The week begins with news of the death of Nina Simone, the Virginia-born classical pianist turned high priestess of soul, who died today of natural causes at her home in southern France. Over the course of her 70 years, Nina Simone distinguished herself as the rarest of things--a protest singer whose righteous fury never subsided, with Simone's disgust at the U.S.'s racism eventually driving the singer to leave the States for good in 1973. Simone also recorded a wide variety of hits, from funky flukes (a tepid version of Randy Newman's "Baltimore" in 1978) to undeniable classics (Tiomkin & Washington's "Wild Is the Wind," never more beautiful than in Simone's 1959 live recording). But Last Days' most beloved distillation of the Nina Simone experience is found on 1964's In Concert, which finds a 31-year-old Simone immediately dispensing with her required hit of the time--Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy"--before dragging her audience through a ferocious song cycle of obsessive loss (Burroughs' "Plain Gold Ring"), murderous revenge (Brecht & Weill's "Pirate Jenny"), and mind-fucking political fury (Simone's own "Mississippi Goddam"), each delivered with a fearless intensity that owed as much to performance art and confrontational theater as it did to jazz. R.I.P., Ms. Simone.

路路Speaking of driven women: On the eve of the release of her new album American Life, Madonna made headlines today as the victim of an Internet trickster. The saga was set in motion last week, when Madonna and Warner Bros. Records mailed dummy song files to such file-sharing sites as Kazaa and Morpheus. Promising tracks from American Life, the files instead berated downloaders with a loop of Madonna demanding, "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" In response to Madonna's rhetorical question, an unidentified hacker broke into over the weekend, posting "This is what the fuck I think I'm doing!" along with MP3s of every song on Madonna's new record. After 15 hours of hack repairs, Madonna's site was back to normal, and American Life arrived in stores on Tuesday without incident. (And on Friday, a federal judge in Los Angeles will stun the music industry by ruling that the manufacture and sale of file-swapping software is legal.)


Today brings a fascinating story of girls gone bad in Canada. Police in Calgary, Alberta, today announced charges of attempted murder against three teenage girls who allegedly poisoned one of their enemies and six of their friends. Reuters reports the Royal Canadian Mounted Police first heard of the poisonings last week, when officials at H.J. Cody School reported the hospitalization of seven girls, ages 14 and 15, sickened after drinking a convenience-store slush drink. Investigators soon identified the cause of the girls' illness: copper sulfate, a chemical compound that can cause nausea, headaches, and rashes, that police allege was swiped from a school science experiment on April 10, before being placed by the defendants into a slushy, which police say was intended for one girl in particular, but was inadvertently consumed by seven girls in general, including, hilariously, two of the girls charged with attempted murder and administering a noxious substance. No motive has been offered for the alleged poisoning, for which the three girls will stand trial in Red Deer, Alberta, on May 1.

路路Speaking of girls making people sick: Today Last Days received a horrific Hot Tip from Tracy, who was riding a Metro bus from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill this evening when she was made to witness a most disgusting sight: "A young slacker girlfriend took a safety pin and stuck it in her slacker boyfriend's ear to pop the 'motherfucker of a zit' that had been giving him a headache all day, but that his girlfriend wasn't quite able to reach with her shortly shorn nails. The guy squealed when the thing popped, after which the girl wiped the blood and innards on the guy's jean jacket, licked her finger, and wiped the inside of the guy's ear." "It's gonna bleed for a while," Tracy heard the girl tell the guy before turning back to her magazine. "I thought I was gonna spew," says Tracy.


Today was Administrative Professionals Day, the secular U.S. holiday (formerly known as Professional Secretaries Day) honoring those citizens who answer our phones, make our appointments, and lie to our least favorite publicists about our whereabouts. God bless them.


Today Last Days had the unique and deeply pleasurable experience of meeting the first Chihuahua we didn't hate. Belonging to our friend James, the miracle Chihuahua--named "Peanut"--has somehow managed to avoid or unlearn every trait that's ever made a Chihuahua despicable, from yippy barks and quivering skin (Peanut is quiet, still, and dry) to the delivery of annoying catch phrases (Peanut makes that Taco Bell dog look like a rat). Plus, Peanut's mastered the skills that make any dog 10,000 times more adorable, including the Droopy Ear, the Eloquent Tail, and the hilarious Lipstick Boner. Congratulations, James, and congratulations, Peanut.

路路Speaking of adorable animals: Today the president of PETA made headlines by announcing a freakish stipulation in her will. Following her death, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk (now 53) will have her flesh barbecued and her skin fashioned into leather products to protest "man's ill treatment of animals." (Newkirk also suggests that her liver be vacuum-packed and sent to France to persuade shoppers not to buy foie gras.) "We hope it will start a trend," said Newkirk to Reuters.


Nothing happened today (unless you count multiple reports on the death of Charlie Douglass, the 93-year-old inventor of the television laugh track, who died of pneumonia on April 8).


Nothing happened today (unless you count the Tacoma police chief who critically shot his estranged wife before fatally shooting himself outside a Gig Harbor shopping mall).


Nothing happened today.

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