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, December 31, 2010

Waitin' for the Weekend

Happy New Year to all my truckbuddies.  Hope this is what's waiting for ya after the party tonight.

Full length view here (NSFW).

Lacrimae Rerum

I've been meaning to post this for some time now, but not until this minute have I gotten around to making the necessary scan.  The oldest thing I own is a scrap of paper:  a single leaf from a notebook kept by my great-grandfather nearly 140 years ago. 

He was 24 when he recorded these verses.
Click to enlarge.
I'll tell you how I came to possess this.  My grandparents were the sort of hard-working country-bred people who, though literate, were not the type to keep much reading material lying around, save for the daily newspaper and the family Bible which sat for years, largely unread, on the telephone table in the living room.  But behind the front door was an old homemade cabinet with doors that fastened by a chunk of wood that pivoted on a nail - a thing of utility, not beauty - repainted every few years in the same tan color as the living room walls, but mostly ignored. 

Until one day in my early adolescence, when I decided to explore the contents.  The cabinet held three shelves, full of old herb catalogs and physical culture magazines dating back to the 1920's - my grandfather was a great one for believing in home remedies, and was acknowledged by all to be the family expert on such things - as well as some dusty religious books and tracts, old letters, and the odd catalog of tools and useful implements.   And the stray outdated textbook or novel, doubtless acquired when my father and his sisters were young, and long since forgotten by them. 

Some of these things were interesting to read by themselves.  But the most exciting find I made was three books:  one seemed truly ancient, with what seemed a home-made black leather cover, cracked with age, the pages of which were nubbly, not smooth like more modern paper.  It seemed a book of songs or poems:  I remember one verse was in celebration of "Washington, and Adams too," so it must have been from somewhere around the year 1800.

The second find was a much-worn but still tightly bound copy of Noah Webster's famous blue-backed speller, from the mid-19th century.  It seemed that every lesson began with an illustration of a short morality poem; the one I remember drew a contrast between two schoolboys, Punctual and Dilatory I think.  Naturally, Punctual was the one who succeeded while Dilatory fell by the wayside.

And the third of these antique treasures was the little notebook of my great-grandfather's that I mentioned above:  made of ruled paper, no more than about 3 by 5 inches, missing a cover but painstakingly filled on nearly every page with neatly written quotations from poets and playwrights, along with the occasional note of the price of corn, a home remedy for some ailment, a remark on some unusual weather, or even the exact tally of the nationwide popular vote for a presidential election, culled from a New York paper he must have subscribed to:  the collected musings of a young man who, though he never got further than the 8th grade, if even that far, was nevertheless of keen mind and had an ear for a well-turned phrase, a pleasing poem.

As I do, though I lived in more fortunate times and was able to get a good education.  Which for me, looking at his jotted fragments of thought, reveals a link across the centuries, a testimony of the continuity of something human, some essence of spirit.  I never knew the old man - he died half a century before I was born - and I don't feel particularly sentimental about him.  There are others I might have ended this year's postings with, more near and dear to my heart, starting with my own dear parents and others.  But somehow it seems fitting to end the year with this small bridge across the river of Time. 

Alas, having made these rather exciting discoveries - for even then, I was more interested in the past than the future - I made the great mistake of telling everyone in the family what I had found.  It was not long before some more senior relation confiscated all three treasures - "for safekeeping," of course - and I never saw them again.  Doubtlessly, they have long since been bequeathed to some other descendant, who may very well care little for them and be unaware of their significance.  Since I am the last of my grandfather's line to bear his name, I would have felt it only right that they descend to me - oh but some things are not worth the fight and feud that would result, you know what I mean, fellas?

How this single page came to rest among my keepsakes, I have no idea now.  I certainly would not have torn it out of the notebook.  Perhaps it just came loose on its own, and I stuck it inside another book to preserve it.  Whatever the facts were, I'm glad I have this charming little memento of a bygone day.  The famous Lewis Carroll poem about the crocodile is just the sort of thing I delighted in as a child - and still do.  How gratifying to find that it appealed to my great-grandfather as well.

Tonight, I am struck by the last quotation on the back of the page, which is from Gray's Elegy, written in 1750 and immensely popular for the next two hundred years, until the advent of our jet-fueled, damn-fool era.  Since it is partly obscured, I reprint the stanza here; and if any of my truckbuddies is familiar with this classic work, or will take the trouble to read it, I think you will agree that it also is fitting to end the year, and these reflections, with.
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Farewell to All That

It's been all over the news lately, but in case you haven't heard that Kodachrome film is no more:

Now, a note for posterity: Kodak made a number of varieties of film in addition to Kodachrome, which was used by people who could afford expensive cameras - the kind you can adjust the speed and aperture of - to take slides or movies or professional photos. Certainly a lot of middle-class people did, but some families, including mine, never had such fancy cameras. The Kodak film I always used to take snapshots with had a different name - and come to think of it, what was that? - Kodacolor, maybe. Not the same thing as the much-lamented Kodachrome, which was much more expensive.

In fact, my family never even used color film until the very late 60's - black and white film was cheaper, say $1.50 a roll compared to $2.50 a roll for color - so my parents stayed with that, and the black and white TV sets too, for a long time. It was what people were used to, you know, and for that matter, most magazines and books had only b&w pictures on the inside pages until the 1980's (except perhaps for colorful advertisements - and also excepting Playboy and that ilk).

So I never used Kodachrome, and its demise touches me only tangentially as a sign of the times, the inexorable flow of days and years, the unending loss of the present moment, the familiar, the expected. There's a comfort in the usual patterns of life which is always being eaten away at the edges, as the waves pull at the sands of the seashore. Everything in this mortal life is transitory, impermanent as a dream no matter how solid it may seem. Including our very selves and all that we hold dear.

Be that as it may, there are compensatory additions from time to time. Who now could do without a microwave oven? Which I recall was, forty years ago, strictly a luxury item, very expensive, which took me a couple of decades to see the use of. Now I use it all the time, practically every hour of the day when I'm at home: a most useful invention.

Cell phones are another great convenience - even though your Head Trucker still hasn't figured out how to take a picture with his, and doesn't much care. I marvel now that we used to take long road trips to see family and friends perhaps a thousand or more miles away - and embarked merrily on the journey, trusting only to God and Chevrolet against the chance of being broken down and stranded on some lonesome stretch of highway, far from any help. I don't even go to the grocery store now without my phone, but we were braver in those days.

Your Head Trucker has, however, gotten the hang of using a digital camera, and boy howdy, what a treat it is. I've had my little Kodak C-330 for five years now, and I dearly love it. In my teens and young adult years, I used to have a vague hankering to learn photography - at one time there was a PBS how-to show on the subject that I used to watch sometimes. But it required a really good single-reflex camera to start with, which was beyond my pocketbook for many years. Then too, it seemed to be de rigeur that to be a real photographer, you had to have your own darkroom and know how to use it - which required more expense, and space that I never had anywhere I lived. So that was a little daydream that never went anywhere.

But the digital camera was a revelation. Suddenly, for only $150 or so, I found I could take endless pictures from all angles in all kinds of light, and actually produce a few that were worth keeping - all quite easily and cheaply. You can even see the picture on your camera screen as soon as you take it, and know whether to try again. And no counting frames, or worrying about how much it would cost to develop all the photos you took - very liberating, and a new creative outlet that I've enjoyed immensely. A very good change, despite all the laments over the passing of film: the expense of film and equipment made it a hobby only for the affluent.

And then, of course, there's the internet, which is quite frankly a godsend to anyone who lives in the sticks as I do. And for people who live in town, too: an unending source of entertainment, communication, and creative endeavor that as far as I'm concerned is an unquestioned necessity now. In recent weeks, for unrelated reasons, both the ex-roommate and I have each experienced a few days without internet service. And we both agree, it was nearly unbearable - just as much as if the water were turned off.

Which is odd, when I stop and think about it. I perfectly recall life before home computers - I used them at work a long time before I got one of my own, in 1999 - and how I was quite content to come home and in my leisure time read a book, call a friend, or simply flop in front of the TV. But now times have changed, and I've changed. Life is that way; the tide is always tugging at you, pulling you on, whether you will or no.

So we must always be balancing the losses against the gains, and adjusting to the shifts and turns of life. And always, human life is a mixed bag of blessings and curses, advances and retreats. Just yesterday, for example, surfing through Wikipedia with no particular goal in mind, as I am wont to do, I stumbled across this paragraph in an article about a British politician most Americans have probably never heard of, Roy Jenkins:
As Home Secretary from 1965–1967, he sought to build what he described as "a civilised society", with measures such as the effective abolition in Britain of capital punishment and theatre censorship, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, relaxing of divorce law, suspension of birching and the legalisation of abortion.
Perhaps all that is well and good - but it did give me pause. More than four decades later, is our Western civilization really a more "civilized society" than it was before the 1960's?

PRR ad, 1948

Or merely different? Human nature never changes, merely the outward forms and fashions. All our scheming, inventing, and rearranging may make the world more comfortable in some ways - but convenience is not quite the same as progress - is it?

Only one thing is certain:  you can't go home again.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Queen's Christmas Message, 2010

A beloved tradition in Britain, broadcast every Christmas Day at 3 p.m., and transmitted to all the Commonwealth too.  This is one of the Queen's few public utterances not written for her by Government ministers, but reflecting her own themes and thoughts.  The video quality is very good, watch it in full screen mode.

I like the way the Queen very deftly ties several different themes together here; there's a profound message woven between the lines, and one that all of us ought to take to heart.

The Queen's grandfather, King George V, began the tradition in 1932 with a radio broadcast to the Empire.  You can read more about the history of these broadcasts at the Queen's website here.  Compare this year's broadcast with the very first televised version from 1957:

Your Head Trucker deeply admires the Queen for her devotion to duty and believes she has been a quiet force for good, for tolerance and compassion and understanding, behind the scenes all these many years. I well believe that history will appreciate her accomplishments and rate them much more highly than the present age does.

And I will share this with you, which never fails to raise a tear in this old shitkicker's eye:  a young slip of a girl on her 21st birthday, pledging her whole life to the service of her people. I don't know that I could have done that - and lived up to it. Could you?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Pork Boys Do Christmas, 2010

Your Head Trucker's report on Christmas in Texas this year.

Sunday night, the ex-roommate and I had our Christmas dinner at his place.  He had a big Christmas day with his ex-wife and grown kids and spouses the day before, stirring up a huge pot of gumbo and other Cajun delights, which would have wore me slap out.  But nothing daunted, he was still raring to go to work on our dinner the next day, and did a truly fabulous job - and here's some pics to prove it, though I wish I could figure a way to post the smells and tastes for you fellas, too.  It was some kinda good.  I tell you what.

Couple weeks back, he got busy on the outside lights, and the house looked right purty as you can see here.

The front door snowflake he made just by cutting out paper in an intricate pattern, and adding some tiny battery-powered lightbulbs.  Pretty clever, I think.

As usual, he did his house up real nice inside too, had homemade snowflakes and angels hanging from the ceilings on fishing line, so it looked like they were all just floating in the air.  Here's some before he got them hung up, all made by hand just from paper and glue, except for the doll heads:

Hung pommanders - oranges stuck with cloves and wrapped in glittery ribbons - over all the main doorways too.  Didn't get a pic of those, but here's his Christmas tree, very pretty as you might expect; looks like a storybook tree, don't it?  The lights are blue and white snowflakes.

The dinner table was right in front of the tree, and set very prettily with his Christmas dishes and more handmade decorations:

Now before we got to sitting down to dinner, first we had hors d'oeuvres, which he had a whole big side table full of. All kinds of Xmas cookies and candies, including a plate of homemade fudge he made - two kinds, chocolate and also white peppermint - cut in squares and arranged in a checkerboard pattern, which I wish I'd thought to take a pic of. Also a plate of what he calls "tartlets": sorta like big raviolis made of crescent roll dough, filled with cooked mushrooms, onions, cheese, and hardboiled egg, all chopped fine. Major yum.

Your Head Trucker is no piker though, nossir, I brought some orr-durvey stuff too. Like a pop-top can of smoked oysters and a slab of Monterey Jack. Okay, so maybe it didn't look too pretty next to all the fancy stuff, but it tasted good just the same. But hey gimme some points, guys, for at least remembering to bring some rainbow-colored toothpicks to spear them little oysters with.

Also, I did bring the booze - you expected that, right boys? A 12-pack of beer, a big bottle of White Zin, and a jug of rum to go in the eggnog, natch. So that got us off to a good start with plenty of Christmas cheer, and by the time dinner was ready to set on the table we were in a pretty good mood. We started off with a totally scrumptious steak-and-oyster pie, aka "Lovers' Pie," which was definitely something to write home about, take my word for it.

Then the main course, which was Cornish game hens simmered in broth then baked and stuffed with bread crumbs and green onions - you never tasted anything so tender and so damn good, fellas.  I tell you what.

For sides, he made fruit salad, and snow peas, and glazed carrots, and broccoli-rice en casserole topped with cheese and breadcrumbs. And hot rolls and butter. Oh, but the pictures don't do the meal justice, guys - it was just larrupping good from start to finish, and that's a fact.

Dessert, when we got around to it a couple hours later, was fresh hot gingerbread cake topped with Cool Whip: simple, sweet, and good. The perfect end of a great meal. Also some "Yule spice" coffee the ex-roommate made with vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, orange peel, and I don't know what all else. Didn't get a pic of dessert but you can see a piece of the gingerbread on the plate he sent me home with here, along with all the other goodies he loaded me up with:

In the freezer bag is a hunk of home-cured, home-smoked Chistmas ham he made a while back.  He also sewed them purty little glittery net and ribbon bags full of cookies and fudge. 

When I came home in the wee hours, I left him the remainder of the beer and wine, and I brought home the rum and eggnog, which seemed like a fair trade. Can't wait to taste the homemade French onion soup he gave me a quart of. Now the fact of the matter is, I really don't like soup - but I love his soups.  He hasn't made any yet that isn't out of this world good, amazing but true.

So we had a very merry Christmas, and a leisurely, civilized dinner with old favorite holiday tunes on the radio, good food on the table, and cigarettes and wine and plenty of good conversation and a lot of laughs. You can't ask for more than that for a Christmas dinner, can you?

I hope all you boys had as good a time wherever you had yours this year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Miracle on 22nd Street

Yes, Virginia:  Santa Claus is really two gay guys in a Chelsea apartment. 

Follow-up interview here.

It Gets Better: This Week's Faves

My God, how the world has changed in my lifetime.  Videos like this would have made a profound impression on me as a lonely gay teenager - this one is by staffers at White House - the White House, for God's sake:

And gay university presidents?  With their spouses?  Unthinkable back then, but yup:

And who could ever have imagined a gay softball team - in Austin, Texas?  A great message from the Gay World Series champs, who can beat the straight boys at their own game and make 'em like it:

Ditto from the San Francisco Track and Field Club:

At the other end of the scale, international drag queens have a fabulous message too:

An Eagle Scout says you can be true to your oath and be true to yourself too:

Adobe Systems employees say it got a lot better for them:

So do Etsy employees:

Asian-American kids catch a lot of flack from the parents but say don't let that hold you down:

Even way over on the other side of the world, it gets better in Singapore, too:

And even with ultra-conservative Catholic Republican parents, Chris Kelly says stick it out, it only gets better:

And to top it all off, this is not an IGB video, but you gotta hear this story from Hank Chen, which made your Head Trucker spew coffee all over the keyboard:

Sunday Drive: Baby, It's Cold Outside

In case you haven't seen this already, here's a happy thought that one day won't be out of the ordinary.  Enjoy.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Card

For David and Dave and dave, for Stan and Frank and Jack and Tom, for Sebastian and Clark and Mark and Steve, for Roger and Craig and Jay and Greg, for Ray and raulito and S.W. and M.P., and for all my truckbuddies near and far, and around the world: 

a very Merry Christmas to you all.

Christmas Greetings from 1950

On a wet, cold, miserable Christmas Eve here in Texas, your Head Trucker finds this sixty-year-old newsreel particularly moving, and I am especially touched by the children singing "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing."  Perhaps you will be, too.

A full version of the beautiful lyrics can be found here.

Which your Head Trucker hopes will serve to remind those who need reminding that there is more to life and faith than the ignorant ravings of fundamentalists and totalitarians - be they Christian, or Muslim, or even atheist.

Joe Biden: Gay Marriage Is Inevitable

Repeal of DADT was a lovely Christmas gift.  Maybe one day not many years down the road, it will be followed with the repeal of DOMA, let's hope.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Waitin' for the Weekend

Honk to Ray's Cowboy.

WTF: Reindeer on the Brain

Scientists in England who were investigating how neurons work made this startling photograph recently of a blood vessel in the brain, with a very curious resemblance to a certain well-known quadruped.

WTF: Christmas Around the World

Just surfing around the 'net, your Head Trucker has discovered some odd news and views of Christmas.

In Sweden, for example, the entire country shuts down at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve to watch Donald Duck cartoons like this one, an ironclad tradition that's been going on for more than fifty years:

In France, it turns out that Père Noël has a helper:  le Père Fouettard, or Father Spanker, dressed all in black and carrying chains and a whip.  While St. Nicolas rewards the good kids, Father Spanker works over the bad boys.  Hmm.

Which in modern times, it seems, has become the inspiration for good, clean holiday fun:  a spankfest for the whole family.  Hmm.

In Japan, even though it's not an official holiday, Christmas is a popular celebration.  An aquarium even features an underwater Santa . . . which is pretty damn trippy.

In Brazil, where it's midsummer, they kick off the Christmas season in Rio with the world's largest (and only?) floating Christmas tree - which shoots fireworks, yet. That's pretty trippy, too.

And in Blue State America:
Pat Oliphant/Slate

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

Ruins of Charleston, S. C., 1865
You're going to be hearing a lot about the Civil War in the next four years, fellas, as we observe the sesquicentennial of that national ordeal. South Carolina, first state to secede, kicked off the festivities this week with a full-dress Secession Ball - I'm not making this up - to honor the men who took the Palmetto State out of the Union.

And not only a Secession Ball, but also a screening of Birth of a Nation? Yup. That's South Carolina all over, boys - Tory, aristocratic, and unrepentant to the last. Your no-count, poor-white Head Trucker lived there for a painful but mercifully short time, so take my word for it.

That old Southern saw that the War was not at all in any way about slavery, nossir - oh, your Head Trucker remembers that well from his childhood, and believed it till he was past grown.

But it's pure, unadulterated bullshit.  And the men who started it did a devilish thing.

As Paul Finkelman wrote Monday in the New York Times Disunion blog:
One hundred and fifty years ago today South Carolina declared its independence from the United States. The move had been in the offing since early November, when Abraham Lincoln’s election led the state’s leaders to fear that Washington would begin to restrict slavery in the territories and in their own state. That was the proximate cause, at least; there was more to it. Beyond the election, South Carolina was no longer happy in a union with the free states, where northern opponents of slavery were allowed to openly denounce the “peculiar institution” in Congress and in their home states.

Continued after the jump . . .

You Go, Barney

Gotta love this guy.  Barney owns up to the radical homosexual agenda:

And gets the better of a young whippersnapper from the Christian News Service:

And declines to argue with a piece of furniture:

"Your Country Wants You": Obama Signs DADT Repeal into Law

I say to all Americans, gay or straight, who want nothing more than to defend this country in uniform: Your country needs you, your country wants you, and we will be honored to welcome you into the ranks of the finest military the world has ever known. . . . 

For we are not a nation that says, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We are a nation that says, “Out of many, we are one.” We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot. We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal. Those are the ideals that generations have fought for. Those are the ideals that we uphold today. And now, it is my honor to sign this bill into law.

--President Barack Obama

To be wanted, not scorned - what a breathtaking change.  And I have lived to see this day.

Full text of the President's remarks here.

Tired Old Queen at the Movies: This Week's Picks

An interesting comparison exists between the two films chosen for the Christmas episode of STEVE HAYES: Tired Old Queen at the Movies. Douglas Sirks' ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (1955) follows the love affair between a well-to-do middle-aged widow with grown children, Jane Wyman, and her gardener, Rock Hudson, who is twenty years younger. Todd Haynes' FAR FROM HEAVEN takes the same scenario, but has the woman, Julianne Moore, losing her husband played by Dennis Quaid, to a gay lover. She too finds solace in the arms of her gardener, this time a handsome black man, played by Dennis Haysburt. Each film takes a pot shot at the conservatism of the 1950's with the latter adding a more realistic 90's edge. Both offer fascinating and moving holiday viewing by two iconic filmmakers.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It Gets Better: This Week's Faves

EA employees:

D.C. Gay Flag Football League:

Lonely Planet employees:

TELUS employees:

Dow employees:

Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice:

And for all you Whos out there in Whoville:

Sunday Drive: Angels from the Realms of Glory

Here we come face to face with the mystery of the Incarnation: the eternal Deity becoming a member of the human race, by birth from Mary. This does not mean that a human child became fused with divinity or that God was infused into a particular person at a particular time. There can be no change in the species or the identity of an individual. It is as unthinkable for a mere human being to become God as it would be for an animal to become human.

Rather, the eternal God dared to become human at a particular time. That is why he can suffer with us, sacrifice for us, intercede on our behalf. Because he is one of us, he can be our representative. Because he is one with God, he can bring new life for us all. It is a mystery—a stupendous one. It is the great Christian paradox: God stooping low to us so that we might be raised high to God.

--Today's Meditation, from Forward Movement

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Enlarging the Circle

Andrew Sullivan on today's historic vote:
It's been more than three decades since Leonard Matlovich appeared on the cover of Time magazine. It's been more than two decades since this struggle began to reach the realm of political possibility. From the painful non-compromise of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", through the big increase in discharges under president Clinton, via the wars and civil marriage breakthroughs of the first decade of the 21st Century to the calm and reasoned Pentagon report of December 2010, the path has been uneven. We need to remember this. We need to remember constantly that any civil rights movement will be beset with reversals, with dark periods, with moments when the intensity of the despair breaks the hardiest of souls.

But we should also note that what won in the end was facts and testimony and truth. There is no rational basis to keep qualified and dedicated gays from serving in the military. It was confidence in this truth - not assertion of any special identity or special rights - that carried us forward. And the revelation of the actual lives and records of gay servicemembers - all of whom came out of the closet and risked their livelihoods to testify to the truth - has sunk in widely and deeply. These men and women had the courage to serve their country and then the courage to risk their careers, promotions, pensions, salaries and, in some cases, lives to bring this day about. They represent an often silent majority of gay men and women who simply want to belong to the families and country and churches and communities they love, and to contribute to them without having to lie about themselves. This, in the end, was not about the right to be gay, but the right to serve America. Like all great civil rights movements, it is in the end about giving, not taking. . . .

And this points to a deeper truth. What the gay rights movement should, in my view, be about is not the creation of a separate, protected class of victims. It should be about enlarging the circle of human freedom so that there are no excuses left, no classes of pre-ordained victims, just individual citizens living different lives with no group-based discrimination.

This does not deny the uniqueness of different cultures, the value of a distinct minority, the differentness of race and gender and orientation and religion and geography. It merely says that politics should be indifferent to this cacophony of voices and carnival of color. Politics should merely address those core civil inequalities that keep groups separate, alien and mutually suspicious. By removing the bar on military service and the bar on marriage, the gay rights movement is, slowly, increasingly, making America more whole and the gay rights movement obsolete.

I long for that day. But I will always cherish this one.

DADT Is Repealed

Menelaus supporting the body of his fellow warrior Patroclus,
the lover of Achilles in The Iliad

The final vote began at 3:02 p.m., Washington time, and the result was declared at 3:30:  the Senate voted to repeal DADT by 65 to 31.  Eight Republicans voted with the Democrats; all the nay votes were by Republicans; one Democrat did not vote.  So the measure passed by more than two to one.

Thanks be to God.

Whether you are in the military or out of it, or want to be in it or not, this is an historic moment, one for great rejoicing - because this action by our elected representatives secures our equality, our civil rights, much more firmly in American law and culture. Now it will be much harder to argue that gay men and women who have openly fought and bled and died for their country should be denied any of the rights and freedoms common to all Americans.

Today we are all a little more equal, a little more free, a little more normal, as the world conceives that to be.  And I have lived to see this day. Joy.

Wounded American troops in Afghanistan, 2007.
Which is the gay one?
Who cares?
Caution:  Before anybody gets too exuberant, keep in mind that today's vote, while tremendously significant for the future, does not accomplish all that is needed at one stroke, but begins the process. The Wall Street Journal explains:
Passage of the repeal does not does not immediately revoke the policy. Before "Don't Ask" is officially ended, the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must sign a letter certifying that the necessary policies and procedures are in place within the military for gays to openly serve.  [note from Russ:  this means the Pentagon will have to work up all those things first, and in quadruplicate, natch, which will take some time to do; and they may stagger implementation across the services.]  Full repeal would take effect 60 days after that certification letter is transmitted to the congressional armed services committees.

Advocacy groups warned that gay service members may still be discharged during that interim period. Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran who is executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that provides legal advice for service members affected by the ban, said, "Gay, lesbian and bisexual service members posted around the world are standing a little taller today, but they're still very much at risk because repeal is not final."

"We All Bleed Red"

About 1:25 p.m., EST:  Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., speaking in favor of DADT repeal, held up a large version of this editorial cartoon to illustrate his remarks on the floor of the Senate.  Your Head Trucker lost it for a moment.

While we are waiting on the historic vote to repeal DADT, here are a couple of excellent things that have been written this week on the subject - which, please God, in just a couple of hours we may consign to the history books. But for the record, these are well worth reading and remembering.

Jonathan Capehart, openly gay Washington Post columnist:
Look, I know the Marines consider themselves the bad-ass branch of the armed forces. But the obsession of Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, with the presumed negative impacts of allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military is getting out of hand. The Post's Craig Whitlock reports that Amos suggested that dropping don't ask don't tell could result in more casualties because their presence on the battlefield would pose "a distraction."

To listen to Amos, you'd think letting gay men and lesbians serve openly would turn his barracks into the set for the third season of RuPaul's Drag Race. Ridiculous, right? Marines who can't handle serving alongside someone who was closeted on Monday and then comes out on Tuesday are the one Amos should be worried about. They are the ones who will lack discipline. They are the ones who will wreck unit cohesion. They are the ones who will harm morale.

Perhaps Amos didn't read Patrick Pexton's excellent Dec. 1 op-ed in The Post on why gay men -- like all men -- join the military.
Straight soldiers and Marines who have a few years under their belts, and have done a combat tour or two, will more readily talk about this. They often say they enlisted in part because they wanted to prove to someone - maybe a father, their family or a sweetheart, but most often to themselves - that they were brave men willing to suffer the consequences of their adult decisions, even if that included death. That is one of the essences of masculinity, they have said in interviews.

But the scores of gay servicemen I have interviewed over the years express an identical desire to prove their strength, courage and masculinity. It isn't about proving sexual prowess, both straight and gay troops say, but about adulthood and, ultimately, male virtue.
Or maybe Amos would rather cling to outdated and bigoted views than follow his commander in chief, the defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the American people, whose safety and liberty his able Marines are sworn to protect.
And a column by Nathan Cox, infantry captain in the Marine Corps, writing in the Washington Post:
I am an active-duty U.S. Marne Corps infantry officer. I have deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan and have commanded infantry Marines in combat. On Tuesday, Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, said he believes repealing "don't ask, don't tell" and allowing gay and lesbian Marines to serve openly could "cost Marines' lives" because of the "mistakes and inattention or distractions" that might ensue. I am not homosexual. And in this instance, I must respectfully disagree with my commandant. . . .

The commandant cites the importance of cohesion within small combat units and warns against its disruption by allowing homosexuals to stop concealing their identities. In my experience, the things that separate Marines in civilian life fade into obscurity on the battlefield. There, only one thing matters: Can you do your job? People care much more about whom you voted for or what city you're from while on the huge airbase with five Burger Kings, or back in the States, than they do when they're walking down a dusty road full of improvised explosive devices in Haditha or Sangin.

In the end, Marines in combat will treat sexual orientation the same way they treat race, religion and one's stance on the likelihood of the Patriots winning another Super Bowl. I do not believe the intense desire we all feel as Marines to accomplish the mission and protect each other will be affected in the slightest by knowing the sexual orientation of the man or woman next to us. . . .

I believe the reluctance many Marines feel about repeal is based on the false stereotype, borne out of ignorance, that homosexuals don't do things like pull other Marines from burning vehicles. The truth is, they do it all the time. We simply don't know it because they can't tell us.

It is time for "don't ask, don't tell" to join our other mistakes in the dog-eared chapters of history textbooks. We all bleed red, we all love our country, we are all Marines. In the end, that's all that matters.

Live Coverage: Senate Vote on DADT

Watch history being made while you eat breakfast, or nurse that hangover:

Senate Works into the Weekend on Last-Minute Legislation C-SPAN

You can read the 6-page PDF text of H.B. 2965 ("Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010") here. Look up more info about the bill at Thomas.loc.gov (Library of Congress).

Live blog from your Head Trucker - times are EST:

12:31 - The final vote on DADT repeal will be at 3 p.m. today, Washington time. Between now and then, the floor is open to senators who want to speak on that or on the START treaty, or who knows what. I'm listening to them drone on - even the senators who get up to speak in favor of repeal seem to me to be wasting their breath, there's no point in bring up more examples and indignant reactions pro or con now: it all comes down to the yeas and nays. I'll report back later on how it all turns out at 3 o'clock.

12:20 - Whups, not over yet. Reid is asking for a vote today at 3 p.m., apparently. McCain is bickering over debate time and technicalities.

12:12 - I guess that's all for today on DADT. But what a relief. The Washington Post says:
Senators voted 63 to 33 go proceed to debate on the bill. Fifty-seven members of the Senate Democratic caucus and six Republicans -- Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and George Voinovich (Ohio) -- voted yes. Four senators -- Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) -- did not vote.  [note from Russ:  Minich voted against repeal last week, but stayed home today.]

A final vote on the bill is expected Sunday; a simple majority is required for final passage.
New York Times:
“I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”

Mr. Wyden showed up for the Senate vote despite saying on Friday that he would be unable to do so because he would be undergoing final tests before his scheduled surgery on Monday for prostate cancer.
12:01 - The first vote, for a North Carolina judge, sailed through with a voice vote only. But now the second vote is being done by roll call, so it's another dragged-out process. BTW, McCain keeps talking about maimed soldiers but conveniently overlooks gay vets like Eric Alva, first Marine wounded in Iraq, who lost a leg and was given a medical discharge.

11:49 - Cloture on DADT repeal passes, 63-33. Hooray! So there can be no filibuster against it. Now they can move on to an actual vote on the bill itself. But inexplicably, they are now going to vote on a couple of judicial nominations - WTF??

11:46 - Clerk just read out, rather rapidly, a tally of yeas and nays by name, and I think I counted 60+ in favor - but some senators are still ambling up to the clerk's desk to vote, as the mood strikes them it seems.

11:35 - McCain, invoking the image of "Marines in Bethesda with no legs" says this is a sad day, putting lives at risk by letting all the queers ruin the military. Voting begins again, but this time the clerk is apparently calling the roll to start with - but again, some senators are up out of their seats, lounging around and chatting as before, so I don't know exactly how the vote works here. But crossing all my fingers and toes. Some senators are replying to the roll call from their seats, but I can't hear them via TV, so can't tell how it's going.

11:34 - Lieberman asks his colleagues to vote for fairness and support repeal of DADT.

11:31 - Cloture on the DREAM Act fails, 55-41, not having gotten 60 votes. What does this portend for DADT repeal?

11:30 - The cloture vote to limit debate on the DREAM Act (H.R. 5281) is underway. The voting procedure in the Senate is not at all like in the movies. There is no drama, no sense of moment. Instead of a momentous roll call, with each senator declaiming his aye or nay from his desk, everyone is up out of their seats, ambling around the chamber, chitchatting in small groups as you would at a church social. When somebody gets damn good and ready to vote, he or she sidles up to the clerk's desk and lets her know how to mark their vote. This has gone on for 25 minutes.

11:05 - Reid remembers a young woman who spoke to him and said, "My parents aren't citizens, so I can't go to college; what am I supposed to do with my life?" That and other such stories have haunted him, which is why the DREAM Act must be passed.

11:01 - Reid quotes Barry Goldwater: "You don't have to be straight to shoot straight." SNAP!

10:59 - Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Majority Leader, says McConnell's fake concern about the democratic process "brings a big yawn to the American people." Snap, snap, SNAP! "To suggest there haven't been enough hearings on this is simply nonsensical."

10:56 - Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Minority Leader, says not allowing amendments on these two bills is denying Americans the democratic process, yada yada yada.

10:53 - Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Majority Whip, speaks in favor of the DREAM Act, a "monumental" issue of fairness he has been working on for ten years. Showing pictures of young immigrants who will benefit from the DREAM Act. Says "the cause of justice is worth the politcal risk" of voting for this bill." All of which is well and good, but I wish they would just stick to DADT, which I'm focused on, and not mix the two topics up together; but maybe that's all to the good.

10:42 - McCain says "I'm aware this bill will probably pass today" - and liberals will rejoice tomorrow but "we are doing great damage" and probably "harm the battle effectiveness so vital to the survival of our young men and women." Yields the balance of his time.

10:36 - Here we go. Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., gets 10 minutes to rant. Starts by asking if it's true that no amendments can be offered on either bill before the Senate; the chair says that's true. Then he starts in on how the Senate is defying the will of the American people as expressed in the recent election. And the will of the military leaders and the troops themselves, which will "cost Marines' lives" - and yada, yada, yada. "It isn't broke, don't fix it."

10:35 - Sen. Charles Shumer, D-N.Y., quotes de Tocqueville: "What makes America different from all other nations is that equality always prevails."

10:33 - Sen. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in a short but impassioned speech says both DADT repeal and the DREAM Act are about letting people who want to be part of the American fabric, do so.

10:28 - Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Minority Whip, is maundering on with ten reasons why the Senate should not pass the DREAM act and let the barbarian hordes overwhelm our borders.

10:22 - Sen. Feinstein, D-Calif., says the criteria for military service should be "courage, competence, and a willingness to serve." Also speaks in favor of the DREAM Act.

10:15 - Sen. Lieberman, I-Conn., in a somewhat rambling response says the bottom line is, repeal will make our best-in-the-world military even better.

10:04 - Sen. Saxby, D-Ga., says now is not the time to repeal the law, in the middle of a war. If we do, "250,000 soldiers and Marines will leave the service in short order" because they can't bear to fight alongside all them nasty queerz.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Keep Your Fingers Crossed, Fellas

Tomorrow the Senate votes on the standalone bill to repeal DADT, which the House has already passed.  Barney Frank says it's "overwhelmingly likely" to pass in the Senate too . . . and about damn time.

Joe Lieberman:

Sen. Gillibrand and Rep. Polis:

Waitin' for the Weekend

Nick Ayler

Tired Old Queen at the Movies: The Razor's Edge

Steve Hayes reviews the 1946 film:
Tyrone Power's return from active duty in World War II provided the impetus for filming the most expensive picture Twentieth Century Fox had ever produced: W. Somerset Maugham's THE RAZOR'S EDGE, directed by Edmund Goulding, with Gene Tierney, John Payne, Clifton Webb, and in an Oscar-winning performance, Anne Baxter.

No expense was spared in this tale of a man who returns from the Great War and finds himself disillusioned with the world he is supposed to live in, and his eventual quest for spirituality. Tierney and Power made an exciting love team, and Webb and Baxter were perfectly cast. Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Arthur Miller, beautifully scored by Alfred Newman, and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck himself, it was nominated for multiple Oscars, including Best Picture, and is a prime example of Hollywood at its sumptuous best.


- Maugham wrote a screenplay for the Razor's Edge, which Zanuck scrapped in favor of a version by Lamarr Trotti.
- George Cukor was supposed to direct, but resigned when Zanuck vetoed Maugham's version.
- Betty Grable was in line to play Sophie, but was too afraid.
- Zanuck didn't think Anne Baxter sexy enough to play Sophie. She conspired w/friend Gregory Ratoff who told Zanuck he'd slept w/ her.
- Anne Baxter lost her Oscar when she moved to Australia in the 60's to live in the Outback.
- Clifton Webb lived with his mother Maybelle throughout his entire life.
- Power only agreed to make THE RAZOR'S EDGE if Zanuck agreed to let him be in NIGHTMARE ALLEY.
- The critics didn't care for Gene Tierney in THE RAZOR'S EDGE. As a result, Zanuck lost interest in her.
- Clifton Webb had known the man that his character Elliott Templeton was based on.
- This was the second time Herbert Marshall had played W. Somerset Maugham on screen.
- Lucile Watson lived in the smallest, complete brownstone in Manhattan.
- Although Gene Tierney & Oleg Cassini were divorcing, she insisted he do her wardrobe. Zanuck hated him.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

WTF: Half-Naked Hunks in the Vatican?

What is the world coming to?  This has already made the rounds of the big blogs, but in case you missed it - according to NPR:
The "Fratelli Pellegrini," or "Pellegrini Brothers," performed for Pope Benedict XVI during his general audience on Wednesday. The acrobatic team formed a human tower for the pope, a feat that drew applause from the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. The Pellegrinis were were invited as part of a convention on circuses organized by the Vatican's office for migrants.
Um, okay.  I guess it has something to do with brotherly love, huh?  I can go for that.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Decoration Day

Okay, I have finally done my Christmas decorating.  This is all of it, no tree for me this year:

The ex-roommate made this a couple of years ago.  Notice the little jeweled rainbow over the birdhouse door.  Yesterday, on promise of some gas money and Hawaiian pizza, I got him to make the drive out here and help me with a few handyman things around the house, including replacing the burnt-out front porch light fixture.  Here's the new one, which is simple but a bit festive in its own right, I think:

Otherwise, just a typical December day here in Texas:  sunny and not even cold at the moment, though it will be tonight.

From my front porch a few minutes ago

From the window of my study

But despite the brilliant sunshine, the night is coming quickly now.  In an hour it will be pitch-dark outside.  Bummer.

The World According to Facebook

Click to enlarge
I'm not sure what this means, but it does make a pretty picture.  Interesting to note the countries that don't show up.

A while back I read on some blog somewhere a comment by an obviously very young man:  "Forty million people in the U.S. don't have a Facebook account.  What's wrong with these people?  Are they sick, or just crazy?"

Um, maybe they just don't want to be bothered with the damn thing, ya know?  Like your Head Trucker, who is still in awe of the miracle of email - no stamp, no envelope, no waiting.  Works for me.

.          .          .

Speaking of maps, it's also interesting to take a look at the hit counter globe in the sidebar here on the Blue Truck:  the red dots seem to me to indicate the intersection of gaiety, technology, wealth, and civil liberty. 

Or maybe just horniness, when you consider a fair number of visitors arrive from porn blogs and are probably looking for more of the same.  Oh well, always glad to have visitors.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Al Fresco

It was certainly fresco here in Texas this morning, about 23 degrees. Birdbaths were frozen solid. So I made sure my little squirrels had plenty to eat when they came looking for breakfast.

WTF: English Cowboy

He sure looks the part, starting at about the 4:00 mark.  Seems strange at first, hearing a British accent coming out of his mouth instead of a Texas twang.  But I could get used to it.  I tell you what.

Green Acres Is the Place to Be

Country boys have bigger tools.

What, you didn't know that?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Isn't It Romantic

Prince William and his fiancee, Kate Middleton, have released their official engagement portraits, one formal and one casual, shown above.  Very sweet.  William looks so much like his mother.  I notice that already he has dark circles around his eyes, not sure why.  But his body language is plain to read:  very much in love, and very protective of his lady.  I hope she's up to the job - and it is a job she is marrying, not merely a man.

The couple will wed on April 29th next year, and although the venue hasn't yet been announced, everybody in Britain seems pretty sure it will be in Westminster Abbey.  Good luck to them.

Larger photos here.

In Memoriam: Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards, seen testifying before a Senate committee on health care in July 2009, died from breast cancer at her North Carolina home at 61 on December 7, 2010.  UPI/Kevin Dietsch/FILE Photo via Newscom

Christian Science Monitor:
Members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday. But they were vastly outnumbered by a “human buffer” of people who quietly stood in the rain singing Christmas carols and carrying signs reading “God loves Elizabeth Edwards” or simply “Grace” and “Hope.”

In a 2007 interview, Mrs. Edwards described herself as “completely comfortable with gay marriage,” hence the Westboro protesters at the funeral. But on Saturday just five church members (two of them children) showed up to picket, waving hateful signs about Mrs. Edwards and the United Methodist Church where the service was held. The funeral itself was attended by some 1,200 people.
Boston Herald:
Here’s something the media should vow today: never to mention the Westboro Baptist Church again. Yesterday five nutty protesters from this nutty church held their nutty signs two blocks from the Methodist Church in Raleigh, N.C, where nearly 2,000 mourners gathered for the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards. It’s safe to say the Westboro protest was a non-event.

Yet within hours of Edwards’ death Tuesday, news outlets across America were filled with reports that this virulently anti-gay, anti-Semitic and anti-military “church” — made up of 70 members — planned to picket Edwards’ funeral. When you Googled Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral yesterday, before and during it, there were more than 1,000 stories about Westboro’s protest plans but just a few dozen stories about Edwards herself.

What did Elizabeth have to do with the Westboro “church,” based in Topeka, Kan.? Nothing. But the Westboro crowd knew her funeral would get lots of media attention. So they injected themselves into it. This is what they do, brilliantly. They announce plans to “protest” some upcoming, solemn event. Normal people, nauseated, plan counter protests. When the event happens, a handful of Westboro members, sometimes none at all, actually show up. But hundreds show up for the counter protests. And we in the media cover them, playing right into Westboro’s hands.

This is exactly what happened yesterday. We had five nuts on one side of the street with their “Elizabeth in Hell” signs. We had perhaps 200 “Line of Love” counter protestors on the other side of the street with their “Peace” signs. The Westboro crew disbanded 20 minutes before the 1 p.m. funeral even began. No one disrupted anything. . . .

The father of Matthew Synder, a Marine killed in Afghanistan, has sued the Westboro Church for intentional infliction of emotional distress and for violating the privacy of his son’s funeral. The case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court as a First Amendment question. But this is not an argument about the Westboro nuts’ right to protest. It’s an argument against the news media’s seemingly indiscriminate decision to cover nuts like these, over and over, no matter what.

What I Say:  Amen. Your Head Trucker is a great believer in freedom of speech; but there is an exception to every rule, and this is one.

Beyond that - I'm just very, very tired of all the ugliness and indecency of this modern age.
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