August 09, 2018


Calendars (desk for 2019): Get It Together! with Sarah’s Scribbles; Cartoons from “The New Yorker.” Andrews McMeel. $14.99 (Together); $16.99 (New Yorker).

Calendars (page-a-day for 2019): Comics Every Day; Peanuts. Andrews McMeel. $14.99 each.

     The question inevitably arises when planning every new year: how best to keep track of one’s appointments, plans, phone calls and all the details of everyday life and/or work? Increasingly, the answer is “on a mobile phone,” or in some other electronic manner. And the electronic life has its attractions, especially if you move around constantly, have no fixed work location, are constantly updating and changing plans and appointments, or are otherwise firmly enmeshed in a world where nothing remains the same for long and you need to be connected at all times and always ready to make new plans or remake old ones. On the other hand, if you would like to slow down just a bit from time to time, if you realize that there is something unsatisfactory – and inherently subject to hacking or crashes – in keeping everything you need to know in electronic form, then you may want to step back from being ever-connected-everywhere and consider the joys of actual, physical, desktop planning books. They are definitely still around, and they can be quite wonderful – and thanks to “ancient” inventions such as the Post-It note (which dates to 1974), it can be quite simple to move an appointment from one day, week or month to another in a desktop book. In fact, making changes is often faster in a physical medium than an electronic one.

     If you are considering a desktop planner for 2019, one of the easiest ways to decide if it will work for you is to start using it in 2018. That is quite simple with new planners featuring cartoons from Sarah’s Scribbles and The New Yorker, since each is a 16-month book, running from September 2018 through December 2019. And each offers its own distinct and distinctive form of enjoyment through the year (or 16 months). Sarah’s Scribbles is the brainchild of Sarah Andersen, who chronicles the everyday life, thoughts, worries, obsessions, joys and yuckinesses of a young 21st-century woman. Andersen’s giant-eyed characters look nothing like the anime-influenced creations so common in cartoons today, and their bodily proportions (huge heads relative to bodies, huge eyes relative to heads) give them a kind of charming insouciance that works well with Andersen’s offbeat perceptions. One cartoon, for instance, has cartoon Andersen opening a box of feelings and finding, cowering in the corner, a tiny but huge-eyed blob labeled “regret,” which comments, “Shouldn’t have done that.” Another set of panels encapsulates typical human-cat relationships: Andersen’s cartoon alter ego gets angry at her cat for knocking over her food bowl yet again, but as soon as the cat flips over to show her belly, cartoon Andersen’s eyes glaze over and she says, “I love you I love you.” This 2019 planner does a great job of reflecting the cartoons that appear on every right-hand page: instead of simple blank boxes for each day of the week, there are, for every day, three columns marked “Appointments/Misc,” “Stuff to Do,” and “My Social Life.” The bottom right of each two-page spread has a box labeled “Notes and Stuff.” There are Sarah’s Scribbles stickers bound into the planner, too. And at the very end of the date pages of the spiral-bound, lie-flat book, there are pages that pretty well sum up everything that requires some thinking throughout any year: “Notes,” “Goals,” “Ideas,” “Remember,” “Thoughts,” “Dreams,” “Contacts,” “Favorites,” “Stuff,” “Memories,” and “Misc.” That about covers it – but if anything is not covered, you can save it at the very end of the book, where there is a neat little pouch in which receipts, ticket stubs and the like can easily be saved.

     If you are of a more-traditional bent where cartoons and desktop planners are concerned, consider the more-conventional, typically distinctive look of Cartoons from the New Yorker for 2019 (and the final third of 2018). A defiantly un-busy design, with elegant black cover and a binding that lets the book open flat even though it is not spiral-bound, this planner has a New Yorker cartoon on each left-hand page and seven open, unlined boxes bearing each week’s days and dates on the right. There is a bookmark strap bound into the planner in case you need to take it somewhere while keeping your place, and there is the usual famous (or notorious) New Yorker humor throughout. On one page, a super-busy techie is being told, “Bad news – some kid just created an app that creates apps.” On another, two elderly men walk together in a park, leaning on canes, and one says, “I don’t know about you, but I say it’s time we started experimenting with drugs.” Elsewhere, seagulls approach a beachgoing couple and the lead bird tell the people, “We can do this the easy way or the Hitchcockian way.” And then there is the doctor’s-office scene in which the doc turns his computer screen toward the patient sitting across the desk from him and declares, “So, as you can see, health care is so complicated you may never get well.” The cartooning styles vary significantly from panel to panel, representing, as a totality, many of the contemporary artists who give The New Yorker a look that remains unique among magazines. The underlying sophistication of the material, however, is the same throughout, if differently expressed and focused on different themes. Not everyone gravitates to the brand of humor in The New Yorker, but anyone who does will find this handsome desktop planner just the thing to make it easier to keep track of everything that needs tracking for a full 16 months.

     To be sure, there are ways to keep a cartoon presence on your desk – or any other flat surface – even if you choose not to use a physical desktop planner; and there are ways to increase the percentage of space devoted to cartoons if you do use a desktop planning book. All that is necessary is a page-a-day calendar, which provides a different bit of comic (and/or thoughtful) artistry every day. With these tear-off calendars as with desktop planners, there is a more-contemporary approach and a more-traditional one, so you can choose whatever works better for you. Comics Every Day is the up-to-date way to get, well, comics every day. This calendar offers 52 different comics, one per week, taken from the even-more-numerous offerings at the GoComics Web site. You can visit the site for a larger helping of any calendar comic that strikes your fancy – but the neat thing about the calendar is that it gives you a chance to see cartooning you probably would not see if you simply went to the site, since the selection there is so vast that you would be unlikely to stumble upon any specific strip you did not already know. True, the calendar comes with the risk of being saddled with a week of strips you do not care for, but that is a small matter beside the potential pleasure of encountering one or more you have never seen before and will truly enjoy discovering. Perhaps you will like Everyday People by Cathy Thorne, in which a woman eating from a bag of pork rinds comments, “I am eating healthy – they’re organic.” Or Lug Nuts by J.C. Duffy, which shows a man whittling a forget-me-not moose for his love. Or Four Eyes by Gemma Correll, which in one strip shows a “mantra ray” chanting “om, om, om.” Then there is Break of Day by Nate Fakes, in which one woman tells another about being on “an all-condiment diet.” And there is Too Much Coffee Man by Shannon Wheeler, wherein a crowd shows up in a couple’s bedroom and the woman asks the man, “Did you mess with my privacy settings?” And there are many more offerings here – even including a week of Sarah’s Scribbles.

     However, if you prefer the tried-and-true (more accurately, the tried-and-true-and-truly-wonderful), you can opt for the Peanuts page-a-day calendar for 2019, which shows for the umpteenth time that Charles Schulz’ characters have lost none of their ability to amuse, delight and occasionally inspire introspection in the years since Schulz’ death in 2000. Each page of the calendar has a Schulz strip in full color, although the dailies were in black-and-white when originally drawn. The familiar, indeed classic, characters are all here, their adventures fitting their personalities as perfectly as ever. In one sequence, Lucy throws Schroeder’s beloved piano into a tree, which turns out to be the notorious kite-eating tree, and sure enough, the tree eats the piano – leaving Charlie Brown to wonder what Beethoven would have done. Then there is Snoopy appearing in a spacesuit, intending to be the “first beagle on the moon.” Lucy laments not knowing the answers to life, so Linus gives her a page on which he has written the number 5. Charlie Brown tries to improve his baseball team’s performance by having everyone consume an electrolyte-rich drink, and the team loses by 200 to nothing. Elsewhere, Charlie Brown comments to Snoopy on the dog’s many adventures possibly making a good book, so Snoopy seats himself at a typewriter and begins, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Classic Peanuts lines like that crop up periodically throughout the year, but even strips without such lines are delightful. There is the one in which Woodstock, the little yellow bird, practices diving into Snoopy’s water dish, than complains “because the pool isn’t heated.” And the one in which Snoopy notes, “I have lots of sentimentality. It’s my stomach that’s practical!” And the sequence in which Snoopy has to appear before “the head beagle” because he has not been chasing his monthly quota of rabbits. The gentle absurdity of the Peanuts world always brought a welcome contrast to the everyday activities of mundane existence, and with the new 2019 calendar, Schulz’ characters and situations can continue to delight desktops (and anywhere else you may choose to display them) throughout the coming year.

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