68 Steps To Killing A Pig

Zabijacka

December 13, 2017

Allan Stevo

Zabijacka – literally “the slaughter” or “the killing” is a fundamental part of Slovak culture. Fundamental, because even in this era, so many urban dwelling Slovaks maintain a connection to their rural roots. With an almost ritualistic rhythm to it, many Slovaks will once or several times per year, engage in this event commonly translated into English as “a pig killing.”

Some will find this gruesome, some will find this fascinating. Nonetheless, it is a significant part of Slovak culture. Merely seeing a zabijacka is often hard to arrange.  Having such detailed photos like this is even more difficult to come by.  For those who do not find this overly gruesome and who take an interest in the step-by-step of such a complicated process, I’m sure the process below will be of interest, but if you think this will be too much for you, please do stop reading and please do stop back next week.

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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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The Parasitic, Unbankable Nations Of The World

December 8, 2017

Allan Stevo

“This item first appeared at Lew Rockwell on December 1, 2017.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard something along the lines of the following from traditional bankers, slightly innovative money managers, and even some of the staff of cutting edge bitcoin exchanges alike: “We can take clients from everywhere in the world except for Iran, North Korea, and of course the United States. Those are the three we refuse to make any exception for.”

The three rogue nations. The nations that don’t get along with other nations – two of which were put on the list of rogue nations involuntarily, their inhabitants involuntarily cut off from the international banking community – Iran and North Korea. It was a punishment levied by the third. It was part of the “or else” option in the ultimatum “Comply with the US State Department or else.” And “or else” means all kinds of horrible things when an individual in one of those counties wants to engage in trade with the outside world, or at least hopes to live in a place that is able to trade with the outside world.

The despots of North Korea or Iran would never themselves wish such treatment on their people. Some astute observers have pointed out that even in totalitarian states, this oppressive alienation from the rest of the world further bonds the local population to its government in allegiance, and against the economy-attacking-devilish-outside-force that has cast the people of those countries into such an economic black hole. That population is prevented from enjoying vital freedoms enjoyed by much of the rest of the world – made into pariahs by the world super power.

While the first two populations were added to the list involuntarily, the third country’s government placed its people on the list voluntarily. That is the United States. The United States government made its people into pariahs. The United States government has, in all sorts of ways, removed its citizens from participation in the world financial markets and that action has generated almost no domestic outrage.

If you are an American reading this you have been made into a pariah in this world by your government. Your money is no good at financial institutions all around the world. You money is no good at many world class institutions if you show up with your American passport. Some of the top tier banks in the world consider you unbankable and want nothing to do with you. You have to launder your money if you want your money sitting in some of the finest financial institutions. That is because your government has worked hard to ensure that an American is considered as nightmarish to have as a customer as an Iranian or North Korean. That doesn’t make sense that the citizens of such a prosperous land as the United States are as poorly regarded as those two backwards nations.

Through many onerous regulations dealing with banking, money, and finance, the powerful United States government has made it too expensive and too much of a hassle to provide the entire array of financial services to Americans. Out of all the ways that the great American empire can use its influence, goodwill, and power in the world, this is what it does – it financially isolates its inhabitants, the very people who are said to empower the United States government through democratic elections.

It is truly an embarrassment to this American writer, that his home country, once the unquestionable freest in the world, makes a list alongside communist North Korea and theocratic Iran. This detail many Americans do not realize or care about. But it is quite significant that our American business interests are strangled abroad. The big guys with lawyers figure out a way around the regulation. The small and medium sized guys don’t even bother, or find illegal channels, before they finally get pushed out of business by criminal elements, inconvenience, or government. The United States, where even an honest man cannot conduct honest business in a host of industries because unelected regulators and bureaucrats have so terrified financial institutions that only a fool would cooperate with an American economically. That is the age we live in.

Sure there are the brave few Bitcoin companies who will do it – welcome Americans despite all the risk, paperwork, and cost involved. There are occasionally even a few banks who will do it.

Some claim that America is “a free market” or “capitalist.” It is a far cry from that. In fact, nearly the opposite of a free market, it almost appears that screwy international statist ideologies have chased out all sense from this once free system, a system now so skewed that our passports have become not advantageous or neutral, but actually undesirable for so many areas of international business.

And it doesn’t stop abroad. New York State, with its horrible Bit License has done the bidding of the big banks. It has turned its state – and its economic development engine: New York City – once home to one of the most vibrant hubs for cryptocurrency technology worldwide, into a virtual desert, where having a New York State ID is enough to not be able to be a full fledged, freely functioning member of the financial system. Companies who have not obtained the very difficult to obtain Bit License may not do business with New York residents. New York residents are turned into second class citizens by the Bit License when trying to conduct business in their own homeland. This does not stop many of those second class citizens from looking at these and other toxic regulation and relishing them as some type of cherished pro-consumer measure when their effect is the very opposite. Only those who do not know what they are talking about could ever honestly call such measures pro-consumer.

How effectively that line of reasoning describes the way the US government has made its people into pariahs in the world. And so many of the people cheer for more of that same toxic regulation. Welcome to one of the unbankable nations of the world, where it’s almost a joke to call ourselves “the land of the free and home of the brave.” Yet we do. And day-by-day so many of us, so happily empower those who make us less free. Welcome to the United States of America circa 2017.

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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Slovaks Learn To Ballroom Dance Young

Vencek

December 5, 2017

Allan Stevo

On a whited-out December night in Bratislava, in an off-the-beaten-path part of town is a gathering of hundreds of parents and students celebrating what amounts to a dance-school graduation.

I walk through the doors of an old Dom Kultúry (click the link to learn more about a Dom Kultury) stopping first at an old coat check woman who’s worked two of these dances a year for time immemorial. This event is called a “Venček” and she knows them well. Leaving my coat and boots with her, I proceed deeper into the “Dom Kultúry,” beyond its heavy stone exterior, it’s heavy stone cloak room, its heavy stone foyer, past its heavy stone bathrooms. This building was built by the communists to be functional, not pretty.

Through a padded door, I begin to hear a tune that was likely most popular in this region 200 years ago, as ball room dancing grew in popularity, with nearby Vienna as the center of Europe, and the center of this popular trend of dancing not as a group, but face-to-face and intimately close. Along with much other criticism, this style of dancing was denounced as anti-social.

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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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If Guilt Is The Best You Have To Offer A Customer, You Probably Don’t Have That Much To Offer A Customer

December 5, 2017

Allan Stevo

“This item first appeared at Mises Institute on December 4, 2017.”

When I walk into Walmart I know I will be able to get a wide selection of products, I will be able to get them cheap, and I will be able to get them with very little customer support or hassle. When I want that, it feels great.. Fast, simple, cheap.

There is no guilt campaign from Walmart. There is no appeal to me about how bad of a person I am if I don’t shop at Walmart. There are no protestors outside my houses or outside other stores convincing me it is bad to shop anywhere but Walmart. When I step foot in a Walmart, I go there because that is exactly what I want. I go there because they are better than anyone else at providing for me as a consumer in the ways that Walmart is so proficient in providing for me.

When I shop at Amazon.com, I get a wide selection of goods, at a cheap price with both the ease and occasional difficulty that comes with shopping online. They do that better than anyone else. When I want that, it feels great to turn to Amazon and get that, and to get it exactly as I expected, and to, often enough, be surprised by an experience that is even better than what I expected..

There is no guilt campaign from Amazon, there are no protestors outside my houses convincing me it is bad to shop anywhere but Amazon. There are no online ads pointing out how immoral it is of me to shop anywhere that isn’t Amazon. I use Amazon because Amazon is exactly what I want at that moment.

This is in sharp contrast with the average “mom and pop” shops.

When I step foot into a local shop, all too often, I find nothing remotely of value to me. It is an unpleasant experience with an unhelpful, or sometimes even rude and unknowledgeable salesperson.

I don’t feel like I’m contributing to my community by shopping in such places. To the contrary, I hope most low value shops like that go out of business. The sooner they go out of business the better. By even being in existence they take up valuable real estate that can be used by others seeking to innovate the local space, to provide a better consumer experience, and to develop a better use for that local space.

Not only do I not feel guilty for not patronizing these mediocre local businesses, it makes me sad that they even exist. They are partially propped up by the guilt movement that encourages consumers to disregard all other benefits in favor of having the opportunity to shop locally, a movement I find misguided at best, more often ill-informed, and often enough willfully ignorant and therefore blatantly deceitful. The moral thing is to help bad local businesses go under by not patronizing them, and therefore helping to clean out that detritus that takes up valuable local brick and mortar space.

Confusing charity with shopping, confusing philanthropic activity with consumer activity benefits no one but the mediocre shop owner.

Shopping locally generally offers me only one added value – immediacy. I like shopping locally because it is nice to have an item that I want in my hand before I buy it so that I can look it over. It feels nice to have it in my hand ten minutes after I decide that I want it. Soon that will barely be an added value. With Amazon’s same day delivery, it is already barely more immediate to shop for most things locally. If one can restrain oneself for an hour or two and not have truly immediate gratification, then Amazon, all things considered provides a far more valuable shopping experience to me than a local mom and pop on virtually all products. Also, while a minor added value, it is visually appealing to have an active business district. I am sure I can rather quickly adapt to a business district concept that looks different than what I am used to.

When I happen to sit down at a friend’s or relative’s home where the television is on, especially at this holiday time of year, I hear public service announcements about how important it is to shop locally. I sometimes hear as many as one or two segments on each news broadcast that interject how important it is to shop locally.

This is practically mindless – this “shop locally” pronouncement. Guilt about not shopping locally and feeling good about the idea of shopping locally is practically the only value proposition offered by local stores. Instead the pronouncement should be “shop at good shops,” or “shop at shops that give you what you want and how you want it.”

In some places – and the places are thankfully becoming more common – walking into a local store truly is brilliant. The reason some locales have such high quality stores, is precisely because some people were so unwilling to shop locally.

Because competition has upped the level of difficulty required to run a store, and driven so many bad stores out of business, we are left with increasingly better stores that are increasingly customer focused. For a consumer, that is a great shift in local businesses. Businesses that don’t provide more local value than the guilt of “shop local” are becoming less common.

This is sadly not happening as quickly as it could. People stuck in an ideology, as thoughtless as any other ideology, profess that “buy local” is some sort of unchallengeable axiom, a fundamental, impossible to further elucidate truth that all people must profess and live by or otherwise are subject to moral condemnation.

Even in places like the bougie neighborhoods of Brooklyn that ideological attitude proliferates, along with its accompanying misguided moralism, rather than a constant pursuit of higher quality and higher customer satisfaction that pervades the free market and has led to so much development in quality of life over the past several hundred years of the industrial revolution.

In bougie neighborhoods of Brooklyn, how often I find myself noticing that every little boutique has 80% of the same crap as every other little boutique and with a 100% markup of what I could buy it for online, direct from the manufacturer, with free two day shipping. There is no value added in such a situation. It’s annoying to be a consumer in the midst of such mindlessness.. It’s annoying to see so many intelligent people willingly turn over their thought process to an ideology, even if it is something so seemingly insignificant as “buy local.”

While it may seem insignificant, since I care so much about where I live, it can be quite the impactful ideology to be surrounded by and with detrimental results.

I’d prefer that society start saying “stop shopping locally.” The competition is good for local stores – they have to be the best possible thing, the most desired thing to even survive in such an environment. I hate shopping locally most of the time, because most of the time shopping locally is a low value experience at a higher cost and less convenient.

When they are what I am looking for, I really like Amazon and big box stores like Walmart, and I resent that city governments across the US refuse to allow big box stores to exist within their city limits, making them all the harder to get to. That, in itself, is another “tax” on life in some big cities in America – you don’t get the savings of big box stores because you can’t shop at them and you don’t get the competitive environment they create among all businesses by you being able to shop at them when you desire.

Walmart has made the world a better place for consumers, as has Amazon. My money is better used by their existence in the world, my time is better used, and I’m more of a valued customer because of their existence in the world. Because I have more money, I can do more of what I most care about with my money.

The Walmart and the Amazons of the world came into the bush leagues and upped the competition to major league level. Of this, I am entirely grateful, and though I really like these companies and companies like them, I also look forward to the next generation of companies that squeeze the Walmarts and the Amazons of the world and perhaps even put them out of business. Of course the established entities in a place had the new destabilizing competition.. It’s great for the consumer.

I will feel no guilt at such a moment. Guilt does not bring me value as a consumer and it is of limited value to me as a person. I will focus on feeling good about the benefits of what life offers.

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: Mises.org

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The Most Magical Christmas Market In Europe

marketChristmas Market

November 30, 2017

Allan Stevo

“What’s to-day!” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.
“Eh?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.
“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.
“To-day!” replied the boy. “Why, Christmas Day.”
“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!”
“Hallo!” returned the boy.
“Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?” Scrooge inquired.
“I should hope I did,” replied the lad.
“An intelligent boy!” said Scrooge. “A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there?—Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?”
“What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy.
“What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge. “It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!”
“It’s hanging there now,” replied the boy.
“Is it?” said Scrooge. “Go and buy it.”
“Walk-er!” exclaimed the boy.
“No, no,” said Scrooge, “I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell ’em to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown!”
The boy was off like a shot. He must have had a steady hand at a trigger who could have got a shot off half so fast.

As a child, I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and couldn’t even imagine what the Christmastime market looked like where Scrooge sent the runner boy to get the prize turkey. It seemed a place of wonder.

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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.

Photo Credit: spectator.sme.sk

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Make One Of These Treats With A Loved One This Weekend

Christmas Market

November 28, 2017

Allan Stevo

In mid-November, the usual vendors are cleared out of the Main Square in Bratislava and carpenters spend a few days preparing it for its new seasonal look. They carefully lay out wooden foundations. Slowly over the next few days these foundations take shape and become the 100+ booths that will cover the Main Square and two adjacent squares for the next month. From these small booths, the citizens of Bratislava and all their visitors will buy the tastes of the season, the delicacies that characterize Central Europe at this time of year.

Vianočné trhy (or “Christmas markets”) the Slovaks call it, Christkindlmarkt say the Viennese, Karácsonyi vásár say the Hungarians of Budapest, and Vánoční trhy say the Czechs – words for the same thing – a big square filled with vendors selling delicacies of the season.

In Slovakia a Christmas market looks a little different than in the places mentioned above, but just like any other situation in Central Europe, traditions, foods, and happenings are not dependent on which side of a border you’re standing on. With little tweaks, you can’t be entirely sure whose city’s Christmas market you are in, only that you’re in Central Europe.

In Bratislava, the fact that it’s advent means that for the next three and a half weeks, text messages will pop up on your phone from friends you haven’t spoken to in months saying “let’s go for a varene vino at the Christmas Market tonight – 6ish?” And you’ll be excited to receive this message, because you were just wondering to yourself “should I stop by the Christmas Market at 6 or at 8 tonight?”

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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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I Always Respond Merry Christmas, 7 Reasons Why You Should Too

Merry Christmas

November 24, 2017

Allan Stevo

Living in a very specific American big city (New York) in a very specific industry (commercial real estate), a good percentage of the people I encounter in my day to day are not celebrants of Christmas. I understand the necessity of the phrase “happy holidays” in that situation for some people who want to say something nice but are too awkward to otherwise covey a message of religion without insulting.

I understand how uncomfortable discussions on religion can be if you make them that way. Everything can be at ease even on the complicated topic of religion if you allow them to be at ease. Sometimes I initiate “Happy Chanukah” to someone I know to be a practicing Jew. Sometimes I say happy holidays. Sometimes I say nothing in initiation – it’s easier to say nothing sometimes than to risk offending someone who walks through life looking for reasons to be offended.

Most of the people I encounter in my day to day are either a Christian celebrant of Christmas or a celebrant of secular Christmas. (1) As much as the two concepts may offend a member of the religious right, Secular Thanksgiving and Secular Christmas are realities in America, and healthy expressions of a culture that welcomes assimilation and the sincretic blending and shifting of a culture.(2)

If I am in Slovakia or virtually anywhere else in the U.S. or virtually anywhere else in the west Merry Christmas or its local equivalent gets the job done just fine.

Click here to keep reading I Always Respond Merry Christmas, 7 Reasons Why You Should Too

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: skyhdwallpaper.com

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Blekfrajdejuješ?

A shot from the filming of the movie "Czech Dream" or "Cesky Sen." | Photo: CzechFolks.comBlack Friday

November 23, 2017

Allan Stevo

I work with a Greek man who constantly reminds me that the prescriptive grammar rules of languages are put in place with the intention of controlling a society. Language, after all, is the operating system by which virtually all thought and a great deal of action is processed. The more you can control a language the more you can control the people using the language.

Language and Control
The French rejoice that a governmental organization (L’Académie française) controls their language to help keep it pure and inflexible. Grammar teachers the world over exhibit a constant lack of creativity by always looking at what is wrong with speech patterns instead of allowing for any combination of words that allows for communication.  The Greeks in response to Ottoman control came up with a form of Greek in which many words had secretive double-meanings allowing for communication that meant something entirely different to whatever it was that the Ottomans thought it meant.

Slovaks and Their Language
An aspect of Slovak culture that I love is the playfulness with which so many approach the language. There is correct and incorrect in Slovak. At the same time there are suffixes like -ič, -ik, or -ak used to shorten words and make them sound slang. A Bratislavčan (a citizen of Bratislava) can also be called a Blavak in less polite company, based on the word “Blava,” a slang term for Bratislava. Blava, as a Czech book I once read pointed out – sounds like the combination of the words for “mud” and “cows” – two words that are perhaps befitting the Pragocentric view of what Bratislava must look like. For more about my view on Pragocentrism or Blavocentrism please see these article on 52 Weeks in Slovakia.

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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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