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Jan 27

Plastination

There’s a famous painting titled The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolas Tulp, which first frightened, then fascinated me, as a boy.

Here’s the painting, from the link above:

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Recently I got to watch two documentaries, featuring Gunther von Hagens (read his colorful official biography), who invented Plastination.

His plastination exhibits have been popular, but controversial. The TV documentaries he’s made have been controversial, as well, since they involve dissections of human corpses done before a live audience.

The shows, however, are timely. They indicate an almost insatiable curiosity about the human body, in a sense out of a morbid sense but also as a healthy antidote to interest in the Occult or religion. A best-seller recently has been “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” (Mary Roach) which is an extremely enjoyable read. Another book I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading (if that’s the right word) is “How We Die : Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter (Vintage)” (Sherwin B. Nuland). Our culture, which does not shrink from death, and which includes visits to the dead as part of the cycle of the living, owes much to the Catholic conception of the Memento Mori as it does Asian concepts of ancestor worship or respect to the departed.

The big questions, of course, revolve around life and death; between science and faith, technology and nature. The more we know about what we can really know -the biology, the science of it all- the more we can properly determine if the things we really can’t know, spirituality, philosophy, and so on, matter to us or not.

Interesting weekend readings:

Farewell to the pandaca pygmaea.

Are comments necessary? Time to get tough. And, the ethics of interactivity. Kottke.org gives the lowdown on comments.

Filipino journalists as mafiosi. The proportional response controversy.

Live from Iraq: home-made war movies.

Coming soon: webcams made obsolete.

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  1. Rizalist

    PLAGIARISM is beginning to take an absurd turn in the Comment mills. (I’m actually sorry I followed your link into that Komiks Kerfuffle yesterday MLQ!)

    But has anyone looked at GOOGLE VIDEO for example. Talk about digital plagiarism. Last night on the front page of it, I got to watch three of the greatest classic Disney Cartoons for free (Here’s the link kiddies to RED HOT RIDING HOOD by Tex Avery There’s lots of other stuff there that you can pay for too, so anyone who wants to make money on their ORIGINALITY should upload their stuff to Google Video and charge for it. But the FREE stuff is enough for the frugal.

    There is of course another level to the discussion, that of the ethics of CUT N PASTE itself. But just think, blogs are full of Links and Quotes to other people’s stuff. Even with “attribution” it can feel like a real rip-off sometimes, but only if your Shakespeare or something. Who was it who said, “Ultimately, all writing is plagiarism.” (There I just ripped him or her off by forgetting his name).

    Let’s be candid. A blog is not a private diary, but a billboard anyone in the world can instantly transport to. And we love it when they do. No one “publshes” a private diary. Though no one should be ripping others off, blogging is really an invitation to drive by screengrabbers and re-linkers.

    Bless their curious souls!

    That’s the motto of those who blog for the Public Domain. Folks, our publishing engines (our “printing presses”), our “ink” and “paper” are free, our transaction costs are nil– courtesy of DARPA and Tim Berners Lee.

    Blogging is giving something back to the evolving Global Mind: our own paltry thoughts and pictures. (Or exalted as the case may be.)

  2. Carl

    It wouldn’t be far-fetched to someday see Ferdinand Marcos’ plastinated remains in a mausoleum at the Libingan ng mga Bayani or somewhere in the heart of Manila.

  3. jhay

    Dissecting a human corpse is not that bad, it’s just like looking into a mirror that reveals what’s inside of you-literallly.

    If we had stuck with old church teachings centuries ago against anatomy and physiology, which requires dissections of specimens, humans and others, dead or alive, then we would’ve not arrived at the level of medical and technological advances we have today.

  4. Happy

    Manolo,

    Went to the Bodyworlds exhibit in Philadelphia — Gunther van Hagen’s work was tremendous. If it travels anywhere near Manila (doubt that it would come here), you must see it if you’re fascinated by the process. My students loved the fusion of science, the macabre and the dazzling taboo-ness of the entire art.

    Happy

  5. nashman

    Gunther Von Hagen’s Autopsy programs are really really good and educational. In front of future body donors and a live tv audience he performs an autopsy based on a theme (cancer, aging, disease). Along with the dead, he also has live naked models where light images of the internal organs are super-imposed.

    I wonder what the MTRCB will react if a TV channel in the Philippines wanted to show this.

  6. torn

    An absolutely brilliant book on death and all its layers of meaning is “Will the Circle be Unbroken” by the great Studs Terkel. Everything Terkel wrote is worth reading but this is just astounding. He was 88 when he put it together so not that far away from that railway terminus himself. Here is the Amazon link:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0345451201/qid=1138443706/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-4008696-3640758?s=books&v=glance&n=283155

  1. Alan Sullivan » Plastination

    […] Provoked by the exhibit of “plastinated” cadavers, Manuel Quezon reflects on death: The shows, however, are timely. They indicate an almost insatiable curiosity about the human body, in a sense out of a morbid sense but also as a healthy antidote to interest in the Occult or religion. A best-seller recently has been “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” (Mary Roach) which is an extremely enjoyable read. Another book I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading (if that’s the right word) is “How We Die : Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter (Vintage)” (Sherwin B. Nuland). Our culture, which does not shrink from death, and which includes visits to the dead as part of the cycle of the living, owes much to the Catholic conception of the Memento Mori as it does Asian concepts of ancestor worship or respect to the departed. […]

  2. Embalming Sources at The Explainer on ANC

    […] Gunther von Hagens is an interesting -and controversial- fellow. Please refer to my blog entry on Plastination for more about him. […]

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