Little Audrey Santo

I've alluded to this story and the time has come, at long last, to reveal it to the willing!

Little Audrey is a girl who nearly drowned in an above ground pool in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1987.  Though she was revived, she had been oxygen deprived for about ten minutes.  Her family describes what happened next:
   Audrey recovered but was rushed to the hospital where she was overmedicated. The doctor prescribed too much Phenobarbital, and Audrey lapsed into a coma.

     The hospital’s physical therapist broke Audrey’s legs and dislocated her shoulder. Then the doctor insisted on insertion of a tracheotomy tube. She remained in ICU with 24-hour nursing care. She was out of the coma in three weeks. She remains in a state called Akinetic Mutism — non-moving, non-speaking.

Sound familiar yet?  In any event, what follows next is the part of the story that totally boggles the mind.  Audrey's mother, Linda, who is very religious, heard about a place in then-Yugoslavia where a group of children were reported to have had visions of the Virgin Mary.  Linda had decided that she could offer Audrey better care than any nursing facility, and thus had moved Audrey home, where she lay prone in a large bed in the family's living-room hooked up to a feeding-tube machine.  When Linda heard the children in Yugoslavia had performed miraculous healings, she decided to take Audrey, despite the obvious difficulty (not to mention extreme risk) involved in such an undertaking:
Audrey survived the flight and they finally arrived in Medjugorje after a three-hour journey from Dubrovnik. Here Linda and Audrey were allowed to be present twice during the apparitions. Linda recalls these moments as very emotional: "When Ivan (one of the visionaries) went into ecstasy and Our Lady appeared, we all cried".

The apparitions lasted about seven to ten minutes. On both occasions something unusual happened. Normally the visionaries did not speak with people after the apparitions, but on these two occasions, Ivan Immediately went straight to Audrey, bent over her and spoke to her in Croatian. The fact that Audrey could not verbally reply did not prevent him from speaking to her.

Nobody ever learned what he told her during those magic moments. "I never found out and I never asked him," Linda says. "I figured if I were supposed to know, he’d tell me". He never did, but Linda firmly believes that during this time, Audrey communicated with the Virgin Mary in some mysterious way.
Sounds pretty good, right?  I would be pretty stoked if any apparation appeared to me.  I like the translation issue introduced; doesn't God speak in all languages? 

Does Audrey now understand all languages?  I'm not sure, but in any event what occurs next is spectacular:
After these events, Audrey did actually appear to come to life. She moved her head and hands and her eyes seemed to come alive. Linda went into a swoon of joy, which turned abruptly to horror as Audrey fell back on her bed and had a heart attack. They rushed to the nearest hospital. But antiquated equipment and no oxygen greeted them here. So for long hours, they zigzagged across the region, looking for something better, somehow keeping Audrey alive. The family tried to arrange a flight home, but officials would not allow passage because of Audrey’s condition.

Through the intervention of U.S. Rep. Joseph D. Early, Audrey was finally Med-Evaced to Frankfurt and then home to Massachusetts aboard a medically equipped Air Force plane. A $25,000 mortgage had to be taken out on Audrey's grandmother house, to pay for these unexpected expenses.

At least the Government made them pay for the flight back. These days, I have no doubt the government would happily foot the bill for a wayward zealot in a ridiculous, potentially deadly, self-created mess like this one. And of course Audrey wasn't healed.
Linda Santo's response to the near-fatal incident was to blame it on the proximity of a Yugoslavian abortion clinic
What to do? Turn to obscure Catholic doctrine of course!   Audrey's mother decided that the Virgin Mary (through the Slavic-seer) told Audrey she had been selected to become a "Victim Soul", basically a Christ figure who suffers for others.  Not the best job, but the story doesn't end there.  Soon after Audrey returned to Worcester a mysterious oil began appearing in various votive vessels in Audrey's room.In an even more exciting turn of events, statues of Jesus were seen to bleed!Soon a loyal congregation began gathering for weekly ceremonies in Audrey's garage.  The sick came to her to be healed.  The mysterious oil, which is still flowing, is available for free.  Despite the doubts of the local Catholic Diocese, Linda Santo is adamant in her faith in the validity of Audrey's victim soul-hood:
"She cannot speak, but she knows everything. She is not in a coma . . . she's in that room with her Jesus seven days a week, adoring him, waiting on him, serving him, and he's blessing her."

Okay, sounds totally rational. In any event, this is only a brief overview of a fascinating and important case. In my estimation Audrey Santo is a kind of Terri Schiavo in reverse: someone whose guardian is overconcerned with keeping her alive because she has in a sense become the family's silent bread winner. Is it exploitative? You bet. Is it protected because it involves "religious practice" and a mother and her daughter? Most likely. The Catholic Church shut down their mini-chapel back in the mid nineties, but terminally ill visitors are still allowed to visit once a month. More on this sordid tale as I learn it, but I hope this has restored something of alost sense of balance to your life.


Lidle Hands Are the Devil's Playthings

More on the story that, unlike its subject, just won't die. Apparently the Yankee's season ticket holder Christmas ornament for this year was quite timely.

That's right, a Santa Clause flying a freakin' plane! Is this some kind of sick joke designed specifically to amuse me? I couldn't have done any better myself!

The Yankees claim that the choice was made a few days before Lidle's heroic last flight, but I am skeptical. I think Steinbrenner knows my sense of humor and is in fact going out of his way to woo me as a potential fan now that I'm in New York.

Your offer has been noted, Senor. I will get back to you after I finish my enchilada.

Knicks History

With the NBA season fast approaching, I thought it was time for a new countdown. "Hurray," you say, "It's been so very long since The Best Blog Posts of 2005 and even longer since The Greatest People Ever, I'm so glad we're in for more!"

I bow, doff my feathered cap, and tap my stockinged toe gently on the smooth wood floor. The new countdown's sample size will be more limited than any previous countdown's, and thus the list will be concordantly shorter. Enought quibbling, to the meat!

I will countdown the ten greatest players in New York Knicks history. I promise that the list will be fair, objective, and totally free of the slightest trace of irony. You can take my word on that. I also swear to post updates on the list as haphazardly as I deem necessary. Prepare yourself (singular because we all read alone) for a new effulgence, a riotous curtain call of the spirit that cannot fail to overtake you!


Hunger Strike

Bad news out of Hungary. It seems what should have been a celebration of solidarity and post-communist democratic splendor instead turned into a frenzied blood bath. Well, not quite, but a lot of protesters were shot with rubber bullets, trampled on, and/or hit in the face with a plexiglass shield. And let's not forget maced and sprayed with a fire hose! This uprising is occuring on the fiftieth anniversary of the (doomed) 1956 uprising against Soviet rule. Here's some footage from the riots last month, though apparently the latest bunch have been even worse:

The soundtrack alone is worth price of admission, and I particularly love the goth hooligans; they seem to enjoy being persecuted!

For those of you who aren't familiar with the current goings-on in Hungary, here is a video that nicely summarizes what has lead to this crisis, albeit through a mildly propagandistic medium: (Read quickly, the captions don't last long!--ed.):More on this story as it develops, but needless to say, I'll keep my eyes glued to this situation.

A long awaited film review soon, plus a story to top even Schiavo's in its absurdity! Refresh often!


Check Out...

...this awesome Dutch perception test site I found. Try to find the three differences in the two pictures (hint: focus on the town):

Dig It!



At last someone is going to pay for the deaths of 10 people at a Santa Monica Farmer's market in 2003. Apparently the then 86 year old George Russell Weller did a vicious number on this place. Dig this description:
Weller's 1992 Buick Le Sabre traveled about 300 yards, reaching speeds of 60 mph or more as it crashed into food stalls. It finally came to a stop after hitting a ditch, with one victim's body tangled underneath and another's draped across the hood.

Sounds great! Sorry I missed it.


Identification Crisis

Just a few thoughts about the recent discovery of human remains at the WTC site.

Do you think victims' families still want to know the specific locations of their loved ones' remains? Is there enough closure in the colossal response by America both culturally and politically to the event, or is it also important to know his or her thigh bone was found under a manhole cover beside the North Tower? I ask because I'm curious, having been (as an American) utterly subjugated by the constant media reference to 9/11 as "the" epochal turning point of our generation.

What do the families really think about Greengrass's United 93? I saw it for the first time yesterday, and while it was riveting, the sense of tragedy was mostly absent for me. The documentary style succeeded in totally depersonalizing everyone in the film. In fact, the most sympathetic figure in my estimation was hijacker Ziad Jarrah, who has been portrayed as a kind of ambivalent, pseudo-sympathetic figure by the media for quite a while. I don't know, it could have had the moment of Aeschylus's The Persians, but instead it was hardly better than Elephant... From what I've gathered, Stone's film is not up to the task either... Too soon? How long?!

Lastly here's one family member's opinion:
Charles Wolf, whose wife Katherine's remains were never recovered, said he wants an independent party to take over the remains search. He showed up at the Con Edison site after being contacted by television stations Thursday.

"We've got a problem right now," Wolf said. "Where else are we going to find them next?"

(Endy Chavez just made the nastiest catch I have ever seen 10:05. Praying to Emerson for the Mets! IN VAIN, alas... Damn you Aaron Heilman!--ed.)


True Death-Medium

Finally, just when you thought there weren't enough professional sports endorsements, we have this:
MLB has entered a licensing agreement with Eternal Image, which hopes to eventually make urns and caskets for all 30 teams. The company also hopes to have similar agreements with NASCAR, the NHL and the NFL, but baseball was the first to sign on.
Great, that's just great. So now you can be linked with a corporate logo for eternity!

Zeke vs. GA

It's back!

Priceless preseason tabloid fodder from the NBA, that is.

Renaldo Balkman, whose selection surprised many on draft night, has played very well (I watched the rebroadcast of the game against Boston last night. Renaldo can ball, but I was most impressed by Rajon Rondo who made a spectacular put-back jam and was otherwise nasty.) Zeke Thomas, the Knicks' fearless leader (I still believe IT), called out former-Knick turned ESPN analyst Greg Anthony:
"This so-called former Knick, on draft night with millions of people watching, had the audacity to take me to task on a player that I'm pretty sure he had never seen before in his life," Thomas said.
It gets even better:
"Greg Anthony should never ever be in a position to question myself on anything about basketball," Thomas said. "I do remember the kind of player he was. I'll leave it at that.
Cold, yes, but SO true. Nevertheless, there is a flaw in Zeke's logic: history shows that greatness as a player rarely translates into greatness as an executive. For every Jerry West there is an (until very recently) Elgin Baylor, for every Joe Dumars a, well, you know...

Bun in any event, sick cut, Isiah, sick cut.


Wanna Get Fired?

If you're a College Football commentator and a brawl breaks out, here's what to say:
"Now, that's what I'm talking about," Thomas said as the brawl raged out of control. "You come into our house, you should get your behind kicked. You don't come into the OB playing that stuff. You're across the ocean over there. You're across the city. You can't come over to our place talking noise like that. You'll get your butt beat. I was about to go down the elevator to get in that thing."
Awesome. I wish you had "gotten in that thing". Wait, what's that? You want to further indict yourself? I'm game:
"I say, why don't they just meet outside in the tunnel after the ball game and get it on some more? You don't come into the OB, baby," Thomas said. "We've had a down couple years but you don't come in here talking smack. Not in our house."
Nice. I like how at first he totally denigrates the other school, but then later admits Miami has had "a down couple years". Way to be balanced! Lamar Thomas, you are my hero. If only there were a video available of your outrageous tirade...

(Fast forward to 1:50 or so to hear the comments in question--ed.)

A bad week for commentators! Joining Lamar in the ranks of the recently unemployed is Steve Lyons, the genius perhaps best remembered for mooning a crowded stadium to "remove dirt from his shorts" in 1990. Here's one man's opinion; mine? Lyons is only slightly less comically stupid than Lamar... Slightly!

Death-Media Remembers: Some Celebrity Plane Crash Victims

Remember this guy? Well, with the recent death of YouTube Tribute God (the tributes keep coming!) Cory Lidle, I thought, gee, have any other minor sports icons died in tragic plane crashes? (check at the bottom for the best "tribute" we've found--ed.)

Munson and Clemente came to mind, of course, but they were stars. Payne Stewart was also too famous, and plus he wasn't flying the plane he died in... (This would also rule out Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rickie Nelson (definitely click this one, very BBC The Office), Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, Otis Redding, but not JFK Jr. and definitely not the ever popular Joseph Kennedy Jr., never mind that none of them were athletes...)

Then I remembered Rodney Culver, that Charger's reserve tailback who died in the ValueJet debacle in the Everglades. But again, he wasn't the pilot. This led me to my only choice. The only choice, really.

Brook Berringer. You remember, the back up to Tommie Frazier on those great early 90's Nebraska teams? Remember? Well, if not, there is a tribute video below. Brook died in a crash while piloting an antique plane, just two days before he might have been drafted into the NFL. Talk about a cooler. Anyway, if I forgot anyone, let me know.

(Here is the promised anti-Lidle attention rant. Good for a change of pace from tibute videos)


Here is the Vayner Video

Just doing my part... Thanks to Actual Rod and IvyGate...

Is this a joke? Is it just a horribly unironic mistake?



Let the lionization of Lidle begin! Here are some necessary and prompt memorial tributes to Cory:

I like the choice of "I'll Be Missin' You"; I'm sure Biggie would have loved Cory Lidle, if they had ever met. I mean that.

Now that's what I'm talking about; classic white piano pop cheese, and pictures of Cory pitching, flying, plus several shots of the burning crash site. Very tasteful, I like the switch from Lidle on the mound to the towering inferno then back to Lidle on the mound. It's nice to be able to really connect a body with a charred corpse.

This one is priceless. I love that the "video" is actually just that corn-ball "Ken Burns Effect" slowly zooming in on a picture of Lidle by a plane, with no sound! Great work. If only we had camera phones and YouTube during the whole JFK Jr. reckless flying death incident! There would have been some killer tributes then, I'm sure... But wait, why have actual footage when there are dramatizations like this one?

Okay, okay, more Lidle information as it becomes available. God bless you, Cory. If anyone is tired of every ESPN show beginning with "despite the tragic death of Cory Lidle, the show must go on," shame on you. Too soon. Gotta leave it alone, Diane.


Media Congruence

This one is strange. Monday as I was driving back to the city from a holiday in Rhode Island, I happened to tune in to WFAN to listen to the insipid Mike and the Mad Dog radio show. As I had hoped, the talk was all of the miserable, overpaid, recently (happily) disgraced New York Yankees. Speculation about the fate of Joe Torre was rampant. Then something wonderful happened.

An angry player called in to defend himself against the allegation that he had "thrown Joe Torre under a bus." He repeatedly stated that Russo and Francesa were twisting his words (they were) to make it seem like he was blaming Torre for the team being "unprepared." His constant refrain of, "Geez you guys keep twisting my words. The players are to blame. Joe Torre is a first class manager," made me feel like this player was maybe not too intellectually gifted. The interview was mindlessly repetitive, and both Russo and Francesa gave the player a very hard time, throwing his words back in his face with the relentless zeal of smear-mongers. The player in question was none other than Yankee pitcher, Cory Lidle. Update! Here is the audio of the Lidle interview. Tell me they don't treat him like shit! -ed.

Now Lidle is dead in a fiery plane crash, a crash eerily reminiscent of 9/11. His right pitching arm is, in all likelihood, detached from his body. Even the abominable Chris Russo looked mildly contrite in his white turtle-neck and Indiana red v-neck sweater. "We just talked to him the other day... We really gave it to him, too. Of course now you feel awful..." Sure you do, Chris, just like the butcher feels bad after severing the cow's jugular. You are a monster.


Ethiopian Paradise

...Or Not. I've long felt that Ethiopia has been neglected on these austere pages. Now that the Islamic Courts Union have declared a "Jihad" against Ethiopia, it seemed an ideal time to pay an honest tribute to the ancient climate on the African horn. Many of you may be familiar with Ethiopian food from Caffe Adulis in New Haven, but let me remind you, that restaurant is Eritrean, and there's nothing an Eritrean (restaurant) hates more than being confused for an Ethiopian (restaurant).

Ethiopia is the second oldest Christian nation in the world, and was never colonized, making it in a sense the Thailand (where things are also really stable) of Africa. As to the land's ancient history, tell me is this isn't confusing:
Around the 8th century BC, a kingdom known as D?mt was established in northern Ethiopia and Eritrea, with its capital at Yeha in northern Ethiopia. Most modern historians consider this civilization to be indigenous, although Sabaean-influenced due to the latter's hegemony of the Red Sea, while others view D`mt as the result of a mixture of "culturally superior" Sabaeans and indigenous peoples; a very small minority even views the kingdom as wholly Sabaean and Ethiopians as the descendents of an admixture of ancient Sabaean immigrants and Indigenous Africans. However, there is archaeological evidence to prove that at one point in time a region in Northern Ethiopia and Eritrea was called Saba. However, most modern scholars often refer to it as Ethiopian Saba since it had a separate entity than the Saba in Yemen.
Okay, didn't think so. But in any event, the peoples of Ethiopia have been closely involved with the key players of world history, the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Muslims, Christians, Zoroastrians, etc. Shouldn't we be defending our Christian brothers from this al Quaeda based attack?

Maybe. After all, wasn't Haile Selassie an Ethiopian Emperor? Could George Bush ever really defend the nation of the man worshiped as God by that accursed Rastafari Movement? I mean, these people aren't really Christian, are they? I bet Bush doesn't think so, and I bet he also thinks that those Rastas are still running that place...

But wait, isn't there something else we have against Ethiopia?

Haile Selassie's reign came to an end in 1974, when a pro-Soviet Marxist-Leninist military junta, the "Derg", deposed him and established a one-party communist state. The ensuing regime suffered several bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and a massive refugee problem. In 1977 Somalia attacked Ethiopia, which sparked the Ogaden War, but Ethiopia quickly defeated them with a massive influx of Soviet military hardware, direct Cuban military presence, coupled with East German and South Yemeni military assistance the following year. Haile Selassie Ethiopian?

Oh yeah! They went communist in the seventies, which you can read about in this fascinating book by Christopher Andrew. In any event, the KGB, through proxies Cuba and East Germany funded the Ethiopian Military for a while until, well, it collapsed. At this point Ethiopia was forced to recognize the independence of the hated, Italian influenced Eritreans.

It was a sad day, but don't worry, the Ethiopians kept the coals smoldering (like Selassie's body, but in reverse: Selassie is believed by some to have been frozen, in order to simulate death, in 1975, and that he is lying in a state of suspended animation, waiting to be resuscitated at the time of the last judgment, thereby fulfilling his role as Christ Reincarnate, as prophesied in Revelation), and started a war with Eritrea in 1998, a war that lasted until 2000 when a tentative peace was established. It has held, but troops are still manifested along both sides of the still-disputed border, and many fear renewed hostilities.

So, should George Bush support Ethiopia? I think so. But the final calculus will no doubt involve a careful mental juggling act. Is supporting the Rastas worth alienating the base? Does Homeland Security supersede the DEA? Can a just policy suffice for an unjust world? Is the promise of Revelation really nothing more than the lesson of Emerson?

You get the idea. But needless to say, Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa, will be important for all of our futures. Very important, mark my words.