By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Cruise cover-up: The timing of your article "Masters and Commanders" [by Josh Harkinson, December 25] couldn't have been better. As an obligatory family vacation, I took the Rhapsody cruise recently.
While I had been dreading this ordeal for months, I can honestly say the reality made even my grim expectations seem rosy. The angle of your story is really only a small part of the greater misery. It absolutely amazed me that people seemed to enjoy this! Everything was contrived and commercial and pandered to the lowest possible taste.
Examples: selling shots at a "nice" dinner; that crap they called jewelry in the gift shop; everything that passed for food in the Windjammer Café; calling a four-hour stop a visit; holding a photo op for a buffet; and on and on.
Even the "friendliness" of the crew and staff (who did work hard and did deserve every tip and good mark they earned) was such that you would have to be an idiot to think they were really your best buddy.
Steve, our cabin steward, was reluctant to talk outside of the sanctioned topics: having a good cruise, looking relaxed, looking nice, having fun. When I would express that I thought the whole thing was a bit silly, he would smile and come back with something like "I hope you're having a wonderful cruise!"
One day, I told several stewards that an article had recently been published about working on the ship. They recalled that a reporter had been on board, but either knew nothing about the article or weren't going to say anything. Looking back, I sure wish I had taken a stack of copies with me to leave around the ship each day!
Feeling like I had landed in suburbia after a week on another planet, it was somewhat restorative to come home and see the Press I had left on the table. There are other people in the world who see what's wrong with this picture!
Sea slaves: Thanks for your balanced story on the cruise industry. Future passengers should be aware that the margaritas they enjoy on the sundeck may well be brought to them by a system of widespread working-condition abuse -- one that goes well below the basic conditions set out in minimum wage laws.
Hopefully the public image of cruise ship companies will suffer as their exploitation is made known, and they will be forced to sacrifice a few percentage points of profit to make their employees' lives a little less hellish.
Save hockey here: Great article on the Aeros ["Harvard and the Boogeyman," by Richard Connelly, January 1]. As a casual hockey fan and occasional Aeros game attendee, I have wondered about the lives of these players. Your article was very informative and fascinating. I will make a better effort to attend more games.
Hockey is so fun to watch, and it's cheap! The NHL wouldn't last in Houston; it's too expensive. Besides, the NHL needs to contract. Moving a franchise to Houston would mean losing hockey for the city. The Aeros will relocate, the NHL team will go bankrupt within five years, and Houston will be left with no hockey.
Let's not let that happen. Show the hockey powers that be that Houston can support the Aeros, then talk about the NHL.
Facing off: Congratulations on a job well done. It's about time you highlighted the Aeros, who are in desperate need of attention and a bigger fan base. In particular, it was a delight to see the manner in which you brought the team to life by juxtaposing Boogaard and Bala in their quest to reach the heights of the NHL.
However, the hard fact remains: In order for the Aeros to survive, they need more fans. Don't let this team go the way of the Apollos, who folded in the early '80s. Get out there and support them!
Legging it: Hey, you said Cynthia Hunt showed thigh on her Web site ["The Sex Life of Cynthia Hunt," Hair Balls, December 25]. Wrong! If you want to pick on her, at least get the facts right.
Wilson's hate: It's a shame that state Representative Ron Wilson is so consumed with hate [The Insider, by Tim Fleck, January 1]. I shudder at the thought of what must have happened to him during his life to fill him with so much hate for his fellow man.
E. Brian Graham
Posterior pull: In a time when Texas Democrats should stay together, it is appalling that this man is doing so much harm. Wilson's constituents should be all over his ass and reel him back in.
I supported your lawmakers when they were here in Albuquerque fighting for the Democrats of Texas (the few who are left). Are you sure he isn't a Republican?
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Beak It Up
Dark meat: It's a shame that Clear Channel Outdoor won't let PETA erect a billboard to inform animal lovers in Houston that KFC is responsible for egregious cruelty to chickens ["Finger-Lickin' Foul?" Hair Balls, December 18].