Thursday, February 28, 2019

Jan Janský

Prof. MUDr. Jan Janský (3 April 1873 - 8 September 1921) discovered blood types.  He was born in Černošice and studied medicine in Prague at Charles University.  During WWI he served as a doctor on the front.  After the war he worked at a military hospital as a neuropsychiatrist.

As a researcher he tried to find a connection between mental diseases and blood diseases but he couldn't find any correlation between the two.  He published a study where he classified blood into four types (I, II, III. IV).  His work went more or less unnoticed but it went on to become the ABO Blood Group System.

In 1930, American Karl Landsteiner won the Nobel Prize for classifying blood into three groups.  But in 1921, the American Medical Commission acknowledged Janský's four-group classification over Landsteiner's.  I don't know why Landsteiner won the Nobel Prize but Janský's classification is still in use today except that now the groups are A, B, AB, and O.

Bronze, Silver, and Gold Janský Medals
Dr. Janský was a proponent of voluntary blood donation.  The Janský Medal is awarded to people for donating blood.  In Czechland, the Bronze medal is awarded for 10 donations, the Silver medal for 20 donations and the Gold medal for 40 donations.  Higher numbers of donations are awarded with eh Golden Cross of the Czech Red Cross (ČČK).

In Slovakia, the Slovak Red Cross awards plaques.  Women earn a Gold Plaque after 30 donations.  Nothing for men.  The Diamond Plaque is awarded to women after 60 donations and to men after 80 donations.

Tajemství krve, The Secret of Blood, is a 1953 Czechoslovak film about Janský's discovery.  Here's the movie trailer that I found out on YouTube.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Leoš Janáček

Leoš Janáček, (3 July 1854 - 12 August 1928) was a famous Czech composer who was inspired by Moravian and Slavic folk music and created his own original style.  He is considered one of the most important Czech composers.

Although he was born in Hukvaldy, Moravia, he is considered a local Brno boy.  In 1865 he became a ward of the Abbey of St. Tomáš in Brno.  In 1874 he enrolled at the Prague Organ School but after he graduated at the top of his class he returned to Brno in 1875 to be a music teacher.

He later studied at the both the Leipzig Conservatory and the Vienna Conservatory.  In 1881 he returned to Brno and married his wife, who just happened to have been one of his students in 1876 at the Brno Teachers Institute.  In 1881 he founded and became director of the Brno Organ School which later became the Brno Conservatory.

His opera Jenúfa premiered in Brno in 1904.  It is often referred to as the "Moravian national opera". The Cunning Little Vixen, Sinfonietta, and Glagolitic Mass are some of his most celebrated operas.

In 1925 he received the first honorary doctorate to be awarded by Brno's Masaryk University.

The Janáček Theatre in Brno is the largest theatre in Czechland and is named after him.  Since 2013, the theatre hosts Janáček Brno, an international opera and music festival.  The airport in Ostrava is also named after Janáček as well.  Here's a clip I found out on YouTube from his 1891 Adagio for orchestra performed by the Prague Chamber Orchestra.

Update 2022:  Here's a Czech-language video, with English subtitles that takes about Janáček and Brno.


Update 2023:  Here's a 14½-minute video, mostly in English, about Janáček from 2014.  Composer Jakub Hrůša talks shows parts of Brno associated with Janáček with Sinfonietta as the background music.

©Philharmonic Orchestra

Monday, February 25, 2019

Josef Čapek

Josef Čapek (23 March 1887 - April 1945) was a well known Czech artist.  He was best known as a painter but he was also a gifted writer and poet.  He even invented the word "robot" which his younger brother Karel Čapek introduced to literature.

Letadlo (1929)
He was born in Hronov in Bohemia.  As a painter he was from the Cubist school but eventually developed his own minimalist style.

He was critical of Hitler and the Nazis and he was arrested after the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939.  He died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.

His Povídání o Pejskovi a Kočičce (All about Doggie and Pussycat) collection of illustrated stories are considered by most to be classics of Czech children's literature.

Out on YouTube I found an animated version of Jak pejsek s kočičkou dělali dort (How Doggie and Pussycat Make a Cake).  It's entirely in Czech but it's not too difficult to figure out what's going on.

©Filmy Český a Zadarmo

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Český slavík

Český slavík is the Czech equivalent to an American Grammy Award.  It translates to "Czech Nightingale" and is awarded to recognise outstanding achievement in the Czech music industry.

In Czechoslovakia the Zlatý slavík (Golden Nightingale) was awarded from 1962 until 1991.  The Český slavík was established in 1996.  Since 1999 the award has been sponsored by Mattoni, the mineral water producer.

Unlike the Grammys, the award here is only given for four categories:  male singer, female singer, musical group, and absolute nightingale which I think is something like 'best new artist'.

From what I understand the award is prestigious but there's pretty much a monopoly on winning it.  Since 1996, Karel Gott and Lucie Bilá have each won it twenty times, and the group Kabát has won it 12 times.  I don't know what the judging criteria is but does seem odd that not a lot of people have had an opportunity to win.

In 2011, Gabriela Gunčíková won best new artist and Kryštof won best group in 2013.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

2019 Czech Eurovision Entry

Eurovision 2019 is coming up in a few months.  The Czechs starting competing again in Eurovision a few years ago and each year they continue to rank higher in the standings. Josef Mikolas placed 6th last year.

There were eight finalists this year all hoping to represent Czechland.

Andrea Holá - Give Me a Hint
Barbora Mochowa - True Colours
Hana Barbara - Poslední slova tobě (The Last Words to You)
Jakub Ondra - Space Sushi
Jara Vymer - On My Knees
Lake Malawi - Friend of a Friend
Tomáš Boček - Don't Know Why

I understand why, but it's still interesting to me that of the eight entries only one song is in Czech.  The other seven songs are all sung in English.  Here's a YouTube video with clips from each of the eight finalists.


A few weeks ago Česká Televize announced that Lake Malawi will represent Czechland at this year's competition in Israel.

Lake Malawi is an indie pop band from Třinec that formed in 2013.  The band consists of Albert Černý, Jeroným Šubrt, and Antonín Hrabal.  They only sing in English and their studio album Surrounded by Light was released in 2017.

Here's the full version of this year's entry, Friend of a Friend.
Update:  Lake Malawi came in 11th place.

Friday, February 15, 2019


I'm still working on getting my Czech up to the B1 level so that I can apply for Czech citizenship next year.  In order to improve my listening skills I've added some Czech music to my iPod.  One of my favourite Czech groups is Kryštof.

Kryštof is a pop rock/alternative band from Havířov.  The lead singer is Richard Krajčo.  He, along with Nikolaj Arichtev, Jarda Blahut, Bisi Arichtev and Pavel Studník formed the band in 1994.  Since then a few of the original band members have been replaced.

Their first album was Magnetické pole and was released in 2001.  Their 9th studio album, 25, was released in 2017.

I found their music while searching on YouTube.  I honestly don't know if they have superstar status here or not but they are popular with several of my friends.  In 2013 the group won the Český slavík (Czech Nightingale) award which is similar to an American Grammy Award.  Their songs have a good beat and the vocals are clear which provides me with good listening practice.

One of my favourite of their songs is Zůstaň tu se mono (Zy sny) "Stay Here With Me (For Dreams)".  Here's the music video and lyrics.


Zůstaň tu se mono (Zy sny)
Celý den, celou noc jsem mu psal
Že to nedopustím
On mlčel a já pak křičel asi
Že zapomíná na přesčasy
Že jsme tým - Ty a já, jen my dva
Že Tě neopustím
Ten zvací dopis
Co Ti poslal z dálky
Bez známky a bez obálky
Že jsem vzal, roztrhal, jako už tolikrát
Tak mi slib, že jsi tu
Že to nechceš vzdát
Budem se rvát, budeme řvát
Hrát nejlepší přátele
Čmárat si po tělech
Že jsme dva andělé
Budeme smích v peřejích
Jen zůstaň tu se mnou
Celý den, celou noc jsem mu psal
Že mu neodpustím
To nic, které mi doma zbylo
To ticho, co by se do stěn vrylo
A na to on, že to zná líp než já
Jenže co s tím?
Že každý máme svoji práci
A v téhle že se neuplácí
Já těm lžím nevěřím
A Ty se začneš smát
A tak vím, že jsi tu
Že to nechceš vzdát
Budem se rvát, budeme řvát
Hrát nejlepší přátele
Čmárat si

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Skleněný pokoj

It's finally happened.  The Glass Room, the awesome book by Simon Mawer, has been made in to a movie and it comes out in a few weeks.

Skleněný pokoj has an international cast and the move will be released in English.

Yesterday at Vila Tugendhut, there was a small exhibition showing some of the movie costumes.  The whole exhibition could be done in only 30 minutes but it was still interesting.

Here's the movie trailer that I found out on YouTube.  I really can't wait to see the movie.

Update:  I finally got around to seeing the movie.  Natalie was in town so it was only fitting to go see the film with her since she had loaded me the book.  Well, the cinematography and costuming were great.  The movie itself...meh.  It was OK but I left disappointed overall.  There were some significant liberties taken between the book and the film.  The book is way better.  

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Republic of Uzbekistan

I've wanted to visit Uzbekistan since I was 16 years old.  I read a magazine article about the Soviet Union and it talked about how Uzbekistan was home to camels and pineapples.  It sounded like such an exotic part of the USSR that it's been on my bucket list ever since.  The problem has been getting a visa.  All kinds of paperwork, two days off work to apply and pick up the visa from the Uzbek embassy in Prague or Vienna, plus a $160 fee for Americans.  Well there is now an e-visa and a 30 day visa is only $20 so I'm finally going to Uzbekistan.

The Republic of Uzbekistan is in Central Asia.  It is the only country that borders all of the other "Stans" - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.  It also shares a border with Afghanistan.  Along with Liechtenstein, it is one of only two double landlocked countries in the world.  It is a little bigger than California.

O'zbekiston is home to more than 32,7 million people.  A very young population.  In 2008, about 34% of the population was younger than 14.  The capital, and largest city is Tashkent.

The area was famous for the Silk Route that connected the Middle East with Europe, India, and China.  During the 19th century the area was conquered and incorporated in to the Russian Empire.  Following the Bolshevik Revolution it became the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic in 1924.  Following the break up of the USSR, it declared independence in 1991.

Uzbekistan is a presidential republic but a highly authoritarian one.  The first president held office from independence in 1991 until his death in 2016.  The former prime minister then took over.  Things are starting to open up a bit but it's hard to image that in 28 years there have only been two presidents.

Uzbek is the official language but Russian is commonly spoken as well.  In 1940, Soviet authorities mandated that Uzbek be written using the Cyrillic alphabet.  In 1993, the country switched back to using Latin script.  Apparently there is no language requirement to apply for Uzbek citizenship.  You hear that Czechland?!

Although a secular state, 88% of the population is Muslim, mostly Sunni.  About 9% are Eastern Orthodox.  As with most Muslim countries this is not a place to be gay.  Sex between two men is illegal and punishment ranges from a fine to up to three years in prison.

The currency is the Uzbek Som.  Currently 10.000 Som equals $1.05 or €0,95.  All of the guest houses that I've booked for my trip in September don't take cards and want to be paid in U.S. Dollars.  

The Czechs and Uzbeks are continuing to improve cooperation between the two countries.  There are currently about 13 Uzbek-Czech joint ventures in Uzbekistan.  More Czech companies are also opening offices in Uzbekistan particularly those in the food and and textile industries, the oil and gas sector and tourism.

Here's a short video I found out on YouTube talking about the country's geography challenges.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Czech Element Names

I've been here in Czechland going on ten years.  Ten years!?!?  Wow!  Ten years and I'm still trying to improve my Czech.  But at least I'm not studying chemistry over here.

Most of the names of chemical elements have their origin in Greek or Latin and the translated names in other languages are still pretty close to the original.  For example, H is the symbol for Hydrogen - the lightest element in the periodic table.  Most languages call it something similar to the English word "hydrogen".

Danish/Norwegian = hydrogen; French = hydrogène; Irish = hidrigin; Spanish = hidrógeno; Portuguese = hidrogênio; Turkish = hidrojen; Romanian = hidrogen; Italian = idrogeno; Basque = hidrogenoa; Albanian = hidrogjen; Greek = υδρογόνο; heck even in Hungarian it's hidrogén.  In German it's Wasserstoff but German is a whole other kind of crazy.

In Czechland "hydrogen" is vodík.

Apparently back in the 1820s to 1830s, Czech names were introduced for chemical elements and this has stuck.  I'm pretty sure that it's the same in Slovakia.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Don Carlos Premiere

Last night was the premiere of Don Carlos at the Janáček Theatre.

The music was composed by Giuseppe Verdi and the poet Friedrich Schiller.

Last night's performance was directed by Martin Glaser and it was absolutely brilliant.  I swear that the theatre scene in this city simply rocks.

Here's a short interview I found out on YouTube with some of the cast prior to the premiere.  It's only in Czech so if everything is not 100% understandable then you have a small glimpse in to what it's like for me here everyday.

©Info TV Brno a Jižní Morava