September 17, 2020


Calendars (page-a-day for 2021): Everything Happens for No Reason; You Might Be a Redneck If… Andrews McMeel. $15.99 each.

     Given the kind of year that 2020 has been, it would seem natural for people to turn to warm, uplifting, positive-message calendars for 2021. Some people, anyway. There are plenty of others whose response to the figurative “take THAT!” coming repeatedly from events in 2020 is something along the lines of, “no, YOU take THAT!” Well, if you are one of that group, you too can find a fitting calendar to take you day by day through the new year – which, let’s face it, even the most cynical among us will be hoping to find less drama-filled and less like an ongoing horror movie than 2020 has been.

     For example, the page-a-day inspirational calendar is a mainstay of the tear-off-a-page-at-a-time format, offering some thoughtful, positive, hopeful or otherwise sunny bit of advice to help people get through the trials and tribulations of everyday life. But for those whose response to inspirational tidbits is along the lines of “yuck,” there is the Everything Happens for No Reason calendar, which proclaims itself right on the box to be “unspirational.” This is neither more nor less than a sendup – occasionally a pointed one – of the whole daily-inspiration concept. Every page has just the sort of illustration expected from a “make your life better” calendar: rainbows, majestic mountains, seashores, country roads, butterflies, and so forth. But in this calendar, the words that go with those backgrounds are the antithesis of what the backgrounds would offer in a traditional inspirational offering: “Being brave and being stupid are often the same thing.” “Ninety-nine percent of conversations are an unbelievable waste of time.” “Life is just a long stretch of anxiety interrupted by naps.” “Today is not going to change anything.” “Mondays are great because no one blames you for being in a bad mood all day.” On top of all this, some days’ comments come across as direct insults to the person turning the page: “In space, no one can hear you scream. On Earth, no one wants to hear you talk.” “Leave ambition to the people with talent.” “May all of your incoming calls be from telemarketers.” On the other hand, some comments are simply light and offbeat, and really do offer a different-from-the-usual perspective: “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy avocados, which is close!” True, a comment like that last one is not for everybody; and neither are the occasional pages on which Elan Gale, who assembled the material for this calendar, lapses into four-letter words – which are really unnecessary to make the points. Ultimately, the question for potential year-long users of the Everything Happens for No Reason calendar has to do with their reaction to the comment offered on one day of the coming year: “Looking at this calendar is probably going to be the highlight of your day.” If you have always suspected that that would be the case – on a number of days, if not all of them – then this calendar may make your passage through the year 2021 at least a bit more bearable.

     If, on the other hand, you consider yourself an example of a certain old-style, old-fashioned, old rural way of life – or wish you could be one – then the long-running You Might Be a Redneck If… calendar series has something just for you, or rather for you and creator Jeff Foxworthy (who considers himself a major-league redneck) and anyone else who remains defiantly anti-urban and proud to identify with dirt roads, tailgate parties and dead squirrels. It has to be emphasized, in the exceptionally humorless time in which we find ourselves – never more so than in 2020 – that this calendar is not to be taken seriously and not intended to insult anybody, ok? That being said, it probably will insult somebody, and that’s just fine as long as that somebody hustles his or her rear down the unpaved driveway to somewhere else. Got it? Speaking of zipping along from here to there, many pages of this calendar complete the title – that is, they fill in the rest of the sentence after the ellipsis (that’s the three dots, ok?) – with something car-related, such as “your honeymoon cruise was up and down a dirt road in a Trans Am,” and “birds are nesting in your project car,” and “you use four-wheel drive more than you use cruise control,” and “more than half of your rear windshield is obscured by bumper stickers.” But not everything here is automotive. The phrase You Might Be a Redneck If… is also completed by “you have no idea how many pets you have,” “there’s more water on your trampoline than in your pool,” “your state flower is a dandelion,” “your home is only accessible during dry weather,” “you wore a tank top to work,” “you take ketchup packets with you to nice restaurants,” and so on. Nothing here is mean-spirited, and everything is intended to be in good fun, especially of the “poking fun at yourself” variety – something of which far too many people have lost sight in recent times. If “your mosquito bites are camouflaged by your sunburn” or “you checked Facebook while on the witness stand,” or if you just imagined those possibilities and laughed at them, you may be just the sort of person who will benefit from the You Might Be a Redneck If… calendar for 2021 – the sort of down-to-earth type who thinks “pest control consists of a fly swatter and a BB gun.”

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