October 27, 2005


Desk/engagement calendars: The Far Side: Mating Rituals; Art of “The Lord of the Rings.” Andrews McMeel. $12.99 each.

Day-to-day calendars: FoxTrot; Pearls Before Swine; George W. Bushisms; An Insult a Day; Insight from the Dalai Lama. Andrews McMeel. $11.99 each.

As we move inexorably toward the end of one year and the start of another, let us consider what sort of year we want 2006 to be. A nostalgic year? A forward-looking one? A year focused on politics? On pop entertainment? On watching sports? On participating in sports? Pick your direction and you can find an Andrews McMeel calendar to help you get there: South Beach Diet, Zelda the English bulldog, Pop Culture Quiz, origami, daily golf tips and much more. Then, of course, you have to decide what type of calendar you want. Do you want your year’s plans (and hopes) on your desk, displayed a week at a time? Then you want a desk or engagement calendar – the spiral-bound type that opens flat so you can see a week of dates at a time. These come in several types: with dates on both left and right pages, for example, or only on left-hand ones. But the most traditional type has illustrations on the left and dates on the right. And what could be more traditional than The Far Side, the long-gone but ever-present Gary Larson cartoon? Larson stopped drawing it years ago, but the packaging and repackaging continue at full speed. And the single-panel drawings are as funny as always. This year’s desk calendar, “Mating Rituals,” features typically Larsonian takes on courtship – particularly among fish, dinosaurs, apes, clowns and other denizens of Larson’s world. If you want to spend the year laughing about insect or alien mating rituals – and imagining they have nothing to do with your own life – then this calendar is for you. (One female shark to another: “My marriage is in trouble, Barbara. You ever tried communicating with a hammerhead?”)

Care for fantasy of a slightly more serious sort? New for 2006 is an Andrews McMeel engagement calendar featuring art work for the film trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. This is for devotees of the films only: each left-hand page shows a hand-drawn illustration that may be a moody landscape, a character study of a featured actor or actress, or an action scene (for instance, one shows trolls pushing a siege tower; another shows bright-white Gandalf facing off against the stark-black mount of a Ringwraith). The printing and design make the calendar look like a relic of Middle-Earth – a nice touch.

Ah, but what if you keep your appointments electronically and don’t want a calendar displaying a week at a time? In that case, check out Andrews McMeel’s day-to-day calendars. There are plenty of them, featuring characters from Dilbert to Garfield to Ziggy. An especially enjoyable one is FoxTrot, with excerpts from the trials and tribulations of Bill Amend’s slightly skewed suburban family (example: son Jason manages to find a cereal whose only ingredient is sugar). Equally funny, even more skewed, and new for 2006 is the Pearls Before Swine calendar, featuring the death obsessions and other cynical hilarities of Rat, Pig, Goat, Zebra and George W. Bush. No, wait – not that last one. He’s featured at his inimitable fracture-the-language best in George W. Bushisms, a calendar that will add fuel to the fire of Bush detractors while potentially being rather endearing to Bush supporters. This president is well known to be syntactically challenged, but many of his misspoken comments have a certain charm to them: “I think we can all agree, the past is over.” Buyers hoping for a year of self-generated Bush insults won’t find them here, though certainly some of the comments are eye-opening: “You disarm or we will.”

Actually, if what you want is an insult a day, you should just go ahead and get An Insult a Day, a calendar that delivers exactly what its title promises. It’s filled with one-liners from comedians old and new, including a hearty helping from master insulter Henny Youngman (“Why don’t you step outside for a few years?”). Book reviewers, talk-show hosts, second-rate and third-rate celebrities, and many others get to take their best shots here – or have someone else’s best shots directed at them.

But if you want to look ahead to a 2006 filled with greater contentment than 2005, you may prefer a calendar of a whole different type. Insight from the Dalai Lama is just that: a full year of thoughts of the exiled Tibetan leader, a man who by all accounts is very much at peace with himself, his life and the world. “Without spiritual sustenance, it is difficult to get and maintain peace of mind,” you will read here. And: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.” These are words to make you think – not only about what sort of new year you want, but also about the kind of life you hope for in all the years thereafter.

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