Our week of holiday love and joy begins with an absolutely horrid story from the University of California at Irvine, where a student has been charged with robbery, rape, and torture after allegedly assaulting a 15-year-old girl he met on the Internet. The Associated Press reports that sophomore Brian Dance, 20, allegedly met the girl in an online chat room and arranged to pick her up at an Orange County mall. Police say Dance drove the girl to a university parking lot and forced her into the back of his car, where he covered her eyes with duct tape and beat her for two hours with his hands and a belt. (Even worse, police say the girl was "raped with a foreign object" and had swastikas carved in her cheek and forehead with a knife.) In a handy twist, a female friend of the victim was also in communication with the cyberpsycho, and, with detectives' guidance, arranged a meeting with the suspect at the same mall. Upon his arrival, the suspect was immediately identified by his 15-year-old victim and arrested without incident by Orange County Police, who found in his pockets a roll of duct tape along with the knife they believe was used in the attack. Brian Dance is currently being held (in lieu of $250,000 bail) at the Orange County Jail, where we imagine both his knife skills and his sweet college booty are being put to good use.

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 25 In much better news: Today was Christmas, the Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Like many perfectly decent people, Last Days learned to hate Jesus and all he stands for after being exposed to too many of his idiotic followers (we grew up in Texas, and were schooled in North Carolina). Lucky for us, our young adulthood introduced us to a number of writings that revealed Jesus to be far more complex and exciting than any of his self-appointed earthly representatives had ever led us to believe, and led us to a big funky crush on the historical Jesus, the bastard carpenter espousing his deceptively simple views, a son of God who never claimed to be the Son of God. Unfortunately, the fairy-tale Christmas legend has no room for the real Jesus, crammed as it is with its preordained Messiah, Blessed Virgin, choirs of angels, and myrrh. So what's a self-respecting Jesus fan supposed to do on Our Savior's bullshit birthday? Well, if you're Last Days, you acquire some sort of nog and settle down to read pages 95 to 97 in Stephen Mitchell's The Gospel According to Jesus. Then you get really high and watch All About Eve.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 26 Following Monday's ghastly tale of swastika-laden miso- gyny, Last Days is thrilled to report a story in which something good actually happens to a woman. The story comes from the Associated Press, who today profiled Desiree Mack, a 21-year-old woman taking part in the smashing new King County program YouthBuild. Created in 1995, YouthBuild aims to help the working poor get out of their dead-end wage-slave jobs by teaching them the basics of carpentry and other generously salaried construction trades. Desiree Mack is one of 28 students currently enrolled in the program, and YouthBuild couldn't have asked for a better posterwoman. Host to a triple-whammy of social stigmas (black, poor, female), Mack's seen her share of troubles: She dropped out of school in eighth grade, sold crack for a few years, and had two kids by age 19. After a drug bust landed her in jail, Mack cleaned up and started working, but found that not even the steadiest minimum-wage job could cover basic expenses for her and her kids. Now, less than one year after making $6.72 an hour working the counter at Burger King, the fence-building, bathroom-renovating, earthquake-bracket-installing Mack is poised to begin a carpentry apprenticeship with pay starting at around $16 an hour--which could nearly double by the end of the four- to five-year assignment. "We're actively recruiting women because the wages and earnings are in the realm where they could support a family," said YouthBuild overseer George Dignan, and his plan is working. Contemplating her new, bankable skills, Desiree Mack said the words spoken by so many others--from first-time masturbators to longtime Paxil users--before her: "It feels like life is finally worth it."

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 27 Today Last Days boarded a Northwest Airlines flight to Winter Haven, Florida, a smallish town outside Orlando catering to middle-class retirees and lower-middle-class mulletheads. We'd come to attend a family reunion of Last Days' mother's family, a ragtag bunch of cool old ladies, saucy divorcées, and born-again Christians, a number of whom are fluent in tongues. But the unwitting star of the gathering was Last Days' fella, Jake, who gamely shouldered his role as the first tangible evidence of their cousin/nephew/uncle's homosexuality the majority of the attendants had ever been forced to deal with. Despite our inherent trepidation and a deeply unnerving request that we "not be too demonstrative" (what does that mean? No fussing with each other's hair? No anal 69s?), the reunion passed pleasantly enough, thanks to Jake's natural good humor and our frequent consumption of THC/Listerine/Visine cocktails.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28 Today Last Days' Florida family follies continued, with an evening gathering devoted to the giving and receiving of gifts. Noticeably absent from the assembly was Last Days' older brother, who (along with his fiancée) was represented by a present given, significantly, to "Jake and Dave." Considering that just a few years ago, our brother could hardly speak the word "gay" without gagging, this "couple's present" was a revelation. Unfortunately, things quickly took a turn for the worse as the groundbreaking gift was unwrapped, revealing two pieces of matching, anatomically correct homoerotic stemware.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29 Today Last Days struggled with the implications of our brother's mind-boggling gift of gay glassware, along with the rami-fications of our instantaneous, howling derision of the carefully chosen objects before a slew of baffled relatives ("We're just not that gay," offered Jake as an explanation.) Obviously our brother's gift was given with the sweetest intentions, in honor of our homosexual love. But the fact that someone we love chose to honor us with wine glasses shaped like Manshots cover models makes us want to shoot ourselves out of a cannon.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30 After nearly 48 hours of wrangling with deeply conflicting emotions, today Last Days finally made peace with our newly acquired gay glasses. Admittedly, the pricey (upwards of $50 a pop), soft-core stemware is nothing we'd ever buy for ourselves, any more than we'd hire the Seattle Men's Chorus to perform "Over the Rainbow" at our rainbow-flag-drenched commitment ceremony. Still, it's the thought that counts, and the thoughts behind the much-maligned glasses were unequivocally good. Plus, based on shock value alone, the porny wine glasses have quickly become Last Days' most treasured possessions.

Dear Wally, please forgive me. Everyone else, send Hot Tips to