September 24, 2020

(++++) PICTURE IT!

Calendars (page-a-day for 2021): Cats; You Had One Job! Andrews McMeel. $15.99 each.

     So many of the visuals of 2020 have been horrifying and alarming that it is quite understandable to look for far more calming, or amusing, pictures for 2021. While those may not be available through traditional news channels or the Internet – those sources feed on harm, hurt, and horror – there is a way to be sure that every day of the new year has something pictorial about it that is relaxing or amusing. Or both. Simply get a calendar that offers suitably cute and/or funny and/or wry pictures for every day of the year – one per day for weekdays, plus one per weekend. A perfect choice of this type is Cats, and never mind the fact that cat pictures and cat memes already permeate the online world. Those don’t stay still long enough to be appreciated, and they require searching, tapping, pointing, clicking, and other ways to find them – plus, there is always another one out there that might be funnier, sillier, or odder than the one you just saw, so you have to search for it, and that can all too easily turn into a “never-ending story” of looking for who-knows-what, who-knows-where, to the exclusion of doing who-knows-what-else. No, the page-a-day-calendar approach is superior when it comes to Cats. You simply remove the previous page and find a new example of felinity to enjoy and contemplate for the day. Some pages are wordless and, for that very reason, especially calming, such as one showing a lovely, white-pawed longhair with front feet on a log, looking off to its left (the right side of the calendar page) with a typically feline mixture of curiosity and indifference; or one showing two hefty specimens, one off-white and one black, next to each other, their heads turned toward one another just enough to define personal space vs. shared space. But many other pages include human comments of some sort to go with the feline photos. One cat looks directly upward, as if peering out of the page, on which Rod McKuen’s words are given: “There has never been a cat who couldn’t calm me down by walking slowly past my chair.” Another cat, in a prone position with front paws outstretched, has bright blue eyes that look out of the page; here the words are by Joseph Méry: “God made the cat to give man the pleasure of stroking a tiger.” And then there is the frowning cat that gets a perfectly apt comment from Elizabeth Peters: “There is no creature better at delicate rudeness than a cat.” But the comment that sums up all the reasons for using the Cats calendar as an alternative to pervasive online and on-screen negativity goes with a photo of a rather plump orange-and-white cat with a slightly quizzical look. The words are from Marie Helvin: “To be honest, the reason I have my cats is to force myself to think about something other than myself.” There you go!

     Or perhaps here you go, to the 2021 version of the calendar called You Had One Job! Photos are the point here as well, as is amusement, but very little of the funny stuff is as mean-spirited as you are likely to encounter in everyday on-screen visuals. Each page of this calendar is a photo, taken somewhere-or-other in the world, of a job that has not quite been done as it should have been. One page shows a road lane ending, with an arrow showing what direction to drive in and the word “MREGE.” Well, not exactly a word – which is the whole point. Spelling seems to be a problem in a lot of places, such as the snack-food label offering “Choocolatey Sunlfower Seeds,” the disposal container with the sign saying “This Dumpter for Tenants Only,” and the display of ducks in a children’s counting book that illustrates the word “Seveteen.” Calendars themselves, although not this one, are known to be a bit off from time to time: one page here shows a month containing March 29 twice in a row, and another displays Saturday, May 223. And speaking of numbers, there is a temperature- display graph that goes up from 69, to 73, to 80, and then up to 66. Elsewhere, there is a supermarket sign saying “Personal Watermelons” at a display of pineapples, and a cake decorated with the word “Suprize” (well, almost a word). One crafts store is selling a “Harnging Frame,” and another shop offers something labeled “Fragle.” Getting to either store could be complicated if you take the road with the words “POTS” painted on it, and going in could be difficult if you follow the sign reading “ADMISSNOIS.” Of course, you could always park just outside, in the spot labeled “RESEAVED,” once you get past the big truck displaying a warning sign about its “OVERZSIZED LOAD.” The point of all this is that people, companies, even machines make all sorts of mistakes all the time – even individuals who enjoy page-a-day calendars surely make one occasionally. There is something refreshing in starting each new day with a look at an error that is probably meaningless in the grand scheme of things, probably more evident than any mistake you yourself are likely to make at any given time, and just amusing enough to counter all the very definitely unfunny things to which you are likely to be exposed and subjected throughout 2021 – although there will hopefully be far fewer hyper-serious worries, troubles and traumas than there have been in 2020.

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