This post was supposed to be about The Task Newsletter, the weird and wonderful new project by Walker designer Emmet Byrne, former Walker designer Alex DeArmond, and Oakland-based designer Jon Sueda. I was going to write about the 3/4-sheets of “editorial byproduct” interspersed throughout the book (clippings from emails, websites and images), the excellent interviews (with typemaker Eric Olson and Amsterdam-based design duo Mevis & van Deuren, plus one conducted via iChat by Emmet, using a Mac at the Mall of America Apple Store, and Prem Krishnamurthy, at the big Manhattan Apple Store), and the issue’s catchall theme: “The Eclectic Slide.”
Then I got to page 62 and met Cat Lovers Against the Bomb.
An avowed dog person, I’m nonetheless enchanted, as Alex and his wife were:
As with any love affair, I suppose you start by describing the first time you saw someone: It must have been in the winter of 2004. My (now) wife and I were in the line at Seward Co-op in Minneapolis. It stopped us in our tracks, there amongst the new-age wall calendars: Cat Lovers Against the Bomb.
Every year since, the DeArmonds have been buying up these calendars, produced annually since 1984 by a peace group in Nebraska, for themselves and to give as gifts (“always with a fleeting sense of panic: ‘Will they get it?'”). Filled with black-and-white, amateur photos of cats, as well as the occasional trivia item about either cats or peace activism, it’s both the theme and the look that compels.
“The calendars are virtually indistinguishable from year to year, frozen in an aesthetic that suggests the days of 1980’s desktop publishing,” Alex writes. The images, shot by amateur photographers, “give you a glimpse into the world of both the cat and the owner. One chilling image showed a cat sleeping in a dish drainer. Sometimes you can’t wait for the next month so you can move on.”
For me, it’s the refreshing dose of earnestness in an irony saturated age. There’s an honesty here: the calendars are unabashedly political, aesthetically utilitarian, and ardently hopeful — without that humorlessness that sometimes afflicts left-of-center causes. OK, the punny attempts at levity, usually appearing as comments on the lower left side of each photo, sometimes seem to fall short — “Purr-ceptive Progressives Take the Lead” and “Pet Peeve: Human Ambitions of Power” — but on second read, they’re kinda, somehow, right on.