October 28, 2010

(++++) A WARM WELCOME FOR 2011

2011 Calendars: 365-Day—Cul de Sac; Eats Shoots & Leaves; Wall—Central Park; Universal Classic Monster Movies; Desk—Posh Planning; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Andrews McMeel and Universe/Andrews McMeel, $13.99 each (365-day); Universe/Andrews McMeel, $13.99 each (wall); Andrews McMeel, $14.99 (Posh); Universe/Andrews McMeel, $13.99 (Wizard).

     Those of you who cannot wait to say goodbye to all the trials and tribulations of 2010 and start anew can bring 2011 closer – or at least feel that it is closer – by buying next year’s calendars as soon as possible. If you are sufficiently eager to dispose of the old (or rapidly aging) year, consider buying 2011 calendars of several types. Then you can put them around the house or office, unopened, and just glance at them from time to time to remind yourself that 2010 will end and 2011 will get here soon.

     Pick 365-day calendars – the ones whose pages you tear off – for amusement, either verbal or visual. Cul de Sac provides the visual element. Richard Thompson’s comic strip about suburbia, built around four-year-old Alice Otterloop and her eight-year-old brother, Petey, is one of today’s wittiest and best-drawn newspaper strips. At her preschool (with friends Dill and Beni), at home with her bemused parents, or anywhere in between, Alice makes trenchant but appropriately four-year-old-ish comments on life. She is happy to help her mom plant a vegetable garden as long as everything is going to be sold at a roadside produce stand so she doesn’t have to eat that awful stuff; she is glad to romp in the yard, as her parents wish, but only in the back yard, because the front yard is too big; and so on. Whether doing just what her parents want her to (but in a skewed way), or doing exactly the opposite, Alice is a delight – and Thompson’s art, in which he can extract emotion from Alice’s eyes even while keeping them pinpoints, is simply wonderful. His writing is literate, too, but for a calendar with a real verbal focus, try Eats Shoots and Leaves, whose title comes from the now-famous (or notorious) badly punctuated wildlife book that says a panda “eats, shoots and leaves” (the comma implying use of a gun at every meal). Lynne Truss is an expert at uncovering this sort of unintentional punctuational hilarity, and this 2011 calendar is filled with it. Truss provides rules for correct punctuation – yes, including the troublesome apostrophe – as well as examples of misuse, making this calendar educational as well as amusing. But she does not insist on intense grammatical lectures – each entry is only a few lines long, and makes its point in a pithy and insightful way. Not for grammar sticklers only (although for them, it is a must-have).

     Choose wall calendars for beauty – or at least for their sheer visual attraction. Unlike 365-day calendars, the wall type shows you the same picture for a full month, so you had better be sure it is something you want to see. New Yorkers, ex-New Yorkers and all admirers of urban parkscapes, for example, will find the 2011 Central Park wall calendar a delight. This verdant gem in the middle of Manhattan is well known as an oasis of greenery and calm right smack in the middle of one of the world’s most intensely active cities; the park’s design, by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, has been tremendously admired (and, in part, imitated) for a century and a half. The 2011 calendar follows the park through the seasons. There is a snow-covered statue for one winter month; a picture of trees just blooming in spring; lush greenery and crowds enjoying the outdoors in summer; and gorgeous autumnal colors in fall. People familiar with the park will recognize the specific areas and objects in the photos, but really, that sort of specificity is less important than the knowledge that there exists, in the heart of a fast-paced place of concrete, asphalt and towering buildings, an everyday reminder of a quieter life.

     Too relaxing? Not dramatic or offbeat enough? Well, if you prefer a wall calendar that reminds you all year of the great “B” movies of old, take a look at the overdone gruesomeness (although underdone by modern film standards) of a dozen Universal Pictures “creature features” in the 2011 Universal Classic Monster Movies calendar. Some of these full-color advertising posters were made for black-and-white films that quickly became classics, such as Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein, both featuring Boris Karloff – and The Mummy, another of Karloff’s famous roles. Here too are the posters for Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, Lon Chaney’s The Phantom of the Opera, plus Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Wolf Man. There are also some campier movies on display here, including The Old Dark House (another Karloff vehicle) and House of Dracula (a lesser Lon Chaney effort). The posters are so overdone that they will likely bring a chuckle to anyone seeing them for the first time. But you know, as you keep an eye on them for a whole month apiece – or as they remain on the fringes of your vision and consciousness – the strange poses and huge eyes and overstated copy may just start to seep into your dreams. “It comes to life!” “The monster demands a mate!” The calendar demands your attention….

     Desk calendars, in contrast, ask politely for you to spend time with them. Although their popularity has faded as people have turned to electronic planners, desk calendars have an ease of use and attractiveness quotient that handheld devices cannot match; and they are easily visible in all sorts of light, and never need recharging. They also let you display a full week of appointments or plans – along with highly attractive art – at one time; no scrolling or button-pushing required. In fact, the Posh Planning Calendar lets you display either a week or a month at a time. Available in several attractive designs, the calendar offers full-month displays at the start – with enough room for a note or two for each day – and double-page week-at-a-glance spreads for the full year, with lots of space to write in plans, appointments, meetings, birthdays or anything else you need or want to remember. The subtle colors and designs of the calendar’s cover are carried through the entire book in single-color form – blue for backgrounds and dates, for example. The result is a desk calendar that looks good all year, is illustrated pleasantly and unobtrusively, and provides plenty of planning room – including pages for looking ahead to 2012, as well as a section for names and addresses that you want to keep handy at all times.

     Illustrations take a more central position in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz calendar for 2011. This is, philosophically, a different type of desk-calendar design. The calendar is spiral-bound to lie flat, and one page of each two-page spread (sometimes the left, sometimes the right) is devoted to an excerpt from L. Frank Baum’s first Oz book – an illustration by W.W. Denslow, a chapter opening, or a sample of Baum’s text with its accompanying picture. It has often been remarked that Baum’s book is much richer and more complex than the Judy Garland movie through which most people today know Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Wizard. And even the brief excerpts in this calendar confirm the novel’s richness. “‘Take care,’” warns the Guardian of the Gates as the friends set out to rid Oz of the Wicked Witch of the West, “‘for she is wicked and fierce, and may not allow you to destroy her.’” On their quest, the bees – which do not appear in the film – “found no one but the Woodman to sting, so they flew at him and broke off all their stings against the tin, without hurting the Woodman at all. And as bees cannot live when their stings are broken[,] that was the end of the black bees…” And here you will find Denslow’s picture of smiling winged monkeys carrying Dorothy, Toto and the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion using his tail to wipe away his tears, and Dorothy grabbing Toto by the ear as the tornado sweeps her house away, several green-tinted illustrations of events in the Emerald City, and much more. With so many illustrations, this calendar has only a small amount of space for writing appointments and notes: each one-week page is divided into six small boxes (Saturday and Sunday share space). But this is not a calendar for intense family or business planning – it is one to keep the magic of Oz alive all year while providing room enough to jot down a few notes, remarks and appointments. For helping keep 2011 in perspective, it may be just the thing – either on its own or in combination with a calendar for the wall and one that changes day after day.

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