JULY 4 FIREWORKS, LOUD PARTIES NOT TRADITION

OLD-SCHOOL PICNICKERS TELL OF THEIR ALL-OUT, ALL-AMERICAN CELEBRATIONS

Michael P. Martin

Contributing Writer

The Fourth of July burst through America leaving many streets and fields littered with charred firecracker shells. But the right way to celebrate is with a picnic, say traditionalists, and the summertime certainly is picnic season.

Today's preparations for those picnics, and what takes place during them, are anything but traditional.

While a modern picnic involves nuking something in the microwave or a quick trip to Popeye's or KFC for fried chicken, getting ready was a bit different in the first quarter of this century.

"I remember well the Fourth of July picnic in 1921, when I was 14," says 88-year-old Angelina Martin of New Orleans. "My stepfather, mother, brothers and I joined with the Roccaforte and Palermo families for a picnic in Audubon Park. The ladies worked all the day before preparing potato salad, fried chicken -- lots of finger food."

That chicken didn't come from the supermarket wrapped in plastic, Martin says. It came from the neighborhood grocery store wrapped in feathers.

"The chickens were kept in cages, and you'd look carefully to find just the right ones," Martin says. "Mama would blow on the breast feathers to make sure the breasts weren't bruised. The grocer would then take the chickens we chose, kill them, and we'd take them home. The plucking and cleaning we had to do ourselves."

The food preparation went on all day and into the night, Martin says. Once everything was ready, it was placed in the icebox overnight, along with the ham and cheese for the sandwiches that would be made the next morning.

"We didn't have a refrigerator back then," Martin says, "but we did have a really good icebox. It was like a fridge, but instead of a motor it had a place for you to put a block of ice to keep everything cool. And our good friend Sam Palermo was an ice man. That's where we got the ice."

Transportation to the picnic site was by automobile, just like it is today. The automobiles, however, were quite different.

"The cars were open, for the most part," Martin says. "They had cloth tops you could put up for shade, and if it rained, there were roll-down curtains to protect you a little." Air conditioning? "What's that?" Martin chuckles.

"We left real early, too," Martin says, "to be sure we could get a table in the park. By 8 o'clock, we were on the road."

The mode of dress differed from today's fashions, Martin says. There were no tube tops or tank tops or shorts, "unless you call the knickers the boys wore 'shorts,'" she says.

"The ladies wore blouses and long skirts. We girls wore gingham dresses. The men wore long-sleeve shirts and long pants," she says.

There was less of a litter problem, Martin says, because paper plates and plastic utensils were unknown.

"Everything we ate with had to be brought from home, and then brought back home to be washed and put up," she says. "We had China plates and cups, and glasses to drink from. We had soft drinks -- Jumbo Pop -- iced down in metal buckets. And you had to return those bottles to get your deposit, too."

Organized sports watching was part of the outing, Martin says, although it was the girls who watched the games, not the boys.

"Of course we girls watched!" she says. "It was the boys and men who were playing. The baseball game was a big part of the picnic."

Baseball was, but fireworks were not.

"Oh, we had firecrackers. The men and boys would shoot them off. But we didn't have organized demonstrations back then," Martin says. "It wouldn't have mattered if we did, as we always left in plenty of time to get home before dark."

They didn't have portable radios, either.

"Radio? New Orleans didn't even have a radio station in 1921," Martin says.

Traditionalists may not like to admit it, but a Fourth of July block party is as traditional as a picnic.

"That's the way we celebrated here in Houston," says Iola Tucker Laird, who, at 88, is the same age as Martin. ("Not quite," she says. "I was born in September 1907. Angie was born in February. I'm younger.")

"Most of the neighbors would gather in our front yard, and we would have a big block party. Daddy would lead us all in a testimonial and a prayer -- we were churchfolk -- and then we'd all sit down to fried chicken."

Unlike Martin, Laird remembers ice cream at the party. "We made it ourselves in the big hand-cranked ice cream freezer," she says, "but the real treat was the cold watermelon. That was the prize!"

Laird remembers games, too, but no fireworks.

"Daddy didn't allow firecrackers and such," she says. "He had an old double-barreled shotgun, but he didn't even shoot it on the Fourth. He said it was for (hunting) his squirrels."

Patriotism played a part in the celebrations, Martin remembers, but not as big a part as it seems to play today.

"We were patriotic, sure, but we didn't wave the flag as much as people seem to do today," Martin says. "We didn't have Memorial Day or Labor Day, and Armistice Day wasn't until November. The Fourth of July was the only big holiday of summer. Shops closed, people didn't work, and everyone went outside and had a big party."

Some things never change.

 

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TOASTMASTERS HELPS BATTLE STAGE FRIGHT

by Fernanda del Villar

Contributing Writer

Your name is called and you realize the moment to give your speech has arrived. As you approach the podium, your hands and forehead begin to sweat, your legs feel like spaghetti, and you feel like you just swallowed a baseball and it's stuck in the pit of your stomach.

Is there no way to overcome the fear that grips us when we have to talk in front of others?

"The goal of the Toastmasters Club is to help people deal with their fear of public speaking and build their confidence and skill," said Rachael Palmer, vice president of public relations for Toastmasters.

Although it began as a club for chemical engineering majors when it was started in 1992, Toastmasters is open to all UH students, according to Richard Hinkley, a graduate chemical engineering student and one of the founders of the club.

Toastmasters, which meets from noon to 1 p.m. Fridays, introduces 10 levels of speech, Hinkley said. They begin with an "icebreaker," where the speaker introduces him or herself, and they range from persuasion to informative to technical speeches, he said.

Palmer, who had to deliver many presentations while in the Army, said, "I wish I had known then what I do now about speaking in front of people."

Toastmasters meetings consist of three main speakers who deliver three- to seven-minute-long speeches, each evaluated by another member.

The evaluations focus on pointing out both strengths and weaknesses in the speaker's body language, eye contact with the audience, voice modulation, confidence and credibility and the content of the speech.

Each Toastmasters meeting also contains a session called "Table Topics," in which one member will select two or three topics, pick one of the other members at random and ask that person to briefly discuss his or her opinion on the topic.

"Table Topics helps you learn to think on your feet and not just stand there stammering 'well ... uh ... you know,' " Palmer said.

Toastmasters meetings also feature a grammarian who keeps tab on any grammar errors in speeches; an "uh" counter to count the "uhs" or "you knows" a speaker adds to the delivery; a jokemaster who tells jokes at the beginning of the meeting; and a timer to warn the speakers when their speech time is running out.

For further information on the club or how to get to the meetings, contact Rachael Palmer at 894-2866.

 

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19 SYSTEM POSTS ELIMINATED

LAYOFFS NEEDED TO MEET BUDGETARY GOAL FORCE OUT 11 UH EMPLOYEES

by Bobby Summers

Daily Cougar Staff

Friday was a pink-letter day for a number of employees in the University of Houston System office in downtown Houston as the UH System eliminated 19 positions in a restructuring move.

According to Wendy Adair, UH System interim vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement and assistant to chancellor for System Relations, six of the eliminated positions were vacant and two System employees are being transferred to UH-Main Campus. As a result, Adair said, only 11 people actually lost their jobs in the restructuring shuffle.

In a letter to UH System staff members dated July 5, out-going UH System Chancellor Alexander Schilt foreshadowed the coming layoffs by saying, "The System is intensifying its efforts to better manage our resources by providing the necessary services at less cost. ... It is likely that some of the changes recommended to meet this budgetary goal will involve reductions in the work force."

Schilt, who will leave office Aug. 31, and who is waiting for the UH System Board of Regents to approve his two-year, $373,518 leave of absence, closed his letter by saying, "We very much regret that anyone will be put in this position. There is no escaping, however, the mandate to demonstrate progress in our responsive reshaping."

On Friday, the UH System issued a news release in which Schilt said, "It is imperative that all state agencies operate in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible. As a university system, we must continually look at ways to increase the scarce resources that we can use for our primary mission, the education of our students.

"Nonetheless, it is always difficult to make decisions that impact people in this way, and we are committed to doing all we can to assist these employees to get relocated quickly."

The news release indicated that increased use of technology, outsourcing and efficiencies in operations will allow the offices to reduce positions with no reduction in services.

The Administration and Finance area of the System office, which employs the majority of UH System Administration employees, is the one primarily affected by the reductions, with the elimination of 12 positions.

Institutional Advancement will lose four positions, including one being transferred to UH.

The chancellor's office, the senior vice chancellor's office and the legal counsel's office will each be reduced by one position. The legal position will be transferred to UH.

The 11 employees whose positions are being eliminated are being given 45 days notice. The System will provide a professional job search assistance program and assistance in finding possible placement in other departments at a UH System university, and counseling, if necessary, is suggested.

 

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SECOND ANNUAL KEY OLYMPICS HELD AT UH

FORMER COUGAR CARL LEWIS HOSTS AS HONORARY CHAIRMAN

by Dominic Corva

Daily Cougar Staff

pullquote: "This is a special time for me because this is a chance to make a difference in lives that need a chance. All these kids work hard and they are going to be productive, good citizens, and I am very honored to be a part of it."

--former Cougar Carl Lewis

Last weekend the University of Houston hosted the second annual Kirk Baptiste Key Olympics, a weekend of athletic and academic games for 200 juvenile offenders in Southwest Key Programs.

Troubled youths from major cities in Puerto Rico, Texas and Arizona were brought in to compete for gold, silver and bronze medals and an overall trophy for their region called the "Carl Lewis Award," specially designed for the event by Ben Woitena.

Juan Sanchez, executive director of the Southwest Key Program, said this weekend was "designed to give these kids an opportunity to develop self-confidence and self-esteem by competing in events that help you to be a winner. These kids have many strengths that need to be focused on: They are very athletic, very smart, and they just need a chance to grow in a positive environment.

"Not only were the games designed for creativity and fun, they were also designed to develop team participation and group interaction skills."

A press conference was held in the UH Hilton Hotel to kick off the event. Legendary Olympic athlete and former Cougar Carl Lewis served as honorary chairman for the event.

"This is a special time for me because this is a chance to make a difference in lives that need a chance. It's so easy to report bad things about our youth and punish them, but this program is working to turn their lives around. All these kids work hard and they are going to be productive, good citizens, and I am very honored to be a part of it," Lewis said.

Lewis put his money where his mouth and image were. He donated T-shirts, shorts, sweatshirts and his time for the three-day event.

The four-time Olympic athlete does not shun the position of role model for youth. He has been active many years in youth programs through annual sponsorship of a fun-run for youth in Houston and participation in Special Olympics activities.

Executive Director of the Texas Youth Commission Steve Robertson said, "Carl Lewis shows [the kids] what is possible to achieve through hard work."

A silent auction with sports memorabilia, open airline tickets, precious gems and other items was held to benefit the Key Olympics following the press conference.

A pep rally began Friday for the Olympic games at Robertson Stadium. Events like hula hoop, double dutch, Limbo and drill/dance routines ran concurrently with a basketball tournament.

Saturday, the Key Olympics included academic games while a track meet was held in Robertson. The juveniles got a chance to design shoes; construct an "egg drop" cushion; participate in a spelling bee; and play charades, Jeopardy and other memory games.

Saturday night, awards were presented and the Aldine Youth Choir performed in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton.

 

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COMIC CRUMB'S DOCUMENTARY DRAWS PICTURE OF COMPLEX CHARACTER

by Ericka Schiche

Daily Cougar Staff

Underground comic artist Robert Crumb could easily be dismissed as a misogynistic misanthrope, but he deftly escapes facile labeling.

Instead, he and his art represent the id manifesting itself visually, and is borne of the same dark tradition of George Grosz and – as one critic interviewed in the film suggests – the same aesthetic construct from which Goya and his precursor Hieronymous Bosch emerged to create ornithic creatures. His poignant story is documented in Terry Zwigoff's documentary <I>Crumb<P>, in which his brothers, numerous acolytes, forlorn ex-girlfriends, castigating detractors and fellow comic artists are interviewed. David Lynch, creator of <I>Eraserhead<P>, <I>Twin Peaks<P>, and <I>Wild at Heart<P>, produced this film.

Crumb worked his way up from his siblings' Animal Town (a comics club), sweat shops and a stint at the mellifluous American Greetings card company to the upper echelon of underground comics, which included the likes of <I>The Fabulous Freak Brothers<P> creator Gilbert Shelton and Spain Rodriguez, the creator of a Chicago Seven-themed comic book–who's featured in the film. Crumb's residence is situated near Nimes, France, and throughout much of the film he is seen walking the streets of his adopted hometown, San Francisco. Crumb, who's referred to as the Breughel of the second half of the 20th century, renders Juvenalian satire in his works, which suggests his pathos and modus vivendi are polluted by a pernicious black humor that erupts onto the pages of his drawing books. Crumb wields his pen, and the results are sometimes repulsive, never banal, and always titillating: the bearded Mr. Natural; Flakey Foont; women with decapitated heads; myriad perverts; kinky, illicit sex scenes; pictorial representations of a nation transposed.

Crumb is not a uxorious man–he's far from it. In fact, he tells one of his exes he abused the word "love" in his correspondence to her, and asserts the only woman he ever loved is his daughter Sophie, who complains about the "old-fashioned" black and white television and emulates R. Crumb's older brother Charles' comic style. His wife, Aline Kominsky Crumb, has edited a book of female cartoonists, and she often collaborates with her husband, which is a replication of what Crumb himself did with his brother Charles.

In fact, one of the strongest, most revelatory aspects of the film is the focus on how practically everyone (with the exception of Crumb's once amphetamine-addled mother) in the Crumb family draws–his son Jesse, brother Maxon, daughter and wife, Aline. Maxon lives in San Francisco in a border house. He's possibly the most unusual of the three, and his oil paintings bear stylistic resemblance to French surrealist Yves Tanguy. He sits atop a red bandana-covered bed of nails, and swallows a three-foot long piece of cloth. Charles Crumb says he may get around to reading philosophies of Hegel or the humanistic Immanuel Kant, but he finds no relevance in contemporary writers, and prefers the 19th century Victorian novel. He has pasty skin, leads a sedentary existence, hasn't left his mother's house since 1969, and is out of shape, but he clearly has one of the strongest screen presences, and his voice resonates throughout the film even when he's not on camera – a quality that so attracted Lynch he wanted to put Charles in his next film.

Crumb is salacious and subversive, and these two qualities combined make him an easy target for knee-jerk criticism. Add to the equation a penchant for seemingly racist, minstrelsy-type cartoons, accentuation (in a grotesque and occasionally baroque fashion) of the feminine form, fetishistic fixation with body parts, and a hatred of and penchant for the dark side of the United States, and Crumb's work can be categorized as self-reflexive or can impel people to catharsis.

Crumb illustrated the jocose album cover for Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company's <I>Cheap Thrills<P> album. He laments CBS paid him a paltry $600 for his album cover, and he reveals the original art work was later auctioned at Sotheby's for $21,000. He also produced <I>Fritz the Cat<P> and the logo for "Keep on Truckin'." He has rendered cards that feature portraits of such blues musicians as Blind Willie McTell and nascent country and western artists.

Crumb isn't easily essentialized. Zwigoff captures how difficult it is to get to the real R. Crumb, whose fantasies repulse myriad feminists. In <I>Weirdo<P> No. 6, a comics magazine, Zwigoff posits amorality within the realm of fantasy, postulating fantasy isn't inherently bad, only occasionally problematic: "No actions between consenting adults are wrong or sick; however, problems sometimes arise when fantasy behavior replaces one's real-life experiences."

Thirteen years later, with blues as his soundtrack, Zwigoff shows viewers a man who isn't afraid of the power of fantasy.

<I>Crumb<P>

****four stars

Director: Terry Zwigoff

 

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PETER MURPHY MORBID NO MORE ON LATEST ALBUM

Peter Murphy, formerly of Bauhaus, will perform with newcomer Jewel Saturday at Numbers.

Photo by Michael Muller/Atlantic

by Jenalia Moreno

Daily Cougar Staff

Peter Murphy. Just the mention of his name conjures up images of the Gothic, haunting sounds of his former band Bauhaus. In the 1983 film, <I>The Hunger<P>, starring David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve, Murphy is seen in a cage above a club dance floor, in all his morbidness, howling the band's popular tune "Bela Lugosi's dead."

Five solo albums and 12 years later, Murphy cannot rid himself of the reputation of gloom popularized by Bauhaus. With his high cheekbones and monastically cut short hair, Murphy, who now resides in Turkey, looks more like a monk than the prince of darkness playing the lead role in one of England's most popular bands. The band's music is still influential with high sales of Bauhaus' <I>1979-1983 Volume One<P>. Former bandmates Daniel Ash, Devin and David J. Haskins teamed up again to form Love and Rockets.

Murphy recorded his first album sans Bauhaus, <I>The Waking Hour<P>, in 1984. He teamed with a backup band, The Hundred Men, in 1988 to produce <I>Love Hysteria<P>, <I>Deep<P> and <I>Holy Smoke<P>.

With his latest venture, <I>Cascade<P>, this mausoleum-voiced singer has moved on to a more serene sound. His EP <I>The Scarlet Thing in You<P> offers the title song featured on <I>Cascade<P> and "Wish," which is unavailable on his other work.

"The Scarlet Thing in You" is a lyrical sequel to Murphy's hit single "Cuts You Up" from his 1990 album <I>Deep<P>.

Murphy will perform with Jewel at Numbers Saturday. He may not be locked up in a cage on stage, but the show will still be worth it.

Jewel Kilcher may not have the long history Murphy has in the pop music business, but her debut album <I>Pieces of You<P> did not come about without a lot of hard work.

Jewel is from Homer, Alaska, where she was raised by her singer/songwriter parents. She went on the road with them at the age of six, and her yodeling became part of their routine. After graduation, she lived in her van and sang at a San Diego coffee shop, where she was discovered by the folks at Atlantic.

At Austin's South by Southwest Music Conference in March, Jewel made quite a showing, playing her folksy music.

<I>Pieces of You<P> features live acoustic songs recorded at the coffee shop and songs recorded at Neil Young's Redwood Digital studio. She is backed by Young's longtime band, The Stray Gators.

On Jewel's 14-song album, she aims to enlighten us. In the opening song, "Who Will Save Your Soul," she sings, accompanied only by her guitar, "So we pray to as many different gods as there are flowers/But we call religion our friend/We're so worried about saving our souls/Afraid that God will take His toll/That we forget to begin."

Most of her songs follow this lead. They tend to be repetitious. She sounds like she is trying to save the world by pointing out its fallacies. A heavy burden for someone who's only 20.

 

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MCMURTRY

TO ANNOUNCE RESIGNATION

by Daniel Scholl

Daily Cougar Staff

Students' Association Senate Speaker Justin McMurtry informed the SA Executive Committee Sunday that he will resign from his speaker's position at the upcoming SA Senate meeting 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The meeting was added to the calendar at the Executive Committee meeting. McMurtry said a new speaker will be elected, as will a speaker pro tempore for the summer, at the meeting. He will swear in the new speaker and will at that time resign from the position.

The decision comes after rumors that McMurtry would resign at last week's Senate meeting. Instead, McMurtry stated that he would ask Sen. Casey McMurtry to take over his office hours while Justin would retain the position of the speaker.

After much debate, this plan was excepted but McMurtry had one week in which to inform the Senate of his plans for the future.

Sen. Brad Castelo, who also chairs the Internal Affairs Committee, said he felt this was the wisest decision for Justin to make.

"It comes as a relief," he said. "I think it's the best thing for him to do. I wish him well."

Justin will make a full resignation speech at the Tuesday meeting. Any student who is currently in SA, or served last year, is eligible to be nominated for speaker.

 

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