Like most people, Last Days has spent a fair amount of time contemplating horrible ways to die or be killed. So imagine our surprise today as the Associated Press reported a "bizarre homicide" involving both a method of murder and manner of death Last Days hadn't previously thought to fear. The slow-motion homicide was set in motion last fall in Spokane, Washington, when Richard "Dick" Cross, 63, was driving to an appointment and noticed severe burning on his lower back, his buttocks, and the backs of his legs. Police soon determined the cause of the burn: hydrochloric acid, poured onto Cross' car seat. On May 6, after a long struggle with acute pneumonia resulting from "remote exposure to pulmonary toxicant (hydrochloric acid)," Richard Cross died, and Spokane police are searching for who's behind his passive-aggressively vicious murder. By all accounts, Richard Cross, known around Spokane for ministering to jail inmates and the homeless, was the last person who deserved to be killed with acid--a sad fact that renders death-by-hydrochloric-acid-poured-on-a-car-seat spooky enough to displace the predominant nightmare images from Last Days' childhood (involving the menacingly slow approach of a tall, shadowy figure, alternately personified by Abraham Lincoln and KISS bassist Gene Simmons) and adulthood (drowning under a layer of ice, getting smothered by a naked Jimmy Kimmel).


Today brought news of the generous journalism scholarship founded by the late comedian Flip Wilson for black journalism majors at five American universities, including the University of Washington. Named for the groundbreaking comic whose gut-busting appearances on Laugh-In, The Tonight Show, and his own Emmy-winning variety show made him one of the premier comedians of the late '60s and early '70s, the Flip Wilson scholarship will bestow $23,500 upon a student with "demonstrated financial need" and a 3.0 grade point average. The Associated Press reports that even though Wilson had no personal experience with journalism, he was inspired by friend and former publicist Kathleen Fearn-Banks, who convinced Wilson that media studies was a field where his money could make an impact on the black community. Wilson agreed, and five years after his death-by-liver-cancer, the first Flip Wilson scholarship will be bestowed next spring on a student at Rutgers University, with selection based partially on 500-word essays detailing some aspect of Wilson's work and its impact on television or comedy. (Last Days' suggested titles: "The Devil Made Her Do It!: Gender, Race, and Satanic Possession in Flip Wilson's Geraldine"; "From Flip Wilson to Eddie Murphy: African American Comedians in Trannies' Underpants.")


Today brought a shitload of fascinating happenings. First there was the meeting of Washington, D.C.'s Continuity of Government Commission, the 15-member bipartisan panel who today recommended the drafting of a constitutional amendment to "ensure the continuity of government" by empowering Congress to legislate several touchy issues that arise when large groups of elected officials are wiped out. (Specifically, how many vacancies would trigger emergency replacements? How is "incapacitation" determined? And how would an incapacitated member be able to return to work?) Then there was the Seattle Times report on the United States' ability to respond to chemical attack. A state-by-state analysis conducted by the nonpartisan Trust for America's Health organization has found a majority of the nation's health laboratories to be "dangerously unprepared" to deal with agents of chemical warfare, with the vast majority of state labs unable to identify a wide range of potential poisons, and not a single state lab equipped to test for many of the most common chemical weapons, including phosgene, a poison that can cause severe lung damage, and arsine, a gas that can lead to permanent organ damage and death. On a better note, there was the publication of a new Stranger, featuring a story by Eli Sanders on the grant-writing triumphs and real-life failures of Seattle's AIDS-prevention groups, perhaps the best feature ever to appear in this godforsaken rag. On a triumphant note, the Behnke Foundation announced its $15,000 unrestricted grant to local artist Susan Dory, the "maximalist" painter and grade-A fly girl selected this week to receive the Behnke's eighth annual Neddy Artist Fellowship. On a legal note, there was the long-awaited yet still-thrilling indictment of Martha Stewart, charged today with perjury, obstruction of justice, securities fraud, and six other crimes in connection to a federal probe of her alleged insider trading. But rather than expanding on any of the above stories, here's a drawing of Bert with fangs.


Today was stupidly hot, with Seattle temperatures pushing 85 degrees Fahrenheit and driving countless citizens to whine. But mildly oppressive heat couldn't stop over 1,000 people from lining up outside the South Lake Union Armory to receive blessed hugs from Sri Mata Amritanandamayi--the 49-year-old Indian woman, known to her followers as "Amma," whose two decades of touring the world for peace earned her the Gandhi/King Award for Nonviolence in Geneva last October. This morning, Amma kicked off a 10-city U.S. tour with an appearance in South Lake Union Armory's gymnasium. The Seattle Times reports that Amma spent nearly three hours blessedly hugging Seattle devotees, who waited in groups of 50 in a room adorned with "darshan guidelines": Tissue off any excess make-up and/or perspiration... Please do not hug Amma--let her hug you. "You feel an enormous sense of well-being," said hug recipient Bruce Fast to the Times. Meanwhile, elsewhere around Puget Sound, at least four people responded to the heat wave by drowning.


Today brought a brilliant Hot Tip from Tristan, who was waiting for his girlfriend at downtown Seattle's Morton's steakhouse last night when he overheard a brilliant battle of the sexes between "a tall dark-haired guy" and his "rather pretty blonde female companion." When Tristan began listening, "the guy had just asked the girl what her favorite sexual position was. She looked shocked and asked why he was asking. He replied, 'Well, for later reference--it IS our third date.' The woman asked if he was serious. The guy said yes. The young woman quietly said, 'Fuck off, dickwad,' grabbed her things, and walked out." Even worse (or better): "The guy sat there until his other two dinner partners returned and asked where his date had gone. 'She said she wanted to ditch you two and go fuck,' the guy told his friends. 'I said, "Hell no," so she stormed out. Why didn't you tell me she was a slut?' I just wanted this guy's friends to know that he's a fucking liar," wrote Tristan. His wish is our command.


Today was hot.


Nothing happened today (unless you count the premiere of the E! True Hollywood Story of Michael Jackson, an amazingly trashy two hours of television featuring extensive footage of "Michael Jackson" as impersonated by a bewigged young woman in Jacko fashions moonwalking on a back-lit soundstage to ridiculously lame instrumental knockoffs of Jacko's signature hits, as well as several priceless sound bites from the Jackson family lawyer®, a white-haired, bright-eyed gentleman who maintained a straight face while describing Neverland as "the safest place a child could ever go" and comparing Jackson's baby-dangling to "the Lion King holding up Simba--it's an ancient African tradition, and I'm shocked at the insensitivity people showed this tradition").

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