August 18, 2022


Calendars (page-a-day for 2023): Cats; Garbage Pail Kids; The Good Advice Cupcake! Andrews McMeel. $16.99 each.

     Sometimes the only day-brightener you need from a calendar is a picture that makes you smile, chuckle or maybe even laugh out loud. And some page-a-day calendars – the ones whose pages you remove and discard daily (once per weekend) – seem designed to provide just that sort of visual amusement. With any luck, at least some of the pictures on these calendars will be worth more than a passing glance – maybe two or three or more passing glances as you notice the calendar on a given day. Feline fanciers will certainly feel that way about Cats, an offering that really requires nothing more explanatory than its single-word title. Speaking of words, they are mostly irrelevant here: the majority of the pages are simply wordless photos of cats being, you know, cats – staring adorably at a ball of yarn, stretching adorably on a soft surface, yawning adorably, playing adorably with a cat toy, and so forth. This is not to say, though, that all the feline expressions are adorable in the same way. Certain cats shown here look distinctly put-out in that way that only cats can, while others seem to be staring right out of the page, as if deciding whether to emerge from it in “pounce” mode. And some pages do have text on them – quotations that relate, at least marginally, to the cat photo for that date. For instance, one page shows two cats rushing along to somewhere-or-other, with a Lee Franklin quote, “Nature abhors a vacuum, but not as much as cats do.” And one shows a cat with head tilted slightly to the side, staring somewhere unidentifiable, with a Maurice Burton quotation, “Anyone who claims that a cat cannot give a dirty look either has never kept a cat or is singularly unobservant.” In truth, most of the words add little to the photos here, and the pictures are most definitely the point, day in and day out. Cats scratching things (not always scratching posts!), cats in mid-leap, cats dashing through high grass, cats looking angry and cross-eyed and intense and thoroughly relaxed – all these feline moods and expressions are here. And every once in a while, there is a quotation that seems to fit this calendar and the cats it celebrates quite well, such as this from Bonni Elizabeth Hall: “When you come upon your cat, deep in meditation, staring thoughtfully at something that you can’t see, just remember that your cat is, in fact, running the universe.” Maybe not the universe, but your universe, oh yes – as anyone who shares living space with a cat will acknowledge while enjoying this calendar throughout 2023.

     Cats are known for their elegance and beauty, but what if your taste runs to the inelegant and far from beautiful – but funny? Have no fear – there are calendars for less-than-lovely characteristics, too. Try, for example, Garbage Pail Kids, where the drawings are very much the visual point and very much not to be deemed pleasant or elegant. The occasional cat does appear here, but it is not in a happy place: one, for example, is being stepped on by “Frank N. Stein,” who is busily absorbing the energy from a bolt of lightning. The Garbage Pail Kids concept originated as an anti-nice Cabbage Patch Kids franchise, but quickly took on a life (or pseudo-life) of its own, and now is in full flower. The flower may be stinkweed, but hey, you take what you can get. And actually, you get more than funny/silly/icky pictures for every day of 2023 with this calendar: every page commemorates a real, honest-to-goodness, frequently weird and inexplicable holiday of some sort. So there is an educational component to this Garbage Pail Kids offering – a trashy one, but again, you take what you can get. Interestingly, every day of the year gets its own illustration here: weekends are the usual single page for two days, but those pages are split down the middle so a different holiday and Kid can be shown for Saturday and Sunday. Saturday, March 4, 2023, for example, is “International Game Master’s Appreciation Day,” and the picture shows a dice-headed Kid named “Dice Bryce” throwing dice while playing a board game. And each dot on the Kid’s head is an eye: the Garbage Pail Kids are nothing if not bizarre. The brighten-your-day (or at least weirdify-your-day) illustrations here are of all types, or at least all strange types. April 14,”International Moment of Laughter Day,” gets a poster of “U.S. Arnie,” shown in Uncle Sam costume and pointing out of the page while laughing at whoever happens to be looking at him. “Learn about Composting Day” (May 29) features a broken-open sack with a very plump face and the label, “GPK Fertilizer,” above a caption identifying the character as “Fertile Liza.” For July 7, “National Macaroni Day,” there is “Macaroni Art,” who is made entirely of pasta and glue. August 14, “National Financial Awareness Day,” features “Hank Bank,” a smiling piggy bank in the process of being shattered by a hammer. And “No Rhyme or Reason Day” (September 1) features “Bizarre Lamar,” shown behind a fence – with his body in four sections, subdivided by the horizontal portions of the fencing. Some of the Garbage Pail Kids illustrations are on the gross side, and some are on the grosser side, and some – well, if you have a penchant for illustrated humor of a certain type, including over-the-top illustrations and outrageous puns, you may well find this calendar to be a 21st-century update (if not upgrade) of the original slogan of Mad magazine: “humor in a jugular vein.”

     The pictures are cuter but the words more likely to be four-letter ones (with interior asterisks) in the 2023 calendar featuring The Good Advice Cupcake! The title confection and friends offer not only amusing illustrations but also upbeat sayings and affirmations every day – and, oh yes, there is the occasional cat here, too: the calendar’s cover has Cuppy saying “I’m thankful for cats,” and one day shows the frequently appearing cute kitty and has the words, “Be grateful for your ability to open cans. Cats sure are.” Another has Cuppy holding a tightly wrapped cat while saying, “Bless you, fur babies, for your patience when we swaddle the sh*t out of you.” That pretty well encapsulates the messages of this calendar: be grateful, be happy, enjoy what you have, and feel free to utter asterisked verbiage whenever you wish. The cutest pictures and most-amusing daily thoughts, though, tend to show up on the least-asterisked pages. For instance, one has Cuppy facing the reader directly, with a black bar and the word “censored” just at the top of Cuppy’s legs – and the words, “Let’s take a moment to appreciate gratuitous nudity that’s too hot for TV.” Another has a kitten riding a unicorn, with the words, “It’s amazing you got to see something this majestic today.” Another has the kitten tethered to a rocket, with the words, “In space, no one can hear you scream. But everyone can see how grateful you are to be in space.” Actually, gratitude emerges, time and time again, as the foundational theme of this 2023 calendar. Cuppy and friend Bun are munching fruit on one day with the words, “Gratitude alert: watermelon exists.” Another day has paper-bag-laden Cuppy exclaiming, “Grateful that carrying empty shopping bags causes the same dopamine hit as actually shopping.” Another has a Cuppy X-ray (definitely one of the weirder concepts here) with the words, “Feelin’ all that gratitude deep in my bones.” Given the simplicity of the basic Cuppy drawing, it is a lot of fun to see the ways in which this calendar varies its visuals day after day. Cuppy wearing a cap; Cuppy and friends (only their eyeballs visible) in a lava lamp; Cuppy riding a falling leaf; Cuppy selling “scout cookies” and dressed appropriately; Cuppy in a Big Bad Wolf costume – there are so many variations on this inherently simple theme that fans of silliness, cuteness, and frequent almost-profanity will have a great time throughout the coming year with The Good Advice Cupcake!

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