Swedish, Skånsk, and that stuff I speak

A couple years ago, I started trying to improve my Swedish, and I have noticed my comprehension has improved a lot. This is true also of Skånsk, the southern Swedish dialect which, like all southern dialects, has a little bit of a drawl to it. See if you can hear the difference:

Dolph
Swedish: Dolph
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Skånsk: Hasse
Besides the guitar, you may have noticed a slight difference. I know for an absolute fact the Swedes do. But somehow, as with all dialects, despite the pronunciation differences it is still Swedish, and the Swedes of course understand each other.

Unless, that is, I am the one trying it out.

Other than with close family and friends, ordering food, or having a beer, whenever I speak Swedish it is not uncommon for people to look at me like I have just tried out my latest Swahili on them. The situation is pretty standard:

LNZH5293
Me talking to a Swedish farmer
  • I try out a common Swedish phrase. Something like, “Is that from Ikea?”
  • The conversation goes completely quiet; the Swede squints their eyes like Clint Eastwood.
  • I sweat a little bit, and then repeat the statement, this time sounding like The Swedish Chef from the Muppets.
  • Further squinting and silence.
  • We switch to English.

As the one on the losing side of this linguistic exchange, the conversation leaves me feeling something like this (click the picture):

That feeling I get whenever I speak Swedish (YouTube clip)
Now I know my Swedish is bad, it isn’t that bad. I know a few words and don’t mind placing them in sentences together with my Danish (which places me in the dubious realm of speaking “Scandinavian”). But still, even when I avoid Danish and throw my best Swedish accent onto a Swedish word, I often end up feeling like a complete doofus.

Now before I take this further, let me remind people that:

  1. I am married to a Swede
  2. I get along quite fine with all of the Swedish family
  3. I have several Swedish friends
  4. I love spending time in Sweden
  5. I have absolutely no formal training and have never lived in Sweden – and no, Copenhagen is not, “just like living in Sweden”

Fortunately it seems a lot of people are in the exact same boat. There is a good blog post here about this, and judging by the comments, the conclusions have managed to rile a few Swedes up! But the section about understanding foreigners when they mispronounce things I completely sympathize with. Bra jobbat!

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Danish torture device/dessert: Rødgrød med Fløde
So this is what baffles me. I learned Danish when I was an exchange student in Copenhagen. As bad as my Danish was, I didn’t get quite the same reaction from Danes as I do with Swedes and Swedish.

 

I suspect, based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever, that this is because the Danes expect Danish to be butchered by foreigners. Ask a Dane, “Can you teach me a Danish word?” and 9 times out of 10 they will go the nuclear route and come back with, “rødgrød med fløde,” just to get a good laugh. The Danes know their language is tough to pronounce, so they are ready to hear it mangled by people like myself.

Swedish, on the other hand, it quite a flowing, singing language to listen to, a bit like French, and is pronounced the way it is written (with the possible exception of Skånsk). Swedes just don’t get the same joy from hearing Swedish roughed up by foreigners.

IMG_0840.png
Uhh, kinda sorta…
Thus attempts to speak Swedish often get more of a, “did you just fart?” kind of reaction. People simply aren’t as familiar with foreigners bludgeoning their language. As such, I will thus say learning Swedish is a little tougher and taking a little longer than I hoped.

 

Undeterred, I will continue to say things like, “skojar du?” and “Kristianstad”, usually repeated about 4 or 5 times, until I crack this pronunciation thing.

I have also decided I will learn Skånsk. That way if anyone notices my accent, I should be more likely to get a, “Jasså,” rather than a, “Var kommer du ifrån?”

To which the appropriate Scandinavian response would be, “Jag kommer fra Danmark. Vill du ha lite rødgrød med fløde?” and we enjoy a nice moment of silence.

Önska mig lycka till!

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A Svensk Klassiker for a cause! Please donate!

In 2016 I decided to try to complete a series of athletic events, a “Swedish Klassiker”. But I’d like to use this opportunity to add a charitable cause to my work. I want to encourage you to donate to one or all of the 5 different medically oriented and international relief oriented charities I will also support and contribute to:

  1. Vansbrosimning (3 km swimming) – Cancer research via Concern FoundationWebsite
  2. Lidingöloppet (30 km running) – Medical and educational supplies to needy and disaster areas via Brother’s Brother FoundationWebsite
  3. En Svensk Klassiker (Completion of all 4 events in 2016) – Type 1 diabetes research via JDRFWebsite
  4. Vasaloppet (90 km cross country skiing in 2017) – Refugee support via International Rescue CommitteeWebsite
  5. Vätternrundan (300 km biking in 2017) – Sustainable growth and environmental protection via World Resources InstituteWebsite

Help me add a meaning to my efforts than I could ever achieve otherwise. My fundraising goals are modest, but donations do not need to be!

Can’t decide on a single event/charity? Contribute a smaller amount to each! Every donation makes a difference.

Taking and giving.

Note: I am collecting for a charity drive against cancer! Please donate!

Those that know me well, or at least have been around me enough, know that I am subject to epiphanies. It’s a little hard for me to avoid, and makes me look like a weirdo when it happens. But connecting dots and reasoning out solutions, in my work and personal life, drives me like a bum to a ham sandwich. It can’t be helped.

Epiphanies are thus nothing new to me. I remember vividly in high school when I first realized how covalent bonding worked (or some other chemistry principle I have long since forgotten).

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Covalent bonding… Oh yeah! Sadly, it seems I am not smarter than a 5th grader.

After staring blankly at a textbook for 45 minutes (my usual study method), suddenly covalence dawned on me. “Wait a second!” I exclaimed, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom!” (That is the cleaner version of what I said.)

My friend looked on in shock and disgust, but I had just felt a huge relief. From solving the problem, I mean. And it was time to, you know, do something else. Yes, this story is as awkward now as it was then.

The point being that I love being tasked with difficult or (to me) impossible scenarios, breaking things down, and solving them.

Generally speaking, I also like to be able to identify with causes. Large or small, doesn’t really matter. Bur particularly being away from work, I feel a need to contribute with some sort of value.

Which leads me to an epiphany moment I had a few days ago. Two things happened that brought this one around.

The Vatternrundan – Join a pack

The first glimpse I had that I needed to do something came during the Vatternrundan just a few weeks back. For the better part of half a day, I sat in my bike staring at the butts of other cyclists.

InsertCard
The view from/of the rear. “Insert Card Here” was not an option.

It is impossible to not take note of said butts when riding in a pack. One of the primary goals in cycling is to stay as close to the butt in front of you as possible.

For over an hour, I stared at a pack of butts with, “Ride of Hope,” emblazoned on them. They were riding closely together, and the common sense of purpose and support was claer. While training with a team  didn’t interest me per se, I really liked the idea that there was a greater meaning they could draw from the race.

The Hospital – Get engaged!

The second glimpse came during my daughter’s recent hospital stay. She had a lengthy stay of 8 days, thankfully nothing life threatening.

But we were surrounded by people who were fighting all sorts of ailments. I’d been in the adult wings of many a hospital, it’s a little uncomfortable to be around people who aren’t doing well. But try spending several days in the children’s wing. Uff, that will get to you…

There are few things harder than watching a child suffering in some form. We had quite a nice stay under the circumstances, but it seemed there was always the sound of someone crying down the hallway. We went to a play at the Ronald McDonald House, where kids fighting leukemia and other diseases were staying. It was a collective slap in the face, reminding me that I really should do more to help others.

So what are you going to to about it?

So I want to be part of something, but don’t want to formally join a team. I want to enjoy my time away from work, but I want it to be meaningful. I want to help others, but short of volunteering I am not technically skilled for many of these things. So the epiphany came.

Just link my completing the events of the Svensk Klassiker with independently fundraising for worthy causes.KlassikerForACause.jpg

Fortunately, it is easy to find sites that let individuals to do specifically that (I went with crowdrise.com). The hard part was choosing 5 different charities, but after 20 minutes of Google searching, scouring a charity rating site, and reading a Forbes article, it was pretty clear to me who I wanted to support.

Then to quote Matt “Guitar” Murphy in the Blue Brothers, “Let’s boogie.” (see the pic below). Hey, if you don’t try, nothing is achieved.

bluesbrothers425
“You better think about the consequences of your actions!”

I hope you join me with some sort of small (or large) donation to the 5 worthy causes I have selected. All are internationally beneficial and are causes I believe in.

For more on the events and charities, please click here.

I am starting with cancer research because various forms of it have affected members of my family across generations. I would hope we help can contribute to sparing both my kids and yours (or your future kids perhaps) from it’s devastating effects.

Thanks for your support!

Where have all the blogs gone?

So let me start off by saying it has been way too long since I blogged last.

I can also start off by saying I enjoy blogging quite a bit, but sometimes priorities get a hold of you, your routine gets utterly blown to smithereens, and all the good will and effort turns into, well, nothing.

And then there is also procrastination. There is a fantastic Ted Talk on the subject. I don’t think it applies, but as this blog is basically one big excuse, well crap. It probably applies.

But I can say with a straight face, I have indeed been tied up continuously for the last two months, and knocking out a number of big and small things, each of which could probably have been blogged about, were I a bit of a better blogger. In case you don’t follow me on Facebook, I have been living in interesting times. So the drumroll please…

The kids turned into bioweapons
  1. Pass the barf bag, please — In April I took care of sick kids 14 out of 15 straight days (this one kicked off the blog less mayhem). I’m sure it’s not a record, but it’s definitely a record for me! Not looking for sympathy as it’s a part of the job. But I swear I didn’t know kids could be sick so much, and I certainly didn’t know how much more effort a sick kid was than a healthy one until the second week of insanity began.
  2. Hvor kommer du fra? — I studied for and passed my Danish language exams, opening the door for a permanent residency card. Will say I didn’t study too much (on one question I had to read a bus schedule. No lie), but the consequence of failure definitely got the blood pressure up and scrambled my brain for a week.

    IMG_0424
    The slower riders didn’t roll, gathered moss
  3. A hundred miles and running — I participated in the second of four endurance events under the Svensk Klassiker, the Vätternrundan. At 300km/180 miles, it is by far the longest ride I have even undertaken which made for a very long day. And of course being Sweden, it rained too. It was probably more awesome than it sounds.
  4. Get a job, hippie! — So I don’t have a job yet… But my CV is now up to date. If you haven’t worked on your CV lately, all I can say is I am going to make it a point to look at mine once a month from now on. Because I swear updating your accomplishments on paper is harder and far less rewarding than actually applying for the jobs they get.

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    The Walshes. It’s a 60’s sitcom when in Onslunda
  5. 🎶Green Acres is the place to be…🎶 — While the wife got some much needed and long overdue time with one of her oldest and best friends, I decided to park myself with the kids in the countryside with mormor and morfar. The farm is relaxing, but so much different than the city that there is always an excitement element. I think it is because it toughens you up against nature. The oldest is still afraid of spiders, but those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones…(I hate them too). BUT, she has no aversion to snails, fire, dogs, horses, or heavy Skånsk. Yes, the farm is a good place to visit (but no, we still won’t live there…).
  6. I (almost) have a Danish drivers license — After 9 years. Yes, I have effectively waited out the Danish Parliment on this one. Rather than taking the drivers ed courses and physical test, I waited for the law to change. And waited. And waited some more. And then waited 5 years. Sometimes it’s nice to see laziness disguised as patience pays off.
  7. A chip off the old block… — Which brings up up to the last week, where I am now spending several daylight hours in a hospital bed (not as much as Åsa mind you) next to my daughter who is recovering from an appendectomy of all things. Oh, and as I write this the baby developed a rash. Haha! Between this point and point 1, that make 3 of 8 weeks I have been directly taking care of ill children. Now I don’t mind hospitals per se. I get to sit in bed a lot and play Legos (sweet). But I don’t think I can quite call this quality time with the kids. No, this is flat out quantity time with the kids…

Plus Easter, plus this, plus that, plus blah blah blah. Ugh! Get on with it, Jason!

So now that my blog is back up, what happens next? Well:

  • Very soon I will be asking you for money (because, you know, I’m unemployed and all). Just kidding, but it’s going to be good. You’ll see!
  • I figured out the ponytail solution! Or rather, I didn’t but my wife did. And in fact I did do some prototyping which failed miserably. I’ll share the secret invention soon. Dads out there, you’ll be struck with a, “well, duh!” moment, same as me.
  • I have further reviewed my Scandinavian transformation on Facebook, and the trend continues. Of course if Trump gets elected president, that will give me 4 years of defense against all grillings over dinner. “I’ve lived here so long, the last time I saw Trump on TV he was still bankrupting his airlines and casinos. So don’t ask me to explain it… Would you pass the lutefisk, please?”
  • I am now actively working on my Swedish pronunciation and vocabulary. Despite my comprehension being pretty good, my spoken Swedish is somewhere between “buffoon” and “preschooler.” But it not entirely my own fault; Swedish pronunciation is far trickier than most think, including the Swedes! And it’s not what you think… More to come.
  • And a number of other topics I have partially written up, but yeah, that procrastination thing.

So thanks for hanging in there with me, and I’m glad to be back on the board!

Ponytails are killing me

So I have a couple upcoming posts with a little greater gravity than this one (and quite a few with less). But this problem is driving me seriously nuts.

Typical fail #28: What is this stupid gap doing here again?

Until 2 years ago I had never tried to tie a ponytail. In fact I have actively avoided gaining such knowledge. As a guy, being proficient at such things are a sure fire way to be continuously ridiculed when hanging out with other guys.

On the flip side of that, I knew the day was coming when I would have to learn how to tie a ponytail. Having two daughters, I have a trump card for any ponytail knowledge ridicule, leaving my heckling drinking friends with merely a few hundred other things to harass me about.

  • My (former) cat ownership.IMAGE_050
  • My propensity for breaking bones and tearing joints (hence my college nickname Crip, short for Cripple of course).

    Hospital
    How to become a Preferred hospital stay member
  • That time I…(insert Walsh drinking story here).

    226753_1049524601665_6354_n
    I just figured out how to solve the refugee crisis! Better have another beer, just to be sure.

But no, there was to be no laughing at me because I knew how to tie a ponytail. For the record, this is hereby acknowledged to be strict guy logic, straight from caveman times (it’s an age old problem).

Now whomever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is, well, full of crap. I love learning new stuff. But women’s hair pieces are killing me, and it sucks.

One may be led to believe the ponytail is a simple thing:

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Witness the scrunchie, a thing of evil. Lo, scrunchie, I hatest thou.
  1. Pull back hair
  2. Apply scrunchie
  3. Twist scrunchie and reapply
  4. Repeat 2 more times

But for me it is more like this:

  1. Pull back hair
  2. Misapply scrunchie
  3. Repeat step one until all hair is through scrunchie
  4. Twist scrunchie and misapply
  5. Remember mindfulness, meditate for 3 seconds
  6. Fix misapplied scrunchie by misapplying scrunchie
  7. Throw defective scrunchie into garbage, back to step 1
  8. Etc., etc.

I know I am not the first guy to run across this problem. In fact, Time magazine posted a brilliant video of a guy performing this tricky procedure with a vacuum cleaner:

“Don’t worry, you won’t go bald.”

Unfortunately I am not from Oklahoma (no offense), and the the kids are not fearless enough to try to pull this off. But it got me thinking that there must be a better way.

So I am going to work on an invention to overcome this challenge, because after two years of totally sucking at this, it is time for a win! Here is a sketch of my invention:

 

Artist’s rendition

 

As you can see, it is brilliant in its simplicity, and its use of my daughter’s free coloring app.

At this point you may ask if this is not a little overboard. Well, three points I would call out:

  1. I searched everywhere on the web (Amazon.com representing everywhere) and it appears no one is selling anything to help hapless ponytail boobs like me with this parenting quagmire.
  2. Time Magazine posted an article on this, showing the tremendous gravity of the issue amongst fathers all over the world.
  3. I am unemployed.

I will post on this again when my first prototype is ready.

Until then, venture capitalists are welcome to get in on the action. I am looking to raise $27 for a prototype and coffee (i.e. my wages).

If you have any other issues like this you would like me to investigate, please post a comment and I will launch an exploratory investigation into fixing your dilemma. Just don’t be surprised if on occasion I provide the standard Bluto Blutarsky solution from the movie Animal House: “My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.”

More to come…

TEDx and My Experiment With Social Media Abstinance

In early April, I attended the 2016 TEDx Copenhagen event. I have had a little trouble articulating what the TED experience was, but I can say the friends I attended with and I all agree it was:

  1. Not what we had expected;
  2. A very worthwhile experience; and
  3. Something we would gladly attend again next year.

The ten speakers were all highly accomplished, passionate, and fascinating individusls, and covered a very wide range of topics. Amongst them:

A half kilo of crickets to go, please.
  •  Why we should eat more bugs, as population growth and environmental concerns preclude the production of an adequate meat.
  • How we can use jazz as inspiration for overcoming adversity, by turning the essence of what was otherwise a potential failure into the baseline for a new solution.

If this is a typical TED event, the range of topics may well catch you off guard, even after seeing the agenda. It’s not like going online, where several talks may be consolidated and tightly wound around a similar theme. Be prepared to have your horizons stretched.

But the unique and deep expertise of the speakers in often opaque fields makes it an experience that is difficult to forget. It’s hard to not be captivated by the passion and interest of speakers who are trying to better the world, even if only on a local scale.

Beyond a bizarre interpretive dance number about human sexuality (I can appreciate the artist angle, but damn if interpretive dance is just not my thing), a few topics really stood out.

  • Having worked for Maersk, Angela Oguntala’s talk about drawing inspiration from the culture and needs of developing countries was a good reminder of the value of keeping an open mind when spotting the next big thing. Read more: Angela Oguntala
  • Thomas Jam Pedersen’s talk on Thorium as a safe alternative to standard nuclear technology was both uplifting and at the same time a somewhat bewildering, “what could have been,” story. The technology was abandoned in the 60’s before it was fully vetted. Read more: Copenhagen Atomics
  • And Lis Zacho’s presentation on teaching kids to learn how to code apps, rather than just to consume content on the web, was fascinating and uplifting. If a 10 year old can do it, I want to build an app too. Read more: Coding Pirates

But for me, the most influential was Meik Wiking’s discussion on how happiness can be quantified and how social media can actually cause depression, a very intriguing topic that initially I didn’t buy into. I was wrong.

 

The report on the effects of too much happy Facebooking.

The premise is that depression and suicide rates are linked to one’s well being relative to the well being of others. And as Facebook typically portrays a distortedly blissful view of how great our lives are (yeah, guilty), our views of our own quality of life suffers as we read the blissful postings if others.

No analysis was made of the effects of Janteloven/Jantelagen on what one posts and misery caused to others, but I suspect the theory holds. Some people are just more equal than others, even in Scandinavia.

It’s not that any one post or our own awareness of the issue creates the problem. Rather it is the continual exposure and the net behavioral impact. Read a great article about it from The New Yorker here.

So at the speaker’s suggestion, my friend and I gave up Facebook for a week as a social experiment in happiness and mindfulness. As a pretty strong contributor to the FB community, I questioned the value. But there was an impact.

Not long after I made the decision, I had a slight sense of relief. I reached out with a few more messages to friends than I had in some time. The goal after all was never to disconnect from people, but to do it in a different way. And though it was tempting to check in on what people were doing, pulling back from FB didn’t make me feel worse. But what it did do was get me to consider having more meaningful interactions than simply reading and liking, and reconsider the content that I post. I know I will check it less frequently.

The Facebook post to avoid: “Just went to the dentist! It was so awesome!! :)”

So I would call it a successful micro-level test showing how exposure to happiness leads to unhappiness.

As an interesting corollary, posting failures can bring happiness as you and others reach out for support. Phew! Good thing I have my share of those!

And to my Facebook friends, you people are sick… Get miserable will you?!

This is of course just a small anecdote of what attending a TED event draws out. Unlike on the web, you will be exposed to a lot of fascinating people and ideas, and will be drawn to action if you are willing.

Which is why it’s going to be fun to go again next year.

See you on Facebook. 🙂

When in Rome…

I am not a Dane. But I take my kids to school IN a bike that looks like a wheelbarrow/bike thingy.

Christiania

I am not a Swede. But I greatly enjoy shots of hard alcohol to go with my raw fish.

CurrySildx

My jeans are not baggy and I don’t own any khakis. The majority of my shirts are full button down with collars or are t-shirts with meaningless numbers on them. They are all white, or shades of black, grey, brown, or dark blue.

I eat a lot of salad.

Somewhere over the last 10 years of Scandinavian living, and as a derivative of being married to a Swede, I have Scandi-fied, a condition a few of my Facebook friends have recently pointed out.

If you talked to me, you would know immediately I am not a native, and would probably be able to place me as an American. But if you saw me on the street or casually out on the town, I have started to become somewhat indistinguishable from the locals.

I suppose it is not surprising that one’s tastes and mannerisms transform over time, but for the life of me I cannot figure out how or when I started to develop into the two Jason’s: the one that lives in Copenhagen and the one that lives in the U.S.

In order to document this phenomenon, I have culled my rather robust volume of Facebook postings for signs of Scandification, in an effort to better understand just how un-American certain elements of my life have appeared. I have only looked at the last 6 months, but that was enough. Waaay more than enough (this may be a recurring topic… I have years of inane content to cull from).

I hope you enjoy my list. I support your occasional support and harassment of my lifestyle choices in the comments. Cheers!

Scandifying Exhibit A: Meat and mayonnaise

HotDog

Who on Earth puts curried mayo on a hot dog? I do. And it is delicious. But if you go to a US sporting event or a 4th of July bbq and ask for some curried mayonnaise to put on your hot dog, they will assume you are a weirdo or have lived/come from a different country/planet. Guilty as charged, on both counts.

Scandifying Exhibit B: Physically Unattended Sleeping Babies

BabyGym

This one still baffles me. When did I get comfortable leaving a sleeping child amongst strangers and out of eyesight? I have a baby monitor so I can hear everything and be there in 10 seconds, but still… I am pretty sure people get arrested for this kind of behavior in the US: Police Called on Swedish Mom Who Left Baby Outside Restaurant

Scandifying Exhibit C: Participating in Sports that are Distinctly Marginal in the US

CrossCountry

OK, this one I am actually very proud of. For the most part, I have always participated in non-standard sports. Among my top participation sports are skiing, cycling, athletics, and soccer (football if you must). I can now add telemark and cross country skiing to that list. Not to say that I wouldn’t have tried these sports while living in the US, but I wouldn’t have tried these sports while living in the US.

Scandifying Exhibit D: Eating Marinated, Raw Fish

CurrySild

Scandinavians love raw herring for special occasions.

A special occasion can be created at any moment in Scandinavia by serving raw herring.

And if you are serving raw herring, you certainly need a shot to go with it, don’t you?

Now this one took me a while to appreciate, but… Herring and snaps are amongst my favorite of Scandinavian cuisine. The first time I saw it I was nervous. I would not be surprised if I thought I was about to eat some surströmming. This, thankfully, is not surströmming. Click on the below video to learn more about THAT mess…

Nasty

I’m not entirely sure how I grew to appreciate marinated and pickled raw fish with a shot chaser, but I am glad I did. If you are looking to enjoy a holiday meal, herring and snaps are pretty much the best thing on Earth.

Scandifying Exhibit E: Singing on Television

Television

For a country of roughly 9 million people, the Swedes turn out a lot of popular music. I’m told a lot of this is a byproduct of the school system, which significantly helps kids develop their talents to one day follow in the footsteps of Abba. Well, one can hope minus the body suits…

Abba

I have noticed that this love of music also translates into extensive programming that involves a lot of singing. And I don’t mean just American Idol style programming. There are contests, game shows, talk shows, you name it, that revolve in part or entirely around singing. I have been exposed to many of these programs.

And I am now at the point where I would though never watch American Idol, I look forward to the Swedish programming. Not every day mind you, but there is something to it which for the life of me I cannot explain. Whenever we are out at the farm and it’s after dinner and there’s some whisky, wine or beer still lying around along with some peanuts, it’ll make you really feel at home.

So have I become Scandinavian? HAHA! No, certainly not. But holy moly these are not normal American behaviors. And these examples are a just few culled from the last 6 months of Facebook posts. I will hunt for some more in a few blog posts from now, but now I have to run. “Så ska det Låta” is on TV.

Singing