Not quite right.

I read “Wired” in paperback, Bob Woodward’s book about John Belushi’s life and death, but it was many years ago. My impressions, after all this time, are mostly about the reaction to it among Belushi’s circle. They went along the lines of who is this serpent we have clutched to our bosom, and I admit — this was sort of amusing to see. I think Judy Belushi, the man’s widow, actually said in an interview that she thought she was hiring Robert Redford from “All the President’s Men” and instead got this Judas, this betrayer in human form.

The other thing I remember is that Woodward was a terrible writer. His description of the cheezborger-cheezborger sketch read like description for the blind; in recent years, as I’ve become acquainted with his nasal Chicago voice, I hear it in my head that way. A customer asks for french fries but is told the diner only carries chips, which causes the cry to echo among the countermen: “No fries, chips!”…

Twitter says there are already some people taking issue with this piece by Tanner Colby, who wrote the same book, only the one authorized by Judy Belushi. He takes issue with Woodward’s account, and while it’s been a lot of years since I read it, I have to say, some of these examples ring true:

The wrongness in Woodward’s reporting is always ever so subtle. SNL writer Michael O’Donoghue—who died before I started the book but who videotaped an interview with Judy years before—told this story about how Belushi loved to mess with him:

I am very anal-retentive, and John used to come over and just move things around, just move things a couple of inches, drop a paper on the floor, miss an ashtray a little bit until finally he could see me just tensing up. That was his idea of a fine joke. Another joke he used to do was to sit on me.

When put through the Woodward filter, this becomes:

A compulsively neat person, O’Donoghue was always picking up and straightening his office. Frequently, John came in and destroyed the order in a minute, shifting papers, furniture or pencils or dropping cigarette ashes.

Again, Woodward’s account is not wrong. It’s just — wrong. In his version, Belushi is not a prankster but a jerk.

I’m familiar with reporters like this, who think their only job is to stick to the absolute letter of the fact, draw only the most obvious conclusions. The Jack Webb School. Just the facts, ma’am. Nothing like this:

Like a funhouse mirror, Woodward’s prose distorts what it purports to reflect. Moments of tearful drama are rendered as tersely as an accounting of Belushi’s car-service receipts. Friendly jokes are stripped of their humor and turned into boorish annoyances. And when Woodward fails to convey the subtleties of those little moments, he misses the bigger picture. Belushi’s nervousness about doing that love scene in Continental Divide was an important detail. When that movie came out, it tanked at the box office. After months of fighting to stay clean, Belushi fell off the wagon and started using heavily again. Six months later he was dead. Woodward missed the real meaning of what went on.

Stenography has its limitations? You don’t say.

Oh, I’m so enjoying this Kwame story. The feds released some videos today, including one of a sludge-company executive putting a case of Cristal in Bernard Kilpatrick’s car. Because nothing gets it done like $2,500 worth of champagne.

Hank didn’t think much of the Dick Cheney autobiography, but I can’t get over the photo of the newly slim prince of darkness that accompanies his review. Now that is a face. Dunno quite what kind, but there you go.

I hope I sleep better tonight than I have been. A friend is advising klonopin. I’m sort of tempted, but I should probably give liquor a chance, first.

Posted at 12:21 am in Media |

57 responses to “Not quite right.”

  1. susan said on March 13, 2013 at 12:38 am

    It’s a face not far from the Grim Reaper’s scythe.

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  2. Jakash said on March 13, 2013 at 1:20 am

    Brian S.,

    You mentioned yesterday: “I’m rolling through The Warmth of Other Suns…” I was happy to note your solid recommendation.

    FWIW, the Chicago Public Library has a program where they pick a book each Spring and Fall that everybody in the city can/should/could conceivably read at the same time to foster community, or whatever. They just announced that the next selection is “The Warmth of Other Suns”, which sounds like a fine choice and one that I plan on picking up in the not-too-distant future.,0,3191509.story

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  3. Dexter said on March 13, 2013 at 1:43 am

    The hell of it is, “Continental Divide” was an entertaining movie. John Belushi contacted Mike Royko, explaining to Royko that he was going to be playing a character, “Ernie Souchak”, who was “loosely based on legendary Chicago columnist and author (“Boss”) Mike Royko”, and he worked with and hung around with Royko for a few days to kind of get the feel.
    Much of the action takes place on a passenger train which is always a nice backdrop. The cinematography actually is great.
    My wife and I saw the movie opening weekend and I was surprised to hear how it really tanked. Belushi was down about the movie’s failure, and he signed on with Dan Aykroyd to make the very dark “Neighbors”. Within months Belushi was dead.

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  4. Prospero said on March 13, 2013 at 1:43 am

    Now that is a face. Screwtape, to be exact. And they have Wrmwood’s little brother on the event horizon. I am hoping Americans can’t be that fracking stupid twice.

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  5. Sherri said on March 13, 2013 at 2:30 am

    I’m leaning more towards Grima Wormtongue than Screwtape, Pros.

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  6. Sherri said on March 13, 2013 at 3:10 am

    I’ve always been a fan of “they” rather than the cumbersome “he or she”, but “yo” is an interesting choice:

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  7. MarkH said on March 13, 2013 at 3:22 am

    Dexter, it’s just after 1:00 here and I’m staying up watching Continental Divide on Encore, believe it or not. I agree with you about the movie. Belushi is good, but has some deficiencies that are more than made up for by the rest of the able cast, Michael Apted’s direction and the script, which I had forgotten was penned by Lawrence Kasdan. Great scenery, well shot, and who couldn’t fall in love with Blair Brown. I saw it when it opened as well, just after I moved out here to Wyoming; felt all the more fortunate where I chose to live. Coincidentally, the closing scene that’s supposed to take place in ‘Victor, Wyoming’ was supposedly shot just over the hill from me in Victor, Idaho, with a specially shipped in passenger train to the defunct railroad station. This is not evident in the scene as there are two tracks in the movie and only one in and out of the real Victor. Don’t know where that scene was filmed. Can’t believe the film tanked; very underrated, in my view.

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  8. Sherri said on March 13, 2013 at 3:24 am

    I could get into this kind of range!

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  9. Linda said on March 13, 2013 at 5:40 am

    A lot in today’s postings speaks to me. At the time, I thought Continental Divide was an underrated movie, the kind that Belushi’s audience wouldn’t care for, and its potential audience would be deterred from seeing because Belushi was in it, and they would assume it was a gross-out comedy. So much that is now labeled “rom com” is cynically by the numbers that CD feels especially fresh.

    As for Warmth of Other Suns, I was pleased to be able to recommend it to a patron looking for good reading on African American history. Chicago Public Library would have a special interest, as one of the main storylines concerns a woman who moved to Chicago from Mississippi, and the impact of Chicago’s history and development on her and her family.

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  10. alex said on March 13, 2013 at 6:13 am

    “Yo” as a gender-neutral pronoun. And it fills a void in the English language. Now that’s an interesting take.

    In my aging Hungarian father’s native tongue, there are no gendered pronouns, and increasingly he’s having absent-minded slip-ups in English to greatly comical effect, using “she” for “he” and vice versa. It’s a wonder he hasn’t been mistaken for a bitchy old-school queen making fun of people. Or maybe he has.

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  11. ROGirl said on March 13, 2013 at 6:27 am

    Of all the writers who could have been selected to write Belushi’s bio, it never made sense to me that Bob Woodward was anointed to do the job. I never read the book, and I figured that the complaints about it from the Belushi camp was mainly whining about the revelations, and that’s what you get when you hire an investigative reporter to write this type of story. But the stenographer jab seems to hold true, and he’s gotten away with it while maintaining a very successful career.

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  12. ROGirl said on March 13, 2013 at 6:35 am

    EDIT: complaints from the Belushi camp WERE mainly about…

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  13. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 13, 2013 at 7:03 am

    I proposed to my spouse after “Continental Divide.” Her only hesitation was that I had just enough Souchak in me that I’d want to live in Chicago; when I assured her I could live with not living there, we were a “Go.” She’s still my Blair Brown – I could see her taking a poacher’s rifle and smashing it on a rock just like that, although she was most afraid of tourists at Zion who insisted on their right to carry small dogs in their arms on the trails. Those you couldn’t smash on a rock even if you wanted to.

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  14. Dave said on March 13, 2013 at 9:06 am

    I remember going to see “Continental Divide” in Sandusky, OH, and thinking that John Belushi really has a lot of promise.

    Every year, I’m struck by the memory that John died the week our oldest child was born. That first week, we paid no attention to the news and didn’t know he’d died until going through a stack of newspapers the following week.

    Whatever became of Blair Brown? Oh, guess she’s still acting: And reading this brings up, whatever became of Richard Jordan? Oh, sadder answer to that, didn’t know or had forgotten he’s been gone nearly twenty years.

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  15. Prospero said on March 13, 2013 at 9:16 am

    I think Continental Divide is an excellent movie, but I’m a major fan of Blair Brown, the thinking man’s bombshell (according to Esquire mag) a superb actor who made one of the greatest TeeVee shows of all time, that unfortunately failed to penetrate the LCD audience.

    If Belushi hadn’t killed himself with drugs, we might all have been spared Vince Vaughan and Will Farrell. A better world.

    If Woodward is an investigative reporter, how did he buy all that Shrubco Iraq bullshit hook, line and sinker. He’s a hack that writes what he’s told as if it’s the Pentateuch so long as he’s paid what he considers proper obeisance. That’s why the “threat” crap is so ludicrous. Broder’s gone and the new doyenn is all aflutter when the kowtow is not properly performed.

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  16. Prospero said on March 13, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Dave, Blair Brown played Nina Sharp in Fringe, a marvelous character I still haven’t figured out. Good Nina? Evil Nina? And I always think of the psychopathic murderer in The Mean Season when I think of Richard Jordan. And for What Ever Happened to, Richard Masur was also in that movie, as was the great William Smith.

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  17. Basset said on March 13, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Blair Brown was just profoundly hot in that movie where William Hurt turned into a monster in a sensory deprivation tank, forget the name of it.
    Belushi did summer stock at Shawnee Summer Theater in Bloomfield, Indiana… Real near where I’m from but I don’t remember any stories about him.

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  18. Laurie said on March 13, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Nancy, I have had a lifelong insomnia problem that only worsened when I hit change-of-life (as a symptom of the latter, it’s very average). The two things I have found most helpful are Klonopin (which I take an hour before beddy-bye) and a combined estrogen-progesterone patch. The benefits vs. risks of course are something to discuss with one’s physician. Klonopin is controversial in some circles, with some of the loudest views expressed by people who have no medical training or license, for creating dependence. I’ve no doubt that it can, but I use a very low dose and keep it to once every 3 nights or so. There are also shorter-acting drugs than klono in the same family.
    These two things have been lifesavers for me.

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  19. alex said on March 13, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Today’s thread is bringing back memories of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, a Blair Brown TV series from the 1980s that roped me in and then got cancelled despite critical acclaim. Loved that show.

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  20. Prospero said on March 13, 2013 at 9:57 am

    As good as TeeVee gets, Alex. I loved that show.

    Altered States, Basset. VG movie.

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  21. John (not McCain) said on March 13, 2013 at 10:59 am

    “Altered States, Basset. VG movie.”

    Fun to watch, but it took turning into an amoeba for William Hurt’s character to be able to say “I love you”? That right there keeps me from wanting to see it again.

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  22. Prospero said on March 13, 2013 at 11:12 am

    John (not McCain): I can never decide whether I like William Hurt or really don’t. Gorky Park? Good. Big Chill? Slap the shit out of him. And whoever cast milquetoast as Duke Leto Atreides in the Dune movie atrocity should be banned forever from movies. Guy does smacked-down bully better than anything else.

    In today’s mail. That has to lighten and brighten even the worst day anybody is having.

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  23. brian stouder said on March 13, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Jackash – regarding the (so far) excellent book The Warmth of Other Suns….I really wish I could attend that Chicago Public Library event! (Chicago figures prominently in the Great Migration history).

    Last Thanksgiving I caught one of those Book-TV broadcasts from inside a tent at a book fair* somewhere, and they had Rachel Swarn and Isabel Wilkerson there, discussing their books. Both of them addressed a subject that I hadn’t consciously thought about, but which clearly has the ring of truth – The Great Migration of black Americans from the south to the north and east, mostly occurring in the 7 decades ending in the ‘70’s. It was a riveting discussion, and I put both books on my Christmas list. I finished Ms Swarn’s book a week or two ago, and it was pretty good stuff; pulled me in and was OK, although somewhat disjointed, and with several typos and other nit-picky mistakes. The book was clearly the culmination of a lot of hard work – but it had a slightly rushed feeling. Still, it packed a punch, and rthe author’s end-note really hit me.

    Last weekend I began reading Ms Wilkerson’s book, and she immediately pulled me in, with the Richard Wright poem that supplies the title of the book:

    I was leaving the South
    to fling myself into the unknown . . .
    I was taking a part of the South
    to transplant in alien soil,
    to see if it could grow differently,
    if it could drink of new and cool rains,
    bend in strange winds,
    respond to the warmth of other suns
    and, perhaps, to bloom

    I’m about 40 pages in, and the thing is marvelous and compelling and evocative. One point she made in the preface was that the American gold rush involved about 100,000 Americans going west; and the Dust Bowl ‘30’s involved about 300,000 Americans picking up and moving west; and the Great Migration involved more than 6,000,000 black Americans moving out of the Jim Crow south. The Great Migration really is the ‘dark matter’ (pardon the terrible pun) in modern American history, silently exerting all sorts of gravitational effects, along with all the more-apparent effects on American culture and (dare we hope?) progress.

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  24. Dorothy said on March 13, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Oh we love Continental Divide in our house! It’s a favorite of mine and my hubby’s. I got drawn in to watching Fringe with him during the last year or so and was delighted to see Blair Brown as Nina Sharp. I could never tell (because they flipped back and forth between “worlds” and “universes” and did time travel) if the wrinkles on her were real or makeup. And then I’d wonder what John Belushi would look like today if he were still alive. Did anyone catch SNL this past weekend with Justin Timberlake, and all the stars who did cameos in the opening skit? Dan Akroyd and Steve Martin as the Wild and Crazy Guys used to be hilarious, but the 2013 version of them was just too damned creepy for my taste.

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  25. Bitter Scribe said on March 13, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Continental Divide: Bleh. Belushi and Brown had no chemistry at all. Belushi, to my knowledge, never made another romcom, which was a wise choice IMO.

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  26. Jakash said on March 13, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Another Continental Divide fan here. It’s so disappointing the way a good movie like that will be considered unsuccessful, while so much crap that’s produced ends up having 4 sequels.

    Dorothy, re: the SNL opening, where Mr. Timberlake was inducted into the 5-time host club. The moment that I thought was funniest was when Paul Simon welcomed him in. JT replies: “Mr. Simon, the honor is mine.”, to which Simon responds “I think it is.” This clip is almost 9 minutes long, but has a lot of classic SNL hosts/cast members in it.!watch/465345#i0,p0,d1

    Agreed about the creepiness of that game-show skit, though I was never all that wild or crazy about the W & C Guys in the first place.

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  27. alex said on March 13, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    It seems like the shows I find the most entertaining are the ones that never last. In addition to Molly Dodd, I count the Tracey Ullman Show and the Dave Chapel Show among my all-time favorites, although Ullman and Chapel didn’t get canceled, they just decided to call it quits at the height of their popularity.

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  28. Kirk said on March 13, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Great shows all, Alex. And only 13 episodes of Fawlty Towers were ever made.

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  29. coozledad said on March 13, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I used to have narcolepsy symptoms, especially in a car. Sometimes while driving, even. These stopped once I quit smoking.
    At the same time, I used to have difficulty adjusting a sleeping schedule to the demands of the world of employment. One thing that seemed to work briefly is the yogic technique of lucid dreaming. You lie on your right side and visualize a lotus flower opening at the top of your larynx.

    I got to sleep alright doing this, but would wake up dreaming that batlike creatures were gnawing the back of my skull.

    Another thing that puts me to sleep is moderately high doses of caffeine(200mg), or low doses 35-50mg. Reading the research suggests caffeine might let you sleep, but it interferes mightily with the whole rhythm of the process, so, not good.

    The thing that seems to work for me is acquiring a good blood pressure/pulse monitor and practicing biofeedback/breathing exercises to reduce my heart rate. It’s actually just a crutch to learn yogic breathing, which is probably the cheapest way, and at least a somewhat reliable way to nod off.

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  30. Deborah said on March 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    My so called cures for insomnia: 1 valerian root capsule (smells terrible so hold your breath when you take it), 1 melatonin tablet and 1 Advil PM. I take those about a half hour before I go to bed, I try to stay out of bed until I feel truly sleepy. I usually sleep until about 4 or 5 am, read for awhile and then go back to sleep for an hour or two. During that last hour or two of sleep I do a lot of lucid dreaming, which I love. This regimen has only worked for me since I’ve retired and I don’t do it every night. I had terrible insomnia when I was working because I was always ruminating on work problems. I personally stay away from prescription meds sleep aids, they scare me. I took Paxel for awhile about a decade ago for extreme anxiety I was having while working on a project for an insane client. I had a really hard time withdrawing from that when I decided I didn’t need it anymore, it felt like I had the flu for about 3 months. But boy did I sleep well when I was taking the Paxel though.

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  31. Deborah said on March 13, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    edit: take “though” out of that last sentence.

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  32. beb said on March 13, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    I used to have a lot fo trouble going to sleep. lately not so much. I think it changed when I started taking Paxil for stress.

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  33. Peter said on March 13, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Brian, you make a great point about the Great Migration – perhaps because of Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck, I thought millions left the Dust Bowl for California, but it wasn’t nearly that number. And, living in Chicago, I always thought the Great Migration was no big deal – you took the IC up to the 12th Street Station and find some relatives to live with. I had no idea that so many people made that trip.

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  34. Peter said on March 13, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    And props to everyone with their suggestions for sleeping at night. I’ll need them after seeing the Dick Cheney photo. Thanks a lot, Nancy.

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  35. Sherri said on March 13, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    I take Ambien to sleep. Not my ideal choice, but the Cymbalta I take to manage depression gives me insomnia despite my best sleep hygiene techniques, so I take it and sleep.

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  36. brian stouder said on March 13, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Pope Alert!!

    And now – everyone get a good night’s sleep!

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  37. Dorothy said on March 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    A friend brought a catalog to my house last night when we were getting together so I could teach how to make a crocheted button necklace. She’s a rep now for an essential oils company called doTerra. EXPENSIVE stuff, this. But she swears she is sleeping better using a small amount of lavender oil on the bottom of her feet each night, and sprays her pillow case lightly with it diluted in water. I’ve heard that before, probably on websites when I had trouble sleeping and they make suggestions. Sounds a little too strange to me, but if I were having regular insomnia, I’d try everything. For me, I keep some melatonin on hand and Tylenol PM. Both work great for me.

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  38. Sherri said on March 13, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    More voices heard from on the effect of sequestration on science research in this country:

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  39. Sherri said on March 13, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Diphenhydramine (the sleep-causing ingredient in Tylenol PM, and the active ingredient in Benadryl) has the opposite effect on me. You know how when they recommend giving Benadryl to kids before long airplane flights, they always say try it out before the flight to see how they react? That’s because some of us don’t get sleepy at all on it.

    Benadryl still has the antihistamine effect on me, just not the sleepy effect. Conversely, pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), which isn’t supposed to make you drowsy, makes me feel stoned.

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  40. Julie Robinson said on March 13, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    The new pope has been announced: Argentine Jorge Bergoglio. Apparently, he was runner-up last time.

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  41. Dexter said on March 13, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    coozledad, there was a time when I could not nod off to sleep without a tobacco cigarette first. Most guys had to light up as they swung their legs out of bed, but I never did that, so I guess the chemical stew in cigarettes affects folks differently.
    I remember when heading into a bar for a good long beer-and-shots session required a full pack of smokes, and I was otherwise a two-pack a week smoker.
    Only a coincidence, but one night I walked into my regular bar,ordered a beer, and was served a CAN of beer. The owner made the switch from bottles to cans. Years before he pulled all the kegs out as well. After nearly 22 years of regular patronage, I never went back. It’s been over 20 years now.

    And, we have the first Jesuit pope. Man, those Cardinals can surely come up with some zingers of surprises.
    Best wishes, Pope Francis I.
    Even though I have never heard of you.

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  42. LAMary said on March 13, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Seems weird to think of someone as a runner up for pope. I wonder if they pick a Miss Congeniality equivalent.

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  43. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 13, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    This guy rides the bus to work as an archbishop, and refused to stop baptizing the children of unwed mothers — I think it could an interesting decade, deus volent. Pax et gratia cum Papa Francesco!

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  44. brian stouder said on March 13, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    I’m thinkin’ my friends who work down the street at USF (the good ol’ University of Saint Francis) will like this fellow’s name

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  45. Deborah said on March 13, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Little Bird’s staunchly Missouri Synod Lutheran cousin (on her dad’s side) made a comment on his Facebook page saying that they just elected the 266th anti-Christ, and this cousin is fairly young. What is the matter with people? I think it’s great that the new Pope is Argentinian.

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  46. beb said on March 13, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Pope Francisco I or is that Generalissimo Franco I

    Opinions vary, but the fix was in since the last two pope had happen the house of Cardinals with conservative (boy-lovers).

    In related news someone decided to organize a church of Atheism, and it’s been growing by leaps and bounds.

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  47. Bitter Scribe said on March 13, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    I wonder if the new Pope’s canoodling with Argentine fascists will come back to bite him.

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  48. Catherine said on March 13, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Now I have the soundtrack of Evita running through my head.

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  49. beb said on March 13, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Deborah@45: What’s surprising about Little Bird’s cousin. He’s a Lutheran, the church founded by Martin Luther of the 99 theses. There’s been bad blood between them like, forever!

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  50. coozledad said on March 13, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Canoodling with fascists is the new vanilla. Has he done any snuff films? Shot up a day care? Fucked a whole village of Pygmies? Who cares?
    Fucker rode a damn bus.

    Pope Greyhound the Humble.

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  51. basset said on March 13, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Neither Mrs. B. nor I are Catholic or even Christian, but she is most interested in this pope business for some reason. On the way home tonight we set the car radio to the Catholic Channel on Sirius, they had a call-in show going on “where were you when you heard, and how did you feel?” Reasonable topic, I suppose, just thought they’d be more serious.

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  52. MarkH said on March 13, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    He wasn’t canoodling, but perhaps not standing up to the powers that be:

    Interestingly to some here at nn.c I’m sure, he blames unrestrained capitalism for many of the ills in Argentina, especially poverty.

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  53. coozledad said on March 13, 2013 at 7:27 pm

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  54. Deborah said on March 13, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Don’t cry for me Argentina. Oh my, I hadn’t thought of that related to the new Pope. Benedict had his issues with Nazis now this. Let’s see where this goes.

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  55. Prospero said on March 13, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    I loved The Princess Bride. I think it is a great movie. And I totally buy Kari beating the snot out of Maggs. Her family was threatened.

    Why does everybody care about the Pope but American Catholics? In my experience, there was Giovanni and then there were the rest of them.

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  56. Kim said on March 13, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    I always thought the Woodward-Belushi connection was because their families lived in Wheaton, IL. Belushi’s dad was a plumber. Maybe he plunged a Woodward toilet or two in his day.

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  57. Lynn said on March 14, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    My latest sleep advice:
    Not liquor! Too much sugar. A beer is better. Hops can also be found in capsules. Make sure you are getting enough b vitamins and magnesium.
    And a homeopathic product: coffea cruda -taken about an hour before bed. This is my new regimen and has been working.

    I hope I did not jinx it though.

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