It’s not about space

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

Alas, this week’s edition does not mark TF’s return to normal service. Hopefully that will come in the New Year. Until then, consider this a Christmas card.

My birthday was a few weeks ago and my brother gave me the exceptional present of a book containing pretty much every TF that has ever been written, all the way back to April 2011. It’s a great thing to have and I’ve been showing it off to anyone who swings by TF HQ:

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Apparently, when my brother took the book to be bound, the woman in the shop asked “you mean he’s written 66,000 words about moustaches?” Putting it that way, the whole thing does sound ridiculous. However, as I trust has become clear over the last three years, TF isn’t really about Tashes at all.

Around the same time as my birthday, I had the pleasure of seeing Interstellar. The IMDB synopsis for Interstellar reads: “a team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to ensure humanity’s survival”. There’s so much more to it than that. It’s a film which can easily be spoiled by a mis-placed comment but describing it as being about “a father’s desire to get home to his children”; or “a documentary on physics and interplanetary travel” would be equally accurate and equally mis-leading at the same time.

Even though it doesn’t involve space or wormholes or fifth dimensions, this picture sums up Interstellar for me:

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Similarly, the traditional meaning of Christmas bears very little resemblance to the commercial behemoth which we are all experiencing at the moment. For many of us, it means time off work; a few decent nights out; food; presents; and stress (?) rather than a celebration of the birth of Christ.

In the same way that TF isn’t about Tashes; Interstellar isn’t about space; and Christmas isn’t (for most of us) about religion, life isn’t just about the simple exercises which make up our daily existence. It’s about so much more than that, isn’t it?

Unlike editions of TF, films and even Christmases, we can’t look back on life after it’s finished and work out what it was really all about. By the time we get to that stage, it’s too late to do anything about focussing on what is actually important. However, I wonder whether one way of taking stock and evaluating priorities is to think back on the memories that we cherish the most. If we have plenty of memories that we look back on fondly, we must be doing something right,

It’s for that reason that I’m not really giving my normal array of (outstanding) presents this Christmas. Instead, where finances allow, I’m giving envelopes. Inside the envelopes will either be tickets, or the means to buy tickets, to some kind of experience which I think/hope the recipient will remember for a long time. I’ll perhaps do another TF in the New Year on whether folk prefer getting envelopes to something which they can unwrap…

Speaking of presents, this week’s Tash was particularly pleased when I emailed him with my wish-list and mentioned that he would be featuring the end-of-year TF:

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I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a memorable 2015!

As ever,

What’s next?

2014 and Beyond – Part 2

Good morning Tash Appreciators!

Welcome to the last TF of 2013.

Last week, we looked back at this year and I said that adversity drew out our true character. This week, I’m going to challenge everyone (especially myself) to take our experiences of 2013 and use them to make 2014 count.

In order to look ahead to 2014, and beyond, I’d like to pose one question:

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My honest answer to that question is that I haven’t got a clue.

Not having an answer to that question doesn’t mean that I’m not ambitious or that I don’t care, it just means that there is a wide world out there and I don’t yet know where my place is within it. I hope I’m not the only one who feels like that; I suspect I’m not.

I also don’t mean that I feel lost or down about life – quite the opposite, in fact.  It’s just that, for too long, TF has been about “keep going”. Keeping going is all well and good, if you know where you want to go but, if you keep going without a thought as to where the final destination is, are you not lost? From now on, I’ll be thinking to myself: what’s next, what’s next, WHAT IS NEXT?

This week’s Tash (Samuel L Jackson in “Coach Carter”) was a leader: he  was able to encourage those around him to listen to their better angels. In order to draw out a member of his team, he kept asking him “what’s your deepest fear?”

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For a long time, the young man had no response until, one day, he came up with a secularized variation of a quote from Marianne Williamson. I’ll give you the full quote and you can choose to take the word “God” as meaning whatever makes sense to you:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

In 2014, and beyond, I’ll work out what’s next and TF will shine. Consider yourselves liberated to do the same.

Have yourselves a thoroughly wonderful Christmas and hopeful, happy, New Year.

What’s next?

2014 and beyond – Part 1

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

Welcome to the penultimate Tash Friday of 2013 – the first of a two-part Christmas Special. I’ll preface this week’s TF by saying that it may not seem all that festive but, fear not, it’ll all work out in the end.

I’ll start this week with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, which was sent to me earlier this week:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I know that many of our number have faced points in 2013 when they have felt very much like their faces are marred with dust and sweat and blood and when they can taste defeat. However, at the same time, the way in which those same people have conducted themselves after those points confirms the truth in what Roosevelt said.

Roosevelt was 42 when he took office: the youngest ever President. Becoming President  also took him by surprise as he was sworn-in following the assassination of President McKinley. He must surely have felt at times that he was out of his depth.

However, just like all of those Appreciators who had to battle to get through 2013, Roosevelt did more than just survive – he thrived. His success was complete when he won a land-slide victory in the 1904 general election. Naturally, for a chap who was made of stronger stuff than the Average Joe, President Roosevelt wore an absolute stoater of a moustache:

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The lesson which I will be taking into 2014, and beyond, is that our character is strengthened by adversity. This year may have been pretty rough, but as I will set out next week, there is plenty to be hopeful about as we head towards the New Year.

Just to finish this week, when I was reading up on Roosevelt, I found an interesting quote from Vice-President Thomas Marshall, who said after Roosevelt died in 1919:

“Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.”

I thought that was great.

Have a great weekend folks!


Black Friday

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

Yesterday saw the United States come to a halt as people got together with family and friends for Thanksgiving. Today will see a fair few of those same people heading to malls and department stores to do their Christmas shopping. However, this isn’t any normal day of shopping, today will be the biggest shopping day of the year: Black Friday:

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I had thought that Black Friday was just an American thing, but judging from the adverts on TV and the subject headings of the emails in my inbox, the hysteria has made its way over here. I saw it in person too – at a shopping centre earlier this week when, even at 9 pm, there were still thousands of people shopping for presents.

I don’t care what people spend their money on – it’s theirs, they earned it, they can spend it however they like. I’m not that interested in snooty arguments about consumerism, either. What struck me was that, in all probability, the people who are shopping on Black Friday or mid-week at shopping centres are not doing it for themselves, they’re surely buying Christmas presents for others.

That got me thinking about why we all go out and spend so much of our hard-earned cash on other people. I don’t think it’s because we’re all slaves to consumerism. I don’t necessarily think it’s because we expect to get something back in return, either. I think we all just like to see the look on the faces of our friends and family when they open a present, which we’ve given to them, and it’s immediately clear that the present was what they wanted. With that in mind, maybe we don’t all need to be shopping at 9pm on a Wednesday, maybe we just need to spend a bit more time thinking about what we should get and whether it’s actually going to be appreciated.
Speaking of appreciation, with this being the day after Thanksgiving, I feel it’s appropriate for TF to give thanks too. Surprisingly enough, TF gives thanks that Tom Selleck decided that this look didn’t suit him:
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But that this one did:
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Have a great weekend folks!

We could be heroes

Hello Tash Appreciators,

This will be the second to last TF of what is, incredibly, Tash Friday’s second year.

Earlier this week, I had a look back at what I said around this time last year. As some of you may recall, last year’s festive TFs looked at Christmases Past, Present and Future.

In the final TF of 2011, I said this:

With the Tash of Christmas Future, I hope that we can all look ahead to the things that can be achieved or, more excitingly, attempted. After all, it is only by pushing ourselves beyond what we perceive as our capabilities that we can really test our mettle. It’s also at these times that we tend to find that we are capable of doing more, and going further, than we thought possible.

If you look back at 2012 you can see numerous examples of people who did just that:

Closer to home, 2012 has seen numerous new jobs (100% decrease in unemployment among Tash Appreciators); new houses; exotic holidays; an engagement or two; weddings; and what would appear to be, in the main, relative contentment.Friday morning rhetoric about getting stuck in, aiming higher than just an “acceptable” level and about life being too short is one thing but it looks very much like this year exceeded expectations. If we had sat down a year ago, and recorded our hopes for the year, would we have thought ourselves too ambitious by suggesting that all of the above would happen? Yes, is probably the answer.

The question we therefore have to ask ourselves is: what’s next?

We must be ambitious, enthusiastic, vigorous and determined. The coming year will not bring financial prosperity for the nation or even, dare I say it, any indication that we’re on the right track towards it. However, this year has shown we can do just fine; even in times of relative hardship. Onwards and upwards must be our battle-cry!

So that leaves us with this week’s Tash. Serendipitously, Bowie just faded into my earphones and so, with the words “just for one day…” ringing in my ears, I leave you with this week’s Tash (from the excellent movie The Prestige), David Bowie:

See you next week for the end of year/world edition…Cheers.