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, April 28, 2022

Show Me the Way: Gay in Tennessee

A moving, enlightening documentary by Emmy Award winner Kate Kunath, released in 2019.  From the YouTube description:

The battle for LGBTQ rights hasn't only been fought on the streets of coastal cities; it has also taken place on the dirt roads, campuses, and in the homes of rural America. In this new short documentary‚ released 50 years after the Stonewall riots, which brought LGBTQ rights into the national consciousness‚ gay men living in central Tennessee, and their families, share stories of struggle and self-acceptance. We meet the retiree who spent his entire professional life in the closet, his devoted partner of 20 years, a pastor determined to overcome his own prejudices, and the pastor's gay son, newly in love and just starting to come into his own.

The location is Centerville, Tennessee, about 60 miles southwest of Nashville; Nashville is the home of Vanderbilt University, a large, prestigious private college.


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Survival of the Fabulous

Who am I?  Why am I?  All of us gay guys have pondered those questions intently at some time or other.  Canadian filmmaker Bryce Michael Sage queries the scientists for answers in this snappy, entertaining 2013 documentary, which I somehow missed seeing until just now.  It's well worth watching, even though there is still no single answer, only educated guesses.

P. S. - Of course, a lot of the suggested answers in this film we have already heard about long ago.  But I did get to thinking - is there any tree that produces blooms, but not fruit, in its natural state - that is, untinkered-with by botanists and commercial growers?  I consulted M. P., who in addition to being Chef Supreme is also Head Gardener here, and has the green-thumb gene your Head Trucker missed out on.  He informs me that he knows of two such naturally non-fruit-bearing trees:  dogwoods and redbuds.  

Both of them such beautiful things when in bloom!  Fabulous.  I myself think that there doesn't necessarily have to be a concrete reason for beauty in the world - some things just are what they are, you know?  Not everything beautiful is particularly useful, but then - does it have to be?

The evanescent trace of a shooting star - the golden glow of a full moon rising - the susurration of a gentle rain - the smell of new-mown grass - the warmth of a handclasp - the touch of a lover's lips - the scientists may scribble and scratch until doomsday parsing the nature of such things, but what would be gained?  It is enough that Beauty exists, and gladdens the hearts of men wherever they find it.  

For beauty is one of the things that make us human.  The animals cannot conceive it - the plants do not need it.  No, the ineffable joy of the beautiful belongs to mankind alone: the great gift of the Love that moves the stars.  And that beauty is in us, too - if we nurture it.  Beauty, truth, and goodness - if you want a trinity to adore, that is a fine place to begin.

One more thing - the evolutionary theory about the usefulness of the "gay uncle" is very clever - but note that it is not a proven fact, just a happy thought.  Some of us have no nephews or nieces, you know.


Sunday, April 24, 2022

Sunday Drive: Strauss, Voices of Spring

A few minutes of springtime joy with one of Strauss's greatest hits, as performed by Andre Rieu and his orchestra in 2011:


Friday, April 22, 2022

Tired Old Queen at the Movies: Woman of the Year

Woman of the Year (1942 poster - Style C)
Click to enlarge.

Steve Hayes reviews the 1942 romantic comedy:

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn enter the battle of the sexes in the first of several collaborations in George Steven’s classic comedy: “Woman Of The Year” . Also starring Fay Bainter and William Bendix, it’s the perfect comic pairing of two pros at the top of their game.

The full movie is available for rent or purchase on YouTube.  Catch more fabulous movie reviews at Steve's YouTube channel.


Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Queen's 96th Birthday

A photograph released today of the Queen with two of her ponies,
exemplifying her love of horses.

Her Majesty the Queen, born in 1926, today celebrated her 96th birthday quietly at her Sandringham estate in Norfolk.  As is customary, the big celebration of her Official Birthday will be held in early June, this year combined with four days of festivities to mark her seventy years on the Throne, the Platinum Jubilee.

Her Majesty's lifelong devotion to duty and service to her people, as well as to the other 53 nations of the Commonwealth around the world, are beyond the measure of human acclaim.  Your Head Trucker can add only his humble admiration, and wishes for her every happiness.

God Save the Queen.

Bonus:  For a comprehensive, behind-the-scenes look at the Queen's public and private life, I highly recommend the BBC's beautifully done Elizabeth R, filmed in 1990-91 with Her Majesty's full cooperation - before the unpleasant events of the annus horribilis:


Sunday, April 17, 2022

Easter Sunday, 2022

From Messiah, Part III, exquisitely sung by soprano Sylvia McNair:

A representation of the empty tomb.
Click to enlarge.

The Kyiv Symphony and Chorus perform the joyous Easter hymn at Northland Church in Longwood, Florida, about ten years ago, with Matthew McMurrin conducting:

From Eucharistic Prayer A in the Book of Common Prayer:

Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us

for yourself, and, when we had fallen into sin and become

subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus

Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human

nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the

God and Father of all.

He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself,

in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole


. . . . . . . . . .

Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith:

Christ has died.

Christ is risen.

Christ will come again.


Saturday, April 16, 2022

Holy Saturday: The Exsultet

 The Lessons for Holy Saturday

The Exsultet  is a favorite of M.P.'s, who suggested I post it today.  Here it is performed by Br. Pádraig McIntyre OSB, from Glenstall Abbey in County Limerick, Ireland; you can follow the lyrics here.

I am ashamed to confess that I was unaware till now that there is a version of the Exsultet in the Book of Common Prayer.  However, I have never known an Episcopal church to hold an Easter Vigil service in my part of the country; apparently, it is de rigueur in Catholic ones.  A lovely idea.


Friday, April 15, 2022

Good Friday: He Never Said a Mumblin' Word

The Lessons for Good Friday

The Crucifixion, oil sketch by Murillo, ca. 1675.
Click to enlarge.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
--Isaiah 53:7

The late, great American soprano Jessye Norman sings the poignant spiritual at Carnegie Hall in 1990:


Thursday, April 14, 2022

Maundy Thursday: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

Christ in Gethsemane
Christ in Gethsemane, by Heinrich Hofmann, 1886.

The ancient passion hymn, as performed by Nathan Drake of Reawaken Hymns:

Lyrics are in the YouTube description box.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The Old Rugged Cross

This hymn is quite emotional for your Head Trucker.  It was played at my papaw's funeral, and  I've never been able to hear it since without getting a tear in my eye.  Alan Jackson performs:


 Lyrics are in the YouTube description.


Monday, April 11, 2022

When I Get Where I'm Going

 The Lessons for Monday in Holy Week

Brad Paisley sings his #1 hit from 2005, with harmony by Dolly Parton.  Some famous faces appear in the video, also.


Sunday, April 10, 2022

Zelensky: The 60 Minutes Interview

Zelensky observing the horrors of Bucha on April 4.
We are defending the ability of a person to live in the modern world. We are defending the right to live. I never thought this right was so costly. These are human values. So that Russia doesn't choose what we should do and how I'm exercising my rights. That right was given to me by God and my parents.

Ukrainian President Zelensky spoke last Wednesday with CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley at Zelensky's fortified headquarters in Kyiv:


Full text of the interview in English is here

The interview in Ukrainian without English subtitles is here.


Palm Sunday, 2022: All Glory, Laud, and Honor

 The Lessons appointed for Palm Sunday

The Entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, by Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin, 1844.
Click to enlarge.

The ancient hymn was sung in 2019 at St. Andrew's Church, Chennai, India, by a choir and string ensemble directed by Augustine Paul.  Hymnary.org has more on the origin and significance of the song, along with the lyrics.


In his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis has called for an Easter truce in Ukraine:


Saturday, April 9, 2022

What Ukraine Is Fighting For

Zelensky and his family in happier times.
Click to enlarge.

BBC correspondent Katty Kay, based in the United States, writes:

Since coming into office, Joe Biden has spoken repeatedly about the tectonic struggle between democracy and autocracy. It's been the leitmotif of his presidency. His argument is that democracy must deliver for its people if it's going to survive. But there's another side to that social contract. We citizens have to deliver for democracy as well.

For a start, we have to bother to vote. It's an activity America is famously bad at. In the 2020 election, one of the most consequential in recent history, only 62% of eligible voters bothered to turn out and vote. That was a modern day high. The UK doesn't do much better, 67% voted in its last general election. . . .

Of course it's not just the lack of participation that weakens liberal societies. Twenty-first century democracies are hotbeds of social and economic inequality. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer. Many democracies, like the US, have such polarised political systems that you can't get laws passed that would make lives better. They've become virtually ungovernable. Long-term challenges, like climate change, get kicked down the road as politicians focus their efforts on short term gains, like getting re-elected.

Democracies aren't giving the next generation the tools they will need to be responsible democratic citizens in a complicated, changing world. Our kids need lessons on how to spot real news from fake news and how to avoid baseless conspiracy theories that undermine the strength of democracy itself. . . .

I am part of a generation that has taken political pluralism for granted. Decades of peace produced a failure of imagination. Despite the war tales our parents told us, we couldn't envisage that a way of life we'd all got used to might disappear if we didn't defend it.

Ukraine has snapped us awake. It has shown us both the risks, and, more inspiringly, what it means to really care for democracy. In a war they didn't choose, Ukrainians are fighting, and dying, for the right to free elections, to the rule of law, and an impartial media, for the right to be a democratic country. Their bravery puts our laziness to shame.

Ukrainian President Zelensky will be interviewed on the long-running CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes tomorrow.  Excerpt:


"We are defending the ability of a person to live in the modern world," Zelensky says. Rhetorically, no one can dispute that inconvenient truth that puts all Western nations to shame.  "Being brave is our brand, " Zelensky said two days ago, "This is what it means to be us. To be Ukrainians. To be brave. If everyone in the world had at least ten percent of the courage that we Ukrainians have, there would be no danger to international law at all."

It may not be not quite that simple - but once again, he gets to the heart of the moral dilemma confronting the West that I have mentioned since my first post about this damnable war: every moral fiber quivers with the impulse to join Zelensky and his people in the fight against a monstrous evil; but to do so would probably mean a death sentence for many millions of people far from Ukraine, and unthinkable destruction on a gigantic scale. A devil's dilemma, that's what it is.

And who knows but what the unthinkable won't happen anyway, no matter how carefully Western leaders tiptoe around the edge of the abyss?  God forbid.  I have no idea what to do or what to say. I can only join with all other decent men and women in saluting the fierce courage of the Ukrainians and their indomitable president. May God deliver them from all assaults of the enemy and give them peace - and all the rest of the world, too. 

For a long, thoughtful read, here's a link to an essay by the BBC's Fergal Keane:  "Ukraine, the UN and History's Greatest Broken Promise."


Friday, April 8, 2022

Twins Reunited after 70 Years Apart

For a long time now, it has seemed hard to find things to blog about. All of a sudden, many stories and videos seem to be popping up for my attention. Why, I don't know. This one is particularly moving.  From the BBC in 2015:


Thursday, April 7, 2022

On the Other Hand

Captured Russian soldiers in Ukraine - via The Mirror (U.K.), 11 March 2022.
Notice the helpless position they have been restrained in:  hands cuffed behind their backs, outer coats peeled back, outer pants pulled down to their ankles.  Any statement made under such a state of duress is, predictably, going to be what the interrogators want to hear.  There are numerous such videotaped confessions posted online by the Ukrainian authorities.

Your Head Trucker has refrained from mentioning his reservations about the war in Ukraine up till now - but today's story of Ukrainian soldiers executing Russian prisoners of war, is sufficient cause for me to speak up.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that Putin launched an unprovoked war on Ukraine, invading large swathes of territory, raining death and destruction all across Ukraine, deliberately and horrifically targeting civilians in homes, schools, hospitals, and all manner of non-military places.  The world has already seen indisputable evidence of Russian brutality and war crimes, deliberately and mercilessly done.  Russia's transparent lies and two-faced denials of these atrocities are so obvious that they are almost laughable.

Nevertheless - there are disturbing reports of Ukrainian brutality and war crimes too.  We don't want to hear those things, of course, because we want the good guys to be totally good, as in the movies.  But has there ever been a war in the long, bloody annals of recorded history in which neither side violated the rules of war, and of common decency?

This story came up in my news feed today - a manifest violation of the Geneva Conventions.  (Have you ever read them?)  I wonder how much continuing coverage it will get in mainstream Western media.

  • The Guardian reports:
Ukrainian soldiers killing captured Russian prisoner of war

(video not yet available on YouTube)

  • NBC published this report on March 29th:

U.N. urges investigation into videos of alleged POW abuse by Russia and Ukraine

  • The Journal.ie (Ireland) published this report on March 12th:

How Ukraine is dealing with Russian POWs - and how they are supposed to be treated by law

Not long after the start of the war, I was alarmed by the sight of Russian POW's with their hands obviously tied behind their backs giving video confessions to their Ukrainian captors, which they promptly broadcast to the world - again, most definitely a violation of the Geneva Conventions (forced confessions, and publicizing prisoner's identities for propaganda purposes).  From the American broadcaster Radio Free Europe on February 27, the fourth day of the war:

As my recent posts have shown, I understand and deeply sympathize with the fact that the Ukrainians are fighting for their lives, and using all possible means to prevent the destruction of their nation.  In such a state of desperate warfare, misdeeds are often made by individuals, and by national leaders, in a fit of fury.  War is a bad business, even when fighting for a good cause.

That does NOT justify war crimes, however, no matter who commits them.  Two wrongs do NOT make a right, in peace or in war.  The powers that be will, I hope, be recording and investigating all such crimes by both sides in what is, to some degree, very like a civil war - which because of its fratricidal nature is often the most vicious kind.

Western policymakers should also take the long view into consideration:  what will it mean for Europe and America if Zelensky achieves his goal of making Ukraine a "big Israel" - in a perpetual state of armed alert, if not actual war with its neighbors?  Think about it.  I do not say that would be good or bad - I merely say it is a possible outcome of this present war, which will not likely end with a nice, neat peace treaty anytime soon.

For the Record:  I do not hesitate to admit that we Americans have sometimes been myopic about atrocities committed by our own armed forces, I am very sorry to say.  From My Lai to Abu Ghraib, and at other times and places, American soldiers have shown they are not always the fighting saints we would like them to be.  And that is a very sad thing that the world has rightly condemned.

But I hope my overseas truckbuddies will understand, and my American truckbuddies will agree, that such crimes have never been embraced by the American public or remained immune to prosecution afterwards.  Though I frankly don't know what to say about Guantanamo, which somehow is still operating.  All these things are great black marks on our record, and I, for one, am deeply ashamed of them.  

On the other hand, Americans have sacrificed themselves, expending their time, talents, and treasure, individually and collectively, many times in many places to maintain the peace and stability of the world for the last 80 years; alongside our faults and failings, history will record our nobler deeds in golden letters for the admiration of ages to come.  And no matter what any lame-brain politician or demagogue or fanatic might say now or in the future, crimes against humanity are most definitely not the American way.  

The number of good and decent Americans, people with sound moral values, humility, and a conscience, far outnumber the bad ones.  Our way is the path of liberty and justice for all - when we stray from it, we try to learn from our mistakes, and do better as we continue the upward journey.  Despite our flaws and failings, we are the leaders of the free world, proud to be a force for good in a troubled world, and I hope we will always be.

At least, that is the view of this old, obsolete American with no power or influence beyond this obscure little blog.


Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Is My Dad in Heaven?

Pope Francis answers a little boy's question.


God is Love:  this is the Christian faith.  See Romans 8:35-39. 



I have no words.


Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Prom Story



Monday, April 4, 2022

War and Weirdness

Cover of The Atlantic, March 2022.

Here are two articles from the Atlantic that are thought-provoking, though I disagree with some points in each one.

1.  Anne Applebaum, "There Is No Liberal World Order" - excerpt:

For 30 years, Western oil and gas companies piled into Russia, partnering with Russian oligarchs who had openly stolen the assets they controlled. Western financial institutions did lucrative business in Russia too, setting up systems to allow those same Russian kleptocrats to export their stolen money and keep it parked, anonymously, in Western property and banks. We convinced ourselves that there was no harm in enriching dictators and their cronies. Trade, we imagined, would transform our trading partners. Wealth would bring liberalism. Capitalism would bring democracy—and democracy would bring peace. . . .

Even when the Russians, having grown rich on the kleptocracy we facilitated, bought Western politicians, funded far-right extremist movements, and ran disinformation campaigns during American and European democratic elections, the leaders of America and Europe still refused to take them seriously. It was just some posts on Facebook; so what? We didn’t believe that we were at war with Russia. We believed, instead, that we were safe and free, protected by treaties, by border guarantees, and by the norms and rules of the liberal world order.

2.  Olga Khazan, "Why People Are Acting so Weird" - excerpt:

The pandemic loosened ties between people: Kids stopped going to school; their parents stopped going to work; parishioners stopped going to church; people stopped gathering, in general. Sociologists think all of this isolation shifted the way we behave. “We’re more likely to break rules when our bonds to society are weakened,” Robert Sampson, a Harvard sociologist who studies social disorder, told me. “When we become untethered, we tend to prioritize our own private interests over those of others or the public."

The turn-of-the-20th-century scholar Émile Durkheim called this state anomie, or a lack of social norms that leads to lawlessness. “We are moral beings to the extent that we are social beings,” Durkheim wrote. In the past two years, we have stopped being social, and in many cases we have stopped being moral, too.


Sunday, April 3, 2022

Sunday Drive: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

It does my Episcopal heart good to see them rockin' the bells and smells at Trinity Church, Wall Street, recorded on February 26th of this year.  I'm not an Anglo-Catholic, or even particularly High Church - but a little festivity now and then is a joyful thing.


BONUS:  The late Archbishop Tutu gave a wonderful sermon there in 2006, on the theme of God's love, which I hope will give you a spiritual blessing today. It did for me. You might want to turn up the sound a little; and if need be, you can turn on captioning by clicking the CC button at the bottom of the YouTube screen.



Friday, April 1, 2022

Tired Old Queen at the Movies: The Chalk Garden (1964)

Click to enlarge.

Steve Hayes reviews the 1964 English drama:

A mysterious guest arrives and disrupts an already chaotic household, when Deborah Kerr, as a governess with a secret, is put in charge of delinquent teenager Hayley Mills, in Ronald Neame’s The Chalk Garden (’64). Also starring John Mills as a wise, ever faithful butler and Oscar nominee Dame Edith Evans as the domineering grandmother.  Based on the hit Broadway play by Enid Bagnold, The Chalk Garden is riveting drama from beginning to end.


What I Say:  Your Head Trucker loved Hayley Mills and always looked forward to those summertime Disney films that she starred in. But The Chalk Garden, produced by Universal, was a big disappointment - the story line and the dialogue were way over my head, and I was bored to tears. But when M.P. and I watched it online a few years ago, we were both impressed by the emotional depth of the screenplay and the brilliant acting by the whole cast. It's an odd story, but very moving and well worth watching. 

Catch more fabulous movie reviews at Steve's YouTube Channel.


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