Scrapbook Answers

Were I to compile the detritus from my wobbly existence on this planet into a scrapbook, it would positively teem with ticket stubs, mug shots and X-rays. Its pages would glow with the feral red eyes born of poor flash photography. It would stink like stale Yuengling and convey less heartfelt sentiment than "Pour Some Sugar on Me."

Mind you, I won't take a nostalgic look back until the Smithsonian makes a firm cash offer for my archives. But judging from the May issue of Scrapbook Answers, not everybody shares my inclination to live in the here and now. No, just as hordes of Jay Leno fans exist somewhere out there in the red-state ether (does anybody actually know one?), so too does an ultra-sincere, craft-happy subclass of women that I'll call Scrapbook Nation.

In Scrapbook Nation, Mother's Day provides a handy excuse to express one's appreciation via 72 pages and approximately 650 man-hours worth of doilies and acrylic stamps. Nothing is worth saying unless it can be punctuated with a string of exclamation points ("The summer of '69 was a long time ago, but the hippies sure were onto something!"). One can earn a decent living as a supplier of "hip yet classic unmounted rubber stamp designs"; one can glom valuable life lessons from teachers of "beginning scrapbooking" (lesson one: paste is not a condiment).

So basically, I don't think I can give a legit assessment of Scrapbook Answers without being clued in to the idiosyncrasies of this niche culture. Nonetheless, I'll try. As you read the snappish reflection that follows, please keep in mind that I applaud those of you with actual, productive, non-work-related interests; my idea of a hobby is making a sandwich while watching sports on TV.

Scrapbook Answers delivers precisely what its title promises and nothing more. The folks behind it deserve a ton of credit for dodging women's-mag beauty and fashion clichés, and they arrange the magazine in a commendably user-friendly manner. Like the best scrapbooks, it apportions space judiciously and doesn't gussy itself up with excessive ornamentation.

The magazine conveys and illustrates its tips (on, among other things, collage techniques and the creation of paper flowers) in the most straightforward manner possible. Occasionally it even ventures away from the realm of the creative, offering practical advice about inexpensively reorganizing one's crafts space.

But while Scrapbook Answers has the enthusiast thing down pat, it lurches to and fro editorially. Its writers and editors worship at the altar of stale, punny headlines ("You Grow, Girl," "Paper: It's Come a Long Way, Baby," "Glazed and Confused") and take the hooray-for-everything! tone way too far at times, as evidenced by sentence pairings like, "You may find yourself staring at a pack of transparency film thinking, Where do I begin? Begin here!" Too, Scrapbook answers an awful lots of question that nobody asked ("Ribbons on Guy Pages? You Heard Us Right!").

I also wonder if the mag toes the editorial/advertising line a little less nimbly than it might. Page 13 of the May issue features an ad for the Xyron Design Runner; on page 31, a "critic" weighs in with a four-star review that basically hails the device as a panacea for users' printing, spiritual and emotional ills. The juxtaposition feels way too close for comfort.

Of everything in Scrapbook Answers, the item that intrigued me most was the "Info Scraps" Q&A with a filmmaker who recently completed a documentary on the world of scrapbooking. With cupcake questions like, "What's the weirdest thing that happened during filming?," the Q&A doesn't even reach the level of "Entertainment Tonight" fluff. But it got me to thinking: what sacrifices did the guy make while filming? Did he have to place his manhood into blind trust before being granted access to the gauzy world of scrapbooking? Truly, the mind boggles.

In any event, Scrapbook Answers likely serves its core readers just fine and dandy, and that's that. To those readers, I convey my best wishes for a happy and healthy National Scrapbooking Day (May 6--seriously). Shine on, you crazy diamonds.

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