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As we all know, yesterday was the fourth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. But today's anniversary is almost as important. Today is the fourth anniversary of September 12, The Day We Officially Became Scared Shitless. Remember that on the day of the attack, most people were busy either running from the Trade Center, trying to give blood or getting drunk in disbelief (since I was in New Jersey at the time, I did the latter two things). It wasn't until the next day that people started to realize that we were in a new era. "What are they going to do next? When's the next shoe gonna drop?" was the mantra of the day. And we really haven't stopped being scared since, even if we're busy studying Brangelina and TomKat like they're world leaders.

That feeling of shitless scaredom hasn't exactly been mitigated in recent weeks, with FEMA bungling Katrina and all. It'll probably get worse later today, when the co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission, Lee Hamilton and Tom ("New Jersey and You: Puuuhhfect Together") Kean issue their report on how well the federal government is implementing the recommendations they made a year ago. Even before Katrina, it wasn't going to be pretty. Now? It'll be downright frightening. Although nothing in the report is going to me scarier than the words, "Brownie, you're doin' a heck of a job."

In the face of all this, what you need to do is hop a flight to China (make sure you leave your chopsticks at home) and go to Hong Kong Disneyland, which opens today. All the familiar characters, including Mickey, Goofy, Tigger and Buzz Lightyear, will be there. Oh, there will also be a character exclusive to the HK Disney park: Tsing, the lovable local Minister of Information, who will sign the kids' autograph books, but only after flipping through them first to make sure they don't contain any anti-government remarks. Think of it more as an approval than an autograph.

Of course, you can just go back to downloading porn. For that, you can thank the makers of Netscape, who released their browser (gulp) 11 years ago today. Their free, high-quality program made the World Wide Web accessible to everyone with a modem. Lonely Dorks? With Modems? It makes me wonder if Ron Jeremy didn't code the stupid browser himself.






If you live in New York City and are a Democrat, you know what you'll probably be doing today. That's right, you'll be choosing the person that will get pummeled by Mike Bloomberg in November. The New York mayoral primary pits four candidates, none of whom have distinguished themselves during a campaign of insults, back-biting and desperate non sequiturs (I mean, really, Gifford Miller, who cares how Anthony Weiner voted on the Iraq war?). For most of the campaign, Fernando Ferrer, who's never seen a mayoral race he couldn't lose, has been in the lead, but Weiner is gaining fast; if no one gets 40 percent of the vote, there will be a run-off election. I'm rooting for Weiner, if only because if he wins the primary we'll be one step closer to hearing local news anchors say the words "Mayor Weiner" for the next four years.

One thing we know, though: Tupac Shakur will not be voting in this year's mayoral election, or any election for that matter: he died nine years ago today, six days after being shot outside a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas. Of course, judging by Tupac's output since his death - six full-length CDs, more than he released while he was still on this mortal coil -- and other factors, many people think he is still alive. I don't blame these people for hoping Tupac is still living the "Thug Life" somewhere, because the rap world is quickly becoming sillier than the Hair Metal Era of the late Eighties. Want some evidence? Watch the Snoop Dogg / Lee Iacocca ad on this page. Just hearing Snoop saying "Fo' Shnizzle, Icasizzle" would make any hardcore rap fan want to cry.

Speaking of crying, if you've ever seen the excellent documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, you know that Dave Mustaine likely cries himself to sleep every night. Mustaine, who turns 44 today, was fired from Metallica in 1983 -- right before they hit the big time -- because of his heavy drug use and tension with Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield. He went on to found Megadeth and have a very successful career in his own right, but he always felt inadequate in the face of Metallica's superstardom. Listening to him blubber away to Ulrich and Metallica's therapist in the documentary almost made me sicker than the Snoop Dogg/Lee Iaccoca commercial. It's no wonder that Mustaine is claiming that the producers of the movie used that footage without his permission; I'm pretty sure he didn't give them permission to make him look like a complete douchebag.






Today, the Massachusetts state legislature will convene a Constitutional Convention to decide whether to replace their gay marriage law with Vermont-style civil unions. Apparently, even though the state Supreme Court judged gay marriage to be constitutional over two years ago, some organization with the word "Family" in the name somehow got to the state legislators and got them to consider this more watered-down civil union amendment. It seems like the universal support the amendment received at first is starting to slip, as some legislators are seeing that -- gasp! -- gay marriages are just as solid as hetero marriages. As one wavering legislator told a gay-community newspaper, legal gay marriage "made strong unions among people who have not had the opportunity until that time to get married." No shit. People who love each other, committing to a life together, raising a family. Who knew something like that could work?

Actually, I'd like to think of gay marriage the same way that Kinky Friedman, who's running for governor in Texas, does: "I support gay marriage. I think they have every right to be just as miserable as the rest of us."

When you think of our legislative process in action in Massachusetts, you may have "The Star-Spangled Banner" playing in your head. For that, you can thank Francis Scott Key, who composed the lyrics to the song on this day in 1814, as he watched the destruction of Fort McHenry at the hands of British troops. Despite the bombardment, the flag still flew over the ravaged fortress. At some point after the poem was published, the words were applied to the British drinking song "To Anacreon in Heaven." The combination officially became our national anthem in 1916, creating the perfect storm of clumsy lyrics -- with lots of "o'ers" and "ramparts" -- and difficult vocal transitions that would haunt us later as people like Carl Lewis pierced our eardrums with tone-deaf renditions at sporting events. If I had my druthers, I'd go back in time to Baltimore and take that stupid flag down myself. Then we'd be hearing people sing "America the Beautiful" instead of this clinker.





Now we know why Condoleeza Rice was shoe shopping and watching "Spamalot" while people were dehydrating in New Orleans: She was celebrating! On this day in 1789, the Department of State was created, charged with managing the United States' affairs overseas. The department's mission statement is still largely dictated by the original legislation -- signed by none other than George Washington himself! -- but they now have responsibilities never envisioned by the Founding Fathers, like maintaining automobile registration for non-diplomat employees and for foreign diplomats who have immunity. So that's who pays for all those parking tickets I see on cars around the United Nations!

But it's understandable why Condi seemed content to cruise Manhattan like Carrie Bradshaw while NOLA was drowning: Katrina wasn't her problem. Doesn't everyone do that at work every so often? When something goes to hell that you can't do anything about, you shrug your shoulders and smugly snort "sucks for them." Maybe Condi felt the same way: "Heh, sucks for FEMA." But of course, a flooded city is a little different from the office network going down, so it's good to see Condi and others in the administration -- I'm talking to you, Cheney! -- finally roll up their sleeves and pitch in.

George Ryan probably wishes he was down in New Orleans right now. Today, the racketeering trial for the former Illinois governor starts in Chicago. If you recall, Ryan was the governor who, three days before he left office, either pardoned or granted clemency to every state inmate on Death Row. He simply felt that, after seeing 17 wrongly-convicted men get their convictions overturned, that the state was unable to handle the prosecution of death penalty cases. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Now he's facing corruption charges, because he allowed a truck-license-for-bribes operation to happen under his watch. *Sigh*. Even the most virtuous in the political world seem to get snagged for one thing or another. At least he'll be popular in prison. And he was still less embarrassing a governor than James "I Am A Gay American" McGreevey.






Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the White House today for a summit with President Bush. Undoubtedly the two men will be talking about the war in Iraq, the nuclear situations in Iran and North Korea, among other pressing issues. But will Katrina come up? Or is Putin sitting in the Kremlin, saying to his underlings "Heh. Sucks to be Bush."? Not really sure.

The timing of Putin's visit actually stinks, though, and not because of the hurricane or the "reassignment" of Mike Brown or any of the other problems the Bush Administration is having. No, his timing stinks because the Nationals are on the road that weekend! If he had just delayed his trip a week, he'd be able to see the D.C. Nine play the Mets in a crucial series in the wild-card race. There's nothing like a hot dog and a beer after a long day of summiting with a world leader. Oh, well. Maybe Bush and Putin will watch the game on TV.

In birthday news, Amy Poehler turns 34 today. She's the co-anchor of "Weekend Update" the only part of "Saturday Night Live" that's still funny. She's a founding member of the Upright Citizens Brigade and still performs hilarious improv at the UCB Theatre every Sunday in the show ASSSSCAT. She's played memorable parts in movies and TV shows. Not bad for someone just turning 34. I mean, I'm 34 -- three months older than Amy -- and I'm rebooting file servers and writing about how to stuff your face with samples from Costco. Crap. I think I need to make a batch of buffalo wings and be by myself for a little while.




Joel Keller is a freelance writer from New Jersey. He's looking for a Comfort Food Rehab Clinic, but can't seem to find one.


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