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  INCOMING! OCTOBER 17, 2005.  


Strange thoughts today. Such as: Who would win in a fight between a crocodile and the Pope? Well, it depends on which Pope, we suppose. Pope John Paul I, whose birthday it is today, must not have had a lot of Heavenly mojo; he died only one month after being elected. In September 1978 he fell dead of a heart attack, sending the Cardinals back to the Vatican to begin the whole process over again -- many before they had even had time to unpack the large comical hats. This is not the record, however.

Pope Sisinnius I was installed on January 15, 708 and died of gout on February 4 -- a whirlwind 20-day reign. This should serve as a warning to our current pontiff that, even though you've got the job, in the grand scheme of things you're really just working on spec.

Someone who had a much better relationship with a higher power was also born on this day: Margot Kidder, who turns 57. While Pope John Paul I was, well, dying, Kidder was flying with Superman in the film of the same name. Of course that was before she was found babbling and covered in leaves in someone's front yard in 1996, the victim of bipolar disorder. Happy birthday, Lois! If only we could reverse the spin of the earth's rotation back to the time when you were not quite so insane.

Also, don't forget that tonight is the debut of "The Colbert Report" (11:30 p.m. ET) on Comedy Central. You loved him on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," (according to our records) and now he has his own fake show, focusing on current events. We also like Letterman in this time slot, so it will be interesting to see what TiVo decides to do. We leave all such decisions to technology -- we prefer not to get involved directly.






As we know, Barbara Bush said of Hurricane Katrina refugees living in the Astrodome: "So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." But on this day in 1793, Marie-Antoinette did her one better, uttering history's most famous quote involving a baked dessert. Responding to the news that the French peasantry had no bread to eat, the wife of King Louis XVI allegedly replied, "Let them eat cake."

This went over so well with the people that revolutionary forces later condemned her for treason, and nine months after the execution of her husband, she followed him to the guillotine. Today, the punishment would have been far more severe -- a dressing down by Court TV's Nancy Grace.






It's the day we've all been waiting for, as Saddam Hussein and several of his swingin' top aides -- we've dubbed them The Iraq Pack -- are due to begin trial on assorted charges ranging from murder to stealing free HBO. And you don't have to be a top-level judicial insider to join in on the fun; it will all be shown live on Iraqi television (time to sign up for DirecTV's Mad Dictator Package), with gavel-to-gavel coverage by the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mu'tamar. By the way, other stuff to watch that night if you live in Iraq and don't want to see the trial:

8 p.m., "Everybody Loves Ramul"
9:30, "Sikhs in the City" (repeat).

Hey, also, our enlightened friends in South Korea will open the world's first stem cell bank today. From the folks who first cloned a dog (which no one can seem to find -- where do dogs disappear to over there?), we will now soon have Organs 'R Us franchises, which we're sure will be staffed by surly clerks who will demand correct change. Meanwhile, our president is still vetoing such research over here.





Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas meets George Bush at the White House today, presumably to thank him for all the new real estate. There is no truth to the report, by the way, that Abbas' approval rating in Israel is higher than Bush's in the U.S., although it's close.

And on October 20, 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur waded ashore onto the Philippine island of Leyte (that Photoshop image you made of him wearing a duckie float tube is humorous, but historically wrong), declaring: "People of the Philippines, I have returned!" By the following June, the Philippines had been retaken, fulfilling a promise he made in 1942 when he left them to the Japanese. Later MacArthur was deemed somewhat of a crackpot, failed in a bid to run for President and canned by Truman. But Gregory Peck played him in a movie, so he came out ahead.






Two days after Saddam Hussein goes on trial in Baghdad, our own crazed despot, Tom DeLay, is scheduled to appear in a Travis County courtroom in Austin, Texas, on various charges. Our fervent hope is that Hot Tub Tom experiences a little redistricting of his own, which involves at the very most a new penitentiary address, or at the very least an ankle bracelet monitoring device.

But how can we concentrate on that when Nicole Richie's debut film, Kids in America, opens in theaters today? Richie, as if you didn't know, plays a high school cheerleader and has her first screen kiss -- with a girl. According to People, Kids producer Andrew Shaifer reports that the kissing scene required "multiple takes." We were beginning to lose faith in mankind, but with that news now we know that everything is going to be OK.



Rick Chandler is a columnist for and associate editor of Deadspin.


INCOMING! runs every Monday on The Black Table.