MONDAY, MARCH 28 Following last week's tempest in a tube-hole, the week kicks off with a cruel reminder of what major tragedy looks like, as an 8.7-magnitude earthquake clobbered the west coast of Indonesia, killing at least 514 people and freaking out hundreds of thousands more. With today's quake rattling along the same tectonic fault line that spawned the devastating day-after-Christmas disaster, a number of Asian countries braced for deadly tsunamis; when the waves failed to materialize, the world breathed a sigh of relief while seismologists scratched their heads. "I'm baffled," said the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center's Robert Cessaro to the Associated Press; the bafflement was corroborated by Center Director Charles McCreery: "We expected some destructive tsunami with some distant destructive effects… It was surprising."

•• Speaking of surprising earthquakes: Today brought a major shift in the trial of Michael Jackson, as Judge Rodney Melville ruled that past allegations of sexual molestation against Jackson may be introduced into the current criminal proceedings. Armed with judicial approval, prosecutor Tom Sneddon is set to present evidence that Jacko allegedly made his creepy moves on at least five other boys--including but not limited to former child star/lifelong Jacko supporter Macaulay Culkin--carrying out what Sneddon describes as a "consistent pattern" of grooming and abuse. (Insert face-slapping Home Alone scream here.)

TUESDAY, MARCH 29 Meanwhile in Washington, D.C.: Today the Supreme Court weighed arguments in the case of MGM Studios v. Grokster, bringing the fight over Internet file-sharing to the highest court in the land. On one side are the record companies, who say their financial livelihood is threatened by free-and-easy illegal trading of their commercial goods, and who are seeking the right to sue the software-makers whose products enable such theft. On the other side are tech inventors and manufacturers, who claim technological progress would be stifled if they were to be held liable for customers' illegal use of their wares. Hovering over both sides is history, which has routinely favored unbridled advancement of technology over the threat of potentially illegal use, as evidenced by 1984's Betamax case, wherein the Supremes ruled that Sony couldn't be sued for copyright infringement should folks use their VCRs to illegally copy movies. But perhaps the most interesting comparison to be made is of the star power supporting each side: According to the Associated Press, the plight of the record companies has been taken up by Don Henley and Sheryl Crow, while the tech-advance angle earns support from Brian Eno and Public Enemy's Chuck D. The final judgment will be rendered by the Supreme Court later this year. But any time a former Eagle and a former backup singer for Michael Jackson square off against two irreplaceable architects of modern pop music, you know whom to root for.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30 After weeks of agonized waiting, today brought closure to two heartrending messes, as a King County Superior Court jury convicted the three Evangelical-Christian Russians who gay-bashed Seattle's Micah Painter, and the last breath escaped the lungs of diversionary political piñata Terri Schiavo. May the latter rest in peace, may the former rot in prison.

THURSDAY, MARCH 31 Speaking of Terri Schiavo: Today brought the publication of a new Stranger, featuring a Last Days column shot through with derision for what we labeled the Schiavo Rodeo, inspiring this letter from concerned reader Anna: "Dear Last Days: I know this whole Terri Schiavo thing has been ridiculous/insane/annoying, but why are you being so uncharacteristically mean about it? On a related note, don't you think there is something undeniably tragic about a woman whose (first) death was a result of a body-image obsession having her image beamed to every corner of the earth as a fat and ugly near-corpse?" Dear Anna: Thanks for writing. To answer your first question, our "uncharacteristic meanness" regarding the Schiavo case is, like all good things, two-pronged. Prong #1 concerns Christianity's habitual devaluation of the human experience, casting our brief human lives as time served in the mortal Waiting Room, after which--if we've been good--our rewarding real lives commence in Heaven. Prong #2 concerns Christianity's simultaneous fetishization of the human body, as evidenced by the rampant breast-beating that characterized the debate over the removal of the 10-years-brain-dead Schiavo's feeding tube. This combination of life-scorn and body-worship makes Last Days insane, and sometimes crazy people get mean. As for your second question, yes, there is something tragic about Terri Schiavo's journey from pathologically self-conscious skinny girl to blob seen round the world. As a bulimic, Terri Schiavo longed to have her feeding tube removed years before she passed into a persistent vegetative state, and her subsequent popularity as a betubed blob is a tragic irony (or perhaps an ironic tragedy, take your pick).

FRIDAY, APRIL 1 Just in time for April Fool's Day, today the Associated Press reported a so-weird-you-wish-it-were-a-joke story from the wilds of Wisconsin. The setting: the annual Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin pageant, featuring dozens of differently-abled darlings competing for the Wisconsin crown and a spot in the national pageant. The winner: Janeal Lee, a 30-year-old high-school teacher whose muscular dystrophy requires her to use a scooter. The problem: Ms. Lee's ability to stand, as evidenced by a newspaper photograph showing Lee standing among her math students, resulting in Lee being stripped of her crown. "I've been made to feel as if I can't represent the disabled citizens of Wisconsin because I'm not disabled enough," said Lee to the AP, but state pageant officials insist that Lee "should have been aware of the rules."

SATURDAY, APRIL 2 Speaking of the disabled being stripped of their crowns: Today brought the death of the pope. RIP PJP II; may your church's bigoted delusions ascend to the heavens with you.

SUNDAY, APRIL 3 The week wraps up with a pair of impressive Hot Tips, chronicling the debut of the Downtown Ass-Kisser and the return of the Metro Wang-Displayer. "I was waiting to cross at the intersection of Union and Fourth Ave," writes Hot Tipper Jacks. "In front of me were two thirtysomething guys in business suits. Next to the guy on the left was a scruffy-looking street person with dark, long-ish hair, who was bending over to tie his shoe." But things took a turn for the sexy as the shoe-tying street person craned his neck and kissed the left butt-cheek of the businessman. "The businessman looked down, annoyed, then felt for his wallet in his right back pocket," writes Jacks. "He then looked sick with dismay, as he realized the guy had actually kissed his ass." Before the businessman could confront his bootie-smoocher, the light changed, and life went on. Meanwhile on that mobile den of sin known as Seattle Metro, Hot Tipper "Sharon" reports she experienced the exact same scene reported last week by Hot Tipper Aurora: "I was riding the 522 bus through Lake City when an African-American man seated to my left began masturbating beneath the current copy of The Stranger covering his lap! Coincidence?" asks "Sharon." "I doubt it."

Dear Metro riders: Whoever catches The Stranger wanker on film will forever rule our heart. Everyone else: Send Hot Tips to lastdays@