News article about pope selection and smoke puffs, annotated to make more sense

"I was reading this CNN article, and thought it needed some context."

[IMGUR via @rob_sheridan]



  1. I must admit, I really don’t get what he’s trying to say with the annotations.

    Doing things the old way is always bad, maybe? It’s bad because it’s about a new Pope?

    Somebody help me out.

          1. Possibly but Clarke wrote other articles on futurism which expressed the same sentiments. For example there was an article about the world of 2000 written in about 1970 where he discusses advances along the line of the Internet but points out that there will probably be a few DC3s in service around the place as well.

            So he was making the same point about uneven distribution, which is probably what confused me.

          1. “If you use the edit button, only a small number of people will see your mistake, and they can be dealt with.” – Richard Nixon

      1.  Except in this case, the future isn’t necessarily better. A papal conclave is essentially impervious to outside influence. All of the electors know each other, and are barred from communication with the outside world. Voting is conducted with paper slips which are placed on a plate, then tipped into the chalice to prevent ballot-stuffing.

        Say what you will, but if you had to design a voter-fraud-proof electoral system, it would look a lot like a papal conclave.

    1. I’m there with you. Does this fella also think it’s crazy for Shintos to wash their hands at a shrine? Or for Christians to eat bread and wine (grape juice) during communion? Or Muslims to visit Mecca? Goodness knows, with celphones you can just stay at home and avoid all that physical religious mumbo jumbo!

      1. It’s no weirder than those other things. It is on the front page of CNN, though. I guess nothing else interesting happened today.

      2. Does this fella also think it’s crazy… for Christians to eat bread and wine (grape juice) during communion?

        I think that pretending that you’re eating the corpse and drinking the blood of a guy famous for being hung up naked in public until he was dead is pretty crazy.

        1.  I always wonder about the crumbs… I mean, they can’t just let them drop on the floor, can they? The leftover drops in the bottom of the glass…

          1. In theory, the priest should eat/drink all the leftovers, or reserve them in a special cupboard

            In practice, some churches are more anal about it than others. I’ve been to one where consecrated bread was thrown to the pigeons.

          2. That’s actually considered reverent, if there aren’t enough hungry humans around.  For the wine, garden soil is a better place for leftovers than the toilet.

            Interesting aside: those Christians who are least fundamentalist are most likely to take those symbols seriously.

          1.  I’d love to see a poll reviewing how many US catholics actually believe in transubstantiation.

            Even the ones who swear to believe in it 100% buy into some Thomist/Platonist “the substance doesn’t transubstantiate but the essence does” bullshit.  In other words “it’s still bread and wine but I’m going to pretend otherwise.”

          2. In other words “it’s still bread and wine but I’m going to pretend otherwise.”

            So… sort of like a dildo or a fleshlight.

          3. High upon the Sacred Rock,
            The Rose Incarnate shines,
            Upon the Mountain of the Flood,
            At the Meeting of the Lines.

    2. More like, they’re doing voodoo behind closed doors and who gives a shit, because real life is more interesting.

    3. Really? OK, here goes.
      Because we are in an age that has all these wonderful technological and scientific advancements and creations, the idea of people living in this age still taking ANYTHING those scam artists/pedophiles have to say as truth is more than a little embarrassing to the rest of us non-delusional human beings.
      How was that?

      1. *the idea of people living in this age still taking any ancient symbols seriously is embarrassing, and embarrassment is more powerful than anything.


  2. My takeaway was that we are living in an age of tangible miracles, and these guys still think that’s not wondrous enough compared to their invisible friend.

  3. God help them if one of them accidentally has a BBQ while they’re deciding: “white smoke – new Pope!”  Natch, sorry, just pulled pork.

  4. At this point, using the phrase, “dial 88233 on your AT&T phones and text the message POPE to decide!” would be a marked improvement.

  5. While I may not share the exact same beliefs as the Roman Catholic Church, I think it is rude to mock the rituals of someone’s faith. So they do things differently than you would do them. It doesn’t make them wrong, just different.

      1. Especially that bit about the bum boys in the back room. They are very fond of that particular ritual.

    1. Scientists are more than 90% certain that global warming is primarily caused by human activities such as the burning of fuels.

      1.  and sending that robot to mars burned a disproportionate amount of fuel before it left our atmosphere.

        yeah, the Vatican sucks for all the reasons pointed out ITT.  but this particular ritual seems kinda tame and reassuring when compared to the completely thoughtless ritual of, say, millions of americans burning petroleum to go to work every day.

        1. If we go back in time 75 years, we have the completely premeditated ritual of endorsing and supporting not just the Nazi party, but also their Final Solution to the Question of the Jews. Or I could walk into the next room and find a videotape starring a Catholic friar, explaining to his Catholic audience how the Jews orchestrated 9-11 in order to destabilise and wrest control of the world’s economies. Petroleum? Or People?

        2. Disproportionate? As compared to what? What is a proportionate amount of fuel to burn for a single scientific experiment that we do 2 or 3 times a decade?

          1.  disproportionate compared to the fuel burned to create the conclave’s smoke signals.  that was the whole point of replying to chaopoiesis.
            (*´ο`*)=3 はふぅん

        1. “Next, the Missing Words! Today’s publication is ‘The Roman Observer”‘, a small newsletter about a certain religious organisation based in Rome. The first title is ‘Pope resigns for ‘…?”

          “Touching young boys!”

          “Owning a bank used by the mafia and arm-dealers the world over!”

          “Opposing common sense on any science-based legislation!”

          “Marginalizing social-justice campaigners in Latin America and supporting dictators in the region!”

          “Letting Nazi officers escape!”

          “Tax avoidance in multiple countries!”

          “… I’m afraid you all got it wrong, the title was ‘Pope resigns for THE FIRST TIME IN CENTURIES. Let’s move on…”

      2. “Scientists are more than 100% certain that global warming is primarily caused by human activities such as the burning of fuels”.There, fixed it for you.

    2.  I share your respect for the faith of others, bless them.  But I can’t seriously ascribe weighty appreciation to ceremonies conducted in ways that reached their apotheosis (read:  jumped the shark) hundreds of years ago in orgies of bloodletting and persecution.

      Besides, they don’t just do things differently than I would do them.  They do things I wouldn’t do.  Things I couldn’t imagine doing.  Things I couldn’t live with myself had I done them.

      Don’t forget this is the institution that has systematically smoked abusive priests from one diocese to another, in full knowledge of their conduct, and hidden mass crimes against humanity since time immemorial.  What we have seen so far is the tip of the iceberg – just wait until the conduct unbecoming in less well regulated countries comes out into the open.

      Selecting a new leader under the pretense of some kind of democratic process is a sop to the people given their own right to choose political leaders.  It’s a spider’s web of alliances and power struggles conducted in secrecy, with nary a ray of light into the process.

      To be frank, if the new pope is determined by a god, and prayer would assist these ‘weak’ cardinals in directing their choice, then it wouldn’t matter if it was conducted on streaming web feeds or not.  Their god would decide and cause his choice to be followed.

      Rituals are bad habits needing washing away.  They strip people of choice, and present puppet shows to the mass population that they needfully buy into.

      All in, I respect their capability to hold such undeserved sway over one billion people, but look on with derision at their carnavalesque methods.

      1. You do realize that nobody here is reading comments longer than five lines, don’t you?

        1. I’d suspected.  But with so much stuff flinging its way from one side of my brain to the other I have a hard time distilling the same derisive casual disdain into a few pithy words. I will heed though.

          papal “vote” *chuckle* *snort*

          Edit: *damnit*

      2. “Besides, they don’t just do things differently than I would do them.  They do things I wouldn’t do.  Things I couldn’t imagine doing.  Things I couldn’t live with myself had I done them.”

        Please tell me how you can respect them then.

        1. To be clear, 

          I respect their capability to hold such undeserved sway over one billion people

          I’m always fascinated by hypnotists, salesmen, actors, clowns and magicians – for their capability to hold sway over people.

          To polish my point, I do not in the slightest respect the institution.  It is vile, rotten to the core, and disgusts me from top to bottom.  I respect, or perhaps rather, am amazed, at their ability to hypnotise one billion people simultaneously.

          Does that clear that up?

    3. With that type of thinking, I guess your ok with with their misunderstood like of little boys?

    4. In ancient Greek religion one of the sacred rituals was to mock the sacred rituals.  Are you mocking my Hellenic pagan ways?  Rude!

      (Seriously, if you can’t laugh at your religious rituals then you take them too seriously and you need to lighten up. See the story about the Catholic parish where the priest gave communion to a dog, for example. Guy got drummed out of the parish for doing something sweet, charming, and completely harmless. I’ll make fun of the sour-faced busybodies who got him removed, absolutely.)

    5. So what? So it’s rude. Not all viewpoints are as valid as all others. They’re just not. Do you also defend people who believe in alien abductions and unicorns, because they’re not “wrong, just different?” 

  6. They can elect any Catholic male, right? Is it a coincidence that the Colbert Report is showing reruns for the next two weeks? And from what I’ve heard, Stephen enjoys puffs of smoke, if you know what I mean!

  7. It would be one thing if religion and Catholicism in particular was actually run by a bunch of narcissistic self-denying power hungry megalomaniacs. Fortunately, we don’t have that problem.

    OH WAIT !

      1.  Given the antics of the ex-head of the church in the UK, ‘self-denying’ makes perfect sense…

  8. Hey, it wasn’t all that long ago that Boing Boing was praising Neal Stephenson’s novel set in a world where ancient orders depend on antiquated ritual to provide a powerful counterbalance to the latest social and technological fads.

    1. … the antiquated rituals of formal logic, geometry, physics, astronomy, land husbandry, medicine …

      1. No reason to get in a huff just because they aren’t announcing the new pope via twitter is all I’m sayin’.

        1. One might observe that the author’s motive to “improve” this piece of “news” reporting is that the piece consists entirely of the paraphrasing of the 1972 Encyclopædia Brittanica’s entry for “Papal Conclave”.

          1. @boingboing-b23975176653284f1f7356ba5539cfcb:disqus 
            Now you’re just being silly. The system for selecting a Pope didn’t resemble current practice until 1274.

          1. The Pope had an account. That doesn’t mean that the papacy does. And since there isn’t a Pope right now, there’s no papacy anyway.

    2. I think the first time I read about the pope selection process was in The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons – a universe in which the Earth is destroyed, but the Vatican was painstakingly transported to another planet, and in which they still signal the selection of a pope with smoke signals.

      I hated that book.

  9. It does seem to mostly derive from his personal distaste. What does this guy have against Pokémon, anyway?

  10. Man, I’m no friend of the church. But the above is a effect example of passive-aggressive whining because some people do stuff the authors don’t understand.

    1. I took it as whining from a 24 hour newsteam that has to cover the event, but has literally nothing to talk or show except outside shots of a building, and they’ll constantly be back there to say “yep, nothing to talk about still.” 

      I suppose it could be worse, they could be covering actual news events.  Did you know that stuff is happening in Syria for instance? 

    2. I’m no friend of the Church either (though I don’t mind trying to be a halfway-decent neighbor), but I’m having trouble understanding what could be so difficult to understand about what the cardinals are up to.  Locking them up to keep them focused on actually electing a pope without making a yearlong lunch out of it dates back nearly eight hundred years, and I imagine the smoke signals couldn’t be much younger (they wouldn’t be needed if the cardinals weren’t locked up).  So those are ancient practices that were adopted for purely pragmatic reasons, using the best contemporary technology available to address the issue.

      So what’s to understand?  Their clinging to these particular ancient rituals?  Hell, the last two popes have modified the election process, an upper age limit of 80 was established in 1970, and now they sweep for bugs and jam the WiFi.  So they’re not incapable nor insensible of change for the sake of procedural optimization.

      And yet they cling to the theater of literal smoke and figurative mirrors. That is not terrible fodder for lampoon in the 21st century, if you ask me.  

      1. The smoke signals are pretty young, actually. However, they support the general idea of the cardinals having no outside contact.

        I know, that’s a pretty grating thing for a profession that feels entitled to news.

    3. Nothing to understand other than they’re scam artist, pedophiles. No whining here, just plain ‘ol hatred.

  11. I enjoyed the fake-out where it set itself up as all rational, and then shifted gears at the last moment to promoting the author’s own religious views about the nanotechnology fairies. Really had me going there for a while!

          1. Here’s a hard truth for you: man is mortal. Heaven is for people who want their denial the old-fashioned way, and for everyone who’s too cool for that, there’s Kurzweil.

          2. I sincerely doubt that. A generation or two ago very few people were talking about putting robots on Mars because most people assumed we would be putting human beings on Mars.

          3. You seem to have missed the point – that every generation contains uneducated, yet opinionated, naysayers who predict that X will never happen, despite the fact that ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVW occurred in their own lifetime and YZ are within sight.

          4. @boingboing-b23975176653284f1f7356ba5539cfcb:disqus : Interesting that you assume anyone who thinks Kurzweil is unlikely to find the cure for mortality is “uneducated.”

          5. Nah. I just think people shouldn’t hold strong opinions about things they don’t understand,

            and that prayer has never cured HIV infection but anti-retroviral drugs and bone marrow transplant each have one verifiable success.

            My grandfather said only a diety would do it.

            Humanity never benefitted from people who decry advances as impossible.

          6.  “Curing Mortality” is a lot more far fetched than anything we have done in the history of man kind.  “Modifying humans to breath Ammonia” would be simpler and is way more likely.  And yet how quickly do you think that would happen?  30 years?  It took us 30 years to get what limited handle we have on HIV, it will take us 300 years to “cure mortality,” if such a thing ever happens.

            Us having achieved extraordinary things is great, and I know we will continue to do so.  But “curing mortality” is a fairy tale.  EvilSpirit phrased it well.

          7. “Curing Mortality” is a lot more far fetched than anything we have done in the history of man kind.

            Not that it stops anyone from trying. Modern-day cryonics is just a rehashing of the Egyptian mummification process, and with similar odds of success.

  12. The CNN piece deserves mocking in any way possible.  It’s a total sell for the catholic church.  Drawing romantic imagery out of words to promote starry-eyed wonder in the masses.  Come the fuck on.

    A deeply catholic woman at work has been in pieces since Ratssinging resigned.  She had little self-control, and was utterly miserable in confused disbelief that a pope would yield their holy seat.  Today, she was happy as a kitten – new leader coming.

    That kind of utter subordination and loss of personal control is one aspect of cathololicism [sic.  whatever] that I decry.  It’s such a sad sight.

    1. she really ought to save her enthusiasm for when new levels of angry birds are released…

      1. Jesus Darwin!  You must immediately copywrite that!

        Angry Birds “popevote” edition!  1 billion instant buyers!!

        Angry Birds SmokeStack … Angry Birds Purple Dresses … Angry Birds Red Smocks … the possibilities!

          1. Probably not. I was raised Catholic, so to this day whenever I hear “May the force be with you” I have to stifle the urge to respond “…and also with you.”

    2. My wife teaches in a heavily Catholic, heavily Italian town.  In the 1930s, despite being a small, mostly white town, it had the highest percentage of Klan-related violence.  The Klan was there to chase off the Catholics. As far as I can tell, the main difference between the Catholics in that town and everyone else is that they’re more fun to be around; most people seem to be either Catholic or Southern Baptist. Despite my wife being a Baptist herself, I know which I’d rather spend a Saturday night with.

      Part of the reason we have a secular education system in the United States is thanks to a New York Bishop who fought to end King James Bible study time, and the mandatory anti-Catholic, anti-Irish indoctrination.

      During the Cold War, many churches, especially Catholic churches, had to start flying American flags in their houses of worship despite it being a violation of their religious beliefs. Oh, the government wasn’t directly forcing them to, so no Constitutional violation, but they had to prove to their communities that they were loyal to the United States first and foremost.Hell, John F. Kennedy had to prove to the American people that he wasn’t about to turn the country over to the Pope.

      I agree that the adoration of a figure like the Pope is weird.  Let’s be careful that we don’t slip back into the same kind of bigotry that caused people to behave in such an ugly manner after 9/11, though.

      1. Great reminders, Shane. I respect Catholic suffering as much as other forms of oppression. However, I do think that most of the derision expressed by BB’ers is about Christian superstition in general, and religious fundamentalism in general, more so than about Catholicism in particular. It’s the harmful excesses of Catholicism, and their human costs, including the clinging to outmoded beliefs and practices and the efforts to influence public policy; like many other religions, those are part of it. And for many, they don’t outweigh the good sides.

      2. The delicious irony is that Catholics are exactly as guilty of the same sort of oppression they suffer (and even enshrine in their holy text) as their oppressors. Like Jews, Arabs and most other religious organizations that are “majority” in some context.
        (One can argue that at least, with Catholics, the feared “disloyalty” used to be real: when the Pope had a real State and hold real power over a Roman Empire, things could get really sticky, as Henry VIII of England illustrated. More recently, Catholics in Soviet countries were almost invariably helping foreign powers; regardless of whether you think this was “right”, you can see why the State would have been worried about them.)

        I think a solution could be a sort of “Religious Competition Act” that would force religions to break up over minor theological differences as soon as they reach an overall majority, sort of an anti-monopolistic legislation for the soul.

        1. “The delicious irony is that Catholics are exactly as guilty of the same sort of oppression they suffer (and even enshrine in their holy text) as their oppressors.”

          True, but as they taught me in elementary school, two wrongs do not make a right.

          I suppose my only point is that this naked disgust is an ugly thing.  It can lead to outright bigotry, and it won’t convert anyone who truly believes this stuff.

          1. I suppose my only point is that this naked disgust is an ugly thing.

            Why wouldn’t we be disgusted by an organization that operates like the Mafia, has institutionalized the cover-up of child rape from the highest levels and has massively increased the spread of AIDS in the Third World with its anti-condom programs?

          2. Bigotry is the state of mind of a bigot: someone who, as a result of their prejudices, treats other people with hatred, contempt, and intolerance on the basis of a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, language, socioeconomic status, or other status.

            Prejudice refers to prejudgement: i.e. making a decision before becoming aware of the relevant facts of a case

            I’m painfully aware of the facts of the case.  At least, those in the open.  I made my decision after gaining that awareness.  So I’m not prejudiced.  Which means I’m not a bigot.
            My revulsion at the catastrophic actions and influences of the catholic church is reasonable, appropriate, predictable, and balanced.

      3. But you’re not going to mention the reasons for anti-Catholic paranoia in the US?  Seems a little one-sided. Massachusetts Bay Colony was not exactly begun as a profit-seeking enterprise.

        1. But you’re not going to mention the reasons for anti-Catholic paranoia in the US? Seems a little one-sided.

          Is it always necessary to bring up the reasons for anti-_______ paranoia when noting prejudice against a religious or ethnic group?

          1.  It’s a wonderful item in the toolbox of rhetoric.

            “I’m not paranoid!”
            “Yes you are”
            “I am not”
            “Then what are you worried about?”
            “I’m not worried”
            “You’re frowning.  You’re very worried”
            “I’m not.  I’m angry”
            “You look really anxious”
            “What?!  Whatever, I’m outta here”
            “I’m just saying.  You can’t even support your argument”

    1. I know, right? Also, the idea of letting kids out of school a couple of hours before typical adult workdays end, because kids used to need to get home when enough sunlight was left to get some farm chores done.

  13. The smoke stove looks like a little coal potbelly stove in a streamlined European design.  Today it looks like they burned a bicycle tire. 

  14. I had the same reaction while listening to the news on the car radio. Glad someone shared it.

  15. CNN now returns you to your normally scheduled programming.  As soon as we figure out what that is.  Other than our “short skirt cam” we use for anchors.

    1. “Chavez Was a Dictator — Good Thing He’s Dead”

      “Iran Wants to Blow Us Up, and Never You Mind What We’ve Done to Them”

      “North Korea Still Hates Us, Who Could Ever, Ever See Why?”

      “Africa is All One Country”

      “Anderson Cooper Still Appeals to High-revenue Demographics”

      “You Haven’t Watched Enough Commercials Yet”

      “When Is that Nasty Old Castro Creep Going to Die, Anyway?”

  16. Of all the things that the Catholic Church should be blasted for, the use of smoke signals instead of Twitter doesn’t even rank among the top 100.

    1. Aw, plenty of people (though not an excessive number) blast the Church for all those things.  Can’t a guy point and laff at the pompous theatricality too?

  17. Three people, count them, were needed to write this piece of 21st century “journalism”.

  18. With all of the BS in the comments for this article, we need to keep one thing in mind: THIS IS THE WAY THEY DO IT, and have ALWAYS done it! Whether you like it or not, whether you understand it or not. If you want to see what goes on, in general, watch “The Shoes Of The Fisherman”. It’s great.

    1. THIS IS THE WAY THEY DO IT, and have ALWAYS done it!

      From what I understand this is quite untrue.

  19. Did the CNN guys really write that “extra omnes” means “those who are extra, leave?” If you make money with your writing, how can you not have an inkling that “omnes” means “all”, at the very least, so the other word cannot mean what you think it does? Even wikipedia knows the actual translation is an imperative “get out, all of you”.
    That is just sad. Unless there’s some sort of american irony that i’m failing to understand.

    1. It’s not terribly ironic.  Americans just don’t learn Latin.  Because you know, old stuff is kooky.

    2. I was like, uh, maybe Exeunt Omnes. I just suspected $REPORTER was clueless on Latin and misheard.

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