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

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

Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy New Year!

Another year has passed into history, and who knows what changes and chances the future will bring?   Whatever it may hold, let us savor peace and celebrate the joy of living when we can, with those we love.  In the scheme of the universe, we are all only here for a little while.

Here's wishing health, wealth, and happiness to all my truckbuddies in the New Year. 


Saturday, December 25, 2021

The Queen's Christmas Broadcast, 2021

Her Majesty the Queen broadcast her annual Christmas message to the nation and the Commonwealth today, and paid tribute to the memory of Prince Philip, who died this year on April 9th.  This is the first Christmas the Queen has spent without her beloved consort since they were married in 1947.  Nevertheless, her message was characteristically optimistic and encouraging.


Friday, December 24, 2021

Merry Christmas 2021

M.P. outdid himself this year with the Christmas lights, which took a week to string up.  Some stranger even left an anonymous note of appreciation on our doorstep.

Here's wishing a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my truckbuddies.  Thanks for riding along with me in the Blue Truck. 

A few of my favorite Christmas tunes sung by some of my favorite artists:



Sunday, December 19, 2021

Sunday Drive: Ave Maria

 The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Deanna Durbin, an undeservedly forgotten singer with an angelic voice, sings the sublime hymn in the motion picture It's a Date, 1940:



Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Fact or Fantasy?


When asked in a press conference at the White House if climate change caused the devastating outbreak of tornadoes in Kentucky and other states last week, President Biden declined to give an affirmative answer.  However, some pundits on the right and on the left are vigorously asserting or denying the proposition; and it seems to me that a great many ordinary people "just know" that climate change was - or was not - the direct and immediate cause.  But then again, many people have short memories.

I have no expertise in this field, so I cannot say for certain one way or the other; but I do clearly remember other such horrific outbreaks in my own lifetime, in Texas and elsewhere.  For anyone interested in the subject, I recommend taking a thoughtful look at this long Wikipedia List of North American tornadoes and tornado outbreaks, dating back as far as 1657.  Many have indeed happened in December, and at least one on New Year's Day.

My point being, it's always a good idea to get all the facts before you make up your mind about weather or climate change or anything else.  Otherwise, it's just a species of fantasy, isn't it?


Sunday, December 12, 2021

Thursday, December 9, 2021

What I'm Watching: Lucy Redux

Of course I love Lucy - who doesn't?  I'm not obsessed with her as some people are - I once knew a fellow who had a whole room of his house devoted to Lucy memorabilia.  (I knew another fellow who turned his whole house into a Wizard of Oz wonderland.  It's a gay thing.)  But even after 70 years of reruns - the first I Love Lucy episode was broadcast on October 15, 1951 - I still laugh out loud at all of Lucy's comic turns and jibes, even though I know the routines by heart.  Few other comedians are still quite so funny after so many years have gone by.  A welcome antidote to the all-pervading sour-pussism of the deadly serious modern world.

So I note here a couple of new productions that extend our interest in Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz (without whom there would be no "Lucy") even further.  The first is a podcast on Turner Classic Movies by Ben Mankiewicz, successor to longtime TCM host Robert Osborne.  There have been nine weekly pocasts already and at least one more is yet to come.  You can listen to them for free on TCM, or on YouTube, as of the date of this post.  These are fascinating because TCM has scrounged up numerous never-before-heard sound clips of Lucille, as well as family, friends, and co-workers, talking about her life and career from childhood to old age.


And on December 21st comes the debut of Being the Ricardos, an Amazon Prime production starring Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem.  I am always a bit wary of such latter-day reinterpretations, but I will reserve judgment until I've seen it.  Here is the trailer, and a backstage interview with the principal players broadcast a few days ago on CBS Sunday Morning.  Enjoy.


P. S. -- A few words from Lucie Arnaz:


Sunday, December 5, 2021

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

World AIDS Day 2021: 40 Years On


Dr. Fauci has made a name for himself with a new generation in the fight against Covid-19.  But gay men of my generation have always remembered him as a hero of the fight against HIV/AIDS from the start of the plague, when damn few people in public life had the compassion or the guts to stand up for us, and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

News of the plague didn’t reach me and my friends in the Deep South until November of 1981 – forty years ago. I could tell the story of how we dealt with it in my neck of the woods, but as I spent much of the 1980s sequestered for work reasons in a remote small town, living like a monk (mostly), my story is not particularly interesting or eventful.  As with most other things in modern life, the plague as a distinct reality arrived down here several years later than it did on the coasts.  

It was a long time before we really knew what we were up against, and in the meantime there was fear of the unknown to live with. Eventually, having gotten a job in a city, I volunteered to work at a phone bank as an HIV/AIDS counselor for four years, so although I wasn’t on the front lines in a big city, as the era is often portrayed in movies and documentaries, I felt good about doing my small but useful bit in the fight against the plague. 

And of course, as in every war, there were the casualties. Among others, I lost my best friend to the plague; I paid someone to make a quilt with his name on it, which I sent to the National AIDS Quilt and got to see it displayed on the Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1992. That was an overwhelming experience – all those quilts, all those names, all those deaths. Around 1995, I think, the drug cocktail that effectively suppressed HIV was finally found – too late for some, but a miraculous lifesaver for others.

Another thing not always mentioned by reporters is the great support given by many lesbians to gay men who were afflicted – another collective debt of gratitude we owe. Tragic and devastating though it was, the plague in a large way unified the gay and lesbian community across the nation in a fight against a common enemy. And the just-let-them-die attitude of the Reagan Administration certainly raised the political awareness of many:


I guess all I want to say is that I lived through the plague years, I mourned my dead, I did my bit, and now it's History, a remote era, something schoolkids skim over in dusty books - a story already told.  Except that there still is no vaccine for HIV, let alone a cure, and I really don't understand why that is.  But the answer is probably over my head anyway. 

You still pays your money and you takes your chances - that's life, isn't it? Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and enjoy every happy moment as if it were your last, because it may never come again. There are no guarantees. That's all I can say. 


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thanksgiving Hymn: Come Ye Thankful People, Come

Though M.P. and I are relatively poor in material terms, we are rich in good company, good food, and good health (mostly) - that is a great deal to be thankful for, and we are.  I hope all of my truckbuddies are similarly blessed and enjoy a happy day with friends and family, rejoicing in everything good and lovely:  such remembered joys can never be taken away from us.

Here is a beautiful rendition of the familiar Thanksgiving hymn, written in 1844, played on dulcimer, mandolin, and fiddle:



Thursday, November 18, 2021

Russ Recommends: Three Comedies

More lighthearted movies from the golden era of Hollywood, with nary a hint of the ugly, vulgar modern world to be seen or heard. We often watch such things while eating our weeknight dinners.  Here are three films we especially enjoyed recently.

The Strawberry Blonde (1941)

Starring James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland, and Rita Hayworth.  Supporting players include studly Jack Carson, handsome George Reeves (later Superman), Alan Hale (who looks a lot like a stranded skipper), and George Tobias (later neighbor to a witch). Available as a $2 rental on YouTube.

 The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941) 

Starring Bette Davis and James Cagney, supported by George Tobias again, Jack Carson ditto, William Frawley (later Fred Mertz), Eugene Palette (the eternal blowhard), and Harry Davenport (Dr. Meade in Gone with the Wind). Another $2 rental on YouTube.


 My Sister Eileen (1942) 

Starring our gal Rosalind Russell, Brian Aherne, and Janet Blair (who looks a lot like Janet Leigh). Ubiquitous George Tobias plays the artistic landlord.  Roz later won a Tony starring in the musical version on Broadway.  The film was remade in Technicolor in 1955, starring Betty Garrett, Janet Leigh, and Jack Lemmon, with a young Dick York (later married to a witch) as the athletic upstairs neighbor.



Sunday, November 14, 2021

Thursday, November 11, 2021

A Thank-You to a Veteran

It seems to me that the country and the world would do well to focus, not on what divides us, but on what unites us all - as in this story, broadcast a couple of months ago on CBS Sunday Morning:


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Sunday Drive: Handel, I Know That My Redeemer Liveth

From Handel's Messiah, a very fitting piece for the feast of All Saints, celebrated today in some churches, and a great favorite of your Head Trucker's - exquisitely performed here by the lovely Sylvia McNair:


 The text is from Job 19:25-26 and I Corinthians 15:20:
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.
And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first-fruits of them that sleep. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The Pork Boys Do Halloween 2021

Boo!  Just a few pics to show how M.P. decorated our Halloween feast:

Click to enlarge.

Didn't he do a brilliant job with the jack o'lanterns?  The flowers were on sale at the grocery store.  Dinner was just a great big pot of steaming beef stew and a pan of hot cornbread - a perfect fall feast.  Oh, and a delicious made-from-scratch pumpkin pie, of course, topped with real whipped cream.  A real treat to eat.  The trick is, we were so hungry, we didn't take any food pics this time, so you'll just have to use your imagination.


Monday, November 1, 2021

The Queen on Climate Change

 Her Majesty the Queen, heeding her doctors' advice to stay home and take a little rest from her outside duties, today sent a video message to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26), which is meeting in Glasgow this week:


Whether the nations will listen to her, any more than they listen to me, remains to be seen.


Sunday, October 31, 2021

Sunday Drive: Louis Armstrong, When the Saints Go Marching In

Just a little contemplative tune to help my truckbuddies get in the proper mood to celebrate the Feast of All Hallows, which is tomorrow.  The great Satchmo and his band perform on the the Ed Sullivan Show, 1959:



Thursday, October 28, 2021

I Just Want to Say

Live cam at the Galveston seawall:

Land, sea, and sky endure from age to age-- 
but what about the human race?

So much is wrong, terribly wrong, with the nation and the world today, but I can't seem to bring myself to write about it.  Longtime truckbuddies will know that I am quite capable of a good rant when need arises - but what good does my ranting do?  

Beyond that, I sometimes feel I should at least express my thoughts "for the record" - but who cares?  I started this blog on a whim and have continued it on the same principle.  It's not like it will ever be a big Historic Document.  And I have no posterity who will ever wonder, what did old Gramps think about this or that.  

I have plenty I could say about all sorts of current topics - and my opinions are not always what perhaps my truckbuddies and other readers might expect.  It's not about politics, but about right and wrong, good and bad, true and false.  If I had the will to do it, I would lay about rather freely with a cudgel on the heads of liberals and conservatives alike.  There is no one party or group or faction that has a monopoly on goodness or holiness or even truth.

As St. Paul put it, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God."  That means nobody gets it right all the time.  And democracy means nobody gets everything they want when they want it.

With the country so divided and torn, filled with screeching, irrational voices at both ends of the spectrum - not to mention flat-out lies and open calls to murder this or that person or group - what is needed is not a lone blogger's scribblings but a cause or person to unite around.  I don't mean a demagogue or an ideology.  What I do mean, I don't know exactly: something that draws together the best of human nature, willingly, not under compulsion or pretense.  What I am sure of, though, is that without some centripetal force to unify us, this country will fall apart or blow up, and sooner rather than later.  And that would be a bloody horror.

I was hoping against hope that Old Joe might be that unifier - but so far, that doesn't seem to be happening.  The shrill voices are just getting louder and louder, and nastier too.  I'm very afraid for the immediate future.  You have only to read your history books to find out what happens when a country crumbles to pieces - or look around the modern world at all the failed states.  Don't think it can't happen here.  It's already begun.

I am old and infirm, and cannot do much good for anyone outside my home.  All I know to do is pray - for our President, our country, and our world.  And for peace, goodwill among men.  It may not turn the course of events in the big world, but it doesn't hurt any.  And it keeps me sane and centered:  Hope is the anchor of the soul.  That may sound arcane to a secular mind, but my spiritual-minded friends will understand.

I'm not sure why I keep this blog going.  It used to be a daily routine, something to fill the idle hours of retirement with.  But now I struggle to think of something pleasant and non-political to post once a week, if that often.  And perhaps it's dangerous to do more than that in today's world.  At any rate, one day I may just delete the whole thing and be done with it.  

Well, them's my 2 cents on this windy autumn evening in Texas - what are yours?  Maybe tomorrow I'll think differently, but there's no telling what will happen next.  Keep an eye on the weather and take care, fellas.


Sunday, October 24, 2021

Sunday Drive: Schumann, Träumerei

The title of this piece means "dreaming" - from Schumann's Scenes from Childhood suite, 1838.


I hope this lovely melody brings you some peace today. 


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Today's Chuckle: Who's on First?

Haven't heard this in years, but it's still just as funny as ever.


Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sunday Drive: Indian Summer

The bittersweet Victor Herbert tune, as recorded by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, with vocals by Ray Eberle, 1939.


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Prince Charles on the Climate Crisis

The Prince of Wales, who has championed protection of the environment since long before it was hip to do so, expresses himself in a thoughtful interview about the problems now facing the world, marred by a somewhat hysterical interviewer and a completely misleading video title.  Well, listen to what he says, and see what you think.  

The interview takes place in the garden at Birkhall, the Prince's Scottish country house, part of the Balmoral Castle estate.


And here's the scoop on that "wine and cheese" fuel - it's ethanol, people, which all of Brazil and several other countries already run on.  Grow up.


Friday, October 8, 2021

Buff, Bearded, Bronzed

Take a moment to savor these magnificent nude dudes from Calabria:

Click to enlarge.

More info at Wikipedia.


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

A World of Change

This charming clip of an old farmer filmed in 1929 provides food for thought:


He was 87 years old when he was filmed; we are now 92 years further along the road of Time.

Update, 10/12/21:  For some reason, the video I posted is not working now, but here is a longer video that contains more interviews with elderly people in the late 1920s.  I've set it to begin with the old farmer's remarks, which run from 2:08 to 4:22.


Sunday, October 3, 2021

Sunday Drive: Amoreuse Waltz

Just a lovely tune to start your Sunday with.



Friday, October 1, 2021

Dawn in East Texas

Just a quiet interlude for anyone needing a respite from the clashes and clamors of the modern world:


Sunday, September 26, 2021

Sunday Drive: Mascagni, Intermezzo

For this first fall Sunday, the lovely, mellow Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana:



Friday, September 24, 2021


Just want to say I think this uproar over the mounted Border Patrol in South Texas is a whole lot of hooey - a mindless, kneejerk reaction by a lot of la-de-da city types who wouldn't know which end of a horse to talk to.  I've looked at the video of the alleged "horrific" incident and I don't see anybody being whipped or "run over" or injured.  One guy fell back in the river when a horse bumped him, but the water was only knee deep - he wasn't hurt.  And if anybody was popped - this point is not certain - with the end of a pair of reins, that might sting a little bit, but that's not at all the same as being whipped.  

(To break it down for the horseless:  reins are attached to the horse; there's only a foot or two of loose rein to twirl; you can't get enough swing or leverage to really whip some one that way - it's geometry.)

In other words, this is fake news, in my opinion.  Here's a report from a fact-checking team at WJXT in Jacksonville, Florida, that shows and tells what really happened:


Mounted police, by whatever name they may be called, are nothing new - they have been and are regularly used for crowd control not only in the wide-open spaces of Texas, but also in most big cities - like New York and Washington, to name but two. Horses can go, and go quickly, where bicycles, motorcycles, and automobiles cannot go, especially on uneven terrain. Seems to me what the Border Patrol was doing was a very reasonable and, yes, humane method of coping with a difficult situation.  It's nothing new, and nothing horrific, people. Grow up. 

Mention should be made that the Border Patrol are federal, not state employees, enforcing the law of the land.  Now whether it is morally right or wrong to expel those particular illegal immigrants, most of them homeless families in desperate need, is a different question, and worthy of humanitarian concern - which should have already been carefully considered by the powers that be in Washington before this crisis arose.  Though really, it's a moot point, now that the encampment has been cleared.

But I will say I am very, very disappointed in President Biden's ranting response to a misleading line of uproar in the press. "They will pay for this!" he says - who will pay?  For what, exactly?  How?  Sounds a lot like the mindless, emotional stuff we used to hear from his predecessor. Seems to me Old Joe doesn't quite have a grip on the facts of the matter, which are perfectly obvious to me and probably to most other Texans, and to most everybody who's ever ridden a horse, for that matter.  

But now the President has taken away the Border Patrol's horses.  That is just a damn dumb thing to do.  They need those horses down there for all sorts of reasons.  I wouldn't be surprised if all the BP agents quit.

Don't let me down, Joe. I voted for a smart President, or at least smarter than the last. Be one, please. 


Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Pork Boys Do Summer

Some recent dinners chez nous.  This is more for the convenience of M.P. and myself to show our relations online, but you all can look too, if you want.  All the food was made from scratch by M.P., except as noted.  Click on any pic to enlarge.

Above and below, our 4th of July dinner.  Note the table runner and "firecrackers" carefully assembled from paper napkins for a festive flair.  The main course was sausage dogs covered with chili, chopped onions, mayo, and grated cheese.  Sides were French fries, onion rings, fiesta corn, and a bit of guacamole with some new little crackers, Ritz Crisp & Thins - very tasty, very nice.

And a 4th of July cake, too - chocolate, maybe - I think:

Another time, M.P. made a delicious bowl of 7-layer dip:

And yet another time, it was ham-and-cheese crepes for dinner, with cheesy toast and broccoli a la polonaise (i.e., topped with breadcrumbs and grated egg):

Continued after the jump--

Saturday, September 11, 2021

The End of an Era

A U. S. Marine grieves at the memorial of a comrade killed in Afghanistan, 2012

Ben Rhodes, an American political commentator and former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama, writes in the Guardian:

Most importantly, the abandonment of Afghans to the Taliban, and Biden’s occasionally callous rhetoric laying the blame on Afghan security forces, who had fought on the frontlines for years, evoked a sense of national shame – even if that emotion should apply to the entirety of the war, and not simply its end. Indeed, in the chaotic days of withdrawal, the predominant concerns in US politics often had little to do with Afghans. The evacuation of Americans, the danger of Islamic State Khorasan Province, and the loss of US service members eclipsed the gargantuan Afghan suffering. Overwhelming public support for Biden’s decision, though undercut by dissatisfaction with the process of withdrawal, confirmed Biden’s core instinct: the thing most Americans agree upon is that we went to Afghanistan to take out the people who did 9/11 and prevent further attacks, and it was past time to abandon the broader aims of post-9/11 foreign policy, no matter the subsequent humanitarian cost.

In short, Biden’s decision exposed the cavernous gap between the national security establishment and the public, and forced a recognition that there is going to be no victory in a “war on terror” too infused with the trauma and triumphalism of the immediate post-9/11 moment. Like many Americans, I found myself simultaneously supporting the core decision to withdraw and shuddering at its execution and consequences. As someone who worked in national security, I have to recognise the limits of how the US can shape other countries through military intervention. As someone who has participated in American politics, I have to acknowledge that a country confronting virulent ethno-nationalism at home is ill-suited to build nations abroad. But as a human being, I have to confront how we let the Afghan people down, and how allies like Britain, who stood by us after 9/11, must feel in seeing how it all ended.

It is a cruel irony that this is the second time the US has lost interest in Afghanistan. The first time was in the 1990s, after much of the mujahideen we supported to defeat the Soviets evolved into dangerous extremists, plunged the country into civil war, and led to Taliban rule.

The final verdict on Biden’s decision will depend on whether the US can truly end the era that began with 9/11 – including the mindset that measures our credibility through the use of military force and pursues security through partnerships with autocrats. Can we learn from our history and forge a new approach to the rest of the world – one that is sustainable, consistent, and responsive to the people we set out to help; that prioritises existential issues like the fight against the climate crisis and genuine advocacy for the universal values America claims to support?

What I Say:  The twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, following close on the heels of the Afghanistan withdrawal, certainly does mark the end of an era - a nice, neat convenience for future history teachers - and the way forward is not at all clear.  The political divisions in this country have reached a horrendous frenzy now, exacerbated by the covid pandemic, that will not easily be tamped down.  There is a level of savagery and hysteria, not to mention widespread ignorance, arrogance, and sheer gullible superstition, on the tribal extremes of both the left and the right.

Before you start to contradict that last statement - was the anarchy at the Capitol on January 6th any more brutal than the nationwide anarchy that occurred last summer?  If you condemn the one, you must condemn the other.  In my view, both are equally nauseating and frightening, symptomatic of a dangerous, possibly fatal illness in the American body politic.  As Mr. Lincoln said - A house divided against itself cannot stand.  We have been warned.

As to foreign affairs, I hope all my truckbuddies will recall that the whole Afghan mess was the creation of the Bush-Cheney administration - and that Democrats criticized it from the very start, along with the shameful, senseless, needless war in Iraq that was based on Bush-Cheney's lies about non-existent "weapons of mass destruction."  It was necessary, and right by all standards of earthly justice, to hit back against the evil men who attacked our cities and mercilessly killed three thousand of our citizens on 9/11.  But it was not at all necessary to destroy two governments and colonize a Little America in the most inaccessible, inhospitable region on the other side of the world, at the cost of so many lives, so many dollars, and the respect and goodwill of nearly all the world.

Biden is responsible, as he himself has said repeatedly, for last month's frantic, shameful evacuation from Kabul - but we must remember that it was Bush-Cheney who dug us into that hole in the first place, against all reason and history and common sense, with glib Madison Avenue phrases like "regime change" and "nation building" - which are simply code for invasion, occupation, and control by a puppet government.  This has always been clear to those of us who had eyes to see it for what it was - Vietnam 2.0.  It was never about giving the Afghans what they wanted - it was all about giving them what we wanted for them.  And a cash cow beyond the wildest dreams of the military-industrial complex.

Continued after the jump . . .

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

What I'm Watching: Refreshment Through the Years (1939)

1938 Coke ad

A short Technicolor history of carbonated waters and the Coca-Cola Company, produced for showing in the Coca-Cola pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair.  Do you remember when bottle caps were lined with cork?



Sunday, September 5, 2021

Sunday Drive: Bach, Air on the G String

As performed by 2Cellos.



Sunday, August 29, 2021

Sunday Drive: It Is Well with My Soul

The familiar hymn, written in 1873.

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

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Kudos to Moulton and Meijer

Read the joint statement by Moulton and Meijer about their trip to Kabul.

Your Head Trucker generally believes in obeying the law and following the rules - but there is an exception to every rule, especially when the exception clearly serves the greater good - especially if there's a chance of saving lives.  It seems to me that the secret trip to Kabul by Representatives Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Pete Meijer (R-Mich.) is just such a praiseworthy exception, and deserves high commendation.  (It should be remembered that Meijer is one of only ten Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last January - a very brave act, indeed.)  And as far as I can tell, no law was broken.

Moulton and Meijer are both army veterans who already served a number of years in Afghanistan and Iraq; they know the situation over there from the perspective of the soldier on the ground, not a fat cat lolling around in a cushy Washington office.  They undertook this trip into deadly chaos at their own risk, and not at the taxpayer's expense.  They stayed at the Kabul airport only 14 hours, and flew out on a plane that had empty seats.  No one was deprived of a chance to get out of Afghanistan, and they gained valuable first-hand views of the crisis, which ought to be appreciated by their fellow lawmakers.

The idea that this was some kind of "ego trip" is patently ridiculous - I wonder if the reporter who wrote that glib phrase has ever put his or her pretty little ass on the line for anyone.  And the other inane claim that their visit "diverted resources" from the evacuation effort is equally laughable - what exactly is that phrase supposed to mean, anyway?  Does anyone think these combat veterans were being chauffeured around in a gold-plated limo, and banqueted with champagne and caviar and dancing girls?  Inside an armed compound at the airport - essentially, a fort under siege?  Seriously, people.

It's a bullshit phrase, meaningless and patently false.  As experienced soldiers, they surely blended right in with the rest of the troops, who were no doubt glad that at least two of our elected representatives actually came to see with their own eyes exactly what is happening - instead of just mouthing about it back home for the TV cameras, spewing empty words and promises, and generally just making shit up. 

And Congressmen have visited war zones many, many times before in our history - it's really part of the checks and balances of our system of government - the legislative branch checking up on the executive, often with good reason.  Cf. Vietnam.  Now we have what is about to become a humanitarian disaster of the first magnitude - shouldn't somebody check it out, and not just take the Administration's word for it? If the story checks out, okay, no harm done.  If not - Congress has a duty to act in the best interests of the nation.

Also ridiculous is the idea that their secret visit "put our troops and diplomats at higher risk."  What fucking moron wrote that propaganda?  HOW can anybody in Kabul airport be at any greater risk than they already are??  Where the enemy controls the entire government, other terrorists are at large in the country, and everyone at the airport could be shot up or blown up at any moment?  This journey to the most dangerous spot in the world was a selfless act, not a selfish one.

I say, Good job, guys.  You are real patriots.  Thank you for your service.


Sunday, August 22, 2021

Sunday Drive: Sleep Walk

Once upon a time . . . 

The beautiful tune that calls to mind long-ago summer dreams, as performed by the great Chet Atkins and Leo Kottke in 1987:


Friday, August 20, 2021

The Pork Boys Do Chicken Fricassee

M. P. took a break from Sunday dinner duty last weekend and handed me the job.  I decided to try a dish known across the South under one name or another, but that I had never made myself.  I consulted a lot of cookbooks, ancient and modern, before embarking on this adventure - at the bottom of this post you will find the hundred-year-old recipe that was my starting point.  The essence of it is, you first lightly brown your chicken pieces in some oil, then simmer them in a dark gravy (roux + chicken bouillon) until they are very tender:  an hour and a half to two hours will do.

Then you serve the chicken and gravy over rice, and there you go.  We didn't take any pictures, but it so happens that the fellow in this video - which I found the day after I cooked my chick frick - does it almost exactly the way I did, so you can get a good idea of what we ate.  M.P. licked his plate clean, which tells you all you need to know.


From the Picayune Creole Cookbook, New Orleans, 1921:

Caution: Unfortunately, this recipe omits the roux, which is essential; the dish will not be nearly as brown or as tasty without it.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

History Repeats Itself

Is it just me, or does anyone else think the chaotic fall of Kabul is a monumental fuck-up?

And the blame for whatever is happening there right now is squarely on Biden's shoulders.  Though the last three presidents also bear responsibility for this long, ghastly misadventure on the other side of the world.

I am proud of our troops, who by all accounts have done an excellent job in a bad situation - but I am deeply ashamed of the waste of lives and money and goodwill in Afghanistan these twenty years.

I remember the pictures of the fall of Saigon, and today's events seem to be a rerun of that debacle.

Not that I ever wanted us to be in Vietnam OR in Afghanistan; but there's a good way to leave and a bad way.  Again we see the same lies, the same denials, the same "alternate facts" that clearly are at odds with the images on the TV screen.

I remember very clearly sending off a hot email to George Bush when he sent the troops to Afghanistan, reminding him that the Russians had tried for twenty years to pacify those people without a shred of success, ditto the British before them, and what made him think we could do any better?

Alas, my words, like many others', fell on deaf ears, apparently.  Now, for all we expended in that far-off wasteland, there is only blood and sorrow and shame to show for it.

I am completely disgusted.  Nauseated.  Mortified.  What a black day for America.  Again.

When will they ever learn? 

Update, 8/16/21:
  President Biden spoke from the White House this afternoon on the situation in Afghanistan, putting the best face possible on a colossal 20-year mistake. He states plainly that it is hopeless to pour men, machines, and money into a faraway country whose own government is corrupt, divided, and unwilling to defend its own people in a civil war that the United States has no business meddling in. These are the glaringly obvious truths it took American leaders 20 long years to admit in the Vietnam debacle. 


At least Biden is stating them plainly here and now, saying at the 4:45 mark, "I stand squarely behind my decision." And at 6:30, "We gave [the Afghans] every opportunity to fight for their future. We could not give them the the will to fight for that future."  No, of course not - it wasn't their dream of the future, only an outsider's idea.  You simply can't live someone else's life for him - whether speaking of individuals or nations.  It goes deeply against the grain of human nature to be reduced to a mere puppet, even if it is for his own good.  That 's not liberty, is it?

Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam! If I foresaw this, living in obscurity far out on the Texas prairie twenty years ago, why did no one in Washington?  What the hell is wrong with people?

When will they ever learn?

Update, 8/17/21:  Jonathan Steele has written a fine opinion piece in the Guardian on the lessons of history in Afghanistan that is worth reading.

Also noteworthy:  The Guardian's editorial on the manifest unfitness of Boris Johnson for his office:  "When events demand stature, Mr Johnson always shrinks to the occasion, and the vacuum where leadership should be diminishes Britain in the eyes of the world."  Quite.


Sunday Drive: Belle Nuit

The beloved aria, sung by Marilyn Horne and Montserrat Caballé in Munich, 1990:


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Beach Weather

It's August.  Time to head for the coast, strip down, and cool off!  Or is it?  Don't worry - a lifeguard is always handy.

Click the captions to see full-size photos at Shorpy.com

Ocean Grove, New Jersey, 1905

Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1904

"Been expecting you."

Friday, August 6, 2021

Just for Laughs: Jack Benny at the Supermarket

We all love Lucy, of course, and her comic genius will live on as long as there is some kind of machinery to play her reruns.  But it seems to me that a number of other great comedians are most undeservedly forgotten in the modern world, and Jack Benny is one of the all-time funniest.  If you are in need of a laugh or two, this should do the trick; the best part is the second half, where Jack runs afoul of sarcastic store clerk Frank Nelson.


For the record, this episode of the Jack Benny Program was broadcast on January 22, 1961. 


Sunday, August 1, 2021

Sunday Drive: Sweet Marie

The Andrews Sisters put some swing into the 1893 song, featured in Life with Father.  Famed bandleader Carmen Cavallaro is at the piano for this 1948 recording.



Thursday, July 29, 2021

Russ Recommends: Life with Father (1947)

What may be the beginning of a semi-regular series, featuring lighthearted movies from the golden era of Hollywood, without even a hint of the ugly, vulgar modern world to be seen or heard. We often watch such things while eating our weeknight dinners.



Life with Father is based on the memoirs of Clarence Day, Jr., published in 1936,  The book was turned into a smash hit play that ran for more than seven years on Broadway.  The movie was a big hit with critics and at the box office, and was nominated for four Academy Awards.

Directed by Michael Curtiz, who also directed Casablanca (1943).

The players include William Powell, perfectly irascible in the title role;

The beautiful, always delightful Irene Dunne as the long-suffering Mrs. Day;

Jimmy Lydon, who was also the teenage star of the Henry Aldrich series (still alive and living in New Jersey at 98 years old);

Edmund Gwenn as the Reverend Dr. Lloyd - also known as Kris Kringle;

Veteran comedienne ZaSu Pitts, always amusing; and

15-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, already gorgeous (when was she not?).

Music by the brilliant Max Steiner, who also scored Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, and A Summer Place, to name but a few of his film credits.

Full movie (public domain):



Mr. Day's frequent expostulation in the play, "Oh, God!" was changed to "Oh, Gad!" for the movie version.  

Actor Edmund Gwenn shared his Beverly Hills home with a former Olympic silver medalist, Rodney Soher.


Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sunday Drive: Dream

Roy Orbison recorded his version of this lovely tune in 1963.


Thursday, July 22, 2021

What I'm Watching: This Is My Railroad

1950 advertisement for the all-new Sunset Limited

 A 1947 company film that pays tribute to the dedicated work of the men and women of the friendly Southern Pacific Railroad.



Sunday, July 18, 2021

Sunday Drive: I'll Be Seeing You

The 1944 hit record by Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra, featuring Frank Sinatra:


Friday, July 16, 2021

Weekend Getaway: Greek Islands

Rick Steves shows us the highlights of Santorini, Mykonos, and Rhodes.


Sunday, July 4, 2021

Independence Day, 2021: My Country, 'Tis of Thee

American Flag Waving on a Flag Pole 

Below is a reminiscence of the famous concert by Marian Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939:  a thrilling moment in our history that united Americans of all kinds instead of driving them apart.  That is what the American dream is, really:  E pluribus unum.

Diversity is a very popular word these days.  But I say, diversity without unity will destroy us.  And sooner rather than later.  


A prayer for this 4th of July:

O God, please bless our country,
for all we like sheep have gone astray,
and turned each to his own way. 
For Thy mercy's sake, 
heal us, mend us, reform us, and restore us;
unite us again as one people in justice and truth
to do Thy will on earth; and grant us Thy peace,
for we surely do need it. 


Thursday, July 1, 2021

What I'm Watching: Jane Austen's House

Your Head Trucker remembers fondly the delicious pleasure of reading Pride and Prejudice some forty-odd years ago.  Here is a short tour through the home of the beloved author in Hampshire, England, about fifty miles southwest of London:

Bonus:  The nearby Chawton House, one of the homes owned by Jane's wealthy brother Edward.


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