January 8, 2011

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Five minutes ago the AP pushed a report onto my phone that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had been shot. So I went to the AP’s news site. Nothing there. Then to Google News. Nothing yet. Then to Twitter, where it was the second-top story. The top item there was this one, from @KRNV, passing along an NPR report that Ms. Giffords had died.

Her Wikipedia entry already includes the date of her passing: today. Here’s that edit.

She was doing a “Congress on your corner” at a grocery store. Her last tweet (from @rep_giffords) was an invitation to the event. (Or so I read. It doesn’t come up right now.)

Her husband, Mark. E. Kelly, is a Desert Storm veteran who has survived trips to space as an astronaut, and is slated to command the upcoming final Space Shuttle flight. Turns out being a congressperson doing her job in a public marketplace proved more hazardous.

They have two kids, who now join their dad in a living hell.

Of course the comments under news postings are full of assumptions. Nothing yet about the other victims, that I can find. Correction: between the last refresh and this one, NPR now says six have died.

Arizona Public Media’s KUAZ has regular programming.

The TV station sourced most on Twitter has the unlikely name KGUN. It still hasn’t reported on its website that anybody was killed.

I’m listening now to KQTH/104-1The Truth, where the callers and the host are making sure not to blame right wing talk radio, and the second amendment. (Guns don’t kill people, wackos kill people, is the spin.) One caller just said that Rep. Giffords is still alive and in surgery.

The other local news station, Fox-affiliated KNST/790, is playing a TV station’s audio. They are saying a Fox source says she is still alive and in critical condition. They note that she is a Jewish gun-owning wife of an astronaut. They also just say that Gawker reports that the shooter was young and male, and said nothing while shooting or being held down. And four are dead, including one child, and one aide. Puma County Sherriff’s department will have a news conference at 1:30 local time in Tuscon. (Moved to 2pm later.)

KQTH has call-ins. The current caller knows one of the people who was shot, but not killed. He didn’t like Giffords’ politics, “but…” Others are calling for the perpetrator “getting what he deserves.” The host is quick, correctly, to put down callers who speculate on motivation. “I’m not going down this path of tyrannical governments and arming citizens…” The host is actually doing a good job. The caller now is a woman who knows Rep. Giffords, and has nice things to say about her. She’s also saying the perp must be mentally ill.

Are there no non-right wing and/or Fox affiliated news/talk stations in Arizona? Just asking.

Listening to the press conference live now. (2:06pm Tucson time) As I get it… one dead: a nine-year old girl. Rep. Giffords was shot through the head (“through the brain” and “through and through” with “one bullet”), but was responding to commands before she went into surgery. She is out of surgery now and in the ICU.

An AP report on my phone says a federal judge was fatally shot in the attack.

KQTH’s host Jon Justice (the station morning guy came in to handle the shift after the shooting) said that the Sherriff of Pima County blamed right-wing talk radio, and called that irresponsible. Justice (the host, not the noun) is right about that.

The alleged perp, according to KNST, is Jared Loughner, who has a YouTube channel and a MySpace page, which has just been taken down. His final words were “Goodbye friends.” A Twitpic: http://twitpic.com/3o8ajp

Business Insider on Loughner. Has one of his videos, which makes no sense. Something about “accurate information of a new currency.” Says he, “In conclusion, my ambition – is for informing literate dreamers about a new currency; in a few days, you know I’m conscience dreaming! Thank you!” Oh-kay.

KNST says two are dead: the judge and the child. KQTH says just one is dead. They’re at the “Where were you and what were you doing when it happened” stage.

The one obvious media gaffe, at least from where I sit, so far, is NPR’s report that Rep. Giffords was dead. I don’t blame that on their politics (which some are). AP might be wrong about the judge, too, if he’s alive.

The judge is John McCarthy Roll. He was nominated by George Bush on the recommendation of John McCain, for what that’s worth. A bio.

KQHT’s news department says the suspect for sure is Jared Loughner, 22 years old. He’s the guy in custody. The station reports that Loughner was tackled and held down by citizens, until police arrived.

A blah, somewhat religious statement from John McCain.

KNST (@790knst) is saying the judge is indeed dead. Editing of his Wikipedia page is currently halted for new and unregistered users. Many updates today.

Andrew Sullivan and his readers, live-blogging.

Now President Obama is speaking. “At least five people lost their lives.” Among them Judge Roll and a girl “barely nine years old.” Gabby Giffords is a friend of the President’s. “a tragedy for Arizona and for the country.”

That’s it. Brief. KQHT: “We got some information from the President… that contradicts the information we got about 20 minutes ago from UMC.” (That’s the University Medical Center.)

MSNBC video from the archives: Gabrielle Giffords says “Sarah Palin has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district and when people do that, they’ve gotta realize there are consequences to that action.” And yet so far it doesn’t look like the perp was a tool of the Mama Griz. Interesting: Judge Roll had death threats, two years ago, almost certainly unrelated as well.

I gotta get back to work. Been following this while walking around, exercising indoors between sit-down writing sessions.

Parting thought… Interesting that I can’t name a canonical single-source on this thing, except maybe the local radio stations. I can only find tweets for one of those, and they’re kinda low-volume. I believe this is a good thing. The old media still matter, and the new media do too — and both are provisional. Neither will be the same six months or a year from now.

[Later…] In the evening, working in the kitchen, I listened to CNN over Sirius satellite radio. The audio stream was basically the TV one. I’d say the work was excellent. They had an extensive interview with a doctor who barely missed getting shot, helped subdue the gunman, and did his best to treat the wounded. One of the things the doctor said stuck with me. If you don’t feel the pulse of a gunshot victim, the chance of reviving that victim is small, especially if emergency medical help and equipment don’t come quickly — which was the case here.

[Later still, Sunday evening…] Late in the early stages of what will be a long and crazy game, I like what Dan Gillmor says about #slownews. Still, in the meantime, items:

  • The 9-year old girl killed in the assault was Christina Taylor Green. She was born on 9/11/2001 (yes, that 9/11), and was what they called then “faces of hope” baby. (Firedog Lake) Her grandpa was former Mets and Yankees manager Dallas Green. (NY Daily News)
  • Ages of the dead victims are 9, 30, 63, 76, 76 and 79. (myFoxPhoenix, NY Times)
  • In a tweet on 4 November, @SarahPalinUSA wrote, “Remember months ago ‘bullseye’ icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin’ incumbent seats? We won 18 out of 20 (90% success rate;T’aint bad). And one of the other two was just shot in the head.
  • An ad for Jesse Kelly, Gabrielle Giffords’ opponent in the most recent congressional race, once ran an ad that read, “Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully a automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.” (Daily Beast)
  • Keith Olberman, whom I usually consider an insufferable gasbag, says agreeable stuff (at least to me) in his latest rant. In it he owns his own overboard remarks of the past.

I’d like to think this will change things, but I doubt that’s the best way to bet. Still, as Dan counsels, it’s best to wait and see.

Here’s a post I put up in 2003:

A pain in the friend

Gil Templeton:
I haven’t seen my old friend Gil Templeton since his brother David’s wedding, whenever that was. Ten years ago? Twelve? Both Gil and David worked for me — Gil as a copywriter in North Carolina and David as a PR account executive in California. Both guys were as different as two primary colors, with a few significant exceptions, especially in the humor department. Both were very funny guys. I remember how Gil (who went on to write piles of sketch comedy … and act in some too) and I co-wrote a country music song, or part of one, anyway, when we should have been working late one night. Most of it was Gil’s. All I remember is the refrain:
I’m too old to fuck
and too young to die
but not too drunk to eat
So bring my baby some likker
and burn me up some meat
David used to crack everybody up with a perfect imitation of… (gulp) me. Before then I never had any idea that I was imitable, or that I had a walk others called a “waddle.”
The Templeton Brothers were terrific company. I loved them both. Still do. However, as too often happens, geography gets in the way, and life goes on with less and less contact, until…
A few minutes ago I got a email from David, who’s now in Connecticut, pointing to a cover story by Gil in the Nashville Scene, the arts weekly in the Music City, where Gil moved after he left North Carolina in the early 80s. It’s The Pain Chronicles: One man’s life-changing, body-aching, drug-addictive struggles with a devastating injury — a shorter version of Gil’s forthcoming book by the same title, from Coldtreepress. It’s a harrowing tale, and told, as always, with sharp humor.
I had no idea. Seeing the picture above brought tears to my eyes. There’s My Man, with a cane. Same glasses. Same hair. Same strong chin. Same wise-ass smile. I had forgotten how much I miss him.
We’re so lucky, most of us. Life is a death sentence, but most of our time on death row is a cakewalk. The journey is the reward, right? Except for those of us whose ships are caught on the rocks.
Right now I’m feeling lucky to have these two good brothers as friends. Even after all these years apart.

Last night I got an email from David reporting that Gil died in his sleep that morning. He was just 53.

Among our favorite comedy bits was one — I think it was from National Lampoon’s Lemmings show — in which a stoner musician mumbles a tribute to “the late Neil Young,” who once played with “Crosby Ogden Nash,” and who was “a credit to both rock and roll.” There was another line in there, where the stoner says, “We used to eat beans and hitch to gigs…” When he’d see me, or call on the phone, Gill would yell “BEANS!” just to recall the bit. After awhile, “Beans” became what we’d call each other.

In creative sessions at our agency, we used to spend hours in the “Think Tank” coming up with ideas. None of those ideas today is as memorable as what Gil once said to sum up a long filibuster by another guy in Creative: “So what you’re saying is, ‘The client sucks and the product cannot be sold.'” It cracked everybody up, and the ideas began flowing like a river.

I guess you had to be there. I’m glad I was.

Bonus links:

[Later…] Here’s Gil’s obituary.

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