Stringing Sentences Together When You Don’t Know What Else To Do

I’ve tried to write this multiple times. In fact, I’ve written the phrase “I’ve tried to write this multiple times” multiple times. I’ve created lists of what I’ve wanted to say and tried small chunks. This is the first paragraph you’re reading but it’s probably the 30th paragraph I’ve written.

I don’t get writer’s block, and this doesn’t feel like writer’s block. It’s not apathy. It’s not melancholy.

I’ve gone back to the TV news and most print/online news blackout I put myself in immediately after recovery began. I don’t find myself getting overwhelmed, nor do I want to share all of my opinions like I once did on every subject.

Objectively, I understand that people get through things by talking about them, and the kind of people who feel the need to become pundits, columnists or online forum commentators use their opinion as a shield to get through things. I was that person. Still am, but to a much lesser degree. Unlike them, I realize now sharing my opinion has never been about changing your opinion…it’s about processing my own thoughts and looking for a feeling of control over a situation.

I once had 4,000 Facebook “friends.” I wrote the editorial for a newspaper that reached almost 20,000 people. I was regularly quoted and on television for things I did in my community reaching who knows how many. Now? Since I stopped posting every day on the blog part of my website, hits are way down. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of only 200 people who will read this in 2020…or even fewer in future years. That’s OK. I’m not writing it for you. I’m writing it for me. Most people who share their opinion don’t recognize it.

I would bet less than 1 in 1000 people will have their opinion of Donald Trump altered to the point it changes their vote in November over how he’s handled the COVID-19 crisis. It’s only going to strengthen what people already think. I’ve heard people carefully defend and brazenly attack that think line between being prepared and hoarding – and it has nothing to do with their politics. And of course, this has helped everybody recognize what’s really important… as long as it was already really important to them (and hopefully this is a wakeup call that it should be important to you and it turns out, I was right all along).

I guess what I’m noticing more than anything else is that I’m at a stage of irritability with people where normal isolation usually works. What happens when the extroverts are forced to become introverts? The introverts really have to go to their secret happy place.

My problem in trying to write this has been that I can’t tie everything together in a nice bow and give a great line of summation. As a journalist, I always prided myself on the endings of my stories. I thought they were more important than the beginning. Sure, 100% of your readers start the story and only 30% ever reach the end, but I think you have a duty to leave that 30% with a feeling of satisfaction and my ability to bring it all together and end on some kind of takeaway was honed over years of writing thousands of articles.

Just not today.

Turn Off the TV Before Taking Your Nap

I learned something new today. Don’t take an extended afternoon nap with CNN on during the largest deadly global crisis most of us will experience in our lifetime.

I’m not going to bore everyone with my unorthodox sleep patterns over the last 30 years, but when you couple a guy with bipolar disorder that has almost always run to the manic side of things, meaning I only have needed 4-5 hours a night for most of my life (2 hours is fine during the over-the-top manic times, but those almost never happen anymore) and a guy who has either owned his own businesses, been in charge at those he didn’t own, or work as a freelancer/ghostwriter for the last 20 years and you’ve got a guy who does not really adhere to any hard-and-fast sleeping schedule. Most days now, it’s 1:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. and a 2-hour nap in the late morning.

I mention this because I rarely am not in REM sleep when I am sleeping, but my REM is very light. I am the most lucid dreamer I’ve ever met, to the point I’ve actually taken part in two sleep studies over the years because experts have wondered if I’m full of shit when I tell them how I can control 50% of my dreams without disrupting them. I don’t decide on the place, the characters or the theme (almost all my dreams have some kind of goal or objective, even if it’s as dumb as “get home.” I can mostly control how I get home. I can’t control the fact it’s 1987 and George Michael is with me.

The point is that the stuff we’re hearing on TV now is doomsday-level stuff reserved for movies that I don’t like because they’re unrealistic. And word to the wise, now is not the time for pandemic movies like 28 Days Later or I Am Legend. As I slept and would be dreaming, the sounds of CNN kept sprinkling my dreams, turning them into pandemic disaster movies. I don’t have nightmares in the classical sense because I don’t let them get that far, but these were very disconcerting. When I woke up, I looked at the side of the screen that has the death total and the state of a horrible lack of preparedness we’re in. Today, a million people will become infected worldwide. That number will soon be just America…like probably next week at this time assuming we can do the tests. The final American death tally is expected to be between 80,000 and 200,000. We’re now at 6,000.

Rarely do we get to know when the most historic events of our lives are unfolding around us. This is THE MOST historic…and tragic…and we’re only in the very early days. I think it some ways, it may be better that the White House just tacks on 15 days to the “Get Through the Pandemic Program” every couple weeks. Nobody wants to see a “180 Days to Get Through the Pandemic Program” started. It’s too unfathomable. We keep pretending schools are going to open on May 1. They’re not. They’re done. But it’s better to just push it along a little and let us live in two-week, instead of four-month chunks. They can come on TV and pitch catchphrases like “flatten the curve” but anybody can tell you that’s a concept and something we’ll never know if we did or not.  I guess as long as we feel like we’re helping, it’s better than feeling helpless.

People watch Fox News to be told that despite the problems, Donald Trump is doing a great job and is a great man. People watch MSNBC to be told that Donald Trump is a failure as a President and as a human being. CNN is really just about the facts. I think that’s why Donald Trump dislikes it the most. Fox News and MSNBC are different sides of the same coin. They bully the other political party. And it gets great ratings. CNN is more a legit news organization, the kind I used to work for. They still exist, even if the partisan types don’t realize it, or don’t want to because it hurts their talking points.

CNN just repeatedly points out, using data and videotape, we were ill-prepared as a country and that Trump can’t claim he hasn’t said certain things because we have videotape. No president or administration would have been prepared for this, Republican or Democrat. As I wrote in an earlier entry, I don’t blame Trump for what happened as I think you’ve seen a guy who is generally optimistic, can handle his foes and has always had the resources to tackle his problems in life. He doesn’t now. That’s not his fault, but his reaction to it hasn’t been stellar. If the facts don’t fit your narrative, just call them fake has been his go-to strategy. It’s a tactic that sadly, so many Americans have bought hook, line and sinker. “I don’t like the news, so it’s not real!” We’re all human though, need to really see that in times like this, and I’ll likely write about that another day.

It’s hard to be a real leader in massive times of crisis when you’re built to be a leader in times of prosperity. Bill Clinton, another questionable human, was the right guy for the country at that time he served, just like Ronald Reagan, JFK, Truman and FDR were for their times. (And bonus points to LBJ – he did more for civil rights than anyone in history,  despite his Vietnam record, but that’s another entry). Donald Trump would have done very well during those Clinton years. But these aren’t those years, and CNN taking an objective position, unlike Fox News or MSNBC, is not good for a president like Clinton or Trump in a time the world is falling to pieces and charisma can’t save it.

Most importantly though, do not fall asleep with CNN on.

 

 

I Won the Invisible Blogger Award!!!

I have no idea who sent it because the message was blank, nor do I know the rules. In fact, I’m not really sure it was the Invisible Blogger Award. I just had a sense I won something. I’ve just nominated 12 of you for it! You won’t find the message in your inbox.

Yesterday, I was in an academic mood, so Iwrote a half-decently researched article about the COVID-19 (You have to add the 19 or people are going to be confused which COVID you’re talking about) virus and how the pornography industry was taking advantage of situation of being forced to live Thoreau’s “Walden” in real time. Since then, I’ve had a contest with my 17-year-old son and 40-year-old brother to find obscure, strange and ultimately really funny if you’re way-too-tired videos on the Internet.

We all did this for way too long and the videos are still being exchanged. I won’t give you the complete rundown, but my favorites are involving music, so I’ll tackle just that genre today. If I get a good response, I’ll provide more. I’d also love recommendations to throw back and my brother and son.

So, if you’ve got a few minutes and want to laugh, shake your head, be confused, smile, etc., I offer these music videos for your Sunday.

 

Dead Giveaway — This news story is around seven or eight years old, but it was one of those creepy guys keeps a family in his basement stories. When one of the kids escaped, they ran to the neighbor’s house, where she met Charles Ramsey. He was a hero, and gave the same hilarious interview to four or five national news stations following the capture of his neighbor. For those people who are fans of the Netflix show, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” this is the video upon which its open credits was inspired by. Whoever auto-tuned this had great material as this guy should have done into standup after this because he was a naturally funny storyteller.

 

Shia LaBeouf I don’t know much about the creation of this video as it was just introduced to me yesterday. Since it has 66 million hits, I’m clearly late to the party. Once I’m done trying to avoid my real work for the day (end-of-the-month freelancer mad dash to finish stuff you promised for the first of the month) I’ll find the origin story that must be out there somewhere. I found myself singing this one this morning.

 

Sexy Sax Man – This guy actually became a bit of a minor celebrity when he pulled this viral prank repeatedly in the LA area, ultimately landing one of the joke spots on America’s Got Talent auditions show. The premise is simple. This guy shows up and plays the opening sax solo of Wham’s “Careless Whisper” that we all know. If you want the longer version of any of the clips in this, you can find them online.

 

WTF Are We Doing Out Here – Warning, Adult Language. If you have kids, turn it up loud enough so they can hear it, too. This is a parody video of a parody video by the brilliant MelodySheep, who I’ll talk about more in the next entry. As a former new reporter, this is a question that we all asked ourselves many, many times. Sometimes you don’t report because it’s news. You report because you can’t have dead air, or a blank page in the newspaper. But, some people isolated the funniest part of the video, and put a killer track behind it. I think if you let it repeat and just lean back and close your eyes, it becomes more of a philosophical question. I’m glad I was long done smoking weed when I found this or I would have been mesmerized. And for those who like this, there is a 10-hour version out there.

Garden of Your Mind – This isn’t at all funny, but I love it and wanted to include it. Neither my parents, nor my children, can really understand the power of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. For a little kid hiding the secret he was being abused at the babysitter’s during the day, getting 30 minutes of this calming, reassuring figure after returning home to the safety of my house with my parents, was a helpful transition to my two worlds. This was done by the brilliant digital artist MelodySheep. I urge you to check out his stuff on YouTube. It is absolutely brilliant. I could have filled this post with just his stuff, from remixing Carl Sagan to Willy Wonka, his output is true art. Between documentaries and movies, Mister Rogers been getting a lot of attention lately. If you don’t understand the big deal, it’s OK…but it’s not hype. More than any other media personality, he helped shape who I am today.

Look, a Wagon Wheel – I like cheese, sometimes to my digestive system’s detriment. But how did I get this way? I blame this public service announcement, which played at least 5 times an hour during children’s programming of the early 1980s. Warning, if you were a child of this time period, this may cause flashbacks…and a desire for a grilled cheese sandwich.

Captain Lou Albano – So, to end this mess, we look to a song originally recorded by cult favorite NRBQ in the early 80s. In 1985, the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) released a version covered by Albano with a lot of additional talking between him and George “The Animal” Steele. More novel than the song is the video. If it look rudimentary, it’s because it is. Before memes, before YouTube, before everybody and their brother were slick filmmakers, you had to have some skills. I first saw this video in probably 2000 and it was cutting edge technology for the time.

I Confirmed It: Porn Companies Doing Big Business, Recruitment During ‘Social Distancing’​

When Donald Trump went on TV that Wednesday night in early March as one of the last people to admit what many of us had come to recognize in the previous 72 hours – the Coronavirus was the real deal – one of my first thoughts went to how this was going to be the single greatest boon to the pornography industry since the invention of the Internet.

We’re still in it – probably not even at the halfway point – and it turns out, I was unfortunately correct.

As much as I detest PornHub, I’ve got to give them credit for the statistics they provide. Granted, they are not independently verified and sometimes they leave out crucial information (such as ignoring the fact “teen” is a popular search term in their annual report) but I think they are providing a unique window into what is happening.

In late February and into the first week of March, when the virus was really starting to get its grips on Europe and gaining attention in North America, PornHub’s average worldwide viewership was up only 1% to 2% compared to an average day. In the second week of March, when Americans decided toilet paper was the hottest commodity, average traffic rose to 4% to 7% higher than an average day.

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The worldwide numbers exploded on St. Patrick’s Day, rising to 11.6% and have steadily been on the rise, topping out at 18.5% above average daily traffic.

In a PR stunt a few weeks back, PornHub offered its “Premium Content” service to all residents of Italy, followed soon after by Spain and France. That cause a huge overnight spike in Italy, with average traffic up by 5.3% on March 11, but then skyrocketing to 57% above average on March 12. The number fell over the next week, but is still between 25% and 35% above average most days. When the offer was extended to France, their traffic jumped overnight from 5.7% to 38.2% and in Spain, the jump was 12.7% to 61.3%.

Perhaps most troubling is that as the pandemic became truly worldwide, Pornhub extended its free premium service to every person who can find an Internet connection on Earth. The short-term true effect of the extent of this stunt probably won’t be known until the company releases its next numbers. The long-term effect makes me cringe.

You can find data for nearly two dozen countries on their Insights Page. (No Porn Visible)

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While men from the United States are looking at PornHub about 10% more than the average day, women are watching 21% more. In Mexico, the 20% rise for men is dwarfed by the 34% rise of women watching and in hard-hit Italy, while viewership for men is up 24%, it’s up 36% for women. These kinds of statistics are the same in countries like the UK, France, Spain, Japan, Canada, and almost every other civilized country in the world.

I’m not shocked by this because it tends to support statistics that show women are one of the fastest growing segments of pornography addicts along with my theory that with the Internet allowing more anonymity, women are sampling porn in higher numbers than ever. If 100 women were looking at porn in Italy on a January day it became 136 in less than two months. That’s a substantial jump and while not all will stick with it after the crisis, some will, and some of them will become porn addicts.

While most people think PornHub is the biggest porn site in the world, it was actually ranked third as of late 2019 (yet still in the Top 10 of overall sites in the world.) The other two, which I won’t name here, have not tried to build a brand the way PornHub has, nor – to their credit – have offered any special deals to try and profit off of this worldwide self-imposed isolation.

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Speaking of isolation, I’ll be fascinated to see what website traffic looks like in the upcoming months for cam sites. These are the sites where a male, female or couples (the “models”) are on one end of the computer and customers willing to pay them for nudity and/or sex acts sit on the other end. They usually come with a chat interface and an option for taking the models into a private room where only one customer, paying a premium, gets to interact with the models one-on-one, a virtual “private dance” of sorts. Of course, giving these bonus sessions away during a flood of traffic is a great way to get people hooked long after the virus is gone. It’s just drug-dealing 101. Get them hooked for free now and they’ll pay for it later.

While I’m sure that these sites are seeing double-digits increases in traffic, I’m more interested in finding out how many women joined their ranks. Think about it: We have the highest unemployment claims in American history by more than 500% and many service industry employees are wondering where their next paycheck is coming from. While I’m sure it’s not a huge leap for a stripper to make the transition, I have a feeling there are likely a lot of women (and a smaller percentage of men and couples) who either have, or will, make the decision that getting naked and/or getting sexual on their webcam for what they hope are only strangers will help make ends meet. I worry these people have no idea about this online culture nor the long-lasting effects of what making this decision will cause.

Understanding this, PornHub has again flexed its PR muscle. Instead of offering its models around 50% to 60% of the money spent by customers in their chat rooms and on private videos, during the pandemic, PornHub has raised its commission to 85%. Brilliant recruiting? Giving back? Capitalizing on pain? I guess it depends on who you are in the equation.

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I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Periscope, a streaming video platform similar to that of Facebook Live where hundreds or thousands can watch a single stream at one time. Owned by Twitter, Periscope has been known for its decent moderators and strict rules concerning nudity and sexuality.

That seemed to disappear in the third week of March, according to many users. Now, alongside people hosting cooking shows, exercise sessions and simply looking for company on the ride to work, there are plenty of nude models, people having sex and other explicit, sometimes illegal, material.

Did Periscope sent all its moderators home because of the Coronavirus? I tried to find some kind of confirmation of this online, but came up empty. It seems to me that the easiest job to do from home would be a moderator of an online chat site, right? Why would anything be different?

Of course, suspending monitoring of the rules will bring a lot of new eyes, and a lot of new streamers, to their site. Under normal circumstances, a website that goes from PG- to X-rated overnight owned by a media powerhouse like Twitter would get a lot of attention…but not so much during the modern plague. The media and those in power who would use this kind of news for views and attention have bigger fish to fry, so Periscope can fly under the radar.

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I’m sure there are plenty of other instances of companies that either peddle pornography or have found a way to use pornography to their advantage during the Coronavirus crisis. If you happen to see any, please let me know as I’d like to keep track.

Yes, I believe it’s more important to stay safe and keep your family safe in this confusing, scary time, but I also believe it’s important to not develop new routines and habits that may not be easy to break after this crisis has gone away.

Ironically, I often preach against filtering software as a false sense of power a parent has over their child’s use of pornography. But, we’re living in a temporary world where they don’t have easy access to their friends’ laptops or smartphones. You can actually lock porn down as long as we remain locked down. Now, more than ever, that may be the smartest move.

Prepare for a Post-COVID Explosion of Porn Addicts and An Idea to Keep From Going Stir Crazy

Note: I posted this on LinkedIn this morning, but I think it makes sense here, too.

The saying goes that idle hands are the devil’s plaything, and I think that’s never been more literally true. There are a lot of men and women in this world whose COVID-19 idle hands are likely turning them to online pornography. Not all will end up as addicts, but some probably will who never would have otherwise.

In a world where PornHub is offering premium access to Italian residents in a quarantine PR stunt and other sites are bracing for record-shattering traffic, I fear that porn addiction statistics are going to skyrocket during this worldwide pandemic.

In a normal scenario, I think most of us preach the opposite of social isolation to those seeking recovery from pornography addiction. Now, we’re encouraging everybody to embrace the aloneness.

I only did 12-Step groups for most of that first year of recovery, but they were crucial, as were weekly face-to-face appointments with my therapist and another weekly support group I participated in. Had they all been cancelled, and I was left alone, I don’t think I would have had the strength to abstain that first year, or maybe two.

I think about all of those men and women who have tried to kick the addiction on their own to this point. Many of them are stuck white-knuckling it through their seemingly endless days and even longer nights.

I’m worried about those who will never see the addiction coming. I’m worried about women who think porn addiction only happens to guys or older people who think it’s a younger person’s problem. I worry about people who have told themselves they use porn “recreationally” and didn’t have a problem who now are utilizing it two, three or four times more than usual. I’m worried about younger guys and gals who have never looked at online porn regularly who now find themselves discovering just how deep and dark the world gets and I’m worried about those who are addicted and are escalating the extreme nature of the content they are looking at because nothing else in the closed-for-business world can tweak their pleasure centers.

And the answer is… we have no perfect answers. It doesn’t matter how many letters you have after your name, whether you fancy yourself a pornography addiction expert or not, whether you’ve been an addict or not, or which spiritual building/book/deity you prefer. We’ve never seen a global health crisis in the age of the Internet, nor in a world where porn is so pervasive.

A few days ago, I put out a message on LinkedIn letting people know if they wanted a non Covid-19 person their podcast, I could talk porn addiction, and I was expecting one or two reactions. I’m booked on four shows and did two over the weekend. We actually talked a lot about being stuck at home and the lure of pornography.

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I came up with one potential solution that everybody who feels like they’re on house arrest can utilize. It once helped me. Maybe it can help you in the coming days when it feels like the walls are closing in on you.

For those who don’t know, I once did six months in county jail. With few people to talk to and my safety never an issue, it only took a couple of weeks before I was going stir crazy. The key to keeping my shit together was routine, scheduling and knowing what was coming next.

I always knew the next 2-3 things I was going to do, whether they would take 15 minutes (doing a Sudoku puzzle) or 2 hours (watching another insipid superhero movie on FX or USA). I knew what I was going to do after that, and after that. It allowed me to create the illusion that I was always busy, had a full schedule and always had something else to do.

My activities were reading the newspaper, writing letters, cleaning the pod, reading books, doing Sudoku, doing crossword puzzles, talking on the phone, exercising, showering, writing books, napping, reading the newspaper, playing cards, talking to people and watching TV. I’m sure there were other things I did and don’t remember, but I always had a basic structure for my day, even if the specific tasks weren’t always the same. Sticking to a schedule and having a plan for my day allowed me to have some of the normalcy of my busy life in the outside world and I think maintaining that structure allowed me to reintegrate much easier than I expected.

If you’re an addict, partner of an addict or help addicts and need to talk, I’m here, by email, telephone or video call. If you’re looking for something to read, I’ve got a ton of blog entries on this website and my books are on Amazon. If you’re looking for resources, this site can help, or I can help you find what you need as well. And if you need a podcast guest, my headphones are always ready.

I have no magical answers. Nobody does. But when you think about, we don’t even in the best times either. We just pretend we don’t need each other as much, so maybe that’s a lesson we can take from this weird era in history we’re living through. We need each other so much more than we admit or recognize.