1) DID LIFE IMITATE ART?
This website, as well as the rest of the world of course, are covering the shootings in Colorado last night in which a man apparently tossed a smoke bomb into a crowded movie theater and then started shooting.
We will, of course, be learning more about what happened over the next few hours, but the why of it is possibly going to be a more complex discussion.
It's the type of thing that would happen in the Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. The movie that was playing in the theater? Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. It's a movie about the very essence of evil. Is there a connection that led someone from art to an evil reality? Does the possibility require additional security in the theaters across the country this weekend?
Here's live coverage from Denver (mouse over the embed to get the "play" button)...
Meanwhile, Twitter is allowing us to have a heartbreaking connection to the tragedy. Jessica Redfield recently moved to the area to pursue a career in sports journalism...
She, apparently, was one of those killed.
She had recently escaped the Eaton Center mall shooting in Toronto, and wrote about it.
I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.
I feel like I am overreacting about what I experienced. But I can't help but be thankful for whatever caused me to make the choices that I made that day. My mind keeps replaying what I saw over in my head. I hope the victims make a full recovery. I wish I could shake this odd feeling from my chest. The feeling that's reminding me how blessed I am. The same feeling that made me leave the Eaton Center. The feeling that may have potentially saved my life.
Related: A history of mass shootings in the U.S.
2) FRANKEN AND DAVIS MINUS DAVIS
Tom Davis has died. Long before he became a U.S. senator, you couldn't say the words Al Franken without also saying Tom Davis. Throat cancer did him in -- "deanimated him" as he told the New York Times.
Davis was the funnier one.
Franken's daughter is named Thomasin Davis Franken but the senator wrote in a forward to Davis' book that it was "Tom's drug and alcohol use broke us up as a team."
3) REPORTERS IN CAMPAIGN ADS
In the latter days of the Scott Walker recall election, the local TVs were filled with Walker ads using footage from TV stations carrying stories about Milwaukee budget woes under his competitor. Does that constitute an endorsement by reporters? No. Is there anything they can do about the perception that it does? No.
4) REMEMBERING THE VOYAGE OF THE HJEMKOMST
The crew of the Hjemkomst is having its 30th reunion in Moorhead this weekend a testament to the determined dreamer, Bob Asp, who accomplished in a few years what 100 Vikings needed a full year to accomplish. He built the ship in an old potato warehouse in Hawley and found out in the middle of his dream that he had leukemia and had only a few years to live. He kept building. And when he died, others picked up his dream.
5) THE AIRSTREAM MENTALITY
A blast from the past: A sweet profile of a disease from the Pioneer Press' Chris Polydoroff..
Bonus I: Anderson Cooper observed last night, "Michele Bachmann is denying doing exactly what she's doing." But when news organizations ask Rep. Keith Ellison whether he is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, do they become willing participants in the strategy?
Bonus II: This is the last 5x8 for the next 10 days or so. I'm off to Oshkosh for the annual airshow and gathering of aviation enthusiasts. I'll be doing a daily talk show about homebuilt airplanes and the people who built them each day from 12 to 1 on EAA Radio, which you can listen to online. It's an independent operation created by radio volunteers, mostly students and former students at St. Cloud State.
FEMA has been inspecting flood-damaged homes in Duluth and other parts of northeast Minnesota. Homeowners are hoping that President Obama will declare the region a disaster area and open the way to federal assistance in rebuilding. Today's Question: Does the public have a responsibility to help people rebuild flood-damaged homes?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) - First hour: Weekly roundtable on the Olympic experience.
Second hour: The top 10 Olympic moments of all time.
Third hour: Marlene Zuk, professor in the department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of several books, the most recent of which is "Sex on Six Legs."
MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): The TED radio hour: Building a better classroom.
Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) - How Olympic athletes are using technology.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Cable news outlets give shows to journalists and political celebrities all the time. MSNBC has given one to a political scientist who has written widely on race, gender and religion. NPR profiles Melissa Harris-Perry and a cable news experiment.(21 Comments)
We cannot let this day go much further without stopping to observe that this week is the 17th birthday of the MPR website, a fact which probably doesn't mean much to a lot of people because everybody's got a website now, of course. It seems like a no-brainer to have websites because now it is a no-brainer.
It wasn't always thus.
The day means a lot to a few old-timers who had to convince a radio broadcasting company that something that isn't about radio broadcasting is a worthy endeavor. To its credit, that broadcasting company -- in time -- listened.
A gentleman whom you probably don't know is behind all of it. John Pearson, who was at the time a member of MPR's marketing department, single-handedly started the website and set about to prove that as an instrument of communication, it had real possibilities.
John has the rare combination of the ability to articulate a vision, the patience to wait until the doubting recipient reached the same conclusion, and the confidence to not mind that his idea was now someone else's.
He worked alone, often. In its early days, there was no newsroom involvement in the website. So, John would lift scripts from our radio script system and slap them on the web. But he had to be choosey because they might sit on the page for days.
Eventually, he got some help in the technical aspects of the web -- John is a great graphic designer -- and the newsroom came on board in 1999.
He survived the "new media days" when the buttoned-down MPR created the blimp-flying, Nerf-ball throwing, jeans-and-sneakers-wearing MPR New Media Department, the forerunner of today's mostly-buttoned-down digital team. Not everyone who works in the digital realm here may know the one person -- one person who saves every e-mail he's ever sent -- who's directly responsible for it all.
Times change. Good people have come and good people have gone but there's one person -- and only one person -- who's been a part of MPR.org since the day it started -- John Pearson. This is his day and, really, only his day.
MPR's Facebook page provides a little journey down a memory lane of MPR front pages.(7 Comments)
There isn't a good parent in the world who doesn't understand the pain of Tom Sullivan, center, who is shown in this AP photo embracing family members outside Gateway High School in Aurora. He's looking for his son, Alex, who celebrated his 27th birthday by going to see "The Dark Knight Rises."
(Photo: Barry Gutierrez/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
There's already a fair amount of political squabbling going on in the wake of the tragedy in Colorado. But this is the story today. It's the only story for today.(5 Comments)
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has, perhaps, avoided a showdown over the removal of American flags on highway overpasses by using something of a technicality in the state law.
It started the controversy when it ordered the VFW in Brooklyn Park to take down American flags it had placed over five highway overpasses, something it's done for eight years. MnDOT cited state law against anyone else placing advertisements or objects within the limits of a highway rules.
The predictable response was swift, with defenders of the flag calling for people to place hundreds of the flags on the overpasses.
In a press release today, MnDOT offered a solution. It would do the flag placing, and avoid -- maybe -- a PR problem that might've spiraled out of its control:
The Minnesota Department of Transportation will install U.S. flags on a number of bridges along Highway 610 and Highway 10 in the northwest Twin Cities metro area on Friday, July 20, according to Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel.
"Recently, MnDOT required a private organization to remove U.S. flags that had been illegally placed on several bridges in the Twin Cities area. By law, MnDOT must remove any type of device, advertisement or obstruction placed by private organizations that could interfere with traffic. However, this removal of the flags triggered numerous complaints from the public, most suggesting that the U.S. flag deserves special consideration from state law.
"In response to public concern, we took a closer look at this issue and concluded that, if MnDOT, not a private organization, purchases and installs the flags, the agency will continue to meet its safety and legal concerns, while being sensitive to public sentiment. In addition, MnDOT's installation will ensure that the flags are secure and that anything that comes loose would land away from the roadway. MnDOT is not willing to accept risk regarding roadway distraction or obstruction."
The U.S. flag will be installed on 11 bridges along Highway 610, Highway 10 and Highway 252, according to MnDOT. The agency is seeking input from other state DOT's and developing a policy to determine when and where other flags may be installed.
Related: Count the number of violations of the U.S. Flag Code in this video:(7 Comments)
You're the father of a four-year old who has been battling cancer. A trip sponsored by Make A Wish has already been postponed twice because of your daughter McKenna's leukemia treatment.
But they're working. The cancer is in remission.
Now, do you accept the trip or do you pass it up because there are now kids worse off than your daughter who could use a trip to Disney World?
In Toledo, Ohio, this is the scenario that William May faced and he's made his choice:
"Spend the money on a child who this might be their last memory," May said. "Kids who are only going to live a year or six months."
It's complicated. May and the girl's mother never married and don't live together. The Make A Wish rules require both parents to sign off on the trip.
The rest of the family has been raising money to take the girl on the trip she was promised. They haven't told her that dad put the kibosh on it.(12 Comments)
We don't talk about religion much in the news, unless it has something to do with a political issue. The work of religion writers in the nation's newsrooms is mostly relegated to Sunday.
It's an odd situation considering that nearly 9 out of 10 Americans surveyed say they believe in God.
In the aftermath of tragedies like that in Aurora early this morning, we often hear God evoked as we did today from both President Barack Obama, and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
"I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today," the president said. "May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in the hard days to come. ... I hope that as a consequence of today's events, as you leave here, you spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us."
"The reason this is so deeply felt by all Americans is that, but for the grace of God, the victims could have been any one of our children, in any one of our towns," VP Joe Biden added.
"We are praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock and immense grief," Romney said.
Given the large number of people who believe in God, and the invocation of God in the aftermath of the tragedy, we are, nonetheless, left on our own to try to answer the unanswerable and, frankly, unspeakable question: "What's the deal, God?"
At a time like this, there's a role for religious leaders to play, but they're not playing it or they're not getting the opportunity to play it.
At the Religion News Service, for example, the editors are merely compiling Twitter comments that mention Aurora, God, or prayers.
The Washington Post's once-robust On Faith blog, is now just a collection of religion-themed stories. The Boston Globe's Articles of Faith blog was closed more than two years ago. The last time the AP's religion writer moved a story, was a week ago.
The Huffington Post's religion section carries only a feature on fasting during Ramadan, and a link to the Twitter feed from religious people, none of which is saying anything in 140 characters to help the faithful work through the questions.
We look to blogs like the Velveteen Rabbi, Texas Faith, Get Religion, Mark Silk, Saints & Seekers, and Church Mag -- these are considered among the nation's best religious blogs -- and they are all -- all -- silent on the day's events.
According to the Catholic News Service, Denver prelates are offering counseling and offering "their ears to listen."
Only, it seems, does the Christian Post provide any reaction -- an explanation, if you will:
But, in times like this we have to hate someone, and the best person to hate is the worst...Satan himself. I hate him for the deception he unleashes in the hearts of so many. I hate him for the destruction he has been directly or indirectly involved with since the beginning of time. I hate him for his hatred of everything God and everything good.
Let's face it: There are people who are going to agree with that explanation, and people who are not, and that might explain why news coverage doesn't include a religious perspective. It's for the Sunday sermon.
The problem is in the absence of widespread religious leadership, people like Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert step forward to fill the vacuum.
"We have been at war with the very pillars, the very foundation of this country ... and when ... you know ... what really gets me as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs and then a senseless, crazy act of terror like this takes place," he said.
On a day in which the fundamental underpinnings of faith could be challenged, the religious perspective at a time of nationwide grief has mostly been delegated to politicians.