Saturday, May 01, 2010

A Cure for Vertigo

This is not available in the US because the FDA hasn't approved it. The tests seem to focus on vestibular vertigo. However, and I may be mistaken about this, I can't imagine that a stroke victim's vertigo is so very different from my own. I've contacted the company to learn more.
BrainPort balance device

Not All Artists Are Suicidal and/or Depressed Most of the Time

The list of artists who suffer from depression is endlessly pulled out as evidence that artists are inevitably more sensitive, prone to emotional struggles that can lead to suicide.  I won’t reiterate the inevitable list—we all know who those artists are whether writers, poets, painters, or musicians.

Do you know why these artists are so remarkable?  Because they are not typical!  The same names get repeated over and over again but take even a small step back and there is no denying that while one writer was walking into a river to drown there were hundreds of others happily tapping away at a typewriter.  And for every poet who leaves a suicide note behind, there are hundreds of others who keep writing, pouring out the best and worst of themselves onto paper.

Of course, at some point all artists struggle with painful emotions.  It’s called living a life.  Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking is breathtaking and harrowing because it is so brutally honest in how painful her experience with loss was (is) but Slouching Towards Bethlehem is not full of desperate or despairing prose.  Didion suffered but isn’t endlessly suffering.  Nor is she killing herself.  Imagine that!  An artist who isn’t so depressed she must die.

Michael Greenberg shared the harrowing experience of watching his daughter slip into a psychotic break in Hurry Down, Sunshine.  I cannot even imagine how devastating the experience was for him.  But then, lo and behold, in his next book, Beg, Borrow, Steal, he is not only still alive (gasp!) but he isn’t even caught up in being grieved about what happened.

Yes it is true, Picasso is quite famous for his Blue Period, a response to the suicide of a friend and political issues happening in his world at that time.  Unfortunately for those who presume suicide and artistry are inevitably combined, he died of old age.  And the last photograph I could find of him, he still had both ears even!

Both Artemesia Gentileschi and Alice Sebold were raped and, in spite of their artistic sentiments, did not kill themselves. Nor did Maya Angelou or Tori Amos.  To suggest that there were not thoughts of suicide or, at the least, severe emotional depression following these incidents is ludicrous but the strength to survive is not discussed nearly as often as the suicidal and sensitive artists who fall into despair. 

The point is, we remark upon the depressed artists because they are exactly that:  remarkable.  Not remarkably more talented than any other artist.  Not even remarkable for their lives or lifestyle, per se.  They are remarkable because they kill themselves and typically those things that are remarkable are so because they are the exception--not the rule!  And perhaps these few artists are remarkable because, in spite of their talent, they couldn’t find a way to live through the devilish details of daily life. 

Does it matter?  Yes.  Artists need to constantly be reminded to look beyond the suicidal and depressed examples shoved before them each and every time they turn around.  We all need to be reminded that being talented does not exempt one from suffering but it also doesn’t make one prone to it either.  For every one example of suicide, let us shout out a long list of survivors and remember that each of us has a choice. 

And let’s stop, once and for all, perpetuating the myth that being an artist means one must be depressed.  Most human beings experience times of depression; at least the sane ones, anyway.  Some more so than others, artistic or not.  Even if artists are more emotionally sensitive let us remember that there are hundreds of poets who never kill themselves, hundreds of writers who never drown themselves, and hundreds of artists who never shoot themselves. 

There may even be thousands who don’t commit suicide, believe it or not. 

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Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is a classic novel, one of those books that one feels one should read but then doesn’t get around to reading.  Obviously, I have finally gotten around to reading it.

The quirky tone of the novel is established in the prologue.  If you do not like the narrator’s voice from the first few pages, you won’t fall in love by the end of the book.  The style, the voice, everything about this novel is incomparable and the best I can come up with is imagine what you would get if you merged a Tom Robbins tone with the offensive quality of South Park and then tossed in a few random illustrations ala The Little Prince and you might come close to what Vonnegut did in this novel.

But not really.  This is pure satire and when Vonnegut is being offensive, it is easy to want to read from a defensive stance which defeats the purpose.  It is not enough to be offended but question why—why are you, the reader, feeling offended and why is the author trying to be offensive?  And given that the narrator’s voice is so clearly a poster child for the unreliable narrator one has to question what the hell is really going on in this story?  And if everyone in the novel is either insane or going insane, is it sane to react to anything these characters say or do or think with offense? 

What is most remarkable is that the satire remains relevant.  There are no preachy solutions offered nor does the reader ever feel that the author is condescending. Satire too often can fall into a tone of “I am pointing out the obvious here and if you haven’t already seen it then you are a fool.”  Vonnegut, by cloaking the obvious is such a peculiar tone through a narrator who never misses a quirky beat, never seems to be suffering from a superiority complex.  (This is, in itself, ironic given that the last image in the novel is practically Messianic.)

The novel works on too many levels to concisely explain it.  The use of language is intended to offend the reader and does.  The images Vonnegut uses to illustrate the story are primitive and obviously intentionally so.  Some of the ideas sprinkled throughout come off as the kinds of insight one would garner while stoned surrounded by friends who are equally mellowed out.  There is a hero’s quest of sorts, the search for the father, etc.  The ending blew my mind.  I am still reeling from it.

And this is not a typical novel.  Vonnegut manages to break barriers in the writing of this book doing things that are not unique to this novel nor even new at the time that he wrote this but never once seem forces or superfluous.  Each technique used, especially the atypical ones, is used for effect.  In other words, nothing is gratuitous and after reading this novel for the first time one can’t help thinking that upon a second or third reading new layers of meaning will reveal themselves.

And let me reiterate . . . the ending . . . wow!  


I read this book as part of an online reading group.  What follows are my comments regarding this book.  

Posted Comment

I think that what I loved most about this book had to do with how Vonnegut used the traditional father quest, merged it into a satire, and just twisted the whole thing on its ear. But I seem to be the only one I can find who noticed the father quest thing. And the last image in the book reminded me immediately of John 11:35.

I also found the unreliable narrative voice used to such good effect that I have no doubt the next time I want to explain the concept to anyone I will refer them to this novel as a prime example of its use in fiction.

I'm glad I didn't read this when I was a child and first picked it up to read. I was too young and I wouldn't have appreciated any of it, albeit even now I'm not sure that penile measurements are ever going to be high on my list of "relevant" content for a novel. Then again, I didn't find Kevin Smith's references to his penis size in his memoir relevant either. Which probably says more about me than either of the writers and/or the quality of their writing. 

Another Posted Comment (in response to above, asking me to clarify the father quest theme.)

At some point in the book, I believe that the story about Telemachus and Odysseus is alluded to but I can't remember precisely where. If anyone can direct me to that, great. It's also possible I read it between the lines or in one of the images or perhaps saw it in a leak or something. In any event, my presumption that it is mentioned led to the following.

Throughout the novel, the narrator has said he is the creator of Kilgore Trout but in light of his also saying rather early on that he is insane (hence, unreliable) the reader isn't sure this is true. What's more, the narrator identifies himself with 1) Kilgore, 2) Dwayne (whom we know from the start will go insane by the novel's end) and 3) Bunny (Dwayne's son whose mother has committed suicide just like the narrator's mother had). Again, all of this reinforcing the unreliability of the author but also emphasizing the father/son/creator/creation relationship between the characters.

When Trout and the narrator finally meet, the narrator says that he is Trout's creator but what does Trout say when the narrator withdraws? "Make me young" something a creator could do, obviously.

And here is where I may be straining a bit and, if I were so inclined, would likely reread the entire book several times to further develop the argument because this is what English majors do with books . . . but I digress.

Back to my straining--It is often not until children are born or reach a certain age that the parent feels "of a certain age." In a way, children force parents to "grow up." Trout has a child, a son, mentioned earlier in the novel but the son never makes an entrance in the story line. At least not the way Bunny inevitably does.

Of course, the argument for the narrator being Kilgore Trout's son is obviously hammered home in this: Trout says his closing entreaty to his creator in the narrator's father's voice!

Aha! And in a way, children are the creator of their own parents. Without the child, the mother and father cannot exist--not as a mother or father anyway. So the creature (child) is in a manner of speaking also a creator (of the parents). On another level, the child also creates the parent emotionally, psychologically, etc., because the child's perception of who the parent is. In the case of the novel, Kilgore Trout is created by the child/narrator throughout this (and obviously other) novel(s).

The narrator is both Creator and Child and, as such, when the narrator finds Kilgore Trout after this long journey through the pages and images of the novel, he finds his father.

I think that I've explained it in a way that makes sense. Perhaps not. But if I have then the identifying that last image with that Bible verse adds a whole new layer of meaning to the novel's symbolism.

It's times like this I wish I were still in college because I know I could milk this novel for at least a five page paper if not longer. 

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Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Randomness

In a previous Friday Randomness, I posted about International Fake Journal Month and here are a few examples I found.  On this the last day of IFJM, I suggest everyone make time to explore what others have posted!

An Imaginary Trip to England  
A Fake Journal from Hogwarts
And a fake journal about a trip through Corsica
(I can't tell if the artist really lives in Corsica or if this entire book is an imaginary journey.  If anyone else can tell me definitively, that'd be great!)

And others:

I've shared this artist's blog before but some things bear re-linking.  I especially love her posts of Lea Gardens so here are a few of her photos.  Explore the blog.  You'll be surprised by the wealth of what you'll find there.

This blog shares the creative ways people express themselves during challenging times--whether a loved one is dealing with cancer (quilting) or Crohn's (stamping), these artists are using their talent to cope.

The Zentangle influence is evident in this lovely picture the blogger posted and I adore what she did in the original drawing.  The negative not so much but I see the fun of it.

And I probably shouldn't admit this but I love Vegemite.  A guy I dated introduced me to it and yummmm . . . this article is about Marmite, a variation on a theme, if you will.  And recipes too!  Yay!
It's interesting to note that the guy in the article says that if you don't get a child to try it before 3 then you've missed your window of opportunity.  To be clear, I was older than 3 when I first tried it.  Yummmm, I say!

Because of my eye issues, I am wearing an eye patch.  I would like to think I look like this:

Unfortunately, I think I probably look more like this:

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A History of God by Karen Armstrong

A History of God:  The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by Karen Armstrong is an intellectual exploration of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god, tracing the roots of belief to pre-Judea.  Ur, Sumer, Chaldea, and Babylon are all given their due as the foundation for monotheism.  Then each of the three primary monotheistic religions is explored more closely, often compared and contrasted with contemporaneous religious beliefs.  Although not discussed with the same depth, Buddhism and Hinduism are also present as are Zoroastrianism and Egyptian stories that are similar in tone or meaning to those upon which the book is focused.

Armstrong is erudite, able to touch upon a wealth of information without offering too many details while never compromising the overall significance of any detail by being too superficial—a commendable balance one rarely sees, especially when addressing a topic such as a monotheistic god whose presence has informed three of the major religions of our times.  She manages to also describe the strengths and weaknesses of each spiritual path without making one better than the others nor denigrating another as ineffective. 

Throughout the text are quotes, examples from history, and comparisons and contrasts that continuously develop one upon the other.  The scope of religious history presented here while not exhaustive is impressive.  At the end of the book there is a list of books for further reading; if there is a particular era or idea that intrigues the reader, the author provides a thorough list of resources.  The book was published before the events of 9/11 which makes the warnings of the final chapter all the more prescient.  As Santayana said, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  Armstrong has offered a history of monotheism from which we all can and should learn that is well-written, insightful, and so much more.  I highly recommend this book.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim

The Uses of Enchantment:  The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim explores fairy tales, contextualizing the traditional within the human psyche and defending their purpose in the emotional development of the child.   Drawing on the more popular fairy tales (ie. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel), Bettelheim makes a strong argument for the benefits of fairy tales and how they help a child navigate some of the more challenging emotional developmental stages of growing up.

The author is clearly a Freudian and I occasionally caught myself rolling my eyes at some of his interpretations.  After all, even Freud admitted that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.  However, even where I disagreed with his interpretation, reading his thoughts helped me to appreciate the significance of the stories for myself.  

There is some beneficial information in the book even for the rigidly anti-Freudian reader.  Not troubling a child with the psychological symbolism of certain stories, allowing the child to draw his/her own meaning from the fairy tales seems an obvious point to make but others are not.  When a child responds to a particular story in a collection (as fairy tales are typically gathered in collections), the parent inevitably takes this interest as enthusiasm to move onto the next story.  However, allowing the child to sit with the same story over time, to read and reread the same story before exploring a new one, allows the child to be immersed in whatever emotional relevance it may hold.  And when a child asks if there are really giants or witches or whatever, typically veiled in the question “There aren’t really any (insert noun here), are there?”, then the parent can offer a scientific or rational explanation which doesn’t serve the child emotionally, or the parent can allow the child to come to an answer independent but no less reasonable.  Although Bettelheim doesn’t suggest how the parent ought to respond, the obvious response to such a question could be, “Well, what do you think?” 

I culled some quotes from the book and enjoyed reading it very much even when I disagreed with the Freudian interpretations.  Perhaps the meaning deeply rooted in my own psyche, planted when I was a child and enjoying these stories for myself, simply could not respond to the Freudian interpretation.  And although I understood Bettelheim’s contention that Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are not truly written for children, I love them too much to agree with his belief that they don’t belong altogether.  I would argue that if they are saved for a more mature child, the pre-adolescent child who is beginning to come to terms with physical and spiritual changes, then the stories offer a different psychological relevance no less meaningful and even necessary.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Yoga and The Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope

Yoga and The Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope is a blend of both memoir and philosophy, a wonderful offering from Cope who draws on his experience as a psychologist.  The book begins with a traditional Hindu story before Cope shares the events that lead to his taking a yoga retreat at Kripalu.

For the reader who is seeking to learn more about a particular school of yoga, this book will be a disappointment.  The emphasis is on the effects a deep yoga practice can have on the mind more than on the body; on philosophy more than asana.  There are so many books overflowing with illustrations of how to hold a perfect pose and this book stands apart from the others as an invitation for the reader to take the physical into something more esoteric, to move the asana practice into a spiritual one.

This book is also not so deep that it becomes overwhelming.  Cope contextualizes the truths he is trying to share in a manner that is accessible and understandable.  The language is not elevated to a point of incomprehensibility; the stories he shares of from his own life and the experiences of those he encounters add a layer of relevance to the deeper spiritual and psychological truths. 

This is not a deep book nor is it shallow.  I think that when I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love this is more what I had expected—a book that invited the reader to gain some intellectual awareness and perhaps some insight that could be carried beyond the pages and into the reader’s personal life.  I appreciate Cope’s choice not to avoid the more scandalous issues that occurred during Kripalu’s history; I also appreciate his choosing not to get salacious with the details.  Whatever changes were made at the center are explained without going into unnecessary details.  Not an easy line to toe, certainly. 
Anyone who is practicing yoga, who feels drawn to take their practice in a more spiritual direction, will want to consider reading this book.  It can feel overwhelming to try to understand the many Sanskrit terms that are familiar to those who have studied yoga’s spiritual side for a while and Cope’s book definitely eases the reader into these truths without getting too deep.  If you are ready to plunge into the depths, this book although not very deep may still prove to be a good place to slow down and explore a bit.  I know I enjoyed reading it very much and took down quite a few notes I intend on pondering over the next few weeks.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sometimes Books Make Me Cry

The following is being cross posted in my blogs so if you think you're seeing this more than once you probably are.  I apologize for this but this is very important to me and I would hope that anyone who takes time to read any of my blogs.

I began reading The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge MD yesterday.  It took me two days to get through the first eight pages because I kept starting to cry.

The description of this one woman’s experience in the first chapter “A Woman Perpetually Falling” blew me away because it is so familiar.  Although her vertigo and mine are not the same, I am now curious to know more about the doctor (Bach-y-Rita) and ask every doctor I’ve seen about my vertigo why the hell I wasn’t told about this sooner.

Please, follow this link to and look inside.  You’ll only read the first 6 pages but I had to stop reading at the bottom of page 6 on my second day of reading because I was crying again.

Here are some links to Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita:

Notice, he was born in 1934 on the same day as I was born in 1962.  Just a random coincidence but I love curious stuff like that.

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Not the Way to Start My Day

Last night I noticed that my right eyelid was itchy but, when I would go to scratch it, there was a pain that would immediately follow even the slightest rub.  I thought I felt a knot, a tiny bump.  Rob said he saw nothing.  Oh well.

I woke up this morning and my right eye was crusty and is practically swollen shut.  This is not the way to start the day.  It's hard enough to maintain my balance with both eyes fully functioning and theoretically affording me depth perception I would otherwise lack.  How am I going to get through today with only one functioning (and leaky) eye?

I probably should see a doctor.  Too bad everyone has to work today and I can't do anything about it for at least another two or three days.  Fingers crossed, I can manage to take care of it myself without its getting worse.

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Why Atheism? by George H Smith

Why Atheism? by George H Smith is a collection of essays about atheism.  Although the essays complement one another, most of them pretty much stand alone, rather than building upon one another.  For better or worse, Smith focuses his philosophical arguments with an emphasis on Christianity.  This was a huge disappointment for me because I chose the book based on the cover’s more ecumenical cover image which has Judeo-Christian imagery as well as Buddhist and Hindu. 

The arguments Smith offers are not well presented in this book.  There are careless editing examples throughout the book.  Given Smith’s own often dense phrasing, these mistakes are all the more glaring.  Having to reread a sentence because it is missing a word, duplicating a word, or missing a letter effectively changing a word’s meaning is annoying at best.  To have it happen at least once per chapter is simply unforgivable and I’ve no doubt the author was disappointed to see his work treated so shabbily.

Although Smith’s essays are persuasive, I found most of them without impact.  I could easily draw on my remembered defenses of Christianity and see why a believer would not find the arguments powerful enough to sway personal conviction.  Halfway through the book, I was prepared to just give up altogether, already discouraged with the author’s focus on one spiritual path, etc.  However, I persevered. 

Finally in chapter 9, “Metaphysical Muddles:  The Ontological Argument,” I found some ideas and concepts into which I could sink my intellectual teeth.  I also found the chapters on the history of atheism interesting (albeit, it is an extremely abbreviated history).  However, I thought that chapter 12, “Some Irreverent Questions Concerning God,” was unnecessary.  It reminded me of the times my poetry friends and I would do a poetry exercise—write a line of poetry and then the next person would write the second line and the next one would write the third and so on until you ended up with a single poem.  The end result was never any good, although there were occasionally a line or two worth saving.  It was more an exercise, an experiment in creativity and the twelfth chapter reminded me of this poetry game—asking questions about God and then responding to each. But really, why bother?  There are enough real issues in religion, society, and philosophy to be explored without trying to figure out if God is an atheist or has orgasms. 

If there are thirteen chapters in a book and I found only three interesting (and really only one was meaty enough to make me want to dig deeper), would I recommend this book?  I wouldn’t necessarily not recommend it.  I think that most Christians would benefit from reading it, assuming they can overcome the impression that Smith is singling them out for attack.  I wish Smith had been more ecumenical, albeit I would imagine it is prohibitive to address one’s self to all the variety out there. 

I do think this was a good first choice in reading about atheism.  Hopefully I can find other books which are not so exclusive in discussing Christianity.  Conveniently enough, the previous person who borrowed this book left their “borrowed books” receipt in the book so now I have a list of other books to consider borrowing. 

Some examples of the carelessness on the editor’s part:

How [is] it that ideas that are learned uncritically in childhood become vested with the dignity of fundamental principles?  (127)

(I inserted the bracketed word.)

When salvation is at stake, when failure to covert [sic[ the atheist may land him in hell, the Christian becomes a spiritual Machiavellian for whom the end justifies the means.  (136)

(I found the above error amusing because it almost works.)

The fear of death, according to Epicurus, originated with the religious doctrine that we will be rewarded or punished in a future life, depending on how we act (or what we our believe) in our present life. (238)

(No matter how many different ways I try to make sense of the parenthetical part, I simply cannot do so.  I am assuming Smith wrote something along the lines of “or what we ourselves believe” but given that this whole book is arguing against making assumptions it is ironic that the publisher can’t hire an editor intelligent enough to catch such blatant errors before taking the copy to print.)

Then on page 238, Smith offers the reader a concept he calls the Epicurian Remedy.  Or is the Epircurean Remedy?  The reader is left to debate this.  “I shall henceforth call this the Epricurean Remedy” it says on page 238 but on the next page we have “Epicurean Remedy” and a few paragraphs later on the same page “Epircurean Remedy.”

I suppose in some alternate reality, which one could philosophically debate, these things would not cause the reader even a moment of confusion but the very quality of the writing is inevitably thrown into question.  I trust that Smith knows how to write well enough that these errors in editing are not a fault on his part but the fact that there are so many has the inevitable effect of making even the arguments feel somehow weaker. 

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Monday, April 26, 2010

The Kalevala by Elias Lonnrot

The Kalevala by Elias Lonnrot, translated by Albert B Lord is a collection of oral-tradition poems drawing on mythology of Finland.  This is one of the few epic poems, drawn from oral tradition, that actually reads like oral tradition complete with redundancies to help the singer (for these were originally told in song) which can become tedious for the reader who does not want to read time and time again the same descriptives.

I found it all delightful, the repetition creating a rhythm where there is little to be found.  I also found myself occasionally questioning the choices of the translators but the only solution for such a thing would be to learn Finnish and then read it in the original language, something I don’t think I will ever sincerely aspire to do.

At first I found the lyricism inspiring but after the first canto, inspiration eluded me.  It’s unfortunate that these myths are not shared more with children although I’m sure there are many picture books in Finland which will never be translated into English.  Not all of the stories lend themselves to children’s books because there are examples of rape and violence which I wouldn’t want to share with a child.  However, there are many delightful moments that would lend themselves wonderfully and no doubt there are adults who would like to pass along their ancestral mythology to their children but who themselves lack the commitment to learning Finnish.

When I read the last canto, I got a tear in my eye and felt a deep sadness.  If the collection didn’t inspire me to write much poetry, it did inspire me to look into some other things, to start borrowing books from the library, etc.  I also found the following link I thought I would share, which includes a link to someone singing a part of the Kalevala.  The influence the Kalevala had on Tolkien’s work is most evident in the language so if you want to better appreciate Elvish (Quenya) or the beauty of The Silmarillion more fully, reading this book can only enhance the experience of Tolkien. 

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Miniature Scrapbooks: Small Treasures to Make in a Day by Taylor Hagerty

Miniature Scrapbooks:  Small Treasures to Make in a Day by Taylor Hagerty is one of those crafting idea books that inevitably leaves me feeling overwhelmed and unable to even begin.  On average, each project requires thirteen different elements including a variety of beads or different scrapbook papers or embellishments.  In other words, before you can begin even the smallest of these projects you will need to already have a collection of scrapbooking resources available. 

Presumably, the reader is a scrapbooker, someone who has created larger pages and not only has the fundamental resources (a cutting board, sharp and straight edges, etc.) but has remainder sheets and a collection of ephemera to be incorporated in the mini scrapbooks.  Unfortunately, if you have never created a scrapbooking page, this book will require a financial investment from a beginner that may be prohibitive.

I found some of the examples accessible in their design simplicity while others were visually distracting, too cluttered and busy to appeal, my eye unable to take it all in.  I frankly think that some of the ideas would have worked better and been more appealing if so much hadn’t been shoved into such a small area. 

I was excited to see that the scrapbook creators were featured in an appendix and I quickly flipped back through the book to see who had created the several favorites I had discovered.  Of the seven designs I loved, there were only two designers because some designers are featured more than once.  I’m not complaining, mind you; I actually found this somewhat encouraging.  So I eagerly visited the two websites and was hugely disappointed to discover that these two scrapbooking artists are graphic designers with companies that specialize in publishing books (including this one, naturally), creating logos, and other promotional resources for other companies.

I realize that many crafting books are written by professionals, that books meant to inspire the amateur artist to discover some innate creativity within are inspired by artists who have gallery exhibits.  But for me, to see that these scrapbookers were actually professionals discouraged me and added yet another layer to my feeling overwhelmed by what I was seeing.

So I guess I would recommend this book to someone who has done some scrapbooking, who has acquired a collection of materials.  But for someone who has yet to create even a first page—large or small or whatever—this book is not so much inspiring as overwhelming.

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