August 04, 2022


Calendars (wall for 2023): Heart and Brain; A Year of Snarky Cats; Coffee. Andrews McMeel. $15.99 (Heart; Cats); $17.99 (Coffee).

     Most people may not repaint or re-wallpaper very frequently, but there is one wall decoration that is easily and enjoyably updated every year: the wall calendar. Never mind the fact that everybody seems to track everything electronically all the time these days – technology has its place, but that place is not on one’s wall. There is something especially enjoyable about changing the look of a room by simply hanging a new calendar there – although, given the fact that the change is quite noticeable, it is important to pick just the right calendar, one that you will enjoy looking at day after day, month after month, throughout the year to come. The good thing is that there are lots of wall-calendar options out there, from the clever to the amusing to the clever and amusing. Heart and Brain, for example, is one of those “combo” types. Nick Seluk’s decade-old comic cleverly imagines our internal organs (specifically those of a blue, furry, bow-tie-wearing character known as “The Awkward Yeti,” who is a bit like Cookie Monster with neuroses) in constant combat, despite their obvious need to work together to keep the body functioning. Although Seluk has, over the years, created anthropomorphic versions of multiple organs (eyes, spleen, stomach, tongue and many more), it is Heart and Brain that remain the center of his cartooning, and they are the exclusive focus of the 2023 version of the Heart and Brain wall calendar. The heart/brain idea works so well not only because Seluk’s conceptualization of the organs is so good – huge-eyed, ever-enthusiastic Heart and spherical pink square-eyeglasses-wearing Brain – but also because the conflicts between the organs are ones with which it is so easy to identify. Heart simply wants to go and do and enjoy without regard to consequences – or even any awareness of them. Brain wants to plan and think and analyze, evaluating everything and being very careful about what the body does, how and when. This 16-month calendar – the last four months of 2022 on a single page, followed by individual pages for each month of 2023 – has several illustrations that fit both cartoon heart-and-brain and real-world heart-vs.-brain situations perfectly. One illustration, for instance, shows Brain atop a ladder, pouring from a container labeled “Hard Earned Money” into a glass jar labeled “Savings” – while Heart has used a mallet to knock a hole in the bottom of the jar and is throwing its contents down a hole labeled “Frivolous Nonsense.” Anyone who does not find that both funny and wry is missing a bit of heart, a bit of brain, or both. And then there is the panel in which Heart tells Brain, “I’m ready to try that one again,” and Brain exclaims loudly (in all caps) that “we can’t go back in time after you make a terrible decision!” Also here are several four-panel offerings, such as one in which Heart unexpectedly announces, “I feel motivated,” and Brain tries to channel that into getting something productive done, only to have Heart explain that “I mean I feel motivated to do nothing today.” In addition to the large single-panel or four-panel presentations atop each month, there are smaller four-panel strips at the bottom: a double helping of Heart and Brain monthly, plus occasional small renditions of the characters within the squares allocated to the days of the month. Walls in homes containing people with hearts and brains will be appreciative of anyone who hangs this calendar on them.

     Homes containing cats are the place for the 2023 A Year of Snarky Cats calendar by Dan DiPaolo. This too is a 16-month item, with one large illustration for the final four months of 2022 and one apiece for each month of 2023. In this case, though, every month gets just a single flair of felinity atop the dates – one that will be instantly recognizable to anybody who shares space with cats (without owning them: no one owns a cat, as cats continuously make clear). DiPaolo has the “cat-eye glance” down pat: these cats do not look directly forward, making eye contact, but off to one side or the other, as if deigning to give the calendar user some attention but never full attention. And the words given to each cat seem like just the ones that real-world cats are already thinking, if not saying: “Let’s play the stop talking game.” “I wasn’t hungry but I see you have sushi.” “Why don’t you have a seat and explain to me why you smell like another cat” – that one featuring a cat wearing glasses and assuming a lawyer-like pose. And then there is the comment that encapsulates felinity-with-humans-present most clearly: “I’m just here to sprinkle happy glitter on your soul – and also control your life.” Well, yes. These cats are certainly snarky, but there is no malice in their snark, just as there is no malice in cats’ habit of tormenting small creatures while satisfying the ancient feline hunting instinct. Snark and hunting are just things cats do, and the fact that DiPaolo has managed to overhear (or imagine overhearing) some of cats’ snarkiness, suitable for contemplation throughout the year, makes this calendar an excellent fit for any home whose cats allow humans to co-occupy the space and operate the can opener. There is even one cat here that manages to mix felinity with being a morning person or not being one: sitting with a steaming cup ready for drinking, this cat is putting forth the thought, “Coffee first – then I’ll pretend to listen to you.” (If you’re lucky!)

     Speaking of luck and coffee, the extra-elaborate, extra-large 16-month Coffee calendar for 2023 and the last four months of 2022 is even bigger than the Heart and Brain and A Year of Snarky Cats offerings; and it shows a different side of Dan DiPaolo’s art and witticisms. The illustrations here are ultra-simple, mostly consisting only of coffee cups or mugs and almost all done in shades of coffee colors, from very light tan to black. The underlying thought here is nicely summarized by the September illustration: “Life happens. Coffee helps.” But even though that is a perfect encapsulation for the entire year, DiPaolo serves others for other months, and some of them are especially notable, such as April’s “Coffee gives me the strength to screw up everything every single day – with passion.” That’s another darned good summation for true coffee lovers. Other months include straightforward reminders, worth noting for any coffee aficionado who happens to glance at the wall anytime: “There’s always time for coffee” (March) and “Me time” with a picture of a steaming mug of the brew (November). It is also worth remembering the way this particular calendar begins the upcoming year, with a January illustration featuring the words “COFFEE FIRST because…eew, people.” Of course, if you happen to be feeling generous with this calendar (if not with coffee), it comes enclosed in a specially made ultra-large outer envelope that makes the whole thing quite suitable for gift-giving. You know – that thing people do with calendars in December, a month in which this particular wall offering shows a pine tree in silhouette and some stylized snowflakes (the only month without a coffee cup or mug), and the words, “Drink more coffee, be more jolly.” Now that’s an espresso ho-ho-ho. Errr, expressive ho-ho-ho…

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