The week began with record-breaking rainfall as the Seattle area endured nearly 24 hours of spitting rain that closed roads, threatened to flood 10 Washington rivers, soaked countless citizens, and made a complete mockery of the area's previous single-day downpour record--November 20, 1959's puny 3.41 inches, mercilessly pummeled by today's throbbing 5.02 inches. "It started after midnight, and it kept going and going and going," said meteorologist Allen Kam to the Seattle Times, identifying today's freakish precipitation as a "conveyor-belt type situation," involving a strong jet stream lodged over the area and warm, moist air streaming up from the south. Despite the violent weather (and its suspiciously farty description), today's historic downpour reportedly caused no injuries.

-- Meanwhile in Phoenix, a part-time firefighter confessed to starting a wildfire in order to create work for himself. The Associated Press reports that Leonard Gregg pleaded guilty to starting the blaze that joined with another fire* to form last year's Rodeo-Chediski wildfire, which torched 469,000 acres, destroyed hundreds of homes, and forced the evacuation of 30,000 residents in Arizona. Gregg will be sentenced next month, and faces up to 10 years in prison.

-- In far less depressing news, today John Allen Muhammad, the 42-year-old Gulf War veteran accused of planning and executing last year's sniper attacks that left 10 people dead in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., made the greatest announcement any would-be wacko indicted on a capital charge can make. Demoting his lawyers to sideline advisors, Muhammad announced he would serve as his own counsel in his ongoing murder trial. Muhammad's surprise last-minute request was good news for prosecutors (as a ridiculously low percentage of self-counsel cases result in acquittal) and for fans of morbidly hilarious legal proceedings (as few things offer such exquisite schadenfreude as watching a deluded freak dig his or her own grave from an elevated platform). Muhammad's request was bad news for his surviving victims, some of whom might eventually have been required to face cross-examination from the man who allegedly shot them. According to the Associated Press, today's Trial Day #1 offered a mixed bag of the good and the bad, with Muhammad delivering a rambling 20-minute opening statement in which he spoke about the nature of truth, offered a parable about once punishing his daughter for eating chocolate cookies she had in fact not eaten, and denied all involvement in the shootings. "Have you ever seen me shoot anyone?" Muhammad asked British sniper expert Mark Spicer. (Sadly, what promised to be the most morbidly surreal murder trial since Bernhard Goetz will be upended on Wednesday, when John Allen Muhammad will admit his folly in representing himself and reinstate his professional legal counsel.)

*This blaze also has a heartbreaking origin. After wandering around lost for two nights in the Arizona brush, Valinda Jo Elliott tried to draw the attention of a nearby helicopter by starting a fire. It worked.


Today the world's most unbelievable marriage turned into the world's most unbelievable divorce as David Gest--the flamboyant entertainment producer who served as Mr. Liza Minnelli for 16 beguiling months--filed a $10 million lawsuit against his recent bride, alleging that the 57-year-old Minnelli repeatedly got drunk and beat him up. In court papers filed today, the 50-year-old Gest sniffs out his case against the allegedly monstrous Minnelli; in the process, he miraculously makes himself appear both crazier and more pathetic than he did on his whacked-as-fuck wedding day. Among Last Days' favorite allegations (drawn from a 10-page complaint that is a masterwork of litigious prissiness): "The alcohol gave [Minnelli] remarkable force and strength... the defendant repeatedly beat plaintiff about the head, face, and chest with open hands and closed fists, concentrating on the right and left sides of his head." Gest's contention that booze somehow gave the perpetually frail Minnelli superhuman strength is corroborated by Gest's production manager Steven Benanav: "She's stronger than any woman I've ever seen... She could really hurt herself or somebody else. I just can't believe how strong she is on alcohol." As a result of Liza's alleged booze-fueled beatings, Gest has allegedly been plagued by "a throbbing unilateral pain... superimposed on a dull ache; severe unrelenting headaches; vertigo; nausea; hypertension; scalp tenderness; insomnia; mood dysphoria; photosensitivity; and phonophobia*"; he "had become, during the marriage of the parties, a victim of domestic violence--one of an estimated 835,000 men per year in America similarly abused." For his pain and suffering, Gest wants $10 million. Tomorrow, Minnelli will deny all accusations.

*A morbid fear of one's own voice, or of any sound.


Put down the razor blade, remove your head from the oven, and stop eating at McDonald's: Today brought countless Americans a new reason to live, as the WB announced the forthcoming second season of The Surreal Life, the popular post-reality show in which a half-dozen has-beens cohabitate for the cameras for two weeks. Season one featured such winking wash-ups as MC Hammer, Corey Feldman, Emmanuel Lewis, and Mötley Crüe's Vince Neil doing everything from selling raffle tickets at the mall to performing a talent show for the neighbors. If season two's cast list is any indication, the new batch of shows should be even more amazing. Among season two's soiled stars: honky rap joke Vanilla Ice, born-again camp goddess Tammy Faye Messner, former Baywatch babe Traci Bingham, former CHiPs babe Erik Estrada, former Real World: Las Vegas hussy Trishelle, and legendary porn hog Ron Jeremy. According to the Associated Press, the new season of The Surreal Life may hit the airwaves as soon as January; according to Last Days, whoever came up with the idea of putting Ron Jeremy, Tammy Faye, and Trishelle in the same room deserves the Nobel Prize.


Speaking of the surreal life: Today the Associated Press announced the thoroughly bizarre, ultimately touching final chapter in the saga of Windshield Wanda, the young Texas woman convicted of murder after hitting a man with her car, then leaving him to bleed to death in her windshield. Earlier this year, Windshield Wanda--legally known as Chante Mallard--was sentenced to 50 years in prison for killing unlucky pedestrian Gregory Biggs, who was walking along a Fort Worth highway when he was struck by Ms. Mallard's Chevrolet Cavalier. Today Brandon Biggs, the 20-year-old son of Gregory Biggs, was awarded a $10,000 scholarship from the nation's death-row inmates, who raised the money through donations and subscriptions to Compassion, the bimonthly newsletter written by the death-row community.


Nothing happened today (unless you count Elizabeth Smart calling her psychotic-captors-of-nine-months "such idiots" during a televised interview with Katie Couric).


Today California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a surprise appearance at the 2003 Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competition in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, the state that elected Schwarzenegger fittingly burned to the ground.


Nothing happened today.

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