August 23, 2012


2013 Calendars: Wall—Origami Sculpture; Fold Your Own Zombie; Advent—Peanuts. Accord Publishing/Andrews McMeel. $14.99 each (Origami; Zombie); Universe/Andrews McMeel. $9.99 (Peanuts).

Star Wars Origami: 36 Amazing Paper-Folding Projects from a Galaxy Far, Far Away. By Chris Alexander. Workman. $16.95.

      There is always a certain amount of participatory involvement in calendars – after all, you have to tear off a page for each date when using a page-a-day one, turn the pages to plan weeks and months in advance for desktop types, and flip up a page each month for wall calendars.  But some calendars go beyond that minimal amount of participation – way beyond.  The Origami Sculpture wall calendar for 2013 brings a touch of artistic delight to home, office or anywhere you hang it.  Every month starts out looking like an interesting geometric display and turns into something more: a three-dimensional sculpture, created in 20 or so folding steps by following detailed directions that are provided for each creation.  Some of the steps take a little getting used to, and the whole origami process may be a trifle unfamiliar, so the calendar comes with 20 practice sheets of folding paper to give sculptors plenty of opportunities to get things right – and plenty of ways to get them wrong without harming the monthly sculptures themselves.  Everyone will have different favorites in the Origami Sculpture calendar, based not only on difficulty but also on how the sculptures look when finished.  The horse (September), for example, is a little on the abstract side, but the turtle (April) and hummingbird (May) are quite real-looking and definitely winners.  Other denizens of this origami zoo are a bird, goldfish, rabbit, butterfly, bee, snail, lizard, elephant and frog – and many calendar pages are colored so that the animal sculptures look even better (the bee is yellow and black, for example, and the frog is green – although the elephant, it should be noted, is purple).  This is a calendar for budding artists and for lovers of the unusual in their wall hangings.

      Too placid?  A little on the sweet side?  Prefer something with greater pop-culture sensibility and a more outré attitude? Well, all right – then try the Fold Your Own Zombie wall calendar. The structure of this one is different from that of the origami calendar: instead of the months themselves turning into zombies, the zombie parts (so to speak) are in a pocket at the back of the calendar.  Just punch…err, punch out the pieces, put them together, and you can assemble a cheerleader zombie for February, a homemaker zombie for June, a baseball-player zombie for July, a speechmaking zombie for August – ah yes, 12 different zombies, all suitably gruesome (but not too gruesome) and all ready to zombify your kitchen, bedroom, cubicle, office or anywhere else that isn’t horrifying enough already.  The whole thing(s) is (are) in good fun, and Fold Your Own Zombie is certain to be talk-provoking if not necessarily thought-provoking – it may be especially useful in an office environment, to keep co-workers sufficiently off-balance so they route the difficult assignments to someone else.

      And what would be the opposite of zombie gruesomeness?  Peanuts wholesomeness, of course.  And what could be a more appropriate use of Charles Schulz’s beloved characters than an Advent calendar?  All it takes for a warm and wonderful lead-in to Christmas is the opening, one by one, of this perpetual calendar’s 24 flaps, each revealing a different single-panel Peanuts scene: Charlie Brown ice skating, Snoopy and Woodstock sledding in Snoopy’s supper dish, Lucy walking past Snoopy’s dog house, Spike (Snoopy’s desert-dwelling brother) hanging ornaments on a cactus, and so on.  When the flaps are closed, there is a traditional Peanuts Christmas scene, with Charlie and Sally Brown, Snoopy and Woodstock, and Lucy and Linus, all in the snow with a decorated tree in the background.  Every year, Peanuts seems more and more like a remnant of an earlier and more-innocent era in comics, but this is the sort of relic that is precious and that retains – and even gains – value over time.  This Advent calendar will serve as a warm and wonderful reminder of Schulz’s classic strip each winter – a Christmas tradition that any family can start anytime and continue year after year.

      And speaking of things that persist year after year: the Star Wars franchise is 35 years old now, and interest in it shows little sign of abating even though the original high enthusiasm for the first movie trilogy was subsequently undermined by the inferior second trilogy and then by a series of altered re-releases.  It is arguable whether George Lucas squandered the enormous love and good will that Star Wars brought him by his subsequent handling of the films and their many, many spinoffs in various media; but what is not debatable is that Star Wars continues to attract interest from everyone from its initial fans to people who were not yet born when the first movie appeared.  And at least some of those fans – ages nine and above – will likely be enthusiastic about Star Wars Origami, which proves, if further proof were necessary, that the Force is with Lucas’ concept in ever-growing areas.  Unlike Origami Sculpture or the zombie-folding calendar, but like the Peanuts Advent calendar, this thick and heavy book is timeless, as Star Wars itself appears to be.  After an introduction on origami basics, Chris Alexander presents three dozen paper-folding activities that include all the usual suspects: Yoda, Jabba the Hutt, C-3PO, R2-D2, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and so on.  There are also some less-expected creations: Eta-2 Jedi Starfighter, Taun We, Slave I, General Grievous.  Each project is introduced with a movie still and a short explanation or biography, and readers who want more on the Star Wars universe will enjoy the trivia quizzes sprinkled throughout the book.  But the main point here, of course, is the origami, which ranges from the simple to the very difficult.  In fact, caution is advised: the sequence in the book is random and does not lead from easier to harder projects – there is a separate section, “Projects by Level of Difficulty,” that is a must-read.  The completed projects are of highly variable appeal.  The spaceships and battle equipment tend to come out very well, the characters less so (R2-D2 is particularly disappointing, although Luke looks better than expected).  Even experienced origami artists would do well to read the introductory material here to familiarize or re-familiarize themselves with the various folds and the types of bases (preliminary and waterbomb).  The book is nicely set up, and the 72 sheets of folding paper bound into the back are enough to do all the projects – although not enough to allow errors.  So first-time folders may want to practice with some of those spare sheets from the Origami Sculpture calendar.  Assuming, of course, that they intend to spend a great deal of time, in 2013 and the rest of 2012, sculpting paper.

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