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.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

day for night

Bergen, Norway. It's always been near the top of my European hitlist, but when the opportunity presented itself a couple of weeks ago, the decision still came down to another whim. Seems as if this is how most things unfold for me these days, though I'm disinclined to fully acknowledge this, for fear of being typecast into a never-ending journeyman's role. At some point, the vibrance of clarity should reappear. Right?

But the time isn't now ... and so be it and its attendant perspective. Where one trades day for night, the sun might not shine but at least the stars do.

More from Bergen and the western fjord region of Norway to follow.

Sunrise over Bryggen, Bergen's pretty historical waterfront and listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. (2007). This is a standard shot that I imagine most people who visit Bergen get, and I wasn't about to leave without mine.

I don't think very many people look for this angle. (2007). It's an after sunset shot of the "ugly" side of Vågen (the main harbour), opposite the sloped wooden buildings of Bryggen. Which of the two photographs do you like better?

Monday, October 08, 2007

i survived a plane crash yesterday

The following is a true story. Events are as I remember them. Times are approximate. Names have not been used to protect the innocent.

A SAS Scandinavian Airlines Boeing 737-700, the type of airplane involved in the incident described below. In fact, there's a very good chance this was the exact airplane. Note the winglet at the end of the main wing. Photo by Knut Lövstuhagen and downloaded off the SAS website.

On the tarmac at Bergen's Flesland Airport
Wednesday, October 7, 2007


Captain, in a dry, monotone voice: "Ummm ... welcome aboard SAS Scandinavian Airlines Flight 274 with service to Oslo. This is your captain speaking ... I'd like to apologize for the late start this afternoon ... but we'll be on our way just a few minutes. Ummm ... flying time to Oslo will be 40 minutes ... and we expect a very smooth flight once we get above clouds. The first officer will be at the controls today ... you'll hear more from him later when we get closer to our destination. Thank you."

2 seconds later
(Plane backs up from the gate and stops. Flight attendants begin performing safety demonstration in Norwegian).

10 seconds after that
(From the seat pocket in front of me, I pick up a copy of SAS's well-written but unfortunately named in-flight magazine, Scanorama, and start to mindlessly thumb through the pages).

Maybe 60 seconds later
(Flight attendants finish safety demonstration. The plane's engines fire up and hum).

8 seconds later
(The plane starts to accelerate and begins a sweeping right turn).

5 seconds later
(Plane suddenly jolts on its shocks and a loud, metal-scratching sound is heard. A verbalization: "CRASH!!" Well, actually, it feels and sounds less like a crash and more like someone drove over a really big curb. Or maybe a pothole. Puzzled passengers look at one another and the cabin fills with a surprised, Norwegian murmur. I don't understand Norwegian, but it takes the universal tone of WTF?!!)

7 seconds after that
(Plane slows to a complete stop).

1 second later
(Absolute silence from the flight deck).

10 seconds after that
(Plane's engines start to fire up again, plane starts to move forward).

Captain, in a sheepish, monotone voice: "Ummm, I'm very, very sorry ... it seems we've had a bit of an accident ... looks like one of the winglets on this aircraft clipped the wing of another plane parked on the runway ... ummm, obviously this flight is cancelled ... we'll taxi back to the gate and we'll provide you with more information in a moment. Again, I apologize - I am terribly sorry."

2 seconds later
Middle-aged Norwegian lady sitting next to me: "Oh, I feel so sorry for the first officer - he's never going to make Captain now."

1 second after that
(I laugh out loud).

Back inside Flesland Airport at the SAS "Arrival Service" desk
Reason scribbled on my complementary SAS meal and hotel voucher as to why I missed my flight: "technical difficulties."

I found out later that the Boeing 737-700 aircraft we were travelling on was just three weeks old and only one of three 700 series 737's in the entire SAS fleet. One of the key defining features of a 737-700 ... it has winglets ... winglets that apparently don't fit underneath the wings of older model 737's. Five thoughts:

1. That's the first plane crash I've ever been in!
2. No matter what Boeing says, 737's do not have a tight turning circle.
3. When they tell you to have your seatbelt fastened while seated - fasten your seatbelt.
4. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction; other times, truth is just hilarious.
5. My Norway trip was so spectacular, I guess it was only appropriate that it got extended for another night.

This has been Felix reporting for starfish and waffles. Please stay tuned, more Norway updates to come.

My smoky, non-smoking room at the Thon Hotel Bergen Airport, complements of SAS.

Bergen's Flesland Airport at 5:30am, before the first flight of the day.

Bergen Airport Bar: hey, it's never too early for a drink!

Sunrise view from my (upgraded to business class!) window on the flight "home" to Copenhagen.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

go pattern

Lagom. This Swedish word has no real English equivalent, but roughly means "in balance" or "moderate." Actually, lagom is less a word and more a philosophy. Being balanced and avoiding extremes are considered best ... now this, is very Swedish.

Well, there's nothing lagom about the famous editor of felix's daily starfish and waffles. He's just 100% superstar.

Experience from past moves suggests there's a six week rule in effect. At six weeks, the honeymoon's over, you begin to miss the familiar, and issues temporarily tinted by the rose of your glasses start to reappear. But this is fine because this is normal. And the Swedish me isn't immune.

A few things are simmering below the surface, but that's beyond the scope of this post. More immediate (and, admittedly, more superficial): the other night, my photo management software decided to eat all of the pictures I'd snapped in the last two years, about 20 gigabytes worth. I had 3 gigabytes backed up. Maybe.

Another time, this would've almost certainly bothered me much more. But in the Swedish spirit of things, what's done is done, and there's no sense in getting overly excited about what can't be changed.

Reflect, retrench, and rebuild.

Tomorrow, the Scandinavian adventure continues in lagom. Next stop: Bergen.

See you in a few days.

Another generic sunset shot from the Spoletorp rooftop, with the Öresund in the distance.