Leaders assess past, future goals

by Bobby Summers

Daily Cougar Staff

At Wednesday's regular monthly meeting, the University of Houston Faculty Senate heard an evaluation of progress in 1994 from the outgoing president, Ernst Leiss, and a hopeful preview of the coming year by the incoming president, G.F. Paskusz.

Leiss said he identified four major issues when he became Senate president last year: legislative relations, communication, shared government and athletics.

On the subject of legislative relations, Leiss said that because the Texas Legislature was not in session last year, UH and the Faculty Senate had the opportunity to lay the groundwork for the 1995 legislative funding fight.

Leiss said communications was "an area of significant improvement in removing the impasse of exchange of ideas between the faculty and members of the Board of Regents.

"Nevertheless," he added, "The internal communications is still in need of improvement."

In the area of shared government, Leiss said, "The Faculty Senate has made some recommendations, many of which are being implemented. Shared government works quite well at the level of the provost and the president (of the university). However, this is not always true at the level of the deans."

Leiss praised UH Provost Henry Trueba and said, "In Henry Trueba, we have acquired a champion of the faculty, a man who is willing to demand accountability."

The outgoing president noted that faculty raises, a longstanding bone of contention between the administration and the faculty, had been "firmly placed on the university agenda, and I think we could see some movement on this front."

Athletics, another subject that came up at almost every Senate meeting in 1994, is one that Leiss thinks the Senate has influenced over the past year.

"With substantial input from the Senate, the Athletic Advisory Board has been reconstituted," Leiss said. "The board is now dominated by faculty. I hope that this will result in greater focus on the 'student' aspect of our student athlete.

"Clearly, athletics is an area of intense attention by our Board of Regents. I believe John Moores' resignation from the board will engender a more rational attitude toward maintaining the status quo in the face of increasing budgetary pressures."

Overall, Leiss said he views 1994 as a "mixed assessment of positive and negative results" for the university.

He added, "I am confident that the process of rationally assessing the overall operation of the entire university community and system, with special emphasis on the UH System administration, will lead to a better understanding of our situation by faculty, administrators and the board.

"I have high hopes that an outside audit, which I understand will be initiated later this spring by the board, will carry this much further to the benefit of the entire academic community."

Paskusz, addressing the Senate for the first time as president, said he hopes the Faculty Senate and the Executive Committee will "continue to be co-active."

Paskusz promised that the Senate will continue to work on what he called "a couple of black holes and a roadblock on the information highway between the Faculty Senate and the Board of Regents."

Paskusz identified one of the "black holes" as intercollegiate athletics.

"That sucking sound you hear is dollars going into that black hole," Paskusz said. "I think I see some progress going in the direction of 'graying' that hole. Whether what I see is reality, or is just a figment of my imagination, we will know in the next couple of months."

The new president also said, "The roadblock I was talking about concerns the massive administrative layers through which faculty concerns must inevitably have to go before they get to the Board of Regents.

"We have breached that roadblock once in the recent meeting between the faculty and the subcommittee of the Board of Regents. It remains to be seen if the roadblock has changed and the road is open."

Paskusz said the other "black hole" concerns the UH System administration.

"I expect that the external audit, which now seems to be a firm commitment by the Board of Regents, is going to continue to 'gray' that hole."

In other Senate news, President Paskusz introduced the 1995 Faculty Senate Executive Board and committee chairpersons.

Karl Kadish, professor of chemistry, will serve in 1995 as president-elect.

Janet Chafetz, professor of sociology, is the new Senate secretary.

Committee chairs include: Giles Auchmuty, Budget Committee; Ernst Leiss, Committee on Committees; George Reiter, Educational Policy Committee; Pauline Kolenda, Faculty Affairs Committee; and Ted Stanton, Community Relations Committee.

The Senate also passed two amendments to the FS Constitution and Bylaws.

The first amendment updated a method of appointing a Senate liaison to the Research Council. The Senate president and Faculty Affairs Committee have been informally making this appointment for years. The amendment merely brings the Senate Constitution in line with this method of choosing a liaison.

The second amendment approved by the FS abolishes the Campus Life Committee and replaces it with a new committee called the Legislative and Community Relations Committee.

The next Faculty Senate meeting will be Wednesday, Feb. 15.






by Tanya Eiserer

Daily Cougar Staff

UH Regent Vidal Martinez said he wants UH System administrators to give a full explanation as to why the University of Texas payroll project failed.

"Hopefully, we can deal with this in a positive fashion. Nobody is happy when there is about a $2 (million) or $3 million loss," Martinez said, adding that with the state legislative session going on, the UH System needs to address the problem promptly to make sure it doesn't affect state funding.

Ed Whalen, UH vice chancellor for Administration and Finance, excused the failure of the efforts to install the University of Texas payroll system at UH as being due to having other "fires to put out."

The UH System will go to court Feb. 13 as a defendant in a $970,000 lawsuit filed by C.W. Systems, a firm hired in 1991 to install a payroll system designed by UT. The company filed suit March 15, 1993.

The UH System was eventually forced to abort the UT payroll project and start anew with a different system.

Downplaying the failure of the UT payroll project, Whalen said, "Fifty percent of all attempts to convert a payroll system fail."

Whalen first came to the UH System in March 1990 in the midst of a management crisis after state auditors had cited the System for "material weakness" -- meaning it could not get its financial report straight.

"The Board of Regents was quite upset. They wanted to know what I was doing to do about it," said Whalen, adding that in this atmosphere, the payroll project did not top his priority list.

At around the same time, the UH System contracted with Coopers and Lybrand to recommend a payroll package; senior administrators and the Board of Regents chose not to follow it. The report cost the System $70,000.

Whalen said he simply had not read the report when the decision was made to choose the UT payroll system. "I had the Coopers and Lybrand report on my desk. I should have read it."

The report, dated Feb. 19, 1990, rates four different payroll systems based on application software, system architecture, documentation, training/education and system support services. Information Associates (now SCT) rated the highest, and the UT system rated the worst.

The report states, "The risks associated with the UT solution are high. The software did not meet the requirements fit very well and therefore would require significant custom modification and development. Long-term, UT would not be providing enhancements and regulatory support for UH."

The report states, "Stop the conversion work on the UT system" and recommends implementation of the Information Associates (SCT) system. This report was blatantly disregarded and ignored, said a senior-level UH administrator who wished to remain unnamed.

The UH System instead chose the UT payroll system, spent approximately $1 million plus consulting fees and staff costs in an attempt to implement it, and eventually spent an additional $1 million to install SCT, the system currently in place.

"The decision to install the UT system was obviously not a campus decision," said the unnamed official. "Our people were not in the loop. It was a unilateral decision made by the System administration. The System did it in the face of the Coopers and Lybrand report and ended up losing millions."

The official added that the effort to install the UT payroll system clearly was a failure and an example of what happens when UH is left out of the decision-making process and the UH System makes a decision from "on high."

"Let the facts speak loud and clearly for themselves that the university was the big loser. After all, that is money that could not go into the academic side of the house or to make any kind of improvement in facilities," the official added.

Whalen attributed the decision to choose the UT payroll system to several factors, including the fact that the package was written in ADA Base Natural, whereas the original Information Associates product was in COBOL/RMS version. "It was bad technical advice from people who thought only an ADA Base Natural product would suit our needs."

The Board of Regents, on April 24, 1991, approved the $758,700 contract with C.W. Systems to install and implement the UT payroll system on the UH VAX by Aug. 31, 1991. The total fees paid to C.W. Systems were about $1 million, according to System documents. C.W. Systems is a consulting firm specializing in client software development based in Austin with offices in Houston and Dallas.

UT's system was also preferable to the others, Whalen said, because the package was written in a format for reporting information to the state. "The UT system solved a problem," he said.

At the beginning of the C.W. Systems project, UH was not involved at all, but the firm used UH's computer systems and office space, Whalen said.

Steve Green, UH associate vice chancellor for System Information Services, said C.W. Systems made the faulty assumption that, because it was a working system at UT, all it had to do was make a direct conversion, which turned out not to be the case.

By August 1991, C.W. Systems realized it had not received a complete system. A system is built up of modules, and UT had not properly documented its modules, according to the Coopers and Lybrand report, which already had noted that the lack of documentation of the UT payroll system could turn into a major roadblock.

In November 1991 Susan Pryor, a consultant hired by the UH System, ordered a second set of system tapes from UT. These tapes were documented and contained all the necessary modules.

In its lawsuit, C.W. Systems claims the project was restarted with the ordering of the second set of tapes. Green disagrees with that assertion and claims the second set was ordered only so the project could be completed.

Pryor also agreed with Green's contention, saying, "Tapes were ordered a second time to finish the project. It was never intended to be a restart."

Sal Levantino, general counsel for the plaintiff, disagreed, asserting that C.W. Systems stayed on the project an additional eight or nine months, for which it was not paid. "They (UH System) said when you (C.W. Systems) have a system up, then we will address the cost."

Almost one year later, after months of trying to finish the project, a system test was run on Sept. 1, 1992, to determine if the product would run a complete payroll cycle. "It fell flat on its face. C.W. Systems was finger-pointing. Someone, they said, must have modified the programs," Green said.

He said C.W. Systems blamed the UH programmers who had come in to assist with the project to try and get it completed. He added that he was able to verify that this was not the case.

Once modifications were made to get the system running, C.W. Systems and Green ran an acceptance test to make sure it would perform correctly, he said. The system initially flunked this test, also.

"C.W. Systems finally got the system to operate (properly) with UH help in November 1992 ... They finished up what they were contracted to do, which was to make the system work. We decided to stop the project right there," Green said.

Green and UH System Controller Linda Bright determined that the system was going to be terribly difficult, if not impossible to operate.

"We had a system that was essentially done, but (that the UH System) could not use," Whalen said. "Pulling the plug on the UT (payroll system) was not easy. It is $1 million. We could still be struggling with it."

At this point, Whalen called in Arthur Andersen and Co. to find out the status of the UT project: how much and when it could be completed. "The conclusion was given that the project would take an additional $1.6 million to complete it." The UH System, according to records, paid $185,000 to Arthur Andersen for its assistance. At that point, the UH System dumped the UT project.






by Tawanta Feifer

Daily Cougar Staff

Although the Spanish settled a large portion of the Southwestern United States, Spanish literature is often overlooked in the canon of Western literature courses taught in the United States.

Walter Rubin, retired UH professor emeritus, who translated Perez Galdos' novel, <I>The Golden Fountain Cafe<P>, into English, said a lot of Spanish literature is often overlooked because it is not available in translation or is poorly translated.

Harold Raley, Houston Baptist University dean of Arts and Humanities and a former UH Spanish professor, said Spanish literature is not a part of the traditional fields of study in American universities.

"There are still many great works not readily available. Translation is not really recognized and valued in our profession. I think that's too bad," he said. "Since scholars don't do translations, (they) are done by people who are not knowledgeable enough to do a good (one)."

Rubin said prejudice against Hispanic culture is also a reason Spanish literature is ignored. "There is a long tradition of disinterest in Spanish literature that has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of the work," he said.

Rubin said Galdos, a prolific 19th century Spanish author comparable in stature to Charles Dickens and Honore Balzac, is mostly unknown in the United States. He said Galdos wrote about 70 novels and was a liberal thinker opposed to religious and political fanaticism. "After Cervantes, there isn't any author in Spain that can be considered of his stature," Rubin said.

Galdos' novel,<I>The Golden Fountain Cafe<P>, is set in Madrid during the 1820s and revolves around the tension between young, liberal idealists and the despotic rule of King Ferdinand VII.

Rubin said, "The book penetrates the substance of (19th century) Spanish values, which transcend Spanish culture. Galdos wrote about the middle class, the poor and the rejected -- anonymous people who participated in history, but are not mentioned."

Rubin, a recipient of the 1971 UH Teaching Excellence Award, retired in 1991 after devoting 28 years to teaching Spanish language, literature and culture. Raley said Rubin has "a great fund of knowledge and combines his knowledge with his great enthusiasm to teach Spanish literature."

Rubin will have a book-signing and give a presentation on the historical and political significance of <I>The Golden Fountain Cafe<P> at 7:30 p.m. today at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at 3003 Holcombe.






by James V. Geluso

Daily Cougar Staff

The Students' Association quickly passed a bill consolidating administrative positions, then became bogged down in Election Code revisions, in a grueling two-and-a-half-hour meeting Wednesday night.

Students' Association Bill 31003, which eliminates the positions of director of Personnel, director of External Affairs and Senate secretary, was passed unanimously after brief discussion. By eliminating these positions, SA will save $13,644 per year, which will be available to be allocated to other SA functions.

The revisions to the Election Code, which are required by the SA Constitution to be passed in the first meeting of the spring semester, were argued about at length. Although the calendar and budget were passed quickly, the Senate was caught up in extended debate over two points involving revisions of the Code

A clause of Bill 31007 would have forced Honors students to vote for either the newly created Honors senator or the senator from the college of their major. However, newly appointed Senator Justin McMurtry recalled that the amendment creating the Honors position allowed Honors students to vote for both. Confusion arose when it was discovered that this constitutional amendment had never been typed into the Constitution.

The bill was tabled while Executive Cabinet members searched for a copy of the amendment. When no copy could be found, the issue was debated at length until it was finally postponed until the next meeting.

In an attempt to reduce the influence of party politics on the election, a clause of Bill 31008 stipulated that the party affiliation of single-college senators would not be listed on the ballot. After vigorous and often heated debate, the clause was eliminated.

Senators Jennifer Zuber and Hunter Jackson both spoke in favor of party affiliation remaining on the ballot for all positions. McMurtry joined with the Executive Cabinet in supporting the change.

"Every year, there are a lot of people who run on coattails," said SA President Angie Milner. "I think it's fair for people to run on their own account." Many senators elected as part of the winning party then lose interest and drop out after the election, she said.







Cougars grab first SWC victory 87-83

by William German

Daily Cougar Staff

In 1981-82, one year before the true beginning of Phi Slamma Jamma, the Houston Cougars basketball team started off 0-4 in the Southwest Conference.

That team broke the streak with a home win over Baylor, part of a 14-3 finish that would see it all the way to the Final Four.

Could it be?

Wednesday, the Cougars put a "1" in the SWC win column with an 87-83 victory over Baylor at Hofheinz Pavilion, snapping an eight-game overall losing streak and finding hope at the bottom of Pandora's proverbial box.

"I think we can be a player in this conference race," UH head coach Alvin Brooks said. "Like I told (the players), we've got to win some games to contend."

Junior forward Kirk Ford poured in a career-high 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting in a performance Texas Christian's Kurt Thomas would have been happy to have. The 6-7 transfer snatched six boards and hit a big baseline 3-pointer at the end of the first half to give UH a 47-44 lead.

"He's just feeling so much more comfortable and confident," Brooks said of Ford. "I've been telling him all year that in late January, he would start feeling very comfortable and start playing well.

"Most JC (junior-college) players do."

Ford, who averaged 8.9 points a game coming in, went on a roll.

"I started out getting in the flow of the game and just kept my focus," Ford said.

The game came down to free-throw shooting in the closing seconds as the Cougars (4-13 overall, 1-4 in the SWC) clung to a lead that reached 15 with 13:54 to play.

Baylor (6-11, 1-4) kept trimming away after that, finally cutting it to 79-75 on a breakaway layup by John Perkins with 1:24 left. The Bears then opted to start fouling UH players and jack up 3s on their own end.

Houston made it suspenseful, missing six of 14 free throws in the final minute and change, but Baylor only managed two treys and a dunk from freshman Brian Skinner down the stretch.

The 6-9 Skinner, making the start at center against the smallish Cougars, was 5-for-6 from the inside, but for the most part, Baylor seemed comfortable outside the 3-point line.

The strategy worked well in the first half, with the Bears hitting 8-of-17 3s. But the law of averages caught up with the green-and-gold men. Baylor hit only six of 21 treys in the second.

Among the big offenders after intermission were starting forward David Hamilton and guard Aundre Branch, who combined to go 2-of-11 from beyond the arc.

"With Branch out there, it's going up," Brooks said. "If you can just get them stopped for about 15 seconds, it's over.

"Last year, they were very good at (3-point shooting), because they had (NCAA rebounding leader Jerome) Lambert on the offensive glass."

The Cougars will next travel to Southern Methodist after two straight outstanding games. The Cougars took a close loss to A&M Saturday that could have been the breakthrough, but waiting for a little Bear meat wasn't so bad.

"I thought we played well enough to win Saturday (at A&M)," Brooks said. "I was concerned because we played so hard and so well, that we didn't get discouraged."

The first half was back and forth, with Houston building leads and blowing them. After Baylor took a 7-6 lead on a Hamilton 3-pointer, the Cougars went on a 9-0 run to put them up 15-7 with five minutes gone.

Ford hit four of five shots in the early going, not slowing down as the game went on. Jessie Drain (19 points, seven boards) chipped in with a transition layup.






by Jason Paul Ramírez

Daily Cougar Staff

A swarming, trapping defense and a 15-0 run in the second half proved to be more than enough to help get the Houston Lady Cougars past the Baylor Lady Bears 76-63 in Waco's Ferrell Center Wednesday night.

Houston (7-9, 2-3 in the Southwest Conference) trailed Baylor (10-7, 1-4) 43-39 midway through the second half before it began its string of unanswered points to go up 54-43.

But a 9-3 Bears run helped cut the deficit back to 57-52 before the Cougars stiffened up again to build a 63-54 advantage at the 3:37 mark.

However, Baylor just would not go away. It managed to cut Houston's lead to 65-58 with 2:11 to go. And the Cougars again answered with a three-point play by forward Pat Luckey.

Luckey turned in the best night of her young season, totalling 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Luckey also made six of seven free throws.

The 6-1 sophomore was just one of four Cougars to score in double figures. Junior guard Stacey Johnson scored 16 while freshman Jennifer Jones and junior Rosheda Hopson each totaled 12.

Luckey, Jones and Hopson also combined for 19 rebounds, seven of which were on the offensive end.

The Bears took command of the ballgame early behind forward Tonia Harris, who led Baylor with 19 points and 11 rebounds on the night.

Houston didn't enjoy its first lead of the night until a 23-21 advantage near the seven-minute mark of the first half, and settled for a 35-35 knot at the break.

The Cougars are now set to embark on the second leg of a three-game road trip (7 p.m. Saturday), when they travel to Dallas to face the Southern Methodist Mustangs, 94-48 winners over Texas Christian Wednesday. They then face Prairie View A&M at Prairie View Monday night.







by M.S. Ameen

Daily Cougar Staff

Domination is a good word to describe the treatment the Houston Cougars gave Baylor in the paint, as the Cougars muscled their way to their first Southwest Conference victory of the season, 87-83.

Despite two 6-9 grizzlies, Baylor center Brian Skinner and power forward Doug Brandt, the Houston frontcourt dominated down low.

"We weren't going to let ourselves be intimidated by the big men," said 6-7 junior forward/center Kirk Ford.

Ford presented his own delightful dance of domination to the tune of 25 points, 10 of which came before the first four minutes of the game had elapsed.

With forwards Jessie Drain (19 points) and Tim Moore (20), the Houston frontcourt accounted for 64 of the Cougars' 87 total points.

It appeared that the Bears were too prepared to weather the hurricane that is Tim Moore. The Cougars took advantage of this by getting the ball to Ford, who came through rather satisfactorily.

"What we were running just gave (Ford) a lot more opportunities in the high post and took advantage of his speed and quickness," said UH head coach Alvin Brooks, regarding the opening of the game.

Whether it was planned or not, Ford continually went around and under the taller Brandt to score.

Baylor's top scorer, guard Aundre Branch, bore additional witness to Houston's frontcourt accomplishments.

"They were more aggressive on the boards than we were," he said. "It just seemed every time a ball came off the board, they were there to put it back in."

Houston's dominance was evident in that department. The Cougars outrebounded the Bears 50-39, with Moore snatching 16.

But more striking is the 23 offensive rebounds Houston managed to wrestle down.

Baylor head coach Harry Miller said he knew the importance of this aspect.

"If you let somebody get 23 offensive boards, you're not gonna beat anybody," he said.

"We were heavy-footed. We had a problem guarding their athleticism."

The Cougars gave Baylor trouble on this front. However, it was in the frontcourt that the Bears received their bloody chins.

The superior quickness and aerial maneuvering accomplished by Houston in the paint forced the Baylor big boys into foul trouble in the second half.

With such dominance down low, Houston was able to gain a win despite shooting .377 compared with Baylor's .457.

Drain emphasized the point.

"We just kept pounding it down low," he said.






by Jessica Ellis

Daily Cougar Staff

Award-winning writer and visiting professor for the Mexican American Studies Program Lorna Dee Cervantes will address students in a poetry reading and talk on Friday.

"Chicana Poetry ¿y qué?" is a one-woman event presented by the UH Women's Studies Program. It starts at 1 p.m. in the Brown Room, which is located on the fifth floor of M.D. Anderson Library.

Cervantes is a vistiting scholar in Mexican American Studies and English at UH. Her other teaching distinctions include an assistant professorship at the University of Colorado at Boulder and instruction at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Her reading at UH is another component in her considerable list of readings, lectures, performances and panel presentations. During her career, Cervantes has spoken at the Library of Congress, Minneapolis' famed Walker Center, the equally notable Center for the Performing Arts in San Jose, Calif. and New York City's Performance Theater.

Among Cervantes' many honors, she is a two-time recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Grant for Poetry. She is listed in, among other books, the Swedish National Encyclopedia, the <I>Dictionary of American Poets and Writers<P> and <I>Who's Who in Hispanic America<P>. In addition, she also won the Latino Literature Prize and the Paterson Poetry Prize and was a National Book Award nominee for her book <I>From the Cables of Genocide; Poems on Love and Hunger<P>.

<I>Cables<P> was published in 1991 by UH's Arte Publico Press. Over the years, Cervantes' collection of works has been translated into Spanish, German, Italian, French and Czechoslavakian.







by Lady Oliver

Daily Cougar Staff

Women have another option in birth control -- one that they only have to think about four times a year.

It's called Depo Provera or "the shot," and, for 35 years, 87 countries around the world have used the long-lasting injectable contraceptive. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1993 for use as a birth control method.

"We have another choice now," Susan Leitner-Prihoda, RN, said. Leitner-Prihoda is Family Nurse Practitioner at the UH Health Center.

For now, at least, the shot seems to the best-kept secret. "The word is not really out," Leitner-Prihoda said.

According to the city's Village Women's Clinic, there are several reasons why women choose Depo Provera as a method of birth control.

The shot is 99 percent effective and is cost effective. In addition, it is taken every three months rather than every day, as with the more common birth control pill.

The Village Women's Clinic notes that there are many types of women who should use Depo Provera. Topping the list are women who want an easy birth control method. However, the clinic staff add that there are other reasons why women decide on the injections.

For example, women who believe that pills cause nausea or who can't remember to take their pill are good candidates for Depo Provera usage.

Health complications are another reason why some patients use the drug. Some women have high blood pressure that is affected by the pill. Other women can't take the pill because of blood clots. Women with psychiatric problems or mental retardation are also potential users of the drug.

Women who are older than 40 or who smoke are also Depo Provera candidates. Smoking and age sometimes counteract the strength of some female contraceptives.

In addition, women with premenstrual syndrome are good candidates for the shot because the number and frequency of mood swings associated with PMS usually decrease with the shot.

There are also women who should not take the shot for certain reasons.

At the top of this list are women who may be pregnant. Next are the women who feel uncomfortable having irregular menstrual bleeding or no bleeding at all, since Depo Provera has been shown to cause irregular menstrual bleeding.

Also, a woman who is planning a pregnancy in one to two years is advised to avoid the potent contraceptive. Doctors have observed that some women cannot get pregnant even one to two years after their last shot.

Finally, if returning to your doctor every three months for another injection is not possible, then this birth control method is not for you.

In addition to these problems, Depo Provera causes for some women a weight gain averaging three to eight pounds.

Although these reasons may be very important, the cost could be a determining factor.

It costs about the same to get Depo Provera as to get birth control pills, especially if you average into the cost the money you will save on feminine product needs on a monthly basis .

The Health Center charges $36.36 per unit-dose vial.

Clinic hours are 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. It is open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

For more information, you can drop by the clinic and pick up a brochure on Depo Provera, or call 743-5151.





by Sean Fitzpatrick

Daily Cougar Staff

Stages Repertory Theatre's new production,<I>A Kind of Alaska<P>, collects three short plays by British writer Harold Pinter. Sidney Berger of the UH Drama Department directs the production, which starts sluggishly but catches fire in the last hour.

<I>Victoria Station<P>, the first and shortest selection, focuses on a London taxi dispatcher (Rutherford Cravens) who sends one of his drivers to pick up a fare. The driver (Charles Krohn) has no idea where he is or how to get to the fare's location, and no one answers the desperate dispatcher's calls.

Krohn's driver is wonderfully infuriating, blinking implacably over the steering wheel at the audience. Cravens also succeeds, filling the dispatcher with animated frustration without edging into bluster.

As with the following two plays, <I>Victoria Station<P> moves toward a conventional resolution but never finds it. Pinter doesn't hold the audience's hand; meaning is hiding between the lines and in what the characters don't say.

That meaning is easy to miss, however, and the intentional vagueness is frustrating at times. Pinter's dialogue exists on a common ground -- no hifalutin soliloquies here -- but doesn't go anywhere on that level. Deeper meaning is seemingly reserved for the initiated.

Stages' second selection, <I>A Kind of Alaska<P>, wears its intentions a little more openly. The play is based on Oliver Sach's book <I>Awakenings<P>, and tells the story of a woman who is awakened from a sleep-like state. 16 when she entered the state, Deborah (Barbara Caren Sims) faces adjusting to the radical changes of 29 years.

Deborah's brilliantly lit white bed stands as the focus of action. Dr. Hornby (Charles Krohn), who tended to Deborah's case through the duration of her illness, stands as an uncertain savior who tries to talk her into reality. Her younger sister Pauline (Melinda deKay), now a middle-aged woman, comes to visit and tries to tell Deborah about the intervening years.

Berger stages the action with reserve -- Deborah's solo slow dance is manna to an audience starved for movement, and as such carries even greater weight. Krohn blusters unconvincingly at first and takes much of the play to become comfortable in the role, and deKay is occasionally stiff and uncertain.

Sims, however, is the center of attention, and carries it with grace. Deborah's fear and confusion are conveyed with subtlety -- Sims wrings the sheets between two fingers instead of launching into hysterics. Deborah is not instantly likable, and the sympathy the audience feels is earned by Sims' effort.

Again Pinter pushes the audience through difficult terrain, but the plot has more movement and a clearer resolution than <I>Victoria Station<P>.

After the intermission, <I>The Collection<P> heats things up considerably. Fashion designer Stella (Sims) has just finished telling her husband, James (Cravens), about her one-night stand with another designer at a convention, when the lights come up on James, smoking on his living room couch.

He first calls, then goes to visit the alleged lover, Bill (Luis Lemus), at his apartment. James' search for the truth, and the conclusions the audience must draw, consumes the rest of the action.

Pinter focuses on the relationships of two couples: James and Stella; and Bill and another man, Harry (Krohn), the nature of whose relationship is left murky. After James' confrontation with Bill, Harry, nominally a mentor to Bill, visits Stella to discuss the elusive truth. Suspicion and doubt clouds the dialogue.

Once again, Pinter doesn't give the audience a conventional resolution, but he comes closer, and it packs a wallop. Lemus burns as the thinly menacing Bill, and his verbal dance with James is heavy and unsettling.

Bring your thinking caps for this one.



by Frank San Miguel

Daily Cougar Staff

With searing poetry and an itching for funk, Da Lench Mob is back with <I>Planet of tha Apes<P>, a fiery follow-up to its equally incendiary <I>Guerrillas in Tha Mist<P>.

Opening with a poem reminiscent of the pioneering troupe the Last Poets, band members Shorty, T-Bone and newcomer Maulkie launch into the powerful rhetoric that made the group so distinct.

In a delivery similar to the Poets' 1970 classic "Niggers Are Scared of Revolution," Da Lench Mob fires off on "Scared Lil' Nigga": "Scared lil' nigga/Scared that the devil won't let you shovel like a slave/your own fuckin' grave/Scared lil' nigga/scared to think/scared to drink/kool-aid made by your poor Black momma/Scared by the drama/Scared lil' nigga/Scared that the powers that be/will see thee/Black as me." The piece is less than a minute long, but aptly sets the tone for the entire record.

When <I>Guerrillas<P> hit the street in 1992, Da Lench Mob had squarely situated itself as a band on a mission, a self-proclaimed "street political group." The band was the brainchild of Ice Cube, who is executive producer on the new and old releases. On <I>Guerrillas<P>, songs like "Freedom Got an AK" and "Guerrillas in Tha Mist" made for both musically appealing and thought-provoking sounds. Da Lench Mob seemed like a band on the rise until a twist of fate changed its course.

Last year Da Lench Mob's primary rapper and songwriter, as well as then-unspoken spokesman, JD, was arrested and sent to prison on a murder rap. The band was forced to regroup, recruiting aspiring rapper Maulkie into the fold. Maulkie's vocal style is as distinctive as JD's, and his rhyming skills surpass the former member's quite easily. With the addition of Maulkie the band is able to effect the transition between rappers with relative ease.

The new lineup is aided in its new endeavor not only by Ice Cube, but by a host of producers affiliated with Cube's label, Street Knowledge. Mr. Woody, who lent his production skills to Cube's 1990 solo debut, <I>AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted<P>, puts his tag on a few <I>Apes<P> cuts, including "Final Call" and "Chocolate City." But Cube holds the reigns for the majority of cuts, doing a much stronger job here than he did on his own disappointing last record, <I>Lethal Injection<P>. Particularly on songs like the creepy "Cut Throats," Cube shows why, weak releases or not, he has an edge in hip-hop that few can match.

Despite the layoff, Da Lench Mob is still a very strong band. One problem that seems to plague bands of every genre is the personality of one or two people becoming the character of the band. The pitfall of reliance on one rapper's skills and songwriting, as happened with JD on <I>Guerrillas<P>, is successfully ducked this time. Shorty and T-Bone have a hand in much of the songwriting and are always upfront during the rhymes.

Truth be told, <I>Apes<P> has too many standout cuts to mention. Among the most distinct is the tad-overlong redeux of the Cube-produced "Mellow Madness," which teams the band with guitar savant Bootsy Collins in a tune where everyone passes the mike, including Cube and K-Dee. The loyalty to old school funk on this album also cannot be underestimated. The best representatives in this department are the title cut and "Chocolate City," both of which are sample-free and rely on studio musicians to take the listener knee-deep into the groove.

While some cuts, such as "Set the Shit Straight" and "Goin' Bananas," tend to drift toward a more standard hip-hop style, Da Lench Mob is able to make the songs stand apart from the crowded hip-hop mass with an uncompromising lyrical and political style. On <I>Apes<P>, the crew isn't monkeying around with the issues, dubbing its members street politicians for the people and jungle dons unafraid to face up to the task ahead. And Maulkie, Shorty and T-Bone don't look like they will be letting up either.






by Ericka Schiche

Daily Cougar Staff

A simple nursery rhyme about a childless mother and a smoldering house can be just as powerful a description of a situation as any detached social worker's clinical description.

"Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home. Your house is on fire, your kids are all gone," reads the nursery rhyme. Such is the plight of Maggie Conlon, a fictive character in director Ken Loach's docudrama <I>Ladybird, Ladybird<P>, which is based on the experiences of an abused, destitute English mother who lost many of her children to social services. Rona Munro, a script-writing alumna of <I>Dr. Who<P>, wrote the strong original screenplay.

Maggie Conlon (Crissy Rock), a working-class mother whose children have been wrested from her by the English government, and Jorge Arellano (Vladimir Vega), a Paraguayan whose exacerbated immigration problems deflect attention from Maggie's predicament, endure myriad trials to establish themselves.

The cycle of abuse in Maggie's life begins during the nascent stage of her development as an individual, when she witnesses her father (Scottie Moore) commit acts of violence against her mother (Linda Ross)–he speaks disparagingly of her, bludgeons her and kicks her repeatedly. The young Maggie (Kim Hartley) sheds tears for her mother, with whom she empathizes.

The adult Maggie's paroxysms of anger are borne out of a deep frustration, trepidation and depression caused by a father who sexually abused her, and a social services bureaucracy that produces children not unlike the dark Dickensian portraits of wards of the state in <I>The Bleak House<P>.

In adulthood, the fecund Maggie is a naturalist product of an environment of violence and neglect–perceived by the courts as a person of "low intellect" and no self control. Manifest in her angry ruminations on the social workers and the court system is a sense of pain that may never dissipate.

The social workers' concerns are predicated on the idea that Maggie is tied inextricably to her dark past. They act as automatons of the state, and prognosticate her demise based on her past as a mentally, verbally and physically abused spouse.

Her abusive lover, Simon (Ray Winstone), beats her with an open beer can, bloodying her face and leaving her with a swollen, lacerated eye. This violent act prompts a two-to three-day stay at a hospital. She then flees to a battered women's refuge.

A resilient woman, for whom the physical pain of childbirth is eclipsed only by the emotional anguish of losing her babies, Maggie undergoes a transmogrification from submissive victim to willful survivor.

Government officials threaten to deport Jorge after his visa expires. Although his story is tertiary in relation to Maggie's and the children's, it is nonetheless poignant. He speaks solemnly of his family, which worked in a Paraguayan agrarian community where pumpkins and maize constituted the major crops. One of his uncles died as a result of hanging. During a scene in which several layers of his subplot are exfoliated, Jorge says it's "dangerous to alleviate suffering." Jorge is a marked man in his homeland because he looked after children whose parents had been killed.

Maggie and Jorge are opposites not just in terms of ethnicity, but personality type. Of the two, Jorge is more hopeful that the court officials will deliver a countermand, thereby reversing the order to take the children out of Maggie's hands.

Rock's performance is actually a nonperformance, which means she so becomes her character that it's possible to forget this woman is an actress. Her effusive character does not practice restraint, and neither does Rock. What is even more amazing about Rock is the fact that she was not given the whole script, but fed line by line. Rock's filmic debut lives up to the hype, and it garnered her a Silver Bear for best actress at the 1994 Berlin Film Festival.

Loach's direction is solid, and every scene is well-executed. Although the settings are claustrophobic, this feature of set design is important to the story because it is about a woman who is trapped in the system. In the end, the fulminate that discharges the blast–which happens to be an angry, disenfranchised Maggie–is a system that purports to be just even when its constricting definition of a fit mother is evidence of class bias and narrowness.

<I>Ladybird, Ladybird<P>

Stars: Crissy Rock and Vladimir Vega

Director: Ken Loach

***1/2 stars


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