Still disconnected.

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Hundertwasser: We Live In Paradise

I manage five web sites, four blogs, one MySpace profile, two Twitter profiles, teach three online college classes, send out three email newsletters, run one Yahoo group and one Flickr site for fellow alumni, get about 1,000 emails, mostly junk, and 10,000 total visitors at these various sites each week.

With so many digital networks running in and out of my life, why do I feel out of touch? I am one big social network and yet I feel entirely antisocial.

Remember when being connected meant having the family over for Sunday dinner, or going to the beach with your kids? Or playing cards in the kitchen til late at night with another couple, having a laugh and losing maybe 2 bucks?

When did I stop going out for dinner with normal, healthy grown-ups who could talk about politics or sports and not throw food at each other?

When did the women in my life all end up 20 years younger than me and have social histories that would make Britany Spears look like Mother Teresa?

When did I suddenly stop drinking good Cabernet and honest Chianti and instead decide that vodka on the rocks was a suitable dinner drink?

When did I start thinking that every TV news anchor, commentator, blogger, and political pundit was a whore, 20 IQ points dumber than me, and pathologically narcissistic?

When did I start defining my life by my favorite scenes in movies or a dozen old songs that I can’t remember the words to anymore?

When did I stop using language to reveal the hidden life of my soul and the lives of others, and instead start scribbling 200 word monologues about nothing on blogs that most people don’t bother to read, or if they do it’s just to tell me I’m full of shit.

I must be breaking some social networking rule because I haven’t read too many rants here about people feeling disconnected, out of touch, and totally baffled by the way things have turned out in this totally wired world.

It must be me. Old Rake. The Teddy Bear waking up from his long winter nap a little groggy and cranky.

Beckett said, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

Rake says, “I can go on, but I won’t.”

Instead, I’ll go checking my blogs and web sites and email accounts like a tired lobster fisherman, slowly cruising over the dark waters, wondering what I’ve caught at this hour of the night.

Most likely, it’s just dead fish and an old pair of sneakers.

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Safe socializing: can you trust your friends’ friends?

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Safe socializing: Can you trust your friends' friends.

Are your secrets safe with your friends?

This zinger came totally out of left field this afternoon. . .

A friend calls and wants to know how to spell ‘Tchaikovsky.’ Of course, I think I know how to spell Tchaikovsky, but just to be on the safe side I Google it. While I’m looking, I ask my friend why she just doesn’t look it up herself.

“I don’t have my computer,” she says.

“No? Where’d it go?” I wonder.

“A friend has it. Some guy.”

“What guy? Is it with those tech guys again?” She’s always having hard drive problems so I assume it is with the Paid Geeks Company.

“No, not there,” she says. “It’s a long story.”

As it happens, it really isn’t a long story — she just doesn’t want to tell me what she is doing. Seems she screwed up her copy of Photoshop, which she had “borrowed” from some guy in town. So she took the computer back to this civilian so he could download another unauthorized copy.

“Well, who is this guy?” I ask again.

He is, in fact, just “some guy,” a friend I have never heard of but who likes helping her out with her software (and, I suppose, other things as well).

Besides finding out that I don’t know how to spell Tchaikovsky without help from Google, it dawns on me that some stranger now has possession of my friend’s computer and along with it all the maudlin, sick, depressing, brilliantly humorous (slight exaggeration perhaps) email and other “for her eyes only” stuff that I frequently send her way.

Some of it is about the Center of the Universe (me), some about my ex-wives, friends, relatives, the President (lots of bad stuff about him that I wanted to take back after Hillary became Secretary of State. Sorry, Barack!).

Basically, all the stuff that I trusted her with is now in the hands of someone I don’t know, about whom I can only guess the worst. Is he a closet hacker? Will he be sending me emails loaded with viruses? Will he contact people to tell them the awful things I write when I think no one is reading my stuff? How about that long, detailed email concerning the threesome I had with those big-breasted red-heads in the back seat of my Porsche when I was still a bachelor? (Alright, that one is not entirely true. There was only one red-head. She had normal sized breasts. And it was a Volkswagen, but I was single.)

The point is, my stuff — your stuff — is only as safe as the people our friends call friends. Sure, we have anti-virus software and all that other garbage. We practice safe sex on Facebook. But many of us who are normally paranoid — if there is such a thing — think nothing of spilling our guts to long-term, trustworthy friends WHO HAVE LESS COMMON SENSE THAN MY DOG CHANCE!!!!

Do you have friends like that? Only me?

So I am praying that this stranger who is kind enough to pirate a copy of Photoshop and share it with a good friend, is also nice enough not to read the emails I wrote or the copies of friends’ emails that I sent to my friends with one of those ‘Can you believe this?’ introductions.

My friends tell me — actually, after my rant my friend did tell me — I am not that important or interesting enough for people to want to snoop. Under most circumstances that is true, but if he scans her emails and sees stuff with headlines like: ‘The latest from the lesbian room’ or ‘Is this really cheating?’ or ‘Too much sex can be bad for your back,’ my guess is that he is going to read a little further.

My advice? Throw caution to the wind! Tell your friends all your dirty secrets! Live a very public sordid life and invite the world to think you are wickedly interesting!

One way or another, if there is any dirt about you worth finding, someone will find it because your best friends will show them where it is.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. . .

Why don’t women listen to us?

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For most men, trying to figure out how a woman’s mind works is a lifetime quest. Some of us are as thick as bricks and we need to re-learn the same lessons over and over again. Second, women are complex creatures who revel in their complexity. Just when we think we understand, we find out we don’t. They like it that way.

Men try to apply the rules of science, proof, empirical evidence, logic, to a creature not always logical or subject to predictable outcomes. Like certain experiments we were forced to do in high school chemistry class, no matter how many times we did them, the results were always the same. And that was the point. Predictability.

Most men learned the rules of relationships with women early on in life. One of the most important  rules states that when a woman is telling you about her problems, going on breathlessly, tearfully, about whatever ghastly thing happened to her, for god’s sake DO NOT TRY TO SOLVE HER PROBLEM! We have been well-schooled on this. She is just venting. Emoting. Sharing. Our job is to listen, eyes wide open, nodding our heads. Our job is to be sympathetic. “Gee, that’s really awful, honey.” “That was terrible. You must feel badly.” Etc.

Of course, it is a rare man who can faithfully play this role of do-nothing listener. All of our instincts compel us to dive in with a solution. So we do dive in. We hit the bottom of the pool almost instantaneously because the pool is empty. We could see that it was empty. But we dove in anyway, tried to offer a bit of advice on how to solve the problem, and immediately cracked open our heads.

Served us right. And chances are, the woman who was counting on us to listen sympathetically, has torn herself away from us angrily, rejecting us, because we were so stupid for not knowing that our job was to listen. Only listen. “You just don’t get it, do you?” she spits at us.

No, we don’t. But we try.

So that’s one lesson.

Here’s a new one. It’s tricky, so we must be careful with this rule, too.

Your wife, lover, significant other, whatever, comes to you and SPECIFICALLY ASKS FOR YOUR ADVICE. Do you give it? Do you double-check to make sure you heard correctly? “Dear, are you really asking me for advice?”

The safe thing is to double-check to make sure you heard correctly and that she has specifically asked for your advice. This is a totally different scenario than the venting, crying, emotional outpouring event we discussed earlier. Is it a trick question? No, you seem to have a clear opening here. She wants and asks for help. So now you can pour it on, show her how helpful and knowledgeable you are. If, indeed, it is about a subject in which you excel, all the better. You will save the day, save her, and save yourself!

In this instance she listens attentively. She nods her head. Maybe she asks a few questions for clarification. That’s a good sign. Chances are, she is NOT taking notes — that’s a bad sign and a clue as to what is really going on here. We’ll get to that. So instead you write down notes to give her. “Get so and so. Do such and such. After that try this and that.” It is all very clear, rational, intelligent, helpful, well-meant.

It sounds so good what can possibly be the problem?

After getting the green light and offering your expertise, after seeing the evidence of her listening, nodding, agreeing, smiling because you are offering to solve her problem, you think as a rational being might think that she will use your advice.

WRONG!

There’s a better than even chance that she won’t.

“Why not?” you ask.

Here’s the new lesson about women that we need to learn or risk becoming madmen: The asking of advice, for a woman, is a social event. It is not really an effort to solve a problem, accomplish something. From her perspective, the arrival of a problem or the need to do something new is a reason for more social interaction — with you, with other men, with women, with the wallpaper in her dining room, with anyone!

YOU are part of the process. Your willingness to communicate a solution is her reward, not your wisdom, the mechanics of your idea. And it goes on. From person to person to person. From each she asks for help, advice, and she gets it. It’s the communication — the social activity — of asking for and getting advice that matters, not the solution.

In the final analysis, some consensus of advice will emerge for our female Diogenes, like a recipe that has been passed from cook to cook, each one adding or subtracting some spice or other ingredient, until it is a totally new dish.

And that’s how it is with her. She takes a bit from each chef and the truth of a solution emerges. More importantly — actually the reason for all this anyway — is that she makes personal, human contact with her friends and lovers and family.

Sometimes that’s all the help she wants.

Computer

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Death is like when your computer screen freezes. It just stops working. You frantically push at the keys but nothing happens. In desperation you think you will reboot the computer. You try that. Again nothing happens. The screen stays frozen. Eventually you give up. You sit looking at the screen, not moving, silently looking, frozen, just like the computer screen.

Crackle movie rudely interrupted by ad overdose.

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Crackle tortures audience, Robin WilliamsIt’s been a long time since I’ve watched anything on Crackle via my ROKU device. Last night’s experience reminded me how nauseating “free” movie channels like Crackle can be.

I decided to watch Robin Williams in Man of the Year. I picked that movie by mistake — I thought it was the movie he did with Bobcat Goldthwait. That movie is called World’s Greatest Dad. That’s supposed to be a good movie. This one, the one I watched on Crackle, sucked.

Man of the Yearis about a comedian (Williams) who runs for president and wins — thanks to a corrupt computer that counts everyone’s vote as a vote for Williams. The only person, besides the audience, who knows this is Laura Linney.

As the intro credits rolled I realized my mistake, but thought – heck, it’s got Robin Williams — how bad could it be?

Truth is, it could be very very bad. And it got very bad very very quickly. Robin was just fine and I’ve always enjoyed Laura Linney. But the demented writer and director of this movie played a long, tedious game of catch with the truth about Williams’ character. We, the audience, had long figured it out, but the director found one lame excuse after another to interrupt the moment when Linney owned up to Williams about the fraudulent election. One plot coincidence I can take; five or six sadistic plot coincidences and I am ready to turn myself in to the Brunswick police as a menace to myself and my cranky old neighbors (none of whom, including the director of this movie, deserve to live).

Did I get through it? I’m here writing this, aren’t I? My strategy was to use the mute button during the zillion commercials to avoid hearing the same eczema (I’m fine!) commercials over and over and over again. (What happened to a good, old-fashioned flaying? Just remove the bitches skin and she’ll be really fine. . .and dead!)

If you want to watch Man of the Year, please do. But be kind to yourself and watch it on some other cable channel besides Crackle. I don’t want to read about any other angry maniacs roaming the streets, skinning old people alive. That’s my job.