LOTION SMOOTH ON EARS

by Tom Turner

Daily Cougar Staff

It's time to put aside all of that annoying corporate rock that has been plaguing the airwaves for some time now and try some Lotion on your ears. The latest release from Lotion is titled <I>Full Isaac<P>. It is also the latest album to hit stores under the spinArt Records label.

The 11-track release ranges from straight-ahead, modern rock to light, flowing, nearly ballad-like tracks.

On <I>Full Isaac<P>, Lotion combines a loose-fitting, flowing musical style with a soothing, while still somewhat interesting, vocal presence.

A few of the stronger cuts off the album include "Tear," "Dr. Link, " "Around" and the first single off the new album, a catchy little tune titled "Head."

The only downside to this album appears to be the occasional lack of an extra musical push through the course of each of the songs and the whole album. This push is necessary in order to catch and hold the interest of the listener. Thankfully, this aspect of the album can be momentarily overlooked in light of the brighter spots that appear on several of the tracks.

Lotion is Tony Zajkowski, vocals; Jim Ferguson, guitar; Bill Ferguson, bass – yes, they are brothers for those keeping score at home – and Rob Youngberg on drums.

Along with the flowing, almost soothing vocals of Zajkowski, the group also receives the vocal aid of Hanna, from Babe the Blue Ox, yet another band attempting to climb the ol' musical ladder of success and respect.

The album is a fairly respectable piece of work for a band just breaking into the big spotlight. Give it a listen and look for a follow-up release from Lotion in the future. Hopefully, the next release from the group will take care of the little boredom factor that tends to pop up every so often on <I>Full Isaac<P>.

For more info on Lotion, contact the following address: Lotion (attn: Robin Zander); 559 Broome Street, No. 2; New York, NY 10013.

 

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UH FINDS SUPPORT FOR MORE FUNDING

by John Darbonne

Daily Cougar Staff

Despite bleak forecasts for UH funding prospects in the Texas Legislature, the UH System's administrative liaison to legislators said the picture may be brighter than expected.

Assistant Vice Chancellor Laura Calfee said the Texas Legislature is firmly dedicated to higher education, but that its hands are tied by court mandates, which demand that a certain amount of funds be earmarked for secondary schools and prisons.

This absorbs a large portion of new revenue that could be used for higher education. The Legislature must meet the court mandates before all else.

"Austin does not want to see us go backward," Calfee said.

Gov. Richards has stated that there will be no new taxes. Richards also ordered all state agencies not to request more money this year than they received last year, Calfee said.

At the same time, UH must meet mandates with the Clean Air Act and Americans With Disabilities Act at a cost of $5 million systemwide.

"The Legislature directs UH to meet certain mandates, but does not provide funds to do so," Calfee said. "This along with inflation means that there must be an increase in order to maintain."

The Legislature Appropriations Request Board recommends a dollar amount for higher education, but the Legislature never has enough money to cover it. The Legislature then determines how much money it will provide.

That money is then calculated into formula funding. The formula is determined by the Formula Advisory Committee, which comes from all areas of higher education.

Formula funding is a system used to distribute state funds to universities. The formula amounts are basically determined by total number of credit hours registered at a university.

Calfee said she believes formula funding works "because we have an opportunity to impact it at the coordinating level if it does not work." She also added that "Texas was an early leader in formula funding, which most states now use.

"Formula funding keeps politics out of basic fundamental funding," she said.

Calfee said the needs of UH are extensive. "(It is) hard for a school to lose money and not grow, but one thing that is not emphasized enough is that last session, the Legislature increased the Higher Education Assistance Fund from $100 to $175 million.

The increase will go into effect this session. This may free up some funds that UH may use elsewhere.

The HEAF is a systemwide constitutional fund used to build infrastructure at universities, which also is divided by formula. Libraries and building repairs are some of the areas covered by this fund.

"We will see great benefits from this increase," Calfee said.

The state constitution prohibits the state from operating with a deficit; therefore, Texas cannot spend more money than it generates in revenue. The revenue estimates come from the Comptroller of Public Accounts.

An estimate for this session has not been released, so Calfee said it is difficult for her to determine how much money UH stands to lose.

UH is asking the legislature to maintain its current level of funding, but level funding will not provide enough money to meet federal mandates and grow as an institution, she said.

"If funding is calculated on all funds received systemwide, there has been a slight increase," Calfee added.

"UH has to be concerned about the funding," Calfee said, "because the legislature must be made aware of not only our need, but of our potential."

There is a great deal of support in the legislature for both UH and the city, Calfee said. She also noted that Rep. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) is on the Finance Committee, and Reps. Garnett Coleman, (D-Houston), and Talmadge Heflin, (R-Houston), are on the Appropriations Committee.

"In addition, we have Rep. Debra Danburg, (D-Houston) who is a UH alumnus, in our corner," Calfee added.

Six members of the legislature attended the Legislative Appropriation Request board hearings.

"They took time off from making a living to do this and it shows tremendous support for UH and the city," Calfee said. "They are concerned about higher education, but funding is a tough choice. The fact that the six showed up at all illustrates serious concern, but they still must balance needs."

The business community is also trying to come up with strategies. "UH is vital to the needs of the city," Calfee said. "Industry does not move to an area without a higher education system. They want a trained employee pool, and the ability to gain higher education for current employees. This benefits both the city and the state."

All admit though, that taxes must be restructured, or the economy must drastically improve, Calfee added.

Calfee said she feels that UH will be treated fairly this session, but "until we increase or restructure the tax system, there will be no (new) money for any state government program."

Calfee encourages student involvement throughout the process. She said that in the past UH has received a great deal of support from the student body.

In the last session, a UH student addressed the legislature on the university's behalf.

It is vital that the legislature is informed throughout the process in order to ensure they realize that their constituents are concerned, Calfee said. She asked students to call or write legislators, and tell them the good as well as the bad.

 

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ACTIVITIES BETTER ROTC

by Tawanta Feifer

News Reporter

You are a worker in a chocolate factory that has just exploded and the only way to escape is by swinging Tarzan-style from rope to rope, being very careful not to fall into the vat of scalding hot chocolate below. You must not only help your co-workers to escape but also save the secret recipe.

This was one task, among others, that UH ROTC cadets faced Saturday in Kingwood as part of a specially designed program to encourage teamwork.

The Adventure Based Learning Experience (A.B.L.E.) program, founded in 1989, was designed to promote self-esteem, confidence, trust and to develop problem-solving skills, said Cathy Baker, activity therapist at Charter Hospital Kingwood.

The 15 cadets were given scenarios that require cooperation, teamwork and leadership, said Capt. Brian McMurray, assistant professor of military science. "If you don't have teamwork, you can't get through the scenario," he added.

Maj. Mark Jones, department chair of military science, said because the cadets come from a variety of backgrounds, an activity that would promote teamwork was needed.

Although the Army is reducing its active forces, there has not been a drastic reduction in the number of cadets being assessed, said McMurray. There are currently 69 cadets in ROTC; the ideal number would be 150 cadets, said Sgt. 1st Class Steven Wilson.

"We're trying to attract more students by making it (ROTC) more interesting," Wilson said. "We're planning to start a volleyball team, go white-water rafting, repelling and have helicopter rides."

There is no certain type that joins ROTC, said Sgt. 1st Class Jay Ritz, although he added that the cadets were more disciplined than the average student. In addition to regular classes, the cadets must fulfill requirements of ROTC such as physical training three times a week. What's most impressive is that "everyone of them (cadets) has an outside job (of school)," said Ritz.

Christi Hein, junior psychology major, said she joined ROTC for the scholarship and because she likes being in charge.

Brian "Stretch" Coram, an undeclared freshman, said he weighed the pros and cons of a military career and decided to receive his commission at UH like his father.

Chris Jackson, a senior history major, said he likes the camaraderie and takes pride in himself and his team members when they are pushed beyond what they thought they were able to do.

The first two years of ROTC is an introduction to the military and does not require a military obligation. The junior year is when the cadet makes the decision to contract or not.

"The students makes the decision. We don't make it for them," said Wilson.

"The military's not the place to go for money. These kids do it because they want to," Ritz said.

 

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STAFF COUNCIL TO STUDY SEXUAL HARASSMENT, ASSAULT GUIDELINES

by Jennifer Smith

Daily Cougar Staff

The Staff Council will review new campus sexual harassment and sexual assault policies submitted at a Wednesday meeting. The council also elected its officers and agreed to review its scholarship-selection process.

Al Armand, the recently elected Staff Council president, presided over the election by ballot of the three other officers. Elaine Pearson was elected vice president, Enrique Cardenas was elected parliamentarian and Tyrone Macklin was elected secretary.

Phyllis Powell, executive director of the Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Office, submitted the interim Sexual Assault Policy and the Sexual Harassment Policy to the council and requested its input. The office is in the process of redrafting these policies and is collecting information to aid in making the policies workable.

Powell said Affirmative Action uses these policies to aid itself in conducting investigations of those who believe they have been wronged.

Copies of both of these policies are available from the above department; they are also available in partial form in the student handbook.

Karen Gonzales, a Human Resource Development specialist, also spoke. Gonzales said she wanted to spread the word about workshop opportunities provided by the Department of Human Resources.

The department gives three workshops, each given several times a year, to its staff. The goals of the workshops are to improve skills, improve knowledge and foster a supportive environment, Gonzales said.

One workshop is about conflict, stress and anxiety; it was given seven times last spring and will be given five times this fall. Another is aimed at conflict, criticism and anger; it was given five times last spring and will be given seven times this fall. The third is called Connections. Gonzales considers this one the most important.

Connections is a workshop designed for all staff who deal with the public. It has the goal of improved customer service. Gonzales said participants are taught the attitude that interaction is an opportunity to enhance UH's reputation.

Gonzales said she anticipates 800 staff members will take this workshop by spring. She said she expects "a big change in how we do business."

The Staff Council also discussed its scholarship winners and the criteria for their selection.

The four scholarship winners were William A. Tonery, Dale Toney, Rosita Columbus and Rosanette Luther.

In order to be considered for the $250 scholarship, the applicant had to have been a full-time staff member for at least six months and must have taken at least three hours this semester. During its last selection, four winners were chosen at random from a pool of staff members who qualified. The council will seek another method of selection for its next scholarship bestowal.

 

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ELECTRIC SLIDE

Guitar evolution signals farewell to steel era

by Marlene Yarborough

Daily Cougar Staff

For $300,000, you could buy a 3400-square-foot custom home, two 1995 Ferrari 355s or a guitar once played by Jimi Hendrix.

The largest single guitar collection is owned by the Hard Rock Cafe chain, says John Rosenfield, curator for the HRC. The worth of the HRC's collection is inestimable. Rosenfield says HRC's single most valuable guitar is a Jimi Hendrix Gibson Flying V.

Houston's HRC contains a guitar collection worth an estimated $2.5 million, says manager Andrea Caesar. Rosenfield says, "HRC is the Smithsonian of the music industry."

Houston's HRC's rarest piece is a guitar previously owned by the 1950s recording star Bill Haley. Rosenfield moved the guitar to place it in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, due to open in Las Vegas in December.

Collectors run the gamut from ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons to private citizens.

Gibbons owns a pink Fender Stratocaster given to him by Hendrix that is considered one of the most – if not the most – valuable guitars in the world, says Richard Lullo, owner of The House of Guitars.

Jim Willhite, an investment banker, owns 28 guitars. He says he buys old guitars because he loves them, adding, "Getting into guitar-collecting for capital appreciation alone is the wrong reason."

"There is a fine line between collectible and garbage. What makes a guitar collectable is someone else wants it," says John Johnson, manager of The House of Guitars and bass player for the local band Southern Cross.

For collectibility and popularity, there are three main guitar companies: Martin & Co., Gibson and Fender.

Martin guitars, a top acoustic brand, range from $700 to $12,000 each. Johann Georg Martin worked as a carpenter constructing packing boxes to ship fine violins. Martin, impressed with the guitar arrival in Northern Europe, constructed a few and sold them. Christian Friedrich, Johann's son, moved to New York, and in 1833, opened a guitar shop, CF Martin & Company.

Steven Stills and Neil Young are among the thousands who strum Martins.

Gibsons range in price from $300 to $16,500. Gibson released a bicentennial anniversary limited edition guitar this year. It holds six diamonds where the strings come across, and one diamond to dot the "i" in Gibson at the end of the head stock that sells for $10,000.

Orville H. Gibson established The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co. on Oct. 11, 1902. Gibson's solid-body Les Paul holds the highest popularity. It came out in 1952, named after Lester William Polfus, a pop and jazz player.

Slash of Guns N Roses, Jimmy Page and B.B. King deliver licks from a Gibson.

Fenders are priced from $150 to $4,000. Two models stand out – the Stratocaster and the Telecaster. The Strat is a piercing guitar, while the Telecaster has more twang in the high end, Johnson says.

In 1965, Leo Fender became sick and sold his company to CBS. "Fenders before 1965, pre-CBS, are worth a lot more in the collectors market," Johnson says.

Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck play Fenders.

No one knows who invented the electric guitar. Rickenbacker Co. made the first successful model in 1932. The solid-body electric was introduced in 1939 and has become a part of every rock band today. Fender produced the first successful model in 1939. Two years later, Les Paul joined Gibson and helped develop its line of solid-bodies.

A current trend running through the used-guitar industry is a desire for low-end guitars. "Weird, bizarre, wanky $50 Sears guitars from the 1960s are popular with the Nirvana types," says Chris Henrich of the Sand Mountain Music Co.

Rockin' Robin, a vintage guitar shop on Shepherd, stocks dozens of collectible guitars, including Martins, Gibsons and Fenders.

Over the past 15 years, the market for guitars has escalated. A 1962 Fender Stratocaster once cost $300. That same guitar is now worth $7,500. A 1954 Stratocaster in mint condition may get $25,000 at auction, Lullo says.

"The more a celebrity is pictured with the same guitar, the more valuable that guitar becomes," Lullo adds.

"You can't really say one guitar is better than another because it depends on the player and what he expects out of it. You get down to a matter of personal preference. I like chocolate ice cream, you like vanilla. When we go to the store, I'm going to buy the chocolate and you'll be buying the vanilla," Johnson says.

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SYSTEM MODERNIZES JOB SEARCH

by Marla Dudman

News Reporter

Hey Dad, I got a job. Dad ... Dad?

This month, the Career Planning and Placement Center at the University of Houston introduced its state-of-the-art JOBank VoiceLink system to students and alumni. This new on-line system is ready to provide users with instant access to hundreds of jobs available both on campus and throughout the Houston area.

David B. Small, assistant vice president for student services, says students and alumni simply register at the Career Planning and Placement office to begin their on-line job search. Callers receive

step-by-step instructions courtesy of pre-recorded voice prompts and information packets given to them at registration.

After completing the registration form, users receive a temporary password for that day and may access the JOBank VoiceLink system through any touch-tone telephone by dialing 743-1040. A phone bank is also available at the center. Users need only pick up one of the phones for instant on-line service. Once their academic status has been verified, students will use their I.D. or Social Security number as their password.

Small says that by following the voice prompts, users may access several categories called Job Types. For example: "Press one for degree-level jobs. Press two for alumni positions. Press three for nondegree, full-time. Press four for nondegree part-time. Press five for internships. Press seven for on-campus jobs. Press eight for the Campus Recruitment Bulletin Board."

A direct search by category for jobs that require a certain academic major or a guided search with complete instructions can also be easily made. Frequent users may go directly to a section called "Today’s New Listings" for quick updates on new positions. Jobs accepting a degree in any major are also categorized separately.

A special category has been established for UH nonfaculty positions listed by Human Resources. Interested individuals will be given a daily password to access these listings.

Associate Director Calvin C. Chen says, "Some important advantages (of the system) to students and alumni are 24-hour, 365-days-per-year access, job listings that are available immediately in the employer’s own voice, no errors in data transfer and reduced travel and parking problems." He says, "The JOBank VoiceLink system also provides improved access for disabled students and alumni."

Advantages to employers include the low cost of the system vs. newspaper ads or employment agencies, and the same 24-hour, 365-days-per-year access as students have the opportunity to create their own highly descriptive ads. These listings are available immediately to job candidates.

Small says advantages to the Career Planning and Placement Center are numerous. In addition to eliminating the need to transfer job-listing information, which saves staff time and increases accuracy, the JOBank VoiceLink system provides detailed reports on command. It also reduces printing, postage and paper expenses and will soon generate income for the Career Planning and Placement Center.

"We have estimated if we get 10 new jobs a day, the system will pay for itself in two years," Small says. "Right now, we are getting closer to 20 (job listings a day), and that’s even better."

On the horizon are planned enhancements for the JOBank VoiceLink system such as Forward Resume and Resumes-On-Line. After listening to a job listing, the student or alumnus will be able to issue a "Forward Resume" command from the telephone. The candidate’s resume will be forwarded by fax from the Career Planning and Placement Center’s resume data base to the employer along with a cover letter referencing the specific job listing.

Resumes-On-Line allow students and alumni to leave brief messages on-line describing their qualifications and career interests. Prospective employers may access categories of job candidates and browse the voice files by touch-tone telephone. If interested, the employer can then retrieve the resume of any candidate by issuing a telephone key command. The resume will automatically be faxed from Career Planning and Placement’s resume file.

Small says UH is the 10th university in the nation and the first career center in the Southwest to incorporate VoiceLink technology for job-search purposes.

 

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YOUTH, LACK OF DEPTH LEAD TO TIRED 'D'

Coach Fitzpatrick swears by defensive line despite statistics

by Jason Paul Ramirez

Daily Cougar Staff

Through two games, the Houston Cougars have given up 919 yards of offense to their opponents. That is an average of 460 yards per contest.

However, Houston defensive tackles coach Tony Fitzpatrick will swear the defensive unit is actually getting better.

"We're getting better with every step we take," coach "Fitz" said following the Cougars' 32-7 loss at Louisiana Tech Saturday night. "You know, we have lots of guys starting this year that only played sparingly last year, so that has been a problem for us early on."

Houston also has players on its defensive team who didn't play last year at all. The Cougars have had to rely on the services of nine true freshmen, and the experience has been less than spectacular thus far.

Senior Mike Meux and junior Carlos Chester have combined for 33 of the defensive line's 53 tackles through the first two games.

In other words, most of the defensive line has not been able to do its part in making the first stop on opposing runners. As a result, other position players, like defensive back Gerome Williams (21 stops), are leading the team in tackles, and Houston's opponents have run for an average of 290 yards on the ground.

Freshman defensive linemen Leonta Rheams and Rusty Foster, in backup roles, have combined for just four tackles thus far.

Foster made his first collegiate start Saturday, subbing for the injured Jason Brown. He contributed two tackles in the loss.

"Our youth overall has hurt us," Fitzpatrick said.

However, freshman linebacker Mike Parker has made the most out of his starting opportunities in the early going. Parker is currently second on the team in tackles with 20.

"Though we are struggling, it is still our job to teach these kids to be tenacious, physical and dominating to an opponent," Fitzpatrick said.

It is a lesson Fitzpatrick installed in himself as a highly-successful defensive line nose tackle for the Miami Hurricanes from 1980-83.

During Fitzpatrick's collegiate playing career, the three-year starter helped the Hurricanes to a 27-7 combined record while also winning the 1983 national championship.

Indeed, the Houston defense has shown signs of brilliance in its first two games. However, during each contest, there has been a point where the unit has just run out of gas.

"In the second half (of Saturday's game), we just got tired (defensively)," said Houston head coach Kim Helton. "We played about as nice as you could play (in the first half) and just got tired."

After falling behind 21-0 at the half in the Cougars' season-opening loss to the Kansas Jayhawks, Houston clamped down in the third period, holding KU without a score before giving up 14 more points in the fourth in a 35-13 defeat.

Saturday, the Cougars stopped the Bulldogs on five of Tech's first six offensive series, trailing only 10-0 at the half. Houston then again ran out of steam as the 'Dogs built a 20-0 lead in the third quarter on the way to the 32-7 drumming.

"We can't use the fact that we('ve) got(ten) tired as an excuse," Fitzpatrick said. "The bottom line is that we didn't stop (our opponents) when we needed to. They were stopping (our offense), so we should be able to do the same."

 

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SCANDAL MISREPRESENTS UH

Media show downside of Cougar student-athletes; reality is hard work, pride mark university, not cheating

 

by Ryan Carssow

Guest Columnist

Maybe UH students should just cut their losses and transfer out of this scandal-plagued university.

The university's image took some major jabs from local media last week. An article in the Houston Press by Tim Fleck (who, coincidentally taught class at UH as recently as last fall) detailed problems within the administration and faculty, and predicted that these problems could lead to UH becoming a "mediocre" public university.

Channel 11 used images of long-haired, guitar-playing, cigarette-tokin' "students" to show the "apathy" of the UH community in a story Wednesday night.

And the Houston Chronicle published another story of scandal within the UH football program that detailed a cheating scheme involving at least two or as many as 12 current and former players.

Linton Weatherspoon, a former player, was accused and found guilty of taking an algebra exam for Tim Winburn last December. Winburn was a member of the UH football team at the time.

Both students were suspended. In the Chronicle article, three current players were accused by Delithro Bell, another former player, of participating in the scam.

Quite a week for Cougar pride, huh? "See Red" indeed; the red of embarrassed faces, that is.

I don't think anyone was surprised to learn that college students cheated on exams. How many of you can truthfully say you have never cheated before?

The problem is that UH is trying to change its public image after years of athletic scandal. In attempting to fan the flames created by the accusations, head football coach Kim Helton said, "Our program is the most honest-run football team you could have in the country."

Whether or not Helton or any member of the athletic department knew about the scam, which they have denied knowledge of, the fact still remains that it happened. And it most likely happened on a wide scale.

It may be an issue already beaten to death, but the life of a student-athlete is not easy. Cougar athletes' complaints of hours of practice every day, leaving little or no time for studying, are justified.

I know these difficulties firsthand. As a freshman baseball player at a small religious college in central Texas, I, along with many of my teammates, cheated on a Spanish exam. I used the time I spent practicing curveballs instead of infinitive verbs as justification for cheating. My excuse was that I didn't have the same time to study as other students.

I passed that class, but paid the price the next semester when I had to drop out of a higher-level Spanish class because I couldn't understand what the professor was saying. I am still taking Spanish classes I should have completed two years ago.

The point is that cheating was only a short-term fix that created much greater long-term problems.

Student-athletes lead a busy and difficult existence, but so do most other college students. Working 40 hours a week while taking 15 hours of classes and still finding time for what's left of a personal and social life can be overwhelming at times.

Most students find a way to make it through the chaos, however.

The UH student-athletes' troubles were published because their athletic status gives them a higher profile than other students. They may have been unlucky because they were caught, but their status as student-athletes does not give them any more right to commit these offenses than any other student.

Followers of and participants in college sports have begun debating whether college athletes should be paid for their "work." These athletes bring vast amounts of money to their universities and claim they receive little compensation.

However, student-athletes are compensated with a full ride.

How much does four years at a university cost these days – $20,000, maybe $25,000? Student-athletes, who don't work full-time to pay for books, tuition, food, shelter and the occasional beer, have extra time other students do not. This time can then be spent on the practice field. That is the general idea behind giving scholarships to athletes.

Working students should be celebrated for their efforts as much as any quarterback, power forward or right fielder, but they must plug away in obscurity.

"Apathy," "mediocre" and "cheating." Do these words accurately describe UH students? I think not.

Carssow is a junior journalism major.

 

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FATE TACKLES CUSTODY ISSUES

by Valérie C. Fouché

Daily Cougar Staff

<I>A Simple Twist of Fate<P>, starring Steve Martin, is a bittersweet tale of the times. The powerful story and topical issues the movie addresses lend to its universal appeal.

This dramatic comedy is loosely based on the 19th-century novel <I>Silas Marner<P> by George Eliot. Martin became intrigued by the story and decided to rewrite it as a screenplay. It took him four years, writing on a portable computer while traveling to complete the work. Once it was finished, Martin noticed the story line about a custody battle is a subject very much on the minds of people these days.

The movie revolves around a recluse named Michael McCann (Steve Martin), who has a mysterious past. He lives alone, making furniture for the townspeople in order to support his habit, gold coins.

On a stormy winter night, a baby, whose mother has languished in the snow, wanders into his secluded cabin. A strong bond develops almost immediately between Michael and the child, so he adopts the orphan. Michael names his daughter Mathilda.

However, unknown to Michael, the child's biological father not only lives in town, but is a local politician, John Newland (Gabriel Byrne). John secretly knows the child is his, but feels he cannot publicly risk claiming her as his own. He helps Michael adopt the child so he can keep her in town and watch her mature.

Years later, Newland decides to publicly come forth, at his wife's insistence, and demands custody of Mathilda. A bitter controversy ensues in court and spreads throughout the town over what constitutes a real family.

Michael and Mathilda then set out to prove that the definition of family should not be limited to traditional terms.

Martin fans will be surprised by his portrayal of Michael McCann, as this role seems perfect for the likes of Tom Hanks. But Martin pulls it off beautifully and surprisingly, without any of his recognizable schtick.

<I>Fate<P> producer Ric Kidney said of Martin's performance, "Initially, it's not what you would expect from Steve – dramatic and serious – and you see true emotion coming from his character.

"At the same time, there are terrific moments that are quite fun. Steve's character, Michael, has a lot of Steve Martin in him. The character's – and the actor's – playfulness surfaces when Michael teaches the little girl how to be funny and how to look at the world with a sense of humor."

One of the most difficult roles to cast for the movie was Mathilda, who ages from a toddler into a young lady.

From age one to one-and-a-half, twins Victoria and Elizabeth Evans were used. Other twins were used for Mathilda at age 3, Alaina and Callie Mobley. But for the scenes portraying her at the later stages of 6 to 10 years old, the producers had a hard time finding two actresses that looked alike. Then luck struck for Martin when 11-year-old Alana and 6-year-old Alyssa Austin showed up for the casting call.

"We looked at a lot of girls in person and many more on tape," Martin said. He soon discovered that "she's (Alana) brilliant, a great actress, friendly, nice – she's got every quality you'd want with someone you're working with."

"I was at the interview a really long time," recalls Alana, "and I was a little bit shy. I said to Steve, 'I'm very nervous; I've never met you before,' and he said, 'It's okay, I'm nervous too.' " Laughing at the memory, Alana said, "He's great fun. One day on the set, somebody brought a banjo and he just started playing it. It was like a party!"

One of the darker cameo roles, Newland's bad-boy brother Tanny, is portrayed by Stephen Baldwin. He thought he was cast because of the mood he was in the day of auditions. Baldwin admits he "woke up on the wrong side of the bed" and said he "just had 'that smirk' on my face." While his attitude fit the character, Baldwin believes his actions actually won him the role.

"I was reading with an actor who was doing Gabriel's lines," he said. "It was the big confrontation scene, and when I said, 'Whatever happened to brotherly love?' I leaned over and kissed the reader on the cheek." Grinning, Baldwin added, "I think that's what pushed it over the top. I'm sure Gillies (MacKinnon, <I>Fate<P>'s director) thought, 'This guy's nuts!' "

The cinematography in the film almost outshines the story line and actors. Camera angles and well-planned action sequences were utilized to add a rich flavor throughout the movie. One such spectacular scene is when Michael rescues Mathilda from the edge of a cliff with a whopping drop of 140 feet by using a harness and an old weather balloon. The scene is not only breathtaking, but also beautifully shot.

The movie is wrapped up quite nicely and manages to leave you feeling satisfied. <I>A Simple Twist of Fate<P> may not fare as well as <I>Forrest Gump<P> due to its later release date, but don't let that fool you. <I>Fate<P> is an enjoyable film for the whole family and well worth the admission price.

 

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