November 06, 2008

(++++) ANTICIPATING 2009

2009 Calendars: Day-to-Day—Dilbert: We Have a Motion to Adjourn; Pearls Before Swine: Lying een Wait at da Watering Hole; Liō; Joy of Cooking; The Office. Andrews McMeel. $12.99 each (Dilbert; Pearls; Liō; Cooking); $11.99 (Office).

2009 Calendars: Wall—Georgia O’Keeffe; The Metropolitan Opera 125th Anniversary Season; Desk—Edgar Allan Poe: A Year of Mystery and Imagination. Universe/Andrews McMeel. $13.99 each.

     One of the pleasures of a waning year is the anticipation of Andrews McMeel calendars for the next one. Year after year, this publisher produces tons of amusing calendars – and some informative ones – that actually make it a pleasure to end one day and start the next. A little bit of a day brightener is welcome no matter what the weather, the week or the year. As usual for 2009, some of the best Andrews McMeel day-to-day calendars are based on top-notch and frequently very offbeat comic strips. Scott Adams’ Dilbert, whose astonishing popularity continues unabated (and is fueled anew with every boneheaded decision by managers of major corporations), is in full color for 2009, as the intelligent but hopelessly naïve Dilbert continues to imagine that something he does will someday make some sort of difference; Dogbert continues finding new ways to express his contempt for people; Alice’s Fist of Death keeps taking its toll (but not quickly enough); Wally continues to make work avoidance an art; and the Pointy-Haired Boss remains as clueless and buzzword-addicted as ever. Equally clever and even darker is Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine, whose weird 2009 title is in “crocodilese” and whose cover shows one of the hapless reptiles trying to trap Zebra at Zebra’s watering hole – which is a dispenser topped by a huge bottle in which the croc is clearly visible. The Pearls Before Swine calendar continues to be in black-and-white for most days, but the Sundays are now in color – a bonus for fans of sweetly naïve and ever-put-upon Pig, cynical and egocentric Rat, and the rest of Pastis’ characters. There is darkness in Mark Tatulli’s Liō, too, but of a different sort, as the title character – who does not speak – befriends Death, zombies, vampires and such; creates a “super-realistic piňata” by filling a donkey-shaped shell with raw liver, sausages and the like; and loves to cuddle with the neighborhood cephalopods and tarantulas. The strip works so well because Liō may be called a weird kid (indeed, he watches the Weird Kid Network on TV), and may do (and be subjected to) weird things, but he looks endearing, with his wide eyes and strand of hair that sticks straight up. And the lack of dialogue gives a daily dose of Liō an extra visual kick.

     Prefer something where words are the focus? Then it helps to move away from cartoony calendars – and there are plenty of places to go. If you enjoy cooking, for example, The Joy of Cooking – based for 2009 on the 75th-anniversary edition of the perennially popular cookbook – will be…well, a joy. This is one calendar that contains undated pages in addition to the usual dated ones. The undated entries provide recipes and step-by-step instructions, while the ones with dates include a wide variety of facts and helpful kitchen-related ideas. The especially nice thing about the recipe pages is that they are easy to save, if you wish; and because they are the same size as the calendar pages, they will fit nicely in a very small storage space somewhere in your home. And what about your office, where storage areas may be limited? Well, if the Dilbert approach of illustrated office-related oddity is not for you, The Office offers words instead – a series of one-liners, work-related jokes, quotations and buzzwords to help you keep a sense of humor even if your company is on the level of Dilbert’s (well, maybe not then, but you get the idea). The neat thing about this calendar is that every page is a sticky note – just peel off the ones you like and stick them on a wall, desk, or in a colleague’s cubicle (although if you’re the only one with this calendar, he or she will know who stuck them there!).

     Each dated page of all these day-to-day calendars is, of course, for short-term use only – which is part of these calendars’ charm: if that day’s cartoon or saying is a loser, you only have to wait one day for something that is (hopefully) much better. But wall calendars are held to another standard: you live with each page for a full month, so each really needs to be something you won’t mind seeing day in and day out. On the other hand, each page is far bigger than the pages of a day-to-day calendar, so if you do pick a wall calendar focused on a subject dear to you, it offers much more room for enjoyment. The 2009 Georgia O’Keeffe wall calendar is an example: O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is best known for her flower and plant pictures, which show the flora tremendously enlarged and meticulously colored; and those who love this side of her art will have several months in 2009 during which to enjoy it. But O’Keeffe also did wonderful paintings of shells, of American Southwest landscapes, even of dried bones – and all of these are represented in the 2009 wall calendar as well. It’s a dozen views of aspects of an artist who was more versatile than even many of her admirers know.

     The celebratory calendar for The Metropolitan Opera 125th Anniversary Season is beautiful in a different way, and will be a real treat for opera lovers. Long the preeminent opera house in the United States, and one of the world’s great venues for opera presentations, the Met has a storied history that cannot possibly be told in a mere 12 photos. But this calendar certainly gives it a try. From archival pictures of famous old productions (the black-and-white one of the gingerbread house used in Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel is a gem) to closeup, behind-the-scenes views of opera stars and splendid color photos of especially gorgeous stagings (the Rainbow Bridge for Wagner’s Das Rheingold is gorgeous), this is a calendar for opera fans to revel in day after day and month after month, while celebrating a century and a quarter of one of the most important American musical institutions.

     Desk or engagement calendars fill a different need from both day-to-day and wall calendars. Many have been supplanted by electronic organizers; but plenty of people still enjoy looking easily at a full week of plans or appointments. These calendars need to provide some room for writing while also, ideally, reflecting a person’s moods and interests. If your tastes run to Edgar Allan Poe, there is a particularly handsome 2009 calendar available that includes pictures by five famous illustrators: Aubrey Beardsley, Harry Clarke, Gustave Doré (some of whose famous illustrations for The Raven appear in the March pages), Edouard Manet (his pictures for The Raven are used in September), and Arthur Rackham. All the artists capture Poe’s dark moods and writings with consummate (if very different) skill, and this black-and-white desk calendar (with touches, appropriately, of red) also includes Poe quotations and notable Poe-related events (such as his date of death: October 7, 1849). Poe’s grotesqueries are not for everyone, so neither will this calendar be. But desk calendars can be a strong reflection of a person’s interests and thought patterns – and if yours are, like Poe’s, on the dark side, you will find them reinforced every day of every week by this well-crafted, spiral-bound, open-flat compendium of “mystery and imagination.”

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