Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety

May 31, 2012

By Karen

After Costa Concordia capsized in January, exposing slipshod safety practices that contributed to 32 fatalities, you’d think Costa’s parent, Carnival Corp., would be fanatical about safety now. Especially on Carnival line ships, whose Italian captains must overcome the shame of Concordia’s incompetent master, Francesco Schettino.

I just spent 6 days on Carnival Glory, and saw first-hand Carnival’s current safety measures.

My cabin TV welcomed me with a safety video on endless loop, with Captain [Italian Name] delivering the intro and closing. I must have heard a dozen times to look for crew members wearing green fluorescent caps in an emergency.

Glory was scheduled to sail at 5 p.m., with the lifeboat drill at 4:30 on Deck 4.

At 4:20, on Deck 8 I saw a crewman directing able-bodied passengers to elevators down to Deck 4 — it’s stairs-only in any emergency.

On Deck 4, this sign left the lifeboats’ exact location a mystery…

Letters stand for muster stations. Arrow points to an “Emergency Only” door.

This part of the sign was reproduced on walls throughout the ship, like it means anything…

The blurriness is mine, but you get the drift. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Somebody finally opened the “Emergency Exit Only” door (forbidden for passengers), revealing the “secret” outer lifeboat deck.

This 952-ft. ship was divided into only 8 muster stations, 4 on each side, leaving wide open expanses with no signs (screw the near-sighted). Nobody knew where to go. At 4:40, a few young crewmen in orange vests (not green caps) began straggling in and herding us.

Each muster station was assigned multiple lifeboats, whose numbers were read to us later as an afterthought — as if anybody would remember them.

Now, let’s do the math: Glory holds 2,974 passengers and 1,150 crew, so each muster station must accommodate about 372 passengers and 144 crew (if they want to survive), or 516 souls in all.

I saw 2 crewmen at my station to handle that mob.

The drill/lecture was conducted from the bridge not by the captain, but by a young English-speaker. (Nor did the captain verbally preside over the 3 crew drills they presumably had during that voyage. I assume his Italian accent is considered a problem.)

On any other ship, an emergency signal consists of 7 short blasts followed by one long blast of the ship’s whistle.

Glory’s was 5 short, a long pause, then one more short, then one long.

The bridge voice kept saying drill attendance and our complete silence were mandatory. Then he’d go silent for so long, it seemed he’d forgotten us. In the meantime, we were just standing in silence, being told nothing on Deck 4.

Later I learned the protracted silences weren’t due to any sweep of the ship to get all passengers to the drill; I met a couple who stayed in their cabin. Nor was roll taken at muster stations to verify our presence. I’ve seen both procedures on other ships.

We didn’t wear life jackets, nor did anyone learn how to don and tie one because the crewman who demonstrated was standing in a dark area in the bow and made no effort to be seen. Lockers of life jackets lined the deck (locked, presumably, and I imagine rotsa ruck finding anybody with a key), but we were told to return to our cabins for our jackets in a pinch — because that worked so well for the obedient Concordia passengers whose corpses were found underwater in theirs.

The drill took 45 minutes, delayed sailing, and taught anybody NOTHING. If I hadn’t attended good drills on other ships, I’d have been irate.

Many passengers on Glory were taking their first cruise, and thank God it was uneventful, because if you don’t know how to save yourself on a Carnival ship, you’re doomed to a watery grave.


Bourdain to Jump Ship to CNN

May 29, 2012

By Karen

I haven’t written about Anthony Bourdain lately because No Reservations is leaving me meh, but attention must be paid to today’s announcement that No Res is wrapping up after current Season 8 and he’ll be leaving Travel Channel after filming one more season of The Layover. In 2013 he’ll begin a Sunday prime-time series on CNN and become a domestic and international commentator.

Here at Cats Working, we’ve been saying for a long time that he’s too good for TC, but I’m not sure CNN is good enough for Bourdain. What do you think?

This just in (5/30): The CNN arrangement calls for Bourdain to produce 8 shows in 2 seasons each year, or a total of 16 episodes. Will an 8-week “season” be enough to  hook viewers so they’ll remember to return 6 months later for more? Hmmm…

Bizarre Food’s Andrew Zimmern, who’s been lately talking like Bourdain’s mini-me, must be giddy at the prospect of inheriting Tony’s crown as the “grand old man” of TC.

CNN’s news release describes Tony’s as-yet-unnamed program as one that “will be shot on location and examine cultures from around the world through their food and dining and travel rituals.”

I certainly hope this implies something more substantive than another opportunity for Tony to globe-trot, eat, drink, and shoot his mouth off.

Will CNN try to rein in Bourdain’s tendencies to stir up controversy? At last weekend’s Great GoogaMooga Festival in Brooklyn, Tony talked about doing unspeakable (if well-deserved) things to Dick Cheney and expressed a desire to soak an Olive Garden in gasoline so he could burn it to the ground over its pasta-cooking techniques.

Apparently, he’s forgotten the heartfelt review of the new Grand Forks Olive Garden that got him so misty-eyed, he handed a publishing deal to its 85-year-old author that’s probably doomed to produce a book to make Garrison Keillor seem like a pornographer in comparison.

Gothamist did a good job of putting Tony’s kind gesture into its proper Photoshopped perspective.

Tony’s long-awaited graphic novel, Get Jiro! is finally coming out July 3.

And someone is adapting his first novel, Bone in the Throat, into a movie.

Bourdain received an honorary Clio Award on May 15. I congratulate him, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around the rationale behind it.

I’d say Bourdain’s career has hit critical mass. Like Paula Deen, whatever he touches, whether past, present or future, is destined to turn to gold.

Speaking of Paula, Tony tried to clarify that he objects to her misleading fans and profiting richly from diabetes, while Paula and her kids disingenuously spin it that Bourdain blames her for having diabetes.

BONUS…

A few other things I’ve collected that may interest you:

Tony told Eater he’s still considering the year-in-Vietnam book, but opened the possibility of relocating it to Italy. YES, YES! Eater “gets” Tony, and their interview is well worth reading. In 2 parts.

Here are the first batch of books Tony has chosen to publish under his new Ecco imprint.

Ottavia’s become a celebrity in her own special niche. Here’s are some links to video interviews on how she got into MMA.


Cats Working Preakness Picks

May 18, 2012

By Adele

Unlike the odds-makers who are obstinately picking Bodemeister in post position 7 as the favorite in the 137th Preakness Stakes on May 19, I’m a cat who would never shred any horse’s Triple Crown dream. I’m putting my treats on Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another in pp 9.

I think Bode will run a close second.

My wildcard favorite is 30-1 longshot Tiger Walk, who will be under Kent Desormeaux. Tiger will be at the rail in pp 1, but in a field of only 11 horses, I don’t think Kent will let him get hemmed in.

My original Derby pick and current idol, Dullahan, is taking a pass on the Preakness to rest up for the Belmont Stakes. If I’ll Have Another blows his chance at the Triple Crown this Saturday, Dully will be my man again because distance is his thing, and the Belmont is the longest race of the three.

Good luck to all the Preakness horses. May they and their jockeys cross the finish line safely.

PS: After 800+ posts, Cats Working will be taking a long overdue and much-needed break next week, but we will be back after Memorial Day.


Dark Shadows Movie: DOA

May 12, 2012

By Karen

I hated the comical advertisements for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie, but I couldn’t stay away opening day.

I should have.

I’m not doing spoilers, but will say this DS was neither an homage nor a mockery of the show. Rather, it’s a cynical hijacking of well-known, beloved characters, locations, and plotlines that enabled Burton & Co. to skip creating their own.

I don’t care what fans they’ve claimed to be. They obviously didn’t know the basics–right down to the name of servant Willie Loomis.

Screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith doesn’t know sh** about vampires. Since when do their fingers grow when they turn? And walk freely in daylight with sunglasses and umbrellas (á la Michael Jackson)? And not notice themselves bursting into flame in direct sunlight?

Johnny Depp’s decision to play Barnabas Collins channeling Nosferatu doomed the movie. When the “real” Barnabas (Jonathan Frid) was freed from his coffin in a new century, he noted changes in people’s behavior, speech, and dress, and did his best to fit in—albeit with a suave and courtly Old World flair. The FIRST thing he would have done was CUT HIS DAMN FINGERNAILS.

Depp’s Halloweeny white greasepaint with black eye sockets and cheeks made it impossible to believe that Victoria Winters—or even the witch Angelique—could be attracted to him.

And speaking of Victoria, the governess. As the reincarnation of Barnabas’ love, Josette, Bella Heathcote was woefully miscast. She looks about 12 and they dressed her like a child, so in her scenes with the boyishly-built Depp, they looked like 6th-graders. Zero sexual chemistry.

Eva Green played Angelique as sexually agressive trailer trash in designer labels. Her centuries-old beef with Barnabas drove the whole story, but Depp’s goofy looks killed whatever sparks might have been there.

Helena Bonham Carter had to play Dr. Julia Hoffman as a boozer for no reason, and her growing co-dependency with Barnabas got no screen time, so her behavior just seemed shallow and wacky.

I’ll give credit to Michelle Pfeiffer, who played matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. She lacked Joan Bennett’s regal presence, but she didn’t make the character ridiculous.

The overall film was extremely dark. The comic bits used in the ads were forced and fell flat.

This could have been a good movie if Depp hadn’t made Barnabas a buffoon. He even carried an cheap wooden knockoff of Barnabas’ elegant brass wolf’s head cane.

The original Dark Shadows’ may have had cheesy production values, but the actors gave it something this film, with its multimillion-dollar budget, utterly lacked—heart and class.

Depp and Burton had a chance to resurrect the franchise for original fans and a new generation, but they blew it. Big-time.


Cats Working 2012 Kentucky Derby Picks

May 4, 2012

By Adele

I could pull a no-brainer and pick Virginia’s own Bodemeister as my favorite for the 138th Kentucky Derby on May 5. He’s the flavor of the day for the human odds-makers. But this year’s a real crapshoot, with no clear superstar emerging from all the prep races.

I’m not sure Bodemeister can do it. He’s only run 2 previous races, and he drew the No. 6 post position for the Derby, which puts him in the middle of everybody. His jockey is Mike Smith, former jockey of the freakishly fabulous Zenyatta.

In his first-ever race, Bodemeister came in 2nd. His next time out, on April 14 at the Arkansas Derby, he seized and maintained the lead, and then blew the competition away by 9 ½ lengths in the stretch. I’m afraid Bodemeister may be tired. Or he may blow us all away on Derby day.

Then there’s Hansen the white horse, and my kindred spirit. His record is most impressive, with 2 wins in 4 races, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in November. He’s never come in less than 2nd.

But on April 14 in the Toyota Blue Grass, he had the lead all the way until Dullahan came from way behind and pulled off a stunning upset.

So what about Dullahan? He ran 4th behind Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His overall record is 2 wins for 5 races, placing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the others. He’s in Derby pp 5 with jockey Kent Desormeaux, who won the Derby in 2008 on Big Brown. Dullahan’s half-brother is Mine That Bird, who won the 2009 Derby. Hmmm…

A few weeks ago, I thought my favorite would be Union Rags (under Julien Leparoux). But on March 31 at the Florida Derby, Union Rags came in 3rd behind Take Charge Indy.

At the Derby, Take Charge Indy will be in pp 3 under Calvin Borel, who is notorious for his cunning navigation along the rail — and for winning Kentucky Derbys.

Decisions, decisions…

Here goes: I’m picking Dullahan to win, Take Charge Indy to place, and Bodemeister or Hansen to show.


We Will Be Well Rid of John Edwards

May 2, 2012

By Adele

You never thought you’d read this here, but George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election was a blessing in disguise. If the John Kerry-John Edwards ticket had won the White House, and Kerry served 2 terms (which he would have, since the alternative was McCain-Palin), VP John Edwards would be running for president today against Mitt Romney.

And Barack Obama would still have us thinking he offers hope and change.

But instead, Edwards is on trial, and we’re learning he’s not fit to pick up after dogs, let alone run a country.

I’m not getting into the obvious guilt of opportunists Andrew and Cheri Young. The court gave them immunity in exchange for squealing on Edwards. But they agreed to jeopardize their own marriage to help Edwards keep his mistress Rielle Hunter and their love child under the sheets during his 2008 presidential run.

Real patriots, that pair.

I just wonder what kind of boundlessly ambitious, scheming cad lets his wife campaign for him while fighting a losing with breast cancer while he sleeps with an opportunistic bimbo. And then calls HER a “crazy slut” when she turns up pregnant.

Not content with betraying just his dying wife, Edwards pressured Andrew Young to claim he was Rielle’s baby-daddy — and then had Rielle MOVE IN with the couple.

And instead of using his own fortune to pay off the crazy slut, Edwards persuaded two wealthy supporters to cough up $1.2 million. The Youngs apparently spent most of it on themselves as compensation, one would assume. Rielle got the rest to maintain her new life of leisure.

And they all claim they thought soliciting sizable donations to pay off blackmail was perfectly legal. On what planet?

The only proper place for Edwards is a jail cell. He couldn’t keep his pants zipped and hurt everybody around him — most of all, a little girl who will grow up to learn that Mom is a home-wrecking gold-digger and Dad is a dirtbag who would have happily denied his daughter’s existence forever if he could have gotten away with it.

And to think he could have been our president.


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