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05 March 2002

Oh, glory be! Today the mailman brought me a book entitled Mental Hygiene: Classroom Films 1945 -1970, by Ken Smith, ISBN 0-922233-21-7, and you should run out and buy yourself a copy this instant, even if it means hustling your crotch on the Santa Monica freeway for cash, or pawning those little St. Francis figurines that your great-grandmother smuggled out of Bratislava in the folds of her petticoats just as the Nazis came a-ridin' in, because the book is a perfect scream.
Of course, it helps if you're familiar with this peculiar genre -- those scratchy, grayscale, 16mm melodramas in which Betty learns to wash her hair at least once a week with a heaping tablespoon of shampoo powder, while Howard discovers that C-O-U-R-T-E-S-Y is what distinguishes American children from dangerous jungle creatures. Here are a few excerpts straight from the pages of Mental Hygiene:
  • Joan Avoids a Cold (Coronet Films, 1964) "Even Joan's mom and dad join in the fun by boiling all their dishes for twenty minutes and spitting into the toilet after they gargle. 'Everyone in the family is working together,' the narrator cheers, and the next cold pestilence passes harmlessly over their home.
  • Take a Letter... From A to Z (Sponsor: Gregg Shorthand manuals, 1967) "Serious-looking men sit in their important offices and give orders, while outside the secretary smiles and ensures that 'her decision maker' remembers to go to the barber. What does the secretary get in return? 'The glow of shared accomplishments.'"
  • Why Study Social Studies? (Gateway Productions, 1961) "Dad has a map of the world nailed to the wall, and he's tied strings to everything on the breakfast table. Slowly, deliberately, Dad thumbtacks the end of each string to the country of its origin: bananas go to Honduras, napkins are tacked to Ireland, etc."

posted by Throbert | 3/05/2002 12:10:00 AM |
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