The Sahara: unwelcoming refuge to survivors and dreamers and outcasts
As much as I might like to, I will never travel across the Sahara desert.
It soun...moreThe Sahara: unwelcoming refuge to survivors and dreamers and outcasts
As much as I might like to, I will never travel across the Sahara desert.
It sounds beautiful and amazing and romantic and inspiringly desolate, but I will never willingly submit myself to 120 degree temperatures unless I’m wearing a fully air-conditioned suit of clothes AND I’m riding inside a fully air-conditioned car that can’t ever break down. And that car would need a mini-bar. Other reasons I probably won’t visit the Sahara: I don’t want to entertain the possibility of ever having to drink radiator fluid, or worse, just to avoid death from dehydration, and I’m not crazy about goat stew.
For those reasons and more, I’m glad William Langewiesche allows readers to accompany him on his epic journey across a desert as large as the continental United States. Sahara Unveiled is a wonderful book that meanders through the politics, geography, flora and fauna and history of the Sahara, and its people. It is deceptively spare, empty almost, as if conscious of -- or at least appropriately influenced by -- the desert he writes about. But it rewards patience with a slowly-building appreciation of the Sahara and all who live in it and pass through it: the survivors and the dreamers and the outcasts.
Langewiesche is either a very talented writer, or a very interesting thinker able to accurately record his keen insights about people and the natural world around him. Or maybe both. As a result, the book reads as if out of time, reminiscent of the works produced by all the mad, classically educated and perpetually wandering, perpetually bemused Englishmen of a hundred years ago, only it’s fully modern.
He almost died on his journey, and tries hard to never romanticize the desert (which of course has the opposite effect), carefully recounting the stories of some (many) who died along the way. The horrific demise of the Belgian family stands out as a stark reminder of why I, personally, won’t be making the trek.
Along the way, like the oases he describes (point of fact: they aren’t shimmering mirages lined by palm trees, but rather more often ramshackle villages of abject poverty built around life-sustaining wells) he intersperses his own baking hot journey with illuminating detours into a variety of engaging topics: how sand dunes form (for much more on this subject, check out Sand: The Never-Ending Story), the care and feeding of scorpions (and French lovers, for that matter), how to grow date trees, the history of shifting tribal and alliances and geopolitical forces, ancient myths and fables of the residents and more.
It is a hot, dusty and rewarding trek and I learned much, but I was constantly irritated by the description of how women are treated. He handles the topic with grace and allows readers to arrive at their own conclusions.
Sahara Unveiled made it to my list of all time favorites. And, though I’ve already established I will likely never, ever journey to the Sahara, or to the surface of the sun, I would love to see the 400,000 (!) Neolithic paintings at the Tassili plateau.(less)
Mirroring the subject matter, the search for gold, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a glittering masterpiece appropriately hidden under the dust of...moreMirroring the subject matter, the search for gold, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a glittering masterpiece appropriately hidden under the dust of history and shifting literary layers filled with nuggets of brilliance that flash and then recede.
One layer is the landscape of the Sierra Madre mountains and he does an admirable job of capturing the physical characteristics of this remote, forbidden area to the extent a glass of cold water helps ease the reading.
Another layer is of Mexico itself, and Traven captures the complexities of life and the attributes of the people – from peasants to dons, from rough necks to the down and out. It was an interesting period and he presents it in a rich, vibrant and respectful way. The detours into the myths of hidden mines and actions of greedy landowners and noblemen and women, set against the actions of wise natives unmoved by the earthly riches is fascinating, and plays well into another favored layer: economic systems.
Traven was clearly influenced by Bolshevism which was setting the world on fire at the time, and his discussion of the oil boom and mining was illuminating. This greed of individuals, magnified into the political systems they create, was fascinating, In fact, only the soldiers willing to execute bandits came off as remotely sympathetic.
The most notable layer had to do with human nature. Howard, Curtin and Dobbs become locked in an uneasy symmetry in which the stress of the mining, the harsh climate and the prospect of fabulous wealth intensified all of their worst tendencies. Especially for the Dobbs, the stress was too much and the thought of personal advancement at all costs became all consuming.
Many have seen the movie and while it remains true to the book in its brutal portrayal of human greed and shortcomings, of morality laid bare, the novel is a so much richer. Although there remain questions of who B. Traven was, one thing is clear: he was a very talented writer.
The most satisfying part of the read is finding those seemingly casual gems tossed in among the shifting layers that surface a new, rich vein of thoughts. “the companionship which they had to endure had become the source of their troubles…”
I was reminded No Exit, written later by Sartre, in which hell is other people. In the Treasure of The Sierra Madre, the harsh, sun-baked hell and the promise of individual wealth increase the torment tenfold. And there were no machetes or cruel bandits in No Exit. (less)
“The surface is everything, below that there is nothing.”
That’s a quote from Llewellyn Powys, younger brother of better known writer John Cowper Powys...more“The surface is everything, below that there is nothing.”
That’s a quote from Llewellyn Powys, younger brother of better known writer John Cowper Powys (Porius, which is on my 2014 reading list). Llewellyn is just one of the many writers and thinkers, most of them obscure (oh, to spend some time in John Gray’s library), profiled and sampled and pressed into something new and original and wonderful: The Silence of Animals, on Progress and other Modern Myths.
I love this book. To be fair, I’m a huge John Gray fan, so I pretty much knew I was going to love it from the outset. I was right. By using the lives and words of others to build his arguments and illuminate his world view, Gray creates a haunting, moving dreamscape of thought, a ghostly fortress of logic, that carries readers along to his inescapable conclusions: progress is a myth, humans are animals (and unexceptional animals at that) and we do ourselves a disservice by hiding behind religion and other myths which prevent us from just being … and therefore being happy.
It’s not for everyone. If you enjoy having your belief systems shaken like a martini, or relish in seeing atheism called into question for falling short of the mark, or wonder if faith in science and progress is really just the recycled and misguided faith of the religious, this short, epic, sad, funny, tragic, exasperating, ultimately uplifting book is for you.
Some of my favorite lines:
“According to some historians, inequality in America at the start of the twenty-first century is greater than in the slave-based economy of imperial Rome in the second century. Of course there are differences. Contemporary America is probably less stable than imperial Rome.”
“Denying reality in order to preserve a view of the world is not a practice confined to cults. Cognitive dissonance is the normal human condition.”
“If there is anything unique about the human animal it is that it has the ability to grow knowledge at an accelerating rate while being chronically incapable of learning from experience.”
“A type of atheism that refused to revere humanity would be a genuine advance.”
“If you admit your need for silence, you accept that much of your life has been an exercise in distraction.”
“Every sentient being is a world-maker.”
Don’t be fooled by the slender nature of the book, it’s packed with enough insights and a-ha moments to remake a dozen worlds, but certainly (hopefully) not in our own image. After all, “there is no redemption from being human. But no redemption is needed.”
Gray urges us to look past our mistaken belief in exceptionalism, and past our mistaken certainty that things will get better in some mythical afterlife or in some mythical, distant and never-realized point in the future when science and society finally amend away the bad habits that prevent a utopian existence. The secret, he thinks — and I agree — is that those bad habits, and the good ones, ARE us. Always looking to the future prevents us from living fully here and now. Better to understand who we are than to dream impotently about who we could or should be.
A side note: for someone who so ably and vigorously denies the existence of meaning outside of our own existence, his use of and reliance on literature stretching back to early Greek philosophers creates a sort of enveloping sense of meaning that exists outside of and above our own miserable, glorious meaningless lives — art. (less)
Ever wonder what’s going on in your brain while you are busy strolling around saying funny stuff and thinking big, important...moreWho's driving this thing?
Ever wonder what’s going on in your brain while you are busy strolling around saying funny stuff and thinking big, important things? Turns out, a whole lot. There’s an entire world of unconscious activity hidden just below the surface. If conscious thought is like a speedboat you pilot across the surface of the ocean(cue the Miami Vice theme), unconscious thought is the teeming, chaotic, beautiful mass of rainbow-colored tropical fish, graceful coral reefs, steely-eyed sharks and even a few grotesque bottom-dwellers hidden beneath. Once you dive in, you realize our subliminal thoughts are more powerful than the speedy, unreliable conscious thoughts we’re so proud of, skimming along the top. That’s because unconscious thought ultimately shapes our decisions, forges our world views and guides our relationships with others (and with ourselves), all without us even knowing or – equally important – without controlling or consenting.
Subliminal, by Leonard Mlodinow – a theoretical physicist – is a guided tour (blitzkrieg?) through the unconscious mind and shows that we are only loosely in control of our own consciousness, completely unaware of the things our brains take in when we aren't paying attention and at the mercy of filters we didn’t even know existed.
Study after study and weird example after weird example bring this to life: Folks who read a recipe in a difficult font rated it harder to prepare than the same recipe presented in an easy font (take note, designers), because our brains get us ready for tasks before we start them. Folks using exactly the same detergent in three differently-colored boxes consistently rated one in particular — the most colorful — the best of the three by far. Shoppers who heard French background music bought more French wine, and bought more German wine when German background music was playing even though none of them even remembered music playing. In another classic study, people consistently prefer Pepsi over Coke in a blind taste test, but they prefer Coke when the blindfold comes off.
Can you actually taste “brand?” People with brain damage in a specific location can’t. When the VMC area — thought to be the generator of warm, fuzzy feelings — was damaged, they didn’t experience the “Pepsi paradox.” (Please, Pepsi, don’t start damaging our brains).
There’s so much more: Statistical analysis found investors were more likely to invest in the initial public offerings of companies with easy-to-pronounce names. There are naturally occurring dead spots in our vision that our brain compensates for without us even knowing. Oxytocin, released during sex and even during hugs, affects social bonding, which in turn is shaped by brain size and complexity across species.
When you read this book, you’ll realize that it's crazy town up in your brain, and there ain't no mayor. We think we are driving the machine, but we are actually just along for the ride. There’s power in knowing that, though. This book is breathless, geeky fun, well written and packed with insights and puzzles and hard science and so many “ah-ha” moments that I eventually had to consign myself to the notion that I would have to read it twice.
An aside: This topic takes on even greater significance when you consider the recent Wired article that suggests consciousness continues for up to a few hours after death. The Meta isn’t sounding so crazy now, is it? (less)
First, chocolate...moreTriumph and tragedy in a chocolate bar
(Note: this review also appears on Amazon.com)
This is a fascinating book on a number of levels.
First, chocolate is intriguing topic. The author does a great job of explaining how an exotic seed became a ubiquitous treat. And given the early recipes with rancid milk, it's an unlikely success story.
Second, the evolution of Cadbury, and other chocolatiers, is great vehicle to show how businesses have changed so rapidly, from small organizations dedicated to the well-being of employees and their communities to global concerns motivated solely by returning profits to shareholders. Granted, the Quaker roots of Cadbury and their competitors had much to do with that, but it was modeled by many others, including Hershey who did tremendous good works with his fortune.
Third, I love Cadbury products. Growing up in Scotland and reading about all of the great Cadbury products brought back a cascade of memories - not only the delicious treats but also the commercials (Everyone's a fruit and nut bar!).
Before reading this book, I had no idea that biting into a creme egg or an aero bar unleashed 150 years of a rich legacy with a creamy center of social justice. The final chapters, about the hostile takeover of Cadbury by Kraft was bittersweet, to say the least.
Great read by a member of the Cadbury family with strong writing and research skills. (less)
The book does a great job of bringing to life the big, mysterious cats, the pressures the species faces as it rapidly goes into decline and offers a look at the poverty and fringe existence of the men and women eking out a living on the harsh, frozen Siberian taiga. Part of that existence involves trapping Siberian tigers to sell their fur and, more lucratively, their penises to impotent Chinese mean. It’s horrific to contemplate such magnificent animals being turned into rugs and erection powders.
The tiger in question, it seems, is bent on revenge and so was quite sympathetic.
Do yourself a favor and check it out, and then try to catch the PBS special Siberian Tiger Quest. These are amazing animals and I hope this book and other efforts will convince more people to help save Siberian tigers from complete extinction. (less)
Flocculent ooze: Politics, progress and the poisoning of an American treasure
Author Michael Grunwald provides a riveting look at a swamp filled with d...moreFlocculent ooze: Politics, progress and the poisoning of an American treasure
Author Michael Grunwald provides a riveting look at a swamp filled with danger, unpredictable currents, sucking quicksand, predators and prey, and treachery. And that’s just when he is describing Florida politics. The real star of the book is the Florida Everglades, a unique, threatened and vulnerable ecosystem in Florida. Known as the river of grass, it’s a long, gently sloping swamp which once covered a large percentage of the state and was home to a staggering array of flora and fauna. I can only imagine what it must have been like to see flocks of thousands of flamingos take to wing, but sadly, fashionistas needed their plumes to compensate for their own shortcomings.
I picked up this book on a swing through the Everglades national park on our way to Key West, and was very glad I did. Just a few hours stroll through the park and we got a lasting sense of what a majestic place the Everglades were before man tried to drain them and, in between mojitos and snorkeling, I immersed myself into the filth and muck of the politics behind the current park.
The book opens at the end of the story, as then-president Clinton signs into law an $8 billion restoration project for the Everglades with Jeb Bush on hand, as well as a variety of developers, environmentalists and other unlikely political bedfellows from both sides of the aisle. The bill was signed into law even as the Supreme Court was deciding the Gore vs. Bush recount in Florida (a decision which, the author hints, would have been rendered unnecessary had Gore come out in opposition to an airport expansion that gave at least 10,000 votes to Nader).
With the context set, the book then rewinds to the past when Native Americans lived in Florida and the Everglades was a massive, slowly seeping natural wonder akin to the Grand Canyon, only utterly flat and soggy and verdant. He then chronicles the painful march of history from natural wonder with saw grass as far as the eye could see, to national shame with strips malls as far as the eye could see, as Florida underwent an endless cycle of boom and bust development activities that wrecked the environment and pushed the Native Americans into the swamp as. Eventually, of course, the Everglades were deemed to profitable to leave alone and the Native Americans were impolitely asked to leave. They chose to fight and the U.S. got mired in a Vietnam style war two hundred years before the Vietnam War.
Following that, an endless array of politicians set out to tame the swamp, build roads and levees and canals and railroads and the resulting floods and fires and run-off loaded with poisons slowly strangled an American Treasure, albeit, a slightly mucky one.
It is a powerful look at how we always hurt the ones we love, especially when it comes to the environment. It would have been an enjoyable read without the firsthand introduction the Everglades, but the fact that I got to see alligators, anhingas, mangrove trees and even a purple gallinute up close made it a uniquely satisfying – and depressing – experience. Add to that our time in Key West where we traveled streets named for many of the players in the book, and I have to give this the highest rating.
It was exhaustively researched and he is a talented writer (even though he used the term “no one wanted to see their ox gored” a few times too many, it was redeemed by lines such as “…like drunks at the end of a bar fight. Their arms felt heavy and they wanted an excuse to stop slugging.). Highly recommend, and I also recommend – if you haven’t already – taking a trip to see what’s left of the Everglades before they are gone forever.(less)
This is one of my favorite books of all time. His casual almost deadpan descriptions of the Amazon, the horr...moreA cool, casual trip through a "green hell"
This is one of my favorite books of all time. His casual almost deadpan descriptions of the Amazon, the horrors of the rubber trade and the realization that the "civilized world" is but an outpost on the very fringe of an always seething and always apathetic nature are illuminating and deeply enjoyable. (less)
A margin-wrecker: the best kind of book is one that begs to be marked up
It’s odd — maybe not that odd — that a book about cruel, base and disgusting...moreA margin-wrecker: the best kind of book is one that begs to be marked up
It’s odd — maybe not that odd — that a book about cruel, base and disgusting acts would emerge as one of my favorites of all time.
The author, Kathleen Taylor (funny that two of my favorite authors are named Kathleen) is a neuroscientist at Oxford. She brings together the latest in the fledgling field of neuroscience with evolutionary theory, social and cultural anthropology and biologic processes to bring cruelty to life — what it is and why we have it — and helps readers arrive at a better understanding of what it means to be human. She has a vivid, technically precise and funny writing style that kept me hooked and kept me scribbling frantically in the margins as new ideas skittered away.
Cruelty, she argues, is linked to the uniquely human desire to predict and control the natural world. That can be as basic as avoiding dangerous predators or as refined as protecting belief systems important to our culture. And, she says, “…our hunger for control does not demand that our predictions are actively confirmed, just that they remain unchallenged.”
Challenged, we are “…vulnerable to symbolic threats which cause us no physical harm.” But because of the way our brains are wired, “…conflict feels stressful, like pain, and most people prefer to avoid it.”
According to Taylor, we act against symbolic threats the same way our bodies act against dangerous diseases – “learn the warning signs, avoid the source, quarantine the infected and expel the contaminant.” It’s the same approach, and the same language (a blight upon our culture, threats to our way of living), that have been used to tragic result for those considered dangerous for centuries.
It’s all tied to our biologic responses because, she argues, the symbolic brain is an extension of the physical brain. The same systems we use to deal with ingesting putrid food are high jacked by the brain when we encounter a putrid belief system that is, challenging to our symbolic health. It’s the only system we have in place to deal with a threat that makes us feel sick.
“When it unwelcome ideas require extensive and effortful thought to accommodate them, it becomes easier not to bother changing the brain, but instead to shape the world to fit – by removing the irritant source of challenging signals.”
That ties into one of my favorite lines, explaining why we (and I am certainly guilty of this) lash out at inanimate objects. “Broken gadgets can be expected not to work; unbroken gadgets should work; unbroken gadgets which should work and don’t are infuriating misfits, to be treated accordingly.”
Magnify that by the effort we expend mitigating against people who challenge our beliefs. “The more important the beliefs in question, the more strongly they will be defended, the more extreme emotion which a challenge will provoke and the more violent the response is likely to be.”
We react to symbolic threats with mental acrobatics and, occasionally, the kind of violence usually reserved for physical threats, because that’s all we know how to do. Just like “dogs that achieve nothing by barking at passing fire-engines, though the noise does recede, so perhaps they think they do,” we protect our core beliefs at all costs, even though the strategies we employ may have no influence and in fact may run counter to those very beliefs.
She argues that, “Cruelty, thus, is as natural as laziness or competitiveness. It protects the precious self, physical or symbolic, by doing harm to those about whom we care less.” Cruelty, then, is basically a too-aggressive response from our symbolic immune system.
It’s a wild, funny, terrifying scientific ride through sadism and evil and pain and suffering and threat responses and neural pathways and a human history filled with tragic examples of cruelty. Rather than dark or depressing, I found it liberating and hopeful. The more we can understand the mechanisms of cruelty, the easier it will be to untangle them from misguided cultural beliefs and poorly understood biological functions. Cruelty may be part of the human condition, but refusing to act upon it may be one of our great accomplishments. (less)
I don't normally believe in reincarnation, but it's hard not to...moreDense, like the rainforest, and just as rich
Note: this review first appeared on Amazon
I don't normally believe in reincarnation, but it's hard not to think I've spent some previous life in the Amazon given my favorite books - of which I now rank Fordlandia - focus on Brazil. It was great to see the other three - Thief at the End of the World, the River of Doubt, The Jungle and the Sea - all mentioned in this fascinating look at Henry Ford's failed experiment in the jungle.
This was a well-researched, highly engaging work that was, comparatively, slow going simply because there was so much to cover. It's really three books in one - the rise of Ford and the associated true beginning of the industrial age in America, the creation of Fordlandia in Brazil, and - in an unsatisfying epilogue - the current imperiled state of the Amazon as sprouted up from the attempts to industrialize natural processes (rubber harvesting). I say unsatisfying only because I wanted more.
In fact, the entire book left me hungrier for a more substantial treatment of each segment - I was surprised by how much I don't know about Ford and his factories and really wanted to know what happened to his right hand man (enforcer) Bennett. (Note: I will look into it, and suggestions are welcome - just comment on the review.)
My panama hat is off to the author for this great work. And I was especially moved by this sentence: "The arrogance, though, is not that Henry Ford thought he could tame the Amazon but that he believed that the forces of capitalism, once released, could still be contained."
Much was made of Ford never visiting his model city, but I certainly would like to make a trip there - now, after reading this - someday. (less)
I say that because so much of this particular story hangs on the way knowledge is disseminated through, and built upon, books and how the evolution of printing fundamentally changed everything from religion to politics, from philosophy to science, from art to medicine.
It starts with a death, however. Michael Severus, a religious and medical scholar dared question the holy trinity and, for that heresy, was burned at the stake. The rise and fall of Severus covers depressingly familiar territory: the Catholic Church sought to squelch his thinking. Charitably speaking, it was to protect the souls of poor saps stupid enough to fall for his heretical, blasphemous teachings and thus be doomed to hell. A less charitable interpretation involves a corrupt church (the authors gleefully illustrate the greed, sex and hypocrisy of the day) struggling to preserve their ability to accumulate wealth and power as society slowly, steadily marched toward more liberal, progressive ways of thinking. To be fair, however, it was Calvin the Reformer, a man who ostensibly stood against the excesses of Rome, who ultimately doomed Severus to the very forces he professed to abhor. Personal shortcomings and petty jealousy are in no way limited to the Church.
If that was extent of the book — an able biography of a notable person forgotten in history, buttressed by speculation around motivations from key players — it would have been worth the time, but the husband and wife writing team untangle several important threads to really make the book stand out: the evolution of religious and philosophic thought, the history of Europe as seen through a who’s who great thinkers, the history of medicine, the (thankfully) obsessive book collectors of years gone by (something, sadly, eBooks will likely kill forever) and, as mentioned, the evolution — the revolution — of printing and publishing.
The explosive leap forward created by the disruptive technology of the printing press — even then, neatly constrained by economic forces — I found the most interesting, changing the world as new theories were brought forth and old theories torn down and all because the production of books was no longer limited by laborious, hand copying and the purchase of books no longer only in the domain of the most rich and powerful.
It is a tragic story of one man’s death, but a glorious ode to the power of books.(less)
This is a fantastic book that puts one of the most unassuming but ubiquitous memb...moreGranular, in the best way
(Note: this review was shared on Amazon.com)
This is a fantastic book that puts one of the most unassuming but ubiquitous members of the natural world, sand, under the microscope and in doing so, illustrates huge truths about our planet and ourselves. Written with deep scientific knowledge and an engaging, lyrical style, it's a profound read that touches upon almost every aspect of geology, from weathering to planet formation, from the formation of dunes and beaches to the quirky characters that investigated sand behavior across the years, from art to industry.
The only part of the book that seemed flat was the A - Z description of the many uses, and benefits of sand. All engaging, but given the great effort to weave the story along like drifting dunes, this section seemed out of place.
A minor quibble.
Highly recommend this book and for double the impact, read it at the beach. We were at Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast and armed with the insights from Sand: The Never-ending Story, the interplay of the sediment-laden tides, engines of change, and the drift of fine sand over the beach driven by strong winds, took on a special significance.
The epilogue, about the Libyan desert glass, was especially interesting. Would love to see a book just about that! (less)
I consider myself pretty well read and at least passably knowledgeable in American history, which is why I wa...moreThe ugly (only?) side of manifest destiny
I consider myself pretty well read and at least passably knowledgeable in American history, which is why I was surprised that I knew so little about William Walker. I first came across him in an odd little book called "Legendary Outlaws of the West" (Williams). A chapter discussed his early attempts to invade and claim Baja, Mexico. He was rebuffed by a notorious outlaw/rancher named Melendrez, who later was commissioned as a general in the army for helping defeat Walker and his men.
You'd think Walker would return to the U.S. humbled, but instead - driven by a unwavering commitment to manifest destiny (translation: it's our right to do whatever we want) he set his sights on Nicaragua, ultimately leading a successful invasion with a handful of filibusteros (based on the Dutch word for freebooter - pirate - and source of today's "filibuster"). His dreams of empire were in direct opposition, ultimately, with shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt who wanted to control access across the country via Lake Nicaragua to profit from trips to the west coast of America (at the time, pre-railroad, boats were much faster than going overland and the profits were obscene.)
It was hard to know who to pull for in this war: a tough as nails mercenary who, after a series of victories, was elected president of Nicaragua, or the epitome of a capitalist successes, Vanderbilt, literally a self-made man able to devote millions to destabilizing Walker's regime in order to make more millions. This is a great book, thoroughly researched - in fact, I started to lose track of the many battles and the many players strutting across the stage only to be executed against an adobe wall - and I highly recommend it. My favorite passage, near the end, was an inspired bit of sabotage that ultimately sealed Walker's defeat.
It really puts in stark light the mind set that possibly still shapes American idealism - that we have some moral obligation to reshape the world in our image. Sadly, the only force greater than manifest destiny appears to be capitalism and the desire to concentrate vast amounts of wealth by hook or by hook or, in this case, by arming soldiers and mercenaries and tempting them to invade other countries.
In Walker's own words, to his troops after his defeat, "You have written a page of American history which is impossible to forget or erase." Sadly, he appears all but forgotten in his own country though his dark legacy lives on in Central America. (less)