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  INCOMING! JANUARY 31, 2005.  


Now that those pesky elections are over and Iraqis are dancing in a soft flowerbed of democracy, it's time for the troops to come home! (We know you're slow on Mondays -- just trying to slip something past you. And yes, we know you didn't believe us. We were just wishing really hard.)

Everyone who has leprosy, throw your hands in the air! You should be celebrating, because it's World


Leprosy Day. (Actually, it might have been yesterday. We found conflicting information and would prefer it to be today so we could talk about it.) The Novartis Foundation, which has joined with the World Health Organization to provide free treatment to lepers worldwide, claims that there are about 500,000 cases of the disease on the planet. Leprosy, first introduced to the world in the Old Testament, is a curable disease caused by bacteria. A concerted public and private health effort has cured three million people of leprosy in the past five years, and the disease remains a major health problem in only nine countries. India has the most registered cases (over 265,000 in 2004) and a few countries (Macao, Costa Rica) have only one or two. Who does the one leper in Macao hang out with?




On this day in 1968, Nguyen Ngoc Loan executed a Vietcong officer. AP photographer Eddie Adams snapped the shooting, and his iconic photo won a Pulitzer Prize. Loan, the chief of police of the Republic of Vietnam shot Vietcong agent Nguyen Van Lam in front of Adams and an NBC film crew. The photo helped change American attitudes about Vietnam; the public grew wary of a war fought by people who think nothing of shooting others in the head at point-blank range in the middle of the street. Of course, it wasn't that simple; the dead man was head of a terrorist squad. Adams later regretted the photo, telling Time, "The general killed the Vietcong; I killed the general with my camera."

What is so bitter about this photo, 37 years later, is that similar situations in Iraq have not made us recoil. We download video of beheadings and watch in the detached comfort of our homes. We flinch, but not enough to rethink the kind of war


we're fighting. The photo of Nguyen Ngoc Loan cured us of one war, but cannot echo in another.




"The state of the union is strong." We bet you $10 he's gonna say that.

Tune in tonight as President Bush, still glowing from his November victory, tells Congress what he's got in mind for the next year. Actually, make that the next two. Bush knows full well that he's got two more years to fuck this country up before we start ignoring him, and this is the night he gets started.

Bush will remind America that we are still a nation at war. This is to keep people from asking when the troops are coming home (2006 at the earliest, according to Army projections) and to encourage them to support his budget, which is chock-full of military spending. His number two issue is Social Security. What's up for debate is whether there's even anything wrong with it (sort of?), and if private accounts will fix it. The oldsters are against



changing a thing (AARP is already campaigning against the president's plan) and the young folks, well they don't have any money or even a job right now anyway, so worrying about retirement seems a little outlandish.

But what's a State of the Union Address without a rebuttal? Poor Democrats -- they seem at their most impotent when sitting around disagreeing with whatever the president just said. This year there are TWO buttals, of the pre- and re- variety. Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid will pre-butt together at the National Press Club prior to the speech. Rebutting the speech immediately after Bush leaves the podium is … well, we don't know yet. The Democrats haven't even announced it yet. (Our guess: They're still dithering whom to ask. Typical.) Prepare to be unimpressed. You will be reminded, again, why the Democrats failed to take the White House.




For the first time since 8th grade, are you wondering who wrote the book of love, and if you believe in God above? Of course you are. Today, friends, is The Day The Music Died. On Feb. 3, 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) were headed to a gig in Fargo, N.D., when their plane crashed.

Don McLean was not on the plane, but wrote the 1972 devotional "American Pie" about the crash and about a million other things. Speculation about the song's references has killed many a pot-smoked evening, but McLean said only that the


lyrics "mean I never have to work again."

But what is summer camp without this song? What is junior high? So go ahead, turn on the classic rock station today and sing along. It's nostalgic for a minute and then depressing, as soon as you realize you could be really smart if only you hadn't crapped up your brain memorizing the lyrics to a nonsensical eight-and-a-half-minute ditty.




In case you just can't wait for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots to take the field on Sunday for Super Bowl XXXIX, you have the Wing Bowl to distract you for a couple hours. Wing Bowl 13, at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center, will feature a bunch of people speed eating chicken wings and 30,000 more drunk people cheering them on. The contest is sponsored by 610 WIP AM, Philly's sports radio. More specifically, by WIP's morning show.

That means that Wing Bowl starts at 5:30 a.m. And long before the doors to the Wachovia Center open (and they open out, while thousands are crushed up against them, screaming "Let Us In!"), everyone is in the parking lot, tailgating. Two years ago, it was so cold that the beer froze, reports Matt Wilson, a longtime friend of The Black Table and a repeat Wing Bowl attendee. This year, he expects "the biggest Eagles pep rally ever."

The beer concession opens at 6:30, so you can


keep drinking. And then there's the strippers. Or Wingettes. Let's say you don't eat wings. Let's say, instead, that you're a hot chick who would much prefer to point. Well, then you can be a Wingette. The Wingettes stand next to the eater and signal when he/she needs a new plate. It's like being the Vanna White of competitive eating. Wing Bowl runner-up and Wingette of the Year both win a five-night trip for two to Aruba, while the Wing Bowl champ gets a new car. But let's be real. Any contest that explicitly states in its rules that "napkins in any form are not allowed" has only one winner: the audience.

Go Eagles!


Aileen Gallagher is a managing editor of The Black Table. She grew up just outside of Philadelphia but does not pretend to be a football fan.


INCOMING! runs every Monday on The Black Table.