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
So let us take a look at today's edition and find out what is of
interest and importance to Hondurans.
On the front
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
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
'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!
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
would be all, folks!
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
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.
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.
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
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.
The great liberator Simón
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
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!
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.)
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
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.
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.)
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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**.
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
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.
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
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
January 23, 2004
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
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
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.
The Beast in
the Garden: A Modern Parable of Man and Nature
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
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
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
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.