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Show Me the Way 

A crazy weekend of unexpected how-to classes

Wednesday, Apr 28 2004
Know-nothings rejoice: For each task in life, from baking the perfect chocolate chip cookie to embalming a corpse, there's a book to tell you how to get it done. Such guides have a long and storied history; as early as 500 B.C., master military strategist Sun Tzu had published The Art of War, while cookbook writers began pumping out instructional tomes in the fourth century. But the self-help movement really hit its stride in mid-20th-century America, with gurus such as Dr. Benjamin Spock and Dale Carnegie producing titles that convinced average folks that yes, they too could win friends, influence people, and raise healthy kids. The crunchy '70s DIY trend -- and the enormous spate of '80s and '90s books that guaranteed readers riches, love, and inner peace -- only fueled the fad.

New Langton Arts lampoons the self-enhancement crusade this weekend with "The 'How-To' Intensive," three evenings of educational video installations, computer presentations, and live step-by-step lectures with a bizarrely broad scope of new-to-you skills, from shucking corn to hiring effective employees to cleaning the bottom of a refrigerator.

Take, for instance, San Francisco artist Michael Rich's "If You Love It You Will Set It Free," a talk on the finer points of training house cats to survive in the wild, which leverages his experiences from years of coaching his own pets. Or "How to Make Hair Big in 10 Minutes," a minicourse on follicle fun from Ida Dewey Acton and Serafina Palandech (which we really could have used in the '80s). But the schooling most likely to dazzle attendees is Gennifer M. Hirano's combination video/ live-performance prostitution primer, which teaches participants call-girl tricks like evading police attention and sussing out creepy johns.

The one thing the "Intensive" won't have to explain is how to enjoy yourself at the show.

About The Author

Joyce Slaton


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