··Also today: Devoted geeks disappointed that Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace was nothing but a noisy excuse to sell Big Gulp cups have gotten their revenge. The Associated Press reports that fans are circulating an unofficial "revised" copy of the film called The Phantom Re-edit: Episode 1.1, which includes re-dubbed dialogue for the loathsome Jar Jar Binks, as well as other improvements. Some have been bold enough to hawk copies in front of Hollywood's Chinese Theatre, garnering the displeasure of George Lucas, a director notorious for complete control of his "product." Jeanne Cole, a spokeswoman for Lucasfilm, said, "We don't think these people maliciously intended to break the law or hurt Lucasfilm. Now, we just want them to stop."
··And finally: The number of deaths linked to the failure of Firestone tires has climbed to 203, Reuters reports. In a delightful bit of serendipity, the scary new figures were released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just one day before chief executives from Firestone and Ford Motor Company had to sweat through an interrogation from Congress on the latest developments in the ongoing exploding-tire saga. Har, har!
TUESDAY, JUNE 19 Today in Archbold, Ohio: A big-ass fire ripped through the 95-year-old Spangler Candy Company, destroying about 110,000 cases of Dum Dum Pops and other treats. Although about $6.5 million worth of confections was destroyed, Dean Spangler, president and chief executive of the company, squelched widespread panic. "There will be plenty of Dum Dums for everyone," Spangler told the Associated Press. "We're not going to run out." Thank fucking Christ.
··Also today: Reuters reports that a 10-year-old Chilean boy abandoned by his abusive parents survived for two years in a cave with a pack of 15 stray dogs that scavenged for food with him and may even have suckled him. Photographs taken on Monday showed the dark-skinned man-pup peering sullenly through a shock of black hair while holding up a crayon drawing of a pack of dogs. Who's gonna break the news to Mowgli that they put his family to sleep?
··Also today: More newsworthy canines! Today a tiny bichon frisé lap dog named Leo got posthumous revenge on his killer, as 27-year-old Andrew Burnett was found guilty of felony animal cruelty for throwing Leo into oncoming traffic in February 2000. The good-for-nothing creep faces the maximum sentence of three years in prison.
··Similarly bound for the big house is Gummo-esque 17-year-old Lakount Maddox, who, just past midnight on Monday night, pedaled a bicycle to the drive-through window of a Fort Worth, Texas, Taco Bell. According to Reuters, Maddox brandished a toy gun, then demanded the money from the register and a chalupa. A Taco Bell worker called police, who arrived while the thief was waiting for his soft taco. The teenager took off, and kept bicycling even after an officer shot him in the arm and leg. Maddox finally surrendered when a police cruiser cut him off. Said Fort Worth Police Lt. Duane Paul, "He never got his chalupa."
··And finally: Today six women sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc., charging the nation's largest private employer with systematically discriminating against hundreds of thousands of female workers, Reuters reported. The plaintiffs say that although women comprise over 72 percent of the U.S. Wal-Mart workforce, 90 percent of Wal-Mart store manager positions are held by men. The suit also charges that women employees are told that "a trained monkey" could do their jobs. Sorry ladies, but a trained monkey could do your job--and they'd certainly look cuter in those little red vests.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20 Move over, Marie Osmond: Today postpartum psychosis got a powerful new spokeswoman when Andrea Yates, a 36-year-old woman in Houston, Texas, drowned her five children in a bathtub.
THURSDAY, JUNE 21 In other, better kid news: Today the Associated Press reported that Zachary Shearer, a 16-month-old boy from Bellingham, Washington, who was chomped by a new pet rottweiler, is expected to make a full recovery. Chris Shearer, the hapless toddler's father, painted an inadvertently Raymond Carveresque picture of the carnage. "We were at the table talking and he was there, then I looked away for a minute, and when I looked back I said, 'Where's Zach?'" This riveting narrative concluded as an adult friend in the house sauntered to the front door to look for the missing tot. "Brad said, 'Hey, man, your dog's trashing your kid.'" If you ask Last Days, this guy shouldn't be allowed to have a fern, much less a dog or a kid.
··Also today: More good kid news. Tonight, after a massive 24-hour search by police, family members, and volunteers, authorities found a six-year-old Eastside boy in a Kingsgate apartment. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the 39-year-old villain suspected of kidnapping the boy is in custody awaiting possible charges. Meanwhile, everyone else is just happy that the boy--who'd been tied up, gagged, and beaten with a belt--is even alive. "We just don't have happy endings like this that often," said King County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart. "Damn lucky."
FRIDAY, JUNE 22 Hot on the furry heels of our June 7 item about costumed-performer panties comes this terrifying tale of a Cookie Monster molested. Reuters reports that Lee McPhatter, a 22-year-old Maryland man, became irate when the beloved blue institution (actually 21-year-old Jennie McNelis) refused to pose for a photo with his three-year-old daughter Mina in Sesame Place, a theme park outside of Philadelphia. Police said McPhatter began shouting, then thrust his head into the character's mouth. When the cookie-loving monster pushed back, McPhatter allegedly pushed the character to the ground, punching and kicking it. McNelis was treated at a local hospital for injuries, while Mr. Anger-Management-Issues was arraigned before a district magistrate and released on $20,000 bail.
SATURDAY, JUNE 23 Today it dawned on Last Days that tomorrow is the Last Day of our being Last Days.
SUNDAY, JUNE 24 Without a doubt, writing this column for the past six months has been the most rewarding experience of our life. Thanks to the devoted schizophrenics who typed us 1,000-word e-mail messages from the library. Thanks to the Hot Tippers who called, wrote, and grabbed our elbow in countless crowded bars. But most of all, thanks to David Schmader for suddenly deciding over untold pitchers of beer at Re-bar that we were the perfect pauper to hold his crown until he emerged from self-imposed exile and reclaimed his throne. Welcome back, Dave. We missed you. Now if you'll pardon us, we're off to write our goddamn novel.