Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Red Button

The red button is located just inside the door of my new apartment. The first time I saw it I was with the guy who was inspecting my apartment. He was running around, flipping switches and opening doors just to make sure everything was working ok. I saw the button as we entered the apartment and was waiting to see when he would flip it, but as it turns out he didn't. Later that day as I was moving in furniture I again paused to look at the red button. What could it possibly do? There was no clear indication and so I thought it best to just let it be. For the next couple of days I would look at that button on my way in and out of the apartment and wonder what it was for. Finally, one morning, I decided to push it. Bracing myself I gave it a quick sharp jab. I stood stock still for a moment listening to for any detectable sound and watching for movement, but nothing happened. The button stuck in and didn't come out so i gave it another jab to try to dislodge it, but it didn't move. As the anticipation I built up slowly deflated I sat back down on the couch to read. About 5 minutes later I heard some keys jangling at my front door. I was supposed to have some repairs done, the ones the initial inspection had uncovered, so I got up to let in the repairman. However, when I opened the door there was no repair man, but a security guard. I motioned for him to come in and then he showed me a key. For a split second I didn't know what he was doing there, and then it dawned on me. The red button had a small key hole, like shape of the key he was holding, below the button. The red button turned out to be a security button in case of trouble.
Moving to Shanghai has been an experience. This past week I have spent cobbling together what I could for my new apartment and basically keeping myself alive and well. These may seem like mundane tasks, but take that task and put it in a setting where you barely know where you are and don't speak the language and you might get a better sense of just how challenging it can be. Thankfully many people can speak some English, so many tasks are not terribly hard to complete, but it is hard to work up the motivation each day to go into a world where you don't fit in, but still find your way. I am naturally prone to try to work things out on my own before asking someone else. Some may even say I am reluctant to ask for help. This isn't so bad in a place where I can largely help myself, but here it is not the case. I have to ask for help. I have to make a fool of myself trying to explain what I need. I have to trust. I have to do things because they need to be done. I have to know, I can't wait to see what happens. I have to push the red button.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Body Worlds

In July Aya and I went to an art show called Body Worlds in Niigata. I have known about Body Worlds for about 5 years, and have wanted to go for just as long, but was never able to be in the same city as one of the rotating exhibits. Luckily for me, Aya got some free tickets through work. I have always been interested in anatomy, my favorite part about creating art is exploring the human body. Seems only natural that as a human I am interested in what is inside of me. However, many people don't feel this way and would label that kind of curiousity as morbid or grotesque. I can see why people feel that way, but I don't share their opinion as art, and inherintly this exhibit, are not meant to disgust, but educate.
Most of the bodies in the exhibits are human, though animals do make an occasional appearance. The bodies in the exhibits are preserved by plastination. Plastination, in a nutshell, replaces the fats and water in tissue with polymers. The person to popularize the show and invent the technique of plastinization is Gunther Von Hagens. Currently there are 5 shows touring the world. All cadavers are donated and if you are interested in making a donatoin you can go here (
I expected this show to be breathtaking and I admit that it was very interesting, but there seemed to be something missing for me. Perhaps, life? But really I think what was missing was a true sense that these models were human. Even though the evidence was right before my eyes it was hard for me to believe that these were real human beings. I enjoyed looking at slices of people, a smokers vs. non-smokers lungs, women and men, brains with alzeimers, holding a brain in my hands, and seeing the blood vessels of the human body displayed independant of the torso in what looked like red hanging moss. I think its an important exhibit and I think most people, rather than leaving uneasy or deomoralized, leave feeling the real beauty and fragility of the human body.