"People say, 'I'm taking it one day at a time.' You know what? So is everybody. That's how time works." -- Comedian Hannibal Buress
Some years back, I was sitting with friends in the audience. Parents all, we were listening to our children's school's holiday concert. The friend who confided in me was a music lover, and what the children were doing to Handel probably violated one or more of the Geneva Conventions.
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Once he pointed it out, it was inescapable. While at any given time most of the singers were within a half note of their target, and most of the instruments were within an octave or so, the impact on the average cochlea could hardly be described as pleasant.
Yet until he pointed it out, I had found the concert enchanting. Why? Because it was our kids who were singing and playing their hearts out. While my friend was experiencing the sounds, most of us were experiencing our children.
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Before the Marx Brothers filmed a movie, they took the show on the road, performing for live audiences. During each performance, a member of the crew, armed with a stopwatch, timed the laughter that followed each punchline.
With that data, they knew how much time to allow for their movie audiences to quiet down. Watch one of their movies on video, though, and the timing seems off. It's because the smaller the audience, the more quickly the laughter finishes. Mood is contagious -- our own enjoyment comes as much from the enjoyment of the people around us as from the performance itself.
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Back in the days of dedicated word processors (yes, I'm that old) I once attended a session on what, back then, we called "office automation" put on by IBM. The content was good. The presenter was exceptional. Talking with him afterward I asked how he managed to make it seem fresh when clearly, he had presented the same material dozens of times.
"I don't think of it as presenting the same material," he explained. "I think of it as talking to a whole new group of people."
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