MONDAY, MARCH 17 Dear readers: Last week, Last Days ostentatiously referenced our upcoming trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, where we promised to find some answers, or at least dredge up some worthwhile rumors, about the mysterious disappearance/reappearance of Elizabeth Smart, the 14-year-old girl kidnapped from her bedroom nine months ago by a messianic sociopath, then held captive in a wig and burqa within pitching distance of her family's house and Salt Lake's police station before being returned home, blessedly safe and relatively sound, on March 12. Unfortunately, this week the United States went to war with Iraq, a deadly serious/seriously deadly undertaking that instantly placed Elizabeth Smart alongside Patty Hearst and Baby Jessica in the drawer of ultimately trivial victim history. But when has Last Days ever blanched at pursuing the trivial? Despite Operation Iraqi Freedom's thorough upstaging of Operation Bewigged Kidnapee, we shall persevere. Starting tomorrow.

TUESDAY, MARCH 18 Today Last Days arrived in beautiful Murray, Utah, the Salt Lake suburb that is home to the wonderful Mormon family of our wonderful homosexual partner. (Yes, Rodney King, we can all just get along.) Upon our arrival and request, brother Tom recounted the family picnic held the previous summer in Salt Lake City's Liberty Park, where family members politely averted their eyes from the bearded man with two burqaed wives occupying the next kiosk over. (Both Mormon and Utah laws prohibit polygamy, but the freaky few polygamists who remain are largely ignored rather than actively prosecuted.) In retrospect, the family realized those weren't just any polygamist freaks, but Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, along with their kidnapped victim, Elizabeth Smart. "It was weird," said Tom of seeing the freaky trio identified on CNN.

··Speaking of weird: While driving around Salt Lake City, Last Days couldn't help noticing the dozens of signs, placards, and lettered marquees adorning an array of gas stations, convenience stores, and fast-food joints, all emblazoned with some variation of the phrase, "Welcome back, Elizabeth!" Like all good things, Last Days' objection is two-pronged. First, it's not like Elizabeth Smart went to the Olympics; she was kidnapped at knifepoint. Second, she didn't really go anywhere, except about 12 feet to the left and under a wig. Still, we understand and appreciate the sentiment, and we were soon enough distracted by another beguiling statement swirling around the Smart camp--Elizabeth's own proclamation of her status as "the luckiest girl in the world." Forgive us for nitpicking, but it is our belief that being kidnapped at knifepoint and held in a cave for nine months instantly disqualifies anyone from the title of "the luckiest girl in the world." Still, welcome back, Elizabeth. You are the luckiest girl in the world.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19 Today the United States and Britain went to war with Iraq. Last Days has little to say about this event, except that we wish it weren't happening, but since it is, we hope it can be concluded with as little loss of life as possible. (We'd also like free digital cable and the ability to fly.) So thank God for Hot Tipper Emily, who five years ago was kind enough to hire us for this very job, and who today informed Last Days of the first and perhaps only funny thing to happen yet in this war. "After war broke out, Brian Williams came on NBC," writes Emily. "Usually he's the main anchor on MSNBC, but he'll soon be a prime-time NBC anchor. Anyway, he was somewhere outside Baghdad, and he was so sunburned his face was the color of bologna. And HE HAD THE HICCUPS. After the first hiccup he said, 'I knew that was going to happen,' but through the second and third ones, he just smiled and kept talking." NBC soon cut away from Williams' spasmodic diaphragm, Emily reports, "presumably until he could drink a glass of water upside down." Thank you, Emily, and thank you, Brian Williams.

THURSDAY, MARCH 20 Today brought the occasion of the 19th annual Great American Meatout, in which folks around the globe are urged to refrain from eating meat for one day. Despite Last Days' two-decades-and-counting of vegetarianism, we rarely think about the eating of meat by others. Until the criminalizing of carnivorism or the extinction of every delicious beast, eating meat will continue, and whining about it just makes one look like a sanctimonious asshole. However, with the outbreak of war, we've found ourselves thinking about the nature of cruelty and humankind's varying abilities to tolerate and justify it. For example: We have no problem sharing a table with someone eating a steak, but we like to think we'd stop someone from kicking a dog, or a kid. God knows what this all adds up to, but whatever distancing tactics we've developed in order to be able to share tables with steak-eaters are proving extremely handy in helping us go about our stupid life in the midst of bloody warfare.

FRIDAY, MARCH 21 In a teensy bit of good news for humanity and a whole lot of good news for one lucky software engineer, today a slot machine in Las Vegas' Excalibur hotel/casino paid out a record $39 million. As nature habitually corrects imbalances, 50 bucks says this lucky duck gets hit with either a bus or SARS by year's end.

SATURDAY, MARCH 22 "Dear Last Days," read the e-mail received today from a concerned reader. "Recently I had a party at my house. Upon cleaning I came across a book of matches. Closer inspection revealed a fold of paper neatly tucked behind the matches. I unfolded the paper to discover an amount of an unknown white powder. I fear that this might be some sort of agent of terror. Please let me know what you think I should do." Dear concerned reader: Take the little packet of white powder and mix it with an equal amount of powdered baby laxative. Place the mixture back in the packet, wait until dark, then go to Belltown. When a well-dressed someone makes prolonged eye contact, offer to exchange the packet for $40. Take half the money and give it to the first hobo you see. Take the rest and go buy a CD by Iris DeMent, who tonight stunned a sold-out crowd in Madison, Wisconsin, by announcing that she couldn't perform as long as war raged in Iraq, as "it would be trivializing the fact that my tax dollars are causing great suffering and sending a message to the world that might is right." (Last Days suggests DeMent's second record, My Life, featuring two of the most beautiful and profound songs ever written: "Sweet Is the Melody" and "No Time to Cry.")

SUNDAY, MARCH 23 Irritating byproduct of war: Loss of the ability to write "Nothing happened today" with a clear conscience. So: Today the Iraqi satellite network al-Jazeera released footage of five American POWs featuring such graphic images that no U.S. news agency will air it; Saddam Hussein (or one of his six surgically altered doubles) went on TV to implore Iraqi citizens to rise up and strike down the Western infidels; and 21 protesters were arrested outside Seattle's Federal Building. (Plus, there were some Oscars--see page 69).

Dear Jake: Forgive me for calling you my "partner"; I will not do it again until we co-own a law firm. Everyone else: Send Hot Tips to