Breakfast Notes #8 (Art Of The Speech, Seinfeld's Pop-Tart, Portraits)
Greetings from my humble abode.
I just attended Singapore's Week of Innovation and Technology (otherwise known as SWITCH). The entire festival was streamed from JW Marriott's Grand ballroom, and I was lucky to be there in person.
I was treated to two days of insights and predictions about the world's future. Here are three key insights I took away from this festival of ideas!
- 40M people came online in 2021, bringing the internet penetration in Southeast Asia (SEA) to 75%. That is 8 Singapore!
- The Golden Age of Small Businesses has arrived! With the rise of e-commerce platforms, small businesses in the food and consumer services are rising in this space.
- Bitcoin next? 90% of all digital merchants now accept digital payments.
The Art Of The Speech
The key to a memorable speech, essay and song is artful repetition.
Yet, it offends our intuition. We think to repeat ourselves; we come across as either an overbearing preacher or an annoying salesman.
However, repetition signals that what we are about to say is important that it bears repeating.
A tweet that my googling skills could not find said this about repetition, 'Say what you are going to say, say it, say what you just said.'
Jon Favreau, the chief speechwriter for Obama, once exclaimed (and I paraphrase),
'A good line in a speech is like a good piece of music. It becomes memorable if you take a small thing and repeat it throughout the speech, like a chorus in a song. People remember songs for the chorus and not the verses. If you want to make something memorable, you have to repeat it.'
There is a reason that in 2021
- You can still belt out the choruses of Justin Bieber's Baby and Taylor Swift's Bad Blood on command. If you can't, you missed out on two 2010-ish masterpieces.
- You remember Obama's 2008 and Trump's 2016 slogans of 'Yes We Can' and 'Make America Great Again.'
- You know that 'Assemble' is the only word that should come after 'Avengers.'
If you want to make it stick, repeat.
Seinfeld And His Pop-Tart
I have a dirty little secret.
Every day, I spend at least an hour binge watching Seinfeld.
Seinfeld is an American sitcom series that aired from 1989 (32 years ago) to 1998. It starred Jerry Seinfeld as a fictionalised version of himself, hanging out with his three pals - George, Elaine and Kramer. Set in New York City, it focuses on the quirks and oddities of 1990s urban life in America.
For a millennial like myself, this show should feel dated, boring and tacky. But I was hooked!
When I watched this 2012 New York Times Jerry Seinfeld Interview, I was just blown away by his attention to detail and mastery of comedy.
He spent two years on a Pop-Tart joke, scribbling, cancelling and drawing all over his yellow pad with his blue Bic pen. He reworked his segues tirelessly so that jokes would flow organically. He would experiment with his punchlines, so his last line would be the funniest and most impactful one.
He ends the pop-tart joke by stating that we should all consume pop-tarts because 'they can't go stale because they were never fresh.'
An ending that took him a long time to settle on.
Bang! Even the interviewer sneaked a chuckle in.
His effortlessness display in excellence demonstrates the value of persistent practice and an immutable fact - effortlessness is only perceived but never truly experienced.
Visualisations Of The Day
A look at the history of the future.
Here are my five favourite futuristic pictures by Jean-Marc Côté and other artists issued in France over 110 years ago.
For the full list of photos, check this out!
The Evolution Of Portraits
Why do people in old photos always look so serious?
Christina Kotchemidova, a professor of culture and communication at New York University, wrote an article on the history of smiles in snapshot photography.
She argues - a smile for the camera only emerged in the past few decades. Smiling for the camera was unlikely an instinctive response in the early years of photography.
Given that portrait shots were derived from portrait paintings, they likely followed the rules of painting. No smiles, no laughs and no cheeses, for they meant uncouthness, uncivilised and lewd.
I cannot help but imagine that the symbolism of photos has evolved.
Back in the 19th century, photo-taking was a luxury for most. When common people took photos, a moment of their being was frozen and eternalised. The recipient of a photo has only one physical photo they could own for the rest of their lives. Thus, no matter what they wore or what cultures they hailed from, they wanted to portray a sense of seriousness that commands one's attention.
Now, we can take unlimited photos of ourselves. Photos have become trivial, and our attitude towards this medium has relaxed. We use it to snap selfies, take photos of receipts and meeting minutes and capture the beautiful moments in life. In other words, photos have become our new journals. For some of us, we upload most of them online and have become comfortable sharing some of our most intimate moments with hundreds, thousands or millions of strangers.
If you are interested in how technology affects culture, consider this video essay on Heidegger and The Question Concerning Technology.
May The Sun Shine On Your Face,