Money talks

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

In 2002, a man from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was given a six-month suspended sentence; two days of house arrest; and ordered to undertake 48 hours of community service following his conviction for two counts of domestic violence and one count of battery.

In 2004, he was convicted of two counts of battery against women; was given a one-year suspended sentence; counselling; and either a $1,000 fine or 100 hours of community service.

In 2010, he was again found guilty of domestic violence. This time, he was sentenced to 90 days in prison; 100 hours of community service; and a $2,500 fine

Tomorrow, the same man will make a minimum of $180m for a maximum of 36 minutes’ work.

Tash Friday 1:5:15

Disturbingly, it seems that all of Floyd Mayweather Jnr’s illegal acts of violence against women are nought compared to the 47 times he’s entered a professional boxing ring and left victorious. I’m sure this appalling turn of events has everything to do with television companies supporting the rehabilitation of convicted criminals rather than it being purely about the vast amounts of money which people will pay to watch the fight.

Apart from his character as a man, I also question Mayweather’s claim that he’s the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all time. His argument seems to be that he is the greatest because he’s won all 47 of his professional fights.

Boxing is strange in that way: it’s basically one massive game of “winner stays on”. Mayweather is the boxing equivalent of a 38-year-old student (who’s been a student since they were 17) in the Uni Union who claims to be a world-class pool player just because they’ve beaten every punter that’s had the audacity to play them. You know the guy I mean, he brings his own cue and refuses to let you play against your pals.

Mayweather has avoided Manny Pacquiao (his opponent on Saturday) for so long that you have to assume he’s only fighting him now because he’s sure he’ll win.

Speaking of Pacquiao – who’s this week’s Tash, by the way – apart from an issue about not paying his taxes, he’s much more my type of guy: he’s fought everyone (he’s had 57 fights compared to Mayweather’s 47); has lost five times; come back from each defeat; and even been elected twice to the Philippine House of Representatives.

I really hope that Mayweather catches a glimpse of the following image a split second before finding himself flat on his back looking up at the lights in the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Tash Friday 1:5:15 2

As it happens, the big fight in Vegas isn’t the only Battle Royale taking place this weekend. I’m due to enjoy a “sociable” bike ride up some stupidly unpleasant stretches of road in horrible weather on Saturday. The trash talk for this race has been raging for weeks and we’ll see who comes out on top. I suspect no-one will leave with their dignity intact. Perhaps more about that next week.

Anyway, whether you’re staying up until 4am on Sunday morning to watch Mayweather get clobbered, or just taking it easy, have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

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This could be the last time

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

In the past, TF has said that dealing with perceived defeat requires nothing more than picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and moving on. That’s too simplistic.

Let me give you two examples of what I mean – they’re both from The Shawshank Redemption. The story of Andy Dufresne’s  imprisonment after he was wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife has become a classic movie. You’ll also probably remember that the other main character in the film was Ellis “Red” Redding.

At first glance, you might imagine that it would be Andy who would have the most difficulty in dealing with his situation. However, he comes up with the phrase “get busy living or get busy dying”, which seems to give him the encouragement he needs to press on.

Tash Friday 31:10:14 3

Andy was faced with a tangible obstacle to his happiness – prison walls. In a way, a prison wall or another tangible barrier is easier to overcome than a mental barrier. It’s like looking into the abyss and realising that there may be a path around it. Knowing that there is something tangible on the other side of an obstacle can give a person hope that, one day, they will overcome. Sometimes, thinking to ourselves “get busy living or get busy dying” will be enough for us to pick ourselves up from whatever has gotten us down.

Red, on the other hand, had a different problem. After spending decades in prison, Red became – to use his words – “an institutionalised man”. He was faced with a physical and a mental barrier in that he had spent so much time in prison that his mind couldn’t contemplate anything else. He had stared into the abyss for too long and he needed more than self-motivation to help him survive his freedom. Many of us will have times in our lives when we need the support of others in the same way that Red did.

So what saved him? Well, Red’s thoughts after he left prison give us a clue:

“I find I’m so excited that I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel. A free man at a start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.

I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.

I hope.”

Like Chris Moltisanti in the Sopranos, Red is looking at his future as a journey which he wants to start. Like all of us, he hopes that he gets to where he wants to go. However, crucially, Red has identified that seeing his friend is an essential part of that journey and, in a way, would mark the end of it.

Tash Friday 31:10:14 2

The point of these three editions of TF is that ambition and resilience are not all that’s required to be successful (in the widest possible sense) in life. The third – and perhaps most important aspect of success – is what old John Donne said: “No man is an island, entire of itself”. LCD Soundsystem put it another way in the TF anthem “All My Friends” (which charts a person’s life) by ending with the words: “where are your friends tonight?”

Like Red, the time has come for this Tash Appreciator to embark on the next long journey. Rather than simply being excited, it’s a fairly scary proposition and all I can do is give it everything I’ve got and hope that it turns out ok. Unfortunately, the start of the next journey means the end of TF, at least for now. Part of the reasoning behind this final TF has been to acknowledge the help and support that I receive from many of you – I really do appreciate it and I am lucky to be able to say that the expression on Red’s face when he sees Andy on the beach in Mexico is one which I understand and probably quite often mirror. I hope that in return TF has added something to your Friday mornings over the last three or four years.

Also like Red, I have plans to reach the blue Pacific ocean but, until then, I will make do with the blue of Blue Dog in Glasgow at around 9pm. I’m hopeful that a few of my friends will be there tonight – you are all most welcome.

I shall leave you with two things. Firstly, this week’s Tash, which of course is Morgan Freeman:

Tash 31:10:14

And secondly, the question which I hope will continue to challenge all of us, regardless of whether TF is around to provide a weekly reminder:

What’s next?

Shut Up Legs

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

I’ve been making my way through a series of documentaries on the initial training of Navy SEALs this week. The series followed one class from the beginning to the end of their training.

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It turns out that SEAL training, particularly the first three weeks of it, is even more horrific than I had previously imagined. They call the first phase “two weeks and one long day”. The “one long day” refers to the third week of training, also known as Hell Week, where those wanting to become SEALs get up very early on Sunday morning and next go to bed on Friday night.

The purpose behind this torturous form of training turns out not to be a test of physical ability – these guys are already in good shape – it’s to teach them a lesson. The lesson is that their bodies are capable of withstanding more than they think possible and that the only thing holding them back is their mind.

To put the lesson in context, the first two weeks involve a series of “evolutions” which are carried out by boat crews of six. The evolutions range from each boat crew doing exercises while holding very large logs above their heads; to paddling rafts through/over impossibly large waves; to lying in freezing cold water for long periods of time.

Hell Week involves doing all of that for five or six straight days.

Tash Friday 19:9:14 4

As far as I’m concerned, surviving Hell Week should be impossible. That view is supported by the fact that the vast majority of those who start Hell Week do not make it past day two or three. However, by the third day, you can see that the prospective SEALs have simply stopped thinking about the pain and the fatigue. They no longer think; they simply do. They have gone beyond the mental barrier which in normal circumstances would have caused them to stop and they just get on with it.

In a less hostile environment, something similar happened last night. Jens Voigt, the 43 year old German cyclist, pushed his body to its limit by cycling a staggering 51.115km in one hour. That’s 400m further than the previous record.

I’m quite certain that Jens could have been a SEAL if he’d wanted to be. He’s well known – and incredibly popular – among cycling fans for his no-nonsense approach to riding and his seeming indifference to pain.

For those who haven’t heard of “The Jensie”, he retired last night but all year he’s been racing in a team where he’s been a pro longer than most of his team mates have been alive. But despite his age, the punishing pace which he sets when he’s racing is one that few can keep up with. That’s not because he’s physically in better shape than other riders (he’s clearly not), his ability comes from his mental strength. When his legs are screaming at him to stop, he simply says “shut up legs” and presses on. Seriously.

Not everyone can work at the level of Jens or SEALs – most of us will find that our brains will take over at some point and say “that’s enough”. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep taking ourselves to our limits and try to push them just a bit further away. In some cases, even where logic and reason says that something is impossible, we find that it is not. Sometimes glass ceilings can be smashed through and closed doors can be knocked down. I found that notion reassuring this week.

As for the Tash, Jens obviously rocked one:

Tash Friday 19:9:14

and it turns out the SEALs have been enjoying the benefits of a Tash since 1992 at least:

Tash Friday 19:9:14 2

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

 

Operation Zorro

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

Happy New Year to you all.

We all know that January is traditionally the time to set targets for the year ahead. For my part, I have/am committed to making changes this year. Not because I think what I’m doing now isn’t worthwhile, or because I feel like I need to “improve” myself, but because I want to set a series of targets and I will be delighted when I hit them. It doesn’t  matter what those targets are; all that matters is that I’ve set them and that I’m going to hit them.

To give myself a better chance of reaching my goals, I’ve been reading a bit about change. Although I risk incurring the wrath of Appreciators who are sick of hearing about cycling, I gained a good insight into the subject from Dave Brailsford, Team Principal of the wildly successful Team Sky. He describes his thinking as the “Triangle Of Change” and he says three elements are required:

1. You must be suffering enough, or the reward must be great enough, for you to engage with change.

2. You must believe that you are capable of change.

3. You must be committed to change.

What I take from this theory is that we won’t change simply because we feel that we should i.e. that feeling obliged to change isn’t enough. If we want to change, it has to be for ourselves. That seems healthy and sensible to me.

Although all three points of the triangle apply to me, I’ve decided to add another layer of carrot/stick. By sending out this TF, I’m also going out on a limb and saying that I’m committing to making these changes. This means that, if I fail, I’ll have to face you as well as myself. The added advantage to going out on a limb is that there’s a chance others will come out there with me.  It’s always easier to attempt things with the help of others.

I have also decided to give this project a name: Operation Zorro. There are three reasons for this: it makes the whole thing “real” rather than just some jumbled ideas; Zorro has many qualities which I admire (the wiki page refers to him being a superb athlete, acrobat, tactician, horseman, swordsman, marksman, unarmed combatant, well-educated, wealthy, master of stealth with extensive scientific knowledge and advanced gadgets. No-one sees him coming); and, crucially, Zorro rocks a Tash:

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Just one last point. I heard a quote (I don’t know where it originally came from) just before Christmas and it’s been buzzing around my head ever since:

“A year from now you’ll wish you’d started today.”

I’ve started already but you can start today, if you want.

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

Curtain Raiser

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

After an extended break, TF has reopened for business refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to raise the curtain on the next season of Tash Friday.

As this is the season opener, it seems only appropriate to go back to the roots of TF. Although the level of Tash related paraphernalia appears to be cresting a wave of popularity at the moment, that wave has been building for years. Even as far back as the turn of the last century, a Tash was seen as an essential element of what the “ideal man” should look like:

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That’s Eugen Sandow, the man who some people say was the father of modern body building.  He measured Greek sculptures to find the proportions of “The Grecian Ideal” and then lifted weights until he had sculpted himself into the desired shape. At the time this photo was taken (in around the mid 1890s), he was seen as having the ideal male physique. We can only assume, as he was a man that honed his appearance, that he saw his Tash as an essential element of what the ideal man looked like.

These days, we still attempt to sculpt ourselves. Some of us do it literally and work to achieve a desired body shape; while others take a more figurative approach and work until other ambitions are achieved. TF is here to encourage you to keep going and to press on towards those goals.

Back to today, one man who appears to have harnessed the power of the Tash to propel himself to greatness is this guy:

Looks like chicks really do dig him...

Looks like chicks really do dig him…

That’s Lachlan Morton, a 21 year old cyclist who, after starting to rock a Tash last month, has been putting a hurt on his competitors in literally every race he’s ridden . TF has been bike-heavy of late (and many of you have made your views on that clear) but, on this occasion, I make no apologies for including Mr Morton. The reason for that is the recent addition to his race-bike:

Tour of Utah, 2013
When he appeared at the start line with this first licence plate (he’s been using a couple in recent weeks), he raised a few eyebrows and I’m sure some saw it as a pretty arrogant move. However, not only does he not take himself too seriously, he knew something that his competitors didn’t: that he’d worked harder than them in the run-up to the race and that he was able to beat them; which he promptly did, all on his own.

That, fellow Appreciators, is  how it’s done. Hard work, and the confidence which comes with it, can be big factors in whether we are able to achieve our goals. One can imagine the reaction Eugen Sandow received when  the people of Victorian England saw that he was lifting weights in order to look like Greek sculptures! I suspect his response was the same as Lachlan’s – “I’ll show ’em…”

Have a great weekend folks!

#keepgoing

Redemption squared

Salut Tash Appreciators,

With the Tour de France starting in Corsica tomorrow, cycling is our starting and ending point this week:

Although that picture includes four world-class riders, it wasn’t taken in France, or anywhere with a particular culture of cycling. It was actually taken during the UK National Road Race last Sunday, which took place in Glasgow.

The front chap, in blue, is David Millar – Scotland’s top road cyclist. Some of you may have heard of him because of his “colourful” past as an ex-doper. He was caught, banned and almost jailed for his part in the doping culture of early 2000s. But since then, he has done more than anyone else in cycling to make/keep it clean. He always been proud of his Scottish background but Sunday seemed to have a special significance for him. You could tell that not only from his performance (which was superb) but also from the tweets he posted after the race:

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There are, as I see it, similarities between Millar and the city he was racing in: both have had a rough time and both looked like their best days were behind them. However, like Millar, Glasgow did itself proud on Sunday. The race itself was fantastic: it was well organised and well supported. But it also seems to have been good for other people too. For a start, it prompted the Council to fix the roads in the centre of town, which is a big deal for the drivers of Glasgow. Not only that, but the Council has carried on with the work and other roads are now being improved. It also got people excited about a sport which is growing in Scotland. I’ve heard stories of customers chatting about the race in shops, and if Instagram and Facebook are anything to go by, many folk who had no interest in cycling enjoyed it almost as much as the sad acts (like me) who watched it from beginning to end.

There are plenty of other things going on in the city at the moment too: the east end is more or less being re-developed for the Commonwealth Games; Strathclyde University is building what seems to be a new campus in the middle of town; and many of the huge tower blocks are being demolished to make way for more sociable social housing. If you look to the east of the country, the new forth crossing (have they picked a name for that yet?) is growing out of the depths at an impressive rate and on an impressive scale and if you look north Aberdeen seems to be booming.

We haven’t had a really positive message from TF for a few weeks now, primarily because there hasn’t seemed to be a lot to be positive about. However, that makes it all the sweeter when you look around and see things improving.

So, to the Tash. Unfortunately, Dave Millar appears to have never rocked a Tash. However, there’s a cyclist who will hopefully be on your screens for the next three weeks who does. I saw him riding in the Giro a few weeks ago and made a quick note of his name. Ladies and gents, this chap must be the happiest looking man ever to ride the Tour, Jose Perez:
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Have a fantastic weekend folks!
Keep going!

Salami Tactics

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

I apologise in advance for this weeks relatively short TF. Unfortunately, firing out this nonsense every week does not pay enough to allow the giving up of the day job or the employing of someone to cook and clean (if I’m honest, it doesn’t pay anything). Actually, the reason for my lack of time this week is that I need to wash and iron a Tash t-shirt for a dress-down-day at work tomorrow. 

I should also apologise to those of you who complained about the lack of a TF last week. The rule is that if I’m not in work, TF gets skipped too. I was in fact out and about in what felt like conditions like these:

 

Thanks to Mission Cycling; everyone’s got to have a dream. 

This week’s TF is just a brief update to alert you to the creeping influence of the Tash around the world. It’s been very apparent this week.  

In the west end of Glasgow, a (very nice) cycling-themed cafe is using the fact that their staff sport Tashes as part of their advertising campaigns:

 

If big Johnny David’s reaction is anything to go by, it’s having the desired effect. 

Our US correspondent has also dispatched a report pointing out that the sexiest man alive (at least according to People Magazine in 2006); and the nicest man on the planet (see Forest Gump, Apollo 13, The Green Mile etc) have been spotted rocking Tashes this week. They are, of course, George Clooney and Tom Hanks:

 

#swoon 

Anyway, my t-shirt is almost dry. Now comes the hard part: ironing. I will need to concentrate so I shall sign off by wishing you all yet another fantastic weekend!

Keep going.