The scrap heard ’round the world

Vintage Scrapbook
Gone are the days of kinder, gentler scrapbooking. (Image via Wikipedia)

When I worked at a newspaper office many years ago, I used to love going through the mail. For some reason, we always received a lot of complimentary trade magazines and catalogues for niche markets — things like restaurant business suppliers or chiropractic office outfitters. It was like peeking into hidden, private worlds. And to this day, ‘advertising speak,’ when applied to these specialized groups, always cracks me up. For example:

  • Deliver to the email inbox like you OWN it!
  • Kodak In-Vivo Multispectral Imaging System FX enables advanced unmixing of multiple fluorochromes.
  • Holstein World & AllBreed Access Country Store: The One Stop Shopping Spot for Dairy Enthusiasts!

Anyway, I haven’t done this in a while, and boy, have I missed some major developments.

For example, consider the world of scrapbooking. Yes, you know, that quaint little hobby your grandmother or even great-grandmother pursued? The one that involved clipping newspaper spots about your relatives, mainly highlighting who’d been hatched, matched or dispatched?

Well, as proof that nothing is immune to the Big American Marketing Machine, it is now an industry worth several billion. I’m fairly certain there are entire countries that aren’t worth that much.

There are websites, YouTube instructional videos, global conferences, television segments and even specialized software (for the truly modern digital scrapbooker). Indeed, the hobby has become so widespread and involved that some economists have begun to speculate that the so-called “subprime mortgage meltdown” may have been caused by scrapbooking. This is because of the double-whammy caused by the pastime: missing mortgage payments because two-thirds of your income is tied up in scrapbooking supplies, and losing several work days in a row while trying to finish a layout.

The industry has its own celebrities, who crisscross the country to teach, and who apparently get offers to go to Paris and London. Which leads me to ask a very important question: Would it kill someone to make me an offer to go to Paris? What about product endorsements? What if I said your product did a fantastic job of unmixing multiple fluorochromes?

There are also scandals: When prominent scrapbooker Kristina Contes entered and won a contest, but apparently broke one of the rules by submitting a layout with a photograph taken by someone else, and the sponsoring magazine seemed to overlook the infraction… the scrapbooking community went absolutely ballistic.

In discussion threads, people accused the magazine of rigging the contest, and felt the entire affair was on par with Olympic Games related drug scandals. Some commentators unloaded directly on Contes, calling her, among other things, trailer park trash, someone who didn’t have a moral bone in her body, and a skank.

If my mention of the digital software hadn’t blown away your (gentle, grandmotherly) perceptions of scrapbooking, I’m sure that last paragraph did.

Meanwhile, the reaction of the community has made me realize two fundamental truths:

  1. The root cause of conflict in human society is not politics, religion, or even sexual or economic competition. It’s all about the level of emotional investment. This is why some people will hit the streets over election results, and other people will drop gloves over a parking space.
  2. Anyone who has ever even waved a pot of glue at a scrapbook (myself included) really shouldn’t snigger over the fact there are people who voluntarily call themselves dairy enthusiasts.

One thing scrapbookers do have over many of us though, is the ability to make some really nice things. I’m always amazed at the amount of creative energy people have, and how some of the most mundane or banal aspects of our existence can be turned into miniature works of art.

And if I could just find a way to be that artistic with unmixed multiple fluorochromes, I might yet earn that invite to Paris.

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