Monday, October 5, 2009

He was a Head of his Time

In his new book 'Frozen', author Larry Johnson alleges that employees of Alcor Life Extension Foundation regularly abused the frozen head of baseball great Ted Williams, even using it for batting practice, attempting to knock his noggin off the tuna fish cans (!) it was often mounted on. Icy decapitated humiliation for perhaps the greatest baseball player ever to strap on a pair of cleats.

That's just wrong on so many levels. Ty Cobb or Barry Bonds, yeah: knock yourself out, snowball fights all around. But not Ted Williams, for crying out loud. He was one of the good guys. Come 2195 when they thaw him out and slap a new body underfoot, his first glance in the mirror at the new Ted will be marred by a fucking Starkist tin jutting out of his frontal lobe!

Of course, there may be worries for The Splendid Splinter beyond simply a few dings in the membrane.  It seems the boys at Alcor lopped off Ted's head with something like a chain saw, the 'surgery' performed by a crew whose combined medical education consisted of high school biology 101 and a CPR correspondent's course. I imagine the procedure resembled that one scene in DePalma's 1983 Scarface remake (you know the one; if you don't, you don't want to).

Johnson was the Chief Operating Officer of Alcor for several years before turning tail to become a whistle-blower against his former colleagues. He claimed to fear for his safety after allegedly receiving threats of reprisal, penning the expose in hiding for the most part. He goes on to write that families of employees would come in regularly for photo opps with the batting champ.  They'd take Ted's head out of storage and toss it around while they took turns snapping pics, sometimes involving Williams' cranium in bazaar and 'unnatural' poses (as if there were 'natural' ones for such an occasion).

I'll certainly be picking the book up when it hits the stands this week.

Johnson's allegations are vehemently denied by Alcor, who attempted unsuccessfully to block publication of the book. I can't imagine why Johnson would fabricate such over-the-top outrages in the detail he did, for such a lengthy period of time, if there wasn't at least a kernel of truth there. Well, I can imagine why: the usual and obvious reasons of money and ego. But there has been more than enough corroboration since he first raised these concerns to tell me something's fishy in cryonics heaven.

Who really cares?  I mean really cares, beyond the ghoulish entertainment kind of caring that folks like me indulge in.  There are those cryonics believers, of course, and I would think Ted's family might have more than a passing interest.  But anyone else?

In the end, I find the whole thing supremely silly given everything else going on in the world. I'd find the whole thing supremely silly even if nothing else was going on in the world. It's a frozen hunk of inanimate matter that'll never be anything but again. Even if we have the technology to reanimate it at some distant future point in time, it's high likely by then we'll be able to transfer the thawed out neurons into a 'fresh' artificial head for him.

In the end, this is nothing more egregious than finding out people were desecrating Archie Bunker's Chair at the Smithsonian. Actually, I'd be far more disturbed to hear of chair abuse allegations (shuttering to think what some museum workers might be up to after hours when they get bored). That's real Americana you're messing with, punk! I'd be calling for congressional investigations and the whole nine yards.

But a dead baseball player's head? What can you say? Chin up, Ted!

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