Thankful Thursday XIV – The Wizard Of Oz…?

This Thankful Thursday, I’m thankful for The Wizard of Oz. Well, not exactly the movie with Judy Garland nor the Frank Baum book, although both have their merits. And they also inspired some great music that I love, like Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and the Scissor Sisters’ “Return to Oz”. Rather I’m thankful for it, and many others like it because it’s an example of a well-told story. And where would we be without those, be they in film, in print, or handed down orally generation to generation?

What’s more, it’s a prime example of one of the Seven Basic Plots…and where would aspiring writers like myself be without those role models to guide us?

As an aside, my early memories of the Wizard of Oz weren’t all that great. I was very little – maybe three years old – and in hospital, and they somehow got the local theatre company to perform the play (likely in quite scaled down form) in some sort of auditorium at the hospital. Those who were well enough to be transported out of their room to see it were. I vaguely remember it being a bit disturbing. I clearly remember being very disturbed and frightened when they sent the actors around the hospital. The witch came to my room…not a comfort for an ill three year old!

Some years later I overcame my Witch trauma and watched the movie, and quite liked it although agreeing with my mother that Judy Garland was probably too big and old to be a believable Dorothy. Regardless of that, it was an interesting film and doubtless ahead of its time in production values.

I likely didn’t give it any more thought until I hit my twenties. I picked up the then-trendy novel Bright Lights, Big City and loved its style, I was fast in line to see the movie adapatation. I read through reviews of it and was surprised that several made reference to it being a retelling of the Wizard, give or take. Seemed a bit of a stretch, but when one boiled it down, both were stories of someone being transported from somewhere simple (in fact, Kansas in both) to somewhere shinier and glossier (Oz for Dorothy, the Big Apple and its nightclubs for Bright Lights…), looking for excitement and new meaning, only to be put in harm’s way, ultimately disappointed and going home, more appreciative and wiser. Okay…maybe they had something there.

Years later, I would come across a fiction writing principal known as The Seven Basic Plots. The appropriately-named Christopher Booker had the idea that there were really only seven plots in all of the world’s great stories. There’s Overcoming the Monster (from Dracula to Star Wars), Tragedy , where the “protagonist is a hero with a character flaw or great mistake” (MacBeth, Bonnie and Clyde) , Comedy, which he suggests also needs conflict resolved in the end (Midsummer’s Night Dream, Four Weddings and a Funeral), Quests, something bigger than the person (think of the similarities in the wildly disparate Raiders of the Lost Ark and Monty Python and the Holy Grail) , Rags to Riches, which if successful should also include growth of the character (Cinderella, Great Expectations), Rebirths, where the flawed character grows and becomes anew (Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, Elizabeth & Darcy in Pride and Prejudice) and Voyages. Oz. Bright Lights, Big City. Alice In Wonderland. A fantastic journey leading the subject back home, a better person.

Now, it’s entirely possible that if you really think about it at length, you might be able to come up with a popular story, either book or film, that doesn’t fit any of those categories. Hats off to their creator if so… especially if it ended up being a story that resonated. But it’s remarkable how many great stories do fall into one of the seven categories. That’s handy for me, as a writer, to remember. And it’s handy for us all to remember by extrapolation – no matter how different our own stories seem from other people’s, chances are they’re not all that terribly different. There aren’t too many different life stories… the way that we choose to react to them, the tiny details are what make them memorable and separate the good from the bad… the Scrooges from the Darth Vaders.

The witch in the room or the likable Toto. Ultimately, we all decide how our story will be told.

Thankful Thursday XII- Libraries

One of my regular readers commented on my music blog about discovering a rather great but obscure Chet Atkins record at her local library. It was a good reminder of their value, so this Thankful Thursday, I’m thankful for public libraries. Former First Lady Laura Bush once offered that “I have found that the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card.” Indeed, if I wanted to be corny about it, I’d say it offers more of the world than your passort and more riches than a Visa card. But I won’t be corny…I’ll just think it instead!

I grew up just before the Golden Age of Google. As a kid in the ’70s and university student in the ’80s, there was no internet. There were books, periodicals, records (and later CDs). My family was literate, and I spent many an hour and allowance in book stores when young, but still, there were limits to what was in reach at home, whether for learning or recreational reading. By comparison, our local public library seemed limitless. The city where I grew up had three library branches, the main one being a sprawling, two-level place with virtual acres of novels and reference books, a kids section, a couple of full aisles of music CDs, foreign movies, perhaps 160-feet of shelves of magazines and newspapers. Forget candy shops…this kid was happiest in the library. My appreciation for Kurt Vonnegut, Oscar Wilde and many other authors came exclusively from happening upon a work of theirs and borrowing it, which sparked my curiosity enough to borrow more of their work. Likewise, I might never have really found bands I love like the Mescaleros or Wilco without having access to borrow CDs of theirs. If you’re a poor student, there’s a lot less at risk borrowing a CD for a week than going to the store and putting down $15 to buy it, sound unheard. And yes, in turn, I ended up buying quite a few of them for my own library in time. the library sponsored movie nights where they’d show small-budget or foreign films in the basement, movies one wouldn’t have seen on NBC or noticed as they gathered dust at the Blockbuster. Many a school assignment was roughed out while sitting in the stalls there, and when they began experimenting with introducing computers, much of my e-mail writing and reading was done at the public library… their service let me do more with the half hour allotted than I often could do at home in twice that with my spotty dial up service.

When I read through the book Our Towns by the Fallows, where they visited various towns and cities throughout the country which seem to be thriving, one thing they pointed out was that all of them seemed to have a vibrant library system. Besides the storehouse of knowledge in the books within, many are important community centers, offering adult education courses, life help for the homeless or destitute, community events like the movie nights in my old town, after-school programs to keep at-risk kids off the streets til their parents get home, you name it.

Albert Einstein once said “the only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” I know that Einstein was a pretty smart dude… so I sure won’t disagree.

Thankful Thursday VIII – Toilet Brushes

This Thursday I’m thankful for toilet brushes. And no, it’s not an April Fool’s joke.

Well, not exactly for the brushes, although they are useful implements to have hanging around in the bathroom. But one made me feel good yesterday. Perhaps a little explanation is in line.

My mother-in-law is quite elderly. For her age, she’s in great shape and quite feisty but still…she’s a little old lady. My sweetie and I have been actively discouraging her from going out into crowds in the past year with the pandemic raging. So most of her grocery shopping and trips to pick up prescriptions, we’ve been doing. Often she just needs basics – bread, tortillas, eggs, maybe some pork or ground beef. And candles. She loves burning her prayer candles, plain white please. We usually pick her up a few when we see them.

So this week, she needed one or two usual things…and a toilet brush. She still cleans her own bathroom and had thrown away the old one. I got one while doing our family’s shopping and took it over to her. She was happy to get candles, but really excited to get a simple toilet brush and its holder. A five buck plastic item. Useful no doubt, but not the thing of which many dreams are made. But she loved it. She was happy. That of course made me feel quite good in turn. Who knew a plastic brush and holder would bring such joy?

Simple story, simple moral. Sometimes it’s the smallest gestures that make the biggest differences and gifts can mean as much to the giver as the recipient. We all love making a huge difference in the lives of those around us and accomplishing great things. But this Thankful Thursday, I’m reminded of how special run-of-the-mill little favors and gifts can be.

Thankful Thursday III – A Waxwing Moment

It’s Thankful Thursday again, and today like others is a good day to be thankful. I actually had a draft of today’s ready to go yesterday – and it may see the light of day later – but I had a nice little moment earlier today that I to replace it with.

While out running many errands – many boring errands – grocery shopping, filling up the car, driving a relative to work – I needed to drop off a package at a courier drop-off center in a big box store. I pulled into the parking lot, got a spot at the edge of the lot and found a whole flock of Cedar Waxwings flitting about in the trees right in front of my car. Waxwings are a bird that perhaps could earn the designation “charming”. Small, elegant looking little sparrow-sized birds with a crest like a cardinal and a mask like a Raccoon, and when you see them in the right light and angle, little bright patches of yellow and red. Little birds that have human-like traits of being highly gregarious (you seldom see one waxwing) and a slight tendency towards drunkenness. You see, waxwings like berries more than anything else, and if they’ve fermented on the tree… well, you get tipsy birds. Unlike humans though, the tipsy birds don’t seem to fly at each other or shoot one another.

Anyway, I opened the door of the car and expected them to take off, but instead, a few flew and others kept on looking for berries in the tree and hopping around not far from my feet. I snapped a few photos with my phone which is most definitely not high-def but captures the moment at least. As I did, with the birds flying around me, a car pulled over to the side of the road, window rolled down and a lady yelled out at me “what kind of birds are they?” I called back that they were called waxwings. “They’re adorable” she answered before driving on her way.

It was not a dazzling event, and I was walking into the building three or four minutes later to do the task I had come for. But it was a nice little moment. For a couple of minutes I was not thinking about the best route to avoid traffic to the next stop, money, or anything else other than enjoying the outdoors and the active little birds which were going on about their business of the day. The passerby who noticed and appreciated it encouraged me more.

And that is often the key to being in a good mindset. You don’t win the lottery, get promoted from sweeper to CEO or get to be on the cover of ‘Great People Of The World” magazine everyday. But if you look around you, you probably do get the special little fleeting moments no matter where you are. Learn to enjoy them and you’ll find the mundane becomes a lot more magical.

Thankful Thursday II : Take Me Out To The Ballgame

This Thursday I’m thankful for baseball being back.

Yes, the boys of summer are back, with all 30 Major League clubs opening up their spring training camps by today. Mind you, not all players have to report to the camps in Florida and Phoenix until month’s end, when the first exhibition games will begin taking place and the first few days usually consist of little more than a handful of players – largely unproven ones eager to compete for a spot on the roster – doing a few stretches and jogging around the field. But still… baseball is back. With it, hints of a long, lovely summer ahead and flashbacks to generations of summers gone by. …

When I lived in Canada, Spring Training held a special place in my heart because it was something hopeful. Winter’s there were long and dark, but when baseball began revving up its engines, there was hope in the air that spring might find a way to arrive after all. It usually beat the first northward bound Robins back by about two weeks. I often aspired to, but never quite made it to, visiting Dunedin (a St. Petersburg suburb that’s training site to my beloved Blue Jays) in March to get a look at the year’s edition of the team up close with a big helping of warm sunshine on the side. This year, for the first time since I moved south, it has that very same appeal, beginning in a week where we’ve been housebound for days after 0-degree weather and two major snow and ice storms. The thought of a sunny afternoon watching a double play unfold is doubly appealing.

I’m unusual as a Canadian. As a small kid, I didn’t mind watching hockey and collected hockey cards like the rest of the boys in my neighborhood, but my heart was with the Boys of Summer. I loved playing ball when I had the chance (my friends who watched me drop ball after ball or run away from incoming flyballs probably didn’t love it as much when I did!), loved watching the few games that were televised back then and poured over the stats on the back of the cards I collected. It seemed the perfect game to me. It was best enjoyed in fine weather, in the sunlight on a grassy field. Lots of math, lots of strategy, lots of big personalities, the game playing itself out as it might without regards to a clock. It was like chess in that…and yes, little nerdy me played chess too! Of course, maybe that wasn’t so unlike other Canadian kids. Baseball trivia buffs are often surprised to find out how many times Toronto, Canada has had the highest attendance of any big league team for the year outdrawing baseball “meccas” like Boston, New York and St. Louis. Back then, for reasons hard to remember, I was a Cincinnati fan and when our family drove back from Florida and crossed the Ohio River, I looked out at the stadium like a Muslim approaching Mecca. That was the house of Pete Rose. Johnny Bench. Joe Morgan.

Of course, as I got a bit older, my hometown (approximately) got its own team and I was soon converted to a Blue Jays loyal. The first few years they were bad, but they played with heart and had cool caps. Then they got good and it got really exciting. When they finally got to the World Series in 1992, life in the city changed. Temporarily and for the better. Everyone was a fan. Everyone wanted to talk about the Jays. Wear a tie with the Blue Jays logo in to work and everyone was your friend. Customers who’d usually complain their order wasn’t ready on time or about a price increase were all smiles discussing that incredible glove of ‘Devo’ or ‘who knew Sprague was that good, eh!’. There were no Liberals or Conservatives, Whites or Blacks, there was just a city of baseball fans.

Of course, since 1993, there’ve been ups and downs for the Toronto fans…more down than up frankly… but a winning streak still has the magical power to unite the city. A lot has changed in the game too. Strategies have changed, computers have largely replaced old-fashioned scouts watching players and there’s less subtlety to the games… fewer bunts, fewer pitchers trying to pick off a runner, more big hitters swinging for the fences with no regard to just getting on base. But still, it’s baseball. America’s pastime.

Hope springs eternal they say, and in spring hope’s eternal for ball fans. Everyone’s in a first-place tie. There’s a long summer of games for that to change during; a long season of “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” being played, just as it was 50, 80 years ago. And after a year of Covid lockdowns, a winter of ice and snow, the idea of the familiar seems rather great.

Washington Could Learn How To Behave From The Beehive (State)

I’ve never been to Utah. Never much wanted to go either. It seemed to me to incorporate most of the bad traits of the American West and not so many of the good. Dry, shapeless arid desert land with the scorching summers of mid-Texas but snowy, cold winters of my homeland to the north. Arid miles broken only by one big lake …which is salty.A huge, mysterious military base conspiracy theorists say took over from “Area 51” when Nevada became too touristy. Besides a few scenic rock arches in the south of the state, not a lot to see and one mid-sized city notable for being the home of the Mormon Church. But maybe I owe the state an apology, because at least politically, it seems to be the shining light for the entire U.S.A.

I’m referring to newfound heroes Spencer Cox and Chris Peterson. Cox is the state’s Lieutenant Governor, Peterson a professor. Both are running for Governor this November. And both have done something revolutionary for the times – they have agreed to be civil, to respect one another and the public as well. They appeared in a couple of TV ads which quite unlike the typical political ad of the day, they smile and tell voters “we can disagree without hating each other.” It seems like it’s so obvious that it shouldn’t need to be said, but alas, this is 2020. So they are revolutionary, and to them I say “amen” and “bravo.”

The pair appeared today on the Today Show and told Savannah Guthrie, controversial host of last week’s discussion with Donald Trump, that they for the most part like each other and respect one another. Both said they would listen to the other on significant issues if elected.

“We can debate each other without degrading the other’s character,” Peterson, the Democrat says. If only the big boys in Washington could take note and do the same. “Our common values transcend our political differences.”

Cox, the Republican, said people “are hungry for decency” and “as our national dialogue continues to decline, my opponent and I decided to try something different. Let’s make Utah an example to the nation.” Both agree that the “peaceful transfer of power (is) integral to what it means to be American.”

Amen to them both for stating the obvious. Or what should be the obvious but in this day and age is not, even to the sitting President.

I don’t know what big issues in Utah state politics are this year and don’t have specifics on what either candidate suggest to rectify the problems. But I know if I was in Utah, I’d be reasonably confidant good solutions to the problems could be achieved and not be too worried whichever candidate won. Either seem like they have the decency and intelligence to make a good governor. Hell, why stop there. With their “radical” way of thinking, I daresay many Americans might not mind having either one in the White House.

Sad to have to say that saying civility and courtesy still matter. But the fact that a Republican and a Democratic opponent are saying so gives me hope for the future of the land.

May Hooray, The Sequel

Flipping around on Netflix a few nights back, I came up with a remedy. Not a cure but a surefire way to “chill” and probably get you snoozing happily quickly. Bob Ross. Never has the world needed Bob more. Sadly, he’s passed away but his TV shows live on full of their “happy little accidents.”

For the uninitiated, Ross was the huge-haired neo-hippie painter who had a long-running show, The Joy of Painting, on PBS in the ’80s and ’90s. Each episode, he’d start with a blank,or nearly so, canvas and quickly in under half an hour work his magic to create a pleasantly predictable landscape painting, full of mountains and little trees in the mist and often a little cabin for someone to live in and enjoy the view. Ross loved nature and every so often would bring in some animals. he particularly liked squirrels and seemed to always have a brood of foster baby squirrels he was raising, “the cutest little devils” in his parlance.

He’d narrate his painting in a stream-of-consciousness patter using catchphrases which now adorn t-shirts : “happy little accidents” for instance, when something didn’t look like you wanted in the painting. He narrated, and narrated with a voice so mellow and low-key he made characters like Venus Flytrap (on WKRP in Cincinnati) seem like hell-raising hooligans by comparison.

Ross was talented and probably turned more people onto dabbling around with paints than any other artist in the late-20th Century. He had talent but was often derided by critics for his predictability and triteness; a Norman Rockwell of the landscape if you will. If artists like Jackson Pollock were the “punk rockers” or new wavers of the visual arts world, Ross was its Carpenters, or Burt Bacharach.

Quiet, calm, predictable and soothing like a bowl of Campbell’s soup and grilled cheese. Watching the world around us, I think the world has never needed Bob and his squirrels more.

May Hooray 7

It’s a shame when doing our best to stay healthy results in us living in a less healthy and pleasant environment! So I was pretty happy to come across this story over the weekend.

A company called Avantium has found a way to make “plastic” water or soft drink bottles out of plants instead of traditional oil-based plastics. The result is a bottle which doesn’t require nearly as much fossil fuel, and which won’t stay around forever and ever if not properly recycled. With literally tens of millions of bottles being discarded by the day, they’ve become a huge water pollution problem in the oceans as well as a visual blight in our parks and cities where too few are bothered to put them in a blue bin to recycle, or even find a garbage can. And if they do end up in the garbage, they quickly fill up landfills. Ecowatch say that about 50 billion – billion – plastic water bottles were sold in the U.S.alone last year, up from 42 billion in 2015. And of those, only 23% get recycled. Container Recycling say an average of 60 million plastic bottles (water and pop) go into American landfills daily, or about 22 billion per year. With an average weight of 9 grams (or about 1/3 ounce) per bottle these days, that relates to 225 000 tons of plastic waste per year… and as much being simply tossed out along the roads or in parks or parking lots by the more slobbish among us. These bottles require millions of gallons of oil to make, and take hundreds of years to decompose if dumped. No wonder many were thirsty for a better way to keep from being dehydrated.

Avantium’s bottles are said to decompose naturally in no more than three years if left outside, possibly less in some environments, and being of plant material are biodegradable and if not actually helpful, at least not harmful to the environment. They “can be recycled, or returned to nature without harm,” the company suggests. Currently they’re using corn or sugar beets to make the product, but they soon hope to be able to use “biowaste” – things like the husks of the corn we assume – to do he same without negatively impacting the food supply.

Happily Coca Cola has pledged to have all their “plastic” bottles made of this or other biodegradable products as soon as 2023, as does Danone (a maker of some bottled waters and drinks as well as yogurt.) Brewer Carlsberg are trying out cardboard bottles with a liner made of the Avantium bio-plastic for their beer in some markets. We hope that Pepsico, Dr. Pepper, Anheiser Busch and other mass manufacturers of cold drinks will follow suit, and in the meantime, raise a glass – or plastic bottle- to Avantium and Coke, Danone and Carlsberg.

May Hooray 6

If there’s one store I miss going into lately (due to the pandemic restrictions), it would be the city’s Barnes & Noble bookstore. I love books, love magazines, love reading. Checking out an eight-foot section of current best-sellers at Walmart doesn’t quite compare, and while Amazon exceeds the range and breadth of selection a 20 000 square foot brick-and-mortar outlet can provide, it lacks the ambience. It lacks the tactile experience. It lacks $3 cups of coffee! And of course, it doesn’t generally provide the great level of surprise that I get when I go in to a store and see something I’d never heard of on the shelves but can’t live without anymore. I’d wager that about half all the books I’ve bought in the past five years have been ones I’d not heard of and wasn’t looking for until I saw them in the store, started reading the slipcover and was hooked.

Anyway, I’ve been reading a bit more than usual during these times, as I hope many of you have been too. The book I’m just about finished right now is My Squirrel Days by actress Ellie Kemper. Many of you would know her from her role as Erin in The Office, but as an infrequent viewer of that (I liked the limited British series that was adapted for the U.S., back in the day, but somehow never really got into the Steve Carell version) I just knew her name a little and non-specifically, and thought “hey, a redhead and a squirrel on the cover. It doesn’t get much better than that!”

And it is quite good, although not Pulitzer Prize good nor fall on the floor laughing funny. It’s witty at times and a good-natured little memoir of a B-list actress who seems likable enough. But that’s not the point of this. The point is, I was able to pick it up for free. And it doesn’t get much better than that! Frankly, it’s not something I would have bought even if discounted from the $26 cover price, but that’s where today’s topic comes in – Little Free Libraries. I picked it up on a whim at a neighborhood one of those while dropping off a book or two I was done with that might brighten or enlighten someone else’s day.

If you’re not familiar with Little Free Libraries, maybe you should be. The “libraries” are little depositories of books that typically volunteers have on their lawns. The idea is simple. They put up what looks like a large mailbox outside their place. Many go to great lengths to creatively decorate theirs, but even if it’s just a plain wooden box, it still serves the same purpose. People who have books they don’t want or have room for anymore drop them off in them. At the same time, anyone can stop at it and help themselves to a book or two if they want. Like one of those “leave a penny, take a penny” trays at a checkout, only for books. And occasionally magazines or movies as well, I find. Since I started noticing around them in my adopted city a few years ago, I’ve come to visit them fairly regularly, dropping off books I figure more likely to gain dust than my renewed attention in the next few years, and picking up a number of ones I’ve read.

The non-profit that runs the service won a World Literacy Award this year and estimate they have around 100 000 little libraries around the world. I’m aware of six or seven around my county, and doubtless there are quite a few more…and some near you too.

Now, it is true that long before “Little Free Libraries” there were big free libraries thanks to our municipalities. Obviously they rather dwarf the little ones in selection and orderliness, given that the little ones usually top out at a few dozen books. But the little ones have some things going for them too.

First, as they point out, they’re open 24/7. Rather more convenient to find something to read on a rainy weekend if it’s 11 o’clock at night. And, since you can actually take the books, there’s no deadline on returning them. No late fees should you forget about them. No library cards needed either.

The big thing they have though is proximity and visibility. City libraries are often few and far between, and not always conveniently located for those without cars. The little libraries aim to be right in the neighborhoods people live in and walk (or drive) by every day. That’s especially useful for kids on their way to school and indeed one of the main objectives they have is to get books into the hands of children who don’t have many – or any- at home. Their figures show that academically, children who grow up without books at home lag three years behind children who have well-stocked bookshelves and read frequently at home. They hope to let some of those kids catch up. As well, the little boxes o’books help promote community, with neighbors meeting more neighbors and getting involved in their own neighborhood. All of that seems like good reason to cheer.

So if you’re “Marie Kondo-ing” while waiting out this virus*, you might want to investigate and see if there isn’t a little library near you to drop off the books that are straining your shelves. And who knows – you might even find a fun book about an actress you didn’t know of . And, if you’re very lucky, maybe even her rodent.

 

*it’s of course worth mentioning that it pays to be cautious right now with the corona virus situation. It’s advisable to wear gloves right now if you’re going to use one of the libraries and, of course maintain social distancing if your neighbors are out there too. And as the CDC note that the virus can live for several days on hard surfaces (Healthline say it can survive on paper up to 4 days), currently it might be wise to file away any new acquisition from them for reading a little later on.

Photo – Waco Tribune Herald

May Hooray 5

Rock musicians get a bad rap at times. Of course some are dumb as posts, but that could be said of many professions from truck drivers to store clerks to senior politicians as well. Many however have a lot going on. There are ones who’ve worked as teachers (Sheryl Crow, Bryan Ferry and Sting to name just three), ones who’ve written books, ones who are pilots (Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden has worked as a commercial jet pilot in his down time from the band), others that have turned successfully into other arts like painting (John Mellencamp, Richard Butler of Psychedelic Furs) or photography (Michael Stipe, Chris Stein of Blondie).

One of the quirkier characters in the field is David Byrne, the former singer of Talking Heads. He formed the band while studying art and design at university in Rhode Island and put together some of the most unusual and ground-breaking rock of the late-’70s and early-’80s. He wrote a movie (True Stories) and as eclectic as the band was, found them too confining. He quit and has worked on other movie soundtracks, (one of which won an Academy Award for Best Original Score), several Broadway plays, formed his own record company to promote obscure World Music largely from Africa and published a book of botanical sketches he drew. And he’s an avid cyclist and has worked extensively to make New York City more bike-friendly. Whew! Writing it makes me feel a bit lazy for sitting around at night saying “OK, one more re-run of That 70s Show before cleaning the dishes.

Anyhow, he comes to mind because I was writing about him a few days back on my music blog. Another blogger there, Msjadeli brought another project of Byrne’s to my attention. A website, designed to help us feel a bit more optimistic in these trying times. The name says it all – Reasons to be Cheerful.  Subtitled “News for when you’ve had too much news”, it’s an interesting site. There’s a a hodgepodge of stories that do indeed lend one to seeing more light at the end of the tunnel; stories of smart urban planning, good health news, social good and a whole lot more. Give it a look!

Creative thinkers like Byrne – one more reason to be cheerful!