IN MEMORY OF HOUSTON'S LOVED ONES...

by Maike van Wijk

News Reporter

The Campus Ministries Association will hold a memorial service for all University of Houston affiliates who died since May 1994. The service will take place at noon Wednesday in the A. D. Bruce Religion Center chapel, Cullen Boulevard, Entrance 13.

Rev. Robert Moore, director of the Episcopal Canterbury and Ecumenical University Ministries, said, "We hope more families will come (this year). We place candles on the altar for each person. We read their name and affiliation with the University, and then a family or department member, friend or acquaintance can light the candle. If no acquaintance is present, someone at the altar will light the candle.

"The people can add expressions about memories they had of the person. It is a chance to remember someone who died," he said.

Hugh Sanborn, president of the Campus Ministries Association, said an average of 20 to 30 people die during the academic year.

"This is a campus-wide interfaith service, with readings from the Muslim, Judaic and Christian scriptures," he said. "Everyone is invited."

"Many people have individual memorial services. We just had one for a math professor here. This is the university's formal memorializing of all those people," Sanborn said.

Frank Guidry, director of the Wesley Foundation, said he is touched by the number of people who have died.

"The memorial service reminds me of my own mortality," he said. "You never know when your time comes."

He said most people are scared of death because of the factor of the unknown. Guidry still mourns the loss of his father in 1986, but said his faith walk has helped him understand that death is not necessarily something to fear.

"A service of this magnitude can be a time of renewal, <B>if<P> you think along those lines," he said.

Sanborn said the service usually lasts 30 to 45 minutes. A reception will follow in the A. D. Bruce Religion Center office area, Room 113.

This year, the service is held in memory of former alumni members Gretchen B. George, Brenda A. Karbatsos, Michael J. McNeil and Reaford S. Rodgers; former faculty staff members Gilbert Finnell, Norman I. Kagan, Lois V. Mache, Richard Sinkhorn and Consuelo Trevino; former retirees Lee L. Bennett, Leandro L. Camacho, Burlin C. Cunningham, Ernest A. Kiessling, Walter C. Lee, James R. Maxfield, Charles J. Meyer, Jose Ramos and Bruce Stoughton; former students Craig Jensen, Daniel Sciaraffa and Lee Simmons; deceased relatives or friends of employees Jeffers Bhola, Helen Evans, Billy L. Hill, Helen Keister, John C. Maxey and Arthur Straughter.

To submit names of deceased UH members, call Barbara King at 741-5850.

 

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VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR PHAN CHOSEN

METROPOLITAN VOLUNTEER PROGRAM HONORS VOLUNTEER COORDINATORS, TUTORS

by Bobby Summers

Daily Cougar Staff

The Metropolitan Volunteer Project honored 12 volunteer coordinators and named the 1994-95 Volunteer of the Year at a Tuesday afternoon reception.

UH student Trinh Phan, coordinator of the MVP's Community Events Program, was named Volunteer of the Year.

MVP Director Chalandra Robinson, a senior psychology major, said, "Trinh embodies what we think a volunteer should be. She's always there."

Phan, a junior psychology major, said, "I've been volunteering since I was in the ninth grade. So volunteering is not new to me."

Phan said her task this past year was to identify community projects that needed volunteers.

"I believe there's more to university life than books. We need to reach out to the community," Phan said. "Volunteering makes you feel good about yourself. When you're helping one person, you may not see the big picture, but you see them smile. That's what it's all about."

One of the major events Phan and her Community Events group coordinated last year was "The Great Pumpkin Fun Run," a benefit for the Texas Heart Institute, in October.

The MVP also presented a special recognition award to Sheleigh Beggs, a counselor at Austin High School. Beggs helped the MVP establish the Austin Tutor Project in 1989.

"We identify kids who need tutoring, the at-risk kids," Beggs said. "I have to chase down some of these kids. They don't want to be in school if they're not passing. After the tutors work with them, they have a much better attitude.

"We had one girl who was so far below grade level in math that she was about to drop out. After four weeks of tutoring, she was back in school and caught up with her class," she said.

Grace Carbonell, a senior political science and Spanish major, was honored as coordinator of the Austin Tutor Program.

"It all started in 1989, when the students walked out of classes because they didn't have enough textbooks," Carbonell said. "When the program began, the tutors found many of the students were deficient in the basic skills for reading and math."

Carbonell said the volunteers tutor the students for one-hour periods from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every weekday. She said Austin High provides a special room for the project and there is usually at least one student attending the tutoring classes every hour.

"It's been a big success, especially this year," Carbonell said.

The MVP also honored program coordinators: Tanya Barauskas, Into the Streets; Jason Casero, Residence Halls; Andrea Frazier, Alternative Spring Break; Sonia McIntosh, Y Kids are Smart; Alex Nett, TFA Campus Movement; Krupa Parikh, Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week; Jannara Petty, Best Buddies; Wendy Stewart, Volunteer Fair; and Rachel Wilson, Greek Liaison.

The coordinators then presented awards to members of their programs.

Director Robinson said she began volunteering with the MVP in 1991.

"I feel like we're doing something really useful," Robinson said. "We're getting UH students involved in the community, where they can make a difference in other people's lives."

 

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ENJOY SPB'S MOVIE NIGHTS TO GET YOUR MIND OFF FINALS

by Robert Schoenberger

News Reporter

Are you tired of school? Do finals have you down? Are you ready for a change? Go see a movie, it's free...almost.

The Student Program Board Cinema Committee presents about 18 movies every semester, said SPB Cinema Chairman Andy Stubinski.

"We survey our audience to see what they want to see," said Stubinski. "We do a mix of about 50 percent of the students' choices and about 50 percent of our own ideas."

"I'm well on my way to breaking 4,000 students (in attendance) this semester, and I had over 3,000 last fall," Stubinski said.

The annual budget of the SPB Cinema Committee is $14,500, which translates to $2 an attending student, Stubinski said.

The committee receives 18 percent of the SPB fund. The SPB fund is 2.8 percent of the $100 Student Service Fee. The total cost to students for this comes out to $.50 per student.

Tuesday's attendance at <I>This is Spinal Tap <P> did not move Stubinski closer to his goal. Twenty students were at the UC Houston Room to see the musical comedy.

"This is the first time I've been to (a SPB Cinema showing)," said junior psychology major Shawn Carney. "This isn't the first time I've seen <I>Spinal Tap<P>; it's a great movie."

Carney said she thinks more students would participate in the film committee if they had more information about it. "Another student told me about this show. I wouldn't have known about it otherwise," she said.

Senior math major Everett Chun disagrees. "I see about three (SPB films) a semester. Mostly, I like historic films, not dramas and comedies. Tonight I just wanted to try something different."

Monday night was much busier for SPB, said Stubinski. The committee screened a sneak preview of <I>Friday<P>, starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, to a much larger crowd.

Sneak previews are free for the SPB, so they run as many as they can, Stubinski said. "I usually get a call from a promoter saying that they have this movie for me, and I get a window of when I can show it," he said.

SPB will present <I>French Kiss<P> Thursday at 5 p.m. in the UC Houston Room.

 

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UH PROF FINDS POSSIBLE CURE FOR ABNORMAL CELL ACTIVITY

by Clydenestra Brooks

News Reporter

First there was "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Then there was "take two pills and call me in the morning." Now more sophisticated drug therapy has become the major focus.

UH Pharmacy Professor Richard Bond and his research team have provided evidence that questions 60 years of accepted drug therapy practice. Opening the door to an entirely new class of pharmaceuticals, known as inverse agonists, Bond and his colleagues have discovered a way to control conditions that have previously been resistant to treatment.

"In the 18-month study, we have noted that, for a long time, classic drug therapy utilized stimulants like hormones to turn on cells that were either inactive or insufficiently active," Bond said. "We've also noted that blockers can prevent hormones from causing too much activity."

Robert Lefkowitz, who inspired the research, Carmel Milano and Lee Allen of Duke University have been working independently on their research.

Now, researchers are finding an ever-growing list of diseases that appear to be caused by spontaneously active cell receptors.

According to Bond, a cell sometimes becomes a mutation and just turns itself on, even though there's no hormone telling it to do so. In this situation, a blocker will not help because there is nothing to block.

"In the last two years, six diseases have fallen under the category we are studying," Bond said. "Among them are hyperthyroidism, which can produce thyroid adenomas, familial male precocious puberty and retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease."

Bond said, "These diseases have only been controllable in certain degrees until now; however, recent research, using computer simulations and laboratory experiments, have postulated the existence of inverse agonists. These agonists are agents which can turn off spontaneously active receptors."

Although only a handful of researchers have supported this theory, Bond and his colleagues have proven their results for the first time in a living organism.

"This organism is a transagenic mouse with human genes in its heart," Bond said. "Duke University and UH are the only two universities with a mouse like this."

"Stimulants are known as agonists and blockers," Bond said. "Agonists promote active receptors (R*), making more R* at the expense of inactive receptors (R)."

Under normal conditions, R and R* are in equilibrium, and an inverse agonist appears to be a blocker. Using genetically engineered mice with a predominance of R*, Bond showed that a true antagonist bonds to both R and R*, blocking the action of agonists and inverse agonists.

"Some drugs once thought to be antagonists may need to be reclassified as inverse agonists," Bond said. "In actuality, we can look at the spectrum as including stimulants, blockers and then inverse agonists."

The implications of this discovery could be limitless, Bond said. In addition to being used to treat conditions resulting from spontaneous receptor activity, inverse agonists may also be of value in fighting a variety of diseases that result from other types of hyperactivity, ranging from hypertension to some forms of schizophrenia.

Bond and his researchers' findings were published in Nature, one of the world's most renowned scientific journals.

 

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UH WAKES UP JUST IN TIME TO SALVAGE SPLIT

CRUSADERS 'WEAK' HITTER GABRIEL GOES DEEP TWICE IN FIRST GAME

by Chris Peña

Daily Cougar Staff

The Houston Cougars baseball team woke up just in time to salvage one of two games from the 25-18 Incarnate Word Crusaders Tuesday night at the new Cougar Field.

In the second game, Houston (22-26) broke open a 3-3 game in the bottom of the sixth inning with four runs and six hits to pick up the 7-3 win.

Three Crusaders pitchers were victimized in the top of the stanza by Houston's hitters.

Dustin Carr, who led off the inning with a sharp single to right field, scored the go-ahead run when Crusaders reliever Dale Drasny threw a wild pitch to Cougars second baseman Rey Treviño.

The Cougars never looked back as reliever Jon Box shut down the Crusaders to raise his record to 4-3 with a 4.31 ERA.

Drasny was the loser in the nightcap. His record now stands at 8-2.

The first game was quite a different story, as the Cougars bats were silenced by Incarnate Word starter Colby Martin.

The lefty picked up the two-hit complete-game victory to up his record to 3-4.

Martin was helped by the new-found power of second baseman Brian Gabriel.

Gabriel cranked out two homers in the early game. He came into the day with only one long ball on the season.

Crusaders head coach Steve Heying said he had advised Gabriel to "hit the ball hard on the ground" before the game.

Cougars starter Brad Towns took the loss. Although he retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced, the game got away from the Cougars in the top of the fourth.

Gabriel's leadoff homer was followed by a sharp single by shortstop Scott Heying and a quick pitching change by Houston head coach Rayner Noble.

The Crusaders added three more runs before Houston retired the side.

Noble said pitching was the key to both games.

"Our pitchers in the first game didn't understand that you have to keep the ball down to succeed," he said. "Unless you throw really hard, and we don't really have anyone that throws hard."

The Cougars kick off the latter part of their Southwest Conference schedule when they open a three-game set against the Baylor Bears Friday at 7 p.m.

 

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FOUR PLAYERS TIE FOR SWC GOLF TITLE FOR FIRST TIME EVER

Cougar sports services

The No. 14 Houston golf team fell a spot and finished in fourth place as the 70th Annual Southwest Conference Men's Golf Championships ended its two-day meet Tuesday at Richmond's Old Orchard Golf Course.

The Cougars (883 strokes which were 19 over par) held third place ahead of No. 8 Texas Christian (879, 15 over) following first- and second-round competition Monday.

But the Horned Frogs were able to move past Houston for the third spot and end up just behind champion and No. 2 Texas (873, nine over) and Texas A&M (874, 10 over), despite not placing a single golfer in the individual competition's top five.

As of Monday's action, five players were all tied for the meet's top spot, and there wasn't much of a change following Tuesday's completion.

The Aggies' Anthony Rodriguez and Dru Fenimore, Houston's Lance Combrink and Southern Methodist's Jim Skinner all shot a 215 and finished one under par.

The four-way tie for the SWC individual title was the most ever and the first tie between more than two players since 1960.

"I felt I played pretty good, but I had some mental mistakes," Combrink said. "Some decisions about what to hit on certain holes put me in trouble, and I'd have to get back out again."

 

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SMOKING IS FOR BUTT-HEADS

CUTLINE: The Texas Office of Smoking and Health's latest billboard campaign against smoking -- <I>Butts are Gross<P>.

by Christen Hanlon

Daily Cougar Staff

A statewide advertising campaign to combat smoking among young people is being sponsored by the Texas Department of Health's Office of Smoking and Health (OSH).

The OSH has developed slogans for billboards and posters meant to counteract tobacco industry advertising which present tobacco use as glamorous. The campaign combines three pictures of the backsides of animals, with a fourth picture of a snuffed-out cigarette. Above the pictures, a large caption reads, "Butts are Gross."

According to Dr. David R. Smith, Texas Commissioner of Health, although it is illegal in Texas to sell tobacco products to minors, research has shown that children have easy access to cigarettes. "Besides the legal deterrent against the onset of smoking and chewing tobacco among kids, we also need to break the social climate which makes smoking look 'cool' to youngsters," Smith said.

"This imagery makes the point to the most elementary reader that smoking is far from glamorous," Dr. Smith said.

The "Butts are Gross" campaign originally was developed by the State of Minnesota Health Department, using suggestions from youngsters on how to best prevent their friends from smoking. In Texas, the campaign is funded by a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sharon Kohout, OSH director at the Texas Department of Health, said that Dallas-based publicists are offering the Texas campaign to a variety of media. Statewide, the campaign includes more than 90 billboards, as well as announcements on 86 radio stations and 53 television stations. In addition, posters have been distributed to 45,000 worksites, schools, health care providers and community organizations.

"We hope this campaign will help to counteract some of the misleading attractive images used to induce people to try tobacco products," Kohout said. "Despite all of our previous efforts, the number of young people who begin smoking continues to increase. To date, public response to these ads -- especially from people who appreciate the uphill battle we are fighting to prevent youngsters' tobacco use -- has been very encouraging."

According to Kohout, the community coalitions concerned about youth tobacco addiction are joining to support the TDH campaign. Distribution of bumper stickers and T-shirts carrying the "Butts are Gross" caption and images are among contributions planned.

For information about participating in the "Butts are Gross" campaign, callers may dial the Texas Department of Health's Office of Smoking and Health at 1-800-345-8647.

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PHI BETA KAPPA TO AWARD SCHOLARSHIPS

by Christen Hanlon

Daily Cougar Staff

To reward and promote academic and personal achievement in high school students, the Phi Beta Kappa academic scholarship program will present scholarship awards to 69 graduating high school seniors from throughout the Houston area this Wednesday.

Over the past 21 years, PBK has raised $1.15 million for scholarships awarded to 969 Houston-area college-bound students.

Founded in 1776, PBK is America's oldest and most prestigious scholastic honor society. The letters PBK stand for the Greek words, "Love of wisdom, the helmsman of life," and express high ideals of the Society and its members. The PBK Alumni Association of Houston has over 600 members. Membership honors excellence in the arts and sciences at the undergraduate college level and is based on outstanding academic performance, reflecting a love of learning for its own sake as opposed to technical specialization or vocational preparation.

UH President James H. Pickering, a PBK graduate of Williams College, will chair the dinner at the Grand Hall of Rice University Memorial Center. President and Mrs. George Bush, 1994 PBK award recipients, are honorary chairs.

The scholarship dinner will honor the PBK scholarship program's founder and mentor, Jenard M. Gross, with its prestigious "PBK Outstanding Alumnus Award." Beth Morian, the UH System Board of Regents Chair, will also be presented with the "PBK Outstanding Contribution to Education Award."

Gross, as founding president of PBK Alumni of Greater Houston, conceived the idea of the scholarship program to reward and promote academic and personal achievement. Gross also wanted to encourage and recognize superior students from all ethnic and economic backgrounds, without consideration of financial need.

"I feel strongly about the importance of education, " Gross said, citing knowledge and education as the keys to innovation, invention, technology and the strength of the United States. "Education allowed me to achieve in my life. With today's rapid progress of technology, more jobs require college degrees - it's a way out of the welfare world," said the namesake of the Jenard M. Gross Distinguished Scholar Award, a PBK scholarship endowed by Dr. John McGovern in 1986.

Morian, the president of Westview Development Inc., and Cockspur Inc., is a Houston native. She attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Texas at Austin, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Classics.

Morian has served on the UH System's Board of Regents since 1991, and as Board Chair since 1993. The former board member of the UH Foundation (1989-1991) has further demonstrated her deep commitment to education as a board member of the Neuhaus Education Center for Young Audiences and a development board member of the University of Texas Health Science Center.

She serves as Chairman of the Board of the Cullen Trust for Health Care, is a board member of the Houston Zoological Society, is a trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts and is an advisory committee member of the Glassell School of Art.

For more information on the scholarship dinner or the Phi Beta Kappa Alumni of Greater Houston, please call (713) 439-1505.

 

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<I>SILENCE<P> MORE THAN TOLERABLE

The Pat Metheny Group's latest efforts <I>Zero Tolerance for Silence<P>, an experimental album, and <I>We Live Here<P> are both worth the wait and money.

Photo by Mark Seliger/Geffen

by Kevin Patton

Daily Cougar Staff

The wait was worth it.

The Pat Metheny Group's first studio album in five years, <I>We Live Here<P>, is a natural progression of sound. Metheny heightens his contemporary edge, this time coupling it with fresh, almost acid, sampled beats.

<I>We Live Here<P> is more a statement of flowing movement than stasis. Metheny and keyboardist Lyle Mays subdue the listener with an almost hypnotic pace, then throw the listener into the middle of a thorough jam. This jam, however, is not something thrown together, cut in one day. It is a conscious, crafted work, moving through different emotions, gut-wrenching solos and creating such waves of color it can be downright Ellington-like.

The first cut, "Here to Stay," is reminiscent of the group's last studio effort, <I>Letter From Home<P>. The quick but subtle lines and the smooth keyboard background figures of Lyle Mays work as a reminder of things past with the drum and synth programming underneath. Although harmonically less complex than past efforts, the rhythmic dynamics open the song up.

The fourth song, "The End of the World," is itself a journey. Pastoral in its sound, the music inspires images, almost a dreamscape. But this is not to be confused with soft, programmed music: Each passage is subtle, yet moving; easy to hear if you don't listen. Dig?

The most spectacular piece on the album is "Episode d'Azur." One can hear the avant-garde quality, mingling blues with outrageous lines. The song revolves around several tone changes, as opposed to chords, which are more conventional.

Metheny's phrasing, coupled with Mays on the keyboard and Steve Rodby on bass, make for unexpected changes, never letting one get quite too comfortable. It's not an out-and-out assault – there is a certain amount of down time in the nine-minute song– but certain sections are just crazy, like the interchanges between Rodby and percussionist Luis Conte.

However, with the hype for this album, Metheny released another, almost forgotten, album, <I>Zero Tolerance for Silence<P>. In fact, it got such bad reviews from Down Beat magazine and was treated so gently by Jazziz magazine, Geffen pulled it from the shelves.

<I>Silence<P> is a static-filled, screaming manifesto of noise. Something so new, so different, it makes Al Dimeola's <I>Casino<P> release look patently uncreative. It makes grunge into a snot-nosed little punk playing with daddy's tinker toys.

Not to say this is bad, it just takes some getting used to. It's hard to hear everything he's doing, much less understand it. In a sense, he puts the listener beyond comprehending the music. The implications may be too massive. It forces the listener into a trancelike state; listening is a completely physical act. It is immense.

Metheny allegedly recorded <I>Silence<P> at home with a four track, weaving all four tracks into this intangible mix of noise, beautiful noise.

A word of warning: be ready to experience something completely different. Don't expect it to be like <I>We Live Here<P>, although a great album itself.

Both are well worth the money, but I strongly urge buying <I>Silence<P>. We need musicians to keep experimenting -- we can't let record executives pull albums because of bad reviews.

 

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PJ HARVEY NO HELPLESS VICTIM ON <I>LOVE<P>

PJ HARVEY'S FIRST SOLO EFFORT, <I>TO BRING YOU MY LOVE<P>, EXPLORES DIFFERENT SUBJECTS IN A SOMETIMES BLEAK WAY.

Photo by Valerie Phillips/Island

by Joey Guerra

Daily Cougar Staff

Polly Jean Harvey likes to do things her way. Nowhere is this more evident than on her fourth full-length album, <I>To Bring You My Love<P>.

After forming with a trio in Somerset, England in 1991, PJ (for short) Harvey can officially be seen as a solo artist with her latest collection of tunes. She sings lead vocals along with playing guitar, keyboards and percussion on almost every song. Harvey also serves as writer and co-producer on every one of the ten tracks. The album is a raw emotional experience, delving into a variety of styles and subjects.

The title track, "To Bring You My Love," kicks off the album in a powerful way. Harvey's voice is aggressive and powerful, daring to shatter the Snow White image of cotton candy divas like Celine Dion or Mariah Carey. The lyrics are urgent and pleading, with Harvey detailing her claim of crossing oceans to get to her man, but she never comes across like the helpless victim.

"Working For The Man" and "I Think I'm A Mother" are similar in the distinct way Harvey uses her vocal talents. The lyrics are almost indecipherable, but the end result

varies in each song. "Working" has a great drum beat by Joe Dilworth and pulses with energy. Harvey's voice is barely above a whisper and a little too close to the microphone. "Mother," on the other hand, is not as successful. The muffled-voice effect gets old quickly, and the song simply rumbles forward, never really catching fire.

Definitely heating up the airwaves is "Down By The Water," the album's first single and video. If you're a fan of MTV's <I>Alternative Nation<P>, the video is etched in your brain, currently in heavy rotation on the channel. The song is also quite brilliant. It has a rhythmic flow and deals with issues of childhood and maternal instincts.

That seems to be Harvey's theme this time around: love and motherhood. While her music may seem bleak and depressing, one need only listen to the messages she puts forth to understand her thinking. True, some of the songs lean toward gloom and doom, but I don't believe Harvey is aiming to please the popular masses. Her mission is to express, not impress, and these happen to be her feelings at this time. (You go, girl!)

Not one to be the ultimate downer, Harvey's disc does include one perky number, the medieval-sounding "Send His Love To Me." This is by far the liveliest song on the record. Hammond organs by Mick Harvey are great, and Harvey puts her heart into the lyrics. ("How long must I suffer/Dear God I've served my time/This love becomes my torture/This love my only crime.") Okay, so this sounds like Sadness, Part 16, but it really is a great song. It makes you wish Harvey would do more songs this way.

Ultimately, the album is a solid statement about Harvey's feelings as a woman. Her hard-edged sound and tough-girl singing voice cannot be denied, and the disc is pretty great for those into alternative rock. So give it a listen and decide for yourself if Harvey's <I>Love<P> is worth the money. I think so.

 

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POIGNANT DRAMA <I>LOSING ISAIAH<P> TACKLES RACE, PARENTING

by Eric James

Daily Cougar Staff

<I>Losing Isaiah<P> is a brave film from director Stephen Gyllenhaal. The film is based on the novel by Seth Margolis, and Naomi Foner writes the screenplay. The film is ground-breaking, and tackles an important subject. However, it does not end as powerfully as the subject deserves.

Khaila (Halle Berry) is a crackhead mother who lives far away from Maggie (Oscar-winner Jessica Lange), a social worker who spends most of her time watching out for abused children in the emergency room. What could ever bring these two women together? A child named Isaiah.

Khaila cannot stand the sound of her baby crying. She also needs a hit badly. So when she goes out to find some drugs, she drops the baby off in a garbage dumpster. She is so high that she forgets to retrieve her baby, and he is almost crushed in a garbage truck.

Enter Maggie Lewin, social worker extraordinaire. Isaiah ends up at the same hospital where she works, and suffers from seizures because his mom used crack while pregnant. Isaiah almost died at birth, and will suffer side effects for the rest of his life.

When Maggie hears Isaiah's name, she says, "And he shall be called wonderful." An instant connection is made, and Maggie convinces her family to adopt Isaiah.

Maggie and her family are white and Isaiah and his mother are black. Race is is the central focus of <I>Losing Isaiah<P>.

Khaila straightens herself out after being arrested for shoplifting and possession. She learns to read, and she finds a job. Then she learns that her baby is still alive. Enter needed courtroom drama.

Khaila wants her baby back. She enlists the help of a lawyer, played by Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson finds her an apartment, and friends help her find nice clothes. Khaila even starts going to church again. As Jackson says, "Black babies belong with black mothers. There's no way I'm letting you mess that up."

The remainder of the film analyzes the issue of whether skin color should matter when choosing who should be the mother. It's a <I>Kramer vs. Kramer<P> for the nineties.

During the court battle, Jackson bombards the Lewins with accusations that they are raising Isaiah ignorant of his heritage. The Lewin's lawyer accuses Khaila of being a crackhead and a prostitute, and being unfit to act as the child's mother.

A nice moment is when Maggie asks Jackson, "What about love?" Love is never brought up as an issue in the court battle. It all revolves around race. Maggie loves Isaiah, that is obvious. Khaila says she quit crack because she loves her baby and regrets what she did, and you believe her. However, does she know her baby?

The true question is whether or not political policy is being put above the child's emotional well-being. The ending answers this question and plays it very safe.The end should satisfy everybody.

That is the problem with this film. It sugarcoats the question and never really gives an answer. The husband is also an incredibly weak character who only exists to bring up a predictable conflict towards the end. That situation is also not resolved and never mentioned again. And trust me, it deserves to be discussed.

The film does a lot of things right, however. Maggie's daughter, Hannah, is never ignored. Her emotions throughout this situation are voiced and she does not fade into the background.

In fact, the best scene in the film involves Hannah and Isaiah. They are in the bathroom blowing bubbles and Hannah takes Isaiah's hand and asks, "What's the difference between our hands?" Isaiah looks at the hands and says, "Mine is smaller."

At that point, I wish everyone could be as innocent and uncaring about color as Isaiah. He is not condemned to see color, and he does not make it a central issue in everyday life. The movie is strongest in that point.

<I>Losing Isaiah<P> is an important film, and it's not very often you find original material. The film could be a lot stronger and the end is a copout, but the film is well worth viewing. Lange and Berry deliver strong performances, and Jackson keeps the coolness and power that he displayed in <I>Pulp Fiction<P>.

<I>Losing Isaiah<P>

Stars: Jessica Lange, Halle Berry

Director: Stephen Gyllenhaal

Stars: three

 

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