B is for Bentham, B is for Branson; Of Heads As Odes

What is it with Brits and busts? Bentham asked that his head be preserved (and his body) as part of the auto-icon. I was listening to Wendy Brown’s lecture on Bentham and she reminded me of this oddity. As she explained, Bentham seemed to think that statues were less utile than a preserve body. The effort failed in that the body was preserved but the head shriveled and a wax head was needed to replace it. Now Richard Branson is apparently following in Bentham’s footsteps but understands the transient nature of things. He has embraced that nature so much that his take on busts is an ice cube mold of his head. Yes if you fly first, oh excuse me, upper class, on Virgin, you too can have this treasure. The Colbert Report clip below is a blast. To me, the whole idea evokes transubstantiation. Or maybe for science fiction fans, Heinlein’s grok in that way the Martians do, you know eating the bodies of the dead. Branson, that clever man, had found he does not have to die for us to commune with him. We just need to join his upper class. Now what if we make a similar mold? Ah let the lawsuits begin!

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Richard Branson-Shaped Ice Cubes
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3 Responses

  1. Shag from Brookline says:

    Richard Branson-shaped ice cubes in a Bloody Mary without vodka (or my preference, gin) might be appropriate. Now what might we call such a drink, a Dick Mary, or with regular ice cubes a Dick-less Mary?

  2. Matt says:

    For what it’s worth, that’s actually a bit off on Bentham. He first donated his body to science and had it dissected as part of a medical exhibit (by a well-known medial professor who was one of his problems) in part to try to lessen the stigma of doing this. (To have one’s body subject to dissection at the time was a punishment for murders and so there was a lot of stigma attached to it.) His head was preserved, but the body was “used up”, leaving the bones. That was used to make a stuffed model, basically, with his clothes, but the body wasn’t really preserved, other than the bones. This was obviously a pretty odd thing to do in many ways, but was also done with a pretty clearly utilitarian view in mind. (Bentham’s views are pretty much all unsatisfactory, but he’s also almost always more interesting than most people who talk about him, few of whom have bothered to really read much.)

  3. Deven says:

    Dear Matt,

    Thanks for the clarification. Most helpful.