Monday, March 17, 2008

A Questions of Brains and Brainpower

With Audio.

I take a self congratulatory moment at the beginning of this one to say "I told you so" regarding the "Bodies" exhibits. It would make more sense if you knew the "so" that "I told you."
This is what I wrote June 2nd, 2005:

Someone in the forums brought up the German guy who plasticizes corpses people thought they were leaving to
science and flays them, basically, posing the eviscerations in "imaginative" or ironic situations. A man carries his
own skin on a hangar, stuff like that. It is touring science museums as an educational "visible man" , "visible
woman" event.
I don't have a problem with people seeing the inside of the body of a dead person. I think it entirely appropriate
to open medical school dissections to the public or to perform dissections in museum auditoriums for people to
see. I know seeing the traveling school exhibit of real human lungs, one healthy at death, the other ravaged by
smoking allowed me to visualize what I was doing to myself and helped me quit smoking.
But these bodies are posed for effect. He is using human corpses as a material, a medium like wire or clay. He
himself calls it "edutainment." Have we reached a point where it is okay to entertain ourselves with the bodies of
the dead?
And where did he get these bodies? I'm sure there are people now who have signed up to have this done to
themselves, but who were the first batch? A visitor to the show remarked that most of the "cadavers" (what are they
to be properly called there an honestly descriptive name we can live with as a society?) were clearly
Asian. Well good, at least they're not from an area under international pressure to clamp down on illegal and
organ harvesting. The copy of the expository material the museums put up on their companion websites
tap dances around the fact the original owners of these bodies had no idea they would be turned to plastic,
posed doing skateboard tricks (yep) or riding a bike and packed around the world for profit as part of a macabre
sideshow. For thats what this is. Let's just admit it. The cash starved institutions who book this show can polish
this turd with the "Learning Anatomy" cheesecloth all they want but there is far more Barnum than Herophilus in
this guy. In one article I read he tells the reporter to write it up as sensationally as he would like, as more people
would come the more outraged the press.

F**k this guy.

And this is a link to the story they did on 20/20.
(Brian Ross, by the way, is one of the only investigative guys left that doesn't make my skin crawl. He seems to realize just maybe the story is more interesting than he is.)

If you want to see the Ted Conference talk by Jill Bolte Taylor that I reference, it is here.
There is more about James Burke here. His fantastic show "Connections" can be found on Netflix and the interview with him that I heard can be found here.

The music is by Jonathan Coulton.


  1. I saw the Bodyworlds exhibit when it toured in Dallas. I didn't find it horrifying or disgusting at all. I found it to be varying degrees of interesting to me. So, while I can see your point, I simply disagree.

    Regarding the 20/20 link...I didn't see an actual video feed available on their site, just some photos. If you know of the video portion, can you let me know?

    Regarding Connections...I used to watch that show frequently in my younger years. It can satisfactorily be described as the 6 degrees of separation for objects, customs, or ideas rather than for people. I was always fascinated by it. I'll have to add it to my Netflix queue.

    Regarding the Ted Conference...I'll have to check out that site. It sounds like something I'd really enjoy.

    aka Jenny

  2. I recall your original blog about this as the exhibit was in SFO shortly thereafter.

    The whole thing struck me as odd, and I never did see how this was supposed to be educational.

    I remember Connections, I'll have to see if I can get that.