Sunday, October 7, 2012 | Categories: Episodes
All the Diamonds: We rebroadcast Mary Lynk's documentary about Raylene Rankin and her battle with cancer. She died on Sept. 30, 2012.
Park Benches: Listener mail on Michael's essay on the pleasures of park benches.
On Pets and Parenting: Ken Dafoe's essay on the joys and the pain of raising your children ... and their pets.
The Halifax hall was packed. The audience, expectant. On the stage, a slip of a woman, beaming, her image projected on large screens. Hardly anyone knew that she was wearing a wig. Nor did they know that only a month earlier, she didn't know if she'd make the event, she was so sick from chemotherapy.
But Raylene Rankin, a member of Cape Breton's internationally acclaimed The Rankin Family and solo artist in her own right, was determined to sing that night. And especially determined to sing one of her signature songs: Rise Again.
Last fall, Raylene had just put the finishing touches on her second solo album - a collection of cover songs - when she received very tough news. She began to take stock, soul search And her struggles prompted this normally private person to speak openly ... about hard times, and all the diamonds. All the Diamonds. That was the title of her new CD and the title of our documentary about Raylene that aired in June. Raylene Rankin died last Sunday morning.
The documentary was produced by Mary Lynk.
Park Benches Redux
Two weeks ago, I wrote an essay about the plague of cars and dearth of benches. My musings about the park bench brought a lot of letters from you:
Monique Richard had this comment from Toronto: "As an aging woman with limited mobility, let me add the lack of seats in other public places such as banks, libraries, bus and streetcar stops, shopping malls, drug store prescription-counters, in stores where there are cordoned line-ups that make my access to service more painful. I suggest the Baby boomer generation makes serious noise about those issues."
From Philadelphia, Anthony Risser sends this note: "Thank you, Michael, for your comment about the armrest dividers and the potentially nasty thing it says about the "haves" and the "have-nots" in our society. Indeed, these middle dividers appear to be directly related to some type of outcry about homelessness. Not an outcry to find better ways to serve these individuals, but about their visible presence in public places.
"Here in Philadelphia, the wonderful Rittenhouse Square, touted by Jane Jacobs and others as one of the ideal public spaces in North America, these divided park benches are a foul mark on this fine public space. It saddens me to see them, for the message it sends is one of exclusion."
Madeleine Hellmers of Toronto says: "Regarding the new benches with the annoyingly central armrests, I call them "no-can-canoodle" benches. Where can we canoodle these days?
From Vancouver, Zoe Welch writes: "Years ago I attended an arts administration professional development at The Banff Centre for Management. One of the trainers uttered the observation, on an entirely different matter, 'where you sit is where you stand.'
I can't think of a more apt application of this missive than to your musings on the park bench."
Birthe Jorgensen from Toronto writes: "In Toronto's zeal to stop skateboarders, and to stop the homeless from sleeping on benches, the needs of civilized society have been completely forgotten. It is now impossible to find a bench to sit on that is not connected to a private coffee shop, or a commercial establishment. Until benches are reinstated, the city is reduced to third class!"
Larry and Shirley Allen from Cambridge write: "Michael, Oh, Dear Michael; Your essay on benches struck home with more emotional impact than you could ever believe. One month ago today, August 16th, we celebrated our 60th Wedding Anniversary. Our dear children and grandchildren gave us the best gift ever: a bench, dedicated to this special event in our lives, located in a park directly across from our home.
"It is our bench, their bench, everybody's bench. We make a point to sit on it and touch it every day, we are so proud of it. If it ever got dirty, I am sure my beloved wife would wash it with tears of happiness."
This is from Catherine van Mossel of Victoria, BC: "Michael, I support your theory about park benches, particularly your speculation of the intent of arm rests in the middle of benches to keep homeless people from sleeping on them. I think that is exactly what they are for. Barbara Cruikshank, in her book The Will to Empower, has a story about dumpsters that had locks installed - with the effect of keeping dumpster-divers out.
"A few years ago, new garbage cans scattered around my campus at the University of Victoria had the lids locked to the bottom. Gone were the old couple who used to walk around to all the containers looking for returnable cans. It's more than elitism hitting garbage containers, park benches, and retaining walls (notice sharp things sticking up on them? That's so you cannot sit down.) It's a purposeful exercise of power against the poor. Shameful.
Rae Fleming sent us this note from Woodville, Ontario: "In late August 2010, I was sitting on a bench that provided a view of the sparkling Halifax harbour. As I read the Saturday Globe, a Haligonian, a complete stranger, approached with a bouquet. 'You look honest,' she announced with a smile. 'Would you mind looking after my gladioli while I finish my marketing?'
"A half hour later, she returned with a cup of coffee, sat down for a short chat, then strolled away with her glads in hand. As I sipped the coffee, I finished reading the Globe and turned to the Chronicle-Herald, then headed off to my bed-and-breakfast to get ready for my niece's wedding that afternoon. I agree with you -- cities can indeed be judged on the number and quality of their benches."
Now, we also got a letter from the renowned historian and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, Natalie Zemon Davis - who was on our show in January, 2011.
Professor Davis told us about an art piece her son, composer and pianist, Aaron Davis and her daughter-in-law, visual artist Candida Girling, had created about a privatized park bench. So we went to visit Mr. Davis on his bench.
Essay: On Pets and Parenting
Whatever happened to the idea of limits?
No one ever says NO to kids anymore, holds the line, shows them where the buck stops, who's in charge, what real life is all about.
Ken Dafoe knew he didn't want to be a pushover. And he decided to test his own parental mettle in a particularly sensitive area.
The results were - to say the least - mixed.