by Bobby Summers

Daily Cougar Staff

A showroom-new station wagon pulled alongside Nicole Strine's 1990 Honda Civic as she approached downtown Houston on the inbound side of the Southwest


Three little noses could be seen pressed against the side and rear windows of the station wagon. From the front seat, the driver and his passenger, a middle-aged woman, stared in obvious disbelief at the brightly colored illustrations of cats, clouds and a peacock covering the back, front, top and both sides of Strine's multi-hued art car.

As the station wagon pulled slowly ahead, the three little noses became laughing, smiling faces and the children waved to Strine.

"It's really interesting," Strine said. "Before, when I drove around, I never looked at the people who were next to me when I stopped at a light. But when I drive around in this and stop at a light, people are looking, and it's a happy thing. Everybody waves."

Strine said she got involved with art cars after meeting Bryan Taylor, an art car enthusiast. Taylor and other local art car artists, along with three ministers from a church in Portland, Ore., called The Church of Our Lady of Eternal Combustion, built "Gangway For God," a vehicle covered with all sorts of religious articles and paraphernalia.

Strine said she helped with the next project, "The Jeffery Jerome Memorial Pig Car," a salute to a pig who lived at "Pigdom," a Houston art house. The car's debut was in the 1993 Houston Art Car Parade.

The subject of the car, Jeffery Jerome, was struck and killed by lightning after being moved to the country when his owner lost a battle with the city of Houston about keeping a pig inside the city limits.

Taylor, who is never without his trademark soap-bubble squirt gun, said, "We did the car (in) about three weekends. We had an awful lot of help. I had the idea, but everything else was pretty much other people because I just don't have that ability. That arty part of my brain just doesn't work."

Strine said, "People came up to me after that parade and asked, 'When are you changing your car?' I said, 'No way! It's new!' "

All that changed, she said, after she attended an art car show in Missouri with Taylor.

"It all started when I went to St. Louis and rode in the art car parade in February, 1994," she said. "When I was driving home, I got the fever. I looked at Bryan and I said, 'That's it! I have to do it now!' "

Strine said she didn't have much time because the 1994 art car parade, a part of the annual Houston International Festival, was in the first part of May.

"I didn't have the cat concept at the beginning," she said. "I went to the children's section of the library and just randomly started picking out books. After picking out some illustrations, I contacted the artists and asked for permission to use them.

"The cat on the driver's side door is by a woman from Kennebunkport, Maine, who does watercolor illustrations for calendars. The cat on the passenger side door is by a man who lives in England. The peacock on the hood is by a woman from Denver.

"They were all pretty cool about it, but they had no concept of what I was talking about when I said art cars. So, I took pictures and also did a short video to send to each of them," Strine said.

In March, after receiving permission to use the illustrations, Strine and a group of friends, including her mother, who had questioned the idea at first, began painting the car.

"My mother has a lot of art talent," Strine said. "But she hadn't painted anything for years and didn't think she was a very good painter.

"She had been apprehensive, but she came to help. I gave her a glass of wine and she looked at the picture. In about six hours she did the cat picture on the side door.

Then, she did the cat on the other side of the car. She had a blast!"

Strine's car, "The Cat's Meow," sporting 13 different colors, is one of about 30 art cars belonging to ACK!, the Houston Art Car Klub. The 70-some members of ACK! are very visible at local civic and cultural events. At the recent Houston Children's Festival, Strine and five other members of the group performed an art car ballet to the music of the late Frank Zappa's "Lumpy Gravy."

The art car dancers included one of the most striking local art cars, "Ripper, the Friendly Shark," originally a 1982 Nissan Sentra. During parades, owner Tom Kennedy sometimes climbs in the front of Ripper's mouth with an oar and frantically rows, screaming for help.

Other ballet performers were: "Our Lady of What We Have in Common" (a converted art school bus with exotic wrought iron work created by owner Kennedy and his wife, Shelly Buschur, with help from UH sculpture students); "Radioactivity" (formerly a Checker cab, now a car bomb); "Leon Sphinx" (a three-dimensional Sphinx complete with hieroglyphics); "Thorny Rock 'n' Roll" (a '70s BMW covered with a three-dimensional moonscape); and Taylor's "Jeffery Jerome Memorial Pig Car."

The pinnacle of the year for the members of ACK! will be the 1995 Art Car Weekend: "Reinventing the Wheel," April 27-29.

The weekend begins Thursday evening with the Orange Show Art Car Ball, held this year on the rooftop of the 1301 Main parking garage near downtown. More than 100 art cars will be on display.

Around 10:00 a.m. Friday, 50 art cars will take a pre-parade "drag" around Houston, including a visit to patients at Texas Medical Center hospitals.

A symposium will start at 7:00 p.m. at the Orange Show, 2402 Munger, off I-45 in Southeast Houston. The event will feature lectures, slide presentations and panel discussions about art cars.

The highlight of the weekend is Saturday's "8th Annual Roadside Attractions: The Artists' Parade," which will begin at 1 p.m. and wind through the streets of downtown Houston. The 1987 parade was the first organized art car parade in the country.

Strine said parade organizers expect around 1,000 participants and more than 250 art cars this year. Fifty-one of the entries are from out-of-town, including nationally recognized artist Gene Pool from New York and his signature "grass car," a vehicle seen on <I>The Tonight Show<P> and in Honda commercials. The entire car is covered in living grass.

Another exotic vehicle is Harrod Blank's "Camera Van" from California, a 1972 Dodge van covered with 1,705 cameras, including 10 that function and capture the reactions of onlookers. Armor Keller, from Alabama, will enter the "Magic City Transit," a 1980 Toyota covered with gold leaf, thousands of pieces of mirror, 600 pairs of Barbie doll shoes and lots of rhinestones.

And from Gregory Middle School in Houston, Rebecca Bass' art students will present "Feet Don't Fail Me Now," a 1972 Volkswagen bug covered with Mardi Gras bead-bedecked shoes, shoehorns and shoe boxes, crowned by an oversized Converse All-Star sneaker. The students have consistently taken top honors in previous parades.

Strine said people are fascinated when they get a chance to get a close look at the art cars.

"When people ask me why I painted my car," she said, "I tell them, 'Because I can't sing.'

"I have to stand by the belief that the crazy people leave you alone because they think you're one of them. And the sane people leave you alone because they think you're crazy."







by Kevin Patton

Daily Cougar Staff

Amidst a highly politicized internal dispute, UH and the UH System expect to spend more than $500,000 in external consulting fees this year for two audits and an evaluation of UH President James H. Pickering.

The UH System Management Audit is the Board of Regents' answer to continued infighting between faculty members and the administration. The audit, performed by three former presidents of universities similar in size and scope to UH, will evaluate the System and its components.

Cost will run no more than $10,000 per evaluator, according to the contract between the three auditors and the System, said Ed Whalen, vice chancellor for Adminsitration and Finance for the UH System. That leaves costs as high as $30,000 in fees.

"There is nothing extraordinary about an organization reviewing itself. It's probably a healthy thing," Whalen said.

The presidential evaluation is an initiative to answer faculty complaints about the lack of a national search when UH Chancellor Alexander Schilt appointed Pickering to the post. Faculty members claimed Schilt superseded due process when he appointed Pickering.

Schilt said he and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee have been in quiet negotiations and the presidential evaluation will use only one outside consultant.

The cost of the presidential evaluation is estimated to run between $20,000 and $30,000, Whalen said.

Although no one has been hired yet, Whalen said whoever takes the position will charge about $1,000 per day. He said he expects the presidential review to take from 20 to 30 days.

Schilt said there is so much scrutiny in the public sector.

"It's not easy if the consultant is more than $10,000," Schilt said. "The System is judicious in its audits."

The state of Texas requires any public agency that hires consultants who cost more than $10,000 to get approval from the governor's office.

Schilt said the System must seek approval.

Robert Palmer, a member of the Coalition for Excellence and a Cullen professor of history and law, said, "On the management audit, there is no way you can come to a resolution. It has to be up to an impartial third party."

In essence, the management audit must be conducted by an outside team rather than an in-house group. Otherwise, certain UH factions would not accept the results.

At least $450,000 is being spent on one item, the ongoing Main Campus Facilities Audit. Several UH buildings -- Agnes Arnold, Melcher Hall and Agnes Arnold Auditorium, among others -- are in a state of advanced deterioration.

The audit is designed to assess the state of disrepair of the buildings. The budget for that audit is $483,000, but to date, $450,000 has been spent, said Geri Konigsberg, interim vice president for university relations.

Palmer, an outspoken critic of how maintenance dollars have been spent, said, "Deferred maintenance winds up costing you more in the long run. I don't see any way around the (Facilities) Audit."

The implication is that UH's and the UH System's deferred maintenance policy has contributed to the current disrepair of the facilities.

"But this is the point at which we're coming back into the Higher Education Assistance Funds. It's a credit to the provost's office that they are doing this," Palmer said, adding that the seemingly large price tag is what UH has to pay to know where to begin fixing things.

HEAF money is intended to fund capital projects and construction. With the expected doubling of HEAF funds to $37 million from $16 million per year, money will be available to begin to repair buildings. The money is allocated on a 10-year basis. Furthermore, because the System has paid off property bonds, which used half of $16 million during the first 10-year period, the effect has been a quadrupling of available money.

Another ongoing audit is the Student Fees Allocation Committee's Student Needs Assessment. This audit carries a price tag of only $4,000.

David Small, assistant vice president for Student Services and chair of the Student Needs Assessment Committee, has budgeted $600 for his own department.

This is the second Student Needs Assessment SFAC has undertaken since 1990.

"Some studies are required. They are necessary to know how we're doing," said Elwyn Lee, vice president for Student Affairs.

"I don't want to suggest we're doing too many studies. We did a lot of those task forces on retention. I don't think we need all of them," he said.

Lee was referring to the four task forces formed under Henry Trueba, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

All four task forces are formed by faculty, staff and students with only nominal costs, most of which was used on mailing.

"It's a lot of review, but when you work in a public institution, you're under scrutiny. It seems relentless," Lee added.





by Daniel Scholl

Daily Cougar Staff

While many students will head for the beach to celebrate the half-day vacation today, senior biology major Carl Crate will be wondering how to finish his lab, due today.

The university was informed Wednesday that Texas Gov. George W. Bush decided to shut down all state agencies for a half day today. That means UH will shut down at noon, except for emergency services.

That also means Crate, who has been working on a genetics lab all semester, had the option of doing double the work Thursday or just reading the results off a handout from the instructor, which, he said, defeats the entire purpose of having a lab – and going to school, for that matter.

"What's the point?" he said. "A lab is a learning experience. If we're going to learn to solve problems out of a book, why have them (labs)?"

Crate explained that there are a certain amount of experiments that must be done each day in lab to reach the final answer at the end of the semester. Now, the students who work on the Friday lab will have to either do the extra work early or depend on synthetic data from others. But what upsets him the most about the interruption, he said, is the lack of regard given to the academic world by the governor.

The governor's office would not comment on the situation, and Bush was not available for comment.

In a released statement, he said that today is a "day of great meaning and importance to all people of faith throughout Texas and the world, and (he) deemed it proper and desirable that state employees be afforded the opportunity to participate on the observances of their faith."

Crate questioned the motives of the governor.

"It condones the celebration of a particular group," he said. "If this were Iran, we would say he is crazy."

He went on to call the decision to close state agencies "institutionalized religion."

Lawrence Curry, the associate dean of the College of Humanities, Fine Arts and Communications, agrees.

"I have problems with having off a Christian holiday at a secular university," he said.

Curry is a member of the calendar committee and said it does not like to schedule religious holidays. He added that there has been talk of adding this to the calendar because it occurs every year.

Crate has also noticed the annual trend.

"It seems really like every year the holiday fairy comes along and waives his wand and there's a holiday," he said.

Interim Vice President for University Relations Geri Konigsberg said the university had to abide by the state holiday and she assumed students had met with their professors Thursday. In case they haven't, she urges them to do so.

Curry said that, as far as he knows, there will be no scheduled make-up days during the reading period. Students who have assignments due, or who are not sure about making up assignments, need to call their professors, he said in agreement with Konigsberg's assessment of the situation.

UH Provost Henry Trueba said the university has not made a policy for makeups, and the decisions on how to handle the missed day will be up to the individual professors. But, he added, the deans of the colleges do have the authority to make a policy for their entire schools.

Curry expressed his dislike of the last-minute way the Legislature handled the situation.

"I regret this was oppressed on us with such a short notice," he said. "Universities should be exempt in these situations. It's so disruptive."

For those who need to keep on doing research, the library will maintain regular hours today. Students with Saturday classes will still need to attend.








by William German

Daily Cougar Staff

All hail Jon McDonald, savior of the Houston Cougars pitching staff.

The freshman lefthander from Humble threw a nine-inning complete game seven-hitter at the Sam Houston State Bearkats Tuesday in Huntsville to not only give his team a 2-1 victory, but also rest some weary pitching arms.

The Cougars, now 18-22, 1-13 in the Southwest Conference, may need the break McDonald gave them going into this weekend's four-game series with Texas Christian (21-17, 8-6).

"It was good for him," head coach Rayner Noble said of the Humble High product's effort. "He needed to throw a good game and he did that. Hopefully this will get him on the right track."

Noble, a former southpaw hurler himself, was able to help.

"We made some mechanical changes with him, dropped his arm slot (angle) a little," he said.

Whatever was done, it helped McDonald's control, which had gone awry in his previous outings against Texas A&M and Texas Tech. He walked a combined seven in 4 2/3 innings in those two series, a wildness that vanished Tuesday to the tune of a walk and eight strikeouts in the nine frames.

Former right-handed bullpen resident Chad Poeck (2-3) will be thanking McDonald for a rest when he opens the first of a pair of doubleheaders Friday at 1 p.m. at the TCU Baseball Diamond in Fort Worth after being bombed in a start vs. Tech last weekend.

Upon lasting 1 1/3 innings and giving up six runs, four earned, to the Raiders' batters, his ERA ballooned from a respectable 4.66 to its current 5.45.

"I had already used (Poeck) in relief (against Tech)," Noble said. "He's well-rested this time.

"He's indicated to me he'd like to start, so we're going to let him."

Lefty John Box (3-3, 3.45 ERA), a winner against Tech the last time out, will pitch Friday's second game and righthander Kevin Boyd (0-2, 3.10) will follow Saturday, with the day's second-game starter still up in the air.

The Horned Frogs, last year's conference champions, had thoughts of repeating after an 8-2 SWC start. However, Texas put a damper on that dream with a four-game sweep last weekend.

"We don't have near the hitters we had last year," TCU head baseball coach Lance Brown said. "Last year, from one to nine (in the batting order), all hitters were capable of hitting a home run and we hit .350 (as a team).

"This year we're only hitting .250 or .260 (actually .274)."

Pulling that average up all year have been seniors Kerby Smith at third base and Jason McClure in the outfield. The two are hitting .329 and .321, respectively, with a team-leading seven homers and 31 RBIs apiece.

Three of the four starters for TCU will be ace Miami transfer Toby Dollar (4-4, 4.31), freshman swingman Scott Atchison (5-3, 4.55) and junior Flint Wallace (5-2, 3.76), all righthanders. Brown said the fourth starter would be decided Saturday.








Pullquote: He begins to tell his story after Caroline accuses him of having an affair. The entire time he tells his story, he says, "Stop staring, you'll make me ill."

by Eric James

Daily Cougar Staff

Stages Repertory Theatre's latest production is Lesley Bruce's <I>Keyboard Skills<P>. It won the 1994 Susan Smith (no jokes, please) Blackburn Prize, and this production is the American debut. It is a wonderfully comical play that is sometimes hauntingly honest. Beth Sanford successfully directs this powerful play and brings another hit to Stages.

<I>Keyboard Skills<P> opens with Caroline (Connie Cooper) waiting for her husband, Bernard (Michael LaGue), to return home after being gone all day. When he does enter, he is a wreck.

Bernard is in some form of trouble that could ruin his career in British politics. Whatever it is, it may destroy his future chances at becoming prime minister.

He begins to tell his story after Caroline accuses him of having an affair. The entire time he tells his story, he says "Stop staring, you'll make me ill." However, it is clear that Bernard is lying. Every time Caroline asks him another question, he continues telling his story, contradicting an earlier statement.

Bruce is brilliant in her ability to string us along, never allowing us to know too much. Like a striptease, the play taunts us with luscious tidbits, yet never reveals too much information. We keep wanting more, and <I>Keyboard<P> doesn't disappoint.

The play goes into flashbacks and further flashbacks with young Caroline (Celia Montgomery) seducing her way into a position as young Bernard's (Randal Kent Doerner) secretary.

Caroline went to Miss Gainsborough's School for Secretarial Training. The best part of the play is that we meet Miss Gainsborough (Marjorie Carroll) via a desk she flies out in from the closet. Throughout the play, Miss G. shoots out of Caroline's closet behind a desk complete with a phone and typewriter, and her feet in a box.

Carroll is truly perfect as Miss G., and she is brilliant at delivering such lines as "The glorious era of secretarial training has passed" and in giving instructions to her class about the proper way to answer phones, enter paper into the typewriter and how to position hands at the typewriter.

Cooper is also impressive as Caroline. Her looks are stern, and you know she will never budge until she gets the truth. She delivers a wonderful scene when she goes through her wardrobe discussing what each dress is supposed to say about a woman, but how a woman cannot be too extreme in that expectation without offending the men. Caroline is the type of strong female character that the theatre, and film, need so many of.

LaGue's performance is hysterical. His odd British accent is priceless and he does a fine job at being bratty and endlessly neurotic. He is condescending to Caroline although she is far wiser than her husband could ever hope to become.

Montgomery's British accent needs work and feels quite forced. The answering machine is a bit hard to comprehend as well. However, those are the only shortcomings.

Elva Stewart designed the beautiful set and Natalie Roberts did the costumes.

The dialogue is witty and never dull. The humor is hilarious. The dramatic scenes are powerful, and they combine with the comedy to form a work of art.

<I>Keyboard Skills<P> is a rare treat. It is a very fine production put on by the people at Stages. Do yourself a favor and see this play. It plays now through April 23 at Stages Repertory Theatre. Call 52-STAGE for ticket information.

What: <I>Keyboard Skills<P>

Where: Stages Theatre Repertory

When: thru April 23

Phone: 52-STAGE



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