November 12, 2009


2010 Calendars: Day-to-Day—Anguished English; Shakespeare’s Insults. Desk—M.C. Escher. Postcard—Frank Lloyd Wright Designs. Mini Wall—Frank Lloyd Wright Designs. Wall—Edward Gorey: The Doubtful Guest; Buddhist Paintings. Pomegranate. $12.99 each (English; Insults; Postcard); $14.99 (Escher); $7.99 (Mini Wall); $13.99 each (Gorey; Buddhist).

     Many companies make calendars, but only one, Pomegranate, makes calendars that seem to open the doors to an ever-unfolding series of worlds – worlds of art, of beauty, of language, of humor and joy and even transcendence. The biggest problem with Pomegranate’s calendars is deciding which world, or worlds, you want to enter in the coming year. It’s easy to go overboard and choose a different world for every room (good for sales, of course, but perhaps just a little extreme). So here are a few options among the very many this company offers for 2010:

     Anguished English and Shakespeare’s Insults are day-to-day calendars for people who want to be immersed in a world of words. But not just any world of words. Language commentator Richard Lederer has a high old time finding instances of ambiguous reference, unintended double meanings, erroneous punctuation that changes what people intend to say, and more. There are 13 categories of mishaps in Anguished English, covering everything from signage to sports to courtroom misdemeanors (of the linguistic sort). Here you will find people spreading the Gospel in foreign lands and being congratulated on assuming the missionary position; an oral surgeon being given a small token of achievement – that is, a dentist receiving plaque; plus plenty of malapropisms and confusing translations (notably from Japanese into “Engrish”). Some of the chuckles are obvious – and some may have you wondering what’s so funny, until you realize that you yourself are unintentionally mangling the language.

     Of course, no one used the language as Shakespeare did, and the Bard was the grand master of, among other things, scurrilous comments. Shakespeare’s Insults goes well beyond the “bite my thumb at thee” that so incenses the youths at the start of Romeo and Juliet. Whoreson knaves abound here, in works both well-known and less so, as Shakespeare has characters curse each other in language most foul – if you can understand it. The calendar helps you do so: every page puts its quotation in context, explaining not only where the excerpt comes from but also just who is saying what to whom, under what circumstances, and why. Shakespeare was a master of insinuation as well as out-and-out nastiness, and you’ll find plenty of both here – a trip to the darker side of the Elizabethan world.

     But Shakespeare’s world is less strange than that of M.C. Escher, and if you really want to visit somewhere odd in 2010, take in the scenes in the M.C. Escher 2010 Engagement Calendar. This is one of several Escher-based calendars from Pomegranate, and it is a particularly happy melding of form and function. Here are not only Escher’s famous black-and-white works that challenge the senses to figure out just what is going on (such as “Up and Down” and “Concave and Convex,” in both of which directions become interchangeable), but also fascinating color engravings (such as “Stars,” featuring chameleons within a most unusual space object, and “Depth,” in which fishlike winged creatures fly or swim from or to infinity). The spiral-bound, lie-flat calendar provides room for notes for every day of the year; and its samplings of Escher’s earlier, more realistic drawings of people and objects are a well-selected contrast to his more familiar and outré designs.

     The designs of Frank Lloyd Wright are particularly adaptable to calendar use, with their colors and unusual use of geometric forms. If you would like a smaller spiral-bound calendar than the Escher one – but still with enough space to jot down a note or two for each day of the year – the Wright “postcard calendar” offers beauty with a bonus. The bonus is that 26 of the pages can be easily removed (they are perforated) and sent as postcards – an exceptionally clever design that gives this calendar value even after you finish using each week. The postcards are quite attractive: a 1927 design for the cover of Liberty magazine, a 1903 art-glass window design, plus textile and carpet designs and much more. Offbeat and unusual, this calendar makes a particularly fine gift for anyone who enjoys Wright’s art and architecture.

     In fact, Pomegranate uses Wright’s work in quite a number of different ways. Some of the same designs that appear in the “postcard calendar” also adorn the attractive Wright mini wall calendar for 2010. The abstracts and geometrics here, their colors brilliantly reproduced, very attractively brighten up a small space, such as a work cubicle or a bathroom or small bedroom. Wright’s wallpaper details in multiple shades of blue, in bright orange or in multicolored geometrics really stand out, with textile, rug and magazine designs of all sorts bringing splashes of color to every month.

     Or perhaps you would prefer a world both larger and weirder. Then, by all means, consider the full-size wall calendar, Edward Gorey: The Doubtful Guest. Gorey’s ink drawings, extremely meticulous and often very dark, adorn the months in his tale of a strange, vaguely birdlike creature that wears white canvas shoes, shows up at the door unannounced one cold winter’s evening, and remains for 17 years (and still counting) – tearing up books, sleepwalking and disappearing into the soup tureen. Amusing and disturbing at the same time, this story – an allegory of the immigrant experience – retains its oddity and rather soulful depiction of turmoil in a more-or-less Victorian setting more than 50 years after its original publication in 1957. Gorey is something of an acquired taste, and this calendar will not be for everyone, but those who find his observations quietly unsettling – and admire them for that quality – will very much enjoy immersing themselves in the world of The Doubtful Guest all year long.

     By now, though, if all you want is a touch of peace, quiet and beauty, consider Buddhist Paintings, featuring works from the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. This calendar assembles a dozen devotional works on cloth and from hanging scrolls, some made as long ago as the 13th century and others from modern times. There is remarkable consistency of imagery despite the vast time span here: the deities and other figures are still shown much as they have been for many hundreds of years. Deities such as White Tara of China and Penden Lhamo of Tibet, the six-armed guardian Mahakala and the guardian Skanda – these and more are depicted in rich colors and textures, with intricate background detail highlighting the figures and projecting a sense of beauty, protection and peace. This calendar takes you to a world away from everyday humdrum and hectic life – a journey that can be revivifying at any time of any month of the coming year.

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