THE CROW

Artist watches "no commercial appeal" comic become film

 

by shane patrick boyle

Daily Cougar Staff

<I>I know why Jesus wept.<P>

-- Antonin Artaud

<I>One day you are going to lose everything you have. Nothing will prepare you for that day. Not faith. Not religion. Nothing. When someone you love dies, you will know complete emptiness. You will know what it is to be completely and utterly alone.<P>

-- from John Bergin's introduction to <I>The Crow<P> graphic novel.

Writer and artist James O'Barr knows the pain of loss. It is at the root of his graphic novel, <I>The Crow<P>, now a motion picture from Miramax.

Taking time out of his busy schedule during The Capital City Retail Conference (an industry show for comic book dealers) in St. Louis, O'Barr spoke to members of the media, who were flown in from Louisiana and Texas, about topics ranging from the technical and artistic aspects of the graphic novel and its screen version, to his personal life and the autobiographical elements of his story.

<I>The Crow<P>, both the movie and the graphic novel, tell the story of the murder of Eric Draven and his fiancée by members of a crime ring, and Eric's return from the dead, accompanied by a netherworldly talking crow, to avenge his death.

O'Barr began working on the epic in the early '80s, while stationed in Berlin with the U.S. Marines, as a cathartic response to the loss of his own fiancée in 1978. It was published as a series between 1989 and 1992 by two different publishers and collected under one cover in 1993.

O'Barr said what happened to his fiancée is the same thing that happened to Eric's girlfriend except "there were no bullets involved," and "In real society (as opposed to comics) there is no justice."

He said she was killed by a drunk driver who was never punished. O'Barr said he was "angry for a long time," and the graphic novel was his therapeutic attempt to deal with the frustration and pain.

Years later during production of the film version, O'Barr experienced another loss of someone close to him.

Bruce Lee's son Brandon Lee, who was cast in the role of Eric, died in 1993 when a gun with real bullets was accidentally used for the filming of a scene requiring blanks.

O'Barr said he had a say in selecting the cast and said he chose Lee, not only because he looked the part, but also because Lee showed an understanding of the intensely gothic supernatural mood of the graphic novel and said he wanted to translate that aspect to the screen, whereas "(Christian) Slater thought of it as a superhero role."

O'Barr said during the making of the movie, he and Lee became close friends and that his death left him with intense emptiness.

He said many insensitive reporters have asked him, "'How did you feel when Brandon died?'"

"Some people. Their ignorance totally amazes me," O'Barr said of these reporters who he describes as "thirty watts," because they're not very bright.

He said he is also tired of reporters asking if the footage of Lee's death was used in the movie.

"The film went directly from the camera to the judge's chamber," O'Barr said. It was viewed by the court and the death was ruled an accident. The only existing copy of the tape was destroyed out of respect to "keep copies from surfacing on <I>A Current Affair<P>."

O'Barr said although it was an accident, stunt coordinators on all films need to exercise more caution and double-check everything.

"Lee's death made headlines because the star died," but many stunt coordinators die making films and "we don't hear about it," he said. "Six people were killed filming <I>Dukes of Hazzard<P> over the years," he added and said more safety measures need to be taken.

O'Barr said the filming was virtually complete before the accident.

"People ask, 'What did they have to do to finish (the movie).' All they had to do was develop the negative," he said.

He said, "There was no latex mask or digital imaging." One scene was reshot with an actor who stood in shadows, but "every scene with Brandon is Brandon."

Some changes, however, were made for the sake of sensitivity. All scenes with exit wounds were removed, and songs like "Under the Gun" by Sisters of Mercy and "Only Dying" by Smashing Pumpkins were cut.

O'Barr said Lee would have wanted the movie to be released. O'Barr also said that as the creator of the story, he would not have allowed the movie to be made in the first place if there was a chance it would come across as "cheesy or exploitative."

O'Barr said he had a fair amount of creative control and "real good lawyers, so I could keep my foot in the door."

One of the disagreements he did have was over the decision to make Eric a guitar player. This was a compromise, O'Barr explained. He said they originally wanted to make him a rock star. "If you make him a rock star, you put him above everybody else," O'Barr said. Lee didn't like the idea either, he added.

The reasoning behind the studio's decision to give Eric musical talent was based on the influence of alternative music on the graphic novel and the use of music from many prominent alternative groups, including Nine Inch Nails and the Rollins Band, on the soundtrack.

O'Barr said finding groups to do music for the soundtrack was one of the easiest tasks because he had met most of the musicians while writing for an alternative newspaper in Detroit, and they were already familiar with the comic book. "We had enough music to do three movies," he said. The hard part was narrowing it down.

Another musical decision was to cast Iggy Pop, whose songs were among O'Barr's inspirations, in the role of Funny Boy, one of the villains. The musician was interested in the role, but he was already under contract to do an album at the time, so he had to turn it down.

In addition to alternative music, poetry also influenced the graphic novel, with such sources as Edgar Allen Poe, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson and Dr. Seuss.

O'Barr said the film version does not incorporate all the poetry of the graphic novel in a literal sense, but succeeds in coming across as "visually poetic." The screenplay does pay tribute to Poe by giving Eric the last name "Draven." (No last name is given in the graphic novel.) Funny Boy also quotes John Milton in the movie just as he does in the novel.

Overall, O'Barr said he was "happy with the final product," and praised the contributions of director Alex Proyas and screenwriter John Shirley, who is best known for his cyber-fiction novels.

"There are things in the movie I wish I had done in the book, but I was limited by page space," he said.

O'Barr is quick to point out that <I>The Crow<P> is a mature film. "It's not <I>Batman<P> and it's not intended for 10-year-olds," he said.

Because of extreme violence, the film was in fact rejected for an "R" rating the first two times it was submitted to the Motion Picture Association of America. O'Barr said this was particularly frustrating because the MPAA never tells the studios which scenes were found to be objectionable.

O'Barr said the violence is necessary because it demonstrates how sinister the villains are. He also explained that it is not a slasher film. "The love story is the spine of the tale," he said.

Gothic romance adventure is the label he uses to describe the genre <I>The Crow<P> fits into, and he said he hopes it inspires other gothic romance adventure films.

As far as his views on other comics and graphic novels are concerned, O'Barr said his earliest favorite was <I>Silver Surfer<P>, because he represented "the alienated outcast which every teen identifies with at some time."

He lists Will Eisner (<I>The Spirit<P>) and Frank Miller (<I>Dark Knight<P> and <I>Sin City<P>) among his current favorites, but said many of the comics published today are "pretty pedestrian."

His strongest criticism went to the line of comics published by Image, a publishing company formed by artists who left Marvel Comics. He said these are geared toward collectors and focus on gimmicks such as foil-stamped covers instead of storylines and character development.

O'Barr said storytelling and art are equally important elements of graphic novels and comics and compared the medium to film. He said doing a graphic novel is similar to producing and directing film. The writer/artist creates a script, casts the production, builds the set and chooses "camera angles."

"In a novel, you can write 'A guy walked into a bar,' but in a comic, you have to draw every bottle," he said.

When asked if he ever thought <I>The Crow<P> would become a movie, O'Barr said "I thought it had no commercial appeal whatsoever."

He said when he was told 10,000 copies of the first issue would be printed, he took it as a joke and said he asked, "What are you going to do with the other seven thousand? Build a throne?"

But the series was successful and <I>The Crow<P> became a cult classic long before it was optioned as a film.

The cult classic status has not always been a blessing, however. He said one fan, attending a signing at a comic book store, gave him a box of human teeth and several people have written to him, saying they are contemplating suicide.

"I reached that level in my own life a couple times, but luckily I mixed the wrong potions." But he added, "Just because I write about (pain) doesn't mean I have all the answers."

"The angst-ridden-artist thing is over-portrayed," he added.

Future work from O'Barr may help to break that mold. He described his next project, <I>Gothik<P>, as "Blade Runner meets the Wizard of Oz pumped full of drugs with the volume really loud."

The book, coming from Dark Horse Comics in August, has already been optioned by Miramax as a possible film.

O'Barr is also working on the storyboards and script for another movie he is co-writing with his best friend, John Bergin, writer/artist of <I>Ashes<P>, a series from Caliber Press. This film is expected to be "the first science fiction/existential western film."

No definite plans exist for this movie yet, but O'Barr said Richard Stanley (<I>Hardware<P>) has expressed interest.

As far as <I>The Crow<P>'s future goes, O'Barr said Lee was signed for three films, but now that he is gone, there will probably not be any sequels.

O'Barr also has no plans to write any further chapters of the <I>The Crow<P> graphic novel.

He said it has "a definitive ending" and was not written to be an ongoing saga.

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CERTAIN FACULTY WILL GET SPECIAL INSURANCE DEDUCTION

by Sharon Simien

News Reporter

Members of the University of Houston faculty who have a nine- month contract will receive a special insurance deduction.

According to Carol Parmer, UH assistant vice president for Human Resources, all faculty members who elected to receive their nine-month contract salary in nine checks will have an extra amount deducted from the April and May earnings for the June, July and August premiums.

The faculty members will see a total deduction of 2.5 months' premium on their May 1 and June 1 checks. Even if the faculty member teaches during the summer months, they will have the 2.5-month deduction. No deduction will be taken from the summer pay.

When asked why the faculty members that teach during the summer months also receive the 2.5-month deduction, Betty Powell, the benefits supervisor of the UH Human Resources Department, said, "The insurance premiums are based on a nine-month contract, not a summer contract. A premium must be collected for nine months. The faculty member who works 12 months has the option to decide how to take his pay."

To figure out the actual amount that will be deducted on May 1 and June 1, employees should multiply 2.5 times the current monthly deductions for insurance that appear on the most recent check stub.

For those who are terminating their positions at the end of the spring semester and do not want to keep the insurance during the summer, the termination must be confirmed in writing with the benefits section of the Human Resources Department. If not received by that date, summer premiums will be deducted from May 1 and June 1 checks and cannot be refunded until after June 1.

Faculty members who are retiring by May 31 should contact officials with the benefits section to complete the necessary forms to change their insurance status to retiree. Also, an adjustment must be made to the payroll records so that summer premiums will not be deducted because the Employee Retirement System will bill directly for those premiums. The ERS is a state agency that administers the program.

If the changes are made to the group insurance effective May or later, a further adjustment must be made to the premiums or the faculty member may need to make a payment by personal check. The faculty member should contact the benefits section to arrange to pay additional premiums.

The annual amounts for the Tex-Flex health care reimbursement account and dependent care account have already been set up for nine equal payments. Therefore, the deductions for the May 1 and June 1 checks will remain the same amount as the current monthly deductions.

Claims against the Tex-Flex accounts may be filed for expenses incurred through Aug. 31. When asked what Tex-Flex Health Care is, Parmer responded, "It is a health care spending account where money is deducted from one's check and put into a spending account for medical bills that are not covered under the insurance plan. These deductions are done on a pre-tax basis."

 

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LATINA COALITION TO PURSUE WOMEN'S ISSUES

by Tiffany Vaughner

Daily Cougar Staff

 

Female students in the UH Mexican American Student Organization have formed a splinter group to address issues affecting Latino women.

Amy Maldonado, a member of the Latina Coalition, said she sometimes felt that many of the issues being discussed in MASO and the Mexican American Studies Program often had more of a male slant.

"We felt that there were issues being unaddressed that the coalition needed to address, so we decided to form our own caucus within MASO. In a lot of the classes I've taken in Mexican American Studies, women are rarely, if at all, brought up. I always speak out in those classes and so do my friends," Maldonado said.

She said even though they may be thinking the same way she does, some women in these classes are either too afraid or too shy to speak up.

To combat this, the coalition plans to have self-esteem workshops to help Latino women feel secure in voicing their opinions. Maldonado said the group also plans to incorporate these workshops into freshman orientation.

"One of the things we want to do is have self-esteem workshops for ourselves. We want to bring in women speakers. What we also want to do is go to all the orientations and speak to the female freshmen because high school girls have very low self-esteem, and we think that would be a good way to help them," Maldonado said.

She went on to name some of the changes the group would like to see happen in the future, such as Latina history classes, a Latina writers class, more Latina professors and classes cross-listed with the Women's Studies Program.

Maldonado said having Latina faculty from other Houston-area universities to come and speak is another change the group wants. She also said the group would like to see what she called "team teaching." This type of instruction, she said, would give Latina instructors a chance to give a feminine perspective on subjects.

Maldonado said the coalition was still in the planning stages, but that it would be having teen self-esteem workshops over the summer and adult self-esteem workshops by fall.

 

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BOARD-CARD BLUNDER = THREE-MARTINI LUNCHES

by Kevin Patton

Daily Cougar Staff

Residential Life and Housing and ARA have been violating a UH meal plan policy by allowing students to purchase alcohol with their board cards since fall 1993.

The UH policy has always been in effect, but with the presence of a new meal plan system implemented last fall, ARA and UH began breaking the policy through negligence and miscommunication. The policy has been reinforced since mid-April.

Ahmad Kashani, interim director of Residential Life and Housing, said the policy regarding alcohol has never been a problem, but it has come into question this semester because a new meal plan system is in effect.

"We sell a meal plan – it does not include alcohol. Our intention is not to encourage consumption," he said.

"ARA was never supposed to do it," he added.

He said miscommunication between ARA and Residential Life caused the sale of alcohol to students.

The previous meal plan did not have a cash system. Students purchased a number of meals per week, and there was no possibility of purchasing alcohol with their cards.

But the new cash system allows students to go to any ARA-run dining area or convenience store and use as little or as much of the money on their board cards as they wish, including Coogs Cafe.

"It was just uncovered that this (students purchasing alcohol) occurred," said Bill Wentz, general manager for campus dining.

"We're now enforcing a policy that had been in place," he said.

"We have never had any problems with it, but they weren't supposed to have it in the first place," he said.

"There are many students who have board cards paid for by parents or scholarships or grants," he said.

"The source of the money is the issue," he said.

Kashani said, "The request (to strongly enforce the drinking policy) came from athletics," adding that scholarship money should not be used for alcohol.

Students who are not refunded excess money from their board plans at the end of this semester and lose unused money to UH, or spend it on various ARA items, are upset about the enforcement of the policy. Some of the students were planning to spend the money on alcohol at the end of the semester.

Valerie Hampton, a resident assistant in Moody Towers, said she thinks students should be able to spend the money however they want, even though she does not drink.

Other students echoed this sentiment.

"It should be up to the individual – it's their money," said Nick Chauvin, a junior political science major.

Kenny Pritchett, a junior finance major, said, "It's a loss of income for the university and it takes away from the freedom of spending."

But Monquicio McNeal, a sophomore psychology major, understood the university's situation.

"Some mothers may be putting money on that card not wanting their kids to buy alcohol," she said, adding, "That (buying alcohol) should be anyone's choice."

 

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GIMME A COKE - AND 100 KIT KATS

by Kevin Patton

Daily Cougar Staff

Students who have money remaining on their meal plan board cards at the end of the spring semester have two options: use the remainder of their money on ARA convenient store products, or lose it.

If a student has left over money in their meal plan account they can forward it to the summer semester, but they can not get the money back if they are only returning in the fall.

Students can have very little or hundreds of dollars left over depending on how much they eat or purchase during the semester.

The loss of meal plan money has been occurring for years, but dorm residents and resident advisors are more upset about the non-refund this year because they were told they may receive a percentage of their excess money.

Valerie Hampton, resident assistant, said Ahmad Kashani, then assistant director of housing, told RAs at the fall semester orientation that a possible 15 percent of left over funds would be refunded.

"We were under the impression that (refunds) was going to happen," she said.

But they withdrew that because it wasn't definite or in writing, she said.

Ray Garza, residence assistant for Moody towers, confirmed Hampton's statement, "They told us that in a meeting. We all heard it from (Kashani)," he said.

Kashani, now interim director of Residential Life, said, "It (the 15 percent refund) could have been said, but I doubt it," he said.

"The previous director may have said it. It could be the RAs were misinformed," he said.

"Maybe the idea was bounced around," he added.

ARA policy forces students to spend the remainder of their money on ARA products because the card is only good at ARA dining facilities or stores.

"The whole idea is that you need to utilize the whole thing throughout the semester," said Bill Wence, general manager of campus dining.

Residential Life receives all money not used by students.

"(Residential Life) expects a certain amount of that (left over money) in their budget. It doesn't go into anyones pocket, it goes to improving student life," he said. "Our intention is not to keep (students) money. Our money comes in from students being happy, staying here, and having 100 percent occupancy," Kashani said.

He said that all money left over by students goes into the food service program and because of budgeting for the override, Residential Life is able to cut the cost of a meal plan by 10 percent.

"If every student used all of their cards, instead of reducing rent and meal plan costs we would increase it," he said.

"Maybe we should refund the money and then raise the rent," he said.

Residential Life has been able to reduce costs for the first time. Students next semester will be able to purchase a $1,995 meal plan for $1,790. Rent has also decreased.

"It's a matter of how the money is allocated," he said.

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VITAMIN LOBBY SAYS NEW FDA POLICY A BITTER PILL

by Bridget Baulch

News Reporter

This November, the FDA will start pulling a substantial amount of nutritional supplements from the shelves of health food stores, drugstores and grocery stores. This act will have been precipitated by the failure of the U.S. House last fall to gather enough support for the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, bill S.784, which had the support of the Senate.

Unless S.784 or H.R.1709, a similar act, is passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton this year, people will lose certain nutritional choices when shopping for supplements. The Food and Drug Administration opposes passage of S.784 and H.R.1709, though they are fully supported by a coalition of the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

Among the dietary supplements that could be severely restricted – requiring a prescription or at risk of being banned by the FDA are: essential fatty acids; herbs, including many herbs used by the Asian community; all amino acids; bioflavonoid; diet formulas; minerals, such as chromium and selenium; bee products; Coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant recommended widely by Japanese dentists for periodontal disease; enzymes; raw glandular; SOD; DMG; antioxidant formulas; pycnogenol; and paba.

Furthermore, in June, the FDA will ban the labeling of any health claims on nutritional supplements that include how they are named. For example, if a product is labeled "Antioxidant Formula," its name "Antioxidant Formula" will have to be removed from the label. The only thing allowed on the label will be the ingredients in the product such as vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C and selenium.

Research has indicated these vitamins have antioxidant properties, but they have not been approved by the FDA for this purpose. Antioxidants are thought to prevent cancer cells from occurring in the body by seeking out and destroying free radicals, which attack healthy cells.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced the Health Freedom Act of 1992, bill S.2835, later renamed in 1993 as The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, bill S.784.

In a statement made before the Senate in 1992, Hatch said, "In our free society, consumers should be able to purchase any food they want – whether it is an egg, ice cream, a steak, coffee, potato chips or a dietary supplement – regardless of whether someone in the federal bureaucracy approves ... the FDA readily allows people to eat conventional food products that may be high in saturated fat, cholesterol, caffeine, sodium, calories, or those lacking in important vitamins or minerals. Yet the agency raises regulatory objections over safe dietary supplements of food substances that are desired by many consumers and that may be recommended by nutritionists or other health professionals."

Michelle Crippin, manager of Champions Health Food Store in Houston, said it is already against the law for store clerks to recommend nutritional supplements for any particular purpose to customers. She said if a customer wants a nutritional supplement such as an herb that will help him sleep at night, the clerk is not allowed by law to recommend anything.

"With the restrictions already imposed on the clerks and the restrictions on labeling that go into effect this summer, a customer will have to have prior knowledge through his own research before he would be able to make a purchase for any specific need," she said.

From an analysis of FDA documents, Citizens for Health, a national nonprofit consumer health advocacy organization, came up with a five-point belief system on which the FDA bases their position:

1. That the American diet provides all the vitamins and minerals people need; 2. That supplemental vitamin and mineral levels are useless and a waste of money; 3. That dietary supplements can have dangerous side effects; 4. That dietary supplements are promoted by "quacks" not "scientific medicine"; and 5. That supplementation "prevents people from using proven, effective therapies."

Spokesperson Wendy Boehmler for The Citizens for Health in Tacoma, Washington, said that in the past 80 years, the FDA has only approved two health claims. The FDA has approved calcium supplements for the prevention of osteoporosis and recently approved the use of the vitamin folic acid in the prevention of Neural Tube Defect, a major birth defect also known as Spina Bifida. This folic acid health claim, based on research, has been known for over 10 years, but the FDA has refused to allow the information to be advertised.

She said, "If this health claim hadn't been repressed by the FDA, many children would have been spared a needless birth defect."

Christy Strattman, legislative assistant to Rep. Jack Fields, R-Texas, a co-sponsor of Sen. Hatch's bill, said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is the chief hold-up for health freedom legislation passing in Congress. "In order for this bill to pass, it has to go through the Subcommittee of Health and Environment, of which he is chairman," she said, "and it's really odd that he is against this bill because he represents the Beverly Hills area, which is a constituency that believes in nutritional supplements."

Strattman said she didn't want her response to go on record, when asked if she thought Waxman is against health freedom legislation because he is one of the largest recipients of PAC money from the medical, insurance and pharmaceutical industries in Congress.

Strattman said, "Waxman is going to have to come to the bargaining table this year. There is just too much grass-roots support of this legislation." She added, "We have received more letters concerning this issue than we did on NAFTA or the balanced budget amendment last year."

 

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THE CLOSE OF A CAREER

Stockton retires after 34 years of coaching

by Daniel Scholl

Daily Cougar Staff

Head baseball coach Bragg Stockton announced his retirement at a press conference Friday after 34 years of coaching. He was head coach at Houston since 1987.

During his career, he earned an all-time record of 1,013-449-7. Stockton was 283-183-4 in his eight seasons at UH.

Stockton said he is retiring to fulfill an urge to devote more time to his "Skills and Drills" baseball camp he has held for the past 22 years in the Harris County area.

"(Scheduling) has gotten tougher and (has become) more of a concern," Stockton said of the camps.

Stockton also said he has started a ministry through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and would like more involvement by the FCA in his camps.

"I believe it's the largest ministry in the world today," he said. "It's important to find a permanent relationship with God, and I will be encouraging them through the camp."

Stockton added that job pressures in recent years have started to mount.

"The losses began to take their toll, recruiting, NCAA restrictions, the whole package began to take its toll," he said. "It spread me too thin."

Before heading the Cougars, Stockton coached at Texas Christian from 1984-86. Between 1970 and 1980, Stockton led the San Jacinto Junior College Ravens to the NJCAA World Series three times. He began his coaching career at Jones High School in 1965, where he coached for four years.

While Stockton's tenure with Houston is over, he says he will maintain a relationship with the school at which he always wanted to coach.

"I'll always lend my support to the university in anyway they'll let me," he said.

During his time here, Stockton had many accomplishments, including the chance to work with such athletes as Anthony Young, Woody Williams and current Houston Astro Doug Drabek. Stockton was an assistant here when Drabek played for UH.

Stockton said his fondest memory during his time here was in 1990 when the Cougars travelled to College Station to take on the Aggies.

The Cougars held fifth place in the Southwest Conference entering the final weekend of league play. Stockton and his team left Olsen Field with a sweep of the Aggies to finish the season in third place and claim a berth to the NCAA South I Regional.

This season was a rough one for the Cougar coach, who saw his home field torn down mid-way through the season. It forced his team to practice at Humble High School, a 40-minute drive from campus, each day and play its home games at Humble and Rice University.

The season also saw the Cougars play spotty ball at best. The Cougars were, at one point, in contention to play in the SWC postseason tournament. They started the SWC season taking two of three games from Rice, but ended the season in last place.

"We played well on the weekday," said Stockton, referring to nonconference games, "but our kids froze up a little on the weekends (during SWC play)."

The season also had many highlights. The first perfect game in UH history was thrown by Matt Beech Feb. 19 against Louisiana Tech, earning him Mizuno National Player of the Week. Shane Buteaux was twice named SWC Player of the Week and is a quarter-finalist for the Smith Award.

Stockton also saw a milestone pass this season. He recorded 1,000 career wins this year as a coach with a victory against Stephen F. Austin March 15.

Athletic director Bill Carr said he was sorry to see Stockton leave.

"I have the utmost respect for coach Stockton," he said. "His commitment to character and class is beyond reproach. We wish him the best."

Carr said associate athletic director Bill McGillis will head a committee that will begin an immediate search for a new coach.

McGillis said he expects to have the committee formed by today and a new coach named in the next three to five weeks.

He added that it is important to the program to have a new head coach in place as soon as possible.

Possible candidates include Cougar assistant coaches Mike Gardner, Russell Stockton and Rayner Noble, who is a former Cougar baseball player and currently an assistant coach at Rice.

 

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LOCAL PLAYERS HIGHLIGHT BROOKS' SIGNEES

Houston-heavy class could take hit from academic eligibility results

by Jason Paul Ramirez

Daily Cougar Staff

Alvin Brooks never broke his promise.

Upon becoming only the fourth head basketball coach in University of Houston history, Brooks vowed to do most of his recruiting of four-year players within the city of Houston.

Now that he has succeeded in doing that, Brooks' 1994 "local" freshman class has already been recognized as the sixth best in the nation.

"We've got all the pieces (to building a winner) in that particular class," Brooks said. "Since we finished strong last year, I believe that we have laid a foundation to where these new guys could fit in nicely to what we want to accomplish."

Although last season's version of Cougar basketball finished an abysmal 8-19, Houston won six of its last nine regular season games before being bumped out of the first round of the Dr Pepper Southwest Conference Classic postseason tournament by Texas Tech.

Now it has the "New Fab Four" to look forward to in hopes of putting Houston basketball back on the winning track it had once enjoyed for 35 consecutive years prior to last season.

Houston-area products Damon Jones of Galveston Ball High School, Galen Robinson (Aldine MacArthur) and Adrian Taylor (Booker T. Washington) head Houston's recruiting list, and Tommie Davis of Crenshaw High in Los Angeles rounds it out.

All four players were nationally recruited prospects before finally choosing UH as the site for their college careers.

Jones, a 6-3 shooting guard, chose Houston over Texas A&M, North Carolina and Colorado.

As a junior in 1993, Jones led District 23-5A in scoring (18 ppg) and was ranked one of the top 39 big guards that year by Van Coleman's Future Stars magazine.

"It shouldn't take Damon long to adjust to our up-tempo game plan," Brooks said. "He played a similar style at Ball."

National powerhouses Michigan and Kentucky weren't good enough for Robinson. The 6-9 power forward admits he couldn't stay away from home.

"I want my family to see me play," Robinson said. "It would've been a hassle all the time, coming home during the (holiday) breaks."

Robinson was rated one of the top 30 front-court players as a junior by Blue Chip Illustrated.

During his senior season, Robinson averaged 19 points, 14.5 rebounds and four blocked shots. In addition, "Tree" also holds 14 MacArthur school records, including career points (1,702), rebounds (1,433) and blocks (455).

"He's just a heck of a prospect," said MacArthur head coach Johnnie Carter. "And he's worked hard to get there."

However, because Robinson admits he is capable of growing fatigued during the latter stages of a game, Brooks says adjusting the 240-pounder to Houston's up-tempo style is imperative.

"It will take Galen a little longer (to adjust) since we get down-court a little quicker than what he's accustomed to."

Another problem Robinson could face this summer and into the fall semester is whether or not he will be academically eligible.

Robinson is still a point away from the required college entrance score on the ACT. Should he fail to achieve a higher score when he takes it again in June, Robinson would have to wait another year before attending UH.

"There are a number of options we have," Brooks said. "But we don't want to get into that until the appropriate time comes."

The same fate is facing Taylor, who is even further behind on his ACT scores than Robinson.

Taylor's possible unavailability could turn unfortunate because his 7-2, 320-pound frame is a much-needed presence the Cougars lack in the middle.

As a junior, Taylor averaged over 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks.

"Taylor's potentially very good," Brooks said. "We've just go to (turn some of the weight) into muscle because he doesn't have much of it or stamina."

Stamina is probably Davis' biggest asset.

One of the top 20 point guards in the nation, Davis averaged 18 points and nine assists as a junior and led Crenshaw to a No. 6 national ranking during his senior season.

"Davis is a pure point guard and may be the best newcomer in shape once fall practice begins," Brooks said. "He is quick, strong and accustomed to our up-tempo style."

In addition to the high school signees, Brooks announced the signing of two top junior college players last week.

Midland Junior College forward Kirk Ford signed his letter of intent May 2, and Moberly (Mo.) JC guard Kenya Capers gave his commitment on May 4.

Ford averaged 12.9 points in 1994 while helping lead the Chaparrals to a sixth-place finish at the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.

Capers makes his way to Houston after an impressive '94 season in which he averaged 22.5 points and eight boards per game.

"I intend to pick up next year where we left off last year," Brooks said.

For those of you keeping track, that is a promise.

 

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TELLEZ APPROVES OF MIZUNO PERFORMANCE

by Daniel Scholl

Daily Cougar Staff

With finals approaching and the Southwest Conference championships just two weeks past, head track and field coach Tom Tellez said he was not sure how his team would do when they competed at the Mizuno Houston Invitational Saturday at Robertson Stadium.

The Cougars did pretty good.

"I thought the kids did really well," he said. "It was just a good day to run track."

The "Young Guns" of Houston track, Ubeja Anderson and Sheddric Fields, had their usual outing by winning all their events.

Both sophomores ran on the winning 400-meter relay team, which may have had its best technical race of the season. It finished in a time of 39.80 seconds.

"We really wanted to get our sticks (hand-offs) together today," said Anderson, the final leg of the 4x100 team. "We ran a pretty decent race. We're just tuning up."

The team has already qualified for nationals.

Anderson also won the 110-meter high hurdles in an extremely close race, winning by only five-hundredths of a second. He finished in a time of 13.53.

Fields won the long jump with a wind-aided leap of 26 feet, 7 1/4 inches, tying his best of the season. The first jump at this distance was earlier this season at the Carl Lewis Relays, also held at Robertson.

"It's my home stadium and I guess I feel at home here. Now I have to take it to other stadiums," he said.

Both Fields and Anderson have qualified for nationals in their individual sports as well.

Dawn Burrell was also perfect.

She was on the winning 400-meter relay team and won the 100-meter hurdles and the long jump.

The relay team ran uncontested, and recorded a time of 45.61. In the hurdles, she competed against teammate Edwina Ammonds and took first in a time of 13.46. The hurdles were held literally minutes after the long jump was finished. Burrell had a season high with a wind-aided mark of 21-6. This was an automatic qualifying time for the NCAAs.

The highlight for the crowd came when Carl Lewis ran in the 100-meter dash. The eight-time Olympic gold-medal winner won the race in a time of 10.04, which marks the second-fastest time in the world this year behind teammate Mike Marsh's 10.00.

Lewis said it is great to run on his former track. He still trains here and wishes he could run all his races on campus.

 

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LUCKEY, DENOON TRIUMPH

by William German

Daily Cougar Staff

Fans of UH women's basketball and volleyball already know Pat Luckey and Lily Denoon are two of the best in their respective sports.

Therefore, it should have come as no surprise to their followers when both were selected to participate in the 1994 U.S. Olympic Festival in St. Louis from July 1-10.

The festival, held annually, is for U.S. citizens 17-20 years old. It is designed to give potential Olympians a taste of international-style competition.

Luckey emerged from a field of 900 candidates in the late April women's basketball tryouts to make the South team.

Denoon made the West women's volleyball team in March, the second straight year she has made a team.

Both were happy about the news, but not surprised.

"I felt like I had a good chance of making it because I was a Kodak All-American in high school and USA Today's (Honorable Mention Freshman of the Year), stuff like that," Luckey said.

"My name carried me pretty far."

"I think I did really good," Denoon said of her performance. "Going into it, I was a little bit nervous, but after the tryouts and everything, I felt pretty good."

Luckey, a 6-1 freshman forward, had one of the best seasons ever by a first-year Lady Cougar. She averaged 19 points and 8.7 rebounds in '93-'94.

Denoon, a senior, is a dominant middle hitter for UH. She suffered a shoulder injury in the summer of '93 that forced her to withdraw from the festival that year.

"This year, I'm having the same problem, but right now, I'm going through treatment so that I'll be ready when it's time to go," Denoon said. "I'll be making it this year."

Neither Luckey nor Denoon seemed to be fazed by the tryout process. By their accounts, the drills and scrimmages were more routine than one would expect.

"It was a challenge for me because it was different," Luckey said of the process. "I like to do different things. I'm not going to say it was hard, because it wasn't really hard.

"We did a lot of shooting drills, and you had to run a <I>lot<P>. That was the main thing. If you weren't in shape, you definitely were cut."

"It was easy," Denoon said. "When I went and tried out for the national team (in '93), I thought it was going to be really hard, but it ended up being easy.

"Most people there were sore and tired, but I had been into training three weeks ahead of time, so I had an advantage."

Luckey and Denoon have more in common than the USOF, however. Like a lot of female athletes, their abilities spill over into both volleyball and basketball.

In high school, Luckey was a Class 5A all-state volleyball selection by the Texas Sports Writers Association in 1992. She was an outside hitter at San Marcos.

She said she plans to play her "other" sport in the fall, but may not join the team right away.

"I want to get my grades up," was the answer Luckey gave when asked about the delay.

"I've always thought about playing both (sports); I just wanted to play one first to get used to everything and get my grades together, then start doing both.

"It's already hard enough playing basketball."

Denoon was an all-district basketball player at Pasadena High for four years. She wanted to go to Texas and play basketball, but instead wound up at UH.

"That was the sport I always wanted to play in college," she said. "Basketball was my first love; volleyball was second.

"And then, I don't know what happened. Once I became a senior and I was through with my season, I just all of a sudden went to volleyball."

Still, she has had second thoughts about her choice.

"I wanted to play (basketball) my last year after I was through playing volleyball," Denoon said. "I really don't know right now. If I get a chance to play, I think I'll probably take it."

UH foes will be watching closely.

 

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CASH DISC AMERICAN CLASSIC

by Frank San Miguel

Daily Cougar Staff

The Man in Black returns to offer an American classic in the guise of his newest, <I>American Recordings<P>.

Johnny Cash has been a part of country music longer than most can remember. With 26 albums under his belt, Cash is one of the few entertainers who can truthfully claim to have sold 50 million recordings worldwide. His gruff, talking-blues style of country has endeared him to many people over the years, and his outlaw persona and disarming silence make him seemingly larger than life.

And who can forget those immortal words, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash...."

The past 10 years have been hard ones for Cash, who's found himself on the outside looking in on the Nashville glam factories. Truth be told, Cash has never been particularly pretty or the run-over-and-shake-your-hand sort; many have described the man to be melancholy and even a little dark. What else can be said about a guy who spent the early part of the '60s doing songs about prison and shows for prisoners.

Such glumness isn't what a fast-cash, hairspray 'n' hot pants, flavor of the month edge so abundant in country these days is about.

Cash spent much of the 1980s (partially by his own decision) doing gospel records. Only recently, Cash has been adopted as an Alternative Nation hero, with the hip and happening coming to his side for this recording. <I>American Recordings<P> isn't gospel, but it has that quality at points.

"Why Me Lord," penned by Kris Kristofferson, is a prime example of this. Sermonizing like a man with no hope in the world, Cash asks that question over and over: "Lord, help me Jesus/I've wasted it so/Help me Jesus/My soul's in your hand." "Down There By the Train," contributed by Tom Waits, is an old-time revival song that promises Heaven's salvation to the willing. "Redemption" is to Cash what "Redemption Song" was to Bob Marley, an affirmation of spirituality and struggle, where Cash's allusions to the Crucifixion and Biblical disasters are only a prelude to hopefulness.

Cash's "Oh Bury Me Not" is a rendition of a prayer, Cash giving thanks for the things he has and of the natural beauty he has come to appreciate. The record's closer, Loundon Wainwright III's "The Man Who Couldn't Cry," is the tale of a lone-suffering soul who, upon death, returns to Heaven and justice is done: his enemies get theirs and he gains happiness.

"Man" is the manifestation of another theme in <I>American Recordings<P>: that of the hard-living guy. Such a theme isn't alien to Cash, and he's able to change personas at will. He is the master storyteller, changing themes to touch on different problems and abuses. "Delia's Gone" is a prisoner's song about killing his lover and the sounds he hears after her death. A prisoner – perhaps the same – tells about his inner rage in "The Beast In Me."

The success of pulling off <I>American Recordings<P> is due to super-producer Rick Rubin – you remember him; he helped make careers for the Beastie Boys, Danzig and the Black Crowes. Rubin put the record together in his own home and Cash's, with two cuts recorded at the ultra-haute L.A. hangout, The Viper Room.

Rubin's timing is impeccable, catching moments like an outfielder in deep right. His connections also bring in the new artists into Cash's release. While Cash's ethics likely have a little more in common with a down-home preacher than the pop music jet-set, the youngsters help him and give him legitimacy in the pop music realm.

Still, it's Cash's charisma that carries him forward. His soft-spoken style is powerful in this format, where he is accompanied by only his guitar. He puts cowboy/outlaw songs like "Tennessee Stud" and the Glenn Danzig-written "Thirteen" on another level. Cash has not lost a thing and has really gained a lot from his experience. His knowledge allows him to convey a range that much less-experienced artists would stumble in trying to do.

<I>American Recordings<P> is the vanguard of music – not just country, but most contemporary music. Cash presents a map for musicians to learn from. The release is nothing less than one of the year's best. The Man in Black is back – watch out.

 

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BAND MAKES A FIERY DEBUT ON FLAMES

by Tom Turner

Daily Cougar Staff

It’s not often that a relatively unheard-of band is capable of creating a wide spectrum of musical sound and is still able to catch the attention of the listener on a consistent basis. This is exactly what Small Ball Paul has accomplished on the group’s debut release, You In Flames.

Hailing from St. Louis, Small Ball Paul formed in late 1990. The four members came together after playing in numerous other Midwest groups. After local gigs, small-scale tape circulation and two 7-inch singles, the band accumulated a fairly strong following in the area.

In late ‘92, the group signed with Thirsty Ear Recordings. Soon after, the group toured with Love Battery throughout the East and Midwest.

Small Ball Paul’s latest release, You In Flames, is 10 tracks of sweltering guitars and raw vocals. The album is regarded by critics as "gut wrenching, propulsive anthems that strip away at pretense, leaving nothing behind but fiery guitar bluster, frayed nerves and riffs that stick like glue."

The band is led by guitarist and lead vocalist Jeff Wendler, with Maureen Relling on bass and vocals, Jesse Gilsinger on guitar and vocals, and Sean Younger playing drums. With its individual talents, the group combines an explosive twin-guitar crunch with an agile, anchor-heavy rhythm section.

You In Flames is a huge step forward for the foursome and a solid movement into the eyes of the press. Some of the stronger tracks worth noting on the album include "Like Swallows," the first single; "Can’t Take Their Place," a flowing expression of lyrics as well as music; "The Quiet Lady"; and "Gotta Change."

You In Flames was recorded with the aid of producer Lou Giordano, who has also worked with groups such as Sugar, Bats and Eleventh Dream Day. Prior to this album, the group released a four-song CD, produced by Paul Mahern, who has done previous work with the Afghan Whigs and Vulgar Boatmen.

Even though not too many people may have heard of Small Ball Paul, You In Flames is definitely worth some attention. The band just performed at Goat’s Head Soup Thursday.

For additional information on Small Ball Paul, contact Thirsty Ear Recordings, 274 Madison Ave., Suite 804, New York, N.Y., 10016.

 

 

 

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