A night at Blue Note and the thoughts in my head; downloading a video from Facebook

I can’t help but stare at him.

He’s young, probably about 25. He has that “floppy” hair that seems in favour, certainly with the gay people, here, in Milan, and he has a “kind of” beard. He plays the violin.

I stare at him because of the thoughts in my head. They race through, from one thing to another.

How lives are different; when I was his age; I could have been in this world; I’m envious that I’m not in this world; how fascinating to be creative; I wonder how much he practices; assuming he’s gay, I wonder what his boyfriend’s like; or maybe he has no time for that; always practising; up late every night performing; no money; no, I couldn’t have done that – no willpower to keep practising; how much do the whole band practise; he doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the band, they are much older, like “this is where not-famous musicians go to die”; but he’s too young for that – he has still to “make it”; so why is he here on stage with the oldies (none of them will be under 40); I wonder what his life’s really like; does he really have another job and this is only a hobby he wishes were something more; I wish I could do something creative; but I’m good with people; but that’s not really creative, is it; I wonder if I could do something creative with that skill; I would like to be on stage again; how did I get here – listening to this, in a foreign land, in a foreign tongue; am I lucky and will it always feel strange?

And so on, and so on.

That’s one thing.

There’s another.

We are at the concert of a “friend”. I mean, she’s not really a close friend but a friend of one of F’s colleagues, I. And she is a florist. And she sings. Good enough to have the stage at Blue Note in Milan – the kind of jazz/blues venue. And she was a student of mine once, for about 6 lessons.

We, in the audience, are a group of 5. There’s I, another girl, S, who is a very close friend and also works in one of the shops, and E who I’ve never met before. But they all know R, the singer. We don’t have a great place to see, being at the side of the stage but R has to walk past us to the stage and gives F her mobile asking him to take some pictures.

So, during the whole thing, F, E, S and I are taking videos and photos with her phone and theirs and then checking the photos and checking with each other for the best photos.

About the second song into the set, I am struck by the fact that, if I look around the place, everyone is watching R sing – except all the people in our group, who are, instead, checking their phones. OK, so R asked them for some photos but, really, even if all these people are friends of R, how come our world is now only really seen through the small screen of a telephone?

I find it a shame, really. People, as last night, are so busy with the technology, they forget to enjoy the experience.

I ate almost the whole plate of chips. And had two beers. And, after the concert, we went for an Indian. And, after a while, R and the entourage came too. But without the guy I mentioned at the beginning.

Of course.

Anyway, I’ve found out how to download a video from Facebook – that is, 1. Open the video in a new tab; 2. Change the part of the url from “www” to “m” and press enter; 3. As the video is playing, right click and “Save target as …..” which will save a copy to your hard disk.

Unfortunately, it seems the video doesn’t work (on this page – although I can play it on my desktop).  Damn the problem with browsers not supporting certain formats, etc.  Still working on it though.

Twitter focus change

As time goes on, I’m finding Twitter much more enjoyable than Facebook.

But I’ve noticed a change – or, maybe, it’s something to do with how I’m interacting on Twitter – I’m not sure.

People have followed me in the past and I’ve looked at their profiles and not bothered to follow back. After all, I’m not really what you could call a “serious” Twitter user. I’m not really interested in numbers of followers or, that much, in who follows me. I don’t normally tweet very much, just doing the occasional retweets.

But then I started promoting Altern-i-life, the musical film that I helped to fund through Kickstarter. An I was tweeting and retweeting several times per day. And I saw that I was getting more notice and that more people were following me. And I decided to change the way I interacted by automatically following back. Then, after a little while I would see some had unfollowed me (so I would unfollow them since they weren’t that interesting) or my feed would be filled with rubbish or things that I didn’t like, so I would unfollow them first.

But, what I have noticed is some people are using Twitter as a way to promote something they’ve done. I first noticed it with Matt Haig who wrote The Humans. He, unselfconsciously, promoted himself by retweeting short (Twitter) reviews from people who had read the book. It seemed an interesting book, so I bought it. As you may know, I prefer a “real” book, made with paper and this was one of them. It became my favourite book of 2014. I absolutely loved it. So much so that I bought 2 copies (one in Italian) for Best Mate and F as presents and encouraged someone else to buy it.

As a result of that, maybe, I’ve been followed by other authors, each one promoting their book. Some are self-published and others not. And I’ve also been followed by musicians (singer-songwriters), some of whom have “given” me downloads of their stuff. So far, no one has had the impact of Matt Haig (so much so that I will definitely be buying his new book, out very soon) but I’m sure that, somewhere along the way, I’m going to find some more interesting stuff and something like “The Humans” (either song or book) that I will go “Wow!”

But, this was not what I thought Twitter was about, so, for me, it’s an interesting change of focus.

I still follow the people that I know IRL, those that are funny or give me information that I want to know about and, a very few, with whom I disagree with their politics or thoughts but who are interesting enough to keep me hooked. But now I have a load of people on my timeline that also have something to “sell”. If they are engaging enough, I keep following them anyway, even if I’m not that impressed with their product. After all, you never know!

Some hits and some misses

I had a list of things to do on Saturday. Many things didn’t turn out as I quite expected and I did some stupid things.

So, I didn’t get up that early but after two mugs of coffee and a shower, I could face the world. After taking the dogs out, I went to get my cigarettes and went for breakfast (another coffee and a croissant) and did the supermarket shopping.

Then I went to have my haircut. Now, I may have mentioned in the past, but I have a rather weird thing about having my hair cut. It’s a bit like having sex in that it feels incredibly intimate. V used to do my hair for many years but, even before that, I had this weird feeling about having it done. And I still do. After V and I split, I went to a local barbers. But I didn’t really like it. Or, rather, I didn’t like him. Then I tried another barber and I didn’t like him much. Then, for some strange reason, I decided to grow my hair, possibly because I just hated having it cut. Eventually, I decided it wasn’t for me. I liked having long hair (I always have liked it) but it didn’t really look as I had hoped. So I went to get it cut.

And I happened upon this place and was appointed a hairdresser who tried his damnedest to give me the “David Bowie” haircut that I asked for. He was also a nice guy. And so, every 4 to 6 weeks I go back. He’s Romanian and has adopted the Italian version of his name (since Italians can be quite funny about being served by a “foreigner”.) We’ve talked during the haircuts and he’s told me how, eventually, he wants to return to his hometown and set up a hairdressers there. But, for now, he’s learning and so he will stay.

However, Saturday, he was telling me how he’s had a bit of a falling out with his boss and how his boss isn’t speaking to him now and how he’s looking to move somewhere else. I was uncomfortable with this given that I have these feelings about having my haircut and, now I’ve found someone I like and can trust, I don’t want to have to search out someone else. So, I replied to this news that I just had to know where he was going. He said it may not be for a while and I said yes, but I only come in every so often. So he suggested becoming friends on Facebook. And so now we are. And, providing he doesn’t move back to Romania or somewhere to far for me to go, I will be able to go to him. I feel like I’ve almost got a personal hairdresser again. Thank God! Although, at the same time, it feels a little strange to be friends with your hairdresser.

There was some shopping that I wanted to do. I went home and had a cup of tea first. After pouring the water out, I checked and the kettle did need descaling, so I filled it with vinegar and water and brought it to the boil. Then, as usual, I filled it with fresh water and put it on again. Before I would go out, I would turn it off, if it hadn’t boiled by then.

I finished my tea and sorted out more washing and then went out to get a) some thermal underwear (I need it for when I’m at work), b) some jeans and c) to look at possibly getting a new earring.

First, I went all the way across town to the sports shop and got some underwear for when you go skiing. after all, sometimes it is probably warmer on the slopes than it is at work.

Then back to the centre of town. It is sales time here and I thought I would go to the Iceberg shop and get some more jeans as their jeans have a cut that seems to fit really well. Obviously, it’s been some time since I’ve been to Iceberg. I say “obviously” because it’s no longer there. No problem, I have my phone. I’ll look up their website and check out where the shop is now located. Except the location was where I was – so the website wasn’t up to date. Perhaps they don’t even have a shop any more?

I was disappointed but thought that, at least, I could look for the earring. I wanted one like the one I lost. A diamond from Tiffany. Tiffany, being a jewelers, won’t be having a sale, I knew but the beginning of January would be the right time to go as, in the run up to Christmas, they have queues running outside the door!

However, it seems that January is as bad as December! The queues, whilst not outside the door, snaked round the shop. I decided to go back another time and went home instead, not entirely happy that the only thing I’d got was underwear!

As soon as I opened the door, I remembered. I remembered that I had had to turn the kettle off before leaving. Unfortunately, having NOT turned the kettle off meant that it had boiled dry. Having boiled dry, it had heated up. Having heated up (it’s one of those you put on a gas ring and it whistles when it boils), it started to melt some of the plastic which makes up the lid. Luckily, it didn’t melt the handle nor the whistle and the plastic only melted “in situ” so didn’t melt into a horrible mess on the cooker. And, after it had cooled, I found that it does work, just not as well because some steam escapes from around the lid, so the whistle isn’t at strong. But at least it works!

So, it was a day of hits and misses.

I have emailed Iceberg about the shop – but haven’t heard anything yet!

Joining the CSN

I’m not really sure why I suggested it. Bloody stupid suggestion really but, too late now!

It may have been some throw-away comment by F about them having their own Facebook profiles. Yes, probably, that was it.

Anyway, last night, during Dino’s 6th birthday celebrations (there was cake, candles, balloons and the obligatory presents), I said I would set up email accounts for Dino and Piero on my domain.

So I did.

Now they have their very own Facebook profiles – Dino CaneCarino and Piero CaneSincero.

This is what they do all day!

They are attracting friends like, well, flies to shit.

In fact, Dino already has friends who, not only are they not friends of mine but I don’t even know these people!

Of course, it may be that this “thing” that is coming in the next few months, will also be able to connect people in some way. If so, the dogs will have better social media connections than I do!!

In the meantime, now that Dino has reached the ripe old age of 6, as I told him last night, it’s about time he got out there and got a job and started earning some bloody money!

* CSN = Canine Social Network

From Top Of The Pops to Nursery School – timetravelling backwards

I’m what you may call a “quiet” guy.

Those of you who’ve read my blog long enough will know that, although on the surface I seem quite well-adjusted, sensible and, well, just plain ordinary, I am, underneath it all (or, rather, in my mind), quite seriously screwed most of the time.

I have conflicts and dilemmas most of my waking hours. I find it really difficult to be “close” to people.

I have friends, of course. Well, I should say, people that I quite like and that I speak to quite often. But, what I consider “real” friends – no, not many.

And a recent post from one of my links got me to thinking about relationships with people and friends, in general. More specifically, it took me back to when I was younger (much, much younger.)

When I was 12 or 13 or maybe even before that, my Nan bought me my first record (single). The reason was that one of the members of the group came from where she lived and, this being rural Herefordshire, not famous for it’s proliferation of famous rock stars, was a very big deal. From my Nan and Grandad, I learnt about Top of the Pops – because they used to watch it every week.

Apart from this making them very cool (although we didn’t use that word then – maybe “hip” or something), they got me interested in music and the radio and Top of the Pops. So, then, I used to watch it every week. And I got a radio for Christmas or my birthday which enabled me to listen to Radio Luxembourg under the bedsheets at night.

The thing about this was the charts. All these programs worked on charts. And charts I liked. I was, for some reason, fascinated with charts and the moving up and down of songs based on their popularity and sales. And I wanted my own “charts”.

Obviously, I was young and didn’t have any buying power so I came up with the idea of a chart for friends. To make it real, they were “marked” to different criteria (which I don’t remember now but possibly something like – how nice they had been to me this week, had they shared any sweets with me, did I share any sweets with them, etc.). Each would be given a mark (quite possibly out of 10). The marks would be added up and, from that, the week’s chart compiled. This would mean that I would know who was my “best friend”.

I really don’t remember how long I did this for. I had a little exercise book and dutifully recorded the “chart” every week, watching how people moved up and down. It made me feel better if someone had been horrible to me and they dropped sharply down the chart and better too if someone who had been “middling” shot up to number one because of something nice.

Obviously, reading this now, I was set to be on a psychiatrist’s couch as soon as I was old enough :-)

But, then again, I was at school. And children are quite horrible. Friendships are made and broken on a whim. “I won’t let you play with my toys. I’m not your friend anymore. I’m going to tell my Mum.” These are all the things we say and hear. We’re learning about the value of people, how to trust them, how to read them.

So, let’s bring that up to date. Today we have a new Nursery School. But this one is for adults, it seems. In broad terms it’s called social media. In the olden days, we became friends with people that we met, face-to-face, people that were physically in our own circle.

Then, with the invention of the telephone, we could become friends with people that we spoke to a lot.

In fact, I remember, as a buyer, many moons ago, I became “friends” with a guy who was employed at one of our suppliers. We used to chat a lot and, when I left that company, we arranged to meet up. Of course, we never spoke after that. Not because he was a horrible person in real life but because I think we were a bit disappointed that the guy on the phone was not really like that in real life.

Social Media is another revolution. We can become friends with people so easily. Maybe we like their photo or the things they write or the pictures they post.

On Twitter, a while back, I would follow anyone who followed me. So it was that one person followed me and I followed her back. The problem was that, in real life, given the nature of her tweets, I wouldn’t have ever spoken to her after our first meeting. She was (is), in a word, vile. Nasty, small-minded, arrogant and always making out that she was cleverer than everyone else. I decided that Twitter was the ideal platform for her and that, in all probability, she had been the most hated person at Nursery School – she had (has?) no social skills. Zero. Nada.

How grateful was I when I discovered that she had “unfollowed” me – permitting me to unfollow her! She still appears on my timeline from time to time (being retweeted by others on my timeline) and, occasionally, I visit her profile to see if she’s changed. Needless to say, she hasn’t.

There’s a guy that I follow that reported on the Grillo-Renzi meeting, for example. Now, I’ve been following him because he tweets some interesting stuff about Italian politics and the economy. When I read what he wrote about the meeting however, I realised that he was also quite stupid. But, then again, he’s not my “friend” (I don’t even know if he follows me and, to be honest, care less) and, after the tweet about the meeting, is surely never to be.

Facebook too – I have friends on there that are my friends because we used to (or I used to) play games through Facebook. Now that I don’t, I do wonder why the hell I don’t just purge them. I have other “friends” on there that I’ve never met who have become “friends” via other means (they might be friends of friends that I have at Hay Festival, for example.) Again, I sometimes query why they are there, taking up space on my timeline. But I don’t want to be the first to cut them off! Stupid, eh? But, although they aren’t really my friends, I don’t want them to feel hurt – unless they really piss me off, of course. Then there are “friends” who I’ve never met and know little about but who I have some sort of interaction with. I can class them as “real” friends in that we do interact, of course. Whether they would be real friends in real life is another matter – and I simply don’t know the answer to that – I’ve never met them and don’t know enough about them.

Of course, when V “defriended” me on Facebook a few years ago I was both surprised and a bit disappointed. But not so as you’d know. After all, we’d split up in real life and, to be honest, he was right in one way. Still, it’s a shame.

But I really can’t lose sleep over someone who defriends me nor unfollows me. it’s up to them. They have their reasons. I have a real-life friend who I follow who doesn’t follow me on Twitter. Should I get upset or be offended?

Well, no, I don’t think so. Firstly, it’s not like my tweets are so fantastic. Secondly, whether she follows me on Twitter or not doesn’t actually change the way I feel about her and doesn’t make her a horrible person. In fact, she is one of the sweetest, kindest people I have ever met in my life – and whether she follows me or no doesn’t change that.

The thing I DO know is that a “friend” on Facebook or Twitter is not really a “friend” but more of an acquaintance – like someone you know at work. I really can’t take it all too seriously.

But, people do. People get upset and rant and rave. People follow me on Twitter and then unfollow me if I don’t follow back. Well, like Facebook friends, it isn’t the quantity but the quality that counts in my book. If people have interesting timelines/profiles, I follow them. If not, well, I don’t. It’s really as simple as that.

But it is a little like a Nursery School – or it can be. People take offence at something someone says and it blows up out of all proportion. Someone defriends or unfollows someone else and that someone else feels hurt and “excluded”.

But, it’s not real. It’s over the Internet. A true “friend” relationship takes time to develop – over months and years with ups and downs along the way. Physically being in front of someone smooths those ups and downs as you can see, sometimes, the real person. On the Internet, all you have are words and words don’t show feelings and, worse, can be downright lies.

We’ve a long way to go before we are out of the Nursery School that is Social Media. We have (and it has) a lot of growing up to do – made worse by the fact that in this Nursery School, most people are adult and so have already “grown up” and have their fixed ideas on what is right and what is wrong.

So, perhaps, we’ll never grow up!

Is it time? Or, rather, is it even necessary?

Everyone wants to ‘fit in'; to be accepted by the people around them.

Me too, to some degree. Our friends are people who accept us as we are, warts and all. If they don’t, then they don’t, usually, stay friends which is fair enough.

So what things are important? after all, not everything everyone else thinks of as ‘fitting in’ suits me. For me, I just want to be left alone. As long as I’m not harming other people, why not?

So, I want a place to live that’s warm (at least in winter). I want to spend time with friends. I need to work, not only to earn money but also for the other benefits that working with others brings. I want my dogs and to be able to walk them and feed them whilst, at the same time, respecting other people who aren’t so keen on dogs. I want to go out to restaurants from time to time, or a pub or bar. I have to eat – even if not in a restaurant. I need clothes – they don’t have to be designer labels but it’s nice when they are. I want to be able to see different places, different people. I want to be able to live my life in the way that I want and in peace from other people. I want enough money to live my life comfortably but it doesn’t need to be over the top.

What I don’t expect is that everyone else will want what I want nor that they will, necessarily, agree with my choice of life. That’s OK as long as it doesn’t affect me and I’m not harming them, then what’s the problem?

Well, the problem comes when there’s a bit of trouble.

For example: if F were to go into hospital, me, not being a blood relative, would have no say in anything. In theory, I would not even have the right to visit him. Nor, if the situation were reversed, he me.

If I die, he does not automatically get everything I own.

I can only imagine the results of those things. Luckily they have not happened as yet.

And, the same was true when I was with V.

So, in one way, as the video below says, it’s time. And yet, there are advantages to having the life I have. Nothing in my life HAS to conform to the norms of society at large, if I don’t choose it. I am not locked into any stereotypical roles in my life except those that I choose to adopt (although there are, probably, quite a lot of people who would pigeon-hole me anyway).

I like being a bit different. I like ‘not quite fitting in’ It’s now doubly so since I am English and living in Milan. So, I have two ‘edges’ that, for me, make my life more interesting. Certainly not making it boring.

If we had all of the rights that other people have, maybe we would no longer be different and maybe we would have to conform more. I’m not sure that I really want that. So, maybe it’s not really time. Maybe it will never be time? Perhaps this is not really what we all want?

After all, marriage is two people living together through thick and thin ………….. until you divorce. And the real difference between that and, erm, being together? – well, for me, it’s not actually different. It’s only really different if you believe in the God thing and because you have a piece of paper to say you are married. And society’s view of you which is important to some people.

Anyway, this was the video that was posted on a (straight) friend’s Facebook page:

More on Facebook Friending

Today, someone to whom I had made a ‘Friend Request’ on Facebook, accepted. For those of you who know Facebook, this may not seem surprising. However, the ‘Friend Request’ has been sitting in her inbox for about 6 months.

My first thought was: Why now? I know it’s not the first time in the last six months that she has been on Facebook (her ‘feed’ showing up on my home page). Why did it take her six months to decide to accept it since it is only the click of one button to accept or ignore?

I mean to say, I’ve done the same – but only for people who’ve tried to ‘make friends’ when I don’t know who they are!  Usually it’s friends of ‘friends-who-play-games’ and I think it’s only polite if you do some sort of introduction with the request – like: ‘I play Farmville and would be really pleased if you could be my friend and neighbour’ – or, something like that!

It seems strange but I don’t want to ask why.  It seems impertinent, somehow.