Dear readers: Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Centrum (who gave Last Days a residency to write a goddamned play), this week's column comes from the woodsy province of Port Townsend--specifically, the majestically rustic Fort Worden, where we had a view of the ocean but no link to the Internet. Which means all this week's items come from magazines found in the checkout line of the Port Townsend Safeway.

The week kicks off with the classic supermarket tabloid Sun, which lived up to its reputation as the death-obsessed dark sheep of the trash-rag family with a duo of doom 'n' gloom items designed to save readers from the forthcoming horrors destined to destroy life as we know it. First up was "How to Spot a Terrorist," in which retired Air Force Colonel Michael Licata tutored Sun readers on the telltale traits of terrorism. According to Licata, the "typical terrorist" is "a generally intelligent and well-educated" person who's "not afraid to express extreme political opinions, either of the left or right," and who just may be "obsessed with federal buildings and paramilitary training." Continuing the feel-bad vibe was "Nostradamus' Urgent Warning!," featuring Nostradamus scholar Dr. Donna Andrews (of the Bibliotheque Nationale!) offering expert interpretation of Nostradamus' prophecies for 2003. Among the historical events-to-be: the deployment of insect weapons against the United States by its enemies; the assassination of Osama bin Laden by "unmanned robot drones"; and the instigation of Armageddon 2003, marked by the destruction of the world and, of course, the sparing of the pious, with "religious communities apparently spared the worst" of the final reckoning, according to Dr. Donna. To temper the damning prophecies, Sun offered "Seven Steps to Survival," featuring such negligibly comforting pointers as "Study your Bible" and "Be ready to flee." Nice try, but it's gonna take more than that to offset the horrifying (and inevitably accurate) prophecy of Nostradamus: "The war that starts in Iraq will be the last war ever fought on Earth."

In much lighter news: Today Last Days spent some quality time with Newsweek, featuring an array of deeply informative articles on the state of the world (specifically, the threat of North Korea's Kim Jong Il)--all of which we instinctively flipped past to the fluffier stuff in the back. This week, that meant Jerry Adler's richly entertaining profile of the RaËlians, the sky-watching cult of nudists that believes life on Earth was created by alien beings and claims to have cloned the first human being--"Eve," whose still-unconfirmed bio-existence made headlines a couple of weeks back. Another jewel in Newsweek's rear was Anna Quindlen's brilliantly level-headed essay on the stupidity of sodomy laws; quietly but powerfully, Quindlen illuminated the inherent atrociousness of such prejudicial government by drawing a much-appreciated and entirely fitting parallel between today's mandated oppression of gays and yesterday's mandated oppression of blacks. Finally, Last Days delighted at the "Newsmakers" page, which featured an item on Diana Ross' recent arrest on suspicion of drunk driving, including details of Ms. Ross' alcohol-infused attempt to recite the alphabet--specifically (according to the police report), "A, B, C, C, D, E, F, G, H, J, K, L, L, M, U, P, Q, R, S, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z."

Today Last Days sampled a bit of local journalism with the Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader. "Published continually since 1889," today's Leader featured a lovely front-page profile of Amanda Groody, the 18-year-old Quilcene High School senior named "queen elect" of the forthcoming 68th Jefferson County Rhododendron Festival. According to Leader staff writer Patrick J. Sullivan, Ms. Groody's incipient ascension marks only the second time in the festival's history that a single candidate has automatically become queen. ("Rhody" fest officials say five or six girls picked up candidate applications, but only Amanda Groody returned a completed application in time for the late-December deadline.) Congrats to Queen-elect Groody; may your Rhody reign be regal and coup-free.

··The Leader's front page also boasted this dark headline: "State budget woes could rip Centrum programs."

Back to fatuously entertaining news about famous people: Today Last Days delved into Us, which featured a fascinating tell-all about "the big secret among celebrities": the phenomenal sums they receive for corporate and private appearances. Among Hollywood's high-priced rentals: Brad Pitt ($500,000 gets you 90 minutes of mixing and mingling), Jay Leno ($300,000 and private-jet costs buys an evening of "speaking, wisecracking, and mingling"), and Jennifer Lopez ($750,000 buys you an hour with this "simple girl from the Bronx"--blet). Bargain basement: Bo Derek, who offers a one-day speaking engagement for $15,000 and two first-class plane tix, and Carrot Top, who'll move into your house for 40 cents and a Hot Pocket.

Today we turn to the comfy bourgeois estrogen bath Good Housekeeping, featuring Editor in Chief Ellen Levine's "intimate conversation" with Laura Bush--which contained not one thing worth recounting here, except perhaps the first lady's good taste in poetry (Lady Bush named Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese" as her all-time favorite). Far more interesting was Beth Johnson's interview with parenting expert Mel Levine, who offered this penetrating tidbit: "From early morning till bedtime, a kid's central mission is to avoid humiliation"--a child-psych insight worthy of Freud or Judy Blume. Levine's advice to parents hoping to help: Talk nice, offer encouragement, and let children know that doing something well sometimes sucks. Amen.

Today brings us to the low-rent celebrity tabloid National Examiner, featuring page after page of lame-ass crap about Rosie O'Donnell and Robert Blake, with 30 whole pages devoted to the creepy "collectibles" scene. Rather than elaborate on any of this, we'll save our words to make room for these pictures of babies eating corn

Nothing happened today.

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