MONDAY, APRIL 3 The week kicks off with an update on the 21st century's preeminent day of infamy: 9/11, the horrific facts of which have been thrust back into the public eye thanks to a couple of new releases. First are the transcripts of 911 calls made in New York City on that mind-blowing morning; with all callers' words redacted, these scripts offer only dispatchers' questions and consolations, painting a terrifyingly elliptical portrait of life in the towers between plane crash and collapse. Providing further upset: United 93, the soon-to-be-released movie chronicling the most dramatic of 9/11's four deadly airline flights. For those who've blocked it out: United 93 was the Newark-to-San Francisco flight that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers—who'd learned of the Twin Towers strikes via cell phone—attempted to wrest control of the plane from their pilot-murdering al Qaeda hijackers. "The first heroes of the 21st century," crowed ABC News about the passengers of flight 93, whose saga is due to hit cinema screens on April 28. But the film's already causing a stir: When previews for United 93 were shown in theaters—before semi-artsy adult fare like Spike Lee's Inside Man—audiences erupted in protest. "Too soon!" shouted viewers in Los Angeles, while at least one cinema in New York City yanked the preview after patrons fled in sobs. But as Time magazine makes clear, Americans better get used to it, as the coming year brings a slew of 9/11-themed works to screens both big and small. Among the projects: Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, the account of two Port Authority policemen trapped beneath tower rubble; James Vanderbilt's screenplay of Richard A. Clarke's terror-fighting memoir Against All Enemies; and an ABC miniseries based on The 9/11 Commission Report. As for United 93, the film's creators seem appropriately sensitive to the diceyness of their task, securing approval from victims' families prior to filming and devoting 10 percent of the movie's first three days of grosses to the flight 93 memorial. Will audiences be able to embrace the tragedy's cinematic reenactment? Who knows? Judging from the standard tragedy-to-cinematic-rendering timeline, a film version of a tragedy less than 20 years old may achieve critical success (see Platoon) while commercial blockbusters demand a span of at least three-quarters of a century (see Gone with the Wind and Titanic. Or don't.)
TUESDAY, APRIL 4 The week continues with shameful Republican shenanigans, courtesy of Tom DeLay, the scandal-swamped former majority leader who today resigned from Congress, and Brian J. Doyle, the deputy press secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who was today arrested on a slew of creepy sex charges. As DeLay's gotten more than enough ink during his vicious political career, Last Days will skip directly to the alleged sex perv: According to the Washington Post, the current troubles of 56-year-old Brian Doyle, who was hired as deputy press secretary to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff last year, began back on March 12, when Doyle allegedly responded to the internet profile of a 14-year-old girl. Lucky for all, the girl was actually an undercover Florida sheriff's detective, with whom Brian Doyle allegedly engaged in increasingly explicit conversations, sending the adolescent decoy pornographic movie clips, nonpornographic photos of himself, and instant messages containing graphic sexual requests. In his initial communication, Doyle readily identified himself to the "girl," name-dropping his place of employment, and including numbers for both his office phone and government-issued cell phone. Tonight Doyle was arrested and charged with seven counts of using a computer to seduce a child and 16 counts of transmitting harmful materials to a minor. Creepy twist: At the time of his arrest, Doyle was online awaiting what he thought was a nude image of a girl who had lymphoma. (Because there's nothing sexier than an adolescent cancer victim.™)
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5 Today brought a headline-making surprise to Seattle's Terminal 18, where this morning crews found a cargo container holding 22 stowaways from Shanghai. Details come from the Seattle Times: Upon finding a cargo container with suspiciously low weight, Port inspectors opened the container and found the aforementioned stowaways—18 men and four women in their 20s and 30s, who'd spent the previous 15 days crossing the Pacific Ocean in a 40-foot metal box. Grim specifics: The stowaways were found with blankets, clothing, tools, and a supply of water, but the box let in no fresh air or light, and despite portable fans to disperse the air, the stench inside the container was described to the Times as "overwhelming" thanks to mounds of discarded food packages and containers filled with human waste. Despite the rough journey, the stowaways were all found to be in good health, and were dispatched to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma to await deportation.
THURSDAY, APRIL 6 Nothing happened today, unless you count the heartfelt verbal lashing given to President Bush at a meet 'n' greet today in North Carolina. "I have never felt more ashamed of nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington," said real-estate broker Harry Taylor to President Bush during the town-hall-style meeting. "I would hope, from time to time, that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself." Knight Ridder reports the audience at Charlotte's Central Piedmont Community College responded to Taylor's speech with boos, while Bush remained impenetrable. "I'm not your favorite guy," said Dubya. "What's your question?"
FRIDAY, APRIL 7 Nothing happened today, unless you count reports about the Detroit woman who was found dead after her 6-year-old son called 911 and dispatchers dismissed the call as a prank. Officials claim more than a quarter of phone calls received by 911 operators are pranks, while the Detroit 6-year-old's (remaining) family claims he was left alone with his dead mother's body for three hours. Lawsuits are forthcoming.
SATURDAY, APRIL 8 Nothing happened today.
SUNDAY, APRIL 9 The week ends with a motherfucking public-grooming fiesta. First comes the report of Hot Tipper Ben of Team Deadly, who was riding a 106 bus to Renton when he noticed across the aisle "a well-dressed white dude with a briefcase." Writes Ben: "He opens his briefcase and removes nail clippers and a file, then begins cutting his nails, with little chunks of his clipped human keratin flying missile-like in all directions." While fellow passengers remained stricken—"I never understood white people," said one befuddled African-American rider—Ben leapt into action, attempting to question the man on his motives before loudly declaring the obvious: "You're fucking grooming yourself in public on a goddamn bus!"
•• Meanwhile, across the country, Hot Tipper Karen was dealing with a public-grooming imbroglio of her own. "People from all over New York State were gathered in a hotel ballroom for an education-related competition," writes Karen, who, when she's not a Last Days Hot Tipper, works at Cornell University Press. "One would think these people were role models for the thousands of children gathering for the competition, but no! Across the aisle from me I see a couple. The wife takes a nail clipper out of her purse, grabs her husband's hands, and begins to methodically clip all 10 of his fingers while he sits there passively." Dear Karen: Thank you for noticing and sharing. Dear couple: Thank you for confirming that married heterosexuals can be just as disgustingly kinky as the most twisted of homosexuals.
Dear everyone: It's that time again. On Wednesday, April 26, I'll be hosting a one-night-only screening of Showgirls, Paul Verhoeven's peerless masterwork of crap, featuring live annotation by yours truly. It's at the Triple Door, 216 Union St, doors at 6 pm, show at 7:30 pm. For reservations, call 838-4333. (And send Hot Tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.)