing else, I hope one of the takeaways from this global ordeal is that we all become more mindful of what we eat and how it gets to our plates.


The Grinding Halt Cometh?

After weeks of playing down the severity in his typical ignorant-arrogant fashion, someone has finally woken Trump up, whispered in his ear that the situation is dire and needs the entire nation’s attention. People that solely watch Fox News won’t grasp this, of course. To them, the man can do no wrong and like their heralded MAGA chieftain, they prefer to play the blame game. It’s just so convenient to point at the previous administration, China, the Dems or whoever is within their spitting range at the moment.

So sad that otherwise fine, friendly people, some of them even educated, are unable to see things a bit more nuanced right now. Ultra-conservative television channels, radio stations, and podcasts, including Fox News, literally prey on this particular demographic. And droves of people continue to flock, convinced that Murdoch is the beacon of FREEDOM and that the financial gain the company’s programming generates is just simply a byproduct and only secondary to Rupert’s genuine conservative agenda. Oh, my.

The extremely divisive atmosphere that the USA is drowning in is especially sad now when we need to unite collectively to beat the shit out the coronavirus. An American journalist specializing in epidemics and pandemics, recently suggested that we need a Rock Hudson moment to fully understand how serious this is. I sincerely hope Tom Hanks and his wife survive their bout with the virus. But it wouldn’t make me too sad if Mitch or Lindsey got seriously ill so we could stop being forced to listen to their populistic propaganda bullshit.

There’s been a bit of pandemonium in Los Angeles this past week. Mostly in stores and malls, I hear. Not sure what Americans fear most, being forced to curb their shopping addiction, not being able to continuously feed their faces or worrying about what wiping their assholes without toilet paper is going to be like. Probably all of the above.

Sadly, most Americans are so accustomed to excessive consumption, that even questioning their behavior is considered rude, unpatriotic and possibly, at least to some, even an act of terrorism. I kid you not, shopaholism and gluttony are surely deteriorating the country from within. But something tells me this chronic need to consume, which has taken decades of scientifically calibrated marketing to infiltrate and integrate into the psyche of most Americans, is at a pivotal phase right now. A reset of the monstrosity that western-style society has evolved into could be coming to a grinding halt.

Not too long ago, I wondered what it would take for us all to just chill out, look around and smell the flowers. How could we possibly change the Mordor-like path our lifestyle had taken, stop or even reverse the increasing climate calamities and hopefully save our species and a whole bunch of others. This new virus (or the next) might be what it takes.

I took the photo above not much more than 100 feet from where this was written today here in Vejbystrand. Not only do I love the apparent symbiotic relationship between the horse and the little birdy, but I also think the three layers, foreground, middle-ground and background work beautifully together to draw the viewer’s eyes into the scene.


Riding out the Storm

Shot this yesterday while filming a late winter storm that passed through here in Vejbystrand. Trying to figure out how to best ride out the ongoing coronavirus storm and what to believe is sensationalistic journalism, what is mass hysteria and where to find actual facts – and above all – what the trajectory of this crazy crisis’ is going to be going forward.


Addressing Addresses

An old friend paid a visit today. We snacked on peanut butter crackers, drank Earl Grey and chatted about everything two old friends can talk about. Limitless. Because my relationship with social media is so fraught with inevitable failure, Facebook, in particular, I don’t keep up with a lot of my old buddies’ lives anymore. So our Sunday meetup – in realtime – was most welcome and enjoyable.

As these words are being typed, Charlotte is literally on her merry way to Vejbystrand – our new home for the foreseeable future. It’s her first time here in about 6 months. I’m genuinely glad that I had the opportunity to settle in beforehand. Because even if I consider myself to still be extremely adjustable to new circumstances and dwellings, I am finding that the older I get, the longer it takes for me to acclimatize to the point where I feel I’m really comfortable and relaxed.

I can totally appreciate the benefits of having a permanent residence, a place to call home. I’ve had plenty and for a time, I enjoy staying in one place. But it would be disingenuous of me to deny that I have an almost pathological addiction to shaking things up from time to time – and abandoning what most people consider to be the very foundation of their life; home sweet home.

If I were to make a rough estimate of how many homes I’ve had over the years, it wouldn’t be anything less than 35 (on three different continents).

I find that somehow, someway, something good always comes out of these periodic shakeups. Which might not be immediately obvious, but looking back, I can almost pinpoint when and where I changed lanes or moved into a new direction, one that I’d consciously or subconsciously been eying for a while.

Security feeds stagnation. Stagnation disguises procrastination. Procrastination is an excuse to avoid fulfilling unfulfilled dreams and desires. I sincerely hope that Vejbystrand isn’t our final destination. That would be a little sad. Not that Vejbystrand isn’t a wonderfully beautiful place to take stock of what’s happened and start brewing a new formula for the future. It is that for sure. But as soon as the coronavirus lets up, I feel confident that we’ll start thinking about where the next adventure will take us.


Virus thoughts in Vejbystrand

Shot this scene yesterday evening while Facetiming with brother Nick in L.A. He too was blown away by how beautiful the scenery was.

Thinking al lot about the coronavirus lately. It’s front-page news everywhere. Arguing that the world’s various ecosystems are self-healing and will autonomously regulate and correct mutations gone awry, the evolutionaries are convinced the coronavirus is a natural phenomenon. Some believe this almost to the point of embraceability. While a hard pill to swallow, on some level, I have to concur.  I generally don’t buy into the other mostly wild-ass conspiracy theories. Like that it’s really the hand of God at play hee. That he/she has reached down from a loft above the puffy clouds and with his/her ever-so nimble fingers, created a chain of events to clue us in on his disappointment with our behavior – hallelujah!

Look, it’s really quite simple. There are just some species that aren’t compatible and when mixed together wreak havoc. And because we humans are so brutally indiscriminate about what we eat, where what we eat comes from and how it was grown or raised – and continue to encroach natural habitats of species we should keep the fuck away from – the COVID-19 outbreak shouldn’t really be too surprising. It’s scary, yes. Frightening? Absolutely. But is it the end of the world? Hm. The jury’s out on that one. We might just be at the very beginning, middle or end of this unfolding story. My biggest concern is what happens when the devastatingly poor folks become infected and how that will impact society as a whole. It could take years before we have a vaccine and once there is one, will Big Pharma be as greedy as they’ve been historically or be forced to subsidize or even provide a vaccine for free? And how will the anti-vaxxers react once there is one wildly available? Questions, questions.

One thing is for sure, the forthcoming presidential election will be the most interesting ever. What with the virus, climate change, the everlasting threat of full-scale war in the Middle East, the always unpredictable Kim Jong Un (aka Guiding Star of the 21st Century – just one of his many official titles), the mullahs in Iran, the opioid epidemic and about 20% of the US population living way below the poverty level of Macedonia, how can this year’s race not be the most exciting thing since sliced bread? And with both Democratic candidates closer to 80 than 60 years old and the country’s commander-in-chief being a full-blown nincompoop, I know for sure the fall will be extremely entertaining.

Here’s a good read about the L and S strains of the virus. A must-read for all you brave folks out there.

 


Will the Gears Keep Churning?

Yesterday, I was invited for a cup of tea at our neighbors and later two friends drove here from Malmö and I made lunch. When they left, I was all by my lonesome again. For the first time in a long, long while, I don’t have any trips planned. Oh, wait. I do have a trip to L.A. planned. But that’s in three months.

Living in this tiny, ancient fishing village, without much social interaction is interesting. Aside from the cashier at the local grocery store, my first week here has been like living in a vacuum. Walking along the beach today in fabulous spring-ish weather, I felt so far removed from all the stuff going on in the world right now. Geographically speaking.. This suits me perfectly as I am in the final stages of finishing my new book and definitely don’t want to be too distracted.

But since I’m a huge fan (and long-time subscriber) of the New York Times online edition and listen religiously to both The Daily Podcast and the BBC’s Global News Podcast,  I’m pretty much always tuned in and up to date with the latest events. And boy-oh-boy, there’s certainly no shortage sensationalistic news coverage right now! Doomsayers think the coronavirus is going to force the U.S. economy to a grinding halt. And since the U.S. economy is so intertwined and financially dependent on the Chinese economy, they preach the whole world is heading for an unprecedented recession. Maybe even depression. Interesting.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to that kind of negativity. Also, it implies a very simplistic worldview. The world is a friggin’ complex place and it’s literally impossible for me to even wrap my head around how the perfectly ripe, organically grown avocado I bought the other day, wound up in this little ancient fishing village way up in northern Europe.

We tend to define the world’s economic well-being by how often and how much Americans are willing to use their credit cards. How often they visit a car dealership, a realtor, their local mall and now more than ever before, the online shopping portals. I’m no expert, but I’m fairly sure that most Americans are fully prepared to max out their credit cards if they just feel that their personal finances are reasonably stable – and, of course, the trajectory of the US economy – which, by the way, has been booming for close to a decade now (long before Trump arrived). Yes, if they feel uncertain, most credit card holders will refrain from shopping excessively. And that will for sure have an impact on a whole chain of production-related, supply chain disruptive events on a global scale.

But in actuality, the world consists of so many, many economies, most of which I think will do just fine even if the consequences of the coronavirus impacts the G7 nations the hardest financially (and psychologically). Our local market outside of Hoi An in Vietnam for example, will probably not even notice should the US economy take a nosedive. There will probably be fewer tourists, sure, but most of the shopkeepers at outdoor markets in Asia (and probably anywhere in the world) cater to locals, anyway.

So, while the giant gears may currently be churning sluggardly to the point that they almost seem frozen, for the vast majority of people around the world, it’ll be business as usual. I might have to sacrifice eating avocados for a while, though.

The gears are Spanish, by the way.

Picking Rusty Locks

There’s something intriguing about old rusty locks. This one is from somewhere in the old town of Tarifa in Cádiz, Andalusia, Spain. Shot last summer.

The symbolism is perhaps obvious, but I am nonetheless fascinated by what locks represent as a metaphor. I’m also curious about what’s actually behind the door, gate or wherever a lock is used. What’s in there?

Though I’ve never attempted to pick a lock, I have always considered myself someone that can find, or, at least try real hard, to reach a solution that bypasses a seemingly impenetrable situation. Finding a solution or, a workaround, so that whatever needs to get done gets done, is an intricate part of my purpose, process and my life. I don’t necessarily think of it consciously, but I do tend to see most projects in some kind of linear timeline. You start picking the lock and eventually figure out a way to get that sucker open.

In creativity, as opposed to say, mechanical engineering where solving problems is binary, you aren’t always sure that you’ve actually picked the lock, opened the door or solved the problem.

The unsureness factor can at times be overwhelming and undermine rational thought and logic. And it can definitely screw up the timeline.

Yet the very idea of picking a new lock, solving a problem, new and old, or creating something entirely new is so addictive, that you just deal with the uncertainty and try your best to calculate it within the process. Which is why it can at times be difficult to motivate (and invoice) that once you’ve created something, you do need to let it rest, simmer, marinate, for a while, after which you return and see if it holds up and is worth its salt. If you’ve really, really picked the lock.


Coronavirus

I’d honestly be surprised if at least some Americans didn’t assume the latest coronavirus originated from the beer with the same name and which they are now rigorously avoiding. Update: This new poll indicates my assumption was spot on (thanks P-O).

My grandmother Agnes, a solid lady by any measure, was a farmer’s daughter and a wife of a farmer herself. She would likely have thought the expanding pandemic was nature’s own brutal way of regulating overpopulation. I don’t think she would of been wrong. Homospaiens are certainly not the best custodians Mother Earth has had thus for.

It’s hard for me to understand why the Trump administration is politicizing yet another health crisis instead of taking the spread of the virus seriously. No, I take that back. It makes perfect sense. At least insofar that I shouldn’t have expected anything else. The logic behind putting Pence in charge of all official virus-related messaging is still a little fuzzy, though.

Why the pharmaceutical and food conglomerates aren’t handing out free disinfection soaps, hand-wipes, gloves and masks left, right and center, is just dumb. I mean, keeping your customers healthy and alive should be fairly paramount. Snd the PR value of handing out masks would be immeasurable. .

If you’ve not seen the star-studded film Contagion yet, and still don’t quite grasp what’s going on, I strongly suggest watching it. According to real-life scientists, the film’s plot provides a reasonably accurate description of what happens when a virus spreads across the world.

Here’s an article from an uninsured 32-year-old American journalist with an insightful take on the situation.