Writing for Readers (and Reading the Writings) of the Opposite Sex

Are most of my readers men or women?  Let’s take a look at the demographics of Scenic Route Snapshots…

I like to keep up with the demographics of my readers, as best I can, by checking to see which posts are consistently the most popular and also by seeing which keywords are the most commonly searched phrases.  Because while I do write creatively and freely, I also want to be able to cater to “revisitors” to give them something worth coming back for- hopefully ending up in that coveted “Favorites” tab on their computer screen.

Another good indicator of who I am attracting as readers is by looking at my “tag cluster cloud” on the right side of the screen, entitled “What I Write About the Most”.  These are the topics I label myself to help readers in the WordPress community (the website franchise this site is published through) find posts about a particular subject they want to read about.  The more times I publish a post with that “tag word”, the larger it appears in the cluster cloud.  Here’s a breakdown of the tag words currently in my cluster cloud with an according “gender predictor” with each one:

Masculine: manspeak, men, wife

Feminine: Ali Fedotowsky, baby, Chris Harrison, dad from day one, Jake Pavelka, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette

Neutral: 1983, ABC (the network featuring LOST and The Bachelor, which I’ve written countless recaps for), America, American, Bible, blog, blogging, blogs, cancer, Christian, Christianity, coffee, comedy, déjà vu, English, facebook, family, Fort Payne, friends, funny, God, Google, Italian, Jacob (from LOST), Jesus, Jewish, Jews, life, LOST, Nashville, Nick Shell (while I am masculine, I appeal to both genders, as this particular post will explain), people, Starbucks, Thailand

While it appears to me that most of the topics I mention in my writings are gender neutral, the ones that are specifically feminine do outweigh those which are specifically masculine.  And even then, through the Manspeak series (categorized as “masculine”) is written to explain the way men think and speak, I’m inclined to assume that more women read the series than men, to understand their boyfriends, husbands, sons, and fathers.  (Click the title to get to the main Manspeak page: Manspeak, Volume 0: Introduction).

My estimate is that is that at least 85% of my readers are women and no more than 15% are men.  Not only do my Bachelor/Bachelorette recaps increase my female readership, but also so does my dad from day one series, which chronicles my thoughts as an expecting father. And that’s a peculiar thing to me- that I can write so frequently to the appeal of the feminine mindset, which works so differently from my own.

It’s happened throughout the course of history; from the Bible being written by all men (though there are countless female protagonists like Ruth and Esther) to the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling (whose real name is Joanne Murray, but who was strongly encouraged by her publisher to use a more masculine pen name that would better accommodate her targeted audience of young boys), men and women have been successfully writing for not only their own gender, but for the opposite as well.

But even though men and women think so differently, more important is the fact that People Who Write share a common trait with People Who Read: an artistic drive that supersedes gender differences.  I am completely bankrupt when it comes to sports trivia or fixing a garbage disposal, but I can come up with something new and creative to write about everyday that connects to the appropriate readers.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen for supporting my masculine-and-feminine-friendly writings.


The Good Ole Days: Past, Present, or Future?

At what point does life reach its peak?

Last August I bought Third Eye Blind’s new album, Ursa Minor, on the day it came out. And while I love it tremendously, I realized several years ago that nothing they ever do will top their 1997 debut album with “How’s It Gonna Be”, “Semi-Charmed Life”, “Jumper”, “Graduate”, “Motorcycle Drive By” and “I Want You”. They keep making good music, even if I’m the only one still listening. But they peaked 11 years ago.

Michael Jackson experienced his peak in 1983 with the success of Thriller, personally haunted by the fact that he was never able to commercially or critically top it. And as much as I love Dave Matthews Band, I find it scientifically impossible for them to top their 1996 7x platinum album Crash, featuring the flawless “Crash into Me”.

Not that it’s an awful thing to peak early in a career. Not everyone can go out with a bang like George Burns, or remain relevant after several decades. It happens to plenty of good actors and comedians too: they continue to make movies after people stop really caring. Steve Martin. Jim Carrey. Will Ferrell. Robin Williams. Tim Allen.

A sign of a once-relevant comedian officially being past his peak is when he appears in a family movie in which he gets thrown high into the air, then lands abruptly but suffers no major injuries, then looks up at the camera with this expression that says, “Ugh, that’ll leave a mark…” (I have a visual right now of Steve Martin in Cheaper by the Dozen when he gets catapulted out of the Gymboree.)

Gone are the days of Steve Martin’s classics like The Jerk, Father of the Bride, Roxanne, Parenthood, and the legendary Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (which I refer to in about 23% of my writings). Now we’re stuck with The Pink Panther. I’m sure it makes him millions of dollars, but it doesn’t make anybody laugh.

Steve Martin: surprisingly, not Jewish.

While I don’t have a career in acting or music where I have to keep reinventing myself to please fans in the business of entertainment, I do live a life in which I am sometimes tempted to keep looking to the future for my vindication, contentment, or perfect stage of life. When those thoughts cross my mind I have to remind myself of some corny forward that someone e-mailed me a few months ago that said: These are the good old days.

Whether or not I am living in the peak happiness of my life now or in 30 years, it doesn’t matter. Because I’ve learned it’s not the bad, boring, or annoying memories I keep going back to. It’s the good ones. Those are what I keep close to heart: These are the good old days.

Robin Williams: Also, surprisingly not Jewish either.

“I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve.” -John Mayer (“No Such Thing”)

“And I’ve never been so alive.” -Third Eye Blind (“Motorcycle Drive By”)

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.