November 23, 2011


2012 Calendars: Desk—The New Yorker; Peanuts. Andrews McMeel. $32.95 (New Yorker); $13.99 (Peanuts).

     Yes, yes, everyone uses electronic calendars and appointment apps these days, so there is no place anymore for the old-fashioned desktop calendar on which one writes appointments, plans, lunches, meetings, important phone calls and the like. Right?

     No, no. It is true that electronic tracking methods have the virtue of easy portability, but by the same token, well-made desk calendars have the virtue of solidity – of helping keep you anchored to a place where lots of (presumably and hopefully) important things happen. Despite the stampede to make everything virtual and electronic, there remains something satisfying about planners you can hold in your hand, modify physically rather than with a keypad or touchscreen, and rely on to stay in the same place instead of possibly ending up left behind somewhere, thereby also leaving behind all your plans and many of your expectations until you can find where the iWhatever is hiding.

     And it is not just curmudgeons who continue to enjoy booklike desktop weekly planners (although curmudgeons are as entitled to their viewpoint as others are). The fact is that desktop planning books come in so many different varieties that you can find one to fit whatever your mood and working style may be. The New Yorker 2012 Desk Diary, for example, exudes solidity and thoughtfulness along with wry whimsicality, courtesy of the cartoons adorning its pages. Some of those cartoons are well aware of changes in taste, such as the one showing an entire airplane full of people using E-readers, with the caption, “In preparation for landing, please turn off your books.” And then there is the one showing “The Ungooglable Man” who has “no Facebook page, no MySpace page, no NOTHING,” but nevertheless “HE WALKS AMONGST US.” Scary, isn’t it? (The “amongst” really makes that one.) Other cartoons hit time-honored themes, as with the desert scene where a man barely pulls himself up to a table – a table? – and there is a waiter standing by asking, “Just water?” Or the Trojan Horse scene with a warrior standing at the gates of the doomed city, saying, “I can’t just leave it – somebody has to sign for it.” But of course the cartoons are not the primary reason for getting this planner: it is a handsome, open-flat, spiral-bound book that displays a full seven-day week across every two-page spread and provides space to write in meetings, appointments or what-have-you from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and then in the evening. There is also space for notes, and small full-month calendars on every two pages showing current month, next month plus previous month – a particularly nice and useful touch.

     Desk-planner lovers who prefer something lighter, even on the frothy side – and nostalgic, to boot – should consider the Peanuts 2012 Calendar, which is smaller than the one from The New Yorker and provides much less room for writing – all the days of the week appear on a single page. And the only full-month calendar given on each two-page spread is for the current month (except for weeks where the month changes midweek). Peanuts is also spiral-bound, though, and what it lacks in spaciousness for writing down appointments it makes up for with left-hand pages featuring full-color Charles Schulz Sunday strips, every one of them a gentle delight. Schroeder gets a chance to play dinner music – but it turns out to be for Snoopy; Charlie Brown strikes out without even swinging, realizes his team will not let him forget, and finds when he tries to sleep that a certain dog wearing a baseball cap is staring at him from the far end of his bed; Charlie Brown, trapped in a tree after a kite-flying incident, is used by Lucy as a prop to explain Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum”; Linus pats birds on the head and is loudly reprimanded by Lucy, who tells him it is fine to pat dogs but not birds, so Linus ends up saying, “There are many things I don’t understand.” But Peanuts fans will understand throughout the year just how wonderful the strip was – well, they know that already, but they will realize it anew by planning the year with this desk calendar…whose illustrations, by the way, would not look nearly as good or nearly as appropriate in digital display.

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