Saturday, May 21, 2011

Radio Única

Radio Única was a great network. It was a nationwide group of Spanish language radio stations in the United States. It was firmly rooted here, and it could not have been from anywhere else. While there were a wide variety of accents, listeners could hear a version of Spanish unique to this country taking shape.

For a while, it was our Radio Fórmula. There was a wide range of programming, which included news, sports and talk on a variety of topics.

Their stock became a darling, and that's when the problems began. It bubbled up, then started to settle. Investors wanted more, and the potential for that much more wasn't there. Suddenly, every program had something to do with sex. As they got more and more desperate, programming quality declined. Eventually, they pulled the plug.

Radio Única's original idea was a great one. I hope someone revives it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cruise Ships

As useful objects fall from favor, they go on display as reminders of the past. Small objects end up in museums, while large ones become tourist attractions on their own and house museums inside. As the member of a maritime museum, I have toured many types of ships that are no longer used.

Probably the most exciting, when it was well maintained, was the Queen Mary. The formerly exclusive preserve of society's upper crust was now opened to all for a nominal fee. You could see everything, from the best staterooms to the kitchens behind the scenes.

After seeing many cruise ships docked near the maritime museum, I started to wonder how one would look on a guided tour. How does the crew live? How do the different staterooms compare? How is it laid out, and why?

I have never been on a cruise, nor do I want to go on one. Still, the ships remain fascinating. As passenger shipping changed from crossings to cruises, old ocean liners were painted white and pressed into service. The old ships look sturdy. They ride low in the water and look like they could take the occasional rogue wave. Also, there is some elegance about them. Nothing with a promenade deck can be pedestrian.

Newer ships, by contrast, look like floating slums. Tilt an old housing project from the 1960s on its side, and you've got the newest ship on today's commercial.

Still, luxury is subjective, and what is luxurious in one era is for the servants the next, and vice versa. For example, prewar limousines have leather upholstery in the driver's seat, while those being driven ride on cloth. New luxury cars have leather throughout.

I wonder about today's cruise ships, and why people think they're luxurious. I see the ads and feel opression. The promenade decks are gone. There is no place to walk and get some air, a major attraction of sea travel in the past. There are large interior spaces, but all of them are designed for revenue first, where comfort is a byproduct. Bars are everywhere. Cruise ships are some of the last places in the world where indoor smoking is allowed. I would not want to be cooped up in such a place with limited opportunities for stepping outside.

The rooms have always been small, but today's rooms look worse than the ones on older vessels. Newer ships, if not top heavy, appear to be so. They do not look like they would go through storms very well. Also, it appears that seasickness would be more likely on a newer ship. A little movement amidships, where most rooms used to be, would be major rocking on a newer ship if you were unfortunate enough to have paid the price for a view as far above the waterline as possible.

I doubt cruise ships will fall out of favor in my lifetime, but if they do, I'll be in line for the first guided tour. I'll wonder why people thought they were so luxurious. Was the food really that great? What about the view of the open ocean? How did the ship do in storms? What was different about life on a cruise ship that made people pay so much for such small rooms that bounced around so much? What was it like to work on one?

Once the tour ends, I'll go to the bar that welcomed passengers and was later converted into a gift shop. I'll buy a few postcards.