Thursday, October 21, 2004

hygiene shorts

Bet that header got your attention.

Not Mom's advice to wear clean underwear in case you have to go to the hospital. (And by the way, my mother would never have given me such advice, nor has she, nor will she. She did, however, tell me which numbers my subjects fell under in the Dewey Decimal System, give me free legal advice, and answer all of my questions about Jane Eyre at the age of 8, so I didn't fare too badly.) I'm talking about those 1950s educational short films that are so wonderful to watch, about Little Tommy having good manners and the GE Princess Phone coming in a rainbow of colors!

I've added a link on the side to Rick Prelinger's collection at the Internet Moving Imgae Archive. I met Rick in 1996 when I was a student at The University of Michigan. He was already well-known for the Prelinger Archives, the first archives of ephemeral films. I was honored and terrified to be asked to write an introduction to his talk at our school. (At the time I was in full-training mode to become a moving image archivist.) After the talk, I ran into Rick at the original Borders - in Ann Arbor, once the epitome of the independent bookstore, now the world headquarters of Borders and Waldenbooks - and he and I looked through the episode guide of MST3K, for me to discover that he had provided the majority (if not all) of the short films to that show.

I was in love.

My friend Mark, with me at the time, told me Rick had said I was "wonderful" but I never heard such a thing.

I ran into Rick again at the 1996 Atlanta conference for the Association of Moving Image Archivists. The conference was at the Omni at CNN Center, and Rick told me it was the first time he had ever spent the night in the same building that had a McDonald's and a Dunkin' Donuts. He invited me to parties with "bigwigs" in the field who threw their cards in my face and ordered me to contact them in March when I was jobhunting, even while 50 other students at the conference attempting to network never got anywhere close to the chances I got.

I fell even more in love.

I ended up getting drunk at a blues club with some of the other students and hooking up with some young buck who worked at The Academy and who wanted me to go to the Oscars with him that year. I turned him down.

I never saw Rick again.

In March 1997, I was looking for a job and Rick had one open, and I didn't have enough self-esteem to apply. I might have gotten it, I might not have. But I wish I had applied.

Rick's archives was purchased by the Library of Congress and now a large number of his films are available online at the link on the right.

Go on, you know you want to.


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