Monday, December 24, 2007

a pineapple for every stocking

Last year, starfish and waffles brought you the Christmas Pineapple, a new holiday tradition. This year, we have ... another Christmas Pineapple! (After all, it's tradition).

The dedicated staff of felix's daily starfish and waffles wish you a very Merry Christmas topped with the juiciest pineapple rings of the season. Hallelujah!


The illustrious Editor-in-Chief of felix's daily starfish and waffles (pictured, middle) and the rest of the distinguished Board of Directors wish you the best of the 2007 holiday season. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

berry good

Salad. Let's face it. Without a little creativity, it's just rabbit food ... and unless you've been lying to me all this time and you're actually a rabbit(!) ... well, basic salad simply won't cut it. At least not in the dingobear kitchen, and certainly not for the menu we're developing for the starfish and waffles café. So here's a novel idea: how about putting berries in your salad?


Never eaten a salad with blackberries in it? You disgust me and I'm embarrassed to know you. Fortunately, our original Swedish Bearberry Salad with Cashew Nuts can make you socially acceptable again. I think you owe it to yourself to give it a try - it's really berry good. HAHAHAHAHA - sometimes, I'm so funny, it hurts.

But not just any kind of berries. We want blackberries. Or as the Swedes here call them: björnbär. The direct translation of björnbär into English? Bearberry. Now you see why the editor is so enthusiastic about blackberries in salads.

Below is the recipe for our original Swedish Bearberry Salad with Cashew Nuts. A hit on the Lund University student potluck dinner circuit, it's not just rabbit food - it's bear food. (Also popular with humans).

Swedish Bearberry Salad with Cashew Nuts
350 grams of prepackaged, pre-washed, baby salad greens (arugula, romaine, radiccio)
250 grams of blackberries (fresh or frozen), whole
200 grams of strawberries (fresh or frozen), sliced
75 grams of cashews, toasted and salted
1 part balsamic vinegar
1 part honey

When using prepackaged salad mix, it's always still a good idea to run them under the faucet for a rinse even if they're already pre-washed. Evenly mix in the blackberries, sliced strawberries, and cashews, in a nice salad bowl. It doesn't get any easier than this.

A sweet vinaigrette works best with this salad and I always make my own with only two ingredients: balsamic vinegar and honey. I never measure, but I roughly aim for a one-to-one ratio when pouring the two condiments into a large measuring cup. Whisk until thoroughly blended.

If you follow the amounts listed in the ingredients, you'll end up with a lot of salad, easily feeding 8 to 10 people. Adjust quantities as required.

So there you have it: the Swedish Bearberry Salad with Cashew Nuts ... the cure for all the (salad) that ills you.

'Ttil next time, bears and rabbits!

***
For more original recipes from the dingobear kitchen, check out the corresponding links on the the left side of this webpage.

Friday, December 21, 2007

candlehead

Every December 13, the Feast Day of Sankta Lucia (St. Lucy) is celebrated here in Sweden. I didn't know the story, but they promised me free glögg, pepparkakor, and a girl with a crown of candles on her head. Now this, I had to see.


The invitation-only Lucia procession we crashed at the Lund University Juridicum (law school). They weren't joking about the girl with a crown of candles on her head.


Partners-in-crime Sébastien and Josefine give the thumbs-up to the December 13 Lucia celebrations here in Sweden.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

the domestic life

I do have to apologize for the string of truly uninspiring posts here lately. As I look through the starfish and waffles archives for this year, I suppose I've worn quite a bit of mileage on the tread ... and I'm tired. Because when it feels like life has been in play for an extended while without sight of peaceful equilibrium in the offing, it's simply exhausting.

But what to do except cast another line and keep on starfishin'? We'll see what 2008 brings.

***
Not sure how the above really introduces any the following photos - because it probably doesn't. Anyway, a few shots of people who are a part of my domestic life here in Sweden. By no means is this an exhaustive list.


Josefine.


Annica. Marc. Hanna.


Sébastien. Josefine. Marc.


Elinor. Stephanie.


Jessica.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

spork


Spot the standout flower. Then look again.

***
Snap, take a picture.
Frame it. Forget. Look again;
Didn't see that before.

Squint your eyes closer;
Squeeze the scene into focus;
Truth and clarity. Sharpness.

Five, four, three, two ... one.
Time delimited, until
Next spork in the road.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

scourge of the information age

Advancements in communications technology make it easier than ever for the globetrotting traveler to stay connected and keep in touch. However, the shortening product lifecycles of the latest cell phones, PDAs, and notebook computers translate directly into increasing amounts of obsolete electronics piling up in a landfill near you.


The editor's new cellphone is not only slick and very orange - it's also full of lead and mercury. Will recycling it at the end of its useful life ensure that such toxins won't leach into the environment?

The consequences aren't pretty. So-called electronic waste or e-waste - which features copious amounts of notorious contaminants such as lead, mercury, and beryllium - is the scourge of the Information Age. Dumped e-waste becomes nothing less than a slow-release conglomeration of toxins and carcinogens, affecting both human and environmental health.

In response, many Western jurisdictions have stepped up efforts to encourage the recycling of e-waste. Although this seems to be a positive development, there is a dark side, too.

Click here, for the full story at ethicaltraveler.org.

***
Felix, when not dating married women or gambling at the dogtrack, writes for the Ethical Traveler news team. Ethical Traveler is a project of the California-based Earth Island Institute.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

a simulated teaser

The editor's been getting a lot of complaints about the general gloominess of starfish and waffles lately, and he threatened to bite my arm if I didn't shape up. Fair enough. Well, as long as we've been online, there has been no better way to lighten the mood than with a snippet featuring Felicia's teddy bear, the most popular character of My Simulated Reality TV Life. Consider the following a little teaser of the upcoming new season.


Felicia's teddy bear explains the outcome of the court case to simulated Felix: "Three counts of theft, four counts of larceny, and six counts of breaking and entering ... acquitted, on all charges. Unbelievable! If I cross paths with that little bitch Goldilocks again, I will end her."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

sunday morning weather forecast


The Sunday morning fog. Lund, Sweden. (2007).

***
Didn't sleep very well, but woke up early anyway. Looked out the window, and everything was foggy.

Again.

Comments are out of bounds today.

Friday, November 16, 2007

lucky


The solitary pier at the water's edge in Landskrona, Sweden. (2007).

This morning, I picture two scenes, both of which I suspect to be more or less true:

One
Fifty years later, an old man is standing alone at the end of the pier, looking over the indigo waters. An ocean breeze stirs the stinging saltiness of the air. He closes his eyes to remember a lifetime of memories disappeared ... before slowly opening them again, to feel the vanishing tones of twilight.

Two
Fifty years later, an old man is standing alone at the end of the pier, looking over the indigo waters. An ocean breeze stirs the stinging saltiness of the air. He closes his eyes to forget a lifetime of events reappeared ... before slowly opening them again, to feel the vanishing tones of twilight.

***
Tributary-to-sea and all in-between, it doesn't seem to take much to veer this river to the wrong side of the continental divide. And despite doing everything we can with these chances we take - these breaks we make - to some extent, it's still left to the random whisper of four-leaf clovers.

Hope, faith, luck, and love.

I'll be waiting at the water's edge.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

prism


The Stockholm T-bana (subway) bullets through Stadion Station (or Rainbow Station, in my lexicon), deep underground the Swedish national capital. (2007).

***
An unidentified number lights up with the ringtone. Uncharacteristically, he answers.

"Hello," he says.

"Hi," she says, "It's me ... "

Shocked, he says nothing.

"I know it's been a long time and maybe this is a little weird, but I wanted to see how you were doing ... " she says.

And so it goes, for another 21 of the emptiest minutes that ever existed in the space-time continuum.

***
This far into it, the best I can determine is that time travels the path of a swirl. What's old inevitably spirals around again ... though it never quite reappears in exactly the same form as before. And there you are, left to apply those painful lessons learned from past lives and mistakes, wondering if maybe, this time, things could actually be different.

By now, I fully understand it can't all be sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. But somebody please tell me the colours of this spectrum are real ... because I'm just too tired to weather another storm.

Friday, November 09, 2007

adventures in capitalism: it's a dingobear market

We were quite pleased when we got the nod from Alamy quality control last month, as this represented our inaugural toehold in the world of commercial stock photography. However, as excited as we are about growing with that particular opportunity, starfish and waffles has always been about everyday people (and everyday bears) ... and we're fully aware that not everyone out there is looking for photos for a national billboard campaign or the glossy magazine they edit.


The business-savvy editor and CEO of felix's daily starfish and waffles looks over a few financial projections for our new online store over at Red Bubble.

As such, we've been looking at ways of bringing our brand of original dingobear photography to a wider audience. And, after a bit of business development work, we're happy to announce that we've come up with something ... yes, that's right, today you're officially invited to the launch and grand opening of the starfish and waffles online store!

Established in conjunction with Red Bubble, an emerging Australian-based online art community, our little boutique is a place where you can browse some of the best photographic work we've posted here on starfish and waffles in the past. If interested, greeting cards and a variety of laminated, mounted, and framed prints are available for purchase ... prices, before shipping, start at US$3.33 for cards and US$19.99 for prints. Of course, we're still in the preliminary stages of stocking content so if you have any requests, just let us know. Yay!

Which way to the store, you ask? Click here or, the permanent link we have on the left side of this page.

Ok, thanks for letting us indulge in this shameless little sales pitch. Hope all's well with you, wherever you are.

Monday, November 05, 2007

the streets of urbanity

There's something about these city streets. Gritty, faceless, bold, and stirring, the gamut of urbanity is alive with mood and emotion. Everyone has a story, a purpose. Take notice and, for a fraction of a second, see the world through another's eyes.

These are the streets of Stockholm as I perceived it ... no more, no less.


Coming ... or going? As Halloween day fades into Halloween night, faceless souls wander to and fro on Österlånggatan in Stockholm's Gamla Stan (Old Town) district.


"No one here really knows what Halloween is," says my Swedish friend Ebba. Indeed. This rather happy Kasper looking over the high-end shopping street of Drottninggatan is the only hint of Halloween I can find in Stockholm. I find it interesting that only one other person besides us stops to notice.


It's raining on Stortorget (Main Square) but no one seems to care. They must all be tourists.


Early in the afternoon, Trångsund is uncharacteristically quiet. Storkyrkan (the State Cathedral) towers in the background.


Soldiers march during the changing of the guard outside Kungliga Slottet, the King's palace.


All's quiet on Sergels Torg, late on a Sunday night. Stockholm's Kulturehuset (Cultural Centre) stands half-lit in the background.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

bhutan's pursuit of happiness in the modern world

Cloistered in splendid isolation high atop the majestic eastern Himalayas, the Kingdom of Bhutan is considered by some to be the world's last Shangri-la. For the rare traveler who's lucky enough to be granted a visa to visit, it must surely seem the case.


Just a couple of happy kids in Thimpu, Bhutan. The terrific photo was taken by Steve Evans and is published here on starfish and waffles under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

A land of pristine forests, sparkling lakes, and spectacular alpine geography, Bhutan is an eco-tourist's dream. Citizens are required by law to wear traditional Buddhist costume. TV and internet service has been available only since 1999. There are exactly zero traffic lights operating in the entire country.

Bhutanese society is nothing short of an anomaly in today's modern world. But make no mistake – Bhutan's measured approach to development has been by design.

After the Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, ascended to the throne in 1972, he made the maximization of "Gross National Happiness" (GNH) the country's priority, instead of focusing only on economic growth. At the center of all Bhutanese policymaking, the concept of GNH is essentially based on four pillars: balanced equitable development; environmental conservation; preservation and promotion of cultural heritage; and good governance.

Click here, for the full story at ethicaltraveler.org.

***
Felix, in his more ethical moments, writes for the Ethical Traveler news team. Ethical Traveler is a project of the California-based Earth Island Institute.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

180 degrees of freedom

Travelling in the offseason has become force of habit, and having to occasionally endure inclement weather is the trade-off for avoiding the tourist hoards. This is an exchange I'll take any day of the week, but it's been raining non-stop since we arrived in Stockholm, and the damp, icy cold is starting to wear.


The deliciously bohemian and trendy island of Södermalm, as seen from Skeppsholmen, smack in the middle of urban Stockholm. (2007).

Then, a reprieve: by late afternoon of Day Two, the heavens turn off and the clouds break. I head for downtown, settling on the western shore of the tiny urban island of Skeppsholmen, and look across the water at central Stockholm, Gamla Stan, and Södermalm, waiting patiently for some semblance of colour to reappear.

Eventually, it does. But for some strange reason inexplicable except perhaps for the mind-warping wind, my head isn't on the cityscapes in front of me, but instead Kay Hanley's shifty eyes in the music video for Letters to Cleo's Here and Now. Really. Weird, I know, but I never promised you I wasn't, see.

By now, Stockholm is aglow in sky and streetlights. I start shooting, and here's a small sample of the results ... a 180 degree and shifty-eyed view of Stockholm as I happen to see it as this particular moment in time. Or here and now, as it were.


Turning your head a little to the right, we have Södermalm on the left, and a corner of Gamla Stan (Old Town) on the right. (2007).


Further right still, a pink sunset over Gamla Stan, a little earlier on in the evening. (2007).


And cranking your neck all the way to the right, reveals Norrmalm, which is where the modern downtown of Stockholm resides. (2007).

Friday, November 02, 2007

stockholm sensibilities

It took almost two years, but I finally made it back to Stockholm earlier this week after me and my roommate, Jess, decided to hop on a last minute bullet train across the country. At the epicenter of all that's Swedish, Stockholm is a city of storied sophistication. However, the capital city sagas will have to wait as tonight, I'm bleary-eyed and sleep sensibly beckons. Time for bed.


Less than one metre (three feet) wide in parts, Mårtens Trotzigs Gränd is the narrowest alley in Stockholm and not recommended for claustrophobics. (2007).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

going pro

When I was 13, I was one of the tallest and strongest kids on my basketball team, and it allowed me to be something of a menace in the low post, if I do say so myself. I could rebound, block shots, set hard screens and, especially, foul ... and how! I easily led my team in fouls and foul outs. One coach even nicknamed me "Animal".


It's a new day: another colourful sunrise outside my sixth-floor, dorm room window in Lund, Sweden. (2007). Sometimes, it's a bit bizarre how circumstances guide us to the spot where we see what we see, and do what we do.

Well, with an MO like that, you can see why I thought I had a bright future in basketball, and I (hoop)dreamed of one day prowling the pro hardwood of the NBA so I could make millions gooning superstars such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. Oh, it was going to be sweet. (And one!)

But then a funny thing happened on the road to bounceyball bliss: I stopped growing. And more importantly, so did my basketball skills. By the time I was 16, I was relegated to the end of the bench. A short time after, my illustrious basketball career died a quiet and unceremonious death, and I was forced to pursue other careers.

A whole slew of other professions followed ... flipping burgers ... reading news on the radio ... investing other people's money in the stock market ... and, of course, writing for a bear.

Well, as of today, I'm proud to say we can add another one to the list: taking pictures!

We've just received word from Alamy, a UK-based photostock agency, that our initial portfolio submission of original dingobear photography (as previously seen here at starfish and waffles) has cleared quality control, which means we've officially thrown our hat in the highly competitive ring of stock photography. To us, this is more exciting than John Chaney's famed matchup zone!

Ok, now for a shameless, full-court press, sales pitch. Looking for photographs to suit your online, print media, and billboard needs? I'm your guy. Be sure to check out the images we have on sale at Alamy by clicking here or on the permanent link on the left sidebar of this webpage. Alternatively, you can always send us an email - and we'll cut you a deal. Customer satisfaction guaranteed, or I'll be mauled by the editor.

Final thoughts: (1) I'm going to have to start travelling more because now, it'll be a tax write-off. Yes! (2) The quest for world domination by me and the editor through our media empire and in-your-face philanthropy lives. Yes!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

bergen fine arts

I stood in front of the picture and stared. After an extended moment, I nodded to myself while letting out a satisfied "mmmm", as if I actually understood the meaning of what was in front of me. (For the record, I didn't). But half the fun of gallery-hopping in foreign cities is pretending to be a connoisseur of the arts - then letting everyone else in the immediately vicinity know it, too. And what better place for such good-humoured activities than Bergen, which held the title of European City of Culture for the year 2000? Damn straight. Please enjoy a few more pictures from one of everyone's favourite Scandinavian cities.


One of several versions of Che XL, by Dolk Lundgren, a Norwegian graffiti stencilartist of some acclaim. (2007). If I knew anything about art, I would say that "this work is a brilliant triumph of irony, a scathing satire of the posthumous interpretation of Che Guevara's socialist ideals, which have been callously trivialized to nothing more than another commercialized, capitalist institution in today's modern world." But seeing as I don't, I'll just say that this unexpected grafitti splayed on an unassuming shed on Vågen's westside was "wicked cool."


The Jetty, by Edvard Munch (a.k.a. the Norwegian guy who painted The Scream). (2007). The Bergen Kunstmuseum's (Art Museum) extensive collection included many works from Munch, as one might expect. My take on The Jetty: "vibrant, post-impressionist colours highlight the opulence of aristocratic life in 19th century northern Europe. Also, we now know where George Lucas got the idea for Princess Leia's ridiculous haircut."


The Bergen Kunstmuseum is housed in three separate complexes; this is a rather generic shot taken from the Lysverket building. (2007).


The beautiful murals in Fresco Hall of the old Bergen Exchange, which is now home to the city's tourist information office. (2007). Painted by Axel Revold between 1921-23, the murals are painted on three walls, each depicting a different theme: fishing along the northern Norwegian coast, Bergen's maritime industry, and man and nature. The "Bergen wall" is shown here.


In Norway, it can be windy and cold. (2007). Therefore, it makes sense to keep your head warm with a flashy, earflapped, Norwegian toque. ("Hey, my hat has earflaps! Hehehehehe!")


Bergen is, after all, in Europe and this means an abundance of street musicians. (2007). I took this photo on Torgalmenningen, the main pedestrian streetmall in downtown Bergen.


And sometimes, the best art isn't in a gallery. (2007). Like pretty Scandinavian girls amongst the autumn leaves on the grounds of the University of Bergen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

blame it on the rain

"You know it rains in Bergen like 300 days a year, right?"

"Bring an umbrella."

"Don't forget your raincoat!"


Autumn colours shimmer in and around one of the small hamlets that dot the banks of Nærøyfjorden, one of Norway's most visually stunning fjords. (2007). This one was taken from the back of the Gudvangen to Flåm ferry.

Well, yes. I get it. Bergen is a rainy place. Factoid: earlier in 2007, Bergen broke its own Norwegian record by having rain fall down on 85(!) consecutive days. Also interesting: October is statistically Bergen's rainiest month.

Be that as it may, I'm unfazed. A belief in mean reversion is a holdover from my investment management days and, after 85 straight days of rain, Bergen's due for some sun. You can take that to the bank!

***
My first morning in Bergen, I wake up to brilliant sunshine. Naturally, knowing what I know, I take the first train out of town and make a beeline straight for the fjords.

Well come on, Norway's famous fjords are one of the main reasons why I'm here!


About to board the Myrdal train from Bergen Central Station on a sunny morning. (2007).


Towering peaks leave the the village of Gudvangen (population: 100) in the shadows at the head of Nærøyfjorden. (2007).


A viking rowboat floats upon the calm waters of Nærøyfjorden some 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the Atlantic coast. (2007).


Ferrying through Nærøyfjorden, en route to Aurlandsfjorden. (2007).


The impressive resort of Flåm sits on the innermost reaches of Aurlandsfjorden. (2007). Although only 400 people live in Flåm, the village welcomes over a half million visitors each year.


Looking out onto Aurlandsfjorden - where the water is like glass - from Flåm. (2007).


Attracting foreign salmon-fishing enthusiasts since the 19th century, the Flåmselva River empties into Aurlandsfjorden at Flåm. (2007).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

from water to sky

I looked up, and where there once was sky, now a mountain was in its place. In contrast to southern Sweden, one of the first things you notice about Bergen is the varied terrain. Perched on the sea and surrounded by seven mountains, this just might be Scandinavia's most beautiful city - and that's really saying something.


Different morning, same general snapshot of Bryggen, Bergen's old medieval quarter and pulsing heart. (2007). Because Vågen (the harbour) is reasonably busy, getting this calm water shot was a bit of a lucky break.

Mount Fløyen is the most accessible mountain and for the city's best view, I was told to catch a ride on the Fløibanen funicular (cable railway) to the top. The ride up takes only seven minutes but climbs some 320 metres (1,050 feet) above sea level, which is fast and high enough for you to feel the pressure in your ears.

A bit touristy? Maybe. But the view from the summit is awe-inspiring, and I loved every second of it.

***
Don't touch that dial: more from Norway to come.


The Fløibanen's Sentrum (downtown) station is only about a three-minute walk from the wooden buildings in the first photo.


Once on the Fløibanen (the cable train), it's best to get the catbird's seat on the bench in the first row, where you can fully appreciate the nosebleed pitch.


The view from the top of Mount Fløyen.


And again. Vågen is in the foreground, just beyond the trees.


Normally, we'd have the editor in such a shot, but he couldn't make the trip because he had other business to attend to back at our European headquarters ... so you're stuck with me.


One of the best things about Mount Fløyen are the miles and miles of footpaths and walking trails criss-crossing the mountain. A defining characteristic of Norwegian cities: you never have to go very far to experience a slice of nature. Unfortunately for me, two bad knees cut my hiking ambitions shorter than I would have liked, but I still managed to see an evergreen tree or two.


Can't get enough of the broad vistas - my pictures don't do them justice.


And the view might be even better at night.


A picture shot a little to left from the one previous. On the left side, you can see Johanneskirken, the tall cathedral. The lighted square on the lower left is Festplassen, on the doorstep of Bergen's art gallery row (we'll do a post on this later), Lille Lungegårdsvann (man-make lake in the centre of town), and Rådhus (city hall, the tall building just below and to the right of Festplassen).


By day, this interchange isn't particularly remarkable. After dark, it's a different story, in my opinion.