Sunday, July 25, 2010

Review of book: "Look Both Ways" by Debbie Millman

My Review of Look Both Ways, by Debbie Millman (c) Louise Dunn Herman, July 25, 2010

…like the sculptor who looks at a stone and realizes what it could be, Debbie Millman has transformed the book form into her own creation. It has become, in addition to it's message, an object.

While reading the book Look Both Ways, by Debbie Millman, an enriching experience takes place. The cover is conventional, yet the palette and overlapping comma symbol on it’s front take on greater significance as the ‘story’ unfolds. Opening the book, you first find a series of pages that resemble the chalkboards of childhood. As you begin to read, you are drawn, literally, into the text by the casual conversational way it is written. You might be reading someone’s notes in their lined hard cover black and white school composition book. Or perhaps, it could be a diary. But soon enough, easyness in reading starts to give way to weaving eye movement as you are forced to follow the types' gradual uneven changes. Along the way, you encounter some cross-outs and smudges which speak of first drafts, or suggest the spontaneity of only one draft, or the innocence of a child's first efforts.

Periferally, you sense something more. The blackness of the chalkboard appears painted on. And toward the edges, color, quite pleasant, peeks through. This ‘underpainting’ or layering suggests the artist’s hand, or brush as it were. And the white chalk-like script is immediate, and familiar, and common. So, there is a lot to see, and read, and think about on each of the pages. Sensitized now, you notice as you read, that the pages appear to take on an ever increasing sophistication as the ‘child’ grows up, moves to the city, begins a career. This build-up increases in a gradual curve, almost imperceptible until you realize what is happening. The style is changing along with the author, as she reveals the various foibles and traumas of school, personal relationships, and work-related choices.

In the last two essays, a fully realized marriage of art, style, and content suggest the satisfaction of having realized a dream. In one essay, the direction lines, flow chart-like, pace the author and the reader in a choppy but purposeful stride. The final essay contains shadowy, ghost-like echoes of words, barely perceptible in strategic yet visually scattered places (read between the lines). Floating on a sophisticated evolved backdrop, this final piece displays a secure and fully realized artist’s hand as well as a firm control of the medium. Millman has, despite her aha moment of choosing ‘branding’ as a practical career, achieved what she tells us she really wants to be: an artist and a writer.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Need To Share

The Need to Share, an Essay ©2010 Louise Dunn Herman
Once in a while in a conversation, you perceive that someone feels uneasy, perhaps threatened by what you are saying, responding with hesitation. This unfortunately might morph to ridicule or criticism, questioning your opinion, or the validity of your experience. Upon recognize this in the person you are interacting with, you could just exit after the hesitation, but before the negative questioning (ex.: "how can you read that stuff?"), or the opposition begins ("why are you wasting your time on that?").

Remarks of this type are often evidence that the person you are talking to is disturbed by what you are saying, or how you are feeling. They may be unfamiliar with the subject and/or not at all interested in engaging in a conversation about it. Or they might feel they ‘should’ know more about it. You are enthusiastic and in addition have your arms around this topic. They are uneasy at your obvious delight in something they do not trust.

Time to hang up the phone, leave gracefully, end the conversation - a satisfying solution compared with trying to convince the other person of the worth of what you are saying or doing. Trying to persuade another to read or do or buy what YOU found to be meaningful, is as if you were to say that your favorite color should also be theres'. It only leads to frustration and feelings of inadequacy on your part, as they continually rebuff your misguided efforts.

Interestingly, they feel no remorse or guilt at their rebuttal of your topic, having convinced themselves that their path in life has fences on each side. Your remarks are a weather event threatening these fences, and you have to be ‘put in your place’ in order for them to continue on their chosen path. Staying on that road means security; everything is familiar. They have learned to deal with rocky parts by breaking them into little pieces, stomping on them, kicking them out, and then going on their way. Looking back is dangerous, revisiting past episodes is to be avoided. Visits often lead to questioning the way those episodes were handled, and that questioning is unsettling.

Why try to share your opinions, enthusiasm, or experiences with such people? You may think you are being generous to recap something that you find wonderful. Conversely, does the other person you are interacting with share their own special finds and passions? Usually not. You often find out accidentally after the fact that they have done or experienced something special. They may not even have thought they needed to share it with anyone.

People who appreciate what you have to say and who share your enthusiasm for an event are not threatened by your obvious delight in an experience. They know what it’s like, as the same desire for sharing often happens to them. They too, enjoy a conversation about what has transpired or been felt, not necessarily to evoke change, but to bestow upon another a little of their own flavor. When not in the presence of such kindred spirits, when your gift is about to be rejected, it's better to change your direction, and continue along to grow in an ever widening world of your own making.