February 28, 2004

La Prensa de Hoy


One good way to 'get inside' a foreign country is to read its print media. Now, a journey to Hungary or Finland might present problems, but many can work their way around a Spanish language newspaper. Here in Honduras the number one daily is La Prensa. So let us take a look at today's edition and find out what is of interest and importance to Hondurans.


On the front page is Cuban refugees land in La Ceiba. It seems a group of 14 Cuban fishermen spent one month at sea trying to get to Honduras. They said they would not return to Cuba, as they had heard good things about Honduras and wanted to stay there to find a better life than the one they had in Cuba. Now, I can well understand Cubans (or anyone) who wish to come to the USA however it can be arranged---by boat, airplane, life-raft, inner-tube, pogo-stick---but to Honduras? Please do not get me wrong, I very much like it here, but the quality of life here is...well, this is Honduras. Well now, just what does this desire of the Cuban fishermen say about Castro's socialist paradise? If Cubans prefer even Honduras to their own island...I mean, damn!


Can we stay?


On page 9 we find Evangelical Pastors Ask for Public Acceptance. It seems that Protestant Christianity---the Fundamentalist, conservative sort that is---is making great headway in Central America, especially in Guatemala. In Honduras it has run into some difficulty, however, especially from the Catholic Church which enjoys special privileges here. The Church is losing a few adherents, most of whom flee to the Evangelical churches. Now, do not get me wrong---no one can 'out-Catholic' me. I am as orthodox as the pope. I love the Church; I need the Church. But if some Hondurans (for reasons known only to God) can only find Salvation in another form of Christianity, then they should be able to do so without any troubles from anyone. After all, these Protestants are against all the right things: abortion, homosexual privileges, immorality and so on. They speak with authority and are remarkably strong-willed and dedicated to Christ. (Would that my faith were as strong as that of these Evangelicals.) More power to them. Better to be Protestant than to burn.


Can we pray?


On page 17 we find a public service announcement. It concerns Dengue Fever, for which there is neither treatment nor cure. There has been an outbreak of it here, especially its most virulent form. This plague is carried by mosquitoes, and this being Central America, these pests are ubiquitous. The announcement's headline reads She is no longer with us, below which is a photo of a beautiful seven-month old child named Blanca Lorena Almendarez. She will never see eight months, as she died of Dengue. The announcement reads "Dengue knows no special level of society or age, it only attacks and kills." Open letter to God from me: "Dear God: Why did You make mosquitoes?"


In the 'Living' section---yes, Honduran papers have these!---we find The Baths of Cleopatra. In the age-old desire of the female of the species to indulge itself in exotic beauty treatments---and what could be more exotic than Cleopatra's baths?---the article gives helpful tips about bathing with milk and with rice water.  It recommends using common kitchen spices to smear on the skin---stuff like olive oil, salt and lime juice to remove 'unwanted colors'. I do not know about you, but being around a woman who smells like some bizarre pesto sauce does not really appeal. Still, Cleopatra was known for having written a manual on cosmetics and for taking---how does one say it?---rather interesting baths. After all, she kept Julius Caesar and Marc Antony well and exotically entertained for years, so perhaps there is something to the article.


On page 41 we find in the 'International' section O'Donnell Marries in order to Defy Bush. There was a photo---blessedly small---of the remarkably fat and wholly unpleasant Rosie and her lesbian...um...'partner'. They seemed in high spirits with flowers in hand as Rosie bellowed into a microphone. She---she?--- was scowling mad---is she ever not so?---because Mr. Bush will support a constitutional amendment in favor of man-woman marriage rather than one of the myriad San Francisco varieties. So she 'married' her bosom buddy simply to irritate Mr. Bush, to let him know of her 'outrage'. Gee, call me old fashioned but does not one marry to express love and a desire to share a home and child-rearing? Why would one marry simply to make some stranger mad? Anyway, here is the grotesque couple in a yahoo photo on their way to wedded bliss and---one hopes---to Cleopatra's baths.


We're so gay!


I often wonder what Latin Americans think of all the perversion that exudes from El Norte: from Hollywood, from MTV, from Super bowl half-times, from San Francisco's streets, from Rosie O'Donnell's mouth, from Massachusetts judges, from Bill Clinton's antics. After all, Latins are remarkable for their stable and large families and strong and traditional values. But I wonder no more! On the 'Opinion' page we have...well, it speaks for itself.






And that would be all, folks!





December 28, 2003


Damn Yanquis

Many Latin American intellectual leftist types blame their counties' problems on the USA, "El Norte." But is this logical? What exists there---poverty, under-employment, corruption, political violence, illiteracy, lunatic economic dislocations, civil wars---existed long before the USA had any interest in the region. Indeed, most existed there before the US was even formed. In the words of those yanqui-blaming leftists' favorite poster boy hero and Castro lick-spittle Gabriel García Márquez: 

The immeasurable pain and violence of our history are the result of age-inequities and untold bitterness, and not a conspiracy plotted 3000 leagues from our shores.

You tell 'em, Gabby!


If the Latins wish to know the reasons for their problems, they could do no better than to look into a mirror.



Of course, the same goes  for Americans.  No Latin American told the USA to enslave millions of other human beings. No Latin American told the southern states to try and secede from the Union to keep those slaves in bondage. No Latin American told the US to elect in 1929 a busy-body genius  whose arrogance threw the nation into the Depression. No Latin American told the US to elect a dilletante Eastern blue-blood whose foreign policy ignorance drew the nation into WW II. No Latin American told the US to murder 40,000,000 babies after Roe v. Wade, nor did any tell her to treat marriage as a sodomite plaything. No Latin American told the US to `propogate a popular culture vulgar and crude in the extreme. No Latin American told the US to ruin her public schools, remove God from the public square or invade Vietnam. Americans did these all by their lonesomes.


And no Latin American told the US to elect and then re-elect Clinton. All the damage done in his eight years was entirely self-inflicted. We paid for it, we are still paying for it, the entire world must pay for the irresponsible antics of the Clinton administration. If you harbor any doubts about what sort of presidency he had, you need  simply see Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years by Rich Lowry. Lowry uses interviews with members of the Clinton administration as the primary source material for his book. The story they tell is devastating. 




Many Latins complain of the corruption that is and has been rife in their nation, but then they are quick to bribe a policeman if caught speeding. Where do they think  this corruption begins? Perhaps they should try the same thing in Texas. Yes, it is different in El Norte.



Since I am on a roll, why of course Americans caused all  troubles of Latin America! Why, those clever yanquis told Argentina to destroy its banking system and then to go through five presidents in less than a year, Brazil to concentrate all its land into a few (white) hands,  Peru to enslave its native population and keep them out of the nation's economy, Colombia to enjoy 150 years of civil war and then turn over one-third of its territory to a drug gang, Venezuelans to use their oil wealth to enrich a few and then elect Chavez, Ecuador to fight a series of losing wars with Peru, Mexico to slaughter ten percent of its population in ten years, Paraguay to fight a war with three other nations at once, Cubans to dance in the street at the success of Castro, Nicaraguans to cheer the Sandanistas, Bolivia to cripple its economy with strikes, Chile to elect Allende and Guatemala to murder 100,000 of its people. 


Those yanks also gave orders to every nation south of the Rio Grande to confiscate the wealth of their nations and  transfer it to a few white eltes, depreciate their currencies to the level of recycled paper, refuse to transfer land to those who owned none, turn over their universities to a coddled and spoiled socialist elite, stuff every ballot box, fight dozens of internecine wars since independence, murder whole generations of political leaders, assassinate their journalists, insure that their drinking water is contaminated with feces, beatify mass muderers such as Che and Castro, create the largest slums outside of India, write incredibly Byzantine constitutions which are then ignored, elect and re-elect and yet again re-elect the most corrupt political class outside of the Chinese Politburo, build legal systems that exist only on paper, fight 'dirty wars' where tens of thousands were tortured and killed in secret, make the phrases 'death squad' and 'the disappeared ones' known throughout the world, plant millions of acres of cocaine and form international crime syndicates, spend billions on weapons and then use them against their own people and keep all their ill-gotten gains in foreign banks.


Damn yanquis!




The great liberator Simón  Bolívar blamed no one but his fellows for their woes:    


I consider that, for us [Latin] America is ungovernable; whosoever works for the a revolution is plowing the sea; this country [Gran Colombia] will ineluctably fall into the hands of a mob gone wild, later again to fall under the domination of obscure small tyrants of every color and race; [We will  be] decimated by every kind of crime and exhausted by our cruel excesses.

He included some advice:

        The most sensible action to take in [Latin] America is to emigrate.



But if you really want to hear one of those America-hating Latin American leftist elite types really howl, just threaten to take away his American visa!





May 15, 2004




Yesterday I went to see Troy, the latest sword-and-sandal epic from Hollywood. It seems that our Babylon is trying to cash in on the recent popularity of these films, a rebirth begun by Gladiator. (In a similar vein, expect to see a whole lot of big budget Biblical epics as Hollywood types try to squeeze money out of the Passion craze.)


Almost from its beginning Hollywood saw the potential of bringing the ancient world back to life on the big screen. The challenges then and now were how to re-create civilizations long-dead and make them believable to movie goers. The limiting factors were technology and costs. After all, the only way to film a Roman epic was to re-build Rome, and this could not be done in a day. One of Hollywood's first attempts at this was a silent version of Ben-Hur (1927) with Ramon Novarro in the title role. Some 80 years later, the film remains an astounding piece of work that some believe surpasses even the 1959 remake in grandeur and technical excellence. 


The ensuing 40 years saw dozens of epics as movie directors plumbed the pages of the ancient historians and the Bible. The late 1950s brought Quo Vadis, The Robe, Spartacus and Ben-Hur,  all of which still delight. But audiences began to tire, and by the time of Cleopatra (1963)---a film noted for glorious excess, massive cost overruns and tabloid scandals---the money making potential in such films was gone. Audiences had moved on. (A similar fate befell the Western.)


Fast forward to 2000 and Gladiator. Director Ridley Scott took a huge gamble with this film, which became a box-office smash. Imitation being the most sincere form of flattery---and the quickest way to make the big bucks---Hollywood poured over long-forgotten scripts and story ideas. Troy is one of the results. It is stunning. It is beautiful. It is violent---like the Trojan War itself---and it is absolutely gorgeous.


It is loosely based on Homer's Iliad. The discrepancies might irritate a classical scholar, but then he probably does not make movies. Let's call it 'artistic license.' Keep in mind the place of the Iliad in the ancient Greek world. It served up a moral code, a guide to life for every proper Greek. What the Greek admired was far from our Christian ideal: cleverness, ruthlessness, martial skill, deception, loyalty to one's armed retainers and the ability to inflict violence and brutality and death when required. For this was the Mycenaean world, a place very much unlike own. Every man carried the law in his own sword hand, for it existed nowhere else. Men were naturally violent for theirs was a violent world. Kings were little more than tribal chieftains whose nobles commanded the loyalty of hundreds of their own men at arms. War and piracy were the economic foundations of Homer's world. The Trojan War (c. 1200 BC?) was in reality a trade war for control of the Eastern Mediterranean. Perhaps it did last for ten years as the Greeks believed. 


Homer's tale served as a basis for much of classical Greek literature. Sophocles and Aeschylus and all the rest found Homer a veritable gold mine of ideas. Every Greek boy knew by heart the stories of Troy and Achilles and Odysseus and Helen. Homer's influence has carried on to this day and his epics are still read even in US public schools. The directors of Troy counted on this to make their movie understood to us moderns. While the Iliad only concerns itself with a few weeks of the war, Troy begins at the stealing away of Helen by Paris and the subsequent war in its entirety. Ten years are thus cascaded into a few weeks which of course increases the dramatic impact of the movie. Left out were Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia to the god of the winds, an event in itself that has served as the plot for a number of films, the best being Iphigenia (1977). Unlike the Iliad the movie ignores the gods who appear on every page of Homer and instead focuses entirely upon the human characters: upon Achilles, Agamemnon, Odysseus, Hector, Paris and all the rest. There is no deus ex machina in this movie, and the men and women here are clearly in control---as much as they can be according to their talents and weaknesses---of their own fates.


Computer generated images do for Troy what they did for Gladiator: they recreate a long-vanished civilization that warms the hearts of all fans of the ancient world. But these are not the center of the movie, the humans are. As in Gladiator the special effects serve as backdrop to the drama of war and violence, they are not the stars. (This is so unlike the childish Star Wars saga, where the actors exist only as stage props.) Troy leads us across the divide between fantasy and reality. One becomes lost in a world 3200 years dead.


As in Homer, Troy presents the battle between Hector and Achilles as the center of the tale. Never have I seen such a contest. The choreography stuns and amazes, even though we already know the outcome. This fight alone is worth the price of the movie many times over.


As I said, the film---like the world it brings back to life---is violent. It is about men who are rewarded for their prowess as killers. We moderns pretend we no longer need such men, but we fool ourselves. Every civilization needs them, though certainly not in the numbers demanded in the Mycenaean world---not now anyway. For that at least we can be glad.






June 23, 2004

 Troy Redux

I read a lot---about one book every week. Sometimes the books are what we call 'light reading'---Dr. Laura, for example. But usually the reading is pretty heavy: History, Theology, Politics and their like. Such books are written most often by pointy-headed intellectual types, and they are smart fellows the lot of them. But they also can be just jack-ass stupid. Holding down a job at Harvard, publishing one unreadable book a year, speaking several dead languages and possessing myriad PhDs are no guarantees of smarts. Witness the number of clever fellows who predicted this-and-that for Iraq or Afghanistan or the War on Terror---the Sidney Blumenthals, the Noam Chomskys, the Howard Zinns and so on: all wrong, all goofy, all embarrassingly misguided and uninformed. As far as the Iraq war goes, I get better information from my ex-students who are with the US military there than from the pages of the New York Times---far better, in fact.

I read one of these pointy-headed types recently here. The column was titled "Troy's Literary Offences"---a take-off on Mark Twain's hilarious essay on James Fennimore Cooper. It was written by Bruce Thornton, a professor of Classics at Cal State Fresno, author of a plethora of books on the Ancient world, and on and on. You see, he did not like the movie Troy. Fair enough, though I loved the film---see above. But his reasons for not liking Troy are silly ones. His distaste shows the pomposity of our puffed-up professoriate in all its illogical glory. The good professor writes

As a movie, Troy is okay. The fighting is fun, and the scenes with the ships arriving and those showing us the city of Troy are convincingly real. But as an interpretation of Homer's Iliad, the movie is an abomination. Everything significant and interesting about Homer and his characters has been eliminated, leaving behind a predictable melodrama.

Now hold on, doc. You admit that Troy is OK---as a movie. (Hmm...a good thing, considering that it is a movie.) But then you slam it for not being a piece of literary criticism---and so you descend into silliness. The movie says right at the beginning that it is 'based on Homer's Iliad.' It makes no claim to being Homer's work put to film or to following Homer with exactitude. The good doctor continues with advice on filmmaking:

The first mistake the film-makers made was to ignore what the Roman poet Horace told us was one of Homer's great insights: to start the story in medias res, in the "middle of things," rather than going back to the beginning. In this way Homer concentrates all his dramatic force on the key characters and the most important event of the war, the death of Hector and the events leading up to it. Troy, on the other hand, dissipates the drama by going back in time to the beginning of Paris and Helen's affair, and forward to the sack of Troy, losing that dramatic concentration and power.

Memo to Bruce Thornton: Look professor, the film is what is called a historical epic---like Ben-Hur, Quo Vadis, Cleopatra and so on. These things educate in their own way for sure, but their primary purpose is to entertain so as to generate a big box office take. That's it. They were not made to satisfy the over-educated vanity of a bunch of book-bound PhDs. Your criticisms are off-base. Get your snout out of the library once in a while to check out what the masses enjoy seeing when they go to a movie. What do you think pal, that maybe one who sees Troy just might one day be inspired to take one of your classes? or to read Homer? or that the movie can actually lead one to a greater knowledge of the Ancient world? Lighten up buddy, and stop being such a pretentious, pompous a**.




December 31, 2003

New Year Predictions

Writers---the Good, the Bad and the Ugly---have a habit around this time of reviewing the past year and making predictions about the coming one. I will do the same. First a review of le temps perdu.

I am not the type who wishes to repeat moments gone by. For one, I would never---never---want a return to my childhood. (And my high school years are best forgotten.) Getting to be one-half of a century old without death surprising me or a prison holding me has been tough enough. Besides, I like getting older and the experience and wisdom that comes with it---make that, should come with it. This year has been likewise. I would not wish to repeat it, though what I have lived through since the end of June has been nothing short of remarkable. God made it so, and kept me alive. Surely He is cooking something up, but so far there has been only hints of what is to come and how I am to serve Him in 2004. Stay tuned.

Now for the easy part, predicting 2004. In no particular order of importance (and at the risk of looking like a jackass come next year):

Bush will win re-election in a landslide. The economy has been raging---it added one trillion dollars to its GDP these past months---and unemployment is dropping steadily. The War on Terror is being won all over the globe, and even France and Germany and the rest of the Weasels are getting on board. Americans like and trust Bush though he drives pointy-headed elites in the US and Europe wild with envy and hatred.

The Democrat Party will continue on its path to self-destruction. We are seeing sort of a repeat of 1980 when Carter lost to Reagan, of 1984 when Reagan won all states save for Wisconsin, and of 1972 when McGovern was wiped out by Nixon. The Democrats are on the verge of nominating the absolutely unelectable Howard Dean. He has no program other than Bush-hating, and he has a dirty mouth to boot. The Democrats are little more then a bunch of competing interest groups--- sodomites,  teachers, affirmative action lovers, and so on. The party has lost the South, most white males, most of the white females, most of the central states, probably California and Pennsylvania and are on the verge of losing much of the once reliably Democrat black and Latin vote. The Democrat Party holds conservative Christian ---many black and Latins are such, recall---in contempt and  completely misunderstands the hold Christianity has on Americans. The Democrats have no chance, which is why they pander to their most bizarre and perverse leftist elements. Their convention will be a circus, and an entertaining one as well---proving once again that God has a sense of humor.

There will be war with Iran and Syria. For those of you who have been paying attention, the war on terror now has an established base smack dab in the middle of a very rough neighborhood, in Iraq to be precise. It borders both Iran and Syria. These terror regimes cannot be allowed to continue as they are or the war will be lost. Both sponsor world-wide terror, murder Jews where they can find them and spread WMDs throughout the globe. They must and will fall. Bush has been as clear on this as he has on everything else. To stop now with Iraq would be like stopping WW II after D-Day. Think strategically, please.

The `Culture Wars´ in the US will continue. The great issues of war and morality will continue to divide Americans, but not as wide as the media elites would have you think. Sodomite marriage, for example, is opposed by 70 per cent of Americans, as are most abortions---and both issues are supported by most of the Democrat Party`s power base. The tension between the Red States (Bush supporters) and Blue States (Gore supporters) will continue, but with the advantage going to the Red. It could not be otherwise, for the Red has gun owners, the military, most of the police, all of the South and conservative religious types. The Blue has...what? Hillary, Bill, Ted Kennedy, Dan Rather, Hollywood, San Francisco bartenders and Michael Jackson?  Memo to Blue States: You lose. All of which leads to...

There will be a second Great Awakening in the US. America is becoming more conservative however one looks at the data. More and more high school kids are against abortion, favor sexual abstinence, and are coming out against the use of drugs. Most favor the military and think Bush---High Noon cowboy and all---is cool. The aging 60s generation is either dead, in prison or at the verge of retirement. Church attendance among conservative and orthodox groups is skyrocketing, even as the liberal ones---Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian---are losing members to the Baptists, Evangelicals and (orthodox) Catholics. The message is that Americans are taking things doctrinal and supernatural more and more seriously.

Palestinians will continue to murder Israeli schoolchildren. This is a no-brainer. These monsters have no other program other than the killing of Jews.

Short takes (it is getting toward Miller Time): Pakistan`s Musharraf will be assassinated (pay attention to this potential world-shaker); Arafat will at last be brought to justice---of one type or another; NATO`s center will move east to Poland; Colin Powell will retire; North Korea  will implode leading to an astronomical refugee problem for China and South Korea; the US military will add several new divisions; India and Israel will greatly strengthen their military and political ties, American high school students will take to blogging in a big way.

Now what should happen: Castro dies and takes Chavez with him, the UN disbands or moves to Paris, the EU disintegrates, Pope John Paul II hangs in there,  the Catholic Church excommunicates most of the Jesuits, China becomes a Christian nation, Saddam keeps his long-waited appointment with the electric chair, I get a job.




January 23, 2004

Wild Things

The jungles I traverse are wild places. There are animals there who will hunt you and eat you. If you are careless or ignorant or unlucky, you are fair game. After all, the jungle is, well, savage---and that is its charm. If it were not, why would I go? The most dangerous beast there is the mountain lion. It is called puma and tiger and panther, but by whatever name it goes it is a killer. I have written about this before here.

Backpacking in parts of the US has its share of terrors as well. Bears come to mind, but the mountain lion is making murdrous inroads into populated areas all over the nation. How did this happen? There were many warnings. In Boulder, for example

Numerous homeowners saw lions in their yards, dogs were maimed or eaten and a girl was attcked... but people beleived that they could coexist peacefully with the lions...Even after Scott Lancaster,  the Idaho Springs jogger, was killed, area residents refused to endorse killing the big cats that moved into their neighborhoods.

Call it the ´Bambi Syndrome', where wilderness and its inhabitants are romanticized and Lion Kinged.

Government-sponsored cougar hunting ended, bounties were removed, and cougars started to make a comeback...As cougars, their fear of humans having dissipated after years of not being hunted, moved into semiurban areas bursting with deer, they acclimated to human beings. People were no longer scary and, after a while, started to look like food.

According to The Beast in the Garden: A Modern Parable of Man and Nature by David Baron

Scientists and outdoorsmen began to warn of danger, but they were ignored by both the Boulder public  -- which was sentimentally attached to the idea of free-roaming wildlife -- and state wildlife-protection bureaucrats, who downplayed first the presence, and then the danger, posed by the cougars. Dogs and cats started being eaten, cougars started threatening people, and yet meetings on the subject were dominated by people who "came to speak for the cougars"...In the end, of course, people started to be eaten...Some people, apparently, would rather be dinner than face up to the fact that nature is red in tooth and claw, and that -- in this fallen world, at least -- the lion lies down with the lamb only after the lamb's neck is broken.


I had many a conversation with my students about the risks involved with backpacking both in the US and in Latin America. I told them that if I were to go where bears or cougars roam, that I would be suitably armed. In Latin America, however, I cannot do so: except for a short time while in the Paraguayan Chaco, I have not carried a firearm. Why? The difficulties involved in transporting a gun from nation to nation are formidable and, for me, out of the question. I have to arm myself with luck, knowledge and Christ. So far so good.


But what excuse do Americans have? I have ever been amazed as how blithe are those backpackers who venture out into cougar and bear country armed with little more than a Swiss army knife and half-baked animal lore. These types will give all sorts of advice on how to deal with bears---play dead; no, run away; make noise; no, be quiet; back away; no, confront the bear; climb a tree; no, bears climb too; use pepper spray; no, blow a whistle; run downhill; no, run uphill---and so on. Sometimes one of these will work. And if it does not? Read this for those times that it did not. Well then, what works? What will save your life every time when you encounter a bear that will not be placated? Here is what one Alaskan---himself no stranger to living among wild animals---says:


Always take a firearm into the woods that can bring down the biggest animal that lives there.


Good advice I think. And how do deal with cougars? Recall that they will actually track you. Same advice. A 12-guage with a deer slug will bring down any land animal. For a lion, a good pistol will work fine---but make mine a Glock .45. This will also work  against  all but the biggest Grizzly or Kodiak. (And any critter that thinks me a meal will become a nice rug in front of my fireplace.)


Here is an excerpt from a Los Angeles Times piece by Alaska resident Karl Francis. It appeared January 19, 2004, under the title Walk Softly and Carry a Big Gun.

I am puzzled now by the strange way people here are dealing with mountain lions  — which is to say, letting them kill you.Nature killing people is no big deal for Alaskans. That's the way things are in Alaska. When you step out into it, you are at risk. If you are wise, you prepare for it. Alaska does not suffer fools. It eats them.

It also eats people who are not fools, those who prepare well and try their best to stay alive. I have lost too many close friends to her, sensible folks who came up against something too tough to handle. Our stories of untimely death are endless, and I will not burden you with them.

In case you think otherwise, polar bears hunt people down and eat them. I love bears, and not just to eat. I used to study them. I have friends who have spent all their professional lives studying them. You can't spend time around bears and not admire them. But none of us go into bear country without the means to protect ourselves.

I don't know much about big cats. We don't have them in Alaska, and the few I have encountered southward  were pretty spooky. They are elegant creatures, and I do respect them. I do not go where  they are without the means to protect myself. And I keep my eyes peeled. It is in my genes  not to be eaten by bears, large cats or anything else.

Why would anyone go into mountain lion country without the means to protect themselves  from attack? I notice the police are armed. The wardens and rangers are armed. Indeed, anyone with any clue where they are would be armed.

Mother Nature is a bitch with no pity. Her children are 'red in tooth and claw'. You ignore this at your peril---and that of your children.






March 1, 2004


I am in Granada, Nicaragua on the shore of Lake Nicaragua. Surprised again am I by the Internet takeover of Central America. The place where I am now working has a superb connection---faster than the one I had in Argentina---and has the software I need to write on my web. So, the addiction gets fed today.


Granada is a colonial gem, the finest example of it in this country---which of course says not a lot as this is Nicaragua. Nicaragua went through so many years of revolution, counter-revolution and civil war---not to mention terrifying earthquakes and volcanic eruptions---that hardly a building has escaped some type of destruction---except here, more or less, and the island of Ometepe. Now Granada is experiencing a tourist renaissance of sorts, as foreigners flock here. An entire host of things have sprung up to satisfy them: hotels---not nearly enough---cool little coffeehouses---all of which offer the superb Nicaraguan coffee (I am in java Heaven)---and regular boat service across the lake to Ometepe.


The place is hip for sure, in the same way that Antigua, Guatemala is hip---and to tell the truth, Nicaragua tries very hard to be so. My first visit here was in 1983 during the Sandinista era. The 'revolution without frontiers' was in full force then. Young Sandinista soldiers were everywhere, with a cool Chè-type swagger and brandishing AK-47s. (Posters of the Argentine revolutionary are still all about.) Because the Sandinistas openly and brazenly allied themselves with Cuba they earned the unwelcome attention of the US. Thus, the Contras, more war and so on. But international leftist-types---all those feather-brained coeds and skinny chested sociology majors and bearded philosophy professors and itinerant campus rabble-rousers---poured into Nicaragua to give that nation their support, such as it was.


What they mainly did was to join 'international coffee brigades' whose organizers herded all that leftist flotsam to coffee plantations that had a dearth of workers. (The workers were in the Sandinista army.) So off to work they went, with shovels in the air and singing the Internationale, these 'sandalistas'. After a few weeks of real work these saviors of the world would head back to the air-conditioned  and pampered comfort of campus life in the USA, there to regale the ignorant and silly with tales of daring-do and heroism in protecting Nicaragua from the evils of American imperialism. At any rate a stint in the brigades seemed a great way to pick up college chicks. (And there was a rumor going about that the brigades were a good place for American co-eds to rid themselves of their virginity, but I have been unable to verify this.)


I met scads of these touchy-feely leftist creepy-crawlers both during my travels to Nicaragua and while in college. Odd, those who were in the US were bombastic, shrill, loud---all long-haired and finger pointing. The 'sandalistas' I met in Nicaragua were a different breed. We would often debate the politics of Ronald Reagan and Daniel Ortega over (many) beers---this beverage being one of the international languages for sure. Usually we ended up laughing, I by accusing my opponents of communism, they by accusing me of being in the CIA. (To put it briefly, I was right and they were wrong.) Anyway, the beer was good, the conversation refreshing and the experience better than any Political Science seminar.


Those days are long gone now, replaced by Internet cafes and myriad restaurants, and those ex-sandalistas, now a bit gone to seed, drive SUVs and carry American Express cards. The beer here is still cold, however, so all is certainly not lost. Last night I was sitting at a table with a Canadian and an Australian---all of our countries being former members of the British Empire, by the way---when we all marveled at the quality of cuisine to be had in this once Sandinista socialist workers paradise. And we were not oblivious to the beauty of Nicaraguan women either. (They got prettier and we got handsomer the more beer we drank, but this happens anywhere.)


I think I will hang out here until tomorrow at least. Then, probably off to Rivas and San Jorge, from where there are several daily boats to Ometepe.





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