Conversation Topics 101: Crime, Politics, Weather, Sports, Entertainment

What do we talk about by default when we don’t have anything important to say?


Out of a person’s mouth comes what is in their heart. But when a person is not engaging in serious conversation, only making “water cooler conversation”, what comes out of a person’s mouth is what is in their head. And what is in their head tends to come from watching the news. If the local news is any indication of what Americans value, then here are the basic categories of conversations that we evidently can’t go wrong with: crime, politics, weather, sports, and entertainment.

Crime: Growing up, my Mexican grandma would call my mom sporadically to warn her of the newest criminal that escaped the local jail. (Weird that it happened as much as it did.) I don’t know how it really helped, knowing. Criminals will always be among us, whether they’ve committed the crime yet or not. But still, people like to be informed about crime.

Politics: Yes, the wise warn to shy away from politics and religion. But when I already have a good idea of a person’s political stance, and I ask (not try to convert) their take on the most recent political event, which keeps the door open for a healthy and interesting conversation. The word “politics” basically has a negative connotation to it, but it’s still worth knowing what our leaders are doing and deciding for us. Just like the weather, can’t really control it, but we definitely can talk about it.

Weather: Speaking of the weather, this is the classic go-to in a time of conversation crisis. As a kid accompanying my mom every week as she bought groceries (I was very picky about what cereal was purchased in order to get the toy I wanted inside the cereal box), it was always funny to see the teenage “bag boy” struggle for conversation as he pushed the cart out to the 1987 Bronco II. It was inevitable: “Nice weather we’ve been having, huh?”

Entertainment: Loverboy was right in 1981- Everybody’s working for the weekend. And entertainment goes hand in hand with the weekend and free time. From the local July 4th parade to the this weekend’s upcoming music festival, entertainment is an all-inclusive subject.

Sports: My favorite scene of one of my all time favorite movies (Trains, Planes, and Automobiles) is when Steve Martin and John Candy have to sleep in the same small bed in a hotel. They wake up the next morning, all cuddled up. John Candy says, “My hand is between two pillows.” Steve Martin responds, “Those aren’t pillows!…” Immediately the two men jump out of bed, disgusted and embarrassed by their too-close proximity. They start talking about sports to feel manly again. At least in America, sports are important.

Need more to talk about?  Try reading some of my older posts from my monthly archives, found on the right side of the screen.  Or wait long enough, and I may write Conversation Topics 102.

Being Excessive and Eventually Finding Common Ground: My First 40,000 Hits on WordPress

Thanks for 40,000 hits.

In my 313 posts on Scenic Route Snapshots, I’ve covered so many random topics along the way that if you type into my search box on the right side of the screen (“Curious? Type any word in the box…) the first off-the-wall word that comes to mind, you are quite likely to pull up at least one entry.  Try it right now if you’d like.  Go ahead, I’ll still be here.

Here are a few examples to try: John Candy, 1977, duckbill platypus, moped, or Ohio.

It all goes back to #9 of The Code: Write an excessive number of posts every month. They won’t all be awesome, but it’s often the ones that I predict won’t really connect with readers that are the ones that really do.  The more I write, the better I’ll be, and the better I’ll know how to connect to readers.”

Perhaps the greatest example of this theory occurred this week: WordPress hand-selected  The Korean Sauna Experience: Friendship, Friendship as a feature story on their “Freshly Pressed” homepage ( wordpress.com/).  Accordingly, my daily traffic has benefited:  The first day I was featured I got 1,748 hits and the second day 1,646.  (Last week’s daily average was 584.)

The funny thing about this is- of the hundreds of posts of written in the past five years, that particular one in my opinion, is definitely not one of my best.  At 1500 words, it’s over twice the length of most things I write.  It’s seems a bit of a bore to me- though I have to keep in mind that it’s an event that I experienced six years ago, so it’s no longer that exciting to me.  But for someone hearing it for the first time, I could see how it could have a different effect.

The point being, I simply lazily posted a familiar story on my website- just another brick in the wall.  But it caught the eye of the right person and found favor with them, which has increased reader subscriptions and daily hits.  In part, because I post an excessive amout of my writings.

I’m way too scatter-brained to come up with a smart theme like http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/, which is creative, yet focused.  Maybe I’m just a conditioned channel-changer, a product of the 1980’s.  Getting exhausted by having to think about the same concept for everything I write about.  So I just write about whatever comes to mind, which by default, ends up being about one of the following things: My Categories: Nostalgia, People, Storytelling, Spirituality, Writing, and Recaps.

So what I can’t accomplish by being clever enough to come up with one solid money-making idea, I plan to make up for in my excessiveness- by typically publishing an average of 28 posts every month, basically one per day.  (Usually I don’t post anything on the weekends, but at least 2 or 3 every weekday, averaging about to about one a day.)

I guess when it comes down to it, I’ve set a secret goal to publish more posts than anyone I know that has a website.  So far, I’ve been successful at meeting that goal.  Doing my best to slowly take over a corner of the Internet, so that whatever noun a person types into Google, they will easily find their way to me.

So in my Spumoniness, I am able to reach out to several demographics of people.  And my hope is that in the end, I won’t be just a gimmick or a fad that people eventually forget about as I fade away into obscurity.  I want to be here in the background of your life, writing the coming-of-age literary soundtrack.

Other posts of this “10,000 Hits” series:

Being Down to Earth, Yet Never Really Touching the Ground (posted April 11, 2010)

Being Original, Yet Never Really Breaking New Ground (posted May 18, 2010)

Being Engaging, Yet Never Really Standing on Dangerous Ground (posted on June 10, 2010)

Manspeak, Volume 3: Filtration

There is a widely accepted stigma that women talk more than men on a daily average basis: The urban legend says that women speak 20,000 words per day, while men only speak 7,000. It’s fun and easy to believe, yet almost all documented research shows that both genders speak around the same amount of words on a daily basis. What actually has been proven is that each gender tends to focus their speech on certain aspects- Men’s conversations are more information and task based, being more direct; women’s are more social based, encompassing more topics all at once.

Since men aren’t quite as in touch with their feelings and able to express themselves as easily and clearly (not to mention the fear of coming across as weak or too sensitive), men often are silent on issues that truly matter. The lack of a man’s words at times when they are most needed creates a canyon of unfinished business, causing some things to never begin and some to never end. While if he uses the wrong words, he may find himself at the bottom of that canyon.

Boy meets girl, man meets woman. Either way. Whether on the playground or randomly in line at a concert, a guy has to find a way to entice a girl with his words. From a cheesy pick-up line to a clever ice breaker. In almost every interview I’ve ever watched where a girl is asked what top 3 qualities she is looking for in a guy, more than looks, money, height, even religious beliefs, “he has to be able to make me laugh” seems to be the most reoccurring. And later down the road it’s the man that is expected to say those famous words, “Will you marry me?” A lot revolves around a man’s willingness to speak.

I find it interesting that God “spoke” the world into existence. Then one of the main jobs He gave Adam was to name to the animals. John the Baptist’s father lost the ability to speak until he named his son John. And it was Joseph that fulfilled predictions of the Old Testament when he named Jesus. When Jesus began healing people at age 30, he often simply spoke, and the sick were healed. He also caused the storm to stop by simply saying, “Peace, be still.” But what happens when a man doesn’t speak, or instead uses his words negatively?

A familiar concept is a grown man with no ambition, or a man who goes on to live a life of crime, because his father told him as a child, “You’ll never amount to anything. I wish you were never born.” Sounds like something from a melodramatic movie, but it happens everyday. And how many grown women look for love in all the wrong places, having a pattern of attracting men who don’t respect them, as they try to find a man to answer the question “do you love me?” because she never heard her father say the words “I love you”? A man’s words alone have the power to curse or bless his children. That’s powerful.

Last week I saw a Friends rerun where Joey starting acting more feminine because he got a female roommate. At one point in the episode Chandler senses Joey is upset and asks him what he did wrong. Joey responds with, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.” I laughed along with the pre-recorded audience because I recognized from watching a lifetime’s worth of sitcoms that it’s the man that has to constantly apologize for the stupid thing he said. And of course, he usually doesn’t know which specific stupid thing it was.

Joey’s next phrase: “It’s not what you said, it’s the way you said it.” Again, a token situation that is not at all foreign. A man’s words can get him in a lot of trouble. When a man speaks it tends to be more direct, specific, and matter-of-fact; it’s understandable that a man is more likely to hurt a woman by what he says, rather than the other way around. A woman tends to have a gentler, more discrete way of saying things.

As the half-Jewish actor Harry Connick, Jr. puts it in the movie P.S. I Love You, guys don’t really have a filter on what comes out of their mouths. They do, but it’s not too good. And I think this accounts for the term “dirty old man”. As men get older, the filter often works even less.

When I plow through another person unintentionally with my words, when there were words someone needed to hear me say that I didn’t say, and when I say something that is flat out wrong or invalid, I will use my words to sincerely apologize for my mistake. Better my apology when I mess up, than my silence, denial, or apathy.

“No filter in my head, what’s a boy to do? I guess he better find one soon.”
-John Mayer (“My Stupid Mouth”)

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

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