Picks and Pans Main: Etc.

updated 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

It was a tough year, Ma, but we've almost made it. Just time left to decide what sort of calendar to use to chart the course of 1989:

The Royal Family (Landmark, $9.95) may make the days of, say, November, drag by pretty slowly, what with just a baleful Queen Elizabeth to look at—and that's assuming you made it past February, where Her Majesty and Prince Philip, on the Great Wall of China, seem to be having a spat. There's more personality in James Dean (Pomegranate, $9.95), a desktop-postcard arrangement including photographs by Sanford Roth. Dean even stops looking surly for one or two months. A more recent curmudgeon shows up in McCalendar (Zucker Sports), devoted to the supposed antics of Chicago Bears quarterback and frequent hospital patient Jim McMahon, who's doing such too-cool-to-be-believed things as sitting on a stool wearing a gym outfit and sunglasses.

For people who prefer to mark the passage of time by collecting calendars showing Michael Jackson looking weirder and weirder, Moonwalker (Doubleday, $8.95) brings cleanly reproduced shots from Michael's videos and concerts and close-ups of that increasingly mannequinlike face. Then again, some of the historic figures in The Roots of Rock & Roll (Pomegranate, $8.95) don't overflow with normality either, viz. Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis; such memorable dates as Jan. 20, 1958, when KWK in St. Louis banned rock and roll, are noted.

New stars K.T. Oslin, Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam join the familiar faces of Alabama, Ricky Skaggs and Emmylou Harris on Country (Country Music Foundation, $8.95). There is also a wealth of day-to-day information: Gene Autry recorded Back in the Saddle Again on April 18, 1936. Likewise, The Opera (Tide-Mark, $9.95) notes that Dvoják's opera The Blockheads debuted Oct. 2, 1881, in Prague.

Those expecting a leisurely, cud-chewing kind of year will find Cows (Pomegranate, $7.95) ideal. None of the bovines is identified, though the November herd must graze the Beverly Hills, since they're all wearing gold-colored chains. Birdwatchers (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $9.95), a desk calendar, has photos of feathered friends and unpretentious text ("the blue-winged teal is an extremely wary duck and is very difficult to approach"). Stepping Lightly on the Earth (Workman, $8.95) features a Belizean jaguar and a warning about the vanishing rain forest for April; royalties go to Greenpeace.

Animal lovers with a sense of history may prefer Lost in Time (Smithsonian Institution, $10.95), with 12 dinosaur dioramas from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. For big creatures that are really BIG, try Giants (Sierra Club, $7.95). The illustration for each month is on a 13-by-30½-inch sheet, so that the quetzalcoatlus, history's largest flying animal, unfolds in all its glory. The scariest thing in Sea Life (Oceanic Society, $9.95) is an ugly little boxfish, resembling a clumsily wrapped Christmas present.

With B-Movies (Pomegranate, $8.95), you could ponder a scene from 1959's The Killer Shrews for all of November. What are James Best Ingrid Goude and Baruch Lumet going to do about the toothy little devils, anyway? With illustrations of better quality than usual for this sort of thing, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Disney, $8.95) shows the animated qualities of Bob Hoskins and the human weaknesses of Roger and his Toon Town colleagues. Higher culture types will find in The Literary Lives (Thames and Hudson, $9.95) photos of such places as Mark Twain's home library in Hartford, Conn., and a record of many birthdays: Thomas Jefferson (1743), Samuel Beckett (1906) and Eudora Welty (1909) were all born on April 13.

Whatever else 1989 turns out to be, it should be a dandy year to peruse American art. Photo subjects in Art Deco (Abrams, $9.95) range from pots and tables to the facade of Manhattan's Metro Cinema. Hockney (Metropolitan Museum of Art, $9.95), as in David, celebrates the year of the artist's 50th birthday and a big retrospective of his intensely colored works. Andy Warhol (Abrams, $9.95) is a memorial, with soup cans. The appointment diary American Watercolors (Abrams, $16.95) shows a different work each week, with annotations by Helen Hall and Judy Weinland of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Of an Edward Hopper lighthouse painting, they write: "Often devoid of people, his landscapes seem to stand still in the warm sunlight he eagerly captured."

Food break: Weight Watchers (NAL, $9.95) is an engagement calendar with 52 fast, snacky recipes—baked cheese-topped apple slices and warm sausage and pasta salad are two. Little boxes are provided for daily calorie or gram counters. Martha's Kitchen (Workman, $7.95) offers 12 sumptuous Martha Stewart dessert recipes, including pecan tart and two chocolate "endpaper" tarts; absolutely no space is provided for keeping track of calories or grams.

Don't look for Mr. Ed or Trigger in The Horse in Sport (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $8.95); these steeds are all pros—steeplechasers, polo ponies, thoroughbred racers and the like. While baseball buff Richard B. "Dixie" Tourangeau of Boston doesn't identify the culprits who colorize the old photos in Play Ball! (Tide-Mark, $8.95), he did amass a lot of information, listing a selection of players born for every day, with some of their statistics; among the slow days is May 24, with only Gus Felix, Joe Oeschger and Willie Miranda, a lifetime .221 hitter, to its credit. Michael Jordan soars across the cover of Slam-Dunk Championship (Day Dream, $8.95), which shows various pros stuffing balls into baskets. Those who whack balls into holes are the focus of PGA Tour (Abrams, $9.95), where there's a different course each month, 18-hole diagrams and such notes as Arnold Palmer's description of the 625-yard 16th hole at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, as "mean and nasty."

As for indoor pastimes The Art of Model Railroading (Tide-Mark, $8.95) focuses on lavish layouts: One buff, Eric Bronsky, rebuilt the old Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee line in his Chicago apartment. The degree of detail reached in Miniatures (Tide-Mark, $8.95) is exquisite or agonizing, depending on your point of view. The commentary runs to things like this, under a re-created room from Longfellow House in Cambridge, Mass., in which a tiny George Washington stands by the bed: "Obviously, George is contemplating the course of the American Revolution in his elegant Colonial bedroom!"

Robert Kaufman pictures of babies—getting their bottoms powdered, having their little feet squeezed and otherwise pursuing cute baby activities—fill Baby's First Year (Silver Visions, $8.95). Babies (Workman, $6.95), with photos only of infant faces, is less cute, a deficiency partially remedied by such cynical quotes as, "There never was a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him asleep," from Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Americanaphiles can salute the 124th anniversary of the end of the War Between the States with The Civil War (Workman, $8.95). Produced by American Heritage, it inexplicably includes no day-by-day information on the war, but the illustrations are striking (a Union recruiting poster showing a white officer and black troopers is labeled "Come and Join Us Brothers"). "Beadings, moldings and cornices, which are merely for fancy may not be made by Believers," is a sect law quoted in Shaker (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $8.95). But that proscription, these photographs reconfirm, has not kept the Shakers from creating some of the most elegant architecture and crafts in this or any country.

China: The Silk Road (China Books, $8.95) has vivid photographs of the Canton-to-Kashgar trade ;' route by Jacky Yip (yes, she's Chinese) and Lam Lai Po. Masters of Cartography (Pomegranate, $11.95) uses colorful old maps. A world map by the Dutch cartographer Henderick Doncker is amazingly accurate, considering the scarcity of satellite photos in 1665.

Would you go bonkers after a year of contemplating such pseudo-philosophical issues as, "Knowing that hardship and struggle would lead to great accomplishment, would you choose that over a life of comfort and peace of mind but little accomplishment?"? The Calendar of Questions (Workman, $7.95), spun off the similar book, will let you find out. Relentlessly faithful to its title, The Truly Tasteless Joke-a-Date Book (St. Martin's, $4.95) includes few reprintable items other than: "How many football players does it take to change a light bulb?—Just one, and he's getting an A in it."

Gary Larson having decided to take a sabbatical from his daily panel, his fans will need The Far Side (Andrews and McMeel, $7.95) to tide them over. Keep Murphy's Law (Price Stern Sloan, $5.95) handy in case anything goes wrong in 1989. Its wisdom includes: "Jana & Marsha's Law of the Beauty Shop: A hairstyle receives the most compliments the day before it's scheduled to be changed"; "Ringwald's Law of Household Geometry: Any horizontal surface is soon piled up"; and "Finnigan's Law: The further away the future is, the better it looks."

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