I Am the Last Cool Person You Know to Finally Get a Smart Phone

Last night I finished the 1989 movie, Back to the Future Part 2, which takes place in the future: October 2015.

I Am the Last Cool Person You Know to Finally Get a Smart Phone

I suppose now that I’m officially living in the future, it’s quite appropriate that I announce that as of last night at 9:01 PM, I am now a smart phone owner.

That makes me the last cool person you know to finally get a smart phone.

At this point, who do you know who doesn’t have one? I literally don’t know anyone in my social circle who doesn’t have a smart phone.

In fact, it’s not unheard of here in the Nashville area to see a homeless man selling newspapers to people stopped at the red lights, but then to see him check his smart phone during the green lights when the cars are no longer stopped in front of him.

I’m not sure how that all works out, but obviously, it only proves how counter-cultural my own lack of a smart phone has made me up until now.

Here’s the truth: I kind of hate smart phones. Actually, if it were up to me (it’s not- it’s up to my wife), I wouldn’t own a cell phone at all.

I Am the Last Cool Person You Know to Finally Get a Smart Phone

Sure, it’s ironic that a blogger with a YouTube channel doesn’t like the idea of always being “connected and plugged in”.

It’s just that I refuse to become another cliché who looks down at my phone to acknowledge another Facebook “like” while you are trying to talk to me, face to face in real time. It’s perhaps my rebellion of that cliche that keeps from wanting to be so connected and plugged in.

After all, a guy I recently met at Whole Foods, Jarrid Wilson, did a blog post that went viral; which addresses this social issue: “Why I Am Getting a Divorce in 2014.”

He’s actually talking about “divorcing” his smart phone.

See, that’s the whole point. I despise the concept of naturally and gradually disconnecting from real life via a smart phone, allowing myself to believe the illusion that what’s going on in my Facebook feed is more important than my family right in front of me.

It reminds me of the 1980 Genesis song, “Turn It on Again”. The protagonist of the song watches TV so much that he begins to get lonely when the characters of his favorite shows aren’t on. I see a parallel with people who constantly check and update social media, via their smart phones:

“I can show you some of the people in my life
It’s driving me mad just another way of passing the day
I, I get so lonely when she’s not there

Turn it on, turn it on, turn it on again
Turn it on, turn it on, turn it on again
I can see another face”

Someone on my Facebook page for Family Friendly Daddy Blog immediately asked me last night, after I posted my 1st official Instagram post (featured below), what made me decide to finally get a smart phone.

I Am the Last Cool Person You Know to Finally Get a Smart Phone

Here’s my answer:

After being with Verizon for at least a dozen years, things finally got to the point with where they no longer offered incentives to faithful customers like me to stay; customers who always paid on time; no more free phones, for sure. Those days are gone.

I even walked in to my Verizon store to calmly explain I would be leaving them if they couldn’t provide me a free “dumb phone” to keep my budget the same; since I was nearing the end of my latest 2 year contract.

Verizon sincerely yet simply apologized they could not. I tried.

This time around, it was going to cost just as much to have “regular service” with them, as it would to finally just get a smart phone.

So now my wife and I are with a hilariously named service provider called Puppy Wireless; which is basically a 3rd party that uses Verizon’s towers.

Here’s the one and only part of being a smart phone owner that excites me:

There’s a good chance I can grow my “blog business” because of it.

I now have access to Instagram, which means I am more attractive to Acorn, an influence company I have worked with a little on the side.

For example, I did a project for them earlier in the summer in which I promoted the mobile app game, Best Fiends, by featuring the product in a Jack-Man video I made, in lieu of an Instagram post.

With my Instagram account @nickshellwrites, which is the same as my Twitter handle, I am pretty sure I will find myself with a much steadier stream of blogging gigs through Acorn, which pays me to advertise for their clients.

Also with that in the pipeline, my YouTube channel has finally begun to start making me some money. Plus, in the near future, I will be featuring ads on my blog for Beacon Ads; a Christian company who found my “family friendly” daddy blog to be appropriate for their advertisers.

Over this next year, I am going to really be making a much more conscious effort to make my blog more of a business; not just a hobby.

And as much as I don’t want to admit it, a smart phone can be a great tool to help make that happen.

One of the main reasons I refused to get a smart phone all this time is because I refused to change my budget over it. But if I can make up the financial loss of having to pay for a data plan, not to mention my phone, I suppose it’s worth it if it also leads to me actually making money.

I am a bitter, cheap, old man. I just happen to only be 34 years old.

Sure, I have a smart phone now… but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.

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Movie Guy, at Your Service: My Top 11-25 Favorites

What do your favorite movies say about you?

Our favorite movies are loaded with subconscious connections to our own ways of thinking and our own lives.  And that’s why no movie critic can ever truly release a list of the best movies ever made.  Because that list would simply reflect that critic, not the general population. 

After having recently posted my own Top Ten favorites (Movie Guy, at Your Service: My Top Ten Favorites), here in my 300th post on Scenic Route Snapshots, I am now releasing the list of my Top 11-25 favorite movies of all time:

#11) About a Boy

#12) Elizabethtown

#13) A Christmas Story

#14) Zoolander

#15) Supersize Me (assuming that documentaries count)

#16) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

#17) Mrs. Doubtfire

#18) That Thing You Do

#19) The Wedding Singer

#20) Big

#21) Dumb and Dumber

#22) Napoleon Dynamite

#23) The Breakfast Club

#24) Pineapple Express

#25) One Hour Photo

I have been asked several times about my Number Four favorite movie of my all time, Sideways (2004).  It’s one that most people who I know in real life didn’t like, if they’ve even seen it.  I can totally see why people wouldn’t like it- a bipolar lead character (Miles, played by Paul Giamatti), a sex-crazed idiot sidekick (Jack, played by Thomas Haden Church), a good bit of comical frontal male nudity (by the man who played Tom on LOST), and no definite plot.  But I do solidly love this movie.  In fact, I also give it the award for “The Most Re-watchable Movie”.  And surely that’s another reason it ended up as #4. 

In keeping with the theme of this post, I am choosing to use Sideways as an example of how a favorite movie can say a lot about the person who loves it. I’ve said before that what makes a good movie is not its actors, budget, or plot- but instead it’s all about the characters (and of course the actor’s ability to act). 

Sideways is a character movie.  The main four characters (and pretty much only four characters of the movie) are all believable.  None of their lives are impressive.  They are very ordinary people.  And they are all quite flawed and that makes them more human than a lot of movie characters.

It wasn’t until I saw the movie for the 10th time, last weekend, that I finally picked up on the toned-down parallel between the types of wine and the characters, as well as the amount of passion for wine they had compared with their desire for meaningful human relationships.

I love the fact that the movie takes place in Napa Valley and integrates the culture of wine tasting.  It’s such a beautiful, unique place.  I was intrigued by Napa Valley the first time I saw the movie in 2005. 

Of course, three years later I conveniently married a girl from Sacramento, which means that I’ve been able to go wine tasting several times out there where the movie was filmed.  Just as Sideways makes it seem cool to take a road trip through Napa Valley and taste wine, the truth is, it really is that cool.  A perfect place for a road trip and a perfect place to get lost (which we do just about every time we go out there).

If nothing else, Sideways plays out like an adult, R-rated version of Dumb and Dumber.  The climax of the movie makes the “naked in public” nightmare a reality when Miles (Paul Giamatti) has to sneak into a house to retrieve Jack’s (Thomas Haden Church) wallet, after Jack just woke him up in the middle of the night after having ran several miles naked from across town. 

The entire soundtrack of the movie, with one exception when the song “Two Tickets to Paradise” is heard in the background of a bar, is jazz.  I like jazz a lot.  That’s one of the reasons I’m such a fan of The Pink Panther cartoon show.

Lastly, if it weren’t for a few scenes where Jack uses a cell phone, the movie could have very easily taken place in 1993.  Or 1989.  Or 1986.  Sideways has a really timeless, classic feel to it. 

So in review, the random elements of the movie that subconsciously connected to my own life were the following: a character-driven plot (I’m a people person), parallels between the wines and the people who drink them (I love undertoned themes), remniscent of Dumb and Dumber (obviously another one of my favorite movies), retro feel (I’m a fan of time travel), a jazzy soundtrack (it’s groovy), a beautiful location (that also doubles as my wife’s hometown region), a road trip driven-plot (I love road trips) and a scene involving a man having to run naked in public (I have that “naked in pubic” dream several times a year, and I plan to do a post on it soon).

How does a movie become a favorite?  It’s all about those subconscious connections between our own lives and the images, moods, and stories we see on the screen.  Either they’re there or they’re not.

People Watching 101: Wedding Rings, Shoes, and Accessories

It’s not something a person really learns to do- it’s more of an instinct.  Whether it’s the majority or minority of people in this world who are “people watchers”, all I know is that I am one of them.  And I’m proud to be.

Why?  Because like a housecat, I find creative ways to entertain myself with the most ordinary things in life.  I can’t stand to be bored.  So when I’m in a situation where there’s nothing to do, I think.  And if I’m in a room full of strangers, I “people watch”.

That means as I pretend not to directly look at them, I try to figure out their story.  Because I’ve got clues and hints to go on:

1)     Wedding ring.  Is this guy sitting 8 feet across me a married man?  Does he go home everyday to a wife, just like I do?  If not, why not?  Is he too young, not ready?  Wants to be but just hasn’t met the right girl yet?  If  he is old enough to be a grandfather but doesn’t wear a wedding ring, is he widowed?  That’s sad.

2)     Shoes.  Leather loafers with tassels means the guy is a banker or investor.  Polished black leather shoes means he’s a lawyer.  Cowboy boots means he’s a songwriter.  Chuck Taylors means he’s artistic in some way.

3)     Accessories.  Book?  What is it?  Cell phone?  What is he doing with it?  Is he talking on it?  Am I having to listen to his conversation?  Is his phone attached to his belt?  Is it on the table?  Is he writing in a journal?  Listening to an i-pod?  What music he listening to?  Journey?  Chicago? Is that a Rubik’s Cube I see there?

I could go through the entire endless list: hairstyle, voice, attitude, clothing, accent, etc.  But really those first three paint enough of the picture to imagine a good story to entertain myself for a few minutes.  Then it’s time to move on to the next character.

And of course, I carry around my camera with me.  Because I never when I have stumbled into my next website post: People Watching in Nashville Traffic

After These Messages… We’ll Be Riiiiight Back!

I am a marketing department’s worst nightmare.  Because while I completely appreciate good commercials, they never influence me to buy the product.  Kudos to McDonald’s for their retro “Give Me Back My Filet-O-Fish” commercial, equipped with a Ford Ranchero and a catchy 8-bit sounding song via text message.  And those guys in the Sonic commercials, what’s not to love about “get those taste buds going, danga-langa-langa-langa-langa… Mornin’ Gents!” or “YOU’RE A CHEAP DATE!”

Yet I never buy from or eat at McDonald’s or Sonic.  I respect their commercials, but they’re just entertainment.  That’s all.  Completely ineffective as far as getting me to actually spend money.

Which causes me to think about this question:  When is the last time I bought a product or service based on an advertisement, of any kind?  Through a TV commercial, radio commercial, or magazine ad.  Any sort of marketing ad.

And I’m not counting the times I was already searching for a general product and came across a website.  That doesn’t count. 

I’m talking about this situation:  I never heard of the product.  I see an advertisement.  I buy it.

The last purchase I made was a food purchase.  I bought some cupcakes from Gigi’s Cupcakes.  Because my wife heard about how awesome they are from some people at work.  So I bought the cupcakes through word-of-mouth.

Other than other mundane purchases like groceries and gas, the only other item I purchased in the last few weeks was a Rubik’s Cube, which I knew of through years of word-of-mouth.   

Three years ago I bought an i-pod, but not because of the commercials.  Because my friends had them.  Then I bought mine from amazon.com.

Same thing with my GPS. 

Same thing with choosing Verizon Wireless as my cell phone company.

And my subscription to Details magazine. 

And going through wordpress.com to get my own website.

And my town house.  My wife’s friend already lived in that neighborhood.

And my Wii.  I was sold on it well over a year before it even came out.

Even when I see a commercial for a movie, I won’t go see it or rent it or even watch it at all until I’ve talked to someone who’s seen it or until I’ve read a promising online review.  Word-of-mouth.

As for buying music, I may buy a new CD if I hear it playing on the radio or at Borders, but that’s not advertising, that’s exposure. 

So there’s the pattern.  I only buy things based on the recommendation of a person I trust.  And of course they’re never the ones actually selling me the product.

Okay, I can finally remember a time when I bought a product based on a commercial or ad.  It was high school.  My freshman year: 1995.  I bought a Trix t-shirt because I looked through a t-shirt magazine my friend gave me.

Oh wait, nevermind.  I only got the magazine because a friend gave it to me and said that I would like it.

So the last time I bought a product directly because of an advertisement was probably back in the early ‘90’s when I would buy Ninja Turtle action figures.  Toys.  When I was a kid. 

As an adult, I guess I kinda like the idea of outsmarting the advertising departments of companies.

Bottom line:  If a product or service is worth purchasing, word will get around and eventually get to me.  That’s the only advertising that honestly matters to me.

Destructive Thoughts Vs. Actual Actions

Last summer as my wife and I were strolling down the streets of Stonington, Connecticut, we walked by this telephone pole that oddly had a fire alarm attached to it.  I had never seen one outside before.  It made me think how easy it would be for any punk kid to pull it as a prank, being that this particular street didn’t have heavy traffic or security video cameras.   But I am also fully aware that I at one time was a punk kid who threw stink bombs in the locker areas during break in Junior High and never got caught.  That punk kid from 1994 still tries to give me sneaky/bad ideas sometimes.  Fortunately, I usually don’t listen.


Like today when I was at Starbucks I saw an untouched, colorful cake with the words “Good luck Jared” on it, sitting on a table with napkins, plates, and a knife.  I stepped towards the table in order to cut the first piece, then realized, “Wait, you don’t know that cake is for you to enjoy and even if it is you can’t assume that they’re cool with you taking the inaugural slice.”  Moments later, one of the workers came by, picked up the cake and utensils, and took it to the “employees only” area.  Good thing I didn’t follow my first instinct.

 


People who ride bicycles on the road alongside cars annoy me.  They have way too much confidence, assuming that most drivers truly are treating them with caution and will cater to them.  I support their love of physical exercise, but they just rub me the wrong way.  Every time I’m driving my car alongside a cyclist, I have to consciously stop myself from wanting to veer over near him.  Not to actually hit him.  Just scare him and shake things up for him.  Then I remember, “Wait, you can’t do that!  That’s mean.  Funny, but mean.”


But these surreal temptations don’t always involve me hurting other people, sometimes they involve me hurting myself.  When I was about 12 years old, I was pouring gasoline through a funnel into the lawn mower.  The heavy fumes hit me.  I remember thinking, “What would happen if I drank some of this?”  I was in a daze for a few minutes.  When I snapped out of hit, I was convinced I really did drink gasoline.  After 30 minutes, I realized I probably didn’t actually drink it because I didn’t feel sick.

 


I always have the same dangerous thought when I am at the mall walking next to the 4 foot tall glass balcony on the 2nd floor.  When I look down and see those annoying middle-of-the-isle tent booths selling sunglasses, cell phone jackets, and jewelry cleaners down on the floor below, I am tempted to jump on top of the tent, knowing that surely I can’t be hurt too badly from the semi-cushioned fall.  And knowing I would be doing the general public a favor by eliminating one more potentially obnoxious vendor.

 


There is a thick line between thinking a destructive thought and actually doing it.


What if our secret, private thoughts constantly popped up on everyone’s computers like the “live feed” on facebook?  We often have such evil, corrupt ideas going through our heads.  But they are kept safe from leaking out into the world, depending on how much common sense we have.

 



 


The Teaching of Mr. Miyagi: Avoiding Awkwardness, Confrontations, and Fights

 

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who complain at restaurants about their order being less than perfect and those who just let it go. I have learned that my wife and I are the ones that don’t complain and just overlook it. The last thing we want when we’re out to enjoy a nice meal is a confrontation. It’s just not worth it to us to 1) call the waiter to the table and explain why our order is not right, 2) have to listen to him apologize, 3) have the manager come to our table and apologize and tell us our meal is free, 4) accept a free meal on account of someone’s minor mistake. I hate feeling awkward. It’s one of my quirks.

In a great movie that was made ten years ago called Fight Club, leader Tyler Durden gives his members a homework assignment: Start a fight with someone and lose. He then explains, “Most people, normal people, do anything to avoid a confrontation.” I can definitely vouch for that.

Why did telemarketing lasted for so long in our country’s history (until President Bush outlawed it a few years ago)? Because annoying and aggressive telemarketers were ultimately successful. While most people had enough confidence to politely say “no thanks” and hang up, many people caved to the confrontation. They would rather commit to a magazine subscription for two years and “not make the other person feel bad”. Or worse, become a victim of a time-share related pyramid scheme by a “friend”.

For every 30 no’s, there was one yes. And that yes brought good profit. Same thing applies to those annoying salesman in the middle isles at the mall that want to “give you a free ring cleaning”, A.K.A.- try to sell people something to clean their ring with.

I don’t have a problem with confronting someone if it’s about something important. But if it’s not, then it’s better time management to just avoid the situation. I don’t like having to argue with someone when I am solid in my decision. If I am asked to buy something or do something I don’t want to do, the answer is no. And if I’m further asked, then just to spite the person I tend to get aggressive with them, then later spend time thinking about how annoying they where. So my rule of thumb is the same as the point of the 1986 film Karate Kid Part II- the best way to win a fight is to avoid it.

Tips:


1) When at the mall or walking into or out of a Wal-Mart on Saturday, I put my cell phone up to my ear when I see a salesman. They prey on the weak and undistracted.
2) When someone is calling me on my cell phone from a number that is not already programmed as one of  my contacts, don’t answer it. It is definitely someone I don’t want to talk to.
3) When at a restaurant, order salmon, not steak. Then I don’t have to worry about my meal being undercooked. Also, I won’t be tempted so say the cliché phrase that your steak is “still mooing at me”.
4) When at the movies and I realize I’m sitting in front of some punk teenage kids that are going to be talking during the movie and putting their feet on the back of my seat, I just get up and sit somewhere else. They’re idiots and no matter how nicely I tell them, they’re gonna be annoying anyway.

Stuck in Back in Time Like Ned Flanders, Dwight Schrute, and Austin Powers

 

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt…

Like a good bottle of Pepsi Clear or a box of Pop-Tart Minis, every person has an expiration date. Of culture, that is. There comes a certain year in a person’s life where they no longer continue moving forward concerning the way they dress, wear their hair, speak, and use technology. I’m not talking about a 16 year old kid who buys all his clothes at Goodwill, proudly showing off his 1985 Huey Lewis & the News t-shirt, and fashions his hairstyle after Ashton Kutcher in “Dude, Where’s My Car?”. Being retro on purpose doesn’t count.

For me it’s most obvious when I’m at Wal-Mart and the cashier lady’s hairdo consists of teased bangs brushed back into a permed Brillo pad of a mullet: 1984.

Or the retired farmer who is still wearing his Dwight Schrute style glasses and refuses to use a cell phone or the Internet: 1979.

Sometimes it’s less obvious- maybe that co-worker with a thick goatee, wearing a cell phone belt clip, still saying quotes from Austin Powers like “Yeah, baby, yeah!”, and whose cell phone ringtone is “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed: 2000.

This concept became obvious to me when I was accompanying my wife as she shopped for clothes on a Saturday afternoon. I walked into a Van Heusen outlet and realized that while they did have some good deals, if I actually attempted to buy anything from the store, my wife probably wouldn’t let me wear it. Why? Because everything available in a Van Heusen store is designed for men who are stuck in 1994.

It amazed me that a whole company would purposely make outdated clothes. But the executives at that company know their audience. If these outdated clothing stores suddenly stopped making pleated light khaki pants, their abandoned customers would just pledge their allegiance to another outdated store instead. Customers who still say “been there, done that, got the t-shirt”. And the t-shirt they are referring to is a Big Dogs shirt with the quote “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay off the porch!” Yes, because that’s still cool.

Even though I am well aware that every person at some point in their lifetime freezes in the culture of a certain year, my awareness does not exclude me from the inevitable. I admit that whether it’s when I start having kids, or maybe not until I retire, still I will definitely get stuck one year, not even realizing it until it’s too late and I’m either too stubborn or apathetic to change.