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Posts published in February 2002

Jolly good ‘Gosford Park’

In the big picture of life, the Academy Awards don’t really mean much, but for movie lovers the world over and, of course, for those directly involved, the Oscars sure are a fun time of speculation and second guessing.

Three of the five best picture nominees have been reviewed on these pages during the last few months: “Beautiful Mind,” “In the Bedroom” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” This reviewer has yet to see “Moulin Rouge,” which is currently the only nominated film not in theaters. It is on video.

It’s definitely worth going to a theater to see the fifth nominee “Gosford Park,” the richly layered story of English aristocrats and the staff that serves them, not that I’m so sure it deserves to be nominated for best pic. I would have put “Black Hawk Down” or “Memento” in its place.

In any case, “Gosford” is a lot of fun down at the old English manor. It’s neither stuffy nor boring, as many Americans tend to think of English period pieces. Directed by Robert Altman (“The Player,” “Short Cuts”) it can be confusing, but never boring.

The fact that it’s not always easy to tell who is who and what is being said – lots of overlapping dialogue, an Altman trademark – does not distract from the satisfying experience of watching the large ensemble cast fight, flirt and even murder. Do try to keep up with who is who and who they serve – it’s worth it in the end.

The great English actress Helen Mirren (“The Mosquito Coast,” Teaching Mrs. Tingle”) plays Mrs. Wilson the main housekeeper. She has an interest in the visiting valet Robert Parks played by the handsome brooding Clive Owen (“Croupier”). They are the heart of the large cast, not that there’s any romance between them.

There is plenty of hanky-panky going on, including between the head housemaid (Emily Watson) and the much older, married owner of Gosford Park.

To illustrate how the servants are thought of, when one of the above the stairs liaisons is noticed by a worker, the man responds “Don’t worry, it’s nobody.”

Of course, the servants are people too, and the lives of the below stairs crew mirrors in many ways what’s going on upstairs – the trappings might not be as grand, but the happenings are just as interesting.

Altman works it so that everything we see upstairs is through the point of view of the servants. One might not notice it at first, but it keeps things interesting and unique.

It’s hard to reveal much of the plot without giving something away. Plus if many more details are given I’ll need a lot more ink to explain who is playing who and how they are involved in the whole big mess of a country weekend at Gosford Park.

Mirren and Maggie Smith, as the ill-humored Constance, Countess of Trentham, both are nominated in the supporting actress category. They deserve the recognition, but really, the whole cast – mostly English — is quite enjoyable. Ryan Phillippe (“ I Know What You Did Last Summer,” “Cruel Intentions”) – a non-Brit – was an interesting choice to play an odd young valet, but he pulls it off.

Also memorable is Stephen Fry (“Wilde”) as the detective who can barely get a word in edgewise and when he does, he says something asinine. It has been a month since I’ve seen “Gosford Park” and it still makes me smile thinking about him.

In addition to the picture nomination and the actresses, “Gosford” garnered nods for director, original screenplay, art direction and costume design.

Overall, a jolly good show. Rated-R for language and brief sexuality

Learn lunar lore, build a bird house at Jesse Jones Park

Many families have trouble finding weekend activities that are fin for the entire family and don’t require spending a week’s worth of grocery money to enjoy. Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center can help with this dilemma, though, as the park features a free evening Pioneer Campfire program Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m., and an opportunity to Build a Birdhouse Sunday, March 3 at 2 p.m.

The moon has been an object of fascination in the nighttime sky to every culture, both ancient and modern, for countless years. In fact, many lunar events were explained using earthly conceptions. What better way to learn about some of these myths and misconceptions than during an evening Pioneer Campfire program, featuring puppets, stories and songs at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center?

On Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m., experience the captivating talents of Edwin Negron as he uses his puppeteering, storytelling and musical abilities to educate visitors of all ages about the moon and its phases.

In this delightful family oriented program, Mr. Negron employs his multiple talents to explore how ancient cultures explained such phenomena as the moon’s phases and the passage of the sun and moon across the sky. Through stories from several Hispanic countries, including Brazil, Spain and his native Puerto Rico, Mr. Negron and his menagerie of fanciful puppet friends – dragons, lions, turtles and others – enchant and educate young and old alike. Reservations are required.

For those nature lovers who would like to attract more birds to their yards, Sunday’s Build a Birdhouse program at 2 p.m. is sure to help provide your feathery friends with some much-needed shelter. Join state naturalist Anita Howlett as she helps participants age 7 and above build a wooden nesting box to take home. Since all materials are provided for this program, there is a limit of one birdhouse per family. Reservations are required.

Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center, a Harris County Precinct 4 facility, is located at 20634 Kenswick Drive in Humble. All programs are free of charge and open to the public. Harris County Precinct 4 Programs serve people of’ all ages regardless of socioeconomic 1evel, race, color, sex, religion, national origin or disability. For more information on the park or any of its programs, call 281-446-8588.

NHC and Constable’s office repeat spring break DWI demonstration

On Thursday March 7, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office in cooperation with the District Attorney’s Office, NHC’s Law Enforcement Academy and NHC’s criminal justice program, will repeat a wildly successful drinking and driving demonstration just in time for this year’s college spring break.

Community members, North Harris College students and NHC employees will witness the first-hand effects of drinking and driving during a unique driving while intoxicated (DWI) awareness event.

Participants of “Spring Break and DWI: An Alcohol Effects Awareness Event,” students and staff -all 21 years or older-will be given controlled doses of alcohol and then be asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests. These are the same tests they will have to pass if a law enforcement officer stops them.

Like most holidays, spring break is a peak time for vehicle accidents – a majority of which involves alcohol. Since students are a large part of the demographics affected by alcohol-related accidents, North Harris College and the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s office is setting up this awareness program on campus.

“In 2001, there were 8,941 DWIs filed in Harris County. There has been 737 DWIs already filed in January of this year. This is up from 668 filed January 2001.

The problem is not going away. It is every public official’s duty to do everything possible to increase awareness to the consequences of drinking and driving. This exercise is directly focused on accomplishing that goal,” says Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hickman.

According to a 1999 article by Steven A. Bloch, Ph.D., a senior research associate in the public affairs division of the Automobile Club of Southern California, in Costa Mesa, CA., research has regularly found that levels of alcohol consumption and driving at institutions of higher education are at startlingly high levels, and increasing for some categories of students.

The Harvard School of Public Health recently corroborated this fact. (See Henry Wechsler, G. W. Dowdall, G. Maenner, J. Gledhill-Hoyt, H. Lee, Changes in Binge Drinking and Related Problems Among American College Students Between 1993 and 1997, 47 J. Am College Health 57-68 (Sept. 1998)). They found that, nationally in 1997, 27.9 percent of students reported becoming intoxicated three or more times in the previous 30 days. That rate was more than a 20 percent increase over the 22.9 percent intoxication rate in 1993. While the proportion of binge drinkers (42.7 percent) was slightly less than that found in the previous study (44.1 percent) the proportion of frequent binge drinkers rose 6 percent, from 19.5 percent in 1993 to 20.7 percent in 1997. (Binge drinking is defined as five drinks in a row for men, four for women.)
Rates of drinking and driving are also at levels that raise great concern and are showing notable increases among students who drink. The Harvard study reported that, in the past year, 35.8 percent of such students drove after drinking, compared to 31.6 percent in 1993, an increase of 13 percent. Levels of drinking and driving among binge drinkers are even more pronounced. Among occasional bingers in the latest survey, 43 percent drove after drinking; among frequent bingers the level was 59 percent.

“Most students don’t realize how little alcohol consumption it takes to impair their abilities. This demonstration gives them an opportunity to see how drinking impairs them, even below the legal limit,” says Mark Farrell, director for NHC’s law enforcement academy. “This is our second year for this spring break awareness campaign. It’s important for everyone, especially students, to know that a person who is using alcohol is in the least position to know how impaired they are.

Additionally, the penalty of being caught behind the wheel while intoxicated can be severe. There are an increasing number of local law officers who are working to make sure DWI offenders receive strict fines and charges.”

For more information about the March 7 event, call Mark Farrell at 281-618-1198.

North Harris College is a member of North Harris Montgomery Community College District.

The college is located at 2700 W.W. Thorne Drive, one mile south of FM 1960, between Aldine-Westfield and Hardy Roads.

For more information, call 281-618-5400 or send an e-mail to:nhc.startcollege@nhmccd.edu
North Harris Montgomery Community College District, the fourth largest community college in Texas, comprises North Harris College, Kingwood College, Tomball College, Montgomery College, seven satellite centers and The University Center. Cy-Fair College, the district’s fifth comprehensive college, will open in fall 2003.

MacArthur Ninth Grade School to hold Spring Dance

MacArthur Ninth Grade School will sponsor a dance in the school cafeteria for the MacArthur Ninth Grade Class of 2005 on Friday, March 1, from 7-11 p.m.

The theme of this year’s dance is Mardi Gras.
Parents willing to chaperone, please contact Joyce Cantu through the school office at 281-985-7400.

MacArthur Ninth Grade School Teacher of the Year 2001-2002

MacArthur Ninth Grade School staff members nominated three outstanding teachers for Teacher of the Year 2001-2002. This year’s nominees were Joyce Cantu, math teacher and department chairman; Tracey Drake, career and technology teacher; and Jose Almendarez, math teacher. After all votes were tallied, Jose Almendarez was elected Teacher of the Year, 2001-2002. Almendarez began teaching in the Aldine Independent School District at MacArthur Ninth Grade School in 1999, the year the school opened.

Almendarez, raised in Carrizo Springs, Texas, graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 1994 with a degree in mathematics. Following graduation he returned to his hometown of 6,000 where he taught eighth grade algebra and coached football, cross-country, basketball, and baseball.

In addition, Almendarez taught at night in an adult literacy program. Almendarez credits his parents with instilling in him the importance of education in a community where an education was not regarded as a top priority. Encouraged to pursue his education beyond a high school diploma, his parents never asked him whether he would attend college, but which college he would attend. They taught him that an education could never be taken away and that knowledge was power. Almendarez taught in Carrizo Springs for five years.

In 1999, Almendarez moved to Houston to further his education. He is currently attending Sam Houston State University where he is completing a mid-management graduate degree. In his eighth year of teaching, Almendarez admits he has loved every moment. Each year he reflects on the past year and sets higher goals for the following year.

Almendarez feels that teachers play an important role in a child’s education by supporting, encouraging, and facilitating learning. Teachers must work as a team to plan, organize, and develop strategies that will have a positive effect in the classroom. According to Almendarez, each child should be given the same opportunity to learn, regardless of sex, race, or disability.

Almendarez is very honored to be the MacArthur Ninth Grade School Teacher of the Year and is looking forward to representing his school at the district level competition.

Almendarez and wife Ruby are expecting their first child in early July.

Grantham Academy students combine reading with giving

The Grantham Academy Library Media Center has a ceiling that is displaying not only the students’ ability to read well, but also their ability to turn learning into an act of kindness.

The Reading Department at Grantham has a program called Reading Counts.

This is a program that tests a student’s ability to understand and remember what they have read.
The program incorporates reading books with reading skills and allows them to take a test on the computer for a portion of their reading grade.

The teachers and students at Grantham have found a way to increase their reading grade while helping others.

For each book read and test passed this year, the teacher gives the student a red, white, or blue loop on which to write their name and the title of the book. Additionally they receive a red card entitled “Reading Counts towards American Aid”.

The student then shows the card to one of the teachers or other adults in the building and receives a donation of $.05 which is given in the student’s name to the American Red Cross to help support the September 11 relief effort.

The loops are sent every two weeks to the Grantham Library Media Center and the librarian for display on the ceiling. The students have read so many books this year that over half the ceiling is now covered with red, white and blue loops. It makes quite a spectacular display while providing the students with a way to raise their grades and provide money for a very worthy American cause.

WANTED FOR ASSAULT

This week’s Crime Stoppers report involves the robbery and attempted sexual assault of a woman in southwest Houston.

On Sunday, December 16, 2001 at approximately 6:20 a.m. a white woman was assaulted and robbed in her home located in the 6400 block of Mobud Drive.

The victim let her dog out for the morning through a doggie door and continued her morning routine.
The suspect, a young Hispanic man, entered the victim’s residence through the unsecured doggie door and confronted the victim. The suspect told the victim in a heavy Spanish accent “I not going to kill you”. The victim tried to flee. The suspect ripped the victims robe off and threw her onto a chair where he attempted to sexually assault her.

The victim resisted and eventually the suspect stopped. The suspect took a bracelet from the victim and then went through the victim’s house looking for more jewelry. The suspect returned to the victim, grabbed her around the neck and began choking her.

The victim, fearing for her life, broke free and ran out the front door for help. The suspect fled on foot. She was taken to a local hospital where she later suffered a mild heart attack as a result of her ordeal. Anyone with information in regards to the case, on the identity or location of the suspect responsible for this robbery and attempted aggravated sexual assault is urged to call Crime Stoppers.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic man, 18-20, 5’4”-5’5”, 130-140 lbs., with black hair. He was wearing a faded red sweater.

CRIME STOPPERS will pay cash rewards of up to $5,000.00 for information that results in the arrest and charging of a suspect or suspects in any felony crime.

Call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS/713-222-4477 Toll Free 1-877-999-TIPS – Free Wireless Call * (star) TIPS – www.crime-stoppers.org.
Tipsters may receive as much as $5,000.00 in specific felony cases where the public is deemed to be at a higher risk of being victimized.

Library, history departments exhibit miniature soldiers, sailors & ships

Houston Public Library’s Texas and Local History Department will host an exhibit of Miniature Soldiers. Sailors & Model Ships, during March. This private collection belongs to Jerry E. Finger of Finger Interests, Ltd. The collection will be on display Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and is free to the public.

The Texas and Local History Department, is located in the historic Julia Ideson Building, at 500 McKinney, downtown. The exhibit will be located on the first floor, with additional materials from the Texas Room on the second floor.

Mr. Finger’s passion for history has been the motivation behind his interest in collecting historical miniature soldiers, sailors, and model ships. It has taken him several years to put together this historically valuable collection of miniature soldiers of American, British, French and other Imperial Armies, from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

The exhibit consists of a number of unique, one-of-a-kind and a limited edition of miniature soldiers and sailors, as well as, numerous model ships. The collection displays soldiers and sailors of the various centuries dressed in their colorful uniforms, holding flags, and pennants. Some cavalry mounts will also be on display. The model ships and other nautical memorabilia include historical information and statistics.

For more information, please contact Will Howard, acting manager of the Texas and Local History Department at 832-393-1662 or visit Houston Public Library’s Web site at www.houstonlibrary.org.

Big Brothers Big Sisters host biggest fund raiser of the year

Whether you bowl a perfect game or are a perfect novice, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Southeast Texas and Entergy-Koch, IP, want you to “Bowl For Kids’ Sake 2002.”

The citywide event begins Saturday, March 2 at Dynamic Lanes, 6121 Tarnef in Southwest Houston, with the Entergy-Koch Company Bowl Celebrity Kick-Off set for Thursday, March 7, at 2 p.m. at Palace Lanes, 4191 Bellaire Boulevard. Other Bowl for Kids’ Sake festivities will take place Saturday, March 16 at Del Mar Lanes, 3020 Mangum Road and Saturday, April 6 at Palace Lanes, 4191 Bellaire Boulevard.

“We’re raising funds to assist youth who generally have just one parent on whom they can rely,” said BBBS Board member and Event Chair Keli Shanks. “Thanks to Bowl For Kids’ Sake and other events, Big Brothers Big Sisters is there to help fill the gap, reaching out to youth who need a friend and a mentor.”

To support Bowl For Kids’ Sake, participants secure four other team members and a minimum $100 in sponsorships, from friends, relatives, coworkers and companies, for their pledges. They will come to a bowling party at one of the BBBS children throughout Southeast Texas, according to BBBS President and CEO Deborah Ortiz. BBBS is the nation’s premier one-to-one mentoring organization.

All bowlers bringing in $ 100 or more in pledges will receive a Bowl For Kids’ Sake T-shirt and will be eligible for other prizes.
To register a team or for more information on the following Bowl For Kids’ Sake events, call 713-271-5683.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Texas is a non-profit organization established in Houston in 1950. The agency provides caring adult volunteers who provide friendship and guidance so youth may grow into productive citizens. For BBBS information go to the web at bbbs.houston.org.

DPS continues year-round push for troopers

The Department of Public Safety continues to take applications for trooper-trainees as the deadline for the next recruit class approaches.

March 1 is the deadline for Texas applicants seeking admission to the June recruit school in Austin. Application packets can be picked up at the nearest DPS office and extensive information is accessible on the DPS Web site, www.txdps.state.tx.us. Information also is available by calling a toll-free number, 1-866-TXTROOP (898-7667), that rings directly into the recruiting office at DPS Headquarters in Austin.
“We continue to seek quality applicants to fill recruit classes to help offset a projected increase in retirements,” said DPS Director Col. Thomas Davis Jr. “The need for dedicated public servants has never been greater for our state and nation.”
Graduates are initially assigned as uniformed officers in one of several services. After gaining experience, troopers can compete for a variety of assignments in the Traffic Law Enforcement, Criminal Law Enforcement, Driver License, Administration and Texas Ranger divisions.

“We have two classes of recruits currently training in Austin at this time,” said DPS Recruiting Coordinator Lt. Curly Colquitt. “We are trying to fill our upcoming class and keep a continuous stream of diverse applicants coming through our doors for the future.”

An applicant must be a U.S. citizen, at least 20 years of age by the time they are accepted as trooper-trainees and have completed 75 hours of college credit.

Law enforcement, jailer or military experience may be used toward fulfilling the college requirement.
An applicant’s background will be carefully scrutinized, including prior criminal history. DPS is an equal opportunity employer.

The WorkSource to assist Institute in outreach efforts to area fathers

The WorkSource announced recently that it will assist the Institute for Responsible Fatherhood and Family Revitalization in helping fathers gain employment skills and find jobs

Fatherless households are often cited as contributing to welfare dependency, children’s poor academic performance and juvenile delinquency, and recent figures released by the U.S Census Bureau indicate almost 25 million children in the nation live in fatherless homes.

The Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, started its outreach work in the Houston-Galveston area last July, and is the only national fatherhood organization to hire married-partner (husband and wife) teams to live and work within targeted urban neighborhoods. The Institute also hires highly-trained outreach workers from within high-risk communities.

One of the Institute’s chief goals is ensuring fathers are gainfully employed. Since 1998, the Institute has achieved the highest rate of job retention among Welfare-to-Work providers with the U.S. Department of Labor, With its outreach work being relatively new in the Houston-Galveston area, the Institute is enlisting The WorkSource’s aid in increasing the number of employed fathers in the area.

The WorkSource is a regional partnership of business, education, labor and community organizations committed to providing training and labor market services so job seekers can find employment. Job seekers receive guidance on researching prospective employers and effective interviewing skills are emphasized, including rehearsal of the interviewer’s questions.

The Institute is also seeking to hire more married-partner teams to increase its outreach work in the Houston-Galveston area.

“Because of the need for constant contact with the fathers and mothers, it wants to hire married couples currently residing in the target areas or who are willing to relocate to those areas,” said Eric Hall of the Institute’s Houston branch.