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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year's Eve 2019

It occurred to me yesterday with a shock that after midnight tonight, my life will have spanned eight calendar decades, or parts thereof - though I am only a youngster in my sixties.  How extraordinary.

The years pass by quickly now, as my grandmother warned me they would.  Sometimes one might wish to say, O beautiful time, stop and linger - but like birds on a fence, the moments of life flicker and are gone before one can speak a word.

I had intended to close the year with some philosophical ruminations - but the clock is running out on me, and really, I have nothing new to offer beyond what many other older and wiser men have already said about time and life and love here on this small and fractious planet.

On the whole, it has been a happy year for M.P. and me, despite assorted health problems and financial difficulties at various times - but for the moment all those worries have subsided, and we are spending the holidays in quiet comfort and good cheer, thanks be to God.

So among the anxious changes and chances of this transitory world, I will end by simply wishing all my truckbuddies health, wealth, and happiness in the new year--and I leave you with this timely quotation from the fourth inaugural address of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945:
I remember that my old schoolmaster, Dr. Peabody, said, in days that seemed to us then to be secure and untroubled: "Things in life will not always run smoothly. Sometimes we will be rising toward the heights--then all will seem to reverse itself and start downward. The great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization itself is forever upward; that a line drawn through the middle of the peaks and the valleys of the centuries always has an upward trend."

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sunday Drive: Over the Rainbow

American songwriter and pianist Jim Brickman plays a hauntingly beautiful version of the classic ballad:

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Pork Boys Do Christmas 2019

We save the cheery red damask for our Christmas table each year.

When M.P. gives me the word to go light the candles, dinner is nearly ready!

Last Sunday, M.P.'s children and spouses and grandchildren all came over for the big Yule dinner, which M.P. worked like a Trojan for three days preparing, whilst also finishing wrapping a multitude of presents - especially for the little ones - as well as doing a whirlwind housecleaning operation. I did my bit too, mainly taking care of the laundry and the dishwashing, the latter being an especially large item when M.P. is cooking up a feast.

Alas, our little bungalow was crowded to the rafters and we had no opportunity to take pictures of the plentiful food - I'm not sure I can even remember what all we had, except that the star of the show was a delicious big ham that M.P. smoked and cured himself, starting a couple of months ago. Oh, and a deviled Beef Wellington, his own invention, that went down very well. The day was cold but sunny and bright, the fellows brought plenty of beer and wine, the kiddos were adorable and well-behaved, and everyone was convivial, so the evening was a success. Then we collapsed into our beds and slept very soundly indeed for all of the night and most of the next day.

What with such a large family and all of the other in-laws to consider, M.P. and his brood struggle mightily with logistics in order to come up with a day when everyone can gather at dear old dad's house, whilst on Christmas Day they go to their mother's, or to some other in-law's house. Our custom is to have our own Christmas dinner a deux on the day itself - or whenever we feel up to it, which was not until Thursday the 26th. And here are some pics of our simple fare.

Lovely big fried oysters from the local Cajun restaurant were the happy surprise M.P. sprang on me for an appetizer.  So eager was I to show my appreciation that we didn't stop to take a picture until they were nearly all eaten.

Homemade, deep-fried boudin balls are another favorite appetizer we enjoyed.

Canard Roti with an orange glaze - though not strictly speaking duck a l'orange, as M.P. made some additions to it that are too mysterious to explain.  Mighty fine eating, though, and roasted low and slow so that it was practically falling apart when taken out of the oven, perfectly tender, juicy, and delicious.  The Cajun rice stuffing was delightful, too.

Orange gravy to go over the duck.  Finger-lickin' good.  I tell you what.

Braised mushrooms in a red wine sauce.  That's all you need to know.

New potatoes in a thick cream sauce.

Good old lima beans are good with anything, anytime, anywhere.  Just ask any Southern boy.  Seasoned with bacon, of course.

Hot homemade clover-leaf rolls, liberally brushed with butter, were something to exclaim over - especially when we burned our fingers trying to pick them up out of a hot muffin pan!  

Candlelight and White Zin completed our Xmas menu.

Oh but I mustn't forget the piece de resistance:

M.P.'s luxurious and original creation:  a Hot Cocoa Cake - a three-layer delight, frosted with cream icing and melted marshmallows.  Talk about good!  Oh my.

But the odd thing about it is, it keeps disappearing!  I am therefore keeping a close guard on it, armed with fork in hand.

This year, we made a wonderful discovery.  Drop whatever you're doing and run down to Winco right now and get you some of this luscious coffee, which tastes just as good as it smells.  You can thank me later.

Our centerpiece is topped with a lovely glass-and gilt star that M.P. found in the trash at work one day, years ago.  Sometimes we use it atop the Christmas tree, but it works nicely on the festive table too, as you can see, thanks to M.P.'s artistry.

And so with quiet contentment and good cheer, and plenty of good things to eat and drink, we have had a blessed Christmas this year.  I hope all of my truckbuddies did too.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Waitin' for the Weekend

Today's Quote: Lord Kenneth Clark

Lord Kenneth Clark (1903-1983) was a renowned British art historian, perhaps best remembered for his 1969 BBC series Civilisation, at the conclusion of which he made this statement:
At this point, I reveal myself in my true colors as a stick-in-the-mud. I hold a number of beliefs that have been repudiated by the liveliest intellects of our time. I believe that order is better than chaos, creation better than destruction. I prefer gentleness to violence, forgiveness to vendetta. On the whole I think that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and I am sure that human sympathy is more valuable than ideology.

I believe that, in spite of recent triumphs of science, men haven't changed much in the last two thousand years. And in consequence, we must still try to learn from history: history is ourselves.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Queen's Christmas Broadcast, 2019

Her Majesty the Queen delivered her annual Christmas message today via television to Britain and the Commonwealth.

Small steps can make a world of difference.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas to All, 2019

Here's wishing good health and good cheer to all my truckbuddies around the world - and peace on earth for everyone.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sunday Drive: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

The well-known Advent hymn is here performed by the renowned Texas a cappella group Pentatonix:

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Waitin' for the Weekend

Friday, December 20, 2019

Trump's "Grossly Immoral Character"

Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour, March 2, 2019, via Wikipedia

In a startlingly forthright editorial, Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine founded in 1956 by Billy Graham, yesterday called for Trump's removal from office.  Excerpt:
The facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character. . . .

To use an old cliché, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence. And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern.
Trump responded this way:

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Impeached! Now What?

Last night, the House of Representatives voted along party lines to impeach Donald Trump on two counts:  abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.  But after the votes, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters she would delay transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, where Republican leaders have already said they would quickly dismiss the charges.  So who knows what will happen next.

Nevertheless, as numerous commentators have already observed, the House vote means Trump's name will forever be branded with an asterisk in the history books as the third president to be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

For the record, here are some videos concerning the impeachment vote as well as the raging, decidedly unpresidential letter Trump sent Pelosi on Tuesday, accusing Democrats of "declaring open war on American Democracy" by "an illegal, partisan attempted coup" that is a "colossal injustice."

The historical significance of this impeachment:

Former presidential advisers John Dean and David Axelrod on the impreachment:

Republican lawmakers compare impeachment of Trump to Jesus and Pearl Harbor:

CNN's Anderson Cooper on what the Trump letter didn't mention:

Also worth reading:  Paul Bergala's comments on the Trump letter.  Excerpt:
Trump's letter to Pelosi has been described in clinical terms. It has been called "deranged" or just plain "sick." But while I appreciate the need to understand Trump, I do not believe that understanding will be found in psychology. . . .

But most important, excusing Trump as merely ill lets him off the hook too easily. So, rather than leaning on psychiatry, I think we ought to dig deeper for a more meaningful, powerful, and accurate nomenclature. His letter is not sick; it is evil. His conduct is not deranged; it's tyrannical. I hope every member of Congress reads it.

In my multiple readings, one sentence, however, struck me more than the others. Perhaps because it's one of the few that I think is 100 percent honest: "I write this letter to you," Mr. Trump says in the penultimate paragraph, "for the purpose of history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record." This is Trump speaking to history. This is his manifesto.

And his manifesto, of course, is shot through with lies, mendacity being Trump's native tongue. Like many people, Trump lies when it suits his purpose, but his assault on the truth, particularly in this letter, is essential to his mode of governing. Killing truth is not merely a means to an end for Trump; it is a vital end in itself. . . .

The letter is Trump's governing philosophy distilled. He is a wannabe autocrat, who has made his goal clear: to remake America as he has remade the Republican Party -- turning a once-proud, strong party into a gaggle of sycophantic lickspittles. His rage for Speaker Pelosi is boundless because she stands up to him. His letter is a window not into a troubled psyche, but something much worse.

And whether Trump is removed from office or not, his impeachment matters profoundly, says constitutional law professor Frank O. Bowman. Excerpt:
Whatever the short-term consequences, this impeachment is the right thing to do.

It is right, first, because the truth matters. The United States is an inheritor of the Enlightenment conviction that the world is comprehensible, reality is discoverable and social arrangements should be built on clear-eyed assessments of fact. American democracy depends on a special elaboration of the Enlightenment ideal, which insists that truth is not the private property of priesthoods or aristocracies, but is the public province of every citizen, the necessary predicate to informed communal choice.

Our president is a liar. He sits at the center of a web of falsehood, constantly spinning grotesque new entanglements, constantly abetted by his hired sycophants and, more consequentially, by a dark element of the media which finds in Trump the perfect champion of its own impulse to transform the press from arbiter of truth to purveyor of profitable propaganda. Trump’s dishonesty is so integral to his personality and to all his works that to support him requires that one become a liar oneself, or at least to become willfully indifferent to mendacity.

The House impeachment process was essential to the cause of recovering truth as a public value. Without it, Trump’s misconduct in relation to Ukraine would have remained a mere scandalous rumor, blithely denied by Trump and generally ignored by the public. More fundamentally, the hearings in the House Intelligence Committee recaptured, for a blessed moment at least, the world we are in danger of losing: a world in which it is natural for honest public servants to serve their country impartially and speak the truth when they witness a betrayal of its values. This impeachment calls us to renew our mutual obligation of public candor. . . .

Finally, the value of any public act cannot necessarily be measured in its immediate success of failure. By voting to impeach Donald Trump, Democrats express their faith in, to adapt a phrase from Charles de Gaulle, a certain idea of America. An America that is commonly truthful, unusually generous, customarily trustworthy, instinctively democratic, committed to human freedoms and individual rights, self-protective without being selfish, always imperfect but perennially challenging itself to do better. An America that, to borrow a favorite image from a man Republicans used to revere, at least aspired to be the world’s shining city on a hill.

It is not hyperbole to suggest that our republic is in peril. In impeaching Trump for his betrayal of American values, we reassert to each other our commitment to a resurgent democracy. And we speak not just to each other but to a watching world. We demonstrate that, although for the moment America is in the grip of madness, there remains a sturdy contingent of Americans willing to fight for the hopeful America upon which so many of the world's highest aspirations depend.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sunday Drive: Comfort Ye, My People

English tenor Nicholas Sharratt superbly performs the opening songs from Handel's magnificent Messiah:

The Song of Mary:  The Magnificat
Luke 1:46-55
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Waitin' for the Weekend

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Articles of Impeachment

House Democratic leaders announced the articles of impeachment today. The House Judiciary Committee will likely make a formal vote to send the charges to the full House on Thursday, for debate next week.  The Senate trial will take place in January.

What I Say:  It's a good day for democracy and the Constitution; but there are two roadblocks ahead.

1.  The "high crimes and misdemeanors" in the spotlight here are too vague - too cerebral, if you will - for Bubba and Baby out in the hinterlands to grasp.  Trump worshipers will say, "It was just a phone call, only a few words.  So what?  Politicians are always spouting off, give him a break."  I'm afraid that nothing short of, to use the vulgar phrase, being caught with a live boy or a dead girl would topple Trump from his golden pedestal in the glistening eyes of his devotees.  Unless most constituents are truly outraged over these things, Congress will not be either, collectively speaking.

2.  Trump would be removed from office if two-thirds of the Senate voted to convict him.  But the Republicans control the Senate, 53-47, and you can bet your bottom dollar that they will vote to a man against impeachment.  Because if Trump goes down, so will they, even though they know perfectly well he is guilty as sin.  (Just imagine how these Republicans would be hooting and hollering if a Democratic president had done the same things.)

Of course, it's not over till it's over, and the possible - though highly improbable - defection of twenty Republican senators could change the outcome.  But the Constitution must be defended anyway, no matter how the votes fall.

God bless America.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Waitin' for the Weekend

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Pork Boys Do Thanksgiving 2019

Our festive board was particularly pretty this year, I thought.

Some hand-painted plates that belonged to M.P.'s mama added a charming touch to our place settings.

M.P.  had dinner with his children and grandchildren down in the big city last Thursday, so we had our turkey dinner on Sunday, and it was grand.  This being his favorite meal of all, M.P. worked on it for two days and nights, and pulled out all the stops as usual, as you can see.

Scrumptious appetizers:  from 12 o'clock, cranberry cheese, stuffed mushrooms, gruyere cheese, ham and cheese pastry rolls, and pâté made with chicken livers, gizzards, and pork pieces, all ground very, very fine of course.  Captain's wafers were on hand, not shown in this pic.

The turkey, about 18 lbs., roasted to perfection low and slow, and every bite tender and juicy as could be.  M.P. stuffed it with a truckload of cornbread dressing and basted it with wine and herbs every 15 minutes for about six hours.

Left to right:  sliced turkey, green bean casserole, and sweet potato soufflé topped with mini marshmallows. I made the last two dishes, which require no particular skill.  At top under the mixer is a bowlful of mashed potatoes.

Giblet gravy, left, and maque choux, a Cajun corn dish covered with crumbled bacon.

Plated:  from 1 o'clock, schoolhouse roll, turkey partially covered with cranberry sauce, maque choux, green bean casserole, sweet potato soufflé, and mashed potatoes with giblet gravy.  At center is cornbread stuffing, also covered with giblet gravy.  Every single bite was luscious.

Homemade pecan pie headed the dessert list, along with a pumpkin pie (not shown), and real whipped cream.

What else can I say?  Everything was larrupin' good, boys.  I tell you what.  Sure do wish I could hand each one of you a plate.  Hope your Thanksgiving was as happy and tasty as ours, and you have as much to be thankful for as we do.

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