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.


Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year 2021

 


Well, fellas, at last we have reached the end of a tumultuous year, a time to pause and reflect on where we have been and what we have learned; yet the relentless spiral of Time goes on and on - for better or worse, who can say?  

Your Head Trucker is not completely in sync with the frantic modern world, its frenzies, follies, or fashions, but one has to make the best of it.  Like leaves floating on a stream, sometimes calm, sometimes rapid, we are carried along with the flow of changes and chances in this mortal life, helpless to stem the flood of Time that bears us ever onward, like it or not.

It is always the best of times and the worst of times:  annus mirabilis to some, annus horribilis to others.  Let us pray that this coming year will at least be a better one - and more peaceful - than the one now ending.  I wish good health, good luck, and good cheer to all my truckbuddies around the world - and I thank you all for rolling along with me here in the Blue Truck.  God bless.



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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Pork Boys Do Christmas 2020

M.P. likes to string lots of lights out front, but this year settled for simplicity.  I think it's pretty enough for two old men who don't need to be falling off ladders.

Since the annual family dinner was cancelled on account of the pandemic, we were left with a larder full of goodies that M.P. has been accumulating over the past few months, as he always does, in anticipation of feeding a houseful of his posterity.  But nothing daunted, M.P. has carried on with cooking as planned - we have simply decided to celebrate not merely one day, but all twelve days of Christmas this year, each with something delicious to eat.  Of course leftovers are part of the plan, but every day M.P. thinks up some new dish or treat for us to enjoy.  Monday it was homemade shortbread cookies.  Yesterday it was mini-tacos, a nice change of taste after being well-nigh surfeited with ham, duck, and even goose.

Here are a few pics to show you what I mean:

Christmas Eve hors d'oeuvres:  yummy deviled quail eggs, eight kinds of cheese, assorted crackers, and a pot of luscious cream of green bean soup (sounds yucky, but believe me when I tell you it is really sublime).  The array of spoons was not really necessary for just us two, but isn't it pretty?

La table, soup bowls at the ready.

M.P. made the lighted wreath out of twigs and things he picked up in the yard.

Christmas Day buffet:  this time with the addition of scrumptious homemade pate de foie gras as well as a plate of oven-fried chicken pops coated with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.

Cardinals have been a favorite Christmas motif of ours for years, since we have a family of them that nests in one of the backyard trees.  But notice that our new lighted centerpiece has two red cardinals.  Think about it.

Candlelight makes the season bright, whether real or artificial.

A view from the fireplace end of the room.  When M.P.'s family comes to dinner, we somehow manage to seat 14 people in this same space, using extra tables and chairs.  M.P. loves to cook for his young'uns, but he does admit Christmas is a bit more enjoyable this year without having to deal with the logistics of feeding a crowd.

We are very thankful, considering all the things that might have turned out much worse this year, personally and politically, that despite the infirmities of advancing age and precarious finances, we are still able to enjoy good cheer, good food, glad hearts, and quiet minds.  I hope all my truckbuddies are likewise enjoying this season of renewed hope and goodwill with those they love.



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Friday, December 25, 2020

The Queen's Christmas Broadcast, 2020

Her Majesty the Queen broadcast her annual Christmas message to the nation and the Commonwealth today - and a deeply moving message it was, too.


Even on the darkest nights, there is hope in the new dawn.


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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Christmas 2020


Credo quia pulchrum est.

The Adoration of the Shepherds, by
Gerard van Honthorst, ca. 1622.  Click to enlarge.

For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man . . .

to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, 
to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all.

The Gramophone Ghana Chorus sings out the good news with joy:

 

It has been a year of unexpected changes, great and small; and even Christmas is being celebrated differently this year by many people around the world, though the spirit of the season is still evident if one has eyes to see it.  

After a toilsome week of cleaning up the messes left by successive Christmas parties at his school, M.P. rested a bit at home and then got busy once again stringing lights on the front of the house, and decorating the living/dining room with a truckload of abandoned poinsettias he brought home from work.  Now it looks a bit like a Christmas garden in there, considering it was already filled up with all the outside potted plants that we are sheltering indoors for the winter - a couple of them are as tall as I am.

M.P. has also given the main rooms a Christmas cleaning, though not quite as thoroughly as usual, because this year his children and grandchildren are not coming for the annual Yule dinner at Papaw's house; after a good deal of dithering and twittering and what-shall-we-do-ing, the group mind finally settled on each family staying home and cooking for themselves.  Which is a prudent decision for all concerned, old and young; but M.P. had already laid in supplies of Christmas foods that he was not about to let go to waste, including a nice fat duck, and a ham that he produced himself by curing and smoking a piece of ordinary pork loin - which seems a miracle to me.  

So on Monday evening, the day of the winter solstice and, this year, the remarkable Great Conjunction - a fascinating sight in the southwestern sky - M.P. after much cheffing around in the kitchen served up a luscious Yule dinner for just us two, and here are the pics to prove it.  Of course, the proof is in the eating, but you just have to take my word for it that every single bite was deee-licious.




From 5 o'clock:  apricot-glazed ham (so tender it fell apart in cutting); succulent roast duck leg; deep-fried diced parsnips (like potatoes, but slightly sweeter); creamed sweet potatoes; spinach-cheese casserole; and a deep-fried biscuit, crispy outside and oh-so-buttery inside.

Of course, we have been re-heating and re-eating this same meal ever since, delightedly.  But there is more to come from the depths of the pantry and deep freeze:  On Friday M.P. will bestir himself to cook a proper Christmas dinner; then next week, a New Year's dinner; and the week after that, a King's Day dinner, with I hope, a nice King's Cake to top things off.  And your Head Trucker, being also Head Dishwasher of this joint, will do his part to keep kitchen operations rolling along.

Yesterday M.P. spent the whole day boxing and wrapping presents for his progeny (4 adult children, 3 spouses at the moment, and 4 little tykes), including all sorts of fascinating toys and dolls and whaddayacallits that toddle and coo and go root-a-toot-toot.  Later today he will drop them off, and then come back to put up our Christmas tree.  (While he is gone, I will wrap the few presents I got for him.)  On the big day, there will be a family Zoom conference to watch the unwrappings at the various houses, which for parents is the climax of all their endeavors.  How lucky we all are to live in an age of such technological miracles.

And so Christmas is not ruined at all, just a little different this year; I do hope by next Christmas things can get back to the usual routine - busy but comforting in the endless procession of the years.  And I hope all of my truckbuddies are enjoying some Christmas cheer right now - though you may be apart from your loved ones, and perchance even Zoomless, you can still be united in spirit.  And I believe that, come what may in this mortal life, nothing can ever separate us from the eternal Love that moves the stars, and moves our willing hearts, by whatever name you call it.

I am thankful for the quiet good cheer M.P. and I share here in our humble circumstances, with general health and finances stable at the moment; as we have both reflected, it would be a sad thing, growing older, to eat alone day after day.  It's harder to cook for one than for two.  So we celebrate what we have with grateful hearts.  I'll close these rambling thoughts now with some musical selections that sum up the meaning and the joy of Christmas for me.  My prayers go up for peace on this troubled earth and goodwill among men all over the world;  and from our house to all of yours, we send best wishes for a very Merry Christmas.



Sunday, December 20, 2020

Sunday Drive: Creator of the Stars of Night

An awe-inspiring presentation of this ancient hymn from St. John's Episcopal Church in Boulder, Colorado:


The Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Annunciation, 1898
Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), 
African-American artist.
Click to enlarge.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Buttigieg Accepts Cabinet Nomination

Mayor Pete speaks after President-elect Biden announces his nomination as the next Secretary of Transportation.  His appointment must be confirmed by the Senate following the inauguration of Biden as the 46th President next month.

 

A gay man nominated for a job in the Cabinet, my stars.  Unthinkable forty years ago when I came out.  But I have lived to see this day. 

Wow.


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Monday, December 14, 2020

No Doubt About It: Biden Wins the Presidency


[We have] faced difficult times before in our history. I know we’ll get through this one, but together. That’s how we get through it, together. So as we start the hard work to be done, may this moment give us a strength to rebuild this house of ours upon a rock that can never be washed away. As in the Prayer of St. Francis, for where there is discord, union, where there is doubt, faith, where there is darkness, light. This is who we are as a nation. This is the America we love and that is the America we’re going to be. So thank you all and may God bless you. And may God protect our troops and all of those who stand watch over our democracy.

And God bless the Electoral College!  Meeting in their respective state capitals today, the electors ratified the election of Joe Biden as the next President according to the Constitution, 306-232.  And for once, there was not a single faithless elector among them.  So my hat is off to them; the election system may need changes in future, but for now the good old Electoral College has preserved democracy and guaranteed Uncle Sam a new lease on life.  Well done!

My longtime truckbuddies will have noticed I haven't blogged very much since the election.  It's partly because the colder weather has put me in something of a hibernating mood; and also I simply haven't thought it worth disrupting my peace of mind to rant about the blatant lies and seditious attempts at subverting our democracy - even overthrowing the lawful government of this republic - that have the support of far too many would-be fascists in high places and among the citizenry.  I have instead tried to stay calm and do my part in keeping our little home running smoothly and happily, turning all the other stuff over to the Lord to handle - and He does seem to be doing a good job with it.

I also pray daily for Joe and Kamala to find the strength and wisdom to lead this sadly divided nation back to the path of justice, unity, and peace.  There is much that needs mending and fixing in this old house; but now we can breathe again, and begin again to build that more perfect union - which is always a work in progress.

Here are Joe's thoughts on that subject, in a speech given today after the Electoral College finished voting - a real "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" speech that warmed your Head Trucker's heart:

Lift up your hearts:  the dark night is ending, a brighter day is coming.  You take care fellas, and stay safe.


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Sunday, December 13, 2020

Sunday Drive: Ave Maria, Il Volo

Grazie to my truckbuddy Frank, who tipped me to this exquisite rendition of the beloved hymn to the Virgin Mother: 

 

The Third Sunday of Advent 


The Song of Mary - The Magnificat


My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; 

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed: 

the Almighty has done great things for me, 

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him 

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm, 

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, 

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things, 

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel, 

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers, 

to Abraham and his children for ever.

--Luke 1:46-55


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Saturday, December 12, 2020

R. I. P.: Charley Pride

Country music legend Charley Pride died today, age 86.  The first black country singer to receive widespread acclaim, Pride racked up a long string of number-one country music hits in the 1970s and 1980s, and accumulated numerous awards and honors throughout his career.  His last appearance was just a month ago in Nashville, where he received the CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.  Here he sings one of his greatest hits with contemporary country artist Jimmie Allen:

 


Here he sings the same hit song on the Lynn Anderson Show in 1971:

 


 In this 2017 interview, Pride talked about his roots and his music:

 


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Sunday, December 6, 2020

Sunday Drive: O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion

The well-known aria from Part I of Handel's Messiah, as performed by American mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry:

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

R. I. P.: Pat Patterson

Pro wrestling champion Pat Patterson has died at age 79.  In 2012, he came out to his wrestling colleagues in this clip that was first broadcast a couple of years later:

   

I never heard of Pat until now, but God rest his soul.  It just goes to show - we're everywhere.


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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sunday Drive: Once in Royal David's City

As performed by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge:



Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving Memories

 The Thanksgiving cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1927, illustrated by J. C. Leyendecker, certainly resonates with your Head Trucker.  How about you?

Click to enlarge.

Here's wishing all my truckbuddies a safe and happy Thanksgiving with those they love.


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Sunday, November 22, 2020

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Sunday Drive: Schubert, Serenade

Things are going to be all right. Healing is under way. Have faith.

 


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Friday, November 13, 2020

All Over But The Shouting

 ABC and other news outfits have finally called Arizona and Georgia for Biden, giving him 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232.  There is no way Trump is going to have a second term.  So lift up your hearts.





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Sunday, November 8, 2020

Sunday Drive: On Eagle's Wings


This is the lovely hymn by Fr. Michael Joncas that President-elect Biden quoted in his victory speech last night. 

 


The President-elect also quoted part of this famous passage from the Old Testament:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

--Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


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Saturday, November 7, 2020

America to Trump: YOU'RE FIRED!

The votes are in, and Joe Biden is the next President of the United States.  Hallelujah!   Live from NBC News:

 

NBC also shows us live celebrations of Biden's victory across the country:

Biden made this statement at midday after learning of his victory:

I am honored and humbled by the trust the American people have placed in me and in Vice President-elect Harris. In the face of unprecedented obstacles, a record number of Americans voted. Proving once again, that democracy beats deep in the heart of America. With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal. We are the United States of America. And there’s nothing we can’t do, if we do it together.




The Guardian put it this way:
America has chosen Joe Biden to be the 46th president of the United States. The American people have disavowed four years of a thuggish presidency. They have chosen decency over dysfunction, fact over fiction, truth over lies, and empathy over cruelty. They have rejected the last four years of ugliness, divisiveness, racism and sustained assaults on constitutional democracy. And even as Trump plots legal challenges and levies unfounded claims of fraud, it is clear America is moving on.  Now, the real work begins.



Click to enlarge.


Harris and Biden gave their victory speeches to a "drive-in" crowd tonight in Wilmington, Delaware.  Both were fine speeches.  Biden himself impressed your Head Trucker as being very presidential:  strong, confident, optimistic, and determined to do his best to be the leader of all the people and to heal the divisions in this country.

 


And I'll close tonight's post with the moving remarks of CNN's Van Jones, who struggles to explain what Biden's victory means to him and many others in this diverse nation:


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The Purpose of Our Politics

 Joe Biden, speaking to the nation late last night as election results continue to trickle in:

In America, we hold strong views, we have strong disagreements, and that’s okay. Strong disagreements are inevitable in a democracy, and strong disagreements are healthy, they’re a sign of a vigorous debate of deeply held views. But we have to remember the purpose of our politics isn’t total, unrelenting, unending warfare, no. The purpose of our politics, the work of the nation isn’t to fan the flames of conflict but to solve problems, to guarantee justice, to get to improve the lives of our people.

We may be opponents but we’re not enemies--we’re Americans. No matter who you voted for, I’m certain of one thing:  the vast majority of them, almost 150 million Americans who voted, they want to get the vitriol out of our politics. We’re certainly not going to agree on a lot of issues, but at least we can agree to be civil with one another. We have to put the anger and the demonization behind us. It’s time for us to come together as a nation to heal. It’s not going to be easy--we have to try.



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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Today's Thought

 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

--St. Paul

 

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Monday, November 2, 2020

The Pork Boys Do Halloween 2020

 We had our Halloween feast on Sunday night, and M.P. worked all day long to make it pretty.

They're baaaack!

Clockwise from left:  glazed bacon-carrot wraps, chili con carne con queso, black tortilla chips, and deviled skulls.

The table, 1

The table, 2

The table, 3

Sorry, we were too hungry to pause for food pics.  But the menu was luscious:  First, onion and potato soup, followed by baked porkchops stuffed with spinach, pureed parsnips and pan gravy, okra creole (okra, tomatoes, and corn in a roux-based sauce), and garlic bread.  Oh, and fresh pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream for dessert.  Mighty good eatin', I tell you what.


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Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sunday Drive: We Gather Together

Perry Como sings the familiar hymn, originally a Dutch folk tune.

 

The Gospel:

   Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


From the Book of Common Prayer:

   For an Election

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

   For our Country

Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage: Grant that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought here out of many peoples and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, let not our trust in you fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

   For the Human Family

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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Saturday, October 31, 2020

What Do Americans Really Want?

 And what is the American character?  Renowned historian David McCullough answers those questions in this six-minute interview from 2017, which is highly pertinent to the present moment.

   

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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Keeping It French

 A Cajun cowboy explains why he clings to his roots.  You'll like this short vid, fellas, even if you don't parlez francais.


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Sunday, October 25, 2020

We Voted



 Yesterday.  About 5 p.m.  Big auditorium, almost nobody there.  No lines, no waiting, poll workers very friendly and helpful.  It was a breeze.  Thank goodness for early voting.  (I'm happy to report that we were given scannable paper ballots, too.)

On the way home we picked up some groceries, including a little slice of blueberry cheese - yes, there is such a thing and it's delicious - came home, kicked off our shoes, and celebrated our votes with assorted cheeses, pepperoni slices, homemade "pizza toast," and a bottle of Guinness each.  Also conversation, music, and laughs.  Cheaper and much more fun than going out to a bar, we both agreed.

So for the record, the Pork Boys have done their patriotic duty to put the country back on the right track.  The rest is up to all of you. 


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Sunday Drive: Vivaldi, Mandolin Concerto in C Major

 The familiar concerto, played here by a full ensemble of mandolins, and featuring a brilliant performance by the renowned Israeli mandolinist Ari Avital.

 


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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Pope Comes Out for Civil Unions

Whoa.  In a breathtaking departure from Catholic teaching up till now, Pope Francis has unofficially stated his approval of civil unions for gay couples.  The Catholic News Agency reports:

In a documentary that premiered Wednesday in Rome, Pope Francis called for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples, departing from the position of the Vatican’s doctrinal office and the pope’s predecessors on the issue.

The remarks came amid a portion of the documentary that reflected on pastoral care for those who identify as LGBT. 

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it,” Pope Francis said in the film, of his approach to pastoral care.

After those remarks, and in comments likely to spark controversy among Catholics, Pope Francis weighed in directly on the issue of civil unions for same-sex couples.

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” the pope said. “I stood up for that.”

The remarks come in “Francesco,” a documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis which premiered Oct. 21 as part of the Rome Film Festival, and is set to make its North American premiere on Sunday.

Well, I'm stunned, and I'm not even Catholic.  However, it does seem in line with Pope Francis's kindly personality and humane approach to pastoral issues.  For us Americans, this change of tune comes a bit late; but then no doubt in some other, less-evolved societies, people may feel it comes too soon.  Be that as it may, we'll take it, and I for one will count Pope Francis as a "gay ally" from here on out.

Don't reject goodwill or friendship just because it doesn't arrive on your timetable.  Despite the incessant gay-hooray of American media, the fact remains that we are a tiny minority of the population both here and all around the world.  (You can look it up for yourself.)  And who knows what the legal and judicial atmosphere will be after this election.  

We need all the friends we can get, fellas.  And we don't have to be Catholic to realize that Francis has done a beautiful thing:  he has affirmed that we gays are human beings, after all, and children of God - just like everybody else.  Our essential humanity, our right to exist, does not, of course, depend on his say-so; but coming from the Pope, this will open some hearts that have been hitherto closed against us.  

Thank you, Your Holiness.

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Update:  See my post from 3/13/21, Pope Francis Nixes Gay Unions.

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Go from There

Studly Oscar-nominated actor Sam Elliott has recorded a campaign ad for Joe Biden.  I could listen to it all day.

 

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

USA Today Endorses Joe Biden

 
The Editorial Board of the nationwide daily USA Today - and for my overseas truckbuddies, I might describe it as the low-key, mild-mannered Mr. Rogers of American newspapers - has for the first time in its four-decade history endorsed a presidential candidate. Excerpt from the Board's statement:
Four years ago, the Editorial Board — an ideologically and demographically diverse group of journalists that is separate from the news staff and operates by consensus — broke with tradition and took sides in the presidential race for the first time since USA TODAY was founded in 1982. We urged readers not to vote for Donald Trump, calling the Republican nominee unfit for office because he lacked the “temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents.”

We stopped short, however, of an outright endorsement of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. This year, the Editorial Board unanimously supports the election of Joe Biden, who offers a shaken nation a harbor of calm and competence. . . .

It's no secret that the Editorial Board disagrees with Trump not just on his approach to the coronavirus but also on fundamental issues, from health care and climate change to immigration and trade. Policy differences, however, are not the reason behind our first-ever presidential endorsement. Diverse views, even ones we think are wrongheaded, are a staple of American politics and something to celebrate.

If this were a choice between two capable major party nominees who happened to have opposing ideas, we wouldn’t choose sides. Different voters have different concerns. But this is not a normal election, and these are not normal times. This year, character, competence and credibility are on the ballot. Given Trump’s refusal to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, so, too, is the future of America's democracy.

For nearly four decades, the Editorial Board has stood for certain core values: truth, accountability, civility in public discourse, opposition to racism, common-ground solutions to the nation’s problems, and steadfast support for First Amendment rights. These aren’t partisan issues, or at least they shouldn’t be.

Donald Trump has trampled each of these principles, making more than 20,000 false or misleading statements, ducking responsibility for his actions, spewing streams of invective at his critics, trafficking in racial fearmongering, governing more as the leader of the red states than of the United States, and relentlessly attacking the free press.

Everything about Biden’s nearly half-century political career suggests he would do a far better job of respecting these values. “We need to revive the spirit of bipartisanship in this country, the spirit of being able to work with one another,” the Democratic nominee said in a recent speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. . . .

Biden is well positioned to repair the wreckage Trump has made of the federal government, from the foreign service to the science agencies Trump has tried to politicize. As vice president in the Obama administration, Biden played a central role in the last economic recovery and is equipped to handle another one.

Even before the pandemic struck, Trump did no better than the Obama-Biden administration on job creation, the stock market and economic growth. (Remember his promise to pay off the national debt in eight years? It's now $27 trillion, up more than $7 trillion from four years ago.) Biden knows that the recovery process will require, first and foremost, a comprehensive national response to the COVID-19 crisis that has upended Americans’ lives and left large sectors of the economy reeling. 

This extraordinary moment in the history of our nation requires an extraordinary response. With his plans, his personnel picks, his experience and his humanity, Joe Biden can help lead the United States out of this morass and into the future. Your vote can help make that happen.


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Monday, October 19, 2020

The Firehose of Falsehood

Vladimir Putin & Donald Trump in Helsinki, 16 July 2018 (10) Trump isn't nuts, he's trying to make you nuts, writes Mark Follman at Mother Jones.  Excerpt:

Trump may well be a dangerous psychopath, but he isn’t crazy. He doesn’t spread lunatic conspiracy theories because he believes them. Not for a moment does he actually think that Joe Biden secretly arranged the murder of Navy SEALs in a scheme to stage the takedown of Osama bin Laden. When Trump shared those claims recently on Twitter, his motivation was, as always, to provoke, entertain, confuse, “trigger the libs,” and change the subject from his own failures. . . .

It’s worth looking again at the big picture here, one Mother Jones began documenting shortly after the 2016 election: Trump is using the autocrat’s playbook. Vladimir Putin’s, to be specific. As contributor Denise Clifton wrote more than three years ago, Trump’s deluge of demagoguery and lies “echoes a contemporary form of Russian propaganda known as the ‘Firehose of Falsehood.’” With Election Day nearing, the comparison has never been more apt.

In 2016, the nonpartisan think tank RAND published a study of the tactics and techniques used in Kremlin-controlled media. The end goal of what the researchers called “a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions” was to entertain, confuse, and overwhelm the public. (The entertainment component can serve as inspiration for loyal followers—for example, a string of broadcast traveling stage performances showcasing a greatest-hits of outrage and outrageousness.)

Look back at just about any point in Trump’s presidency and it’s evident how he has fulfilled four defining features of the Kremlin playbook, as identified in the RAND study:

  • High numbers of channels and messages”: Trump by no means controls the American media, but he has access to an unprecedented version of state-controlled television in Fox News, along with enormous unfettered reach through Facebook and Twitter (which further feeds all manner of news outlets).
  • Rapid, continuous and repetitive”: There are countless instances of Trump repeating a lie or line of attack multiple times during interviews, press conferences, and campaign rallies.
  • Lacks commitment to consistency”: In one recent example, Trump pushed for more coronavirus aid from Congress before railing against it and then calling for it again, in a span of less than 24 hours. In another, he turned his back on aid for wildfire-stricken California only to quickly reverse his position.
  • Lacks commitment to objective reality.” This one is pretty self-explanatory, but just in case… here are 20,000 examples.

Follman's well-written essay is worth reading in full.  Bottom line:  don't give up, don't look away, keep hope alive and VOTE HIM OUT!


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Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday Drive: Ketelbey, In a Monastery Garden

An enduringly delightful work published in 1915 by English composer Albert Ketelbey (1875-1959).

 

Some prayers for anyone who may need them, from the Book of Common Prayer, 1928.  They don't have to be taken whole, you know; sometimes just a single lambent word or phrase can shine a spiritual light through the darkness that troubles us, and lead us homeward.
For Trustfulness.

O most loving Father, who willest us to give thanks for all things, to dread nothing but the loss of thee, and to cast all our care on thee, who carest for us; Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which thou hast manifested unto us in thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Heavenly Father, thou understandest all thy children; through thy gift of faith we bring our perplexities to the light of thy wisdom, and receive the blessed encouragement of thy sympathy, and a clearer knowledge of thy will. Glory be to thee for all thy gracious gifts. Amen.

For Joy in God's Creation.

O Heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty; Open, we beseech thee, our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works; that rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness; for the sake of him by whom all things were made, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Friday, October 16, 2020

What I'm Watching: Hacking Democracy (2006)

The other day, I just happened to come across this chilling, eye-opening documentary, which shows how easily American elections can be - and have been - stolen, ought to be required viewing for all Americans.  (Caution:  may be anxiety-producing.)

Ever since the dawn of the Digital Age more than 20 years ago, your Head Trucker has always thought that electronic voting machines and ballot-counting machines are simply and obviously an invitation to electoral fraud, and furthermore, that the only verifiable voting method is by paper ballot.  It takes no technical expertise to see that, only common sense.

I am gratified to see that some experts are now - just three weeks before the election - speaking out and saying these very things I have been saying to anyone who would listen all these many years.  (See links below.)  

Programmable, hackable machines should never have been used to record or count votes in any election.  And it's far too late now to change the system for this year's election.  I expect many challenges on both sides to the initial returns, and who knows how long it will be until the nation has a bona fide tally of the votes in all states.  We are used to knowing the winner by the next morning at the latest - but these are not normal times.

Be that as it may, we have to do what we can do, and not worry about what we can't.  Because if we don't vote, the result is certain, and abominable.

 NBC News: How to Make the Election Trustworthy, 10/13/20 

 PBS News Hour: What Election Officials Think about Paper Ballots and Voting Machines, 10/14/20


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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Rick Steves: For the Love of America, Vote

A timely message from travel writer and enthusiast Rick Steves:
  
 Excerpt from the video summary: 
As a traveler and a student of history, I've seen how strong societies can fray. And I fear for our democracy. It’s more fragile than we realize. And it is at risk.

That's why, this year, I believe our choice is more fundamental than partisanship. Four years ago, Donald Trump pledged to "Make America Great Again." When I survey our national life today, it's clear to me that we've lost so much more than we've gained in that time.

If we truly want to make America great again, we need to elect Joe Biden to the White House on November 3. Please join me.


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Monday, October 12, 2020

Predicting the Next President

Allan Lichtman, professor of history at American University in Washington, D. C., has accurately predicted every presidential election winner since 1980, often a year or two before the election, based on his analysis of 13 political, economic, and social criteria he calls the "keys to the White House." 

In this New York Times video produced in August 2020, you can find out who Prof. Lichtman thinks will win the election next month, and why.
  

What I Say:  Your Head Trucker reminds you that in this mortal life, nothing at all is certain until it happens.  There' s many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip, as the old saying goes.  You remember that in 2016 all signs, apart from Prof. Lichtman's, were go for a win by Hillary - and look what happened.  

Furthermore, in 2000, the prof did correctly predict that Gore would win the popular vote - but chicanery in Florida threw the election to Bush.  What do you think are the chances of political chicanery in this election?

I do feel the Democrats will prevail in this election - but feelings are not facts.  It ain't over till it's over.  So keep your fingers crossed, watch out for tricks, and VOTE!

  Biden Harris logo


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Thursday, October 8, 2020

What I'm Watching: Building a Log Cabin

Townsends YouTube channel is a cornucopia of fascinating videos all about life in 18th-century colonial America, including lots of recipes about cooking over a campfire, on a hearth, or in a homemade oven.

But lately I've been engrossed in watching the building of an honest-to-God log cabin from the ground up, using only 18th-century tools and a lot of elbow grease.  Of course I've known all my life the general idea of how such things were put together - but it's different watching it go up log by log.  

Even if you're not into living off the grid - and your Head Trucker is certainly not about to try such a damnfool thing - you might learn something from these vids.  I've selected four out of the playlist of 20 to share with my truckbuddies here. So get a move on, boys, and get your cabin ready for winter!





Your Head Trucker loves the sound of David Cadle's voice in this last video - that's the authentic sound of the past.  Awesome beard, too.  And pretty blue eyes.  


Bonus:  At the end of the day, how are you gonna feed all those hungry, hairy, sweaty men?  No problem.  While they're working on the cabin, you could be building an oven out of mud and straw.  When the sun goes down, they'll love your hot buns.

 


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Thursday, October 1, 2020

Our Rendezvous with Destiny

Treason is afoot in the land.  The New York Times sounds the alarm this morning:

Click to enlarge.

And Politico reports:  "Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Thursday that President Donald Trump is 'aiding and abetting' Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to sow doubt about the American electoral system."

McMaster expressed himself at length in this interview with MSNBC today:


But of course all this is old news - here's a front page of the New York Daily News two years ago:


You know, 55 percent of non-voters in the 2016 election were Democrats, according to the Pew Research Center.  I'm praying that Democrats will turn out this year in overwhelming numbers so that the election results cannot possibly be challenged.  It's all up to us, fellas - now is the time to overthrow the dictatorship that has already begun.  This is the last chance to stop it - our generation's rendezvous with destiny.  

I was never asked to shed my blood for this country that I love - but I will certainly give my vote.  We are fortunate here in Texas that the state allows walk-in early voting during most of October, 7 days a week in our county.  M.P. and I have already made our plan for when and where to vote.  Have you?

An excerpt from Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on June 27, 1936 - a masterpiece of Democratic and democratic ideals, well worth reading in full:

There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.

In this world of ours, in other lands there are some people, who, in times past, have lived and fought for freedom, and seem to have grown too weary to carry on the fight. They have sold their heritage of freedom for the illusion of a living. They have yielded their democracy.

I believe in my heart that only our success can stir their ancient hope. They begin to know that here in America we are waging a great and successful war. It is not alone a war against want and destitution and economic demoralization. It is more than that; it is a war for the survival of democracy. We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.

I accept the commission you have tendered me. I join with you. I am enlisted for the duration of the war.


Bonus, 10/2/20, 6 a.m.:

Trump and Melania have come down with Covid-19.

What a coincidence.  A perfect excused absence from all other debates.  Which his team surely realizes would only turn off more voters.

Don't be too quick to feel sorry for him.  He has LIED about everything else in the last four years, why not his own health?  Such a convenient excuse to hole up in his bunker and avoid the press and public till Election Day.

Very clever.  But not, I think, clever enough to fool the American people - the sane majority, that is.


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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sunday Drive: Debussy, Reverie

Take heart.  Have faith.  Keep hope alive.


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Thursday, September 24, 2020

What I'm Watching: Andalucia, the Best of Southern Spain

I have it on very good authority that sunny Andalu-SEE-ya is the place to be when you're retired and carefree.  Plenty of fun in the sun, wine that flows like water, and so many, uh, cheeky young men to wait on you hand and foot in countless beach bars that cater to the mature expat population.  See what you think.

 


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Friday, September 18, 2020

In Memoriam: Justice Ginsburg Dead at 87

Justice Ginsburg, circa 2006

Grievous news:  a remarkable woman has died, leaving a remarkable legacy of upholding liberty and justice for all.  She lived a long, successful life, for which she received many honors and great public esteem, so may she rest in peace now among the pantheon of great Americans.

I need hardly remind my truckbuddies that hers was one of the five votes that brought marriage equality to this country in 2015.  She was always a great friend of the gay community, and will be sorely missed.

But her death at this particular time amounts to a constitutional crisis:  the Republicans in the Senate will no doubt pull out all the stops to get a hard-line rightwinger confirmed to replace her before the year is out, regardless of the election results.  And that bodes ill for our democracy and our republic.

 

NPR reports:

Just days before her death, as her strength waned, Ginsburg dictated this statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."




Remember This:  Speaking in 2016 on the nomination of Merrick Garland for a Supreme Court vacancy, Lindsey Graham invited Americans in the future to use his own words against him concerning the next vacancy.  The future is now.

 

For further reading, Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog in 2016 gave this historical summary of election-year Supreme Court vacancies in the 20th century, and how they were filled.  Howe also gives this detailed summary of Ginsburg's career on the high court bench.


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Thursday, September 17, 2020

What I'm Watching: A Conversation with Gregory Peck

A few days ago, I came across this bit of doggerel, which I never heard before, in the comments on a different YouTube video:

Hard times create strong men;

Strong men create good times;

Good times create weak men;

Weak men create hard times.

I have no idea who said it first, and no doubt it would raise some people's hackles, but there is a good bit of truth there.  And it does chime with insights of my own I've had over the years but never bothered to press into words.  It did occur to me years ago that the comforts and conveniences of modern life have made us, collectively, softer, less hardy, and less resilient than our ancestors were, in a number of ways.

I have often thought of how very different the modern world and my own life are from the world my grandparents were born into, and the hardscrabble lives they led growing up on small farms deep in the backwoods, in a time before electric lights, telephones, or motor cars.  I remember their stories of the old days, when daily life was so very different from what I took for granted in the suburbs of the mid-twentieth century.  

In a poetic sense, their memories have merged with mine, now that I am an old man too, and so I can look back in my mind's eye to the latter decades of the Victorian era, and see the broad sweep of time, the vast movements of ideas and technology that have carried us far from that other world that seems so tranquil in retrospect.  It was actually full of alarums and excursions, as every age is - but there is a difference between a gently simmering pot, and one that is boiling over, as ours is today.

Perhaps another time I'll write more about that, but suffice it to say that from childhood on up, my grandparents took in their stride difficulties and discomforts that would leave us modern folks bewildered, wailing, and weeping now - that was already true in the 1960s, and much more so today.  And I long ago realized that it was very good for my grandparents' character to learn how to meet difficulties with hard work and quiet determination at an early age, as flopping down in front of the TV set or whiling away a sunny afternoon with a pile of comic books was not very good for mine, perhaps.  

But I wish now that a little more had been asked of me sometimes, in some ways.  One's muscles grow only when they are exercised; the same is true of one's character and abilities.  My fond parents made few demands on me - it was just an unspoken assumption that I would be a good and decent person, and fortunately for them, I pretty much was, with only a few minor childhood peccadillos along the way.  (Little gay boys usually are very well-behaved youngsters - have you noticed?  I wonder why that is.)

The only thing they really insisted upon was my getting a good education - "They can't take that away from you," they and all my older relations used to say, and so I did exert myself as far as I could go in that direction.  And when all was said and done, what I learned is summed up very nicely in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes; but that belongs to another post.

And yet, while higher education may be a worthy goal, it is not the end-all and be-all of life.  Some things cannot be learned from books, and when the divine reckoning is made, mayhap not a few simple people in humble circumstances may exceed in glory all the scholars of the world, if their characters here below were sturdy and rightly directed.

Gregory Peck, along with Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, and others we could name, often portrayed characters who seemed to embody the best of American manhood - honest and hard-working, decent and determined, self-effacing men of ordinary abilities who believed so much in something greater than themselves that they somehow revealed the extraordinary nobility of the common man:  the imago dei.

Of course it may be said that these fellows we admire so much were merely acting out certain roles, not living them, and that is true.  But even so, their artistic pretense serves to remind us all of the Something More that is always calling us higher:  Lift up your hearts.  And we timorous humans, weak and faltering and greedy as we are, do need frequent reminding.

This is a long-winded intro to a fascinating documentary I hope my truckbuddies will enjoy as much as I have - a mix of film clips and the actor himself answering questions from an audience about his life and work.  Much more interesting - and dare I say, uplifting - than the nightly news.  Give it a try.



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