Vintage Family Portraits are Like Sitcoms with Laugh Tracks

The term “picture perfect” is becoming less relevant these days.

Last week I was in Dallas on a work trip and the week before that I was northern California on vacation spending a lot of time with my wife’s side of the family, which explains the extremely low number of posts for the last couple of weeks.  (I’m not the kind of guy who announces “I’m on vacation on the other side of the country!” as my facebook status- I don’t think it’s a good idea to announce to the world when I’m not at home.  Maybe that’s just me.) While in Sacramento, I saw a studio portrait of my wife’s family, circa 1985.  Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best, wearing big smiles (for the most part), all looking at the photographer (for the most part), and best of all, a fake forest backdrop was used as the background.

Granted, this was the mid ‘80’s, so anything that happened during that time was bound to be excessively cheesy compared to now.  But here’s the thing- even today, many professional family portraits are still, at best, hokey.  Because they represent a family at a perceived idea of their best, not what is normal or natural.  In the past decade as reality shows have begun dominated prime time, sitcoms have become more sophisticated and life-like; by being more satirical and less slapstick, and also by removing the laugh tracks.  Yet it can be a difficult thing to make studio family portraits less fake and more real.

And that’s why I’m a snapshot kind of guy.

Just as every family has a “family tree enthusiast”, every family also has a default photographer- and in some family circles, I’m it.  I always have my camera with me anywhere I go, ready to snap some shots of whatever unique, random, or funny situation I find family or friends in.  That means that a lot of times, not everyone is looking at the camera.  But a snapshot can often tell such an interesting story- even if the picture isn’t “picture perfect”.

I am so into snapshots, that it’s part of the name of this website.  Last week in Dallas, I met a person who after I told them the name of Scenic Route Snapshots, said to me, “I get it”.  I thought that was pretty cool, since a lot of people when they hear the name and try to repeat it, ask me, “Seen a cloudy slapshot?” But in case it needs explanation, the concept of my site is that I tend to write about things that most people wouldn’t think to question on their own.  I take an alternative, more laid-back approach to things (the scenic route) and take plenty of snapshots to remember them by (memoirs and journal entries).

But do professional photographers exist that take family portraits that don’t run the danger of being as corny as the opening theme song montage of Full House?  Is it possible for a family in the 2010’s to have a portrait made which represents them in a realistic and relevant way?  Yes, I’m seeing more and more begin to pop up- often following the “on locale and in character” formula of high school senior portraits and engagement photos, by placing the family in an environment which is familiar and natural for them.

When I think of a professional photographer who perfectly captures the realness and believability of snapshots in his professional work, I think of “Photo Joe” Hendricks who I’ve been friends with since I first moved to Nashville five years ago.  As I was trying to conjure an image of what the modern family portrait should look like, I immediately thought of his work, which I’ve included in this post as examples (minus the one at the very top of my wife’s family in 1985). These pictures are the equivalent of a sitcom without laugh tracks- more sophisticated, more natural, and more original.

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

Being Active in the Blogging World Yet Hanging Out in the Background: My First 50,000 Hits on WordPress

Thanks for 50,000 hits.

Maybe it makes perfectly good sense or maybe it’s just a quirk of mine, but the word “blog” repulses me.  For me, it’s a four letter word.  When I hear the word “blog” I think of a sweaty and bloated 25 year-old guy with a faux-hawk and hairy arms, sleeves rolled up, sipping down his third cup of Starbucks coffee, much too eager to turn what he perceives as a clever Tweet into a post (like “Note to self: Never again combine cold leftover pizza and a PB&J sandwich for lunch.  Ugh, will my stomach ever forgive me?”, hoping for no less than 12 people to click “likes this” on his facebook wall).

And that’s what brought about #5 of The Code:  Avoid referring to the website as a “blog”. Blogs are for people still using MySpace who are stuck in 2006 or that are obsessed with facebook status updates.  I write.  I put up new posts.  I even write articles.  But I don’t have a blog.

Technically, I am camped out on the edge of the outer circle of the blogging world, since I do write regularly on a website that facilitates my hobby/passion of creative (and ideally not too egocentric) writing consisting of whatever random thing I think of that day.  So how do I differ from a full-on blogger?

1)     I am completely aware that I have no celebrity status whatsoever and that what I write is not a substitute for some vain reality TV show that I secretly want to be a part of.

2)     I do not write in a careless and casual tone, like I’m sending a mass email to everyone in my contacts.

3)     I mock facebook and Twitter culture in my writing; despite the fact my posts are automatically linked to both of those websites.

Being that I’m now nearing a thousand hits a day, I’ll be refraining from writing another post in my “10,000 Clicks” series (the title always starts with “being” and ends with “ground” and I usually feature one of the nine parts of The Code) until I reach a hundred thousand clicks, otherwise I’d be writing them too frequently at this point.  The reason I write this series is to document the growth of Scenic Route Snapshots.  When I reach a million a hits, I want to be able to look back and see how exactly I got there, not just simply based on fuzzy memories.

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)

Being Excessive and Eventually Finding Common Ground (posted on June 24, 2010)

Generation Y Finds Free WiFi

Internet is free unless you want to pay for it.


I am truly convinced that somehow one day Internet service will be free to all with access to a computer. The thing is, it’s already kind of that way- at least in a city the size of Nashville. A monumental event happened last week when Starbucks officially began advertising free WiFi in their stores. For months I have been mocking them for being so behind the times, as they have been charging by the hour for Internet service when McDonald’s has been offering it for a while now. In fact, Starbucks was the last major (and still relevant) store to join the crowd.

It’s quite symbolic of the direction that Internet is heading. I haven’t paid for Internet the entire 4 ½ years I’ve lived in Nashville. My laptop automatically picks up the nearest open network wherever I am, or wherever I’m driving by and decide to drop in- hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, churches, book stores, even auto repair shops provide Internet for me while I wait on my car. And I have weekly taken advantage of all those places.

Last weekend I went in to Verizon to renew my contract (and more importantly, get a new free phone they always offer for staying with them). I found the phone I wanted- it was small, light, and shaped like a stone. Yet when the salesman came over to help me I learned that the only way I could get that phone would be to get Internet through them for about $30 extra dollars a month. I made the mistake of telling him that eventually Verizon will offer free Internet (so that people will buy more expensive phones that make better use of online capabilities).

The guy actually said this to me in an attempt to make a sell: “Having Internet on your phone makes life so much easier. You may look out the window and see a rain cloud and wonder what the weather is going to be like that day. If you have the Internet on your phone, you can look up the weather forecast and find out.”

Really?! Really. Seems like the word “rain” in the phrase “rain cloud” might have given me a clue…

He wanted to argue with/educate me about technology so I simply replied, “Where are the phones that don’t require me to purchase additional Internet service?” I ended up leaving the store, with my same two-year old phone. The few options that didn’t require Internet were no more advanced than the phone I have now so I’ve decided to hold off on trading in my old one for a new one. It would be ridiculous to pay for what I already can get for free (the Internet) or try use my “free new phone” pass on a phone identical to the one I already have. And since I don’t live with a constant need to Tweet, I will manage just fine.

Surely it says something about access to free Internet use when I have built and maintained this website mainly using the Internet of Borders (where I’m posting this from now) and other coffee shop types of venues. If anyone should have to pay for Internet, it should be me. But I never have.

It just requires diligence, patience, and creativity. I also have never paid for cable- I paid $60 a few years ago for “bunny ears” at Best Buy that give me access to ABC, NBC, and Fox (plus some obscure Canadian channels). That’s how I watch the shows that I do recaps of. As for TV shows I want to see that don’t come on the major networks, I can easily watch them on their network’s website. Of course I am willing to part with $9 a month for Netflix- I began subscribing the month they started offering free instant streaming.

There’s a very thin line between being cheap and being smart. I’m okay with either side of that line.

Readers’ Expectations 5: Hemp George, Mexican Mollies, and Fat Babies with Mullets

What would provoke anyone to visit Scenic Route Snapshots, out of the millions of websites out there?  I like knowing the answer to the question, just as you do.  Here is the fifth installment of phrases that people typed into Google and other search engines to find this site:

“fat babies eating”- I thought it was safe to assume that most babies are fat anyways.  Is this from a hopeful parent wanting their baby to grow up to be a professional competitive eater?  That Japanese guy wins every year, but 2nd place isn’t a bad goal to aim for.  Good luck on that.  Mazel tov. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takeru_Kobayashi

“van gogh starry night for kids”- Yes, because Van Gogh’s original painting of Starry Night contained a lot of nudity and violence, but the new Disney-endorsed version is safe for the whole family.

“What does being a Rubik’s Cube in a dream mean?”- One of two things.  A) You are feeling manipulated by the people in your life- like they are trying to “figure you out”.  2) It’s not a dream at all.  You’re currently on an LSD trip.

“hemp George”- Yes, President George Washington was indeed a hemp farmer.  But “Hemp George” sounds like a totally different guy altogether.  But hey, when you can’t track down Hemp George, there’s the next best thing- Sativa Steve.

“mullet baby ugly”- I thought all babies are beautiful.  And besides, a mullet doesn’t automatically make someone ugly.  Flashback to the ‘80’s, prime examples: MacGyver and Bono.

“singleness a gift I do not want”- This one is funny not because the searcher typed in something weird to find me, but because I happened to title that post exactly in the terminology he or she was thinking.  Takes one to know one: Singleness; The Gift No One Really Wants

“male mexican mollies mustache”– Definitely one of the most random searches ever to get to my website.  Mollies are a type of fish that unlike Catfish, do not have any physical features that resemble a mustache.  The four words “male”, “Mexican”, “mollies”, and “mustache” have nothing to do with each other.  And strangest of all, whoever searched that did so 7 times that day.

So that means 7 hits on my counter happened because someone searched something extremely random, not once, twice, or even thrice, but 7 times.  I am picturing a mustachioed Mexican man eating fish, and he’s very, very happy about it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mollies

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)

The Naked in Public Dream: Subconsciously Feeling Vulnerable, Underprepared, or Inadequate

You’re not the only one.

I have a rare ability.  When in a dream that I don’t want to be in, I often can tell myself, “This is a stupid dream.  You don’t have to keep dreaming this.  Just wake up”. And I do.  I wake up.  Usually.

Waking myself up is the easy part; the hard thing to do is to realize it’s actually just a dream.  And there are two dreams in which I never seem to realize it’s all my imagination.  1) I’m back in high school or college and I’m about to graduate, then I realize I was scheduled for a class that I forgot about and never went to, meaning I can’t graduate on time.  2) I’m naked in public.

Of course, the classic “naked in public” dream is quite popular among the general population.  Supposedly the dream means the person feels vulnerable and may be afraid that everyone will see that person for their true self.

Do I feel vulnerable?  Do I feel afraid everyone will see me for my true self?

I guess if anyone might feel vulnerable it could be me, since I’ve been journaling my life on the Internet for five years now (first on MySpace, then on facebook, now on here).  That’s a vulnerable situation.  I could unintentionally offend a reader, or embarrass myself by exposing too much about my personal life.  But as far as I know, I am indeed exposing my true self to people.  If not, this whole website is a sham.

A whole website which generally 400 to 500 people a day visit.  If all my writings are written from the perspective of a person I wished I was, instead of who I really am, then I am impressed.  Because that means I am talented enough to write daily from a created character’s narrative perspective, not my own.  Like the plot of Fight Club, or the dumbed-down version: Secret Window.

While it’s easy to feel frantic in a “naked in public” dream, it’s also easy to laugh once you wake up.  Because from a logical point of view, like many dreams, the chances of the events of the dream ever happening are so impractical that they’re basically impossible.

The question I never asked myself in the naked in public dream is, most importantly, “how did I lose my clothes anyway?”

Often I am at my old elementary school (as a grown 29 year-old man).  Conveniently, no one else seems to care that I am naked, covering myself with whatever random object I can pick up off the ground.  And that’s supposed to mean that I don’t care about people seeing me for who I really am, including all my personalities.  That must be true, since I’ve written about that exact topic before in The Personality Pyramid, which is currently my 10th most popular post of the 310 on this site.

Seriously, it’s not easy to lose your close in a public place, and then have no one notice or care.  When I have these dreams, I’m not victim of violence.  I just simply flat out lost my clothes in public.

But I imagine that in real life if I ever took off my clothes (or they just took themselves off) in public, and couldn’t find new ones, I would gladly settle for one of those barrels with straps to go over my shoulders.  I always thought those looked cool.  The problem is, I only see them in caricatures or cartoons.

If I wanted to buy a wearable barrel with shoulder straps, where would I begin?

If I could get a barrel or normal clothes when naked in public, I would settle for a long black trench coat.  Because I would already be creepy for being irresponsible enough to lose my clothes in public, I might as play the full part.  Then I could only expose myself to people who deserved it:

People talking loudly in public on their Blue Tooths.

http://www.meaningofdreams.org/dream_themes/beingnakeddreams.htm

My Categories: Nostalgia, People, Storytelling, Spirituality, Writing, and Recaps

What’s my writing style?  Spumoni.


If I was smart, I would listen to the authors of “how to be a writer” and “how to have a popular website” books when they clearly tell me, “Find your niche and just focus on it alone.”  Then I could be like the fortunate clever-minded writers who all now have book deals simply because of the popularity of their WordPress websites:

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/

http://stuffchristianslike.net/

http://1000awesomethings.com/

Here’s the problem though- I’m not attracting just one type of reader.  I’m luring in several different types of people who are both completely unrelated to each other and yet at other times couldn’t be more alike.  It sort of reminds me of the way that MSN’s home page (http://www.msn.com/) is set up.  Their main categories are news, entertainment, sports, money, and lifestyle.

By default, I have ended up emulating that concept, only mixing it up with my own alternative, off-beat main topics.  Instead of the mainstream-friendly Neapolitan (chocolate-strawberry-vanilla) topics, my twisted version is more like Spumoni (chocolate-pistachio-cherry). *Ironically, Spumoni came first (from Italy), but by the time it became popular in America, it evolved into Neapolitan.

I have come to the conclusion that there are ultimately six main categories I write about: nostalgia, people, storytelling, spirituality, writing, and recaps (of TV shows, mainly).  (“Uncategorized” is an additional generic title given to all my posts as well.)

Of course I struggled with making “Jewish references” and “humor” their own separate categories, but just like a few other “should I make these their own categories?” categories, certain topics aren’t simply things I write about; they’re a part of everything I write.  It would just simply be redundant; stating the obvious.

Being able to read through an entire one of my posts without coming across the words “Jew”, “Jews”, or “Jewish” somewhere in there is about as rare as biting all the way through a Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookie without eating a chocolate chip.  And I would hope that there is at least a little bit of irony that comes across as humorous in most of what I write as well.  I shouldn’ have to label it “funny”, otherwise I may be defeating the purpose.

This is just a cool picture. In reality, I do not actually offer newsletters (unless you subscribe to this site; that would count), competitions, free ice cream, or much more.

So who am I attracting on a daily basis?

Fans of LOST, Dexter, The Bachelor, and/or The Bachelorette.  Jewish people.  Christians.  People who grew up in the 1980’s.  People concerned with healthy living.   People who found my website by searching one of those things and then saved my website in their “Favorites” and forwarded the link on to their friends.

In other words, my readers are as random as I am.  Random Spumoni.  Takes one to know one.  Welcome to the club.