The week begins with the single greatest news item Last Days has ever had the duty to report. The story comes from the snowy hinterlands of Minnesota and North Dakota, where police are mystified by the death of a Japanese tourist trying to find money buried in the movie Fargo. As film fans will recall, the Coen brothers' 1996 Fargo--after beginning with an entirely facetious claim to historical veracity--charts the saga of a funny-looking criminal played by Steve Buscemi, who, among many other things, buries $920,000 in a frozen field, marks his stash with a bloody stick, and is eventually fed into a wood chipper. In early November, 28-year-old Takako Konishi flew from Tokyo to the U.S. to look for the cash buried by Buscemi in the film. Reuters reports that Konishi was first encountered by authorities in Bismarck, North Dakota, who found the young woman rooting around in a dump. Using minimal English, the "seemingly lucid" Konishi explained her mission, showing officers the crude treasure map she'd drawn to lead her to the stash. The cops attempted to explain that Fargo was fiction, but faced "a language barrier," and as Konishi had done nothing wrong and her paperwork was in order, they had no reason to hold her. Police next encountered Takako Konishi on November 15--three days after she was last seen, a little more than a week after her arrival in the United States--when a hunter found her body 40 miles outside of Fargo in Detroit Lakes, in close proximity to where Steve Buscemi's character might've buried the stolen money if Fargo wasn't just a freaking movie. Finding no signs of foul play, Detroit Lakes authorities are awaiting the results of Konishi's toxicology tests, predicting that her death was caused by either a prescription drug overdose or, duh, exposure. (Dear Joel and Ethan Coen: Please make this story into a movie right now.)


Japanese twentysomethings aren't the only ones with their heads up their starry, starry butts: Today's Seattle Times featured the deeply unnerving story of the University of Washington Medical Center surgeons who accidentally left a 13-inch-long surgical instrument inside a patient's body after an operation. Here's the story: In June 2000, 40-year-old Donald Church underwent surgery to remove a large malignant tumor in his abdomen. Almost immediately after his surgery, Church began experiencing pain--sometimes mild, sometimes excruciating, always present--but at his 30-day checkup, doctors told him such pain was normal after extensive surgery. Three weeks later, an agonized Church took his case to his family physician, who ordered the CAT scan that revealed the source of Church's pain: A two-inch-wide, ruler-sized metal retractor used to protect underlying organs during the suturing of surgical wounds. Even worse, by week's end, the UW Medical Center will confess that since 1997, five such instruments "have remained in a patient's body following a surgical procedure." But don't fret too much: Rightly humiliated by the gaffes, the UW immediately instituted a policy requiring the counting of all surgical tools at the end of each operation, and gave Donald Church $97,000 for his pain.


Today in Olympia, a male freshman at the Evergreen State College burst naked from a dorm, assaulted three people and a dog, then smashed the windshield of a Jeep with his forehead before being restrained by campus police, taken to St. Peter Hospital, and arrested for investigation of second-degree assault. "It appears the individual was under the influence of drugs," said Art Costantino, vice president of student affairs.


Speaking of drugs: Today brought the publication of a new Stranger, featuring the greatest letters page of all time, consisting entirely of slams from sixth-graders pissed off about Ellen Forney's kinda recent comic, "How D'ya Smoke Pot and Stay Out of Jail?" (Sept 27). Actually, to describe the preadolescents' response as "pissed off" is deceptive, as the impressionable youngsters seemed to be simply regurgitating (poorly) the "Just Say No" sentiments of their teacher, Mr. Jason J. Dodge, a deeply unintelligent man who Xeroxed Forney's comic for his class and compelled the li'l rascals to conduct their letter-writing campaign. (When Last Days' teachers failed to create legitimate assignments, Mr. Dodge, they showed movies. If they were cool, they showed 'em backwards.) Considering the students' letters, dripping with misspellings, grammar tragedies, baby talk, and inscrutable scribbles indefensible at the sixth-grade level (we saw the originals), Last Days prays Mr. Dodge neglected to reveal that he teaches special education. And considering Mr. Dodge's shameless manipulation of his poor little speds, we wouldn't be surprised if he's out of a job very, very soon. (Apologies and congratulations to Sammy, Jessica, Emily, Artem, and Nancy, five students whose letters were written with commendable thought and skill.)


Speaking of men of negligible intelligence: Today brings the anus-clenching tale of the 32-year-old Filipino man driven by religious fervor to chop off his penis with a machete, because he believed it was driving him to sin. Relatives told Reuters they found the former security guard covered in blood, lying on the floor of his hut with a chunk of his penis missing last Monday. "His act was probably triggered by Matthew 18:8," the mangled man's mother told reporters, citing the Biblical verse stipulating that "if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away." Doctors at a hospital in Bacolod report that the man's penis showed several wounds, indicating that the man had hacked at it a number of times before it detached. Currently the man is listed in stable condition, with his wounds expected to heal in the next two-and-a-half weeks. Relatives say they have been unable to find the severed portion of the penis.


For a number of weeks, the upper right corner of this page has been dedicated to a succession of Battles Royale, penned by Mr. Tim Sanders, with winners decided by The Stranger's beloved readers. At long last, the votes have been counted, the winners selected, and the results are ready for publication. In a series of landslide votes, Stranger readers said corn dogs are better than Dale Chihuly; people who date manic depressives are better than Napoleon's Russian winter defeat; the Cha-Cha Lounge is exactly as good as the Lynnwood Mall Ivar's; and the cynics have it all over Christmas. Thanks to everyone who participated.


The week came to a close with the kick-off of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival commemorating the victory in 165 B.C. of the Maccabees over Antiochus Epiphanes, and the rededication of the Temple at Jerusalem. Just in time for Hanukkah, tonight Last Days stumbled upon a television commercial for Barbra Streisand's Christmas Memories, "Barbra's first collection of holiday songs in 20 years!" Last Days has no problem with the world-renowned Jewess raking in a little holiday dough with such pro-Jesus standards as "I'll Be Home for Christmas." However, we'd be much more interested in songs documenting Barbra's real Christmas memories, including "I Saw Mommy Kissing Rabbi Klotzner" and "Dreidel, Schmeidel, Gimme a Goddamn Barbie."

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