Just a fleeting glimpse of a picture of Mr. Strong on the shirt of a character in the Mary Poppins—Sound of Music—Mighty Ducks-esque film Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic has the power to take you back to when you were little and Papa was reading to you. Through books and especially picture books, you can go anywhere.
Alan's wife Susanna Natti, when she is not illustrating esoteric talks such as this, illustrates children’s books. I don't know if it is because of this, or just because of the power of picture books, Alan always refers to the story The Sky is Falling when describing loopy belief propagation. "Chicken Little told Henny Penny, who told Ducky Lucky, who told Goosey Lucy, who told Chicken Little, who said 'I knew I was right.'" One advantage of graphical models is the ability to visualize complicated probability distributions as well as algorithms on those distributions.
Another favorite of Alan's is to refer to the Hawaiian islands and 'almost' islands when describing level set methods and curve evolution. The picture gives your mind much more than equations do. Lav has argued that in scientific works such as those of information theory, the text and the pictures/diagrams cannot be taken apart (see his class project for details).
I opened my SSG talk last year with a slide featuring Elmer, Granny, Sylvester, Penelope, and Pepe to go over the fact that objects can be clustered based on a variety of features, e.g. human/animal, color/black-and-white, and coappearance in stories. For the purposes of the work I was presenting, however, the features that mattered were the prior probabilities of hypotheses for a detection task — perhaps the prior probability of an 'aerosol release.' The previous year, my early slides included an anatomical diagram by Leonardo and a cartoon, both related to the topic I was presenting.
In Jason's opinion, technical talks, especially when given at MIT, should be as rich in technical content as a technical report. They shouldn't be Powerpoint engineered and they should, quoting Dmitry, deliver the "full fury of science." I agree with those sentiments, but also feel that different media have different requirements. I don't think that including cartoonish pictures in talks necessarily diminishes their technical depth if the necessary equations, derivations, etc. are also included.
I'm not sure if I'll put any cartoon-type graphic elements into the slides for my SSG talk this year, but I still have a couple of months to think about it.