8 May 2015

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

How about that election, eh? I was really disappointed/pleased that [insert name] won/lost. I voted but the campaigns were so annoying that I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I felt like saying:

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Rather than boring you with election chat, I’d like to talk briefly about something which is hopefully a bit more interesting to everyone: holidays. With spring upon us (seriously, I know it doesn’t feel like it, but it is), it’s time to start looking ahead towards summer and the prospect of some time away.

I know that one Tash Appreciator was waiting until today – 8 May 2015 (I warned you I’d remember) – to even contemplate a holiday. When we spoke about it, he claimed that he didn’t know whether he’d be able to get away and he made the whole thing sound like a bit of a chore.

At the risk of being blunt, this chap is a numpty.

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A holiday is absolutely essential – even the Daily Mail says it’s good for you! I won’t dig deeper into the benefits of a holiday – they are obvious – but I will look at the only question which I think is relevant: do you go somewhere just to get away or do you set the bar higher than that?

When the numpty was spouting his nonsense about not having time to get away, there were three of us talking about holidays: me, the numpty and a third pal. The third pal and I were reminiscing about an excellent trip that a bunch of us went on a few years ago. The numpty wasn’t reminiscing because he turned down the invite to come with us. Anyway, the third pal said: “isn’t it about time we made some new memories rather than talking about old trips?”

I couldn’t agree with him more. On that basis, the answer to the question about how high to set the bar is that you set it as high as your budget and time will possibly allow. Go somewhere far away; where there aren’t “British” pubs and you can’t get Eastenders on the telly; go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go and see the things you’ve always wanted to see.

To the numpty (and anyone else who’s swithering about getting away this summer): consider the gauntlet thrown. Get yourself online and get something booked as soon as you possibly can. When it gets to October, you’ll regret it if you haven’t been away. Hell, come with me or meet me there – I’m away from 21 July to 5 August.

As if the prospect of time off work and relaxation wasn’t enough, going on holiday gives you the opportunity to live like Tom Selleck: you too could lie on a hammock; with a terrible shirt; drinking cocktails out of a pineapple with pink flowers decorating it.

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Don’t worry ladies, you can get in on the action too. I found this delightful number on Amazon for a mere $12!

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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?

How it starts

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

In season one of The Sopranos, Christopher Moltisanti – the youngest member of the Soprano crime family and desperate to be a “made guy”  – tries and fails to write a screenplay. The frustration he feels in not being able to write the script mirrors the frustration he feels in relation to the rest of his life. He realises that the narrative arc which he cannot create in his screenplay matches what he perceives to be the lack of an arc in his own life. He thinks he’s getting nowhere.

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One of the many great facets of The Sopranos is that we identify with its characters, even though their behaviour is far removed from our own experiences. Many of us will, at times, feel like we’re getting nowhere. What Christopher soon finds out is that life isn’t like in the movies – we don’t have one pivotal moment where are lives are changed and our “real” narrative begins. Our lives are full of pivotal moments and it’s up to us to notice them and take action to either use them as opportunities or correct our course.

In the real world, our lives can change on account of the most unlikely and seemingly insignificant things. For example, I wonder what would have become of this fresh-faced young man had he not decided to sport a Tash and go into show-business?

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As this is TF, we have to say that we don’t think he would have been so successful.

Equally, I wonder what could have happened to this week’s Tash had he not taken steps to change his life after this picture was taken?

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That’s Tim Allen in 1978, shortly after his arrest while carrying 650 grams of cocaine. He would later be convicted of drug trafficking and serve just over two years in prison. He was released in 1981, 10 years before the start of Home Improvements, the show which would make him famous and propel his career and his life in a more productive direction.

The point I’m trying to make is that Christopher Moltisanti was wrong – he thought that he had to wait for something to happen before he could start living. What he didn’t understand was that we control our own narratives. Sure, there are unexpected twists and turns along the way but that’s what happens in life and it’s up to us to make sure we stay on track and get to where we want to go

This week’s TF is the first of a trilogy. We’ve now talked about how we get started, the next step is working out what to do next.

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

You better, you better, you bet!

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

I was talking to a fellow Appreciator about how I couldn’t think of anything to write this week. Her one bit of advice was: “just don’t make it about Valentine’s Day.” The thing is, that is exactly what this week’s TF is going to be about.

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I suspect that many of you will not be fans of Valentine’s Day. The usual complaint about that it’s a creation of the American greetings card industry. After a bit of reading, it’s clear that’s not the case. It apparently dates back to an early Christian festival celebration of Saint Valentinus. These days, it is far less “Americanised” than Halloween or Christmas.

I don’t mind there being a day set aside for people to show their affection for one another. My complaint is that, if you engage with Valentine’s Day, all you can do is meet expectations or be excruciatingly unoriginal.

If you’re in a relationship, you either have to make some kind of gesture (which, ordinarily, would be appreciated but on Valentine’s Day is seen as normal) or you do nothing and run the risk of inflicting upset upon your significant other.

The Who summed up this sorry state of affairs in “You Better You Bet” when Roger Daltrey sings:

“When I say I love you, you say ‘you better’

You better, you better, you bet!”

If you’re single, you might get texts from your single pals with dubious rallying cries lifted from Beyoncé songs (“all the single ladies” springs to mind). Worse still, you might receive condescending head tilts from those smug folk who offer consolation in the form of platitudes: “plenty of fish in the sea” etc.

At least all of us are in the same boat in a couple of respects: dating companies will be doing their utmost to buy our email addresses from any source – legitimate or otherwise – and will then endeavour to clog our inboxes with offers of free trials of their websites. Not only that, none of us will be able to go out for food as every restaurant will have bumped their prices up by a minimum of 50%.

There is, however, one group of people who won’t give Valentine’s Day a second thought: men with moustaches. Some of these men – the ones who really know how to rock their Tash – transcend the single v. relationship dynamic of Valentine’s Day because everyone appreciates them. Therefore, Valentine’s Day for them is just like any other. Here are some classic of examples of the sort of chaps I mean:

Clark Gable

Clark Gable

 

Jean Dujardin

Jean Dujardin

 

Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn

Have a great weekend folks!

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!

#keepgoing

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!
#keepgoing

Tashcrawl 2014

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

First this week, an announcement. Quite independently of TF HQ, a sub-crawl (it has apparently been christened by one particularly poetic Appreciator as a “Tash-Crawl”) will take place tomorrow in Glasgow. I understand it will start with a large lunch at the Counting House and the first stop will be at around 2pm at Times Square, next to St Enoch Square station. All are welcome and although Tash related apparel is recommended, it’s not essential. The arrangements will be on Facebook and twitter. There is a fair possibility that, during the course of the afternoon, this:

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May turn into this:

 
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For those who may not be familiar with Glasgow’s subway system, the Tash-Crawl is but the latest incarnation of a very old Glaswegian activity – the subcrawl. Only in Glasgow would people willingly spend the best part of a day travelling in a smelly old orange train purely in the interests of finding a novel way to have fifteen drinks. What makes this even stranger is that Glaswegian comedy duo Francie and Josie used an entirely complimentary song about the subway in their set:
 

 
It’s strange where people get their enjoyment from, I suppose, and another example of that is the release this week of Grand Theft Auto V: the fifth incarnation of what must be one of Scotland’s most successful exports.
 
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GTA, as it’s usually called, has made Dundee/Edinburgh’s Rockstar North over £500 million in it’s first week and is apparently even more popular than a good Subcrawl. Some people will find it difficult to understand where the fun is in a game where the player is encouraged to commit a variety of pretty awful crimes. Some may even think the game is dangerous.
 
TF isn’t a platform from which to preach morality and I’ve got nothing to add to the debate about whether games like GTA should be allowed. However, what I will say is that we should be pleased that a Scottish product has managed to be so successful for so long. What is clear is that regardless of whether it’s a subcrawl (which could hardly be said to be healthy) or a violent video-game, people tend to be interested, now and again, in things that aren’t good for them.
 
This week’s Tash is a man whose activities would easily fit into the plot of GTA. Although he’s a dangerous and unpleasant chap, we still find him interesting. There have been numerous news reports about him over the years and Eric Bana even starred in a film about his life. I’m talking about Mark “Chopper” Read:
 
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If you’re wondering where his ears are, he asked one of his pals to cut them off with a razor blade while in prison. See what I mean, you’re interested, aren’t you!
 
Have a great weekend folks!
 
#keepgoing