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Lileks @ Lunch

James Lileks writes about everything - except sports and gardening

When your cruise ship hits a storm

You might have heard of another nightmare cruise in the news - not for an outbreak of heave-ho norovirus or an engine breakdown, but for calamitous seas. The Anthem of the Seas, a spectacular Quantum-class vessel in the Royal Caribbean Line, hit a bad patch and endured a day of lurching, creaking, crashing, pitching, and overall misery. On the other hand, free movies! And complimentary wifi so people could send their last will and testament home to loved ones.

An example of the fun. If the embed is fubar'd, go here.

As you can clearly see, the ship was hit by an absolute barrage of hashtags. 

This New York Times account said the writer knew something was amiss when the water was sloshing over the tops of the hot tubs. WaPo: "The passenger said that at the height of the storm, waves were breaking over the tops of the life boats and the whole ship was listing to almost 45 degrees." That I doubt. Listing is when the ship leans over and stays like that. The web is full of pictures of broken stuff, but that doesn't mean the ship was necessarily in peril - yes, windows will pop out when the frame is stressed, but that type of twisting doesn't mean the ship will pull a Titanic and snap in half.  

Speaking as someone who obviously wasn't there and hence has no basis for saying this: it sounds rather thrilling. And terrifying, of course - if you had to make your way to your muster station when the ship's bucking and rising and dropping, there's a good chance you'll get a handrail in the forehead or stumble down the stairs, and God help you when they load the lifeboat and swing it out in 150 MPH winds. God help you some more when you're in that little peapod when the waves are 25 feet tall. But the chance of that happening is slim. It's turbulence. They're built for this.

In 2010 I was in a small cruise ship bound for Honduras, and we got hit by a nasty storm a few hours before dinnertime. The water was sloshing out of the hot tubs and pools, just like the Anthem. The dining room was empty, since most people had taken to their beds to stare at a fixed point or throw up in the wastepaper basket. The few who showed up got green halfway through the meal, and those who weren't feeling ill but were disconcerted by the ship's evident difficulties were not heartened when an extraordinary crash came from the gallery: hundreds of plates and a third of the ship's wine bottles broke free and smashed to the floor in calamitous crash that made the whole room fall silent with shock. After dinner I went to the piano bar, where I found the hardy folk unaffected by seasickness (I am not susceptible, and enjoy the feel of the sea when sailing) - we toasted our peril, made endless requests of the pianist, and spent the night in good spirits.

Unbeknownst to our reveling band, the storm was getting worse; by the time I went back to my stateroom it was impossible to walk without being knocked against one wall and then the other, and the ship had begun to sing the laments of the damned, shrieking and cracking and keening. I had to remind myself that this may be a beautifully appointed cruise ship of the finest quality, but it had begun life as a Soviet icebreaker. (Really.) It could take it. It would take it, and it did.

What I can't figure out is how the Anthem went right into the storm. I've been on the bridge of a massive cruise ship - shot a video on the NCL Eurodam a few years ago, and the general impression you get is HERE ARE MANY THINGS THAT ARE ALL ABOUT WEATHER. (The actual mast for steering the vessel is the size of a dinner plate; there are also short stubby joysticks. It seems like you're riding an elephant and controlling it entirely by pinching an area of skin an inch in diameter.) The ships bristle with tech designed to interrogate the horizon, and of course there are birds in the sky beaming info down to the bridge. I guess they thought they could go through it.

And that's exactly what they did. No fun, and a hell of a rock-and-roll ride, but they did it.

Ps You know that one word might have entered the minds of the crew, just for a second, if only to be batted away. One stupid word that had no basis in reality. But still.

Not Titanic. Poseidon.

Every brand had a swoosh phase

Headline: Bud Light's New Can Is Trying to Distract You From the Real Problem With Beer Today

Really? That's quite the job. Hate to work for that ad agency. Alright, redesign our label to boost sales, but just so you know there are underlying concerns about the beer industry, and we don't want anyone to know them. So come up with something eye-catching, but confuses and discourages additional intellectual inquiry. The article eventually cites the problem, which is consolidation. The big brewers are buying craft brewers. So? They're not changing the recipes. But we have to find something wrong with things, or what's the point of being a Gawker blog.

The result of the redesign:

That's nice. Better than the predecessors.

As the article notes, every brand had its swoosh phase. The Time of Swoosh has passed, though, and redesigns are rolling through every aisle of the grocery store. Everyone wants the badge of authenticity bestowed by hand-written text and simple letterpress graphics.

Here's something they tried last year:

That's very 80s. This Adweek piece of puffery said:

"The [individualized cans are] very much in line with what Bud Light wants to do for millennials," said Alex Lambrecht, vp of Bud Light. "We know they want something unique and an unexpected experience, and I feel that they will be so surprised and inspired when they order a Bud Light and get these cans."

Probably so. The printing technology was capable of 32 million permuntations, which means each can was unique. Somewhere in someone's basement is a substantial collection of the cans, and somewhere some day there will be a descendent at an antique store, dismayed that these things aren't worth very much money.

TREK Shatner wants to come back as Kirk. Good. Why wouldn't he? It's not like that sequel to the Twilight Zone episode is happening any time soon.

Although he met with Star Trek executive producer J.J. Abrams to discuss an appearance in 2009's franchise reboot, it ended up not happening. Shatner asked, "How would they handle it, in science-fiction terms? I'm older, I'm heavier, I'm — all the problems of age. So what did Captain Kirk do? Die and age? Doesn't sound science-fiction-y enough. Or maybe you make him really old. I don't know. It seems to have beggared Abrams' imagination."

Never shy on his own merits, our Shat, and good for him. It would be nice to wipe away the memory of Kirk's lame death and lousy last words. BTW, the Twilight Zone ep I mentioned isn't the one about the gremlin on the wing; it's the other one. Can you think of its plot without looking it up?

GEEK It's another "what's wrong with Superman" story. Last week: silly new powers. This week: how DC messed up the character over the years.

Away from his creators and under DC’s management, Superman changed from a rabble-rousing populist into a bland icon of the establishment, cycling through the same sets of adventures every few years: a hero with nothing better to do than devise elaborate pranks to play on Lois Lane. Despite the gloriously silly super-science of Silver Age Superman, with its time-travel, transformation rays, and bottled cities, the engine rusted under the hood.

The "gloriously silly" era was juvenile for a good reason: the comics were for kids. Then mainstream comics decided to chase the alternative audience:

The 1986 Dark Knight Returns, one of the landmark wave of “mature” superhero comics, cast him as a Reaganite stooge and ended with Batman knocking him out. The choice directly shadowed Superman’s history up until the present. The dour trailers for Batman v Superman draw directly from the imagery of The Dark Knight Returns, with several shots paralleling panels from the earlier comic. The effect is to shout for everybody watching: This is a serious film. Pointedly, in these trailers Superman never once smiles.

Because Grim is Dark and Dark is Deep. In the comments people argue about Supe vs. Cap, at least the movie version of the latter. I've no idea what the comics version of Captain America is doing these days, and at this point I'm afraid to ask.

Anyway. The point of the piece concerns getting Superman back to basics, like this:

We also see Superman as the ultimate communicator--invulnerable to pain, he needs none of the physical defensive postures we take for granted and so would be incredibly relaxed and open--the big smile, the instant handshake, the conviction that everyone he meets is to be regarded as a friend until he proves otherwise. Superman should be indefatigable and trustworthy. No more "Bad Superman" or "Crazy Superman" stories for a while. His curiosity and kindness are childlike in their purity but he should also be frighteningly quick and clever. The combination of contradictory qualities adds to his slightly removed air. The eyes go vague when he looks at your electrical field for a second and gets the idea for an oscillating defensive forcefield based on the rhythms of your pulse rate. Sometimes he seems not all here, but it’s only because he’s much more here than we can sensibly hope to be.

Nice idea - and it's almost 20 years old. That's the Grant Morrison et al reboot proposal from 1998. It won't go over well with the modern editors, who are more interested in Superman beating up policemen. Really.  

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