MacMania was a lot of fun and a great experience from many angles. I learned a lot, and made some great new friends, as well as had a chance to visit with old friends. I also gained insight into how a Famous Celebrity mingles with Net.Famous/Mac.Famous people and the hoi polloi.
High points of the cruise: the Indonesian crew show and the dog mushing. Low points: mild nausea and rough seas on the first full day at sea.
The ship's complement is divided into staff and crew: the staff run the hotel operation (food, rooms, etc.); the crew runs the ship operations (navigation, engines, etc.). Holland-America has remarkable discipline for both staff and crew. Hotels could learn from them: HAL spends a lot of money strategically to present an air of elegance and actual elegance without making anything seem opulent or like a ten-dollar hooker offering 200-dollar airs.
The waiters and related staff were all Indonesian, trained, from what I could tell, at a HAL school over there. The crew show was drawn from the Indonesian staff, and they performed really interesting bits of Javanese and Balinese culture, including one of my favorite kinds of performance, the Cecak dance, a story about the monkey god. There was prerecorded gamelan music, and then a group of staff appeared and started singing the rhythmic song which involves syncopated fast call and response, a leader, etc. I've seen it on TV progams with hundreds of people.
The last bit of the performance involved a bamboo orchestra. Each member held a two piece item that was tuned bamboo, sort of like xylophone staves. By rattling the two pieces together, a pure tuned tone emerged. The conductor played the orchestra like a piano: the members together were chords. A remarkable sound.
Dog mushing, I talked about a few days ago.
The conference part of this conference was just fine, as far as I can tell: I was too woozy on Tuesday to attend sessions, and I spoke during most of the rest of the available time, so only attended part of one session. The conference part runs during times at sea to minimize interference with the vacation part, like shore excursions or glacier peeping. More on that as I organize photos.
One of the crew entered into our confidence, or us into his, and he told some very funny stories, including how to get a free cruise (a gentleman tried to entice him to get caught inflagrante delicto with the gentleman's wife; he demurred, but another crew member accepted), and interesting questions asked by passengers, like, "What do you do with the ice sculptures after they've melted?" And, my pupil, what is the sound of one cruiseliner clapping?
After spending days on the almost impeccably run ship, which included magic cabin cleaning -- we tipped our steward enormously, because we could turn around and the room would be cleaned, bed made, and every particle of dust removed -- we got a bit giddy. We were looking at a dirty glacier, where it had picked up rock and dirt along its trip and Lynn said, "In keeping with the standards of excellence at Holland America, we will immediately be cleaning that glacier." I howled and howled. It didn't seem that unlikely.
The interaction among attendees, speakers, spouses/friends/significant others, and kids, was pretty tremendous. Being on a ship, you might think you need to escape that much company some times, and, in fact, we did! But much of the time, you could spend a few minutes or a few hours talking, looking at things, laughing. There are few opportunities in life to have that sort of group experience among such talented people.
The next MacMania, in 2003, is already announced. It will be on a bigger boat, cost somewhat more, and travel to Hawaii. Based on this one, anyone interested in filling gaps in their knowledge through comprehension exposure to veteran experts coupled with participating in the world's largest floating Mac and Wi-Fi community, should figure out how to tweak their finances to attend: it's a unique and worthwhile experience that goes beyond learning masking in Photoshop or how wireless networks send signals. That's part of it, to be sure, but it's the gestalt that made it great.
Alright, a few words on the Famous Celebrity who was part of this cruise. The Famous Celebrity is Famous for something he cares very little about now, even as it most likely continues to form a reasonable portion of his income through residuals and conventions. The Famous Celebrity would rather his fans never ask him about the thing that made him most Famous, and I understand that: he didn't write the role, he just performed it.
The Famous Celebrity became peevish when asked questions not formulated to his specification, despite agreeing to have a Q and A session, and most animated when talking about projects unrelated to the basis of his fame. The Famous Celebrity was elaborately polite at times, always shook people's hand, posed in photos, and accepted compliments. He was generous with his time.
The Famous Celebrity was downright hilarious when discussing aspects of his fame relating to conventions and random fans who confused his most famous character with him. The Famous Celebrity has an innate gift for controlling a room without exerting much effort.
The Famous Celebrity needed to get off the ship early to work in Vancouver early in the day, and in a large gathering expressed his desire in an unpleasant way that led to many Unfamous Participants to laugh about his over-the-top behavior for the remaining evening and morning of the cruise. (It made me vaguely nauseated, like the first full day at sea -- and no anti-emetics to hand!)
The Famous Celebrity demonstrated one of the aspects of fame that can be difficult to witness: the single-minded expression of pure will that leads to one reaching the top of the heap. Usually, that expression is limited to private meetings, not public gatherings.
The notion of celebrity is a funny one. Why this individual, a well-known but not top-of-the-heap actor, conductor, librettist, and voice artist, should command the attention he did is probably nested in deep structures in our brain. Lynn reminded me of an article I'd read that said human beings use a different part of their brain to recognize celebrity faces from the part that lights up when we recognize people we know.
There must be an evolutionary advantage to charismatic leaders. When I've met Famous Celebrities in the past (Rick Moranis, Parker Posie, etc.), remarkable artists (Werner Herzog), and people who actually have changed the course of world events (Li Lu, one fo the Tianamen Square leaders), my reaction is often the same: a different mechanism engages in my interaction. I feel slightly embarassed afterwards, as if, on seeing a leader, I had sung out in praise and adulation, and then wondered why later.
In other words, it's good to be the king.