MONDAY, OCTOBER 4 The week begins with a double dose of local triumph, as a pair of Seattle go-getters receive humongous awards. First up is scrappy billionaire Paul Allen, whose $25 million helped send SpaceShipOne, the "shuttlecock-like" spacecraft created by aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan, on its second trip into suborbital space today. For today's successful flight--SpaceShipOne's second in less than a week--Allen and Rutan's Mojave Aerospace Ventures was awarded the X Prize, a $10 million gift from the Ansari X Prize Foundation honoring achievements in private space exploration. In the words of the foundation's founder Peter Diamandis, the X Prize aims to "make space accessible to everybody." As for the X Prize winners: The New York Times reports that investor Paul Allen will split the $10 million prize with inventor Burt Rutan, with Rutan making payments to each of his employees who helped design, build, test, and fly SpaceShipOne.
-- As if that weren't triumph enough: Today Dr. Linda Buck of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center was awarded the freaking Nobel Prize in medicine for her research on the sense of smell. The Seattle Times reports that the 57-year-old Buck--who graduated from Roosevelt High School and the University of Washington, earned a doctorate in immunology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, then worked at Harvard Medical School for 11 years before joining "The Hutch" in 2002--will split the $1.35 million prize with Columbia University's Dr. Richard Axel, with whom Buck has illuminated fundamental aspects of how our nervous system detects, organizes, and encodes the information of smells. Congrats to Drs. Buck and Axel, who will receive their prize December 10 in Stockholm.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 5 Meanwhile in Cleveland: The men who would be vice-king squared off in a 90-minute debate, which pitted an easygoing John Edwards (who came off like a 21st-century Atticus Finch) against a tightly-wound-yet-still-exhausted Dick Cheney (who came off like an angry polyp). Truly, Cheney's increasing inability to mask his gut-churning fury must be the life's breath of any semi-respectable politician made to play Mr. Belvedere to the least respectable president in history. Still, despite his perpetual glumness, Cheney provided the evening's most hilarious moment: Defending his record with Halliburton, Cheney attempted to direct viewers to www.factcheck.org, a site of the Annenberg Public Policy Center whose facts would allegedly validate Cheney's claims. Unfortunately, Cheney flubbed his suffix, mistakenly directing viewers to www.factcheck.COM, which was redirected by its owners to a political site sponsored by ardent Bush opponent George Soros, www.georgesoros.com, which at the time of Cheney's flub featured an article headlined "President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests, and undermining American values." Hurrah for democracy.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6 Speaking of debate: Today Last Days received a letter from reader Emily, who wrote to contest our August 2 hyping of Listerine® Antiseptic Mouthwash, declared by scientists to be "as effective as flossing," and praised by Last Days, who nominated manufacturer Pfizer Inc. for a Nobel Prize. "Dear Last Days," wrote Emily. "After reading your column and checking out the science, I got me some Listerine®. I used it as directed for two weeks, and got thrush. What, you may ask, is thrush? Thrush is an infection of YEAST FUNGUS, Candida albicans, in the MOUTH. Sez netdoctor.co.uk: 'Candida is present in the oral cavity of almost half of the population.... Candida does not become a problem until there is a change in the chemistry of the oral cavity that favours Candida over the other micro-organisms that are present'--a change like, say, getting HIV, going through chemo, or swilling antimicrobial green crap in your mouth for a minute twice a day. Aaugh! As if the concept weren't disgusting enough, having thrush REALLY, REALLY HURTS, and you can't eat anything spicy or sour until it heals. Trust me--stick with flossing."
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 7 Speaking of disgusting shit in your mouth: Today London's Daily Mirror published a letter from Paul Durant, the 44-year-old British fugitive charged with the brutal killing of a 41-year-old female British tourist. Writing from his Spanish prison cell, Durant confessed to murder and more. "After I killed her," wrote Durant of Karen Durrell, "I cut her body into small parts, eating what part of her I found eatable. I finally disposed of what was left in small rubbish bags." Almost as disturbing as the deed was its motive: "Before I killed Karen, I told her I had come to Spain to kill and eat pedophiles." Durant continues to be held by Spanish authorities, whose search of Durant's flat turned up bloodstained knives and a saw with traces of human tissue, but no body. Still, considering his full-blown tabloid confession, Durrell probably won't be seeing the outside of prison anytime soon.
-- In much worse news involving a British man away from home: Today Kenneth Bigley, the 62-year-old engineer seized in Baghdad on September 16, was beheaded by the same Islamic militants who beheaded Bigley's American colleagues in the days after their capture. Condolences to the Bigley family, who were forced to endure three weeks of unimaginable torture without the dark luxury of dying immediately after.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8 Nothing happened today (unless you count the commencement of Martha Stewart's prison sentence, with the 62-year-old American icon reporting to West Virginia's Alderson Federal Prison Camp, whose illustrious alumni include Billie Holiday, Tokyo Rose, and Squeaky Fromme, and where Stewart will serve five months for lying to the government).
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9 Today brought the disturbingly brown saga of Ronald Preston McPike, the psychiatrist in Burlington, Iowa, arrested after allegedly paying a parking ticket with poo-smeared money. According to the Associated Press, Iowa authorities learned of the fecal tender after officers received an envelope labeled "foreign brown substance on bills," containing several soiled dollars and a parking ticket for a vehicle registered to McPike. After tests indicated the foreign substance was fecal matter (whose stain patterns suggesting smearing), McPike was charged with harassment of a public official--charges to which the 52-year-old McPike has pleaded not guilty, crediting the befoulment of the money to his own klutziness, which caused him to accidentally drop the money in the toilet. If convicted, McPike faces up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 10 The week ends with a call for monsters. Here's the deal: Last year, Circus Contraption, Seattle's premiere performance-art circus troupe, rounded up a few friends for an inspired Halloween shenanigan: a start-to-finish reenactment of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video, complete with the zombies-dancing-in-the-street finale. So transcendent was the experience that they're doing it again, with dreams of amassing the largest dancing-zombie chorus of all time, for a one-night-only Halloween performance at Sand Point Naval Base. Also on the bill for the Friday, October 29, event will be the Circus Contraption Band, the Infernal Noise Brigade, and Rubberboy, a San Francisco contortionist who can lick his own balls. But the more dancing zombies, the better. "The 'Thriller' choreography is only moderately difficult," says Circus Contraption's zombie wrangler. "Anyone with two left feet and a little dedication can do it, and if you have any dance experience, it will be easy." Those interested in unleashing their funky zombie selves (and available for the October 29 show and at least two of three advance rehearsals) should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next week: We get to the bottom of the Yusuf Islam fatwa saga. Until then, send Hot Tips to email@example.com.