Sunday, October 07, 2007

Body-Crushing Worlds

Image from OMSI publicity webpage

I need to come clean here and now, before I start in—this is going to be a bit of a bitch-fest.

You know, I don’t get out much. First of all, it’s football season. Peeling Aaron away from one of the two constantly-running televisions any weekend between the end of August until the Superbowl is a feat in and of itself! But with a little guilt and manipulation I convinced him that he owed me a date night, which consisted of dinner at Giorgio’s in the Pearl, and a somewhat pricey but much-anticipated viewing of BodyWorlds III.

The dinner was this side of sublime, flavors straight out of Top Chef. We had a grilled walla-walla onion “tart” salad which was a taste sensation, and my homemade spaghetti with fresh Manilla clams was lovely, paired with a by-the-glass Barolo and Aaron’s tasty wild boar, the night started out well.

But BodyWorlds III was a colossal dud—not because the exhibit was lacking in some way (from what I could see the plasticized bodies were riveting), but because OMSI oversold and under-organized this event to such a degree that moving within the confines of the space would render a claustrophic catatonic! My irritability mounted when considering the $50 spent for a view of artistically-presented cadavers, did not include the extra $4 for a pretty-much mandatory audio tour. The night plummeted downhill as I was swarmed by unruly children, wayward strollers, teenagers gabbing on cell phones, and generally was only be able to view the displays from about three rows back, on tip toe, while desperately attempting to see the number that corresponded with the audio. Because of the overcrowding and lack of directionals, people were bumping into others, and everyone was looking annoyed and generally unhappy.

In short, I was able to comfortably view about 20% of the exhibit. It was insane. It was like a rock concert, only less organized (and with less intimacy). There was a line about ½ mile long to view the neo-natal display, which we ultimately abandoned. The glass cases were filthy with fingerprints. Children were running all over, there were screaming infants, and toddlers complaining that they needed to go to the bathroom (which one couldn’t do because once one left the exhibit—one could not return). It was a nightmare and a huge disappointment. All the publicity featured a magnificent man on a rearing horse display, which I was informed was in BodyWorlds I. The progression of displays and accompanying text was pretty haphazard. I felt like I was in some sort of surreal, manic morgue.

So in the end I’m left wondering why a well-funded organization such as OMSI would allow strollers and infants into an event after 8PM, an event that was already excessively over-crowded? If we can’t insist on an adult-only timeslot, whatever happened to babysitters? This bodes another examination of the touchy topic of how much adults with the inclination to do so should be able to attend events that seem to be adult-oriented without the experience being ruined by the natural behavior of children (hate mail is going to come). Further, why wouldn’t OMSI include the audio tour in the price of admission, thereby organizing the event by somewhat by guiding people through the displays (and keeping the children occupied by audio)?

On a positive note, the elements of the exhibit that I could really engage with were utterly fascinating, leaving one with a distinct respect for the functions and complexity of our bodies. Additionally, one gets several intimate views of a variety of sphincters, and men can duly demonstrate the principles of shrinkage! ;-)