Talk of the Town 

Ignite Memphis 3 gives locals a chance to be heard.

Enlighten us. But make it quick.

That was the challenge given to 16 presenters at LaunchMemphis' third annual Ignite Memphis event, held on November 10th at the Memphis BioWorks auditorium.

With events hosted across the globe, community-powered Ignite events feature rapid-fire presentations on random subjects. Presenters are given five minutes to share their passion using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds.

Topics at Ignite Memphis ranged from the secret history of the city to how James Bond ruined the martini.

"James Bond doesn't know jack squat about cocktails, as smart and cunning as he may be," said presenter Dan Price. "Not only is he ordering his drinks not shaken, but he's also ordering vodka martinis most of the time. And that presents two fundamental problems: in the technique and in the ingredients."

In the presentation "The Secret History of Memphis, Tennessee," Zachary Whitten discussed the legalization of prostitution in Memphis, how The Memphis Appeal (the forerunner to The Commercial Appeal) was originally a pro-seccession publication, and the rise of opiate abuse during the Civil War.

Derwin Sisnett spoke on "The Psychology of a Healthy Community," where he provided ideas, like creating communities that center around schools and combining residential and commercial elements into a single space (like Harbor Town), to fulfill the entrepreneurial and educational needs of Memphis.

There was also a collection of more eclectic and light-hearted topics, like "The Wonderful World of ComiCostuming" in which presenter Laurel Amatangelo explained the intricacies of creating costumes for events like ComiCon. And then there was the totally absurd (but kind of brilliant) presentation by Jonathan McCarver titled "This Is Why You Are Dumb!"

"I'm not calling you dumb, but so many people just don't think," McCarver said, before going into a diatribe about "morning wood," which he said is simply an evolutionary mechanism. He also explained "why teenagers are assholes" (because they've developed to the point of being ready to move out) and why you can't sleep at night ("You haven't done anything").

"We like to steer away from cohesive themes," said Eric Mathews, president of LaunchMemphis, which provides support for start-up businesses. "We're more interested in selecting more diverse speakers and topics: stuff that's fun, enlightening, educational, and represents different parts of our community."

There were 25 submissions for last week's Ignite Memphis, and 16 were selected for presentations.

"Our primary goal is to build community in our connectivity," Mathews said. "We also want to give people some interesting things to talk about."

Attendees were asked to vote the People's Choice Award by ranking their top-three favorite presentations. The winners, who will get bragging rights until the next Ignite event, will be announced later this week.

LaunchMemphis is already accepting proposals for the next Ignite Memphis, slated to be held next spring. Submissions may be made at, which also includes videos from past Ignite presentations.


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