Thursday, October 24, 2019

Speaking on the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship

It’s been claimed that the “three most written-about subjects of all time are Jesus, the Civil War, and the Titanic.”

From October 11-18, my three most talked-about subjects were Batman, fairies, and the Queen Mary 2, which (probably in large part because it was my first cruise) reminded me of the Titanic.

Cruise ships like to provide nonstop stimulation for their passengers, especially on days at sea when no excursion options exist. I believe this is why cruises began to invite all kinds of experts and enthusiasts to speak on board. I am now one of those enthusiasts. 

It took roughly a year of prep before stepping foot onto the gangway, and I’m not talking about my lectures (as they are called in the cruise biz). I mean learning best practices for being a cruise lecturer plus the logistics of scheduling travel of any kind.

In recent years, it seems, the role of cruise lecturers has expanded; they are now expected to be available to guests even when they are offstage. We’re there to share, then to interact at any point if guests would like to chat. (Of course, most speakers would be recognizable only to those passengers who have attended their lectures, and fewer than 100 of my ship’s 2,600 passengers did so. Always a lot of competition!)

My cruise (Quebec-Halifax-New York) lasted six days, two of which were at sea, so I was scheduled for two lectures: one on 10/15, the other on 10/17. First talk (Bill Finger) went well. Second one (fairies)…went. 

Well, I think it went well to the audience, but unbeknownst to them, in the two hours before I spoke, I got seasick…four times. I still wasn’t myself when I went onstage, but (by land or by sea) the show must go on. And I had taken steps to feel better, including something I don’t normally do (onstage or otherwise): I chewed gum. Specifically ginger gum, because ginger can reduce nausea. 

This was my last full day on the ship, and the only day when the sea was rough. Apparently, it was one of the choppiest days at sea the ship had experienced in a while. The stage was gently rocking the whole time I was on it, but I did my best to keep my mind on my material and somehow managed to get through it.

Then I slept most of the rest of the day.

Thank you to Cunard and cruise agent Tim Castle for inviting me on board. It was a privilege and a pleasure.


 My wife Daniela and I before boarding, with the ship behind us.

 The lifejacket fit.

 The ship’s library. The bookcases were illuminated.
Every night, every one of them had to be locked

 On our first night, I played the 10 pm movie trivia in the ship’s pub.
I won a bottle of wine.

 Batmoose. (It’s Canada.)

 Daniela on the top-deck helipad.

 Saguenay, Quebec. We took a boat tour on the fjord.

 The ship’s nightclub, G32. Most of the passengers were in their sixties
or older. G32 was not crowded.

 Every night, the program for the following day was slid under the door.
This one announces the first of my two lectures. One of the other speakers
was Roger McGuinn, frontman of the Byrds. He shared some great
anecdotes about the 1960s rock and folk scene.

 The entrance to the auditorium where lecturers spoke and
where movies were shown (none of which we went to).

 That guy in the front row sat there for both of my talks and
both times kept his hand on his head the whole time.

A few dozen of the hundreds of small placards identifying
food options at the buffet. 

 My favorite item at the buffet. 
(See my author bio for The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra.)

 Sunrise as we pulled into Halifax.
That white dot at top left is the moon.

 Just before 6 am. 

 Just after 6 am. (Daniela is behind the porthole.)
The yellow flag signals that the ship is free of disease.

 My sunrise shipboard shadow with the 
moon still visible.

 Peggy’s Cove, Halifax. Lighthouses and bagpipers
are both fun to observe, so here is a two-for-one.

 I thought it was funny to see a “Buses Only” barricade
haphazardly misplaced on the rocky terrain surrounding
the lighthouse. 

 A cool wave slide in Halifax.

 A funny yet sad sign at a pier craft market in Halifax that caters
to the cruise crowd. Come on, peoplebe considerate!

 One of many historical signs on board, this one
about how the ship kept children entertained.

 The running path on board was deck 7, the only deck that encircled
the ship. Three laps roughly equaled one mile. I ran it twice; a third day I had 
to run on a treadmill at the gym due to wet weather.

Time-lapse of one (walking) lap around deck 7.

 To photograph this long banner asking other ships to keep a safe distance,
I had to stretch my arm out over the water. 
If that seems reckless, it wont compared to this.

 During the second-to-last dinner, the 160+ chefs who worked in 
the biggest restaurant on the ship were invited out 
for a hearty round of applause.

 My second ship lecture (but first while seasick).

 Showing off Eliza Wheeler’s bewitching illustrator photo
for Fairy Spell.

 Hard to tell here, but I had a bigger turnout for the second 

 Ship lectures were filmed to be broadcast on a loop
on a channel on the stateroom TVs. 

 My wife took this postcard-ready photo on the day the sea
was roughest.

The ship going under the Verrazano Bridge (3-foot clearance)
in New York.

 Pulling into New York at sunrise.

 Posing with spare propellers.

Back in the USA.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Thrive LOUD podcast with Lou Diamond

I rarely do podcast interviews these days but couldn’t resist accepting the kind invitation of Lou Diamond to talk with him on Thrive LOUD

Lou (who happens to be the husband of a friend I met in high school in a Jewish youth group) is such a nice guy who is also a busy guy who nonetheless takes the time to get to know his podcast guests before the interview. He genuinely wants to help people. He listens. And he’s the reason to listen to the podcast

Event planners take note: he’s also a charismatic, inspirational keynote speaker

He is not, however, the also-charismatic Lou Diamond Phillips.

Thanks again, Lou. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Student feedback from the Montessori School of San Antonio

On 9/17/19, I had the privilege of speaking to young people at the Montessori School of San Antonio. They further honored me by sending a stack of thank you notes. Some comments that moved me, amused me, or both:

  • “You are very funny and nothing was boring. Please come back and tell us more! We will miss you!”
  • “Your methods for finding information are amazing. Whenever I do research, I’m sure you’ll come to mind.”
  • “After your presentation, I was happy the whole day!”
  • “I enjoyed you telling us your crazy awesome stories. You held my attention the whole entire time. I really hope that the other schools appreciate you as much as we did! You inspired me to start writing a book of my own, thanks!”
  • “Honestly, it was the best presentation I have ever seen at [our school]. I had so much fun listening to [it]. I liked how you were funny, and how you got the audience involved.”
  • “Your presentation was outstanding! It was one of the best presentations I have ever seen! I loved it because of how interactive it was.”
  • “Your presentation was like one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen. I like how you present because you keep everybody interested.”
  • “You are probably the best presenter in the whole world.”
  • “I enjoyed it and it was funny and sad, normal and mad.”
  • “I liked how [your presentation] was funny, but also factual.”
  • “Not to be a broken record but again, I loved your presentation!”
  • “We all loved your wonderful and engaging presentation, and it especially inspired me.”

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Michigan Association for Media in Education conference 2019 opening keynote

Thank you to MAME, especially Cat Kerns and Klaudia Janek, for your efforts to bring me to Michigan to open your lovely conference! It was an honor.