Happy Earth Day! I hope to spend today, ideally, puttering about my garden. Yes, we can all aspire to do something more high-minded (and Barry Dennis, sitting right below me in the blog rail, will tell you how), but even just beautifying your own patch of soil contributes to the pleasure of everyone around you (including even something as simple as a window box if you have no outdoor earth to plant).
Relaxing, too, will help me recover from what was truly an amazing week here at HuffPost -- and what promises to be another in the coming week. First off, in home news, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney joined our editorial team on Wednesday for dinner -- and a no-holds-barred question session, including three questions selected from our readers. Kenney gamely and straightforwardly answered everything put to him -- from issues ranging from the recent and controversial immigration reform measures he has proposed, to what he would do to solve the status of "Invisible Canadians." You can also view a slideshow and video of Kenney's visit here. In the end, the minister stayed for two hours -- managing to get a few bites of chicken and salmon in between the questions, before heading off to Toronto's Billy Bishop Airport on an extended cross-country tour to discuss the reforms with Canadians. Give the guy this: He should certainly qualify as a top finalist for our most hard-working and inexhaustible cabinet minister. Afterwards the minister tweeted:
Note to Canada's editorial boards: up your game. @HuffPostCanada does it with style. They make two hours of tough questions seem like fun!
Meanwhile the conservative knife-fight in the Alberta provinicial election continued, with Danielle (great name!) Smith's stepping up to defend two of her more controversial Wildrose candidates over racial and anti-gay comments. Follow our instant coverage of the election results tomorrow as Albertans head to the polls.
More gay controversy took place on the other end of the country -- in this case tragically so, when Nova Scotian gay activist Raymond Taavel was beaten to death by a diagnosed schizophrenic. As the controversy moved to focus on what went wrong in the mental health system that resulted in the public release of a known "risk" patient -- Andre Denny, now charged with murder -- blogger Benjie Nycum urged for the discussion to move beyond the simplicity of "the blame game" by asking what would Taavel do?
We need to get over our "broken system"/"heads should roll" approach to assigning blame in order to solve problems. Raymond Taavel would have approached the problems that led to his cruel, unnecessary, and unfortunate death with sincerity, compassion, urgency, and persistence. The blame game has started, and I think Taavel would agree that it is none of the above.
Also here in Blogtown, Douglas Anthony Cooper posted his next instalment of his astonishing expose of the killing practices of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA]: In this post he applauded Jennifer "Katniss" Lawrence for having the courage to tell the group (after it criticised the actress for skinning a squirrel onscreen): "Screw PETA."
And Cooper's series should cause more skepticism towards PETA's sexy PR antics -- such as when, earlier this week, vegan activists from the group crashed Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's weekly public weigh-in, wearing bikinis made of lettuce leaves. Perhaps Mayor Ford should crash the group's next pet killing session at their headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia? He could carry a sign: "I may eat meat but I don't kill healthy, adoptable puppies and kittens for no good reason." (See Cooper's series, above.) Just please, Mayor Ford, spare us all and don't do it in a bikini.
And maybe schedule your visit there when the Gay Pride parade is taking place, so you can at least have a better excuse for not showing up this year.
Also, read Peter Worthington's fascinating recollections of visiting serial murderer Clifford Olson at the notorious Kingston Penitentiary, which authorities promised to shut down. And in sports, Dave Menzies' widely shared sentiment on why he hates the Canucks.
Debate continued over the 30th birthday of the Charter: Worth it? Or not? Irwin Cotler thinks so, while Steve Stinson says "meh." And Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney took to our blog rails to take issue with another blog, by NDP MP Irene Mathyssen, that accused the government of not doing enough for homeless vets.
O, and did anyone notice the Big O was in the country, offering a "lifeclass" in Toronto under Mountie escort? Our lifestyle team was there, and helpfully reported on what you can learn from Oprah in two hours.
Lastly (before I head out into the garden), may I remind you that the Huffington Post Canada is rapidly becoming the go-to destination for literary output? Our cultural-minded readers will remember that you were able to read in advance excerpts from the finalists for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, awarded in March. Readers were treated this past week to exclusive excerpts from Noah Richler's new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About War. Starting this week, as in tomorrow, we will be excerpting the finalists for both the $50,000 Donner Prize for best public policy book (to be awarded May 1), and the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing (to be awarded on Wednesday).
AND -- shhhh, wait for it -- HuffPost has scored the exclusive advance rights to David Frum's much buzzed about new political satire, Patriots, which will debut in this space tomorrow, as well as on the U.S. and UK Huffington Post sites.
It's the first foray into fiction for Frum, who writes (in a blog that will accompany the first chapter tomorrow):
'As some things are too strange for fiction, others are too true for journalism.'
That quip belongs to P.J. O'Rourke. The idea behind the quip explains why I turned to fiction to try to describe what has happened in Washington over these past four years of national crisis.
How can the political elite of a great democracy so utterly abdicate responsibility during an economic depression? Why has extremism flourished and compromise become so unreachable?
Who are the real players -- and what's the game they are playing at?
I could tell you. Or I can show you.
Arianna writes of Patriots: "David has been a friend -- and HuffPost blogger -- for years. He is someone who fearlessly speaks his mind, regardless of where the chips may fall, so it's no surprise he's able to convey so much truth in his fiction. We know our readers will eagerly anticipate engaging with each new chapter as it's revealed on our site."
You can also read Frum on the New York memorial for the late Christopher Hitchens, which occurred Friday. I was there too. I don't think ever in my lifetime have I seen, or will see again, so many extraordinary literary talents and minds gathered together under one roof (in this case, the historic Cooper Union hall) -- from James Fenton, Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan to Martin Amis and Christopher Buckley (and those were just the speakers. The audience increased the wattage.) For two hours, Christopher lived again: through the words of Christopher's the speakers chose to read, to a slideshow of photographs, and finally, to a wonderful collection of clips. They were there for him, and now he is gone.
Christopher is someone I'll be thinking of out in the garden, this Earth Day, planting things. Yes, we all end up in the earth eventually -- all the more reason to embrace it, and beautify it, and enhance it in every way we can, while we are still lucky enough to live.