By Ralph Novak
Updated November 20, 1989 12:00 PM


Lots of people would rather look at Re-noirs or whales or see-the-seasons-change landscapes, of course, but it’s always reassuring to have a few calendars devoted to new stars—a Madonna or Michael Jackson or an Arnold Schwarzenegger—as a reminder of how society is progressing.

It’s clear we’re in a celebrity drought, though, since the big personality in 1990 calendars is Marilyn Monroe. While it’s true that the idea of a Geraldo Rivera calendar or a Tracy Chapman or even a Billy Crystal isn’t so scintillating, it’s ominous that there isn’t somebody new around we’d like to look at for the next 12 months.

While we wait to see if the ’90s are going to be a starless decade, however, we do have other amusing—interesting ways to pass the time:

The Curmudgeon Calendar (NAL, $8.95) recalls such words of wisdom as “Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion”—Mark Twain and “The good die young—because they see it’s no use living if you’ve got to be good”—John Barrymore. Sniglet-a-day (Andrews and McMeel, $7.95) offers creative definitions by “Rich Hall and friends”; “Furplay” is the “semi-illicit feeling you get when a cat rubs against your leg.”

A serious day-by-day calendar is Co-dependent No More (Hazelden, $8.95), from Melody Beattie’s book about addicts’ loved ones; it borders at times on the merely wishful, as in “Relax. Wherever you need to go and whatever you need to do, you’re appropriate for that situation.”

The less pedantic Charles Schulz offers Snoopy: 40 Years of Happiness (St. Martin’s, $8.95), in which Charlie Brown philosophizes, “If life is like a baseball game, try to find out how many innings they’re playing.” Also included are such memorable dates in Peanuts history as Feb. 7, 1958, when Snoopy assumed his present stance—half feet on the ground, half head in the clouds—by beginning to walk on his hind legs.

A cartoon Opus-come-lately is the penguin star of Bloom County (Little, Brown, $8.95), who in one strip announces he will no longer exploit other creatures, “Except for stupid cockroaches!” After he misses a stomp at one of the insects, he sighs, “Moral failures can be such a bummer.” Among the enigmatic panels in Glen Baxter’s Calendar (Harper & Row, $8.95) is “Life at 29a Rutley Crescent continued relatively unchanged,” which shows a pharaoh-like man watching a TV set strapped to a slave’s back.

There’s art of many colors, shapes, sizes and seriousness too. Norman Rockwell (Abbeville, $8.95) includes a weekly illustration, with such information as quotes from the late artist: “Maybe as I grew up and found the world wasn’t the perfectly pleasant place I thought it to be, I unconsciously decided that…it should be, so I painted only the ideal aspects of it—only foxy grandpas who played baseball with the kids and boys fishing from logs and got-up circuses in the backyard.” Chinese Folk Painting (China Books, $11.95) features intensely colored works from Jinshan County, southwest of Shanghai. The usual suspects—Monet, Matisse, Degas, et al.—show up in various calendars; an attractive one, with annotated paintings, is Impressionist Gardens (Abrams, $16.95).

Artwork decorates The Sporting Woman (Bulfinch, $14.95); a 400-year-old watercolor is captioned “Stag hunting on skis in Nordic countries in the 16th century was enjoyed by both men and women.” Other sports fans may prefer College Foot-ball Datebook (Taylor, $11.95), which features a weekly profile—of such figures as Bubba Smith, Doak Walker and Bronko Nagurski—daily facts and quotes: “I’m the oratorical equivalent of a blocked punt” (Iowa coach Hayden Fry), “Prayers work best when the players are big” (Knute Rockne), and Oklahoma State coach Phil Cutchin explaining why he became a cattle rancher: “Cattle have no alumni.” (The calendar fumbles one fact: It lists Golden Richards, born in 1950, as setting a punt-return record in 1940.)

Take a break: the pocket-sized Angler’s Deluxe (Angler’s Collection, $29.95) offers fishing data from “Maine General Ice Fishing begins” (Jan. 1) to “New Jersey Striped Bass Season closes” (Dec. 31). Those who like wildlife in the wild rather than a skillet can, in Endangered Species (Pomegranate, $7.95), find such elegant imperiled creatures as the Bengal tiger and such gawky ones as the black-fronted piping guan, a Latin American bird.

In Dragons, Draaks & Beasties (Abrams, $9.95), children’s book artist Graeme Base created wildlife that’s really wild—the great snow dragon, the spotted marsh draak and the Mongolian screamer, which has 11 calls “that translate as ‘Go away, I am very irritable at the moment,’ 16 that mean ‘I am about to get really angry’ and more than 20 for ‘One step closer and I’ll bite your wings off.’ ”

For really escaping, The Beach (Silver Visions, $9.95) is a Robert Kaufman photo calendar with 12 beach scenes (it doesn’t say where they were shot). Don’t drool, guys: American Dolls (Silver Visions, $9.95) features the fabricated, not the flesh-and-blood variety; Kaufman, who did this calendar too, is better with dolls than beaches, giving ID information about his subjects’ creators.

Car hobbyists can settle in with Power Behind the Wheel (Workman, $9.95), which mixes new, stylized color photos of classic cars by Lucinda Lewis (one shot shows the grille of a 1948 Buick Roadmaster) and historic pictures (cars parked at meters in Omaha in 1938).

A Journey into 365 Days of Black History (Pomegranate, $8.95) has a bibliography, an Alex Haley introduction and essays on black history—pilot Willa Brown is one subject. The daily facts are obscure and a half: J.L. Love, for example, received a pencil sharpener patent on Nov. 23, 1897.

A folksy photo of Marie and Pierre Curie apparently out for a bike ride is among the illustrations in The Physicians and Surgeons Desk Diary (Abrams, $24.95); and remember: the 1990 Endocrine Society convention is in Atlanta, June 20-23.

Ready for holiday overeating? Weight Watchers (NAL, $9.95) has a Caribbean Plantain and Beef Casserole, among 48 recipes; there is room for charting food intake (the chart space won’t make sense to non-Weight Watchers members).

Then for duck-billed platypus lovers…No! Wait! Forget all that about there being no celebrities for the ’90s. The obvious beacons for us to focus on during the years ahead are those of the feisty Luigi and Mario in the Nintendo game Super Mario Bros. The Power Game (Abrams, $9.95) features the two stumpy heroes along with such other graphic examples of Nintendofied success as Kid Icarus and Link, hero of The Legend of Zelda. Plug in, tune up, turn on; get ready to bleep, bloop and zap your way through the last decade of the millennium.