MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 The week kicks off with a mysterious blackout in Los Angeles. Landing less than 24 hours after al Qaeda's "September 11 communiqué"—in which a videotaped operative threatened, "Yesterday, London and Madrid. Tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Allah willing"—today's mid-afternoon blackout must have freaked the shit out of the hundreds of thousands of people from the Pacific Coast to the San Fernando Valley left suddenly in the dark. Actually, it was still light out, but lots of people got stuck in elevators and traffic was terrible. But terrorism was soon ruled out, with blame landing on a far less diabolical culprit: human error—specifically, some humans working for the Department of Water and Power who erroneously connected some wires. Happy ending: Power was restored by the end of the day and no one died.
•• Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the human errors of Mike Brown, the rightfully embattled director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who today decided to follow his jaw-droppingly incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina by offering his resignation. "I think it's in the best interest of the agency and the best interest of the president," said the 50-year-old "Brownie," whose pre-FEMA leadership experience consisted of being a lawyer and heading the International Arabian Horse Association, a position from which he also "resigned." Replacing Brown will be R. David Paulison, a career firefighter from Miami whose previous emergency experience includes serving on rescue crews for Hurricane Andrew in 1991 and the ValuJet crash in 1996, as well as leading the U.S. Fire Administration since 2001.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13 Speaking of steps in the right direction: Today the president finally admitted that the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina wasn't a flawlessly executed ballet of preparedness and compassion. "To the extent that the federal government didn't do its job right, I take responsibility," said Bush at a White House news conference. Meanwhile in New Orleans, the first post-Katrina criminal charges were filed against the owners of a Louisiana nursing home—who were charged with 34 counts of negligent homicide for not doing more to save 34 elderly patients killed by the floodwaters—while Mayor C. Ray Nagin confirmed he was working "feverishly" with banking officials and the feds to secure lines of credit as his city is dead-ass broke. "We're out of nuclear-crisis mode," said Nagin to the Associated Press. "And into normal, day-to-day crisis mode."
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14 As for our own little corner of heaven: Today LiveScience gave Seattleites plenty of reasons to fear an impending crisis here, thanks to a study by the Geological Survey of Canada, which confirmed the inception of an important seismic event in the Pacific Northwest. Known as an episodic tremor and slip (ETS), the imperceptible-to-humans-but-threatening-to-humanity event involves a slow movement of the Juan de Fuca and North America tectonic plates along the Cascadia margin of southern British Columbia. As LiveScience reports, faults associated with these plates have been the sites of major earthquakes (akin to last December's colossal tsunami-causing quake in Indonesia) every 500 years or so, with the last such quake striking the region on January 26, 1700. What's more, the odds of a major earthquake are 30 times higher than normal for the next two weeks—but, scientists say, "still remote."
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15 Today we move from the theoretically horrible to the tangibly horrible, as President Bush dared to drag his ass to New Orleans's French Quarter to deliver his post-Katrina address to the nation. Due to an ongoing bout of queasiness, Last Days was unable to watch Dubya's smirking monkey head deliver the address with our own eyes, but published accounts report the president did his best to counteract his record-low approval ratings with solemn promises to do "what it takes" to rebuild New Orleans. Of course, two weeks after Katrina and the government left tens of thousands of Americans stranded without basic human necessities for days on end, such promises are as easy to make as toast. What's crucial to recall is how the tragedy of Katrina was, first and foremost, a failure of timing. Before America was forced to watch what was allowed to unfold at the New Orleans Superdome, citizens typically believed that should they ever find themselves in a national crisis where every second counts, the government will take them seriously. After the events of Thursday, September 1—when reports of the fatally animalistic conditions at New Orleans's Superdome and Convention Center surfaced alongside news of the Secretary of State's Manhattan shopping spree and the president's lazy amble from his Crawford ranch toward the worst natural disaster in U.S. history (stopping by the White House for the first time in five weeks "on the way")—such trust can only be construed as fantasia.
•• Meanwhile in Washington, D.C.: Supreme Court nominee and would-be Chief Justice John Roberts faced another day of confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate. Unlike the Bush address, the Roberts hearings were a political escapade Last Days could stomach watching—for 15 minutes at least, during which time we marveled at Roberts's preternatural ability to deflect any and all questions with humble abstractions and a permanently furrowed brow. Truly, Roberts met every questioner—from Ted Kennedy (who grilled Roberts on his opposition to affirmative action under Reagan) to Dianne Feinstein (who begged Roberts to reveal something about "how [he] feels as a man")—with the soulful countenance of a man hearing his grandmother whisper her last words, and the shameless vagueness of a Bush appointee. (After the lessons of Katrina, cynicism about the Bush administration is no longer a lefty indulgence, but a national necessity.)
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 Speaking of nominee Roberts: Today New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg became the first Republican of note to oppose Roberts's nomination. "I am unconvinced that Judge Roberts accepts the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling as settled law," said Bloomberg to Reuters. "For that reason I oppose the nomination of Judge Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court." Never mind that Bloomberg is up for reelection in a vastly Democratic city; these days, Last Days will take good sense wherever we find it.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17 Speaking of Mayor Bloomberg: Today Last Days paid tribute to the man by visiting his city, where we attended not one but two glorious freak shows. The first: Dina Martina's showcase at the Cutting Room, where Our Lady of Hilarious Tragedy turned a crowd of hipsters into a gasping mass of new worshippers. The second: the sideshow at Coney Island, which was exactly as trashy, flashy, cheesy, and dull as you'd expect a 21st-century freak show to be. Plus, it had a moral. "In the real world, there are no freaks," proclaimed Eek the Geek, who minutes earlier allowed a pair of women to stand upon the bed of nails placed points-down on his chest. "No, we are all just human beings, and racism and discrimination is just plain wrong." You go, geek.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18 Nothing happened today, unless you count the fresh threat to Florida and the Gulf Coast posed by the burgeoning Hurricane Rita. (Confidential to God: We get it, you hate us. Now please pick on someone else for a while.)
Hello all: On Wed Oct 5 at the Triple Door, I'll be presenting a one-night-only encore screening of Showgirls, the legendary cinematic disaster directed by Paul Verhoeven, featuring live annotation by yours truly. Because one horrible tragedy deserves to benefit from another, profits from the evening will go directly to the Red Cross, to help survivors of Hurricane Katrina. For tickets and info, call 838-4333.
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