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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Homosexual in America, 1969

David Mixner has done an excellent summary of Time magazine's cover story from the October 31, 1969, on queer life in America at the dawn of the gay lib era.

As it happens, it was about that same time, October of '69, that I first came to the crushing realization that "homosexual" and "me" were synonyms. Which I've tried to write about before here on the Blue Truck, but even now the memories are still too painful to discuss in detail. Back then, there were no out people here in the Southland, and not a soul you could talk to about it. What few mentions of the subject you found in library books were all extremely discouraging, consigning you to a life of loneliness and desperation. Only once in a great while did you come across a magazine article that suggested there were others like you in existence, that you were not the only queer boy in the world, which is exactly how it felt.

The Time article was pretty sympathetic to us for its time, only a few months after Stonewall - which, children, as big as it looms in our collective memory now was not an earth-shaking event for the general population at the time. If anyone heard about it when it happened - and I certainly didn't, way down here in the Deep South - it was more like, "Oh God, another kooky bunch of weirdos causing trouble." There was a lot of that in the sixties, just one damn thing after another as our parents said.  But in the summer of 1969, people were much more interested in hearing and seeing the first moon landing, the investiture of the Prince of Wales, and that ungodly conglomeration of dirty hippies at some place called Woodstock. Stonewall was a tiny blip on the nation's radar; it wasn't until the following year when the first anniversary was celebrated with parades and protests that the gay liberation movement really began to impress itself on the consciousness of the heartland.

And then there were the magazine articles that, one by one, drew attention to the newly militant, loud and proud homos. Despite the good things Time had to say about us - you can read the entire article at their website - the article also served up a heap of sneering, slanted views and fears that are still being proclaimed as gospel truth by the unenlightened and the bigoted.  As well as some things that are still quite true and up to date, like the vicious humor of bitchy queens and the married (can you say Republican?) closet cases tricking in men's rooms.

I'm glad to discover this article online, though, because at last I have found the quote I remembered all these many years but wasn't sure where I read it, or when - I would have thought perhaps a couple years later. But I still recall the utter disbelief I felt when I read this statement by a gay activist:
I won't be happy until all churches give homosexual dances, and parents are sitting in the balcony saying, 'Don't John and Henry look cute dancing together?'
Deep in the darkness of my closet, I laughed out loud when I read this, thinking, "Oh no, that will never, ever happen - you're crazy, buddy." It really was totally unthinkable, in that time and in that place, a ludicrous idea like a snowball in hell. It was much easier to believe in the sci-fi gadgetry of Star Trek than to believe homos would ever be so accepted.

And yet - here we are, 42 years later, and it just takes my breath away sometimes to consider how many light-years we've advanced since that preposterous thought was voiced. If we aren't quite there, it's easy to believe we almost are, and the next generation will see it and live it - no science fiction involved.

Make it so.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tired Old Queen at the Movies: Giant

Johnny's workin' on his cowboy accent (your Head Trucker would love to give him private lessons on how to use his tongue) while Steve Hayes does a fabulous review of this awesome Texas story. If you peckerwoods never have seen the show, get your ass in gear and go watch it, it's a dandy. I tell you what.
Cattle, cowboys and oil run rampant and fill the screen as Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean bring their considerable talents and beauty to George Stevens' huge production of Edna Ferber's GIANT. A family saga covering thirty years, GIANT was filmed on location in Texas with a blazing supporting cast that includes Chill Wills, Jane Withers, Carroll Baker, Sal Mineo, Dennis Hopper and Oscar nominee Mercedes McCambridge. Veteran director George Stevens won his second Oscar for bringing GIANT to the screen and Rock Hudson and James Dean both received nominations. Dean's nomination was posthumous, as he died in a car accident just two weeks after shooting his final scenes. But it is Liz Taylor, coming into her own as an actress of depth and subtlety who grounds and ultimately steals the picture. As big as the subject it deals with, GIANT is also a tender love story told against the backdrop of an old-fashioned spectacle the likes of which Hollywood seldom attempts anymore, and when it does, never does half as well.

Ghosts on the Move

Midway Plantation in its new setting

Last night your Head Trucker watched Moving Midway, which he recommends to all you fellas if you have any interest in Southern history and culture. It's a really well-made documentary about the moving of an old plantation house near Raleigh, done by a filmmaker who happens to be part of the family. And it shows very nicely how the ghosts of our Southern past linger in the present. As Faulkner said, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

Your Head Trucker can relate to all this in a way. Having traced all my grandparents' ancestral lines back to at least the year 1800, and a few of them back to the late 1600's, in Old Virginia and Maryland - ten generations - I can imagine the sense of history and connectedness felt by the family at the center of this film. Although it appears that most of my ancestors were small farmers who lived and died in obscurity, there were a couple of branches that were in the planter class, with fine old homes like you see in this documentary. One well-to-do branch lived in Fairfax County, Virginia, where Martha Washington recorded having a certain Mrs. ____ to tea one afternoon at Mount Vernon - my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother. Descendants of those families followed the western movement of the cotton lands first to Georgia, and then on to Alabama and Mississippi. In addition to being planters, they were also army officers, lawyers, and judges.  One of my great-great-grandfathers, who was killed in the War, was first cousin to a Confederate general whose plantation house in East Texas still stands, and who by marriage was very well-connected indeed.

And of course, my planter ancestors owned dozens of slaves - duly recorded in 19th-century census schedules - who worked the fields and may have helped build them large, roomy houses like Midway - though in most cases not as imposing as you may think from watching the movies. (At the premiere of Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell laughed out loud at the grand appearance of Tara - in the book, true to history, she describes it as merely a large, rambling farmhouse, "upcountry functional" as she later said - it was the Yankee David O. Selznick who transformed Mitchell's carefully accurate descriptions into the exquisite but preposterous visions you see on screen.)

My mama, however, swore that she remembered visiting the cousins in Mississippi as a girl and seeing the ruins of the big house, with the white columns still standing. Alas, my male forebears tended to be younger sons of younger sons, or in the female line, so they wouldn't have ended up with those places anyway; and then too, the War swept all the wealth and plantations away. But the memory lingered a long time in the familial memory, brightened and embellished in certain interesting ways.

According to my mother and my uncle, who both told the same story, there was one great-grandmother who, when the Yankees came, absolutely refused to leave her home, and neither guns nor bayonets could drive her out. So they set fire to it and burned it down over her head; but someone, friend or foe, must have dragged her out at the last moment because, as the story goes, her mind was so stricken by the terrifying experience that never thereafter would she sleep in a regular house again. The family had to build her a tree house in the yard, where she made her abode, perched in the branches like a bird, unconquered and defiant to the end of her days.

You have to admit, it does make an awfully good story, don't it? We Southerners have a talent for that sort of thing, or used to. Unfortunately, there is no actual record of such an event to be found, and from my genealogical researches, it does not appear that there was any great-grandmother who would have been the right age and in the right place for such a thing to happen to. But sometimes the myth is much more important than the history.

Continued after the jump . . .

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Call of the Wild, 2208

Hey guys, you have to check out this brilliant satire by Hunter over at Daily Kos:
I wish I could fully describe the feeling, upon reaching the base of those final escalators to the outdoors. All around me, men and women were preparing themselves: checking their supplies, testing the wheels of their backpacks and going over checklists to ensure nothing was left to chance. Large signs warned anyone foolish enough to have forgotten that sunscreen would be necessary for the trip, and that no restaurants would be available from here on in: vending kiosks provided those essentials and others, such as backup sunglasses, lip balms, and the like.

After a quick but thorough check of my own, I set out. Stepping onto the escalator sent a thrill up my spine. Above me, at the other end of those silently moving steps, I could see daylight blazing—the literal "light at the end of the tunnel." I passed through the cool misters that provided a bit of additional sunscreen to each adventure-seeker, and before I could fully collect myself, a matter of a mere minute or so, I was in the dazzling brightness at the top. I stepped off, into the fully wild air, and took a quick survey of my surroundings.

I found myself on a wide plaza, open to the outdoors on all sides. The wild air was an astonishing thing. It was so hot that I felt every breath sear into my lungs: This was the true air of nature, unconditioned, viciously dry. The plaza was covered by a single large sunshade, a mere one inch or so of fabric between us and the direct rays of the sun. Around me, adventurers were huddled around misters that had been provided here and there around the plaza; below me, a large arrow pointed straight ahead, to the far end of the plaza, and the words To the Canyon were emblazoned below it in large metallic letters. I opened one of my granola bars and set off on foot. . . .

Pre-emptive Paranoia

An excerpt of what Adam Gopnik writes today at the New Yorker News Desk:

Obviously, this was a big storm with a lot of water and wind in it; if things broke the wrong way, it could do a great deal of harm to a lot of people—and, just as obviously, the politicians had made an intelligent decision not to get caught with their raincoats down this time. (See Katrina.) But the relentless note of incipient hysteria, the invitation to panic, the ungrounded scenarios—the overwhelming and underlying desire for something truly terrible to happen so that you could have something really hot to talk about—was still startling. We call disasters unimaginable, but all we do is imagine such things. “It hasn’t even started, and the city is already Atlantis,” one of the back seat riders announced.

That, you could conclude mordantly, is the real soundtrack of our time: the amplification of the self-evident toward the creation of paralyzing, preëmptive paranoia. The real purpose not to get you to do anything, but to get you so scared that all you can do is keep the television, or radio, on. This is obvious, and yet there is something truly helpful, really instructive, about experiencing it again after a month of absence and silence. Two things that ought to be apparent all the time become briefly clear to you again. First, that the media, television particularly, are amplifying devices in which tiny kernels of information become vast, terrifying structures of speculation. The news business is one in which a minimum of news is really given the business.

And second, that the reasons for this are essentially non-ideological; frightened people need news for reassurance, and want to get a more heightened experience by being frightened still more, and the business the people supplying the fright are in (which we’re in too, of course) is not really that of dispensing information but of assembling enough listeners or readers, preferably still caught in that same spirit of credulous attentiveness, to offer to advertisers or keep subscribing. Sirius radio makes this clear in a backward way because it “blacks out” the commercials on the TV stuff they broadcast, not having been paid for them. Right in the middle of being terrified, everything stops and you’re bored stiff for a few minutes—and it occurs to you, as if for the first time, that those few minutes, when a commercial is being shown on CNN or MSNBC, are actually the whole point of the exercise. . . .

Sunday Drive: Wings to Fly

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Screw the Feds, Let the Locals Deal with Irene?

That's the message libertarian fucktard Ron Paul put out yesterday, saying "We should be like 1900; we should be like 1940, 1950, 1960."

Dude has his head so far up his doctrinaire ass, he doesn't even have the facts of history right.  Here's a video I found over at David Mixner's site, detailing the much-needed federal response to the horrific 1938 hurricane that slammed the Northeast, later jocularly called the "Long Island Express."  Judge for yourselves, boys, whether the federal involvement was worth it for the survivors or not:

Hope you fellas up there in the target zone have plenty of cold beer and candles on hand.  Don't forget to fill the bathtub - for flushing - and all the ice chests too.  God bless.

Bonus: This headline from Americablog requires no comment from your Head Trucker --

Friday, August 26, 2011

Waitin' for the Weekend

What Happened to That America? Part III

"That America" - the phrasing suggests a political answer, doesn't it?  The question is not "What happened to that time" or "What happened to that way of living," but rather focuses attention on the polity rather than the era or what we now glibly call a "lifestyle."

And your Head Trucker would have to say that in large part, what happened to change the political entity comes down, as suggested in the first two parts of this series, to two words:  television and mendacity.  Or to be more clear:  the ubiquitous medium of television exposed and brought straight into everyone's living room the mendacity, the pretenses, the lies which "that America" was based on.

"That America" - the one you see in the old commercials for shiny new Chevrolets and Frigidaires, Cheerios and Doublemint, the limpid vision of little pink houses and chummy small towns we can now conjure up at any time of the day or night to revisit - that America never existed.  It was a sanitized, spiffed-up, heavily censored imitation of the real America:  designed to entertain and reassure us, but also to sell products and prime-time minutes by stimulating our desire for more products, and more fashionable products, even ones we didn't know we wanted.

Now there's nothing wrong with entertainment and theatrical illusion per se - old Aristotle, who wrote the book on Greek drama way back there, and defined art as "the imitation of life," held that even the most gruesome of those tragedies had a beneficial effect on viewers by first causing them to feel pity and terror, and then allowing the purgation of those feelings, which he thought would have a good effect on their character, making the audience wiser, more thoughtful citizens.

But it's very important, especially in this era of non-stop entertainment and illusion by media of all kinds that we be able to distinguish the imitation from the life.  It may be that people who look back uncritically to those TV shows and commercials with a sentimental feeling, remembering at the same time how safe and lovely the world seemed through the eyes of their childhood, are failing to remember the many other facets of "that America" which were deliberately left out.

Continued after the jump . . .

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What Happened to That America? Part II

Pretenses! Ain't that mendacity? Having to pretend stuff you don't think or feel or have any idea of? . . .  I've lived with mendacity! Why can't you live with it? Hell, you got to live with it, there's nothing else to live with except mendacity, is there? 
-- Big Daddy to Brick

Well, boys, I reckon the heat musta got to me yesterday - you know it's still over 100 here ever day, and the mercury don't get below 90 till after sundown - I feel a little foolish now, that I started out talking about sociology and wound up on clothes and disco. And was stone cold sober at the time, too, swear to God. Oh well, maybe some of you enjoyed that little time trip back to the 70's, and I still intend to finish that essay in the next day or so.

But it so happens I've come across a video that is pertinent to the topic. First, in an interview with Don Lemon on the Joy Behar show, here's Randy Potts, grandson of evangelist Oral Roberts, whose moving It Gets Better video I posted here on the Blue Truck last fall:

But what I really want you to see is this video of Randy giving a talk at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa last month, in which he talks about his life growing up in a home where "the clock stopped in the 1950's" - in that America people some mourn the disappearance of. But let Randy tell you what the problem with that America was:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Happened to That America? Part I

Your Head Trucker as a fashion plate of 1959.

Over on YouTube, somebody asked that question under this video that I blogged about the other day:

The person who posted the video responded, "It existed primarily in our televisions." Which is a pretty good answer, but I've not been able to get this exhange out of my head since then.

So here goes with a little meditation on the remembrance of things past. Apparently the questioner is not the only one who wonders about that vanished country: Matthew Yglesias quotes House Speaker John Boehner's complaint that "Barack Obama and congressional Democrats 'are snuffing out the America that I grew up in.'"

Which, of course, is nonsense; the America that Boehner (born 1949) and others remember so nostalgically disappeared long before anybody ever heard of Barack Obama.  I came along about five years after Boehner did, and I too remember that world, which, unlike previous eras, is preserved forever in television shows, documentaries, and even commercials.  At the push of a button, the click of a mouse, we can return there at any time of the day or night, and many people do. 

Some time back, in the middle of an article about country megastar Alan Jackson, the writer mentioned that when Jackson isn't touring or working on a new song in the studio, he likes to relax at his country place near Nashville with simple pastimes, like watching reruns of the Andy Griffith Show.  And I understand my fellow Southerner's fondness for that program; I have some DVD sets of it myself that I watch from time to time, as well as other old shows from the era when Dinah was singing the praises of Chevrolet.  I was there - I remember - even though I was just a young tyke, and of course my perceptions of the world were obscured by my innocence and ignorance of many grown-up matters.

And the nostalgia for that past time is nothing new at all.  By the dawn of the 1970's, I very well recall, there was already a general sense that as a society we had moved into a new and different era, one that in some respects was not nearly as pleasant or attractive. 

Continued below the jump

Brain Buster

I see it but I still don't believe it:

This illusion is based, of course, on Escher's famous 1961 lithograph:

Monday, August 22, 2011

In Memoriam: Jack Layton, 1950-2011

In a tragic irony, Canada's Leader of the Opposition, Jack Layton, 61, has died of prostate cancer just three months after leading his party to a stunning, historic breakthrough in the last parliamentary election.

He is survived by his wife, Olivia Chow, who is also a New Democratic MP, and two children.  Funeral arrangments have yet to be announced.

Layton salutes supporters with his cane during the 2011 election campaign
From the beginning of his political career in the 1980's as a member of the Toronto city council, Layton was always a friend of the LGBT community, and his party's support was instrumental in the passing of Canada's equal-marriage law in 2005.

A few days ago, Layton penned a farewell message to Canadians, which reads in part:
Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. . . .

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
My condolences to all Canadians.  Rest in peace, bon Jack.

Layton and Chow ride a tandem bike in Toronto's gay pride parade, 2005

MLK Memorial Unveiled in Washington

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wedding Belles

Country singer Chely Wright, who came out on the Today show last year, married her fiancee, Lauren Blitzer, in Connecticut yesterday.  All good wishes to the happy couple, who make their home in New York City.

The Miami Herald reports:
Wright has said being openly gay would likely hurt her career. She told the Los Angeles Times homosexuality is still taboo in the country music industry.

“They would rather you were a drug addict than be gay,” she told the newspaper. “They will forgive you if you beat your wife, lose your kids to the state, get six divorces, make a sex tape, get labeled as a tramp — any and all of it is better than being gay."

Sunday Drive: Country Roads

Forty years ago this summer, the late John Denver had his first big hit with this evocative song, which was all over the radio. I can't believe it's been that long ago already. Whatever. Enjoy:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

See the USA in Your Chevrolet

The beginning of the tune is familiar to us ol' boys of a certain age, but do you know the next line of it?  Can you sing a whole stanza? 

I thought not.  Well, here's Miss Dinah Shore to give you the complete lyrics in her lovely way from 1952:

Dinah was the face of Chevrolet to TV viewers for years. Here's another Chevy commercial she did a few years later, with a less-memorable song but some cool shots of a '59 Impala:

And I can't help remembering the famous Hertz jingle too, with the magical ending:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What Really Matters

Honk to Porncake.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Florida Teacher Suspended for Anti-Gay Facebook Comment

Gedankenpolizei insignia?

From the Orlando Sentinel via Towleroad:
Jerry Buell, a long-time Lake County social studies teacher, said during a recent Facebook exchange that he "almost threw up" in response to a news story about legalized same-sex marriage in New York.

On the same July 25 Facebook post he identified the same-sex marriages to being part of a "cesspool." He went on to call the unions a sin.

The comments were made on Buell's personal Facebook page but were visible to friends in his network. Buell argued he made the post on his own time on his personal computer.

"It wasn't out of hatred," he said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. "It was about the way I interpret things."
And here is the comment your Head Trucker just posted to Towleroad, beginning with my reaction to some other commenters' remarks:
"We don't want people like that teaching our children" . . . Jeezus, people, where have we heard THAT before? Notice how quickly the language of intolerance - and plain old snootiness - is adopted here.

Which just goes to prove the old, old story - being oppressed does not necessarily make you wiser, kinder, or enlightened. Both history and today's papers are full of examples to show that it is just one tiny step from being oppressed to being an oppressor. And a really mean, haughty, ugly one at that.

I totally disagree with Mr. Buell's attitude, and I hope it changes, just as I hope all my deeply conservative relatives have a similar change of heart and mind one day. But in the meantime, Mr. Buell made the remark well away from his job and his students, and in my opinion is firmly within his Consitutional right to do so.

The First Amendment doesn't give you the right ONLY to agree with the next guy, ya know buds? Nor does it guarantee you will never hear anything you don't like. Freedom of speech means freedom of speech. Deal with it.

Because tomorrow it will be your ass on the line over some small but politcally incorrect remark. And you won't like that a damn bit.
What do you say, fellas?

Apology from Texas

Honk to Joe.My.God. for this gem:

And the quote from the late, great Molly Ivins is right on the money. Here it is in context from her 2005 book, Who Let the Dogs In?: Incredible Political Animals I Have Known:
Who knew Dubya Bush would be this bad? I realize there is nothing more annoying than someone who says, "I told you so." But dammit, the next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be in the White House, would you please pay attention? . . . Things could be worse. The current governor of Texas is a lot dumber than the last one, and he could run for president.
And lo and behold, it's happened.  Trust me and Molly, guys: you totally do not want to see true-believer, God's-anointed Perry ruling the country.

As a reader commented on Andrew Sullian's blog the other day, Perry is "George Bush on steroids." And that's about the sum of it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tired Old Queen at the Movies: Gypsy

Steve Hayes reviews the 1962 musical:
Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood and Karl Malden combine their considerable talents for the 1962 screen adaptation of Jules Stein's and Stephen Sondheim's smash musical GYPSY. Based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, with a book by Arthur Laurents and directed by veteran Mervyn Leroy, GYPSY is a musical standout where every song is a bona fide hit. Roz brings all her brilliant comic technique to the role of Rose, the overbearing show biz mother of all time and is matched by Natalie Wood at her most beautiful and beguiling as Gypsy. It's a loving tribute to vaudeville, burlesque and mother love that will leave you laughing, humming and wanting more.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Blue Truck Stats

I started this blog three years ago this month on a whim one Friday night, with no particular plan or purpose.  And it's still just a pastime, a leisurely Sunday drive down the back roads of my mind, going nowhere special.

But even if it's not worth writing home about, I am gratified to note that the Blue Truck now has 100 followers and a little over 120,000 unique visitors, a quarter of a million page views, and 1700 posts. 

Thanks for riding along with me, guys.  Now reach behind the seat and open another cold one.

Nick McCoy - definitely a Blue Truck kind of guy

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Drive: No Longer Any Need of Comment

When in the soul of the serene disciple
With no more Fathers to imitate
Poverty is a success,
It is a small thing to say the roof is gone:
He has not even a house.

Stars, as well as friends,
Are angry with the noble ruin.
Saints depart in several directions.

Be still:
There is no longer any need of comment.
It was a lucky wind
That blew away his halo with his cares,
A lucky sea that drowned his reputation.

Here you will find
Neither a proverb nor a memorandum.
There are no ways,
No methods to admire
Where poverty is no achievement.
His God lives in his emptiness like an affliction.

What choice remains?
Well, to be ordinary is not a choice:
It is the usual freedom
Of men without visions.
--Thomas Merton

Friday, August 12, 2011

Waitin' for the Weekend

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Artist: Steve Walker

Dinner Date
I seem to be on an art kick here lately.  Never had a single art class, wish I had though.

Thought you boys would enjoy these as much as I did.  Check out many more cool paintings from Canadian artist Steve Walker at his website.

Four Hands, One Heart

Jay and Clayton



Rest on the Flight into Fort Lauderdale

Mars Cars

A couple of years ago, I was touched by the plight of the valiant little Spirit rover, which after several years of brilliant success exploring the Red Planet and reporting back to Earth with fantastic pics and data, became stuck in a sand trap, and finally expired there, its solar panels covered with light-blocking dust. Of course, this is anthropomorphizing in the worst way, and it's silly of me. But I was touched just the same.

Here are some very cool vids about Spirit and its brother hot-rod, Opportunity, who is still going about his lonely chores up there.

Artist's concept of Spirit on the Martian surface

First-ever picture of Earth taken from another planet.
Now what was that big problem you were talking about?

P. S. - If I'm silly enough to care about the death of a robot, I'm also silly enough to believe there are canals on Mars - which, as late as my grammar school days, there were still science books in the library that acknowledged the possibility they exist.  And what are possibilities, after all, but the stuff that dreams are made on?  Like us.

I'm not much for science fiction now, but growing up I drank deeply at the trough - wonderful adventures in dream-laden books like Red Planet by Heinlein and The Martian Chronicles by Bradbury.  So don't try to confuse me with science; they just haven't looked in the right places yet, maybe.  I much prefer to imagine the ancient canals still filling with glistening, life-giving water every Martian spring, flowing amid the ruined towers of the cities, where the inscrutable eyes of the old ones watch in the dreamtime.

Do you grok me, brother?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


This week's New Yorker cover by Christoph Niemann:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


A mix of interesting articles I came across this evening, thought my truckbuddies might like to see them too:

Why Progressives Are Losing the National Debate -

Americans are grappling with struggling markets, captured regulators, languishing employment, and rising inequality. Self-identified progressives, mostly found on or to the left of the Democratic Party, have for years made these issues central to their agenda. The moment seems ripe for the popular embrace of progressive policies. Instead, progressives find themselves embattled. "Voters feel ever more estranged from government -- and . . . they associate Democrats with government," explains Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. The result is that "a crisis of government legitimacy is a crisis of liberalism."
Lasers for the Dead: A Story About Gravestone Technology -

Death doesn't change. But that doesn't mean that death escapes its time or culture. The older sections of Washington Cemetery have an identifiable style, too, Ciamaga said. The new stones are just the latest one. But if that's true, then these stones say something about the times in which we now live and die.

Our death stones are shiny and global and technologized to display high-resolution portraits of our loved ones. Our death stones are not quite as durable as the gray granite of the 20th century, but they are stitched between the rocks that came before.
World War II: The American Home Front in Color -

In 1942, soon after the United States entered World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order creating the Office of War Information (OWI). The new agency was tasked with releasing war news, promoting patriotic activities, and providing news outlets with audio, film, and photos of the government's war efforts. Between 1939 and 1944, the OWI and the Farm Security Administration made thousands of photographs, approximately 1,600 of them in color. OWI photographers Alfred Palmer and Howard Hollem produced some exceptional Kodachrome transparencies in the early war years depicting military preparedness, factory operations, and women in the work force. While most of the scenes were posed, the subjects were the real thing -- soldiers and workers preparing for a long fight. (45 photos)
Riots in London -

Riots that erupted in London neighborhoods over the weekend spread to four other cities yesterday, as hundreds were arrested and at least one person was killed. What began as a protest against the police shooting of Tottenham resident Mark Duggan spread quickly into general rioting and opportunistic looting -- what Prime Minister David Cameron has called "criminality pure and simple." For three days now, buildings and vehicles have been smashed and set on fire, while stores and warehouses were looted. Police have been unable to do much to slow the mayhem. Tonight, some 16,000 police officers will be deployed to London's streets in an effort to quash the worst unrest in the city in decades. Collected here are images of the violence in the U.K. from the past several days. (41 photos)
The Chav Revolt -

"Why are there so many kids who have no ambition but to be horrible, criminal people that don't want to do anything other than cause misery for others? Their only aspiration in life is to be like someone in a rap video or to win the Lottery. All they want is a quick fix and that's fuelled by the media and by advertising.

And then there's all the good people out there who work hard and break our backs and do our best, and stay within the boundaries of what is right. I'm attempting to start my own small business but that's going to be even harder in this area now. I don't blame the police for not reacting fast enough. There are just thousands of scumbag criminals out there and not enough police," - Jon Davis, 32, an outraged resident of Croydon, South London.
Looters mugging an injured man:

Londoners volunteers turned out en masse today for cleanup duty in the debris-strewn streets:

photo via the Atlantic

photo via Joe.My.God.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My First Car

1970 Chevelle Malibu hardtop with mag wheels

It was about this point in time, back in 1971 that I bought my first car - I used to have a good head for significant dates, and August 4th comes to mind, though I can't swear to it now.  But whatever the date may have been, it was a happy, happy day for me.  I tell you what.

I had looked forward for what seemed like ages - time passes more slowly for the young, of course - to having my own wheels, and I remember it seemed like the day would never come when I could get a driver's license and a car.  As a boy my trusty bicycle had carried me lots of places, but when I became a teenager, the places I often wanted to go were too far away on busy roads not safely travelled by bike.

But slowly, much too slowly, the day of liberation approached.  For a year or so previously, while driving my mom's old Buick, I had been developing an eye for all the different brands of new cars, and discovered an unsuspected talent for zeroing in on the precise make, model, and year of scores of cars by paying attention to fine details. 

And in the process of observing, I had narrowed my preference down to a sporty Chevrolet - unlike my straight peers, line and color were everything in my judgment, can you relate?  It came down to a choice between a zippy little Nova or a very sporty mid-sized Chevelle Malibu.  Since my mom was generously donating her old car as a trade-in, it actually would have been possible to go for a Corvette - oh my God, sex on wheels - or a new marque I had never seen until I walked into the dealer's showroom, the brand new Monte Carlo, which looked as sleek and chic as a 1930's limousine, though designed more for sport.

But at the time, I just thought I wasn't quite ready for the last two, which were more grown-up toys than I wanted or needed at the time.  And my mom nixed the Nova, fearing as she always did for my safety in a small car - for one brief moment in time, I had my eye on a used Volkswagen bug that I could have bought from a friend for only a couple hundred bucks, but Mom absolutely forbade me to even think about it.

So I ended up wandering all over the dealer's lot to pick out my very own Malibu 350 V8, a bright cranberry red with a black vinyl top - the height of coolness at that moment.  Oh God, it was a beautiful car, fellas, with a new-car smell that was intoxicating.  Sticker price:  $4,025.

And buddy, it would run like a scalded dog.  I tell you what. 

For months, I peeled rubber taking off from every stop light - what fun.  I never notice anyone doing that nowadays, but it was fairly common among my generation.  Of course, I had no way of knowing that I had just managed to catch the last of an era that would soon disappear forever, as has been so often the case in my life.  Muscle cars were all the rage at the time, when gas was only 28 to 30 cents a gallon.  And damn, they were sexy - and so, it seemed, were the guys who drove them.

But the oil crisis of 1973 ended all that.  I'm glad I got my dream car, though - one ought to have things like that when one is young enough to truly savor the experience.  And I kept that sweetheart for nearly 12 years, though that was due mainly to the poverty of my college days.  I've often wished I had that car back again, that somehow I could have kept it safely stored away.

But at this late age, even if I still had it, it wouldn't be nearly as much of a thrill to drive as it was then.  Once you have awakened from a dream, you can't get back inside it, you know?

But it was great while it lasted.

Curiously, I never thought to take a decent photo of my Malibu; there are only a couple of pics that show a corner of it, but nothing with the whole car.  So I had to search around the 'net for the pics you see above and below.  The top picture is actually a 1970 Malibu, nearly identical to the 1971 except for a few fine details like the turning lights and tail lights.  The bottom picture is a 1971 model like mine was, but a convertible - mine was a hardtop, though I did sometimes wish it had been a ragtop:  what fun that would have been, cruising up and down the beach roads in summertime.

But I loved my car, and it was a good friend to me for years and years and years.   Peace to its ashes.

1971 Malibu convertible with factory-equipped sport wheels

Though I can't believe it's been 40 years ago already. Where the hell does the time go?

Bonus:  That was the summer a number of memorable songs topped the charts, like "You've Got a Friend" by James Taylor, "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" by the Bee Gees, "Brown Sugar" by the Stones, and this rocker by CCR that sums up the feeling of speed, youth, and dreams of sex:

I was riding along side the highway, rolling up the countryside . . .

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Last "Pink Triangle" Survivor Dies

Chart of prisoner markings in Nazi concentration camps, circa 1940;
the pink triangles for "homosexuell" are third column from the right

Rudolf Brazda, 98, died last Wednesday in northern France.  Believed to be the last gay survivor of the Holocaust, he was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp by the Nazis in 1942.  His remains will be cremated and interred next to those of his partner, Edouard Meyer, who lived together for more than 50 years.

From the Jerusalem Post:
While in Germany in 2009, Brazda’s first visit to his native country in 64 years, he examined his Buchenwald concentration camp documents. “Yet they were never able to destroy me. I am not ashamed,” he noted.

Commenting on the contemporary gay and lesbian generation, he said, “They should consider themselves lucky to live in a free democracy.” . . .

This past April, France appointed Brazda a Knight of the Legion of Honor. Germany chose not to award Brazda the Federal Cross of Merit. Brazda did not receive monetary compensation from the German government for his incarceration in Buchenwald.

Successive post-Holocaust German governments [have] resisted paying financial compensation for gay victims of the Nazi period.

Your Head Trucker encourages all you guys to watch the documentary Paragraph 175, which has many interviews with gay concentration camp survivors; it's a heartbreaking story - but we must remember our past.

Don't think it can't happen again.  Don't think it can't happen here.  Don't think it can't happen to you.

It can.

It Gets Better: "I Was the Bully"

A moving account by J.T. in south New Jersey:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Waitin' for the Weekend

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Groovy Guys: Graham Nash

In my younger days the Hollies were a fun group, featuring a very young - and studly - Graham Nash. 

This song always makes me smile: the steel drums remind me of flying into the Bahamas, where they used to have a steel drum band meet all the planes - a DC-6, let's say, or a Lockheed Electra - to serenade debarking passengers as we emerged into the sea-scented air and brilliant tropical sunshine, and descended the steps to the tarmac.

But the young'uns among us won't even be able to decipher that last sentence, so just enjoy the song:

Later, of course, after a string of hits with the Hollies, Nash teamed up with David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and sometimes Neil Young, and got his second wind with another truckload of rock classics, including the delightful "Marrakesh Express," which I very fondly recall from the summer of 1969. Here's a hairier, more worldly and wizened Nash doing an interesting live version (1974) with Crosby - consummate musicians:

In 1977, I was lucky enough to see them in concert performing so many great songs, including this one - sung a capella except for Stills's acoustic guitar - all of them perfectly on pitch just as you hear it in this recording, and not a hundred feet away from me. Man, what a thrill that was. I tell you what.

And here's Nash in 2009, explaining why you never hear protest songs on the radio anymore:

Bonus: The guys team up with blues queen Bonnie Raitt on this awesome rendition of "Love Has No Pride":

I remember the song - hell, I lived it once.

A great mistake; but we love and learn.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Four Artists

The ex-roommate, who happens to be a very fine artist himself, and I have been emailing each other back and forth today about some wonderful painters I disovered yesterday whilst surfing about from here to there.  It seems, much to my surprise, that representational art is not dead, after all.  And we both especially love the way the first two artists portray light - exquisite.

Whether from good conscience or just sheer laziness, I'm only posting one work by each artist here - but do follow the links and look at the many other paintings they've done.  I hope they grab you as much as they do me.

1.  Leon Belsky, "Tulip Flight I":

Your Head Trucker don't know too much about art, but it strikes me that this is a dancer's pose - no?

2.  Nancy Depew, "Challenge":

3.  Michael Chapman, "Inner Noir":

4. Francis Livingston, "Rush Hour":

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