5 min read

Breakfast Notes #9 (Design, Confucius, Seinfeld)

Breakfast Notes #9 (Design, Confucius, Seinfeld)
Photo by Aziz Acharki / Unsplash

Good morning from Singapore. As I glanced at my watch, I realised that we are less than 8 weeks away from 2022. It's crazy how fast time has flown by in 2021.

  • 1991 was thirty years ago. Can you believe it?

The Elegance of Design

Design makes the difference.

I consume news about Singapore and the world mainly from Telegram channels. They act as a good filter for the type of news I should first dive into.

Let’s take a quick look at ChannelNewsAsia’s telegram and compare it to the renowned New York Times.

New York Times , Telegram

However, CNA is just a cut above NYT. They understand the value of emojis, graphics and shortened URL access to engage reader attention. I am particularly impressed with their data visualisation. If I wanted a sense of Singapore’s COVID situation, a glance at their infographics gives me everything I need to know.

More importantly, they write good, extremely good hooks that give you both the gist of the story while giving you the option to read more.

I know Singaporean media often gets criticism for ‘not being free’ and ‘lacking in quality', but I am extremely proud of Singaporean media channels like CNA that practice excellent design.

Confucius And The Good Life

A Page From The Analects

I recently began re-reading the Analects of Confucius in Classical Chinese. It is a short book but it is packed with wisdom and insight.

In the opening line of the Analects, We get a glimpse of what he thinks a good life is,

子曰:“学而时习之,不亦说乎?有朋自远方来,不亦乐乎?人不知而不愠,不亦君子乎?

In my translation,

To practice what you have learned, is that not a pleasure? To welcome friends who have come from afar, is that not worth celebrating? To have a calm disposition in an uncertain life is that not the way of a gentleman(/woman)

The value of Confucian thought lies in its timelessness and practicality. In our modern consumerist economy, Confucius provides an antidote to our disenchantment - seek mastery, enduring friendships and a stoic attitude towards life.

My moments of greatest joy did not come from watching re-runs of Seinfeld on Netflix (which I admit is rather entertaining), nor did it come from suntanning at Sentosa. It came when I was able to live out the Confucian ideal!

Intuitively, we know this!

We take great joy in successfully applying a concept we learn. Remember the air-fives we used to do when we finally solved a difficult math question?

We are so excited to reunite with close friends whom we haven’t seen in a while, and no matter the cause of the reunion, we always leave happy and full!

We want to be like Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, and we want to feel that we can tackle any challenge head-on. In doing so, we feel like we have become our idealised selves.

Thus, I am convinced that If Aristotle had visited China, he would have found that the Chinese, too, had their version of a ‘eudaemonia.’

Visualizations Of The Day

Three Visuals For The Price of One.

I might start doing three pics of the week- one on history, one on economics and one on sociology.

The internet is amazing.

Pew Research Center 

If America serves as the barometer of global culture, should we be worried that lesser children are reading for fun today? (Note, the parents of these children grew up in the 80s and early 90s)

Openculture, Digital Rendering of Curetes

A digital reconstruction of what Ancient Greece would have looked like - Curetes Street in ancient Ephesus. (10th Century BC)

Charlie Bielello

Watch how they spend and not what they say. More people are buying even as American consumer sentiment dips to a new low since 2012.

Seinfeld and The Streaming Wars

Seinfeld

Last week, I confessed my love for Seinfeld. This week, I confess my jealousy of Seinfeld.

The Seinfeld sitcom is the ultimate golden goose that every writer, actor, producer can ever dream of, and it is the highest tier of passive income.

Its nine seasons worth of time-tested observational humour makes it a crucial asset in any streaming platform that seeks to grow its audience. Be it 1992,2002,2012, or 2022, the classic sitcom would draw eyeballs. On Oct. 1, Netflix took Seinfeld on its platform. The sitcom arrived on Netflix globally as a part of a five-year deal for reportedly north of $500 million.

$500 million for 180 episodes worth of sitcom? That’s close to 2.8 million USD per episode and half of what Facebook paid to acquire Instagram, which sounds like a rip-off.

Besides being a gold standard for aspiring creators, it illuminates an interesting relationship between successful creators and platforms. Such deals are akin to investment in relationships that disincentivise creators from joining rivals. With Netflix owning rights to his talk show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and his two other standup specials, the streaming giant would likely offer him more deals for future spin-offs and shows. This means that Jerry and his crew are unlikely to switch sides to Amazon or Disney.

Thus, the $500m is not a purchase of the rights to a 90s sitcom but an investment in getting exclusive access to Jerry Seinfeld’s brand and creative talents. This is yet another masterclass of what path dependency looks like in reality.

Thank you for reading and indulging in my takeaways! Do you like the tidbits thus far? Consider sharing it with someone whom you think might enjoy this and get them to subscribe here.

If not, you can reply to me with what tickles or fascinates you!

May the sun shine upon your face,

Keith