SS Eastland circa 1911 Photo: public domain (Library of Congress)
On this date in 1915, the passenger ship SS Eastland rolled over while docked in the Chicago River. 844 passengers and crew were killed making it the largest loss of life from a shipwreck on the Great Lakes.
The SS Eastland was owned by St. Joseph-Chicago Steamship Company and was launched in May 1903. Problems were discovered from the start. Design flaws made it top heavy and its center of gravity was too high. When lots of passengers congregated on top deck, the ship would list. While some modifications fixed issues, there were still listing problems. SS Eastland also achieved notoriety in August 1903 for a mutiny by the ships firemen. On 14 Aug, while traversing between Chicago to South Haven, Michigan some fireman refused to stoke the fires because they had not received their potatoes. The captain ordered the men arrested. Two firemen who did not participate in the mutiny had to stoke the fires until they docked. The six men were arrested by the police and later the captain was replaced.
Source:The Tacoma Times (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085187/1915-07-27/ed-1/seq-7/) This image is now in public domain.
On 24 Jul 1915 the Eastland and two other passenger steamers were chartered to take employees of Western Electric to a picnic in Michigan City, Indiana. For the workers, it was a major event since many did not take holidays. Boarding began at 0630 and by 0710, the ship had reached its capacity of 2,572. The ship was packed and passengers filled every possible place on the upper decks. The ship had already begun to list to port and the crew tried to balance the ship using the ballast tanks. That did not work. Numerous passengers passengers apparently rushed to the port side making it worse. At 0728, the ship lurched sharply to port and rolled over to rest on the river bottom twenty feet below the surface. Because so many were below decks to keep warm, they were trapped by the sudden rollover. Heavy furniture-pianos, bookcases, tables-crushed many inside.
The Kenosha responded immediately and came aside to allow those stranded on top to jump aboard. But for those trapped below, there was no rescue. The bodies were retrieved and taken to temporary morgues.
The president and three officers of Michigan Steamship were indicted for manslaughter. The ship’s captain and engineer where charged with criminal carelessness as well. However during an extradition hearing (all six were in Michigan and had to be extradited to Illinois to stand trial) the federal judge believed there was not enough probable cause citing lack of evidence and refused to extradite. He further said the captain and engineer were merely doing their jobs.
Ironically because of the 1915 Seamen’s Act passed after Titanic’s demise, the additional weight of the lifeboats probably worsened the top-heavy issues of the ship.
A historical marker along the Chicago River marks the event. Plans are also underway to construct an outdoor exhibit where Eastland sank.
Eastland Goes Navy
The Eastland was raised and sold to the Illinois Naval Reserve and commissionedUSS Wilmette . She was reconfigured as a gun boat and primarily used for training. Her only action came after the war when she was tasked with sinking a captured German U-Boat in 1921. Most of her career after that was training naval reservists. In 1941, her training duty was altered to train naval armed crews on merchant ships. Her most prestigious task was to take President Roosevelt and others to Whitefish Bay to plan war strategies in 1943. She was decommissioned in 1945 and sold for scrap in 1946.
*It is week 8 of Masterchef (US). 13 constestants remain after Dan was sent home last week.
One of the interesting things about Masterchef is that we see varying levels of confidence and abilities. All of the contestants are amateurs. A few work as servers in restaurants but not as cooks. Each competition could be their last so they must focus on cooking best at all times. Pressure and other things can cause a promising candidate to go home. And if you loose confidence in your abilities as a cook, likely you will be sent home.
If confidence is a factor, a degree of arrogance usually follows. Of course it cannot be overwhelming arrogance that ends up being hubris. All three of the judges are extremely confident in their abilities and have arrogance about them. But not so much as to offend. The arrogance comes from years of practice and experience. What they look for in the cheftestants are both confidence and the ability to negotiate difficult tasks well. What separates a chef from a cook is how well they can create and execute a dish. And on this episodeof Masterchef, confidence is what you need when faced with a whole king salmon to filet and make a meal out of worthy the judges to consider.
Sad to say that a wonderful lesson in filleting a fish was squandered by the cheftestants. Gordon is an expert at this and his knife skills are extraordinary. Yet not one cheftestant bothered to watch. Of course some will say they never invited anyone down to watch. That misses the point. Nothing stopped them from going to down to see how he filleted a fish. If I had never done it before (like Ahran), I would have watched his technique. Gordon was done while everyone else was either still scaling their salmon or just starting to cut it up. Graham came down to cook Gordon’s salmon fillets, and Joe got to eat it. Joe got the best of the deal there.
Christine totally botched her filleting. The fillets looked like, as Joe put it, a shark had nibbled on them. Apparently she washed them in water and that resulted in them looking ragged. Elise had a health scare. She started feeling woozy. Gordon had water and a medic come over, and then a chair. It either was stress or fatigue and she ends up going outside to be more closely checked by the medics. She came back with thirty minutes to spare and did not have to cook. But she did and Christian thought well of that. Christian went a route most would dare not brave: Cajun blackened salmon. And it was worth the risk since his dish was the best of the round. Off he went to the pantry to make an important decision on whose food basket (Gordon, Graham’s, or Joe’s) would be cooked by everyone. He choose Joe because it looked more complex (and heavier as well!).
But of course there is a twist just before cooking and Christian gets to decide which person will only have thirty minutes to cook instead of sixty. He choose Courtney. That would not be my choice. I know she is a good cook and probably could ace it. Instead I would think in my head who are the other top ones and of that group, which are the weakest right now. I would have chosen between Willie and Ahran. Ahran because of her youth and lack of experience would have problems. And Willie is not so comfortable with upscale cooking. I would go for Willie. He choose Courtney because he does not like her much. Except, as I thought she would, she handled the challenge very well. So did Ahran and Elizabeth.
Ahran decided to make a savory tiramisu. That is nearly unheard of. The judges could not believe it and had doubts it would work out. Cutter opts to make pizza. Except there was no flour in the basket to make pizza. No problem in The Cutter Zone! Willie goes simple with tomato soup with egg and flatbread. Talk about uninspiring. This does not scream of Masterchef but a simple weeknight supper. Poor Elise though is having the most problems. Her first attempt at making pasta was a complete failure and she is demoralized. Gordon helps out and tries to get her not to give up.
Courtney had the disadvantage of only thirty minutes to cook. She manages to put up a decent dish that all the judges liked. Christian said she took the easy route, the judges do not agree. She is safe and not going home tonight. Courtney displays a level of confidence that borders on arrogance. The thing is, she can usually back it up. At one point early on she mentions she does not want to go back to working in a “gentleman’s club.” So she is hoping this will be a ticket out and be able to help her family. So she is clearly motivated to go as far as she can. Her mercenary aspects though tend to irritate the others. Christian hoped to trip her up and failed. He whined her dish was too simple and Joe retorted he misused his advantage. He aimed his arrow at someone with strong armor and it bounced off.
Christine redeemed herself with mushroom caramelle with brown butter and sage sauce. Leslie did fine with his artichoke ravioli but he needs to work on his presentation. Big Willie was a big disappointment. His dish was a tomato soup with egg and flatbread. He is given some really great Italian ingredients and this is all he came up with? Wow. Totally disappointing and it shows he did not have the confidence to make something more impressive. When it came to impressive,two dishes really shone out: Ahran and Elizabeth.
Ahran made a savory tiramisu. Gordon was very wary of this dish and asked if she had been drinking. No and she does not even know how to open the bottle! Gordon took a bite and from watching him on Kitchen Nightmares I guessed he was saying a prayer. Well it worked because the tiramisu was delicious. Never in a million years would he have thought of making such a dish but she had the confidence, despite her lack of experience in Italian cuisine, to pull it off. He was genuinely amazed by the skill she displayed for a person so young. Even if she does not win the competition, my guess is Gordon will get her into the business (as he has done with other young cooks). She clearly has talent.
And so does Elizabeth. She made a breakfast lasagna with egg on top with artichoke heart salad with bechamel sauce. Joe loved this dish and said it represented exactly the ingredients in the basket. He could not be more pleased and she went back to her station glowing in his admiration. Sadly neither Elise or Cutter can say the same. And now for trip down that lane to….The Cutter Zone.
The Cutter Zone
Cutter spent a entire hour to present the judges with a small artisanal pizza sitting on a sauce. Gordon cannot believe this is all he is presenting. He sarcastically asks Christian if gave Cutter less time than Courtney. It is not Masterchef material says Gordon. Joe was even more unimpressed than Gordon asking why he put the bread on sauce since it does not make the pizza crispy. Cutter wanted to add color to the plate. Joe spits it out and discards the plate. But at least Cutter thinks it was good. Time to leave this strange dimension and back to our normal reality.
Elise has had her moments but the stress got to her. And she has a problem picking herself up when making a mistake. Instead she gets despondent and looses confidence in her abilities. So her plate of ravioli, is as she puts it, sad. The sauce is not seasoned and Gordon asks if she has given up. She tries saying no but as Gordon points out, the dish says she has. So she is on the bottom with Cutter. Willie would have been there had there not been two dishes so poorly done as there was no other competition. They were faced with one cook who had given up and another who resides in different dimension where his food is never bad. While they would like to send Cutter home, Elise has totally given up. So they send her home and Gordon advises her not to give up and learn from mistakes. He has made plenty and did not give up.
This episode, perhaps more than others, highlights the differences in confidence and learning from mistakes. Christine botched the filleting in the Mystery Box and came back strong in the elimination round. Christian thought he would unnerve Courtney by giving her less time but her confidence in her abilities gave her a win. Willie, perhaps unfamiliar with the ingredients, decided to play it safe not having the confidence to try a pasta dish and ended up on the bottom. Ahran took a bold step in doing a savory tiramisu. We have seen some spectacular failures with tiramisu in the past. Yet her boldness and confidence bore out in a surprisingly delicious dish that made her a team captain in the next round. And Elizabeth showed her talents as well. She is most definitely a front runner now and perhaps the greatest challenge to Courtney and Christian.
As for Cutter and Elise, well one is in a delusion and the other collapses when they fail. Elise needs to build confidence in her abilities and when mistakes happen learn from them and not give up. Cutter is a whole different issue. This is a guy so into his own self that he is The Cutter Zone, a self imposed bubble that he developed so that criticism bounces off his chest like bullets off Superman. Remains to be seen how long he will last on the show. He has to count on someone else being fare worse than him. And one day that person will be him.
[Correction 21 July 2014-In my haste in writing this up I noted "it seems they let people continue to believe might be launched this year all the while covering themselves in this release." Of course it will not be launched this year but what has been put off is the date the keel will be laid. It was supposed to be done early this year, then switched to Fall 2014. However no formal contract has been signed or reported as signed with the Chinese company that will build Titanic II. So that date is subject to change.]
Governments often try to avoid public notice of something that will cause a stir by burying it inside a large document or give a brief mention of it seemingly as a routine matter in some filing. Blue Star Line has tried this approach, according to the Australian newspaper Courier Mail, by briefly mentioning in the last paragraph of a release that was issued way back in May. The press release is from 9 May 2014 and its subject line is “BLUE STAR LINE SIGNS TITANIC II MOU WITH AVIC AND DELTAMARIN”
Nearly the entire release is about how this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will enhance Blue Star’s ability to get sponsors to help finance Titanic II. Sounds pretty boiler plate until you get to the very last line:
Titanic II is scheduled to be launched from its construction base in China in 2018, before her maiden passenger voyage retracing its original journey from Southampton to New York.
I have to admit being duped on this. I did not read the full release as close as I ought to have. I did a write up on the MOU but did not notice that little line at the end. And nor did anyone else but, if I recall correctly, Blue Star did not point people to it either. Instead it seems they let people continue to believe might be launched this year all the while covering themselves in this release.
Of course it might be moot if the dispute between Palmer and the Chinese government remains unresolved.
Roy Orbison was a great singer-songwriter that many other performers respected. He had distinctive powerful voice and his music had complexity to it. His trademark sunglasses and dark clothes added an air of mystery. He was very popular in the 1960′s but slowed down in the 1970′s. His career began to revive in the late 1980′s as some of his music was used movies (Blue Velvet for one). In 1987 he collaborated with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra on the album Mystery Girl. The song “You Got It” written by Lynne and Tom Petty would rise to the top of the charts in both England and the US. Sadly Orbison would pass away before that occurred. The album came out in November 1988. His last concert was on 4 Dec 1988 at The Front Row Theater in Highland Heights, Ohio. He was exhausted and people noticed he did not look well. On 6 Dec 1988 after playing with his sons, he had a heart attack and died. He was 52. He left behind a library of songs that are still popular to this day. “You Got It” is still quite popular and, perhaps next to the Bangles “Eternal Flame” is a song sometimes heard in movies or television shows when people are talking about love, or in love, or about to get married.
Here is a performance of “You Got It” at the Diamond Awards in Antwerp, Belgium on 18 Nov 1988. Have a nice Sunday everyone.
Hornblower:The Fire Ships (aka Examination for Lieutenant)
This episode is comprised of short stories from C.S. Forester’s Midshipman Hornblower and are: Hornblower and the Spanish Galleys (just a small bit) Hornblower and the Examination For Lieutenant Hornblower and Noah’s Ark
The approximate date is sometime after 19 Aug 1796 when Spain formally made peace with France and joined in its war against Britain.
Spain has made peace with France and a supply ship carrying Captain “Dreadought” Foster is sunk by the Spanish. He is rescued by Indefatigable and Hornblower is impressed with him. With supplies running short, Hornblower is sent to Oran with a diplomat to purchase livestock, produce and grains. The Black Plague forces Hornblower and his crew to spend quarantine on the Caroline and they all return safely to Indefatigable. During his lieutenants examination, a Spanish fire ship is sighted. Hornblower and Dreadnought Foster work to steer the ship away from the fleet saving Indefatigable.
The episode opens with the Spanish delivering a message to Captain Pellew that Spain has made peace with France;he has six hours to leave Spanish waters or be fired upon. Meanwhile a supply ship carrying Captain “Dreadnought” Foster comes under attack. Foster takes command when the ship captain believes they have no chance of escape and gives orders they fight. The ship is sunk and Foster and the few surviving crew (one attacked him in the water for sinking the ship) are rescued by Indefatigable.
During the meal with Indefatigable’s officers, Foster relates what happened but finds most of the senior officers not exactly on his side. Hornblower seems supportive and is glad France was deprived of the supplies. The other officers, in particular Pellew, are not so pleased. Due to food supplies running low, Captain Pellew orders half-rations for the crew. He points out to Hornblower that Foster will have to do the same. Meanwhile Bunting, a seaman in Hornblower’s section, is a problem. Fitch was his friend who helped him calm down when pressed. Sadly he dies from malnutrition causing Bunting to be angry. He makes mutinous talks with his mates, Hornblower hears some of it and warns him to stop it. Bunting, believing the officers are hoarding good food, breaks into the ship stores. He finds the food old, stale, and moldy and is caught. Pellew makes him walk the gauntlet where each seaman strikes him with the cat of nine tails. Hornblower admits knowing of his poisonous talk and Pellew orders him to lead him through the gauntlet.
Hornblower is assigned command of the Caroline to transport food supplies and livestock from Oran. Tapling of the foreign service joins him on the expedition. Once ashore they discover Bunting hiding on the longboat. Meanwhile as supplies are being received, it is clear something amiss is going on. It is the Black Death and they must gather up their supplies and leave. Hornblower informs Pellew of what happened and will serve out the three week quarantine on Caroline. During that time, they go ashore to fetch fresh water and encounter a Spanish patrol. Bunting tries to escape but is recaptured. Hornblower ends up killing him in the end. Tapling tries to tell him he was correct in doing so.
However in returning to Caroline, he sees another British ship is taking supplies off it. It is Dreadnaught Foster’s ship and Hornblower tries in vain to prevent it since they are still in quarantine. Foster gets belligerent and Hornblower says his duty is to the fleet. He ends letting Foster taking what his men have already gotten and Foster says he will see him in Gibralatar. Tapling tries to make Hornblower understand he did his duty regarding Bunting but Hornblower wonders if he is fit to be in command. He believes Pellew would have done it differently. They are welcomed back by the Indefatigable and Pellew also tells him he did his duty regarding Bunter. He says men like Bunting have cast themselves adrift and this is part of the bitter brew that officers have to deal with.
At the lieutenants exam, Dreadnought Foster is part of the examination board and Hornblower struggles in dealing with a question. Fortunately the signal is sounded and a fire ship is spotted heading towards the fleet. The three captains and Hornblower board a longboat and head to the fire ship. Foster and Hornblower board and steer it away from Indefatigable. However as they turn to leave, Foster falls through some loose boarding and barely hangs on. Hornblower saves him and they both jump in the water and rescued by the longboat containing captains Hammond and Harvey. Foster relays his unhappiness they were not close enough. Hammond takes offense and a duel is in the offing. Hornblower says that he is saddened that one of the two will not be alive after dawn. That seems to have a calming effect.
Captain Pellew offers Hornblower a drink in his sea cabin and thanks him for saving his ship. He also relates that particular exam board will not likely reconvene and that he was not doing well. Pellew notes though he has been through a much sterner examination and says it has been an honor to serve with him.
Deviations from Midshipman Hornblower
*In the book the exam occurs before the mission to Oran.
*Captain Dreadnought Foster does not appear until Hornblower’s examination. There was no supply ship sunk that he was aboard and had to be rescued later. While it was common back then to refer to a captain by the name of the ship when returning to his ship, it was not commonly used as part of your name elsewhere. In the book, his real first name is never used.
*Bracegirdle is still a midshipman, not a lieutenant.
*There was no Bunting.
*Hornblower captured a Spanish ship and brought to Gibraltar at conclusion of quarantine. It is the commissary officer in port that chides him for serving fresh beef for his crew calling it an extravagance.
*The examination for lieutenant was aboard a captured Spanish ship Santa Maria. One funny scene is a midshipman leaves when he learns Captain Hammond is one of the examiners. He accidentally tossed his dog over the side of the ship and knows he will never get promoted if Hammond is one of the examiners.
*Foster and Hornblower do get aboard a fire ship and steer it away. They are first rescued by Spanish when they jump in the water, who then are captured by British. Foster orders they be let go for saving their lives.
*Foster tells Hornblower that particular examination board will never meet again and that he was failing. However he intends to notify the authorities of his heroism.
Combining three small stories into one coherent episode took some doing for the scriptwriter. The theme that unites is leadership and Hornblower is certainly put to the test. Dreadnought Foster was only in one story (Examination For Lieutenant) and never appears again. The contrasting styles of Pellew and Foster gave Hornblower a chance to see which was the best to emulate. At first he seemed quite taken with Foster’s deeds but slowly comes to realize towards the end that his duty is not just to himself but to the fleet. Foster was indifferent and it cost a supply ship (sunk by the Spanish) and most of its crew. The fact he was willing to take food off a quarantine ship shows the disregard he had for his crew as well. If Hornblower’s men were infected, then taking that meat put his men in mortal danger. Pellew had to put the good of the fleet first in the chance that Hornblower and his men were not infected and would bring to supplies back in three weeks.
The Bunting subplot was to once again show growth and development for Hornblower. Hornblower also had to deal with meting out justice. Not only was Bunting a thief but tried to desert. While ashore he runs to the Spanish patrol but is recaptured. Hornblower does not want to kill Bunting but he was left with little choice. Bunting grabbed his gun and Hornblower fired killing Bunting. He did not like killing Bunting and felt remorse over it. In part that is a good thing. Taking joy in the execution of another human life, no matter how deserving, can lead to one becoming comfortable with taking life. The truth for Hornblower is that sometimes men aboard ships will do bad things. And rules during time of war are strict about such conduct. Which means if he is the senior officer he will have to order punishment. In the books it was never easy for him but he did it because duty demanded it. Captain Pellew points out that it is part of the bitter brew they must endure.
His bravery aboard the fire ship showed he was willing to do the extraordinary for the fleet. Pellew’s growing admiration shows how much he has come from the very junior midshipman that reported for duty aboard the Justinian. All in all, an excellent adventure. The adaptation did not alter too much of the Hornblower universe though it would have been great to have seen Hornblower seize control of the Spanish ship as done in the book. An excellent second outing in the series.
*On 19 Aug 1796 Spain signed the Treaty of San Ildefonso with France and becoming an ally of First Republic. Spain would combine its forces with France against Britain. Spain’s prime minister Godoy thought it was the best of a bad situation. The war with France had not gone well for Spain. France had seized several northern cities and threats of unrest caused by revolutionary ideals led into the peace decision. Also many in Spain, Godoy included, did not like the British much. However the decision resulted in Spain suffering severe economic problems. Trade with Britain and the United States ended. Shipments between their American colonies faced being intercepted and captured by the British. Spain was a weak imperial power at this time so it did not have many cards to play. They used old galleys to take becalmed ships near land when their escorts were too far away as galleys used slaves to row them. Spain suffered a huge defeat in 1805 when the British defeated the combined French-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar. After that, Godoy and others like him became more distrusted by those loyal to the old order. Ultimately Napoleon put his brother on the throne and invaded Spain in 1808. That action led to other Spanish to unite in opposition to France and they made peace with Britain. Britain aided by loyalist Portuguese, Spanish guerrillas, and sometimes loyal units of Spain, would work to push France out of the Iberian Peninsula. It would be led by General Sir Arthur Wellesley (later Lord Wellington).
*Fire ships were first used in ancient times. They would take a ship and fill it wood (usually the type that would burn hot and fast), light it, and push it toward an enemy ship. Ships are highly flammable due to the dry timber and oils used to seal it. Greek fire was used later from ships to hurl at enemies causing the same effect. Fire ships had become mostly obsolete by the late 18th and early 19th centuries. However some ships of the British and French navies were used for this purpose. They were piloted by a skeleton crew that would steer it, ignite the fuel, and escape in a long boat. It was a devastating weapon when used at ships in port. Since the ships could not get out of the way easily, it meant those ships were in danger of burning up if it got too close. You could sink it with cannon but the danger was the flying debris would land on decks and that it would take too long to sink before it hit its mark. Fire ships became obsolete when metal replaced wood and steam replaced wind power. The concept is still sound but used differently. You use ships or boats packed with explosives, which was done in Operation Chariot in 1942. The old destroyerHMS Campbeltown was packed with explosives and rammed the dry dock in Saint-Nazaire, France to deny the German warship Tirpitz use of the only dry dock it could use in France. That raid was successful but the commandos that accompanied the mission were unable to return in the small boats as they were destroyed by German fire or other things. The were forced to fight their way out and escape overland. Many ended up surrendering when they ran out of ammunition. 622 men (Royal Navy and commandos) were sent out, only 228 would return to England. 169 men died and 215 were taken prisoner. The dry dock remained out of commission until after the war.
HMS Dreadnought, circa 1831-1857 as hospital ship. Image: public domain
*The character of Dreadnought Foster appears completely fictional as no historical figure exists with that name. There was an HMS Dreadnought of this period that was commissioned in 1801. It was a Neptune class ship of the line with a class of three 98 gun second rates. The most famous ship of this class was HMS Temeraire(1798). During the battle of Trafalgar, it came to Victory’s aid and took on two French ships and captured them. Temeraire would have been known to Hornblower as this ship was used during this period for blockade or convoy duties in the area. Aside from the Temeraire, its sister ships Dreadnought and Neptune also fought at Trafalgar.
*One of the greatest dangers, aside from fire and disease, was malnutrition. By this time, the cause of scurvy was well understood as lacking certain foods in the diet. The discovery of vitamin C was a long way off. It was known a diet of fruits and vegetables was important. Limes were often used on ships (a daily ration along with run) which is why the name “limey” was often used to denote British sailors. The problem for the British was that Spain was closed to them beyond Gibraltar so no hope of getting food there. Other outlets (Sicily, Italy, Greece) were more difficult. The Ottoman’s were not that hospitable either. So the closest and easiest choice were the nearby Barbary states like Oran to supply the fleet until other supply ships arrived.
*The effects of disease on ships was an acute one and could wipe out more than half its crew (or more). The Black Death, although no longer a major threat in Europe, was still around. It is believed today that there were several forms of the plague that spawned from the Yersinia pestis bacterium. Thought possibly to have been spread by traders from the east, most believe it was spread by black rats with fleas carrying the disease. The fleas would jump from rats to humans spreading the disease to their new hosts. 30-60%(depending on the area and how widespread the infection was) of the European population were killed between 1346-53. The plague would reoccur in Europe. It also ravaged North Africa and the Middle East as well. Tapling refers to an outbreak in Smyrna(known today as Izmir in Turkey) in 1786. The date may be fictional but incidents of Black Death did occur in that region in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Premiere Exhibitions, which owns RMS Titanic Inc, recently announced its earnings for the first fiscal quarter of 2015 saw revenue decrease by 16.2% compared with first quarter last year. According to the press release:
Total revenue decreased 16.2% to $7.5 million compared to $8.9 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2014. Exhibition revenue was negatively impacted by a decrease in admissions revenue as a result of fewer touring exhibitions achieving profit share participation despite comparable average attendance per day. This was only partially offset by higher non-refundable license fees. Merchandise revenue was negatively impacted by a decrease in total attendance for semi-permanent and partnered exhibitions along with a decline in average retail sales per attendee.
Average attendance per exhibition day fell by 9.4% to 462 compared to same quarter last year with 510. They had more exhibition days during the quarter compared to last year. Some costs went down due to lower compensation costs.
So what does it all mean? Well Michael Little the interim president writes:
Our top-line performance reflects weaker demand for Titanic and Bodies in established venues such as Las Vegas and Orlando, lower average ticket prices across all semi-permanent locations, along with fewer of our domestic touring partnered exhibitions achieving profit share participation. These factors led to admission and merchandise sales declines that were only partially offset by higher license fees for rented exhibitions touring internationally. The year over year decrease in total revenues, coupled with rising exhibition costs, yielded a reduction in adjusted EBITDA and a net loss for the Company during the three-month period.
So things are not rosy over at Premiere. Fewer people are going to their exhibitions which translates into fewer merchandise sales. As for the Titanic artifacts collection, the official line is “Premier continues to explore strategic alternatives in conjunction with J.P. Morgan, however, there is nothing definitive to announce at the present time. In addition, the Company expects its independent appraisers to complete new appraisals of the entire Titanic collection, including all the artifacts and intellectual property obtained and developed subsequent to the last appraisal in 2009, over the next month.”
The nugget here is a new appraisal is being undertaken but not just of the Titanic artifacts but the intellectual property developed as part of this collection. That tells me they are trying to sweeten the pot. They will not only get the entire Titanic collection but all the other proprietary materials as well. It also makes sense if you are asking big money people to pony up millions of dollars.
*It is week 7 of Masterchef (US). 14 are left after Francis B was sent home last week.
*It is another beautiful day in sunny southern California and our cheftestants are on a city bus. Just them, of course. Courtney opines about the challenge and Elizabeth ranks the top field (including herself) as Courtney, Christine, Jaimee and Willie. They arrive at Dinah’s, an iconic classic American diner in Los Angeles. Gordon and Joe are finishing up their breakfast as the cheftestants arrive.
*But hold on, no team selection this time and the judges pick the team captains: Willie and Christine. I think it is a great choice as both have shown great skills but have yet to lead. Teams are boys vs girls EXCEPT Gordon does not like that so much. Each team picks one person they can poach from the other. The girls pick Christian and the guys Victoria. Off to the kitchen to prep and cook for the crowd that is sure to come in. And since a lot of people eat here frequently, they know exactly what they want and how it is supposed to taste. Both teams (Willie is blue, Christine is red) will be cooking during the busiest shift of the day, which is generally breakfast and lunch. As it turns out they work most of the day since when it is over the sun is going down.
*According to their website, Dinah’s is open 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. daily. Christine comes across as a good leader, Willie a little less so because he seems disorganized later on when more orders start coming in. Both teams are looking good as they start cooking away. Nothing like being in good diner and hearing that bacon sizzling away!
*Each diner is given a red or blue Masterchef dollar. If they like their meal, they will deposit it in the appropriate jar. If not, no tip!
*Problems start emerging on Team Blue with Willie losing track of orders. Also Leslie looses focus. Unsure whether it was just stress or something else. Ultimately Willie removes him and puts Victoria in charge. Orders are backing up and customers waiting for Team Blue are getting impatient. Elise is having problems with making the Club sandwich. I love the sandwich but if you have never made it before, it could be a little daunting. Christine sends Elizabeth to help.
*One of the customers alerts Gordon her chicken is raw. Gordon is apologetic and heads back to the kitchen. I am surprised it got by Christine and shows both teams are in serious trouble. Meanwhile customers are starting to say adios and head out the door after waiting a very long time for nothing. And since they were Team Blue customers, that means potential tips are heading out the door for the team. When the shift is over, they can all take a breath but the tips will have to be counted up and revealed the next day. Hope they got some good sleep because the dreaded pressure test lies ahead.
Lifeboat Offered, Willie Declines
Integrity and character are words often chided by many today as outmoded values. Team Red wins and gets the safety of the balcony. Team Blue must now face the dreaded pressure test. Willie is offered two options. Option 1: He can select three from the group to be saved. Option 2: Select only himself and everyone else faces the challenge. Not surprisingly Courtney opines she would take the lifeboat when Willie decides to select three and stay in the pressure test. He says since he was team captain, he has to take responsibility. That in a nutshell is integrity over selfishness and why people with integrity and character count while mercenaries like Courtney people are cautious and wary of. Willie selects Francis L., Daniel, and Victoria.
The Cake of Doom: Red Velvet
Red velvet cake is delicious but unfortunately Willie, Leslie, Dan and Cutter must cook it. Both Willie and Leslie are confident they can pull it off. Cutter has eaten the cake and never made it. And Dan is just Dan moving along with due speed but his batter is thick. And Gordon reminds us early on that density is important to the cake.
Appearances though can be deceiving. Willie looks slow but that masks the fact he is getting things properly prepped. His calm manner is probably the reason he looks slow. Leslie by contrast abounds with energy and confidence. Both are not worried about producing a good cake. Leslie has been in pressure tests before and this is the second one for Willie. However Cutter and Dan by contrast look more stressed in getting their cakes ready.
In Cutter’s Way
They begin with Willie. Gordon says it looks a little askew but when he cuts into it, the layers are perfect. It is also delicious, a view shared by all the judges. Willie has done good. No need to worry about him going home. Leslie is up next and he has put ground up pistachios on top. Joe did not think he would like it that way but ended up enjoying the cake as do the other judges. And now cue the dramatic music….
Joe asks Leslie why people do not like him. Of course we know the answer: it is the way he comes off when he talks to most people. He says he does not know, which is probably true. Then Cutter interjected with a comment that ended with saying Leslie was a “one trick pony.” Joe looked askance at that and reminded Cutter it is the judges who determine who wins. And then he added Leslie had a delicious cake. Up next is Dan and right away there is a problem. Joe finds it hard to cut through and appears over baked. Joe says it is a boiled wool cake. Yikes! Cutter is smiling but the smile is wiped off when Joe remarks that while Dan’s tasted homemade, that Cutters looks like it was made by a child.
Gordon looks at Cutter’s cake and says it decoration on top (a uncompleted version of American flag) looks different. And then he notes the stuff on the cake side looks like a hairy back! This prompt laughter from Ahran and the others above. The cake is moist but has a lot of frosting. And it is too sweet. Leslie smiles and Graham comes over to taste it. Cutter then starts disagreeing with Gordon’s criticism implying Gordon’s palate is different. Graham tries to get him to distinguish between professional criticism and the personal. Cutter kept trying to interrupt and Graham had to tell him to let him speak. Graham concludes by saying (to Cutter asking about the sweetness) “now you what over sweet is.”
Joe walks over and asks why he is so defensive. Cutter says he does not understand why they consider his cake too sweet. Joe asks if he lives in a delusion and if he will get defensive every time they criticize him. Cutter gets more upset and says he is not a baker and might go home tonight. The tension is palpable to everyone. Joe says he implied Gordon had a poor palate. Cutter retorts back not to put words in his mouth! Gordon cannot believe it, and Graham is shaking his head in disbelief. The verbal sparring continues. Joe says Cutter has to respect the judges which prompts this rant from Cutter:
“I do. I’m doing my best and all I do gets hammered.” More worrisome looks and then Joe says that all he does is interrupt and says “you sound ignorant.” I hear the sound of distant cannon now and getting closer unless Cutter shuts up. Finally Joe asks who he would send home. He says Leslie, which prompts Leslie to laugh. Cutter responds to that by saying it is all a big circle to him. Leslie continues to laugh saying back “you’re still here?”
No surprise that both Willie and Leslie are safe. But should one or both go from the bottom two? The angel of death prepares the scythe. Dan is sent home since his cake was more like a biscuit said Gordon. Cutter is spared again but I fear now has been marked in a way no other has before on Masterchef.
The restaurant challenge is a great pressure test on its own. We see how these home cooks work in a professional working kitchen. Christine was the better leader of the two but both teams were close in score at the end. Both teams had problems with a particular station. Team Willie had problems with the egg station and Team Christine with club sandwich. Leslie had a point later that Daniel was not doing much but that appears later. Like everyone else he is working at his station but at some point ends up working as a vice-expeditor next to Willie. Daniel was barking out stuff and not Willie, which was Leslie’s point. He was not doing cooking at that point but acting like he was in charge. I think that tells us a lot about Daniel. He seems to like pushing himself as someone who can be in charge but always does it from a secondary position. He organized the mutiny against Leslie but put Francis B. and not himself in charge. In this episode, he tries to assert authority by standing next to Willie and barking out orders. I think Leslie caught onto his act early on and that may be the reason for deep mistrust between the two.
However this episode will be remembered for Cutter’s meltdown. And it was epic because he reminds you of those stubborn and arrogant chefs Ramsay would encounter on Kitchen Nightmares. You know the ones I am talking about. They would say their food was good and Ramsay would find it wanting in a serious way. That is what Joe openly wondered about when he said Cutter must live in a delusion. And he clearly believes that no matter what he does, no matter how much he puts into it, he gets hammered by them. He clearly has had enough. Joe realized you cannot talk sensibly to a person in such a state. So he asks the trick question of who he would send home. He says Leslie, who no one believes is on the chopping block. Leslie naturally laughs at this and I do not blame him. When someone is this far gone either you ignore or laugh about it. And what Cutter said about Leslie living in a big circle comes from someone in a very different place than our own. Paging Rod Serling–The Twilight Zone has arrived on Masterchef.
Well Cutter has certainly got a big target painted on his back now. I wonder if the judges will try to find a convenient manner in which to dispatch Cutter from the show as quickly as possible. Cutter, Dr Phil is calling!
*The dog days of summer are nearly here and nothing new about Titanic II. My last posting reported the Chinese government and Clive Palmer locking horns over money. They accuse him of misusing (or possibly embezzling) their money and he is demanding royalty fees. Looks grim right now for Titanic II being built in China. Perhaps somewhere like Dubai might be next on the list as a candidate to build it.
*James Cameron’s Titanic is now streaming on Netflix (US). Kitchen Nightmares (US) seasons 1-3 are gone from Netflix but they now have seasons 4 and 5. They have the UK version as well.
*Speaking of Kitchen Nightmares (US), it is finished. This last season was a rushed on Fox. They put episodes back to back so it went very quickly. The successful UK program was ended a few years ago as well. Many consider the UK version to be superior. The UK version has Gordon doing the narration and going to restaurants in trouble. While he gets in the faces of bad chefs and stubborn owners, the conflict seen on most US episodes is not there. The US not only has the usual problems with chefs and owners but lots of internal strife as well resulting in some rather volatile episodes. Many accuse the producers of hyping conflict, which might be true. It is also likely some purposefully manufactured the conflicts to get Ramsay’s producers interested. What cannot be faked though is the bad food and poor sanitary conditions that he finds. Many of the restaurants closed after Ramsay visited them. But to call it a “Ramsay Curse” would be inaccurate. All of the restaurants he visits are on the ropes and losing money. Calling in Ramsay is the equivalent of calling in the fire brigade to save a burning house. Ramsay often does offer solutions and way out but, alas, he does not control other things.
Like lenders, lien holders, angry vendors, debt collectors, and government agencies to name a few. Even if a business can start making money again, the debt can be too high with interest and fees. In some cases, like Black Pearl, the minute Ramsay walked out went back to what they did before (and as Ramsay predicted closed within a year). Some have survived and are still open. Some closed a few years later due to the economy or other reasons. Ramsay tries to point them towards quality food served at modest prices to make money. Shortcuts are not allowed. Frozen meatballs are never as good as fresh. And microwaves are used only to heat sauces not to cook meals. Ramsay appears focused on Masterchef, Hells Kitchen, and Hotel Hell.
*Speaking of Hell’s Kitchen, there was high drama in the last episode. Joy decided, in the middle of service, she could not take it anymore and left. Ramsay could not believe she was doing this and tried to force her to rethink the move. But up to the dorm she went after tearing off the black jacket she had earned and began packing. Andie (who along with James assists Ramsay) tried talking to her and getting her to reconsider. She seemed almost ready to go back and apologize but ended up sitting down too long to think about it. Time went on, the service was done, and she did not go back. So she was out. Gordon had seen much promise in her but her actions showed she was not ready to run a kitchen. Jason was stunned as were the others she walked out. But it was her choice and she now has to live with it.
*When the name Walter Lord comes up, invariably people think about his two Titanic books (A Night To Remember and The Night Lives On) but he wrote many other historical books as well. He wrote about the Battle of Midway (Incredible Victory) and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 1941 (Day of Infamy). Both are good books and worth reading if you have the time. His narrative style puts you right there and learning a lot as you read. Some of his accounts, especially of the Pearl Harbor attack, are riveting. Check your local library to see if they have his books.
*Titanic often comes up in surprising ways. Consider the following from the British comedy Are You Being Served?, episode titled Our Figures Are Slipping:
Rumbold: I sometimes regard our whole organization as a ship at sea. Captain Peacock is at the helm, keeping his eyes skimmed. I am in the engine room making sure we all are going full steam ahead. And you men are the crew.