August 15, 2013

(++++) WALL AND DESK FOR 2014

2014 Calendars: Desk—Dilbert; Tokidoki; Wall—The New Yorker; Pearls Before Swine. Andrews McMeel, $14.99 each (Dilbert, New Yorker, Pearls); Universe/Andrews McMeel, $14.99 (Tokidoki).

     From the abstruse to the everyday, from the funny to the offbeat, 2014 will be yet another year in which you can express your individuality and gain the occasional new and different perspective on life through the simple expedient of selecting calendars to display at home, work or both. The wonderful variety of these paeans to a year yet to come makes it possible for anyone to find one, or several, to reflect the likely moods of the day – or deflect them, as the case may be. That case may be especially apparent when it comes to Scott Adams’ Dilbert, which once again in the coming year provides a strong argument for continuing to use spiral-bound, open-flat desktop calendars instead of switching over entirely to electronic calendar displays. The 2014 Dilbert desk calendar is called “The Word You’re Trying to Think Of Is ‘Indispensable,’” and even if Wally were not the one saying the sentence, readers of Dilbert would know immediately how ridiculous it is in a world where the only indispensable things are money and, apparently, irrationality and stupidity. Each brightly colored two-page spread of this calendar offers space for taking a few notes per day (how many do you really want to take?) plus a full-page color Dilbert Sunday strip filled with typically Dilbertian difficulties. There is the one in which consultant Dogbert gets Dilbert to tell the Pointy-Haired Boss that their meeting is a waste of time and a ripoff, and Dogbert then charges the boss $400; and the one in which Wally proclaims that “being disciplined is almost the same as being useless”; and the one in which Dilbert notices that “options are only good when other people don’t have them.” Luckily for Dilbert fans, they have the option of using this desk calendar all year and laughing at the absurdities in which they regularly find themselves enmeshed.

     Even more colorful and even thicker – it is a 16-month calendar – is the Tokidoki offering from Italian manga artist Simone Legno. Filled with manga art of the “cute” style rather than the “intense” style, this calendar nevertheless has a certain edge to it, as is clear from its symbol: a heart and crossbones. Legno explains that the title means “sometimes” in Japanese, and certainly anyone looking for a mixture that is sometimes cute and sometimes offbeat will find it here. One page has a pretty, bright star with a skull inside. Another has adorable pink and blue cuddly characters with vampire teeth. Sometimes all is adorableness, as in the character selling “tokidoki donuts” and wearing a costume with sprinkled-doughnut ears. Other times are, well, different, as in the equally adorable character wearing a heavily spiked body outfit that looks like a baby’s onesie – and brandishing a gun, next to which are three bullets with expressive faces. There is a slice of strawberry shortcake with a bewildered-looking strawberry on top – and the filling between the layers looks suspiciously like blood. There is a skull-faced cupcake, and a cute little mermaid whose bra is made not of two shells but of two skulls – you get the idea. But there are also plenty of straightforwardly pleasant pictures: a multicolored seahorse, happy little crab, jewel-bedecked cake, sweet-looking cartons of milk and latte walking together. Tokidoki is cute sometimes, strange sometimes, offbeat sometimes, and an interesting desktop calendar for 2014 all the time.

     Whether or not you use desktop planning calendars, there is likely room in your room (or cubicle) for a wall calendar – not only for jotting down notes but also for creating a touch of personalized atmosphere. Andrews McMeel offers plenty to choose from for 2014, with a lot of choice depending on whether you would rather go the highbrow route or the lowbrow. The New Yorker is of course on the esoteric side, maybe even too much so for some people – but it is just right for fans of the magazine for the self-proclaimed beautiful and elegant people (and those who want to be like them). The humor in New Yorker cartoons generally comes from incongruity and juxtaposition: a lion hands money to a gunman and says, “Make it look like natural selection,” for example, and a roller coaster rushes toward a solid brick wall as one rider tells another, “I hear this is the scariest part of the ride.” If New Yorker cartoons are to your taste, you will find two dozen black-and-white ones to enjoy here, two per month (one large and one small), with plenty of room on each date to jot down a highfalutin thought or two of your own.

     Or you can go to the opposite extreme with Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine, whose 2014 wall calendar is called “It’s My World, and I’ll Dominate if I Want To” – the words of the megalomaniacal Rat, of course. Do not seek the elegant here, for you will surely not find it. Each month brings a black-and-white or full-color bit of Pearls oddity or idiocy in the form of an entire sequence; a full-page blowup of one panel from the strip; and a couple of small drawings at the start and end of each page (the one at the end, “The Pig Dipper,” is the same month to month). The strip often turns on outright silliness (a house-trained German shepherd turns out to be an actual shepherd – from Germany), frequently on misinterpretation (people who are “swingers” are ones who enjoy riding on swings), and a lot of the time on utter incongruity (Pig’s goosebumps turn out to be injuries inflicted by a bat-wielding goose). Add in some atrocious puns (“a Hoffa they can’t re-fuse”) and you have a real winner of a calendar for the entire coming year. Or a real loser, depending on your point of view. Either way, it’s really…something.

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