Breeding: The Unromantic Word for Falling in Love and Starting a Family

And the strong (obnoxious, boring, weird, weak, normal, overachieving, nerdy, cool, self-destructive, righteous, intelligent…) survive.

I am fascinated by Animal Planet. It’s impossible not to learn something cool after watching even 15 minutes of that channel. A few weeks ago I saw a special about the mating rituals of rams. The female ram stays at the top of a rocky mountain and all of her “gentleman callers” begin the climb from the bottom. Each of them attempts to be the first to get to the top of the mountain while fighting off (sometimes to death) the other pursuers. Whichever ram proves he is the best protector and provider during this process and proves himself best to care for the she-ram. All in the name of mating. The she-ram will be taken care of by the best possible male and breed with the strongest and healthiest.

From a romantic perspective, we humans fall in love and spend the rest of our lives with the one person we can’t imagine living without, eventually having children with them as an extension of that love. But from a scientific and psychological perspective, we subconsciously choose the person who is most like ourselves yet with enough necessary opposing complimentary traits for a healthy and balanced relationship. I used to have a hard time understanding how women who find themselves in an abusive relationship finally leave it, only to end up with another abusive man. Or how the rudest, most obnoxious jerk of a guy can end up marrying a woman who seems completely normal.

I get it now, though. The match to an abuser is an enabler. The match to a chaotic person is often a someone who needs to control chaos or be controlled by it. Then they have babies and pass along those same extreme virtues to them and the cycle repeats.

Similarly the same thing happens for the rest of us, who are not abusers, enablers, or drama kings and queens. Without realizing it we find, meet, fall in love with, and start a family with the person who is best qualified to pass on our shared attitudes, values, interests, and weird quirks. I married the woman who was best qualified to make it through the tough times and big decisions with me, as well as be the best companion to just simply hang out with when nothing is really going on. Even though it’s strangely unAmerican, we’re not big sports fans. Sometimes I like to remind my wife how lucky she is that she never has to worry about me wanting to watch “the big game” while something is on TV that she wants to see. And we share a fanatical Kosher diet which sets us apart when we order at restaurants: To the waiter at Macaroni Grille, “Do the meatballs here have pork in them?” But we’re cool with it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Certified "Not Kosher" by KSA

I’ve given a couple of examples of shared quirks between my wife and I, and believe me, there are plenty more. Obviously, every couple has their own quirks within their shared culture between the two of them and they also eventually pass along to their children. Looking past all romantic elements, we humans subconsciously now how to breed our own kind.  We don’t want to see our own version of reality and normalcy become extinct.  So in essence, that’s where babies come really from:

Our strengths, our weaknesses, our quirks.  And the cycle repeats.

For the more sensitive and romantic version of “breeding”, check out my “dad from day one” series.  (I deemed this particular post too much of a black sheep for it, so I made it a spin-off instead.)


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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”)

Readers’ Expectations 1: Chris Harrison Shirtless, The Remake of Starry Night, and The Personality That Causes Cancer

Straight up, what did you hope to learn about here?  If I was someone else, would this all fall apart?

What makes a post popular is not necessarily when a lot of people read it the day it’s published.  What makes it popular is when random people do Internet searches and stumble on it, day after day.

For example, by far my most read is Capital Punishment, In Theory, which at the moment has had 889 direct hits.  That means nearly a thousand readers have come to my site because they wanted to know more about the morality or immorality issues of executing criminals.  So it’s safe to say that more random people have come to my site to hear my thoughts on capital punishment than for any other specific reason.

Statistically speaking then, the other main reasons people wash up on my shore is to read my thoughts on The Bachelor, LOST, healthy eating/organic lifestyle, and oddly, mustaches.

Honestly, when I write, I never think about what the reader might want to read about.  No offense.  I write about what I personally would want to read about it.  Then from there, the readers can sort out what they feel is worth reading past the first paragraph of.

My definition of successful writing is the ability to write about anything (from The Golden Gate Bridge (I Wish You Would Step Back From that Ledge, My Friend) to an old abandoned amusement park (Canyon Land) and make it interesting and intriguing and to hopefully reveal some kind of truth in the process that wasn’t obvious before.

But far all the times the metaphorical spaghetti has stuck to the wall, there were also times it didn’t.  I have made it easy to revisit my most popular posts with pages like Best of 2009 (statistically the most popular posts from last year) and Reruns (a collection of all my different series), but today I will celebrate my least popular.

That doesn’t mean they weren’t popular the first time they were published, because many of them were.  It just means no one has read then since.  In other words, they evidently don’t have much replay value.

Bottom Ten Posts of All Time

Mixed Reviews

The Friendship Police: Why the Heck Not?

Dr. Deja Vu: The Interstate to Memory Lane

The Modern Day Tortoise

I Was Born in a Small Town

Of Mutts and Men

Did You Know?

Ghosts in the Machine

Dr. Deja Vu: Before and After

The Edge of “Me Too” Culture

That was fun.  But before I’m done with this subject today, I also need to acknowledge some of the random Internet searchers who came to scenicroutesnapshots.com, only to be disappointed.  I’ve seen all kinds of random search terms that people have typed in to get to my site.

Surprisingly, only a few of them have been kinky.  And a few were deliberate pranks, like “Nick Shell that I dated in high school”.  I never did find out who did that.  But just in the past few weeks, grazing the floor of search terms, I have definitely come across some oddities:

“Chris Harrison shirtless” I’m sorry, sir or ma’am.  I know you really want to see what’s underneath that tuxedo, but he’s the host of The Bachelor, not a contestant.  You wish.

“Buzz Aldrin shirtless” Okay, same person.  Chris Harrison was one thing, but leave the 80 year-old astronaut alone.

“where can I get a remake of Starry Night?” You mean a reprint?  If you want a remake, I’ll do it.  I haven’t painted since the 4th grade, but I can make this work. I won’t even charge that much.  Fifty bucks sound good?  It may end up looking more like the abstract version of the original, but I’ll get you your remake.  Nice doing business with you.

“to increase your salary, simply mustache” Alright, buddy.  Yes, it’s true.  I can actually help you with that one.  Men with mustaches have higher salaries (Must Not Mustache).  But never, and I mean never, say the words “simply mustache” again.  Not cool, man.  Not cool.

“Lynyrd Skynyrd song that goes- oh that third eye blind” I’m no Casey Kasem, but I think you’re referring to their song “That Smell”:  “Oh, oh, that smell.  The smell of death all around you.” The actual lyrics were a lot different than you thought, I know.  Yes, because “third eye blind” and “that smell” sound so much alike.

“personality that causes cancer” That would be “the Kate Gosselin”, but I haven’t written about that yet.  Good for you for reading my mind, though.

“road turns into mouse” Oh, I get it.  I’ve heard about guys like you.  Look, it must be pretty cool to test different kind of marijuana for pot dispensaries in Denver for a living, but maybe you should cut back on your Internet searching while you’re “working”.

Mr. Daydream’s Personality Pyramid: Humorous, Philosophical, Analytical, Dramatic

It’s always funny to joke about other people having split personalities.  But the truth is, we have all split personalities.  It’d be kinda weird if we didn’t.

I’ve said before that I tend to “pull an Andy Bernard” in that I mirror personalities in order to better relate to people, which is found in the fundamental teachings of Dale Carnegie, the author of the famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People.  But that’s different than the idea of having split personalities because mimicking another person’s manner of speech and body movement doesn’t reflect my own true split personalities.

We all have at least a few different “default mode” personalities we fall back on, which direct and guide our choices of words and actions.  After a little bit of self-analysis, I have narrowed my own collection of personalities down to four main selections:

Humorous

Philosophical

Analytical

Dramatic

Humorous: I am starting with the one at the bottom of my “personality pyramid”, the one the general public sees the most.  The most unguarded.  It’s my surface personality that is appropriate for most situations which is found in everything I do, even serious tasks.  But not “Jim Carrey/get hit in the head with a frying pan” kind of humor, though.

A more subtle type usually delivered in “dead pan” style, where I don’t laugh at my own attempts at humor.  I don’t tell jokes; I translate real life situations into jokes by sliding in sarcastic commentary about them, adding in nostalgic and pop culture references whenever I can.

Right now one of my major comedic icons is actually Alec Baldwin, a man who used to specialize in drama.  To me, that’s the funniest kind of humor out there.  Like the stand-up styles of Conan O’Brien, Joe Rogan, Zach Galifianakis, and Doug Benson.  But not so dry to the point of David Letterman.

Philosophical: For a guy who has never smoked pot, the conversation topics I come up with would reflect otherwise.  There’s a theory out there that whenever a person is exposed to the psychoactive elements found in marijuana, their “third eye” opens up, causing them to see the world in a different perspective.  But I think I was born with my third eye open.  That would explain a lot, actually.

When a person asks me, “What’s up?” or “What’s new?” or “What’s going on?” or “Whatch ya think?”, they will most definitely get an answer.  Not, “oh, not much” or “same ole, same ole”.  Instead, they will hear that I am currently debating whether or not I would be able to carry out capital punishment myself or whether Batman or Superman is the better superhero.  My third eye absolutely effects what I say, therefore coming across as my “philosophical personality”.

Analytical: Despite seeing the world through an abstract lens, I actually see everything in terms of black and white, cut and dry, “either it is or it isn’t”.  There is a formula for everything.   There is definite right and wrong.  That’s the teacher side of me.  I like explaining things to people.

My analytical personality is the one that will spend countless hours searching which celebrities are Jewish or learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube.  It’s my necessary inner dork.  It’s the part of me that has an elaborate system for keeping shoes looking new, despite being 8 years old, but I’ll have to get into that in a different post.

Dramatic: At the top of my personality pyramid is the one I reserve mainly just for close family and friends, because it is my personality that is engrained into my emotions.  This is not a personality that needs to be seen by the general public.  Its function is to manage the aspects of my life which are the most important to me.

My dramatic personality allows me to display necessary emotions where love is involved.  I do my best to confine my emotions to just the people I am closest to.  Otherwise, I could end up an emotional guy who wears my heart on my sleeve.  I am not afraid to be vulnerable enough to show my emotions, but I think it’s important to save them for the right situations and the right people.

So that’s how it works.  We are wired with different personalities equipped to suite the right situations and the right people.  The main four personalities that I named most likely do not correspond to hardly anyone else.  Everyone else in the world has their own combination of split personalities which they must decipher in order to better understand who they are.

We’re not crazy.  We just have split personalities.  Isn’t that crazy?

Mind Field

The same drive that causes a person to get a face tattoo and proudly show it off, may cause that person to feel shame and embarrassment years later. The power of the human mind can give us the power to be content, miserable, or apathetic about the same exact situation. While I hear the song “Semi Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind playing on the speakers at a restaurant and get excited about what I deem as the best song in recorded history, others at the table may casually respond with, “Yeah, I liked that song in high school”.

If I won two free tickets to the Super Bowl, I wouldn’t be excited at all. I would give them away. But I’m sure there would be plenty of people willing pay me decent money for them.

My mind is powerful enough to limit my happiness if something goes wrong; something as little as missing the right exit on the interstate. I can be bummed about that for an hour if I let myself, sometimes. If only I was powerful enough to convince my mind that it really doesn’t matter, I could be happy instead. There is truth to being able to choose happiness over despair. It all goes back to my dad’s theory of mind-over-matter: “If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.

I Wish You Would Step Back From that Ledge, My Friend

I’ve struggled my whole life with the phrase “red head”. Ronald McDonald has red hair. But as far as natural hair color, the “reddest” I know of is Carrot Top, and literally his hair is dark flaming orange, not red. And while there are people with a shade of brown hair that has sort of a red hue to it, those aren’t the people we give the name to. Red Heads do not exist. Only Orange Heads. But for some reason Red Head is the term that stuck, and the whole world (with the exception of me) is okay with that and doesn’t question it.

Last week I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco for the first time, having been hypnotized by the theme song montage of Full House that the Golden Gate is the most awesome bridge ever. The bridge is one of America’s most easily identified and popular landmarks. But like Red Heads, it’s not red either. It’s “international orange”. The “Golden” Gate Bridge is actually orange though most people think it’s red. Colors are confusing. The human equivalent to the Golden Gate Bridge would be a Red Head named Sunny. And then Sunny wins American Idol.

Despite its superstar status in our country, I have to admit I find the Golden Gate Bridge to be overrated. I had always imagined that it was a huge bridge that crossed miles of water. When in actuality it’s only 4/5 of a mile long. And the bridge is only one of five major bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it’s not the main one.

I was surprised when I later crossed the San Francisco-Oakland Bridge a few miles away, realizing it has the same design as the Golden Gate except this is the double-decker version, over twice as long, and is painted a bland silver (because the city pretty much is consumed by a murky fog, it actually gives the bridge more of an off-white color). But no one ever pays attention to it.

Strangely, the Golden Gate Bridge is the most popular place in America (and arguably of the world) to commit suicide. According to Wikipedia, approximately one person every 14 days ends their life by jumping from the bridge. Over 1,200 deaths were confirmed by 2005 (since the bridge’s completion in 1937). The success rate of suicide for jumpers from the bridge is close to 98%, with only 26 survivors ever. Though the time it takes for a jumper to hit the water only takes four seconds, the speed of the jumpers reaches around 86 mph. Only Chuck Norris breaks necks quicker.