I have some news, and some good news. First the news: The Last Days column you're currently reading will be the last Last Days column I will write for the next 12 months. Of course this makes me very sad. Writing this column for the past three years has been a blast, and nothing but beneficial: forcing me to read newspapers, teaching me 80% of what I know about writing, paying my rent. But now I've got some other stuff to do (editing, playwrighting) and in my absence (here's the good news), Last Days will pass into the highly capable and funny-as-shit hands of Miss Tamara Paris.
In the meantime, I've got one more column to write, and for my final Last Days, I'd like to revisit some of my favorite items from the past few years, providing commentary, lending insight, and divulging the secrets that helped make Last Days America's favorite week-old pop culture 'n' politics news roundup. Enjoy!
One of the challenges of Last Days (aside from typing while drunk) is somehow making week-old news interesting. Standard solution: If everyone's already reported it, report on the reporting.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2000 The week began with every news source in the country reporting on George W. Bush's accidentally amplified dissing of New York Times reporter Adam Clymer, whom the Republican presidential nominee referred to as "a major-league asshole" during a Labor Day rally in Naperville, Illinois. By now, the story of Bush's public potty mouth is old news; still fascinating, however, is the variety of euphemisms used by mainstream press to suggest the forbidden "a" word. The majority of print media used the standard "a----," while newscasts opted for the anonymous phrase "an expletive," and sassy editorial writers (such as Seattle Times' Cal Thomas) offered such inspired winks as "a name that... would be familiar territory to a proctologist!" Most interestingly, while nearly every mainstream news source blanched at printing the word "asshole," none showed the slightest hesitation in making repeated references to "Bush's off-color crack."
When Last Days first appeared in 1998, it was written by committee. Before long it was taken over by Rebecca Pellman, then by Sean Nelson. When Sean left to become a rock star, it was passed to me. My one instruction (from former editor Emily White): "It doesn't all have to be 'real news.'"
TUESDAY, MAY 4, 1998 Seattle's public performance art scene continued to flourish with an exhibition in the wee hours of the morning by a performing arts Renaissance man at a Capitol Hill gay bar (R Place, to be precise). The show began with our performer--a semi-regular patron of the establishment--staggering Butoh- style to the bar, only to be denied service by the wary bartender. The man then crossed to the staircase and executed a perfect slapstick pratfall down an entire flight of stairs, which segued into a scene of classic naturalism as the man convinced the summoned medics that he required no medical attention. The man then stumbled outside, collapsed on the pavement, and, in a grand, Dada-styled finale, soiled himself. Bravo!
I've always drawn great pleasure from making cheap jokes at the expense of others. But occasionally I'd find an item that defied wisecracking. Dammit.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 1999 Oh, for God's sake: Today the Associated Press reported on the hideous case of Louis Brooks, a convicted rapist in Daytona Beach, Florida, who, after serving six years of a 15-year sentence for sexually assaulting a 68-year-old woman in 1992, was recently released from prison--only to rape the same woman again. "I'm going to kill you for putting me in jail," Brooks reportedly told his now 75-year-old victim, before assaulting her and stealing her wallet and car keys. Never mind that such retaliation rapes are a key reason why many victims neglect to come forward in the first place; Last Days sincerely hopes that the twice-wronged granny has the strength to heave the book at that motherfucker, as well as at the judicial system that made this atrocity--every rape victim's worst nightmare--not just possible, but easy.
On those rare occasions when news sources failed me, I could always fall back on exploiting my personal life. "But doesn't immediately turning personal events into comedy preempt the emotional experience of those events?" you ask. Eureka, Dr. Freudypants. But I've got 1,220 words to fill. (Thanks to Brian, the ass-kicking librarian.)
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 1999 Today on Capitol Hill, two homosexual men set a new world record for processing. The marathon attempt at soulful communication began on a late-afternoon stroll down lovely 15th Ave, where the pair bravely attempted to bridge the yawning chasm that exists between all human beings by discussing their thoughts and feelings. Six hours later, after countless cryptic admissions, defensive retreats, and impenetrable analogies, the exhausted pair agreed that the analyzing of emotions--like the composition of folk music and the construction of the nation's highways--is work best left to lesbians. In the future, the men will hash things out in the traditionally male way: by getting drunk and punching things.
Undoubtedly my favorite days were those when I simply made shit up. (You didn't really believe there was a National Endocrine System Day, did you?)
FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 1999 Today was Good Friday, the day for Christians to commemorate the horrible crucifixion of Jesus, a very nice and intelligent man whose life inspired goodness in many people, and whose death inspired superstitious idiocy in many more. In honor of Good Friday, Last Days constructed a Jesus sock puppet and asked it some questions. In response to our queries, Jesus revealed that his most important teaching is "The Kingdom of God is within you," and that the gravest problem facing the world today is the inability to forgive. He also said that Hollywood movies are too long, and confirmed that the nails went through his wrists, not his hands. In closing, Jesus denounced the majority of capital-C Christians as name-dropping necrophiliacs and proclaimed the world's greatest band to be Sleater-Kinney.
From the very beginning, the 2000 race for the White House was an overdone, overexposed, over-reported rodeo. This inside view seemed like a natural extension of the mainstream media's coverage.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 1999 Today at 12:30 pm, Bill Bradley visited Dick's on Broadway, where the very tall man purchased a hamburger. Upon being placed in the mouth of the democratic presidential hopeful, the hamburger was moistened by saliva and chewed to a fine texture, as its starch underwent conversion into simple sugars by the enzyme amylase. The swallowed burger then passed through Bradley's pharynx and esophagus to his stomach, where its sugars were passed into his bloodstream through his stomach wall, while the remainder of the burger, in the form of the thick liquid chyme, passed into the first section of Bradley's small intestine. From there, Bradley's pancreas broke down the burger's fats, starches, and proteins; his liver helped aid the digestion of the aforementioned fats; and small glands in his intestinal wall secreted enzymes to continue digestion. The digested bits of the burger were then absorbed through small projections of Bradley's intestinal wall, while the undigested bits passed into his large intestine and were excreted through his anus.
Sometimes the universe conspires to break your heart. But it always helps to share. (Thanks to all Hot Tippers for your invaluable assistance.)
SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2000 At the close of last week's column, Last Days issued an impassioned call for Hot Tips. Apparently moved by our plea, today God sent us a living, breathing Hot Tip in the form of a late-middle-aged, significantly overweight woman in a fuzzy purple sweat suit, who was found writhing helplessly on a gravel embankment outside of the Harvard Market QFC, where she'd landed after falling out of her wheelchair. (Dear God.) Situated nearby was a taxicab, whose driver had been attempting to maneuver the woman into the cab when she'd collapsed on the gravel, where she was (rightfully) fuming and cussing up a storm. Sensing an opportunity to make up for a lifetime of heartless deeds, Last Days placated the (also rightfully) freaked-out Indian cabby before the two of us joined forces to move the extremely unlucky woman off the ground and into the cab. After strenuous grunting by all three participants, the cabby resumed his place in the driver's seat while Last Days wrangled the woman into an upright position, all the while grinning like an idiot and offering spunky asides like, "There ya go!" The woman was having none of it. "If I would have known my life would ever come to this," she said before the cab pulled away, "I would've died a long time ago. Why can't I just be dead?" If anyone knows the proper response to this question, please e-mail Last Days immediately.
And there you have it.
Thanks to everyone who read the column. Special thanks to those of you who approached me to tell me you liked it. With new deadlines every week, it was sometimes easy to forget the column ever saw the light of day, and hearing from actual readers was always a boost.
So: Be nice. Floss at home. Don't turn the handle on Jerusalem's Holocaust memorial flame the wrong way. Mute TV commercials. Tell the truth. And if anyone ever offers you a column, say yes.
Please continue to send Hot Tips to email@example.com, where they will now be retrieved by Tamara Paris.
To contact David Schmader, you may now write to firstname.lastname@example.org.