SIGGRAPH Chapters Party
Would the tech talk continue in front of the gogo dancers? Turns out yes, it would.
I entered the Mayan Club at 9pm on the dot and already there was a crowd gathered at the downstairs bar. No one was on the dance floor, no one was even on the edge of the dance floor, but people seemed happy to be there.
Earlier in the day, when contemplating the nature of this party, I had difficulty imagining the SIGGRAPH community in a club with pulsing techno music and blue lights. Would the tech talk continue in front of the gogo dancers? Turns out yes, it would - at least for the first few hours. Around 10:00, I walked through the alley connecting the downstairs R&B dance floor to the rest of the club and overheard the following bits of conversation "if its off the shelf, it's Maya... yeah yeah, that swag can go for like two years without needing to be revamped... if only I was that good..." If anything the conversations about computer graphics became more animated as the night progressed.
After I arrived I took a tour upstairs and found the place was bigger than I had thought - with three floors and at least 10 bars. The third floor had amphitheater-style seating. From there you could look down on the DJ's Powerbooks and the soon to be full dance floor. The second floor offered free caricatures and henna tattoos. A small line had already formed at both by the time I got there. The henna tattoos became very popular later in the night, as friends noticed friends with tattoos and decided to stand in line for their own. The DJs that were playing R&B in the basement seemed to favor 50 Cent. This space was where the party migrated later in the night after most SIGGRAPHers -turned-partygoers had left the main dance floor upstairs.
People continued to arrive an hour or two into the party and at about 10:00 the first brave souls began to dance, and by 10:30 the party had really started. The drink tickets were a hit (among those who could get their hands on them). For the rest, seven to ten dollars for a drink was not unheard of. The dress code was casual, with most SIGGRAPHers arriving still wearing their laniards, nametags, and rubber Lance Armstrong style SIGGRAPH bracelets. Throughout the night looping video projections featured short three-minute demos provided by the Chapters Party sponsors. For the programmers and digital artists at the party the demo reel offered familiar imagery.
Among the many in attendance at this year’s Chapters party was Mr. Jim Blinn, (creator the Blinn shader). He found the henna tattoos particularly interesting and commented that the party was a good one.
Also at the Mayan Club was Fran McAfee. As head of the Chapters committee he played a big part in the party's success. Fran noted a few ways that this year's party was different from previous years. For one, the henna tattoos and caricatures were new, as was the "quiet space" in the mezcla lounge where people could hear each other and carry on a conversation. Besides the mezcla, Fran was constantly on volume control, making sure the DJs kept it down to a lower level than they would on a normal night when the club is open to the general public.
He said the theme of this year's party was déja vu, because last year's Chapters party was also held at the Mayan. Fran is currently planning next year’s Chapter party in Boston, looking into venues like the Roxy and the Avalon. A key characteristic of a good party venue is lots of open space. It seemed to me that there was no shortage of room in the Mayan, but I was surprised by how much it filled up.
The Chapters Party was enjoyed by so many because it offered a chance for socializing and getting to know people at SIGGRAPH early in the week. I heard lunch dates being made for the following day and saw many business cards switch hands. Some people were grumbling about the lack of food, and one person, Ned Meneses, unofficially filed the complaint "the wall tiles are not artifacts of the Mayan culture, they are actually from Tiahuanacu Bolivia and not Central America." All in all the complaints were minimal and the night ended with happy people wandering down the street for an early breakfast at the Pantry.