BEATING THE ODDS FOR LIFE

LIFEbeat gets active at SXSW and shows

 

by Jenalia Moreno

Daily Cougar Staff

The music industry is doing more to fight HIV/AIDS than simply wearing a red ribbon. LIFEbeat is the music industry's nonprofit AIDS awareness and resource organization. LIFEbeat was one organization that set up a booth at the SXSW conference in Austin.

LIFEbeat funds AIDS services that are currently exist in communities throughout the United States. It also financially assists individuals in the music industry who are suffering from the AIDS virus. Direct confidential assistance is available for these people.

LIFEbeat was founded in April 1992 by Bob Caviano and Daniel Glass. Caviano was a music industry manager and producer who died of AIDS in September 1992. Glass is the president of ERG, the record company consortium that owns Chrysalis and other labels.

Caviano's dream was to raise money and awareness through a nationwide series of music events in order to benefit local AIDS services and help people within the industry.

LIFEbeat has given grants to God's Love We Deliver, which provides meals for people who have AIDS. They have also given grants to the Community Health Project, which provides medical services and health care to the AIDS Resource Center, which administers the Bailey House, a nursing facility.

LIFEbeat has also given grants to Standup Harlem, Actor's Fund of America, Hearts and Voices and the Lower East Side Needle Exchange Program.

The organization is also involved in disseminating medical information. They do this through the help of volunteers. LIFEbeat is centered in New York City, but needs volunteers from around the country.

One of its volunteer programs that needs nationwide volunteers is Tour Outreach, which is much like the information table that was at the SXSW conference.

Musical artists allow LIFEbeat to set up an information booth at each of the venues where they perform on their tours. Concert-goers can ask questions about HIV/AIDS, receive advice, information, referrals and free condoms. In addition to LIFEbeat volunteers, local AIDS organization representatives may be at the Tour Outreach booth.

Most of the LIFEbeat volunteer opportunities, such as running errands and general office work, are in New York City. However, there are volunteers needed for special events, such as benefit shows and fund-raisers.

One ongoing project is a club or concert event. A particular venue donates a portion of the proceeds from a night of ticket sales to LIFEbeat.

LIFEbeat has also joined forces with a radio station in New York to produce a Disco Classics CD and is currently attempting to obtain clearances for songs. Celebrities worked behind the counters of record stores in major cities on Dec. 1 to hand out LIFEbeat information and condoms. They also sold autographs to fans.

In June, a series of musical events is planned to take place in major New York City venues during the Gay Games week and the celebration of Stonewall 25.

Can-goods donations are accepted in New York City record stores. LIFEbeat hopes to expand this volunteer program to other places in the country, but they will need volunteers to take and collect the donations.

In order to become a LIFEbeat volunteer or staff member, a brief interview is required as well as training.

Anyone with fund-raising ideas, or who would like to become a LIFEbeat volunteer when the Tour Outreach program comes to Houston, can call 1-800-AIDS-411 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Or write 810 7th Avenue, 8th floor, New York, New York 10019 to apply as a volunteer.

 

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STUDENTS GET AHEAD THROUGH COOP-ERATION

by Charlotte Pennye

News Reporter

Students who want to get a taste of the real world before leaving the hallowed halls of school should consider Cooperative Education as an option.

Jerry Davenport, director of the Cooperative Education Program at UH, said, "This program gives students a chance to check out companies, while the companies also get a chance to check the students out."

The Cooperative Education Program began in 1906 at the University of Cincinnati, and since then, more than 900 universities have initiated co-op programs throughout the United States. Last year, 250,000 students participated in the program, with the average salary being $7,500 per student.

The Cooperative Education Program was established at UH in 1959 and is housed in the College of Engineering. The majority of positions received by the program are for engineering, natural science and technology majors, but positions for other majors are available.

"The biggest misconception about the program is that students think it's only for engineering majors. We have placed students majoring in computer science, hotel and restaurant management, music and drama. These students have worked at places such as The Houston Ballet, Walt Disney World, Dow, NASA and the U.S. Customs Department," Davenport said.

Most co-op positions are offered on a full-time, alternating basis where two students from the same or different universities fill each position. While one student works full-time, the other attends school full-time for that semester. They trade places each semester.

Mary Hennessy, a senior mechanical engineering major who

participated in the program for four semesters, said, "The co-op program is a good way to look at employers without pressure. Students should use the opportunity to observe and learn as much as they can and use it to their advantage. This program gives students an edge before going out into the working world."

Some of the advantages offered to students include having a chance to explore a career choice before graduation, getting an opportunity to associate with professionals in the field and receiving money to help pay for college.

"Companies also reap the benefits of the program because it cuts recruiting and training costs. If companies have been training a co-op student, they do not have to go and search for someone," Davenport said.

Requirements for the program include a minimum 2.25 grade point average and classification as a sophomore or junior, or having at least 40 hours left before graduation.

"Some schools require a higher grade point average, but students with a 2.8 and up are considered competitive and have a better chance for a job," Davenport said.

Students interested in applying for the program should attend a one-hour co-op orientation in the Cooperative Education Office located in Room E301 of the Cullen College of Engineering building.

 

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TOW THE LINE, SKIP THE FINE

by Cheryl Luedke

News Reporter

Are you one of the few who park in no-parking zones, fire zones or reserved spaces, hoping there will be no ticket on your windshield when you return to your car?

Are you one of the daring few who, upon receiving a parking ticket, simply crumple it up and toss it, thinking nothing will be done about it?

Director of Parking and Transportation Gerald Hagan said if a parking violation fee is not paid within 20 days of its issuance, the fee will be doubled and be itemized in the student's account. Hagan said for such minor offenses as parking in a no-parking zone (those yellow lines at the end of each row), the fine is $15.

For such major offenses as parking in a reserved space, a handicapped-only space, a fire zone or in a manner that blocks the flow of traffic, the violator is required to pay $25, and the vehicle is subject to tow. In addition to the $25 fine, the student must pay a $40 fee to retrieve the vehicle, Hagan pointed out. The total almost amounts to the price of a year-long UH parking decal.

Hagan said – as explained on the back side of the citation –that students will only be charged half the fee if it's paid within 48 hours of the date on the ticket.

What if your ticket blows away in the wind or is undecipherable due to blurring caused by rainy weather?

Hagan said a new feature within the data base will generate a letter that informs the parking violator of the citation. The violator should receive the letter within four or five days from the time the ticket was issued.

Within the 20 days allotted for action, students may decide to pay the fine or appeal the citation. According to a flier titled "Parking Matters," which is distributed by UH Parking and Transportation, appeal forms are available at the information booth, located near Entrance 1 or in Room 1, E. Cullen.

If a person accumulates four citations, whether the fines have been paid or not, the vehicle is subject to tow.

The enforcement personnel – people who issue tickets and assist students and faculty when they have car troubles – have in their possession a "tow list," which is a list of all vehicles subject to tow due to accumulation of citations, Hagan added.

The tow list has grown to include 40 vehicles this semester, which, according to Hagan, is not long considering the number of students, faculty and visitors who use UH parking lots.

Although it is no real consolation, a student whose car has been towed does not have to travel far to retrieve it. The tow lot is located at Scott and Wheeler streets, and is situated within a main parking lot adjacent to the University of Houston Police Department. Hagan said, "Not many schools have a tow lot on campus."

According to the "Parking Matters" flier, "UH has a total of 14,100 parking spaces serving the community 16 hours a day with one of the best ratios of permits issued per space for major universities.

The fight is for convenience – especially on days of inclement weather – when people do not want to walk long distances. Hagan said, "All of our lots can't provide convenience for everybody, but we would prefer that everyone understand the concept of fairness for all."

 

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MILNER, BELL TO RING IN NEW SA REGIME

by Tanya Eiserer

Daily Cougar Staff

The Students' Association election runoff ended with Uniting Students presidential candidate Angie Milner winning by a slim margin over upstart Alliance candidate Dominic Lewinsohn.

After the ballots were counted, Milner came out with 549 votes to Lewinsohn's 516.

On the vice presidential side, Initiative candidate Henry Bell won out over Uniting Students candidate Dirk Moore by two votes. Milner said the ballots were counted four times to ensure the counts were accurate.

"That just goes to show you that every vote counts," said Bell, who is also president of the Black Student Union.

SA members were surprised at the high turnout in the runoff. Normally runoffs do not have good turnout. Jeff Fuller, student regent, had predicted that only 500 or 600 students would vote.

1100 students voted in the general election and almost the same number voted in the runoff.

"I was exceptionally pleased with the turnout, especially with the low coverage that the runoff received," Lewinsohn said.

Milner said she was pleased with the election results, especially because SA will have a female president and black vice president.

"This is really more representative of the students. UH is ready for this type of change," Milner said.

Milner also noted that Texas A&M has a female running for president with the backing of the corps. The University of North Texas also has a strong female candidate.

"I think it is a key statement from Texas to have as many females in that position," she said.

SA is usually dominated by white males, Bell said. In the past most SA presidents and vice presidents have been white males.

UH's only other female presidents in SA's history were Wendy Trachte, elected in 1988, and Debra Danburg, who served a term during the '60s.

"The election results reflect that this is a more diverse campus," Bell said.

Although Lewinsohn said he was disappointed he did not win, he was pleased that Bell had won and could try to get their ideas implemented.

Milner and Bell both said they believe they will work very well together.

"It is not just a party coming in and taking over. We will work together and bring the ideas together. I see a lot of changes," Milner said.

The buzzwords for this year's election were change and reform.

Coy Wheeler, the Initiative candidate and speaker of the Senate, and Lewinsohn wanted to bring reform to SA.

This year's SA has been plagued by one scandal after another, from the controversy over logogate to the investigation of SA finances.

Students wanted a change in the way SA is run.

"It shows that people were tired and frustrated," Wheeler said.

Some people were surprised at Lewinsohn's number of votes.

"Although I was unknown to the Cougar and in SA circles, I would classify myself as very well known in certain circles," he said.

Lewinsohn said he was surprised he lost because he knew he had the support out there.

Milner said she would take office some time in mid-April at the inaugural dinner. The date depends on when Fuller can locate a keynote speaker and book the UH Hilton, she said.

Milner also said SA will be accepting applications for Cabinet positions, which include directors of public relations, external affairs, personnel and finance.

Milner said she wants to start a student intern SA program to get more people involved with SA beyond elected officials and Cabinet members.

"We want to have more people in the office so that there are not just few elected officials making the decisions and having input on writing the bills," she said.

In the runoff, students also voted by an overwhelming margin to allow the Honors College to elect one representative to the SA Senate.

 

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TOO POOR TO SEE A DOCTOR? BECOME A LAB RAT

by James Aldridge

Daily Cougar Staff

Although it seems that those ulcers and urinary-tract infections are just causing pain and discomfort, there is a way to turn this malady into money. Students can be paid volunteers in research studies. They can more importantly receive medical care and medication for these ailments.

The Food and Drug Administration requires that drugs be tested on a target group of humans after they are tested on laboratory animals.

The Medical Research Alliance of Houston, located at 6560 Fannin, is a clinical research unit. The company specializes in conducting research for particular illnesses. Two of those are ulcer and urinary-tract studies.

The Medical Research Alliance is currently on the forefront of ulcer research. A company named Abbott is sponsoring its study on the role of a particular bacterium on duodenal ulcers. The helicobacter pylori (H pylori) is believed to be an agent of recurring ulcers. The unit is testing whether or not ulcer drugs and antibiotics can curb the amount of ulcer cases and eventually find a cure.

Since December, it has been trying to fill 240 slots with ulcer patients. Dr. Suzanne Weekley, principal investigator of all of the group's studies, said the unit has filled 75 percent of the participant positions.

Weekley said although the unit began its study last December, principal research linking H pylori and ulcers began two years ago.

A study titled "Effect of Helicobacter pylori on Gastric Somatostatin in Duodenal Ulcer Disease," published in Lancet on Oct. 17, 1992, showed that there was a correlation between high levels of the bacteria and low levels of a normal inhibitory mechanism. This 1992 test concluded that if H pylori is killed, there should be a reduction of ulcers.

The requirement of the participants is that they are in good general condition and have a duodenal ulcer. Weekley said patients may receive up to $500 in compensation if selected.

She said there is a screening process and the first visit typically takes about three hours because each person has to be tested. One of the things the participants have to undergo is a gastrointestinal exam. A specialist will use a lighted scope to view the ulcer, Weekley said.

In the urinary-tract study, Forest Pharmaceuticals in New York City is sponsoring Medical Research Alliance. Women with urinary-tract infections in good health are needed to find out if antibiotics can help these infections. The women also have to be at least 18 and on some sort of birth control.

Federal law stipulates that confidentiality be assured in the study. Only a few visits are required and the first visit lasts about one hour, Weekley said. This study is also free to the participants.

Overall, Weekley said she is pleased with the research so far. She also said it is most important that people participate in research so that everyone benefits.

"It's good for us and it's good for them. It's good for the patients because they receive free medical care and it's good for us so that drugs get tested and later approved. That's how medicine progresses," Weekley said.

For those interested in either of these studies, contact Lorrie King at 790-0571.

 

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LONGHORNS KO COOGS TO TAKE 2 OF 3 IN SERIES

by Ryan Carssow

Daily Cougar Staff

Houston went toe-to-toe with nationally ranked Texas over the weekend and won a few rounds but couldn't finish off the Longhorns.

Houston (22-14, 3-3 in the Southwest Conference) hung tough in Friday's first game before losing 13-7. The Cougars took the second game 7-2, but Texas delivered the knockout punch with a 17-8 blowout victory in the final game.

"My concern is we've given up 43 runs in third games (of SWC series)," said Houston head Bragg Stockton.

Rice defeated Houston 26-6 in the third game of the teams' series after Houston won the first two games.

Game three Houston starter Brad Towns gave up four runs in 2 1/3 innings against Texas. He gave up five in one inning against Rice. He was credited with both losses.

Houston roughed up Texas starter Jay Vaught for five runs to keep the game close. The Cougars pulled to within one run at 5-6 after Mike Hatch's three-run fourth-inning home run.

Texas (25-9, 5-1) KO'd Houston with five runs in the fifth inning and four in the sixth off Cougar relievers David Hamilton, Bo Hernandez and Ryan Walter.

Ryan Kjos, the Longhorns' game one starter, relieved Vaught in the fifth and shut down the Cougars. The junior right-hander found his stuff again after the Cougars had roughed him up in the first game Friday.

"Today, I felt better. I was more loose," said Kjos, who earned the win.

Houston starter Matt Beech was the star of Saturday's first game. The senior left-hander gave up four hits and struck out 10 in a seven-inning complete game victory, the first SWC victory of his career.

Beech appeared to be throwing with ease as he befuddled the Longhorn batters.

"My fastball wasn't popping early on like it usually does," Beech said. "My slider was my best pitch today. The change-up kept them off balance."

A pair of two-run home runs by Carlos Perez and and Tom Maleski and a Shane Buteaux RBI triple provided plenty of offense for Houston. Clint Koppe received the loss, his first of the season.

Beech said the victory is more important to him than the perfect game he threw against Louisiana Tech on Feb. 19.

"This is what you come to the Southwest Conference for," he said. "It was great to get our team back into the conference race. It was a big downer for the whole team to lose the first game."

Stockton described Friday's loss in one word.

"Misery," he said.

Houston jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning when Buteaux sent a Kjos fastball over the left-field fence for a two-run home run. The blast scored Ricky Freeman, who had doubled home Perez.

Texas manufactured a run in the second inning on a Tony Vasut sacrifice fly. The Longhorns then exploded for five runs in the third.

Shea Morenz plated two with a bloop single to left and Vasut capped the inning with the first home run of his career, a three-run shot just inside the right-field foul pole.

Houston fought back and scored two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. Maleski's two-run double in the fifth gave Houston a 7-6 lead.

Texas tied the game in the sixth on a Steve Heinrich solo home run off Walter. Heinrich finished the game 5-for-6.

"The key to the game was clutch hits," said Texas head coach Cliff Gustafson. "Heinrich's were all big hits, (and) his homer to tie it was huge."

Texas scored five runs in the eighth off David Hamilton and Shane Buteaux. Hamilton had struck out two Longhorns to end a threat in the seventh.

 

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HOUSTON CHASES SWC TITLE IN OPEN RACE

by Ryan Carssow

Daily Cougar Staff

Three wins and three losses may not seem like an outstanding start to the Southwest Conference baseball season, but for Houston it is a vast improvement over last year.

The Cougars (22-14, 3-3 in the SWC) took two of three games from Rice in the SWC opener for both teams the first weekend of spring break. They dropped two of three to Texas the last weekend.

Last year Houston was swept by Rice to open the season and then lost five of six games to Texas and Texas A&M over spring break. The Cougars were effectively eliminated from the SWC race by the end of spring break last year.

This year Houston is in the thick of the conference race, and head coach Bragg Stockton has raised his expectations of what his team can do.

"This is a good quality ballclub," he said. "This team will battle you."

Texas (25-9, 5-1) and Rice (22-11, 4-2) are atop the conference. However, both the Longhorns and the Owls recorded unexpected early season sweeps of Texas A&M.

Houston will play A&M (18-15, 0-6) in College Station this weekend. So far the Cougars are the only SWC team to defeat the top two teams in the conference. Texas and Rice play in Austin this weekend in a showdown of the top teams.

"(The conference race) is gonna be something," senior pitcher Matt Beech said. "Don't count us out."

With an 0-6 SWC record, it may already be time to count Texas A&M out. If Houston takes even two of three games from A&M, the Aggies will be gasping for breath.

"A tournament team is probably going to have eight to nine (conference) losses," said Texas A&M head coach Mark Johnson. "But obviously we put ourselves in a major hole."

Rice head coach Wayne Graham, whose Owls swept the Aggies this weekend, doesn't believe Texas A&M is out of contention just yet.

"They've lost six in a row in conference, but they are capable of winning 10 in a row," he said.

The top four schools at the end of the regular season will play in the SWC postseason tournament at College Station. The winner of the SWC tournament receives an automatic NCAA regional bid.

Texas Tech (26-9, 3-2) is in third place in the SWC. The Red Raiders took two of three games from Texas Christian the weekend of March 11-12. They split with Baylor Saturday and will play the third game of that series today after a rainout Sunday.

TCU and Baylor have only played one series each against Tech and can't be figured into the race just yet.

Unlike last season when Texas and Texas A&M ran away and hid at the top of the conference standings, this year's race figures to be close.

"I think this year in the Southwest Conference, you're going to see everybody drop some games," said Texas head coach Cliff Gustafson. "You just have to hang in and win two of three. I don't think there will be many more sweeps."

Stockton said the Cougars may need a SWC sweep to stay in contention.

"We've got to get to a point where we sweep someone or at least take two of three," he said.

"I just hope A&M doesn't wake up before we get to College Station."

 

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TRACK TEAM IN COMFORT ZONE

NCAA PROVISIONAL QUALIFIERS SET PACE FOR EXCELLENCE

by Daniel Scholl

Daily Cougar Staff

The Houston men's and women's track teams are making their final runs toward the conference meet.

With only three meets remaining before the title meet at Rice April 23-24, the Cougars are where they feel they need to be.

"Both the men and the women did great," said head coach Tom Tellez. "The kids are starting to come around. The majority (of the team) are where they should be. I think the kids are doing fine. We need to just keep improving."

The latest meet was the Texas Quadrangular held in Austin March 25-26. There the Cougar faithful saw both the men and women place third in the four-school meet. Southwest Conference foe Texas won the men's division and North Carolina took the women's title. The UT women finished second.

There were many highlights for the Cougars the final weekend of Spring Break. Drexel Long won the women's 400-meter dash in a time of 53.88. This provisionally qualified her for the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Long is a junior and also a member of the 1,600-meter relay team, a team that took the silver in the NCAA Indoor Championships and which should be a big favorite during the outdoor season.

Last season, Long was plagued by allergies and finished only fifth in the 400 indoors. Her freshman year she finished second indoors and fifth outdoors in the 400 and qualified for the NCAAs both inside and outside on the 1,600 relay.

Other Cougars to provisionally qualify at the Texas Quad meet were Ubeja Anderson and Steve Albright in the 110-meter hurdles; Sheddric Fields, who already automatically qualified, in the long jump; Anderson again in the 200; De'Angelia Johnson in the 200; and the women's 1,600-meter relay team.

Fields, a sophomore who is finally achieving the consistency that eluded him last season, won the long jump with a leap of 26-4 1/2.

"(He) had a good series," Tellez said. "He looked real good."

Golf team falling down

The Cougar golf team spent part of Spring Break in Austin, but not for the night life on Sixth Street. The Cougars were visiting the capital to prove their worth in the Morris Williams Intercollegiate.

The Cougars finished dead-last in a field of 11 that included conference opposition from Texas and Texas Christian.

In the three-round event, the Cougars shot a 927, 52 strokes off the winning score of 875 shot by Oklahoma State.

Senior Eric Bogar was the top finisher for the Cougars, finishing 37th with a three-round total of 229.

Last season, the Cougars finished third in the SWC behind Texas and TCU. In the fall season they recorded first and third place finishes and had not placed lower than eighth. Then on March 8, head coach Keith Fergus announced his surprise resignation to return to the PGA Tour. Since then, the Cougars have gone into a tailspin.

Tennis star injured

The tennis team lost more than its eighth match of the year when Oklahoma State defeated the Cougars 5-2 at home March 26. Senior, and No. 1 player, Catherine Bromfield had to leave the match early with an unspecified injury.

 

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THRILLS 'N' CHILLS GALORE

MUSIC CONFERENCE OFFERS MUCH FUN IN AUSTIN

by Frank San Miguel

Daily Cougar Staff

How does one talk about what really happens at Texas’ largest music event? Carefully.

Just a shade over a week ago, the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference descended upon Austin, bringing tons of people and record company flacks. The event is not merely a concert but a bona fide event – the city (which presumptuously bills itself "The Live Music Capital of the World") welcomed SXSW everywhere and often.

The hype was all over – Alejandro Escovedo's old band, Austin's memorable True Believers, were set to play. Indie and college rock heavies like the Supersuckers, Spinanes, Sincola and Mudhoney were scheduled to play. <I>High Times<P> cover woman Maggie Estep, belly dancing poet Pleasant Gehman, spoken word star Linda Montano and ex-Bangles bassist turned poet Annette Zilinskas were headed for the event too.

There was lots of talk about, especially in the workshops. "Demo Listening," "Financing Your Record" and "Hope I Die Before I Get Old" were just a few topics. Journalists talked. Record execs talked. Fans and musicians talked. Heck, even the Geto Boys’ infamous panelmonger Bushwick Bill got his two cents in.

The big deal, though, was the bands. And for $30 you could see all the bands you wanted over four days.

The Bad Livers was one of the event’s unheralded highlights, jamming on a Friday bluegrass show and then at Emo’s with Uncle Joe Big Ol’ Driver on Saturday. Uncle Joe’s did an okay set, but how can one compare to the Bad Livers?

This band was promoting its new release, <I>Dirt on the Bible<P>, and if you’ve never heard the Bad Livers, the band is hard bluegrass with a punk rock feel. It’s a sound the masses should be willing to commit wholesale genocide to hear, and Emo’s was packed for that one.

Across town, at the Terrace, the first SXSW Hip-Hop Showcase, was laying down some cool grooves. SXSW is loved because of its diversity and this show – haphazard as it was – was a good step in building that diversity. Austin hip-hop band Sockeye was disappointing, but Houstonians like the K-Otix and Poetic Souls were sure to impress. A later-add to that bill (North Carolina's Yaggfu Front got dropped) was Gravediggaz, which featured the legendary Prince Paul, Fru-Kwan of the seminal Stetsasonic and Prince Raheem of the new buzz band Wu-Tang Clan. A record should be on the way, so watch for it.

The biggest problem with SXSW is the density of it all. Eight shows (at least) were going on at once, which made attending more than two shows per night difficult. With the indies cultivating their acts, no real names were out there. This made for plenty of lousy garage bands at the show.

And, if you think someone could land a record deal at one of these things, think again. The only band ever to sign a major contract at SXSW is the cheese metal act Dangerous Toys – and that band broke up a time ago.

That didn't stop a bag of indies from setting up shop at the Austin Convention Center that weekend to pitch their wares. The Jesus-types hawked Christian heavy metal and Christ country & western too. Save Virgin Records, the majors left the place alone, opting instead for nice ads in the program, which came in a lovely canvas bag, courtesy of <I>Entertainment Weekly<P>..

Like it or not, the majors have the bands, and none really tried to put their artists at the event, and why would they care to. SXSW attendees have to pay their own way -- including hotels and food. The only ones looking for attention were those who really needed it.

Plans next year call for a Japanese showcase (expanding on the mainly European showcases masquerading as international shows) and more, so SXSW in a few years might be the thing to catch. Right now, it's a little too big for its britches.

 

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NINE INCH NAILS SPIRALS UP ON DOWNWARD CD

by Leonard M. Cachola

Daily Cougar Staff

One bit of warning before listening to <I>The Downward Spiral<P>, the latest release from Nine Inch Nails. Avoid fussing with the volume no matter how tempted as it could be hazardous for your speakers.

However, there is an irresistible urge to indulge in this deliciously satisfying descent into insanity and besides, speakers are always replaceable.

In its first full album since 1989's <I>Pretty Hate Machine<P>, which can be credited with bringing industrial/techno/dance into "mainstream" acceptance, NIN, as fans have come to know the band by, seems to live comfortably at either redlining the sound level indicators or offering barely distinguishable whispers.

Much like Machine, Spiral pounds relentlessly from start to finish.

The opener, "Mr. Self-Destruct," resembles a fast-paced death chant filled with distortion culled from various sources. As Spiral moves on, it slowly becomes a montage of blood-curdling screams of horror from people, pigs and machines as it beats with the intensity of a ride on the Texas Cyclone and gives the feeling of entering one man's mechanized hell.

Combining for an intense aural experience are snarls and pulsating rhythms that are only broken by short moments of silence and a couple of piano solos in "March of the Pigs" and the instrumental "A Warm Place." But those breaks amount to nothing more than a brief respite from the pounding as each song builds in urgency, both musically and lyrically.

Trent Reznor, the one-man wrecking crew behind NIN (he wrote the music and words and co-produced Spiral with Flood), complements this ear-thumping assault with a disturbing look into the mind of someone not quite pleased with himself, his actions, or how he deals with them.

In both the first single, "March," and "Piggy," there is an emphasis on pig imagery as both songs deal with relationship breakdowns. With the pigs, Reznor seems to have been getting the late Sharon Tate's walls to speak back to him of the tragedy that occurred there before he bought the place.

Then again, maybe he's watched one too many Charles Manson specials.

"Heresy" is a denial of religion, screaming "Your god is dead and no one cares/If there is a hell I will see you there." Agnostics and atheists will have a good time reciting those lyrics to everyone they see, just like those Beavis and Butthead fans.

"Ruiner" stabs at corporate America and its exploits with "the raping of the innocent you know the ruiner ruins everything he sees." It drives the point home with an over-the-top chorus that is upfront and in your face.

Images of sexual domination run rampant in "Big Man with a Gun," an exercise in self-indulgence, where Reznor howls "I'm hard as fucking steel, and I've got the power/I'm every inch a man, and I'll show you somehow." "Eraser" continues along this theme with "Fuck you/Use you/Scar you/Break you," but ends in a state of regret with "Lose me/Hate me/Smash me."

"Closer" carries the theme of regret further as he screams, "Help me, I've got no soul to sell/Help me, the only thing that works for me/Help me get away from myself." He pleads "Annie, hold a little tighter/I might just slip away" in "The Becoming," proving that this is definitely a person in need of some serious help.

Climaxing the album, the title track leaves you devastated by drowning you in a pool of flames. Reznor paints a vision of hell with murky whispering and ghoulish screams overlaid with him whispering that "Problems have solutions/A lifetime of fucking things up fixed in one determined flash."

The Downward Spiral is not an easy album to listen to. It is neither for the faint-of-heart, nor those easily offended. However, it is an interesting look at the contradictions within ourselves and ways to deal with them, both good and bad.

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