Sunday, December 27, 2009

Czech Wounds Still Open, Communists Face a Ban

There is a movement afoot, as documented in this New York Times article (click on my title to read it), to ban the Communist party in the Czech Republic. I'm surprised. It seems so undemocratic. And dangerous. Anytime something is banned it creates more curiosity for it.

It seems to me the healthiest thing for Czechs would be to see the people vote out the Communists out on their own merits. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Czech Republic, the only country where communists were voted 'in' by the people? Wouldn't it be a much more powerful statement for them to be voted out?

Czech people, I would like to suggest you shouldn't be embarrassed that the Commies are still getting votes. We in America have our own embarrassments. For example, former Vice President Dick Cheney during his time in office, literally changed the nature of American democracy to a darker, less admirable, republic.

Today the former Vice President constantly criticizes how Barack Obama is running the country. It's important for Dick Cheney's ideas to be aired and for him and his supporters to see and feel how little they resonate with their fellow citizens. It's healthy for us to listen to him too and see if we agree. I don't agree.

If the Commies are still getting votes, maybe you haven't done a good enough job educating young people to their crimes. Or maybe the people voting for the Commies don't feel any connection with the offerings of everyone else. Or maybe you aren't showing the people who vote for them the opportunities brought about by other systems. Or maybe voting for the Commies isn't socially incorrect (like smoking in America).

I have to admit, if I met someone who voted for the Communists, my first thought would be this is someone who is "unwilling to compete...someone who believes in economic Santa Claus....someone who is willing to be enslaved merely for cheap bread." Wow, I guess i have an opinion on that. But that's what I mean: by voting for Communists, it would be like a mark of static mental poverty. Why not just deem it socially unacceptable?

Banning them seems like a lack of confidence in the ideas of the opposition. It's your challenge, Czech people. What can you offer that competes politically?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

American Mistletoe Growers are Leaving Money on the Table

Glorious Czech mistletoe
on display

One of the Czech Christmas traditions I fell in love with was the way Czechs hang their version of mistletoe. "What do you mean 'their version?'" you might ask. Well, the Czechs have very different mistletoe than Americans. I don't know how that's possible. A plant should be similar everywhere, right?

Mistletoe for sale
in the open air Christmas markets.

You can buy it in it's natural state
or flocked with silver or gold.

American mistletoe, which I have probably purchased once in my life, is, in a word, wimpy. It comes prepackaged in plastic and forms a forgetable round ball about the size of your fist. Most mistletoe is usually purchased for the giggles when it is strategically hung somewhere with young people such as a sorority. It is not a must-buy Christmas tradition for every household and business in the United States. Quick, American readers, tell me exactly where you saw mistletoe for sale in your community. I bet you didn't run across it without asking for it. In the Czech Republic, it's sold everywhere and it's displayed everywhere.

Mistletoe is purchased by all ages.

So I have an idea for American mistletoe growers. You are welcome to take it. I have no intention of using it. I do not aspire to be the American mistletoe maven. All I ask is, if you decide to implement this idea, do something nice for Czech people like start a scholarship fund for Czech students to come to America and study. Heck, maybe this isn't even an idea for Americans, but for Czech businesspeople looking to export.

Fresh mistletoe waiting to be cut
on the roof of a Christmas market booth.

Someone needs to sell this kind of mistletoe in America. I saw it displayed all over Prague in homes and businesses alike, usually hung on the wall with a big fat red ribbon. It was so beautiful. And I could tell, that for Czechs, there was an emotional response and a tradition far beyond mere giggles. This represents beauty, home, tradition. I often saw it displayed in places where Americans would display a traditional wreath. How much money could be made if mistletoe growers captures just 20% of the wreath space in America and supplanted it with mistletoe? Wreaths are nice. Yawn. But I bet America would respond to someone shaking it up a little.

I'm here to serve. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Inside Milos Forman's Connecticut Home

Milos Foreman

Milos Forman has been "at the top of the heap" in not one, but two, countries. One loss for American society is that with the end of Communism, great talents like Forman no longer "need" to come to America because they're unappreciated by governments at home. As I said, our loss.

The very first Czech movie I saw was "The Fireman's Ball." It's a hoot. Foreman made the movie in 1967 using real fireman. Legend has it, he and a bunch of colleagues were in a small town and went to a volunteer fire department's dance as a diversion. It was such a disaster, Foreman and his friends couldn't stop talking about it afterwards and decided to make it into a movie.

I've always meant to rewatch his American film "Amadeus" now that I've seen the Estates Theatre in Prague, the filming location. "Amadeus" was the movie that first gave Americans some hint of Prague's charms. Although, is the city portrayed as Prague in the movie or Vienna? I can't remember. I just remember thinking, wherever that is, I want to go there. Click on my title to read about Milos Foreman's success in America.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Prague, One Pint at a Time

One of the easiest things to do in the Czech Republic is become a beer snob. It even happened to me - somebody who previously had a beer every couple of years. The New York Times' Evan Rail celebrates the variety of craft beer available throughout Prague in this article readable by clicking on my title. My only question for Evan is shouldn't it read "Prague, one half-liter at a time?"
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