Janus was the Romans’ two-faced god – but wasn’t a politician’s patron.

He was the god of new beginnings and perspective on the old, not selfishness and age-old greed. And my perspective on the past? It’s that we’re condemned to continue it, at least for the immediate future.  So…today I’ll use one of Janus’ faces to look back your favourites from my past year’s postings under my own name. While my subject matter didn’t change much from previous years, my style did. Since people respond a lot more to soundbites than blogs, I switched emphasis, using my photo library as backgrounds for my own thoughts and whatever quotes that caught my fancy.

Damn, it worked! Over two million sets of eyeballs saw my stuff on FB, Twitter and directly on my blog.

I wasn’t particularly surprised that some quotes by famous folk topped the list, which made me truly appreciate all the people who spent some time with my own thoughts. I was surprised, however, that some of my photos and 600-word blogs finished in the top rankings, as well. A million thanks are due to all the people who liked, shared and retweeted me.

If you feel that Alice in Wonderland is an appropriate way to kick off the new year, you’re agreeing with nearly 17,000 other people.

If you prefer to reflect on the source of so much political angst, join nearly 15,000 others. Along with Lewis Carroll’s Alice, these James Baldwin and Martin Luther King quotes ranked in the top ten of every metric I looked at.

Neck and neck for the next place on the chart are the optimism of GK Chesterton and the cynical realism of Garry Kasparov. Read More

Who am I this time? A Taoist or Dowist?

Am I simply appreciating the steps on my journey – or counting and analyzing them? Well this week it’s time for me to be a Dowist and take some counts to see what you’ve appreciated over the past year.

With so many ways to count things – total impressions, engagement, likes, retweets, shares and the rest, I could easily develop a case of paralysis by analysis [an occupational hazard from all those years in media]. But I won’t, because I’ve got better things to do. As I expected, a few of my favourites weren’t yours. And a few of your favourites surprised me.  Aside from a clear choice of number one, popularity tended to occur in bunches, with lots of ties or rankings separated by one or two readers out of thousands. Not bad, considering that there are over 300 images on the website with about half appearing in social media. https://tao-not-dow.org/tao-not-dow/galleries/

So…here goes –

Number one, with no other image even coming close, was a quote from a Qing Dynasty commentary on the Tao, showing that fake news isn’t a new phenomenon. The same commentary gave us a second member in the top ten, showing that Goebbels’ Big Lie is not only common currency today but thrived thousands of years ago. At least the ancient Chinese didn’t have to deal with today’s media environment.

Numbers two, three and four also reflect today’s political life, not only ranking high in total readership but also in retweets and engagement [clicks, comments and similar involvement beyond just looking]. Read More

“I can but no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.”

Twelfth Night, Act III, Sc 3

While I hope I haven’t become one of those people who need to rely on the kindness of strangers…my six-month old Shakespeare’s Tao Twitter page just topped 2,000 followers and I’ll be damned if I know more than a handful of them. It’s a bit early for serious number-crunching, but this milestone, combined with the season, led me to a quick year-end analysis.

But first, as the year wraps up, I’m glad that I’ve found it fun to put the website together and then share it on FB and Twitter. It’s been fun – and a bit of work – going through my memory banks and researching to find Shakespearean quotes that match Lao Tsu in both spirit and text. It’s been a bit easier going through my old photos to match images to the quotes. This was a considerably longer process, since the photos brought back so many wonderful memories and generated some wonderful daydreams.  The result? A website with 131 Shakespearean quotes for people to use and abuse. When you get there you’ll see a Shakespearean sampler, with my own favourites, as well as a tab with the full collection. https://tao-not-dow.org/tao-not-dow/galleries/

OK, so much for me. What do other people like? Well, since both Shakespeare and Lao Tsu spent a lot of time on the use and abuse of power, a few images jumped to the top of the list, with “likes” and “shares” spiking whenever the Tweeter in Chief did something more outrageous than usual.

Number one on the hit parade: “It is excellent to have a giant’s strength” from Measure for Measure. [Over 10,000 hits and counting]

Next in line, running neck and neck with each other, are “The fool doth think he is wise” from As You Like It and “An empty vessel makes the loudest sound” from Henry V.

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Is it just me – or did your 2017 evaporate before it began?

Politicians usually bury an important story amidst assorted chaff in late-in-the-week press conferences. Well it’s now late-in-the-year for most of us, but I don’t have anything of particular importance to bury. So there aren’t any long stories or random philosophizing this week – just a few memories from the past year’s circuit around the sun. Hope the year you’re wrapping up gave you more good stories than bad.

Living across from a hospital, I’m used to seeing hospital entryways populated by patients with their flimsy open-backed gowns flapping in the breeze while they puff away with one hand on their cigarette butt and the other keeping their IV pole from rolling down the street. A third hand might be able to cover that other butt, but it’s not a priority to them. The other night I saw one better – I guy walked into a pub across from the hospital, still dressed in his flappy gown and fuzzy slippers. He ordered a pint, sat down and watched the soccer match. A few nights later I mentioned the incident to a nurse from a different hospital, who told me that being in a hospital is stressful enough without adding the stress of quitting tobacco to the mix. She changed the topic without addressing the man’s escape to the pub. Read More

When circuit boards replace synapses…

Please lend me your ears. That is, if you’re not using them – or what’s between them.

Many people don’t listen. To themselves. Or to anyone else, either. No, I’m not talking about ego, insecurity and willful ignorance of others. I’m talking about physical and mental awareness of ourselves and our place in things.

You’ve done it. I’ve done it. We think out loud. Read More

Lots of time to spare? Fly Norwegian Air!

I was lucky, others weren’t. When Norwegian Air cancelled three trans-Atlantic flights on the same Friday, following a series of similar cancellations all in the same week, they put us all on a Belfast flight, promising to bus the Cork, Shannon and Dublin passengers to their respective airports. I was returning from a business trip with a weekend to spare when I received their cancellation text on my way to the airport. Others had special events in their diaries, which they may or may not been able to attend, jet-lagged or not. Read More

A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a park –

along with an imam, some nuns of various stripes and a few people dressed in Eastern robes. One of these days I should probably learn how to identify a Hindu and Buddhist cleric on sight, as opposed to cosmology. The grouping wasn’t particularly unusual, since I was in an area where marches, rallies and demonstrations for one cause or another are commonplace – in addition to the weekend walks, runs and rides for whatever disease is fashionable this week.

As is usual with these things, no matter what your cause or politics, it feels good because you’re surrounded by fellow travelers, singing, chanting and marching together. Adrenaline’s a fun drug to have running through your system. And there’s even more of it around when you and your friends are making sure the TV cameras are getting good footage. On days like this it’s good to know we’re not alone in our beliefs. Pressing the pavement and flesh is a lot more satisfying than pressing “like” on our keyboard.  I recall watching some nurses clad in local hospital T-shirts enjoying a sociable smoke break with each other after they’d walked for a cancer cure. Read More

Hello, I must be going.

Thank you, North Carolina. You’ve been good to me. I’m pretty sure I’ve returned the favor, but I’m glad to be gone. We’ve each changed over the past 40-odd years. You’ve given me lifelong friends and memories of truly wonderful experiences. But over the past few years your arrogant, selfish political meanness has shown a dark side of yourself I can no longer tolerate.

A few days ago I sold my last business in the state. I’ll soon be filing my final tax return with you. I’m glad my tax dollars will no longer be supporting a racist, power-grabbing, misogynistic legislature. I’m sad to be leaving so many friends and compatriots still in the trenches, trying to reclaim the decency and civility that made you such a wonderful place – a place I used to be proud to call home. My old home was sheltered in one of those urban blue dots you myopically see as a blemish on your gerrymandered crimson maps. One of those places that drive your economic engine. If you’d been a bit more tolerant you might still be getting my money. Read More

It’s summer. Who are all these people in ski parkas?

OK, even though we’ve got palm trees, Ireland hasn’t been near the equator in 300 million years or so. Thanks to continental drift we’re far enough north these days for a lot of 17-hour summer days – and my only T-shirt accessory is a rain slicker. But all these people walking around town dressed for Gstaad in January? I wondered about these wanderers til I realized they were boat people – their ocean liners keep them on the breezy waters at 50+ degree latitudes and when they disembark to invade us in the morning it’s still a bit chilly. Mystery sort of solved.

While ocean liner travel isn’t my cup of tea or coffee, I understand its appeal to others. I’m glad to see these overdressed explorers wandering around town, as opposed to those who are herded onto buses for the Jamieson or Blarney tours before being shepherded back to their boat by sign-waving, clipboard-toting, whistle-blowing tour guides. I just hope things are as good for the truly local economy as the business cheerleaders make it out to be. Too many people appear to disembark, board the big bus, see the big site, then shop in designated spaces before being bussed back to a big meal on board. Read More

I wanted to spend money, but there was nothing worth buying

The Violence of the Dawn, from the Hunt Museum’s exhibition

It took me nearly two hours to go to another city. Add another two-plus hours exploring displays and listening to lectures. Then came the moment, one I’d anticipated with some joy. I wanted to buy another book. Not just any book, but a massive book that could collapse a coffee table. And it would be a book I’d actually pick up to read on a recurring basis. . .And it wasn’t there when I went to buy it. Read More