The unframed acrylic painting hanging above Robert Phillips' slightly cluttered desk is the most noticeable object in his small office.

Colored with such vibrant hues as robin's egg blue, scarlet red and yellow, as well as natural shades of black, white and gray, Phillips said it provides relief from the drab, monochromatic colors and decor of the Roy Cullen building.

Phillips, 52, is the new director of the UH Creative Writing Program. He is not only an administrator, instructor, philanthropist and counselor of sorts to writers, but also a novelist, literary critic, pianist, father and husband. He is literary executor of the late poet Delmore Schwartz's estate, and a former advertising executive who has 27 years of experience and two Cleo awards to his credit. Phillips came to UH from the Grey Advertising firm.

Phillips -- who began his four-year appointment as director this semester -- is now at the helm of a program that boasts a graduate enrollment of approximately 100 students and has risen to prominence and respectability among national graduate-level creative writing programs.

The program was established in 1979 by UH English Professor Cynthia Macdonald, who served as director for the first three years.

Phillips, a 1987 recipient of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, has had 21 books published. They range from volumes of poetry such as Running on Empty, to a volume of a literary criticism titled The Confessional Poets.

Phillips said he likes to think of himself as a poet who likes, "discovering things I didn't know I knew." He said he hopes to utilize his experiences as a literary Renaissance man and the reputation of UH's creative writing program to achieve what he considers to be this year's most important goal -- to hire a nationally known fiction writer to join the faculty.

"Since Donald Barthelme died, his absence has been greatly felt," he said. "The person has to be well known enough, that he or she will be someone the students are excited about."

Phillips also said he will be expanding the current creative writing program to include non-fiction courses.

Stephen Koch, chairman of the Graduate Creative Writing Program at Columbia University's School of the Arts, has known Phillips for 10 years and said he thinks Phillips is an excellent choice as director of the program.

"He has a long history of working in high pressure management situations within the advertising industry," Koch said. "The acquired managerial skills combined with his writing talents will significantly benefit him as the director of the program."

Macdonald said Phillips' record and ability to wear many hats is what made him such an attractive candidate for a full-time position.

"Phillips has over 27 years of experience in advertising and yet, he also managed to further his career and fulfill his ambitions as a writer," Macdonald said. "He is well organized and knows how to use time productively. He is diplomatic, highly resourceful and dedicated, and funny. These are assets a person needs in order to direct this program."

Princeton English professor and National Book Award recipient Joyce Carol Oates studied along side Phillips at Syracuse University, and said he is ideally suited for his position at UH.

"He's a well liked and respected American man of letters who's very energetic and a force within the creative writing community," she said.

Oates, who studied in the same writing workshop and graduated with Phillips from Syracuse in 1960, said he had an affinity for the writing craft as a student.

"As an undergraduate, Phillips was intensely interested in literature and edited the literary magazine," Oates said.

Phillips' description of himself and his abilities seems modest in comparison. "I combine the rational aspect of administrating and the more intuitive aspect of having a creative ability," he said.

He said the abilty to deal with people, budgets and deadlines will make the transition into academic life easier.

Phillips has delivered lectures and readings at the Library of Congress, the New School for Social Research, the Belle Levine Arts Center, Princeton and Yale Universities. Some of his writings have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Nation, Poetry and The New Republic.

Phillips said he began writing at an early age.

"Once, when I was fairly young, I went into the library and I sat down," he said. "I started describing the action in a novel and an elderly lady looked up and said, `Well, it sounds like that book is much too adult for you to be reading.' I said, `Reading? I'm not reading it, I'm writing it.'"

Phillips soon hungered for more than a visit to the library and grew tired of the lack of cultural climate in his small hometown of Laurel, Del.








Critics have been saying guitar bands are on the way out. They weren't at Fitzgerald's on Thursday night.

The Hoodoo Gurus, with the aid of the Cinco Dudes, packed the place. Fans were holding on to the rafters to see over the swamped upper balcony.

The four Cinco Dudes opened with a ballistic four song set that knocked the wind out of the mob. After a brief pause to introduce themselves, the Dudes continued to shred the warrior crowd.

The Hoodoos opened with old songs, feeding the frenzy of the hungry fans. However, Dave Faulkner took time to tell the stage divers that sort of tomfoolery belonged on the soccer circuit.

The group itself has the precision of a Swiss watch. Rick Grossman's rythmic bass is well-balanced by Brad Shepherd's guitar slinging. They performed classics such as "Dig It Up," "Death Ship," "Axe Grinder" and "Death in the Afternoon." As a treat to their new fans they also did "Ms. Freelove `69" followed by "Kinky."

Their first single, "Leilani," was given an extended play. It featured a great fade out and a crashing end. Hopefully it was bootlegged. The regular set closed with a kinetic send-up of "Kamikaze Pilot." With little prompting, the Hoodoos returned for an extended encore.

Interestingly enough, local band The Missiles, made an appearance in the audience. They cover a lot of the Gurus' tunes and were probably there to see how the masters do it.

A big raspberry goes out to a KLOL radio personality who saw fit to get onstage between bands and act as if he actually had anything to do with the Hoodoo Gurus' show.








A significant chapter in the world of children's literature drew to a close Wednesday with the passing Theodor Seuss Geisel.

Geisel, who was born in 1904, was known more affectionately around the world as Dr. Seuss, author and illustrator of some of the seminal modern works in children's literature.

The hip and swinging tone of Horton Hears a Who?, all of the Cat in the Hat books, If I Ran the Zoo, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Green Eggs and Ham, reflected the personality of a man acutely in tune with the minds and soaring imaginations of kids everywhere.

His poems dance with the rhythmic lilting meter reminiscent of William Blake, and his funky made-up language and characters have all the color and richness of any of Lewis Carroll's work. His prose probes various layers of meaning while keeping up the front of juvenile literature. It truly is work to be enjoyed by anyone not completely jaded and cynical about life.

It would probably be a formidable task to find many students at this university who had not been in some way touched by the beautiful language of Seuss' writing.

His effect on educating children should not be overlooked.

If you don't have anything by Dr. Seuss, now would be a good time to invest. If you're planning on having children, you would be hard pressed to outdo Seuss for content and character.

His is a talent which will be sorely missed in a world which has become increasingly gloomy for kids.

We will be terribly fortunate if someone can pick up such a bright torch.









Is the introduction of the African-American experience skewing or balancing history?

According to some scholars, the Afrocentrism movement is injecting erroneous historical information into the academic curriculum.

Claims such as black people coming to America before Columbus rubbed some scholars the wrong way, leading some to think the Afrocentric perspective of historical events is merely wishful thinking on the behalf of African-Americans.

Taken to extremity, Afrocentrism may give credit where it is not due, presenting inaccuracies and misinformation to students, Communications professor Les Switzer said.

African-American Studies Assistant Director Morris Graves admits there are some people who take Afrocentrism to an extreme, but the true historians will attempt to put things in perspective by making students realize that both whites and blacks played a major role in world history, he said.

Supporters of the Afrocentrism movement said it is an effort to increase the amount of information taught in schools about blacks, adding that history lessons are incomplete when they eliminate black culture from the curriculum.

Interim Director of African-American Studies Jean Latting said Afrocentrism should not envoke negative reactions because it offers a different perspective of historical events, which may be accurate.

History is subjective and to present only the Eurocentric views of significant historical events may also lead to factual distortions, she said.

For example, Graves illustrates the belief that the Aryan race makes more technological and historical contributions than other cultures, which is simply not true.

"The reality is there have been great contributions made by all races, and we need to study the diversities in our society," he said. "Let's face it, America is becoming more and more minority. So it's important that we understand each other's culture."

Afrocentrist scholars are trying to integrate the black experience into the entities of higher learning so that contemporary society can better understand and recognize similarities among different cultures, Graves said.

Critics said rather than correcting historical record, the movement is an effort to improve black students' self-esteem.

Graves said one of the worst assumptions to make is to think the sole purpose of African-American studies programs is to boost blacks' moral.

The importance of exposing students of all races to the African-American experience is to help them grasp and perhaps understand why blacks view things the way they do, Graves said. It is more an attempt to promote understanding among different cultures, he said.

Although two people may have seen or experienced the same thing, they may perceived it differently because of their heritage and personal experiences, Graves said.

"If we can walk a mile in the other person's shoes, then we can we better understand their perception of things, allowing us to become more willing to compromise with one another," Graves said.









The conflict between flesh and spirit has plagued man since time immemorial, inspired artists and wars, and cost John the Baptist his head.

Oddly, the story of Salome is fittingly ironic because dance seems to be one of the few instances where flesh and spirit join in harmony. In dance, the body through motion and pose reflects the inspirations and passions of the spirit.

The Houston Ballet Company's current triple-bill performance revolves around that conflict between flesh and spirit. The three shows, Conceptual Contrast, Company B, and Gloria, illustrate the age-old theme with a trio of distinctly modern voices to strike a more than minor chord in the audience.

Silence fell across Wortham Theater as the dimming lights heralded the beginning of Conceptual Contrast.

This piece centers around the Double Concerto by Bohuslav Martinu and conducted by Stewart Kershaw. The concerto concentrates on two contrasting movements. One voice is frenetic, dynamic with almost masculine undertones. The other is languid, fluid and yet passionate.

Choreographer Patricia Olalde accentuates this juxtaposition of opposites by translating them into male and female roles, represented by the powerful actions of the male ballet dancers and the graceful en pointe of the ballerinas.

"This work was inspired by the difference of ideas expressed in Martinu's concerto," notes Olalde. "The only way to create a difference is to have more than one. In solitude, there is no contrast."

It is about complex interrelationships between men and women, where the conflict between flesh and spirit is that of competition versus compassion and independence versus community.

The next performance took on a lighter note and softer shoe with Company B, a collection of 10 short, interconnected pieces choreographed to the songs of the Andrews Sisters.

The music of LaVerne, Maxene, and Patty was the voice of hope and happiness to Americans here and abroad during the trying times of World War II. The trio's intensive efforts for the USO rallied the spirits of servicemen from Italy to North Africa with their songs of love and lazy summer nights on porch swings.

Paul Taylor, through his choreography, has tried to capture that jovial sense of the positivism of their music against the darker backdrop of war. Throughout many of the peppy pieces, pieces incorporating classical ballet motions with modern jazz steps, lies a silhouette of men on the slow trudging march to war as WWII stretched through those trying years. It reflects the optimism and spirit of the Continent against the grim, earthbound reality of war, with the frivolity of the jitterbug and boogie at the height of jazz.

The short pieces become a delightful romp through nostalgia.

"Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!" was ebullient as Karl Vakili in his Navy boy cap struts across the stage, eliciting the frenzied passions of the cast women.

This was a nice contrast to the Andrews' island-influenced "Rum and Coca-Cola" in which Erika Johnson does her Carmen Miranda slink through the ogling, testosterone-charged male cast.

Cathy McCann and Christopher Gillis do a nice job of formatting the music to provide a nice continuity between pieces and of using the diversity of the Andrews Sisters' songs to provide dynamics of sound and energy.

Excellent examples of these are the inclusion of the melancholy ballad of "I Can Dream, Can't I?" with soloiste Susan Cummins and "There Will Never Be Another You," with the doleful couple of Kristin Bacon and principal Phillip Broomhead.

And of course, it would be unthinkable to leave out principal Mark Arvin's delightful antics in the "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B)."

The period-style costuming by Santo Loquasto is a nice touch, providing a fun, sock-hop feel to the performance, especially the pleated pants that the then-teen queen of the silver screen, Katherine Hepburn, made famous.

Loquasto's film credits include Woody Allen's Radio Days and Zelig, for which he received Academy Award nominations.

For the finale, there was Gloria, a hymn by Francis Poulenc.

The Latin hymn is performed by the St. Paul's United Methodist Church choir and directed jointly by Robert Brewer and Francis Anderson.

Jan Grissom did a beautiful job as the soprano solo. For those opera lovers out there, you may remember her as Pamina in Mozart's The Magic Flute for the Houston Grand Opera this season.

The choir, in conjunction with the talents of Jan Grissom and Stewart Kershaw's Houston Ballet Orchestra, provided an almost gothic musical narrative for the ballet to follow.

The staging and costumes, designed by Andy Klunder, bordered on the sublime.

Bordering the skirt on both sides was the choir, in black voluminous robes, as if forming caryatids for the stage. As the curtain opens, the stage is sloped upward, painted in deep earthy colors tinged and streaked with crimson and framed austerely with metallic poles, creating an abstractly alien and yet hauntingly recognizable battlefield.

"Strewn" about the field were the bodies of soldier-dancers, recognizable







British audiences are on to something good and, somewhat grudgingly, letting the Americans in on it.

After a four-year hiatus from the music scene, Essex-native Alison Moyet -- the ferocious mistress of gut-wrenching, bluesy soul -- is bullying her way onto the American airwaves with her new album HooDoo.

The album, already a success on Moyet's native soil, entered the UK charts at No. 11 in the spring of 1991. It stands at No. 113 on the College Media Journal charts.

"The reason for the long wait is because I needed to reassess what was happening in my life," Moyet said in a phone interview from New York. "I felt myself restricted by my fame and my life as a single parent."

The new album bears no clue of this restrictiveness that she's obviously shed along the way. It prods, pulls, tugs and pushes a whole lot of buttons.

"It's more organic," Moyet elaborated."This album is far more exciting, passionate and dirtier than the others. I knew this time what my voice could and could not do."

"For Hoodoo I was there for everything." she added. "Every song is an aspect of my life. I had more to say than simply making music for the masses."

Those masses, Moyet contends, are only hearing a very small percentage of the music that is actually out there. She believes most listeners would like to hear something with more depth than what is currently on the Top 40 playlist.

"Hoodoo has become a directive for me -- all I know is I'm starting to represent myself more honestly."

Moyet doesn't believe that honesty is an attribute readily manifested in the image-controlled record industry.

"As far as the media, well, I'm not a size 8 and I don't try to please my man. To them, the worst crime a female artist can commit is to not make the most of their attractiveness.

"I don't like to be negative about artists that have succumbed to these tactics -- like Madonna is a good business woman, but I tend to view her more as a masturbatory icon rather than an artist."

"And rap music really hurts my soul and makes my chest ache. I understand that it's black music, but the male singers tend to subjugate black females in their music. They need to understand that even though their lot may be bad, they should think how the black woman feels."

"I'm humanist. I don't think in terms of sex, rather I'd like to be viewed as the person I am."

Unfortunately, the road to success has not been well paved for Moyet.

"For quite some time I had to walk down the center shaking my fists in both directions saying you have to listen to me now, fuckers."

And listen they should.

Hoodoo is by far Moyet's most valiant effort. The range of emotion, not to mention vocal range, is impressive.

Moyet wrote (or co-wrote with Pete Glenister, a member of her last road band) every song on the album.

"This record is easily the most personal I've ever made. There was a lot of chaos going on while I was writing the songs, from the birth of my second child to the breakup of a relationship."

Moyet believes that her past musical efforts were somewhat scattered. "I'm still trying to live it down. I had no confidence."

"The weakness of my past work is a lack of conviction and control. I'd like to point out that it wasn't something taken from me but something that I gave freely. Of course, I ended up getting burned."

Moyet will begin touring the states in early January. She has already begun working on her fourth album due out in about a year and a half.

"Right now, my plate is pretty full. I'm looking forward to the U.S. tour with an ounce or so of trepidation."

"I think that in America, I'll be accepted for what I am."








On a hillside lawn, damp from a cold drizzle and flooded with humanity, the meeting of music and nature and a communion of spirit elevated what began as a simple concert into an affirmation of personal faith and a tribute to the awesome power of song.

Paul Simon, the diminuitive craftsman from New York, pulled out all the stops Tuesday night as his "Born at the Right Time" tour rolled through the wilds at the Woodlands Pavilion.

Amid the spectacle of a brilliant electrical storm, Simon, his band and a 10-piece Brazilian percussion outfit named Olodum, banged out two hours of thoroughly transcendent tunes.

The lightning, which played over the Pavilion canopy for most of the show, seemed to punctuate the sublime, and at times quasi-religious, nature of Simon's melodies and lyrics.

Tribal drum work, major keys and ethereal wordsmanship were the themes for the evening, dancing with the joyous intensity of the racing frontline blowing through the air.

The intrigue and warm memories of old material like "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Kodachrome," "Mrs. Robinson" and "Sounds of Silence" were brought into a focus more in keeping with the kinetic energy and warmth generated by the Latin and African overtones of Simon's most recent efforts.

Musically, he centered the show around pieces off of "Graceland" and the vastly underrated "Rhythm of the Saints," two of the most complete and compelling albums offered for sale in the last 25 years.

Smoothly hypnotic vocals blended effortlessly over stirring drum arrangements, instilling the whole affair with a ritualistic quality and elevating Simon to the part of shaman.

This concert was definitely one for the ages. It just goes to show what can still happen in music today when an artist cares.









A new program sponsored by the UH Graduate School of Social Work will help area social service organizations to serve battered women, abused children, those who are homeless and many others.

The Funding Source, slated to open Dec. 1, is the first of its kind in the nation. For as little as $50 per year, not-for-profit social service organizations can come to UH to find out how to capture elusive funds.

Social service organizations will be able to contact the Funding Source for assistance in writing grant proposals and in learning strategies for following their requests through the funding and approval process. The new service group will also instruct them on budget development and building alliances with legislators.

Organizations that subscribe to the service will also receive a newsletter alerting them to funds available within their fields.

The Funding Source will serve Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery and Waller counties, and has the potential for generating more than $1.2 million in additional funds for Houston social service organizations in just two years, Project Manager Caroline Pickens said.

"In 1987, through the McKinney Act, organizations serving the homeless had the chance to receive funds, but, because no one in Houston really got the word, no organizations from Houston applied," Pickens said. "We hope to help organizations become more skilled in identifying sources of funding."

Even at the most basic levels, the Funding Source looks to help build organizations.

"We will go into each group and explore everything they intend to do," Pickens said. "We find out whether they have the staff, financial and physical capabilities to do all they envision."

This investigation helps organizations become more efficient and organized, thereby increasing their chances for funding, she added.

"If we are going to build a concerted strategy to bring funds to Houston," Pickens said, "there's a need for a broader knowledge base and community effort to help groups get the funding they need. We'll serve as a clearinghouse for such information."

The idea for the service was born of funding frustration three years ago when Pickens was working as an intern in Mayor Kathy Whitmire's office. During her work there, Pickens said she often heard of grants available to organizations focusing on substance abuse from the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

But no network existed to spread the word to groups that might need the money desperately.

"I'd tell people I knew about the funding possibilities, but there are plenty of groups that need funds that I might not have known about at the time," Pickens said.

With the Funding Source in place, a level of networking will exist to entice private institutions to fund collaborative efforts between local not-for-profit groups, Pickens said.

Houston Crackdown, she added, got a large grant for an education and prevention effort because of cooperation with other local groups and agencies.

"By pulling together, groups bring in more funding," she said.

Services offered by the Funding Source are most likely to benefit those organizations who usually operate on a month-to-month basis due to lack of funds.

Many agencies are so burdened by small staffs, pressing public service and limited facilities that they are unable to wade into treacherous grant waters. Applying for grants requires precise numbers, organizational specifics and compliance with federal requirements, Pickens said.

However, she said larger organizations have also expressed interest in the program.

As a public-private partnership, the Funding Source raised $97,000 in start-up costs from the Brown Foundation, Southwestern Bell, Shell Oil, First Interstate Bank, Baker-Hughes, Enron, Houston Lighting and Power, Charter Bancshares, Inc., Entex, Brown and Root and Panhandle Eastern.

The United Way has also offered a $30,000 challenge grant to generate additional funding.

The new organization also appears to have a solid base of help that will keep the number of staffers down from the outset.

"We will be getting a lot of help from alumni, students, professors, consultants with experience preparing grants and organization assessment and agencies to make sure people know about funding opportunities," she said, adding that the mayor's office has been particularly supportive in the Funding Source's efforts.

The Funding Source is currently linking-up via Internet to local, state and federal agencies. This will enable it to scan such documents as the Federal Register through the use of telecommunications.

"On the federal level alone, 17 agencies handle substance abuse issues," Pickens said. "We have to go through publications to look for funding."

The Funding Source is also investigating the possibility of an agreement with the Foundation Center, which has a database of over 32,000 organizations and corporations that fund social service projects.








A collegiate engineering challenge Tuesday proved Texas is producing quality future engineers.

The University of Houston, University of Texas, Texas A&M and Rice University were invited to participate in an engineering contest as a part of Coopers and Lybrand Technology Exchange Network, a national high-technology conference.

Teams from the four universities were instructed to find a way to inflate an 18 inch toy space shuttle in "Rube Goldberg" fashion. This means to construct the most inefficient, unnecessarily complex, roundabout machine to complete this simple task.

The University of Texas took first place using a student pedaling a bicycle that cranked the handle of a jack-in-the-box, which set off a series of events when popped open. The machine eventually inflated the shuttle, played a tape of a countdown and launched the craft.

"I think seeing this go from the brainstorming stage to a finished product in two weeks and also working within the constraints of a budget was the learning experience of the contest," said Sean Hearrell, captain of the U.T. aerospace engineering team.

The runner-up was Texas A&M whose team used a cardboard drawing tube as a pump to fill their shuttle. In the process of filling the shuttle, A&M's machine chopped off a cougar's tail, stuffed an owl and hung a longhorn. At the end, a pully mechanism pulled up the space shuttle along with an Aggie flag.

Rice and UH, whose projects needed a little push, tied for third.

The Rice team used Wyle E. Coyote, Mr. Bill and Road Runner among their switches, falling ironing board and mousetraps. Rice captain Neil Folsom said his team chose cartoon characters because Goldberg was fond of them.

The Rice contraption tripped up at two points which delayed the inflation and launch of their shuttle.

"Well, we had a small electrical fire while setting up, but we by-passed that part," Folsom said. "Things like this happen. It's Murphy's Law. We learned that planning is everything."

UH's machine utilized an array of components like light sensitive switches, chemical reactions, a water wheel and dry ice which gave off the carbon dioxide gas that eventually filled the shuttle.

Members of the five man team were Bob Brunsman, Bruce Larson, Louis De-rivas, Hugo Sheng and Scott Riggins.

The process of filling the shuttle was delayed by a complex device that lifts water out of buckets to funnels several feet higher and pours the water down the funnels.

"Basically, it was an unexpected problem that no one could do anything about," team captain Sheng said. "Overall, it was a good success. I believe the people enjoyed it."

Nancy Chaenge, president and CEO of Tanox Biosystems, praised the UH team's creativity. Chaenge, along with two other colleagues in the engineering field, judged the contest.

"They had it all -- chemical, electrical, light sensitive switches and mechanical engineering," Chaenge said. "Unfortunately, it didn't work this time."

Coopers and Lybrand Director Sid Andrew said he was impressed with the overall quality of the entries.

"All the projects were well done and took a lot of time and effort," Andrew said. "The future looks very good especially with the quality of people in todays competition."


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