Posts


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.


Vejbystrand-in-the-Winter

I woke up at first daylight, after my first night in Vejbystrand since sometime the previous summer. I don’t remember when I last slept here during the winter. Years ago.

Once up, I did my Qigong routine for half an hour and then made banana/cinnamon porridge. The sun was shining when I laster went for a walk along the soaking wet meadow and stormy sea beyond.

Down by the mostly empty harbor, a lady was walking her dog. I think it was a Golden Retriever. A couple of teenagers were playing on a swing and I wondered how come they weren’t freezing as much as I was. Trekked up from the harbor to the village’s only grocery store and bought more oranges and a few ingredients for tonight’s dinner; minestrone soup. Took the above shot just before the skies opened up and I closed myself indoors.

A bone-cold rain is pouring down right now. But that’s perfectly okay.

Whenever I’m here alone, I feel a wave of soothing melancholy come over me. And now more than ever, I can embrace it. I can’t remember when I was this quiet. I’m not peaceful, too much going on for that. But quiet. Which in itself is a most pleasant experience.


Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

After five months on two wildly different continents, living in about a dozen hotel rooms and apartments, our fall/winter trip is slowly coming to an end. I’ve actually been in Sweden for a few days already. Flew into Copenhagen on Thursday. I’m writing this in a hotel room in downtown Göteborg after spending most of yesterday afternoon, evening and night with some of my oldest friends, three of which had no idea I was going to show up and got thoroughly surprised.

While Tommy Sahlin  Jonas Bratt  Lars Olemyr and myself enjoyed a spectacularly tasty dinner accompanied by a seemingly perpetual flow of fermented beverages at Stationen Norsesund, a fabulous little restaurant housed in an old train station near Alingsås, the fifth member of our vintage gang, Joakim Eklund played drums on stage to many old favorite tunes with his Westcoast band.

So, tomorrow, I’ll be eating brunch with daughter Elle who now lives here and then heading south to Vejbystrand where we’ll be settling in for an extended stay. After almost a half year of intense city life with all its benefits and irresistible but not always wholesome appeal, I’m so looking forward to quiet rural life by the sea.

Within the next two weeks, I intend to complete two new book projects and begin creating art for an exhibit in April. And just as I was finishing writing this post, an order for a visualization project appeared in my inbox. There have certainly been a slew of pleasant surprises since returning to Sweden.


Ginger Snuff
Like some kind of mad scientist, I’m still making my ginger snuff on an irregular basis. While we were in Asia this fall, none of the places we stayed at had an oven in the kitchen (or anywhere else), so I heated the chopped ginger in a frying pan on the stove and then air-dried it for a couple of days. This method took longer, but the results were more or less the same.
In Málaga, not only do we have a decent stove with at least one non-stick pan in it, turns out that a nearby store, specializing in organic food and vegetables, carries fresh, organically grown ginger that costs 1/3 of what is charged in Sweden. So, the other day, I made a huge batch of ginger snuff that should keep me covered until spring arrives.

Social Media Survivor

I’m a Social Media Survivor. It’s been more than a month since I abandoned all of my Social Media channels and platforms. And there’s been absolutely no struggle whatsoever to make use of the time I’ve reclaimed. I do think of friends and family on Facebook and Instagram from time to time. And yes, I can get a little curious about what they’re up to. But the obstreperous level of sharing, the ridiculous amount of selfies and trivialities quickly reminds me of how much of their lives is actually spent – wastefully – on feeding an apparent addiction.

If our species survives for another 200 years or so (I’m still optimistic), I wonder what future anthropologists, socialogists and psychologists will have to say about this odd epoch and what impact Social Media had on our (in)ability to focus and grasp significant, pertinent matters that need collective attention.

So, I feel liberated. Free like a bird. Or, maybe just self-rescued.

Shot the above (inverted) image just off the California coast.


The Blue Void

Of all the visual impressions I absorbed while in Marbella, this shot of a fountain is possibly the most intriguing. I spent some time by this fountain, trying to figure out at what speed to best capture an abstraction of the flow of water and above all, the droplets. Finally settled for 1/4000 of a second and love the extremely shallow depth of field and bokeh.


48 horas en Marbella

Can’t help but feel a little (Lutheran) guilt about soaking up the sun here in Marbella. Some awful weather is currently making its way through southern Sweden. Either of us had ever been to Marbella before, so we decided earlier in the week, more or less on a whim, that it was time to see what all the fuss was about. Turned out that a client was going to be in town and wanted to schedule a meeting with me. Perfect timing.

We took a surprisingly comfortable coach from Málaga bus terminal about noon today and arrived just over 45 minutes later. For 48 hours we’ll be staying at a typical Spanish hotel (mucho marble) just a couple of blocks from the main beach promenade. While our room is best described as slightly better than humdrum, the view from the generously sized balcony is superb and overlooks a small public park. We can even see a sliver of the sea beyond the park’s treetops.

Not exactly shocked to hear so much Swedish and Danish being spoken in the cafés and restaurants down by the beach. Marbella has been popular for eons among the affluent. After more than a month in Costa del Sol, I totally get why so many Scandinavians love this part of the country. It’s about 11C degrees warmer here than in the warmest place of Sweden right now (Målilla/8C). Perhaps not quite t-shirt weather. But not far off. Though I didn’t recognize her myself, Charlotte noted how a Swedish celeb named Charlotte Perrelli walked past us during our 10k stroll along the Mediterranean this afternoon. Apparently, she lives nearby in a humongous hillside house.

The further south you walk along the coast here, when the pavement gives way to a sienna colored dirt road, way past the sprawling holiday resorts and ugly, beige high rises, the more beautiful it gets. Clusters of tall pines, batches of short palm trees, dense bougainvilleas bushes and aloe vera plants in between chalk-white villas in classic Spanish architectural style. Very picturesque, indeed.

Marbella is perhaps fancy-pantsy, but like almost everywhere else I’ve been to in Spain thus far, it’s an astonishing mixed bag of highs and lows here too. I wonder if modern Spain has actually ever had a profession called urban planners or if the public officials granting building permits and development licenses just hand them out haphazardly, without much thought or review. Or, is it nepotism at play here. Muy posiblemente.

Increasingly, I find that it’s the old stuff, the old stone houses, ancient streets and plazas with decades and centuries of layered patina, that entice and inspire me. Our hotel is actually smacked in the middle of Marbella’s old town. I hope to be able to explore it more thoroughly tomorrow afternoon.


Café Libo in Málaga

There are surprisingly few co-working places in Málaga. There are a few, but none that meet my requirements. Not that there’s a shortage of cafés, tapas bars, and restaurants. It’s just that none of them I’ve visited have an environment that works for me. Either the music is way too loud (despite having AirPod Pro noise-canceling setting turned on), the establishment doesn’t have comfortable chairs or the place is just so busy that my concentration is constantly broken. Yeah, I’m difficult.

About a week ago, a friend living here in Málaga generously introduced me to one of his favorite places to work away from home at, the above pictured Café Libo.

I shot the photo from the same place where I’m writing this, the corner table to the very right when you enter the café. It’s the perfect “poker position” with nobody at my back and a full 180-degree view of the room.

The chairs are solid but nicely cushioned, allowing for extended work periods without bum or backache. The round table is at just the right height for a laptop. While the service is perhaps a bit too formal for my personal liking, it’s friendly nonetheless. And the café con leche they serve up at Café Libo is as can be expected almost anywhere here in Spain, a delectable experience.

I’m usually all alone at Libo, aside from the occasional musician or conductor that stops by for a coffee or a caña before heading back into the adjacent concert hall where rehearsals and practice can be heard from time to time during the three to four hours I work there.

Folks, for a digital nomad like me, it doesn’t get any better than this in Málaga.


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.