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 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.

I Was Wrong About the Severity of This Crisis, And It’s OK to Admit That

Time and perspective are funny things. I see these yahoo 22-year-olds on the beach in Florida, screaming “Coronavirus come and get me! Nothing’s gonna stop my partying!” while ironically holding a Corona beer in their hand on TV. I have to admit, at 22, I probably would have been that yahoo.

As somebody who was a journalist, I know that the story is usually never as good or as bad as the “civilians” (as we called them) think it’s going to turn out. When the newsroom scanner sounds an alert and I’d hear a dispatcher say, “Engines 1, 4, 7 and 10 and Ladders 2 and 4 to…” and I’d grab the portable scanner and head to my car, I still knew that 19 out of 20 times, just as I started to drive away, the dispatcher would come back on the scanner and say something like, “Cancel all except Engine 4. It was a toaster fire and the tenant put it out. All except Engine 4, stand down.”

I’d still rush when they first said something, because 1 out of 20 times, it would turn into a massive fire, but even on the toaster fires, you’d see people who listen to their scanner at home show up at the scene. They chased scanner traffic the way I did, but they were doing it for fun, not work.

I think some people live for doom, but as a kid, I remember seeing a documentary about the 1972 Munich Olympics where a bunch of Israeli athletes were kidnapped, held hostage and killed. Sports commentator Jim McKay was cast into hard news reporter duty and after the athletes were killed he said, “When I was a kid my father used to say ‘Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.'” I thought that was poetry and have lived my life by it. For every 9/11, Oklahoma City Bombing or Bay Area Earthquake, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of stories that never live up to their billing.

COVID-19 still may not live up to its billing, but it’s looking more and more like it will and even if there are not the casualties that are expected, we’re still looking at an economy that has been kicked in the gut and a springtime full of rituals that will never be, like baseball season and college graduations. Life is forever changed, no matter the body count.

But, on March 6, which seems like it was 38 years ago, I wrote this blog entry. While I think it still makes sense in the context it was written and when it was written, I have no problem admitting I was ultimately wrong. My take on things was incorrect and I was hoping and being optimistic that statistically, things would fall the way they usually do.

I wish our President would just say that once. I neither hate, nor love Donald Trump. As I’ve phased my following of politics way down over the last six years, I’m aware of what both liberals and conservatives say about him, but I don’t know who is exactly right because I don’t do the research and have diverted my former passion for politics toward things I can actually have an effect on in my daily life. The best I can tell, nobody cares about Trump, they care about what they think her represents, so his shortcomings are overlooked, or overblown, depending on who is speaking.

But I am watching the virus coverage on TV. The reality is, he is on videotape saying a lot of things similar to what I was saying two or three weeks ago. I think that, like me, he’s lived a life of mostly optimism and seeing things ultimately turn out for the best. I’m sure his money hasn’t hurt him in getting his way and preferential treatment. Like me, he has an obvious streak of narcissism and control issues. I truly do not believe he was trying to lie or misdirect the public. I believe he was hoping for and expecting a different outcome. But he was wrong, and we have it on video, just like you have me in writing. Denying it now just looks bad.

One morning in December 2012, when I was a City Councilor, the weather was horrible in the morning, yet they didn’t call school off. After bringing the kids to school in absolutely nasty weather, I posted my belief the school system was wrong in having classes that day to Facebook. Forty-five minutes later, the superintendent called me. Twenty minutes after that, the newspaper called me. The story was actually picked up by other newspapers in Maine in communities who were smart enough to call off school. It was amusing that my opinion of the weather was front-page news, but it was the surreal world I created for myself back then.

I know the superintendent learned a lesson that day. You err on the side of caution. I don’t think I do that enough and I believe Donald Trump probably doesn’t do that enough in his personal life, but he’s got to do it as the leader of the free world. I just wish he could say he was wrong because everybody would move on from the issue and deal with the actual important news.

I was wrong. I hope that people didn’t make their decisions strictly based on my opinion, and I think it’s obvious I changed my tune in the last week. If the last six years of recovery have taught me anything, it’s OK, and actually healthy to admit when you are wrong. For any person who looks down on you, there are five people whose opinions of you improve because of the ability to admit your shortcomings and learn from them.

As Prepared as I’m Ever Going to Be

I finally made it to the grocery store this morning. I usually don’t do the shopping because I get everything wrong. (Apparently salted butter is a good thing. I figured unsalted was better.) But, with my daughter home from college and my son home from high school, I’m making their breakfast and lunches.

While my wife knows how to cook, I don’t, so I rely far more on frozen food. When she did her end-of-the-world shopping over the weekend, she missed a lot of frozen stuff because she doesn’t cook that way. So I decided to hit the grocery store at 6:30 a.m. because I was up and figured they’d stocked the shelves overnight.

It really wasn’t that bad. They seem to be phasing out a lot of the fresh produce and the toilet paper and paper towels were still gone — although there were plenty of tissues. The place was still very picked over and they were in desperate need of a Gatorade shipment, but I feel much better about my ability to feed my children.

I’d guess in a regular week, we probably spend around $200 on food for us and the pets. In the last week, by my numbers, we’ve spent about $700, but I don’t feel like we’ve been hoarding compared to some people’s carts I’ve seen today. Seriously…do you really need 6 cases of water and 12 full-size frozen pizzas? I feel like we have enough food, medicine and supplies for 3-4 weeks of comfortable living, maybe even more. As long as we’re not buying this much every week, it’s not hoarding…it’s preparing.

I see a lot of people talking about the hype of what’s coming and denouncing how people are preparing, but we’re in strange days. Strange days, indeed. It’s like a tsunami is coming. There’s a giant wave somewhere out there, and we’ve been given time to prepare and we’re just waiting for this wall of destruction to hit us. It’s hoarding right now and it’s hype right now because we’re probably just at the beginning. I hope our actions leave those people who complain about everything to say, “We told you it wasn’t going to be bad” when it’s all said and done. That’ll be a win for all of us.

My book, which has been doing well when it comes being purchased by libraries, has obviously stalled. When every library is closing, there’s really no point in getting new books. I’m assuming that most new books, like most movies, are being put on hold, so hopefully it picks back up when this whole thing subsides, but even if those sales are over, I’m quite pleased. I can confirm over 200 libraries have it, but I know it’s far more based on sales numbers. At some point in the next week or two I’ll post a list of where they are.

Ironically, I’ve had a few clients offer me more work than usual. Since the world seems to be headed toward a standstill, they want to produce more content for their websites and blogs to keep their clients engaged. It makes sense and reminds me of the old adage that even in great times of crisis, including economic crisis, there’s always somebody making more money. Wish I’d purchased a bunch of stock in a toilet paper company about three weeks ago.

While my daughter’s college is going online, something that they were well prepared for since some of their classes have been online for years, I’m curious to see how my son’s school system handles the transition. I have a feeling that they are testing it over the next two weeks to see if they can pull it off for the rest of the year. That’s a decision I wouldn’t want to have to make.

Years ago, when I was on my City Council, I really hated making hard decisions that were going to hurt people. We’d get requests for tax abatements (people wanting us to forgive their tax situation) and while there were several councilors who had no problem saying no, I always did. Yes, these people often made more decisions with their money, and you do have to treat everyone equal, but I equally think everyone deserves a second chance. I also didn’t like how, at budget time, we had X amount of dollars to give away in public charity, but the number of charities we heard requests from far outstripped the money we had to give. How do you pick between Little League, A Social Club for the Elderly and a Book Program for Poor Kids? You’re hurting people while you’re helping others. I just didn’t have the stomach for it.

Now there are a lot of people in positions of power who have to make tough decisions like they never have before. I’m also glad I’m not running a film festival or magazine anymore. I don’t want the responsibility of making decisions that will deeply effect other people’s lives. I thought that made me powerful in the past, but I now recognize I just wanted control in my own life, not power over others. I would have made a great cult leader 10 years ago, but now I’d be a better Thoreau living on Walden Pond.

You think those Doomsday Preppers are having a giant case of “Told you so!” from their unground bunkers? To them, I say, “Good on ya.” You were right, we were wrong.

If you’re super bored and have never heard me on a podcast, it seems like a bunch that I recorded (including one from November I totally forgot about) have just been published and you can find them on my appearances and interviews page.

I’ll wrap this up. I don’t know if my babbling is a good read or it’s just more me communicating things I’m thinking and needing to know someone is reading them. Since most of us are good at this digital communication and isolating thing, make sure to stay in touch with those extroverts who are probably going through withdrawals since all the bars are going to be closed this St. Patrick’s Day and view weeks at home as a prison sentence. We’ll probably be the mentally prepared ones and the healthier ones over the next few weeks. Their world is radically changing.