Surviving My Infant Son’s First Plane Ride

August 4, 2011 at 1:27 am , by 

Eight months.

I think the best way to begin is to share a few things that I would rather do than take an eight month old little boy on a plane from Nashville to Sacramento:

1) Be forced to watch a 24 hour marathon of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, sending out a Tweet every 15 minutes praising the show, though I despise it more than the awful movie Something Borrowed;  which is the worst movie I’ve ever seen- and that’s saying a lot because I’ve seen When in Rome.

2) Shave “racing stripes” into my hair until they grow out and when people ask me why I have resorted to a hairstyle trend that was briefly popular in 1988, I could only respond by saying “Cut… it… out!”, along with doing the accomanying hand motions, made famous by the character Joey Gladstone on Full House.

3) Walk barefoot on broken glass like Bruce Willis did in the first Die Hard movie.

When taking an infant on a plane, you must provide proof that your child is less than two years old.  I know this now because we did not.  (Dave Stanley, if you are reading this, I’m going to need you to email Jack’s birth certificate to me so we can leave Sacramento on Sunday…).  The lady was nice and let us board the plane anyway.  Thank God.

I’ve never seen my son pee so much, in a reasonable amount of time since his diaper was last changed, that I look down and see a puddle at my feet while standing in line to buy a snack before boarding the plane.  And I didn’t even care that I didn’t have time to wash my moistened hand before boarding the plane.

A guy who looked just like “Comic Book Guy” from The Simpsons brought his Shih Tzu dog on the plane, hogging up the front row of seats; when my wife and I tried to sit in the remaining two seats next to him, he responded sarcastically with, “Uh, sure, I guess it wouldn’t be a bad idea for both a dog and a baby to sit in the same row.”  It wasn’t worth it; we ended up settling for having to sit in the middle of the plane; my wife was in front of me and I was in the row behind.

The flight involved Jack sleeping as long as either my wife or I held him while standing up in the aisle.  My arms are still sore from that.

Of course, Jack won’t remember any of this along with how much he didn’t enjoy the flight.  But at least he can read about it in a few years.

Ah man, there for a minute I actually forgot… We still have do this whole thing again when we fly back to Nashville.  Shazbot!

The Model Paradox: Ken and Barbie Vs. Homer and Marge

Truthfully, do we prefer to see perfect airbrushed models or just reminders of our own bodies?  Is beauty really in the eye of the beholder or does how we spend money on magazines what we actually believe?

America has always had a love/hate relationship with Barbie and Ken. Unsurprisingly, it exactly reflects the way we both worship and curse the models we see everyday on TV and in movies and magazines. During the Fall season of 2009, there was a lot of Internet buzz about a model named Lizzie Miller who was featured in the September issue of Glamour magazine. The picture showed her proudly smiling, displaying her nude yet self-censored body, seeming both unaware and apathetic about the fact she has a “belly”, stretch marks, and thick legs.  The letters and emails poured in by the masses, praising the magazine for showing the beauty of a “normal” woman. While Glamour has been known to feature plus size women on the cover, like Queen Latifah in May 2004, the magazine mainly uses thinner models instead on a regular basis.

But, if normal sized and average looking people are what the general public really wants to see and even the magazine editors know this, why consistently do we continue to see models with perfect abs and bodies with less than 2% body fat? Because when it really comes down to it, we don’t truly want to see a model who reminds us of what our own bodies look like. The proof? Lean models sell more magazines. Bottom line. And we the average people are the ones buying.

In 2006 Dove soap began their Self-Esteem Fund campaign, featuring “real women” in their TV and Internet ads.  While the ad campaign is still active as of today, according to their website it will be ending after 2010, for whatever reason.  But even if these ads with “realistic models” help sell more soap, why are there still skinny, muscular, sexually provocative models on the covers of fashion, beauty, and even health magazines?  Because despite increased sales of soap, the image of the person on the cover of a magazine is largely what sells it. And on a regular basis, I continue to see the real life equivalent of Ken and Barbie on fashion, beauty, and health mags, not Homer and Marge Simpson.

The physical ideal self is what so many consumers are looking to become. It’s a nearly impossible image that we may be able to get close to, but never actually permanently attain for ourselves, unless we own a gym.  And that perceived void in our lives to feel beautiful or sexy (or maybe simply to feel worthy of being in a healthy relationship) largely helps to magazines to sell, by feeding into our subconscious. It’s the image that some people keep stuck in the front of their minds when they work out or when make a conscious decision to eat grilled salmon and a salad instead of a bucket of fried chicken and a 48 ounce soda.

We blame the magazines and media for bombarding us with unrealistic models. And it makes us feel good when magazines do display people that remind us of ourselves. For about five minutes. Then a flash of a shirtless Ryan Reynolds or Jennifer Aniston wearing nothing but a men’s tie on the cover of GQ changes that. We can say we want to see imperfection, but how we spend our money directly affects what images continue to show up on magazines covers and retail ads.  Tired of seeing unrealistic models?  Stop reading and buying those kind of magazines until they only feature people who look like you and me.

But that obviously will never happen.  Because our love/hate relationship with models is somehwat like a kid who goes to Disney World for the first time but is old enough to know that Mickey Mouse is not actually a 6 foot tall mutant mouse, but instead a college student in a really expensive costume.  Even so, this child is no less excited even though he or she knows it is just a fantasy.  And that’s just what models are- a fantasy, both equally demotivating and inspiring.

A) Why I Could Never Be a Cartoon Character, and B) Who I Would Be If I Was an Action Figure

Granted, most cartoon characters only have four fingers on each hand and wear the same outfit everyday.  So in that case, none of us (assuming…) could be a cartoon character, accordingly.  But with action figures, it’s a whole different story.

Since the 7th grade, I haven’t been able to commit to a haircut.  I am constantly growing my hair out to a new hairstyle until it eventually gets too long and I start back over again with a buzz cut.  There is a progressive series of hairstyles I go by that has been subconsciously modeled after Jewish actors (I have an Asperger-like obsession with all things Jewish; most people have learned to overlook it by now).  I start with the David Schwimmer, then Zack Effron, next Joseph Gordon-Levitt, then David Arquette/Bronson Pinchot, and lastly, the Zack Braff.  But it’s not just the lack of a consistent hairstyle that prevents me from being a cartoon character who looks the same day after day, throughout the years.  I’ve got three different pairs of glasses, though often I don’t wear them at all.  Plus an enviable collection of hats, from ball caps to fedoras to “old man caps”.  Sometimes I grow a beard for a week or two.  I’m just not a physically consistent kind of guy.

Last week, I went back to the Nashville Chocolate Kitchen after having visited there for the first time a week ago, and when I walked in, the staff remembered me by name (which in addition to their unimaginably awesome gourmet sweet treats, is one of the things they are known for).  I was impressed that they recognized me since the first time was I there, they met the “glasses off, hair pushed-to-the-side” version of me and this time it was the “glasses on, hair pushed back” version.  I felt compelled to explain my change in appearance to them, but I refrained since they obviously could handle it.

I just think that I particularly don’t have what it takes to be comfortable in being physically consistent regarding my appearance.  Like The Boss says in his 1984 hit “Dancing in the Dark”, “Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself… I want to change my clothes, my hair, my face.”

But my realization is ultimately that I am not an easily recognizable person, in general. My hair, clothes, and accessories just simply help distract fro my indistinguishableness.  I am a default-looking man of classic proportions; like the host of a show on The Food Network or HGTV.  Since being featured in American Baby magazine this month, I’ve had more than one person tell me they didn’t realize that was me until they saw my name- the picture didn’t clue them in at all.

I try to imagine if I was an action figure based on a fictional character, who I would be.  Throughout the past decade, countless people have told me I look like Clark Kent.  And I see that, but the problem is that Clark Kent was already a large muscular man in a business suit, before turning into Superman.  At 5’ 9” and weighing in the low 150’s, I have a frame similar to Bruce Springsteen or Greg Kinnear.

So maybe Peter Parker (Spiderman) is the best option.  Though I could be Dexter (played by Michael C. Hall).  Or Bruce Banner on The Incredible Hulk TV series (played by Bill Bixby).  Or Maxwell Smart of Get Smart and/or Inspector Gadget (both played/voiced by Jewish actor Don Adams- surprisingly, I have also been told many times I look like both).  I would totally make a better action figure than I would a cartoon character because action figures typically have several different versions of themselves: There’s He-Man in his robe (Adam), He-Man with the revolving chest as it gets damaged (Battle Armor), “Flying Fists” He-Man…  But cartoons typically never change.  (Maggie Simpson is like 21 years old in human years, “but in Simpson years”, she’s still a baby.)

I am easily disguisable.  Coincidently, it’s in my nature to be a chameleon; not only in appearance but also in personality.  I would make a great spy.  If nothing else, I can very easily get away with going back every five minutes to get more free samples at grocery stores.

Unsurprisingly, I enlisted the help of facebook friends by asking them this question: “If I was an action figure based on a fictional character, who would I be? In other words, which action figure would you choose to best represent me?”  Interestingly, they mostly named powerful intellectual mutants.  I’ll take that as a compliment.  But it’s funny to see how their perception differs from mine.  My choices were pretty much normal men without superpowers or super strength.

Who others said should represent me as an action figure:

Clark Kent

The Beast from X-Men

Leonardo, the leader of the Ninja Turtles

Captain Planet (nice underwear!)

My Buddy

Stretch Armstrong

 

Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic of The Fantastic Four)

Maxwell Smart, the only fully human action figure any other person said I reminded them of

Who I said should represent me:

Peter Parker (before he turns into Spiderman)

Sam Witwicky (played by Jewish actor Shia LaBeouf in the Transformers movies)

Dexter Morgan

Bruce Banner (before he gets P.O.'d about Nancy Pelosi and turns into The Incredible Hulk)

But really… I’m just glad no one said Pee Wee Herman!

 

The Generation X and Generation Y Hybrid: For People Turning 30 This Year

Here’s to the Class of 1999 (as well as for anyone else close enough in age to relate this).

We were born between the fall of 1980 and the summer of 1981; currently the ones turning 30 within the next year.  It was us who remember having vinyl records in our house during our early Elementary School days, but by the time we got to Junior High we learned the cool kids were getting CD players.  We remember how in the 3rd grade when The Simpsons came out, our parents hesitated to let us watch it, and now we wonder in amazement that they’re still making new episodes of it, and how tame and polite the show seems now compared next to Family Guy.

During our high school days, we came home and fell asleep to a Saved by the Bell marathon until dinner was ready.  We clearly remember the horrific Columbine shooting in Colorado happening just a few weeks before our high school graduation.  (The event actually happened on my 18th birthday.)

 

Yes, we remember Teddy Ruxpin and slap bracelets.  We remember when The Ren & Stimpy Show was the coolest show ever.

We are part of Generation X, barely: The last year of Generation X ended in 1981.  That means the new generation, Generation Y, began in 1982, just 7 full months after I was born.  After a motivation speaker at work a few weeks ago gave characteristics of each generation, I confirmed my belief that I’m not a typical Generation X guy; and if anything, I’m more Generation Y.  The caricatured characteristics of the generations (below) are from notes I took while listening to the speaker that day, Dan Baker:

Generation X: 1961-1981

33% of the work force, first generation to get divorced, “latch-key kids”, high-tech, loner, needs to be happy, reward-motivated, blames everyone else for their problems, high work ethic, works the bureaucracy, cold-blooded practical

Generation Y (Millennial): 1982-2001

20% of the work force, lacks people skills, no sense of authority, no sense of boundaries, not intimidated by threats, has no prejudice, not motivated by money, loves to be mentored, learns by mistakes, learns quickly, knows how to trick the system, “so what?” generation, wants to feel special, wants someone to care about them, needs to “be built”, bad listener, good watcher, needs encouragement, not good at having real friendships- partly because they rely so heavily on social networks (texting, facebook, etc.)

I definitely relate with a few Generation X characteristics: I’ve always born more of a loner and am content being that way.  I need to be happy.  I know how to work the bureaucracy.  And because I’m not a black-and-white, cut-and-dry person, I am definitely cold-blooded practical.

But as a whole, more Generation Y traits jumped out at me: I am not intimidated by threats.  I am as little prejudice as I know to be humanly possible.  I am definitely not motivated by money (I have been preached to my whole life that money isn’t everything and that it doesn’t make people happy, and I believe it).  I do love to be mentored, just as I love to mentor.  I totally know how to trick the system; it’s one of my specialties- taking a machete to red tape.  I’m not so good of a good listener, but I’m always watching, even when you don’t want me to.  And I need encouragement.

I “work the bureaucracy” be being faithful and loyal to people for the long run (Gen. X), but I’m not faithful or loyal to the system because I “know how to trick the system” (Gen. Y).  I am “cold-blooded practical” (Gen. X) about all my decisions and opinions, yet because I am motivated by encouragement and want to feel special (Gen. Y), I am not being practical because I am letting my “feelings” control me and allowing others’ opinions of my achievements to become part of the deciding factor of whether or not I am successful in what I do.

So I predict that most other people born around 1981 are in this similar situation where they don’t identify fully with either generation, but instead with elements of both.  And I’m sure the hybrid traits I have adopted are not necessarily the same ones as other people born in 1981.  But I do find it pretty interesting how my way of thinking and outlook on life resemble specific X and Y traits.

So now you know.  It’s official.  You’re Generation X, but there’s a good chance you act and think more like Generation Y.  We’re the in-betweens.  And I think that makes us feel special; which for our generation, is pretty dang important.

Humble and Embarrassing Beginnings: Five Years of the Writings of Nick Shell

An autobiographic look at the Scenic Route Snapshots franchise.

Scenic Route Snapshots: Est. August 2005.

When people show you a picture of themselves from five or more years ago, the tendency is often to laugh at their longer/froey hair and outdated clothing and say, “That was you?” Because ultimately that younger, less experienced version of a person was more naïve and goofier than the version of that person we know today.  Of course, it’s no different for each of us.  We too have many laughable aspects about ourselves when we look back on them, five or more years later.

This month makes exactly five years that I’ve been writing online.  In August 2005 I was in the process of moving from Fort Payne, AL (having just graduated from Liberty University a few months before) to Nashville, TN to start my career in music (which I decided wasn’t what I really wanted to do, after a year of being here).  I starting writing MySpace blogs as a way to document new life pursuing a career in music.  It’s not that my writings were all horrible those first couple of years; looking back, I can actually see some jewels in the gravels.  But for the most part, they were pretty cheesy, not to mention they were all about me and “making my dreams a reality”.

Obviously it was those early years in particular that helped me realize ways to improve my writing, eventually giving birth to The Code.  That means my older writings consistently violated The Code and I’m sure that’s part of the main reason it’s so difficult for me to go back and read them.  But anyone who has ever been successful in any kind of enterprise surely endured the same sort of sloppy early years as well.

Yes, that generic version of what we know as good and relevant was probably not always good and relevant.  Like the episodes of Saved by the Bell with Miss Bliss or the Tracey Ullman version of The Simpsons or the British version of The Office.  Sure, hardcore fans will always approve, but the rest of us know to stay away, lest we become disappointed and somehow allow our idea of a pure thing to become tainted.

And the still, the irony of this whole concept will surely prove itself that much more five years from now, when I use this post as a point of reference to show the place in time where Scenic Route Snapshots really started taking off.  The point where 1,934 were my highest views in one day (happened this week) instead of that being a slow day.  The point where I could admit that humble beginnings were over for Scenic Route Snapshots, yet the big break had not happened yet.

What started in August of 2005 as a goofy blog that just a handful of my friends read has evolved into an actual website that currently receives around 1,000 hits per day.  I sure don’t know where the future of Scenic Route Snapshots is going, but as long as I can still claim to be a writer who never experiences writer’s block, the posts will keep being born.

Bonus!

Read my very first “blog” from August 16, 2005, entitled “I Choose to Be a Fatalist” at the bottom of the page at this link:

http://www.myspace.com/nickshell1983/blog?page=13

It was this 2005 version of me that laid the ground work to get me where I am today.

The Wonder States- Using Deductive Reasoning to Determine the Setting of The Wonder Years, My Name is Earl, and The Simpsons

Where exactly is Anytown, USA?

Location, location, location. The setting of any movie or TV show is always important to me, as the culture of a place definitely shapes the people who live there. Some shows have made a point to specifically avoid stating the setting, classifying it as “Anytown, USA”.  That’s not good enough for me. Today I am directly targeting three shows I am a fan of, in order to properly “out” where they take place based on unique tips.

First is a flawless sitcom/drama, except for that weird last season and final episode. The original ‘70’s show: The Wonder Years.

Accent: flat/neutral. Therefore, this show does not take place in South East, Midwest, or New England.

Ethnicity: Dan Lauria, who plays Kevin Arnold’s dad, Jack, is full Italian. Though this is never addressed in the show, there is no denying that Kevin and his sister Karen (who actually was Italian, but British) could pass as Italians as well.

Therefore, The Wonder Years had to take place in a state that has a decent amount of Italians living it. Italians don’t just live anywhere.

Also, the state has to have a decent amount of Jews as well. Paul Pfeiffer, Michael (Karen’s boyfriend/husband played by Friends star David Schwimmer), and Mr. Cantwell (Kevin’s science teacher played by the legendary Ben Stein) are Jewish.

There is no ocean in sight. The climate is not especially cold or hot.

The result: Pennsylvania. Thirteen percent of its population is Italian, and Jews represent 4% of the religion there, which are both actually high percentages compared to most states. The Wonder Years takes place in Pennsylvania.

Next up is a show that for its four years on the air has received great reviews and ratings but suddenly was cancelled in May 2009: My Name is Earl.

Accent: Southern. When the show comes on, with title card displayed, there are palm trees visibly displayed in the background. It has been stated they are on Central Time.

The only state that fits this mold is the panhandle of Florida. Since the city isn’t specified as a “beach town”, I rule out Panama City.

The result: Pensacola, FL. Not far from the Alabama border, this would explain the small town feel and heavy accent. My Name is Earl takes place in Florida.

Lastly, everybody’s favorite show to try to figure out. A show that for 20 years specifically makes sure the location is vague. Yes, Springfield is the city. But Missouri is never listed as the state: The Simpsons.

Accent: flat/neutral.

I can rule out the states of Utah, Colorado, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, Michigan, Florida, Hawaii and Alaska because on at least one occurrence a Simpson character has made a reference to these states regarding them as a different state from their own.

Geographical traits: Tall mountains, farmland, and a coastline.

The creator of the show, Matt Groening, is from Oregon. There is a Flanders, OR (which most likely Ned Flanders gets his name from).

The result: Oregon. The Simpsons takes place in Oregon.

With just a few clues, I can always crack the case of “The Missing Setting”. It’s easy, with a little help from Wikipedia and a 4th grade geography class.

And a little help from my friends…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CZRudxD-NQ

The Opposite of Evolution: Intelligent Design

 

I remember being in high school thinking, how can I honestly believe God created the Earth in 6 days when there were obviously dinosaurs who would have wiped man off the face of the planet? Dinosaurs that are inconveniently not mentioned in the Bible. So I decided to compromise: I convinced myself that they were not 6 literal days, but that a “day” was equal to millions or billions of years. That way, I don’t look like that naïve neighbor kid of The Simpsons whose idea of fun is playing Family Bible Trivia.

Then during my first year of college I had such an eye-opening revelation that I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.  A splendid epiphany of  relief and amazement.  Such a nugget of information that it literally changed the the way I see life as I know it.  That’s what happened to me in 1999. I learned how God actually could create the Earth in just six 24-hour days and how gigantic dinosaurs fit into the equation.

It wasn’t until Noah built the ark that it rained, for the first time ever.  That is a big deal. Genesis 2:5, 6- “…the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.”

From Adam to Noah (10 generations, as listed in Genesis 5) there was no rain. We also know from that chapter that men lived between 365 and 969 years, the average age of all 10 forefathers being 857 years old each. So the point is that before it rained, people lived a LONG time.  Over 10 times the average of what people live today.

So there had to have been many millions of people who were born and lived during just those 10 generations. Obviously there wasn’t birth control so just one man would have probably produced many offspring during his lifetime alone, then his children his children, and so on. That’s a lot of people living a long time…

So Noah was 600 years old when it rained for the first time. That’s thousands of years with no rain. Genesis 7:11- “In the 600th year of Noah’s life…all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.”  So there was plenty of water under the Earth (which watered it) and plenty above the Earth, which created a greenhouse effect. That’s part of the reason they lived so long. It was a completely different living environment. I haven’t even mentioned yet that the all people in the history of the world at that point were all vegetarians.

After the months of flooding were finished, God told Noah some history-changing news: “The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant” (Genesis 9:2, 3). So prior to this, they were only eating plants. Thousands of years and millions of people eating plants.

Not only did the people not eat animals, the animals did not fear the people. Comprehend this: vegetarians living amongst tame animals. Tame cows are easy to imagine. Even tame birds. But what about tame tigers? And bears. What about dinosaurs? Keeping in mind the environment of the world prior to the Flood was a greenhouse. It’s no wonder that ancient cave drawings have been found that show people riding dinosaurs. People capture in art what they value and what is familiar to them.

But how did a brontosaurus fit on the ark? The same way any large animal fit. Get ‘em while they’re young and small, of course. But by the time they got off the ark, and the greenhouse effect was gone, the survivors found a different Earth. The huge dinosaurs did not have enough to survive on.

The Great Flood broke apart Pangea, the land mass which made up all the continents. The zebras from Africa once freely crossed the then-nonexisting border to South Carolina. (Zebra skeletons have been found as far as Salt Lake City, Utah.) But they just couldn’t survive in the new land mass now known as America. The penguins in the tropics died off. The penguins in the Arctic survived. The kangaroos in the Russian tundra couldn’t survive, but the ones in Australia did.

And of course I was wrong about dinosaurs not being mentioned in the Bible. It’s just that the word “dinosaur” was not coined until 1929. Instead, there is a “leviathan” (mentioned a total of 5 times in the Bible: Job 3:8, the entire book of Job 41, Psalms 74:14, Psalms 104:24-26, and Isaiah 27:1). It refers to a giant see monster that is impossible to capture.

Another word for a dinosaur in the Bible is “behemoth”. It is mentioned in Job 40: 15-24 as a beast that was created “with man” (as in the same week, not millions or billions of years before.) The verses describe the creature having a tail of cedar; the behemoth’s massive strength is compared to God’s. I can’t think of any animal living today that has a tail anywhere near the size of a cedar tree.

This has been a briefing of the history of the ancient world. Should anyone worry about “carbon dating”, just keep this in mind: When Adam and Eve were created, they weren’t babies. They were “man” and “woman”. The animals and plants were also fully grown. So why wouldn’t the rest of the universe be fully grown as well? Something to think about the next time while during a tour in a cave there is a stalactite growing over a wooden sign that was posted 40 years ago which explains to you that it took thousands of years for the stalactites all around to grow.

walrus