Jay Leno, a Vintage Car, and a Titanic Heir

Jay Leno loves vintage cars. In fact he claims that buying vintage cars is cheaper than having lots of women! Back in 2005 he bought a vintage car–a 1931 Dusenberg Model J–that belonged to John Straus, the grandson of  Macy’s found Isador Straus. Both Isador and his wife Ida perished when Titanic sank in 1912. Leno thought he had gotten a good deal for $180,000. The car though was not in very good shape due to water damage and neglect. But with the help of a restorer and lots of work, the car has been restored to “better than new” according to news reports.

The car had been stored since 1931 in a leaky garage contributing to its poor condition. In 2005 the garage sought $22,000 in fees. The fees were apparently paid but the garage auctioned off the car anyway (whether this due to an oversight or something else the article does not make clear). What is clear is that Leno got the car and a lawsuit from the Straus family claiming the auction was a sham. The argument seems to have been Leno was in cahoots with the garage to get the car.

The legal action was just settled. As is the norm in such matters, exact details are always confidential. News reports indicate that while the Straus family got money, it did not come from Leno. The car itself was never very pretty said Leno. It was built to ferry wealthy people around New York City. Leno does enjoy driving the car around reliving the days of yesteryear.

Source: Daily Mail, Jay Leno Settles Vintage Car Legal Dispute Over 1931 Duesenberg, 21 June 2011

Las Vegas Chef Does Titanic

Eric Bernard Tordjman’s father and grandfather once participated in a lavish Titanic dinner in 1952 at the Trianon Palace Hotel in Versailles, France. Now the grandson plans to offer a Titanic dinner at his Bistro Restaurant at Lake Las Vegas. The Henderson Press reports:

Chef E. Bernard is committed to recreating that experience – without adjusting for inflation. Starting at seven bells shipboard time (7 p.m. for others), those booking passage will be greeted, given a White Star Line “Boarding Pass” and seated for an unhurried evening of sumptuous epicurean dining. Music of the day will be played on piano, violin and guitar – recreating the same make-up of musicians that played aboard the Titanic. Various special decorative touches will help complete this bygone shipboard ambience and elegant dining experience.

The first menu being served includes meals served about Titanic. Subsequent weekly dinners every Thursday offer either three or five course meal that includes champagne, an unhurried pace, and pastries prepared from recipes served on Titanic.

Be prepared to fork (no pun intended) over lots of buckzoids. The three course meal is $45 per person, the five course $65.

Source: The Henderson Press, “Titanic” Dining At Lake Las Vegas, 16 June 2011

Off-Topic:ReplayTV Smacks Users Hard

Replay users got a shocking message yesterday when they turned on their televisions and checked the program guide:

The ReplayTV Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) Service will be permanently discontinued on July 31, 2011. After this date, owners of ReplayTV DVR units will still be able to manually record analog TV programs, but will not have the benefit of access to the interactive program guide. Effective immediately, monthly billing for the ReplayTV service to remaining customers has been suspended.

The industry conversion to HDTV is complete and ReplayTV DVRs are unable to take advantage of the wealth of HDTV programming. Please contact your service provider for current offerings.

Needless to say the reaction from Replay users was shock, dismay, anger, and resignation. Many said they knew this day would come. Replay was once the leader in the digital video recorder industry and considered better than Tivo at the time. Through mismanagement and bad marketing campaigns, Replay fell behind while Tivo became a verb (to tivo). The company changed hands several times and gradually the brand faded into the niche legacy market. Replay has its fans though. Lots of them who love their units and despair at how such a good product ended up being left behind.

But the question today for Replay users is how to use the units after 31 Jul 2011. Without a channel guide, the unit is pretty much just a hunk of metal sitting on the shelf. PC users have some options using third party software to download schedules but Mac users are out in the cold here. Worse though comes information that the entire Replay operation is being shut down from servers, tech support and the website. A posting on the AVS site and Planet Replay relates the grim news when someone called up to find out the details:

“Here is what I learned: Everything is closing down on 7/31- Despite what the official word was to users, there will be no way for the units to do anything once the system shuts down for good. No clock the servers, tech support, the website. No servers means no clock or channels, and you will not be able to choose a provider. The blaster codes are on the hard drive of the units, so if you manually enter a channel, it can send it to the cable box. You will not be able to choose a provider, so you will not be able to get channels, or a blank channel guide. All recording setups will disappear. Any on-going (record every week, etc), will be gone. They have no idea how anyone will even be able to manually record since you will need the clock to be in sync and channels (which cannot be manually entered since you have to get them via a provider) to do this. They hope to get clarification on this later.”

In short, the message to Replay users is you have scrap metal. There will be no ability to manually record anything since the unit needs to have both a clock set and channels downloaded based upon the provider. Unless you can use third party software that can feed the information to the unit, your Replay unit will do nothing. For those who bought lifetime service (like me) it is really bad news. We paid upfront to avoid a monthly fee. Even if lawyers get the company to cough up money, it will not be much.

No doubt many will find creative ways to keep their units going but for most it will mean the end of a great dvr.

There is hope though that some will pool resources together and buy the rights to keep ReplayTV going. They would set up the necessary servers and then allow the service to continue. It might be limited with only a few telephone numbers and a fee charged for the service (perhaps with discounted plans if you purchase for a set number of years) but for many Replay users it would be worth it. Most have no desire to go that other dvr with a T in it. Moxi is too expensive and has mixed reviews.

And so the story is not quite over yet. Hope still exists but in the short term come 31 July ReplayTV service as we knew it comes to an abrupt end.

Spooky Titanic: Spectral Cigar Smoke?

A recent article in the Quad City cigar in ashtrayTimes reports several people smelling a cigar odor near a sealed glass case at a Titanic exhibit. A passenger’s cigar holder is in that case fueling speculation that a spectre is at work. Ciara Tanaka, a volunteer coordinator at the museum, says the odor was “strong.” Another person who works there also detected the odor and checked a garbage can to see if it had a cigar in it. A paranormal expert, Jason Hess, states the reports are credible. “The smell of cigar smoke at the Titanic exhibit is highly credible. Artifacts, such as from the Titanic, hold energy from bodies and souls that had died quickly. The odor can be like a rewind of tapes from the past.”

That theory is an old one called psychometry, which believes that certain gifted people are allowed to see, hear, and even smell things from the past. It is often used to explain hauntings. In theory a gifted person would be able to see whatever event the haunting is about. What often happens is simply a case of now you see it–or not type of thing. Science thus far has not confirmed the theory has any merit. So what did the people smell at the Putnam museum?

There are several possibilities. One is that they did smell something. Perhaps it was someone smoking a cigar near the building and got picked up by the outdoor air vents. Or someone might have been smoking a cigar illegally (the museum is a no-smoking zone) and its aroma was picked up and recirculated by the air conditioning system. Or it might have been something that smelled similar to cigar smoke. Another possibility is someone is playing a prank on them. Never dismiss this. It has happened before when suspected hauntings or poltergeist activity is being investigated that someone is found to be responsible for it.

There is also the power of suggestion. Our minds are curious things and can be easily fooled at times. Take waking up at night where, between being fully awake and sleeping, you see strange shapes in your room. Once you are fully awake there is nothing out of the ordinary. People having day dreams can have this happen too, where they see or hear things that are not really happening. It is possible some who smelled cigar smoke were getting into the moment, so to speak, and suddenly the smell of cigar smoke was there. In this scenario the people are reacting not to any ghostly encounter but are in a suggestive state where such things are possible.

So is there a haunted cigar holder a the Putnam museum? I suspect there are more plausible explanations than a deceased Titanic passenger enjoying a cigar at the Titanic exhibit.

Quad City Times, Spooky Cigar Smoke Adds To Titanic Mystique, 2 June 2011

Baker, Robert A & Nickell, Joe. 1992. Mystic Pieces: How to Investigate Ghosts, UFOs, Psychics & Other Mysteries, Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books

Nickell, Joe. 2007. Adventures in Paranormal Investigation, Lexington: University Press of Kentucky

A Cat Named Molly Brown

Governors Island in New York recently had a visitor wash up on its molly brown catshores, a calico cat. Her fur was matted and had seaweed on it. A weekend of storms had preceded her arrival leading many to speculate the feline had been swept into the harbor and then either swam or floated ashore on a piece of debris. It caused a sensation and a name had to be given to this cat (whose owners have not been found). So after a contest where names were submitted—where such names as Mary Ann, Ginger, Salty and Buttermilk were considered—the name that won out was Molly Brown.

That’s right. She is named after the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” of Titanic fame. Well you have to admire the selection. From all reports the cat is doing quite well having the island mostly to her itself for the moment. It opens up to tourists on 27 May. No doubt many will ask about the feline Molly Brown, who likely will become a permanent fixture on the island.

Source: DNAinfo, The Stray Cat Was Named After “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,”13 May 2011

Titanic Piece Up For Auction-Or Not?

Heritage Auction Gallery in Dallas, Texas is auctioning items from the Charles Pelligrino collection that includes an actual piece of Titanic. According to the press release:

“This section, however, was part of the “crackage” of the great boat, which sheared away from the vessel as it broke in half, and was recovered from the ocean floor some distance from the wreck. A semicircular depression in one corner of the piece is evidence of the force with which the ship cracked, sufficient to pop a rivet completely away from the hull. It has become essentially fossilized after the bio-absorption.”

On my discussion list I speculated that RMS Titanic Inc. (part of Premiere Exhibitions) likely would be upset and go to court. One of the list participants contacted Premiere and was told discussions were going on, and that the auction house would be making a correction.

So far nothing has been released just yet but the obvious question is how Pellegrino acquired this piece. We know Titanic split in two and that there is a debris field between them. Most (but not all) artifacts come from the debris field. Some artifacts were brought up before RMS Titanic Inc (RMSTI) filed for salvage rights (some by RMSTI and the French brought some up as well). So it is possible this piece came up before any salvage rights were awarded.

The press release is rather vague about where it was found. It implies it was found away from the debris field which might put it outside of RMSTI’s control. And we do not know who certified it as part of Titanic. It will be interesting to watch how this story unfolds.

Titanic Cliche of the Day

Today’s cliché comes from blog at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“Just a week after the anniversary of the nation’s greatest oil disaster, Congress is set to vote on legislation to open up virtually all federal waters to drilling, while cutting governmental oversight and safety measures at the same time. That’s sort of like telling the designer of the Titanic to forget about the icebergs and just build more ships. Full speed ahead!”

I am not sure it quite works. Titanic was designed to take damage if one, two, or even three of her forward compartments were damaged from a ship collision. Hitting icebergs were rare (usually head on). Titanic was damaged when the iceberg scraped along the starboard side causing lots of ruptures along the way. Hardly the scenario ever envisioned by ship designers. As for the designer, Thomas Andrews, he perished when Titanic sank.

Natural Resources Defense Council (blog), Stop the Dangerous Bills For More Drilling, 3 May 2011

Titanic Cliches of the Day

Once again time to see how Titanic gets used and abused as a cliché.

1. “A new development – company board chairman Jorma Ollila today said he will leave his post by 2012 – may lead you to wonder if the company isn’t merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Along with his announcement, Ollila said he would not “throw in the towel” at the Nokia before then.”
-Tracey E. Schelmetic on techzone360.com about Nokia chairman Ollila departing next year.

2. “On Friday April 29, 2011, as riots raged across the country, local television stations in Uganda were twiddling their thumbs. Like the band on the Titanic that played on as the ship sank, the TV stations were showing music videos, repeats of Mexican soaps, or feeds of the Royal Wedding in London.”
-Daniel Kalinaki writing in Daily Monitor about riots in Uganda and the failure of its television media to cover it.

1. techzone360.com, Nokia Chairman of the Board Ollila Departing Next Year, 3 May 2011

2. Daily Monitor, You must worry when your TV shows soaps but no riots, 3 May 2011

Not Quite Tacky-Large Ice Cubes For Drinks

A trend of putting a very large ice cube in drinks sparked an article in Globe and Mail . According to the article, bartenders in upscale places are putting large ice cubes in old fashioned glasses to keep drinks from being watery. The ice cubes measure about 5 centimeters long which makes them big than the traditional small ice cubes. Big enough, the author notes, to sink the Titanic!

Well not really of course but it does raise some questions. Do large ice cubes melt slower than the smaller? Of course one ought to be skeptical of the claim that using collosal size cubes means drinks are less watery. In recent years most bars have gotten pretty good at cutting costs. Unless you order scotch neat, chances are most mixed drinks have ice in them to cut down on the amount of alcohol they put in each drink. Now crafty bartenders and owners know people have caught on, so they are bringing out the colossal cube. They say it makes your drink less watery. And because of its size, you do not notice it melting much.

The writer of the piece did have someone do an experiment on it. And it looks like the larger cubes shed less water than the smaller ones which seems to mean you get a stiffer drink. However the Mythbusters rule needs to be used here. I am not convinced (and neither is the one who did the tests) this is proven yet. There are many factors that need to be explored. And those clever guys on Mythbusters are just the guys to find out the truth. They have already tried out a few alcohol myths so this one ought to be pretty easy to do. My hunch is this: In some cases, you get less water melting from the larger cubes owing to a number of factors but only in a limited way. In most drinks it probably is the same as the smaller ones.

But at least no one is calling these colossal cubes Titanic. 🙂

Titanic Unknown Child Conclusively Identified

In 2004 genetic testing on the remains of a child thought to be Gösta Leonard Pålsson resulted in the child’s identity as Eino Viljami Panula, a 13-month-old Finnish boy. Doubts lingered as two young Titanic victims were very close, Panula and Sidney Goodwin. But it was a pair of leather shoes that led researchers to question the identification. According to news article at msnbc.com, the story of the shoes is quite fascinating:

The shoes had been saved by Clarence Northover, a Halifax police sergeant in 1912, who helped guard the bodies and belongings of the Titanic victims, according to the museum’s website. A letter from Northover’s grandson, Earle, recounts how the victim’s clothing had been burned to stop souvenir hunters. Clarence Northover couldn’t bring himself to burn the little shoes, and when no relatives claimed them, he put the shoes in his desk drawer at the police station. In 2002, Earle Northover donated them to the museum. These shoes were too large for a 13-month-old to wear.

So with more through testing and the assistance of the U.S. Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, it was determined with a 98% certainty the child is in fact Sidney Goodwin. Goodwin’s parents and five siblings all perished when Titanic went down.

Titanic, historic ship, and general history news.