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Last Chance to See "Bodies"

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Exhibitors announced today that, beginning at 10 a.m. Friday, "Bodies ... The Exhibition" will be open 62 straight hours, until the show ends at midnight on Sunday, March 25th.

By the time "Bodies" closes at the Shops at Sunset Place, more than 200,000 people will have filed through "Bodies," organizers estimate. That brings the grand total, since "Bodies" debuted August 20, 2005, in Tampa, to more than three million visitors to date.

The crowds were still thick this past weekend.

The exhibit features 260 body parts and the twenty flayed and plastic-cured cadavers of Chinese nationals who were unclaimed in death. Critics say the bodies might have belonged to Chinese political prisoners, a claim that has gained the show some notoriety, but hasn't put much of a damper on attendance.

This past Saturday, display cases were surrounded, three people deep, and visitors made no bones (sorry) about leaning in for a closer look, regardless of whose view got blocked. This is not the show to attend for an exhibition of museum etiquette, a fact highlighted by a conversation between two teenage girls.

"Look at the butt!" shouted one. "It's like two big muscles!" With both hands, she pantomimed a squeeze of each cheek. Her friend leaned in and whispered into her ear.

"What?" the loud one said, indignant. "I'm not in a museum, am I?" Then she gasped in mock shock: "I AM in a museum!"

Near a display of the spinal column, an eight-year-old girl shifted her weight back and forth, chewing on her gold chain. She had a pair of sunglasses folded into a front jeans pocket and a pink cell phone case on her belt. Asked what she thought about the cadaver in front of her, she replied, "It's ... amazing?"

Truly, it was. And nothing was more astonishing than the room devoted to the circulatory system. If much of "Bodies" is science, this is the place to find art. Somehow entire networks of warm red vessels have been plucked from bodies, suspended and illuminated in cases. From a distance they look like floating red fuzz, but a closer inspection seems to reveal every inch of the 60,000 miles of arteries, veins, and capillaries we contain.

Walking into the room, a woman exhaled, "Wow. Shoo-wah! It's pretty amazing."

Standing next to her, her husband said, "I didn't realize the aorta was so big." He's right — it's like the fat end of a fat asparagus.

At a table at the end of the exhibit, next to a sign that states, "Please Share Your Thoughts," three spiral notebooks bear the impressions of visitors. One anonymous entry read: "I liked the part with the babies being born and the room with all the vein formatting. It was my first and probably last exibit (sic) on bodies I'll ever see. (It was pretty nasty!)"

And amazing. --Frank Houston

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