Tag: Sweden

Håkan Strand: Silent Moments

Friday, 4 January, 2019

In his foreword to Silent Moments by Håkan Strand, the sublime Swedish photographer, French critic Olivier Delhoume writes:

“In our modern society, time is accelerating. We are constantly being bombarded with trivial or commercial images, and through the media and internet, we are even affected by human, economic and geopolitical situations far away. Håkan Strand offers us a different approach to experiencing the world and ourselves. His photography offers us a refuge from the racing whirlwind of our thoughts.

Håkan Strand’s calming approach is reflected through his use of traditional black and white analogue photography, which pays tribute to the tradition of the great masters. This is his own way of battling the fast pace and excesses of modern life.”

Snow  in Sweden


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


Day of reckoning in Sweden

Sunday, 9 September, 2018

The polls have opened in Sweden’s general election and pundits predict that neither the governing Social Democrats nor the Moderate Party is likely to win a majority. The big story, of course, is the rise of the Sweden Democrats (SD), who may end up taking second place, which would be a huge shock for the Swedish and European establishments. SD leader Jimmie Åkesson says that Sweden had become “an extreme country in many ways, not least when it comes to immigration” and that his plan to take in fewer migrants should be regarded as “normal politics in the rest of Europe”. From Brussels to Berlin, from Rome to Madrid, all eyes will be on Stockholm tonight.

“Everything I read about the Swedish Social Democratic government of the last century suggested an organization that was driven by one single, overarching goal: to sever the traditional, some would say natural, ties between its citizens, be they those that bound children to their parents, workers to their employers, wives to their husbands, or the elderly to their families.” — Michael Booth, The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia

UPDATE: The Swedish election has left the two main political blocs almost tied. With all ballots counted, the governing centre-left coalition is marginally ahead of its centre-right Alliance rivals, with around 40% each. The Sweden Democrats (SD) won about 18% of the vote, up from 12.9% in the previous election. A lengthy battle to form a working coalition now looks certain.


And then there were six

Saturday, 7 July, 2018

The tournament that began on 14 June with 32 teams is nearing its end on 15 July, but before we reach to the World Cup Final the quarter finals have to be sorted and they began yesterday and finish today. First, a recap.

True to our prediction, France defeated Uruguay in what was an uninspiring affair marked by the absence of the South American’s talismanic striker Cavani and a terrible error by their keeper, Muslera. Adios, Uruguay! What we didn’t predict, however, was Belgium beating Brazil. Big shock, that. The story, here, too, was very much one of striker and keeper, with the Brazilian star Neymar being denied decisively by the Belgian goaltender Courtois. Adeus, Seleção!

And, now, to today’s quarter finals. Candidates: England, Sweden, Croatia and Russia.

England vs. Sweden, Samara. Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (The Netherlands). It’s Captain Kane against the Nordic Giants. The big backs of Sweden are specialists in ensuring that goals are not given away and Harry Kane is all about bagging goals. So, can England figure out a way past the obstacle course, or are they doomed to run and run against the yellow-blue wall until exhausted? On the way to this appointment in Samara, England survived Colombia, while Sweden subdued Switzerland. Both games gave pundits plenty to chew on and our conclusion is that it will be tactical and it will be tough, but football will out. Verdict: England by a foot.

Croatia vs. Russia, Sochi. Referee: Sandro Ricci (Brazil). Croatia have the talent but Russia have the drugs, as one wag put it. The Croats beat Nigeria 2-0, thrashed Argentina 3-0, and crafted a 2-1 win over Iceland to clinch first place in Group D. But they looked ragged grinding out a 1-1 draw with Denmark, to force the game to extra-time and penalties. Despite some wonderful saves by Kasper Schmeichel, Croatia pulled off the win and now face the home side. Anything could happen in the heat and humidity of Sochi. Verdict: Croatia by an inch.

World Cup England


Eurovision: Lucky Night for Moldova?

Saturday, 12 May, 2018 0 Comments

Simon Goddard, author of Mozipedia: The Encyclopaedia of Morrissey and the Smiths, claims the Lancashire singer is a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest. “My fascination with the show had an almost religious aspect,” Morrissey confessed to Goddard.

Who will Moz be cheering for tonight? Sweden’s Benjamin Ingrosso with Dance You Off? Not, we hope. Yes, it’s perfect pop in the peerless way that only the Swedes can make perfect pop, but the perfection is passionless. More joyful is Norway’s That’s How You Write A Song by Alexander Rybak, who won the Eurovision in 2009 with the highest points total, ever. Both Sweden and Norway are Top 10 candidates tonight, for sure.

And the UK? Nice dress, shame about the song, SuRie. Ireland? Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s Together is simply dire. Will Germany finish last again? Michael Schulte’s You Let Me Walk Alone is so obviously an Adele copy & paste job that it has to be a serious contender for zero points.

Our tip is My Lucky Day by DoReDoS from Moldova. Using a simple white wall as a prop, Marina Djundiet, Eugeniu Andrianov, and Sergiu Mita have created a slapstick show that mixes Danubian polka and the Charleston. This is proper Eurovision kitsch.

Back to Morrissey. His video of You Have Killed Me opens with a pastiche that mirrors the Eurovision from its glory days in the 1960s and ’70s, and for interval music during his 2006 tour, Morrissey used the immortal Pomme, Pomme, Pomme by Monique Melsen, who represented Luxembourg in 1971 and was awarded 13th place for her efforts. By the way, the 1971 Song Contest was held in Dublin and was won by French singer Séverine representing Monaco with Un banc, un arbre, une rue. Neither Luxembourg nor Monaco is in tonight’s Grand Final in Lisbon, but Australia, Israel and Albania are. The old order changeth.


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.


Bob Dylan: The Swedish connection

Friday, 14 October, 2016 0 Comments

Yesterday, Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, shook up the world of highbrow literature by announcing the awarding of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan. She seemed pleased with the outcome and there’s another Swede who’s happy with the news: Fredrik Wikingsson. Two years ago, Dylan performed a private four-song set for the Swedish journalist at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, prior to his show later that night at the venue. Wikingsson is a dedicated fan and has written at length about his personal experience with Dylan’s music.

Among the songs Bob Dylan performed for Fredrik Wikingsson were Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill, Chuck Willis’ It’s Too Late (She’s Gone) and Buddy Holly’s Heartbeat.


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


Glossolalia: Euro English

Wednesday, 18 May, 2016 2 Comments

It’s the week of Pentecost, which is associated (Biblically) with “speaking in tongues,” a phenomenon linguists call glossolalia. So, in honour of all things philological, we’re devoting this week’s posts to language. We began with Singlish, followed up with Valley vocabulary and we’re continuing with Euro English.

On Saturday night in Stockholm, 18-year-old Jamie-Lee Kriewitz became a footnote in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest by achieving last place for Germany with Ghost. This indignity has prompted Die Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (the Association for the German Language) to demand that Germany be represented next year in Kiev by a song in German. Making the case, the association’s managing director, Andrea Ewels, said that the Eurovision Song Contest does not reflect the linguistic diversity of Europe and that there are lots of fine German singers of German songs.

Note: The last year a German-language song represented the country was 2007, when the late Roger Cicero sang Frauen regier’n die Welt. It ended up in 19th place from a list of 24 entries. Germany last won in 2010, when Lena sang Satellite, in English.

Only three of the 42 entries in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest were not in English. Back in 1956, when the event began, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which runs the contest, didn’t specify which language singers could use as it was expected that each nation would use its own. And everyone did until 1965, when Ingvar Wixell represented Sweden with Absent Friend. France protested. Charles de Gaulle, the French President, who had vetoed Britain’s application for EEC membership in 1963, argued that English “hegemony” would damage the cultural variety of the contest and the EBU was forced to stipulate that each country’s entry to be in an official language of that land.

The turbulent Swedes struck back in 1973 and persuaded the EBU to drop the “official language” rule, which resulted in a run of English-language winners, including ABBA’s Waterloo in 1974. The Élysée Palace was not pleased and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing used his power to compel the EBU to restore the language restriction in 1978 and it remained in place until 1999. Since then, only one non-English song has won the contest: Serbia’s Molitva in 2006. To show how far the wheel has turned, the French and Italian entrants this year had choruses in English and the Spanish song was totalmente in English.

In Paris, Rome, Madrid and Moscow, the reality that English is the language of global music has finally sunk in. International audiences want to listen to songs they can understand and they’re used to hearing songs in English, not in Russian or Ukrainian.

With an audience of some 200 million, the Eurovision Song Contest is the goose that lays golden eggs annually for the EBU. It’s now the most-watched non-sports live television event in the world, and Asia and America are knocking on the door. The idea that participating countries would compete with songs that cannot win, to satisfy a linguistic policy, is ludicrous. It’s an international song contest, sung increasingly in the language of popular culture. Competing nations are not being made to sing in English; they want to because they know the fate of songs that are not in English.

The Eurovision Song Contest is a success and its linguistic issue has been settled, but the debate about the role of English in Europe is far from sorted. On Thursday, 23 June, a referendum will be held on whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union. If “Brexit” were to happen, the 450 million citizens of the EU would find themselves using a lingua franca spoken officially only in the Republic of Ireland (population 4.6 million) and co-officially in Malta (population 450,000). How will this affect Euro English? More on this during our Brexit week in June.