C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Pork Boys Do Easter 2017

Some photos of our Easter feast, along with scenes from M. P.'s garden - click photos to enlarge:

A simple white table with flowers and easter eggs

Easter egg tree

Electric fireplace decorated with paper flowers

Appetizer:  colored deviled eggs 

Soup: chicken and potato

Entree no. 1:  boneless chicken thighs stuffed with dressing, in a cream sauce

Entree no. 2:  Baked ham with orange sauce

Pineapple casserole (left) and creamed corn; not pictured is a pot of boiled kale

Potato salad with radish roses

A full plate with a "bunny roll" at right

M. P. made a garden this year, the first in a long while.  Here is how it looked on the first of April, just before a heavy rain that night:

Front view:  It took M.P. several weekends to get all this dug up, composted, enclosed, and planted with 20 or so varieties of vegetables.  At the rear, the new compost enclosure he built.

New stepping stones, using found tiles

Closeup of two varieties of tomato plants, showing M.P.'s markers made out of wooden skewers and cut-outs from a milk jug.  At right his ingenious first example of a plant protector made from a clear soda bottle.

Rear view, where squash and cucucumbers are still hiding below ground

And here is the view on Easter Sunday, showing marked progress:

Front view showing more plant protectors around the tomato plants 

Rear view with a lively growth of squash and other things

M.P. also planted several varieties of rosebushes; here are the first two blooming now:

Green Ice miniature roses; as you can see at the top of the bush, they are a pale green when they first blossom.

Sunset rose:  a delicate shade of orange, with a lovely scent.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 2017

The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Guernico (1591-1666)

I wish a very Happy Easter to all my truckbuddies.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Little Night Music

Photo by Ben Gierig, Semperopernball.
Click to enlarge.
Difficulties of one kind and another prevented your Head Trucker from making his usual Palm Sunday post yesterday, but although we are still technically in the sorrowful season of Lent, he has felt the need of something uplifting, a pleasant reminiscence of simpler, happier times to distract his thoughts from the cares and alarums of the present.  The following concert worked nicely for an hour, and I recommend it to any of my truckbuddies whose feelings may also need something light and gay to dwell on for a while.

Andre Rieu and his orchestra in performance at the all-night Semperopernball in Dresden, on February 3rd of this year:

One would have liked to go to a ball, a real ball, just once - sigh.  Alas, no fairy godmother with pumpkin and mice ever came.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017

Yankee Voters Love Trump

The Connecticut State Capitol

Last week, Alisyn Camerota of CNN's morning program New Day talked with a group of clean-cut, all-American Trump voters at the Connecticut statehouse.  This ties directly into my post last Tuesday, attempting to answer Frank's questions about "where did these people come from" - well, here is a nest of them in Frank's native state, and they are just what I said they were in my post: neither gruesome monsters nor raving lunatics, but ordinary, everyday Americans who are tragically, dangerously misguided and misinformed - and determined to stay that way.

More than that -- I want all you Yankee boys out there to listen closely to their remarks and remember these two vids next time you are tempted to bad-mouth all us Southerners as dumb, stupid rednecks.

Ignorance and blind faith, of course, have no fixed address, and are spread throughout North, South, East, and West, and all up and down the social scale.

This willfully blind faith in a political messiah is the exact equivalent of fanatical religious faith, it seems to me. But it gets even worse when the two are melded:  according to this utterly insipid guest on the Jim Bakker Show last week, Trump really, truly is "God's chosen one" and God Himself is going to curse you and your children if you don't support Trump -- no wonder so many "liberal" people hate the very name of Christianity now:

Problem is, as you fellas know if you've ever tried to talk with a Bible-thumper on your doorstep, it's nearly impossible to get someone to see what they don't want to see. The same principle applies to political fanaticism as to the religious kind.  People most often believe what they need to believe - reason and logic have nothing to do with it. That's why the nation is so polarized now, and I don't know how or when that will change.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sunday Drive: April in Paris

Ella sings it live in Brussels, 1957:

Saturday, April 1, 2017

In Memoriam: Gilbert Baker, 1951-2017

Gilbert Baker, creator of the rainbow flag, died yesterday at age 65.  Too young, but what a beautiful legacy he left us all.

Of course, many variants of the rainbow flag have been created in countries all around the world, and if not for Gilbert, we wouldn't have seen this fabulous sight on June 26, 2015:

So Gilbert's little sparkle of creativity has rippled out across the whole world and will cascade down the years, a symbol of pride, freedom, and hope to countless millions. What better memorial could there be? May he rest in peace.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Carl Hardee Sr. Returns

Your Head Trucker has never heard of Carls Jr. - I don't think they have those joints in this part of the world - okay, I stand corrected by M. P., who says there's one right down the road here - but Daddy is my kind of guy. I tell you what.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Trumpocracy: Reply to a Reader

My longtime truckbuddy Frank raised some very pertinent questions in a comment box the other day, and it has taken your Head Trucker from then till now to find the inner oomph to answer them - though not particularly well, I'm afraid, for there are no truly satisfactory answers to them, being as they are merely subsets of the Problem of Evil, which has been endlessly discussed for several millennia now without a cheerful resolution, alas.  But to give Frank what I owe him and get this off my chest, here are the Q and the A for all to see:

Frank:  I have given up posting political news. I watch the news (but somewhat less than I used to) and read the news on the web. I feel my "anger" boiling up with each new artrocity and it is not healthy.

We have an "Indivisible" group here, but I have pretty much dropped out. I just have no patience for "meetings" and talk. I signed a bunch of petitions but wonder how much that makes a difference, especially as in return I get more petitions to sign...and ALL asking for money.

I've also been disappointed in the fact that organizations that I've supported with small donations seem to choose to use my few dollars to mail me newsletters and further solicitations.
It's not that I'm apathetic. Just tired and disgusted. I'm not sure what good "preaching to the choir" does, which is why I gave up facebook. I am waiting for this administration to implode, but it seems beyond teflon...perhaps kevlar is a more apt description of its indestructibility.

It is not only those in the government that irk me...the supporters of this evil so-called president are like spectators at the colosseum screaming for blood and gore every time they see or hear their "emperor" as he tosses them more meat. The worse he is, the more rotten the meat, the more they cheer.

I don't understand how such blind loyalty is even possible. Where did these people come from? Where were they educated? Did they never learn the important lessons in kindergarten? What perverted form of christianity do they follow? Too many questions.

I wonder what, if anything, will be the lesson that history will take from this era.

Russ:  It was a busy weekend here with one thing and another; but more than that, I have pondered how to reply to the excellent questions you raise. Alas, the awful truth of aging is that one loses (bit by bit and day to day) one's strength not only of body but also of mind - and also loses the patience and equanimity to deal with frustrations calmly. And yet one knows only too well that ranting, raving, screaming, and shouting will do no one any good, while the universe rolls on quite oblivious. One is reminded of the Stephen Crane poem, which I here transcribe in its entirety:

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

And if prayer is unavailing, one is left with pious hope as the last, dwindling comfort. But a consciousness of individual futility at least relives one from the burdensome fallacy that all the outcomes of the world depend on me. Whatever blame may be laid for society's woes and failures, it must be spread across many millions of other backs. No one person can save or break the system of things -- despite what you may have heard.

But even in the most circumscribed, insignificant life, one can choose to do right or do wrong, at least in some respects where one is not otherwise constrained. We humans are not mere animals or robots, though various fools from one extreme or another would have us so: we are, furthermore, not merely a reasoning but also a moral species. And even where age, illness, or circumstance prevent us from acting we can yet assent by voice or thought to what is right and good -- and thereby encourage our fellow singers in the "choir."

I too feel the futility of such preaching, Frank - but how much more ghastly would it be to live without ever hearing your own thoughts validated?

To answer some of your other questions, or attempt to: yes, we now can understand how the Romans were so fond of their Caesars, and the Germans so wild about their Nazis. Those moments of long-ago schoolboy amazement are now quite cleared up, no? For we have seen in our own time, with our own eyes how all that comes to pass.

But the very important point is that "these people" did not "come" from anywhere, Frank. They have been right here all along. Some of them, we are sad to admit, are our own blood kin, and former friends, and near neighbors. They are no strangers, no invaders or aliens, but quite ordinary Americans we are familiar with. Just look over the crowds at the Trump rallies - beyond the sign-waving, posturing people in silly hats, look at the thousands in the background just sitting there, smiling happily and clapping enthusiastically. They could just as easily be found, and no doubt are, at your local movie theater or football game or charity run.  They have sat beside us in school and at work and eaten from the same dishes; as Pogo said, We have met the enemy and they are us -- only somewhere along the line, they have made a different choice.

They are not outlandish aliens or horned-and-hoofed devils, or wild-eyed monsters - they are quite ordinary folks. And here I must refer you to Hannah Arendt's famous phrase about "the banality of evil."

It seems that scholars have debated what she meant by that, but what I mean is that evil is an inherent part of the human personality, always latent, always potential - as much so as goodness - and so one must be carefully taught to distinguish between the two motives, and keep choosing the latter. A difficult task of instruction, and a more difficult task of living! But not mysterious at all - you as a cradle Catholic must recall that this has been the constant advice of the Doctors of the Church and other worthies for the last two millennia, so I need not plow all that ground again. Of course many if not most of "those people" have been instructed in moral choices since childhood, but not enough it would seem - or at least not enough to overcome baser instincts and selfish advantages.

Alas, people do choose evil sometimes out of rage or lust or fear or greed, and sometimes choose it carelessly by mistaking it for the good. Or by neglecting to act, they make a passive choice through ignorance or indifference. And those three choices pretty much sum up the entire history of the human race, the long, sad tragedy of Man. So again, there is no point in my taking time to rehearse such a well-known story of cause and effect, of progress and relapse, repeated ad infinitum.

It is one of the great disappointments of growing up to learn, finally, that all the world is false. People are very often not what they seem. They say one thing and do another. Many are quite good at disguising the fact. And more than that, it is beyond dispute that our human nature being compounded of equal parts good and evil at bottom, we are often good in one direction and bad in another. One might, for example, be an upright doctor, lawyer, teacher, businessman, and yet at home be a petty tyrant, wounding one's nearest and dearest daily. Or one might be an excellent spouse and parent, and yet rather shady or sharp in one's business dealings. One might be a good neighbor, a constant friend, an example to the young and a comfort to the old - and yet still betray the highest values for the lowest reasons, even as Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.

And this is all true of liberals and conservatives alike - your Head Trucker can testify that he has suffered cruelly at the hands of both types, and so my own feeling is, "a plague on both your houses." No one has a corner on decency and morality, and human kindness. And no one is infallible; but as some of us were taught from infancy, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. So how needful it is, then, to live as the prophet advised: Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with thy God.

There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it ill behooves any of us
To find fault with the rest of us.

The lesson? "We have here no abiding city . . . ." And we also know now that when our history books and civics texts used the puzzling phrase, "the American experiment," that it was not a mere rhetorical device, but a fearsome fact: democracy and constitutional government have always been subject to the weather and road conditions - they are not part of the unalterable form of the universe, just a flowering in a certain place at a certain time, like bluebonnets in a Texas field. Whether they continue long or vanish soon has always been tentative, a question that hangs in the balances. We see that clearly now, don't we?

Do what you can, Frank, not what you can't. That's all this tired old queen can say at this point, when "can" has shrunk to thimble size. But even when we can no longer do, we can still hope, and with the encouragement of our friends, keep that flourishing in our hearts - mayhap it will bloom anew in a better place and time. That hope, at least, is something worthwhile.

Isn't it?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Waitin' for the Weekend

Pete Kuzak

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Westminster Attack

Map from the BBC report; click to enlarge.

A crazed terrorist plowed through pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London today, then tried to enter Parliament.  Your Head Trucker has once upon a time walked across that very bridge, and up and down the Thames embankment there in the shadow of Big Ben, so he feels this as a rather personal affront.  My heart goes out to all the victims and their families, and to the British people.

This grievous outrage, this demonic disregard for human life is beyond horrifying.  I don't know how Western society can ever rid itself of the murderous microbes it is infected with, without suppressing all civil liberties for the rest of the population, but something has to be done.  This cannot go on.

BBC report on the attack.

Telegraph report.

Guardian report.

Prime Minister Theresa May was in Parliament at the time of the attack and was quickly taken to safety by her security guards.  She later made a statement to the press in front of Number 10 Downing Street:

Update, 3/23/17, 4:20 p.m.: I am pleased to see that the old indomitable British spirit is still very much alive, as witness this computer-generated Underground notice now making the rounds of social media over there:

The Prime Minister and others praised it in Parliament, as the Guardian reports here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Turning Point

Your Head Trucker regrets that he just can't keep summarizing all the ghastly, grizzly goings-on in Trumpworld - it's quickly gotten to be such a boatload of ugliness that it overwhelms me, and sours my whole day.  What I see is that Liar-in-Chief Trump and his fascist minions are determined, like a herd of bulls in a china store, to wreck the American government and likewise wreck the international order that has preserved the general peace and stability of the world for the last seventy years - and what can anyone do to stop them?

Probably the world will not grind to a total halt - history records many, many cycles of ruin and recovery in human history - but I fear that the world and this country will be crippled, blighted, altered beyond recognition, and who knows at what cost in lives and treasure and needless suffering.

For the record, the conversation on Morning Joe today nicely sums up much of my own thinking about the Comey-Rogers revelations before the House Intelligence Committee yesterday:

How to Measure a Happy Nation

The World Happiness Report was released yesterday, and Norway is officially number 1 on that scale.  It is of course not a strictly scientific measurement, like the freezing point of water, or the diameter of the moon, but a made-up statistic:  a conglomeration of numbers put together by some bright boys to make a point.  Next year, they might decide to use a totally different scale - so don't put too much faith in a thing like this, fellas.  How on earth could anyone know whether Nils Nilsson in Norway is any happier or sadder than you are, just at this moment?  Still, it is mildly interesting to think about.

The actual report is found here.  Or you can watch a report from CBS Sunday Morning instead:

Friday, March 17, 2017

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