Pop a Slovak Cherry Into Your Mouth

The Cherry Harvest

July 24, 2017

Allan Stevo

Cherries are in season. That means people carry buckets of them on trams, they appear en masse at work, and are delivered to your house on visits as a gift to you and your family.  The onslaught won’t stop until October when black cherries, sour cherries, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, cranberries, strawberries, plums, black currants, red currants, white currants, gooseberries, pears, apples, peaches, and apricots will have all gone out of season.

And the great question of these weeks in late spring, early summer becomes – “Who else can I give cherries to?” as your own kitchen fills with cherries, too many cherries for you to ever eat fresh or cook with fresh.  While there are many amazing fresh fruits grown all over Slovakia and shared freely among friends and neighbors, it will be cherries and plums (later in the summer) that will create the largest boom each year.

Everything seems to be filled with cherries at this time of year.  What would have been served for dessert as a plain white sheet cake is now served pockmarked with 30 or 40 cherries shoved into the batter on the cooking sheet just before being placed in the oven.  Fresh cherries are served as dessert in a big bowl or even just brought to parties.  Fantastic poppy seed strudels, which can sometimes feel a little dry in the mouth, are served extra juicy with sour cherries added to them.

It feels very, very good to be in Slovakia at this time of year, because you never know who will call you and say “Hey, wouldn’t you like some (insert the name of the fruit here)? We have plenty of them!”  or “I’m outside your door. Open up.  I’ve got something for you.”

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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1984 By George Orwell

Photo: independent.co.uk

Photo: independent.co.uk

1984 by George Orwell

July 21, 2017

Allan Stevo

One day, I recognized that every residential building that I had every walked into in the Petrzalka section of Bratislava had a metal grate below the front door, which would make the simple mistake of dropping your keys while opening your front door into something so much worse than it had to be.  What a terrible place to put a grate.

Eventually, I came to realize that George Orwell had so presciently described the future in a totalitarian country.  Perhaps people were intentionally dehumanized in such countries, or perhaps no one ever seriously stopped to ask “is this dehumanizing?”  Either way the outcome is the same.

And, even in the residual little details of life that were dehumanizing in the year 2002, when I first stepped foot in Slovakia, I could see a small glimpse into the dehumanizing nature of communism and central planning.

The peepholes on so many apartment doors that would allow either person to clearly see what was on the other side.  The construction of bathrooms that allowed a person from another apartment to hear quite a bit of what was happening in the apartment above or below.

Privacy had come to be  something very different in Slovakia than it had come to be defined in the United States.  Perhaps the only privacy one could get in a totalitarian society, Orwell tells us, is in ones own thoughts.  And then he goes on to paint a picture of how the privacy of the human mind is not off limits either and how that can be violated as well.

I never lived in communist Czechoslovakia, but my experience has caused me to believe that Orwell got at least part of the picture right, even it was written in 1948, before he had any chance to see this outcome with his own eyes.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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All Five Senses – Part II

Reduta – Part II

July 19, 2017

Allan Stevo

The first section of this essay dealt with themes of beauty and music, beauty and government (especially the Communist government of Czechoslovakia), and many of my own uninformed biases.  In the second part of this essay, I take time to identify part of the role communism played in the development of Slovak music in the 20th century by looking at some examples from the around the region.

“What was communism’s effect on all of this?”

I honestly don’t know.

I tried to get clear answers from musicians on that question this week, but couldn’t.  It can be hard for a person to be circumspect about his or her own life, which means that it’s hard to get a person to recognize, let alone admit the impact that the communists had on his or her life – either good or bad.  The communists are presently viewed in Slovakia as evil, but there was a time where they were considered quite popular.  Fifty years from now, some historian may come along and describe the influences on our lives so much more accurately than you or I would be able to cognizantly describe the influences on the lives that we live day-to-day.

Like many other government funded projects, the communist government’s funds that supported the Slovak Philharmonic likely came with strings attached and brought government influence and control. If the blatantly atheist communist government in Czechoslovakia found it possible to allocate money to fund the activities of churches during communist times, then you know there’s something fishy going on.  Just like churches were funded by the government and correspondingly manipulated by the government, I find it hard to imagine that the government-funded Slovak Philharmonic was not influenced.

Throughout the Soviet sphere of influence, it seems likely that all arts were subject to forces that created their own “two spheres” effect.  There was the art done to serve the state and the Party and there was the art done for the sake of expressing beauty and truth.  If the composer wanted to keep his career, the latter was work that only ended up in a composer’s desk drawer, never to be publicly performed.

Click here to keep reading All Five Senses – Part II

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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All Five Senses In Bratislava

Reduta and the Slovak Philharmonic

July 17, 2017

Allan Stevo

Last Saturday, I attended a concert given by the Slovak Philharmonic.  A little out of character, they performed pieces from Indiana Jones films, The Pirates of the Caribbean films, and the Harry Potter films.

Listening to the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra play has always been a highlight of my time spent in Slovakia and this day was no different.  As a child I never imagined how many people in cooperation it took to play the anthem of adventure that is Indiana Jones’s theme music.

The event was intended for families with young children
I hadn’t realize that the event was targeted toward kids, until I had bought the tickets and read the words “Children’s Event” printed on them in Slovak.  Nonetheless, I could think of dozens of adult friends of mine who would want to sit and listen to these songs.  Someone at the Slovak Philharmonic had evidently realized that live performances of songs from popular movie scores is a way to draw an adult as well as a child into a lifelong appreciation of the symphony.

On stage alongside the conductor was an actor (who doubled as a mime) emceeing the event and explaining to the audience (composed mostly of kids under 10 and their parents) what was about to happen.  He offered a few jokes and a few practical hints as well, such as teaching the kids when to clap, or how to say conductor in Slovak (dirigent), and demonstrating how important songs were for creating emotion in movies.

Click here to keep reading All Five Senses In Bratislava

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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The European Union – A Land With No Demonym

Demonym

July 12, 2017

Allan Stevo

“This item first appeared at LewRockwell.com on May 22, 2017.”

A demonym or gentilic is a word used to describe a resident or native of a place. Americans come from America. Italians come from Italy. Slovaks come from Slovakia, and Europeans come from Europe. But who comes from the European Union?

“Europeans” is what the European Commission would like us to call their subjects, but the last time I checked, the borders of the European Union were not colinear with the borders of Europe.

Since Switzerland, Norway, and Russia are not part of the European Union, a resident of Geneva, Oslo, or Moscow is certainly European, though not a resident of the European Union. For the sake of clarity, Europe and the European Union should not share a demonym.

Additionally, using the same demonym confuses that which is nearly timeless with that which is short-lived and temporary. Allowing the same demonym to be used offers the insinuation that a temporary political entity like the European Union deserves to co-opt the name of a diverse set of cultures of people who have made the continent of Europe their own over many centuries of work, struggle, and experimentation. After all, political entities are merely temporary – even the great Holy Roman Empire is no more. Cultures are more long lasting. And continents are nearly timeless.

Once Greece finally leaves the EU experiment and Brexit finally becomes a reality, will the Greek people, at the spearhead of European culture in ancient times, or the British people, at the spearhead of European culture in modern times suddenly cease to be European? Of course not. Will they be sued in some international court of law if they continue to allow the word “European” used for any non-EU activity? Of course not. Though if it were a trademark, it would feel a lot like trademark infringement that the EU is guilty of with its duplicative demonym.

If I were running a makeshift group of bureaucrats like the European Commission, who claimed great authority, but who could be brought down by a single unfavorable election in a major member state like France or Germany, then I too might want to encourage people to confuse my existence with more timeless concepts like a culture or continent. However, that doesn’t mean any one of us have to play along with that silly game.

George Orwell wrote in 1984, “All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers.”

I don’t really know what these Eurocrats have up their sleeves, but they can’t fool me into calling the residents of their rapidly shrinking political unit by the same name as the people who have had the most pronounced positive impact on the world over the past 500 years.

Nope. You can’t fool me with that trick.

I sat down to brainstorm some ideas and this is what I came up with.

Unionite
EU-er
A subject of Brussels
A subject of Brussels, Strasbourg, and Luxembourg
Eurese
Euroite
Eurotian
Euronian
Eurite (sounds like “you’re right”)
Eulander
Eutopian
Eurak (like Slovak, sounds like “you rock”)
Citeuon (CITizen of the EUropean uniON)

I think EU-er & Eutopian are my favorite so far. How about you? What word would you want to start using to describe an inhabitant of the European Union?

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

Photo credit: gymnazija.geps.si

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July 4 Is Not About The Constitution, It’s About The Declaration Of Independence

Getting it Wrong

July 10, 2017

Allan Stevo

This piece first appeared at Target Liberty as “#FakeUnderstanding Does the New York Times Even Know What the 4th of July Holiday Celebrates?”

Some people are not sophisticated enough to know the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The editorial board of the New York Times has proven itself to be among them, as they chose last weekend to insist upon their love for the wrong founding document – the US Constitution.

Constitution Day is September 17. Independence Day is July 4. The difference in meaning between the two are vast – one based on the decentralization of power, the other based on the concentration of power.

Nor is July 4 a day to celebrate the American flag (June 14); it is practically the opposite of a day devoted to central governments and the flags that represent those governments. In fact, based on the revolutionary principles at the heart of the Declaration of Independence, July 4 is the least logical day of the year to fly an American flag. Nor is it a day to celebrate war or those who fought and died in them, for that we have the official bank holidays of Memorial Day (last Monday in May), Veterans Day (November 11), and the less officially celebrated Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May) VE Day (May 8), VJ Day (September 2), A Date Which Will Live In Infamy (December 7), and D Day (June 6).

As much as some people like to confound distinct concepts, July 4 is not about some amorphous blend of Americana, it is about the Declaration of Independence, decentralized power, and ultimately the individual freedom at the root of the American experiment.

In a “print-only section” issued the weekend before July 4, in which its editors proudly stated that the dramatic four page double-fold-out with hand drawn images of George Washington and Donald Trump and specially selected neo-colonial typography is only “the fourth special section published by the New York Times Magazine,” a magazine started in 1896, are contained a lot of ideas about the Constitution that are a far cry from the Declaration of Independence. Contrary to the spirit of the holiday, bigger government and centralized power is what the editors chose to focus on.

The annotated special section depicts the Constitution of 1787 as a blueprint intended to bring about exactly the kind of government America had until the January 20, 2017 inauguration.

It is a partisan reading of the Constitution that can even make a goose-stepping New York Times reader proud of the crusty old thing. We learn in this special section that the Second Amendment wasn’t intended to allow people to keep and bear arms. We learn that the founding fathers would have praised attempts by the executive branch to legislate internationally on global warming (yes, these self-proclaimed defenders of science actually make this twisted argument, going so far as invoking the rebellious, decentralizing author of the Declaration of Independence – Thomas Jefferson in what appears to be support of the Paris Climate Accord). We are even presented the wisdom of a partisan hack who oversaw the failure of Detroit for 52 years as a congressman – John Conyers is shockingly presented as an authority on the foreign emoluments clause.

The special section’s dramatic form is a beautiful homage to the US Constitution – a document that deserves more homage than it gets, but the details of the presentation are out of line with Independence Day.

While the Declaration of Independence is written in the spirit of devolution of power, the Constitution is a document of enslavement under central authority. Yes, following the Constitution today would bring us a government far better than the one we have. Trump heads a government that daily violates the Constitution. Some, including me, hope presidential attention will be paid to constitutional issues that have long gone ignored. The tyrannical federal courts already are giving greater heed to it, but government remains a far cry from perfection.

It was in the spirit of centralization that the Constitution was written. The un-amended version – without the Bill of Rights, added three years after its ratification – is an especially tyrannical document.

In the spirit of centralization, King George III pursued a bloody campaign instead of letting the colonists secede. In the spirit of centralization, the tax protest remembered as the Whiskey Rebellion was put down by some of the founding fathers shortly after taking power.

In the spirit of centralization, the Union pursued the bloody war between the north and the south. It was in the spirit of 1776, the spirit of decentralization, the spirit of July 4, that the rebel states seceded from the Union in 1860.

In the spirit of centralization there is a Federal Reserve Bank. In the spirit of centralization there is an income tax. In the spirit of centralization the war to end all wars was fought. And then another. A Cold War too. A more decentralized land would have never troubled itself with such nonsense.

Constitution Day in the United States is September 17. It remembers a document that brought greater tyranny to our land.

Independence Day is July 4.

The political climate of one is far different than the other. The political climate of the Declaration of 1776 is far different than the Constitution of 1787.

It is true to the climate of 1776 that America remains so free. It is over-reliance on the climate of 1787 by which America has become so unfree.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

Photo credit: occasionalplanet.org

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Six All-American Readings For The Fourth Of July

Photo: bigmaud.com

Photo: bigmaud.com

Read Me

July 6, 2017

Allan Stevo

On the anniversary of America’s Independence, there are two texts I always find myself returning to that capture the essence of what the core spirit of America is at the time of its founding and two texts, that I say truly celebrate the Spirit of 1776. The Spirit of 1776 is a very different spirit than the Spirit of 1787.

1787 is a year to celebrate the Constitution and the state. The Spirit of 1776 is practically the opposite, it is a spirit of the victory of the individual over the state. This is a unique spirit present in the American experiment not present elsewhere in the same way and in my experience is a quintessential ingredient in what makes America special.

There are many American holidays for celebrating the state

Click here to keep reading Six All-American Readings For The Fourth Of July

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Most Americans Never Mention These Seven Fundamental Facts About July 4

Photo: twitter.com

Photo: twitter.com

July 4, 1776

July 4, 2017

Allan Stevo

Historian Murray Rothbard in his impressive four volume history of the US, Conceived in Liberty, depicts an America in the 1760s and 1770s that was undergoing a revolution. The people in America had adopted a different philosophy on rights and had stopped viewing themselves as colonists. That change in people’s hearts and minds was the actually what Rothbard called the American Revolution.

By 1776, the American Revolution had occurred in the hearts and minds of the people in the colonies. The Declaration of Independence can be looked at as an important moment that celebrates that change of perspective of these free people. That change in hearts and minds is not what we usually call the American Revolution however.

What followed that revolution, that change in hearts and minds, was a bloody rebellion, that could have just as easily been avoided if only the Crown understood that the colonists had gone beyond a point of no return and were no longer able to find justice in the method of governing that the Crown insisted they abide by. Every year, the spirit of 1776 is celebrated in America on July 4 by virtue of being enshrined in a holiday. That spirit of 1776 tends to incorporate that very important change in hearts and minds and the bloody rebellion that followed.

In the midst of BBQs, fireworks, and festivities it’s a spirit that Americans do not seem to spend much time contemplating or discussing. Below are 7 aspects of Independence Day that Americans never mention.

Click here to keep reading Most Americans Never Mention These Seven Fundamental Facts About July 4

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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