MONDAY, DECEMBER 13 'Tis the season for irritating year-end critics' lists, and today brought one of Last Days' favorites, from the Los Angeles Film Critics' Association. What makes the L.A. list less irritating than most? First, the awards are chosen by a panel of 50 movie writers (as opposed to the Oscars, which are selected by 14 drunken goats); second, the L.A. critics picked a bunch of stuff Last Days agrees with. While we haven't seen The Insider (awarded Best Picture and Best Actor for foxy Russell Crowe), several reputable friends have confirmed it's a worthy pick. More excitingly, the L.A. critics threw a slew of awards at Boys Don't Cry, including Best Actress for Bellingham babe Hilary Swank (although Last Days slightly favored runner-up Reese Witherspoon in Election), and Best Supporting Actress for ChloË Sevigny, whose previously underappreciated performance is the heart of that gorgeous asskicker of a movie. Other good picks: Charlie Kaufman, awarded Best Screenplay for the pothead-fantasy-turned-incisive-exploration-of-gender-and-desire Being John Malkovich, and Trey Parker and Marc Shaiman, awarded Best Music and Score for the so-much-smarter-than-you'd-ever-imagine South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.

··In other movie news, President Clinton has signed legislation banning the creation, sale, or possession of crush videos, those absolutely abhorrent tapes (reported in a Last Days column earlier this year) featuring sexy women crushing small animals beneath their high heels. According to Reuters, as many as 2,000 crush videos are for sale on the Internet; however, only one was recognized by the Los Angeles film critics, who named Alisa Morton's Hamster Guts on My Guccis second runner-up for Best Cinematography.

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14 Speaking of sad facts that are beyond the reach of cheap one-liners, here's the saddest story in the entire world. Today the Associated Press reported the story of Lydia Hanson, a seven-year-old girl in Peabody, Massachusetts, who spent a night sleeping with her dead mother after a teacher ignored the girl's claims that her mother had died. "From what Lydia told me, the teacher said, 'You shouldn't talk like that,' and sent the girl back to her seat," said Lydia's grandfather Richard Tucker to the Massachusetts TV station WHDH. Following her teacher's rebuff, Lydia completed her school day, then rode the bus home, where she did her homework, microwaved leftover spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, then curled up in her mother's lap, where she slept overnight. The mother's body was discovered the following day by the aforementioned grandfather, who stopped by for a visit. Police have revealed that Lydia's mother was a diabetic who most likely died of natural causes. Lydia's school has apologized for their negligence in the matter, and Lydia is now living with her grandparents in Hamilton, Massachusetts. One ray of light: Lydia will probably not have to spend the rest of her life playing "the kid who slept overnight with her dead mother" on TV talk shows, as that role will most likely be filled by Memphis' Travis Butler, who spent a whopping five weeks with his dead mother earlier this fall. (Unfortunately, that is not a joke.)

··Also today: Cartoonist Charles Schulz announced that he will retire from drawing his comic strip Peanuts in the wake of his recent diagnosis with colon cancer. Schulz has drawn the wildly popular comic -- featuring pathetic Charlie Brown, bitchy Lucy, dykey Peppermint Patty, and psychotic Snoopy -- since 1950, reaching millions of readers in 75 countries. While Last Days is sorry to hear about the cancer, we can't cry too hard over the retirement, as Peanuts -- once a truly edgy and intelligent strip -- has been a pile of stinking, brain-dead crap for the past 15 years. Schulz's final Peanuts comic will run Sunday, February 13.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15 A new study has revealed that people with ugly names get better grades. The study, conducted by British psychologist Philip Erwin and published in today's Journal of Psychology, compared academic standings among a group of university students according to the appeal of their first names. (Names were ranked for attractiveness by other students.) Dr. Erwin found that people with unattractive names, such as Ethel, Agnes, and Harold, scored an average of six percent higher on standardized tests than students with attractive names, such as Alison, Sarah, and Andrew. Erwin's conclusion: Ugly or unusual names draw extra attention to their owners, thus inspiring them to succeed. Erwin's stupid study was corroborated by American psychologist Richard Zweigenhaft, who drew the slightly more plausible conclusion that funky names build character. However, Zweigenhaft warns that unusual names can go out of fashion very quickly: "People named Adolf and Monica have to deal with a whole new set of responses from people." Other names on the "out" list: Fidel, Kip, Mumia, and Norm.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16 Hot on the heels of Tuesday's double dose of depression, today the Seattle P-I ran a story of a kid and his dead mother to warm the heart of even the scroogiest scrooge. On October 13, 36-year-old Peggy McDowell of Prosser, Washington, was declared brain-dead from a cerebral hemorrhage. Inside McDowell's womb was her six-months-along unborn son Joshua. For seven weeks, doctors at the University of Washington kept Peggy on life support until Joshua developed enough to survive on his own. Joshua was born, Peggy died, and this already impressive story took a miraculous turn as four critically ill strangers hit pay dirt, when Peggy McDowell's heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas were offered up for transplant. In addition, Peggy's corneas restored the vision of two more people. Meanwhile, since his one-month-premature birth on December 1, baby Joshua has been transferred to Kadlec Medical Center in Richland, where he is said to be doing fine.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17 Today every news source in the world reported the terrifying story of the explosives-toting, false-identification-carrying, French-speaking Algerian whom federal agents believe was planning to blow up the Space Needle. Thirty-two-year-old Ahmed Ressam was arrested Tuesday night trying to smuggle 100 pounds of urea (a legal powdered substance often used in explosives), two jars of nitroglycerin, and four timing devices into the U.S. via the Port Angeles ferry. U.S. customs and immigration agents believe Ressam is part of a larger Middle Eastern terrorist cell whose desired target is the Space Needle's Y2K bash. Today Ressam was charged with smuggling nitroglycerine across the border, as well as showing false identification and making false statements to U.S. customs agents. Meanwhile, law enforcement agents have launched a massive local manhunt for possible accomplices.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18 Today Last Days called a variety of travel agents in an attempt to book a thrifty last-minute New Year's flight to somewhere as far away from the Space Needle as possible.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19 On a less deadly note, today Time magazine named multibillionaire founder and CEO Jeff Bezos its "Person of the Year." The 35-year-old online entrepreneur is the fourth youngest person to hold the title since the magazine began the tradition in 1927, following 25-year-old aviator Charles Lindbergh (1927), 26-year-old Queen Elizabeth II (1952), and 34-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. (1963). Contacted by Last Days for a statement on her boss' glamorous new title, an receptionist refused to say anything.

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