Hornblower:The Fire Ships (aka Examination for Lieutenant)

Hornblower:The Fire Ships (aka Examination for Lieutenant)
93 minutes

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 “Dreadnought” 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.

Historical Notes
*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 destroyer HMS 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
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 Reports Lower Earnings In First Quarter Report

falling revenuesPremiere 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.

Source: Premier Exhibitions Reports First Quarter Fiscal 2015 Results(15 Jul 2014,Marketwatch-Press Release)

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Masterchef: In Cutter’s Way

Photo: Remko Tanis (Flickr)
Photo: Remko Tanis (Flickr)

*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.

Photo: FOX
Photo: FOX

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.

My 2¢
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!

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Monday Musings

monday*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.

Lucas: What’s it called–the Titanic?

Have a good day or evening where ever you may be.

Sunday Morning With Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash appeared on the Columbo episode Swan Song playing a musician named Tommy Brown who kills his odious wife. One of the memorable songs he played in that episode was the song I Saw The Light, which was originally recorded by Hank Williams in 1948. It become one of his most popular gospel songs. While many like the Columbo version of that song, it has never been officially released as a single. There are some postings of it on the Internet which likely are not legal. However here is a performance of that song with his wife, June Carter Cash, on the Johnny Cash Show which ran from 1969-1971 on ABC. Enjoy and have a nice Sunday everyone.

Review:Hornblower: The Duel(1998)

Artist:Léopold Le Guen Photo: Public Domain
Artist:Léopold Le Guen
Photo: Public Domain

Hornblower: The Duel(1998)
aka Hornblower:The Even Chance
93 minutes


This first installment of the A&E series covers the following short stories from C.S.Forester’s Midshipman Hornblower:

Hornblower and the Even Chance
Hornblower and the Cargo of Rice
Hornblower and the Penalty of Failure
Hornblower and the Man Who Felt Queer
Hornblower and the Man Who Saw God

This episode deals with Hornblower’s arrival on Justinian, his conflict with Midshipman Simpson, transfer to the Indefatigable, his captaincy of the Marie Galante (and its loss) and a major encounter with the French. It concludes with the duel between Hornblower and Simpson.

The starting year is approximately January 1793.

17 year-old Horatio Hornblower arrives on HMS Justinian and meets Captain Keene, who is not well. Keene knew his father (a doctor) as a patient of his. His fellow midshipman chide him on his age and not starting sooner. Meanwhile senior Midshipman Simpson returns to everyone’s regret after failing to pass his examination for lieutenant. He is a bully,tough on Hornblower and rules the other midshipman through fear and intimidation. He comes to particularly dislike Hornblower because he does better than him in navigation classes.

During a game of whist on shore waiting for a merchant convoy to arrive, Simpson accuses Hornblower of cheating because he wins. Hornblower challenges him to a duel, which is accepted, but on the day of the duel Midshipman Clayton(who had become friends with Hornblower) knocks him out and takes his place. Hornblower arrives after the duel to find Clayton mortally injured. Just after he dies it is learned that England and France are now at war (setting the date sometime on or after 1 Feb 1793 when France declared war on England).

Hornblower and other midshipman (and some crew) are transferred to HMS Indefatigable captained by Captain Sir Edward Pellew. In his first meeting with Pellew, he tells Hornblower that he judges a man not by what he hears but what he sees. He is referring to the report of the duel and the fact that Hornblower had someone else stand in for him. Hornblower tries to defend his old captain when Pellew is critical of the conditions that led to the duel but reminded that a ship captain is responsible for everything aboard his ship.

The taking of the Marie Galante, a small merchant ship, gives Hornblower his first command. Unfortunately he discovers later that a cannon shot caused a small hole under the waterline resulting in the ship taking water. They try to plug it up but the cargo–rice–swells causing damage to the ship. They try dumping the rice over the side but to no avail. The small prize crew and the French seamen have to get on long boat and hope for the best. The French eventually take command and the captain wants the compass and charts. Hornblower tosses the compass overboard but the confidant French captain says he will get them to France. Time passes and they are no closer to land than before and the French seamen are angry. Hornblower had kept the coordinates in his head and knows they merely turned around are going parallel to the coast. Fortunately the Indefatigable appears and they are all rescued. The British seamen repeat Hornblower’s exploits to the crew while he reports to Pellew as to what happened. Pellew is not upset and ultimately says it was better for France to loose the rice rather than Britain to profit from it.

The Justinian is sunk in battle by the Papillon and one of the survivors picked up is Midshipman Simpson. Pellew decides they need to capture the Papillon to take it out of French hands. So he plans a daring raid in which the ship will be seized at night. During that raid, Midshipman Kennedy has an epileptic fit and has to be left in the boat. Meanwhile Simpson cuts the line setting it free and fires on Hornblower hoping it will kill him. It does not and he charges Simpson with attempted murder to Lieutenant Eccleston. Unfortunately both Lieutenants Eccleston and Chadd would die right after that when the ship is raked with enemy fire. Eccleston gives Hornblower command with his dying breath but Simpson tries to take command, and is stopped when Bowles accepts Hornblower’s authority.

Hornblower steers Papillon to where the French are battling the Indefatigable. Their ship is still showing French colors so they are not fired upon. They fire on the French ships giving the Indefatigable a better chance of success. It works and Pellew commends his actions but wants to know he came in command of Papillon. Which leads to a fiery exchange in Pellew’s quarters with Midshipman Simpson. He denies the charges and calls Hornblower a coward. Pellew counters that Hornblower cannot be called a coward considering his heroism in combat. Simpson maintains he is a coward for refusing to defend his honor. Pellew, who ordered Hornblower not to duel, lifts the restriction. At the duel, Simpson purposefully does not wait out the count and fires injuring but not killing Hornblower. Hornblower points the gun in the air and fires saying Simpson was not worth it. Simpson grabs a knife and attempts to attack Hornblower while his back is turned. But a bullet fired by Captain Pellew hits him in the chest killing him on the spot.

Pellew later says he dispensed justice reminding Hornblower he judges by actions not words. Hornblower is grateful but Pellew reminds him that he has fought his duel but not to fight another.

Historical note: The character of Captain Sir Edward Pellew is based upon a real life figure, Edward Pellew,1st Viscount Exmouth. He was a real naval hero of his day, did command the Indefatigable early on in the wars with France, and rose to the rank of Admiral. Likewise the ship HMS Indefatigable was a real ship that served during the wars with France with a distinguished record that included capturing 27 prize ships. Pellew commanded the HMS Indefatigable from 1794-1799 during the French Revolutionary War period.

Deviations From Midshipman Hornblower
*Captain Keene ordered the guns tampered with so the duel between Simpson and Hornblower would be satisfied but no one would be killed. Clayton does not stand in for Hornblower.
*It is Keene who arranges the transfer to Indefatigable because Captain Pellew needs a good whist player. And it offers more opportunity for advancement. And possibly to get Hornblower off the ship after the duel so he and Simpson will not serve on same ship.
*The events on the Marie Galante are mostly the same with minor deviations. They were forced to abandon ship but the are not rescued by the Indefatigable, but by a French privateer. The Indefatigable catches sight and pursues but the ship is too fast. So Hornblower lights a fire that forces the captain and crew to spend time putting it out. That allows the Indy the time to catch up and seize the ship. Pellew inquiries about the fire but Hornblower does not take credit for it.
*The Justinian was not sunk by the French so Simpson never comes aboard. Thus he was not part of the raid on the Papillon. It was another character that had a problem that had to be knocked out to keep quiet. During the escape the boat was cut loose and left drifting into France.
*There was no battle at the end where the Papillon, under Hornblower’s command, saves the Indefatigable. Nor is there a second duel between Simpson and Hornblower.

Although it deviates substantively at some points, the essential outline of the stories remain. However it is curious the scriptwriter choose to focus on the duel. Duelling was indeed common amongst naval officers (army as well) but was frowned upon by religious leaders and the general public. By this time, the use of duelling pistols had become the accepted manner. Since they were single fire weapons, you had only one chance to fire and possibly kill your opponent. Which is why the story is called the Even Chance by the author. From what I read, many duels were resolved by an apology to the offended party. Honor was satisfied and both went on their ways. That was not always the case especially if there was serious issues of honor involved. Midshipman Simpson was not about to apologize for his accusation that Hornblower cheated at cards and was quite happy to accept the duel. Being the older and more experienced of the two, he figured he would win. Plus he was a nasty and cruel man who wanted to kill Hornblower.

Captain Pellew believed the problem lay with Captain Keene for not running his ship right. Hornblower tries to defend him but Pellew reminds him that a captain is responsible for everything that goes on his ship. That in a nutshell is exactly the lesson Hornblower has to absorb and in a large way the entire episode. An officer is responsible for everything that goes on in his department but the captain is responsible for the entire operation from top to bottom. The fact that a bully like Simpson got away with what he did on Justinian shows what happens when discipline is lacking. A sharp lieutenant would have noticed Simpson’s ways and reigned him in or put him up for the captain’s review. Hornblower would command the Marie Gallante and loose her because of a hole on the side under the waterline. In the book he felt the sting of failure for not being able to save the ship and its cargo.

When he returns and reports what happens to Pellew, he faces no harsh criticism (the same as in the book). Pellew also noticed how the men respected him after the return. He learned how to lead and earn the respect of those who serve with them. An important lesson especially back then when sea duty could be long, with awful food, and of course away from any amenities. The only solace for most sailors was the daily rum ration. Water did not last long in the barrels (it turned bad and nasty things began growing in it) which is why beer and alcohol took the place of water at most meals.

Pellew’s taking of the Papillon was a daring plan to rob the French of a powerful ship of the line. And it worked both in the book and in the televised dramatization. Except they added more tension with Pellew under attack from other French ships. In the book Pellew was not foolish enough to engage with other French ships where he could be surrounded, yet the tv version had him in this predicament. This was done, no doubt, so that Hornblower could save the day as the surviving officer of the raid to take the ship (Simpson was under lock and key at this point for trying to kill Hornblower earlier). Still it makes for riveting television and one cannot fault the scriptwriter for wanting to highlight early Hornblower’s courage and daring that he became noted for in the books.

All in all this first installment of Hornblower series is exciting and riveting at times. Some characters are more developed then in the book and continue on through the series for continuity purposes. Ioan Gruffudd plays the part of Hornblower well and actually understands Forrester’s depiction of the character. Robert Lindsay is also excellent as Captain Pellew. People with sharp eyes will recognize Jamie Bamber (Midshipman Kennedy) who went on to play Lee Adama on the new Battlestar Galactica. His character is cast adrift in this episode but returns in Duchess and The Devil. The series would use Pellew’s character more than the book did (he appears mainly in the early books) giving Hornblower a mentor that would offer some needed guidance.

The acting is superb as well as the sets (one of which is replica ship of this period for the Indefatigable). One certainly gets the feel of a ship of the line back then. And why, if you could avoid it, you ran from serving in the Royal Navy as a seamen. There was nothing romantic about it. It was hard work under strict discipline with food that was not that good (even in port!). Worse were long sea voyages where as food ran low you existed on a narrow diet of salted foods, hard tack (look that up!), and rum. A superb first outing for Hornblower and well worth watching.

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Masterchef:Surf &Turf and Bad Spring Rolls Sends Hopeful Home

Photo: FOX
Photo: FOX

*It is week 7 of Masterchef (US). 15 contestants remain after Tyler was sent home last week.

*There is an old wisdom to be cautious about volunteering information that will be turned against you. So when a Masterchef judge asks who you do not want to be paired up with, you ought to have the good sense to realize that is a trap. Leslie, who is old enough to know this maxim, of course offers up Ahran. Which he pronounces as Ihran. He seems to have a problem with pronouncing her name. It is a variant of Aaron so think of that name when saying Ahran. It is an uncommon name I grant you (not many boys or girls get this name) but not unpronounceable.

*Courtney really wears those high heels so much that Gordon warned her not to trip on the stairs up the balcony. She says it is like a second home to her. Really? Well do not get that comfortable. Some below want to knock you off that balcony and into a steaming pile of dog poo.

*The teams are paired up by Courtney who loves pulling the strings. Christian and Francis B are both arrogant about their abilities and Courtney hopes they will clash. Christian said some unpleasant things about why he did not want to pair with her. So Courtney would love to see him take the walk out of the kitchen. Victoria and Christine are paired up. Since neither have been in the top three, she probably hopes they will produce a mediocre dish. Jaimee and Elizabeth are contrasts but both will put their heads down and do a good job. Courtney sees neither as a threat right now. Then again pairing up Cutter with Dan was a good move. While both have shown strengths at times, she thinks they will clash and fail. She was right on the money there. Willie and Daniel are paired up. Neither are a threat to her at this point so it will be theirs to loose.

*Surf and Turf is on the menu tonight. The teams, unlike in the past, will not be doing a tag team relay cooking challenge. Instead both are working at the same time to create a harmonious dish to be served to the Culinary Trio. Note that word harmonious, for that really is the key. Merely throwing some fish and beef on the plate with salad is not going to cut it here. You have to give them an impressive dish that gets their attention.

*Watch that clock! You get five minutes in the pantry to select the proteins and other things you want. Most teams come to a consensus quickly (even Ahran/Leslie) but not Cutter and Dan. They each disagree on what to do and waste their time. So in the end they have a fish and meat protein and not much else to go on that plate. It would come back to haunt them later.

Surfs Up!
1. Victoria and Christine-Pork Belly & Monkfish. The best dish of the night according to the judges. It looked fantastic and restaurant quality.
2. Willie and Daniel-Seared ahi tuna with fried chicken with Asian influences. The judges liked it though Gordon did not like the crunch on the tuna. All in all, a good meal.
3. Ahran and Leslie-A pork belly and crab guacamole tostada. Despite Courtney hoping for a clash, they both worked well together and learned to respect one another. The dish looked delicious and got high marks from the judges. And they both hugged in the end. So the hatchet each had in the other’s back is gone. Leslie also knows how to properly say her name!

Low Tide
1. Christian and Francis B-Moroccan spiced rib eye with king crab topping. It looked like something served in a college cafeteria or cheap but pretentious diner. Gordon cannot believe they brought this up saying that individually each one could produce a stellar dish. Together they put this uninspired and bland meal together. A direct hit by Courtney. They are now on the short list for going home.
2. Cutter and Dan-Seared venison with seared tuna. What more can you say when you bring up a plate that has one cooked meat on one side, and fish on the other side and virtually nothing else? This might pass for minimalist picture in some art gallery but not here. Gordon could not believe that with that massive pantry at their disposal this is all they could bring up.Cutter says they could not agree but Gordon points out that each one of them could have filled their carts with all kinds of stuff and brought out to sort later. A total failure and Gordon calls it the worst dish so far. Joe is not amused either and I do not think he actually tasted it. After playing with it a bit, he fetches a trash bin and ask Cutter to do the honors. Yikes!
3. Francis L and Elise-rack of lamb with crab risotto, yogurt and caviar. What went wrong was exactly what Courtney hoped would happened. They overcomplicated their dish making it not that good. The lamb’s fat was not properly rendered off so the yogurt was on top of that. And the sauce Francis L made did not work for the dish. Visually unappealing as well (a dog’s dinner I think is what Gordon said).

When all the other teams but the Low Tide ones are sent up to the balcony, Gordon does the head fake and calls Christian and Francis B out and then tells them they are not saved and in the dreaded pressure test. Saved is Elise and Francis L. And boy are they glad not to be in this dreaded pressure test.

Vegetable spring rolls with dipping sauce. Photo: Public Domain (Wikipedia)
Vegetable spring rolls with dipping sauce.
Photo: Public Domain (Wikipedia)

Spring Comes In Roll
I love spring rolls. So does Gordon who points out the light but yet crunchy dough and delicious fillings. Done well it is great treat. Done poorly and you have sticks with weeds in them. And Christian, Francis B, Cutter and Dan all have to make four of them with a dipping sauce (and not from a can!). Dan has the advantage being born in China. And off they go to make the best spring rolls in Masterchef history. Not hard to make but mess up the dough or filling and it is all over. Key is also making sure your oil is hot enough. Too cold and it does not cook right as Francis found out. He did something no one would do: put them in a frying pan to get them some color. If he used just a hot nonstick pan maybe. But he added oil which meant it makes them greasy.

And so the Angel of Death has his scythe ready to go. Christian presents okay spring rolls and that pass muster. They could have been wrapped more evenly and used more herbs. Francis has too much filling in his spring rolls and they are greasy. Dan was just okay but Gordon expected more and was disappointed. Cutter had one spring roll burst in the fryer but managed to get by. His rolls though had an elasticity to them they ought not to have (not crispy enough). The filling needed more flavor and acid. Not a great presentation.

Christian gets the pass, soon to be followed by Dan leaving both Cutter and Francis B to face their fate. Will it be just one or two going home tonight? The scythe falls and Francis B is sent home. This is unfortunate. Francis had shown some real talent and really looked like a strong contender. Something happened though. Perhaps he lost confidence in his abilities or got shaken up by the team challenge. Courtney gets a direct hit here. She wanted Christian out but seeing Francis B go was good as well in her mind.

My 2¢
Over the years of watching food competitions, I often wonder how it is seemingly good cooks end up not making it like Francis B. He has shown considerable talent and wowed the judges early on. Joe thought he was one to watch. So it was sad to see Francis B fall this way. So what happened? Perhaps he had a confidence issue. The wedding challenge saw him flub it up when he became captain when Leslie was replaced. Joe put him the pressure test because of his poor leadership when they (1)did not serve up the original potato side and had to come up with a plan b quickly; (2) they were two plates of fish that did not have whole fish because two fish fillets disappeared. Perhaps this challenge unnerved him as well working with Christian. Both are good cooks but together something went amiss.

There was no obvious sign of discomfort between the two but neither did they want to work together. Perhaps they could not agree on a dish that would have been better. Or they were simply arrogant to believe they could get away with such a boring dish and slide by. I suspect it is something between arrogance and not wanting to upstage. Sort of a balance of power agreement that backfired. Courtney did not get Christian out but she got Francis B, who was a threat. No surprise about Cutter and Dan. Despite having their moments, neither is really that good as to knock your socks off. Dan is an admitted food snob and I suspect thinks little of Cutter. Cutter thought Dan’s ideas were not well thought out. And because they were debating too much, they left the pantry with very little. Gordon was disappointed with Dan not showing some real cooking skills with the spring rolls. He expected Dan to really make them shine as an example of his culinary skills. They fact he made a mediocre batch is a bellwether as to his real skills. The sauce was the only thing that saved him from being in the bottom two. Had he been there, he might very well have gone home.

Next week it looks like a restaurant challenge and breakfast is on the menu. It does not look pretty. And it looks like the pressure test will be a cake.

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Welcome To July

Due to the Independence Day holiday, I did not post my usual month message. So here it is! July is the 7th month on both Gregorian and Julian calendars, and one of seven months with 31 days. The month was named for Julius Caesar by the Roman senate in recognition for his achievements as a Roman general (this was before he became emperor). June is traditionally known (in the northern hemisphere) as when the dog days of summer begins. Generally that means when it gets real hot and some say sultry. Of course in the southern hemisphere July is in winter.

July’s birthstone is the ruby and there are two flowers (Larkspur and Water Lily).

Larkspur (Delphinium officinale) Is one of two plants for July. The other is the water lilly. Image: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen (Public Domain)
Larkspur (Delphinium officinale) Is one of two plants for July. The other is the water lily.
Image: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen (Public Domain)

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Sunday Titanic News

1. Titanic Hotel Liverpool (not to be confused with the other Titanic hotel in the former White Star Line offices), opened yesterday. The 153 room luxury hotel has a restaurant, bar, spa, and space for events. According to Greg Place, general manager: “In just little over a year this beautiful historic Liverpool landmark has been completely metamorphosed from a derelict brick shell to a hotel like nothing else in the city, or even the world.” Information about the hotel, reservations and everything else is at titanichotelliverpool.com.
Source:Titanic Hotel Officially Opens In Liverpool’s Historic Docks(5 Jul 2014,Bay TV Liverpool)

HMS Caroline at dock in Belfast (2006) Photo:Dom0803(Wikipedia)
HMS Caroline at dock in Belfast (2006)

2.The former Pump House that served where Titanic docked is being transformed into a visitor center for HMS Caroline reports Belfast Telegraph. National Museum of the Royal Navy has filed an application with Northern Ireland Science Park which owns the site. Depending on how it works out, either the National Museum of the Royal Navy or Titanic Foundation will run the site. The HMS Caroline is the only surviving Royal Navy ship that was in Battle of Jutland in 1916. If all goes to schedule, the vistor center will be open in time for the centenary in May, 1916.
Source: Titanic Pump House Is Set To Be Revamped As HMS Caroline Visitor Centre(3 Jul 2014,Belfast Telegraph)

3.Finally this small but interesting story from Texas. A recent cardboard boat race at Mill Pond Park in San Saba County resulted in a boat named Titanic Jr. winning the competition. No mishaps were reported.
Source:The “Titanic Jr.”(2 Jul 2014, San Saba News)

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