August 16, 2018


Calendars (page-a-day for 2019): Shakespearean Insults; Medical Bloopers; Church Signs. Andrews McMeel. $14.99 each.

     Page-a-day calendars are typically thought of as visual items, offering a single-panel cartoon, comic strip, or picture of some sort to look at each day of the year. But not everyone wants a pictorial display every day – it can be more enjoyable to have a few thoughtful words. Or amusing, silly, or even insulting ones. In fact, if the insults come from Shakespeare’s works, they can be erudite and informative as well as funny, and sometimes devastatingly pointed – as Shakespeare was so very capable of being. The 2019 Shakespearean Insults calendar is great fun for lovers of the Bard of Avon, and can provide a useful corrective for students and teachers who spend most of their time focused on Shakespeare’s extreme seriousness of perception and expression. What makes Shakespeare the greatest of all English-language authors is, among other things, the tremendous diversity of his writings, which range from the extremely intense to the tremendously lighthearted to the overtly sexy to the downright scatological. There are insults aplenty in Shakespeare, including some that are worth thinking about for a moment: “If we offend, it is with our good will. (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)” Some of the words here have clearly contemporary resonance: “Who is here so vile that he will not love his country? (Julius Caesar)”  Some require wading through obsolete words to get to their core – a worthwhile journey: “A wightly wanton with a velvet brow, With two pitch-balls stuck in her face for eyes. (Love’s Labour’s Lost)” A few are delightful in their dismissiveness: “Small winds shake him. (The Two Noble Kinsmen)”  “Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty. (Much Ado About Nothing.” “Poor prattler, how thou talk’st! (Macbeth)” Some are decidedly bitter: “He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath. (King Lear)” “There is no leprosy but what thou speak’st. (Timon of Athens)” And some have a hint of the sort of humor that often emerges quite unexpectedly in Shakespeare’s works: “We know each other well. We do; and long to know each other worse. (Troilus and Cressida)” Lovers of Shakespeare’s works will enjoy a full year of words like these, which have lost little of their potency after four centuries.

     The language is modern, as are the concerns, in the 2019 Medical Bloopers calendar, and if there is nothing profound here, there are plenty of anecdotes and comments to provide something health-care-related to think about every day. Pages called “Lessons Learned from Patients” include, “Complete all roof repairs during daylight hours,” and “If you are prescribed an inhaler for your cat allergies, it is not intended to be sprayed on the cat,” and “Do not try to remove tattoos with sandpaper. Sandblasters are even worse.” There is a silly comment about Mrs. Potato Head going over her annual yammogram. There is the real story of a patient who, told to limit diet to clear liquids, suggested gin and vodka. There is another about a hospital visitor who fell asleep in the patient’s bed when the patient went to the bathroom. There are suggested board games for medical professionals, including Crazy Eights for psychiatrists, Tic-Tac-Toe for podiatrists, and Twister for rehab therapists. There is this suggested medical motto for the frustrated doctor: “Not all patients are annoying. Some are dead.” There is the (hopefully imaginary) patient who says, “I entered what I ate today into my new fitness app, and it just sent an ambulance to my house.” And then there are the medicines that patients request, including “the one that starts with an ‘S,’” “the one you break in half,” and “name a few – I’ll know it if I hear it.” This calendar mixes the funny with the wry and the real-world with the imaginary, offering medical professionals – and anyone who interacts with them regularly – a daily chance to remember not to take the serious business of health care seriously all the time.

     Many people are serious about religion only on churchgoing days, and not always then. Churches know this – and some try to keep faith in people’s minds, however briefly, every day. They do that using “Little Sayings to Help You on Your Way,” that being the subtitle of the 2019 Church Signs calendar. These pithy remarks, comments and admonitions really do appear (or have appeared) on signs in front of churches at one time or another. “Pray now, ask questions later,” suggests one. Another thoughtfully suggests, “We could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.” Or, on a different weather-related note, “When life gives you a rainy day, play in the puddles.” That one strikes the same theme as this: “Anything that annoys you is teaching you patience.” And this: “Every day will not be good, but there is something good in every day.” Some of the signs are overtly religious: “God’s delays are not denials,” and “I was going to waste, but Jesus recycled me,” and “In God we still trust!” Some rhyme: “Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.” Some are amusing in a think-about-it way: “The difference between heaven and hell isn’t the temperature, it’s the management,” and “The outcome of a rain dance has a lot to do with timing,” and “There is a reason the rearview mirror is small and the windshield is big.” There is room here for occasionally poking fun at oneself: “Our congregation is like fudge – mostly sweet, with a few nuts.” And there is also room for a bit of genuine seriousness: “It is an art not only to say the right thing at the right time but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” As one of the signs here puts it, “Life is too important to take seriously!” Church Signs will make sure that you heed those words, day in and day out, throughout the year – faithfully.

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