Tag: Stockholm

Relaxation reading

Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

Thurn is staring at the computer screen, struck by how calmly the robbers seem to be working. She watches them methodically fill their mailbags with cash. When one sack is full, they swing it up onto their shoulders or drag it across the floor and out of the room. Since they’re coming and going, all dressed alike, it’s difficult to tell how many of them there are. Four, she would guess, but it could just as easily be three or five.

‘Where are they?’ she asks. ‘In the vault?’

‘No, no,’ says Lindahl. ‘No one gets into the vault. That’s where the big money is. No, they’re up on the sixth floor. We call it Cash. Counting. It’s where we send the notes to be counted. Then they’re sent back down to the vault. We never have more than a few hundred million up there.’

‘A few hundred million?’ Thurn repeats, amazed.

‘Right now, we have over a billion in the building,’ Lindahl points out, to put those hundreds of millions in context.

A snippet from The Helicopter Heist by Swedish author Jonas Bonnier, who was President of the Bonnier Group from 2008 until 2013. The story, which centres on the 2009 Västberga helicopter robbery, has been sold to 34 territories, and the film- and TV-rights were acquired by Netflix and Jake Gyllenhaal’s production company Nine Stories.

The Helicopter Heist


Bob Dylan will be present but not there

Saturday, 10 December, 2016 0 Comments

They’ll be handing out the Nobel Prize in Literature tonight in Stockholm but the Laureate, Bob Dylan, won’t be there. Instead, he’s sending a speech and Patti Smith will perform A hard rain’s A gonna fall, which was first recorded on 6 December 1962 for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, his second album. Here, it’s sung beautifully by Jason Mraz and the lack of images in this video clip suits the symbolism of the Swedish occasion perfectly as Dylan today is increasingly absent but constantly present.

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall


First Aid Kit could fill in for Bob Dylan in Stockholm

Sunday, 20 November, 2016 0 Comments

On Wednesday, the Swedish Academy announced that Bob Dylan would skip next month’s Nobel Prize in Literature award ceremony because of “other” commitments. “He wishes that he could accept the award personally, but other commitments make it unfortunately impossible,” it said.

But all is not lost as Dylan is expected to play a gig to Stockholm in spring. Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, told Swedish public radio that she received confirmation from Dylan’s manager. “Then he will have an excellent opportunity to hold his lecture,” she said. Giving a public talk is the only requirement for the Nobel laureate and must be done within six months starting from December 10.

A radical solution would be to get First Aid Kit to fill in on the Big Day. The Swedish duo consists of sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg and here’s their interpretation of It Ain’t Me Babe, which originally appeared on Another Side of Bob Dylan, released in 1964.


Contracts: Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström

Monday, 10 October, 2016 0 Comments

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences has been awarded to Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström. It was “their contributions to contract theory” that convinced the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences:

“Modern economies are held together by innumerable contracts. The new theoretical tools created by Hart and Holmström are valuable to the understanding of real-life contracts and institutions, as well as potential pitfalls in contract design.”

Next year, the economics of productivity or the environment might get the gong. And William Baumol will be 95, we hope.


The Nobel Prize in Economics: William Baumol?

Monday, 10 October, 2016 0 Comments

This morning, the Nobel Prize in Economics will be awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. Who’ll win? The Thompson Reuters Web of Science is predicting either Olivier Blanchard, Edward Lazear or Marc Melitz, based on citation counts. But maybe the Swedes will signal a change by giving the award for environmental economics instead to William Nordhaus, Partha Dasgupta or Martin Weitzman. The favourite here, however, is William Baumol.

The 94-year-old is famous for what’s known as Baumol’s cost-disease hypothesis, which states that as manufactured goods become cheaper, people devote more of their resources to the thing that’s really scarce — human labour. Baumol In the future, especially, a lot of what people will pay for will be time spent with another human being: a nanny, a teacher, a carer, a nurse, a fitness trainer, a coach, a storyteller… Baumol is regarded as important for interpreting the productivity slowdown that’s been puzzling economists in recent times. Maybe there will always be labour-intensive industries with slow productivity growth, and those will have costs that go up rapidly relative to the others.

“There are many reasons for increased spending on health care, including an aging population, technological change, perverse incentives, supply-induced demand, and fear of malpractice litigation. The broader point is that the basic underlying problem does not entail misbehavior or incompetence but rather stems from the nature of the provision of labor-intensive services.” — William J. Baumol, The Cost Disease


“Women should protect their beautiful faces”

Friday, 27 May, 2016 0 Comments

Named after James Brown’s funky saxophone player, Maceo Parker, Maceo Frost grew up in Stockholm with a street-dancing father and skateboarding mother. “He found film-making at 11 and grew up never having to wonder what to do in life. Today he travels the world directing films and loves making people share their deepest secrets with the camera.” Maceo Frost’s portrait of Namibia Flores Rodriguez is superb.

By the way, supporters of socialist ideals should note that not all Cuban boxers are cherished equally — Namibia Flores Rodriguez is the island’s only female boxer.


Vexillography and Mars

Wednesday, 20 May, 2015 0 Comments

Just learned today that the scientific study of flags is called vexillology, and the practice of designing flags is called vexillography. For that useful information, we’re indebted to Oskar Pernefeldt, who had designed the International Flag of Planet Earth as a graduation project at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm. The flag could be used by explorers “representing planet Earth” as they travel across the solar system says the idealistic young Oskar, and he envisages it being planted on the arid soil of the Red Planet to mark the creation of an “Eventual colony on Mars in 2025.”

Earth flag on Mars

That’s pretty much in line with the projections of Elon Musk: “I think we’ve got a decent shot of sending a person to Mars in about 11 or 12 years,” he said last month during an episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio show. FuturePundit is pouring cold water on this, however. Send robots first, he says. Argument:

“Only send humans once enough robots have broken down to justify a repair team visit. First thing we have to be aware of: Mars is a very hostile environment for humans. Little atmosphere, too much radiation, too cold, too far from the Sun, low on nitrogen (which is probably a bigger problem than low on water), very costly to ship to, too far away to do remote real-time control of equipment. Really a very unappetizing place to live.”

All very reasonable, no doubt, but the future belongs to optimists and visionaries like Oskar Pernefeldt and Elon Musk.


City life and letters

Wednesday, 9 October, 2013 0 Comments

When it came to the future of his native city, James Joyce claimed that if Dublin was destroyed you could rebuild it from the detail in Ulysses. The New York author Paul Auster makes no such lofty claims regarding his hometown, but many of his books are maps of the Big Apple, particularly his adopted Brooklyn. Auster is more than urban fiction, though. His books also contain humanity in all its fragility. Oracle Nights Anyone who has fought back from major illness will feel at home in the introduction to Oracle Night:

“I had been sick for a long time. When the day came for me to leave the hospital, I barely knew how to walk anymore, could barely remember who I was supposed to be. Make an effort, the doctor said, and in three for four months you’ll be back in the swing of things. I didn’t believe him, but I followed his advice anyway. They had given me up for dead, and now that I had confounded their predictions and mysteriously failed to die, what choice did I have but l live as though a future life were waiting for me?

I began with small outings, no more than a block or two from my apartment and then home again. I was only thirty-four but for all intents and purposes, the illness had turned me into an old man — one of those palsied, shuffling geezers who can’t put one foot in front of the other without first looking down to see which foot is which.”

As our narrator gets stronger, his wanderings take him as far as a stationary shop in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn and he buys a blue notebook, which then puts him under its spell. The rest is a story about haunted lives.

Those who do get a second bite of the cherry of life and survive serious sickness will relate to this passage towards the close of Auster’s novel: “I had my face in my hands and was sobbing my guts out. I don’t know how long I carried on like that, but even as the tears poured out of me, I was happy, happier to be alive than I had ever been before. It was a happiness beyond consolation, beyond misery, beyond all the ugliness and beauty of the world.”

The ugliness and beauty of the world as captured by writers will feature in two cities this week: Frankfurt, where the annual Book Fair begins today, and Stockholm, where tomorrow the Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced. Prior to that, in our continuing urban week, we’ll look at the city as the battleground for future conflicts.


A Tooth for an Eye

Saturday, 27 April, 2013 0 Comments

Formed in 1999 in Stockholm by siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer, The Knife are, well, different. They have won a number of awards, but refuse to attend awards ceremonies, and when they do appear in public, which is not very often, they tend to wear masks with birds’ beaks, similar to the traditional Medico Della Peste (plague doctor) masks worn during Carnival in Venice. Earlier this month, The Knife released their first studio album since Silent Shout seven years ago. The first track on Shaking The Habitual is driven by an intense rhythm inspired by a Javanese gamelan ensemble.