MONDAY, JANUARY 24 The week kicks off with Monday, January 24, determined by a UK psychologist to be the most depressing day of the year. According to Dr. Cliff Arnall, daily misery can be measured by calculating variables such as weather, debt, monthly salary, personal motivation, and the time that's passed since Christmas. "Following the initial thrill of New Year's celebrations and changing over a new leaf, reality starts to sink in," said Dr. Arnall to MSNBC. "The realization coincides with the dark clouds rolling in and the obligation to pay off Christmas credit-card bills." The result: One day more depressing than any other. Devised to help travel companies analyze vacation trends, Dr. Arnall's formula confirmed that citizens are most likely to book vacations when their lives suck. "People feel bleak when they have nothing planned," said travel industry spokesperson Alex Kennedy. "But once they book a holiday they have a goal, they work toward having time off." The power of a well-dangled reward is no surprise; more interesting is how Dr. Arnall's theory played out in real life. A web search of today's suicides and murders suggested nothing out of the ordinary, coworkers seemed their usual selves, and within 72 hours, the title of Most Depressing Day of the Year will be graphically seized by Thursday, January 27. Still, Last Days thanks Dr. Arnall for trying.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 25 In less depressing news: Today KING 5 reported on the anti-meth avengers of Whatcom County, where sober citizens are combating the ever-growing scourge of methamphetamine use and production through a plainspoken information campaign. Foremost among the campaign's aims is to arm ordinary citizens with the knowledge to identify the tell-tale signs of meth labs, which include hypodermic needles, antifreeze containers, propane tanks with corroded valves, coffee filters with red stains, and shredded lithium batteries. (To identify the stupid drug's users, look for gray skin, calloused genitals, and a box of old wire and teeth where their friends used to be.) As for those vigilant citizens who follow the clues to discover a real live meth lab, authorities' advice is unequivocal: Run away and call the cops.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 26 Speaking of unequivocal: Today brought a cavalcade of death, as U.S. troops suffered their deadliest day in Iraq since the commencement of Operation Make the World Hate Us 22 months ago, and an indecisive suicide in Southern California caused the deadliest U.S. train wreck in almost six years. In Iraq, 31 U.S. soldiers perished when their helicopter crashed, while another five American soldiers died in the rash of pre-election car and truck bombings. As for Southern California's failed suicide: After parking his SUV on the train tracks in Glendale, CA, 25-year-old Juan Alvarez changed his mind about dying and fled the vehicle, only to watch a commuter train smash into his car, fly off the rails, and crash into a another train, killing 11, wounding 200, and earning Alvarez charges on 11 counts of murder.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 27 Speaking of which: Today Last Days is required by fate to write a eulogy for Nicole duFresne, the 28-year-old actor, playwright, and former Seattleite murdered early this morning on the streets of Manhattan. The details of duFresne's death could hardly be sadder or more stupid: After leaving a Lower East Side nightclub with her friends and fiancé, duFresne was confronted by a pair of young men, one of whom pistol-whipped Nicole's protective fiancé--28-year-old Jeffrey Sparks, who was to wed duFresne this October--while the other yanked at the purse held by duFresne's friend and writing partner Mary Jane Gibson. When duFresne tried to intervene with reason--"What are you going to do, shoot us?"--the young man did just that, lodging a bullet in duFresne's chest and leaving her to die in the arms of her fiancé. For further details on the murder investigation, see Brendan Kiley's column on page 22. For the deeper meaning of random tragedy, consult the belief system of your choice. But don't come crying to us if nothing helps, because this is some awful, awful shit. Deep condolences to duFresne's friends, family, and fiancé.

•• In much lighter news: Today marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, with political leaders from around the globe trekking to the former Nazi death camp to honor the millions of victims of the Holocaust. As usual, the most potent words were spoken by Auschwitz survivor, beloved author, and all-around badass Elie Wiesel: "I don't believe in collective guilt, but the guilty should be remembered for their guilt. How can you go away with the knowledge you gathered here and remain the same? If you will be the same after this, we will be lost." After reflecting upon Wiesel's words, countless Americans choked back tears, daubed their eyes, then clicked to VH1, for a six-hour rerun marathon of I Love Yesterday Afternoon.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 28 Nothing happened today (unless you count the pair of reports from unaffiliated Hot Tippers Laura and Ryan--Laura wrote to report her sighting of a judo-kicking nutcase in the back of a Metro bus; Ryan wrote to report witnessing an elderly couple in Interbay, sitting in a parked car, furiously making out).

SATURDAY, JANUARY 29 Nothing happened today, unless you count the rocket attack that killed two Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq--where citizens will vote in their first free election tomorrow--or the shipping of Last Days to Santa Maria, CA, where we will attend week one of the criminal trial of deposed King of Pop/ alleged child lover Michael Jackson. Trial reflections next week; in the meantime, send wishes and prayers to

SUNDAY, JANUARY 30 The week ends with the long-awaited, first-ever free national election in Iraq. Even better, the number of those who voted--approximately eight million--far outweighed the number of those killed (44 as of Monday). Success! Now bring 'em home.

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