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Congress for Curious People: Lectures Begin Tomorrow Night at the Coney Island Museum!

Posted: April 12, 2010 at 3:43 am


Click on image or here to download full-sized broadside as seen above. Prints up to 11 X 17.

The "Congress for Curious People"--as detailed in this recent post--will launch tomorrow with Evan Michelson's illustrated meditation on "The Saddest Object in the World" and continue through the week with nightly lectures on topics ranging from taxidermy to automata to the first American museum. On the following Saturday and Sunday, we will be hosting an epic 2-day symposium examining the collecting of curiosities, the history of ethnographic display and the interface of spectacle and education in 19th and 2oth Century amusements, and the politics of bodily display in the amusement parks, museums, and fairs of the Western world. Full details for all events follow.

Important Note: All events will be co-presented by Observatory and Morbid Anatomy but will take place at The Coney Island Museum rather than Observatory. Half-price drinks till 7 will help make it worth-your-while for a little extra commute, as will the amazing lectures and symposium, not to mention the ambiance of the museum as lecture space. I will be in attendance at every lecture; very much hope to see you there!

LECTURE WEEK AT THE CONGRESS FOR CURIOUS PEOPLE

The Saddest Object in the World
An Illustrated Meditation by Evan Michelson, Obscura Antiques and Oddities and Morbid Anatomy Library scholar in residence
Date: Monday, April 12th
Time: 7:00 PM
LOCATION:
The Coney Island Museum
“The Saddest Object in the World” is a meditation on one particular artifact; an exercise in Proustian involuntary memory, aesthetic critique, and philosophical bargaining.

Sometimes objects have consequences.

Evan Michelson is an antiques dealer, lecturer, accumulator and aesthete; she tirelessly indulges a lifelong pursuit of all things obscure and melancholy. She currently lives in another place and time.



A Rogue's Approach to Stuffing It: Taxidermy in Contemporary Pop, Art and Sub-Cultures
Robert Marbury of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists
Date: Tuesday, April 13th
Time: 7:00 PM
LOCATION:
The Coney Island Museum
ave you seen a rise in taxidermy in the world around you? What could be causing this resurgence? A Rogue’s Approach to Taxidermy will identify prominent practitioners of natural history art; discuss popular trends in preservation, presentation and representation; and delve into the sub-culture of artistic taxidermy. Robert will also discuss the highs and lows of running a taxidermy art group, and offer suggestions on which emails to return and who to not let into your house.

Robert Marbury received his BA in Anthropology from Connecticut College and a post-Bac from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is the co-founder of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists. Robert is currently curating a Rogue Taxidermy show which will run from May 7th to May 30th at La Luz de Jesus in Los Angeles. He lives and works in Brooklyn.


A Brief History of Automata
An Illustrated Lecture and Demonstration by Mike Zohn, Obscura Antiques and Oddities
Date: Wednesday, April 14th
Time: 7:00 PM
LOCATION:
The Coney Island Museum
In this illustrated lecture, Obscura Antique and Oddities‘ Mike Zohn will demonstrate his 19th Century taxidermy automata, as featured in last year’s Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest. He will explain its curious mechanisms, and, in an illustrated lecture, will introduce us to the history of these fascinating uncanny machines, tracing their trajectory from tools of religious coercion to prince’s plaything to Disney’s imagineering experiments.
Mike Zohn is co-proprietor of Obscura Antique and Oddities. He fixes automata in his spare time.


A History of Taxidermy: Art, Science and Bad Taste
An Illustrated Presentation By Dr. Pat Morris, Royal Holloway, University of London
Date: Thursday, April 15th
Time: 7:00 PM
LOCATION:
The Coney Island Museum
Should taxidermy be viewed as art, science, or bad taste? And why is it so interesting? Dr. Pat Morris’ illustrated lecture “A History of Taxidermy: Art, Science and Bad Taste” will explore these topics and more. His talk will range over the history of stuffed animals, considering how a small-time taxidermist business operated in the 19th century and exploring the many diverse and amusing uses of taxidermy and the taxidermist’s products ranging from major museum exhibits to stuffed pets, hunting trophies, animal furniture, kitten weddings (see above, Walter Potter, circa 1890s), frogs eating spaghetti and squirrels playing cards. He will discuss in detail the work of anthropomorphic taxidermist Walter Potter and his eponymous “Museum of Curiosities,” as detailed in his own lavishly illustrated book on that topic, which will be available for sale at the lecture.

Dr. Pat Morris is a retired staff member of Royal Holloway College (University of London), where he taught biology undergraduates and supervised research on mammal ecology. In that capacity he has published many books and scientific papers and featured regularly in radio and TV broadcasts. The history of taxidermy has been a lifelong hobby interest and he has published academic papers and several books on the subject. With his wife Mary he has travelled widely, including most of Europe and the USA, seeking interesting taxidermy specimens and stories. They live in England where their house is home to the largest collection and archive of historical taxidermy in Britain.

Charles Wilson Peale and the Birth of the American Museum
An Illustrated Presentation by Samuel Strong Dunlap, PhD, Descendant of Charles Wilson Peale
Date: Friday, April 16th
Time: 7:00 PM
LOCATION: The Coney Island Museum
Long time historian and editor of the Peale Family Papers Dr. Lillian B. Miller (now deceased) described Charles Willson Peale as a true renaissance man. Peale is perhaps best remembered today as the founder of America’s first cabinet-of-curiosity like museum–the Philadelphia Museum (later the Peale Museum)–which housed a diverse collection of botanical, biological, and archaeological specimens and can be viewed in the image above. Famously, Peale’s museum also pioneered the habitat group–or natural history diorama–an art form memorably perfected by such museums as the American Museum of Natural History and Chicago’s Field Museum in the early 20th Century.

In this illustrated lecture, we will learn about Peale the museologist, and examine how his museological work continuously overlap with his inventive, artistic, scientific, literary and exploratory interests. Peale was a friend or acquaintance with most of the military, scientific, diplomatic and foreign individuals who played significant roles in our revolutionary war and the early growth of our democracy.

CONGRESS FOR CURIOUS PEOPLE 2-DAY SYMPOSIUM

Date: Saturday April 17th and Sunday April 18th
Location: Coney Island Museum, 1208 Surf Ave. Brooklyn ADMISSION: $25 for full weekend admission
Presented by Morbid Anatomy and Observatory with Coney Island USA
The Congress for Curious People is a 2-day symposium exploring education and spectacle, collectors of curiosities, historical fairground displays and more, in conjunction with The Coney Island Museum. The symposium will feature panels of humanities scholars discussing with the audience the intricacies of collecting, the history of ethnographic display, the interface of spectacle and education, and the politics of bodily display in the amusement parks, museums, and fairs of the Western world. Also on view in the museum will be "The Collector's Cabinet," an installation of astounding artifacts held in private collections. In conjunction with the events at the Coney Island Museum, Observatory's Gallery space will host "The Secret Museum," an exhibition exploring the poetics of hidden, untouched and curious collections from around the world.

The Congress for Curious People will serve as an academic counterpoint to Coney Island's Congress of Curious Peoples, which Coney Island USA has convened since 2007 at Sideshows by the Seashore. In the past, the Congress has included performances by artists like Joe Coleman and Harley Newman, feats of strength, and world-record breaking attempts, among others. You can find out more about the Congress of Curious Peoples at http://www.coneyisland.com/congress.shtml.

Saturday, April 17th 11 AM-12:30 PM – Education and Spectacle in 19th and 20th Century Amusements, Lectures and Panel Discussion
Eva Åhrén, author of Death, Modernity, and the Body : Sweden 1870-1940
Andrea Stulman Dennett, author of Weird and Wonderful: The Dime Museum in America
Amy Herzog, author of Dreams of Difference, Songs of the Same: The Musical Moment in Film
Kathy Maher, Executive Director of the Barnum Museum
Moderated by Betsy Bradley, New York Public Library

LUNCH 2-3:30 PM– Cabinets of Curiosity: Collecting Curiosities in the 21st Century, Lectures and Panel Discussion
Joe Coleman, collector and artistLink
Johnny Fox, collector, performer, founder of The Freakatorium
Evan Michelson, Antique and Oddity Dealer, Obscura Antiques and Oddities and Morbid Anatomy Library scholar in residence
Melissa Milgrom, author of Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy
Mike Zohn, Antique and Oddity Dealer, Obscura Antiques and Oddities
Moderated by Aaron Beebe, Director of the Coney Island Museum

4-5:30 PM – Freaks and Monsters: The Politics of Bodily Display, Lectures and Panel Discussion
Mike Chemers, author of Staging Stigma: A Critical History of the American Freak Show
Nadja Durbach, author of Spectacle of Deformity: Freak Shows and Modern British Culture
Michael Sappol, Historian of the National Library of Medicine and author of A Traffic of Dead Bodies: Anatomy and Embodied Social Identity in Nineteenth-Century America
Moderated by Jennifer Miller, Bearded Lady and founder of Circus Amok

6-8 PM Drinks and light fare

Sunday, April 18th 12-2 PM – A History of Cultural Display in World’s Fairs and Sideshows, Lectures and Panel Discussion
Lucian Gomoll, University of California at Santa Cruz
Alison Griffiths, author of Wondrous Difference: Cinema, Anthropology, and Turn of the Century Visual Culture
Barbara Mathé, Archivist, American Museum of Natural History
Moderated by Aaron Glass, author of The Totem Pole: An Intercultural Biography and In Search of the Hamat’sa: A Tale of Headhunting

2 PM – Closing remarks

RELATED EXHIBITIONS

The Secret Museum
An exhibition exploring the poetics of hidden, untouched and curious collections from around the world in photographs and artifacts, by Joanna Ebenstein, co-founder of Observatory and creator of Morbid Anatomy.
Location: Observatory
Opening Party: Saturday, April 10, 7-10; on view On view from April 10th-May 16th, 3-6 Thursday and Friday, 12-6 Saturday and Sunday
Admission: Free

The Collectors Cabinet
An exhibition which will showcase astounding objects held in private collections, including artifacts featured in Joanna Ebenstein's Private Cabinet photo series of 2009. Featured cabinetists include Curious Expeditions and Observatory's Michelle Enemark and Dylan Thuras, Obscura Antiques and Oddities, and Morbid Anatomy and Observatory's Joanna Ebenstein.
LOCATION: * Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn

Image: "Femme à Barbe, Musée Orfila.Courtesy of Paris Descartes University.

To find out more about this event and the larger Congress of Curious Peoples--including nightly performances and the epic opening night party--click here. For more about the Congress for Curious People, click here. Click on image or click here to download a hi-res copy of the above broadside. For information about the Coney Island Museum--including address and directions--click here.

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Evidenced-based Foolishness

Posted: April 11, 2010 at 8:34 am

From Alcor's website:

"Cryonics technology is more advanced than even most signed up cryonicists realize.

Most people in the scientific community do not realize what progress has been made and most cryonicists do not realize the protocols and technologies that have been developed in the service of making cryonics a true "evidence based technology.""
http://www.alcornews.org/weblog/2010/02/the_cryonics_technology_progre.html

I strongly disagree. I think it's much more likely the services provided by Alcor and Suspended Animation are a lot more primative and amateurish than most people who sign up ever imagine. I believe the definition of "evidence-based technology" includes competently performing proven procedures. Anyone who thinks sending laymen to botch medical procedures, (such as femoral cannulations and perfusion), fits the definition of a "true evidence based technology" is delusional. Anyone who thinks paying laymen to practice those tasks on dead pigs, a few times a year, is preferable to hiring qualified personnel, (which they could easily afford), is something a lot less flattering than "delusional."

Other than a relatively small amount of lab-based evidence that some of the solutions may be preserving brain tissue, there's not much evidence the cry-orgs are getting anything right. On the other hand, there's plenty of evidence of them taking hours to perform vascular cannulations that should take minutes, (while the client remains relatively warm, slowly deteriorating); subjecting their clients to inappropriate perfusion pressures and massive air emboli; using absurd DIY equipment, when existing equipment is far superior; and other silliness. Yes, I know those photos of them, all dressed up in their scrubs, makes them "look like" they know what they are doing, but don't let the medical garb and slick photography fool you into paying $60,000 - $150,000, for some very questionable services.

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Longevity and the End of Empire

Posted: April 10, 2010 at 8:35 am

Empires end when an entrenched elite can spend from the public purse and take on debt without immediate consequence or forethought, destroying the value of their currency in the process. Assuming (perhaps optimistically) that present economic empires survive the next couple of decades, a combination of foolish promises and increasing human longevity will be the rock that sinks them. From Reuters: “Like the subprime crisis faced by banks in 2008, the risk of people living for up to 20 years after retirement seems to have crept up on an industry based on using historical data to calculate people’s chances of an early death. Now, pension funds and insurers say the mounting burden of protracted pensions payments is increasingly concentrated on a small group of providers: them. … Nowhere better can the process be seen than in Britain, which is facing a crisis resulting from a combination of pension reforms and increased life expectancy. … The many arguments in favor of a sovereign bond linked to longevity rest on one fundamental expectation: if pension providers can’t pay, or become insolvent, governments will have to. Longevity bonds could make the process neater, and more politically palatable, than the collapse of a pension provider.” The problem is not that some groups made bad bets, or that many people relied upon those bets being good. The problem is that these groups and their supporters can conspire with governments to bail themselves out with public funds and debt heedless of consequences.

View the Article Under Discussion: http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE6360LP20100407

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Dual Action Antibodies Versus Cancer

Posted: April 10, 2010 at 8:35 am

From the MIT Technology Review, a look at another form of first generation immune therapy aimed at cancer: “Last year marked a first for engineered antibodies – the European Commission approved a new cancer drug called Removab (catumaxomab), an antibody specially designed to grab both cancer cells and immune cells in such a way that the immune cell can kill the cancer cell. (The drug is undergoing testing for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.) Now a handful of similarly complex molecules, dubbed ‘bispecific antibodies’ for their ability to target two things at once, are in clinical trials. The two arms of these antibodies work together in different ways to treat cancer or other diseases, by bringing together two types of cells, as with Removab, by targeting two different types of receptors on the surface of a cell, or even using one arm to deliver drugs to specific cells targeted by the other. … While the concept of bispecific antibodies has been around for decades, the approach has only recently shown clinical success. The field has been driven forward by new ways of designing and making the antibodies, which take advantage of advances in protein engineering, as well as the success of single-target antibodies, such as herceptin, that are already on the market.” This is an example of the way in which targeting technologies and new strategies from the biotechnology labs are slowly filtering into the old school drug development pipeline.

View the Article Under Discussion: http://www.technologyreview.com/printer_friendly_article.aspx?id=24970

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

The Contributions of Mitochondria to Longevity

Posted: April 10, 2010 at 8:35 am

Manipulating the machinery of mitochondria – the respiratory chain that turns food into the chemical ATP that is used to power cellular biochemistry – can extend healthy life in a variety of species. Here, researchers dig deeper into the mechanisms by which this happens, finding that there are more than one: “In Caenorhabditis elegans longevity is increased by a partial loss-of-function mutation in the mitochondrial complex III subunit gene isp-1. Longevity is also increased by RNAi against the expression of a variety of mitochondrial respiratory chain genes, including isp-1, but it is unknown whether the isp-1(qm150) mutation and the RNAi treatments trigger the same underlying mechanisms of longevity. We have identified nuo-6(qm200), a mutation [that] reduces the function of complex I and, like isp-1(qm150), results in low oxygen consumption, slow growth, slow behavior, and increased lifespan. We [compared] nuo-6(qm200) [to] nuo-6(RNAi) and found them to be distinct in crucial ways, including patterns of growth and fertility, behavioral rates, oxygen consumption, ATP levels, autophagy, [as] well as expression of superoxide dismutases, mitochondrial heat shock proteins, and other gene expression markers. RNAi treatments appear to generate a stress and autophagy response, while the genomic mutation alters electron transport and reactive oxygen species metabolism. … Most importantly, we found that [the] lifespan increase induced by nuo-6(RNAi) is fully additive to that induced by isp-1(qm150), and the increase induced by isp-1(RNAi) is fully additive to that induced by nuo-6(qm200). Our results demonstrate that distinct and separable aspects of mitochondrial biology affect lifespan independently.”

View the Article Under Discussion: http://pmid.us/20346072

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Methuselah Foundation Launches NewOrgan Prize

Posted: April 10, 2010 at 8:35 am

Via the Methuselah Foundation blog: “Today Methuselah Foundation launched the NewOrgan Prize, the Foundation’s new longevity prize specifically focused on advancing the development of replacement tissues and organs for humans. Its goal is to accelerate advances in regenerative medicine, which will become the standard of care for replacing all tissue and organ systems in the body within 20 years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The first research team to construct a whole new complex organ (heart, kidney, liver, lung, pancreas) made from a person’s own cells – one that is functionally equivalent and successfully transplanted – will be awarded the NewOrgan Prize. The goal of the Methuselah Foundation NewOrgan Prize is to achieve this medical breakthrough within the next 10 years. Today’s launch is a call to action for competitors, candidates and contributors who want to participate in this crucial medical challenge aimed at extending healthy human life. … Based on our success in spurring medical advances with incentives provided by the original Methuselah Mouse prize, we anticipate that over $10 million will be raised by the time the NewOrgan Prize criteria is met – and the prize presented – to the leading medical R&D team. At minimum, $1 million will be awarded to the research team that develops a whole new human organ that is functional and successfully transplanted.”

View the Article Under Discussion: http://blog.methuselahfoundation.org/2010/04/methuselah_foundation_launches_neworgan_prize.html

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith


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