Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Holding Up the Military

In the paper today was a headline, "Hastert threatens to stop defense bill, Speaker wants action on immigration, court security". I read on to find out that House Speaker, Dennis Hastert(R) from Illinois had decided that a defense bill should have some unrelated measures attached. One of the unrelated measures was a bill to allow judges to carry a concealed weapon. The other was legislation already passed by the house which would make it easier to detain and deport illegal and criminal immigrants in a bid to curb gang violence. The Senate has already passed a broad immigration measure that also included such provisions.

The bill that Hastert and House leaders are holding up as they attempt to make these attachments deals with provisions that effect the military. Notable among those provisions would be pay raises and weapons spending. Now I am not a gungho support the military industurial complex kind of guy, but really picture this:

You are soldier in Iraq. You wake every morning wondering if this is the day when you and your buddies get caught by some terrorist bomb or if this is the day that you witness a bunch of Iraqs get blown up by their fellow country men. Toss in a few worries about your weapon failing and few thoughts of home such as how is the family making out finacially?

You fire up your laptop and read the some news from stateside. You discover that you may not get a pay raise for this job that no "fortunate son" wants to do and that the budget for your weapons might fail. All because the U.S. has to keep them immigrants out and let the judge hide a pistol in his rob.

Does the Speaker of the House support our troops? I am sure he does. He just hasn't come to grips with Plantation style working conditions. Once again, the great Bob Wills can be quoted,

Little bee sucks the blossom, big bee gets the honey,
Dark man picks the cotton, White man gets the money.

Perhaps it should be modified a bit. Say,

Little bee gets his butt shot off, big bee gets his bucks
Soldier worries 'bout his firearm, da judge gets his luck


Sunday, September 24, 2006

iTunes, No Songwriters

Over the weekend my wife and I were searching iTunes looking for an artist we had heard on XM Crosscountry during the week. We successfully found Solomon Burke and after a little sampling we found the song we had heard, What Good Am I?

I skimmed the part of a review that an iTunes user had written and discovered what I thought to be true. Solomon Burke interprets songs written by others. I wondered who had written What Good Am I? I scrolled through the review and discovered that Bob Dylan had written it. So I searched iTunes some more and found the Bob Dylan version on the album Oh Mercy, one of the few studio Dylan records I do not own.

This experience set me to thinking. Why doesn’t iTunes provide the songwriters for a selection?

My wife informed that not all listeners are as interested in those details as we are. In our family we truly value songwriters. It is our passion to know who wrote a song and it is thrill to find out the song was a traditional song or written by some “old time” songwriter.

It seems to me that showing only the artist leaves the songwriter out of the picture for the listener. Without the songwriter there would be no song for the artist to interpret. For many artists this is not a problem because they are the songwriter.

To illustrate this point consider the song that is the name of the blog, Boats to Build. It was written and recorded by Guy Clark. The song has also been recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker (Cowboy Boots Bathin Suits) available on iTunes and Jimmy Buffett (License to Chill) not available on iTunes. Searching iTunes you can find two other artists that have recorded the song, Gove Scrivenor (Shine On) and a band City Mouse from Minnesota (Long Time No See). The band City Mouse also recorded Guy Clark’s Baton Rouge. No where on iTunes does the songwriter appear.

I figured it was a problem with the Gracenotes Database. If you have ever imported a CD into your iTunes library to put on your iPod you have seen the program access Gracenotes. So I searched Gracenotes. They do not list the songwriter. They also did not have a listing for Gove Scrivenor or City Mouse.

It probably is a difficult proposition to database the songwriters. Of course on some album selections in iTunes you receive an eBook that is essentially the liner notes. But this is not as available as I would like.

I guess I will continue to buy CD’s rather than purchase everything on iTunes. I am just addicted to liner notes and the need to know who wrote the song. As gawilli said, “not everyone is as interested in the songwriter as we are.” What do you blog readers think?

Courtesy of Odd Mix



Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Equinox Blues

Wikipedia defines an equinox as the moment when the sun is located right over the equator. Put another way, the equinoxes are the two days each year when the center of the sun spends an equal amount of time above and below the horizon at every location. This occurs twice a year around March 20 and September 23 or this coming Saturday. The fall equinox marks the changing of the seasons and slow “chill down” to winter.

While I love the fall, it’s my favorite time of year with the leaves changing and its wonderful colors, I did discover several years ago a peculiar equinox effect. It began with a nagging little pain in my left shoulder and then it would move to my elbow. I did not think much of it at first because I broke my left arm very seriously when I was a toddler. As a result my elbow has been reconstructed in an unorthodox fashion; the nerve is exposed. Brings new meaning to bumping your funny bone or should I say “cussing bone”. Curiously enough the pain in the shoulder and elbow disappeared after several weeks. Of course it came back at the end of every September.

Then I noticed that the end of September was a time of extreme moodiness for this earthling. I mean sometimes I would almost feel depressed for no reason at all. Nothing seemed to satisfy me and I was stuck in a blue funk.

After autumn was in full swing and all the trees were turning brilliant reds and yellows, my arm would quit hurting and once again I was smiling. I had some dealings with nature and knew about the equinox. I had even read that you can stand an egg on end during the fall equinox. I tried it one time at school and it worked. (mjd seems to imply that this is not real science, yet has not related that eggs can stand on end at other times of the year.) So I theorized that if the equinox could have an effect like standing an egg on end and changing the seasons then maybe it could have an effect on me. One problem, I didn’t have the same trouble with the spring equinox – no aching arm or moodiness at all.

So now I just describe it as the Equinox Blues. I accept that it will pass and I will be my old chipper self in a matter of weeks. I trust that it will not happen in the spring or any other time during the year. I even chose to write a song about it. Of course I managed to loose the lyrics once my arm quit hurting and my mood got better. But, I always remember the chorus:

I got the Equinox Blues
My eggs are standing on end
I got the Equinox Blues
When will it end?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

What’s Behind the Name?

Spring of the White Robin writes about how she, and we, all got into blogging. It made me think of a “first blog” that I never wrote. So here it is:

Ever since I heard Bob Dylan I felt drawn to those who put words to music. Growing up near Texas, and going to college during a time that the world was rediscovering Willie Nelson, I came upon lots of Texas songwriters. The one that stood out in my mind, when I sought to rediscover this type of music, was Guy Clark.

When I first heard the song, Boats to Build, it spoke to me in ways I can’t explain. It became my theme song for piecing my life back together at a time when it had fallen all apart.

It's time for a change
I'm tired of that same ol same
the same ol words the same ol lines
the same ol tricks and the same ol rhymes

Days precious days

roll in and out like waves
I got boards to bend I got planks to nail
I got charts to make I got seas to sail

I always felt I had things to accomplish and that I should get on with it. I poured myself into my school work, adopting a reading innovation. I worked with my staff and together our school began to take on a new look. We shared it with the School Board using a slide show of pictures of children reading and teachers working with groups. It was all accompanied by music that described what we had been doing:

I'm gonna build me a boat
with these two hands
it'll be a fair curve from a noble plan
let the chips fall where they will
cause I've got boats to build

We continue to improve our school and the instruction we provide students. Along with work I have found myself moving into other areas with the same type of gusto. I have become involved with a Methodist Church community that is a bit liberal. Liberal in their theology and in their inclusiveness, but very committed to making a difference in how the world treats people.

Sails are just like wings
the wind can make em sing
songs of life songs of hope
songs to keep your dreams afloat

I find myself committed to many causes that I once believed in, but fell away from, sometimes because it felt safe to be silent. Now, I am not so concerned about safety and more concerned about what WE do for each other and how it affects the future.

Shores distant shores
there's where I'm headed for
got the stars to guide my way
sail into the light of day

I met Guy Clark at the Wheatland Folk Festival in Michigan. I sat in on a guitar workshop with he and Verlon Thompson. He signed my Boats to Build CD. My wife says it is the first time she saw me speechless. And speechless I was.

Guy Clark paints pictures with song lyrics. Pictures of old time Texas and folk heroes. He crafts beautiful songs about things we see everyday and might take for granted. He wrote a song called the Randall Knife about a knife his dad once owned “when he went to war to save the world from ruin”. The song was written upon his father’s death. It is a song that touches me in a way that makes me cry every time I hear it. It is a song I love, but do not listen to often.

I’ve tried my hand at songwriting. I’m not too good, but I keep at it because it makes me feel good. I would love to write songs like Guy Clark. The road I travel leads to me to places that need my talents, song writing is not one. I dedicate my life to making a difference as I travel that road and with this blog I try to share a few thoughts that I have. Some of them are just for fun, yet some of them are intended to challenge the reader. Mostly it keeps me focused on trying to make a difference. Because I know:

I'm gonna build me a boat
with these two hands
it'll be a fair curvefrom a noble plan
let the chips fall where they will
cause I've got boats to build

--Guy Clark, Boats to Build

Hear Guy Clark and Verlon Thomas perform Boats to Build.

This is why the blog is called Boats to Build, and that is why I write about the things you find here. Enjoy. --Willi

Courtesy of Odd Mix and by invitation from Jay. This weekend’s words were touch and release.



Friday, September 15, 2006

Noah's Ark, You Pick 'em

As you all have figured out, rain has been the topic of choice for bloggers in Northwest Indiana. Here's another deluge influenced blog that invites your participation.

God told Noah to make an ark, and to bring with him his wife, and his sons, Shem, am, and Japheth and their wives. Additionally, he was to bring pairs of all living creatures, male and female, and in order to provide sustenance, he was told to bring and store food. –Genesis 6

During the week of endless rain I heard someone say something about building an Ark. I decided that if there was even a remote possibility that someone like a Noah character was going to build an Ark then I was going to make a few requests.

Leave the mosquitoes, roaches, and squirrels off. Leave the mosquitoes because the pesky females bite and the bites itch for days. The roaches should be left off because they are nasty and overly prolific and everyone moves when they show up. As for the squirrels, they just bug me. I mean they are everywhere and you can’t keep them off a bird feeder to save your soul. Besides in suburbia they have no natural predators.

As I continue to think about this Ark thing, other critters come to mind such as chiggers. I have never seen a chigger, yet I am very familiar with them. Growing up in Arkansas I spent much of my childhood as a red polka dotted boy. When I was in college we had this keg party called the Chigger Festival. The theory was that all the alcohol consumed at this one party would deter the chiggers all summer. It never worked, but I always went.

Sea Gulls also come to mind. The “shit hawk” as they are sometimes referred to will grab your sandwich right out of your hand on the beach at Lake Michigan. They also have gatherings on the parking lots of “big box” stores. Sometimes you find some “goof ball” feeding them bread –like these birds need help finding food! I have a tendency to drive my truck fast through a gathering of sea gulls just to watch them fly off. This embarrasses my wife and I usually end up in a little trouble. But, really critters like the “shit hawk” deserve a little slack. After all they keep the White Castle parking clean, free of charge. So maybe they should have a ticket on the Ark.

Just for fun, what critters would leave off the metaphorical Ark?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Road to Hell

Earlier in the week while attending a very official meeting of educators I found myself questioning the merits of an age old metaphor. The education discussion of the day led one administrator to comment on how hard work and effort sometimes does not get the desired results. Being the elder member of our firm he drew upon an age old metaphor, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Now I knew what the colleague meant, but I found myself relating to it not from an education point of view, but from a theological one. Now that I have quit listening to what is “right” and started listening to the historical Jesus I believe in universal grace. God comes to everyone and everyone is in God. Some prefer to think of it as God saves everyone.

So I turned to one of my colleagues and said, “I wonder who sent back that information.” I mean, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” seems to indicate an admission that someone has done enough wrong to actually go to hell.

I do not believe in hell, especially as some geographical location or even as a torturing of those of us who are allegedly “wrong headed”. So my question is, “Where in the hell was this guy when he thought he was on the road to hell?”

Assuming that this information about what lies beyond the here and now is even partially correct I concluded I will not see this road to hell, nor will anyone else. The grace of god will bring us all home to where we came from and we will be in peace. No one will ever be able to verify the wisdom in the old saying that it is paved with good intentions.

Yes I know this is all a lot of blither about a metaphor. Kind of like that ark thing and the animals two by two or that dude that was swallowed by the whale and thrown up on some beach somewhere. People fight religious wars over these metaphors. I just thought I would fire a warning shot over the bow.

If Noah built an ark and he filled it full of critters
Sail a handmade boat full of dung
I’m a big blue monster with lizard tails for hair

I may not the brightest of the marbles in the bag…..

--Taken out of context with some omissions from Noah’s Ark by Cary Swinney on the album Big Shots.


P.S. I am the "guest blogger" on "Speaking Metaphorically" this week.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

It's a small world.

I remember my dad meeting people in downtown Little Rock. They would start talking and low and behold they both new someone who was from Cleveland County. The conversation would end with, “it’s small world.”

We have all experienced it. We meet someone and then it turns out that they used to date someone we dated or their kids played baseball with our kids. In the education world it often plays out as, “I taught his sister, uncle or even his dad!”

There was a point in my life when I had this strategy called the “Three Year Plan”. I was not going to live any place for longer than three years. Kind of like a “stable gypsy”. Well that fell along the wayside when I found myself in the upper Midwest. I was married and having kids and had worked in the same spot for 10 years.

Since that time I have divorced and remarried, had no more kids, but acquired some new ones by other means. Now I find myself having completed another 10 years in the same school. Some kids I taught in previous jobs now have jobs in my school district. And some of my students’ parents had me as a teacher when I was “north of US highway 30”. Now I am south of US 30.

I used to think it was a small world too. But, now I think it is an age thing. You reach a point in life when you’re so old that the odds that you are going to meet someone that knows someone you know or are related to you in some other way increases. I mean the world is the same size it has always been. The only difference is that you have been in it a lot longer. The probability of association with something familiar increases with the number of years that you live. This is even more the case if you remain in the same relative region for some time. Of course the probability also increases as the people in your “old” region get older and move to new regions, say your region.

The other day the professors from the local college that places students in our school for field experiences came to talk with the teachers. There was a new professor who was from Arkansas, an Ouachita Baptist and Henderson State grad. I introduced the new prof. to the faculty my playing the Razorback fight song from one of those Razorback heads that you hit on the table.

Later as I showed the professors around one commented about how one of the teachers had taught their son. Then she made THE comment, “it’s a small world”. I replied, I used to think that too, but now I think it is a result of getting old and the probabilities of meeting someone related to you in some way increases.

Sounds like a negative take on a positive thing, kind of like spoiling someone’s déjà vu. Actually, I don’t think it is THAT bad. I enjoy being old enough to experience these types of connections.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Swinging Door

When I was a college student in Fayetteville, Arkansas during the late seventies there was a club called the Swinging Door. It was on the infamous Dickson Street just now from Roger’s Pool Hall, a place of notoriety because it was frequented by sports writers when they came to cover the Razorback games. It was also the establishment that served me my first legal beer. I won a dollar in a domino game played at a real domino table.

The Swinging Door hosted many talented bands of the time. The Cate Brothers who had a radio hit, Union Man, was one of them. Bill and Bonnie Hearne from Texas was another, although not well known. Bill played guitar and Bonnie played piano. If I recall correctly Bonnie was blind.

The Swinging Door also hosted several more local bands. Some of these bands made the southwest circuit down to Texas and over to Oklahoma. One of the bands was Cornbread. These guys were sort of bluegrass, Cajun and country all thrown together. I guess in the 21st Century we might say they were like the Gourds. They had this dude that played the washboard and man, he really could rock!

There was another band by the name of Zorro and the Blue Footballs. These guys were a riot. They might be described as a redneck jazz and jump blues band. Their shows were all ways filled with surprises, sometimes on the offensive side. They played Bob Wills’ Big Balls in Cow Town and it did not seem to be a song about dances.

One of the surprises that Zorro and the Blue Footballs seemed to always showcase at the Swinging Door was a streaker. Streaking was a fad back in those days. People would run naked across football fields or through campgrounds as we did on a church camp out to Lake Ouachita during high school.

At the Swinging Door the Zorro streaker would come from the back and run through the club right onto Dickson Street. I always heard that Zorro and the Blue Footballs tried this trick in Dallas and it had the same result that we had when we were in high school. They got arrested. We had our camp out cut short when they took us all home on Saturday. But, we were in church on Sunday just so we could talk about it.

The Swinging Door turned into the Whitewater Tavern in the eighties and continued to host good music. It is probably known by some other name now. But I am certain there is a place in its location on Dickson Street that hosts good music from the southwest circuit.


p.s. After doing a little googling I discovered that a member of Zorro and the Blue Footballs, Windy Austin has or had a band in the late nineties called Windy Austin and the Hot House Tomatoes.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Universal Health Care Promoted at Church!

I have often voiced an opinion about universal health care, most recently in the post, Jesus Christ for President. I have often mentioned the role of grace and question why we do not hear more about health care in our churches. I am pleased to announce that in at least one instance we have.

My friends from church, mjd and daddy d, went to a universal health care town meeting this summer. It was sponsored by the Methodist Church and hosted by North United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. At this town meeting there was much talk about H.R. 676 which seeks to make set up a single payer system. Families would pay not more than $1600 a year for health care. They even had details on how this would be paid for –employers and employees would both pay a small tax like the social security tax that comes from their paychecks. But, everyone would be covered. Money would be saved by eliminating the unnecessary administrative cost and profit now being paid to insurance companies and HMO’s. And business would be able to remain competitive. (See the links on the right for more information)

I was pleased that the church was involved in supporting this effort. I would still like to hear more from churches about universal health care and I would love to see it become a reality.

On a different note…. My doctor added mycardis to my blood pressure meds. The last time I was in he gave me a My Card. This “gem” guarantees that I will never pay more than $20 for a prescription of mycardis.

I went to the pharmacist to fill my prescription and did not have the card. No worries since I was going to pick it up the next day. So I went in the next day to pick it up with the My Card in hand. I gave it to the pharmacist and said, “I don’t know if it will make a difference or not, but if it doesn’t I will be pleased with the job that expensive health insurance is doing.” As it turned out, using the My Card got my prescription filled for half the price that my insurance would fill it. I paid $20 just like the card said. Makes you wonder what you’re paying for or working for in some cases. Definitely gets your blood pressure up!


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Waffle Stompers

“Well, these boots are made for walking
And that's just what they'll do”
-Lee Hazlewood

While cleaning out the garage for Brisket Fest 2006 I remembered an old pair of hiking boots that I had refused to throw out. These boots are “waffle stompers” as they came to be known.

The leather of the boots was turned inside out giving them a very rough exterior. They were coated with a water proofing product known as snow seal. The sole of these boots were the infamous Vibram waffle sole. The sole was attached by sewing using a flat welt, although this particular brand sported a modified welt that was not completely flat.

These boots were purchased in Fayetteville, Arkansas in 1976. The boots had hiked the entire stretch of the Ouachita Mountain hiking trail, in the winter at that. They wandered the campus of the University of Arkansas when it snowed, along with my Catahoula hound, Hank Williams
–Wooooo pig soooie!

When I went to LaPaz, Bolivia as a student teacher, the boots went too. The boots were on my feet when I took a bus to some ruins on the altiplano. I missed my return bus and me and the boots had to catch a Chola truck back to LaPaz. We sat in the back of large truck full of Indians and shared a popcorn treat with the Indian kids. I still think of that trip when I hear the Bruce Cockburn song, “Dust and Diesel”.

Dust and diesel
Rise like incense from the road –
Smoke of offering
For the revolution coming

On that particular trip the boots and I teamed up for a hike on an Incan trail from the altiplano to the tropical area known as Las Yungas. According to our former US Aid guide the trail had not been hiked in years. We sorted our gear and I was found lacking a whistle. I had no idea why I needed a whistle until we started our hike. First, there was the land slide on the side of the mountain that we had to climb then there was the great wide open of grass covered steep mountain criss-crossed with trails and a condor soaring over head. I took a trail going down, knowing that we were to follow a river. Then I heard the whistles. I followed them back to the group with the new found appreciation of the signal whistle.

The boots went back with me to live in Bolivia for three years. They traveled to Santiago, Chile where after curfew we listened to banned folk songs sung by the uncle of Violeta Para. She was a popular folk singer during the Allende period that was captured and killed in the soccer stadium when Pinochet took over.

From Santiago it was on to the North and into Peru. The boots were with me when I took photographs of army tanks in the plaza at Arrequipa. They visited Machu Pichu and were on my feet when we saw the curly haired cross of sheep and alpaca (see previous blog entry).

Upon returning to the states the soles were quite worn out. So I visited a cobbler and had them resoled. They continue to serve me through some hard labor. I was a part of a hiking club that built the Ozarks Highlands Trail from the Boston Mountains to the Buffalo River country. They even went with me on my first backpacking trip to the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming. I retired those boots after that trip for a pair of lightweight Nike hikers; these carried me through the Saw tooth Mountains in Idaho. I do not have the Nikes anymore. My wife talked me into putting them in the gleaner’s box. But I just can not seem to part with these, even though they are antiques and I do not wear them anymore.