My favourite exhibit is a skinned man standing as if he were waiting for a bus, with the skin in which he was once contained draped nonchalantly over his arm.
But it is my favourite in a purely conceptual sense. All I've seen is a publicity photograph that was a shuddering reminder of the goats waiting to become souvlaki that hang in the windows of the Greek butchers on the Danforth. I expect the sight of it in real life, or whatever you want to call it, would make me whoops my cookies.
If thinking about skinned men riding skinned horses, and specimens like "Death Spiral: Elegance On Ice" which "juxtaposes the female and male form" as it presents skinned figure skaters performing a challenging manoeuvre called, coincidentally, the death spiral, makes me want to whoops my cookies, it would be astonishing if the actual skinned man with his actual skin over his arm didn't make me do it, since just looking at the photo does.
So why is it my favourite? Because it makes me think of the old saying "It was so hot, we took off our skin and sat around in our bones," and with June having gone out like a Bessemer furnace I've been thinking about that old saying a lot.
Funny how the mind works when confronted with something as nauseating as the arrival of von Hagens' — he's known familiarly, but probably not to his face, as "Dr. Death" — cadaver carnival in our fever swamp of a city.
Whoopsing your cookies, however, is an occupational hazard for investigative journalists, and it will be in that role rather than steamed-up voyeur, or hobbyist whose hobby happens to be cookie whoopsing (I'm not; I don't enjoy it even a little bit), that will take me to see the skinless stiffs and uncensored portions thereof presented for the delectation of little children who don't get to see enough corpses on TV and hunger to mingle with a hundred or so of the genuine articles in the flesh, absent though the flesh itself may be.
I will be looking for the carcass of Boris Chernyavski, late (obviously) of Novosibirsk, Siberia.
Note to parents of children with sensitive noses: The science centre insists that the process of decay has been halted by von Hagens' patented plastination procedure in which he removes the gunk that normally turns smelly and injects the remaining remains with his patented plastinating plastic.
He calls these perpetually preserved products "anatomical works of art."
And it is the suspicion of Svetlana Krechetova that Boris Chernyavski, her father, became one of these against his will, or at least, since he was, she fervently hopes, deader than a doornail at the time, without intending to.
Controversies like this trail von Hagens, who is the grinning image of the skull of Indiana Jones dipped in latex and even wears an Indiana Jones hat while plastinating, like the flies that swarm behind the trucks that pick up the green bins.
After a German news magazine accused him of exhibiting prisoners executed in China, Dr. Death did return seven Chinese bodies since he couldn't be certain they hadn't been shot in the head — the preferred Chinese method of keeping malefactors in their place.
All Svetlana knows is that one day she visited her father in the hospital and he was ready to go home. The next day he got cremated. Or did he? After paying $85 for the ashes, she was informed by a hospital official that Boris's body had been shipped to Germany.
The head of criminal pathology in Novosibirsk was charged with being a party to the sale of Boris, not to mention 56 other former Novosibirskites, to the Institute of Plastination in Heidelberg, Gunther von Hagens, prop.
Von Hagens denies it. "I have as much to do with this case as a penguin has to do with Christmas celebrations." All his exhibits were donated voluntarily, by their original inhabitants. (Donors' consent forms will be available at the science centre.)
We'll see about that. No investigative journalist worth the name accepts penguins as an alibi.